Category Archives: major league baseball

A Few Words On Joel Zumaya

I’ve been putting this post off for a few days, largely because I’ve been busy, but I want to discuss yet another season-ending injury suffered by Joel Zumaya. The particular reason I want to do this is a rather long story.

See, before 2006, the Tigers were pretty terrible. The young players their system produced came up and did nothing, the veterans faded away and left, and there was precious little excitement surrounding the team. I loved baseball at this point, but I willingly admit that there wasn’t really anyone on the Tigers worth getting one’s hopes up over, and I wasn’t particularly a huge fan of any particular player. The exception became Pudge Rodriguez in 2004, but that was largely based on his pedigree more than anything else.

And then 2006 happened, and with it came a new wave of young Tigers that actually looked like they wouldn’t be career fringe players. I was taken by Curtis Granderson and his combination of power and speed. I loved Justin Verlander, of course. But none of them were quite like Joel Zumaya in my eyes.

I didn’t know much about Zumaya before the season started aside from the fact that he threw hard, but I didn’t quite realize exactly how hard. But up he came, starting Opening Day, and he simply blew it past everyone. All I could think was something to the tune of “this is awesome!”

And for Zumaya and the Tigers, 2006 got progressively more awesome. I have a few vivid memories of this season – the July 20th game against the defending champion White Sox which was televised nationally on ESPN, a duel between Kenny Rogers and Jose Contreras that was won by Detroit on a Chris Shelton RBI double in the 7th directly following a vicious slide by Marcus Thames that broke up what would have been an inning-ending double play. Zumaya was on to hold that lead, walked a batter I don’t remember offhand, but then proceeded to blow away Jermaine Dye and eternal team nemesis Joe Crede, who stared down Zumaya as he walked off the mound pumping his fist. At that point, for the first time, it really felt like the Tigers meant business.

I remember August 7th, one of the few games I got the chance to attend that year. Francisco Liriano was pitching for the Twins, at that point a phenomenon. It was the first time I’d ever been to a game that really meant something, with a raucous crowd hanging on every pitch and a ballpark full of electricity. Zumaya was brought in to preserve a 4-3 lead in the 7th, and I went nuts – it was the first time I got to see him live, and he promptly got a line drive double play to strand the tying run at third and end the inning. Everyone went nuts. It just felt right. The Tigers proceeded to score four runs the next inning, Zumaya was sent back out in the 8th, and I distinctly remember him striking out Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer, at one point hitting 103 MPH on the ballpark radar gun. I was hopelessly captivated.

And of course I remember the second game of the AL Division Series at Yankee Stadium. With the season hanging in the balance and the Tigers clinging to a one run lead in hostile territory, Zumaya came in and blew through the heart of the Yankees order, punctuating it with a complete obliteration of Alex Rodriguez followed by another emphatic fist pump as the boos rained down. I will never forget it as long as I live.

Of course, it was never quite the same, and I admit that when he finally blew his elbow out – possibly for good – on the mound at Target Field in 2010, after it looked like he was finally healthy and pitching like he did in 2006, I was completely devastated – I didn’t sleep well that night. He was one of the first player t-shirts I owned, he remains the only Tigers jersey I own, and he is the only player I ever went out of my way to acquire an autographed baseball from. I forgave him for throwing those bunts away in the World Series despite the fact that I still hold a grudge against Fernando Rodney for largely the same reasons (I’m a terrible person, I know). Heck, I even forgave him for signing with the mortal enemy Minnesota Twins.

I wish I could say I’m surprised by the latest injury, but I’m not. But whether he tries to come back one more time or not, he will always have my support. I never thought that one year in sports could mean so much to me, but 2006 taught me otherwise, and Joel was an irreplaceable part of that experience which I will never, ever forget. I don’t know if this is going to be it for him or not, but either way, all I can do is thank him for an all-too-brief career that I will never forget.

Why Your Baseball Team Sucks, 2012 Edition

Spring training has arrived, and with it comes the barrage of features from your favorite beat writers about how good certain players look, how people coming off injury look 100%, how so-and-so looks to be in the best shape of his life, and how one of your younger players looks primed for a monster season.

If you’re an optimist, that’s all well and good. But frankly, 29 teams are going to fail this season, and 20 of them (or 22 of them, depending on whether or not Bud Selig can make up his mind) aren’t even going to get the chance to play in the postseason. So despite all the sunshine and rainbows that are shining upon your favorite team right now, something is inevitably going to go wrong for them at some point. So, amidst the barrage of “the ballclub looks great!” articles you’re sure to see in the coming weeks, including the ones where various Houston Astro players tell reporters that they feel as if they can contend if a few things break their way, I offer this pessimistic alternative: Why Your Baseball Team Sucks.

Granted, this is pretty much a collection of everything that could possibly go wrong, and these complete worst case scenarios will not happen for every team (plus, unexpected things will inevitably go right, too). But hey, it’s better to shatter illusions now, isn’t it?

If you remember this post from last year, expect something similar to that.

And so, without further ado, the second annual Why Your Baseball Team Sucks. Optimists are advised to read on at their own risk.

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30 Tigers in 30 Days – #13: Octavio Dotel

2011: 5-4, 3 saves, 3.50 ERA, 17 BB, 62 K in 54 IP
Career: 54-47, 108 saves, 3.74 ERA, 396 BB, 1077 K in 888.1 IP

2012 Projections
Bill James:
 4-3, 0 saves, 3.30 ERA, 24 BB, 73 K in 60 IP
RotoChamp: 2-2, 0 saves, 3.44 ERA, 22 BB, 65 K in 55 IP 

Expected Role: 7th inning setup

The Octavio Dotel move is going to fly under the radar, but he could be an extremely valuable bullpen piece this year, especially with Al Alburquerque out until God knows when. He posts healthy strikeout totals, has AL Central experience…really the only thing is he should never ever be allowed to face lefties, because he’s terrible against them. Dominates right handers, though, and will provide a valuable bridge to the Benoit/Valverde combo. His walk rate was way down last year for some reason – wouldn’t expect it to continue, but Dotel will probably do exactly what the Tigers are hoping he’ll do – get them through the 7th more often than not. And that’s going to be a pretty big help.

Next: Miguel Cabrera

30 Tigers in 30 Days – #1: Max Scherzer

Note: I fell behind by two days, but here is the first installment of the second annual 30 Tigers in 30 Days feature, where I’ll preview 30 players that could be significant contributors to the 2012 Tigers. The order is completely random and nonsensical. The analysis, hopefully, is not.

2011: 15-9, 4.43 ERA, 56 BB, 174 K
Career: 36-35, 3.92 ERA, 210 BB, 598 K

2012 Projections
Bill James: 12-9, 3.66 ERA, 60 BB, 188 K
ZiPS: 12-10, 4.07 ERA, 61 BB, 172 K
RotoChamp: 12-9, 3.92 ERA, 63 BB, 184 K

Expected Role: Starting pitcher

The expected step forward from Max Scherzer never quite happened in 2011 thanks to wild inconsistency – at times he was great, at other times not so much. He pitched virtually an identical amount of innings as he did in 2010 and actually ceded fewer walks, but gave up more hits (a slightly but not overly inflated .314 BABIP against). His xFIP was 3.70, though, indicating that he may have gotten a bit unlucky on the home run ball.

As it is, the projections like him this year, especially Bill James, who likes him to strike out almost a batter per inning this year. The key for Scherzer will be keeping the walk rate and the homers down – he did well on the first last year and not so well on the second. One has to remember, though, that Scherzer is a year removed from a season in which he posted a 3.50 ERA – and that’s after getting off to a poor start in 2010, too. Scherzer has the ability to be the Tigers’ number two starter, but consistency will be an issue (seriously, his game scores jump all over the place if you look at them consecutively). After all, Scherzer pitched very well in the ALDS and very not-so-well in the ALCS. There’s a big difference in the Tigers rotation when Scherzer is pitching well. Personally, I expect at the very least his ERA to drop back under 4 this year.

Tomorrow: Al Alburquerque

What Makes This Different Than 2008? Let Us Count The Ways

This post needed to be written eventually by someone, and I’ve not seen anyone else do so yet, so I might as well try tackling it. It’s very much understandable how Tigers fans might think back to another time when the Tigers brought in a big bat at the expense of good defense and were tagged with enormously high preseason expectations, and how it ended in complete and utter disappointment for all involved. There are, however, a number of reasons why one can expect 2012 to be different than 2008.

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Dave Dombrowski is a bleeping stealth ninja bomber

It’s probably a bad idea to try to collect my thoughts while I’m actually writing this, but I have to do it sometime, so here goes.

