Jim Leyland said yesterday that Ivan Rodiguez will bat 8th for the Tigers this year. I would normally expect to see the weakest hitter in a very productive line-up bat 9th but I'm not surprised by the announcement. The manager is likely keeping him out of the bottom spot as a token of respect to a future Hall of Famer.
This means that either Edgar Renteria or Jacque Jones will bat 9th. Batting Jones 9th would put two left-handed batters (the other being Curtis Granderson) who struggle against left-handed pitchers back to back. That problem could, of course be solved by platooning Jones with Marcus Thames. The option option for the 9th spot would be Edgar Renteria who reached base at a .390 clip last year. This would give the Tigers a second lead off hitter to bat in front of the extra base slugging Granderson.
The other line-up unknown is who will bat third: Gary Sheffield or Miguel Cabrera. I would like to see Cabrera bat third because I'm more confident in his having a productive and durable season than Sheffield. Billfer put the 4 possible line-ups through the line-up optimizer and found very little difference in the expected runs scored among them. So, I suppose it doesn't really matter too much who bats third, fifth, seventh and ninth.
The above analysis assumes that everyone stays healthy. With Leyland's tendancy to not change the order when players are rested or injured, I would be somewhat concerned what would happen if Sheffield (who I consider a significant injury risk) got hurt. I wouldn't want to see a Thames or a Brandon Inge or a Timo Perez get inserted into the third spot with Magglio Ordonez and Cabrera batting 4th and 5th.
Anyway, I do suspect that Sheffield will bat third for a few reasons: He batted there last year, has seniority, and walks a lot. So, here is the projected opening day line-up: