Willis out…of rotation

Dontrelle Willis will not take his next turn in the rotation. And that was the extent of the news from Jim Leyland’s pregame presser. I understand not naming a starter at this point as the Tigers probably consider options such as Zach Miner, Eddie Bonine, Luke French, and Alfredo Figaro (who coincidentally is on the same schedule as Willis). All are already on the 40 man roster so that doesn’t present a problem and any of them kind do as well as Willis.

But what I don’t understand is why Willis is still on the 25 man roster? Are they keeping him around for pinch hitting duties while in St. Louis? He hasn’t been moved to the bullpen. He’s just there and I don’t understand why. Option him out, release him, DL him, it doesn’t matter.


  1. Don

    June 16, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Willis is a side issue. Why has Nate Robertson not been sent to Tanzania or somewhere. He comes in, gives up two or three runs, gets no outs, and the gets pulled. Tonight he was clever enough to walk them in. I don’t know what he is getting paid but one dollar would be too much. Dump him, trade him, release him, send him somewhare. But get rid of him.

  2. jason

    June 16, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    he might have to eat some innings for our stellar pitching which has given up 11 runs thus far tonight.

  3. Ryan

    June 17, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Nate Robertson gave up four runs tonight, not too or three.
    How about this.. Willis, Robertson, and Galarraga for Brad Penny, and we’ll eat the one of the albatross contracts.

    • Mith

      June 17, 2009 at 10:11 am

      You’re not serious, I hope? Wowza. Why on earth would the Red Sox trade Penny for 3 pitchers?!? They are trading Penny because they have an excess of pitching, I’m sure they don’t want even more pitching plus the bad contracts.

  4. Larry Baker

    June 17, 2009 at 8:25 am

    I’m not one to call for releasing a player any time he slumps, but the Tigers are really ripe for a shake up. Releasing Willis, Robertson, and Ordonez and swinging a deal for a corner outfielder would at least communicate that competing for the division is a top priority. The only reason that the pitchers are on the roster is bad contracts. From my point of view this is like holding onto an investment that has gone south. Thinking they will regain their former “value” is irrational. Too bad, because they both seem like great guys, but they simply can’t deliver even mediocre play.

  5. Brenden

    June 17, 2009 at 8:41 am

    And the offense still stinks…. And yeah, why does it seem Nate Robertson has a 40 foot leash. He once again came into a game that was close, to some standard, and he gives up a big old four spot again. He needs to be gone just as much as Willis.

  6. Kevin in Dallas

    June 17, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Let’s be realistic here guys, you don’t just dump $45M worth of salary. Not gonna happen. Let’s look at the problems one by one.

    Robertson: Releasing Robertson would be nice, he adds little value. He’s the best punching bag I’ve seen since Glass Joe. Unfortunately, he’s on the hook for $10M in 2010. Left handed pitching is hard to find anywhere, and he can bide time as a mop-up guy. I don’t think we’ll see him go anywhere but Toledo.

    Willis: I’m not so sure about releasing Willis. First of all, we’ve got his gory contract to deal with. Secondly, he’s got good, maybe great stuff. I gotta believe that the control issues can be worked out. I’d like to send him back down for another month or two and see if he can figure it out.

    Maggs: Ordonez simply needs a trip to the DL. Thank goodness his ’10 and ’11 years are club option (which you think would make him play better…). But on to this year. His GB/FB is at 2.45 for the year, TWICE HIS CAREER AVERAGE. This is a magnificent problem, and McClendon should not be sleeping until he comes up with a solution. He’s also striking out more than he ever has before (15.5%). On the plus side, he’s showing some of his best plate discipline in years (20.1% O-Swing is lowest since he’s been a Tiger) and his Contact% (86.1%) is at a career high. So we have a guy who is seeing the ball well, making contact when he swings, but hitting all dinks to the pitcher. You would think that a decrease in bat speed would be the culprit, but even then you would expect a pop-out every once in a while. My guess is that there’s an injury somewhere, and he’s pressing b/c he’s in a slump. As a result, he’s purposefully trying to hit ground balls (his bread and butter), and thus exacerbating his own problem.

    Polanco: PP is done after this year. He’s been a nice player for a few years, but his OPS has been on a steady decline, his ISO is just funny, and though he’s still a great 2B, at this point in time we can sacrifice a little D at that spot. I couldn’t find his Productive Outs stats, but my guess is that they are on a rapid decline, which is a huge no-no for a guy in the 2 hole. Decent chance he gets hot and hits an empty .300 this year, he should be batting 7th or 8th.

