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

The Detroit Tigers’ 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 .307 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 .307 line is a far cry from the his batting averages over the last five years (.348, .330, .344, .328 and .324) but only six 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 90 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 17 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 nine 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 10 rankings in the AL in OPB (ninth, .369), Slugging Percentage (tenth, .496) and OPS (eighth, .865).
  • Ranks eight in the AL in hits with 151. Players with fewer hits include Trout, Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez.
  • Top 10 rankings in total bases (tied for seventh, 246) and runs created (eighth, 89).
  • Only Trout and Jose Abreu have more extra base hits in the American League.
  • Only five 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’ 22, 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.

Detroit Tigers: The Importance of Victor Martinez

As the Detroit Tigers claw their way back into the playoff picture, one player remains as important, and consistent as ever—Victor Martinez.

The man referred to as V-Mart is turning in his best season as a pro. Not only is passing previous career highs, his 26 home runs are one more than previous best and his 22 intentional walks are 10 more than he’s ever had in a season, but at times he is carrying a Tiger offense that has sputtered occasionally. With Miguel Cabrera mired in the midst of a down year (by his own high standards) and Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter and JD Martinez struggling at times, V-Mart has been the constant presence in Detroit’s lineup.

Miguel Cabrera’s “protector” in the lineup has always been a vital position in Detroit—or in other words, a batter to hit behind Cabrera that will keep pitchers honest so they can’t simply intentionally walk the MVP and deal with a much lesser hitter.

There’ve been all kinds of hitters protecting Cabrera since the former Marlin arrived in Detroit. Ranging from Carlos Guillen to Brennan Boesch to Prince Fielder, there was certainly diversity in terms of hitter types. However, Victor Martinez has been the best of the group. It may have been a forgone conclusion before, but now it should be set in stone.

Martinez is a complete hitter. He used to catch on a full time basis before becoming a designated hitter. He’ll get the odd start at first base when Miguel Cabrera gets a day off from the field, but for the most part V-Mart is a DH. That fact may prohibit him from gaining serious traction in an MVP race, but he certainly deserves to be part of the conversation.

Once thought of as a hitter more acclimated to contact than power, Martinez has brought it in the slugging department. His 26 home runs are the most he’s ever had. His previous high was 25 and it took him 27 more games to accomplish it. And it’s not just the home runs; the former Indian’s slugging percentage is half a point higher than it’s ever been. At .555, his slugging percentage ranks fifth in the Major Leagues. Notable hitters with a lower number include David Ortiz, Jose Bautista, Paul Goldschmidt and all-worldly Miguel Cabrera.

Martinez hasn’t fallen off in terms of hitting for contact either. A quick glance at MLB’s statistical leaderboard finds the Tigers’ DH in the top 10 in batting average (second), on base percentage (sixth), OPS (third), total bases (seventh) and runs created (tied for fifth). He also is tied for tenth in the AL in hits.

You could list stats proving Victor Martinez’ worth as an elite hitter until your blue in the face, but the most telling and important stat is his strikeout to walk ratio. Most elite hitters draw a ton of walks, but they also strike out a lot. Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout have respective walk totals of 87 and 69. They both have more than twice as many strikeouts as they do base-on-balls.

Martinez doesn’t walk as much, he only has 54, but his strikeout total is miniscule—38. This territory isn’t new to the former Red Sox hitter; he had one more walk (75) than his strikeout total in 2009.

Strikeouts are rally killers. They let the opposing pitcher gain more confidence and feel like he’s getting into a grove, especially the first time through the order. The fact that Martinez doesn’t punch out much means that when he gets out, he isn’t constantly hitting into double plays and destroying scoring chances.

Moving into the cleanup spot has worked wonders for Victor Martinez, he’s already surpassed his RBI total from last season in 39 fewer games. With two more home runs he’ll have doubled his total from last year.

To sum it up, Victor Martinez is immensely important for the Tigers, down the stretch and otherwise.

 

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.

 

MLB Trade Rumors: The Tigers and Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp at his best is a near flawless player. An athletic and talented center fielder, he combines that with the ability to hit for average, serious power and tremendous base running /speed to make for a potent threat. Put it this way, Kemp at his best would challenge Mike Trout for the “best five tool player” award.

