Detroit Tigers: Bullpen Names to Watch

It’s no secret that the Detroit Tigers have had bullpen issues. Detroit finished below league-average in numerous bullpen categories in 2014, including saves and holds.

Additionally, the team’s bullpen allowed 4.35 runs per game, easily the worst among playoff teams. Lastly, the team had an Inherited Score Percentage (which, per Baseball Reference, is “the percentage of runners on base when pitcher entered the game who subsequently scored) of 33% – fifth worst in the league. In other words, one of every three runners that Tigers relievers inherited scored. This stat is especially bad when you consider that Detroit inherited 244 runners, seventh worst of all teams.

While the bullpen will be largely improved thanks to expected bounce-back seasons from Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria, the return of Bruce Rondon and the consistent presence of Al Alburquerque, there are other names to track as we inch towards Opening Day.

Angel Nesbitt

None of these pitchers are locks to make the roster like a Nathan or a Soria, making them all dark horses to a degree. However, Nesbitt may be the biggest dark horse of the group. Unlike the relievers that follow, the flame-throwing 24-year-old doesn’t have any major league experience.

What he does have is stuff, including a fastball that approaches 100 MPH.

Nesbitt posted an impressive 1.48 ERA at two minor league stops in 2014 while striking out 9.7 batters per nine innings. He also compiled 20 saves.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see him start the year at Triple-A in order to obtain more experience, but if he doesn’t start the year with the big club, look for him to get a call up at some point in 2015.

Josh Zeid

Once upon a time, Hunter Pence was traded from Houston to Philadelphia. In exchange for parting with Pence, the Astros received a package that included Jarred Cosart, Jon Singleton, Domingo Santana… and Zeid.

Cosart has a cumulative 3.26 ERA in 40 career starts and was flipped at the last trade deadline to Houston for an additional haul of prospects, including two former top 100 prospects. Singleton is so highly thought of that the Astros signed him through 2021 despite having no big league experience. Santana made his major league debut last season.

Zeid debuted in 2013 with a solid season. In only 25 games, he posted a 3.90 ERA, recorded a save and struck out 24 batters in 27.2 innings. The former Astro has experience in the minors as a starter but has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since 2012. Despite a 6.97 ERA in 2014, there are numerous positives to be had with Zeid.

He shows promise as a lefty specialist after holding left-handed batters to a .178 batting average and a .275 OBP in 2013. He struggled mightily with lefties in 2014, allowing a .455 batting average and a .500 OBP. Nonetheless, his performances in 2013 show that he has potential to be useful bullpen arm for Detroit.

Alex Wilson

Acquired as part of the Rick Porcello trade, Alex Wilson may start the season with Detroit. The Tigers clearly could use some new blood in the bullpen and Wilson provides that. He posted a 1.91 ERA in 18 appearances for Boston in 2014 and proved to particularly useful against right-handed batters, limiting them to a .151 batting average and a meager .476 OPS.

Another transitioned starter, Wilson will likely provide Brad Ausmus with another weapon to use out of the bullpen, along with Nathan, Soria, Bruce Rondon, Al Alburquerque and Tom Gorzelanny.

Ian Krol

Similar to Wilson, Krol came over as a secondary piece in a trade for a starting pitcher. Krol was acquired with the since departed duo of Robbie Ray and Steve Lombardozzi for Doug Fister.

It was hit and miss for Krol in his first go-around in Detroit. He came out of the gate strong with a 3.38 ERA in March/April and improved on that number in May with a 1.59 mark in 16 appearances. It went downhill soon after that. The former National’s ERA in June was 11.12. He only made 10 appearance the rest of the way, seven of which came in July. The reliever’s ERA in that month? 9.00.

Krol, along with Nathan and Soria, should have a bounce-back season. He showed promise early in Detroit and in Washington where he posted a 3.95 ERA in 32 appearances. Hopefully the adjustment period is over and Krol can go back to being a critical member of the Tigers bullpen.

Blaine Hardy

Plucked from free agency in 2013, Blaine Hardy had a solid first season in Motown. In 39 innings, he posted a 2.54 ERA, providing one of the few bright spots in an otherwise frustrating year for the bullpen.

