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.

 

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.

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.

Torii Hunter’s Impact with the Detroit Tigers

I’ll admit I didn’t see the signing coming; I’m a bit of a homer when it comes to placing trust in Andy Dirks, Brennan Boesch and Quintin Berry, so I didn’t want the signing initially. But the more I look at it, the more there is to like.  Yes, Hunter is getting up there in years, but after further digging, he’s still a very good player in this league despite being 37.

Last season, the Tigers were knocked for not having a good defensive team. That criticism was mainly placed on the infield. But in terms of “elite” defenders, the only one the Tigers had who could change a game in the field was Austin Jackson. Infield aside, the corner outfielders were a tad suspect with the glove. Dirks, Boesch, Berry and Avisail Garcia’s collective number of runs saved above average per 1,200 innings (from the folks over at baseball-reference) was -26. Dirks was the only one of the group whose number was a positive one with three runs scored above average. The point here is that the overall defense in the outfield corners could have been better. Enter Hunter, who despite being nearly a decade older than every one of the previous four, saved 16 runs above average per 1,200 innings.

The beauty of the signing is this: yes, Hunter is valued defensively, and maybe he was needed defensively, but he also brings a whole lot to the table offensively. So often teams bring in an outfielder or use an internal option that is a far superior defender, but lacks completely with the bat.  Teams feel they need to upgrade defensively and save runs there and completely mail it in offensively. But this is the beauty of the signing. Hunter upgrades the defense and offense drastically.

The other bonus of having Hunter as well as Jackson in the outfield means Jim Leyland has his pick of outfielders to use strategically on a game-to-game basis, whether that be Berry, Garcia, Boesch or Dirks.

The Tigers won the American League pennant last year. They also won it, when at times the death-row duo of Miguel Cabrera and Fielder looked like the walking dead. But now Victor Martinez will be 100% healthy, and Torii Hunter joins the mix. Death row just got a whole lot deadlier.

The Best in World of Sports: An Atlas of Atlases

In Greek mythology there is a Titan named Atlas who held up the world, or held up the sky so that it didn’t crash down on the Earth.

In the world of sports, each team has its own “Atlas” who keeps the team from falling flat.

Some of the best “Atlases” in recent sports memory:

  1. LeBron James- Cleveland Cavaliers. During LeBron’s tenure the Cavaliers were essentially James and a never-ending roll call of role players. Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace were the only really good players who James played with in Cleveland. And at that point both were in the respective twilights of their careers, and Wallace wasn’t scoring much (as per usual). Cleveland was so bad without “King James” that they set an NBA record for the longest losing streak: 26 games after he made the decision to go to South Beach.
  2. Derrick Rose- Chicago Bulls. A small sample size, but while Rose dominated Game One of the first round of the playoffs versus Philly, he tore his ACL towards the end of the game. After holding on for the win in that game the Bulls went on to lose the series 4-2 to the eight-seeded 76ers. As a follow up, this year with Rose out for an extended amount of time, most pundits and talking heads have Chicago in the 6-8 seed range in the playoffs. Quite a drop-off for the team who had the best record in the East last season.
  3. Luis Suarez- Liverpool. If you take away Suarez’s fantastic production, the Reds would likely be in the relegation zone if not in last.
  4. Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic. Orlando is so bad without Howard it compelled me to write an entire piece on it, you can see that here. Orlando is going nowhere fast.
  5. Steve Nash- Phoenix Suns. Obviously earlier on in Nash’s career he had Amare Stoudamire and friends, so the team wouldn’t be that bad off without him. However, the Suns of the past couple years have needed Nash to help them stay out of the cellar. With him they were camped on the stairs going to the cellar; now they’re the cellar’s likely tenants.
  6. Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trout supporters love overusing the stat about the visible improvement of the Angels’ record with him, as opposed to their record without him. Take away Trout and a lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells goes nowhere offensively. Continue reading

MLB Thanks: It’s Not Thanksgiving, But it Certainly Isn’t Too Early to Say Thanks to Baseball Part 3

Thanks to the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres for Ryan Braun and Chase Headley’s collective one-upping competition for the National League RBI crown. Outside of that there wasn’t anything outstanding from either of you.

