Archive for February, 2007

Curtis Granderson Working to Cut Down Strikeouts

Curtis Granderson led the Tigers and the American League in strikeouts in 2007.  While on the face of it, this is a bad thing especially for a lead off hitter but he also walked 66 times, which was second to only Carlos Guillen.  He was also tied for first with Brandon Inge with 4.1 pitches per plate appearance.  Regardless, had he cut that strikeout total down to even 150 and considering his .338 batting average on balls in play, he probably would have added about 7 more hits.  If he gets it down to 130, then we’re talking close to 15 hits and we’re really making a difference.  He might have even hit another homerun or two.

Now Granderson comes into spring training with a new, more compact swing that he’s been working on with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon.  The end result cuts out any unneccesary movement in the batters box and in Granderson’s swing.  He made a good first impression in camp yesterday and if it means Granderson can get on base a little more, it’ll just mean more RBIs for Gary Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez.

Granderson’s PECOTA card looks pretty nice.  He comes out at .265/.342/.463 with 21 homeruns.  With a 20% breakout and a 47% improve rate, I can see Granderson hitting his 75th percentile line, which puts him at .283/.362/.504 and 24 homeruns.  Oddly, over his entire range, Granderson’s strikeout total pretty much stays the same (130 give or take).


Here’s a little more on Granderson and his strikeouts.

Justin Verlander Gets Red Light

Will Carroll continued his positional health reports series and in today’s installment, he talks about starting pitchers.  The only Tiger he had comments on today was Justin Verlander who gets a red light because of his work load last year and his pitching style.  The red light doesn’t neccesarily guarantee that Verlander will get injured in 2007, it just means he has a very high risk of getting injured.  Several red lights go through the season without getting injured but I hope Jim Leyland keeps Verlander on a tight leash in 2007, maybe giving him an extra day off here and there, to keep his workload down.

Shef Speaks Out

Gary Sheffield didn’t have many nice things to say about Joe Torre and the Yankees yesterday.  He said Torre took the fire out of him and that he wasn’t happy about being benched in game three of the ALDS against the Tigers.  He also spoke out about how the Yankees have treated Bernie Williams.  The veteran outfielder was only offered a minor league deal without a definite spot on the team and for now Bernie Williams is sitting things out to explore other options.

While Sheffield played well in New York, I think even being a big fish in a big pond could have affected him.  Now on the Tigers, he’s the stud.  There’s no doubt he’s the best hitter and once the fans start to appreciate his talent, I think he’ll respond in kind. 

Introducing the Dugout

WXYZ has recently added a great new feature to their website called The Dugout.  It’s a great one stop source for news about the Tigers and it compiles and highlights newspaper articles and blog entries (they were nice enought to include Tigerblog) along with video all in spot.   Be sure to check it out.

Gary Sheffield Goes to Work

It looks like Gary Sheffield received a warm reception today in the first full workout of the season for Tiger hitters.  With good reason because Gary Sheffield may very well be the best hitter the Tigers have had in the last 20 years.

A lot of people forget that early in Sheffield’s career, he carried the injury prone label.  He missed quite a bit of time in 1991, 1994, 1995, and then in 2006.  If he would have played full seasons in 1991, 1994 and 2006 and hit 25 homeruns in the season where he missed a lot of time (which was well within his capability) he’d have 41 more homeruns and be on the verge of the 500 mark.  Oh yeah, and he has 1,293 career walks against only 971 strikeouts and he’s never struck out 90 times in a season.  This is a guy who gets on base and rakes the ball and I’m excited to see him in a Tiger uniform.

Another Birthday

This time it’s Alan Trammell, who turned 49 today.  Happy Birthday Tram, and best of luck with the Cubs this year.

Jim Leyland Lays Down the Law

It looks like Jim Leyland wants the Tigers to improve on two things in 2007.  He wants better production from his hitters with two strikes and better baserunning.  One thing I took out of the article by Jason Beck was that Carlos Guillen and Placido Polanco were amongst the top seven in the American League in hitting with two strikes.

