Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Detroit Tigers Season in Review: Vol. 2

Part one of the season review is below. If you desire to read it then you have 30 seconds to scroll down or risk the previous posts self-destructing on your computer screen and not in that humorous cartoony way where soot blows in your face and spins your duck bill around to the back of your head. No, I'm talking about Die Hard level explosions with flames billowing through the heating vents and blowing the roof off the top of your house. So seriously, if you havent read the first installment do so now and if you have read it and are just coming back for seconds then I guess this would be a good time to inform you that this season review is a $10,000 a post fundraiser for my last ditch attempt to run for political office this November. Not for any U.S. state or federal office mind you, but rather I'm throwing my hat into the Romanian national legislative race on the National Peasants Party ticket. We'll no longer let those fat cats in Bucharest walk around in their fancy brightly colored sweaters and acid washed jeans as they ignore the plight of the average agrarian worker. Jesus, I don't even know what I'm writing about anymore but I do know I just spent an hour of my life researching Romania, (well five minutes on the countries Wikipedia page and 55 minutes Google image searching for photos of their Olympic gymnasts, but I'm counting that as research anyways.) to make some unfunny jokes about.....something. Anyways on to the pitchers.

Justin Verlander: Before the season began my stoner friend TJ (I feel it necessary to refer to TJ exclusively as my stoner friend, even though I probably have two others that would comfortably fit under that same title. I think everyone has a friend or two like this in their current circle or in their not to distant past, and frankly it's terrifying. I've made a point of remaining on the straight and narrow for most of my young adult life. Sure I've done some pretty stupid stuff over the years but I was careful to make show nothing ever stuck because of an official record or a video camera. I even deleted my MySpace account because I was worried that something I wrote or posted on there would come back to bite me in the future. Sure this may be more a sign of some kind of narcissistic/paranoid/delusional personality disorder than anything else but a part of me is idealistic no matter how hopeless that may seem and I'd like to run for office one day. The fact that this hope could be submarined by a couple of friends who work at the outlet mall, smoke weed multiple times a day and spend all their free time watching/playing Pokemon or building Star Wars models out of Legos keeps me awake at night. My biggest fear is one day being elected to office, let's just hypothetically say I'm a state rep working in Lansing, and as I open the door to my office I see everything clouded with smoke and the acrid smell of marijuana as T.J. sits on a couch eating macaroni and cheese straight out of the pot while my friend Mike is fast forwarding to all the parts showing nudity in the most recent Starship Troopers direct to video DVD. I wasn't expecting this parenthses to be this long. My apologies) and I made a list of pre-season predictions. Looking back on it now it's laughable how overly enthusiastic we were in late March. Back then we predicted that Verlander would build on his stellar sophomore season and become the Tigers first 20 game winner since Bill Gullickson in 1991 as well as lowering his ERA, bumping up his K rate and possibly taking home a Cy Young award. Wrong, wrong and wrong. Instead Verlander put up by far the worst statistical season of his young career. On top of that his stuff seemed to regress, so much at one point that some were wondering if he was injured. In 2008 the Tigers didn't see the same Verlander who was throwing 102 MPH in the ninth inning of his no-hitter the previous year. His curveball didnt seem to have the same bite as it had in past seasons either. Another unsettling aspect to Verlander's season was his apparent immaturity and unwillingness to say he pitched like crap on nights that he obviously did. This was a little grating as a fan, when you would tune into the postgame report and Verlander would be standing there by his locker after giving up 8 runs saying things like "Well I felt pretty good out there but I made a few mistakes and the other team capitalized on them." This would be like me explaining away a C grade by saying "Well I think I understood Tax Law pretty well except the professor asked too many tough questions." (However, unlike with Verlander it was a 100% true in my case.) Leyland called Verlander out on this lack of accountability a couple of times. I'm wrapping this up with Verlander. Before the season I thought Verlander was going to be an ace the Tigers could rely on for the next decade. Now there's a chance, granted a small one, that maybe we've already seen the best of Verlander. There's a long line of pitchers who peaked early in their career and then had long mediocre stretch. So if Justin Verlander became the next Matt Morris instead of the next Jim Palmer I wouldnt be surprised. Grade: C-

