Cabrera to first, Guillen to third

by billfer on April 22, 2008 · 67 comments

in 2008 Season,Defense

Huh. Wow. Huh.

That was pretty much my reaction when I heard the news on my drive home from the game that Miguel Cabrera is the new first baseman and Carlos Guillen will be moving to third. Color me surprised.

According to Beck Guillen saw it coming and Cabrera is okay with switching positions.

Granted, Guillen had a bad first week of the season manning first base as his foot work kept brining him into the baseline. But since going to Boston it had appeared that the situation had been resolved for the most part. While Guillen was being taken out of games late it was usually for a pinch runner which I attributed to the hamstring problem, not as a defensive switch (though it certainly had that benefit when Inge came into play third).

What makes the move surprising is that
1. Guillen had all kinds of trouble fielding, transferring, and throwing the ball to first base last year. A move to third would seem to present many of the same issues.
2. The Tigers had to know that Miguel Cabrera wasn’t a good fielding third baseman both when they traded for him and when they signed him long term so they can’t have been surprised by what they saw this first month.
3. I’m not really sure that this solves any problems.

Since the Tigers are comfortable enough to rock the boat with Cabrera and Guillen, why not a platoon based on the handedness of the pitcher? Guillen gets third with a lefty on the mound and Cabrera gets it with a righty? At this point would it be that far fetched?

 
 

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jvwalt April 22, 2008 at 11:30 pm

It makes sense in a number of ways — except for the timing. I’d think that either they would have done this in the offseason, or they’d keep things the way they were until/unless the team fell out of contention. (No, they haven’t yet.)

As for Cabrera, a move to 1B was probably inevitable. It should make him more comfortable all around, as was the case with Albert Pujols. As for Guillen, his bat’s not a good fit for 1B; if he declines much at all, his middling power will become a serious issue. He’ll be more valuable for a longer term if he can play a decent 3B.

Both of these things should have been obvious as soon as Cabrera was acquired. Instead, the Tigers rather stubbornly insisted he was their third baseman. Now, they have two guys trying to learn new positions in the middle of a season.

Come to think of it, maybe this is the first sign of a white flag from the organization.

Jeff April 22, 2008 at 11:40 pm

, the Tigers rather stubbornly insisted he was their third baseman.

It’s three weeks into the season. “Stubbornly insisted he was their third baseman” is what they did last year for far longer than three weeks when they started Inge in almost every game even though he was hitting horribly.

Grant E. April 22, 2008 at 11:41 pm

If Guillen is as bad at third as he was at short last year, that would appear to be a wash at the hot corner. However, Miguel has appeared perfectly comfortable at first and Guillen has not. Carlos had bad footwork and would eventually caused a collision and got himself hurt. We’ll see about third base but as I see it, they just upgraded at first.

Kathy April 22, 2008 at 11:46 pm

Carlos is just supposed to learn a new position on the fly? I thought Leland was going to announce Inge was traded. Never saw this coming although Miggy has a great arm but he’s just so big and not as flexible as Inge or Carlos. Sure hope Carlos does OK and we don’t have this constant discussion about Brandon Inge. Enough already!

jvwalt April 22, 2008 at 11:50 pm

Jeff: The “stubborn insistence” began the moment of the Cabrera/Willis trade, and continued until last night.

Vince in MN April 22, 2008 at 11:51 pm

How about if Leyland platoons Cabrera and Guillen according to the opposing batter?
;)

Lee Panas April 22, 2008 at 11:54 pm

It won’t be a new position for Guillen. He played 101 games at third for Seattle. The problem is he is not the same defender he was five years ago. As Billfer said, he had trouble making throws from short the last couple of years. The throw from third is a tough one but also a different one so we’ll see how it goes. I’m not so mystified by the move as much as I am about the timing. it seems as if it would have made more sense to try it in spring training.

Brian P April 22, 2008 at 11:59 pm

Kathy: Carlos split time between 3B and SS with the Mariners, so as far as positioning goes (for cutoffs and whatnot), I don’t think it will be an issue.

Defensively, however, I think we’re going to witness more errors than what we would see with Cabrera. But, I’ll reserve final judgment until I witness this surprising change for a week or so.

scotsw April 23, 2008 at 12:03 am

Much to chew on here. Remember that Cabrera is your $100 million man, so priority numero uno is to put him in the best position to succeed over the next 8 years. He’s looked extremely comfortable at first (and we’ve talked about that here) and it’s a traditional spot for a big power hitter.

Guillen is not learning a “new” position at third, but he’s going to have to refresh. He played there in Seattle. My real concern is his arm strength. He’ll have good range, but I can’t see third being much easier on his hammys and knees than short was — which was the whole reason we gave up Jurrjens for Renteria. SO, now we’re in the strange position where our third baseman has more agility and range than our SS.

Look, Brandon Inge came out of spring training telling everyone who would listen that he’s seeing the ball as well as he ever has. I don’t know what to say to that, except that he’s now hitting .250 after a good start, and he looked like his old self several times today, watching some really nice fastballs whistle by. Credit where it’s due: He did get a nice sac. fly. But it’s clear he’s a subpar hitter. Damned it all if he’s not the only legitimate gold-glove third baseman on the team. But the upshot is, in this game you have to hit.

Before people get too upset about all of this and say the sky is falling, I would say that there are two dozen teams in the bigs who would love to have this problem: Trying to find enough spots for all your .300 hitters with power.

The end game here: Inge gets packaged with another player who is being underpaid (Clete Thomas?) for a slightly overpaid but productive player, probably a bullpen arm. Somebody who’s somewhat overpaid, but not exceedingly so. Just a guess.

Brenden April 23, 2008 at 12:15 am

I could see Inge getting traded here now that the team is getting healthy again, but I am not sure I would expect them to trade off Thomas with Inge. Now that 1st base is tied up with Cabrera, maybe it will be Larish, not unless they want to turn him into a catcher. But, who knows…

Kathy April 23, 2008 at 12:17 am

Sounds good to me scotsw. Carlos had a miserable time last year at SS with the errant throws and errors. But he’ll “probably” be better than Cabrera. Perhaps it will be a challenge to him and he’ll enjoy it. Sure hope so!

