Friday, March 30, 2012

Ten Predictions for Tigers Batters

Yesterday, I presented ten predictions for the Tigers pitching staff.  Today, I'll do the same for the batters:
  • Catcher Alex Avila's batting average will drop from last year, but his power and walks will remain the same.  He'll be one of the top offensive catchers in the game with a .265/.360/.475 line.  The hard-working backstop will also improve his defense, specifically pitch blocking.
  • New first baseman Prince Fielder will crush balls the same way in the American League as he did in the National League.  His final line will be .280/.395/.545 with 37 home runs. 
  • The revolving door at second will continue again this year as the Tigers search for the right balance of offense and defense at the keystone position.  The enigmatic Ryan Raburn will get more action at second than anyone else, but Ramon Santiago and Dannny Worth will also play.  Raburn will finally put together two solid halves batting .270/.335/.470 with 20 homers in 475 plate appearances.  His poor second-base defense will compel manager Jim Leyland to also use him at designated hitter and in the outfield depending on pitching match-ups.
  • There has been little talk about shortstop Johnny Peralta this spring which probably speaks well of him.  He won't repeat last year's performance but will still be an above average offensive shortstop batting .260 with 18 homers.
  • As is his routine, Miguel Cabrera will have another boring MVP-caliber season at the plate - .330/.420/.590 with 35 home runs.  Defensively, he will be a poor third baseman, but will survive the season.  He will often see action at designated hitter when the Tigers have a ground ball pitcher on the mound.
  • Right fielder Brennan Boesch will hit the way he did last year, except with more playing time.  He will be prone to streakiness, but look for him to bat .275 with 22 home runs in 525 at bats.
  • Center fielder Austin Jackson will continue to strikeout (175 of them) and not get on base (.320 OBP) while playing excellent defense.  He will increase his power output to 15 homers and 50 extra base hits for the season.
  • Delmon Young will split time between left field and designated hitter while batting in the enviable fifth position behind Cabrera and Fielder.  He will hit for an unspectacular .750 OPS but drive in 105 runs given the copious supply of base runners.  This will lead to lively debates between sabers and traditionalists regarding his true value.
  •  The Tigers will struggle to get consistent production out of a ninth hitter.  Outfielder Andy Dirks will get the most opportunities reaching base at a .310 clip and hitting 13 homers in 250 at bats. 
  • The Tigers will score 795 runs in 2012.  This will be fourth in the league behind four teams playing in better hitting environments - Yankees, Rangers and Red Sox. 

Omir Santos Assigned to Minor League Camp

The Tigers assigned catcher Omir Santos to minor league camp this morning.  This, of course, is no surprise.  The main reason he was in major league camp so long was because the Tigers needed an extra catcher to work with all the pitchers on the spring roster.   

The 30-year old Santos has batted .252 with a .656 OPS in 318 plate appearances over three major league seasons.  His claim to fame is his appearance for the Tigers in the 2011 playoffs versus the Yankees.  He entered game four in the ninth inning as a defensive replacement for catcher Alex Avila, but never came to bat.   

The move leaves the Tigers with 30 players in camp, so there are five more "cuts" to go.  One of them will be putting reliever Al Alburquerque on the disabled list.  Other than that, nothing is certain yet, but it appears as if infielder Brandon Inge and outfielder Clete Thomas will not be heading for Detroit. 

Pitcher Drew Smyly will probably be in the starting rotation, but may start the season in Toledo as the Tigers won't need a fifth starter until April 14.  Assuming everything goes as I have described above, the final cut would be one of three pitchers - Duane Below, Luis Marte and Brayan Villareal.    

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ten Predictions for the Tigers Pitching Staff

