8.02.2012

Re-Reintroducing Michiblog

I forgot that this stuff was cool. I'll talk to Riley but expect something in the form of something in the next week or so.

5.08.2012

Reintroducing Michiblog

Much like the Tigers, we've done a poor job as of late. Which means that we're completely sort of retooling the site. Expect a new name soon as well as Lions and Red Wings coverage. 'Merica.

4.07.2012

MLB Preview: AL Central & NL Central

AL Central
 
5. Minnesota Twins

Outlook: The Twins are heavily reliant on Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. In the past that wouldn't have been a concern... But now it's scary. Morneau missed a huge chunk of 2011 due to long list of injuries: the flu, a sore wrist, pinched nerves in his neck, a bruised foot, and a left shoulder injury that led to concussion like symptoms. And all of this came after a concussion that came in 2010, an injury that has left him not the same since. Joe Mauer naturally wouldn't be the Joe Mauer of old this season, just due to basic growing age and the grind of playing the catcher position, but coming off an injury-riddled 2011 himself is only going to make things worse. The team did make some note-worthy off-season additions, including Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham.


The pitching staff is atrocious as well. The presumed "aces" of the staff are Carl Pavano, who finished 2011 with a 4.30 ERA, and Francisco Liriano, who finished 2011 with a 5.09 ERA. Not to mention the departure of reliever Joe Nathan, who signed with the Texas Rangers recently.Only 1 man in their projected rotation finished 2011 with an ERA under 4. Barring a great return by Mauer and Morneau, as well as other role players stepping up, things look bleak for 2012.

X-Factor: As mentioned above, the performance and health of Mauer and Morneau. During the great run of AL Central titles for the better part of the last decade, everything flowed through the all-star performances of these two guys. The return of their consistent numbers is a MUST if the Twins want to make ANY noise in 2012.

Predicted Record: 65-97


4. Chicago White Sox

Outlook: Several important players left the team this off-season, including Mark Buehrle, Carlos Quentin, and Juan Pierre. And don't forget Ozzie. Additions of interest: None, other than Kosuke Fukudome, but only simply because he played for the rival Cubs for a number of years. Adam Dunn will improve this season, but only because he can't possibly do worse than last year's embarrassment. His SLG% was .277. No, not his batting average. His slugging percentage. He bat a measly .159, sitting in the middle of the order all year mind you. The team is lucky Paul Konerko kept up his numbers last year, despite being 36. He's the only thing that kept them above the tide last year, and eventually his age will catch up to him.

The rotation is nothing to ride home about, especially after losing Buehrle to the Marlins. John Danks, Jake Peavy, and Gavin Floyd, the presumed 1-2-3 for this season, all had disappointing seasons last year. You expect at least one to bounce back. But isn't the washed up talk about Peavy concerning? And the ability of the other two to even be able to bounce back? Why yes, yes it is.

X-Factor: Adam Dunn. Not only for the sake of getting your moneys worth at $56 million for four years, either. Before last season, Dunn had two straight years of .260+, 38 HRs and 100+ RBIs. If he can return to that form and hold down the middle of the order, he can at least give respectability to both the White Sox and himself.

Predicted Record: 70-92


3. Cleveland Indians


Outlook: This is an extremely average team. The rotation is average: an under performing Ubaldo Jimenez, a respectable Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, and the off-season additions of Derek Lowe and Kevin Slowey. Carlos Santana is a great power hitter and will hold up the middle of the lineup. The team suffered a lot of injuries last season, and staying healthy will be an X-Factor for the season in itself. Up and down the lineup the team has great contact and batting average numbers. For example, SI's projected starting lineup has Jason Kipnis is the 9-hole, and last season he batted .272. Although they seriously lack power, they make up for it in other ways.

X-Factor: The emergence of a true ace at the top of the pitching staff, whether it be Jimenez or Masterson. Neither was bad in any way last season, but neither was lights out spectacular either. If one can emerge as an ace and be in the Cy Young conversation, the team has potential.

