Lynwood Thomas “Schoolboy” Rowe was the co-ace of the Tigers during the 1930s (along with Tommy Bridges). Like a lot of Tigers who played at this time, he actually had a better season the year before. In 1934, his first full season with the Tigers, he led the team in wins (24) and ERA (3.45 among starters). He played with the Tigers through 1942, and ended his career with 148 wins and a 3.87 ERA (ERA+ of 110).
1935 was a stepdown for Schoolboy, but it was an impressive season none the less. He finished second in the league with a 1.233 WHIP, and won 19 games. His 140 strikeouts put him second in the American League, just behind teammate and league leader Tommy Bridges. His six shutouts led the league. Rowe also seconded as a closer, as he finished thirteen games and saved one.
Bridges and Rowe were the workhorses of the staff. The two combined to pitch over 40% of the Tigers innings during 1935, and without either one, the Tigers would have had a tough time winning their first World Series.
Plain and simple, this puts the Cubs in play for the rightfielder. Not only do the Cubs potentially free up a ton of payroll (I’m not sure what the specifics of the deal are, and who’s getting what dollar wise), but they have a gaping hole in right.
I’m confident Dave Dombrowski won’t jump too quickly. He’s made some pretty shrewd moves in the past, so panicking and signing Ordonez to a deal he’s not comfortable with is probably out of the question. But at this point, the longer the Tigers wait, the less likely it will be that Ordonez will be a Tiger. For better or worse.
Alright, the whole watch thing might be going a little overboard. Apparantly the Tigers made an offer, and Ordonez’s agent, Scott Boras, replied with a counter offer. The story is that the Tigers offered 5 years for $70 million, but Ordonez is looking for a seven year deal, and that’s where things stand.
I agree with Billfer that Ordonez probably wouldn’t hit as many homers once he got to Comeria Park, but he’s got a good eye, and his batting average shouldn’t suffer, and you’d hope some of those lost homers would turn into doubles. Not quite as good, but better then nothing.
So, with the numbers coming out, I’m a little more hesitant. $14 million a year is a pretty high figure, and to throw that much money out there for even five years, much less seven, after a season with a serious injury makes things look pretty dicey.
I’ve read in various spots that the Cubs, Mets, and Orioles are all in the mix, but from what I can tell, it’s the Tigers who have the upper hand and can take it or leave it. How long this would be is hard to say, but one of Boras’ talents is to get the team to basically bid against itself (think A-Rod), so it’s hard to believe all of the rumors floating around out there.
I started reading Faithful. Pretty good read, but the one knock is it’s hard to tell which of the two authors you’re actually reading. It’s written in a two person diary format. I’m not a big Red Sox fan, but I am a big Stephen King fan, so I’m looking forward to a good read.
Over the course of the franchise, the Tigers have had two BIG free agent pickups. Ever. The first was the pickup of Darrell Evans just prior to the 1984 season, and that one seemed like a bust after a mediocre campaign that season. The following year he won the homerun crown, and he played a big role in Tigers 1987 division title, so it turned out okay.
The second big free agent pickup was last year’s signing of Ivan Rodriguez, who was instrumental in the Tigers 29 game improvement from 2003.
This year, it appears the Tigers are set to make another splash with yet another “undesirable.” Magglio Ordonez had a bum knee that eventually resulted in surgery. He played a grand total of 52 games, but his previous three seasons were extremely consistent. In each season he put up right around a .380 OBP and had an equivalent average that ranged from .300 (2001) to .312 (2002). That low end would have tied him with the equivalent average Pudge put up in 2004, and the 2002 season would have been better then the .305 Carlos Guillen had.
To put it simply, Ordonez can hit. He’s nothing special in the field, but that’s not why we’d be signing him. The main concern is the knee. People will point to the risk we took in signing Pudge, but the difference is that he played an entire season the year before. Ordonez is fresh off his injury.
Baseball Prospectus released their PECOTA projections today. I can’t go into too much detail because it’s only available to subscribers, but they have him missing around a third of the season. However, when he’s in there he’s very good.
My personal opinion is, I’m excited about the move. Part of it has to do with karma. The Tigers are due for a break, and this could be it. If Ordonez can play an entire season like he’s done in the immediate future, the improvement to the team will be dramatic.
Championship teams usually consist of a convergance between an improving core of young players with a handful of career years from a couple of your veterans. Milt Wilcox had a 16 year career in baseball, and he never won three games more then he lost in a season. Had it not been for his 17-8 campaign in 1984, he would have ended his career with a losing record. Simply put, in 1984, Milt Wilcox came out to pitch, and pitch he did.
He also saved his best for the end of the season. In game three of the ALCS against the Royals, Wilcox gave up only two hits in eight innings of shutout ball to put the Tigers into the World Series.
