In my first article for MCB, back in July, I spoke about expectations. I stated that the Tigers were in fact meeting expectations but that the Indians hot start had adjusted the reactions of the fan base. Of course, we all know what happened as the season progressed – the Tigers traded for Doug Fister, the bullpen and the offense clicked and the Tigers won the AL Central by a boatload of games. Now, one month into 2012, people are once again jumping aboard the panic train. Again, expectations need to be examined. This 2012 Tigers team is almost exactly what we had in 2011 while substituting Prince Fielder for Victor Martinez.
In 2011 the Tigers were struggling at 2B and the OF corners in addition to a mystery spot in the rotation. Fast-forward to today and you have the same issues, in addition to a catcher and shortstop having some bad luck. The difference between 2011 and 2012 is that all that Tigers fans need to do is hope that players return to their career norms, not have career years. Not only that, but in 2011 the Tigers had to trade for Doug Fister and had Brad Pennyin the #5 spot in the rotation. In 2012, the Tigers just bring Fister off the DL instead of giving up value to acquire a pitcher and have a promising rookie in the #5 spot in the rotation. The 2012 are positioned to perform better than the 2011 Tigers were. It doesn’t mean that they WILL, it means that they COULD.
Major League Baseball is a long season and certain things will equal out. The Tigers rotation will get better, the re-addition of Doug Fister almost guarantees this. In addition to Fister, it is safe to assume that Max Scherzer will figure some things out and perform like a #3 or #4 SP…not a AAA pitcher mistakenly collecting a big league paycheck. Alex Avila, while he may not perform up to last year’s standard, will certainly improve as his BABIP is quite low. Jhonny Peralta has had a significant increase in his K rate, something is probably correctable. Brennan Boesch has taken all of two walks so far. That is certain to change. In the previous two years his K/BB ration was under 2.5…this season it is at 11.5. One has to think that he is pressing as his power has taken a significant dip as well.
The Tigers question marks at LF and 2B will likely remain for at least another month. The possible remedies in LF seem to be a bit more evident (as detailed last week) than 2B where the cupboard is bare after Danny Worth. Looking outside the organization, LF is also much easier to address as there just are not that many 2Bs (worth the trade cost) who figure to be on the trading block this year.
So, while I know that Tiger fans are anxious and they don’t feel this team is meeting expectations, the likelihood that the 2012 Tigers end up as AL Central Champions is still rather strong. In addition to players meeting their career norms, one has to expect that Dave Dombrowski will be looking to improve this team at its weak spots given what has taken place over the last 12 months.