Thursday, May 17, 2012

Showing Concern...Not Panic

With still over three-quarters of the season remaining, it would be foolish to start banging on the panic button like a deranged Red Sox fan after a three game losing streak. But after getting swept by the Twins in a two game series and the overall record falling to 18-20, one can’t help but start being concerned about what’s going on with the ballclub right now.

Unlike some of the usual suspects than many of us read, I want to calmly, rationally take a look at the serious problems with the Tigers thus far and examine the likelihood of these problems fixing themselves. And in an unprecedented step, I want to examine possible solutions to the problems instead of simply trying to identify a scapegoat for them. Crazy, I know.

Now on my way home from work today, the local sports talk radio host suggested that Miguel Cabrera should be taking more blame for the team’s slow start due to him not walking enough. I thought I was going to have a stroke at the stupidity of that statement. Cabrera is not the problem. But there are issues that need to be addressed.

Personally, I feel the three biggest problem areas with the team right now, in no particular order, are second base, the bullpen, and Delmon Young. Let’s examine each of them.

PROBLEM: Second Base

Everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Ryan Raburn, is not hitting. Oddly enough, booing him in every at bat and calling him obscene names at every turn is not helping him to play better. You’d think people would have learned from that with Brandon Inge, but no.

Ramon Santiago is not the answer. He has hit as poorly as Ryno has, but with even less power. Danny Worth has showed nothing in his limited opportunities, either. So what should the Tigers do?

Orlando Hudson was DFA’d by the Padres today and they will be responsible for the majority of his salary the rest of the season. But the 34 year old Hudson has only hit .211/.260/.317 this year with 1 HR and 11 RBI in 131 plate appearances. He has lost a step on defense and hasn’t really been very productive since 2009. Danny Knobler has all but called him the antichrist on Twitter today.

However, he would add some speed to the lineup (19 for 22 in steals last year) and would still be a defensive upgrade over Raburn, but do you give up on Raburn already knowing that he is a slow starter every year?

/hears everyone screaming “yes”

What trade opportunities might be out there? Everyone says to make a trade, but they never say for whom or think about what the team would have to give up. The only second baseman worth anything that might be available via trade in my opinion is Kelly Johnson of the Blue Jays. But Toronto looks to still be in the AL East race at this point and I can’t see them letting him go for the marginal prospects the Tigers would feel comfortable in dealing for him. Well, at least not for another month or two when the Jays start to fall back in the standings.

SOLUTION: Sign Hudson. He’s cheap and you have an available roster spot with a pitcher, likely Putkonen, going back to the Hens soon. Maybe signing Hudson will be the kick in the rear that Raburn needs to start his yearly second half rebirth a bit early. And if not, O-Dog, bad as he’s looked, is still performing better than anyone else the Tigers have.

Or maybe after acquiring Hudson, you send Raburn to Toledo for a while to clear his head. He still has one option remaining. Some time away from the evil glares in Detroit might be good for him. It certainly can’t hurt.

Then the closer you get to July 31st, you start exploring a deal for Johnson or someone I haven’t considered if Hudson/Raburn haven’t turned it around. Maybe the Phillies will give Polanco back if they continue to be crappy. I dunno…
PROBLEM: Bullpen Dumpster Fire

Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, and Octavio Dotel are going to be fine. None of them are spectacular, but they are proven veterans and will get the job done more often than not. Duane Below has done an admirable job in long relief. But we need more than five guys to make up a good bullpen.

Collin Balester is pathetic and has allowed 5 homers in 18 innings. Brayan Villarreal and Daniel Schlereth cannot currently be trusted with their control problems. Luke Putkonen is not a Major League caliber pitcher. While Fu-Te Ni and Chris Bootcheck have done well in Toledo, they probably aren’t the answer either.

Who are possible trade options? Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps, Brandon League, and Grant Balfour are all free agents after this year and all play for terrible teams. Broxton and Capps play for division rivals, though, and might be difficult to get.

SOLUTION: Beg Billy Beane for Grant Balfour. He still owes us for sticking the Tigers with David Purcey last year. Seriously, though, the A’s will eventually be looking to cut payroll and Detroit may be able to persuade Oakland to part with the proven setup man for a couple minor prospects. Once acquiring Balfour, take Balester back to the MLB Fan Cave and beat him to death with a tire iron. Let the nerds in the Cave deal with disposing of the body.
PROBLEM: Delmon Young

The Tigers seem to have things figured out #1 through #4 in the lineup. Brennan Boesch, Alex Avila, and Jhonny Peralta are not going anywhere in the #6 through #8 spots. But Delmon at #5 is hard to figure out. His numbers are awful thus far. Is it because of his off-field problems? Is he sulking because he’s not playing in the field? Is he hurt and not telling anyone?

Delmon Young has shown that he can be productive in the big leagues and is still only 27 years old. He was a beast in the playoffs last year and as recently as 2010 was outstanding in the regular season. And he’s in a contract year and you’d think that eventually he’s going to come around.

