The Indians and Tigers are set to kick off the first of what should be many emotionally charged and high stakes series in 2013. The Tigers are the favorites, having won the division each of the past two seasons. The Indians, on the other hand, are the up and comers looking to make some noise and crash the party that will be the 2013 postseason. With that in mind, I spoke to Matt Snyder, editor over at Motor City Bengals to get his thoughts on the Tigers, Miguel Cabrera, and the possible threat to the Tigers’ division crown.
Wahoo’s on First:Everyone seems to feel like the Tigers are the top dog, or in this case top cat, in the AL Central. They definitely have the roster to win the division again, but are you worried about a legitimate challenge from any of the other four teams?
Matt Snyder: Anything can certainly happen — I’m a big believer in the randomness of the game (even over 162 games) — but I believe the Tigers do have (far and away) the best roster in the division. The AL Central appears to be stronger than it’s been in quite some time, but I don’t see anyone else finishing within five games of Detroit. My prediction to start the year was for the Tigers to win in the neighborhood of 93 games and for Cleveland to finish second with something like 85 or 86. I don’t see any reason to change that stance right now.
Wahoo’s on First: What is it like to get to watch Miguel Cabrera in 162 games every year? Do you think fans appreciate what a special talent he is at the plate or has it gotten to the point that his performance is so expected that it’s under appreciated?
Matt Snyder: I think it’s a little bit of both. Fans generally do appreciate the consistency and plain awesomeness of getting to watch this guy hit on a regular basis, but at the same time I think we all take his production level for granted. His triple crown was amazing a season ago, but I couldn’t help but think “dang, his final OPS was only .999″. His cumulative OPS from 2009-present is 1.006, and that’s just crazy.
But I think the best part about watching Cabrera in the lineup is that it’s not just Cabrera. It’s Cabrera and Prince Fielder (who’s pretty darn good himself) back-to-back. Last year they were the #1 and #6 best hitters in all of baseball according to wOBA. It’s an incredible duo to watch.
Wahoo’s on First: So… Ryan Raburn. What exactly happened? Did he just need a change of scenery or is this surge in production a fluke?
Matt Snyder: I believed in Raburn longer than most Tigers fans did, but in the end it was just time to move on. He always flashed this ability in stretches, but he was never able to sustain that .800-.900 OPS bat through an entire season. “The book” on Raburn in Detroit was that he was a slow starter and then would torch the ball after the All-Star Break (.669 career first half OPS, .834 career second half OPS), but, in his last two seasons with the club, his second half surge came later and was less prevalent (and then didn’t happen last year). He always showed this ability, but never sustained it.
His BABIP is over .400 and his home run per fly ball rate is nearly twice his career rate — so he’s bound to slow down a little — but I wouldn’t be surprised if he continues to be a very nice player for the Indians for the entire year.
Wahoo’s on First: What is your primary concern with the Tigers moving forward in 2013. Where do you think they need to improve?
Matt Snyder: I think the only concern is injuries. They have the roster to win the division (the pennant, or even the World Series) as it is now. Injuries could derail the season (though it would probably take more than one), but that’s the same for every team. I think they would do well to improve the depth on the bench, but that looks to be relatively minor.
Wahoo’s on First: What’s your prediction for this weekend’s series?
Matt Snyder: The Tigers have Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander going in the first two games — always like Detroit’s chances there — and then Rick Porcello for Sunday’s finale. I don’t see the Tigers losing the series (especially at home, where they’ve been strong), but it’s also really hard to predict a sweep. I’ll say 2-1 Tigers. The only for sure thing is that Raburn will hit a homer. Probably (at least) one in every game.