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Detroit Tigers

AL Central Preview: Can Anyone Beat the Detroit Tigers?

Much like the their Senior Circuit brethren, the question for the AL Central is easy: can anyone beat the Detroit Tigers?
The answer is: no. No, they can’t.
The Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins are all just playing for second…and hopefully an accompanying Wild Card berth.
Baseball writers and bloggers all across the inter-web are quick to anoint the Tigers, but without proper recourse. And that’s why you come to MAMBINO, right? So that we can make you sound smarter than you are. Let’s take a second to describe the reigning American League Champs. They run out a very good, very healthy starting five headed up by the best (or second best, depending on who you ask) pitcher on the planet, Justin Verlander. Behind him, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister are walking no-hitters ready to happen. 24 year-old former first rounder pick Rick Porcello has disappointed in the past, but if you believe reports out of spring training, he’s poised for a breakout year.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers are mighty similar to the Anaheim Angels in that they can beat you in almost every single way. They’ve got Gamma-powered mashers (2012 AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, 1B Prince Fielder), speedy leadoff men (OFs Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter) and patient hitters that can spray the ball all over the field (DH Victor Martinez, OF Andy Dirks and 2B Omar Infante).
The bullpen is the only real question for the extremely well managed Tigers, as skipper Jim Leyland is currently without a closer. Phil Coke was certainly overextended as the team’s 9th inning man last October, but managed to look the part even though his stuff never really has. Detroit will close by committee for the moment, with Joaquin Benoit, Coke and Octavio Dotel all getting shots. However, the Tigers are all-in this season; if one of the incumbent relievers (or Triple-A closer-in-waiting Bruce Rondon) don’t claim the role, the front office is certain to go out and pay whatever price necessary to bring in a shut down hurler.
Make sense now? You’re welcome!…

(Not So Instant) Trade Analysis: Anibal Sanchez to the Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers get: SP Anibal Sanchez

Anibal Sanchez gets: 5 years, $80 million

Considering he’s returning to a team that’s won the AL Central two years in a row, Anibal Sanchez just re-signed with a team in flux.

The offense is the least of Detroit’s questions. With a 26 year old Austin Jackson manning center field, a terrifying middle order consisting of reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and a returning Victor Martinez and bit players Torii Hunter, Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila, the Tigers should remain one of the league’s better offenses. The Tigers’ murderous looking line-up was actually a bit overrated last year, ranking 6th in the AL in runs, as they weren’t particularly gifted amongst hitting home runs outside of their two sluggers, taking walks or reeling back from strikeouts. Detroit has a steady group of contributors that should only improve by upgrading their DH from the erratic Delmon Young to Victor Martinez, who’s patience at the plate and power should only improve after being relieved from daily catching duties.

However, the pitching staff isn’t nearly as steady. Re-signing Sanchez was a key component to their offseason, especially when looking at what their staff could have been. Justin Verlander remains one of, if not the very best pitchers in the league. No matter how erratic the rest of the staff, the Tigers always know that every five days a dominator will take the mound and keep throwing 100 mph bullets for 110 pitches. Doug Fister has been surprisingly dominant since he came to D-Town a year and a half ago, continuing his run with a 3.45 ERA, 137 strikeouts in 161 innings against only 37 walks. Between those two, they gave up 4 or more runs in only 12 of their combined 58 starts. Amazing stat.
On the other side of the bumper, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello were the portraits of inconsistency. Scherzer remained a strikeout machine, but gave up nearly a hit per inning, including 23 homers (down from his career average of 24). Porcello wasn’t nearly as effective, giving up a staggering 11.5 hits per nine innings. He’s still just 23 years old, but the shine is wearing off this former first round pick. Scherzer’s performances are especially vexing considering his monster fastball and propensity to dominate. Is he the April pitcher who finished the month with 1-3 with a 7.77 ERA, giving up a unreal 37 hits in 27 innings? Or is he the man who made three October starts and allowing only 4 earned runs in 17 innings?

