Leading up to the start of the 2008 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 32 teams. Teams will be rated on a 10-point scale in the following 5 areas: Lineup, Pitching, Manager, Intangibles/Chemistry, and Overall. Today’s team is the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers have assembled a lineup that has the firepower to compete with any team in baseball. Starting with Curtis Granderson, they have one of the finest lead-off men in all of baseball. Granderson had over 20 triples last season and over 20 home runs. Many would refer to him as a ‘poor man’s Grady Sizemore’, but Granderson is a poor man’s nobody. He’s one of the best athletes in the game. Second will be Placido Polanco, who has an amazing head. Then you get to the thunder. Magglio Ordonez will hit 3rd, with Miguel Cabrera and Gary Sheffield to follow. Cabrera is the crown jewell, and the only concern with Ordonez and Sheffield is can they stay healthy and be out there for a full season.
From there, you’ve got Carlos Guillen, Edgar Renteria, Jacque Jones and Ivan Rodriguez. Everyone is talking about the additions of Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis; but adding Jones and Renteria will really help this team. They are two fine veterans who have been there in this league. This lineup, at least on paper, appears to have as few of holes as any in baseball. They have power, speed, veteran presence, and should be a really tough out 1 through 9.
This is once again an area where the Tigers are very sound and defined in. They have their rotation already laid out. Ace Justin Verlander comes off an impressive season where he had a sub 3 ERA and a no-hitter. The addition of Dontrelle Willis should be interesting, Willis could re-gain his dominating form since few of the American League hitters have faced him previously. It usually favors pitchers when unfamiliarity is involved, initially. Two more lefties will be in the rotation, Nate Robertson and Kenny Rogers. The rotation is rounded out by Jeremy Bonderman, who’s had a rocket arm since birth but hasn’t put it all together yet. If this is the year he figures it out; this may be your AL Pennant winner.
The bullpen has some nasty arms in it as well. The closer is actually one of the lesser intimidating arms in the ‘pen, in Todd Jones. Jones is a gritty closer who does it with smoke and mirrors rather than stuff. He relies on guile and experience. In other words; he’s vulnerable. The set-up guy is Fernando Rodney, who has a fireball arm and some closing experience. A big loss to them is the injured Joel Zumaya, who figured to be their closer of the future at one time. Francisco Cruceta and Yorman Bazardo should factor in as the long relievers. Zach Miner and Jason Grilli will also log innings. Bobby Seay and Tim Byrdak are the crafty lefties.
Manager Jim Leyland has guided Detroit to a 183-141 record in his two seasons with the team. This includes a trip to the World Series. We here at Diamond Hoggers are big fans of little Leyland. This is for many reasons. We believe he’s probably still smoking like a chimney, refusing to cave to the crave of most long-term baseball men; dipping. Leyland has seen every situation a thousand times; all that remains for him is for his players to execute and win him a World Series. He has the personnel to do it finally, and Detroit’s window should remain open for a year or two at least. Leyland will only help this team, rarely if ever making an in-game mistake from a management standpoint.
This team has many personalities on it. Gary Sheffield usually puts on a show with his mouth. Miguel Cabrera has gotten in some trouble off the field. Willis the same. As long as they’re winning, as usual chemistry will be overstated in terms of a positive thing. They should win more often than not. They’ve got that new ballpark in Detroit, and it’s a pitchers park. They’ve got the hitters to knock down the walls there, and the speed at the top of the order to stroke the gaps. I like the makeup of this team very much; and they’ll enjoy some of the finest ‘meshing’ in the league this year.
If teams and fans alike are sitting around and waiting for a collapse of the Tigers in 2008, it won’t happen. This team is good enough that if everything went wrong, they’d probably still win 90 games. Things should go right, so I have them in the 95-100 win range. They’ll have the task of playing the Cleveland Indians around 20 times which should be a season long grudge match that should go back and forth until late september.
This team will be one of the four to get in the playoffs, whether by way of winning the divsion or by taking the wildcard. Like the Indians, they need to take a step further than making the playoffs with the talent that is on this team. If they fall short of an ALCS win; disappointment will be the word used. Look out for these guys in 2008, it’s going to be a fun ride in the Motor City this summer.