Avila and Lambert up

It’s almost like the Tigers got a bulk discount on a shuttle between Toledo and Detroit. Wilkin Ramirez’s stay in the Detroit was very brief and expressly for the purpose of facing Brian Matusz. Chris Lambert will replace him on the roster. But that’s not all my friends. We also have a lefty catcher in our midst with Alex Avila replacing Dusty Ryan on the roster. Let’s think this through now because there are some implications worth considering before we debate the merits of the moves.

  • Ramirez will not be bumping Magglio Ordonez from the roster for at least 10 days. Barring a DL stay Ramirez cannot be recalled.
  • Alex Avila will likely not burn an option year this year. If even the Tigers decide to change their minds and send him down, as long as he spends less than 20 days off the big league roster it won’t count as an option. So if he’s up for another 8 days that won’t be an issue with the roster expanding on September 1st. He will accrue service time, but probably not enough to move his free agent clock up a year. It does mean he will need to remain on the 40 man roster in an offseason where he otherwise wouldn’t need to.
  • I have a hard time seeing how Dusty Ryan has a future in the franchise. Laird has been struggling mightily at the plate and Ryan still could supplant him more than once a week. Now he’s being exchanged for a catcher who has one year of professional catching experience.

As for the new guys, Avila is one of the two guys I consider to be nearly untouchable largely due to the fact i envisioned him filling a critical role in the near future. I wasn’t thinking this month though. Avila’s overall numbers are very impressive…for a guy one year removed from the draft playing in AA. But his 262/360/446 line is far from overwhelming and he’s only hitting 191/280/393 in the last 28 days (thank you minorleaguesplits.com.

Lambert has been pitching very well for the Mud Hens as a starter. In his last 10 starts he has a 2.07 ERA with 52 K’s and only 11 walks. He’ll presumably pitch out of the bullpen until the team decides to recall either Casey Fien (at least 10 days from now) or Jeremy Bonderman gets healthy.

The Lambert move is fine by me. He’s earned a spot. The Avila move is a mystery. I understand wanting to get some offense from the catcher spot and with Avila being a lefty it makes for a more natural time split for Laird who is scuffling. But I can’t see how this helps Avila in the long term and it’s not that clear to me how it helps the team in the short term. There is a big enough learning curve for typical players, let alone catchers. This is a rush move and can only be considered a move of desperation. Then again if you feel the need to call up a player from the minors just to face a guy making his big league debut because nobody else on the roster can hit…then maybe you’re past the point of desperation.

58 Comments

  1. Skip

    August 4, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    The Avila call-up is a headscratcher, but I’m excited to see what he can do. He obviously replaced Dusty as the “future catcher” in Detroit. Ryan would be a nice #2 catcher though.
    I kinda want to see a Scott Sizemore call-up in the near future as well…

  2. Andrew

    August 4, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    What did Ryan do to get buried in the major league roster and then sent down for a guy who is clearly not ready to play?

    • Mike Rogers

      August 5, 2009 at 1:56 am

      If Zach Miner were a catcher, he’d be Dusty Ryan.

  3. Keith (Mr. X)

    August 5, 2009 at 12:19 am

    I’ve been wondering when Avila would get called up ever since Laird got plunked on his hand by a pitch last week. Laird is as durable as they come, but he’s just not producing enough runs to be playing everyday. We need an offensive upgrade for Laird and that’s something that maybe Avila can provide. I’m hoping that Avila will steal away the starting job from Laird by seasons end.

    As for the reason why Ryan didn’t get much PT? I’m sure Leyland had his reasons. I’m just happy to see Avila up with the club sooner rather than later.

    • Mike Rogers

      August 5, 2009 at 2:08 am

      Gerald Laird this year: .229/.309/.342 for an OPS of .650.

      Average AL Catcher: .254/.315/.402.

      If you take Joe Mauer out of that, you get:

      .248/.308/.391 for an OPS of .699.

      Still better than what Laird was giving us, but if you’re upgrading to even league average (without Mauer) you’re really not upgrading all that much. Pretty much every team has a terrible hitting catcher.

