Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Since everybody wants the email

And that's the end of that. I believe everybody that wanted the email has now had an equal opportunity shot at it. If not, I'm sure it's still floating around email addressess that are easy enough to find. Hell, mine is around here somewhere.

Thanks for stopping by, we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

2007 Detroit Tigers Preview - Lineup

Last year, the Tigers ranked 5th in the American League in runs scored which isn't bad. It wasn't your average offense, however, as they struck out a lot, walked very little, and mashed a bunch of home runs. The Tigers' .329 team OBP ranked 12th in the American League and just barely ahead of the 13th place Mariners, but their 203 home runs only trailed the White Sox (236) and Yankees (210).

What to expect this year? Well, they still don't have a true leadoff hitter. They still have guys with major holes in their plate approach. But they also added a big time bat in Gary Sheffield. Even though he's 38 years old he is instantly one of the two best hitters on the team alongside Carlos Guillen.

Before the analysis, just one brief pause. If strikeouts by a hitter or batting average are terribly important to you, just stop reading. There is plenty of evidence that they mean next to nothing which I am not going to bother rehashing here right now.

Curtis Granderson

Never Nervous Curtis had his first full season of big league action last year posting a .260/.335/.413 line and playing solid D in centerfield. That's decent production, but nowhere near what he is capable of. His entire minor league career, he had an OBP between .360 and .410 and a slugging percentage from .460 to .510. Look at his age 24 season in Toledo for evidence of what we can hopefully expect as he continues to develop. He hit .290 that year with a .359 OBP and a .515 SLG cranking out 15 home runs and 22 SBs in only 111 games. Grandy will never be a .300 hitter, but he draws plenty of walks and hits for plenty of power to be a borderline all star CF for years. Critics point to his high K totals, but they've never held him down in the past. It'd be nice if he made just a tad more contact, but this kid is a legit talent and will turn 26 in spring training. He will likely once again bat leadoff because of his speed even though he is more of a #3 or #5 hitter .

Placido Polanco

Oh Placido. You won the ALCS MVP and gave yourself a reputation as a clutch hitter. But man, oh man, did you stink at the plate last year. It was brutal. As good as you were in 2005? You were equally bad in 2006. Polanco's batting line in 2005 was .331/.383/.447 and in 2006 it was .295/.329/.347. Last year he exemplified to a T why batting average is not a good stat to look at. He hit .295, drew barely any walks and almost never got an extra base hit. Not a pretty site to behold. The good news, however, is that his 2006 season was sort of out of left field. Placido had been an above average hitter for 4 consecutive seasons before nosediving last year so there is ample reason to believe he can regain his stroke and become a productive player once again. I mean it's not often somebody drops 50 points of OBP and 100 points of SLG in one season.

Carlos Guillen

Just another ho hum monster year from one of the most underrated stars in the game. Did you know that Carlos' batting average has increased every single year since his rookie season? That's seven straight years. At this rate, he'll have a batting title one of these years. In 2006, Guillen put together a phenomenal .320/.400/.519 line at the plate as he carried the team on offense. He's now been healthy 2 of his 3 years in Detroit (04, 06) and both times he was a terror at the plate and arguably the best hitting shortstop in the game. He doesn't put up the show stopping HR numbers, but he is as solid as they get at the plate this side of Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols and he managed a 10th place finish in the MVP voting. He's not what he once was defensively, but he just turned 31 a few months ago so his hitting is not likely to fall off any time soon. It's not unreasonable to expect a .320/.400/.500 hitting line again from Carlos the Great and he could even exceed that if he stays healthy.

Magglio Ordonez

Maggs put up a .298/.350/.477 hitting line batting cleanup for Detroit last year and in general gave them the feared power hitter in the middle of the lineup they were expecting. He doesn't have the power he once had, but as evidenced by his game 4 ALCS walkoff shot he can still get the job done. I'd expect very similar production from him again this year as a good but not great middle of the order run producer.

Gary Sheffield

The big offseason acquisition is the type of hitter the Tigers need. On a team filled with free swingers, this is a guy who considers anything under .400 to be a bad year for his OBP. Injured most of last year, in 2005 he hit .291/.379/.512 which was a down year at the plate. If he can even duplicate those numbers he is instantly the 2nd best hitter on the Tigers in 2007 and if he can have a big year, he is capable of putting up MVP caliber numbers at the plate.

