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Despite My Best Intentions

I have been meaning to get around to concluding my series on why I thought the Tigers would stand pat at the trade deadline this year, and I had already covered the position players in two previous columns. But then work and annoying Yankee fans got in the way, and now I’m going to scrabble together a quick-and-dirty on the pitching staff, which I had previously hoped to do in two separate installments, the starters and the bullpen. Anyway, here we go:

Rotation (alphabetical order):

Jeremy Bonderman: Emerging ace, 22 years old, and not eligible for arbitration until Spring Training 2007. Not going anywhere.

Sean Douglass: Called up from Toledo after Wil Ledezma flamed out of the starting rotation, he’s been surprisingly effective in his starts, but I doubt he could bring us more than a fringe prospect or two… And who would replace him in the rotation as the Tigers try to roar to the front from the rear position of what seems like an ever-tighter cluster of teams in contention for the wild card?

Jason Johnson: Now, here’s a guy that could definitely be tradeable. Contract is up at the end of the year, he has learned the sinker under the tutelage of pitching coach Bob Cluck, and his opponents’ OPS is currently at 736 (for perspective, Mike Mussina is at 742 and Brad Radke is at 753). On the other hand, he may display some loyalty to the Tigers in the off-season because of Cluck and his improvement while he has been here. And then there is that thing I mentioned at the end of the Douglass paragraph, and all of the quotes in the papers coming from the team indicate we’re going for it with the crew we’ve got.

Mike Maroth: Soft-tossing lefty who does get battered around a bit (790 opponents’ OPS), but has games where he looks very Jamie Moyer-esque. Still, unless a contender is absolutely desperate for a lefty, I don’t think he’ll attract very much interest, plus he is eligible for arbitration for the first time this coming off-season, so he’ll be pretty affordable for next year. And I mention here again the desire of Tigers brass to see how far the current group can take us. Mike might be more of a trade target in the off-season than before the deadline.

Nate Robertson: It might surprise some to find that Nate’s opponents’ OPS is actually better than Bonderman’s (OK, just 704 to 705), but Nate does seem capable of dominating at times, despite the occasional one-pitch ejection appearance. And with one full year, one half-year, and a 6-game stint with the Marlins under his belt, he won’t be eligible for arbitration this coming year, but likely will be for Spring Training 2007. Though he is 28 years old, it’s probably worth it to keep him around and see if Cluck can help him to continue to improve his consistency.

Bullpen (alphabetical order):

Vic Darensbourg: Situational lefty recently called up from Toledo… But with the hideous numbers put up by Doug Creek (opponents’ OPS of 964), I have to wonder if a switch to Darensbourg earlier in the season wouldn’t have increased his trade value. One type of player that seems to be overvalued at the trade deadline is a left-handed reliever, and I think the Tigers blew it by letting Darensbourg stay down on the farm too long, thus unable to show his stuff at the big league level in time to attract some trade attention.

Craig Dingman: Also called up from Toledo not too long ago, Dingman has posted an impressive opponents’ OPS of 269 thus far, though that is only in 6 IP. He also earned an emergency save against the Twins when Kyle Farnsworth couldn’t find the plate one night. I don’t think Dingman will be garnering much attention on the trade market, but one never knows. Relievers always seem to be in short supply. Not to mention that Dingman is exactly the kind of player that could easily clear waivers and be traded some time in August.

Kyle Farnsworth: Newly minted closer since the disabling of Troy Percival, Kyle has impressed with his triple-digit fastball, which has led to an equally impressive 11.60 K/9IP and an opponents’ OPS of just 519, which would be the best season of his career if he can keep it up. Farnsworth is eligible for free agency after the season, and so far has indicated two things: (1) he likes it in Detroit, and (2) he’s going to wait it out and “see what happens” (generally this is code for seeing what he can get as a free agent on the market). Still, to trade away our current closer who is throwing lights-out… That just ain’t happening.

