A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE TIGERS
Everything in Detroit this season hinges on Miguel Cabrera. Offensively he's right there with the Cardinals' Albert Pujols. If the Tigers lose Cabrera, you can write them off. He looked a little heavy in camp this spring—he needs to lose about 15 to 20 pounds—but he was driving the ball well.... Detroit's rotation has a very high ceiling. Justin Verlander is a No. 1. The big question is Max Scherzer. They would like him to be the No. 2, but I think he's really more of a third or fourth starter. He throws very hard, but his slider and changeup are erratic, and I'm not sure he is ever going to be consistent.... Rick Porcello doesn't pitch down in the zone and use his sinker enough. I don't see him making adjustments. The Tigers paid him nearly $9 million out of high school, but he is never going to be an ace.... Brad Penny and Phil Coke could be big for them. Both looked great this spring. Penny's sinker is all the way back.... The bullpen will be a real strength for this club, even if Joel Zumaya is not healthy. Jose Valverde will always make you nervous, but the key is Joaquin Benoit. He's still hitting 95 with his fastball and right now looks like one of the very best relievers out there.... Austin Jackson added 15 pounds and looks much stronger. I think he will take the next step this year. He's driving the ball, playing great defense in centerfield, and I think he has a chance to steal 40 bases.... They are definitely improved. Detroit will be right there with the White Sox and the Twins at the end.
April 3, 2011
WITH 2010 STATISTICS
MANAGER JIM LEYLAND
6TH SEASON WITH TIGERS
Signing switch-hitting catcher Victor Martinez to a four-year deal was an aggressive move that filled a significant need for the Tigers: a lefthanded power threat with a high OBP. The decision to make Martinez the primary DH, however, turns him into just another player. His bat is special as a catcher but just ordinary relative to the high standards of the DH slot. Although Martinez's perceived poor defense is part of that decision, his glovework and throwing arm aren't that bad. Detroit's desire to make 24-year-old Alex Avila the starting catcher is a bit forced. Avila has yet to show he can hit above Double A, with a .237/.327/.383 line in the majors the last two seasons, after skipping Triple A. The Tigers may also need the DH slot for veteran Carlos Guillen, who took poorly to second base last year and whose bad knee may keep him from playing anywhere in the field. Detroit made a big investment in Martinez and in its 2011 season. Maximizing those investments means making Martinez the No. 1 catcher.
At bats per home run hit by Detroit's designated hitters in 2010, the lowest homer rate by a team's DHs in the AL in a dozen years. Newly acquired Victor Martinez should give the position more pop: Since 2004 he has homered every 27.5 at bats.