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Detroit Tigers: Sanchez Could Be the Key to an AL Central Three-Peat

In December 2012, the Detroit Tigers signed Anibal Sanchez to a five-year, $80 million contract, bolstering one of the best starting rotations in baseball.

And this season, Sanchez has gone out and defended his mega deal.

Sanchez’s deal was one of the more polarizing contract agreements in Tigers recent memory, igniting outrage from some fans, and elation for others.

The 29-year-old received the deal mostly because of his 2012 postseason success when he earned a 1.77 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 6 walks in 20.1 innings over three starts.

Sanchez helped lead the Tigers to the 2012 World Series, but prior to last year’s postseason, Sanchez’s numbers were mediocre at best.

His 9-13 record with a 3.86 ERA in 2012, combined with his 39-38 lifetime record prior to 2012, had some Tigers fans up in arms about such an expensive, long-term contract.

But in 2013, the right-hander has picked up from where he left off from last October, and has been brilliant for the Tigers.

On Wednesday night, Sanchez earned his career-high 14th win after throwing seven scoreless innings, giving up just five hits and earning 10 strikeouts.

Sanchez improved to 14-7 this season with a 2.50 ERA, which is the best among Tigers starters.

He has the second-most wins on the team, trailing only Max Scherzer and is the only starter trailing Scherzer in strikeouts per nine inning with 9.67. His 9.67 K’s per nine innings is third in the AL.

With the struggles of Justin Verlander, Sanchez has been the Tigers’ second best starter this season, and he’s arguably been the best against the American League Central

Against the AL Central, when it matters the most, Sanchez has been even more outstanding.

Sanchez is 7-3 against divisional opponents and has a sub-2 ERA against three of the four teams in the division.

He’s on pace to earn a career-best ERA and for a career-high in strikeouts. His best game this season came in April against the Atlanta Braves, when threw an eight-inning shutout, striking out 17 batters.

Sanchez’s 17 strikeouts broke the Tigers’ franchise record for strikeouts in a single game, passing Mickey Lolich, who struck out 16 batters twice in 1969.

With 16 games left and the Tigers six games up in the division, Sanchez will have three more regular season starts, where he can help the Tigers bury the Cleveland Indians and lead Detroit to an AL Central three-peat.

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Detroit Tigers: Why Miguel Cabrera Should Not Rest Down the Stretch

Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter on the planet and is in a league of his own this season.

There’s no reason the Detroit Tigers should keep him out of the lineup the next couple weeks.

Cabrera has been forced to miss eight games this season due to various injuries and pundits have debated whether the Tigers should give the defending Triple Crown and MVP winner a few days off down the stretch.

But you cannot justify sitting down the best hitter in baseball during the most crucial stretch of the season.

The last time Cabrera missed a game was Aug. 3.

Since then, he’s batted .359 with a .433 on-base percentage, 11 home runs and 31 RBI in 92 at-bats through 23 games.

The Tigers have gone 14-9 in that span, with seven of those wins coming by two runs or less.

Detroit is only 5.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians with 31 games left in the season, and the American League Central race is far from over.

Detroit, Cleveland and the Kansas City Royals are all above .500 this season and the Tigers play Cleveland and Kansas City a combined nine more times this season. The Tigers are also entrenched in a tough series with the Oakland Athletics and have the first-place Boston Red Sox looming.

The Tigers are 7-1 without Cabrera in the lineup this season, but he’s shown that he can continue to dominate despite small, lingering issues that may be bothering him day-to-day.

Cabrera at 70 percent is a much better option than anyone else at the hot corner at 100 percent.

Detroit does not want to have to travel to Tampa Bay or Boston this postseason in search of back-to-back World Series berths. It needs to lock up the best record in the AL and ensure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Among AL teams, the Tigers have the second-best record at home this season at 41-24, but away from Comerica Park, the Tigers are 36-30.

If you take out Cabrera, who makes everyone around him better, there is a gaping hole opened in the middle of the lineup.

I agree that the Tigers should sit him for a game or two if he wants—if they have home field locked up with a few games to go in the regular season—but not a minute before that is ensured.

Cabrera is too valuable to be watching games in September from the bench.

Play him.

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Selecting the AL Central’s Position Player First Quarter All-Star Team

The American League Central is one of the most interesting divisions in all of baseball this season.

The Detroit Tigers once again entered the year as runaway favorites to take the division crown, and are once again struggling at the first quarter mark, trailing the Cleveland Indians by 2.5 games.

The Indians, who finished 20 games back in the division last year with only 68 wins, are on pace to reach close to 100 wins this season, and are the hottest team in baseball, winning 18 of their last 22 games.

But unlike the Tigers, the Indians aren’t doing it with star power.

The Tigers lead the AL in runs, average and on-base percentage, but have struggled lately, going 4-6 in their last 10 games, with two of those wins coming against the dreadful Houston Astros.

Yet, most of the players on this list are donning the Old English D.

