On Bullpen Help

Perusing Lynn Henning’s Burning Questions today I came across the following:

Q . Are the Tigers any more inclined today to make a trade ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline?

A . Probably not.

It’s not as though they wouldn’t seek one more arm for their bullpen, or another hitter or catcher, but the asking price is going to be so steep that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend heavily on additional players that might or might not help a well-constructed team make the playoffs.

The Tigers have to be careful. They’ve added significant pitching help to their bullpen and stand to add more in the coming weeks as Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya heal. Trading young talent they will need to compete in coming seasons is a price that should not be paid unless there is a serious need and reasonable guarantee that you’ll get better.

This pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter. I fully understand that the team has to “win it all this year” because “you never know when you’ll get another opportunity.” But even taking the best team into the playoffs doesn’t mean that you win it all.

Now of course you have to question whether the team is good enough to make the playoffs. It’s a fair question and as tempting as it is to say they aren’t, especially after a debacle like last night, look at the record this team has compiled even with their bullpen. Of course this team is capable of making the playoffs the way they are currently constructed. And no matter how demoralizing the loss was last night, it doesn’t change the Tigers negotiating position. One game should never do that. If you’ve thought for the other 98 games the Tigers needed help, it shouldn’t change your mind. Similarly if felt the Tigers pen was good enough, you arrived at that conclusion despite the bullpen struggles and that one game shouldn’t dissuade you.

As much as the Tigers want to win this year, they plan on winning for the next several years. In 2008 they’ve already committed $78 million (assuming they pick up the Pudge option, $68 million otherwise). And that money is spread out over only 11 players. It’s the same story in 2009 with $68 million going to 8 players, and other guys who are cheap now (Granderson, Zumaya) getting hefty raises with that money.

The reason the Tigers felt they could give out extensions to Gary Sheffield and Carlos Guillen was because a)they felt that was the most efficient way to secure that production and b)they’re counting on filling open positions with cheap home grown talent. If you make the system bereft of that talent then you’re looking on the free agent market or settling for replacement level production. And the Tigers system just isn’t loaded with guys who project to start at the Major League level, there isn’t an endless supply. It’s why you go above slot money and invest early on in top talent in the draft so that you save the money while players are under club control.

Dave Dombrowski isn’t building a team for 2007. He’s trying to put together an organization that can compete year in and year out. You’ve got a GM with well earned job security who isn’t under the gun to win it now or he’s gone. You aren’t going to see moves made out of desperation and instead you’re going to see moves that are in the best long term interests of the team. Isn’t that really what you want?

The Tigers are looking to add a bullpen arm, but they aren’t going to overpay for it and risk the future. It’s why the Tigers have scouts in every city that might be looking to trade quality relievers. Not only as due diligence but as a means to bring the price down. If it appears that the Tigers are casting a wider net it does give them at least a smidgen of leverage. It’s why you get reports that Fernando Rodney is about to rejoin the team and Joel Zumaya throws off a mound way ahead of schedule. It’s all about trying to muster the leverage available. The Tigers will deal if the price is right, but trading a Maybin for a rental or an aging pitcher just isn’t the right price.

71 thoughts on “On Bullpen Help”

  1. Excellent points, Bill. I don’t think there are too many intelligent Tigers fans who would panic and trade Maybin for anything short of a proven superstar who’s under contract for years to come, and that deal won’t be happening anyway.

    Even more reassuring, as you note, the Tigers have a GM who sees the big picture. If a RP can be obtained for a guy like Trahern, that may be worthwhile. But DD won’t mortgage the future.

  2. I agree with all of this. And as much as I’m inclined to say market prices will drop, it very well might not. The game is such a good shape most owners are turning profits via luxury tax kick-backs and what not. So there’s fewer teams looking to dump salary like there has been in year’s passed.

    I do think the Tigers make a run for Octavio Dotel, but first reports were that the Dodgers called (and are currently the front runners with their closer hurt) and Dayton Moore (KC’s GM) asked for either Matt Kemp or James Loney straight-up. That’s two of their better prospects and would’ve been someone asking for Granderson last year in a deal.

    So the prices are very high, but I think Dayton Moore and the like will drop prices a bit, but maybe not enough. It’s a good possibility that Ty Wigginton getting dealt from the D-Rays is the biggest name traded.

    If we don’t make a trade I want De La Cruz up for a bit after we DFA Jason Grilli (this is what I want, not what I think will happen) and DLC is sent down after Fernando comes back. After that, it’s a tough call who goes down once Joel comes back.

    Now that I think about it, I wonder what the chances are Robertson could be dealt and Durbin/Miner fulfills a rotation spot. I could handle a Rogers/Verlander/Bonderman/Miller/Durbin rotation.

  3. And the problem to start with is that relief pitching tends to be overvalued in the major leagues. Just can’t see trading any decent prospect for a pitcher who will probably pitch no more than 35 innings for the rest of the season.

    We’re just going to have to grit our teeth and bear it for the time being and cross our fingers that Rodney and Zumaya are good to go sooner rather than later.

