The Tigers' offseason has been a whirlwind of activity, to say the least. Between trading Prince Fielder and Doug Fister and the coaching overhaul headed by new manager Brad Ausmus, the 2014 Tigers will look much different than their 2013 counterparts.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, however. Many fans were skeptical of the 2013 Tigers' ability to score runs in the postseason before the season even began, and their concerns proved true again when the Tigers bowed out of the ALCS after scoring just 17 runs in six games. Sure, run scoring was down across the board -- the Red Sox only scored 19 runs in the series -- but the Tigers' inability to "manufacture" runs late in games was part of their downfall.
Fast forward through the roster turnover, and the 2014 Tigers lineup is hoping to function like a newly-tuned sports car: lose a little horsepower, but compensate by cutting out some weight in order to get lighter and faster. We know it will look, feel, and sound different, but will it ultimately be any better?
In order to assess this, I did two comparisons: the 2013 Tigers roster against the 2014 roster's stats in '13, and the Steamer projections for the 2014 roster. There were a few exceptions, though.
- For Bryan Holaday and Nick Castellanos, I used their 2014 Steamer projections for both 2014 projections because their '13 numbers were not reflective of the larger roles they will have next year.
- For Jose Iglesias, I used his numbers with the Tigers to calculate the 2013 figures, but his numbers with the Tigers and Red Sox for the first 2014 data set. His Steamer projections were used for the Steamer data set.
Full disclosure: I shaved down the tables in this post in order to save space and prevent formatting nightmares. If you are interested in seeing the full set of data (including individual player projections), then click here.
It's no surprise that either of the 2014 versions of the Tigers don't measure up to the 2013 team. However, losing Prince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, and a completely unexpected 114 wRC+ from Matt Tuiasosopo doesn't seem to be the catastrophe that some are expecting. Steamer projects that the 2014 Tigers will score 25 fewer runs than in 2013, but in roughly 250 fewer plate appearances. This is a huge spread, considering the Tigers haven't had fewer than 1672 plate appearances as a team since 2006.
Additionally, some of Steamer's projections were a bit conservative. Unless he gets injured, Victor Martinez will play more than 138 games, which may add a few more runs and RBI to his and the team's totals. Also, Andy Dirks is projected to play in 65 games and rack up 268 plate appearances. He may take a few games and plate appearances from Rajai Davis -- who is projected to play in 97 games with 418 plate appearances -- but otherwise I think the combined totals from the two left fielders are a fair estimate.
So where is the difference coming from? As you see above, the Tigers are projected to almost triple their stolen base total from 2013. Given the number of speedsters now on the roster and Brad Ausmus' recent comments, I would expect them to surpass the projections above in 2014. Four players -- Davis, Kinsler, Austin Jackson, and Jose Iglesias -- are projected to steal double digit bases, and I would imagine that Andy Dirks challenges that mark too.
Here is how the Tigers' offense breaks down in terms of value.
Surprisingly, the Tigers are still projected to be a below average team defensively. The Steamer projections are very conservative, though. Miguel Cabrera probably won't be 16 runs below average at first base, and Jackson and Dirks won't combine to provide average defense. The jump in baserunning value is stunning, and could theoretically be even more if Davis and Kinsler perform up to their usual standards.
Even with the conservative estimate, the Tigers are projected to be 3-4 wins above replacement worse than in 2013. This is reasonable, considering that the 2013 Tigers were supposed to win 100+ games based on both WAR and pythagorean estimates. Assuming the pitching staff remained the same -- which is a huge assumption that goes beyond the scope of this post -- the Tigers would still be fielding a 95-96 win team in 2014.