Rebuilding the Detroit Tigers

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Published on : July 7, 2017

 

 

It’s no secret that the 2017 Detroit Tigers are pretty awful. As they sit right now, they are 38-46 and have shown nothing that says they have a chance to contend for the AL Central title or an AL wild card spot. The team’s performance this season, and recent seasons for that matter, has left fans in the Motor City frustrated and ready for a change. But just how much can this team change? And is it even possible to blow it up completely and start a full scale rebuild?

 

The first, and most important, thing the team can do is part ways with manager, Brad Ausmus. He inherited a title contender in 2014, and since being swept out of the ALDS in that season, his team’s performance has steadily declined. While he can’t be totally blamed for the team’s roster and much of the blame lies with the players themselves, this team has not grown under his watch and his all star type players haven’t been able to reach their full potential. For that, he should be given his walking papers and certainly will unless the team wants a fan revolt on their hands.

 

 

On the other hand, team president, Al Avila’s job should be safe for at least one more season. With the recent death of longtime owner, Mike Ilitch, it’s hard to believe the team will want to cause anymore of a stir in the organization. With Avila probably safe, you have to wonder what players, if any, the team will be able to trade away for assets in this coming team rebuild.

 

Miguel Cabrera isn’t going anywhere. His contract is insane (he will make at least $30 million annually through 2023) and he’s an icon in Detroit. It would be nice to be able to send him on his way in search for another ring and get something in return for the future hall of fame slugger, but it’s not happening. Being saddled with that contract for years to come hurts but it can’t hurt fan, or organizational, morale to have (arguably) the best player in the team’s history retire wearing the old english D. It’s a nightmare of a contract but there was no other option for the team at the time and that’s just the way it goes.

 

Justin Verlander is almost as iconic as Miguel Cabrera, and for good reason, but the team must ship him off if it can. The trade might not even be possible because of the amount of money that Verlander ($28 million a year through 2019) is owed over the coming seasons. It’s another case of a franchise icon getting paid what they have rightly earned but hamstringing the team with an enormous contract in the end. At 34-years-old he isn’t having the greatest season, but he is coming off of a Cy Young caliber season in 2016, so a contender with money to spend might be willing to risk it. If that happens, the Tigers would be crazy not to pull the trigger and shed that enormous salary.

 

Most likely is a scenario in which Verlander and Cabrera stay in Detroit for years to come. That JD Martinez as arguably the most likely player in the league to be traded to a new team, and he will fetch a nice return for the team. The Tigers have no indication that they wish to re-sign him and add to their already bloated payroll, and his bat would immediately help any team that he went to. So he’s gone.

 

 JD won’t be a Tiger for long.

 

Other trade-able pieces include Jose Iglesias, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, Nick Castellanos, Alex Avila and Anibal Sanchez (that’s right, Anibal Sanchez). Upton’s contract probably makes a trade unlikely, but everyone else should draw some amount of interest. The team has Dixon Machado as the shortstop of the future so Iglesias should be gone too, and Alex Avila has been playing great since the team brought him back so he could see himself traded away by his own father. How much the team can get in return for any of these players remains to be seen, but you can’t imagine getting any team’s top few prospects for anyone on this roster.

 

With it being unlikely that the Tigers are going to get any world beaters in a trade, it looks like they’ll have to do this thing the old fashioned way and start drafting and developing players in the system. In recent year’s, they have traded away all of their top prospects for big names in the interest of winning now and getting that elusive World Series title. But that never happened and now the team is getting old and is considerably overpaid.

 

It’s going to be a rough few years but it’s time to stop putting it off and get serious about changing this team in a fundamental way. Al Avila has made it clear that the days of spending huge money are over. Even though they will have to simply ride some of these bad contracts out, they can and must trim their salary and build from within. There are some good young pieces on the roster in guys like Michael Fulmer. If the team is smart with their money, with a little luck they could be a contender in a few more seasons. A new era of Detroit Tigers baseball is imminent but it could be a painful journey to get there.

 

 


The Detroit Tigers could be headed to old, (un)familiar territory

Written by :
Published on : November 11, 2016

 

 

2003 was a long time ago. George W. Bush was in his first term as President. Facebook wasn’t even a thing yet. The iPhone hadn’t even been thought of. And the Detroit Tigers were awful. Among the most awful baseball teams in the modern history of the game to be more specific. Their 119 losses in that year was 1 loss short of the 1962 Mets record for losses in a season. When the Tigers won that last game to avoid tying that record you would have thought that they had won a World Series. Players and fans rejoiced that they weren’t the worst. But they were damn close.

 

Three years after that historically disastrous season, the Detroit Tigers had won the American League Pennant, after making the playoffs as the Wild Card team, and went on the the World Series. It was an amazingly quick turnaround that marked the beginning of a new golden era in Detroit baseball. The organization led by Dave Dombrowski, for most of the period since 2003, would go on to appear in another World Series in 2012, and win the AL Central four times.

