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Tiger Stadium Tribute

Last week, Tiger Stadium would have turned 100 years old.  In a great column, Chris Jaffe runs through what he considers the 10 greatest games played at Tiger Stadium.  My favorite on the list was the 1987 Blue Jays series.  Good stuff as always out of Chris and if you want more from him, be sure to check out his run down of Ivan Rodriguez’s career as he’s retiring today.


Prior to the season, there was quite a bit of excitement with Tigers fans.  When I’d talk to them, I’d try to stay positive as well and I’d say the Tigers are pretty much a lock to win their division and will probably have the best record in the American League if not in baseball.  Then they’d be surprised when I’d tell them that even with all of that, the Tigers were still probably only the fifth best team in the American League.

I might move them up a notch after their first two weeks of the season but then the Rangers rolled into town and like last year’s ALCS, all of our weaknesses were exposed.  On Friday, you had a mediocre outing out of what’s effectively our sixth starter (lack of depth) and then an implosion by the bullpen (lack of depth).  Then yesterday you had the poor start and while a lot of people want to jump on Brandon Inge for his error, that inning was already nasty to begin with.  It then took Justin Verlander to stop the pain and he came up with a good but not great start that forced the Tigers to go to their pen a lot earlier then they probably would have liked.

The good news is, the Tigers get a break before they head out to New York next weekend with the Mariners in town.  I’m also interested to see how Drew Smyly does today.  This Rangers team can rake and if he can pitch five or six strong innings today, I think we can say his rotation spot was well deserved.

Someone brought up defense to me the other day.  The Tigers are now 29th in defensive efficiency.  The only team that’s worse is the Yankees. We’re still in the “small sample” size category but that’s troubling and it’s going to have an effect on our pitchers.  So far it hasn’t because the Tigers have the fourth best ERA in the American League but we’ll see when that starts catching up to them.

Anyway, didn’t want to be too much of a downer.  Today is also the last day to help Jonnie Rae move on the to Exotic 8 in the 2012 WRIF Rock Girl contest.  Be sure to check out her website for details on how to vote.

Drew Smyly Looks Sharp

Drew Smyly made his second career start last night and this was a good one.    He gave up seven hits and just one walk with four four strikeouts but he needed 101 pitches to get through six innings.  What was most impressive was he seemed to keep the ball down and had 13 ground ball outs to just four fly ball outs.  He also had the help of one double play and he picked Jason Bourgeois off of first base.

Just in looking at the pitch log, he was mixing his four seamer, slider and cutter into a lot of the at bats early on but he got away from the slider and was mostly throwing fast balls.  Then around the fourth inning he went back to mixing it up.  Then by the later innings, he went away from the cutter.  Not sure if just wasn’t feeling those other pitches or if there was a method to it all.

The bullpen threw three shutout innings and that was nice to see.  You never like to see the ninth inning walks but you’re going to get that with Valverde on the mound.  It was also nice to see Miguel Cabrera get back on track although Austin Jackson struck out three times.  That’s his first three strikeout game of the season after having nine last year.

The Tigers go for the sweep tonight and hopefully Max Scherzer can get back on track.  Also, you’re running out of time to vote Jonnie Rae Cude into the next round of the 2012 WRIF Rock Girl contest so be sure to click on the link and help her out.

Nine Games In

Well, the Tigers are nine games into the season and even with the small sample size, this fraction of the season has been telling.  The good news is, the Tigers are 6-3.  Just as good, they’re in first place.  Not so good is that some of their weaknesses have shown in this last stretch where they’ve lost three of their last five.

First is, the Tigers don’t have a lot of depth.  Anywhere.  Once you get past Delmon Young, the lineup thins out pretty quick and that’s when the regulars are in there.  Doug Fister is out and while Adam Wilk had a good showing yesterday, I don’t think he’s a long term option.  And the pen looks to be pretty thin as well.  Some positives were Rick Porcello’s start today and Drew Smyly toughing out four innings on Thursday.  Verlander will be there and so will Scherzer eventually.  On a good note, the Tigers pitchers (going into today’s game) were second in the American League with 75 strikeouts and that’s over 72 innings.   They’re also scoring a bunch of runs so hopefully these things will take care of themselves.

