There are a million other things I should be doing right now other than finishing this season preview, all of them involving studying for my last round of exams ever at law school. Fortunately I just purchased Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney for my Nintendo DS and after successfully solving the first two cases on the game I've never felt more prepared to enter a courtroom. I never knew I could present evidence by interrupting a judge after yelling out "Take That!!!" or stall for more time to set up a defense by faking my own kidnapping with the help of a fifteen year old magician/co-counsel. Seriously I've learned more about the justice system in the six hours I've played Apollo Justice than I have in my two and a half years in law school. With that being said I now give my faceless readers, none of whom I've never met but all of whom I feel obligated to please the final installment of my Detroit Tigers season preview. Behold!
Justin Verlander: My bold prediction for this seasons pitching staff is that Verlander will have a breakout season and be the Tigers first 20 game winner since Bill Gullickson. Well I guess that prediction isn't really bold since about roughly five million other bloggers, sportswriters, analysts, housewives, Sudanese refugees and OBGYN's have predicted the same success for Verlander. Coming into last season I was worried about Verlander and how he would fare in his sophomore campaign after having experienced so much success and pitching so many innings during his rookie season. Turns out I'm an idiot as Verlander somehow improved upon his rookie year by throwing a no-hitter and upping his strikeout rate by 1/3. Now I'm no mathemagician nor historian but if he increases his numbers by a similar margin this season he will strike out 671 batters and shatter Hippo Vaughns single season strikeout mark set in 1878 as a member of the Cleveland Spiders. Amazing.
Jeremy Bonderman: I don't know what to think about Bonderman anymore. We've been waiting for Bonderman's breakout season for the past three years and it hasn't happened. It seems like he's been around forever and has probably peaked/leveled off but then I remember that he's only 25 years old. Last season he started off strong and had a 10-1 record, 3.48 ERA and 4:1 K/BB ratio at the All-Star break before tailing off badly in the second half before he was finally shut down with elbow problems. He has one of the most devastating pitches in all of baseball with a vicious/biting slider but he's been completely unable to develop an off-speed pitch to complement it. He's as exciting as he is extremely frustrating. He might be the biggest enigma/contradiction in all of baseball. He's also the Tigers number 2 starter and I think the biggest key to the Tigers success this season. If he can finally put all of his talent together and give the Tigers the kind of 1-2 punch the Indians had last season en route to winning the A.L. Central behind Sabathia and Carmona then there is no limit to how far this Tigers team can go. However, I get the nagging feeling that I'm going to be writing the same thing about Bonderman this time next year. Aargh.
Dontrelle Willis: Let's see. Dontrelle had the worst season of his career last year. There were scouting reports at the end of last year about his velocity being down in the low to mid 80's and that he might be hurt. This spring the only way his pitching could have been worse was if he had rubbed the ball down with feces before each pitch, he also had the unsettling habit of shaking his arm after pitches like it was hurt as well as looking identical to my friend T.J. who may be, not only the least healthy person I know, but the least healthy person on the planet (T.J. once ate 80 Chicken McNuggets in a 24 hour period, sleeps with random girls from a sleazy bar in Flint and in the death pool my friends and I have regarding T.J....well let's just say I'm feeling pretty comfortable with my prediction of 38). Hmm. So why don't I feel good about D-Train being the Tigers No. 3 starter? For one if Dontrelle lowers his ERA into the low to mid 4's, the Tigers offense should be good enough to get the D-Train about 15 wins. Also I'm going to invest in the theory that Willis was just beat down by the non-existent crowds and losing in Florida and being back in a pennant race will be just what he needs to turn his career around, although by October I'll probably be wishing I had put my money in the "Dontrelle moving to a tougher league w/o a pitcher batting and will see his ERA increase steadily before he goes on the DL in June with a frayed rotator cuff" investment.
Nate Robertson: I wear glasses. Big thick coke bottle type glasses. Without my glasses I am completely blind and if I were set loose in a forest at night without them there is a 96.7% chance that I would scooped up by an owl and carried off into the dark never to be seen again. For years I was ashamed of my terrible eyesight and suffered throughout high school with never being able to read the blackboard. I finally broke down and got contacts about five years ago and, after dealing with two terrible eye infections due to wearing contacts, I switched to glasses at the beginning of this year and wear them proudly. What the hell does this have to do with Robertson you ask? The goggles. I used to think Robertson looked like a douche for rocking Rec-Specs on the mound but no more. I guess you could say I Re-spect the Rec-Specs. Did everyone else just hear a loud groaning sound? That has to be the worst paragraph that's ever been written on this website. Of course I mean other than that tripe Bill wrote earlier this month about the Lions.
Kenny Rogers: I just want Gamblor to be healthy. His injury at the very end of spring training last year seemed to be a harbinger of the bad luck the team would go on to experience last season. I love watching Rogers pitch and I missed him last season on a personal level. I get just as excited watching old savvy pitchers like Rogers, Moyer, Maddux and David Wells pitch as I do watching the Verlanders, Becketts and Peavys of the world. Guys like Rogers really have no business being successful in the big leagues but they are smart or deceptive enough to get by and I really respect that. I hope Rogers can get 20-25 starts in this season at the least.
Todd Jones: Again?!? Yuck. I'll pass talking about Jones for now b/c I'm sure he'll give me reason to vent soon enough.
