Sad to say, but PepperBaseball.com will be moving any posts, entries, etc over to our Facebook page and will discontinue writing the blog here. The site will remain live for archive purposes but all witty posts and comments will now live on our Facebook page here.
Also, we'll leave the possibility open to become Comeback Blog of Year down the road at some point
Thank you to everyone over the years for reading and following us!
The Tigers in hopes of strengthening a weak bullpen has made a waiver claim for reliever Chad Qualls of the Houston Astros. The Astros would now pull Qualls off of waivers and could possibly work a trade out with the Tigers.
It was a bit surprising that the 35-year old, right hander made it to Detroit as the Yankees had waiver priority over Detroit and would have thought to put a claim in themselves.
Qualls has pitched in the Majors for eleven seasons and currently is carrying a 3.07 ERA in 49 games this season with a 1.159 WHIP and strikes out 7.8 per 9, however his specialty is forcing ground balls.
Chad's would be a low cost addition to the Tigers with only about $450k owed to him the rest of this year and he is under contract for 2015 at $3m with a club option in 2016 for $3.5m or a $250k buyout.
The Astros has until Wednesday to work out a deal or pull Qualls back off waivers.
Tigers fans, keep an eye on a developing situation where it is reported that Cuban defector Rusney Castillo could make a decision this week where he'll be signing.
This is a big deal, as Castillo could be an instant impact bat this season as long as Visa issues can be worked out before August 31st where a play can be eligible for the postseason.
A couple links below have the Tigers, Yankees, and Red Sox as major players for the 27-year old infielder/outfielder, although most teams are thinking of him as a right or center fielder. You can also see his latest highlight video below from Roc Nation.
It is thought of that the top offer to snag Castillo will be around 7-years and $42 million.
The latest has as many as six teams in on Castillo with the Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, Cubs, Yankees, and Mariners in play and rumors now have the contract upward of $55 million according to MLB Trade Rumors
With the Tigers bullpen in shambles Dave Dombrowski had to do what he had to do to shore things up; so he went out and got one of the better options in the reliever market in 30-year old Joakim Soria, otherwise as the "Mexicutioner" (I need one of those t-shirts). The cost...two minor league arms in Corey Kneble a projected bullpen arm with late innings potential and Jake Thompson who projected to be a middle rotation guy. Thompson was assigned to Double-A with Kneble going to Triple-A in the Rangers farm system.
Soria, coming off Tommy John surgery in April 2012, may be most recognizable from his time in Kansas City as their closer where he pitched from 2007 to 2011 made two All-Star teams and racked up 160 saves, with a 2.40 ERA, and a 9.7 K/9 ratio.
Joakim, underwent Tommy John surgery on April 3, 2012, missing the entire year before the Royals declined his option making Soria a free agent. Soria then signed with Texas a 2-year $8 million dollar deal with a $7 million team option for 2015.
Soria worked his way back and made his Rangers debut in July of 2013, finishing the season with a 3.80 ERA and working the 8th inning before then closer Joe Nathan. Once Nathan left for Detroit, Soria was named closer for the Rangers and has had a spectacular season in a down year for Texas with his 2.70 ERA, 17 saves, and 11.3 K/9 ratio.
For his career, Joakim is 15-18, with a 2.51 ERA in 372.1 innings of work, where he has saved 177 games, and recorded 411 strike outs, and a 1.047 WHIP.
In case you were wondering...Soria held Tiger hitters to a .226 batting average over his career in 148 plate appearances and had given up just 3 home runs and 31 hits, while striking out 43 Tiger hitters.
Furthermore, looking down the road to the Major Leagues best team...Soria has held Oakland A's hitters to a career .192 batting average in 109 plate appearances where he also given up 3 homers on 19 hits, while striking out 36 pesky Athletics hitters.
Right now, Dombrowski has been quoted as saying Soria will be the main pitcher in the 7th inning with Joba in the 8th and Nathan in the 9th, however he'll see time in both the 8th and 9th when either need a rest.
Soria throws a fastball, cut fastball, with a slider, curve, and change-up, with last three being secondary pitches
I'm going to start this entry out stating that I am a Rick Porcello doubter and have been for the last couple of years, but as I've said in my conversations on social media with Facebook friend JM, I'm a Tiger fan, so at the end of the day I want Ricky P to do good. I'm just not going to say he's a greatly improved pitcher until at least a full season of work is complete and then I'll want to see that same stat line or better next year as I'm always reminded that Porcello is just 25.
