Detroit Tigers

Posted by Baseball Bob at 23:44
Feb 102011

Summary (details below)

The Tigers, coming off a 2009 in which they missed the postseason by a 1-game playoff, expected to contend in 2010. They did, in fact, contend for the first half of the season, going 48-38 before the break, but they faded in the second half to 33-43, and finished dead even at 81-81, and in third place.

The hitters rated only D+, with Miguel Cabrera magnificent, and he got early support from two rookie outfielders, Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch, though Boesch was AWFUL in the second half. Austin Jackson (another rookie) was solid if unspectacular in center, and Magglio Ordonez had a comeback in right. Johnny Damon couldn’t really play the field anymore, but he didn’t really hit well enough to DH.

The rotation rated C+, and was in fact better in the second half than in the first. The bullpen, also rated C+, was the reverse: good in the first half but worse in the second. Armando Galarraga had a near-perfect-game, but in fact only Verlander and Scherzer were good in the rotation, with Porcello, Bonderman and Galarraga all below average.

Season Review

The Tigers, you will recall, spent most of 2009 in first place, only to falter at the end and finish in a flat-footed tie with the Twins, losing the one-game playoff for the division crown. They fully expected to build on that 86-76 record, and contend for and win the up-for-grabs crown in the weak AL central. They traded Curtis Granderson to the Yankees for young centerfielder Austin Jackson, signed Johnny Damon to play left, and a pitching staff led by young flame-thrower Justin Verlander which boasted an entire rotation on the sunny side of 30 and a bullpen that was not quite as young, but included NO graybeards (the oldest was closer Jose Valverde at 32).

The Tigers were assisted by the schedule makers, and started off with 2 of 3 wins against the Royals, and a sweep at home of the Indians, and led the division with a 5-1 record. But the Royals then won 2 of 3 in Detroit, and a trip to the West Coast saw the loss of 2 of 3 to Seattle, followed by 2 losses in Anaheim for a 7-7 record. The Tigers won the last two against the suburb of Los Angeles, and then split four games in Texas, returning home 11-9, in second place, 2½ back of the Twins, and hosting Minnesota for an early showdown series. They lost the first game (Liriano over Verlander) but won the next two, and swept the Angels to stretch the win streak to 5 and cut the lead to ½ game, at 16-10, with a visit to Minnesota next up. Unfortunately the Twins swept that series, dropping the Tigers to 3½ games back, and after splitting a pair in Cleveland, the Yankees were due in town.

Undaunted, Detroit won 3 of 4 from NY, two by shutout (Porcello and Verlander), and following up with 2 of 3 from Boston to close back to 1½. And two wins in the next 3 games pulled them into a tie on May 20, at 24-17. The heady heights of first place proved to be too much, though, as the Tigers lost 2 of 3 in Los Angeles (to the ACTUAL LA team, the Dodgers) two straight in Seattle, and 3 of 4 to Oakland. When they lost the first game against Cleveland, they had dropped 8 of 10, and were only 26-25, still in second place but now 4½ behind the Twins. They treaded water, winning the last two against Cleveland, but dropping consecutive series to the Royals and White Sox and were only a single game above .500 at 30-29 entering the real interleague stretch.

But the Tigers had a GREAT interleague schedule: they played the Pirates, Nationals, and Diamondbacks, the three worst teams in the NL, and they won 8 of 9 to climb to 38-30. Next up were the Mets, also not a good team, from whom they lost 2 of 3, and finally Atlanta, who WERE a good team and also took 2 of 3. The Tigers ended interleague play at 40-34, but only ½ back, as the Twins did not fare as well against the NL. They again lost 2 of 3 to the Twins, but won 2 of 3 from the Mariners to claim a share of first place. This time they hung in for a while, sweeping the Orioles and winning 2 of 3 at home from the Twins (finally!) to end the first half at 48-38, ½ game out. Cool standings gave them only 25% chance at the postseason, though, because 1) there was little chance of a wild card and 2) the White Sox RS/RA were much better. Yes, the Twins had fallen on hard times, and finished the first half in 3rd place, but Minnesota also had a better run ratio and a higher playoff probability than the Tigers.

It proved in fact to be their high-water mark (actually, the day before they were 48-37) as they second half opened with a 4 game sweep by the Indians in Cleveland, and two more losses to Texas, the 6-game losing streak eating 6 of their 10-games over .500, and in reality they never threatened again. After a mini-rally (3 wins in 5 games) they lost 11 of 13 to fall 4 games below .500 and the slide continued. When the morning of August 20th dawned, the Tigers found themselves at 58-63, 3rd place in the division, 12 games out and with no real playoff chance (1000-1 against).

