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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Assessing the Tigers’ Needs

It’s starting to feel like the time of year when all the teams rush to the trade market and go after a new bat or arm. Just as with shoppers on Black Friday, baseball teams too rush out at some un-godly hour to get brand-new toasters. Only theirs aren’t toasters, but are rather players to help their post-season cause.

Injuries and other matters have struck, and while it might be a bit premature to start digging into trade possibilities, I’m going to anyway.

Rotation Help

When I say help, I don’t necessarily mean by trade at this point. Justin Verlander will be the best pitcher in the league, and Doug Fister will be a true frontline-starter. After that there are a few questions. Not big questions mind you, but more like questions off the back of a pamphlet-questionnaire than say off the SAT.

Max Scherzer is one such question. The 27 year old righty has shown flashes of dominance and something quite the opposite. The Tigers certainly aren’t going to give up on him, but he needs to pitch better.

Rick Porcello, on the other hand,  needs to stay away from the Rangers. After looking borderline spectacular against Tampa and the White Sox, Porcello ran into maybe the hottest team of the young season in the Texas Rangers. He got knocked around to a point that he gave up 10 hits, as well as 8 runs in one inning. He had a manila-folder start against the Mariners before recovering with a strong outing against the Royals. The Tigers likely don’t need to worry about Porcello if he keeps putting up numbers like his first two starts.

The Tigers last arm in the current rotation is one Drew Smyly. Smyly, or whoever was in the fifth spot in the rotation, was looked at as a huge question mark entering the season. It’s probably safe to say that Detroit will also be fine if he keeps pitching at the rate he’s going.

We have to remember that the Tigers aren’t going to be without Doug Fister forever. The former Tacoma Rainier will be off the DL at some point, meaning that Duane Below will likely move back to the bullpen and restore depth to what’s turning into a deep group for the Tigers.

Verdict: Overall from a rotation standpoint I’d say the Tigers don’t need to go out and get anyone. Yet.

Infield Needs

The Tigers infield isn’t a huge concern. Nothing is going to happen to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Jhonny Peralta will be fine, don’t worry. The one concern though happens to be the position that neither of the three play: second base. The Tigers production has been paltry there to say the least this season. Ryan Raburn has struggled offensively while playing second and the corner outfield spots. Brandon Inge was cut as a result of the lack of production and Ramon Santiago is better utilized as a utility player. (Yes I just used utilized and utility in the same sentence.) All that being said, the Tigers could be in the market for a new addition at second base. Not necessarily a new starter, but help at the position.

Brian Roberts is a big name, if healthy, who would make sense in the Motor City. Though I’m not sure if the Orioles would give up their star-player.

Clint Barmes might make more sense, but again how much the Pirates would want in return, if they are willing to deal him, remains to be seen.

Chris Getz and Jamey Carroll could be more attainable targets seeing as the Royals would like to make room for guys like Johnny Giavotella in the future.  The Twins can also use as many prospects as they can get.

Verdict: If none of that comes to fruition, the Tigers could always put Don Kelly at second, or go after somebody else.

(Weird Side Note: Raburn is the only player in Safeco Field to ever hit a ball off the roof. I was there.)

THE OUTFIELD (Loud, coming-from-the-heavens like voice)

Delmon Young’s absence from the lineup has given the Tigers a look at the production that Andy Dirks might put up at on a consistent basis. It has also opened the door for more playing time for Don Kelly and more outfield starts for Raburn.

If Young can’t come back and establish himself as the Tigers protection for Cabrera and Fielder, then the Tigers might look to find a replacement.

Detroit doesn’t have any pressing prospects at the AAA level so it isn’t as if a new acquisition would block them. A deal similar to the one which brought Young to the Tigers could come about with Detroit picking up a bat to basically do what Young is doing. Jeff Francoeur would be a fit for the Tigers, and one who wouldn’t cost too much.

Verdict: The Tigers don’t necessarily need help if Delmon Young comes back the same. If not, then Detroit could look elsewhere.

The ‘Pen

Detroit’s bullpen wasn’t going to be as good as last year’s. Not many bullpens are, or were as good as last year’s group. That being said, the current bullpen is a good one, and as previously stated, has a lot of depth. Yes, surprising as that may sound, the Tigers bullpen has depth. Dotel-Benoit-Papa Grande might just be one of, if not the most, efficient/dominant 7-8-9 inning triumvirate in the league. Outside of that the Tigers boast ace reliever Phil Coke as well as the more versatile Collin Balester and the currently-injured “King of Alliterations” (sorry had to do it.) Al Alburquerque. I haven’t gotten to names like Daniel Schlereth who was very effective out of the ‘pen last year. As well as Duane Below and Adam Wilk, who could both provide even more depth in the relief corps.

