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What We’ve Learned About the Detroit Tigers Near the Halfway Mark

The Detroit Tigers find themselves mired in mediocrity as the MLB season nears its midway point. At 36-34, Detroit holds the 16th-best record out of 30 teams in the majors.

This is a big underachievement for a perennially contending team.

Not that it is entirely unexpected. Fate has conspired against Detroit in many ways since the end of the 2014 season. Injuries have beset key contributors Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez for extended periods. Also, one of the game’s best pitchers, Max Scherzer, decided to flee the scene last offseason.

Even with these setbacks, the Tigers are still punching well below their weight. Lagging behind eight teams in the American League is unacceptable for a team with the third-highest payroll in the game.

Here’s why they find themselves in their current position…


The offense has not delivered consistently

After finishing second in the AL in runs the past two seasons, Detroit has slid well down the pole in 2015. They currently rank eighth in the league with 4.2 runs per game.

The Tigers are somewhat of an offensive enigma. Despite crossing the plate less frequently, they have still swung the bat well this year. Their batting average (.273) and OPS (.746) are second and third in the league, respectively.

However, Detroit just isn’t getting it done in the clutch.

Matthew B. Mowery of the Oakland Press recently documented the team’s struggles in key spots:

By the stat of WPA Clutch (wins probability added, adjusted for the leverage of the situation), key offensive cogs Yoenis Cespedes, Rajai Davis, Ian Kinsler, Jose Iglesias, Nick Castellanos, James McCann and J.D. Martinez all rank in the negative. Utility man Andrew Romine is clutchest at 0.5. Last year, this was the spot that J.D. Martinez was so stellar, hitting .271 with five homers and 12 RBI in late and close situations. This year, he’s hitting .154, with one RBI, no home runs and nine strikeouts.

The return of Victor Martinez from injury could trigger a turnaround. After the switch-hitter’s recall on June 19, Detroit has scored 25 runs in four games. This includes a season-high 12 runs against the Yankees on Father’s Day with Martinez contributing four RBI.

But can Detroit do it when counts?


The starting pitching is not what it once was

Detroit’s rotation has also slipped this year after being prolific in recent seasons.  In 2014, they ranked first in the AL with a 3.38 Field-Independent Pitching (FIP) mark. This year they languish at 10th with a 4.10 FIP.

Behind David Price (6-2, 2.50 ERA) and Alfredo Simon (7-4, 3.29 ERA), the team is searching for answers.

Justin Verlander was being counted on to provide a lift upon his return from the disabled list earlier this month. So far he has not. In two starts, the righty is 0-1, 6.17 ERA, 4 K, 3 BB.

The Tigers urgently need Verlander to step up and for Anibal Sanchez to continue his recent upward trend—3-2, 2.18 ERA, 37.2 IP in his last five starts. Otherwise, continued mediocrity—as well as every un-hittable outing by Scherzer—will feel like a punch in the gut to Tigers fans.


The bullpen is still flawed

Not so long ago, this looked like a bright spot for Detroit. Apparently, old habits die hard.

With Joakim Soria sitting pretty at 13-for-13 in saves on May 20, the Tigers’ bullpen was at least looking sturdy. Times have changed…

As the closer’s standards have faded, so have the unit’s as a whole. The Detroit relief corps now ranks third-bottom in the majors in FIP (4.24).

We saw the Kansas City Royals ride the success of their bullpen all the way to the Fall Classic last year. Detroit simply must get better in this area to be contenders. The trade market seems like the only solution to their problem.


The defense is genuinely good

There is cause for optimism amid the gloom. After years of being average at best, Detroit can now go get it in the field.

We all know what Jose Iglesias can do, but center fielder Anthony Gose has made some gems, too.

Their presence, along with newcomer Cespedes and the ever-consistent Kinsler, makes the Tigers’ defense one of the best in baseball. According to FanGraphs, they have the fourth-highest total of Defensive Runs Saved (26) in the majors.

All is certainly not lost for Detroit. Even with all their issues, they still maintain a winning record and are only two games back of the playoff places. After dropping back to .500 on June 20, they seemed to draw a line in the sand.

