Friday, November 17, 2006

Gary Sheffield to Wear Number 3

For the first time since Alan Trammell retired there will be a player that wears #3 for the Detroit Tigers.

I have no problems with this but I guess I have less connection to the number on the jersey than others.

Jamie Walker

It seems that success has its cost. Jamie Walker signing a 3 year 11.5 million dollar deal with the Baltimore Orioles marks the first free agent loss the Tigers actually will miss in quite a while.

He performed well while here and was likely underappreciated by the fans. However 3 years and 11.5 million is too much to pledge to a reliever that will not be used much in high leverage situations with Jones, Rodney, and Zumaya on the team.

Look for Ledezma to have a greater role in the pen next season and perhaps someone like Hamman getting a shot.

The Tigers will be receiving a pick between the first and second rounds as compensation for losing Jamie to the Orioles. Given the fact that the drafting has become much better in this organization recently that is definitely a good thing.

Either way I am personally going to miss Jamie. He was a quote machine while here and seemed to really enjoy baseball. I wish him nothing but success. Hopefully the Tigers are able to replace his production.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tigers Re-sign Sean Casey

I am not sure on the terms at this point. This was far from the ideal solution to the 1B situation but I knew there would be problems going into this off-season with no real options available in the free agent market.

The Tigers will just have to run him out there next season and hope beyond hope that his decline goes on a holding pattern for a season and he is able to stay healthy.

This isn't a move that keeps the Tigers out of the playoffs but it is a move that puts more pressure on Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Gary Sheffield to stay healthy.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Gary Sheffield: What Does It Mean for the Lineup?

Before starting into impact of Gary Sheffield on the Detroit Tigers current lineup I thought I would analyze the trade as a whole. First of all Sheff is often quoted as having a really bad attitude, and it showed up when he made his exit from New York. Just like almost every other location Gary whined his way right on the way out. Including throwing former Bobby Abreu under the bus by calling himself a superior player. Whether he is a better hitter is up for debate, but what isn't up for debate is the fact that Sheffield is an amazing hitter. The other question is whether Sheffield is fully recovered from his wrist injury and will be back to his powerful line drive ways. I trust that management has looked into that situation enough to know whether Sheffield will be able to get back to his .290/.370/.500 ways.

As for what the Tigers gave up. Typically you are not going to get something as good as Sheffield even at the age of 38 without giving something up and I think that the trade market for Sheffield was likely to start heating up soon.

Humberto Sanchez - I wrote about him on this blog before. I really feel that he found his stride this year while on the mound but the question has once again moved to can he stay on the mound? He has never made it through a full season healthy. You look at his past and he has a ton of talent with a lot of question marks. The Tigers likely saw him as a future reliever with the young starters they have and the young ones that they had on the way. Personally I had him rated as the 3rd best pitcher in the system behind LHP Andrew Miller and RHP Jair Jurrjens.

Kevin Whelan - He was as good as a single A relief prospect can be, but still that is a single A relief prospect. Relatively new to pitching he has a 92-94 MPH fastball with okay life and a very good splitter. He had some issues with control this season and I had him as the 9th best prospect in the system.

Anthony Claggett - Another single A reliever. Very good stuff but still a risk.

Basically what I see from this package is quality but risky quality. The Tigers gave up quite a bit but at the same time if they were going to trade some of their top prospects these were the ones that I would deal.

On to the main part of this column; what will be the effect of Sheffield on this lineup? I have him penciled in as the Tigers cleanup hitter with Magglio moving to 5. I really think that a 3-4-5 of Guillen-Sheffield-Ordonez is the way to go. Its not White Sox quality but it is way up there and is a huge improvement over the Casey-Ordonez-Guillen that the Tigers ended the season with.

So using the lineup analysis from we can see what the theoretical run total for the Tigers will be next season.

A couple of assumptions to make this study more about what sort of impact a bat like Sheffield has on a lineup. First I will use the Tigers stat lines from last season. Second I will put Sheffield at a line of .290/.370/.500. (I will use Casey for this study even though I want him out of there and I will use his full season stats)

The following lineup and stat line (obp/slg) was used:

1. Granderson CF (0.335/0.438)
2. Polanco 2B (0.329/0.364)
3. Guillen SS (0.400/0.519)
4. Sheffield DH (0.370/0.500)
5. Ordonez RF (0.350/0.477)
6. Rodriguez C (0.332/0.437)
7. Monroe LF (0.310/0.482)
8. Casey/Shelton 1B (0.322/0.432)
9. Inge 3B (0.313/0.463)

Its going to be interesting to see if the Tigers upgrade from Casey at 1B.

If we assume that those were the production levels for each of the positions (I think 1B might have been a tad bit higher). That is the lineup that minus Sheffield produced 822 runs last season with a runs per game of 5.074. With Sheffield in the lineup you get a production of 843.5 runs and a runs per game of 5.207.

The ultimate lineup (according to the site used) for these stats lines is as follows:

First Base

So adding Sheffield to the lineup from last season is a gain of around 21 runs. IF the pitching stayed steady (675 runs allowed) you can use the Pythagrean Theorem to estimate a record of 97-65.

Beyond the pure numbers I think that this is a good move to take pressure off of Magglio Ordonez who seems to enjoy flying under the radar. All in all its a good fit for a team that needed an upgrade offensively.

