Tigers I have known

A quick look at some former Tigers and their performances in their new homes:

Gary Sheffield

Sheffield is in the midst of that bounce back season that many were hoping for, and few were expecting. He has a 292/433/521 line and is walking in one out of every 5 plate appearances. And Mets fans are loving it

I wasn’t in the camp that “Sheffield was done” in the sense he couldn’t hit anymore. But I was (and still am) in the camp that said Sheffield couldn’t stay healthy anymore. Fortunately the Tigers are winning and offensive struggles haven’t been prolonged or else we’d be hearing about what a mistake it was to let Sheffield walk.

Matt Joyce

I like Matt Joyce. I like him a lot. I don’t like him like him, but I do think he’s a very good player. He has toiled primarily at AAA where he has a 315/408/530 line. He was just recalled to the Rays and he homered yesterday. He only has 15 PA’s at the big league level but has homered twice already.

Guillermo Moscoso

The centerpiece of the deal that brought Gerald Laird to Detroit was just called up to the Texas Rangers. In his first appearance he went an inning allowing 2 hits with 1 strikeout.

He had been pitching fairly well for the Rangers Double A affiliate. He had a 7.7 K/9 rate and fanning 2.5 for every batter he walked. He only allowed 1 homer in 42.1 innings.

James Skelton

The little left handed hitting catching prospect was selected by the Diamondbacks in the Rule 5 draft. Arizona didn’t want to keep him on the big league roster and the Tigers didn’t want him back too much (they got Brooks Brown as compensation). He’s playing for the Arizona Double A team and has a .376 OBP. But he’s only hitting .221 and with only 7 extra base hits his slugging is south of .300.

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.

Risk/Reward

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.
Continue reading Some more Sheffield stuff

Gary Sheffield released

Wow. I actually suspected that at some point this year Gary Sheffield would get released. I didn’t expect the week before the season began. Being owed $14 million I thought that the Tigers would give Sheffield a chance to perform before cutting their losses. The timing of this is stunning and puts yesterday’s move into perspective.

I expected Sheffield to hit when healthy this year, but I didn’t expect for him to stay healthy. He’s been relatively quiet this spring, with the bat and his mouth.

As for what this means? I’d guess that Marcus Thames would be the primary DH and this may be his chance to hit those 40 home runs.

I’ll have more on this later tonight. In the meantime nice call by Scott Warheit yesterday.

UPDATE: Other roster moves announced today bring the total in camp down to 31

  • Jeremy Bonderman to the 15 Day DL
  • Clete Thomas optioned to AAA
  • Wil Rhymes and Timo Perez assigned to minor league camp.

Daily Linking – 9/19/08

Links of note, or stuff I find interesting, or stuff I think you might find interesting

Junkballing: Booing, Injuries, Waivers and Minors

A hodgepodge of all the stuff that went down this week that just didn’t fit anywhere else:

Much ado about a boo

A lot of disgruntled fans did a lot of booing this week. Gary Sheffield received his share when culmination about frustration with his production collided with Sheff being Sheff. That was noisy, but not too surprising. Sheffield responded somewhat, and was still a little misguided.

“Compare me to me,” Sheffield said. “If you’re looking for .300, 30 [home runs] and 100 [RBIs], then I look pretty awful right now. I ain’t the only .220 hitter in this game. I ain’t the last one to hit .220, but it’s never a big deal when a lot of guys that play everyday, hit in the same spot everyday, and hit .220 and nobody says a thing.”

But Gary, you’re getting paid to be you and that’s the problem. You’re not being paid to be a .220 hitter.

But there was more booing. Joel Zumaya bore the brunt of it when he and Bobby Seay blew a 3 run lead. Zumaya, who said it felt like his shoulder exploded, wasn’t a fan saying

“I think it’s pretty lame,” Zumaya said. “I give it everything I’ve got.”

Bobby Seay didn’t appreciate it either.

I’m not a fan of booing. I understand it, but it’s not something I do. That said I don’t know that the booing was directed specifically at Zumaya and specifically at the outing. But it was general frustration with the bullpen crapping the bed again.

Oww, my aching…

The medical staff has been busy, but it seems like everything has been reactive. Todd Jones hits the DL after getting destroyed repeatedly. Joel Zumaya hits the DL after blowing up. It’s reminiscent of Jeremy Bonderman’s situation last year. I understand players wanting to play through things, but how many times once the team suffer for a player trying to gut it out.

