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Unraveling-What does the recent West Coast Road Trip tell us?

I am apalled by the performance of the Tigers in their recent six game road trip against the Mariner’s and A’s. They were coming off two very successful series against the White Sox and Twin’s and with the healthy return of Placido Polanco were about to feature their best and most ideal lineup for the first time this season. Yet, to use an euphemism, they pissed down their legs.

How else can you analyze the run of recent poor performances by their starting pitching? Or their fielding and baserunning errors? Or the complete lack of timely hitting? The team constantly gets shut down by pitchers like Kirk Saarloos, Shawn Estes and Scott Elarton because it has an absolute inability to refrain from swinging aggressively at pitches out of the strike zone, or to use Jim Price’s term, “pitcher’s pitches”.

The recent road trip doesn’t bode well for the future of Alan Trammell as the team’s manger in my opinion. The team should have been highly motivated and competitive for the duration of it’s west coast journey, but yet Trammell was unable to yield respectable results from their increasingly aging and high- priced roster. Trammell promised upon his hiring that the team would play solid baseball and throughout his tenure the team has been rife with poor execution on the base paths, poor situational hitting, fielding errors and a general inability to build upon their successes on the field.

Even if the team ends the season with a better record than last year, is it really a victory? Mediocrity would seem to be the worst curse to bestow upon a rebuilding franchise. It would be better for the team’s long term development, in my opinion, that they sacrifice the season (and a marginal record) to continue to advance the development of young players like Chris Shelton, Curtis Granderson, Roman Colon, Fernando Rodney, and Justin Verlander. This prospect probably would disappoint many fans, much like the trade of Kyle Farnsworth. I don’t blame the front office for waving the white flag at this point. The team could have either Kyle or Jeff Farnsworth as it’s closer and would make no real difference at this point. The last thing I want to see is a lineup filled with Dmitri Young, Rondell White, Jason Johnson and anybody else who no longer remains in the team’s long term plans playing in September as the team languishes to keep a .500 record. To me, neither the team or it’s loyal fans benefit from that ominous scenario.

Hindsight is 20/20

The Tigers signing Troy Percival to a two year contract is really appearing to be a glaring mistake. At the time Dave Dombrowski signed Percival many members of the media and fans were puzzled at the signing of an aging closer, who had accrued quite an injury history, to a multi-year deal. In part, Dombrowski was justified in his decision to sign Percival with the mystery surrounding Ugueth Urbina and the unfortunate kidnapping of his mother in Venezuela. Percival provided an insurance policy if Urbina chose not to return.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, they are now stuck with Percival and his immoveable contract. It would appear that Percival has lost most of his former abilities and in all likelihood will be a permanent resident on the Disabled List for the duration of his contract until he choses to retire ala Fernando Vina. As unfortunate as this situation is, the Tigers are now finding out how viable Kyle Farnsworth is as a closing option. They also are now utilizing players like Fernando Rodney, Franklyn German and Chris Spurling in more significant situations and so far have received promising results.

Troy Percival’s opponent OPS (On Base+Slugging) was .769, next worse in the American League to Boston’s Keith Foulke’s .890 as of July 10th. Percival also was yielding 2.52 Hr/9 in his 25 innings of relief. On the other hand, Kyle Farnsworth’s performance would rank 4th in the American League with a .535 opponent OPS and he had yielded 0.24 Hr/9 as of July 10th in 37 innings. It remains to be seen whether Farnsworth has the mental makeup to thrive in the closer’s role but his performance this year is very encouraging.

In regards to the trade deadline, I hope the Tigers have the fortune to be able to move players like Dmitri Young and Rondell White. The team has regressed offensively this season. It is imperative with the lack of bonafide prospect position players in the minors that they continue to add players who can have a long term impact on the team’s development like Tiger enthusiasts are hoping for from players like Curtis Granderson, Chris Shelton and Tony Giarrantano.

Trouble Brewing?

As encouraged as I am by the single-game performance of Chris Shelton, his emergence is also a sure sign that the 2005 team has noticeably regressed. Carlos Pena, Omar Infante, and Craig Monroe were all young players who made significant contributions last season and were all expected to continue to improve and contribute more to the team’s success this season. All three have been mildly disappointing to downright bad, in Pena’s case. This regression along with a lot more injuries to major players (Pudge, Guillen, Ordonez, White) than they suffered last season all point to troubled times ahead.

In Bilfer’s entry today, he eloquently points out how thin a Tiger lineup will be if it features the extended playing time of a Jason Smith/Ramon Martinez platoon at short, Vance Wilson catching , and Marcus Thames playing on a more regular basis. Add a young Shelton to the mix, with the ups and downs he is due to face, this team is starting to take on a similar complexion to that of the poor ones of recent vintage. (Remember those lineups that featured Chris Truby, Kevin Witt, et al) As encouraged as we can be by the appearance of Craig Monroe’s bat starting to come to life in Baltimore this weekend, this team may have already achieved it’s high point to the season and we haven’t even reached the halfway point.

