Way-Too-Soon Detroit Tigers Predictions

The season does not start for another 48 days. The playoffs are more than a half a year away.

Did you think that would stop us?

We compiled the brightest minds of our generation into creating a list of predictions, prophecies and power performances that we guarantee will happen to the Detroit Tigers in 2014.

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Blake Froling

The new-look Tigers are lean, mean and ready for another playoff run. The additions of Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis make Detroit much faster on the basepaths and a better fielding team than last year. Joe Nathan and Joba Chamberlain should solidify the bullpen and give Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander a break. With this in mind, I think the Tigers will go 96-66 in the regular season, three games better than last year.

The Tigers always seem to stumble in the playoffs, and this year will be no exception. Detroit will lose to the Dodgers 4-2 in the World Series. Miguel Cabrera will be banged up again and his bat will go cold. Pitching will be stellar, but runs will be hard to come by, as is always the case for the Tigers in the playoffs.

My player to watch for the 2014 season is Joe Nathan. The 39 year-old closer acquired as a free agent from Texas brings the one thing the Tigers seemingly never had in their bullpen: stability. There may be some doubts about the right-hander because of his age, but Nathan had one of the best years of his career last year in a hitter’s ballpark. Nathan posted a 6-2 record with a 1.39 ERA and 43 saves. He also struck out 73 batters and only walked 22. Nathan earned his second consecutive All-Star appearance and sixth of his career.

Now that Nathan is in a pitcher’s dream stadium and has a much-improved defense around him, those numbers could get even better. Look for Nathan to get another All-Star nod and rack up the saves while saving Tigers fans from roller coaster ninth innings.

Romero Hardy

After losing in the World Series in 2012, you would think 2013 would be the year for the Detroit Tigers. Instead, they came up short yet again, losing in the ALCS to the Boston Red Sox.

With the loss of Prince Fielder, I am not expecting a great regular season. I predict the Tigers to go 86-76 and barely make a Wild Card spot. Even with all of their new additions, I still can not really picture them going far in the playoffs, if they make it at all.

A player to watch for besides Miguel Cabrera, in my opinion, would be Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain is looking for a fresh start so I am expecting a lot from him with the Tigers this year.

Richie Cozzolino

Detroit has proven to be perfectly good at being adequate. Reporters predicted an easy sweep of the AL Central by the Tigers in 2013, and that is exactly what they got. For the last three years, it has been a steady road to the playoffs.

Do not be so certain this year. Change can be good, but it can also be unbalancing. Cabrera shifting his place on the diamond, Doug Fister and Prince Fielder saying their goodbyes and Jim Leyland vacating his seat in the dugout will definitely cause rifts in this team. On the plus side, Rajai Davis, Nick Castellanos and Joba Chamberlain are all acquisitions to be cheerful for. Can the positive wipe out the negative?

Brad Ausmus is the key. This is his team now, and the tag team of Ilitch and Dombrowski hired him to win a championship. Is it lame and unfair of me to choose the coach as the player to watch? The rules I imposed on others being ignored as carelessly as a Miguel Cabrera groin injury? Nahh…

It is Ausmus’ team now. Do I think Detroit will contend this year? Absolutely. Do I think he can lead a team to a World Series fresh out of the gate? That is something I have to see to believe. We will call it what it is: A 90 win season with a trip to the ALCS. Good, but not enough to satisfy these insatiable Detroit fans.

Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Brett Kast

Brad Ausmus is one lucky guy landing the manager position with arguably one of the best rosters in baseball. However, you could also look at it with a different perspective. With no previous MLB head coaching experience, Ausmus is treading in unfamiliar water.

With an alarming amount of pressure being placed on this stellar Tigers team to pull together its first World Series since 1984, the only way to go is seemingly down. With this much pressure on the young coach, will the Tigers fall under his leadership? Will the Tigers dramatically underperform and struggle for a playoff spot? Will Justin Verlander propose to Kate Upton anytime soon?

My opinion? Probably not.

Whether Brad Ausmus can deal with the pressure or not, this team has enough veteran leadership (Verlander, Scherzer, Cabrera, Hunter, Nathan, etc.) to make it through the first 50 games until they can settle down and Brad Ausmus becomes comfortable in the dugout. That is if he has trouble, which I doubt. Instead of throwing off the Tigers, I believe the switch to a young coach will invigorate and inspire the clubhouse, giving them a manager they can easily relate to. Also, the addition of Joe Nathan will allow Ausmus to calmy ease his way into the season, giving a lot less ninth inning heart attacks, which Jose Valverde was accustomed to providing.

Other players to watch for this season are Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera.  Both superstars happen to be coming off surgeries this off-season, but reports say there is no need for alarm.

The additions of Joba Chamberlain and the contract extension of Max Scherzer will provide tremendous help on the mound. The addition of talent from Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos will surely help this team.

Look for the Tigers to reign once again as AL Central Champions and also to take home the American League pennant. Brad Ausmus taking home a World Series his first year seems unlikely, but it is not out of the question. I am looking for the Tigers to go 95-67 and hopefully take home the World Series, although I have to remain skeptical of such a perfect outcome.

Michael Higer

After a third-straight postseason in which the Tigers fell short, many fans were calling for change. Little did they expect the change that came. Gone are Jim Leyland, Prince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, Doug Fister and Joaquin Benoit. Do not fret though, as the Tigers replaced that talent with Ian Kinsler, Joe Nathan, Joba Chamberlain, Rajai Davis and Brad Ausmus.

I believe that even with so much change, the Tigers will have a very similar record to last year’s. I predict them to finish 94-68, a one-game improvement from 2013. Rather on relying on power at the end of games, the Tigers will produce their runs through speed on the basepaths. They also improved defensively at each position at the infield compared to the beginning of last season.

Unfortunately, 2014 will end in heartbreak yet again for Tigers fans. After the Tigers got the best of them the last two seasons in the ALDS, the Oakland A’s finally avenge those losses in the ALCS this year. They have an excellent young starting rotation to go along with one of the best bullpens in Major League Baseball. Eventually, Oakland will fall to St. Louis in the World Series.

My player to watch for the Tigers in this upcoming season is Rick Porcello. Many people forget that Porcello is only 25 years-old as he has been with the Tigers since 2009. Rick saw his numbers improve last year, finishing with his highest strikeout total (142) and lowest WHIP (1.28) of his career. Porcello is a ground ball pitcher, so an improved defensive infield should do wonders for his numbers. Not to mention, finally moving up to the No. 4 spot in the rotation will help with his confidence as well.

My bold prediction is that Porcello finishes the season as one of the Tigers’ top-three pitchers. This may not seem bold until you consider that means he needs to finish better than one of the trio of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez.

Richie Cozzolino is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.

Blake Froling, Romero Hardy, Brett Kast and Michael Higer are multimedia journalists for Impact Sports.

Photo: Detroit Tigers