2009 Tigers preview, part 2

Projected starting lineup (Projected Avg/OBP/SLG from baseballprojection.com)

CF: Curtis Granderson (.276,.350,.474)
2B: Placido Polanco (.303,.350,406)
RF: Magglio Ordonez (.302,.368,.481)
1B: Miguel Cabrera (.314,.388,.553)
LF: Carlos Guillen (.288,.366,.447)
DH: Marcus Thames (.249,.314,.506)
C: Gerald Laird (.249,.308,.389)
3B: Brandon Inge (.233,.312,.392)
SS: Adam Everett (.238,.289,.331)

The hole in the bottom third of the lineup is going to be something the Tigers fight all season long. Dombrowski brought Gerald Laird and Adam Everett in for their defense, for obvious reasons, and should help out the pitching staff with their confidence, as well as shrinking the ERAs by actually catching and throwing the ball. But from an offensive standpoint, the Tigers will take a step back from their top five offense from last season. An offense which, by the way, should have been number 1 if not for an over-managing skipper constantly handcuffing them into one run innings. This lineup 1-5 should still be a force. And sitting at #6 is Marcus Thames who will get an everyday spot in the lineup for the first time, which should actually help those projected numbers get a little higher. This lineup works out well, if Thames can hit bombs and clear the bases so the bottom three of Laird, Inge, and Everett dont end up leaving the bases loaded every inning.

Defensively, the Tigers are strong up the middle. Laird is a solid catcher who will shut down the running game to a great extent. Polanco and Everett are gold-glove candidates every year, and should be able to make the difficult look routine all year long. Granderson in CF patrols the vast Comerica Park outfield as well as any outfielder we have ever seen. On the corners, Miguel Cabrera learned a lot last year about playing first base and has turned into a positive, and Brandon Inge is the best defensive 3B in the league. He has huge range and a rocket arm, and rounds out a Tiger infield that should rank in the top three in baseball. In the outfield, Ordonez has a rocket arm, but is losing a step in range, and Guillen is trying his third position in three years, and we have no idea what to expect from him out there.

The Tigers will be vastly improved defensively this year, and that will help out a pitching staff that will need them to turn batted balls into outs on a regular basis. They will take a step back offensively, but that's all right. We run Jim Leyland a lot crap for his in game decisions regarding bunting and playing small ball Ty Cobb era ball in a 3-run HR era. But no one can argue against his ability to put players in position to succeed. He has consistently done this wherever he has gone, and this lineup is no exception to that. Given that, this lineup gets a C for offense, and an A- for defense.

Prediction: With the questions on the mound, and the gaping hole at the bottom of the lineup, don't expect a return to the playoffs for this team. They will look great at times, but if the bats are quiet, they will struggle mightily, and will fial to make it back to .500 yet.

80-82, third in the AL Central.

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