Bear with me, because this story takes a little while to get to baseball related point.
As part of the subdivision that I live in, we have what are called “gang style mailboxes.” I still get a kick out of that name. Basically instead of the mailman (or in our case, mailwoman) delivering the mail right to our door, we have to drive to the end of the cul de sac and pick up our mail in a tiny box. If we get a package, they leave you a key to one of the larger mailboxes.
I knew Baseball Prospectus 2005 had been shipped, and I did the math and thought it should arrive Saturday. My wife, my son, and I were driving home from the mall, and at that point it was dark. My wife was driving and we stopped to get our mail. She pulled out the envelopes and shut the door. I had her go through the bills/junk we had gotten to see if we had gotten the key to the larger mail boxes, and she said we hadn’t. I asked her to open our little box back up just to double check to see if the key was in there, and she said something to the effect of it not being in there and not doublechecking.
I let it go, and then this morning I checked Amazon.com to see when it should be arriving. When I checked the package tracker, lo and behold it said it was delivered Saturday. So before my son’s doctor appointment, we stopped back at the mailboxes only to find my wife had missed the key, and my book was sitting in the mailbox for two entire days.
In order to save shipping, I also bought a copy of the 2004 Hardball Times Baseball Annual. I had bought the eversion, but figured I might as well pick up a hard copy to keep on the shelf. The Hardball Times Annual is a great read, and if you haven’t picked up a copy, you can go here and buy one. You won’t regret it.
Speaking of Hardball Times, Studes has done another outstanding piece of work on relief pitching. I’ve been trying to hammer some of these points without really having the facts at hand, but I’m really looking forward to the Hardball Times Bullpen Book coming out here soon.
The trade seemed pretty innocent at the time. Near the end of spring training, the Tigers parted ways with Glenn Wilson and John Wockenfuss, and got in return Dave Bergman and Willie Hernandez. Bergman started more games at first base then any other Tiger, and we all know Hernandez went on to win the Cy Young and MVP.
Hernandez wasn’t your typical closer. He threw in 140 1/3 innings, and on 15 different occasions, he threw three innings or more. You’d be hard pressed to find a more effective relief combination then Hernandez and Aurelio Lopez. Ever. They combined for almost 280 innings, and went a combined 19-4 with 46 saves.
Let’s take a look at Hernandez’s (fantastic) numbers:
Innings Pitched 140 1/3
Pitching Runs Above Replacement 78
I’ll let you go read those numbers again, just because they’re so impressive. What’s a little ironic is this isn’t even the best season a Tiger reliever’s ever had. That’s reserved for John Hiller in 1973.
No offense to Rawly Eastwick, but he never stood a chance. Not even a snowball’s chance in hell.
Scorecard – 1984 Tigers 8, 1975 Reds 7
Well, what do you know. It’s the first time in this entire debate where the Tigers have had the lead. And unfortunately for the Reds, it’s the most important because we’ve finally wrapped this up.
We all knew who had the better team anyway.
I took part in a chat that’s been posted over at Baseball Analysts. We talked about the AL Central, and I made the bold (i.e. being a homer/possibly stupid) prediction that the Tigers would be in the hunt this year and finish just behind the Twins.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll also be doing the Tigers preview over at Hardball Times. Once that’s done, I’ll tie everything up, and give you my predictions on what’s going to happen for the Tigers this season.
Also, I’ve been hearing rumors of a deal involving Urbina for Mike Cameron. This would be a pretty huge trade if it happened, but I can’t seem the deal working straight up.
Here’s some outstanding work that’s been thrown out on the web recently. Some Tiger related, some not.
Studes did a pretty balanced look at the John Smoltz/Doyle Alexander trade at Hardball Times. The 1987 Tigers took part in my second favorite (and it’s by a narrow margin) season ever, and Alexander’s run after the trade helped boost the Tigers into the playoffs.
Baseball Analysts got out of the gate running, and Richard Lederer did an excellent series of columns on various, for lack of a better word, sports analysts favorite players.
More old news, but prospect guru John Sickels has started his own blog (affiliated with Sportsblog, Inc.). If you like his writing, he puts out an excellent book every year.
Camp is open. Hitters reported to camp over the weekend, and now it’s time to get down to business. Here are my thoughts/observations on what’s happened so far.