The performance of the pitching staff as a whole has been a pleasant surprise. But recent outings by Wil Ledezma and Mike Maroth give me the impression that the staff’s impressive run may not hold out for much longer. Is it reasonable to believe that the performances of Jason Johnson and Nate Robertson will continue with their K/9 being 4.07 and 3.88, respectively? If the starting pitching fails the team for any extended period of time, coupled with the team’s anemic run production, the team will certainly hit dire straits. I hate to make pronouncements of doom and gloom, but is becoming hard to expect otherwise.

I do strongly hold out hope that Carlos Pena will re-discover his stroke at Toledo and will be able to comeback and contribute this year. Pena seems to be a class guy. The downward trajectory of his career seems to be unavoidable, though and I expect him to be a spare part added onto a trade at the trading deadline. In regards to Monroe and Infante, the jury is still out, but they will remain with the club through the duration of the season. The injuries on the other hand, are part of the game. Every team suffers from them and must adapt accordingly.

I guess the only certitude that we posess to fall back on is that we aren’t in as bad of a situation as the Kansas City’s, Tampa Bay’s and Colorado’s of the baseball world, at least yet.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday afternoon I returned to work after a week-long vacation. As I often do, I sought out my co-worker who is also a Tiger fan and started to discuss recent events with the team. At that time I had no prior knowledge about the injury sustained by Troy Percival this weekend. As we were discussing their current pitching staff, I made mention that I thought the Tigers had made an error by not re-signing Esteban Yan, who would be significantly cheaper than Ugueth Urbina. I also mentioned that I thought Yan had done pretty well, except when being asked to serve as the team’s closer. I also supported this idea by saying that Urbina’s trade value has done nothing but diminish since the season has started and the Tigers would have been better off trading him before the season. I am not afraid to say that I was incredibly wrong. Not only was I wrong, but I am thankful that the Tigers had Ugueth Urbina to insert into the closer role as opposed to Esteban Yan (or any one else on the roster for that matter). Urbina’s value may currently be increasing for other teams with his recent improved performances, but his value to the Tiger’s has now increased exponentially. My assumptions was based on my naive belief that somehow Percival would remain healthy throughout the entire season (at least most of it).

I should have known better to succumb to this type of unhealthy optimism. Not only has Percival logged a lot of miles on his arm as he has advanced in age, he is coming off of an injury-plagued 2004 season. We all acknowledged prior to the season that the acquisitions of Troy Percival and Magglio Ordonez were risky propositons at best. At this point, with hindsight, would these moves have been made? Do you think Dave Dombrowski may be sweating a little bit today? I give Double-D a lot of credit of having the courage to make the moves. Had these moves been successful, they very well may have been enough to nudge the Tigers closer to being a more competitive organization. Still, what type of long-term ramifications may these signings hold. They have a lot of money committed to Percival and Ordonez and a fifth of the way into the season, their is a little hope that either will be much of a contributor to the long term success of the team. Will these two players, due to the economic commitments made to them by the team, now just be impediments blocking the paths of valuable younger players who need big-league experience so that they may be given the chance to contribute? The Tigers are certainly no longer in a position where they can consider trading Triple U.(Urbina)

An even more interesting scenario has now arisen. What will Trammell do if Urbina thrives in the closer’s role and Percival is able to return from the DL before the end of the season? How can you re-insert a poor performing, injury-plagued, aging reliever back into the closer’s role? Especially, if by some miracle of chance the Tigers remain in contention upon his return, this will be an interesting, if not crucial decision. With the emergence of a more reliable Franklyn German, the impending return of Fernando Rodney, and the promotion of Chris Spurling, maybe Percival should be the arm that has become expendable. I hate to suggest that the Tigers should cut bait, but I am strongly suggesting that the Tigers must cut bait with Percival while they may still have the opportunity to do so, assuming Percival returns to health.

Two more things, I am REALLY pleased by the recent performances by the starting pitchers. If this continues they may have no need for Percival’s return. I know that Jason Johnson will have his ups and downs. I know that Mike Maroth will also have some poor outings from time to time. Still, with the recent slumping Tiger hitting, the starting pitcher’s have done a wonderful job keeping the the team competitive. Finally, will Carlos Pena ever realize the magnificent talent he appears to posess?

Same Old Problems….

I realize that the Tigers performance thus far is a very small sample of the what may occur during the entire season, yet, I am very troubled by the manner in which they are losing games. They are still losing close games. The starting pitching is still unreliable. In a very short time, I have lowered my expectations significantly.

In a pivotal season, I held very high hopes that the Tigers would make significant improvements. Instead, I have seen an unreliable bullpen that is issuing walks (something it can ill afford to do) and generally unable to slam the door shut. The team could have saved several millions of dollars and kept Esteban Yan and yielded similar results. Especially troubling, any perceived trade value for Ugueth Urbina may be being flushed down the toilet as he continues to perform terribly. The Twin series is a case in point. When they turn to their power arms in their bullpen, you may as well hang it up. The Tiger hitters absolutely can not touch the Twin’s bullpen pitching.