 

 

Under Dombrowski (now with with Boston Red Sox) and long-time manager Jim Leyland (retired), the Tigers and the city of Detroit enjoyed a decade of relatively good, competitive baseball. They got to see triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera destroy the baseball and Cy Young contenders such as Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price destroy opposing batters. Acquiring and retaining such marquee talent isn’t easy though, and because of it the organization consistently found itself with one of the larger payrolls in the MLB, and a depleted farm system. And that leaves the Detroit Tigers and their fans here, on the edge of some potentially dark days.

 

Shortly after the end of the 2016 MLB season, Tigers president, Al Avila, made it clear that the team would be retaining manager Brad Ausmus and cutting payroll in a big way. Neither of these things should sound like good news to Tigers’ fans. Brad Ausmus hasn’t necessarily been terrible as the manager in Detroit but he has failed to win a playoff game despite having a considerable amount of talent on the roster. The team isn’t doomed with him at the helm, but he probably isn’t the person to take them to the next level either. More of the same.

 

What should really make fans shudder, is that this team seems determined to slash payroll. The most likely victims of the cost cutting mandate in the front office will be Justin Verlander, JD Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. Years of squeezing their farm system to acquire big name players and breaking the bank to keep those players left the Tigers with a payroll of $199 million last season. That was behind only the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox. All teams that made the playoffs. When you don’t make the playoffs two years running and you are spending that kind of money, it’s easy to see why ownership would want to re-examine their methods. That could mean saying goodbye to the players who have defined baseball in Detroit for years.

 

 

The team says they are listening to offers for any and all players. If that’s really the case then there’s a good chance that Verlander is leaving soon. He is 34 and coming off of his best season since 2012. His value is high and he could net a good return in an offseason with a poor market for starting pitching. Trading him will help the team shed $28 million in salary this coming year. With a big enough return, I’m sure the fan reaction to the trade could be mostly positive. I’m not sure the same goes for a trade involving Miggy. His contract runs through 2023 and he is owed no less than $28 million in any of those coming seasons. For an aging slugger, that’s a lot for a potential trade partner to deal with. The team would probably be lucky to unload him at this point, but he is such a fan favorite that I don’t know that they could get enough in return to fill the void left in the hearts of fans.

 

Will the fans really be able to withstand a prolonged playoff drought plus watching their favorite players leave town? That could be hard to stomach in Detroit and could leave Comerica Park looking a lot more empty than it has been for a long time. It’s hard to be too optimistic about the Detroit Tigers in the near future. Rebuilding is never an easy thing. Fans who have joined the team in only the recent good years, might have to suffer through a bit of losing. Something that isn’t the norm. For those that have been in with the team for decades, we might be returning to the dark ages of the 90’s. Nobody wants that but sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXIX: Bumgarner, Britton, MY Final Awards and LDS)

Written by :
Published on : October 7, 2016

 

 

For this cautiously optimistic Cubs fan, there was something oddly poetic and metaphorical about watching Madison Bumgarner walk back to the dugout after pitching yet another October gem for a team that has been there so many times before. By now you should know the long and torturous history of the Cubs, the 107 years of futility and heartbreak, the billy goats, black cats, Leon Durhams and Steve Bartmans. This version of the team needs just 11 more wins on a season where they’ve already won 103. But in the process of chasing the championship, they’re also surrounded by ghosts, whether they be real or imagined. And so in a year where Cubs fans have never been more hopeful that the wait is over, that this is ‘Next Year’, that they can finally break a curse, of course the first obstacle in their way is a magical team with magical powers in even years, with a magical pitcher whose powers are heightened when they need him the most.

 

To me, Bumgarner symbolizes more than just a star pitcher on the San Francisco Giants. He’s also the poster boy for that magical thinking, superstition and all the other illogical nonsense that will be managed and tamed the further the Cubs get into the postseason. I’ve already seen multiple posts about how Bumgarner now has 23-consecutive scoreless innings in winner-take-all games. Before the Wild Card game, picking Noah Syndergaard to be the ‘winner’ was almost seen as contrarian, even though his numbers strongly suggest he’s the better pitcher. None of that mattered. MadBum was already at legend status. And by the time this is posted, it will have snowballed to godlike proportions. Meanwhile, I’m going to venture to guess that nobody, in their analysis of the Bumgarner vs. the Mets, is going to mention that the Mets were tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for 25th in the Majors in runs scored on the season. And that his next round opponent certainly ain’t that.

 

 

As God as my witness, the Chicago Cubs will eventually go the World Series and win the whole damn thing. It will happen before the sun swells up and swallows the earth or Donald Trump nukes Lakeview. So if a curse was actually a real thing, which I assure you it is not, the Cubs would probably have to break an ‘even year’ spell or whatever else is thrown in their way in the process. Good eventually has to defeat evil. You have to go to Mordor to get rid of the Precious. The 2004 Red Sox had to go through the Yankees to break a curse of their own. Because of course they did. Curses are fiction and fiction should have insurmountable odds right before a happy ending. If this were written by Hollywood, the 2016 Cubs’ storybook ending would go ‘Even Year’ Giants, Daniel Murphy, Boston Red Sox. And all of that can happen. So what better place than here? What better time than now? Who’s ready for some playoffs?

