Before we begin the roundtable, TigsTown would like to bid a fond farewell to associate editor Jason Avery. After more than five years of outstanding draft coverage, Jason will be moving on, but we'd like to thank him for all of his hard work, and wish him well with his new endeavors!
Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
Honestly, this is one of the strangest teams I can ever remember the organization fielding, especially after such an active and productive off-season. The Tigers made a $50 million signing at catcher, and yet, catcher is a big question mark for the team. They signed their left side of the infield to multi-year deals, and yet there's uncertainty at both third base and shortstop (one for a concern about offense, the other for a concern about defense). They signed a big time setup man, yet have questions about their bullpen and middle relief. They signed a starting pitcher, yet no one feels comfortable with the rotation beyond the first couple starters. In other words, despite plenty of action to address issues, there's still plenty of issues. With a strong top of the rotation and a strong heart of the order, the Tigers are going to win ballgames. I just don't know if they've got enough in the tank to truly compete at the highest levels. For that reason, I think the Tigers will finish 82-80, in third place in the AL Central.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
This is going to be an interesting year for Tiger fans. On the surface, they've added some talent that could really help them be a better club; talent in the form of Joaquin Benoit, Victor Martinez, and Brad Penny. That talent however, far from guarantees the Tigers success in 2011. There are still massive questions in the middle of the infield. Can Jhonny Peralta hit at an acceptable level considering his likely defensive issues, or will the Tigers be looking for another solution at mid-season. Was 2010 a fluke for Will Rhymes or can he muster some passable performance at the plate? In the outfield there are questions as well. Will the real Ryan Raburn please stand up? On top of that, how much will Austin Jackson actually regress to the mean and how much does Magglio Ordonez actually have left in the tank? The pitching staff isn't bereft of questions either, as Rick Porcello has to take a step forward, Max Scherzer has to gain some modicum of consistency, and Phil Coke has to demonstrate that he can start at the big league level. That's a lot of questions! That said, I'm not sure its an inordinate amount of questions for a team looking to contend in the AL Central. I think the Tigers will be a competitive club, but they will need health and a little luck to truly contend for the top spot in the division. In the end, I think they get some of what they need to compete, tease their fans with a nice run at some point, but ultimately end up around 82-84 wins this year.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
In some ways, 2011 is a make-or-break year for the Tigers. After reaching the World Series in 2006, the Tigers have had second-half collapses in 2007 and 2009 that made for bitter endings after very promising starts. Last year, the Tigers were in the race at the All-Star break, but quickly fell out of it by losing 15 of their first 19 games in the second half, and they needed a win on the season's last day to finish with a .500 record.
After an offseason that saw the Tigers sign Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit as free agents, the Tigers seem primed to make their first postseason trip since 2006.
Led by Justin Verlander, the Tigers' rotation should be solid, although there will be questions whether or not Phil Coke can hold up with an increased workload, and if Brad Penny can hold down the No. 5 spot. Although Joel Zumaya is hurt, the Tigers' bullpen should be in fine shape with the addition of Benoit to handle the setup role.
The Tigers have one of the game's best hitters in Miguel Cabrera, and he'll have more support with Martinez hitting in the heart of the order.
With General Manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland now in the final years of their contracts, the Tigers will be under increasing scrutiny should the Tigers get off to a slow start, or if the team continues its trend of playing poorly in the second half, but I think this will be the year the Tigers get over the hump and win the division with a 91-71 record.
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