Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Nice to know You, Son of Steve

It was only a matter of time before the Tigers made a roster move to make room for Francisco Cruceta. That move came today, as Jason (Son of Steve) Grilli was shipped off to pitching hell (Colorado) for relief prospect Zach Simons. This marks the end of a frustrating era, but one that may ultimately pay off. If the Tigers' perception of faith in Grilli led to getting a decent prospect in return, could it be worth all of the unjustified high leverage innings and stubborn patience with him? Probably not. Unfortunately, this deal comes right after I find a great nickname for him. How many times did we hear "Son of former Tigers' reliever Steve Grilli" in reference to Jason? I can understand if his dad was John Hiller or Mickey Lolich, but Steve Grilli went down in history as Jason will, a dime-a-dozen relief pitcher.

Simons, 22, was a second round pick in 2005. He struggled as a starter his first two seasons before starting to put up decent numbers in relief last season. In 13.1 innings in High-A Modesto, Simons has 14 strikeouts, 9 walks, and a 2.70 ERA. I'll work on finding a scouting report for him. Just based on his numbers and other pitchers Dave Dombrowski has acquired, I'm guessing he's a hard thrower with command problems, who has had problems developing an off-speed pitch to get hitters out over the course of a game.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Virgil Vasquez was placed on Toledo's disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis. This could be minor, but it's yet another injury that has struck a reserve starting pitcher. Vasquez has struggled in his past few starts, so something may have been up. Thank God for the emergence of Armando Galarraga. It also looks like Yorman Bazardo will be taking the spot of Vasquez. Hopefully, he can re-emerge in a starting role.

Curtis Granderson is in tonight's lineup. To make room, Clete Thomas was optioned out. Could Jacque Jones have saved his job by finally hitting for some power last night? Thomas did surprisingly well in his time up with the club, but Granderson is clearly a significant improvement, and could be a big spark plug for a team that still could use one.

Scanning the System - First Base

The timing on this run through couldn't be any better, as the Miguel Cabrera/Carlos Guillen swap became official yesterday. It will be very interesting to see how Guillen handles third base. With Guillen DH-ing in Gary Sheffield's absence, this could become moot. I'll list Cabrera with the first basemen today, and not Guillen.

Miguel Cabrera, 25
Actual: .267/.345/.493
Expected: .240/.322/.466

Cabrera will be okay. The quadriceps soreness has sapped his line drive rate so far, but that won't be a problem.

Jeff Larish, 25
Actual: .275/.338/.565
Expected: .275/.338/.565

If there's anybody who's feeling down today, it's Jeff Larish. Rather than having a player in his 30's with bad legs manning your position, he now has a potential Hall of Famer blocking him. This potential Hall of Famer is known for his durability, and is also months younger than Larish. He's still around, and could squeeze his way into the lineup.

Ryan Roberson, 24
Actual: .183/.271/.350

His balls in play numbers aren't available right now, but his strikeouts are high so it will be hard to see him turning this season into the breakout season he needs.

Ryan Strieby, 22
Actual: .196/.292/.304
Expected .125/.230/.233

It's not been a nice start for Strieby. The component stats are very alarming, but also subject to sample size fluctuations. He's hit linedrives on 3% of his batted balls, and has struck out 32% of the time. I doubt that keeps up, but it's hard to attribute his poor start to bad luck.

West Michigan:
Chris Carlson, 24
Actual: .290/.333/.403
Expected: .242/.288/.355

I'm really interested in seeing what Carlson can do when he's not beating up on kids straight out of high school. He's not a prospect.