 

The AL Wild Card Game
The Blue Jays defeat the Orioles 5-2 in 11 innings

Oh man. I’d feel bad for Ubaldo Jimenez if I thought anybody was actually focusing on him and not on Buck Showalter’s decision to not use Zach Britton in the game. Jimenez, of course, had that infamous 7.38 ERA in the first half, which basically made him the worst starting pitcher in the Majors. But he’d been better lately, I swear. He had a 2.31 ERA in September. There were real people writing actual articles on ESPN.com saying Ubaldo should be starting the game over Chris Tillman. It’s just that Britton had a 0.54 ERA on the season. He hadn’t given up an earned run since August 24th. And that was the only once since April 30th. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

In the bottom of the 11th, after Jimenez came on in relief with the score tied at 2, he gave up singles to Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson, before Edwin Encarnacion hit a 3-run walk-off to send Toronto in to the next round. Jimenez threw a grand total of five pitches. Showalter used a grand total of six different relievers after Tillman exited in the 5th. None of them were Britton. Showalter was managing for the save, a made-up statistic for a made-up position that logic should have killed off years ago. And it probably took the strategic failing of a renowned baseball strategist for change to happen. I just hope Joe Maddon and Aroldis Chapman took notice.

 

The NL Wild Card Game
The Giants defeated the Mets 3-0

 

The pitchers duel lived up to the hype, all right. Syndergaard took a no-hitter into the 6th and looked dominant before his pitch count reached its limit at the end of 7. He was aided by a fantastic catch by Curtis Granderson in center. But the slumping Yoenis Cespedes and the mediocre bats of the Mets could get nothing going against Racist Legend Boy and a team that tanked the entire second half and had to sweep the Dodgers to hold off the Cardinals at the end of the season didn’t have to use their garbage bullpen. The game was scoreless until the top of the 9th, when Conor Gillaspie, who had six home runs all season, hit a three-run shot off of Jeurys Familia, who’d only given up one all year. Racist Legend Boy’s 4-hit shutout on 119 pitches and the fact that the year ends in a 6 means something very important to people who get paid money to talk about baseball for a living. Seriously, fuck this team.

 

ALDS Preview: The Rangers vs. The Blue Jays

Well this could be horrifyingly dangerous. The epic rematch that everyone outside of Baltimore should have wanted is actually going to happen. And if drunken Canadians are willing to throw Labatt Blue cans at Hyun-soo Kim, imagine what they want to do to Rougned Odor.

 

I actually think the Jays will take the series. While both teams can definitely score, I like the Jays’ pitching depth a lot more. That Rangers +10 run differential still doesn’t make sense. But why would we talk about any of that? Jose Bautista and Roogie could square off again, you guys!

 

ALDS Preview: The Indians vs. The Red Sox

I don’t think anybody has Cleveland winning this. Boston has the best offense in the Majors. Six of their hitters are at least pretty good. And the Indians’ staff is duct-taped together. Plus, Papi is the Madison Bumgarner of hitting. David Price does have a 5.12 postseason ERA. But Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin haven’t beaten the Red Sox this season. And Corey Kluber can’t match up with Price every game. But mostly, Joey Bats might fight Rougned Odor in that other series, you guys!

 

NLDS Preview: The Cubs vs. The Giants

 

The best pitching in the Major Leagues. The best defense in the Major Leagues. The best offense in the National League, outside of Colorado. The year 1908. The years 2010, 2012 and 2014.
This is the hottest the Giants have been since the All-Star Game, which isn’t saying much. The staff is pretty formidable, especially with Jeff Samardzija pitching well lately. But the team has trouble scoring. So if the Cubs’ deep lineup can heat up, that staff should hold the Giants off.

 

Should and will are two different things, obviously. The Cubs were 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season last year, before getting swept in the NLCS. But the Cubs are the story here. The sports media may be chasing after the Even Year Miracle Hillbilly like a dumb dog chasing a mail carrier. But the Cubs are the best team in baseball. And they’re the favorite until proven otherwise.

 

NLDS Preview: The Nationals vs. The Dodgers

No Stephen Strasburg. No Wilson Ramos. A banged-up Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. And Dusty Baker managing them. This all bodes well for the finally-healthy Dodgers. The only thing is, the Dodgers have pretty mediocre hitting after Corey Seager and Justin Turner. Especially against lefties. And Clayton Kershaw has been pretty un-Kershaw-like in Octobers past. He’s getting matched up with Max Scherzer, who doesn’t quite suck either. I’ll take Washington. Really. I need them for my Daniel Murphy curse storyline and I don’t want to get jumped in Echo Park during the presumed NLCS while forgetting I’m wearing a Cubs hat.

