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Written by Matt Snyder | 20 March 2012

JohnnyDamonRaysA coworker approached me at work this morning wondering if I thought the Tigers would actually pursue Johnny Damon to fill the (nominally) vacant designated hitter role. My response: “no way”.

There was some talk of Detroit brining Damon back following the injury to Victor Martinez, but the signing of Prince Fielder filled the DH void without directly filling it. I think everyone (except Mr. Damon, apparently) realizes that the Tigers aren’t looking for another “no defense” hitter to join their roster.

But you can’t really blame Johnny for trying. He’s not necessarily chasing dollars right now, he’s chasing additional rings, but apparently no one’s a taker. Reports are that Damon also reached out to the Yankees this offseason before they decided to go with Raul Ibanez.

“at this point of my  career, I want to have some say in who I can and can’t play with… pay me whatever, and I’ll try to help you win a championship”

It was that last portion that my coworker keyed on when asking me my opinion on the matter. If Damon approached Detroit saying that he’d play for any amount of money, is there a number small enough that it would make sense to add the 38 year old to the roster?

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Written by Matt Snyder | 19 March 2012

AustinJackson2Lynn Henning has a Detroit News article out today in which he extols the virtues of Austin Jackson’s changed batting approach. Henning admits that Jackson’s 11 strikeouts in 29 at-bats don’t look very good (as I pointed out the other day), but he quickly dismisses the 32% strikeout rate as not being an issues because of “a different circumstance from 2011”.

I can’t imagine what the “different circumstance” would really be besides the fact that he’s currently racking up the whiffs in spring training, which means he’s likely facing inferior pitching. I guess Henning is trying to argue that Jackson is smacking the ball hard, so he’s looking like a “better hitter” right now than he did at any point last season, even though his strikeout numbers are still sky-high. But I think he’s well off-base with what he’s trying say. Here’s the money quote:

“Jackson, if anything, has been dealing with bad luck after two weeks in the Grapefruit League. He scorched a grounder and a line drive at the shortstop against the Cardinals on Saturday, and came away with zeros.”

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Written by Matt Snyder | 18 March 2012

AndyOliverThe Tigers came to Lakeland this spring with six in-house candidates competing for the last spot in the starting rotation. Jacob Turner was probably the odds-on favorite to win the job, Duane Below was the safe pick, Drew Smyly was the sexy dark horse, and Andy Oliver, Adam Wilk and Casey Crosby were “in the mix”.

Three weeks later, we’ve received very little clarity on the situation in an official capacity, but it’s pretty easy to guess where things are headed. Only Casey Crosby has been declared out of the running – he’s was optioned to AAA Toledo a few days ago – but on-field performance helps us pretty much figure out the rest.

Adam Wilk has probably played himself out of the running. He’s been pounded in 9.2 innings of work, putting up an elevated 5.59 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP. He’s known as a control pitcher, and he’s been fine in that respect giving up just two walks, but he’s only struck out three batters, and he’s allowed two home runs (something he also struggled with in his brief time in the majors last year). He’s also a candidate for a long relief position, but he probably only has a chance there if Below makes the rotation – I don’t really see both in the bullpen – otherwise we’ll see Wilk starting in Toledo.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 17 March 2012

BrandonIngeThe numbers for Brandon Inge this spring don’t appear to be all that great on the surface – a sub-.300 on-base percentage should impress no one – but he’s doing exactly what should be expected of him, and that’s produce against lefties.

We’re all well past the point of expecting Brandon to be a plus hitter. Even in his peak years (2004-2006), he was ‘only’ good for an OPS in the mid-to-upper .700’s. The numbers he’s put up this spring – .240/.296/.440 – would probably be on the extreme high end of what could be expected of him in a full season. They could probably pass for a full-time second baseman with average (to slightly above) fielding prowess, but it’s how he’s accumulated these numbers that show us why he shouldn’t be expected to replicate them as an everyday player.

Inge’s lefty-righty splits are currently pretty extreme. Versus righties this spring, he’s batted for a slash line of .154/.214/.231 (.445 OPS). Versus lefties, those numbers jump to .333/.385/.667 (1.051 OPS). The problem here, though, is that he’s had an even number of opportunities against each type of pitcher (14 PA’s versus right-handers, and 13 PA’s versus left-handers). An everyday player wouldn’t be afforded that luxury. Generally speaking, about 70-75% of starting pitchers are right-handed, so an everyday player would face in the neighborhood of 2.5 times as many righties as lefties.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 16 March 2012

AustinJacksonWe received the obligatory article this offseason about Austin Jackson. About how he spent extra time in the batting cages with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon. About how he was changing his style of hitting to gain a better ‘two-strike’ approach. And about how he was becoming really comfortable with the adjustment.

But early returns so far this spring give us little hope that change will make any difference for Jackson. With two strikeouts yesterday, his total has climbed to ten in nine games. That’s an absurd 37% strikeout rate in his 27 plate appearances. He’ll need to be strikeout free for his next ten PA’s just to bring that down to last season’s (high) 27% rate.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 14 March 2012

RyanRaburnRyan Raburn is off to a blistering start with the bat this spring. He has pounded six extra base hits (four of them home runs) in his 17 plate appearances and now posts a ridiculous 1.937 OPS. His hot start at the plate has some fans hoping that he’ll skip his annual first half swoon this season, and just pound the ball from the get-go.

Unfortunately for Ryan (and the rest of us), his career spring training stats have been a terrible indicator for how he has hit in the season’s first half. Here's a look at his splits over the past four seasons (spring, first half, second half).

 

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Written by Matt Snyder | 07 March 2012

NickCastellanosWide

Yesterday morning, as I was surfing around for Tigers chatter, the following tweet came across my timeline from Mark Anderson of TigsTown.com:

I was actually floored that there are folks out there who are clamoring for Castellanos to move positions right away! It’s true that Castellanos is in Major League camp right now, but, as Anderson points out, he’s still likely to spend two full seasons in the minor leagues before joining the Tigers. Being “blocked” by Cabrera shouldn’t factor into an organizational decision at this point in time.

Scouts have wondered all along whether or not Castellanos would be able to handle third base defensively at the major league level (and the jury is still out on this). If the answer ends up as a ‘no’, then the likely move would be to a corner outfield spot. So, the idea of Nick switching positions isn’t a new one, but the Tigers organization should hold out as long as possible before deciding to make that switch official. Five reasons:

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