Whether self imposed or not, the Detroit Tigers have a few boundaries that could keep them out of the running for the AL Central Title in 2011. Offseason upgrades such as ex-Tribe hand Victor Martinez, and relief specialist Joaquin Benoit might make the team's roster seem appealing to the naked human eye. But when put to the ultimate test, this team may not flourish. In fact, this team may have even more holes than the ozone layer.
A key element that led to the Tigers' World Series run in 2006 was its impenetrable defense. But now, it has become a reliability issue, especially in the infield ever since second basemen Placido Polanco left. MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera honestly has no business in the field, even if it is at the most social position on the field; first base. His 13 errors as a part time first basemen did not bring a level of security to the rest of the Detroit infield. Johnny Peralta is probably in the same boat as Miguel, but just not as good a hitter.
It is not hitting, but pitching that wins championships. Aces are about as abundant in Detroit as there are stable automobile industries; flame throwing right-hander Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer being the only exceptions. A banged up Brad Penny, an underworked and underexposed Rick Porcello, and a potential starter by committee at the fifth starter spot could doom the Tigers. Longer innings on defense can lead to a mass of problems for the entire team. And long games don't draw good support from home crowds.
It is not required, but highly recommended to be cost-effectively efficient in today's economy; especially for the low market teams. As to why 37-year-old outfielder Magglio Ordonez got nearly $18 million as his 2011 salary is beyond even baseball experts. He has not played a full season since 2008. Brad Penny, set to make $7.5 million this year, has failed to log 200 or more innings in a season since 2007, and injury plagued Zoel Zumaya might as well have injury prone as his middle name. He has topped out at 33 innings in a four year span.
The motor city is the proud owner of a consistent MVP candidate in Miguel Cabrera and a Cy-Young potential in Justin Verlander. But if an American League Central title is in their future, they are going to have to get contributions from all of their under achievers, stay healthy, and play smart baseball. This division is getting better, which means no more 89 or fewer win teams in this division at season's end.