But he can’t field. He has the worst plate discipline of any hitter I’ve ever seen in Detroit. He clearly does not want to DH. And though I have no way of knowing, he just looks like his mind isn’t fully on the game right now.

SOLUTION: Drop him down in the order. He is doing no one any favors in the #5 spot right now. You can’t justify releasing him at this point with no one better to replace him in the DH spot. Boesch and Avila, while not playing great themselves, look to be better protection for Prince Fielder right now until Victor Martinez hopefully comes back in September. And maybe along the way, Delmon finally gets his act together and hits like we know he’s capable of. Like Raburn, I feel his issues are more mental than physical right now.

If he continues to struggle through June, you explore a deadline trade. Carlos Quentin is a free agent after this year and would be a welcome addition to the lineup if his knee is healed by midseason. It’s not like San Diego will have any reason to keep him. And there’s always the yearly Carlos Lee rumors…

/ducks for cover

I don’t know what the answers are. I try to avoid rosterbation posts because it’s all wild speculation. But like you, I’m sure, I am sick of watching this team do so poorly when we all had such high hopes. Any sign of life or an attempt to get better would be a welcome sign at this point.

Yes, it’s still early. Yes, I still expect this team to win their division. And no, I’m not panicking.

But I am starting to get concerned. Your move, Dombrowski.


Crashcrad66 said...

Give Raburn a month in Toledo and when he comes back, flip all the calendars to July. And I like the idea of bringing in O-Dog.

Bart said...

When DNR is the voice of reason, Tiger town must really be in dismay. Great post rogo.

Jay Hathaway said...

Yeah, before I clicked over here I saw that O-Dog was released on MLBTraderumors, and my immediate first thought was, "Well there's a 2nd baseman..."

Fielder'sChoice said...

Good post. I completely agree on the concerened but not panicking (yet) mentatlity.
I'm not really up-to-date on the statuses of Marte and Alburqurque, but if they get healthy in the next couple months our bullpen would look a lot better. If the offense could put up a few more runs the bullpen would look a lot better too. The current squad is sufficient to get us through a another month or two, if that's all we need. But if those two aren't coming back any time soon, yes, something needs to change. This is not a playoff-caliber pen.

Quietadah said...

I thought the exact same thing with Hudson.  We seem to have a Voldemort type curse going at second base since Polanco was let go and, obviously, platooning Santiago and Raburn over there just isn't working.

Booing struggling players is a stupid, stupid idea and helps nothing.  I'm also tired of hearing people call for Leyland's head every other day.  I don't think that will solve anything, either.

Frankly, I'm bracing for Leyland to finally freak out and start cursing at some point.  It might even be good for the team.   

ChaunceyD said...

I know Kansas City is a division rival, but since I am based here, I thought I would give you a heads up.  Kansas City has three options at second base, and all are playing good. Irving Falu, a career minor leaguer who just got called up, is raking and playing good D. Chris GEtz is actually hitting, and Johnny Giavatella just got called up, although he isn't hitting all that great, he comes through in the clutch.

The bullpen is stocked, also.  KC needs starting pitching, and would trade for a high minor leaguer with promise.  They aren't really concerned with this year, they have targeted next year for their division title run.

William Westbrook said...

Dick McAuliffe is sitting at home just waiting for the phone to ring.

Damian56xx said...

I noticed that KJ was a FA last offseason, but the Tigers' brass either had no interest in pursuing him or they did not make a serious and competitive offer, oh well..

4 errors by all of the Tigers IF...yikes!!

The surname @ 1B belies his defensive skills, and we fans may have to watch him oft-bumble there at least until VMart's contract expires..double-yikes!!

EightMileCats said...

I highly doubt Giavatella is going anywhere.  I'm under the impression he's the full time 2b 'of the future'.
I'm also not sure who the Royals would be interested in...  and I'm not sure what I'm giving up for something along the lines of Broxton/Collins and Getz/Falu...  It's something interesting to think about tho...

Damian56xx said...

Percival, Perry, Purcey, Pauley, Putkonen...Tigers might want to avoid employing RPs who have a surname beginning with the letter P for awhile..just sayin'

H2OPoloPunk said...


/got nothing
//starting to panic

B Ward said...

Per usual, a well written piece Rogo. It's nice to have a rational Tigers fan to even out all the doom and panic fans. Well done sir.
What is Orlando's salary this year? And how much would the Tigers have to pay? League minimum, similar bizzaro-situation to... *gulp*... Inge?

SRogo said...

Detroit would just be responsible for the league minimum, similar to the A's with Inge. People really seem to be against this idea, but there's really no downside. If he flops, big deal. It's not costing us anything and 2B has already been a flop. Plus you get Raburn the break from the Detroit spotlight that I think he really needs.

SRogo said...

I thought of Getz, but I think he'd be a last resort. I'm really not a big fan of the guy and think the fanbase would crap all over that move as much as they crap on Ryno right now.

Timothy Joseph Forbes said...

We just  need Al back in the Bullpen along with some type of trade like Balfour. As for as the 5 hole I feel like Alex would be great there decent power and a good eye words well for me there. Your second base options are about right at this point there is not much we can do.