In addition, Detroit’s bullpen is a mess, and even a signing of an established closer like Rafael Soriano (which has been rumored for weeks now) won’t solve every problem. In the regular season, they gave up the seventh most hits in the American League, as well as the sixth most runs and second most losses. Outside of Joaquin Benoit, no one, not even the year end’s closer Phil Coke, is reliable. Adding a steady starter capable of going seven innings a night if a prerequisite for any starter that Detroit added, which is luckily what Sanchez provides

Looking at the back end of the rotation and the bullpen, there’s really no question why the Tigers paid such a massive bounty for Sanchez, going past their previous offer by $10 million. Many writers have favorably compared the 29 year old Venezuelan with the number one free agent on the market, Zack Greinke, stating that Sanchez’s durability, accuracy and wins over replacement match up well with the new Dodger pitcher’s. Anibal’s brief 74 inning s… Read more...

MAMBINO’s World Series Preview

The 108th World Series starts tonight, so let’s set the stage:

The American League’s Detroit Tigers will be playing in only their third World Series in nearly thirty years, seeking their first title since 1984. Led by a pitching staff including reigning AL Cy Young and MVP award winner Justin Verlander peaking at the right minute, the Motor City’s professional baseball team will attempt to complete their quest of resurrecting a once proud franchise, a task they couldn’t quite finish off in 2006. 

Meanwhile, the National League champion San Francisco Giants are seeking their second title in three seasons. Prospective NL MVP Buster Posey and NL Cy Young hopeful Matt Cain have helped keep the SF squad at the top of Major League Baseball, despite losing Brian Wilson for the season in April, All-Star starting OF Melky Cabrera to a drug suspension in July and Tim Lincecum to an abduction last season that still hasn’t been solved. The Giants could be the first National League team to win two World Series within a three year span since the mid-seventies. In related news, I will vomit for a week straight if this happens.
In true MAMBINO fashion, we polled our rugged writing crew and came up with a consensus pick to win it all. However, in the interest of hedging our bets, we’re also going to bring you the alternative opinion. Let ‘er rip!

Why the Tigers will win the World Series in 5 Games
The Source: Defense wins championships right? Isn’t that the key? Good pitching beats good hitting?

It seems easy enough. The Tigers have been dominant on the mound. Look at their starters over their 9 postseason games: 62.0 IP, 7 ER. That’s pretty good. The guys in the bullpen have been solid too, except, of course, the set-up guy and the closer. But it hasn’t mattered. The starters have been going deep, the bullpen has been near perfect, and instead of watching Valverde blow saves and dance about it, manager Jim Leyland has been using the very solid Phil Coke. He’s earned 2 saves against the Yankees in the ALCS and totally owning the clubhouse open mic during the ALCS Game 4 rain-out with killer “guess what I found in this guy’s air duct” stories. 
Actually, Benoit and Valverde, the “reliable” 8thand 9th inning guys, are the only Tiger pitchers to give up runs out of the bullpen.  Oh well; Leyland has been picking his matchups well and it’s paying off. With a sweep of the Yankees, Detroit’s got their starting rotation set just how they want it and everyone is well rested. Plus, one of the advantages the Giants having coming in is their momentum but with Verlander on the hill in game 1, San Fran could hit the wall hard.
As for offense, hitting is always tough in the postseason. The Tigers haven’t been blowing anyone away with their huge power numbers but their lineup is a scary one to face. You know Austin Jackson, you know Miguel and Prince, and you’ve probably heard about Delmon Young winning the ALCS MVP, committing hate crimes, and driving in 8 runs in 9 postseason games – great. But some of the lesser known guys are playing well too. Jhonny Peralta is leading the team in first-name misspellings and a .343 BA through the first two series, rookie Avisail Garcia is hitting .333 with 4 RBI, and good ol’ Don “No really, I look like this and play professional sports” Kelly even won a game for us back against Oakland. 
The Giants seem like a team of annoying guys who aren’t great hitters but get big hits. Plus Buster Posey. So they’re hot and the best way to stop a hot team is good pitching. That

MAMBINO’s MLB Playoff Preview, Part 1: Wildcard and (a couple) Divisional Series

The second Wild Card slot has added in another dramatic cadence to what has been in recent years an extremely exciting last week of the season. In four out of the past five seasons, playoff spots weren’t settled until Game 162 out of 162, with the Rockies, Phillies, White Sox, Twins, Rays and Cardinals all eeking out monumental, last-second comebacks. The drama has been so fantastically unreal that the Commissioner Bud Selig, who miraculously looks like the best out of the four major sports right this moment, decided to heighten it starting in 2012 by adding another contender to the mix.