      • Keith (Mr. X)

        August 5, 2009 at 2:46 am

        Avila’s splits vs right handed pitchers-
        .284 avg, .389 obp, .476 slg, .865 ops.

        http://erie.seawolves.milb.com.....pid=488671

        • The Nicker

          August 5, 2009 at 9:46 am

          IN 2/3 OF A SEASON OF AA.

  4. Zach

    August 5, 2009 at 1:13 am

    I don’t think Dusty Ryan is a future star, but he definitely deserved more playing time than he received. Demoting him in favor of Avila is a terrible move.

    One of two things will happen: First, and most likely, Leyland will continue to play Laird nearly every day and Avila will sit and watch. Second, Avila will play at least 40 percent of the time and Laird will complain, just as he did in Texas when the Rangers called up Teagarden. I’m not sure the possibility of a marginal offensive improvement is worth the lost defense and potential distraction.

  5. Deryl G

    August 5, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Polanco is hitting 263/318/393. If Avila is ready then Sizemore has to be.

    And what evidence is there that Ryan isn’t as good as Avila. 79 Plate appearances aren’t much, but an OPS of 733 seems pretty good for a catcher.

    These moves are completely irrational.

  6. Craig

    August 5, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Is it just me or does DD not have a clue how to fix this team right now. Calling up Wilkin for one day to face a guy making his major league debut, that is not normal. This team does not look like a playoff team right now, and calling up your future catcher at least a full year early is a move that a rebuilding team usually makes. Granted Laird has been poor at the plate, but your young backup doesn’t get a real chance to show what he can do, not that I think Dusty Ryan is the answer. This feels like DD has no idea what this team is right now

    • Deryl G

      August 5, 2009 at 9:28 am

      I wonder if the Avila thing is more of a frustration with Leyland. Maybe he can’t get Leyland to play Dusty, so he has to try something else.

  7. Dave T.

    August 5, 2009 at 10:39 am

    DD has no qualms about calling a guy up whether or not he is ready. It is the Tiger’s MO to bring up guys as soon as they are even remotely close… see Maybin, Miller, Porcello, Ramirez

    If you have talent, no matter if you are ready or not you will be called up to the big leagues in the Tiger orginization…If they think you don’t have talent you will not play, see Ryan, Dusty

  8. Zach

    August 5, 2009 at 10:40 am

    If DD is so frustrated with Leyland, he shouldn’t have given the guy a two-year contract extension. The Avila promotion becomes even worse if it’s a passive-aggressive way to hamstring a manager, rather than just a dumb, random idea.

    • Deryl G

      August 5, 2009 at 10:55 am

      Yeah, I was probably grasping at straws. I’m just frustrate. Can’t someone help me feel better about all of this?

      • Zach

        August 5, 2009 at 2:41 pm

        Just to clarify, I wasn’t knocking your theory — just pointing out how discouraging it would be if true.

  9. Sam

    August 5, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I like the moves.

    Avila bats lefthanded and creates a much better platoon partner for Laird than Ryan does.

    Lambert has pitched well, and should do better than Fien.

    -Sam

    • Deryl G

      August 5, 2009 at 12:03 pm

      Sam-

      I don’t really have an opinion on the Lambert part.

      Laird is hitting .227/.308/.338 this year. But Ryan does not even get a chance to play.

      It’s not so much Avila getting called up that I have a problem with, although it seems a bit premature, but Ryan getting sent down.

      Ryan last year between AA and AAA hit .266/.346/.491. This year he hit 259/.374/.442 at AAA. Those seem like pretty good numbers to me and yet he gets essentially no chance after getting called up.

      Plus Polanco is hitting .263/.318/.392 and Sizemore (in AAA/AA .310/.397/.514 ) can’t get a sniff.

      If they are bringing up Avila because Laird isn’t performing, why not bring up Sizemore too?

      • Mark in Chicago

        August 5, 2009 at 12:11 pm

        Sam makes a good point about Avila being a better platoon partner as a lefty bat. Plus he has exhibited much more offensive ability than Dusty, even if it’s only at AA.