Everyone is aware of what Kemp can do. He put in a wonderful season in 2011 when he posted a .324 batting average, 39 home runs, 126 RBI and 40 stolen bases. Kemp not only led the league in the two traditional run scoring stats, homers and RBI, but he also led the league in runs scored, OPS+ and total bases. Also on his resume that year? A Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Wow this guy is excessively driving in the point of how good Matt Kemp is,” then we’re on the same page. Matt Kemp is good. Really good.

So why are the Dodgers considering trading someone who, when healthy, rivals Mike Trout?

This is why. Here’s a comparison of Kemp’s accolade-filled 2011 stat line compared to that of the last two years.

Matt Kemp 2011: 161 games played, 115 runs scored, 195 hits, 33 doubles, 39 homeruns, 126 RBI, 40 stolen bases, .324 batting average, 353 total bases.

Matt Kemp 2012 & 2013: 179 games played, 109 runs scored, 193 hits, 37 doubles, 29 homeruns, 102 RBI, 18 stolen bases, .290 batting average, 321 total bases.

The current Dodger’s injury form and the emergence of Yasiel Puig have doomed Kemp to expendability. Maybe not Puig by himself, but the general immovability of Carol Crawford’s contract means one or both Kemp and Andre Either must go. After all, you can’t play four outfielders in the National League.

The Dodgers, as with many contending teams, have very specific needs. Their only legitimate needs are at third base and possibly insurance at second base. The Tigers current third baseman is Nick Castellanos. Unless the Angels offer Mike Trout or Washington calls with an offer of Stephen Strasburg and/or Bryce Harper, you don’t trade the former top-prospect if you’re Detroit.

Los Angeles was reported to be willing to eat money to facilitate a Kemp trade. Theoretically, a trade similar to that of the Prince Fielder trade could work. LA would acquire Ian Kinsler to provide insurance at second base as well as playing third. However, even if the Dodgers ate significant money, Detroit would likely be taking back major salary in the trade. Something that would go against the previous Fielder trade as well as the Doug Fister trade.

If you take salary out of the equation, a package centered around Austin Jackson could get the deal done, but who else would be in that package is beyond me. The Tigers don’t have the equivalent of a massive, expiring contract in the NBA that they can shop. They simply don’t have a big contract to shop.

Dave Dombrowski’s reshaping of the team has been extremely cost cutting. He’s expunged the hefty, collective contracts of players such as Fielder, Fister and Jhonny Peralta and has replaced them with younger, cheaper players that still make the team legitimate contenders. The cost-cutting has gone so far that somewhat-expensive role players such as Jose Veras, Ramon Santiago and Brayan Pena have been replaced with even cheaper options like Ian Krol, Steven Lombardozzi and Bryan Holaday.

Acquiring Kemp would undo almost all of the work he’s done to get the team to its current state.

Detroit has reportedly been in contact with the Dodgers about the two-time All-Star, which given everything that I just stated makes a potential move curious. It may have just been tire kicking at its best, but if the talks were serious the Tigers would probably ask for the Dodgers to eat a lot of money. Like a lot in italics a lot.

The Dodgers reportedly now plan to keep Kemp, but should the Tigers remain interested there could be trouble.

Unless Los Angeles nearly gives him away from a salary standpoint, Kemp is going to occupy a large portion of Detroit’s salary going forward. This is all and well if the Tigers are able to sign Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer to long-term contracts, but if Kemp’s salary stands in the way of that, then Dave Dombrowski should stay away.

Kemp is going to bounce back and be a fantastic player, but he isn’t worth the risk of losing Miguel Cabrera and or Max Scherzer.

 

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

MLB Trade Rumors: Non-Tender Bargain Bin Free Agent Finds

Lost in the shuffle of the numerous (and I mean numerous, with italics) trades that occurred on Tuesday were the equally numerous number of quality players to hit the market after not being tendered contracts by their teams. They may have gotten a late start on the market, but there are many non-tendered players who could be quality pieces on a contending team. Here are some of the better buys.

