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Detroit Tigers: 2011 MLB Season Preview

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Detroit Tigers: 2011 MLB Season Preview
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Last Year: 81-81, Third in AL Central 

Manager: Jim Leyland 

 

PROJECTED LINEUP 

C- Alex Avila (L)

1B- Miguel Cabrera (R)

2B- Will Rhymes (L)

3B- Brandon Inge (R)

SS- Jhonny Peralta (R)

LF- Ryan Rayburn (R)

CF- Austin Jackson (R)

RF- Magglio Ordonez (R)

DH- Victor Martinez (S)

2B- Carlos Guillen (S) (start season on DL)

The Tigers upgraded their offense with the addition of Victor Martinez. Martinez allows the Tigers to have a full time DH versus lefties and allows the DH to be a spot for starters to get regular rest against righties.

Martinez gives the Tigers a little more balance in the lineup and power from the left side of the plate. This move allows Alex Avila to catch versus left-handed starters where he has some power. Avila has also shown great plate discipline, an asset the Tigers need.

There isn't much to say about Miguel Cabrera. He is one of the best hitters in the game. Expected stat line: .320/.400/.570 with more than 35 home runs.

Carlos Guillen is expected to play at 2B when he returns from the DL. Guillen will provide some power and decent run production from both sides of the plate. The question remains whether or not he will stay healthy. Will Rhymes will play 2B until he is ready. 

The left side of the infield will provide decent production from the lower half of the lineup. Peralta will provide solid production from the shortstop position. He should hit in the range of .260/.320/.410 with 15-20 home runs.

Brandon Inge is very inconsistent at the plate. He will provide 15-20 home runs, but he strikes out way too often to be counted on as consistent.

Ryan Raburn will start the season as the primary LF, but if he struggles, Brennan Boesch could supplant him. Boesch really struggled during the second half of 2010, and the versatile Raburn eventually took over the starting job.

Austin Jackson had a nice rookie  season, but he had too many strikeouts for a leadoff hitter. If he wants to justify the strikeout, he will need to hit for more power.

Magglio Ordonez doesn't have the power he once did, but he gets on base and hits for a high average.  

The Tigers will make some errors, but the team does possess above average range in the field. Austin Jackson is the best defensive player on the team, and he needs to cover a lot of ground playing CF in Comerica Park.

While Ordonez had struggled in RF before 2010, he had a nice season last year. He didn't play there everyday, and I think that will be a good formula for him in 2011.

Raburn is average in the OF, but he is slightly above average at LF. Miguel Cabrera is one of the weakest defensive players on Detroit's lineup. He will get his opportunity to DH, but Martinez isn't very good at 1B either.

Martinez is also one of the worst defensive catchers in baseball, but he will only be behind the plate when the Tigers are facing a left-handed pitcher.

Guillen does not have much range at 2B, so the right side of the infield will be compromised. The left side is stronger.

Brandon Inge is one of the better third basemen in baseball, and Peralta is average as SS. (I never understood why Peralta was moved from SS in Cleveland. He always had a better UZR there than Asdrubal Cabrera.) Avila is a sold receiver behind the plate. 

 

BENCH

OF- Brennan Boesch (L)

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IF- Ramon Santiago (S)

IF/OF- Don Kelly (L)

OF- Casper Wells (R)

 

STARTING ROTATION

RHP- Justin Verlander 

RHP- Max Scherzer 

RHP- Rick Porcello

RHP- Brad Penny 

LHP- Phil Coke 

The starting rotation is the key to the Tigers' success this season. In particular whether or not the bottom half of the rotation can be consistent enough for the Tigers to win.

Justin Verlander leads the Tigers' staff, and he is still one of the best in baseball. Verlander throws hard (95.4 MPH) with three other above average pitches (change, curve and slider). Watch out for another consistent year from Verlander.

Max Scherzer did not pitch well to begin the season last year, but he was absolutely dominant by the end of the season. Scherzer doesn't throw as hard as Verlander (93.1), but I think he will put up very similar numbers this season.

While Scherzer lost some velocity last year, he made up for it my mixing in more of his slider and change-up with great success. Verlander and Scherezer should make for a great 1-2 punch. 

Rick Porcello might be the most important player on this Tigers team. There is this perception among the national media (I'm looking at you, Karl Ravech) that Porcello is this "young gun" who blows people away with a 98 MPH fastball. That couldn't be further from the case. 