Whenever I think of two strike hitters, I think of Lou Whitaker.  He always had a reputation of being a solid hitter with two strikes so I decided to check it out.  According to this page, Whitaker was a .218/.321/.355 hitter with two strikes on him (although the data appears to be incomplete). Hardly spectacular.  He was pretty good on the first pitch though (.313/.307/.553) so maybe he should have swung away more often.  

This doesn’t measure the effect that Whitaker might have had on a pitcher.  If he went to 0-2 then worked the count and fouled off a couple of balls, maybe taking the at bat to five or six pitches, then he’s making the pitcher work regardless of whether he got on base.  I couldn’t find any numbers on what Whitaker’s career pitches per plate appearance were so it’s hard to tell. 

Andrew Miller – Minor League Bound

This is a nice story about Andrew Miller and how he’s probably on the cusp of being ready to pitch in the minors, the Tigers are going to going to take him on a more normal prospect track.  I’ve read in several places that Miller will start the season at the High A Lakeland Tigers along with centerfielder Cameron Maybin.  If you would have asked me a couple of months ago, I would have said they’d start at Double A but it seems like this is the more prudent move.  They’ll both get some time in the sun and I’m sure by the midway point, one or both will be at Erie once they prove their stuff.

Regardless, keep an eye on those Lakeland box scores (or make Tigers Minors a regular stop) because it’s going to be fun watching that team with our two best prospects there.

Jim Leyland Speaks Out on Dmitri Young

Dmitri Young recently made some comments about how he was treated last year and Jim Leyland didn’t waste much time in firing back.  Leyland took responsibility for Young’s release and also said that Young’s arguments were out of line.

You could see it coming last year though.  Young started hitting the ball out of the gate but then really tapered off.  You figure if the bat wasn’t there, he’d be on a short leash and that ran out.  It does look like he has a solid shot at making the Nationals though, with Nick Johnson still injured.

Tigers Mailbag beat reporter Jason Beck recently answered readers’ questions in a mailbag column.  He touches on everything from Jordan Tata to waiver transactions to the fact that the Tigers have four west coast swings in 2007. 

Happy Birthday Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander turned 24 today.  It seems like quite some time when the players were all older then me.  Now, a vast majority are younger (I am younger then Barry Bonds though).  Anyway, happy birthday Justin.

Ivan Rodriguez to Play….Forever?

It’s funny how these things work out.  Three years ago, Ivan Rodriguez was one of the biggest signings the Tigers had ever made and the Tigers took a chance on him despite his injury history.  Now, the deal looks like a huge bargain and Rodriguez is finishing up his four year deal in 2007.  Rodriguez recently said he’d like to play until he’s 40 and he’d like to retire a Tiger.  With no heir apparant at catcher in the Tigers farm system (not a single catcher even shows up as an honorable mention on Sickels’ Tigers prospect list), it looks like a prudent move to get Ivan Rodriguez locked up for another year or two.  Preferably sooner rather then later.

My only concern is it seems like Pudge is living on borrowed time.  The linked article talks about his training regimen, which sounds solid, but a freak injury, which isn’t uncommon amongst catchers, could make any potential extension a waste of money.  PECOTA has Pudge posting a solid .287/.320/.423 but he has a collapse rating of 32% and an attrition rating of 26%.  And if you look at his five year projections, there’s a big drop off in 2008 and then another one in 2009.  So if Pudge does play until he’s 40, he’s even more special then he’s already indicated as a future Hall of Famer.

Tiger Spring Training Updates

Probably the best one stop source for Tiger spring training updates is Beck’s blog.  Jason Beck is the beat writer for the Tigers and he’s the author of all of those great columns.  He hasn’t posted an entry yet for today but you get a nice set of notes on the happenings at camp that day.

Wil Ledezma – Utility Pitcher

This is a nice story by Jason Beck on Wil Ledezma, who could provide the Tigers with a variety of different roles in 2007.  He could be the heir apparant to the rotation if someone goes down or if there’s a trade or Mike Maroth isn’t fully recovered from his injury but in the meantime, he’ll provide the Tigers with a left handed long relief specliast.  Ledezma has been one of the guys I’ve been excited about for a couple of years yet he still hasn’t panned out.  He suffered through a tough 2003 season as a Rule Five pick, had a nice season at Double A in 2004 to make a name for himself, floundered in the Tigers rotation before getting sent down to Toledo in 2005 until finding a spot on the team as the fifth starter down the stretch in 2006. 

