April 01, 2012; Port St Lucie, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder (28) hits a home run during the fourth inning of the spring training game against the New York Mets at Digital Domain Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

Prelude to a Season

After what feels like a long and tedious offseason, and a month + of Spring Training baseball we have finally come to what all baseball fans have been waiting for:

Opening Day is tomorrow. And never a moment too soon.

So what can we expect from this season’s version of the Detroit Tigers?

Well, offense shouldn’t be an issue (even with Brandon Inge on the roster). The offseason brought in one big name, with that being Prince Fielder. His presence on the roster of course was brought on after Victor Martinez‘s knee exploded during an offseason workout (okay it didn’t really explode). Fielder has already shown this spring his absolute power at the plate with a few majestic home runs, which provides ample protection for the guy hitting in front of him, one Miguel Cabrera. My thoughts have also been with Austin Jackson, and the hope that he won’t be the windmill that he was last season, thus getting on base more. A healthy Brennan Boesch for the whole season would also be lovely, as he was having a rather serviceable season until his thumb gave out on him. And here’s hoping there isn’t a ton of regression on this team, namely from Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta, because if they can shadow their 2011 selves, this will be a fun team to watch score a pile of runs.

Of course, a pile of runs might be absolutely necessary, as defense will be at a premium. While Cabrera was improving his play at first base, his talents have shifted to the hot corner, a name that is fitting as Miggy tried catching a Hunter Pence hot shot with his face. Fielder at first base isn’t a defensive upgrade either, and it appears that Ryan Raburn will get some time at second base. Outside of Jackson’s slightly above average defense in center field, the corner spots are somewhat questionable, especially if the Tigers don’t hide Delmon Young‘s glove like I have suggested this offseason (okay, I’ve really wanted it burned). Andy Dirks showed me a reasonably good arm out in right field, but ultimately it’s going to be all about Austin Jackson covering more ground, and hopefully taking a few chances on some of those gappers that hang up in the air (you know, maybe dive for one of those balls).

But this team wasn’t put together to play sound defense, it was put together to win right now. The pitching should be a staple, with staff ace, Cy Young AND MVP winner (all that is fun to say) Justin Verlander doing what he does, Doug Fister hopefully showing us this season what he did down the stretch last season when the Tigers acquired him from Seattle. The wild-cards of the rotation are definitely Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, and the one lefty in the bunch, Drew Smyly thrown in the mix. The Tigers added Ocatavio Dotel in the offseason to shore up 7th inning duties, setting up Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde, who didn’t blow a single save last season. Now, it’d be moderately silly to assume that Papa Grande could pull that feat off again this season, but in the end the bullpen should be solid, and the rotation should be more than plenty useful to help manage most Tiger victories. And with all the talk of having a quality 5th starter in the rotation, my thought is, who needs it? Name one team in baseball who has a solid number 5…

Aside from the expectations, all I care to predict is a fun and enjoyable season of Tigers baseball. Sure, there will be times of agony, but should everyone’s health stay in tact it’ll be a division win for the ball club. Will this team win the World Series? I don’t know. Nor do I care to speculate on it. But they came close last year, and that brings hope to a legion of hungry Tigers fans. Get ready for the first pitch folks, it should be a fun ride.

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