Tigers Minor League Wrap 7/24/09

Toledo 8 Scranton/WB 7
Scott Sizemore went 2 for 5 with a homer. Jeff Larish doubled twice and walked twice. Scot Drucker allowed 11 hits, 6 runs, and a walk with 3 K’s in 4.1 innings.

Minor League Baseball: Gameday: Scranton/WB vs. Toledo (in progress at blog time)

Binghamton 3 Erie 16
Supposedly the Nationals had scouts watching Erie, and they had quite a show. Alex Avila (one of the guys I would put in the untouchable category) homered 3 times. Brennan Boesch went 4 for 5 with 2 doubles and ahomer. Casper Wells, Ronnie Bourquin, and Michael Bertram also went deep. Thad Weber fanned 7 in 7.2 innings and Robbie Wenihardt struck out 2 and allowed 2 baserunners in 1.1 innings.

Lakeland 2 Jupiter 3
Chris Carlson had 2 hits and a walk. Ryan Ketchner allowed 1 run on 4 hits and 3 K’s in 2.2 innings. Trevor Feeney fanned 4 in 4.1 1 run innings.

West Michigan 4 Quad Cities 8
Alden Carrithers went 2 for 3. Luke Putkonen only recorded 1 out and he allowed 2 hits and walked 3.

Oneonta PPD

GCL Tigers 3 GCL Pirates 1
Gustavo Nunez went 3 for 4 with a double. Jacob Cruz had 2 hits. Zach Samuels allowed 1 unearned run in 7 innings on 6 hits, 2 walks, and 4 K’s.

Frustration

When things start to get really dire for the Tigers, I usually use this space to try and provide some perspective. This isn’t only for you the reader, but for me the Tigers fan as well. I’m really having to scrounge for perspective right now as the team has tanked since the All Star Break and have surrendered sole possession of 1st place.

There are cliches that I can always employ, about it being a long season and what not. It rings a little bit hollow today though. But…it is a long season. Losing 4 out of 5 games 2-1 is freakishly consistently bad. So freakishly and consistently bad it is hard to sustain – which could be the good news. As is usually the case, when the team is playing bad it is easy to assume things will stay bad or get worse. Just like when things are going well, people can’t imagine the team tanking.

It’s hard to believe that the offense will get better given what has been on display lately, but it will. Everything is going wrong when the Tigers are at the dish, everything won’t continue to go wrong. The team will score more runs and it is probably not best to make rash decisions based on 6 games. Of course this isn’t just a 6 game thing. The offense has been bad for a month and isn’t showing signs of getting better.

I’d like to see the Tigers add a bat as much as anyone, but the bulk of the improvement will need to come from the current roster. I don’t know what Clete Thomas will provide, or Ryan Raburn, or Marcus Thames. But I still believe that Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, and Miguel Cabrera will produce more than they have been. Beyond that where can the Tigers find help?

Carlos Guillen

I don’t think the Tigers are putting all their eggs in the Carlos Guillen basket, but it’s worth checking out the Guillen basket before surrendering limited resources for another basket. Guillen is close to coming back, I think he’ll be back for Saturday’s game and the Tigers sent scout Dick Egan to see Guillen’s 3 hit night tonight. He doesn’t have the extra base hits yet, but he’s been on base in half of his plate appearances.

The problem with Guillen though is that he is likely limited to DH duties as he hasn’t played the field on his rehab assignment. That means the at-bats would come from some combination of Raburn and Thames, two of the hitters that have been producing somewhat. It could also mean the end of Josh Anderson.

Trade

The non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching, but I think the deadline isn’t that critical. I’d anticipate that a number of players would clear waivers and be movable until August 31st. Of course the trade deadline is the MLB sanctioned portion of a deadline. The Tigers may feel the need to accelerate the timeline if they continue to struggle. Matt Holliday has been a hot rumor, and the Tigers have expressed interest, but it doesn’t seem that the Tigers are willing to meet the A’s price. And for a farm system that isn’t exactly flush, the Tigers probably shouldn’t wipe it out. At least not for this team.

I don’t think this is a World Series team, but they are a team that is strong enough to compete and make the playoffs. I don’t think that Holliday would push them into the WS team category either.

But the Tigers do need to remain competitive. The Tigers have a ton of payroll, and will next year as well. The best thing for business would be a sustained pennant race and not a firesale (which I’ve heard people calling for already). They are going to be limited in terms of cost cutting, but they do have a chance for a nice revenue bump. Attendance is down 10K, but that is off a record setting year. Attendance is still quite good relative to the AL and the Tigers own history.

