Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Opening Week For The Detroit Tigers; Signs Of Things To Come?

Tough to find anything to complain about when yoku open the season at home on what was the best weather to that point of the year, a win, and a 4-1 start to the season.

From the week at home I took away both positives and glaring weaknesses as I think most of us saw.

First, Opening Day was great.  JV looked strong except for one inning and a nice come from behind win with shortstop fill-in Alex Gonzalez coming through in the clutch not once but twice.  Lets not forget however that he botched a ball for an out in the inning which JV gave up 3 and then there was Torii's dropped fly ball. The bullpen looked amazing though with Reed, AA, and Joe Nathan holding it down.  One of the other interesting things to watch for me was rookie Nick Castellanos (#19 in the Pepper Top 100 MLB Prospects for 2014) and his flailing swings at times bur also how he was able to regroup and end the day 2 for 4. Victor's and AJax's swings were on too, so I'd say a pretty good day.

Game 2 brought us another walk-off win with newcomer Ian Kinsler the hero this time with a homer in the 4th before Joe Nathan blew the save after eight strong innings from Max, to only come back up again in the 10th to drive in AJax.

Detroit walloped Baltimore on Friday after a rain delay sent Ricky P to the showers early and Drew Smyly came in to keep the game locked down before Joba came in to give up 2 runs in the 9th for a 10-4 win.  By the way, pretty awesome to see Miggy homer for his 2000th hit (7th youngest player to reach that milestone).  The only negative besides Joba that I saw was Austin Romine's error at short.

Saturday's game was yet another blow out with Detroit taking a 7-1 lead in to the 9th with Torii collecting 5 RBI on the day, but the human gas can Phil Coke threw 14 pitches for 2 hits and 3 earned runs, with Al Al giving up a run, along with Joe Nathan before Nathan got the final 2 outs for the win.  By the way, Alex Gonzalez had another error.

Sunday saw a very nicely pitched game by JV throwing eight and giving up 2 along with another run in the 9th given up by Al Al, but Detroit could only muster 5 hits against Orioles ace Chris Tillman losing 3-1.  I did forget to mention that Torii homered for the 3rd consecutive game!  Hey, you can't win them all.

So, my take a ways are kind of what we thought early on.  Shortstop is going to be weak, but 3 errors in a week could catch up to us.  What baffles me more is the 9th inning relief right now.  Nathan is going to blow a save or two, it just happens, but for Detroit relievers to give up every earned run in the 9th (9 total) is just weird.

Positives Through Week One
  • Head to the west coast 4-1
  • Starting rotation ERA of 1.93
  • Evan Reed has looked good out of the pen
  • DKB is hitting .750 (for you Suchy & McConnell)
  • Nick Castellanos is looking good with a .385 average and .928 OPS
  • Nick C, Gonzo, Cabby, AJax, Rajai, Kinsler, and VMart all hitting over .300.  Good for 3rd in the MLB with a team .288 batting average and 2nd in slugging at .488
  • 3 Stolen bases already
  • Lots of room to improve on the pitching side and they rank in the top 3rd in most team pitching stats

Concerns Through Week One
  • In 2 starts, JV has given up 11 hits and 5 walks while striking out 5.  Very un-JV like.
  • Per the usual early on, the starters only have 1 win amongst them in the first 5 games
  • Bullpen ERA is at 6.08
  • Evan Reed is being investigated for a possible sexual assault
  • Phil Coke and his 81.00 ERA
  • Alex Avila hitting .083
  • 4 team errors, 3 from SS and one from Torii which I don't expect to see again
Now the true test comes of the early trip out west with two in LA against the Dodger and three against the Padres eliminating the DH.  LA has been ok at 5-3 (watch out for Matt Kemp) and the Padres have been pretty poor at 2-4 but keep and eye on Friday nights starter Andrew Cashner.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tiger For Life

Still yet to become official as Cabrera has to pass a physical, but Miguel is about to sign the largest contract in the four major sports history and to be honest I don't care about the money.

I've read numerous articles about how it's a bad contract, comparing it to Pujols, Hamilton, Ryan Howard, ARod, and so on.  I DON'T CARE.

I then read about how this screws up the Tigers long term flexibility, how other GM's think DD is crazy, how it's bad for baseball.  Again, I DON'T CARE.

10-years, $300m, plus 2 possible vesting options and I'll take it all as I want to see how this story unfolds for Cabrera.  Statistically he's going to get worse with age, that's a given.  What I want to see is how my generations best hitter will end his career in measuring up against the best.  Right now, Cabrera ranks in my mind as one of the top-10 right handed hitters of all-time and he will just be 31 this season.

In my mind, you basically had to pay for whatever he was asking, you couldn't let him walk away from this team.  Could the Tigers have structured the contract differently...sure, but at the end of the day the Tigers organization kept a player on it's team that is a sure Hall of Famer and one of the all-time greats and didn't let money interfere with that.

The one caveat I make, is that this is an obvious reaction to the Scherzer news as well as the trading of Prince and recent injury bug, as the Tigers were trying to create a positive story in my opinion heading in to Opening Day.

I can't wait for my son to tell his kids (like my dad told me about Kaline) that he once saw one of the greatest hitters play the game.