Now they just need to find one more batter with a decent obp and hope that some of the batters improve on last season.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Trade Analysis of Casey to the Tigers

Well as most know by now the Tigers have made a move for Sean Casey. He was previously the first baseman of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Chris Shelton was demoted to make room and the Tigers traded away AA reliever Brian Rogers. I like Brian but this wasn't a bad move for the Tigers. A 24 year old right handed reliever in AA ball with a fastball in the mid to upper 80's has little value in terms of being a big prospect for a future club.

As for the move and what it does for the team. It gives the Tigers a chance to demote the struggling Chris Shelton, who really has struggled since his red hot April. To analyze the gains for the offense completely I thought I would look at Casey's numbers this year versus Shelton after April.

Shelton after April put up the following line: 0.259/0.322/.370
Casey for the season has put up numbers similar to his career line although his slugging has dropped off : .296/.377/.408

So basically the Tigers are looking at a 55 point gain in OBP and a 38 point gain in SLG. To think about what this means for the club in more detail as far as gains in run.

I am going to assume for now that they are going to slide Casey into the 8 slot where Shelton had been batting. Using the same Lineup Analysis as I did with the Abreu move I will look at the following lineup with their current numbers plugged in and check the difference between the lineup before the trade and now:

1. Granderson
2. Polanco
3. Rodriguez
4. Ordonez
5. Guillen
6. Young
7. Monroe
8. Casey
9. Inge

Before the move the offense is analyzed with post April Shelton put up and 2005 Young numbers (.325/.471), since I believe that the split of Young/Thames will be around that. The rest of the lineup is done using the current numbers of the players, while we all know that the players get hot and cold, which will skew the numbers; I felt that it was fair for this comparison to use the same numbers for both. The offense puts up 5.104 runs per game. With Casey placed into the lineup the Tigers then see an increase to 5.201 runs per game.

Basically over the last 57 games that is a gain of around 5.5 runs. Really a minimal trade off. Of course Shelton seemed to be regressing further post all star break with a .310/.302 line.

Overall I think the move is a good one for the team in general given the fact that they gave up very little to take a risk that Casey will stay healthy (a huge question mark with him) and that Shelton will refind his swing in Toledo just in time to come back for a final push.

I think this is a decent move. Nothing to complain about and nothing to really get excited about.

As for long term I would offer Casey arbitration and hope he turns it down. I believe he will be the type of free agent that the Tigers could get arbitration from. Of course there is a risk he accepts the offer.

Other than that this is a strict rental pickup.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tim McCarver is an Idiot... or Maybe Not

For my High School English Class, I had to write a journal at the end of every quarter. Essentially it was a way to express thoughts and boost grades from the harshly graded essays and exams. The problem was that I had forgotten about the journal and essentially put it off until the last minute. Luckily, this was around the time of the World Series, and a great source of untruths was blabbing on the air. To fill up my ten pages of thoughts, I wrote down Tim McCarver quotes while watching the Angels knock off the Giants and commented on their lunacy. I figure doing that tonight would be good way to spend what would be an otherwise boring, meaningless three hours.

I'll be updating this periodically through the night, documenting Tim McCarverisms that arise through this game that apparently counts.

There really wasn't anything from McCarver in the top of the first, but Brad Penny was pretty impressive. That Paul DePodesta was certainly fleeced for getting him for Paul LoDuca.

* Not an exact quote, because it would be impossible, but the delivery of the rant about New York teams with 3 players with 20 homeruns at the All Star Break was purely Bushtacular.
* "Vladimir saw his Anaheim Angels... ... ... move within three games..." Again, a Bush-esque pause, but nothing inherently idiotic.
* Again, not McCarver, but this "Heads and Shoulders" stuff needs to go the way of Scooter. Honestly, who thinks that belongs in a baseball game?
* "White Sox fans out there are wondering why they let Magglio Ordonez go, but it was because they signed Jermaine Dye, who has been one of the most proficient hitters this year." Tim has improved to the point where I have to call him out on this one. Magglio was let go because of injury concerns and the desire for a long term deal. Dye was not nearly as good as he is now at the time he was signed. 2.5 innings in, and there really hasn't been much ammo here...

Monday, July 10, 2006

What to Make of Minor League Baseball's First Half

This is going to be a short post but I thought I would check in. I have been taking care of some family issues at home of late and could not think of anything much to write.

So I thought I would post some thoughts from the first half of the Tigers farming....

  • Cameron Maybin is really good. Most thought it was possible that he would eventually be very good. However I don't think I am alone in being at least somewhat surprised by how good he has been early on. There are things to work on and he also hasn't shown the HR power just yet. But HR power is supposed to be the last part of a players game to develop. I had a chance to watch him for the first time in the futures game. And he is lightning quick down the line. He is what I envision when someone says 5 tool prospect

  • The hitting in general beyond that is weak. Larish is the only other hitter that I have any confidence in and he isn't taking out the FSL like an advanced prospect really should. There is hope for him but he needs to improve parts of his game including his contact rate.

  • Humberto Sanchez is good. For anyone that saw him in the Futures Game you could see why he is doing so well. He can throw his pitches for strikes and keeps the ball on the ground. He is a special prospect if he stays healthy. I think that he could get out MLB hitters right now. He could be a big part of the stretch drive as trade bait, a spot starter, or help in the bullpen.

  • Jair Jurrjens is good too. He is only 20 in AA ball and has been pretty good there as well. He has plenty of room to grow and add velocity. He throws a fastball in the low 90's and has a total of 4 pitches that are average to above average that he controls in the zone. Overall he is a good prospect.

There are certainly other players worth mention such as Ramon Garcia, Jordan Tata, and others. However I don't have that much time.