With the regular season just one week away, it's time for my annual forecasts for the Tigers.  I'll start with ten predictions for the pitching staff:
  • It doesn't take a complex projection system to figure out that Justin Verlander will have a difficult time repeating his Cy Young/ MVP performance of 2011.  He'll still be a dominant ace though with 250 strikeouts and a 2.75 ERA in 250 innings.  Since I know people will ask about wins, I'll go out on a sturdy limb and say he won't win 24 again this year.  Backed by a strong offense, he will reach an even 20 wins.
  • Max Scherzer will continue to have periods when his mechanics are out of whack, but should be on his game more often in 2012.  I'll give him a 3.90 ERA with 175 strikeouts in 200 innings.
  • Doug Fister will not be quite as good as his 1.79 ERA and 57/5 K/BB ratio down the stretch for the Tigers last year.  He won't even be as strong as his 2.89 ERA for the season.  He will however overcome a suspect infield defense to post a 3.50 ERA.  His 1.5 walks per nine innings will place him in the top three in the American League.
  • It's easy to forget that Rick Porcello is just 23 year old with time to improve.  He will up his strikeout rate from 5.1 to 5.7 while maintaining very good ground ball and walk rates.  He will pitch deeper into games and reach 200 innings for the first time.  The ground ball pitcher will find the Tigers infield to be a challenge though and his ERA will be still be a little high at 4.25.
  • The weak link of the Tigers rotation will be the fifth starter.  They will use several pitchers in that role beginning with Drew Smyly, but Jacob Turner will ultimately secure the role by the second half.  Turner will have his good moments, but will end up with a 4.50 ERA in 90 innings.
  • Jose Valverde will not be perfect in save situations again this year, but he will be better in non-save situations.  He will finish with a 2.90 ERA and 45 saves in 50 opportunities.
  • Joaquin Benoit will be the best Tigers reliever statistically in 2012 with a 70/20 K/BB ratio and 2.65 ERA.
  • Octavio Dotel will do a nice job getting the game to Benoit and Valverde posting a 3.60 ERA in 60 innings.
  • The rest of the bullpen will be shaky.  Al Alburquerque will battle to recover from elbow surgery, but won't be able to regain his 2011 magic.  Phil Coke will be the best southpaw in the pen but will be erratic with an ERA north of 4.00.
  • The entire staff will allow 680 runs which will be a distant third best in the AL to the Angels and Rays. 

Is Today's Tigers Line-up the Real Thing?

Manager Jim Leyland said he wanted to stop the line-up shuffling as spring training winds down and will keep today's starters in the game for seven innings.  Tonight's line-up is as follows:

Austin Jackson CF
Brennan Boesch RF
Don Kelly 3B
Prince Fielder 1B
Delmon Young DH
Alex Avila C
Jhonny Peralta SS
Andy Dirks LF
Ryan Raburn 2B

Other than Kelly subbing for the recuperating Miguel Cabrera at third base, this is the same line-up which Leyland proposed at the Fielder press conference.  The only thing he hedged about at the time was who would bat eighth.  I'm thinking this could be the most common real starting line-up once the season starts.   

Andy Oliver Optioned to Toledo

The Tigers announced this morning that left-handed reliever Andy Oliver was optioned to Triple-A Toledo.  That leaves four pairs of players battling for the last four spots on the opening day roster.  Here is how the remaining position battles look:

Fifth Starter

Duane Below
Drew Smyly

Manager Jim Leyland was impressed by Smyly's performance versus the Cardinals yesterday and he appears to be the front runner at the moment.  In the long run, top prospect Jacob Turner is likely being prepared to take the fifth starter role and probably would have gone north with the team if it were not for shoulder tendinitis early in the spring.      

Seventh Reliever
Luis Marte
Brayan Villareal

This is a toss up, but I'm leaning towards Marte who has shown better control this spring.  There is also a chance that Below could join the team as a reliever if he is not going to be a starter

Back-up Outfielder
Andy Dirks
Clete Thomas

I said at the beginning of the spring that Thomas was the favorite because he's out of options and is the superior defender.  I'm starting to waver though.  They are certainly giving him an opportunity for playing time this spring, but he has continued to struggle offensively.  Dirks has had an excellent spring, so it's going to be hard to not bring him north.

Brandon Inge
Danny Worth

Worth appears to be the logical choice given his ability to play all three infield positions.  I doubt he'll hit much but Inge won't either.  The Tigers beat writers have been tweeting quite a bit the last couple of days about the possibility of an Inge trade.  I'll doubt they'll be able to trade him, so a release might be in order.     

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jacob Turner, Quintin Berry Among Six Cuts

The Tigers optioned pitcher Jacob Turner to Toledo and reassigned outfielder Quintin Berry, infielders Audy Ciriaco, Argenis Diaz and Ryan Strieby and pitcher Chris Bootcheck to minor league camp this morning.  This means that the great Quintin Berry controversy has been settled for now.  It also means that the Tigers have 32 players left in camp. 

