Well we've got 21 days left until Opening Day, which means it's season preview time. We'll be running it down team by team, with an added new wrinkle this time around: the beer of choice for fans of the team to enjoy whilst watching their team take the field! Nothing like that to help get you through a baseball season, especially if you're from Pittsburgh. Up next: the Detroit Tigers
Lineup: We don't see this group being especially good. Miguel Cabrera is the star here, but he doesn't have much in the way of support. Johnny Damon is the big name addition, but he's only a 3 WAR player, and unless Austin Jackson starts to develop in a hurry, the Damon-Jackson-Magglio Ordonez outfield doesn't pose too much of a threat. Rookie Scott Sizemore will start the season at second base, and has drawn comparisons to Dustin Pedroia, but we wouldn't expect too much out of the first-year guy. Adam Everett, his double-play partner, is one of the best in the business with the glove, but is a very weak hitter. Brandon Inge is reportedly healthy for the first time in years, but he's also getting pretty old and doesn't bring much to the table hitting-wise considering that he's a third baseman. Carlos Guillen is in a similar situation as Inge, as he struggled with injuries last season and needs to return to form - which he may be able to do as a full-time DH. And Gerald Laird is a waste of ABs at catcher.
Rotation: Justin Verlander is a Cy Young-level guy, Rick Porcello had a solid rookie season and should figure to improve, and Max Scherzer is a high-ceiling fireballer who we think is a bit underrated by most. Beyond those three, you're looking at an array of marginal talent and injury risks. Jeremy Bonderman is getting what is probably his last chance to prove that his career hasn't been ruined by a litany of arm and nerve injuries, Armando Galarraga got by on luck for awhile, and in Dontrelle Willis and and Nate Robertson, the team has two lefties with embarrassing contracts. You could do worse than to have three good starters, but if this team has any aspirations beyond divisional competition, they're going to need to get somebody good.
Bullpen: One of the worst units in the league last year, the team hopes that the addition of former Houston closer Jose Valverde and the return of Joel Zumaya will provide a boost this year. But beyond those two, and Daniel Schlereth, many of the same faces remain, including Fu-Te Ni, the man with the shortest last name in baseball history. So that's neat. Anyway, this is a fairly average unit overall we'd say. But then it's just about impossible to project bullpens.
Overall: If this were a younger team, there'd be a lot to like about their chances for the future. There's talent to be had all around, particularly in the youthful core of Verlander, Porcello, Scherzer, Cabrera, Jackson and Sizemore, but the other pieces don't really fit. Damon and Ordonez are both gone after the season, they don't have a viable catcher, and there's not much coming up in the system. 2010 may be their last chance to compete for awhile, but the chances of that happening don't look too great.
Predicted Record: 83-79, 2nd place AL Central
Beer: Heineken. Overpriced because of the foreign flavor - reminiscent of the Magglio Ordonez situation, where the Tigers had a chance to hold him to less than 540 ABs and save themselves $18MM. They didn't, and instead are stuck paying his bloated salary for this season, like the guy who just can't help himself for shelling out for Heiny.