        I hear you about Sizemore, but he’s not on the 40-man roster, so somebody else would need to be taken off in order to call him up. (Although another option would be to put Zumaya on the 60-day DL). Besides, Leyland loves Polanco who is by most accounts a much better defensive 2b than Sizemore.

        • Deryl G

          August 5, 2009 at 12:22 pm

          Avila this year at AA: .264/.365/.450. Those are nice numbers. And I can’t disagree about the platoon advantage.

          Do we really think Avila is going to get the majority of the time at C, as the platoon advantage would suggest? If so, that would suggest they are not happy with Laird performance (rightfully so). If that is the case, though, why not give Ryan some time before now? That’s what is frustrating for me.

          On Polanco/Sizemore, I don’t really know about his D. I assume he’d be a SS if his D was better, so probably Polanco has him there. I’d still like to see if his bat might be able to make up for the difference.

          • Andre in Chi

            August 5, 2009 at 12:33 pm

            I think to assume they aren’t happy with Laird’s numbers is to assume that they aren’t looking at his performance behind the plate, specifically his CS %. If the Tigers are looking at the C position to cure their offensive ills, at that point I’d say the real problem lays with management’s ability to asses the team’s needs.

            Without some type of increase in production from the corner OF spots, SS and 2B (or maybe even CF and 1B) — I don’t see whatever marginal offensive gains Avila brings really making an impact, and they might just result in a net-loss if you weigh the plate defense Laird has brought.

          • Deryl G

            August 5, 2009 at 1:44 pm

            Andre-

            So then you would agree that Avila isn’t likely to get too many at bats? In which case, he will not have very much impact on the season, but he would be losing at bats that he would othewise get in the minors. The less he plays, the more this seems like a bad plan.

            What do you think is the reason for the call up?

          • Andre in Chi

            August 5, 2009 at 2:09 pm

            Deryl,

            I’m with Billfer, this move is a mystery. I don’t know where Avila stands defensively, but I would expect some regression in his offensive numbers at this level — although he fits in perfectly with the team’s strike-out mentality.

            I kind of feel the same way about this move as I did them calling up Ryan and then not playing him. You’re getting no impact at the MLB level while taking away ABs from your prospects. Seems lose-lose for everyone (except Greyhound) to me.

  10. Scott

    August 5, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I don’t think this move is a big deal. I think they’re hoping for a little offensive spark, obviously, which is kind of pathetic. This just demonstrates how hamstrung the franchise is financially because of all the bad contracts. There were bats out there that could have been had for a reasonable price at the trade deadline. And, let’s face it, just about any kind of major league outfielder would be an upgrade over what we have.

    If DD doesn’t get a bat through waivers and soon, the Tigers will not win the division. Our pitching is fine, but you can’t win every game 2-1 or 3-2.

    I am with those of you who want to bring up Sizemore. Why not try him there and move Polly over to 3B? Inge needs to sit right now.

    • scotsw

      August 5, 2009 at 10:47 pm

      Hallelujah about everything in the first paragraph.

      Disagree about Sizemore. He’s not ready to start. It’s certainly not fair to throw him into a pennant race and ask him to save the season. Raburn, not Polly, is your backup 3B, because it’s not clear Polanco has the arm to play the hot corner. You can’t have Sizemore play backup, because Santiago is backing up SS and 2B and has done nothing to lose that job.

      The solution was to find an above-average corner outfielder, even if it meant losing Raburn, Clete or Thames in a trade. They need a bona fide starter in left field, which they have not had in a very, very long time.

      • Coleman

        August 6, 2009 at 1:03 am

        They could always bring in another infielder and put Inge in Left, since I hear playing Left Field for the Tigers is not only good for your knees but for your shoulder also.

        (Besides, Mr. Kaline himself said Inge could become the best outfielder on the team if he played there full time. On the other hand–oops, he doesn’t have the bat to be a leftfielder, so we’re back where we started…).

  11. Zashkaser

    August 5, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Sorry but I don’t share most of these ideas.

    • Mark in Chicago

      August 5, 2009 at 1:05 pm

      very constructive, thanks for dropping by.

