Rotational Flux

The Tigers are going to be mixing and matching down the stretch it appears. Kenny Rogers will miss his next start. This is due to hip pain that is believed to be rendering him completely ineffective. (Yes, the old guy has a bad hip. The jokes seem to easy to make, but too easy to ignore also.)

In his place will likely be Nate Robertson. I think it’s a safe assumption that this has more to do with needing a starter than Robertson pushing his way back.

Also, it looks like Dontrelle Willis may get a start. Willis and Freddy Garcia will pitch against each other in another simulated game on Tuesday, and the decision will probably be made at that point.

If Willis is healthy and the mechanical tweaks are in place, then by all means start him. I know it would be nice to wait until everything is perfect, but Willis needs to be in game situations, and at this point it won’t cost the Tigers anything. But the key is if he’s healthy.

Between the knee and more recently the forearm, you have to question if Willis has been healthy at any point this year. Sending an injured pitcher out there to see what you’ve got doesn’t help anyone.

And that will close the book on Todd Jones

It is looking more and more like Todd Jones has thrown his last pitch. He was with the team the past couple days, but the shoulder isn’t getting better and he is headed home to Alabama.

Jones called a team meeting before the Tigers went out on the field for batting practice and, with hugs, was saying good-bye to his teammates when the clubhouse doors re-opened to the media.

Jones said he’d continue rehabbing and will try to be back, but it doesn’t sound promising.

I know it’s hokey, but I was really hoping that Jones could come back and make an appearance at the end of the season. Just come in and record an out (yeah it might take a couple batters) in a low pressure situation so he could walk off the field to cheers. His last outings at home were atrocious, and he was booed off the field. For a guy that truly loved being a Tiger, and is the team’s all time save leader, you’d hope he could at least go off on a high note.

Jones made me nuts some times, or maybe even frequently. And when he’d blow up he’d face the music. My favorite quote the day after an awful 2006 performance in Toronto came when he was asked how he slept the night before. Jonesy’s response…

I slept like a baby. I woke up every 2 hours crying.

Grandy’s a stud, is Matt Joyce?

Baseball Prospectus just released what they call “The Ultimate Fantasy Draft.” Essentially they throw contract status out the window and rank the 50 players that teams should build around. Curtis Granderson earned a ranking of 16, right between Ryan Braun and Tim Lincecum (and two spots behind Miguel Cabrera).

Nate Silver had this to say in the Curtis blurb:

Somewhere around Webb or Braun, we really turned a corner into the next tier of talent. Granderson is just a superlative ballplayer, excelling in every phase of the game, and his work ethic is so strong that he could wind up getting even better.

Now what does this have to do with Matt Joyce? The Spot Starters recently looked at Granderson’s first extended opportunity at playing time, and Matt Joyce’s first extended opportunity. Both seasons occurred when the players were the same age (23). Here’s the kicker, Joyce’s debut has been more impressive than Granderson’s, and its not that close. Joyce hit for a slightly better average, substantially more power, gets on base better, is striking out less…
Continue reading Grandy’s a stud, is Matt Joyce?

Sheffield talks about stuff

Gary Sheffield still isn’t happy with his DH role. In a Boston Globe article Sheffield was his typically candid self.

“I can be in the outfield and play every day. I don’t want to DH. I don’t feel like a baseball player when I DH. I don’t know how to be the leader that I am from the bench. I can’t be a vocal leader. I can’t talk to guys from the bench because I don’t feel right about it.

“I’m in a role now where I don’t know what to do, really. The guys are out there busting their butt for nine innings, they come in and they hit and they grind. I just sit down and hit. That’s all I do, so I can’t be in a leadership role from that position.”

Sheffield has drawn a lot of ire this year for his lack of production. But he has been uncharacteristically quiet – by his standards anyways.

We all remember the left field experiment earlier in the year that didn’t go well when Sheffield couldn’t actually throw the ball. Supposedly he is healthier now, and the production has been increasing. Since the All Star break he’s hitting 247/333/493 (not including today’s suck-fest).

And I can’t be upset with a guy who wants to play more, and do more, and contribute more. But he’s not the same hitter he once was. He goes on to talk about how tough pitchers are pitching him:

“I don’t get pitched the same like everybody else. I get pitched very carefully. Now that I’m a lot better physically, I can handle tough pitching. I can be the player that I know I am.”

