MLB Betting: 2011 Detroit Tigers preview

By: Barry Daniels | Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Similar to a good mystery novel, nobody really knows what to expect when the 2011 Detroit Tigers season reaches its final chapter in September.

Oddsmakers at opened the Tigers at 20/1 to capture the World Series, 8/1 to win the AL pennant and an 8/5 second-choice to finish first in their own division. The club’s over/under win total is set at 84 wins, three more than it managed during last season’s 81-81 campaign.

One of Detroit’s main mysteries surrounds Miguel Cabrera, the squad’s best offensive player. The slugging first-sacker didn’t make it to spring training on time because of a DUI arrest a few days before camp started. Cabrera, who is constantly battling weight and alcohol problems, must overcome both tribulations if the Tigers have any chance of overcoming the defending champion Minnesota Twins in the AL Central.

Jim Leyland’s troops need Cabrera to at least come close to the numbers he put up last season, which were good enough to finish second in AL MVP voting. The 27-year-old hit .328 with 38 HR and 126 RBI in 150 games.

Those stats become even more impressive considering Cabrera had little or no protection behind him at the No. 5 spot in the batting order.

The Tigers believe they solved that dilemma by signing free-agent catcher Victor Martinez. The 32-year-old veteran hit .302 in 127 games with the Boston Red Sox last year. He also has some power, evidenced by his 20 HR and 79 RBI.

Detroit also re-signed Magglio Ordoñez, their own free agent who played in just 84 games last year before breaking his ankle sliding into home plate. Ordonez was hitting .303 with 12 HR and 59 RBI in 323 plate appearances before suffering the season-ending injury.

Relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit is Detroit’s other free-agent prize. The 33-year-old right-hander had a miniscule 1.34 ERA in 63 appearances for Tampa Bay last season. He fanned 75 batters and walked just 11 in 60 1/3 innings.

Starting pitching could also be a bit of a mystery, especially at the back end where Phil Coke and Brad Penny reside.

Coke will be asked to fill the No. 4 starting spot after pitching the entire 2010 campaign out of the bullpen. Penny, who will be requested to fill the No. 5 spot, was signed as a free-agent after missing most of last season with a back injury.

Jose Valverde will again be assigned the closers role. The animated right-hander was 2-4 with a 3.00 ERA and 26 saves in 29 opportunities last year. However, the pudgy 33-year-old faded during the last three months of the season when the Tigers went 40-45.

The schedule

Getting off to a good start won’t be easy. The Tigers begin the campaign with three games at Yankee Stadium against the Bronx Bombers before traveling to Baltimore for a three-game set against the improved Orioles.

Detroit also must go on a seven-game West Coast trip through Oakland and Seattle during the opening month.

The interleague schedule includes road games against the Rockies, Dodgers and Pirates and home contests versus the Diamondbacks, Mets and defending champion Giants.

The stats

Detroit was 11-7 in interleague play last season. The club was 52-29 at home, 29-52 on the road, 15-18 against teams in its own division, 26-21 against southpaw starters, 16-26 in one-run games and 7-8 in extra innings.

The prediction

The Tigers will go as far as Miguel Cabrera takes them. If the slugging first-baseman can overcome his off-the-field problems and come close to the same numbers he produced in his first few seasons in Detroit, the Tigers will improve on last year’s 81 wins. If Phil Coke and Brad Penny can anchor the back end of the starting pitching staff, the Tigers could also go ‘over’ the 84-win total assigned to them by most offshore sports books.

Follow Don Best's season preview of all 30 MLB clubs by checking out the following links: Florida Marlins ... Tampa Bay Rays ... Atlanta Braves ... St. Louis Cardinals ... Kansas City Royals ... Texas Rangers ... Houston Astros ... Arizona Diamondbacks ... San Diego Padres ... Los Angeles Angels ... Los Angeles Dodgers ... San Francisco Giants ... Oakland Athletics ... Seattle Mariners ... Colorado Rockies ... Minnesota Twins ... Milwaukee Brewers ... Chicago Cubs ... Chicago White Sox

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