Bullpen Puts Tigers AL Central Rivals Out Front
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.
- 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.