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Sun Feb 17, 2013, 10:30 AM

Sports Illustrated AL Central spring preview: Tigers still the team to beat


The return of Victor Martinez makes an already formidable Tigers lineup even stronger.


Detroit Tigers

The Big Question: How will Victor Martinez rebound from a year lost to injury?

The Tigers have the AL Central on lockdown, so much so that they underperformed expectations last year and still won the division by three games. This year, they've improved rightfield and will have a full season of the deadline upgrades they made at second base and in the starting rotation last year.

They should also be significantly better at designated hitter with the return of Martinez from a year lost to a torn anterior cruciate ligament and microfracture surgery on his left knee. That said, it's hard to know what to expect from Martinez coming off a year of inactivity and a major surgery such as that one.

Historically, Martinez has been a very consistent hitter, posting an OPS+ between 122 and 131 in seven of the last eight seasons, the lone exception being the 2008 campaign which saw him spend two and a half months on the disabled list following elbow surgery. Early reports out of camp have been very positive (of course), but perhaps the most pertinent piece of information, however, is that the target he has to clear is very low. Detroit's designated hitters, led by Delmon Young, hit a combined .257/.291/.395 last year, a line Martinez could best even if he's only at 80 percent. If he's all the way back, Martinez could be a three- to four-win improvement at the position.

The Big Battle: Closer

The Tigers took the closer job away from Jose Valverde after Game 1 of last year's American League Championship Series, let him leave as a free agent (he remains unsigned) and showed little interest in former Rays and Yankees closer Rafael Soriano, who has since signed with the Nationals. All along, general manager Dave Dombrowski insisted that rookie Bruce Rondon, a bulky 22-year-old Venezuelan with a triple-digit fastball, could handle the job. However, Rondon has yet to throw a major league pitch, lacks an above-average secondary offering and has had his share of control issues in the minors (5.1 walks per nine innings in his career, 4.4 BB/9 across three levels last year). ............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20130214/al-central-spring-training-preview/#ixzz2LAe2x0Gu



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Reply Sports Illustrated AL Central spring preview: Tigers still the team to beat (Original post)
marmar Feb 2013 OP
ScreamingMeemie Feb 2013 #1
Kingofalldems Feb 2013 #2
KamaAina Feb 2013 #4
Kingofalldems Feb 2013 #5
KamaAina Feb 2013 #6
Kingofalldems Feb 2013 #7
Auggie Feb 2013 #3

Response to marmar (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 12:03 PM

1. Huge Avisail Garcia fan here...

Hoping this year is The YEAR.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 01:30 PM

2. I used to be a fan of the Bengals when we had no team

Last edited Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:42 PM - Edit history (1)

Would love to see them or Oakland in October.

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Response to Kingofalldems (Reply #2)

Tue Feb 19, 2013, 06:52 PM

4. You just saw them in October



That's one of them off to the right.

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Response to KamaAina (Reply #4)

Tue Feb 19, 2013, 07:09 PM

5. I want to see them so we can sweep

Ahem.

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Response to Kingofalldems (Reply #5)

Tue Feb 19, 2013, 07:12 PM

6. You have to get past the second wild card team first

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Response to KamaAina (Reply #6)

Tue Feb 19, 2013, 07:23 PM

7. We got the big boy Stras this year

Ready to dominate.

Oh and check out Sports Illustrated this week.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 01:54 PM

3. No reason to think Martinez can't pick-up where he left off ...

the guy can hit. But they're going to need another starter to emerge to compete in postseason. After Verlander and Scherzer there doesn't seem to be that much consistency.

I like what Giants' pitcher Jeremy Affeldt said about the Dodgers line-up, which applies to the Tigers nine:

"I don't care how much money you want to spend. You can spend $300 million on a guy who'll help you once every five days. Great. What are you going to do the other four days? To me, it's about pitching, it's about playing defense. If I make my pitch, I have a good chance. Even if they're all hitting .300, you've still got a 70 percent chance of getting them out. I'll probably take those odds any day."


and

"The back end of our (San Francisco) bullpen has the ability to take down lineups if we make our pitches. That's what we're working hard to do. We put together a defensive team, allowing our pitchers to not try to strike everyone out. Put the ball in play, and you could have a half-billion dollar lineup, but if they hit it to our guys, that's the key, hitting to our guys."


Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/giants/shea/article/L-A-cash-turns-West-champs-to-underdogs-4285078.php

If Cleveland can't win the A.L. Central (and there's no reason to expect they could), I'll support the Tigers through the playoffs ... unless they face the Giants again.

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