  • J.P. Arencibia, C

The former Blue Jay hits the market with lots to offer as a catcher. He wasn’t the best to offer from a defensive standpoint. He led the league in passed balls last season and wasn’t necessarily the best in terms of caught stealing percentage, or the success at which runners stole on him last year. Only three “qualified” catchers finished with a worse percentage. Arencibia did provide some value with his bat. Despite a .194 batting average, the formerly highly-touted prospect amassed 21 home runs. Only Matt Wieters had more in terms of catchers across Major League Baseball. The now ex-Toronto player may have his deficiencies as a player, but as a bench bat with pop/backup catcher there is definite value. Teams like the Tigers, Rockies and Cubs could be fits.

  • Francisco Peguero, OF

Another formerly well-regarded prospect, Peguero failed to stick in the Bay Area and will look to latch on elsewhere. He was one of the Giants’ top prospects, but as stated couldn’t stay with the big league club. He has the potential to hit for average in the big leagues, but at this point a flier from someone is all he’s likely to get.

  • Sandy Rosario, RP

Rosario, the second Giant on the list, is a quality relief pitcher. Or at least that’s what his numbers suggested last season. The ex-Marlin posted a 3.02 ERA in 43 appearances while allowing a singular homerun. His strikeout-to-walk ratio wasn’t amazing with 24 punch-outs to 20 free passes, but he’s got the talent. It’s surprising that San Francisco would non-tender him after such a fine season, but if you go through the Giants’ depth chart, their entire bullpen is composed of quality relievers. Almost all of them have ridiculous numbers, so maybe they felt Rosario was surplus. Regardless, he’d be a cheap seventh inning option on most teams. Anyone with bullpen needs could target him.

  • Christian Martinez, RP

Martinez, like Rosario, didn’t work out in Florida/Miami and moved elsewhere to display his talents. That “elsewhere” was Atlanta. After an ok year 2010, Martinez was in fine form from 2011 to 2012. Over that span he compiled a 3.63 ERA over 100 appearances. His strikeout-to-walk ratio in that span was a whopping 123 to 38. The now former Brave didn’t appear much this season, making two appearances and posting a 7.71 ERA in that span. Should his form from 2011 and 2012 return, Martinez could be an electric strike thrower for a contending club. Also like Rosario, any bullpen-needy club could come calling. Bias aside, Detroit could be a nice fit.

  • Mitchell Boggs, RP

No, the next player isn’t a former Marlin or top prospect or ex-Giant. He’s Mitchell Boggs. Folks will remember him from his days as a Cardinal when he helped the team to a World Series triumph. He posted ERAs of 3.61, 3.56 and 2.21 over three years, totaling out to a combined ERA of 3.08 in a little over 200 innings pitched. The Georgia native struggled in 18 games in St. Louis this season, seeing his ERA balloon to an unhealthy 11.05. He soon moved on to Colorado where he posted a much more respectable 3.12 ERA in nine appearances. It seems 2013 may have been a fluke. If so, teams in need of pitching will, and should, come calling.

  • Ronald Belisario, RP

Everyone is apparently non tendering decent relief pitchers. For whatever reason, the Dodgers have decided to move on from Belisario. Outside of a fluky-looking 2010 season, the career LA pitcher seems to be a solid pitcher. He compiled a 2.04 ERA in his rookie year in 2009, a 2.54 ERA last season and a decent 3.97 ERA this past season. He’s probably good for anywhere from 60 to 70 appearances in a season. That being said, in the right situation, Belisario could be a devastating pitcher. Let’s all hope Oakland doesn’t sign him, or anyone on this list. Goodness knows Billy Beane doesn’t need the relievers.

  • Chris Coghlan, OF

See here gang, someone who isn’t a relief pitcher! Former Rookie of the Year Coghlan was non-tendered by the Fish after failing to re-create the promise he showed when he won the award. After hitting .321 in his inaugural season, he regressed to .268 the next year before dipping to .230 and .140 the next two years. Last season wasn’t horrible as he posted a .256 line, but it wasn’t enough for the Marlins to keep him around. A rebuilding team like the Astros could be ideal for Coghlan. If he regains something near his ROY numbers he could be moved to a contender mid-season.