The performance of the starters is also discouraging. Someone on this staff will have to step forward and develop some consistency. Otherwise, it will be a VERY long season. I really like the triumvirate of Bonderman, Ledezma, and Robertson. Those three pitchers appear to have a future ahead of them. The team especially needs to be able to rely on the more seasoned arms of Mike Maroth and Jason Johnson. Neither of them has done anything to prove that they have improved one iota over past seasons. Again, a team like the Twins stands as a stark contrast of what the Tigers should be aiming for performance-wise.

Even more devastating when playing the Twins is their shrewdly technical execution of pure baseball. As soon as Percival walked the Twin hitter on Tuesday night, I knew that they would succesfully sacrifice him over to second and bring in that winning run. The Tigers really can mash the ball. Their team will give teams like the Yankees, Baltimore and Texas a run as far as scoring runs. Yet, as much as Alan Trammell seems to be a proponent of small ball, this is not the type of team who will be able to squeak out a much-needed run against quality pitching. Their execution is sloppy, and the bats remain just as inconsistent as their pitching arms.

The Tigers can ill afford to end the month 5 games out of first place if they intend remaining in the picture as contenders in their division. They have a lot of games against divisional opponents and have to win some of these series. What we have witnessed recently does little to instill confidence that they will be able to do so. I realize, that they have been without their best hitter, still all good teams have to face adversity and overcome it. It is a long season, I hope the Tigers find their groove before it is too late.

Opening Day Reflections, Juan Jr.?

Opening day was an absolutely splendid experience. It was a beautiful, sunny day. The stadium was packed and charged with excitement. Jeremy Bonderman was impressive. It was even more exciting after Dmitri Young hit his third homer of the game and was given a standing ovation, which he obliged with a tip of the cap. Yet, I was left wondering about many of the people who were in attendance. Were they actual fans of the sport or were they at Comerica Park to sample the near Mardi Gras-like atmosphere? Was the game really a family affair or was it an excuse for adults to skip a day of work and get completely soused? Was it necessary for the group of fans to smoke marijuana and cigarettes at the game? Did it heighten their experience? I hate to come off like a prude, but it is interesting how the sport has become almost an auxiliary affair. The attendees seemed more concerned with attending an event which allowed the rabble to rouse. Hey, I had a couple of beers, too. I guess I just wonder about people’s priorities and whether or not these same people will be attending games in June and July?

Enough pontificating, is anybody else besides me starting to get worried about Magglio Ordonez and his mystery ailments? When my cohorts and I were riding to the game I told them that I thought Ordonez would miss several games after the opener. I hate to apply the pressure of expectations this early, but what gives? Is Ordonez going to become Juan, Jr.? I am very nervous about this situation. I am more nervous now than I was when they hastily signed him.

If you get the opportunity, pick up a copy of “Three Nights in August”, by H.G. Bissinger. Bissinger, the well-known author of “Friday Night Lights”, does an excellent job documenting a three game series between the Cubs and Cardinals late in the summer of ’03. Bissinger was awarded with a carte blanche view of the clubhouse, coaches and players. He was able to really look at the laborious way in which Tony LaRussa agonizes over his team as he tries to utilize the strengths of his players and avoid exposing their weaknesses. Bissinger uses each chapter to focus on a player and connects that players story with events that occur during the series. Excellent read!

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.

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.

Hope Awakened!

Before each season begins, a good friend of mine takes a straw poll among all of his friends who happen to be Tiger fans. The poll is that he asks us how many games the Tigers will lose in the upcoming season. It has become a tradition. When it came time for him to ask me how many I thought they would lose I speculated that they would lose 102 games. I looked at the fact that other than Dmitri Young, the team was relatively free of injury last season. I reflected on the fact that Brandon Inge, Omar Infante and Carlos Guillen all performed beyond my wildest expectations last season. I thought about the fact that that it would be unlikely that Alex Sanchez would be able to continue
to maintain a batting average as high as what his was with his inability to draw walks. I also looked at the Pudge factor, I still have high expectations but there is no way he will bat .500 in a month again in his career! Without a clear-cut #1 starting pitcher, how could this team help but get worse.

Yet, with the signing of Magglio Ordonez and the trade for Jeff Farnsworth, the picture looks a bit more rosy. There are a lot of questions, but my opinion has changed. They will not lose 102 games even if they are unable to improve upon last season’s performance. They have a couple of tradeable commodities in Ugueth Urbina and whomever they decide is least useful between Alex Sanchez, Bobby Higginson, and Rondell White. Those trades could possibly fill any holes that could emerge or provide some more prospects to bank for future use.

I am ready for spring and very hopeful that the Tigers will continue their entertaining brand of baseball. They will rarely disappoint with their effort and their triumvirate of Young, Pudge and Ordonez should creates some offensive fireworks. I am even mildly optimistic about a future role that Dean Palmer may serve in for the team’s benefit. Anybody who has known me for any extended period of time would be astonished by that pronouncement.

