Spring Training, Jacob Turner and More

Joker Marchant Stadium

Joker Marchant Stadium

I spent part of last week down in Lakeland, Florida watching some Tigers Spring Training games. I was able to attend two games, the first against the Atlanta Braves on Monday, March 8th and the second against the New York Yankees on Wednesday, March 10th. Each game sold out Joker Marchant Stadium and Florida came through with exceptional weather for both games. I was able to see many notable appearances / events (at least to me) in just those two games, including:

My only disappointments were not seeing any playing time from Johnny Damon, Magglio Ordonez, Jose Valverde, Rick Porcello or Justin Verlander. Many of whom I’ve seen before and will in the upcoming season – so I’m OK with it. Twenty-one photos after the jump.
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Posted in Detroit Tigers, MLB, Spring Training, Tigers Farm System | 1 Comment

Farewell Edwin, Curtis, We hardly knew ye – Why the Trade makes sense for Detroit

Edwin during On-Field Photo Day

I haven’t posted in quite a while, but since my last post was an article regarding Edwin Jackson then it may be fitting that my new article also concerns him. I wanted to take a minute to put out my viewpoint on the Tigers trade of Edwin Jackson and Curtis Granderson that has created major waves here in Detroit. Numerous arguments have been thrown around as to why this deal is bad for the Tigers or how the excuses given for the deal don’t make sense. It’s clear that the prevailing opinion around town is that the Tigers made a desperate move that is ultimately bad for the team. I believe this deal makes quite a bit of sense for Detroit and was a solid move by Tiger GM Dave Dombrowski.

It’s very much true that the seeds that put the Tigers in their current situation were sown by Dombrowski. However, setting blame for past trades and some troublesome contracts aside, this trade has put the Tiger organization in a better position in 2010 and beyond. The Tigers were not able to make the postseason with their current team and the farm system is not in good shape – relief was not on the way.

Below are the key reasons why I believe this deal is a good thing for Detroit now and sets them up to be even better in the future.

  1. Curtis Granderson is not going to rebound back to his 2007 productivity levels

    It may be dangerous to start with Curtis, but most of the discussion has surrounded him with this trade. Many opinions have been very emotionally driven due to Curtis’s character. I’m a large Curtis fan as well and attended a few of his charity events during his tenure here. However, he posed numerous challenges to the team and has been on a steady decline in productivity.

    While I do believe that 2009 was a down year for Curtis, it’s likely that his long term productivity is going to fall far short of what was once believed. He has failed at becoming the lead off hitter that it was hoped he would be. His walk rate has gotten much better over the years and he has cut his strikeout rate (though regressed in 2009), but the corresponding dip in batting average has negated those improvements. Additionally, his inability to improve against left handed pitchers has posed a serious liability for Detroit. This has almost reached the point where a center field platoon needed to be, and was, discussed as an option. While his contract isn’t extravagantly expensive, it is far to high for a platoon player.

    To fill the hole left by Curtis, the Tigers acquired Austin Jackson from the NY Yankees. Austin was the 2008 Baseball America #1 rated prospect for the Yankees and rated #2 by John Sickels. From all accounts he’s ready to compete for the starting role immediately and is ready for duty defensively. The major question left for Austin is whether he can develop his projected power, something that has eluded him.

    Dave Dombrowski was taking a risk whether he kept Curtis Granderson as a Tiger or not. He chose to take the risk that has a higher ceiling by gathering a number of high-quality relievers (Daniel Schlereth, Phil Coke) and an extremely solid center field prospect in return. It also happens that this is the cheaper route, but that is only an additional positive.

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Edwin Jackson a nice addition to the Tigers

According to Fox Sports, the Tigers are about to make a trade for the Rays Edwin Jackson for Matt Joyce. If true, this would be a nice deal for the Detroit in exchange for Joyce. Edwin Jackson is a RHP starter who gives Detroit another decent starter that the team is currently low on. In return they ship away Matt Joyce who is currently blocked in left field by Carlos Guillen and in right field by Magglio Ordonez.

