Archive for February, 2004

No News is Good News

Spring training and started, and basically, that’s how I feel so far. Nobody has run into a wall, or slipped while hopping over a fence (sorry Mark Fidrych). The Tigers start their games Wed. against Florida Southern, then face their first major league team on Thursday when they square off against the Expos.

With that in mind, I’m going to make some predictions for the current year. Write them down, so you can make fun of me next in the fall.

Prediction 1 – Bobby Higginson is going to have a career year. Not because he’s at the end of his rather generous contract, but because he has some hitters more in line with his abilities hitting around him. Although I don’t think he’ll hit 30 homeruns like he did in 2000 (the last time he had good hitters in the lineup with him), a .300/25/100 season is not out of the question. Throw in some good defense, and Bobby is going to once again be a linchpin of the Tigers. He’s a good player, and these numbers aren’t out of the realm of possibilty when (yes, another prediction) he stays healthy the entire year.

Prediction 2 – Although I don’t think Jeremy Bonderman is going to break out, I think he’ll reach the 200 inning mark, and strikeout at least a 150 batters. A combination of being in the league for one entire season, and playing in a relatively weak division (although hitting wise, I wouldn’t call it too weak) will give him some respectable numbers. You’ll also see his 6-19 record even out to 11-14.

Prediction 3 – The Tigers are going to win 74 games, finishing 74-88. They’ll also flirt with the .500 mark, similar to what happened in 2000, late in the season (say early August).

Prediciton 4 – Not only will Pudge Rodriguez make the All-Star game, he’ll be a starter. I can’t remember the last time the Tiger’s had someone voted in and I’m too lazy to look it up.

AL Division Winners
AL East – New York Yankees (in a division where both they and the Red Sox win 100 games)
AL Central – Kansas City Royals (They were the only team in the league, other then Detroit, that really didn’t take a step back).
AL West – Anaheim Angels (Their great acqusitions were overshadowed by what the Yankees and Red Sox did during the offseason.
Wild Card – Boston Red Sox

Dark Horse – Although the odds are really stacked against them, I really like the Blue Jays this year. Of course the fourth place team in that division, the Orioles, would probably be the leading contender if they played in the AL Central.

NL Division Winners
NL East – Phildelphia Phillies (Edges out the Braves in the final game. The Braves, in an ironic twist, will lose to the Cubs on the final game of the season to none other then Greg Maddux, ending the Braves division title streak at 8 consecutive seasons).
NL Central – Chicago Cubs (Not only will Maddux beat his old team to prevent them from making the playoffs, but he’ll teach Kerry Wood 1/10 of his control, turning him into a Cy Young winner)
NL West – San Francisco Giants (This was probably the toughest one, so I went the easiest answer. Barry Bonds will do what he’s done the last few years and get his 700th homerun. This may be the weakest division outside of the AL Central).
Wild Card – Houston Astros (Clemens and company will be edged out by the Cubs, but still make the playoffs).

World Series – Chicago Cubs 4, Boston Red Sox 3 (The curse of the Bambino will go on, but they’ll be celebrating in ChiTown.

AL MVP – Alex Rodriguez
NL MVP – Sammy Sosa (edging out Bonds)
AL Cy Young – Javier Vazquez
NL Cy Young – Kerry Wood
AL ROY – Justin Mourneau (Does he still qualify, he’s listed as a prospect most everywhere)
NL ROY – Edwin Jackson

Another interesting weekend. Made some progress on the kid’s room, and got some taxes done. I’m looking forward to April 15th coming and going.

The Most Expendable Tiger

At this point, the rumors have died down about the Tigers trying to deal for a pitcher. And Brandon Inge is probably the first guy who comes to mind when you think of the word expendable. The problem with getting rid of Inge is, if I-Rod goes down, now we’re stuck with Mike Defilice, possibly Chris Shelton, and then you’d have to tap Maxim St. Pierre, who’s hardly had a stellar minor league career.