More Percival, Urbina

The Tigers are certainly attempting to make a big splash with their free agent acquisitions! I like Percival, because he has playoff experience and has proven capable of being a consistently capable closer. He already seems to assuming a role as a recruiter, too, making a pitch for Troy Glaus to consider the Tigers. Brian provides a lot of excellent proof as to why signing Percival may blow-up in their face. The fact that it is hard to envision the Tigers bullpen without Urbina and Percival together makes it troubling. How ready is Urbina going to be perform at his usual standards after all he has been through in the last year? Where will the Tigers be if Percival misses 2 months? Here are some more vitals in regards to Percival and Urbina from 2004:

Player/ K/9/ BB/9/ H/9/ WHIP/ HR/9
Urbina 9.33/ 5.33/ 6.33/ 1.30/ 1.16
Percival 5.98/ 3.44/ 7.79/ 1.25/ 1.28

Player/ W-L/ ERA/ G/ GF/ IP/ BF/RG(batters faced)
Urbina 4-6/ 4.50/ 54/ 46/ 54.0/ 4.33
Percival 2-3/ 2.90/ 52/ 48/ 49.2/4.06

Player/ SV/ BS/ SV%/ oppBA/ OppOPS/ G/F(ground ball/fly ball outs)
Urbina 21/ 3/ 88%/ .194/ .660/ 0.47/
Percival 33/ 5/ 87%/ .230/ .682/ 0.53/

I guess it is necessary to takes some risks along the way if you are attempting to become a contender. In my eyes, the Tigers are still a year or two away so spending $10+ million/year for the back end of the bullpen may not be wise. Still, you have to give Dombrowski and the Ilitch’s credit for stepping out there and going to toe-to-toe with the big boys in free agency.

Tigers enter the Free Agent Fray

It is quite interesting to watch this offseason begin to unfold. The two players the Tigers have met with or will be meeting with are major surprises to me. When I thought of potential candidates to rebuild the franchise with, the names Troy Percival and Jeff Kent were certainly off the radar. Not that each player does not posess a certain amount of intrigue as valuable players, I guess I had hoped the Tigers would be looking at players on the south side of 35. Percival and Urbina could make a nice end of the bullpen. Just as easily, Urbina could become trade bait.

The decision to meet with Jeff Kent is puzzling. He mentioned during the season that he had been considering retirement. So rather than retiring, he visits a team who MIGHT be on the cusp of becoming a contender and have one of the best pitcher’s parks in all of baseball. That coupled with his character issues, poor fielding, and the perception that his best performances have been inflated in lineups where he has been surrounded by big-time hitters. As an everyday DH, Kent may be suitable, but I thought the Tigers already posessed one of them in Dmitri Young. Equally perplexing would be the decision to move the solid Omar Infante to a new position. I really would like for the Tigers to acquire a Third Basemen as opposed to trying to develop one on the spot ala Eric Munson and Brandon Inge (although Inge did a yeoman job!). I know Infante did an okay job in his limited time in Center Field but again why fix that which is not broken?

The Tigers named has also been mentioned in connection with the likes of Carl Pavano and Troy Glaus. The ESPN Top 50 free agent mentioned that they thought that Matt Clement would be signed by the Tigers. I think that ESPN’s experts assumed this because Dombrowski had already acquired Clement while general manager for the Florida Marlins.

Tigers Offseason:Pitching Targets

With the decision to pick up the option on Ugueth Urbina’s contract this weekend, the Tigers targeted priority to bolster their pitching staff is becoming a little clearer. Earlier in the offseason, they also resigned Jamie Walker. The bullpen has often been mentioned as the area where the team likely would place most of it’s attention for improvement. It seems likely that Al Levine will not be back and it is questionable that Detroit’s other Stevie Y, Esteban Yan, will be return. Where it becomes muddled is what the designated roles for Nate Robertson, Jason Johnson, and Gary Knotts will be? The Tigers will also have to look at the continuing development of Franklyn German, Roberto Novoa, and Steve Colyer and the potential roles they may have on the club. They will also have to plan for the impending return from arm surgery of Fernando Rodney. I would be quite surprised if John Ennis or Craig Dingman have many more opportunities to pitch in Detroit, unless the team suffers from more injuries among their pitchers.

In my eyes, I would re-sign the relatively cheap Esteban Yan. My next move would be to relegate either Jason Johnson or Nate Robertson to the pen. Robertson’s strike out numbers (7.09 K/9) and make-up seems to translate into him having a better chance of performing well in this role. In regards to Johnson, with his stamina issues and overall poor pitching, he will remain an enigma (and unfortunately in the starting rotation) for the duration of the offseason. Presuming they do not trade Mike Maroth, the team has 4 starters (2 Left-handers and 2 Right-Handers). The bullpen, with Nate Robertson’s inclusion (however ridiculous it may seem) and Esteban Yan’s re-signing have 5 of it’s six spots filled. It would seem likely then, that Dombrowski would be searching for a #1 or #2 starter and a primary set-up man. Here are some potential relievers:

