Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Detroit Tigers Season in Review: Vol. 1

I've been meaning to write a season review for the past couple of weeks but I wasn't eager to get over the euphoria I've been feeling since Matt Millen was fired by revisiting the terribly disappointing failure of a season the Tigers had just finished. But it's just not in my nature to feel good about something for a long time and after watching the debacle at Ford Field on Sunday it finally set in that I was in the midst of watching another lost season for a Detroit franchise. So I might as well wrap up the Tigers season by handing out some end of the year grades. Usually I joke about my subjectivity when assigning these grades but this time I set up an objective scoring system that tested the Tigers skills in a variety of subjects such as Spelling, Math, Geography (dominated Ryan Raburn, even I didn't know the capital of Vermont was Montpelier) and an essay about who was the most influential person in their life (Highlighted by Marcus Thames thoroughly detailed biography on the life of Oliver Cromwell....who knew). Coincidentally their grades in this objective system matched up identically with my subjective, irrational and spiteful grades. Ah, I'm just kidding of course. Raburn was terrible at geography and I was just trying to sleep with his single mom. Enough nonsense though. Hark! (Trumpets sound). The grades, Sire!!!!!

Brandon Inge: I hate Brandon Inge. There I said it and I feel much better for having done so. I usually have a soft spot for the Tigers on the team that were members of the wretched 2003 squad and Brandon is the longest tenured Tiger on the team. With that being said tho, his play on the field and his attitude off of it have been so poor the past couple of seasons that I find myself disliking him. I don't understand why he mostly gets a free pass from the fan base either. I was at a game late this season where Inge got the start behind the plate and Sheffield started at DH. Both had equally miserable nights at the plate, striking out, leaving guys on base, hitting feeble infield pop-ups and for good measure Inge even accounted for a wild pitch that from my vantage point in the seats looked like it could have easily been scored a passed ball. Anyways, by the end of what was shaping up to be another Tigers loss Sheffield came to the plate for a final time and was booed roundly and enthusiastically by the crowd. He popped out and as he was trotting back to the dugout the boos came down with even more force. However when Inge was introduced before his final AB he was greeted to a nice sarcasm-free round of applause and cheers. The guy next to me went so far as to complain with a straight face that the Tigers biggest reason for their disappointing season was the teams decision to remove Inge as the everyday third baseman after the Cabrera trade. Inge made an out, of course and left the field to an indifferent silence. I just don't understand the love affair, or more accurately lack of hatred, for Inge. As if putting up slash stats of .205/.303/.369 wasn't enough to draw the ire of fans his constant complaining during spring training about losing his position to one of the top-5 hitters in the game and his insubordinate refusal to play back-up catcher for the good of the team should have been enough to turn the tide against his favor. Instead the team rewarded him by handing him the starting third base job next year without question or competition. I'm not ripping his skills playing third and he's arguably one of the top five defensively at his position but if he hits as putrid in '09 as he did this season he'll have to play Brooks Robinson level defense if not better. Personally I'd like to see the Tigers roll the dice and sign somebody like Joe Crede to push Inge for the job. Sure Crede's back is so wrecked he makes Quasimodo look like the picture of perfect posture, but if he's healthy he would provide equally good if not better defensive value and he wouldn't look like a blind 12 year old girl flailing wildly when he was at the plate. Just saying. Grade: D-

