By: Holly Horning
Let the predictions begin!
Despite a single game not having been played, the traditional media is up to its old tricks and making their guesses about division winners, World Series participants and unbelievably even who will win the Cy Young and MVP. It’s a silly exercise and even sillier if anyone gives them more than 1.5 seconds of their attention.
Which is why I pay no mind to any of this, even if the prognostications about the Tigers are excellent. Every year, a wide swath of baseball’s most knowledgeable experts give their predictions and every year, like clockwork, they are proven wrong. Funny how, at the end of the year, they never return to report on their predictions.
The problem is that people give their crystal ball predictions based solely on paper and a static situation. Every other industry considers the human factor and different case scenarios.
And that’s the great thing about our favorite sport. There are so many facets of the game, each impacting one another, that the slightest change will offset other facets. It’s a game that keeps us riveted, wondering what will happen next.
So, will you get predictions from me? Certainly not about where the Tigers will finish. Or the benchmarks certain players will set.
I choose to take the path of hope every year. But once the season is meaningfully underway, I start looking at the factors that present themselves. Patterns have begun to emerge – and you know how I feel about patterns.
But there are people and aspects about our Tigers in which I believe. Patterns of consistent and/or stable performance. On the flipside, the same can be said of aspects (bullpen) that terrify (bullpen) me because their performance (bullpen) has continued to be unstable (bullpen) over the years.
So rather than joining the rest of the lemmings and giving you my predictions, I offer something different. My two groups of people and topics I believe will either soothe my soul this year or expand my cursing vocabulary. Let’s dig in……….
WHAT KEEPS ME UP AT NIGHT
1. Injuries to either Miggy and VMart
– We have to go back to 2011 for the last time the both of them had no injuries.
2. Overall team injuries
– A record 13 different starting pitchers last year and 3 years of increasing overall injuries.
– Three years of injuries (and the bullpen) being officially blamed for playoff elimination.
3. Unrealistic expectations of the manager
– This is not about Brad’s skills – it’s about whether it’s fair to expect someone with only 2 years of managerial experience to inherit the winning ways of managers who took years to gain the necessary knowledge.
4. Sloppy play
– Spring training saw a noticeable tick upwards in sloppy play – and by the regular starters.
– A pattern of throwing the ball away, fielders running into each other, and botched pick-off attempts were seen regularly.
5. Bad base running
– Can a team that landed in last place by a mile be realistically expected to significantly improve?
– Even a huge improvement may only get them into the middle of the pack in baserunning stats.
6. Risk vs Reward
– We’ve seen how long it takes Victor to recover from a “mild” injury. Is putting him at 1B and increasing the risk of injury a smart move?
– Is putting Miggy at 3B where he hasn’t played in almost 3 years another risk that can be afforded?
7. Training and conditioning
– The baseball season is a marathon and only the fittest survive until the end.
– Eight players, 6 of them pitchers, will start the season unable to play.
– Having spent time in Lakeland watching the team go through conditioning drills, (as someone who is knowledgeable about this area) I am alarmed at the lack of flexibility by many of the players.
– Once buoyed by the many new reliever options, the bullpen in April is more about who remained healthy.
– How much trial and error will it take for the bullpen to get the right mix of pitchers?
9. Bullpen strategy
– Just because you may have the talent, doesn’t mean they’ll be used correctly.
– Last year’s stats showed that Ausmus kept his starters in too late, putting up worse numbers than those that the relievers would have generated.
WHAT ALLOWS ME TO SLEEP LIKE A BABY
– The least of the team’s worries.
– He’s hitting again, with power, from the left side.
– The first season in 3 years where he’s not recovering from injury or surgery.
– He looked great in person – trim and moving without a hitch in his giddy-up.
4. Rich Dubee
– He is high energy and motivational and just what the coaching staff needs.
– He did what Jeff Jones wasn’t able to do – changed Anibal’s pitching delivery to generate less stress on his arm.
5. Defense up the middle
– No team can beat McCann, Kinsler, Iggy and Gose.
– A bulldog mentality and proof that he’s evolved from a thrower into a pitcher.
7. Shane Greene
– An ERA of .39 after his first 3 games last year before an undiagnosed injury took its toll.
– Talent like that (and a winning record as a rookie) doesn’t just disappear.
8. Al Avila
– Great trades, depth all-around, brand new bullpen, new strategies – there’s lots to love.
– He’s seeing the bigger picture and not just focused on building a high-profile roster.
– Two straight years of impressive offensive skills and now defensive show he’s not a fluke.
– Young, healthy, terrific arm and a leader.
Unlike most in the traditional media, I will return to this list at the end of the season. It’s my hope that I’ll have significantly more nights of peaceful slumber than evenings that have me talking in my sleep.