Tram has said he’s only going to carry eleven pitchers. While the rotation (Johnson, Bonderman, Ledezma, Maroth, and Robertson) is pretty much set, as is the core of the pen (Percival, Urbina, Farnsworth, and Walker), we have two slots open. My initial thought is Gary Knotts will make the team (at least it’s his to lose), letting guys like Rodney. Colyer, and German the chance to duke it out for the final bullpen spot. My bet would go on Colyer, since Tram will want another lefty to work with.
This should be the first year in a while where there’s not a revolving door out in the bullpen. Eleven different relievers logged ten or more relief appearances, and I expect that number to come down.
Magglio Ordonez appears to be ready to go. Probably the only better news would be if Carlos Guillen were ready, but it looks like he’s going to start the season on the sidelines. Expect Ramon Martinez and Jason Smith to fill in at shortstop. They could move Omar Infante over there, but I think he’s better off sticking to second base.
A couple of weeks ago I projected the Tigers lineup and I think this is still good once Guillen comes back. Until he does, I’d expect Infante to move up into the two spot, and whoever fills in for Guillen will bat ninth. Outside of Alex Sanchez, I like this lineup.
Speaking of Alex Sanchez, I’m really, really hoping Curtis Granderson has a nice start at AAA and gets called up to play. I don’t like Sanchez in the lineup, and I really don’t like him leading off (and I know that’s where Tram will put him).
March 3 is the first spring game. I for one and am excited. Baseball is here folks. You can’t ask for much more.
There’s been a lot of good stuff put out on the blogosphere recently. With tax season in full swing, I haven’t had a chance to give these sites/columns a propert plug. Hopefully tonight I’ll be able to get through it all.
Senior Smoke had one of the more underappreciated careers of any Tiger in 1980s. He emerged as the Tigers’ closer in the last 70s, and his best season might have been 1979, when he finished seventh in the Cy Young. By 1981, he had lost the closer job to Kevin Saucier, and later, Dave Tobik until he picked it back up in 1983 and made the All-Star team.
His 1984 season was nothing short of fantastic. He set a career high by pitching in 137 2/3 innings (unheard of by a reliever these days), and posted a near perfect 10-1 record, with his only loss coming in the final week of the season. If there was one fault to Lopez’s game, it was his propensity to give up the long ball. But he finished his career with an impressive 62-36 career record, while racking up 93 saves.
Here’s Lopez’s 1984 numbers:
Innings Pitched 137 2/3
Pitching Runs Above Replacement 43
Both his PRAR and his Stuff were hurt because of his homer rate, but this is an impressive season for a reliever by any standard. The fact that he was the second best reliever on the team that year means Sparky had two outstanding arms coming out of the pen.
Scorecard – 1975 Reds 7, 1984 Tigers 7
Two great bloggers have joined forces to form The Baseball Analysts. Richard Lederer from Rich’s Weekend Baseball Beat and Bryan Smith from Wait Until Next Year are the primary contributors, and Rich is going to have an interview with Bill James here soon. This site is definitely going to be a site to check out every day.
Sparky loved his relievers. Throughout “Bless You Boys,” the one thing Sparky constantly talks about is how he needs Bill Lajoie to go out and get him another left handed reliever. And in my opinion, nobody knew how to utilize his bullpen better then Captain Hook.
Through the end of July, Doug Bair was right there with Aurelio Lopez, and to a lesser extent, was as effective as Willie Hernandez. Through 65 innings, he had a 1.077 WHIP and an ERA of 3.05. Then in his first game in August, the wheels fell off the wagon, and he gave up two runs in only 1/3 of an inning. He had three more rough outings before recovering near the middle of the month. Fortunately during his rough stretch, the Tigers had a lead over the Blue Jays of just under ten games, but he ended the month with a 2.152 WHIP and an 8.80 ERA. He then went on to be lights out in September.
Let’s take a look at Bair’s season numbers..
Innings Pitched 93 2/3
Pitching Runs Above Replacement 21
On the face of things, I’d say Clay Carroll looks better. But Bair was as good, if not better, when things counted during the beginning of the year. Since we’re looking at the entire season, I guess I have to concede.
Scorecard – 1975 Reds 7, 1984 Tigers 6
This is really some great news. Ugueth Urbina’s mother was rescued Friday after being held captive for more then five months. I wish the Urbina family my best in getting their life back together.
