Tigers hope ALCS appearance only the beginning
Moments after the Detroit Tigers were eliminated from the AL
championship series, Alex Avila was already looking forward to the
The Detroit catcher figures his team will have every opportunity
to return to the postseason next year. The Tigers won the AL
Central by 15 games this season and have a nucleus that includes
Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and a number of other key
contributors who are expected back in 2012.
”We’ve got a good core of guys,” Avila said. ”The starting
rotation is good. There are a lot of young guys who’ve got good
experience from this season. Our team is set up well for next
Detroit beat the New York Yankees in the division series before
falling to Texas in the ALCS, unable to contain the Rangers in a
15-5 loss in the clinching Game 6 on Saturday night.
The Tigers were a team built to contend this season, and new
additions Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit made valuable
contributions all year long. Detroit pulled away from the rest of
the AL Central during a 12-game September winning streak. Verlander
won 24 games and could take both the Cy Young and MVP awards.
Cabrera won the batting title.
It was Detroit’s first division title since winning the AL East
in 1987, but the Tigers couldn’t quite match their postseason
success of 2006, when they represented the American League in the
World Series as a wild card.
”I’m not going to go into the offseason disappointed at all,”
manager Jim Leyland said. ”This team gave every single thing they
had, every ounce of energy. I just couldn’t be prouder of
Verlander led the AL in wins, ERA and strikeouts, and Cabrera
hit .344 with 30 homers and 105 RBIs. Martinez, the team’s new
designated hitter, hit a career-high .330 and drove in 103
Closer Jose Valverde didn’t blow a save opportunity all
With Verlander and Cabrera in the fold, Detroit should be able
to contend for a postseason spot again next year. In fact, starting
pitchers Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello are all under
30 years old. Brad Penny was pitching on a one-year contract this
year, and the Tigers may try to move prospect Jacob Turner into the
The Tigers will have a few decisions to make. Outfielder Magglio
Ordonez and second baseman Carlos Guillen made a combined $23
million this season, but neither was healthy enough to contribute
much and it’s possible they won’t be back.
Detroit hopes to have outfielder Brennan Boesch healthy, after
his 16-homer season was cut short by an injured thumb. Second base
and third base are spots with more uncertainty. Detroit acquired
third baseman Wilson Betemit at midseason, but he appeared to fall
out of favor during the playoffs. Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago,
Guillen and Will Rhymes all started at least 22 games at
Austin Jackson has been the team’s regular center fielder for
two years, and he has good range in Comerica Park’s spacious
outfield. But he had only a .317 on-base percentage in 2011 and was
sometimes a liability as the team’s leadoff hitter.
Jackson was one of few threats the Tigers had on the bases,
stealing 22 in 27 attempts.
Avila was perhaps the team’s most encouraging surprise this
year, hitting .295 with 19 homers during the regular season. He
struggled during the playoffs while playing hurt, highlighting the
need for Detroit to carry a dependable backup catcher who can allow
Avila to rest on occasion. Martinez was able to spell him behind
the plate for a while, but he too had injury problems that made it
tough for him to catch.
”It was tough and we had a long grind,” Leyland said.
”Unfortunately, we have a long time to rest up, about 10 days or
so more than I would have liked, but we’ll come back to spring
training and get back to work.”