Players the Tigers Should Target at the Trade Deadline: Tyler Clippard and Scott Kazmir

With the baseball season reaching its annual All-Star break, things aren’t exactly ginger-peachy in the Motor City. The win-now Detroit Tigers own a .500 record at 44-44 and are nine games out of first place. Given the Tigers’ recent track record and desire to win, you’d expect them to be major buyers at the trade deadline. Here are some of the players Detroit and general manager Dave Dombrowski should target at the trade deadline.

Tyler Clippard

Since leaving the New York Yankees in an ill-fated trade for Jonathan Albaladejo, Clippard has long since established himself as one of the premier relievers in the league. Since 2009, his accomplishments include two All-Star appearances, a 32 save season (2012) and another season in which he won 11 contests without starting a game.

Clippard’s ERA since ’09 is a sparkling 2.62 over a whopping 490.2 innings. Over that span, he’s struck out 557 batters. The reliever is now in Oakland following an offseason trade, and has predictably thrived in the cavernous confines of the O.co Coliseum. He’s solidified himself as the team’s closer with 17 saves on the campaign.

Adding the reliever would do a number of things for Detroit’s bullpen. Not only would the addition of Clippard improve the group, it would also ease pressure on the other pitchers. Clippard set-up Joakim Soria in the eighth, therefore allowing Alex Wilson, Blaine Hardy, Al Alburquerque, Neftali Feliz and Bruce Rondon to pitch the seventh inning or earlier in situations with more margin for error and less pressure.

(RELATED: Neftali Feliz Signing a Smart Move by the Tigers)

Scott Kazmir

While Clippard would help stabilize the bullpen, Scott Kazmir would bring much needed help to a rotation that is practically begging for it.

David Price has been everything and more in terms of being the team’s ace, while Anibal Sanchez has rebound as of late (5-0 record, .182 batting average against and a 2.84 ERA over his last six starts). Outside of those two and a seemingly rebounding Justin Verlander, there are major question marks in the Detroit rotation. Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene both started out pitching superbly. The key words there are “started out”. Both have been horrible lately, and Kyle Ryan and Buck Farmer haven’t been much better.

If healthy, Kazmir would fix some of those issues. He can’t clone himself, but he’d be a massive upgrade.

The former Tampa Bay ace hasn’t been racking up the wins like last season when he posted 15. Still, Kazmir has lowered his ERA by nearly an entire run, going from 3.55 last season to 2.49 this year. His walks are up slightly (2.4 last season, 3.0 per nine innings this season), but so are his strikeouts— 7.8 in 2014, 8.5 in 2015.

With only five wins on the season, Kazmir could follow a similar route to Doug Fister in terms of winning significantly more games in Detroit thanks to much-improved run support. He may not be an ace, but he’d fit in well in Motown as the Tigers’ second or third starter.

Cost:

The A’s farm system is not what it once was, specifically in the pitching department. Six of Oakland’s top eight prospects (including their top four overall, according to MLB.com) are position players. Going on that, a number of Tigers pitching prospects could interest Billy Beane and company. Angel Nesbitt showed flashes of potential, as well as a blazing fastball, during his stint in Detroit earlier this season. He may benefit a stint pitching in the O.co Coliseum. Tigers’ Futures Game representative Joe Jimenez could also interest Oakland.

(RELATED: Players the Tigers Could Move at the Trade Deadline)

The Tigers’ rotation struggles have been well documented, but one thing they have brought to light is the number of starters who are near big-league ready. Any one of Farmer, Ryan or Drew VerHagen could thrive in spacious Oakland. Detroit could also dangle infield prospect Dixon Machado.

Verdict:

While both players are rentals, but they might be the difference in the Tigers making or missing the playoffs. Beane will likely sell high on two of his better assets, but Detroit should at the very least kick the tires on both, if not acquire them outright.

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

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3 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 6-1 Loss vs the Oakland Athletics

  • Four

The number of hits by the Tigers. This is detrimental to scoring runs and winning games against most pitchers, but when you do so against Sonny Gray, you’re almost guaranteed to lose.

