Rewind one year ago, when the top of the tigers order was the duo of Placido Polanco and Curtis Granderson. Both great players, and even better guys.
The Tigers took a different direction this year and will miss these two great players. The amount however is not as large as one would think coming into the season. Their replacements, at least positionally, are two unproven rookies. Austin Jackson has taken over for Granderson in both the leadoff role and centre field, while Scott Sizemore has taken over for Polonco at second base and fills the number nine hole.
These rookies have big shoes to fill and realisticaly in their first season no one is expecting them to replace their predecessors this year. They are just asked to contribute…and that is exactly what they are doing.
In fact, look at Austin Jackson’s numbers the first month of the season and you barely even miss Curtis Granderson. The only thing he really lacks in comparison is the home run power, which is unneccesary as a lead off hitter…and aren’t even currently blowing Jackson away at this point in the season. The only category Granderson is above Jackson is in home runs, and that is only 2-1. Jackson’s batting average is 100 points higher then Granderson’s and he has scored 8 more runs. RBI’s and stolen bases are tied.
If Jackson keeps this pace up, he should be a favourite for American League Rookie of the Year.
Sizemore does not compare to Polanco as favourably which is why he is sitting at the bottom of the order, but he is holding his own atleast showing he belongs in the big leagues. He seems to get those clutch hits for the team.
Take for example Thursday April 29th…a game the Tigers won on the strength of their two rookies. A 3-0 victory, against the division leading twins, where both Sizemore and Jackson playing a big role, combining for 2 runs and an rbi. Tiger fans have to be happy with what they see in these two young players. With each passing day a little of the bitterness from trading Granderson and opting not to resign Polanco goes away.
There are two stories during this game however that really make it a game to remember. Both stories involve two potentially huge come back stories. The smaller of the two is Magglio Ordonez got his 2000th career hit, a fine accomplishment for any ball player. Ordonez saw his power numbers plumet last year as well had it not been for a second half hit parade he would have had an average below .300 for just the 4th time in his career. His power seems to have returned this year as has his consistant bat.
The bigger story however, were the 6 scoreless innings tossed by none other then Dontrelle Willis. Last year he battled anxiety problems, poor mechanics and a lack of control. He spent a large portion of the season in the minor leagues. This year Willis is pitching like the tigers have never seen. He won his first game in almost a year and only his second game in three seasons with the tigers. He has a respectable 3.75 ERA and is starting to look like the Dontrelle Willis who used to pitch in Florida.
A strong game from all four of these guys is a great feel good story. A strong season from all of these players could lead the Tigers back to the post season once again.