First, David Dombrowski is a stealth ninja bomber. Admittedly, this directive undoubtedly came from above with Mike Ilitch, but nevertheless, there wasn’t even a hint that something could be rumbling between the Tigers and Prince Fielder until Yahoo’s Tim Brown first reported that the deal was close, sending all of us into a spaz cycle. (Buster Olney tweeted earlier in the day that there was speculation that Fielder could be a Tiger if he were willing to accept a one-year deal, but that was both pure speculation and nothing like what actually went down). Nobody saw this coming. It is unquestionably one of the most out of the blue shock moves in Tigers history – it eclipses the Miguel Cabrera trade in sheer unlikelihood, and even that deal had rumblings, albeit very quiet ones, the morning it took place.

It’s shocking for many reasons; the prevailing narrative that Fielder wouldn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps, the fact that the Tigers are more than likely going to have to reposition Miguel Cabrera in 2013, the thought that the Tigers didn’t have the payroll room or desire to pull off a move of this magnitude. But as it is, Prince Fielder is a Tiger for pretty much the next decade. And it really hasn’t sunk in yet.

It solves the DH problem for 2012 – it sounds like Miguel Cabrera will be holding down that role, and yes, the Tigers did ask him if he was okay with it. Beyond that, it sounds like he’ll be playing third base when Victor Martinez returns – a horrifically frightening thought, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Fielder is about a year younger than Cabrera, and it’s worth noting that he fills the void of a left-handed power threat – a position the Tigers have been trying to address for years, but never really have.

The contract will suck in six years or so. We know this. But if the Tigers get a World Series out of this, I will not complain about that.

I wish I had more to add here, but this really hasn’t sunk in yet. So yeah, let’s all buy Little Caesars tonight, shall we?

Victor Martinez Tears ACL; Mass Panic And Property Damage Ensues

After the news that Victor Martinez tore his ACL, likely ending his 2012 season before it could even start, Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency in all 83 counties in the State of Michigan. Women and children were seen weeping in the streets, many local businesses closed, and Jim Leyland was seen shaving his mustache.

…so this didn’t actually happen, but there is definitely some panic in the air amidst the Tigers fandom following the revelation that Martinez likely won’t play again until 2013. The Tigers are suddenly without a designated hitter and a designated protector for Miguel Cabrera, and their offense is definitely weaker for it.

One thing is clear – the Tigers have to do something. Their internal options are limited at best and, in reality, pretty much nonexistent. As such, the Tigers will probably have to go outside the organization. The DH types that are on the market – Carlos Pena, Vladimir Guerrero, Johnny Damon, and (gulp) Manny Ramirez – are a rather uninspiring group (and no, they’re not getting Prince Fielder, and I’m not even going to go into detail about that – it would be a gigantic waste of keystrokes). But there’s a solution to be found here – allow me to explain.

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The Week(s) In Review: Let’s All Pause For A Moment

First, Happy New Year. Second, I didn’t write last week for a variety of reasons, one being school starting and two, the Tigers are doing nothing.

Which, incidentally, people are still complaining about (this post is going in an angry direction!), especially in light of the Yankees going out and picking up Michael Pineda (a trade which I don’t love for them, but that’s neither here nor there) and signing Hiroki Kuroda (which is a very good move, but that’s also neither here nor there). The charges levied against the Tigers, of course, are that they’re sitting idly by while the rest of the AL beefs up. Sure, they are good enough to win the AL Central, but the AL Central isn’t the World Series, right?

To which I say, what exactly do you want the Tigers to do? They’re set at catcher, first base, shortstop, and probably two outfield positions, as well as DH. Unfortunately for them, it just so happens that the positions they might otherwise look to upgrade (left field, second base, and possibly third base) are extremely thin this offseason. Last we saw, the Braves were asking a king’s ransom for Martin Prado, who isn’t worth that kind of haul. It’s not feasible. The Tigers should not be making moves just for the sake of making moves. That sort of thing gets teams in trouble.

Similarly, the Tigers’ rotation is set from 1-4, and they’re not going to give out a big money, multi-year contract for a fifth starter. If Roy Oswalt can indeed be had for one year and $8 million, I’d be all over that, but otherwise, guys like Kuroda and Edwin Jackson were never coming here. In fact, if the Tigers feel Jacob Turner is ready, they can just ride the rapids with him (and similarly, they don’t NEED to trade Turner for a high-end starter, either). I’d imagine they’re waiting out the market and looking for a nice deal on a veteran fix for a year. They’re out there. Be patient and relax.