(Prepares to write next part, stops–)

I take that back, thanks Milwaukee, for not signing Prince Fielder. Fiscal insanity or no, we needed him in Detroit. Continue reading

Chronicle of Couch: Three Time Zones, Two Continents, Three Sports and One Couch

You thought the whole Los Angeles feat was impressive. Get a load of this one, one couch for three different sporting events in one day. Yes, more impressive than hosting multiple playoff games by three different franchises in a couple days. I’m taking one for the team and watching the Italy-Germany soccer match followed by (pending MLB Network’s cooperation) the Tigers-Rays game and the NBA draft.

Just to give you an idea, “Chronicle of Couch” was the winner of a very tight race for the naming rights. Here’s a quick peak at the Knowhitter drawing board.

Couchaggedon

Diary of a Couch

The Couch Diaries

And there you have the long, drawn out process of how I got to the highly acclaimed “Chronicle of Couch”.

10:38:

This isn’t necessarily a bunch of playoff games like the aforementioned LA mess, but the games still hold water. Italy-Germany not only figures to be a closer game than people think, but it should be pointed out that the winner gets the right to play the overhyped Spaniards in the Euro 2012 Final. I don’t think the Spanish are bad mind you, it’s just that I watched their 1-1 draw with the Azzuri and they didn’t scream “Winners”. As stated, the game is going to be much better than people think. I’ll take the Italians in an upset, 2-0. This might be a bogus looking prediction because I’m posting this after it all happens, but that’s why I’m putting the respective times in. From an analysis point of view, if the Italians can control the game through Andrea Pirlo, then they have an excellent shot to beat the Germans. However, that certain sword is double sided: if the Germans can silence Pirlo, the Italians could have some trouble.

11:18:

Since I’ll be absorbed in the Italy-Germany tussle, here’s why the regular season matchup between the Tigers and the Rays is so important for Detroit. The Tigers need to take the series and they might as well do it. A quick aside, here is one of the few things that baffle me about baseball, in the last two years the Tigers are 8-2 against Tampa Bay. As good as the Rays have been in recent years, they have only mustered two winners in their last ten against Detroit. It should also be noted that the Tigers beat-every-team-in-plain-sight tear that propelled the squad to its first AL Central Division title last season originated with a strong showing in where? Tampa.

11:33: 

Kickoff coming soon, the tactical lineups are out and the Italians have key defenseman Girorgio Cheiellini back in the lineup after going down with a leg injury versus the Irish in the group stage. It’ll be interesting to see how he holds up. Sorry to get all soccer-y on you there.

11:52:

Just wanted to point out that the Germans have never beat Italy in a major competition. I should also try not to make this a twitterfeed. Sorry readers.

12:10:

Mario Balotelli scores with a “noggin toboggan” for Italy, it looks like we’ll be getting the Super Mario instead of the other guy who shows up. Here’s my take on Balotelli. He’s deemed as “disruptive,” maybe the Terrell Owens or Chad Ochocinco of European soccer, maybe even Milton Bradley. The point is, I Wikipedia’d him and his “antics” are bad, but wouldn’t be considered too terrible if he were playing in America. I‘m not saying that I approve of some of his actions, but that just shows you why people are so much nicer and have higher expectations  in Europe than in the US.

12:26:

Balotelli scores again; rocketing it past the German keeper. He got carded for the whole shirt-taking-off celebration, but let’s remember, Germany hasn’t trailed in a game in around two years. They’re down two-nil already. If Mario Balotelli is Super Mario then the Germans are playing like Bowser who keeps getting beat. Sorry, nerdy I know, but it makes works.

1:27:

The Italians nearly scored twice on tries by Juventus mid-fielder Claudi Marchisio. The substitutes have also come on in force. Antonio Di Natale is on for “Super” Mario Balotelli, who left with supposed cramps. Thiago Matta has also checked in for another midfielder, Riccardo Montolivo. The last substitute of mention and the first chronologically was the swap of Alessandro Diamanti taking the place of Antonio Cassano. I won’t say that the Germans have given in here, but they seem a bit sluggish. With all the crosses being crossed in, the Germans have the air of a basketball team down twenty with two minutes left that just starts hucking up threes.

1:34:

Gianluigi Buffon has been spectacular in goal for the Azzuri. As I say this, Frederico Balzaretti got called for a handball in the box and the Germans score on the PK. The German keeper is playing in the Italian half now, but it’s too late. Italia wins 2-1. I honestly did call the win, no going back and editing the previous prediction here. Italy-Spain is going to be quiet a game this weekend.  I’ll take the Italians again. Now a break and then the NBA Draft and the Tigers game.