Hardy will look to continue his success in 2015. Although a roster spot isn’t a 100% guarantee thanks to a rough spot down the stretch (5.40 ERA over his last nine appearances), expect him to be with the Tigers at some point in 2015—regardless of if he makes the team out of Spring Training.

Joel Hanrahan

At the height of his prime, Joel Hanrahan was a two-time All-Star closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates, converting 76 save in a two year span while turning in a sparkling 2.24 ERA. In four years with the Pirates he posted an ERA of 2.59 as a reliever.

It’s easy to forget those years he spent in Pittsburgh were from 2009 to 2012.

Hanrahan has had trouble recovering from injury as of late, but should he be healthy come the regular season, he’ll be a massive part of the Tigers’ success. Along with Nathan and Soria he would give Detroit three pitchers who have saved 40 games in a season, a rarity in today’s game. If all three pitch like they’re capable of, the Tigers could have a lockdown bullpen—something that hasn’t been muttered in Detroit for a long time.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Detroit Tigers: Internal Replacements for Victor Martinez

The latest from the Detroit Tigers is that designated hitter Victor Martinez has a torn meniscus and will undergo surgery next week.

V-Mart won’t miss the entire season due to the injury, but it could leave him out for an extended amount of time. According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, players have returned from the surgery in one or two months. Knowing this, it’s likely Martinez will miss Spring Training.  

The recently released Dayan Viciedo represents one of the few free agent alternatives, other options on the market include the likes of Jason Kubel, Ryan Doumit and Nate Schierholtz. This list could change once teams start making cuts in Spring Training, but it’s what the Tigers have to work with at present.

Detroit may fancy their chances finding another J.D. Martinez in the early months of the season to provide cover, but the team may look to fill the gap internally, here are few options for the team.

James McCann

While not a candidate to be used every day as a V-Mart placeholder, McCann can provide the Tigers with value stepping in every now and again. The young catcher wouldn’t be a direct replacement in terms of being the DH, but he would allow manager Brad Ausmus to shift the team around.

McCann would start behind the dish in most scenarios, the catcher is one of Detroit’s better position player prospects and brings a defensive-minded mentality to the game. Additionally, he hit .295 at Triple-A, showing some potential as a two-way contributor at the big league level.

Starting McCann would allow the team to slide Alex Avila to first base, something that has been brought up before. When you also consider Avila’s health issues and the toll they’ve taken on his offensive numbers, some time spent at first makes sense.

Like Martinez, Miguel Cabrera is a question mark to start the season on the active roster. Avila could provide cover at first base while the former MVP recovers. Even if Cabrera is ready to go, they’ll likely be cautious with him—which means taking a good portion of the designated hitter at-bats that V-Mart is potentially vacating.

Starting McCann at catcher would be a win-win situation in the sense that Avila and Cabrera’s health would be preserved so that they can be their best offensively.

Corner Outfielder A, B or C

As of right now, Detroit has three quality corner outfielders on their roster. Three outfielders who would start for most teams—Yoenis Cespedes, J.D. Martinez and Rajai Davis. With the DH spot open, Ausmus and the Tigers could rotate the three between starting in the field and being designated hitter so they stay fresh.

With the return of Jose Iglesias and the arrival of Cespedes and Anthony Gose, it’s clear that Detroit will be a much improved defensive unit in 2015. Knowing this, the Tigers could start their strongest defensive duo in the outfield and not have to worry about losing the third’s bat as the remaining outfielder can slot in at DH. The situation also allows the flexibility for the outfielders to be utilized in situations where they thrive, like Davis who should probably start against left-handed pitching after mashing .356 against southpaws in 2014.

The Prospects

For all the unfair grief Detroit’s minor league system has gotten recently, they have some quality depth in the outfield.

The 6’6” slugging outfielder known as Steven Moya possesses phenomenal raw power that could translate into big home run numbers once he reaches Motown. In addition to him, the team will also be able to call on Tyler Collins, a more all-around type who is solid in most aspects of the game on both sides of the ball.

Both Moya and Collins got limited playing time in Detroit last season, but the two wild cards may be outfielders who have never worn the Old English “D” in a game. Daniel Fields has long been considered a solid prospect, but was hit with the injury bug in 2014. Because of this, former sixth-round pick was never able to establish himself at Triple-A Toledo last season and as a result wasn’t able to help the Tigers in any capacity. If he’s healthy this season, he may find himself in Detroit sooner rather than later.

