Why the Tigers Won't Win the Division in 2011

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‘Tis the season for optimism.  Spring training has begun, and for the next month you’re going to be hearing a lot of people saying a lot of good things about the Tigers chances this season.  Tigerdog1 over at Bless You Boys thinks they’ll win the division this year, and he’s certainly not the only one making that claim.  I’m here to be the pessimist, to play devil’s advocate, and to deflate everyone’s hopes and dreams.  If you want to remain blissfully ignorant of the Tigers’ failings and continue to dream of a hundred victories, read no further.

Allow me to clarify:  I am a Tigers fan.  A huge Tigers fan.  When Detroit gets kept out of the playoffs because the umpire fails to call a hit-by-pitch on Brandon Inge, I start throwing things and screaming at the TV.  Just like everyone else.  I want the Tigers to win the division.  I just don’t think I was born with that optimism gene.

Without further ado, the 10 reasons to lower your expectations for 2011:

1.  Miguel Cabrera is due for a regression.  This isn’t in any way related to his recent incident with the Port Saint Lucie PD, but Cabrera gave the Tigers about two more WAR last year than he averaged in his first two seasons with Detroit.  Last year Cabrera set career highs in his walk rate and isolated power and a career low in his strikeout rate.  He’s not aging, he’s not injury-prone, but it’s never a good idea to expect that a career year has defined a new baseline for a player.

2.  Austin Jackson simply can’t keep this up.  We’ve discussed his sky-high BABIP a great deal already, and there is no need to beat a dead horse, but no-one is likely to have a BABIP 90 points above league average in consecutive seasons.  If Jackson only gives us a BABIP 40 points above average, we are stuck with a number 8 hitter leading off (and getting more plate appearances than anyone else on the team), basically the situation we had for the decade before Granderson arrived.

3.  The defense is going to be atrocious.  I’ve mentioned before that fangraphs and baseball-reference have opposing views of Austin Jackson‘s defensive contributions, and I still have no idea why, but they are in complete agreement about the Tigers defense overall in 2010.  It was good.  By fangraphs methods, the Tigers saved 17 runs more than average – according to baseball-reference 19 more.  The problem?  All of that came from Don Kelly and Ramon Santiago, both of whom are likely to see substantially reduced playing time in 2011.  Take them away, and we’re below average already.  We’re going to get a full season of Jhonny Peralta, and lots of Carlos Guillen & Scott Sizemore at second.  Rhymes and Worth are acceptable with the glove, but bats are going to get the starts.  Gerald Laird couldn’t hit a lick, but he was pretty good defensively.  All those innings he logged last year will be going to the defensively suspect duo of Alex Avila and Victor Martinez.  The Tigers defense is probably two wins worse than what we saw last year.

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Tags: Austin Jackson Charlie Furbush Chicago White Sox Detroit Tigers Joaquin Benoit Jose Valverde Magglio Ordonez Miguel Cabrera Minnesota Twins Pessimism Phil Coke Victor Martinez

  • jayrc

    Wow, who killed your dog?
    Seriously man that’s quite negative.
    I’m pumped up and excited about our chances. I would attempt to reply to about six or seven of the top ten but I’m honestly to tired right now.
    I hope the negativity isn’t going to be a regular theme.

    • poolagoo

      Honesty! Refreshing! I am in the same boat as you, I love the Tigers but I can’t see why so many people are so high on them. Given his age, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see Valverde continue his 2nd half slide. Then you put Benoit into the closer role and hope he comes close to repeating a career year and hope Zumaya is healthy, something he hasn’t been for what 3-4 years? Perry and Schlereth can’t be relied on yet. The only thing in the rotation you can count on is Verlander, Scherzer looks real but he has yet to put it together for a full season and Porcello/Coke/Penny are all huge ? to me right now.Austin Jackson is about as overrated as it gets.
      We’ll see. My prediction is 75 – 87 and 3rd place in the division.

      • Chris Hannum

        Even I’m not that negative, I would be more inclined to predict 85-77 – but still 7 games out of first. I’d give odds on first of 15%, Which all things considered isn’t too shabby – for a team that finished at precisely .500 last year. But we’re still a dark horse, and not the favorite.

  • http://motorcitybengals.com John Parent

    Everything you’ve said here is very, very possible, Chris. The Tigers do need a lot to go right for them to win the division. I think we all know and have thought about what could go wrong, but with the new season upon us, it’s more fun to focus on the positives. There will be plenty of time to stew bout the shortcomings once those become apparent during the season.

  • Bob

    If just half of the possible 10 scenarios come to fruition, it could be a long season indeed. I don’t for a moment believe that Zumaya will last the season, and despite DD’s protestations to the contrary, Leyland regularly gets out managed by the opposition. Inge, Peralta, and Rayburn is an extremely average left side. Everything has to fall in place for this team to contend, and that rarely happens.

    • Chris Hannum

      Well, half of those things DID go wrong last year (injuries to Zumaya, Guillen, Ordonez, implosion by Ni, woeful inadequacy from Bonderman & Willis) and we still finished with 81 wins. Things still looked pretty good until the end of July, we finished 13 games out of first but I wouldn’t honestly say it was a ‘long season’.

      I don’t think everything has to fall into place to contend, I just think everything has to fall into place to finish with 92 wins. I’m expecting the Tigers to at least be within sight of the lead for 5-6 months, and looking back at the grim old days that’s all I ever really wanted. Negativity aside, it is a wonderful thing that this team does not have a 3rd place ceiling.

  • rea

    The Tigers have an interesting team, there are 162 games to play, and anything can happen. Who could ask for more?

    Will this be the year that Will Rhymes leads the league in hitting? Perhaps not, but I guarantee you, at least one thing that improbable will happen in MLB this year, and perhaps more,

    Maybe you’re right, and they’ll suck, but I prefer to postpone the black despair of that realization until events force it upon me.

  • wilsonm24

    The most important reason the tigers won’t win the division…

    Our Bloggers don’t even know how to count…

    From 4 to 6…

    Just a little sad really.

    • Chris Hannum

      Indeed. I’ve made the correction you suggest. This does not bode well for the Tigers season at all.

      • wilsonm24

        Much appreciated…thanks!