Detroit Tigers Links: Spring Training Cuts, Miguel Cabrera, Luke Putkonen

The Tigers have been busy trimming their roster down ahead of Opening Day. Detroit has optioned and cut players who either played a role last season or were thought to me in the mix for a big-league roster spot before Spring Training began.

  • Kyle Lobstein was sent to Triple-A due to a dearth of starting opportunities and will likely be the first name called upon should something happen to one of Detroit’s starters. Joining him in Toledo are relievers Josh Zeid and Alex Wilson, who failed to make the team.

Zeid was claimed off waivers from Houston and was part of the deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia and Jarred Cosart and John Singleton to Houston. Wilson has also been involved in a blockbuster trade. He came to Detroit in the Rick Porcello/Yoenis Cespedes swap.

  • A previous round of cuts saw the departure of pitchers Drew VerHagen and Jose Valdez. Outfielder Daniel Fields and shortstop Dixon Machado joined the two pitchers in Triple-A.
  • Steven Moya will also start the season in Triple-A.
  • Two significant bench players were optioned to Toledo this morning with outfielder Tyler Collins and last season’s backup catcher Bryan Holaday being sent down. Former O’s outfielder Xavier Avery was sent to minor league camp.

In other news,MLB.com’s Jason Beck passed along news that reliever Luke Putkonen has been released. Putkonen posted solid numbers in 2012 and 2013 with a cumulative 3.35 ERA in 45.2 innings pitched. However he hasn’t found the same success of late and was cut.

And finally, when not stealing the Phillie Phanatic’s keys, Miguel Cabrera is back in the field. The team hopes he and Victor Martinez will be ready for Opening Day.

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

Detroit Tigers: Internal Replacements for Victor Martinez

The latest from the Detroit Tigers is that designated hitter Victor Martinez has a torn meniscus and will undergo surgery next week.

V-Mart won’t miss the entire season due to the injury, but it could leave him out for an extended amount of time. According to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, players have returned from the surgery in one or two months. Knowing this, it’s likely Martinez will miss Spring Training.  

The recently released Dayan Viciedo represents one of the few free agent alternatives, other options on the market include the likes of Jason Kubel, Ryan Doumit and Nate Schierholtz. This list could change once teams start making cuts in Spring Training, but it’s what the Tigers have to work with at present.

Detroit may fancy their chances finding another J.D. Martinez in the early months of the season to provide cover, but the team may look to fill the gap internally, here are few options for the team.

James McCann

While not a candidate to be used every day as a V-Mart placeholder, McCann can provide the Tigers with value stepping in every now and again. The young catcher wouldn’t be a direct replacement in terms of being the DH, but he would allow manager Brad Ausmus to shift the team around.

McCann would start behind the dish in most scenarios, the catcher is one of Detroit’s better position player prospects and brings a defensive-minded mentality to the game. Additionally, he hit .295 at Triple-A, showing some potential as a two-way contributor at the big league level.

Starting McCann would allow the team to slide Alex Avila to first base, something that has been brought up before. When you also consider Avila’s health issues and the toll they’ve taken on his offensive numbers, some time spent at first makes sense.

Like Martinez, Miguel Cabrera is a question mark to start the season on the active roster. Avila could provide cover at first base while the former MVP recovers. Even if Cabrera is ready to go, they’ll likely be cautious with him—which means taking a good portion of the designated hitter at-bats that V-Mart is potentially vacating.

Starting McCann at catcher would be a win-win situation in the sense that Avila and Cabrera’s health would be preserved so that they can be their best offensively.

Corner Outfielder A, B or C

As of right now, Detroit has three quality corner outfielders on their roster. Three outfielders who would start for most teams—Yoenis Cespedes, J.D. Martinez and Rajai Davis. With the DH spot open, Ausmus and the Tigers could rotate the three between starting in the field and being designated hitter so they stay fresh.

