“If you lose the last game of the season, nobody gives a s_ _ _ _.”
That’s what Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane (at least the Brad Pitt version) said in the movie “Moneyball” about a disappointing end to an otherwise good season. And that’s what a lot of Tiger fans are saying today after that stunning four game sweep by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
Unfortunately, losing the Series to the Giants will diminish many of the accomplishments of the 2012 Tigers season. There were many bright spots, starting with Triple Crown Winner Miguel Cabrera, who should be a lock to win the Most Valuable Player Award after leading the league in Batting Average, Home Runs, and Runs Batted in. And Prince Fielder had an excellent season in his first year as a Tiger, hitting 30 home runs and driving in more than 100 runs. Justin Verlander didn’t win as many games as last season, but is still in the running for the Cy Young Award. And Max Scherzer had a break out year, finishing second in strikeouts to Verlander. And of course, you can’t forget the Tigers exciting win over the Oakland A’s in the ALDS and their sweep of the Yankees to win the American League Championship.
But the World Series was a microcosm of the 2012 season. The Tigers did not dominate throughout the year, as many baseball experts and fans had expected. They went through many stretches where the offense just disappeared, exactly what happened in the Series. The Tigers are not a team that is good at manufacturing runs with “small ball,” speed, steals, and sacrificing runners. They still rely on the old tried and true three-run homer strategy. As long as they are getting the long ball from Cabrera and Fielder and Delmon Young, they are fine. But when those bats go cold, as they did against the Giants until the last game when it was too little too late, the Tigers often find themselves on the losing end.
What does all this mean for next season? The Tigers still have a solid nucleus, with Jackson, Cabrera and Fielder. And their starting pitching should be outstanding, led by Verlander, Scherzer and Doug Fister. And Anibal Sanchez was a strong late season addition, and you can expect the Tigers to try and keep him, if his price tag isn’t too outrageous.
But there will be changes. Jose Valverde is gone as the team’s closer. Don’t expect the Tigers to spend 8 to ten million dollars on a new closer. They will probably go with some one already on the team: Phil Coke or Al Alburqueque could be in line for the job. Delmon Young is also likely a goner, since the Tigers will get Victor Martinez back and they don’t need two Designated Hitters. Brennan Boesch has likely played his last game as a Tiger. Don’t be surprised if the Tigers go after a free agent like Torii Hunter or Josh Hamilton. Or they might keep rookie Avasail Garcia.
When all is said and done, I think you have to consider 2012 a very good season for the Tigers, if not a great one. Once again, all we can do is say “Wait till next year!” How many days till spring training?