Like the big cat I am, I’m going way out on a limb and picking the Detroit Tigers as the American League Wild Card team of 2011. (Cricket fans: The Wild Card is the team with the second-best record in the league after the three respective division winners. Sometimes, the Wild Card team can have a better record than two of the three division-winners. We have already looked at these predicted winners: the Indians, the Athletics, the Red Sox.)
By going with the Indians and Tigers in the super-competitive Central Division, I am passing on the favored Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox.
In 2009, the Tigers lost out to the Twins and I believe Detroit, still under the veteran Jim Leyland, will return to form. I start with their pitching in unusual Comerica Park, with the greatest outfield expanse in Major League Baseball. Justin Verlander fans almost a batter an inning and has the nastiest fastball in the league. Max Scherzer had a nifty ERA (earned-run average) of 3.50. (Cricket buffs: This means he gives up an average of three-and-a-half runs per nine innings; by today’s standards quite good enough to be credited with more than last year’s total of 12 wins.) The pen is anchored by newly acquired Joaquin Benoit and set-up man Joel Zumaya (on the DL but it is hoped not for long), who can throw the ball 103 miles-per-hour; in other words, through a wall.
The Yankees made a so-far bad trade by dealing rookie sensation Austin Jackson. He is joined in the outfield by Magglio Ordonez, who may or may not be healthy at age 37. Offensive machine Miguel Cabrera is at first base, and if he can stay out of trouble is a legitimate MVP (cricket fans: Most Valuable Player, going to only two players each season) candidate, while Victor Martinez formerly of the Red Sox is behind the dish and Jhonny (two points for spelling) Peralta patrols third. And you gotta love any team with a second baseman named Will Rhymes.
Overall, the Tigers are far from certain, and I wouldn’t bet the rent money on them. They had a horrible road record last season. This year? I just like ’em, that’s all.