Next up is three against the Royals before the Tigers before four at home against the Rangers so things aren’t going to get any easier.  The series win over the Rays was big (I think they’re one of the better teams in the AL) but they faltered against the White Sox who I think they should have rolled over.

Finally, you can help out Jonnie Rae Cude who’s competing to become the next WRIF Rock Girl.  Be sure to head over to her site where you can find all of the ways to vote for her.

Tigers Name Fifth Starter

The Tigers finally announced their fifth starter and I don’t think anyone saw this one coming.  When he wasn’t working out at second base, the Tigers were secretly stretching out Brandon Inge on the mound of all places.  Apparantly their initial goal was to use him as a reliever/defensive replacement but he seemed to take to the role so well that Inge was actually going to get a spot in the rotation once the Tigers need a fifth starter.

Of course this could still change if the Tigers made a trade.  Drew Smyly was the odds on favorite at this point but it looks like the team would like to see him test his mettle at Triple-A.  And speaking of the Mud Hens, how cool is it going to be for them to have Jacob Turner, Andrew Oliver, Smyly and Casey Crosby all on the same team.

Brandon is a guy that people seem to either love or hate.  I’ve always been a fan but this may be one of the more interesting turns in his career.  It seems like he’s been able to bounce back whenever the Tigers pick up someone to replace him on the field and that’s just one more example.  You just have to wonder how this is going to affect his hitting, which has been subpar for the past couple of years.

Perfect Spring So Far

The Tigers are a weekend into their spring season and so far, so good.  As I’m writing this, the Tigers are 2-0, they man handled Florida Southern in an exhibition game, and they’re up 1-0 on the Blue Jays in their third spring game.

On Saturday, the pitching staff got the job done and they held the Braves to just one hit in a 2-0 win.  Doug Fister threw two innings before he gave it up to seven different relievers who all threw an inning each.  Oddly, the Tigers had only three strikeouts and it wasn’t until the eighth inning, with Chris Bootcheck on the mound, that the Braves got their first hit.  Jerad Head put the Tigers on the board with a solo home run in the third.  Prince Fielder was two for two with a walk.

Yesterday was a whole different ball game and the Tigers unloaded with nine home runs in a 18-3 win.  Raburn hit two out and then seven different Tigers hit a home run each.  Raburn finished with five RBIs while Alex Avila had three runs in the blowout win.

It looks like the Tigers are a little more serious about Brandon Inge playing second base.  He’s gotten the start in spring games one and three and he filled in there in the second game.  Raburn has gotten time at second but not as much as Inge.  It’s early but Inge is hitting .400 so far.

The Tigers are trying to make it 3-0.  They’re up 1-0 in the fourth.  Justin Verlander gave up a hit and he struck out one in two innings of work.  Adam Wilk gave up a pair of hits in his two frames.


Let the Games Begin

Alright, the Tigers are set to kick off their spring season in their annual exhibition opener tomorrow against Florida Southern tomorrow.  Game time is one pm and Andrew Oliver will get the start.  Jason Beck also has the starting lineup over at his site and it pretty much looks like what people are expecting to see when the season opens.

Let’s say this is the lineup Leyland is going to go with on opening day.  It looks solid although I’d have Delmon Young hitting below Avila and Peralta if it’s a right hander on the mound but we saw this last year when Young hit third regardless of who was on the mound.  I’ve never been happy with Jim Leyland’s lineup construction and I didn’t plan on starting now so I figured he’d be hitting a little higher then I’d like.

Ryan Raburn is hitting last.  I kind of like this.  I know the whole mental aspect of the game can’t be quantified but maybe you can equate hitting ninth to putting less pressure on a guy and maybe Raburn will end his streak of poor first halfs.

