Who Should Be the Tigers’ Starting Catcher?

Ever since James McCann went on the DL with a sprained ankle, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been mashing taters like he works at a goddamn Old Country Buffet. Salty leads the team in HR, RBI, and jersey letters, and has made a compelling case for playing time in this opportunity. Whenever McCann comes back from his injury, the Tigers will have a decision to make. More likely than not, they will insert McCann back into the everyday lineup and leave Saltalamacchia on the bench with his curly guido haircut. But should they?

Offensive Comparison

Obviously, Saltalamacchia is playing out of his mind right now. And truthfully, McCann wasn’t off to a great start offensively before he went down with the injury. But let’s look at some larger trends–at least, as large as we can considering McCann’s much smaller sample size.

Saltalamacchia is hitting .313 so far this year, well above his career .241 mark. That average is certainly the beneficiary of a stupid-high .357 BABIP, which makes sense considering his 38.5% (!!!) HR/FB ratio. In his best years with Boston and Miami, a four year stretch from 2011-2014, Salty averaged 16.5 HR per year and hit over .235 only once. If he were to play 120 games for the Tigers this year, this is a much more realistic expectation. He obviously has the potential to go on power streaks (he hit 21 HR one year in Boston) but is likely to top out around 17 HR in an every-day role. One thing worth mentioning, though, is the fact that it does seem Saltalamacchia has become more disciplined at the plate over the last few years. A career OBP of .312 is far from sensational, but when you consider that he has turned in marks of .338, .320, and .310 in each of the last three seasons and is off to a .405 mark this year, it shows that he is a different hitter today than he was five years ago. He still strikes out a fair number of times, but he also is swinging at pitches outside the zone only 22.2% of the time, matching a career low. Perhaps this patience could pay dividends in his power numbers over the course of a full season, but it’s more likely that we’ll see a regression toward his averages.

McCann, meanwhile, hit a measly .133 in his first four games this season, but that’s hardly worth mentioning because it was only four games. McCann is probably more of a threat to hit for average than Saltalamacchia over the course of a full year. He hit .264 last year in 114 games, and hit .295 in AAA in 2014 before joining the big league roster. He has yet to show any sort of real power — just 7 HR last season and never more than 8 in the minors — but he is also only 26, as compared to Saltalamacchia’s age of 31. McCann hits the ball to all fields while Saltalamacchia is a dead-pull hitter. Given the current trend of over-shifting in MLB, Saltalamacchia’s numbers would be much more affected by defensive alignment than McCann’s.

Considering all this, it’s hard to know for sure who is the better option. It is worth mentioning that Saltalamacchia is a switch hitter, while McCann bats righty. A true platoon behind the dish might not be a bad idea, as McCann has hit lefties at a .297 clip (.211 for Saltalamacchia), while Salty has the better split against righties (.253 with power to McCann’s .243 without).

Defensive Comparison

This is a bit trickier. The first thing that seems obvious to compare is the number of times base runners are able to successfully steal against each catcher, but the reality is that there are lots of things catchers can’t control in this area — things like how good pitchers are at holding runners, how long it takes the pitcher to get the ball to the plate, and so on. Bearing all that in mind, it’s still worth at least mentioning. Saltalamacchia catches would-be base-stealers just over 22% of the time, while McCann throws them out at a 41% rate.

McCann has yet to make a throwing error in his short career. According to FanGraphs, McCann is slightly better at blocking pitches than Saltalamacchia has been over the years, and using the DRS metric for catchers, McCann is absolutely average, while Saltalamacchia has been about 33 runs below average over the course of his career. All told, it would appear that if McCann is at full strength, he is a better option defensively than Saltalamacchia. As mentioned before, youth certainly plays a factor here as well.

Complicating matters, though, is the fact that there is no real way to measure how good a catcher is at framing pitches, calling pitches, or game management in general. We can observe things to the best of our ability, but there isn’t really enough data out there on those facets of the game to draw any objective conclusions.

Conclusions (?)

Who the hell knows. Seriously. Saltalamacchia is the sexy choice right now because he is bombing the ever-loving fuck out of the ball, and because he’s just a good looking dude. At the same time, McCann is also pretty handsome with that chiseled jawline of his, which makes him pretty sexy even though he probably won’t hit as many dingers as Salty would in an everyday role.

