Detroit Tigers Mid-Term Grades Are In


Sometimes you make the grade, other times you flunk.

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The Detroit Tigers‘ 44-44 record to date is disappointing and as can be expected, some players aced the first half, others met expectations, and not a few fell into the vortex of mediocrity.

Let’s take a look at how the Tiger players and their manager graded out in the season’s first half, from A-Z. Or, more accurately, from Alburquerque to Wilson. Pity Toledo reliever Josh Zeid didn’t merit a first-half promotion……

Al Alburquerque (RP)–B

The slidermeister had a typical first half–striking out a batter per inning while walking a few too many. Nonetheless, with an ERA of 2.79, Al Al should continue to get meaningful assignments as the team scurries to find solutions in the bullpen.

Brad Ausmus (Manager)–C

If managing was simply about maintaining an even keel, Ausmus would go to the head of the class. Yes, he’s been hamstrung with a nondescript pitching staff, but Ausmus has compounded the problem by displaying a distinct lack of feel for in-game pitching management.

Alex Avila (C)–B-

The free agent-to-be backstop is an offensive paradox, possessing a .195 BA alongside an OBP of .346. He adds value on defense, but is rightfully being gradually replaced by James McCann as the everyday catcher.

Miguel Cabrera (1B)–A

The Beast With A Bat continues to terrorize American League pitchers. It’s a privilege to watch a future Hall of Famer at the top of his game, and “Mashin’ Miggy” brings it on a daily basis. He will be dearly missed until he returns to the line-up sometime in late August.

Nick Castellanos (3B)–D

The Tigers have shown extraordinary patience with their young third baseman, who carries a .243 BA and .287 OBP into the break. From an offensive standpoint he needs to show tangible progress in the second half, especially since he mans a position from which you expect run production. Perhaps he will. The greater problem is he continues to misplay routine chances in the field. He’s not a major league third baseman and it’s become increasingly clear no number of reps will ever make him one. It might be selling low, but don’t be surprised to see him included in a late July trade package.

Yoenis Cespedes (LF)–A-

The 2016 free agent has looked good in a Tiger uniform. Slashing a lusty .297/.322/.499, it’ll be interesting to see what the team does with him as the trade deadline looms. A clause in his contract stipulates the Tigers won’t receive a compensatory free agent for him if he declines arbitration and signs with another team in the offseason, so if the team is in a selling mode Cespedes might be on the block.

Joba Chamberlain (RP)–D

The Return of the Joba went a lot like last year’s second half, which is why he’s no longer with the team. Inexplicably employed as the team’s eighth inning set-up man, he spent a lot of time dodging bullets early but eventually too many found their mark.

Rajai Davis (CF)–B

Davis has been an asset sharing time in center field with Anthony Gose. Although his defense is sporadic, he provides a decent OBP (.335) and has stolen 14 bases in 17 attempts. He is another player who could be jettisoned at the trade deadline.

Buck Farmer (SP)–Incomplete

The power-throwing right hander has shown he’s not ready for prime time (9.22 ERA in 13 innings). The fact he was called upon prematurely to face major league hitters is a testament to the Tigers’ bereft farm system.

Tom Gorzelanny (RP)–D

The journeyman left hander trended more towards crappy than crafty in the first half. Designated for assignment, he ultimately accepted a demotion to Toledo in early July and is re-inventing himself as a side-armer. Hope springs eternal.

Anthony Gose (CF)–A-

The speedster strikes out a lot but has exceeded expectations with the bat. He carries a .282 BA and .325 OBP into the break, and is pristine in center field. He’s also stolen 14 bases.

Shane Greene (SP)–D+

“You’re ridin’ high in April, and shot down in May”. After a strong start, Greene crash-landed and ended up in Toledo. He returned last Sunday but didn’t make it out of the fifth inning.  These days it’s not easy being Greene.

Blaine Hardy (RP)–A-

Though the bullpen has been duly maligned, Hardy remains blameless. With a 2.43 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP, maybe he’s for real.

Jose Iglesias (SS)–A

The newly minted All-Star has done it all. He came out of the starting blocks hitting and hasn’t stopped since, a remarkable feat considering he didn’t play at all in 2014. His defense remains unparalleled.

