Showing posts with label Miguel Cabrera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Miguel Cabrera. Show all posts

Friday, August 5, 2016

Jose Quintana equals career high with ninth win; White Sox top Tigers

Jose Quintana
It's hard to believe White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana has never reached double-digit victories in a season.

He's posted a 3.38 ERA over 140 career starts in his five years in the majors. You would think a pitcher of his quality and consistency would have a better record than 42-42.

Maybe this is the year Quintana finally hits the 10-win plateau and surpasses it. He equaled his career high by collecting his ninth victory of the season Thursday, as the Sox defeated the Detroit Tigers, 6-3.

Quintana (9-8) pitched 7.1 innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits. He struck out three and walked just one in an efficient 93-pitch outing on a hot day in Detroit.

It didn't hurt to have some run support for a change, as the Sox roughed up Detroit starter Jordan Zimmermann in his return from the disabled list.

The Tigers right-hander was fortunate to allow just one run in the first inning after the Sox loaded the bases with one out. He would not be so lucky in the second inning, as Chicago erupted for five runs. Avisail Garcia started the rally with a solo home run, and Jose Abreu capped it with a two-run homer to left field.

You read that right: Abreu hit a home run, his first since June 23.

That rally handed Quintana an early 6-1 lead, and he stayed in front all afternoon, eventually departing with one out in the eighth after giving up a solo home run to Miguel Cabrera that made the score 6-3.

Nate Jones retired the only two batters he faced to finish the eighth, and closer David Robertson worked around a leadoff single to secure his 26th save in 30 opportunities.

The Sox salvaged the finale of the three-game series against the Tigers and snapped Detroit's eight-game winning streak. Still, it was a miserable eight-game road trip for the South Siders. They limp home with a 2-6 record, and they'll only be home for three days against the Baltimore Orioles.

Then, it's right back on the road for nine more games. The Sox will need to find a way to solve their road woes soon. Even with Thursday's win, they are an abysmal 3-11 away from U.S. Cellular Field since the All-Star break.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tigers gamble on Justin Upton reversing their decline

Justin Upton
Both Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton are better players than Chris Davis. So, after Davis got paid by the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend, you just had a feeling that Cespedes and Upton would soon get their big paydays, as well.

Cespedes still is on the board as of Tuesday afternoon, but Upton agreed on a six-year, $132.75 million contract with the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

Upton hit .251 with 26 home runs and 81 RBIs for the San Diego Padres last season, and he fills the hole the Tigers had in left field.

But does he make Detroit a legitimate contender? I knew the Tigers would make big splashes this offseason. They are coming off a last-place finish in the AL Central, and their owner, 86-year-old Mike Ilitch, has shown that he's willing to spend his millions on trying to build a winner sometime before he dies.

Here's one problem for the Tigers: Several members of their core (Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez) are aging and coming off years where they've spent time on the disabled list, or played through injury issues.

Here's another problem for the Tigers: Despite an active offseason, they won't be entering 2016 with a better roster than the one they had 12 months ago.

Think about it: They have Jordan Zimmermann instead of David Price. They have Upton instead of Cespedes. They have Cameron Maybin instead of Rajai Davis. They have Francisco Rodriguez instead of Joakim Soria. The rest of their core is the same.

Which of these four would you rather have: Price, Cespedes, Davis and Soria? Or Zimmermann, Upton, Maybin and Rodriguez?

It's close, but I think I would take the group with Price and Cespedes. The Tigers had those guys last year, along with Cabrera, Martinez, Verlander, et al., but after an 11-2 start, they slumped badly. They were back to .500 by the first week of June and never got it going again. They struggled so much, in fact, that former GM Dave Dombrowski broke up the band, dealing Price, Cespedes and Soria to contending teams at the July trading deadline.

Dombrowski was ultimately fired for abandoning the win-now mentality that has existed for years under Ilitch. Normally, I'm a proponent of the win-now philosophy, but there's something to be said for a front office that realizes its window has closed. Dombrowski knew that last year, and he changed gears. Just because ownership dismissed him for that decision does not mean he was wrong.

Even with the addition of Upton, I'm looking at a Detroit roster that has significant question marks, and costs roughly $200 million. For that kind of money, a team should probably be a favorite to win its division. But to me, the Tigers (and everyone else in the AL Central) are still looking up at the Kansas City Royals, and frankly, they aren't as close to the top as they believe they are.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw win MVP awards

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout on Thursday was named the unanimous MVP of the American League.

