Some more Sheffield stuff

I was going to just ammend the original post, but enough time has passed, and I ‘ve read plenty, and I have a number of thoughts about this, so we’ll start a new post.


When the Tigers acquired Josh Anderson on Monday I thought it was a very strong possibility that Marcus Thames career as a Tiger was over. I was apprehensive about that given the injury threat that Gary Sheffield and Carlos Guillen provided, another big bat on the bench would be nice insurance. As Jason Beck points out, the Tigers were also worried about injury. And the team decided that Thames was a safer bet to make it through the season than Sheffield.

And if the Tigers were going to keep Sheffield over Thames, they had better be sure they could get a good season’s worth of production out of him. Because it wasn’t just an Opening Day decision, but a longer-term decision. If Sheffield got hurt in late April, there would be no Thames to which to turn, unlike years past.

I still think a healthy Sheffield is a better hitter than Thames (the Tigers are giving up OBP skills), and I’d venture the Tigers may even admit as much. But they also probably didn’t like the odds that Sheffield could stay healthy.

Bye bye cancer

There seems to be a perception out there that Sheffield is a clubhouse cancer. He certainly is controversial and he’s quick to burn bridges. But you never hear his teammates complain about him. In fact Thames and Jeff Larish went out of their way to praise Sheffield as a teammate. The beat writers don’t attack him, largely because he almost always was willing to speak and not speak in cliches. My impression is that Sheffield wasn’t in this for the love of the game. Baseball is a job for him. It’s not romantic, but it’s far from being a cancer either.

The shuffle

It’s been established that Marcus Thames is the primary DH going forward, at least for the time being. There is a desire by many to move Carlos Guillen to that role, but I think that is premature. I’m willing to at least see what Guillen can do in the outfield. Thames had improved in 2007 to the point of being an average-ish defender (a half win below to a half win above average depending on the metric), but seemed to regress last year – like the rest of the outfield. If Thames were clearly better than Guillen, then put him in left. I don’t really know that to be the case though.

The other item being discussed is a Josh Anderson/Marcus Thames platoon in left. I don’t see that happening. Thames gets the short end of the platoon in that scenario and I don’t think the Tigers would cut Sheffield to leave Thames in the same situation he’s been in.

There was a disturbing foot note to this based on the lineup in today’s game. Anderson led off and Granderson hit 6th. Detroit Tigers Thoughts has the problems with this broken down perfectly. I’m not opposed to moving Granderson down in the order, but if you’re going to sacrifice his at-bats do it for an OBP machine like Guillen.

What’s next

There is still one bench spot available. You’d have to like Jeff Larish’s chances of making the team, but it also may be an attempt to keep Brent Clevlen or Ryan Raburn. With Guillen’s flexibility and the fact a roster spot isn’t dedicated to a pure DH, the Tigers could go a variety of ways.

As for Sheffield, he’s already been contacted by the Phillies. Angry Shef has seemed to be productive Shef. If he’s got a chip on his shoulder, watch out NL East. At least until the chip ceases to be metaphorical.

Meanwhile Rob Neyer wonders who the next Tigers high priced contract to be cut will be.

Also, will this be the year we get to see how many homers Thames hits with a full season of at-bats? I’ll put the over/under at 33. What do you think?

20 thoughts on “Some more Sheffield stuff”

  1. From Eddie B:

    “However, it’s possible that today’s spring lineup is nothing to get worried about and it’s just an attempt to allow Anderson to bat as often as possible in front of the Tigers’ staff. Let’s hope that’s the case.”

    Yes please!

    At the very least, today was interesting. Billfer, perfect roundup/nightcap, thank you.

  2. I can’t see Sheff on an NL team. He can’t throw at all and he won’t settle for being a pinch hitter.

    Nothing they do with the position players is going to make much difference unless the pitchers deliver. Looks unlikely at this point.

  3. billfer, that’s a trick question. Thames won’t get a full season’s worth of ABs since Marcus shows very clear signs of wearing down (or being figured out) as the season goes on…

  4. The Tigers are clearly heading in the opposite direction that they were headed during the last few seasons. DD basically rebuilt an aging team without giving up any major pieces. The tough part is done. Now they just have to go out and win.

    This season, it will be a blessing that we don’t have to watch those diminishing skills from Sheff, Jones, Rogers, Pudge, or Renteria.

  5. Josh Anderson lead off with 2 walks and a SB in his debut. Granderson batted 5th. Saying that we added “Versatility” by dropping Sheff is right on the money.

  6. It just doesn’t feel right to have Granderson bat in the middle of the order. The prestige spots are 1-4; 5-9 is just where everone else winds up. I don’t think of Granderson being part of “everyone else”…but then again I don’t think that way about PP, Maggs, or Miggy either. Maybe Maggs and Grandy will flip-flop platoon 3rd and 5th based on LHP RHP?