Franklyn German: Once thought of as a closer-of-the-future, German has suddenly been vaulted into a long relief role, as evidenced by his insertion when Robertson was ejected on the first pitch of the game down in Tampa. His big problem in the past has been the bases on balls, and at 20 in 38-1/3 innings so far, he still isn’t exactly stingy in that department, but has improved quite a bit. Let’s not forget that he likely won’t be eligible for arbitration this coming off-season, though it could be close. Again, the Dingman comments apply equally here as to his trade-ability.

Fernando Rodney: Coming back from Tommy John surgery and having spent the first half of the season resting and rehabbing in the minors, Rodney vaulted himself into the trusted “setup man” role (8th inning of a close game with the lead) with an outstanding 3-inning outing in the Nate Robertson ejection game down in Tampa. He currently has 11.17 K’s per 9 IP, but kind of average numbers otherwise (727 opponents’ OPS). Still, as to tradeability, he also will not be eligible for arbitration this upcoming off-season, and the Tigers like what they have in him, so I’d be utterly shocked if he was moved.

Chris Spurling: Everyone will want to focus on his horrible outing in Chicago that cost us a 3-game sweep of the hated White Sox, but even with that outing in his overall stats, his numbers look decent to average for a reliever (3.93 K/9IP is low, but a 772 opponents’ OPS isn’t horrible, especially considering that his one horrible outing probably is having a significant impact on that number). The Dingman and German comments on tradeability apply pretty well to Spurling, I would think.

Jamie Walker: Despite having a pretty good year (2.38 ERA, 575 opponents’ OPS, but a near-career low 5.03 K/9IP), Jamie is 34 years old. He has a very reasonable salary and is a left-handed reliever. While I believe the Tigers will hold onto him, he might fetch more than one would otherwise think he could. In a pinch, we might bring up Wil Ledezma for left-handed relief if someone bowls us over in an offer for Walker. Still, I doubt it will happen.

I have to disagree with you on Spurling. He looks awful to me. Number one, that strikeout rate is terrible considering that fact that his K/BB is 1.23:1. Number two, you can’t just take one bad outing out of his numbers. You’re saying his OPS against is good if you take out the time when his OPS against was awful. That’s how it works. I think Trammell is the one who blew that game, but still. Spurling hangs a lot of sliders. Until he starts snapping them off with more consistency, I don’t see him being useful. Dingman’s numbers in Toledo were fantastic, good enough to translate very well to the majors. He appears to be a significantly better pitcher.

Posted by Dan on July 29th, 2005 at 12:41 pm

First of all, I freely admit that this was done “quick-and-dirty”… And the focus here is trade prospects. Could Spurling draw some trade interest? Unlikely, which is what I said. But relievers always seem to be over-valued at the trade deadline, so yaneverknow.

Perhaps you’re suggesting we should be trolling for a bullpen arm ourselves?

Posted by jeff k on July 29th, 2005 at 12:51 pm

You should have said an “annoying Yankee fan.” There’s only one of me, and that’s enough.

Baseball Prospectus ran the odds of all of the teams making the playoffs. The Tigers had less then a 5% chance of bringing home the wild card, and that was before they ran into the mighty Seattle Mariners. Maybe you should think about trading us Jason Johnson.

Posted by Nick Smith on July 29th, 2005 at 3:59 pm

“Maybe you should think about trading us Jason Johnson.”

For whom? I didn’t know the Yankees had so much to offer.

Posted by Joe on July 29th, 2005 at 4:29 pm

We could always give you cash to line the pizza man’s pockets.

Right now he’s a sunk cost.

Posted by Nick Smith on July 29th, 2005 at 4:33 pm

I’m going to guess the Tigers want more than cash for a major part of their rotation.

Posted by Joe on July 30th, 2005 at 12:49 pm

Guess I called that one wrong… But I think the series against the A’s changed everything because: (1) we continued the slide that started up in Seattle; and (2) we were looking at the team that appears to be in the driver’s seat for the WC… Now I think it will be either the A’s or the Angels that takes the extra playoff spot.

Posted by jeff k on August 1st, 2005 at 12:12 am

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