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A Baseball Sleeper

   by ASA - 03/31/2006

Yes you heard it hear first. The Detroit Tigers, who have had 12 straight losing seasons and have not won a division title since 1987, are this year’s dark horse team in the American League. This squad will be very dangerous. After last year’s 71 win season, this year we feel they will end up above the .500 mark. They already have one of the better lineups in the A.L. and a very solid young pitching staff, however the key to this season could be their coaching addition. After three poor seasons under manager Alan Trammell, Tiger G.M. Dave Dombrowski pulled a big time coup and hired skipper Jim Leyland. Dombrowski wants to win now and Leyland was his man. Leyland, former manager for Pittsburgh and Florida, already has a World Series ring, numerous division titles and has been twice named Manager of the Year. If anyone can head this talented team in the right direction this season, it’s Leyland. Detroit has one of the best young starting staffs in baseball. Jeremy Bonderman is already among the best in the A.L. Lefties Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson both threw around 200 innings last year and are solid middle rotations pitchers. The Tigers went out and added a key arm and personality to the staff in 17-year veteran Kenny Rogers. He will be a great “mentorâ€쳌 for this young staff and also will get his share of wins. Rogers was 14-8 last year for Texas with an ERA of 3.46. He should put up even better numbers this year in spacious Comerica Park. They also added closer Todd Jones who had 40 saves last year for the Marlins. The Tigers have a hard throwing bullpen and one of the top 10 prospects in all of baseball in right hander Justin Verlander. He dominated the minors last season with his 98 mile an hour fastball. He could be in the rotation this year and has the potential to be the #1 starter. The one knock on last year’s young starting staff was that Trammell burned them out and they struggled late in the season. Leyland will absolutely utilize his bullpen and keep his starters fresh for the stretch run. He knows what he is doing. He also did not take this job to win 75 games. He took it with the expectation of getting this team to the playoffs and NOW! He is not playing for the future.

Now the offense. What a line up this could be. Believe it or not, this Tiger team has four or five players on offense that have All-Star capabilities. That’s over half the line up. Second baseman Placido Polanco hit .331 last season which was second in the Major Leagues. Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriguez had an off year offensively and did not get along with Trammell. Expect a huge year out of him. Right fielder Magglio Ordonez was injured much of last year but is determined to prove his huge signing wasn’t a bust. He still hit .302 and will again hit over .300 if he stays healthy which he is right now. SS Carlos Guillen hit .320 and is an excellent defensive player. Dmitri Young is a veteran who has always put up nice numbers. Craig Monroe, Chris Shelton, and Curtis Granderson all had solid years and should get better in 2006.

Leyland did not take this job to win 75 games. He took it with the expectation of getting this team to the playoffs and NOW! He is not playing for the future. And while he will have a tough time getting to the playoffs, they have a shot. Getting over .500 is a very realistic goal for the Tigers. ASA’s projects Detroit to win 84 games in 2006.

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