In a sense, this homestand is a worst-to-first when you consider the American League Central standings. The last-place White Sox come to town first, then the Detroit Tigers saunter on in to Boston. It’s a steep increase in difficulty, but in the end, we’ll have seen a playoff preview from two of the best teams in the AL.
DETROIT TIGERS – 80-57, 1st place in the AL Central
Was there any doubt that this team would run the Central? The Tigers absolutely dominated their closest rivals in the Indians to the tune of a 15-4 record over the season, and their pitching staff all have over 2.0 fWAR each. Detroit might just be the most complete team in the AL, and will be a pretty good challenge for the team with the best record in the AL.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
1 – Austin Jackson – CF – .270/.344/.417
- Speedy center fielder who had (and still has, if you’re pessimistic) a penchant for striking out a lot. However, his strikeout rate has dropped every season since 2011.
- Slowly developing power, and it’s increasing year by year. Projects to be at least a 20-20 player in his prime.
- Good fielder, especially in the spacious Comerica Park. He’s racked up 55 Defensive Runs Saves in center field.
2 – Torii Hunter – RF – .307/.341/.476
- 38 years young, Hunter is still getting it done. Very good all-around hitter and rarely swings at pitches outside of the zone.
- The LA Angels let him go because they feared a major decline. In response, Hunter’s ISO rose and his strikeout rate improved greatly.
- Generally a solid fielder. Used to be a really good baserunner, but age has sapped his speed on the basepaths.
3 – Miguel Cabrera – 3B – .358/.449/.681
- 204 wRC. That’s not a typo. That’s an actual thing that’s happening. Cabrera is the best hitter on the planet, and it’s not even close.
- He’s also hitting a line drive on a quarter of his batted balls. He’s not just hitting the ball hard, he’s hitting it consistently as well.
- The one knock against him: his fielding. He’s cost the Tigers 20 Defensive Runs over the last couple seasons.
4 – Prince Fielder – 1B – .268/.356/.442
- Fielder is in a “down” year. So 21 homers and a 119 wRC is a “bad” season. Sure, ok, let’s go with that, I guess.
- In comparison to previous years, yes, he’s doing bad. But his plate discipline hasn’t suffered – just the amount of contact he’s made has dropped.
- Not an awful fielder, but he’s pretty much destined to be a DH in a few years. Even so, he’s still only 29 years old.
5 – Victor Martinez – DH – .298/.353/.421
- Even without the power he used to have, V-Mart can still rake. His wRC hasn’t dropped below 110 in a full season in his career.
- Yet another Tiger who has a fantastic track record for hitting a ton of line drives over his career. His contact rate on pitches in the zone is fantastic too.
- Only plays in the field occasionally now. He’s actually been more than decent in a small sample with the glove.
6 – Andy Dirks – LF – .255/.325/.363
- Another quick outfielder who hits a ton of liners and grounders. So, naturally, he maxes out his skills to get a good BABIP.
- He’s not without patience, though. It’s only been 1000 major league PA for him and his walk rate’s nearly 10%. Well done, Mr. Dirks.
- He gets the most value from his fielding, where he’s fantastic. He’s got a 9.0 UZR so far this season.
7 – Omar Infante – 2B – .318/.344/.453
- Contact-driven hitter with a low walk & strikeout rate. Relies on a good BABIP to keep his numbers where they are.
- He’s in the midst of a small, but lengthy power boost – his ISO over the last two seasons is higher than it’s ever been.
- As a fielder, Infante is more than capable of holding down second base. His glove has actually gotten better with time.
8 – Alex Avila – C – .198/.288/.338
- After a breakout season in 2011, Avila suffered some regression in 2012, but got wrecked by a low BABIP & injuries in 2013.
- Despite striking out roughly 22% of the time, a 12.6% walk rate offsets it and allows his power to play out over time.
- His problems may stem from him swinging more, but making less contact than he used to on pitches in the zone.
9 – Jose Iglesias – SS – 320/.368/.397
- So, we meet at last. You know the deal: slap hitter, inflated BABIP (.373) without the speed to back it up, and fantastic fielding.
- After a 4 wRC n 77 PA in 2012, he’s putting up a 109 in 2013. BABIP & drag bunts do wonders, I guess.
- Sure, it’s been a relatively small sample size in the majors, but UZR loves Iggy, giving him a 9.2 UZR over his ML career so far.
Who’s hot? – Last 14 games
- Austin Jackson: 2 HR, 13 runs, .510 SLG
- Victor Martinez: 6 RBI, no strikeouts, .465 wOBA
Who’s not? – Last 14 games
Fister isn’t a strikeout pitcher with what seems like the rest of the sent, but he’s very good nonetheless. Doesn’t give up walks vey often. Fister will keep the ball in the park while not allowing you to reach base – a nasty combo especially when you have a few players destined to do exactly that. Lackey will look to keep the good times rolling, with some recent ineffectiveness on the schedule.
By far the best pitcher on the Tigers so far this season. Strikes out nearly ten guys per nine, limits walks and doesn’t allow too many homers – a great combination for a starting pitcher. He’ll face Lester, who’s August has been amazing despite getting wrecked bad starts in July. This game will be the most playoff-like, I’d guess.
Porcello has a 2.6 fWAR and he’s the least valuable starter in the current Detroit rotation. Still, with Dempster opposing him on the mound, I can easily foresee this game turning into a slugfest really quickly. Detroit and Boston are the top two offenses in the American League, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see a battle with the bats breaking out on the Wednesday night game.
- Miguel Cabrera: Missed Sunday’s game (September 1st, abdominal irritation)
- Mike Carp: Missed Saturday’s game (August 31st, sore left shoulder)
This is going to be a very good playoff preview. With the divisional lead the Red Sox have, you can sit back and enjoy watching this spectacle.