Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Pessimistic Guide to the Detroit Tigers Spring Training

If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the past month, odds are you’ve run across someone posting constant reminders on how many days until pitchers and catchers report. Spring Training is coming, huzzah! Hooray for Grapefruit League Action! (INSERT PLAYER HERE) is feeling great and ready to win a championship!

This is because people every year seem to forget that Spring Training is long, boring, and annoying.

“I’m in the best shape of my life”, we’ll hear countless times. Recently injured players always feel 100%. Guys who have struggled in recent times are looking better than ever. The manager and coaches will tell reporters that players that have never produced are now knocking the cover off the ball. The rarely televised games will see actual MLB players out of the contest by the 5th inning in most cases.

Basically, Spring Training is the month-plus of lies and nonsense leading up to actual baseball in April. If you’re an eternal optimist, incredibly gullible, and/or a reporter getting paid to be in Florida instead of Michigan in February/March, I guess it’s a nice time. For me, though, it’s a month of reading and hearing things reported that I can’t understand any rational human believing.

So instead of the sunshine and puppy dog tails that you’re likely reading everywhere else, let’s flip Two Face’s coin to the other side. What DOOM and GLOOM are waiting for us in the upcoming months?

Let’s examine these nightmares in our Official Pessimist’s Guide to the Detroit Tigers Spring Training!

(Note: Since roughly 80% of the Tigers fanbase seems to have the sense of humor of Bill O’Reilly watching The Daily Show, this is where I must remind everyone that this is mostly for entertainment purposes. Sigh.)


YOUR 2015 DETROIT TIGERS STARTING LINEUP

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B

While providing solid defense up the middle, Kinsler saw his OBP fall to .307 last season. That’s not exactly what any team wants to see out of the leadoff spot. With the average player’s OPS+ being at 100, the past three seasons have seen Ian put up a 97, 106, and 100. He is making $16 million to not be Prince Fielder.

2. Anthony Gose, CF

The former Blue Jay is a defensive beast in the outfield, from all reports. That’s great. But brainiac Ausmus wants Gose to bat second and his career slash of .234/.301/.332 is terrifying for the spot in the order in front of the Venezuelan Mafia. Gose struck out 74 times in 239 at bats last year. Hopefully an anvil falls on Brad’s head and he suddenly will understand math and move Gose down in the lineup until he proves he belongs at the top. One of my best friends is a Jays fan and he tells me Gose can’t bunt worth a damn, either. So expect Ausmus to ask him to do so twice a game.

3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B

Another year, another offseason surgery for Miggy Baseball. Cabrera is the greatest hitter any of us have ever seen wearing the Old English D. But he has limped to the finish line in each of the past two seasons and may not be ready for Opening Day. Even if he can play by April, he’ll likely need a month or so to get up to speed. Ancient Mike Hessman is probably the team’s best option to play first base if Cabrera can’t recover in time because Dave Dombrowski does not believe in organizational depth.

4. Victor Martinez, DH

There are few better hitters on the planet than Victor Martinez in a contract year. Once he gets paid, though, his knees turn to dust and we’re always one wrong turn away from surgery. V-mart will likely be ready to play in a couple weeks. But at 36 with multiple knee operations, he’s a constant risk to head back to the DL. He just received a 4 year, $68 million contract to keep us wincing every time Dave Clark waves him home from third.

5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF

As a rookie in 2012, Cespedes put up an impressive slash of .292/.356/.505. The past two years have seen him drop to .240/.294/.442 and .260/.301/.450. In 51 games with Boston to finish 2014, Cespedes put up an OPS+ of 100. If only the Home Run Derby translated accurately to actual baseball games. Also, he’s a free agent that will likely bolt town after this season. I’m told he has impressive family BBQs, but have yet to be invited to one.

6. J.D. Martinez, RF

While he hit .315/.358/.553 with an OPS+ of 149 in his impressive Tigers debut last year, the previous three years saw J.D. only hit .251/.300/.387 with a 88 OPS+. Which is the real Martinez? Regardless, he’s not much of a defender in the outfield and will need to duplicate close to his dream 2014 season for the Tigers to go far.

7. Nick Castellanos, 3B

The 23 year old sophomore had a bWAR of -1.5 last year. His OBP+ was a below average 93. His defense at third was horrid. Luckily, he’s very young and has plenty of time to improve. That’s assuming he does improve. Nick got married in the offseason which means he may be severely depressed now and see his numbers suffer.

8. Alex Avila, C

Avila has seen his batting average drop from .243 to .227 to .218 the past three seasons. Cannot hit left-handed pitching to save his life. If a feather touches his head, he’ll suffer another concussion, piss his pants, and forget his own name for a week. I seem to be the only person that blames Jim Leyland for ruining his career by needlessly playing him every day down the stretch in 2011.

9. Jose Iglesias, SS

Where most of us have actual shinbones, Iggy has popsicle sticks held together by bubble gum. While a defensive wizard, Iglesias has never hit much. After missing all of 2014, he’ll likely take half the season to regain his .230 hitting form. The only guy in the organization that could come close to replacing him if he suffers any setbacks was traded to the Reds for an accused rapist and murderer.