The 23-year-old received all 30 first-place votes and finished with 420 points. Detroit's Victor Martinez took second with 229 points, while Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley placed third with 185 points.

Let me say this: I do not disagree with this vote. But what's funny about this is Trout didn't have as good a season in 2014 as he had in 2012 or 2013:

2012: .326/.399/.564, 30 HRs, 84 RBIs, 49 SBs
2013: .323/.432/.557, 27 HRs, 97 RBIs, 33 SBs
2014: .287/.377/.561, 36 HRs, 111 RBIs, 16 SBs

Sure, Trout's power numbers were up in 2014, but he also struck out a league-leading 184 times. The batting average, on-base percentage and stolen base totals, while good, took a noticeable dip. I feel like his best year was 2013, when he finished second in the MVP voting to Miguel Cabrera. Trout also finished second to Cabrera in 2012.

Frankly, Trout has been the best overall player in the American League for each of the past three years. What was different about this season that swung the vote in Trout's favor? For one, Cabrera regressed to the point where he was no longer the best hitter on his own team. (Martinez was.) And two, the Angels won a league-best 98 games and made the playoffs.

The Angels did not make the playoffs in either 2012 or 2013, and there is always that subset of voters that believes the MVP *must* come from a team that qualified for the postseason.

Again, Trout deserves the award. It's just funny that he finally received his recognition in his weakest season of the last three.

Clayton Kershaw wins NL MVP

It's been a good week for Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, who won the NL Cy Young Award on Wednesday and the NL MVP on Thursday.

Kershaw went 21-3 with 1.77 ERA, a 0.857 WHIP and six complete games in 27 starts this year. There's no denying he's the best pitcher in the league. The debate surrounding him was whether a pitcher should win the MVP award over an everyday player.

Here's why I think it's OK for starting pitchers to win MVP:

Dodgers record with Kershaw on the mound: 24-3 (.852 winning percentage)
Dodgers record with all other pitchers: 71-64 (.526 winning percentage)

The Dodgers are a decent, but not great team when Kershaw doesn't pitch. But with him on the mound, they rarely lose. I'd say he's pretty valuable, and you can justify voting for him for MVP on that basis.

Eighteen voters agreed and named Kershaw first on their ballot. He totaled 355 points. Miami's Giancarlo Stanton got eight first-place votes and 298 points for second place. Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, the 2013 winner, finished third with four first-place votes and 271 points.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Victor Martinez re-signs with Detroit Tigers

Designated hitter Victor Martinez has agreed to a four-year, $68 million contract to stay with the Detroit Tigers, according to AP sources.

Martinez, 35, is an American League MVP candidate after hitting .335 with 32 home runs and 103 RBIs for the 2014 Central Division champion Tigers. The switch-hitter missed the whole 2012 season with a knee injury, but aside from that, he's been a consistent offensive force for nearly a decade. He has hit over .300 in eight of his last nine seasons.

That said, the Tigers are taking a risk here with the length of this contract. Martinez will be 36 years old when the 2015 season begins. His batting average and home run total this past year were career bests, and he's unlikely to meet or exceed those numbers again. He will still be a productive middle-of-the-order presence even if he regresses to his career norms, but for how long will he be able to play at this same level? Nobody knows for sure.

White Sox fans who were hoping to see their team sign Martinez this offseason should not despair. Yes, the Sox need somebody who can swing the bat from the left side to put between Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia in the middle of the batting order, but I would caution against giving a four-year deal to a soon-to-be 36-year-old who doesn't do anything but DH.

It makes more sense for the Tigers to hand out this kind of contract, because they are in their window to win. In fact, they might be coming toward the end of that window. Injuries and Father Time seem to be taking their toll on both Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. Max Scherzer and Torii Hunter are free agents this offseason. Who knows if they'll be back? If you're the Tigers, a team with an aging core, there has to be urgency to get things done right now. If Scherzer walks away, they are going to need their offense to carry them on a lot of nights, and Martinez was their best hitter last year. For them, he was a "must-keep," and the contract they handed out reflects that.

From a White Sox perspective, they are likely a year and potentially two away from returning to legitimate contention. If they had been able to add Martinez to their lineup, sure, they would be immediately better. But he wouldn't fix the problems with the pitching staff, and by the time the Sox are ready to win, Martinez would be 38 years old and likely in decline. Unless you're ready to win right now, it doesn't make much sense to add a designated hitter at the price of more than $16 million a year.