The Tigers rallied from that spot, mostly by beating up the Royals and Indians, reclaimed .500 at 63-63 with 5 straight wins, and essentially stayed there for a while, never more than 2 games above or below, until September 15th, when they were 72-74, 15 ½ games behind the Twins, who had the division wrapped up (8 games up on Chicago). The Tigers went into Chicago, swept the struggling White Sox, took 2 of 3 from the Royals, and swept the Twins to “close” to 12 back and be 5 over .500 at 80-75, with only Cleveland and Baltimore standing between them and a winning season. Alas they were swept in Cleveland, and lost the first three in Baltimore, needing to win the final game of the season to break even at 81-81.

Not exactly what the fans expected or the management had in mind.

Overall 81-81 C 1st Half 48-38 B 2nd Half 33-43 D-

The Tigers scored 751 runs (4.64/G) and allowed 743 (4.59/G) and their Pythagorean projection is 82-80, essentially the record they had. Comerica Park, when it opened, was considered a powerful pitcher’s park, because of its spacious dimensions, but in fact has played essentially neutral over the years, including 2010 when it’s park factor was 102 (increased runs by 2%). So you can take the numbers essentially as they are.

They were a great home team, going 52-29 there (.642) which of course means that they were a terrible road team at 29-52 (.358). They were terrible in 1-run games (16-26), which is odd, as that stat usually corresponds with the Pythagorean calculation: teams good in 1-run games beat their projection, teams bad do poorly.

One oddity of their opponent-by-opponent grid: they were an average team that played everyone pretty much to a standstill: in their division, they were 10-8 against Chicago and Kansas City, and 9-9 against Cleveland and Minnesota. They were 5-5 against Baltimore, 4-4 against New York, 3-3 against Boston, 4-4 against Toronto. The only unbalanced records were 1-6 against Tampa Bay and 3-6 against Texas, balanced by the sweeps of Washington and Pittsburgh.

A second oddity is in that first-second split: their Pythagorean projections for the two halves: they were 4 games high the first half (lucky) and 5 games low the second half (unlucky) – the apparent split appears to be random chance – they were a .500 team all year long, and things evened out to make them that by year-end.

Hitters 75.5-86.5 D+

Runs Times
<3 38
3 25
4 26
5 16
6 18
>6 39

In the year of the pitcher, it is not surprising that a metric which is not context-adjusted would tend to be low on the hitter’s side, and the Tigers are no exception. There is a symmetry to the number of times they gave their pitchers little chance (38) and the number of times they gave them every chance (39) but the number of times they gave them only some chance (51) far exceeded the number of times they gave them a good chance (34), hence the rating.

In fact, the R/G of this offense (4.64) was well above league average, and this metric suffers from something I have talked about in the past – scoring those extra runs in blowouts doesn’t help nearly as much as failing to score those extra runs in close games hurts. This offense is hurt by that (and perhaps should be) more than many, hence the rating.

The Tigers are an odd team on Baseball-Reference: four of the nine “regulars” listed there had fewer than 400 PAs, and one “non-regular” had 512! Altogether they had 14 players with over 200 PAs, which is a lot, and two more over 100, plus two at 99 and 89. Injuries, rookies, and struggles had them experimenting all year at various positions, and no player played more than 151 games. If you consider 144 games to be full-time, only four Tigers qualify, and only 5 qualified for the batting title.

Catcher – Gerald Laird started the year as the regular catcher, with 23-year-old Alex Avila as his backup. Avila got into some games after Laird was pinch-run for, early in the season and then pinch-hit for, but Laird never got untracked with the bat, and Avila got more and more starts as the year progressed. Laird wound up with an OPS 567 (OPS+ 59) for the year, and his HIGHEST DAY was 569, one game earlier. Avila was no great shakes, posting a .228/.316/.340/656/79 line himself, but that was much better than Laird, Avila has a lot of upside, and the Tigers in the second half were going nowhere, so Leyland wisely gave the playing time to the kid to see what he could do. Avila was worth 0.6 bWAR and Laird -0.1.

First Base – Miguel Cabrera was one of the best hitters in the AL, if not THE best, playing 150 games (648 PAs) and posting a .328/.420/.622/1042/179 line. He is still only 27, which is amazing because he has been around forever, and while he is a bad first baseman (he was worse at third) he is not historically bad, just a bit below average by most measures. His 6.9 bWAR probably understates his value.