    And I agree entirely that DD is (and should be) building a year-in and year-out contender, not just trying to strike while the iron is hot. The base of Verlander, Bonderman, Miller, and Granderson should be enough to build around for quite a while–particularly once you factor in Illitch’s willingness to spend on the free agent market.

  4. Sober, level-headed analysis from Bill on the morning after. This is no time to panic and sell the farm.

    I am really hoping Zumaya and Rodney can return something near to top form. If they do, most of our bullpen issues are solved right there without having to make any deals.

    The schizophrenic nature of this team continues to scare me. As great as ’06 was, we still remember the chokes over the last 50 games and in the WS. And where are the come-from-behind victories for us this year? It seems like every night we have to get a lead and sweat it out in the late innings.

  5. I’ve said this before. I don’t think you need to trade for a closer. Look at a bullpen like Minnesota’s. It’s not just Joe Nathan you fear. It’s Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshek, Dennys Reyes, etc. I think Dombrowski just has to target a non-closer. And I don’t think he has to mortgage the farm, either. There’s a number of pitchers in a logjam at Erie. There’s McBride and Capellan. And with all the lefties with good splits and the heavy price teams pay for a good LOOGY, maybe Dombrowski can find a trading partner with that need.

    I’m convinced they’re going to make one more bullpen move that doesn’t hurt the future.

  6. I will add DD is likely surmizing the situation exactly as Billfer outlines. There is no reason to believe the Tigers will proceed too much differently at deadline than they planned on July 23.

    However, if you don’t have a pounding headache this morning with all the soberity you’re spewing, you weren’t really at the party last night. My head is still spinning. This wasn’t a one or two run lead the bullpen surrendered… this was a one run plus allowed for every other out the bullpen needed to record (a 21.00 ERA folks).

    I don’t think you necessarily sell the farm — but you absolutely start shopping some hogs. You do your best to get something done. If you have to pay a “little” more than you would normally with all other things being equal, you absolutely do. And, if at the end of the day, you can’t execute a deal simply because it’s TOO expensive, you have to concede the reality that 2007 is a season-building year for the future. You can’t have it both ways.

    It’s just a hard pill to swallow — i.e. your offense of the century (one that may well score 1000 runs or more this year) is really just a building block for a future team.

  7. Gosh, so many well meaning people making so many well-reasoned arguments that are so wrong. (I thinking the early morning crowd is much more conservative than the sleep-in types). This ‘build for the future’ argument drives me crazy. Is that why we have a starting lineup all over 30 except Granderson? Is that why our DH is 38? Is that why our catcher has very little tread left on his tires? Is that why we have a 42 year old starting pitcher? The Tigers have a YOUNG starting five. That’s about it. And if we’re all about build for the future, we better have one blue chip prospect that we can trade. ‘Cause if we only got one, we’re in serious trouble.
    The reality is if we can trade, say, Gorkys Hernandez for a bonafide set up man, you do it. And you say ‘what if Hernandez becomes a star?’ Well, then in 2010 you go out and sign a 27 yr old outfielder with all the money you made with ticket revenue from your playoff run. A major league franchise is not like a retirement annuity; slow and steady doesn’t win the race. They don’t average how your team does over five years and declare a winner: You go on what happens in October. All the factors have to align themselves: health, starting pitching, offense, and, the bullpen. We have, for the most part the first three. Are we gonna skip the fourth in order to assure our house is in order come 2010? Yikes.

  8. I expect a deal to be made, but not for a top reliever. I expect a surprise…like Kenny Lofton.

  9. I wouldn’t mind if we traded a jurrjens or someone along those lines. We have pitching depth, it’s in high demand, so trade it to make the team better.

    I think trading from our weakness (Stephen) would be silly.

    Of course: Let’s trade any talent we have now. We may or may not win it all. (The best team doesnt always win btw *cough* Yankees * cough* ) But we put all the eggs in one basket. Couple years down the road Granderson could regress (could happen) Monroe could finally be viewed as a 4th outfielder (happening already) Magglios hips break (could happen)

    Well, we’d have to retool the offense, specifically the outfield, cuz we traded everyone away. No problem we go out and overspend on three guys.

    -Donny Flammin’ (who will probably have lost a step by then and cant throw to the mound from CF)
    -Godzeera Fukowakaka (an old overpaid import, but atleast dem jerseys will sell!)
    -Robby Abru (an OBP machine who all of a sudden isnt. oh and $$)

    …This isn’t the goddamn Yankees. This isn’t Steinbrenners team. Get over it.

  10. If the Tigers don’t make a blockbuster move because they fear of overspending, it’s not a move to “build for the future” — the future’s built with this pitching staff and the pieces DD thinks are most crucial under contract for the next 2-4 years. This window doesn’t close after the 2007 season. 2008 and even 2009 are wide open.

    And show me something in Gary Sheffield that indicate his skills are declining? Not to mention the fact that he’s not out in the OF hurting his body, so the main reason we picked him up (his bat) should remain healthy barring an unforeseen circumstance, like last year with the Yankees. He hasn’t played less then 130 games since 1995. If you want to be worried about an aging bat, I’d worry about Magglio over a 38 year old DH.

