Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tigers Spring Training Preview - First Basemen

Going into the off-season, the Tigers had a three headed monster at first base. Now, there’s a picture for you photoshop experts (Sam?) There was the aging and growing Dmitri Young, the enigmatic Carlos Pena and the up and coming Chris Shelton. They were three players looking to fill two positions – first base and designated hitter. Matters became even more complicated when Jim Leyland said he planned to give Magglio Ordonez some time in the designated hitter slot.

It was apparent that one of the three heads would have to be chopped off during the winter. Shelton had the best year of three by a pretty wide margin so it was assumed by most that he would stay and have a regular job in 2006. Many of us figured that either Pena or Young would be playing elsewhere by the spring. However, the Tigers were unable to trade either of them and unwilling to non-tender Pena after his end of season power display. Thus, the logjam still remains.

One interesting item over the winter was Leyland’s demand to Young to get in shape if he wanted to play regularly in 2006. Whether it was Leyland’s orders or whether it was because this year will be a contract year is unknown but Young did indeed lose weight over the winter. Leyland sounds serious about having Young work out at third base and the outfield this spring and he wants him to be able to play those positions on more than an emergency basis.

It won’t be easy but if Young can play those positions, it would give the team a lot more flexibility. It would free up the DH spot on some days so that Leyland can get Pena’s left-handed bat into the line-up more often and Ordonez (and Guillen?) can rest his legs by DHing on occasion. It would also allow him to rest Monroe and/or Inge against some tough right-handers. So Young’s audition at multiple positions will be one of the biggest stories of the spring.

Along with Shelton, Pena and Young, the Tigers also added Josh Phelps over the winter. Phelps who has batted .268/.336/.473 in 352 major league games will likely start the year in Toledo but could see Detroit later in the season if injuries hit. Also in camp is journeyman Mike Hessman. Hessman has some decent power but doesn’t offer much of anything else and will also probably play in Toledo this year.

But all eyes will be focused on the three headed monster this spring. It will be interesting to see how Leyland manages to work the creature into the line-up. My guess is that Shelton will be the full-time first baseman,Young will start the season roaming around the diamond and Pena will DH when Young plays in the field. I question how long Young’s big and aging (although somewhat slimmer) body can hold up though. We’ll see. As the cliché goes, these things usually have a way of working themselves out.


  1. And, of course, when Jeff Weaver is the opposing pitcher, Shelton will hit the bench in favor of Dmitri & Carlos Pena and anyone else who bats left-handed. Anyone at all.

  2. yeah, I can see Shelton being benched against certain pitchers. Hopefully, he is in there 90% of the time though.

  3. Bizarre splits for Shelton last year. He was significantly better against righties. I imagine it's a fluke, but it's actually encouraging in that he didn't have nice numbers just because he feasted on lefties and was OK the rest of the time.

    I'm not too fond of Shelton's defense. It was surprisingly good, meaning better than totally terrible. When Pena plays, if he's not playing first, we're wasting talent, IMO.

  4. Lee, I was more playing around about Jeff Weaver's unbelievable splits... Lefties just plain kill him, but he's actually quite good against righties. The Twins figured this out about the 2nd or 3rd time they faced Weaver, and he hasn't fixed it yet.



Blog Archive


My Sabermetrics Book

My Sabermetrics Book
One of Baseball America's top ten books of 2010

Other Sabermetrics Books

Stat Counter