Author Archives: Shaneo42
Guest blogger Steve Larson shares an essay that was originally published in the Detroit News on 04.02.06
It was the trip of a lifetime to celebrate a lifetime of memories. It was a trip down memory lane through Cooperstown, New York City and Boston to celebrate a lifetime of love for the game of baseball.
The seeds of that love were sowed within the embrace of Tiger Stadium. Some of the happiest days of my youth were spent there with my dad and brother. Who can forget the magical summer of ‘76 when the Bird was the word? Or the roar of ’84 when the Tigers won the World Series right before our eyes? I’ll never forget catching a foul ball during the third inning and the euphoria we all felt as the final out dropped into Larry Herndon’s glove.
Last spring, I called my brother, Eric, to pitch an idea for a trip I always wanted to do with him and Dad. The plan called for the three of us, all scattered across the country (Dad in Florida and Eric in Chicago), to spend a long weekend reconnecting, reflecting and celebrating our love for baseball. Dad and I had never been to Yankee Stadium or Fenway and I knew how special it would be to experience the “House that Ruth Built” and the “Green Monster” with my dad and brother.
The Tigers kicked off the 2017 first year player draft by taking righty Alex Faedo out of Florida with the 18th pick. Faedo was once considered as a possibly #1 pick, however a sluggish start due to injury set him back. The Tigers second pick is an intriguing one as they chose Reynaldo Rivera out of Chipola College. Rivera is a big lefty with raw power and the ability to hit. It will just be interesting to see what he does against more talented players.
Other than that, the Tigers draft looked a little different under Al Avila this year, as the team did show a bit more focus on outfield depth, as the team selected five outfielders in their first 18 picks.
With a month gone in the Minor League season, we’re starting to see stats stabilizing and getting a good look at who’s breaking out for teams and will also take a look at some other notables. Here’s a look around the Tigers affiliates…
Toledo Mud Hens (Triple-A)
James Loney, added as a nice in-season pick-up to add depth to the MLB club, Loney has played in 16 games and is hitting .229, with a .637 OPS
Remember Alex Presley’s hot spring training, well, he cooled off considerably in Toledo, as he’s hitting .210 with a .468 OPS in 27 games
Then there is Steven Moya who everyone has been waiting on. This has to be it for him with Detroit, as he continues to struggle hitting .162 with a .468 OPS and 26 strike outs in 68 at bats
Starters Buck Farmer and Warwick Saupold are showing success with sub-3.00 ERA’s, however Chad Bell, is off to the best start on the staff, as he’s thrown 21.2 innings so far, with a 1.25 ERA, with just 7 walks and 25 K’s.
I wasn’t truly a fan of it in the first place, but when Al Avila was named General Manager replacing David Dombrowski on August 4th, 2015, I figured he was worth a shot given who he had learned from. That said with the most recent dumpster fire that is known as the Tiger’s bullpen, it’s time for the spotlight to start shining on not only K-Rod and Ausmus, but also Avila. That said, I believe if the Tigers don’t make the playoffs, it’s also time for Al to go in my opinion.
Let’s take a look the major moves that Avila has made in his tenure…
After Jordan Zimmermann’s shaky outing last night, and it is still too early to tell, but I’m starting to get concerned that Zim’s contract may be one of the worst in baseball history.
Entering his second year of a 5-year $110MM contract and making $18MM this year ($24MM in ’18, $25MM in ’19 & ’20), it’s safe to say that the season isn’t getting off to Jordan’s liking after an injury filled 2016 campaign. After the Tigers offense saved Zimmermann from taking the loss last night (ultimately coughing the game up), he still had his second poor performance in as many outings, giving up 5 earned on 10 hits to the Rays. This follows up a 4.2 inning outing against Minnesota where he also game up 5 earned on hits and 5 walks. The start of the season against Boston gave plenty of hope to fans, but remember, that was against a flu-ridden Red Sox lineup. Through the three starts, Zimmermann has a 5.94 ERA, has given up 18 hits in 16.2 innings, while walking 7, and striking out 10, and has a -0.3 WAR.