So if we want any depth at catcher, we should keep Inge around. If someone offers us something more then we feel Brandon is worth, then it’s a no brainer. But Inge has some value to us with regard to insuring we have a backstop with an almost full season behind him.

So if we exclude Brandon Inge, who’s the most expendable. First is Carlos Pena. He really struggled last year, but, with his youth and past prospect tag, Pena might still have some value. Pena’s playing time also could take a small dent if I-Rod gets time at firstbase to give his knees a spell. He’s not as good of a hitter as Dmitri Young, so he won’t have the option that a lot of AL first basemen have, and that’s if getting time at DH if they want to try someone else in the field. In the meantime, Dmitri Young, or even Chris Shelton could replace Pena in a trade.

And with mentioning Dmitri Young in the last sentence, he’s the next on the list. There’s no doubt Dmitri had an exceptional year at the plate last year. But he really is a man without a position. He “can” play outfield, third, and firstbase, but he’s not stellar at any of them. In none of the last three seasons has Young finished with a cumulative FRAA above zero. But, Dmitri does give Tram some flexibility. Young’s best spot is DH, but he can spot at several positions.

Craig Monroe was the odd man out when Rondell White came to Detroit. He might see some at bats against lefties, spelling Bobby Higginson here and there. But his chance of getting consistent time this year is going to be slight, barring injury. Craig isn’t a world beater, but he did hit 23 homeruns.

And finally, we have Bobby Higginson. Viewed as an anchor as far as our salary situation, Bobby has underachieved since signing his megadeal, and is consistently rumored to be on the block every year at the trade deadline. Bobby is tougher to deal because he has veto power because of a no trade clause, if he gets off to a nice start this year, you could hear those same trade rumors again.

So in my opinion, Pena and Monroe are the most expendable. Monroe disappearing would probably cause Tram the least worries, but Pena is replaceable, and probably has more trade value.

Spring Training is Here!!!

The Tigers have reported to camp, and games begin as early as next week. We all know, once again, that the Tigers won’t be world beaters, but what is there to look for throughout the year to show that the Tigers are making progress and should be competitive in the next couple of years.

1) Jeremy Bonderman’s development is probably the first key. He’s got ace material, but so did Jeff Weaver. But, to keep drawing the comparison, if Bonderman has a season similar to Weaver’s second, I’d be happy. He threw 200 innings, had a 1.285 WHIP, and 4.32 ERA, all while going 11-15. If Bonderman can top those numbers at 21, I’d be happy.

2) I honestly think Bobby Higginson is going to bounce back this year. In the final year of his mega-deal, Bobby has been scorned through the Detroit area because he’s had a couple of poor seasons. I feel, with some hitters around him, he’ll bounce back and do well this year. This will give us some flexibility at the trading deadline, and even if we can’t deal him, we might be able to get him substantially cheaper then for what we’ve been paying him.

3) Our two corner infielders, Eric Munson and Carlos Pena, have to have good seasons. If they can both show they can get into the 25-30 homerun range like they’ve been touted, it will be a big boost to the lineup. I think for both guys this year, 20 homeruns should be minimum, not a goal.

4) A .500 April would be huge for this team. Not only would it give the team a nice boost in their confidence, but it would get the fans interested, which equates to ticket sales and a more fun environment at the ballpark.

But, baseball is back. Fan’s around the country have just had their moods improved as baseball is slowly getting back into the swing of things.

This year’s July baseball trip is going to be to the Skydome. Of course this time, there will be an additional person who will be going to his/her first baseball game. I just have to make sure I drive home to the kid that being a Jays fan is unacceptable.

And with games starting, I’m hoping to get back into a more regular writing schedule. If you haven’t checked it out, Bilfer over at the Detroit Tigers Weblog has been taking a look at the team. Be sure to check it out.

Looking For a Few Good Men

I run a roto baseball league, and it’s on it’s last breath. If anyone in the Detroit area is interested, let me know because I need three people with the draft coming up pretty quickly.

It’s a 10 team, three player keeper league. The auction draft is March 20th at my house in Waterford.