The Tigers first half is over. The MLB team is really rolling. Pitching will be the key again in the second half and it will be interesting to see if it can hold up. I am guessing that they make some sort of move at the break to pick up a hitter but I am not sure who or what they will get. At that point I will analyze the impact much like the Abreu thread. Perhaps I will analyze some of the rumored pickups.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Future of the AL Central

Major League Baseball's proverbial door-mat since its creation in 1994, the American League Central (the only division in baseball never to produce a Wild Card) suddenly has suddenly risen to the top of baseball, behind the sudden dominance of our beloved Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. Even the "struggling" Twins are firmly above the .500 mark this season.

While the state of the division is strong, the future of the division remains even stronger. The Tigers are loaded with pitching with youngsters like Verlander, Bonderman, Zumaya with Sanchez and Miller likely waiting in the wings. The White Sox have core talent that is not particularly old, and a lack of burdensome contracts that will give the improved Ken Williams flexibility in the offseasons to come. The Twins already have arguably the top two lefthanded pitchers in the game in Santana and Liriano and Matt Garza waiting in the wings. With youngsters like Morneau and Mauer already anchoring that team, they are not likely to go away any time soon. The Indians have the makings of a young team, and the Royals themselves have some star young talent.

The question is, which team is best poised for dominance in the coming years? This is a tough question that I don't have an answer to. I'd like to see what some readers think.

This is more than likely going to be baseball's best division for years to come, which will make any success the Tigers have all the more rewarding.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Farmers of the Day (July 4, 2006)

Three players are going to be recognized in our first Farmers of the Day segment.

Ryan Raburn (2B, Toledo) went 2/3 with a 3-run homerun, a double, and a walk. It's always big news when Raburn plays secondbase and does not commit an error. No matter how bad a fielder this guy is, he is going to force his way onto the roster at some point if he hits the way he has been, especially with the way Craig Monroe has been playing.

David Espinosa (LF, Toledo) went 2/4, also with a double, homer, and a walk. This guy has done the reverse this year, as he normally starts off red hot before cooling off at the end of the year. Now hitting .281/.364/.510, Espinosa has re-established himself as a prospect. Like Raburn, there are severe defensive issues in play. Both Raburn and Espinosa are due to be minor league free agents this upcoming offseason. That can be avoided by adding them to the 40-man roster, something that could be made possible by the struggles of "prospects" in Erie and Lakeland.

The third and final Farmer of the Day is the top prospect in the system, Cameron Maybin. Maybin went 3/4, hitting his third homerun of the season. They say that homerun power is the last to come around. If that is the case and some of Maybin's doubles and triples turn into homeruns, watch out. Cameron has hit .309/.405/.470 this year, walking plenty, and even stealing 13/15 to boot. The strikeouts (63 in 181 AB) are up, but that is to be expected from an 18 year old facing professional pitchers for the first time. It's going to be fun to watch this kid develop.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Chris Shelton: Night and Day

Chris Shelton has been among the biggest enigmas in baseball this year. After electrifying the baseball world with his amazing April, he cooled off considerably, almost to the point where a trip to Toledo would have been the ticket to straightening him out. While he seemed to figure some things out offensively this past weekend, his defense seemed to elude him, making three errors and cutting off a ball when there was a clear play at the plate.

The ridiculousnes of plays like the cutoff not being an error aside, Chris has some interesting splits when you take a look at them. As his career is starting to reach the point where you can come to conclusions about his splits, Chris Shelton is clearly hits better in day games.

82 248 44 83 16 0 17 38 24 60 0 0 .335 .398 .605 1.003
132 465 62 120 19 6 18 63 45 122 0 1 .258 .328 .441 .769

Those numbers speak for themselves, as Chris Shelton clearly hits much better during day games than he does at night. This is something for Jim Leyland to keep in mind the next time he wants to give Pudge a break and play him at first base: do it at night.

Justin Verlander is on the last player ballot, a remarkable achievement for a Tigers rookie. Being scheduled to make his final start before the All Star Break tommorow, it appears as if Verlander is going to get significant rest the next couple of weeks regardless of if he pitches an inning on national television. Please, stop being irrational and go out and vote for him. The only thing worse than the inevitable Tim McCarver crediting the team's success to veteran leaders Pudge Rodriguez (fifth best position player) and Kenny Rogers (fourth best pitcher) is the sad fact that American baseball fans will believe every word. What is the harm in having a real Tiger pitching in this so-called Midsummer Classic?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Catcher of the Future?

Ivan Rodriguez is not getting any younger, and his numbers are slowly starting to show it. Sometime in the next couple of years, the Tigers are going to have to find a new catcher. Will they be able to plug somebody in from the farm without missing a beat or will the free agent markets have to be ventured into?

At the Major League level, Ivan Rodriguez is still regarded as one of the best in the league, despite youngsters like Victor Martinez, Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, and to a lesser extent Russ Martin and Mike Napoli passing him over. Regardless, Pudge is far from a hole in the lineup or in the field yet. Signed through next season, the Tigers will have to make a decision on their Hall of Fame catcher. 2008 holds a $13 million option, with a $3 million buyout. As long as Pudge hasn't gone Dmitri Young on us, fans would go berzerk if he is not signed to a long term extension: a long term extension that is not a good idea. We are talking about a guy who at any moment could lose his remaining skills, and it would be a huge mistake to be on the hook for several years. As we have seen with guys like Todd Jones and Jeff Weaver this year, the bigger cost of signing bad players to big contracts is not the money, but the fact that they get far too many chances to justify the contract, regardless of how bad they play. Such a problem could arise if the Tigers opt to sign Rodriguez to a long term deal.