Dusty Ryan: When I first saw Dusty Ryan's name in the lineup I immediately confused him for the wrestler from the mid-80's Dusty Rhodes. I haven't been a wrestling fan in a good fifteen years or so but when I was in elementary school it was a pretty big part of my life. I remember high fiving my friend Don for successfully spitting a giant loogie on the back of Earthquake as he walked by during some crappy Tuesday night wrestling event at the Flint IMA. I was distraught when my Mom wouldn't buy me a Jake "The Snake" Roberts folder for school and equally pissed when I saw the slow kid who had to go to speech class carrying the same folder on the first day of class, (actually now that I think about it this may have happened just last year). Even my first run-in with a celebrity was when my friend Nick, his Dad Bob and I ran into Ted Dibiase ordering food at a McDonald's in Fenton. Of course I'm using the term "celebrity" loosely here but to a 3rd grader who was used to seeing "The Million Dollar Man" on television every Saturday morning it was the equivalent of the President parachuting into the parking lot wearing a full astronaut suit and playing an electric guitar that shot fireworks. So the nostalgic side of me was excited about the possibility of a fat catcher in a leotard that was accompanied by an obese female sidekick wearing a bumble bee outfit who sat in the dugout and threw salt in the opposing batters faces. Unfortunately my memory failed me as these two Dusty's spell and pronounce their last names differently. As for the Dusty Ryan who actually played for the Tigers, he was pretty impressive in his cup of coffee and hopefully features prominently into next years plans behind the plate. Grade: A-

Miguel Cabrera: This is going to be my first real cop-out. It's so much easier for me to be negative and cynical about everything and anything than it is for me to heap praise on somebody. But Cabrera was amazing this season. Just about every superlative you can come up with applies to Cabrera production at the plate. He even looked like a competent 1st baseman after being nothing short of a disaster at third base. So me saying nothing about Cabrera is actually the biggest compliment I could pay him. I'm definitely excited about the next 8 years. Grade: A

Placido Polanco: Placido did what he does every season. That's not just lazy analysis on my part either. Well not entirely. Here are Placido's career 162 game averages. 92 runs, 31 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 63 RBI, 8 SB, 34 BB, 43 SO, .306/.350/.416. Here's are Placido's stats from this season. 90 runs, 34 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 58 RBI, 7 SB, 35 BB, 43 SO, .307/.350/.417. That's amazingly consistent. In fact my source close to the team, who I made up just now, told me that the real Placido Polanco tragically passed away during this past off-season after the alien that had been living in his head burst open. The Tigers invested in a team of crack scientists specializing in robotics and created a eerily lifelike model and programmed him to hit and field according to Polanco's career averages. Under the model name Placi-Tron 9000 the prototype was a rousing success (and much more productive than Macias-borg CX-100) and manufacturing began on several back-up models to be used over the remaining seasons left on Placido's contract, which are stored in an abandoned storage room underneath the Whitcomb Observatory on Belle Isle. Spooky. Grade: B

Carlos Guillen: Guillen used to fit in the category with Polanco and Maggs for being crazy consistent. Where you could pretty much pencil in .300/20/100 at the start of the season and plan accordingly. Guillen started strong too, being about the only Tiger pulling his weight on offense during the miserable first month of the season that saw the Tigers stumble out of the gate. However from then on he regressed terribly at the plate, almost got run over at first base a dozen times do to some of the worst footwork ever seen at the position, battled nagging injuries and 'roids (not the illegal kind but the kind that make it hell to sit down without a padded seat) got jerked around between a few positions and ended the season on the DL with a balky back. Not the kind of season you would hope for from a guy in the first year of a 4 year 48 million dollar contract. Now to appease crybaby Inge, (have I mentioned that I don't like Inge anymore?) Guillen is once again switching positions and taking over as the everyday left-fielder at the expense of at-bats for the powerful Marcus Thames and young players Matt Joyce and Clete Thomas. Awesome. I think the seemingly off-the-cuff and reactionary decision making regarding Guillen this season served as a perfect microcosm of everything that went wrong with the Tigers this season. Grade: C+

