Luke Waltons Forehead presented by the Sports Dude.

Monday, April 03, 2006 at 10:01 AM

Tiger Talk.

Opening Day is here folks, so who’s your Tiger? Sorry for the silly beginning, but that damn add campaign has always bothered me, to tell you the truth. Something that just seems a little too cheesy or phony about it for me to “pick a Tiger”, but opening day is here so I guess let the games begin.

The Lineup:

A mix of old, new and somewhere in between the key to this lineup is one magic little word – HEALTH!!!! If healthy this lineup can produce with the best of them, make no mistake about it. The key will be if Guillen and Maggs can stay healthy and productive for an entire season and if Pudge and Young can stop pouting long enough to play ball. Granderson also needs to make a mark, the first time a youngster has had a key role in the batting order in a long time, I don’t even remember the last time a youngster was counted on in the Tigers lineup, and can any of you? Here is a quick peak at the batting order come this afternoon:

Granderson – CF
Polanco – 2B
Pudge – C
Maggs – RF
Young – DH
Guillen – SS
Monroe – LF
Shelton – 1B
Inge – 3B

The Starters:

Can Bonderman finally emerge as the ace? Will Verlander really be a rookie of the year candidate? Will Rogers hold up or bust out? What about Maroth and Robertson? The wild card to me is Robertson, I think if he falters he will be the first to be replaced in the starting rotation and I feel the rest will fair okay. I think that Maroth will benefit the most from having Rogers there everyday and Verlander will be about a .500 pitcher with flashes of brilliance and flashes of rookie growing pains. I think Bonderman will have another year in which he grows and as much as I like him I think Robertson will be replaced by the All-Star break either by Colon or Grilli. I think this is, however, the strongest starting rotation the Tigers have had in quite awhile and I think for the first time in years the lineup and its health is more of a wild card than the starting pitching.

The bullpen:

If you ask me Todd Jones was a nice signing and him and Joel Zumaya should become best friends, something tells me that young cat is the “closer of the future” the Tigers have been looking for. Beside that is there really anything else that needs to be said about the bullpen? I think not, it is just your typical bullpen, some long relievers, Jaime Walker as the “lefty specialist” and not really too much more to add.

The Leyland Factor:

Look, I like everything that the man is preaching and teaching and saying, but the thing is he is still saying all the things Tram used to say… “Little ball wins games.” He preaches the sacrifices with runners at second and one out, he preaches defense, he preaches passion and accountability, all the things Tram was pounding each spring. The difference? He is a veteran manager and the players respect that more coming from him than they did from Tram and nothing more. I do not doubt that his experience may win us a couple games that Tram may have lost, but I will always say Tram was put in an unfair position before he was ready. For Tram the best thing would have been to start in the minors, just like Leyland did, and then work your way up the ranks. Tram will get a chance again, but now it is Leyland’s turn to right the ship that has been sinking for 12 straight years now.

The prediction:

Not one to make too many bold predictions for the Tigers, it is not my cup of tea like basketball, but I think this team will finish third in the Central behind the Indians (division winners) and the White Sox. But the biggest sign of progress is they will keep it close, play competitive and meaningful ball longer than usual and yes folks, finish a few games over .500.

That is it, check back later when I post about what I really wanted to talk about today, Joe D. getting in the Hall of Fame and that amazing win that the Pistons had yesterday. Until then keep eating your veggies and be thankful that baseball is back in the D! The sports dude.

Blogger Ian C. said...

I'll take "Who's Your Tiger?" any day over that awful ad campaign the Tigers ran for Leyland in the offseason. Those looked like bad political ads.

And I agree with you about Robertson. For whatever reason, his play has taken a noticeable slide the last two years.

I also wonder if the Todd Jones could be a blessing in disguise for the Tigers, giving save chances to guys like Rodney, and maybe Zumaya.

I picked 85 wins for the Tigers on my blog, which is probably too high. I think they'll finish over .500, though the rest of the division scares me, and could keep the Tigers at the 75-80 win mark.  

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Blogger Leelanau Sports Guy said...

I agree Ian, I think Rodney will benefit from Jones being out. The Tigers can get by without Jones with the early season schedule, but it will be nice to have him back asap.

I echo your statements Sports Dude, it all comes down to health.  

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