If you’re interested, drop me a line, and I’ll fill you in on the details.

A-Rod in Pinstripes

It’s funny how when you’re busy over a weekend, stories have a habit of sneaking up on you. This is exactly what happened to me regarding the A-Rod for Soriano trade that happened this weekend. I remember reading about some “rumors” on Friday, and didn’t think anything more about it. Then as I was winding down last night from a day of painting, I hopped on the net, and the deal was all anyone was talking about. So it looks like the Yankees send Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later for Alex Rodriguez.

On the face of things, this is a great deal for the Yankees. They’re one of the few teams who don’t feel bad about falling over the luxury tax cap, so adding even more payroll doesn’t seem to phase them. The problem with the deal is, the Yankees already have their team captain, Derek Jeter, playing shortstop. So to accomodate everyone, it looks like the Yankees will take a two time gold glove winning shortstop, and will move him to third base.

How will this affect the team? Let’s take a look at a few numbers (I haven’t really surfed the web to see if anyone else has done a similar analysis, so hopefully I’m not replicating someone’s work):

As I move over to Baseball Prospectus (Baseball Prospectus is supposed to ship today. I’m looking forward to my copy), I find the following fielding runs above replacement (FRAR):

Derek Jeter -3
Alex Rodriguez 31

So you’re talking about a total of 34 runs between the two. That’s a sizable amount, and using a conservative 10 runs = 1 win, you’re talking about somewhere in the range of 3 to 4 wins. In a very competitive AL East, this could be the difference between winning the division, winning just the Wild Card, or even not making the Playoffs at all.

And I know Soriano plays a different position, but his FRAR is 27 (FRAA 0), so in addition to the A-Rod/Jeter situation, you also have to find a an average fielding second basemen to take his place.

Of course, assuming he picks up the position, which I don’t doubt, A-Rod will be at third base. Although he won’t touch the ball nearly as many times, Eric Chavez, the 2003 gold glove winning third basemen, had a FRAR of 35, right where A-Rod came out at. But this number was only 15 runs higher then his FRAA. A-Rod’s FRAR was 26 runs higher. So it’s much easier to find a replacement, or even average fielding third basemen (Derek Jeter?) then it is to find one at shortstop.

Good trade for the Yankees? I think it is. But the better question is, why would one of the players in the game want to switch postions? Of course we’ll see how this all plays out once the season starts.

Around the Horn

For those of you looking for a great read, just click on one of the links to the right. All of these guys are great, and well worth checking out.

Specifically, here’s some great columns that have come out lately.

1) The Detroit Tigers Weblog prepared an excellent analysis on the state of the Tiger’s starting pitching, along with other nice columns. He’s also asking for people’s help, so make sure to check it out. It’s for a great cause.

2) John Perricone is getting nostalgic over at Only Baseball Matters. John’s back on the blogging scene, and he truly is one of the best out there. I’d liken him to the internet’s expert on Barry Bonds, but that doesn’t do him justice, because his knowledge goes well beyond that.

3) JD Arney over at Redsfaithful does a great job at taking a look at the state of the Reds. Good stuff. The Red’s are my favorite NL team (sorry guys). My uncle lives in Louisville where the Red’s have their AAA club, so I’m always getting updates on any upstart Red’s players. I remember just a few years ago how he talked highly of Austin Kearns.

4) And if you’re looking for team specific blogs, make sure to check out Baseball and its sister site, These two sites are well organized, and if you’re ever looking for something to read, this is a great place to start.

This weekend should be interesting, because we start on the nursery. The family is split on what they think we’re going to have. Personally, I would like a left handed pitcher, uh, I mean, boy.

Spring is in the Air?

Although the official start of spring is more then one month away, the more important spring, spring training begins in about a week for most teams.

As an avid Tiger’s fan, this spring, like most in the past, brings hope. The reason I say “like most in the past” is because of last year. You knew the team was going to struggle. I accepted it as part of the rebuilding of the team, but never would I have accepted what happened during the infamous 2003 season.

