5 million down the drain and other adversity

One of the more impressive aspects of the Tigers leading the AL Central and being a half game off an MLB leading pace is that they have had to battle injuries. However, the Tigers may have actually been lucky in this regard, sort of.

Taking a look at the Tigers team stats one will see that the team has used 36 different players already this year. But if you look at the split of position players and pitchers, the split is quite remarkable. The Tigers have used only 14 different position players this year, and one of those is Ryan Raburn who was just called up to take Neifi Perez’s spot after the suspension. So the Tigers have stuck with the same 13 non-pitchers all season.

Now it’s not quite as clean as that though. Vance Wilson was slated to be the back-up catcher, but hasn’t spent a day on the active roster. Plus the Tigers have sustained nagging injuries to both Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge (and it looks like Placido Polanco now as well). Neither required a DL stint but kept them both out of the lineup for a week.

So with only 1 position player sub, that means there have been 10 supplements to the 12 man pitching staff. Of the 12 pitchers on the opening day roster, 7 of them have spent time on the DL. And of the 7 that stayed healthy, 2 of them were traded (Maroth and Ledezma). And a 3rd one, Bobby Seay, was an injury replacement to begin with. So Justin Verlander, Chad Durbin, Todd Jones, Bobby Seay and Jason Grilli are the only members of the opening day pitching staff who have been on the active roster the whole season.

As a point of reference, the Tigers used 19 pitchers all of last year.

Meanwhile, Fernando Rodney has had 2 stints and even injury replacements Zach Miner and Tim Byrdak have found themselves DL’d.

All told the Tigers have amassed 364 days on the disabled list – so far. This doesn’t include another 4 to 6 weeks for Joel Zumaya or the rest of the season for Vance Wilson. It also doesn’t include the season long injuries to Tony Giarratano or Edward Campusano. While they are both DL’d, that is more a matter of roster management than having to find replacements. The wages paid out to those on the DL is approximately $5.5 million so far. The bulk of that is the $3.6 million portion of Kenny Rogers salary that kind of went to waste.

But injuries to the pitchers are only part of the problem. The other part has been overwhelming ineffectiveness over the first 3 months of the season. Jose Mesa was jettisoned after being really bad consistently. Now the Tigers are paying him to pitch for the Phillies, which is still better than paying him to pitch for the Tigers.

Aquilino Lopez, Eulogio De La Cruz, and Yorman Bazardo have all been given a shot. Acquisitions Jose Capellan and Macay McBride are trying to establish roots in what has been a very transient population thus far.

So the Tigers have had to get creative. They’ve looked to trades as well as the minors to try and help the bullpen. But the lucky part is that pitching is the area that the Tigers had the depth to be able to sustain some issues. The fact that the position players have remained intact is the bigger part of the team’s success so far. And that the one that needed to be replaced was truly the 25th man on the roster seems particularly fortuitous.

13 Comments

  1. Anne

    July 10, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    I can only think of two things to say here: first, to be in first place at this point is truly an amazing feat. Second, even if Rogers never threw a single pitch this season, I could not count his salary wasted. JMHO as always, but his role as mentor to the pitching staff plus his post-season last year were worth BOTH years of his contract to me. Then again, it’s not my money so easy for me to say.

  2. Jeff M

    July 10, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    Now the Tigers are paying him to pitch for the Phillies, which is still better than paying him to pitch for the Tigers.

    Zing! :)

  3. Eric Jackson

    July 10, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    Mesa has been quite a bit better for the Phils. Though it was clearly time for him to move on.

    Ledezma has continued to struggle for Atlanta.

  4. Dead Rabbit

    July 11, 2007 at 12:40 am

    I could not agree more Anne. Some times Billfer can be a real Debbie Downer…. Not quite sure I would have waxed eloquently about “money down the drain” after riding into the all-star break on the crest of wave made up of a 3 game sweep of dreaded B-town. We are in first place. Sure Billfer makes a valid point. But, then again, I don’t bring up America’s divorce rate at weddings either.

  5. lou

    July 11, 2007 at 12:43 am

    This is sure a lot better than the days of paying the rotting carcass of Higgy and Easley’s career.

  6. PHT in HK

    July 11, 2007 at 4:35 am

    Don’t the Tigers still owe money to Troy Percival?

  7. billfer

    July 11, 2007 at 5:23 am

    Rabbit – There is nothing about being a downer here. It is pointing out that despite having 2 full seasons worth of DL days already that the team is still doing well. A testament to the team.

    Anne – I don’t mean to imply that the Rogers signing wasn’t beneficial and I agree that his role in getting to the WS last year largely covered what we owed him both years. But at the same time the Tigers are still paying him 8 million this year to pitch and for a big chunk of the season they weren’t getting a return – and had to pay someone else to fill his slot. Not meant as a slight at all on Kenny, it’s not his fault he was hurt.

  8. Anne

    July 11, 2007 at 9:52 am

    I didn’t take your article as a knock on anyone except Mesa, who deserves it. Actually, I thought it was pretty positive, as in defining exactly what the team’s had to overcome to get where they are. It is pretty amazing.

  9. Dave Wagner

    July 11, 2007 at 10:22 am

    PHT -

    Percival’s contract with the Tigers was up last year.

    And not PHT -

    I think one would have to want to see negativity in this article in order to construe its presence.

  10. Jim Romanov

    July 11, 2007 at 10:28 am

    I’m not sure so could someone clarify, but I think the Phillies have to pay the remaining part of Mesa contract, since he voluntarily signed with them. Also, I’ve heard that teams buy insurance policies in case a high priced player goes on DL for extended time. Would this mean that Rogers 1st half salary is paid by insurance policy???

  11. Dave Wagner

    July 11, 2007 at 10:30 am

    Basically, Mesa gets paid for two contracts this year. Since the Tigers released Mesa, they have to pay the remainder of the contract he signed with us. Philly has to pay whatever contract THEY signed him to.

  12. billfer

    July 11, 2007 at 10:35 am

    With Mesa, the Phillies pay him the league minimum. Prorated this would be about 200K. The Tigers are responsible for his full contract, less what the Phillies pay. So Mesa still gets the same total salary, and the Tigers get a tiny bit of relief from the Phililes.

  13. Dead Rabbit

    July 11, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    “Money down the drain” usually infers a squandering of assets due to a lack of foresight. The money paid to Kenny was a great investment just from Kenny’s performance alone in last year’s play offs. The revenue Kenny created for the Tigers due to this performance can only be described as exponential. It seems to me the article was just more fodder for the negative nannies that always see the glass half empty here.

    However, that being said, I’m always half kidding and a contrarian.