Similarly, the bullpen is what it is. Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit are capable of anchoring the back, Phil Coke can get lefties out, and the addition of Octavio Dotel means they should be able to get through the 7th, 8th, and 9th pretty efficiently on most nights. While I’d like to see them add another reliever, they don’t need to aggressively go out and overpay for one.

So my question again – and if you have an answer, by all means, leave me a comment – what should the Tigers be doing that they aren’t? I don’t think they’re sitting on their hands on purpose. Second and third basemen are hard to find, the demands for starting pitching on the trade market is high, the fifth starter market has not passed them by yet, they’re reasonably comfortable with the bullpen, and Yoenis Cespedes isn’t eligible for free agency yet. I know there are people out there who subscribe to the “win now” theory and believe we should be trading the farm for the likes of Martin Prado, but one can be in “win now” mode without being unreasonable about it.  But for those crying about Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn, please, check the market and tell me who you like more.

The bottom line is, the Tigers picked a poor offseason to need a second and third basemen, because there really aren’t any. I understand the frustration with watching American League rivals upgrade while the Tigers stand pat, but frankly, the Tigers are in a position where most of the positions that need upgrading are positions that are really, really difficult to upgrade in this market. Believe me, I wish there were better options at third base as much as you do – but the fact is, the market is more shallow than the cast of Jersey Shore.

And now, the weeks that were:

  • Yoenis Cespedes confirmed that the Tigers (and five other teams, including the White Sox, Indians, and Marlins, who have openly admitted to be planning an aggressive pursuit) had shown serious interest in signing him when he officially becomes a free agent, which could happen this week. He proceeded to inexplicably play in the Dominican Winter League and go 0 for his first 6 with 4 strikeouts. It’s like we shouldn’t judge a guy based on two promotional videos or something (nor should we judge him based on two winter league games, either).
  • The Tigers were “down the road” in trade talks with Chicago about Matt Garza. And then they weren’t. I’ve read so much conflicting information on the Tigers’ interest or non-interest in Garza that I don’t know what to believe anymore, but the consensus seems to be that they’d be willing to include Jacob Turner, but far more hesitant to throw in Nick Castellanos. I’m personally not sure I’d do Turner-for-Garza straight up, but hey, I’m not making the decisions, and quite frankly, it looks unlikely at this point anyway.
  • Somehow, some rumor got started that the Tigers and Kerry Wood may match up, but even before he inevitably re-signed with the Cubs, that was never going to happen.
  • And at least we’re not the White Sox. Still.

Week In Review: At Least We’re Not The White Sox

Took last week off for Christmas and now here we are, and yet I still don’t have much to write about. But hey, we need something to tide us over since it’s already apparent that the Pistons are still an abomination, so let’s fake it…

  • Gio Gonzalez went to the Nationals for a package that was better than anything the Tigers could’ve thrown together, so rest easy on that one.
  • Nobody knows anything about Yoenis Cespedes. We’ve gone from “The Tigers have a limited budget” to “Mike Ilitch does whatever he wants.” Similarly, the Yankees have gone from frontrunners to not frontrunners, nobody knows what the Marlins will do, and the White Sox might be interested. Oh, and he’s still not a free agent yet, so relax.
  • Speaking of the White Sox, they locked up John Danks long term after letting Mark Buehrle walk and trading Sergio Santos – who was under club control through 2017 – for a mid-level prospect. I’m starting to wonder if Ken Williams is schizophrenic. At this point, I’m waiting for them to trade Gavin Floyd and then sign Edwin Jackson.
  • Jon Heyman keeps informing us all that the Tigers are interested in Jair Jurrjens. Tiger fans – myself included – have been guilty of overrating Jurrjens, and they really shouldn’t sell the farm for him under any circumstances. He has a career FIP approaching 4.00 and has dealt with multiple shoulder issues. Fun facts: Max Scherzer has a better career FIP than Jurrjens. I’d stay away, frankly.
  • Today we have Jon Morosi reporting that the Tigers are interested in Matt Garza. I like Garza, and he’s just entering his prime at 28, but he’s not signed long term and would almost certainly cost Jacob Turner, and probably more. Hard to justify.
  • Why aren’t the Tigers in on Paul Maholm? Sign him for two years to be your fifth starter (one year would be preferable, but in this case, I wouldn’t let a second year be a sticking point), give Turner all the time he needs to fully refine himself in the minors, trade Maholm in a year or a year and a half when you deem Turner ready (or keep him for two years, what the heck do I care?). Plus, he’s a lefty! And he’s much more palatable than some of the other fifth starter options the Tigers have been linked to (Joe Saunders? Please, please, no).
  • Cleveland got turned down by Carlos Beltran. Oh, Indians, ever the bridesmaid. I hear Carlos Pena is available.
  • But hey, the Twins signed Jason Marquis. Look out, everybody.
  • And the Royals signed Jose Mijares! Thank goodness he’s staying in the division.
  • I will stop mocking the opposition now.
  • But seriously, the Twins and White Sox might be really pitiful next year, guys.

