And some excerpts:
The Tigers have the misfortune of playing in baseball's toughest division — the world champion White Sox, hard-charging Indians and always-competitive Twins are all divisional label-mates. They're also all better on paper than the Tigers. However, given a few breaks and a handful of canny in-season moves, the Tigers could find themselves in contention much later in the year than you might think.
The team's strength will be the offense. This might seem like a strange assertion considering that Detroit ranked only 11th in the AL in runs scored last season. However, things figure to be different in 2006. First, they'll have full seasons of Placido Polanco at second (instead of a half-year of the vastly inferior Omar Infante), Chris Shelton at first (instead of a half-year of the vastly inferior Carlos Pena) and Curtis Granderson in center (instead of more than a half-year of the vastly inferior Nook Logan). Those are three substantial improvements
Overall, while the Tigers won't have a certifiable MVP candidate on the roster, they do have a shot at being above average at every position. That's a rare feat
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? I never stopped crabbing long enough to realize the possibilities of the Tiger O this season. How much better can Shelton, Granderson, Maggs, and Pudge be this year? Has Monroe plained out, or can he improve? Should Guillen stay healthy all season...Well, you can see how much improvement is there to be had. Individually not a one player improving can be called a reach, but for as many to improve as will be needed is certainly a stretch.
Perry then goes on to speculate on the pitching:
The rotation figures to be solid — Kenny Rogers will be an adequate number one, Jeremy Bonderman should continue his skills growth, Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson are credible back-of-the-rotation guys, and Justin Verlander is one of the five best pitching prospects in the game — but the bullpen outlook is less certain. The Tigers did sign Todd Jones to be their closer, but Jones is ripe for a serious regression to the mean. Jones was outstanding last season (73 innings, 2.10 ERA), but he posted his first sub-4.00 ERA since 2000. New level of performance or fluke? Considering Jones will be 38 in late April, it's highly unlikely he's cultivated new abilities
Wow. If the young guys can improve a bit and the geezers can hold back the hands of time, the Tigers should stay in most games. Since we're being optimistic, with the improved hitting the Tigers should mean that more of those games will go our way. Funny how quickly things can turn, the bullpen that was seen as a strength entering last season is now looked upon as a real question mark.
So what do you guys think? Are the Tigers a dark horse? Are you in or out?