Full disclosure…..1. My obsession with the Detroit Tiger’s has caused many (including my wife) to look at me sideways; and 2. as a former chubby twelve year old first baseman I’ve always enjoyed watching Prince Fielder do work. So at 3:00 pm, January 24, 2012, when these two worlds collided one would assume that I would have gassed up the ride and personally moved our new acquisition to the D. Yet for some reason my joy was tempered as I wondered how in the hell is this gonna work? Fielder plays the same position as the Tigers best player, Miguel Cabrera, and the rather hefty makeup of both players body type make DH the only other reasonable position either can play effectively. Well, the Tigers have a temporary need at DH with the injury to Victor Martinez, but he is expected to make a full recovery and penciled in as the regular DH in 2013. Therein lies my apprehension with this deal. For the next nine years the Detroit Tigers have roughly $338 Million dollars tied up in 1B/DH players, which happen to be the lest flexible type of players when it comes to finding another suitable position. Then I thought damn, did my team just make a panic move (due to Martinez’s injury) that would hamper them for the next nine years?
While the Tigers will attempt to conceal their trepidation which led to Prince Fielder becoming a Tiger, their comments and the numbers say they panicked. Today at Fielder’s press conference his agent Scott Boras confirmed that the Tigers did not enter the Fielder sweepstakes until Martinez got hurt. Mike Illitch confirmed that he has desired to have Fielder wear the Old English D since he was a twelve year old hitting bombs out of Tiger Stadium with his famous father Cecil watching. And Leyland confirmed my deepest fear when he stated, Cabrera, all 250 pounds of him would become the regular third baseman. It’s as if the Tigers are attempting to fit a square peg in a round hole, or in Cabrera’s case a round peg in a square whole. Fielder was given a nine year contract because Victor Martinez will not play in 2012 and the owner feeling the need to compensate for the loss went out and gave the object of his affection a contract that far exceeds the Tigers needs. In doing so Miguel Cabrera, the better player of the two, will be asked to continue his optimal performance under unreasonable conditions.
Miguel Cabrera is not a third baseman, and has not been a good defensive third baseman since 2005. In fact, the Tigers last attempt to wedge Cabrera in at third base ended after only 14 games in 2008. The defensive statistic UZR/150 allows us to measure a players defensive value at a certain position as if he played 150 games that particular season. A good third baseman averages a score of 7, an average score is 0, and a below average score is -5. In 2008 Miguel Cabrera’s UZR/150 score at third base was -36.8, and it’s plain to see why Leyland moved Cabrera to first base after 14 games. Cabrera was to heavy to play third base, also known as the hot corner, in 2008 and he is definitely to heavy to play third in 2012. Needless to say, I have little faith in Cabrera being able to lose enough weight to be even a servicable defensive third baseman. As stated, Cabrera is very limited in the positions he can play defensively and when it doesn’t work at third base he may be forced into a DH role. And how will that work out you ask?
While I realize it is a small sample size the numbers say that Miguel Cabrera hits better when he also plays the field. Cabrera’s career number’s of .317/.395/.555 (AVG/OBP/SLG) resemble one who is destined for the Hall of Fame. His number’s in the 26 games he has played DH .230/.306/.370 reflect a player struggling to crack the starting lineup. This is not out of the ordinary as many players find it difficult to grab a bat and hit after he has sat on the bench as his teammates were in the field. With Fielder at first base I ultimately see Cabrera manning the DH slot in the order. If Cabrera continues to hit at the level of a replacement player when he plays DH, the Fielder signing (which has many calling the Tigers World Series favorites) could be a nine year anchor that prevents the Tigers from competing in 2012 and beyond.
So…….what did I do the day after it soaked in the MY team signed Prince Fielder to what may likely become a team crippling contract?
I called my season ticket rep and renewed my tickets. Remember the full disclosure, I told you in the beginning I was an irrational fan.