That’s using all your outs

The Tigers performance with runners in scoring position of late has caused much consternation and understandably so. Sometime the failures have just been failures, but during this recent stretch a significant portion was just bad luck. It’s only fitting then that Ramon Santiago plated the go-ahead run with an “excuse-me” flop shot to left.

Brian Fuentes and the Angels were 1 strike away from escaping the 9th inning with the game tied when Santiago reached down and somehow lifted the ball into shallow left field. A good jump and secondary lead by Gerald Laird let him reach home just before the tag.

Continue reading That’s using all your outs

Ramon Santiago signs 2 year deal

The Tigers announced that they have signed Ramon Santiago to a 2 year contract. Santiago has 5.095 years of service time meaning that the contract secures him through his club control years.

I’m a little surprised to see a 2 year deal for Santiago who is essentially a utility player. Terms weren’t announced, but Santiago made $825,000 last year meaning this deal will probably pay him a little over $1 million each of the next 2 seasons. Santiago is an average-ish defender who showed some surprising power the last 2 years. He was a .5 WAR player last year and a 1 WAR player the year before.

The Tigers avoid arbitration with Santiago and have 13 of their 40 players signed for 2010.

Image credit: DanCox on flickr

Winter Meetings Day 2

The first day of the Winter Meetings has come to an end and the sun is coming up on a snowy second day. For Tigers fans there was no shortage of news and drama. To recap:

Continue reading Winter Meetings Day 2

Detroit Tigers Weblog Live 12.12.08

Wrapping up the winter meetings…

In this episode I talk of disappointment with the Matt Joyce trade and why I don’t think Edwin Jackson is the guy to get. I also talk about how James Skelton shouldn’t have been left exposed in the Rule 5 draft. I speculate about whether or not the failed auto loan will impact the team.

Links from the show:

Detroit Tigers Weblog Live – The Pilot

This is the DTW’s first foray into live web video. The show will kick off at 11 a.m. and you can watch it below. If you’d like to make comments you can head over to the ustream.tv page and join in the chat. I’ll be talking about the Tigers offseason, and the Jack Wilson rumors. Feel free to ask questions and I’ll try to tackle those as well.

I’ll try and archive this for later viewing after the show, and links I mention I will include in this post as well.

UPDATE: The archived version is now up below.

Continue reading Detroit Tigers Weblog Live – The Pilot

Junkballing: Zach Miner, Tiger Stadium, and injured shortstops

Zach Miner starts again

The question of the 5th starter has been answered – for now. Zach Miner will take the spot formerly occupied by Eddie Bonine and before him Dontrelle Willis. Miner had some struggles with control out of the pen this year. But in two “stretch-out” starts for Toledo he has posted a 12:2 strike out to walk ratio in 8.1 innings. I’m in favor of giving Miner a shot, but I think there will be a pretty quick switch if he starts running every count full and walking people.

Is Tiger Stadium saved?

There have been deadline extenstions, and votes to keep some parts, and votes to knock the whole thing down. But now the Daily Fungo points to a news release on Carl Levin’s web site that there is $4 million earmarked for Corktown preservation and redevelopment. Presumably this is the money that the Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy is hoping to obtain to save a portion of the stadium.

Injured middle infielders littered throughout the system

When the Tigers traded away their stud centerfield prospects middle infield became the organizational position of strength. Instead it’s become the organizational position of DL stays and ibuprofen. Edgar Renteria is battling a hamstring injury that he reagravated tonight.

Cale Iorg, the Tigers big time bonus pick from last year just hit the DL for Lakeland. His keystone partner Scott Sizemore has missed a big chunk of the season with a broken bone in his hand. Danny Worth, another draft pick from last year who has been a defensive whiz for Erie is now missing time. And high ceiling shortstop Audy Ciriaco just went on the DL for West Michigan.

And while they are health now, both Ramon Santiago and Mike Hollimon missed time this season due to separated shoulders.

It must be something they are putting in the water at second base.

Tigers getting pieces back

It appears that Brandon Inge is close to returning and he’ll join Toledo on Monday for a rehab assignment.

Also, Rod and Mario mentioned during today’s broadcast that Ramon Santiago could be back for the Cleveland series. Going into tonight’s game (and he’s 0 for 2 as I write this), Santiago is 2 for 21 with 2 walks and 6 K’s with the Mud Hens. So he hasn’t found that stroke he had going with the Tigers earlier this season.

Of course Santiago’s return likely means that Michael Hollimon gets sent down. Hollimon has played well since some jitters in his first start in San Francisco.