As for the option, a lot depends on which direction Pudge goes the next couple of years. If he stays about where he is (as PECOTA suggests he should), another year would not be a bad decision. If he declines even more next year, it may be time to look someplace else.

The most natural player that people will look at is Vance Wilson. Unfortunately, Vance is also getting up there in age. There is a good chance, at age 33, this is his last productive season. It would probably be wise to let Wilson go after the season and take a shot at a younger backup whose stock will be rising as Pudge needs more and more time off.

Next time around, I will take a look at possible free agents out there as well as a look down on the farm among Tigers catchers.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Random Thoughts

Nothing substantial from me today, as I continue to work on ranking prospects. An organizational overview of catchers should be expected at some point over the long weekend.

Nook Logan was demoted to Erie today, as the organizational 180 on Nook finally reached degrees 150 through 180. Once regarded as the centerfielder of the future, the question is not why was he demoted today (the pathetic .185/.284/.246 Toledo line speaks for itself). Instead, the question is why Nook Logan was allowed to get through AA in the first place. Having never offensively conquered a level at any point in his ascent to the Big Leagues, Logan fooled the people in charge by displaying amazing speed. Unfortunately for Nook, the team has a new-found eye for talent and realized that players like Curtis Granderson and Marcus Thames help a team win games more than a player like Nook Logan. Just imagine if he were given the centerfield job out of the spring, or given the fourth outfielder spot forcing Thames to waivers.

54-25 after sweeping both of last year's NLCS teams?!?! I'm still waiting to wake up from this. This has been some sort of dream. Raise your hand if you thought before the season that Nate Robertson would not only out-duel Roger Clemens, but that it would be expected.

The difference between newly signed minor league free agent Dustan Mohr and Craig Monroe is smaller than you would think.

And finally, a get well to Peter Gammons: the rare mainstream baseball columnist who has both writing ability and baseball knowledge, and isn't afraid to share it. Believe me, the baseball world would not have been in the state of shock it was yesterday if the same news came out about Mike Lupica or Jay Mariotti, who would undoubtedly blame the condition on Barry Bonds's alleged steroid use.

Monday, June 26, 2006


With trade talks heating up about Bobby Abreu I thought I would step back and look at what Abreu would bring to the Tigers.

First he would be a left handed power bat that the team in some ways lacks. While I think this problem is lessened by the emergence of Granderson as a good all around hitter. It still is there, given that it is Guillen and Granderson batting left in the everyday lineup.

Second he would bring patience to a team that lacks that. Abreu would have the highest OBP on the team at .450 and would significantly raise the ability of this team to work the count.

Third he would get Craig Monroe out of the everyday lineup. I like Craig. He seems like a nice person but he simply is not getting it done this season.

Lets look at the likely lineup with Abreu in the order:

1. Granderson
2. Abreu
3. Rodriguez
4. Ordonez
5. Guillen
6. Thames
7. Inge
8. Shelton
9. Polanco

They might be able to convince Rodriguez or Ordonez to move down in the order. Perhaps Leyland would Abreu at 5.

Lets look at the difference in runs produced. (Assumption that Thames will level off at the .340/.510 level OBP/SLG, I also put Polanco at his career numbers because I think that his start was due to injury .344/.410)

According to lineup analysis (Baseball Musings Lineup Analysis Based on work by Cyril Morong and Ken Arneson) the current lineup without Abreu will produce 5.378 runs per game.

So lets plug the likely lineup with Abreu included, which would be 5.936 runs per game. While the gain seems insignificant at first glance, the difference is actually around 45.198 runs over the second half of the season. That would likely be worth a few extra wins.

BTW according to the site the best lineup would be:

1) Abreu
2) Ordonez
3) Guillen
4) Thames
5) Granderson
6) Inge
7) Shelton
8) Rodriguez
9) Polanco

Which would raise more than a few eyebrows but according to the site that lineup would score 6.022 runs per game.

All of this to say that picking up Abreu would help this year. I personally believe that Abreu has the type of skill (great patience) to be productive throughout the rest of his contract. Perhaps not up to 16 million dollars worth but that is another debate altogether.

So depending on the cost to trade for him it would be a good move to make. I am not sure if they will need to deal Sanchez for him but if you believe that Abreu would be enough to push the team over the top then it probably would be.

BTW the lineup analysis site is:

Sunday, June 25, 2006

How to turn current success into long term success

This team is now 51-25 with a sweep of the Cardinals just finished up. There is a different feel to this team than any team I have followed in my 24 years. There are statisitical ways to explain the Tigers success which starts and ends with the ability of the pitching staff and defense to prevent runs.

So the question is how to turn short term success into long term success. This is a tough part of any GM's job. Who do you pick up and who do you trade away? What prospects are a part of the future as players? Which are a part of the future as trade chips?

There are several different ways to build/keep a team going:

1. Draft/Develop-

The Tigers for several years went through a dry spell of developing top notch talent. The system is far from perfect or deep but there is some hope at long term success especially in the pitching staff.

The following are the players the Tigers have acquired in the draft or through Latin America:

Fernando Rodney, Omar Infante, Brandon Inge, Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, and Curtis Granderson.

2. Trades-

This is where DD has really excelled at times. Sometimes he has done a poor job but most of the poor moves have been minor deals.

They have aquired Carlos Guillen, Jeremy Bonderman, Placido Polanco, Zach Miner, Roman Colon, and Vance Wilson in this way.

