5 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 8-6 Win over the Cleveland Indians

  • Three

The number of runs driven in by Miguel Cabrera, who has continued his torrid start. Miggy went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored to raise his average to .377. Cabrera also went deep. Additionally, Rajai Davis scored three runs on three hits.

  • Two

The number of hits driven in by Ian Kinsler. The second baseman had two hits in four plate appearances. He had an RBI, scored two runs, stole a base and drew a walk.

  • Seven

The number of innings thrown by Kyle Lobstein in a winning effort. Justin Verlander’s rotation replacement allowed six hits and three runs (all earned) in his seven innings. He only walked two and struck out four. His ERA on the season is 3.50.

  • 86

The number of pitches required by Lobstein to pitch seven innings. It was an incredibly efficient day for Lobstein, who picked up his second win of the season.

  • One

The number of runs, hits and walks allowed by Joakim Soria. This broke a stretch of six straight games in which Soria had thrown perfect innings—a stretch that lasted two weeks.

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Detroit Tigers: Impact of Joe Nathan’s Injury

The Detroit Tigers are off to one of the best starts in Major League Baseball, but were hit with some bad news as it was announced that closer Joe Nathan will miss the rest of the season due to a UCL tear and a flexor pronator tear.

How it Impacts…

Joakim Soria

Soria is possibly the biggest benefactor in all of this. The two-time All-Star gets to remain in the closer role. He leads the majors in appearances, games finished and saves. Nathan’s injury also bodes well for Soria’s long-term future and his future in Detroit. Regardless of if he had success this season (pre injury), Joe Nathan wasn’t the long-term answer. At only 30-years-old, if Soria continues to pitch well (1.35 ERA, 0 walks, 2 total hits allowed) he could find himself in Detroit as the team’s closer of now and the future.

Bruce Rondon

When he returns healthy, it will be a golden opportunity for Rondon. The young flamethrower will likely assume Soria’s old role of set-up man/closer in waiting. This isn’t only an opportunity for Rondon to establish himself at the big league level, but also an opportunity to pick up some saves. Last season Joba Chamberlain, Phil Coke, Al Albuquerque, Ian Krol and Soria picked up saves despite Nathan being on the roster. Rondon could do the same. Additionally, in the off-chance that Soria struggles, Rondon would be in line for even more save opportunities.

The Tigers’ Plans at the Trade Deadline

It’s a little early to determine which teams will be buyers and which will be sellers, but Detroit may look to add another reliever. With Soria and (a hopefully healthy) Rondon in tow, the Tigers won’t be looking for a closer-type, but a buy-low or depth addition might provide helpful, especially if expendable players in the bullpen continue to struggle. An acquisition would probably be more along the lines of the Tigers re-signing Luke Putkonen then acquiring someone like Jason Grilli.

The Tigers’ Other Relievers

Thanks to Nathan not returning and occupying a spot in the bullpen it would seem that everyone will keep their spots—for now. This is good news for relievers like Ian Krol and Al Alburquerque, who have seen their ERAs rise thanks to poor outings. It’s also a spot of good news for Blaine Hardy, who was promoted when Nathan went on the disabled list. Hardy allowed a run, two walks and two hits in his last outing, actually lowering his ERA from 12.46 to 8.10.

Kyle Lobstein

Lobstein has only one career relief appearance, and the Tigers may opt to keep him stretched out as a starter in the minors once Justin Verlander returns. However, in the off-chance that the Tigers want to keep Lobstein around because he’s pitching well, this potentially opens up another opportunity for him.

The Tigers’ Non-25 Man Roster Relievers

This is good news in terms of more opportunities for pretty much all of the following—Alex Wilson, Josh Zeid, Melvin Mercedes, Putkonen, Kyle Ryan, Jose Valdez, etc.

Wilson, one of the relievers acquired in the Rick Porcello/Yoenis Cespedes swap, has an ERA of 0.00 and three saves on the season. Another offseason acquisition, reliever Zeid, has a save to go along with a 1.42 ERA.