Tigers Make Line Change

The Tigers announced a ton of roster moves today:

  • Clete Thomas and Ramon Santiago hit the 15 day DL
  • Mike Hollimon and Brent Clevlen were brought up to take their places.
  • Aquilino Lopez was placed on the bereavement list and Denny Bautista was reinstated from the DL.

Middle infield depth takes a hit

Ramon Santiago dislocated his shoulder on a diving play today and appears headed to the disabled list. I have to believe that Mike Hollimon would have his contract purchased to be the new utility infielder. At the same time, Lakeland second baseman Scott Sizemore is hitting the DL after injuring his wrist swinging.

The Santiago news is disappointing – and this is from someone who was stumping for Hollimon to make the team over Santiago this winter. Santiago had been playing better than I would have ever expected hitting 353/476/618 in limited playing time going into today. This afternoon he added another walk and one of the Tigers 3 hits. I know small sample sizes and all, but he’d looked very good.

Hollimon stuck in big league camp this spring until he had a sublaxation of his shoulder. He got a late start to his season. He’s not hitting for a lot of average with a 253/325/552 line, but he does have 12 homers and is a switch hitter.

He looks good, he’s happy, and other reports from spring training

Imagine if the players turned the tables on the beat writers during spring training and wrote stories about the beat writers.

“The official reporting date wasn’t until the 14th, but he was down here a couple weeks ago getting ready.”

“You can tell he was really working out this offseason. His vocabulary has grown as much as his forearms. Both are the product of intensive typing.”

“He’s excited to be down here. You can hear it in his voice when he talks about how excited he is to get to work.”

“As the new guy on the beat, he’s still trying to get a feel for his fellow media members, but he seems to be fitting in great.”

“As a 6 year veteran, and the only remaining beat writer from that awful 2003 team, it’s clear that he’s a leader in and out of the locker room and the other guys look to him for cues.”

“He’s excited to try out the new language he was working on over the winter. By adding Spanish to his repertoire he should really have an advantage over the competition. If he can gain confidence in it, it could be what he needs to push him from beat writer to elite columnist.”

I kid of course, especially on a day when there is so much news coming out of camp.
Continue reading He looks good, he’s happy, and other reports from spring training

Why Ramon Santiago

I don’t get it. It seems as if Ramon Santiago is a lock to make the roster but I can’t figure out a good reason why. Lynn Henning said that Santiago’s job is the safest of the bench candidates. Danny Knobler also has Santiago slotted into the bench as an automatic. But should it be a given? Shouldn’t Santiago’s spot be tenuous at best?

I don’t enjoy writing these types of posts. The posts where I spend a few hundred words talking about why a player shouldn’t be with the team. I’m the type who is usually rooting for people, and this is the opposite of my normal tone. But Santiago simply shouldn’t have a guaranteed job on a club of this caliber.

I’ve already looked at the roster crunch and when I drew up my bench it was pretty easy to leave Santiago in Toledo. The Tigers have a back up shortstop in Carlos Guillen, who would be perfectly fine there on a limited basis. They have a back-up second baseman in Ryan Raburn. They have a back up third baseman in Brandon Inge. Aside from designated sacrifice bunting duties I fail to see what Santiago brings to the table.

He is often referred to as a defensive whiz, and admittedly he does look silky smooth in the field with a plus arm. But looking at advanced defensive metrics like Ultimate Zone Rating, Santiago rates fairly poor. From 2003 to the All Star break last season Santiago was -23 runs per 150 games at second base and -28 runs per 150 games at shortstop. The data is far from conclusive because of Santiago’s limited playing time. Still, this is aggregated over several season so it can be dismissed either.

Offensively Santiago brings little other than the aforementioned bunting ability and some speed as a pinch runner. For his career Santiago is a 231/294/306 hitter which is good for an OPS+ of 63. For those unfamiliar with OPS+, 100 is an average player. Inge, who’s offensive struggles have been well documented is an 85 OPS+ for his career.

The role he would play on the team would be as a sub and defensive replacement. The are more capable subs already on the roster, and as a defensive replacement who would he be replacing. He wouldn’t go in for Polanco, and I don’t see him usurping Edgar Renteria in the late innings. And in the even rarer case where Miguel Cabrera is lifted in the late innings that spot has to go to Brandon Inge.

