Monday, March 17, 2008

Know Thy Enemy: Detroit Tigers

Ah the Detroit Tigers. Get to know these chaps well, Sox fans. A seven-game series could be in the cards for October. For our tenth installment of Know Thy Enemy we turn to a dear friend of the blog, Imran Tahir.

After concluding a fast-paced, exciting off-season replete with significant personnel moves, the Detroit Tigers head into the 2008 campaign amidst heightened expectations, even given where they've finished the last two years. Manager Jim Leyland will be the first to tell you that, despite his love for teaching young kids, he doesn't have many years left in the game in his current role. Accordingly, the window of opportunity for the Tigers to return to (and win) the World Series with the old man "captaining the ship" is likely 3 years at most. This fact is further underscored by the many player contracts due to expire at the close of the 2009 season (including 2B Placido Polanco, 3B Miguel Cabrera, DH Gary Sheffield, and RF Magglio Ordonez).

Without a doubt, the Tigers' greatest asset this season will be their eye-popping lineup, one which should produce video game-like offensive statistics (including a very real chance to crack the 1,000 Runs Scored mark). The Tigers have already had their fair share of 10+ run ballgames over the past two seasons, and this trend should only increase in '08. There isn't a single “easy out” in the lineup 1 through 9, and the Tigers' balance from top to bottom (speedy, on-base guys at the top, powerful run-producers in the middle, and good contact hitters towards the bottom) is the envy of more than a few GM's around the Majors. Assuming good health, the Tigers' offense alone should keep them in contention throughout this upcoming season.

As to pitching, there is potential on the Tigers' staff, but also some question marks. The starting rotation looks solid, featuring an interesting mix of experienced "old hands" (Kenny Rogers), crafty innings-eaters (Nate Robertson), and young, power-hurlers (Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis). Rogers' health, along with Robertson's and Bonderman's consistency will be issues to keep an eye on throughout 2008, but overall, the Tigers should do fine in the way of quality starts more often than not.

The Bullpen is more of a concern. Closer Todd Jones, while still effective, is at the twilight of his career, and the set-up men (Rodney, Bautista, Bazardo) remain rather erratic, even while possessing good strikeout potential. Add to this the rather unfortunate off-season shoulder injury to young flame-thrower Joel Zumaya, and you have a Bullpen that is an area which will likely have to be addressed at the trading deadline in July.

The Detroit Tigers put themselves back "on the map" with an AL Pennant in 2006. A sub-par second-half of the season in 2007 removed them from playoff contention. Nevertheless, the Tigers remain a team to keep a close eye on in 2008. To be sure, there are about 10-12 MLB teams that enter this season with a realistic shot at reaching the World Series. Amongst them, there are 5 teams that have a really, really good chance at WINNING the World Series. The '08 Detroit Tigers are one such team.

2008 Detroit Tigers:

1) Curtis Granderson (CF)
2) Placido Polanco (2B)
3) Gary Sheffield (DH)
4) Magglio Ordonez (RF)
5) Miguel Cabrera (3B)
6) Carlos Guillen (1B)
7) Edgar Renteria (SS)
8) Jacque Jones (LF)
9) Ivan Rodriguez (C)

Bench: Marcus Thames (OF/1B), Brandon Inge (INF), Ramon Santiago (INF), *Vance Wilson (C)

1) Kenny Rogers (L)
2) Justin Verlander (R)
3) Dontrelle Willis (L)
4) Jeremy Bonderman (R)
5) Nate Robertson (L)

Bullpen: Todd Jones, Fernando Rodney, Denny Bautista, Yorman Bazardo, *Joel Zumaya (summer), Bobby Seay, Zach Miner, amongst others.

*Indicates that player will start the season on the DL.

Imran has been a diehard Tigers fan since he began following baseball in 1993, and is looking for a repeat of the magical run of 2006. He is an NFL Draft fanatic, and if not for law school obligations his blog would be updated with great frequency.

1 comment:

imran said...

Tigers are in some trouble now...Granderson's out with a broken finger, and Rodney looks like he'll miss at least half of April.

$153 million for Cabrera is big.