See you all Opening Day!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Meet New Tiger Third Baseman Nick Castellanos

By now most fans know the name Nick Castellanos and after the big spring that he's had, he seems like he's here to stay.  So read up below and impress your friends on opening day with some Nick C facts.

Nick was born in March of '92 (ugh) in Davie, Florida where he attended American Heritage School in Plantation, Florida before transferring to Archbishop McCarthy High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida after his sophomore year. Castellanos was named Gatorade Player of the Year in Florida his senior year hitting .542 before winning his second state championship.  Nick went on to be the MVP of the Under Armour All-America Game and was part of the 18 and under US National Baseball team where he played in the 2009 Pan Am Junior Championships and was named to the all-tournament team.

Castellanos slipped to the 44th pick in the 2010 draft before Detroit snatched him up taking a gamble on him after Nick committed to play shortstop at the University of Miami.  The Tigers took risk out of the equation giving Castellanos $3.45 million dollar signing  bonus which was the highest given to a player outside the first round ever.

Since being drafted, Baseball America has ranked Nick their 65th best prospect in 2011, 45th in 2012, and 21st in 2013.  He was left off this year with the assumption he'd be on the Major League roster.  (He was ranked 19th however on Pepper Baseball's Top 100 Prospects of 2014)

Castellanos, started his career in the Gulf Coast League after signing late and appeared in 7 games in the 2010 season.  Nick was then started out at West Michigan (Single-A) where he went on to be named the Tigers Minor League Player of the Year playing third base and hitting .312 with 158 hits, 36 doubles, 7 home runs, and 76 RBI in 135 games.

The following season, Nick started out in High-A Lakeland where he demolished pitching, hitting .405 with 3 homers and 32 RBI.  He was promoted to Double-A Erie after 55 games but had a stop over to play in the 2012 Futures Game where he was named MVP after hitting a 3-run homer.  Castellanos finished the season out at Erie, hitting .264 with 7 homers and 25 RBI and taking his season stats to a season batting average of .320, 10 homers, 32 doubles, 57 RBI, and cut his strike our rate from 130 the season before to 118 while playing the same amount of games.

Most will remember Castellanos shifted to left field in the 2012 season working with Al Kaline at times since he was blocked now by Miguel Cabrera at third for the time being.  In 2013, Nick was the full-time and youngest player (21) to play in Triple-A (Toledo).  Nick made the All-Star team for the International League and hit .276 while increasing his power to 18 homers and 76 RBI, while hitting 37 doubles, and again cutting his strike out rate to 100 this time around in the same amount of games, and for the first time saw his walk rate grow.

Nick made his Major League debut on September 1st last year when rosters expanded going 0-2 against Cleveland.  Castellanos was used sparingly and finished up September with Detroit hitting .278 with no homers or RBI and only a strike out it 18 plate appearances.

The trade of Prince Fielder to Texas opened the door for Cabrera to move back to first and allow Nick move back to his comfort zone if he had a good spring.  That good spring is actually a great spring with Nick hitting .368 right now in 60 plate appearances with 2 homers, 9 doubles, and 16 RBI.

The Tigers opening day roster was announced today with Nick's name on it and we're pretty much guaranteed to see him take the field on Monday.

So congrats to Nick Castellanos, welcome to the bigs, we hope you stick around for a long time!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

2014 Spring MLB Standouts

No one puts a whole lot of faith in to spring numbers and rightfully so, but that doesn't mean it's not fun to look at the numbers as long as you don't take them to realistically.  I like to look at batting average, hits, hormers, and RBI for hitters and just ERA and strike outs for pitchers.  ERA isn't a great indicator with the innings restrictions on these guys but at least we get an idea what's working and what isn't.  Here are the standouts as of 3/24...

Also, lets remember where Ryan Raburn ranked on these lists a couple years ago and how that turned out

Batting Average Leaders
  1. M. Moustakas, KC - .467
  2. A. Jackson, DET - .457
  3. M. Cabrera, TOR - .429
  4. A. Pollock, ARZ - .425
  5. B. Hicks, SF - .421
  6. D. Ackley, SEA - .414
  7. B. Miller, SEA - .412
  8. M. Trout, LAA - .408
  9. F. Freeman, ATL - .400
  10. H. Kendrick, LAA - .396
Tiger Notables: N. Castellanos - .373, M. Cabrera - .366

Hits Leaders
  1. D. Ackley, SEA/M.Cabrera, TOR - 24
  2. T. Medica, SD - 22
  3. M.Brantley, CLE/B. Burns, OAK/A. Jackson, DET/B. Miller, SEA/M. Moustakas, KC - 21
  4. R. Cano, SEA/M. Choice, TEX/F. Freeman, ATL/J. Maxwell, KC/H. Pence, SF/M. Trout, LAA - 20
Tiger Notables: N. Castellanos - 19

Home Runs
  1. C. Heisey, CIN/L. Valbuena, CHC - 6
  2. J. Baez, CHC/J. Bautista, TOR/J. Danks, CWS/A. McCutchen, PIT/M. Olt, CHC/G. Stanton, MIA/M. Trout, LAA - 5
  3. M. Adams, STL/F. Cervelli, NYY/C. Davis, BAL/R. Martin, PIT/B. Miller, SEA/M. Moustakas, KC/H. Pence, SF/B. Phillips, CIN/D. Uggla, ATL/T. Wheeler, COL - 4
Tiger Notables: M. Cabrera, T. Collins, I. Kinsler - 3