Predicted Record: 79-83


2. Kansas City Royals

Outlook: Yes, you read that correctly. The Kansas City Royals sitting at the #2 spot in the AL Central predictions. A large part of this is the surroundings in their division. The AL Central is as weak as it's ever been and in the discussion for worst division in baseball this season. If this same team was in the AL Central, I would project them at the number 4 or 5 spot there.

With all of that said though- the Royals have a stockpile of young talent and are an up and coming team, largely thanks to years of being terrible and racking up good draft picks. Within a few years this team could be scary good, but the young talent still needs time to develop. Billy Butler is one of the most underrated hitters in baseball, in my opinion. He hits for average and power. Alex Gordan is an amazing talent at the top of the lineup. The rotation will be interesting to watch this year, specifically Bruce Chen. They added Jonathan Sanchez to the rotation in the off-season as well, and he could be a great pitcher for them this season.

X-Factor: Mike Moustakas. Can he emerge as the future all-star the league believes him to be this season? If his development comes along nicely he could do big things this year and help his team tremendously.

Predicted Record:82-80

1. Detroit Tigers

Outlook: Homer pick? Surprisingly, no. This team went out and won the Central by 15 games last year, then added Prince Fielder to that team. That combined with natural progression of a somewhat young team equals out to big results. It's that simple. They didn't lose anyone of importance from last year. Something will have to go very wrong for the Tigers or very right for another team in the Central for this team not to win the division. If the breakout all star numbers of Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta remain this season... wow this team will be scary. The fun part is I haven't even mentioned 2011 Cy Young and MVP award winner Justin Verlander.

The only real area of concern is the #5 starting spot in the rotation. This was a constant headache all last year. Drew Smyly won the position out of camp. If he doesn't do well in this first month, things will get annoying every once in a while. But nothing more.


X-Factor: Knowing this team so well, I could list a couple and I will. The biggest, as mentioned above, is the performance of Drew Smyly. The lack of a #5 pitcher last season was the only true weakness of this team, and if Smyly can come out similar to how Vance Worley did last year, this team could catapult their expectations even higher. The next biggest thing is Austin Jackson. He's fast, no doubt. But he needs to cut down on the strikeouts and greatly increase the OBP. 

Predicted Record: 96-66



NL Central
 
6. Houston Astros

Outlook: The Astros are a sad, sad little team. Depending on your knowledge of baseball, they have only one household name on the team: Carlos Lee. Yes, their best player is 35 years old. If I'm the Astros, I'm praying that Carlos Lee has another good year so I can trade him away at the deadline for a few good prospects. This is without a doubt the worst team in baseball. Wandy Rodriguez and Bud Norris are at least somewhat respectable at the top of the rotation, although both are inconsistent. After those two the rotation falls off. In the projected Astros lineup for 2012, other than Carlos Lee no one on the team had more than 6 home runs or 36 RBIs. Like I said, they're the worst team in baseball. The best case scenario for the Astros this year is that a few guys put together respectable seasons and then can be traded for prospects at the deadline, giving them a chance to contend in 2014 or later. Usually teams as bad as these have good farm systems and hope for the future, because they've been bad and racked up good draft picks. Not the Astros. of the three websites I found that rank farm systems, the Astros were ranked 25th or worse in all of them.

X-Factor: Getting players to produce somewhat this year so they can trade them away for prospects and have hope for the future. It's sad to say, but things really are that bad for this team and this organization.

Predicted Record: 58-104

 
5. Pittsburgh Pirates

Outlook: The Pirates were the feel good story in baseball for the majority of 2011. It looked as if though they had a chance to finish above .500 and maybe even contend for a playoff spot. Then, in typical Pirate form, they crashed and burned. After being 51-44 at one point, they finished 72-90. Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker are both solid, young players that are good now and show promise for the future of the organization. But after those two, the lineup is very weak. They added quite a few position players with potential in their offseason that could produce, including Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Casey McGehee, and Nate McLouth. However not a single one of those players hit over .245 last season.

Joel Hanrahan is a solid closer, notching 40 saves and a 1.83 ERA a season ago, but the rotation is suspect. They brought in A.J. Burnett in the off-season, but at this point he's more of a headline and a story for SC than a solid pitcher. As a whole the rotation is very average. Not bad, but average.

