The GM's Office: Max Scherzer
October, 20, 2013
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesMax Scherzer is going to be expensive, but Detroit must give him an extension.The Detroit Tigers were swept in the 2012 World Series by the San Francisco Giants four games to none and this year weren't able to get back after losing in the American League Championship Series to the Boston Red Sox. This despite the fact that the Tigers had a better team this year than last year with a healthy Victor Martinez at DH, improved defense in right field thanks to Torii Hunter, an impact closer in Joaquin Benoit, and a fully developed Max Scherzer, who should win the AL Cy Young Award next month.
The Tigers head to the offseason knowing their core is intact for another run in 2014. All five members of the rotation -- Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister and Rick Porcello -- are signed for 2014, and the same can be said for their lineup core including: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Martinez, Hunter, Alex Avila and shortstop Jose Iglesias.
But as the Red Sox showed, the Tigers still have some weaknesses. Here is how GM Dave Dombrowski can shore them up for 2014.
1. Tough decisions on free agents
Benoit developed into one of the American League's best closers this year, and the Tigers would like to bring him back. The good news for them is that there are a number of other closers set to be available as free agents, such as Fernando Rodney and Grant Balfour, so they have options if Benoit signs elsewhere. The Tigers could hand the job to Bruce Rondon, but I'm guessing they will sign someone with more of a track record.
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September, 25, 2013
On Monday, I ranked all the National League aces of postseason contenders. The list featured a mixture of young power arms and seasoned veterans with postseason experience. What's more important: ability or experience? While veteran savvy is important and can help to a point, as I wrote, velocity is effective. I lean toward the best and most successful power arms. Usually postseason teams have the best lineups in the game, so the best way to win is with velocity and pitch-ability.
With the postseason almost upon us, I've ranked the No. 1 starters on all the teams still mathematically alive for an AL playoff spot.
I asked Tigers manager Jim Leyland this week whether he would have believed me if I had told him in spring training Justin Verlander would be his third best starter come October? He responded with a resounding "No!" But that's exactly where the Tigers are, as both Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez have not only outpitched Verlander, but outpowered him, too, giving the Tigers arguably the best 1-2 punch in the AL this postseason. Scherzer is the frontrunner for AL Cy Young Award and his power fastball/slider combo and devastating changeup will be formidable in the postseason’s short series.
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October, 23, 2012
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesPrince Fielder might be the first Detroit hitter to put one in the right-field cove at AT&T Park.
With the World Series upon us, the 50 players showcased on baseball grandest stage will have varied roles, boasting an assortment of strengths as well as exposing some weaknesses. The Detroit Tigers' lineup is fearsome, as are their top three starting pitchers. But the San Francisco Giants match up well, and if the length of their series in the first two rounds is any indication, this could go down to the wire.
Let's take a look at those 50 players and rank them according to their potential impact on the series and importance to their respective teams. (Note: At time of publication, official rosters had not been announced.)
1. Justin Verlander, RHP, DET: Verlander has the best overall stuff of any pitcher in the major leagues, and he is finally dominating the postseason in the same fashion as he does the regular season. He's the Tigers’ key to winning the World Series.
2. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, DET: He will win the AL MVP this November after becoming the first AL Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
3. Buster Posey, C, SF: He will win the NL MVP this November, and despite a poor NLCS, I look for him to rebound in the World Series.
4. Matt Cain, RHP, SF: It was just two years ago that he ran the table in the postseason, leading the Giants to a World Series title. I expect him to repeat what he just did in Game 7 of the NLCS and help give the Giants their second title in three years. He’s a true ace.
5. Prince Fielder 1B, DET: Owner Mike Illitch took a lot of grief from his peers over the nine-year pact he gave Fielder, but that signing has Illitch just four wins away from a world championship.
6. Max Scherzer RHP, DET: He and Verlander had the highest K/9 ratio of any tandem in baseball this season. As future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones once told me, power pitchers win in the postseason. The Tigers have the two best in this series.
7. Austin Jackson CF, DET: The best defensive outfielder in this series, Jackson runs down fly balls in the gaps better than anyone in this World Series. His ability to get on base will offer RBI opportunities for Cabrera and Fielder.
8. Pablo Sandoval 3B, SF: “Kung Fu Panda” is the heart, soul and energy of the Giants’ lineup. He's locked in at the plate right now with consistent sweet spot contact. Don't be surprised if he's the next one to deposit a home run in the left-field cove at AT&T Park.
9. Ryan Vogelsong RHP, SF: Who would have thought that Vogelsong would be the best Giants starting pitcher in the postseason, ahead of Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner? Vogelsong possesses a 92-93 mph fastball with pinpoint control on the black and changes eye levels.
