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The Best Laid Plans

Last week, I promised to begin a series on Dave Dombrowski that should have continued today. Those plans were rerouted, however, with a request from another site to contribute to a series on baseball’s GMs with a column on Dombrowski, which, at Brian’s urging, I did. A lot of the analysis I had planned to pen here is now there, and I don’t think it makes sense to redo so much of it just so I can weigh in with my opinions on the 1996 Dustin Hermanson-for-Quilvio Veras trade. So it’s back to that tried-and-true blog technique: the news and notes.

  • To write those Dombrowski posts, I had to do a fair amount of research, and I was surprised at how difficult it was to find his biography and career information on the web. It was shockingly hard to get the dates of his tenure in Montreal, though I eventually found them in a WMU press release. The amount of free baseball information on the web is staggering, from the comprehensive databases at Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet to the surprisingly useful collection of trivia at Baseball Almanac and the reams of real-time data at every major and minor news site. I’ve never seen a historic listing of baseball executives, though, that compares at all to the sort of histories out there for players and managers. Even Wikipedia is uncharacteristically blank when it comes to GMs. That’s a small niche out there for someone to fill.
  • What is it with the Tigers and .500? It’s a glass ceiling they cannot crack (though they were 11-10). This year, since starting 7-10, the Tigers have reached 12-12 and 19-19 before fading back. Both of those all-out strides toward mediocrity were followed up with losing streaks (they fell to 12-16 and 20-22, respectively). A similar thing happened last year. After a hot start, the Tigers fell to .500 at 13-13 and got back there again at 19-19. After that, every time they’d get close, they’d fall into a losing streak. Back to 31-34? Lose five straight. Back to 37-39? Lose five straight again. Back to 50-54? Lose seven of eight. It’s as if so much energy is expended getting to .500 that the Tigers immediately dig themselves a hole. Or maybe this is just part of behing a bad-but-not-awful team.
  • Carlos Guillen has been tremendous, obviously, but he’s emblematic of a problem the Tigers cannot escape: their best players are their most fragile. Things could get ugly in a hurry if Guilen or Pudge goes down, or Magglio doesn’t make it back. Just part of the price to pay for a 119-loss season and the perception — hopefully eroding now — that Detroit is a bad place to play.
  • Guillen’s batting average stands at .375, within a rounding error of league leader Brian Roberts. Guillen, however, whose power may be sapped by his lingering injuries, has only 12 RBIs, putting him on pace for 46. That would be the lowest total for an AL batting champion since 1982, when Willie Wilson had a similarly anemic run-producing year, despite hitting .332 with 15 triples. 46 RBIs, in fact, was right about average for a full, great season for Wilson, meaning the Royals must have had some real bums batting eighth and ninth. Guillen is also on pace for only 8 HRs — but that would only be the lowest for an AL batting champ since Ichiro, last year.
  • I never thought I’d say this — his career high in OBP before last year was .265, after all — but I believe that Brandon Inge has become a real major-league hitter, and it gladdens my heart. Inge is fourth in the AL in walks, almost doubling his rate from last year’s career year. If he can hold on to most of that improvement, he’ll be an asset to the Tigers at the top of the lineup for a long time. I am not, however, a believer in Nook Logan. He never hit in the minors, and has fallen off of late. Trammell needs to make sure Logan stays at the bottom of the lineup or on the bench, and that he only sees duty as as a pinch runner and replacement starter once Ordonez comes back.

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