Each year blogs and newspapers are full of predictions and wishes for the new year. I think it's a dopey idea. I'm all about dopey, therefore here is my A to Z for 2013.
A is for Anibal. His contract is sizable and perhaps the Tigers overpaid, but by keeping him in the Old English D, it gives the Tigers perhaps the best rotation in the league.
B is for Big Badd Brennan Boesch. Here's hoping for his return to the Big-ness and Badd-ness he exhibited as a rookie. He's a good guy with loads of huge potential.
C is for Coke. Phil Coke. His glove slam after closing out the Yankees in the post season was one of the lasting impressions of the Tigers roller coaster season. A visual "Booyah" to the doubters. The hope is 2013 will feature a lot of what we saw from Coke in the post season.
D is for Dave Dombrowski. The Tigers General Manager who once again executed a trade at the deadline in 2012 that lead to a post season run. Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante addressed a couple of critical needs. Here's hoping for more of the same in 2013.
E is for Ernie. Mr. Harwell passed away in 2010, but I'll always be grateful for the opportunity to work with the man who was a large influence on my professional career.
F is for Four more wins. That's all Tigers fans are hoping for in 2013.
G is for Avisail Garcia. Minny Miggy showed some impressive skills after his late season call-up. He also gave announcers fits as they tried with much futility to correctly pronounce his first name. Maybe in 2013, they will get plenty of practice.
H is for Hunter. The addition of class act Torii Hunter to the Tigers clubhouse adds skill and character to the mix. He'll also give reporters a "go to guy" when the quotes begin to dry up.
I is for Infante. His skill as a baseball player fills the hole the Tigers have had at second base since Placido Polanco left. More importantly though, anyone whose last name starts with "I" is good by me.
J is for Justin Verlander. Will 2013 be the year he throws his third no-hitter? He nearly had it last year against the Pirates until Josh Harrison broke it up in the ninth. Don't worry, it's coming.
K is for, well, K. As in all of the strikeouts the Tigers staff will rack up in 2013. Only Tampa's staff recorded more strikeouts in 2012 than Detroit.
L is for Lakeland. I can't wait to get down to Tiger Town to start my 12th season in the booth.
M is for Marlboro. Here is hoping that the skipper will have fewer stressful situations in 2013, thereby cutting down the consumption of his favorite smokes.
N is for Nick Castellanos. Will 2013 be the year the Tigers top prospect makes his big league debut? My guess is yes. The Tigers lineup is loaded, but sooner or later, whether because of injury or production, his bat will get an opportunity.
O is for Opening Day. The biggest celebration for the return of baseball happens in Detroit. I can't wait to see a packed house at Comerica Park on April 5th.
P is for Prince. Having watched Fielder play for a full season, I have come to appreciate his approach to the game. Whether it's a routine ground ball in April or October, the first inning or the ninth, Prince will always run it out.
Q is for Quintin Berry. Q's production declined as the season progressed, but his enthusiasm for the game and energy often gave the Tigers some life in 2012. Is there a spot for him in 2013? His pure speed makes him a valuable bench player.
R is for Rondon. Right now, it appears the Tigers are comfortable with giving the rookie a shot at getting the final three outs. His arsenal is impressive but he will have to pitch beyond his 22 years to keep the job.
S is for Sneaky. The Tigers super sub Ramon "sneaky" Santiago had a tough 2012 season. He played winter ball this off season again and that will hopefully help to get him back to being the quality bench player the club has had in the past.
T is for Triple Crown. See Miguel Cabrera's stats last year. Can he provide an encore in 2013?
U is for Unbelievable. Here's hoping we will use that word a lot to describe many Austin Jackson catches and walk-off wins in 2013.
V is for Victor. If Martinez returns from a knee injury to his previous form, the Tigers will have one fearsome 3-4-5.
W is for Wire to wire. Hoping the Tigers will spend every day in first place next year.
X is for Extra innings. I hope we don't play many extra inning games this year because they make me tired.