  11. A major league franchise is not like a retirement annuity; slow and steady doesn’t win the race. They don’t average how your team does over five years and declare a winner: You go on what happens in October.

    Depends on what kind of fan you are.

    Personally, I’d be very happy to have a team that’s competitive year in and year out with the occasional deep postseason run.

  12. After considering what I’ve said I think we should purchase the following players:

    Johan, Thome, Vic Martinez, DeJesus, Vlad, Eckstein. If they’re on our team they can’t hurt us then, right? RIGHT?

  13. “Personally, I’d be very happy to have a team that’s competitive year in and year out with the occasional deep postseason run.”

    Agreed. I really think alot of were just spoiled by last year.

  14. Stephen:

    Admittedly, I’ve been Switzerland on this one; but I’m actually leaning into your camp a little bit. All I was pointing out above was, if you do NOTHING, you have to bow your head and live with the fact that you’re a future-building organization. Regardless of your stance, some people are in denial about that. These same people suppose we’re gonna limp into the playoffs with what we’ve got. This bullpen, currently constructed, will not yeild a WS ring — and likely won’t even yield a playoff birth. I don’t care if you bring back the ghost of Cobb to the roster.

    It seems to me, the issue is to determine how much you’re willing to spend for what you get — there are so many variables and players and prospects involved with varying degrees of potential and worth. My view is you don’t do something utterly unbalanced, per the points made by all the conservative commentators who got up with the sun this morning, yet at the same time you absolutely should be willing to spend (what most would consider) a premium to get a guy you normally wouldn’t spend as much for, given normal circumstances. These aren’t normal circumstances. Last time I checked my Econ 101 text, supply and demand determined price. I am of the opinion that the Tigers are in serious DEMAND, and I hold no illusion as to state of the current supply, so the price is necessarily gonna be a little high and a tad bitter on the palette. Why rage against the market? Pay it if you can, and live with it. It you’re not in the market, just say so. Admit you’re not seriously in contention.

    To the extent that I think the Tiger’s SHOULD be in the market to contend for the WS, I’m 100% with ya. Hey, I just spent $70 on the street for a $35 ticket fifteen rows back. That’s not to say I’d give up the title to my boat for the same ticket. But I was out there, wiling to make a deal.

  15. I do believe however that from now on we should use “Trade Maybin” as our way of saying ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’

    As in I’m going to work now, good discussion! I’ll be back later. Trade Maybin!

  16. Wow Jim, the advocacy of over-paying for a key player for a stretch drive is, uh, Steinbrennerian? Hmm..I sure hope you’re not running a mutual fund that returns only slightly above the inflation rate.
    Sheff hasn’t shown that he is slowing down, but he is 38 he will slow down sooner rather than later even if he goes back to the ‘i’m not using steroids because they don’t go in my butt’ off-seaosn training.
    All i’m saying is this isn’t a young nucleus, the odds that whatever parts you inevitably have to swap in for 08 and 09 are going to gel like this AND the starting pitching is going to remain healthy is infinitestimal.
    And, uh, trade Maybin.

  17. Both camps seem to be all or nothing. “You want Gagne! You want to give up Maybin!!” and “You want no moves whatsoever!” Middle ground, middle ground, middle ground. The team needs a tweak or two more. No one is going to give up Maybin for Lidge or anything like that.

  18. I don’t want to come off like I want to stand pat — I don’t. I hate seeing a combo of Durbin/Miner/McBride/Grilli to bridge the gap to Todd Jones.

    My contention is what is out there. Teams aren’t looking to dump salary because owners are making money from the luxury tax. So that option is out. Teams are content because the Elias Sports Bureau, the ones who give out the ‘proper’ compensation for FA’s walking in the offseason seem to give them out willy-nilly (Ryan Klesko leaving brought the Padres a comp. pick. Come on, Klesko!?). So teams have no problem taking the chance on letting guys walk in exchange for comp picks.

    Gagne can veto a trade to Detroit and he will because he doesn’t want to set-up. And Jones isn’t moving from the Closers role.

    Otsuka’s hurt, however, that drives his value down and if he has no long term effects from his injury, he’d be a good guy to snag. However, the Texas Rangers are asking for the sky and more for both of them and Mark Teixeira.

    Octavio Dotel is available, but Dayton Moore, even though it’s probably just lip service, said he’s fielding offers but not committed to trading him. Reports are of him asking for James Loney and/or Matt Kemp from the Dodgers. That’s a hell of a steep price.

    Damaso Marte is a LOOGY from Pittsburgh — nothing we need.

    Solomon Torres is sucking it up in the National League. Who knows how bad he could be coming to the AL Central in the heat of a pennant race.

    The one I’d love to get is Chad Cordero. But, the Nats don’t have to deal as they have him under wraps through 09 per arbitration deals in those years. So they’re asking a king’s ranson (which Jim Bowden always does) for him. He’s said he’s willing to be a set-up man but would rather stay in Washington. Couple that with a stubborn ask-for-the-world GM and that pretty much cans that idea.