The other wild card is Wynton Bernard, a former San Diego farmhand who dominated at Single-A Western Michigan last year. He put up an impressive .323 batting average and was added to the Tigers 40-man roster this offseason in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He may not be the top name on the list, but the fact that he was added to the 40-man roster suggests the Tigers think highly of him. It at least gives him an outside shot.

Conclusion

The likely scenario is that Ausmus rotates his outfielders. With Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez both question marks to be 100% to start on Opening Day, the team will need all the offense it can get. Utilizing all three corner outfielders is the best way to go about that. It would be surprising to see the McCann scenario deployed, or to see Collins or Moya make the roster and receive some at bats, but as it stands, the outfield provides the Tigers with the best source of offense at this point in time.

What do you think?

Which situation do you think is best way to go about replacing V-Mart? Is it one of the above or is it yet another alternate situation? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter either here or here.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Seattle Sports: Highlights of the Professional Sports Team’s Public Twitter Discussion Concerning a Road Trip to Arizona

The following is a fantastic use of Twitter. It happened after the Seahawks came back to beat the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

Detroit Tigers: Why Tom Gorzelanny Is the Perfect Signing

The Detroit Tigers’ bullpen has been the team’s ultimate downfall in recent postseasons. From Jose Valverde’s implosion, to the unlikely events in Boston, to the meltdown against Baltimore, the Tigers have had their share of problems in the department of relief pitching.

Take the bullpen struggles and couple them with a newly-minted, but largely-untested, back of the rotation and you realize Tom Gorzelanny is the perfect signing for the Tigers.

He’s not the biggest name, and he won’t summon thoughts of Trevor Hoffman when thought of by the fans, but he’s still a quality addition—an addition that makes sense for the Tigers.

Detroit’s bullpen is bad. You can look at statistic A or statistic B, but the bottom line is that the unit was poor in 2014.

Gorzelanny wasn’t the top option on the market, and with another team may not have been valued as much. However, with the Tigers Gorzelanny is an impact signing.

When I say he wouldn’t have been valued as much with another team, I’m in no way knocking Gorzelanny he had a fantastic season last year, with a 0.89 ERA in 23 innings—it’s just that other teams have more pitching depth.

With the Tigers, Gorzelanny has the potential to make an impact as a reliever and a starter.

The former Pirate made his name as a starting pitcher with Pittsburgh, winning 14 games and posting a 3.88 ERA in his first full major league season. After that, Gorzelanny struggled and eventually moved to the bullpen as a swingman, making the occasional start while predominantly working out of the bullpen.

From 2011 to 2013 he posted a 3.67 ERA in 188 appearances, 26 of which were starts. The lefty struck out 240 batters in 262.1 innings during that span.

The genius of the signing is that Gorzelanny provides ample cover in the Tigers’ two potential problem areas: the bullpen and the back end of the bullpen.

Detroit’s bullpen will be a very different looking bunch in 2015. Two of the team’s most consistent performers, Joba Chamberlain and Blaine Hardy, aren’t likely to feature as prominently. Chamberlain is a free agent and unlikely to return, while Hardy struggled down the stretch and will face competition from the likes of the returning Bruce Rondon and Ian Krol as well as newcomers Alex Wilson, Josh Zeid and Angel Nesbitt.

Gorzelanny is the also the perfect deputy for new starting pitchers Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon.

Should either Greene or Simon struggle, they can shift to the bullpen and work on improving while Gorzelanny fills in for a few starts.

In addition, should Simon have trouble replicating his All-Star numbers from 2014 (which is completely possible given his second-half struggles with the Reds last year), manager Brad Ausmus can flip-flop the two. Gorzelanny has experience in the rotation, while Simon has had success in a relief role. He turned in a 2.78 ERA in 99 relief outings for Cincinnati from 2012 to 2013. He threw 148.2 innings over that span, striking out 115.

