Bad Boding for Bonderman

Rocky performances from Dontrelle Willis and Fernando Rodney in their first appearances didn’t worry me too much. But Jeremy Bonderman being handed over to the training staff already has me greatly concerned.

Bonderman had already been scratched from his regular turn today in favor of a simulated session. Jim Leyland said they were just being cautious and it wasn’t a red flag situation. However, Bonderman is now on the sidelines receiving medication for stiffness and inflammation in his throwing shoulder. Maybe the flags aren’t red, but they sure aren’t green or checkered.

Things could certainly be worse, like something being messed up structurally. And day-to-day isn’t a dire status at all, but things are also very unknown. My first thoughts went to Fernando Rodney’s day-to-day status last year at this time, and it turns out Jon Paul Morosi was on the same page. You may remember that Rodney was day-to-day for several months.

They are different situations and a direct comparison probably isn’t appropriate. Pitchers have recovered from the surgery that Bonderman had which is promising. But if the Tigers are going to have success this year, the turnaround will have to come in large part from the incumbent starters. Anything that could throw a wrench in that is cause for pause.

Toledo Mud Hens make offer to Manny

Yesterday afternoon the Toledo Mud Hens send Scott Boras the parameters for a Manny Ramirez contract I like the aggressive move by the Mud Hens to put an end to this insanity. Plus it would probably help with AAA attendance and would provide a nice insurance policy should something happen Timo Perez. The proposal is below:

February 27, 2009

Scott Boras

3 San Joaquin Plaza

Suite 100
Newport Beach, CA 92660-5944

Dear Mr. Boras,

Here we go again.

If you remember, we offered your client Alex Rodriguez a $35 million dollar contract in October of 2007. For some reason, he decided to pass on this lucrative windfall.

We would now like to make an offer for the services of outfielder, Manny Ramirez.

Manny’s bat would provide some nice protection in the middle of the line-up between Mike Hessman and Jeff Larish. With a short porch of 320 feet down the left field line, Manny is sure to hit a few homers out onto Monroe Street.

With the tough economy, we do not have as much money to offer your client as we did with A-Rod but are confident that the terms below are more than fair.

Mr. Ramirez would receive an hourly wage of $10.54 (this number was calculated by taking his 527 career HR and doubling it). We had to double it as $5.27 is below minimum wage. So if Manny gets to Fifth Third Field early on a game day, he could make nearly $100.

That is not all. Manny is welcome to still wear jersey #24 with the Mud Hens. In fact, Manny will receive a 24% discount on all merchandise in the Swamp Shop souvenir store, and he can enjoy 24 complimentary Muddy Dogs (chili, cheese, and onions) per homestand. Yummy!

We look forward to hearing back from you on this somewhat lucrative and delicious offer!

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Joe Napoli

President/General Manager

Toledo Mud Hens Baseball Club

Spring Training Opener

Let the fake games begin. The Tigers take the field finally this afternoon against the Atlanta Braves. Justin Verlander will be joined by Zach Miner, Bobby Seay, Brandon Lyon, Eddie Bonine, Fu-Te Ni and Kyle Bloom on the mound. The game will be broadcast on the radio (1270 AM) so you can listen in.

And you can’t start the spring training slate without the Voice of the Turtle.

First pitch is 1:05.

links for 2009-02-22

This Porcello Kid

Spring training is never short on stories about guys being in the best shape of their lives, or young kids making a favorable impressions on the coaching staff. But the Rick Porcello hype is reaching a fever pitch, and the first spring training game hasn’t even been played yet.

Jim Leyland made the familiar comments about taking the best players early on, and the brass mentioned Rick Porcello has an outside candidate for the 5th starter spot. I pretty much shrugged off that talk for the following reasons:

  1. The Tigers already have 3 candidates for the 5th starter spot (Willis/Robertson/Miner) and will already be sending a player with a substantial contract someplace other than the rotation.
  2. It seemed more like a managerial challenge to both the rookie, as well as the other guys in competition to see how they would respond.
  3. Porcello spent last year on a strict pitch count limit with a hard stop at 75 pitches. Plus, the hard stop not only held down his intra-game workload, but it held down his seasonal workload at 125 innings. Breaking camp with the team would be a significant jump in required workload.

But then Jim Leyland said

“You can protect (one) pitcher in the majors — maybe one starting and relieving. … In other words, you can make up your mind that a starter is going to pitch five or six innings and get him out of there — you can do that a few times. You can’t do it all the time. …

Presumably Porcello wouldn’t be at the 75 pitch limit, but even a 90 or 100 pitch limit for a full big league season would be a significant jump in workload. In the minors Porcello was focused on using his 2 seamer to get groundball outs early in the count. He was quite effective in this regard and it had 2 effects. One, he only needed about 14.4 pitches per inning. Second, it limited his strike outs to a low 5.1 per 9 innings. At the big league level he’d be looked to employ his full arsenal and miss more bats (I’d hope anyways), thus driving up his pitch count.

