Why The Detroit Tigers Will Win The World Series
2013 has, for the most part, been a smooth ride for the Detroit Tigers. After being swept in the 2012 World Series, they came out with a vengeance this year, and they look like a good bet to play in the Fall Classic once again. Here’s why they will return to, and win, the World Series in 2013.
The Tigers’ lineup is arguably the best in baseball, with production from top to bottom. They’ve scored the second most runs in the majors, trailing only the Boston Red Sox, and they lead the majors in batting average and hits by significant margins. The main element of the Tigers’ lineup is, of course, reigning Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. The consensus “best hitter in the game”, Cabrera has surpassed many of his numbers from last season, despite playing in just 145 games this year. His OPS is 86 points higher than last season, and he leads the majors in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and RBIs.
Cabrera is sandwiched between two other more than competent hitters, Torii Hunter and Prince Fielder. Hunter has been spectacular this season, hitting .303 with 90 runs scored (thanks in large part to Miggy). On the other hand, Fielder is having a bit of a subpar year (for his standards), but he’s still managed to drive in 106 runs with a very sold .363 OBP. Also having a nice season is leadoff hitter and center fielder Austin Jackson, who has scored 99 runs with a respectable .339 OBP. After the top four (Jackson, Hunter, Cabrera, Fielder), the Tigers have designated hitter Victor Martinez (.302 AVG, 83 RBI, .787 OPS), shortstop Jose Iglesias (.310 AVG), who will return from his injury against the Marlins on Friday, second baseman Omar Infante (.318 AVG, .797 OPS), and catcher Alex Avila. To have five regular starters hitting over .300 is simply phenomenal, and it explains why the Tigers are second in the majors in runs scored.
While the Tigers and the Red Sox have lineups of similar caliber, Detroit’s pitching is what really makes them a scary team. Cy Young-candidate Max Scherzer leads the way with a 21-3 record, 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 240 strikeouts. Just as importantly, especially for postseason play (when every game matters), Scherzer is consistently good, recording 25 quality starts in 32 appearances. (Scherzer’s total trails only Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, and James Shields, who each have 26.) Detroit’s other top pitcher, Justin Verlander, is the team’s key player going into the postseason. An ace for the past several years and the 2011 AL MVP winner, Verlander has mysteriously struggled throughout the 2013 season (while still posting a 3.56 ERA). However, when he is “on”, few pitchers in the game are better, and a combination of Verlander performing at a 2012 level and Scherzer would be all but impossible to beat.
It doesn’t get much easier for opponents after the two aforementioned pitchers. Anibal Sanchez has quietly compiled impressive numbers, with his 2.64 ERA leading the team’s starters (while ranking second in the American League). Throw in Doug Fister (14-9, 3.68 ERA) and the inconsistent-but-sometimes-dominant Rick Porcello (13-8, 4.38 ERA) and you’re looking at (arguably) the best rotation in baseball.
If the Tigers have a weakness, it’s their bullpen, as Detroit relievers rank 25th in the majors in ERA. However, it hasn’t been all bad. The Tigers have an established (and dominant) closer in Joaquin Benoit, who has a 1.91 ERA while converting 24 of his 25 save opportunities. The importance of a solid closer in the playoffs in huge, as the Yankees can attest during their 1996-2000 run of four World Series wins. (Mariano Rivera, anyone?) Lefty Drew Smyly has been fantastic out of the ‘pen as well, with his 20 holds tying him for 11th in the American League. Young fire-balling righty Bruce Rondon also has the stuff to be a dominant force in the later innings, and he’s posted a respectable 3.45 ERA this year. In short, the bullpen is not perfect, but it has a couple of solid relievers, and, most importantly, an established closer.
On defense, Detroit holds its own as well. They’ve committed just 75 errors, fifth best in the majors, and they boast defensive wizards such as Andy Dirks (left field), Infante, Iglesias, and utility infielder Ramon Santiago.
The Tigers are, of course, a well-rounded team, but I am picking them to win the World Series for a few main reasons. Primarily, because of Max Scherzer. In a must-win game, which every team faces in the playoffs, who is more qualified for the task than a guy who has 21 wins and three losses? Secondly, Jim Leyland, their experienced manager, has been through his fair share of playoff games, with a World Series win and two AL pennants. Finally, don’t overlook the home field advantage that Detroit would have if they make it to the Fall Classic. The Tigers dominate at their home field, Comerica Park, with a 51-30 record on the season.
In summary, no team has a better combination of hitting, pitching, and defense than the Detroit Tigers. Expect them to make it to the World Series for the second consecutive year, and to go one step further by winning it all.