Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Detroit Tigers Preview

2007 Record: 88-74
If you were to tell me 3 years ago that last season the Tigers would finish second in the AL Central and barely miss the playoffs, I would have been happy with that, but expectations have drastically risen in Detroit over the past couple of seasons. After making a surprise run to the World Series 2 years ago before bowing out to the St. Louis Cardinals, Detroit fell short last year because of weak pitching and injuries down the stretch and left fans wondering what could have been. In the off-season the Tigs made the biggest splash of any other team by beefing up on their already very strong line-up. Considering the talent on this roster, anything short of a World Series Championship would have to be considered a failure. Nothing's a gimme in the AL though.

Key Additions
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Dontrelle Willis SP
Jacque Jones OF
Edgar Renteria SS
Key Losses
Chris Shelton 1B
Jair Jurrjens SP
Andrew Miller SP
Cameron Maybin OF
Sean Casey 1B

Projected Line-up
1) Curtis Granderson CF
2) Placido Polanco 2B
3) Miguel Cabrera 3B
4) Magglio Ordonez RF
5) Gary Sheffield DH
6) Carlos Guillen 1B
7) Edgar Renteria SS
8) Jacque Jones/Marcus Thames
9) Ivan Rodriguez
Offensive Grade: A...I'm not being biased, it's the truth. This is the best line-up in baseball top to bottom. The 1-7 and 9 spots are all past, present, or probable future all-stars. Show me another line-up in baseball that has this much talent. This offense reminds me of the murderer's row that the Yankees trotted out in the mid to late-90's. Let's take a look at the individual parts. Granderson needs to stay healthy to be a viable lead-off man. Without him, the Tigers might have to slot Renteria or Polanco at the top, but that wouldn't be ideal. Curtis went 20-20-20-20 last year, which made him only the 3rd player in history to accomplish this feat. He's also one of the smartest players in baseball and if you ever listen to him speak, you'll understand what I'm talking about. Best interview I've ever done. When Polanco's up to bat, you can pretty much bank on a hit, not much else, but getting on base is half the battle. Cabrera and Ordonez are the new Papi/Manny, they'll be giving pitcher's nightmare's for years and don't forget about Sheffield who had a resurgence to greatness last year before catching the injury bug. If he can at least approach what he did last year, then it's going to be a rough go for opposing rotations. In fact, there isn't a break for the opposition anywhere in this line-up. Guillen and Renteria could be the 2 and 3 hitters on most teams in this league (on the Giants, Edgar would lead-off and Guillen would clean-up). Pudge has declined, but is still one of the best defensive catchers in the game. I'm sure any team would love to have their hands on this great leader. I could go on for hours about this line-up, but I'm sure it's starting to get old for the non-Detroit fans.

Projected Rotation
1) Justin Verlander
2) Jeremy Bonderman
3) Dontrelle Willis
4) Nate Robertson
5) Kenny Rogers
CL) Todd Jones
Pitching Grade: B-...I realize this rotation isn't nearly as good as the Indians, but it's definitely not as brutal as many pundits are making it seem. Verlander is a certified Ace and should be a top 10 pitcher in the league for the foreseeable future as long as he can stay healthy. Speaking of health, that's the big issue for this staff. It's extremely thin and if injuries occur, there could be trouble. Old man Kenny Rogers missed a large chunk of last year with old age. Seriously though, he's creaky and probably won't last past this year, but don't forget that he was on fire in the playoffs 2 years ago. He could surprise some people if he can stay off the DL too much. Bonderman looked like he was starting to break out at the beginning of last season, but then he fell apart mid-way through the year. He's still only 25 years old and could easily turn it around, but we need to see proof before anyone can judge his future. Another young flame thrower who appears to have lost his way is Dontrelle Willis. The potential is there, but since his dominant Cy Young runner-up season a couple years ago, he's been wildly inconsistent. Perhaps a fresh start in Detroit is what he needs, but it's going to take time to get his confidence and control together again.

Projected Outlook
The AL Central is going to be a war all year with two of the most explosive teams in all of baseball duking it out for the crown. 2 years ago, the Tigers came out on top, and last year it was the Indians who had the upper hand. Is there enough room for both in the playoffs? Neither can let-up because the American League will be extremely challenging. To be honest, I could see either team winning the World Series or not making the playoffs at all. It's going to be an entertaining ride. Clearly, I'd like to see my Tigers come out on top and right now I think they have a slight edge when healthy. That's the key though, whoever can keep it going on all cylinders the whole season will win this race. For the record, one of these teams is going to fall short of our projecte record, because it'll be impossible for both to brush 100. No matter what happens, this team is going to be highly enjoyable to watch. Sit back relax and enjoy the show.
Predicted Record: 98-64

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