PECOTA player cards aren’t available for pitchers yet, but I’d guess that the system doesn’t love Porcello at this point due to the low strike out numbers. But scouts and people who know these things felt that Porcello had pitches that were big league quality at the beginning of last year.

I’m less concerned with Porcello being rushed due to his stuff needing more refinement (though some time to work on the pitches that were de-emphasized last year might not be a bad thing) and more so from a workload perspective. Unlike the Jeremy Bonderman situation where there weren’t really other options, the Tigers do have a couple other arms to consider for the spot. I wouldn’t be opposed to Porcello breaking camp with the team, but I’d probably prefer more of the Justin Verlander approach where he makes a couple spot starts to fill in for injuries or double headers.

Recapping the first workouts

The beats were busy with the first official workout of the spring. Seriously, multiple stories and blog posts throughout the day, even a live blog from Morosi. A quick rundown of the stories from Tiger Town…

Rick Knapp

After 20+ years in the minors, this was Rick Knapp’s first day as a big leaguer. This got a fair amount of attention and Jim Leyland was pretty excited for him.

“This is huge for him,” Leyland said of Knapp. “All those years in the minors, and now this is his first day in the big leagues. It’s one of the most exciting parts of our first day of camp, to be honest with you.

I’m a fan of the Knapp hiring and am I excited to see what he can do. But Chuck Hernandez looked to be a genius in 2006 before he suddenly forgot how to coach (that’s sarcasm). I do like that he doesn’t seem to have a specific pitch or philosophy (other than throwing strikes) and instead tailors the message to the individual. For Zumaya it is an emphasis on long toss and a change-up.

Dontrelle Willis

Part of Knapp’s plan for Willis is for just to be himself (the successful self from his days with the Marlins, not last year’s version). The early reports are positive, but it is only day 1. Part of that is due to improved conditioning that has him five pounds lighter.

Fernando Rodney and his alligator tooth cr- Roger DeWitt
Fernando Rodney and his alligator tooth cr- Roger DeWitt

Willis, along with Robertson and Miner are all in the mix for the 5th starter spot. It has led Henning to once again speculate a trade could be coming. There are obstacles in the way of course, like those big honkin’ contracts that don’t mesh with the 08 seasons for Willis and Robertston. But… I’ve heard similar rumblings. That’s not to say they’ll come to fruition, but I don’t think Henning is off base with this. The Tigers rotation, while not as strong at the top, matches up well with the rest of the division looking 1-5 (or 6 or 7).

Zumaya and Rodney

Joel Zumaya is trying to gain weight and get back into his 2006 form. Whatever it takes is okay by me. Meanwhile Fernando Rodney is sporting an alligator tooth around his neck. It came from an alligator that was wrestled in a river. Supposedly.

PECOTA hates the AL Central

Baseball Prospectus has posted the first iterations of the 2009 PECOTA numbers and have forecasted the divisions based on projected playing time and roster construction. Because we care about the Tigers around these parts I jumped immediately to the AL Central:

CLE   84-79
MIN   79-83
DET   78-84
KAN   75-87
CHI   74-88

Wow. So the division is kind of up for grabs. Cleveland has a clear, but not insurmountable, edge (which seems correct intuitively also) and then a giant hodge-podge. As for being down on the division, it could be worse. The AL West is going to the A’s with 82 wins. The AL East has 4 teams at .500 or above, and the rest of the AL has 2.

As an aside, I realize that PECOTA harbors no animus towards specific players and/or teams. It is a sophisticated and yet emotionally devoid mathematical projection system. Neither it nor its creator have agendas.

The individual projections are subscriber only, but I will say that the system thinks Zach Miner will be a better pitcher than Armando Galarraga or Edwin Jackson. (And I don’t think that’s unreasonable)

links for 2009-02-04

Work in progress

Joel Zumaya and Dontrelle Willis throwing with Rick Knapp watching (2/3/09 credit Roger DeWitt)
Joel Zumaya and Dontrelle Willis throwing with Rick Knapp watching (2/3/09 credit Roger DeWitt)

The official reporting date is over a week away, but things are getting busy at Tiger Town. The fact that Zumaya is on a mound is progress in itself. For more, Roger DeWitt has a nice collection of images from yesterday’s workouts.

Tigers agree to terms with Justin Verlander

The Tigers and Justin Verlander have agreed to terms on a one year deal. I’ll update with terms when I find them. And the streak of not going to arbitration continues for Dombrowski.

UPDATE: It’s 3.675 million. A couple hundred thousand less than I thought.

Also know that this doesn’t prevent a longer term deal at all. Miguel Cabrera and Fernando Rodney signed one year deals the last couple years, only to sign longer deals within a few weeks.

About that Verlander contract

In a world without substantial baseball news, the fact that Justin Verlander hasn’t inked a deal yet is garnering some attention. When the two sides submitted their numbers to the arbitrator, they were about a million dollars a part (Verlander wants $4.15 and the Tigers offered $3.2). The Tigers have never had an arbitration hearing under Dave Dombrowski, but that possibility is increasing with the hearing date set for February 13th.So what should Verlander get paid?
Continue reading About that Verlander contract