If Gorzelanny thrives as a reliever (as his track record would suggest) or does the same in a starting role, it will be a successful signing. Even if he does a little of both and posts respectable numbers, the Tigers will have made another shrewd signing. The transaction was especially shrewd considering Gorzelanny signed for a reported $1 million, much less than fellow pitchers Zach Duke and Andrew Miller fetched.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Detroit Tigers Off-Season: How and Why the Bench Must be Improved

Bench

While the bullpen is, and will continue to be the biggest blemish on the Tigers’ roster, the bench isn’t spectacular either. More depth and quality will be needed in late-inning situations. Yes, the Tigers lineup is fantastic, but sometimes the bottom half of the lineup pales in comparison to the top half. And, as such is much easier to retire. This was brought into focus in the ninth inning of the second and third games of the ALDS against Baltimore as the bottom half wasn’t able to carry out or continue rallies with the game on the line. The Tigers need better hitters off the bench. Whether they arrive via waiver wire, the trade market, free agency, or what have you, help is needed. Dave Dombrowski has to be particularly active in fixing this during the offseason to improve the team’s chances for next year.

Dombrowski has become adept at plucking hitters out of relative obscurity and then watching them become contributing members on the team. He found Quintin Berry, who ended up being a godsend thanks to his added burst of speed into a slow lineup. Swiss army knife/utility specialist Don Kelly was another find. Matt Tuiasosopo was yet another find who provided Jim Leyland with a power hitting alternative off the bench in the legendary skipper’s final season. However, the greatest find may be that of JD Martinez. The former Astro was picked up by Detroit and, after fixing some mechanics with his swing, turned into a legitimate, middle of the order bat.

The Tigers need more production off the bench. Dombrowski isn’t going to find a JD Martinez in every transaction, but he should be actively looking for bench bats.

Yes, the Tigers’ starting lineup is fantastic, but their bench is comparatively futile. With the exception of Kelly, who has a knack for showing up in playoff games, there isn’t much to scare opposing managers or pitchers. Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera is light-hitting at best and is known more for his speed than anything. Andrew Romine and Eugenio Suarez manned shortstop for Brad Ausmus in 2014. With defensive wizard Jose Iglesias returning from injury next season, and neither shortstop’s play screaming “KEEP ME!” Detroit could look for a better hitting infielder. Another middle infielder, Hernan Perez shows the potential to be a solid two-way player, but if he wasn’t ready to play full time in the big leagues, or if he was unable to unseat Romine or Suarez, he certainly won’t surpass Iglesias next season.

Dombrowski needs to give Ausmus more pop off the bench. Catcher is an area where this could be achieved. Bryan Holaday hit .231 this season and the team might seek an upgrade to backup Alex Avila.

Avila is in a different situation. The Tigers’ starting catcher, who suffered yet another concussion during the season ending loss to Baltimore, should be moved into a backup role, or at least a platoon. This would not only minimize the inexplicably severe beating the he takes and preserve his health, but also allow Detroit to find an offensive upgrade. Avila grades out as a good defensive backstop, but hasn’t been able to replicate his offensive output of 2011 when he drove in 82 runs, garnered MVP votes and earned Silver Slugger and All Star honors.

Acquiring a new catcher to partner with Avila would be prudent. The job may go to James McCann. The Tigers’ top catching prospect is a defensive-minded backstop who also hit .295 in AAA. He’s no Victor Martinez offensively, but the .295 line is an encouraging sign from a player thought to reach the Majors because of his defense.

If catching reinforcements are looked for externally, Russell Martin or Evan Gattis would be ideal fits. Martin, one of the best at his position in the game, grades out favorably defensively and provides pop (47 home runs over the last three years) and the ability to hit for average (he hit .290 this past season). Detroit may lose yet another first round draft pick if they sign Martin, but if the former Dodger is the missing piece in terms of winning the World Series, then there should be no hesitation.

Gattis’ calling card, meanwhile, is his bat. The Braves’ slugger hit 22 home runs in only 108 games for Atlanta. Pairing him with the comparatively defensively superior Avila would be perfect. While Gattis’ bat can provide extreme power, his defense isn’t anything special. Platooning him with Avila would make his defensive deficiencies less of a sore thumb. Plus, Gattis has shown that he can be productive without playing every day. This partnership would also save Avila some physical punishment behind the plate. Gattis won’t come cheap in terms of what the Tigers will have to give up to acquire him, but the second year player isn’t arbitration eligible until 2016 at the earliest and won’t hit free agency until 2019. He made a little over $520,000 last year. This is exactly the kind of player a team looking to save money like Detroit needs—an extremely productive hitter who can play a large role without costing much. He also has played in left field for Atlanta. He’s not Gold Glove worthy playing there, but he does have the experience. Something that would come in handy if Brad Ausmus needed to wedge in an extra bat in a must-win playoff game.