  • Ryan Webb, RP

Just as quickly as we left relief pitcher behind we’re back, this time with former Padre Ryan Webb. The one-time New Orleans Zephyr is no stranger to being moved around. San Diego acquired him from Oakland as part of a package of prospects for outfielder Scott Hairston. After flourishing in the NL West for two years, he was traded again, this time with fellow reliever and current free agent Edward Mujica for Cameron Maybin. With Mujica gone and Webb being dealt for Maybin, he (Webb) is the one of the last remaining links to the Miguel Cabrera trade. He and a .200 hitter in AAA sum up all that’s left in South Beach. Take that back, a .200 AAA hitter is all that’s left from Miguel Cabrera. Well done Marlins’ front office! Webb posted a 2.91 ERA last season over 80 innings. There will be takers out there. It’s only a matter of who those takers are.

  • Garrett Jones, 1B/OF

Another non-reliever! (Fireworks go off simultaneously in the background.) Jones is the latest reclamation project on this list. He isn’t without his warts, but for someone who is a solid bet to hit 15-20+ homeruns in a season, he’ll likely find work. He was slightly below average at first base in terms of runs saved, but run saving ability in the outfield was horrendous. A first base/DH job in the AL could apply to him. Like Coghlan, he could find work on a struggling team before being flipped to a contender midseason. Worst case scenario, he’s a powerful bench bat that occasionally platoons in the field, think Jonny Gomes or Mike Carp. A team looking for this kind of platoon would be ideal. Jones hits righties to a tune of .271 compared to the .193, showing he displays against southpaws. Like Webb, he’ll have a gig next year. The question becomes where?

  • Tommy Hanson, SP

Another pitcher on the list… but at least he’s not a reliever! Hanson showed ace-like potential when he burst onto the scene with the Braves in 2009, but after seemingly plateauing as a quality middle-of-the-order starter the next two years, he struggled in 2012. Posting a career high (and not in a good way) ERA of 4.48. After that, he was shipped to Anaheim where the Angels thought he could fix their rotation issues. That didn’t pan out as the ex-Atlanta starter went 4-3 with a 5.42 ERA. LAA (as acronym happy or lazy folks call them) has moved on. Hanson still has the potential to be a quality big league starter; he just needs the right fit.

Daniel Hudson, former frontline starter for Arizona, was non-tendered and could have been a hot commodity on the market in the same vein as Hanson, but it looks like he’ll be back in the desert.

  • Lou Marson, C

Like Webb, Marson was one of the last parts of a major trade left with his team. Carlos Carrasco is the only player left in Cleveland from the Cliff Lee trade. Offensively, Marson isn’t amazing. One can tell by his career .219 batting average. What the ex-Indian does bring is solid defense. In 2010 and 2011 he threw out a respectable 38 percent of runners attempting to steal. That rate plummeted to 14 percent in 2012. The plummeting rate and waning offense led to only three games with Terry Francona’s squad this past year. A team looking for a defensive-first backstop could find value in Marson.

  • Chris Getz, 2B

Getz has a pretty wonky stat line. He has driven in 111 runs over the course of his career. During the same time he has exactly three home runs. Regardless, the former White Sox player would provide a solid bench bat on most teams. After failing to successfully hold down the Royals’ second base job, KC saw it fit to non-tender Getz. The Mark Teahen trade brought Getz to KC in 2009 after a few years in Chicago. Teams looking for infield depth could take a flier on the veteran second baseman. He has little experience playing third and short, but will predominately play second.

Check back later for more non-tendered players with value.