I have to say, Justin Verlander‘s social media game is strong and he proves it once again with this response to his tipping pitches.
Verlander was hit hard on Saturday in his start against the Cleveland Indians, as he gave up 9 earned runs, tying a career high, which included 3 home runs in just four innings of work. The response from both James McCann and Brad Ausmus, was that JV could have been tipping his pitches without knowing it.
As you can see, he’s very concerned with effort!
Well, if you watched yesterday’s dumpster fire of a game, you might have seen this coming…Bruce Rondon has been optioned to Triple-A Toledo after giving up 4 runs in the eight inning without getting an out.
This all started for Rondon in spring training after showing a noticeable drop in velocity and incurring a 7.36 ERA in 6 games pitched, where he gave up 6 earned, on 3 homers, with 6 walks, 10K’s, and a .259 average against and a 1.77 WHIP. Concerns were eased…
My annual post in taking a moment to remember the game is much bigger then what we watch during the season.
Opening Day, a day for happiness, a day that signifies that summer is on its way, a day that everyone is in first place, a day that every team still has a chance, a day of sadness for me. As much as I enjoy spending this day with my wife and friends hanging out at the ball park, it’s another opening day without my father. It’s now been over ten years since I lost my dad to cancer and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, but this day is especially tough for me as we shared the bond of baseball together. As a matter of fact it’s so tough that I had to write this two weeks prior to opening day nine years ago.
See, Dad taught me the game and taught me well, he spent time playing catch with me, hitting grounders, pitching to me, playing backstop, playing strike out, you name it and we did it. He of course took me to my first Tigers’ game back in the early 80’s, which is what really got me hooked on the game. We’d spend many more opening days, Father’s Days, and summer days there together talking about the game. He was a catcher growing up, a position I never liked or truly became accustomed to, so he would share with me what the catcher was doing at that moment in the game. We’d take everything in while having probably some of the best conversations we had ever had, which could be about baseball but didn’t have to be.
As you may have read already, we’ve looked at 2017 spring standouts from around the league, as well as how the Top 100 Prospects were faring. Now, with the Tigers being a week away from opening up the season in Chicago, I thought we’d give the team a look and see who has stood out so far.
As you know, the Tigers had the most players of any MLB club on World Baseball Classic rosters this season, so the normal standouts such as Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and so on were on rosters, so their counting stats may not look great. The positive to this situation though is that more players got looks during games than normal, so you’ll see some names that you may not be familiar with here.
Standings don’t matter at all during spring training, but as a reference, Detroit is currently 12-17 in the Grapefruit League. Also stats matter very little, however there are certain indicators that I look at such as average, OPS, homers, hits, and strike outs for hitters, and for pitchers I look at WHIP, average against, strike outs, that can show a path of what is working vs. what isn’t. Again, you can’t read too much in these numbers though.
Stats through (3/26/17)
It’s taken four World Baseball Classics, but the US has finally won and did so in convincing fashion last night, with an 8-0 victory over runner-up from the 2013 Classic, Puerto Rico. Marcus Stroman was dominant, Ian Kinsler was clutch in starting the scoring for the US with a two-run homer, and the defense and relief pitching held up nicely!