Thanks for the info, Lee. I just hope Carlos can settle in and do a decent job for us.

Jeff April 23, 2008 at 12:18 am

Jeff: The “stubborn insistence” began the moment of the Cabrera/Willis trade, and continued until last night.

Yeah, for three weeks of the regular season. Meanwhile, last year, a godawful hitter was stubbornly kept as the starting third basemen through the most crucial portion of the season, when the Tigers couldn’t hit worth a lick.

Kathy April 23, 2008 at 12:24 am

And on second thought, Carlos will probably do just fine. He’s looked like the walking wounded the last week or so and still goes out there and plays. He was half dead in Seattle with TB and still made it to the park every day and played. That guy has a will to succeed and a real work ethic.

Mike R April 23, 2008 at 12:38 am

So what happens when we got to Minnesota and back to Toronto? Does Cabrera move back to 3rd or does Inge (if he’s still with Detroit by then) start at 3rd everyday? And what happens if Sheffield is healthy by then, who DH’s? Leyland loves giving Guillen the half-day off by DH’ing him on the turf, and this just presents problems.

Guillen is probably an upgrade at 3rd — less ground to cover then when he was at SS, less movement overall, but the throwing will be a concern. That said, you’re swapping out a big turd for a slightly less big turd defensively (sorry for that analogy, first one that came to mind) and I’m not sure that’s gaining much. At this rate, I’m all for DL’ing (and have been for a while) Sheffield and DH’ing Miggy/Guillen and Inge at 3rd defensively. He’s terrible at the plate, but his excellent glove taken into account, I think he’s overall around slightly-below-average as a total package. And with this lineup, we can carry that sandbag of a bat. It’s the other ones like Jaque Jones that don’t exactly bring much to the table.

And if there’s a trade, I doubt Thomas goes, it’ll probably be Raburn since he’s done something Matt Murton-like to inexplicably not be given prominent playing time by being passed over for subpar players (Santiago).

Steve in Kzoo April 23, 2008 at 12:48 am

I think that we have a dilemma now. 1B is now blocked our best 1B prospect in Larish is now available. Do we package him with Inge? 3B is also going to be tricky and depends on what Sheff does next year. Does he hang it up in ’09 or ’10. Either or, you see Carlos going to DH spot. That leaves Inge at 3B or C. Or do we go via trade, FA or Raburn/internal option?

Another problem…..who catches next year. Resign Pudge (which I can see), trade(how?), FA or let a prospect try out? And then if Inge is traded who is 3B? Raburn(who might pan out or might be just another Inge one great year the blah….), or FA or Trade (again how?)

greg April 23, 2008 at 1:07 am

This is interesting. I think in some ways it makes a lot of sense. Miggy’s range at 3rd was poor. He botched a number of balls as well. He’s had weight problems in the past and even now he’s not exactly skinny. I don’t see his range at 3B improving much. He appears comfortable at 1st and this could be a long term home for him.

Guillen is a train wreck anywhere with the glove. Be prepared for a recording setting number of wild missles launched from 3B. As far as saving his knees, that’s from hard slides taking him out on double play balls, he won’t have that at 3B.

At the very least Inge should be playing 3B against lefties. He hits them well and is the best 3B on the team. You could also make the case for playing Inge at 3B most of the time, but we’ve discussed that before. As painful as Inge’s AB’s were to watch last year, Guillen’s defense is 10 times as painful to watch.

Sheffield’s health is the real wild card here. I totally agree with Mike that we should DL Sheff, and put Guillen at DH, but I’d DH Guillen full time. He’s just lost WAY too many games with his glove.

Ideally, keep Sheffield on the DL until he’s healthy enough to hit AND play Left Field. I love Sheffield and think his bat is underrated by Tiger fans, but I want the real Sheffield, the healthy Sheffield, not an injured Sheff full of cortisone shots that don’t work.

In the mean time, while Sheff is healing up, maybe Jones heats up enough to make him trade bait. If not, put in the hot bat among your platoon options.

Brenden April 23, 2008 at 1:07 am

All I have left to say is that I will be excited to see Cruceta move up to the bullpen in the next week or so to hopefully replace Miner. Anybody catch his line tonight? 2 innings pitched, 6 strike-outs.

Lee Panas April 23, 2008 at 1:19 am

“But the upshot is, in this game you have to hit.”

You also have to field especially when you’ve got a mediocre staff. Hopefully this move will help them because their infield defense has not been good this year. As for Inge, I think there will almost always be someone hurt on this team so I still expect him to play a lot of games this year.

Chris April 23, 2008 at 2:06 am

I’ve been thinking that the Tigers could trade Sheffield and make Guillen the DH. Then they could move Miggy to 1st and Inge at 3rd. One thing this move would do is it would shore-up the defense to help out the pitching situation (which is the biggest concern right now). And I personally feel that this team would still have a pretty potent lineup without Sheffield.

I know Sheffield’s shoulder injury could complicate a trade, but with that aside, perhaps Toronto would be willing to part with one of their pitchers. Toronto has a deep pitching staff, but they are weak with hitting. And Detroit has the hitting, but the pitching– particularly the starting pitching– is something that is desperately needed.

Andrew Stein April 23, 2008 at 2:21 am

I think this move pretty much guarantees that Inge is going to be traded soon. The Tigers knew that Cabrera is a lackluster fielder when they got him. Yet they didn’t prepare either one of these players during spring training for the possibility that they would be switiching positions. So despite this immense lack of preparation they still choose to make two guys learn a new job a month into the season. I just don’t think defensive struggles is enough of a reason to do that.

So now we have Guillen at 3B and two guys who can sub for him if he needs a break: Cabrera and Raburn

Granderson is coming back and Thomas has done well proving that he can hold his own as a back-up fielder. The only reason to send him back down to the minors is to get him more AB’s.