My only nit-pick is that Edwin is another right-hander leaving the only viable lefty options being Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson, and I’m not certain Willis is really that viable currently. Edwin’s 2008 season was quite a bit better than previous seasons and saw his walk rate drop and strikeouts rise.

Posted in Detroit Tigers, Pitching, Roster | 4 Comments

Dombrowski moves quick to fill Tigers needs

If there is anything I like about Dave Dombrowski, and there are many things, it’s how quickly he moves every off-season to fill the needs here in Detroit. Today, the first day of the MLB Winter Meetings, the Tigers made moves to grab a catcher, Gerald Laird, and some help at shortstop, in Adam Everett. Neither move comes as a surprise and have been widely speculated this past week and neither move is much to get excited about.

Adam Everett

It’s tough to get behind the Adam Everett signing, though also hard to complain much due to the very low level of commitment on the Tigers part. Everett was signed to a 1-year deal worth $1M plus incentives which are likely based around playing time. To sum up his offensive ability, he is a low OBP, no power hitter who hit .184 against RHP in 98 at-bats last year. Suffice to say, the Tigers interest in Adam is solely in his defensive abilities. Unfortunately, Detroit already has one of these caliber players in Ramon Santiago, probably even better.

I’m not sure why Dombrowski’s confidence in Ramon Santiago lasting out a whole year is so low. I certainly understood, and supported, their search for a shortstop. Available everyday shortstops, such as Jack Wilson, Cesar Izturis, and to some degree Rafael Furcal, weren’t the greatest of options but would have elevated the team.

Seems the team could have just relied on Ramon Santiago, at least he might have a chance to continue his outstanding 2008 season. Doubtful, but I’d bet on Ramon over Everett any day.

Gerald Laird

The Laird trade is a significantly more solid pick up with future potential. Detroit gave up two RHP prospects, Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo. Moscoso is the real gem in this deal for Texas and he had a breakout year last year but is 25 and has also been prone to injury. On the flip side, this is also what Detroit used to justify letting Jair Jurrjens go.

Not a bad day.

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Tigers should look at O’s Hernandez for catcher

Ramon Hernandez (licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Ramon Hernandez (licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Before Dave Dombrowski trades for Gerald Laird to fill the Tiger need for a catcher, he should look at one other possibility in Ramon Hernandez. Hernandez was the starting catcher for the Baltimore Orioles last year and is under contract for at least one more year, but there are many reasons that the O’s are looking to unload him:

  1. He’s due at least $9M over the next two years, $8M in ’09 with a 2010 Club Option worth $8.5M ($1M buyout). Baltimore signed Ramon to a 4 year $27.5M dollar deal after the ’05 season. His first year after the signing was his best when he hit .275/.343/.479, and has regressed a bit in each the last two years hitting .257/.308/.406 last year in 133 games.
  2. He’s blocking Matt Wieters whom was recently placed as the #2 prospect in all of baseball by MILB.com. While Wieters has not played above Double-A, he is widely eyed by O’s fans to be on the team when they break spring camp.

The Tigers are certainly not planning on taking on that type of salary burden, however Baltimore has signaled that they’re willing to eat quite a bit of that salary to move him. Depending on how much they’re willing to eat, a trade might not look much different than one for Laird who’s arbitration eligible and due to get ~$3M and potentially much more in 2010 before he’s a free agent. Baltimore’s needs aren’t much different than the Texas Rangers in they both very much need starting pitchers:

“We’ve made it clear that solidifying our rotation is a priority,” said Orioles manager Dave Trembley. “The groundwork has been laid. We’re going to see what we can do.”

Hernandez is a more veteran presence who would be better in platoon with Dusty Ryan and give Detroit a cheap option for 2010 if prospects James Skelton and/or Alex Avila aren’t quite ready. I, for one, have high hopes for Skelton who’s ability to take a walk has impressed. Laird is in a different position as he prepares for potential free agency in 2010 and will look to be very aggressive with his agent Scott Boras.

One issue that might get in the way is that Detroit is part of his limited no-trade clause. However, with a powerful switch-hitting youngster behind him and not many in the market for catchers this season he might be persuaded to take a starting job here.

