Tigers Rollercoaster Season Comes to Fittingly Bizarre End
Over the course of the regular season, the Tigers constantly flirted with two completely opposing identities. When they lost 8 of their last 10 games in April, they looked like the Over-Spenders, the team that was being punished for trying to buy a World Series. Then there were other moments – most of which in September – when the Tigers truly looked like an all-out powerhouse. Runs were coming in from places other than the 3 and 4 spots, and the starters were all at the top of their game.
Then the postseason came along, and it couldn’t have more aptly served as a microcosmic representation of the Tigers season as a whole.
After being on the verge of closing out the Athletics in 4 games, a blown save brought the Tigers down to another low. Then Verlander came in to save the day. Right after that series, game one of the ALCS featured as dynamic a spectrum of momentum as the team faced all season. After the Yankees looked dead and gone for 8 innings, the 9th came along and the Tigers appeared on the verge of being cursed yet again for their happy spending – albeit against an even happier spender. But lo and behold, the Tigers came back in extras and then followed up game one with three straight dominant performances. There it was again: one minute destined to fail, the next minute World Series Frontrunners.
But those four games just didn’t come soon enough and once they arrived, it seemed to all be over in the blink of an eye. Everything that went right in the Yankees series went wrong against the Giants. It was the two-headed monster of the Tigers season and unfortunately for the Detroit faithful, the more valiant one came and went a series too soon.
Yet calling it just ‘bad timing’ would be something of an injustice. Don’t get me wrong. Seeing the Tigers at their best against the Giants would have made for quite an interesting series, but all in all, the team still had a fair share of flaws: the bullpen walked way too many batters, the bottom half of the lineup could never be relied on, fielding on the corners and sometimes even in the outfield was a big concern, and Coach Leyland just could never find that right player for the #2 spot in the lineup.
These are all problems that must be addressed in the offseason – although the weak fielding on the corners may be unavoidable at this point – amongst a series of contract questions and concerns.
Austin Jackson, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Phil Coke and Alex Avila will all be eligible for arbitration this winter, while Delmon Young and Anibal Sanchez are the team’s most important unrestricted free agents.
Retaining the five arbitration-eligible players is without a doubt the priority to me, but that could be a little costly after effective seasons from Jackson, Fister, and Scherzer who are all still under 30 (Jackson only 25). Young and Sanchez would be significant losses but there have to be cuts somewhere and with Young being only 27, I imagine at least a few teams will be throwing some good-looking offers his way, especially after hitting .312 with 3 homers and 9 RBIs in the postseason.
Having Victor Martinez back will be huge, and if the rest of the lineup’s bulk is retained, I think he makes the most sense as the Tigers number 2 hitter, a veteran with great plate discipline and versatility. If Young is lost, Leyland may want him down in the five-spot to help the middle of the lineup more, however.
It was a rollercoaster of a season that unfortunately had to end on its steepest decline, but there should be plenty more to come from one of the AL’s best.