Manager: Alan Trammell General Manager: Dave Dombrowski
Ballpark (2004 park factors): Comerica Park (96/97)
Who's replacing whom?
Magglio Ordoñez replaces Alex Sanchez
Nook Logan fills in when Ordoñez is on the DL
Ramon Martinez replaces Eric Munson and loses some playing time to Brandon Inge
Vance Wilson replaces spare parts
Wilfredo Ledezma inherits Gary Knotts' starts
Troy Percival replaces Esteban Yan
Kyle Farnsworth replaces Al Levine
Franklyn German inherits Steve Coyler's innings
Matt Ginter replaces Danny Patterson
Chris Spurling and Doug Creek replace Craig Dingman and other spare parts
1B Carlos Peña
2B Omar Infante
SS Carlos Guillen
3B Brandon Inge
C Ivan Rodriguez
RF Craig Monroe
CF Nook Logan
LF Rondell White
DH Dmitri Young
R Marcus Thames (OF)
R Ramon Martinez (IF)
L Jason Smith (IF)
R Vance Wilson (C)
R- Jeremy Bonderman
L Nate Robertson
R Jason Johnson
L Wilfredo Ledezma
L Mike Maroth
R Ugueth Urbina
R Kyle Farnsworth
L Jamie Walker
R Franklyn German
R Matt Ginter
R Chris Spurling
L Doug Creek
R Magglio Ordoñez (OF)
L Bobby Higginson (OF)
R Troy Percival
R Gary Knotts
R Fernando Rodney
R Colby Lewis (60-day)
L Fernando Viña (IF) (60-day)
S Nook Logan (CF)
R Brandon Inge (3B)
R Ivan Rodriguez (C)
S Carlos Guillen (SS)
R Rondell White (LF)
S Dmitri Young (DH)
R Craig Monroe (RF)
L Carlos Peña (1B)
R Omar Infante (2B)
Hovering around .500 (they're two wins in the red, but 15 runs in the black), the Tigers continue to improve after the remarkable turnaround they made last year in the wake of their historically bad 2003 season. Last year, the team was revived by the infusion of an actual offense, lead by Ivan Rodriguez and the out-of-nowhere MVP-level performance of Carlos Guillen along with a career-saving season from Brandon Inge and a collection of solid, above-average seasons from Dmitri Young, Rondell White, Carlos Peña and Craig Monroe.
This year, the story is the pitching. Second worst in the league last year with a 5.21 ERA, the Tiger staff has posted an outstanding 3.66 ERA thus far in 2005, good for seventh best in the majors and fourth best in the AL (behind the Chisox, Twins and Angels). And before you accuse them of being a product of their pitching-friendly home park, they hold up with a 3.78 ERA on the road, still in the top ten in the bigs and sixth in the AL.
One major reason for the increased mound success is the performance of the Tiger bullpen. No active Tiger reliever owns an ERA over 4.00 and the pen as a whole has posted a 3.18 mark. Troy Percival (3.65, 5.84 K/9) hit the DL only to have Ugueth Urbina (3.38, 10.97 K/9) take his place. Kyle Farnsworth, whom the Tigers got from the Cubs in a borderline dump trade, is striking out 11.17 per nine and has a 3.26 ERA. Fireballing closer of the future Franklyn German is finally putting it together at age 25 with a 2.65 ERA (though his limp strikeout rate of 4.24 per nine could indicate he's due for another fall). Meanwhile, lefty Jamie Walker, whom the Tigers pulled off the scrap heap at age 30 before the 2002 season, is putting together his fourth straight strong season with a pen-leading 2.40 ERA.
The rotation is also thriving with only 24-year-old prospect Wilfredo Ledezma (who takes the mound against Moose tonight) sporting an ERA below league average. Of the remaining four, Jason Johnson is the oldest at 31, and even he is showing improvement, though his home-road splits are a bit scary (1.73 ERA at home, 6.55 on the road). Similarly, 27-year-old lefty Nate Robertson has been living dangerously, with more walks than strikeouts and a 1-3 record despite a 2.96 ERA that splits to 1.93 at home and 4.03 on the road.
On the flip side, another 27-year-old, Mike Maroth, who took the fall two years ago with a 9-21 record, is 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA on the road, but 1-3 with a 6.43 at home. Meanwhile, in his third full season, 22-year-old Jeremy Bonderman has emerged as the staff ace with a 3.38 ERA and 7.63 K/9. Like Maroth, his ERA improves to 1.50 on the road, where he's struck out 20 men in 24 innings against just one walk, posting a 0.58 road WHIP. Curiously, he's not been nearly as good at home (4.58 ERA, 17 BB), but he has yet to allow a home run in Comerica, which takes some of the teeth out of his 1.55 home WHIP.
Helping the staff out is the Tiger defense, which is second in the AL and fourth in the majors in Defensive Efficiency (they were third worst in the AL last year. Amazing what replacing some crappy center field defense can do. Of course, it doesn't hurt when guys revert to form after the bad kind of fluke season in the field, or finally play like the scouting reports say they do.
As for the offense, there has been little of the expected fall-off. Despite coming back from an ACL injury suffered at the end of last season, Carlos Guillen is right back at it, making his case as one of the best shortstops in baseball (.324 GPA). Brandon Inge, meanwhile, is actually improving on his breakout 2004 season, hitting .306/.398/.488 (.301 GPA). And Young, White and Monroe are back at it, putting in solid leage-average or better performances (though White could use to draw a few more walks).
One trouble spot is Ivan Rodriguez, who had a solid April, but slumped badly in early May, dragging his GPA down to .242. That he's drawn just four walks all season (one less than even Rondell) isn't helping. Though he's never really walked much, his top two single season totals came in the last two seasons, which could be a sign of maturity, or a sign of a slowing bat (remember, this is a 33-year-old catcher we're talking about). That said, Pudge has gone 7 for his last 14 (though with no walks) and looks to be getting back on tracks.
Meanwhile, the Motor City is a buzz over Nook Logan (see: Womack, Tony, 2004-5 edition), and ex-Yankee Marcus Thames has provided some pop (if little else) off the bench (5 homers in 65 at-bats). After that, it's best not to look. In front of a pathetic and short bench are Carlos Peña (second on the team in walks, but hitting .193 and slugging .307) and Omar Infante, who reamins the prototype no-hit/no-field second baseman (see: Matsui, Kazuo).
Moose vs. Ledezma tonight as the Yanks try to win their sixth straight series and keep their momentum going into this weekend's showdown with the World Champs.