What an interesting few years for Jose Valverde. In 2011, he has his “perfect” season. Then last year he was good but had a late season melt down and didn’t get the job done in some high profile games. Then the Tigers gave up on him until he was still available as a minor league signee and now he’s back as the team’s closer.
I know this is 2013 but I still think the “closer” is stupid. Why you’d want to advertise to a team when and how you’ll be using a particular player seems foolish but it’s something most managers buy into these days with Jim Leyland included. I didn’t like how he handled Valverde during the melt down and now to just throw him in there again seems a little desperate. I think Valverde can be a decent reliever but only if he got his velocity back. He pitched well down in Lakeland but that’s, well, Lakeland.
And it’s not even like the pen has been the problem lately but in this one inning at a time day and age, a guy like Drew Smyly can shine in a blow out loss then get buried back into the pen until another starter has a melt down.
With that, I hope Valverde does well. I’m not totally optimistic but I’m interested in seeing him pitch. I’ll also be interested to see over at www.topbettingreviews.com if the Tigers odds of winning go up or down after this weekends tough sweep at the hands of the Angels.
My tax season hangover is about over and as usual, I had the Tigers to keep me company through some of my work. After dropping that first series to the Twins, the Tigers have looked pretty sharp and sit in sole possession of first place in the Central. Everything seems to be working except for the pen, and this shows in the Tigers +24 run differential this year.
For a while, the Tigers were at the top in batting average but closer to the middle bottom in slugging but they’ve turned that around as well. Only the Athletics have scored more runs in the AL than the Tigers and they’re one of the teams we took care of earlier in the week.
Even the bullpen has gotten their stuff together. While the Tigers didn’t address much of what happened when they got beat down by the San Francisco Giants, this team is made for the regular season. Good starting pitching and some mashing at the top of the lineup means this team should, as people expect, run away with the division.
One of the guys I was worried about was Torii Hunter. He could still come back down to earth (his BABIP is currently .481) but whatever he was doing last year to get hits is also working this year. Throw in some slightly better than average defense and you have quite an upgrade over Delmon Young from last year.
As I thought, I’m going to miss the Kentucky Derby again this year. So it stays on my bucket list for one more year. I don’t usually bet on the Kentucky Derby either but always enjoy watching it.
Next up for the Tigers are the Angels. Just one more day of late baseball because the other two games in the series are this afternoon. Hopefully this isn’t the time the Angels get their stuff together and we can get out of this west coast swing with three series wins.
The official start to the season is tomorrow with the Astros taking on the Rangers while most teams, including the Tigers, kick off on Monday or Tuesday. First up are the Twins who should finish last in the division. We’re also catching the Yankees at a good time with our Opening Day on Friday.
Rick Porcello forced his way into the rotation with a nice spring so Drew Smyly will start the season in the pen. I like working younger guys in the pen for the first couple of years of course whats funny is, Porcello is only six months younger than Smyly. I like the fact that we have some depth so I’m glad we didn’t trade Porcello and I’m hoping this is the season where he finally turns the corner.
So far, there’s been no official announcement on the team’s closer, but Bruce Rondon was sent to the Mud Hens. My thought is this won’t last and I still think he would have been better served pitching for the Tigers in a non-closer capacity (think Joel Zumaya) for the season. He’ll be with the Tigers soon enough unless something weird happens in Toledo in April.
The Tigers inked Justin Verlander to a nice extension. That’s a lot of money and long term for a pitcher but Verlander is one of the best. I think we get our money’s worth early on but after that, it’ll depend on how Verlander ages.
Taxes are my life right now and I’ll be bogged down for a couple of more weeks. I’m thinking of going down to Kentucky for some Minor League games over Memorial Day weekend so we will see if that pans. I’ve always wanted to get down there to check out the Kentucky Derby but just haven’t been able to make it work. I’ll have to check Derby betting odds before I put down any money on a horse.
Some quick predictions. Tigers win 94 and run away with the division. The Royals should finish second. The Tigers will not regret keeping Porcello because one of the Tigers 2-4 will miss some time and that pitching depth keeps them comfortably on top.
It’s a new year and a new season and while pitcher’s and catchers reported yesterday, the first real day of spring training is today. To kick things off, the Cleveland Indians made things interesting by signing Michael Bourn and while that’s a nice long term move for them, I don’t see he alone making a huge impact on the race.
This sounds a lot like my prediction from last year but the Tigers are, on paper, the best team in their division and they should win the American League Central by 15 games. They should have done the same thing last year and while they managed to make things interesting, they still made it all the way to the World Series. With that, the Tigers didn’t fix any of the weaknesses they showed when they were man handled by the Giants in the World Series. Namely coaching (we still have the sames ones) and our bullpen (which could be really good, but a lot of things have to happen).
The big story this spring (hopefully because if it changes it means someone got hurt) will be who is the closer. Bruce Rondon looks like he has the leg up because of his minor league pedigree but he comes with some risk because of his high walk rate. The 100 mph fast ball is nice, but if he’s walking the leadoff man to start a lot of games, it’s going to make those saves tougher to come by. He also had his struggles this winter in Venezuela especially against lefties.
My choice for close is Rick Porcello if they’re not going to use him in a long relief role (a nearly non-existent thing these days, i.e. a reliever who throws more than one inning). He keeps the ball down, doesn’t give up a lot of walks or home runs and he’s pretty good the first time through the lineup. Let Rondon pitch earlier in the game when we need a punch out, let’s not waster him with nobody one and nobody out in the ninth inning.
College basketball is heating up. For those of you who remember, I’m an MSU grade and I’m hoping the Spartans take care of business tonight against UM. I don’t usually bet on March Madness but I like MSU’s NCAA tournament odds. They’re probably just as good as any other team in what’s shaping up to be a weird season.
Spring training is less then a month away and unless the Tigers do something unexpected, what you see is what you get. After making it to the World Series last year, expectations are high. Most of the pieces from last years team are coming back as well as a couple of newer additions.
The rotation is set. There’s been a lot of chatter about trading Rick Porcello but I’m hoping they hold onto to him. In fact I think the Tigers should give him a shot as the teams closer. Even as a middle reliever, he provides some value because his numbers are better the first time through the lineup. The pen still worries me and that’s even if Rondon pans out.
The lineup is there and it can go in a few different directions. Best case is Victor Martinez comes back strong and Peralta and Avila bounce back. Fielder and Cabrera will be there and it’d be nice to see Austin Jackson follow up his breakout performance with a similar season.
While I’m not going to be putting a bet on Superbowl XLVII, I think the Patriots are going to win it. If I were going to make a Superbowl 2013 prop bets, I’d bet that the NFC team would win the coin flip.