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Better know a Tiger: Torii Hunter

As the Tigers' injury woes mount, can Hunter survive the grind of another season?

Torii Hunter signs autographs before a spring game against the Braves, March 2, 2014
Torii Hunter signs autographs before a spring game against the Braves, March 2, 2014

Torii Kedar Hunter was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Reminiscent of former Tiger outfielder Curtis Granderson, his mom, Shirley, was an elementary school teacher. Torii starred in football and baseball at Pine Bluff High School. According to this source, Hunter was selected to play for the Junior Olympic baseball team in 1992. He needed $500 for team expenses but did not have the cash on hand. Instead he wrote then-governor Bill Clinton, who provided the necessary funding.

The Minnesota Twins drafted Hunter in the first round over two decades ago and he spent parts of seven seasons in the minors. He now makes his home in the Dallas, Texas metro area with his high school sweetheart and wife Katrina. His winter home is just to the right (east) of Austin Jackson's hometown, and he spends his summers to the right of Jackson as well.

Torii has spent only one of his nearly 40 years in Detroit, but it feels like he has been a Tiger for much longer. He has become an advocate for the organization.

Hunter's defense in center field was legendary and netted him nine consecutive Gold Gloves. He has been named to five All-Star teams, including last year. His community service was recognized in 2009 with the Branch Rickey Award. His career totals are starting to show up on active and career leader lists.

2013 144 652 90 84 17 3 .304 .334 .465
Career 2091 8539 1158 1227 314 189 .279 .335 .466
Steamer 138 620 78 74 17 4 .283 .334 .436
Oliver 143 600 65 67 13 3 .268 .309 .399

Last year's on-base percentage and slugging percentage were right at his career norms. The bottom two lines are the Steamer and Oliver projections for 2014. Steamer project some decline, but maintaining average performance for a corner outfielder. Oliver projects a larger decline to below average output. Clearly we prefer Steamer.

Contract Status

Torii is in his last year of a two year contract and will receive $14 million in 2014.

Keys to Success

Torii loves to make light of his age but he does turn 39 in July. He has successfully avoided a visit by Father Time to this point, and survived trying to run through the wall at Fenway. The two highest batting averages of his career were the past two seasons, but all players decline at some point. The Tigers need one more healthy year from Hunter.

Odd Numbers

4,814: Hunter's career putout total. He is currently 30th all-time in putouts, and with a full season should easily pass Chet Lemon for 19th place and replace Al Kaline in 17th place.

2014 Outlook

Torii was awarded a Silver Slugger award last year and is not showing any signs of slowing down with a spring training slash line of .351/.415/.459. Time is going to catch up with him this year. I expect him to provide offense near his career norms, but to injure a leg or shoulder on a play in the outfield and lose 30 to 60 games. Let's hope it is after Dirks returns. He will be at full strength for the playoffs, and this time he will catch the ball over the wall.