In the This Is My Nightmare series, we'll take a look at what the absolute worst case scenario for each team would be in 2013. Think of it as the negative complement to our You May Say I'm A Dreamer series that we'll be running during our preview series.
Thinking of a nightmare season for the Tigers probably revolves, unfortunately, around injuries. Justin Verlander has been the model of consistency and health during his career, but his 30-year old arm has a lot of mileage on it: 1500+ innings, to be exact. After his insane last four years, Verlander going down for an extended period of time would absolutely cripple the Tigers going forth in 2013, even with their rotation as a strong point going forth this season.
Offensively, Miguel Cabrera has played out of his mind over the last three seasons as a Tiger. However, in his second year back at third base, and with Cabrera turning 30 in April, there's a possibility that things could go pear-shaped for him after an incident in the field. Remember last spring, when a bad hop grounder caught him in the face? Imagine something like that happening again. Or maybe, a sharply hit ball will smash his ankle. Maybe he'll dive for a ball and land on his wrist wrong. All are realistic possibilities, and would really doom the Tigers offense.
There's a lot less to be concerned about with Prince Fielder at first base, as he's been the model of health during his career. But while Fielder's debut season in Detroit was great, his power dramatically dropped off. Maybe that's the new thing going forward with him, and instead of a 40 homer masher at the plate, he's just a 30 homer guy with tremendous on-base skills…not that a player with that skillset is not valuable at all, but is it really worth the mammoth salary the Tigers are paying?
Torii Hunter in right field could be another guy whose value takes a hit in 2013. 2012 was a career year for Hunter in his mid-30s, thanks in part to a BABIP that soared through the roof despite declines in his walk rate and power and a jump in his strikeout rate. After a five win 2012, I wouldn't be shocked to see him fall back to the level of a two-win player in 2013. What about Victor Martinez's surgically repaired knee? Maybe that would hold up again and his value to the team will be severely limited. That's a very real possibility following such a serious injury.
The Tigers are the best team in the AL Central, but that doesn't mean there aren't red flags with them. I think the floor for Detroit is something like 85 wins, which might not be good enough to win one of the Wild Card spots in the AL, but would at least make them a thorn in plenty of teams' sides. But if the Tigers miss the playoffs after the way they've improved their teams over the last two years, there will be hell to pay.