“They work it down and away or up and in, and it’s always on the edges,” Sheffield said. “That’s how I’m getting pitched, but I can handle that.”

But he isn’t handling it. For the season he’s striking out in 22% of his at-bats. That is well beyond his career 12.5% average. And it isn’t just a product of his injury early on. Even since the All Star break when he’s been moderately productive, he’s still fanning at a 20% rate. As for pitcher’s pitching him tough, they can’t be pitching him any tougher than they had in past.

I’m not going to say that Sheffield sucks. Hi skills are fading, but if he can maintain his post All Star pace I have no problem with an average OBP and a solid slugging percentage. He came back too quickly, and he should have gone on the DL.

But in terms of being a vocal leader? Maybe it’s best not to lament not playing for a different team:

“The Yankees knew I wanted to go to Boston,” Sheffield said. “They picked up my option so I wouldn’t wind up there. I would have loved it because I love that atmosphere. It means something.

“At this stage of my career, I want to feel that again. That’s what I play for. That’s what gets me revved up.”

Yes the Tigers are a long shot for the playoffs at this point. But there still is a shot. And baseball is a big deal here in Detroit. The Tigers will shatter their attendance record and night in and night out in Detroit Sheffield is playing in front of sell out crowds. And the boos that Sheffield received from the home crowd today are indicative of the fact that the fans are “revved up.” I know the atmosphere in Detroit doesn’t rival Fenway, but it’s not like he’s playing in front of a bunch of empty seats.

I’m sure clarifying remarks will be coming out in the next day or so, and Sheffield will talk about how happy he is in Detroit. But this doesn’t play well, especially from a guy who’s lack of production this season has been a part of the problem.

Random Friday factoids

Some stats and such that may or may not be interesting:

Edgar Renteria might not totally suck

Edgar Renteria is hitting 288/351/404 since the All Star Break. He is a career 290/347/404 hitter. He also has only 4 strike outs in his last 57 plate appearances (and 4 GIDP – eek). A return to normalcy or a blip in a crappy season?

Defensively he looked the best he has all season in the Indians series and +/- still has him at 0, meaning he is quite average. In RZR there are 9 qualified shortstops in the AL and Renteria is tied for 4th meaning he is kind of average.

Guillen can pick it

It turns out that Carlos Guillen can play defense. He isn’t stellar, but his .716 RZR is 6th out of 11 qualified shortstops. He rates as -1 in +/- which is 14th among MLB third baseman. Not stellar, but not bad for a guy on his 3rd position in the last calendar year. Considering that AL third sackers are hitting 266/339/428 and Guillen is hitting 286/374/437 that’s not a bad situation.

On kind of a downer note, Guillen hit 318 – 320 – 320 from 2004 to 2006. He dropped to 296 last year and 286 this year. And his slugging percentage is the lowest it’s been since his hamstring plagued 2005 season. His OBP is still solid, and there is a league widde dip in slugging so his OPS+ is still at 116. But is this the first step in what may be a rapid decline? It’s certainly possible for a player on the wrong side of 30.

Plunkocity

Clay Rapada drilled Grady Sizemore yesterday with the bases loaded driving in a run. It was the 5th time this season that a Tigers pitcher has plunked in a run. Also of note, Tigers pitchers have plunked 13 Indians batters this season. That is more than double the next closest team, the White Sox who have received 6 bruises from Tigers pitchers. A complete plunkocity report is available for your perusal.

A little Pudge appreciation

When I was driving home last night shortly after the trade came down, I was listening to WDFN. I was more than a little taken aback by the number of callers saying good-riddance to Ivan Rodriguez. While there may be something to that in terms of evaluating the trade, there also seemed to be a glaring lack of recognition for what Tigers fans had the last 4.5 years. They had the pleasure to watch one of the best in the history of the game day in day out and he was wearing the English D.

For the last half decade Tigers fans have had a sure thing first ballot hall of famer playing for their team. This is a good thing. It’s a rare thing. It’s something that needs to be appreciated.

Not everything was pretty with Pudge. He had his superstar foibles. The absolute refusal to take a walk in 2005 and 2007 was maddening. His pouting and petulance likely played a role in dividing the clubhouse in Alan Trammell’s last year and shouldn’t be excused or forgotten. But greatness doesn’t come around that often, and it is even rarer that it comes to teams who threaten the all time loss record.

