Tigers Baseball Outsider

a thinking fan's perspective

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fielder Only Makes Tigers Stronger - Way Stronger

You’ve already heard that Prince Fielder – National League All Star, MVP contender, Home Run contender and son of Tiger great Cecil Fielder – has been signed to a 9 year 214 million dollar contract to play 1st base for our Detroit Tigers.
But we already have a first baseman. He’s great. His name is Miguel Cabrera and he was the American League All Star, MVP Contending, slugging contender?
We built this team around Cabrera!
Yep, well now we have two.
Well, which one is better?
Good question – that call can go either way! But that question does not matter.
They are both great.
They are both practically in the Hall Of Fame already, along with Justin Verlander.
Yeah? But they both play first base?
This has been the talk all around Tiger country for the last five days.
Skip Jim Leyland has already stated that the thinking is to move Cabrera back over to 3rd. He’s already talked to Brandon Inge – the .240 career hitting three bagger who hangs on by the skin of his teeth by the excellent defense he provides at third base – the player that only the week before at a fan gathering stated to the media “I love Don Kelly (then thought to be Brandon’s 3rd base competition – but I’m playing to be at third everyday”.
Cabrera was put at third in 2008 when he first signed with the Tigers. Carlos Guillen played first. The move was a travesty that resulted in the boys of the Old English D starting the 2008 season 0 – 7.
But that was 2008. Cabrera has changed as a ball player. He plays a pretty solid first. He has shown that he can make those instant reflex snags of line drives hit to either side of him. He works hard and I think now, four years later, if Miguel is willing, a shot at third is worth a try.
Both Cabrera and Fielder do not want to DH yet. They’re both too young at 27 and 28. They both have another decade at least remaining in the major league drives to hall of fame first ballot status. And the Tigers have other DH potentials.
And Victor Martinez – who’s winter ball injury in Venzuela made this deal for Fielder possible – is a really good DH. The hope is that at the end of the season – in the drive through August or September – V-Mart might be able to return to this line up.
That’s why you don’t want Fielder or Cabrera as your designated hitter.
But the truth will bear itself out as the season progresses. Who knows what will really happen?
There’s some other upsides to this season starting in a couple of weeks in Lakeland:
Austin Jackson will respond to his dreadful post season performance with stellar defense and resume the role of leadoff hitter with a high on base percentage – proving his sophomore slump of 2011 is behind him.
Delmon Young, late season acquisition, could likely be our designated hitter.
Brennan Boesch will quietly have a stellar year benefiting from being pitched to because Cabrera and Fielder hitting behind them force pitchers to throw to him. Look for Boesch starting in right field.
Our pitching continues to be dominant from Verlander, Scherzer, and Fister. These guys deserve dozens of pages of their own. Justin Verlander is the reigning Cy-Young and American League MVP. Let’s hope he keeps it going in 2012.
Jose “Papa Grande” Valverde – the dominant closer who did not blow a single save in 2011 will return to shut down opposing offenses in the ninth.
And Alex Avila – who really stepped up into elite catcher status in 2011 will return behind the plate. The Tiger’s Iron Horse can’t catch every game again this year – the wear and tear really showed in the post-season. Alex has the opportunity to surpass Bill Freehan as the Tigers most powerful and most beloved catcher in team history.
Jhonny Peralta is a wily veteran at short – hit .295 last year – but when adding his range at short to Cabrera’s potential range at third – and the defense on the left side of the infield diminishes.
As well, there still is no solid answer to who plays second. Ryan Raburn and Don Kelly’s names have been tossed out there. The edge likely goes to Raburn’s bat in the lineup. But either would suffice. Neither are really the nimble athlete’s one wants covering up the middle or behind Fielder at first – who’s range is less than that of Cabrera’s.
So the infield becomes an opportunity for small ball minded teams to find holes larger than most.
But does that concern outweigh the benefits of the power of this team?
Brandon Inge isn’t very happy though.
2012 will be an exciting season for our Detroiters. The opening weeks of the 2012 season will be very telling. A slow start can be overcome, but not an 0 – 7 start like the one of 2008.

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