Friday, February 25, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Detroit Tigers and Colorado Rockies

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki
Ever since he came into the league in 2007, the talk has been that Tullowitzki could be one of the best short stops in the game, but he has been unable to stay healthy long enough for that to happen. He has played two seasons where he missed very little time, but his other two he missed over 100 games combined. 

Last year Tullowitzki missed substantial time, but still put his name out there as one of the best players in all of baseball. That was in large part to his September to remember, where he had a stretch of 15 games where he hit 14 home runs. When he got hot, no one knew when he was going to stop, he just kept launching the ball out of the park, and was doing everything he could to try to get the Rockies into the playoffs. 

They lost just 2 of those 15 games, but after those 15 games, Tullowitzki did not homer again, and the Rockies won just one out of their next 14 games. They couldn't do anything when Tullowitzki wasn't carrying them. The one game they did win, Tullowitzki was 4/5 with a home run and 5 rbis. He needed some help, but there was none to be found.

If he were a healthy guy who you knew would play 160 games every season, he would be considered the best SS in baseball, but he isn't, which makes his season the key to the Rockies. Other than Tullowitzki there is no one in their lineup that will scare opposing pitchers. Maybe Carlos Gonzalez, but he has only had really one good season. If Tullowitzki is absent the Rockies offense is going to look anemic.

It isn't just injuries that take Tullowitzki out of the lineup, he also is a straight up streaky hitter. September is a good example of this, but he also has months where he just doesn't hit. Last April he had just one home run, but did hit .304 for the Rockies so he was forgiven. The best players in baseball don't have single home run months, he needs to be consistent and carry the Rockies for the entirety of the season.

Others considered: Carlos Gonzalez: He is coming off an amazing year where he did everything for the Rockies, but I have doubts another season like that is on its' way...Ubaldo Jimenez: Like Gonzalez he had a great year, especially the first half of the season, but then he tailed off; what Ubaldo will we get? The dominant one, or the mediocre one? The Rockies will need him to be a force atop their rotation to compete with the rest of the pitching heavy National League. 

Detroit Tigers: Max Scherzer
Last season he got off to an awful start to the year, his ERA in April was 4.23 and then in May it was 9.45. He was pretty much left for dead, but after that he was straight up filthy. His ERA after the All-Star break was 2.47, which included a 1.29 ERA in August. The inconsistency is nothing new to Scherzer, as he had similar ups and downs in 2009, but his finish to 2010 makes him a prime candidate to break out.

He is just 26 years old, has one blue eye, one brown eye, and is a strike out machine. In 195.2 innings he had 184 strike outs, good for an 8.46 K/9. That ratio is up there with some of the best in the league, but the question is, can he put together an entire season?

He seems to be up for the task this season after he really only had 2 bad months in 2010. When the Tigers were making their push for the division they road his arm down the stretch. He had seven consecutive starts going from late July to September first, in which he gave up no more than 2 earned runs, in all of those games he pitched 6+ innings, and actually all of those games, but one he gave up two or no runs. That is the kind of dominance the Tigers should expect for stretches in 2011.

But what about the none-dominating stretches? Will those be 9+ era months? Or just a bad start here or there? Maybe he will be able to put it together and not have a rough patch. If he can find a way to make the rough patches not as rough, keep the Tigers in every ball-game he pitches in; He could step up as a dominant number 2 starter behind Justin Verlander.

This season is a big one for the Tigers, the division is wide open, they have a good lineup led by perennial MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera, and newcomer Victor Martinez. They just need to find consistency from the young arm of Max Scherzer if they expect to win the division.

Others considered: Miguel Cabrera: He is going to be up there for the AL MVP, but we know what to expect so I don't see that as a key to their team...Victor Martinez: He is the new guy on the block, but like Cabrera he has a proven track record, the question will be, how will he respond to a pretty big ballpark...Rick Porcello: He is another young arm that needs to step up, he could be a legit number 3 in the rotation, but will have to pitch better than he has recently.

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and OriolesRed Sox and Braves Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs  Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians


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