Ian Casselberry of Bless You Boys, our Tigers sister-site, was good enough to sit down and answer a few questions for me.
Swing over there to check out my questions for him, and remember to play nice.
1) A ton of coverage has been given to the Tigers' absent offense, but comparatively little has been said about the pitching staff (5.4 runs allowed per game). Has the pitching lived up to your expectations? Who has been noteworthy?
Going into the season, most seemed to think that the pitching would be the Tigers' problem, but I don't think we realized just how much of one it would be. The three guys who have arguably been their best pitchers thus far - Aquilino Lopez, Armando Galarraga, and Clay Rapada - all began the season in Triple-A.
The starting pitching has been pretty terrible. Justin Verlander seems to have worked out his arm slot issues that affected his location and velocity, but even when he's throwing well, he has one inning where the dam bursts and runs come pouring in. Maybe you can pin some of that on Jim Leyland for not taking Verlander out at the right time, but you expect your ace to work out of some jams. But the big overall problem is that the starters aren't going deep into games. They're gassed by the fourth inning because they've thrown too many pitches. So the Tigers then have to dip into their middle relief, which is easily the weakest part of the staff.
2) When the Tigers signed Cabrera long term the move made a ton of sense; when they signed D-Train, I was scratching my head. What are your thoughts on the move (before and after his injury)?
I think Dave Dombrowski felt he had to sign both Cabrera and Willis long-term, in order to justify giving up six good prospects (including the top two in the organization). I'm of the "In Dave We Trust" line of thinking, so when he gave Willis a three-year extension, I figured he knew what he was doing. But right now, you have to wonder what the rush was. The Tigers probably should've waited to see if Willis' bad year was indicative of a downward trend. Whether it's because of injuries or mechanics, or both, he's looked awful so far. Unless he turns it around, it's hard to imagine Detroit enduring three years of this.
3) Cabrera and Guillen have already switched corners in the infield, and obviously it's a good move for this season. How do you see it impacting the Tigers long-term?
Honestly, I'm not sure how I feel about Cabrera possibly playing first base for the rest of his Tigers career because it creates some issues to be resolved. It blocks one of Detroit's better prospects, Jeff Larish, who might have provided left-handed power the team still doesn't have. But now, maybe he's a potential trade chip. I'm also not sure if this makes the Tigers more or less likely to trade Brandon Inge. Guillen could play third base for a while, but his legs also seem destined to make him a DH. And if Gary Sheffield can't finish out his contract, that move could happen sooner than anyone might have expected. Then the Tigers would definitely need Inge again at third.
4) Is Gary Sheffield done?
Some people say he's toast and should at least be moved down in the batting order. Others point to his slow April and subsequent turnaround last year. One big difference, however, is his health. He's already taken three cortisone shots to relieve the pain. So does Sheffield get better with rest or playing regularly? Leyland says the bat speed is there, and Sheffield just needs to find his timing. If that's the case, I guess he has to play. I know Leyland keeps Sheff in the #3 spot because he draws walks in front of Ordonez and Cabrera. But right now, whenever the Tigers get something going, they can't finish it because Sheffield can't drive the ball. If he's not going on the DL, moving him down to sixth until he proves he's healthy seems like the right move.
5) Why is tearing down Tiger Stadium such a big deal?
If you're asking why it should be torn down, Tiger Stadium kind of embodies Detroit. The city has so many abandoned, formerly beautiful buildings that are just being left to decay. And Tiger Stadium sits in an area that could arguably thrive if that space was properly utilized. If you're asking why some don't want it torn down, I guess it's about preserving history and perhaps creating something that other cities don't offer. (Maybe this wouldn't be such an issue if the Tigers had tried to incorporate more of Tiger Stadium into Comerica Park, as the Yankees are doing with the old and new Yankee Stadiums.) It would also be nice to have a place for kids to play baseball and for the city to celebrate its rich sports memories.