But then you’ve got the other side where in that previously linked Sheffield article he said he was hurting, his trainer said he’s doing too much, but the organization said he was fine.

“I’m just going to give it to you straight,” he said. “When the organization tells you that you’re fine, I can’t say I’m not fine. I have to be on the same page as the organization. That’s just the way it goes.

“I talked to my trainer, and he said, basically, what I’m doing is unrealistic. That’s what he said. I said, ‘Why won’t anyone say that on my behalf? Why do I always have to come up here and defend me?’ And he just said, ‘Be realistic with yourself.’ That’s all I needed to hear. After that, I felt good about walking on the field. I have no extra incentives to play hurt.

I don’t understand it.

Jeremy Bonderman will be rejoining the team this weekend, but to rehab and likely not play.

And speaking of injuries, Marcus Thames is expected back in a day or two, as is Carlos Guillen who is dealing with a pinched nerve in his back. And Freddy Dolsi was optioned out to Toledo to make room for Todd Jones who is back. Though his role hasn’t been decided. Dolsi will likely be back when rosters expand.

Waivering

Gary Sheffield cleared waivers. Shocking. The bigger news is that the Tigers put in a claim on Raul Ibanez. Corner outfield/DH doesn’t appear to be a need for the Tigers so I can’t figure out the intent unless they hoped to get him for free, and then take the draft picks when he walks. Luckily they didn’t work out a trade that would have had the Tigers sending the Mariners anything of value.

Minor interest

The Tigers have had some good news in their farm system this year from some unexpected sources. And it’s getting some press. Wilkin Ramirez is a high ceiling guy that has had his progression and production limited by injuries. But he’s putting it all together this year earning this assessment from a scout:

“He has power, on-base skills, and don’t forget that he’s a 60 [on the 20-to-80 scouting scale] runner as well. His defense is adequate, but I think he’s the kind of guy who is an everyday corner outfielder on a first-division team—he could be pretty special.”

Also in the same article are some kind words for James Skelton, though scouts still can’t decide if his slight frame is an issue.

Another catcher making noise is Dusty Ryan. Tigs Town recently profiled him.

With the Tigers concerns at the catching position heading into 2009, Ryan will have a wonderful opportunity to enter Spring Training with a chance to impress and earn a big league job.

Finally, Ryan Strieby has been destroying the Florida State League.

Sheffield on waivers isn’t news

Gary Sheffield was placed on waivers today. This is a non-event. The only reason this is currently noteworthy is that it didn’t happen earlier. The only way it becomes noteworthy is if a team puts in a claim.

Just because Sheffield is on waivers does not mean he is going anywhere. These are revocable waivers and it is a procedural thing that needs to be done for the team to be able to trade Sheffield. Many players are put on waivers, and Sheffield is likely one of many Tigers.

Sheffield is in the lineup tonight because he is still on the team, and will most likely be when the waiver period expires on Thursday afternoon.

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.

As the Trade Winds Blow

With a week before the non-waiver trade deadline, rumors are flying everywhere. A quick round-up of Tigers items of note so far:

It appears that the Tigers had scouts at the Orioles/Blue Jays game when A.J. Burnett started. Whether they were scouting Burnett or lefty reliever George Sherrill is unclear. The Tigers could of course use some starter help, and there is a belief they are looking for a lefty reliever also.

The starter isn’t a surprise, but the Tigers could always turn to Clay Rapada. And while I haven’t been a proponent of Casey Fossum, he has been pretty good in his last 7 outings. He’s stranded 8 of the last 10 runners he’s inherited and fanned 11 in his last 14.1 innings. Plus he’s had 3.1 and 4.1 inning games. I’m not saying there isn’t room to upgrade, but would that be the best use of limited chits?

Jayson Stark notes that the Tigers are offering Gary Sheffield. He could still fetch a player or two if the Tigers pay the bulk of the salary. The mildly surprising part is that Stark lists a young shortstop on the Tigers wish list. Yes Renteria has been awful, but I’d guess the Tigers would look for a stop gap. Mike Hollimon is more of a second baseman, but could fill in at short and some combination of Cale Iorg, Danny Worth, and even longer shot/higher ceiling player Audy Ciriaco could be reading within a year or year and a half. The Renteria 1 year/1 option year contract was attractive for that reason (before the sucking of course).

And then in the old news department the Marlins inquired on Pudge Rodriguez. Pudge is having a very solid year – not a $13 million year – but he does probably represent the best production that could be available at the position. Rodriguez would likely fetch 2 draft picks should the Tigers offer arbitration and he declines. I’d view the declining as likely because he’d probably pursue a multi-year contract.