10. Doug Fister RHP, DET: Fister pounds the lower part of the zone with a nasty sinker and is one of those players who loves center stage. I expect another good series from him.
11. Marco Scutaro 2B, SF: He led all NLCS players in on-base percentage and is a true table-setter. His defense has been matching his offense, and he sets the tone for this resilient ballclub.
12. Sergio Romo RHP, SF: He has one of the best sliders in baseball, and his ability to put away Jay Bruce in the NLDS might have been the at-bat that truly put him in the category of an impact closer. Bruce Bochy now has the confidence to use him in the biggest games to close against left-handed hitters as well as right-handed hitters.
13. Barry Zito, LHP, SF: How does Zito land ahead of Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner on this list? His 15 regular-season wins and his dominant Game 5 performance against St. Louis in the NLCS give him the edge. However, my instincts say his 84 mph fastball is at risk of being exposed by the Tigers. Stay tuned.
14. Anibal Sanchez, RHP, DET: The Tigers mortgaged the future by trading right-hander Jacob Turner and catcher Rob Brantly for him at the deadline. If they win the World Series with him, who cares?
15. Delmon Young, LF/DH, DET: Young entered the postseason with little free-agent value and completely changed that with his second consecutive strong postseason, earning this year's ALCS MVP. He would be higher on the list if he were to play strictly DH, but he will have to play left field in possibly four games of this series.
16. Santiago Casilla, RHR, SF: Casilla had once been the closer, and he also shared the role, and now he has found a home in the eighth inning. Expect some critical relief outings for him in this series, especially against Cabrera and Young.
17. Tim Lincecum, RHP, SF: It will be interesting to see if Bochy uses him to start or relieve. He was really effective out of the bullpen, but then gave a mediocre start at best. He's now working exclusively from the stretch, which has somewhat cleaned up his delivery. He's throwing mostly 91-92 mph, but with inconsistent command in the zone.
18. Alex Avila, C, DET: With the Giants possibly throwing both Zito and Bumgarner against the Tigers in this series, Avila might still have to platoon with Gerald Laird.
19. Phil Coke, LHR, DET: Coke has followed up the best stretch of his career with a stellar postseason. He has usurped the closer’s role after failures by both Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit.
20. Javier Lopez, LHR, SF: Lopez is one of the best situational left-handed relievers in the sport and his matchups against Fielder and Avila in this series will be interesting to watch.
21. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, SF: What in the world has happened to Bumgarner this postseason? In his last two outings he's thrown 91 mph in the first inning and then 87 mph in the second. His arm slot is down, the ball is coming out on the side, everything is flat, and he looks fatigued. However, with extra rest, I still think he can rebound. If he gets another shot at starting, he might even have a dominating performance left in him unless, of course, he's hurt and not telling anyone.
22. Angel Pagan, CF, SF: Another one of Brian Sabean's excellent under-the-radar trades. Pagan has stayed focused all year and done a great job of covering ground even when he takes an occasional bad route to a ball. He's done a solid job in the leadoff spot ahead of Scutaro and brought good passion to the team.
23. Hunter Pence, RF, SF: How do you drive in 100 runs and end up 23rd on this list? But that's how he's looked this postseason. His timing is off and his at-bats have been inconsistent. Will he break out in the World Series? I doubt it while facing Verlander, Scherzer, Fister and Sanchez.
24. Joaquin Benoit, RHR, DET: He's been one of the best eighth inning relievers in baseball the last few years. The question should that be past tense?
25. Jhonny Peralta, SS, DET: He makes the routine plays at shortstop, including when the game is on the line.
26. Octavio Dotel, RHR, DET: He was an important middle reliever for the Cardinals in last year's World Series, and with Valverde falling off the face of the Earth, he'll be even more important this World Series.
27. Brandon Crawford, SS, SF: He's one of the best defensive shortstops in this postseason. He possesses above-average range to both sides with a gun for an arm and he reads the ball off the bat as good as anyone in the game. The bat is the reason why he's down on the list.
28. Gregor Blanco, LF, SF: He's a fourth or fifth outfielder playing regularly because of Melky Cabrera’s absence. However, his speed on the bases and range in the outfield has been a plus for the Giants. He's also a great character guy.
29. Brandon Belt 1B, SF: Belt is trying to make adjustments on the fastball inside on the black, where clubs love to pound him. He's cheating some to get to it, but that's making him vulnerable to the outside pitch, although on Monday he crushed a Jason Motte 98 mph fastball in the same vicinity. His defense at first base is above average.
30. Omar Infante, 2B, DET: He instantly helped solidify the Tigers’ weakest position on the field after coming over from the Marlins in the Anibal Sanchez deal.
31. Jeremy Affeldt, LHR, SF: Affeldt is used mostly in the sixth and seventh innings, and can get both right- and left-hand hitters out.
