Five Areas to Improve

The Tigers have entered this offseason having made marked improvements in many facets of the game, but still needing a number of more improvements in order to take another step towards getting back to respectability and legitimately challenging for a berth in the postseason.

1. Bullpen Help
Easily the most obvious hole on the club – the team must fix a bullpen that blew 28 saves in 2004, a number about double what it should be. Closer Ugueth Urbina and lefty reliever Jamie Walker will be there, but after those two, the team will need to make at least one, if not two, solid free agent additions to bolster their middle relief, creating a stronger bridge between the Tiger starters and their closer. If the Tigers only improve one spot over the offseason, it must be the bullpen.

2. A big hitter
The Tigers received great production from a number of players – but if they were missing one thing, it often times came down to a lack of a true power hitter in the middle of the lineup. Ivan Rodriguez and Carlos Guillen both had great season, but neither are big power hitters, and it is hard to expect either to ever reach the 30-Home Run plateau. Whether the addition be at Third Base or in the Outfield, the Tigers will need that dominating hitter to put in the cleanup spot before they can make the move to that next level.

3. A true ace
The Tigers signed Jason Johnson last offseason to step up as the team's ace, but Johnson proved to be more inconsistent, and answered many of the questions concerning why the Baltimore Orioles chose to non-tender him. Johnson will probably return to the rotation, but the team will still need a legitimate ace – a pitcher that can be relied upon to take the ball every fifth day and give the Tigers a good chance to win every time. The team may or may not have a developing ace in Jeremy Bonderman, but one thing it's important to note – it's better to have too many as opposed to none.

4. Better Defense at the ‘hot corner'
The Tigers would like to see some defensive improvement all across the board, but possibly the biggest issue spot was at Third Base, where Eric Munson, Brandon Inge and Greg Norton all shared time. The likely removal of Munson from competition at the spot will help some, but Inge needs to show (if given the job) that he'll be able to continue to develop his raw skills at the spot, and eliminate his mishaps (12 errors in 73 games). If the team looks in a different direction, they must ensure that their new acquisition can carry his own at the ‘hot corner', and not allow his defense to become a liability.

5. More Outfield Production
Despite the fact that the Outfield is often relied upon as providing plenty of offensive support – this group wasn't exactly driving the ball. Not one Outfielder reached the 20-homer plateau. At the same time, not one Outfielder of the group reached 450 at bats for the season – a surefire sign that there just wasn't a stud among the group. While Craig Monroe might have made the best argument to get regular playing time, the team needs to find someone to provide consistent production from their Outfield – whether that player be Rondell White, Bobby Higginson, or a soon-to-be acquired free agent.


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