  12. Keith (Mr. X)

    August 5, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    I sure am glad DD and Leyland know what they are doing. I love the move with Avila. The fact that most people don’t understand the move is what fascinates me the most. I think Avila could be the big lefty bat that we need. For a few months the sportswriters have been saying the Avila has a good chance to be our everyday catcher next season. His catching skills are good, his CS% is high, his power is excellent, and he has a good eye at the plate. He’s probably a superior hitter to Clete Thomas (and even Matt Joyce). More power, a better eye, but less speed on the bases.

    • Andre in Chi

      August 5, 2009 at 2:20 pm

      I haven’t been able to see any of Avila’s fielding numbers, do you know where to find them?

      Its a good move, in theory, to call Avila up to platoon vs RH pitching IF his production follows him up. On the other hand, I’m not so sure they hand the bulk of the catching duties over to a guy with no MLB experience mid-season.

      Laird’s defense is not an insignificant part of the team’s overall defense, and I’m not sure if Avila’s potential offensive up-side offsets that loss.

      • Keith (Mr. X)

        August 5, 2009 at 2:41 pm

        I haven’t seen any fielding statistics. I’ve just read what people are saying.
        Lynn Henning had this article-
        http://www.detnews.com/article.....211;system

        • Keith (Mr. X)

          August 5, 2009 at 2:51 pm

          Here’s another little nugget from Lynn Henning-

          “Gerald Laird is showing why he was a part-time catcher with the Rangers. He’s a terrific receiver and thrower. But he’s not a day-to-day hitter. He would be better off becoming a reserve catcher next season if young Alex Avila can possibly make the jump from Double-A to the majors.”
          http://www.detnews.com/article.....11;undoing

    • Deryl G

      August 5, 2009 at 2:27 pm

      Keith-

      You expect Avila to geta significant amount of playing time?

      • Keith (Mr. X)

        August 5, 2009 at 2:36 pm

        From what I’m reading he’ll at least get an opportunity. Only time will tell if he succeeds or fails.

        “Tigers call up Alex Avila to spell Gerald Laird
        LH power-hitting catcher expected to play a lot”

        http://www.freep.com/article/2.....rald-Laird

  13. Coleman

    August 5, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    I’m not sure how Dusty Ryan went from prospect to next catcher to next backup to backup backup.

    I do have this odd picture of him still etched in my brain from the Sheffield-Carmona “fight:” this strapping young man tiptoeing around the periphery of the melee with his hands extended like the tall awkward kid at his first basketball practice trying to learn how to guard somebody and hoping nobody bumps into him. Very un-catcher-like. (Meanwhile Inge had sprinted from the batter’s box and had taken down V. Martinez, and then again when he got up; much more catcher-like. And Sheffield was at least Three Stooges-like…).

    I’m not suggesting this has anything to do with anything, other than what goes through my head when I think about Dusty Ryan…

  14. chew chew chew

    August 5, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Could Avila have been called up to gauge his ML readiness as part of a plan to put Inge on the DL? Move Mig to third and put Avila at first?

    I’m grasping at straws, of course, but I’m just trying to make sense of this move.

    • Andre in Chi

      August 5, 2009 at 2:31 pm

      I don’t think there’s any chance of Cabrera going back to 3B. He’s actually playing quite well at 1B to begin with, and there are plenty of other large, slow guys on the team who would be better utilized at 1B than Avila. Catcher is a position that has been struggling for us this year, offensively. Avila is a potential offensive upgrade @ C, that’s where he’s going.

      As far as Inge going on the DL, might be a good idea, but even playing with pain, he’s still better on the bag than any likely candidate to replace him.

    • Coleman

      August 5, 2009 at 2:35 pm

      No way they move Mig to 3rd (“way” on Inge to the DL–but if they were going to to that they should have done it immediately, not “maybe next week…”).

      But that’s the beauty of making moves that make no sense. Almost any explanation can compete with the explanation “its a mystery.”

      Here I’ll try one: Avila Senior was fielding offers from other clubs, and it’s a way to keep him in the fold. Sure, that’s silly, but it’s as good an explanation as (??!).

