An interesting quote from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski from the early days of the Winter Meetings deserves a bit more exploration than I gave it at the time, which is to say, none.
Dombrowski was ready for the media questioning, statistics in hand to assist him in giving the exact quote he wanted. As transcribed by the Detroit News' Lynn Henning, Dombrowski said:
"The Twins were third in batting average, the Tigers were fourth.
"Minnesota was third in on-base percentage, Detroit was fifth. Minnesota scored 30 more runs. They had 10 more doubles. They had nine more triples. We had 10 more home runs.
"We did have 1,299 left on base," he said. "We led the league in left-on-base. But, we stole one more base than the Twins did."
Well, yes. He makes a good argument. The teams truly were surprisingly not that far apart in 2010. Despite all appearances to the contrary, Detroit actually did fine when it came of offensive production.
But, as they say, that was then, this is now.
Let's just use the stats that Dombrowski did for a moment. Magglio Ordonez's on-base percentage was .378, good for second place on the team. Currently he's a free agent who may or may not be back on the team next year. Johnny Damon was fourth -- and if you take out the fact Casper Wells only had one-sixth the plate appearances of a player who was in the lineup for the entire season, third -- with a .355 OBP. Currently he's a free agent who will definitely not be back next season.
Sure, you say, but the Tigers added Victor Martinez. True. His on-base percentage falls about midway between Ordonez and Damon. So, the Tigers may have to work on cloning him in order to avoid having a dropoff in production in the middle of their lineup.
True, the Tigers hit more home runs. But would that be so if Justin Morneau had not been injured before the All-Star Break? He had 18 at the time and a whopping .437 on-base percentage. That would obviously have come down some over the course of the entire season, but it wouldn't have crashed.
So let's see: The Tigers possibly lose two key players and replace them with one. The Twins add a key player simply by getting him back from the disabled list.
And we haven't even talked about what could be expected from a Brandon Inge another year older, a full season of Ryan Raburn (hint: if he's truly an .814 OPS player in the Big Leagues the Tigers and quite a few other teams will probably be kicking themselves for not getting in on that sooner) and a year where Austin Jackson's batting average on balls in play does not lead baseball.
If Dombrowski truly felt like his team would be complete as it is currently constructed, he'd have a rude awakening midway through 2011. So let's hope that was just posturing for the reporters. I think it was.
The Tigers really need Magglio Ordonez back in 2011, and they have to hope he shows no lingering effects from his ankle injury. If they do that, then I'll believe they're a better team offensively than last year. Otherwise, I just don't see it, and I don't see how a team with a worse offense, worse defense and a modicum of improvement in the rotation is supposed to win the division in 2011.