Monday, March 20, 2006

Wild card contenders, or the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked? Part 1

The Detroit Tigers. Will they be an above .500 team that could make some wild card noise, or are the Tigers, to quote noted wordsmith Homer Simpson, "The suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked." In other words, the team we've become accustomed to watching for more than a decade.

Let's take a walk thru the anticipated starting lineup, as per the Detroit News. (Word of warning, these opinions are made without worrying about saber stats like OPS, adjusted production, runs created, and the like. I know that those numbers have value in determining how good a player truly is, but they also make Big Al's head hurt. So we'll stick to the basics...)

1. Curtis Granderson, CF: Could he be the best position prospect to come up thru the Tiger farm system since...Travis Fryman? That's how bad the Tigers' minor league system has been. If Grandy can play a respectable center field, hit .270 with some pop, say 15/70, and throw in 15 steals, it'll be a very successful first full season. If that best case scenario keeps the Tigers using Nook Logan as only a late inning defensive replacement and pinch runner, the better off the Tigers will be. He could be a long time Tiger fixture.

2. Placido Polanco, 2B: Dave Dombrowski fleeced the Phillies in getting Polanco for confirmed lunatic and currently imprisoned Uggie Urbina. Polanco is a solid pro, will hit .300+ and field the position well. Plug him in the 2 hole and the Tigers will have no worries at 2nd base this season.

3. Carlos Guillen, SS: Considering Guillen's past health issues, I would permenantly list him on the injured list as day-to-day. When healthy, he should be a top 10 SS, the player we saw in 2004. When healthy being the big caveat. So far so good this spring. If he can play 130 games, he'll put up numbers that'll make Tiger fans feel all warm and fuzzy.

4. Magglio Ordonez, RF: I gave my thoughts on Maggs a few weeks ago. He needs to hit for average. Hit for power. Hit a lot, period. We all know the big question that has all Tiger fans on pins and needles. Is Maggs still capable of putting up power numbers the Tigers so desperately need? I'd love to see .310/35/120 from him. But as was mentioned in the comments to my Maggs post, he just may not be capable of that, due to the vast wasteland that is the Comerica Park outfield and his slowly advancing age. Would 20+ dingers and 90-100 RBI's be enough? Considering the Tigers' needs and that massive contract, probably not.

5. Chris Shelton, 1B: Shelton's talent made Carlos Pena irrelevant and almost did the same to Dmitri Young. He can put the bat on the ball, pure and simple. Play Shelton everyday at 1st, hit him behind Magglio, and just leave him alone! Don't do anything else! Don't move him up and down the order. Don't rotate him with Pena and Young. Don't do anything but make out the lineup card with "3/Shelton" every day! He may not put up the HR numbers you'd like to see from a corner IF, but he'll hit for a high average and knock in runs. Hopefully, Shelton will be a Tiger for a very long time.

6. Dmitri Young, DH: (The News had Young batting 5th) Supposedly Young's in shape, and ready to make us all forget the cluster that the last 2 months of his 2005 became. But will the weight loss actually improve his bat? Will we see Dmeat step up with a 100 ribbies? No matter if he's young or old, fat or merely big boned, he always hits .280/15/75, give or take. OK for a low in the order DH, (I rather not see him hitting higher than 6th) not so good if you play a corner position. I do not want to see him play in the field. Ever. He's closer to Dr. Strangeglove than we'd care to believe. What's the best thing we can expect from Dmeat? That the Tigers gets a solid young player or two when he gets shipped at the trade deadline. Not that trading Young means the Tigers will be out of the race, but it does mean that an older DH/1B/LF with a too large contract is easily replacable.

7. Pudge Rodriguez, C: Prima donna or team player, you make the call. The Jim Leyland hiring may be the best thing Dombrowski has done for clubhouse harmony, in that Leyland will not put up with any of Pudge's BS. And Pudge was full of BS last season. Pudge may need a little help from Leyland to realize that, if he wants to be productive with the lumber, he needs to play less behind the plate. 110 games catching, max, and hope that Vance Wilson hits his weight when Pudge sits. DH him if he can stay away from becoming the ugly, impatient hacker he was last season. If he goes back to those habits, keep Pudge low in the order. There is no way he can bat 3rd or 5th (Where Trammell inexplicably seemed to place him most of the time) with a .290 OBP. By raising the OBP, hopefully he can stave off the growing thought that he's no longer a big threat from the plate. I just ask one thing. Pudge, at least throw us fans a bone and have an OBP that is higher than Dmeat's weight...

8. Craig Monroe, LF: If all works as planned, having a player like Monroe batting this low in the order is a luxury not many teams have. The Tigers will be in fine shape if Monroe puts up numbers similar to 2005, .277/20/89, and plays an average LF. He's another that could become a long time Tiger, much like a 00's version of Larry Herndon, but with a better bat.

9. Brandon Inge, 3B: Will he hit like the Inge of the 1st half or the 2nd half? He stung the ball before the All-Star break and slowly regressed at the plate down the stretch. Playing him 20-30 less games than the 160 he played in 2005 would be a start. Considering the dearth of decent 3B's throughout MLB, his .261/16/72 didn'tseem all that bad. But if you look at the season splits, his average dropped 47 points and and his OBP by 86 (!) after the All-Star game. If that doesn't scream, "Sit me occasionally," I don't know what does. I'd love to see Inge go back to his super sub position, the poor man's Tony Phillips he was in 2004, but he's still their best option at 3B. Hopefully Omar Infante will step up into that super sub position and allow Inge to rest.

Looking at the lineup, it's the best we've seen in the D in over a decade. Unfortunately, there are plenty of ifs and buts there as well. The health of Guillen and Ordonez, Pudge staving off the decline that most catchers hit in their early 30's, Inge not wilting, Granderson living up to expectations, and Leyland keeping a short leash on the clubhouse loose cannons. (Supposedly Pudge and Young) Honestly, the Tigers are due more than a few breaks when it comes to health, and young players actually becoming productive major leaguers. If they get those breaks, and that's a big if, we'll be watching an extremely productive offense.

Coming soon in part 2 of "Wild card contenders, or the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked," we'll talk Tigers pitching. More to come...


  1. I don't know what's scarier -- that it looks like the Tigers finally have a viable major league lineup or that none of those guys are on the DL yet.

  2. If Pudge and Monroe are batting that low in the order, the Tigers' lineup should be very good this season.

    The itch I'm still trying to scratch is the question of who is the most important player in the lineup? Obviously, having a healthy Guillen and Ordonez would make a big difference. But to me, it seems like the Tigers have good teams when they have good play in centerfield. If Granderson can get the job done at leadoff and play good defense in center, this could be a good season.