Thanks to the severity of the injury, Nathan will move to the 60-day disabled list. This will open up a 40-man roster opportunity for a minor-league pitcher like Melvin Mercedes. Other Triple-A pitchers with major league experience like Rafael Dolis, Alberto Cabrera, Thad Weber and Mike Belfiore could also be in play if they can pitch successfully.

Ryan and Valdez, two pitchers already on the 40-man roster, are long shots, but could be in play. Ryan had success in relief last season, but the team may opt to keep him as a starter to provide depth in that area. Valdez wouldn’t require a roster move to call up, but the reliever’s ERA in 2015 is 6.75.

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

#Tigers Tweets: Shutouts, Nathan, Verlander, Disabled List

Here’s the latest Tweets regarding the Tigers.

This is good.

Looks like that’ll have to change…

Joakim Soria will get a chance to close again.

Taking Nathan’s spot on the roster is none other than Blaine Hardy.

Justin Verlander is also heading to the DL.

5 Stats from the Tigers’ Opening Day Win Over the Twins

Two

  • The number of hits each by Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Avila and Jose Iglesias. This is an extremely good sign considering the trio hit 6th, 8th and 9th in Brad Ausmus’ lineup. The trio also drove in a run (via a home run by Avila) and scored three runs.

Five

  • The number of hits allowed and strikeouts recorded by David Price. Price became the first pitcher in seven seasons to start Opening Day for the Tigers who wasn’t named Justin Verlander. The former Tampa Bay Ray delivered with a gem, producing 8.2 innings of shutout ball while limiting the Twins to a mere five hits. No Minnesota baserunner got past second base.

101

  • The number of pitches thrown by Price. More plaudits for Price as the ace was extremely efficient with his pitches, only needing 101 to reach the ninth inning. He was pulled in favor Joe Nathan for the last out of the game.

One

  • The number of hits by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. The recently injured duo went a combined 1-for-8 with a singular strikeout. These kinds of outing won’t happen often, but when they do, it is paramount that the bottom of the order step up. On Opening Day, the 7-8-9 hitters did. Avila and Iglesias had two hits apiece while Nick Castellanos drove in a run and drew a walk.

Three

  • The number of stolen bases by the Tigers. Injury returnee Jose Iglesias had two while leadoff hitter Rajai Davis added another. While off days from both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez won’t happen often, expect this to happen a good deal. It’s worth noting that the team’s top speedster, Anthony Gose, didn’t play.

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

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Detroit Tigers Twitter News: Roster Moves, Verlander, Spring Training Cuts

Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reports that the Tigers are close to acquiring a reliever.

Despite that report, Tigers officials are singing a different tune. General manager Dave Dombrowski, per MLB.com’s Jason Beck,  says the Tigers aren’t actively pursing moves.

Dombrowski (this time via MLive.com’s Chris Iott) also responded to the rumor about the Tigers reportedly acquiring a reliever.

Iott also passed along the latest from manager Brad Ausmus who be “‘shocked'” if the team brought in another player.

Iott also mentions that the team sent pitchers Blaine Hardy and Kyle Ryan to Triple-A Toledo while reassigning infielder Josh Wilson.

Finally, Beck passes along the news that Justin Verlander and Bruce Rondon will start the season on the 15-day disabled list.

Detroit Tigers Links: David Price, Justin Verlander, Bullpen, Don Kelly

Here’s the latest from the Tigers:

  • David Price struggled during his last outing, but the Tigers aren’t concerned.
  • Justin Verlander could miss his first start of the season.
  • The bullpen is performing well ahead of the regular season starting.
  • James McCann feels blessed to make the Opening Day roster.
  • And finally, former Tiger Don Kelly has earned a roster spot with the Miami Marlins. Congrats Don!

