Leyland down the law

As I begin to delve into the merits of various players on the roster, I began to consider how much impact Jim Leyland has on the decisions. While it makes sense he would have a say, his impact probably stretches beyond what happens in organizational meetings.

For example, the Tigers have 3 players on their current roster who could have some value in that they are young-ish, they are cheap, and they have some track record of success. Yet all 3 found themselves on the outside come playoff time.

Chris Shelton, who has a very solid minor league track record and a half season of solid production under his belt was completely left off the playoff roster in each round in favor of a 3rd middle infielder back up. Even more outrageous was the fact he was left on the bench in the final game against Kansas City while Neifi Perez was brought in to pinch hit.

Marcus Thames led the team in slugging and was 2 homers off the team lead despite having 200 fewer ABs than leaders Craig Monroe and Brandon Inge. Thames also has a history of AAA dominance. And yet he was routinely passed over in favor of Alexis Gomez who has virtually no track record – and he wasn’t passed over for defensive reasons. These were pinch hitting opps.

Finally, the Tigers have a young player in Omar Infante who made an error that cost the team a game in August. Suddenly despite hitting the cover off the ball as a replacement for Polanco, he was relegated to the bench in favor of Neifi Perez who is signed for next year as well. Infante is younger, cheaper, better offensively, faster, and better defensively than Neifi Perez. Yet he can’t get off the bench.

All 3 players could and should be given the opportunity to contribute to the Tigers next year. Only Omar Infante is arbitration eligible and the trio could be locked up for a total of $1.5 million dollars and at the very least provide the foundation for a pretty solid bench. But the fact that Leyland repeatedly chose not to use this group of players doesn’t bode well for their future. Ramon Santiago, Neifi Perez, and Alexis Gomez for some reason garnered Leyland’s fancy. At this point we can only hope that Dombrowski’s desire to provide a talented roster trumps Leyland’s desire not to use them.

38 Comments

  1. Cameron in Singapore

    November 3, 2006 at 11:25 pm

    Great post Bilfer. Agree with you completely. Here’s hoping Dombrowski doesn’t give in to Leyland, as he seemingly did with the Neifi trade.

  2. Jonathon

    November 4, 2006 at 2:23 am

    Bilfer, totally nailed that on the head. Same goes with Ledezma as well, despite the few starts in the last month he got. He can’t really catch a break and probably won’t until he’s part of a trade out of Detroit.

  3. Adam

    November 4, 2006 at 3:21 am

    I’m just really rooting for Infante. I really think he could be one of the better Tiger players if given a chance.

  4. Bob S.

    November 4, 2006 at 8:50 am

    Obviously the Tigers performed beyond all expectations this season and Leyland deserves much of the credit.But it’s these types of errors in judgement that make me wonder whether he wasn’t suffering mental fatigue by the end of the season-it had been a while since he managed a team through 162+ games.Shelton was obviously having difficulties at the plate,but keeping Perez on the playoff roster instead of him was insane(the fact that any team in major league baseball has Perez on it’s roster is insane).Likewise ,the lack of playing time to Infante and Thames.And don’t forget other errors big and small like pitching Rogers once-ONCE-in the World Series,partially due to the pitching rotation seemingly drawn out of a hat,inexplicably throwing to Albert Pujols with first base open in game 1,and stubbornly keeping Granderson batting leadoff where he was guaranteed more oportunities per game to swing cluelessly at breaking pitches.

  5. Kyle J

    November 4, 2006 at 10:23 am

    I think you have to give him the benefit of the doubt on Shelton. He was pretty awful at the plate after he came back up from Toledo. Per my comment on the last post, I still think he can turn it around, though.

    The bias against Infante and Thames is baffling, though. Maybe a GM out there recognizes their ability and will take them as part of a package for a big bat.

  6. Kurt

    November 4, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    Remember it wasn’t a Shelton-or-Perez decision, it was a Shelton-or-Santiago decision due to playoff roster rules. If Leyland had lost faith in Perez by the playoffs, he had to carry Santiago as backup short stop, and Shelton had done absolutely nothing for months to earn a playoff spot. Every September at-bat, he seemed totally lost like he’d never get a hit again.

    The only way I question Leyland on this is Leyland wanting (we presume) Perez on the Tigers’ roster in August when Infante would have been fine. I’m not as sold on Infante as some of you guys, but of course Infante > Perez to 99.9% of the population.

