Archive for March, 2005

Opening Day rapidly approaching….

I was bestowed with the good fortune of having a friend who purchased tickets for the Tiger’s opening day game and is unable to attend. Fortunately, I was able to jockey my schedule so that I will be able to attend. Nothing in life better represents the onset of spring and the beauty of summer than the start of the baseball season. Even more enjoyable, is the pageantry and excitement that surrounds opening day.

That being said, this is a critical opening day for Major League Baseball. With the offseason furor over the use of performance-enhancing substances, this season will be a true test of the magical redemptive powers the sport seems to posess. The sport of baseball continually has been it’s own worst enemy and wedged ambivalence into the hearts of many fans, what will it do to regain favor? A fellow blogger, has written one of the better entries I have ever read about this very ambivalence. At Orange and Brown , they deserve to be commended for bringing to the surface the feelings many of us are encountering as the season approaches.

It is also a critical opening day for the Tigers organization who continue their intrepid march back to respectability. With the eventual absence of Bobby Higginson, few vestiges of previous failures remain in the organization. In some ways, this should be cause for joy. In other ways, it is an opening to new challenges and will become increasingly a means by which to gauge the relative success of the organization as lead by Alan Trammell and Dave Dombrowski. Nothing would bring me more joy than to watch the Tigers remain in contention for the American League Central Division championship into August and beyond.

With this ambivalence, I like many fans will ultimately be suffering from this season, I have been forced to remember how integral baseball is in providing us a connection to our past and those core values and beliefs that Americans hold dear. Hearing the voices of people like Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell, George Kell and so many others stand as a testament to our abilities to endure. And as things change and we face new challenges in our lives, baseball may be the perfect reflection of the difficult road ahead and how to navigate it.

Not Enough Sleep

One of the consequences of taking care of a sick kid and wife is a total lack of sleep. The previous two nights I’ve been pretty much been up since 2 AM, with maybe a couple short cat naps between then and 6 AM when I usually get up for work.

So I’m not too surprised that I botched up the fact that Estaban Yan wasn’t put on the DL, but Fernando Rodney was. And yes, Yan doesn’t even play for us anymore. So I touched up my previous entry to make it correct, but I wanted to apologize for those of you who stopped by and read the wrong version.

Fernando Rodney on the DL

The Tigers put Rodney on the DL today. His shoulder was stiffening up. Tram said it’s common for guys who go through Tommy John surgery to have shoulder tightness out of the gate. Hopefully he’ll be back to form because he looked quite good this spring. It does make the Tigers decision a little easier though, so German will be making the squad.

Tigers are down 4-0 early. Knotts gave up two homers in the first inning.

Dean Palmer Not Making the Cut, Bonderman Number 1

This could have been the feel good story of the spring. In some ways, it’s disappointing because you always want to root for a guy who’s trying to make it back. Palmer has hit .302 this spring, but he’s hit only one homer, and the rest of his nine hits have been singles. And with the way Inge has hit the ball during the preseason, it made it a little easier for Tram. I’m not sure if he’s going to accept a AAA assignment, or whether this means he’s going to retire.

Jason Johnson’s struggles have knocked him from the Opening Day start. Your new opening day pitcher is Jeremy Bonderman. Good for the kid, because he deserves it. If we’re grooming him to be the ace, we should treat him like he’s one.

2005 Season Predictions

First a couple of housekeeping notes. Before you read what’s a part Tiger preview/part league preview, I’ve been out and about doing things for other sites. If you haven’t checked them out, I recommend you check out the chat I took part in over at Baseball Analysts and my five questions preview over at Hardball Times.

I’d say this is a tradition, but it’s only my second spring season blogging so last year was the first year I tried this. You can check out my 2004 predictions by clicking here. Some is good, some is not so good. I did pretty well in the AL East, but I also picked the Royals to win the AL Central (I really didn’t know their pitching was that bad). Also no where to be found were the Cardinals. I did pick Boston to go to the World Series, and I did come withing two wins of (luckily) predicting the Tigers win total, so it wasn’t all bad. First, what big things will happen this season…..

1) Carlos Pena will be the first Tiger since Bobby Higginson to hit 30 homers. Hasn’t happened since 2000.

