Earlier, I wrote about why the Tigers didn't win the division. Over time, we can explore some of the issues deeper and use that as a nice jumping point for what the Tigers need to do in the offseason to get better. Today, let's have a little positivity. What went right with the season. And despite the boo-birds out there who grumble and cry of disappointment, I think we can say there was a lot to enjoy about this year, and several indicators the team is on the right track.
I'm not talking about the little enjoyable moments. Armando Galarraga's perfect-everywhere-but-the-records-book game would be on that list. I'm talking about players who performed better than many expected, and who might be expected to continue doing so in the future.
BYB rookie Matt Wallace covered the biggest bright point: The Trade. But it has to be mentioned again. GM Dave Dombrowski's offseason gamble has turned out well in just about every way. That was the best result found this season, and reason to be positive heading into the future.
- The Tigers saved a lot of money, which hopefully is invested into the team this offseason and offseasons to come.
- The Tigers found a Gold Glove-quality center fielder in Austin Jackson. He also happens to hit line drives to all fields and show intelligence on the base paths. While it is reasonable to expect him to take a few steps back statistically, I think he'll continue to improve as a player in years to come.
- The Tigers also found an ace-quality pitcher in Max Scherzer. Is he as good as Justin Verlander? Probably not. Is he 1B to Verlander's 1A? If not, he's pretty darn close. Almost every team in baseball would feel pretty happy to have that combination at the top of the rotation.
- It looks like Daniel Schlereth is developing into the left-handed, late-innings reliever many projected in his Arizona days. He's never going to get the control down totally, but you don't need to if you're only pitching an inning. He should step in next year.
- And finally, Phil Coke had a good year. The Tigers say he'll be a starter next year. Even as an average to below-average starter, that gives him some pretty good value. Admittedly, I have my skepticism about this year. But even if he doesn't work out as a starter he'll still be an important contributor. And again, cost-controlled.
In short, the Tigers picked up four cost-controlled members of their 25-man roster all in one fell swoop.
So what else did I like to see?
- Second baseman Will Rhymes hit .304, without an outrageous BABIP to prop it up. He made several webgem quality plays at the position. The UZR shows below average, but that could be a sample-size issue. Fans at TangoTiger's 2010 Scouting Report ranked his instincts and first step well above average, and his hands, footwork and throwing accuracy a bit above average. Overall, that put him as the fourth best fielder on the team. Along with Scott Sizemore, second base should be manned pretty well next year.
- Brandon Inge batted respectively well, for Inge anyway. His glovework is really what keeps him a starter, obviously. His wOBA finished eighth among American League regulars.
- We got a nice preview of Danny Worth, who is both a slick-fielding shortstop. However, his batting numbers leave a bit to be desired from an everyday player: .255 average, .295 on-base percentage. Still, if you're looking for positives he gives the organization a bit of depth.
- Rick Porcello showed increased command and knocked a few points off his Fielding Independent Pitching stat. His results don't show it, but he did improve and should continue to do so. Maybe not by the increments some hope, but a good sign nonetheless.
Casper Wells managed to build on some of the minor league stats that indicated he could be a useful player. After some stumbles, he showed he could both get on base and hit for power. In the field, he showed a capable glove and strong arm. He did, however, hit much better versus right-handers than he did against left-handers (more than .100 more average and .300 more slugging), which may indicate he'd be useful in a platoon situation. Still his overall numbers were good.
- Will the real Ryan Raburn please stand up (please stand up)? If the guy who hit .315 with a .534 slugging average after the break is the one we're going to see all year in 2011, that's a very good sign. This marks the second consecutive year he's done better in the second half, so the Tigers are going to have to find a way to get him started earlier.
Alex Avila may have struggled with the bat -- a cautionary tale to those who crowned him king in his first month in the majors in 2009 -- but he showed remarkable improvement behind the plate. He had a lot of playing time, which helped build a rapport with most pitchers. His caught stealing percentage rose to 31.7 percent. If he was an everyday catcher with that number, he would have ranked first in the AL. By the way, he did put together solid August and September months at the plate. I do think he's better than the overall picture we saw in 2010.
Reality check: The Tigers still have a ways to go this offseason in order to put together a contender in 2011. But I like the starting point. Several players make me feel like there's a solid base to build off, and it's exciting that so much of it is young blood. Many teams take a few years to rebuild. The Tigers just changed generations on the fly while still winning .500. That's a pretty good sign.
So those are my bright points. I know I didn't touch on every one of them. So your turn to fill in the gaps. What did you see that bodes well for the future?