Five For Fighting with Big JP from Always A Tiger

J Ellet LambieCorrespondent INovember 21, 2016

Welcome to another installment of Five For Fighting, this time with a twist. While this segment normally covers all things fantasy baseball I’ve decided to throw a change-up here and devote this piece to talking about the Detroit Tigers. The premise remains the same – I trade five questions with a talented writer from the web and we post each others answers for you to debate.

Joining me this time is John Parent, better known as Big JP, from Always A Tiger. John is a devoted family man and Tigers fan from Ohio (don’t hold it against him) who brings an insightful and down to earth point of view to his coverage of the team he loves. Big thanks to John for taking the time to participate in this experiment. You can read his answers to my questions below and my answers to his questions here.

Now let’s get to it….

1 – Of the three young outfielders platooning for the Tigers at the moment (Josh Anderson, Clete Thomas and Ryan Raburn) which, if any, do you believe have a long-term place on this team and why?


Raburn has the ability to play second base, and he is the emergency catcher, so he has the most versatility, but his skill set makes me think of him as more of a National League kind of player. His offense has been unimpressive, though he shows occasional pop. Plus he just turned 28 years old, so I’m not sure he improves much more and as a right handed hitter, I think there are players with significantly more potential in the minors. 

Anderson and Thomas share many qualities, both are LH hitters, both can play either corner spot. While Thomas has shown himself to be a better defender, with a better arm, Anderson has great speed and has the ability to play CF. 

While Thomas may have more pop in hit bat, I’ll take Anderson long-term. Thomas has shown that he is not a leadoff hitter, and I have been encouraged by what I’ve seen when Anderson does get a chance in that spot. This team needs Curtis Granderson in the middle of the order, Anderson provides the best possible solution as a leadoff hitter.
2 – If you could go back in time knowing what you know now, would you convince Dave Dombrowski to keep Gary Sheffield?

The short answer is no. Coming into camp this year, I had a good feeling about Sheffield, and felt he may have a good season. That being said, the team had decided that a repeat of last season could not happen, and needed to add defense and flexibility to the lineup. Jettisoning Sheffield provided a way to do both. They already had another Sheffield type player on the roster in Marcus Thames, and the move would allow them to use the DH spot to keep Magglio and Guillen healthy, they thought. 

Obviously, things haven’t quite worked out that way. Thames was never healthy and evidently neither was Guillen. But you certainly couldn’t have anticipated that Sheffield would have stayed healthy, either. And the way he was hitting in Lakeland did inspire much confidence. While it hurts to waste all that money they are still paying him, they were able to add Anderson to give them a good LH bat with great speed. 

I think with the return of Thames, the offense will get at least as much help from him that they probably would have gotten from an unhappy Sheffield stuck DH-ing. Sheffield doesn’t strikeout as much as Thames, but pop-ups don’t help alot, either.
3 – Who will have a more positive impact on the starting rotation going forward – Armando Galarraga or Jeremy Bonderman?

That question may hold the key to the rest of the Tigers’ season. 

There has been a lot of talk about the struggles of Galarraga recently, but let’s not forget he had similar struggles last May, as well. He has shown signs of life in his last two starts, and while he may not be ultimately as good as his numbers were in April, I suspect he is not as bad as they were in May, either. If he plays on a team with a better offense, I don’t think there would be so much worry about him, as he is basically a fourth starter, but with the offense struggling, you almost need your number four to be a fourth ace, which he is not. 

Bonderman has always had potential, but he has also always had a good fastball. He is the real wild-card here. If he has found a changeup, and can command his pitches, he can be a quality pitcher. But he is being asked to learn how to pitch a different way than he ever has, and be good enough to consistently get major league hitters out.  I think that’s asking a whole lot. I’m just not sure how much faith to put in a guy that never really lived up to his potential when he had electric stuff, now that that’s gone, how much can you expect from him? 

So with two guys who haven’t inspired much confidence, I hope the answer is Bonderman, but I think it’s probably Galarraga.
4 – How many wins do you think it will take for the Tigers to make the playoffs, and can this team win that many games as put together today?

Fortunately, they play in maybe the worst division in baseball, so that helps.  The only real threats I see are the Twins, barring a trade or two by Chicago. Cleveland has zero pitching by anyone other than Pavano and Lee, and that includes the bullpen. Kansas City probably has enough pitching to compete, but has little depth and are fading fast.  Zack Greinke has shown he’s human lately, and the Royals can’t afford him to be human. 

The White Sox have the homerun power, and always play well within the division, especially vs. Detroit, but Floyd and Danks have come back to earth a bit this year, and they have several holes in the lineup.  Minnesota will win a bunch of games at home.  They are playing .500 ball right now, and really haven’t had the great pitching they are used to.  If they get the bullpen straightened out, they have the potential to take off and win the division going away. 

I think it will take 89 wins to take the Central, and I don’t  think this Tigers team can get there. A lot of that will be based on how well guys like Bonderman and Willis perform the rest of the way. Someone on this team has got to hit, though. They cannot continue to flounder at the plate or they have no shot. The flaws on this team are glaring. They have no backup catcher, and are in dire need of a productive corner outfielder. Thomas is a nice player, but he isn’t the answer. If the Tigers want a real shot at playing in October, they have to make a move. 

I anticipate a trade or two to clear some excess staring pitching (Miner and/or Galarraga) and to bring back a LH bat that can play OF. If they do that, and add a backup catcher, they can get there. If not, I don’t see how they can hold off the Twins.
5 – What’s it like being a Tigers fan living in Ohio? Do you root for Ohio teams in other sports or is it all Michigan?

I follow the Tigers because that’s how I was raised. My Grandpa was born in Detroit and it was he and my Dad that taught me about baseball. I loved listening to Ernie Harwell on WJR, which came in loud and clear down here. Ohio is full of Ohio State fans. Those same people are fans of the Indians and Browns. In my family, however, it always always a good day when those teams lost. 

I fell in love with the Tigers thanks to my family, but I also follow Penn State, the Houston Rockets and was a huge fan of the Houston Oilers. I came to those teams on my own. In large part because I have found Ohio fans to be some of the most obtuse fans I have ever encountered. If their team is lousy, they will never admit it, and if it’s suggested that there could be improvement, then you must not be a real fan. That is a poor line of thinking. I don’t see a problem with recognizing when your team has flaws, it doesn’t make you a bad fan, it makes you reasonable. 

There was a line in the movie “As Good as it Gets” when Jack Nicholson’s character (a writer) was asked how he wrote the female characters in his books so accurately. His response fits well in describing Ohio fans. He said, “I think of a man, and then I take away reason and accountability”. It might make me unpopular in sports bars, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.


So there you have it. Big thanks again to John for giving his time to opine. Make sure you check out his blog Always A Tiger, and feel free to browse the other half of this segment here.

Until next time kiddies….


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Tagged: a tigers fan in ohio, AL central, always a tiger, armando galarraga, can the tigers make the playoffs?, Carlos Guillen, clete thomas, curtis granderson, dave dombrowski, Detroit Tigers, five for fighting with big jp of always a tiger, gary sheffield, jeremy bonderman, john parent, josh anderson, marcus thames, MLB, ryan raburn