Second base – the Tigers got through 2010 without a second-baseman. Really. 25-year-old rookie Scott Sizemore was the opening day starter, with veteran second baseman Carlos Guillen (age 34) playing every day as DH (sometimes LF). Now THERE’S a new position: 2B-DH! Guillen played 16 straight games, hitting very well (OPS 834) and went on the DL. With Guillen unavailable to spell Sizemore, LF Ryan Rayburn played a few games at second. Then Sizemore went down, on May 15, having played 30 of the Tigers 37 games, and was out two months. He was NOT hitting well (OPS 586) and Guillen was still out, so the Tigers brought up 24-year-old minor league SS Danny Worth, and installed him at second. When Guillen came back on May 28 Worth returned to the minors, having played 8 games at second (OPS 667). Guillen was the starting 2B essentially every day from May 28 to July 24, when he started his second DL stint. By then Sizemore was back (July 22) but mostly he was now starting at third, and spelling Guillen at second. Danny Worth came back on June 9, but now he was playing shortstop (more on that later) and only second late in games after moves (like pinch-runners). When Guillen went back on the DL, the Tigers brought up 27-year-old rookie Will Rhymes and installed him as the everyday second baseman. Sizemore was at third, Worth at short. Then, 3 days later, Sizemore went down again (he had been back for just a week) and was gone until mid-September. Guillen came back on August 9, and in a stretch of 8 games started 6 at second, 2 at DH, and was done for the year on August 16. Sizemore played in 12 games in September, 7 of them starts at second base. By the end of the year, starts at second were divided thusly: Rhymes 46, Guillen 45, Sizemore 36, Raburn 15, Santiago 12, Worth 8. (Ramon Santiago was the Tiger’s most regular SS, but started a dozen games at second). OPS+ for these players (not necessarily while they were playing second: Rhymes 107, Guillen 102, Sizemore 72, Worth 77 (Rayburn and Santiago discussed elsewhere).

Third base: Brandon Inge, 33-year-old veteran, played 144 games (580 PAs) 138 starts at third, the rest of the starts being given to Don Kelly (12), Jhonny Peralta (7), Sizemore (4), and Worth (1). Inge had his best season in years, bWAR 2.5, based on solid fielding (he has ALWAYS been a plus fielder) and a .247/.321/.397/718/92 batting line, which has value at third base.

Shortstop: the shortstop job started the year divided between 30-year-old Ramon Santiago and 33-year-old Adam Everett. Santiago got 66 starts and Everett only 28, with trade-deadline pickup Jhonny Peralta taking over and making 44 starts at the position. Peralta had an OPS 92, while Santiago logged only an 82. Everett, with a reputation as great field no hit, strengthened that image with a sparkling .185/.221/.247/468 OPS+ 27 (!!) line, which might explain why he didn’t play more.

Left Field: Ryan Rayburn is a 29-year-old who has yet to play a full ML season – he got 148 PAs in 2007, 199 in 2008, 291 in 2009 and 410 in 2010. He can hit: his career OPS+ is 110, and the last two years it has been 130 and 119. His defense in left is seen as pretty much league average by UZR, and he can play second base in a pinch (as was tried by the Tigers). So why doesn’t he play more? He wasn’t on the DL in 2010, but only played in 113 games. Part of the issue is his platoon split: he is a RHB and his OPS was 753 against RHP and 929 against LHP. The real story, though, is that it took the Tigers a while to figure out who should play where. Johnny Damon was the starting left fielder on opening day (the same mistake the Rays figure to make in 2011) and Damon started 12 times there in April, and 7 more in May. All in all, Damon started 31 games in left field (and 4 in center!). Rayburn only started 9 games in April and 5 in may, but 11 in June, 14 in July, and 24 each in August and September. Then there was Brennan Boesch. Boesch was a 25-year-old true rookie (5th in ROY) who didn’t make the opening day roster. He was brought up April 23 (Guillen’s injury?) and was inserted as DH. He got to hits his first day, moved to LF (Rayburn was at 2nd) hit a grand slam on April 30 (OPS now 813) and began to play every day, somewhere. He wound up starting 44 games in left, and 67 in right, plus 13 at DH. For a while he was SMASHING the ball, his OPS reached 1068 in mid-may, and was still over 1000 as late as July 9th. He did not hit quite so well after the break, however: Pre-break 990, post-break 458!

