Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hot Stove Thoughts

Sorry for the postings being so sparse. I’ve grown a bit weary of all the offseason complaining and squabbling that’s been going on around the blogosphere, which has left me wishing it was April. There are times where I feel that everyone else has succumbed to the darkness and that I am the lone remaining beacon of hope. And yet, the Winter Meetings seem like they were such a long time ago. I’m almost starting to forget that Curtis Granderson ever existed. Still, I have a duty as a blogger, and to that end, I will weigh in on the recent deals and rumors regarding the Tigers:

Closer: It appears we have one now. The Tigers have
agreed to sign Jose Valverde for two years, $14 million with a $9 million option for a third year. Valverde is a Type A free agent, which means the Tigers give up their first round pick (#19 overall) to the Astros, though they still have the two supplemental picks they got from losing Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney. I have yet to read a whole lot from the mainstream media, but the Tigers bloggers sure aren’t happy, though a lot of it stems from their belief that relief pitchers are overrated. Personally, I’m not sure what my perception on closers is anymore. I’m not exactly with the “pop culture” view that they’re worth millions, but I’m not exactly with the blogger belief that any average Joe off the street should be able to come in and easily get the last three outs of a ballgame either. My baseball guru says that mentality is more important than stuff (which, according to him, is how Mariano Rivera gets 500 saves with only one pitch; additionally, he thinks Joel Zumaya would make a good closer if he ever stays healthy because he has that mentality), although he believes that in an ideal world, all relief pitchers would be unnecessary because starters would finish their own games like they did back in the day (Remember, he’s old school). And I don’t think the mentality issue should be overlooked, no matter what the numbers and sabremetrics say. You can’t quantify psychology. The Tigers have a bazillion relief prospects in their system right now, but I don’t think any of them are ready. Letting them take their lumps at the major league level and force-feeding them (as some have suggested) may lead to lightning in a bottle, but it also runs the risk of destroying them and then a promising “closer of the future” merely becomes a burned-out casualty. Not everyone can do what Rick Porcello did. Ryan Perry could probably do with one more year of seasoning. I’ve heard some people trying to promote Daniel Schlereth as the closer. This is someone who walked 15 people in 18.1 innings last year. Unless he really impresses in spring training, it’d probably be best for him to start the year in Toledo or Erie (letting Bobby Seay and Phil Coke be the two lefties in the ‘pen). I believe Joel Zumaya has the ability to close now, but with his injury history, sending him out there with no safety net would be unwise. Therefore, it was clear to me that a stopgap was necessary. Now, two years and $14 million is a little bit more than a stopgap, and I believe that Valverde could have been had for less, but as it stands right now, it’s hardly a crippling move. I don’t really know a lot about Valverde, since he’s spent his entire career in the National League (really, the only memory I have of him is Brandon Inge hitting a game-winning two-run homer off him, and I would imagine that would skew my perception just as stuff like that does with Zack Greinke). However, he could probably be traded once one of our closer candidates is ready. Also, Valverde’s numbers look a hell of a lot more attractive than the man the Tigers were talking to at the Winter Meetings: Kevin Gregg. At the very least, those of you who fall under the category of “jaded” and “cynical” can just pretend that Valverde is the relief pitcher the Tigers would’ve drafted with that #19 pick.

Hitter: Shortly after the Valverde deal was announced, rumors picked up about the Tigers possibly being interested in Johnny Damon. Dave Dombrowski
shot down those rumors the following day (though Jason Beck doesn’t seem quite convinced, judging by his tone). I can’t say I was disappointed to hear that. Johnny Damon may boost the offense a little, but he’s not getting any younger and his defense is terrible (Seriously, the man’s gotta have the weakest throwing arm in the Majors). Plus, I’d never be able to look my baseball guru in the eye ever again. As far as someone else...well, the free agent market just doesn't look that attractive. Pretty much the only ones left are aging DH types (and while many of us desire a productive DH, bear in mind that once you reach your late 30s, your production can decline suddenly and sometimes rapidly; signing anyone like that would be a gamble).

Arbitration: I don’t like it. I’m not very well-versed in it (though I take reassurance in the fact that quite a few high-profile bloggers don’t entirely understand it themselves), but I understand enough to know it’s a messy and ugly process, one likely to leave both player and team looking bad. Therefore, I’m not likely to comment on it unless it becomes extremely prominent and to that end I hope the Tigers come to quick and satisfactory resolutions with their four remaining arbitration-eligible players (signing Verlander long-term would be a nice bonus).