Andy Dirks the designated hitter.  My guess is, unless somebody catches fire, that the DH is going to be a revolving door.  If they want to get Inge a spot at second, then maybe Raburn will shift out to the outfield and Young will be the DH.  Or they want to give Cabrera a day off on the field so he fills in there.  I also don’t see anyone in the minors stepping up and taking it as a full time role but we will see.  It’s interesting seeing the DH hit eighth though.

After Florida Southern, the official spring season starts with the Tigers on the road against the Braves on Saturday then at home against the Braves on Sunday.  There’s only one off day and that’s the 22nd but there’s only three split squad games and they’re all on Sunday.  First night game is the 13th against the Nationals. In fact it’s one of just two evening games on the schedule with the other also being against Washington.

I read who’s starting on Saturday but now the name is escaping me.  I want to say it’s Doug Fister, but don’t hold me to it.

I also figured out which package I’m going to get and I’ve decided to just go with At Bat on my phone instead of buying the entire television package.  Most nights I listened to the Tigers game and that’s it and most of the time it was on the phone so that’ll save me a $100.  If I really miss it or have more time, then maybe when the price goes down midseason I’ll pick MLB.TV back up.

Tigers Podcasting

I recently (last night) talked Tigers with Jay Simon on the Cadillac News’ Sports Weekly show.  Be sure to check it out.

Who Will Be the Tigers Fifth Starter?

Spring training is here and in about a month, all of our questions will be answered.  With the Tigers roster pretty much in place, the media will be looking for stories and one of those will be who will be the Tigers fifth starter.  While a little more important then who the 25th man to make the team is, at the end of the day, the fifth starter is, more times than not, a combination of a few different hurlers.  That mean who the fifth starter is on opening day won’t neccesarily be the guy that’s there in May much less by the end of the season.

Still, it gives us something to talk about and I’ll go through the list in the order of who I think has the highest probability of being the fifth starter in April.

1) Someone that isn’t on the team right now – I still think the Tigers are going to make a move to pick up another starter whether it’s via free agency or a trade.  At one point in time, the Tigers were looking at Matt Garza, who would be a big pickup.  Roy Oswalt is also still out there although from what I’ve heard, he’s turned down deals because he wants to stay closer to home.  Two oft injured pitchers who are still out there are Rich Harden and Brandon Webb and my bet is, we could get one of those guys cheap although I don’t know where they’re at with their recoveries.

2)  Drew Smyly – The Tigers second round pick in 2010, Smyly was dominant in eight games at Erie last year and he’s two years old than Turner.  I think Turner is a better long term option in the rotation but I think Smyly scoots ahead of him here early in the season with a solid spring and if the Tigers doesn’t sign anyone, he’ll be the guy in the rotation.

3) Jacob Turner – I think Turner starts the season with the Hens for a couple of different reasons.  I don’t think they’ll want to rush him and then they won’t be able to work with him because the Tigers are expected to contend.  That’s a lot of pressure for a 20 year old (21 in May).  I just think the Tigers would be better off starting him in the minors and having him prove his way up then starting him in the majors and seeing him falter and end back down in the minors anyway.  Of course a strong spring would force the Tigers hand and that’s why he’s third on this list because the talent is there.

4)  Andrew Oliver – Oliver had a rough 2011 season for the Hens and he needs to prove himself this year.  He’s on the 40 man roster so they wouldn’t have to do any roster machinations but unless he’s lights out in spring training, he most likely starts the season with a repeat in Toledo.  Also, he’s a lefty and that might give him a bump up because the Tigers don’t have a left handed starter in the rotation with their front four.

5)  Adam Wilk – He’s another left hander and he was solid in his time for the Hens last year.  Elbow problems meant he didn’t pitch winter ball so it’ll be interesting to see who his training works out.  Unlike the other guys, he’s not a power pitcher but he’s been talked about so I’m throwing him on the list.

Pitchers and Catchers

Well, pitchers and catchers have reported and they have their first workout today.  The first full team workout is on Friday but random news has been filtering out already.  Apparently Miguel Cabrera is in much better shape and that’s a good sign considering his new fielding duties.  The other interesting piece of news is that Brandon Inge wants a shot at the second base job so that leaves three people vying for what’s probably going to be two jobs.  You’ll have the “starter” who will most likely be the better hitter and the odds on favorite for that role is Ryan Raburn.  Of course he’s had problems in the first half and he is also a better fill in than Inge in the outfield so I’d expect him to be a lock on the team.