2:00:

One of my favorite parts of soccer: when the team is down and the keeper plays up with the midfielders.

2:28

We get a break in the break because of news via Jason Beck and other sources which report that Victor Martinez could return in mid-late September. That’s great news for V-Mart and the Tigers after he tore his ACL in the off-season. I’m sensing something along the lines of Martinez coming back and going beenaners (That’s bananas for all you folks who don’t know) in the playoffs.

4:03:

Almost draft time and MLB Network is cooperating, so the Tigers-Draft back-and-forth is going to be tricky. I’ll be flipping back and forth with the analysis/commentary/occasional babble and such. As stated earlier, I’m looking forward to the Tigers playing in Tampa. For some odd reason the Tigers do well against Tampa Bay and if all goes as it did last year, the Tigers should turn their season around tonight.

4:16:

After Austin Jackson and Quintin Berry go down in order, Miguel Cabrera shoots a double into right-center with two outs in the first. The Rays amaze me that they are still contending with an infield cobbled together with the likes of Elliot Johnson, Jeff Keppinger and Brooks Conrad. Hopefully I’ll get in as much of the Tigers game as possible before switching back to see Northwesterner’s favorite commissioner shake Anthony Davis’ hand.

(The Secret Word is… sarcasm).

 4:21:

Joe Maddon’s lineup choices are curious to say the least. This is the guy who hit John Jaso leadoff a fair number of times before the backstop was dealt to Seattle. He now has Carlos Pena in the two hole. Which, you know, makes sense because Pena hits a robust .198.

4:24:

Pena’s first AB of the night currently, and I’ve already been showed up by the Rays broadcasters. Apparently Pena draws a ton of walks. I’m sorry for the skepticism Joe Maddon.

4:28:

Still confused as to why the draft is in New Jersey. I guess that’s David Stern’s way of saying, “I’m sorry for making you drive to Brooklyn to see your team”. Also confused as to why we didn’t have the ping pong balls at the lottery. Stern is asking for conspiracy theories, which most of them about Seattle are probably true.

4:29:

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Sorry had to boo Stern when he came out to talk. Got to take every chance I get. I know Miami just won the title, but Stern’s asking for it by bringing up the Heat.

4:36:

Back to the Tigers game, Cabrera a double in first, Young and Peralta get on here in the second. Shields is striking guys out, but can he keep this up against this good of an offense?

Nope.

4:39:

Anthony Davis is picked first overall. No one, absolutely no one, saw that coming. Otherwise a great piece for New Orleans to build their franchise around.

4:42:

Now here’s where the draft really starts. Does Brad Beal go to Charlotte and play for the ‘Cats? Is he picked and dealt to say Cleveland or maybe, gasp, OKC? Is someone else picked? Say Thomas Robinson? Remember, the Bobcats traded for Ben Gordon, so who knows?

4:44:

Wow, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist goes to Charlotte, a high motor guy, going to outplay you every day of the week. A good pick for the Bobcats, he isn’t going to carry this team, but he is going to be a little Gerald Wallace-esque. So that’s settled, this pick probably isn’t going anywhere. Kentucky is the first school with the first two pick in modern era draft history.

4:48:

A quick check on the Tigers has Max Scherzer cruising through the sides of Tampa Bay’s lineup. By sides I mean this, if the middle of the order is the meat of the order, then the bottom or less potent part of the lineup is the sides, or sides of the meal.

4:49:

Bradley Beal is finally off the board going to Washington. The SEC party continues. I know its Beal’s birthday, but that’s a crap birthday present from the NBA: “Look kid, welcome to the league, say hello to David Stern.” Like I said, great birthday present. Quick side note on the Ben Gordon-Corey Maggette deal, have you noticed that he’s (Maggette) played for a good deal of lottery teams in the past couple years? Charlotte, Golden State, Milwaukee and now Detroit. Nothing says “Lottery Bound” like Corey Maggette.

4:56:

Wow, Dion Waters, who didn’t start at Syracuse, going to Cleveland at four. I haven’t seen a lot of tape, but he’s supposedly a potent scorer. That’s a solid, young back court for the Cavs to build on with him and Kyrie Irving.

