As announced today by Jim Leyland, the 2012 Opening Day lineup will be:
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Brennan Boesch, RF
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B
- Prince Fielder, 1B
- Delmon Young, LF
- Ryan Raburn, DH
- Jhonny Peralta, SS
- Alex Avila, C
- Ramon Santiago, 2B
P: Justin Verlander
- Gene Kingsale CF
- Omar Infante SS
- Dmitri Young LF
- Bobby Higginson RF
- Dean Palmer DH
- Carlos Pena 1B
- Eric Munson 3B
- Brandon Inge C
- Ramon Santiago 2B
P: Mike Maroth
According to baseball reference, Brandon Inge started at catcher in 2003, came in defensive replacement in center field in 2004, started at third base in 2005, 2006, and 2007, started in center field in 2008, started back at third base in 2009, 2010, and 2001. This is the first opening day he has missed since 2003.
Ramon Santiago has only made two opening day starts in his career. Both of them have come with Detroit in 2003 and now 2012.
Before we get into the 2012 season preview let’s break down each position of both teams: the historic Tigers team of 2003 (they lost…119 baseball games, after all, trust me, it’s hard to do that) and the hip 2012 club that is supposed to run away with the division.
2012 SP Justin Verlander, basically the man
2003 SP Mike Maroth The lefty was the poster boy for the 119 loss team as he lost 21 games. It didn’t start out too bad as he threw seven innings of five hit, two run ball where he walked none and struck out three Minnesota Twins. The Tigers still lost the game 3-1.
2012 C Alex Avila, the iron tool of ignorance
2003 C Brandon Inge One of two players still on the roster. Inge was the first string catcher that year and hit .203/.265/.339 with eight home runs and 30 RBI in 104 games. Matt Walbeck and A.J. Hinch both caught for Detroit as well.
2012 1B Prince Fielder, the ultimate phat cat
2003 1B Carlos Pena Pena had come over the year before in a three team trade and began his sophomore campaign at first. Pena is still a quality major leaguer at this point, fielding the position with excellence over in Tampa.
2012 2B Ramon Santiago, always a Tiger
2003 2B Ramon Santiago Wait….what?!?!?!?!?
2012 SS Jhonny Peralta, thhe qhuality phlayer
2003 SS Omar Infante While struggling to keep a spot on an active roster for most of his career, Infante is now an everyday second baseman in Miami after finally figuring it out in Atlanta a couple years ago.
2012 3B Miguel Cabrera, only the best player East of California
2003 3B Eric Munson Munson had 37 home runs in 2003-04 with the Tigers but then disappeared from the league three years after that after brief stints with Tampa and Houston.
2012 LF Delmon Young, the younger brother
2003 LF Dmitri Young Brotherly love in full effect. Dmitri was the DH for most of the year, but some parallel universe that looked into the future apparently foresaw Delmon in left field in 2012 and told Trammell to start the curiously slow Young in the field that day.
2012 CF Austin Jackson, the gallivanting glove
2003 CF Gene Kingsale Eugene started opening day, but that was the highlight of his season as he was supplanted by Alex Sanchez not long after, who actually stole 44 bases in 423 plate appearances. A rare highlight of the season.
2012 RF Brennan Boesch, the bombastic boom-stick
203 RF Bobby Higginson By 2003 Higginson was shadow of his former self (whatever that means). He posted a .320 OBP that year and while 2004 was a bit more respectable (.353) he was done and retired the year after that.
2012 DH Ryan Raburn, the tale of two halves
2003 DH Dean Palmer After two successful years (1999 and 2000) with Detroit, the next two were injury riddled and 2003 was his last opening day. In fact by May he was gone and retired. Dmitri Young replaced his bat at DH and Craig Monroe became the everyday left fielder, which was the start of a semi-successful four year stint with the Tigers. (You can see him on FSD these days!). Yes, I know, this paragraph had nothing to do with Palmer after the first two sentences.
2012 CL Jose Valverde
2003 CL No One Is Sure The 2003 team was so horrible that the bullpen suffered and only saved 27 games….wait maybe the team was so bad in part because 14 different relievers finished games that year, and eight different relievers saved games, though no one had more than five saves a piece. Jamie Walker was the only significant player who had a decent year as he posted an ERA+ of 130.
So it’s safe to say that the 2012 opening day will be quite a bit more talented than the 2003 version. Poor Alan Trammell never had a chance.
2012 Season Preview
I’m going to wonder for a long time what the Tigers would have done if Victor Martinez didn’t ruin his knee for the year this off-season. Would Prince Fielder still have happened? I don’t know.
During the Fielder Press Conference Tigers Owner Mike Ilitch nearly made it sound like it wouldn’t have, but then again a nine year deal as a reaction to one player’s misfortune would be a panic move only explained by intoxicating substances or the practices of the insane.
Unfortunately I can’t comment on either theory because both may be true.
What I can do is take a look at what that move, as well as the others they made this off-season, and provide a realistic expectation for the 2012 season.
|Notable Free Agent Acquisitions|
|Prince Fielder 1B|
|Octavio Dotel RHP|
|Gerald Laird C|
|Eric Patterson CF|
|Warwick Saupold RHP|
|Notable Trade Acquisitions|
|Collin Balester RHP (from Washington for Ryan Perry)|
|Magglio Ordonez RF|
|Carlos Guillen 2B|
|Ryan Perry RHP (traded to Washington for Balester)|
|Will Rhymes 2B|
|Joel Zumaya RHP|
|Wilson Betemit 3B|
|Brad Penny RH|
The Tigers are overwhelmingly expected to make the 2012 playoffs. That is equally exciting as it is scary. Sure, the Tigers by far have the best team on paper, but the Indians and Royals are both talented organizations and while there doesn’t seem to be much hope for the White Sox or Twins this year, Tigers fans are still new at this “winning” attitude. Remember, the 2003 season is still less than a decade behind us. Remember….remember….
However, the powerful combination of Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera hitting 3rd and 4th is a pretty tantalizing remedy to those fears, and young talents like Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch, Alex Avila, and even Delmon Young have a lot to offer on the offensive side.
Justin Verlander anchors a fairly impressive rotation that includes Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello. Drew Smyly will begin the year as the fifth starter, and it will be very interesting to watch such a young arm pitch after Verlander every fifth day.
The bullpen features the always entertaining Jose Valverde at the back end, and a solid stockpile of arms in Dotel, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, and 2011 surprise Al Albuquerque, once he returns from injury around mid-season.
The 5th spot in the starting rotation wasn’t the only position battle this spring, as second base was a wide open melee between Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, and Ramon Santiago. Raburn won the job against RHP and Inge will see starts against LHP. Santiago will occasionally start and backup Peralta at short stop.
If anything this Tigers team will be entertaining to see, as many critics are having a field day with Miguel Cabrera’s transition to third base. I bring this up only at the end because it must be noted, I personally can’t take any more talk of Cabrera’s potential failure at third base. It will either work or it won’t. It won’t make or break the Tigers season, they’ll just adjust as needed.
The bottom line is this: the Tigers’ main concerns this spring was their 5th starter and second base positions. That’s a pretty good problem to have and a huge reason that fans are optimistic for the season ahead.
I know I am. I predict that the Tigers will finish 93-69, and will win the division by 5 games.