First base is pretty thin throughout the system. A day ago, there was some doubt about needing depth at the position. Now, the position is locked down until 2015. If you are going to lack depth, the best place to have your best prospect is in AAA, so that he can fill in when the big club has injuries. Jeff Larish's role as emergency bat is an important one.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Scanning the System: Catchers

Once every week or so, I plan to keep an eye on the minor league system on a position by position basis. Each player will have their BA/OBP/SLG split shown, as well as their expected BA/OBP/SLG split. The "expected" value is derived from analysis by Baseball Prospectus's Mark Normandin that shows that given normal luck with balls in play, a player's batting average on balls in play will be equal to his line drive rate plus .120. What I've done is take the difference, figure out how many extra singles they should have hit so far and added to their stats. All singles are rounded to the nearest integer so some players' numbers will be identical. The intent of this is to try and weed out flukes and guys who have benefited from good luck and those who have suffered from bad luck. It's important to point out that when you are dealing with such small samples that conclusions are very hard to come to at this point. Starting with catchers:

Ivan Rodriguez, 36
Actual: .189/.246/.321
Expected: .183/.333/.415

Pudge has a BABIP of only .214 this season, and according to the data, has been hitting the ball reasonably well. It's way too soon to panic, as he should be fine as soon as balls start finding holes. I don't have Inge in my system as a catcher, even though he's technically the backup.

Dane Sardinha, 28
Actual: .250/.306/.375
Expected: .250/.306/.375

Nick Trzesniak, 27
Actual: .077/.143/.077
Expected: .143/.214/.143

It's way too early, as I said.

Dusty Ryan, 23
Actual: .286/.375/.689
Expected: .286/.375/.689

Max St. Pierre, 28
Actual: .333/.389/.515
Expected: .272/.333/.454

Is it too early to jump back on the Dusty Ryan bandwagon? Probably. A lot of catchers, though, are late bloomers with the bat. If he keeps up this offensive performance over the course of the season, he may be for real. Then again, we are talking about 32 plate appearances.

James Skelton, 22
Actual: .321/.441/.321
Expected: .285/.412/.285

Jeff Kunkel, 25
Actual: .286/.318/.333
Expected: .191/.227/.242

Skelton's never really hit for much power, and has yet to have an extra-base hit this year. Jeff Kunkel is a defense first guy, so he isn't expected to hit. Don't expect his numbers to stay decent.

West Michigan:
Jordan Newton, 22
Actual: .387/.424/.484
Expected .322/.363/.419

Joe Bowen, 19
Actual: .111/.238/.167
Expected: .167/.286/.223

Adrian Casanova, 24
Actual: .000/.333/.000

Bowen was placed on the disabled list this week with a hyper-extended elbow, and replaced by Casanova, who has only put one ball in play in his three plate appearances. Even without this excercise, you could probably see that Newton's numbers were batting average driven. He's still been solid this season, a refreshing turnaround from his first two seasons. I did see first hand this week why there are doubts about his ability to stay behind the plate, as he two-hopped a ball to the shortstop side on a steal attempt.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

That Felt Good

The excuses can finally stop. The Tigers are officially alive. Thanks to an offensive onslaught and a masterful Tigers' debut from Armando Galarraga, the Tigers dominated Cleveland yesterday 13-1. Detroit and Cleveland are now tied at 5-10. If you still believe this to be a two-team race, then the teams are tied. I'm becoming more and more convinced that Chicago will be a real threat in this things, but if the mission was to make up lost ground on the Indians, mission accomplished.

If Sabathia, Carmona, and the bullpen keep it up, remember this team the next time somebody tells you a team can win because of their pitching. A pitching staff is simply too unpredictable, even one coming off of a great season, especially bullpens. Cleveland, Seattle, and Toronto are all teams who had people claiming their great bullpen to be the key to their eventual success this year, and all three have had massive bullpen problems.

Watch out for Cale Iorg, who is smoking the ball in Lakeland. 2006 3rd rounder Brennan Boesch, on the other hand, has continued to showcase why doubts were raised about him last season.

James Andrews could not find anything wrong with Fernando Rodney's shoulder. It looks like more rehabbing until he's ready.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Offensive Stats against Pitchers

I sometimes feel that it will be better to evaluate pitchers using the same scale we evaluate hitters. We have a much better intuition for what hitting stats actually tell you about a performance than we do pitching statistics. Here are the batting average against/on base percentage against/slugging percentage against off all of the Tigers pitchers.

Justin Verlander: .204/.314/.365
I expected this to be low. He's started off great in each of his starts. If there is one guy who has been hurt by the bullpen, this is it. Every runner he has inherited has scored, and he has been left out longer than he should have at least twice. Verlander will be fine.