Just in general, I think it would behoove the Sox to seek younger players who can provide long-term solutions to the holes on the roster. Martinez, to me, is not one of those guys. Much like the Tigers as a team, he's coming toward the end of his window for success. In that regard, team and player are a perfect fit for each other.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Tigers are crazy for giving Miguel Cabrera $292 million

The Detroit Tigers on Thursday gave first baseman Miguel Cabrera a 10-year, $292 million contract. I'll be honest: The length of this deal and the amount of dollars included shocks me. I'm floored.

Don't get me wrong, Cabrera is a great hitter. He won the American League Triple Crown in 2012 and has earned league MVP honors in each of the past two seasons. No one would be surprised if he won the MVP again in 2014.

But why did the Tigers need to do this deal now? They had Cabrera locked up through the end of the 2015 season. Cabrera was set to make $44 million over these next two years. That's a lot, sure, but in the current marketplace that's not an unreasonable price to pay for the guy who is right now the best hitter in baseball. It might even be considered a bargain.

However, Cabrera is just three weeks shy of his 31st birthday. His body started to show signs of breaking down last season. In fact, the Tigers traded Prince Fielder and moved Cabrera from third base to first base, in part, to lessen the wear and tear on his body. Like everyone else, Cabrera has a shelf life, and I question whether he will still be considered the best hitter in baseball three or four years down the road.

So why did the Tigers add eight years and $248 million to the contract of a player on the wrong side of 30? You got me. You can't even justify it on the grounds that the Tigers are in win-now mode and needed to lock up Cabrera, because they already had him signed for this year and next.

You would think the absurd contract given to Albert Pujols prior to the start of the 2012 season would be a cautionary tale for clubs. At the time he signed, Pujols was 32 years old. He had just led the St. Louis Cardinals to the 2011 World Series championship. He was considered by many to be the best hitter in baseball, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim awarded him with a 10-year, $240 million deal.

Unfortunately for the Angels, that move has not worked out thus far. They have not made the playoffs in the first two years of Pujols' deal. The 34-year-old played just 99 games in 2013 and slumped to a career-low 17 home runs and 64 RBIs. He was even being booed by some of the hometown fans in Anaheim.

And there are *only* eight years and $212 million left on that contract. Good luck with that, Angels.

It's not too hard to envision a similar scenario unfolding with this Cabrera contract. There are decades worth of evidence that suggest sluggers decline in their mid-30s, and the Tigers will be paying absurd dollar figures for a fading superstar.

At least with Pujols, he was a free agent, and you can make the case the Angels had to go big to get the player to sign. The Tigers, in contrast, already had the player under control and were bidding against themselves. That makes it all the more crazy.

This if further evidence that oftentimes baseball players get paid based upon what they have done in the past, not on what they will do in the future. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tigers trade Prince Fielder to Rangers for Ian Kinsler

How is this for a trade nobody saw coming? The Detroit Tigers have agreed to send first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler.

The particulars are still being finalized, but it's a one-for-one deal. There are no prospects involved, and that's the thing that makes this trade so intriguing. How often do you see two established major league players traded straight up for each other? Not too often. Most trades nowadays involve veteran players being dealt for future considerations. That's not the case here.

So, which team got the better of this deal? It's an interesting debate, and I've heard good arguments made for both sides. My vote goes to Detroit, even though I acknowledge that Fielder will likely be more productive for Texas in 2014 than Kinsler will be for the Tigers.

To me, Detroit wins this deal because of the money it just freed up. Fielder's contract is an albatross. The 29-year-old slugger has seven years and $168 million remaining on his deal, and his numbers have slipped. You can make a case Fielder's production in 2013 did not justify his hefty paycheck. If he's overpaid now, he's really going to be overpaid three or four years down the road when his skills further erode.

Here are Fielder's statistics over the last three years. Note the downward trend in on-base and slugging percentage:

2011: .299/.415/.566, 38 home runs, 120 RBIs
2012: .313/.412/.528, 30 home runs, 108 RBIs
2013: .279/.362/.457, 25 home runs, 106 RBIs

To be fair, the 31-year-old Kinsler's numbers have slipped as well:

2011: .255/.355/.477, 32 home runs, 77 RBIs
2012: .256/.326/.423, 19 home runs, 72 RBIs
2013: .277/.344/.413, 13 home runs, 72 RBIs

However, Kinsler is owed just $62 million over the next four years, a much more manageable figure, and he plays a premium defensive position. Reports indicate the Tigers are paying the Rangers $30 million to take Fielder off their hands. So, instead of paying $168 million for Fielder, Detroit is coughing up a combined total of $92 million for Kinsler and the payout to the Rangers.

