2013 Detroit Tigers
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2013 Detroit Tigers / Franchise: Detroit Tigers / BR Team Page
Clinched Division: September 25, 2013, At Minnesota Twins
Managed by Jim Leyland
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2013 Detroit Tigers, defending American League champions, had perhaps the best starting rotation in the circuit, with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello all pitching well in the first two-and-a-half months of the season. With a solid offence led by sluggers 3B Miguel Cabrera, making a bid to repeat as a Triple Crown winner, and 1B Prince Fielder, they should have logically run away from their opposition in the AL Central. However, the team had a serious Achilles' heel - its bullpen - which kept it from taking off. On June 13th, the Tigers' relievers were a collective 4-12 with 9 blown saves.
The problem was not unexpected. The 2012 closer, Jose Valverde, had begun to melt down at the end of the season and lost manager Jim Leyland's confidence in the postseason, and was not re-signed. The Tigers hoped that untested rookie Bruce Rondon, who could throw 100 mph but had yet to pitch in the majors, could step into his shoes. But Rondon had a poor spring and began the season in the minor leagues, while holdovers Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit tried to close, with limited success. Rondon was brought up, but demonstrated that the decision to give him more seasoning was justified, and he quickly returned to the minor leagues. In desperation, the Tigers returned to Valverde, who had not been signed by anyone in the meantime, and brought him back. Valverde pitched well at first, but began to show more signs of trouble in early June, and after a few blown saves, the problem was still unsolved, with Leyland asking reporters rhetorically "Who the (expletive) should I close with? Who do you want me to close with? Who the (expletive) do you want to be the closer?" On June 20th, though, Leyland had to acknowledge the reality and state that Benoit would now be his closer when available. Valverde was designated for assignment the next day; he reported to the AAA Toledo Mud Hens to work out his problems, but continued to allow a ton of baserunners and was handed his unconditional release in early August.
The Tigers also experienced some difficulties with defence. On June 25th, they committed six errors in a 14-8 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It was the most errors committed by the Tigers in a game in 31 years, since September 11, 1982. While the number of errors was aberrant - the team's fielding percentage before the game was in the top 5 in the majors - it did not mean that the Tigers had a strong defense: with CF Austin Jackson missing a good chunk of the first half to an injury, the team had no outstanding defensive players, and a number of sub-par ones, such as 3B Cabrera, 1B Fielder, SS Jhonny Peralta and a 37-year-old Torii Hunter in RF. The fielding got some unexpected improvement because of an otherwise disruptive event, a season-ending suspension handed to Peralta on August 5th because of his role in the Biogenesis scandal. The Tigers had seen the writing on the wall, however, and at the trading deadline had acquired rookie SS José Iglesias, a fielding whiz, in a three-team trade that cost the Bengals top outfield prospect Avisail Garcia. Iglesias immediately stepped into the breach left by Peralta, and the Tigers did not miss a beat winning 12 straight games from July 26-August 8. At first, the streak did not really help them put additional distance from their closest pursuers, as both the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals were also enjoying long winning streaks simultaneously, but with the last four wins coming against the Indians, the Tigers finally managed to give themselves a bit of a cushion. The 12th win was credited to Max Scherzer, who improved his record to 17-1 at that point, becoming the first pitcher to win 17 of his first 18 decisions since Roger Clemens in 2001.
The Tigers clinched a postseason slot on September 24th with a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Twins behind the pitching of Doug Fister. The celebrating was subdued however, as the Indians still had a chance to catch them for the division title, and there were concerns over the health of superstar Miguel Cabrera, who had played only sparingly in September because of various ailments after carrying the team on his back for the first five months of the season. They did clinch the AL Central title with a 1-0 win over the Twins behind Scherzer's 21st victory on September 25th, their third straight division title. Tigers pitchers finished the season with 1,428 strikeouts, setting a new major league record for most by one team, a mark that would last only one season, as it was topped by the Cleveland Indians the following year. They were also only the third team in major league history to have three pitchers with 200 or more strikeouts (Verlander, Scherzer and Sanchez), after the 1967 Minnesota Twins and 1969 Houston Astros. No team would match that until the 2018 Indians became the first team to have four 200-k men on their staff.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Jhonny Peralta, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander
- AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
- AL Cy Young Award: Max Scherzer
- AL Silver Slugger Award: Miguel Cabrera (3B) and Torii Hunter (OF)
- Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Jose Iglesias (SS)
- Associated Press: "Max Scherzer (21-3) quiets Twins as Tigers clinch AL Central again", ESPN.com, September 26, 2013