You’ve got three guys who can play LF in Jones, Raburn and Thames with Thames doubling as a back-up 1B.

While Inge is basically in the same postion he was before Granderson broke his hand, with the relative versatility of the lineup right now, he’s more out of a job now than he ever was. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Wilson is coming off the DL tomorrow.

And although this is pure speculation, Leyland’s stonewalling of the press suggests that there might be a cat in a bag at Dombrowski’s office that he doesn’t want to talk about.

With Jose Castillo posting the 4th worst OPS in the NL, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Inge land in San Francisco by May. Who with (if anyone) and who for I have no idea.

Steve in Kzoo April 23, 2008 at 2:49 am

Chris you are dreaming. We wouldn’t get a A ballplayer for Sheff Right now. Hes nothing but injury trying to play a game. Theres no way get get him off our team with his salary, injuries. Sheff is here unless we DL him.

Andrew
I think that you right. I believe that DD has something in mind and thats the only reason that Inge ISN’T playing 3B right now. SF maybe the team but theres also LAD. Who knows where he lands but what or who we get back is very unknown right now. At best with just Inge we get a mediocre pitcher. Which we dont need. If hes paired with Larish who is now blocked by Cabrera’s move to 1B, we could get something nothing anywhere near Lincecum. But someone, maybe we could get Zito back on track lolol he lost is 5th straight lolol j/k

Theres my thoughts……

Andrew Stein April 23, 2008 at 3:23 am

I agree that any real prospects for Inge are probably out of the question, but I think what we get back for him – especially if he goes to SF – shouldn’t be too bad.

The production at 3B in SF right now is downright embarrassing. And even though Brandon Inge can’t singlehandedly turn that team around, at the very least he can provide offense that is 40 points of OPS better than it is now and defense that is among the best in the league.

The Giants just don’t have any other options except to look for a trade. While Jose Bautista in Pittsburgh in the worst hitting 3B in the league right now, The Pirates can just bring up Neil Walker if they get desperate. The Giants’ top prospect is a 3B but he’s also 18.

And finally, Brian Sabean just has a history of making pretty poor decisions. Maybe he sees Inge’s OPS of .827 and thinks he can sustain that for the season along with a solid glove.

I mean, the guy traded away Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser for one year of A.J. Pierzynski. We probably won’t get that lucky, but who knows. I’d be happy just to get rid of Inge’s contract, but if we can get Merkin Valdez in the process than that’s just gravy.

Mike R April 23, 2008 at 3:54 am

Just to touch on a few things …. Miguel Cabrera was never going to be a long term 3B, so Jeff Larish getting blocked isn’t a big deal. Also, while Larish is a big power, high K and BB guy, he isn’t exactly Pujols or Miguel Cabrera in waiting. So him getting blocked by this move, in my mind, is a big deal.

As far as trading Sheffield, I think you guys are really underestimating just how damaging his shoulder hurting again really is. This is getting into Fernando Rodney territory. I really, really think he is done ever being a regular for an entire season again, and with that thought, he was hurt in his last year with the Yankees and missed significant time in 2007, so he really has already been done as a full time regular. This is just, in my opinion, the proverbial nail in the coffin. Not to mention that Gary Sheffield is still owed $28 million over the next 2 years. So that puts him in the “Brandon Inge Category” of trades: We eat the deal, get something okay in return or eat nothing and accept some creamed corn in return. Except Gary’s shown he can’t stay healthy for the last now 3 seasons, so he’s even worse then Inge in that he’s damaged goods.

Trading Inge: The Dodgers have a young 3rd baseman who should have been handed the reins two years ago but Ned Coletti decided to go spend the world on some terrible free agents and it’s caused some problems in finding their more talented, younger, cheaper players playing time. Andy LaRoche (Adam LaRoche’s brother) is 24, I believe, and been ready for the 3rd base job in LA for about a year and a half, it’s just been hard until this year to keep Nomar or someone else screwing it up and this year Laroche had a hand injury and that is why Blake DeWitt is up with the Dodgers manning the hot corner.

The Giants have nothing of value to offer anyone for anything. That said, we’re not going to get much value for Brandon Inge because of the size of his contract. That is an albatross that complicates everything. We must eat pretty much all of the contract to get anything noteworthy back in a trade, or else we take a couple bats, a baseball, and a box of macaroni for him while the other team foots Inge’s bill. Those are the two scenarios when it comes to trading Inge.

The only GM worse then Ned Coletti is Brian Sabean. But, in Sabean’s defense, Liriano was an erratic thrower with injury questions (see: TJ surgery already), Boof Bonser projects as a middle of the rotation guy. That trade could have gone the way many others have before: the Thrower doesn’t ever harness his tools and/or blows his elbow out and never recovers (This part still may come true), the middle of the rotation guy becomes a journeyman MOTR guy, and the closer becomes lights out. So, I give him a pass since it just so happened that all three seemed to have reached their ceilings while Pierzynski didn’t mesh with Barry Bonds/the clubhouse and wanted out.

Andrew Stein April 23, 2008 at 5:31 am

Granted, but it’s not like A.J. was a bona-fide star. The guy had one good year at the plate and played above-average defense at his position. That coupled with the fact that he had only one guaranteed year with the Giants makes it seem like giving up a former 1st round starter and a reliever with an ERA+ of 142 was a bad idea. Yeah, Liriano had some risk to him, but the Twins have already gotten more out of that guy than the Giants ever got out of A.J. who was a fairly poor hitting catcher during ’04. You put all that together and one has to come to the conclusion that Sabean et al. were seriously mis-valuing both what they were getting and what they were giving up.

The Giants do have a handfull of valuable pitching prospects, but no one who could help at the major league level immediately. Even so, if what you’re saying about the A.J. trade is true, maybe we’ll get lucky. Inge’s contract is prohibitive, but as far as the Giants are concerned with what their alternatives at 3B are it may no longer be a deal breaker.