    And if we get into bidding wars with other teams over, say, a Gagne (even though I firmly believe he won’t okay a trade to Detroit), we may not be able to compete because we don’t have the farm system of a team like the Dodgers who are looking to add a closer/top-notch reliever, so we may not be able to even win a bidding war.

    I have no problems with adding to this bullpen which is the biggest flaw of this team. And when the offense slows down (and it already has started to), that flaw is going to be exposed more. And, I’m not even against over spending a bit to get what we need, however, I’m not willing to pay John Daniels’ or Jim Bowden’s 100% ridiculous asking prices.

  19. if you do NOTHING, you have to bow your head and live with the fact that you’re a future-building organization.

    That’s a false dichotomy. There’s a whole lot of middle-ground between “future-building” and “future-mortgaging”.

    These same people suppose we’re gonna limp into the playoffs with what we’ve got.

    If having the second-best record in the majors despite an injury-riddled first half is “limping in”…well…I just… Dang, man. You really call that “limping in”??

    P.S. Trade Maybin.

  20. If we do make the playoffs, Andrew Miller would be pretty great coming out of the pen.

  21. Jeff M:

    Last year after 99 games we were 67-32. With the best, or second best bullpen fully armed with a healthy Zumaya and Rodney, we won exactly 28 games of our remaining 63 (.444 win percent)… Grant it, we had different problems last year, but no more serious than the problems we have this year. The point is, we went into a under-.500 stretch even with a good bullpen. I shudder to think what our win % might be this year with the worst bullpen of any team in contention.

    But let’s just say we win another 28 games, like last year. I don’t think 87 wins gets us anything but second or third place in this AL Central division.

    But since you’re congratualting the merits of this team based on a snap-shot after 99 games, let’s just say, for sake of illustration, that the season ends today. For a team that legitamately should be 66 – 33 at the 99 game mark (that’s a conservative estimate), coming to the line at 59 – 40 absolutely consititues “limping” in. It just so happens we limped to the 99 mark still ahead of the pack. What you’re really saying is, “whew! How fortunate we’re still in first place!” But you cannot say we didn’t limp in. In any case, I don’t like scenario given the season DIDN’t end today, and given we do have an extended stretch ahead of us — I stand by my comments.

    Oh, and by the way, last year Boston was 61-38 after 99 games, and we all know how their season turned out (injuries not withstanding). Even so, I’m sure there were many with blinders on in Beantown this time last year, too, who couldn’t fathom — what, a third place finish in AL East, let alone playoff elimination?

    Bolster the bullpen and these point become mute.

    Oh, and Trade Maybin!

  22. There isn’t much of a difference between limping in the playoffs and blowing Cleve out by 15 games.

    As long as you’re in that’s all that matters. It’s a new season, ha, just ask the Cards from last year.

    I’ve been advocating the middle ground. Trade from our pitching, not from our positions. Unles someone wants Cmo.

  23. Last year after 99 games we were 67-32. With the best, or second best bullpen fully armed with a healthy Zumaya and Rodney, we won exactly 28 games of our remaining 63 (.444 win percent)

    I remember. I also remember that we had about a third less offense last year and it was the offense that faltered down the stretch and in the WS.

    As you mentioned, different season, different problems. So let’s look at this year’s problems.

    – Injuries
    – Injuries
    – Injuries

    Looking forward, there are two possibilities:
    a) Guys coming back from injuries will bolster the team
    b) or they won’t.

    If the guys come back and help, you get the benefit of a trade without giving anything up. This is obviously the ideal scenario.

    If they don’t, you’re still making the stretch run with a team that’s winning at a .597 clip. I’ll gladly take that worst-case scenario in any season.

    I’m all for some middle-ground, though. If we can more trades that bring competent arms (with options remaining) into the organization, I’m all for it. You don’t need 25 stars, you just need enough depth to confidently swap out guys that aren’t performing.

    For a team that legitamately should be 66 – 33 at the 99 game mark (that’s a conservative estimate), coming to the line at 59 – 40 absolutely consititues “limping” in.

    a) How did you arrive at 66-33
    b) How in the world do you conclude that a .667 winning percentage is “conservative”?? .667 will lead the league in most every season.

    Bolster the bullpen and these point become mute.

    No, a stretch run can always fail. With 63 games left on the schedule, there are no guarantees, even if find three more Zumayas playing on a sandlot tomorrow.

  24. “Bolster the bullpen and these point become mute.”

    I think this is a pretty dramatic oversimplification of things. Best case scenario is we trade for a top-notch reliever who pitches 35 innings down the stretch with, say, a 2.50 ERA. Let’s say he replaces Grilli, whose ERA is currently 5.40. That translates to roughly 11 runs saved over the rest of the season. This is a pretty rough calculation, but it gets you to the magnitude of things.

    How many wins does 11 runs equate to? It can’t be more than one or two.

