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.

Kingdome Crossover: Seattle Mariners: Signing Nelson Cruz Doesn’t Guarantee Success

Rumored Mariner signing Nelson Cruz would add a powerful bat to a lineup already bolstered by the arrivals of Robinson Cano and Corey Hart. What signing Cruz doesn’t do is guarantee success.

An offensive triumvirate of Cruz, Cano and Kyle Seager isn’t one to balk at, and is a wonderful foundation for the team moving forward, but in terms of success, it guarantees nothing.

In most divisions, like say the NL West, these kinds of additions (Cano, Cruz, Hart) would push a team towards the top of the table. Not so much with the Mariners in the AL West.

The rest of the division is stocked. The Mariners’ rise to “playoff-contender” status, if not the realm of respectability, has vaulted the division to a ridiculous level. On paper, the Angels, A’s and Rangers all have the talent to be playoff teams. Throw in Seattle, and you end up with a lot of unhappy teams come the postseason.

It wouldn’t be completely surprising to see, even with Cano and friends, the M’s finish in the same exact place in the standings as last year. They’re probably going to have an improved record, but as stated, the division is stacked.

If one thing is clear after watching postseason baseball, it’s that pitching is needed to contend. Teams like Detroit, Boston, St. Louis and Oakland found great success last year with tremendous staffs. And it wasn’t just those four teams; most playoff teams boasted strong pitching. Great pitching is nearly synonymous with a playoff squad now-a-days.

Which brings the topic of one-way conversation in the piece to the Mariners’ pitching.

The M’s will use some combination of Erasmo Ramirez, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Brandon Maurer and recent signing Scott Baker for the last three spots in the rotation. This is where question marks come into play. Moving into the future, both Walker and Paxton figure to be mainstays in the Seattle rotation thanks to their fantastic potential, but between them they have a grand total of 39 innings at the big league level. Whether they continue to show promise or hit a wall remains to be seen.

Ramirez and Maurer have both shown flashes of potential in the past, but the jury remains largely out on the pair. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Baker, given his experience and quality, leapfrog one or both of them to claim a rotation spot. The bottom line is that the Mariners’ rotation could show the promise and poise that Oakland’s young hurlers have shown, or they could continue to display the growing pains that have plagued the team.

If anything, a potential Cruz signing puts more pressure on the rotation to succeed. The one-time Brewer coupled with Cano, Hart and Logan Morrison would vastly improve a team that had issues scoring runs. The run output in Seattle should, at the very least, be slightly above average. The Mariners need their young pitchers to step up. If they can do this, Seattle will be in a position to contend. If not, well let’s just say get ready for all those low-scoring losses to turn into higher-scoring losses.

You can see the piece on Kingdome as well.

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 – Ronald Belisario

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.

 

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

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

Kingdome Crossover: The Jason Bay/Casper Wells Post-Conundrum Analysis

Here’s a piece I wrote over at www.kingdomeofseattlesports.com/ on the Mariners outfield situation. Give it a read.

The Mariners made no secret of their desire to beef up their middle-of-the-order in the off-season. They turned John Jaso into Mike Morse. That transaction, however early it might be, is paying off. They signed Raul Ibanez to hit for power and make sure Morse wasn’t the only new-old Mariner. They also signed Jason Bay.

The Mariners’ outfield was clogged to begin with. Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez, Trayvon Robinson, Eric Thames, Carlos Peguero and Wells were all fighting for a third of the outfield pie. You add the new power bats and some people are going to have to go.

Robinson was dealt to Baltimore and Thames and Peguero are playing in Tacoma, Guti and Grand Torrido (that’s Saunders, you can see my explanation here) are starting for the Mariners.

The final outfield spot, in the end, came down to Bay or Wells.

Bay, six years Wells’ senior who is on an expiring contract and hit .165 in nearly half of a season in New York.

Or Wells, the prototypical fourth outfielder who is controlled by the team longer, is younger and cheaper than Bay.

Wells might be one of the more cynically undervalued players in the league. He played well enough to get more ABs in Seattle, however, due to the crowded outfield (see above,) wasn’t able to get them. Wells is never going to be a mega superstar, but given a decent number of at bats, he could be a very solid contributor offensively and defensively.

Wells, again given decent playing time, is a plus defender who could hit around 20 homers in a full season.

But instead the team went with Bay, who if he plays well, is likely to garner a new contract next year from someone else.