The biggest reason for keeping Santiago is that he is out of options. However, Santiago has passed through waivers on several occasions and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t make it through again. I’m generally in favor of hording talent and playing the options game when everything else is equal (see Zach Miner getting the short option straw), but everything else isn’t equal this time. Ryan Raburn is the far superior player. His arm matches Santiago’s, and while he can’t play shortstop he still offers Leyland flexibility. And while I don’t expect Raburn to repeat his 304/340/507 line from last year, I think league average production is a reasonable assumption.

I know that Jim Leyland likes Santiago, but that hasn’t assured him a spot on the roster in the past. Santiago didn’t break camp with the team last year when Leyland chose the beleaguered Neifi Perez and Omar Infante in the spring. Even when Perez was suspended, it was Raburn who was promoted and not Santiago. Santiago didn’t get his call until late August when Guillen’s knees just couldn’t take shortstop on a daily basis. Santiago was also sent to Toledo in 2006. While Leyland may like Santiago, I don’t know that he likes him enough to hand him a spot when there are such clear upgrades available.

A trade of Marcus Thames or Brandon Inge would certainly open up a roster spot, but I’d view both moves as unlikely. Vance Wilson not being ready could also clear a spot, at least initially. But it wouldn’t shock me to see the Tigers actually take a 13th pitcher in that case due to the roster crunch in the pen, an area that is much more tenuous for the team than middle infield.

Back-up plans

The Tigers are fortunate to not have any positions really up in the air when they head to spring training. At least not for the starters. The bench on the other hand has a number of candidates competing for limited spots. Marcus Thames, Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, Freddy Guzman, Mike Hessman, and Ramon Santiago are all gunning for what amounts to 3 bench positions. How will it shake out?

Let’s start with some assumptions. These could be wrong, or you may disagree, but this is where I’m starting from:

  • Brandon Inge will break camp with the team
  • Vance Wilson will not have to start the season on the DL
  • Marcus Thames doesn’t get traded

Those assumptions leave very little wiggle room. With a bench of only 4 players that leaves only one spot up in the air.

Position Starter Backup Backup
C Pudge Wilson Inge
1B Guillen Thames Cabrera
2B Polanco ???
3B Cabrera Inge
SS Renteria Guillen Inge??
LF Jones Thames Sheffield
CF Granderson Jones Inge
RF Ordonez Sheffield Thames

The only position where the Tigers don’t have an established player to back-up is second base. I thought about penciling Inge in there, but seeing as he has never played the position and he’ll be busy re-learning to catch, that position provides the least amount of comfort. With that in mind that last spot likely goes to either Ramon Santiago or Ryan Raburn.

The strengths and weaknesses of the bench candidates are below:

  • Marcus Thames: Thames has big time power, and other than 2007 has shown an ability to take a walk. He also has a new contract meaning that Thames is still in the team’s plans. The downside is that he plays the positions lowest on the defensive spectrum and he is another right handed bat. Still, Jacque Jones needs a platoon partner in left field and Thames would be the first choice.
  • Brandon Inge: Unlikely to be moved and both Inge and the team need him to re-establish his value. He becomes very important if Wilson isn’t available.
  • Ramon Santiago: A Jim Leyland favorite for his defense and a switch hitter. Or at least a batter who stands on both sides of the plate. Out of options, but probably not a big risk to be claimed on waivers either.
  • Ryan Raburn: Very versatile and has a better bat than you’ll typically see on the bench. But again, like the rest of the team he hits right handed. He has options which could work against him, though it probably shouldn’t.
  • Mike Hessman: Excellent defender at the corners, but yet another right handed bat. Leyland seemed to take a liking to him, but he has serious contact issues. Short of an injury to a corner player, I don’t see a way the Tigers could justify putting him on the 25 man roster.
  • Freddy Guzman: Guzman is out of options which could work to his advantage. Also to his advantage is that he’s a left handed hitter, and he’s fast. But he also plays outfield where the Tigers have some considerable depth already. He’s out of options though and has an outside shot of coming North, but he seems more like a September call up type of player.

If I’m responsible for the roster, I take Marcus Thames, Brandon Inge, Vance Wilson, and Ryan Raburn given the assumptions above. Raburn would most likely end up thirsting for at-bats as the majority would go to Inge. Still, that bench gives you a pretty solid combination of offensive pop and defensive flexibility. This would require passing Freddy Guzman and Ramon Santiago through waivers though. Santiago has cleared a number of times and I don’t see that being a problem. As for Guzman, I’m not sure. The Rangers could claim him back I suppose, but I don’t see that as being too big of a concern.