Detroit Tigers: DL's Weekly Report

Johnny LawrenceCorrespondent IApril 22, 2009

Welcome to DL's (Rudy Dominick and Johnny Lawrence) first weekly installment of Detroit Tigers information and analysis.  Each Wednesday, we will delve into all things Tigers. Read and digest, or skim and spit out our insightful banter.


Keep an Eye on...

Alfredo Figaro, Starting Pitcher—Erie Seawolves (AA)

Eastern League Player Of The Week  (April 13-April 19)

1-0, 12.2 IP, 9 K, 0.00 ERA


Drive-By Argument:  Best Offseason Acquisition

DOMINICK: Edwin Jackson

Imagine where the Tiger’s rotation would be without EJax.  He was acquired for outfielder Matt Joyce, helping the Tigers narrow down a position with an abundance of free-swinging power hitters. 
As it stands, Bonderman is taking one of his annual DL appearances, while Willis and Robertson attempt to reclaim their old form. Without Jackson, Minor and Robertson would be the Tigers' fourth and fifth starters.  That scenario didn't work well last year, and void of a long reliever, the bullpen would be in even more dire straits than it is already.

Toronto infielder John McDonald had this to say about Jackson after a spring training game with he faced him, “He has electric stuff.  When he’s got command of his pitches, he can be dominant, like he was today.”   

Jackson may not be a stud, but he’ll be reliable enough.  And at age 25, he still has upside. Last year he made quite the impression on his former manager in Tampy Bay, Joe Madden. “I am rooting hard for Edwin," said Madden. "I want him to have a great year.  He’s a wonderful young man and he hasn’t even scratched the surface.”   

Look for Jackson to collect at least 14 wins again this season.
LAWRENCE: Gerald Laird
Well, Dominick, I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one.  Adding a below-average pitcher to a talent-deficient rotation is far from Dombrowski's best winter move.
Jackson's improvements were vast from 2007 to 2008, but let's not overlook his mediocre career stats: 456 IP, 229 BB, 5.15 ERA. 
Detroit picked up a seasoned, cap-friendly catcher in Gerald Laird, after not having a legitimate option post-Pudge.  With no one in the organization ready to grab the reins at backstop, the Tigers targeted Texas' overstock of young catchers and didn't surrender any major league talent for a proven player. 
Laird's track record is stable enough to justify an everyday spot in the lineup. Though he is no Johnny Bench, he's ready to take a pitching staff over full time. 
Remember, if Dombrowski didn't grab Laird, Treanor or Dusty Ryan would be competing for the starting job.  If Jackson sports a sub-4.25 ERA going into September, I'll change my stance, but I can't see that happening.

Out with the Old, in with the New?

The position battle between Everett and Santiago is heating up.

Adam Everett broke spring training as the Tigers starting shortstop, but the flu limited him to one pinch-hit appearance in the previous six games.

In his absence, manager Jim Leyland slotted in Ramon Santiago, a career defensive replacement.  Since April 12, Santiago has flourished at the plate and provided flawless defense.

After Santiago's surge, debate surrounds who should start at shortstop now that Everett is healthy.

At times, Santiago has swung a lethal bat, a characteristic Everett has not exhibited since 2006.  From a position the Tigers expect minimal offensive production, Santiago pounded out a career-high five RBI Sunday against Seattle and sits one RBI behind Miguel Cabrera and Brandon Inge for the team lead.

Here's a quick statistical comparison:

Santiago: .276 BA, 8-for-29, 1 HR, 11 RBI.

Everett: .227 BA, 5-for-22, 0 HR, 3 RBI.

The Tigers have registered at least eight hits in all 13 games this season and much of the credit belongs to the bottom of the order. With Santiago in the lineup, there is a marked consistency. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Everett has yet to find his offensive groove, showing limited ability to hit for extra bases.

Should a starting shortstop be judged by his bat, glove, or combination of?

Santiago has helped twist six double plays, compared to Everett's three, and his fielding fielding percentage ranks above Everett's (.963 to .913). Santiago has committed one error in 27 chances, compared to Everett's two in 23 chances.

Leyland will surely audition each player in the coming weeks. They both earn virtually the same salary, but upper management may want Everett to be given the first crack at the position, since he was specifically signed over the winter to upgrade the middle infield position.  However, early production leans favorably on the side of Santiago, and he may continue to receive the majority of time until his bat goes cold.

Though stats can be misleading this early in the season, the idea of sticking with a hot bat makes sense at the bottom of the order.


Critcal Show of Support for Galarraga

In the “What have you done for me lately?” world we reside in, it is ironic certain Detroit pitchers seem to get by on past production, while others remain in the shadows.

Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Joel Zumaya starred for the 2006 World Series team and receive much of the fanfare doled out by Tigers fans. But all have failed in varying degrees to live up to raised expectations.

Verlander has yet to emerge as the staff ace, though he occasionally flirts with greatness and is a legitimate near-the-top-of-the-rotation starter.  A terrible 2008 campaign has gone virtually unnoticed, and most expect Verlander to return to his dominant form instantly.

Bonderman, a six-year veteran, has missed more than 20 games since 2006, accumulating disabled list stints instead of wins.  Still scary in the opening innings, one can debate whether or not he will ever shake his first-inning blues.

Zumaya has pitched just 49 games in two-plus seasons, unable to stay healthy.   It is rumored he twice hit triple-digits in a recent rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo, but these numbers mean nothing if not achieved with the parent club.

Our focus on these three Tigers is multi-faceted—to inject a dose of reality and give the just their due.

Having expressed the inconsistencies and worries concerning Verlander, Bonderman, and Zumaya, we will now issue a statement to those of you still reading:

Armando Galarraga is Detroit's ace.

Though the press has covered and interviewed Galarraga with a bit of consistency, a great deal more attention has been paid to the progress and failures of Detroit's longer-tenured pitchers.

Re-adjust your focus slightly, Detroit.

After being traded to the Tigers in an unceremonious minor league player swap, Galarraga finished fourth in American League Rookie of the Year voting, receiving the most votes for any AL rookie pitcher.  Galarraga was the rock of the rotation the last year, and in 2009, he has continued his unlikely success.

He led the team with 13 wins in 2008 and opened this campaign with two tremendous starts. Even in his sole poor outing this year, he managed to surrender just three runs, keeping the game well within reach for Detroit bats.

In the home opener, Galarraga racked up a career-high eight strikeouts. In 18.1 innings, he is 2-0 with six walks, 17 strikeouts, and a 1.96 ERA. His strikeout total is impressive, considering Galarraga is not known to be a strikeout pitcher, relying more on his breaking pitches.

To fully support this declaration, however, flash back to 2008.  Galarraga allowed five-plus runs just six times in 28 starts last season, while Verlander surrendered five-plus runs in 10 games.  Though outright dominant at times, Verlander experienced more ups and downs, while Galarraga remained consistent.

Galarraga is the most steady, trustworthy pitcher on the staff until another proves otherwise.

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    Bullpen Comes Up Short in 4-2 Loss to Twins

    Detroit Tigers logo
    Detroit Tigers

    Bullpen Comes Up Short in 4-2 Loss to Twins

    Anthony Fenech
    via Detroit Free Press

    Report: Mets Interested in Jose Bautista

    MLB logo

    Report: Mets Interested in Jose Bautista

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    Ohtani's Splitter Is Most Untouchable Pitch in Baseball

    MLB logo

    Ohtani's Splitter Is Most Untouchable Pitch in Baseball

    Patrick Redford
    via Deadspin

    This Team Might Have the Best Rotation ... Ever

    MLB logo

    This Team Might Have the Best Rotation ... Ever

    via MLB