CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Flu-Like Symptoms: One... (09/13)
<< Previous Column
Let It Eat: The Septem... (09/05)
No Next Column
Next Article >>
Premium Article Minor League Update: G... (09/14)

September 13, 2017

Let It Eat

The Last Night of the Tigers Dynasty That Wasn't

by Ben Carsley


The Detroit Tigers won 366 games between 2011 and 2014, which is 91.5 wins per season and a .565 winning percentage. They won four consecutive AL Central crowns.

They never won it all, of course. The 2014 Tigers lost in the ALDS, the 2011 and 2013 Tigers lost in the ALCS, and the 2012 Tigers lost the World Series. But they were formidable. They were talented. They were scary. And while it may seem like a distant memory now, they came about as close to a dynasty as any team without a single ring to show for their troubles can get.

The 2017 Tigers serve as further proof that nothing lasts forever, that all good things must come to an end. Their only legacy will be shaking off the last vestiges of those near-championship years. Once among the game’s most notorious deadline buyers, this year the Tigers decided to sell. From mid-July through late August, they traded J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks, Alex Avila and Justin Wilson to the Cubs, and Justin Upton to the Angels.

But the real move that signified the end of the Tigers as we knew them came late on August 31, right at the waiver trade deadline buzzer. Detroit sent longtime face of the franchise Justin Verlander to Houston for some prospects and a whole lot of financial relief. They ripped the Band-Aid off, they did what needed to be done, and now the rebuild is on.

Over the next several seasons, we’ll see the Tigers get worse before they get better. The veterans who remain will be traded or allowed to walk. Mildly youngish players like Daniel Norris and Nick Castellanos will be given more time to showcase why they should or shouldn't be part of the future. And general manager Al Avila will likely hoard prospects as he looks to restock a bottom-10 farm system.

This doesn’t look like a Yankees rebuild-on-the-fly situation. It looks like the Tigers might be the new Reds, Phillies, or Braves. It looks like Tigers might be in the basement for a while. Memories of yesteryear rarely dull the pain of today. But still, the baseball world owes it to the Tigers to remember those early 2010s teams one more time before a new Dark Ages of Tigers baseball begins. Because dear lord, they were a lot of fun.

Odds are, you remember those teams because of their stars. Verlander and Miguel Cabrera were the headliners, sure, but they weren’t alone. An impressive cavalcade of star-level talent made its way through Detroit between 2011 and 2014. Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, and Ian Kinsler were among the big-name sluggers who occupied those lineups, with better-than-average secondary players like Jhonny Peralta, J.D. Martinez, and Austin Jackson seeing regular time, too.

Their always-formidable rotation included stalwarts like Max Scherzer, David Price, Doug Fister, and Anibal Sanchez, with cameos from promising youngsters like Rick Porcello, Robbie Ray, and Drew Smyly. The bullpen, well, the bullpen was often a problem. But it featured some flash with Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Joba Chamberlain, Joakim Soria, and even late-career Joe Nathan and Octavio Dotel.

Between 2011 and 2014, the Tigers boasted star power like few, if any, other teams could. In that limited time frame alone, they had 12 players produce at least 5.0 WARP. Seriously. Look at this list:

Year

Player

WARP

2011

Alex Avila

5.2

2011

Miguel Cabrera

5.8

2011

Justin Verlander

8.3

2012

Miguel Cabrera

6.2

2012

Austin Jackson

5.5

2012

Justin Verlander

8.1

2013

Miguel Cabrera

7.9

2013

Anibal Sanchez

5.1

2013

Max Scherzer

7.0

2014

Miguel Cabrera

5.5

2014

David Price

6.2*

2014

Max Scherzer

6.4

*Half-season with Detroit.

Stats not your thing? Stare in awe at all of the top-five MVP and/or Cy Young award finishes Tigers earned from 2011-2014:

Year

Player

Award

2011

Miguel Cabrera

MVP - 5

2011

Justin Verlander

Cy Young- 1

2011

Justin Verlander

MVP - 1

2012

Miguel Cabrera

MVP - 1

2012

Justin Verlander

Cy Young - 2

2013

Miguel Cabrera

MVP - 1

2013

Anibal Sanchez

Cy Young - 4

2013

Max Scherzer

Cy Young - 1

2014

Victor Martinez

MVP - 2

2014

Max Scherzer

Cy Young - 5

Like All-Star appearances? These four squads sent 18 players to All-Star games, headlined by six Tigers from the 2013 team. Silver Sluggers? Try six of ‘em. Gold Gloves? Well, OK, this era of Tigers baseball wasn’t for you. The overall point remains: the early 2010s Tigers consistently dazzled with stars the way few teams outside of Boston or New York had for the better part of a decade.

