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.

84 Comments

  1. DavidB

    February 16, 2009 at 3:29 am

    Last summer, I joined in on these message boards quite a bit, primarily to debunk the prevailing wisdom – the bizarre, flagrantly bogus prevailing wisdom – that the Tigers’ hitters sucked and the pitchers were all great.

    Every day, it seemed, there was another post about how the Tigers’ pitchers were “victims” of “poor run-support”. (Basically, numbers and logic were disregarded and the thinking was this: white players are great, Latin players suck.)

    The worst was Nate Robertson. His ERA was around 6, but the host of this site would routinely call him “solid” and “reliable”. I remember hearing him on a radio interview say the exact same thing.

    Anyway, the reason I was compelled to post here now is because I just got the latest ‘Baseball Prospectus’ and the passage for Nate Robertson reads thusly:

    “There is simply nothing positive to say here. The league hit .315/.373/.518 against him, and he got worse as the season wore on, his second-half ERA checking in at 8.77. Nothing positive happened when he moved to the bullpen. Want more good news Tigers fans? He’s owed $17 million over the next two years.”

    But nevermind all of that, we Nate Robertson is a just a poor victim of the horrible Latin players’ failure to “support” him. (So is Justin Verlander, Todd Jones, and every other crappy batting-T that Chuck Hernandez coached.)

  2. billfer

    February 16, 2009 at 5:11 am

    Yes, I called Robertson solid early in the season. No, I never said white players were better and Latin players sucked. Check your facts. I’m wrong all the time and I’m okay with being called on that, but don’t put racist words in my mouth.

  3. DavidB

    February 16, 2009 at 8:32 am

    The racial comments weren’t directed at you (the host) so much as they were my personal impression from the hundreds of replies and conversations in the conversation threads. No matter what happened, all white players were canonized (especially, of course, Brandon Inge) whereas all Latin players were either ridiculed or ignored.

    So, because the lineup was disproportionately Latin and the pitching staff disproportionately Caucasian, the blame was almost ALWAYS directed at the offense. There’d be games where we’d lose 10-8….and everybody would yell and scream at Carlos Guillen for not being “clutch” or some silliness. The starting pitcher (usually Nate Robertson) would have a line like: 4 IP, 1 HR, 2 K, 3 BB, 4 ER….and yet nobody would say anything bad. To the contrary, 99.9% of the time people would say that some crappy pitcher producing some disastrous outing still “gave the team a chance to win.” Yeah? A run per inning is good? Somebody get me an agent, I think that I might have the goods to pitch on an MLB team!

    I remember there was a game we had at Baltimore where we had leads of (I’m going from memory here, so I could be off by a run or two), 6-0 and 11-9. Of course, crappy Caucasian pitchers didn’t “support” the offense (but, of course, nobody talks about “hitter support”, only “run support”) and we lost 14-12 or something. But here at the boards, it was, “It’s Ramon Santiago’s fault!”

    It was especially egregious with Miguel Cabrera. There was about a three-week stretch where he had, I think, three walk-off hits (two HR and a double). I’d come here to the message boards, and everybody would be saying how some crappy white player was secretly the REAL reason they won.

    I’m not trying to start a racial argument. To the contrary, I like to strip away the superficial attributes and just look at the core data. But it seemed like nobody here did that. There was this persistent tone saying that the Caucasians were the “real” ballplayers.

    (Okay, sometimes I MIGHT get a little incendiary sometimes: I remember I upset the super-patriots one time by pointing out that all of the Red Wings were from socialist countries – I’m not about to deny those champion men their heritage! – but that was the exception, not the rule.)

  4. amason

    February 16, 2009 at 8:37 am

    BP’s projections for Nate Robertson aren’t horrible in relation to his career numbers of which his numbers last season were in line with. Basically he has been right around 4.80 fip which this article from fangraphs discusses and in fact is a ‘call; to other teams to ‘buy low’ on him in a trade. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs.....-robertson . This doesn’t really make him worth the contrat but its my opnion that as the season progresses there will be three rotation spots up for grabs as Armando and Edwin Jackson are hardly much better than Nate. Of course this is all in relation to FIP and there are, I assume, more acurate (and sophisticated) ways of evaluating pitchers.

  5. DavidB

    February 16, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Robertson will turn 32 this season and his numbers have been getting steadily worse.

    Sure, you can buy low on him, but that’d be like buying low on Enron: the stock’s low for a reason, and it ain’t comin’ back up.

