At this point in the offseason, with spring training about six weeks away, are the Tigers a better team than they were last year?
Matt Pelc: I like that they have added some elements that were absent last year. They will run the bases better, steal more, and be better defensively with Miggy’s shift back to first. They may not hit as many homers, but aside from the bullpen, which has not gotten better, the team as a whole is slightly better. My concern is that they are slightly better while other AL Central teams have gotten a lot better since the Tigers started their divisional dominance in 2011. In other words, an AL Central title is no longer a gimme.
Michael Emmerich: Not really. I confess, as many others probably did, to periods during last season when I fantasized about going all in on pitching and defense, dumping Fielder and Peralta and moving Cabrera to first base and yada, yada. Well, voila, here we are. Now I’m nervous. Despite what many of the preseason projection systems are saying I fear the Tigers will struggle to score runs, the bullpen will continue to be a mess, and the rotation will not be as healthy. Even if this worst case scenario plays out the Tigers will still probably win the division.
Chris Hannum: No, they are not. But… they may still be a 92 win team or (slightly) better as far as talent on paper.
Matt Snyder: I don’t think they’re quite as good as they were last year, but I also think last year’s team was better than their record indicated (99 Pythagorean wins vs. 93 actual wins). Maybe they’re worse on paper now than they were in 2013, but I still think they have a good shot a 90-93 win season.
Josie Parnell: From a pure player for player standpoint, the upgrades to the Tigers’ defense this offseason absolutely offset the loss of power resulting from the Fielder trade and Peralta free agency. When you add in the hiring of Ausmus, his selected coaching staff, and the addition of a nearly unheard of Defensive Coordinator position, I’m filled with optimism that we’ll see a much more well rounded, better constructed and overall improved Tigers team in 2014.
Tom Zahari: Honestly, no. Last season I was the highest on this team that I have ever been with the flawed outlook of World Series or bust. Trading Doug Fister took the wind out of my sails a bit. I believe this team will win the division and have a shot at the World Series if they can put it together, but I’m not on the World Series or bust bandwagon.
Sam O’Toole: On paper, it might not look like it with the departure of Prince Fielder and Doug Fister. But, like the 2013 Boston Red Sox proved, you don’t need the best roster on paper to win it all. I like the Tigers more this year because of the versatility of the lineup and the much improved infield defense. The rotation is still one of the best in all of baseball with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez at the top. Two big questions still linger: 1) how good of a manager will Brad Ausmus be? and 2) outside of Joe Nathan, how will our unproven bullpen fair? I believe the bullpen is the bigger concern at this point.
Josh Paulisin: If we are talking in terms of talent, no. Look at the guys the Tigers have lost this offseason. Prince Fielder, Doug Fister, Jhonny Peralta, Omar Infante.
I do think the Tigers are a better TEAM (emphasis on TEAM) than they were last season. Much more balance at the top. Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis bring much needed speed to the station-to-station offense of years past. Rick Porcello can finally breathe now that the Tigers are now much improved defensively. They plucked the best defensive shortstop in the game from Boston last year and Nick Castellanos is an upgrade over Cabrera at 3rd, while Cabrera slides back over to 1st as an upgrade over Fielder.
Scott Byrne: I think so. Defensively certainly, which should strengthen the leviathan of a rotation and inadvertently the bullpen also. Speaking of the ‘pen, I am of the opinion that it is improved also, but not necessarily by Nathan. Bruce Rondon and Joba Chamberlain could be a formidable 7th and 8th inning tandem, and don’t sleep on Jose Ortega. The lineup should still generate runs in bunches, and I am especially fond of Austin Jackson being lower in the order. That being said, I still feel like DD has one more move up his sleeve.