Tigers Need Pitching To Rise In AL

ALSO: REMEMBERING ED LUCAS, BLIND MAN WITH A VISION

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Pregame Pepper

Did You Know?

Dave Dombrowski, who built winning teams in Miami, Detroit, and Boston, has been given an unlimited budget to rebuild the Phillies by owner John Middleton . . .

DJ LeMahieu, whose best defensive position is second base, could be pushed to the infield corners now that Gleyber Torres has been shifted from short to second . . .

The Mets are wondering how much Robinson Cano can contribute at age 39 after missing a year while suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs . . .

Hard to believe Buster Posey left $22 million on the table when he retired to spend more time with his family . . .

Now that A.J. Hinch is managing Detroit, how many of his old Astros players (including Carlos Correa) might jump there via free agency?

Leading Off

Detroit Tigers: Free Agent Pitching Targets

By Joe Underhill

The Detroit Tigers are expected to be major players in free agency this off-season. A lot of time and space will be devoted to shortstop, as it is a glaring need on a Tigers team that posted a winning record after May 8th. The Tigers will sign a shortstop but that is something we probably won’t know until January or February, depending on the new CBA being signed. 

The Tigers have already addressed their catching need, agreeing to a trade for former Cincinnati Reds backstop Tucker Barnhart, a two-time Gold Glover who will lead that position along with 2021 breakout player Eric Haase. The catching market was going to be thin anyway, so adding via trade and only giving up Nick Quintana (without a great start to his minor-league career) is a strong first move. 

With the star market most likely to be delayed, and catching checked off the to-do list, there is only one (actually two) spot Tigers GM Al Avila has identified on his off-season priority check list: starting pitching.

In his off-season comments Avila has stated the Tigers would like to add a pair of starters. That is especially important as the young trio of starters (Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning) continue to establish themselves at the major-league level.

While as a fan I would love it, there has been and will be plenty written about Justin Verlander, so in looking at four starters who might interest the Tigers, I’ll skip JV for the time being. 

  •     Marcus Stroman: 10-13, 3.02 ERA, 179 IP, 1.145 WHIP, 3.6 WAR (baseball-reference).

Stroman put up a solid year for a pretty disappointing Mets team. He made 33 starts in 2021 and only gave up more than three earned runs in four starts. He doesn’t wow with his strikeout numbers, punching out just 21.6% of batters faced, but he balances that with a low walk rate at just 6.0% and low home run rate of 2.3%. Stroman would give the Tigers a consistent presence in the rotation and be a good mentor for the younger pitchers. He is not eligible for a qualifying offer, so the Tigers would not lose any draft capital to sign him. 

  •     Jon Gray: 8-12, 4.59 ERA, 149 IP, 1.329 WIHP, 1.3 WAR (baseball-reference).

 Jon Gray is an interesting pitcher. He actually had a better ERA at home (4.02 vs 5.22), which is unusual for a Colorado pitcher. The overall ERA was probably connected to fatigue as there is a large gap between his first and second-half ERA (3.77 vs 5.77). Gray is a former No. 3 overall pick from the 2013 draft. There is still some untapped potential with Gray and the Tigers would be betting on pitching coach Chris Fetter being able to help Gray realize more of the potential that made him a high pick. Gray is right about league average in his strikeout, walk, home run, and hard-hit ratios, with slightly above-average ground ball and fly ball ratios. Gray would give the Tigers a back-end starter with upside. 

  •     Eduardo Rodriguez: 13-8, 4.74 ERA, 157.2 IP, 1.389 WHIP, 1.8 WAR (baseball-reference)

E-Rod had a solid year for Boston in 2021. In 2020 he contracted Covid and had a heart condition develop as a complication. He was fully healthy in 2021 and had career-best strikeout (27.4%) and walk rates (7.0%). At worst, he is a solid middle-to-back of the rotation starter with some upside remaining. Rodriguez also has post-season experience, which will help lead a young rotation. Rodriguez did receive a QO from Boston, so the Tigers will have to weigh the cost of the draft compensation. However, for a quality LHP who can provide stability with upside, that shouldn’t be a hindrance. 

  •     Wily Peralta: 4-5, 3.07 ERA, 93.2 IP, 1.335 WHIP, 2.0 WAR (baseball-reference)

Tigers’ fans are familiar with Peralta, who was arguably one of the key reasons the Tigers finished 2021 with a winning second half. Peralta was signed as a minor-league free agent after being out of organized baseball in 2020. At 32, Peralta is not a young pitcher with upside, but he represents a veteran who can be relied on to provide quality innings and serve as a mentor for the younger pitchers on the staff. Peralta is a pitcher who relies on pitching to contact (14.4% SO rate) and heavy ground-ball rate (49.8%). While Peralta might not be the most exciting free agent signing, he is one of the more likely targets, both for his effectiveness and is perceived affordability. 