 

5:00:

Back to Tampa, after Austin Jackson gets on, Quintin Berry drops down a beauty of a bunt to put two men on for Miguel Cabrera. As I say this Jeff Keppinger makes a spectacular play to not only grab the ball out of the air, but to then outrun a fast Jackson to second to double him off. Prince Fielder then gets on after Keppinger can’t make a dandy of a play again in the shift. It must be a little troubling for Tampa seeing as the Tigers’ hitters 1-5 all have two ABs through the third. You give this team that many chances and you’re going to get hurt. And again, as I write this, the Rays get hurt by former Devil Ray’s number-one-overall-pick Delmon Young hits a single through the left side, and Berry beats the throw easily to score from second.

5:05:

Alex Avila is really getting back into the swing of things here, a couple of hits yesterday and today he’s got an RBI double. Fielder comes huffing and puffing around to score. Jhonny Peralta followed up by grounding out, which is unusual because he generally eats James Shields for breakfast when they play the Rays. You know, a little break from the egg-white omelet.

5:07:

Let’s recap the Delmon Young thing for un minuto. What a great deal for the Rays. Yes, he gave Minnesota some nice years and one really good one, but Minny gave up Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to get him. Throw in the ridiculous return obtained by the Cubs for Garza as well as the solid bullpen arms picked up in exchange for Bartlett from the Padres, and it makes the Rays look pretty darn good. Minnesota didn’t get short ended by the whole process though, they picked up Jason Pridie and Brendan Harris in the trade. That more than made up for the other losses.

(The Secret Word, again, is … sarcasm)

5:14:

Great pick by Sacramento. They needed a four, and Thomas Robinson is a great option for them. Real happy for Thomas Robinson after all that’s happened to him. An NBA PF in the fullest.

(If you’re wondering, I don’t have quick typing skills at all here; I’m just pushing my DVR to its limit.)

5:21:

Portland about to pick…(waits for Stern to announce the pick)… Portland selects Damian Lilard. A guy with in-the-gym range gets to the rim. Nice pick for Portland. That whole Andre Miller/Raymond Felton thing the last couple years hasn’t been amazing. Nice pick here. Plus, when is the next Weber State lottery pick going to come along?

5:25:

Gotta love the constant booing of Stern. Warriors take Harrison Barnes, a great pick to add to the wing spot for Golden State. You talk about Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut. That’s a lot of offense there. Young offense. Golden State has wanted to run in the past and drive up the score, but now they can do it successfully too.

5:29:

Back to the Deeetroit Tigers, Max Scherzer continues to mow through the Rays lineup. That’s the one thing with Tampa, if they get behind, and a few guys are cold at the plate… well let’s just say that a shutout or knowhitter (see what I did there?) could come into play. Lots of potential 0-4s in the Rays lineup.

5:33:

Carlos Pena has won some hardware for his fielding, but here he commits a big miscue. Could have tagged Berry on the way to first, can’t get him, Boesch scores. Next play Austin Jackson supposedly tagged out at home on a Miguel Cabrera single. After that, Jeff Keppinger is in the right place for once on the shift and gets Prince out at first. Underlying theme, the Tigers get another run early off “Big Game” James Shields. Commercial time, back to the draft.

5:33:

Toronto takes Terrence Ross, a UW product. Good shot, really good shot, he’s probably a prototypical wing. I know Toronto liked Dion Waters, so maybe they picked Ross as an alternative. Not sure there. I’m obviously not inside of the Toronto brasses’ collective heads so I don’t know. All this Nash-to-Toronto talk with Ross and Bargnani is pretty exciting.

5:42:

Pistons on the clock, Andre Drummond would be potential pick here… and yep, it’s Drummond. Great pick by Detroit. They get the guy they wanted for the third year. Monroe, Knight and now Drummond, a great nucleus there.

5:46:

With the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the David Stern cronies 2.0 select… Austin Rivers. A pure scorer. Nice paring with Anthony Davis to couple with Eric Gordon for a growing nucleus. Anyone else noticed we haven’t had any movements on the trade front? The draft could have gone like this or have trades every-which-where.

5:53:

Meyers Leonard is the pick for Portland. An athletic big guy with good potential. Some nice post moves. He’s got some big potential, but is still very unproven.

5:55:

Here’s the weird part of the draft where guys like Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Jared Sullinger, guys that could go anywhere from the top ten to maybe the late teens. Not sure who goes here, especially with Houston picking three times in the next half hour-ish. Notice that they didn’t move up? Maybe they are some pieces to throw at Orlando for Dwight Howard (probably) or maybe even Pau Gasol (probably not). It’s going to be interesting. On that note, we’re going back to baseball for the Tigers update.