  • Two

The number of hits by Miguel Cabrera. The slugger’s average moved to .335 after the game. The former MVP accounted for half the Tigers hits and drove in the team’s only run.

  • 136

The number of pitches thrown by the Tigers. Anibal Sanchez had 104 of them over seven innings while Tom Gorzelanny, Angel Nesbitt and Alex Wilson combined to throw 32 pitches, spanning two innings. Gorzelanny and Nesbitt allowed two hits, two runs (both earned) and a walk in two innings after Sanchez allowed four earned runs.

4 Stats from the #Detroit #Tigers 5-3 Loss to the #Oakland #Athletics

  • Nine

The number of strikeouts tallied by Tigers pitchers. Not a bad number, but it doesn’t look outstanding when you allow five runs. Alfredo Simon started the game and posted six strikeouts while Angel Nesbitt, Al Alburquerque and Joakim Soria all recorded a punch out each.

  • 10

The number of times the Tigers reached base. Again, not a bad number, but not amazing when you lose.

  • Three

The number of players with multiple hits by the Tigers. Nick Castellanos, Yoenis Cespedes and James McCann all had two hits. Castellanos drove in two runs while Cespedes scored another.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by Alburquerque. After a rough start, the reliever seems to have hit his stride. He’s only allowed a single run since April 28th, lowering his ERA from 11.37 to 3.80 in the process.

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Three Stats from the Detroit #Tigers 3-2 Win vs the Oakland Athletics

  • Six

The number of pitchers used by the Tigers. Wednesday was a bullpen day with Alex Wilson, Kyle Ryan, AL Alburquerque, Blaine Hardy, Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria all recording at least one out.

  • Three

The number of runs batted in by Tigers left fielder and former Athletic Yoenis Cespedes. The outfielder won the game for Detroit while also scoring a run and drawing a walk to go along with his three RBI and two hits.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by Wilson, Alburquerque, Chamberlain and Soria. Wilson lowered his ERA to 1.99 after three hitless innings while Alburquerque dropped his below four. His ERA sits at 3.93. Joba Chamberlain earned run average dropped to 1.29 while Soria’s fell to 1.27.

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4 Stats from the Detroit #Tigers 1-0 Win vs the Oakland Athletics

  • Five

The number of hits allowed by David Price in seven shutout innings. The ace also recorded three strikeouts while allowing only one walk.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by the bullpen. After Price exited, Joba Chamberlain, Tom Gorzelanny and Joakim Soria combined to put away the A’s. The trio allowed two hits, one of which was an infield single.

  • Two

The number of hits by Anthony Gose. Detroit’s leadoff hitter scored the only run of the game and stole his eighth base of the season. After a first inning single, Gose stole second before advancing to third on a throwing error by Oakland catcher Josh Phegley. He would score on a Rajai Davis sacrifice-fly.

  • Four

The number of walks drawn by the Tigers. On a day when the offense only mustered six hits, drawing four walks was important. While it didn’t lead to more runs, it gave the team extra opportunities to score.

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Five Stats from the Detroit Tigers 4-0 Loss to the Oakland Athletics

  • Four

The number of hits by the Tigers. This simply isn’t going to cut it against most big league opposition. Detroit also drew a singular walk to add to its baserunner total.

  • Zero

The number of hits by shortstop Dixon Machado in his Major League debut. He saw a total of eight pitches and grounded into a double play.

  • One

The number of Tigers with more than one hit. Tyler Collins accounted for half of the Tigers hits with a 2-for-4 showing at the plate. He’s now hitting .267 on the season. On a day when Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez were out of the lineup, Detroit couldn’t get the rest of the team to generate any offense.

  • 2

The number of innings pitched by Tigers starter Shane Greene. The former Yankee allowed eight hits and four runs while striking out four.

  • Two

The number of strikeouts by Alex Wilson in only an innings of work. Wilson and Blaine Hardy combined to throw 2.1 innings of shutout ball once Greene departed.

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Stats to Know from the Detroit Tigers 8-5 Win vs the Cleveland Indians

  • 4

The number of hits and runs driven in by Miguel Cabrera. Miggy did all this in a mere four plate appearances while also drawing a walk and scoring three runs. The Triple Crown winner went 11-for-14 in the sweep of the Indians.