  6. amason

    February 16, 2009 at 8:54 am

    David B, they, and I, are saying that he never really ‘dropped’. I mean his K’s per 9 did drop and have been since his best year in 2006. With Inge and Everret in the infield now, and Robertsons supposed conditioning helping his slider, his ERA will come back close to career norms. Huh, defense a factor in his ERA … almost like its poor stat to judge him.

  7. billfer

    February 16, 2009 at 9:02 am

    This stops now. If there were racist comments being made they would have been deleted and those offering the comments would have been suspended or banned. There was no theme or tone.

    There is no factual basis in these accusations and are pretty much slanderous of my integrity. You specifically mentioned “the host of the site” in your comments. If you want to call me out for being wrong, I have no problems with it. But to infer that I permit racism on the site is flat out wrong.

    I also notice that you’re posting under DavidB now because DavidBrennan was banned. You’re banned again.

  8. Chris Y.

    February 16, 2009 at 10:06 am

    You have to be kidding, what alternate universe does that guy dwell in?

    Can we all talk baseball now?

    I sincerely hope Willis is healthy. Career average years from Verlander, Willis, and Bonderman to go with repeats of 08 for both Battleship Galarraga and Jackson would go a long way toward turning this ship around.

    So, does anyone think Fernando wrassled that gator himself?

  9. Chris in Dallas

    February 16, 2009 at 11:03 am

    So, does anyone think Fernando wrassled that gator himself?

    The report doesn’t specify, so I’ll be forced to assume that he did. I know that they’ve dropped the ‘My Tiger’ campaign, but Fernando has the early lead for Chris in Dallas’ Tiger of ’09…

  10. Dave BW

    February 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I am confident that Rodney could beat the crap out of an alligator.

  11. big max

    February 16, 2009 at 11:47 am

    May I suggest that Rodney hit the gator with a wild pitch?

  12. ron

    February 16, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Sorry, but I had to Google David Brennan and a guy who blogged on a site SABR BLOWS in 2004 with the same name and TONE showed up. Must be off his meds again.

  13. Chris in Dallas

    February 16, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    If by some minor miracle Fernando Rodney were to make the All Star Game this year, I have little doubt that his offseason gator wrestling regimen would be played up significantly by the media.

  14. Dave T.

    February 16, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Rhetorical Question: Is batting average or ERA biased against any particular creed nationality or sect?
    The only Tiger who has to worry about prejudices is the new closer b/c everyone knows there has not been a good Lyon in Detroit since Barry left.

  15. Chris in Dallas

    February 16, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    It seems to me that ERA and BA seem to favor the Finnish. I’ll have to look at the data to bck that up. As for the closer, he said he’s never taken steroids but he could be Lyon. (ZING!)

    Now for an actual topic of conversation – could Dontrelle’s career hitting rock bottom perhaps be a good thing? Looks like he’s taken the getting in shape thing somewhat seriously. Maybe we could be looking at a Cliff Lee-esque renaissance? The similarities are there (though in fairness, Lee never had a problem with the walks like Willis has). If he can end up posting a 4.50 ERA and make every start, I’d consider that a win. I don’t think that’s entirely unreasonable, either. Who is more likely to bounce back – Robertson or Willis?

  16. Mark in Chicago

    February 16, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    I really have no basis for this opinion, but think Willis will bounce back and become an effective major league pitcher again. Not as dominating as he was in 2005, but a serviceable 200-inning eater. I root for D-Train, it’s obvious how much he loves the game and how badly he wants to help his team. I hope he gets straightened out.

    However, I would say Robertson is more likely to bounce back in 2009. When his slider is right, it’s a plus pitch for him and it prevents hitters from sitting on the fastball. An effective third pitch would be a bonus for him, except I don’t recall Nate have a great changeup. According to fangraphs, he has thrown his changeup less and less each of the last 4 years. Hopefully something as simple as mixing his pitches more can make him more effective.

  17. Coach Jim

    February 16, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    When 3 guys are bucking for the same position, expect 1 to get hurt, 1 to stink it up, and 1 to be decent. So I think SOMEBODY will be a decent #5 starter. Best-case for the Tigers would be D-Train. He has the biggest up-side.

    Knapp is the biggest personnel move of the off season. He will impact the success of the team far more than Adam Everett.

  18. David

    February 16, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    LOL DavidB
    I know Nate personally, want me to get him to sign a ball for you? Seriously dude you are living in cuckoo land.