Birdy April 23, 2008 at 5:41 am

I find the trading Inge discussion strange. I can’t imagine the Tigers are even shopping him. He’ll get traded only if someone calls us and knocks our socks off with a truly useful arm.

Ditto everything Lee said. If there’s one player that doesn’t have to hit, it’s Brandon Inge. His glove makes him so valuable, especially at third. He’s playing for a team that doesn’t necessarily need more hitters, but definitely needs better defense. He’s on pace for 80 rbi anyway. And he might just get the at-bats to do that with injuries.

I understand how easy it is to get frustrated watching Inge bat sometimes. The runs he saves in the field make up for that in a big way. I think it may be in the team’s best interests to have him as the regular 3B. Can Guillen play left field?

Even if Inge isn’t the regular thirdbaseman, given the probability of injuries, he’s too valuable for the Tigers to trade him just to trim payroll or just to make him happier. What am I missing? Is Inge bringing a bad attitude to the clubhouse? That’s the only scenario I see where the Tigers would want to get rid of him.

billfer April 23, 2008 at 6:07 am

Like Birdy, I was surprised to even see Inge come up in the discussion. I don’t see this move changing Inge’s role at all.

Jim McKee April 23, 2008 at 8:17 am

Miguel Cabrera is being paid far too much to be a platoon player.

BTW, is there a new MLB rule that requires each team to have a player named Cabrera?

scotsw April 23, 2008 at 9:12 am

LOL Jim McKee — I’ve been feeling the same way about the Cabreras… You’ve gotta say, though, on average they’re pretty good players. Glad we’ve got ourselves the pick of the lot.

RE: Inge… Of course he comes up in the discussion. He’s the best 3rd baseman, defensively, in the organization. Guillen may be fine there defensively, but nobody thinks he has Brandon’s fluidity or arm. Guillen swings an All-Star bat, though, so you have to play him. So we’ve got Granderson coming back today, Polanco supposedly ready this week, and Wilson waiting in the wings (and he likes catching!). So if you keep Inge, you can keep only 3 of these guys active: Santiago, Clete, Thames, Raburn and Wilson — and you know Thames and Wilson are staying. Unless you cut Jacque Jones loose, in which case you can keep 4.

As people have noted, Inge’s contract makes him harder to trade, but certainly not impossible. He could be traded for another useful but overpaid veteran, where both teams improve their rosters, if not their payrolls. But to make that work, you probably have to add a little value from the Tigers in the form of a low-salary add-on like Clete Thomas or Ryan Raburn. I mean, that’s just my own speculation.

In the end, I trust Dombrowski. So it’ll be fun to watch.

Question of the Day: Who leaves to make room for Granderson?

Ryan April 23, 2008 at 9:49 am

Is it possible this move is a prelude to trading Guillen? If Cabrera does okay at first, they have a first and a third baseman anyway, and Guillen certainly has significant trade value. If they get a killer offer for him, he would be part-with-able. It would have to be a huge, huge offer, but you never know.

micah April 23, 2008 at 9:52 am

interesting stuff, for sure. now, how about this: while guillen has the hot bat right now, his trade value may be higher than it has ever been. i’d feel pretty comfortable trading guillen for an arm, keeping miggy at first, and inge coming back as everyday 3B. it’s not like the offense would take too great of a hit right now. :P

Blake April 23, 2008 at 9:58 am

While Guillen had some trouble making that throw from SS to 1B last year I still think he’s an improvement. Cabrera was just a slow disaster down there.

Dave T. April 23, 2008 at 10:09 am

I think this move hurts Thames the most. Thames was going to get at bats from Guillen getting a day off at first. Cabrera is going to play a ton of games at first. And Pudge has also shown he can play a little first base.

Inge is way too valuable as a sub. He can be substituted for almost any position, Leyland loves that flexibility. Remember he started in the National League, making double switches and pinch running is in his blood.

The guy who is totally blocked in the minors is Mike Hessman, a decent player, not an everyday major leaguer, but someone who could be on a bench a la Thames. He would probably go in any deal as an add on.

And as for the Cruceta swap it has to be Zach Miner going to the Minors. Leyland had a pretty short hook on him last night.

Lee Panas April 23, 2008 at 10:10 am

I can’t see Inge getting traded with the brittle Guillen playing third. I think there are going to be a lot of games where Sheffield is hurt and Guillen plays DH with Inge at third. Plus, Inge will still be backing up all over the field. He is their best backup catcher and center fielder.

greg April 23, 2008 at 10:35 am

IMHO, Sheffield is by far the most underrated player among Tiger fans.

The only question is his shoulder and how he’s recovered from this LATEST surgery during the off season. A big question mark to be sure, and its possible that he doesn’t come back from this, but just to ASSUME he’s done…I just don’t understand that line of thinking. Unless, you would say the same of any player who has that operation. If Pujols, Miggy, AROD, David Wright, if they had the same injury, would you immediately write off their careers? If so, ok, if not, you are dismissing a hitter who easily falls into that category. Numerous scouts have raved about his bat speed as being tops in the game, even last year(before the injury). So previous injuries and age don’t eneter in to what he can do when healthy, look at the numbers.

Last year, Sheff had problems adjusting to the DH role at first and didn’t have his timing down at the plate. Once he solved that in late April, from that point until the collision injuring his shoulder, over that 83 game stretch, here are his numbers:

83 games
85 Runs
22 Home Runs
61 RBI’s
15 SB’s
.336 Batting Average
.430 On Base %
——-
I dunno, but to me, those are numbers that a lot of teams would like to have in their lineup. Actually, those are MVP numbers most years.

Now, perhaps you want to mention all of the previous shoulder injuries he’s had. Good, that just reinforces my point that he CAN come back and produce elite numbers after a shoulder injury, arguably the best numbers of any Tiger when healthy, and one could make the case that he’s the most valuable Tiger when he’s right.