    The bottom line is that the odds of a single relief pitcher being the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs is fairly small. And replacing more than one or two relievers just isn’t realistic. If you can make a couple marginal improvements at a reasonable cost, you do it. But this team will sink or swim with basically the roster we have now. As long as the hitters and starting pitchers play to their abilities, we’ll be fine. And Rodney (at minimum) and Zumaya (hopefully) will be there for the playoffs.

  25. This team doesn’t really need to do anything, but I suspect will make a minor deal to get one more reliever. I think Jones is good enough and we just have to hope Zumaya and Rodney get back to the way they were last year, because neither was really that effective this year before the injuries this year. I don’t want to mortgage the future at ALL. They aren’t trading Maybin ladies and gents, I’ve heard from more than one source that Maybin is considered by many as the best prospect in ALL OF BASEBALL. He might not ever make it to the big leagues, and sure you never know how good he will be in the show, but having Eric Gagne or Octavio Dotel for 3 months would not be worth the price of not knowing how Maybin will turn out as a big leaguer. I also want to win a championship so bad I can taste it, but giving up Maybin would cost us big in the long run.

    Totally unrelated, and this is at least a year off, if not 2, but I keep hearing that Granderson will move to LF and Maybin will play CF when he makes it…..shouldn’t that be the other way around? I’m sure Maybin is great defensivley, but Granderson has proven to be a top flight CF in the big leagues. I say Maybin should play LF, when and if he makes it, assuming the Jim’s of the world don’t have him traded off by the time he makes it.

  26. I think the point T Smith was making we should be at 66-33 as a ‘conservative’ estimate of losses directly attributed to bullpen meltdowns above and beyond an average bullpen.

    If we stand pat, we win 93/94 games which 60-40 gets us in. and gives us a 01-99 chance at a word series championship.

    We pick up a guy like Dotel we win 97 games which 100% gets us in. And gives us a 50-50 chance at winning the world series.

    If some of you think Gorkys Hernandez and another prospect isn’t worth over-paying for Dotel, well, your approach to baseball and life is a little different than mine.

    Free Maybin!

  27. What’s up with people wanting to trade Maybin?

    He’s one of the top prospects in baseball!!

  28. I hear Maybin has an IQ of 342. He can bend spoons and drive in runs just with his mind.
    I hear Maybin took two loaves of bread some out-of-date fishsticks and turned it into surf-and-turf for 5,000.

  29. Let’s look at what our record might be with a league-average bullpen.

    The Tiger bullpen’s ERA is 4.79. The AL average bullpen ERA is 4.18, but that appears to be skewed high because of the White Sox and Devil Rays. So let’s go with the median AL team bullpen ERA, which is 3.84. That’s a gap of 0.95 runs per nine innings. Perhaps we should inflate that number a bit, since our bullpen presumably allows more runners inherited from starters to score, as well. So let’s go with an even 1.0 runs per nine innings.

    The Tigers bullpen has pitched just over 300 innings. That translates to 33.3 runs given up over an average bullpen.

    We can use the Pythagorean formula (with coefficients of 1.8) to estimate win-loss records. The Tigers have scored 576 runs and allowed 473 runs to date, which translate to a Pythagorean record of 58-41 (one fewer win than their actual record).

    If we assume they had given up 33 fewer runs, they would have only allowed 440 runs and their Pythagorean record would be 61-38.

    So that’s an estimated three wins the bullpen has cost us.

    Losses the bullpen gives up hurt the most emotinally becuase, by definition, we had a lead early in the game. But we shouldn’t overemphasize how important the bullpen is. And, in particular, one reliever by himself is a fairly small factor in the scheme of things.

    The importance of the bullpen does go up in the playoffs, but Rodney and Zumaya should be contributing at that point.

  30. Let me make an admittedly imperfect analogy and let me preface this by saying i’m not working out the salary cap implications. Don’t you think most Pistons fans would have gladly traded the #2 pick in the 2003 draft if it would have assured them a SECOND title. If that #2 pick had been traded for a 27-year-old almost all-star and that resulted in pushing the Pistons past the Spurs for a second title? I realize Milicic was on the roster for the title, but don’t you think a proven NBA player would have made the possibility of at least another title and one more finals a reality? Isn’t that why teams are in this? Has Matt Millen’s hoarding of young ‘talent’ taught us nothing?

  31. Chris in Nashiville wrote:

    I’ve heard from more than one source that Maybin is considered by many as the best prospect in ALL OF BASEBALL.

    Care to offer some citations? I’ve never read anything that rates him that high. Best in Tigers’ organization, yes. Best in baseball? Neither Baseball America (traditonal, scouting based publication) nor Baseball Prospectus (more stat-based approached) rate him that high.