Armando Galarraga: Now this was a surprise. Kind of. I have this crazy theory of a Jewish and Masonic plot to achieve world domination. Wait, no that was Henry Ford's theory from the 20's. My theory relates to David Dombrowski. Throughout his career Dombrowski has been in charge of some teams with pretty low budgets. This has required him and the front offices he's worked with to evaluate young players to pursue via the draft or trades instead of big free agent signings. The late 80's and early 90's Expos remained competitive for years due to a great minor league system that produced a number of young stars that were traded for other young talent shortly before they hit free agency. The obvious exception of course is the 1997 Marlins, which won the World Series with what was practically an All-Star team but afterwards he had to infamously dismantle the team in a wildly unpopular fire sale. Of course the Marlins were terrible for a few years after all the trading but Dombrowski's post World Series dealing led to the foundation of a young team that went on to win another World Series in 2003. When Dombrowski took over the Tigers he inherited one of the worst teams and lowest payrolls in baseball. However through shrewd trades and drafting along with a couple of big free agent signings (after years of drafting incompetence by Randy Smith, which has been mostly forgotten about thanks to the historically inept reign of terror presided over by Matt Millen) he quickly turned the Tigers into a contender. O.k. I probably should have put more thought into this theory and I don't feel like analyzing every move Dombrowski has made over the years, but long story short I think Dombrowski is more comfortable and better suited to run a team thats more geared towards youth and development, then a team that signs a bunch of expensive free agents and has a payroll north of $140 million. Grade: A-

Nate Robertson: People who have read this site for awhile know that Jason Grilli was a favorite whipping boy of mine over the past few seasons. After Grilli was jettisoned I was searching for a new person on the Tigers to aim my vitriol at. Todd Jones was the natural choice but it was a rather lazy and uninspired one. Edgar Renteria hadn't yet plummeted to the depths of suckitude he would reach by the All-Star break. So my attention reluctantly turned to the bespectacled train wreck who took the mound every fifth day. I say reluctantly because as I've mentioned in the past I have a soft spot for any Tiger who was a member of that historically bad 2003 squad no matter how briefly they were on it. But Robertson was so consistently atrocious this entire season that he quickly found his way to the center of my cold, shriveled, blackened heart. Grade: F

Kenny Rogers: Gamblor is probably finished as a Tiger, which is sad in a way. His short tenure with the Tigers will go down as one of my favorites. I'll miss his comically overgrown jaw. The strange stroke faces he would make when he was delivering each pitch. At the beginning of the season I thought it was foolish of the Tigers to expect Rogers to make 30 starts and make it through the season healthy enough to pitch effectively in the post-season. Unfortunately we don't have to worry about that problem because the Tigers couldn't even finish ahead of the freaking Kansas City Royals. The Royals haven't been out of the A.L. Central basement in so long you'd think they were lonely sports bloggers. (Zing! Somewhere Chris McCoskey is laughing to himself while wondering how to type with a bucket a chicken stuck to both hands.) Of course Rogers poor pitching this season was part of the reason why the Tigers finished in last place. I know he hasn't officially retired but Rogers did look D-U-N done this past season. Crafty 40-something lefties like Jamie Moyer and Rogers are some of my favorite players in baseball, next to back-up catchers, but they do walk a fine line of effectiveness and if they aren't perfect the results will usually be ugly. I don't want to remember the Rogers of this past season though. When I think back on Rogers time in Detroit I'll definitely remember his spectacular postseason scoreless innings streak during that magical 2006 run. His pouring champagne on the police officer during the on-field celebration after beating the Yankees in the Divisional round, screaming hysterically and pumping his fist during late inning strikeouts and of course smearing enough pine tar on his hand that he looked like a juvenile delinquent that just got revenge on his group home mentors by rubbing feces all over the wall. Ah memories. Grade: D

