Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Tigers Amateur Analysis FAQ

Okay, I’ve hinted at it for the past couple weeks, but now come the more “formal” features of Spring Training. A lot of this will be stuff that I originally published on the Xanga site, but I’ve worked on getting everything updated, so there will be some new stuff as well for those of you who have read them before. I will post these features intermittently, culminating in my 2009 preview, which will probably be up about a week before Opening Day. And we’ll get things started with the Tigers Amateur Analysis FAQ…

Q: Okay, so who the hell are you, anyway?

A: Most of you already know me to some degree, but for those of you that don’t: My name is Erin, I am 25 years old, and I live near Toledo (home to the Triple-A affiliate Toledo Mud Hens and the hometown of Katie Holmes, Jamie Farr, Jim Leyland, and, unfortunately, Joe the Plumber). I am currently a pharmacy student at the University of Toledo, and I work as a pharmacy intern. I’ve been a lifelong Tigers fan, carrying on the family tradition (both my grandpas and my dad root for the Tigers as well; my grandpa on my mom’s side was especially enthusiastic, but unfortunately, he never got to a game, so I’ve made a resolution to take a picture of him with me to any game I go to). My other hobbies include movies (in fact, there is nothing I’d rather do than edit movies), playing computer games, reading, and fencing. I also speak four languages (to varying degrees) and am very, very ADHD, so watch out.

Q: Why is this called the Tigers Amateur Analysis (formerly Total Amateur Analysis)?

A: Isn’t it obvious? I’m far from an expert when it comes to the subject of baseball. I mean, I know enough to enjoy it and to be able to figure out what’s going on most of the time, but a lot of the details escape me. Granted, I’ve gotten a lot better in the past couple years. I no longer capitalize “grand slam” and I am aware that the Montreal Expos are now the Washington Nationals (and by the way, I’m even more clueless when it comes to the National League). I’m also getting better when it comes to players’ names. Prior to 2006, the only Tiger on the current roster that I’d ever heard of was Kenny Rogers. And as for the rest of baseball, well, I knew Derek Jeter, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, and about three or four other guys, but that’s about it. While the NL still mostly remains a mystery to me in that department (with the exception of the Florida Marlins), I’ve gotten a lot better with the AL. At any rate, it does make this blog different from Those Who Know More Than Me, and it’s kind of fun seeing how much singular devotion and gut instinct matches with real expert analysis.

Q: How many games have you been to?

A: Exactly three, all of them at Comerica Park, and all of them in the last two years (August 3, 2007 against the White Sox, August 6, 2007 against the Rays, and August 9, 2008 against the Athletics). I’ve also been to one Mud Hens game. I would dearly love to go to more games this season, but I’m not sure how feasible that is. It’s becoming kind of a tradition that my dad takes me to one game for my birthday, but with the economy being the way it is right now, it’s a little bit dicey this year.

Q: So, have you ever actually played?

A: Short answer, no. Long answer, probably not. I’ve never played on a bona fide team, but in middle school and high school, we normally played about six weeks’ worth of softball in gym class. It was rather crude, though. I remember playing a lot of first base in middle school (first base was my favorite position at the time, likely because Cecil Fielder was my favorite player). In high school, I tended to play third base most of the time, but there were never very many balls hit in my direction. From an offensive standpoint, I don’t recall getting a lot of hits, but I was really good at moving runners over and getting them in cuz I didn’t strike out very often and the kids in my class couldn’t turn a double play if their lives depended on it. I do remember hitting a lot of ground balls to second base. I must’ve been out in front or something. In case you were wondering, I bat and throw right-handed. If I were to play now, I’d probably catch (I have the body for it, plus my legs are still strong from fencing). And I’d be interested in playing in some sort of summer adult recreational league, but I’m not sure if anyone would take a 25-year-old with a good deal of raw strength but not a lot of athletic conditioning. For what it’s worth, I can throw a softball about 60 feet with regularity.

Q: Hey, remember back in the day…?