5:58:

Max Scherzer continues to mow through the Rays lineup with relative ease. As I say that, Brooks Conrad leads off with a double. As we get into the sides. There is potential to get out of this unscathed. And again as I say that, the Rays get on the board. No more damage after that. Tigers batting again with Jackson on base, yet again.

6:03:

Houston on the clock for the first of their many picks, they go with… Jeremy Lamb. Great pick either way. Lamb can fill it up and fill in for Kevin Martin when and/or if he leaves. He could be a really good player for the Rockets, or he could be a centerpiece for a Dwight Howard-like trade. Either way, nice pick.

6:07:

MOVEMENT!… Nope, it’s just Bucher announcing that the Raptors want to get Steve Nash. Right after this Phoenix takes point guard Kendall Marshall. I’m pulling for him to wear number eleven in the league due to all the double L’s in his name. This also proves that the NBA isn’t right with their whole green room ordeal. Marshall wasn’t invited. He won’t necessarily push Nash out, but he might be the heir apparent or what not to Nash.

6:13:

John Henson is going to Milwaukee. On a random side note, maybe my favorite headline on ESPN.com, Gym Henson. Moving on, UNC killing Kentucky so far in players drafted.

6:16:

Back to Tampa again. James Shields goes to pick off Austin Jackson and is charged with an error after the ball goes into foul turf. Shields comes back with a strong throw to get Berry at first on a really good bunt. Nothing Berry can do on that one. Cabrera follows it up with a single that bounces off the mound, Keppinger misses it. The Tigers have now set new career highs for both Roy Oswalt and James Shields in terms of hits allowed in back-to-back games.

6:22:

Philly takes Maurice Harkless. They add yet another athletic wing player to their team of seemingly all athletic wing players.

6:24:

The Rockets are still reaping the benefits of the Tracy McGrady deal, and get Knicks pick here because of it. More future trade piece fodder. Tyler Zeller would make sense for them, though if the picks for someone else, we’re not totally sure. Pick is in… Kevin McHale’s team picks Royce White. Such a versatile player. He could play multiple positions on the offense end and is a great passer. This is a good pick for the Rockets or whoever gets this pick in the end.

6:29:

Dallas picking… Dirk with his lowest point total (21.9) since the beginning of the current century. Ho hum. That’s not too bad, not great for Dirk, but still a good output. Mavs and Tyler Zeller would make sense; I said that for Houston too. I like Zeller, he’s going to go at some point. Also grounds for gambling with a Sullinger or Jones. Nope it is Zeller. Good pick, he’ll contribute right away for Dallas.

6:34:

Another Rockets pick… La di da di da. And it’s Terrence Jones, second Terrence to go here in the draft, athletic power forward. Joins another former Wildcat in Houston: Patrick Peterson. Lamb, White and Jones form a solid group of wings for the Rockets.

6:37:

Tyler Zeller going from Dallas to Cleveland for a host of the Cavs picks. Orlando is now on the clock, Dwight Howard not going anywhere yet. The Magic need to do well with this pick after struggling with their last couple first rounders. ST. BONNIES Andrew Nicholson is the pick for Orlando. When did we have a draft with a St. Bonnies and a Weber State player drafted in the first round? When will we again?

6:43:

Evan Fornier is the first international pick of the draft. I don’t know a ton about the guy, but after his highlight package, he looks like a pretty good player. Good, potential stash pick for Denver.

6:44:

Before the Celtics hogging of the podium, we’ll switch back to the Tigers game for some somewhat, in-depth analysis.

Nothing new to note other than a few stranded base runners and Phil Coke’s comical entrance where he sprints in. It’s pretty funny. Scherzer in line for the win, another run comes home though as the sides of the Rays’ lineup get it done. Coke gets out of a jam and Austin Jackson shows his wheels with a two out triple to the wall in the next inning. Quintin Berry up, he can’t plate the run, but the Tigers stay on top. Back to Boston’s picks.

