Friday, August 31, 2007

Pudge's Future Depends On Now

The appropriate word, I believe, is "dilemma." It’s the position the Tigers are in regarding Ivan Rodriguez. He is 35 years old. His play has clearly slipped this season. His contract contains a club option for next season for an outrageous $13 million. Seems like an easy decision to cut him loose.
Then you look at the alternative. Vance Wilson after missing an entire season. Mike Rabelo, who seems suited to be a backup at best. No catchers developing in the minor league system. No viable options, really, via free agency. Trades are highly unlikely because there is such a dearth of catching in baseball these days any team with a good catcher holds onto him. Period.
So should the Tigers keep Pudge and be happy to pay the $13 million? There is no easy answer at this point. But by the end of this season, however, it should be apparent.
Pudge is having a poor season. On a team that scores a ton of runs with premier hitters in front of him in the order, he has 52 RBI. His on-base percentage is below .300. How can a player that experienced walk just seven times in more than 400 plate appearances? Seems like Pudge has also lost a little bit defensively, too. But it isn’t nearly to the same degree as at the plate because his skill level behind the plate was so extraordinary, the dropoff still puts him at a high level. And the Tigers pitching staff has been such a mess this season it has had a bearing on his defensive statistics.
The only person who can change these perceptions is Pudge himself. This last month of the season will make or break his career in Detroit. He is a certain Hall of Famer. Often when players of that ilk are put on the spot, they respond by silencing the doubts. Pudge has done that a few times in his career already. If he doesn’t respond to it, then you know he is done. It’s up to him.
I’d still be leaning toward picking up the option, but not if he doesn’t perform better down the stretch than he has lately.

Random Thoughts

- I got to know Sylvester Croom pretty well when he was the Lions’ offensive coordinator and thought he took a lot of unfair knocks for what were essentially decisions by Bobby Ross. Still, that wasn’t good for Croom that his Mississippi State team was thrashed so soundly by LSU Thursday. Granted, it is a tough task turning around a program in the SEC, but it doesn’t appear as if Croom has done so. Mississippi State should have been more competitive against, especially at home.

- I am glad there were so few fans at the Lions’ fourth preseason game Thursday. Charging regular season prices for cut-rate football is a ripoff. The NFL should do something about it, but won’t.

- It will be interesting to see what type of wrinkles Mike Martz pulls out in the Lions’ opener at Oakland. He revealed essentially nothing this preseason - which is a good thing. And you know there is something there. The Raiders have a strong defense, but I think the Lions will move the football. The question is: Will they be able to avoid sacks and turnovers?

- Andrew Miller’s future will depend on how much he learned from this experience. He had some solid success early on, but didn’t handle adversity well. If he throws strikes early in the count and commands his breaking ball reasonably well, he will star. If he doesn’t, he won’t. It’s not real complex.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Marty said...

Pat,

I kind of hope that Miller gets some time in the minors next year to work on his pitches. He really only seems to have confidence in his fastball. (Although he can throw a few different varieties) I hope that he can grow from his experiences in the Majors, and doesn't let that destroy his confidence as has happened with so many other great pitching prospects.

-Marty

12:43 PM 
Blogger Barry said...

As you said Pat,"There is no real alternative". Rabelo has done well as a back-up, but the Tigers would be gambling to make him the starting catcher next year. Looks like 2008 free-agent class is weak in most positions beside relief pitching. Tigers do not make the playoffs, they have other holes look at such another starter, reliever, 3B, a left-handed stick
and who going to play LF.

1:05 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Marty,
Seems to me, reading his comments on the matter, that Miller understands exactly where he is at and what he must do. That's a good sign.
Caputo

1:14 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Barry,
Their priorties should be shortstop (to move Guillen to first), catcher and then a serviceable fourth or fifth starter. Outfield is a position of strength with Thames, Maybin and Granderson and Mags. And I do believe Sheffield will be back and productive. Seems like there are people think his career is over. I don't believe that is the case.
Caputo

1:16 PM 
Anonymous Marty said...

