Keep in mind, for the foreseeable future, these plans are more of future goal then something I plan on doing this summer. My son is still four, and while he travels well, my one trip to the ballpark where it was just he and I didn’t go all too well. It was a hot, August day game and I figured we had two options. Option number one was to show up late and fight the crowd while option number two was to show up early, get him fed and then enjoy the game. I opted for early and everything went well until game time when the hot seats bothered him. We went for an extended walk, then came back, watched a few innings and then the heat took its toll again. All said, we stayed through the fifth, but I probably got to see about two and a half innings of baseball.
Still, I like to do these little planning trips just so, in a couple of years when I actually do this, I’m ready to do it right. The idea would be to plan two separate trips to each coast. Trip one would take us to New England where we’d see the Yankees and the Red Sox while trip two would involve a trip to the West Coast to see a couple California teams.
It’s kind of funny that New York and Boston are less then four hours away, while if I wanted to see a team in the L.A. area then drive to the San Francisco area, it takes two hours longer and you don’t even leave the state. Let’s start on the east coast though. It’d be nice to see the Tigers play at the Yankees new ballpark so that would take us right after the All Star Break in mid-July. The Sunday game is the Yankees old-timers game and that’d be fun to watch, but the big problem would be finding cheap Yankees tickets, which is no small task with their new ballpark opening up.
Of course things blow up pretty quickly because the Red Sox don’t have a home series until the following Friday so this is shaping up to be a long trip. They play Baltimore so it shouldn’t be that hard to find Red Sox tickets for one of those games. Still, if we got in late Saturday before the Yankees game, went to the Yankees game that Sunday, then hung around for a few days (we could see Wicked or something), then we could scoot to Boston, spend a couple of days there, then catch the Friday game at Fenway. We could then leave that Saturday and keep things right at a week.
The West Coast trip would be just a couple of weeks before in late June when the Tigers travel to Oakland. Getting Oakland A’s tickets should be that tough at that time of year. Even better, the timing works out well because the Dodgers play at home the weekend before. So we could fly into L.A., get our Los Angeles Dodgers tickets and go to the Sunday game, the motor down to Oakland to see the A’s play the Tigers. This could be done with just a Saturday to Tuesday timeframe.
Of course when I really want to do this, the times will never line up. Oh well, it makes for a fun exercise though.
I’m watching the archive of the Indians/Padres game from today and I’m impressed with the Indians new spring training home in Goodyear, AZ. The Reds will be playing there next year as well.
With that, the Tigers have been at Joker Marchant longer then any other team has with their spring training partner. Still, a trip down to Florida this time of year isn’t what it used to be because beginning next year, there will be just as many Arizona teams as there will be in Florida.
Well, it seems like I haven’t been locked out of my site today and after some much needed maintenance, I’m hoping it won’t happen again. In the meantime, the Tigers are in the eighth inning of their third spring training game so there’s quite a bit to catch up on.
I have been able to listen to at least parts of the last two games. Rick Porcello got an inning in yesterday and he gave up a run and Nate Robertson had one rough inning and one nice one. Edwin Jackson looked strong in his start so hopefully he’ll prove my doubts wrong. In the meantime, a Tiger hasn’t gone deep yet (not sure what’s happening today against the Jays, neither team is picking it up on the radio). Three Tigers (Ramon Santiago, Brandon Inge and Gerald Laird) have two hits so far.
Next week should be fun because the Tigers play Venezuela and Panama leading into the WBC. They also play their exhibition game against Florida Southern on Monday. I’m loving my MLB.TV subscription already. It’s good timing to because I’m back to being self-employed (the contract job I was on ended today) so in between my work as a CPA, the goal is to get as much baseball in as I can.