Y is for Yankees. The Bronx Bombers are always a big draw, but this year the Tigers home opener is against New York. Beating the Yanks will make Opening Day 2013 that much sweeter.
Z is for Zero. Exactly the number of bad days you have when your job is announcing Tigers baseball.
Prince Fielder's late season homer in Minnesota was a highlight.
The 2012 season for the Tigers culminated with an appearance in the World Series. Not many gave the Tigers a chance to reach the post season, let alone the Fall Classic.
A roller coaster of a campaign tested the patience and loyalty of Tigers fans everywhere. One thing is for certain however, there were many memorable moments along the way.
Here are my top five memorable moments of the Tigers 2012 regular season, and five more that you may have forgotten.
5. Max Scherzer's start in Pittsburgh
Just days after Scherzer's brother Alex took his own life, Max took the mound in Pittsburgh and pitched through what had to be the most difficult of circumstances. Scherzer took the loss that day, but the numbers didn't matter. After the game, Scherzer admitted that his start provided therapy for the grief stricken family. I can't imagine having the ability to perform after such an emotional loss. The fact that Scherzer would go on to win a career high 16 games would become one of the most impressive things I have seen accomplished in baseball.
4. Fister on a roll
On September 27th, the Tigers began the day one game ahead of the Chicago White Sox in the A.L. Central standings. With the Kansas City Royals in town, Doug Fister was trying to pitch the Tigers one game closer to a division crown. While Fister was robbed of a win thanks to a blown save, he electrified the crowd that day, establishing an American League record by striking out nine straight Royals. The streak started with Salvador Perez looking at strike three to end the fourth inning and continued through the 7th inning when Billy Butler was caught looking at the third strike. Fister would come within one strikeout of matching Tom Seaver's major league record of 10 consecutive strikeouts.
3. Tigers ambush Perez
Perhaps the Tigers most thrilling win of 2012 came at the expense on the Cleveland Indians and their outspoken closer, Chris Perez. Powered by a pair of 10th inning home runs by Travis Hafner and Eziquiel Carrera, the Tribe carried a three run lead into the bottom of the 10th on August 5th at Comerica Park Already trailing by a game and a half in the standings, Perez quickly retired the first two Tigers and it looked like the Detroit would suffer a costly loss. Alex Avila drew a two-out walk and Andy Dirks kept the Tigers slim hopes alive with a pinch-hit single. Austin Jackson doubled to make the score 8-6 and Omar Infante added a two-run single to tie the game. Miguel Cabrera then sent the crowd into a frenzy with a two-run shot to left, sending the Tigers to a 10-8 win. Two outs, nobody on and the Tigers scored five to stun the Indians. One of the best moments of the season.
2. Q's arrival
One of the most overlooked signings that Assistant GM Al Avila made in the off season heading into 2012 turned out to be one of the most important. Prince Fielder's deal captured all of the headlines, but adding Quintin Berry to the organization gave the Tigers some insurance in the event Austin Jackson would go down. Well, Jackson would indeed go down in May and Berry got his first taste of the major leagues. All of the bus rides through countless minor league towns would finally be be worth it. After 6 1/2 years in the minors, Berry would make his major league debut, instantly providing a spark for the Tigers with his speed. Q would steal 21 bags without being caught. His production slowed down the stretch, but his enthusiasm gave the Tigers a much needed spark throughout the year.
1. Miggy's Triple Crown
We hadn't seen one since 1967. That year, Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown in the American League. In 2012, Miguel Cabrera accomplished the feat, leading the league in homers, RBI's and batting average. The debate for A.L. MVP raged all season, with fans backing either Mike Trout of the Angels or Cabrera. In the end, Miggy's Triple Crown may have put the final touches on clinching the MVP.
Top Moments you may have forgotten:
5. Jackson robs Gose
Austin Jackson has made far too many great catches to keep track of, but one that may have slipped through the cracks this year happened in late August. In the heat of a pennant race, Austin robbed Toronto's Anthony Gose of extra bases in the 10th inning with a diving catch on August 23rd. The hit would have given Toronto the lead, but the Tigers would win in extra innings thanks to Jackson's thievery.