    Anyways what are expectations for Willis? from fans or the organization? My VERY CONSERVATIVE guess is he earns more of his contract this year than last. Shouldn’t be too hard…

  19. Chris in Dallas

    February 16, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    I’ll say Willis goes like 9-11 and 4.75. You could substitute Roberston’s name, and my prediction would be the same. I wonder which one will win the Spring Training battle for the fifth starter. On another note, I hope it’s Miner.

  20. David

    February 17, 2009 at 2:54 am

    If either could be 2 games under .500 as a fifth starter that’d be great, maybe one/two will regain form…and be better

    Robertson is almost always good for the first half of the season – lets use him up

    Willis is the same way…

    maybe put in galaraga and miner for willis and robertson at the break (unless one of them is stunnin’) and don’t look back

  21. greg

    February 17, 2009 at 8:27 am

    I would love to see Willis bounce back and have a productive season, but in my humble opinion, Willis is the longshot of longshots to make the rotation. The most optimistic thing I can say is that he was trying to pitch through injury last year. My ONLY hope last season was that they’d finally announce he would undergo surgery, so that they’d fix him. Not that I WANT someone to have to go through that procedure, it’s just the only explanation I could come up with for someone who pitched that poorly. Last year, I was beside myself trying to figure out what was wrong with the coaching staff for letting him stay out there. He looked like he didn’t belong out there. Quite literally, it looked as though they brought in a position player who’d never pitched before as an experiment. Like he wasn’t Major League pitcher. At times, he had absolutely no idea where the ball was going, and there were stretches where not bouncing the ball seemed like a victory.

    I agree with Dave Dombrowski that you have to assume he’s not part of the picture, and then if he surprises, and pitches well enough to force himself back into the picture, great. Until then, he has to be ticketed for the Mud Hens, until he gives us reason to think otherwise.

  22. Mr X

    February 17, 2009 at 10:12 am

    What’s promising about Willis is that he was tough to hit. He had 2 appearances last Septemer where hitters didn’t have much luck against him. On Sept. 15th he went 5 innings, gave up 2 hits, and 3 runs. On Sept. 27th he went 5.1 innings, gave up 4 hits, and 3 runs. Take away some of the walks and his ratio’s would actually be decent.

  23. Grim

    February 17, 2009 at 11:37 am

    I can see Robertson or Miner going into the pen. I have always felt that Robertson, as a hard throwing lefty, that pitches well from the stretch and has a devastating slider (when it’s working) would make an excellent set-up man or closer. At 32 and with a big contract, I don’t see how he can be traded.

    Beyond that, I’d like to see six guys trying to fit in a five man rotation. One of the five starters is going to stumble or be injured and if Miner or Willis is in the pen, they’ll eventually get back into the rotation.

    However, I think Henning is right, a trade might be coming and I think his youth, performance last year, and price makes Miner the most tradeable of the three. Packaged with one or two of Thames/Rayburn/Clevlen/Hessman/Holliman/Larish could get us a very good arm for the pen or a few nice prospects. And depending on the combination, it can also clear up big logjams in Erie and Toledo as well as Detroit.

  24. Chris in Dallas

    February 17, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I’d rather see 7 or 8 guys vying for a rotation spot. Depth is good.

  25. Mark in Chicago

    February 17, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    My guess: Miner and Thames get traded for prospects or a bullpen arm.

  26. Mr X

    February 17, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Trading away someone like Minor probably wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do since we just traded away a decent prospect to get Jackson. The Tigers were up a creek without a paddle last season because we had no starting pitching depth. Now that we do have a little starting pitching depth I think it would be wise not to trade any of it away.

    interesting tidbit- Now that Rogers and Jones are gone can anyone guess who the oldest pitcher on the roster is? It’s Rodney, who is only 31.

  27. David

    February 17, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I have more confidence in Miner than I do Jackson or Willis or Robertson atm.

    He is going to be 27 and I think he could be a .500 starting pitcher (assuming league average run support) this year without too much trouble

    I would NOT trade him

  28. Chris in Dallas

    February 17, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    I’d be disappointed if Miner got shipped out. I think he’s kinda gotten a bum deal in his time as a Tiger. He filled in admirably when Maroth went down in ’06 (at least until September) and he’s been pretty good since even though they’ve had him on the starter-reliever-starter-reliver carousel.

  29. Mark in Chicago

    February 17, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    I agree with the sentiments over Miner. He’s a cost-effective solution on a team that doesn’t have many which is also what makes him attractive to other teams. However, he isn’t quite attractive enough to warrant a really top-notch prospect, so I think the value in trading him is somewhat limited (although I think he will get dealt in order to fill immediate needs). I too would be disappointed if he were traded, and he has been the red-headed stepchild to some degree during his time here. It’s not his fault, it was usually a numbers thing. Maybe they feel like with Simons or Lambert they have SP depth. I sure wouldn’t, but this is an organization that gave Eddie Bonine starts at the ML level last year, so who really knows?