Craig Monroe

Mr. Clutch last year needs to learn to draw a few more walks. His .255/.301/.482 batting line says it all. Lots of power, not much else. In a somewhat disturbing trend it is the 2nd straight year his OBP has declined from a decent .337 in 2004. Craig is a very good defensive left fielder and he will turn 30 next month. If he can up the BA/OBP just a little he could become a good player. As it stands, he's merely average in leftfield.

Ivan Rodriguez

35 year old Pudge is still a force behind the plate as perhaps the best defensive catcher in the league. Unfortunately, he isn't much with the bat anymore. In 2006, he put up a .300/.332/.437 hitting line. For a defensive catcher, that is very good, but it isn't nearly up to what he could do in his prime. The good news is that he worked on his plate discipline last year and managed 26 walks after only 11 in 2005. If he can get that up near 40 or 50 he could be a decent hitter in 2007. Can't expect a lot of offense, though, because he is clearly past his prime.

Brandon Inge

Perhaps the most exciting defensive infielder in baseball, Brandon has been swinging for the fences more and more as his career goes on. He turns 30 this May so he is no longer a youngster, but his batting is still evolving. In 2006, he hit .253/.313/.463 with a career high 27 home runs and 83 RBI. It'd be nice to see him up the OBP and he does have a good eye, because he makes way too many outs right now. I'm not quite sure what to expect from him in 2007. He's probably the best athlete on the team and has phenomenal hand eye coordination. I'd say that aside from Granderson, he has the biggest potential for improvement on the team based mostly on his quick hands.

Sean Casey

And now we come to the Debbie Downer segment of the lineup. Sean Casey sucked in Detroit last year. He was brought in to replace the struggling Chris Shelton at first base and proceeded to hit even worse than Shelton. He was brutal in Detroit last year. .245 batting average? .285 on base percentage? .364 slugging percentage? He actually hit worse than Polanco did last year at the biggest offensive position on the field. In Detroit, he was arguably one of the 10 worst position players in the entire American League. The good news is that this horrible performance was a huge drop from what he had been doing in Pittsburgh in 2006, which although not good was at least adequate. With the Bucs, he hit .296/.377/.408 in 2006. His total lack of power for a firstbaseman is disturbing, but he at least usually gets on base quite a bit. In Detroit, however, he stopped getting on base. Sean turns 33 this summer so it's unlikely he will all of a sudden start improving in any major way, but hopefully as he adjusts to the league he can get back to normal for him and come close to a .400 OBP to make up for his lack of power.

Chris Shelton

Speaking of Sean Casey, can we get Shelton some damn playing time. Yes, I realize he lost his swing after the quick start last year when he started reaching for the fences too much. But the kid can flat out hit. Check out his career MLB numbers in 249 games: .281/.348/.477. And he doesn't turn 27 until June. This kid can play and they need to get him in the batters box. He's a better hitter than Sean Casey right now and is not too shabby in the field. I don't care how bad he tailed off last year, he has a record of hitting everywhere he has been and they need all the offense they can get to tangle with the powers in the AL.

Marcus Thames

Speaking of hitting, how about Thames? Detroit's best hitting outfielder last year might be the odd man out for ABs this year. In 2006, he hit .256/.333/.549 while knocking 26 HRs in a little over half a season worth of at bats. If he isn't going to play much, they need to trade him for something because he is too valuable to be wasting away on the bench. It's not every team in the league that has somebody with 40-50 HR power sitting on the bench. Heck, if you combine the last 3 seasons Thames has 41 HRs in 610 at bats for the Tigers. Imagine what he'd do if he ever got regular PT.

Omar Infante

This utility man just turned 25 this offseason and had a decent year at the plate last year. He hit .277/.325/.415 in 224 at bats which isn't bad. I'd really like to see him get used as the 3rd middle infielder ahead of guys like Neifi Perez and Ramon Santiago because his offensive ability is light years ahead of them and his D isn't bad either.

As for Neifi Perez, I only hope there is some way he doesn't make the roster. He's a nice guy, but arguably one of the 5 worst hitters in the last decade of major league baseball. Look at what he did for Detroit last year: .200 batting average, .235 on base percentage, .215 slugging percentage. Neifi was a lightweight hitter in Coors Field and since he left he has been just horrid. It was at least a good sign to see Jim Leyland admit that in hindsight it was a mistake to bring him in last year. He has to go down as the worst move of the Dombrowski era.