    We’re squandering too many run scoring opportunities. The 1st inning yesterday is a prime example. I gotta think that Miggy was besides himself when PP and Ordonez failed to get a ball past the pitcher. Moving forward, I’d like to see this lineup:

    CF Granderson (he’s better as a 3/5, but he’s the best leadoff we’ve got)
    LF Kelly/Anderson/Thomas/Guillen (all a bit below average, so who cares)
    DH/RF Thames
    1B Cabrera
    3B Inge
    SS Everett
    2B Polanco
    RF/DH Ordonez
    C Laird

    I’d feel a lot better about the top of the lineup producing (and using those extra ABs to do so), and anything from the bottom of the lineup would be gravy.

    • scotsw

      June 17, 2009 at 10:57 am

      Many good points and ideas… However, you’re wrong about Ordonez’ contract being a club option. My understanding is that his options vest automatically if certain (not hard to hit) milestones are reached — a certain number of ABs or games started. The rationale for releasing Magglio is that if you keep him on the roster, his option years will certainly kick in. Unless you keep him on the bench the whole second half.

      • Kevin in Dallas

        June 17, 2009 at 12:15 pm

        Yeah, I think you are right there scotsw. I’m sure someone will chime in soon with the actual provisions.

    • Andre in Chi

      June 17, 2009 at 11:41 am

      I’m wondering if somebody can explain to me what the advantage is in having Cabrera bat 4th instead of say, 3rd? Wouldn’t he see more ABs? I’ve seen too many games where the top 3 get retired before he gets to the plate, and he ends up leading off the 2nd inning.

      Ordonez is, imo, much more likely to improve this year than Polanco, and thus shouldn’t be dropped to the #8 spot (that’s in addition to the fact that there’s going to be a certain amount of deference to his reputation).

      Why not:

      Granderson is, as you point out, probably the best option at lead-off, while Ordonez still has a health OBP. Again, at this point, why not have Cabrera batting 3rd? What’s the advantage of batting him 4th, besides the possibility of bases-loaded?

      Just curious.

      • Kevin in Dallas

        June 17, 2009 at 12:23 pm

        That’s not a bad idea on Ordonez. He may be able to turn into the contact hitter that PP has been in the pas, though that type of hitter is even less valuable from a corner OFer. I’d rather see Ramirez bat .250 with an OPS+ of 1.

        Concerning the lineups – mostly tradition. Assuming the same 9, lineups are gonna produce roughly the same over the course of a season regardless of the order. If anything, you should have your top OPS+ guy hitting leadoff (for the extra ABs as you mentioned Andre), and descend from there. Though #3 to #4 is only ~10 PAs per year.

        • Mark in Chicago

          June 17, 2009 at 12:27 pm

          sadly, after all this, we could probably use Sheffield in the lineup:

          270/387/475 for a 128 OPS+

          • dwinning

            June 17, 2009 at 1:08 pm

            The reason teams put their best hitter 4th (or should) is this: that hitter’s first at bat is guaranteed to either be (1) in the first inning with a runner on base or (2) in the second inning with nobody out. Both situations – runner on base or nobody out – leverage the best hitters skills the most.

          • Andre in Chi

            June 17, 2009 at 1:30 pm

            Thanks dw’

  7. Brenden

    June 17, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Just read in the Detroit News that they are only skipping Willis next start, which tells me that they have no real plan to fix the problem permanently, and that Galarraga will be making his next start. My prediction: Tigers will be in a first place tie with Minnesota by Sunday.

    • Kurt

      June 17, 2009 at 12:01 pm

      Well the quote from leyland was:

      “Dontrelle will not pitch on Saturday. That’s the end of the conversation. No further information goes along with that.

      “He will not pitch Saturday. No more questions about that.”

      it makes no reference to skipping him and pitching him later. Maybe Leyland and Dombrowski don’t want to announce the next step yet, but I don’t think you can read into that quote he’ll be starting again five days after Saturday.

  8. Scott

    June 17, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Kevin in Dallas,

    You make some good points, but I disagree about Willis and Robertson.

    To me, Nate is not a major league pitcher right now. Most of his pitches are strolling down the middle of the plate at about 85 mph screamming hit me. Worse than that, he looks like he has checked out to me. Either he is so disgruntled at being sent to the bullpen that he wants off the Tigers or he simply doesn’t care about playing baseball anymore, he has absolutely no value even in mop up. I don’t see any upside to keeping him on the roster.