Edgar Renteria: The most impressive aspect of Edgar Renteria's only season in Detroit was how much damage to the franchise in both the long and short term future he caused in just a single season. I can't think of an addition the Tigers have made in their recent history that was such a calamitous failure. Sure Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz is a ridiculously lopsided trade in hindsight, but without Alexander's addition to the '87 team there is no way the Tigers would have held off the Blue Jays for the Division crown. Juan Gonzalez was a disaster but aside from costing the Tigers the services of Francisco Cordero, Detroit didn't really lose much in that trade personnel wise and there were almost no expectations of success going into that 2000 season. However the swath of destruction Renteria caused during his tenure with the Tigers was genuinely remarkable. If someone held a gun to my head and asked my opinion on who was most responsible for this disappointing season, I would probably hand them my wallet and sob that I thought it was Edgar. I'm not tooting my own horn here but I was vehemently opposed to the Renteria deal as soon as it went down. I thought Jurrjens was very impressive during his short stint with the Tigers last season and I was intrigued by the speed and defense that Gorkys Hernandez flashed in the minors. I thought surrendering both in the same deal for an aging shortstop coming off a career year, who really wasn't as good as his reputation would lead one to believe in the first place, was a horrendous and short-sighted idea. I'd like to take this time to point out that Bill, who contributed a couple of posts for this site back in April before disappearing, wasn't as high on Jurrjens and compared him favorably to Kevin Ritz. This led to me justifiably beating him to death with a shoe and disposing his body in Buell Lake. Of course it took about a month to see that Renteria had aged a decade overnight as his range, arm and bat had slowed tremendously. My favorite Renteria moment was around the All-Star break when he had been in more DP's, than my friend TJ's mom.....wait I mean than he had extra base hits. Fantastic. Naturally Jurrjens had the best season by a rookie pitcher in the N.L. and drew raves from Bobby Cox, whereas the Tigers took about .00000273 seconds to decline Renteria's option after the season ended. So I'm issuing this warning to anyone who dares wear a Renteria jersey/T-shirt next year. I'm punching you in the back of the head. Unless your big, then I'll hit your wife instead. Grade: F

Marcus Thames: Ah yes another pre-season prediction of mine that came true. Before the season I prophesied that Thames would rise from the Pumpkin Patch Graveyard and smite the teenage boys who killed my son when they ran him over with their dirtbikes, only I would be cursed to take over Thames role as a vengeful spirit summoned by the weak of heart. Oh shit nevermind, that's the plot to the movie Pumpkinhead not what I predicted for Thames. Hang on let me check the archives here. Oh yes, I prophesied that Thames would hit 40 homeruns if he was given the chance to play everyday instead of getting jerked around by Leyland and losing at-bats to nobodies like Jacque Jones and Clete Thomas. For a bit it looked as though I might be right as Thames mashed homeruns in seemingly every at bat. Then the holes in his swing were exploited and his average and power totals plummeted. Now he appears to be on the outside looking in for at-bats in left next season. Grade: C

Matt Joyce: Pass. I was hoping that would sound intriguing and keep fans begging for my opinion on Matt Joyce's play this season, a la Bill James' comment regarding Jeff Bagwell in his Historical Abstract, but I've really got nothing. Good left handed power bat, good arm, glove, etc. Grade: B

Curtis Granderson: Granderson just keeps getting better and better and hopefully the Tigers can pick up a decent leadoff hitter that will allow Granderson to drop down in the order. Joe Posnanski wrote a pretty convincing argument on his blog that Grady Sizemore had outgrown his role as a leadoff hitter and it was actually detrimental for the Indians to play him in that spot, especially if it meant giving at bats to scrubs like Ben Francisco and Ryan Garko in the 3/4 holes. Now of course Tigers don't have a black hole like Francisco/Garko in the middle of their order but I think they would be much more potent if they had Granderson batting third. Of course this would raise the issue of who would become the Tigers new leadoff hitter. Personally I think Rafael Furcal, who I've always been a big fan of, would be perfect in that role and on this team in general as the everyday starting shortstop. Of course this seemed like a better idea before Furcal came back towards the end of the season and re-established himself as the catalyst for a World Series contending team. Apparently I have a thing for guys coming back from crippling back injuries as my endorsement for Crede and Furcal prove but the point I was trying to get at is the possiblity of signing Furcal on the cheap has probably vanished as his play of late will likely lead some team to dump millions of dollars and a long term deal in Furcal's lap and price him out of the Tigers off-season plans. Alas. Grade: A-

