Detroit Tigers: 5 Bold Predictions for Opening Day Stat Lines
Leyland's lineup didn't include any real surprises, unless you consider Ramon Santiago's start at second base a shocker.
It shouldn't be. Ryan Raburn has been swinging a hot bat.
Against the lefty Jon Lester it was wise for Leyland to opt for Raburn instead of left-handed hitting options down the bench he could have slotted into the DH spot. Santiago is the best fielder the Tigers have, and with over 2,000 MLB plate appearances, he provides the best assurance for Leyland's Opening Day lineup.
The lineup looks very much as it did when Leyland announced it would two months ago when the Tigers signed Prince Fielder.
1. Austin Jackson, CF
2. Brennan Boesch, RF
3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
4. Prince Fielder, 1B
5. Delmon Young, LF
6. Ryan Raburn, DH
7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
8. Alex Avila, C
9. Ramon Santiago, 2B
Justin Verlander, Starting Pitcher
The Tigers can start living up to expectation in earnest on Thursday afternoon, and for the hometown fans it could be the beginning of a historic season. They'll start their 162 game stretch victorious and jump start a chance at an early season streak. Here's five bold predictions for how they'll kick it off.
Long shots, not the kind that make the big bucks in Vegas, but the kind that land in the outfield seats at Comerica Park.
Known as not being the most home run-hitting-friendly ballpark, Comerica Park has a fairly short porch in right field which should work to the advantage of the lefties in Detroit's lineup, although not for opening day as the Tigers will be going with a righty-laden makeup to combat Jon Lester's big left hook.
Notwithstanding, the Tigers have seen magic before on opening day in the form of starting outfielder Delmon Young's brother Dimitri Young. Only two Tigers have ever hit three home runs in a single game at Comerica Park, the elder Young and Miguel Cabrera.
In fact, in baseball history only two other players have ever hit three home runs on opening day, George Bell and Tuffy Rhodes.
The Tigers won't get three home runs from anybody on opening day this year, but they will get three and then some, which should be enough to please the hometown crowd.
Home Run Prediction: Boesch, Fielder, Raburn (2), Young
Jon Lester had an average spring for the Red Sox, but it was good enough for him to get the call for game No. 1 and his experience should provide the Sox with stability out of the gate.
This spring Lester carried a 3.5 ERA and gave up 16 hits while striking out 14.
That said, the Tigers will be in a mood to show off their new star-studded lineup and begin building stock in the hearts of the Tigers faithful. The best way to do that is by making Opening Day one to remember—score a ton of runs for the fans and knock Lester out of the game early.
If the Tigers can fluster Lester early, they should have their way with him for the rest of the afternoon. Lester will battle but the Tigers will just have too much to offer and at some point the white flag in Bobby Valentine's dugout will have to rise.
What Boston's pen will look like after an offseason dismantling and retooling is anyone's guess, and the Tigers should knock those pins around a bit too.
Runs Scored Prediction: 13
*Lester doesn't make it out of the fifth.
How do you get better than the year before if you are Justin Verlander? You pick up where you left off and keep on truckin'. That's been Verlander's mission from the onset of this spring training.
He's been sharp as a result of his work ethic despite all the distractions that have made him the face of baseball during the winter offseason.
Between endorsement commercials, an SI swimsuit model encounter and the star of MLB 2012 (video game for your non-gamers out there), Verlander has plenty of opportunity for distraction. A great spring shows he hasn't been bothered by his heightened stardom.
Verlander's spring has been stellar, going 2-0 and holding an ERA of 2.03. In typical fashion he's mowed down 25 hitters and has walked only three. Would anyone expect anything less from the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young?
Winning Starting Pitcher Prediction: Verlander (7 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 11 K's, 1 walk)
Hits Across the Board
Detroit's lineup is so solid that American League pitchers will have to search long and hard to figure out how to make it out of an inning, much less an entire game.
Detroit has shown its propensity for scoring runs this spring so far and with a warmer than normal Motor City forecast, they'll be looking to go double digits on the scoreboard Thursday.
Following the strong prediction for the long ball, here's another stab in the dark—all nine of Detroit's starting hitters will gather at least one hit on opening day.
Total Hits Prediction: 16 (Raburn and Cabrera each with 3)
The focus on Detroit this spring has been two-fold—offensive firepower and defensive misery. Well, maybe not misery but the Tigers detractors have been pointing out the obvious defensive question marks since Detroit signed Fielder and shifted Cabrera to third.
Other than a few miscues and a ball off his face that would have sliced even the best fielders in the game, Cabrera has been serviceable at third. Young hasn't had the opportunity to let his waddle of a run interfere with his ability to cover space in left, at least not yet.
Also of significant note in the offense vs. defense argument is how much can a poor Tigers defense really hurt a team that could have their way with most opposing pitchers on any given night? Not enough for it to make a difference, and thus making it a negligible effect on Detroit's bottom line.
The defense isn't really that bad, it's not—really! The Tigers will begin proving that Thursday afternoon, you watch and see.
Game No. 1 Errors Prediction: 0, none, zip, zero, zilch—perfect