Detroit Tigers Spring Training Links: Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Ausmus, Iglesias and Greene

Here’s the latest from the Tigers:

  • Jose Iglesias missed time due to a shin inury, but should be fine going forward.
  • Shane Greene was roughed up in his Tigers debut.
  • Justin Verlander is back to being his old self on the mound. I wrote about
  • Miguel Cabrera has been cleared to take grounders at first base.
  • Brad Ausmus seems to have found his way to Twitter.

And finally, Jack White was at the Tigers spring training facility.

 

Kingdome Crossover: Players the Seattle Mariners Could Have Drafted Instead of Danny Hultzen

The Seattle Mariners have made their fair share of blunders over the years, namely letting numerous players leave for little-to-no return.

This long, illustrious list includes the likes of Carlos Guillen, Jason Varitek, Rafael Soriano, Alex Rodriguez—you get the point.

The M’s missed a big opportunity in the first round of the 2011 draft.

Danny Hultzen was drafted third overall by Seattle and immediately became part of the “Big Three” pitching prospects along with James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Hultzen showed immense potential, but has seen his career derailed by injuries.

The former first-round pick could still achieve the success he was projected to reach, but it will take time.

Hindsight is obviously 20-20 (stop me if you’ve heard that before), but the 2011 draft produced numerous first-round gems that the Mariners could have taken. Here are some of those players in order of draft position.

Dylan Bundy, Starting Pitcher: Baltimore Orioles, 4th Overall Pick

Bundy, only 22, made his major league debut in 2012. He made two relief appearances for the O’s, totaling an inning and two thirds.

However, the former fourth-overall shows the potential to be a front-line pitcher, if not an ace in the major leagues.

If nothing else, Bundy’s name appearing in trade rumors should speak to his value. According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles wanted Bundy in a trade for Matt Kemp while Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reported in July that Boston was interested in Bundy in a potential Jon Lester trade.

Anthony Rendon, Third Baseman: Washington Nationals, 6th Overall Pick

In a draft class loaded with talented hitters, Rendon has shown the most polish early.

The third baseman, who has also experience at second base, hit .287 in 153 games. The infielder also scored a major-league high 111 runs. In addition, he swatted 23 home runs, drove in 83 runs and swiped 17 bases.

He would have trouble finding at-bats with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager manning second and third, but teams can always use extra bats—especially quality ones like Rendon.

Archie Bradley, Starting Pitcher: Arizona Diamondbacks, 7th Overall Pick

Similar to Bundy, Bradley has future ace/front-line starter written all over him.

He’s been routinely ranked in the top ten prospects in the league and is probably on equal, and while his minor league numbers haven’t been overly impressive (4.45 ERA and a 1.506 WHIP in 18 minor league starts across three minor league levels) he still has a bright future.

Bradley is on similar or better footing than Taijuan Walker or James Paxton in terms of potential.

Francisco Lindor, Shortstop: Cleveland Indians, 8th Overall Pick

Lindor has skyrocketed through the minors and could be in Cleveland in the near future.

One of the top prospects in the game, Lindor is regarded as a top-notch defensive shortstop. He also managed a .273 batting average in 38 Triple-A, showing the potential to be more than simply a defensive wizard at the major league level.

His impending arrival also forced two-time All Star Asdrubal Cabrera out of Cleveland at the trade deadline. Incumbent shortstop Jose Ramirez could meet the same fate as Cabrera.

Javier Baez, Infielder: Chicago Cubs, 9th Overall Pick

Part of the Cubs’ first wave of impact prospects to make the majors, Baez shows tremendous upside. He has outstanding power and will drive in plenty of runs when he reaches his potential.

Baez can play either middle infield position and is part of a talented group of Cubs’ infielders that include Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo among others.

The infielder wouldn’t unseat Robinson Cano at second (duh), but he’d provide an upgrade over Chris Taylor and Brad Miller at shortstop.

Baez mashed 37 homers and drove in 111 runs in across multiple levels in the minor leagues in 2013.