Porcello is a sinkerballer who relies on fielders. In his first two seasons, he averaged under five K/9. At first glance, it seems like Porcello really took a step back in his sophomore season.

By looking at advanced stats, both years were surprisingly similar. Porcello was lucky in 2009 and extremely unlucky in 2010 in terms of BABIP and runners left on base. By averages, I expect him to be somewhere in the middle this year.

I did notice that he threw more sliders in 2010 and not as many fastballs. That may have led to an increase in fly balls. Porcello should get back to his sinking fastball, because the increase in sliders did not get his K rate up. A good year from Porcello could take pressure off of injury prone Penny and unproven Coke. 

Brad Penny will fill in the No. 4 spot in the rotation. Penny only made nine starts last year due to injury, but it seemed like he converted to the Dave Duncan style of pitching while in St. Louis.

Penny has never been a strikeout pitcher, and he seems to have embraced that the last few years in the number of groundouts he has recorded, which has increased with the use of his new splitter.

Leon Halip/Getty Images

He did struggle in his only stint in the AL when he was with Boston, so I am skeptical of him pitching that well in 2011. He should be helped by a big ballpark.

Coke will be the fifth starter after being in the bullpen for the last two years with the Yankees and Tigers. I don't think he will succeed like CJ Wilson last year, because he does not have the vast repertoire of pitches that Wilson has.

He never was a top prospect as a starter in the Yankee system, and he made the majors by getting a jump in velocity when he made the switch to bullpen. I might be wrong, but I think he will end up in the bullpen by year's end. 

 

BULLPEN

RHP- Jose Valverde (Closer)

RHP- Joaquin Benoit

RHP- Ryan Perry

LHP- Daniel Schlereth 

LHP- Brad Thomas 

RHP- Joel Zumaya (will start season on DL)

RHP- Brayan Villareal 

RHP- Enrique Gonzalez 

The bullpen is anchored by closer Jose Valverde and newly signed Joaquin Benoit. Benoit was signed to a steep contract due to the fact Valverde is a free agent next year, and I think he will eventually assume the closer's role. For now, however, Valverde is closing and should put up another solid season.

I am interested to see if Valverde's velocity dips after using his splitter more than 50 percent of the time last year (fastball velocity in 2010 was 95.2MPH). Benoit came back from surgery last year throwing harder than ever.

If his velocity stays the same, he should pitch at the same level in 2011 (94.1 MPH). He has a good slider and a devastating change that makes him tough to hit from both sides of the plate. 

Ryan Perry is another solid right-handed option out of the pen. He throws harder than Benoit, but his secondary pitches aren't as strong and neither is his control. Daniel Schlereth and Brad Thomas come from the left side.

Schlereth will get a lot of strikeouts, but he will walk a fair share too. Thomas is more of a long reliever, but he will get some lefties out. He has a terrible K/BB ratio and his ERA was a fluke in 2010.

Joel Zumaya will pitch well if healthy, but we may never see that.  He throws harder than anyone else in baseball, but that might be why he is injured so often. I don't know much about Villareal, but he would strikeout a hitter per inning when he would start in the minors.

Gonzalez is a journey man reliever who should be the long man/mop-up reliever. 

 

NOTABLE NON ROSTER INVITEES

LHP- John Bale 

RHP- Enrique Gonzalez 

LHP- Fu-Te Ni

C- Omir Santos 

 

KEY PLAYER- Rick Porcello 

 

PROSPECT TO WATCH- LHP Andy Oliver 

Oliver was called up from AA last year, and he struggled in his five starts with the big club in 2010. He will start this season in AAA, and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes it back to the majors some times this season.

If Coke struggles in the rotation, Oliver would be the one to take his spot. Oliver throws a fastball from 92-94 with a good slider and changeup. He needs better control to succeed at major league level, but he will get better in his second season of pro ball. 

 

PROJECTED FINISH- Third in AL Central

The Tigers have a good team, but I just don't know whether it is enough to pass both the White Sox and the Twins. The back end of the starting rotation is questionable, and I don't think the lineup has enough around Martinez and Cabrera.

Everyone in the lineup besides Ordonez strike out way too much. I could be wrong, but I see them finishing right behind the Twins. 

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