Last season, I took a shot in the dark at making five outrageous predictions about the 2013 season. They were mostly awful. However, since baseball is all about doing the same things for far too long despite evidence that suggests otherwise (like bunting!), we're going to do the same thing this year. Without further ado, here are five bold predictions for the 2014 season.
1. Robbie Ray is in the big league rotation at the end of the year...
...because Drew Smyly is desperately needed in a floundering bullpen. The organization is clearly enamored with Ray, and will give him an opportunity to get his feet wet at some point this season regardless of how the bullpen fares. However, I do not have much confidence in a Bruce Rondon-less bullpen to bridge the gap from the starters to Joe Nathan. I expect at least one of Al Alburquerque, Joba Chamberlain, and Phil Coke to have a decent year, but asking all three to put up great numbers is a tall order.
2. Rick Porcello outperforms Anibal Sanchez
The Tigers have seen a ridiculous improvement from Anibal Sanchez over his days in south Florida, and it's worth wondering whether 2013 was just a career year for the then-29 year old Venezuelan. Sanchez led the AL with a 2.57 ERA, but had not held opponents to an ERA below 3.50 in any of the past six seasons. Meanwhile, Porcello took a major step forward last season, but a pair of starts against the Los Angeles Angels saw his ERA lag behind. He will still have the occasional blow-up start, but a vastly improved infield defense should help limit the damage when he does.
3. The Tigers steal 100 more bases as a team than they did in 2013
Is it the roster overhaul that brought in speedsters Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler? The aggressive nature of new manager Brad Ausmus? It's probably a combination of both, along with the realization that their inability to score runs in close games cost them dearly in 2013. The early numbers suggest a huge increase is in store, but it's anyone's guess as to how big of a jump we will see. Ausmus seems committed to testing defenses and getting in opposing pitchers' heads, and the newly nimble roster will help him realize this vision.
4. Torii Hunter is a negative WAR player
Hunter was a full win below replacement level defensively in 2013, and there will come a day where his bat is no longer able to carry him as a productive corner outfielder. He hit a robust .304/.334/.465 with 17 home runs last year but was only worth 1.7 rWAR. His BABIP has been well above career norms in the past two seasons -- a statistical anomaly that may be attributed to a move up in the order -- but Father Time will come knocking at some point. It will undoubtedly take an injury or two to derail the incredibly fit Hunter in 2014, but at age 38 (he turns 39 in July), it isn't out of the question.
5. Miguel Cabrera wins the Triple Crown
This is easily the tamest of the prognostications in this thread considering Cabrera has (a) done it before, and (b) seriously flirted with it in each of the past three seasons. Miggy finished the 2013 season with a 192 wRC+, something that had only been done thrice previously in team history (and it took a corked bat for Norm Cash to do it in 1961). He is the first right-hander to win three consecutive batting titles since Rogers Hornsby, and will join Hornsby and Ted Williams with a second Triple Crown in 2014.
What are your bold predictions for 2014?