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.