The Tigers were supposed to score 1000 runs and take the AL Central with ease. Then they started the season with what seemed like an 0 for April run and Detroit never recovered. While the hitting was o.k. in the end - even if it never came close to what was advertised before the season - the team was hurt most by injuries and ineffectiveness of their pitching staff. This year, expectations are more modest, but the AL Central is weak and the Tigers still have hitters who can rake and an ace that it poised to bounce back.
2008 Finish: 74-88, fifth place in AL Central, 14.5 games back
Comerica Park is still so new, it glows.
Home Field: Comerica Park
Getting Their Roar
SS Adam Everett (Signed from Minnesota Twins)
SP Edwin Jackson (Traded from Tampa Bay Rays)
C Gerald Laird (Traded from Texas Rangers)
P Brandon Lyon (Signed from Arizona Diamondbacks)
P Juan Rincon (Signed from Cleveland Indians)
P Kyle Farnsworth (Signed with Kansas City Royals)
P Casey Fossum (Invited to spring training with New York Mets)
P Freddy Garcia (Invited to spring training with New York Mets)
P Todd Jones (Retired)
OF Matt Joyce (Traded to Tampa Bay Rays)
P Carlos Melo (Traded to Texas Rangers)
P Guillermo Moscoso (Traded to Texas Rangers)
SS Edgar Renteria (Signed with San Francisco Giants)
P Kenny Rogers (Free agent)
Strengths – Offense, Defense
Pundits projected the Detroit Tigers to score 1,000 runs last season, but they fell 179 runs short of that mark. Injuries kept Carlos Guillen and Gary Sheffield to less than 115 games apiece, while Placido Polanco and Curtis Granderson played in only 141 games each. Give them an entire season of health, and the Tigers could score 1,000 a season late.
Reports out of spring training say Sheffield’s looking much better, that his bat speed is back. If his shoulder is right, Sheffield is one of the most fearsome hitters in the major leagues. Combine that with Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez -- an underrated 3-4 punch -- and you have the makings of a quality offense.
The Tigers also improved their defense, especially on the left side of the infield. Brandon Inge moves back to the third base, a position he fields excellently. Detroit also signed Adam Everett, who is a few seasons removed from being the best defensive shortstop in the major leagues.
Weakness – Starting Rotation
A strong offense can ease a few concerns about a weak starting rotation, but it won’t be a panacea. Justin Verlander lost his arm slot last season, which may have been due to injury or may have been just part of a sophomore slump. If he is right -- you can decide that for yourself, but he should be considering an offseason off and his quality stuff -- Verlander gives the team the ace it needs.
A few question marks come next. Jeremy Bonderman needed surgery to remove a blood clot last season, and if he’s healthy, he can provide solid innings. Will it be enough to compete with the remainder of the division? Is Armando Galarraga going to repeat his 2008 season? Is Zach Miner ready to step up full time? Where does Edwin Jackson fit in?
Those are a lot of questions that need to be answered.
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Placido Polanco
RF Magglio Ordonez
1B Miguel Cabrera
LF Carlos Guillen
DH Gary Sheffield
3B Brandon Inge
C Gerald Laird
SS Adam Everett
CL Joel Zumaya
RP Fernando Rodney
RP Brandon Lyon
Do Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya reclaim their previous form? The Tigers bullpen was the figurative gasoline on the fire last season. (Of course, any ‘pen featuring Todd Jones and Kyle Farnsworth is already two members down.) Rodney and Zumaya were large portions of that last season.
If Zumaya regains his form from the Tigers’ 2006 World Series run and stays healthy, he could be one of the better closers in the major leagues. If Rodney starts throwing more strikes, the Tigers could have a quality setup man alongside Brandon Lyon, imported from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Tigers are going to be in the AL Central battle the entire season, but they won’t win the division without some luck. Give them about 90 wins and an exciting season, however.