    If I recall correctly, Willis still has options remaining, so if he needs more work you can always ship him to AA, which leaves Miner and Robertson. Having Miner in the bullpen as a swing man isn’t the worst possible solution. Then the question becomes: what do you do with Robertson if he pitches like he did last year?

  30. Chris in Dallas

    February 17, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Options don’t apply to Willis – he would have to agree to be sent down due to his service time. To his credit, he was willing to do it last year, but you’d have to wonder if he’d be all dick about it if they asked him again. As for Robertson, if he’s in epic fail mode by Memorial Day you probably just eat the contract and release him. If there’s no trade, you figure the fifth starter ends up being one of the two of those guys with the other pitching out of the bullpen. Their contract situations make it a mess (wow, I sound like Captain Obvious with that last statement).

  31. Mark in Chicago

    February 17, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Good call on Willis’ options, Chris. I do recall that he could have declined the assignment last year. I wonder how he would feel about that same request this year.

    I think the worst possible scenario is a rotating 5th starter where one gets a shot, pitches miserably, and then somebody else moves in (talk about a Captain Obvious statement). I think it would foster the same kind of uncertainty that existed last year where guys were unsure of their roles. My guess is Robertson is the de facto 5th starter right now, given that he’s a lefty and well paid. Willis ends up in the pen where walks do less harm, and Miner is shipped out.

    FULL DISCLOSURE: I called for Thames to be traded in spring training last year too and was completely wrong. So, there’s that.

  32. Chris in Dallas

    February 17, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Yeah you want to have certainty and well defined roles and all that. But in reality there’s not a single team that doesn’t have some sort of question mark at the back end of the rotation so the Tigers don’t have a monopoly on that by any stretch. You just hope that whoever wins the spot out of camp performs well enough to keep the job, be it Robertson or Willis or Miner or whoever.

    I have absolutely no idea how Willis would work out of the pen on an extended basis. On one hand, perhaps his stuff would play up better out of there – a couple extra mph on the fastball, sharper slider. Plus his delivery could be deceptive in one inning stints (think Okajima, Hideki). On the other hand, the worst thing a reliever can do (in my opinion, anyway) is come in and issue a ton of walks, particularly in a leveraged situation. I don’t know. That’s why Jim Leyland gets paid to make these decisions and I make snarky blog comments for free.

  33. Mark in Chicago

    February 17, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    You mean billfer isn’t paying you either? Boy, he’s shrewd, I gotta give him that.

  34. greg

    February 17, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    If you think Willis has a decent chance to contribute to the team this year, i have to ask, did you put money on Rick Ankiel’s pitching comeback too?

    In some ways, Willis makes Ankiel look like a control artist

    Rick Ankiel 2004:
    24 IP
    25 BB’s
    27 K’s
    5 WP
    18 ER
    7.13 ERA
    2.083 WHIP

    Dontelle Willis 2008:
    24 IP
    35 BB’s
    18 K’s
    5 WP
    25 ER
    9.38 ERA
    1.597 WHIP

  35. Coach Jim

    February 17, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    Over the last 2 years Zach has been as close to an average pitcher as possible, at least as far as opp. AVG and OBP goes. What he lacks in Ks he makes up for being stingy with HR.

    Just for comparison, starting pitchers in 2008 with very similar avg/obp/slg include Matt Cain, Felix Hernandez, Jair Jurrjens, and the closest match of all, Mike Pelfry. I think we would be in good shape going with Mr. Miner #5.

    That said, if he winds up in the pen, that means other things are going right for the Tigers.

  36. Ken in Vegas

    February 17, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    I wonder if Rodney keeps voodoo dolls in his locker.

  37. greg

    February 17, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    No, but I hear he has a stash of ham sandwiches.

  38. Coach Jim

    February 18, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Greg, you might be onto something with that Ankiel comparison. So I looked up D’s batting record. In 2007 he put up .286 .348 .508, compared to Ankiel’s .264 .337 .506.

    The real question we should be asking is whether Dontrelle can catch a fly ball.

  39. Chris Y.

    February 18, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Ankiel didn’t have half the track record as Willis had prior to their respective problems. Further, as I recall, it was like a light switch the way Ankiel went wild. Willis had been having problems since early 2007 with control that finally ballooned on him (us). In fact, I recall a few articles foreshadowing that result.