That’s no slant on Bay, but in a situation like this when the spot up for grabs is third string corner outfield/DH position, then you should probably go with the younger, cheaper, longer controlled, better defensive player.

Oh, the travesties of baseball.

(You can see the piece in it’s entirety here.)

The Mariners Really Need to Trade Felix Hernandez

The Upper Echelons of Major League Pitchers-

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. David Price, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver
  3. Matt Cain, RA Dickey , James Shields, Zack Grienke, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez
  4. Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg,  Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Johnny Cueto
  5. Ian Kennedy, Anibal Sanchez, Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo, Trevor Cahill, Jordan Zimmerman etc.

Those, in a nutshell, are the top pitchers in baseball. Notice the placement of RA Dickey and James Shields. Both have been traded in the last month, yet both are ranked below (in my estimate) Felix Hernandez. In addition to those two big offseason moves, the Angels signed Josh Hamilton. I say this for one reason, Texas isn’t going anywhere,  and Los Angeles just added Hamilton to their team. The other team in the division is Oakland who, I might point out, was probably the second best team in the AL playoffs last year.

Regardless of Seattle’s current talent (meh,) the team is in a stacked division. Anything besides last place is probably a miracle (barring an Angels’ season-long flop.)

The team isn’t going anywhere soon. Thus it makes sense to trade Felix Hernandez, especially since their top two pitching prospects (Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen) are ranked fourth and eighth in terms of the top 100 prospects in the game per Jonathan Mayo.

There are two, if not three, (James Paxton could be special as well) potential Hernandez replacements waiting in the system. Yes, the fences are being moved in and the Mariners need to sell tickets, but dealing Hernandez makes sense.

Let’s put a few things out there. One, Hernandez is four years younger than Shields and twelve younger than Dickey. Not surprisingly, King Felix is a much better pitcher than both. The point on Shields, or even Dickey, is that Shields fetched the number three overall prospect (again all this per Mayo,) Wil Myers, who has at least “star” potential if not more. Another prospect that went to Tampa was starter Jake Odorizzi, ranked the 30th best in all of baseball. Tampa also picked up two other prospects who are ranked in the top 20 of their system.

New York got the 11th and 83rd best prospects in the game by selling high on a 38-year old.

What I’m getting at, if you haven’t gotten there first, is that the Rays and Mets got some of the better packages of prospects that the trading market has seen in the past few years. I would think that the Mariners would want to cash in with a haul of that kind.

The Mariners need a hitter to lead them into the next phase of the franchise (hopefully contending.) I’m sure they’d jump at a package of Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt (not that Texas would consider that seriously.) But Seattle needs a corner stone. They need the next Miguel Cabrera or Evan Longoria. They need someone who can carry a team on his backs/bats. Maybe Felix Hernandez is the way to find that player.

Surely if James Shields and RA Dickey can fetch outstanding hauls of prospects, then a younger and better pitcher (Felix Hernandez) can get a better one.

What do you think? Should the Mariners trade King Felix or should they keep him and try to contend?

MLB Thanks: It’s Not Thanksgiving, But it Certainly Isn’t Too Early to Say Thanks to Baseball Part 1

Yes, it’s Halloween, but it’s never too early, or late, for giving thanks. Especially since baseball season has sadly met its demise.

We have to start by giving thanks to the feel-good stories of the season. The Oakland A’sand Baltimore Orioles. Both of you provided not only a feel-good story, but also instilled hope in the other respective low-life teams around the league. As we speak, Astros fans as well as fans here in Seattle and Kansas City, are unable to contain themselves with the notion that they might actually make something of themselves before embarking on yet another “rebuilding” project.

Thanks to the Texas Rangersfor not totally becoming baseball’s version of the 1990’s version of the Buffalo Bills.

I have the San Francisco Giants to thank for absolutely nothing. Continue reading

The Tigers Starting Pitching Situation

Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball.

After that you have some question marks. I don’t think the pitchers who follow Verlander two-through-five are bad, there are just some concerns.

The first concern is Doug Fister. Like I said, it’s not as big of a concern with him as it might be with some other pitchers. At the very worst Doug Fister is going to be a reliable number three option in the rotation. At the very best however, you’re looking at a shutdown number two option that can cause opposing fans to throw their TV remotes through windows in frustration. You know, due to the fact that Detroit would be up two games to nil in a playoff series, after Verlander and Fister each win.