4. Verlander's 131 pitch effort
It may have been early April, but Jim Leyland had no intentions of letting a win slip away in Kansas City. Leading 3-1 on April 16th, and already over 100 pitches for the game, Leyland let his ace finish the job. The Royals scored a run in the bottom of the ninth and loaded the bases with Alex Gordon stepping in with two outs. Verlander let it fly, striking out Gordon on his 131st pitch of the night. Number 131 registered at 100 MPH. Later in the year, Verlander would go on to throw 132 pitches in a win over the Yankees in August.
3. Fielder and Cabrera provided an early preview
The minute Prince Fielder signed with the Tigers, opposing managers and pitching coaches were racing to the medicine cabinet for a roll of TUMS. On April 7th, the Dynamic Duo provided an early glimpse of what was to come. In just the second game of the season, both homered twice against the Red Sox in a 10-0 rout. When all was said and done, the pair combined for 74 HR and 247 RBI's
2. Fielder's late season homer in Minnesota
Closing in on the Central Division title, the Tigers trailed 1-0 at Minnesota on September 30th. The Twins Liam Hendricks had shutout the Tigers through seven innings. In the 8th, Fielder hit a clutch two-out, two-run homer off Jared Burton to give the Tigers the lead. Detroit's victory reduced the magic number to one.
1. Miggy takes a bow.
With the triple Crown secure, manager Jim Leyland took Miguel Cabrera out of the game in the fourth inning of the Tigers season finale in Kansas City on October 4th. As Cabrera left the field at Kauffman Stadium, he high-fived his teammates and waved his helmet to the fans who showered him with a standing ovation. Leyland's gesture allowed Cabrera to enjoy the moment and provided us with a lasting memory of a tremendous baseball accomplishment.
With Spring training starting earlier this year thanks to the WBC, it won't be long before the Tigers kick off the spring schedule when they face the Atlanta Braves on February 22nd in Lake Buena Vista, Fl.
Now that the Winter Meetings have come and gone and most of the off season moves have been made, it appears that the Tigers are well positioned to win their third straight division crown.
Perhaps the biggest makeover was turned in by the Minnesota Twins who traded both Ben Revere and Denard span in an effort to bolster a barren pitching rotation.
The Twins have revamped with the additions of Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey to the starting five, while also adding a pair of top prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May.
In dealing away Revere and Span, the Twins will entrust two of their outfield positions to Darin Mastroianni and Chris Parmelee. Minnesota felt it had to restock its system with pitching and its two biggest chips not named Mauer and Morneau were the two speedy outfielders. While the additions to the rotation add some veteran presence, it will take a while for the Twins to get back to the teams that were division favorites every year.
The Royals also added some splash to their rotation by adding James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis, while trading away top prospects Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery. Kansas City had find an ace and they did. A new-look pitching staff which also includes Jeremy Guthrie acquired last season, will give the Royals a legitimate shot in the Central.
Much will depend on the continued development of youngsters Mike Moustakas, Salvy Perez, Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar, but the Royals should be more optimistic heading into spring camp than they have been in a while.
The White Sox remain mostly the same team that finished three games behind the Tigers in 2012. The addition of infielder Jeff Keppinger from the Rays is one of the few changes, but A.J. Pierzynski's departure to Texas leaves the offense minus the 27 homers the catcher contributed.
Still, any team that features a top three of Chris Sale, Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd in the rotation remains dangerous.
Cleveland fired manager Manny Acta after finishing 20 games behind the Tigers in 2012. Terry Francona takes over a club that has several good young players, but not many proven, productive veterans.
GM Chris Antonetti dealt away one of his shiniest pieces, Shin Soo Choo, and in return received outfielder Drew Stubbs and enigmatic pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. Hard to tell when Bauer will be ready to contribute in the big leagues.