Runs Batted In
  1. M. Moustakas, KC - 17
  2. N. Castellanos, DET/M. Trout, LAA - 16
  3. G. Stanton, MIA - 15
  4. D. Ackley, SEA/H.Sanchez, SF - 14
  5. R. Cano, SEA/M. Choice, TEX/J. Loney, TB/ W. Ramos, WAS/M. Saunders, SEA - 13
Tiger Notables: A. Jackson - 12, D. Kelly/D. Worth - 10

ERA (Minimum 14 Innings)
  1. M. Bumgarner, SF - 0.00
  2. A. Wood, ATL - 0.45
  3. J. Masterson, CLE -0.95
  4. E. Ramirez, SEA -0.96
  5. W. Miley, ARZ - 1.29
  6. J. Teheran, ATL - 1.42
  7. T. Kohler, MIA - 1.50
  8. C.C. Sabathia, NYY - 1.59
  9. C.Martinez, STL/M. Wacha, STL - 1.76
Tiger Notables: J. Verlander - 0.00 (13.2 IP), D. Smyly - 3.80

Strike Outs
  1. C.J. Wilson, LAA - 28
  2. M. Scherzer, DET/J. Shields, KC - 24
  3. F. Morales, COL - 23
  4. I. Nova, NYY - 21
  5. J. Chavez, OAK/T. Jordan, WAS/J. Masterson, CLE - 20
  6. C. Lee, PHI/L. Lynn, STL/H. Santiago, LAA - 19
  7. B. Hand, MIA/E. Jackson, CHC/F. Paulino, CWS/D. Pomeranz, OAK/E. Rogers, MIL/Y. Ventura, KC/C. Villanueva, CHC - 18
Tiger Notables: K. Lobstein/D. Smyly - 13, A. Alburquerque/J. Ortega/E. Reed - 12

Hitters Struggling:
Strike Outs
  1. R. Howard, PHI - 21
  2. A. Avila, DET - 20
  3. B.J. Upton, ATL - 19
  4. C. Hart, SEA - 18
  5. A. Castellanos, SD, C. Rasmus, TOR/M. Tuiasosopo, TOR/D. Uggla, ATL - 16
Pitchers Getting Hit Around:
Hits Allowed
  1. R. Vogelson, SF - 33
  2. B. Anderson, COL - 30
  3. B. Beaven, SEA - 28
  4. C. Kluber, CLE - 28
  5. F. Paulino, CWS - 27
  6. T. Cahill, ARZ/D. Hale, ATL/T. Skaggs, LAA/D. Smyly, DET - 26
Home Runs Allowed
  1. B. Beaven, SEA/D. Duffy, KC/R. Wolf, SEA - 6
  2. J. Blanton, LAA/T. Redmond, TOR/R. Vogelsong, SF - 5
  3. T. Cahill, ARZ/J. Chavez, OAK/K. Lobstein, DET/Z. McAllister, CLE/D. Smyly, DET/T. Thornburg, MIL - 4

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fooled You!! My Take On Max Scherzer Turning Down The Tigers

Finally getting a minute to chime in on the Max Scherzer decision to turn down the Tigers contract extension offer rumored to be 6-years and somewhere between $144m and $150m.

Now I can't fault a guy wanting to reach his highest salary potential but don't go public (right after the season) and say how much you love Detroit and the organization and that you want to stay and then in turn pass up a very fair offer that makes you the top-6 or 7 paid pitcher in the league with really only one spectacular season under your belt.

Furthermore, what ever games were played with the Tigers in giving them hope (and I partially blame the Tigers organization here) in signing Scherzer to a long term contract which may have attributed to the Fielder trade (not that likely) and the Fister trade (very likely) then shame on Max and shame on DD for believing it.

What upsets me most isn't that Max turned down a very fair contract extension looking for max dollars, but how the Tigers went about their business in trading Doug Fister.  I'll harp on this for quite some time this season, not because it was a terrible trade (it was), but because we took flexibility away from the team in case Scherzer didn't sign.  Everyone knows we got jacksh*t for Fister, now think if we didn't make that trade to free up salary and are sitting here with 6 starters and a banged up group of Iglesias, Rondon, and Dirks.  A trade then would be very feasible of Scherzer with the ability to help the team replace the injuries (not all of them) with more than a situational bullpen lefty (Krol) and marginal prospect (Ray).  The teams needs could have been addressed considerably if we still had options, but what seemed like a sure thing has put us behind the 8-ball squarely.

At the end of the season, maybe the Tigers retain Max in free agency (a la Anibal Sanchez) and maybe we don't.  Someone will pay big I'm sure if Scherzer wins 16 or more, but lets remember Jon Lester, James Shields, Justin Masterson, and Jorge De La Rosa will be out there too.

