With this year coming to a close I wanted to review the season, what has happened to the team, and what may lie ahead. This is my first attempt, so please be gentle. After reaching the World Series last year, the team had great aspirations for this season, especially keeping the team mostly intact and adding Sheffield. Unfortunately, it didn’t play out as we’ve all hoped: While team managed to stay relatively injury-free last year, this year was a different matter. Rogers, Tigers’ 17 game winner from the previous season and team’s pitching leader missed most of the season with an ailment. Sheffield, who was really hot, injured his shoulder, and after missing a chunk of the season came back not at full strength and his hitting suffered significantly. Instead of hitting the ball out of the ballpark as he did prior to injury, he kept hitting pop ups and his batting average slipped over 40 pts. Rodney and Zumaya, who kept the bullpen together last year, missed a part of the season with injuries, and it took them a while to get back into shape. Last year Tigers received outstanding pitching from Bonderman and Robertson. While both guys started out on a high note, Robertson began struggling in a pretty bad way and had to miss some time with tired arm. He came back after that but for the most part was ineffective. His ERA is up by about a run after continuously dropping ever since his first year with Detroit. Bonderman was great during the first half of the season, and he was one of the main reasons Tigers were able to stay on top while the offense struggled in the early part of the season. However, later it was a different story. The guy went from stud to dud and after having a 10-1 record in the middle of July with an ERA of 3.5 he ends year early with elbow problems with an 11-9 record and 5.01 ERA. His ERA comparatively to the last season went up by about a run. This was significant, considering that those two combined for 27 wins last season and gave the team about 70 more innings pitched. Nobody stepped up beyond Verlander, Bonderman, and Robertson. Miller didn’t look ready, and Jurrjiens is too young. Tigers lost significant production from Craig Monroe (.255 28hr 92rbi in 2006) and Brandon Inge (.253 27hr 83rbi). Monroe slipped so much that team waived him and traded him for virtually nothing to Cubs. Marcus Thames, given a chance in the outfield, proven that he is not an everyday player Tigers hoped he could become and the outfield was filled by committee of Thames, Rayburn, Maybin, and Perez. Clearly, Maybin is not ready for the majors yet. Perez, while hitting for a high average this season, has shown no power. And Rayburn is not the best defensive outfielder out there. Inge’s defense remained top notch and that’s what saved his roster spot because his offense practically evaporated. Tigers tried Mike Hessman at 1st and 3rd. The guy has tremendous power to the pull field, but he’s not making enough contact and strikes out way too much. Tigers didn’t get much production from Sean Casey at 1st. While he’s hitting close to .300, he shows that he has no power left with only 4hr and 52rbi on the year. Tigers have no backup catcher. Rabelo was more or less adequate hitting-wise, but he struggled calling the games. The team seemed unable to get a clutch hit to win tight games. Last year they won a lot more of those. Leyland’s magic seems to have disappeared. If every move he made last year happened to be the correct move for the situation, there were many questions about the moves he made this year. Seemed like he would pull a pitcher too early from the game, or leave a pitcher in for too long. Sometimes there were questions about the lineup for the game. I guess, this is a different season. All those reasons contributed to the slide that team could not stop and slid right out of contention for the playoff spot, punctuated by the 3-game sweep by Indians in Cleveland, where Tigers led in every game. The offense wasn’t able to add runs when they had a pitcher on the ropes, and the pitching staff wasn’t able to hold the leads. I say all in all it was a fairly successful season, especially considering all the injuries that team had to play through. They were still in the middle of the playoff race with a couple of weeks left in the season. The fans seem to have come back, especially with Tigers being the only show in town during the summer months. The team is planning to add more seats to accommodate increased attendance. Now, onto the next season. The team should remain in contention for the foreseeable future with the players in place. Dombrowski has done a tremendous job assembling this team and he has more work to do to address the issues at hand. I want to look at Tigers roster position-by-position: 1B – Casey is gone. The team needs some power at that position. It is possible that Guillen would move to that spot, and that would be preferable by me. By moving Carlos to 1B, Tigers should be able to keep him and his knees healthier. His knees also limited his range at SS and he’s been making more errors and less plays on the ball. 2B – Polanco is here to stay. The guy is true professional. He is one of the best