Their journey has only just begun.


All stats in this article are courtesy of FanGraphs

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Is It Time for the Detroit Tigers to Call Up Steven Moya?

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Detroit Tigers offense has had its struggles this season.

Nobody anticipated this. Even with Victor Martinez on the shelf, a team boasting Miguel Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes, J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler should be a run-scoring powerhouse. Right now they are languishing at 10th in the American League in runs per game (4.2).

Things have been particularly bad in recent outings. During the first four days of their current West Coast road trip, the runs have been as dry as a teetotaller’s picnic—six in four games. Some quality pitching has enabled them to eke out a pair of victories in these outings. However, their offensive malaise cannot continue if they hope to keep pace in the crackerjack Central Division.

There is hope on the horizon for the beleaguered Tigers lineup. Uncharacteristically for this franchise, the player in mind is not a veteran on the trading block, but a prospect waiting in the wings.

Steven Moya is the man I refer to. The 6’7″ slugger has been tabbed as a player of the future by the Tigers for some time now. Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski expressed his views on the 23-year-old last October to James Schmehl of MLive: “We love Steven Moya. … He’s a 35-home run, 100-plus hitting-type guy, and he plays solid defense and runs well for a big guy, too.”

Yep, Detroit’s No.1 prospect is the full package.

Dombrowski did not just pluck those numbers out of thin air. Last year with the Double-A Erie Seawolves, Moya set franchise records by uncorking 35 HR, 105 RBI and 286 total bases.

A September call-up for the first time last year, Moya had a chance of cracking the Tiger’s 25-man roster out of camp. But a poor spring (.125/.125/.250) had him heading back to the minors. Then, to rub salt into his wounds, he began the season late after sustaining a foot injury in early April.

Flip the calendar forward nearly two months, and things have changed significantly. After taking several weeks to find his groove, Moya is now raking at Triple-A Toledo.

Since May 12, he has hit .317 (19-for-60) and been on base in each of his 14 starts. During this time, Moya has plundered nine extra-base hits, including four home runs. One of these deep flies was also a game-winner against Buffalo on May 16.

Moya turning the corner may have come at just the right time for the Tigers. His hot bat could be the perfect fizz for Detroit’s un-carbonated offense.

Also beneficial is the fact that Moya bats from the left side. This would provide a nice complement to Detroit’s lineup, which is even more righty-dominant than normal with the absences of Martinez and Alex Avila. Center fielder Anthony Gose is currently the only everyday left-handed hitter on the Detroit team.

If promoted, Moya could slot in at No. 6 between J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos. This would not place too much burden on the youngster as he wets his feet in the big leagues.

Despite the documented upsides, Moya will come up with his warts. Last year he struck out 161 times at Double-A (31 percent) and has fanned another 50 times (31 percent) already in 2015.

The pitching will only get tougher in the majors, and Moya has shown no sign of lowering his strike out numbers. If given the chance now, his air-swing habits are unlikely to change in the short-to-medium term.

However, his immense talent and power may offset this issue. Many players are still productive and capable of helping their team win despite striking out a lot. Evan Gattis and George Springer of the Houston Astros are two cases in point.

Speaking last year to Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus recognised Moya’s flaws but also saw a silver lining:

It’s not uncommon for power hitters to swing and miss. But with experience, you hope his pitch-recognition goes up. I don’t think he’ll ever be Victor Martinez when putting the bat on the ball, but no one is. If he can make contact at the big-league level he’s going to hit some homers.

And the Tigers could certainly do with a few of those at the moment. What have they got to lose?

It could hardly get much worse on the offensive side than it is right now. If Moya fails, he can be sent back down for more seasoning and Detroit would go back to square one.

Whether it’s now or later, it’s just a matter of time before he does the business in Motown. Dombrowski seems ultra-confident of that: “If Moya‘s not a premium prospect, I don’t know who is. … I don’t know what damage he’ll end up doing this year, but I mean, this guy has unbelievable power,” he said to Anthony Fenech of Detroit Free Press.

