In this edition, Bip makes projections for the Tigers’ DH and outfielders. Let him know what you think in the comment section.
Victor Martinez: 64 R, 13 HR, 69 RBI, .296/352/431
It was a slow start last season for Victor, but once he found his old swing he came back like a wild man! His numbers shot up in literally every statistical category. The question going into 2014 is, what Victor will we get? The 1st half or 2nd half Martinez? My answer is somewhere in the middle, but closer to his second half production. Martinez has a career .847 OPS so it is unlikely he will maintain as hot a hand as he did (.923 OPS in the second half last year), but that level of production is still well above the average player. With the way the lineup is shaking out, you might see as much as 20-25% more RBI than projected above.
Austin Jackson: 80 R, 12 HR, 62 RBI, .274/.343/.420
I think we saw what type of hitter Austin Jackson really is last season: a 15 homer, 50 RBI, 80-90 run guy. That said, I think there is still some room for growth in those numbers. There are two reasons to be optimistic that we have yet to see the best of Jackson: His strikeout rate has dropped every year since joining the Tigers, and his walk rate is improving and respectable. Fitting into the Tigers’ speed movement, Jackson has some giddy-up in those legs with 181 stolen bases in his career. I think he’ll steal around a baker’s dozen this year.
Andy Dirks: 56 R, 10 HR, 49 RBI, .268/.326/.400
I had lofty expectations for Dirks after his break out 2012 campaign in which all of his secondary statistics (.322/.370/.487) forecasted a solid 2013 season. I should have seen an inflated BABIP led to those numbers. I got caught up in being a fan and in reading about people chanting his name during his winter league games. News of a knee injury that lingered all last season could explain Dirks decrease in both ISO power and speed. The big question mark, obviously, is how quickly and how well Dirks recovers from his back surgery. At best, expect no more that 500 AB from Dirks this year. His production may increase from last year, but I do not expect a dramatic jump in his numbers. He is what he is: a platoon outfielder.
Rajai Davis: 50 R, 5 HR, 34 RBI, .261/.308/.363
So, Davis is fast. He’s averaged 43 steals a year in his major league career. That is speed on top of speed… which begs the question, why would the Tigers use him as a platoon player? Answer: he does not get on base enough to warrant more. Davis has a career OBP of .325, which is not terrible, but if you look at his last three season that dips to .298. His walk rate is also extremely low. He has a career 6.2% walk rate, with average MLB players around 8.5% and poor players around 5.5%. However, speed is exciting, and he is a welcome addition to a team that has been around the bottom of the league in steals the past three seasons. If he gets any significant number of ABs he should have around 40 steals again this year.
Torii Hunter: 71 R, 15 HR, 69 RBI, .281/.327/.423
Baseball players do not age gracefully. You do not tend to see a slow gentle decline in numbers. History shows us that it is more like a light switch: when the bat speed goes, the production falls off. The big question is, when does it happen? Torii Hunter will be 38 this year and that is a scary number for the happiest player in baseball. There are reasons to be concerned. Hunter’s BABIP was .344 last season, 33 points higher than his career average. Since he was better than his career average last year, we should expect a decrease in his numbers this year. Another cause for concern was the massive fall off of his walk rate: his 7% career walk rate dropped to just 4% last year. The last major cause for concern was the most obvious for everyone to see last year: his defense. Hunter went from a UZR rating of 11.2 in 2012, to -4.1 last season. In positive news, Torii did improve his ISO power and slugging percentages, which had been on a three-year decline.This season he is playing in either his final season, or for a new contract, so anything is possible with Hunter’s numbers.
Next time, Bip will tackle the Tiger pitching staff. Until then, Go Tigers.