It’s been a little over a week since the Tigers were swept by the Giants and now the talk is about what they’ll be doing next year. They’ve already said that Delmon Young, Jose Valverde and most likely Gerald Laird are gone and one of their pursuits is going to be locking up Anibal Sanchez. Since I didn’t write at all during the final months or the playoffs, here’s my condensed synopsis.
1) The Giants are a good team. While we shouldn’t have gotten swept, the opinion that the Tigers were heavy favorites shows how the little things can tip the balance of a series. The Tigers have some flaws and neither the Oakland Athletics or the New York Yankees exposed those flaws. The Giants did. While the Giants were running down balls hit into the outfield gaps, Delmon Young was throwing the ball into the ground. While the Giants were taking pitches and waiting for something good to hit, the Tigers were flailing away. And the Giants have a really good rotation as well. The Tigers pitched well but the difference seemed to be that approach at the plate.
2) Imagine taking a week off of work and then the day you get back you lounge around all day. Your boss asks you WTF and you say that you had too long of a lay off and you’re just not feeling it. Rest is a good thing. Everyone got to nurse their wounds and we also got to reset our rotation. This whole “we were off for to long” is an excuse I’m not buying. These are professionals and baseball is their job. If you say “I had too long of a break” you probably shouldn’t be playing. With that, it’s more a creation of the announcers and then Leyland didn’t help things either.
3) Leyland is back for another year. While he drives me nuts, I don’t really see them hiring someone better so he’s fine for now. What worries me is the Tigers have this two year window where they’ll have Fielder/Cabrera/Martinez and with Max Scherzer becoming a free agent, the Tigers best chance to win may be next year or the year after. Having Leyland at the helm doesn’t make things any easier.
4) The Tigers need help in this order. Bullpen and then outfield. I could live with a shuffling of Avisail Garcia, Brennan Bosch, Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks but that’s a lot of roster spots to be tied up on outfielders. The problem is that none of those four have shown yet they can get it done as an everyday guy. The bullpen we just need some arms. While they should go out and get a couple of decent set up men and just forget the closer thing, it’s not going to happen so I just hope they don’t overpay too much.
Now it’s time to take a peek at the Lions. I was over at SportsBettingWorld.com and I couldn’t find the Lions 2013 Super Bowl odds but at this point, they’ve probably fallen quite a bit since the start of the season. At least they’re playing better now.
Alright, I know it had been a while, but it’s been almost two months since I posted. And I know my writing has been light the past couple of years but both a change in my focus (from baseball blogging to my Michigan CPA practice), my personal situation (I’m now a single father) and the fact that I lost my last big advertiser on this site means the writing is going to be pretty sporadic. I’m not going to go as far as saying I’m retiring, but just don’t expect weekly content much less daily content. So keep me in your feed and you’ll probably see my pop up on occasion if I have something to say.
And how about those Tigers. Red hot one minute and now they’ve cooled back down. I liked the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante deal (although I liked it even more before Sanchez gave up five runs on Saturday) so hopefully we get back on track. This is definitely the most frustrating Tigers team I’ve ever seen and I have a feeling we’ll be saying that through the end of the season (which is hopefully in late October).
Aaron Gleeman, who was one of the select few who was writing when I got started celebrated his tenth anniversary writing on his blog today. He’s one of the pioneers and is a good study on how you can get to where you want to be in an atypical way (at least at the time). Hard work pays off and Aaron is a perfect example of that.
Also, I know this has nothing to do with baseball, but a friend of mine, Rachael Adams, made it to the semi-finals in Maxim’s Hometown Hotties contest. If you could click through and vote for her (you can vote every day), I’d appreciate it.
The Tigers are now a couple of innings into the first game of their ten game road trip and this one has some importance because it’s against the first place Indians. The Tigers took two of three against the Pirates over the weekend and that’s quieted some people down. I also have a lot of people asking me what the deal is with the Tigers. Here’s what I tell them.
The Indians aren’t that good. The Tigers aren’t as bad as they’ve been playing. This rough start just means that the Tigers are going to win the division by ten games instead of fifteen. Since we’ve beat the Tigers up a lot of late, let’s look at some of what they’ve done well.
The Tigers pitching staff is first in strikeouts, third (best) in walks and yet they’re tenth in runs allowed. If those first two rankings stand, that last ranking is going to come down. It just about has too. You can probably credit some of that to the defense but even if the Tigers can pop into the top half in the league in runs allowed, it should put them into positive territory in run differential.
While Cabrera hasn’t gotten going at the plate yet (his .850 OPS would be his worst since his rookie year), his defensive cost hasn’t been too bad. Of course this is just one defensive metric but if you look at baseball-reference.com’s defensive WAR, he’s at -.4. If he keeps that pace, he’ll be at -1.6. Last year at first base, he was -1.3 so his cost is only marginally more what he cost them at first base last year anyway. Now if the new position is somehow costing the team at the plate, that could be another story but I’m not quite sure how we can quantify that.