YOUR 2015 DETROIT TIGERS BENCH
Rajai Davis, OF

While he did steal 36 bases to lead the Tigers in 2014, he was also caught an alarming 11 times. That was the fifth season in which Rajai was caught 11 or more times. He struggles against right-handed pitchers and plays average defense in the outfield. He will make $5 million to be a pinch runner and bail out Anthony Gose if he can’t break the Mendoza line.

Andrew Romine/Hernan Perez, IF

Neither guy can hit. Neither guy has any options left. One will be the new Don Kelly. The other will probably be claimed off waivers as depth by another team. Expect Romine to win the job due to being a switch hitter.

James McCann/Bryan Holaday, C

McCann is the better hitter and fielder, yet the team seems to like Holaday for some reason. Ideally, McCann will be the starter against lefties to give Avila more rest this season. Holaday is the typical AAA caliber catcher we always seem to have around. I call it the “Vance Wilson position”.

Tyler Collins/Steven Moya, Fifth Outfielder/Pinch Hitter

Barring any injury to a starter, expect Moya to be a daily fixture in the Mud Hens lineup until he learns to make contact every now and then. He’s a young, darker-skinned, Rob Deer at this stage of his career. Collins isn’t great, but he does enough to be the best bench bat Detroit has seen since Marcus Thames. Sadly, this isn’t saying much.

YOUR 2015 DETROIT TIGERS STARTING ROTATION

David Price, LHP

Astro’s owner is counting the minutes until he can leave Detroit for big dollars in a warmer city. In 11 starts with the Tigers, Price put up a WHIP of 1.15, his highest WHIP since 2010. Hasn’t turned 30 yet, but already has over 1200 MLB innings pitched. Is not Max Scherzer.

Justin Verlander, RHP

Led the league in earned runs allowed last season. Fastball has fell off a cliff. His K/9 was the lowest it’s been since JV’s rookie season. His ERA+ of 88 was the lowest of his career. Verlander spent the offseason getting his phone hacked and appearing naked on the internet with his famous girlfriend. He will make $28 million this year. And next year. And in 2017. And in 2018. And in 2019. Is not the old Justin Verlander.

Anibal Sanchez, RHP

Constant injury risk. Seems to miss at least a month every season. His 126 innings pitches last year is the lowest he’s thrown since 2009. K/9 dropped last year from 10 in 2013 to 7.3 in 2014. Is not Max Scherzer or the old Justin Verlander. He’s still my favorite Tigers pitcher that’s left, though. Also, his wife is quite lovely.

Shane Greene, RHP

Untested, as he only has 14 MLB starts under his belt. While he did well in limited action with New York last year, his minor league numbers are not impressive. Greene’s a ground ball pitcher and he has human statues playing first and third base. Is not Rick Porcello.

Alfredo Simon, RHP

Struggled severely in the second half last year, his first full year of starting in MLB. FIP was 4.33, nearly a full run higher than his ERA. Had the lowest K/9 total of his career at age 33. Has been accused of murder (2011) and rape (2014). Dombrowski traded Eugenio Suarez to get this guy for some reason. Is not Drew Smyly, Doug Fister, or literally any other MLB starting pitcher, unfortunately.

YOUR 2015 DETROIT TIGERS BULLPEN
Joe Nathan, RHP

He is 40 years old, terrible at pitching, and will make $10 million. This is the closer.

Joakim Soria, RHP

Depending on your opinion of AlAl, Soria is the only pitcher in the bullpen that, without a shadow of a doubt, belongs on a MLB roster. However, the prized trade acquisition of the Tigers last year put up a 4.91 ERA and 5.22 FIP as a Tiger (in only 11 innings). Has been hurt quite a bit since 2011. Brad Ausmus seemed quite reluctant to use Soria down the stretch for some reason.

Al Alburquerque, RHP

The MVP of the Tigers bullpen in 2014, though that’s like being the skinniest kid at fat camp. AlAl has an amazing slider, but is wildly inconsistent. Has a career BB/9 of 5.1, though he cut it down to 3.3 in 2014. Has a tragic hairline and kisses baseballs at inappropriate times.

Bruce Rondon, RHP

Zoom 2.0. Has shown a 100 mph fastball, but has no idea where it’s going. Arm may fall off at any moment.

Tom Gorzelanny, LHP

Only threw 21 innings last year coming back from injury. Is a league average pitcher with a career ERA+ of 98. Since 2007, has only put up one good season (2012). Despite all this, could pitch blindfolded and probably be the best lefty in the organization not named David Price.

Ian Krol, LHP

The sole survivor of the act of treason known as The Doug Fister Trade. Was once suspended by the A’s for tweeting gay slurs and other offensive language. Once favorited one of my tweets making fun of him. When he’s not being terrible at pitching, he’s usually hurt. I’d rather have Phil Coke back.

Joel Hanrahan, RHP

Actually died a couple years ago, I believe. His animated corpse is still in Lakeland trying to make the team.

Alex Wilson, RHP

The player we got from Boston in the Porcello deal that no one talks about. Is probably our third best reliever after Soria and AlAl. I’ve got nothing bad to say about him. Yet.

Ladies and germs, your 2015 Detroit Tigers.

So yeah…SPRING TRAINING, EVERYONE! WOOOOO!

Excited yet?

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