      And as regards “Not Manny” Ramirez, where he got the “spot starter in the back-end of a double-header call-up” treatment, I’m afraid billfer’s explanation makes the most sense (desperation move).

  15. Nick

    August 5, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    In trying to figure out this latest move I have thought of one option that hasn’t yet been discussed – maybe Avila was called up to allow Ryan the chance to get more AB’s since he has spent most of this season on the bench. Just food for thought.

    • Coleman

      August 5, 2009 at 2:43 pm

      That would make more sense if Avila weren’t such a prospect–because then he loses ABs. The idea is good though, but Sardinha would be the guy you call up to give Ryan the ABs.

      • Mark in Chicago

        August 5, 2009 at 3:12 pm

        You would not call Sardinha up if you expect that Laird needs more than a few days off. He recently got hit by a pitch in the hand and is probably nursing a variety of other aches and pains. If you need to have a capable replacement out there on a platoon-like basis, Avila could be the guy over Ryan. (and send Dusty down to get a few ABs at Toledo).

        Erie’s season ends September 8, so it’s not as though Avila is missing a ton of ABs, particularly if he is more than a spot starter.

      • Nick

        August 5, 2009 at 10:51 pm

        Ah HA! I just read on ESPN that Avila is the son of the assistant GM.

        • Andre in Chi

          August 6, 2009 at 10:58 am

          Did you email Billfer about this?

  16. Zach

    August 5, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Andre,

    I don’t expect Avila to help much offensively, but it’s unfair to say “he fits in perfectly with the team’s strike-out mentality.” His UIBB/K ratio at Erie is 50/78. That’s solid strike zone judgment, and in the unlikely event he can carry it over to MLB, it automatically makes him one of the Tigers’ most disciplined hitters.

    The current Tigers’ strikeout totals are only problematic because there’re accompanied by middling power and few walks.

    • Andre in Chi

      August 5, 2009 at 3:06 pm

      I guess it was unfair in the sense the Tigers as a group aren’t as SO-happy as I thought (middle of the pack as it turns out).

      However, you and I agree that it is uncertain whether or not he’ll carry his Eriely high 13% BB rate over into the Bigs. If he does though, that’ll put him just under Dusty Ryan in terms of disciplined hitters…oh wait.

      • Coleman

        August 5, 2009 at 6:47 pm

        They just tend to save their SOs for fun situations like runner on 3rd with no out etc. (which they do more than anyone).

  17. Coleman

    August 5, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    Kevin in Dallas has forwarded some more of the intercepted text messages between JL and DD, which might shed a little light on things…

    ***
    DD: Just so we’re on the same page…
    AVS: Oh hey boss, this is Andy, Skip was having trouble typing and asked me to type for him.
    DD: Oh…sure, np
    AVS: Actually he said “this is horse#@*!” and threw the phone across the room
    DD: I see…
    AVS: Skip says he’s sick of these @!** horse@!** rookie @*!!s coming in and shutting down his lineup
    DD: Well that’s what I’m trying to explain, there’s a plan here, there’s logic
    AVS: Logic?
    DD: Skip and I agree we’d be calm and logical about this. Well we need to countermove on these guys, move for move. Every rookie pitcher they throw out there, we bring up a rookie hitter to face him. See where I’m going?
    AVS: Sounds like horse*!*@
    DD: No, it–
    AVS: Sorry boss that was me talking, not Skip
    DD: Ah…
    AVS: Skip’s nodding, I think he’s on board…
    ***

    • Deryl G

      August 5, 2009 at 3:13 pm

      Thank you, I very much enjoyed that.

    • Andrew in Toronto

      August 5, 2009 at 5:09 pm

      Ha! If Leyland was sick of these rookies coming in and shutting down his lineup… why does he always bat the new arrival in the top part of the order. Avila is probably the clean-up hitter tonight, if they face a RHP!

  18. Keith (Mr. X)

    August 7, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    What I didn’t understand is why the Lambert call-up was fine with some folks.