Minor Leagues: Remember Mike Rabelo?
He’s back.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

2010 and the AL Central: May

Today I bring you part 2 of 2010 in the AL Central month-by-month. May brings us some big divisional matchups plus the first round of Interleague play, so let’s get started:

May 3-5 (Mon-Wed): @ Minnesota Twins (3)
May 6 (Thu): Off-day
May 7-9 (Fri-Sun): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
May 10-13 (Mon-Thu): vs. New York Yankees (4)
May 14-16 (Fri-Sun): vs. Boston Red Sox (3)
May 17-18 (Mon-Tue): vs. Chicago White Sox (2)
May 19-20 (Wed-Thu): @ Oakland Athletics (2)
May 21-23 (Fri-Sun): @ Los Angeles Dodgers (3)
May 24 (Mon): Off-day
May 25-26 (Tue-Wed): @ Seattle Mariners (2)
May 27 (Thu): Off-day
May 28-31 (Fri-Mon): vs. Oakland Athletics (4)

May was the Tigers’ best month in 2009. They went 17-11 and saw the emergence of a 1-2-3 pitching punch that got recognition as one of the best in all baseball (Verlander, Jackson, Porcello). If they repeat that kind of success in May of 2010, they’ll have certainly earned it. They begin the month by getting their first glimpse at Target Field (They kinda lucked out this time as the Minneapolis weather *should* be fairly decent by early May). We’ll finally get to find out just how much the Twins were able to take advantage of the Metrodome. The off-day on the 6th marks the end of a stretch of 20 games without a break. They better enjoy it, because after that, it’s another seventeen games until their next off-day. Most of those games in that stretch will be at home (and hopefully the Tigers can maintain that Comerica Park mojo that they finally discovered in 2009), but boy, when you look at the opposition, yikes. Remember this past year, when the White Sox had the road trip from Hell? Maybe “homestand from Hell” is a bit too much of an exaggeration, but the pitching staff sure will be worn out by the end of it. It is a very long homestand (12 games), and it starts out easily enough with the Indians (I will probably regret saying that). But then the Yankees come in for four, followed immediately by the Red Sox for three. Yuck. I’m glad I’ll be out of school by then, because that’s going to be a week of some very long games. In the four days from May 17 to May 20, every team in baseball (I believe) will be playing two 2-game series. For the Tigers, they wrap up the homestand by getting their first glimpse of the White Sox in 2010 (Will they ever score a run against Jake Peavy? Stay tuned). They then fly out to the west coast for their only visit to Oakland. Interleague play starts that weekend. For the Tigers, that means a trip to Dodger Stadium. Hopefully that turns out to be a fun series, because I like the Dodgers (Their fans at
TrueBlueLA are very cool). The Tigers last saw the Dodgers back in 2008, where they swept them in a series at Comerica Park. Hopefully, Justin Verlander doesn’t injure himself while operating under the delusion that he can hit. After that brief excursion into the National League, the Tigers have one of the two strange instances where they have an off-day, followed by a two-game series, followed immediately by another off-day (I really, really want to talk to the person who thought this was a good idea). In this case, it’s a two-game series against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Following that second off-day, the Tigers go back home, where they wrap up the month with a four-game series against the A’s. As you’ll note just from looking at the schedule, they’re gonna be facing a lot of good teams. In terms of winning percentage from 2009, the Tigers have the toughest May schedule of any team in the Central. So basically, this is a tough month based on the opposition, but the Tigers will be at home a lot in May, and they will need to take advantage of this.