I went to my first SABR event today. In addition to meeting several good people, I also got to meet a couple of internet brethren. Ryan Sosin over at Tigers Central and Joel Luckhaupt of the Great American Reds Blog were both in attendance, and it was nice being able to put a face to the site.
The agenda was pretty interesting. They officially renamed the chapter the Don Lund Chapter, after the former Tiger. There was a conversation regarding the Negro League with committee co-chair Dick Clark. MSU Professor Sayuri Guthrie Shimizu discussed some of the history going into her upcoming book about the history of baseball in Japan. And Joseph McCauley discussed his book, “Ebbets Field: Brooklyn’s Baseball Shrine.” I haven’t had a chance to read it cover to cover, but I flipped through and skimmed it, and I highly recommend it. You can pick it up here at Author House.
Before each season begins, a good friend of mine takes a straw poll among all of his friends who happen to be Tiger fans. The poll is that he asks us how many games the Tigers will lose in the upcoming season. It has become a tradition. When it came time for him to ask me how many I thought they would lose I speculated that they would lose 102 games. I looked at the fact that other than Dmitri Young, the team was relatively free of injury last season. I reflected on the fact that Brandon Inge, Omar Infante and Carlos Guillen all performed beyond my wildest expectations last season. I thought about the fact that that it would be unlikely that Alex Sanchez would be able to continue
to maintain a batting average as high as what his was with his inability to draw walks. I also looked at the Pudge factor, I still have high expectations but there is no way he will bat .500 in a month again in his career! Without a clear-cut #1 starting pitcher, how could this team help but get worse.
Yet, with the signing of Magglio Ordonez and the trade for Jeff Farnsworth, the picture looks a bit more rosy. There are a lot of questions, but my opinion has changed. They will not lose 102 games even if they are unable to improve upon last season’s performance. They have a couple of tradeable commodities in Ugueth Urbina and whomever they decide is least useful between Alex Sanchez, Bobby Higginson, and Rondell White. Those trades could possibly fill any holes that could emerge or provide some more prospects to bank for future use.
I am ready for spring and very hopeful that the Tigers will continue their entertaining brand of baseball. They will rarely disappoint with their effort and their triumvirate of Young, Pudge and Ordonez should creates some offensive fireworks. I am even mildly optimistic about a future role that Dean Palmer may serve in for the team’s benefit. Anybody who has known me for any extended period of time would be astonished by that pronouncement.
There hasn’t been a lot of hope for Tiger fans that last few years. At this time last year, we were able to look back at the worst season that an established franchise has ever had. Anything, including a 72 win season, would be a dramatic improvement.
This year, thing’s are a little different. There’s hope. Last year, the Tigers seemed to establish a foundation that they’ve now built on, and while they’re not the odds on favorite to win the AL Central, they shouldn’t be the doormat of the league either. Here’s the long list of things I’m hoping for……
I hope that the seasons Brandon Inge, Omar Infante, and Carlos Guillen had weren’t flukes, but the beginning of trends.
I hope Wilfredo Ledezma and Jeremy Bonderman live up to the hype of being potential aces in the rotation.
I hope the combination of Urbina and Percival are comparable to the combination of Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez in 1984.
I hope the second half that Carlos Pena can be stretched out over an entire season.
I hope future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodirguez has a few more Hall of Fame season left.
I hope Bobby Higginson has one more great season left in the tank.
And finally, I hope Magglio Ordonez can prove everyone, including myself wrong and be worth the money the money we’re paying him.
It may be snowing outside, but this heart is warm because pitchers and catchers report to Lakeland tomorrow.
If you want some solid reading, Peter Gammons wrote a nice column and really mixed in quite a few topics. He talks about the post-steroid era beginning, and then he throws out a bunch of lists. The Braves topped the teams he felt were spring training watches, and proclaimed A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett were THE players who had to have good seasons.
Three Tigers made it in there. Magglio Ordonez was the sixth best comeback to watch. That was no surprise, but what really opened my eyes was the final list of eight players who could have breakout seasons.
Right there at number one was Jeremy Bonderman. If he can pitch like he did after the All Star break, when he had 85 strikeouts, a 3.70 ERA, and a 1.10 WHIP in ninety innings, I’d have a tendency to agree with him.
And even after that, he wasn’t done with the Tigers because at number eight he threw in Carlos Pena, who also had an impressive second half. While he only hit .250, he did post an .876 OPS in the second half, and he slugged in sixteen homers in 66 games.