Magglio Ordonez: Ordonez is very similar to Polanco in the fact that you can just about pencil in his numbers every year and if he's healthy he'll be right around those totals when everything is said and done. Of course the intriguing story regarding Magglio is if the Tigers might unload him this off-season. If this question would have been raised after last season when Maggs put up arguably the best statistical season in a Tigers uniform since Hank Greenberg left, I would've reacted swiftly and violently with an assortment of roundhouse kicks and throat punches. Now I'm kind of open to the idea. Look, I love Magglio, he's been on my fantasy team for the past two seasons and I will be forever grateful for his efforts in turning my last place team into a sixth place one but with that said Magglio is probably the only tradeable player on this team. If the Tigers could get a decent return of young players back for Magglio or pair him with a terrible contract like Robertson's or Dontrelle's that would give them some payroll flexibility, I wouldn't be opposed to it. Especially given the abundance of corner outfield prospects in the organization, probably the only area in the organization where there is decent depth, and the fact that the DH spot will likely be occupied by a series of players over the next few seasons it only makes sense that the team would entertain offers for Ordonez if not actively shop him. Grade: A-

Gary Sheffield: I always try to write about abstract silliness on this website so I'm going to try my hand at a little topical humor with Sheffield. This year Sheffields stock took a bigger hit than a stock that lost a lot of money in this recent financial crisis. Huh....huh...anything? Hmm, maybe it didn't work because you can't see my bowtie spinning. Sheff was always one of my favorite players in baseball even before he came to Detroit and during the first half of last season he played superbly and I was enjoying it thoroughly. Then he got hurt and was ineffective before shutting it down entirely. After off-season surgery and a proclamation by Sheff that he was healthy and looking forward to crushing A.L. pitching as well as scaring the shit out of Gene Lamont in the 3rd base coaching box. Sheff started slowly and it looked like all the pop was zapped from his bat. Then he played in left after complaining about the DH role but apparently forgot to tell anyone that he couldn't throw a baseball which, and I don't know because I'm not a professional, seems like a pretty important part of the position. Next came a stint on the DL and it looked like Sheff was about finished. Except he was still a badass. Look I don't care if Sheff was hitting .220 he was still menacing as hell when he stood in batter's box with his bat waggling and his eyes burning holes into the pitcher. However once Fausto Carmona kicked his ass in the brawl against Cleveland towards the end of the season it was almost embarrasing for Sheff. It became readily apparent that he's just a shell of what he once was because five years ago he would have torn Carmona's left arm off and used it to hit a game winning homerun in the ninth inning. Instead he got thrown into a head lock and worked over by Carmona and a couple other Indians. Afterwards Sheff made some badass threatening comments but they seemed like empty threats. It was almost like watching an old heavyweight get beat down by a young up and comer like Ali-Holmes or something. I'm lying though because the thought just crossed my mind that there is a .0000001 chance Sheffield might read this and it made me shudder. He's still terrifying. Grade: C-

Jacque Jones: Let the record show, and yes their is a record because I've spent the last few years tirelessly training a group of monkeys chained to typewriters to transcribe everything I say while I'm alone in my apartment, (the ones that were less than proficient than necessary were transferred to the knife fighting and aviation departments with middling success) sure it's meant that I've had to wade around my apartment shin deep in feces and mango rinds not to mention the numerous eviction notices I've had to fight from narrow-minded landlords but its times like this that make it worth it, but I said shortly after the Tigers traded for Jones during the offseason that it was irresponsible of the team to hand over the starting left fielder job to a Frenchman. I'm not trying to be stereotypical but if Jacque would have spent half as much time in the batting cage as he did chain smoking, eating frog legs stuffed with cheese and trading beaver pelts with Native Americans outside Fort Pontchartrain he probably would've hit higher than the anemic .165/.244/.253 he put up in 24 games before being released. Grade: F