Let’s take a look at how he did in 1984:
Innings Pitched 193 2/3
Pitching Runs Above Average 37
If you take a look at the differences between Jack Morris, Dan Petry, and Milt Wilcox, you won’t many. Wilcox threw around 40 innings less then both of them, but when he was in there, he was equally effective. In fact, their strikeout rates are nearly identical, with the best (Petry) just .02 SO/9 better then the worst (Wilcox).
At first glance, I thought this one was going to be a lot tighter, but it’s really no contest. Billingham threw a few more innings, but that’s about all you can say.
Scorecard 1975 Reds 6, 1984 Tigers 5
The author of the Replacement Level Yankees Blog, Larry Mahnkan, suffered a personal tragedy early this morning. As he indicates on his blog, his apartment burnt down early this morning. I know it won’t make for his loss, but if you could afford to send him a buck or more, he has a paypal donation counter on the left hand side of his blog. I’m sure he’d appreciate the help.
There’s more grim news as former Tiger shortstop Cesar Gutierrez passed away from a heart attack on Saturday. Gutierrez came to the Tigers from the Giants in 1969, and played his only full season for the Tigers in 1970. He played in 135 games and hit .243/.275/.299, but the highlight of his career was a 7 for 7 performance on June 21, 1970. He ended up with six singles, a double, three runs scored and an RBI in the Tigers 12 inning victory. The following season he played in only 38 games, and wouldn’t see another game in the big leagues.
There’s a new Grousehouse site in the works. Expecting to finish his site by the end of February, Jon Earving, one of my more persistent chat and email buddies, is going to launch what I feel is a pretty unique baseball site called Simulation Baseball. And he needs your help.
A lot of us have heard of, or played Diamond Mind Baseball, a fantastic baseball simulator. Jon’s site is going to offer a weekly “What If” look at some aspect of baseball. In fact since he’s more familiar with the program, Blade and I will be having him do our 1975 Reds/1984 Tigers matchup once we’re finished with our debate.
I’ve talked to him and he currently has the 2003, 2004, All Time Greatest Teams # 1 Disc, and the All TIme Greatest Teams #2 Disc. What he’d like to see is what everyone would like to see, so feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of the ideas he’s come up with and you’ll probably see in the first month or so include:
1) What if Barry Bonds played for the 2003 Tigers? How many more games would Bonds win them?
2) What if Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds were traded at the beginning of the 2004 season? How would the two teams be affected?
3) What if somoene took Manny Ramirez from the Red Sox when they placed him on waivers.
But what he’d really like is to have it a site where you tell him what you want to see, and he runs the sim and posts the results in a narrative format. As far as I know, there’s no other site out there like this, so I for one am looking forward to it.
It’s kind of sad that this is the biggest news in Detroit. Dean Palmer was good when he started out for Detroit. He hit 38 homers when the Tigers played at Tiger Stadium in 1999, and he hit 29 more in 2000.
Then shoulder problems put him on the shelf, and he hasn’t played the equivalent of a full season over the last four years. Probably the closest comparison to this (and its a stretch), is when Kirk Gibson came back to play for Detroit in 1993 after moving on to the Dodgers in 1988. The major differences are that he never missed a full season, and at worst, was playing half seasons.
Double this with the fact that we don’t really have room for Palmer, and it makes this whole thing a non-story.
No signings. No trade rumors. The most exciting news this week has been Dean Palmer getting a shot at spring training, and that’s hardly news. Most people come here for Tigers news, and there really isn’t any, so here’s some excellent reading suggestions for you.
I know this isn’t baseball, but the Detroit Lions Blog has an excellent interview with author Michael Cambridge. Great historical stuff for the football fans out there.
Billfer analyzes the Tigers Defense Independent Pitching Statistics.
Blade wrote his rebuttal to my column on Dan Petry. If you couldn’t find it when you read about Dan, you can check it out now. He also did a piece earlier in the week on the Red’s All Decade team of the 1880s (no, that’s not a typo).
Finally, there’s been some changes in how the league is going to approach performance enhancing drug testing, and the best place for any kind of updates is Only Baseball Matters.
I always liked Eric Munson, and felt he got a bad deal in Detroit. The former first round draft pick (third overall) would play well down in the minors only to get brought up for a short time and get shelled. Then they move him to a spot he’d never played before, third base, and expected him to thrive. Munson would have flashes of what the Tigers expected from him when they drafted him so high, but most days, he was better suited for the bench then the lineup.
Munson had equally good minor league campaigns in 2001 and 2002. He hit .260/.375/.482 at AA Erie in 2001, and .262/.373/.493 at AAA Toledo in 2002. He also spent portions of both years playing for the Tigers but struggled mightily. he hit .152 in 66 at bats in 2001, and .186 in 59 at bats in 2002.
