Showing posts with label Prince Fielder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prince Fielder. Show all posts

Friday, June 5, 2015

Dan Jennings is still not a left-handed specialist

Let's get this out of the way first: The White Sox did not lose Thursday night because of manager Robin Ventura's bullpen choices. The Sox lost, 2-1, to the Texas Rangers in 11 innings because they cannot hit. They managed just six hits and failed to take advantage of four Texas errors.

That said, Ventura's continual misuse of left-handed reliever Dan Jennings continues to be a point of frustration for me.

We've been over this before: Jennings is better at getting right-handed hitters out than he is against lefties.

RHB vs. Jennings: .233/.404/.395
LHB vs. Jennings: .326/.354/.391

RHB vs. Jennings: .237/.340/.390
LHB vs. Jennings: .296/.354/.401

This is not a new trend for Jennings, nor is this an example of groundbreaking analysis. But in the bottom of the 11th inning Thursday night, with a man on second and one out, Ventura had Jennings intentionally walk right-handed hitter Delino DeShields Jr., a rookie, to face veteran left-handed hitter Shin-Soo Choo.

Naturally, Choo got a base hit to win the game because, well, Jennings has problems getting left-handed batters out, despite his left-handedness. And even if Jennings had retired Choo, another left-handed hitter, Prince Fielder, was waiting on deck.

Fielder, incidentally, is leading the league in hitting at .358. Which combination of hitters would you have chosen to face in that situation? DeShields and Choo? Or Choo and Fielder? I think it's a no-brainer to face the former. DeShields is a rookie and might get himself out, and again, Jennings fares better against right-handed hitters. Then, you take your chances with Choo and pray Fielder doesn't get to the plate.

Ventura chose the latter option. He lost. It's frustrating, and it's too bad the Sox let this one get away. Carlos Rodon went six innings and posted a career-high 10 strikeouts. The Rangers were committing errors left and right, and they were just begging the Sox to take this game, win the series and come home with a winning road trip. Instead, the Sox pushed it away and finished the 11-game trip with a 5-6 record.

Next up, a weekend home series with the Detroit Tigers. Here are the pitching matchups.

Friday: Jose Quintana (2-6, 4.33 ERA) vs. Kyle Ryan (1-0, 3.00 ERA)
Saturday: John Danks (3-4, 4.81 ERA) vs. David Price (4-2, 3.15 ERA)
Sunday: Jeff Samardzija (4-3, 4.68 ERA) vs. Alfredo Simon (5-3, 2.97 ERA)

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, October 18, 2013

Sources: White Sox agree to deal with Cuban slugger Jose Abreu

The White Sox have agreed to a six-year, $68 million contract with Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, according to multiple reports.

Abreu, 26, is a right-handed power hitter, but other than that, I don't know much about him. We do know he went 9-for-25 with three home runs and nine RBIs in last spring's World Baseball Classic.

I haven't seen Abreu play a single game in my life, and unlike other self-appointed "experts," I don't pretend to know whether this is a good move for the Sox.

But I'll tell you this much: The Sox need a first baseman, and they need some guys who can hit in the middle of the order. When you look at the current roster, it's hard to figure out who is going to fill the Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 spots in the batting order next year. You assume right fielder Avisail Garcia is one of those guys, but after that, who do you have?

Paul Konerko will be 38 next Opening Day, and he doesn't have a contract for next year. Adam Dunn has hit a combined .197 in his three seasons on the South Side. I'm sure the Sox would love to trade Dunn and get out from underneath the last year of his contract. Alex Rios was traded in August, and Dayan Viciedo failed to take a step forward in 2013 as the Sox had hoped. Where are the impact bats?

Obviously, the Sox are really lacking in run producers, and if their scouts believe Abreu can fill that void, then good for the front office for going out and acquiring him. Yeah, the price is high, but if you believe in a player's talent, then you shouldn't be shy about pulling the trigger on a deal. The Sox can't afford to be passive coming off a 99-loss season.

If this Abreu signing fails, well, then somebody will probably pay with their job. That somebody won't be me, so I don't care. I'm just glad to see the Sox moving aggressively to try to upgrade their roster. I'll gladly take that over bringing back the same cast of characters from this past summer.

Boston takes 3-2 lead in ALCS

All of a sudden, Mike Napoli is the best hitter in the Boston lineup. The catcher-turned-first baseman hit a solo home run to win Game 3 of the ALCS for the Red Sox earlier this week, and he was at it again Thursday night. Napoli hit a monstrous 460-foot home run off Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez to open the scoring and finished with three hits and two runs scored as the Red Sox beat the Tigers, 4-3, in Game 5.

With the win, Boston will take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series back to Fenway Park for Game 6.

It's tempting to count the Tigers out. Detroit hasn't been hitting. In particular, cleanup hitter Prince Fielder has been terrible in the postseason. He's swinging at everything, and he has no RBIs in the playoffs thus far. He heard boos from the restless Comerica Park faithful on Thursday night.

But, Detroit has 21-game winner Max Scherzer lined up to pitch Game 6 on Saturday. If the Tigers win that, they'll have Justin Verlander ready to go on regular rest for Game 7. If the Red Sox are to finish the job and reach the World Series, they will have to beat a quality pitcher to do so. Home-field advantage will be working in their favor.

Boston will send Clay Buchholz to the mound on Saturday.

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.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Tigers have the Indians on the ropes

For most of this season, I've been of the mindset that the American League Central Division is a one-team race. The Detroit Tigers are the best and most complete team, and barring an unforeseen rash of injuries, they are going to the playoffs. That's just how it is.

But give the Cleveland Indians credit. They have made things interesting for longer than anyone expected. However, I think the party might be over for the Tribe following the events of this week.

Flash back to Monday: Detroit came into Cleveland to open a four-game series. The Tigers had a three-game lead in the division. Critical series? Well, not exactly. But it was an important series; important enough that it could be a huge turning point if one team or the other swept.

Well, the Tigers swept. That first game Monday night set the tone. The Indians took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning. They were three outs away from trimming Detroit's division lead to two games. If closer Chris Perez could get the job done, the race would be on. Instead, Perez imploded.

He faced four batters and retired none of them. Prince Fielder doubled. Victor Martinez singled. Andy Dirks walked. Then, Alex Avila (pictured) hit a 3-run homer. Suddenly, the Tigers led 4-2, and that would be the final score. In a blink of an eye, Detroit had a four-game lead in the AL Central -- the top of the ninth inning Monday night representing a huge two-game swing.

On Tuesday, Detroit's Justin Verlander outpitched Cleveland ace Justin Masterson as the Tigers prevailed 5-1. Wednesday brought another crushing loss for the Tribe as they fell 6-5 in 14 innings. Detroit ace Max Scherzer finished off the four-game sweep on Thursday. The likely AL Cy Young winner is now 17-1 after earning a 10-3 victory.

The Tigers left Cleveland with a seven-game division lead and a 12-game winning streak intact. The New York Yankees broke Detroit's winning streak with a 4-3 win in 10 innings Friday night, but Cleveland failed to take advantage, falling 5-2 to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Entering Saturday's play, Detroit leads Cleveland by 7 games and red-hot Kansas City by 7.5 games. The Royals have won 15 of 17 and could take over second place by the end of action today. The Indians, however, look like their chances are dying. It's been a terrible week for Cleveland, and if the Tribe fails to make the playoffs, this recent series with Detroit will be the one they look back on as the one that cost them.