X-Factor: A.J. Burnett. If he can be a true ace for the squad and return to his old form, this team may put together a season similar to last years. Or at least the first half of last year.

Predicted Record: 67-95



4. Chicago Cubs

Outlook: The strength of this team will be the pitching staff, both rotation and bullpen. But the top of the lineup honestly isn't that bad either. Starlin Castro, the young rookie shortstop sensation from last season, hits nicely for average. Marlon Bird and Bryan LaHair both seem solid as well. Both Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano, while not having the best averages in the world, have good power.

The rotation appears fundamentally sound up and down. Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza are a good 1-2 punch at the top. The project of the year is Jeff Samarozija, who won the #3 spot in the rotation this season after being in the bullpen last year. Paul Maholm was a great off-season addition. He was a big part of the early on success of the Pirates last year. He will presumably be #4 in the rotation, which shows how deep the rotation is. Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol are not a tremendous combo in the bullpen, but they'll get the job done.

This team is presumably "rebuilding," and with hot shot Theo Epstein now making the calls in the front office the future looks bright. But this season the Cubs have the potential to surprise a lot of people. Am I saying it's likely? Probably not. However this team has the ability to make some noise.

X-Factor:  Alfonso Soriano. If he can produce his normal power numbers and sprinkle in some nice average as well, he'll be a lethal hitter in the middle of the order.

Predicted Record:74-88

3. Cincinnati Reds

Outlook: This team could easily win the division. Their lineup is extremely solid. Zack Cozart is a promising young rookie. Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Scott Rolen, and Drew Stubbs all will put up solid numbers and be very good players. Joey Votto is an MVP candidate. 1-9, there isn't much to dislike about this team. Extremely solid batting, both in contact and power.

The rotation is where things get a little iffy. Johnny Cueto put up a great 2011, and they added Mat Latos in  a trade in the off-season. After that is where things get questionable. Bronson Arroyo is old. Can he really be consistent for them this year? Mike Leake enjoys getting in trouble and has character issues. How good will he be this year? The loss of Ryan Madson to injury hurts terribly. He was a great closer for the Phillies last year, and looked to be a great closer for the Reds, but now he's gone for the season. Sean Marshall is a great bullpen pitcher and was a great pickup by the team in the off season. Don't get me wrong, the Reds do have potential to win this division. But they have more questions than other teams ahead of them.

X-Factor: Barring a surprising lack of results from someone in the lineup, you expect the offense to be fine. If Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake can establish themselves and improve upon what they did last year- and not get into any trouble- the team won't have a major weakness and will make noise in October.

 Predicted Record: 85-77


2.Milwaukee Brewers

Outlook: You can't replace Prince Fielder. You simply can't. But life after Fielder will go on. The off-season addition of Aramis Ramirez was big. Last season his numbers were near Prince-like. He batted .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs. The problem is he's old. If he can produce the same way he did last year, that will pay huge dividends for this team, specifically because there will be someone to protect Ryan Braun, identical to what Prince did last year. You expect Braun to comeback fine this season after his off-season steroid debacle, but who knows? The team as a whole hits for average very well. They'll rack up a lot of hits this year.

With all of that said, you probably expect the rotation to be weak, right? Wrong. The rotation has an argument as one of the best in baseball. 4 of the top 5 finished last season with an ERA under 4 last year. Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, and Shaun Marcum rival the big 3 of the Phillies. Then you have Randy Wolf and Chris Naveson sitting at the 4 and 5 spots, both of whom put together winning records last year. That's not all though. John Axfod and Francisco Rodriguez both come out of the bullpen as well. They were both lights out last year and look to have repeated results again this year. The sky is the limit for these Brewers. Life after Prince will be different, no doubt. But it might not be so bad.

X-Factor: As stated above, Aramis Ramirez. All my reasoning is above as well. If he can repeat his numbers from last season this year, he'll do wonders for Braun and the team.

