Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers are looking for a fifth straight first-place finish in the American League Central.in 2015. One major obstacle in their way will be the loss of SP Max Scherzer, who signed a seven-year contract with the Nationals in January. That major loss, and the trade of SP Rick Porcello, forced the Tigers to remake their rotation, trading for SPs Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene, While trading Porcello hurts the rotation, it should help the offense as the team got OF Yoenis Cespedes, who has averaged nearly 24 home runs in his first three seasons, back in the deal.
The Tigers led the American League in both batting average and OPS last season, while ranking second in runs per game and tied for fourth in home runs. With OF Torii Hunter leaving the Tigers this winter, replaced by young OF Anthony Gose, the team loses one of its highest batting averages — Hunter hit .286 last season. The pitching staff had a 4.01 ERA last season, below the AL average of 3.81, but Scherzer and Porcello led the rotation in that category.
The team will likely see a drop in offensive production in the outfield with Gose — who has a .234 average in limited time in the majors — replacing Hunter, but Cespedes should help make up for some of that loss. The pitching, however, is a bigger question mark with the major losses the team had there. Simon had a good year last year, but it was his first season as a full-time starter so it’s hard to know if he was a one-year wonder or if he can have similar success again this year. Greene is an even bigger question mark — he started only 14 games last season, his first in the majors, and only threw 78.2 innings with the Yankees. He’ll have to be productive over the entire season to help the team. Then there’s the seemingly-past-his-prime SP Justin Verlander, whose ERA has dropped from 2.64 in 2012 to 4.54 last season. Will that downturn continue in 2015?
With all the changes on the Tigers this season — particularly in the starting rotation — it’s questionable whether or not they’ll stay atop the division. The door is definitely open for a team like the Royals or Indians to take over the top spot in the Central. How the pitching goes is likely how the team will go and I don’t think it’ll be good enough to make it five straight division titles.