 

Let’s give out some awards.

 

AL MVP FINAL ANSWER: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

 

As the Major League leader in WAR, by a pretty decent margin, Trout proved once again that he’s the best player in the game. It’s arguable that David Ortiz was a better hitter this year. But there’s really no other metric to suggest the A.L. MVP could possibly be anyone else.

 

I’ve already talked about this at length. Trout has led the league in WAR his first five seasons in the Majors and has one MVP award to show for it. Willie Mays led the National League in WAR ten times from 1954-1966. And he only has two MVP awards to show for it. Those voters look stupid to us now. And, unless Trout brings home some more hardware, they’re on their way to looking stupid again.

 

Honorable Mention: Josh Donaldson, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Adrian Beltre

 

AL CY YOUNG FINAL ANSWER: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

I was surprised too. For me, this came down to the numbers. The narrative of everyone assuming Verlander was done is nice and everything. But that has nothing to do with who was the best pitcher in the league this year. And the numbers pointed to Verlander, Rick Porcello and Corey Kluber.

 

—————————WAR   FIP      ERA

Justin Verlander      5.2      3.48      3.04
Rick Porcello           5.2      3.40      3.15
Corey Kluber           5.1      3.26      3.14

 

That’s about as close as you can get. But it’s that ERA – actual results – that settled it for me. I’d hand Verlander his second Cy. Or his third, since I probably would have given it to him in 2012 too. Just saying.

 

Honorable Mention: Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber, Masahiro Tanaka, Chris Sale, Aaron Sanchez

 

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINAL ANSWER: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

 

I’d love to be able to give you a great reason. But this came down to Sanchez, Michael Fulmer and Christopher Devenski. Their WARS were essentially the same, regardless of if anybody had Devenski in the conversation or not. And Devenski’s Win Probability Added (WPA) was better than Fulmer’s, as were his FIP and ERA. That’s pitching 2-3 innings at a time, instead of six. But still, that’s a good argument for why Fulmer wasn’t the even best rookie pitcher in his own league. On the other hand, no other American League position player is touching Sanchez. He hit 20 home runs in 53 games, which is a 61 pace. Holy shit.

 

Honorable Mention: Michael Fulmer, Christopher Devenski, Tyler Naquin, Tim Anderson

 

NL MVP FINAL ANSWER: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

Like Trout, Bryant led the league in WAR by a decent margin. Unlike Trout, his play contributed to a winning team. Joey Votto, Daniel Murphy and Freddie Freeman were all better hitters. But they can’t hold a candle to Bryant, defensively. The title of best player in the National League has a new claimant.

 

Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto, Anthony Rizzo

 

NL CY YOUNG FINAL ANSWER: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 

I’m taking Clayton Kershaw out of the equation, since he pitched in 10 fewer games with 34 fewer innings than Thor. But with a full season, Syndergaard led the league in WAR and FIP, while finishing third in ERA. I love Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester (who finished 1-2 in ERA), but they also had that Cubs defense behind them. And I highly doubt Jose Fernandez would want the award handed to him (although he was right up there). Oh, and Max Scherzer is getting hype as a 20-game winner. But this isn’t 1986 and we have better ways of evaluating value.

 

Honorable Mention: Jose Fernandez, Kyle Hendricks, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, Jon Lester    

 

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINAL ANSWER: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s really not even close. Seager is the best rookie position player since Trout in 2012. And I thought he’d be the best National League rookie since Albert Pujols in 2001 or Mike Piazza in 1993, but it’s actually Dick Allen in 1964. That’s not like, bad company.

 

Honorable Mention: Jon Gray, Kenta Maeda, Trea Turner, Trevor Story, Steven Matz, Zach Davies

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. If you need more baseball from me, check me out on ‘Comedians Talking Sports‘ with Joe Kilgallon on the podcast things. In the meantime, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 11. So nervous!

 

 


It’s time for Ausmus and Caldwell to go

Written by :
Published on : October 3, 2016

 

Last week, I reported that the city of Detroit was suffering from A Case of the Mondays after both the Tigers and the Lions lost their games. It was more of the same today. Both teams disappointed big time and it has me thinking, now more than ever, that it’s time for Ausmus and Caldwell to be shown the door as head coaches of their teams.

 

The Lions lost in a pathetic display of professional football against the Chicago Bears. The loss brings them to 1-3 and the team is on the verge of a complete implosion. In what is becoming an all too familiar early season trend with these Detroit Lions. Chicago was widely considered one of the worst teams in the league. They had 10,000 players on IR and were missing their starting quarterback. Detroit should have come out and gotten right against this team and started to build the foundation of a a potential playoff run. Instead, they fell flat on their faces. Jim Caldwell once again failed to have his team prepared and it was obvious.