A: Actually, no. I don’t. I’m not one of those people who get all teary-eyed and sentimental about Tiger Stadium and Ernie Harwell, because…well…I can’t. The only memories I have of Ernie Harwell are of those couple games that he filled in for Rod Allen two years ago, as well as the occasional appearance with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, or on the radio. I have been to Tiger Stadium once, but I don’t remember it all that well, cuz it was about 10 years ago. Our eighth grade field trip was to a Tigers game against the Baltimore Orioles. Long story short, the game was postponed cuz it wouldn’t stop raining, and had I not been sitting in our class’s section when the announcement was made, I would’ve been able to get Cal Ripken’s autograph. Yeah, I might be a tad bitter about that. Other than that, I watched the occasional game on TV, especially when I was about 10 or 11 years old, cuz I always watched the after-school cartoons on FOX (Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, and-yes-Power Rangers), and every once in a while they would show a Tigers game instead. Since my grandparents didn’t have cable, and since I didn’t want to watch Oprah or soap operas, I’d go ahead and watch the game. However, I really don’t remember those games. I have brief flashes and images in my mind. I remember watching Cecil Fielder, and I have some fuzzy and not-at-all concrete memories of one game in particular. I’m pretty sure that it was a home game (at Tiger Stadium) and for some reason, my gut’s telling me it was against either the Toronto Blue Jays or the Texas Rangers (and yes, if it was Texas, the irony does not escape me, and in fact, for sentimentality, I’m kind of hoping it was Texas). But I couldn’t tell you anything about the score or what year it was (sometime between 1993 and 1997 is my guess) or about who played in it. I’m pretty sure that the Tigers were still in the East Division, though. You also have to remember that I was a year old the last time the Tigers won the World Series, and I was only ten in 1993 (the last time they had a winning record prior to two years ago). Essentially, in my experience, the Tigers sucked until 2006.

Q: Have you met any players?

A: None of the current Tigers. I have an autographed baseball from my trip to Tiger Stadium in eighth grade, and after a little research on and Google image search, I have determined that it was signed by Justin Thompson and Omar Olivares (I don’t know who they are either, but the ball also has Paws’s autograph, for what it’s worth). I met Gates Brown at one of the games I went to in ‘07, and I have his autograph. As far as other players are concerned, I met Ron Rightnowar (formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers, and the answer to the Trivial Pursuit question about who was the first replacement player after the strike of ’94) when I was in seventh grade. He was a friend of my seventh grade Language Arts teacher, and he is also the uncle of a girl who used to work at the pharmacy (until she graduated). He is currently the baseball coach for Toledo Christian. Also, there is a guy I went to high school with briefly (he transferred after his junior year) who is a lefty specialist for the Seattle Mariners. He likely wouldn’t remember me, but he might remember my mom, who was his art teacher. If I do make it to more games this year, I’d like to do a lot more dugout-stalking (Laura and I tried a little bit in ‘07, but our timing sucked and we came up empty; it was raining when we got to the ballpark last year, so we didn’t try). My problem is that I am desperate to come up with something intelligent to say whenever I meet someone famous, but for the life of me, I can’t think of anything, and when the time comes, I tend to clam up and I can barely speak at all. Plus, with baseball players, I have the added complication of wondering whether or not to talk to the Latin players in Spanish. I haven’t decided whether it would be nice, cheesy, or condescending.

Q: Who is your favorite Tiger?

A: I absolutely love Justin Verlander. He is so awesome to watch when he is on his game, and I hope he’ll be able to return to form in ’09. Verlander was, until recently, my second-favorite until circumstances beyond my control bumped him up a notch. My favorite Tiger had been Pudge Rodriguez, and even though I smelled that trade coming a mile away, it still sucked (adding to the suckiness was the fact that I found out about it while I was at work and that it happened only ten days before the game I went to). Pudge remains my favorite player, even though he is nearing the end of his career and right now does not have a team to play for. I know he’s somewhat controversial (not to mention he’s got an ego the size of Texas), but he was the only big name willing to play in Detroit back in 2004, and I really think that’s what jump-started the whole thing. They wouldn’t have made it to the World Series without him. Plus, I kind of have a thing for catchers (probably cuz they’re supposed to be the brains of the operation). And the great thing about catchers is that even when they move on, you can make a strong case that their influence is still there as long as there are still guys who are still there, especially young pitchers. At any rate, as the season goes on, I may discuss Pudge frequently, occasionally, or never. I’ll try to aim for “occasionally,” or more specifically, “where appropriate,” but we’ll see. By the way, the drawback to have a starting pitcher as your favorite is that when you only go to one game a year, you’ve only got a one-in-five chance of seeing him.