So good luck Max, bring us home a ring, but don't expect a whole lot of fan support while you're doing it...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

2014 Top 100 Major League Baseball Prospects

We're back at it again with our 5th annual Top 100 Prospect list for 2014.  The list consists of players who may or may not make an impact in 2014 and is more based on potential.  It is worth noting that the higher the player is on a list, the more likely they are to make an impact this year or at least for the most part.  If you'd like to check out our previous lists you can do so with the following links for 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010.

The list was initially created for my minor league fantasy draft and evolved in to this annual blog entry which tends to be one of the top post for us each year.  This year I've created a ranking system from eight different lists that I found relevant based on their top 10's and eliminated others I couldn't agree with.  I then will remove the players highest and lowest ranking and average the remaining six sites.  Without any doubt, the top prospect in all of baseball is Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton who was rated #1 on 7 out of 8 sites.  Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is easily the second best prospect ranking #2 on 7 of the 8 lists and #1 on the list Buxton wasn't. Oscar Taveras of the St. Louis Cardinals was an easy 3rd place and then things started getting tight.  Also, keep an eye on how many shortstops are on the list...

By the way, I left Tanaka off the list as he most likely would be a top 10 guy, but all signs point to him being in the Majors from the start but included Jose Abreu as there is a chance he could start in the minors.

Without further ado, here are your Pepper Baseball Top 100 Major League Baseball Prospect for 2014 (bolded if they were named on all 8 lists):