Lastly, the Tigers could, at the very least, use some depth in the outfield. Rajai Davis can get by defensively in center field, so an alignment of JD Martinez, Davis and Torii Hunter (if he returns) in the outfield wouldn’t be bad. In fact, it may win them the division again, but it probably won’t deliver a World Series. Signing an impact center fielder may be out of the question. Colby Rasmus is the most enticing option on the market, but the former Blue Jay may be more appealing, and better suited, to more of a rebuilding team like the Cubs or Astros than Detroit. Speaking of the Astros, Houston’s centerfielder, Dexter Fowler, would present a quality target. It may take a lot to pry him away from the Lone Star state, but the former Colorado player would mesh perfectly in Motown with his mix of speed and pop. Other potentially available center fielders such as Desmond Jennings, Denard Span or Peter Bourjos would all be attainable as well as being logical fits in the Tigers’ lineup.

Bringing in a new, starting caliber center fielder would be advantageous in numerous ways for Detroit. First, it would fix any issues defensively at the position. As much as Rajai Davis fits the profile of an old-school center fielder in terms of speed, he’s predominantly a corner outfielder. Having a center fielder who is more accustomed to playing the position defensively would provide an upgrade. Pushing Davis to the bench or into a role where he would potentially spell the aging Torii Hunter would greatly improve the pinch-hitting options. Throw in a healthy Andy Dirks, a couple of scrap-heap/waiver wire pickups and more polished versions of Stephen Moya and Tyler Collins and the Tigers all of a sudden have a plethora of outfielders who could contribute. Injuries and slumps are about as common as the changing of the seasons, so having too many options is a good problem to have.

The Tigers’ offense has long been deemed one of the best in baseball—maybe the best. But over that span the team hasn’t had the most fearsome bench. The bullpen will need some help too, but changing the bench could help make the difference in finally winning a World Series.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Detroit Tigers: Adept at Acquiring Rival Talent

Acquiring a player to strengthen your team is one thing, but when you weaken a rival in the process it’s a different kind of plus. On the other hand, if a rival team moved on from a player and you bring that player in from a different team, all it does is show your rivals what could have been—all the while making your team better.

Dave Dombrowski and the Detroit Tigers are exceptionally good at this.

Maybe the team’s brass thinks a player with extensive experience within the division will be a boost in terms of helping the Tigers win. Or maybe it’s just a huge coincidence, but Detroit has become a landing spot for former-division rivals.

An ever-present checklist item during Dombrowski’s tenure in Detroit, at least after he acquired Miguel Cabrera, has been to surround the former Marlin with sufficient protection and fire power. Cabrera has generally had an elite hitter placed near him in the middle of the order. Magglio Ordonez (who was acquired from a rival team, Chicago) was the first while the likes of Victor Martinez (another former rival) and Prince Fielder have followed. Because of the middle-of-the-order stability, Dombrowski has combed the market in search of hitters to fill out the rest of the order—or, in other terms, to add more fire power and length. Jhonny Peralta was one of those hitters, Delmon Young was another and Torii Hunter was another still. The underlying theme with all three is that they had experience in the AL Central. And in the case of Peralta and Young, both were directly acquired from rivals.

In Hunter’s case, as in Martinez’, the player was acquired after a stint away from the AL Central. The former Twin, Hunter, was signed via free agency after a stint in Anaheim while Martinez made a stop in Boston before also heading to Motown in free agency.

It isn’t just hitters; the Tigers have picked up relievers with extensive AL Central experience. Three of Brad Ausmus top options out the bullpen, Joakim Soria, Blaine Hardy and closer Joe Nathan, have been employed by rival teams. Soria and Hardy (although he never made the Major League roster) are former Royals while Joe Nathan made his name as Minnesota’s closer.

It may be coincidental, or purposeful, but the Tigers have a knack for acquiring rival team’s talent. Who needs advanced scouting when you can scout a player by seeing them play against your team 15-20 times a year?

MLB August Trades Part Two: Losers and Incompletes

In continuation of yesterday’s piece on the winners of the August trading period in Major League Baseball, here’s a look at the teams who didn’t fare as well.