Ramon Santiago is the late inning defensive specialist who gets the odd start now and then because he’s a switch hitter.  Inge has to supplant one of these two guys and right now, the odds of doing that are kind of slim.  He had a horrible season at the plate last year and if you look at his UZR/150 at third base, it’s gone down every season since his gold glove caliber season in 2006.  That’s not a nice trend because Inge now looks like a good third baseman, not a great third baseman.  Throw in a more demanding second base, and I think the transition is going to be tough so my guess is, he makes the roster, but without an everyday role.

The other interesting piece of news is Tony LaRussa is going to be helping out in camp.  We all know about his friendship with Jim Leyland and it looks like he’s going to be doing a few different things including spending some time with Dave Dombrowski and doing some scouting.

Well, spring training is upon us.  I’ll be going over some of the question marks the Tigers have and we’ll get to see these resolve themselves in camp.  First game is a couple of weeks away.

We’re Getting Closer

We’re about a week away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training and since the Price Fielder signing, the Tigers have been pretty quiet.  The team’s first full workout is February 24 and their first spring game is March 2, 2012 in their annual exhibition game against Florida Southern.  Of course here in Detroit we got snow so it’s looking more like winter but it’s nice to see that we’re getting really close to being able to see some baseball.

Word on the street is that Miguel Cabrera has dropped weight.  Alex Avila reported that he’s 20-25 lighter but of course we’ll see how he looks when camp starts up.  If it’s true, that’s great and you figure it won’t sap his power too much but should help out his durability throughout the season, especially if he sticks at first base.

It’s also time to consider MLB.TV options. The past few years, I’ve gotten the full package, but last year I found myself listening to the Tigers on my phone so I’m wondering if it’s time to downgrade and just pay for the app on my iPhone.  Then again, if I wanted to go all out, they’re also bundling the MiLB.TV package with MLB.TV.  What I might do is start small and buy the app, then if I find the time to watch more baseball (my schedule may be changing sooner rather than later), I’ll pay for MLB.TV midseason.  Of course I could also watch every Tigers game in 2012 with MLB Extra Innings on DIRECT TV.

Prince Fielder Thoughts

I’ve had quite a people asking me about the Price Fielder signing and my response has been consistent.  I really like the fact we’ll have Prince on the team the next couple of years, but I don’t like the fact that we have locked up for nine years.  Let’s break this down one at a time.

The Tigers were exposed in the playoffs.  While they have some really great bats, they also have quite a few holes in their lineup.  Then Victor Martinez went down with a knee injury and that left an even bigger hole.  Their solution is Prince Fielder.  He’s finished in the top three in the NL MVP three times already and his worst OPS+ in the past five years is 130.  The last time he didn’t hit 30 home runs was 2006. This guy can mash and he’s also drawn more then 100 walks the past three seasons.  He’s been durable and he’s missed just one game the past three seasons.  This is a big league bat and he’s definitely going to help us.  He also makes us the favorite in a weak AL Central.  I still don’t think we’re as good as the Yankees, Rangers or Angels but once you get into the playoffs, all bets are off.

Now let’s look at the contract.  Fielder turns 28 in May.  That means we have him until 37.  I’m interested to see how the contract was stacked but if it’s backloaded, that makes it even tougher.  If he’s with the team for five years, his 10/5 no-trade kicks in so that means he’s going to be near impossible to trade.  If you look at his similar batters, you see quite a few people who flamed out pretty quick but there’s also a couple of hall of famers if you just look at the “similar batters through age 27.”

Now the big question is, what happens next.  You can never isolate one signing because it creates a domino effect of sorts.  What happens when Victor Martinez comes back in 2013 (although the fact that they signed Fielder leads me to believe Martinez’s injury may be worse than advertised).  Miguel Cabrera at third base would hurt the pitching staff even more then an already weak defense has the past couple of years.  Also, what happens to Nick Castellanos, the Tigers top hitting prospect?  Does he now become trade bait to pick up another pitcher?