So maybe when it’s all said and done, Tiger fans will have something to cheer about. A first basemen who finally lives up to the hype, and a budding ace in the rotation.
With the big signing (Magglio Ordonez if you missed it) and the trade for Kyle Farnsworth earlier in the week, things were pretty calm for the Tigers this weekend. Since there’s not a lot of news, let’s check out what’s going on around the blogosphere:
Blade at Reds Cutting Edge has a done a rundown of the ongoing debate between he and I. If you’ve missed any of this and wanted any easy place to find an older column, then this is your best way to check it out.
I’ve also been busy keeping the Business of Baseball Forum as up to date as I can. If you’ve never stopped by there, and you’re interested in the business aspects of the game, I highly recommend you check out that and the Business of Baseball website. I’m catching up on the content and I read through the Marvin Miller interview this weekend.
This is about a month old, but it’s a great read. Brian at Beyond Boxscores did a recap of an episode of “This Week in Baseball.” In a time where you can now watch a game just about every day, TWIB was THE show to watch on Saturday afternoons back when I was a kid, and the best way to keep up with what was happening around the league. This brought back some fond memories.
Thomas Jefferson Davis Bridges ranks right up there with Hal Newhouser as one of the best Tiger pitchers of all time. According to The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, Bridges had the fifth best curveball of all time, and had a good enough fastball to go with it.
Over a sixteen year career that was interrupted by World War II, Bridges won 194 games, struck out 1,674 batters, and had a career ERA of 3.57 (ERA+ of 126). The six time all star led the league in strikeouts twice, and his career adjusted ERA+ of 126 is good for 47th all time. He’s also one of a handful of Tigers to play for both the 1935 and 1945 championship teams.
His best stretch of seasons was 1934-1936. During that time, he went 66-32 and logged at least 274 innings in every season. He was second in the league in strikeouts in 1934, and led the league in both 1935 and 1936. His biggest weakness was the propensity to walk batters, as he finished no better then sixth in walks allowed during the three year stretch.
Bridges and Schoolboy Rowe made quite a one-two punch for the Tigers. Both would have contented for the Cy Young in both 1934 and 1935, and Bridges probably would have won it in 1936 had the award existed.
As always, when there’s something better out there, I’m not going to try to out work the experts (because I can’t). If you want more information on Tommy Bridges, Rob Neyer did an excellent piece on him in The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, and I’d also highly recommend you check out his biography write up over at SABR’s Baseball Biography Project.
This doesn’t quite make up for overpaying Magglio Ordonez, but it’s hard not to be at least a little excited about this trade. You never want to overpay for relief pitching, and the Tigers got a pretty good arm without giving up a ton. The Tigers unloaded a non-prospect reliever (Robert Novoa), a bust first round draft pick (Scott Moore), and an outfielder who will probably never see the major leagues for something like four years, if ever (Bo Flowers).
Kyle Farnsworth, like Sammy Sosa, fell out of favor in Chicago, and hopefully he’ll be a nice addition to the bullpen. He really struggled in the second half last year (1.82 WHIP), but was very effective in the first half (1.29 WHIP). Over his six year career, he’s had just about a strikeout an inning, and really broke out in 2001, when he struck out 107 in 82 innings, with a 2.74 ERA and a .213 batting average against. He struggled mightily in 2002, but bounced back in 2003 with as good of a season as he had in 2001. He continued this nice run into the first half of 2004 before falling off the wagon.
With Troy Percival as the closer, Urbina as the setup man/spot closer, and Jamie Walker as the left handed specialist, Farnsworth should fit in nicely. He’ll probably see his share of seventh innings, and when Urbina needs a break, his share of eighth innings as well. And they’re getting it all for $1.4 million.
So all in all, it’s been a pretty busy week for the Tiger’s front office. And it seems like every move they make will put them that much closer to contending this year.
Looks like we gave up some minor leaguers. Looks like a pretty good deal, but I’ll break it down tonight.
First off is the complaint, and then I’ll get down to business. I don’t know if we’re really paying for the futility of this team for the past several years, but under no circumstances does Magglio Ordonez warrant this kind of money. Even if 2004 is a fluke, and Ordonez never hits the DL, I doubt if he’ll produce to the point to where he’s “worth” what we’re paying him.