6:51:

Boston has some interesting decisions.  KG is probably back, but Ray Allen is a different story. Should he come back and maybe come off the bench behind Avery Bradley?  Allen has supposedly looked at Miami and New York as options. If he stays in Boston, the Celtics should be in the playoffs again next year. Boston has the opportunity to take a gamble on a guy like a Jared Sullinger or Perry Jones III here. Toney Wroten, Jr might make sense as a combo-point guard type. Jones is tabbed as the tenth best player available by ESPN’s Jay Bilas. He’s still on the board at 21, worth a flyer here. Maybe. Nope, not there. Sullinger is the pick. Remember when we were talking about him being a lottery pick as late as last year? Either a great steal for Boston, or a low-ish risk here at the bottom end of the first round.

7:02:

Boston goes with seven-footer Fab Melo with the next pick. Another big body to throw out there, he’s an ever-improving player with some potential. A great value for Boston in the first round. I would have gone with Jones, but that’s just me.

7:05:

Atlanta on the clock, the oldest team in the league, lots of puzzling contracts. The pick is in; they go with John Jenkins the sharpshooter. Good pick for the Hawks to improve offensively.

It sounds very unprofessional, but I’m going to go eat.

7:26:

And we’re back. A handful of teams picked, including Miami while I ate, and no one took Perry Jones III. Very surprising. More surprising picks include Miles Plumlee to Indiana and Jared Cunningham to Cleveland, or probably Dallas after the Tyler Zeller trade.

7:28:

The Raiders are on the clock next, and they’re showing the team’s respective contracts, one of which is Thabo Sefolosha through 2013-2014. I can’t fathom the length of that contract. Must be a terrible owner dolling out that money. Oh wait…

7:32:

OKC takes Perry Jones. I’m convinced David Stern published the doctor’s report that said Jones had a bum knee that made him plummet to the Raiders so his little buddy could take PJIII (Does anybody call him that yet?).

7:37:

Bucher gets another morsel of air time as the Heat deal Arnett Moultrie (the 27th pick) to Philly for the 45th pick and a future first rounder. A great pickup for Miami in terms of future trade ammo.

7:41:

First off, I love how the crowd booed off Stern and cheered when he announced that he was done and Adam Silver was taking over. I now love New York/New Jersey fans.

7:42:

Festus Ezeli goes to Golden State at the end of the first round. The pick was acquired in the Stephen Jackson trade, a great name and talent.

7:44:

With the first round over, we are going to go check on Detroit, who I think is done according to the DVR. Sorry Tigers-Rays game. When we left off it was 4-2 Tigers and Detroit was well into their bullpen with the lead. Generally that means a win. Last year the team was lights out when having the lead with their bullpen entering the tail end of the game. Hopefully all goes as planned and the Tigers get a win. As it stands, the Tigers have the lead by the same aforementioned score with a run tacked on going into the ninth. Here comes the Big Potato, and here comes the antics.

7:49:

Tigers win 5-2. Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera each had four hits apiece, and Miguel Cabrera made his sixteenth foray into “Souveeenir City” as the Tigers roll. The Tigers are now 9-2 in their last 11 over Tampa. That’s a rap on Detroit as my teams improve to 2-0 today. Now back to the draft.

7:53:

Got to love the applause for Silver instead. Nobody likes Stern. Well, outside of the state of Oklahoma.

8:00:

Also got to love the Bernard James pick, a great story. He plays hard and is a great rebounder.

8:03:

I’m getting a little more blippy as the draft goes on. I’m not going to comment on everything because I don’t know a ton about some of the second round guys. Just a warning.

8:04:

Jae Crowder comes off the board as well as Draymond Green as the seniors start to go here in the second round.

8:06:

Orlando Johnson can fill it up. No bones about it. Good value for Sacramento.

8:09:

Quincy Acy, big time energy guy going north of the border.

8:10:

Quincy Miller, it’s a “Baylorpalooza”. Thanks Reece Davis.

8:11:

Orlando Johnson actually going to Indiana for cash from Sacramento.

8:15:

Efficient three-point-marksmen Doron Lamb going to Milwaukee, fifth Wildcat taken in the draft. UNC down 5-4 in terms of number of players picked this year. See? I’m getting blippy.

8:24:

Darius Miller going to New Orleans with Anthony Davis. He’s also the sixth Kentucky player to be drafted, modern era record right there.

8:31:

Kyle O’Quinn, a good rebounder goes to Orlando to beef up the Magic’s frontline.

9:03:

Robert Sacre taken with the last pick by the Lakers. Great value pick, the best free-throw-shooting big man in the league right now. You heard it here first.