It’s hard to judge teams too harshly on August trades. Most teams acquire rental players or players who likely will be cut in the offseason. In that sense, it’s hard call teams winners and losers. In reality, most big names, or even players who will have a significant impact on whatever team acquires them, aren’t dealt in August. The point is, take all this with a grain of salt.

Losers/Incompletes

Some “losers” of the August trade period sometimes aren’t teams who acquired a player, but teams who don’t acquire anyone. Here are some of those teams.

Toronto Blue Jays

At one point in June Toronto had a six game lead in the American League East. As of the beginning of the week they find themselves 10 games back of first place in the division and five back in the wild card race. A monumental tailspin like this would prompt the team’s brass to go out and get help right? Nope. Toronto only acquired John Mayberry Jr. from Philadelphia in August. What’s worse is that the team didn’t do much in June or July either. Danny Valencia was the team’s lone acquisition. The Blue Jays didn’t do anything to stop the slide, thus here they sit.

Arizona Diamondbacks/Colorado Rockies

Both teams are clearly out of the NL West race and baring a drastic offseason turnaround, neither look like contenders for next year. Because of that, its mystifying that the team held on to some of the players that it did. Colorado should have sold high Justin Morneau while they had the chance, now they are likely condemned to a similar situation to the one they have with Michael Cuddyer where they’re stuck with an aging player. In a similar fashion, Arizona could have moved players like reliever Oliver Perez, second baseman Aaron Hill or one of the team’s many shortstops. Neither team moved as many players as they could. Had they traded players away, their outlook would have been considerably brighter for the future. But, with most of the players staying put, the two teams will likely be consigned to poor seasons until they blow their respective teams up and start over.

Who do you think were the biggest losers? To see part one, the winners, click here.

MLB August Trades Part One: Winners

Baseball’s biggest trade deadline is July 31st. Up until that date players can be moved without passing through waivers. After the 31st, players must be subjected to waivers if they are to be dealt. In the waiver process, the team with the worst record in the same league gets first crack at the player. After that it is passed to the next worst team in the league. If no team from the same league claims a player, he is put through the same process in the opposite league starting with the worst team from a record standpoint.

If a player is claimed, the team that put him on waivers can either work out a trade, simply let the claiming team assume is salary, or pull the player off waivers and keep him on the team. The caveat with the last statement is that once a player is pulled back, they can’t be dealt.

Most August trades generally have minimal impact. Most are salary dumps or simply teams shedding excess players for little-to-no return. Here are the winners (if you can call them that). Check back tomorrow for the losers (again, if you can call them that) and teams who could have done more.

Winners:

Los Angeles Dodgers

When healthy the Dodgers will have a glut of starting pitchers—and then maybe another glut on top of that. But the rub is that most of them aren’t healthy. Chad Billingsley hasn’t pitched yet while Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm are likely out for the year. In addition to those three, the team also has a healthy Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren. With no suitable options for the fifth spot in the rotation, LA acquired Phillies’ pitcher Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) and Kevin Correia from the Twins. Neither has been Orel Hershiser, but both have filled a need. Both are rental players and likely won’t be in Dodger blue next season, but they’ve helped Los Angeles maintain the lead in the NL West.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs acquired former top prospect Jacob Turner for two Class A pitchers. Chicago is in the midst of hoarding as much young talent as they can. Whether it’s to feature the youngsters on their next contending team, or to flip some of them for an established star to help the team improve, every piece helps. The fact that Theo Epstein acquired a player once regarded as an elite prospect, and still could realize that potential, for two A-ball pitchers is a massive coup.

Oakland A’s

Billy Beane made headlines for trading Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester. Despite the fact that the team acquired Jonny Gomes in addition to Lester, Oakland’s offense has struggled without the Cuban slugger. Adding Adam Dunn for a relatively low price will greatly improve the Athletics’ suddenly dwindling playoff chances. His tendency to hit for a low batting average isn’t the best trait to have, but the former Cincinnati Reds slugger walks a lot, which will be appreciated greatly in Oakland.  Batting average and walks aside, Dunn’s tremendous power will help the A’s recover from losing Cespedes.

Check back tomorrow for August’s losers and teams who could have done more.  Did I miss any team? Who do you think was a big winner?

