Archive for November, 2006

2006 DIBS Award Winners

The Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes announced their 2006 award winners today.  You can check out the full story at Detroit Tigers Weblog.

No major surprises.  Carlos Guillen got my first place vote and Pitcher of the Year was close with Kenny Rogers edging Justin Verlander.  Even though Jeremy Bonderman didn’t have a great win/loss record, those 200 strikeouts go a long way in my book and he probably didn’t get enough credit this season.  Regardless, it’s hard to dispute Rogers’ impact on this pitching staff.

And I agree completely with Bilfer.  If the Tigers sign anyone the rest of the year, it should be Jeremy Bonderman to a long term deal.

Cameron Maybin Tops List of Tiger Prospects

Detroit Tigers Weblog did a nice job breaking down Baseball America’s Top Ten Tiger Prospects so be sure to check out his commentary.  Cameron Maybin tops the list with Andrew Miller coming in second place.

I’m really interested in seeing where Maybin starts at in 2007.  His West Michigan Whitecaps coach, Matt Walbeck, is now the coach at Double-A Erie so I could see him starting there.  The problem is, that’s a big jump for a player of Maybin’s age so Lakeland might make as much sense.

Andrew Miller should make the big league club and I see him filling Jamie Walker’s role as a left handed relief specialist.  Third is Brent Clevlan and he’s a player without a spot.  With Maybin being the Tigers centerfielder of the future, I’m curious to see what happens to Clevlan and Curtis Granderson.

While those top two guys are very impressive, it gets pretty spotty after that.  Granted they just traded three prospects for Gary Sheffield, but the minor leagues are still a bit bare, at least when you’re talking about depth.

Brandon Inge, Comerica Park and Book Recommendations

I try not to be too much of a baseball snob, but when it comes to Brandon Inge, it’s hard not too.  I’ve probably had a particular conversation with over a dozen people about Brandon Inge and I’ve never gotten anyone to agree with me.  That conversation is about how good of a fielding third baseman Brandon Inge is.  They’ll agree with me that he’ll make some nice plays now and then but when I say Brandon has a gold glove in his future, people usually bring up his fielding percentage or the 45 errors he’s made at third base the last two years as reasons Brandon should never take a fielding award home.

I recently got my copy of the 2007 Bill James Handbook in the mail and once again, I feel vindicated.  In the book are the +/- fielding leaders.  For those of you who don’t own the Fielding Bible (which extensively details the ins and outs of +/-), a plus rating is how many more plays that fielder made when compared to an average fielder at that position.  Likewise, a negative rating is given for fielders who made less plays then average.  Standing atop the third base list for 2006 is Brandon Inge at +27.  This year’s AL Gold Glove winner, Eric Chavez, isn’t even in the top 10.  Joe Crede, who I thought was going to walk away with the award, had a good showing at +22.  Inge also led the majors with a 3.44 range factor.  I know Inge is an average hitter (low average but with some good power) but I can live with him as our regular third baseman until we see some regression in his skills at third base.

Also in the book are updated park factors.  I find it particularly interesting to find trends and the Handbook does this by presenting 2006 park factors as well as park factors for the combined 2004-2006 seasons.  It was even harder to hit a homerun in 2006 in Comerica Park (79 factor in 2006 vs. 86 for 2004-2006).  Comerica Park was the second hardest place in the American League for a left hander to hit a homerun with a 72 park factor.  Only Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City was tougher (69).  And over the past three years, it’s been easier to get a triple (155 factor) in Comerica Park then any other ballpark in baseball.

As time has passed, I find myself buying more and more baseball books.  Some I find indispensible while others are more personal favorites.  The following are five books that I think would all be useful on any baseball fans books shelf.

2007 Bill James Handbook – Stats, stats and more stats.  If you want to know who led the majors in pitches thrown over 100 mpg (Joel Zumaya by a land slide) and if you want to know who the best baserunner in baseball is (Chone Figgins), this is the book for you.  It’s numbers heavy and outside of descriptions on each of the sections, there’s not much in the way of traditional essays.  Then again, with all of the numbers, there’s not much room for words.

The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 – I’m a little biased here, but this book also is a must for baseball fans.  You get an extensive stats section as well as a ton of graphs and charts. And where the Bill James Handbook is going to be where you go for obscure numbers, the Hardball Times Annual will be where you go for some excellent essays.  This year’s Hardball Times Annual is as good as last years, which in my mind, is a tall task.

