2012 Top 10 Stories: #7 – Tigers Trade for Sanchez and Infante

Based on Number Eight in this completely subjective Top 10 list (The Black Hole at Second Base), Number Seven should come as no surprise: the Tigers move aggressively to fill the void at second base by reacquiring old friend Omar Infante and add a blue-chip starting pitcher, Anibal Sanchez, to bolster the rotation.

The July 23 trade with the Miami Marlins came at a steep price: top prospects pitcher Jacob Turner and catcher Rob Brantly, along with 6-ft. 8 -in. minor-league lefty Brian Flynn and a 2013 compensation draft. (The day before the trade, Turner pitched 5.1 innings against the White Sox in a 6-4 win that put the Tigers a game and a half ahead of Chicago, and showed potential trade partners that Turner was healthy and ready to perform in the big leagues.)

At the time, Infante was the headliner because of the Tigers’ glaring need for an everyday second baseman and, to a lesser degree, the fact he was returning to his original big-league franchise. Tigers fans had watched Infante mature into a solid big-league player in his three seasons with the Braves and season-and-a-half in Miami and seemed to welcome him back. From Jason Beck’s story on the deal:

“For us, from a second-base perspective, that was an area we definitely wanted to address,” Dombrowski said. “There’s not a lot of second basemen that are available. There’s not a lot of second basemen available particularly that are good players.”

In Infante’s case, Dombrowski said, “He’s a real solid player to us, one of the better second basemen in Major League Baseball.”

(snip)

“One thing for us, it’s good to have a bat that’s another threat to drive the ball into the gaps and steal a base,” Dombrowski said. “For us, it’s a plus.”

Sanchez, on the other hand, was an unknown quantity and a curiosity of sorts. After all, he’d pitched seven seasons in south Florida for more or less forgettable Marlins teams. (The only thing I knew about him was that in 2006 he’d thrown a no-hitter against the Diamondbacks.) But as Doug Fister struggled to return to form after two trips to the disabled list, it became clear in a hurry that Sanchez was just as big a piece of this trade as Omar Infante – and perhaps bigger.

“He’s been one of the more consistent pitchers in baseball,” Dombrowski said. “He feels great, he has quality stuff and he gives us a chance to have five established Major League starters.”

Early on, Sanchez surrendered five or more earned runs in three of his first four Tigers starts and looked shellshocked by American League. But soon he had found his rhythm and was providing Jim Leyland with quality starts in eight of his next nine outings. In fact, Sanchez registered a quality start in five consecutive starts Aug. 22 – Sept. 15, and finished 2-2 with a 1.89 ERA during that stretch. And on Sept. 25 he notched his finest outing in a Tigers uniform: a three-hit shutout against the Royals, striking out 10. His final line: 12 starts, a 4-6 record and a 3.74 ERA.

In the playoffs Sanchez he was superb. In three postseason starts he allowed just four runs and a 1.77 ERA, which certainly helped his free-agent asking price and helped bring him back to Detroit for five more seasons.

As for Infante, he brought to the Tigers exactly what they’d hoped: a solid player that stabilized a critical infield position and, on many nights, the number-two spot in the batting order.

All told, a big trade, a big payoff – and a big story.

The Top 10 Stories of 2012

2012 Top 10 Stories: #8 – The Black Hole at Second Base

Remember when Scott Sizemore was the answer to the Tigers’ second base question? After nearly five seasons of Placido Polanco’s wizardry at second, and in the number-two slot of the lineup, the Tigers tried to convince fans – and maybe themselves – that Sizemore could take over with gusto.

After 65 games spread across two seasons, Sizemore was dealt to Oakland and suddenly second base became a giant black hole. Again.

In 2010, Carlos Guillen and Will Rhymes both played more games at second than Sizemore, fully cementing the second-base-by-committee approach.

Last season, Ryan Raburn made his play for the job, appearing in 56 games at second and committing 10 errors in 201 chances. Backed by his usual second-half surge, he convinced the Tigers he could hold down the job full-time in 2012.

The assumption, naturally, was that Raburn would hit enough to mask some lead-gloved D. (The same was said of Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and, to a lesser degree, Jhonny Peralta.)

Except, he didn’t hit well enough to warrant a job anywhere on the diamond. Neither did Plan B, Ramon Santiago.

Combined, Plan A and Plan B hit .189.