I know that Pudge came where the money was, so I don’t know how much credit he deserves for coming here. But he did come here and that is pretty special regardless of the circumstances. He also probably gets more credit than he deserves for leadership and handling of a pitching staff. After all, he didn’t even warm-up the starter in the bullpen before games leaving that to the bullpen catcher.

We didn’t see Pudge at his peak, but we did see him when he was still pretty good. He had a phenomenal 2004 season including the month of June when he hit .500. There was the big walk-off homer against the Indians in 2006. There was the extra-inning walk off hit against the Red Sox in 2007. And there were all the baserunners cut down and even more that didn’t try. We saw a guy with over 2000 games caught who can still hit nearly .300 and run the bases like a 28 year old second baseman.

I make a point to keep a mental checklist of all the great players I’ve seen in person. I know the times that I saw Roger Clemens start (steroids or not he’s phenomenal). I remember the time I saw Barry Bonds in person, and the games where Ken Griffey Jr. came to Comerica. And I appreciate every time the Yankees come to town because Alex Rodriguez is a remarkably rare talent. Pudge Rodriguez is in that class. There were problems for sure.  However, he’s the best catcher by far in my lifetime* and I got to see him play for MY team wearing the home whites. And that’s pretty special.

*Okay, Johnny Bench played in my lifetime but he was at the end of his career when I was old enough to discover baseball.

Is there hope for Renteria?

Edgar Renteria has had a half season that everybody would probably like to forget. The.259 batting average looks great compared to the .301 OBP and .326 slugging percentage. Couple this with the fact that Jair Jurrjens is pitching well and the Tigers are a long shot for the playoffs at this point, and the trade that brought Renteria here looks awful. Given all that, is there any hope left for Renteria? There may be.

One thing going for Renteria is that he has a 22.4% line drive rate. That’s right in line with his career number of 22.8%. The Hardball Times has a measure called PrOPS which is a predicted value for OPS based on batted ball characteristics and other offensive measures. JC Bradbury recently posted the top 3 PrOPS leaders for the first half by position. Renteria actually ranks third among AL shortstops (it’s a really bad year) with a PrOPS of .751. Even if he achieved that number it’s not All Star caliber, but it would qualify as productive.

The difference between Renteria’s actual OPS and PrOPS is the 5th greatest negative difference meaning he’s probably hitting into some bad luck.

So there is hope that Renteria is better in the second half, but what is a reasonable expectation for his final line even if he gets some breaks and manages to maintain his line drive rate? THT put together a spreadsheet that combines Marcel projections with season to date performance to project a final line. Luckily for me, someone else has already run Renteria’s numbers.

His projection for the remainder of the season is 282/342/402 which would be a pretty dramatic improvement. But his horrendous start means that if he achieves that line over the balance of the season, that still leaves him with a .680 OPS when all is said and done.

In addition, despite the career level line drive rate, there are some other red flags (as if we needed more). His walk rate of 6.7% is his lowest since the 6.2% he posted in 2004 and significantly below his 8.2% career rate. The drop in walks is probably in part due to a tendency to chase more pitches. He’s swinging at 27.86% of pitches outside the strike zone. In past years his number has been closer to 20%.

Renteria should be better in the second half. He was pretty awful in the first half. He chased too many pitches, and it was probably compounded by some bad luck. It’s hard to imagine Renteria or the trade looking much worse in the second half. Of course a nice little surge by Edgar and the team that leaves them in the playoffs and everyone feels a little better.

Inventorying Miguel Cabrera’s locker

In the wake of Miguel Cabrera’s 2 homer performance on Tuesday, we learned a little bit about what Cabrera keeps in his locker and it seems to be an eclectic mix.

  • He has 3 unopened candy bars. (yeah, yeah, weight jokes, yeah) We don’t know the brands, and I think this is pretty important information.
  • Voodoo dolls. This was reported by Curtis Granderson. Not sure if the voodoo dolls are of particular people, or if maybe they are generic and wear certain uniforms on certain days. But I do feel somewhat comforted that Cabrera is channeling his inner Pedro Cerrano.
  • And spotted tonight in his postgame interview, there was a bobblehead that I believe to be Curtis Granderson. It’s unclear if this is in fact one of the voodoo dolls.