  1. Byron Buxton (OF, MIN) - 5-tool guy who can do it all.  Expect Buxton to hit as soon as he gets up but not for power at first at will need time to develop.  
  2. Xander Bogaerts (SS, BOS) - Played 18 games last season in the Majors before making the Sox postseason roster and making an impact hitting .296.  Bogaerts played third last season but his natural position is shortstop which the Sox handed to him once Stephen Drew departed
  3. Oscar Taveras (OF, STL) - Played just 47 games last season due to an ankle injury and expected to make the Major League roster out of spring training by most, but no guarantees.  Comparisons say Taveras hits a lot like Vladimir Guerrero
  4. Javier Baez (SS, CHC) - Great bat speed with eventual 30+ home run power expected.  Won't be a big OBP guy, but will make up for it with power
  5. Carlos Correa (SS, HOU) - The #1 draft pick a couple years back turned it on last year hitting .320 with an .872 OPS and 10 steals at the age of 19
  6. Miguel Sano (3B, MIN) - Season ending Tommy John surgery for Sano announced over the weekend.  Big blow for the Twins who expected Sano to be up at some point this season.
  7. Taijuan Walker (RHP, SEA) - Expected to make the rotation out of spring training this year, now lilkely won't happen with recent elbow pain.
  8. Archie Bradley (RHP, ARZ) - Power arm who had questionable control up until last season.  Won't make the rotation out of spring training but could be up by mid-season or before if an injury hits
  9. Addison Russell (SS, OAK) - One of the most athletically gifted players in the minors who can handle a bat and the shortstop position.  Expect to see him at some point this season
  10. Francisco Lindor (SS, CLE) - Just 20, Lindor is already pushing Asdrubal Cabrera in the Majors after hitting .303, stealing 25 bases, and playing stellar defense at Double-A Akron last season
  11. Kris Bryant (3B, CHC) - Another great hitting product out of the University of San Diego who was taken 2nd overall last season.  Tore up High Class A and the Arizona Fall League last season with big power potential
  12. Gregory Polanco (OF, PIT) - Another 5-tool guy with top notch defense and 25 homer potential.  Ranked as high as 10th on the Top 100 lists and as low as 25th
  13. Noah Syndergaard (RHP, NYM) - Projected as an eventual number two or number three starter, Noah tops out at 98mph and will be a workhorse down the road.  The Mets rotation reminds of back in the day with three horsemen Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen, and Paul Wilson, oh wait...
  14. Jameson Taillon (RHP, PIT) - The Pirates face a similar dilemma as they did a year ago with Gerrit Cole, however Taillon may be just a notch below Cole.  Hitting spots more consistently seems to be the major issue but with his repertoire Taillon could follow a very similar path as Cole being called up mid-season
  15. George Springer (OF, HOU) - 5-tool guy with very quick hands an gigantic power and speed.  Springer ended up 3 home runs shy of a 40/40 minor league season last year hitting .303 with 37 dingers and 45 steals
  16. Jonathan Gray (RHP, COL) - Tops out at 100mph with ace potential but questionable command at this point.  In his brief time in the minors last year, Gray went 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 51 k's in 37.1 High Class A innings
  17. Robert Stephenson (RHP, CIN) - Ranked as high as 13th and as low as 29th on the prospect lists we used.  Stephenson has ace potential with high 90's heat and a very low walk rate.  He could find himself in Cinci this season
  18. Kevin Gausman (RHP, BAL) - Called up to soon was the consensus to his failure of an MLB debut in 2013, in which he was 3-5 with a 5.66 ERA in 20 games.  Interesting fact however, is that of his 25 slides thrown to Major League hitters, not one was put in play
  19. Nick Castellanos (3B, DET) - I have a feeling Tigers fans are expecting way to much out of Nick C this season, however the move back to third will help alleviate some of that.  Showed increased power and plate discipline last season as the youngest player in Triple-A   
  20. Dylan Bundy (RHP, BAL) - Missed all of last season with a torn ligament in his throwing elbow and taken him down the list considerably as the games top pitching prospect to a top 10 pitching prospect until we can see him in games again
  21. Albert Almora (OF, CHC)
  22. Kyle Zimmer (RHP, KC)
  23. Lucas Giolito (RHP, WAS)
  24. Mark Appel (RHP, HOU) - The top pick in last years draft
  25. Carlos Martinez (RHP, STL) - Check out the article Deadspin.com did on him (or don't!)
  26. Travis d'Arnaud (C, NYM) - Very good offensive catcher if he can stay healthy
  27. Yordano Ventura (RHP, KC)
  28. Austin Hedges (C, SD) -  Top defensive catcher in the minors
  29. Jose Abreu (1B, CWS)
  30. Aaron Sanchez (RHP, TOR)
  31. Jorge Soler (OF, CHC)
  32. Corey Seager (SS, LAD)
  33. Eddie Butler (RHP, COL)
  34. Andrew Heaney (LHP, MIA) - 9th overall pick in the 2012 draft and top lefty on our list
  35. Billy Hamilton (OF, CIN) - Speed doesn't go in to slumps. We'll see...
  36. Kyle Crick (RHP, SF)
  37. Raul Adalberto Mondesi (SS, KC)
  38. Alex Meyer (RHP, MIN)
  39. Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF, BOS)
  40. Clint Frazier (OF, CLE)
  41. Tyler Glasnow (RHP, PIT)
  42. Joc Pederson (OF, LAD)
  43. Maikel Franco (3B, PHI) - Seems like elevators aren't sure what to expect as he ranked as high as 17th on one list and as low as 90th on another
  44. Max Fried (LHP, SD)
  45. Rougned Odor (2B, TEX)
  46. Henry Owens (LHP, BOS)
  47. Kohl Stewart (RHP, MIN)
  48. Jorge Alfaro (C, TEX)
  49. Garin Cecchini (3B, BOS)
  50. Jonathan Singleton (1B, HOU)
  51. Julio Urias (LHP, LAD)
  52. Austin Meadows (OF, PIT)
  53. Matt Wisler (RHP, SD)
  54. Marcus Stroman (RHP, TOR)
  55. Kolten Wong (2B, STL)
  56. Lucas Sims (RHP, ATL)
  57. Gary Sanchez (C, NYY)
  58. Hunter Harvey (RHP, BAL)
  59. Mike Foltyniewicz (RHP, HOU)
  60. Colin Moran (3B, MIA)
  61. Eduardo Rodriguez (LHP, BAL)
  62. Eddie Rosario (2B, MIN)
  63. James Paxton (RHP, SEA)
  64. Alen Hanson (SS, PIT)
  65. Erik Johnson (RHP, CWS)
  66. Jake Odorizzi (RHP, TB)
  67. Chris Owings (SS, ARZ)
  68. Mookie Betts (2B, BOS)
  69. A.J. Cole (RHP, WAS)
  70. Miguel Almonte (RHP, KC)
  71. Lance McCullers Jr. (RHP, HOU)
  72. Rafael Montero (RHP, NYM)
  73. D.J. Peterson (3B, SEA)
  74. Blake Swihart (C, BOS)
  75. J.P. Crawford (SS, PHI)
  76. Stephen Piscotty (OF, STL)
  77. Jesse Biddle (LHP, PHI)
  78. Braden Shipley (RHP, ARZ)
  79. Jonathan Schoop (2B, BAL)
  80. David Dahl (OF, COL)
  81. Josh Bell (OF, PIT)
  82. Arismendy Alcantara (2B, CHC)
  83. Zach Lee (RHP, LAD)
  84. Jake Marisnick (OF, MIA)
  85. Brian Goodwin (OF, WAS)
  86. Matt Barnes (RHP, BOS)
  87. Christian Bethancourt (C, ATL)
  88. Matt Davidson (3B, CWS)
  89. C.J. Edwards (RHP, CHC)
  90. Dominic Smith (1B, NYM)
  91. Trevor Bauer (RHP, CLE)
  92. Phil Ervin (OF, CIN)
  93. Delino DeShields Jr. (OF, HOU)
  94. Allen Webster (RHP, BOS)
  95. Taylor Guerrieri (RHP, TB)
  96. Nick Kingham (RHP, PIT)
  97. Rosell Herrera (SS, COL)
  98. Hak-Ju Lee (SS, TB)
  99. Nick Williams (OF, TEX)
  100. Luis Sardinas (SS, TEX)
Just missed: Josmil Pinto (C, MIN), Jesse Winker (OF, CIN), Alexander Guerrero (2B, LAD), Anthony Ranaudo (SP, BOS), Chi Chi Gonzalez (RHP, TEX), Wilmer Flores (2B, NYM), Henry Urritia (OF, BAL), Amed Rosario (SS, NYM), Edwin Escobar (LHP, SF), and Alberto Tirado (RHP, TOR)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top 125 Players of All-Time & Their Cards: #3 Barry Bonds & 1987 Fleer

I'm not going to lie, I really not looking forward to writing this one as I really could never stand Barry Bonds as a player and is only compounded by the steroid use and "me" approach.  That said, when ESPN completed their Top 125 players of all-time, they said they would not take in to account PED's use, gambling, etc and ranked Barry as the third best player of all-time.  I already know that one Pepper Baseball Facebook Fan CH will be all over me on this and what can I say...I didn't make the list, but I will agree #3 is a bit high.  Now the list that I did make was taking a card from just about each one of the 125 players (some just aren't feasible) and creating a collection eventually to share with my son and pass down.