2) A Tiger starter will win 15 games this year. Sadly that hasn’t happened since 1997 when Willie Blair and Justin Thompson both did it. The Tigers were 79-79 with four games left, and they lost all four. Jeremy Bonderman will be the Tiger that wins 15 games.

3) I’ve always been a Bobby Higginson fan, and because he played during a time when the Tigers were so bad, he doesn’t quite get the recognition he deserves. As far as careers go, he’s had a solid one. I have a feeling that when he ends up with the Marlins, that he does as well, if not better, then the Tiger’s leftfielder.

4) I’m going to go out on a limb and predict the Tigers will win 85 games. They’ll finish in second place to the Twins, and the win total will include three game sweep of the Twins in the final series of the season (by then the Twins will have clinched the AL East. What I’m hoping for is that the Tigers have a meaningful series with the Twins in their weekday series from September 12-14.

Let’s take a look at the rest of the league:

AL East – New York Yankees
AL Central – Minnesota Twins
AL West – Oakland A’s
AL Wildcard – Boston Red Sox

NL East – Atlanta Braves
NL Central – St. Louis Cardinals
NL West – San Francisco Giants (I’m banking on Bonds being back sooner then he seemed to indicate)
NL Wild Card – Philadelphia Phillies

AL Champion – New York Yankees
NL Champion – San Francisco Giants
World Series Champions – San Francisco Giants (Barry Bonds finally gets his ring).

AL MVP – Eric Chavez
NL MVP – Albert Pujols (the writers finally have a reason to vote against Bonds because he misses the first month of the season)

AL Cy Young – Johan Santana
NL Cy Young – Tim Hudson

Al ROY – Scott Kazmir
NL ROY – Jeff Francis

Tiger Preview at Hardball Times

You can check out the preview I put together for the Tigers at Hardball Times by clicking here.

Odds and Ends

Billfer did a nice Tiger preview over at All Baseball. What’s funny was, he’s predicting the same amount of wins I was going to predict. Since he got his up first, it looks like I’m going to have to change mine. Although one of the nice things about this blog is I can change the date of this post to two days ago, so it looks like I actually predicted it first.

Roar of the Tigers also did their Tiger preview. Fortunately they didn’t make a prediction, or I would have had to come up with something really crazy.

And not to feel left out, my preview will be up at Hardball Times tomorrow.

The Bullpen Conundrum

As the spring season is winding down, the Tigers are faced with something they haven’t had to deal with in a while. They’re going to have to make some tough choices. First and foremost will be deciding on the eleven pitchers that will come up with the big league squad.

The five starters are pretty much set. Tram seems to be sticking with Jason Johnson despite getting roughed up for most of the preseason. Mike Maroth, Jeremy Bonderman, and Nate Robertson are all givens, but Wilfredo Ledezma’s struggles could mean some time in Toledo. I don’t know where he stands as far as options, but if he has one, it makes the decision a little easier.

Ugueth Urbina, Jamie Walker, Troy Percival, and Kyle Farnsworth are all definites in the pen. Gary Knotts has all but made the team because he’s one of the only pitchers the Tigers have who can fill the long relief/spot starter role. And if Ledezma gets sent down, he could find himself fifth in the rotation.

That leaves one spot for sure, with the outside chance of a second. Franklyn German has thrown well, but he hasn’t been nearly as good as Fernando Rodney. The difference between the two is Rodney has an option. So if one makes it, you’d think they’d send Rodney down, and keep German as opposed to putting him waivers.

Odd man out is Steve Colyer. While it would be nice to have another lefty in the pen, Colyer hasn’t shown anything since joining the Tigers organization. Chances are we’re going to lose him once we put him on waivers.

This all discounts the fact that a trade could or will be made. I have a feeling somethings in the works. Dombrowski has too adamantly denied trade rumors, and when that happens, the opposite is usually true. As much as I’d like to see Urbina on the team, if it means cutting him lose for some top prospects or some help elsewhere, I say we have to take it.

