5 Detroit Tigers Hitters Who Must Improve On Their 2013 Numbers
5 Detroit Tigers Who Need To Perform Better At The Plate In 2014
There are many question marks regarding the 2014 Detroit Tigers. Everyone is wondering how Brad Ausmus will fare in his first season as a manager, fans are concerned about the health of their two biggest stars in Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, and the issue of whether or not Nick Castellanos is ready to be a big league third baseman remains to be seen.
Other concerns include what will happen if Torii Hunter's age finally catches up with him, or if Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez are unable to replicate their masterful 2013 performances on the mound.
I happen to fall on the side of those who are more optimistic, as I can honestly say that I have a glass-half-full approach about the 2014 Tigers. I happen to believe that everything will work out and the Tigers will win their fourth consecutive AL Central title, go deep into the playoffs and hopefully win a World Series title once and for all. I have, however, written rather extensively about the Tigers' lack of a left-handed power hitter. I believe that the absence of such a force could prove to be problematic.
I was a big supporter of the Prince Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler trade, but it did take a potent left-handed bat out of a lineup that was already heavily right-handed. I thought that the Tigers would perhaps attempt to fill that void by signing Carlos Beltran, who was much less expensive than Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin Soo-Choo, but he was also several years older. However, the Tigers neglected to add another big bat after the Fielder trade.
It could still actually turn out that the Tigers did not need to add a left-handed power bat this winter. However, in order for that to happen, the Tigers are going to need a handful of players, all of whom are projected to be in the everyday lineup, to step up and have better seasons in 2014 than they did in 2013. I know this means that I am saying more than half of the players in the Tigers’ lineup need to be better, but it is simply the truth.
Without further ado, here are the five Detroit Tigers who must be better at the plate in 2014 than they were in 2013.
5. Victor Martinez
I know it may seem wildly unfair to put a player who hit .301/.355/.430 with 14 home runs and 83 RBIs last season on this list, but believe me when I say that Victor Martinez is listed for good reason. Martinez has a very important job to do in protecting Cabrera, and he absolutely must have a good first half in 2014. In 2013, Martinez hit .221 in April, .235 in May and ended the first half batting just .258, which was understandable as he sat out the entire 2012 season. He did, however, catch fire in the second half and carried his red-hot bat into the playoffs with him as well.
If Martinez has another first half like he did in 2013, Cabrera is not going to see many pitches to hit. It would be great if Martinez could put together another season like the one he had in 2011, in which he hit .330 and drove in over 100 runs. Home runs are not necessarily going to be the issue, but Martinez needs to start the season off on the right foot and hit a lot of doubles and drive in a lot of runs. The 83 runs Martinez drove in last season was rather good considering the fact that Cabrera and Fielder did not leave many RBIs on the table, and he was basically driving in their scraps. Therefore, 100 RBIs should be a realistic goal for Martinez in 2014.
4. Andy Dirks
I have been an ardent defender of Andy Dirks as I am a big fan of his. I honestly believe that he can once again be the hitter he was in 2012. However, not to put too much pressure on him, but he absolutely must put together a good season in 2014. If Dirks continues to struggle, the Tigers may have no other choice but to explore a trade for someone like Andre Ethier or Chase Headley in order to get another left-handed bat into the lineup who is capable of driving in runs.
Due to the fact that left-handed production is going to be at a premium for the 2014 Tigers, Dirks’ job could very easily be in jeopardy if he is not hitting at least .270 with a little extra-base pop by the All-Star break. I will continue to throw my support behind Dirks and root for him, and I truly hope that he does have a breakout season and can finish the season batting .290 or better with double-digit home run numbers.
3. Alex Avila
Alex Avila put together an amazing season at the plate in 2011, but the two seasons since have told a much different tale. To put it simply, the Tigers are going to need Avila to hit better than the .227 he hit last year -- much better. Avila, as a matter of fact, had the worst batting average in baseball against left-handed pitching last season at .139, which caused some to wonder if the one-time switch-hitter may have had a better chance of getting a hit batting right-handed against LHP.
I think that the new coaching staff will be good for Avila, and he will go out and work hard to do everything in his power to regain the swing he had three years ago. 2014 will be the year in which Avila will show whether 2011 was a fluke, or if he is capable of posting such numbers again. Let's hope for the latter.
2. Austin Jackson
Austin Jackson did not have the season the Tigers were hoping for in 2013 after turning in a career year in 2012. He will need to remedy that in 2014. Moreover, I have been rather adamant in stating my belief that Jackson should not be the Tigers' leadoff hitter in 2014. He really hurt the Tigers in the first eight games of the 2013 postseason when he was batting leadoff, and seemed to shed all of the pressure he was putting on himself once he was finally dropped to the eighth spot for the final three games.
Jackson has reached double-digits in the home run category in each of the past three seasons, and I happen to believe that he may in fact have the ability to hit 20-25 home runs. If the Tigers finally drop Jackson in the order, where he doesn't have to press or worry about the strikeouts, we could very well be looking at Mike Cameron next season.
1. Ian Kinsler
Kinsler is not coming off of his best season, but he did hit .277/.344/.413 with 13 home runs and 72 RBIs in 2013, which is considered a solid year for a second baseman. He still needs to be better though. It is very important to note that he did hit for more average last season than he has in previous years, and hopefully that trend can continue.
I think I speak for most Tigers fans when I say that I would rather see Kinsler hit in the .280-.300 range, with 12-15 home runs, 20 or more stolen bases, and be an effective leadoff hitter rather than try to replicate his 2009 and 2011 seasons in which he hit in the .250 range with 30-plus home runs. Fielder is liable to put up big numbers for the Texas Rangers in 2014 as he will be playing his home games in a hitter-friendly ballpark, so Kinsler will have to have a good season as well to make the blockbuster deal look good for both sides.