The Tribe also took a flyer on RHP Scott Kazmir (yikes) and is heavily pursuing free agent outfielder Nick Swisher. Mark Reynolds brings a power bat with him from Baltimore, but a ton of strikeouts as well.
Still, the most meaningful change may be the addition of Francona. "Tito" won two World Series with the Red Sox and averaged 93 wins a seasons. The Tribe appears to be several years away from contending.
The Tigers will undoubtedly be favored to win the Central Division. The starting rotation coupled with one of the best lineups in the game should have the rest of the division looking up at the Tigers all season.
The Anibal Sanchez deal became official today as the Tigers put the finishing touches on one of top rotations in baseball. The club held a press conference at Comerica Park officially announcing the five-year deal. Sanchez joins Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister to form a very deep top four.
All are under the age of 30, and for the time being, the rotation also includes Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly who each check in at the tender age of 23.
From the beginning it seemed that Sanchez wanted to remain a Tiger. He appeared to find the Tigers club house comfortable after the July trade that brought him to Detroit with fellow Venezuelan Omar Infante.
His agent Geno Mato reiterated that stance today. "It was pretty clear to me from the beginning that Anibal wanted to be a Tiger, and I did everything in my power to make it happen," he said.
Sanchez was lights out in his three post season starts and was as good as any pitcher in the A.L. the final month of the season.
As expected, Dave Dombrowski's phone has gotten a workout asking about the availability of Rick Porcello. When asked to describe the call volume regarding his pitching riches, Dombrowski characterized it as "numerous."
Should the Tigers trade him? If the right deal comes along, sure, otherwise the baseball truism that you can never have enough pitching applies. Depth is required to navigate through the rigors of a 162-game season, and Porcello gives the Tigers depth.
Porcello has been a contact pitcher since arriving in the big leagues. Last season, he allowed a league high 226 hits. His pitch breakdown shows that he threw his slider between 15% and 20% the last two seasons. In his best season (14 wins, 3.96 ERA in 2009) he threw his slider just 8 % of the time. Regaining the dominant sinker he displayed at his best would go a long way to getting Porcello over the hump.
The Tigers window is now. With a youthful and talented pitching staff in place, and two of its biggest offensive stars (Miguel Cabrera 29, and Prince Fielder 28) under the age of 30, a shot at the World Series in the next couple of years seems doable.
Anibal Sanchez will return to Detroit.
When the Tigers dealt top pitching prospect Jacob Turner in a July trade that netted righty Anibal Sanchez, they received exactly what they had hoped for. Sanchez settled down after a shaky start and was dominant in September, posting a 2.43 ERA while striking out 37 and walking only five in 40 2/3 innings. His WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched) was under one.
In the post season, Sanchez was even better, with a 1.77 ERA in three starts.
Yet, as the off season progressed, it appeared that the Tigers would be left with only Omar Infante to show for the deal. A slugfest of a negotiation involved a battle with the Chicago Cubs for Sanchez, and in the end, the Tigers would up the ante significantly and win out according to reports.
After an initial offer was deemed too low, the Tigers stepped to the plate and outlasted the Cubs when the dollars got hefty, getting it done with a reported five year, $80 million deal.
A native of Maracay, VZ, Sanchez undoubtedly received plenty of encouragement from fellow Venezuelans Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Omar Infante to return to Detroit. As the season progressed last year, Sanchez appeared to fit in nicely in the Tiger locker room. A five year deal for any pitcher can be a risk, but given the fact that Sanchez in only 28 years old and has made at least 31 starts each of the last three years. He has never thrown 200 innings in a season, but that should change this year.
Money aside, the Tigers offered some intangibles that the Cubs seemingly could not, namely a chance to get back to the World Series. Also, playing in front of 30,000 to 40,000 fans on a nightly basis for an owner that is determined to win a championship is something many players can only dream about.
The signing now gives the Tigers four above average big league pitchers in their rotation with promising rookie Drew Smyly and young veteran Rick Porcello in the mix. As impressive as the Tigers lineup is, pitching ultimately carries you to division championships and a chance to play for a World Series.
