Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
A year ago, the Tigers battled inconsistent production at the plate from a number of key positions to put together 88 wins, on the backs of some key offensive production and some outstanding starting pitching. This year, the Tigers have worked to address the biggest issues at the plate (subbing out Brennan Boesch and Delmon Young for Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez), and return their entire starting rotation. The only potential issue remains the team's bullpen, with manager Jim Leyland lacking an established closer, and an initial unwillingness to truly embrace closer by committee. Despite those concerns, the Tigers still blew 16 saves last year, and as long as they can arrive at a feasible solution, should be able to remain steady in late leads blown by the bullpen. With that assumption, I expect the Tigers to go 94-68 based on the improvements for the offense, winning the AL Central comfortably.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
When a team spends the offseason going out and re-signing their "fourth" starter, upgrading their right fielder and waiting on the return of their designated hitter, that's likely to be considered a solid off-season. When a team enters spring training with so little drama that the two biggest issues are which of the two perfectly qualified young starters are you going to select for the fifth spot and who the utility infielder is going to be, that's not a bad situation. Entering the season, the only real question mark is whether or not Jim Leyland needs to designate a closer or whether he can get by with a host of capable bullpen arms pitching when needed. This Tigers team is unlike any in recent memory. There are no glaring holes. There are no candidates for serious regression from career seasons. This team just looks good, top to bottom and side to side. They're a championship caliber team. That said, it's easy to get carreid away with predictions for teams in situations like this. Barring serious injury to a key player or two, I think the Tigers will waltz to another American League Central Division crown and likely pick up about 95 wins along the way.
Matt Buck, Staff Writer
In terms of record, I have the Tigers taking a marginal step back in 2013 at 87-75; however, that should be enough to win a relatively weak American League Central. Chicago, Cleveland and Kansas City could all give Detroit a run for its money but holes in each team should give the Tigers the edge. Although Detroit is built pretty well for a seven game series, the odds of the team repeating as American League Champions feels pretty unlikely at this point.
James Chipman, Lakeland Correspondent
The road might be a little bumpy at times, but I see no reason why the Tigers shouldn't be able to win their third consecutive AL Central pennant this season. The division is competitive year in, and year out, but let's face it...the AL Central is a weak, winnable division for Detroit. They undoubtedly have question marks, but the majority of the Tigers concerns will revolve around meeting the lofty expectations that a payroll near $150 million brings and staying healthy. With the additions of Torii Hunter and a healthy Victor Martinez, the lineup should routinely torment opposing pitchers. Headlined by arguably the best pitcher in the game, Justin Verlander leads a starting rotation that just might rank tops in the league when it's all said and done this season. Although the Tigers have taken a putrid "closer by committee" approach to begin the year, the issue will iron itself out and a internal solution will emerge. Worst-case scenario, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch--who's eager to win soon--will allow GM Dave Dombrowski to solve whatever problems arise, externally before the deadline. When it's all said and done, I predict that the Tigers will win the division with a 89-73 record.
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