We could be about to find out how much damage he can do. With the phone only an arm length away, Dombrowski’s hand may be just about to twitch.


Stats in this article are courtesy of

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3 Ways the Detroit Tigers Have Already Improved This Season

Five weeks into the 2015 MLB season, the Detroit Tigers (19-13) are looking up at the Kansas City Royals (20-12) in the American League Central Division standings.

A one-game deficit in no way constitutes “languishing,” but the Tigers are a team accustomed to being front-runners. Winning four straight division titles is testament to that.

Despite currently playing chaser, their .594 winning percentage is nothing to be sneezed at. In fact, if you extrapolate this figure over a full season, the Tigers are on pace for 96 wins—six more than 2014. Ergo, you can make a good argument for progress in the early going.

There have been some noticeable causes. With a stronger bench, manager Brad Ausmus has been able to tinker with his lineup and manipulate matchups to the team’s favor. Defensively, the team is also night-and-day compared to last year. Meanwhile, the bullpen is still a major concern (sigh), but one pitcher is shining brightly in a murky sea of mediocrity.

Click “next” for extended analysis on what’s getting the thumbs-up right now in Motown.

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5 Biggest Takeaways from the 1st Month of the Detroit Tigers’ Season

The Detroit Tigers have begun the 2015 regular season in fine fashion. A 17-9 record through the first month puts them in familiar territory atop the American League Central Division.

Their advantage, however, is of minuscule proportions. Kansas City (16-9) currently sits only a half-game adrift of the Tigers. The two sides have swapped leads on several occasions already, and the 2014 AL champion Royals figure to be neck and neck with Detroit all year long.

So what’s the deal with these first-place Tigers?

“Detroit” and “defense” were two words that used to go together like oil and water. Things have sure changed. Jose “The Human Highlight Reel”, Iglesias is healthy again this season, and his impact has been profound on the team’s fielding. 

The gifted shortstop is not the only player who has returned from 2013 to provide a boost. First baseman Miguel Cabrera is back, too.

Say what?

Indeed, Cabrera was very much present last season, playing in 159 games for Detroit. However, he simply wasn’t the Miggy of his MVP days. That colossal figure has returned in 2015 to lead a stud-laden yet inconsistent Detroit offense.

As for the pitching, starters David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Shane Greene, Alfredo Simon and Kyle Lobstein have arguably been the best starting quintet in the league. Considering that the exits of Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello created a talent vacuum, this is a major surprise.

With plenty to examine after one month, it’s time to grab the microscope and zoom in on the five major happenings in Tigertown.

*Rankings are based on how significant its impact has been to the team.


5. Joakim Soria is providing rare ninth-inning security

It’s been a while since Detroit has felt good about its closer—four seasons, to be exact. Not since Jose Valverde was mowing down hitters in 2011 has Detroit had a reliable ninth-inning stopper.

Not until now, anyway.

Soria has been lights out with Detroit this season, much to the delight (relief?) of most Tigers fans.

Bringing his Mariano Rivera-esque composure to the hill, the 30-year-old is a perfect 10-of-10 in saves since Tommy John surgery shut down former closer Joe Nathan for the season. It is a noteworthy turnaround for Soria, who had a terrible start to his Tigers career after Texas traded him last July.

According to starter Sanchez, Soria’s presence exudes confidence through the ballclub, per James Schmehl of “He just goes out there relaxed and throws the ball in the right spots. Everybody feels comfortable (with him around).”


4. Miguel Cabrera is back on top of his game

By any mortal’s standards, Cabrera had a very fine season in 2014. Most big league hitters would gratefully accept a .313/.371/.524 slash line with 25 dingers and 101 RBI if you offered it to them before the season.

But this is Miguel Cabrera we’re talking about.

Last year was quite a regression from his .348/.442/.636 line of 2013.

But this drop-off must be put in perspective. Cabrera entered the 2014 campaign after undergoing core surgery, and then ankle and foot injuries beset him during the regular season.

