Explanation of ratings system and other team previews here
Overall – 86 points (2nd MLB, 2nd AL)
Starting Rotation – 33 points (7th MLB, 5th AL)
Line-Up – 39 points (1st MLB, 1st AL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 14 points (T-18th MLB, T-8th AL)
Offseason Additions – Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Edgar Renteria, Jacque Jones
Offseason Subtractions – Sean Casey, Chad Durbin, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller
Biggest Strength– Line-up
The Tigers sport the best line-up in the majors, and like many Yankees teams of years past, they will likely win 95+ games just by outhitting everyone. 5 of the 9 players in their line-up were all-stars last year, and 2 that weren’t (Renteria and Curtis Granderson) very well could have been. They have to great hitters and baserunners at the top in Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco followed by 2 legit MVP candidates in Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera. Following them are two guys that are threats to put up 100 RBI (Carlos Guillen and Gary Sheffield) and even at 7-8 you have to deal with professional hitters Edgar Renteria and Ivan Rodriguez. The only hole in the line-up is Jacque Jones at #9, but they could really just take an out there every time and still put up 5 runs a game.
Biggest Weakness– Bullpen
Any team that has Todd Jones as their closer concerns me. Added to that, the 2 arms that made them dominant in 2006, Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, have both had health issues in the past year. If they can get healthy, and Zumaya is throwing 103 MPH heat again, this team will be very tough to deal with come playoff time.
Key Player in ’08– Jeremy Bonderman
Bonderman seemed destined for big things after his 2006 season, but things fell apart last year and he finished the year with a 5.01 ERA. The Tigers despirately need Bonderman to pitch in the #2 spot behind Justin Verlander and show the stuff that he did 2 years ago. He is only 25, and has already logged 923 innings in his career. My guess is that last year was a cause of fatigue, and that hopefully, for the Tigers sake, he worked real hard in the offseason to make sure it didn’t happen again.
Player to Keep an Eye On– Dontrelle Willis
For all the publicity he gets because of his great personality and funky wind-up, Willis was awful in 2007. He had by far the worst year of his career and posted a 5.17 ERA in the very weak National League. However, Willis thrives on energy, and if you saw the hundreds of people that attended Marlins’ games last year, you have to think it was hard for him (or anyone) to get pumped up for games. It will be interesting to see if the year he had last year was a result of his surroundings, or his stuff deteriorating.
Outlook/Prediction– 1st Place, AL Central. As I said before, the offense on this team will lead them to the playoffs one way or the other. Adding one of the top-5 hitters in the league in Miguel Cabrera to an already potent line-up must have Tigers’ fans dying for opening day. Justin Verlander is a stud at the top of their rotation, and could very well win the Cy Young this year. If this teams wants to bring home the World Series trophy, they will need comeback years from Bonderman and Willis (both possible) and solid work out of their bullpen. They are among a handful of teams I may pick to win it all.