Lynn Henning Drinking the Kool-Aid

It seems everyone is getting into the spirit of the upcoming baseball season. With the Detroit Tigers roaming all over Michigan during Day Two of the winter caravan, everyone is optimistic about their chances this year. Not one to be left behind, this afternoon, Lynn Henning came out and proclaimed the Tigers as his pick to win the AL Central in 2011.

Henning’s declaration is based upon his belief that the Tigers have the division’s best pitching staff. What’s more, he said they have the best starting rotation. Well, his words were “they have five starters who are more impressive than anything the Twins, or the White Sox, offer.” Sorry, Lynn, I just can’t get behind that one.

Sure, as a fan I’d like to say the Tigers are the team to beat. I’d like to say that there is no one who can match their arms with those in the Olde English D. It’s just that I’m not so sure that’s true. Minnesota possesses an ace in Francisco Liriano who has the ability to match Justin Verlander pitch for pitch in terms of effectiveness. Sure, he’s undergone Tommy John surgery which coast him a good two years, but prior to the injury he was tremendous and last season he showed he’s all the way back to where he was in 2006.

While I’d still take Verlander given the option, and I do believe that Max Scherzer is the best number two in the division, questions abound thereafter. Minnesota has many of the same questions facing their staff beyond Liriano and Carl Pavano, but Chicago has no holes in their starting five. the only real question is how Jake Peavy will rebound from yet another injury, and when he might be available to do so.

The White Sox have the steadiest left hander in baseball in Mark Buehrle, they have John Danks, who is in my opinion the most underrated southpaw in the game. They have Gavin Floyd, who has struggled at times, but has also had dominating seasons, and they have Edwin Jackson. All he did was handcuff the league in the season’s final two months last year.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have Rick Porcello who was very good as a rookie, then not-so-good a year later. They have Phil Coke, who has made exactly on start (1.2 innings on the season’s final day) since Double-A ball, and they have Brad Penny. penny has the potential, like the other Tiger starters, to be a very good hurler when healthy. But to say that Detroit has a better rotation that Chicago is being far more optimistic than I’m comfortable with.

Henning goes on to discuss the fireballing relievers employed in Motown. I agree that if all goes well, there shouldn’t be a ‘pen that can match these guys. But can Joel Zumaya finally put together a healthy season? Can Daniel Schlereth step into the void left by Coke’s departure from the bullpen? The Tigers might have more pure stuff among their relief corps than the other clubs, but again, Chicago won’t be far behind there either.

The White Sox won’t have Bobby Jenks this year, but they added Jesse Crain and Will Ohman to the mix. they still have Matt Thornton and Chris Sale from the left side and Sergio Santos from the right side. There’s no shortage of stuff there, folks.

If the Central comes down to pitching, the Tigers could have an advantage, if all goes according to plan. But that’s rarely the case. I’ll take Chicago’s staff as a whole, there’s fewer question marks. To be honest, the White Sox probably have a better offense as well. Adam Dunn will make a much bigger impact than people realize. US Cellular Field plays like a bandbox anyway, just wait ’til Dunn steps into the box there.

I do think Detroit will compete for the crown. I think that if everything goes right, this club has plenty enough talent to win the Central. But I also am wise enough to know that Chicago also has a very strong squad and that Minnesota has a beast of a lineup. They always seem to find enough pitching up there as well.

But I’m sorry, Lynn, I just haven’t had enough Kool-Aid to glaze over the obvious question marks that could easily cause Detroit’s season to fall short yet again.

Like what you see here and want to stay informed on the happenings at MCB? Make sure to follow us on Twitter, friend us on Facebook, or grab our RSS feed.

Next Tigers Game View full schedule »
Friday, Aug 2222 Aug7:10at Minnesota TwinsBuy Tickets

Tags: Adam Dunn Chicago White Sox Detroit Tigers Edwin Jackson Francisco Liriano Justin Verlander Lynn Henning Max Scherzer Minnesota Twins

  • opus 131

    I look at the teams that make it to the playoffs, and they rarely give away outs or runs. I look at us, and I see exactly one position–center field with Jackson–where we are clearly excellent. Maybe Avila will be a good catcher; we don’t know yet. Maybe Inge’s knees will hold up for another year. Everywhere else, we range from maybe decent (second base), to maybe average (first base), to pretty bad (shortstop; Maggs or Raburn or Boesch in the outfield). I will be very pleasantly surprised if this team is playing in October.