    I don’t think anyone is truly counting on Willis, but I am certain we are all hoping for him. To see even a slight resemblance to the pitcher we traded for in slot #5 makes the Tigers rotation instantly better.

    And I do think he has a better shot than Ankiel.

  40. greg

    February 18, 2009 at 9:52 am

    The whip for Dontrelle I posted was incorrect. It actually was 2.208. Also, Ankiel’s numbers above were in 2001, not 2004.

    Dontrelle’s decline from ROY to mediocre pitcher was gradual at first(from 2003-2007), but then took an unprecedented quantum leap into the Wild Kingdom. A leap that was actually MUCH worse than Ankiel ‘s flip of the switch.

    Ankiel BB per Inning went from.51 to 1.04.
    Willis BB per Inning went from .42 to 1.45

    Ankiel’s ‘flip of the switch’ doubled his walk rate. Willis quantum leap more than tripled his walk rate.

    Steve Phillips thinks Dontrelle can be fixed. It’s possible, it’s also possible the Pirates will win the World Series this year. But, I think our odds are much better if we listen Coach Jim’s excellent point, and make Willis a hitter and forget pitching. Work him out at AA or AAA and get him ready to replace Sheffield as DH in 2010(or LF).

  41. Chris Y.

    February 18, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I’d let spring training play out before even entertaining such an idea.

  42. Rick G

    February 18, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I think that if Dontrelle can throw strikes, he’s the number 5 starter. If not, it’s Nate unless he’s terrible too, then it’s Miner. If Dontrelle can’t throw strikes he either goes to Toledo until he can or gets bought out.

    Hopefully we only have to worry about the number 5 starter and not numbers 1 through 4 – I’d take that problem alone.

    Out of curiosity I went back and reviewed the game log for the game that clown DavidB referenced above. Nate started and lasted 2.1 innings, and the Tigers wound up losing 11-10 in 10 innings on a Luke Scott homer off sexy Freddy.

    In the game log you’d be hard pressed to find anything even remotely positive about Nate or any pitcher that night. There’s nothing even remotely racial, as I had expected. There was a blown hit and run with Inge “hitting” and Renteria “running” that got a little discussion, but nobody got out of line and it seemed proportional to its effect on the game.

  43. Chris in Dallas

    February 18, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Rick: Also, for the first 2 or 3 months of the season, Robertson’s peripherals were way out of line with his performance. His K/BB ratio was just fine, but his BABiP was ridiculously inflated. I think a lot of us figured that was a sign he’d get straightened out so he got more of a free pass as far as criticism goes. Of course, then his peripherals ended up matching his performance. He couldn’t K anyone and was walking too many with the same BABiP. I think he had to be hurting – his slider was just gone.

  44. Rick G

    February 18, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Yeah, I think everyone expected him to eventually come around and at least be the hard-luck near .500 pitcher he had always been. Hopefully he reestablishes himself as that, as I think he’ll be needed no matter what happens with Dontrelle.

    On that game log, Chris Y. pretty much nailed his problem: “It’s just this year his stuff looks flat.” which I think everyone agrees was the problem with his slider. No vertical movement – too bad it never got fixed during the season…

  45. Mr X

    February 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Screw it. Lets just make Zumaya the 5th starter instead of worrying about who gets pigeonholed.

  46. Mark in Chicago

    February 18, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Given his mechanics and history of arm/shoulder/finger problems already, I’d be very surprised if Zumaya could last more than a month in the rotation.

  47. Mr X

    February 18, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Stranger things have happened. People use to say stuff about Curt Schilling back in days when he use to have a red mohawk. I remember back when people use to say that Johan Santana didn’t have the endurance to make it as a starter. Or that Pedro Martinez wouldn’t be as good in the American League. Even now there are doubts that Joba Chamberlain can make it as a starter. These are the kind of thoughts that end up being absurd. I think arms like Zumaya’s should be in the starting rotation. He could be something special, like all the guys mentioned above.

