The temperatures have warmed up, the trees are beginning to bud, that annoying bird is chirping outside my window every morning, and the Detroit Tigers are off to the one of the best starts in recent memory.
This year’s team, while not completely overhauled, features plenty of new faces that have already had an impressively large impact.
Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon are pitching much better than anybody gave them credit for during the offseason and spring training. They had massive shoes to fill in the rotation, thanks to the departures of Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello to the Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox respectively. Greene and Simon have the statistics so far (Greene has started three games, while Simon will start his third tonight against the New York Yankees) to indicate that they will more than adequately make up for any previously thought loss in the rotation.
Also gone is fan-favorite, Torii Hunter, who has moved on to play for the Minnesota Twins. But fear not! Yoenis Cespedes, acquired when Detroit traded Porcello to Boston, will provide an upgrade on both offense and defense. He’s won the last two homerun derbies, and constantly shows up in the day’s top plays. So far, Cespedes has done nothing to suggest that this season will be a setback. He’s already had a game during which he had six runs batted in.
Acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in the offseason, centerfielder Anthony Gose brings a dangerous combination of incredible speed and defense to the team. What wasn’t predicted was that he would also hit. He’s done nothing but hit, solidifying the leadoff spot in manager Brad Ausmus’ everyday lineup during the early stages of the season.
José Iglesias, the defensive wizard of a shortstop who missed all of last season with fractures in both shins, seems as if he never missed a beat. In fact, it looks like he might even be better than expected, as he has also proven to be an offensive force early on.
Miguel Cabrera is unsurprisingly still the best hitter in baseball, which was solidified with his most recent award: the first week of the season’s AL Player of the Week honors. You don’t need me to tell you that he will continue to obliterate opposing pitching.
This wouldn’t be an article about the Tigers without mention of that horrific bullpen. Guess what? They aren’t so bad this year. Closer Joe Nathan is currently on the disabled list, but Joakim Soria has stepped into the role very nicely. The rest of the supporting cast has been very good as well. Combining them with the efforts of the starting rotation, the Tigers have thrown four shutouts in their first 12 games. It took them 75 games to reach that mark last year.
The American League Central division is expected to be among the best in baseball this year, thanks to the defending American League champion Kansas City Royals, as well as the much-improved Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians. The Minnesota Twins can’t be counted out either, being that they won last year’s season series against the Tigers.
But it has been inspiring to watch this team from Detroit so far. They’ve lost two of their first 12 games.
My prediction: Detroit will win the central division by two or three games over Kansas City, before going on to win the World Series. But I’m a bit biased, so take that as you will.
It’s time to knock on wood, take a seat, and enjoy what looks to be a promising season.
Photo by Jack Mattern