Potential for 2012 Tigers is tremendous

Needless to say I’m a little excited for the Detroit Tigers season to begin.

If my choice of apparel the past month, my Facebook posts or my constant rambling of baseball talk at the office isn’t a good indicator, you’ve probably just been ignoring me.

I’m excited for this day whether the Tigers are predicted to win 100 games or lose 100 games. I’m just a baseball fan. Always have been, always will be.

By the time you read this I will be basking in the sunshine at Comerica Park, among other things, hoping for an Opening Day win against the Boston Red Sox.

Detroit will be electric today with the start of the season. It’s a season with so many expectations, and for this year, reasonable expectations.

Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander give new meaning to the term “Big Three” in Detroit. Cabrera is rated third and Verlander is fourth in ESPN’s top 500 baseball player list. Fielder is rated 17th.

Last year, Cabrera and Fielder (who played with Milwaukee then) combined for 58 home runs and 225 RBIs. Verlander — the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP — went 24-5, with 250 strikeouts and a 2.40 ERA.

In addition to Cabrera and Fielder, the Tigers feature tons of potential in their lineup.

Austin Jackson was great as a rookie in 2010, but not so much last year. Hopefully, his lack of a leg-kick this year will help him to cut down on his strikeouts. He is at his best when hitting the ball to all fields. If he can get on base like he did in 2010, he could compete with New York’s Curtis Granderson for most runs scored.

Brennan Boesch was has having a fantastic year before being injured. Hitting in front of Cabrera and Fielder should only help the ever aggressive lefty.

Delmon Young is in a contract year. The former No. 1 overall pick has the talent to hit. If he continues his torrid spring he will have a monster year for the Tigers and cash in this fall.

If Ryan Raburn can hit in April, May and June the way he does in July, August and September he could make himself a fan favorite the way Brandon Inge — not going to talk about him — did with his defense.
Jhonny Peralta was an all-star a year ago. He is solid in the field and at the plate. Not many teams have a .300 hitter No. 7 in the lineup.

Alex Avila had a breakout year in 2011 and that is expected to continue this season. He has power and the ability to work the count and increase a pitch count with the best. Hopefully, Gerald Laird can stay healthy to give Avila some rest so he will be at 100 percent come playoff time.

The potential of this lineup is tremendous. The same was said in 2007, but they faltered in every facet. I don’t see that happening again.

As for the pitching staff, there is a chance that four of their five starters could win 15 games.
Verlander is self-explanatory.

Max Scherzer won 15 games last year. He is a former first-round draft pick and would be an ace on many other teams.

Rick Porcello — who is only 23 and not the 30 everyone seems to think he is — has won 14 games twice in three years. He has been consistent this spring and there is no reason to believe he won’t develop further this year.

Doug Fister won eight times in 11 starts following his arrival in Detroit last year. He was great — without the wins — while in Seattle to start the year. With his control (hopefully the finger issue is resolved) and this lineup, he could easily win 15 games.

At the No. 5 spot is Drew Smyly. He made the big club with just one season of pro ball experience. That sort of trial has worked out in the recent past with both Verlander and Porcello. Even if he doesn’t pan out this year, there are plenty of other candidates to pitch in the five spot. Besides, the Tigers only need adequate from that spot.

The bench is good enough but the bullpen could be a question mark. No team is perfect but the Tigers could be pretty close this year.

All 58 predictions from ESPN and CBS Sports have the Tigers winning the AL Central. Six from ESPN and three from CBS have the Tigers winning the World Series.

The American League is brutal this year. The Los Angeles Angels (picked 20 times to win the title) are the favorite along with Texas (9), Tampa Bay (8) and the Tigers. There should be no way the National League wins it all this year.

Mike Illitch has spent his money. Dave Dombrowski has filled out the roster. Now it’s time for Jim Leyland to manage and the players to do what it takes to win a World Series for one of professional sports best owners.

It will be a fun season of baseball in Detroit. I’m not going to predict a World Series title for the Tigers, obviously I want them to win. Baseball is just too difficult a sport to predict at times. They will be in the playoffs and from there anything can happen.

Now, let’s play ball!

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