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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Elbow surgery will sideline Tigers’ Michael Fulmer for rest of the 2017 season

Ulnar nerve transposition surgery means doctors will move a nerve to a spot in Fulmer’s elbow were it is less likely to be irritated. Fulmer has had issues with numbness and tingling in his fingers on and off all season. There is no structural damage in the elbow.

The 3-4 month recovery indicates Fulmer will be ready for spring, though with the Tigers rebuilding, it stands to reason they will be cautious with their prized young arm. The surgery and recovery will undoubtedly change his offseason workout routine to come degree, so Detroit could take is slow with Fulmer in camp and early in the regular season.

Related:
Tigers’ Victor Martinez, Michael Fulmer have successful surgeries

Fulmer tweeted after returning to his hotel: “Thank you to everybody for the well wishes. Surgery went well and I’m looking forward to spring training coming back better than ever. 100 percent.”

LA Podcasting Hombre of Anaheim Posted: September 14, 2017 at 01:48 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: elbow surgery, injury, michael fulmer, tigers

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   1. You're a clown, RMc! I'm tired of it! Posted: September 14, 2017 at 08:10 AM (#5531336)
Do the Tigers even have any players left? Are Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich going to suit up?
   2. Lassus Posted: September 14, 2017 at 09:16 AM (#5531383)
You can take the pitcher away from the Mets, but apparently...
   3. Dingbat_Charlie Posted: September 14, 2017 at 09:35 AM (#5531399)
Is this an inverted W?
   4. Brian Posted: September 14, 2017 at 01:13 PM (#5531588)
That's going to impact his plumbers apprentice gig this Winter.
   5. Covfefe Posted: September 14, 2017 at 01:32 PM (#5531596)
I'd say at least they have Miggy but well... it's more like Ugh, we've still got Miggy (and his contract).

If it turns out that this year was indeed the new normal - whether due to the back or whatever - for Cabrera, the Tigers pretty much have to be the current title holders for Most Screwed for the Near Future franchise, don't they?

Unless they move Fullmer, it seems like they've already dealt out anyone that might bring some kind of return... the rest looks like a collection of not interested and/or So You're Looking for Salary Relief.

   6. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 14, 2017 at 01:55 PM (#5531620)

Good luck to him - I hope he comes back healthy next season.

I'd say at least they have Miggy but well... it's more like Ugh, we've still got Miggy (and his contract).

That 8-year extension for Miggy before the '14 season is not looking too good right now, is it? They basically got one additional good year out of him in 2016 that they wouldn't have gotten without the extension, and one below replacement level year in 2017, and who-knows-what going forward? Meanwhile, if they had just let him play out his contract they almost certainly could have signed him for less than $242m/8 years after his "down year" in 2015 (where he led the league in AVG and OBP but missed 40 games and only hit 18 HR).
   7. Cooper Nielson Posted: September 14, 2017 at 02:03 PM (#5531629)
If it turns out that this year was indeed the new normal - whether due to the back or whatever - for Cabrera, the Tigers pretty much have to be the current title holders for Most Screwed for the Near Future franchise, don't they?

Unless they move Fullmer, it seems like they've already dealt out anyone that might bring some kind of return... the rest looks like a collection of not interested and/or So You're Looking for Salary Relief.


I don't think it's SO bad. (Note: I'm a Tiger fan.) I think they've got 5 guys in MLB.com's latest Top 100 Prospects list, they've got a handful of major-league-adequate types who aren't too expensive or too old in McCann, Castellanos, and Iglesias (maybe Mahtook), they've got Fulmer and a decent closer in Shane Greene, and by 2019 they should have a lot of payroll flexibility. 2018 might be painful, but I think they could potentially rebuild to at least a wild card contender by 2019 or 2020.
   8. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 14, 2017 at 02:04 PM (#5531631)
Is anyone else getting the sense that we might be fairly close to a course correction in the market for (older) superstar free agents? It's abundantly clear that long-term deals for these players virtually always turn out to be disasters no matter how good the player is when he signs, with Pujols and likely Cabrera being just the latest examples (and Stanton probably next up). The prevailing attitude has been that teams just have to take the hit on the back end of the deal to enjoy the productive years on the front, or else they would never be able to sign superstars, but we have to be getting close to a point where no team is willing to take on that level of risk. I mean, it's not even really "risk" - it's a virtual certainty of a negative outcome.

I mean, yes, all it takes is one team to make the offer, but sooner or later I have to think that a player who demands to make $35 million a year through his age 39 season is going to hear a unanimous "no."
   9. DanG Posted: September 14, 2017 at 02:40 PM (#5531666)
Hindsight is 20-20, I know. But don't we have to question the Tigers' handling of their 24-year-old budding ace?

Fulmer's career high in IP is 174.1, in 2016 (majors + minors). They seemed determined to blow past 200 IP in 2017, even after they had raised the white flag on this season.

In April and May, Fulmer picked right up where he left off in 2016, with a 2.65 ERA and an average Game Score of 60 in 10 GS. In June and July he wasn't the same, a 4.48 ERA and ave Game Score of 51. He even skipped a start in June.