Q: What other Tigers do you like?

A: As a result of everyone being bumped up a notch last August, Magglio Ordoñez is now my second-favorite, which sets myself up for more trade deadline suckiness should the Tigers not contend in the first half (but let’s hope the whole issue is skirted by, well, contending, okay?). Pudge, Verlander, and Maggs were previously the only ones I bothered to rank, but for the sake of completeness I’ll say that Curtis Granderson rounds out my top three.

Q: Are there any other teams in particular that you strongly like or dislike?

A: Believe it or not, I actually like the Yankees. I think that’s mostly cuz I like the city of New York, but regardless of the reason, they’re probably my second favorite team. I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the National League, but I kinda grew fond of the Florida Marlins while I was watching archived games on to “scout” Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis last year. I mean, I know they’re not really a good team, but there’s this certain scrappy quality to them that I find endearing. I’ll also generally root for the Dodgers (despite Manny Ramirez, though to his credit, he DID behave himself there last year, although he’s being an idiot about it now), and the Rays were a great story last year. As far as teams I don’t like, well, I used to really hate the Atlanta Braves, but for some reason I’ve kinda mellowed that over the past ten years or so. I don’t like Cleveland, cuz, well, they’re the chief rival and their fans drive me nuts (and believe me, there’s a fairly large number of them here in the Toledo area; in fact, half my Spanish class last year consisted of Indians fans). I’m also not crazy about the Boston Red Sox (though I do kinda like the “bullpen band” that they had going during the playoffs last year). What I don’t get about the Red Sox is this: When did they suddenly become regarded as the “America’s Sweetheart” of teams? They have almost as big a payroll as the Yankees and they can be just as dominant as the Yankees. So why are the Yankees the Evil Empire and the Red Sox the Valiant Heroes?

Q: What about other sports?

A: I’m an Olympics junkie. I will watch almost any event that comes on during the Olympics. Obviously, this will not really affect my coverage of the Tigers until 2012, since the 2010 Winter Olympics are in February (I think). As far as more regular sporting events are concerned, well, I’m a lot more sporadic. I watch the Super Bowl every year and I’ll occasionally watch other football games here and there, but I don’t have a favorite team. I just pick a team to root for on a game-by-game basis. Generally, I’ll root for the Steelers, Cowboys (which was my favorite team when I was a kid), Giants, and any of the teams with “cat” names (although rooting for the Lions or Bengals is kind of a lost cause right now). I really dislike the Packers, Browns, and Ravens. Oddly enough, I don’t watch hockey at all but I do have a favorite team (Go Red Wings!). I do not watch professional basketball at all, nor do I have a favorite team. As far as college sports go, well, a lot of you are gonna hate me for this, but I happen to be that rare breed of person who roots for the Tigers AND Ohio State (this is apparently offset by my co-worker’s sister, who is both an Indians fan and a Michigan fan). I do not watch a lot of college sports, though. I will watch the Ohio State-Michigan game and whichever bowl game Ohio State happens to be in, but that’s it. I will watch college basketball during March Madness, but only because I like filling out those brackets, even though I know nothing about the teams involved. Hey, the first year I filled them out (senior year of high school), I pretty much made arbitrary picks and I ended up being right on all the first-round games except one.

Q: Steroids suck, don’t they?