If the Tigers get nothing else accomplished this off season, the signings of Torii Hunter and Sanchez gives them a strong shot at winning a third straight Central Division title.
James Shields was traded to KC for prospects including Wil Myers.
The Royals need to go for it. They know it's time. As a small market team, payroll concerns constantly race to the forefront each season when budgets are formed.
That's why trading away four inexpensive prospects for two much more costly major league players opened some eyes.
In reality though, the time seems right for Kansas City to take the plunge. The Royals were never going to compete without improved pitching. All of the prospects in the world would not change the fact that the Royals could not compete with a staff that has not had a true ace since Zack Greinke.
Good young offensive players the Royals have. Consistent starting pitching? Not so much.
James Shields gives them a true ace. A starting pitcher that has thrown 200 innings the last six straight years and tossed 11 complete games just two years ago.
Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Salvy Perez, Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon give the Royals a good, young talented core. The addition of Shields along with Wade Davis adds depth to a rotation that can now at least compete with the Tigers in the Central.
Wil Myers is the key piece going to the Rays. An impact bat that can hit for average and power, Myers has been rated one of the top prospects in the game. The Royals however must feel he is not yet ready for the big leagues and they need to win now.
With the collection of talent they have assembled at the major league level, there is a window of opportunity for small market teams like the Royals to strike before their talent becomes too expensive to keep.
Does this move put the Royals on par with the Tigers? Not in my estimation, but they are now in the neighborhood.
The Tigers rotation is still very deep and talented with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister in the top three spots. Throw in a more experienced Drew Smyly and the Tigers still control the division on paper, especially as long as they employ Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez.
Still, you have to admire Dayton Moore's willingness to give up some of the future for the here and now.
Tigers prospect Bruce Rondon.
Tigers prospect Bruce Rondon turned 22 on Sunday. Next season he may have an opportunity to prove that his make-up is light years ahead.When the Tigers cut ties with Jose Valverde
following his post season meltdown, the move left a hole in the back end of the Tigers bullpen. With the price tag seemingly too high on free agent Rafael Soriano, the Tigers appear to be comfortable heading into spring training with the thought of Rondon closing games in 2013. It is often said that the final three outs of a game are the toughest for a pitcher. Closing takes a special mentality and the ability to turn the page when things don't go as planned. At the tender age of 22, some may question if Rondon has the moxie needed to consistently nail down the final three outs.
He has the arm, but does he have the polish?
Those in the organization that have seen Rondon pitch the most feel that he not only has the stuff, but the make-up as well. There is no denying his raw ability. A high 90's fastball which routinely hits triple-digits may be his calling card, but Rondon is also refining his control, a necessity for a closer.Walks have been an issue in the minor leagues, but in his last 10 outings in winter ball this off season, Rondon has walked only three and has struck out 13.Still, despite his physical ability, his age has some wondering if he can handle a high pressure spot in the bullpen. Yet, history has proven that a rookie can handle the position.
Here are some examples of young closers who had success early in their careers: Year Age Saves
The Tigers also have a bit of a security blanket in knowing that they possess veteran arms that have closing experience. Octavio Dotel, Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke have combined for 128 major league saves, and Al Alburquerque also remains an option.Spring training will provide a lot of answers, but in the meantime Rondon appears poised to get
- Craig Kimbrel 2011 23 46
- Drew Storen 2011 23 43
- Neftali Feliz 2010 22 40
- Houston Street 2006 22 37
- Jordan Walden 2011 23 32
- Billy Koch 1999 24 31
his first big chance.
It doesn't happen very often, but there is a track record for Rule 5 picks making an impact in the major leagues.
The Rule 5 draft, which took place today at the winter meetings, is designed to give minor league players who may be stuck in an organization trying to stockpile talent, a chance to get to the major leagues with another team.
Each player drafted in the Rule 5 draft costs the drafting club $50,000. if the drafted player does not stay in the big leagues for the entire season, the drafting club must offer the player back to his original team for half-price.