With the return of Jose Iglesias and the arrival of Cespedes and Anthony Gose, it’s clear that Detroit will be a much improved defensive unit in 2015. Knowing this, the Tigers could start their strongest defensive duo in the outfield and not have to worry about losing the third’s bat as the remaining outfielder can slot in at DH. The situation also allows the flexibility for the outfielders to be utilized in situations where they thrive, like Davis who should probably start against left-handed pitching after mashing .356 against southpaws in 2014.

The Prospects

For all the unfair grief Detroit’s minor league system has gotten recently, they have some quality depth in the outfield.

The 6’6” slugging outfielder known as Steven Moya possesses phenomenal raw power that could translate into big home run numbers once he reaches Motown. In addition to him, the team will also be able to call on Tyler Collins, a more all-around type who is solid in most aspects of the game on both sides of the ball.

Both Moya and Collins got limited playing time in Detroit last season, but the two wild cards may be outfielders who have never worn the Old English “D” in a game. Daniel Fields has long been considered a solid prospect, but was hit with the injury bug in 2014. Because of this, former sixth-round pick was never able to establish himself at Triple-A Toledo last season and as a result wasn’t able to help the Tigers in any capacity. If he’s healthy this season, he may find himself in Detroit sooner rather than later.

The other wild card is Wynton Bernard, a former San Diego farmhand who dominated at Single-A Western Michigan last year. He put up an impressive .323 batting average and was added to the Tigers 40-man roster this offseason in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He may not be the top name on the list, but the fact that he was added to the 40-man roster suggests the Tigers think highly of him. It at least gives him an outside shot.

Conclusion

The likely scenario is that Ausmus rotates his outfielders. With Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez both question marks to be 100% to start on Opening Day, the team will need all the offense it can get. Utilizing all three corner outfielders is the best way to go about that. It would be surprising to see the McCann scenario deployed, or to see Collins or Moya make the roster and receive some at bats, but as it stands, the outfield provides the Tigers with the best source of offense at this point in time.

What do you think?

Which situation do you think is best way to go about replacing V-Mart? Is it one of the above or is it yet another alternate situation? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter either here or here.

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

Detroit Tigers Off-Season: How and Why the Bench Must be Improved

Bench

While the bullpen is, and will continue to be the biggest blemish on the Tigers’ roster, the bench isn’t spectacular either. More depth and quality will be needed in late-inning situations. Yes, the Tigers lineup is fantastic, but sometimes the bottom half of the lineup pales in comparison to the top half. And, as such is much easier to retire. This was brought into focus in the ninth inning of the second and third games of the ALDS against Baltimore as the bottom half wasn’t able to carry out or continue rallies with the game on the line. The Tigers need better hitters off the bench. Whether they arrive via waiver wire, the trade market, free agency, or what have you, help is needed. Dave Dombrowski has to be particularly active in fixing this during the offseason to improve the team’s chances for next year.

Dombrowski has become adept at plucking hitters out of relative obscurity and then watching them become contributing members on the team. He found Quintin Berry, who ended up being a godsend thanks to his added burst of speed into a slow lineup. Swiss army knife/utility specialist Don Kelly was another find. Matt Tuiasosopo was yet another find who provided Jim Leyland with a power hitting alternative off the bench in the legendary skipper’s final season. However, the greatest find may be that of JD Martinez. The former Astro was picked up by Detroit and, after fixing some mechanics with his swing, turned into a legitimate, middle of the order bat.

The Tigers need more production off the bench. Dombrowski isn’t going to find a JD Martinez in every transaction, but he should be actively looking for bench bats.

Yes, the Tigers’ starting lineup is fantastic, but their bench is comparatively futile. With the exception of Kelly, who has a knack for showing up in playoff games, there isn’t much to scare opposing managers or pitchers. Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera is light-hitting at best and is known more for his speed than anything. Andrew Romine and Eugenio Suarez manned shortstop for Brad Ausmus in 2014. With defensive wizard Jose Iglesias returning from injury next season, and neither shortstop’s play screaming “KEEP ME!” Detroit could look for a better hitting infielder. Another middle infielder, Hernan Perez shows the potential to be a solid two-way player, but if he wasn’t ready to play full time in the big leagues, or if he was unable to unseat Romine or Suarez, he certainly won’t surpass Iglesias next season.