A: Yes, they do, because I’d much rather talk about other things. As a sports fan and future healthcare professional, I absolutely do not condone the use of steroids. They’re not fair play and they’ll do serious damage to your body if they’re used in that manner. However, since my favorite player has been implicated in this whole steroid mess (though, contrary to popular belief, he was NOT named in the Mitchell Report), and yet remains my favorite player, I do not feel that I have the right to be morally outraged about it. To do so would be hypocritical. Still, I’m not sure what they thought would happen when steroids were banned without any means of testing or enforcing. It’d be like cops not giving out speeding tickets. Main Street would look like the Autobahn. However, does anyone else find it strange that it seems like the vast majority of the suspected steroid users played for either the Texas Rangers or the Oakland Athletics (or both) at some point during their careers? What’s up with that? As far as A-Rod goes, well, he never played for the Tigers, so I really don’t care. I’ve always thought of him mostly as someone that a Tigers pitcher needs to get out. Now, he’s a chemically-enhanced person that the Tigers’ pitchers STILL need to get out. And it’s not like A-Rod was particularly beloved before this revelation anyways. Yankees fans hated him because he didn’t do much in the postseason. Everyone else hated him because he played for the Yankees. They’ve just got more ammo, now. Still, now that A-Rod can’t “save” the all-time home run marker from taint, well, what do you make of Albert Pujols’s chances?

Q: Anything else I should know about?

A: Well, there’s probably several things, but I can’t think of all of them right now. The principal thing is that I’m a filmmaker/editor at heart, and as a result, I see baseball seasons as movies more than anything else (hey, once I found the drama in it, I was hooked). Many people in this world have problems with seeing fantasy and thinking it’s reality. I’m just the opposite. A lot of the time I forget that the players are real people and I just think of them as characters. I’m not sure what effect that has on this blog, but now you know. Also, I rarely utilize the venomous tone that sometimes characterizes other blogs. I will get sarcastic, but that’s about it. And that probably has something to do with the fact that my mentality is different from most fans. Most fans have a “replace it” mentality. I have a “fix it” mentality. I’ll use one of the pharmacists (who happens to be a Tigers fan) as an example. If there is a player on the team who is struggling, his first thought is, “Who do we replace him with?” My first thought is, “How do we get him right again?” The only times I’ll break with that is if a player has never shown me anything in the first place and pretty much sucks from day one (**Farnsworth**), or if a player’s struggles go on for a really long period of time (and even then, my thoughts will usually turn to hypothesizing that said player is either hurt or could use some time in the minors, not towards trading or releasing them, though they may eventually end up there if the struggles continue even further). At any rate, you’ll probably pick up on that tone fairly quickly.

Next Time: The Total Amateur Analysis Glossary. Find out what the hell I mean when I talk about the Reyes Effect, the Milestone Curse, or Umpires on Crack.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pre-Spring Training Preview

Today I’d like to share my 2009 Spring Training thoughts, pre-pitchers and catchers. This may seem redundant, as I’m planning to post a more formal season preview once we get closer to Opening Day, but I’ve got a good reason for it. Last year marked the first occasion where I paid a lot of attention to Spring Training, and it taught me a valuable lesson: If you get certain impressions or gut feelings from watching how your team is doing in Spring Training games, DON’T ignore them. Last year, everyone else was salivating over the Tigers offseason acquisitions and penciling their names into the World Series scorecards (Well, there were a few who, very late in Spring Training, picked the Indians to win the division title instead, but even they consistently gave the Tigers the wild card). Meanwhile, I was watching Spring Training and wondering why I wasn’t seeing what everybody else was seeing. Every once in a while, the famed offense would go on a tear, but there were many times where it did not, and the pitching wasn’t what everyone was saying it would be. I remember one Spring Training game in particular that probably should’ve been an alarm bell. It was against the Blue Jays, Dontrelle Willis kept walking people, someone gave up a bunch of runs (don’t remember who), and the Tigers offense (mostly intact that day) was pretty much stymied by Jesse Litsch and a bunch of Jays prospects. And there were several other games very much like that one. But no one else seemed worried (except maybe Jim Leyland a little bit), so I just chalked it up to me never having watched Spring Training before, assumed that that must have been what it always looked like, and didn’t mention my observations to anyone (later, I found out that in fact, Rod Allen had had pretty much the same observations I did). To be fair, not everyone’s individual performances in Spring Training correlated to their regular-season performances. Dontrelle Willis still couldn’t throw strikes and Justin Verlander was still wonky, but Nate Robertson had a really good Spring Training. You probably wouldn’t believe it now, but it’s true. On the other hand, Armando Galarraga was cut very early from the big league camp and Tim Byrdak was so horrible that the Tigers released him (he signed with Houston a few weeks later and actually had a rather decent season). Still, I have learned my lesson. I’m gonna trust my observations and I’ll put myself on the line and discuss them here. Now, I know not to put too much stock into the early Spring Training games cuz players are working on things that they might not be doing during a regular game. For example, I know there was one early Spring Training game last year where Jeremy Bonderman was not allowed to throw his slider because they were trying to get him to work on his changeup. Obviously, they would not do that during the regular season. But…I would guess that by, say, mid-March, we should be getting at least a realistic impression of how things are going. As such, I want to discuss a few things that are on my mind BEFORE they might be rendered irrelevant/obsolete or proven wrong in Spring Training.