My prediction is this: McCann will come back from the DL and be re-inserted into the lineup. However, Saltalamacchia will see more ABs now than he might have otherwise gotten if McCann had never gotten injured. His production can’t be ignored, and neither can his ability to hit from both sides of the plate. If the Tigers are smart (and, I mean, you guys are smart right? Of course you are. Is that a new suit?), they’ll use McCann against lefties and against good base-running teams, and use Saltalamacchia more often against righties, as an occasional DH, or in NL ballparks when they need a little extra pop in the lineup with V-Mart’s absence. But what do I know? I’m just a guy with a a computer.

Go Tigers!

Poetic Justice

It’s that time of year again, when Spring Training starts to drag a bit and we here at Musings get tired of arguing about things like who the second-to-last bullpen arm to be sent back down to Toledo will be. Don’t get me wrong, baseball is back and it’s amazing, but there’s a definite lull in the action around the middle of spring.

So, while we’re real hyped up about the return of baseball, a lot of the conversations this time of year get repetitive and boring. Instead of talking about who the last bullpen arm might be for the 10th time – we end up talking about dumb shit. As you know, we here at Musings are big fans of the music.

That, in a nutshell, is how we ended up here. We present to you, your favorite Tigers as rappers.

Ian Kinsler is Eminem
He seems like an asshole, but that’s okay because he’s our asshole.

Justin Upton is Pusha T
Been around for awhile now, is highly dope and has a far less successful brother.

Miguel Cabrera is Kendrick Lamar
Because he, too, is the King. Already one of the GOATs and not done yet.

Victor Martinez is Jay Z
Old guy who still wears big ass chains and does his thing. Also, not that athletic.

J.D. Martinez is A$AP Rocky
Kind of exploded onto the scene and then refused to quit beating that ass.

Nick Castellanos is Big Sean
He’s got Michigan ties and man, if he would just reach his potential.

James McCann is Desiigner
A lot of people are gonna get him confused with the other one. He’s not that guy, though, he’s this guy.

Cameron Maybin is Soulja Boy
He’s been around forever, how is he not older? Are we sure he isn’t older? Also, he seems like a corny dude. Sorry, Cam.

Jose Iglesias is Childish Gambino
Everyone fell in love with him for this one particular thing, but it turns out he’s pretty good at this other, different thing, too.

Justin Verlander is Kanye West
Love him to death. One of the greats who dates a model and is also an asshole.

Jordan Zimmermann is Tyler the Creator
Former squad leader. Both love the tall socks.

Anibal Sanchez is Drake
Real fragile.

Daniel Norris is Rick Ross
Heavily-bearded fruit enthusiasts

Mike Pelfrey is French Montana
Nobody seems to like him but he’s always showing up 1/5th of the time.

Bonus!

K-Rod – 2 Chainz
This is a trick because all closers are 2 Chainz. Does 1 thing well; built a career off of it.

Andrew Romine – Macklemore
Every so often you’ll give him his due. Mostly, he’s a fucking dork.

 

So, there you have it. Not sure what you gained, but you sure read it. Maybe. Anyway, what are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Have a rap equivalent for Mike Aviles? Let us know in the comments below.

These Are the Scariest Offenses in the American League

Baseball is back, and it feels so good, you guys. There is something soothing about the sound of Dan Dickerson’s voice, and dare I say, listening to Jim Price say inane shit about “the art of pitching.” It’s a wonderful time to be alive.

Looking at the Tiger offense heading into the 2016 season, I’m feeling pretty good. That thing looks pretty scary, if you ask me. Between the emergence of JD Martinez, the addition of Justin Upton, and the return to health for Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, the Tigers will trot a pretty formidable offense onto the field on Opening Day.

Thinking about the Tiger offense got me thinking about the other offenses in the American League. Some of those things, whoa buddy, they frighten me. This is the official, indisputable ranking of the five scariest offenses in the American League.

5. Chicago White Sox

The Sox are looking to become a legitimate threat in the AL Central once again this season after being basically irrelevant for the last several years. Their projected lineup looks like this:

  1. Adam Eaton
  2. Jose Abreu
  3. Melky Cabrera
  4. Todd Frazier
  5. Brett Lawrie
  6. Adam LaRoche
  7. Dioner Navarro
  8. Austin Jackson
  9. Jimmy Rollins

One through six are all pretty solid there, and you could do a hell of a lot worse than Jimmy Rollins for a number-nine hitter. Oh, and the White Sox play in a notoriously hitter-friendly park too.

4. Kansas City Royals

Those goddamn Royals are pesky, man. Nobody on this team is going to drop 30 bombs, but dang it if they don’t get on base and run aggressively. There is no quit in this team, which is why they’re the reigning World Series champs.

