Monday, November 19, 2012

Torii Hunter: Impact Player

via The Detroit News
 
I want to play a little catch-up on what’s happened in Detroit baseball since I’ve been gone, but I feel the need to tackle this subject first.

The Tigers signed Torii Hunter last week. I was and remain ecstatic. The Tigers finally signed a free agent that I, personally, really wanted on the ballclub. This never happens. They always seem to sign some clown like Adam Everett that makes my ears bleed. This is different.

There are Tiger killers that suck, yet somehow beat up on Detroit like Luke Scott, Joe Crede, and Nick Punto. Then, there are the guys that always seem to kill us, yet I still admire their skills from afar because they’re great ballplayers. Those are the folks like Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, and Mr. Torii Hunter.

And we got him. Finally, Austin Jackson has some help directly behind him in the lineup and next to him in the outfield, too. Hooray!

And everyone else seemed elated, too. Well, except for noted buzzkill Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press. Drew thinks this is a mistake. Drew is an idiot.

Okay. Let’s discuss. It’s been a while, kids. Bear with me if I’m rusty.


The biggest problem with Torii Hunter coming to the Detroit Tigers is that Mike Trout isn’t coming with him.

The biggest problem with Drew Sharp’s articles is that Drew Sharp writes them.

Hunter’s .313 batting average and 92 RBIs last season were the direct result of following the unanimous American League Rookie of the Year in the Los Angeles Angels’ batting order.

Indeed. Hunter had little or nothing to do with it. Mike Trout makes EVERYONE better around him just by wiggling his nose. He farts rainbows. Keith Law taught me that. This is also why the Angels ran away with the AL West and went to the World Series. (They didn’t.)

If Ryan Raburn was in LA and Trout used his mystical Tebow powers on him, The Ryno would have hit .330 with 40 homers. It’s science. Or is it math?

Let me attempt to blow your mind, Drew. What if, and stick with me here…what if Torii Hunter had something to do with making Mike Trout a little bit better in 2012? You think maybe noted exceptional team player and leader, Torii Hunter, maybe mentored Trout a bit and also offered him some amazing protection from the #2 spot? Just a little? I can’t hear about Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown season without someone mentioning the protection Prince Fielder provided batting behind him. Don’t get me wrong, Trout is an outstanding player. But shouldn’t Hunter get some credit for helping Mike in his rookie year?

Nah. I doubt they ever spoke.

Trout’s amazing season, in which he led the league in steals, runs scored

Yes, runs. Runs are those things that are usually scored when a good hitter knocks them in. A guy like Torii Hunter.

and was second in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) made Hunter a much more effective No. 2 hitter.

Austin Jackson set career highs in runs and OPS in 2012. He had Quintin Berry batting behind him much of time and Q can’t hit a ball out of the infield. By your logic, AJax should have made Berry into Tony Fucking Gwynn.

It’s deceiving to use Hunter’s 2012 season as a gauge to what he’ll bring to the Tigers upon agreeing to a two-year, $26-million contract this afternoon.

Agreed. The Tigers should have paid more attention to Hunter’s 2001 numbers. Makes more sense.

Hunter is a solid upgrade, a safe addition in that it only costs owner Mike Ilitch more money, as opposed to precious young prospects.

But Hunter isn’t the difference-maker that sets the Tigers apart from their pennant competition next season.

Liar.

According to the brilliant Lee Panas at Tiger Tales, via Fangraphs, Detroit right fielders had a WAR of -2.0 last season. This is because Brennan Boesch, Ryan Raburn, and Don Kelly were abortions of baseball players last year. Hunter had a WAR of 5.3 according to Fangraphs and WAR’s of 2.6, 3.7, and 3.9 the three previous seasons before Trout even hit the big leagues. So if you give him a modest 3.0 WAR expectation, that’s quite the jump from -2.0.

If that isn’t a difference maker, I don’t know what is.

That guy’s still in Arizona -- for the time being.

Gibby?

The Tigers opted against making the bolder, more decisive move of aggressively pursuing Arizona rightfielder Justin Upton. A 25-year-old impact player, he could’ve added explosiveness to the top third of the Tigers’ batting order.

To get Upton, the Tigers would have had to empty what’s left of an already barren Minor League system that was gutted in the Anibal Sanchez trade, assuming that Arizona would have been interested in such a deal. Upton had his WAR decline to 2.5 last year (compared to Hunter’s 5.3) and is rumored to be a head case. In two of the last three seasons, Justin’s OPS+ has been 110 or less.

Why would the Tigers give up their few remaining decent prospects for a guy that could turn into Delmon Young 2.0 when they could get Hunter for two years and allow Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia time to develop into potential homegrown stars?

Yes, Upton still has a world of potential. But it would cost way too much to get a guy that’s not a sure thing. Try offering the world for Giancarlo Stanton  if you really want to empty the farm system. I hear the Marlins are determined to get rid of anyone their fourteen fans have ever heard of. That dude’s a beast. Justin Upton’s a question mark.