Player/ APP/ IP/ W/L/ SV/ BS/ ERA/
Steve Reed 65/ 66.0/ 3-8/ 0/ 4/ 3.68/
Jim Mecir 65/ 47.2/ 0-5/ 2/ 5/ 3.83/
A. Alfonseca 79/ 73.2/ 6-4/ 0/ 1/ 2.57/
Dan Miceli 74/ 77.2/ 6-6/ 2/ 6/ 3.59/
Todd Jones 78/ 82.1/ 11-5/ 2/ 6/ 4.15/
Antonio Osuna 31/ 36.2/ 2-1/ 0/ 2/ 2.45/
Dave Burba 47/ 77.0/ 6-9/ 2/ 3/ 4.21/
Terry Adams 61/ 70.0/ 6-4/ 3/ 3/ 4.76/

K/9/ BB/9/ H/9/ HR/9/ WHIP/ OppOPS/
Steve Reed 5.18/ 2.32/ 9.82/ 0.95/ 1.35/ .756/
Jim Mecir 9.25/ 3.59/ 8.50/ 0.95/ 1.34/ .678/
Alfonseca 5.50/ 3.42/ 8.67/ 0.61/ 1.34/ .671/
Dan Miceli 9.62/ 3.13/ 8.58/ 1.17/ 1.30/ .706/
Todd Jones 6.45/ 3.61/ 9.18/ 0.77/ 1.42/ .742/
Antonio Osuna8.84/ 2.7/ 7.85/ 0.75/ 1.17/ .653/
Dave Burba 5.84/3.04/ 8.18/ 0.82/ 1.25/ .675/
Terry Adams 7.20/ 3.6/ 10.8/ 1.29/ 1.6/ .821/

Adams 1.91/
Mecir 1.53/
Alfonseca 2.23/

I have included these pitchers because have all served this role in the past and all within the realm of affordability for the Tigers. I selected players who could handle pitching with runners on base (low HR/9 or high number of ground ball to fly ball outs(G/F)) because in a lot of cases they will be coming into situations with runners on base. The Tiger starters have relatively high WHIP’s and none with the possible exception of Bonderman are “power pitchers” who rack up a lot of strikeouts, so relievers inherit a lot of base runners. I wonder if Miceli and Jones’ former Tiger experience would disqualify them from this list? I think the year that Antonio Alfonseca had last season warrants serious consideration as a potential acquisition. He has some closing experience, which would also seem to be a necessary pre-requisite to being signed (in case of injury or poor performance by U.U. Urbina). I also would derive a great deal of enjoyment from the signing of Alfonseca because I would never grow tired of discussions about the extra appendages on his hands!

In regards to starters, I think it would be beneficial for the Tigers to pursue a number one starter. Assuming they would unable to afford Pedro Martinez or an exciting young pitcher like Carl Pavano, and the general lack of quality power pitchers (Dombrowski preferred starters of choice) I think the Tigers would be best served by starters who also get a lot of ground ball outs. I think this is why there has been so much speculation locally and nationally about the return to Michigan of Derek Lowe. It would be appear to be a natural fit, except for the fact that his postseason performance will probably increase his desirability (and price tag $) for teams who believe they will be playoff contenders. Lowe had a relatively poor regular season but I believe his past performance still may drive him out of the Tigers price range.
Here are Lowe’s stats and a few others who I believe warrant consideration:

Player/ W-L/ QS/ QS%/ ERA/ CG/ IP/
Lowe 14-12 12/ 36/ 5.42/ 0/ 182.2/
Radke 11-8/ 24/ 71/ 3.48/ 1/ 219.2/
(Radke could also be out of the team’s price range)
C.Lidle 12-12/ 17/ 50/ 5.37/ 5/ 211.1/
M.Morris 15-10/ 16/ 50/ 4.72/ 3/ 202.0/
J.Lieber 14-8/ 16/ 59/ 4.33/ 0/ 176.2/
P.Byrd 8-7/ 11/ 58/ 3.99/ 0/ 114.1/

K/9/ BB/9/ H/9/ HR/9 WHIP/ oppBA/ oppOPS/
Lowe 5.17/ 3.5/ 11.04/ 0.74/ 1.62/ .299/ .790/
Radke 5.86/ 1.07/ 9.38/ 0.94/ 1.16/ .267/ .684/
Lidle 5.37/ 2.6/ 9.54/ 1.15/ 1.35/ .273/ .777/
Morris 5.84/ 2.5/ 9.13/ 1.56/ 1.29/ .266/ .776/
Lieber 5.2/ 0.92/ 11.00/ 1.02/ 1.32/ .301/ .759/
Byrd 6.22/ 1.5/ 9.68/ 1.42/ 1.24/ .270/ .749/

Lowe 3.25/
Lidle 1.47/
Morris 1.76/
Lieber 1.40/

I would personally prefer Radke, but if it came down to it I think Matt Morris or Jon Lieber would be wise additions to the club. I think Matt Morris’s HR/9 would come down in Comerica. At any rate, between relievers and starters it has become essential that they also add a very good fielding Third basemen (Brandon Inge?) and hope that Carlos Guillen recovers his range and fielding ability at Shortstop.