I agree that Sheff hasn’t looked 100% this year, but I’m not convinced that his shoulder condition can’t improve beyond its current state. I haven’t heard that from any trainer or surgeon, just some Tiger fans who are understandably frustrated with his slow start. Perhaps the nature of this shoulder injury is completely different than previous ones and this is one you just don’t come back from, but, if it is, the doctors lied to Dombrowski.

On Saturday April 12th he tore some scar tissue that increased his range of motion, and to me, his bat speed was clearly better, I think he had 3-5 HR distance balls that went foul, and number of line drives pulled foul immediately after that. He didn’t look 100% like he did last year, but he looked much improved. However, Sheffield said that pushing it over that stretch set him back a little.

To me, that’s enough not to flippantly assume he’s done. I say DL him, wait for him to get 100%. If does recover only enough to become half the hitter he once was, there will be plenty of suitors wanting him, but odds are at that point, the Tigers wouldn’t want to trade him.

Chris April 23, 2008 at 10:39 am

Inge isn’t going to be traded any time soon because he is our backup catcher. Vance Wilson is probably a couple months away from filling that role.

As far as Sheffield goes, if he isn’t 100% healthy enough to be effective then I think they need to bench him or DL him until he is ready. This way they can get Guillen as DH and get Inge to play 3rd. Then when or if Sheffield does get his health back and is shows signs of being an effective DH, then I wonder if they can get anything for him in a mid season trade.

Stephen April 23, 2008 at 10:45 am

Wow with the move of Carbrera to first and the trading of Maybin my prediction success rate has gone up to, uh, 2 for 76.

Stephen April 23, 2008 at 10:46 am

Man, I guess Joe Morgan’s prediction of Guillen winning a gold glove at first isn’t coming true. Shocking.

Alan April 23, 2008 at 11:07 am

I think it would make more sense to make Inge our everyday 3Bman and use guillen as a DH and 3rd when Inge is to catch. Lest we forget Shef can play first and OF if needed (although probably not the best idea with his arm.)

Sean C. in Illinois April 23, 2008 at 11:11 am

My own poorly informed speculation on the Cabrera-Guillen move and everything it might mean (let’s see how wrong I turn out to be):

Cabrera doesn’t care where he plays, but he wants to play one position and stay there. Guillen would rather not DH full-time unless he had to – he loves being on the field. Leyland has NO confidence in Inge’s bat and no interest in Inge as the starting third baseman under any circumstances. But unless Santiago or Raburn are considered reliable gloves at 3B (and why would they be?), or unless Inge is really the clubhouse cancer he wasn’t supposed to be, or unless the Tigers have given up on having any defense at 3B, then he (Inge) isn’t going anywhere. He’s too valuable as a late game defensive sub. Guillen could come off the field and stay in as DH (assuming that’s permissible – I’m so rusty on the finer points of the game now). If Sheffield goes on the DL, Thames and Jones split DH duties. Raburn goes to Toledo (for playing time as much as anything else); Thomas and Santiago stay.

I think the Cabrera-Guillen move is something Leyland had to do, not just something to “shake things up.” We’ll find out why he had to very soon. I hope they don’t trade Inge now and destroy my theories. I don’t see any trade this early that would really help… unless the reason for it was team chemistry. Sound silly? Maybe.

ez April 23, 2008 at 11:24 am

Chris is absolutely correct. Inge will not be traded.

Too many people are thinking of Inge as primarily a starting 3rd baseman. He could be on a few other teams, but not on Detroit. He has hit himself out of that position, and Detroit has real hitters available at 3rd.

Inge is a utility/role player, and though he hates it, as do many of his backers, yet this is where he is most valuable… Giving a very old (for a catcher) Pudge the occasional day off, spot starting in the outfield, and late inning defensive replacement at 3rd is where Inge excels.

The cupboard is bare in the minors at catcher, regardless of how well St. Pierre might be hitting at the moment. Wilson may or may not ever play again and is seemingly months away. Without a viable catching option you won’t see Inge moved.

The above scenerio utilizes Inge’s assets, namely his glove and his versatility, and keeps the hitters in the line-up (Guillen, Pudge, Cabrerra) except for when they get the occasional day off.

Guillen will be fine at 3rd. He is an upgrade over Miggy defensively, and he is the only Tiger who has hit for the whole year. He has to stay in the line-up. He has plenty of glove and range to play 3rd.

Inge is now far more valuable to the team as a role/utility guy than at any point in his whole career.

David G. April 23, 2008 at 11:44 am

And as for people looking for trades (Guillen) for arms, I don’t think that is going to be an issue for very long, pretty soon we are going to have more arms than we (literally) will know what to do with. Even Grilli and Miner are looking better.

Andre April 23, 2008 at 12:29 pm

To Sean’s comment on Guillen – if he’s more interested in helping the team than playing infield, he’ll DH. I think in his last two seasons as SS with Detroit he committed over 25 errors per season. I know he has about 100 starts at 3rd, but he hasn’t really shown a track record of being able to make good throws. If I’m looking at the Guillen / Cabrera switch in the long term, I’m not so sure it isn’t a lateral move defense-wise. Cabrera gives up range, but has a much better arm. I think the move only begins to make sense if you consider that they’re priming Guillen to make the eventual switch to DH (assuming a prolonged DL stint for Sheff). As it is, I think that Inge will be coming in as a defensive sub a lot more. I don’t think there’s a chance they trade Guillen this year. He and Cabrera are way too good of friends, I know that JL says he doesn’t care about “chemistry”, but I doubt he wouldn’t anticipate the negative consequences of trading Cabrera’s best friend and idol.

All that having been said, I’m happy to see this switch. If for no other reason it shows me that JL isn’t happy with the status quo and isn’t scared to keep trying new things until its fixed. And on the plus side, we can all come of with ideas of who should play where…and eventually JL will try out our combos!!!

