With the return of baseball and Opening Day brings the return of the Series 6 Packs, providing an inside look at the opponents of the Red Sox all season long. The Sox will be tested right out of the gate this year with a trip to Comerica Park to play the Tigers for a three game set. It’ll be a battle of aces on the mound with Justin Verlander pitted against Jon Lester. A big thanks to John from Motor City Bengals for shedding some light on the Tigers. In this pack we’re talking about lofty expectations for the Tigers this year, World Series or bust? Also, John breaks down the pitching matchups and gives us his prediction on who will win the opening series. Enjoy.
1. How is the atmosphere surrounding the Tigers entering this season knowing that the division should be a lock.
It seems to be a pretty loose atmosphere around the club right now. Prince Fielder has come over and fit in right away. I think his personality is an asset to the clubhouse and I dont think the expectations are wearing on them a ton. I think they know they’re good, and expect to win it, but not sure there is a lot of extra pressure given they won the division by 15 games last year, and the other clubs in the division haven’t taken great strides forward.
2. Is there any way this club does not win the Central, barring a freak injury to say half the roster?
Honestly, I don’t think so. Of course injuries could play a role. All you have to do is look at Minnesota last season, but the Tigers are clearly the best team in the Central.
3. Because of the level of optimism and expectations, is anything short of a World Series birth or tittle considered a disappointment?
For me, I think if they reached the ALCS again at a minimum it would be a successful season. The American League is tough, and anything can happen in a short series. I never consider World Series the only acceptable outcome. Yes, it’s the goal of course, and I’m sure there is a decent part of the fanbase that is “World Series or bust”, but I think I would be a fool if I didn’t acknowledge the quality of clubs like Anaheim, Boston, New York, Texas, and Tampa. There’s no guarantees.
4. We saw a Tigers rotation develop nicely last year, but aside from Verlander how would you rate the rest of the rotation and could there be a need for an acquisition at some point down the road?
I might be in the minority of Tigers fans when it comes to this opinion. In fact, I know I am. Haha. I think the Tigers rotation is overrated, despite that, it’s the best in the division. Of course Justin Verlander is arguably the best pitcher in baseball, and Doug Fister is an underrated #2, but the rest of the rotation for me is a question mark. Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello are inconsistent, and I’m not convinced that Porcello will get much better than he is. Scherzer and Porcello certainly can hold their own against other 3 and 4 starters, but I don’t think they are much better if at all than other teams. The 5th spot is a question mark, and could be all season. I like Drew Smyly. I like Jacob Turner. I’m just not sure they are ready for prime time yet. Given all of the arms they have in the upper levels of the minors, I certainly wouldn’t rule out an acquisition. Especially with owner Mike Ilitch really pushing for a World Series title.
5. How many games can this Tigers team win this year? Is the century mark a realistic goal?
I don’t think they get to 100. We are talking about a team that outperformed their Pythagorean record last season by quite a bit. They have some guys that will most likely regress, and while they signed Fielder, he isn’t a huge upgrade offensively from the season that Victor Martinez had last year, the guy Fielder is essentially replacing. I think they get over 90, and if I put a number on it, I would say 93 wins.
6. Finally, how do you see this opening series unfolding from a starters comparison and who wins this series?
Good question. Certainly some real good pitching in this upcoming series. I like Lester a lot, but I couldn’t go against Verlander in that matchup. He is just too good to bet against at this point. Saturday should be good with Fister vs. Beckett. Again, I would give the edge to the Tigers here. Fister has just been super since putting a Tigers uniform on, and this spring has done nothing to change that opinion. Sunday, I would give the edge to the Sox. I like Bucholz, and although I haven’t been following, I don’t see Scherzer as a good fit against the Red Sox lineup. I say the Tigers go 2 out of 3 this weekend because of the home park advantage. If it was Boston, I might go the other way.