Re:Mike Lowell

I was very excited to see in the Free Press yesterday reporting on the rumor of the Tigers having a potential interest in Mike Lowell. This makes sense on a lot of levels. The Tigers are certainly without a definite incumbent at the position and Dombrowski originally acquired Lowell for the Marlins. For the Marlins, moving Lowell makes sense because on Nov. 1, Lowell can opt for free agency, if he so desires, due to a clause in his contract that allows him the opportunity to declare free agency if the Marlins don’t have a stadium deal in place. The catch is that any player who is traded with more than a year on their contract can demand a trade after one season. Lowell could also choose to file a grievance and possibly be traded sooner. At 3 yrs, $25.5 million, Lowell would be a bargain as one of the top 5-10 third basemen in all of baseball. Even should this trade not occur, I want to wax euphoric on what may have been!

I agree it is nice to finally see the Tigers signed Justin Verlander. I hope they are better able to utilize his services than they have with other recently drafted first round pitchers. It would have also been nice if he had obtained a partial season of experience in the meantime.

The World Series has thus far been a dud. All the intrigue and excitement has faded for me in the first two games. I really hope the Cardinal pitching staff can regroup and the Cardinal bats come alive so that this series takes on a different hue. Everybody seems to be catching “Idiot Mania” and getting behind the Sox. It is a nice story, but to be truthful I am a little tired of it. The bottom line is the Sox inhabit the same realm as the Yankees and a few other
privileged clubs and the competitive imbalance of baseball remains intact.

Things I would like to see and hear more of:

1.I would like to see and hear from Whitey Herzog and Don Zimmer and relative perspectives on the two teams.
2. Rather than being relegated to thirty seconds of empty chatter why couldn’t
have Fox regaled us with several minutes with Red Schoendiest and Johnny Pesky. I would gladly take that over repeated obnoxious bombardments of “Obnoxious Boss” and “Rebel Billionaire” commercials.
3. Am I only surprised that Tim McCarver and Joe Buck have yet to betray any Cardinal bias? With McCarver playing most of his career in St. Louis and Buck’s father being the legendary voice of the club, how could they not have at least some interest in Cardinal victories?
4. The Dropkick Murphys are a streetpunk band from Boston who proclaim their Irish heritage and often feature bagpipes in their songs. They have an Ep out that features Johnny Damon, Lenny DiNardo and Bronson Arroyo singing backups on a song. The song, “Tessie”, which used to be sung by the famed Royal Rooters who were Sox loyalists who used the song to stir their team to victory. I have heard it played in the background on the stadium PA but am quite surprised it hasn’t been used as “bumper” music during the broadcasts.

2004 Season

If the excitement of this season can be held as any sort of indicator, this promises to be a great postseason. In a season where a third player accomplished the feat of hitting 700 home runs and another broke a long standing record for the number of hits in a season. Hopefully, the best is yet to come.

In celebrating the great year, one has to feel for the Chicago Cub’s and Cub’s fans who witnessed their heavily favored team meltdown with a bad bullpen and Shakespearean back-biting amongst players, coaches and the media. They are a team who will probably take a couple of steps back next year in order to continue to move forward.

Most of all, this season gave me hope that the management of the Tiger’s organization do have a game plan that appears to be working. That plan, along with a little good luck mixed in will help the team to become legitimate contenders in the near future. It will be an incredibly intriguing offseason, to say the least.

Quick Predictions
Houston Over Braves in 5
Cards Over Dodgers in 4

Houston over Cards in 6

Yankees over Twins in 5
Red Sox over Angels in 4

Red Sox over Yankees in 7

Astros over Red Sox in 6

Series MVP: Craig Biggio

Derek Lowe/Free Agent starting pitchers

Their has been some preliminary discussion in the local media about the Tiger’s placing some priority upon acquiring a bonafide #1 starter. Mike Ilitch has intimated that he has enjoyed this season and would strongly consider allocating additional payroll funds to continue to upgrade the team’s personnel this offseason. Many rumors have associated a return of Dearborn native, Derek Lowe, to the fold. Others have suggested that the Tigers make the moves necessary to re-acquire John Smoltz and allow him the opportunity to finish off his career as a starter (which Smoltz seems to desire).

I looked at the performance of potential upcoming free agents to get an idea where the Tiger’s may want to turn. I did this with the assumption that Dave Dombrowski would be looking to add a legitimate #1 starter. Also I assumed that he would not be in the market for a left-handed starter because it appears (prematurely?) that they will feature a 5-man rotation that will include three lefties. Jeremy Bonderman, is also a lock as a starter, should he remain healthy. The puzzling matter to address will be what the utility of inconsistent and frustrating starter Jason Johnson?