Healthy again now, the veteran slugger is discarding to the trash heap any thoughts of a decline. His .366 batting average (third in the AL) and a career-high 1.083 OPS unequivocally show that the old Miggy is back.

Another indicative sign is that pitchers are fearing him again. Cabrera is third in the AL with 17 walks already, including four intentional passes.

Just imagine if Victor Martinez gets going behind him. Scary stuff.


3. The starting rotation has excelled

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

Subtracting Scherzer and Porcello while adding Greene and Simon should equal certain regression, right? Not so far.

Through 26 games, Detroit’s staff ranks first in the AL in wins, innings and quality starts.

Remarkably, no Tigers starter ranks in the top 10 in the league in ERA. But barring an off day or two, the rotation has been excellent as a group.

Its prospects should only get better, too. 2011 AL MVP Justin Verlander is still absent due to an injured triceps, and his return will provide an enormous boost.

The performance of the rotation pips Cabrera and Soria due to the need for it to step up after two substantial offseason departures. It has also been very timely considering…


2. The offense has been prone to slumps

With a lineup including Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Yoenis Cespedes and Ian Kinsler, you’d almost expect Detroit’s offense to be slump-proof. Not so.

During the first month, the Tigers have failed to score runs on a consistent basis. They currently rank eighth in the AL with a mediocre 4.5 runs per game.

Some nights, the bats are barely showing up at all. The Tigers have scored two runs or less in 11 of their 26 games (42 percent).

While Nick Castellanos, Alex Avila and the strikeout-prone J.D. Martinez have caused their share of head scratches, the biggest concern has been Victor Martinez. The designated hitter’s major league-high .974 OPS in 2014 has nearly halved this year to an unflattering .544.

He hasn’t been himself at the plate after February knee surgery interrupted his preparation for the season. While still bothered by it, Martinez has shown some signs of improvement lately, according to manager Brad Ausmus, per Chris Iott of

“He seems to be progressing. The limp’s not as noticeable. When he’s taking pitches, he looks more normal, more comfortable, so I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

This takeaway grabs second, as its scoring rate (3.5 per game in their last 20) must be improved if Detroit is to be a genuine contender this year.


1. The Tigers can now play defense

While great offense and starting pitching have been staples of Detroit teams over the years, defense has never been its forte. This year, it’s a transformed unit.

Opposing teams would know this as well as anybody. After facing the Tigers six times already, Indians manager Terry Francona has certainly taken notice, per Dave Hogg of Fox Sports Detroit:

They’ve gotten so much more athletic on defense, especially up the middle, which makes them even tougher to beat. They’ve had great center fielders here for a while, but (Anthony) Gose and (Rajai) Davis can both fly out there, (Jose) Iglesias is obviously a great defensive shortstop and (Ian) Kinsler is really good at second.

The numbers back him up. Detroit’s .990 fielding percentage is second in the league, and only the Tampa Bay Rays have given up less unearned runs.

Watching the Tigers play defense is not hard on the eye, either. Take a look at Iglesias in action:

Detroit’s improved glove work gets top spot, as it arguably makes it a more complete team than it has been during any of its contending years. What do you think?


Stats in this article are courtesy of FanGraphs and

Hit me up on Twitter: @jdunc1979

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Shane Greene Already Looking Like a Great Fit in the Tigers’ Retooled Rotation

The Detroit Tigers possess no ordinary starting rotation. At least, not during their four-year postseason run that preceded this campaign. The likes of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, David Price and Rick Porcello have combined to make them the most dominant group in the American League.

Want proof? Since 2011, Tigers’ starters have recorded more wins, innings pitched and a higher K/9 than any other AL staff.

But last winter’s departures of Scherzer and Porcello—122 combined wins in the past four years—signaled a seismic shift in Motown. Minus two elite starters and with scant resources available in the farm system, Detroit needed external help.

Enter Shane Greene.  The lanky right-hander was acquired via trade last December and charged with filling some super-sized shoes.

Greene brought to the Motor City only 15 career major league appearances and five wins. All of these came last year with the New York Yankees. Before arriving in the Big Apple, he had compiled a 29-43 record in the minors with a 4.39 ERA—hardly prepossessing numbers.