Pat,

I would put catcher as a higher priority than shortstop. They actually have a bunch of shortstop prospects in their system, so one of them may pan out. They have no-one as a catching prospect. They strangely traded their best catching prospect to Chicago for Neifi Perez. I still don't understand that. Chris Robinson was the only catcher even remotely talented enough to maybe make it to the majors some day. Why trade your best prospect from a thin position to augment a seemingly well stocked position (with Infante and Santiago already there)? Even so, I would rather have a healthy Vance Wilson over any of the free agent catchers available.

-Marty

1:55 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Marty,
Robinson was drafted relatively high, but he turned out to be barely a marginal prospect. Their shortstop prospects aren't that good. Seems unlikely one will become a major leage regular for an extended. Worth has the best chance, but he is far away. The Tigers know it, too. That's the why the interest in Jack Wilson.
Caputo

2:03 PM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Pat,

The idea of Pudge not returning next year does not thrill me.

There are core faces to this team, and Pudge’s mug sits prominently in the middle of our own little Mt. Rushmore.

Hitters slump – sometimes for a whole season. A hall-of-famer who will be ranked in the top two catchers in Baseball lore – side by side with Johnny Bench – deserves one more year – even at the $13M price tag.

But hey, it’s not my money.

The point has been made that there is no one (known at this time) to replace him. Pudge was a significant factor in the Verlander no-hitter. Pudge called the pitches. Verlander threw them. Then there is his ability to calm pitchers down as well, and get them to re-focus. Okay, not lately. I concede that one.

I know it is fashionable of late to say “(players name here) stinks at the plate – lets go get Bary Bonds”. But until a realistic replacement name can be pulled out of a hat to replace Pudge at catcher – lets not trash the guy for a slumping bat – a slumping season.

Oh wait … Inge can catch …

I rest my case.

Go get ‘em boys

3:43 PM 
Blogger Andrew M. Fanco said...

I thought I heard Posada would be available next year. Any thoughts on him? .330 16 homers 78 rbis

He has 1 less walk in his last ten games than Ivan "0-2" Rodriguez has had all season. Not to mention that at 35 Pudge is the 2nd among active players in GIDP. First place is a man who just turned 49, Julio Franco.

Posada is only 1 year older than pudge.

Hopefully Pudge can pick up his game, and I don't mean with garbage time add-on runs which is where most of his production is.

4:11 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Andrew M. Fanco,
Posada is a free agent, but this season he has re-established himself in a way as a Yankee. He has not only been productive, but become even more popular in NY. I expect the Yankees to re-sign him. Pudge is still better defensively by a wide margin over Posada.
Caputo

5:47 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
I tend to agree with you more than disagree with you about Pudge. His signing brought about their recent uprising. It would seem strange without him. Seems like it's too early for him and the Tigers to part company. But he hasn't been good lately...
Caputo

5:50 PM 
Blogger Scott (Thinking Man) said...

Hey Pat,

Long time no blog (for me that is). It is a tough call on Pudge. I don't think he's worth the extra $10 million (they have to pay $3 million to buy him out).
Personally, if it were up to me, I'd tell Inge to get ready to go back behind the plate next spring. Brandon doesn't hit enough to be a starting 3B. I think he would do fine defensively at catcher. Really, I think he'd be smart to go back to catcher. No major league team is going to live with his offensive shortcomings at thirdbase for long. In my opinion, he would prolong his career at catcher.
If the Tigers could get a stud for 3B, I could live with Infante/Santiago at SS. Guillen should be moved to 1B next year and we should wave bye-bye to Casey.
It's time to tell Jonsey to hit the road, too. I'll take my chances with Zumaya.
The other big need I see with the Tigers for next year is serviceable veteran starting pitcher. I'd don't think Rogers should be counted on. Hey, if he comes back, great. He can be the fifth starter. The Tigers can't afford to have two unstable spots in the rotation after Verlander, Bonderman and Robertson. And Miller clearly needs time in the minors.
Whew!! Ok, that's off my chest. Thanks, Pat!!!

8:25 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Scott (thinking man),
The Inge situation is an interesting one. He has to hit better to justify playing third base at that salary. Yet, his numbers as a catcher would be pretty good. I don't think he wants to catch again. He made that point pretty clear in the past. They need a shortstop and to move Guillen to first. I believe that more and more as season draws to a close. I also agree they could use a solid fourth or fifth starter type. I do wonder if Jurjjens or Durbin might fit the bill, though. Good to hear from you again.
Caputo

3:08 PM 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home