Through the first half of the season, the Detroit Tigers were primed for a pennant chase.
Now, through the first week of August, they are nine games back of the Chicago White Sox and have almost certainly fallen out of contention.
In this new world of sports, it's never too early to look forward to next year. Whether or not General Manager Dave Dombrowski and Manager Jim Leyland are with the team, the Tigers will have some pieces for a successful season.
Catcher - Alex Avila
Call him the lesser of two evils, Alex Avila and Gerald Laird have been terrible in the batter's box this season. Both catchers are in the last year of their contracts, forcing Dombrowski to make a tough decision. Laird is more experienced behind the plate and is better at throwing out runners.
Avila, on the other hand, has more potential and is seen as the catcher of the future. Dombrowski could conceivably resign both catchers, but Avila is the more likely starter.
First Base - Miguel Cabrera
Big surprise, I know.
Miguel Cabrera, the Triple Crown and MVP candidate, will certainly be the Tigers starting first baseman in 2011. He has been playing out of his mind this season and definitely needed to do so.
The night before a do-or-die game against the Minnesota Twins in 2009, Cabrera went out and drank himself to a .26 blood alcohol level. Fans tend to forget instances like these, especially when you have the season he is having right now.
Second Base - Will Rhymes
When Will Rhymes was brought up with Jeff Frazier and Jeff Larish from the Toledo Mud Hens, it was pretty safe to say that Rhymes' stint in the Bigs would be the shortest.
All he's done is rake in 11 hits in his first 12 games on the team. After his first few games of sweet-stroking—including four two-hit games in a row—Leyland moved Rhymes up to the second spot in the lineup. He has shown the ability to cover a ton of ground and brings some much-needed speed to the lineup.
Look for him to beat out Scott Sizemore for the starting job in 2011.
Third Base - Brandon Inge
You either love him or hate him.
Dombrowski and Leyland love him. Brandon Inge has been with the Tigers through it all. He was there during the good (2006 AL Pennant) and the bad (43-119 record in 2003). In fact, Inge's best season came the year the Tigers went to the World Series, hitting 27 HR and 83 RBI.
The fact that a Gold Glove caliber defender and a guy who hustles on every play has stuck with one team for so long is incredible. He should be rewarded; Dombrowski owes him that much.
Shortstop - Jhonny Peralta
As soon as I heard the Tigers traded youngster Giovanni Soto for Jhonny Peralta, it got me thinking: Why would Dombrowski trade for a rental player with the season virtually lost?
A few days after the trade, Peralta came out and stated that he would like to spend a very long time in Detroit. Now, whether this is true or not, nobody knows. But we all know that he is producing above expectations and would be a perfect fit to play SS or 3B.
Dombrowski, get it done!
Left Field - Carl Crawford
With the huge contracts belonging to Magglio Ordonez, Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis, and Jeremy Bonderman coming off the books, Dombrowski will have plenty of money to throw around.
Tigers fans have been begging and pleading for Carl Crawford, and they might get their wish.
It is well-known throughout baseball that the Rays will not seek to re-sign the four-time All-Star. Crawford would bring great speed to steal bases and cover the wide-open outfield of Comerica Park.
Center Field - Austin Jackson
What a pleasant surprise Willie Ma..., I mean Austin Jackson has been.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves, but Jackson is already looking better than fan favorite Curtis Granderson.
Nobody covers more ground in center field than Jackson. Just ask Armando Galarraga about the 9th inning of his "perfect" game. Jackson will be a mainstay in front of the General Motors fountains and at the top of the lineup for years to come.
Right Field - Brennan Boesch
Tigers fans were ready to dub Brennan Boesch the next Ty Cobb. Thanks to his month-long slump, fans might now be ready to kick him out of town.
On July 9th, he was hitting a sweet .345 with an OPS of 1.002. He has since dropped his average to .282 while his OPS has fallen to .819. A whole off-season will do wonders for this kid.
Look for him to get back on track come 2011.
Designated Hitter - Magglio Ordonez
If Dombrowski sticks around for next year, chances that Magglio Ordonez will sign a new deal with the team increase.
After a below-average 2009 season, Ordonez has picked up where he left off in August. But thanks to his broken ankle, he will not have enough plate appearances to activate his 2011 contract option that would pay him $15 million.
Ordonez proved this year he can still hit, and hit for power. Dombrowski would be foolish not to bring Ordonez back next season.