Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Tigers Win!

A belated but excited post about the Tigers' excellent Opening Day victory. Of course, slid into the article is the reference to Kansas City as a team expected to be one of the league's worst, with the implication that Tigers fans shouldn't get too excited. I agree to some extent: obviously steamrolling Kansas City doesn't make them a juggernaut. On the other hand, after the string of horrible beginnings to seasons that Tigers fans have had to endure lately (0-9 in 2003 and 0-11 in 2002, anyone?), a second good start in a row after 2004 would definitely be nice.

But will the Tigers be any good this year? My prediction is that they will be right around .500. They finished 72-90 last year (after the mind-melting 43-119 2003 season), so they would only need to win 9 more games to hit break-even. My reasoning is as follows. First, I keep hearing critiques of their starting pitching on local radio. After Bonderman, it is questionable, but no worse than last year when they began the year trotting out Gary Knotts and Nate Cornejo as their fourth and fifth starters. They've basically added Wil Ledezma and Nate Robertson since the beginning of last year (Added to this is the fact that Mike Ilitch has stated publicly that he will add salary in the form of a starting pitcher if the Tigs are contending around the trade deadline. In a fairly even Central division around .500 will most likely be "contending"). Next, their bullpen, which was the cause of many of their close losses, is far better with Percival closing, Urbina setting up, and Farnsworth as the seventh inning guy. They should hold leads in games that would have been losses last year. Finally, everyone focuses on the addition of Magglio Ordonez, which was big, but what gets forgotten sometimes is that Pena and Monroe really began to break out at the end of last year. Those two combined with the improving Inge could lead to exceptionally deep lineup.

With all these pluses, I'm still not predicting anything huge, mainly because there almost certainly will be some injuries, and the Tigers just aren't deep yet. But with the development of their young guys and the additions of Percival and Ordonez, they really are on their way from recovering from the wasteland that Randy Smith left Detroit. Dave Dombrowski really is a miracle-worker.


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