Series Preview: Cleveland Indians @ Detroit Tigers

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There is a lot of pressure on the Tigers in 2013. With the arsenal of weapons they have on their current roster, both on the mound and in the lineup, anything other than a World Series will be perceived as a failure. It’s hard to really argue with that sentiment, though. After winning the division crown two years in a row, the Tigers want to achieve that next level of success in 2013.

It makes sense. Led by reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers lineup is good enough to be one of the top offensive units in the game. They have scored the fifth most runs, and lead the majors in both batting and on base averages. Their team slugging percentage of .423 is good enough for fifth best overall. They can score runs with the best of them, making it so that they are never really out of any game.

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Having Cabrera helps that, but being able to surround him with the likes of Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson, Jhonny Peralta, and Victor Martinez makes it so that there are other options besides him that can cause problems. Even catcher Alex Avila and second baseman Omar Infante have shown flashes of brilliance during their careers. It just goes to show what type of lineup you can put together when ownership is willing to spend and then spend some more.

But, don’t be fooled. Everything is still about Cabrera.

The triple crown winner from a year ago is once again among the league leaders in terms of triple slash numbers and RBI. The home runs have yet appear, but rest assured by the end of the year Cabrera will be in the conversation with the league leaders. He’s a truly great hitter, a once in a generation type of hitter if we’re being honest with each other, and we should appreciate what he is doing even though it’s often come at the expense of the Indians.

Meanwhile, the Tigers also have a formidable pitching staff. Fomer Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander is the headliner as always. He’s experienced a bit of a decline in velocity this year, but not enough to have a lasting impact on his overall success. He’s still Justin Verlander and because of that, he’s capable of going out and throwing a no-hitter every single time he takes the mound. He’s a lot like Cabrera in that regard. He’s a once in a generation type of pitcher who we should learn to appreciate even though he has spent the majority of his career making the Indians look bad.

As for the rest of the staff for the Tigers, they have a lot of good arms. Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello are all capable of shutting down an opponent and have each shown flashes of their own brilliance from time to time. They are all a nice complement to Verlander.

The problem for the Tigers has been the bullpen. While the majority of their setup men and long relievers have been pretty good, their closer situation had been anything but. They essentially fired Jose Valverde during the World Series, then tried to give it to the young up and comer Bruce Rondon, and finally settled on closer by committee. It didn’t go well. In the end, the Tigers elected to bring back Valverde in mid-April, despite the known issues with having him as their closer. So far the result has been good. Valverde has posted a 0.00 ERA and ,20 WHIP while notching 3 saves so far.

So can the Indians beat the Tigers? Well, that remains to be seen. It will certainly be a good test to see how they stack up against one of the elite teams in all of baseball. If they can find a way to hold their own it may be time to take the Indians chances seriously in 2013. It should help that the Indians come into tonight’s game as the hottest teams in baseball having won nine of their past ten games while the Tigers are coming off a sweep at the hands of the Washington Nationals.

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