    I wonder if Leyland’s brother in Toledo was yelling at him over the lack of Thames playing time. Thames hadn’t been the batter of earlier in the year, his stats seemed a bit misleading, but he shouldn’t have been forgotten about.

    Shelton is a wait-and-see for me. Last year or two, he concentrated on improving his fielding and became a very good first baseman. If he puts his mind to improving his batting (or rather, re-capturing it) he can be a good contributer. I don’t bet on it. I find a first baesman. But pay him and bring him to camp and see if he can’t be a great backup.

  7. the drizzle

    November 4, 2006 at 3:02 pm

    Talk about an exaggeration of what took place. I think the only place where Leyland much critisism in these instances is for playing Neifi as much as he did over Omar, but even then I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done something similar after letting that DP grounder go between his legs.

    Kurt is right, it was Shelton vs. Santiago, and Santiago was completely the correct call as he filled in nicely at shortstop from a defensive perspective in the 4 games they needed him. Shelton looked awful, just plain awful and was an easy strikeout.

    Regarding Thames, lets review. Thames plays the first 5 games, and does pretty well. Gomez subs for him game 2 Oakland, has a huge game. Can’t argue with that. Then Leyland bats Omar at DH game 3, and then Gomez again game 4. Omar, as everyone has said, deserved a shot, and Gomez probably deserved another shot after his stellar game 4, coupled with Casey, a rare left-handed bat, not in the lineup. Nothing crazy about those 2 games, and Thames did pinch hit in the 9th in game 4. Now we switch to the St. Louis series, and Casey can only play DH at home, so no room for Thames. Games 3-5, no DH. So to me, I don’t think he got shafted by Leyland as much as the circumstances surrounding things (Gomez’ big game, Casey hurt, no DH).

    I think a mountain is being made out of half a mole-hill here.

  8. billfer

    November 4, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    There is no exaggeration whatsoever and the postseason was only part of the story. This was indicative of August and September as well. Casey was just as incompetent as Shelton was. A flailing Dmitri Young was given tons of at-bats, and well we all know about Neifi.

    I fear that the Tigers have players who have some combination of youth, a positive track record, and affordability who they will be forced to part with for no real good reasons.

    I’m not advocating that any of those 3 are starters next year, but due to the above reasons they would definitely make for a pretty solid bench. The fact they were routinely passed over for inferior talents is troublesome and leads me to think they won’t be back.

  9. Bob S.

    November 4, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    I don’t see calling Shelton a very good first baseman.Compared to the guy playing first on your softball team,maybe,but he’s not a very good major league first baseman.

  10. Kurt

    November 4, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    http://www.baseballthinkfactor....._i_see_it/

    I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on his findings, but Shelton was the top of the position.

  11. Mark P

    November 4, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    Bob S. -
    I am not sure we were watching the same Chris Shelton at 1B this year. The fact is that he was very solid defensively. There is no way Casey was better. Shelton may not be a gold glover, but he performs well, especially for being orginally brought up at a catcher.

    Read Bilfer’s previous entry which includes this link:

    http://www.baseballthinkfactor....._i_see_it/

  12. Mark P

    November 4, 2006 at 5:52 pm

    As far as this entry…I agree with Bilfer. All three are very good backups and could start on many teams. They should not be riding the pine so much.

  13. Greg

    November 4, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    I disagree that it was a Shelton-or-Santiago decision. Or that it was a Shelton-or-Perez decision either. It was a two of the following three: Shelton, Santiago, Perez. And, rather than diversifying, Leyland picked the two players most identical. They didn’t need 3 back-up infielders (with Infante).

  14. billfer

    November 4, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    Greg – it actually was Shelton or Santiago in the playoffs due to roster rules. They were only allowed to add 1 player who wasn’t on the 25 man roster(or DL) as of Sept 1st. Perez and Infante were on the roster on the 1st and Shelton and Santiago weren’t. It came down to those 2.

  15. Joshua M.

    November 4, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    Honestly I am not a huge fan of Infante, but given the chioce of playing him, Santiago, or Perez I would pick Infante every time. Even if he was going to be playing shortstop. It was pointless to have all 3 of them on the playoff roster and not Shelton. I understand he wasnt hitting anything at all, but as a few of these post point out he can field the ball at first. So it leaves the chioce of having 2 middle infielders who cant hit crap (Santiago or Perez) or 1 first baseman who has hit, but wasnt at the time.