The Verdict: Detroit should be fine here unless injury strikes.

DH

One of last season’s sure things has turned into one of this season’s bigger question marks. With V-Mart out for most of the season (thinking best case scenario) the Tigers will use it as a revolving door to give guys breaks in the field. Brad Eldred will also get a good deal of ABs there as well.

The Verdict: The DH conundrum will likely work itself out when Young returns. That’ll make DH a platoon of sorts with Eldred and Dirks. The recently stated DH grouping isn’t bad, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers went out and added a bench bat/platoon partner to add to the mix.

Overall Verdict: Going into the season, if the Tigers second base situation didn’t play out well then the Tigers probably were, and are going to need help there. Getz or Roberts makes sense. The rotation isn’t as big of a concern as it could be. When Max Scherzer turns it around then all the rotation questions will go poof. Same with the outfield situation. If Delmon Young comes back as his old self then the Tigers will roll on. If not they might go shopping for a new outfielder. Other than that the bullpen is solid. You’ll notice that I didn’t list catcher because Alex Avila is a rock and isn’t going to get injured. In the off chance that he does, Gerald Laird can play stop gap for a week.

Can Justin Verlander Repeat?

A Cy Young and an MVP award in the same season is no small feat. You won’t find it on many resumes anywhere. But can it be done again? Surely you would think no, but it’s not as obscene as you might think.

There are a of couple contributing factors to this. One is named Prince Fielder. Of Verlander’s five losses, two were by two runs or less. I’m not saying Prince Fielder will change that, but he will surely help in the run department category.

The big thing though is that the division might have gotten worse. Yes, Kansas City will get better, but everyone from Jacoby Ellsbury and Adam Jones to So Taguchi and Joey Gathright struggle against the reigning MVP.

Minnesota might still be in the same rut they were in last season. Cleveland will contend, but doesn’t seem to figure into the big picture. Same with Chicago, who might have gotten worse by trading off Carlos Quentin among others.

Which brings us to our next point, Carlos Quentin is gone. I’m not going to say that this will drastically impact Verlander’s season, but in one of his many losses (read five with a heavy dose of sarcasm) he lost 8-2 to the White Sox. In that game one certain Quentin went 3 for 5 and drove in three runs while scoring another. Also is the fact that only Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and Victor Martinez have hit more homeruns off of the reigning MVP than Quentin. It should be noted that Quentin is now playing on the complete opposite end of the spectrum as Verlander, on a west coast NL team (read San Diego).

(As a quick aside, Dye isn’t in the league, Thome is in a reduced role in Philly and Martinez is with Detroit and out for the year with a torn ACL).

(Another quick aside is that the 8-2 loss was Verlander’s last of the year. And it was in mid-to-early July. Yowza!).

As far as repeats go, back-to-back Cy Young’s certainly isn’t obnoxious. Most of his stiffest competition in the past (see Zack Grienke, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay) have all gone over to the NL. The real challengers that are left are mainly Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Jon Lester and Jered Weaver. This list can probably be lowered down to three with Hernandez’s exclusion. He is certainly worthy, but is backed by a shaky offense. But you never know. Funnier things have happened. As for the other three, they will be in it. But look for Verlander to come back strong in this year’s Cy Young voting.

The MVP repeat is a little more tricky. Of past AL MVP winners, only Hal Newhouser and Frank Thomas have repeated. Incidentally, Newhouser was a pitcher who pitched for, you guessed it, Detroit. It’s not that small of a club, Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Mike Schmidt, Ernie Banks and Joe Morgan have all done it in the Senior Circuit. OK maybe it is a small club, but the point is that it’s tricky. Especially for a pitcher such as Verlander. The only other pitcher to repeat was Newhouser, who was a Tiger. So maybe it could happen again.

The fact of the matter is Justin Verlander and the Tigers are going to be extremely dangerous come playoff time. Heck, they’ll be extremely dangerous in the middle of a cross country road trip in Seattle.

Prince Fielder Grades

The Tigers will Sign Prince Fielder ……… Holy schnikies!!!

The Tigers signed him, they didn’t commit “fiscal insanity”. They jumped in at the last minute as the darkhorse team to get the big fish. Much like their acquisition of Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers swooped in at the eleventh hour, so to speak.