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Detroit Tigers eat up the fastball

The Tigers have hit a combined 27 home runs as a team so far this year with Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera tied for the team lead with 5 each. The team has found their power only recently with 12 of the home runs coming in the last 5 games. According to Sportvision‘s pitch f/x system used by MLB, the types of pitches that the Tigers have hit for homers this year is (pitch f/x only had data on 25 of the home runs):

Pitch Type Count
Fast (FA) 11
Sinker (SI) 7
Change (CH) 4
Fast (FF) 1
Splitter (FS) 1
Curve (CU) 1

The system has classified many fastballs here, but I’m skeptical as to the accuracy of the pitch identifications. For now though, I’ll have to trust that it’s correct or figure out what the type_confidence field means. That said, it’s probably not far off as thirteen of the pitches, in which we have data, are above 90MPH. The fastest ball that the team hit out was 94.7MPH, which was Miguel Cabrera’s third home run of the year against Cleveland’s C.C. Sabathia. Below is a graph detailing the speed of each pitch the Tigers hit for a homer:
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Tiger bullpen starting to come together

Since the horrible outing in Cleveland on April 17th, which was mainly due to Zach Miner, the Tiger bullpen has been pretty solid. Since that awful game wherein the Tigers, starting with Justin Verlander, allowed a total of 11 runs, the Tiger bullpen has allowed only 2 runs in 20.6 innings pitched, an ERA of 0.87 with a WHIP of 0.92.

Below are the bullpen stats for the last 6 games:

April 18th 2.2 0 0 3 1
April 19th 3 0 2 0 0
April 20th 3 0 2 1 1
April 21st 4.2 1 3 2 2
April 22nd 3 1 2 2 4
April 23rd 5.2 0 2 0 6

Starters need to come around now because the team isn’t going to score 19 runs every night. But it sure is fun when they do :)

Posted in Detroit Tigers, Pitching | 2 Comments

Miguel Cabrera swaps positions with Carlos Guillen

Miguel Cabrera
Quite a bit late on this move, a little late on about everything recently, but after last night’s game Jim Leyland announced that the team was moving Miguel Cabrera to first base full time. This move would in turn move Carlos Guillen from first base over to third base in a change that is much needed. The change is not only a positive move for the defense at third base but also, hopefully, a more solid first base defense.

I’m a fan of this move on its face but this is one change that will need to be monitored as there are a number of ongoing concerns:

  • Carlos Guillen’s health – The initial reason for moving Carlos Guillen to first base from shortstop was concern over his health, specifically his knees. This issue prompted the trade of Jair Jurrjens to Atlanta for Edgar Rentaria, a trade that is looking a bit less needed. That said, Carlos’s hamstring is causing him major issues already this year and it won’t heal quickly with constant third-base play.
  • Cabrera’s first base defense – Miguel has not had many innings at first base and it might take some time to get use to the role. It was becoming quite apparent that over the 21 games at first for Carlos, he was far from solid at the position.
  • Left field offensive production – If the offensive production that the Tigers get from left field does not improve then a move of Cabrera to left field might make some sense. Jaques Jones and Marcus Thames, the latter of whom has not gotten much playing time, do not begin to step it up then it’s hard to justify not moving Cabrera there. Playing Brandon Inge at third-base won’t give you less offense and will boost defense drastically.

According to Ken Rosenthal, Brandon Inge is less than thrilled, actually he used the word ‘livid’, with the move. As with the earlier problems with Inge, which I didn’t pay any mind, I don’t care. But within the article there was this rationale for not playing Cabrera in left field.

“(Cabrera) doesn’t run very well,” Dombrowski says. “Our ballpark is really big in left field. If you put a heavy-legged left fielder in our ballpark, it’s going to catch up to you.”

Makes some sense, but then again, Marcus Thames falls directly into this same category. Regardless, This is a positive move for the team and I agree with Leyland that this move makes the team better.