Predicted Record: 88-74



1. St Louis Cardinals

Outlook: Similar to the Brewers, this team also lost it's biggest player in years, and one of the best players of all time. How do you replace Albert Pujols? You don't. But life will go on for the defending World Series Champs. The addition of Carlos Beltran in the off-season was huge. It worked out nicely because Lance Berkman was a liability in the outfield, and he'll now be able to slide down to 1st with Beltran inheriting the outfield. Beltran won't replace Pujols, but he's close to the next best thing. Up and down the lineup the team looks pretty stacked. Allen Craig, Skip Schumaker, Jon Jay, Yadier Molina, David Freese, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and Carlos Beltran ALL hit for .280 or higher last season.

The reason I give the Cardinals the best chance of winning the NL Central this season, however, is Adam Wainwright. The guy is a constant Cy Young candidate, and missed all of 2011 with an injury. Without him, the team STILL won the World Series last year. The rotation is deadly with Carpenter and Wainwright at the top, and Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Jake Westbrook filling out the bottom very nicely. The only real concern is the bullpen, but they should do a good enough job.

X-Factor: Lance Berkman. He was riding dangerously at the beginning of last year, appearing to be old, washed up, and no good. He then went out and had a year with a .301 average, 31 HRs and 94 RBIs. He's old, so there's concerns, but if he can do that again this year he can be a catalyst for this team in the same way he was last year.

Predicted Record: 89- 73

Quick thoughts on NL Central: Honestly, arrange the top 3 teams in any order that pleases you. All are very even and will contend this season.

4.05.2012

Quality Start for Both Verlander & Tigers in 3-2 Win

Well, a win on Opening Day is best case scenario more often than not, and Detroit proved that Thursday afternoon with a 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. After two runs in the 7th and 8th innings, Boston came back in the 9th inning to tie it at 2. However, Austin Jackson hit a walk off single in the 9th to win it for Detroit.

Justin Verlander had a very strong start, going 8 innings and surrendering just two hits. He struck out 7 on 105 pitches. Let's look at Verlander with help from an extremely useful site, brooksbaseball.net:


If this is what I think it is, this is from the batter's point of view, so those outside pitches were to lefties. A lot of those outside pitches were borderline strikes that were seldom called strikes (and rightfully so). 

Next, a look at the pitch results:


InningPitches in InningStrikes in InningStrike% in InningCumulative Total Pitches
19666.679
2201260.0029
314857.1443
49666.6752
515960.0067
6161275.0083
712758.3395
810660.00105

The two innings he had trouble with (2nd and 3rd) involved him not getting enough strikes, as shown in the chart. He surrendered just one walk the entire game.

Chart I have trouble making sense of:


The stress he was put in early caused that 98 (highest) in the 2nd. Otherwise, pretty normal, dialing it up more and more as he goes for JV. This may be a top 10 start for him considering the crazy season last year.

Otherwise:

Cabrera and Fielder combined for a hit and and 3 walks, and something possibly seen often this year: an intentional walk of Cabrera to get to Fielder. First game jitters aside, Fielder should more often than not make teams pay for that. A quality first win nonetheless.

MLB Preview: AL East & NL East

With baseball season just around the corner, Riley and I will preview all 30 teams in the majors over the next couple days. First up: the two East divisions.

AL East

5. Baltimore Orioles

Outlook: The Orioles are not a laughably bad team, but are merely a product of their division. The bats are again led by Adam "Pacman" Jones, a center fielder who can run and hit (for power). Nick Markakis is back, a power hitter in a soft sense, with 15 HRs and 75 RBIs last season. The back of the lineup is not as heralded, with former Tiger Wilson Betemit projecting into the DH role for Baltimore this season.

The pitching staff is a probable weakness, with Opening Day starter Zach Britton going 11-11 in his first MLB season last year. Closer Kevin Gregg did well in his limited opportunities, recording 22 saves.

X-Factor: Matt Wieters, a highly regarded catcher who has played for 2 seasons with the O's, is looking to improve on a 22 HR- 68 RBI season, and if he can be the player the scouts say he can, Baltimore has a chance to jump out of the cellar.

