Paul Wezner, Executive Editor
Call me crazy, but I'm one of the few that is going into 2009 optimistic that we can see a good team on the field that can contend. Why may you ask? Just a gut feeling (as the sabermetrics guys scream in agony over that word). Last season, as the season approached, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach about the team and the season . . . and I ignored it. There was just too much going right, I thought, and that feeling was just nerves. Well, turns out that feeling was right, so I'm gonna follow that instinct more often. I think the lineup will still be solid, the defense will be much improved, as will the rotation. If the Tigers can find two consistent, reliable relievers for the final couple innings of a game, this is going to be a good team. Given the uncertainty of the division, I see the Tigers winning 86 games and falling just one game outside of the division crown, finishing in 2nd place.
Mark Anderson, Managing Editor
Short and simple, I think the Tigers finish at 79-83 in fourth place in the AL Central. I just don't see any certainty with this pitching staff, and there are always health concerns with Guillen and Everett, two key components to this year's team. The Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry stories are nice, but they aren't difference makers in 2009 unless they completely blow up and become the insane prospects they are capable of becoming. The offense is going to need to swing it in a big way, and on any days where we get shut down, we might be in serious trouble. I just think this team is in a better position to try and compete without sacrificing prospects to get over the hump. If things break right, great, if they don't, plan for 2010 and 2011 with what they hope will be some of their youth making an impact in Detroit.
Jason Avery, Associate Editor, Amateur Baseball
The AL Central is certainly a topsy-turvy division that has doesn't have a prohibitive favorite heading into the season. The Tigers could certainly be in that mix if everything comes together, but I'm pessimistic about that.
Jeremy Bonderman and Joel Zumaya will be starting the year on the disabled list, although general manager Dave Dombrowski said earlier this week that he believes both will be back soon. If Bonderman can't be effective, that puts a lot of pressure on Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and Armando Galarraga to take pressure off the bullpen, an area that is already under the microscope after last year's disaster.
The Tigers signed Brandon Lyon to help out in the late innings, and it will be interesting to see if Ryan Perry becomes the closer provided Fernando Rodney struggles.
By releasing Gary Sheffield, the Tigers gain flexibility on their bench, but there is going to be a lot of pressure on the top five hitters to produce. Brandon Inge, Gerald Laird, Adam Everett, and Marcus Thames (or whoever winds up as the DH) have to be able to drive runs in when they get the opportunity.
With questions abound, I'm going to say the Tigers will finish third with a 79-83 mark. Could this team contend? Absolutely, but this team could just as easily bottom out and wind up in the cellar.
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