The Tigers are once again Central Division Champs. Here are ten reasons they repeated, in chronological order:
Dave Dombrowski is not intimidated by Bud Selig or Scott Boras, and drafted Rick Porcello the year after the 2006 World Series. The penalty for a good season is a low slot in the draft. Dombrowski saw this as an opportunity and nabbed Porcello after the following pichers were selected: Blake Beavan, Joe Savery, Chris Withrow, Tim Alderson, Nick Schmidt, Michael Main, Aaron Poreda, and James Simmons.
Dave Dombrowksi traded for Miguel Cabrera when he was very good and very young, but before he became "the best hitter in baseball". Cabrera's bWAR (wins above replacement) this year is equal to the career total of all six players who were traded for him.
Dave Dombrowski had the guts to trade a fan favorite in Curtis Granderson, netting Max Scherzer. Scherzer had a great arm, and has matured into an ace. Replace Scherzer with Edwin Jackson this year and the Tigers are likely in second place.
Joaquin Benoit was signed for three years at $16.5 million, through 2013. Three year contracts for relievers are typically a bad idea, especially one who was recently injured. If Benoit were replaced with a closer who saved 80% of his chances, it would be a race to the finish.
Dave Dombrowski had the skill to trade some spare parts to Seattle for Doug Fister. Imagine that Fister were replaced in the rotation with Smyly, and Smyly's spot in the pen went to Charlie Furbush. Kiss a couple wins goodbye.
Victor Martinez's knee injury prompted the signing of Prince Fielder. Without the injury, it is doubtful that the 3-4-5 spots in the lineup would be Cabrera - Fielder - Martinez.
Dave Dombrowski had the moxie to trade Jacob Turner and friends for Anibal Sanchez, and Mr. Ilitch opened up the checkbook to re-sign him. Replace Sanchez with Turner this year, and the division could be decided on the final day.
The Tigers have character and a winning tradition. Torii Hunter wanted to be in Detroit. His presence added offensive production from the right field position, and filled the number two hole in the lineup.
The rotation has been healthy. The only starter to miss a turn was Sanchez, and that was only a few starts. A full season of Justin Verlander, even in an off year, is better than a replacement from Toledo. Consecutive seasons of playoff games add extra strain on the starters and risk of injury. From the delayed spring training ramp-up of Max Scherzer to Anibal Sanchez's quick recovery from injury, they did something right with the starters this year.
Dave Dombrowksi does not fall in love with prospects, and does not worry about being second guessed. The trades for Jose Veras and Jose Iglesias plugged some holes in July. Without Veras, Leyland may have been tempted to overuse Benoit and wear him out. Without Iglesias, the games in Miami would matter.