The Tigers need to trim the roster to 25 by opening day on Thursday, April 5, but it will probably happen by next Monday, April 2 which is their their last game in Lakeland.  So, they need to cut seven more players, two of which will be catcher Omir Santos and injured reliever Al Alburquerque.  If we assume that infielder Brandon Inge has not yet been guaranteed a spot, that leaves Inge, infielder Danny Worth, outfielders Andy Dirks and Clete Thomas, starters Duane Below, Andy Oliver and Drew Smiley and relievers Andy Marte and Brayan Villareal battling for four slots.        

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Can Quintin Berry Make the Tigers Roster?

Ever since outfielder Quintin Berry hit a ninth inning grand slam in a come-back win over the Pirates on Friday, there has been a lot of discussion within the Tigers internet community as to his chances of making the opening day roster.  He came into spring training as a non-roster invitee and a long shot to make the big-league team.  He's still a long shot but the chances of his making the team appear to be more than zero.

As reported by Jason Beck of, Manager Jim Leyland has been impressed by the 27 year old career minor leaguer:
"I don't know him very well.  All I know is that he can fly.  He's looked good.  He's had a good spring."
When asked about the position battle between outfielders Andy Dirks and Clete Thomas, Leyland declared that there's more to it than that:
There are more people involved than you think.  There are definitely more than two guys."
Lynn Henning of The Detroit News thinks that Leyland was talking about Berry and he's probably right.    

The left-handed hitting Berry has seen quite a bit of action this spring with 18 games played mostly in the late innings.  He is hitting .333 with three walks and three extra base hits in 34 plate appearances.  He has also flashed a good glove and there are no questions about his baserunning.

The question some of you might have at this point is: "Who is Quintin Berry?"  He was originally drafted by Philadelphia in the fifth round of the 2006 draft.  He was named the Phillies minor league player of the year in 2007 after batting .312/.395/.386 with 55 stolen bases with Single-A Lakewood of the Sally League.  In the three years that followed, he did not came close to repeating that performance playing in the Philadelphia and San Diego organizations.   

After joining the Reds organization in 2011, the six-foot 175-pound Berry seemed to rediscover his offense hitting .312/.395/.386 with 42 stolen bases in 49 attempts for Double-A Carolina of the Southern League.  He also displayed the best plate discipline of his career with walks in 13.7% of his plate appearances.  However, the skeptics will point out validly that this was his third season at Double-A after two years with OPS of below .700.

Minor league defensive metrics are not very complete, but the consensus seems to be that the San Diego State product is a competent center fielder who covers a great deal of ground with his speed.  According to the 2009 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Berry is a "slightly above average center fielder who adds an average arm and excellent range."

The Tigers signed him as a minor-league free agent this winter and now he's trying to make the most of his opportunity.  Can he make the team?  They would probably have to release Thomas and option Dirks to Toledo in order for it to happen.  Alternatively, they could release Brandon Inge, option Danny Worth and carry Berry as one of two extra outfielders.

Neither scenario seems very likely to me, but it would not be the first time the Tigers surprised us at the end of spring training.  Both Leyland and General Manager Dave Dombrowski have talked about the need for more speed and Berry has plenty of that.  He also has some on base skills and can play defense.  I don't think he'll make the team, but I wouldn't rule it out.

For more on Berry's background, also check out an earlier article by John Verburg of Motor City Bengals.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Adam Wilk Optioned to Toledo

The Tigers optioned southpaw Adam Wilk to Triple-A Toledo this morning reducing the competition for the fifth starter spot to three.  Wilk does not have the upside of some other pitchers in the system, but was a candidate for the starting staff largely due to his impeccable control.  He posted a 3.24 ERA and walked just 14 batters in 102 2/3 innings with Toledo last year.  He was hit hard this spring though registering a 7.50 ERA and allowing 19 hits in 12 innings.

The remaining candidates for the fifth slot are lefties Duane Below, Andy Oliver and Drew Smyly.  Below will be pitching Sunday against the Yankees.  The move also trims the field for the final reliever spot to four - Below, and right handers Chris Bootcheck, Luis Marte and Brayan Villareal.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Yankees to Beat Out Rays, Red Sox in AL East

As opening day approaches, I'm making predictions for each of the six divisions in MLB.   I have projected won/loss records, runs scored (RS), runs allowed (RA) and run differential (RS-RA) for each team.  I don't have a complex formula to determine the results.  I just looked at last year's final numbers and moved teams up and down according to how much I thought they would regress or improve from last year to this year.