George Springer, Outfielder: Houston Astros, 11th Overall Pick

While Rendon would have been blocked at multiple positions by the Cano and Seager, George Springer wouldn’t have been blocked in the outfield.

Part of the Astros’ next great team, Springer is a slugger in every sense of the word.

The outfielder swatted 20 home runs in a mere 78 games. He only hit .231 and struck out 114 games, but his power is undeniable.

Springer has a .303 career batting average in the minor leagues—or, in other words, he won’t be a .231 hitter forever. He’ll improve.

But instead of hitting bombs in Safeco Field as a member of the M’s, Springer will be hitting for the division rival Astros.

Jose Fernandez, Starting Pitcher: Miami Marlins, 14th Overall Pick

Jose Fernandez is one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball—a fantastic accomplishment considering he was only drafted in 2011.

The 22-year-old Cuban took home Rookie of the Year and All-Star honors in his first season in 2013. Only Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright finished ahead of Fernandez in Cy Young voting that year.

The Marlins ace is one of the many exiting, young talents in Miami that have prompted the team to give Giancarlo Stanton a big contract and accelerate the rebuilding process so as to win as soon as possible.

Coming off of an injury shortened 2014, Fernandez will undoubtedly be Miami’s ace when he returns in 2015 and beyond.

Seattle is blessed in the pitching department with the likes of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, but adding Fernandez certainly wouldn’t have hurt.

C.J. Cron, First Baseman: Los Angeles Angels Anaheim, 17th Overall Pick

Cron can flat out hit. He may not be as dynamic as teammate Mike Trout, but he provides the Angels with another young player to build around.

The first baseman owns a .290 career minor-league batting average and can drive the ball out of the park. He slugged 11 bombs in only 79 games in 2014 and has the potential to do much more.

With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in decline, Cron will be counted on to help carry the Angels into the future. Don’t be surprised if Cron gets close to 40 home runs in a season at some point.

He would have been a nice fit at first base for the M’s.

Sonny Gray, Starting Pitcher: Oakland Athletics, 18th Overall Pick

While Bundy and Bradley are future aces, Gray (like Fernandez) is already there.

Gray has a 2.99 ERA in 283 innings pitched and posted a 3.2 WAR in 2014. That 3.2 WAR was higher than the likes of Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Anibal Sanchez.

Gray stepped in during his rookie season and started two playoff games for the A’s. Both times he went toe-to-toe with vintage Justin Verlander and didn’t blink, arguably pitching as well as the former Cy Young MVP.

Also like Fernandez, Gray would have been a nice addition to the M’s, but Seattle will have to settle for seeing him pitch against them a few times a year with Oakland.

Other Notable Names

In addition to the big names like Fernandez, Springer and Rendon, there were a plethora of players available later in the first round of the draft.

The Cardinals and Giants respective second baseman (Kolten Wong and Joe Panik) were taken 22nd and 29th overall. Jackie Bradley Jr. was taken with the 40th pick while fellow Red Sox youngsters, and current farmhands, Matt Barnes (19th), Henry Owens (36th) and Blake Swihart (26th) were also first-round picks.

While Danny Hultzen hasn’t reached the big leagues yet, the M’s clearly could have received more value out of all these players.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comunless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers: How to Replace Max Scherzer

Changes are coming for the Detroit Tigers. Don’t worry, they won’t be wholesale. The team will still stick to its identity—superb starting pitching and a slugging, star-driven, high-scoring offense. While the bullpen, and to a lesser extent, the bench will likely be bolstered, there is yet another item that will force general manager Dave Dombrowski to make a transaction or two—replacing Max Scherzer.

The writing on the wall may have been the fact that the former Arizona Diamondback turned down a contract extension worth $144 million over six years. Since then, the public opinion thinks Scherzer will be playing for a different team come spring training. That may be public perception in Detroit’s front office as well. Dombrowski, in theory, has already acquired a replacement to take Scherzer’s spot on the front line next to Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. That would be David Price. The fact that the Tigers’ acquired Price mere months after Scherzer turned down the contract could be coincidental, but at the very least served as a backup plan to losing Scherzer.