Kenny Rogers: .333/.400/.483
Pretty much as you would expect, Rogers has been torched this year. There's no way around that fact. He has strugged with his control, and runners are getting on base at an alarming rate.

Jeremy Bonderman: .296/.363/.423
Hitters have been slightly better than league average against Bonderman. While I haven't delved into the pitch f/x data, it appears from watching the game that his slider doesn't quite have the effectiveness it did last season.

Nate Robertson: .304/.360/.522
The strikeouts are encouraging, the power numbers are not. Two homers and 11 extra-base hits has doomed Robertson to date. The good news is that batters are hitting .373 ontrelle balls in play against him. So long as the strikeouts stay, that number should fall.

Dontrelle Willis: .071/.435/.143
You would have known this was his line just from following the games. He threw 5+ innings of one-hit ball with a ton of walks, and then walked the first to batters of his next game. It's been pretty clear that while he has had problems finding the strike zone, players weren't making good contact against him.

Todd Jones: .217/.280/.304
The .263 BABIP is unsustainable. I would expect these numbers to rise. Knowing the Rollercoaster, it will probably happen when everything falls in for a week in late May.

Aquilino Lopez: .244/.255/.311
Guys just aren't reaching base against Lopez, who has been very effective. The importance of his 4IP relief appearance Friday night cannot be overstated.

Denny Bautista: .278/.381/.278
The walks are still there, but guys haven't really hit the ball that hard against him. Look for the batting average to drop a bit.

Bobby Seay: .231/.286/.231
While one bad outing can kill an ERA (4.91), you can see that it was a fluke from looking at the batting line. If utilized properly, Seay will be this team's best reliever.

Clay Rapada: .000/.000/.000
Hasn't allowed a base runner yet. You didn't need me to post this to calculate those stats.

Jason Grilli: .348/.500/.565
Yes, Grilli has been bad. The good news is that his BABIP is above .400. The bad news is that they are hitting the crap out of the ball and that may not come back down.

Zach Miner: .333/.472/.576
I don't ever remember Zach Miner walking this many people. During his first couple of appearances, there were some lucky breaks for the offense that led to singles. That has evolved into walks and a pounding.

Francis Beltran: .300/.417/.550
If you were wondering why he was sent out to make room for Armando Galarraga, this is why.

Yorman Bazardo: .500/.600/.786
The numbers don't lie. Bazardo was terrible and failed when all he had to do was get the team to the finish line.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Random Thoughts after a Victory

As much as I thought Friday's performance would catapult the team, it turns out that wasn't the case. Monday night's comeback, on the other hand, should provide the spark the offense needs. As if they haven't been huge yet, tonight's game will be a big one for the offense, as it will be important to follow up on today's comeback.

Ryan Raburn was brought in as a defensive replacement last night. Talk about mixed signals. I was under the impression that the reason he had been getting the shaft over the past year was because of his defense. We know that Leyland can't possibly think Jacque Jones is a better hitter, can we?

The Disabled List Informer points out that Gary Sheffield's current shoulder problems may linger, suggesting that signs point to a possible rotator cuff issue. I'm really not well versed in the anatomy of the shoulder, so check that link out for some information.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Info on Hyperextended Knees

My gut reaction upon seeing Willis's injury today was a ligament tear in the knee, specifically an ACL, which frequently results from a hyper-extended knee. While some will take the fact that he continued to pitch as a fact that the injury is not serious, we simply will not know until an MRI is performed. You can still walk and potentially throw balls to the backstop with torn ligaments in the knee. The ligaments aren't there for support, they are there for stability.

Here are a couple of reads on hyperextended knees, one from my favorite new blog, the Disabled List Informer.

Shut up Ken Harrelson, Just... Shut up

As a former umpire, nothing steams me more than hearing an announcer complain about an umpire's calls over the course of the game. Quite frankly, the cameras are slightly askew, meaning they don't have a very good view of the strike zone, nor do they have much of a knowledge of it. Couple that with a grating, idiotic home-town announcer, and any close call that goes against the home team in a close game will be bemoaned for the remainder of the game while the leading team's accomplishments will be ignored for the remainder of the game.