2007 Baseball Prospect Book – This is self published by John Sickels and this is the first place I go for minor league stats and analysis on minor league prospects.  Sickels writes up short essays on hundreds of minor league players and gives them all a grade to help distinguish who he thinks is going to be a future star compared to who he thinks will be a career reserve player.  Good, good stuff here.  And if you collect all of the past books, you have a great resource for past minor league stats.

Baseball Prospectus 2007 – For a long time, this stood on its own.  And while the Bill James Handbook and the Hardball Times Annual are more reviews of the past season, BP2007 will get you ready for the 2007 season.  The team essays are always spectacular as are the player essays.  I know I’m ready for the season when I’ve had a chance to flip through my copy of BP.

ESPN Pro Baseball Encyclopedia – The thickest book of the bunch, this is for the baseball historian in all of us.  You get a player register for every player who ever laced up a pair of spikes as well as a ton of extras.  You can even find the American Legion champions going back to 1926.  Whenever I’m starting any research on a player, the Encyclopedia is the first place I go to.

And of course no offense to any other publications out there.  I’ve never bought Ron Shandler’s Forecaster but after reading Fantasyland (one of the best baseball books of 2006), I might check it out.  And I’ve never bought a Baseball America book, but not because of any particular problem with them.  It just seems all of their books overlap with one of the five I highlighted already.

Regardless, it’s a great time to be a baseball fan.  I remember patiently waiting for the Street and Smiths to come out.  Now you get choices galore.

Tigers Sign Seven Minor Leaguers

It was a quiet weekend for the Tigers.  I was out of town with friends and one of them thought he saw Alex Gonzalez had signed with the Tigers.  It made no sense, but we waited 20 minutes for the ESPN ticker to get all of the way back through each college football score to find that Gonzalez had actually signed with the Reds.

The Tigers did sign seven minor league players on Friday.  Craig Dingman, Mike Hessman, Kevin Hooper, Vic Darensbourg, Jackson Melian, Tim Byrdak and Steve Torrealba.  Jason Beck runs down this list with bios so be sure to check out his column.  Billfer also talks about the signings. 

Sean Casey and Jamie Walker

The Tigers signed Sean Casey to a one year, $4 million deal.  I like this deal when you combine it with the Gary Sheffield trade.  Assuming Shef does what he’s supposed to do, we don’t need another power stick even though that’s the bill for a first baseman.  In addition, and I hate to get all mushy, but even though I was against the Tigers trading for Casey during the season, he’s such a likable guy that he’s grown on me.  And for $4 million, you get a decent stick for a pretty good price.

Jamie Walker hit it big today. He signed with the Orioles for three years and he’ll make $11.5 million.  In my mind, that’s way too much for a lefty specialist and while I wish Walker the best of luck, I don’t really see the Orioles getting their money’s worth out of this.  Then again, we’re paying Todd Jones another $5 million for next year.

Jim Leyland Wins Manager of the Year

No surprise here.  Jim Leyland walked away with the manager of the year after leading the Tigers to a surprising 95 wins in 2006.  He joins Sparky Anderson and Tony LaRussa as managers who have won the award in both league and he’s the first Tiger manager to win it since Sparky Anderson won the award back in 1987.  Leyland receive 19 of the 28 first place votes and the remaining nine went to Twins manager Rod Gardenhire.

Justin Verlander Wins Rookie of the Year

Justin Verlander became the first Tiger since Lou Whitaker in 1978 to win the AL Rookie of the Year.  He’s the first pitcher since Mark Fidrych won it 30 years ago.  That’s quite a long time with no top notch rookies.  He did it by getting 26 of the 28 first place votes.  It looks like one person didn’t vote for him at all while the other two first place votes went to Francisco Liriano and Nick Markakis (huh?).  Jonathon Paplebon came in second place, but it was a distant second.

Verlander’s exploits shouldn’t be too surprising if you stop by here periodically.  He won 17 games with a 3.63 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP.  For a guy who throws 100 mph, I would have expected more then 124 strikeouts, but he kept his walks down (60) and I think the strikeouts will come with time.  He also had that huge start against the Yankees in the ALDS even though the rest of his post season was subpar.  Congratulations to Justin Verlander.

Second Thoughts on the Gary Sheffield Trade

Alright, I’ve let this trade sink in a little more and no matter how much I second guess myself, I still think we got a good deal.  Pat Caputo did his best to convince me otherwise on the radio (he thought we gave up a little too much) and he made some great points but I still think having a big bat in the lineup like Sheffield’s will go a longer way then hanging on to the three pitchers we gave up.