32. Hector Sanchez, C, SF: You will see him start only if Lincecum gets a start. He's solid behind the plate and can drive a key run in the other way.
33. Avisail Garcia, RF, DET: In a couple of years, Garcia will skyrocket up this list, but his time is not now.
34. Andy Dirks, RF, DET: He'll get most of the playing time in right field over Garcia this World Series, but Garcia could see action if the Giants throw lefties Bumgarner or Zito at them. Regardless, Dirks is a gamer.
35. Al Alburquerque, RHR, DET: There should be specific spots against the Giants where Alburquerque can come in and get that much-needed ground ball.
36. Quintin Berry, LF, DET: His speed is an important element coming off the bench or playing left field for the Tigers.
37. Ryan Theriot, INF, SF: Theriot is a team player and possesses tremendous makeup. He can help the Giants win games in so many different ways off the bench.
38. Joaquin Arias, INF, SF: He's an above-average defender at second base, shortstop and third base, and could become valuable if there is an injury.
39. Drew Smyly, LHP, DET: Has a chance to develop into a 12- to 15-game winner but will have a limited role in this World Series.
40. George Kontos, RHP, SF: Picked up in the Chris Stewart deal with the New York Yankees, the Northwestern product played an important role of giving the Giants quality bullpen depth in the second half.
41. Rick Porcello, RHP, DET: This could be his final season as a Tiger and is a candidate to be traded this winter.
42. Jose Valverde, RHR, DET: He's gone from a top 10 player to 42nd on this list. Oh how life can change quickly for closers in Major League Baseball.
43. Gerald Laird, C, DET: Has done a great job against left-handed starters and could see time if the Giants run out Bumgarner or Zito.
44. Brennan Boesch OF DET: Has great power from the left side and stock just collapsed. Great guy.
45. Ramon Santiago, INF, DET: The switch hitter could be called upon to pinch hit or as a defensive replacement, but not much more.
46. Jose Mijares LHR, SF: The third left:hander out of the bullpen picked up from the Royals during the season. He'll be the first left out of the bullpen if needed early in the game only.
47. Xavier Nady OF, SF: Veteran bat with power from right side.
48. Aubrey Huff 1B, SF: Veteran bat with power from left side.
49. Guillermo Mota, RHR, SF: No longer taking cough medicine.
50. Danny Worth, INF, DET: He might get an at-bat or two during the series. However, if he's not on this list, Brayan Villarreal will be. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out 66 in 54.2 innings pitched. He's got future closer written all over him.
October, 22, 2012
Mark Cunningham/Getty ImagesDrafting Justin Verlander in 2004 served as the bedrock move for this year's AL Central champs.
Getting to the World Series is difficult and requires not only shrewd personnel decisions but also a little luck. For the Detroit Tigers, their moves have culminated in back-to-back AL Central Division titles and their first appearance in the Fall Classic since 2006.
Let’s take a look at the five pivotal moves made by Detroit Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and their front-office staff that got the Tigers to where they are today.
1. Drafting RHP Justin Verlander
A room full of Tigers scouts sighed with relief when the San Diego Padres selected Mission Bay (Calif.) H.S. shortstop Matt Bush with the first overall pick in the 2004 draft, as that allowed Detroit to take Old Dominion flamethrower Justin Verlander with No. 2 pick.
The Tigers’ leadership, led by Dombrowski, had previously worked for the Marlins, and they felt they were able to accomplish the same thing when they took Josh Beckett with the second overall pick in 1999. To build a championship-caliber team, you have to start with an ace -- and that’s exactly what the Tigers accomplished with Verlander, who is both a Cy Young Award winner and an AL MVP.
2. Acquiring 3B Miguel Cabrera
The Tigers shocked the baseball world in December 2007 when they were able to get one of the game’s best bats, Cabrera, along with Dontrelle Willis for a package of five prospects, including overrated former first-round selections Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, among others. None of the five prospects is still with the Marlins, and only Maybin has made any sort of impact at the major league level. Cabrera has hit .323/.401/.579 with an average of 37 homers per year since coming to Detroit. It was one of the most lopsided trades in generations.
3. Acquiring RHP Max Scherzer, OF Austin Jackson, LHP Phil Coke
The game’s biggest three-team trade in the last decade was orchestrated by Dombrowski, as he entertained everyone at the 2009 winter meetings in Indianapolis. By dealing the team’s most popular player, Curtis Granderson, to the New York Yankees, and right-handed starter Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks, the Tigers got Coke and Jackson from the Yankees, as well as Scherzer and LHP Daniel Schlereth, while the Yankees got Granderson and shipped Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks.
