During the offseason, the Tigers added power threats Rob Deer and Mickey Tettleton. But they lost their ace pitcher, Jack Morris.
Morris is an aging workhorse, but a workhorse nonetheless. So, although the Tigers might score more runs than they did last season, they also might give up more runs and lose more games.
Most World Series come down to a pitching staff shackling the other team's hitters, who usually have constituted one of baseball's best lineups during the season. That's how the Athletics have been upset twice in the last three Series.
Some might say that happens because World Series hitters and pitchers are unfamiliar with each other. The pitchers usually have the advantage when the hitters don't know them.
But consider the playoffs. Since their inception 22 years ago, the playoffs have perhaps become more intense than the World Series. The hitters and pitchers know each other because they're from the same league.
Yet, more often than not in the playoffs, first-place pitching staffs have stopped first-place lineups. In the 44 playoff series to date, the losing teams have hit a collective .228 and averaged 3.1 runs per game. Even the worst clubs do better than that for the full regular season.
Detroit might never again have a pitcher like Jack Morris. Fewer and fewer teams have a workhorse ace who is capable of 250 innings and 20 wins.
Perhaps more pitchers should follow Don Drysdale's example.
Drysdale didn't begin pitching until he was a senior in high school. But he had done plenty by then to develop his arm.
He was an infielder, and he remembers throwing the ball over and and over while growing up. He became stronger through his part-time jobs: loading squash, sacking onions, loading hay.
"That was my weight training," Drysdale said. Farm and manual labor were more common for teen-agers then.
Drysdale's shoulder was tender after his first full professional season in the Dodgers' system, and no doctor was there to caution him. He figured his arm was just getting stronger and that soreness was natural. Meanwhile, he kept the manual-labor jobs for the first few off-seasons of his professional career.
In spring training, Drysdale practiced control using the pitching strings. The strings outline a choice part of the strike zone, and the pitcher tries to throw the ball between them. Drysdale thus learned control to go with his tremendous velocity, a rare combination that would make him a Hall of Famer.
"You'd be surprised how many people in the game of baseball don't know what pitching strings are," Drysdale said recently. "I'm talking about major-league managers, pitching coaches, pitchers, executives.
"They wonder where the Dodgers, through all the years, get all that pitching. They don't realize that pitching strings are the greatest teacher of pitching."
Drysdale joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956. Soon, he was a full-time starter. He pitched every fourth day, and he expected to go nine innings. He never thought about being tired. Multiyear contracts didn't exist, and his salary was often based on how many innings he pitched the previous season.
In his seven-year zenith, 1959-65, Drysdale averaged an average of 292 innings a season. No pitcher throws that many innings now.
In 1990, the number of complete games averaged by each major-league club was 17. From 1959 through 1966, Drysdale averaged 17 complete games a season himself.
Kansas City's Mark Gubicza could have been the modern Drysdale. He is a 6-foot-5 right-hander who quickly became a major-league starter (he was 21) and who threw his fastball about three out of every four pitches. (No National League starter now throws the fastball that often, says Drysdale, a Dodgers broadcaster.)
Gubicza also has Drysdale's competitiveness. George Brett, an 18-year veteran of the Royals infield, said he had never played with a more intense pitcher. He said Gubicza slept little in the 24 hours before and after a start, and that he gave a vicious look to any infielder who made an error behind him.
Gubicza wanted to be one of those workhorses who throws hard his entire career. He grew up in Philadelphia watching his favorite pitcher, Steve Carlton, overpower hitters into his mid-30s.
In 1988, his fifth year in the majors, Gubicza reached the Drysdale-Carlton plane. He won 20 games and pitched 269 2/3 innings. He was 26.
But shoulder pain affected his pitching in 1989, and he underwent surgery in 1990. As 1991 begins, he is on the disabled list, and his future -- at least the future of his once-tremendous fastball -- is a big unknown.
Gubicza suffered a career-threatening injury despite all the innovations designed to protect a pitcher's health -- an extra day of rest between starts provided by the shift from the four- to the five-man rotation; improved medical understanding of the arm and its components; and expensive weight-training facilities.