2011 MLB Team Preview: Detroit Tigers 2011 MLB Team Preview: Detroit Tigers 2011 MLB Team Preview: Detroit Tigers
 

2011 MLB Team Preview: Detroit Tigers

The 2010 season did not pan out the way the Detroit Tigers had planed and that is putting it kindly.

Injury-ridden across the board, it is a miracle within itself that the Tigers managed to finish with an 81-81 record. The Tigers are not a .500 team and going forward

Is 2011 the year of the Tigers? Hey anything it possible, so let’s take a look at Detroit heading into the regular season.

The Positives:

The Tigers off-season easily ranks as one of the most productive in baseball, with the additions of catcher Victor Martinez, RHP Joaquin Benoit and RHP Brad Penny.

The big splash was signing Martinez to a 4-year deal worth $50 million. Martinez is one of the best hitting catchers in the game and in my guess is he will hit fifth, right behind arguably the best hitter in the game, Miguel Cabrera. This is a huge upgrade behind the plate, as Martinez is that good.

The Tigers are looking forward to the return of OF Magglio Ordonez, after he broke his ankle in 2010. Ordonez is the top half of the Cabrera sandwich hitting in the third spot. Ordonez is 37 years old and entering his 15th season, but his first 14 years makes an average season of 38 doubles, 27 home-runs and 111 RBIs. If Ordonez can get anywhere near those numbers, watch out.

Rookie OF Austin Jackson came to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson trade with the Yankees right at the start of 2010 season. Jackson finished second in the Rookie-of-the-Year voting and had a great first season. As the Tigers lead-off expect big things from Jackson, who hit in over a 100 runs, stole 27 bases and finished up with a batting average just shy of .300. Jackson needs to cut down on his 170 strikeouts from 2010, but that will come with time.

Detroit’s infield also has 3B Brandon Inge who is like a fine wine, he keeps getting better over time. Next to Inge at shortstop is Johnny Peralta who is all around solid both offensively and with the bat.

This is a really good group of bats that will compliment the Tigers’ equally talented pitching rotation.

Led by team ace Justin Verlander, who is the definition of an innings eater pitching just shy of 230 total last season. Verlander posted a 3.37 ERA, with 219 strikeouts and an 18-9 record. Max Scherzer, who pitched 195 innings total, with a 3.50 ERA, follows Verlander in the two spot. Rounding out the rotation is Rick Porcell, Phil Coke and Brad Penny. This will be Coke’s first season in the bigs as a starter and his performance could impact the team big time.

Closer Jose Valverde is healthy again and with the Tigers new addition of Benoit to be his 8th inning guy sets Valverde up to get a lot of save opportunities.

The Tigers look good all around and are determined that this is their year.

The Negatives:

The off-field behavior of Cabrera is a great concern, as it should be. Cabrera has had problems with alcohol for quite some time, but after the trouble he caused at the end of 2009 things seemed to be on track. So, at the start of Spring Training it came as quite a shock to hear the Cabrera had been arrested for a DWI again and resisting arrest. The Tigers had no problem letting Cabrera come into camp, which I hope was not for selfish reasons. Cabrera is obviously not well and without professional help, like going to a rehab, it is almost certain he will find trouble again soon.

With the team looking healthy again, the Tigers have to improve their record on the road. Last season going 29-52 is disgraceful, after going the reverse 52-29 at home. If they want to contend they have to win more away from Detroit or they can forget the playoffs.

Players To Watch:

SP Phil Coke has a rare opportunity to become a starter in the Majors. As the sole lefty-arm in the rotation, Coke’s impact could be the push the Tigers need in the division to get ahead. If Coke flops the team can figure out other ways to scrape up some wins, or knowing skipper Jim Leyland he will call up one of their handful of good prospects.

2011 AL Central Prediction:

The Tigers will be contenders in 2011, but the AL Central is looking to be the most competitive it has been in years. Still, I don’t think the Tigers will finish worse then second, pending what injuries occur.

The White Sox are a better all-around group on paper.  Still, with the recent bad news surrounding Chicago SP Jake Peavey’s newest shoulder ailment does open up a hole just big enough for Detroit to sneak on through.