Posting at 1:05, the traditional afternoon start time. Why are the Tigers playing a night game? Why is the Home Opener on a Friday?
Eerie similarities in the DH Position.
In 2006, the Tigers started the season with Dmitri Young as the DH.
He was jettisoned for Marcus Thames. In 2009, the Tigers intended to start with Gary Sheffield as the DH. He was jettisoned for Marcus Thames.
The DH position was unusual for the Tigers in 2006, unlike many other teams (including the 2007 and 2008 teams) they did not have a traditional DH, an Ortiz/Thome/Hafner type if you will. Instead, in traditional national league style, they had a high power low average player on the bench, whom they moved into a DH role. Think Matt Stairs for the Phillies (ironically, Matt Stairs was on the Tigers at the end of 2006 and had a few huge hits that helped them win a playoff spot). This was Marcus Thames in 2006 and it appears as though it will be Marcus Thames in 2009, with a bunch of Guillen mixed in.
What does this mean? The team continues to have a good, but not great DH. If it is Thames than it is a major power threat. If it is Guillen, then they have a very good gap to gap hitter capable of getting on base and scoring. Neither option is something to complain about. Gary Sheffield, the Tigers' DH in 2007 and 2008 was very, very productive when he was healthy. I actually think that he will continue to be productive in 2009 with the Mets. The man is a tremendous talent and a valuable weapon. However, with Guillen serving as the DH, it is actually an upgrade. With Thames, we're probably looking at a downgrade. On balance, it is a parallel shift on what you could expect with a reasonably healthy, but old Gary Sheffield.
Comparing 2006 to 2005, it seemed like the team was facing a downgrade as well, after losing one of the team's most recognized and dangerous players. However, it actually added flexibilty to the roster and the younger team went out there with something to prove. Sound familiar?
DH looks better in 2009, because Carlos Guillen's production has been moved to that slot. That is better than the rag-tag DH position in 2006, which held its own very well. Using the position to provide rotating rest to Ordonez and Cabrera will help the team stay fresh and able to make a sustained playoff push.
The Comparison So Far:
Offensively, this 2009 team is should be very good. Not as good as people expected them to be in 2008 (1000 runs? Please.), but probably as good as they actually were in 2008, which was good for 4th in the American League in Runs Scored. The trick is those two other things, "Pitching" and "Defense". Looking at the starters, the Defense is drastically improved, with the left side of the infield looking rock-solid and with more speed in the outfield. Pitching? Well that is what is coming up next...