 

The Tigers played the Atlanta Braves, with a chance to stay in contention for a spot in the AL Wild Card. Justin Verlander looked a bit off to start, allowing a run in the first before settling down and blanking the Braves for the rest of his six innings. The team went on to lose the game 1-0. As usual, the Tigers bats went to sleep when they were needed most. Despite having a future hall of fame slugger in Miguel Cabrera and a stable of other capable offensive weapons, the team couldn’t muster a single run. It is now the third 1-0 loss this season when Verlander is on the mound. Now the season is over and Brad Ausmus has failed to get his team to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

 

 

We expect this from the Lions. This team has been breaking hearts in Motown for decades now and fans have seen the team be horrible more often than not. With injuries to the best defensive players and a head coach in Jim Caldwell who can’t get his team ready to compete on Sundays, they were treated to a listless effort.

 

Jim Caldwell was already on the hot seat this year. After making the playoffs in 2014, his first season in Detroit, the team started off the 2015 campaign in pathetic fashion before firing the offensive coordinator and getting it together enough to manage a 7-9 finish. This season saw a changing of the guard in the front office, as the Ford family brought in new general manager Bob Quinn from the New England Patriots organization. Quinn decided to retain Caldwell and give him one more shot to show what he is made of and bring Detroit a contender. Well, he sure showed us what he’s got and the returns are not good. That’s why he should get fired immediately and the team should start preparing to find someone who can maximize the talent on the team.

 

 

Same goes for Brad Ausmus. Say what you will about Jim Leyland as a professional baseball manager, but he brought the Detroit Tigers out of the dark ages and turned them into perennial contender. When he retired, Brad Ausmus inherited a team that had won the AL Central three years running and had appeared in two World Series in the past decade. His inaugural campaign with the team saw the team win its 4th consecutive AL Central title, only to get swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS. In 2015, the team finished last in the division with a 74-87 record. With yesterday’s loss, the team will miss the playoffs again. With the type of talent on this roster there’s no reason for that.

 

Ausmus and Caldwell have both had three years (more or less) to make a winner. Brad Ausmus came in as a manager with no experience. He was a calculated risk taken by the front office that hurt a team with aging stars whose windows are rapidly closing. Jim Caldwell came in with a solid resume, having taken the Colts to the Super Bowl as their head coach and won another as the offensive coordinator of the Ravens. Their were red flags with him as well, but the team needed someone who could counter the undisciplined culture of the team under former head coach, Jim Schwartz.

 

Neither of the two coaches has worked out. It’s time for the Tigers and Lions to move on from their current head coaches and start looking to the future. If you need to ask why, just watch the games from yesterday. The fans deserve better than what Ausmus and Caldwell have brought to Detroit over the last two seasons. There are teams out there that do a lot more with a lot less. That’s what good managers can bring and it’s time both these teams went out and found a couple of those.

 

 


These Tigers have no claws

Written by :
Published on : June 29, 2016

 

 

 

The Detroit Tigers have not yet been mathematically eliminated from anything. But it’s time to accept the fact that this team probably isn’t going anywhere. They’ve hung around long enough to keep the hope of fans on life support, and even won against the Marlins yesterday, but after their 9th consecutive loss to the division leading Cleveland Indians earlier in the week, it’s safe to say that this season is dead.

 

There’s just too much missing for this squad to make any type of sustained run at the division title or a wild card berth. They missed the playoffs last year, after winning 4 straight division titles prior to that. New general manager, Al Avila, tried to plug some holes and make the roster viable last offseason, but it wasn’t enough. With sub-par managing, a less than satisfactory starting rotation, a stable of players getting older by the day, and another team taking control of the AL Central, it might be time to turn the page on this team. And here’s why.

 

Starting Rotation

 Michael Fulmer, the future of the Tigers’ pitching staff?

 

For years, the starting rotation has been one of the Tigers strongest position groups. This year however, they lack a clear cut ace, such as Max Scherzer or David Price, and because of that they’ve underperformed as a unit. The original ace of the modern Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander, seems to have finally gotten himself back together, but he is far from the pitcher who earned a $28 million per year contract extension back in 2013. Jordan Zimmermann started the year off very strong but has since cooled off, especially since coming back from a groin strain. Anibal Sanchez has been a disaster, as has Mike Pelfrey for most of the season, and Shane Greene has been living in the bullpen since coming back from the DL.

 

The brightest spot of the starting rotation has been rookie, Michael Fulmer. He has been lights out and currently has a 7-2 record with an ERA of 2.40. His emergence has given fans hope for the future, but the team is already starting to talk about limiting his innings so as to not ruin his young arm. If he continues to develop he should be an important piece for years to come, but he will not carry the team to the promised land this year. The rotation ranks 19th in the league, with a collective ERA of 4.69. That won’t get it done.

 

The Offense

 There have been more and more cringeworthy moments for Cabrera and the offense this year.

 

Miguel Cabrera is still solid, but he is also slowing down considerably with every passing year. There are streaks where the brilliance of his game continues to shine through, but there will be a time very soon when his contract won’t be justified. That time may have even already come. He can’t carry the offense the way he once did, and no one around him, save an also aging Victor Martinez, has proven they can pick up the slack on a consistent basis.