  48. Andre in Chi

    February 19, 2009 at 8:40 am

    imo

    even if we were to give Zumamya the benefit of the doubt on health, i still think he’s more effective pitching out of the pen. bringing him on in relief is the equivalent of throwing a fast ball after an off-speed. i mean, in ’06, if Rogers went deep into a game (and it was a closing situation), you’d essentially have Zumaya (@100mph) bookended by two guys who throw in the 80s. the relative difference in speed is what i think contributes to Zumaya having success or not. i mean the jump in speed from Kenny to Maya is huge, and just about the time they’d adjust to Joel, Jonesy comes in and all the sudden they’re ahead of the ball. i’m not saying that’s all Zumaya has got going for him, or that 100+mph is something to sneer at. but i do think that over the course of a typical starters outing, batters might be able to make the adjustments that they might otherwise not have time to make if he’s only pitching 1-2 innings.

    i might be wrong, but has Zumaya developed the “tools” pitch-wise to be a starter?

  49. Chris in Dallas

    February 19, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I’ve pretty much written off Zumaya as a one year wonder. It was fun, but it’s over.

  50. Chris Y.

    February 19, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Agreed. Zumaya’s personality suits him better as a reliever, too.

  51. Mr X

    February 19, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Talk about pessimistic.

  52. Chris in Dallas

    February 19, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I’m not so much pessimistic as realistic. I’d certainly like him to prove me wrong.

  53. Andre in Chi

    February 19, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    @ Mr X

    “These are the kind of thoughts that end up being absurd.”

    i’m not all that familiar with Schilling’s history, or what precisely you meant by including him in your remarks. that aside, i think that at best you’re argument against pessimism towards Zumaya (or his chances at starting) consists of listing 4 pitchers…of which, possibly only Chamberlain makes for close to a good comparison.

    to begin with, i consider Zumaya to fall into the injury-prone-from-an-early-age-but-throws-100mph category, which i’ll grant you doesn’t have many members to compare to. however, mentioning the guys you did doesn’t really seem to provide much comparison. again, leaving aside Schilling, i’m not sure why you mention endurance concerns regarding Santana. if the concerns where at the beginning of his career, they made sense as his innings pitched dropped drastically between his 1st and 2nd year given the number of starts he had. if they stem from his recent history, it also makes sense, as it would with almost any modern pitcher stringing together several years of 200+ innings. Martinez…i don’t think its a secret that most people view the AL as a tougher league for pitchers. in any case, three cases (none of which seem similar to Zumaya) hardly seems overwhelming reason to disregard Zumaya’s history.

    “Even now there are doubts that Joba Chamberlain can make it as a starter.”

    ah yes, Joba. the one guy you mentioned that makes a decent comparison is the same guy that has a total of 125 MLB innings, 12 starts, and who had to be shut down for a month following those 12 starts. in Joba’s case, he’s actually pitched very well, even in the starts, in the year following his league debut. he might even be rotation material if they can build his endurance…but i think its a little early to be using him as an example of what Zumaya could be, since even we (or the Yankees) don’t know what Joba is yet.

    “Stranger things have happened.”

    i think the pessimism surrounding Zumaya stems mostly from his track record of injuries; in the two years since ’06, where he threw over 80 innings – he’s totaled less than 60 innings at the MLB level, and only around 70 overall. that he might lack the endurance or multi-pitch tools to start is a secondary consideration. its hard to show you can be a starter…if you can’t, you know, start a game.

    reservations concerning Zumaya, in conclusion, are hardly absurd. my desire to see him perform ala ’06 and my estimation of the likeliness of that happening are two different things – one is based on a desire i have, the other on data…it doesn’t help that they’ve conflicted the past two years.

  54. Chris in Dallas

    February 19, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    I think the Chamberlain comparison is off base, aside from the 100mph gas and injury concerns. Joba looks to be a much more polished pitcher than Zumaya could ever hope to be. He’s got 4 pitches that grade out as above average, with the slider and fastball being way above average. Zumaya has zero command and just throws really freaking hard. Once in a while he’ll snap off a good curve, but he can’t command that either. His changeup is nonexistent.

  55. Mr X

    February 19, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Just mentioning some of the absurd stereotyping that I’ve heard over the years. When Schilling was working out of the pen in his younger days, everyone thought he was a punk kid with a big mouth. People thought he’d never have the mental make-up to be a starting pitcher. People stereotyped him.
    Johan Santana was being stereotyped as a reliever also. People thought he had fatigue problems and he wouldn’t be able to get past the 5th inning consistently. All the people who said that look pretty stupid now.
    Pedro was stereotyped as a NL pitcher. Most people thought he wouldn’t be successful in the AL. That turned out to be another dumb thought. It was all plain stupid stereotyping.

    Zumaya is what, 24 years old? Why put a label on him already. That’s all I’m saying.
    Now I hear-
    “I’ve pretty much written off Zumaya as a one year wonder. It was fun, but it’s over.”