Predicted record: 68-94

4. Toronto Blue Jays

Outlook: Power hitter Jose Bautista followed up his 2010 season with a slight regression, hitting .302 with 43-103 HRs-RBIs. This is a team with high upside, and if hitters like 1B Adam Lind and CF Colby Rasmus tear the cover off the ball, this is a team that can snatch a wild card.

Wikipedia
The pitching staff is quality too, with Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow spearheading the rotation. Brett Cecil is an average No. 3 starter, and if he can make a leap, the Blue Jays would have more opportunities to hand the ball to closer Frank Francisco, who was thrown into the closing role late in the season and recorded 17 saves.

X-Factor: 3B Brett Lawrie is just 22, and got hot in the end of the season, hitting 9 HRs in 43 games to go with a .293 average and .373 OBP. Many people are expecting very big things from Lawrie in more at bats this season, and Lawrie could be a nice compliment to the power of Bautista.

Predicted record: 85-77

3. New York Yankees 


Outlook: After getting bounced in the ALDS against the Tigers last season, the Yankees still have the talent needed for another pennant run. 1B Mark Teixeira had a slight down year, hitting just .240 with his usual power numbers of 39 homers and 111 RBIs. Former Tiger Curtis Granderson had a career year, hitting over forty homers for the first time (41) and had a career high 119 RBIs. His average was slightly below average, but his high OBP (.364) eliminated his 169 strikeouts. Alex Rodriguez, though declining, is still a factor.
Wikipedia

CC Sabathia is again the ace of the Yankees staff, and Tigers fans remember him well from last season's ALDS. He should again be a lock to throw 210+ innings. Prospect Michael Pineda will start the season on the DL, so the Yankees don't have much after that. This could be the season Mariano Rivera's arm explodes into many pieces last season for Mariano Rivera, who had 44 saves.

X-Factor: Robinson Cano is just one of many that can push the Yanks into the playoffs, and if he can be as dominant as he was last season (28 HRs, 118 RBIs with a .302 average), New York could even win the division.

Predicted record: 86-76
Wikipedia

2. Tampa Bay Rays

Outlook: Evan Longoria again leads the bats of the Rays to attempt a move to the playoffs. Longoria hit the playoff clinching HR in the last game of the season to go with 33 homers and 99 RBIs. Rookie phenom Desmond Jennings started strongly but finished below par, ending at 10 HRs and 20 stolen bases to go with a .356 OBP.


Rotationally, the Rays starting pitchers are sneaky good, with four slightly above average pitchers to lead the rotation: James Shields, lefty David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and 22 year old lefty phenom Matt Moore. Closer Kyle Farnsworth is on the DL to start the season, so the bullpen may be an issue.

X-Factor: Carlos Pena, if he can get back one last season of excellent power, could push Tampa over the top.

Predicted record: 89-73

Boston Herald
1. Boston Red Sox

Outlook: Heralded by so many as World Series favorites last season, the Red Sox started very slow (1-8) and collapsed in September, failing to win a clincher in Baltimore on the last night of the season. New manager Bobby Valentine and Carl Crawford look to change that. Crawford, their large signing last year, disappointed last season, hitting just 11 homers and knocking in 56 runs. His wrist may have been the problem, and a recent surgery may see a return to power. MVP candidate 1B Adrian Gonzalez was the other big name, and he was one of the most consistent Sox hitters, with 117 RBIs and a .338 average.

The pitching staff has some question marks. The top of the rotation is solid, with 1-2 punch Josh Beckett and Jon Lester looking to both win at least 17 games. The back of the rotation will be filled by bullpen move Daniel Bard, so he should be a question mark. Alfredo Aceves will take over for an injured Andrew Bailey in the closing role, as Bailey is sidelined by a thumb injury that should have him out until the All Star break.

X-Factor: Jacoby Ellsbury had a monster year last season, and if he regresses as much as some people are believing, the pop at the top of Boston's lineup could disappear slightly.

