Grading every member of the 2014 Detroit Tigers

Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and Miguel Cabrera all had fine seasons for the Tigers in 2014.

Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and Miguel Cabrera all had fine seasons for the Tigers in 2014.

The promise of the spring ended in bitter disappointment this fall. The Detroit Tigers were supposed to be built to win the World Series, instead they were brushed aside rather rudely and decisively by the Orioles. Many Tiger fans, including this one, are so peeved that it’s difficult to even watch playoff baseball after Detroit was eliminated.

The 2015 Tigers will look much different — several key players are likely to exit for more money and longer contracts elsewhere. But before we face the Hot Stove League and the Winter Meetings, I want to take a critical look at this team and give a letter grade to every important member of the club.

Pitching Staff

Max Scherzer
In every way other than total wins, Scherzer’s ’14 season was just as good as his ’13 Cy Young season. For that reason he’ll be pitching for someone else in 2015 (my gut feeling is Boston). After June 17, in his last 18 starts, Max was 14-4 with a 2.58 ERA with 141 K’s in 122 innings. He was the unquestioned ace of the staff.
Grade: A

Justin Verlander
We should have seen this coming. Verlander had offseason surgery that curtailed his usual winter workout routine. He’s also now in his 30s and the innings he logged from 2006-12 are wearing on his right arm. At times in 2014 he was a nightmare to watch, especially the second and third time around the order. I expect he’ll rebound in 2015 and be pretty good, but the greatness we saw from 2010-12 is not coming back. Verlander deserves kudos for working out his problems and pitching very  well down the stretch and into the playoffs (again). For that reason, I won’t give him a D.
Grade: C- 

Rick Porcello
When he tossed back-to-back shutouts in mid-summer, it looked like Porcello might make the All-Star team and possibly contend for the Cy Young award. He cooled a bit as he threw more innings than he’d ever logged in his career, but Porcello was a consistent performer and he’s obviously matured into a front or middle of the rotation hurler.
Grade: B+

Anibal Sanchez
When he’s healthy, Sanchez is one of the nastiest starting pitchers in the game, but he has now missed 16 starts in 2 1/2 seasons in a Detroit uniform. He needs to work harder to get into better shape so he can stay in the rotation for a full season and he needs to be ready when the postseason bell rings.
Grade: C-

Drew Smyly
I fully expect Smyly to have a long, productive career but it’s too bad it won’t be with the Tigers. But someone had to go in order to get David Price, and Smyly is a pitcher many teams coveted. In his 18 starts for Detroit in ’14, Smyly was what he’s always been: gutsy and an innings-eater.
Grade: C+

David Price
Yes, it was frustrating to see Price follow a great outing with a puzzling mediocre one as a Tiger, but he did pitch the team into the postseason with his gem in Game #162. It also wasn’t his fault the team couldn’t score in Game Three of the ALDS as he was brilliant again.
Grade: B-

Joba Chamberlain
It was a tale of two seasons for Joba: he was fantastic before August and then as his big body wore down he was terrible in the last two months. Unfortunately manager Brad Ausmus didn’t seem to realize it, or he felt he couldn’t trust anyone else to get three outs in the 8th, because he kept running The Bearded One out there despite evidence that Chamberlain was toast. Joba is a free agent and won’t be back in Detroit.
Grade: C

Joe Nathan
It was a disaster almost from the beginning with Nathan. First he blamed a “dead arm” on early season struggles. Then he criticized his third baseman after he made an error that cost Nathan a save. He followed that up with a rude gesture aimed at fans at Comerica Park after they booed him, and then he blew lead after lead when his team needed him most. He stunk.
Grade: F

Phil Coke
We know what we’re getting with Coke: way too many runners (91 in 58 innings) and too many hard-hit balls. He wasn’t as terrible as he was in 2013, but he wasn’t good either. He’ll be someone else’s problem next season.
Grade: D-

Al Alburquerque
Like Coke, AlAl allows too many baserunners, but unlike Coke, he had a good strikeout pitch. Alburquerque appeared in 71 games, had a 2.51 ERA and averaged nearly 10 K’s per nine innings. He was especially terrific down the stretch, allowing only two earned runs after July 31.
Grade: A-

Kyle Lobstein
The kid did the best he could given the role that was thrust upon him after Sanchez went down with an injury and Smyly was traded.
Grade: C+ 