It has been a fun first quarter to watch, and has definitely been unexplainable at times, but here is my list for the AL Central Position Player All Stars at the first quarter mark:

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Detroit Tigers: Why Hunter, Cabrera and Fielder Will Continue Their Torrid Pace

Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder have been tearing the cover off the ball so far this baseball season, and they don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.

The Detroit Tigers‘ 2-3-4 hitters are leading the team in batting average in their same respective lineup order to help the struggling Tigers keep their heads above water.

For most of the first month of the season, the Tigers’ top three hitters led boasted the best batting average and on-base percentage in the American League.

Detroit has struggled over the past week, losing its last four games to fall to fourth in AL team batting average, but the Tigers’ stars are doing their jobs.

Here is why the Tigers’ three best hitters will continue their torrid pace for the rest of the season:

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Detroit Tigers Show a Little Bit of Everything in Opening Day Victory

The Detroit Tigers showed the Minnesota Twins and the rest of the American League what they can expect all season with a 4-2 Opening Day victory.

The Tigers got timely hits, manufactured runs, unveiled the closer-by-committee experiment and as expected, got outstanding starting pitching from the ace, Justin Verlander.

Led by Prince Fielder, the Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the season’s first inning and never looked back.

Take a look at my breakdown of the Tigers’ season-opening win:

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Breaking Down the Detroit Tigers’ Blueprint for Winning the AL Central

Winning a division is simple.

On paper.

If it was just on paper, the Detroit Tigers could hoist their third consecutive American League Central Division Championship trophy right now.

But that’s why they play 162 games over seven grueling months, and fight so hard to be successful.

Every team needs a blueprint to carving out their championship plan, and the Tigers have been pretty good at following their own blueprint the last two seasons.

In 2013, the Tigers blueprint will be very similar to the ones that won them the AL Central each of the last two years.

The Tigers need their stars to be stars. They need to win in the division, especially against the top-tier teams. They need to have dominant starting pitching, and they need a closer to step up.

Here is my breakdown of the Tigers’ blueprint to win the AL Central in 2013.

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Detroit Tigers: Jeff Kobernus Will Make a Surprise Impact in 2013

A month ago, most people outside of Detroit didn’t know who Jeff Kobernus was.

But this season, Kobernus will be on everyone’s radar, and will make a surprise impact for the Detroit Tigers.

Kobernus, a natural second baseman from San Leandro, Calif., was the Washington Nationals‘ second-round pick in the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft out of University of California Berkley.

The 24-year-old spent most of last season with the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate, Harrisburg, where he batted .282 with a .325 on-base percentage, one home run and 19 RBI in 82 games.

While those numbers aren’t anything to bat an eyelash at, Kobernus caught the attention of major league scouts after stealing 42 bases in 53 attempts last season.

His 42 stolen bases—in 82 games, mind you—was twice as many as the Tigers’ leading base-stealer last season, Quintin Berry.

Kobernus was a Rule 5 pickup for the Tigers last December, and although he has played second base his whole professional career, his best chance to produce in Detroit for now will be in left field, platooning with Andy Dirks.

Manager Jim Leyland has made it no secret he’s intrigued with having a right-handed hitter platooning in left field to give the Tigers an edge against left-handed pitching, and so far, Kobernus has held his own against lefties this spring.

He’s hitting .333 (4-for-12) with a triple, an RBI and three walks against left-handers in Grapefruit League action, and batting .294 (10-for-34), overall.

Andy Dirks is hitting .308, with one home run and two RBI in 26 at-bats this spring, but Dirks is only entering his third major league season and has been plagued with injuries in both of his first two years.

Leyland has had his eye on Kobernus throughout the spring, and likes his plate approach as well as weapon of speed he brings to the Tigers.

“I thought he had two or three outstanding at-bats,” Leyland said to’s Chris Iott after Saturday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. “Terrific at-bats, starting with the first one of the game. He worked a walk after getting in a hole. The at-bat he had in the last inning was a terrific at-bat.”

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Reasons Victor Martinez Will Be Starting the 2013 MLB All-Star Game

In nine full MLB seasons, Victor Martinez has been selected as an All-Star four times.

Playing for the Cleveland Indians, the Boston Red Sox and now for the Detroit Tigers, Martinez has been a key member for each team he has suited up for and proven himself as one of the most feared switch-hitters in the game today.

In 2011, after signing with the Tigers as a free agent, Martinez boasted a career high .330 average, with 12 home runs and 103 RBI’s, helping to lead the Tigers to their first ever American League Central Championship and their first division title since 1987 when they won the AL East.

Last January, while working out in the offseason, Martinez tore his ACL was forced to miss the entire 2012 campaign.

Detroit sorely missed Martinez’s production last season, struggling mightily from the plate and almost failed to reach the playoffs.

But after over a year of rest and rehabilitation, Martinez is ready to return to the Tigers’ lineup and pick up where he left off in 2011.

Here are the four reasons Martinez will be representing the AL as a starter in the 2013 All-Star Game:

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Detroit Tigers: Why Dombrowski Should Make Justin Verlander a Tiger for Life

Justin Verlander is the best pitcher on the planet, and the Detroit Tigers should do everything they can to ensure that he never puts on another jersey.

