Sports Outside the Beltway

Baseball Preview: Detroit Tigers

This and next month, Outside the Beltway Sports will be taking a trip around the Major Leagues profiling the 30 major league teams. We continue today with last season’s World Series runner up.

Detroit Tigers

Last season: 95-67 AL Wildcard, Won AL Pennant Lost World Series
Manager: Jim Leyland

Meet the new guys

OF Gary Sheffield, RP Jose Mesa

Gone and hardly remembered

SP Humberto Sanchez (to New York Yankees), RP Troy Percival (retired), RF Alexis Gomez (to Colorado), RP Jamie Walker (to Baltimore), RF Matt Stairs (to Toronto)

And now your starting lineup

  1. CF Curtis Granderson
  2. 2B Placido Polanco
  3. C Ivan Rodriguez
  4. DH Gary Sheffield
  5. RF Magglio Ordonez
  6. SS Carlos Guillen
  7. 1B Sean Casey
  8. LF Craig Monroe
  9. 3B Brandon Inge


OF Marcus Thames
1B/OF Chris Shelton
C Vance Wilson
IF Neifi Perez
IF Omar Infante

The big bat in the middle of the order was missing. The Tigers jumped quickly dealing for Gary Sheffield and signing him to a contract extension. That hole in the order is fixed. In addition, the Tigers re-upped both Sean Casey and Brandon Inge, useful complementary players who round out their potent lineup. This team will score runs. In addition there is depth. Chris Shelton and Marcus Thames provide power off the bench. Vance Wilson hits adequately when he spells Pudge Rodriguez. Infante and Perez are relatively useless with their bats but field the middle infield positions well and can spell the better hitting Carlos Guillen and Placido Polanco when they need to rest. Guillen remains the key though to the lineup. He represents the player they can least afford to lose. They cannot replace his offense or his leadership. His injury late last season gave Minnesota the opening they needed to win the division.


  1. Jeremy Bonderman
  2. Kenny Rogers
  3. Justin Verlander
  4. Nate Robertson
  5. Mike Maroth
  6. Zach Miner


Closer Todd Jones
Joel Zumaya
Fernando Rodney
Jose Mesa
Wilfredo Ledezma
Jason Grili

As impressive as the batters are, Detroits pitching is deep, efficient and potent. Bonderman fronts the staff, which has a nice mix of established vets like Rogers and fresh talent like Verlander. Verlander may be the best of the staff. He held up solidly through the season, even though he threw many more innings than he had previously thrown. Robertson and Rogers were solidly above average. Bonderman, despite a spell of ineffectiveness near the end of the season was the anchor of the staff. Maroth is coming back from an injury shortened season. He and Miner will compete for the last sport in the rotation. Andrew Miller, less than one year removed from college, should start at AAA Toledo, but may be in the mix as well. The bullpen is just as effective. Rodney and Zumaya are hard throwing setup men. Jones is a dependable ninth inning guy. Mesa gives Leyland another seventh/eighth inning guy. The Tigers, interestingly have crafted a bullpen that defies the logical conventions, while maintaining them. The best pitchers are Rodney and Zumaya, and they toil in the seventh and eighth innings, putting out the small fires so Jones has fewer to deal with. Ledezma and Grili round out the relief corps and can expect 30-40 innings worth of work each. They both bettered league average out of the pen last season.

Help is on the way…

Top prospect Andrew Miller‘s contract called for a late season callup. His first taste of big league play came less than three months after pitching the North Carolina Tar Heels to the College World Series Championship game. And he had a rude introduction in eight relief outings, he gave up nine runs and walked ten. He also gave up less than a hit per inning. He needs to work on his control, as well as having a better plan to go after big league hitters. The talent is there. As was the contract demands that scared off enough teams to allow Miller to fall to the Motor City Kitties. They got a steal. He could easily be starting for the Tigers by the All-Star Break.

Other prospects who may be called on
Remember Cameron Maybin. The 19-year old (turns 20 on April 4th) centerfielder completed his first full pro season in A ball and what a year it was. In 487 at bats, Maybin wrapped out 20 doubles, six triples and nine homeruns. His .304/.387/.457 line won him the Midwest League batting title. The Tigers let him develop at West Michigan, keeping tabs on his progress and did not advance him to Advanced A Ball in Lakeland. He might start there or just as likely jump Advanced A and see how he responds to AA pitching. They have no need to rush him, but his considerable talent is tantalizing. The Tigers best and most ready prospects are unsurprisingly pitchers. Jair Jurrens pitched effectively at Erie, but would look much better with more strikeouts. Jordan Tata‘s low K rates are becoming a concern, his cup of coffee with the big club illustrated. Among batters, Brent Cleven has some pop in his bat and good on base skills, but his batting average last season in AA was .230. He is a mixed bag at best, but could fill in for a couple of weeks if there are concurrent injuries to multiple outfielders. Promoting top prospects (Verlander, Zumaya) and trading them for big league talent (Humberto Sanchez) thins your farm system. Detroit has two special prospects in Miller and Maybin. And they may find a few gems on the farm. But the cupboard is a little bare.


Detroit has an improved team. Sheffield alters the entire dynamic of facing the Tiger lineup. With healthy seasons from Guillen and Rodriguez, Detroit will be back in the postseason. With Minnesota’s diminished pitching staff and the tinkering the White Sox are doing, the close competition has slipped. Detroit is the prohibitive favorite to win the AL Central. As with last year’s team, the pitching will carry Detroit. With talented younger pitchers like Zach Miner and Andrew Miller as understudies, Mike Maroth (or Miner for that matter) could be dealt for young talent capable of stepping in this season or next. Would Atlanta consider taking on Maroth and Miner in exchange for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia? They’d have to think about it, especially if Mike Hampton and Kyle Davies falter. The pitching surplus puts the Tigers in the excellent position of having options to fix any holes that may develop in their roster.

Predicted finish 98-64 First place going away in the AL Central.

Related Stories:
Recent Stories:

Jose Mesa is the weak link, here. Hopefully they can use him to set up Jones; but, if Leyland thinks that Jose’s got the stuff to get them over, in a closing role, he’s sorely mistaken.

Let’s not forget how well he fared with the Tribe in the WS.

Posted by yo | February 13, 2007 | 01:05 pm | Permalink

RSS feed for these comments.

Comments are Closed


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.