In 2003, the third base experiment began. Munson was drafted as a catcher, was summarily moved to first base, and with the logjam of 1b/DH types on the Tigers, his only shot was to learn a brand new position. He struggled, hitting only .240, with 18 homers.
2004 ended up being his last chance. He made some improvements defensively, improving from -12 Fielding Runs Above Average to 0 FRAR, but he struggled ever more at the plate. He hit only .210, but he had a career high 19 homers in 321 at bats.
He lost his starting job to Brandon Inge midway through the season and never won it back. When it was time to offer players arbitration, Inge got the contract and Munson got his walking papers. But now he’s got a second chance with the Twins. He signed a minor league contract with the Tigers’ division rivals, and has been invited to spring training.
This has “in your face” written all over it. I find it hard to believe he’ll make the team, because the Twins don’t have a lot of holes. But if they have one, it’s at third base with Corey Koskie leaving. I could see him getting a backup role, and really making the Tigers pay at some point in the season.
Dan Petry had one of those typical 1980s career. He pitched a ton of innings at an early age, and went from looking like an ace to someone who’s just a little overmatched. From 1982 through 1985, he pitched no less 233 innings and won no less then 15 games. After that, he never pitched more then a 150 innings, and never won more then ten.
1984 was a great year for Petry. Coming off a 19-11 season the year before, Dan really picked up the slack when Jack Morris struggled. He had a career high 144 strikeouts during the season, and led all starters in ERA (3.24).
Dan Petry is now the television announcer here for UPN 50. He did a nice job last year in his first season, and I’m looking forward to him being back this year.
Anyway, here’s the numbers:
This may be the toughest one yet. Petry threw more, had a better walk rate, and won more games. Don Gullett won 15 games in only 22 starts (so three less, but in a third of the of starts). Their Stuff is identical, and their SO/9 is nearly identical, but Gullett has a better ERA and WHIP, and gave up fewer homers.
I hate to hang Dan out to dry, but at least comparing these two seasons, Gullett has him beat.
Scorecard 1975 Reds 6, 1984 Tigers 4
The Mechanical Man was consistently good for several seasons at a very demanding position. He was the Tigers second baseman for sixteen full seasons and portions of three others. In his second full season, 1927, he hit .317, and began a fourteen season streak where he never hit below .298. He won his only batting title, and subsequently the MVP, in 1937 by hitting .371, but probably his best season was 1936, when he hit .354 and had 60 doubles, which is the sixth most in a season ever. He was good fielder, racking up 462 Fielding Runs Above Replacement (adjusted for all time), which is slightly better then nine time gold glove second baseman Ryne Sandberg. Probably the most impressive statistic is his strikeout to walk ratio. He walked 1,186 times, and struck out only 372.
1935 was an excellent year for Gehringer. He put up a .330/.409/.502 season, garnering 201 hits, 123 runs, and 108 RBIs. He hit nineteen homers, which was the second most he ever hit in a season. This total doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but at the time, it was good for eighth in the American League.
If there was a big three in Detroit in the mid-30s, it was Mickey Cochrane, Hank Greenberg, and Charlie Gehringer. If you look at the 1935 team season leaders, one of these three guys are listed for every single category.
The Detroit Tigers Weblog had an exclusive interview with Tigers’ President Dave Dombrowski. Be sure to check this out. Very good stuff.
I was working on a bio of Charlie Gehringer for the 1935 diary section, but couldn’t quite get it done this morning. In the mean time, check out these great columns over at Hardball Times:
Whether you call it a perverse dream or a slim chance, I’ve been dreaming about the Tigers signing Carlos Beltran for some time. He’s one of the top five players in the league. I don’t know if the Tigers are still gun shy after some of their “big” free agent signings in the late 90s and early 00s (think Bobby Higginson and Damion Easley), but the Tigers could have really made their mark had they offered Beltran say, another year and maybe a half million more each year.
Instead, the Mets hit the jackpot, and we’re stuck with another season watching Alex Sanchez trying to get an eye on the ball. Alex Sanchez has a WARP of just under one, and Carlos Beltran has a WARP of 8.4. That’s 7-8 wins we could have bought, pushing us very close to that .500 mark. And I know protection may be more myth then fact, but it would give Pudge some better pitches to hit.
Now I know Beltran may not have come to Detroit under any circumstances, but they should have kept themselves in the bargaining until the very end.