The deal worked for all three teams and, interestingly, each club has enjoyed times when it has gotten the best of the trade. However, the real winner in this triangular transaction is the Tigers. Without this move, they’re not playing in the World Series. Jackson has developed into a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder who can run it down in the gaps while providing the Tigers with a legitimate leadoff hitter. Scherzer has become arguably their second-best starter behind Verlander, and Coke became their closer this postseason; his 0.00 ERA in the ALCS shut the door on the team that traded him -- the Yankees.
4. Acquiring 1B Prince Fielder
Tigers manager Jim Leyland was told last offseason the team didn’t have enough money to sign an additional bullpen arm that would have cost them approximately $1 million. A week later he was informed that Ilitch -- who made his money as founder of the Little Caesar's franchise -- had approved a nine-year, $214 million contract for Prince Fielder.
Of course, it was the injury to DH Victor Martinez that opened the door for the Fielder signing. Nonetheless, the signing sent shockwaves throughout the industry. Many teams weren’t willing to give more than five years, let alone nine. Owners throughout the game bristled at the contract. Without Fielder the Tigers are not in the World Series, and Little Caesars Pizza never tasted better.
Ilitch wants to a win a World Series so bad that he was willing to pull the trigger on this magnificent power-hitting first baseman who brought leadership, production and a winning attitude from Milwaukee. Fielder helped former teammate Ryan Braun win the NL MVP in 2011, and this year gave the same protection to Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown. And although a lot of risk remains for the latter three years of this contract, the investment was made so Ilitch could have the best possible chance to win a World Series. And he’s now just four wins away.
5. Acquiring Doug Fister
The Tigers made another lopsided trade just before the deadline in 2011, when they sent Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Chance Ruffin to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Doug Fister and David Pauley. Fister was by far the best player in the deal and gave the Tigers the No. 3 starter they so desperately needed. His nasty sinker and ability to pound the strike zone and pitch in big games has made him incredibly valuable. Fister has gone 18-11 with a 2.95 ERA since joining the Tigers, with an impressive WHIP of 1.08.
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonDelmon Young has hit five home runs in the postseason.
In retrospect, it could have been a monumental error. After injuring his left oblique in Game 1 of the ALCS, Detroit Tigers left fielder Delmon Young was placed on the disabled list, effectively eliminating him from the series.
Oddly enough, teammate Magglio Ordonez re-fractured his ankle during batting practice before Game 1. Though Ordonez played on it, after the game he was placed on the disabled list, and suddenly Young was back on the roster. On Thursday night in Game 5, Young, along with a wayward ground ball, led the Tigers back from the brink of elimination to defeat the Texas Rangers 7-5. Amazingly, the man who should've been out of commission launched two homers and drove in three runs.
It has been a strange turn of events for the Tigers, a string of good fortune and lucky breaks (Ordonez included) for the Tigers to find themselves going back to Texas down three games to two. Young was acquired from the Twins at the July 31 trade deadline for minor-league pitcher Cole Nelson. The deal has proven advantageous for the Tigers, as the 25-year-old Young has flourished since and should be a core player for Detroit for years to come along with Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez.
I first saw Delmon Young swing a bat when he was just 12 years old. I had acquired his brother Dmitri in the 1997 offseason. Dmitri brought Delmon to spring training and to Cincinnati, and on occasion Delmon would take BP with the big-leaguers. Even having just turned 13, you could tell what kind of hitter he was going to be. To possess such bat speed and discriminating plate discipline at so young an age was unique.
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October, 9, 2011
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesRon Washington showed he has several bullpen and lineup options the Tigers simply do not have.
Though it seemed as though Tigers manager Jim Leyland pushed all the right buttons up to this point, his players must execute if they are put in positions to succeed. In Game 1 of the ALCS, one Tiger didn't get the job done on two separate occasions.
Before the game, Leyland told me that Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge were going to be keys for the Tigers' offense. With Delmon Young out with an oblique injury, the Tigers will be hard pressed to replace his bat. Last night, Raburn did his job in the No. 2 hole by getting on base three times, but Inge failed in both of his RBI opportunities.
In the second inning, with two men on and one out, Inge was punched out on a C.J. Wilson slider. Later in the fifth, with a man on second, Inge grounded out. The Tigers' lack of depth can't sustain losing a starter like Young, and it severely hampers Leyland's mix-and-match lineup and defensive strategies. On the other hand, Texas can carry a slumping Nelson Cruz until he breaks out because of ample outfield depth, and last night it paid off with Cruz slamming a 396-foot home run in the bottom of the fourth.
Key players to watch:
• In Game 1, Rick Porcello relieved Justin Verlander in the bottom of the fifth after the rain delay and looked superb. It might have been the best I've seen him since July. His movement was terrific, getting four easy groundouts and striking out Mike Napoli with a 93 mph sinker.
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