Monday, March 30, 2009

Can you throw a baseball? The Tigers need you.

Here's one job that's still up for grabs in Detroit. Well, actually, there are several. And all of them can be found in the Tiger's bullpen, (If you just Googled "Detroit Jobs," you can stop reading now, you are probably under-qualified). This is the one reason you will fail to see the Tigers in the playoffs this year. Here is a rundown of the 'pen, according to the Tiger's depth chart. And I know ERA isn't a definitive measurement of much, but I think it gets the job done, in this case:
Bobby Seay, (4.47): Lefty 'specialist.' ESPN chimes in, "Another pitcher hanging onto his job thanks to the genetics that made him a left-hander, Seay needs to perform early, or he will likely be shown the door."
Juan Rincon, (5.86): Righty, signed to a minor league deal this offseason. Guess where he won't be this season? 
nophotoEddie Bonine, (5.40): Righty; 28-year-old knuckler with 27 career MLB IP. Purchased from the minors.
Ryan Perry, (None): Righty. 22 years old. No other information available. Encouraging. Last year? Minors.
Scott Williamson, (2007 -- 4.40): Righty. 33-year-old journeyman. Minor league contract?  Hell yes. 
Fernando Rodney, SU, (4.91): Righty. You never know what you're getting with Rodney. When he's on, he's on. He was last on in 2005.
Brandon Lyon, CL, (4.70, 26/31 Saves): Righty. Another game of roulette with this one; in 2007, he went 35/38 and had an ERA of 2.68, with a 1.24 WHIP. Could be a decent closer. Number of leads that this bullpen will deliver? Zero.
I have also heard Clay Rapada (LHP, 4.22) may end up in the bullpen. And, given that Jim Leyland is, "just about 99.9% sure," that Zach Miner won't be his fifth starter, we have to assume he will end up in the 'pen instead. Miner's the guy with the 4.79 K/9 and 1.35 K/BB ratios, you remember him.

I wouldn't trust any of these guys in my backyard in a game of catch. And in the 9th inning to hold down a one run lead? Not a chance. Is this an experiment to see how many games you can win in a season if your pitchers all go Whitey Ford style? Is this simply designed to lower the morale of the rotation? Eliminate decisions as a statistical category for the starters? What exactly is the angle here?

Now, I am the first guy to tell you that the bullpen is the least important part of the team. It just is. Your offense goes nine innings, your starters go (hopefully) six, and your 'pen grabs three. Furthermore, a reliever is a reliever, and in general, there typically is not a Grand Canyon-sized gap between mediocre and lights-out reliever stuff. But, on the other hand, you have to see how an inexperienced, right-handed, wild-pitching bullpen is going to get you nophotointo problems late. Especially with a rotation as up in the air as Detroit's. I wouldn't be as concerned if they were throwing a Sabathia, a Peavy, and a Webb out there. But they're not. Verlander is the opening day starter. Edwin Jackson and Armando Galarraga are the #2 and #3's. And, as of March 29th, GM Dave Dombrowski has no idea who will be filling in his #4 and #5 spots in the rotation. In fact, he doesn't even know when he will know. It is not exceptional for the #5 starter to be a mystery on opening day, as teams don't typically need him for a couple weeks. But no #4? One week out? Inexcusable.

Bonderman is out with a shoulder problem -- symptoms being his inability to pitch effectively; no structural damage (???). Willis is down with a generalized anxiety disorder for an indefinite amount of time -- I will be shocked to see him pitch this year. Nate Robertson has a sprained thumb. Miner, as mentioned earlier, is out. However, the  Detroit News notes that Miner and Rick Porcello will likely be starting games #3 and #4. Porcello has, you guess it, no major league experience. He is also younger than I am. Miner, if he does start, will be doing so with the knowledge that his manager has absolutely no confidence in his ability, and is only allowing him on the mound because he has no better options.

nophoto Can you see how this is going to end up? Best case scenario, no injuries, we are looking at Verlander, Bonderman, Galarraga, Jackson, and Robertson. That is a crappy rotation. One of those guys goes down -- and they will -- and you are screwed. Zach Miner becomes your go-to. Two of those guys go down -- and believe me, they will -- Brandon Inge is then placed on the depth chart as spot starter. Seriously, who else is there? Porcello? Who?