That provides the Tigers with a net savings of $76 million, which is huge because Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2014 season. Two-time league MVP Miguel Cabrera hits free agency after the 2015 season. Suddenly, Detroit has a lot more money to play with if it desires to extend the contracts of those two players, both of whom have been more important to the team's success than Fielder.

In addition, the Tigers will be able to bolster their defense by moving the immobile Cabrera away from third base and back to first base where he belongs. Kinsler solidifies second base for them. Third base is an open question, but prospect Nick Castellanos seems poised to get a look. Detroit could also sign a defense-first infielder like Juan Uribe to provide some insurance at the position. With Victor Martinez as the designated hitter, Cabrera still should have adequate protection in the lineup. Even without Fielder, the Tigers will look like favorites in the AL Central, and they'll have money to spend to retain key pieces like Scherzer and Cabrera.

What about Texas? Well, the Rangers needed a middle-of-the-order bat, and they got one. Fielder is a clear upgrade over Mitch Moreland at first base. Texas could pursue Robinson Cano to take Kinsler's place at second base, but more than likely, the Rangers will slide highly regarded prospect Jurickson Profar into that spot.

I tend to believe Fielder will help the Rangers in the short run, maybe another two decent-to-good years, but players with Fielder's body type don't tend to age well. By the time 2017 rolls around, Texas is going to be stuck with a bad contract for a portly first baseman who can't play anymore. Better win now, Rangers.

Friday, November 15, 2013

No surprise: Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen win MVPs

I don't have any brilliant analysis to offer about this year's MVP awards, but since we've been talking about postseason honors on this blog this week, I should probably note that Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen have been named the MVPs of their respective leagues.

Neither vote was a surprise. Cabrera led the American League in batting average (.348), on-base percentage (.442) and slugging percentage (.636). He ranked second in home runs (44) and RBIs (137) behind Chris Davis of Baltimore.

Cabrera got 23 of the 30 first-place votes and finished comfortably ahead of Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout. Davis took third in the balloting.

McCutchen won in a landslide, picking up 28 of the first-place votes in the National League. He batted .317 with 21 home runs, 84 RBIs and 27 stolen bases. He also played an excellent center field in leading Pittsburgh to its first winning season and first playoff appearance since 1992.

Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt finished second, while St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina took third.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Detroit roughs up Jake Peavy, evens up ALCS

With his team trailing 2-1 in the ALCS coming into Wednesday night's Game 4, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland shuffled his lineup.

He moved Torii Hunter into the leadoff spot, moved Miguel Cabrera into the No. 2 hole and dropped the slumping Austin Jackson from first to eighth in the batting order.

Was it the right move? Well, you can't argue with Wednesday's results. The aforementioned three Tiger hitters combined to go 5 for 11 with six RBIs as Detroit defeated the Boston Red Sox 7-3 to tie the best-of-seven series at 2-all.

Detroit roughed up Boston starter Jake Peavy, scoring five runs in the second inning and two more in the fourth to take a commanding 7-0 lead it would never relinquish.

I think, though, that the success of Leyland's lineup shuffle was more of a coincidence than anything else. Quite simply, Peavy had a horrible game. I've watched most of the right-hander's starts over the last four years, and normally his strikeout-to-walk ratio is around 4 to 1. On this night, Peavy uncharacteristically walked three batters in the fateful five-run second inning alone, including a bases-loaded free pass to the struggling Jackson. Peavy had no command of the strike zone whatsoever.

I'm not really sold on the idea that the Tigers are out of their slump now. I think they were the fortunate beneficiaries of a terrible performance by a starting pitcher who is normally pretty good.

We'll see what happens in Thursday's Game 5. If Detroit cuffs around Boston ace Jon Lester, then I'll be convinced that Leyland's lineup juggling has actually made an impact.

Dodgers stay alive in NLCS

Speaking of offensive breakouts, Los Angeles finally got its bats going with four home runs Wednesday in Game 5 of the NLCS. Adrian Gonzalez homered twice, while Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis also went deep as the Dodgers stayed alive with a 6-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals still lead the series, 3-2, and the scene shifts back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Friday night.