    In general, I don’t like rookie arms unless they’re phenom’s like Felix Hernandez, Porcello, Hamels, ects. Lambert doesn’t fit the bill of being a phenom. To me, he’s a below average pitcher that figured out how to get AAA hitters out. He was terrible last year in his stint with the Tigers. I seriously don’t want him pitching in any games that matter until he proves that he’s not a liability. Poor pitching hurts 10x more than poor hitting does. Also he’s a starter, who will pitch out of the pen, which makes his call-up even more of a head scratcher.

    What’s everyones thoughts of Avila after his debut? He must of turned some heads. Anyone else notice how he moves and throws like a young Pudge Rodriguez?

  19. Mark in Chicago

    August 7, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Lambet is back-of-the-bullpen filler, at least at this point, it’s not a big deal. They maybe wanted Fein to work on something or get some innings, and Lambert has pitched well enough to earn the gig. There’s also no guarantee it’s permanent.

    He’s also provides flexibility as a spot starter if they want to skip Porcello or some such thing.

    • Vince in MN

      August 7, 2009 at 5:40 pm

      Lambert may be getting checked out for the long relief role. Since Miner hasn’t been too competent of late (a long late actually) they are likely looking at any possible way to improve the bullpen.

      This year even more than last, Toledo is functioning as an extended roster for the Tigers, with lots of shuffling going on. The close proximity to Detroit makes it easy. As they search for the missing pieces to the puzzle, this could continue right up until the rosters expand.

      • Mark in Chicago

        August 7, 2009 at 5:45 pm

        If memory serves, a player needs to have appeared on the active roster prior to the September 1 deadline in order to eligible for the postseason roster (injury may warrant an exception). So Vince, your point about Miner is a really good one, and they might want to have the flexibility to move pieces around if they have to. You are right Miner has been terrible lately, he should try throwing strikes some time.

  20. Coleman

    August 7, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    I’m guessing with a long stretch without off-days there was thought of giving Porcello an extra day off (and remember the callup was before Porcello’s nice outing). It’s not much more than the Eddie Bonine callup was, just without a specific game in mind for him. And it seems like a “non-phenom” who has been performing consistently well is just the kind of guy you want in that situation.

  21. John

    August 12, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    The only reason Avila is up is because of his dad. If his father wasn’t the assisant GM, he would have been sent to Lakeland. If you believe anything
    else, you are living in a fantasy world!

    • billfer

      August 12, 2009 at 9:49 pm

      He was never close to going to Lakeland and it has nothing to do with his Dad. It was probably the only reason he was drafted also in your world right? Otherwise he’d be pumping gas somewhere but ‘cuz his old man works in a front office they burned a 5th round pick on him.

    • Mark@HOU

      August 12, 2009 at 10:07 pm

      Really? Really?

      He put the best Ab on Beckett the whole night. 11 pitches!! Then hit a ball 365 to right thats out in most parks.

      This is baseball. Pitchers pitch, Hitters Hit. No one is perfect. Avila looks like he’s going to be good. He’s not intimidated by anything. His biggest issue will be when teams get his scouting reports.

    • Coleman

      August 13, 2009 at 12:36 am

      Avila Sr: don’t you think it’s time to bring up jr?
      DD: We agreed we’d bring him up in Sept
      Avila Sr: yeah but the wife is kinda bugging me about it
      DD: Uncle Smokey will freak
      Avila Sr. Yeah, but he’s like the manager, I’m the assistant GM
      DD: Um, and I’m the Assistant GM’s Boss
      Avila Sr: Yeah but you know Ilitch promised me Jr would play
      DD: In September
      Avila Sr: Stop BS-ing me, I already told you the wife is antsy. Besides like, Oh, poor Uncle Smokey, how can he manage without the Big Laird Bat in the lineup
      DD: OK now let’s be logical about this.
      Avila Sr: Besides, boss-man Caesar knows the Wings are screwed if I walk
      DD: WTF? How do you have anything to do with that
      Avila Sr: Wouldn’t you like to know
      DD: Well yeah I would…OK, look, we bring the kid up, but he only catches the rookie and that other guy we’re gonna dump.
      Avila Sr: OK, that will work…for now…

      • Coleman

        August 13, 2009 at 12:37 am

        I forgot to mention: this is a text-message transcript intercepted from the brain of “John”