That said, outside of my baseball friends, no one is talking about the Classic what-so-ever. Yes, the WBC is growing with over 1 million fans attending games this season (previous best was 800k in 2009), but are we really seeing favorability towards the tournament in this country? When you boil it down, it still seems like the major issue here in the US is two-fold. First, the lack of star player participation I think is the biggest issue which leads to second, overall performance. Maybe with the US winning, that changes things. The one thing I don’t want to hear from people is that the players just don’t care with it being an exhibition. Check the video out of the US not caring about winning…
Spring is always a fun time as we see a lot of prospects getting time on the field with current Major Leaguers and probably more so this year with players missing on teams for the World Baseball Classic. Some of these prospects may just be up for an at bat or two to get a look at the bigs, others may be getting some unexpected extra time due to surprising performance, while a few prospects will be fighting for a spot on the roster when heading north for the start of the season. Here’s a peak at how the prospects from my Top 100 Prospects For 2017 are doing so far this spring (as of 3/21)…
- Andrew Benintendi, OF/BOS – 15 game, 43 AB, 13 H, 6 doubles, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 5 K, .302 avg, .961 OPS
- Dansby Swanson, SS/ATL – 8 games, hitting .333, with a double, HR, 4 RBI and 8 K’s, .940 OPS
- Alex Reyes, RHP/STL/9 – Injured, has not pitched
- Yoan Moncada, 2B/CWS – 17 games, 41 AB, 13 H, 4 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 14 K, .317 avg, 1.074 OPS
- Gleyber Torres, SS/NYY – 19 games, 29 AB, 13 H, 6 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, .448 avg, 1.400 OPS
- J.P. Crawford, SS/PHI – 12 games, 29 AB, 6 H, 2B, .207 avg, .523 OPS
- Amed Rosario, SS/NYM/74 – 14 games, 30 AB, 8 H, 2B, 3 RBI, 7 K, .267 avg, .567 OPS
- Victor Robles, OF/WAS – 3 games, 4 AB, BB
- Austin Meadows, OF/PIT – 16 G, 32 AB, 10 H, 3 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 12K, .313 avg, .936 OPS
- Lucas Giolito, RHP/CWS – 4 starts, 9.2 IP, 11 H, 6 ER, 2 HR, 4 BB, 6 K, .297 avga, 1.55 WHIP
I can’t say I put a lot of faith in spring training numbers; however there can be indicators for breakouts (Nick Castellanos a year ago), and hell it’s baseball, their fun to take a peak at. The stats that I tend to focus on for hitting is batting average, hits, home runs, RBI, and strike outs. For pitchers, I look at strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP for pitchers. Both WHIP and ERA are questionable to look at, however it can at least be looked at directionally, unless you’re Mike Pelfrey, who had a 1.17 ERA last spring. Here are the leaders and Tigers notables for games through 3.20.17…
Batting Average (Minimum 35 At Bats)
Adam Frazier/PIT – .450
Jose Osuna/PIT – .417
Guillermo Heredia/SEA, Marco Hernandez/BOS – .415
Jose Martinez/STL – .400
Tiger Notables: Andrew Romine .347, Justin Upton .292
Ever wonder how spring training started, or why? Well, here’s a little history lesson after watching a recent repeat of Ken Burn’s Baseball on the MLB Network.
The Early Years
Stories are a bit conflicting with some claiming the first spring training taking place in Hot Springs Arkansas in 1886, by the Chicago White Stockings (today’s Chicago Cubs) and team President, Albert Spalding and Hall of Famer Cap Anson. Others claim that it was started back in 1870 by both Chicago and Cincinnati Red Stockings down in New Orleans. A third story starts with the Washington Capitals in 1888, holding a four-day camp in Jacksonville. Regardless of which story you hear and believe, we know that teams started training down south in the late 1800’s to prior to the start of their seasons.
Now back in the early years of spring training, most players could not survive on just a baseball salary, so they’d go home after the season and find a job somewhere. Those jobs would take a toll and players would be out of shape and out of practice by the start of the season. When it came to playing spring games, it meant mostly against colleges, semi-pro, and at times another Major League team.
In the early 1903, Connie Mack had his Philadelphia Athletics train in Jacksonville, however after a disappointing season; Mack blamed the outcome on the tropical weather and teams focus and didn’t return for 11 years. One of my favorite stories around the A’ in Florida, was about a very eccentric star pitcher named Rube Waddell who wrestled an alligator while down in Florida.
Yes, we’re finally here with spring training games starting!! Spring training can be such a fun experience from guys running poles during games, trying out new pitchers, or a new stance, to youngsters trying to grab attention, to guys duking it out for a few roster spots on their club.
With that, every spring I like to put a list of out of players that I look forward to watching during spring games. There’s no rhyme or reason to be honest, as it could be a prospect getting a few innings on a big league roster, a guy coming back from injury, a key acquisition, or that teams top player. Regardless, I love watching and listening to spring training games and am always surfing the web or tv to check these players out.