 

With J.D. Martinez still recovering from a broken bone in his elbow and Justin Upton in the running to lead the league in strikeouts, the outlook isn’t good for the offense. It’s not that this is a bad offense, but it is nowhere near as prolific as it has been in recent seasons, and definitely not good enough to cover up for the other deficiencies that this team has. There are too many times when the bats don’t show up, and with the pitching issues, that’s a real problem.

 

The Indians

 The Indians are cruising at the expense of the Tigers.

 

The Cleveland Indians have become kryptonite to any sustained success the Tigers manage to muster this season. The Tigers seem to be able to find at least some success against everyone else except the Tribe. The Royals have also been a thorn in the side of the team, but with the Indians leading the division and absolutely owning the Tigers this season, it’s the team in Cleveland that is writing the obituary for these Motor City Kitties.

 

The Indians’ starting pitching has had their way with the Tigers every time the teams have faced off. They seem to be hitting their peak as a team, just as the Tigers seem to have already shown us their best baseball. They were early favorites to win the division for a reason and now that they’ve woken up everyone else should be worried.

 

 

 

Don’t expect the Detroit Tigers to completely fall apart. They will to continue to play .500 baseball for the rest of the season. I just hope that Al Avila doesn’t try too hard to squeeze a playoff run out of this current roster because in order to do that he will have to mortgage the few promising, young pieces that the team does have. It’s time to deal with the reality that the Detroit Tigers, as they are currently assembled, have missed their window to win a championship. If Al Avila retains his position with the team after the season he must work towards the future and start planning a rebuild that will likely be painful for everyone involved.

 

 


Great Expectations: A Spring Training Preview

Written by :
Published on : February 23, 2016

 

Oh no. This is a really weird feeling for a Cubs fan to have. For the first time that I can ever remember, the Lovable Losers on the North Side of Chicago seem to be both the unanimous pick to win their division and also a trendy choice for the 2016 World Series. And on paper it even makes sense. Last year, they proved that their young squad was ahead of their projected timeline, won 97 games and then went deep into the playoffs until they ran into a freakishly overachieving Daniel Murphy and a young Mets pitching staff that seems to remind everyone of the nineties Atlanta Braves. And then they went out in the offseason and got the best healthy pitcher and the best position player from their hated Cardinal rivals, and also added a guy who led the majors in WAR in 2009. Oh, and the rest of their seemingly-all-rookie lineup from last year is back and probably better than ever and still way too young and dumb to comprehend how a jaded, cynical asshole like me can still hesitate to be bullish on the prospects of a Thousand Year Cubs Dynasty.

 

This has to be too good to be true, right? There’s too much pressure. The Cubs never follow up a good season with another good season. Look at 1985, 1990 and every other year since The Year That Shall Not Be Named. And Jake Arrieta has to regress. Because he just has to. And John Lackey is 137 years old. And their bullpen isn’t quite there. And Jason Heyward isn’t a natural center fielder. And because they’re the fucking Cubs. Right? Like, why should I get my hopes up just to have them crushed again and again like I have my whole life? Why? Well… Because of Theo Epstein. And because of Joe Maddon. And because of that offense. Oh, that offense. And Kris Bryant. And Addison Russell. And Kyle Schwarber. And Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward is actually younger than Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward could win a Gold Glove in center. And because Arrieta may have pitched an assload of innings last year, but he famously stays in excellent shape. And because of how great of a story it would be if they actually did do it. And because, on paper, the Cubs just so happen to have the best team in baseball by a decent margin. Oh no, indeed.

 

 

The Rest of the NL Central

The Cubs may have kicked their ass and stolen their girlfriend, but the Cardinals are still the Cardinals. You just kind of assume they’ll be playing in October, no matter what. But even with Adam Wainwright back, the mystique feels like it’s gone, with a bad offseason and Yadier Molina needing to grow another thumb. Maybe their insane luck will finally run out. I also thought that about the Alabama football team back in September. Not that I should talk about football in the same breath I talk about St. Louis. Anyway… Then there’s the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s not like they sucked last year either. But nobody likes to talk about them because they’ll probably just get to the Wild Card and lose again, if they do anything at all. And the only fun thing about that is if Sean Rodriguez goes HAM on another water cooler. This division will inevitably be drowned out by the tidal wave of Cubs expectations. And the Reds and Brewers have probably already
drowned in it.

 

The NL East

According to EVERYONE, the Mets have the greatest pitching staff of all time, ever. And, yes, it’s horrifying. Matt Harvey is another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom is a floppy-haired pitching monster. Noah Syndergaard actually is Thor. Big fat Bartolo Colon doesn’t age. Steven Matz would be a #1 starter on every other non-Mets team. And Zack Wheeler will be back in July to seal the already-done deal. Plus, all of them except Colon are 19 years old or something. The only problem is that nobody knows what type of hangover these guys will have from all those innings they ate up against Kansas City in the World Series. Or if they’ll even stay healthy. But if they do all bounce back, holy shit. Plus, they re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, which all makes for an excellent case for them to go back to the World Series. No matter how much I hate that.