The Yankees have tried to win games by beating the crap out of the ball with their sticks. It does not work. You cannot consistently win games by praying for a two-run bomb every inning. You cannot throw out guys who are a lock to give up five runs a game and expect to outscore your opponent 7 times out 10. What's the craziest part about this? Two years ago, Dombrowski was on top of the world. Best GM ever. Brought a Tigers team back to the top with smart drafting and solid management of young arms. Now? He's trading for Edwin Jackson and still in need of a fourth and fifth started. The bullpen is 70% walkons. How do you cope with that?

Tigers' 4th, 5th starters cryptic (Detroit Free Press) - March 29, 2009
Who's going to start the Tiger's first five games? (Detroit News) - March 30, 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

One Saga Ends; Another Begins

Here we are, back for the season. This is going to be an interesting summer here at TABC so I encourage everyone to stick around to see what I have in store. The plans and ideas aren't firmed up yet, but I think they'll turn out nice. You'll hear about them soon.

Jim Bowden has finally abandoned ship, and in the process, ended a strange and somewhat prodigious journey as Commander of the Washington Nationals/Cincinnati Reds. Any long-time reader knows that all GMs fall into three categories here; 1) Good and smart, (Dave Dombrowski, Tigers), 2) Mysteriously strange moves that don't seem to make much sense, (Steinbrenner & Co.), or 3) Comically awful, with no evidence of rational thought present in any decision-making process, (Bill Bavasi, Jim Bowden).

This man has no concept of position management. He trades for and signs players that play positions he already has filled. Prior to the 2006 season, he traded for Alfonso Soriano. Soriano had previously said that he would never consider switching positions, as his offensive power at 2B would earn him far more than it would in the OF. Bowden, having a 2B in Jose Vidro and having traded away his OF, did so anyway, under the assumption that Soriano would do the nice thing and switch anyway. During the off-season, he did not attempt to work out the situation with his new LF2B. In fact, he waited until the first spring training game of the season to bring the issue up. Even then, he did so by proxy, having Frank Robinson pen Alfonso into the lineup card at LF. Alfonso's response? "No. Put me at second, or I don't play." Slight miscalculation, Jim. Of course, we remember that amid threats of placement on the DQ list, Soriano buckled and trotted out to left.

This offseason, Bowden decided he was bringing in Adam Dunn. He signed him to a 2-year, $20 million contract and, apparently, failed to check the depth chart before doing so. Dunn is a great player. Amazingly, that is actually a semi-reasonable price as well. However, you already have a 1B, (Nick Johnson). And a LF, (Josh Willingham/Willy Mo Pena). You can debate about these guys' abilities, but what matters is that they are already on the roster. Word is the Nats are likely to put Dunn at 1B, which knocks out Johnson and his $5.5 million a year, 30-year-old "upside" that everyone is still waiting to come to fruition. Where do you stash Johnson? Do you try to move him? Good idea. One problem, no one wants a career .270 1B for $6 million. Uh, whoops?

After this, Bowden finally showed himself the exit. Amazingly, this isn't even the reason Bowden resigned. He resigned because he was, quite frankly, a liar and thief. His "methods" are so ruinous that a column in the Cincinnati Enquirer opened with, "The problem was never that James G. Bowden IV wasn't smart. The problem was, he thought he was smarter than everyone else." The details are sketchy and they need not be our chief concern here, but it seems he took a little off the top of some signing bonuses which were sent to players down south. See the linked article above if you're interested.

That's all for now. Keep checking back; we'll be working our way up to a regular posting schedule by season opening.

What was Jim Bowden thinking? - March 21, 2006
Bowden's fifth tool was hubris (Cincinnati Enquirer) - March 2, 2009