Depth: This is a word that is used a LOT by the media/bloggers, who almost universally use it while saying that the Tigers have none. Based on my observations, I’m not sure that that is an entirely accurate assessment. At the very least, it’s inaccurate as a broad assessment. And I’d like to break it down into three specific areas that critics say have no depth: the starting rotation, the farm system, and the bullpen. Now, after the 2008 season ended, I heard a lot of people saying that the season was a failure because there was no depth in the starting rotation. I’m not really buying that, because the numbers just don’t seem to indicate that. For the sake of argument, let’s say that Armando Galarraga was, for all intents and purposes, the fourth starter. He won 13 games. Then let’s say make a collective fifth spot consisting of Zach Miner, Dontrelle Willis, Eddie Bonine, Chris Lambert, and Freddy Garcia. Those five combined to win 12 games. Now, I’d think that most people would say that getting 25 wins out of the back end of your rotation is very, very good, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that they weren’t getting the wins they needed out of Justin Verlander or Kenny Rogers, and I don’t care how great your farm system is, you’re not gonna replace those guys. It just ain’t gonna happen. The Yankees would never replace a struggling CC Sabathia with Ian Kennedy. The Red Sox would never replace a struggling Josh Beckett with [insert name of Red Sox pitching prospect]. At least, not over the course of one season, which is what we’re talking about here. Now, let’s move on to talking about the farm system. According to ESPN, only the Nationals and Astros have worse farm systems than the Tigers. Now, I don’t know a lot about the farm system, but I do know that just about everyone who was called up from either Erie or Toledo last year made a positive contribution. Clete Thomas did a good job subbing for Curtis Granderson at the start of the year. Matt Joyce did some nice things, as did Jeff Larish, Michael Hollimon and Dusty Ryan, although they could probably use a bit more seasoning in the minors. On the pitching side, Armando Galarraga was the big story, and Eddie Bonine gave them a bit of a lift during Interleague Play. Now could the Tigers contend with a team made up entirely of guys from Toledo and Erie? Probably not. But I’m not sure any team could. So I don’t think the farm system is quite as bad off as most people think it is. I don’t know other teams’ systems, so I couldn’t rank it, but at certain positions, there’s definitely depth. And right now, there are certainly quite a few outfielders and middle infielders slated for Erie and Toledo. I’m not saying the farm system is perfect. There’s definitely a lack of catching or pitching prospects at the higher levels, outside of Dusty Ryan and Rick Porcello, respectively. Which brings me to my last point about depth: the bullpen. This is an area that might be a problem if someone in the Tigers ‘pen struggles or is injured. We’ve all heard the names Ryan Perry, Cody Sattelwaite (sp?), and Casey Fien brought up as terrific young arms that are on the way up. I actually remember Casey Fien pitching an inning in a Spring Training game last year. If I recall correctly, he did a nice job, including striking out one of the Indians’ big hitters (Victor Martinez or Travis Hafner or someone like that). However, we’ve also been told that they probably won’t be ready until 2010. With that in mind, there isn’t a whole lot in the farm system that could help the big club in a setup or closer role except MAYBE Blaine Neal (Toledo’s closer…hey, it’s a long shot, but he WAS on the Olympic team). But that just feeds into my main point, which I’ll get to later.

