Leading up to the start of the 2009 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the Detroit Tigers. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.
We’re high on the Tigers of 2009. Jimmy Leyland is a great manager, and all great managers have one final run to glory, whether it be a run that ends in a World Series or a playoff run. We aren’t sure how far this run will go, but we are certain it is going to happen in some capacity this upcoming season.
If you are a fan of an American League team, you are damn lucky that these guys don’t play in an offensive park, or they’d cause nightmares over and over for your pitching staff. Curtis Granderson could be the finest leadoff hitter in all of baseball. He’s a threat for insane numbers that not many players in this game can reach. He’s got the pop for 20 homers and the speed for 20 triples. He will score runs at a crazy pace. Placido Polanco doesn’t get enough credit, the guy can bunt and hit .300 and might be the finest 2 hole hitter in baseball. Then comes the pain. Miguel Cabrera is a perrenial MVP candidate this season, and he’s had a year to adjust to AL pitching. Did anyone notice what he did in the second half last season? He raked like he always has. Magglio Ordonez is healthy and ready to be a consistent run producer. Then you’ve still got Gary Sheffield and Carlos Guillen as guys who can both hit. Sheffield has said this will be his final year, so we’ll get 162 games maximum of watching Sheffield whip that bat. If he can stay healthy. Brandon Inge slides over to third full time, he’s another guy who can hit but doesn’t get a lot of hype in a lineup full of studs. Gerald Laird is the catcher, another pretty good hitter from that position. The bottom of the lineup is filled out with shortstop Adam Everett.
The rotation is a real wildcard, but if they can get enough pitching they’re going to be a real force. There’s reason to believe that they might get enough pitching when you look at their personnel. Justin Verlander is the ace, and he’s been getting hit hard for a while now. He must return to be the dominant arm of the staff or at least give them a chance to win on most nights for the Tigers to be a real threat. Jeremy Bonderman is the number two. Bonderman’s time is running out to prove that he’s a top arm. He once had a very high ceiling but now he’s just a guy with a good fastball and they don’t last forever in this game. Young Edwin Jackson was acquired in the offseason from Tampa Bay, he’ll be the three starter. Armando Galaragga will be impressive if he can progress and make a full season of starts. Dontrelle Willis is either going to prove he can still pitch in this league and be a huge shot in the arm and pitch above what a five starter should provide a team or his career could be over. The closer is Brandon Lyon. Could be one of those special years for him, you watch.
And so this is what Jim Leyland is aligned with to do battle with the AL in 2009. The ageless wonder, that Marlboro cowboy. Detroit is a hell of a town when their sports teams are winning. Could this be one of those magical summers? We figure these guys will do battle with the Indians for the division crown. At the very least they will score a lot of runs and be in the thick of things for the wildcard.