The Creme de la Creme

Player W-L ERA IP QS% hr/9 H/9 bb/9 K/9 oppOPS .BA WHIP
P. Martinez 16-8 3.78 212 61 1.1 7.7 2.55 9.42 .688 .232 1.15

Radke 11-8 3.48 214.2 73 0.97 9.35 1.01 5.91 .684 .265 1.15

Pavano 17-8 3.05 215.1 73 0.67 8.57 2.05 5.68 .681 .252 1.18

Clement 9-13 3.68 181.0 60 1.14 7.71 3.83 9.45 .692 .229 1.28

The Next Tier

Ru.Ortiz 14-9 4.19 197.2 58 1.05 8.7 4.96 6.42 .752 .258 1.52

Benson 12-12 4.33 195.1 57 0.69 9.08 2.67 5.9 .721 .263 1.31

Morris 15-9 4.55 198. 52 1.50 9. 3.38 5.86 .766 .264 1.38

Are You Sure?

Lowe 14-12 5.25 178.1 39 0.76 10.75 3.43 5.2 .780 .293 1.58

Lidle 11-12 4.95 205.1 48 1.18 9.42 2.59 5.48 .771 .269 1.33


Roberts. 12-9 4.80 185.2 53 1.36 9.4 3.15 7.03 .771 .270 1.39
Maroth 11-12 4.29 210. 53 1.03 10.16 2.49 4.46 .781 .289 1.41

The Tigers will be very fortunate to be in the running for one of the Top 4 I listed. As far as I am concerned, if they are serious about Derek Lowe, they will need to address their fielding. His success seems to be contingent upon excellent team defense.

Lions Vs. Texans

This is a pivotal week for the Lions as an organization. Overcoming adversity, or a big win for that matter have never been tendered among it’s strong suits. The Texans are a slowly developing expansion franchise who have accumulated some talented young skill players in their short history.

The Lions rush defense must be stout and contain Domanick Davis and his backup Tony Hollings. Davis fumbled twice last week so expect the Lions to be attempting to strip the ball whenever he gets carries. After a season where the Texans allowed the most sacks ever in the history of the game (2 yrs ago) they have gradually improved their O-Line so that David Carr has more time to make decisions in the passing game. The Lions will need to put some pressure on Carr and the Texans vertical passing game to compensate for their lack of depth in the secondary. In the Lions home opener, Kalimba Edwards must become a factor in the pass rush. I don’t believe the Lions will have the luxury of using many blitzes with the injuries to their linebackers and secondary. Andre Johnson and Corey Bradford are serious downfield threats to get big gains in this game.

On offense, the Lions will need to establish the run against Houston’s 3-4 defense. The 3-4 scheme features a lot of blitzing by the linebackers and the D-linemen must be fire hydrants in the trenches in order for the linebackers to flow to the ball carrier. This a week where the Lions experienced O-line must really step up, they have to get to the linebackers with their blocks. If Kevin Jones is capable of establishing the run the Lions will be more effective in the passing game. Harrington will have to be efficient and be prepared to make the right “Hot” reads to throw to their injury depleted receiving corps. This a big week in the development of receiver Roy Williams. With all of the blitzing the Lions should be able to stretch the secondary who were burnt more than once by the Drew Brees lead Chargers. Antonio Gates was particularly successful, so expect for Harrington to look to Casey FitzSimmons and Stephen Alexander to have some big catches. it will also be important that Artose Pinner and Kevin Jones do a good job in their blitz pick-ups. We are now familiar with the fact that Harrington rarely gets sacked, but when pressured he tends to throw the ball away taking the Lions out of their offense.

In the home opener coming of their first road victory in a long time I believe the Lions will win a close game 27-21.


With the injuries to “Pudge” Rodriguez and Carlos Guillen over the weekend coupled with the team’s performance while facing Minnesota one has to wonder if this season will prove to be one month too long. Until this point, the team was riding a crest of newfound hope and remained solidly competitive even if they were no longer a contender in the playoff picture.

It is important I think, for the Tigers to be able to end on a high note and continue to build from this season successes. If they begin to regress they could quite easily suffer from a similar fall to that Kansas City had to face this season.

An interesting component to the end of their season will be that Tiger fans will get a preview of some more players who figure into the teams’ future plans. Now that Erie’s been ousted from the playoffs, we will see more of Roberto Novoa (who looked plain awesome at times in particular versus Boston at home), Curtis Granderson and Ryan Raburn.

Bittersweet Victory

The Lions won the battle on Saturday, but it will be questionable as the season progresses whether or not they can win the war. Sunday’s victory, was a huge moral victory. Not winning a road game in over three seasons is nearly unfathomable.

Yet, heading into this season, if there were 5 players who needed to remain healthy and perform well in order to ensure Lions success. That list would include three who have already suffered serious injury(Dre Bly,Charles Rogers, Boss Bailey). Even more disappointingly, these players have major impact on any possible future successes the organization may hope to enjoy.

Charles Rogers loss in particular will hurt the team. He worked hard in the offseason to rehabilitate and prepare himself for a break-out season. He was very sensitive to being tagged as injury-proned and often walked out of interviews when questioned about his durability. Now, in what appears to be a season ending injury many questions have arisen about his future in the NFL.