At this point, Jack Morris thrives and starves on reputation, and it shows when the voting for the Hall of Fame comes out. He’s heralded as a clutch pitcher mostly for his 1991 World Series Game Seven ten inning shutout. He had a 4-2 record in the World Series, but he was 4-0 until his last World Series when he played for the Jays in 1992. And although he never won the Cy Young, he finished in the top five on five different occasions.
The general criticism is that his career numbers aren’t quite there. He has a career ERA of 3.90, and his career ERA+ is 105, so it’s a touch above average. And he never hit any of those magic marks like 300 wins and 3,000 strikeouts.
As far as his career, I’m right in the middle. I know he’s not quite as good as his best moments would indicate (similar to Kirk Gibson), but he’s not quite as bad as his numbers might show. As long as Bert Blyleven isn’t in the Hall of Fame, I can’t quite give him the nod, but barring that, Jack Morris was a very good pitcher for a very long time, and that’s worth something.
1984 was a tale of two seasons for Morris. by the end of May he stood 10-1, and people started throwing out the potential for 30 wins. When it was all said and done, he didn’t even win 20, but by the time he began to struggle, the Tigers already had a nice enough cushion to where it didn’t matter as much.
Let’s take a look at the numbers:
Innings Pitched 240 1/3
Pitching Runs Above Replacement 60
All pretty good numbers. He finished seventh in the Cy Young (behind two teammates) and that was all despite the horrible second half.
As Blade indicated, this was a lot closer then I first through it would be. Gary Nolan had a nice season in 1975, but in my eyes, it just didn’t stack up to the season Morris had. And Morris was better for 30 more innings.
Scoredboard – 1975 Reds 5, 1984 Tigers 4
Vance Wilson is hardly a world beater, and I figured they’d try for a left hander, but not a bad move. It looks like he had surgery on his wrist last year, and he was limited to 75 games. But 2004 was his best season, where he hit .274/.335/.427, which was good for an OPS+ of 97. If he can repeat those stats in 2005, we’ll have a solid backup.
Which means Brandon Inge, as expected, is the Tigers new third basemen. Barring an injury, he shouldn’t have to play behind the plate at all, although having him on the roster gives Tram a ton of flexibilty.
I read over at Reds Daily that the Tigers might be looking at a deal with the Reds for Austin Kearns. So far Kearns has disappointed, mostly because of injury, but he was a blue chip prospect and could come up this year like Adam Dunn did last year. As much as I like Mike Maroth, I’d jump at the chance of trading him for Kearns.
Finally, it’s been reported that the Tigers are out of the running for Carlos Beltran. Not a big surprise, but it could also be a smokescreen. Who knows?
If everything goes as planned, you’ll be able to read part two of my column on the Montreal Expos move to Washington over at the Hardball Times tomorrow.
Congratulations to Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg for being elected by the writers this week. The mid-80s was when I really got into baseball, and at the time, Wade Boggs was the best hitter out there. I really feel his first ballot election was warranted.
I have mixed feelings about Ryne Sandberg. First off, I want to say I do think he was deserving. But his election points out another travesty. Let’s look at two second basemen.
Player 1 Player 2 Games 2,164 2,390 Hits 2,386 2,369 HR 282 244 RBIs 1,061 1,084 Runs 1,318 1,386 Avg. .285 .276 OBP .344 .363 Slg% .452 .426 SB 344 143 OPS+ 114 117 RC 1,311 1,336 BRAR 513 528 FRAR 533 454 WARP 114.8 108.1 Eqa .281 .281
Player 2 played in about a season’s worth more games, won three gold gloves and finished in the top 10 of the MVP voting once. Player 2 also played on one championship team. Player 1 won an MVP, finished in the top ten three times, and won nine gold gloves. Player 1 never played on a world championship team.
Many of the statistics are nearly identical. The equivalent averages are identical. Player 1 had a marginally better slugging percentage, while player 2 had a marginally better OBP. Many of their career numbers are very close as well. Player 1 accounted for about six more wins then player 2, but all because he was a slightly better fielder.
Player 1 is Ryne Sandberg, who will get to stand on the podium and give an acceptance speech. Player 2 is Lou Whitaker, who in his first year on the ballot, didn’t even garner the 5% neccesary to remain on the ballot.
So I’m not arguing Sandberg shouldn’t get in, I am saying Lou should be right up there with him. Both should get their moment in the spotlight. Unfortunately for one those players, it will never happen.
I know, this is hardly a blockbuster, but somewhat neccesarily. Their utility guy from last year, Brandon Inge, is now the starting third baseman. So with the infield looking like it will be Pena, Infante (until Fernando Vina is ready to come back), Guillen, and Inge, they need someone to be the spot starter there, and Ramon Martinez played second, short, and third last season.
But definitely worth reading. I must have more in common with the guys over at Baseball Prospectus then I thought, because I think they’re right on point.