I will not title this post “Shef is cooking”

So maybe adding Gary Sheffield to the lineup won’t disrupt chemistry. Maybe the winning streak coinciding with Sheffield on the DL was coincidence and maybe he isn’t a cancer. And just maybe, the guy can still play.

I was amazed at the number of people who thought there was causation in that Sheffield being on the DL caused the team to play better. That it caused the rest of the offense to perform. That removing the DH from the bench helped the fielders field better and the pitchers pitch better. The team went 3-6 in the first 9 games when Sheffield hit the DL, but many forgot that.

Yes the team went 15-9 in Sheffield’s absence. They also went 10-4 when Clete Thomas was on the DL. They are 14-5 since Ramon Santiago hit the DL and and 14-4 since they lost Jeremy Bonderman. Not to mention the fact that Sheffield was with the team for the long homestand, just not playing. Yet it was Sheffield who was the problem?
Continue reading I will not title this post “Shef is cooking”

Is Freddy Dolsi the new sexy?

Editors note: This post has nothing resembling well reasoned analysis. This is simply the author’s enthusiastic response to two recent plate appearances. The views and opinions expressed below do not represent those of the more logically based billfer that normally resides in this corner of the internet. He’ll be back tomorrow.
Freddy Dolsi by Samara Pearlstein

Did you see what Freddy Dolsi did today? Dude comes in with the sacks loaded, the go ahead run standing at the plate, and only one out in the 8th inning. Dolsi, anagram-ically nicknamed Freddy Solid by frequent DTW commenter Chris in Dallas, fell behind Jhonny Perralta 2-0. He battled back into a full count. And then came the heat. A 97 mph fastball right down the middle. It’s the type of pitch that Rod Allen labels “here it is, hit it” but there would be no hitting it today sir.

With two outs, now some of the pressure is off. But Dolsi is amped up. Three more fastballs down the middle to Ben Francisco and Dolsi had himself back-to-back K’s. This one was a called strike where Pudge comes rocketing up out of his crouch before the ump even calls strike 3. It was beauteous.

As I type this Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney are throwing another rehab outing. Soon, someone will have to go down and I think Dolsi isn’t eager to go anywhere.

Yes, the Indians hitters helped him out by not really having good at-bats, but Dolsi gets some of that credit doesn’t he?

And yes, coming into today he’d allowed 12 hits and 7 walks in 12 innings. And there was that time he didn’t call time out and Toriii Hunter stole second. And there was the time he air mailed an intentional walk ball for a wild pitch. And there was the time he didn’t cover first base resulting in a walk-off infield single (hey, it’s starting to sound like that billfer guy snuck back in here). Some of those things might undermine his sexiness as well as the Freddy Solid monicker. But today he was sublime so for now I will bask in the warm glow of his 9 fastball, 2 K outing.

Justin Verlander in 150 words or less

Justin Verlander, the young stud pitcher and AL Rookie of the Year winner in 2006 was anointed ace of the Detroit staff and named the Opening Day starter. However with a 6.43 ERA and only one win he’s been anything but an ace.

Early on there were concerns when his fastball lost velocity. He changed his arm angle and found some mph’s and a tighter breaking ball. But still the results haven’t caught up to his stuff. It has led a former Tigers pitcher to think Verlander is injured, and others to think that Justin is in need of some Doc Halladay type adjustments.

A look at his components is encouraging because he’s not being hit hard, but he is walking too many and not striking out enough. Tigers fans need optimism about Verlander, because remaining playoff hopes rest largely on his shoulder.

Miguel Cabrera in 150 words or less

In case you hadn’t heard the Tigers traded for Miguel Cabrera this off season. They then signed him to a record contract. Cabrera then felt a lot of pressure to perform, but started to hit better when Jim Leyland told him to relax.

While he hit better his defense was a concern so the Tigers moved him over to first base. A position that is a natural fit for him, but Leyland is personally working with him to make sure it’s a smooth transition.

Meanwhile, his offense was coming around when Leyland said Cabrera could be even better if he focused on every at-bat. Since being challenged Cabrera has gone 161/235/161. The slump has columnists calling him a slug and a bust and Cabrera went on the record as missing his Marlins days. But fear not because it smells like he’s on the verge of breaking out of it.