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I'm a clandestine A's fan at heart, but I'll be pulling hard for the Tigers. I love the underdog. You love the underdog. And allow me to be the first person to ever write that America loves the underdog. But that ain't it. Scrappy overacheiving can only go so far. I want the Tigers to win for the purely selfish reason that it would give me hope the Giants aren't that far away from a contender.

In 2003, the Tigers were one of the worst teams in baseball history. Baseball Prospectus 2004 had a great look at the Tigers that concluded they were the worst team in history without an excuse. They weren't an expansion team. They weren't dismantled by a greedy owner. They were just awful, awful, awful. Every member of the bullpen was 2006 Jack Taschner. Every position player was Lance Niekro. Just about every member of the rotation was worse than Jamey Wright.

The blueprint of the pitching staff that had the lowest ERA this year, though, gives hope for the Giants next year, much less some intangible future season:

Hard-throwing man-child with a great strikeout rate

Softish-throwing lefty who relies on guile

Former #1 pick from just a year ago, already taking apart the league

Crusty vet

Other

Imprecise comparisons all around, but you can still see the glimmer of hope. Even though Kenny Rogers can outcrustyvet Matt Morris every day of the week, and even though it is unrealistic to expect Tim Lincecum to do what Justin Verlander did, I'd still take Cain over Bonderman and Lowry over Robertson for 2007. And don't get me started on our melange of other. It would be stupid to take these imprecise comparisons and conclude the Giants are about to lead the National League in ERA. Just because one staff came together at the right time doesn't mean it should have been expected or predicted, and it doesn't exactly mean it should be the right of any team that happens to cobble together players fitting a loose description.

But I'm looking for that glimmer of hope found in an unexpected playoff team. The lineup isn't exactly filled with top prospects from a deep farm system, either:

2006 Tigers

C: Free agent signing
1B: Trade
2B: Trade
SS: Trade
3B: Farm System
LF: Waiver claim
CF: Farm System
RF: Free agent

And Brandon Inge is a product of the farm like Pedro Feliz is a product of the Giants farm; if it goes on the resume, it's definitely on the second page. That leaves Curtis Granderson as the lone shining light in the lineup from Detroit's past drafts, and he didn't do so hot this year. Building a lineup like that doesn't sound too hard. Even the Giants can develop a role player or two. Once a player or two is developed, and once the pitching staff congeals miraculously, all the Giants would have to do is follow the following plan:
  1. Sign two injury-prone veterans for tens of millions, and hope they stay healthy for the same season you end up contending.
  2. Build the infield with ridiculously lopsided trades. Brad Hennessey for Jose Reyes, which would free the Mets to sign Rich Aurilia, for example.
  3. Have other teams give you youngish outfielders like Marcus Thames and Craig Monroe. My tip: Ask nicely.
  4. Get a couple of them 103-mph-throwin' dudes for the bullpen. They're cool.
Vo-frickin-ila. So maybe the Giants can't realistically expect to repeat what the Tigers have done. But it sounded good when I started comparing the starting pitching staffs, didn't it? It's exciting to see a team formerly bereft of hope come this far. I'll be pulling for them against the big money A's. Kinda. Actually, I just want a good series, and I'll save my rooting spirt for either AL team in the World Series.

Also, the Cardinals and Mets will play some games. Good for them!