That’s why, as the July 31 Trade Deadline inched closer, the Tigers were linked to every available second baseman in the majors: from Darwin Barney to Kelly Johnson to the man the landed on July 26 along with Anibal Sanchez: the prodigal son Omar Infante.

Having a full-time second baseman certainly settled the lineup but Infante look anything but settled at times, at least defensively after his arrival. He made nine errors in 267 chances over 61 games at second, At the plate, he hit .257: 80 points higher than Raburn and 50 more than Santiago.

Heading into 2013, Infante is the incumbent at second and in the final year of his contract. Given the slim pickings in the Tigers’ minor-league system, a solid first half could earn the 31-year-old Infante a contract extension and make him the second baseman for the foreseeable future … just as he was in 2001.

Go figure.

The Top 10 Stories of 2012

Verlander Shows How Closing is Done

On Tuesday night Jim Leyland said the A’s played a perfect game in the 2-0 Oakland Game 3 win.

I’d submit that the Tigers returned the favor Thursday night in a game the was perhaps the most emphatic decisive game we’ve seen since Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS.

Wow.

I wasn’t sure what version of Justin Verlander we’d see in Game 5. Ends up we saw the model we hoped for: all business, dominant, explosive. A complete-game, four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts to boot.

How about Omar Infante with a two-for-three night and two runs scored — plus a stolen base. (!)

And Austin Jackson: two hits, two runs batted in and a pair of runs scored.

And wait, there’s more: Delmon Young showed up and drove in a run.

But the story of the night was Verlander. He threw 122 pitches, 88 for strikes and saw his ALDS ERA plummet to 0.56.

Awesome.

So now we wait for the winner of the Orioles and Yankees series.

I’m going to savor this win for a day or so. Then I’ll worry about the ALCS.

And if the Yankees and Orioles caught even a glimpse of the Tigers game, they’re no doubt worried about the prospect of facing Justin Verlander in the next week.

Tuesday Tananas: Tiger Stadium’s Finale, Fister’s Dominance, and Meat Loaf’s Birthday

Things keep looking up for the Tigers. The ALDS is fast approaching, Wilson Betemit is playing tonight and Ozzie Guillen is leaving the American League. Good times.

[callout title=The Tuesday Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, 13 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers vs. Indians – Max Scherzer (14-9, 4.37 ERA) vs. RHP Jeanmar Gomez (5-2, 3.52 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

This season against the Indians, Scherzer is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA. Lifetime he’s 3-3, 4.79 ERA.

Did you know that Scherzer has never thrown a complete game or a shutout in his major-league career?

[/callout]

Leading Off: The Tigers crushed the Indians and Ubaldo Jimenez Monday night 14-0. Doug Fister was his usual phenomenal self: eight innings, three hits, no walks, nine strikouts. And, 74 percent of his 109 pitches were strikes.

ALDS Start Time (Maybe): Matt Dery (@deryNBA) posted this on Twitter: “According to reports, Tigers would either host Bos or TB at 5 pm Friday for Game 1 or play at NYY at 8:30 fri night.” If it’s a 5 o’clock game, looks like I’m leaving work early.

The Tigers enter tonight’s game versus Cleveland having won 28 of their last 37 games dating back to Aug. 19, a .757 winning percentage — tops in the majors.

On this date in 1999, the Tigers played their final game at Tiger Stadium — an 8-2 win over the Royals. Homers by Karim Garcia, Luis Polonia and Robert Fick power the Tigers behind Brian Moehler.

We knew Doug Fister was good, but this is ridculous. From Elias Sports Bureau:

Remember at the trading deadline when the biggest-name pitcher moved was Ubaldo Jimenez? On Monday he was outpitched by a player whose trade received considerably less attention, Doug Fister. Fister improved to 8-1 since joining Detroit, making him only the fourth pitcher in the post-WWII Era to have at least eight wins with no more than one loss for a team after pitching for another major-league team earlier that season. The three others: Randy Johnson (10-1 for the 1998 Astros, after starting with the Mariners); Doyle Alexander (9-0 for the 1987 Tigers after starting with the Braves); and Rick Sutcliffe (16-1 for the 1984 Cubs after starting with the Indians.) Fister will end the season with a seven-game winning streak and Justin Verlander has won his last 12 decisions. They’re the first teammates to end a season with each on a winning streak of seven or more games, mainly or exclusively as a starting pitcher, since 1993, when Jason Bere and Wilson Alvarez of the White Sox each won their final seven decisions. The pair preceding Bere and Alvarez was Doyle Alexander (9) and Walt Terrell (8) for the 1987 Tigers.