Johan Santana, Joakim Soria, Josh Hamilton and Dan Uggla are just a few former Rule 5 picks that have gone on to become major league All Stars. The Cubs drafted Hamilton several years back and promptly sold him to the Reds. Oops.
The Tigers today traded for two players that were selected by other teams in the Rule 5 draft. Even though the Tigers acquired them in trades, they retain their Rule 5 status.
Jeff Kobernus was selected in the draft by the Red Sox and traded to the Tigers for Justin Henry. Kobernus, a middle infielder brings much needed speed to the organization. He stole 42 bases at AA Harrisburg last season in the Nationals system. Kobernus hit .272 in four minor league seasons with the Nats. He is 24 years old.
The Tigers also traded for 23-year-old lefty Kyle Lobstein. The Mets selected him in the Rule 5 draft from the Rays and then dealt him to the Tigers for cash. Lobstein made 27 starts at AA Montgomery last season, posting an ERA of 4.07 with 129 strikeouts in 144 innings.
The Tigers traded Andy Oliver to the Pirates.
The Tigers didn't have many openings when they arrived in Lakeland for spring training last February.
With four established pitchers set in the rotation, the Tigers had an opening for a fifth starter.
Early in camp, Andy Oliver established himself as one of the leading candidates to claim a spot in the rotation. Long on talent, Oliver had been a perplexing combination of top-of-the-rotation stuff and stifling control issues.
With a strong camp, it appeared that Oliver would win the job and finally crack the rotation. Then Oliver's nemesis returned. He walked five batters in 3 2/3 innings in a late-camp start against the Twins, and soon after, he was sent to minor league camp. Drew Smyly would eventually win the fifth spot and showed enough in his rookie season to excite the Tigers.
For Oliver, it was disappointing ending to a promising start. Pitching Coach Jeff Jones had streamlined his delivery, making the same changes he made to Justin Verlander's motion two years earlier.
In other words, the Tigers felt they did all they could to get Oliver to the big leagues. He went 5-8 with a 4.88 ERA at Toledo this season. As Dave Dombrowski said today, perhaps a change of scenery is best.
In return, the Tigers received minor league catcher Ramon Cabrera. Cabrera is a career .292 hitter in five minor league seasons and had an OBP of .360. Defensively, he has thrown out 22% of base stealers in his career.
With Gerald Laird leaving for free agent dollars in Atlanta, Cabrera gives the Tigers added catching depth in the organization. Alex Avila remains the starter and Bryan Holaday is slated to take over Laird's old spot as the backup.
It also gives Oliver a chance at a new start.
The Tigers 2012 season included more ups and downs, more twist and turns and more mettle testing moments than any season in recent history.
The Tigers went from a dying carcass on the side of the highway to World Series favorites in the span of a month. A four game sweep at the hands of the Giants ultimately left the Tigers and their fans craving four more wins.
In fact, one of Tigers Ace Justin Verlander's recent tweets included the hashtag: #4morewins.
The long Michigan winters have a way of resurrecting fans hopes and interest in the team even after a bitterly disappointing ending to the season. Gone are the lingering bad feelings of falling short in the Fall Classic.
Everywhere I go around town. Tigers fans are already showing that they are turning the page.
Christmas shopping at the mall, fans what to know, "Are we going to sign Sanchez?"
Lunch at the local restaurant, "Are we going to trade Peralta?"
Filling up the gas tank at the pump, "Is Dirks an everyday player?"
It's only December and Tigers fans are ready to roll. Spring training can't be too far away. I'm sure it is the same in many towns around the country, but in Detroit, baseball is a special part of the community and reigns supreme.
It doesn't matter if the club is coming off a 43-119 season, or a trip to the World Series, Detroit loves its Tigers and can't get enough.
Torii Hunter's signing has fueled the flames of hot stove talk in the Motor City, and thanks to an owner who invests in his city and team, we'll always have something to look forward to.
Next year we look forward to four more wins.