The Sports Guy
In a pre-season prediction about the Tigers, I predicted more gloom and doom for this team, so I need to look back and update my analysis to explain, while still early in the season, how it looks like the Tigers could contend in the Central division. First, the big reason - no other team in the division looks dominant.
Bad prediction No. 1 - Brandon Inge: Inge is a career barely-over-.200 hitter that to me, established that as what he would be expected to do. So far, I am pleased to have been wrong - he's hitting over .300 with 5 homers so far, and looks much more confident at the plate doing it. He has also been outstanding in the field. If Inge levels off to bat .275 or over, and cuts down on his strikeouts, it's a bonus for the Tigers.
Shortstop - I thought the Tigers traded offense for defense at the shortstop position this season, which I didn't necessarily fault, but I thought it would lead to less offensive production. Primarily due to the play of Ramon Santiago, however, not only has defense at the position improved, but offensive production from that position has also improved. If Santiago earns a platoon spot in the line-up, this will be another plus for the Tigers.
Getting rid of Gary Sheffield - This was addition by subtraction. It took a lot for the Tigers to admit essentially admit that trading for Sheffield and signing him to an extension was a mistake, only to eat the last year of his contract, but it was absolutely the right move. Kudos.
Armando Gallaraga - I thought it would be difficult to have him match last season's performance, but so far, it looks like he may have actually improved. The thing about Gallaraga that impresses me, and convinces me he has staying power in the bigs, is that he has a smooth delivery, he throws strikes, and he keeps the ball down.
Fernando Rodney - Rodney and the bullpen in general are much improved. If this continues, it's another big bonus.
Continued Areas of Concern - Justin Verlander is a HUGE concern. He just doesn't look like the kind of pitcher we all once thought would be dominant and the ace of the Tigers staff. The quality of the starting pitching is questionable after Gallaraga and Jackson. Team defense.
Revised Prediction - The Tigers can contend, if only becasue it does not look like it will take much more than 90 wins to win the division this year. I do not, however, see the central as the division that will have the wildcard team. That will one again occur in the East, where Boston and Tampa Bay will finish 1-2.
So, now it's your turn. What are you early thoughts on the Tigers?