Probably his biggest moment was in game four of the ALCS.  With the game tied, Ledezma came into the game with two outs and the bases loaded and got Mark Scutaro to pop out.  Then he pitched a shutout ninth that set the stage for the Tigers to win it with Ordonez’s walk off homerun in the bottom of the ninth.

Todd Jones – Tiger Closer

I took quite a bit of heat last year for declaring that the best place for Todd Jones was at closer.  Many think Joel Zumaya or Fernando Rodney should have gotten the job after Jones had a horrible stretch in early June but Jim Leyland stuck with him and got some solid production from Jones in the second half.  In 30 second half innings, Jones posted a 1.80 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP.  He then threw 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball in the playoffs.  Now Jones is the spotlight of this interesting Detroit News article.

My logic behind having Jones be the closer is that normally he comes into a game and usually gives up a hit or even two.  If he comes in with nobody out and he gives up two singles in the ninth, it gets our blood pressure up but it usually doesn’t cost us the game.  If he were to come in with men on first and third and one out, it would be a recipe for disaster because in that kind of situtation, you’d want a guy like Joel Zumaya to come to get a strikeout or a weak grounder.

Jones biggest strength is that he doesn’t normally walk many batters.  He had eleven last year in 64 innings.  Now Jones can look to build on that second half (remember he was injured to open the season) and hopefully earn his keep as the Tigers closer for at least one more season.

More Minor Leagues

This time it’s the Dodgers.  If you liked the coverage so far over at Detroit Minors, a similar website has started that will cover the Dodgers’ minor league affiliates.  Whether it’s keeping track of a great farm system or if you just want to keep tabs on the Dodgers new minor league affiliate in Midland, MI, you can do all this and more at the Dodgers Minor League Baseball Blog.  I’m hoping to check out the Great Lakes Loons in their new digs in Midland this year, especially when the Whitecaps roll into town.

PFP and Young Guns

Jason Stark has a very nice column that pokes fun on how he and his fellow journalists made a big deal about pitchers’ fielding practice for the Tigers.  It’s a couple of days old but it’s pretty funny.

Here’s a nice column about how Jim Leyland has been impressed with young pitchers like Andrew Miller, Preston Larrison and Kyle Sleeth.  While all three guys are going to be headed to the minors, it’d be nice if all three could show us something this spring.  I think Miller is going to be solid, but Larrison and Sleeth have a little bit to prove before they get that prospect tag back.

Jeremy Bonderman Community Projection

John Sickels recently compiled a community projection for Jeremy Bonderman.   I’m a little more optimistic on his win/loss total if he finishes with a 3.86 ERA and I also see his WHIP being a little better.  A 189/62 strikeout to walk ratio I could definitely live with though.

Justin Verlander Was Out of Gas At End of 2006?

A lot was made about the downturn in the White Sox rotation in 2006.  Many people felt that overwork in 2005 actually came back to haunt the team near the end of 2005 and it’ll be interesting to see, as a few Tigers set career highs for innings pitched, whether this will happen to the Tigers starters.

Justin Verlander was the first to admit that he hit a wall in 2006.  As Tom Gage mentions, Verlander wasn’t quite as effective in the second half and things really came to a head in the World Series against the Cardinals.

So it’ll be interesting to see how the Tigers and Jim Leyland compensate for this.  It might not hurt to throw Wil Ledzma in there as a sixth starter now and then to give everyone an extra day off and maybe narrow their start total down by one or two.

Kyle Sleeth and More Preston Larrison

Kyle Sleeth was the Tigers first round pick in 2003 and the third player take overall in the draft.  So far though, Sleeth hasn’t lived up to the hype and he’s currently trying to come back from Tommy John surgery.  He had a rough comeback season last year and he’s hoping to continue things this year.   This is a great story on Sleeth and it’s well worth the read.

Also, the Tigers outrighted Preston Larrison today.  I touched on him in a column earlier this week and he’ll get an invite to spring training.  Now we’ll get to see if he makes it.  You can check out more of the details at Detroit Tigers Weblog.

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