2014 Tigers' rotation, lineup better than some think

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Send that storm cloud away from now, early projections are looking pretty good for Detroit.

Doom and gloom forever. That's the view some people take anyway. It's almost certainly a minority view, held by a vocal few who insist on sharing their woes with talk radio hosts or maybe tweeting it or putting it in certain comment sections. A couple of posts by friends of Bless You Boys in the past week or so point out things aren't nearly as bad as they might seem, so it's worth drawing some attention to.

We're in the time of computer projections, of course. Last Friday ZiPS was released, and it showed some rather positive results across the board, reflecting a team that will hit for less power but put more speed on the basepaths. That's important when considering another projection system that came out a bit earlier, as detailed by Lee Panas at Tiger Tales: Steamer. As Lee notes, Steamer has a good reputation, though it's just one of many systems that we'll see in the coming weeks. What Steamer has to say is pretty great:

The Tigers are projected to score the most runs in the American League: 786. That's nearly 30 more than the Rangers, who supposedly put together the best lineup in the league.

That sounds unlikely, doesn't it? No Prince Fielder. No Jhonny Peralta. How could the offense possibly hold its ground after losing two key sluggers?

One difference is that the Tigers poor showing on the basepaths actually cost them runs compared to what they were projected to score. By Runs Created, the Tigers could have scored 836 runs, Panas notes. They actually scored 796. Why the difference? They just weren't good at taking advantage of opportunities.

Panas:

(T)he additional speed should give the Tigers an average base running team and allow the Tigers to score about 20 more runs next year with their feet. That's still a 30-run difference but remember they underperformed by about 20 runs last year with inefficient situational hitting. So, there's our ten-run difference between 2013 and 2014.

You should never really bet the house on any one system, of course. But if there's one thing we've seen so far, it's reason for optimism -- even if Nick Castellanos falls a bit shy of his .277/.320/.429, 18-home run ZiPS projection.

What about pitching? A lot of gloom out there over the trade that sent Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for left-handed relief pitcher Ian Krol, minor league starter Robbie Ray and infielder Steve Lombardozzi. Not a well-received transaction, to say the least.

Neil Weinberg of New English D took a look back at 2013 recently and what it means for the Tigers' 2014 rotation. What he found: The rotation is likely to do worse, as you expect, but it's still going to be really darn good.

His conclusion:

All told, the rotation was amazing in 2013 and still looks to be very good in 2014. There was absolutely a case to be made that the Tigers should trade some pitching depth for offense or prospects this offseason, the only complaint is how they went about doing so. The rotation will be worse in 2014, but it's coming down from a season in which they were 9.3 fWAR better than the second best rotation in the sport. They were an entire Sandy Koufax better than the second best rotation in the league, so even if things get worse, things will still be pretty great.

So: The lineup won't be much worse. The rotation won't be much worse. And, if we're being honest here, the bullpen was probably going to be an unknown either way. (No matter how hard you try to concoct a bullpen, like Forrest Gump's mom says, you never know what you're going to get.)

So, for the optimists out there, take heart, 2014 should still be pretty good. And for the pessimists, you might want to hold back a bit, because the argument doesn't look like it's going in your favor right about now.

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