That's where Bonds comes in to play and his 1987 Fleer rookie card.  Bonds at this point had cards from 1986 Rookies and Traded sets and are labeled as XRC's which aren't true rookie cards.  The 1987 version was his most expensive and I just happened to have a graded version of it from when he went on his home run tear so I can't tell you what it cost when I bought it, but I can tell you that it books for $12 these days and I have a PSA graded 8 version of the card.

Barry Bonds
As I mentioned, I really do like Bonds so I'm going to skip over all his feats and just tell you that he is the single season and all-time home run hitter and won 7 MVP's, 3 of which came before the steroid use.  Baseball-Reference compares him closest to Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth.  Bonds played until he was 42, never officially retiring from Baseball and made over $188 million dollars.

If you'd like to go see the head size change of Bonds, you can check out the baseball card timeline I create a while back

Now I'm going to go puke...

1987 Fleer
The 1987 Fleer release was nothing out of the ordinary with its typical 660 card base set release with blue boarder with the player and his position listed at the top and logo of the team in the bottom right hand corner.  The set seems to be a bit more scarce than it's Donruss or Topps counterparts from the same year however was sold in factory set form as well as a premium Glossy parallel set.

Cards could be bought in 17-card wax packs, 36-pack wax boxes, rack packs, and cello packs.

The set currently books for: $30 with factory sets listed at $40 with 12 additional World Series cards only available in those sets

Key players in the set include: Bonds RC ($12), Barry Larkin RC ($8), Bo Jackson RC ($8), Will Clark RC ($3), Roger Clemens ($3), and Ruben Sierra RC ($2).

There was also a 132 card update set as well

Boxes of 1987 Fleer can be had for as low as $20 on eBay, but buyer beware of sellers opening and resealing packs while taking out the good cards.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The 2014 Detroit Tigers By Position; Starting Pitching. Better or Worse?

Now that we've completed the day to day side of the ball, lets take a look at this years Tigers rotation vs. 2013.  The significant move heading in to 2014 was the surprising trade of Doug Fister for a bucket of balls and some pine tar to the Washington Nationals.  This moves Rick Porcello in to the 4th slot from the 5th spot and takes left hander Drew Smyly out of the pen and places him in to the 5th spot in the rotation.
Detroit starters had an absolutely amazing year last year even with Justin Verlander having a sub-par year when comparing to his previous two seasons with Max Scherzer putting it together on a consistent basis to win the Cy Young and Annibal Sanchez following closely behind actually leading the league in ERA and finishing fourth in Cy Young balloting.  Fister had an up and down season where it seemed like he couldn't find the consistency the others had and Rick Porcello had an amazing spring to win the fifth rotation spot from Drew Smyly and went on to have a pretty good year improving on most of his career averages.
That said, I think we all wanted to see Smyly move in to the rotation in 2014 adding a left hander who had brief success in 2012 and major success in the bullpen in 2013.  I have think we all believed that Rick Porcello would be the one traded in the off season and not Fister, and definitely not Fister for what we got in return. 
To make sure we're all clear on my stance before moving on...
  • Should the Tigers have traded a starter? Yes, I wanted to see Smyly in the rotation
  • Are you ok with the trade of Fister?  I would have liked to have seen them trade Porcello, but I'm ok with trading Fister
  • What's the problem then? The return on Fister was terrible in my opinion (and most others).  Also, why are GM's saying they wanted a shot at trading for Fister?  Why didn't DD talk to more people, I just don't get it.  Dombrowski has been great for Detroit and most want to give him a pass, but I seriously question this move
With all of that out of the way, lets look at how 2013 lines up against the 2014 FanGraph (steamers) projections...
All the stats that you see are pretty common with the definitions known minus FIP.  FIP stands for fielding independent pitching which takes a pitchers three true outcomes (HR, BB, K) and divides it by innings pitched, plus a constant normally around 3.2 which scales it similarly to ERA.  This stat isolates pitching taking the defensive factor out of it.  Meaning we can tell if Fister or Porcello will be the better pitcher in 2014 without the defense factor.  League average for FIP is about 4.00 and you can read more about FIP at FanGraphs.
Justin Verlander
As you can see, Steamers projections on FanGraphs show Verlander continuing to decline in performance while other projections on the site seem to show Verlander bouncing back.  From what I saw in the playoffs with JV throwing from a different arm slot and more downhill I really have little doubt that we won't a bounce back year.  Yes batting average against is a concern as well as an increased walk rate and batted ball in play average, but this downhill over the top arm slot sure made it look like JV was back to himself.
Verdict: Better in 2014 
Max Scherzer
Again looking at Steamers projections it shows a considerable decrease across the board and although Max benefited from a ton of run scored on average for him, I don't see him dropping to 14 wins, maybe 16 or 17.  Either way, I think Scherzer has a strong year but won't be the Cy Young pitcher that he was in 2013 as that will be a tough act to follow-up
Verdict: Slight decline from a Cy Young season
Anibal Sanchez
As of now you're starting to see a trend that Steamers projections believe that 2013 was a fluke for most Tigers starters with Sanchez taking a step back with an increasing ERA, home run total doubling, and almost allowing a third more runs in 7 innings more work.  I done believe Sanchez will have the season that he had last year but I also don't believe he ERA will inflate by close to a run, nor do I think he'll become home run prone all of a sudden in Detroit.
Verdict: Slight Delcine similar to Scherzer, although I do believe the win total will be at 14 or 15 this season
Rick Porcello
Ahh Ricky P...so many believers after last season based on his age and maybe rightfully so after seeing just about all his numbers improve including strike out totals.  It seems as if Steamers also buys in to the improvement with Porcello's ERA projected to be under 4 for the first time since his rookie year as well as improvement in hits per 9, and home run totals.  Steamers doesn't believe the that the K/9 or BB/9 will improve so I have to believe this projection is defense related as when you isolate down to FIP, you'll see that he's basically the same pitcher
Verdict: Wash to improvement although I'm not buying and will probably eat my words (but hey, that's ok too)
Doug Fister vs. Drew Smyly
In my opinion it's not really fair to make this a Drew Smyly vs. Doug Fister conversation, however that is really what it boils down to.  Are the Tigers better in 2014 with Drew Smyly in their rotation or with Doug Fister?  Listen, I like Smyly and think he's going to be a good pitcher but he won't be near what Doug Fister will or would have done this year and really could make this more of a Fister vs. Porcello discussion as I think Porcello should have been traded.  Either way you can expect a decrease across the board in most stats and I agree with Steamers somewhat here that innings pitched will be down but not at 125 innings as Smyly needs to transition back to starter.  The 2014 Fister stats are for reference and can be argued that they'll improve because he's in the National League now, but NL East will offer plenty of offense.
Verdict: A sizable decline in 2014 with good upside however for years to come
2013 vs. 2014 Starting Rotation
Overall Verdict: Fewer wins, higher ERA, a FIP getting closer to league average, and a decreasing WAR total doesn't seem to make up for the neutral position of the offense, however I don't fully agree as I've said with these projections either.  Bottom line to me is JV is better, Scherzer will decline along with Sanchez, Porcello is neutral at best to me, and Smyly will do good but not as well as Fister would have meaning this staff will be worse off than 2013.
The rotation will wrap us up and will get to it next week at some point.  Not sure where I stand on it right now besides knowing our closer situation is a bit better.

