Ok… It is midterm report card time again…… Even though I am an Orioles’ fan, I see more Tiger games than O’s games due to geography. I have found this group to be entertaining and so let’s take a look at the Tigers and objectively grade the individual performances for the first half of the season.
C- Gerald Laird – A- . I have to admit that when he was picked up by Dave Dombrowski, I was more than a little skeptical. Gerald has put the gear on every day and done a very good job for this team. His bat is not spectacular, but it seems like he has the ability to get a timely hit. He can move runners with the bunt, and he rarely makes mistakes running the bases. Although in an ideal world you would like to see your catcher with 10 or more homers at the break, Gerald has been ok. Now… his strongest suit is his ability to call a game and work with the pitchers. Excellent. I think Gerald has been a nice surprise and I think he has earned an A- for the first half.
1B – Miguel Cabrerra - A- . Miguel has very very very good first half numbers. He is hitting .321 with 18 homers. He has played a very solid first base defensively. He is an excellent player. Hopefully he can regain that torrid hitting stroke that he displayed the first two months of the season to finish in the .330 to .340 range with about 40 homers…. That is what will be needed for the Tigers to get past the first round of the playoffs.
2B – Placido Polanco – B- . Placido just hasn’t found the groove so far this year. He still fields the position as well as anyone. He has only one error in 377 chances. That definitely pushes him into the B range… the offensive side of the equation though is not quite as good. Placido is only hitting .256. Not good. The only ray of positive has been the six home runs. I certainly hope Placido has a better second half at the plate.
SS – Adam Everitt – B- . Everitt has done ok. He has contributed some timely hits, and does a great job moving runners up via the sacrifice. Eight errors keeps him out of the A range, and even though he is still finding his way with the team, his contribution to the group would be enhanced if he could just get on base a little more often. A .318 on base percentage doesn’t get it done.
3B – Brandon Inge – A . Period. This man has had a career year going since the opening day. His extra work with Lloyd McClendon is paying large dividends. Who would have ever dreamed that he would be hitting a very respectable .268 with 21 homers and 58 R.B.I.’s? Who would have ever dreamed that he would even be considered for the All Star team, even though he just slipped in? He has been excellent and even though he threw up a goose egg at the home run derby, he has been nothing short of a quality big league baseball player so far in 2009.
LF – Josh Anderson – B . Josh’s 12 steals are a plus for a team that historically doesn’t utilize speed historically. Josh has made the start in left 37 times. He has committed three errors. He has hit for an ok .250 average. But…. Josh needs to find a way to get on base more often. A paltry .282 on base percentage reminds us that it is great to steal bases, but it is impossible to steal first. Josh has been ok. With a little seasoning, he could end up being a contributor for a few years.
CF – Curtis Granderson – A-. Curtis has led off games, he has batted third, he has batted fourth, he has done everything the Jim Leyland has asked of him. He does a wonderful job in the field, specifically the catch he made to rob Grady Sizemore of the walk off home run will be one that I and many others will remember for a long time. He still strikes out a little too often (75 in 339 at bats, second to Inge), and he still struggles with the strike zone from time to time. My only real worry about Curtis is the triples thing. The last couple of years, he has been a triples machine. This year… drought. I realize that there is often more luck than skill involved in the triples category, but none the less the drop off is notable. Now that you think I have spent most of the evaluation on the negative side, let me say this, Curtis Granderson is the deal maker or deal breaker on this team. As he goes, so goes this team. Right now the Tigers are in first place, therefore, Curtis gets an A.
RF – Magglio Ordonez – C-. Has father time finally caught up with Magglio? Is he injured? He has not been a regular now for almost a month. He needs to get going, or he needs to go. I realize that is strong, but his experience and his salary demands that he provide more than he has provided so far. I have always enjoyed watching him play the game. Maybe a C- is a little generous, but maybe he can turn it around soon. I certainly hope so.
SP – Justin Verlander – A-. The only reason he doesn’t have a straight A is because of the rough start to the season. He has been a leader in every sense. He has “fixed” whatever was wrong with him a year ago. His strikeout totals are impressive and the walks have not really been an issue. He has a better than 50/50 chance to win the game every time out. An All Star and the team’s ace.
SP – Edwin Jackson – A . Has exceeded everyone’s expectations by leaps and bounds. He is a gamer. He battles and knows how to pitch rather than just throw. An All Star, who has a very bright future. A good second half from Edwin, and the Tigers won’t have to worry about the Twins or the White Sox.
SP – Rick Porcello – B+ . The youngest player in the American League. I know that some out there in cyber land will think this is a low grade for the rookie, but I don’t think he gets the “A” because of his limited durability, his walks, and his recent outings where he was shakey. I am very impressed with his poise and mound presence. His eight wins are excellent, and the future bright.
SP – Armando Gallaraga – D+. At first glance maybe a D+ is too high. But…. You have to remember that last year he was brand new. We are still waiting to see if Armando can overcome the sophomore jinx. His last two outings prior to the All-Star break were very very good. As long as he can continue to work on it, his grade will continue to climb.
SP – Dontrelle Willis – F. Failure. Unable to right the ship, and is looking to go the way of Gary Sheffield. He seems like a likable fella, but bottom line is that he has not earned his pay check, and continues to be a mystery.
CL – Fernando Rodney – A- . Fernando has converted on all 19 save opportunities. That is 100% and usually that should be enough to get you the “A”. However, when called upon in non-save opportunities, Fernando is nothing short of scary. I worry that he will not be able to keep up the pace and will cost the Tigers some key games here and there. One other observation on Fernando…. I like that he straightened his cap out this year. It makes him look more professional. Maybe that is just foolishness on my part, but I think his approach to the job, has changed from a year ago, and that is a plus.
Set Up – Joel Zumaya – B- . Joel has shown some flashes of spectacular in the first half. He has been clocked at speeds upwards of 103. His physical tools seem to have recovered. Now… if he can just somehow learn to focus and bring some consistency to the hill, he can be a major asset all the time, not just some of the time. He is entertaining to watch pitch, but it is sort of like watching a NASCAR race, you just know there is going to be a wreck, but you just aren’t sure when and where.
RP – Bobby Seay – A- . Has been solid. He has expanded his role of situational lefty to staying in for a few right hand batters as well. He doesn’t walk many, and Jim Leyland uses him in some tight spots.
RP – Brandon Lyon – C. I expected more from Lyon. He seems prone to giving up the home run, and he always seems to be pitching from behind in the count. Still, I believe that he can get it turned around, and will have a better second half.
RP – Zach Miner – B. Zach does a lot of positive things for the ball club and really doesn’t get much credit. I think he does the dirty work. Long relief, spot starter, situational match up guy are all roles that he has filled this year. He is not flashy, but he usually gets the job done.
Everyone else gets an incomplete…. I do want to mention that I am growing more and more confident with Fu-Te Ni. I think he has the potential to contribute down the stretch in the right situations.
Coaching Staff - B+. Despite dropping the ball last year, this staff does a good job on a day to day basis. I realize that Jim Leyland is a lightening rod every time something doesn’t pan out, but the bottom line is that Jim has the team in first place. What more can he be asked to do than lead the division at this point? The pitching consistency has greatly improved and that can be directly attributed to Rick Knapp. The offense has been pretty thin so far in the first half. Lloyd McClendon has done a great job turning Brandon Inge around, but the drop off in Polanco and Ordonez is troubling. Belliard and Van Slyke have the defense playing well. I believe a “B+” is deserved. The proof will be in the second half finish.