Ian Kinsler (2B)–B-

The veteran has bumped his OBP to .339, which plays well at the top of the line-up. On the negative side, his power production has dropped precipitously and the stellar defense on display last year has dropped a notch.

Ian Krol (RP)–D

The young lefty remains a conundrum. He’s been back and forth to Toledo, where he’s pitched well but can’t seem to carry it over to the big club. In a bullpen desperate for a power left hander, Krol has flunked the test (6.75 ERA; 1.95 WHIP) for the second consecutive year.

Kyle Lobstein (SP)–C

The fringy left hander has given the club about what you would expect from a second-tier starter–a 3-5 record with an ERA of 4.34 and a WHIP of 1.45. He’s been on the disabled list since May.

J.D. Martinez (RF)–A

The man picked off the Houston Astro ash heap 15 months ago is at again. Those who thought his potent second half last year might be anomalous should be believers by now, as the 2015 All-Star leads the club with 25 home runs and 59 RBI’s.

Victor Martinez (DH)–B

Martinez scuffled mightily in the spring due to a left knee problem, which resulted in a trip to the DL in late April. Since his return he’s looked like the Victor of old, though, which is welcome news in the Tiger camp.

James McCann (C)–A-

You might say the kid catcher is doing OK. After a breakout season last year at AAA Toledo, McCann has logged nearly 200 AB’s as the Tiger backstop. The result? A healthy slash line of .280/.320/.430. He’s also hit two walk-off HR’s and excelled defensively.

Angel Nesbitt (RP)–C+

Nesbitt started quickly after making the team out of spring training, but his inexperience eventually surfaced as he posted a 5.40 ERA before being dispatched to Toledo.

David Price (SP)–A

The Tigers are 15-3 in games Price has started and 29-41 otherwise. What else is there to say? The perennial All-Star is 9-2, with a 2.38 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. He’ll be the focus of much attention as the trade deadline nears.

Andrew Romine (utility)–A-

The super-sub is having his finest professional season. Playing intermittently, he’s hitting .300 while doing all the little things that aren’t necessarily measurable.

Bruce Rondon (RP)–Incomplete

The fireballer lost all of last year while recovering from Tommy John surgery and once again found himself on the DL for an extended period to start this year. After stints in Toledo and a promotion to Detroit, Rondon still hasn’t put it together, but Tiger hopes remain high.

Kyle Ryan (SP)–C

Another one of the Tiger back-up starters, Ryan has fashioned a 5.64 ERA in five starts, with one win and two losses.

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Anibal Sanchez (SP)–C+

The 2013 AL ERA champion has been inconsistent. Though he has eight wins (against seven losses), he has a 4.63 ERA and has given up a whopping 19 HR’s.

Alfredo Simon (SP)–C+

Everything was going swimmingly for the big righty until five starts ago, as he had a 2.58 ERA on June 19th. In his last five starts, though, he’s completely lost it, no doubt creating angst among the Tiger brain trust as to what to do with him if things don’t improve.

Joakim Soria (RP)–B+

Soria was flawless in the early going but has wobbled of late. Though he’s 20 of 23 in save opportunities, he’s coughed up eight HR’s in 34.2 innings, a disturbing development.

Justin Verlander (SP)–Incomplete

With only five starts under his belt after a lengthy stint on the DL to begin the season, the former ace is off to an uninspiring start with an 0-2 record and a 5.34 ERA. His last outing against Minnesota was encouraging, though, and a return to form would stabilize a starting rotation currently in disarray.

Alex Wilson (RP)–A

Though he struggled in spring training, the “throw-in” in the Rick PorcelloYoenis Cespedes trade has excelled in 31 appearances. In 46 innings he leads the bullpen in both ERA (2.14) and WHIP (1.04). Though Ausmus tended to overuse him in the first half, for the most part Wilson proved durable.

The Bottom Line

Considering their talent level and high payroll, the Detroit Tigers have been a major disappointment in the first half.

It’s not surprising they’re behind a strong Kansas City team in the AL Central. But trailing the Royals by a staggering nine games at the All-Star break represents a nosedive of epic proportion for the defending AL Central champs.

The team has 15 games remaining in July before the trade deadline.

Unless they quickly make up ground on their opponents in the next two weeks, some of their number may not be around when final grades come due in October.

Next: Buyer or sellers; possible targets