Jeff Larish: We have been told by Jim Leyland that Larish is “definitely” in contention for the final roster spot. I can see the attraction. Larish is a left-handed power hitter, something the Tigers don’t have a lot of. However, I see a slight problem with this. Unless the Tigers want to go one pitcher short in their bullpen (which I don’t think they do), there is room for four bench players. Matt Treanor and Ramon Santiago are guaranteed spots, as is Marcus Thames unless he’s traded (which would be a mistake, in my opinion). That leaves one spot that will likely come down to either Larish or Ryan Raburn. And that’s where the problem arises. If they choose Larish, they will have no one to back up Curtis Granderson in centerfield. Granted, Brandon Inge could probably fill in for him in an emergency, but you can’t honestly expect Granderson to play every inning of every game. He’s gotta have a break sometime. Plus, as it stands right now, Larish is a natural first baseman who can play third base and that’s it. There’s been talk of him learning the corner outfield positions, but Raburn would still have more versatility (remember, he’s also been the emergency catcher the past couple years as well). Plus, Larish could probably use a little bit more time in Toledo, if you base your conclusions off of last year’s performance at the big league level.

Armando Galarraga: No matter how successful a pitcher’s rookie year has been, you have to hold your breath a little bit when he embarks on his second full season, and Galarraga’s no different. Most people aren’t anticipating a sophomore slump, but at the same time, we are talking about someone who wasn’t on anyone’s radar this time last year. I don’t have a concrete sense of how he’ll do, but I do have some thoughts. For one, I think that stellar opponent’s batting average is going to come up somewhat, and I have a very thorough reasoning for that. Galarraga owns righties. They hit, like, less than .200 against him. Therefore, opposing managers are going to load their lineups with lefties and switch-hitters, and the few right-handers that remain in the lineups are going to be top-of-the-line righties like Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols. As a result, he is probably going to get hit more. Also, this is the first year in which he has not pitched winter ball back in Venezuela, so you don’t know how that’ll affect him. However, his performance when he had runners on base last year was fantastic, and I think that will be the key. If he can keep that up, I think he’ll be fine. Now, if only he can figure out how to beat Minnesota…

The fifth spot in the rotation: I touched on this briefly last time, but I’d really like either Dontrelle Willis or Nate Robertson to show me something in Spring Training, cuz we really should have a lefty in the rotation. If Zach Miner pitches the best, so be it (and at the present time, I don’t really buy all the Rick Porcello talk; after all, he hasn’t pitched above A-ball and this is not 2003 like it was when Bonderman made a similar leap). But with all the good left-handed hitters in the AL Central (Sizemore, Morneau, Hafner, Mauer, Thome…need I go on?), a southpaw would be nice. And adding to that, I feel like one of them is due for a comeback, but I’m not sure which. I could be wrong, though.

Brandon Inge: I’ve already discussed how moving him back to third base is absolutely the right move and how trying to make him catch again was a grandiose mistake (personal preferences aside). I know a lot of fans are concerned about his offense and rightly so, given his past. As to whether he’ll bounce back at the plate now that he’s no longer behind it, I don’t have a good sense either way, but consider this: He began 2008 as the starting centerfielder in place of the injured Curtis Granderson, and also saw a fair amount of time at third base as a result of injuries to Sheffield and Cabrera. And he started the year hot. In fact, he was batting .300 and leading the team in RBIs for the first two weeks or so. It was only once he began catching more than his average and offensive production started to tank. Now, I’m not sure if there’s a connection there or not, but if there isn’t, it’s an amazing coincidence.