    • John Parent

      absolutely agree opus. The Tigers will struggle defensively at many positions. That’s just not gonna be a strength of this team. I think that’s why Penny was the target as a starter over Galarraga and over others like Francis or Chris Young. He’s more a strikeout guy than a groundballer.

  • Brian O’Mara-Croft

    I’m a White Sox fan, and I don’t think anyone can predict with any confidence who will win the AL Central this year. Each of the teams has its strengths and weaknesses, as well as its share of good and terrible games. It should be very interesting, but anyone who claims to have the answers before the season starts is too much of a “fan” to offer a realistic analysis. If anything, I think most would have to pick the Twins, since they seem to overperform while the Tigers and White Sox underperform.

    • Brian O’Mara-Croft

      …Having said all that, I think any fan hopes to hear their team has the raw material to win.

    • John Parent

      I think that’s what’s exciting about the central this year more than last season. All three clubs can make a legitimate case that they have the best chance to win. On paper, I favor the Sox; they look like the most complete team to me. But the Twins do seem to play over their heads and Chicago and Detroit have had times of underperforming. It should be a great race. Thanks for the comment.

  • Chris Hannum

    My pick is Detroit, because it is every year come rain or shine. Regardless, I am well aware that the Tigers’ rotation pales in comparison to the White Sox’. On paper, they’ve got the best 5 outside of Philadelphia.

  • Bob

    After all the bullshit that Henning has slung over far too many years, it’s impossible to take him seriously about anything. Henning epitomizes what’s wrong with almost all sports writing, he’s become too close to the management and players to remain objective. As for predictions, the Tigers will compete and should stay in the divisional race provided they stay healthy and replace Ryan Raburn in left with anyone else. Beyond that, who the hell really knows!

  • jimindewitt

    I feel better about the boys this January than I did LAST January. The 2010 / 2011 seasons kind of reminds me of 1971/1972 when they traded Denny McClain Don Wert, Elliot Maddux, and ??? For Aurelio Rodriguez, Eddie Brinkman, Joe Coleman and Jim Hannan. Hannan wasn’t even with the team when they left Florida but Coleman, Brinkman, and Rodriguez became mainstays on the team and one year after their arrival helped the remaining 68ers have Detroit’s first shot at the playoffs.

    Will this be the same? Actually I think it might be. Scherzer found his way and harnessed his fastball becoming THE number 2 starter. Austin Jackson was the American League Rookie of the Year and Phil Coke was THE lefthanded relief specialist. His move to the rotation is a little concerning but Sclereth should fill in adequately and Coke might just thrive as a starter.

    Jackson SHOULD add power and cut down on strikeouts in his sophmore season. Ordonez should have a last hurrah season in Detroit, and Verlander WILL win the Cy Young one of these years. If Zumaya can stay healthy the bullpen could be one of the best in the game.

    Second base scares me. As does the way Valverde faltered in the second half. Couple that with the uncertainty in left field (Raburn/Boesch/Wells)and the question as to if Jhonny Parraltas is the answer at short and there are alot of “IF’s”.

    But Victor Martinez is a welcome addition and I suspect that Avilla will come back strong.

    Not having Geralld Laird make 150 third outs of an inning HAS to get us 20 more wins. I don’t know if that was the REAL number but it seemed like he was a giant rally killer.

    Twenty more wins than last year puts the Tigers at 101

    And that SHOULD do it.

    • John Parent

      I agree with you, by and large. especially the 101 win part. that should be enough. But seriously, I don’t think the positive impact of removing Gerald Laird from the lineup can be overstated. Of course, Avila wasn’t very good either, but at least you got the sense that he COULD do something positive. If Avila has even a decent year at the plate, the Tigers will be in a much better position to compete than last year. And I think he will.