The perfect storm happened tonight for those stuck within the White Sox blackout region, having to tolerate the constant complaining from one Ken Harrelson after Jim Thome's strikeout in the 5th inning. After hearing him complain over the course of the game, you'd have thought the fix was on. Not so fast...

For those that haven't discovered the upgrades to Gameday, now the location and trajectory of every pitch is captured and archived. You can see Pitch No. 6 in question, below. The location shown below is taken right as the ball crosses the plate Just as the cameras showed, the ball crossed home plate right at Thome's knees.

Image taken from Advanced Gameday

While the viewer noticed the ball was in the dirt, anything that happens after the ball crosses home plate is not and should not be considered by the umpire. While tonight's umpire had a rough night, this particular call was correct, and the pitch was a strike.

I've said it many times, and I'll say it again. Shut up Ken Harrelson.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Clay Rapada Stat of the Day

I read in Clay Rapada's scouting report in the 2008 Baseball America Handbook that he struggles against right-handed batters. Thanks, to, I was able to confirm this. I'll conclude that under no circumstance should Clay Rapada face a right-handed batter in a close game. Here are his splits from AAA Iowa last season.

vs. R: .341/.400/.496
vs. L: .125/.272/.188

Time to Fix the Bullpen

I was a member of the "Ride this bullpen out. Let's see what we've got" contingent coming into the season. Nine games in, I see that this pen will cost us in more ways than one without action being taken soon. It's become increasingly clear that the current crew won't cut it, and it is time to cut some bait.

Update: Yorman Bazardo has been designated for assignment with Clay Rapada getting the call. The goal is clearly to cycle through as many relievers as possible until finding the right guys. This is the correct strategy.

Pitchers who should stay:
  • Todd Jones was a guy I was worried about, but has shown no signs of dropping off. Granted, there hasn't been a ninth inning save chance for him, but he has not been part of the problem yet.
  • Bobby Seay is the team's best relief pitcher. It's too bad that his role is so specialized.
  • Denny Bautista has pitched well so far. Like Jones, he has not been part of the problem.
Pitchers on the brink:
  • Aquilino Lopez has a 0.00 ERA in 7 1/3 innings so far. The problem I have is that he has allowed 5 of his nine inherited runners to score. Other pitchers can blame him for their faulty ERA's. His WPA (Win Probability Added) is -.111, meaning that the Tigers chances of winning games has gone down a combined 11.1% when he has entered the game. That is unacceptable and a good reason why ERA doesn't work when evaluating relievers. Hopefully the ERA doesn't lead to him getting spots in tight situations. Things could get even uglier if he does.
  • Francis Beltran has looked good by comparison, but showed today he cannot be counted on. I'm still skeptical of his appearance in relief on Saturday. Beltran simply feasted off of hitters who couldn't see what was coming because of the shadows on the field. Even despite that, he gave up a big homer to Jermaine Dye.
  • Zach Miner has been shaky. I was his biggest supporter after his first couple of appearances seemed to be the result of bad luck. Today, he just looked timid and needs to trust the fact that the movement on his fastball should be enough to get hitters out.
Pitchers who need to go:

  • Jason Grilli, in case you haven't heard a million times, is the son of former Tigers reliever Steve Grilli, as if you have heard of Steve Grilli. He has been unreliable for the better part of two years and two weeks now. He is fine in a mop-up role, but this team has plenty of guys who are fine in mop-up roles. It's time to take some chances to give guys a shot, and keeping around a bunch of pet projects because they can get outs when the game is out of reach is not going to work. Worst of all, the guy has no out pitch. He can't finish the deal when he gets ahead in the count, because he has to throw that straight fastball with no movement that he can't command instead of wasting a pitch. Jason Grilli is out of options, as we all know, just as we all know that is likely the reason he is still being brought into games. It's time to cut bait and send him to Toledo. Nobody else will want to claim him on waivers at this point.
  • Yorman Bazardo: I was wrong about this guy. I don't know if he's hiding an injury or what, but he simply doesn't have it at this point. While guys like Lopez and Grilli can get outs while the game is out of line, Bazardo has proven that he is incapable of that right now. Like Grilli, he is out of options, and like Grilli, that shouldn't be a problem.
Internal Candidates:
It takes two to tango in a trade, and making a trade for a reliever right now will likely prove to be a mistake. Any time, you make a panic trade and are trading from a position of weakness, it's not going to be an optimal situation. Fortunately, even though the minor league season is only a week old, there are plenty of candidates stepping forward so far.
  • Welcome back to the USA, Francisco Cruceta, who finally got his work visa approved. In a perfect world, the Tigers would give him the 30 days alotted to work out in Lakeland and spend time on a rehabilitation somewhere. At this point, it may be the best situation to put him straight into the bullpen and let him sink or swim. If he sinks, he's still better than Grilli and Bazardo. If he swims, it's a plus.
  • Clay Rapada's shoulder tendinitis has apparently cleared up. He's had one great outing and one stinker so far in Toledo. The good news is that he has 7 strikeouts in 5 innings of work. You may have noticed the fact that the Tigers' relievers have been having a hard time finishing the deal on 0-2. Rapada shouldn't have that problem
  • Armando Galarraga is off to a wonderful start in his first two starts. I would not at all be opposed to seeing him grab a spot in the bullpen just to see if he can stick in a high leverage spot.
  • Virgil Vasquez is now the Tigers' sixth starter as Bazardo has blown up, while McBride and Tata are injured. He's also been very impressive, almost overshadowing Rick Porcello in the days in which the two pitched. I don't know if the bullpen makes sense for a guy who may need to stay stretched out in the case of an emergency. Either way, he could have some success down there.
  • Casey Fien has three scoreless appearances so far in Erie. He's got the stuff to succeed, and it may be nice to go with the hot hand.
At this point, it is time to cylce in relievers and see if they stick. I'm sure we can get seven guys who can get outs late in games. Staying with the status quo at this point will only prove to pour more gas on the fire. I don't think roster moves to fix the bullpen will be much of a surprise to anybody tommorow.

Also, if you are curious, Tim Byrdak has thrown 4 scoreless innings with 5 strikeouts at AAA Round Rock in Houston's system. I'm not saying this was a bad move, but I'm merely pointing this out.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cabrera to the Outfield? I Think Not

I've seen a lot of discussion around moving Miguel Cabrera to left field to help with his recurring quadriceps soreness. First, the soreness is very minor, and is unlikely to affect Cabrera significantly over the course of the season. The fact that this write-up is somewhat outdated a week after the injury kept him out of the lineup should tell you about how minor this is. Regardless, I fail to see how moving Cabrera to left field would help alleviate this issue.

The quadriceps are in the anterior (front) portion of your thigh. As the article says, they extend the knee joint. When you stretch your leg, making the lower leg in line with the thigh, you are extending your knee joint. The muscles also provide motion to the hip joint, and are used frequently in running. If you go jogging or sprinting, chances are it will be your quadriceps that will feel a lot of the burn in the leg. Now, why would moving Cabrera to left field, a position which requires significantly more running and sprinting than third base, help this injury?

Free Ryan Raburn Update
Ryan Raburn is now hitting .333/.474/.867 after being unjustly demoted to Toledo. I've been saying for a long time that he should be the starting left fielder. I wonder if he said something about Jim Leyland's wife.

Obscure Tigers Farmhand Called Up
On an intentionally related note, former Tigers farmhand Jesse Carlson was promoted to Toronto today. Carlson was drafted in 2002, and struck out 47 batters in 38 innings as a reliever in Oneonta. The next Spring, Carlson was involved in an incident in which he was involved in an act that made lewd comments towards then Oneonta Manager Randy Ready's wife. He was one of three players released soon thereafter. I don't know all the details, but it sounds as if he was the victim of guilt by association, a verdict that is never fun for those doing the associating. The Tigers have clearly made character a criteria for the minor leagues in recent years. Between ReadyGate and Hugh Quattlebaum and company bringing new meaning to the phrase "Winning Streak, the Tigers seem to have cleaned up their act in the Minor Leagues of late.