The Inge Factor

And then there are Inge’s knees. They are in bad shape, though there seems to be a little confusion on the actual injury. Inge said one was 75% torn, but I don’t know that is accurate. Kevin Rand said there were significant microtears, which is different than the condition that Inge was describing which would be more of a ruptured tendon. In any case, he’s not moving well and the Tigers don’t have great options to take his place either in the field or the lineup. The situation either makes getting a bat more important, or perhaps it changes the focus of what they are looking for.

Lost weekend and other ramblings

9-5. That was the series score. Tigers pitchers kept a very good offensive team to just 9 runs and yet were swept because Detroit went 1-26 with runners in scoring position. The numbers are pretty much mind boggling. And 3 of the Tigers 5 runs came on solo homers. The White Sox took 2 out of 3 games in their weekend series meaning that the Tigers lead is down to a slim 1.5 games. It was a crappy weekend for Detroit baseball. They got swept, they didn’t score, and they lost a relief pitcher for who knows how long. But I’ll find some good news in here somewhere.

Pitching is still good

The Tigers continue to get good pitching. Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson came out strong and pitched the way they had for the bulk of the first half of the season. Sustained success for both is key to the Tigers playoff chances and with Verlander’s history of second half struggles, and Jackson’s history of never having been this good before, those are both question marks where the early returns are promising.

Also, outside of Joel Zumaya’s blow-up, the bullpen was just as good as the starters. Fu-Te Ni is probably benefiting somewhat from being the new funky-delivery lefty, but his results have been as impressive with the big club as they were with Toledo. I guess the other good news is that the bullpen is nice and rested.

Unsustainable pace

Fortunately for the offense, they won’t continue to be that bad. Going 1 for 26 in any situational split, or any situation period, isn’t a sustainable pace. They’ll at the very least accidentally get a hit at some point in time. But here is the other side of the coin. The Tigers did a good job early in each of the 3 games of making the opposing starter work hard. They were taking pitches, drawing walks, and putting pressure on the starter and thus creating all those scoring opportunities in the first place. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the lineup got destroyed later in the game and the outs came quicker and easier. The Tigers hitters need to carry the types of approaches they were taking early in the game and sustain them throughout and continue to generate the scoring chances.

The Tigers need more offense, and I’d love to see them add a bat, but it goes way beyond that. Even if they trade for a stud, left handed hitting corner outfielder (which is unlikely), he is only going to hit once each time through the lineup. The Tigers have legitimate offensive threats already in the lineup that aren’t producing. One bat isn’t going to have a big impact as long as Granderson/Polanco/Cabrera continue to struggle.

What is Josh Anderson doing in the starting lineup?

One thing the Tigers could do to improve the offense is to remove Josh Anderson from the equation. Anderson had seemingly played himself out of a starting role before the All Star break with Ryan Raburn getting the bulk of the playing time in left field. From June 29th through the break Raburn had 9 starts, Anderson 5 (and one of those was in centerfield to spell Granderson). Raburn hit 323/364/581 over that span and Anderson hit 200/238/350 with no stolen bases. Yet the team gets to New York and Anderson starts 2 of the 3 games.

Raburn is OPS’ing over 800 against both lefties and righties and he has a pretty even mix of plate appearances this year. Anderson is OPS’ing under 650 against both lefties and righties while drawing 88% of his plate appearances against his favorable platoon side. While he is fast, he isn’t a good baserunner. The glaring mistakes are well known, but there are smaller ones as well. On Sunday he slid into second on a fly ball to centerfield. He was stealing and never saw the ball. Plus he had 2 defensive miscues this weekend. One cost the team runs, the other only cost Jackson 6 pitches. Outside of a late inning pinch runner he should have no role on this team, yet he continues to get starts.

Other Stuff

  • The extent of Joel Zumaya’s injury still isn’t fully known but it is a re-aggravation of his stress fracture. I’m sure the 3 inning outing in Minnesota didn’t help the situation, but I wouldn’t blame it either. That shoulder has experienced a ton of trauma. I think there are only so many times Zumaya can throw the ball 100mph before the next injury occurs.
  • The Tigers were 1 of 7 teams to have scouts on hand for Halladay’s outing yesterday. The White Sox weren’t. I don’t think the Tigers have the pieces, or at least pieces they’d be willing to part with, to get Halladay so I’d chalk up yesterday’s appearance to either due dilligence or gamesmanship.
  • What is the smarter financial move for Mike Ilitch, who is faced with decreased revenue due to lower ticket sales and decreased corporate sponsorship, dumping payroll or adding players to keep the Tigers in the hunt? Extended contention and a possible playoff birth will do more to help the franchise’s economic outlook than trying to save on salary. The Tigers need to get through 2010 and then there is considerable salary relief coming.
  • Brandon Lyon has added a cut fastball and he has tweaked his delivery.
  • Curtis Granderson is holding a wine-tasting charity event this Thursday that features a bachelor auction. For more information on purchasing tickets, or if you’d like to learn how you can take home your very own Granderson or Jackson head over the Grand Kids Foundation site.
  • FS Detroit has started to replay each Tiger game at midnight with the Tigers live postgame show to air at 3 a.m. So if you miss either the first time, you have a second chance to DVR it.
  • Also coming up on FS Detroit is Batting Stance Guy. He’ll be recreating Magglio Ordonez’s ALCS homer and Justin Verlander’s no hitter. For more on Gar Ryness, check out his appearance on Letterman. He’s already got a compilation of Tigers past and present.