Based on these credentials, Detroit’s newbie seems like a modest solution to a colossal problem. A Band-Aid applied to a six-inch gash.

But Greene performed admirably last season when called up by New York. More than that, he showed some signs that he could be a pitcher on the verge of breaking out.

At times he was unhittable in 2014, and Detroit saw this firsthand. The Tigers twice had the displeasure of facing Greene’s filthy offerings. His combined numbers in these outings were compelling: 2-0, 15 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 13 K.  

However, the righty remained plagued with inconsistency: Only six of his 14 starts were quality starts. Something was missing.

Greene’s pitching arsenal, including two-seam and four-seam fastballs, a cutter and a slider are all above-average pitches. It is this impressive kitbag that earned him a shot at the big show. But he lacked a quality changeup.

In his Yankees outings, his changeup was nearly nonexistent. According to FanGraphs, he used it only 4.3 percent of the time.

Greene recognized the need to put in the work and improve his changeup. He recently told Ashley Dunkak of CBS that “a lot of trial and a lot of error” may have finally led to a breakthrough. “I’ve been trying different changeup grips my whole career, and towards the end of the season last year I found one that I got pretty comfortable with…”

Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones saw plenty of potential in his changeup during the spring.  Jones predicted its usage would increase exponentially this season: “I think his ceiling is very high…and I think it’ll be even higher with the changeup…If he gets confident in it, he may use it 15 to 20 times,” he suggested to Dunkak.

Jones’ comments now seem quite prophetic. In Greene’s outing last week versus Minnesota—his first as a Tiger—13 of his 85 pitches (15.3 percent) were changeups.

The result? The right-hander had arguably the finest outing of his career. He gave up no earned runs in eight highly-efficient innings and got the victory. Greene may now be ready to take that step up to the elite level.

There is arguably nobody better to judge the quality of a pitcher’s offerings than the man catching them. Alex Avila has spent plenty of time receiving Greene since March. He was effusive in praising his battery mate when speaking to Dunkak:

He’s got four nasty pitches…His stuff is flat-out nasty, and he’s able to command it. When he’s able to command his pitches in the zone, he’ll have a lot of success because his stuff is really good. Having faced him last year, catching him during the spring, I’m very excited about his year … I think as he continues to develop and to figure himself out, he can win a lot of ball games.

There is no expectation that Greene will replace the output of 2013 Cy Young Award winner Scherzer. But, he may well be a very handy substitute for Porcello. In fact, the two share some striking similarities. The latter has achieved success through the years inducing ground balls. Last season, Greene’s 50.2 ground-ball percentage was 1.2 percent higher than Porcello’s. They are also both 26 years old and neither is vertically challenged—Greene is one inch shorter at 6’4”.

Of course, Porcello’s 75 career wins currently dwarf Greene’s six. But history does not determine the future, and Greene may still outperform the Red Sox hurler in the months and years to come. He will cost a lot less, too.

Earlier this month, Porcello signed a lucrative multi-year deal with Boston.  

With Porcello’s contract heading into its final year in 2015, the Tigers knew he was a pricey proposition with no guarantee of returning. On the other hand, newcomer Greene will be under team control at least through the 2022 season while earning just above the league minimum this year.

Greene’s contract will be also be highly beneficial for Detroit, who would prefer to avoid exceeding the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million. Their current total payroll sits at just over $173 million, according to ESPN.

Of course, things need to be kept in perspective. Greene’s six career wins are just that—six wins. He still has everything to prove. However, he and his fellow Detroit starters are showing that their staff may not be the fallen giant that many people suspected.

If Greene and the others can maintain their momentum, they may yet prove to be the equal of any Tigers rotations of the recent past.

All stats in the this article are courtesy of FanGraphs

Hit me up on Twitter: @jdunc1979

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3 Reasons to Be Optimistic for the Detroit Tigers’ 2015 Season

The Detroit Tigers begin the 2015 MLB season in less than one week.