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

MLB Trade Rumors: Non-Tender Bargain Bin Free Agent Finds – Ryan Webb

Just as quickly as we left relief pitcher behind we’re back, this time with former Padre Ryan Webb. The one-time New Orleans Zephyr is no stranger to being moved around. San Diego acquired him from Oakland as part of a package of prospects for outfielder Scott Hairston. After flourishing in the NL West for two years, he was traded again, this time with fellow reliever and current free agent Edward Mujica for Cameron Maybin. With Mujica gone and Webb being dealt for Maybin, he (Webb) is the one of the last remaining links to the Miguel Cabrera trade. He and a .200 hitter in AAA sum up all that’s left in South Beach. Take that back, a .200 AAA hitter is all that’s left from Miguel Cabrera. Well done Marlins’ front office! Webb posted a 2.91 ERA last season over 80 innings. There will be takers out there. It’s only a matter of who those takers are.

 

Check back later for more non-tendered players with value.

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

Detroit Tigers: Breaking Down the Doug Fister Trade

When the Detroit Tigers acquired Doug Fister from the Seattle Mariners a few years ago, it was viewed as an under-the-radar trade. After a few months of Fister pitching, it was looked at as a straight-up train robbery.

The train robbery is over. The Tigers have cashed in their bounty from that robbery, dealing Fister to our nation’s Capitol for a package that included utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi, young, lefty reliever Ian Krol and starting pitching prospect Robbie Ray.

At the end of the day, someone was going to be supplanted by Drew Smyly in the Tigers’ rotation. Many thought the supplanted pitcher was going to Rick Porcello, some thought it would be Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.

It was Fister.

MLB Trade Rumors arbitration projections show Porcello earning more than Fister, so it wasn’t all about the money. But, Tigers did save some cash by comparison if you match up the former Mariners’ contract with the combined salary owed to the three players he was traded for.

Part of me thinks this has long term implications for the Tigers. They obviously get young players to help them contend in the future, namely Ray, but it also helps them get to that future.

People tend to forget that Rick Porcello is only 24 years of age. He’s already got five years in the big leagues, but is only 24. Fister is five years older. Keeping Porcello makes sense when looking ahead five years from now when Porcello will be in his prime at 29. At that time Fister will be making his way toward retirement.

Dave Dombrowski might be selling high on Fister. The team was determined to move Smyly into the rotation, meaning one of the incumbent starters had to go. Detroit isn’t moving Verlander or Sanchez, and would only take everything and the kitchen sink for Scherzer. This may have been a case of the Tigers getting more value out of Fister than Porcello.

Most people will say that it is a lost trade for the Tigers, but we shouldn’t doubt Dave Dombrowski’s trading prowess. He’s won every major trade he has made in recent memory.

Think about it, he won the Miguel Cabrera trade by a landslide (that’s including the fact that he had to take back Dontrelle Willis’ contract). He won the Curtis Granderson/Edwin Jackson three-teamer by a decent margin. He acquired Fister in said train robbery. He got Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante for a backup catcher and two young starting pitchers who haven’t been able to fully establish themselves on one of baseball’s worst teams. The man wins trades.

No one should jump to conclusions on trades. You can only tell who won or lost a trade in four or five years. People have doubted Dombrowski’s deals in the past. (I, for one, thought they gave way too much for Sanchez. I was wrong.) We have to give the team a chance to play together, let alone get through an off-season. It’s premature and foolish, to jump to conclusions about Dombrowski’s trading. Give it time. It’ll all work out.

Mapping the Tigers’ Off-Season Full

The baseball world was thrown into some disarray today. Jim Leyland stepped down. After decades in the game, according to Leyland, it was time to step down.

Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers will have their own check-list of items to accomplish this offseason. Here are some of them-

1.       Find a Good Fit to Lead the Team

With Leyland’s managerial days behind him, the team will need someone else to take the reins. The Tigers’ vacancy will automatically leapfrog the job opportunities in Cincinnati and Washington as the top gig on the market. After all, what manager wouldn’t want to take over a club who has made three straight LCS appearances as well as having arguably the best players at their positions (i.e. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera, etc.)? The Tigers could go numerous ways here.

One would be to go the “Mike Matheny” route and hire someone with little- to-no managerial experience, but is familiar with the organization. Brad Ausmus would fit the bill. However, this may or may not fly. The team is a championship contender, and throwing a first time manager into the fire like that may not work. It worked for Matheny, but Walt Weiss, Robin Ventura and Mike Redmond’s respective career starts haven’t exactly gone swimmingly.

