Happy Opening Day everyone! I'll be down at Camden Yards today but I enjoy the breakdown of the Tigers up until first pitch tonight!
Centerfield is the home of the one and only Curtis Granderson, and while that should leave itself open for a lengthy post, I'll try to keep it brief.
In 2005 the starting Centerfielder for the Tigers was Nook Logan. They finished in last place. Nook is currently on the (last place) Nationals. In 2006 the starting Centerfielder was Curtis Granderson. The team went to the World Series. Granderson batted .294 with 2 HR and 5 RBIs and scored 3 Runs in the ALDS. In the ALCS he batted .333 with 1 HR and 2 RBIs, scoring 4 Runs. The Tigers cruised through both series. They proceeded to get swept in the World Series. Granderson batted .095 and scored 1 run.
Granderson is the catalyst of this team. I've said it since 2006. As Granderson goes, so go the Tigers. Suffice to say, starting 2008 on the DL with a broken hand was a bad omen.
Granderson had a very solid 2006 in his first full season in the majors and 2009 should be even better. While his power and speed has stayed relatively equal, his walks have increased, and strikeouts decreased dramatically. His defense was unimpressive in 2008 (after a stellar 2006/2007) and has been a point of emphasis in the spring. There is no reason to believe that he won't have an excellent defensive season, especially now that he won't need to handicap himself to accommodate sub-par left and right fielders.
In all, the 2009 version of Granderson is one of this team's horses, while 2006 was a bonus. Breaking it down:
I believe that Curtis Granderson was the single greatest factor in pushing the Tigers into the playoffs in 2006. He was a substantial upgrade over the previous centerfield options and was an unexpected bright spot in the lineup. In 2009 it is expected that he was remain in that role, but unlike 2006, he will not be the reason that the Tigers go from worst to first, that will need to come from somewhere else.