While some of the Tigers farmhands are off to mediocre starts and Jacob Turner had a subpar outing his last time out, Thad Weber has been a nice surprise. He has 35 strikeouts and 6 walks in 39 innings. You don’t like the four home runs but he has a nice ground ball percentage and just a .196 batting average against. Right handers are only hitting .164 against them.
The Indians put another run on the board so it’s 3-2 Tigers at the end of the third. Hopefully Rick Porcello can get through this one.
Drew Smyly made his seventh start of the season and for the sixth time this season he didn’t get a decision. He still sits at 1-0 and he has yet to “lose” his first major league start. A more telling look is the fact that the Tigers are 4-3 in his starts but in two of those losses, the opposition scored two runs or less (in the game, not just against Smyly. Still, last night’s go against the White Sox was his first yet and it breaks his streak of starts where he went at least six innings (in his case, exactly six innings) and gave up two runs or less. He also has the distinction of being the first left hander to give up a home run to Adam Dunn since 2010.
I’ve harped about the Tigers lack of depth so here it is one more time. Luke Putkonen could turn out to be a servicable major league pitcher but right now, he needs to be in the minor leagues. The fact that he’s with the team just goes to show how thin we are. Of course this could be a segue into how most major league managers don’t use the bullpen correctly and if they did, they wouldn’t have to carry so many pitchers but we’ll save that one for another day. Putkonen has pitched four times and in three of those, he’s given up runs. This is also completely unrelated, but he’s only pitched in losses and two of those times he picked up the “L.”
And then we get to Duane Below who has been better then I expected. For a soft thrower, he struck out four yesterday and that was only in two innings. The guys who don’t bring the heat tend to get exposed eventually so hopefully Below can adapt as the season goes on. So far, he’s been one of the few bright spots in the pen.
Today’s game is at 2:10 and it’ll be Max Scherzer against Jake Peavy. Peavy has been one of the hotter pitchers of this short season so this could be a good one. If we lose, we’ll fall behind the White Sox into third place so hopefully they can get it done.
The Tigers salvaged a split of their four game series with the Athletics yesterday and they need a nice start by Justin Verlander and an Inge-less Athletics lineup to do it. He threw seven solid frames and came out after that because a callous on his throwing hand broke. Still, he needed just 104 pitches to get through seven innings to pick up win number four. From there, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde pitched a solid inning each to close out the game. Benoit gave up a walk but that’s now two straight for Valverde where he hasn’t allowed a baserunner.
Of course it’s the offense that’s still been frustrating. I talked about this in the preseason but the guys I were most worried about were Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta and how it’d be unrealistic for them to repeat their 2011 seasons. I didn’t think they’d struggle this much though and once you get past Prince Fielder in the lineup, it thins out considerably. Fortunately Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks have picked up some of the slack but at some point you’d expect them to come back down to earth as well.
On Austin Jackson, his splits are just bizarre. He’s hitting .382 against right handed pitching but only .179 against left handed pitching. As a right hander, you’d think this trend would eventually end. Then again, six of his eight home runs have come against lefties and that’s in only 86 plate appearances versus two against right handers in 180 plate appearances. He’s also getting a lot of production in that first at bat of the game where he’s hitting .423/.483/.769 and four of his eight home runs have come in that leadoff at bat. Two more of his home runs have come when he’s led off in the inning other then the first.
It’s Drew Smyly against John Danks tonight. The Tigers are now within breathing distance of slipping back into first place and these division games are pretty important considering the team’s slow start.
Despite not having his best start, Justin Verlander helped push the Tigers back onto the winning side of the record with a 6-4 win over the Mariners. He had the one rough inning in the third where he gave up three but other then that, he looked pretty solid. His usual velocity was there even in his final inning (his last pitch was 97 mph) but what’s worrisome if how he’s piling up the pitch count and only pushing into the sixth inning.
Jose Valverde scared us all again by walking the bases loaded but he got Jesus Montero to foul out to end the game. Joaquin Benoit had a solid outing and he just needed twelve pitches to get through the eighth inning and Phil Coke gave up a run but the good thing is, the flood gates didn’t open and the Tigers were able to hold on for the win.
Andy Dirks continues to shine and he drove in three runs. Prince Fielder has also begun to heat up and he belted his fifth home run. Interesting note on Fielder is that all five of his home runs have come with nobody on even though he’s been a better “hitter” with men on base. He’s hitting .286 with nobody on but .364 with men on base so you wonder if he’s looking more for the single and driving in the run then swinging for the fences if there’s ducks on the pond.
The Indians lost so the Tigers are now two games back of first place. Tonight it’ll be Drew Smyly against Jason Vargas in the rubber game. Smyly has a pretty good chance of having another great outing with the poor Mariners offense and he’s throwing in the pitcher friendly Safeco Field. It’s another late game.
Doug Fister made his return to the Tigers rotation yesterday and you have to be happy with the results. He was able to keep his pitch count down and threw seven shutout innings while needing just 73 pitches. He didn’t walk anyone and he struck out three. Keep in mind this was against a weak Mariners offense but it was a nice season re-debut. As usual, we saw a lot of two seamers and Fister was consistently in the high-80s and low-90s. He’ll pitch again on Sunday against the Athletics so we’ll see if he can keep this up.