    Speaking of Maggs, today I emailed my dad that the Tigers traded Magglio to SD for Jake Peavey. My April Fool joke for him.

  7. Billfer, I think `disturbing’ is too harsh to describe Anderson leading-off with Grandy 6th. Two things to consider:
    (1) Anderson’s speed is great for leading-off
    (2) Conceding that Anderson will likely get on base less than Granderson (.324 vs. .364 OBP projections [James]), Grandy’s slugging will yield more runs down in the order.

    Do we want a .500 slugger leading-off, now that he’s not the fastest on the team?

  8. I think 33 is a good number for the over/under on a full season, but I doubt he gets a full season’s worth of ABs. I see him getting more ABs than past years, but not a true full-season’s worth. So, I put him around 28.

  9. Clanks,

    The thing to keep in mind here is that you only “lead-off” once a game. The real distinguishing factor is how many more ABs the “lead-off” sees over a season. Moving Granderson down the order might yield more RBIs for Grandy, but over the course of the season it could mean less total runs produced do to his lower ABs. Given the choice of more Granderson or more Anderson, you want more “Gr”.

  10. I always thought if they moved Granderson, it would be to bat 3rd. Any thoughts on the impact of that position?

    One also has to consider the damage done by those homers and XB hits. If no one is on, then you are limited the potential amount of runs. A couple less solo shots for more 2- or 3-run HR or bases clearing doubles/triples sounds just fine to me.

  11. Andre in Chi:

    I don’t know that it’s all that simple. Hitting behind guys like Polanco, Anderson, or Guillen will yield more runs over the course of a season than if you are continually hitting behind Laird, Inge, and Everett.

  12. Chris Y,

    That’s a good point and something to keep in mind. I guess the trick is figuring out which yields more runs: more ABs with less possible RBIs, or less ABs with more possible RBIs. I do think that even if Granderson is better off somewhere else in the order, we probably don’t want a guy who’s been considered a 4-5th outfielder for most of his career leading off. Time will tell though, I’m pretty sure of that.

  13. There are other factors beyond AB/OBP and RBI/AB etc that put me in favor of Anderson leadoff and Granderson 6th (although if it were me managing I’d bat him 4th. Well, actually not, since if I were managing I would have been fired after a few games, but you get the idea). To me, the Tigers’ biggest problem offensively last season was not getting guys on base, it was getting them from one base to the next, the failure at which can be seen in the number of double plays they hit into. This led to such horrifying apparations as the Ordonez/Thames double-steal attempts. Inserting Granderson–one of the GIDP non-offenders–in place of double-play happy Sheffield/Renteria should rescue many rallies from premature demise. The other, less obvious benefit is that it will give Inge more AB with someone on base in front of him. Seriously. [Inge with bases empty: .176/.584 OPS Inge with runners on .243/.790 OPS]. 2008 classic sequence: Sheffield (doing the one thing he still could do well) works pitcher for a walk…Renteria grounds into DP…Inge, batting with bases empty, strikes out (which he did *57* times last season).

  14. Here are some numbers on the ground into double-play thing:
    American League avg: 41.2 (1 GIDP every 41.2 AB)
    Detroit 2008: 39.2
    Detroit 2007: 45.0
    Detroit 2006: 47.0

    Or another way of looking at it: if Detroit had been average in 2008, they would have hit into 16 fewer double plays last season. On 2006 pace they would have hit into 24 fewer double plays last season. But it’s actually worse than it looks. Because with RISP, last season Detroit got the GIDP 53 times, or 1 in 26.7 AB…out of which 24 came with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 out. That’s 347 plate appearances, 24 GIDP (1 in 14.5 PA). By comparison, 2006: 341 PA, 14 GIDP (1 in 24.4 PA).

    [I use PA instead of AB with the runner at 3rd/less than 2 out numbers, since the large number of non-AB sac flies otherwise give a skewed picture of what is going on].

    Strangely, the GIDP rate seems to be higher with a runner on 3rd consistently (on DET from season-to-season, league averages, etc). Why is that? Is it just that the primary objective is to put the ball in play, thus more DP, and I assume fewer strikeouts?

  15. I’m so glad to see Sheffield gone. The tigers last year with there aeging players(Shef,jones,rogers,renterea) were a very poor team in the field. I was a season ticket holder for several seasons and would attend about 20 of the games a year and in the last 2 years I saw about 5 wins. So good by season tickets. I look forward th this year not seeing Shef. trying to swing out of his shoes on every at bat. Batting where he did in the lineup he should of had 85 to 95 rbi’s but grounding into another dp was his style. hope he does a good job with the Mets.

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