But, now it’s 2004. We have a clean slate, and in many respects, a new team. But there’s a few things I’m really excited about this year, not just as a Tiger’s fan, but as a baseball fan.

1) Probably the most obvious, the Tigers have fielded a team that, if you go to the ball park, probably has as good of a chance of winning as they do of losing. I’m not saying they’re going to finish .500, but they’ve put together a team where they should be able to compete every day. I went to four games last year. They lost them all, and frankly, that’s what I expected them to do. Although I could be singing a new tune in May, right now, if I go to four games in 2004, I expect them to win probably two of those games, and I’ll be able to walk into the ball park knowing they have a shot in all four.

2) I’m very interested in how the AL East is going to pan out. I’m not a huge fan of the unbalanced schedule, because we don’t get to see the Tigers go up against more of their traditional rivals, like the Yankees and the Blue Jays. But I’m very intrigued to see how the division ends up. Baltimore, which is probably the fourth best team in the East, would be favorites in the Central. And in the Central, the Indians have just as good of a chance to win the division as they do to finish fourth or fifth. It’s that wide open.

Boston is the team I’ll have my eye on the most. With the big names they picked up, on paper, they’re probably better then the Yankees. We’ll just see if they can finally get it done.

3) Having the chance to see history is always exciting. This year we have a chance to see the greatest player of our generation, and arguably the best player ever, come one step closer to topping some seemingly insurmountable records. Barry Bonds, barring some catastrophe, will pass his Godfather, Willie Mays, on the all time home run list this year, and he’s a mere 42 homers away from getting to 700 home runs. Passing Ruth this year would mean putting up some big numbers, but even that’s not out of the question.

4) Along the same lines, we’ll get to see the greatest pitcher of our generation, and like Bonds, possibly the best pitcher ever, come out to the mound for (at least?) one more season. Clemens isn’t chasing any milestones per se, but he came back to play with his good friend and to play close to home. Boston’s pitching staff looks great on paper, but Houston is right there with them.

So, the season, like all seasons, will be fun to watch. You’ll have some new starts develop, and then you’ll have some veterans begin to taper off. Either way, I’ll be at the ballpark, cheering on my team, and hopefully seeing them fight their way back to respectability.

How Juan Gonzalez Cost the Univesity of Michigan a Football National Championship

First off, both my wife and I have both our degrees from Michigan State, so when I comment on these things, it’s without the animosity a lot of local people have towards Drew Henson, who has publicly announced he’s giving up baseball to play football.

Let’s flashback to 2000. UM has come off a good, but for them, disappointing season behind their upstart QB and Heisman hopeful, Drew Henson. Later that year, after a controversial trade to get Juan Gonzalez, (the superstar player Mike Ilitch wanted to open Comerica Park with) the Tigers were hovering around the .500 mark, and were actually in contention for a Wild Card spot going into September.

Earlier in the year, when the Tiger’s season was less rosy, and after a multimillion dollar offer to Juan Gon had been snubbed, the Tiger’s were trying to shop Juan. In fact, they had a suitor. The New York Yankees were willing to trade a couple of their top prospects, of which Drew Henson was the top guy, so they could have Juan for the rest of the season.

Of course, Juan then vetoed the deal, and the rest is history. Juan left Detroit for Cleveland the next year. Drew left UM to play baseball full time, and left his football career in the dust.

Had Juan let the deal go through, the Tigers would have had the upstart third basemen. He would have played football, possibly taking UM to the championship, and then Detroit could have evaluated whether Henson was even worth keeping.

So we have two big losers in all of this. George Steinbrenner lost a lot of money on a guy who never developed. UM fans lost their star QB.

So that brings us to two-sport athletes. Rarely do you find a guy who’s a star in both sports. Brian Jordan comes to mind, but we never really had a chance to see how good a football player he could become before he left to play baseball. He then went on to have a decent baseball career. Danny Ainge played for the Blue Jays before having a nice career for the Boston Celtics. Even former Tiger Tony Clark played basketball for the Univesity of Arizona while playing minor league ball for Detroit. And Dave Winfield was drafted in four different leagues for three different sports. Finally, Deion Sanders struggled in baseball before giving it up to become a pro bowl, and potential hall of fame, cornerback.