Here are some options Detroit will have to fill the potentially vacant spot in their rotation.

The Internal Guys

Detroit has a plethora of internal options. A plethora. However, none of the internal options pitched like Cy Young winners, or anywhere close to it. Outside of Scherzer, Verlander, Price, Sanchez, Rick Porcello and the departed Drew Smyly, the Tigers used five other starting pitchers in 2014. That group consisted of Robbie Ray, Buck Farmer, Kyle Lobstein, Kyle Ryan and Drew VerHagen. It’s hard to judge them too harshly. Four of the group are only 23 (Lobstein is the resident greybeard at 25) and none of the five pitched in the big leagues prior to the season. As hard as it is to judge the group, it’s equally as hard to find a front runner in terms of claiming a rotation spot. Lobstein appears to be the leader in the clubhouse. He made the postseason roster as a long reliever, and save a disastrous start in Minnesota, pitched well enough to keep the Tigers in games. However, the former Rays’ farmhand only managed to reach the seven innings pitched plateau once in his six starts. If he can last longer in games and stay effective, he should be the frontrunner of the internal options.

Outside of Lobstein, it’s hard to get a read on things. VerHagen and Ryan only started a game apiece while Farmer struggled immensely in two starts. (Ryan threw six shutout innings in his only start. After that he was limited to bullpen work where he pitched well. He may find it easier to make the team as a reliever than as a starter.)

Ray is the wild card of the bunch. The centerpiece of the return received for Doug Fister pitched exceptionally well in his first two starts. Over 11.1 innings he limited the opposition to one run on nine hits. His strikeout to walk ratio was 7-2. If he can pitch close to that mark for an entire season, then Dombrowski and manager Brad Ausmus should hand him the job outright. Then again, if Ray pitches like he did the rest of the way it will leave the door open for other pitchers. After those two sparkling starts and a brief, two out relief appearance in Boston, Ray’s ERA jumped nearly four runs from 0.75 to 4.70 after surrendering seven runs in 3.1 innings to Texas. It only got worse from their as he posted an 11.12 ERA in three August starts, giving up 14 runs and 20 hits in only 11.1 innings.

If Scherzer’s replacement is an internal option, it remains to be seen who it will be. Lobstein and Ray (should he turn it around) seem like they have the inside track. Still, it’s hard to evaluate a group of young pitchers.

The Free Agents

Outside of Scherzer, the other marquee free agent starting pitchers are Jon Lester and James Shields. Signing either would cost a similar amount of cash to Scherzer, plus the loss of a draft pick, so re-signing Scherzer would seem the most prudent play out of the three.

Still, if the team opts for another free agent to fill the void, or perhaps split time with an internal candidate, there are plenty of options. Options that, on the whole, come with a caveat. That caveat is that most starters available on the open market are either reclamation projects/ buy low candidates or pitchers looking for a big payday.

If the Tigers aren’t willing to commit anything close to Scherzer money on anyone other than Scherzer they should look for a cheaper option. A cheaper option that is more reliable than a buy low candidate. Signing someone like Jason Hammel or Roberto Hernandez would make sense. Neither will wow you with their numbers, but neither will completely implode either. They’d keep the Tigers in game as well as providing decent rotation depth. If the Tigers want a pitcher with a little more experience and one who could win them more games, Jake Peavy would be ideal. He’s no spring chicken at 33, but has been in plenty of pressure situations and knows the division well thanks to his time in Chicago. He won’t be cheap, but he’ll be cheaper than Scherzer.

James Shields could be an interesting target. First off, he’s cheaper than the other two premium starters on the market—Scherzer and Lester. Secondly, signing him away from Kansas City would be a major blow to Detroit’s biggest division rival.