The bottom line: At this juncture, do I honestly believe the Tigers can contend? Absolutely. The ability is there. They have all the ability in the world to contend. Will they? I don’t know. I don’t really have an impression either way. At this point, my gut’s telling me that they’ll be better than they were last year. How much better remains to be seen.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

And So It Begins

Hello, and welcome to the Tigers Amateur Analysis (and to those of you joining me from Xanga, hello again). I figured I’d get this site started up now, since we’re only about a week away from pitchers and catchers. As I did last year, I plan on having a series of more formal introductions and season previews once Spring Training begins, but before that happens, I want to give my thoughts on last season, the offseason, and initial thoughts on the upcoming season before any Spring Training storylines develop. First, some background details for those who don’t know me. My name is Erin and I’m a 25-year-old pharmacy student (though in a perfect world, I’d rather be making movies). I’ve been a Tigers fan my whole life, but it’s only been in recent years that I’ve picked up on blogging about them as a hobby. For the past two years, I’ve used my personal blog as a vehicle, but I’ve found that it was starting to completely take over the site, which I didn’t want to do. Hence the move over here (by the way, if you’re interested in other facets of my life, you’re more than welcome to take a look over there). I will warn you though, there is a reason why the phrase “Amateur Analysis” is in the blog title. However, I’m a lot better at it than I used to be, and what I lack in baseball knowledge I tend to make up for in instincts. For whatever reason, my intuition has served me well the past couple seasons. Now, it’s usually not a specific sort of thing, more like hunches (for lack of a better term). While everyone else was salivating over the team at this time last year, I wasn’t exactly predicting gloom and doom, but I was definitely having a hard time getting as excited as everyone else, and at the time, I couldn’t figure out why (more on that later). Oddly enough, while everyone was raving about the offense during Spring Training, the thought kept crossing my mind that it would be ironic if it was the offense that struggled. And that’s exactly what happened, at least at the beginning. My intuition isn’t always THAT vague. When Miguel Cabrera got off to a slow start, I still felt like he’d come out of it and that in the long run, having him on the team would be a good thing. And so far, I’ve been right on that. I mean, he went on to win the home run title. For what it’s worth, I WAS wrong about Edgar Renteria. I thought he’d make a better contribution than he did. Still, I wasn’t happy about Jair Jurrjens being traded away, so that’s something, at least.

Now that you have a basic idea about me (a more detailed intro is forthcoming), let’s move on to my thoughts on the offseason. In general, I think they’ve done well, especially considering that a lot of bloggers and sports columnists were convinced they’d have to either trade Magglio Ordoñez in order to save the payroll, or settle for a bunch of mid-range prospects or crappy free agents (My instincts were rather silent on the matter. Mostly I just didn’t want Maggs to get traded). They were wrong on that, and I found it interesting that once it became clear that that was the case, I found it interesting that half of them changed their story to “well, they WANTED to trade Magglio, but no one wanted his contract cuz of the economy,” while the other half just never mentioned it again and pretended that they never said it in the first place. And Dave Dombrowski was still able to get a decent catcher, shortstop, closer, and bonus starting pitcher for relatively little monetary/prospect cost.

