2015 team preview: The Detroit Tigers can still win the World Series
The Tigers have won four consecutive AL Central championships, one of five clubs in MLB history to dominate their division for this long. They have had three MVPs, two Cy Youngs, and a Triple Crown winner during this stretch. They won an AL Pennant and played in three straight AL Championship Series from 2011 to 2013. However, their formula for winning in the regular season hasn't translated to enough postseason success to quench the fanbase's thirst for its first title in 30 years.
Does this mean that "Dave Dombrowski's sh*t doesn't work in the playoffs" (as Beane famously said about his brand of baseball)? There is no proof of that -- anecdotal evidence of the past four years aside -- but Dombrowski's reshaping of the club suggests that he's trying a different formula. Gone are slow-footed, ham-handed sluggers likePrince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, and Torii Hunter. In their place are more well-rounded players like Ian Kinsler and Yoenis Cespedes, and a defensive wunderkind in Jose Iglesias. Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose bring an element of speed this team hasn't had in a decade, and they are much more adept in other aspects of the game than the Nook Logans and Alex Sanchezes of yesteryear.
This has come at a cost, though. The rotation, once so stacked that Drew Smyly had to spend a season in the bullpen, is a shadow of its former self. Sure, it can still be formidable -- especially if Alfredo Simon discovers the BABIP magic that made him an All-Star in 2014 -- but the Tigers need more from other areas of the club. The lineup should still be potent, as it still features Kinsler, Cespedes, J.D. Martinez, and the two-headed run-producing monster of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. The bullpen will have to be better, especially after last season's spectacular flameout in the ALDS.
After a long offseason of handwringing about Max Scherzer, the bullpen, and Miguel Cabrera's ankle, the Tigers are still the class of the AL Central. While the gap between them and the other four clubs in the division is closing quickly, the Tigers are hoping that Beane's "the playoffs are a crapshoot" mantra holds true. If they can get back to the postseason, 2015 may be the year that Dombrowski and the Tigers win that final game.
Manager: Brad Ausmus (2nd season)
2014 record: 90-72
Key additions: LF Yoenis Cespedes, CF Anthony Gose, RHP Alfredo Simon, RHP Shane Greene, LHP Tom Gorzelanny
Key departures: RF Torii Hunter, SS Eugenio Suarez, RHP Max Scherzer, RHP Rick Porcello, LHP Phil Coke