Scratch the no home run thing. Don Kelly went yard for the Tigers in the seventh inning. Alex Avila has a pair of RBIs but Dontrelle Willis had a tough inning. He didn’t walk anyone, but he gave up three hits and four runs (two earned). Cale Iorg has three errors in the game. Fernando Rodney has walked two in his tough inning, but one of my dark horse fifth starter candidates, Chris Lambert, didn’t allow a baserunner in two innings of work.
I was going to do another spring training questions piece, but with the games already going, it seems a bit late. Next in line was a look at the closer candidates so I’ll probably put something up over the weekend.
It’s been a rough February. Between Tigers Corner (which I’ll eventually get to) and now my current problems, I’ve been unable to login in to WordPress for a week. Not sure what was different today, but I’m not going to argue. Anyway, I’m having some problems with my host and I’m working through them so if I go dark again, you’ll know why. Figures that it would have to happen right when we get some actual games.
You can tell spring training has started because there’s plenty to write about. Jason Beck went wild recently and seems like he’s writing a handful of columns a day. His latest is a nice piece on Brandon Inge and his most recent move to third base. I know he hasn’t been able to hit much, but I’ve always been a fan of Brandon’s, if not for his couple of solid seasons he gave us at third base as well as the fact that he’s been with Detroit longer then any other player.
There’s another story on how Clete Thomas won’t be 100% ready to take part in the festivities because of the Tommy John surgery he had. This opens things up a bit for maybe a guy like Freddy Guzman to slip in and possibly secure a spot on the team. Of course it’ll probably be somewhat short lived and odds are the Tigers will go with a multi-purpose guy like Ryan Raburn who can play anywhere. It also depends on how many pitchers Leyland brings up to Detroit.
Finally, there’s a story on Armando Galarraga and his exceptional season in 2008
. A lot of people are betting that he won’t repeat and I hope he proves them all wrong.
1) Justin Verlander
2) Jeremy Bonderman
3) Armando Galarraga
4) Edwin Jackson
While the order may change slightly, there’s about a 99% (and barring an injury) that this is how the front four of the Tigers’ rotation will shake out. The big question is, who becomes the fifth starter heading out of spring training. In the past, teams have been able to get away without using a fifth starter until the middle of April, but without a day off for the first week and a half of the season because of some scheduling issues due to the World Baseball Classic, whoever gets the nod will get two starts before the Tigers even have a day off.
Speaking of schedules, and not to get too far off topic, I find it strange that the Jays and Tigers open the season at night. I can’t remember that happening to the Tigers in quite some time. In fact the first three games for the Jays are at night. I guess you can get away with that in April when you have a dome.
Anyway, here are the contenders for the fifth spot in the rotation.
The Big Three
1) Dontrelle Willis – While it’s easy to say that Nate Robertson and Kenny Rogers had poor seasons last year, Willis’ was an absolute train wreck (no pun intended, D-Train). Also like Nate, Willis was locked up to a three year deal and he’ll make $10 million this year. Willis will have to show he can find the strike zone this spring in order to warrant consideration for the rotation.
2) Nate Robertson – If you look at VORP over at Baseball Prospectus, Nate Robertson was one of the worst pitchers in baseball who also managed to keep his job mst of the year. He was tenth worst or 691 best if you like. Value Over Replacement Player is a cumulative statistic so it takes not just mediority, but also longevity to make this list (unless you have an exceptionally bad nine innings like former Tiger hurler Eulogio De La Cruz had for the Marlins last year). Nate will get paid $7 million this year because he was also locked up to an untimely three year deal like Willis. One thing to say about him is, he’s left handed.
3) Zach Miner – Again, if you like to use VORP, Miner was the Tigers third best pitcher on the Tigers with a 17 VORP. That put him just ahead of Justin Verlander’s 12.3 in over half of the innings. Miner’s good season will put him in the front running but he has some things working against him. If he’s makes the nod, it’ll give the Tigers an all-right handed rotation. In addition, he’s been good out of the pen so his strengths might actually work against him. He’s also never thrown more then 118 major league innings so we’ll probably hear about some durability concerns.