Zach Miner: Less of a success story than Armando, Miner was impressive nonetheless. I've always been a pretty big fan of Miner's. Look I don't think he's the second coming of Greg Maddux or anything but I think Miner could definitely hold his own as a league average pitcher and solid back of the rotation starter, which as hard as it is to believe with a payroll exceeding 130 million dollars, is exactly what the Tigers are looking for. I feel like Miner has gotten the same treatment from the Tigers as Thames has. Sure he has some holes in his game but stop jerking him around between the bullpen and rotation and just let him be himself and come into the spring as one of the front runners if the not the favorite to hold down the number 5 spot in the rotation. Grade: B-

Dontrelle Willis: In the list of idiots who believed a change of scenery was all that was needed to turn Dontrelle back into an effective big-league pitcher, my name should be towards to top. Granted a few spots after the guy that traded for and then signed Dontrelle to a 3 year 30 million dollar contract. Of course hindsight is 20/20 but even though I thought Dontrelle would rebound some and become an effective middle of the rotation starter I still believed it was short sighted to reward him with a contract extension before he proved his effectiveness. Had Instead Dontrelle turned into the second coming of Steve Blass and completely lost control of the strike zone. His 35 walks in 24 innings was disastrous. The interesting and promising thing (and I admit that I'm grasping at straws here) about Dontrelle was the fact that he only gave up 18 hits in those same 24 innings. Granted I'm sure there were times that D-Train was so wild that most batters went to the plate with the specific instruction not to swing unless it was in defense of their life. On the flip side though, it still seemed like Dontrelle had some decent stuff. Granted he didn't know where the hell the ball was going half the time, but the velocity and movement on his pitches seemed solid. Grade: F

Jeremy Bonderman: For years I along with several other Tigers fans have been waiting for Bonderman to take the next step and establish himself as a premier young power pitcher. He's always been armed with a devastating slider and heavy fastball, but his utter lack to develop any kind of 3rd off-speed pitch hindered his development. For me this seemed like a make or break season for Bonderman. Either he was finally going to take that next step or he was always going to be what he always has been. Not that there was anything wrong with being a 15 game winner with a sub-4 ERA and a decent K rate, but he probably wasn't going to become Curt Schilling without all the annoying outspokeness and backwards political ideas. When the season began Bonderman appeared to have taken a step back. His slider wasn't biting as viciously as it used to, he was having problems locating his fastball and his K rate dropped precipitously. His regression wasn't something I was anticipating, so I was relieved to find out his ineffectiveness was due to injury and not some dip in his overall skill set. Not that I would ever want to see someone be injured especially with something as serious and potentially life threatening like Bonderman was going through with his blood clots but at least it was a legitimate excuse to his performance. Here's hoping that Bonderman comes back healthy and rested for next season and taking another shot at establishing himself as a great young pitcher. Grade: I

Freddy Garcia: When Garcia was getting ready to make his season debut in September I was expecting a complete disaster. The scouting reports when he signed claimed that his fastball was sitting in the mid-80's with a slider in the low to mid-70's, which is essentially batting practice for major league hitters and would be even more of a disaster since that first start was coming at Arlington against one of the most prolific offenses in baseball. Surprisingly Garcia pitched effectively, even without his best stuff, not allowing an earned run and striking out five in five innings pitched. He wasn't very good in his second start, allowing three homeruns in a loss to the Royals, but he finished strong on the final day of the season against his former White Sox team. Garcia showed that he's a smart pitcher who is savvy enough to pitch capably after major shoulder surgery. He's intriguing enough that I hope the Tigers re-sign him this off-season and see if he can give them 20-25 starts at the back of the rotation. Grade: I


Andy said...

Nothing on Edwin Jackson, Adam Everett or Gerald Laird yet? Keep it up.

Please look at my blog if you get a chance.

andyiswatching.blogspot.com it's about me watching tv, not stalking people.

das411 said...

well, so much for that Freddy Garcia idea...

Anonymous said...

review of the volume last seasion.

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