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Granderson Triples in First Rehab Start

Curtis Granderson made his first rehab start tonight with Detroit’s Class-A team the West Michigan Whitecaps. Curtis had two hits, one a triple in four plate appearances. Here’s a summary of his at-bats:

  • Bottom 1st: Curtis Granderson singles on a ground ball to second baseman Alwin Perez.
  • Bottom 3rd: Curtis Granderson flies out to left fielder David Lough.
  • Bottom 6th: Curtis Granderson triples (1) on a fly ball to right fielder Wilson Tucker.
  • Bottom 8th: Curtis Granderson lines out to center fielder Adrian Ortiz.

He was unable to score off the triple. The Whitecaps faced the Burlington Bee’s who started Alexander Caldera who was Kansas City’s 13th round draft pick from ’07. Caldera was making his third start of the season and had been shutting down lefties allowing only 3 hits, 0 walks and striking out 7 over 6 innings.

Great to see Curtis making consistent contact. Jim Leyland had stated that he wanted Curtis to get 25 at-bats in the minor leagues before he joined the team but according to Danny Knobler that wasn’t a literal statement:

“I had a good talk with him,” Leyland said. “We just want to make sure he has enough at-bats so that he comes back and can be effective. It’s one thing to have enough to play, and another to have enough to be effective.

“He might go down there for three days and feel like he’s right on it, and wants to come back. Those are the (baseball) rules. If they say they’re ready, they’re ready.”

I suspect we’ll see Curtis pretty soon if he continues to feel no pain.

Posted in Batting, Detroit Tigers, Tigers Farm System | 2 Comments

Twins help set Tigers bats straight

Nate Robertson

Another fun game down at Comerica Park tonight. Nate Robertson took the mound and looked very rough right out of the gate but was able to pull himself together and pitch 6.1 innings. This might not sound like a long outing but for Tiger starters this year Nate’s outing was an extended one.

It felt quite cold out there with a slight breeze coming into the park the entire game but the Tiger bats remained hot. Four home runs were hit between Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Miguel Cabrera. For the Twins, Craig Monroe returned to Detroit and had some success for the first time this year. He’s been as cold for Minnesota as he was for Detroit.

Below are a few more pictures from today’s matchup:

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Posted in 2008 Game Summaries, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins | 3 Comments

Breaking down Clete Thomas with pitch f/x

Clete Thomas caught most of Detroit off guard as he was initially selected to break camp with the Big League squad. If you were like me then you didn’t know much, if anything, about him. I was not a fan of the initial decision to allow him a roster slot but I absolutely no complaints with the outcome thus far. Clete has been one of the few bright spots on the team this year as he continues to mash out base hits, outshining those paid drastically more than him.

Thomas never took an at-bat at even the Triple-A level before making the Tigers big league team and spent all of the 2007 season with the Double-A Erie Seawolves. There he showed acceptable hitting and decent patience but not much power. He ended the season with a .280/.359/405 line over 528 at-bats. One would expect such a youngster to come up and struggle for at least a little while as they adjust to big league pitching. Last year’s preseason favorite for AL ROY, Alex Gordon, certainly struggled before getting the hang of it late in the season and into the current season. I expected such a struggle for Clete but so far he seems very much at home.

With the help of MLB’s Gameday pitch-by-pitch data (called pitch f/x), we can take a look at what pitches opposing teams have been using trying to get him out. Get a good look at what pitches Thomas likes and which he is able to lay off. My intial expectations were to see him swinging at a number of out of the strike zone pitches and being a bit of a free swinger. He hadn’t, up until yesterday’s game, had a walk all season. Below is a look at all pitches, through yesterday (April 12th, 2008), that Clete has seen. For all graphs I have weeded out a number of bunts that he’s been asked to lay down (he’s a good bunter btw). The breakout shows balls put in play regardless of the result, called ball and strikes which include foul balls.

Clete Thomas pitch by pitch

From this you can see that he has been a pretty good judge of the strike zone but does tend like swing at balls thrown outside a bit (keep in mind that he bats left handed so outside is to the left of the chart). Below is a further breakout of balls that were strikes which further shows that these are often ones he struggles with as well.

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Posted in Batting, Detroit Tigers, MLB, Tigers Farm System | Tagged , , | 3 Comments