Here’s my list:
Ozzie Albies: I don’t think the 20-year old will have a ton of time in Major League camp, but from everything I know, I can look forward to a youngster with very good lead off potential and an outstanding glove
Taijuan Walker: Walker was part of the trade that sent Segura to Seattle, has show flashes of big potential in the past, but has had a hard time putting it together. At 24, Taijuan has had 2 full seasons of Major League starts, along with 2 other partial seasons. This could be the year he takes a big step forward…if he can keep the ball in the yard (1.8 HR per 9 in 2016)
Archie Bradley: Bradley had been a high profile prospect for some time before his debut in 2015 and looked to be ready to back it up as he was 2-0 in his first three career starts with a 1.48 ERA and 12 K’s. Then Bradley got smoked in the face by a 115 MPH Carlos Gonzalez line drive on April 28th, 2015 and seems like he hasn’t been the same since. I’m hoping that we see the guy this spring that was on all the top prospect reports and what we saw early in the 2015 campaign
Continue reading @ Sons of ’84 – You will be dropped off on my AL/NL West List and can link to the Central and East from there
With all other positions pretty stable, there really are only a handful of battles for the Detroit Tigers heading in to spring training. The 5th rotation spot will be interesting, there will be bullpen spots up for grabs, but I believe the main focus will be Centerfield after the trade of Cameron Maybin to clear some salary from the books.
The centerfield job is pretty much up for grabs as spring games commence later in the week with JaCoby Jones, Tyler Collins, Mikie Mahtook, Anthony Gose, David Lough, and Alex Presely all via for the position to name a few. Mahtook in my opinion has a slight edge; however a lot can change over the next month. Let’s take a look at some of the options…
Welcome once again to my favorite blog entry of the year, my Top 100 Major League Baseball Prospect list for 2017. My list consists of the top prospects in baseball right now and doesn’t necessarily focus on player’s impact this season as these players are in various stages of their Minor League and and possibly Major League career.
Team breakouts for players on the list include: 8 – ATL 7 – NYY, 6 – MIL 5 – CWS, LAD, Pit, TB 4 – CHC, Col, Hou, NYM, Oak, Phi, SD 3 – Bos, Cin, Cle, Min, Tor, Was 2 – Sea, Tex 1 – Bal, Det, LAA, MIA, SF
Position breakouts for players on the list look like: C – 5, 1B – 4, 2B – 5, 3B – 4, SS – 12, OF – 25, LHP – 13, RHP – 32
For the list, you’ll find the player’s name, their position/team/and last year’s ranking for this list…
Earlier in the week I updated what had become an annual blog entry for me around the greatness of Miguel Cabrera, who is undoubtedly already a Hall of Fame lock. It got me thinking around looking in to Justin Verlander’s career and if there is potential to be elected to the Hall of Fame one day. Now, if you would have asked me two years ago, I wouldn’t have written anything, but the way JV reinvented himself this past season, it revitalized hopes that he could be in the Hall someday. Please bare with me as this is a little long, but a case will be made…
Before diving in to statistics and whatnot, there has always been one key milestone for pitchers that essentially ensures that they are Hall of Fame locks, and that’s 300 wins. We must acknowledge that 300 wins is really no longer feasible with today’s 5-man rotations, pitch counts, and bullpen specialist. We must also acknowledge that today’s game has changed where a slightly higher ERA is acceptable compared to the day an age where voters were looking for career ERA’s in the mid-2’s. Hitters are stronger these days; ballparks tend to be smaller, etc.
Here’s the other thing that JV and other pitchers have going against them and it all plays in to what I just wrote, only 6 pitchers have been elected to the Hall in the last seven years (Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Bert Blyleven). Take it back further to 2005 and add just Bruce Sutter and Rich Gossage to that list, making it 8 in the past 12 years. What I think we are seeing is pitchers being scrutinized more highly than hitters.