(My dream world: Inge 3b, Guillen DH, Sheff DL)

Scott April 23, 2008 at 12:32 pm

I think think this move is symptomatic of a larger problem: namely, the Tigers have three good offensive players that are big liabilities defensively in Guillen, Miggy and Sheffield. So you might have solved a problem by putting Cabrerra at first base, but, as others have pointed out, you have not upgraded at third base at all.
In my mind, one of the three has to go, if not this season, than for sure heading into 2009. I think Sheffield is the obvious choice. Look, if Sheff was the hitter he was of 5 or 6 years ago, I’d say trade Guillen. But Sheffield isn’t and I’m not even sure how productive he can be at all given his injuries.
Guillen should be the full-time DH and occasionally spell Miggy at 1B. Put Inge at 3B and leave him there… we can afford to “carry” his bat at this point.
In my opinion, the Tigers are not serious contenders with their current makeup.

Andre April 23, 2008 at 12:48 pm

I agree with Scott’s take on finding roles for 3 good bats. Its a strange situation where I almost want either Guillen or Sheff to be on the DL, just not at the same time. Sheff may not be the hitter he was 4 years ago, but as someone else pointed out he still had great numbers in limited action last year: 100+ runs, 25 HR, 75 RBI … and 20+ SB @ 39! These are good full-season numbers for healthy major leaguers let alone ones dealing with injury issues. Now none of this means that this year his problems aren’t worse, but don’t count out the value of a guy like Sheff, who plays and produces through injuries. You can’t put a value on someone with the instincts to steal 20 bags at his age come playoff time.

To the issue of the Tigers as contenders – I think we can assume that the pitching will determine that. For all the speculation the offense has generated with the recent switch of 1/3B, it seems like they’ve thawed out of the Detroit winter. The issue will be whether or not the rotation performs at even 80% of what we expected pre-season and if the bullpen settles in. I think the both the infield and bullpen have been overly taxed by our starting pitching which has shone a spotlight on these two groups that might otherwise have been lesser issues. It might work to our benefit in the long run to have the infield tested now rather than say the playoffs (assuming…) when we wouldn’t have the luxury of time to sort this out. Of course the pessimist might want to point to spring training as a better time to do this :)

Sean C. in Illinois April 23, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Andre, I agree that it could be better if Guillen was not in the field. I get the sense that Guillen is all about helping the team, and would probably play catcher if Leyland asked him to. My guess is that he feels he’s a better hitter (or just feels better hitting) being fully involved in the game (not hard to understand) and expressed this preference in a frank discussion with Leyland. It’s a small sample, but so far this year he’s batting .000 as a DH and .355 otherwise.

Trading Guillen doesn’t make sense at all. He’s the DH of the future (maybe 2009). Maybe a future nearer still.

Guillen to third says so much about how much stock the Tigers put in Inge’s early batting stats (very good overall). I like Brandon Inge, always have, but I think it would take a miracle (consistent hitting) or a disaster (Guillen’s throwing) for him to be a regular starter at 3B again. Yes, you’d think that bringing him in at 3B late in games should become routine now.

I wish most of all that Sheffield was healthy. When he’s hot, the whole team is hot. If Sheffield is going to be out for a while, maybe a long while, I’d rather see Thames at DH and Guillen at 3B than have Inge getting regular ABs.

Kevin in Austin April 23, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Thames can put up 25 HRs and 75 RBIs. That’s pretty average for a full time DH/OFer. And as much as I love his plate discipline and OBP, Sheff is simply too old and too brittle to play a full season. We’ll squeeze what we can out of him in 400 ABs, but it’s not worth the $14M that we owe him. I think it was Greg who pointed out his amazing 100 game streak last year, and I’ll admit, I was gawking at his #1 VORP ranking last August (and Maggs was #2, what a great day), but we are seeing reality.

Guillen has been nothing short of fantastic and that is exactly why we should trade him (assuming we can get a solid #3 or #4 pitcher). Last year, we needed Inge’s bat. This year (with the addition of Cabrera, Renteria and Monroe’s departure) we can afford a hole in the lineup. I’d be shocked if Kenny and Dontrelle combined to pitch 300 innings, and I’d like to get someone in here who can give us another 200+.

If Andre is right and our starters can improve to close to expectations, and we never pitch Grilli or Miner in undecided games, then you can delete my first two paragraphs.

Andrew Stein April 23, 2008 at 1:54 pm

I don’t think anyone said that Inge would be traded, merely that you have to consider the possibility. Otherwise, why do this now?

This is a million dollar organization with plenty of smart people on the coaching staff and the front office. The thought that they would pick up Cabrera and just hope that he would emerge into a passable 3B thus never trying him out at 1B or getting Guillen familiar with 3B during spring training. Then all of a sudden 10 games into the season they put Cabrera at 1B and 10 games after that announce that he and Guillen have new positions, forcing each player to learn on the job.

If we’re making the argument that this is a purely defensive switch than we’re also admitting that the Tiger organization made a huge mistake by not preparing them for the switch during spring training. The fact that this happened a month into the season with little preparation for the players leads me to believe that there are other motives involved.

With Granderson coming back, Thomas playing well and Wilson weeks (not months) away, Inge is looking at fewer at bats than he was at the beginning of March.

Maybe this is just a massive miscalculation by the Tiger staff. Maybe they thought that both Cabrera and Guillen were going to be good enough at their positions to not try them out at other ones before the season started. And maybe they realized two weeks into the season that they made a mistake. That all seems probable I guess, just not likely.

Mike P. April 23, 2008 at 1:59 pm

If I were Inge in this situation, I would be very upset. The Tigers obviously mishandled this situation horribly.

He should raise his voice now, and try to get out of town as fast as he can.

Andre April 23, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Mike – not to jump all over your statement, but how specifically do you see that the “Tigers obviously mishandled” Inge? Throughout the offseason I thought that both camps had handled themselves brilliantly. The Tigers kept saying that they valued Inge and would rather keep him while trying to do what was in Inge’s interests and trade him. Inge, for his part, kept quiet nearly the entire time and not once voiced a “trade me or play me” demand. If anyone has mishandled the Inge situation its the media. Since the Cabrera trade they’ve been constantly digging for a juicy controversy and I have to say that all parties have avoided such a distraction.