Then we get to the pen. Phil Coke (nice start to the season) threw a shutout frame and then Octavio Dotel came in to pitch the ninth. He walked the first two guys after giving up just two weeks all season before that. A wild pitch and a passed ball gave the Mariners one run then a double tied the game up. Dotel was pulled and while Duane Below kept his ERA at 0.00, the winning run scored on him when John Jaso hit a sac. fly.
While the whole win/loss record is a bad indicator of just about anything, it’s kind of telling that the starters are 7-9 and the pen is 7-5. Twelve no-decisions by the starters seems like a lot and to put it into perspective, there were 43 no decisions by starters last year. This year, we’re on pace to top that by the end of July. It means one of two things. The Tigers are playing a lot of close games and that the pen is struggling. This year, the pen has a 4.25 ERA and it’s actually higher then the rotation’s 3.81.
The Indians swept their doubleheader so the Tigers sit three games back of first. I’m still not worried, but that doesn’t mean this team doesn’t frustrate the heck out of me. Tonight Justin Verlander is on the mound though so hopefully he can put a stop to this.
We’re one day removed from the end of the first month of baseball season and the Tigers sit at 11-11. Considering they’ve dropped eight of their last ten, that start is a little disappointing. We all knew this team had it’s share of holes but I didn’t think they’d be exposed this quickly. That doesn’t mean we should be panicking because the Tigers are still just a game back of first place. The baseball season is a marathon and let’s hope some of these early moves that we’re questioning now seem to make sense in the second half of the season.
When the Tigers traded Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, I was very happy to get Max Scherzer in return. Of course since then his time with the Tigers has been, well, erratic. At times he’s looked like Justin Verlander and at other times he’s looked like, well, not nearly as good as Justin. He’ll turn 28 in July and by now, I would have expected him to have turned the corner to stardom but instead, he’s taken several steps back. His strikeout rate is still there but his walk rate is also up and he’s been very hittable. You’d expect his .453 batting average on balls in play to come down but that still wouldn’t push Scherzer into even the “good” column. His velocity still seems to be there because he was consistently in the mid-90s so you hope he rights the ship soon.
By now everyone has heard of Delmon Young’s transgressions and for now, he’s on the restricted list. I haven’t heard too much of the details on what happened other then that there were racial slurs involved and he was extremely intoxicated. For now I’ll hold off on any judgement until the facts are straight but for now, the Tigers have replaced him with Brad Eldred who was lighting up Toledo. Eldred has spent a lot of time in the minors and has little success in the majors. After tripling in his first at bat, he’s gone one for twelve with five strikeouts since.
Brandon Inge is now an Athletic and we’ll see him in about a week and a half when the Tigers go out for a west coast swing. I’ve always been a fan of Inge’s but he has become a distraction and of course, it’s been a while since he’s hit the ball well. As it stands, he’s the Tigers all time leader in strikeouts and up until recently, he had hit more home runs in Comerica Park then anyone else (Miguel Cabrera is now the leader). I hope he finishes out his career in a good way (other then when he plays us).
This is another big series because, like the Mariners last week, the Tigers have a good chance to run the table. Wednesdays pitching matchup is particularly favorable with Verlander going up against Luis Mendoza. If I were into sports betting, I’d be putting my money on the Tigers in that one.
Tonight, Duane Below makes his first start of the season. We’ll see if we can get this one in with all of the rain we’ve gotten.
The Tigers had the day off and they’re coming off a tough series against the Rangers. 10-6 isn’t bad, and the Tigers are tied for first place but it could be better and hopefully Max Scherzer rights his own ship tonight. Rather then doing a “two weeks and a half in review” let’s just look at some randomness.
First off, Austin Jackson leads the team in OPS (.882) out of the staters. Better then both Prince Fielder and Miguel Carbera so far, Jackson leads the team with nine walks and he has four doubles, a triple and a home run. He also leads the team with 17 strikeouts and he’s the only Tiger to have a sacrifice hit.
Seven of Jhonny Peralta’s fourteen hits have been doubles. He’s on pace for 70 doubles and no home runs. I wonder if that’ll stick.
Ryan Raburn has a .271 OPS with a .098 slugging percentage. I think he’s taking this whole “bad first half” thing a little too far.
Drew Smyly has a higher WHIP (1.375) then his ERA (1.13). His only two earned runs have come on solo home runs.
After a 3-0 count, the Tigers have 18 walks in 30 plate appearances but no hits.
Against number nine hitters, Tigers pitchers have an OPS against of .436. Against number eight hitters they have an OPS against of 1.040.
Alex Avila has just as many errors (2) as Miguel Cabrera.
In 16 games, the Tigers have used eleven different batting orders.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
I recently (last night) talked Tigers with Jay Simon on the Cadillac News’ Sports Weekly show. Be sure to check it out.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.