Now that's out of the way...Porcello is a greatly improved pitcher...for a half season at least. I started looking in to his stat lines a bit more to see what's truly changed and what's a perception as we're made aware at award time at the end of the season that win-loss record is more of an arbitrary number and not a complete definition of how well a pitcher threw for the season.
Lets start with the well known stats, a 10-4 record already matches his win total in two of his seasons ('10/'12), and is just four short of his career best from 2009 and 2011. ERA is where we start to see a huge leap year over year as Ricky has been able to make that big pitch to get out of those troublesome innings that have plagued him in the past. As a matter of fact, Porcello's ERA has declined every year since a career high ERA in 2010 of 4.92 (4.75, 4.59, 4.32, 3.41 in 2014). The other key stat so far for Rick is his hits per 9 which has gotten better from a career high 11.5 in 2012 to 9.4 in 2013, to 8.5 in 2014. This along with allowing 2.2 walks per 9 (basically his career average) has allowed for a career best WHIP at 1.188, which is down from 1.282 in 2013, and further down from his career high in 2012 of 1.531.
What's surprising to me is his home run rate is steady at .8 per nine and his strike out rate is down from last year by almost 2 per nine innings, so he must be throwing more ground balls outs right? Actually he's not and for the first time in his career, he actually has more fly balls to ground balls at a .91 ratio which is probably for the best given that his defense is the worst it's been in his career based on a stat "runs per 9 IP of support defense" which is at a -.38 (-.30 in '13, -.24 in '12). This stat essentially takes a teams total zone rating and averages it against the league (hint: negative is bad).
Ok, I'll throw a couple more stats at you that you won't see normally that are truly impressive and will be something to keep an eye on...
Even though his fly ball ratio has increased, his home run to fly ball percentage is down considerably to 6.5%. His 2009, Ricky's rookie season, he had a 1.21 GB/FB ratio but 10% of his fly balls were home runs. To me, this means he's learning how to pitch to the bigger parts or the park and/or keeping hitters off balance more
His extra base hit ratio is the second highest of his career at 7.9% of balls in play, however since his hits per 9 are down as well as his ERA, he's making pitches to strand runners. This leads me to...
...the most impressive stat that I've come across is double play percentage when there is opportunity. Of the 48 opportunities Porcello has had for a hitter to be doubled up, 16 times he's gotten that double play ball for a whopping 33% of the time. His next best was 20% his rookie season. Again, he's getting the ground ball when he needs it based on his ability to pitch.
All impressive stats and I hope he keeps it up, however he's never thrown more than 182 innings in a season so I'd like to see closer to 200 with these numbers and I may just admit that Ricky is turning the corner which JM is just waiting for. Either way JM, I will concede, not a bad job so far from our fourth starter...
To Al Avila it comes as no surprise that J.D. Martinez is hitting at the Major League level as told by George Sipple of the Freep, however to most others it does come as a shock that the 27-year old Nova Southeastern University alum is hitting and hitting this well, especially the Houston Astros...
After hurting his hand this past season, Martinez started viewing tape of the some more successful hitters including fellow Tiger Miguel Cabrera. Martinez changed up his approach and had great success in the Venezuelan winter league before coming to spring training and hitting just .167 with Houston. The odd thing is, Detroit tried to work out a trade for Martinez with Houston in the off season, however nothing could get done to only have the Astros outright release him and Tigers sign J.D. to a minor league contract.
Martinez went on to hit 10 homers in 17 games at Triple-A Toledo before being called up, making it in to 36 games at this point and catching fire where he's hitting .310 with 7 home runs, with 27 RBI and winning the American League Player Of The Week award last week.
This is a pretty amazing stretch, but the names like Chris Shelton and Quintin Berry come to mind for guys who had solid stretched but disappeared eventually in the grind of a 162 game schedule.
Maybe Martinez won't be like that, history isn't on his side as his approach may have changed at the plate, however he does still strike out 25.4% of the time which is on par with last season and up from his first two seasons, however on a positive note, his home run rate is way up to 5.7% from a career 2.8%. I guess the one stat I'll focus in on as we watch Martinez, is his ground ball to fly ball ratio, which has taken a turn back to a favorable .65 (GB/FB), meaning a guy with power is going to want more leverage on his swing for a better chance at a home run/extra base hit which is what we are seeing with his HR and XBH percentrages skyrocketing (5.7%/14.8%). The only issue is, can a guy who strikes out 25% of the time keep this up? Lets hope so...