In early August, Fulmer went on the DL when his elbow issues flared up. At this point the team is sinking, selling off guys, going nowhere. If you're going to bring back Fulmer this season you give him an extra day of rest, you keep him under 90 pitches, stuff like that, right? Wrong.

When Fulmer returns the Tigers are 11 games under .500, 7 games out of the wild card. He goes 5 innings, 75 pitches in his return appearance, a poor outing (5 ER, 10 base runners). They bring him right back in five days, no extra rest, and he throws 105 pitches to a strong team (Dodgers) as Detroit is getting shut out. Why?

They bring him right back in five days, no extra rest, and he throws 109 pitches to a strong team (Yankees). Why? He gets no decision, being pulled after walking the first two batters in the 7th.

They bring him right back in five days, no extra rest, and he throws 109 pitches in Coors Field. Why? That's it, done for the season, set a date with the surgeon.

Why take the chance? What was the point of putting this unnecessary stress on Fulmer's young arm? Can anyone explain this to me?
   10. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 14, 2017 at 02:43 PM (#5531669)
Why take the chance? What was the point of putting this unnecessary stress on Fulmer's young arm? Can anyone explain this to me?

100-110 pitches every fifth day is not "unnecessary strain". Teams have vastly reduced workloads, and pitchers still get hurt all the freaking time. There's no evidence that babying has helped, and there's certainly no evidence further babying would help.

Heck, if they had babied him to get him through 2017, and then the injury appears in spring training, they'd be in much worse shape.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: September 14, 2017 at 07:34 PM (#5532006)
Of course it's "unnecessary" strain -- the Tigers were out of it, they gained nothing out of the extra 10-20 pitches, especially once Sept rolls around and you've got a maxed bullpen. The point that we have no idea if that would have changed anything for the better is fine but it's obvious this was unnecessary. Bringing him back at all was unnecessary.

I understand that pitch limits around 100 are some mix of sensible caution, 100-MPH 1-inning relievers and mass hysteria, but when a team goes against that grain with a young pitcher returning from injury -- the onus is on the team to explain itself, especially when that team is out of it. (Not that the Tigers owe us anything of course.)

On the broader Tigers question ... even assuming Miggy is basically done, they're really only screwed for 2018. Then they've still got two more years of Zimmermann and some cash left on Verlander and Fielder but enough money to run a competitive payroll, especially if any of the prospects click. As those players hit arb, Zimmermann comes off the books. Obviously having a $32 M dead weight is not good but it's not crippling unless the Tigers decide to go the low payroll route.

The last time the Tigers were in this spot was around 2000 -- aging, expensive payroll, no kids ready yet. And they suffered badly with 55 and a near-historic 43 wins. They decided they couldn't live with that and spent some money on average players to get themselves into the 70s, then went full out and made the WS in 2006. The only "important" players shared between the 43-win team and the WS-team three years later were Inge, Craig Monroe, Infante and Bonderman. Things can turn around fast, that was 53 wins in 3 years and very little of it had to do with prospects although Verlander was the reward for those 43 wins.**

The other super-long contract is Cano which takes him through age 40. He's had a down year as well at 3.3 WAR, 116 OPS+. That there's a problem with contracts like this, it's that they go so deep in age terms -- it is very rare for anybody to be useful at 38-40 and 10 years for Cano (or Miggy through age 40, Pujols through 42) is nearly guaranteed to be pretty much a straight deferred payment. On the other hand, Cano has already given Seattle 20 WAR. That total would have been higher if not for his disappointing 2015 (followed by an outstanding 2016). That was the unexpected bit and he might well be sitting on 23 WAR in that alternate universe. Still, he remains a good player and should project for at least another 5 WAR. That would mean the contract was 25 WAR for $240 M which is perfectly acceptable.

Those are in contrast to the Stanton contract which is very long and probably runs at least one year longer than it needed to but still it only takes him through age 37. If he takes a step down at ages 33-34 to "solid" as Pujols/Cano did, then that's not really an issue. Even if he goes into full collapse at 34 as Miggy may have, that's 4 dead years, not 7 as it might be for Miggy.

Again, deferred payments work in the team's favor. I did a lot of work (by my standards!) on Cano's value going forward back in the day and I had him pegged as have a very, very good shot at 20 WAR, a good shot at 25 and an outside chance at 30 ... but with probably about 18-20 of that coming in his first 3 years. Year 2 went a bit off the rails but we're still at 20 WAR through 4 years which is a bit short of my guesstimate but close. Anyway, the point is that if you want those 20 WAR but only want a 4-year contract then you are going to have to pay Cano about $40 to maybe even $50 M per year. It's clear that no team wants to do that and they would much prefer to sign a player like that for 8/$200. (Note, that still means that 10/$240 for Cano may have been a couple of years too long.)

