Detroit Tigers need to think about the future

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By H. Jose Bosch

Detroit, who for the last few seasons has been among the ranks of the highest payroll teams in baseball, may not be at the top following this off season. With news breaking that the Tigers are looking to trade All-star Edwin Jackson, it appears the economy is finally catching up.

When I first heard the news, I was very upset. As disappointing as the season was, I was optimistic about 2010 and a starting rotation anchored by Justin Verlander, Jackson and Porcello as the Nos. 1-3 pitchers. But according to this Foxports.com report (the outlet that initially broke the story) the move is probably an economic one more than anything else.

The thinking goes that if the Tigers want to sign top free agents, it needs to free up some space because the payroll can’t get any bigger. (So in reality they might still have a high payroll, but now they’ll have to be signing players and evaluating talent with a small payroll mentality).

But after thinking about it I realized that this is a huge make or break off season for Detroit in terms of the team’s the future. If the Tigers are at a disadvantage in terms of building a winner now, why sacrifice the future?

Technically the Tigers were one game off from being a playoff team, but let’s be honest; they were much worse than that. This off season could be the Tigers’ chance to stock up for the future with draft picks and prospects for some of their arbitration-eligible players.

This year’s free agent crop isn’t strong enough for the Tigers to build a contender through free agency and the Tigers don’t have enough talent internally, either.

Plus Detroit is freed from three debilitating contracts after next season: Jeremy Bonderman (4 years/ $38 million), Dontrelle Willis (3 years/ $29 million) and Nate Robertson (3 years/$21.25 million) are free agents in 2010. Add Brandon Inge (4 years/$24 million) and the Tigers could have a lot of money to play with after the 2010 season.

So, will 2010 hurt? You bet. But since the Tigers are better set up for future success rather than immediate success, I don’t think fans should worry too much about the loss of a Jackson or Placido Polanco.

Later today I’m going to start breaking down what roster moves Detroit should make with it’s free agents and arbitration-eligible players.

Read more about the Tigers at Jose’s blog, Michigan and Trumbull
Photo courtesy of powerbooktrance/Flickr

White Sox Factor Loom Large in Twins\Tigers Play-in Game

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By Soxman

Tip your cap to those scrappy Twins.  They became your 2009 AL Central Division Champions in one of the best baseball games I’ve ever watched.  12 innings of exciting action, where neither team would go quietly into that good night. As I watched the game closely, I could not help but marvel at how much of an impact the Chicago White Sox had on this game. Confused?  Well then, read this break:

1.    The Chicago White Sox won four of the last six games against the Tigers to essentially force them into the tie-breaking game.

2.    Miguel Cabrera, who was almost traded to the White Sox in 2008 for Josh Fields, Aaron Poreda and others, homered in the game.  He also played on the Marlins when Ozzie Guillen was the third base coach.

3.    Former White Sox right fielder Magglio Ordonez, singled in Curtis Granderson, a Chicago native, whose favorite team growing up was the Sox.  Ordonez also hit a crucial HR in the 8th to tie the game.

4.    Orlando Cabrera, a member of the 2008 AL Central Champion White Sox, give the Twins the lead in the 7th.

5.    Matt Guerrier, a 10th round draft pick by the White Sox in 1999, nearly blew the lead by walking two and giving up a run in two thirds of an inning.

6.    Jon Rauch, a 3rd round pick by the White Sox in 1999 pitched two thirds of a scoreless inning in the 7th.

This Twins team also has to draw some comparison to the 2005 Chicago White Sox as they are a team built primarily on speed and defense, and relying on smart baseball to win.  They also lost one of their best power hitters for the season in Justin Morneau, who interestingly enough was passed over by the White Sox in 1999, in favor of Jon Rauch.  In 2005, we lost Frank Thomas to a broken foot and were forced to use Carl Everett in the DH spot.

In 2005, we had to rely on a “rookie” push down the stretch to fill critical holes.  Bobby Jenks stepped in at closer for the injured Dustin Hermanson, just as Brian Duensing filled in as a starter in place of probable staff ace, Kevin Slowey, who broke his wrist earlier in the season.

Regardless of your hatred for the Twins as a Sox fan, you have to respect what they have accomplished, given their injuries and payroll. They now face their biggest test, defining the biblical identity of David when they face the Goliath New York Yankees.  On paper, this should be a fairly easy victory for the Yankees right?sox-harmony

After all, the Twinkies haven’t won a game in New York in over two years.  They are 0-7 in the regular season against the Yankees as well.  For those who claim that the post season is a brand new season, history is not on your side.  In two previous playoff series against the Yankees, the Twins are 0-2.

So why not be optimistic about beating a team whose collective salaries are more than triple your payroll?  How about the phrase “Fear most those who have nothing to lose?”

You could also argue that momentum is on the Twinkies side.  Despite the Yankees having the best regular season record in baseball, the Twins ended the season, 17-4- acting as baseball’s hottest team when it mattered most. Four intensely emotional games of baseball, 7 if you count their last series against the Tigers, extra innings, a tired bullpen, and a 3:00 a.m. touchdown in New York to play a 5:00 p.m. game: the Twins would not have it any other way.