Catcher: I should probably tell you now that I’ve kinda got a thing for catchers in general, if for nothing else but the fact that they’re kinda supposed to be the brains of the operation and I’m a thinking person myself. However, while calling a game is very important, in my opinion, a catcher also has to be able to throw well and provide good defense. To that end, the Tigers should NEVER have tried to make Brandon Inge catch again. As a third baseman, his glove is second to none. He is downright awesome at that position. As a catcher, not so much (11 passed balls is ridiculous, especially when you consider that he was the “starting” catcher for only about a month and a half). Plus, it was painfully obvious that his heart wasn’t in it and he was not enjoying being behind the plate (which, in turn, made him not very fun to watch). Moving Inge back to third base is absolutely the right decision. Dusty Ryan was fairly impressive in the final month, but he could definitely use a little more time in Toledo, if for nothing else than to work on blocking balls in the dirt. So that meant that it was necessary to look outside the organization. Of all the realistic options for catcher (keyword “realistic”), Gerald Laird was probably my first choice (which you might find surprising, given my preference for Latin catchers). He strikes me as a hard worker, and I know he’s a good defender and he’s very good at throwing runners out. Plus, he’s okay with the bat, and he’s got good speed for a catcher (one of the few catchers who can realistically bunt for a base hit). Sadly, he’s not the fiery Hall-of-Famer who graced the position this time last year (oh, there’s probably MUCH more of that coming), but I think he’ll do a good job, and I think that’s a reasonable expectation. When Matt Treanor signed as the backup, I was a tad disappointed, but mostly cuz I was hoping to at least get a little Latin blood behind the plate. I’ve seen Treanor a little bit with the Marlins (a team that has endeared me a bit with their scrappiness, and which I’ll watch from time to time), and he seems like a solid backup as long as he stays healthy. I daresay that he’s one of only a handful of Major Leaguers whose wife is more famous than he is (that would be Olympic gold medalist Misty May). The only downside to Matt Treanor (other than nationality) is that there is an old Irishman that I know whose name is pronounced the same way (spelled differently, though), and every time Matt Treanor plays in a game, I’m gonna get that guy’s accent stuck in my head.

Adam Everett: I’ll admit that I don’t know that much about Adam Everett, mostly cuz he’s spent the majority of his career in the National League and outside of Interleague Play and the occasional Marlins game, I just don’t pay much attention to the NL. Granted, he was with Minnesota last year, and I vaguely remember him playing in one game against the Tigers, but I don’t recall the details and he was injured for most of the year. From what I hear, he’s a good defender with good range, but you don’t know what you’re gonna get from him offensively. I know a co-worker of mine (pharmacist who is my age and also a Tigers fan) isn’t sold on the idea, but at this point, defense is the primary concern. Theoretically, there should be enough offense from the top six guys in the lineup to make up for any lack of contribution that Everett may have with the bat.

Edwin Jackson: I wasn’t entirely sold on this move when it happened, but I’m not going to decry it either. I didn’t particularly care for losing Matt Joyce (mostly for superficial reasons like he rescues kittens from the batting cages and he is exactly one year younger than me), but right now the front office is going ga-ga over Jeff Larish so I guess it was kind of inevitable (they can’t trade away Clete Thomas cuz he’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery). That being said, I kinda wish they would’ve gone after a left-handed starter. If you were to choose the fifth starter based entirely on last year’s performance, Zach Miner would be the fifth man, leaving you with an entirely right-handed rotation, and that probably isn’t the best idea (as my dad’s friend told me, “It’s hard to contend without a good, solid lefty in your rotation”). But I guess an effective righty is better than an ineffective lefty in any circumstance. Plus, I suppose it’s hard to argue against acquiring someone who won 14 games last year. Oddly enough, I HAVE seen Edwin Jackson in person before. He was the starting pitcher for the then-Devil Rays in a game I went to in 2007 (Verlander started for the Tigers). I don’t remember that much about his pitching, since I was somewhat distracted by the fact that the suite we were in was right above the Tigers’ dugout and I kept spying on the people down there.

Brandon Lyon: Well, you can’t say Dave Dombrowski didn’t try to get a semi-frontline closer. He did try to go after Kerry Wood and J.J. Putz, but ironically kept getting thwarted, at least in part, by the Cleveland Indians. Still, out of everyone left, Brandon Lyon was probably the best choice. Everyone else had questions regarding age or health. Lyon is a bit of a risk, since he DID lose his closer’s job in Arizona. But he does throw strikes. At the very least, the American League hasn't seen him in a while, so hopefully he can at least give them enough time to allow Joel Zumaya or one of those young guns we keep hearing about to step up.

So overall, the offseason acquisitions cost about $10 million dollars and three prospects, which is not bad at all. I think this post has gotten long enough now. Next time I’ll discuss my pre-Spring Training thoughts.