February 8, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Tom Gage

Ten predictions for the Detroit Tigers' upcoming season

Expect the Tigers' Jose Iglesias, left, and Miguel Cabrera, right, to dazzle again this season. (Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News)

There’s not much time left now before the offseason ends, spring training begins, and the reasons why the Tigers will be better begin to play out.

Hand-in-hand, of course, with the reasons why they won’t.

Actually, the questions a team has at the end of spring training are usually the ones with which it goes into camp.

They don’t become answers until after the regular season begins.

But maybe we can peer head and see a few of them already.

Such as. . .

1: Alex Avila will have a better first half than last year, but a less effective second half. All in all, he’ll have a better season, though.

Avila’s numbers for last year, by the way, were .177 for the first half and .303 for the second

Bryan Holaday, as Avila’s backup, will be better than OK — and good enough to be back in the same role in 2015.

2: This is the easiest call: Miguel Cabrera will be outstanding once again. In fact, he’ll win another MVP, making it three in a row.

The move back to first base will be widely lauded as well.

But what it will take to extend his contract will become a major talking point, if it isn’t already?

3: Ian Kinsler will have a better first year as a Tiger than his last year as a Ranger, but it won’t be as good as his best year as a Ranger — not even close.

Kinsler hit .319 in 2008 for Texas, but has been a .264 hitter since.

4: Jose Iglesias will make you press the “pause” button, then rewind and watch that great play again and again.

Hopefully he built a display case over the winter for all the Gold Gloves he’ll win his career.

Iglesias doesn’t have to hit the .330 he hit for Boston last year before the trade to be an immensely valuable Tiger, though.

Anything on the upside of the .259 he hit for the Tigers will do. Heck, even .259 will do.

5: Nick Castellanos is a young player who will play like one. He’ll have some games in which he’s a star, but more in which he’s not.

Don’t be impatient with him. It’s a long season.

6: Steve Lombardozzi won’t play a lot, but when he does, he’ll play well. It’ll be a challenge for new manager Brad Ausmus to get him sufficient playing time to stay sharp. Lombardozzi can’t sit as much Ramon Santiago used to.

Santiago, as you might recall, had only 53 at-bats in the first half of last season.

7: Victor Martinez can’t hit .370 again in his final 82 games again, can he? But he can, and will, hit 100 points higher than the .225 he hit in his first 77.

8: Andy Dirks won’t play as much as anticipated he will because Rajai Davis’ speed will be such a weapon.

Averaging 43 stolen bases in the last five years, Davis could steal 40-plus bases with sufficient playing time in his first year as a Tiger.

His approach is admirable.

“My goal isn’t numerical,” Davis said during the Tigers Winter Caravan. “My goal is to steal as many bases as the opportunity allows.”

9: Drew Smyly will win double-digit games and make a smooth transition from the bullpen to starting.

But lefty Ian Krol’s performance will become pivotal as the No. 1 lefty in the bullpen — and there’s no telling at this point how he will do.

10: Justin Verlander will bounce back and win 16-plus games. But Verlander’s earned-run average in the starts he did not win last year (21 of his 34 starts, to be precise) was 4.27.

The games in which Verlander pitched like Verlander were far too few.

He’s driven to rectify that, however.


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