In less than 48 hours – weather permitting – the 2013 Detroit Tigers season commences. Ever since the cold, dark night in October when Sergio Romo caught Miguel Cabrera looking, Tigers fans have been hungering to press the “reboot” button. Certainly, this season will end with the championship we have been looking to reclaim since 1984.
Seven long weeks of Spring Training have dragged by, the minor details of final roster composition hammered out, and now all that remains is a flight to the frozen tundra of Minneapolis, and the odyssey is underway. A 162-game regular season is the true test of sport. Each teams strengths are borne out, and it’s weaknesses revealed. At this moment, 30 teams (yes, even the Cubs) believe they have assembled a contender.
The twists and turns of a protracted race for the flag inevitably produces anomalies – for every player with the consistency of Kaline, the proverbial flash-in-the-pan stuns everyone and stamps an indelible impression on the season. Nevertheless, I will take a diving, back-hand stab at some predictions for the upcoming year, in no particular order:
- The $200-million man comes up short in a quest for 20 wins, and finishes 2nd in the Cy Young balloting to Felix Hernandez. Verlander does, however, notch his 3rd career no-hitter.
- He leads the best rotation in the AL to 80 wins combined – JV, 19; Sanchez, 15; Scherzer, 18, Porcello, 14, Fister, 14.
- The team leader in saves is not currently on the 25-man roster.
- Scherzer leads the AL in strikeouts.
- The “Wizard of Woodward”, Austin Jackson, scores 100 runs and wins his first Gold Glove.
- Torii Hunter hits only 14 HR’s; but has 30 2B’s, 70 RBI, and plays a sublime RF, so the low HR total is unnoticed.
- Victor Martinez hits only 14 HR’s, but has 30 2B’s, 85 RBI, and is a tremendous clubhouse presence, so the low HR total is unnoticed.
- Miguel Cabrera leads the league in batting average and HR’s again, but fails to defend his Triple Crown because-
- Prince Fielder leads the league with 132 RBI.
- Andy Dirks plays well – when he plays. Nagging injuries limit him to 300 AB’s, opening the door for rookie-
- Avisail Garcia to get 300 AB’s as well- Dirks/Garcia combine for a .295 BA, .365 OBP, 18 HR, 15 SB and solid defense in LF.
- Jhonny Peralta splits the difference between his first two seasons as a Tiger: .269 BA, 17 HR, 74 RBI, and fields EVERYTHING, that is hit directly at him.
- The injury imp continues to nibble at Alex Avila, limiting him to 100 games and a disappointing .254 BA, 9 HR’s and 39 RBI.
- Omar Infante is the perfect #9 batter, hitting .275, 10 HR’s, 10 SB’s, and scoring a career-high 75 runs.
- Don Kelly has one more improbable game-winning moment, before getting designated for assignment when Dombrowski trades for bullpen help at the deadline.
- Matt Tuiasosopo induces at least one “Country Strong” reference from Rod Allen.
- Nick Castellanos and Bruce Rondon make their MLB debuts in September.
- The Indians and the Royals make things too close for comfort into late August.
- Names for future reference: Sean Marshall, Rafael Betancourt, Luke Gregerson, Jake McGee, David Hernandez. All back-end of the ‘pen possibilities.
- Verlander vs. Jered Weaver in Game 7 at Comerica Park on a frosty October evening for the AL pennant.
- A smooth 5-game Series victory over the Atlanta Braves.