Thursday, March 27, 2008

How bout those Tigers? (Except D-Train)

BRADENTON - So how many Detroit Tigers hitters will you have in your everyday lineup this year?

I count as many as eight Detroit position players who could be fantay starters in mixed leagues - Curtis Granderson, Carlos Guillen, Placido Polanco, Edgar Renteria, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Ivan Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield. (Come on Jacque Jones, start pulling your weight!)

These Tigers are going to be a terror for opposing pitchers, as I witnessed on Wednesday in their 7-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. The Tigers only brought a limited group of starters to the Friendly City, but seeing Cabrera batting behind Sheffield (above) was enough to scare me, and I was in the stands.

I don't have any major concerns about any of those guys - Cabrera, Ordonez and Granderson are studs, Renteria and Polanco will get their hits and runs, and any fears about Rodriguez and Sheffield getting up there in age are negated by Cabrera's insertion into the middle of the order.

I'll tell you who I am worried about when it comes to the Tigers - Dontrelle Willis. The D-Train really struggled against the Pirates - even opposing pitcher Zach Duke - allowing six earned runs on eight hits and walking four, two of them coming with the bases loaded. I know spring stats "don't mean much," but Willis' totals this year (1-3, 8.64 ERA in 16 2/3 innings) are ugly.

Couple that with his miserable numbers last year and the clear downward trend in his stats the past few years, and Willis is a guy I'm trying to avoid this year. He may win a bunch of games just by virtue of the run support he's going to get, but he's going to get whacked around a lot in the AL Central.

Photo by Paul Videla/

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