Predicted record: 91-71

NL East

5. New York Mets

Outlook: Much like the Orioles, the Mets could be a respectable club, but are playing in a very good division. SS Jose Reyes has moved to Miami, so the Mets are without a star leadoff hitter. OF Carlos Beltran also left mid-season for the Cardinals. 3B David Wright is still around, and was hurt for a lot of last season, playing in just 102 games. Otherwise, the lineup isn't much, including catcher prospect Josh Thole and journeyman OF Jason Bay.

Johan Santana makes his return to the pitching staff after a two year absence, but after that, it isn't pretty. New closer Frank Francisco makes a move to the NL from Toronto, and will hope to get as many opportunities as possible.

XF: 2 and 4 hitters Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis are young, and are looking to improve on average years last season. If Murphy can get on base and Davis can hit for power, the Mets could grab 4th.

Predicted record: 72-90

4. Washington Nationals

Outlook: The Nats are stacked with young talent on both ends, with 3B Ryan Zimmerman back for another season. Zimmerman played just 102 games last season due to injury, and the Nationals will definitely enjoy having his bat back in the lineup. Michael Morse will look to make a move to left field after his huge season last year. Morse had 31 homers last year despite a low average. Young SS Ian Desmond looks to get on base often as the leadoff hitter a season after a .298 OBP. Future superstar Bryce Harper is still likely a season away.
Wikipedia

Stephen Strasburg is the headliner here, and after making a couple starts last season after Tommy John surgery, he is healthy and looking to do as much as he can in his innings limit set by the organization. New signing Gio Gonzalez is coming over from Oakland, and had 16 wins along with a 3.12 ERA in 202 innings. Young righty Jordan Zimmermann can be an above average No. 3 starter if things go right. In the bullpen, closer Drew Storen went to the DL and won't be back until the middle of the month, so there could be some problems in the bullpen, thus, the 4th place finish despite the high ceiling.

XF: 2B Danny Espinosa is another quick middle infielder, and if both he and Desmond can get on base at a high rate, the Nationals have enough youth talent to challenge for 3rd.

Predicted record: 81-81

3. Miami Marlins

ballparksofbaseball.com
Outlook: After acquiring a new everything this offseason, (a manager, stadium, city, and shortstop) the games are now on. Hanley Ramirez is attempting a move to third after a 10 homer and 40 RBI season in just 92 games, and looked fine there Opening Night in a 4-1 loss to St. Louis. That shortstop, Jose Reyes, moves from New York to Miami after a good year with the Mets, stealing 39 bases along with a career high .337 average.Outfielder Logan Morrison is a hot pick to break out this season, and the 24 year old could improve on his 23 home run, 72 RBI season.

Josh Johnson and new signing Mark Buehrle lead the Marlin rotation, and after that, it's pretty average. Other new signing Carlos Zambrano will move to the No. 5 job, and Ricky Nolasco could be a nice No. 3. In the bullpen, Leo Nunez has a new name that will sideline him for a short while, so former Padre Heath Bell could have trouble getting save opportunities. When he does, he's usually automatic.

XF: No longer Mike Stanton, Giancarlo Stanton's power just keeps getting better, and if he hits more than last season's 34, Miami could even win their division.

Predicted record: 85-77

2. Atlanta Braves

Outlook: The other team that collapsed on the last night of the season, the only thing missing is 3B Chipper Jones, out for the season. OF Jason Heyward will look to improve on a sophomore slump of a year last season, attempting to do better than his 14 homer, 42 RBI season. This team still has some power, with 1B Freddie Freeman (21 HRs), 2B Dan Uggla (36), and C Brian McCann (24) providing some power in the order.

The staff is also mainly back, with four starters under 26 years old in former Tiger Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, and new fifth starter Mike Minor. Tim Hudson will look to have another good year though declining due to age. Craig Kimbrel was the surprise of Atlanta's season, converting 46 saves as a rookie.

XF: Setup man Jonny Venters was key last season as part of Atlanta's bullpen 1-2, but if he declines, the Braves may have trouble winning games.


Predicted record: 87-75

1. Philadelphia Phillies

Outlook: The loss of some major names to injury leaves a bit more doubt in the minds of Phillie fans, but this team is still talented. Both stars Chase Utley and Ryan Howard should be out for long amounts of time, but OF Hunter Pence should be able to step into the role of power guy for the time being.

