WTNYOctober 03, 2003
Improving on 119
By Bryan Smith

My eyes hurt, I've just spent the last two hours or so looking at Detroit Tiger statistics. But, there have been some interesting findings, and I think Dave Dambrowski will start working at improving this team.

First, to attack the hitting:

Notable Hitters vs. LH (OPS)
Craig Monroe (.968)
Brandon Inge (.760)
Shane Halter (.705)
Eric Munson (.675)
Carlos Pena (.640)
Bob Higginson (.642)
Ramon Santiago (.479)

Notable Hitters vs. RH (OPS)
Carlos Pena (.837)
Eric Munson (.778)
Bob Higginson (.712)
Ramon Santiago (.617)
Craig Monroe (.600)
Shane Halter (.542)
Brandon Inge (.527)

Wow, those are some notable platoons. Criag Monroe is a great hitter vs. left-handers, but couldn't touch a Major League rightie. The two Tiger young hitters, Munson and Pena, can slug RH very well, but are terrible vs. lefties. Switch-hitter Ramon Santiago shows a big affinity to right-handers, while Shane Halter favors southpaws. And Brandon Inge, a HACKING MASS All-Star, is pretty solid against lefties. I also didn't include Ben Petrick in the discussion, although he also prefers left-handers.

Alex Sanchez, while not a great hitter, has no real platoon spread. Neither does Dmitri Young, the team's most talented slugger. Cody Ross, a young outfielder, hit lefties very well in his debut, but struggled against right-handers. And, there really is no second basemen on this team (Omar Infante and Warren Morris don't count).

Well, I have the Dambrowski want list. This is basically my opinion of how to best improve this team by spending virtually no money.

1. Sign either Ben Grieve or Orlando Palmiero- Both these guys would make good platoon partners with Criag Monroe. Grieve is the more risky choice, but he could always return to his old form, and he did post an .841 OPS vs. RH in 2002. Palmiero probably could put up an .800, but doesn't have a ceiling.

2. Sign a 2B, either Tony Graffanino, Juan Castro, or Chris Stynes- My pick would be Graff, whom I've seen do solid here in Chicago. He's a solid hitter with doubles power, and will take a walk on occassion. Castro is renowned for his defense, but hit above .250 this season. I don't like Stynes, but he used to be a very good hitter.

3. Sign Brent Mayne- Mayne is a LH catcher with an affinity to right-handed pitchers. He is a veteran, and could probably help the Tiger staff. He would platoon with Brandon Inge until he proves to be a more reliable catcher.

4. Sign Fernando Tatis- Definitely worth the risk. This gives Alan Trammell the option to bench Munson against some lefties, and you're hoping Tatis returns to form. It's likely he'll draw no interest from other teams, so this should be a gimmee.

That would give the Tigers this lineup vs. RH:
1. Sanchez- CF
2. 2B signee
3. Young- DH
4. Pena- 1B
5. Munson- 3B
6. Higginson- LF
7. Grieve- RF
8. Mayne- C
9. Santiago- SS

And vs. LH:
1. Sanchez- CF
2. 2B signee
3. Young- 1B
4. Monroe- RF
5. Ross- LF
6. Munson/Tatis- 3B
7. Petrick/Pena- DH
8. Inge- C
9. Halter- SS

And that, is a much improved lineup. Now to the pitching...

News flash: the Tigers have too many relievers. Yes, you read that correctly, too many. Here's why:

1. Fernando Rodney was voted by International League managers to have the best fastball in AAA, a level which he dominated as closer.
2. Franklyn German is a year removed from being the best relief prospect in baseball, and also did extremely well in a demotion to AAA.
3. Expensive Matt Anderson did a good job in his second tour in Comerica Park.
4. Another expensive reliever, Danny Patterson, finsihed the year solidly in middle relief.
5. Chris Mears landed a few saves, as long as a solid performance in the bullpen. But, he's no starter.
6. Matt Roney was a Rule V pick also tried in starting, although he proved to be a solid long-leftie in the bullpen.
7. Chris Spurling was another one of the Tigers' Rule V picks, and he blossomed towards the end of the year.
8. Jamie Walker was the team's best reliever, and is one of the league's best unknown LOOGYs. He likely could draw interest on the trade market.
9. Another leftie that did well was Eric Eckenstahler. The tall leftie only allowed five runs in 15.2 innings, with an ERA under 2.00.

Here are my cuts:
CL- Rodney
SU- German
SU- Anderson
MR- Patterson
MR- Spurling
LR- Roney

Trade Walker for whatever you can get, and send Mears, Eckenstahler, and Brian Schmack to AAA. Wilfredo Ledezma, the team's final Rule V pick, is said to have some promise, so put him in the AAA rotation as well.

The starting rotation doesn't look so promising. My belief is Jeremy Bonderman should head to AAA to start next season, forming a AAA rotation of:

1. Jeremy Bonderman
2. Wilfredo Ledezma
3. Rob Henkel
4. Kenny Baugh
5. Preston Larrison
6. Andy Van Hekken

And believe me, all these players could benefit by going on a six-man rotation. That means, in the Majors I left Mike Maroth, Nate Cornejo, Nate Robertson, and Shane Loux.

Maroth pitched decently, showing promise in at least one month (June). He could take a big turn at one point, like Mike Redman did, but in the least he's a leftie that will eat innings. Nate Cornejo is a right-hander, but he should be good for 200 innings. He'll get smacked around, but hopefully his sinker is good enough that day to pitch out of jams. Nate Robertson showed great potential in his August call-up, mixing solid starts with ugly ones. As did Shane Loux, who had an ERA less that 2.00 in AAA until July. That would leave the Tigers with four starters, including three lefties. That puts Dambrowski in the market for one right-handed pitcher, someone who at least will draw some attention. My choices would be Scott Erickson, Cory Lidle, John Thomson, and Freddy Garcia. And, that's written from my least choice to my highest. So naturally, expect the Tigers to get Erickson.

Here's a recap of my 2004 improved Tiger squad...
Catchers: Brent Mayne, Brandon Inge
Infielders: Carlos Pena, 2B signee, Ramon Santiago, Shane Halter, Eric Munson, Fernando Tatis, Dmitri Young
Outfielders: Bobby Higginson, Alex Sanchez, Craig Monroe, Ben Grieve, Cody Ross
Starting Rotation: Lidle/Erickson, Maroth, Cornejo, Robertson, Loux
Bullpen: Fernando Rodney, Franklyn German, Matt Anderson, Danny Patterson, Matt Roney, Chris Spurling

That's all for now. And, I'm going to the Cubs game today!!!!!!!