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 www.baseballmusings.com 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:
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.