Higgy’s days appear numbered, Jason Johnson disappointment

Recent articles in the Detroit News have made the Tigers roster picture appear much clearer. In attempts to possibly soften the blow, it appears that Bobby Higginson’s days as a Tiger are finished. Higginson on Shaky Ground and Trammell:Higgy an ‘extra’ , both are articles that make it demonstatively clear that Tigers are getting close to jettisoning their one-time poster boy for the organization. When spring training began, I thought it a possibility with Higginson’s defense and his discipline at the plate, he may still be a valuable member of the roster. At this point, it appears that opposing teams would be foolish to be trading partners with Tigers for Higginson’s services because due to the numbers game, he will have to be released. “Scrap Iron” Phil Garner’s comments are encouraging, because I think the Tigers should jump at the opportunity for any number of Brandon Duckworth or Pete Munro-quality players just to be rid of Mr. Ilitch’s albatross. With the rumored trade talks between the Astro’s and Red’s involving Ken Griffey, Higgy’s trade to Houston probably decreases in likelihood by the second.

Another Tiger who has been the cause for major concern, is the disappointing Jason Johnson (see Det News Tigers unhappy with Johnson ). With the obvious question marks at 3rd base and Centerfield, I think the last thing the Tigers needed was Johnson’s poor performance. The toughest need to fill at this time of year would have to be starting pitcher. Their has been discussion that the Tigers may no longer need Gary Knotts, in my opinion, Johnson’s performance necessitates keeping a swing starter/long reliever like Knotts around. This is a situation to monitor closely. If their “#1” starter is not able to produce any more capably than he did last year, then his days in Detroit may be numbered as well.

One positive story form this spring to be sure, is the phoenix-like performance of Dean Palmer. Palmer could emerge as the player the Tigers were hoping for in Greg Norton last season (except Palmer would have more pop!). With the hot hitting of Craig Monroe and Rondell White, the pitching of Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson, and the hoped for healthy return-to-form of Omar Infante, Magglio Ordonez, and Carlos Guillen it would appear that the Tigers are in the midst of their sunniest spring training in years. I can’t wait for Opening Day.

Kudos to Brian for keeping this site going while fighting illness and the likelihood that he is engrossed in his busiest work schedule of the year.

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Back in Business

This morning was the first time I’ve felt relatively normal in about a week and a half. I went to the Doctors yesterday, and it turns out I just have a pretty bad cold, so after three sick days off of work, I’m going to venture back out and try to get caught up on everything I need to finish (which seems an insurmountable task).

On a good note, I still have all four of my final four teams remaining in my pool, and I’m the only one who picked MSU to win it all. I should send the guy an email to make sure he knows how to spell my name when he’s writing the check.

So it’s been a week since I’ve actually talked about baseball. Probably the biggest news of the weekend was both Carlos Guillen and Omar Infante played out in the field. I got to watch some of the game that was televised on Sunday, and now I’m Jonesing (sp?) for the season to start.

And it also looks like the Tram is dead set on trying Craig Monroe in centerfield. I really hope he puts together a season with his bat like he has the last couple, because if he doesn’t, this could be a disaster waiting to happen.

Rough Weekend

Well, I thought I was past whatever I got over, but on Tuesday I developed a bad cough that got worse and worse. This is the first time ever I took a sick day from work, only to take a sick day later in the week for the same thing. My constitution is usually a little better then this.

Good news is, I’m feeling a about 85%. I’ve spent so much time in bed that my back is sore. The only good news out of the whole thing is I’ve lost a much needed five pounds or so because my appetite hasn’t quite been there.

So I’m hoping to get back to my regular schedule tomorrow. I’m finishing up my Tiger’s preview for the Hardball Times, and I’ll be sure to let you know when that’s scheduled to be put on the site.

Filling Centerfield, Tigers Release Alex Sanchez

Alright, the good news is, we no longer have to deal with Alex Sanchez. You’ll never find a more hollow .300 hitter ever, and that doesn’t even take into account his defense.

So what do the Tigers do to fill the spot? Alan Trammell was interviewed on the Big Show (AM1270) and said they would probably not be looking to make a trade to fill the spot. I for one hope that’s not true, but let’s look at the scenarios.

1) Tigers trade for Mike Cameron – This is what I want to see happen. As valuable as Ugueth Urbina is to the pen, he can’t compare to a bona fide slugger/gold glove winner. Last year was a down year for Cameron, but he was dogged by injuries.

