Why the Tigers Won’t Win the Division in 2011

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4.  The back end of the rotation is really no better than it was last year.  Enthusiasm here needs to be curbed.  Brad Penny has talent, but he’s only averaged 1.1 WAR and about 100 innings over the past 3 years.  His career ERA is over 4, and it’s almost all come in the offensively challenged National League.  His only (partial) season in the AL was, not coincidentally, his worst.  Marcel the Monkey projects him to make only 18 starts and give us a 4.33 ERA in 2011.  Is that really so much better than the 4.41 projected for (the usually healthy) Armando Galarraga?  Bonderman was awful last year, but Phil Coke doesn’t exactly look like top-of-the-rotation material.  He could very well succeed, but personally I expect him to be about as good of a starter as C.J. Nitkowski was.  Starting is a lot harder than relieving, it usually adds close to a full run to ERA.  Coke was quite decent against righties last year, inspiring Tigers brass to give him this shot at the rotation – but he had never had decent splits before.  Is this improvement in his changeup  something we can bank on?  I really don’t know.  I can tell you one thing for sure, though… he’s going to be seeing a lot of righties this year.  Either or both of these guys could collapse completely, bringing us to…

5. Tigers bloggers can’t count to five, so we go directly to…

6.  Especially weak 6th and 7th starters.  This is a problem that the Twins and White Sox simply do not have.  Do you think anyone will cringe to see Brian Duensing or Chris Sale take the mound?  Well, we Tigers fans might but no one in Minnesota or the Windy City will.  How about Brad Thomas?  Makes me a little queasy, I can tell you that.  Armando Galarraga was our 6th starter entering 2010, he wound up making 24 starts.  Do you like our odds if we get 24 starts from Charles Furbush?

7.  A lineup that’s aging, injury-prone and shallow.  Defensive issues aside, the Tigers should be able to score a decent number of runs in 2011… if they can stay healthy.  In my personal opinion, we got used to the idea that players in their thirties can stay in the lineup and maintain a high level of play – just like 25-year-olds can – during the steroid era.  Players weren’t just juicing to get big, they were juicing to recover from those aches and pains that start to nag on older players.  We have a new normal, and it’s the same as the old normal – the normal that saw DiMaggio retire at 36, and a whole host of superstars give 80% of their career WAR before the age of 30.  Ordonez will be 37, Guillen 35, Inge 34, Martinez 32.  None of these guys are great bets to play 150 games, and what is potentially worse – they may play a lot of games in pain. Of course Detroit isn’t the only team that has key players on the wrong side of the hill.  It’s a big problem because of the lack of depth.  We don’t have top-tier talent waiting in the wings like some teams do.  If the Yankees have an injury to Posada or Martin, they get Jesus Montero.  Who do we call up if Martinez goes down?  Honestly, if you know please tell me.  Likely replacements run from all-glove-no-bat (Santiago, Worth, etc…) to no-glove-probably-no-bat (Sizemore, Boesch).  Anything above replacement level that we get from any of them is, as far as I’m concerned, an unexpected bonus.