Friday, January 30, 2009

Bullpen Puts Tigers AL Central Rivals Out Front

One of the points of emphasis Tigers manager Jim Leyland is making this off season is to concentrate on doing better against American League Central clubs.
Focus from Day One of spring training will be on this, Leyland is saying.
The Tigers finished last in the division in 2008 largely because they couldn’t beat their A.L. Central rivals. They were 27-45 within the division. It is a factor that carried over from the 2007 season when the Tigers finished 14 games above .500 overall, yet were just .500 (36-36) vs. the A.L. Central.
I have a theory on this. It relates to the bullpen. It’s the biggest factor within the division. The White Sox have Bobby Jenks, the Twins Joe Nathan and the Royals Joakin Soria, who had 42 saves last season. The Indians got surprisingly good work out of their bullpen in 2007, but struggled there last season. They have, however, added Kerry Wood.
In regard to the batting order, or even starting pitching rotation if you look at what could happen if the they have a couple bounce back seasons, the Tigers stack up favorably compared to their A.L. Central foes.
It’s the bullpen, particularly closing games, where each other club has a clear advantage.
Brandon Lyon is a stop-gap measure. The Tigers need Ryan Perry, their first-round draft choice from last season, to move quickly.
Otherwise, they are still going to behind their division rivals in a very key area.

Random Thoughts

- It was wonderful Aaron Downey is back with the Red Wings. They needed him against the Stars because they had taken so many cheapshots at the Red Wings the previous two meetings between the teams this month. Darren McCarty is a better player than Downey, so it was understandable why he was left off the postseason roster last season. But it wasn’t fair to Downey, who deserves every bit of the considerable respect he gets in this town.

- I don’t see a scenario where the Cardinals beat the Steelers Sunday. The Cardinals haven’t seen a defense close to the Steelers this postseason. Look for more than a few turnovers from Kurt Warner. The Cardinals big hope: The Giants did shock the Patriots last season.

- The Red Wings better get going if they want to secure home ice advantage for the playoff. They are eight points behind the Sharks and San Jose has a game in hand. The Red Wings should benefit from the schedule, though. They’ll be home a lot more than have recently.



Blogger Fred Brill said...

The bullpen is the glaring gape in the Tigers armor.

I get a kick out of hearing the arguments about how weak the bats of the left side of the infield will be. The point is moot while our bullpen remains in disrepair.

And I like Inge at third.

I can't wait for baseball to get here.

I pick St. Louis ... err ... Arizona to win Sunday. Then let the pundits try to keep calling Warner a fluke!

11:54 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat, Is there any chance that Zumaya could stay healthy and return to 2006 form? If Perry is the sensation of the spring and makes the team the team, at least we would have some hope going into '09. Dave

3:29 AM 
Blogger Barry said...

Pat if this was Jan 30, 2010 or 2011, wow this would be exciting time for the TIgers. Tigers have an exciting farm system from AA down. Tigers are set at many positions over the next few years once their many prospects develop. This year bullpen might be good too if Zumaya/Rodney are healthy and with Lyon having a history of a good set-up guy. Looking forward to seeing how Fein does in MLB. Miner is an excellent swing guy. If Rodney/Zumaya keep healthy Tigers might not be that far out of it. Many Tigers crash last year so they can all have a rebound season.

6:56 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
Thing is, the Tigers bullpen had little bearing on the their poor start last season. It was mostly about their defense, poor starting pitching and a poor run production. It was later in the season their bullpen collapse. My point, if the other parts of their club don't come through, the bullpen will be a moot point.

12:25 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

There are optimistic reports about Zumaya. He has been throwing, not off a mound yet, but throwing long toss and such, in Lakeland. But you always hear optimistic reports about those things. He is still very iffy for the coming season and the Tigers are looking at whatever contribution he is able to make this season as gravy - especially if it is a major one. They are right to take that approach.

6:10 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

I know Dave Dombrowski is high on their prospects, and he isn't prone to overstating those things. But prospects are still just prospects. This season will be telling - especially for Iorg and the relievers they took with their first four picks last season.

6:12 PM 

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