Last year we saw total brilliance. In the second half of the 2011 season, the best pitcher in baseball, at the time, was a member of the Detroit Tigers. And it wasn’t Verlander. Down the stretch, Fister posted a stellar 8-1 mark with a desirable 1.79 earned run average. Combine that with the fact that through the little-over 70 innings that he threw, he struck out 57 batters to a modest four walks. Holy Smoltz. That, if you didn’t major in some form of math at an Ivy League school, equates to an 11.40 strikeout-to-walk ration. I’m going to say it again, holy Smoltz. I should mention the fact that he gave up the fewest home runs per 9 innings among all qualified pitchers with a 0.5 per game clip. Some of that is probably attributed to the fact that he pitched in two of the bigger parks in the league (Safeco Field and Comerica Park), but most of it is due to fact that he can pitch.

This year however, the numbers and results haven’t been as encouraging. Almost every statistical category’s numbers have ballooned. He gave up 11 homeruns all of last year, eight with the Mariners, in 216.1 innings pitched. This season he’s given up the same number he gave up in a Seattle uniform last year. However this year he’s thrown only 67.2 innings. The concern is there, but so is the potential.

Look at his earlier start against Seattle in the Pacific Northwest earlier this year. It was Fister’s first full start of the season after going down with a side injury in his opening week start against the Red Sox. He threw 7.0 innings of four-hit ball, sent three of his former teammates back to the dugouts on third strikes , but was the victim of a botched save attempt by the bullpen and saw his win and two run lead vanish in the ninth as the Mariners scored three runs. I was at that game, and it was a travesty to see him not factor in the decision positively.

But overall, Fister’s so-so numbers are a victim of a couple bad starts and bad run support.

After the Seattle disappointment he took the mound in Oakland and gave up one run and five hits over 6 innings while fanning 8… and was charged with the loss. After that he gave up four runs (three earned) in six innings against Minnesota, charged with the loss. He again put up a solid start in his next outing, but let the wheels fall off at the end as the Indians scored twice in his last inning to spoil the game. Overall, he gave up a mere six runs in his first 29.1 innings but was knocked around for that same number against a potent Boston offense during the next outing. The point here is that the ERA is where it’s at because of three bad starts against Texas, Boston and the Twins. A rough go around is explainable against the first two clubs, but not the third. Then again, everybody has a bad day right?

Moving on after that long analysis.

At number three in the rotation is Max Scherzer. He really hasn’t pitched all that bad despite spotting a 4.84 ERA. A lot of that is probably attributed to the beating he took in the opening series against Boston. He was the victim of 7 earned runs in a mere 2.2 innings pitched. And, as stated, it seems his ERA is gradually, with the exception of one start, coming down from that.

Rick Porcello is another kettle of fish entirely. He’s probably the one pitcher that I’m more than a little worried about. Let me come off that ledge a bit. I’m not saying he needs to pack his bags for Toledo, he just needs to throw with some consistency. His only terrible-ish starts were against LA of Anaheim, Seattle and an ugly one inning affair against the Rangers where they crossed the plate 9 times (8 of those runs earned) in the one inning. Again, LA and Texas are explainable, but he had a bad game against the Mariners.

Which for some odd reason happens a lot — the Tigers struggle against Seattle. That’s awesome, because I live in the greater Seattle area, more or less.

Again, moving on.

We’ve seen Drew Smyly be outstanding holding down the fort as the fifth starter at times. We have also seen a slightly more sporadic Smyly throw the ball. We’ve seen good things from Casey Crosby as well as flashes of brilliance from Jacob Turner. We’ve also seen Adam Wilk and the occasional Duane Below. The underlying theme here is that we could probably use another starting pitcher.

Here’s a sample size of the market for starters as it is-

  • Cole Hamels, Phillies
  • Zack Greinke, Shawn Marcum, Brewers
  • Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Cubs
  • Jason Vargas, Kevin Millwood, Mariners
  • Bartolo Colon, Athletics
  • Wandy Rodriguez, Astros

Take the list in, go ahead, I’ll wait. Are you done thinking of trade scenarios? Good. Ok, these guys obviously aren’t the only pitchers that will be available. Jeremy Guthrie and Francisco Liriano could be options as well, but these are the main guys, probably. That is unless some contender who wouldn’t normally be in it, but is thanks to this new wild card mumbo jumbo, goes 0-10 in the next two weeks and falls miserably out of it. Then they might sell.