On the Outside Looking In
1) C hris Lambert – One of the Mud Hens top pitchers last year, I always felt Lambert should have gotten the nod when they sent Willis down rather then Eddie Bonine. Lambert is one of the those guys who doesn’t have a ton left to prove in the minors, there’s just too much in front of him unless he has a dominating spring.
2) Rick Porcello – While Porcello might have had that great season for the Flying Tigers, it’s a safe bet the Tigers will be careful with him unless he’s so good this spring that the Tigers can’t not (yes, I know, please bear the double negative) bring him up. With that, there’s a solid chance that Porcello is with the team in the second half of the season.
3) Jon Kibler – This is a big time darkhorse, but he did get an invite to the big league club. He’s left handed, which helps, and he’s a college guy (he’ll turn 23 in August) and he threw 154 solid innings last year. Maybe it’s just my fondness for the Sparty out there, but Kibler’s season was very good in 2008. Of course the fact that he’s never pitched above A ball will probably preclude him from having too much consideration.
Zach Miner should be the team’s fifth starter heading into the spring season. He’s shown he can get it done and the way he pitched once he got a rotation spot last year shows he can have some success pitching every five days. He’s never going to be a front of the rotation kind of guy, but here at the back end, he’s the Tigers best option.
With that, who gets the job and who deserves it are two different things. I think the Tigers want a left hander in there, and they’ll be looking for reasons to get Dontrelle back in the rotation. He’ll probably find the strike zone just enough to get his job back, of course the question then becomes how long will he keep it. Miner will be long relief, where he’s been good before and Nate Robertson will start in the pen as a left handed option as he waits for Dontrelle to melt down so he can get his job back. Lambert goes back to Triple A, Porcello starts out a Erie and Kibler goes to Lakeland.
Next time, we’ll take a look at who’s got the best shot to close for the team.
10 am is the time, Lakeland is the place. While I’m sure there’s been some activity at Joker Marchant the past few days, today marks the official start of spring training as pitchers and catchers are required to report.
In a little over a month, all of our questions will be answered. Is Carlos Guillen ready for the outfield (my guess is yes). Who will be the fifth starter? How will the bullpen shake out? Are Jeremy Bonderman and Joel Zumaya going to bounce back from their latest injuries? Does Gary Sheffield have one more spectacular season left in the tank? Does Dave Dombrowski have one more deal left in his back pocket to help improve this team?
The first spring game is a week from Wednesday. I should be home but busy so I should be able to catch it on the radio feed. It’s tough being a CPA and a baseball fan with the whole April 15 thing.
Chris Jaffe, at the Hardball Times, penned an interesting piece on how the Tigers have never really had great pitching. At least not historically. He takes a look at the first half of the Tigers’ history. As he talks about, there’s pretty much Hal Newhouser then everyone else. Tommy Bridges warrants some Hall of Fame consideration, but after that, it gets pretty thin, at least through 1954. Good stuff.
Kevin Goldstein recently released his list of the top eleven prospects in the Tigers system and I was generally pleased. There’s a few of these lists that I check out and out of all of them, I respect Goldstein’s the most and he doesn’t disappoint. I recently had to pen a top ten prospect list (long story, which you’ll eventually hear about) and as Goldstein talks about, the Tigers are a tough nut to crack. You namely have the top guy, then a crap shoot from there.
There’s no surprise that Rick Porcello tops the list. After that, Goldstein says that any of the the three star guys are interchangable from Cale Iorg at number two to Ryan Strieby (a personal favorite) at number eight. Ryan Perry has been the de facto number two guy on most lists so I like the fact that Goldstein changes gears with Iorg.
Ryan Strieby has been apsent from a lot of lists and I had him at number ten on mine. Goldstein gave him the last three star spot but Strieby is going to be severely hampered by his ability to just play first base. Miguel Cabrera isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but maybe Strieby will make some interesting trade bait.