With this laid out, let’s look at Justin Verlander so far…
What is now the third installment of looking at Miguel Cabrera’s greatness (Pre-2015 season & Pre-2016 Season), it’s become fun to look at what Miggy had accomplished in the previous season and what to look forward to now in 2017.
The original reason for the first post was that I wasn’t sure if Miggy was being taken for granted in Detroit and definitely was not getting the exposure he should have been nationally. I believe that’s changed a bit over the last couple of years now, however it is still worth pointing out that when is all said and done, we may be possibly looking at one of the ten greatest right-handed hitters of All-Time.
With that, Cabrera finished up his age 33 season, one of which we saw Miggy play in 158 games, which was great sign after his injury prone 2015 season. Cabrera tallied a .316 batting average, collected 188 hits, score 92 runs, gathered 31 doubles, a triple, and 38 homers, while knocking in 108, and walking 75 times. This was all good for an OPS of .956 and a WAR of 4.9. Mix in an All-Star game, a Silver Slugger Award, and finishing 9th in MVP voting, and I’d call it another successful season. This is the 9th time in 14 seasons, that Cabrera has hit at least .300, hit 30 homers, and knocked in 100 runs.
Keith Law, a senior baseball writer for ESPN, former writer for Baseball Prospectus, and former front office member of the Toronto Blue Jays, along with one of the most respected prospect scouts around, has released his Top 100 prospects list for 2017. This list is full of names the common fan has not heard of and isn’t related necessarily to impact a player may make in the Majors this season, but their total impact once they reach the Major’s.
The Tigers who rank 24th (out of 30) as far as farm systems go, have landed two players on the list. The first is…
Moving on to the last position in the outfield, we’ve already anointed Bobby Veach the Greatest Tiger left fielder, and Ty Cobb the greatest Tiger center fielder. The question now is, will Sam Crawford make an early 1900’s sweep of outfield greats, or will Al Kaline or possibly Harry Heilmann, or another Tiger take home that crown? To be eligible for the list, a player must play at least 5-years for the Tigers with a majority of games coming at that position. Unlike the infielder however, I do look at stats across all outfield spots.
As we continue on exploring the greatest Tigers by position of all-time, we move on to what I am guessing is a slam dunk before any research is done. Before getting to the list however, looking back I’ve covered the all-time best Tigers catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, and left fielderleft fielder. You can click on any of the previous links to check out that position.
Moving on to center field, we changed the criteria up a bit for outfielders where I still am looking for at least five years with the Tigers and playing a majority of time at that positon. The one change I did make however to gaging the outfield spots, is opening it up to majority of games played at that position, but looking at all outfield numbers, since it’s much more common to see a players shift positions.
For the Center Field spot, we have four qualifiers: Ty Cobb, Mickey Stanley, Ron LeFlore, and Chet Lemon. Austin Jackson just misses out being traded mid-way through his 5th season in Detroit, but could be back via free agency this season. Since this is a shoe in, we’ll take a look at all of the players…
Pushing forward, we move out to the outfield where I believe there will be some challenging calls at each position. To recap however, we had an easy decision at shortstop, an ugly decision at third, and some very intriguing calls at second, first, and catcher.
If you’re reading one of these entries for the first time, the only stipulation that I look at is that the player be in a Tiger uniform for a minimum of 5 years and play a majority of his games at that position during that timeframe. I will make a slight change however and evaluate all of a players outfield stats, as they are a little more likely to move to another position to cover an injury, etc. Qualifying for consideration in left is Willie Horton, Bobby Veach, Matty McIntyre, Charlie Maxwell, Larry Herndon, Bobby Higginson, Steve Kemp, and Dick Wakefield. To keep this readable, I am going to cut Dick Wakefield, Steve Kemp, Larry Herndon, and Matty McIntyre.
After the ugliness of what is the history of Tigers playing third base, we move to what I am guessing is an easier decision with the Shortstop position. If you missed the greatest Tigers catcher, first baseman, second baseman, or third base, you can catch up at any point by clicking on the hyperlinks.
