Alright, this is the time of year where I usually make a fool out of myself by making predictions that ultimately look, well, foolish. Last year I predicted the Tigers would win 84 games. Enough said.
In my Tiger preview over at the Hardball Times, I already laid out where I think the Tigers will end up. I see them finishing in fourth place with 79 wins. Here’s a few additional Tiger predictions……
This is a repeat prediction, and I probably would have nailed it had Jeremy Bonderman not gotten shut down last September. The last time the Tigers had a 15 game winner was 1997. Meaning if they don’t do it this year, the franchise will have had a decade long drought. The last guys to do it are Willie Blair, who’s been out of the league since 2001, and Justin Thompson, who got hurt, was traded to Texas, and made the news by actually coming back and throwing in some games for the Rangers last year. Last year, Mike Maroth and Jeremy Bonderman both won 14 games, and this year I think Bonderman will finally get over the hump. I’m predicting Bonderman to have a 17-9 record.
Whenever I bring up Brandon Inge’s fielding prowess to, how’s the nice way to put it, a less informed person, the subject always gets back to Inge’s 23 errors last year. What people fail to point is, he started 42 double plays and he finished the season with 14 fielding runs above average. Eric Chavez, who won the gold glove last season, made only 15 errors, but he had only 9 fielding runs above average. Inge at third base was worth half a win more on the field then Chavez at third base according to Baseball Prospectus.
Hot off the press is John Dewan’s Fielding Bible. In the book, a +/- forumla is used to rank fielders by position. Of course I’m not going to tell you how it’s calculated, because you should buy this great book (and I couldn’t do it justice). Eric Chavez finished with a +15 and was the third best third baseman in MLB. His figure was tops in the American Leauge. Just behind him, at +12 and fifth in MLB, was Brandon Inge. Inge came out slightly ahead in range, but Chavez blew him away on fielding bunts (Chavez had an A+ rating).
So say Chavez was better. The point is, he was barely better, and this was Inge’s first full season at third base. I’m going to predict that Inge brings his errors down into the high teens and gets the recognition he deserves by bringing home a gold glove.
Finally, Chris Shelton will lead the team in RBIS and Curtiz Granderson will lead the team in both runs and batting average. Magglio Ordonez will lead the team in homeruns, but it’ll be another unspectacular season for the Tigers in that category, so I’m thinking around 25.
Here’s how I think things will turn out around the rest of the league:
AL East – New York Yankees
AL Central – Cleveland Indians
AL West – Oakland A’s
NL East – New York Mets
NL Central – St. Louis Cardinals
NL West – San Francisco Giants
AL Wild Card – Toronto Blue Jays
NL Wild Card – Philadelphia Phillies
AL MVP – Gary Sheffield
NL MVP – Albert Pujols
AL Cy Young – Johan Santana
NL Cy Young – Jake Peavy
AL ROY – Justin Verlander
NL ROY – Josh Willingham
AL Pennant – New York Yankees
NL Pennant – New York Mets
World Series Champs – New York Mets
Needless to say, this took my by surprise when I saw it this morning. Everyone’s read about the Yankee’s pitching woes. At one point heading into the spring, they had seven possible starters. Two of those are starting the season on the DL and two others are dinged up. Their ace is 42 years old and had a bad back. So I’m not completely surprised they pulled the trigger on a deal to get them some more pitching.
I am a little surprised that the Tigers would take on this much payroll, unless there’s some cash involved in the deal that I don’t know about. I also wonder whether Mike Ilitich believes that the star power of A-Rod will put fans in the seats and that the two time MVP will pay for himself.
I’m also a little bummed because I always liked Brandon Inge. He was a great story in 2004, when after being given up for dead after the Pudge signing, he turned himself into a Tony Phillips esque utility and finally settled in at third base, where I project he’ll win his first gold glove. He didn’t hit nearly as well in 2005, but at least his numbers were respectable.
If I had to guess, Joel Zumaya will now move into the rotation. The Tigers don’t need a fifth starter until mid-April, and they’re probably hoping Aaron Small is ready by then. Small had an interesting season last year. He came out of nowhere and finished 10-0 witha 3.20 ERA, but many feel he’s set to come back down to earth. He doesn’t strike out many guys and his walk rate isn’t all that great either, but as a back of the rotation starter, he’s not that bad.
Sounds like physicals are being done today so the trade can be finalized before each team opens up the season.
And if you made it this far, check your calendar, because it’s April Fools Day.