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Like Stripes On the Fur Coat of a Tiger - 12/22

ESPN.com's Rob Neyer doesn't appear to think that signing Dontrelle Willis to a long-term contract was a good idea.

[...] Willis' ERA over the last two seasons was a combined 4.49. Last season the American League overall ERA was 4.51. The American League is the better league, so it's reasonable to expect that Willis' ERA will be worse than league average in 2008. And while his youth is generally regarded as a good thing, is it really? Pitchers aren't hitters. Plenty of pitchers peak in their early 20s, when their arms are fresh and their fastballs snappy. Willis won 22 games in 2005. He's won 22 games combined in the two seasons since. I'm not sure if he's "young enough to improve" or if he's merely young enough to tease anybody who doesn't believe in scouting reports and statistics.
Okay, I'm probably guilty of that. Part of that has to do with the belief that the Tigers have to sign Willis and Miguel Cabrera to long-term deals for the trade with the Florida Marlins to be a "win." So they're halfway there.

Yes, Willis' numbers point to a downward trend. And if he ends up being a fifth starter, $10 million per season is a huge price to pay. But Neyer also points out that Willis' strikeout numbers have remained the same (6.4 batters per nine innings), which would seem to indicate that the stuff is still there. So the issue is whether or not that stuff can be controlled properly. And I like Chuck Hernandez's chances of straightening out whatever mechanical problems Willis might have, along with the benefit of a better defense playing behind him. Is this wishful thinking? Maybe, but I think Willis is worth a shot.

Just when I think I've attained an upper hand over my arch-nemesis, Samara, she gets comments from actual major league players at Roar of the Tigers. Chad Durbin caught word of the pimp attire that Sam had outfitted him throughout last season, and had some kind words to share as he moved onto his new team. Affirmation for some hilarious blogging by Samela.

By the way, if you didn't catch the news, Durbin has already found gainful employment elsewhere, signing with the Philadelphia Phillies. One of Pat Gillick's off-season goals must have been to lead the majors in Durbins, as Chad teams up with J.D. to compete for the fifth starter job.

Christina Kahrl breaks out some Transaction Analysis on the AL Central at Baseball Prospectus. Here's some of what she has to say on the Tigers:

Credit Dave Dombrowski for doing the same thing he did in 1996 and 1997, because this sort of trade isn't just about the simple acquisition of talent—delightful enough as that is—it's about building a ballclub that can beat the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Indians, or anybody else in however many short October series it takes to bring more than a pennant to town.

[...]

Dombrowski made an outstanding call, leveraging promise for young star players coming into what should be their prime seasons. You don't just win now with a guy like Cabrera (and perhaps also Willis), you win into the future.

However, the most entertaining part of the column might be what Kahrl has to say about the Chicago White Sox. Not happy times for the South Siders.

Over at The Detroit Tigers Weblog, Billfer is posting his own version of Mythbusters. I've always shared the belief that left field and center field are so big at Comerica Park that two center fielders are required to cover all the space out there. Not so fast, my friend.

Using park factors as his gauge, Bill shows that fewer balls actually drop into that left-center gap for hits than in other parks around the majors. So maybe that perception has been largely influenced by the Tigers putting sub-par defenders in left field over the past few seasons. When those balls do fall in, however, it's probably going for a triple.