Center Field: Austin Jackson, one of the jewels of the Yankee farm system, was traded to Detroit for “established” centerfielder Curtis Granderson. Jackson lacked power, and his star was tarnished in Yankeeville as a result. He played 149 games for the Tigers, however, starting in center 140 times, and earned 2.5 bWAR on OPS 745 (OPS+ 102) hitting and supposedly slightly below average fielding. He is only 23, and his fielding is really pretty good, so if he can hit like this there will be a starting spot for him in the majors for a long time. Granderson was OK, too, but a lot more expensive and not nearly as big an upside!

Right Field: Veteran Magglio Ordonez holds down right field, and when he could play, he was very good: .303/.378/.474/852/130 but in only 365 PAs. He is 36, and appeared in only 84 games.

DH: Ultimately, the Tigers figured out to play Damon at DH, and let Boesch and Raburn slug it out for time in left, or play both when Ordonez was out. Damon, despite his defensive liabilities, had a good year with the bat (OPS+ 106) and was worth about 2.0 bWAR.

The B-R age for these hitters is 29.0, but they do have some young talent. Jackson and Avila are likely to get better, and Rayburn and/or Boesch could be a viable outfield option.

Starters 85-77 C+ 1st Half 42.75-43.25 C 2nd Half 42.25-33.75 B+

Starter GS IP ERA W-L Deserves First Second
Justin Verlander 33 224.1 3.37 18-9 24.25-8.75 12.5-5.5 11.75-3.25
Max Scherzer 31 195.2 3.50 12-11 20-11 9.25-6.75 10.75-4.25
Jeremy Bonderman 29 171.0 5.53 8-10 13.25-15.75 9.5-6.5 3.75-9.25
Rick Porcello 27 162.2 4.92 10-12 12-15 3.5-9.5 8.5-5.5
Armando Galarraga 24 144.1 4.49 4-9 11-13 3.5-5.5 7.5-7.5
Dontrelle Willis 8 43.1 4.98 1-2 3.25-4.75 3.25-4.75 0-0
Andrew Oliver 5 22.0 7.36 0-4 1-4 1-3 0-1
Brad Thomas 2 69.1 3.89 6-2 0.25-1.75 0.25-1.75 0-0
Eddie Bonine 1 68.0 4.63 4-1 0-1 0-0 0-1
Phil Coke 1 64.2 3.76 7-5 0-1 0-0 0-1
Alfredo Figaro 1 14.2 6.75 0-2 0-1 0-0 0-1

Once the Tigers got past the notion that Dontrelle Willis could still pitch (He IS still young and DOES make a lot of money, so it is probably natural to try this) their rotation was set for the season. They experimented  a bit with 22-year-old rookie Andrew Oliver in midseason, and Bonine, Coke and Figaro all got a late season start, but the rotation of Verlander, Scherzer, Porcello, Bonderman and Galarraga went out there every day.

Verlander, of course, was great.

Scherzer was good and got better in the second half. Bonderman was good in the first half, but struggled in the second half.

Porcello was bad in the first half, but came around in the second half. And despite the famous should-have-been-perfect-game, Galarraga was no revelation: he was a solid #5 starter, but hardly more than that.

Unfortunately, Porcello and Bonderman, overall, also pitched like #5 starters, and this staff’s rating of C+ seems just about right – One stellar pitcher, one very good pitcher, and 3 below-average pitchers, gives you a tad above average.

Porcello is the baby: he was only 21 last year, and if he doesn’t break your heart, he could be a mainstay in MLB for many years. On the other hand, he pitched fewer innings, added a run to his ERA, and went from ERA+ 115 to ERA+ 85 so you have to worry a bit.

Scherzer is four years older, but HE had a great year. He threw nearly 200 innings, had an ERA+ of 120, and earned 3.3 bWAR (compared to the past two years of 1.1 and 1.2. He strikes out a ton of batters (8.5/9) as compared to Porcello (4.6) and is the one I would bet on first.

Galarraga was traded, but the rest of these guys will be back for another go around in 2011. Well, not Willis, but who cares?