So that’s it for the “Chronicle of Couch Volume I.” I should throw in other tidbits such as the Rafael Nadal loss as well as the fact that Dwayne Wade is going to miss the Olympics.

I also applaud any of you who are still ready after 4,000 plus-odd words. Thank you and good night.

Solutions for the Brewers Infield Woes

Just to gloat, Prince Fielder is hitting well for my Detroit Tigers… Moving on, anyways, if you haven’t noticed, the Brewers infield situation is a bit different from last year and a bit different from a couple weeks ago. Fielder for one is obviously gone. So is shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. Casey McGehee has been moved to the should-be-sponsored-by-McDonalds-Pittsburgh-Pirates-due-to-the-number-of-players-whose-name-starts-with-“Mc”. New additions have arrived. Travis Ishikawa is starting at first after getting the position when Mat Gamel went down with a season-ending injury who in turn inherited it from Fielder. Aramis Ramirez is over at the hot corner after coming over from the Cubs in free agency. And last but not least Cesar Izturis is at shortstop due to Alex Gonzalez’s injury. These moves have prompted the addition of journeyman Edwin Maysonet as well.

That’s probably too much turnover for four positions if we’re speaking frankly.  The Brewers need the face of consistency in the infield. Not the wishy-washy-injury-ridden maladies that have befallen them.

All in all the Brew Crew needs new blood. They are buried in the standings behind the Pirates and Astros and could use some more production. Or at least an upgrade over what they’ve been getting.

Travis Ishikawa has been solid, but not spectacular at first base. He should be fine if Milwaukee’s brass can’t find a suitable replacement and/or platoon partner for him. If the brass decides to get another first baseman to split duties with or simply take them away from Ishikawa, then guys like Bryan LaHair, Ty Wigginton, John Mayberry Jr and possibly Justin Morneau could come up.

Over at shortstop however, there is a definite need for offensive help. Cesar Izturis is a good defender when he gets on the field. On the flip side, when he gets to the batter’s box, well let’s just say the ball doesn’t leave the yard and they don’t start blaring “We Want the Funk” with big writing that says “Funk Blast”. (My favorite ballpark “crowd energizer”, for lack of a better term, of all time). To give you an idea, his career high in homeruns is four, and that was in 2004. Since 2008, incidentally, he has hit, you guessed it, four homeruns. If that doesn’t scream offensive superstar, I’m really not sure what does.

So, if you haven’t guessed, Milwaukee needs another shortstop in lieu of Gonzalez’s injury and Izturis’ lack of “Funk Blasts”. If they stay in contention, expect names like Jason Bartlett, Betancourt, Jamey Carroll and Clint Barmes to come into play.

And after all that, if that screams “the Brewers need better infielders” to you, then… the screaming is right.

Andy Dirks Slowly Pushing Delmon Young Out of the Tigers Future

Jim Leyland seems to have settled into the routine of writing Andy Dirks’ name not only in the second spot in the batting order, but also in left field. This, is good.

Dirks is a much better defender than Delmon Young is and covers (your choice of funky synonym for “more” here) ground than Young.

Offensively as well Dirks has excelled in the 2 hole. He has had a multi-hit game in each of his last four games and drove in three last night. Overall he is hitting at a .339 clip with 10 runs batted in and another 10 scored in 17 games. It’s probably safe to say it now, but the dude can hit.

He can hit. That is the main thing here.

For this season Delmon Young is likely staying put in Detroit due to his importance in the batting order. (You know that spot behind Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera where he has to protect them?)

But moving forward that role will probably belong to a guy who kind of gets lost in the shuffle here- Victor Martinez, the perfect complement to Cabrera and Fielder.

Also, something to point out is that the Tigers would love to get out of Young’s salary. If I’m not mistaken he is a free agent after the season, meaning that the Tigers would have almost seven million dollars to play with just thanks to Young leaving. Think about that. We could use it to find an addition at second base or where ever else they might have a position of need. (hold on…Quickly digests depth chart) Nope, don’t see any other glaring needs.

Yes, a lineup that contains Cabrera, Fielder, Martinez and Young in the 3-6 spots is a bit daunting, but I’d rather have the first three with Dirks getting on in front of them in the 2 hole with names like Avila, Peralta and Boesch behind the big boys.

Dirks, nonetheless, is one of Detroit’s outfielders of the future. Young situation or no, he isn’t going to Toledo any time soon.