Again, the only qualifier in my process for determining the best positional Detroit Tiger is that they played at least five years as a Tiger with a majority of their games at that position. Qualifying for shortstop is Alan Trammell, Donie Bush, Billy Rogell, Harvey Kuenn, and (ahem) Deivi Cruz. We boot Deivi to start with his 6.0 WAR as a Tiger.
Here we go in chronological order of when the player was in Detroit…
Moving on in our exploration of the greatest Detroit Tiger at each position, we cover third base today. To date, I’ve covered off on the Tigers best catcher, first baseman, and second baseman, with first base being the toughest choice so far.
My only stipulation for being eligible for consideration is playing the position of discussion for a majority of games as a Tigers for at least five years. That leaves us with seven players that qualify and they are Aurelio Rodriguez, Don Wert, Brandon Inge, Tom Brookens, Pinky Higgins, George Kell, and Marv Owen. Not making the cut any further is Don Wert, Aurelio Rodriguez, and Marv Owen. This definitely is the weakest position so far, but let’s take a look…
As we continue exploring the greatest Detroit Tigers by position of all-time, we’ve already made a case for the Tigers best catcher and first baseman; we now focus in the middle of the diamond and second base.
Qualifying requires a minimum of 5-years in the old English D, with a majority of time played at this position. As seen with Miguel Cabrera and others, we remove stats from other positions played and look solely at the position being evaluated. With that, we have seven significant Tigers that qualify at second to consider. They include: Ralph Young, Frank Bolling, Placido Polanco, Damion Easley, Dick McAuliffe, Charlie Gehringer, and Lou Whitaker. I’ll remove Ralph Young (1915-1922) with his 1.4 WAR off the bat and Frank Bolling, Damion Easley, and Placido Polanco for their limited time in Detroit.
Alright, let’s look at the second sackers…
Moving on from naming our greatest catcher of all-time for the Detroit Tigers, we take on naming the greatest first baseman of all-time. If choosing a catcher was difficult, this proves to be one of the biggest battles outside of the right field discussion.
With the only criteria of playing for the Tigers for five seasons, with a majority of games at that position, we have seven candidates. They include: Norm Cash, Hank Greenberg, Miguel Cabrera, Rudy York, Lu Blue, Cecil Fielder, and Tony Clark. The only two players that I am going to eliminate from this list right away will be Clark and Fielder, as Clark’s the .277 average and 156 homers aren’t going to cut it with this group, although the numbers are respectable. Fielder, I was intending to write about until I looked at his numbers as a first baseman and realized a third of his homers came as a DH.
We’ll start in chronological order…
Last year I explored and readers voted on who should be in the Detroit Tigers Hall of Fame from past and present. This year, I’d like to take a look and give my thoughts on the best Tiger at each position. The main condition I have for consideration will be a minimum of 5-years in the old English D uniform at that position for a majority of the season. There are will be some easy battles for certain positions, while others will be incredibly difficult.
Today we’ll start out with Detroit Tigers catchers. There are only six Tigers who even qualify for the minimum seasons needed and are Bill Freehan, Lance Parrish, Oscar Stanage, Ivan Rodriguez, Johnny Bassler, and crowd favorite, Alex Avila.
Baseball America and numerous other baseball prospect sites are moving through the process of naming each team’s top prospects for next season and BA just released Detroit’s last week. The list is based on potential and Baseball America is considered the go to when it comes to prospects.
Here’s the list and how that player fared in 2016…
- Matt Manning, RHP – Manning was the 9thoverall pick in the 2016 draft and I guarantee one of the first things you will read about him is about his athleticism and his father Rich who played in the NBA. What I like is the kid is 6’6” at 18-years old and could grow another inch. What I am afraid of, is that from all reports, he may remain lanky and unable to add weight to his frame for durability purposes. After being drafted, Manning went to rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League, where he made 10 starts, was 0-2, with a 3.99 ERA, a 1.159 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9 rate, and 14.1 K/9 rate. Expect Manning to move up to West Michigan to start the 2017 season.