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SB Nation Detroit Staff Predicts The Detroit Tigers' 2011 Season

You want predictions? We've got 'em. The staff here at SB Nation Detroit breaks down the Detroit Tigers' chances for the upcoming 2011 MLB season.

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The Detroit Tigers' 2011 season is nearly upon us and that means it's also the season for predictions. The staff here at SB Nation Detroit figured we'd throw our two cents in, so here are our thoughts on the upcoming year.

Brian Packey
Record: 92-70
AL Central finish: 1st
Playoff run: World Series Champs
Team MVP: Miguel Cabrera team/MLB MVP

Team MVP will be a close race between Miguel Cabrera, who will put up his oft-taken-for-granted gaudy numbers, and my AL Cy Young prediction Justin Verlander. (Going for three straight years of accuracy with the AL Cy winner-I picked Felix and Greinke the last two years, respectively.) I think Verlander puts it together for a full season and is the reason the Tigers don't give away a few "meaningless" April games.

Interdivision, the White Sox are my real concern this year. Ah, what about those pesky Twins, though? Yeahhhh, they're always lingering, too. But Carlos Quentin looks like he's ready for a 2008-like season and if Jake Peavy can get healthy (expected to be back late-April) then the Sox tout a comparably strong rotation. At least the Tigers have a good history off the new White Sox closer, Matt Thornton, because they couldn't touch Bobby Jenks.

Everything about these predictions screams homer, but I think the optimism this roster evokes is more than reasonable. Certainly, these are the expectations -- 2006 set the bar pretty high, as have the subsequent marquee player signings. It's time the Tigers put it all together.

Sean Yuille
Record: 89-73
AL Central finish: 2nd
Playoff run: None
Team MVP: Miguel Cabrera

As much as I'd like to predict that the Detroit Tigers will make the playoffs and make another run at a World Series title, I'm a combination of skeptical and pessimistic. I'm skeptical that the Tigers' pitching will do enough for them to win the AL Central, just as I'm pessimistic about the injury situation and concerned they will run another promising season off the tracks. The Tigers always seem to put together a strong first half of the season, but the second half is a big question mark. Will this finally be the year they put two strong halves together to win the AL Central? I personally don't think so.

I unfortunately see 2011 following a similar path to what we saw last year, minus perhaps as many injuries. I expect the first half of the season to go quite well, with the Tigers leading the division going into the All-Star Break. As the second half of the season gets started, I don't envision quite as big of a collapse, but I do see the Twins making another run. It won't be the ridiculous finish we saw a couple years ago, but the run will be good enough that it pits the Tigers and Twins against each other for the division heading into the final week of the season. Given what's happened the past few years and even in 2006, it's tough for me to go against the Twins in this situation, even as a Tigers fan.

Although this prediction has been doom and gloom so far, I will say that as a team, I expect the Tigers to play much better baseball in 2011. The offensive firepower is there with guys like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Austin Jackson and Magglio Ordonez. And pitching-wise, the Tigers have a good starting rotation and potentially a very good bullpen, especially if Joel Zumaya can get healthy. This is why I have the Tigers winning more games in 2011 than in any single season in the past four years.

I envision the Tigers being a more consistent baseball team in 2011, even if they struggle a bit in the second half. At the end of the season, I have them missing the playoffs more based on what the Twins do. Minnesota certainly seems due for a down year, but I think they have enough talent to win the division and make the playoffs (only to get promptly swept in the first round again). Also, with 89 wins the Wild Card probably won't be an option for the Tigers. They likely would need at least 94 wins to think about making the playoffs that way, so I don't see Detroit playing into October this year.

This is obviously one case where I hope I am dead wrong about the Tigers' upcoming season. It wouldn't surprise me if they do make a run in 2011 if the stars align like they did five years ago, but the pessimist in me sees something different happening. I will be happy to eat crow come October, though.

Ian Casselberry
Record: 88-74
AL Central finish: 2nd
Playoff run: None
Team MVP: Miguel Cabrera

There's no reason to think that the Tigers can't win the AL Central. They have an outstanding lineup, one that has made opposing pitchers and national columnists take notice. Detroit might also have the best starting rotation in the division.

But Max Scherzer's shaky spring (10.38 ERA, 10 walks in 17 1/3 innings) makes me nervous. Maybe he was "working on stuff," but it looks like he'll once again need the first month of the season to smooth out his mechanics. Phil Coke's durability as a starter is also questionable, though he'll be given time to build up his stamina. Rick Porcello and Brad Penny looked good this spring, but both are coming off inconsistent or injury-plagued seasons and can't be counted as sure things. Of course, the Tigers also have a very sure thing in Justin Verlander, who looks ready to have a dominant year.

I also have concerns about the Tigers' defense. Their middle infield could make for some long innings. I'm still not sold on Jhonny Peralta as an everyday shortstop, though his lack of range might be a bit overblown. (He could make up for that with his offense, but he was terrible at the plate this spring.) In the outfield, Ryan Raburn and Magglio Ordonez in the corners could force Austin Jackson to cover a lot of ground. Fortunately, he's capable of doing that. And Casper Wells could provide some much needed defensive help in later innings. But there could be some nights when a lot of balls are dropping into the left-field and right-field gaps.

Ultimately, I think the White Sox have fewer question marks in their lineup and pitching staff. Jake Peavy is a huge x-factor. If he can come back healthy, watch out. And I expect Adam Dunn to put up MVP-type numbers batting in U.S. Cellular Field for 81 games.

But Jim Leyland also seems to be a different manager when he's working for a new contract. I love the aggressiveness he showed in 2009 by forcing the issue on the basepaths and making opposing defenses work a little harder, and hope he takes that same approach this season. That could very well be the difference in what looks to be a tight three-team race in the AL Central.

Ryan Weiss
Record: 90-72
AL Central finish: 1st
Playoff run: ALDS
Team MVP: Justin Verlander

The fan in me wants to say, "The Tigers are going to win the World Series and there's nothing you can do about it!" But the realist in me wants to punch that guy in the face. That's why I'm going to aim high, but not too high for this year's squad.

If Cabrera can shake off his offseason issues and perform the way the Tigers need him to, the offense will be just fine. Judging from the past the answer seems to be yes, but only time will tell in the end. I think he's got an MVP-caliber season in him and he'll be fine, but that's just my worthless opinion.

The big question mark on this squad is the pitching staff. We all know they have talent, headlined by ace Justin Verlander and young gun Max Scherzer, but will they be able to be consistent all year? Scherzer and Rick Porcello both had issues at different points last season, and Phil Coke is making the big jump from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Joining them is the new guy Brad Penny, who's coming off an oblique injury. That said, my bold prediction this year is a 20-win campaign from Verlander and a Cy Young to boot.

For me this sounds a lot like 2008, when everyone went bananas and penciled the Tigers into the World Series before the first pitch had even been thrown. Detroit had acquired a bona fide star in Cabrera and a pitcher in Dontrelle Willis who was trying to prove that he could still bring the heat. Replace Cabrera with Victor Martinez and Willis with Penny and it's nearly the same scenario.

That 2008 team tanked and finished last, but I don't expect that out of this year's squad. The talent to win the division is there, which the Tigers will have to do to make the playoffs because the Wild Card will certainly come out of the AL East again. With those pesky White Sox and Twins, that's anything but a given.