The calling card once again this season is the pitching. Arguably Likely the best 1-2-3 starter combo in the game, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and lefty Cole Hamels look to throw Philly into a division title. Closer Jonathon Papelbon was signed in the offseason to help save wins for the three, and should provide a steady hand at the back.

Predicted record: 88-74

So there it is. Riley should have the two Centrals out tomorrow, as well as both Wests from me.

Tigers vs. Red Sox (Apr 5) Preview

The Tigers begin their season at home, welcoming AL East contenders Boston to Comerica. Jon Lester faces off against Justin Verlander in a matchup of likely Cy Young candidates.

Tigers:

Jackson, CF [R]
Boesch, RF [L]
Cabrera, 3B [R]
Fielder, 1B [L]
Young, LF [R]
Raburn, DH [R]
Peralta, SS [R}
Avila, C [L]
Santiago, 2B  [S?]

My initial reaction to this is wow Avila 8th, and then I remembered that Raburn lit it up this spring. Young should be DHing and Raburn should be in left but otherwise a strong lineup. The amount of lefties shouldn't bode well against lefty Jon Lester.

Red Sox:

Ellsbury CF
Pedroia 2B
Gonzalez 1B
Ortiz DH
Youkilis 3B
Sweeney RF
Ross LF
Saltalamacchia C
Aviles SS

Get it on.

I expect a pitcher's duel and then heck breaking loose in the later innings. Because I'm a homer: 6-4 Tigers.

4.03.2012

Detroit Tigers Season Preview: Outfielders, Starters, DH

The Tigers official Opening Day lineup can be seen here.
The official 25-man Opening Day roster can be seen here. For some reason the roster currently has 26 players listed. My only guess as to why is because Luis Marte, the young reliever who just earned a spot on the roster, is headed to the DL.


Designated Hitter: Delmon Young/Ryan Rayburn/Don Kelly/everyone?

The assumed DH heading into Spring Training was Delmon Young, mostly due to his defensively liability, however he is scheduled to start Opening Day in left field. Ryan Rayburn is assumed to be the starting 2nd basemen as well for the season, but he is starting at DH for Opening Day. Many players are going to flow between Left field, DH, and 2nd base this year for the Tigers as just about every other spot is cemented down, and all 3 of these positions are still a mystery.

At the end of the day, I expect Delmon Young to be the starter at DH for the majority of the season, with other guys coming and going on a regular basis. Delmon played twice as many games last year for the Twins as he did for the Tigers before being traded, however he still had twice as many home runs, an identical number of RBIs and a SLG% 100 points higher in Detroit. How his numbers play out this year will be especially interesting.

Young: .275/15/75


Left Field: Andy Dirks/Don Kelly/Clete Thomas/Delmon Young

As previously stated, left field is going to be a roller coaster of a ride this season. I didn't mention Ryan Rayburn, but even he has potential to play left some days and most likely will occasionally. My guess, and this is purely a guess, is that the ideal, most common everyday starter in left will be Andy Dirks. He only has 219 career at-bats, but in those at-bats he has a decent .259 average, not to mention the fact that he is tearing it up this spring. He lacks power but hits for average, which could be refreshing to a lineup full of power.

Don Kelly and Clete Thomas both will get time in left this year as well as right, and either one could potentially become the #1 when it comes to playing left. Delmon will probably see a decent amount of time here as well when opening up room for someone else to have DH for the day.

Dirks: .280/10/65
Kelly: .260/10/50 (combined with his time playing 3rd/DH/RF)
Thomas: .240/3/15


Center Field: Austin Jackson

Center field belongs to Austin Jackson this season, and purely Austin Jackson. He may get a rare day off, but don't count on it. In his two full seasons in the Majors in Detroit, Jackson has played 151 and 153 games, respectively. His defense in tremendous. His highlight reel is simply phenomenal when playing center. He has great range, which is especially necessary when playing in a ball park like Comerica.