Home games: 16
Road games: 10
Detroit’s 2009 record against opposition: 42-44 (Did not face LAD in 2009)
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .527

White Sox
May 3-5 (Mon-Wed): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
May 6-9 (Thu-Sun): vs. Toronto Blue Jays (4)
May 10 (Mon): Off-day
May 11-12 (Tue-Wed): @ Minnesota Twins (2)
May 13 (Thu): Off-day
May 14-16 (Fri-Sun): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
May 17-18 (Mon-Tue): @ Detroit Tigers (2)
May 19-20 (Wed-Thu): vs. Los Angeles Angels (2)
May 21-23 (Fri-Sun): vs. Florida Marlins (3)
May 24-26 (Mon-Wed): @ Cleveland Indians (3)
May 27-30 (Thu-Sun): @ Tampa Bay Rays (4)
May 31 (Mon): Off-day

As much as I’ve complained about the Tigers’ off-days being spaced very badly, the White Sox are kind of in the same boat in that May for them also features a 17-game stretch with no break as well as the off-day/2-game series/off-day combo. However, they will not be coming off a stretch of 20 games with no break, so my sympathy is limited. The White Sox begin May with a seven-game homestand against the Royals and Blue Jays. They then have that weird off-day/2 games/off-day week. Their two-game series will be at Minnesota. Following their Thursday off-day, they play a weekend series at Kansas City. Their “week of 2 game series” involves going into Detroit (seeing us for the first time), and then going home to play the Angels for two. Chicago spends the first round of Interleague play at home against the Florida Marlins. The Marlins are a talented team, but a young team (and one that never gets watched). Most of their pitchers show a lot of promise, but are maddeningly inconsistent with the exception of Josh Johnson (and one can only hope his spot in the rotation comes up at some point against the White Sox). They also still have Andrew Miller, who still can’t throw strikes with any consistency (a lot of Tiger fans have declared 2010 as a “make it or break it” year for Miller). And of course they’ll have the reigning NL batting champ in Hanley Ramirez. The last time Chicago faced Florida was 2007. The White Sox will spend the final week of May on the road in Cleveland and St. Petersburg (Though like I said, they handled the Rays in 2009).

Home games: 12
Road games: 14
Chicago’s 2009 record against opposition: 46-50 (Did not face FLA in 2009)
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .498

May 3-5 (Mon-Wed): vs. Toronto Blue Jays (3)
May 6 (Thu): Off-day
May 7-9 (Fri-Sun): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)
May 10 (Mon): Off-day
May 11-13 (Tue-Thu): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
May 14-16 (Fri-Sun): @ Baltimore Orioles (3)
May 17-18 (Mon-Tue): @ Tampa Bay Rays (2)
May 19-20 (Wed-Thu): vs. Kansas City Royals (2)
May 21-23 (Fri-Sun): vs. Cincinnati Reds (3)
May 24-26 (Mon-Wed): vs. Chicago White Sox (3)
May 27 (Thu): Off-day
May 28-31 (Fri-Mon): @ New York Yankees (4)

The Indians begin May in the middle of a homestand. The Blue Jays come in for three, then, following an off-day for them, we pay a visit (and hopefully we do not forget how to play well there because that’s one thing we finally figured out in 2009). Their off-day on the 10th marks the beginning of a 16-game stretch with no break (fairly lengthy, but Detroit fares worse in this department). They embark on an eight-game road trip featuring stops at Kaufman Stadium, Camden Yards, and Tropicana Field. That series with the Rays is a two-gamer, by the way. Their other two-game series is against the Royals at home. That will mark the beginning of an eight-game homestand for the Indians. Their first Interleague opponent is the Cincinnati Reds for round one of the Ohio Battle (and, given their records last year, one that will likely not generate much interest nationally, but you never know). A three-game series against the White Sox rounds out the homestand. Following an off-day, the Indians finish May with a four-game series at Yankee Stadium (And does anyone else find it a bit odd that Cleveland actually fared much better against the Yankees than either Detroit or Minnesota? They went 3-5). It should be noted that of the five May schedules in the AL Central, the Indians have the easiest one in terms of opponents’ 2009 win percentage, so if they were to make some noise, this would be the opportune time (We don’t really want that to happen, though).