Dombrowski needs to give Ausmus more pop off the bench. Catcher is an area where this could be achieved. Bryan Holaday hit .231 this season and the team might seek an upgrade to backup Alex Avila.

Avila is in a different situation. The Tigers’ starting catcher, who suffered yet another concussion during the season ending loss to Baltimore, should be moved into a backup role, or at least a platoon. This would not only minimize the inexplicably severe beating the he takes and preserve his health, but also allow Detroit to find an offensive upgrade. Avila grades out as a good defensive backstop, but hasn’t been able to replicate his offensive output of 2011 when he drove in 82 runs, garnered MVP votes and earned Silver Slugger and All Star honors.

Acquiring a new catcher to partner with Avila would be prudent. The job may go to James McCann. The Tigers’ top catching prospect is a defensive-minded backstop who also hit .295 in AAA. He’s no Victor Martinez offensively, but the .295 line is an encouraging sign from a player thought to reach the Majors because of his defense.

If catching reinforcements are looked for externally, Russell Martin or Evan Gattis would be ideal fits. Martin, one of the best at his position in the game, grades out favorably defensively and provides pop (47 home runs over the last three years) and the ability to hit for average (he hit .290 this past season). Detroit may lose yet another first round draft pick if they sign Martin, but if the former Dodger is the missing piece in terms of winning the World Series, then there should be no hesitation.

Gattis’ calling card, meanwhile, is his bat. The Braves’ slugger hit 22 home runs in only 108 games for Atlanta. Pairing him with the comparatively defensively superior Avila would be perfect. While Gattis’ bat can provide extreme power, his defense isn’t anything special. Platooning him with Avila would make his defensive deficiencies less of a sore thumb. Plus, Gattis has shown that he can be productive without playing every day. This partnership would also save Avila some physical punishment behind the plate. Gattis won’t come cheap in terms of what the Tigers will have to give up to acquire him, but the second year player isn’t arbitration eligible until 2016 at the earliest and won’t hit free agency until 2019. He made a little over $520,000 last year. This is exactly the kind of player a team looking to save money like Detroit needs—an extremely productive hitter who can play a large role without costing much. He also has played in left field for Atlanta. He’s not Gold Glove worthy playing there, but he does have the experience. Something that would come in handy if Brad Ausmus needed to wedge in an extra bat in a must-win playoff game.

Lastly, the Tigers could, at the very least, use some depth in the outfield. Rajai Davis can get by defensively in center field, so an alignment of JD Martinez, Davis and Torii Hunter (if he returns) in the outfield wouldn’t be bad. In fact, it may win them the division again, but it probably won’t deliver a World Series. Signing an impact center fielder may be out of the question. Colby Rasmus is the most enticing option on the market, but the former Blue Jay may be more appealing, and better suited, to more of a rebuilding team like the Cubs or Astros than Detroit. Speaking of the Astros, Houston’s centerfielder, Dexter Fowler, would present a quality target. It may take a lot to pry him away from the Lone Star state, but the former Colorado player would mesh perfectly in Motown with his mix of speed and pop. Other potentially available center fielders such as Desmond Jennings, Denard Span or Peter Bourjos would all be attainable as well as being logical fits in the Tigers’ lineup.

Bringing in a new, starting caliber center fielder would be advantageous in numerous ways for Detroit. First, it would fix any issues defensively at the position. As much as Rajai Davis fits the profile of an old-school center fielder in terms of speed, he’s predominantly a corner outfielder. Having a center fielder who is more accustomed to playing the position defensively would provide an upgrade. Pushing Davis to the bench or into a role where he would potentially spell the aging Torii Hunter would greatly improve the pinch-hitting options. Throw in a healthy Andy Dirks, a couple of scrap-heap/waiver wire pickups and more polished versions of Stephen Moya and Tyler Collins and the Tigers all of a sudden have a plethora of outfielders who could contribute. Injuries and slumps are about as common as the changing of the seasons, so having too many options is a good problem to have.