Moving on, Guthrie and Liriano are probably too wild to warrant either serious interest or investment. The selling-the-farm tactic is probably a no-go for Dave Dombrowski and friends as they develop their system. So that’s two more “NOs” on missers Hamles and Greinke. Garza and Marcum would be worth a look, but might cost a top pitcher like a Smyly or Crosby. So again. No. Wandy Rodriguez is probably a little expensive for the Tigers’ taste, so for the umpteenth time… No.

That leaves Dempster, Vargas, Millwood and Colon.

I’d say no to Colon mainly because the A’s will need him if they’re still in it come whenever. If I were Dombrowski, I’d probably only invest a PTBNL or an A-ball pitcher two on Millwood, or frankly Colon for that matter. That whittles it down to Vargas and Dempster. You’ve seen the Seattle-to-Detroit pitcher pipeline work out brilliantly. See my above paragraphs on one Doug Fister, and horribly, see Jarrod Washburn.

I would think that each could be had for a price, and I would think that that price wouldn’t be too obnoxious. I’d say a B-level prospect or two would probably get it done either way. Let’s also not forget that if we get Dempster, he’s bringing a 33-scoreless-innings-pitched streak to Comerica. Can I get a “Winning”?

As I write this, Doug Fister now has won his third start in a row. So maybe they don’t need to give up the farm for a Cole Hamels-like pitcher. But regardless, pitching help is needed, and in that case Dempster’s the guy.

He Did What!?! A Look at the Genius of Billy Beane and Friends

Here are a couple names for you:  Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney, Fauntino De Los Santos, Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone, Derek Norris, AJ Cole, Josh Reddick, Miles Head and Raul Alcantara.

Now I’ll give you one other name, Nick Swisher.

With the addition of Andrew Bailey in a trade with Sweeney to Boston to get the last three, all of those players are the byproduct of one Nick Swisher. Now you’ve validated the title of this piece yourself. Most likely because that’s what just flashed through your head. (Minus the “Billy Beane and Friends” part obviously.)

The first trade has Mr. Beane moving Swisher, who didn’t have an amazing year, to Chicago for Sweeney, Gonzalez and De Los Santos. Swish wasn’t coming off a bad year, nor was there any statistical reasoning for Swisher being dealt. It was just tabbed as a “rebuilding effort”.

Sweeney contributed right away as a fourth outfielder/platoon type in Oakland. He provided fourth outfielder/platoon-guy production in most categories except batting average, posting BAs of at least .286 in three of his last four years in the Bay.

The wait with Gonzalez was a little longer. He struggled in a ten-game stint in ’08. He followed it up with a pedestrian 2009 in which he only won 6 games in 20 appearances. Also his ERA was a worse-than-a-pedestrian 5.75. Then we saw the transformation, or rather the revelation. Gio Gonzalez posted 31 wins in 2010-2011. His ERA in both years was under 3.25. That and an All-Star nod last season vaulted Gio into being one of the premier pitchers in the game.

With Oakland going nowhere fast, Beane took advantage of Gonzalez’s high-for-awhile stock and moved him to the Washington Nationals for near-Majors-ready-potential-frontline arms Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone and AJ Cole. They also received do-it-all-power-hitting catcher Derek Norris. It should be noted that all of them, with the exception of Milone, (with the big league club as we speak) are seated in the club’s top-seven prospects as well as top 100 in baseball overall, according to Jonathan Mayo.

If you’ll remember, Beane acquired Gonzalez and Sweeny along with De La Santos for Swisher. Which brings us to back to Sweeney. He was dealt, along with bullpen arm Andrew Bailey, to Beantown for Josh Reddick and two more minor leaguers, listed way above. Not only is Reddick a younger alternative to Sweeney, he leads the rebuilding A’s in a Shaq-sized handful of categories. I should point out that we haven’t heard the last of the minor league prospects either. Odds are they’ll contribute to the parent club at some point.

De Los Santos is still kicking around as well. The bullpen arm is currently with the A’s AAA squad in Sacramento. Just like the minor league prospects, you haven’t heard the last of him either.

Bottom line, here is the baffling thing. Over the course of five plus years, Billy Beane, albeit unintentionally, has turned one outfielder into three potential frontline starters, a potential All-Star catcher, a useful bullpen arm, a 25 year-old outfielder who currently leads the team in almost every offensive statistical category you can shake a stick at (pun completely intended), another potential starter as well as a possible third baseman.

Yes, he did that.