by Don Drysdale
With the 2017 Detroit Tigers season upon us it is time to take in all the majesty that is Detroit Tigers baseball. Detroit Sports Nation editors Alex Muller and Don Drysdale give their thoughts on what the new season will hold for Tigers fans. (Read more analysis at detroitsportsnation.com.)
2016 was an interesting year for the Detroit Tigers. When the dust settled, they finished a full eight games behind the Cleveland Indians for first place in the American League Central.
When the offseason rolled around, Tigers general manager Al Avila made it known that changes were coming. Whether he meant the Tigers were going to trade away some of their star players, many took it that way and when Avila traded Cameron Maybin for a small return, it seemed like the wheels were in motion. And even though rumor had it Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler would for the Dodgers, nothing ever came to fruition.
Now, as the 2017 season is about to get underway, the band is back together in Detroit for a run at the playoffs and hopefully more. Here is a look at three reasons why the Detroit Tigers will make the playoffs.
Dominant starting pitching: There is a saying in baseball: "Good pitching beats good hitting." That is a saying I believe in wholeheartedly and it happens to be the No. 1 reason why the Detroit Tigers will make the playoffs.
Leading the way will be American League Cy Young award runner-up Verlander, and American League Rookie of the Year award winner Michael Fulmer. If those two can replicate what they did in 2016, the Tigers will have one of the best starting combos in all of baseball.
Joining Verlander and Fulmer in the rotation will be Jordan Zimmermann, Daniel Norris and either Matt Boyd or Anibal Sanchez (If you are reading too late, we will already know who the No. 5 starter is). Zimmermann is coming off a season in which injuries got the best of him, but he is feeling good and is ready to roll. With Norris ready to take the next step in his progression, the Tigers rotation could be scary by the time September rolls around.
Health goes a long way: 2016 did not go how the Tigers had hoped. Going into the season, they had visions of winning the American League Central, but they came up short. One of the main reasons for they did not get the job done is injuries. Alex Wilson, Daniel Norris (twice), Blaine Hardy, James McCann, Shane Greene, J.D. Martinez, Jordan Zimmermann (twice), Mike Pelfrey, Nicholas Castellanos, and Jose Iglesias all went on the 15-day disabled at least once during the season.
Despite injuries to a plethora of key players, the Tigers were still in the mix for a playoff spot until the very end.
Unfortunately, Martinez will start off this season on the DL, but the Tigers have to be healthier in 2017 than they were in 2016, right? If they can keep their key players healthy for most of the season, there is no question in my mind that they Tigers will make the playoffs.
The lineup will mesh: When you have a lineup that includes Kinsler, Victor, J.D. Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Upton, and Nicholas Castellanos, you have a chance to win a lot of games.
Last season, the Tigers' biggest offensive issue was that they never really played consistently as a lineup. They scored double-digit runs 14 times during the season but were also shutout on 12 occasions. Despite finishing second in team batting average in the American League, the Tigers were only 6th in runs scored.
That's why we think in 2017, the Tigers' lineup will come alive and it will stay alive for much of the season. Sure, we can expect a few blips on the radar, but when all is said and done, they will have led the American League in runs scored.
The Detroit Tigers' home opener against the Boston Red Sox starts at 1:10 p.m. on Friday, April 7 at Comerica Park, 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-962-4000; tigers.com.