    On a more on-topic note, I’m not a big fan of discussions like this, because we are all writing from a point of ignorance. None of us actually know what it will take, say, to get Dotel. Nor do we know what the Royals are asking for him. So we move from a proposition like “We should get Octavio Dotel; he’d really help our team” to one like “We should trade Gorkys Hernandez for Octavio Dotel”, when presumably we would also be in favor of dealing a lesser prospect than Gorkys Hernandez for Octavio Dotel, too, if it were possible. We use names like Hernandez and Maybin, not because we know for sure that a player of their calibre is what KC is asking for Dotel, but rather because we know that we should definitely be able to get Dotel for a player of their calibre. I don’t mean to condescend, or to speak for Stephen, but I’m assuming that what he means is “The Tigers should do whatever it takes to get a top-shelf reliever.” I don’t think that, if the Tigers got Dotel for, say, Jordan Tata, Stephen will say to himself, “Crap, we should have traded Gorkys Hernandez or Cameron Maybin instead!”

    One last thing, and then I’ll end this endless post. Billfer wrote:

    b)they’re counting on filling open positions with cheap home grown talent

    I think if this is the case, Dombrowski should be working harder to acquiring position-playing prospects.

  32. As I was reading down all these posts, Kyle J’s argument was filtering around in my mind (ie. how much can one bullpen arm really help?). Thankfully he did all the heavy lifting and figured it out – 2 or 3 wins. Going off our current winning percentage (.596) we’re on pace to win 96-97 games. That should be enough to get us in and it’s a record that has been compiled by our current roster – lackluster bullpen and all. A bullpen upgrade would obviously be nice, but I don’t think the need is so pressing as to overpay in any significant way.

  33. Nate re: but I’m assuming that what he means is “The Tigers should do whatever it takes to get a top-shelf reliever.” I don’t think that, if the Tigers got Dotel for, say, Jordan Tata, Stephen will say to himself, “Crap, we should have traded Gorkys Hernandez or Cameron Maybin instead!”

    Exactly. Keep Maybin, trade all the sons and brothers of ex/current Tigers i don’t care.

    And Ryan, if it’s proven we’ve lost 3 more games than the average bullpen than that means we’ll lose 5-6 games total over the season. That sounds exactly like the difference between a good year and a potentially World Series year.’

    Now i go the beach.

    Release Maybin!

  34. Stephen, I don’t think the NBA analogy works, for two reasons:

    1) One player can make a much larger difference on a basketball team than on a baseball team (particularly when you’re talking about a relief pitcher).

    2) Success in the MLB playoffs is much more random than it is in the NBA playoffs. The better team wins a playoff series with much more regularity in the NBA.

    As for Millen hoarding young talent, the same could be said for Dombrowski. And so far it’s worked pretty well. We know that Verlander, Zumaya, and Granderson were all at least casually part of trade talks at one point. Clearly, holding onto them has paid off.

    It’s all about balance. My point is that one bullpen arm doesn’t appreciably enhance our odds of making the playoffs or winning the WS. DD should–and, I’m confident, will–recognize this and only be willing to give up a prospect with low odds of appreciably enhancing our future fortunes.

  35. Nate….since you are on me….I thought I’d let you know you misspelled Nashville in your post. Too many i’s my good man.

    Ok, I heard “the best prospect in baseball” on the ESPN coverage of the Future Stars game this past year. I can’t remember who was calling the game, but that term was thrown out there. So I maybe embelleshed with the more than one source thing Nate….MY BAD. I’ll be sure to document all of my statements in the future.

    Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus probably don’t have him rated that highly, I’m imagining, because he doesn’t have a lot of professional numbers yet to be considered in that talk. Either way, it’s all subjective anyway, so it really doesn’t matter. My point is, why would you give up the best position prospect we’ve had in 20 years for a reliever when we MIGHT have enough to make it as we do. Last night and Saturday Night not withstanding, the Tigers pen has been solid of late. Would I like another set up guy? Of course. Do I want to give up Maybin to get that guy? No. We have enough arms in the farm system to get somebody that will help us without having to give up Maybin. It’s said that you can’t have enough arms in your system, but the Tigers are dealing from a position of strength on starting pitching, so giving up one or 2 of those guys, like a Gorkys Hernandez, would be fine with me.

    Speaking of arms we have given up…what happened to Humberto Sanchez? I thought he was this big prospect, and I haven’t seen him on the Yankees yet.

  36. Here’s a question for those who think the Tigers are a relatively old team with a limited window for being a contender:

    If your goal was to win the World Series in 3-4 years–and you didn’t care about this year or the next two–who are the top five teams’ rosters you’d want to start with right now?

    I.E., Who can beat Bonderman, Verlander, Miller, Zumaya, and Granderson as a base to build from?

  37. I agree with Kyle J here…I bet there at least 20 other teams if not all other teams, that would kill to have the young nucleus of players we have on this team.