More teams than ever before were in the postseason hunt up until the final series of the year, including the freshly eliminated Dodgers, Brewers, Angels, Rays and White Sox. For the uninitiated, the playoffs begin today, when the two American League Wild Cards, the AL West deposed Texas Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles and the two National League Wild Cards, the reigning champion St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves, face off in a sudden death game to see who goes on to play the two teams with the best records in their respective leagues. As opposed to years past, the margin of benefit between being a division titlist and a Wild Card team just became canyon-like. If you’re a divisonal winner, you’re at least guaranteed a five-game series. A Wild Card winner? All you get is a one-game playoff to play the best team in your league, and a giant choco-taco full of crap. Needless to say, it’s infinitely advantageous to win the division. But even as tenuous as this sounds for the teams playing, you know who this sucks most for? THE GREAT MAMBINO.

That’s right. US. Since the Divisional Series matchups aren’t set yet, here we are previewing two one-game playoffs and only two out of the four divisional series. What about us, Bud? Your loyal bloggers? Who do this for nothing but the love of the game and the mountains of women that come with being an amateur writer? C’mon, man. Think about us, for once. Ass.  

Regardless of my personal vendettas, we here at MAMBINO would never intentionally deprive our dozens….AND DOZENS of followers. From the hearts and minds of MAMBINO HQ are our picks for tomorrow’s playoff games and the two Divisional Series that are set:

American League Wild Card Game: Texas Rangers over Baltimore Orioles

El Miz:
The Texas Rangers have limped into the postseason, fading down the back stretch before getting swept by the Oakland A’s and losing what looked like a certain third-straight AL West crown on the last day of the season.  All is not lost, however, as the Rangers and Baltimore Orioles will square off thanks to the new one-game play-in for the Wild Card (actually, we would have had the same result even if MLB didn’t change the rules, as the Rangers and Orioles finished with the exact same 93 wins).

So how does Texas have any chance?  They are playing arguably the hottest team in baseball and the dreaded “team of destiny” thanks to Baltimore’s incredible 29-9 record in 1-run games, the best winning percentage since the Brooklyn Bridegrooms way back when President Benjamin Harrison was in the White House…you know, 1890. 

First, Texas is at home, which has got to help since Camden Yards would have been an absolute madhouse with their first taste of the postseason since 1997. Second, Texas is throwing Yu Darvish.

Texas paid $51.7 million dollars to Darvish’s former team just to be able to negotiate with him (the total deal cost $11Read more...

MLB Dog Days of Summer Check-in: What’s Gone Wrong with the Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins?

KOBEsh: The Detroit Tigers are one and a half games behind Chicago for the AL Central lead. D-Town was supposed to run away with the division this year, but a lot of pretty obvious holes have reared their head – an awful infield defense and a very subpar rotation beyond Verlander. 

What would you say is the most overlooked problem with their team? Were they just never that good to begin with?

Mr. Marquez: Defense – Looking strictly at fielding percentage the Tigers have actually overachieved expectations. Miguel Cabrera was previously moved to first base for an obvious reason, but third basemen for the Tigers this season are in the top five in all of baseball. I know, I’m shocked. Actually, the worst they are at any position in terms of field position is at first base, but even there they are not that bad. Any team with Prince and Miguel on the corners deserves further inspection though, and that’s where the 21st Century comes in.

The Tigers UZR (ultimate zone rating, which determines how well a team gets to hit balls and fields them) is indeed the fifth worst in all of baseball. Among 17 qualifiers, Miguel is 14th best among his peers and the Tigers as a team are in the lower fifth of baseball at third base. The Tigers are also below average at second base and (no surprise) first base.

Ultimately though, we see all of this coming. The offense that a team with Prince and Miguel should have been able to overcome this problem.

Grade: Met Expectations

Rotation – Justin Verlander was MVP last year. Since the award was given in 1911, only 11 pitchers have ever won it and only one has repeated (we all remember Hal Newhouser in 1944 and 1945…obviously). We have to be fair to Verlander; he wasn’t going to replicate what he did last year, but has he failed to meet expectations? I don’t think so. All the numbers are pretty close to where he was a year ago. And let’s remember the information about the defense above. The team is above average in terms of fielding percentage, but below average in terms of UZR. In other words, his ERA and WHIP could be even better than 2.46 and 0.99 respectively. He’s done what he needs to do.

