Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TWFE's Detroit Tigers mid-season grades: The infield

You can find my grades and thoughts on the rotation and bullpen by clicking on the links.

Let's get out the red ballpoint, and move on to grading the infield. We'll see which infielders make the honor roll, and which go on double secret probation!

Ramon Santiago: A+

The slick fielding backup middle infielder is having a career year at the plate, with an insane 1.026 OPS. That's NOT a typo, kids. 1.026 OPS. The career .238 hitter has been off the charts good, hitting more than 100 points higher than his career BA, and an OBP 170 points higher than his career rate. But we have to remember the term "small sample size" in regard to Santiago, as he has only 49 AB's after missing a month due to a shoulder injury.

With Edgar Renteria not hitting, and showing little to no range at short, you have to believe we'll see more of Santiago in the 2nd half, if only to determine if he can capably replace Renteria in 2009. He's not going to continue to hit like the next coming of Honus Wagner, but he doesn't have to in order to make Renteria expendable.

Santiago just needs to continue fielding his position well (which has never been at issue) and be respectable at the plate (which has). It's a plot line that bears close watch in the 2nd half.

Brandon Inge: D-

It's been quite a remarkable 2008 season for Inge. From his bitching and moaning after the Miguel Cabrera trade and demanding a trade, flip-flopping daily on playing catcher, threatening the Mendoza Line at the plate, and ending up on the DL thanks to bizarrely straining his oblique from moving his child's pillow, Inge has been remarkable in his ability to stay in the headlines...for all the wrong reasons.

As expected, Inge has been solid defensively, no matter where he's played on the field. His bat? It continues to tail off, and tail off badly. From all appearances, it seems the Inge who could hit .250 with 25 HR pop is long gone. Unfortunately for the Tigers, he's still being paid like that player. Despite his struggles on and off the field, he's still in line to be Detroit's starting backstop in 2009...God help us. 

It has not been one of Inge's better years, to say the very least. The only reason I'm not giving the reluctant Tiger a failing grade is because he's so good defensively.

Jeff Larish: D

Larish, a prospect who has shown a great deal on power at Double and Triple A, has shown little in Detroit.  He's been called up twice this season, sent down once, and likely to be sent down again when Magglio Ordonez comes off the DL.

Larish really doesn't have much of a future in Detroit. He's blocked at 1st base by the $150 million man, and blocked at DH by the $14 million man with the bad shoulder. Not that he's shown enough at the plate in his cups o' coffee in Detroit to think he could stick with the Tigers anyway. Larish's future is as trade bait, but if he continues to hit .234, even saying that is stretching things.

Ryan Raburn: C-

Raburn is as versatile as Inge, but without the baggage. He's also less talented defensively, while more talented offensively than the moody ass Inge. Raburn's bat hasn't lived up to expectations, which I think has limited his playing time in '08.

Though he could probably play anywhere defensively on the field, save for short, Raburn is a man without a true position in Detroit. He's more valuable to the Tigers coming off the bench as a super-sub and pinch hitter. In other words, he's a National League player waiting to happen.

Placido Polanco: B

The Placidome isn't having quite the season in had in '07, as that may have been his career year. (Many seasons a .341 BA wins you the batting title) But after a slow start in '08, he's pretty much where we all thought he'd be. Batting 2nd in the order every day, hitting over .300, playing stellar defense all the while.

Placido could have been named the Tigers' representative in the All-Star game, and no one would have had a problem with it. He's a pro's pro who was recently voted the most underrated player in baseball by his peers, which I think says it all.

Edgar Renteria: D+

The biggest disappointment for the Tigers this season has been the sudden aging of Renteria. The emergence of Jair Jurrjens (9-4, 3.00) as a stalwart of Atlanta's rotation makes the Renteria trade look even worse for Detroit. For those who like to scream "This is the John Smoltz trade all over again" need to get ahold of themselves. It's still too early to fully judge the trade, let alone comparing Jurrjens to a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher. But the early returns on the deal aren't good.

Renteria's offensive stats are well down all across the board, and he's become little more than a pylon defensively. This is not the player Dave Dombrowski thought he was trading for back in November. I don't think anyone expected Renteria to hit .332 again, but expecting him to put up his career offensive averages and show more range at short than the man he replaced was not being unreasonable.

The Tigers hold the contract option on Renteria, who's due to earn $11 million in 2009. If he continues to play as he has in the 1st half, that being below average in the field and at the plate, don't expect Renteria to return to Detroit next season.

Carlos Guillen: B

The Tigers' lone All-Star deserves a great deal of credit for allowing the Tigers to jerk him all over the diamond defensively.  It's hard to believe a 2 time All-Star at shortstop has been voluntarily moved from short, to 1st, to left, and finally to 3rd, all in less than a year. That alone tells you Guillen is the ultimate team player. Despite all the uncertainty, Guillen continuted to be one of the Tigers better hitters. 

Guillen looked somewhat lost at 1st base, but after becoming re-accustomed to 3rd, he's played the position quite respectably. To drive the point home, just go back to last week's Indians game, where Guillen made a pair of sparkling, game saving, 9th inning defensive plays at 3rd.

To say Carlos Guillen has earned his 3rd All-Star appearance is an understatement. He remains one of the Tigers best players, and as long as he stays healthy, will remain so for some time to come.

Miguel Cabrera: B-

Say what you will about Cabrera, and the mouth breathers have said quite a bit (He's fat/lazy/over paid/overrated/over everything), I'll continue to believe the trade was a win for the Tigers. And in the end, I'll be right.

I'll admit Cabrera is having a bit of a down season at the plate. Yet he's still one of the better offensive players on the team, leading the team in RBI, and behind only Marcus Thames in home runs. I'm willing to cut Cabrera some slack on his slightly disappointing (again, I said slightly) 1st half, as he had to learn a new league, team and position, let alone deal with the pressure that goes along with the massive contract extension he signed before the season started.  It's been a year of change and upheaval for the young superstar, his first real taste of adversity, and he will be the better for it.

Let's not forget we still have 2 1/2 months left in the season. I'll venture a guess we'll look at Cabrera's stats at the end of the year, and say, "Oh yeah, THAT'S why the Tigers traded for him!"

Pudge Rodriguez: B

Pudge looked for all the world to be on the verge of being washed up a month ago, when he was hitting .245 with a despicable .286 OBP. But once Leyland announced he would begin platooning with Inge, Pudge began his contract drive in earnest.  Both his BA and OBP back to respectable levels, and is playing very well behind the plate. Rodriguez isn't the player the Tigers signed 2004, but no one expected him to be. He's still a solid major league catcher, just no longer an All-World one.

Pudge seems determined to force the Tigers into making a difficult decision at catcher for 2009. If he continues to play as he has, someone will give Pudge a nice contract for 2009, possibly a 2 year deal. I just don't think that team will be the Tigers.

No comments:

Post a Comment