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Thursday, March 18, 2010

2010 Detroit Tigers team preview

2009 Record: 87-77   .528

Run Differential: +53

Last year I predicted Detroit to win the AL Central Division and advance to the playoffs.  I was right--sort of. Losing in the 163rd game cost them the division crown and a chance to scare teams with their formidable top of the rotation. The fact that the Tigers made it that close surprised many.  How could a team finish ten games over .500 despite the nagging injuries and awful back of the rotation?  Great defense was the main root.  The Tigers defense up the middle was sensational and the top of their rotation really was that good.  Justin Verlander established himself as the best pitcher in the American League while Edwin Jackson finally capitalized on his full potential.  Curtis Granderson continued to be a fine player defensively and set a career high in home runs with 30.  Unfortunately, not making the playoffs cost this team a lot of revenue.  Buried behind huge contracts to Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, and Magglio Ordonez motivated the team make separate trades involving their most popular player and a starting pitcher bubbling with potential.

In return the Tigers get younger, which is key for a team this reliant upon aging players but they likely cost themselves a chance at an American League Central division crown.

This season the team is forced to play who they have on hand as there is little financial flexibility even after the trades.  Rookie Scott Sizemore has been handed the starting job at second base and Austin Jackson - acquired for Granderson - will be the center fielder.  Sizemore will be counted on to provide the production the team was getting from Polanco.  Jackson, though, is probably not quite ready.  The offense wasn't great last season and replacing Granderson with Jackson doesn't help.  The bullpen should be good again but the back end of the rotation remains bad at best.  Candidates for the last two rotation spots include Dontrelle Willis, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, Armando Galarraga, and the Michelin Man. This team shouldn't be bad but I just can't see them being good either.  

Look at the strain on his elbow. It probably wasn't the best idea to 
have him throw 10% more pitches than any other player last season.


Likely Opening Day Roster:
Pos.
Name
My Two Cents
C
Gerald Laird
Led the league in games caught last year.
C
Alex Avila
Decent hitter may get most ABs vs RHP
1b
Miguel Cabrera
Actually a decent defensive 1b. One of the few candidates to lead the league in HRs
2b
Scott Sizemore
Not a lot of upside but should be able to put up Polanco-like numbers
3b
Brandon Inge
Great defensive 3b should be healthy after having surgeries on both knees
SS
Ramon Santiago
.411 OBP in 2008 turned into .318 in 2009. A repeat of '09 is more likely than '08
LF
Johnny Damon
Range is slipping and his arm is atrocious. Will probably share DH duties with Guillen
CF
Austin Jackson
I think last year's drop in BA was a bit of an aberration but his power continues to grow
RF
Magglio Ordonez
Can still hit for average but where did the power go? HR's have gone 28, 21, 9 last 3 years
IF
Adam Everett
Starting to decline on defense, so unless he learns to hit this could be it. .623 OPS in '09 
1b/3b
Jeff Larish
Pretty good hitter but sporadic playing time and a tough park do him no favors
UT
Ryan Raburn
Plays all three OF positions and dabbles at 2b. Slugged .533 last year
DH
Carlos Guillen
Body can no longer withstand the rigors of playing defense everyday.
SP
Justin Verlander
Best pitcher in the AL but was clearly overused last season. An injury seems likely
SP
Rick Porcello
See comment below in Breakout Player section. He's only 21.
SP
Max Scherzer
 Ideal role would be a 100 inning RP. Really struggles vs. left handed hitters
SP
Nate Robertson
After minor elbow surgery posted a 3.77 ERA down the stretch. 
SP
Armando Galarraga
He's really not that good. His rookie year was an aberration and '09 is likely his future
Cl
Jose Valverde
Pretty good reliever but needs to keep his K rate up to remain effective
SU
Joel  Zumaya
Big time heat that even major leaguers have trouble with but just can't stay healthy
RP
Zach Miner
Just an average placeholder in the Tigers pen
RP
Ryan Perry
A rookie last season, made the team despite only 15 innings of pro ball
RP
Fu-Te Ni
Doesn't throw hard but lefties have no chance against this sidearmer. 
RP
Daniel Schlereth
Son of ESPN's Mark Schlereth, expect him to find himself pitching 8th innings before long
RP
Alfred Figaro
Excellent fastball but likely doesn't have the endurance to make it as a SP
DL
Jeremy Bonderman
I don't think he'll every be fully healthy again

Say Hello To: Jose Valverde, Johnny Damon, Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, Daniel Schlereth, Phil Dumatrait, Brad Thomas

Wave Goodbye: Curtis Granderson, Edwin Jackson, Placido Polanco, Fernando Rodney, Brandon Lyon, Marcus Thames, Jarrod Washburn, Aubrey Huff, Matt Treanor, Freddy Dolsi, Dusty Ryan

Rookies: Austin Jackson, Scott Sizemore

Potential Breakout: Rick Porcello - Many are concerned that his low K rate will lead to him becoming more hittable in the future.  He said all along last season that his low K rate was a result of him pitching more to contact to get more mileage in each game.  In the one game playoff against Minnesota, Porcello showed he really can strike guys out when he needs to. He's going to be a star.

Welcome to Earth:  Johnny Damon - He's played enough years in the league that we know who he really is.  Expect his power to come back down to normal now that he's left Yankee Stadium.  He's still a good player.

Likely to Rebound: Brandon Inge - Offensively, I don't know how much better he can be for a full season but defensively he'll be great again since his knees are fixed.

Top 3 players: Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello

Top Prospect: Jacob Turner - 

Prediction: 75-87  4th place AL Central
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