Detroit- A

Detroit is the clear winner here. Not only has Victor Martinez been viably replaced for this year, but the Tigers have found yet another top line bat to pair with Miguel Cabrera. This could become messy at the end of Fielder’s contract, as it might be with Cabrera. The thing that might make the contract bearable is the fact that both guys can hit. Yes, that’s a bit obvious, but listen to this: if Cabrera can hit now, and that’s his forte by the way, as can Fielder, think about if all they do is hit at the tail end of their contract. Hank Aaron (A Miguel Cabrera comparison) still hit forty home runs and hit .300 when he was thirty nine. Thirty nine years young. Cabrera’s deal ends in 2015. He isn’t going to be thirty nine then, but he is still going to hit. Fielder is in the same boat. He isn’t drawing the same comparisons. But he’s going to hit for a while.

Milwaukee – D+

Milwaukee lost their face of the franchise. They might lose Ryan Braun for 50 games due to a PEDs. They replaced the two of them with Aramis Ramirez and presumably Mat Gamel or someone like that. That’s a real nice pitch to season ticket holders, “come see Aramis Ramirez, T-Plush and a guy who has yet to hit his prime!” (Note the heavy, and I mean heavy, sarcasm.)

Seattle – C-

The M’s traded for Jesus Montero. He’s there future now. The M’s probably would have been a little reluctant to invest in Fielder with Montero and fellow trade-centerpiece Justin Smoak in town. All three are probably the same type of guy, and the latter two are younger and cheaper (the M’s new motto, also see lack of power). Fielder is probably an upgrade over Smoak, as he is over most anyone let alone Smoak. It probably would have been nice for Seattle fans (not myself) to hear something like “We tried, we offered him a big deal, but we tried.” Seattle may never have been in the race and were just media fodder, but still it would have been nice to hear an “I tried.”

Washington Nationals- B

The Nationals gave Jayson Werth a ridiculous contract. Ridiculous. To put that much into Fielder might have been a stretch. Now Fielder and Werth aren’t the same players, but it’s a lot of cash to go around. The Nationals also have the present and future to think about. Bryce Harper is probably going to play in a corner outfield spot. Werth is already in one spot. Mike Morse is at first along with Adam LaRoche. Granted most any guys would probably be moved out of the way to make way for Fielder (read anyone not named Miguel Cabrera). Morse and LaRoche obviously aren’t Cabrera, but they aren’t the worst options either. In fact, they are a pretty good darn pairing at first.

Chicago Cubs- Incomplete

We aren’t sure if they were in it, just like Seattle. The new Cubs brass has brought in Anthony Rizzo as well as other pieces in a bit of a rebuilding year. The Cubs have their first baseman, and they don’t need another.

Prince Fielder is a Tiger. The Tigers won. The Brewers and Mariners lost, and it’s as simple as that.

Tigers Sign Prince Fielder (Go ahead Tigers fans, go ballistic!)…..

Also start throwing out your “maybe next year” quotes for M’s and Nationals fans. (Also, incidentally the only two teams that have never been to the World Series.)

The Tigers won 95 games last year and essentially replaced an injured Victor Martinez with Prince Fielder.

Martinez tore his ACL. He’ll be out for a while, an October return would be a plus at this point.

The Tigers replaced him with Fielder. Can you imagine the offensive potential of a lineup of Cabrera and Fielder? And then if and when V-Mart gets healthy… I’ve been bouncing off walls ever since this story broke and am still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that this just happened.

The V-Mart injury created a dilemma for Detroit. They were still favored to win the Central, but the hole Martinez created was huge. There is probably only a select list of guys you could pick to fill in for him. That list probably includes guys like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Matt Kemp maybe a Joey Votto in there. Guess what? The Tigers just replaced him with one of the guys on the list.

And remember, Victor Martinez is only out for this year. Fielder is supposedly signing a nine-year deal. Cabrera is around for a long time with his contract. Think about that 3-4-5 lineup when everyone is healthy. Think about the pitching that the hitters will be scoring runs for. Think about Verlander’s numbers next year. He had an amazing season last year. Verlander lost games against Boston and LA of Anaheim by a run each. He also had two losses of two runs to Texas and the Yankees. With Fielder in the lineup this season those kind of losses might disappear for the reigning MVP all together. Last year’s Cy Young winner is going to be good with or without Fielder. Think about the rest of the rotation. Think about them pitching in a park that is not friendly to hitters whatsoever. Think about the run support they will get with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Think about the headaches opposing managers will get having to stare down a lineup with maybe the two best hitters in the game.