I was talking to a friend of mine today about possible successors to Ozzie Guillen and we did a quick review of higher-profile bench coaches around the majors. One name he brought up was Kirk Gibson’s bench coach, Alan Trammell. While I fully support Tram getting another shot at managing, I can’t abide by him taking over the White Sox. Oh, and did you see where former Tigers manager Buddy Bell is in the mix for the Sox’ gig? Oy vey.

Happy 67th Birthday to Gary Sutherland. He hit .251 with a .295 on-base percentage with the Tigers from 1974-76 and played primarily at second base.

Checking in on trade pieces: In 31 games with the Mariners since the July 29 trade, Casper Wells is hitting .216 with seven home runs, 15 RBI and a .742 OPS. Meanwhile Charlie Furbush is 3-7 with a 6.62 ERA in 10 starts, and Chance Ruffin is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 12 appearances.

Why should you keep watching baseball this week?, asks Rob Neyer. One reason he offers is to see if Jose Valverde can keep up his perfect-save routine:

Valverde’s been phenomenal this season, and is only seven saves from tying Tom Gordon’s American League for consecutive saves (over different seasons). And the best part is that Valverde’s doing all this with lower strikeout and higher walk rates than his career norms.

Wanna bet he blows one in October? I don’t know. I predicted Lidge would blow a postseason save after his perfect 2008, but he didn’t and the Phillies won the World Series.

On this date in 1986, Jack Morris shut out the Yankees 1-0 in 10 innings, raising his record to 20-8 and snapped Don Mattingly’s hitting streak at 24 consecutive games.

I’ve had seller’s remorse on Omar Infante for a couple of years now — and especially since Placido Polanco was set free after the ’09 season. Infante just signed a two-year, $8 million extension with the Marlins. He enters tonight’s game batting .279 with seven home runs, 49 RBIs and only eight errors in 146 games. He’d look pretty good playing second for the Tigers these days, no?

Finally, Happy 64th Birthday to Meat Loaf.

Tigers Today: April 4, 2011

OriolesTigers’ Record

1-2; 4th place, 1.5 GB Royals

Today’s Game

Tigers @ Orioles | 3:05 p.m. ET – Baltimore | On the air: FSD/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Pitching Matchup

Rick Porcello (0-0) vs. Jake Arrieta (0-0)

Yesterday’s Results

Tigers 10 – Yankees 7

Continue reading “Tigers Today: April 4, 2011”

Monday Mankowskis: Inge and Peralta More Alike Than You Think

No Tigers baseball for a week, how are you managing? Here in Phoenix we’re prepping for another season of Arizona Fall League action. (More on that later.)

In the meantime, here are some odds and ends from the last week:

  • If you’re still coming to grips with the notion of Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta manning the left side of the Tigers’ infield next season, here’s something I noticed that will either make you feel better or worse – and nowhere in between.

    Based on this year’s stats, it appears that Inge and Peralta are practically twins:

    2010 Stats Inge Peralta
    Games 144 148
    At bats 514 551
    Hits 127 137
    Home Runs 13 15
    RBI 70 81
    Average .247 .249
    On-base Percentage .321 .311
    Slugging Percentage .397 .392
    OPS .718 .703

    Of Peralta, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski last Sunday said: “We don’t know what we will do with his ($7.25 million) option, but would like him back next year as our shortstop.”

    I’m like many Tigers fans: skeptical, at best, about Peralta as a full-time shortstop. True, he’ll bring more pop to the position than either Danny Worth or Ramon Santiago. But that’s not saying much, is it? As for his defense, the 2010 edition of Baseball Prospectus described Peralta as “increasingly immobile.”

    Gee, if we wanted an immobile shortstop, why not give the job back to Carlos Guillen?

    Discuss.

    Continue reading “Monday Mankowskis: Inge and Peralta More Alike Than You Think”

Familiar Faces in Playoffs for Tigers Fans

2010postseasonLogo.jpgNot sure if this makes the postseason more or less interesting to you, but if you watch each league’s division series you’ll likely to see lots of former Tigers:

Yankees

Rays

Rangers

Giants

Braves

Phillies