Well, we’re just about three weeks from the season starting and we’ve seen the Tigers starting outfield play in Spring Training roughly two times. Stupid sexy World Baseball Classic. We’ve enjoyed watching Curtis not play much for Team USA (BOOOOO) and watching the entirity of the rest of the Tigers roster play for Friend of the Big Tilde Hugo Chavez’s Venezuelan national team. May both teams find elimination in the near future so that our beloved Tilde and Company can get back to helping Jim Leyland chain smoke. Over the past few weeks, we’ve gone over the relief pitching situation, the starting pitching, and the infield. Now, it’s time to get to Where the Tildes Roam – the Tigers’ outfield.
LF – Carlos Guillen
Last season’s proposed experiment becomes a full-time reality, as Guillen moves out of the infield and firmly into the lineup in left. It’s hard to believe that this is Carlos’ sixth season in the D and he’s been solid the whole time. Hopefully a move into the outfield will provide less stress on Guillen’s body and we’ll have a full season out of him. Only playing in 113 games last year, Carlos’ production dropped quite a bit. His average was down in the .280s and he only hit 10 HR and had only 54 RBI. With the protection he has in the lineup, there’s no reason that a healthy Guillen can’t get back to producing .300/20/85 this season.
CF – Curtis Granderson
The lack of Curtis Granderson is what I’m choosing the blame last season’s awful start upon. In spite of the early solid performance of Cletus the Slack Jawed Backup. Granderson is a sparkplug for the Tiger offense and having him healthy to start this season (my God, this is quite the theme for this year) is going to be a boon. In spite of missing 20 games, Granderson still hit over 20 HR and had over 20 doubles. Sadly, he only had a mere (HA!) 13 triples. The big decline was his drop from 26 steals to only 12. If he can get back in camp and get some reps to start the season soon, there will be no reason to expect Curtis to return to his 20/20/20 form of 2007.
RF – THE BIG TILDE
The was no greater injustice last year than having The Big Tilde himself go down to injury before we could even have the Inaugural Big Tilde Gathering at Comerica last July. Maggs isn’t having the best start at the WBC, but he’s at least been hitting some solid shots – they just have been directed towards the other teams’ gloves. Alas, our hero is getting older and 35 is rarely an age at which long haired heroes put up MVP numbers. Then again, those other 35 year olds were not THE BIG TILDE. Tilde still hit over .315, topped 100 RBI, and went over 20 HR last year in spite of missing 15 games to injury. His slugging took a 100 point drop in 2008 though, but this was more a return to career average after an insane 2007 campaign than any big ugly decline. Going from 54 to 32 doubles will have that effect on a guy. If the bats surrounding The Big Tilde in the Tigers lineup can perform to their capability, then Maggs is going to have every opportunity to get back to MVP form. Here’s to a .330/25/125 line this season. TILDE CAN DO IT!!!
OF – Marcus Thames
Thames appeared in just 103 games last year and managed to smack 25 homers. These 25 HRs accounted for approximately 1/3 of his hits. Add in 12 doubles and Marcus slugged a pretty darn good .516. He also struck out 95 times in 316 ABs. Guh. Marcus drew a mere 24 walks and his OBP was an anemic .292 and his overall BA was .241. Guillen is a pretty obvious overall offensive upgrade in LF, at least in terms of consistency, over Thames and the oft-injured Gary Sheffield. Marcus will still get a lot of PH appearances and will DH on occasion as well. Especially since we know Sheff/Guillen/Someone will find injury at some point.
DH – Gary Sheffield
WHEN HEALTHY. Sheff claims his shoulder feels as good as it has in years. He’s crushing the ball when he hits it this spring. Then again, Sheff always could rake. The better news is that he seems to finally be accepting that he is a DH now and needs to stay out of the field. IF HE CAN STAY HEALTHY, there is reason to hope that Sheff can hit .280-.290 and get 25-30 HR and 80-90 RBI. His first HR of the year will be a historic one, as it will be Gary’s 500th career. Hopefully he can get this out of the way early. Sheff hasn’t broken 150 games since 2005 and has missed about 80 games in his two turbulent seasons in Detroit so we really have no idea what he still has in the tank. He’s a prideful guy though and its hard to think he’d still be working as hard as he does if he didn’t believe he was still capable of hitting at a high level.
So, that’s pretty much the extent of who we’re looking at to power the 2009 Detroit Tigers. The lineup 1-6 looks potentially fierce once again. Granderson-Polanco-Cabrera-Ordonez-Guillen-Sheff in whatever order they show up is still pretty scary. Inge-Everett-Laird is a different kind of scary, although Inge has 20-30 HR power. Can Miggy avoid the slow start he had in 2008? Will Curtis get back to being aggressive on the base path? Will Guillen and Sheff stay healthy this year? If all of these things happen, will the Tigers be the offensive machine that they were once projected to be? And will any of it matter if the starting pitching remains as hittable as it has looked so far in the spring?
We’re gonna start going 3X a week this week until the season starts. Then, we’ll be back with the daily recaps after every game. Baseball is back folks, and The Big Tilde can’t wait.