The Yankees have an aging core, but the additions of pitchers Michael Pineda, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte give them a much deeper staff than they had in 2011.  The Rays have the pitching to give the Yankees a battle, but their average offense will keep them from winning.  They should however finish second and secure a wild card spot.  The Red Sox are good enough to contend, but they have too many question marks and will ultimately fall short. 

Projected AL East Standings

New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

Divisional Awards

Evan Longoria, TB
Robinson Cano, NY
Adrian Gonzalez, Bos

Cy Young
C.C. Sabathia, NY
David Price, TB
Jon Lester, Bos

Breakout Players
Matt Moore, TB
Desmond Jennings, TB
Brett Lawrie, Tor


I won't waste time trying to give detailed analyses of teams I don't follow on a daily basis.  These blogs can tell you more about the teams than I can: 

River Avenue Blues
Replacement Level Yankees Weblog

Drays Bay
Rays Index 

Red Sox
Over the Monster
Fire Brand American League 

Blue Jays
Bluebird Banter
Mop-Up Duty

Camden Chat
Birds Watcher

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Albert Pujols Will Propel Angels to AL West Title

As opening day approaches, I'm making predictions for each of the six divisions in MLB.   I have projected won/loss records, runs scored (RS), runs allowed (RA) and run differential (RS-RA) for each team.  I don't have a complex formula to determine the results.  I just looked at last year's final numbers and moved teams up and down according to how much I thought they would regress or improve from last year to this year.

There is a big gap between the haves and have nots in the AL West.  The Angels and Rangers will vie for the division title, while the Athletics and Mariners will be among the worst in the league.  The Angels spent a fortune on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson and it should pay off handsomely.  Pujols will revitalize what was previously a sub-par line-up and they have one of the top rotations in baseball.  Look for them to dethrone the still powerful Rangers.

With one of the best line-ups in the American League, the Rangers should give the Angels a battle.  If Japanese import Yu Darvish lives and converted reliever Neftali Feliz immediately live up to their potential, Texas could very well repeat.  However, I'm picking them for a second place finish and a wild card. 

Projected AL West Standings

Los Angeles Angels
Texas Rangers
Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners

Divisional Awards

Albert Pujols, LA
Ian Kinsler, Tex
Adrian Beltre, Tex

Cy Young
Felix Hernandez, Sea
Dan Haren, LA
Jered Weaver. LA

Breakout Players
Yu Darvish, Tex
Jesus Montero, Sea
Kendrys Morales, LA (comeback more than a breakout)


I won't waste time trying to give detailed analyses of teams I don't follow on a daily basis.  These blogs can tell you more about the teams than I can:

Halos Heaven
Halo Hangout

Lone Star Ball
Baseball Time in Arlington

Athletics Nation
Swingin' A's

Lookout Landing
U.S.S. Mariner

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Phillies Pitching Gets Them Another NL East Title

As opening day approaches, I'm making predictions for each of the six divisions in MLB.   I have projected won/loss records, runs scored (RS), runs allowed (RA) and run differential (RS-RA) for each team.  I don't have a complex formula to determine the results.  I just looked at last year's final numbers and moved teams up and down according to how much I thought they would regress or improve from last year to this year.

With the Phillies old and injured, the NL East will be a lot closer this year, but Philadelphia still has enough pitching to eke out an another division title.  While the Braves stood pat, the Marlins got really aggressive this winter signing shortstop Jose, starter Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell.  The result will be a second place finish and a wild card for Miami.    

