Detroit Tigers Dissector

Johnny LawrenceCorrespondent IMay 7, 2009

Welcome to Rudy Dominick & Johnny Lawrence's third 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—Matt Hoffman, Starting Pitcher, West Michigan Whitecaps (A)

(April 30—May 6)

1-0, 15 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 11K, 0.00 ERA.

Drive-By Argument: When Dontrelle Willis Returns Who Gets Sent Packing?

LAWRENCE: Take a look at Detroit's veteran-laden pitching staff. If you send one to the minors, you expose him to the waiver process. It's too early in the season to throw away arms, while Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry sit on the bench with minor league options.

Porcello should receive the temporary demotion despite his positive progress. Sure, he has impressed in several starts, but owner Mike Ilitch must give Willis one more shot. Like it or not, Ilitch invested $29 million over three years in Willis, so if he appears to have recaptured a bit of his old form, he's worth the recall.

Porcello reminds many of a younger Justin Verlander, well-composed and hard-throwing. You don't want to stick him in the bullpen during Willis' return; he must continue starting games at Triple-A Toledo or Double-A Erie. If Willis can't harness his control, toss him away like Gary Sheffield and recall Porcello.

DOMINICK: Sending Porcello down is the wrong call. As the Tigers future ace, why would you disrupt him during his rookie season when he has kept the Tigers in games by allowing four or less runs in three of his four starts.

When Willis starts his walk-a-thon again, you’re going to call Porcello back up? Don’t play games with the kid, release Rincon and move Miner back to long relief.

Juan Rincon should be released to make room for Miner’s return to the bullpen; his 5.23 ERA and six earned runs in only 10 innings doesn’t fare well for him.

Detroit already has many other right-handed relievers in Brandon Lyon, Fernando Rodney, Joel Zumaya, and Perry, and can afford to release Rincon who has imploded after a terrific spring. Rincon sports the highest ERA of any righty in the pen and doesn’t have the closer experience fellow struggling newcomer Lyon possesses.

Leyland, Loyalties, & Veterans

Yet to impress, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez have seemingly been swinging icicles at the plate.

Largely unproductive to begin the season, Guillen is straddling the Mendoza line with a .200 batting average, no home runs, and six RBI. Similarly, Ordonez sits about one-hundred points lower than his career average in Detroit (.232 BA), with two home runs, and 12 RBI.

Both were counted on to reach base and provide power, but neither have yielded desirable results. Considering the tight competition in the AL Central, the Tigers require heavy production from these spots in the order.

Can the Tigers afford to give their aging veterans more time?

Guillen was finally placed on the disabled list yesterday, after suffering from inflammation in his right shoulder for several weeks. The left-fielder has grown accustomed to playing through pain, also battling a sore heel since Spring Training.

A player with Guillen's resume deserves a chance to fight through his injuries, but how long is too long to give a player?

Manager Jim Leyland used up 98 plate appearances to discover whether or not Guillen was fit to start—about one-sixth of the season. His struggles were obvious and his injuries were well-documented.

Leyland's lack of action was reminiscent of the way he handled Gary Sheffield in 2008.

Rotating from disabled list to active roster, a pedestrian Sheffield hit .225 in 418 at-bats last year. He soaked up a spot in the heart of the order and blocked the way for younger players to develop.

As Detroit fans begin to recognize their manager's disturbing trend of gluing himself to the unproductive, they wonder if Carlos Guillen is the new Gary Sheffield.

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On a smaller scale, Guillen's numbers are comparable to Sheffield's decline. Significantly lowered batting, on-base, and slugging percentages often indicate the beginning of the end for veterans. Add to the equation a long doctor's office rap sheet and Guillen's age, 34, and one may suspect his days to be numbered.

Whether Guillen is on the decline or simply too injured to play can not be determined until he returns. The controversy that remains is Leyland's decision-making ability.

Leyland made several lineup adjustments recently when he knocked the Ordonez down to the sixth spot and homer-happy Curtis Granderson to five. Rounding out the new look, Josh Anderson led off and Clete Thomas batted third.

New air breathed instant results.

Thomas doubled, tripled, and singled in his first three at-bats in a 9-0 blowout of Minnesota. He will not replace Ordonez at three, but the move refreshed those who cried for alterations.

Ordonez, who had not batted below fifth since 1998, went 0-for-4. He has six hits in his last 46 at-bats (.142 BA) and has plated just 12 runs all year.

A consistent lineup swap looks essential until Guillen and Ordonez perform like their former selves.

Josh Anderson's speed has been a welcome addition to the team, along with his .333 batting average, which may warrant consideration at the top of the order. Granderson, who leads Detroit with nine homers, can replace Guillen or Ordonez for the time being.

Guillen and Ordonez brought the Tigers back from the lowly days in baseball's cellar and their contributions cannot be forgotten. But their current production needs to justify their batting order position, not their legacy.

Favorable Matchups

May 8: DET Brandon Inge vs. CLE Cliff Lee(.414 BA, 12-for-29, 3 HR, 8 RBI).

May 9: DET Curtis Granderson vs. CLE Fausto Carmona(.423 BA, 11-for-26, .464 OBP).

May 9: DET Edwin Jackson vs. CLE Grady Sizemore(.182 BA, 2-for-11, 2 K).


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