The Detroit Tigers have had an incredible start to the 2012 season. After four games, they are the only unbeaten team in the American League. While that alone is probably too small of a sample to bring much in the way of praise and worship, the way in which they’ve hit double digits in runs scored for two of those four games shows how explosive a line up featuring Alex Avila, Miguel Cabrera and, of course, Prince Fielder can be.
If there’s one criticism I’ve had for Detroit’s chances this year it’s that the Fielder signing seemed to vault them from AL Central favourite to the elite of the American League when all it really served to do was add a two win above replacement upgrade over the injured Victor Martinez. One free agent signing seemed to make people forget that the team still has a less than desirable line up beyond the three players I mentioned in the opening paragraph.
However, with news released today that Martinez’s doctors didn’t deem reconstructive knee surgery necessary, that could all change. Now, let’s not go too crazy. It won’t actually be clear whether or not Martinez can return until at least July, but this bodes incredibly well for the Tigers
According to a statement issued by the team:
Martinez will continue his physical therapy until he is examined by Dr. Steadman in one month. The approximate recovery timetable from microfracture surgery is seven months, and any chance of Martinez returning to play late in the 2012 season would be determined at the time of his follow-up MRI in July.
While the Cabrera at third base experiment has had its ups and downs, it certainly hasn’t been the joke that many thought it would be. In fact, the most mockable part of the lineup to date has ended up being the designated hitter spot, a position that was, for one game at least, filled by Andy Dirks. Imagine replacing Dirks, or occasional spot starts of Delmon Young or Ryan Raburn with Victor Martinez?
The addition would not only solve a revolving door problem for Detroit, but also offer Martinez the opportunity to avoid the wear and tear of a fielding position while he comes back from what appeared to be a serious injury. Suddenly, we go from the two wins above replacement addition that Fielder gives us over Martinez to at least a four WAR improvement with the combination of Prince at first base and Martinez replacing the batters who would fill the DH position.
Even over the course of the final two months of the season, and on into the playoffs, a Martinez addition could create a much needed upper middle class in the previously large wealth of talent gap in the Tigers line up. Finally, some good news for the Detroit Tigers economy.