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Detroit Tigers 2009 Season Preview

*From Protect the Plate

After a busy offseason spent making upgrades to the offense, many experts had the Tigers as the team to beat in the American League in 2008.

While the team scored plenty of runs, its pitching staff fell apart. The end result was a last-place finish in the AL Central.

The question marks still surround their pitching staff, but the Tigers are hoping their lineup can power them back into contention in 2009.

Pitching woes

The Tigers had the best ERA (3.84) in all of baseball when they went to the World Series in 2006.

Last year, the team's ERA ballooned to 4.90, ranking 27th in all of Major League Baseball.

Ace hurler Justin Verlander saw his ERA increase by over a run (from 3.66 to 4.84), and lost as many games in 33 starts (17) than he had in the first 64 starts of his career.

Jeremy Bonderman, meanwhile, pitched just 71 2/3 innings, Dontrelle Willis added just 24 innings, and Nate Robertson had a 6.35 ERA.

On the bright side, Armando Galarraga was 13-7 with a 3.73 ERA, and 14-game winner Edwin Jackson was acquired from Tampa Bay.


Impressive dddition

After a slow start to his first season in Detroit, Miguel Cabrera ended up having a career year in 2008. He hit 11 home runs in his first 81 games and 26 homers in his final 79.

After switching leagues and even switching positions, Cabrera ended the season as the AL home run champ, slugging 37 long balls, while driving in a career-high 127 runs.

Closer in question

While new addition Brandon Lyon is penciled in as the closer to start the year, Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya are also expected to compete for the role.

Lyon had 19 saves and a 2.43 ERA before the All-Star break last year and managed just seven saves and an 8.46 ERA after the break.

Rodney saved 13 games for Detroit last year, but also tallied an underwhelming 4.91 ERA and 1.59 WHIP.

Everyone knows about Zumaya's stuff, but he's managed to pitch just 57 innings over the past two seasons.


More movement

Manager Jim Leyland had his players rotating all around the field last season.

Cabrera moved from third to first, Carlos Guillen switched from shortstop to third, and Brandon Inge saw action behind the plate for the first time in three years.

This year, Guillen will start the year in left field and Inge will move back to third base.

The team will also have newcomers at catcher (Gerald Laird) and shortstop (Adam Everett).


What's wrong with this picture?

Take a look at the offensive numbers of future Hall of Famer Gary Sheffield and perennial reserve Marcus Thames last season:

Sheffield: .225 average, 19 HR, 57 RBI, .725 OPS in 418 at-bats
Thames: .241 average, 25 HR, 56 RBI, .808 OPS in 316 at-bats

Sheffield is convinced that he's primed for a huge season, but at age 40, expect him to suffer trough another injury-plagued season.

Thames, however, has a .498 career slugging percentage and would hit 34 homers if given 500 at-bats (based on his career numbers).


Other notes

  • Curtis Granderson has dropped his strikeout totals by at least 30 in each of the past two seasons (from 174 in 2006 to 141 in 2007 to 111 in 2008).
  • Magglio Ordonez had his third-straight season with over 20 homers and 100 RBI.
  • In three and a half seasons in Detroit, Placido Polanco has hit .319, and is a career .306 hitter.
  • The Tigers ranked second in the AL in homers (200), fourth in runs (821), but dead last in stolen bases (63) last season.
  • The only pitching staff to issue more walks that Detroit's was Baltimore's.


Best of the American League
Tampa Bay
Los Angeles
Total votes: 270

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