About that Cabrera “rumor”

I‘m stunned by how much attention this has gotten, but there has been speculation on ESPN that the Tigers will have to look to trade Miguel Cabrera. It started with speculation mentioned by someone on ESPN (I’ve heard it attributed to Gammons/Olney/Kurkjian but I don’t know who actually said it) that if the Tigers are out of contention economic forces would make it necessary to trade Cabrera. Boston was the destination that had been mentioned. Somehow this speculation turned into a rumor. Well, now Dombrowski has come out and said what most in Detroit had been thinking, that the rumors are absurd.

First of all, the Tigers are contending at the moment. And all the experts agree that the Central is going to be a tight division. So even knowing very little there is a good chance that every team in the Central will be contending.

Second, Cabrera isn’t just another superstar. He’s a cornerstone type player who is on a Hall of Fame career trajectory and just entering his prime years. Mike Ilitch and the Tigers can afford to pay him or they wouldn’t have inked him to the contract in the first place.

Third, and I may be reading something into this that isn’t really there, but just because Boston or New York want a player doesn’t mean they will get them.
 
Beck’s Blog: Dombrowski: Cabrera rumors “absurd”

Analysis: Breaking down today’s roster decisions

Today’s roster decisions pretty much wrapped up nearly 2 months (and in some cases even more) of speculation. There is one spot yet to be decided. That will go to either Jeff Larish or Brent Clevlen, though the Tigers are reportedly in trade talks with the Pirates regarding Clevlen. (ironically, or at least coincidentally, such a trade would displace former Tiger Craig Monroe) But with 96% of the roster decided we shift our guessing from personnel to performance.
Continue reading Analysis: Breaking down today’s roster decisions

Is this the year Thames gets traded

The trade winds are blowing. On Sunday Peter Gammons mentioned Marcus Thames as a player the Tigers have made available. Now the Freep has two articles mentioning the fact that Thames is a trade candidate and that with 2 weeks left before the season, the phones are getting more active.

In the past when Thames name was floated, it was usually in an effort to acquire another big league player, like a relief pitcher. But with the pen seemingly in decent shape at the moment, this is more a matter of balancing a crowded outfield situation.

The starters are pretty well set (Guillen/Granderson/Ordonez) and the bench is tight and predominantly right handed. Working against Thames are his right handedness and the fact he can’t really back up in centerfield. Other right handers like Brent Clevlen (out of minor league options) and Ryan Raburn can play all 3 outfield positions. Thames spot could become Jeff Larish’s who could spell Cabrera and Inge on the infield and provide some left handed pop. Or it could become Clete Thomas’s who can also play all 3 outfield positions.

The downside to trading Thames is that you know what you get with Marcus. In the event of injury to a corner outfielder who you have veteran who will be able to provide some plus power. And if you look at left field an injury is really very likely. The other guys mentioned have much less of a track record and ceilings that aren’t remarkably high. It also would mean an end to the annual “Why isn’t Marcus Thames starting” debates.

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.

Like sands through the hourglass

I think it’s clear that the Tigers bullpen situation will be an on going saga. It’s been the lead story leading up to Tigerfest and will likely hold that distinction throughout spring training (unless of course someone gets injured in the World Baseball Classic). Without an established and healthy closer available, anyone that is brought in to help the pen wouldn’t be a lock to close games anyways.
Continue reading Like sands through the hourglass

Winter Meetings – Heading to Day 4

Could James Skelton be looking at a new team - cr Roger Dewitt
Could James Skelton be looking at a new team - cr Roger Dewitt

On the last day of the Winter Meetings things shift a little bit to the Rule 5 draft. Okay, not everything shifts to that, but it will be the focus in this here blog post.

A quick rule 5 primer is that teams can’t bury players in the minors forever. Eventually they have to add them to the 40 man roster or risk losing them to other teams. The time limit for this varies based on the player’s age when they signed. Teams with open space on their 40 man roster can select from this pool of players, but the catch is said player has to stay on the 25 man roster all season, or the player has to be offered back to the original team.
Continue reading Winter Meetings – Heading to Day 4

Tigers set to send talented outfielder to Tampa for guy who throws hard

I‘m having a hard time even writing about the rumored deal that will send Matt Joyce to Tampa for Edwin Jackson. Joyce might flame out, but Jackson has yet to even burn.