Detroit Tigers: Kyle Lobstein an Unlikely Steadying Presence

Kyle Lobstein has been the most reliable pitcher in the Detroit Tigers’ rotation in the last few weeks.

The man who Brad Ausmus referred to as “Lobber” has been consistent for the Detroit Tigers at a time when they are in dire need of reliability. Starting pitching was once the Tigers’ calling card. And I guess it still is, but right now they’re going through some struggles. Not only is the team trailing the Royals this late in the season (they entered today two games back of Kansas City) their starting pitching hasn’t been as effective. Cy Young winners Max Scherzer and David Price have compiled a few uncharacteristically pedestrian/awful starts as of late while Rick Porcello is having what can be described as a small speed bump in an otherwise superb breakout year. Other pitching woes include Justin Verlander having a down year (compared to his absurdly high standards). In addition, Anibal Sanchez is dealing with an injury that could keep him out for the rest of the year. Sanchez’ replacements, the two headed monster that is Buck Farmer and Robbie Ray, were dreadful in spot starts.

Because of this, Ausmus and the Tigers have turned to “Lobber.”

Lobstein has only thrown two starts, but with the rest of the rotation on a roller coaster in terms of results, those two starts seem like so much more. The former Rays’ prospect hasn’t officially recorded a win, but Detroit has won both of his starts (incidentally, Phil Coke won both of those games). Lobstein isn’t just keeping the Tigers in games; he’s pitching well and giving them a chance to win those games. The former second round pick has succeeded where others have failed in stabilizing a contending team’s rotation as a rookie.

The Tigers’ haven’t had much success in bringing starting pitching up from the minors in recent memory, but with Lobstein it seems they’ve found a keeper.

Detroit Tigers: The Statistical Ridiculousness of Miguel Cabrera’s “Down Year”

Miguel Cabrera is having a down year. That much is true. He may not win a fourth consecutive batting title, he may not win a third straight MVP and he may not win another triple crown. But, despite the sub-par season (by his extremely high standards) he may just be showing his brilliance as a hitter. Why? Because when most hitters have down years, they look awful—comparatively and in general. Miguel Cabrera’s down year includes a .304 batting average. He’s that good.

A typical season for the Tigers’ slugger has generally consisted of gaudy numbers and some kind of hardware. Whether it is an MVP award, a triple crown, an American League pennant, Cabrera has won them all.

His biggest accomplishment may be this season—his “down” season. Here’s just a small snippet of his stats this year. I remind you, this is his “down” season.

  • His .304 line is a far cry from the his batting averages over the last five years (.348, .330, .344, .328 and .324) but only eight players in the American League have a higher clip.
  • Leads the AL in doubles with 42. Only Johnathan Lucroy of the Brewers has more in Major League Baseball.
  • Has driven in 94 runs. Also a far cry considering Miggy’s RBI output the last two years (137 and 139 respectively), but only four players have more. Three of those four players would be home run mashers Mike Stanton, Jose Abreu and David Ortiz. In other words, players who get a lot of their RBIs from the long ball. Cabrera only has 19 homers this year, further showing his ability as a complete hitter (as if he needs to show that).
  • Despite his lower numbers, Cabrera still has scored only six less runs than Angels’ wunderkind Mike Trout. I should also point out that Trout is a threat on the base paths and has speed—Cabrera doesn’t check either of those boxes.
  • Also has a top-ten ranking in the AL in Slugging Percentage (ninth, .501) and OPS (eighth, .868).
  • Ranks eight in the AL in hits with 156. Players with fewer hits include Trout, Dustin Pedroia and Jose Abreu.
  • Top ten rankings in total bases (tied for sixth, 257) and runs created (seventh, 92).
  • Only Trout and Jose Abreu have more extra base hits in the American League.
  • Only seven players have reached base more times than Cabrera (206 times) in the AL.
  • Drives in the runs any way he can—leads the AL in sacrifice flies with 10.
  • Still strikes fear into opposing pitchers, he has ten intentional walks on the year. It may not be as high a number as teammate Victor Martinez’ 23, but it still shows the danger Miggy presents to pitchers.

They may not be the leaderboard leading numbers the world is used to from Cabrera, but for a “down year” they’re pretty fantastic.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.