The days of the Tigers adding only bounce-back, lotto ticket starters are over. The Tigers want to compete for the division crown and make a push for the playoffs. To accomplish those goals, the Tigers will need to fortify their rotation. Targeting one or more of the above pitchers will help in that pursuit of the playoffs and the elusive World Series title.

Joe Underhill is a diehard baseball fan and fan of the city of Detroit. Joe currently writes for www.tigstown.com. E.mail joe.underhill@auburn.org or follow Joe on Twitter @TransplantedDet.

Cleaning Up

Ed Lucas Was One of A Kind

By Dan Schlossberg

Willie Mays was afraid of his seeing-eye dog. Reggie Jackson told him home plate was not on the dinner table. Barry Bonds, surly to everyone else, went out of his way to be nice to him.

Ed Lucas, who passed away this week at age 82 at his Union, NJ home, was one of a kind.

After losing his vision in a baseball accident at age 12, he determined that his blindness would be a nuisance rather than handicap. He became the first sightless graduate of Seton Hall University and later the first father to win custody of children from a sighted wife. His sons, Eddie and Chris, turned into fine young men, as did his grandsons.

Readers of this newsletter in the New York area should know his name; the late Phil Rizzuto, a personal friend, used to talk about Ed Lucas during Yankee broadcasts.

It was no accident that Lucas attended 63 consecutive Opening Day games at Yankee Stadium, accompanied by a sighted escort.

Nor was it an accident that Lucas befriended George Steinbrenner to such an extent that he became the only person ever married at home plate in Yankee Stadium.

The reception was held at the Yankee Stadium Club and paid for by Steinbrenner himself — an exceptionally generous wedding gift to Ed and Allison.

Ed had many gifts to give the world. He was kind, funny, and sensitive while also being informed and opinionated. And he made friends easily — especially with celebrities. The list of people he met is too long to list here but there are picture of President Bill Clinton with his arm around him and Reggie Jackson teaching him how to hit — and taking him into the Yankee Stadium outfield to let him feel the wall.

Broadcasters around the majors invariably start their broadcasts by describing the uniforms of the visiting teams. Blind listeners can thank Ed Lucas for that.

And sighted fans in San Francisco can thank Lucas for throwing a perfect strike to Terry Kennedy, then the catcher for the Giants, after former owner Bob Lurie invited Ed, a lifelong Giants fan, to throw out the first pitch before a game. Kennedy said, “Throw it here” and the left-handed Lucas threw toward the sound of his voice.

A friend of Bobby Bonds, Ed met Barry as a youngster who accompanied his famous father to the ballpark. That friendship continued as Barry became a superstar. There was hardly anybody that Ed didn’t like, or who didn’t like him.

The Ed Lucas Foundation, which raises funds for blind people who also have an additional handicap, will carry on his legacy. Every year, it has an annual golf tournament, memorabilia auction, and dinner at the Brook Lake Country Club in Florham Park, NJ. David Cone has lent his name to the event in recent years, following Gene Michael and Rizzuto.

There’s already an Ed Lucas book, called Seeing Home, and a movie is due next October. The guy made quite an impression on everyone who knew him — and many who only heard his name.

I’m lucky I got to be a close friend since we met 50 years ago. Thanks, Ed, for a most memorable half-century.

Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Ball Nine, Latino Sports, and others. Contact him by e.mail at ballauthor@gmail.com.

Timeless Trivia

Left-handed starters Robbie Ray and Steven Matz, most recently with Toronto, are sure to have lots of suitors on the free agent market . . .

Has Corey Kluber gone from no-hitter in 2021 to no-taker in 2022? . . .

Another no-hit author from this year, Wade Miley, went from the the Reds to the Cubs in a quiet waiver deal that could signal an NL Central power shift . . .

Because he’s a Texas native, ex-Colorado star Trevor Story would be a logical replacement for fellow free agent Carlos Correa in Houston . . .

Former Dodgers slugger Pedro Guerrero has been named assistant hitting coach for the arch-rival San Francisco Giants . . .

Who’s more likely to play in 2022: Pablo Sandoval or Julio Franco?


Know Your Editors

HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [bchrom831@gmail.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [nymfan97@gmail.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [ballauthor@gmail.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.

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