Week in Review: The Offseason Is Boring, Deal With It

Since I’m lazy, I will try to do this every Friday throughout the year. Because, well, the offseason, especially this year, is boring.

Which isn’t a bad thing. There are virtually no good fits on the market for the Tigers right now, and it seems like they’d be making a move just for the sake of making a move if they did so. Which is bad, you know. So I’m perfectly fine with a boring offseason.

But for those who aren’t, here’s what happened this week that you could cheer for to make it less boring:

  • The Tigers have asked the Padres about third baseman Chase Headley. This is a good thing. The Padres are reportedly asking for the moon in return. This is not such a good thing.
  • Will Rhymes got non-tendered. Believe it or not, questioning the coaching staff on Twitter and being a mediocre player are two good ways to get yourself out of a job. Plus, Jim Leyland seems to have always preferred Danny Worth anyway, which didn’t work in Rhymes’s favor.
  • The Tigers did tender contracts to everyone else, including Delmon Young. Brace yourselves for a party in left field, guys.
  • Most of the league-wide non-tenders were fairly uninspiring with regards to the Tigers, but Arizona cut Joe Saunders loose. It’s been speculated by some that he might be a fit for the Tigers’ fifth starter spot on a one-year deal, but the Red Sox are said to be interested and he may be able to drag a two-year deal out of someone. Also, legendary Tiger killer Luke Scott was non-tendered and is drawing interest.
  • The Tigers did ask about Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez. Billy Beane, who according to CBS’s Danny Knobler is “enamored” with Jacob Turner, asked for Turner, Nick Catellanos, and Drew Smyly, and was rightfully rebuffed. That market is only going to heat up from here onward, so the chances of the Tigers landing the lefty seem to be unlikely at best.
  • The Tigers may have had interest in Jimmy Rollins. Or may not have, depending on who you believe. Either way, Rollins makes absolutely no sense and hasn’t really been a great player over the last few years – and will command more dollars and years than he probably deserves at this point in his career. Let the Phillies pay him. Or hey, you didn’t want the offseason to be boring, feel free to sign him.
  • Yoenis Cespedes still isn’t a free agent.
  • The Tigers almost certainly didn’t bid on Yu Darvish, so don’t bother worrying about that.
  • Boston signed Nick Punto to a two-year deal. Two years! Not Tiger-related at all, but it’s Nick Punto.

Meanwhile, the Marlins traded Burke Badenhop this week, meaning they’ve officially parted ways with everyone they acquired from Detroit in the Miguel Cabrera trade. Breaking it down:

  • Andrew Miller was shipped off to Boston for reliever Dustin Richardson. Richardson has since been waived by the Marlins and was last in the Atlanta organization.
  • Cameron Maybin was sent to San Diego last winter for relievers Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb, both of whom posted fairly solid numbers for the Marlins in 2011.
  • Haven’t a clue what became of Dallas Trahern, but as far as I know, he’s no longer with the Marlins after pitching in their minor league system last year. He never made it to the majors.
  • Eulogio de la Cruz was eventually sold by the Marlins and saw a brief stint in the majors last year with Milwaukee.
  • Mike Rabelo left the Marlins as a free agent and was eventually re-signed (and later released) by Detroit.
  • Badenhop was dealt to Tampa Bay for a minor league third basemen.

Essentially, Florida’s return for Miguel Cabrera (and Dontrelle Willis) amounts to a pair of middle relievers. I believe it is safe to say the Tigers Won The Trade.

All in all, boring week. We’ll try again next time.

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