 

 

Overall this division is horrible. But Bryce Harper and the dysfunctional Nationals should contend. Even though Dusty Baker is their new manager. And nobody knows what to make of the Miami Marlins quite yet. Don Mattingly is their new manager. Barry Bonds is their new hitting coach. Giancarlo Stanton will be healthy. So will Jose Fernandez. But we’ll have to see what all that means, if anything. Or if those guys can even stay healthy in the first place. And anyone looking to make a bold prediction on the division a la the 2015 Cubs and Astros might want to keep their eye on the Atlanta Braves, who are building a monster farm team, even though they’ll most likely be just slightly less shitty than the Phillies in 2016.

 

The NL West

I hate to say it, but 2016 is an even year. So we can probably throw all the analytics out the window and just hand the San Francisco Giants their fourth world title seven years. Their pitching staff picked up two possibly-great/possibly-hugely-disappointing acquisitions in Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. And that could give them an edge in what everybody seems to think will be a three team race with the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks.

 

The Dodgers lost Zack Greinke. To the Diamondbacks. They also have a rookie manager in Dave Roberts. In a market that wore out Mattingly and sent him to Miami. They also didn’t do anything with their gigantic payroll in the offseason. And any time you need to rely on Yasiel Puig for anything other than drama, it’s a pretty scary predicament. But this is a deep team with a crazy-good farm system. And they’ll probably be in enough contention by the time the trade deadline rolls around to throw money at whatever problems they have (that don’t involve lack of team chemistry). Plus they still have Clayton Kershaw. At the end of the day, as a resident Angelino, I just want to see Vin Scully go out in style. And if that means the Dodgers have to be good for that to happen, I can accept that.

 

 

Yes, Arizona got Greinke. And Shelby Miller. And they still have unrecognizable superstar, Paul Goldschmidt and equally unrecognizable AJ Pollock. But their projections aren’t too high as of now because of a lack of offensive depth (sup, Yasmany Tomas?). And it seems more likely they could be this year’s Padres and/or White Sox. As for the 2016 Padres and Rockies, I’m not wasting my time. It is an even year, after all.

 

The AL East

Every team in the division not named the Baltimore Orioles seem to have a chance this year. But the overall consensus comes down to the rebounding Boston Red Sox and the reigning division champion Toronto Blue Jays. Personally, I don’t know how acquiring David Price and Craig Kimbrel turns a 78-win last place team into a division favorite, but that’s just how the east coast media bias works. But it will be fun to see how fat Pablo Sandoval is. And if Hanley Ramirez can play first base. And it’s also the swan song for Big Papi. Plus, David Price is actually really fucking good. So I don’t know.

 

 

The Blue Jays have the best offense in baseball. And reigning MVP, Josh Donaldson. And their offense might be even better than last year since Troy Tulowitzki never got comfortable in Toronto in 2015. They’ll just have to stay healthy. And hope somebody on their team can pitch. As for the Yankees, they’re really old. And look how that worked out for them last season. Plus, you never know about that staff. And as good as their bullpen looks right now, we still don’t know what’s going to happen with Aroldis Chapman’s domestic abuse suspension. And the Rays have Chris Archer and the rest of their great starting five, but they’ll basically need everybody else on the lineup to be awesome to compete. Oh, and also the Orioles are in this division too, I guess.

 

The AL Central

The Royals won the World Series last year, no big deal. And they were one Madison Bumgarner away from being back-to-back World Series champions. Yet for some reason, Baseball Prospectus has them projected to be in last place in the Central in 2016. What gives? Maybe you can’t project things like ‘putting the ball in play and its positive consequences’ or ‘playing with a chip on their shoulder’, but whatever they did the past two seasons worked, so I don’t know why it wouldn’t work again. They have the defense. They have the bullpen. It’s just so hard to make a good enough argument for or against a team with relatively zero stars, that’s this mediocre on paper, going to three straight Fall Classics.

 

 

The hot pick in the AL Central continues to be the Cleveland Indians because of an extremely good pitching staff. Add Francisco Lindor’s defense behind them and they could be a powerhouse. Or Michael Brantley could be hurt and their offense could struggle and they won’t have the money to make acquisitions at the trade deadline to compete. And while I have a soft spot for the Detroit Tigers, they’re also getting a little long in the tooth. They got Justin Upton to aid a pretty good, but aging offense. And they picked up Jordan Zimmermann and K-Rod to help out a healthy, but aging Justin Verlander-led group of arms. Health is the key here. And if they have it, they might compete. The White Sox might also compete, even though nobody outside of Bridgeport is talking about them. They got Todd Frazier. They have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and a full season from Carlos Rodon. It’s just that everybody is distracted by the heat of a thousand suns ™ on the North Side. And the Twins have Miguel Sano, who is going to hit 40 dongs this year. Even though they were so terrible last year, that even when they were in first place for a while nobody bought it. If that makes any sense. Not that it should. Why would anything in this division make sense? I mean, Royals went to the World Series the past two years.

