Well I guess it’s finally time that I give up my prediction for the Tigers season. If you’ve been reading the last couple years, you may remember that I did extensive analysis, player-by-player to predict runs scored and runs allowed to arrive at a final win prediction. That was a lot of work so this year I’m winging it.
I expect the Tigers to be better this year. Curtis Granderson receiving at-bats that Nook Logan had last year will improve the offense. A full season of Placido Polanco, even if he regresses, will be a significant upgrade over what Infante was producing at second base. Chris Shelton occupying the at-bats where Carlos Pena was struggling to find .200 will add runs to the offense. Pudge Rodriguez posting an on base percentage North of .300 will improve the offense. There are lots of opportunities for the offense to be better.
On the other side of the slate, I don’t expect significant drop-off in offensive production from anyone. The most significant loss will be probably be Rondell White’s bat. I don’t think that Craig Monroe can produce at White’s level. I think that Magglio Ordonez can at least produce at the level he did last year. I also think that Carlos Guillen can minimally replicate last year. Even accounting for those guys being injured – as they were last year – the offense should be better.
On the pitching side, I expect small improvements. I expect further growth from Jeremy Bonderman. Kenny Rogers should be able to at least reproduce Jason Johnson numbers. With Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson you know what you get. The wildcard is Justin Verlander. He will have his struggles, but at the end of the year will the Tigers get significantly more production out of the 5th starter spot than Wil Ledezma and Sean Douglass gave them last year?
The bullpen is still a question mark, but I’m actually not worried unless Todd Jones injury lingers. I think the bullpen can be adequate and I expect Fernando Rodney to have a big season and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him supplant Jones as the closer. He now has a full season under his belt since his Tommy John surgery, and from what I’ve heard he will be using his slider this year (which he didn’t last year).
It can be argued that the Tigers were actually a 75 to 79 win team last year. For the sake of argument I’m going to start with the Tigers as a 77 win team last year. I’m going to add 3 to 4 wins for the offensive upgrades provided by Granderson, Shelton, and Polanco. I’m also going to add 2 wins that will come from the pitching staff, namely the improvement in the 5th starter spot.
My final Tiger prediction…83-79. I think that will still keep them in 4th place in the AL Central. However, I also don’t see a team in the Central winning more than 90 games. That puts 4 teams within 7 games of each other, so really anything can happen.
What are your predictions for this season? Give me record, where they finish in the division, and a player you expect to breakout or royally collapse.