Can the Detroit Tigers Compete? Just Don’t Ask Them to Field

Nicky G GiammarcoContributor IFebruary 5, 2009

Forget that gaping hole in the bullpen, and the question marks surrounding the stability of the starting pitching. 

Never mind the fact their new shortstop, Adam Everett, has only 10 home runs in his past 861 at bats, or the fact that their minor league players are all below average. 

Forget that most major cigarette companies would go out of business if skipper Jim Leyland quit smoking.

So, I propose, we put behind us the the dreadful season had by the Detroit Tigers in 2008, and instead focus on the upcoming season, when those very Tigers return almost everyone from that same abysmal team that took the field in 2008.

Sure, they made some moves.  They traded Ivan Rodriguez, and opted not to keep Edgar Renteria (that trade bit them in the ass).  Edwin Jackson might be a hidden star on this lackluster pitching staff, but it cost Detroit their young outfielder, Matt Joyce.  Gerald Laird might be able to provide consistency from the backstop, but defensively, he’s no Pudge. 

They added Arizona-rejected closer Brandon Lyon to challenge Fernando Rodney.  Nothing like a closer battle between two guys that can be either electric or disastrous on any given pitch.  Better pray Joel Zumaya stops playing Guitar Hero and moving objects in wildfires.

Heck, parties were thrown when it was announced Todd Jones retired. 

But, Nate Robertson, and more importantly, Justin Verlander declined drastically.  Jeremy Bonderman had major surgery and no one knows how he’ll respond. 

Lest we forget Dontrelle "D-Train" Willis—the master of finding everything but the plate who is slated to be back in the rotation.  They should send him down to the minors to pull a Rick Ankiel.  The man can hit moderately well for a pitcher (351 AB, 8 HR, 35 RBI, .234 AVG).

Without a doubt, their strength lies in batting once again.  Led by slugger Miguel Cabrera, this offense should put up decent numbers. The Tigers were sixth in RBI, fifth in runs scored, fourth in HR, and a modest seventh in team AVG in 2008.

If all “ifs” and “buts” fade away, and the Tigers somehow manage to become this cohesive and competitive team, and the pitching regains its 2006 form, then there’s only one thing that will hold the Tigers back—the outfield.

Specifically, the fielding in the outfield. Well, let's just say anyone not named Curtis Granderson. 

Outside of Curtis “100-Grand”erson, their fielding is going to be an eyes-closed, gut-wrenching, change-the-channel-on-every-fly-ball routine for those watching.

Carlos Guillen—former shortstop, first baseman and third baseman—will now patrol left field. 

He has all the range of Manny Ramirez—none whatsoever.

Right Field?  That belongs to "Goldilocks" Magglio Ordonez.  He is clutch at the plate, but even that can’t buy him all the love in the Motown.  An opposing hitter could grab a drink on the Pepsi Porch, and still make it to third by the time Maggs gets to the ball in the corner of cavernous Comerica Park.

Backing up Guillen is the super streaky Marcus Thames and his five errors in 80 games last season.  Of course, they want the pop of Guillen’s bat in the lineup daily, but Thames was actually the better power hitter last season (25 HR vs 10 HR).

Then there are young guns Brent Clevlen and Clete Thomas.  With kick ass names like those, the starting spots should be given to them, straight up.

To get an idea of Detroit's fielding woes, the Tigers were fifth-worst in the majors with 113 errors—25 of those credited to the outfield.  They were first in errors in left with 12, ninth in right with seven, and seventh in center with six.  The only other position they had in the top ten of worst fielding in the majors was shortstop, at 28 fielding miscues. 

Now they're expecting their former shortstop to plug the worst left field fielding in the majors?

Smart plan. 

Leyland better start praying his pitchers induce ground balls or pop ups to center field, because, if they don’t, expect this team to suffer once again due to their lack of defensive skills.