Tag Archives: Michael Fulmer

Tigers’ Michael Fulmer Should Be the AL Rookie of the Year

A pitcher with the Detroit Tigers has been one of the top rookies in the American League this season, and should be the AL’s Rookie of the Year Award winner.

It has been a full decade since the last Detroit Tigers player won the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
That year, 23-year old right-handed starting pitcher Justin Verlander went 17-9 over 30 starts with a 3.63 ERA to take the voting by a comfortable margin over the Boston Red Sox 25-year old reliever Jonathan Papelbon.
Verlander has gone on to a fantastic career with the Tigers over the last dozen seasons. He won 24 games and the 2011 Cy Young Award as part of 173 career victories. This season, Verlander is again a leading Cy Young favorite.
Now a decade later, the Tigers again have a right-handed starting pitcher up for the award. In my opinion, he deserves to be the winner.
Michael Fulmer turned 23-years old back in spring training, the same age as Verlander when he won the top rookie honors.
Fulmer was the New York Mets pick during the supplemental first round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft at 44th overall out of a Oklahoma high school. He then went to Detroit in a 2015 trade deadline deal for Yoenis Cespedes.
Called up by the Tigers at the end of April, Fulmer won seven of his first eight decisions and was 9-2 by the MLB All-Star break.
Though he only won twice more over the balance of the regular season, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Fulmer tossed eight Quality Starts over 13 outings in the season’s final two and a half months.
In the end, Fulmer’s numbers show an 11-7 record, 3.06 ERA, 1.119 WHIP, 3.76 FIP, and a 135 ERA+ mark. He produced a 132/42 K:BB ratio, allowing 136 hits in 159 innings over 26 starts.
When it came time to vote in the IBWAA 2016 Awards, Fulmer was an easy choice for me as the American League Rookie of the Year.
I named New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez as the runner-up on my ballot, with Texas Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara in 3rd place.
In the recently announced BBWAA finalists for the award, both Fulmer and Sanchez are listed. That group named outfielder Tyler Naquin of the Cleveland Indians over Mazara as their 3rd nominee.
I chose Fulmer for two main reasons. First, he was a part of the Tigers rotation since the end of April.
The youngster had to perform all summer long in a key position for a team that was battling for a postseason berth throughout, and was a main reason they were able to hang close.
He also had to perform on the mound in the American League, where the presence of the Designated Hitter in every lineup lengthens things against even the weakest clubs.
Sanchez was also outstanding, banging 20 homers with 42 RBI and 34 runs scored over what amounts to one-third of a season. He also produced a strong .299/.376/.657 slash line.
While it isn’t Sanchez’ fault that he wasn’t promoted for good until early August, that does remain the fact.
For me, what Fulmer achieved in helping his team remain in the hunt as a rookie starting pitcher was more valuable over a longer period of the season than what Sanchez produced in two months.
In the end, perhaps Sanchez will prove to be the better player. But that isn’t what this award is about. It’s not about speculation, it’s about production on the field as a rookie. Sanchez was really good. Fulmer was more impressive.
Perhaps the whole “New York’ thing pushes Sanchez to the win when the IBWAA and BBWAA awards are announced over the next couple of weeks. That would be a shame. Michael Fulmer deserves to be the AL Rookie of the Year.

Tigers Facing Buy or Rebuild Decision

The Detroit Tigers could become one of the most interesting teams in Major League Baseball this off-season as they decide whether to go for it again, or deal stars and rebuild.

For most of the last 11 seasons the Detroit Tigers have been a legitimate contending team in the American League Central Division.
In those years the Tigers have registered eight winning campaigns and one .500 season. They have been to the MLB postseason five times, including the World Series twice and the ALCS on two other occasions.
The 2016 Tigers finished 86-75, good for second place in the division to the eventual AL champion Cleveland Indians. The club finished just 2.5 games out of an AL Wildcard playoff berth.
The Tigers may, however, have a looming problem on their hands. More than a handful of their key players are now on the wrong side of 30 years of age, many approaching or in their mid-30’s.
Team management is now approaching a crossroads with the franchise.
Do they tweak the roster a bit and try to squeeze another winning, possibly contending, season out of this core of players? 
Or should they take a more difficult course, one that might result in a couple of losing seasons? Deal away a number of these veterans for strong prospects who could become the core of the next generation of Tigers contenders?