While most of the other blogs have commented on winning, yesterday felt very good. I had a celebratory jump for joy after Thames' homer, and hopefully this is the start of what most of us expected for this season.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Opponent Preview - Boston Red Sox

There's nothing like starting 0-6 at home against the bottom two teams in your division from a year ago only to start a road trip against the defending World Series champions. There is no doubt, the Tigers will have to play like they are capable, or else this series could get uglier than Sunday night's debacle.

Before previewing the team, it's time for a rant. This whole notion of Red Sox Nation is a farce, and would clearly not exist if The Worldwide Leader was located in Kansas City. In that case, the Royals would benefit from the ESPN Hype Machine and would be the lovable losers that they have over-hyped for years.

Here's a glance at Boston's projected lineup:
R-Dustin Pedroia 2B
R-Kevin Youkilis 1B
L-David Ortiz DH
R-Manny Ramirez LF
R-Mike Lowell 3B
L-J.D. Drew RF
S-Jason Varitek C
S-Coco Crisp CF
R-Julio Lugo SS

I list Crisp in center, because there are two lefty starters going for the Tigers this week, and it would seem he would get both of those starts. Regardless, that has all the makings of a solid lineup. Youkilis and Drew are by far off to the hottest starts. Both Drew and Ortiz are prime targets for LOOGY Bobby Seay, as both have done significantly worse against southpaws throughout their career. Now to the bench:

R- Kevin Cash C
L- Sean Casey 1B
L- Alex Cora IF
L- Jacoby Ellsbury OF

None of these guys is particularly great offensively. Ellsbury is probably the best bet to hurt us off the bench. Kevin Cash will probably start Thursday when Wakefield pitches.

R- Daisuke Matsuzaka
L- Jon Lester
R- Tim Wakefield

The Tigers faired pretty well against Matsuzaka in one of the two starts last season. Overall, he was 1-1, 4.50 in two starts. Jon Lester seems like the type of guy the Tigers' right-handed heavy lineup could break out against. If they are able to build the confidence in the first two games, I'd look for Wakefield to be pummeled. If the bats are still cold and the hitters still pressing, Wakefield could make minced meat of this lineup.

R- Jonathan Papelbon
L- Hideki Okajima
R- Manny Delcarmen
R- Julian Tavarez
R- Bryan Corey
L- Javier Lopez
R- David Aardsma

Papelbon is an elite closer, and Okajima is no slouch as an eighth inning guy. It will be important to avoid falling behind before those two are in the game. In Okajima's career, right-handed hitters have hit him to the tune of .182/.235/.277, so don't expect him to be utilized against just left-handed hitters. It may also not be advantageous to bring a Thames in to pinch hit for Jacque Jones when Okajima is on the mound. Delcarmen is dominant in spurts, and Lopez is the primary LOOGY. If the name Bryan Corey sounds familiar, he was claimed off waivers by the Tigers, and spent the 1999 season in Toledo before leaving via free agency after the season.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Rock Bottom

Another Minor League Injury

Macay McBride left yesterday's game after the first inning with elbow soreness. Matt Righter takes his place on the Toledo roster. This is a downer, because Righter is primarily minor league filler, and unlike McBride, has no shot to pitch effectively in Detroit. We'll see on the MRI results in the coming days. He had a slight elbow fracture that caused him to miss last September and the Arizona Fall League. Stay tuned.

Also, I'm probably going to ditch the "Keys to the season" series. It's too nice outside, it's too tedious, and others have done a fine job looking at the teams.

Update: It looks like a stretched ligament. I'm having a hard time finding other cases of a stretched ligament in a pitching elbow. Either way, he is going to be shut down with elbow ligament problems. This really isn't a big surprise, especially after the elbow problems over the offseason. Ligament damage will tend to lead to instability in the elbow, and the instability could lead to other problems. It's very possible, the ligament has been damaged for a while.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Irrationality Sets in

Jim Leyland doesn't trust his bullpen, and rightfully so. So in order to bring up another arm to try out, it would make sense to send out one of the arms that's not trusted? No, send down Ryan Raburn instead!