  1. Alcides Escobar
  2. Lorenzo Cain
  3. Eric Hosmer
  4. Kendrys Morales
  5. Mike Moustakas
  6. Salvador Perez
  7. Alex Gordon
  8. Omar Infante
  9. Paulo Orlando

No quit. No quit, I say!

3. Detroit Tigers

The Tigers make the list for obvious reasons. First, I’m a big time homer fan, and I wouldn’t even bother writing this post if I didn’t think the Tigers deserved to be on the list. Second, their lineup is fucking terrifying.

  1. Ian Kinsler
  2. Justin Upton
  3. Miguel Cabrera
  4. JD Martinez
  5. Victor Martinez
  6. Nick Castellanos
  7. James McCann
  8. Jose Iglesias
  9. Anthony Gose

As if one through five aren’t scary enough, Nick Castellanos is JUST WAITING to break out and have a 20 HR campaign. Look out, everybody. The Tigers are going to be fighting for the top spot in the AL Central once again.

2. Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles really weren’t shy about adding power this offseason. It’s enough to make a guy intentionally walk the two through five hitters and hope for the best. Maybe not. But also, maybe.

  1. Hyun Soo Kim
  2. Manny Machado
  3. Chris Davis
  4. Adam Jones
  5. Mark Trumbo
  6. Matt Weiters
  7. Pedro Alvarez
  8. JJ Hardy
  9. Jonathan Schoop

Of course, there’s always a chance Chris Davis loses his Adderall or whatever the fuck, but there’s also a chance he hits 50 ding-dong-diddly-doozies, which is what you call it when a guy hits a ball 700 feet while staring you down with icy blue eyes.

1.  Toronto Blue Jays

I mean, give me a fuggin’ break, amirite? People in the US are worried about bombs in Iran and North Korea, BUT LET’S NOT FORGET ABOUT CANADA, PEOPLE.

  1. Kevin Pillar
  2. Josh Donaldson
  3. Jose Bautista
  4. Edwin Encarnacion
  5. Troy Tulowitzki
  6. Chris Colabello
  7. Russell Martin
  8. Michael Saunders
  9. Ryan Goins

Even though the Blue Jays make me want to hide in a closet and wait for The Whole Thing to be over, I would give anything to watch Jose Bautista slam his bat into the core of the Earth EVERY TIME he hits a home run, if for no other reason than that it will give Goose Gossage a brain aneurysm.

Musings on Music: Best Albums of 2015

While this is primarily a baseball-oriented blog, we here at Musings also have other interests because we are well-rounded humans. One of those interests is music. In our many years of friendship, Travis and I have probably talked more about music than any other topic. So, since we have the space to do it, we thought we’d share with you some of our favorite albums of 2015. This is far from a comprehensive ranking of ALL THE ALBUMS, but they are albums we like and that we think you should check out for yourselves.

Hidden Hospitals – Surface Tension

Pusha T – King Push: Darkest Before the Dawn — The Prelude

Third Eye Blind – Dopamine

Doomtree –  All Hands

Haste the Day – Coward

Frank Leone – EnterWILD

mewithoutYou – Pale Horses

In Hearts Wake – Skydancer

Nights Like These – Old Youth Culture

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

No Devotion – Permanence

Suis La Lune – Distance/Closure

Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

Blacklisted – When People Grow, People Go

Loma Prieta – Self Portrait

City and Colour – If I Should Go Before You

Drake – If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late

Of Monsters and Men – Beneath the Skin

Mumford and Sons – Wilder Mind

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What were your favorite albums released in 2015? Let us know in the comments section below, unless your favorite album was the new Zac Brown Band album, in which case please delete all your music from your iPod and throw it in the nearest river. Happy New Year!

The Tigers Should Trade for Yasiel Puig

Today on Twitter, I saw something that really caught my eye. Apparently a well-paid, unnamed player (whose name rhymes with Schmlayton Schmershaw) has had some words with the Dodgers front office about dumping Yasiel Puig.

Puig has had some problems since he burst on the MLB scene. Critics have questioned his hustle and maturity more than once over the past couple seasons. But the guy has an unbelievably high ceiling and as much raw athleticism as any player in the league.

from zimbio.com

from zimbio.com

I have a theory. A quick look at the Dodgers’ lineup reveals a rather surprising detail: Los Angeles has a crazy-low number of Latino players on its roster. And of those Latino players, the only one that offers a veteran presence is the American-born Adrian Gonzalez.