    This kid has a pretty good arm, maybe the best arm we’ve ever seen in Detroit. Maybe one of the best arms there was in baseball before the injuries. Apparently he’s healthy now.

  56. Mr X

    February 19, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Btw, I wasn’t comparing Zumaya to those other pitchers. I was just pointing out how stupid many people can be for stereotyping.

    It’s amazing how everything I say gets taken out of context.

  57. Andre in Chi

    February 19, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    @ Mr X

    if i took what you said out of context, i apologize…i reacted to what i saw.

    the pessimism i exhibit towards Zumaya in general centers around his ability to stay healthy, and i think i made that clear. i believe this is the same concern many people have with him. it is no less reasonable to think that he’s a “one hit wonder” than it is to think that everything will be a-ok from here on out. that your examples of success aren’t exactly typical, applicable, or numerous, was the point i was making. they don’t have Zumaya’s history of injuries. i don’t think there’s a question of mental make-up when it comes to Zumaya, its pretty clear that he’s confident with himself. there’s also not much worry over his endurance (yet), the fact that he can’t stay healthy enough to be considered a starter, and THEN exhibit endurance (or lack thereof) is the only thing i worry about.

  58. Chris in Dallas

    February 19, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Zumaya, in a way, reminds me of another Detroit pitcher of some notoriety – Mark Fidrych.

  59. Chris Y.

    February 20, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Fidrych was WAY better than Zumaya.

    Other than the injury-bug, I don’t see the comparison.

    They were completely different types of pitchers.

    And the Bird was truly eccentric, while Zumaya is…well…youthful.

  60. greg

    February 20, 2009 at 8:50 am

    My take is that Zumaya’s fastball is too straight. For all the flames he threw there were an inordinate amount of times hitters knew exactly what was coming and hit the ball on the screws. Not a TON mind you, but rather, a ton for someone who can throw 100+ mph. Before he got hurt the first time he was developing a wicked curve. On days he could command it, it wasn’t even fair to the hitters. I hear he’s working on a change. I think he would need all three pitches to be a successful starter. He would need to mature and stay away from guitar hero and ATV’s.

    To close I think he needs something more than just his fastball. Either the changeup or better command of his curve.

  61. Kathy

    February 20, 2009 at 9:00 am

    And to think, Johan Santana lived 2 blocks away when he was in A ball. I even saw him in the local grocery store. Sure do miss our minor league team.

  62. scotsw

    February 20, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I would love to see a new post about something we could discuss. I hear there are players in camp in Florida or something…

    • billfer

      February 20, 2009 at 4:31 pm

      Sorry that things have been so sparse on my part as of late. The day job, the one that is 95% of my income has been incredibly demanding lately and that will continue for a few more weeks. I’ll do what I can when I can. I wish I could promise more than that.

      Regarding Zumaya, his curve is pretty good and drops off the table. But like with Rodney he needs to locate his fastball to make the other pitches effective. Also, he has a change-up that he used as a starter in the minors. He just got away from it pitching an inning or two at a time.

      @scotsw
      Sorry you’re not getting your money’s worth. I’ll try to do better.

  63. Andre in Chi

    February 20, 2009 at 10:50 am

    great post scotsw, way to prime the pump!

  64. Coach Jim

    February 20, 2009 at 11:51 am

    I think the Zoom/Bird comparison is excellent. They were both impressive rookie pitchers with colorful personalities.

  65. Chris in Dallas

    February 20, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    I really don’t think we’ve talked about Fernando Rodney’s alligator tooth enough. So many questions, so few answers.

  66. Mark in Chicago

    February 20, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Things will pick up once the games begin. Until then, all we have is each other.

  67. Mr X

    February 20, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    I’m sorry though, I do get a little too whacked when talking about the Tigers.

    It will be interesting how all the pieces fit together this season. Only major change I’d like to see is getting a speedy young outfielder in either Left or Right. I really liked the guys we traded away before, Gorkys Hernandez and Cameron Maybin. Anything like them in the minor league system that might be ready this year or next year?

  68. Chris in Dallas

    February 20, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Wilkin Ramirez’s stock seems to have risen of late.

  69. Mr X

    February 20, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I admit, Zumaya in the rotation was a far fetched idea, but he would be a better option if Willis and Robertson pitch like they did in 2008. Glad we got innings eaters like Jackson, Minor, and Galarraga in the mix. Knock on wood.