Regardless, I’d like to welcome Prince to the team.  I was a big fan of his dad’s and remember listening to a scratchy radio broadcast of him hitting his 50th home run when I was in college (WJR made it out to East Lansing back then).  It’s been a while since anyone has hit 40 home runs in a Tigers uniform and I think Fielder has a great chance at being the first since his dad in 1991.

Tigers Dealt Blow – V-Mart Potentially Out for Season

Spring training hasn’t even started and the Tigers have already been dealt a major blow.  Victor Martinez was working out and it looks like he tore his ACL in his left knee.  He’s getting a second opinion but if it holds, Victor Martinez will probably miss the entire 2012 season.

Martinez had an .850 OPS last season and that’s going to be tough to replace.  It’ll be interesting to see what the Tigers do at this point but I guess on a good note, they only have to fill the designated hitter spot so they can just look for the best bat without regard for defense.  Not good.  It’s interesting that one of the names that’s being thrown around is former Tiger Carlos Pena.

In other news, the Tigers signed all of their arbitration eligible players.  Phil Coke and Rick Porcello were signed yesterday and today, Max Scherzer, Delmon Young and Don Kelly all signed deals.  Young is going to be paid $6.75 million which I think is a bit much but in light of the V-Mart injury, we need all of the just mediocre bats we can find.

It’s Been a While

This may have been my biggest drought yet.  In my defense, the Tigers haven’t been doing much so my usual “I’m really busy” note can take a back seat to the fact that the Tigers have been so quiet.  We have a little more then a month to go until pitchers and catchers report and the biggest move the Tigers have made was Octavio Dotel.  Yawn (although any help to the pen is a good thing, it just doesn’t excite me).

There were some rumors thrown around that the Tigers were looking at a trade for Matt Garza that would have included Jacob Turner.  Jacob Turner has been showing up in the top ten of a lot of MLB prospect lists so you have to be careful but you don’t have to look too much further then Andrew Miller to realize that sometimes a known commodity is better then the potential prospect.  Turner is a lot younger then Miller was back then and he’s shown his stuff in the minors so I don’t want to deal him out of hand but Matt Garza had a really nice year for the Cubs last year and he’ll really help shore up the pen.  It’s the cost that’s the big factor though because Garza is getting close to free agency where as we’d have Turner locked up for three years before we even had to consider arbitration.

The Tigers also seem to be major players in the Yoenis Cespedes sweepstakes.  The Marlins appear to be the front runner but it’s not that the Tigers aren’t trying and I’ve seen $50 million as a number that’s been thrown around.  Right now Cespedes has been showing his stuff in the Dominican Winter League and it looks like he might be granted free agency at any time.  I’ve talked about how I’m not really high on Delmon Young and if Cespedes lives up to his billing, he should be a nice upgrade.

Right now, I’m just excited for some baseball.  Late February can’t get here fast enough.

Tigers Sign Octavio Dotel

The Tigers are wrapping a one year deal for right handed relief pitcher Octavio Dotel.  Details (when we know) and analysis (when I have time) will be coming soon.

Tigers Quiet at Winter Meetings

Outside of signing Ramon Santiago to a two-year deal, the Tigers have been fairly quiet this winter.  I haven’t seen anything official but it looks like the Tigers aren’t going to be a mover or a shaker at this years winter meeting.  Rather then signing a second baseman, it sounds like they’re going to go with a Ramon Santiago/Ryan Raburn platoon.  Third base we’ll see Don Kelly/Brandon Inge.  At times, especially late in the season, this looked like a good idea.  You have your better hitters with their defensive replacements that can come in late to lock down the game.  Still, we’ll see how this works for 162 games.

I’ve heard a lot of names that the Tigers are interested.  Octavio Dotel, Aramis Ramirez and Mark Buehrle have all been mentioned.  I like Buehrle and think he’d be a huge addition but it looks like the Tigers are looking for something different.  Of course what the team says and what they do are two different things.  For now, it sounds like Jacob Turner is going to head the list for that final rotation spot until or if the Tigers sign someone else.

