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.

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