Wednesday, July 16, 2008

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

 You can find the first 3 posts grading the Tigers at the halfway point, starting rotation, bullpen and infield, by clicking on the links. 

I'm not the only blogger handing out mid-term grades. Check out Roar of the Tigers and Mack Avenue Tigers for Samera's and Kurt's take on the season so far. We didn't grade on the extremely steep curve the Freep's Jon Paul Morosi appearently used. Who knew relatively educated fans would be more realistic than a beat writer in grading the Tigers?

Anyway, enough of my slagging on the MSM. Let's finish handing out grades, shall we?

Gary Sheffield: F

The Tigers bet heavily on Sheffield regaining form in 2008, and Sheff backed up the bet in claiming he was completely healthy going into the season. Turns out it was a sucker bet, as Sheffield has been a shadow of the player he once was, even the productive one we saw for a few months last season. His shoulder is still a major issue, and even a stint on the DL didn't help much, as he's back to scuffling.  Asking if Sheffield will ever be 100% again is a legitimate question. A question Sheffield continues to dodge, and the Tigers themselves refuse to ask.

A Hall of Fame caliber player gets the benefit of the doubt from me, so I thought it was worth taking a chance on Sheffield (As if the Tigers have a choice, considering the millions they still owe him), as he had shown enough in the time he was healthy in '07 he could still be an offensive force. After 3+ months of watching Sheffield struggle more than Jeff Larish, turns out I, and the Tigers, were wrong.

At this point, he's keeping a younger player off the roster who would be of much more help to the Tigers. (Clete Thomas, who's played extremely well, and deserves to remain with the big club, was sent to Toledo this afternoon) It's time for Sheffield to sit, though it doesn't look as if that will happen...yet. Jim Leyland has to keep Sheffield on a very short leash, as no team in baseball can afford using a roster spot on full-time DH who's hitting .217 with no power.

Marcus Thames: A

Thames is doing what he does best, which is slug the ever living Hell out of the ball, as he's leading the team in home runs with 17...In less than half the AB's as the man who's 2nd on the team in home runs with 16, Miguel Cabrera.

Despite having an insane HR/AB ratio, Thames doesn't get the playing time most fans (Including this one) think he deserves. Leyland claimed Thames would be the full-time left fielder, but as his wont, didn't really follow thru. So Thames remains a part-time player who putting up numbers worthy of a starter.

Matt Joyce: B+

If you asked any fan before the season who would be leading the Tigers in slugging at the break, absolutely no one would have answered "Matt Joyce." He's currently on a Thames-esque power binge, hitting 4 home runs in his last 5 games.

I know it's small sample size, but you have to admit Joyce has been impressive in his pair of call ups. He's a solid defensive player in both left and right field, and has improved greatly at the plate after looking somewhat overwhelmed during his earlier call up.

It appears Joyce won't be headed back to Toledo anytime soon, and has earned the 4th outfielder job. (By the way, I bumped Joyce up a half a grade for saving the kitten at Comerica. Hey, I have a heart too...)

Clete Thomas: B

Thomas is another young outfielder who's made quite an impression with Tiger fans. There's a "Cult of Clete" for a reason. His .284 AVE and .366 OBP attests he's not overwhelmed by MLB pitching. He's verasatile enough to play all 3 outfield positions. Thomas filled in quite capably in center when Curtis Granderson was out of the lineup, and has seen his fair share of time in right while Magglio Ordonez has been laid up.

Though Thomas was sent down today, I don't think we've seen the last of the "Cult of Clete" in Detroit this season. He'll be back, hopefully soon.

Curtis Granderson: B-

Granderson had a rough start to the season. Missing the first 3 weeks with a broken finger really set him back, as he struggled mightily at the plate through the first week of June. After bottoming out with a .235 average, Granderson has been the offensive force we've grown to expect at the leadoff spot.

As goes Granderson, so go the Tigers. His beginning the year on the DL had more to do with their awful start than we first realized. It's not a coincidence the Tigers didn't turn around their season until Granderson began to hit. He's the proverbial straw that stirs the drink.

Magglio Ordonez: B+

Ordonez would have been the Tigers' All-Star rep had he not been sidelined with this season's injury du jour, a strained oblique. He's not going to hit .363 again, but there's nothing to comnplain about when it comes to Ordonez.  You can book it now, despite the DL stint, he'll have a typical Ordonez season, hitting .300 with 25 HR's, 100+ RBI and a .900 OPS.

What else is there to say about Ordonez? The man's a pro. He could roll out of bed, immediately grab a bat, and line a double into the right centerfield gap without missing a beat.

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