Ramon Santiago: Well it looks like Santiago may be the starting shortstop heading into next season, which is fine by me and honestly I think it came a season to late. Look I'm as much a fan of sabermetrics as the next blogger and the fact that Ozzie Smith was a first ballot HOF'er while Trammell can't even get 30% of the vote gives me night terrors that result in me waking up screaming "But Ozzie's career OPS was only .665", a habit which usually scares the hell out of the prostitute I hired as she's going through my wallet. But a part of me has always liked the idea of having a good field no-hit shortstop. It just seems so old school, like harking back to the days of when starting Ray Oyler more than 100 times in a season not only didn't get you fired, it didnt get you institutionalized either. Even with that being said Santiago proved in his limited playing time this season that he's not the overmatched easy-out he was back at the beginning of his career. As much as I would like the Tigers to roll the dice and sign someone like Rafael Furcal or trade for a J.J. Hardy it wouldn't kill me to see them roll the dice on a season of Ramon, while the organization waited for Cale Iorg to get ready. Grade: B+

Ryan Raburn: I've got nothing on Raburn, not that my analysis on any of the previous players was insightful to begin with but I've honestly got no opinion on Raburn's play this season. I don't think he's as good as he played in '07 or as bad as he played in '08 so I guess that means he falls somewhere in between with his ability. It would be nice to see him get some more consistent playing time as he is pretty versatile in the field and seems to have decent pop in his bat. Like I said though I've really got nothing and I'm speaking in generalties here which is kind of boring. I'm going to use this opportunity to write about something I've been thinking a lot about lately. The election. Wait, no that's stupid I mean Steven Seagal/Van Damme movies. Awhile back I was at a sushi restaurant with a friend. We filled out the little order form and gave it to the waitress but when our food arrived it was nothing that we had ordered. I complained in vain to the waitress that she had messed up the order but she denied responsibilty. The manager came over listened to our story and inexplicably absolved the waitress without any evidence that she was correct (Our order had conveniently disappeared from her pad) and said we could complain to the chef if we wanted. This seemed illogical because the chef wasn't the problem but I considered complaining just for the sake of getting what I had ordered. Then I remembered Under Siege, as well as countless other Seagal/Van Damme movies, where the seemingly most harmless and or mundane jobs could probably and in fact ARE likely to be filled by ex-CIA operatives/Navy SEALS/underground martial arts tournament champions or all three. So I said it wouldn't be necessary to involve the chef, made it be known I wouldn't eat their again and sucked it up and ate some disgusting spicy roll because I didnt want to get my arm broken at the elbow and thrown through a glass window over a simple misunderstanding. I think this is an important lesson to take from these movies, either that or I'm a non-confrontational vagina. Either one. Grade: C-

Jeff Larish: I think if I were a kid today Jeff Larish would be my favorite player on this team. I always have had a soft spot in my heart for guys with unusual batting stances, hence the obsession with Mickey Tettleton and to a lesser extent Tony Phillips. If you have little to no athletic ability, as I did growing up, it's almost necessary to adopt a gimmicky batting stance fashioned after your favorite player. That way even if you dont hit like a major leaguer at least you look like one. Larish's batting stance is distinct because it's so silent, absolutely no movement after he settles into the box before unleashing a vicious two handed swing at the ball. Seeing as how I'm remarkably lazy, I endorse anything that involves limited movement so Larish's batting stance appeals to me immediately. Honestly if I had my choice I would've preferred to bat in Little League while laying on my futon with a team of mules to pull me around the bases if I ever made contact. Maybe my son can fufill this dream for me. Grade: C+

1 comment:

signals3_t5 said...

detriot life history in last section.




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