Monday, January 29, 2007

2007 Detroit Tigers Preview - Pitching

No, I'm still not down from the high of the 2006 American League pennant winning Detroit Tigers season. It was simply a thing of beauty to behold and one of the most unexpected great seasons I have ever seen. That said, it's now time to look ahead to 2007. I'll start with the pitching. It was the strength of the 2006 team and could be even better in 2007 (though that will take some luck).

First up, the rocks of the starting rotation. Barring injury, these guys are the starters.

Kenny Rogers - The Gambler just turned 42, but is coming off one of the best seasons of his career going 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA. What can we expect in 2007 from the soft tossing lefty? Well, for starters, he isn't likely to duplicate those numbers again. Wins? Maybe. But ERA will likely be north of 4.00 and closer to 4.50. His career ERA is 4.19, though he has been under 4.00 in 3 of the last 5 years. But at some point age will catch up with him. I think 180 innings and a 4.40 ERA are reasonable expectations. He won't anchor the rotation, but he won't hurt them either.

Jeremy Bonderman - This kid is the face of one of Dombrowski's first big moves with the Tigers when he jetisoned Jeff Weaver for a trio of players including Bonderman. He just turned 24 at the conclusion of the season and has 4 full seasons under his belt. What's not to love about this kid? Check out his season by season progressions:

2003 - 6-19, 162 IP, 5.56 ERA, 108 Ks, 58 BBs, 1.549 WHIP
2004 - 11-13, 184 IP, 4.89 ERA, 168 Ks, 73 BBs, 1.310 WHIP
2005 - 14-13, 189 IP, 4.57 ERA, 145 Ks, 57 BBs, 1.354 WHIP
2006 - 14-8, 214 IP, 4.08 ERA, 202 Ks, 64 BBs, 1.299 WHIP

It doesn't take a math major to see the consistent and steady improvement in nearly every category from Wins and Losses to K/BB ratio to WHIP to ERA, etc. Gotta think we'll see more of the same in 2007 as Bonderman looks to break out into the stardom he seems destined for. 18 wins, 200+ Ks, and an ERA in the 3.50-3.75 range seem well within his reach as he becomes one of the top starters in the American League behind Johan Santana.

Justin Verlander

The reigning AL rookie of the year is coming off a season in which he went 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA for the AL champs. Pretty heady stuff for a 23 year old. His peripheral numbers weren't nearly as good as Bonderman's however, and he likely had quite a bit of luck involved in that ERA and W/L record. In 186 IP, he only managed 124 strikeouts vs 60 walks and gave up a WHIP of 1.328. I'd expect he'll fall off a little this year, though the potential for greatness is still there. His low strikeout totals were somewhat perplexing given the actual quality of the pitches he throws. His fastball routinely touches 98 or 99 on the gun and he has one of the biggest knee buckling curveballs in the league. Maybe with a little more experience he will learn how to put away the big leaguers via the whiff. This year I'd expect him to come in around 200 innings with an ERA in the 4.00 to 4.25 range and hopefully >150 strikeouts. Not quite as good Bonderman, but a very good young starter.

Nate Robertson

Nasty Nate was the tough luck pitcher on the staff last year only putting together a 13-13 record despite a 3.84 ERA in 208 IP. Like Bonderman, he just keeps getting better. 2006 marked the 4th consecutive year that he lowered his ERA and WHIP, though his K and BB rates have stabilized. What can we expect this year? Well, he's a good pitcher. I think 200 IP and a sub 4.00 ERA is well within reach again, though I'm not sure how much he has left in him to improve based on his K and BB rates. He doesn't have dominant stuff, but gets the most out of what he has. For a 3rd or 4th starter in the bigs? He helps make the Tigers staff as good as any in the league.

Mike Maroth

Mike was the forgotten man in 2006 after a hot start when he was lost to injury for the rest of the season. Don't forget, however, that he has continued to battle back since he lost 21 games in 2003. Maroth was on pace for his best season ever with a 5-2 record and a 4.19 ERA before being injured. He doesn't have great stuff and considering he's coming off a major injury I don't know exactly what to expect. But for a 5th starter he is certainly a solid option to have.

Other contenders for the 5th starter spot if injury or poor performance creeps in? Gotta think of names like Jordan Tata, Zach Miner, and Wil Ledezma. Now, off to the bullpen.

