Detroit Tigers Off to Best Start Since 1981

Joel Zumaya Brings the Heat

New York Yankees fans, especially, might recall that last year the Detroit Tigers came out of nowhere to handily win the American League behind clutch hitting, gutty managing, and perhaps even guttier pitching (Cardinals fans, shut your mouths). With almost the entire squad returning—relief pitcher Jamie Walker bolted for big Baltimore bucks—along with the addition of power hitter Gary Sheffield, the outlook is again very bright for the Tigers.

They’re playing in perhaps baseball’s toughest division (the Indians, White Sox, and Twins all figure to push for a playoff spot), but fans have to feel more than comfortable with the batting lineup, pitching staff, and coaching staff Detroit will field against their competition.

Tigers insider Danny Knobler says this spring training was the best one for the Tigers since 1981, at least record-wise. Beyond that, however, he has a few other positive signs sure to get Motown excited for Opening Day against Roy Halladay and the Toronto Blue Jays:

Tonight’s 7-5 win over the Braves gave the Tigers a 19-10-1 record this spring. It’s their most spring wins since they went 23-11 in 1981 (they were 18-15-1 last year). Now, what does that mean? Probably nothing. The ’81 Tigers weren’t bad (in a strike year), but they didn’t win.

For what it’s worth, three different out-of-town writers told me tonight that they’re picking the Tigers to win the World Series. What does that mean? Only a little bit more. The fact is that the Tigers have had a great spring, and they look great. Then again, the biggest mistakes I’ve made in judging teams is when I change what I think based on how a team looks in the spring.

Here’s a few more bullets to prep you for the Detroit Tigers 2007 run at the World Series:

– Young flame-throwers Joel Zumaya and Justin Verlander rank first and third, respectively, for most times tipping the 100-mile-an-hour scales last season.

– Fellow flame-thrower Jair Jurrjens is one of baseball’s top minor-league pitching prospects.

– Pitcher Andrew Miller and outfielder Cameron Maybin also have bright futures.

– Salty old manager Jim Leyland loves Brent Clevlen, Ryan Rayburn, and Craig Monroe.

– Tiger Tales has a fantastic in-depth, four-part preview of this season’s squad.

– ETB favorite Curtis Granderson is still blogging for MLB. Underrated left-handed pitcher Nate Robertson is doing it too.

– The Tigers are not backing down to anybody.

– Finally, Gary Sheffield is still Gary Sheffield.

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