If ever there has been a young, talented player who would benefit from some veteran mentorship, it’s Puig. For this reason, Detroit could be an excellent fit for the talented Cuban outfielder. Detroit has two proven Latino leaders on its team in Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, and a young, Cuban-born talent in Jose Iglesias. Is it possible that under the guidance of some respected Latino veterans, and alongside a fellow countryman, Yasiel Puig could develop into the type of devastating baseball player MLB fans want him to be?

The Tigers clearly have a hole to fill in the outfield. If Kershaw wants him gone so badly, there’s a chance the Dodgers could let Puig go for only a moderate return. And if he can be had at a reasonable cost, I would think that Puig is certainly worth the risk.

 

Detroit Tigers Offseason Wishlist: Bullpen

If the Tigers plan to get out of the basement of the AL Central next year, there are some definite issues that need to be addressed. This is the third in a series of installments that will examine what the Tigers ought to do about their roster this offseason as they prepare to make a return to the playoffs in 2016.

Listen. There may be no bigger need for the Tigers this offseason than the need to upgrade the bullpen. The relief corps in Detroit has been bad for a while now, and last year it was just, oh man, I don’t even know, a collection of body parts? Yeah, that about sums it up. There were smashed together body parts that ostensibly resembled human people in the bullpen, and sometimes they came out of the bullpen, and mostly they were terrible and left the rest of us wishing we had never seen their faces, never even heard their names before, because, my god, life was just so much better before THIS FUCKING GUY came into our lives.

Things only got worse out there in The Land of Pitchers Not Good Enough to Be Starters when Joakim Soria, competent reliever, was traded away at the deadline.

The situation is fucking dire, my friends. Even with yesterday’s news that the Tigers have acquired K-Rod to close out their games (and assault people) – they still have a lot of work to do. Look. Aside from K-Rod, here is the bullpen depth chart for the Tigers, followed by actual true things about them all:

Angel Nesbitt (Toy Story character), Jeff Ferrell (only here for one day as a publicity stunt for an HBO special), Jose Valdez (oil spiller), Buck Farmer (his name is Buck, FFS), Kyle Ryan (recently fired by the New Orleans Saints, I think), Ian Krol (still, after this many years of being bad?), Blaine Hardy (magician/boy detective), Al Alburquerque (slider more devastating than White Castle’s are to your bowels), Drew VerHagen (capital letters belong at the beginning of names, DUMMY), Bruce Rondon (sent home for being lazy and fat), Neftali Feliz (wouldn’t have minded him a few years back), and Alex Wilson (good, but looks like Andy Dwyer).

The way I figure it, there are maybe three respectable arms in this bullpen (Wilson, Alburquerque, Hardy) and two more usable arms (Ryan and, I don’t know… VerHagen?). IRREGARDLESS, the Tigers are going to have to load up, and there are lots of options available in free agency. Here are some options we wouldn’t loathe.

  • Darren O’Day (R) – The most impressive free agent reliever out there with 11.3 K/9 and only 0.69 HR/9 last season.
  • Antonio Bastardo (L) – Has turned in a K rate lower than 10 only once since 2010. Yes please.
  • Shawn Kelley (R) – Had a dynamite year with San Diego with an 11.0 K/9 rate.
  • Joba Chamberlain (R) – Was an integral part of the 2014 ‘pen, but struggled in 2015. If signed, would need to grow his beard again.
  • Tyler Clippard (R) – Durability, playoff experience, and a yucky change piece make Clippard a viable option.
  • Ernesto Frieri (R) – Saw limited action last year and would be a reclamation project, but the Tigers would love to see a glimpse of the 2012 version of Frieri who struck out 12.84 batters per nine.
  • Tommy Hunter (R) – Lost his closing job with the Orioles after a complete meltdown, but his 3.83 FIP suggests he is better than last year’s results suggest.
  • Franklin Morales (L) – With nearly a 50% GB rate and some experience as a starter, he could be prove to be a valuable long-reliever.
  • Tony Sipp (L) – Mixes a fastball, slider, and changeup well enough to produce a career 9.72 K/9 rate and a 1.99 ERA in 2015.
*All numbers from 2015 regular season unless otherwise noted

As we saw yesterday, we can never rule out the possibility of a trade. The Reds are reportedly looking to deal Aroldis Chapman, and there are few teams out there who wouldn’t want the flame-throwing Cuban in their bullpen. Only time will tell what sort of wheeling and dealing Al Avila is prepared to do, but he needs to get busy pretty soon.

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Next time we’ll talk a bit about some players Detroit could pursue to add a bit of bench depth. Until then, we’d love to talk about your bullpen suggestions in the comments section below.

Go Tigers!