They weren’t just entertaining on the field; they were responsible for about 20 percent of the traffic to MLBTradeRumors.com during those four years, too. Then-GM Dave Dombrowski acquired Fister, Delmon Young, Sanchez, Jose Iglesias, Fister again, Soria, and Price in midseason deals alone. His offseason moves netted him players like Kinsler, Scherzer, and Peralta.

The part that, aside from seeing how far they’ve fallen today, makes remembering these teams hurt the most? The close calls. God, there were so many close calls. Yes, the 2012 Tigers were swept by the Giants, but they lost Games 2-4 by a combined five runs. What if Game 4 of the 2011 ALCS-—an extra-inning loss to the Rangers at home-—had gone Detroit’s way? What if David Ortiz’s 2013 grand slam had fallen two feet shorter? The Tigers lost Game 3 of the 2014 ALDS at home by one run. They were always so close, the baseball equivalent of Tantalus, of Kevin Dyson falling on the one-yard line.

None of this is meant to dig up old wounds for Tigers fans. In fact, the goal is here is quite to the contrary; to remind people that the early 2010s Tigers weren’t also-rans or lucky bastards or frauds. They were really good. Good enough to win it all, if another bounce or two went their way. Good enough to win it all more than once if a half-dozen bounces went their way.

Over the next few seasons, as we watch Mikie Mahtook struggle in center field and Matt Boyd struggle on the mound and countless other journeymen, misfits, and youngens flock to Detroit, try to remember the good ole days. Remember how scary it was seeing “Cabrera, Fielder, Martinez” in the heart of a lineup. How exciting the prospect of “Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez” was in 2013. How easily the Tigers could bash you into a pulp or marginalize your best hitters. And how Dombrowski made “mystery team” mean something.

They say the journey is more important than the destination. That feels less true than ever in an era where every pitch, error, swing, and call is dissected on Twitter, debated on TV, and picked apart in online columns. But for the 2011-2014 Tigers, it has to be true. History will not remember them as winners, but we should not forget them as entertainers and craftsmen, as teams built to thrill and wow and dazzle.

That all ended officially on August 31, 2017, though we’d seen it coming for years. Justin Verlander is in Houston, Detroit is rebuilding, and time marches on. The Tigers’ watch has ended, but they are not forgotten.

Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  Detroit Tigers,  Justin Verlander

5 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Flu-Like Symptoms: One... (09/13)
<< Previous Column
Let It Eat: The Septem... (09/05)
No Next Column
Next Article >>
Premium Article Minor League Update: G... (09/14)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Playoff Prospectus: Come Undone
BP En Espanol: Previa de la NLCS: Cubs vs. D...
Playoff Prospectus: How Did This Team Get Ma...
Playoff Prospectus: Too Slow, Too Late
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: PECOTA Odds and ALCS Gam...
Premium Article Playoff Prospectus: PECOTA Odds and NLCS Gam...
Playoff Prospectus: NLCS Preview: Cubs vs. D...

MORE FROM SEPTEMBER 13, 2017
Baseball Therapy: Confessions of a Fake Mana...
Premium Article The Call-Up: Willie Calhoun
Short Relief: Ourselves, in Cheap Resin
BP En Espanol: La ultima noche de la dinasti...
What You Need to Know: Twenty!
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of September 12th
Fantasy Article Deep League Report: Week 24

MORE BY BEN CARSLEY
2017-09-21 - Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: September 21, 2017
2017-09-18 - TINO (There Is No Offseason): Ep. 93: The Of...
2017-09-14 - Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: September 14, 2017
2017-09-13 - Let It Eat: The Last Night of the Tigers Dyn...
2017-09-13 - BP En Espanol: La ultima noche de la dinasti...
2017-09-11 - Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: September 11, 2017
2017-09-07 - Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: NFL Crossover Editi...
More...

MORE LET IT EAT
2017-09-13 - Let It Eat: The Last Night of the Tigers Dyn...
2017-09-05 - Let It Eat: The September 2017 Panic Index
2017-08-24 - Let It Eat: Bad Breaks
2017-08-03 - Let It Eat: The August 2017 Panic Index
More...