The Tigers’ offense has long been deemed one of the best in baseball—maybe the best. But over that span the team hasn’t had the most fearsome bench. The bullpen will need some help too, but changing the bench could help make the difference in finally winning a World Series.

 

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

Detroit Tigers: Adept at Acquiring Rival Talent

Acquiring a player to strengthen your team is one thing, but when you weaken a rival in the process it’s a different kind of plus. On the other hand, if a rival team moved on from a player and you bring that player in from a different team, all it does is show your rivals what could have been—all the while making your team better.

Dave Dombrowski and the Detroit Tigers are exceptionally good at this.

Maybe the team’s brass thinks a player with extensive experience within the division will be a boost in terms of helping the Tigers win. Or maybe it’s just a huge coincidence, but Detroit has become a landing spot for former-division rivals.

An ever-present checklist item during Dombrowski’s tenure in Detroit, at least after he acquired Miguel Cabrera, has been to surround the former Marlin with sufficient protection and fire power. Cabrera has generally had an elite hitter placed near him in the middle of the order. Magglio Ordonez (who was acquired from a rival team, Chicago) was the first while the likes of Victor Martinez (another former rival) and Prince Fielder have followed. Because of the middle-of-the-order stability, Dombrowski has combed the market in search of hitters to fill out the rest of the order—or, in other terms, to add more fire power and length. Jhonny Peralta was one of those hitters, Delmon Young was another and Torii Hunter was another still. The underlying theme with all three is that they had experience in the AL Central. And in the case of Peralta and Young, both were directly acquired from rivals.

In Hunter’s case, as in Martinez’, the player was acquired after a stint away from the AL Central. The former Twin, Hunter, was signed via free agency after a stint in Anaheim while Martinez made a stop in Boston before also heading to Motown in free agency.

It isn’t just hitters; the Tigers have picked up relievers with extensive AL Central experience. Three of Brad Ausmus top options out the bullpen, Joakim Soria, Blaine Hardy and closer Joe Nathan, have been employed by rival teams. Soria and Hardy (although he never made the Major League roster) are former Royals while Joe Nathan made his name as Minnesota’s closer.

It may be coincidental, or purposeful, but the Tigers have a knack for acquiring rival team’s talent. Who needs advanced scouting when you can scout a player by seeing them play against your team 15-20 times a year?

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

Miguel Cabrera is having a down year. That much is true. He may not win a fourth consecutive batting title, he may not win a third straight MVP and he may not win another triple crown. But, despite the sub-par season (by his extremely high standards) he may just be showing his brilliance as a hitter. Why? Because when most hitters have down years, they look awful—comparatively and in general. Miguel Cabrera’s down year includes a .304 batting average. He’s that good.

A typical season for the Tigers’ slugger has generally consisted of gaudy numbers and some kind of hardware. Whether it is an MVP award, a triple crown, an American League pennant, Cabrera has won them all.

His biggest accomplishment may be this season—his “down” season. Here’s just a small snippet of his stats this year. I remind you, this is his “down” season.

  • His .304 line is a far cry from the his batting averages over the last five years (.348, .330, .344, .328 and .324) but only eight players in the American League have a higher clip.
  • Leads the AL in doubles with 42. Only Johnathan Lucroy of the Brewers has more in Major League Baseball.
  • Has driven in 94 runs. Also a far cry considering Miggy’s RBI output the last two years (137 and 139 respectively), but only four players have more. Three of those four players would be home run mashers Mike Stanton, Jose Abreu and David Ortiz. In other words, players who get a lot of their RBIs from the long ball. Cabrera only has 19 homers this year, further showing his ability as a complete hitter (as if he needs to show that).
  • Despite his lower numbers, Cabrera still has scored only six less runs than Angels’ wunderkind Mike Trout. I should also point out that Trout is a threat on the base paths and has speed—Cabrera doesn’t check either of those boxes.
  • Also has a top-ten ranking in the AL in Slugging Percentage (ninth, .501) and OPS (eighth, .868).
  • Ranks eight in the AL in hits with 156. Players with fewer hits include Trout, Dustin Pedroia and Jose Abreu.
  • Top ten rankings in total bases (tied for sixth, 257) and runs created (seventh, 92).
  • Only Trout and Jose Abreu have more extra base hits in the American League.
  • Only seven players have reached base more times than Cabrera (206 times) in the AL.
  • Drives in the runs any way he can—leads the AL in sacrifice flies with 10.
  • Still strikes fear into opposing pitchers, he has ten intentional walks on the year. It may not be as high a number as teammate Victor Martinez’ 23, but it still shows the danger Miggy presents to pitchers.

They may not be the leaderboard leading numbers the world is used to from Cabrera, but for a “down year” they’re pretty fantastic.

 

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

Detroit Tigers: JD Martinez and Detroit’s Experience With Out-of-Nowhere Hitters

Dating back to the “Great Chris Shelton Hot Streak” of 2005, the Detroit Tigers have grown accustomed to hitters coming out of the woodwork (relatively speaking) and making an impact.

Take Shelton for example, he hit a robust .345 in the first half of the season in 2005. Over that span is OPS was .970. Then came the second half were he regressed to a still-respectable .279 batting average and .826 OPS.

Shelton got off to another solid start in 2006 when he hit .282 in the first half, coupled with an .857 OPS. For a time, it seemed that he would continue a moderately high level of play. But once again, the second half struck. Shelton’s batting average regressed to .236. His slugging percentage dropped from .508 in the first half to .292 in the second. His OPS also dipped, going from .857 to .595. That and a .231 batting average at home contributed to him being off the team. He found his next taste of big league action in Texas during the 2008 season were he hit .216. A number that portrayed him more accurately as a hitter than the .345 clip did.

It would seem that the Tigers had another Shelton type on their hands when rookie Brennan Boesch burst onto the scene in 2010 with a nearly identical, Shelton-esque .342 batting average and .990 OPS in the first half. Unlike Shelton, Boesch numbers tanked dropped like a lead weight. His second half batting average was a paltry .163 and his OBP was more than halved, going from .990 to .458. From everything Boesch did in the second half, it seemed like the Tigers had another Chris Shelton on their hands—however, that would change as the rookie posted a solid sophomore season.

The fifth place finisher in the 2010 Rookie of the Year voting posted a solid .283 batting average and a .799 OPS. In addition, his first and second half numbers weren’t separated by a continent sized chasm— .289 was Boesch’s batting average in the first half, while the second half brought a .276 line.

It took longer than Shelton, but Boesch eventually succumbed, his batting average in 2012 was .240. His OBP was .659. A full .140 points lower than 2011’s. He wasn’t with the team by the start of the next season.

As it is right now, Detroit has found a third hitter who has come out of nowhere, JD Martinez. This time, they’re hoping the story plays out a little differently.

Martinez’ first half numbers are very similar to both Shelton and Boesch. He hit .346 in the first part of the season with a 1.035 OPS. In addition to those gaudy numbers, Martinez has added a presence that Detroit desperately needed in the middle of the lineup. In most cases, Brad Ausmus will deploy some combination of Ian Kinsler, Rajai Davis, Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez in the first four spots in the lineup. Outside of those five the team’s hitters aren’t nearly as potent. Or at least that was the case heading into the season. JD Martinez’ arrival has added much needed power to the teeth of the lineup—power that also extends the lineup and gives it more depth.

His numbers haven’t tanked as badly as Boesch’s did, but Martinez splits are significantly different. He’s hitting .261 in the second half with a .723 OPS. However, there is reason to believe that he’s turning things around mid-decline. Over the last 14 days, the former Astro owns .327 batting average and a .836 OPS. Martinez is clearly turning it around, and that can only be good news for the Tigers.