The Tigers outrighted Ryan Strieby.  This guy can mash but his wrists have been a problem.  Now he’s 26 and he’s looking more like a career minor league hitter like Mike Hessman.  This opens up a roster spot so if the Tigers decide to pull the trigger on a Rule 5 pick, they’ll have a spot open.

Justin Verlander Wins MVP

This was a pleasant surprise.  Justin Verlander was very deserving and I think this was as much a symptom of the late season collapse by the Red Sox then anything with the voters penchant towards excluding pitchers.  In a bizarre vote, Verlander took thirteen of the 28 first place votes but he also got an eighth place vote and wasn’t put on one person’s ballot at all.  Jaboby Ellsbury came in second place and Jose Bautista came in third.  Someone had Jose Bautista in ninth and that’s also a joke.

Other Tigers to get votes were Miguel Cabrera (fifth place, with two first place votes and he was actually named on all 28 ballots), Alex Avila (who was on six ballots with seventh his best showing) and Victor Martinez (four ballots, highest showing was eighth place).  David Robertson actually picked up a tenth place vote and oddly, Jered Weaver, who came in second place in the Cy Young, wasn’t on a single ballot.

Former Tiger Curtis Granderson came in fourth place.  Verlander is the first pitcher since Dennis Eckersley to win the win the award and the first starter since Roger Clemens in 1986.  He’s the first Tiger to win the award since 1984 but the Tigers have had their share of second places finishers since then with Alan Trammell, Cecil Fielder, Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera all being the runner up at one point.

Justin Verlander Wins Cy Young

It’s been seventeen years, but the Tigers have a Cy Young winner.  As expected, Justin Verlander was the unanimous choice for the award and he took every first place vote.  Jered Weaver came in second place, James Shields came in third and CC Sabathia was in fourth place.  The last award of the season is the AL MVP on November 22 and it’ll be interesting to see if Verlander takes that home as well.

Second Baseman Going Fast

One of the Tigers biggest needs this off season is to fill the hole at second base.  Aaron Hill was one of the names thrown and he’s now re-signed with the Diamondbacks and Jamey Carroll signed with the Twins. So there’s little surprise that Jon Paul Morosi broke a story that the Tigers were looking to deal Delmon Young for a second baseman.  The guy who’s name is being thrown around is Martin Prado.

I know he had a decent post-season but I’ve never been high on Delmon Young.  I think his stock is a little higher then when they picked him up and if he can be the cornerstone of a trade to get a good second baseman, I’d be all for it.  Prado reminds me a little bit of Placido Polanco.  Not a lot of strikeouts and while he has some extra base power, it’s mostly doubles.  The downsides are, he’s coming off an off year and he’s probably due for a bigger pay check here soon because he’s entering his second year of arbitration.

Of course if the Tigers decide to stay with what they have, you’re probably looking at a Danny Worth/Wil Rhymes/Brandon Douglas/Ramon Santiago mish mash.  Leyland already said that Ryan Raburn isn’t the answer at second base.  Kelly Johnson is still out there though and if they wanted more of a bargain, there’s guys like Felipe Lopez, Aaron Miles, Adam Kennedy and Julio Lugo out there.

Tigers Organizational All Stars has kicked off their organizational All Stars series and the Tigers review went live over the weekend.  The Tigers farm system is still pretty thin from all of the trades they’ve made since their last World Series appearance in 2006 but there’s still a few people to get excited about.  I mentioned Brandon Douglas over the weekend at second base and he shows up here.  A few people have also asked me if the Tigers might go after Aramis Ramirez but I think Nick Castellanos is a reason why the Tigers might hold off replacing Brandon Inge to see if he’s the third baseman of the future.

Of course then you have guys like Timo Perez, who had nice seasons in the minors but who are a decade past their prospect status.  Anyway, it’s a good read but I didn’t recognize the author’s name.  Then again, I haven’t stayed with a lot of this stuff so Ashley may have been with the team for a while now.

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