Don’t think about the money that is involved. Don’t think that they grossly overpaid the Prince. Don’t think that you’re paying Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Prince Fielder millions and millions of dollars to play the same position. Most teams would kill, heck some teams might trade entire minor league affiliates, for these guys. Some teams (cough Seattle Mariners cough) need the hitting to even think about competing.

I would take these three guys over any other 3-4-5 middle of the lineup out there. (This isn’t just a Tigers fan voicing his opinion, most “experts” would probably tell you the same thing.) This group is better than the Angels, better than the Rangers and, gasp, better than those heavily favored and subject to lots of bias, Yankees-Red-Sox-Phillies lineups.

Back to the money, don’t attack the Tigers for giving him a lot of money. Yes, there is a lot of money going around between the Tigers middle of the order. The outfield isn’t obnoxiously overpaid, neither are a lot of the pitchers. The Yankees are paying Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson a lot in the outfield.

Their entire infield is overpaid. Derek Jeter and A-Rod are on the wrong side of thirty. Teixeira is on the hook for a lot. Robinson is the one left out in the infield millionaire row. He’s on the tail-end of a sad sack five-year 44 million dollar deal.  (Notice the heavy sarcasm).

AJ Burnett is one of the best examples of a possibly overpaid player due to his Jekyll and Hyde tendencies on the field. CC Sabathia is probably the one guy who is paid the right amount on the team.

Can anyone say that Daisuke Matsuzaka is paid correctly? How about Bobby Jenks making six million dollars as a non setup role. He isn’t even closing. Let alone setting up the closer. Philadelphia is giving Joe Blanton eight million dollars as a potential swing man.

Don’t fuss about the money. Fuss if you’re a Cleveland Indians fan. Or a White Sox fan. You just lost the division by 15 games last year to Detroit. (That was the Indians, Chitown was worse.) The Indians were making a fuss of choosing over Casey Kotchman or the-now-off-the-market Carlos Pena. And now the team you lost the division to by 15 games (holy schnikies) just signed Prince Fielder. (Again, holy schnikies).

Holy Schnikies. Theme of the day. Holy Schnikies. Get ready for one hell of an offensive year for Jimmy Leyland’s Tigers club.

(Watch out when V-Mart gets back!)

Holy Schnikies!

Give the AL Central Some Love

If you ask a casual fan to name the four best teams in the American League you will probably get some combination of Texas, New York, Boston and the Angels. Yes, they probably have the biggest pay rolls in the league.  Yes, they made the three biggest signings of the offseason (Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson and Yu Darvish). Yes, they could make a fourth (Prince Fielder). Yes, they have represented the AL in the last five World Series. Yes, they sport one of the biggest cash cows in sports (Yankees). And yes, they are probably four of the bigger markets in the country.

But people need to get to start giving the Central some love. No one seems to be talking about Detroit, who despite losing Victor Martienz to injury still have the best pitcher in the league and the best hitter in the league. Also Jim Leyland is the “winningest” active manager in the game. Throw in the league’s best closer last year, Jose Valverde, and one of the better catchers for the next decade in Alex Avila and you’ve got one hell of a team.

It should also be noted that the division isn’t just Detroit (it will be next year), but Kansas City will be pretty good too. The Royals have arguably the most talented farm system in the league that will set them up for a long time. They also have a pretty good young core that’s at the Major League level. Lots to like in Kansas City. They won’t surpass Detroit for a while, but they’ll be in the mix.

The White Sox aren’t without their own hype as they welcome in a new era led by new manager Robin Ventura and potential young stars Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham and Chris Sale.

Cleveland also has its coup of young up-and-comers despite the Fausto Carmona situation (had to mention it at some point). The coup includes Carlos Santana Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis.

Minnesota is also a team in the AL Central. As you can see I’m very excited about them (bored voice)… they have a lot of pieces… blah blah blah. Minnesota is in a rebuilding year and has a high pick in the draft (number two overall), and  it will get worse before it gets better. The point is that it will get better for Minnesota, whenever that may be, it will get better. But all hope isn’t lost, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can still hit.

The underlying theme spoiler alert of the day is that the Central is not the cellar dweller of the division, or not the worst by any stretch. We know absolutely nothing about the Angels, they haven’t even stepped on the field as a team yet. Yu Darvish will run into a wall at some point from an adjustment point of view. Prince Fielder’s zip code is yet to be determined. Don’t write off the Central, now or later.