The rest of the rotation though is a different story. Doug Fister has been on the disabled list and missed about a month. Anibal Sanchez, who the Tigers hoped would be this year’s Fister, has been awful. Max Scherzer was brilliant in his most recent start, but we’ve seen his Jekyll & Hyde act every year. Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly have been fourth and fifth starters, and have been inconsistent, to say the least.

Grade: Failed to Meet Expectations

Offense– When Victor Martinez was lost for the season, the Tigers swept in and took Prince relatively late in the free agent spending period. It was an upgrade on V-Mart, but let’s give the man some credit. He is certainly an average to above average cleanup hitter in a Major League lineup, or at least he was before his knee became jell-o. 

Even with the outrageous deal he’s gotten, Prince has been great. He’s hit for average, he’s hit for power, and he’s walked more than he’s struck out. Additionally, Miguel Cabrera has had a typical, unbelievable season. He’s missed one game all season and leads baseball in RBI.

Similar to the rotation, the problem isn’t with the superstars. In 2011, Jhonny Peralta had a career year,  Alex Avila came out of nowhere to being an All-Star. In 2012, we’re talking about Peralta having a career year last season because he’s decline, Avila has gone back to nowhere and Brennan Boesch’s lack of plate discip


$214 Million Might Not Win the Detroit Tigers the Division

I like Prince Fielder as much as the next guy. He just got paid $214 million dollars to hit for the Detroit Tigers for the next 9 seasons. Though the contract is a bit outrageous, there’s no denying how good Fielder is with a bat in his hand. That’s something of an understatement – the guy can absolutely mash.

He’s averaged 38 jakks, 108 RBI, 95 runs scored, to go along with a .282 batting average and a .932 OPS. He’s not just a home run or bust hitter though; he’s had at least 150 hits in each of his full six seasons, with at least 25 doubles. Despite carrying nearly 300 pounds on a 5’11” frame (both of those numbers are what he’s listed at – I’d wager that they’re both slightly exaggerated. Not in a good way), he moves well for a big man and runs like a base stealer. Most importantly, the guy is a horse at just 27 years old. I meant that figuratively, but I understand if you would misconstrue what I was typing. He’s missed 13 games in 6 seasons, which is superhuman in a sport with 162 games a year. Prince Fielder is one of the 10 best hitters in the league and a perennial MVP candidate, barring a stroke or another joke/considerable reality pertaining to the fact that he’s really fat.

But that all being said…I don’t know how much better the Detroit Tigers are this year.

Most baseball writers are already writing in the Tigers for the AL Central crown, and perhaps rightfully so, considering how handily they won the division last season. However, even with Prince’s presence and enormity of his deal, I see a lot of glaring holes with this team. Here we go:

1) Prince Fielder is not a pitcher

My first thought when I heard about Fielder’s 9-year, $214 million dollar pact was “wait…they know that he can’t pitch, right?”

I can’t say enough about Fielder’s hitting. Really. He is phenomenal. Every single swing that this guy takes looks like he’s going to hit it into next week. But a fantastic lineup of mashers means nothing if you can’t keep the opposing team’s scoring down as well.

The Tigers rotation begins with AL Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander, who even if he repeats his almost unprecedented dominance he had in 2011, won’t be enough to take the Tigers all the way. He’s followed up by fourth-year man Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, Crazy Eyes Scherzer and the choice of rookies Jacob Turner, Casey Crosby or reliever Phil Coke. Looking beyond Verlander, this is an extremely flawed starting rotation.

Porcello is carrying with him a sterling pedigree (1st round pick in 2007) and age on his side (he’s only 22), but not nearly the type of numbers that would embolden anyone – after coming in 3rd place in the 2008 AL Rookie of the Year voting, he’s posted a 24-21 record with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP in 3 seasons of 343 innings since. He’s still not striking out very many batters (only 4.9 per 9 innings), and giving up a phenomenal number of hits despite playing with a good defensive infield (this season, the infield will be completely turned over…more on that in a second).

Doug Fister finished the year with a buzzsaw (8 wins with a 1.79 ERA and a ridiculous 0.89 WHIP in just 10 starts) after being traded from Seattle, but otherwise remains a slightly above average soft-thrower with solid control for his career (3.83 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, but with a 11.40 SO/BB ratio).

Crazy Eyes Scherzer showed the promise of a number 1 or 2 starting pitcher his first season in Arizo… Read more...