3. Minor League Free Agents/Rule V draft-

One of the most underrated portions of the team building process is players that you give a shot for little or no risk. These players come via the Rule V draft and via Minor League Free Agency. This is really a spot the Tigers have done some things that help out.

Wilfredo Ledezma, Marcus Thames, Craig Monroe, and Chris Shelton are some names acquired in this way.

4. Major Free Agents-

Really in many ways this is the most costly and risky portions of team building. Many times the players signed are older and/or have injury risks. The Tigers have taken two very large risks that at this point are paying off.

Magglio Ordonez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Todd Jones were picked up this way. As well as failed experiments with Fernando Vina and Troy Percival.

It is questionable if Jones has been a success. The jury is still out on whether Ivan and Magglio will be valuable throughout the length of the contract but they are just fine right now.

Team building can take all of these forms. Long term team building takes good development and the right young players.

So what is the answer for this team when it comes to building long term success.

In all honesty from the current team here is how I think it stacks up as far as long term building block players:

CF - Granderson
SP - Bonderman
SP - Verlander
SP/RP - Zumaya
SS - Infante

Now the only surprise to some will be Infante being on that list. But looking over his stats and his ability in the field I think that the Tigers will give him a shot at starting SS when Guillen's contract runs out. Miner is a possibility on the current roster. As is Ledezma. If both survive the trading deadline I think that they could be a part of the long term.

So several holes will have to be filled long term. Ordonez is going to be around so he probably takes the DH role in his later years and will probably be a bit of an albatross toward the last 2 seasons of his contract.

Luck is going to play a big portion of the success. At this point I have hope for the following players as impact ones. This list can shrink and grow depending on trades and bumps in the road development wise:

SP - Sanchez
SP - Miller (if signed)
SP - Jurrjens
LF/RF - Maybin
1B - Larish

There is a sharp dropoff after these prospects.

As can be seen much of the teams hope is pinned on pitching. That is good in someways bad in others. There is so much that can go wrong with pitchers. Looking at the current building blocks and the prospects you have 6 out of 10 as pitchers. It is good to have depth in pitching if you are going to build around it to protect against TINSTAPP.

So as this team goes along it is likely they will have to continue to use trades and free agency to fill holes. Hopefully they won't have to overpay for free agents with years and money after this season.

Getting there is one thing and staying there is another. Lets hope that they stay there. I trust DD to be able to do it.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


We can talk all day long about the tactical decisions made by Jim Leyland. Most have good (Thames and Granderson over Logan), but some (Todd Jones still closer?) bad. One thing this team has, as shown by tonight's ninth inning is confidence, something clearly brought in by Leyland and his coaching staff.

How often does a team face one of the top teams in the league down by two, but still feel confident that the game will be at least tied at the end of that inning? You could just feel it coming, and Marcus Thames delivered in a big way. This is undoubtedly a direct result of Jim Leyland's ability to get the best out of his players, and give them confidence even when the team is down. Whereas last year, when the team was losing, they undoubtedly had to deal with the wrath of renouned jerks Kirk Gibson and Juan Samuel, the team now goes by one slogan: "Nine innings." A tear came to my eye when Magglio Ordonez doubled, now the next several minutes will find out if this will be a victory.

Curtis Granderson just reached base the fifth time this game. It's a shame he's not a sparkplug like Juan Pierre.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Humberto Sanchez and Cameron Maybin named to the futures team

The futures game is a great chance to see prospects on national television. It will probably be broadcasted on ESPN2 and Peter Gammons is likely to be one of the main commentators. He typically has an idea of what teams think of prospects and is one of the few national reporters that really seems to enjoy learning about the rising talent.

I am sure that they will have a ton of good things to say about both of these guys and I am sure that both will get at least some playing time (barring Sanchez being on the Tigers roster on July 9th).

Anyway I would tune in to watch the Tigers two best prospects. Just like last season when it was Joel Zumaya and Justin Verlander flashing their talents.

It feels good to have legit prospects to send unlike when the Tigers had players like Preston Larrison in the game.
The Lack of Hitters in the Tigers System

To this point most Tigers fans on the web know about Cameron Maybin and the start to his professional career. Quite a few people probably know about Jeff Larish. I wrote about him on this blog. While Larish still has question markers to his game, such as a hole in his swing. He is still the second best hitting prospect in the minor leagues.

After Larish there is a heavy dropoff to the next position prospect. Most of them are fringe major leaguers with little chance of actually impacting a team. You have players like Chris Robinson, Jeff Frazier, Clete Thomas, Kody Kirkland, etc. littering the Tigers systems posing as hitters.

The one that there is some hope for is Clevlen since he is young and has talent that several have recognized. Clevlen faces a fall into oblivion as well if he continues to struggle so badly in AA.

So the question becomes why is the system so bad?

First a few of the position prospects in general seem to have terrible pitch recognition.

Kirkland 10 BB : 91 K : 248 AB
Frazier 15 BB : 55 K : 268 AB
Robinson 17 BB : 46 K : 178 AB
Clete Thomas 31 BB : 83 K : 252 AB

Clete isn't doing that bad with the 31 bb however the rest of them are absolutely pathetic. This shows a lack of control over the strikezone and since BB:K can typically predict future success it is obvious these guys are overmatched at their level.

Second the drafts are filled with fodder.

I like the fact that the Tigers take chances on tough signs in the first round. The problem si that they take 0 risks in the latter rounds. Take a few boom or bust picks. There are ways to mix and match much better than they have in the past. This draft was okay but it left something to be desired when they went reaching for players with lower projectability but more likely to reach that potential like Borquin.