Blaine Hardy
The rookie left-hander was solid after being called up in June and he only had 3-4 rough outings the rest of the way, and only 1-2 in games that were in question.
Grade: B

Ian Krol
He was a favorite whipping boy of the fans in large part because he came over in the unpopular Doug Fister trade. He deserved to be booed and he often was.
Grade: D-

Evan Reed
He probably doesn’t have much of a future with the Tigers, but he went out there and filled some innings when the team needed him in 2014. He was unremarkable, but not as bad as some would say.
Grade: C-

Robbie Ray
The young lefty was the centerpiece of the Fister trade but the Detroit front office did him a disservice by throwing him into the rotation as much as they did. The 22-year old wasn’t ready. I think he will be a good big league starter, but he needs a few more seasons to sharpen his skills.
Grade: D 


Alex Avila
The veteran had his best season behind the plate as a defensive catcher, but he continues to disappear as an offensive force. Luckily this team could afford a phantom in the lineup at catcher, but it may not always be that way.
Grade: B-

Bryan Holaday
As a backup catcher, Holaday is way below average with the bat and just above average defensively. He handles pitchers pretty well, and with a lot of established pitchers on this staff, he did fine behind the mask, but that anemic bat weighs his grade down below average.
Grade: C-


Miguel Cabrera
when he finally got close to 100% healthy, he was the Miggy we come to expect. Unfortunately that was only for about five weeks. He deserves big props for coming up huge in September. Without his Player of the Month contribution in September, the Tigers don’t make the playoffs at all.
Grade: B+

Ian Kinsler
He was the key consistent force in the Detroit lineup from opening day to Game #162. He also played a great second base and was better than advertised on the double play.
Grade: A-

Eugenio Suarez
We have to remember that this kid is only 22 years old and this was his first look at major league pitching. His defense was excellent at times and maddening at others, just like most young players. He will hit for some power in the big leagues, probably could go for 15-20 homers eventually.
Grade: C

Nick Castellanos
He might have been the worst defensive third baseman in baseball, but his errant play really didn’t hurt the team that much. His bat will eventually greatly outweigh any struggles he shows with the gloves. He had some very clutch hits for the Tigers as a rookie and I expect him to mature into a star within two seasons.
Grade: C+

Andrew Romine
My grade may be a bit harsh, he could get a C or C-, but I can’t ignore his lackluster bat and his occasional lapses in the field.
Grade: D+


Rajai Davis
In his first season as a Tiger, Davis was excellent, putting up marks in batting, on-base percentage, and slugging that were above his career norms. He gave Detroit a legitimate speed threat, swiping 36 bases. He was adequate in the outfield, though his play in center after Austin Jackson was traded showed why Davis is a left fielder.
Grade: B

J.D. Martinez
Who would have thought that Martinez would even be on this team let alone become a star? Without his power and late-inning heroics, the Tigers don’t even sniff the postseason. He also brought his big bat to the ALDS in a losing effort.
Grade: A+

Torii Hunter
The aging veteran didn’t have as good a year as he did his first season with Detroit, but he was still essentially the same player he’s been for the last five years and that was pretty good. I expect he’ll sign a one-year deal laden with incentives and stay in Motown.

Austin Jackson
Before he was dealt to the Mariners in the blockbuster trade deadline deal, Jackson was having an uneven season (or basically what he always did for Detroit). His defense was missed, but that big hole in his bat was not.
Grade: C+

Don Kelly
Donnie Baseball has held a job in the major leagues for these years because of the way rosters are built today with lots of relievers and a short bench. He doesn’t have any pop at all in his bat any more and his roster spot should be given to a much more talented young player, but it wouldn’t shock me if the Tigers signed him to a one-year deal.
Grade: D

Ezequiel Carrera
He’ll be a solid outfielder someday (at least with the leather), but that time isn’t now.
Grade: Incomplete

Tyler Collins
Unless Detroit trades for or signs some established outfielders in the offseason, Collins better be on the active roster to start the 2015 season. He can hit, especially right-handers. The failure to put him on the playoff roster was idiotic.
Grade: Incomplete

Designated Hitter

Victor Martinez
The team’s most valuable player, VMart was consistent and amazing at the age of 35. It’s unlikely the Tigers will be willing to spend as much as others will for Martinez in the free agent market. Most likely he’ll be in a White Sox uniform next season.
Grade: A+