Inside Look: Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers baseball logoThe Mets begin an interleague series by traveling to Detroit tonight. The Tigers are currently chasing the Cleveland Indians, 2.5 games behind and in second place in the competitive American League Central.

For many of us, this is the first time we’re seeing the Tigers since the 2006 World Series, so we’ve asked Bill Ferris of the excellent Detroit Tiger Weblog to give us some inside information on the Motor City’s nine.

1. The Tigers had a magical year in 2006, surprising the rest of the baseball world with their outstanding play. This year, they’ve had some struggles, and are currently 2 1/2 games behind the Indians. Give us NL “outsiders” a synopsis of what has changed for Detroit between this year and last.

The pitching hasn’t been nearly effective as 2006 when it was the best in baseball. Mike Maroth who went on the DL early last season was quite effective before the injury, this year he has struggled. Kenny Rogers is yet to throw a pitch. Nate Robertson had an awesome April and an awful May and is now on the DL. Thankfully Bonderman and Verlander picked up where they left off last year. Plus, the bullpen has been bad and injury-prone. Todd Jones pitches to contact, so he needs pinpoint control but is walking too many to be effective. Fernando Rodney has been injured and erratic when healthy. The Jose Mesa experiment was a complete flop.

On the other hand, the Tigers record is as good as it is because of the offense. Gary Sheffield was the only addition, but Magglio Ordonez is working on an MVP and Curtis Granderson has been awesome. Add in typical production from Placido Polanco and Carlos Guillen and that’s a formidable 1-5.

2. Who is Chad Durbin and what is he doing with a 5-1 record?

Chad Durbin is one of those organizational depth guys, minor league free agents, that you try and stockpile and hope one sticks. Durbin had a great year for AAA Toledo last year and has carried it into this year. You’ll notice his peripherals aren’t great, but he’s certainly capable of filling a 5th-starter role — especially since he’s really the 6th starter.

3. Since being drafted in the first round last year, there’s been a lot of hoopla surrounding Andrew Miller. He pitched a good game against the Cardinals in mid-May, and is scheduled to make his second start of the year on Sunday. Is he the “designated interleague pitcher”? Seriously though, is he ready to pitch at the ML level? Should we all be scrambling to add him to our fantasy teams before Sunday?

I think he can certainly pitch at the ML level, but probably isn’t ready to dominate there yet. Although, he has been dominating at AA since focusing more on his change-up, which should compliment his fastball and very good slider. He’s probably only up for a couple of starts as an injury replacement, so he won’t be a long-term answer for your fantasy team, but he could help this week. It’s not known how long Robertson will be out, but Kenny Rogers’ return is just a couple weeks away.

4. First Bonderman, then Verlander, now Miller …. what dominating young pitcher is coming up next for the Tigers and — seeing that Rick Porcello was stolen with the 27th pick yesterday — will this ever stop?

I hope not. The Tigers also have Jair Jurrjens and Dallas Trahern at Erie. While Trahern isn’t in the mold of the others mentioned, he’s an extreme groundball pitcher in the vein of Webb/Wang.

5. Other than Todd Jones and Fernando Rodney, the names in the Detroit bullpen aren’t ringing any bells. Who are the other key relievers, and how are they doing?

Umm. Yeah, that’s about it. Tim Byrdak and Bobby Seay have both been very effective as lefties out of the pen. Jason Grilli has had his ups and downs, and right now he’s in an up. After that the bullpen is being stocked by AAA Toledo’s starting rotation with Yorman Bazardo recently called up to replace the DL’d Zach Miner. Wil Ledezma probably has as much talent as any one in the group, but so far the results don’t reflect that.

6. Who will hit more homeruns this year: Sean Casey or Omar Infante?

Omar Infante. Infante’s got some pop in his bat. Casey, even when he hits the ball on the nose, is still coming up short of the fences.

7. Tie game, ninth inning, man on third, two outs. What Tiger batter do you most want to see at the plate?

Placido Polanco. The ball will be put in play one way or another. The current edition of Magglio Ordonez would be a very close second.

8. Same situation, but the Mets are up. Who would you least like to see hitting?

Whoever is most likely to hit the ball weakly at someone, or someone really slow. Jones isn’t going to strike anybody out, so Tigers fans are hoping for easy outs.

Thanks again to Bill for giving us the inside scoop on the Tigers. Be sure to check out his fine website, Detroit Tiger Weblog, for more information on the Tigers.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
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