The second option would be the “John Farrell” route: hiring someone who is familiar with the team, and has previous experience. Gene Lamont would fit this bill, and Leyland will surely give his old friend his backing, but whether Dombrowski wants to go this route remains to be seen.

Finally, the last option is the “Terry Francona” route. The team would go with an experienced, proven winner as their manager, someone who knows how to win. Francona, Buck Showalter and Clint Hurdle are recent examples of this route that have worked out well. Dusty Baker, Charlie Manuel and Lou Piniella’s respective names have already been tossed around. However, all that being said, the Tigers can’t afford to have a Bobby Valentine hire. It would be disastrous.

2.        Free Agent Decisions

With numerous potential free agents, the Tigers will be faced with plenty of tough choices come decision time. Brayan Pena, Omar Infante, Ramon Santiago, Jhonny Peralta, Octavio Dotel, Jose Veras and Joaquin Benoit could all be out of contract. Resigning them or finding replacements will be important. Veras has a modest club option in his contract, meaning he will likely be back. Infante probably will be resigned if he doesn’t ask for too much money relative to his worth. Pena is another good bet to resign thanks to his strong offensive numbers filling in for Alex Avila behind the plate. Meanwhile, players like Santiago and Dotel could be phased out in favor of younger, cheaper options like Hernan Perez and Luke Putkonen. The trickiest cases could be Peralta and Benoit. Peralta has stated that he would be open to returning to the Tigers as an outfielder, and while his bat would be welcomed, I’m not sure how comfortable the Tigers would be with sticking him in left field from a defense standpoint. Benoit might be harder to predict still. The former Texas Ranger justified the three-year, 16.5 million dollar contract the Tigers gave him with another strong showing in his walk year. After taking over for reclamation project Jose Valverde, Benoit went on to convert 24 saves. Sadly, he will likely be remembered for his postseason shortcoming in Boston. Detroit would probably like a closer with more experience in the role. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Benoit return to the Motor City, however, it will likely be for less money than he previously got, and he probably won’t be closing.

3.       Upgrade in the Lineup and the Field

Even teams that win it all need to make changes and upgrade. You have to keep up with the Joneses.

With Infante in danger of walking in free agency, second base could be a potential hole, once again, for the Tigers. It may sound radical, but what about Brandon Phillips? Not only is he considered, and probably is, one of the best defensive players at his position, but he can also swing with the best. Phillips may be the most polished all-around second baseman in the game not named Dustin Pedroia.

He drove in 103 runs in a down year and reports out of Cincy are that the team is looking to trade him. If the Reds are bent on dealing him, and are willing to eat the majority of his salary to do so, the Tigers should engage in trade talks. As good as Infante is, Phillips would be a massive upgrade with the bat and in the field. All of a sudden the defensively challenged Tigers could possess the slickest fielding double play tandem in the league with Phillips and Iglesias up the middle.

Not only that, but he could help lengthen a lineup that is a smidgen top heavy. Hitting the former Indian sixth behind Victor Martinez would give the team a formidable lineup that would only get more formidable should they find a new left fielder.

As much as Jhonny Peralta wants to come back to Detroit, I’m not sure the team could stomach his defense in left. It’s unfair to ask Peralta to become a whiz in the outfield after learning the position for the first time in his life just a few weeks ago. That being said, he will have growing pains should he stay there. Growing pains the Tigers cannot afford.

Top hitting prospect Nick Castellanos could be ready for a full season of big league at bats next season, and all indications are that the former third baseman is going to be very good for a long time. They may hand the left field job to him outright, or bring him along in slowly in a platoon with Andy Dirks, or a low-buy free agent. Should the team go with the “bring along slowly, platoon” route, Grady Sizemore, Nate McClouth and Jason Kubel are all viable options in that regard.

If the team feels their top hitting prospect isn’t ready for the big time, the last option is signing someone similar to Torii Hunter, a veteran on a short contract who can still produce at a high level. Old friend Curtis Granderson might be too expensive, but if the money isn’t too obnoxious and the team doesn’t feel Castellanos is ready, the Grandy-Man could find himself in Detroit once again. It could be beneficial for Granderson as well. Not only would he get the chance to win, he would also improve his free agent stock for next season on a one-year contract if he doesn’t find a multi-year deal to his liking this offseason.