The Tigers don't seem to have a clear direction at times with the position prospects.

Third the Tigers are not progressive enough in their promotions. If you are going to fill up the minors with older players like Hollimon you need to push those players to see what you have. What good does it do Hollimon to stay at A- West Michigan when all he has in front of him are Dlugach and Giarratano? Dlugach is terrible at pretty much everything when compared with his peers and Giarratano is pretty much just a UTL waiting to happen.

Yet the Tigers like to leave players at the same level the entire year. Hollimon is not setting the world on fire in WM. But the organization has no idea what it has if you are a 24 years old playing in the Midwest League.

The Tigers have litttle power in the system. They have failed to really get big time hitters out of Latin America. They have failed on average with the draft.

It is a good thing that this organization knows how to find and develop pitching talent or else the future might look bleak despite the hot start.

Perhaps there is hope with the new draft class. This class had college hitters that have more tools than the typical Tigers pick. I am not holding my breath on any of them but they might turn out.

The number of fringe position prospects in the system is tough to look at especially with the amount of older players that the Tigers are counting on in their current everyday lineup.

I am a big believer that things can turn around in a hurry. So perhaps that will happen here. It needs to come from the draft. Which it could but that won't be known for a while.

Good thing Ilitch doesn't mind spending money.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Minors Rendezvous: Toledo's Starting Pitchers
Colby Lewis

Age: 26
Acquired: Waivers, Texas, 10/04
Major League Service Time: 3.08 years
One option remaining, not on the 40 man roster
Originally Drafted: Texas, 1st round, 1999

Once the top pitching prospect in Texas's farm system, Colby Lewis is the poster boy for TINSTAAPP. Drafted out of junior college, Lewis made it through the Texas system fairly quickly, making the big leagues in 2002, at the tender age of 22. Once there, his control suddenly left him, walking 109 in 176.2 innings during his time in the Big Leagues. That time was cut short early in 2004, when he first started having shoulder problems. After having surgery on his rotator cuff, the Rangers thought they could slip him through waivers at the conclusion of the 2004 season. They thought wrong, though, as Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers were quick to pick up this young arm with so much potential. While it was thought that Lewis may have been able to contribute last year, numerous setbacks stood in his way, including another surgery on his right shoulder. When all was said and done, 2005 was another wasted year, and being arbitration eligible after the season, the Tigers removed him from the 40 man roster and were able to re-sign him to a minor league deal.

So far, the second year of the Colby Lewis Era has been nothing but a pleasant surprise. Anytime you are dealing with a pitcher following problems in his throwing shoulder, any production is a big plus. Posting a 2.99 ERA in Toledo this year with just 21 walks in his 81.1 innings, Lewis has done well. If he can re-establish that low-mid 90's moving fastball with the breaking ball, Colby Lewis will probably stick around on a big league club, provided that he can work out issues he was having with command before the injuries. The results in Toledo suggest that he has come a long way. There is a chance it could be the Tigers who give him his shot, as he has one option year remaining, meaning that he can be added to the roster in September to help out in the bullpen, and then can be moved between Toledo and Detroit as needed next year. That seems like the probable scenario, given the team's scouts' love of this guys talent. Considering that Mark Woodyard, who is older with less upside, is being stashed on the 40 man roster, there will certainly be room for an arm that is only going to get better as he enters his peak years.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Just how good is Humberto Sanchez?

Humberto Sanchez has been on a tear for a while and has reached the point where he is now the best pitching prospect for the Tigers. He has always had this type of potential but injuries and inconsistencies have caused him to have several subpar years for the Tigers since being one of their only premier draft and follow signees in a long time.

So now the question that Tigers fans and fans of minor leaguers in general is just how good is this guy and how good can he be?

Sanchez features a sinker that ranges from 92-94 with extreme bite that creates a lot of ground balls as well as swings and misses. His offspeed repetoire includes a good but inconsistent curve ball and an improving change up.

All of that had scouts drooling but Sanchez as his minor league numbers show struggled with control and that bit him with high numbers all around.

Before this season his minor league numbers were:

4.73 ERA 331.0 ip 321 h 203 r 174 era 24 HR 183 BB 317 K 29 WP 4.98 BB9 8.62 K9 1.52 WHIP

Yet with all of those issues the potential is even seen in these numbers. A high K9, fewer hits given up than innings pitched, and a sinker that did a pretty good job of keeping the ball in the yard. Lack of control really killed him and this was likely caused by a delivery that he was unable to repeat.

This season Sanchez has had the breakout year that everyone has been waiting on. His potential has come to fruitition dominating the Arizona Fall League and dominating in his return to the AA Eastern League. He has had two starts in AAA and has kept up his blazing stuff blowing away International hitters. He is now knocking on the door of the big club.

AA Erie:

1.76 ERA 71.2 ip 47 h 17 R 14 ER 2 HR 27 bb 86 K

AAA Toledo:

0.71 ERA 12.2 IP 9 H 1 R 1 ER 0 HR 3 BB 12 K

As is visable from these numbers Humberto has continued to keep the ball in the yard BUT has thrown more strikes and has in turn dominated hitters. That improved control has also lowered the rate of hits given up. Likely due to the fact that he has been in great pitchers counts this season. Sanchez is now sitting at a 10.58 K/9ip with a 3.24 BB/9ip between AA and AAA. That is a good sign of things to come as K/BB is often a great indicator of future success.