Relievers 63/416 C+, 1st Half 57/231 B, 2nd Half 6/185 D

Reliever G IP ERA Val Gr G Val Gr G Val Gr
Phil Coke 73 64.2 3.76 13 C+ 42 10 B 31 3 C-
Jose Valverde 60 63.0 3.00 25 A+ 39 30 A+ 21 -5 F
Ryan Perry 60 62.2 3.59 15 B+ 28 1 D 32 14 A+
Brad Thomas 47 69.1 3.89 9 B- 20 5 B+ 27 4 C
Eddie Bonine 46 68.0 4.63 4 C- 29 10 A 17 -6 F
Joel Zumaya 31 38.1 2.58 12 A+ 31 12 A+ 0 0
Robbie Weinhardt 28 29.1 6.14 -9 F 3 1 A 25 -10 F
Fu-Te Ni 22 23.0 6.65 -10 F 22 -10 F 0 0
Enrique Gonzalez 18 26.0 3.81 3 C+ 8 4 A+ 10 -1 F
Daniel Schlereth 18 18.2 2.89 7 A+ 3 -1 F 15 8 A+
Alfredo Figaro 7 14.2 6.75 -1 F 1 -3 F 6 2 A
Casey Fien 2 2.2 10.13 -2 F 1 1 A+ 1 -3 F
Jeremy Bonderman 1 171.0 5.53 1 A+ 1 1 A+ 0 0
Armando Galarraga 1 144.1 4.49 1 A+ 1 1 A+ 0 0
Dontrelle Willis 1 43.1 4.98 -2 F 1 -2 F 0 0
Jay Sborz 1 0.2 67.50 -3 F 1 -3 F 0 0

As you can see, the Tigers achieved their more-or-less-the-same first and second halves, excluding the luck, in very different ways: In the first half, the starting pitching was worse, but the relief pitching was much better. In fact, it makes you wonder what might have been, if fireballer Joel Zumaya had not gone down midyear with a season-ending injury.

Of course, Valverde fell off the table, too, and it wasn’t from overwork: he pitched less because 1) he was less effective and 2) the Tigers did not have that many games to close. In fact, to get him more innings late in the year he pitched in the 8th inning 6 times after July 30th, but only ONCE (June 28th) before that.

The Tigers bullpen was, for much of the year, a work in progress. Zumaya went down in June, Ni was sent down in June, they tried Weinhardt and Schlereth (but they couldn’t SPELL them) – Schlereth was shaky when first up but he got better and better, and is only 24. Weinhardt is also 24, but never really got untracked. Gonzalez was there June to August, I assume he got hurt and was shut down. Figaro was a late season callup.

Interestingly, of the relievers on this list, only Bonine, Fien and Sborz (speaking of not being able to spell, OR pronounce) are gone; the rest are back. And only Valverde and Thomas are over 30, or will be next year. The Tigers in 2010 had only 132 1/3 IP by pitchers 30 or over, pretty amazing for any team, let alone one that hoped to contend, and did, in fact, contend for much of the year.

On to 2011

As well as I can determine, the 2011 Tiger roster looks like this:

Alex Avila C 24 Pre-arb
Victor Martinez C-DH 32 $12M
Miguel Cabrera 1B 28 $11.3M
Carlos Guillen 2B 35 $13M
Jhonny Peralta SS 29 $5.25M
Brandon Inge 3B 34 $5.5M
Ramon Santiago UT 31 $1.25M
Will Rhymes UT 28 Pre-arb
Ryan Raburn LF 30 $1.3M
Austin Jackson CF 24 Pre-arb
Maglio Ordonez RF 37 $10M
Brennan Boesch OF 26 Pre-arb
Don Kelly OF 31 Pre-arb
Justin Verlander SP 28 $12.75M
Max Scherzer SP 26 Pre-arb
Rick Porcello SP 22 $1.536M
Brad Penny SP 33 $3M
Phil Coke SP 28 Pre-arb
Jose Valverde CL 33 $7M
Joaquin Benoit RP 31 $5.5M
Joel Zumaya RP 26 $1.4M
Ryan Perry RP 24 Pre-arb
Daniel Schlereth RP 25 Pre-arb
Brad Thomas RP 33 $1M

The big signings in the offseason include Victor Martinez (4/$50M) to DH, backup catcher and first base, Magglio Ordonez (1/$10M) for another year in right field, Joaquin Benoit (3/$16.5M) to shore up the bullpen, Brad Penny (1/$3M) to fill a rotation spot, Brandon Inge (2/$11.5) to continue at third, Jhonny Peralta (2/$11.25M) to stay on at second. That’s a lot of signings. It appears that the Tigers are going for it.