Denny Bautista: Who? Oh this is just some crappy reliever with a career ERA of 6.93, there's no way he's making the team and even if he does it will be as the 12th man in the pen so who cares. What's that you say? This guy is our set-up man. Surely you jest......Surely......jesus christ, you're serious. I only saw Bautista pitch to one batter this spring and he gave up a homerun to Travis Hafner that travelled about 450 feet. I get the feeling that I'll be seeing that scenario again during the season. Fernando can't get back soon enough.
Zach Miner: I like Miner. I can't really explain why but I think he's going to have a good season and emerge as one of the most reliable relievers on the team. I don't know if I really believe this but it seems like everything I've written after Verlander has been negative so I thought I would try to be positive. This is no fun let's get to Grilli.
Jason Grilli: Anybody who has ever visited this site knows how I feel about Jason Grilli. So I thought I would present a little timeline of my feelings towards Grilli during his time in Detroit. My hatred for him extends all the way back to the end of the 2005 season when I attended a late September game with my sister and her boyfriend to see Alan Trammell manage one of his last games in a Tigers uniform, since by that time it was readily apparent that Trammell was going to lose his job at the end of the season. I was hoping to have a chance to see Trammell go out a winner but by the time we got to our seats in the bottom of the first inning ass-hat Grilli had already given up two runs and the Tigers never had a chance. The next season Grilli became an important part of the bullpen on a surprising Tigers team that would go on to the World Series. In spite of his solid numbers during the regular season I never really trusted Grilli, mainly because of his atrocious K/BB ratio, and my fears were justified when Grilli had a meltdown in Game 4 of the ALCS walking the bases loaded and only throwing 4 strikes in 21 pitches. He was bailed out when Wil Ledezma induced a double play ball and after Maggs hit the walk-off homerun in the bottom the ninth no one cared or remembered Grilli's misdeeds....except me (If you read that sentence in the voice of the guy that narrates movie trailers it sounds cool). At the beginning of the 2007 season Grilli showed his true colors and after he blew a tie game wide open in an early season loss to the Indians I advocated that he should be drawn and quartered after the game, and I was only half kidding. Anyways with all the injuries in the Tigers bullpen this spring the Tigers are relying on Grilli more then ever and if he's not getting booed off the field in early May after giving up a game tying homerun to Casey Blake then I'll be happy...but I'll still hate him.
Bobby Seay: Every season the league is filled with anonymous left-handed middle relievers like Bobby Seay who appear in about 60 games, throw about 50 innings and make a couple million dollars a year for their trouble. Also, unless you completely fuck things up (see: Byrdak, Tim) you can make a nice 10-12 year career out of this role, or if your really lucky you might be like Mike Stanton and set your family up for generations by being lucky enough to be born left-handed with slightly above average athletic ability. This has to be the greatest job on the planet and Bobby Seay is just Exhibit # 4,217 in why I'm tying my kids right arm behind his back the second he comes oozing out of the womb. The next 18 years of my son's life will be spent building up arm strength and working on a variety of pitches in a training regime that makes what the old Red Army hockey team went threw look like an evening spin class for old ladies at Curves. Once he gets drafted I get to use his bonus money to build my dream house and then he'll hate me so much I'll never have to talk to him again, which would be great. If this is getting any of you women readers hot and you want to serve as the surrogate for this experiment send me an e-mail.
Yorman Bazardo: Bazardo has become my new Wil Ledezma. He has the cool name, he was an unheralded acquisition and he made a dominating late season start that I watched that will forever cloud my judgment and make it impossible for me to ever evaluate him in a non-biased manner. I already have come up with a scenario that I play out in my dreams where Rogers misses some starts during the stretch run, which forces Bazardo into the rotation and he becomes a late season revelation, throwing scoreless frames at will and guiding the Tigers to the post-season with a complete game shutout on the season's final day as I sit in the stands nodding in approval, knowing he had it in him all along. Of course the odds of Bazardo even becomes a mediocre major league starters are between about 0.1 and 0.7% and I'm sure in 3 years Bazardo will be a throw in some trade with the Rangers and I'll be falling for some Venezualean pitcher named Yovanni Alvarado.
I know I'm missing some guys, like Rayburn, Rodney, Zumaya and some guy named Clete Thomas who may or may not be the non-threatening ethnic athlete member of the Burger King Kids Club, but its getting late and I'm tired and the Tigers season starts in about 6 hours so I'll write about them later. I just wanted to get to my predictions for the season.
1: Detroit (95-67): Come on Tigers this is my last year living in Detroit before I have to move back to Clio and live in the crappy Mill Creek Apt's behind VG's and work in my dad's office for the next 40 years. Give me one World Series title before I leave. Please.
2: Cleveland (93-69): Scary scary team. I'm just hoping their bullpen regresses a little like the Tigers did last year. No way Perez and Lewis and Betancourt have those types of seasons again....I hope.
3: Minnesota (83-79): Even though they lost Santana they are always competitive and I love Gardenhire. I think he really gets the most out of his players and is worth a few wins. I think Delmon Young could be huge for them.
4: Chicago (76-86): This team got old fast, I hope this is the season when Ozzie Guillen's head explodes after watching Mike McDougal walk in a tying run in August
5: Kansas City (71-91): They'll give the Tigers trouble because the Tigers can't get DeJesus or Butler out. Those guys bat like .700 against Detroit.
I can't wait for this season to begin....