In the meantime, this may represent the final chance for David Kirkus to become an NFL player. He has shown flashes, but will have to perform consistently when given the opportunity to play. The Lions success for the rest of the year will hinge upon keeping valuable players like Joey Harrington and Shaun “Big Baby” Rogers healthy. Otherwise, their interminable “rebuilding” process may have to start yet again.

Season and Weekend Preview.

Five Things that will need to happen in order for the Lions to have a successful season.

1.Joey Harrington must reduce his interceptions, be even more accurate and effecient as a passer, and assume his role as a team leader.

2. Kevin Jones and Artose Pinner need to combine for at least 1400 yards rushing or the Lions will again be in deep trouble offensively.

3. A pass rusher has to emerge from their defensive line. Kalimba Edwards where the Lions hopes lie, must remain healthy and begin to fulfill his potential as a pass rusher. Hopefully Robert Porcher in less plays will be able to concentrate his efforts and be overall more effective. In a defense that will not blitz often under new defensive coordinator, Dick Jauron, it is imperative that Jared Devries, James Hall and Corey Redding step up the pressure.

4.The Linebacking corps that is thin to begin with must remain healthy. Dirty Davis and Teddy Lehman have a lot to learn. Their continued development will make or break this defense.

5. The Lions offensive line will have to be effective enough so that Harrington will not rush to throw the ball away, provide the type of blocking that will lead to rushing success and pass block well enough so that the Lions will have the occasional luxury of having the time necessary to stretch the field with the deep ball. Otherwise NFL Corners will jam the younger Lions receivers constantly at the line of scrimmage and prevent them from running their routes.

The matchup with Chicago is an intriguing one. The Lions have a wonderful opportunity to get a monkey off of their backs by getting an early road win. The Chicago offense and defense will be quite different under the watch of 1st year head coach Lovie Smith. To be truthful, I have a hard time seeing where Chicago will get their points from. Rex Grossman is a very young Quarterback, who is learning a new system. In order to beef up their defense, Chicago traded it’s best receiver, Marty Booker for Defensive End, Adewale Ogunleye. They will now rely on David Terrell, Justin Gage and Bobby Wade. Terrell is in a do or die situation. Thus far he has been a major bust. The bears are also taking a risk by going to the still unproven first rounder, Thomas Jones, who has rarely lived up to expectations. They do have some depth here with an unhappy Anthony Thomas, riding the pine.

Their defense is also questionable with their lack of depth in the secondary. They are forced to use RW McQuarters, who is normally a a nickle back. They have invested a lot in their defensive line with high draft picks used on Michael Haynes and Tommie Harris in recent years. It also remains to be seen if Ogunleye will be effective with all the attention he will draw. (In recent years he would be one on one on the outside while Jason Taylor, the best DE in football drew all of the attention)

The Lions will have to play a very solid football game in order to win in Chicago. Paul Edinger always seem to get a lot of crucial field goals versus the Lions. I think that this will be a low scoring affair, even with all of the question marks on both defenses. Their always seems to be an unknown contributor who causes the Lions troubles ala Brock Forsey or Jerry Azumah or Marty Mornihnweg when the Lions face the Bears. The Lions can outmatch the Bears if they control the time of posession and don’t turn the ball over. I predict a 23-13 Lions victory.

Lions Blog


Lionsblog can now be found at


With Brian’s encouragement I will have the great fortune of expanding the constellation of weblogs that orbit around this one in the upcoming weeks. I will be starting a Detroit Lions blog, with an extreme amount excitement on my part. I have been a lifelong Lions fan who has been drinking Honolulu Blue Kool Aid for my entire life. In the meantime, I will make some preliminary contributions here hopefully to everyone’s delight. I am open for any constructive suggestions on what you might like from a weblog of this nature.

I think that this weblog will be very fun, this might be the most exciting time in Detroit Lions franchise history. The Lions have remained one of the more inept teams in NFL history. What Lion’s fan doesn’t remember Eddie Murray’s missed field goal, Dave Williams 100 yd kickoff return and the playoff blowout by a Rodney Peete quarterbacked Eagles. Who will ever forget Billy Sims going ballistic on a table full of Gatorade, the Coin Flip in Chicago or Barry Sanders silently riding off into the sunset.

All of the Lion’s past disappointments have entered a newfound era of hope. The organization feels it has a credible coach in Mariucci. It still believes it has a franchise quarterback in Joey Harrington. The last two drafts have given the Lions even more hope because it’s recent lack of success has provided it’s roster with such potential stars as Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, Kevin Jones and Teddy Lehman. It is also a very critical year because the Lions have to make steps forward. The road losing streak MUST end this season and hopefully it will. Mooch must prove he is something more than Wayne Fontes with movie star looks. Joey Harrington must establish his role as team leader and become a more complete player. A franchise and city that will be hosting an upcoming Super Bowl must prove that it is truly first class.

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