Moving around the infield, let's take a look at second base and compare 2006 to what we've got for Opening Day 2009.
In the second half of 2005 the Tigers traded for Placido Polanco, who proceeded to close out the year on a white-hot tear. So much so, that he would have won the batting title in either league for his overall batting average, but didn't have enough at-bats to qualify in either. With expectations for a solid 2006 season, the Tigers started the year with this:
Who would have guessed that we'd end up with this?
Indeed, Polanco has had an excellent run in Detroit, including a top-3 batting average finish and Gold Glove in 2007 and a very respectable .307 average last year. Moving into 2009, we can see that he's still on top of his game, big head and all:
So, how does Placido Polanco stack up to Placido Polanco? Entering 2009, he has established himself as a consistent hitter and proven asset, much more so than he was in 2006. However, with 3 years behind him, it is unlikely that his defense is where it once was and, apologies to his Gold Glove (which he deserved for his errorless year), his defense has always been above average, but not spectacular. Offensively, what you see is what you get. High average, great with two strikes, little power, little speed. That was the case entering 2006 and appears to remain so today. As a contact hitter, there is no reason to expect any drop-off this year. So,
2006 or 2009?
Continuity: 2009 (3.5 years as starting second sacker under his belt)
I would give the edge to 2006, by a hair. Here's why: Polanco is more of a proven offensive commodity now than he was in 2006 and we expect more of him. However, his actual production is quite similar, its just that Tigers fans are more used to it. On the other hand, any drop off in Defense, however slight, weakens the right side of the infield, especially with a first baseman who has not proven himself with a glove just yet. Still, Polanco remains an anchor on the 2009 team and has a huge impact on the Tigers' ultimate success or failure.
It's all knotted up now at 1 apiece. Shortstop to follow, once I can find a decent baseball card of Adam Everett.