Friday, February 29, 2008

A bullpen boost?

If the reports out of spring training about Matt Mantei are more than wishful thinking, he could be a solid addition to the Tigers' bullpen. Especially with Fernando Rodney shut down again because of tendinitis.

Read the latest about Mantei from the Free Press here.

Pitching sharp again

The Tigers improved to 2-0 in Grapefruit League action as their pitchers limited Toronto to 4 hits. Three of the base knocks were allowed by Macay McBride. On the hitting side, Curtis Granderson hit his first homer of the spring and drove in 2. Magglio Ordonez had two hits and also 2 ribbies.

One of the pitchers who saw action yesterday was Armando Galarraga. The Tigers picked him up from Texas via trade. He's a 26-year-old, 6-foot-4 righty. From what I've read, he's got potential but was hampered by injuries (Tommy John surgery in 2002). He was acquired by Texas in 2005 as part of the deal that sent Alfonso Soriano to Washington. Baseball America suggests he could be a No. 5 starter someday.

He appeared in 3 games for Texas last season and had a 6.23 ERA in 8.2 innings. He's 24-25 with a 4.11 ERA in 116 games (98 starts) in the minors. He seems to have decent strikeout numbers, but walks too many. He's expected to start the season at Triple-A Toledo.

Galarraga is not related to the "Big Cat," Andres Galarraga. There goes my plan to label him the "Kiddy Cat."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quote du jour

"I wasn't very good in math, but I did some math the other day. I figured out that the four guys hitting in front of Cabrera hit a combined average of .320. ... I did some math and I figured out that that made a little sense."

-- Tigers manager Jim Leyland on Miguel Cabrera batting fifth behind Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Gary Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez.

Let the game's begin (exhibition style)

It's hard to get too excited about spring training games, unless you're in Florida or Arizona watching them. The most exciting thing is they signal the season is not far away.

The Tigers beat the Mets 4-2 yesterday. The great Motown lineup managed just 1 hit in the first 6 innings and a fella named Wilkin Ramirez (22-year-old OF prospect who hit .273-10-41 in 319 ABs at Single-A Lakeland and .215-2-14 in 121 ABs at Double-A Erie) had a two-run single in the seventh to provide the margin of victory.

Primarily, Detroit fans will be watching the pitchers and a few position players -- Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn especially.

Jeremy Bonderman pitched two innings yesterday and gave up four hits and two runs. He worked without using his slider to prevent unnecessary strain on his elbow and to work on other pitches (changeup primarily). Jason Grilli, Zach Miner, Preston Larrison, Tim Byrdak and Denny Bautista followed with 7 innings of 2-hit ball.

Larrison, 27, is a sinkerball pitcher with, from reports, the stuff to pitch in the bigs. He just needs to stay healthy. He makes annual trips to the DL and had Tommy John surgery a couple years ago.

Inge, who played as a replacement in CF, had a hit, an RBI and a walk.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Skating through

I was surfing around and came across the MVP voting for 1989. I noticed Lonnie Smith hit 21 HR in 482 ABs that season -- the only time he reached double digits in a 17-year career. Other than Kevin Mitchell and Will Clark, his OPS that year was higher than any other player in baseball. In all of major league baseball. He slugged .533 that season, well above his career mark of .420. Most odd.

Yard work

Miguel Cabrera homered in his first at-bat as a Tiger yesterday, albeit against a college team. Still, the blast drew awe from players on both sides and reportedly carried more than 470 feet. Cabrera noted the wind was blowing out.

Sunday afternoons

TBS announced its lineup for the first two months of the season for its Sunday afternoon telecasts. As to be expected, either the Red Sox, Cubs, Mets and Yankees are involved in 7 of the 8 games (the Dodgers-Braves is the other). Nonetheless, I love the idea of a Sunday afternoon game.

Monday, February 25, 2008

To the point

Tom Gage in the Detroit News details more of Jim Leyland's direct approach. This time, the issue was Pudge Rodriguez's spot in the batting order.

It will be eighth.
He also reported closer Todd Jones will start the team's exhibition game against Florida Southern. He will come out after one inning. Jeremy Bonderman will start the true exhibition opener Wednesday against the Mets.
The Free Press reported Matt Mantei's comeback attempt is going as well as could be hoped. If Mantei, 34, can even reach 85% of his former self, it might be a help to the bullpen. He was 5-4 with 29 saves and 2.62 ERA in 2003 -- his last full season. He was regarded highly enough to be traded for three players -- including Brad Penny -- in 1999. This is his second time around the comeback trail with the Tigs. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Good reason to smile

Ryan Howard was awarded $10 million in arbitration, beating Phillies' management, which offered $7 million. Not many people expected Howard to win, from what I've seen. The Phils' offer was in line with what the Cardinals gave Albert Pujols in the first year he was arbitration eligible. Nonetheless, I guess $10 million for Howard isn't terrible. Philadelphia's bigger problem comes when it's time to try to lock up Howard long term. Howard is a fan favorite, but I think the Phillies -- much like myself -- believe Howard's shelf life to be very limited. I think you've got maybe 3 years of top production, so it's going to put the Phils in an awkward position.

