Detroit Tigers Offense Is What It Is, for Better or Worse

John ChurchCorrespondent IFebruary 1, 2010

After the 2007 season, the Tigers added Miguel Cabrera and Edgar Renteria to an offense that scored 887 runs that season.

The lineup was hailed as a modern day murderer's row, and visions of a 1,000-run offense danced around in the heads of euphoric Tigers fans.

What a difference two years makes.

To say the least, it didn't work out for the Motor City Kitties in 2008. The team fell 179 runs short of 1,000.

Make no mistake, the failure of 2008 was not the fault of the offense first and foremost. Any offense, no matter how potent or anemic, would've been useless with pitching and defense as porous as the Tigers' were.

So Dave Dombrowski's attention turned to improving those very aspects of the club. As a matter of fact, his complete attention turned to making those improvements.

So Dombrowski sacrificed offense for defense with the acquisitions of Gerald Laird and Adam Everett. DH Gary Sheffield was released a week before Opening Day to open the spot for Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez to rotate in. Defensively, the two acquisitions paid off; Laird was the defensive catcher in baseball and Everett was not the liability Renteria was.

But as the Tigers became a pitching and defense club, what hamstringed them all of 2009 including Game 163? You guessed it. Offense.

To put it kindly, the front office's efforts since 2008 in fielding an acceptable American League offense leave a lot to be desired.

I'm a big pitching guy. If your team does only one thing well, it might as well be pitching. We all know it wins championships.

But just because pitching is the most important thing in baseball, does that mean the only hitting you need is timely hitting? The Tigers seem to think so.

Hitting was the Tigers' Achilles heel in 2009. So you'd think the Tigers would've addressed that issue heading into 2010. Quite the contrary; it's even worse.

Miguel Cabrera is a star, one of the 10 best hitters in baseball, and vastly underrated still. 

After him, the lineup is loaded with question marks and black holes. Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco, fixtures in the Tiger lineup since 2006, are gone now. Their replacements, Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore, don't have a day of major league experience between them. 

Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen are coming off (to put it kindly) strange seasons. Ordonez was so horrendous in the first half there was talk of him being released before his $18,000,000 option (Can you say "ouch?") could vest. Guillen's age started to show as he struggled through a case of the killer I's: injury and inconsistency.

Ryan Raburn was a pretty pleasant surprise in 2009, but if Carlos Guillen is going to be the team's starting left fielder as Jim Leyland has declared, is he really going to get enough ABs to be that great of a weapon?

You really don't want to get me started on the last third of the Tigers' lineup. To put it simply, with Brandon Inge, Gerald Laird, and Adam Everett hitting No. 7 through No. 9, the Tigers have burdened themselves with a National League lineup in the American League. You just can't do that.

Some will find it interesting that I'm writing this, yet I supported letting Placido Polanco depart and I did not think it was the end of the world when they traded Granderson.

In Polanco's case, he wasn't getting any younger and it was time for the Tigers to give Scott Sizemore a chance. When you hit .307 between AA and AAA, there is nothing left for you to prove in the minors. Add in he's making a fraction of Polanco's salary, and the parting with Polly was wise, fiscally responsible, and given the Tigers' financial situation, inevitable.

As far as Granderson goes, by no means did I want him gone. Hard to not want a player like Granderson on your team. However, he really did not offer the Tigers much in the way of a leadoff man. 30 bombs are all well and good, but you can't hit leadoff and post a .319 OBP and hit less than .200 against lefties. As far as getting on base goes, I don't think Granderson's '09 numbers will be as hard to outdo as some think.

So if some would argue any chance of the Tigers fielding a decent offense in 2010 was lost when Granderson and Polanco left, I'd have to disagree.

Granderson's power will need to be replaced, and that's up to Ordonez and Guillen. The Tigers are counting on these guys and Cabrera to be the "big bats," and their lack of interest in such hitters as Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome proves this.

But Ordonez and Guillen bouncing back does not solve all the Tigers' problems, not by a long shot. After all, these guys will need runners to drive in.

And I'm definitely not against Jackson and Sizemore. I'm actually kind of excited to have some young blood in the Tiger lineup for a change. But whoever said they had to bat 1-2, as they look set to do this season?

If you want to say Orlando Cabrera or Miguel Tejada is a step back from Adam Everett defensively, at least on paper, I can't argue with you. I say "on paper" because until 2009, Cabrera was universally considered one of the game's best defensive shortstops. As for Tejada, there's no argument. There's a reason he'll be playing third base mostly for Baltimore next year.

However, the two are proven top-of-the-order hitters who could've eased the burden on the two rookies. The Tigers never even considered these guys, and if the team was willing to pay $14 million to Jose Valverde, they surely could've afforded Tejada or Cabrera.

I think Adam Everett is a great defensive player. I just don't think there is a place for a designated bunter in the league of the designated hitter. I look around at some of the lineups in the American League, including the Twins, and I just don't think the Tigers can afford to do what they're doing at 7-9.

Brandon Inge, for all his webgems at third and home run power, cannot be counted on to hit for average and he will always be a high strikeout guy. Like Everett, Laird really doesn't do anything on offense. I think you can afford to have two of these guys in your lineup, not all three.

Whether I like it or not, Adam Everett is this team's shortstop. As such, there really is not much room for the Tigers to improve offensively, so I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for an offensive addition if I were you.

There is simply no room. Unless the Tigers want to reward Ryan Raburn's 2009 season by making him ride the bench as a fourth outfielder, they are committed to someone at every position. 

Additionally, while the trades of Granderson and Edwin Jackson gave the team some financial relief, by no means are the Tigers' pockets that much deeper, especially not with Jose Valverde in the fold now.

Maybe they sign a bench player. Surely they will make a minor league signing or two. For the most part though, the Tigers' offense is what it is, for better or worse. One can only hope it doesn't spoil too much good pitching, as I fully expect that to again be the strength of this team.

Jackson and Sizemore simply have to be ready, and Ordonez and Guillen have to revert to their old selves, and Raburn will have to show 2009 was no fluke, and Inge, Laird, and Everett...well, they better play some fine defense.

Unless quite a few things go right, Tigers fans looking for a motto for 2010 won't have to look much further than those four words every Brooklyn Dodger fan knew by heart in the early 1950s.

"Wait 'til next year."