On April 6, the Tigers host the Minnesota Twins to kickstart their 115th season in the American League. Pitching ace David Price will lead Detroit at Comerica Park as they attempt to retain the Central Division crown for a record-tying fifth straight year. Only the Cleveland Indians, who topped the division from 1995 to 1999, have dominated this AL Central longer than the current Tigers.

Despite their strong grasp on the division, the Tigers will certainly have their work cut out for them this year. The emergence of the Indians, Royals and White Sox will make this one of the tightest divisions in the game.

There is also a feeling that Detroit may be coming back into the pack. Last year’s AL Division Series exit was their worst finish to a season since 2010. In 2015, FanGraphs predicts that Detroit will drop down to 84 wins and be succeeded by the Indians as division champions.

Despite the detractors, wresting AL Central supremacy away from Detroit will be no easy task. This is a club still committed to winning at almost any cost.

The Tigers’ continued tinkering this past offseason, including the additions of Yoenis Cespedes and Anthony Gose, shows their willingness to adapt to the times. In an era of pitching dominance, Detroit’s hitting lineup is now arguably the finest in the league. With David Price, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez featuring in the starting rotation, they look pretty formidable there too.

Still convinced the team is in decline?

Read on to see why the prevailing mood in Detroit should be one of optimism as the season draws closer.

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Detroit Tigers: Top 5 Takeaways from Spring Training

The Detroit Tigers have now completed more than half of their 2015 spring training schedule. It has been a largely unsuccessful March for Detroit if you only consider its record (7-14). However, wins and losses mean precious little during this stage of the year.

What matters most is players getting in their reps and optimizing their preparation for a minimum six-month-long season.

With the exception of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, most of Detroit’s regular players have spent ample time on the diamond. The aforementioned sluggers began their seasons on March 22 after injuries kept them sidelined for most of spring training. Their return is a crucial development for the club.

Spring has also provided an opportunity for youngsters to make an impression and audition for a roster spot. James McCann, Anthony Gose and Hernan Perez have seemingly booked their tickets to Motown based on their performances to date.

Others, such as Daniel Fields and Jose Valdez, have laid down markers through their strong performances. In contrast, some prospects (e.g., Steven Moya) have failed to impress in the early going.

The ensuing top five spring takeaways are ranked according to their importance to the team as it looks ahead to Opening Day on April 6.

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The Detroit Tigers’ Biggest Missed Opportunity of the Offseason

The Detroit Tigers project to be contenders once again in 2015. They will head into the new season as favorites to clinch the American League Central Division title for the fifth straight year.

The Tigers will sport a slightly different look to last year after a few nips and tucks this offseason. Significant alterations include the additions of outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Anthony Gose, as well as starting pitcher Shane Greene. Passing them on their way out were veteran starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.

Lost in all of these wheelings and dealings was a golden opportunity for Detroit to add a very special player to its ranks.

Andrew Miller was arguably the premier relief pitcher on the market this winter. His numbers during the past three seasons show why:

Outside of the otherworldly Aroldis Chapman, the 6’7” left-hander has claims to be the best southpaw reliever in the game.

Miller also offers something that Detroit’s relievers have generally lacked in recent times—the ability to deliver when under pressure. Billy Chuck of unearthed some eye-popping stats for Miller during clutch situations in 2014: “Batters hit .133 against him with men on; .151 with men in scoring position; .036 with two outs; and with RISP and two outs, batters hit .077.”

For those still not convinced, check out last year’s postseason numbers: 7.1 innings pitched, one hit, one walk, zero earned runs and eight strikeouts.

The guy is unequivocally awesome.

Unfortunately for Detroit, Miller decided not to return to the team that drafted him in the first round back in 2006. Instead, he will be suiting up in pinstripes for the next four years after inking a $36 million contract with the New York Yankees, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

This is the signing that Detroit really had to make.

The chronic failures of its bullpen stretches back a long way now. As the table below shows, its ERA has finished 10th or worse in the AL in seven of the past eight years:

The playoffs have been even worse. The acrid taste of Shane Victorino’s grand slam off Jose Veras in 2013 and Delmon Young clearing the bases off Joakim Soria last year still linger on the palates of Detroit fans.