  16. Joshua M.

    November 4, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    Another thing I couldnt understand was Thames’ lack of playing time. Has everyone in the Tigers organization forgot that Craig Monroe was are starting centerfileder??? So when Granderson couldnt do squat in St Louis why not move Monroe to center and give Thames a few at bats. Leyland said he was being loyal to the guys that got them there, well I seem to remember Thames hitting 20 some home runs this year, did that not contribute to getting them there???

  17. Joshua M.

    November 4, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    And I am a huge pudge fan but come on 0-23??? Why have Vance Wilson, who I think was a big part of the reason we won as many games as we did, if he isnt capable of playing one game in the world series??? And as much as was made about Pudge being so great at doing whatever Leyland wanted this year it should have been fine to do for 1 game.

  18. Bob S.

    November 4, 2006 at 9:07 pm

    I’m going to have to believe my eyes here-you’re not gonna convince me that Shelton is a good defensive 1B.

  19. the drizzle

    November 5, 2006 at 12:27 am

    I still disagree totally with the critisism over the handling of Shelton and Thames. Shelton had ample oppurtunity, but played horrible and looked horrible doing it when July 31st came around. Casey had a long slump, but at least he was close to getting hits, I remember during his big slump a lot of well hit balls were at people. Shelton couldn’t sniff a hit, they didn’t send him to AAA on a whim and that stint didn’t fix him. I also remember some shakiness defensively at first base towards the end.

    Thames hit .199 after the all star break, and got a high number of at bats considering that fact. When Dmitri came back, Dmitri played, and hit well. When he cooled off, they released him. What more do you want? Also, remember Thames was sick as a dog before the Yankee series, there was sufficient justification for Leyland to bench him based on rustiness/not yet fully recovered if Leyland really thought that little of him.

    That said, I definately want to see Shelton back in spring training as I think his slump was mental, and if he gets over that hump it will be obvious. Thames and Infante certainly carry value to the team, altho I’d like to see more production from the DH spot, and Infante won’t unseat Guillen or Polanco, but is 10 times better than Neifi.

  20. Chris J

    November 5, 2006 at 4:56 am

    Bilfer is right on here.

  21. gus mirage

    November 5, 2006 at 9:08 pm

    Please, please, please stop with the Pro-infante stuff. He really is in the same class as Perez.

    I do agree on the other 2 though.

  22. Adam

    November 5, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    Oh yeah, because Perez has a near-300 batting average and can hit for power, can’t he? I forgot.

  23. Greg

    November 5, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    My bad on Santiago vs. Shelton. Thanks Bilfer.

  24. Jojo SunDevil

    November 6, 2006 at 11:12 am

    I am still kind of surprised the Tigers somewhat gave up on Shelton after August. I still think that Shelton could be the first baseman of the future, but even when he was struggling, it seemed like he was still making contact. With Infante and Perez (oh. my goodness gracious), why the need for a third reserve infielder. Shelton at a minimum is probably the better defensive first baseman then Sean Casey.

    One thing that Leyland did that I really don’t understand, is why put Zach Miner on the playoff roster if youre not going to use him. He’s obviously not a starter in the playoffs, so you are conceding that he is going to be a set up man. Well, then why put him on the roster, if you don’t plan on using him at all, because you think he doesn’t have the ability to pitch to just one or two batters effectively. And then maybe he would have been the starter if someone got hurt, but that wasn’t even the case, it would have been Ledezma.

    Finally, I don’t think Vance Wilson had a single at bat in the playoffs. That is interesting, because I remember him getting big hits or having good games when the Tigers needed him.

    One more Leyland thought. Three reserve infielders on the roster, and Polanco is like 0 for 18 in the WS. Why not use one of the reserve infielders? If you got them there, I couldn’t think of a more ideal situation to use them, then when your offense is struggling and there are three people on the roster who play that position.

  25. Jojo SunDevil

    November 6, 2006 at 11:13 am

    Whoever said Neifi and Infante are even. Lay off the pipe man, and stop drinkin grandma’s cough syrup. I would take Infante over Perez 100 times over. The only think that Perez can do is bunt. And I can think of some willing fans who could probably bunt just as good.

