The Detroit Tigers are off to a great start to the 2014 campaign, but they still have a few flaws that could be worked out. The Tigers’ bullpen woes and their lack of left-handed bats come most readily to mind when thinking about the team’s shortcomings. But the bullpen has been looking better as of late, and the addition of Joel Hanrahan should do nothing but help, especially if he can once again pitch like he did for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although another left-handed bat would indeed look nice, there is precedent for a team with a right-handed heavy lineup and a strong starting rotation being able to win the World Series in recent memory. That team would be none other than the 2005 Chicago White Sox.
In 2005, the White Sox’ only left-handed hitting regulars were the switch-hitting Carl Everett, A.J. Pierzynski and the speedy Scott Podsednik who hit a total of zero home runs in the regular season. They did have a few other lefties on their bench such as Timo Perez, Willie Harris and Ross Gload, but none of them played in more than 76 games. For the most part, their offense was led by a barrage of right-handed thumpers such as Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Joe Crede, Juan Uribe, Aaron Rowand and Tadahito Iguchi. The White Sox’ starting rotation featured a top four of Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras, who all won at least 14 games while posting ERAs below 4.00. They also had a reliable veteran at the back end of their bullpen, Dustin Hermanson, who became their closer and did a very nice job by converting 34 saves and posting a 2.04 ERA before getting injured and relinquishing the job to Bobby Jenks late that season.
Therefore, it should be relatively easy for one to see the common ground that the 2014 Tigers share with the 2005 White Sox. The Tigers’ only left-handed hitters at the moment are switch-hitting Victor Martinez, Alex Avila, utility man Don Kelly and the light-hitting, switch-hitting shortstop Andrew Romine. Martinez, who is having a great season, has been the only one of the four who has been providing the Tigers with consistent offense up to this point, but Avila is beginning to come around.
However, the 2014 Tigers have a number of quality right-handed hitters, just as the 2005 White Sox did. A team can afford to have few left-handed bats when their lineup features names such as Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson. Moreover, the rookie Nick Castellanos has been doing a very nice job, Rajai Davis has been performing far better than anyone anticipated and J.D. Martinez has been coming through with some timely hitting.
Another similarity the 2014 Tigers share with the 2005 White Sox is a terrific starting rotation. The Tigers’ co-aces, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, are both off to tremendous starts and Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello have continued to impress. It is only a matter of time before Anibal Sanchez comes off of the DL and begins pitching like everyone knows he is capable of, but the rookie Robbie Ray certainly did a great job filling in for him this week. As a matter of fact, it would not be hard to argue that the Tigers’ rotation could actually be far better than that of the 2005 White Sox.
Lastly, the Tigers also have a veteran closer of their own in Joe Nathan. After a rather shaky start to the season, Nathan has begun to look very sharp as of late. This might, however, be where the similarities between the 2005 White Sox and the 2014 Tigers come to an end, especially if the conversation begins turning to managers. It would suffice to say that Ozzie Guillen and Brad Ausmus appear to be worlds apart in terms of personality. Interestingly enough, Ausmus was actually the catcher on the 2005 Houston Astros team that fell to the White Sox in the World Series.
At any rate, the 2005 White Sox are a good example of how a team with a disproportionately right-handed lineup, a strong starting rotation and a solid back end of the bullpen can still win the World Series. The Tigers’ 2006 American League championship team, as a matter of fact, was actually built in a similar fashion.