Tigers’ hitters to come out of nowhere on hot streaks have had their faults. Shelton struggled to hit at home (in addition to his decline) and Boesch couldn’t sustain success after pitchers started throwing more off-speed offerings and less of the steady diet of fastballs that he had been feasting on. Martinez however, hits at home (.318 batting average) and looks to be sustaining his success. If the numbers of the last few weeks tell us anything, it is that JD Martinez is here to stay in Detroit.

 

 

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

Detroit Tigers: Center Field Alternatives After Missing Out on Rusney Castillo

Regardless of how far the Detroit Tigers came in their pursuit of Cuban prospect Rusney Castillo, they missed out on adding the highly regarded center fielder. Castillo is heading to Boston. With Austin Jackson shipped out as part of the David Price trade, the Tigers are in need of a center fielder, if they don’t go after one to help their postseason run, then they will almost surely try to acquire one in the offseason. Here are some options.

Options for Right Now

The Internal Guys: Rajai Davis and Ezequiel Carrera

Detroit got spoiled by Austin Jackson—a superb fielding, centrally based outfielder who hit for some pop. Sure, he struck out a ton, but at least he contributed in other categories. The Tigers now face reality without their once-longtime center fielder. Any disapproval of his replacements’ play has been answered with the question “Well, would you rather have David Price or not have David Price?” and while’s it’s fantastic to have Price, the team could use a center fielder. I’m not saying the trade shouldn’t have happened, but Detroit need a center fielder, and his name isn’t Rajai Davis or Ezequiel Carrera. Both can cover miles of ground, but aren’t close to the defensive player that Jackson was for the Tigers.

Davis has filled in admirably in center, but his best position remains in left field. This gives Brad Ausmus flexibility in picking his lineup—flexibility that Detroit has relied on and will need to continue to rely on.

While Carrera isn’t as strong defensively as Jackson, he isn’t good offensively as Jackson or Davis. Yes, he brings speed, but his hitting hasn’t been on par with the rest of the lineup. A .220 hitting center fielder with speed might play on a young team auditioning players, but on a team with championship aspirations like the Tigers, it simply isn’t good enough.

In 24 games, Carrera has a total of three extra base hits—two doubles and a triple. Jackson accumulated four extra base hits alone over the course of three games against Diamondbacks.

*Note: I probably wouldn’t be writing this piece if the Tigers were still in first place in the division, but new additions or better play is needed to pass the Royals. It’s also nearing panic mode in “Tigerland.”

The Current Trade Market: Various

With the non-waiver trade deadline come and gone, players must now pass through waivers before being dealt. The bad teams get first crack at players, so because of that and other factors, it’s unlikely that a player would fall through the cracks. However a number of players have passed through waivers with no teams claiming them, and are available to be dealt anywhere. According to MLB Trade Rumors, these players include outfielders such as Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rios, Matt Kemp, Brett Gardner, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. Each is a unique player, but all of them have one thing in common—they’re owed a lot of money.

In addition to being owed a collective 164 million dollars over the next six years, Choo and Granderson just signed deals with their respective teams this offseason. It would look bad for future free agents assessing their options to see that a team traded a player just months after signing him to a long contract. Choo has also played exclusively in both left and right field this year while Granderson has predominantly played right. Granderson has extensive experience in center; just ask any long-term Tigers’ fan, but his salary makes it hard to justify a reunion.

Rios falls in a similar boat defensively seeing as he hasn’t played centerfield since 2011. Plus, he’ll be 34 at this time next year and doesn’t have the power he once possessed.

The Dodgers’ trio of representatives on the list are harder to quantify trading. They aren’t exactly hitting the cover off the ball with batting averages of .247 (Ethier) .271 (Crawford) and .277 (Kemp). Ethier has played center field this year, but his batting line and hefty contract make a move unlikely. Crawford, on the other hand, isn’t a centerfielder. He never played the position extensively, as evidenced by the last time he was in center field—seven innings of a game six years ago while he was with the Rays.

Kemp may be the closest thing to a “goldilocks” fit. Not only does he play center (he’s won two Gold Gloves there), but if he can get his production near where it was during his accolade filled year of 2011, the Tigers would have another elite bat to hit in a lineup that features a handful of them. The red flag is that Kemp hasn’t played a full season since 2011 and is owed north of 100 million dollars over the next five seasons.

