Thursday, July 12, 2007

Detroit Tigers midseason grades: Position players

Sean Casey: We knew the Mayor was snail slow, had little power, and was a capable defender. It was hoped that, at the very least, he would hit for average. To this point, he's been better than advertised on defense, and has progressed to being below average offensively for a 1st baseman. Casey, to his credit, after a horrific start, has raised his BA to .300. But he's done so with absolutely no power. None. Nada. Zip. Neifi Perez has as many dingers as Casey, which is not what you want to see from a corner infielder. Could the Tigers do better? Sure they could. But the Mayor is a good fit for this team, and there are much bigger issues that need to be resolved on the Tigers roster. B-

Curtis Granderson: At Mack Avenue Tigers, I called Granderson the biggest reason for the Tigers success, due to the combination of excellent offense and Gold glove caliber defense. As he goes, so do the Tigers. It was true last season, and even more so this season. For all the talk nationally that the Indians' Grady Sizemore was the next great center fielder, Granderson has been just as good. Granderson, who leads the AL in extra base hits, should have been an All-Star. A+

Carlos Guillén: He's only the best offensive shortstop in baseball. The nation raves about Derek Jeter, yet Guillén performs at the same, if not higher, level. I do have to dock him half a grade for the all too occasional defensive lapse. Arguably the Tigers' MVP, even if Magglio Ordóñez is the AL MVP. I'll just put it this way, who would be harder to replace? A-

Omar Infante: Omar appears to have finally earned the trust of Jim Leyland, and supplanted Neifi Perez as the main infield backup, much to the relief of the Tigers fanbase. Infante has played capably in both the infield and outfield, and has been damn solid at the plate. B

Brandon Inge: Another Tiger who has bounced back quite well after an awful April. Has an insane amount of range, which allows him to make more plays than most any other MLB 3rd baseman. That more than makes up for his occasional scattergun arm. Offensively, he's on track for the same sort of season he had in 2006, 20+ home runs, 80 RBI, and a .250 BA. I'm perfectly fine with that stat line from the number 9 hitter. B

Craig Monroe: Craig, Craig, Craig, what happened to the clutch power hitter we saw in 2006? His Clutchiness has become His Suckiness. Monroe is the weak link in the Tigers juggernaut of an offense, and has been worse than awful at the plate for the past 6 weeks. He ended the 1st half with a .223 BA, and a absolutely unacceptable .270 OBP. Actually, Monroe's stats (BA, OBP, SLG, OPS) have been in decline for 3 seasons now. I have a feeling that Monroe will be given enough rope to hang himself over the next 3 weeks. If he's still not hitting at the end of the month, the Tigers will be in the market for a corner outfielder (Preferably left handed) at the trade deadline. D-

Magglio Ordóñez: Magglio may be the most protected batter in the majors, being surrounded by Sheffield and Guillén, but he's taken huge advantage of that fact, and is having a career year. He's hitting a robust .367, has more doubles than the ATP Tour, and most importantly, has hair like Sampson's. What's not to like about Ordonez's season? Well, there is one thing. Maggs hasn't gone yard in a month. As his average has gone into the stratosphere, his home run total stagnated. But Magglio is still on a pace for 130+ RBI, so I can live with the reduced power. He's the AL MVP of the half season. A+

Neifi Pérez: Neifi had one highlight this season. His saving Justin Verlander's no-hitter with a backhand, diving stab that started an 8th inning double play, is the only positive he brought to the team. Otherwise, the best you can say about Perez is that he didn't hurt the Tigers all that much the few times he was in the lineup. The only reason Neifi was on the roster to begin with was his $2.5 million contract the Cubs somehow saw fit to give him. Now that the Tigers are off the hook for $400K of that insane contract, thanks to his baffling suspension for using what is assumed to be greenies, I wouldn't not be at all surprised if we've seen the last of Neifi "The Black Hole of Suck" Perez as a Tiger. Unlike Mike Maroth, TBHoS won't be missed. F

Plácido Polanco: Is there a more consistent player on the Tigers than Polanco? He hits well over .300, never strikes out, is a feared hitter with RISP, and plays a flawless 2nd base. It was great to see the long underrated Polanco rewarded for his stellar play with a well deserved All-Star berth. Impressive feat for a man who has to play with such an aerodynamic disadvantage. A

Mike Rabelo: When Vance Wilson went down for the season, backup catcher suddenly became a huge concern. Who was this Rubella, Rubllio, Rubilo, Rabies guy that was taking Wilson's place? It turned out that Mike Rabelo was a bonafide major league backup catcher, and has more than held his own when giving Pudge needed rest. He's played good defense, and has not been a total black hole at the plate. Rabelo has been the biggest surprise of the season. C+

Ryan Raburn: He's 1 for 1, with 1 RBI. 1.000 / 1.000 / 2.000 is his line. Can't get better than that... Seriously, if Raburn can hit, he just may find himself on the Tigers roster for the rest of the season. But that remains to be seen. Inc

Iván Rodriguez: Pudge may no longer be an elite catcher, but the sure fire HOF'er is still a very good one. He should also get a great deal of credit for his handling of the pitching staff. I-Rod is still a force behind the plate, even if he's no longer an all-world defender at 35. At this point of his career, he is what he is at the plate, a hacking .300 hitter. a not much better OBP, with a little power. Many major league teams would love to have the all around production the Tigers get from behind the plate. B

Gary Sheffield: The Sheffield trade was the best off season move by any MLB team. On the field, Sheff is having a monster season. Off the field, the results are mixed, but haven't disrupted the team. Despite that off field baggage, he's fixed what ailed the Tigers last season, not having a feared middle of the order slugger. I knew Sheff could hit, but after watching him on a daily basis for the first time, I learned that he's more than just a slugger. Sheffield may be the highest baseball IQ on the Tigers' roster. Sheff works counts, rarely has a bad at-bat, he's more than capable in the outfield, and rarely makes mistakes. Most surprisingly, he's also an excellent baserunner. He gets a full grade deduction for his often controversial thoughts and actions, but gets half of it back because I love to watch him swing the bat with such fury. A-

Marcus Thames: With Monroe slumping, and Casey sitting against some lefties, Thames playing time, much like 2006, has increased as the season has wore on. Thames has hit 2 of the biggest home runs of the season. His grand slam against the BoSox jump started their recent sweep. The biggest was his game winning solo shot in the bottom of the 8th that beat the Twins on national TV, 1-0. I doubt Thames will take over left or 1st on a full time basis, but will continue to get plenty of at bats. Give Thames 300+ at bats, and he'll hit 25-30 home runs by accident. He's not a bad weapon to have as your 4th outfielder/backup 1st baseman. B

Overall: At the season's midpoint, the 2007 Tigers have the best offense in all of baseball. 1 through 5 in the batting order could almost be considered a modern day "Murder's Row." Granderson leads MLB in extra base hits. Polanco, a prototype #2 hitter, is hitting .335. Sheffield leads the team with 21 HR's, is hitting .303, and has solidified the middle of the order. Ordóñez leads the majors in hitting at .367. Guillén is hitting .325, and had an 11 game RBI streak. Led by that quintet, the Tigers currently lead MLB in BA, hits, runs, RBI, 2B, and SLG. Most stunningly, they are 3rd in OBP. With all their offensive dry spells last season, I never would have seen this kind of improvement coming. As good as the pitching was in 2006, the offense has been in 2007. A

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