Home games: 14
Road games: 12
Cleveland’s 2009 record against opposition: 41-50
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .489

May 3-5 (Mon-Wed): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)
May 6-9 (Thu-Sun): vs. Baltimore Orioles (4)
May 10 (Mon): Off-day
May 11-12 (Tue-Wed): vs. Chicago White Sox (2)
May 13 (Thu): Off-day
May 14-16 (Fri-Sun): @ New York Yankees (3)
May 17-18 (Mon-Tue): @ Toronto Blue Jays (2)
May 19-20 (Wed-Thu): @ Boston Red Sox (2)
May 21-23 (Fri-Sun): vs. Milwaukee Brewers (3)
May 24 (Mon): Off-day
May 25-27 (Tue-Thu): vs. New York Yankees (3)
May 28-30 (Fri-Sun): vs. Texas Rangers (3)
May 31-June 3 (Mon-Thu): @ Seattle Mariners (4)

Like the Tigers and White Sox, the Twins also have that off-day/2-games/off-day combo. The difference this time is that their other off-days are spread out a bit better (and as I said before, almost all of them are on Mondays). In May, the longest they go with no break is ten games. The Twins will also get a heavy dose of the AL East, including all their games against the Yankees (a team that they went 0-7 against in the regular season before getting swept by them in the ALDS; most Tigers fans may hate the Yankees, but they can be damn useful sometimes). To make up for it, though, the Twins spend the majority of May at home (much like the Tigers). Bear in mind that after May ends, they will not have to face the Red Sox or Yankees again for the rest of the year. That may give them an advantage down the stretch. They start off May with a nine-game homestand, featuring three against the Tigers, four against the Orioles, and two against the White Sox. Following a rare Thursday off-day (for them), they embark on a seven-game AL East road trip. They’ll spend the weekend at Yankee Stadium before visiting Toronto and Boston for two games each (That’s their only visit to Fenway Park, by the way). They’ll be at home for round one of Interleague play, which will feature a visit from THEIR natural Interleague rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers (The Twins went 12-6 in Interleague play this past year). After another off-day, they finish off their homestand with 3-game series apiece against the Yankees and Rangers before heading out to the west coast for a four-game set against the Mariners that will spill over into June. In short, the Twins’ May is similar to that of the Tigers: Difficult in terms of the opposition, but they’ll be at home a lot. Still, the Tigers must take advantage of the Twins’ schedule this month.

Home games: 18
Road games: 11
Minnesota’s 2009 record against opposition: 47-42
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .517

May 3-5 (Mon-Wed): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
May 6-9 (Thu-Sun) @ Texas Rangers (4)
May 10 (Mon): Off-day
May 11-13 (Tue-Thu): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
May 14-16 (Fri-Sun): vs. Chicago White Sox (3)
May 17-18 (Mon-Tue): @ Baltimore Orioles (2)
May 19-20 (Wed-Thu): @ Cleveland Indians (2)
May 21-23 (Fri-Sun): vs. Colorado Rockies (3)
May 24 (Mon): Off-day
May 25-26 (Tue-Wed): vs. Texas Rangers (2)
May 27-30 (Thu-Sun): @ Boston Red Sox (4)
May 31-June 3 (Mon-Thu): vs. Los Angeles Angels (4)

This past year, the Royals went 12-10 in April and led the Central in early May. That’s when it all fell apart for them, as they went 11-17 that month and never recovered (outside of a two-to-three week stretch in September where they got hot and proved to be a pain in the ass for the Tigers). Unlike the rest of the AL Central, the Royals actually have their off-days spread apart fairly evenly in May (and I’m just referring to the month of May, so we’re clear). Kansas City actually sees a lot of the same teams twice this month (White Sox, Indians, and Rangers, to be specific). The beginning of the month is a continuation of a road trip that began at the end of April that sees them going to some homer-friendly ballparks (U.S. Cellular Field and Ranger Ballpark). Their off-day on May 10th signals the end of a 17-game stretch with no break. They come home for series against the Indians and White Sox. Their two 2-game series will both be on the road, at Camden Yards and Progressive Field. How often do you see a team go on a four-game road trip? They return home to begin Interleague play against Carlos Gonzalez, Todd Helton, and the rest of the Colorado Rockies. After an off-day, they host the Texas Rangers for two games before embarking on ANOTHER four-game road trip, although this time it’s confined to Fenway Park and a four-game series against the Red Sox (Don’t you hate those?). They wrap up May by returning home and facing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for four games. It should be worth noting that they amazingly had .500 records against quite a few teams (including the Tigers, White Sox, and Rangers), and several others where they went 5-4 or 3-4 or something close to even. The Angels were an exception. They were 1-9 against the Halos.

Home games: 15
Road games: 15
Kansas City’s 2009 record against opposition: 28-40 (Did not play COL in 2009)
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .511