Friday, July 7, 2006

Tigers midseason report card

A gift sent from the heavens above.

That’s how you can describe the Tigers first-half of the 2006 season, in which they lead the defending champion Chicago White Sox and in a most impressive fashion, boast baseball’s best record at 56-28.

Magical is another word.

Whether it be Curtis Granderson’s game-tying home run in the ninth inning with two strikes and two outs on May 20, or Marcus Thames matching Granderson’s feat against the St. Louis Cardinals a little over a month later, the first half has been simply magical.

And in the process, they’re waking up ghosts of 1984.

The ’06 Tigers are only one game behind the ’84 champions’ record of 57-27 through, ironically, 84 games.

But how dare this team. How dare they rattle off wins on a pace we haven’t seen since the Bless You Boys of ’84, the only year this past quarter century people remember for the Tigers.

Detroiters, for good reason, are still skeptical of these Tigers, who have a unique mix of fresh and seasoned talent. Many won’t be sold on the team until the final out is recorded on October 1st.

But it’s crystal clear that these Tigers compare to the previously futile Tigers like day compares to night.

The first stepping stone was the 40-game mark, which Hall-of-Fame manager Sparky Anderson was known to judge his teams by.

27-13, check.

Now, as the All-Star Break looms, the Tigers have continued their torrid pace, and remain at the perch of the MLB.

Here are the mid-season grades:


Curtis Granderson, CF. Grade: B+. Such a pleasant surprise to see Granderson produce this well in his first full big-league season. Has delivered in several clutch situations, hits to all fields, and shows flashes of power. His average (.283) has been steadily increasing. Fielding has been nothing less than extraordinary, especially with Comerica Park’s spacious confines. Needs to cut down on the strikeouts.

Placido Polanco, 2B. Grade: B. Polanco has been true to form, striking out only 21 times in over 300 AB’s, and his average sits at .284, which will get higher. He missed 12 games due to injuries that could be nagging him the 2nd half. Sometimes kills rallies, he has grounded into 12 double plays.

Ivan Rodriguez, C. Grade: B. Pudge can still hit, that’s obvious by his 90 hits and above .300 average, but his ability to drive in runs has left him. His 39 RBI’s are the least in the everyday lineup besides Marcus Thames, but he has roughly 100 less AB’s. This team wouldn’t be where they are right now without his leadership, as he has made a U-turn from last year’s attitude, now having fun again. Pudge will be starting the All-Star Game for the American League behind the plate.

Magglio Ordonez, RF. Grade: A-. The Tigers finally reap some benefits from Ordonez’ massive contract. He has 15 homers and 59 RBI, putting him just a notch below what the Tigers expected when they signed him. Another good sign is that it appears as if the injury woes are behind him. Ordonez has played in 80 of 84 games so far, and is replacing Boston’s Manny Ramirez on the All-Star team.

Carlos Guillen, SS. Grade: B. Guillen is showing the same stellar numbers he put up in 2004 before his injury. With 10 home runs and 50 RBI, he is knocking in runs, and his average is hovering around .300. He’s still a rock at shortstop, and is running more under Leyland, with 12 stolen bases.

Chris Shelton, 1B. Grade: B-. Sure, he was tearing the cover off the ball the first two weeks of the season, but since his production has been way down. Still, a 16 home run start is good for his first full-time stint in the majors. However, Shelton has struck out too much (82 times), and has been very streaky at the plate.

Brandon Inge, 3B. Grade: B-. Inge recently surpassed his season high for home runs—in the first half. He’s discovered an unforeseen ability to hit for power, but his average has struggled. .225 ranks with the lowest of starting A.L. position players. Defensively, he has been average—makes astonishing grabs, but muffs some routine plays.

Craig Monroe, LF, Grade: C. Monroe has shown above average power the first half of the year, hitting 12 home runs with 41 RBI. His approach at the plate has been questionable at times, banking on the long ball instead of situational hitting. Monroe is also battling trade rumors and the emerging Marcus Thames.

Marcus Thames, lF, Grade: A-. Thames has exploded onto the scene after platooning between Toledo and Detroit for a few years. He has hit 17 home runs in only 196 at bats, and has completely taken the left field position away from Monroe. Thames has an amazing .633 slugging percentage, and is proving he can hit for average as well.

Omar Infante, UTIL, Grade: B+. Finally, Infante has found his niche as a utility man. Leyland likes him in this role, and likes even more the way he’s been playing. In 33 games, Infante is hitting a respectable .269 and has provided the Tigers with a reliable backup at the infield positions.

Vance Wilson, C, Grade: B+. Wilson has provided Leyland with a steady backup catcher that can provide occasional offense but more importantly, veteran leadership for the young starters. Already he has surpassed last season’s totals for home runs and total bases, and Wilson is hitting .310 with 84 AB’s. And let’s not forget the 2-run homer off Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana back in May.