How well it will work depends on what you think of some of the individual players. Here is the probably opening day starting nine:

2011 2010 Player
Alex Avila C 1.0 0.5
Miguel Cabrera 1B 6.0 6.9
Carlos Guillen 2B 0.8 1.3 Rhymes
Jhonny Peralta SS 2.5 2.0 Santiago
Brandon Inge 3B 1.7 2.5
Ryan Raburn LF 1.7 2.1
Austin Jackson CF 2.5 2.5
Maglio Ordonez RF 1.2 2.0
Victor Martinez DH 3.4 1.6 Damon

Despite all the signing, this doesn’t look like an upgrade, at all. The totals come out 2010 21.4, 2011 20.8 – it’s a wash. Unlike many teams, though, if you just take the 2010 bWAR for the players named, you get an additional 3 wins – you don’t have to play the “best of the last 3” game to get a good reading. Cabrera is better, Martinez is better, Peralta is better, Ordonez is better.

So the question is this: does 2010 represent the norm for these players, or were they over their heads and they will regress to the mean. My projections assume the latter, but I suppose you can make a case for the former. The fact is that if 1) the old guys stay healthy (Martinez, Ordonez, Guillen) and 2) their skills don’t erode, the Tiger offense COULD be several games ahead of where it was last year.

Rotation

Brad Penny earned 5.9 bWAR in 2007 as the surprise ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers. His next best season was the previous year, also with LA, at 2.9. His last 3 years have been 0.1, 1.1, 0.6, so I don’t expect him to be worth much, about what Bonderman would do. Is he hurt? I don’t see Jeremy Bonderman on any of the depth charts, but he IS listed on espn.com as still being a Tiger. Cot’s has no contract for him – was he non-tendered? Does anyone know? Apparently he is a free agent, and espn just has it wrong. Anyway, I don’t see Penny as an upgrade, at all.

Verlander shows no signs that he is slowing down, or that the league is catching up to him. He earned 4.2 bWAR last year, and projects to be even better this year (4.6). More than ½ the 100 mph fastballs thrown in the majors this season were thrown by him.

Scherzer I have already covered – he is young and not truly proven, but seems a reasonable bet to approach the 3.3 bWAR he earned last year, though as it is his first big year, the projection has him regressing (2.5).

Porcello is still very young, and bWAR sees his 2010 as worthless (0.1) after a 2.5 in 2009, so you would expect some bounce from him, projected as 1.0.

And the Tigers have, apparently, decided to convert Phil Coke to starting. He was a starter in the Yankee system, peaking at 135 IP in 2008 between AA and AAA so this is not an entirely crazy idea. He has been a lefty specialist, and indeed his career OPS-against is 697 vs. righties and 617 vs. lefties. Still, both numbers are good. Where it is dramatic is in the strikeout and walk data: in almost identical numbers of PAs he has struck out 73 lefties and only 43 righties, while walking 34 righties and only 14 lefties. This suggests (to me) that as a starter (when he will face 85-90% righties) his numbers may not hold up.

So I see the rotation as treading water, or sliding back a couple of games.

Bullpen

Jose Valverde as a closer is OK, but not fantastic, and he will be 33 in 2011. Since 2010 was not a great year for him, though, he projects slightly better than the 1.2 bWAR he earned (1.4).

Joaquin Benoit pulled a Carl Pavano, and parlayed his only good year into a 3-year high-priced contract. The question is did his 2009 surgery help or hurt him? If 2010 is to be believed, it helped a TON. His bWAR in 2008 was -0.3, and he didn’t pitch anywhere in 2009. So projecting him to duplicate or improve on his 2.4 last year seems a gamble, let alone 3 years.

Joel Zumaya was pitching great when he went down in mid-year, and he is only 26. The concern is his durability: since he had the big year (in Detroit’s big year) in 2006, he has accumulated only 126 innings in the subsequent 4 years, with last year at 38 1/3 being the most. Of his career 4.4 bWAR, 3.4 were earned in that rookie year.

Brad Thomas, Ryan Perry, Daniel Schlereth – it is likely that ONE of them will have a good year, probably one of the young guys (instead of Thomas) but you have to pitch them all to figure out which one.

And losing Coke from the bullpen will not help.

I expect the Tiger pen to be worse in 2011.

Summary

So what do we have: a slightly improved offense, a slightly weaker rotation, a worse bullpen – I think the Tigers will slip a few games from their 81-81 season, and finish somewhere around 77-85. For a team that is “going for it” I expect this season will be a huge disappointment.

And they spent some serious money to try it, as well – Victor Martinez is going to be here for a while, Verlander is signed for better or worse, etc.

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