I was surprised he had Alfredo Figaro just missing, yet his teammate with the White Caps, Jon Kibler, didn’t even get a nod. Luis Marte is another guy who bears watching. He actually outpitched Rick Porcello earlier in the season last year with Lakeland.
Of course, you never know with any of these guys. There was a time when Bruce Fields and Chris Pittaro were can’t miss prospects. Casper Wells came out of nowhere last year (ten on the list) and he could easily go back to no where. Hopefully not, but the fun part is seeing how these guys all do in the Tigers system.
If you want to learn more about Cale Iorg, Jonathan Mayo talked about in a recent column. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Pitchers and Catchers report in just over seven days (a week from Friday) and outside of the Justin Verlander signing, things have been pretty quiet. The Tigers outrighted Eddie Bonine to the Mud Hens and that’s probably where he’ll pitch in 2009. With Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis and Zach Miner all vying for the fifth spot in the rotation (I’ll give Chris Lambert a very outside chance as well), someone like Bonine would need multiple things to happen to see time with the Tigers. In addition, the Tigers needed to make room for Brandon Lyon. Of course there have been reports that the Tigers are trying to shop either Roberton or Willis so that could clear some room for someone down the line. Of course you could also argue that the person who claims the fifth spot could just be a placeholder for Rick Porcello,
I was over at Baseball Prospectus and I was a little surprised by some of the Value Over Replacement Player numbers (VORP). Number one on the list was no surprise (Armando Galarraga) but Aquilino Lopez was second and he wasn’t even offered a contract (I’m still a bit surprised by that) and third was Zach Miner (who I think will end up as the fifth starter this year). Yorman Bazardo came in at third from last and he did it despite throwing just three innings.
Killshot psp The Tigers first spring game is February 25th. There’s a few less teams in the Grapefruit League so you’re going to be seeing a lot of the same teams more. The opener is against the Braves (their Florida Southern game isn’t until the following Monday). They also play Venezuela and Panama that week before the WBC kicks off on March 5.
I’m on the fence as to whether I’ll get MLB.TV or just the radio package. I’m usually doing some kind of work in the evenings but I have a second computer. I just don’t usually stay up late and the Tigers are on more nights then not. I like the new DVR like function though and some of the new features look pretty cool. I didn’t use it as often as I should have and Mosaic seemed to do a number on my desktop too so we’ll see. They did bring down the price but it’s still a $100 difference and since I’m a dinosaur and grew up listening to the games on the radio, that’s usually my preference anyway.
The Tigers still had over a week until Justin Verlander’s arbitration hearing, but they got the deal done with likely opening day starter Justin Verlander. In his first year of arbitration eligibility, Verlander will make $3.675 million, which isn’t too shaby for a four year player. It also happened to be the exact midpoint between what Verlander and the Tigers were looking for in arbitration.
It’ll be interesting to see how Verlander holds up in 2009. It’ll be his second year at the front of the rotation and he’s coming off of his worst season in a Tigers uniform. He’ll turn 26 in a couple of weeks but he’s averaged over 200 innngs (if you include the postseason) a season since sticking with the Tigers and it was some of that heavy work that might have resulted in a drop in his velocity in 2008. It would have been nice to lock up Verlander to a 3-4 year deal, but according to this, that was never on the table.
This also marks another perfect season for Dave Dombrowski. Since he took over in the Tigers front office in 2002. Arbitration is one of those things that’s lose/lose for most teams. If the player wins the case, it usually means the team is playing a slightly inflated value. If the team wins, then there’s usually some resentment on the side of the player in future years.
There’s a decent story on Jeff Larish by Jason Beck. A big part of Larish making it in the big leagues is shortening his swing. If he can do that and keep his power, he should be able to cut down on some of those strikeouts. I think he makes the team, considering he’s gotten time at third and in the outfield during the offseason.
Pitchers and catchers report next Thursday. Baseball is almost back.