In a recent Fangraphs piece “Grading the Trade Value of Miguel Cabarera, Justin Verlander” this very question was visited by Craig Edwards.
“If they aren’t going all in next year — and it appears they aren’t — the quickest route to the playoffs is to tear it all down. To do that, the team needs to move Miguel Cabrera, and that might best be done by packaging him with Justin Verlander.”
Edwards reported that the Tigers are committed to approximately $175 million in contract obligations for the 2017 season.
He also notes that ESPN’s MLB insider Buster Olney has reported that the Tigers do not want to completely tear down their roster, instead preferring to contend once again next year.
Is that reality? Can the Tigers contend once again in 2017 in what should again be one of the toughest divisions in baseball?
Verlander had a strong bounce-back season this year, one that has made him a very legitimate contender for a second career AL Cy Young Award.
But in the two previous seasons, Verlander seemed to be in decline. He will be 34-years old as spring training opens.
For a possible recent comparison, that was the exact age at which Philadelphia Phillies aces Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee each experienced their final strong seasons.
Miguel Cabrera turns that same 34 years of age just two weeks into the regular season. He stayed healthy this year, continuing a phenomenal career of consistent production that is sure to culminate with a Hall of Fame induction sometime in the next decade.
Ian Kinsler experienced a power spike, but will turn 35 years old next June. Victor Martinez continued as one of the AL’s best hitters, but will turn 38 years old next month.
Anibal Sanchez slipped in performance for a third consecutive season. He turns 34 years of age in February. During his first season in Detroit, Mike Pelfrey was terrible. He turns 33 in January.
Closer Francisco Rodriguez will turn 34 years of age in January. “KRod” just had his contract picked up, so he’ll be back. But his performance slipped slightly from back-to-back AL All-Star campaigns.
Jordan Zimmermann will be 31 years old in May. In his first go-around in Detroit after signing a big free agent contract last off-season, Zimmermann lost most of the final three months to injury.
Is everybody old? No. Talented third baseman Nick Castellanos will play at 25 next year.
Right fielder J.D. Martinez will be 28 for most of the year, and catcher James McCannturns 27 halfway through the season.
Still in his prime, left fielder Justin Upton will play almost the entire season at age 28 years.
Aside from Miggy, he has the second-longest contract coming from the team, owed more than $110 million over the next five years.
On the mound, righty starter Michael Fulmer is perhaps the leading AL Rookie of the Year contender.
Fulmer will turn 24 in spring training. His young lefty counterpart, Daniel Norris, turns that same 24 years old a month later.
In the bullpen, Bruce Rondon turns 26 years of age next month. The fireballer has closer-of-the-future written all over him.
The Tigers top prospects are not likely to help next year. Pitchers Beau Burrows and Matt Manning will be 20 and 19 respectively.
Outfielders Christin Stewart and Derek Hill, the club’s top position player prospects, will be turning 23 and 21 respectively next month.
Detroit has already made an early move this off-season to lop off some salary. This past week, the club dealt outfielder Cameron Maybin to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for prospect pitcher Victor Alcantara.
The Tigers could have paid Maybin $9 million to return, or paid him a $1 million buyout and said goodbye.
By dealing him away they get the best of both worlds, shedding salary while actually getting a potential future piece in return.
The contracts of Kinsler, Sanchez and Pelfrey will all run their final years in 2017, not counting modest buyouts for the first two.
Losing those salaries will more than off-set increases elsewhere over the ensuing couple of seasons.
There is a valid argument to be made that the trade value on the stars will never be higher than it is right now. Deep pocketed teams with plenty of young talent could step up with nice packages.
However, if the Tigers really believe that they can get two more strong seasons out of Verlander and Cabrera, then I say they are better served keeping them.
The Tigers can still go for it in the 2017 season, and continue building more young talent through the draft and through lesser yet astute trades.
The decision on which way to go makes the Detroit Tigers one of the most compelling organizations this winter. Their own fans and all of baseball will be watching to see how they choose to move forward.

IBWAA 2016 Major League Baseball Awards Ballot

It is MLB awards season, and as Major League Baseball hands out its formal honors, the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America will do the same.

With the 2016 MLB season winding to a close, various individuals and groups, including myself and the full body of the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America) will be honoring players and coaches as award winners for their performances this year.
The IBWAA was founded on the 4th of July back in 2009 “to organize and promote the growing online baseball media, and to serve as a digital alternative to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA)” per the home website.
At the end of each regular season, the IBWAA membership receives an awards ballot. Each writer is then asked to vote and return the ballots promptly.
These ballots are then tabulated, and MLB awards winners are determined. The IBWAA is scheduled to begin announcing the winners of its writer balloting in mid-November.
MLB has already begun the process of announcing some its awards winners. For instance, David Ortiz in the AL and Kris Bryant in the NL have been honored with the Hank Aaron Award as the top hitter in each league this season.
Each year, I publicly release my vote. I do this so that any followers get a sense of what I am thinking as far as the game is concerned, but also to spur conversation on our great game of baseball.
I am quite sure that in at least a couple of these selections, you would choose differently. Would love to hear your choices for each of the awards. Feel free to leave a comment with those selections.
So now, on to my ballot. As writers we were asked to provide a Top 10 in each league MVP vote, a Top 5 in the Cy Young Award balloting, and Top 3 in each of the Top Manager, Top Reliever, and Rookie of the Year categories.