It took 163 games to determine the AL Central title in 2009. The Detroit Tigers were, of course, on the losing end. After leading the Tigers to the 2006 World Series in his first year as their skipper, Jim Leyland has been unable to steer the club back to the postseason.
As Keith Law writes, "This one will be hard to get past." Along with Baseball Prospectus and the ESPN Insider staff, Law takes a look at this past season and what the Tigs can do to improve in 2010. An Insider subscription is required to read the article, but here are some of the key tidbits from the piece:
- Law highlights the team's lack of production at the DH spot as one of its biggest shortcomings. However, GM Dave Dombrowski recently said that the team is unlikely to employ a full-time DH next season. If for some reason he has a change of heart, he will find more than a few candidates on the open market.
- Bullpen staples Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney are headed for free agency. Law says that Rodney "has the closer's mantle but not closer command." Ryan Perry should be able to step into that role eventually, but currently lacks the control to do so. if the youngster is asked to be the fireman and Lyon and Rodney walk, it'll leave a significant void in the 'pen.
- Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus points out the poor performances of mid-season acquisitions Jarrod Washburn and Aubrey Huff. After posting a 2.64 ERA, 7.4 H/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 20 starts with Seattle, Washburn recorded a 7.33 ERA, 10.7 H/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in eight starts. Huff was supposed to strengthen the middle of the Tigers' lineup but instead floundered as he recorded an OPS of .567.
- Tigers' second baseman Placido Polanco is a free agent after completing a four-year deal worth $4.6MM annually. The article says that retaining him would require $6-7MM per season, a steep price for a player who is not likely to improve much on his 2009 season in which he hit .285/.331/.396 with 10 HRs. Polanco, who turns 34 tomorrow, has been a $50MM value over the last three years according to Fangraphs.
- When Buster Olney polled six GMs asking if Detroit would keep Polanco, they were split. Law & Co. think that there's a good chance that Polanco plays elsewhere next season.
- Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus writes that 24-year-old Scott Sizemore is ready to take over for Polanco at second base. Scouts feel that he will become a well-rounded offensive player who should be able to hit ".280-plus with 12-15 home runs, 60 walks and 15-20 stolen bases annually."
- Because of high-priced commitments to Magglio Ordonez and Dontrelle Willis, the Tigers don't have much financial flexibility. Expect Detroit to find their next closer on the cheap from within the organization.
- Kahrl closes the piece by saying, "they need a major upgrade at DH or left if they're going to offensively afford themselves a luxury like a plus defender at shortstop." Dave Dombrowski will have to get creative as he is handcuffed by several bad contracts.