Ramon Santiago, UTIL, Grade: C-. Santiago is merely a backup that cracks the lineup because of his slick fielding. Not much to expect offensively in the 2nd half either, he is hitting a putrid .194 with a dozen hits and an RBI.


Kenny Rogers, SP, Grade: A. With an 11-3 record and a probable All-Star Game start in Pittsburgh, Rogers has performed like nobody could have imagined at the young age of 42. His veteran presence can be felt throughout the whole staff, especially with the starters. Rogers has a 3.85 ERA and is averaging more than 5 strikeouts per 9 innings.

Jeremy Bonderman, SP, Grade: B+. Bonderman’s 7-4 record doesn’t do him justice so far this year. His run support is the worst on the staff, and he has pitched very well deep into games with nothing to claim but a no-decision. Bonderman stands 5th in the A.L. with 107 strikeouts, and hasn’t allowed more than 3 earned runs in a start since May 29.

Mike Maroth, SP, Grade: B+. After a hot 5-2 start where he routinely pitched into the sixth and seventh innings allowing no more than a run or two, Maroth was sidelined due to elbow problems. Maroth underwent surgery on his left elbow to remove bone chips, and is expected to return in August.

Nate Robertson, SP, Grade: B+. Robertson’s 8 wins and 3.35 ERA virtually came out of nowhere, producing All-Star type numbers. Before coming up north in April, Robertson was the biggest question mark in the pitching staff because of his spring struggles. He has a 1.27 ERA against left-handers.

Justin Verlander, SP, Grade: A-. A rookie by title only, Verlander has stifled opponents with a 3.01 ERA, good for 2nd in the A.L. Even more impressive than his 10 wins, which is tied for 3rd in the league, is the fact that he has pitched most of the first half without his knuckle curve, his most effective breaking pitch. Considered an All-Star snub by many, Verlander’s velocity is routinely clocked in the upper-90’s.

Zach Miner, SP, Grade: A. The rookie who was a relative unknown in last year’s Kyle Farnsworth deal with Atlanta has done nothing at the big league level but win. Miner is 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA. He is 5-0 after his rough debut against the Red Sox, and even managed to record a complete game on June 20 in Milwaukee, only the 2nd Tiger this year to do so.

Roman Colon, RP, Grade: C-. Colon’s only start of the year wasn’t very impressive, as he only lasted 2 1/3 innings, allowing 5 runs. He has been spotty at best out of the bullpen, and has allowed 5 home runs in 24 2/3 innings pitched, mostly contributing to his 4.74 ERA.

Jason Grilli, RP, Grade: C. Grilli has done a serviceable job in middle relief, with a 3.86 ERA in 24 appearances. He hasn’t allowed more than a run in any appearance since April 13.

Jamie Walker, RP, Grade: B+. Walker is used exclusively as a left-handed specialist, and has thrived, with a 1.17 ERA. He has only allowed runs in 3 of his 27 appearances.

Wil Ledezma, RP, Grade: INC. Ledezma, who was called up in June, is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 5 games.

Joel Zumaya, RP, Grade: A-. Equipped with a fastball that hovers around the century mark, and on occasions, topping it, Zumaya is 2nd among A.L. relievers in strikeouts, with 53. He is 4-1 with a 2.09 ERA, and has delivered in many clutch situations. Opponents are hitting a mere .176 off of him, and his 20 holds lead the majors.

Fernando Rodney, RP, Grade: B-. Rodney, who started the year as the closer, opened 2006 without allowing a run throughout April. He is 7 of 9 in save opportunities. Down the stretch he has hit some rough patches, those highlighted by allowing 5 runs on July 2, lasting only 1/3 of an inning.

Todd Jones, RP, Grade: C+. Jones is on pace to notch another 40-save season, saving 22 of 25 this first half. However, his ERA has ballooned to 6.00, and his record still stands at a dark 1-5. It doesn’t appear Jones has the ability to pitch more than his standard one inning of work any longer, two out of the three times he has, he has given up four runs or more.


Jim Leyland, Manager, Grade: A+. Leyland has brought discipline and confidence to a team that has not had such a leader since Anderson in the mid-1990’s. His relationship with players individually has been great, and his hard-nosed personality has fit well. Frontrunner for Manager of the Year, Leyland has shown the spark that was so evident in his days with Pittsburgh and Florida.


Anonymous said...

yeah Shelton isnt worthy of a B, after his fluke start, he fails to drive runners in and is a very mediocre fielder. Other than that, good read

Anonymous said...

Not bad for a lazy former 6th grade student. At least your interest in sports has turned into something positive. You are still too much of a "Homer". Always blinded by the word Detroit in front of any team. NIce job overall. Keep up the good work.


Anonymous said...

Todd Jones should have a D- or a E, everytime i see him enter a game my heart sinks.

Q. Whos your Tiger?
A. Mags, because he should have got a A+ rather than an A-....As Rod Allen would say, Hes arguably one of the best all around players in the Major League....Keep up the good work fendigidy..Dmac out

Anonymous said...

That was the best Tigers midseason report around. Grade: A.