The bullpen’s overall postseason numbers in its current four-year playoff run tell a lucid story:

It’s ugly, and it appears to be getting worse.

To be fair to team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, he has kicked down more than a few doors in his attempts to get the bullpen right.

Joe NathanMLB’s active leader in career saves—was signed last winter. Also, after dominating with the Texas Rangers early last season, Soria was picked up during the summer. After struggling mightily in 2014, both return this year with their combined services costing the team $17 million.

Veteran Joel Hanrahan was re-signed, and flame-thrower Bruce Rondon also comes back into the fold for Detroit. However, they remain big question marks, as neither has pitched in a game since 2013 after both undergoing Tommy John surgery. The signing of Joba Chamberlain this week also provides the team with more depth.

But the pen still lacks a dominant figure; somebody who can be trusted to get outs whenever the team needs them.

Miller could have been that go-to guy in Motown.

His capture made sense on many levels—a genuine stud arm; durable and young; a successor to Nathan as closer; good under pressure; great in the postseason; and formerly one of Detroit’s own.

On top of that, he’s a lefty. Jason Beck of noted recently that a second southpaw in the pen is the Tigers’ final roster void. An internal candidate will probably fill it now. However, with all due respect to Ian Krol, Blaine Hardy and the others, Miller dwarfs them all—both literally and figuratively.

Detroit still has plenty of upside to its roster. The offense could lead the league in runs this year, and the starting rotation still looks very good, especially with a strong top three. But if the bullpen hemorrhages again, Tigers fans are advised to avoid peeking at Yankees box scores and wondering what could have been.


Unless otherwise stated, stats in this article are courtesy of and

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Complete Detroit Tigers 2015 Spring Training Preview

The Detroit Tigers are once again favorites to triumph in the American League Central this season.

However, the four-time reigning division champions are no certainty to prevail in arguably baseball’s tightest division.

The Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians are now established contenders, and an outstanding offseason for the Chicago White Sox has brought them into the picture.

As per usual, the Tigers have had another busy winter. A paradigm shift, which was initiated last offseason, gives this team a different hue to what they featured just a few seasons ago.

Last winter’s acquisitions of Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler signalled a new era of speed and dynamism in Detroit. November’s trade for outfielder Anthony Gose continued that theme. The return of Jose Iglesias from injury and the addition of Yoenis Cespedes will also markedly improve Detroit’s defense.

That’s the good news. What’s concerning is the state of the starting rotation.

Veterans Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have both fled and taken their 124 combined victories over the past four years with them.

But, after coming up empty-handed in recent years, a cultural shift was needed in Detroit. A more audacious, speedy outfit that plays and better defensive could vindicate the decisions of team president/ general manager Dave Dombrowski in the years to come.

Read on for more comprehensive analysis of the Tigers as spring training looms just over the horizon.

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Handicapping the Detroit Tigers’ Hotly Contested Position Battles

The Detroit Tigers appeared to have all of their major roster spots sewn up not so long ago. But things can change in a hurry.

The injury bug has bitten this franchise again, which will force some significant shake-ups in the weeks to come.

A knee injury to designated hitter Victor Martinez has put a giant monkey in Detroit’s wrench. Martinez’s recovery from meniscus surgery—due to take place next week—will almost certainly rule him out beyond Opening Day, and potentially as late as midseason.  

With Miguel Cabrera also rehabilitating this winter, Detroit’s two biggest offensive threats could both be watching from the sidelines when April rolls around.

Even if Cabrera is able to DH, it still leaves a big hole at first base. That leaves the Tigers with plenty to mull over.

Apart from this new dilemma, things seem pretty stable. The other position players look concrete in their starting roles, and the rotation is a done deal—notwithstanding a daring move for starter James Shields.

Any other battles waged will be for places on the bench or in the bullpen. The latter could be particularly intriguing with one or two sleepers getting a chance if they have a spectacular spring.

With a few openings available, let’s take a look at the contenders and what their chances are of grabbing one of the available spots.

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