In other news, Brent Clevlan has been red hot in the Arizona Fall League.  This column summarizes how all of the Tigers are doing in the winter leagues.

Outside Radio Interview

I was recently interviewed on Outsider Radio about the Tiger’s prospects in 2007.  You can download the interview here.

Tigers Trade Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Wheelan and Anthony Claggett for Gary Sheffield

This is cool.  Very cool.

The Tigers traded three of their pitching prospects today for Gary Sheffield.  The Gary Sheffield who’s drawn more walks (1,293) in his career then he’s struck out (971).  The Gary Sheffield with a career .398 OBP.  And the Gary Sheffield with 455 career homeruns.  Of course everything comes with a price.

Humberto Sanchez took the minor leagues by storm in the first half of the season last year and was involved in trade rumors for Alfonso Soriano.  Then he hurt his elbow and ended up throwing only 123 innings because of it.  Whelan was a closer in waiting but he was probably at least one full year away from making it to the big league club.  Same goes for Claggett, who’s probably closer to two years away.

I like this deal.  A lot.  Gary Sheffield, whether he’s 38 or not (which he’ll be Nov. 18) , is one of the premiere hitters in baseball.  He does it all.  I likened him to a Barry Bonds light back when Bonds was winning MVPs.  He gets on base, takes a walk, doesn’t strike out and he drives in runs.  He’ll be playing mostly DH and probably spotting Craig Monroe and Magglio Ordonez out in the corners through out the year.  He seems to have a great relationship with Jim Leyland and that will definitely help.  So if Sheffield plays the whole season, you should expect something to the tune of 30 homeruns, 110 RBIs and .290/.390/510.  He’ll make an ideal hitter in that three spot.  Oh yeah, we also locked him up for three years and he’ll make $28 million in 2008 and 2009.

Out of all the Tigers’ pitching prospects, Humberto Sanchez was the one I would most like to see dealt away.  Prior to 2006, he was fairly mediocre.  He had a career 4.73 ERA through Single A and Double A and was actually set to repeat Double A in 2006 until he started tearing hitters up (86 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings with a 1.76 ERA).  He’ll turn 24 one day after Sheffield turns 38 (Nov. 19).  He started equally well at Toledo but struggled in his last three starts before getting shut down in Auguest.  That elbow worried me too.

Wheelan and Claggett are both 22 and Wheelan played High A while Clagget played Low A.

So we gave up three pretty good arms, but as we all know, there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect.  And two of them look like relievers, making the deal even more sweet.  While having a good bullpen is pretty important, it’s also something that’s pretty easy to build through free agent pickups.

The big if is whether Sheffield will be able to stay healthy.  He won’t be playing in the field nearly as much so that should be a huge bonus.  Plus we have the coolness factor of Sheffield possibly hitting his 500th homerun in 2008.  No player has ever hit his 500th homerun in a Tiger uniform (Eddie Mathews already had 503 when the Tigers picked him up late in 1967) so we’ll have the homerun count down to look forward to as well.

Justin Verlander Awarded Top AL Rookie Player’s Choice Award

Justin Verlander should be the first Tiger to win the rookie of the year since Lou Whitaker did it way back in 1978.  In the meantime, Verlander was honored by his peers as the best American League rookie.

Earl Wilson and Don Slaught

I wrote up a retrospective of Earl Wilson over at the 1967 AL Pennant site.  If that kind of thing interests you, swing by and check it out.  There’s also one up on Carl Yastrzemski.

Don Slaught is stepping down as the Tigers hitting coach for family reasons.  Four kids can be a handful and I give him credit for stepping down to spend time with his family.

Ivan Rodriguez and Kenny Rogers both won gold gloves.  Congrats to both.

Tigers Extend Dave Dombrowski’s Contract Through 2011

In a lot of ways, this was a big year for Dave Dombrowski.  Had the team failed under Jim Leyland, the blame for the Tigers woes would have probably been pointed at Dombrowski.  Instead, he hit the jack pot and everything came together (just like he planned) and now the Tigers are locking him up as the team’s top exec. through 2011.

Not a bad move. Dombrowski has built up teams before.  Now he’ll get the luxury of actually trying to keep a team at the top.  All of his other teams (Expos, Marlins) were sold out from under him and I doubt Mike Ilitch would be doing that.


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