In another bonehead move, Jacque Jones is allowed to face the lefty down by a run in the 7th inning. Why is Marcus Thames on the team? There have been a lot of questionable decisions made by Leyland this week. I'm not about to pin the 0-5 start on him, but it's troubling nonetheless.

Keys to the Season: Toledo Mudhens Bullpen

Blaine Neal (30) - Apparently Neal is Toledo's closer. I would have thought he was older, as he hasn't had Major League success in five years. If the Tigers get desperate for pitching, he could turn a solid season into a big league gig.

Francis Beltran (28) - One time a hot shot prospect, the key for Beltran will be to continue to put his Tommy John surgery behind him. As the last pitcher officially cut in Spring Training, he may be the first to get a shot, especially if Jason Grilli keeps hanging change ups in tie games.

Clay Rapada (27) - Apparently over the shoulder tendinitis, Rapada will be the first lefty up if healthy and if needed. He'll just need to pitch reasonably well this year and avoid further shoulder problems.

Aaron Fultz (34) - Plan B as far as backup LOOGY's go. He'll need to show that the problems he had in Spring Training with Cleveland aren't for real. With the troubles the Tigers are having putting a bullpen together, he may get a shot to show his stuff.

Preston Larrison (27) - No longer a prospect, but a possible option in relief this year. The big thing for Larrison will be to stay healthy (he really hasn't shown the ability to withstand a whole season). If he can, he may be able to become a bullpen fixture rather than AAA fodder.

Jeremy Johnson (25) - Now six years removed from his breakout season in 2002, Johnson has yet to re-emerge as a top prospect, but pitched very well in relief last season. This will be his ninth season with the Tigers' organization, and he's still the youngest member of this bullpen.

Anastacio Martinez (29) - More of a minor league innings eater than anything else. Martinez will have to pitch very well in order to warrant a spot with the big club.

Ian Ostlund (29) - He's starting the season on the disabled list. I don't know what the injury is, but he's probably the longest shot among Toledo's pitchers to get a shot in the bullpen this year.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Opponent Preview - Chicago White Sox

The Friday afternoon game threw me off, so this preview will come one game into the series. Play along. The Tigers come into this series looking to turn things around. Will they be able to do so against the Chicago White Sox? Here's today's lineup, which is likely their lineup for tommorow as well:

S-Nick Swisher CF
R-Orlando Cabrera SS
L-Jim Thome DH
R-Paul Konerko 1B
R-Jermaine Dye RF
L-A.J. Pierzynski C
R-Carlos Quentin LF
R-Joe Crede 3B
R-Juan Uribe 2B

We saw this lineup torch Nate Robertson and Jason Grill today, and looking at the platoon splits, you can see why. Konerko, Dye, Crede, and especially Quentin (who will likely only start against lefties with Alexei Ramirez starting against Verlander Sunday) are all significantly better against south paws. Meanwhile, Thome and Pierzynski struggle mightily against lefties. While hindsight is indeed 20/20, I can't help but wonder if Bobby Seay should have been pitching against A.J. Pierzynski in a tight spot today. Here are A.J.'s splits for his career:

vs. R: .294/.342/.449
vs. L: .248/.277/.360

In a tie game with runners on, it seems like an automatic move to utilize the LOOGY in this situation. I'll wait for another day to rail against Jason Grill getting high leverage innings at home, but this is bullpen mismanagement at its best.

Back on subject, to the Chicago bench:
R- Toby Hall C
R- Alexei Ramirez 2B/CF
R- Brian Anderson OF
R- Pablo Ozuna IF/OF

The bench is heavy with righties. Ramirez is probably unknown to many, but was the star for Cuba in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and was the opening day starter in center field. He'll be splitting time with Quentin. Anderson is your typical no-hit centerfielder, and Ozuna is Omar Infante lite. We probably won't see Toby Hall with no day game after night games in this series.

R- Jose Contreras
R- Gavin Floyd
L- Mark Buerhle

Had I written this before the series, I'd say Jose Contreras is what the doctor ordered for the Tigers bats. The guy was very bad last season, and was bad again today. The Tigers still didn't capitalize on all of the opportunities. Floyd is a wild card, but I like the team's chances against him. Buehrle is the type of pitcher the Tigers seem to struggle against, as we saw with Bannister earlier in the week.