If ever there were an underdog to love, it is the 2009 Twins.  My competitive hatred will resume after this season ends.

Detroit Tigers’ midseason report

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By H. Jose Bosch

Unlike Miss America 2008 — Michigan-native and first pitch thrower outer Kirsten Haglund — the Tigers have managed to be in first place without looking pretty. Granted, it’s like being the one-eyed man in the land of the blind, but I’m not one to complain about first place.

The starting pitching has been solid, the bullpen has been holding together and even though the offense isn’t as explosive as the last first-place team (2006) it has gotten the job done up to this point. Since the Tigers haven’t reached astronomical highs like they did in the first half of 2006, maybe their second half will be better.

miguel_cabrera1First half MVP: Miguel Cabrera (.321 BA, .384 OBP, 18 HR, 50 RBI, 31 walks, 50 strikeouts)
I could have gone with Brandon Inge since he has more home runs and RBIs and he’s an all star this year while Cabrera is not. But Miggy is hitting much better than Inge, striking out less and has been a better fielder statistically. Inge is an excellent fielder and he is clearly a better athlete, but Cabrera plays his position better than people give him credit for and he hasn’t made too many goofs this season. As for the offensive numbers, if Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco weren’t having off years (for them) Cabrera might have 70 RBIs. If those two have better second halves and Marcus Thames stays healthy, look out. Cabrera cooled down quite a bit after storming out of the gate, but my goodness if I performed at life like this after “cooling off” well I’d be at the New York Times already. Hehehe … (turns into uncontrollable sobbing).

inge2Most improved player: Brandon Inge (.268 BA, .360 OBP, 21 HR, 58 RBI, 35 walks, 85 strikeouts)
If you can’t be the best player, there is nothing wrong with being the most improved. At the break last season Inge was still not hitting well (.220) and had considerably less pop in his bat (7 HR, 23 RBI). Now you could make the case that if Inge’s improvement coincided with Detroit’s than he really is the most valuable player of the first half. I’m not going to buy that. Regardless, Inge has done a great job so far this season. He could have a year similar to his career best in 2006. Even though the Tigers aren’t going to live and die by his bat, having that pop near the bottom of the order in the second half is going to be a major help.

Biggest strength: Starting pitching
Two all stars and a rookie-of-the-year candidate in the starting rotation make life a living hell for opponents on most nights. Detroit is third in the American League in team ERA and has held hitters to a .259 BA (fifth-best in the league). The starting pitchers, particularly Nos. 1-3, have a major hand in that.
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After a slow start Justin Verlander has been as dominant as any pitcher in the American League. He’s at the top of the strikeouts pile with 149 strikeouts, 18 better than the next highest pitcher. He is also one of just seven pitchers with 10 or more wins.

Edwin Jackson is walking fewer batters and giving up fewer hits than his career average. In fact, he has lowest WHIP (walks/hits per nine innings) in the American League. He also has the A.L.’s second-lowest ERA (2.52). With more run support Jackson would probably have at least as many wins as Verlander right now.

Rick Porcello was roughed up in his last two outings but received a long rest during the all-star break. His numbers are strong for a pitcher in his first full season with the big club (8-6, 4.14 ERA, 31 BB, 47 SO) and there is no reason to believe he can’t keep that up.

If the Tigers decide to make any majors moves, it could be to acquire a stronger No. 3 starter. Whatever happens, Nos. 1-3 are steering this ship. If Armando Galarraga pitches better in the second half, it’ll be icing on the cake.

Biggest weakness: Consistency
One look up and down the Tigers roster and I think this is a damn good team. There are places where Detroit could be better. I’d love to swap out Magglio Ordonez for a left-handed hitter with some pop. I wouldn’t mind acquiring stronger middle reliever to get to Rodney in the ninth. And the team could use a functional fifth starter. Heck I’d take a fifth starter period. Most of the time what Jim Leyland throws out on the mound in that place has been anything but a Major League starter. But not one of theses problems are so glaring that it could be considered the biggest weakness.

granderson1What will solve the Tigers’ problems is more consistent play. Ordonez has slowly turned his slow season around and if he, Placido Polanco and Curtis Granderson can get back to beig .300 hitters (even if they don’t finish the year over .300) the offense will be very formidable, even without a left-handed bat.

In terms of relief pitching, Leyland needs to trust one man in the 7th inning and stick with him. Brandon Lyon has done well after a rough start and he seems like the perfect guy to use in the 7th. I love Bobby Seay at the specialist role between the 6th and 7th inning. Joel Zumaya he needs to start mixing in his change up and slider and throwing them consistently well if he wants his fireball fastball to be effective.

As for the fifth starter, Leyland will have to be content with a parade of pitchers in that spot until the playoffs when a No. 5 starter doesn’t matter. As long as their collective numbers do well, it’ll be a non issue.

Final forecast: As I said earlier, this division is weak and no one, Detroit included, will run away before September. But the Tigers are just as competitive as the White Sox and Twins at the moment. If the stars keep playing like stars and the struggling few pick up their performances just a bit, Detroit can expect its first division championship since 1987.

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