The situation is what it is due to the Tigers signing Inge to what appeared to be a relative bargain, which Inge followed up on by underachieving. I’m the first to say that I prefer Inge starting at 3b. The fact that we have three lefty starters makes that corner even more important defensively. I don’t think I’ll get much argument when I throw out that I think Inge is one of the top three defensive 3rd basemen. Does this mean I don’t cr(inge) whenever he’s at bat, no. He’s a liability at the plate and doesn’t seem concerned enough to alter his style. A friend of mine once commented that Inge was a guy that happened to hit a lot of balls out of the park one season and began to think that his game was swing for the fences. Inge is a doubles/triples guy just like Maggs, he just doesn’t have the extra pop that Maggs does.

Anyhow, my point was that both sides made their beds. The Tigers signed Inge expecting a certain output and Inge keeps swinging expecting a certain outcome. Neither case has turned out as expected, but for the most part everyone has gone about their business as professionals. If the Tigers could have traded Inge for value, I think they would have done so already. In the mean time I think everyone is doing the best they can with the situation.

pt April 23, 2008 at 3:28 pm

The real solution is to put Inge at third, Cabrera at first, Guillen at DH, and Sheffield in LF.
Sheff can still play the field, and apparently, Guillen is fading fast in that area.

Andre April 23, 2008 at 3:38 pm

and take playing time away from Jacque-strap? you can’t be serious!

tiff April 23, 2008 at 4:06 pm

all this fuss..from tonight’s lineup:

“In a final note, Gary Sheffield and Placido Polanco will remain out of the lineup. Because Sheffield is sitting, Miguel Cabrera will DH tonight and Guillen will play first base.”

Good thing we made such a big deal about it.

Sean C. in Illinois April 23, 2008 at 4:48 pm

Sheff can still play the field”

I don’t think the Tigers can or should risk this. Don’t see the point, either.

“If I were Inge in this situation, I would be very upset. The Tigers obviously mishandled this situation horribly.”

Things just didn’t go as expected, and there’s been a change of plan. Not much has changed for Inge. Was a sub, still a sub.

“I don’t think anyone said that Inge would be traded, merely that you have to consider the possibility.”

I understand. I’m also just considering the possibility that trading Inge is part of what’s behind this move. I don’t think it is, but it still makes sense that it could be.

“Guillen has been nothing short of fantastic and that is exactly why we should trade him (assuming we can get a solid #3 or #4 pitcher).”

Guillen isn’t expendable.

“The situation is what it is due to the Tigers signing Inge to what appeared to be a relative bargain, which Inge followed up on by underachieving…”

Well put. All of it. But… I still think the Tigers lose less defensively with Guillen over Inge than they gain with anyone over Inge in the regular lineup. A poor hitter – not weak, but poor – at 3B is a liability not even a Brooks Robinson-type could compensate for in the field. Nature of the position, I think.

Sean C. in Illinois April 23, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Ouch. Sorry, folks. HTML freakout. Wish there was some way to edit the posts (I tried!)…. Hmmmm. Mayube I’m missing something.

Andre April 23, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Sean – I think I see what you’re saying with defensive gain vs offensive loss regarding Inge. However, and here I’m just looking at errors (not counting extra balls that Inge could get to…and possible runs saved from those), Cabrera committed 5 of those so far (Inge averages about 20 errors a season). Assuming that those errors contributed to an equal number of runs scored, and assuming that a run saved is equal to a run scored…then you could say that Inge at 12 RBI + those 5 (assumed preventable) errors is contributing more than MCab.

Ok, obviously thats a ton of “what if” and “if then” and in real life most would agree that MCab, even at 3B, is more valuable than Inge. I’m just not sure that enough people are looking at the “run saved=run scored” aspect that Inge brings. Thoughts?

billfer April 23, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Andre -

I’m guessing you’re new here, so welcome! Thanks for jumping in the discussion. We did a pretty deep dive looking at the run value/win value of adding Cabrera at the time of the trade that took into account both the run produced/run saved side of the equations.

http://www.detroittigersweblog.com/2007/12/where-should-cabrera-play/

And welcome to Sean C and pt and the other names I haven’t seen here before.

Andre April 23, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Thanks for the welcome, the link was pretty interesting too. This blog definitely takes the edge off of my workday!

Andre April 23, 2008 at 8:31 pm

and Jacque-strap is trying to make me look bad with these last couple games…

Mike R April 24, 2008 at 1:02 am

Granted, but it’s not like A.J. was a bona-fide star. The guy had one good year at the plate and played above-average defense at his position. That coupled with the fact that he had only one guaranteed year with the Giants makes it seem like giving up a former 1st round starter and a reliever with an ERA+ of 142 was a bad idea. Yeah, Liriano had some risk to him, but the Twins have already gotten more out of that guy than the Giants ever got out of A.J. who was a fairly poor hitting catcher during ‘04. You put all that together and one has to come to the conclusion that Sabean et al. were seriously mis-valuing both what they were getting and what they were giving up.

The Giants do have a handfull of valuable pitching prospects, but no one who could help at the major league level immediately. Even so, if what you’re saying about the A.J. trade is true, maybe we’ll get lucky. Inge’s contract is prohibitive, but as far as the Giants are concerned with what their alternatives at 3B are it may no longer be a deal breaker.

I disagree about the Giants having a handful of valuable pitching prospects. They just had their first good draft in years and that system is probably one of the 5 worst in baseball.

My defense of Sabean is that at the time, he trade a high-high risk, high-high reward pitcher, a middle of the rotation guy with a relatively low ceiling and a guy who wasn’t closing for them. It looks absolutely terrible now because it is, but there are guys like Liriano that get dealt often: throwers with questions about their mechanics, their health, and whether or not they’ll put it altogether ever. He did, he’s one of the success stories of the raw-throwers-becoming-pitchers ilk. It’s a bad trade now, but hindsight is 20-20. If he was guaranteed that Liriano would go on to be a potential top of the rotation LHP, he doesn’t make that deal, but there was no such guarantee and that’s the risk you run trading raw throwers who haven’t put it altogether yet and are still young. There are a ton of guys who can throw in the mid 90′s with good breaking ball pitch(es) and never succeed.