It’s an error that will haunt them should Texas, the apparent runner-up in the Hunter chase, pull the trigger on a deal for Upton.

Justin Upton is not currently as big of an impact player as Josh Hamilton, who Texas lost to free agency. The Rangers are going to be worse for the second straight year, while the Angels and A’s are strong competition and the Mariners will begin to spend money. And wait…did we get moved to the AL West while I was gone?  

If the Rangers get Upton, the Tigers must once again hope that playoff fate will smile upon them and eliminate Texas before the Tigers face them. They would have no chance in a best-of-seven series against a team like Texas that combines power with speed.
No chance. Zero. Don’t even play the games if that happens. Not against the team Oakland swept to steal the division from. (We beat Oakland, if I recall.) So sayeth Drew Sharp.

By the way, Torii Hunter hit .300/.388/.443 with 1 HR, 7 doubles, and 15 RBI in 18 games against the Rangers last year. I hope he thanked Mike Trout.

The Tigers needed more than simply an upgrade at the No. 2 spot in the lineup.

It’s mid-November. They’re not done. Did Opening Day get moved up to Christmas? Why wasn’t I told?

They needed impact. Hunter doesn’t bring that. Not at age 37

He turned 37 on July 18th and continued to beat the piss out of the ball all season. He finished 10th in the entire American League in WAR, 6th among position players. Was his BABIP a bit high? Yes. So was Mike Trout’s. But the man’s in fantastic shape and has been a consistent threat with the bat and even more so with the glove for a long, long time. And again, he buys time for Garcia and Castellanos to develop. I love this deal. Anyone not named Brennan Boesch should love it.

 -- and certainly not at the price tag of $13 million for each of the next two years.

Mike Ilitch wipes his ass with $26 million. Who cares other than maybe his goofball kids?

This was a Yankees-like decision.

You mean the Yankees with 27 World Series championships, including five since 1996? Awesome. I’m sick of the Tigers-like decisions like paying an obviously washed up Jacques Jones $6.3 million to hit .165 in 24 games in 2008.

Worry about today and to hell with tomorrow.

Newsflash: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander aren’t going to be in their primes forever. And Ilitch, I’m sad to say, looks like he’s on borrowed time. The time to go for it is now. Enter Torii Hunter, a proven star and leader.

Just throw money at the problem.

Good idea. If we could get the 3 million plus that went to Comerica Park last year to each donate just ONE DOLLAR each to make Drew Sharp go away…

It lacks foresight. The Tigers could’ve gotten a young star at an affordable price

You are assuming a lot here.

who still could be a very desirable trading chip in another two years if it didn’t work out.

So you’re saying that in two years, if Justin Upton’s numbers continue to go down like a cleat chaser on Rick Porcello, and Upton keeps being as easily rattled as he’s been in Arizona, that folks would be banging down the doors to trade for him still? What you’re describing is, again, Delmon Young 2.0.

In 2010, Delmon hit .298 with 21 homers, 112 RBI, an OBP of .333, an OPS+ of 124, and was only 25 years old. Two years later, people in Detroit are doing cartwheels at the thought of him no longer being a Tiger. This stuff happens. Will it to Upton? I don’t know. But I know what to expect from Torii Hunter. And it’s not going to cost our farm system to find out.

Hunter’s a nice player at this juncture of his career. Many will point to his leadership qualities as another motivation for signing him, but far, far too much was made about the Tigers’ supposed lack of emotion in the clubhouse. It’s ridiculous believing that they lost the World Series to San Francisco because they weren’t fired-up enough. They lost because their offense isn’t as diverse as it needs to be.

Finally, we agree, up to the diverse part. They lost because they didn’t hit. The rah-rah argument is ridiculous. I plan on getting to this topic later in the week if I have time.

And Hunter doesn’t significantly add much in that regard.

The fuck he doesn’t. Torii hasn’t had an OPS+ under 111 since 2005. Wait. Are you thinking of BRIAN Hunter? Yeah, he was dogshit. That’s the only way this makes sense to anyone that doesn’t have multiple brain tumors.

He ranked as one of the league leaders in grounding into double plays in 2011 and 2010, averaging 22.

Miguel Cabrera led the AL in hitting into double plays last season while winning the MVP and the Triple Crown. Does this mean he isn’t a good part of the offense?

It wasn’t until Trout’s speed arrived that the number shrunk to a more manageable 15 in 2012.

Austin Jackson’s no Trout on the base paths, but he’s still a hellova fast baserunner.

The Tigers had three hitters who grounded into 20 or more double plays last season (Miguel Cabrera, Delmon Young and Jhonny Peralta).

And they made the World Series.

Everyone thinks that Hunter’s the perfect fit for the Tigers, but it might not be for the reasons initially hoped.

Can Torii Hunter hit? Yes. Can he field? Hell, yes. Can he help Austin Jackson become a better player? All signs point to yes. Is he better than the three-headed monster of suck in right field last year? My gawd, yes.

Drew Sharp, however, remains awful. And nothing can or ever will change that.

Except maybe Mike Trout. I hear that guy’s saliva can cure cancer.

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