Projected NL East Standings

Philadelphia Phillies
Miami Marlins
Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals
New York Mets

Divisional Awards

Ryan Zimmerman, WAS
Jose Reyes, FLA
Hanley Ramirez, FLA

Cy Young
Cliff Lee, PHI
Roy Halladay, PHI
Cole Hamels, PHI

Breakout Players
Jason Heyward, ATL
Stephen Strasberg, WAS
Logan Morrison, FLA


I won't waste time trying to give detailed analyses of teams I don't follow on a daily basis.  These blogs can tell you more about the teams than I can:

The Good Phight
Phillies Flow

Fish Stripes
Marlin Maniac

Talking Chop
Capitol Avenue Club

Federal Baseball
The Nats Blog

Amazin' Avenue
Kranepool Society

Cabrera Out for a Couple of Weeks

Buster Olney of ESPN is reporting that Miguel Cabrera has a small fracture under his right eye as a result of taking a hard grounder off his face in yesterday's game.  It is described as a non-displaced fracture in the orbital floor.  His vision is reportedly fine but he will miss a "couple of weeks".  I imagine they will proceed cautiously with this type of injury though, so opening day may be in jeopardy.

It does not sound like he will miss a big chunk of the regular season if he misses any games at all.  The worst part may be that he won't be able to get more repetitions at third base before the regular season.  I'm sure he needs all the work he can get over there.  I doubt he needs much time to get his bat ready.  He could wake up in the middle of the winter and be ready to hit.        

Tigers Reassign Four More Players

The Tigers have reassigned outfielders Jerald Head and Matt Young, catcher Brian Holaday and utility man Eric Patterson to minor league camp.  None of these players were expected to make the team.  Head, Young and Patterson will probably start the season in Triple-A Toledo, while Holaday will catch at either Toledo or Double-A Erie.  The moves leave the Tigers with 38 players in camp, so they need to drop 13 more players by opening day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Matt Hoffman, Jose Ortega Optioned to Toledo

The Tigers optioned left-hander Matt Hoffman and right-hander Jose Ortega to Triple-A Toledo this morning.  Assuming Jacob Turner's shoulder tendinitis eliminates him from the competition, Today's move leaves seven pitchers battling for two spots - the fifth starter and the seventh reliever.  The sure things are:

Justin Verlander
Doug Fister
Max Scherzer
Rick Porcello

Jose Valverde
Joaquin Benoit
Octavio Dotel
Phil Coke
Daniel Schlereth
Collin Balester

The seven remaining pitchers in camp include:

Duane Below SP, RP
Chris Bootcheck RP
Luis Marte RP
Andy Oliver SP
Drew Smyly SP
Brayan Villereal RP
Adam Wilk SP, RP

The favorites for the final rotation spot seem Oliver and Smyly and I'll guess that the slightly more experienced Oliver has the edge at the moment.  The final bullpen spot could be anyone, but I'll guess Marte makes the cut. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Return of Adam Wainwright Will Help Cards Win NL Central

As opening day approaches, I'm making predictions for each of the six divisions in MLB.   I have projected won/loss records, runs scored (RS), runs allowed (RA) and run differential (RS-RA) for each team.  I don't have a complex formula to determine the results.  I just looked at last year's final numbers and moved teams up and down according to how much I thought they would regress or improve from last year to this year.

The NL Central looks like it will be a three-way race between the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers.  The loss of Albert Pujols will present a major challenge in the Cardinals' defense of the MLB championship.  However, the return of a healthy Adam Wainwright and the the signing of free agent Carlos Beltran should get them back to 90 wins again which should be enough to win the division.

The Brewers should drop back with the loss of Prince Fielder and a bit of Pythagorean regression.  They still have a strong team and could very well finish second and secure one of the two wild card spots, but I'm going to go with the Reds instead.  The addition of right-handed starter Mat Latos and the further development of a young offense should be enough to get them into second place and earn a wild card.   

Projected NL Central Standings

St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds
Milwaukee Brewers
Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs
Houston Astros

Divisional Awards

Joey Votto, CIN
Andrew McCutchen, PIT
Jay Bruce, CIN

Cy Young
Adam Wainwright, STL
Mat Latos, CIN
Zach Greinke, MIL

Breakout Players
J.D. Martinez, HOU
Aroldis Chapman, CIN
Pedro Alvarez, PIT


I won't waste time trying to give detailed analyses of teams I don't follow on a daily basis.  These blogs can tell you more about the teams than I can:

Viva El Birdos
Pitchers Hit Eighth 

Red Reporter
Redleg Nation

Brew Crew Ball
The Brewers Bar

Bucs Dugout
Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke 

Bleed Cubbie Blue
View from the Bleachers

Houston Astros
Crawfish Boxes


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