    As far as Willis, saying he has great stuff is a real stretch. If his heard were straight, I think he could be a servicable fourth or fifth starter. He has shown flashes of that in a few outings. I would talk to him and send him to Toledo for the rest of the year. If he won’t accept that, cut him. He can not be trusted to take the ball in the middle of a Division race right now.

    As for the lineup, absent a trade, I think you go with defense. A platoon of Clete Thomas and Raburn or Brent Clevelen might be the best thing for left field. What ever offense you get from them is a bonus.

    I like the idea of moving Maggs into the 2-hole. He could concentrate on just getting on base. Perhaps some of his power would return if there wasn’t as much pressure to produce. I don’t know. He’s 35, an age you might expect his numbers to start going down a bit. But not like this … he has fallen off the cliff. It’s very odd for someone of his ability.

    I know I’ve harped on it a lot, but I still think Granderson should be your 3-hole hitter. I can’t for the life of me figure out why Leyland won’t give it a shot.

    So here’s my lineup:

    1. Polly 2b
    2. Maggs RF
    3. Grandy CF
    4. Miggy 1b
    5. Inge 3B
    6. Thames DH
    7. Thomas/Clevlen LF
    8. Laird C
    9. Everett SS

    • scotsw

      June 18, 2009 at 9:52 am

      Polanco’s not a lead-off hitter. He has average speed. I think Granderson has proven he thrives in that role. He gets to second or third often enough that it provides scoring opportunities for the heart of the order. It works; don’t mess with it, IMHO.

      To me, the problem isn’t the order, it’s the people. Magglio and/or Polanco need to step it up, and it wouldn’t hurt if Laird, Everett, Granderson or Cabrera got their averages up 25 points or so.

      Also, I say play Santiago more — he’s producing.

      • JB61973

        June 18, 2009 at 10:33 am

        YOu are right, polanco is not a leadoff hitter but not because he lacks speed. Speed is overrated for a leadoff hitter. He doesn’t get on base enough. THe truth is, he is a bottom of the order guy.

      • Coleman

        June 18, 2009 at 11:16 am

        I agree on Santiago–but I have to disagree on Granderson.

        For whatever reason he actually does not thrive at all in the leadoff spot, at least during the actual leadoff ABs. He has the worst 1st inning stats of any leadoff hitter in the league, and the Tigers are the worst 1st inning offense in the league. .146 / .255 / .244 (.499 OPS), that’s how Curtis has been starting games this season; along with that he has scored 4 1st inning runs, easily lowest in the AL (Polanco has scored 9 1st inning runs batting 2nd).

        If you look at his stats leading off innings (not just games) he’s only a little better: .194 / .301 / .367 (.668 OPS) (this includes leading off innings on days he has hit 5th).

        Batting him somewhere else in the order will be better for the Tigers and will be better especially for Curtis himself.

  9. Craig

    June 17, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Best Case Scenario

    Nate Roberson – Sent home to Kansas

    Dontrelle Willis – Sent to Lakeland

    Magglio Ordonez – Sent to DL until it is no longer possible to reach Games or PAs on option year

    Cabrera- Moved to 3rd in the order

    Wilkin Ramirez – Recalled to Play LF

    New Order:

    Everett -ss
    Polonco – 2B
    Caberera -1b
    Granderson -CF
    Thames -DH
    Ramirez -RF/LF
    Laird – C
    Inge – 3B
    Anderson/Clete/Kelly/Cleveln/Rayburn- LF/RF

  10. Coleman

    June 17, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    I’m not sure why you would move Inge back to the 8th spot–He leads the team in HR and RBI, 2nd best OBP and OPS, best by a long margin in PPA and also at getting runners home from 3rd with less than 2 out–and you want him to have fewer ABs?

    • David

      June 18, 2009 at 7:09 pm

      Because as I’m finding, a lot of people (even several who comment here), either
      A) Don’t want to win
      B) Don’t know how to win

      What Craig wrote is a prime example of that

      Forget about Inge batting 8, behind Laird for a second

      He has Everett leading off and Poly 2 (which he misspelled, but that is somewhat immaterial) … really? just really? after how they’ve hit this year?

      Why don’t we make Justin Verlander a pinch runner and setup man and start Dtrain every other day while we are living in lulu land.