hitters in baseball. He set a record for the errorless games played in a row. He will most likely remain in #2 spot in the lineup 3B – This is a tough one. Brandon Inge needs to get some serious batting practice in. He also needs to clear his head. The guy is clearly one of the best, if not the best defensive 3rd basement in the MLB, but he needs to hit to stay in the lineup. Mike Hessman is not an answer either at 3rd or 1st. He strikes out too much and doesn’t make enough contact. I would assume that Brandon will have a short leash next season. SS – Another open question. Do Tigers acquire a SS and move Guillen to 1st or do they acquire a 1st baseman and keep Guillen at SS? The only option on the roster to fill the SS position is light-hitting Santiago, whose bat will most likely keep him out of the lineup. CF – This is one of the positions on the team where there are no questions. Granderson had a great season. He increased his batting average, hit more home runs, drove more runs in, he stole many more bases while being caught only once. He cut down on his strikeouts by about 20%, and while it still remains an issue, he will work on it and should improve. Because of that I don’t think he should be in a leadoff spot. The guy with power who has a tendency to strike out is not your ideal leadoff hitter. I know those are hard to come by, so Granderson may spend another year in that position. RF – Magglio finally plays up to his contract. If Sheffield stays healthy, Ordonez may be right in the middle of the MVP races. Unfortunately with Sheffield injured, Magglio didn’t have many runners to drive in and his production tapered off somewhat closer to the season end. Despite that, he still hits for high average and leads MLB in batting average. LF – either the team is going to sign a free agent or it will be the same “by committee” approach. Leyland said that if the committee can save enough money to spend on a marquee free agent, he’s all for it. He likes Rayburn and he also likes Thames, but as a part-time player. C – Tigers will probably pick up the option on Pudge since they have nobody else. And while he is on the decline, his numbers are still more than adequate for a catcher position and he’s still on the top of the game defensively. He keeps himself in such a great shape that his stamina should not come in question. Hopefully, Wilson will be back next year to give Pudge more of a break. DH – Sheffield needs to get healthy and into the form he showed in May and June. He’ll be an everyday designed hitter next year. SP – Tigers have 3 guys who will be in the rotation next season – Verlander, Bonderman, and Robertson. Beyond that it is all open. The team is seriously considering bringing Rogers back, obviously depending on his health. It may not be a bad move, but the team should look at the FA market to see if possibly a better option is available. The team needs veteran pitching presence to lead all the youngsters. Bonderman, still an enigma. He’s shown enough promise, but hasn’t shown that he can be consistently good. He needs to hone his off-speed pitches if he is to become a good consistent starter. Not sure what Robertson’s exact issues are, but he needs to be better. He’s one of the guys who always get low run support for some reason, but he needs to pitch better. Verlander is the ace of the staff right now and he should only get better. The 5th spot in the rotation is wide open. I am not sure whether Miller or Jurrjens for that matter will be ready next season. Miller needs an off-speed pitch badly since hitters just sit at his fast balls. Jurrjens is very young and another year in the minors wouldn’t hurt. He may be more ready for the major leagues than Miller at this time. RP – Byrdak and Seay should be back as left-handed relievers. Rodney and Zumaya will be counted on even more next season. Hopefully they can stay healthy and display the same form they came back to close to the season’s end. Durbin could be a middle reliever. The question is what is going to happen with Jones. I think team would like to bring him in for another year, but he may get a 2-year offer from another team that Tigers wouldn’t be willing to match. Also, they may want to bring him in a different role, even though he said that prefers to close. Zoom may be ready to step into the closer’s role next season. I don’t know what is going to happen with Grilli. He started poorly, but he had to pitch a lot more than was prudent due to the fact that starters struggled. He’s been much better towards the end of the season. How does that play out I am not sure. Farm system – I don’t see anyone in the minors that the Tigers could count on to produce the next season. Shelton has been a big disappointment down at Toledo. There are a few guys in the A and AA levels that could be contributing in a year or two, but nobody who could help next season. Look for Tigers to be active during the offseason. Ilich also said that his wallet is still open. The Tigers need a power-hitting left hander. They struggled mightily against the right handers all year long. If Tigers can address their needs adequately, they should be on the top again next season.