R- Bobby Jenks
R- Scott Linebrink
R- Octavio Dotel
R- Mike McDougal
L- Matt Thornton
R- Nick Massett
L- Boone Logan

We saw Jenks, Linebrink, Dotel, and Logan today. Jenks and Dotel are the surest things, while Linebrink is being paid like one. McDougal has a bit of a whild streak, while Logan and Massett struggled mightily last season. It will be important to get into the bullpen quickly, because the early-middle relief is much worse than the late inning guys.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Keys to the Season: Toledo Mudhens Rotation

The Minor League season kicks off tomorrow. I'm going to step through each team like I did the Tigers. Hopefully, this can be done before any moves are made.

Virgil Vasquez (25): This is a big season for V^2. He's obviously made quite an impression on the organization and is apparently thought of pretty highly. I'm not too high on him, based mostly on the high fly ball rate. If he can take a step forward and turn into a dominant AAA starter, he probably moves into the sixth starter role. As I mentioned with Bazardo, it's likely somebody will be needed for a significant amount of time over the summer. Vasquez currently has the leg up on everybody else in the minors, but all that can change based on this year's performance.

Chris Lambert (25): Don't let the fact that he's a former first round pick fool you. Most pundits thought of him as a reach at the time. Still, as with the rest of the Toledo starters, Lambert figures to get a shot if he pitches well. Remember, these guys can be used in the bullpen too if needed.

Eddie Bonine (26): The only Toledo starter not invited to camp, so less is probably known about Bonine. He was snagged in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft after the 2005 season and has pitched pretty well between Lakeland and Erie the past two seasons. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but has great control. Stop me if you've heard this before: if he pitches well, he could get some starts at the Big League level.

Armando Galarraga (26): Well, the Tigers won this trade, as it was announced Michael Hernandez was released by Texas today. I'd be willing to bet we see Hernandez back in the organization shortly, but the guy we got for him seemed to take some steps forward this spring. Armando is not related to Andres (who was an overrated player, but that's a whole other topic). I guess the reason I'm so off topic on Armando Galarraga is that the story is the same for him as it is for the previous three. He could be up to the majors if injuries and performance issues deem it necessary. Galarraga does have an extensive injury history, which bears watching. His role this year will probably be similar to Yorman Bazardo last season, as it seems his future is in the bullpen.

Macay McBride (25): Moved back to the rotation, and I am very excited to see how he does and if his arm stretches out. This could be a brilliant move by the organization, or it could backfire, as there seems to be demand for another lefty in the pen. Watch his walks allowed. As I've pointed out before, McBride's control problems didn't start until he moved to the bullpen. We'll find out this season if that was a coincidence.


Off to an 0-2 start after getting completely shut down today. It's an ugly start, but needs to be kept in perspective. I'd have to do digging to make sure, but I am about 99.99% certain that every team that has ever won the World Series or appeared in the post-season has lost two games in a row at some point. It's a long season and there's no point in coming to preposterous conclusions so soon.

As if Polanco's errorless streak had any legitimacy after last season's game against the Yankees, all was lost today. Polanco booted a fairly routine ball in the hole in a play that would have been an error on any player except for one whose stats were being padded by a team employee. This is two game wraps and two shots at the error statistic. Once again, it's pretty much worthless as a statistic.

Zach Miner gave up two runs in relief today, but I came away pretty impressed with how he worked. The back-door 2-seamer he threw to Alex Gordon absolutely froze him, and there were several other fastballs with movement thrown. If Miner can keep that pitch as effective as it was today, watch out.

I was not as impressed with Yorman Bazardo. His pitches seemed to lack the movement and command he had last season. While he retired the side in order, he was in no way overpowering, and the slider definitely needs work. I also worry about the slow delivery in the "cocking" phase of his motion. Teams may run all over him, especially when Pudge isn't in there. Granted, while I am bemoaning his lack of an out pitch and slow delivery, there was a strike-em out throw-em out double play in Bazardo's inning.