  26. Lee Panas

    November 6, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Good post Billfer. I thought Leyland did a great job overall but some of his decisions in the last couple of months were baffling. Maybe there is something about the make-up of Shelton, Thames and Infante that we don’t know about but I see them as better options than some of the replacements. He seemed to play favorites with Perez and Gomez in particular.

    Statistically, Shelton was an excellent first baseman. I’m not sure I believe he was the best one (as BTF suggests) but he looked pretty good to me. I think he gets to more balls than Casey. I think looks can be deceiving with Shelton. He doesn’t look smooth but he makes the plays.

  27. J

    November 6, 2006 at 11:56 am

    How can you question the decision to play Santiago at SS? If you like a player more than someone else that is fine, but Santiago is an excellent defensive SS and showed that during the playoffs. I really like Infante, but there is no way I would have played him at SS over Santiago. If you didnt realize the value of defense before the series I would think you would realize it now.

  28. billfer

    November 6, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    J – I questioned the decision to have him on the playoff roster. Yes he is a very good defensive shortstop – the best on the team. If Shelton is on the roster there isn’t even a need for a different shortstop though.

    This isn’t supposed to be a whole post criticizing Leylands decision and their impact on last years game. It is more looking forward and what impact those decisions will have on next years team.

  29. Coach Jim

    November 6, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    That was a nice article about defensive stats. Here are a couple thoughts:
    1. With Tiger infielders being rated so highly it leads me to believe the pitchers induced a high ratio of ground balls. When this happens, the outfielders don’t get as many chances.

    1a. I noticed mid-season Chris Shelton was making some pretty nice plays at 1B. I am not surprised to see him ranked high defensively.

    1b. I was not impressed with Casey’s play at 1B.

    2. I think Craig Monroe is a GREAT left fielder. I see great range. Forget the ONE ball that went off his glove in the World Series, he made that play 50 times during the regular season. He also has a knack for catching runners by surprise with great throws.

  30. Chris Y.

    November 6, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    Totally agree with Coach Jim about the article.

    Anyone who does not see the upside of Infante v. Perez/Santiago, Thames v. Young, or Shelton v. Casey (esp. long-term) is out of their mind.

    Equating Infante and Perez is an insult. Did you watch either of them play? Perez was the one who’s bat actually struck the ball with tee-ball type authority, not Infante.

    Infante: 224AB .277/.325/.415

    Perez: 301AB .243/.260/.316

  31. Lee Panas

    November 6, 2006 at 2:46 pm

    Coach Jim, I think the method used to evaluate fielding was essentially independent of how many ground balls were hit. The basis for the calculation was zone rating which is the proportion of balls in a player’s area which he turned into outs.

  32. Coach Jim

    November 6, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    As opposed to just chances per inning? Okay then, I guess we NEED ground ball pitchers. It’s surprising our outfielders didn’t fare better then.

  33. Greg

    November 6, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    That’s because Magglio was pretty bad at times, as was Marcus when he played the field. I think they should consider making Magg’s a full time DH.

    JoJo, are you in AZ?

  34. BobS.

    November 6, 2006 at 9:44 pm

    ‘tee-ball type authority’,indeed-Perez looks like he’s swinging one of those 48oz. practice bats at the plate.

  35. Joey C.

    November 7, 2006 at 1:31 am

    The thought of Leyland having any say in off-season acquisitions is totally depressing to me.

    I don’t think there’s much else to say about the Infante/Thames debacle. Those guys should’ve gotten far more ABs.

    For their sake, I hope they’re traded to teams who have managers who see their value–and obviously I hope Leyland has little say in who we get in return.

  36. Josuha M.

    November 7, 2006 at 4:37 pm

    Billfer thats the point I made last week on not needing santiago to play SS if shelton was playing first because Guillen wuold be at SS. Glad to read that some one else can see that. One thing I was just completely blown away by was in the final game Leyland put Thames in as a defensive replaycement in Monroes spot thus taking any chance from having a home run batter to use as a pinch hitter in the top of the 9th was there a reason for that??? All year all we heard was how bad Thames was at defense so why waste his bat like that???

  37. Doug Purdie

    November 8, 2006 at 2:17 pm

    Gomez and Casey are left handed hitters and Perez is a switch hitter. Infante, Thames and Shelton are all right handed hitters. It’s quite simply this: Lelyland felt he needed more left handed bats for the playoffs.

  38. Joshua M.

    November 9, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    That has nothing to do with the Santiago instead of Shelton question though