  • 3

The number of stolen bases by the Tigers. Detroit has often been criticized for a lack of speed, but with Rajai Davis, Ian Kinsler, Anthony Gose, Jose Iglesias and Andrew Romine on the roster, they have the tools to be a successful running team. Davis had two of the team’s three steals while Kinsler added the third.

  • 1

The number of errors committed by the Tigers. Entering Monday, the team only had three, good for 12th fewest in the majors. Oakland and New York lead the league with nine errors apiece. Defense was supposed to be an issue for the Tigers, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this season. This happened on Opening Day.

  • 3

Stats pertaining to J.D. Martinez. The outfielder notched three hits in the win, drove in three and hit his third home run of the season. In non-three news, he scored one run.

  • 0

The number of baserunners, or lack-there-of, allowed to reach base by interim closer Joakim Soria. The reliever also recorded a strikeout in his perfect inning.

 

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: 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.

 

Detroit Tigers Acquire David Price: How, Why and What it Means for the Tigers and the Pennant Race

Who Was Acquired: The Tigers acquired starting pitcher David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade.

Who They Gave Up: Centerfielder Austin Jackson, starting pitcher Drew Smyly and minor league shortstop Willy Adames.

Who Else Was Involved: The Seattle Mariners, who acquired Jackson while also sending infielder Nick Franklin to Tampa Bay.

What it Means for the Tigers:

Detroit acquired one of the premier starting pitchers in the game, David Price. The cost? Austin Jackson, Willy Adames and Drew Smyly. The price to pay (if you excuse the pun) wasn’t as high as say the pieces Kansas City gave up for James Shields, but it was still high. Jackson is as good of a defensive centerfielder as you’ll find and brings pop and speed to the lineup. Smyly, on the other hand, is a young, controllable and versatile pitcher who has quality numbers in his career out of the ‘pen and in the rotation. Adames is in the lower minors and is a long way away from the Majors.

The Tigers didn’t pay a whole lot for Price. You could arguably say that the Red Sox got a better haul for either Jon Lester or John Lackey. Chicago may have gotten a better deal for Jeff Samardjiza. Detroit can now pencil in some combination of Price, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer for games one through three of the postseason. That’s not even mentioning Rick Porcello, who is finally showing all the potential and promise he had earlier in his career, or Anibal Sanchez who not only was ridiculously dominant against Boston in the playoffs last year, but also led the American League in ERA last season.

This trade was partly made possible due to offseason acquisitions Rajai Davis and JD Martinez. Before their acquisitions the outfield was very clearly Jackson, Torii Hunter and some combination of players filling the third spot. Now with Martinez hitting like a middle-of-the-order bat and occupying the corner outfield spot opposite Hunter, the team can slide Davis to center to fill the void created by Jackson. Davis’ skillset also made it easier to part with Jackson. Last season, Jackson was the lone source of speed in the lineup— something that was exposed in October. Davis can cover ground in the outfield, can steal a multitude of bases (even more than Jackson) and hit for some power. On a minor note, this solves the Andy Dirks issue. When he’s healthy, Dirks will be the fourth outfielder, something that wasn’t clear before, due to all the outfielders and Dirks’ injury.

Price’s acquisition also sets up an all-out war for the American League pennant. With all due respect to Anaheim and Baltimore, the AL champ will be from Michigan (more likely) or the Bay Area. The Tigers and A’s have met in the last two postseasons, with Detroit winning both matchups. Oakland has made big acquisitions as well, bringing in Jon Lester and Jeff Samardjiza. The A’s made these trades to win it all, but also to get by Detroit who have knocked them out of the playoffs the last three times Billy Beane’s team have made it.

The acquisition of Price also gives the Tigers insurance down the road. If Max Scherzer leaves, the Tigers now have Price as cover, if you want to call one of the best pitchers in the game “cover.”

If anything, this trade signifies pitching as king in baseball. The Tigers now employ the last three American League Cy Young winners in the league. If the previous thinking holds, and pitching is king, the Tigers have it in spades. Look out World Series, here comes Detroit.