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Is Scott Sizemore toxic?

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Tigers choose good chemistry over good talent

According to the formula used by Bill James Online, the Detroit Tigers are the hottest team right now - that's with having two outfielders (Ryan Raburn and Don Kelly) with an average OPS under .600 playing regularly at two of the infield positions (second & third). I was wondering why the Tigers hated Scott Sizemore so. In the Majors, he played hurt last year, but in the Minors proved he was worthy of the position. Not willing to concede a bum hip for an excuse, they gave the job at the start of the year to “scrappy” minor league veteran Will Rhymes. While Sizemore hit 1.100 in Toledo, Rhymes hit a pathetic .556 OPS, so they called Sizemore up. Unfortunately, just as he had last year, Sizemore stunk when given the chance in The Show (.567 this year, .632 last year). But, they only gave him 17 games. Shockingly (to me as a Tigers fan and Sizemore fantasy owner who doesn't live near enough to Detroit to hear what’s going on there or being said), they traded Sizemore to Oakland for a middle reliever. The Tigers have no one else long term or short to take over the position other than their struggling left fielder - a former minor league veteran - Ryan Raburn. Don Kelly is their corner position utility guy filling in for Brandon Inge while he is trying to recover from mono on the D.L. Good luck. That could take months.

If anything, I saw Raburn as a possible replacement for Inge, who is four years older and seems to be wearing down – and wearing down from being barely a career .700 OPS hitter in the first place. Raburn originally was a thirdbaseman and played there his first three years as a pro rising to the Florida State League. He was converted to secondbase in 2004 and played there another three years in AA and AAA. In 2006, Raburn's third year at Toledo and Detroit's pennant winning year, Raburn played mostly outfield. And there he remained through the first half of 2007 as well. In other words, he moved up slowly, then stayed stuck in Toledo for 4 seasons. From there he spent three more years as a utility player for Detroit – playing mostly outfield and a little second, third, and first in emergencies. Due to his streakiness, he was still returned to Toledo on occasion. Due to injuries, Raburn was finally given a regular job after the all-star break last year. He finished the year so strongly they have stuck with him this year despite his miserable season so far. Now with Sizemore gone, Raburn has been promoted to regular secondbaseman. Middle infield is a young player’s realm. I can’t see this move working out well.

Was Sizemore so poisonous to the team, that they couldn’t abide any further trials from him? Detroit has no second base prospects – no middle infielders at all among their top 10 prospects. They do have a couple all field / no hit shortstop prospects and just drafted a third. One is now playing in Toledo  - Cale Iorg – son of Garth. Iorg’s OPS is currently .621, Rhymes (in Toledo) is at .780. Detroit’s AA secondbaseman at Erie is Brandon Douglas with a .586 OPS, and their shortstop Audy Ciraco is hitting.640. Ciraco is the youngest of these four and he could already be 24 by the time you read this. So, for the foreseeable future, if Raburn doesn’t hack it, their only fall back plan is to go back to Rhymes or get help in the free agency market or through a trade. Due to the fact that secondbasemen peak earlier than most players, free agency seems like a waste of money – and they just traded away their young promising secondbaseman. Even if he wasn’t cut out for secondbase, they certainly could have used him at third as Oakland is now. Given how badly the Tigers need a young infielder of such potential, Sizemore must have been highly toxic for them to trade him so cheaply. Either that or the Tigers are ignorant of the modern sabermetric principal that a small sample of Major League data probably doesn’t mean as much as a large sample of minor league data. The fact that Detroit is playing so well since Sizemore was traded gives the Sizemore-was-toxic theory some added plausibility . . .  but that might be just a coincidence.

John Carter