The final piece of the entire Detroit Tigers team analysis is finally here. It was a disappointing year for the offense as a whole despite the fact that the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years anchored the lineup and was protected by the biggest free agent signing in Detroit Tiger history. But the struggles of the rest of the lineup were very obvious on the national stage that was the World Series. However, to provide closure, the final grades on the batters are as follows…
AUSTIN JACKSON (CENTER FIELD)
Jackson returned to his 2010 form and actually did much better batting .300 for the first time in his short career. He was a top 3 finisher for the Gold Glove Award in Center Field and was regarded by some to be the next best fielder to the Angels’ Mike Trout. He cut down on his strikeouts this year (134 in ’12 compared to 181 in ’11 and 170 in ’10) and was among the AL leader in triples with 10. 2013 should be another great year for the Tigers especially considering that he now has Torii Hunter batting behind him.
OMAR INFANTE (SECOND BASE)
Throughout the season, second base was a carousel for Detroit with bench players like Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth, Ryan Raburn, and Jeff Baker each taking a turn and failing to deliver on a consistent basis. However, when Infante was brought back to the Motor City, he brought a sense of stability back to the second base position. “Sense” would be the key word as he statistically wasn’t incredibly better than any of the previously named players.
Infante with Detroit: .257 BA, .283 OBP, .385 SLG
Santiago in 2012: .206, .283, .272
Raburn in 2012: .171, .226, .254
Worth in 2012: .216, .330, .257
However, his career numbers are incredibly better than any other options the Tigers have and he’s primed for a return to form in 2013.
MIGUEL CABRERA (THIRD BASE)
There was (arguably) no one better with the bat in baseball in 2012. In what’s been an already impressive career, he had his best season so far, accumulating the American League MVP award, winning the first Triple Crown in 45 years, and going to the World Series. What will keep the rest of the American League up at night is that he’s still 29 years old and could very well do this again.
PRINCE FIELDER (FIRST BASE)
While some were doubting that Fielder would only be a replacement for DH Victor Martinez and not an upgrade, I wouldn’t say they were totally wrong. We can only speculate what would’ve happened had Martinez played in 2012 but so far it seems that the signing of Fielder has been a good investment. He batted over .300 for the first time in his career and developed into a better hitter as opposed to strictly a power hitter. The trio of Cabrera, Fielder, and Martinez could be the stuff of folklore next season.
DELMON YOUNG (DESIGNATED HITTER)
Much like his brother, Delmon Young’s tenure with the Detroit Tigers was filled with inconsistency (.267 batting average behind Fielder), off-field problems (I think its safe to say he won’t be spending Hanukkah in New York), and rare shines of brilliance (being named the ALCS MVP and holding the franchise record for postseason home runs). Young did a less than stellar job this past year but with the return of Victor Martinez and his lack of mobility in the outfield, there was simply no where for him to play.
JHONNY PERALTA (SHORTSTOP)
Jhonny’s 2012 campaign was definitely a step back from a stellar 2011 season (.239 BA, .305 OBP, . 384 SLG in ’12 compared to .299, .345, .478 in ’11). His defense was about the same as it was the year before (7 errors in both ’11 and ’12). But he is one of the few players who batted after Fielder in the lineup who is actually getting a second chance. Peralta isn’t the long term option for the Tigers but he’ll have to do for now.
ANDY DIRKS (OUTFIELD)
Dirks’ injury woes didn’t exactly hurt his numbers (.322 BA, .370 OBP, .487 SLG in 88 games played), it lowered the sample size. Dirks really put himself in a great position this winter with his play in 2012. He provided an element of speed and an adequate presence in all three outfield positions but it would appear that GM Dave Dombrowski isn’t entirely sold on Dirks as the full-time leftfielder in ’13. I’d give him a shot full time but that’s just me.
ALEX AVILA (CATCHER)
It wouldn’t be fair to any of the other Tigers on here if I gave Avila a pass on this season but I think he would deserve it. The man got hurt early in the season and was supposed to step in a swing the bat well as soon as he came back. As a catcher, mind you. Catchers aren’t really known for being offensive weapons but I think many Tiger fans will tell you he’s in the mold of Mickey Cochrane, Bill Freehan, and Lance Parrish. I don’t think his 2011 season was a fluke and I think he could re-challenge Baltimore’s Matt Wieters and Minnesota’s Joe Mauer for a Silver Slugger. Only time will tell in ’13.
BRENNAN BOESCH (RIGHT FIELD)
This was a tough one for Boesch. In 2010, he came up from the minors and looked like he’d play for the next 10 years. After this season, his time with the Tigers might not last 10 more weeks. The heir apparent in right field after the retirement of Magglio Ordonez, this was almost an ultimatum for him. Boesch struggled against lefties (.230) and righties (.244) and had almost no power (12 home runs). Its hard to imagine him making the team next season when Dombrowski is looking for a right handed hitter to platoon with Dirks in left and with the addition of Torii Hunter in right. Unless of course, he gets traded first.
AVISAIL GARCIA (OUTFIELD)
Garcia showed savvy way beyond his years. He became one of two Tigers under 21 to record a hit in the World Series. (The other being Ty Cobb.) Garcia was mentioned in a few trade talks but in order to compensate for the shopping spree initiated by owner Mike Ilitch, Dave Dombrowski kept Garcia in Detroit. He didn’t show much power in his time in the Show but his game is the epitome of “raw”. He’s got a lot of improving to do but with his play this past fall, he could very well solve the right-handed hitting platoon problem in left field with Andy Dirks.
QUINTIN BERRY (OUTFIELD)
Berry provided the base stealing threat going 21 for 21 on stolen bases. He emerged in the wake of an injury to Austin Jackson and played a spectacular center (and later left) field. His numbers went down as did his appearances and at-bats later in the season. He became a spark for the Tigers and gained an appreciative fan base. Berry has a year of experience under his belt and he’ll be in the thick of winning a job in the outfield in Spring Training.
BENCH (RAMON SANTIAGO, DANNY WORTH, GERALD LAIRD, DON KELLY, RYAN RABURN)
The bench of any major league team shouldn’t be considered its strength. For the Tigers, it was far from a strength. Ramon Santiago, much like past years, hasn’t provided much more than steady defense at second, short, and third. Danny Worth got called up and was sent back down lmost a half dozen times. Gerald Laird hit lefties moderately well but was lured away to Atlanta this offseason. Don Kelly was a postseason hero in Game 2 of the ALDS but will likely be in the minors come spring time. Lastly and most certainly least, Ryan Raburn seemed to do everything in his power to make the entire city hate him. The bench will be better in 2013. At least we hope.
TORII HUNTER: RF, LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Hunter will be an instant upgrade from Brennan Boesch, both offensively and defensively. Hunter brings a great baseball mind and a veteran presence back to the team, something they desperately needed. As good as Austin Jackson was this past season, don’t be surprised if he improves due to hanging around a great defensive mind in Hunter.
BRAYAN PENA: C, KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Pena brings a switch hitting presence to the Tigers off the bench that was only previously held by Ramon Santiago. He hits lefties (.245) just as well as righties (.249). He’s not going to impress much but he’s solely here to provide depth behind Alex Avila.
So comes to a close my analysis of the 2012 Tigers. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I watched Prince Fielder awkwardly answer questions with Dave Dombrowski and Mr. I. With the absence of hockey, it would appear that Mr. I is going all in with his baseball fans. As he said himself, “My fans, you pump my players up!” Well, in about 50 or so days, the promise of glory in the Fall Classic will pump us up.