Jackson has a fastball that averages in excess of 93 MPH. That’s fast, but he doesn’t seem to fool a lot of people with a K rate last year that was lower than Nate Robertson’s. At least he made up for it by walking 77 hitters in 183 innings. Marcel projects him to have a FIP ERA of 4.64 which is a considerable improvement over the 4.89 he’s posted over the last 2 years. Jackson is also a flyball pitcher meaning he won’t benefit from the new left side infield defense. Jackson will only be 25, but he is out of options.

In exchange the Tigers surrender a their most promising left handed hitting prospect. A solid defender who posted an .831 OPS as a 23 year old making his big league debut. He’s blocked, sort of, this year but has 2 options left. And his being blocked is contingent on the health of Carlos Guillen and Gary Sheffield. In essence he was only going to be blocked in 2009 and even then it’s questionable.

I don’t know how Jackson fits in, whether he will be a starter or reliever. Oh yeah, and he’s eligible for arbitration. Good luck Rick Knapp. I don’t get this one at all.

DRays Bay loves this deal, as they should.

UPDATE: This is official as Friedman and Dombrowski have met with the media. Joe Hamrahi of Baseball Digest Daily was in there and posted these notes in his twitter feed.

So his role as starter or reliever is undetermined.

Winter Meetings – Heading to Day 3

I had so much hope after the first day of the winter meetings. The Tigers had two holes filled with plenty of money to fix the bullpen. Things aren’t going according to my plan.

Francisco Rodriguez was never an option for the Tigers, but he’s with the Mets. Kerry Wood was a very attractive, no compensatory draft pick, choice. But Wood chose the Indians.

The Tigers are still interested in J.J. Putz, but so are the Brewers. The Brewers have a better system and I don’t want the Tigers to get into a bidding war. Already Matt Joyce AND Jeff Larish AND Luis Marte have been discussed. That’s way too much for a guy with elbow ligament issues. It would be reminiscent of the Renteria trade in which the team instantly gets older. Joyce can’t be part of that deal.

But it sounds like the Mariners aren’t finding any matches and it’s unclear of the Tigers met with the Mariners today.

Brandon Lyon is a secondary arm I’d like to see the Tigers add. He’s talking to the Red Sox now.

Yes, Brian Fuentes (Rosenthal says the Tigers are interested in Fuentes) and Juan Cruz are still out there. Either would mean parting with the second round pick in next year’s draft.

Meanwhile the Tigers don’t like the Bobby Seay-Clay Rapada-Nate Robertson possibilities as lefties and continue to pursue Joe Beimel. Beimel is suitable as a LOOGY, but he wouldn’t be paid or used that way. The guy has walked more right handed batters in his career than he’s struck out. Don’t be fooled by the low ERA last year. Other than an ability to limit homers he isn’t a good pitcher.

If they can’t get Beimel then John Parrish is the back-up plan. Parrish has walked 6.10 batters per 9 innings over his career. Yippee. The walk numbers have been more mediocre to not good as of late, but the K-rate has gone the same way. He strikes me more as a spring training NRI than someone worthy of a 40 man roster spot.

Here’s hoping tomorrow is a better day.

UDPATE Wednesday 5:58 a.m.:

UPDATE Wednesday 7:43 p.m. Thanks to everyone for participating and keeping the rumors flowing today. Sheffield and Smoltz? Huh.

Winter Meetings – Heading to Day 2

With the Tigers being fairly active today, there won’t be a lot of speculation about those catcher and shortstop holes. But there still are items of interest on the relief pitching front. Here’s the buzz as I get ready to sign off for the night. This will be our day 2 rumor repository as well.

Chad Cordero will meet with 5 teams. The Tigers are one of them. I wonder if Cordero gets a big league deal from anyone or he chooses the best looking minor league contract.

Brandon Lyon, a favorite target of mine, will be meeting with the Royals along with Kyle Farnsworth.

As for the closer market, the Tigers are still connected to J.J. Putz and Kerry Wood. Their price could be heavily dictated by K-Rod who received an offer from the Mets that is expected to be 2 and 24 with a 3rd year option. Not quite the $75 million people were expecting heading into the offseason.

On that front, division rival Cleveland met with Kerry Wood’s people this evening and are still interested in Brian Fuentes and Trevor Hoffman.

I’ll post more as I hear it. As always I recommend checking out http://mlbtraderumors.com as well as Twitter for updates on the winter meetings.

UPDATE: 7:30 p.m. Kerry Wood is off the market and to the Indians. Damn. He wouldn’t have cost a draft pick or prospects. The Tigers continue to pursue J.J. Putz but I’d just assume not get into a prospect bidding war with the Brewers for a guy who is coming off an elbow injury.

Jason Beck continues to report Joe Beimel rumors. Let’s just say that Day 1 seems better than Day 2 so far.