  38. The bullpen has something like 16 losses so far this year — give or take a few, I don’t know the exact number. That accounts for roughly 42% of this team’s losses. That’s excessive. I think it’s a conservative estimate to say, given a stronger bullpen, and borrowing from the average % of losses other clubs’ pens have registered, etc., that you can convert at least 7 of the 16 to the ‘W’ column. Sometimes I think mathematical analysis tends elucidate the mean, rather than the reality — I know this pen has cost this team more than 2 – 3 victories thus far this year. Even if we didn’t have a Putz for a closer (forgive the anti-pun), that’s 5 games right there. You get the gist. Anyway, a) that’s how I come up with 66 – 33 and b) by conservative, again, I simply mean this team could well be at 70 – 29 right now with a #1, top-notch pen. This team could well be uttered with the likes of the 1927 Yankees, given the historic offensive production (thus far) and given the quality starting pitching on this team. I honestly do not think that is an exaggeration. If you told a baseball historian that Team X had scored 575 runs in 99 games (a pace down somewhat from the peak) and then gave him the statistics of the starting rotation, akin to the Tiger’s startering rotation, he’d tell you, barring a absolute dismal bullpen, “that team probably has something close to 70 wins already.” Throw in a dismal bullpen to the formula, to the tune of 16 losses, those 70 wins go down to something like 59. Sound familiar? Anyway, those are my points clarified.

    I hear Maybin has a bat that Neifi Perez used to hit for the cycle.

  39. BA has Maybin in the top-5 prospects in baseball, IIRC, maybe even top-3. Billfer mentioned it in a post a couple weeks back.

    Humberto had TJ surgery and is done for the year.

  40. I must have missed that on Humberto, tough break for him…that Sheffield trade looks better and better all the time huh?

  41. Using W-L record to gauge bullpen performance is a bit dicey, but here are the stats:

    Detroit’s bullpen is 13-16 this season.

    The average major league bullpen is 15-14.

    So that’s two wins. You can’t just reverse six losses and assume different relievers wouldn’t have blown a few of the wins, too.


    Again, the games the bullpen blows sting the most–but these things tend to even out over a season.

  42. wow Maybin truly is the Messiah. That website is proof! Church of Maybin! It’s only a matter of time.

    [I hope Granderson stays his mentor when he finally does make it to the big leagues…that could only spell good things.]

    more on topic, does anyone know how many blown saves the team has total? That would pretty much figure how many losses we owe to the bullpen, right?

  43. Anyone remember, before 2006, when we really needed SPs, we were rumoured to be trading Zumaya and Granderson for Javy Vasquez? I’m sure glad we didn’t make that trade.

    Relievers are way easier to come by than cheap position players. That we have cheap guys filling roles (Granderson, Verlander, Zumaya, Miller, Inge till this year, even Bonderman and NAte) means we have flexibility to break the bank in other areas.

  44. Sorry, Chris in Nashville, I didn’t mean to offend you, either with my post or my spelling. I just wanted to know who your sources were, as I’d never heard nor read anyone who said that.

  45. This bullpen, currently constructed, will not yeild a WS ring — and likely won’t even yield a playoff birth.

    Here’s the big difference. I disagree with this and just as easily as you can say I’m wrong and I can just say you’re wrong.

    Both camps seem to be all or nothing. “You want Gagne! You want to give up Maybin!!” and “You want no moves whatsoever!” Middle ground, middle ground, middle ground. The team needs a tweak or two more. No one is going to give up Maybin for Lidge or anything like that.

    I’m okay with this. Notice I never said stand pat. I just don’t want any of the top 5 prospects dealt because as Kyle pointed out I don’t think the impact is as great as some are making it out to be.

    Sure you can say if we had an average bullpen.., but I can always say “if we had an average offense we’d be .500” It doesn’t really mean a whole lot.

    And this isn’t about a love of Maybin in particular, but a philosophical difference in approaches.

    Don’t you think most Pistons fans would have gladly traded the #2 pick in the 2003 draft if it would have assured them a SECOND title.

    Well of course, especially if you’re implying they wouldn’t have won it otherwise. The same would apply here. But you can’t assure me anything, that we won’t make it without a trade or we will do it with a trade.

    If we stand pat, we win 93/94 games which 60-40 gets us in. and gives us a 01-99 chance at a word series championship.

    We pick up a guy like Dotel we win 97 games which 100% gets us in. And gives us a 50-50 chance at winning the world series.


  46. Billfer, I hope you are right.

    By currently constructed, I mean without Zumaya and Rodney. If you seriously feel Miner/Durbin/McBride et. al are adequate setup guys to Jones going into October (I think they are adequate long guys) — I can only say I disagree but hope you’re right. Like I’ve said many times, I’m not necessarily advocating selling the farm for a marginal improvement. I’m just adamantly saying they’re not adequate setup guys.

    No sense beating the issue to death. I feel the disagreement will iron itself out come Zumaya/Rodney time. I posit this dichotomy: If Zumaya/Rodney return healthy, and to form, we make the playoffs. If they don’t, we don’t.

  47. Billfer —

    RIGHT ON!!

    Baseball is a game of attrition. One poor outing by your bullpen cannot outweight the value of a stable farm system.

    We have enough peices that if we do much more, the situation becomes very crowded in the offseason.

    This is shaping up to being a great year, but the bullpen we end up with will be enough. If its Cordero, Fuentes, Lidge, No Name Joe, Rodney, Zumaya, or some combination of the above, it will be enough to roll the dice with. We have enough SP and enough mashers to give it a good go. No need to get rid of the future to load the dice.

