Predictions for the Tigers’ 2015 season

Rod Allen is bound to call someone "country strong."

Rod Allen is bound to call someone “country strong.”

J.D. will strike out at least at triple the rate of the other Martinez.

David Price will lead the team in complete games—because no one else will have any.

Justin Verlander will struggle to keep his no-longer-young body completely healthy, but will battle through injuries and by the end of the season will have reinvented himself. No longer dominant but a lot smarter; capable of pitching effectively but for shorter outings.

Rod Allen will again lead all announcers in baseball in the use of the word “therefore.” Just listen.

Alfredo Simon will acquire a new nickname. Maybe not the next Big Potato, maybe the new Big Pasta. El Fettuccine?

Detroit will no longer be in the weakest division of the American League and will have intense competition all season long from the White Sox, Royals, and Indians. It will be a battle from start to finish, and a fifth straight division title will prove elusive. It may come down to the season-ending three-game series in Chicago in the first weekend of October. If the Tigers have to settle for a wild card spot, based on recent history, it might give them a better route to the World Series.

If he is 100 percent recovered from shin splints—or even 90 percent—it will be a joy to watch Jose Iglesias play shortstop for an entire season. He will be the greatest defensive shortstop the club has ever had. Sorry, Ray Oyler. Anything he contributes at the plate will just be gravy—and he can definitely hit better than Oyler.

The bullpen will go through more combinations than the lock of a safe in a Detroit casino. Ride the rapids with Nathan as closer, then with Rondon. Maybe even abandon the closer role altogether and as the game ends sometimes have Alburquerque on the mound, sometimes Joba, sometimes Gorzellany—depending on the match-ups. In desperation, by season’s end Brad Ausmus will become the first manager to “pitch backwards” by having his relief corps toil the first three innings, then bring in his starter to finish the game.

Yoenis Cespedes will thrill. He will disappoint. He will thrill again. He will make a bonehead play. He will amaze. He will frustrate. From day to day you won’t know which Yoenis will show up: the spectacular or the indifferent.

Likelihood of worse seasons than 2014: Blaine Hardy (from fluke to reality), J.D. Martinez (regression to the mean), Victor Martinez (impossible to repeat near-perfection), Nick Castellanos (inevitable sophomore slump), Rajai Davis (older, slower, in over his head in center field).

Likelihood of better seasons than 2014: Anibal Sanchez (tons of talent, return to health), Joba Chamberlain (hope springs eternal), Miguel Cabrera (power returns), Alex Avila (new helmet, better head), Joe Nathan (couldn’t possibly be worse, could he?), Brad Ausmus (grows into his own man).

After both Avila and James McCann go down with injuries during the same game, Ausmus will activate himself and enter the game as the Tigers’ best defensive catcher since Brad Ausmus.

Jim Price will again reminisce daily about his role as the key member the 1968 Tigers (not the third-string catcher baseball records indicate).

In the Call Sam Studio, someone will mistakenly call Saul.