  70. Andre in Chi

    February 20, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Mr X

    cheer up, your ideas are THAT far fetched. Zumaya did start in the minors, if i’m not mistaken. using him in the rotation is only slightly more far fetched than say, using him for an entire season. with Zumaya, its mainly the injuries that limit him, i think. as others have mentioned, he did seem to be developing multiple tools. hopefully he’ll have an injury free season that will allow us to speculate as to what his endurance is and whether he has the tools.

  71. Chris in Dallas

    February 20, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    FWIW, Zumaya started 73 games, logging just under 400 innings in the minors as a starter. It’s not that the idea is farfetched – I think that he’s proven (when healthy) that he can handle the bullpen thing quite well so you don’t mess with success.

  72. Ken in Vegas

    February 20, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    scottsw- some people have a life. Go start your own blog.

  73. Chris in Dallas

    February 20, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Speak for yourself, Ken.

  74. Rick G

    February 21, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    From mlive.com this morning…

    Leyland is not ruling out Porcello breaking camp with his team.

    “If he makes it, fine,” Leyland said. “If he doesn’t, he’s not very far away.”

    Usual spring training bluster of course, but if I’m Nate or Dontrelle, I’m starting to get a little more nervous…

    The article also says Zumaya is looking good so far. There’s also an article about Cale Iorg, good stuff.

  75. Mark in Chicago

    February 21, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Nate and Dontrelle should be nervous. Maybe pushing them will generate some positive results. Competition is a good thing.

  76. dead rabbit

    February 21, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Apparently DavidB never read my analysis on Bonderman. Take a hike buddy, there is only room for one resident super villain.

  77. Mr X

    February 21, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    That is nice news about Porcello. This pitching staff will look better when we add guys like him and Ryan Perry to the mix when they are ready. I wouldn’t mind seeing them this season, even if it’s before September.

  78. Mark in Chicago

    February 21, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Agree, Mr. X (man of mystery?). The nice thing about Perry is that he’s pretty polished considering he was drafted out of college, so he maybe won’t need a ton of innings at the minor league level. I have to think that if there’s injury or ineffectiveness in the bullpen (almost a certainty, frankly) he gets the call in June or July.

    I’m fine with Porcello logging some innings at Erie and Toledo all year. No sense rushing a kid with the kind of stuff everybody raves about.

  79. Chris in Dallas

    February 21, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I recently saw the question posed (I think it was an ESPN chat or something) about Porcello. It was something along the lines of is his ceiling more like Brandon Webb or Roy Halladay. The moderator (I think Law) said Doc. I could probably live with that. I’m too lazy to look up the link, but it happened – I swear.

  80. Steve

    February 21, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Billfer nice to hear from you……………….. Good to be busy with a job that pays. Good call on DavidB, I hope the guys gets some help. There has to be something deep there that is broken.

    All good stuff on the pitchers. I agree competition in camp will be good to their heads on straight right from the start. Heres one guy hoping for a good start so they are not dragging the bag after April.

    Does anyone know about ticket availability? Last year they were impossible.

    Ready, Bring it in …………… One……. Two ……….Three……. TEAM

    44 days until the Opener in TO. Hard to imagine as its 26 degrees here. The Rogers Center in Toronto is a great stadium to visit for a roadie. Especially in April with a dome. We have been there many times and had a great time in the City. Plenty of things to do there if you go for a few days. There are lots of decently priced hotels walking distance from the park.

    Lets go TIGERS !!!

    Steve

  81. Dave BW

    February 21, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Chris –

    I saw that chat too — I’m pretty sure Law meant in terms of style rather than ceiling.

  82. Mark in Chicago

    February 21, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Chris and Dave BW,

    I too recall that chat, and Doc was in fact the comparison KLaw made. If I recall correctly, KLaw had originally thought Porcello would rack up the K’s, but after seeing him pitch he began to think he would be more of a groundball machine in the mold of Peavy-Halladay-Zambrano. With a mid-90′s fastball and plus changeup, I have a feeling Porcello will be able to dig up a K if he needs one. As you said Dave, I’m not sure it was a ceiling comparison as much as style or results.

  83. scotsw

    February 22, 2009 at 12:40 am

    I’m sorry if my previous post asking Billfer to keep feeding us his usual great stuff offended anyone, especially the extra-sensative Ken in Vegas. In the future, I’ll try not to encourage him any further (publicly, at least… Secretly, I’ll continue wishing for hourly DTW updates).

    I have a suggestion for an ultra-easy post for Biller:

    Challenge your readers to name the Tigers’ roster leaving Spring Training, including the rotation and bullpen… All 25 guys. I leave it up to Billfer to propose an appropriate prize.