Cameron’s best year in the field was 2003, where he logged 41 fielding runs above replacement (FRAR). Last year he slipped back down 20 but over the last six years he’s average around 25. So let’s say that’s what he’s good for in 2005. Here’s what we got last year from our centerfielders:

Alex Sanchez 1
Nook Logan No Info
Craig Monroe 1
Brandon Inge 1
Curtis Granderson No Info
Omar Infante 0
Andres Torres 0

Let’s say Logan and Granderson combined for seven, which is probably pretty nice. That means Cameron has them all beat by about 15 runs, or a win and a half. If Cameron slips back into 2003 form with a nice expanse to roam and logs 30 FRAR, then it’s worth two wins.

And this doesn’t even take into account the fact we’d be picking up another hitter with 30 homer potential. The difference between Urbina and Fernando Rodney, the guy who would probably make the team if the Tigers dealt Urbina isn’t that much.

2) They fill the hole with a current player. DeWayne Wise, Alexis Gomez and Craig Monroe have all been bounced around. Monroe is mediocre as a corner outfielder, and Wise and Gomez would be stop gaps with the hope that Granderson is ready by the All Star break.

3) The Tigers could trade for a third basemen and move Brandon Inge to center field. I think this would be a better option then moving Monroe out there. I doubt if Dean Palmer will be able to fill in as an every day third basemen, but there’s another option.

Regardless, all of these are better then the direction the Tigers were taking. Now hopefully they’ll make another right decision to fill the hole.

Addition By Subtraction

The Tigers cut Alex Sanchez today. This might have been the best move they’ve made so far to prepare for the 2005 season.

I’m going to take a look at this, including the chance we might land Mike Cameron and the impact he might make hopefully tonight, but if not, then tomorrow. Still very much under the weather.

Getting Caught Up

This past week has to have been one of the roughest I can remember. Taking care of a sick kid while your wife is also sick is pretty tough. Taking care of a sick kid while you’re sick is even tougher. My son’s been sick for a couple of weeks, and wife picked up what he had earlier in the week. Friday I started feeling like crap, and Saturday was the worst of it. Needless to say, I have a pile of tax returns to do, and I haven’t been able to write much in my fever induced haze.

And I’m not sure what’s worse, getting sick during the week, where you fall behind with your work, or getting sick on the weekend, when you fall behind on the things you actually enjoy doing.

With that said, the big story of the weekend was Magglio Ordonez hitting a homerun in only his second spring at bat. I’m going to cover Mags pretty heavily in my Tiger’s preview over at Hardball Times (another thing I’m behind on). Brandon Inge has stayed hot and leads the team in homers, but he’s also made his share of errors.

The Tigers fell short in their comeback attempt today against the Mets, but they did beat the Braves on Sunday. With the loss, the Tigers now stand at 5-4 this spring.

Once I get back on my feet (literally), I’ll talk a little more on what I think is going to happen in the 2005 season. I’ll also have a brief synopsis on the 1934 Tiger season to set the stage for the 1935 diary. And of course I’ll try to keep you apprised of what’s happening down in Lakeland.

Reds Edge Tigers, and the Best Way to Spend Five Bucks

The Tigers dropped their spring game today against the Cincinnati Reds. I don’t have a detailed box, but they lost it in the ninth, despite having a lead going into the inning. Alexis Gomez hit his first homerun for the Tigers.

If you haven’t picked up your copy, I highly recommend you pick up The Hardball Times Bullpen Book. I’ve been using it to monitor available reliever in my sim league, but it’s a great read, and has a ton of useful information on relief pitchers.

Tigers Finally Lose, Ilitch Willing to Spend

The Tigers were edged by the Nationals on Monday, and handed their first loss of the grapefruit league season. Dean Palmer, attempting to come back after some major shoulder problems, hit his first homerun and played third base for the first time. Bobby Higginson went one for two and scored twice, and Rondell White continued to hit the ball going two for three.

Jeremy Bonderman threw three innings, and while he only gave up one hit, he did walk three.

Today, the Tigers got off to a good start by scoring four runs in the first. Craig Monroe and Brandon Inge both hit homers to put the Tigers up 4-1. But Gary Knotts, Steve Colyer, and Chris Dingman all were shelled, and the Tigers lost 12-4. Probably the most encouraging player of the game was Franklyn German. He threw two innings, gave up only one hit, and struck out two. And yes, he didn’t walk anyone.

