Ian Kinsler’s Improved Play a Good Sign for the Detroit Tigers

Ian Kinsler may have just provided the Detroit Tigers the spark the team so desperately needed.

The second baseman went yard twice against the Seattle Mariners to give the Tigers a much needed win. The victory leveled Detroit’s record at 46-46 and instilled some hope into a situation that hasn’t been ideal.

Kinsler tends to go cold in the second half after strong starts to seasons. Case in point, his first-half, career batting average and OPS? .284 and .818. His second half numbers? .257 batting average, .714 OPS.

However, just as the Tigers have struggled in the first half, so too has Kinsler. The second baseman hit .283 in April/March before slumping to .262 in May and .242 in June. Again, just like the Tigers’ season, Kinsler’s recent play may be a sign of things to come.

The former Texas Ranger entered Monday’s contest with a scorching .328 batting average in the month of July.

His renewed offensive prowess will only benefit the Tigers.

Manager Brad Ausmus has written a number of different players’ names in the first two spots of the batting order. However, the one constant has been Kinsler. Whether hitting first or second, Kinsler has maintained the role of table setter.

Thanks to his recent hot-streak, he could be setting the table much more often. If Kinsler can consistently reach base with the hitting acumen he’s shown in July, the Tigers offense shouldn’t have problems down the stretch—Miguel Cabrera or no. Kinsler’s ability to reach base will present more RBI opportunities for hitters like Victor Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes. Additionally, with bottom-of-the-order hitters Jose Iglesias and Anthony Gose reaching at high rates, Kinsler will have a fair share of RBI opportunities himself.

This improved offense will help cover up the starting pitching struggles the Tigers have experienced as of late. More runs won’t mask the issue outright, but it will help.

For the Tigers, and their fans, Ian Kinsler’s tear at the plate is hopefully a sign of things to come. If anything, Monday’s game is the beginning of something special.

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

For more Tigers, click here. For more baseball, click here.

Neftali Feliz Signing a Smart Move by the Tigers

Detroit’s bullpen hasn’t always been the best, and while the rotation has had its struggles this year, the bullpen has been much improved. The team has a reliable closer in Joakim Soria and dependable relievers in Alex Wilson, Al Alburquerque and Blaine Hardy. With Bruce Rondon still searching for consistency, the team made a move to bolster the ‘pen, signing former Texas closer Neftali Feliz. Feliz should successfully fill the role Soria struggled in last season. That role would essentially be back-up closer/eighth inning setup man.  

All three of Wilson, Alburquerque and Hardy are having better seasons, but none have the extensive closing experience that Feliz does. Additionally, Feliz has much more experience serving as set-up reliever than Soria did, which will help him succeed.

Disregarding this season’s numbers with Texas (which may be an outlier), Feliz has been nothing but outstanding as a Major League reliever. The ex-Ranger’s numbers from ’09 to ’14 are as follows—

198 Games, 142 Games Finished

241.2 Innings Pitched.

226 Strikeouts

2.53 ERA

87 Saves

If he continues to pitch like he did in Texas and in his Detroit debut (one shutout innings, minimum of three batters faced, one strikeout, good usage of his off-speed offerings in addition to his fastball), then the Tigers’ bullpen will be in good hands, not just for the rest of the season, but for the foreseeable future.

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

For more Tigers, click here. For more baseball, click here.

Follow Know Hitter on Twitter here.

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.

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?

The Cleveland Indians Should Have Pulled the Trigger on A Certain Asdrubal Cabrera Trade

It’s been tossed around that Cleveland is shopping their shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. It is also common knowledge that Arizona wants to trade their own star player, Justin Upton. It’s equally common knowledge that the Diamondbacks really want a shortstop. And what’s even more plain to public perception is the Texas Rangers’ desire to find a power bat to take Josh Hamilton’s place.

That seems like decent grounds for a trade, right?

The supposed proposed trade would have sent Cabrera to Arizona, Upton to Texas and rising stars Mike Olt and Trevor Bauer to Cleveland.

What on Earth is wrong with Cleveland?

I know that it’s a three-team trade, so everybody has to be on board with it, but come on, make this trade. Continue reading

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

Wrapping Up the Tigers’ Regular Season: MVP Voting, Playoffs and More

While the much-hyped MVP discussion is heating up, the regular season is cooling down.

The Tigers joined the San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds as the only teams in baseball to clinch their own divisions.  Also joining those clubs in October baseball are the Atlanta Braves,  New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s. The Tigers also became the first AL team to clinch their division. The second year in a row that they’ve done that.

But really, no one is reading too much into the playoffs. Yet. Now, the baseball-related discussions are about that AL MVP race and something you might have heard of called the Triple Crown.

Coincidentally or not, both of those discussions involve one Miguel Cabrera who also plays for the Tigers.

Triple Crown & MVP

I’ll start with the Triple Crown first, to get it out of the way.

Continue reading

MLB Trade Deadline Roundup

First off, Happy Birthday to my Aunt Joyce. Last year I promised that I would mention her birthday here, and because I’m a man of my word, I am. So, Happy Birthday Aunt Joyce!

Today is the baseball trade deadline. It’s one of the Holy Grails of sports. A day when the deals go by fast and furious and without a Vin Diesel reference. Oops.

Anyways, since the MLB Network has been so kind as to air a trade deadline special, I’ll just run through the trades in the order that they show them, use it as a framework almost. 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.

An Extended Glance at the Sox Drawer: Why the Kevin Youkilis Trade is a Lose-Lose

I’ve already outlined that trading Kevin Youkilis will come back to bite the Red Sox (you can see that here), but maybe you haven’t heard why it’s bad for Chicago.

Sure, the White Sox didn’t give up too much for The Youk, but he isn’t going to be the impact bat that he once was. Let’s face it, Youkilis is more of a #6 hitter these days. Let me rephrase that, Kevin Youkilis could hit cleanup on a bad team, but would be more of a complementary bat on a good team. It’s like guys in the NBA, they’d start on bad teams and be bench options on contenders. Looking at you Jimmer Fredette. It is true though, Youkilis couldn’t crack Beantown’s lineup. He certainly wouldn’t have hit higher than 6th in New York. He would probably hit 8th in Texas, which is saying something. Mind you this is all assuming he gets in the lineup consistently, wherever that may be. He’d hit 6th in Detroit if Victor Martinez was healthy. I’d hit him 6th as well if I were the Angels, and finally he’d hit a resounding 6th in Washington and Cincinnati.

And herein lies the issue with Chicago. Outside of Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn, every single White Sox starter would hit 6th in a normal lineup. I’d hit Alex Rios 6th. AJ Pierzynski is a perennial 6 hole hitter.  Dayan Viciedo is a likely option in the 6th spot at this point in his career. Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez are also options at number 6 on most teams. Which brings us to the problem, everyone should be hitting sixth! So that is one of Chicago’s chief problems, they have a bunch of 6th hitters. Sorry, I had to use my “Captain Obvious” persona there. Because of all the 6 hole hitters, the White Sox need a true leadoff hitter, among other things. Alejandro De Aza has been a nice energy guy, but Chicago needs a legitimate table setter.

The end result of all of this is that Youkilis will probably be hitting 6th in his White Sox debut and thereafter throughout his “new” Sox lifetime.

One last note, this move doesn’t really mean that the Sox think that the Tigers aren’t contenders anymore, or aren’t as strong as they should be. It just means Chicago wants to win the division, Detroit or otherwise.