Other Martinez Notes/Highlights
Drafted in the 20th round (611th overall) in 2009 by the Houston Astros
Made Major League debut on July 30, 2011 when the Astros traded away Hunter Pence
Hit his first Major League home run at the new Marlins Park on April 13, 2012
Before being signed by Detroit, Martinez played in 252 games for the Astros between '11-'13, collecting a .251 batting average, .687 OPS, hitting 24 homers, and driving in 126 runs
As far as card selection goes, I was pretty open to see what was out there in regards older cards of players I was looking for and I happened to come across a reasonably priced, nicely graded 1923 W515 Harry Heilmann, which was graded by SGC as a 5!! I submitted my offer to the eBay seller, he countered, as did I and $68 later I walked away with a great card.
Here's a little more about Heilmann and 1923 W515-1...
Harry Heilmann, born August 3rd, 1894 in San Francisco, CA, played 17-years of professional baseball for the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds, mostly as an outfielder but also as a first baseman. Heilmann, earned the nickname "Slug" for his notoriously slow running and difficulties in the field during the 1917 season.
Heilmann, played just one year of semi-pro/minor league ball for the Portland Beavers before the Tigers purchased his contract with Harry making his debut on May 16, 1914. Heilman hit poorly (.225) and committed 6 errors in 25 games that the Tigers sent him to the San Francisco Seals the following year where he hit .365 and prompted a return to Detroit for the 1916 season.
Harry, played 30 games at first and backed up Sam Crawford playing in another 66 in the outfield that season while hitting .282, raking 30 doubles, and collecting 73 RBI, which all ranked in the top-10 in the AL. Heilmann, further became a fan favorite when he saw a woman in danger of drowning one July day, jumped in and saved her life.
Harry also served his country when the US joined World War I, as a submariner which cause him to miss half of the 1918 season.
As the "live ball era" started in 1920, Harry started to take off as a hitter collecting four batting titles with his first in 1921 with a .394 average. Many attribute this to his player-manager who you may know as Ty Cobb and his close work with the slugger. Harry actually led the America League during the 20's with a decade batting average of .364 and only three players had a better slugging percentage than his .558 (Ruth, Gehrig, and Simmons).
During the 1929 season, the Tigers sold Heilmann to the Cincinnati Reds where he continued to hit, however arthritis in his wrist started catching up to him and caused Harry to miss the entire 1931 season.
Harry, after a short comeback, retired in the 1932 season with a .342 average (2nd to Hornsby for a right handed hitter), 2,660 hits, 542 doubles, 151 triples, 183 home runs, 1,539 RBI, and 876 extra base hits.
He was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1952 with 87% of the vote.
Other Harry Heilmann facts:
Before Ted Williams, Harry Heilmann was the last player to hit over .400 (.403 in 1923)
He almost did it again in 1927 hitting .398
Finished in the top-15 MVP voting 7-times in a row from 1922-1928
Ranks 58th all-time in WAR at 72.1
Baseball-Reference compares him best to Joe Medwick, Goose Goslin, Heinie Manush, Ed Delehanty, and Jim Bottmley. All Hall of Famers
Harry Heilmann made $138,500 in salary over his career
Closely resembling its sister set W515-2, W515-1 subset has a 60 card checklist features cards with colorful drawings surrounded by a white border with the players name, team, and position. The difference between -1 and -2 sets are the W515-1 were released as smaller cards. The cards were issued as a strip of cards that were intended to be cut but kids or shop keepers, which makes these cards so interesting to me when I find them graded at a decent level since so many had been miss-cut or altered years later.
Oddly enough, if you look close, you'll see the word "Tigers" is actually spelled "Tygers" which is the same on the Ty Cobb card that I'll write about some day.
Other cards of note in the set include: Babe Ruth ($800), Ty Cobb ($400), George Sissler ($120), Frankie Frisch ($120), Casey Stengel ($200), Tris Speaker ($120), Grover Alexander ($120), Rogers Hornsby ($200), and Walter Johnson ($200)
You can read about more of the cards and players on this list that I've collected here
A four game win streak including a sweep of division foes the Cleveland Indians has Tigers fans cautiously optimistic again. However, I think fans have learned that we can't get too complacent with this team, especially with the current bullpen, the Avila tipping pitches theory, not to mention a continuation of this road trip to play Texas for three and Houston for 3 before returning home and playing two against the Major's best team the Oakland A's. Luckily we're catching the Rangers as they're still battling injuries and losers of five in a row and although Houston showed some winning ability recently, they've gone back to dropping seven of their last ten. Hopefully these will be confidence boosters for a team that may need it to get back in to the swing of things once they return home to a 19-19 record.
By the way, after the A's, the Tigers take on Tampa Bay who is starting to show signs of life and the Dodgers, before taking off to play KC before the All-Star break.
Let's go Tigs, seems like there is a great opportunity in front of you!!