Why the Tigers Won’t Win the Division in 2011
By Chris Hannum
8. Jim Leyland will bat Don Kelly third. And Danny Worth second. You know it’s true. I like Jim Leyland, and I think he does a lot of things right – especially off the field. Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel that his tactical decisions cost the team runs and games over the course of a season.
9. A bullpen far more suspect than Lynn Henning seems to think. Joel Zumaya may never be able to stay healthy, he simply throws so hard that he tears his arm to pieces. Literally. Jose Valverde did quite alright – on the whole – last year. But he gave us an 0.92 ERA in the first half last year and a 6.38 ERA in the second. It wasn’t just luck, either. I have no idea what went wrong for him, and I doubt you do either. How much money would you be willing to bet that he’s figured it out and fixed it since? Joaquin Benoit was a great addition, but he blew away his career bests in everything last year. The same thing I said for Cabrera goes double for Benoit, don’t assume that a career year sets a new baseline. I like Ryan Perry as much as the next guy, but last year’s success came with a low BABIP and a big drop in his strikeout rate. Neither of those sounds good looking toward 2011. Dombrowski didn’t sign any lefties to replace Coke so we’re left with walk king Daniel Schlereth and the very hittable Brad Thomas. It appears that we will be going without a genuine garbage man to replace Eddie Bonine. Bonine wasn’t exactly a big contributor, but if it’s Al Alburquerque or Robbie Weinhardt that suggests we’ll see a fair number of games where 6 or 7 relievers pitch. The bullpen wasn’t good enough to keep up with the competition and it doesn’t seem to have gotten enough better in the offseason.
10. The Twins and White Sox are both very good. This, especially, should not be forgotten by anyone who waxes poetic about the strength of our Detroit Tigers. The Twins scored more runs than any other team in the AL Central despite an off year by Joe Mauer and a serious injury to Justin Morneau. Their bullpen was the best in the AL Central despite getting zero innings from the best reliever in the AL Central. Joe Nathan is back, who cares if Matt Guerrier is gone? Expecting that the Twins bullpen is going to collapse is silly, every bit as silly as expecting a big offensive decline from the loss of J.J. Hardy. We trailed the Twins by 13 games last year. I don’t think we’ve made up that much ground. We finished 7 games behind the White Sox too, and they’ve matched our offseason improvements blow for blow. This isn’t a weak division up for the taking, and it should not be regarded as such.
If what you have read here makes you angry, that’s what our comments thread is for. Flame away, I’m looking forward to it. But if you feel like I’m attacking your Detroit Tigers, do remember that I’m attacking my Detroit Tigers too. I fervently hope that none of the things I’ve mentioned turn out to be real problems. I hope everything goes right for Detroit and nothing for the Twins (and Sox, of course). I hope age catches up with Jim Thome and Paul Konerko, but not Magglio Ordonez. I hope if Charles Furbush winds up in the rotation this year that he leads the majors in strikeouts like he led the minors last year. I hope Jackson’s batting average stays high and Cabrera actually does win the MVP he deserved. I just don’t think enough of these things are going to come to pass.