So what does the future hold for Sanchez? The sky is really the limit. With his stuff and with him seemingly figuring it all out this season he could become an anchor on a pitching staff in the majors. Sanchez could also become a dominating bullpen arm, at this point though it seems he should get every shot at starting. There is a chance that Sanchez will be used as trade bait to help push the current club over the top. Part of me doubts that move given the fact that Dombrowski and the Tigers love power arms and Sanchez certainly fits the bill since a 92-94 mph sinker is almost unfair.
Minors Rendezvous: Toledo's Starting Pitchers
Chad Durbin

This will be a recurring segment, where an in depth look at each position and team is taken. The first time through, some basic background information on each player will be given with a bit of analysis. During the next trip, an update of players and maybe a segment on one that catches my eye. The first segment will take us to Toledo's starting pitchers, starting with Chad Durbin.

Chad Durbin
Age: 28
Acquired: Minor League Free Agent, 12/05
Major League Service Time: 2.23 years
No options remaining, not on the 40 man roster
Originally Drafted: Kansas City, 3rd Round

Once a shiny star in the Royals system, Durbin really slipped into oblivion in recent years. He spent almost the full season in 2001 with the Royals with mixed results. Ending up with a 4.93 ERA in 179 big league innings. Combined with his 27 innings in AAA Omaha, and Durbin pitched 206 stressful innings as a 23 year old. Whereas the Royals were expecting him to take the next step forward, Durbin predictably ran into elbow problems early in 2002. After spending much of the year on the DL trying to rehab those problems, he went under the knife for Tommy John Surgery in September of that year. Signing as a minor league free agent with Cleveland in 2003, Durbin spent much of his time rehabbing from his surgery before finally getting a cup of coffee with Cleveland. In his first start back he was beaten by the Tigers, one of the 43 times that happened. Cleveland kept him around in 2004, where he became sort of a 6th starter and spent the year between Toledo and Buffalo. After being claimed on waivers by Arizona and spending some time eating innings in September of '04, Durbin spent last year in Washington's system as primarily a starter struggling the whole time.

Chad Durbin has been a bit of a surprise this year, having not posted a good season since before his surgery. There may be a touch of legitimacy here, as the four-pitch pitcher may be recapturing his stuff that made him a top prospect in his younger days. The most obvious recent comparison from a role standpoint would have to be Jason Grilli, who paid his dues in Toledo's rotation last year after recovering from serious arm issues. I would not at all be shocked to see Durbin in Detroit's bullpen by the time September comes around, taking care of some garbage innings as the team is hunting for a playoff spot while also auditioning for a role with the 2007 team. In the meantime, being the staff veteran, if there comes a time where a roster crunch should occur and there are too many starters in Toledo, Durbin should be the one squeezed to the pen. Nothing against the way he has pitched this year, it's just that being a reliever is going to be the way he is likely to ever make the Tigers. Chances are, though, Chad will become a free agent at season's end, and try to latch onto a team short of pitching looking for a chance to break through.

It is fun to pile on the Royals, but here is another chance. Here we have a 23 year old pitcher, pitching 200+ meaningless innings in 2001, many of those innings involved massive pitch counts. While elbow injuries usually aren't an indictment of overuse, this still cannot be a good thing. Making matters worse, Durbin first started having problems with his elbow in April, and did not have surgery until September, only to have the team non-tender him in December. That just seems like a complete lack of planning to me, with an arm that was supposed to be a potential cornerstone. Even with hindsight supporting the move, this just shows a complete lack of planning to me. While the actual mixed signals and questionable decision showed a severe lack of a plan, it took four organizations for Durbin to actually start to have success. There is finally light at the end of this man's career: a chance to get back to where he once was headed. The only thing standing in his way is the most effective pitching staff in the Majors.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Random Thoughts

  • Congratulations to Jim Leyland for acknowledging that you can use relievers for more than an inning. Could you imagine if Fernando Rodney had been pulled for Todd Jones in the 10th after just one inning? Yes, we probably will not have the services of Fernando Rodney tommorow, but who says we will need them? Once again, this team continues to beat up on the weak. It was just a couple of weeks ago that Chicago lost two of three to Tampa Bay. This is how you stay ahead of teams when you have a mental block against beating them head-to-head
  • Jair Jurrjens recieved a much-deserved promotion to Erie today. The 20 year-old Curacao has posted remarkable numbers in Lakeland. Erie will be a test for him, as we will see if those strikes he will continue to throw will turn into ropes or remain groundouts and strikeouts as he faces advanced hitters. At the very least, there will be a 40-man roster spot for this young man at season's end. He's earned it.
  • To Chris Shelton: snap out of it. I don't know why you are trying to pull everything, but you never used to.
  • And a big sarcastic and classless thank you to Ben Roethlisberger for my next checkup costing $500. While you may not have been above the law when riding a motorcycle without a helmet today, you were above common sense. For every preventable surgery that comes from somebody not wearing a helmet, driving drunk, or giving themselves lung cancer, there is time and money in the medical field better spent, making for a more efficient and more healthy America. It's not tort reform, it's not "free" health care. Manageable health care costs will not come from the Government, instead coming from individual Americans making better choices. Unfortunately, that is unlikely ever to happen with all of the stubborn idiots like Mr. Roethlisberger that inhabit this country.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Learning from Mistakes

The Tigers' Minor League system has suffered a huge blow this year. Yes, after the graduation of the two most talented pitchers the organization has produced in ages will go a long way towards leaving a system relatively barren. Throughout the system, an even bigger, more troubling hit has been delivered: players thought to be top hitting prospects have stopped hitting.