4.       Upgrade the Bullpen

Many will probably tell you the Tigers shortcoming in the ALCS was their bullpen. That and nagging injuries and slumps to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, respectively. The Tigers don’t have a bad bullpen. Jose Veras, Drew Smyly, Benoit and Al Albuquerque are all quality options. The Tigers just need more depth and a true closer. Whether it is by trade or by free agency, the club needs a closer. Edward Mujica could be had in free agency should the Cardinals chose not to resign him. However, his general inexperience as a closer before this year could make the Tigers think twice. Another former Tiger who could interest the team is Fernando Rodney, who after struggling in Anaheim, has experienced a career renaissance in Tampa Bay. Other intriguing closer candidates that could be had are Steve Cishek, Huston Street and Joe Nathan.

Outside of closer, the Tigers need more quality arms in the ‘pen. Free agents such as Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier as well as low-buy, reclamation projects Joel Hanrahan and Francisco Rodriguez are fits.

It all starts at the top for the Tigers. They need to find a new manager before moving on to the rest of their offseason tasks. Here’s hoping they find the right fit.

Mapping the Tigers’ Off-Season Part Four: Upgrade the Bullpen

Many will probably tell you the Tigers shortcoming in the ALCS was their bullpen. That and nagging injuries and slumps to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, respectively. The Tigers don’t have a bad bullpen. Jose Veras, Drew Smyly, Benoit and Al Albuquerque are all quality options. The Tigers just need more depth and a true closer. Whether it is by trade or by free agency, the club needs a closer. Edward Mujica could be had in free agency should the Cardinals chose not to resign him. However, his general inexperience as a closer before this year could make the Tigers think twice. Another former Tiger who could interest the team is Fernando Rodney, who after struggling in Anaheim, has experienced a career renaissance in Tampa Bay. Other intriguing closer candidates that could be had are Steve Cishek, Huston Street and Joe Nathan.

Outside of closer, the Tigers need more quality arms in the ‘pen. Free agents such as Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier as well as low-buy, reclamation projects Joel Hanrahan and Francisco Rodriguez are fits.

Mapping the Tigers’ Off-Season Part 1: Finding the Right Manager

Mapping the Tigers’ Offseason

The baseball world was thrown into some disarray today. Jim Leyland stepped down. After decades in the game, according to Leyland, it was time to step down.

Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers will have their own check-list of items to accomplish this offseason. Here’s the first item-

1.       Find a Good Fit to Lead the Team

With Leyland’s managerial days behind him, the team will need someone else to take the reins. The Tigers’ vacancy will automatically leapfrog the job opportunities in Cincinnati and Washington as the top gig on the market. After all, what manager wouldn’t want to take over a club who has made three straight LCS appearances as well as having arguably the best players at their positions (i.e. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera, etc.)? The Tigers could go numerous ways here.

One would be to go the “Mike Matheny” route and hire someone with little- to-no managerial experience, but is familiar with the organization. Brad Ausmus would fit the bill. However, this may or may not fly. The team is a championship contender, and throwing a first time manager into the fire like that may not work. It worked for Matheny, but Walt Weiss, Robin Ventura and Mike Redmond’s respective career starts haven’t exactly gone swimmingly.

The second option would be the “John Farrell” route: hiring someone who is familiar with the team, and has previous experience. Gene Lamont would fit this bill, and Leyland will surely give his old friend his backing, but whether Dombrowski wants to go this route remains to be seen.

Finally, the last option is the “Terry Francona” route. The team would go with an experienced, proven winner as their manager, someone who knows how to win. Francona, Buck Showalter and Clint Hurdle are recent examples of this route that have worked out well. Dusty Baker, Charlie Manuel and Lou Piniella’s respective names have already been tossed around. However, all that being said, the Tigers can’t afford to have a Bobby Valentine hire. It would be disastrous.

Check back for part two soon.