Todd Jones

TJ earned his nickname of roller coaster last year with all the excitement he brought to the mound (for both teams) when he entered the game. He did somehow manage to string together a 3.94 ERA and 37 saves, however. He is getting old as he turns 39 in April, but is still likely the closer heading into spring camp. I don't expect a whole lot out of a guy that only managed 28 strikeouts in 64 innings last year, but he might just keep plugging along and holding 3 run leads by the skin of his teeth.

Joel Zumaya

Kid K was a human highlight reel last year. From his flame tattoo on his forearm to the 103 mph radar gun readings to the goatee and glare, he was sheer intimidation on the mound to opposing hitters. The sight of him mowing down the heart of the Yankees order in postseason still warms my heart. While he wasn't a closer last year, he arguably pitched much more important situations than Todd Jones often entering in the 7th or 8th inning and the game on the line. His talent is why I'm a lot less concerned about Jones as closer. If it gets that bad, Zumaya simply moves to the 9th inning. Zumaya's stats last year were off the charts. In 83 1/3 IP, he managed to rack up 97 strikeouts and a 1.17 WHIP. His 42 walks allowed and 2 HBP were just wild enough to keep hitters on their toes. He is as dominant as any young reliever in the majors and is likely destined to be closing games for a long time in Detroit (think Mariano Rivera for the Yankees).

Fernando Rodney

Fernando was up and down last year, but still put together a 3.52 ERA in 71 2/3 innings pitched to go along with 65 strikeouts. He walked too many (34), but was lights out for most of the season. Over the last 2 years, he has a combined ERA of 3.27 which is excellent. A power arm like Zumaya (though not quite that fast), his devastating change up makes him tougher on lefties than righties which really helps this right hand heavy bullpen late in the game.

Wil Ledezma

60 IP with a 3.58 ERA isn't bad for this swingman who can both start games or work as a lefty out of the pen. Still on the younger side (just turned 26 last week), he has very good potential with a 95-97 mph fastball and a big curveball. If somebody goes down in the rotation, he could get a shot at starting again. Otherwise, he likely gets Jamie Walker's old job.

Jose Mesa

Buddha was signed as some insurance in the bullpen. Last year in Colorado, he managed a 3.86 ERA at the age of 40 which isn't bad. In 72 innings of work, though, he only had 39 Ks to go against 36 BBs and gave up an opponents OBP of .364. Not exactly great pitching, but decent enough as a 5th or 6th arm in the pen. Besides, it's at least worth noting that in 4 of the last 6 seasons he has managed to keep his ERA under 4.00. He was only 19/26 in save situations last year. He's a good veteran to bring in and apparently has an excellent work ethic. Hopefully he will not be counted on for innings in anything other than garbage time.

That's all I've got for guaranteed spots in the pitching staff which brings us to 9. Guys like Ed Campusano (rule 5 lefty reliever), Zach Miner, Jason Grilli, and Roman Colon probably have to earn a spot in spring training. All in all it is an excellent pitching staff, though they will have a tough time matching the production of a staff that lead the entire major leagues in ERA in 2006 (pretty good for an AL squad). The good news is that with the addition of Gary Sheffield, the offense should be better next year.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Sorry for the light blogging recently. It's a combination of too much work and too little CFB worth discussing. I'll get back in the swing of things with college hoops and some other stuff in the next week or so.

If Michigan should happen to upset Wisconsin or Indiana on the road this week (unlikely), it would really catch my attention and stamp them as a likely NCAA team.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

On Deck?

Since the Tommy Amaker watch is in full effect, here's a list of names to consider:

Todd Lickliter - Butler
Rudy Tomjanovich - formerly of NBA
Dana Altman - Creighton (also formerly Big 12 COY at Kansas State in 1993)
John Beilein - West Virginia (before that at Richmond)
Sean Miller - Xavier (Thad Matta's right hand man formerly)
Karl Hobbs - Geoge Washington (5 years at GW = 12 wins, 12 wins, 18 wins, 22 wins, 27 wins)
Blaine Taylor - Old Dominion (former assistant at Stanford)
Barry Hinson - Missouri State
Jim Les - Bradley
Jeff Bzdelik - Air Force (formerly coach of the Denver Nuggets)

I'm sure there are others floating around out there as well. I'd hope Bill Martin would seriously look at guys like Altman and Beilein and what it would take to get them.



I think that is how USC spelled it in the second half...