The Dodgers are also in the thick of a pennant race of their own, and with Yasiel Puig as the only other starting caliber outfielder on the team, it seems unlikely that LA would part with any of their three contractual albatrosses.

Finally, there’s Gardner. From a skillset standpoint, the Yankee outfielder would fit perfectly in Detroit. He has played 333 games in center field over the course of his career. He is a threat on the base baths with 179 steals over nearly 750 games—and, to top it all off, he hits for power. Albeit power closer to that of Rajai Davis as opposed to Miguel Cabrera, but it would be an upgrade. But similar to Kemp, Gardner’s contract calls for a lot of money. The Yankee outfielder is owed close to 50 million over the next four years, not including a 12.5 million team option for 2019. The money and the fact that the Yankees trail Detroit in the wild card standings may make a trade near impossible.

Splurging cash on one of these previously mentioned outfielders would seem counterproductive—especially after trading Prince Fielder and Doug Fister in cost-cutting moves. It would also seem odd considering the team will likely hand one/both of David Price and Max Scherzer a massive contract extension.

It’s unclear what Dave Dombrowski will do with the Tigers center field situation. Maybe Rajai Davis will prove he can play there full time. Maybe Ezequiel Carrera will hit. Who knows. But reinforcements via trade or Cuba are unlikely this season. If nothing is done, expect the Tigers’ GM to make a move for a center fielder this winter.

 

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

 

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

The Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is having a down year. That much is true. He may not win a fourth consecutive batting title, he may not win a third straight MVP and he may not win another triple crown. But, despite the sub-par season (by his extremely high standards) he may just be showing his brilliance as a hitter. Why? Because when most hitters have down years, they look awful—comparatively and in general. Miguel Cabrera’s down year includes a .307 batting average. He’s that good.

A typical season for the Tigers’ slugger has generally consisted of gaudy numbers and some kind of hardware. Whether it is an MVP award, a Triple Crown, an American League pennant, Cabrera has won them all.

His biggest accomplishment may be this season—his “down” season. Here’s just a small snippet of his stats this year. I remind you, this is his “down” season.

  • His .307 line is a far cry from the his batting averages over the last five years (.348, .330, .344, .328 and .324) but only six players in the American League have a higher clip.
  • Leads the AL in doubles with 42. Only Johnathan Lucroy of the Brewers has more in Major League Baseball.
  • Has driven in 90 runs. Also a far cry considering Miggy’s RBI output the last two years (137 and 139 respectively), but only four players have more. Three of those four players would be home run mashers Mike Stanton, Jose Abreu and David Ortiz. In other words, players who get a lot of their RBIs from the long ball. Cabrera only has 17 homers this year, further showing his ability as a complete hitter (as if he needs to show that).
  • Despite his lower numbers, Cabrera still has scored only nine less runs than Angels’ wunderkind Mike Trout. I should also point out that Trout is a threat on the base paths and has speed—Cabrera doesn’t check either of those boxes.
  • Also has a top 10 rankings in the AL in OPB (ninth, .369), Slugging Percentage (tenth, .496) and OPS (eighth, .865).
  • Ranks eight in the AL in hits with 151. Players with fewer hits include Trout, Dustin Pedroia and Victor Martinez.
  • Top 10 rankings in total bases (tied for seventh, 246) and runs created (eighth, 89).
  • Only Trout and Jose Abreu have more extra base hits in the American League.
  • Only five players have reached base more times than Cabrera (206 times) in the AL.
  • Drives in the runs any way he can—leads the AL in sacrifice flies with 10.
  • Still strikes fear into opposing pitchers, he has ten intentional walks on the year. It may not be as high a number as teammate Victor Martinez’ 22, but it still shows the danger Miggy presents to pitchers.

They may not be the leaderboard leading numbers the world is used to from Cabrera, but for a “down year” they’re pretty fantastic.

 

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

Detroit Tigers: The Importance of Victor Martinez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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.