The 2014 Detroit Tigers By Position; Designated Hitter. Better or Worse?

Wrapping up the offensive side of our look at the Tigers for 2014 leads us to the designated hitter Victor Martinez.  Overall Victor had a nice season with his .301 batting average, 182 hits, and 83 RBI but it truly was a tale of two seasons for VMart who was coming off of missing the entire 2012 season after knee surgery.  During the first half of the season, Martinez hit .258 and if you remember he was hitting just .228 at the end of May with two homers and 25 RBI.  Things surely turned around after the All-Star break as he hit .361 and collected one less hit in August (44) than April and May combined.  It total, Martinez's second half of the year tallies were a .361 average and .913 OPS propelling the Tigers in to the playoffs. 
This season is going to be a different story for Martinez however, has he moves out of the 5th spot where he hit behind Fielder and into the 4th spot where he will now be protecting Cabrera.  Unless the Tigers add a power bat in the near future, Martinez is going to have a lot more pressure on him to produce as I fully expect Cabrera's walk total to skyrocket this season as he's more likely to be walked with two outs and no on with Martinez who has gap power at best vs. Fielder who even though he struggled, threatened home run power with every swing.  FanGraphs (Steamers projections) tell more of the story here...
Victor Martinez
 As you can see, FanGraphs is banking on fewer at bats for Martinez this season to go along with fewer hits and a lower batting average.  His power totals stay about the same with ratios being a bit better which is indication that Martinez is over his injury from 2012, but the RBI total is a bit scary as they are expecting a fall off in that category even though he'll be in a better position to knock runs in with better table setters in front of him.
The odd thing about the FanGraph's projections is that even though the projections show a drop off, the offensive formula they created shows a large increase in offensive output in 2014 although his WAR only ticks upward slightly.  Defensively I left out their projections and runs saved as he may spell Cabrera at first once in a while and it's mentioned that he could possibly catch during interleague games at National League stadiums, however I don't think it's enough to effect the team.   
Verdict: A wash at the position and a downgrade in the order.  I don't see a lot of positives hitting Martinez behind Cabrera and really didn't even like him as a 5-hitter, but the team has to work with what it has right now. 
My tally now that we're done with the offense is sort of what we expected with our offensive output down considerably no matter how you look at it and defense improved considerably no matter how you look at it, however the team looks to be at a loss of negative 3 net runs.  Does that mean much during the length of a season?  Probably not at all, but it also shows that the offense and defensive changes have meant very little to the team other that we'll hit less and pick the ball up more.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Top 125 Players of All-Time & Their Cards: #113 Roy Halladay & 1997 Bowman Chrome

It's been a little time since writing about the Top 125 Players of All-Time according to ESPN and recently an updated list came out from ESPN.  This doesn't mean I've stopped collecting cards that I targeted from each player on this list and actually have added quite a few that I'll try to write a little bit more about.  Today I'll focus on Roy Halladay who slipped in the most recent ranking from 92nd to 113th due to injuries and inability to add to a great career and actually retired so he'll settle in towards the bottom of the list.

