|Tigers '12-'13 Off-Season Wish List.
||[Oct. 29th, 2012|01:48 am]
The San Francisco Giants just exposed every weakness the Tigers had, in stunning clarity. I might as well get this down before I forget what wasn't all that fantastic.
1. Balance in the batting order.
Tigers have 2 big bats, and that's enough. Everyone who watched any of the post-season saw the Tigers dismantle the Yankees, and that team is loaded with fence-swingers. When the playoffs come around, it's about pitching, pitching, and more pitching. Your big bats will not always carry the team, especially against an opponent with strong pitching.
They have a solid lead-off hitter in Austin Jackson. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder have the 3rd and 4th slots locked up. And they were missing Victor Martinez, who might return somewhere in that 3rd-5th spot in the batting order, picking up where he left off. With as much success as those players can generate, however, they seemed to lack a 2nd batter after Austin. All year, the Tigers 2nd batter seemed to struggle. They threw a ton of guys in that spot, lately guys like Quintin Berry and Omar Infante. Neither of these guys are a good follow-up to Austin. You need a guy who will bunt and beat out throws, sacrifice otherwise, and get on base any way he can. You can get these guys, and they aren't as pricey as the Cabreras of the league. As long as they have base speed and solid defense, then the money is well-spent.
Scrappers like Scutaro are perfect for that 2nd spot. Get at least a couple, since the lower positions in the batting lineup also need to fight for extra bases.
2. New closer.
Phil Coke was amazing, and I love that guy. In fact, I thank the Yankees for dumping him, because he's been a great addition to Detroit's bullpen. But he has bad moments against right-handed hitters, and I realize that you need someone who will shut down either side of the plate with the same effectiveness. The Tigers used to have a guy like that named Valverde, but this year he was more of a blown-save-master or a lead-endangerer than he was a closer. During the playoffs, left-handed hitters killed him. And by the very end, he could only get his fastball over the plate, and in the big leagues, if your only pitch is a fastball, then you're going to get dominated. Valverde is through, and if he somehow gets a second wind, let that be elsewhere. I've seen enough.
So spending multi-millions on a closer seems silly, but if the Tigers want a championship in Verlander's lifetime, they'll need an elite closer. I have no idea who that closer is right now, but I know that guy doesn't exist on the staff. Maybe Albuquerque, but he seems to get the jitters during playoffs, and you need a guy with nerves of steel to do the job.
3. Better defense, particularly in the outfield corners and middle of the infield.
Tigers have a solid catcher in Avila, and while Fielder and Cabrera (more-so Fielder) aren't great in the field, you can neutralize that with a couple slick infielders with gun-arms @ SS and 2B. I was spoiled as a kid to watch Trammell and Whitaker out there, and Peralta and Pick-a-Guy @ 2B isn't even close. Those two positions need to make up ground, especially a dynamite fielder @ 2B, since Prince's range is sub-par.
As for the outfield, the Tigers have a lot of role players, but on either side of Austin Jackson, he gets very little help from his friends. I've seen too many blown plays by guys taking wrong angles toward off-the-wall hits, blown cut-off men, and drops.
People have been talking up the Tigers getting Josh Hamilton, but the last thing the team needs is another big bat. Unless he's the best fielding outfielder to ever play the game, I could care less how powerful his bat is. The 'Roids Era is over, and it's back to pitching dominance again in this league.
Back in 1984, you couldn't ask for a better arm in right field than Kirk Gibson. Guy wasn't the best fielder, but he could gun guys down with great throws. Someone in a 2nd-tier star range with a good set of legs and a great glove and arm would be perfect. Left field is a little less important for great fielding, since the right fielder has to manage a great throw to 3rd from advancing runners from 1st (much longer throw). If they just got one better guy in the outfield, and if they signed just a better 2nd baseman, then this team would be much harder to beat.
4. Better support coaching staff, and possibly a new manager.
I like Leyland, and he can be frustrating at times, even for someone who supports him. What I can't support are his bench coaches. I'm okay with Brookens (1984 Bless You Boys Champion), but Gene Lamont and Jeff Jones have got to go. Probably McClendon, too. What are Tigers batters going to be helped out with, coming from a career .244 hitter? As for Lamont, that bum gave a bad signal during the Series that helped kill a rally, and before Game 3, I remember his interview when he said the Tigers were being told to be more aggressive at the plate, going forward. Yeah, great idea, they started swinging at everything, and it made things worse. Him and McClendon have absolutely nothing to offer the team, except to fetch Leyland his drinks. And Jeff Jones probably would be safe, since the Tigers pitchers caught fire later in the season, but he's a Leyland slappy, too. Jones is better than Rick Knapp or Chuck Hernandez, but wouldn't it be a good idea to invest in some better bench guys? Assuming Leyland comes back, of course, but if he doesn't, then I'm sure the gang's going to leave with him. Maybe it's time for a change among the skipper and his crew.
5. A 2nd ace.
It blew my mind as to how bad a season Tim Lincecum had for the Giants, but I knew he wasn't washed up, especially since he shut down the Tigers in long relief this Series. The Giants have quite a few quality starters, and they can afford to use Tim in this way.
I think the Tigers have one of the best pitchers ever to play the game. I don't think it's possible to find an equal to Verlander, but I think it's possible that they can pick from their batch of 3rd-4th starters and pony up for another ace. Where do they get that from? No clue, but in a perfect world, they'd have a dominant lefty to deliver a 2nd punch the day after Verlander starts.
The Tigers might lose Anibal Sanchez, but if they replaced him with a top pitcher, then they could get by with the Max Scherzers and Doug Fisters of the world. Not that Scherzer or Fister lack solid play, but their stuff just isn't jaw-dropping.
6. Remember and embrace the disappointment.
#6 should be the easiest for the Tigers to accomplish, since this series bordered on the embarrassing side for them. When your ace gets tagged for 2 HRs by a guy like Sandoval, and you manage to go without a score for 18+ innings, then you really came up short. It's not like the Tigers were lunching, either. I saw lazy and uninspired play, and that belonged to the Yankees. By the elimination game, Teixeira was mentally checked out, Cano kept trotting out ground balls, and A-Rod was tossing baseballs to hotties in the stands, looking for a booty call. The Yankees defined shame.
The Tigers defined submission. They just didn't have the answers to the Giants. I felt neither team was much better than the other on paper, but the results were clearly lopsided. To the ESPN clowns who overwhelmingly picked Detroit, I could have told you that this team has flaws, and that the Giants were very dangerous. And while the Tigers tried, they didn't do, and Yoda says there is no try, so you know how that goes. 2nd Place is the First Loser.
And that should sting their biggest names. I'm a little worried about Fielder. In the post-game interviews, he acted like everything wasn't that bad, and he was chuckling and acting like nothing big happened. That didn't sit right with me. Cabrera looked clearly dejected, and I'm sure he would have liked to do better. Verlander openly stated that he wished he could have had another crack at the Series, and that is what I expect from him. Of the three, Fielder needs to grow the fuck up. Detroit didn't drop bank on a guy who goes .071 and pretends like nothing's wrong. Maybe that's just how he deals with media, but it better gnaw at him like it clearly gnawed at Miggy and Justin. We don't need a Robinson Cano to sit there and put us in a post-season hole. Let it burn at you, Tigers. Take your cue from the other two, and listen to guys like Phil Coke, who apologized to the fans, for coming up short. I believe they did the best they could, but they better remember this failure. Use that sting to come back with clarity and an overwhelming desire to make the other guy feel that pain.