The 29-year-old hurler was the Tigers’ No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 amateur draft and made his major league debut just a year later on July 4, 2005.

Verlander only made two starts in 2005, but the next year, in his first full season, he made his presence felt, going 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA and leading Detroit to the playoffs and an appearance in the World Series.

He had a rocky year in 2008, going 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA, but since then, he’s become the best active pitcher in Major League Baseball.

After rebounding in 2009 by going 19-9 with a 3.45 ERA and recording a career-high 269 strikeouts in 240 innings over 35 starts, the Tigers rewarded Verlander in February, 2010 with a five-year, $80 million contract.

Verlander returned the favor over the next three seasons, assembling a combined 59-22 record with ERA’s of 3.37 in 2010 and 2.64 in 2012, and after recording a 2.40 ERA in 2011, he was crowned AL MVP.

But as Verlander’s contract—which ends after the 2014 season—winds down, the Tigers haven’t made any apparent moves to re-sign the right-handed ace.

“There’s been no discussions as of yet,” Verlander said to’s James Schmehl at Comerica Park during during the first day of the Tigers’ annual Winter Caravan. “And, I don’t know if there will be.”

But there needs to be a conversation about an extension sometime soon.

The Tigers can’t allow Verlander to get anywhere close to free agency and certainly can’t allow any other teams to try to lure him away from Detroit.

Because blockbuster deals are essentially based on how much the similar competition has gotten paid, Verlander’s next contract will be based on what players like CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke have recently received.

After the 2011 season, Sabathia agreed to a five-year, $122 million contract extension with the New York Yankees, and in December, Greinke agreed to a six year, $147 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Both players are making around $24.5 million per year, and neither player has been as good as Verlander the last two seasons.

Based on Greinke and Sabathia’s contracts, Verlander should receive a deal worth over $25 million a year.

The Tigers have done a good job surrounding Verlander with a lot of talent that is capable of winning a World Series, but they also have to pay their ace what he’s worth.

They can’t allow him to sniff the possibility of free agency and a possible better contract with another team.

Verlander told

You know me and how competitive I am with every aspect of everything. I’m my own individual. I don’t look at anybody else and say he did this or that. It’s what I’m comfortable with when it comes to something like that.

The five-time All-Star deserves to be the highest-paid pitcher and among the highest-paid players in the game.

Owner Mike Ilitch has opened his wallet lately in search of a World Series title and should continue to do so to pad Verlander’s pockets.

And he should do so sooner rather than later.

Verlander has made it clear that he wants to be one of the few MLB superstars to begin and end his career with the same team and has made it clear that his heart is with the Tigers.

Detroit is where he belongs.

“I’ve made this point before that my ultimate goal is to make the Hall of Fame,” he said. “I would like nothing more than to go to the Hall of Fame with an Old English D on my chest.”

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Why the Detroit Tigers Should Give Max Scherzer Every Penny He Is Looking for

The Detroit Tigers have never had a player go into arbitration since Dave Dombrowski became the general manager in 2002, and they shouldn’t start with Max Scherzer.

According to’s Jon Heyman, Scherzer, the Tigers’ 28-year-old No. 2 starter, requested $7.4 million for 2013, which was $1.35 million more than Dombrowski wanted to offer him.

But the Tigers should give the right-hander everything he’s asking for, and probably more.

Scherzer had the best season of his five-year career in 2012, posting a 16-7 record with a 3.74 ERA and 231 strikeouts in 187 2/3 innings.

His 231 strikeouts were good for second-best in the Major Leagues, only behind teammate Justin Verlander.

Last week, the two sides met to discuss what they thought Scherzer‘s 2013 contract is worth, but failed to find common ground.

Unless Scherzer and the Tigers come to an agreement in the next month, an arbitrator will be asked to decide for them, between the $7.4 million Scherzer is asking for, and the $6.05 million the Tigers are offering.

Because the Tigers haven’t gone as far an as arbitrator in over 10 years, they will most likely reach an agreement somewhere in the middle of what the two sides are proposing, but the Tigers should have more faith in Scherzer and give him what he’s asking for.

Because he’s worth it.

Scherzer only made $3.75 million last season after recording the second-most strikeouts and the sixth-most wins the American League.

The Tigers already gave Anibal Sanchez, who went 9-13 with a 3.86 ERA last season, including 4-6 and 3.74 in 12 starts with Detroit, a contract worth $16 million per year for the next five years, so why not give Scherzer more money?

Not only did Scherzer have the year of his life during the 2012 regular season, but he elevated his game in the playoffs.

In three postseason appearances a year ago, Scherzer posted a 1-0 record with a 2.08 ERA, 26 strikeouts compared to only four walks in 17 1/3 innings.

He rebounded from injury and personal tragedy to become the second member of the Tigers’ dangerous 1-2 punch behind Verlander, and he should be rewarded for doing so.

The Tigers are giving Sanchez $16 million a year. Scherzer isn’t even asking for half of that.

Owner Mike Illitch, Dombrowski and the Tigers need to pony up the dough.

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