Sean C. in Illinois April 24, 2008 at 1:07 am

Billfer -

Thanks for the welcome. I’ll have more to say about how grateful I am to you for this great weblog in another post.

Andre -

I haven’t read Billfer’s analysis yet (I look forward to it), but allow me to posit the following (about Guillen vs. Inge, since the Tigers obviously never even questioned Cabrera vs. Inge): In terms of success per at bat, Guillen is 66% better than Inge. Inge is far better defensively; I’m not sure if he’s 66% better there, but let’s say he is. So it’s pure offense vs. defense. To use an extreme example, with the bases loaded and the Tigers batting, a strikeout by Inge is more likely than a misplay or error by Guillen in the reverse situation (opponents bases loaded). For the batter, there is a 100% chance that he will either succeed (get on base, advance a runner, or drive in a run) or fail. For the third baseman, there is a relatively small chance that any given at bat will result in a ball hit toward him. Even if we assume that the damage from either type of failure is equal overall, in the long run, Inge the batter will fail more often than Guillen the third baseman. BTW, this is all quite off the cuff and without hard statistical evidence, so I welcome any challenge to my “common sense” conclusions. Also, the demoralizing effect of poor infield defense is hard to quantify.

I’m not against Inge winning his old job back, as unlikely as that seems. I’m just trying to understand the Cabrera-Guillen switch and (among other things) Inge’s role in it. In the process, it occurred to me that in the absence of Sheffield from the lineup, Thames + Jones everyday is likely “greater than” Guillen + Inge. In other words, why “waste” Guillen on DH full-time if you could use him to subtract Inge’s weaknesses (regular ABs) and keep his strengths (versatility, late-inning defense, and clutch hitting). I’m assuming Guillen could be moved from 3B to DH mid-game (my theories depend on it!). This probably isn’t what Leyland is thinking about at all.

Whether the Tigers are contenders or not comes back to what Leyland was saying about lots of talent but no team. I wonder what’s been keeping them from being that team. 22 games without a single one featuring a 1-2-3 of Granderson-Polanco-Sheffield doesn’t help. But has there been something more, as Kathy has alluded to? and does the Cabrera-Guillen thing have anything to do with that?

Adam April 24, 2008 at 2:10 am

Sean –

While it’s true that a hitter (Inge) either succeeds or fails every at-bat, it’s a wonky assumption that this is more damaging than the few (relative to total balls put in play – not just those to third) errors Guillen’s glove would give up.

Why? Just as maybe a ninth of the balls put in play would go to the third basemen, the batter is only batting one ninth of the time. I’d say the defensive chances at any given position throughout a game matches fairly evenly to those position players’ at-bats.

Andre April 24, 2008 at 10:33 am

Sean – I’m glad I’m getting your side of this and, believe me, I think we’re probably a lot closer on assessing Inge’s overall value to the club long term (I only see Inge as a plus until the Tigers find somebody with less defensive downside…and to be honest I don’t know what Guillen’s is, but I’m assuming its bad).

I see a different side to the scenario you present with bases loaded. There is one plus side to striking out (assuming less that 2 outs and a man on first) that people don’t often mention: you don’t hit into double plays. So say Inge strikes out in a bases-loaded situation vs hitting into an inning ending double-play, thus keeping the inning alive. Compare that to a fielding error by Guillen with bases loaded, which scores at least one run and keeps the inning going for the opposition.

It seems like a lot of the to Inge or not to Inge is a wash. We know we give up some offense, but we get back some defense. How much that effects the outcome…we’re not sure. If we assume that the offense will stick around though, we have to consider that the pitching and defense is what needs shoring up. We’ve averaged 10+ runs the last three games with Inge in the line up. I think its safe to say the offense can “carry” him (as I recall he was carrying the offense to start the season).

Understand Inge is only “my Tiger” when it comes to defense, the second it appears we can get somebody at 3b with a good bat and even average defense I’ll jump all over it. Until KRog hangs up the cleats though, we have 3 starting lefties and lots of balls headed to 3rd. I’d rather have Inge there, at least until Guillen proves me wrong.

Sean C. in Illinois April 24, 2008 at 10:42 am

Adam -

Yes, my case is far from airtight. Still, a batter has more responsibility for and control over run production than any fielder can have over run prevention. That’s the gist of my simple-minded analysis.

Sean C. in Illinois April 24, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Andre – Yes, we’re largely in agreement, just splitting hairs (which is fun). Baseball gives us a lot of opportunity for this kind of discussion, which is part of the reason I love it.

My question is, where was the Internet/WWW and its wealth of baseball information when I was a kid? Does anyone remember the Statis-Pro baseball game they used to advertise in the baseball mags of the day? Man, I used to dream about owning one and spending all my time playing virtual seasons. Of course, the phrase “virtual season” didn’t even exist at that time. I think it would have been called “simulated” then.

Andre April 24, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Sean – I can’t think of the name off the top of my head, but I have such a stat-based baseball game at home, I’ll have to post the name of it sometime tonight or tomorrow for you. Its “ok”, the production values aren’t really high and the interface takes some getting used to, but there’s a lot of content. If you like soccer (GASP!) I can recommend a game (Football Manager 2008) that’s similarly stat-based and has extremely high production values and endless replayability. They make a baseball version also, which is better than the game I have, but the teams aren’t licensed (so you can play as Detroit, but it won’t be called the tigers, and none of the players names are the same)…its called “Out of the Park Baseball”.

Sean C. in Illinois April 24, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Andre – I’m not a soccer fan, but I’m intrigued by the idea of a stat-based soccer game. Soccer has stats? (ha ha) “Out of the Park Baseball” sounds pretty cool. I’m not stuck on needing real team and player names – any baseball game with realistic simulation (of probabilities and results – fancy graphics aren’t important) is something I could have fun with.

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