Here comes the sad part about Austin Jackson: his offense. Jackson doesn't have much power, and never really will, but that isn't a concern. He hits at the top of the lineup where he needs to have a high contact rate, a high average, and a high OBP, but recently he has none. In 2011, Jackson 181 strikeouts and a .317 OBP, not acceptable for where he hits in the lineup. In 2011, the Tigers will be good, no doubt. But if Jackson can hit for average and draw a lot of walks without striking out nearly as often, watch out. The team will be downright scary.

Jackson: .290/7/60


Right Field: Brennan Boesch/displaced left field clan

Boesch will be the everyday starter over in left it appears. The backup outfielders will stroll over and fill in for him from time to time, but not often. After having a great first 100 or so games last year, Boesch went to the DL and never came back. Many people fail to remember that Boesch was absent during the separation in the AL Central down the stretch and for the playoffs.

Boesch will bat second behind Austin Jackson this season usually, and in front of the best 3-4 combo in baseball: Fielder and Cabrera. This is going to open up a lot of opportunities for Boesch and give him looks at a lot of great pitches, and for this reason I look for him big season, similiar to what he was putting together in 2011 before he fell to injury.

Boesch: .285/25/80



Rotation, #1: Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander is Justin Verlander. The 2011 AL Cy Young award winner. The 2011 AL MVP. Don't expect anything different from him this season. The only matter of worry for us fans concerning Verlander this year is how many no-hitters he's going to throw. I wouldn't expect another MVP season, simply because the batters won't stay as down as last year and the voters won't want the same guy, let alone a pitcher, two years in a row. But a Cy Young is definitely doable, and he's probably the safest best there is for a Cy Young in the AL right now.

Rotation #2: Doug Fister

Max Scherzer could easily be in this spot too come Saturday. Leyland has yet to name the official rotation and it's still kind of up in the air as to who will be #2 and who will be #3. But for all intensive purposes, we're going to project Fister as the #2 starter. Fister came over in a trade at the deadline last year and posted out of this world numbers once he got here: 8-1 in 11 games with a 1.79 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP (his WHIP was better than Justin Verlander's). Don't expect him to replicate those numbers this year, simply because of how insane they are. But expect big things from Fister.

Rotation #3: Max Scherzer

Scherzer had a good record at 15-9 last year, but it was largely thanks to great run support. His ERA was higher than you would've liked for a pitcher who was at the 2/3 spot all season, sitting at 4.43. His spring hasn't been very good, but you can't put too much into spring numbers. To be fair in 2010 and 2011 he had ERAs of 6.23 and 10.38 in the spring only to have 3.50 and 4.43 numbers in the regular season. Verlander and even Fister to a point at the top of the rotation are pretty steady anchors, so a lot of the Tigers season rides on how well Scherzer and Porcello do and how consistent they can be.

Rotation #4: Rick Porcello

Porcello had very, very similar numbers to Scherzer last season: a 14-9 record with a 4.75 ERA. His WHIP was dangerously high, however, sitting at 1.41. Porcello's numbers weren't great last season, but sometimes we all seem to forget what exactly he is: a number 4 starter. For being a #4 he was moderately consistent last year. If he can improve on last year's numbers, even slightly, this rotation could have the best Top 4 in the AL, and Porcello could be one of the best #4 pitchers in baseball.

Rotation #5: Drew Smyly

The competition for the #5 was a hotly contested one all spring. Drew Smyly was little heard of and not mentioned often, but he won the final rotation spot just a few days ago. Smyly winning the final spot was a surprise to many people, myself included. Going into camp Jacob Turner appeared to be the favorite to win the spot, only to tail off before giving way to Smyly. Smyly had an average spring, going 1-0 in 5 games with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. Stats for Smyly only go back to the beginning of 2011. In 2011, he appeared only for the A and AA affiliates of the Tigers. He was solid in the minors in 2011, going 11-6 with a 2.07 ERA, but that doesn't make the move any less surprising. It appears as though he's never even been in AAA. Obviously Jim Leyland knows what he's doing, and following Smyly this year is going to be a big storyline this season. He has the potential to be a real X-factor for this team.