 

The AL West

Even though the Astros are the unanimous choice to win the division, everybody would rather talk about the Texas Rangers. Their 2015 playoff run was nothing short of a miracle. And now they’ll have full seasons from Cole Hamels and a healthy Yu Darvish. It’s just that nobody really expected the Astros to be where they were last season either. And now nobody expects them to regress. And the former hot choices in the division seem like yesterday’s newspaper. Mike Trout has no talent around him in Anaheim. Nobody wants to get fooled by the Mariners ever again. And the A’s need too much to get anything done.

 

 

So there you have it. Now you’re ready for the baseball season. And now you know why your team probably sucks and why you should switch allegiances to the Chicago Cubs. Or at least that’s how everything looks right now. Spring training, when nothing counts. And before the actual season comes with all its shitty reality to break hearts, launch new stars into the stratosphere and ruin every expectation, rendering long-winded predictions like the one I just spent way too long typing on a nice afternoon completely worthless. But hey, that’s baseball.

 

What else were we gonna talk about, Donald Trump?

 

 

 


Tigers and Blue Jays Trending in Opposite Directions

Written by :
Published on : July 30, 2015

 

For the Detroit Tigers this season began with high hopes and sights set on a World Series title that has eluded them for the past handful of years. Despite coming close in both 2006 and 2012, when they rolled through their American League opposition only to be annihilated by their National League opponents in the Fall Classic, this team has tasted the glory only to have it smacked out of their mouth both times. This season started off like many others in recent years, and after cruising to a 15-8 record in April, it looked as though the Tigers would be right back in that familiar spot at the top of the AL Central all year. Then May happened.

 

 

In sports things can turn on a dime, and for the Detroit Tigers they most certainly did. The team hit a rough patch in May and no one really panicked, after all, the baseball season is a very long one and most teams go through some losing streaks. But the losing didn’t stop. It was the first time since 2003 that this team had a losing May, followed by a losing June, followed by a losing July. I don’t think I have to remind baseball fans what the 2003 Tigers are famous for, and I’m certain that no one would have guessed prior to this season that the Tigers would revert to the type of ineptitude we saw in those years, but that’s just what happened. And that’s why for the first time in a long time, the Tigers have given up on their current season and begun selling pieces off in order to re-tool for the next season.

 

With many impending free agents and a ridiculous amount of payroll already wrapped up in a handful of other players, the Tigers have begun to sell pieces of what many thought would be a contending team. As I type the team has traded their closer Joakim Soria to the Pirates, and Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Avila, Rajai Davis and all of their expiring contracts still remain on the team, and could provide something to any team willing to give the Tigers a decent return. The team has already dealt arguably their best player this season, and the prize of last year’s trade deadline, David Price to the Blue Jays. In return they received three left handed pitchers, including top prospect Daniel Norris. This is the kind of prudent move that will help the team quickly turn things around for next season, especially when you consider that there’s no way the team could afford to re-sign Price this offseason while still paying the shadow of Justin Verlander $30 million a year.

 

 

As for the Blue Jays, losing a top prospect is tough but they are making it clear that they see this season as one in which they can catch the Yankees to win the AL East, or at least make the AL Wildcard. Two days prior to acquiring one of the best left-handers in baseball, the team in Toronto traded for one of the most exciting, albeit injury-prone, shortstops in the game in Troy Tulowitzki. He promptly announced his arrival by sending a home run deep in the second at-bat of his first game, following that with two doubles later on to finish 3-for-5 with three RBIs, helping his new team win 8-2 over the Phillies.

 

 

While David Price will probably end up being a short-term rental to help the Blue Jays make the playoffs this season and succeed once they get there, the Tulowitzki trade means that they intend to be relevant for years to come, considering they will have him locked up until at least 2020. If he can stay healthy, and thats a big if, he should help cement the Blue Jays as a real threat to the Yankees dominance in that division for the foreseeable future.

 

The Tigers have hit the reset button and begun planning for next year, which is probably the smartest move they can make. Anyone who has watched that team can recognize that there are some giant holes, mostly in the pitching staff, that need to be filled. By being realistic and knowing that there is no way they can catch the Royals in the AL this year, they have raised the white flag for 2015 in hopes that the moves they make now will help solidify them for 2016.

 

The Blue Jays are the exact opposite and they are digging in for a dogfight for the rest of the season. One team is already looking forward to next season and the other is focused on the next couple months. Three months ago I would have told you that you were crazy if you said this was how things would shake out, but that’s baseball and you never really know what’s going to happen. Next year could be very different but as for now the Tigers and Blue Jays are two American League teams that are headed in polar opposite directions.

 


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