With that said, Detroit doesn’t seem like a popular place. Whether it’s the losing, or the grim reputation of the city, it seems most players demand some sort of premium to come play here. The last couple of years we’ve paid that premium, and I really, really hope it never comes back to haunt us.
So, let’s break down what we’ll be paying him:
2005 – $12 million (includes $6 million signing bonus)
2006 – $15 million
2007 – $12 million
2008 – $15 million
2009 – $18 million
2010 – $3 million (with a team option of $15 milion)
2011 – Team option for $15 million
If Ordonez has 135 starts or 540 plate appearances in 2009, or 270 starts or 1,080 plate appearances combined in 2008 and 2009, then the 2010 option becomes guaranteed at $18 million. If the same set of circumstance occur in 2009 and 2010, then the 2011 option is guaranteed at $15 million.
Ordonez’s best hitting season was 2002. His 38 homers, .320 batting average, and .597 slugging were all career highs. He had an equivalent average of .313, and a WARP1 of 7.5. 2003 was probably his best all around season. For the first time since 1999, he posted a positive fielding runs above average (12) and ended up with a WARP1 of 8.3. Regardless, from 2000 through 2003, he had no worse then a .371 OBP. This is one valuable player.
Bobby Higginson was the closest thing to the Tigers starting right fielder last season. While he seemed to struggle at the plate, he did post a .353 OBP. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for a lot of pop. In 2005, he’ll be five years removed from his career year when he had the likes of Juan Gonzelez, Dean Palmer, and Tony Clark hitting around him. But, he did post a WARP1 of 3.4 last year.
So even with Ordonez’s best year, he’s still barely five wins better then Higginson. Granted Higginson might not be around next year, but is it worth paying $12 million for five more wins.
Of course this isn’t all bad. For the first time since probably Cecil Fielder (I don’t count the one year Juan Gon played in Detroit), the Tigers have a bona fide clean up hitter. Here’s what I project the Tigers “regular” starting lineup to look like:
1) Alex Sanchez CF
2) Carlos Guillen SS
3) Ivan Rodriguez C
4) Magglio Ordonez RF
5) Dmitri Young DH
6) Rondell White LF
7) Carlos Pena 1b
8) Brandon Inge 3b
9) Omar Infante 2b
Now I don’t know about you, but that looks like a pretty solid lineup. Probably the best lineup the Tigers have had since 2000, and possibly ever back to when Sparky was the manager. I know Ordonez and Guillen might not start the first month, but when all these guys are in there, we’re going to have some punch.
Ideally, we trade Rondell White and get some help at third base or pitcher. That would allow Tram to play Higginson or Craig Monroe in leftfield. I like Inge at third, but he’s probably best suited to filling in wherever Tram needs him. Slotting him as a starter at third means we lose some versatility.
And hopefully we also trade Sanchez. I forsee him struggling in the middle of the season, and Curtis Granderson getting the nod to start the last couple of months. Hopefully, he’ll be helping the Tigers in a race for the AL Central.
A part of just about any championship team includes a career year or two. Juan Berenguer fell into that mix. Berenguer’s career spanned fifteen years and was pretty unspectacular. He played for seven different teams, and went from being a starter, to a spot starter/middle reliever, to a reliever, doing well but not exceptional everywhere he went. His best role seemed to be as a reliever, when he pitched for Twins and helped them win their championship in 1987.
While he didn’t log an inning in the post season, Juan Berenguer started 27 games for Sparky and won 11 of them. He looked great at times, but also took his share of beatings. But in the end, he had one of the better strikeout rates on the team, and was one of Sparky’s hardest throwers.
Let’s take a look at the numbers:
Innings Pitched 168 1/3
Pitching Runs Above Replacement 43
Berenguer gave up his share of walks, but he also was pretty good at not letting the ball go over the fence. All in all, he gave the Tigers a nice option as a number four starter, and in my opinion, would mop the floor with Fred Norman if they went head to head.
Scorecard – 1975 Reds 6, 1984 Tigers 6
Also, a quick postscript. Berenguer pitched in four of the five games for the Twins in the ALCS, taking the Tigers to task. I’ve never completely forgiven him for this.
It’s not official, but Newsday has announced that Ordonez is set to sign with the Tigers. No particulars, but it looks like five years, $75 million, making him the highest paid Tiger ever.
Once it’s official, and once I take a look at the deal, I’ll pipe in with my thoughts.
Looks like it’s official. It’s on the front page of ESPN.com.