As Dave C. noted we are getting to the teams that have a shot at sneaking into the playoffs if a number of things break their way. The Tigers are such a team. With their talent, and with the benefit of playing in the AL Central, they have a non-negligible chance at post-season play. That is not say they should be considered the favorites in their division. In fact, most projection systems see them as a sub-80 win team and the third best, if not worse, team in the division.
On the position player side they have one true superstar in Miguel Cabrera, who, at 26, is an amazing player — producing five-plus-win seasons in four of the past five years. After that, though, the position player talent on the team is relatively poor. CHONE sees Johnny Damon as the best position player after Cabrera, which is not a ringing endorsement. Joining Damon on the wrong side of thirty in the Tigers’ starting lineup are Gerald Laird, Brandon Inge, Adam Everett, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen. These five guys, over half of the Tigers’ starting lineup, are not only declining but probably at best slightly above-average and, more likely, slightly below-average starters.
The starting lineup rounds out with two guys who have never had major league at-bats, Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore. It is nice to have this young, cost-controlled talent, but that is for the next post on future talent; here, we are looking at current talent and, again, these guys are probably below-average major leaguers at this point. On a positive note, the Tigers have a solid fourth outfielder in Ryan Raburn, which is important with Damon and Ordonez in the starting lineup.
The rotation is probably a little better. Justin Verlander broke out in a big way last year and is a legitimate number-one starter. After that, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello are talented young pitchers who would be assets in most rotations. But each is not without concerns, Scherzer for his health and Porcello for the likelihood of BABIP-based regression. And although only the best teams can boast good pitchers one-to-five, the bottom two-fifths of the Tigers’s rotation — two of Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson and Eddie Bonine — seems particularly suspect.
There is talent on the team for sure — Verlander and Cabrera are superstars — but the supporting cast has too many below-average players. The position players particularly are a mix of guys either whose peaks are a little too far off in the future or too far removed in the past — or guys who never had much a peak to begin with. As I said at the beginning, it is a team that should win around 80 games and will only make the playoffs if things break right.
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