NEW YORK (AP) -Current baseball contracts with average annual values of $16 million or more. Figures were obtained by The Associated Press from player and management sources and include all guaranteed income but not income from potential incentive bonuses. There is no distinction for money deferred without interest:

Player, Club Years Avg. Salary
Alex Rodriguez, NYY 2008-17 $27,500,000
Johan Santana, NYM 2008-13 $22,916,667
Manny Ramirez, Bos 2001-08 $20,000,000
Derek Jeter, NYY 2001-10 $18,900,000
Carlos Zambrano, Cubs 2008-12 $18,300,000
Andruw Jones, LAD 2008-09 $18,100,000
Vernon Wells, Tor 2008-14 $18,000,000
Barry Zito, SF 2007-13 $18,000,000
Ichiro Suzuki, Sea 2008-12 $18,000,000
Jason Giambi, NYY 2002-08 $17,142,857
Carlos Beltran, NYM 2005-11 $17,000,000
Alfonso Soriano, Cubs 2007-14 $17,000,000
Carlos Lee, Hou 2007-12 $16,666,667
Andy Pettitte, NYY 2008 $16,000,000

Shouldering woes

The Detroit Free Press reported reliever Fernando Rodney is experiencing shoulder trouble again. Rodney said Wednesday the shoulder pain is similar to the pain he had last season that forced him onto the disabled list.

This is ominous given the already shaky status of the bullpen. We'll see what happens, but it might be best to figure Rodney and Joel Zumaya will provide little help this season and try to develop/find other options.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


John Lowe in the Detroit Free Press has a story about Placido Polanco's prowess as a 2-strike hitter. Polanco on striking out: "I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it."

Polanco batted .350 last season with 2 strikes. The AL average with 2 strikes was .198.

Here is the full story, in which Polanco credits coaches Manny Mota and Greg Gross for some of his success.

Kick in the glass

And to think, Hunter Pence wasn't even on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

I wonder if Johan stands a chance to make it through the spring.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Straight talk

One of the primary reasons Jim Leyland is successful, I think, is his ability to manage people. This, as I've stated in defense of Charlie Manuel, is more important than managing games. Here is another example, taken from the Detroit News. It's Leyland's comments regarding Brandon Inge as the Tigers open camp.

"We're going to talk about that when he gets here. He and I are going to call the media into my office and discuss it one time, tell you everything, then not talk about it for the rest of the spring. That way he won't be aggravated every day by someone at his locker wanting to talk about it. He won't talk about it after the one time and I won't, either.

"I think it's a strong possibility (Inge will get traded, but I want to wait for him to be here when I discuss it. That's only fair to him. But until something happens, he's on the ballclub."

Of course, this probably won't stop the media from asking about it every day, but Inge must appreciate Leyland's approach.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Maroth tries to land with KC

Mike Maroth signed a minor league deal with the Royals last week and already is making adjustments in his mechanics that he thinks might be helpful. I hope he makes the team and can return to form. I wish him all the best, except when he's facing the Tigers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Shouldering expectations

Gary Sheffield and Joel Zumaya, both coming off shoulder surgery, are in Tigers camp early. According to the Detroit Free Press, Sheff reported swinging "pain free" and Zumaya says he is "on a mission" to prove doubters wrong.

If Sheff is healthy, the Tigers offense goes from splendid to splendider. It also would mean, I would think, Miguel Cabrera bats fifth behind Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Sheff, and Magglio Ordonez. Then, after Cabrera, would be Carlos Guillen.


Love to see the Sheff of May 2 through July 15 who in 61 games batted .356-20-54 with a 1.115 OPS and 60 runs. He was 12 of 15 in SB attempts, too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Weaver vs. Bonderman

For a while, it seemed the Tigers were destined to have the last laugh in the Jeff Weaver trade. Now, that seems uncertain.

Detroit got Carlos Pena, who was a bust in Motown but blossomed in Tampa, plus Franklyn German and Jeremy Bonderman. After German failed to fulfill projections of being the Dominican version of Lee Smith (according to Baseball America), it still seemed Bonderman alone was going to be a steal for the Tigs.

Since the trade, Weaver's stats:

54-63, 5.00 ERA in 1,000 IP.

Bonderman's stats:

56-62, 4.78 ERA in 923 IP.

I've feared Bonderman could become the next Kris Benson, living on the reputation of potential over results. This might be unfair to Benson, who was 53-56 with a 4.24 ERA after 924 IP in his career.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

OPS and runs

Below are stats from 2007 for every MLB teams' OPS and run production. The first number is the difference between their offensive OPS and pitching OPS. The number in parentheses is the difference between their runs scored and runs allowed. Make of it what you choose.

Boston Red Sox .101 (210)
New York Yankees .072 (191)
San Diego Padres .046 (75)
Cleveland Indians .042 (107)
Toronto Blue Jays .040 (54)
Colorado Rockies .038 (102)
New York Mets .038 (54)
Detroit Tigers .037 (90)
Chicago Cubs .033 (62)
Atlanta Braves .032 (77)
Milwaukee Brewers .031 (25)
LA Angels .023 (91)
LA Dodgers .018 (8)
Philadelphia Phillies .015 (71)
Oakland A’s .012 (-17)

Seattle Mariners -.018 (-19)
Arizona Diamondbacks -.019 (-20)
Baltimore Orioles -.020 (-112)
Florida Marlins -.022 (-101)
St. Louis Cardinals -.025 (-104)
Texas Rangers -.026 (-28)
Cincinnati Reds -.028 (-70)
San Francisco Giants -.032 (-37)
Minnesota Twins -.034 (-7)
Houston Astros -.049 (-90)
Chicago White Sox -.051 (-146)
Washington Nationals -.057 (-110)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays -.057 (-162)
Pittsburgh Pirates -.063 (-122)
Kansas City Royals -.075 (-72)

One thought concerning the NL East: It would seem the Mets had a lower run differential than you would expect from their OPS differential. Conversely, the Phillies had a higher run differential than you would expect.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Another reason to love Curtis

The Detroit News reported that Tigers CF Curtis Granderson celebrated his five-year, $30.25 million contract with a double cheeseburger off the McDonald's dollar menu.