Probably the best example of a player who succeeded in both sports was Bo Jackson, and even he didn’t have a long career. He started out with Kansas City Royals, and eventually became a dominating, if part time, running back for the Oakland/LA Raiders. Although his batting average was never there, Bo Jackson had a run of four nice seasons, his best of which was 1989, when he hit 32 homeruns, and finished 10th in the MVP voting.

So, maybe Henson, in admitting he’s failed in baseball, is making the right choice. All of these athletes were at least good, or even great, in one of the sports they played. Maybe for Drew, it’s football.

Pudge: A Look at the Numbers

Well, after several weeks of wondering, we finally landed Ivan Rodriguez.

Every year about this time, I begin to get excited. Every team has a clean slate, and there’s hope for everyone. That was until last year. I knew we were going to be pretty bad. I just didn’t think we’d compete with history.

Now, at least on the offensive side, we’re in decent shape. We’ve made upgrades at four positions, three of the those being the highly regarded “Up the Middle” positions. So let’s look at what could happen this year.

Best Case Scenario: 1) No substantial injuries to speak of, including our more injury prone players; 2) Higginson, with better hitters around him, bounces back to .300/20 HR; 3) We get career years out of two of our starters.

So with the planets in perfect alignment, we could probably hover around the .500 mark, maybe trade some of our pitching prospects for one more starter (John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander?), and we’d have an outside shot at winning a weak AL Central. I’d put the odds of this scenario happening at about 1%.

Worst Case Scenario: Essentially this would be the antithesis of the best case scenario. The DL is a revolving door, and our starters take a step back from last year. In this case, the Tigers are set for their third straight 100-loss season. Chance of this happening is somewhere between 5% and 10%.

Likely Scenario: One, maybe two of our guys have substantial injuries. And the pitchers look like they did last year. In this case, the Tigers lose somewhere between 90-95 games, but have a solid foundation on which to improve on.

So back to Pudge. The best way to see how he’ll help the team is to compare his numbers to Brandon Inge, who got the bulk of the time at catcher. And just a note, some of the statistics I’m going to use will be of a more advanced variety. I’m just learning to use these numbers, so if I slip up, please feel free to let me know.

Adjusted OPS+ (100 is the league average, adjusted for ballpark effect)

I-Rod 124
Brandon Inge 62

Basically, I-Rod is 24% better as far as OPS goes compared to the league average. Brandon, on the other hand, is quite a bit below average. Last year Inge had a 63, so you’re talking about a pretty good trend there.

Thanks to Baseball-Reference for the numbers.

Batting Runs Above Replacement at the Same Position

I-Rod 41
Brandon Inge -3

Another very telling number. Over the course of the 2003 season, I-Rod was worth 44 more runs then Brandon Inge. And for Inge’s entire career, he’s been below a replacement hitter. Forty-four runs is quite a bit, so again, we’re looking at a significant improvement.

Field Runs Above Replacement/Fielding Runs Above Average

This number I found a little surprising.

I-Rod 24/2
Brandon Inge 33/14

First off, I was surprised to find that Brandon was that good defensively. I always thought he was good, but a bit overrated. Last year’s Gold Glove catcher was Benji Molina, and he had numbers almost identical to Inge (33/13).

The other number I was surprised by was Pudge was just a touch above average. This decline has been about a 7-year trend.

Thank you to Baseball Prospectus for these numbers.

So Inge might, over the course of the year, win a game with his glove. But needless to say, it’s not like Pudge is a defensive liability that can hit. He’s a formidable prescence behind the plate. As much as I like Inge, his best bet would be to stick around, watch, learn, and maybe take his chance when he gets it.

Finally, a quick apology to those of you asking for links. Like with the blog, I haven’t had a ton of time to post. I am collecting the links to put them up, hopefully sooner rather then later, but I apologize for the delay.

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