Despite all the home runs, the most critical moment of this game came in the top of the first inning. The Cardinals loaded the bases with nobody out, but failed to score after Los Angeles pitcher Zack Greinke struck out Matt Adams and induced Yadier Molina to ground into an inning-ending double play. The Dodgers were one mistake away from finding themselves in a big early hole in an elimination game. Instead, they got out unscathed, and you had it feeling it was going to be their day from that point forward.

Los Angeles will send its ace to the mound in Game 6. Clayton Kershaw will try to lead the Dodgers to a series-tying victory. His mound opponent will be Michael Wacha in a rematch from Game 2, which Wacha won 1-0. Should be another great pitching matchup in a postseason full of them.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Can Miguel Cabrera get his power stroke back?

The Oakland A's actually took my advice for Thursday night's Game 5 of the ALDS. They started Sonny Gray instead of Bartolo Colon.

It didn't work out so well as Gray allowed three runs on six hits and walked four over five innings pitched. He took the loss as the Detroit Tigers beat Oakland 3-0 to secure a 3-2 series victory and advance to the ALCS.

It wouldn't have mattered if Colon had gotten the start because nobody was going to outpitch Justin Verlander on this night anyway. Verlander continued his postseason mastery of the A's, allowing just two hits over eight shutout innings. He struck out 10 and took a no-hitter into the seventh. The hard-throwing right-hander has now fired 24 consecutive scoreless innings against Oakland in the playoffs.

The "Moneyball" approach doesn't seem to work against Verlander. The Oakland hitters tried to work the count, but most of the time, they found themselves behind 0-2 and 1-2. That's a recipe for making outs against Verlander.

Perhaps the best sign for Detroit was seeing reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera hit a his first home run of the postseason, a two-run blast off Gray in the fourth inning. It was just the third extra-base hit Cabrera has had since Sept. 1. The slugger has a groin, hip and abdominal strains that are limiting his mobility and overall effectiveness. He hasn't been able to run, nor has he been able to get his legs into his swing. Hence, the loss of power.

It's a tough spot for the Tigers. They can't lose Cabrera's presence in the lineup, but they need him to be more than just a singles hitter in the No. 3 hole, especially given cleanup hitter Prince Fielder's overall struggles in the postseason.

Detroit opens the ALCS on the road against Boston on Saturday night. I think the Tigers are underdogs in this series, primarily because Cabrera isn't healthy and hasn't swung the bat up to his capabilities lately. Can he overcome his injury (or injuries) enough to get his power stroke back? Is Thursday's home run a sign of better things to come? That may be the deciding factor in whether Detroit can advance to the World Series for the second consecutive year.

 The Tigers can match (and maybe even exceed) the Red Sox in the starting rotation, but Boston has a clear advantage offensively if Cabrera doesn't produce the way he has in the past.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Miguel Cabrera has 40 and 120 -- with a quarter of a season left

If Miguel Cabrera played for a team that wasn't in the American League Central, I would really like him. Come to think of it, the only reason I dislike him is because he plays for the Detroit Tigers -- a hated rival of the White Sox.

The guy is just an awesome hitter, and as a fan of baseball, I respect just how good Cabrera is at his craft. The reigning Triple Crown winner slugged his 40th home run of the season Sunday in the Tigers' 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals. Cabrera also had an RBI single in the game, lifting his season RBI total to 120.

Cabrera, who leads the American League with a .360 batting average, became just the third player since 1921 to have at least 40 homers and 120 RBIs while batting .350 or better through 116 games. The other two names on that list are Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx.

As baseball fans, I think the Steroid Era made us all feel like 40 home runs and 120 RBIs in one season isn't much of an accomplishment anymore. In recent weeks, I've heard two different radio commentators in Chicago opine about how one day Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is going to "hit 40 home runs and drive in 120 runs every year."

Really? Even if Rizzo develops into an All-Star hitter, he isn't going to do that. I don't think people respect just how hard it is to put up 40 and 120 in a single year.

For Cabrera, as great as he is, this is only the second time he's had 40 and 120 in the same season. Frank Thomas accomplished the feat just three times in his brilliant 19-year career. Albert Pujols, who preceded Cabrera as the best hitter in the game, has done it four times. Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, who is beloved by statheads as an OPS machine, has never totaled 40 and 120 in the same season.

Even noted steroid cheats Alex Rodriguez (six times), Sammy Sosa (four times) and Barry Bonds (three times) didn't hit 40 homers and drive in 120 every year.

Those are difficult plateaus to reach, and that makes what Cabrera is doing this year all the more impressive. At the rate he's going, 50 home runs and 150 RBIs are well within his reach.