We've expected the Tigers to still be favorites to win their division in 2014, despite all the turnover on the roster. But it looks like the Tigers may be favorites for more than just a division championship. ESPN's Buster Olney has predicted the Tigers to go all the way in 2014. His selection was revealed on Twitter Monday night.
Olney writes, in the New Years' Eve Insider edition of ESPN.com (subscription required), that the Tigers are the best team in the major leagues:
1. Detroit Tigers
Some of the teams that employ advanced metrics determined at the end of the last regular season that the Tigers were the best team in the American League -- by far. This, in spite of a bullpen that repeatedly went through changes at closer, and in spite of what was widely regarded as the worst defense in the majors. The Tigers won the AL Central for the third straight year, and again they couldn't win the World Series, losing to Boston in the ALCS. And since the end of the season, Detroit GM David Dombrowski has gone about the business of plugging the holes.
Olney had earlier tabbed the Tigers' pitching rotation as the best in baseball (insider required for full article), despite the loss of Doug Fister, who was traded to the Washington Nationals. He also named the Tigers' lineup as the third best in the major leagues, behind the Texas Rangers and the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
The Tigers also figure to be a better base running team, and they should be better defensively with different players manning all four infield positions than those they had around the infield on opening day in 2013. Olney did not rate the Tiger defense or bullpen as one of the majors' top 10 in his rankings.
While the Tigers have been busy this winter, losing eight players via free agency, and trading Fister along with Prince Fielder, the Dodgers have also been active. The reigning National League's Western division champions have signed starting pitcher Dan Haren, former closers Brian Wilson and Chris Perez to be set up men, and retained lefty specialist JP Howell and third baseman Juan Uribe. Los Angeles also added Cuban infielder Alexander Guererro, who is expected to be their starting second baseman.
There is a lot to like on the Tiger roster. Two time MVP Miguel Cabrera, former MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, and current Cy Young winner Max Scherzer lead a roster full of veterans, now mixed with an infusion of youth, speed, and a bright young manager in Brad Ausmus. Olney will not be the last one to select Detroit to win in 2014.