Fans of the Detroit Tigers have heard it all this offseason. Once a group inspired by a return to prominence by their favorite team, the Detroit fan-base is one now beleaguered by the un-ending narrative surrounding the four-time reigning American League Central champions.
For the first time in many years, as many people believe that the Indians, Royals, or White Sox can de-throne the Tigers as believe that Detroit is poised to defend their crown.
That belief is spurred by a multitude of questions which have swirled around Brad Ausmus’ club since they broke camp.
From national pundits, to members of the Motor City Bengals staff, many believe that the answers to those questions will lead to the end of Detroit’s reign.
More from Motor City Bengals
- Detroit Tigers: Is it finally time to move the fences in at Comerica Park?
- Detroit Tigers: Riley Greene continues to impress with his performance
- Detroit Tigers: Outlook on Jace Jung is a little concerning
- The Detroit Tigers’ GM search reeks of incompetence
- Detroit Tigers: 3 things to learn from the Orioles rebuild
Look past the narrative, however, and this team has a legitimate chance to be better than they have, even at the height of their recent success.
Much like Tigers teams of years past, success for this version of the Detroit team will be buoyed by a powerful offense. Despite leading the league in batting average (.277), hits (1557), and RBIs (731), they managed to improve in the offseason. In 2015, the Tigers will have even more thump with a full season of J.D. Martinez, a healthy Cabrera, the addition of Yoenis Cespedes, and upgrades at positions such as shortstop.
Unlike teams of Detroit past, this team will pick it on the defensive side of the ball. Not only have they upgraded at shortstop with Jose Iglesias’s return, but alongside Iglesias, Alex Avila, Ian Kinsler, and Anthony Gose should help anchor a special defense up the middle. And the Tigers’ shift in philosophy regarding defense has extended to the corners as well. Yes, Cespedes is known primarily for his bat, but he is also a much better defender than Torii Hunter. He will help contribute to a defense unlike any the fans of Detroit have seen in a long time.
That defense will be important, too. Because any way you look at it, losing Max Scherzer hurts. But this rotation can still be elite. David Price is smack dab in the middle of his prime, and Anibal Sanchez is just one year removed from winning the ERA crown in the AL. Beyond that, as it pertains to statistics, Alfredo Simon was essentially the exact same pitcher as Rick Porcello last year. If Verlander can be half the pitcher he once was, the rotation will be the least of Detroit’s problems.
The biggest of Detroit’s problems will be the bullpen, as it always has. A weak unit only got worse when news broke that Bruce Rondon will start the season the DL. It doesn’t project to be a serious injury, but the Tigers need to be at full strength for the beginning of the year when they face AL Central rivals in 28 of their first 35 games.
Despite the bullpen however, this team is stronger as a unit, on offense and defense, than it has been in recent history, and they are poised to surprise in 2015. Bovada has set the over under for the Tigers at 84.5 wins. The narrative of the national media would suggest far less than that. But, in reality, they remain legitimate title contenders and they can shock the league with at least 90 wins.