Here’s an interesting story about Ilitich wanting to spend until the Tigers win. I’m not sure if it’s the fact the Wings aren’t playing, but it would be nice for him to put more of his attention into the Tigers. The story about him missing out on Pavano is a pretty good one. I think he’s embarrased by what happened in 2003, and when he dropped some dime, saw attendance go up considerably last year. He’s hoping to build on that even more, so hopefully Tiger fans will reap the benefit.

The Tigers Can’t Lose, and a Little Wager

Don’t look now, but the Tigers are the last team in the American League to be undefeated in the spring season. I know the first week of spring games mean very little as far as winning or losing, but it’s nice to see some notches in the win column.

Friday, Nate Robertson and seven other pitchers combined to four hit the Phillies. Tony Giarratano had the big blast with a two run homer in the 3-0 Tigers win.

On Saturday, the Tigers took on the mighty Yankees, and looked like they were on there way to getting blown out. With the score 8-1 in the bottom of the fourth, the Tigers stormed back and scored nine runs over the next four innings to win 9-8. The rally was highlighted by back to back jacks by Brandon Inge and Jason Smith. Inge drove in four runs and also doubled.

On Sunday, the Tigers didn’t win, but they didn’t lose either as they tied the Indians 2-2. Craig Monroe had an RBI double, and Chris Shelton went three for four.

All in all, a pretty good weekend for the home team. The Tigers play the Washington Nationals tomorrow. It’s going to take me a while to get used to the location and team name change.

To wrap this up, I got into a discussion about the diaries and some of the historical things I’ve been doing on the site with Jay Maxwell over at Black Sox Blog when we got to talking about the prospects of our teams in the division. For whatever reason, he felt the White Sox were going to finish ahead of the Tigers, while we all know where I stand on this issue. So I placed a little wager. I get $25 when the Tigers finish ahead of the White Sox (I’m stealing Curt Schilling’s contract language) in the AL West, and I get another $25 when the Tigers win the season series. I appreciate Jay donating money to my kid’s college fund.

And if you haven’t stopped by Black Sox Blog, it’s one of the newer sites covering the White Sox. He’s been covering the spring games, but he also did a season lookback on the 1901 White Sox, and plans on doing something similar for every year the White Sox have been around.

Tigers Crush Phillies in Spring Opener

I know, it doesn’t count for much. But it’s nice none the less.

The Tigers jumped out to a 7-1 lead after three innings, and Jeremy Bonderman pitched three solid innings. According to the news report, he was only scheduled to throw 40 pitches over two innings, but he came out for third inning since he hadn’t hit his pitch count. That’s definitely the kind of news you want to hear.

DeWayne Wise hit the first homer of the Tiger’s spring season, and the only homer of the game. Rondell White had a solid game with three hits.

Philly gets a rematch tomorrow at 1 pm. Unfortunately I was working, so I didn’t get to hear any of the game. I might head out to the car tomorrow for a late lunch if they’re on the radio just to get my fix.

Baseball’s here folks. And it brings a smile to this man’s face.

Question Mark in Centerfield

I’ve never been a big Alex Sanchez fan. Speed is fine, but if it’s not used the right way, it hurts more then it helps. The threashold of hurting and helping your team has been established at a 75% stolen base percentage, and Sanchez is at around 68% for his career. Last year, he was only 59% effective. Throw in a non-existant walk rate, and you have a guy who can bunt his way on base, and that’s about it.

Personally, I’d like to see Bobby Higginson start in centerfield, but from what’s been reported, even he has reservations. In fact, I also think Higgy would make a decent lead off hitter. He’s got a good eye, and since his power has evaporated, he can concentrate on getting to first via the walk.

Craig Monroe would also be an option, but he’s not the best fielder when playing one of the corners. Only a masochist would be morbidly interested in seeing him play centeron a regular basis.

So we’re back to Sanchez. I’m going to make my first prediction. By the end of July, Alex Sanchez will not be the starting centerfielder. Centerfield prospect Curtis Granderson will be. He tore up the Arizona Fall League, and I hoping he does the same at Toledo, earning a spot on the big league club.

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