Posted by Chip Stevenson
In honor of MLB's first game of the 2009 season tonight, I've decided to share with all of our loyal readers my top secret predictions for the Detroit Tigers.
(1) Edwin Jackson will have the most wins out of any Tiger starting pitcher.
This isn't a knock on Justin Verlander, who I do think will have a nice little bounce back year, or Galarraga who will be close to what he was last year. It's more a testament to all the rave reviews I have been reading about Jackson throughout the preseason. He's always had tremendous potential, and, at only 25 years old, he's only now entering his prime as a pitcher.
My only real experience with Jackson comes from two years ago. The Tigers were in Tampa Bay and Jackson was struggling on the mound early in the game. The Tigers got a hit to bring home a run and Jackson sprinted behind home plate to back up the throw to home. The outfielder airmailed the throw over the catcher and it hit Jackson square in the face. Most pitchers I know would have started crying and left the game, but not Jackson. Instead, he shrugged it off like nothing ever happened and dominated the Tigers for the rest of the game. That's one tough dude and I think he's going to put it all together this year. Look out for 15 wins out of him.
(2) Rick Porcello will win six or fewer games this year.
From what I've heard, Porcello has the best stuff out of any of the starters on the team. In fact, he apparently had the best stuff in camp last season, his first in professional baseball. I'm more than excited to see what he can do, and I expect him to pitch well. However, his pitch count last season was capped at 75 pitches per game. I am sure Leyland will let him throw more pitches per game this year but not that many more. If he's capped at, say, 90 pitches, I think that his inexperience, jitters, and pitch count will make it hard for him to get past the 6th inning in most starts, no matter how well he is pitching. If that's the case, he won't win many games even if he pitches up to his potential.
(3) Brandon Inge will hit .260 or higher.
Inge's career average is under .240 and he hit barely above the Mendoza line at .205 last year. His 2008 season was a complete disaster as he was yanked all over the field, never getting enough time to settle down, and ultimately was forced to play catcher, his least favorite position on the diamond. This year, his job is set in stone: he's absolutely the starting third baseman. From Opening Day until the 162nd game, he will know exactly where he will be on the field. I expect him to take advantage of that stability and have his best season at the plate, at least in terms of batting average.
(4) Miguel Cabrera will hit 45 or more home runs.
Last season, Cabrera got off to a terribly slow start as he adjusted to his new team, a new position, the pressure of his monstrous contract, playing in the American League for the first time, and the cold weather of Detroit in April, yet he still finished the year with 37 home runs. This season, no excuses. He's set at first base and he should be adjusted to the AL style of pitching. I expect him to get off to a hot start and never look back on his way to an MVP type season.
(5) The Tigers will win the AL Central.
The division is wide open this year, and the Tigers are flying under the radar a bit, which I love. I think they are going to surprise a lot of people this year and play more to their 2006 level than their 2008 level. Most analysts point to the Tigers' pitching staff when they pick other teams in the Central to win. Personally, I don't get it. I would take the top three starters on the Tigers (Verlander, Jackson, Galarraga) over any other Central team's top three. Verlander is out to prove that his terrible year last year was a fluke. Jackson has the stuff to be the ace of the staff, and Galarraga's sinker will keep the Tigers in the vast majority of his starts this year. The Indians are giving freakin Carl Pavano a starting spot! How are people picking that team to win the division?