Just shortly after debuting by telling how pointing to strikeouts for an otherwise productive Major League player can lead to false conclusions, I want to preface this by pointing out that strikeouts can be a serious problem for a hitter when not combined with walks to show that they are a byproduct of some degree of plate discipline. High strikeouts without production or walks show that a hitter is overmatched, struggles with breaking pitches, or cannot identify what pitches he should swing at.

What does this have to do with recent Tigers news? In conjuntion with several prospects including Clete Thomas, Jeff Frazier, and almost the whole Erie Lineup appearing to hit a wall as their K/BB ratio caught up to them this year, Tigers' Scouting Director David Chadd and company conducted a draft that almost seemed to right this organizational wrong.

Check out the BB:K ratios from this season of the first five college hitters taken in this draft.

Ronnie Bourquin: 32 BB/24 K
Brennan Boesch: 20 BB/23 K
Ryan Strieby: 46/39
Scott Sizemore: 28/26
Jordan Newton: 45/43

Note how all five of these players have exception BB/K ratios. What this shows is that players with great plate discipline were taken in Rounds 2-6. It almost seems that players without this skill were completely disregarded by Chadd and his crew. Can you blame them? This side of Cameron Maybin and Jeff Larish, there really aren't any offensive players in the system that you can look at and say "I can see him in the Major Leagues someday."

For a comparison, I will look at three college hitters whose stocks have really dropped this year: Clete Thomas, Jeff Frazier, and Tony Giarratano. Below are their BB/K ratios from their final year in college.

Clete Thomas: 33/61
Jeff Frazier: 28/27
Tony G: 24/33

Uh oh. While Thomas struggled in college, Frazier and Giarratano both had fared pretty well with their plate discipline in college, but have struggled of late in the pros. All of a sudden, it appears likely that this year's draft picks may not have as smooth of sailing as their statistics may suggest. Time will tell, but it may be the case that there is still an unsuspected hurdle for these guys to get over on the way to Detroit.

Jeff Larish or an example of batting average being overrated

Jeff Larish is a good hitter. Yet to some he hasn’t done enough to be an all star or even enough to be considered a good prospect. To some there is a magical cut off for where a player is good. That magical cut off is the batting average.

Entering Saturday night Jeff Larish is 15th in the FSL in OBP at .365. He is 6th in the FSL in SLG at .502. He has an ISO of 246. Yet he seemingly is still underrated because he is only batting .256.

Why do we have this fascination with batting average when it has been proven time and time again to be a truly flawed statistic? I think it is because people think that the only way that a batter really succeeds is if they get a hit.

A walk is just a mistake by the pitcher. Drawing walks is just luck not skill. Such things are often stated by old school baseball fans. Yet when you look at the top offensive teams in every level of baseball their ranking in number of runs is almost identical to the OBP.

As for Jeff Larish, there is a concern that he is unable to handle inside heat. This hole in his swing is likely something that will effect his entire career. Yet he is able to get around it currently with the ability to turn on a pitch if a pitcher misses this hole even slightly. He has 56 strikeouts in 215 at bats so if he makes it to the Majors doing that the complaints that people have about Granderson will transfer to Larish as well. Fortunately for Larish much like Granderson he has shown the ability to walk as well; drawing 34 of them this season.

The future for Larish is fairly bright. He has a good ceiling if everything goes right. He projects as a .285/.396/.510 hitter if everything goes right. I think it is very possible that he reaches a .260/.370/.485 production line. It’s very likely that he will strike out over 130 times in a season. But I think he has a good enough eye that he will also draw over 100 walks as well.

Overall I like him a lot as a prospect. I think he could be putting some serious heat on Shelton by mid 2007. He also has some history playing in the OF if need be. It is also possible that he could take over the DH role at that time.

Yet he is a bad hitter right now because his batting average is simply too low. Forget that batting average actually one of the worst ways to judge a player, but hey at least it isn't RBIs!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Curtis Granderson strikes out a lot.

Curtis Granderson strikes out a lot.

He may be posting a refreshingly impressive .388 onbase percentage
He may have a .493 slugging percentage going
But unfortunately:

Curtis Granderson strikes out a lot.

Shagging fly balls at a rate nobody else in the league can claim
Leading the lead in almost every statistical defensive category for a centerfielder
But unfortunately:

Curtis Granderson strikes out a lot.

According to EqA, he is among the best offensive centerfielders in baseball
Ranking with the likes of Andruw Jones, Carlos Beltran and Grady Sizemore
But unfortunately:

Curtis Granderson strikes out a lot.

Showing impeccable instincts, he can track down almost any ball hit to centerfield
Coverting many extra-base hits to routine outs
But unfortunately:

Curtis Granderson strikes out a lot.

Displaying constant improvement since he was drafted four years ago
He has answered many a question about his ability
But unfortunately:

Curtis Granderson strikes out a lot.

Fans notice what they can remember, remembering walks back to the dugout
As a result, they foolishly note something about one of the elite young outfielders in Major League Baseball:

Curtis Granderson strikes out a lot.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Hey all.

I'm just throwing my hat into the blog ring. We'll see how this goes. I'll mostly be posting stuff about the Tigers, as there is a lot to post. This season really is a turning point in the direction of this franchise. A breakthrough year from Zumaya, Verlander, Granderson, and Shelton, and this team is suddenly an annual contender. I'm not going to talk about the other alternative, but let's just try to stay away from the phrase "Five Year Plan." I'll get this more up and running as I get more time. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments on things you may want me to be discussing.