Of course the intensity of any buying or selling on the Tigers part is likely to pick up following this weekend tilt with the White Sox.

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”

Sheffield activated?

UPDATE: Sheffield has been reinstated and Larish has been optioned to Toledo.

There’s been no official word from the Tigers yet, but it appears that Gary Sheffield is Detroit bound. According to the Lakeland Ledger, Sunday’s game was Sheffield’s last rehab outing and he left to join the team.

During Sheffield’s rehab stint he only had 2 hits, both homers, in 13 at-bats. And in typical Sheffield fashion he drew 6 walks while striking out just once.

Presumably this would mean Jeff Larish is optioned back to Toledo. And hopefully this doesn’t impact Marcus Thames playing time.

(Hat tip to Kathy who posted this link in the comments)

Ramblings on Sheff’s rehab

With Gary Sheffield beginning his rehab assignment I’ve heard quite a bit from Tigers fans that are actually concerned that Sheffield is coming back. Sheffield and his struggles have been received a considerable portion of the blame for the Tigers struggles. Now that the team is playing better and Sheffield isn’t around, people don’t want to mess with a good thing. That’s well and good, but why wouldn’t you want to upgrade a struggling position?

In June the Tigers DH’s are hitting 192/288/365. Jeff Larish has provided the bulk of that production with a few starts going to Magglio Ordonez and Marcus Thames. Prior to hitting the DL Sheffield was “producing” at a 213/344/331 clip. Awful to be sure, and not in line with his contract (who cares, sunk cost) or his reputation, but fifty points of OBP is pretty significant.

If there’s a chance that Sheffield can produce anywhere close to his pre-shoulder-injury numbers, don’t you want him back in your lineup? Yes I worry that he comes back and the shoulder still isn’t working and he’s allowed to flounder for an extended period of time. But the at-bats he’ll be taking will be mostly Larish’s. And yes you may give up a couple of Raburn’s and Clevlen’s at-bats and their gloves to a certain extent in the outfield which at this point the gloves would be the bigger loss.

I share the concerns that the Tigers are willing to let Sheffield completely dictate when he’s ready to come back. It’s that tricky trade-off of applauding a guy who tries to play through pain and chastising him when he doesn’t get removed from the lineup.

It’s a problem not unique to the Tigers. The Indians are dealing with the same things with Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez. It caused Rob Neyer to question

Really? The Indians were better as a ballclub with a .216-hitting catcher with zero power? Speaking of which, Hafner’s batting .217/.326/.350 in 46 games. No, he wasn’t much good last season, but his numbers this season are simply beyond the pale. Here’s a question I’d like to see someone answer: How many games does the average team throw away in a season on guys who aren’t healthy enough to play, but do anyway? I’ll bet it’s more than three.

But here’s the rub, especially for stat-heads. When does it go from random fluctuation to performance impacted by injury? Batting average is highly volatile in and of itself and of course it impacts OBP and slugging. So when is that time when you’re no longer riding out a slump and are now throwing away at-bats?

A seemingly healthy Sheffield hit 200/369/306 in April 2007. That turned out to be a slump as he exploded in the subsequent 2.5 months to bring his season numbers more in line with career expectations. Now here you are in 2008 and your player says he is fine and the medical staff says he is fine, but he’s slumping. What’s the correct move for the team?

I think it’s clear that the Tigers waited too long with Sheffield. It became too long when Sheffield himself started admitting that the shoulder wouldn’t always “fire” like it should. When the player is saying that it isn’t working it’s probably time to shelve him. But the decision isn’t always so clear cut.

Tigers Minor League Wrap & Rehab Report: 6-16-08

Syracuse 2 Toledo 5
Joel Zumaya pitched 1 inning, allowing 2 hits and an unearned run, but he walked no one and fanned 2. Clete Thomas is playing again and was a triple short of the cycle with 2 stolen bases so the ankle is probably okay. Chris Lambert fanned 6 in 6 innings while only allowing 1 run on 4 hits.

Erie DNP

Lakeland 3 Sarasota 2 (11 innings)
Gary Sheffield hit 3rd and DH’d tonight. He flew out twice and walked before being lifted for a pinch hitter. I’m not sure if he aggravated something or if it was part of the plan. Brennan Boesch had 4 hits and Ryan Strieby had 3. Duane Below allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk in 7 innings while striking out 3. Jay Sborz pitched 3 perfect innings of relief.

Wesst Michigan DNP