The Trade Market

Their likely won’t be many pitchers of Scherzer’s caliber on the trade market. Knowing this, Detroit could look for a controllable, young, middle of the rotation type to fill the need. The Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson would make sense. Given the fact Tampa may not want to get into a situation with him where they pay him gobs of money and decide to move him instead—a la Scott Kazmir, David Price, James Shields, et al.

San Diego’s Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy would also be pitchers to target. Ross has flourished as a starter in San Diego while Kennedy seems to have rebounded from a rough 2013. Before 2013, the former Yankee farmhand won 36 games between 2011 and 2012. One of Cincinnati’s may starting pitchers could also make sense.

In Conclusion

The simplest may just be to re-sign Scherzer, but should Detroit go another way, Dave Dombrowski will have plenty of options.

 

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

Detroit Tigers: Why Justin Verlander will be the Tigers’ Key to Reaching the World Series

Thanks to the Detroit Tigers’ recent acquisition of David Price, many pundits and fans alike are earmarking the team for the World Series. However, it won’t be Price, reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer or superstar Miguel Cabrera who will be the key to Detroit reaching baseball’s biggest stage. Granted, those players will play their part, but Verlander will be the most important.

David Price gives Detroit five premium starters—himself, Scherzer, Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello. In the playoffs, teams generally use only four starters and use their fifth starter in relief. This situation falls firmly under the “good problem to have” banner. Regardless, the idea has been floated that Verlander should be the fifth starter and moved to the bullpen.

This would be foolish. Admittedly, Verlander’s numbers are down this year, as they were last season, but he brings it in the playoffs. Last season the former MVP went 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA across 218+ innings and 34 starts. Decent numbers for most pitchers, but for the seemingly super-human Verlander, that was a down year. Despite the pedestrian showings, the Tigers’ ace turned it on for the playoffs. In three postseason starts, he threw 23 innings, allowing one run on ten hits while posting an absurd 31/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If you like translating ERAs, you would know that Verlander’s would equate to 0.39 in last year’s playoffs. It’s not just the flashy stats that made Verlander a strong performer for the Tigers last year, he also went deep into games, often protecting a shaky bullpen that ended up being the team’s undoing.

The Tigers’ longest tenured player will not only be important because of his past success in the playoffs, but also because of the teams Detroit will be playing. Verlander dominates the A’s in the playoffs. He eats them for breakfast. He wipes the floor with them. He uses their jerseys as dish rags. Ok, one of those examples isn’t true, but the fact is that Justin Verlander is Oakland’s playoff kryptonite. In the last two years, the Detroit pitcher has made four postseason starts against the Athletics. Here are his results against them.

(* indicates deciding game)

2012 ALDS Game 1- Tigers win 3-1. Verlander: 7 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 earned run, 4 walks, 11 strikeouts.

*2012 ALDS Game 5- Tigers win 6-0. Verlander: 9 innings pitched, 4 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts.

2013 ALDS Game 2- Oakland wins 1-0. Verlander: 7 innings pitched, 4 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts.

*2013 ALDS Game 5- Tigers win 3-0. Verlander: 8 innings pitched, 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts.

Oakland has scored one run off of Verlander in 31 innings. Over that same span, Oakland batters have struck out 43 times compared to a paltry seven walks.

If you’re Brad Ausmus, you want this guy at the top of the rotation for October—if not for Game One, then at the very least Game Two so he can pitch the deciding game should the series get there.

And it’s not just Oakland that Verlander excels against; he owns a 9-2 all-time record against playoff contender Baltimore while also posting dominant numbers against New York and Boston in the last two postseasons. He went at least eight innings in each game, held both teams to a run each and walked a cumulative one batter across both starts.

Despite Justin Verlander’s struggles (by his own high standards) in the last two years, he still brings it in the playoffs. He did it last year, and there’s no reason to think he won’t do it again this year. That, and his overall dominance of Detroit’s biggest rival for the AL crown, Oakland, make him a lock to be the Tigers’ most important player in reaching the World Series.

 

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