As far as card selection goes, it was pretty easy for me choosing the 1997 Bowman Chrome card as Bowman beat everyone else to the punch by producing his only true rookie card in the Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman Best sets.  There are variations to all these sets with more expensive versions but I stuck to the Chrome issue as it was the card with the highest value at $20 for his mass produced cards.  I ended up picking up this graded BGS 9 on eBay for $15 and graded as a 9 books for $20. 

Here's a little more about Halladay and 1997 Bowman Chrome...

Roy (Doc) Halladay
Halladay was born in 1977 in Denver, Colorado where Roy fell in love with the game at an early age and tried playing at different positions until he started attracting scouts attention on the mound at the age of 14.  Graduating high school in 1995, Halladay was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays with the 17th pick in the first round of the draft that year.

Halladay quickly moved through the minors and made his first start as a September call-up making two starts that season.  In his second start which happened to be against the Tigers, Halladay had a no-hitter broken up with two outs in the ninth (quick trivia question with the answer below...who broke it up and how?).

Roy went on to have an ok '99 season and in 2000 had a 10.64 ERA witha 4-7 record before working with a former Jays pitching coach in the off season which quickly changed Halladay's arm angle and basically his career.  Form there on Halladay's ERA was only over 4 one time which was 2004.  In 2003 Halladay won his first of two Cy Young awards with a 22-7 record, 3.25 ERA, 204 k's and over a 1000 (1071) batters faced (the only time in his career over 1000). 

Halladay continued to dominate for years finishing in the top-5 for Cy Young voting 6 times including another Cy Young award in 2010 which was his first season with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Halladay was traded that off season from Toronto to Philladelphia for three minor league prospects and signed a $60 million dollar contract extension. 

That season, Halladay became the Phillies first 20 game winner since Steve Carlton in 1982 finishing up 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA that season and 219 k's.  Halladay became just the 7th pitcher in history to throw 250+ innings and walk less than 30 batters.  During the magical 2010 season, Hallday also threw the leagues 20th perfect game against the Florida Marlins, retiring all 27 batters in a row and striking out 11 while doing so.

Halladay wasn't done yet though...as the Phillies made the post season and Roy in his first post season appearance ever, no-hit the Cincinnati Reds and became only the 2nd player ever to throw a no-hitter in the postseason (Don Larson perfect game in 1956) and faced just one hitter above the minimum 27 with a walk to Jay Bruce in the 5th.

Roy went on have another very good season in 2011 winning 19 and losing 6 and having the best ERA of his career of 2.35 before injuries started to creep in during the 2012 season with a shoulder strain.  In 2013, Halladay struggled in spring training which carried over to the regular season before hitting the disabled list once again to have a shoulder spur removed.  Halladay returned August 25th to finish the season out with a 4-5 record and 6.82 ERA.  Halladay signed a one-day contract with Toronto to retire a Blue Jay on December 9th.

Halladay finished his career with a record of 203-105 in 390 starts leading the league in complete games 7-times, striking out 2,117, and only walking 592.

Other Roy Halladay Facts
  • Is only the 5th pitcher in history to win a Cy Young in both leagues (Gaylord Perry, Pedro, Randy, Rocket)
  • Made eight All-Star teams and finished 6th and 9th in MVP voting in 2010 and 2011
  • Finished with a 64.6 WAR, 136th all-time and a WAR for Pitchers of 65.6 which is 41st all-time
  • Has the 17th best Win-Loss% of all-time winning 66% of his decisions
  • Baseball-Reference compares Halladay mostly to Tim Hudson, C.C. Sabathia, Dwight Gooden, Ron Guidry, and Jimmy Key.  None are Hall of Famers.
  • Over his career, Halladay made close to $129 million dollars
1997 Bowman Chrome
Bowman had come back from baseball card death earlier in 1989 but it wasn't until the 1997 set that a "Chrome" version was made based of the standard Bowman set.  With Bowman being the "home of the rookie card" and this premium addition Bowman had a hit on their hands immediately with people collectors chasing after the rookie cards of Travis Lee and Jose Cruz Jr.  The key to the set though was a deep rookie class which although things didn't work out well for Lee or Cruz Jr, there were players such as Halladay, Berkman and others that made an impact at a Major League level.

The base set consisted of 300 cards that included a few different parallels and inserts which were distributed in a 24-pack box.

Key cards in the set include: R.A. Dickey RC ($10), Adrian Beltre RC ($10), Kerry Wood RC ($12), Eric Chavez  RC ($10), Halladay, Aramis Ramirez RC ($10), Miguel Tejada RC ($12), Lance Berkman RC ($15), and Vernon Wells RC ($8)

Bowman Chrome Boxes can be had on eBay right now for as low as $75

Answer to who broke up Halladay's no-no: Bobby Higginson with a homerun