  48. Bilfer, I agree with you completely. This Tigers bullpen is one of the worst I’ve ever seen, and that includes some of the horrific sites that we’ve seen here in Detroit from 94-05, that said, I’m not moving the best position prospect the Tigers have had since Kirk Gibson for a rental on a relief pitcher. If we can just muster enough to get into the playoffs, if Zumaya’s not ready we’ll have the option of moving Miller into the pen which would be a nice piece to a playoff bullpen. Obviously, it’s probably going to be brutal trying to get there, and with this bullpen we might not make it. But that price is way to much.

  49. “If we stand pat, we win 93/94 games which 60-40 gets us in. and gives us a 01-99 chance at a word series championship.

    We pick up a guy like Dotel we win 97 games which 100% gets us in. And gives us a 50-50 chance at winning the world series.”

    How in the hell does that make sense to you? Please explain how once we’re already in the playoffs…our regular season wins matter?

    Trade Maybin

  50. Pitching and defense win championships. We do not have a dominant starter as of late ( too many walks, hit batters, wild pitches). The bullpen is a freakin joke, a 6 run lead in the 7th is not safe. Rodney coming back is a joke as he is awful as well. Play for now!!!! Make a move!! Who cares if you finish with a winning record. I can name the WS Champs over the last 20 years but would be stumped trying to name those that “played well”.

  51. T Smith – it’s not ideal but they can get by with it. And I did like what I saw from Capellan so the Tigers may already have the pieces if they put the right ones on the roster.

    As for Rodney/Zumaya, I do think expect that the Tigers will get a positive contribution from 1 of the 2 down the stretch. If they get both back and healthy it’s a bonus.

    As an aside, what do you think the odds are that if the Tigers trade for someone, Grilli is the one jettisoned? Not what you want to happen, what you think will happen.

  52. Most of the above sounds like fantasy baseball. I still believe that this team, as constructed , will take us to the promise land.

  53. Nate…you didn’t offend me at all bud….I was just breaking your you know whats because I thought you were breaking my you know whats….no worries. I guess sarcasm doesn’t show up well in this format. The boys are raking tonight……I totally agree with Bilfer by the way…I think this team right now can win the whole thing. Since I have the EI package, I get other teams broadcasts a lot of the time, especially on the road, and every single broadcast team says that the Tigers are either a top 5 team in the league or the best team. I HATE Hawk Harrelson and DJ for the WhiteSox, but they just came from Boston and compared the BoSox to the Tigers and they both said the Tigers were the superior team…and I agree.

  54. By currently constructed, I mean without Zumaya and Rodney.

    But “as currently constructed”, the the team does include Zoom and ‘Nando. We own the rights to them. If they return to form, we get ’em. We’re going down the stretch run with a bunch of mediocre relievers, we’re going down the stretch run with a bunch of mediocre relievers plus a couple coinflip chances at adding up to two relievers with so much talent they could easily outperform anyone you might pick up via trades.

    There are no guarantees, of course, but the expected value of the bullpen come October is significantly higher than the expected value of the bullpen now.

  55. Sorry to return to the other thread, but i was literally saying a guy like Dotel can make a 2-3 game difference down the stretch, which could be the difference between making it and not making it–and that the added depth of someone like Dotel helps us make the playoffs which once you’re there gives you a fighting chance to win the world series. Make a trade don’t make a trade–we can argue this to the cows come home–, but unless we acquire a solid reliever OR Zumaya makes a miraculous comeback, this team isn’t gonna go far in the playoffs, much less the world series. I can’t remember who made the comparison of the ’06 Red Sox to the ’07 Tigers, but I’ve made it before and it’s apt here. T Smith is right, you have this starting five and mega offense it’d be a shame to waste it.

  56. And yet, nobody can say how Zumaya will be when he comes back. It’s not a miraculous comeback, as Stephen said. It’s just an unknown. Maybe he’s Zoomer. Maybe he’s average. You have to plan for the latter and hope for the former.

  57. If the dude’s comes back from a dislocated finger and is lights out, well, that would be miraculous.

    All injuries are different, but look at the way Maroth came back last year and look how Rogers has pitched coming back this year. It’s delusional if we think he’s stepping right back in as a crack set-up man in 07.

    Then again, we don’t have a set-up man now. Maybe Zumaya with only four completely working fingers will be an improvement.

  58. The Brewers just got absolutely fleeced by the San Diego Padres.

    This is what I want to avoid. They dumped a kid named Will Inman, who’s a top 10 pitcher in all of the minor leagues right now, along with 2 other throw in prospects, for Scott Linebrink. Kevin Towers just robbed the Brewers at gun point.

  59. Yes Kenny is coming off injury, but anyone thinking we were going to get what he gave us last season is just fooling themselves.

  60. It appears that the Tigs are interested in bringing back Farnsworth according to Yahoo MLB rumor section. If we can get as good of a deal as we got with Sheff, we can’t go wrong assuming he takes Grilli’s spot.

  61. I have to say, that I could not agree with you in 100% regarding On Bullpen Help, but it’s just my opinion, which could be wrong 🙂

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