Obviously any number of things could happen to bring a "correction" to the market but the main thing that needs to happen is for $/WAR to collapse. The last extra-wonky estimate I saw by some statnerd (probably at fg) suggested it's already closer to $10/WAR on the FA market. Or maybe we should take that as the estimate for "really good" players. MLB inflation does have to slow down at some point -- or the entire global economy in 50 years or so will be nothing but healthcare, baseball and soccer -- but it's not clear when. Probably the biggest threat to baseball revenue is the collapsing cable TV market, what happens to the billion dollar contract when the cable company goes bankrupt and how much will corporations/subscribers pay for "local" streaming rights.

** Which is not to deny that the 2006 Tigers wouldn't have had a lot of filling in without those guys named earlier, Granderson (a 3rd round pick, good player in 2006) and some other guys who ere in the system in 2003. But 5 of the top 6 position player WARs were aged 29 or older (granted, one of those is Inge) and Kenny Rogers (41) and Nate Robertson (28) combined for 7 WAR and Todd Jones (38) was their not very effective closer.
   12. Wahoo Sam Posted: September 14, 2017 at 09:00 PM (#5532053)
I'd say at least they have Miggy but well... it's more like Ugh, we've still got Miggy (and his contract).


Saving these comments until 2018 when Cabrera is slugging 550 and competing for another batting title. While it's REAL easy to jump on some bandwagon and bury players in their mid-30s, Cabrera is not a typical athlete. Oh, and HE HAS PLAYED HURT ALL YEAR.
   13. madvillain Posted: September 14, 2017 at 09:04 PM (#5532056)
That would mean the contract was 25 WAR for $240 M which is perfectly acceptable.


I know it's correct given the inflation in MLB, but man, that's still shocking to read.
   14. madvillain Posted: September 14, 2017 at 09:06 PM (#5532057)
That would mean the contract was 25 WAR for $240 M which is perfectly acceptable.


I know it's correct given the inflation in MLB, but man, that's still shocking to read.

Oh, and HE HAS PLAYED HURT ALL YEAR.


Yea that's actually a bad thing because he's old and broken down and is only going to get older and more broken down. At this point Tigers fans are still at the anger phase in regards to Miggy. Don't worry, this time next year you'll probably be at acceptance. White Sox might pull up out of the cellar in the Central this weekend and let you have the 3rd pick, so you got that going for you.
   15. Covfefe Posted: September 14, 2017 at 10:14 PM (#5532131)
Actually, three more years on Zimmerman, Walt...

I have to admit - Zimmerman was the guy I wanted the Cubs to chase that offseason rather than Heyward.... hard to believe, but that would have worked out even more spectacularly worse. We might not have even gotten the needed game 7 rain delay pep talk.

Still, just because I'm the sort of degenerate gambler who thinks you just gotta keep doubling down - I wonder what sort of salary relief the Tigers would countenance just for purposes of ejecting JZ.

Would they eat 2/3 just for purposes of ridding him from the roster?

Don't get me wrong - I see zero silver linings or "well, he's just been unlucky" in Zimmerman... the K rate has cratered, the walks are up, the HRs are up, the velocity is down, and he's throwing BP... this would be strictly a sort of Step 1, step 2 ???, step 3 PROFIT! gamble -- but if the cost were basically a bag of balls and paying ~25 mil for 3 years of Zimmerman? I have to admit, I'm tempted (easy to be tempted when it's not your money, I guess). I think the Cubs have a window right now - they've still got a couple years where they can float more than just the Heyward albatross - where it might make for a gamble worth taking.

Of course, like I said - it looks like a shitty gamble because Zimmerman may legitimately be the worst SP in baseball... but man, he was soooo good just two year ago.
   16. Wahoo Sam Posted: September 14, 2017 at 11:41 PM (#5532194)
Yea that's actually a bad thing because he's old and broken down and is only going to get older and more broken down. At this point Tigers fans are still at the anger phase in regards to Miggy. Don't worry, this time next year you'll probably be at acceptance. White Sox might pull up out of the cellar in the Central this weekend and let you have the 3rd pick, so you got that going for you.


Condescending much?

I'm not angry. I'm prescient.
   17. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: September 14, 2017 at 11:46 PM (#5532198)
Condescending much?

I'm not angry. I'm prescient.

Well to be fair, not all of us think you have reached the anger stage of the 5 steps yet ;)
   18. Tim D Posted: September 15, 2017 at 12:29 AM (#5532218)
The first time this numbness/elbow issue came up I thought the Tigers should have shut Fulmer down. But no, they hadn't traded all their good players away yet so they weren't waving the white flag. But they did still stink and they should have stopped him. His workload has not been disproportionately heavy, just unnecessary. He's their only legitimate asset. The surgery did not involve the TJ ligament, but "only" repositioning the ulnar nerve. We'll never know if it could have been avoided, but there is no good excuse for running him out there in a lost season.

Miggy's fall has been so steep this year that I really have to think it is an injury. Pitchers are blowing him away with pitches he crushed 12 months ago. There is some indication they may eat VMarts last year (he may not be able to play in any event). That would open up DH. Miggy doesn't want to be a full time DH but I think if he did it for a couple of months and his back felt better he would get over his resistance. I really think that if he can stay a little healthier he will put up way better numbers than this year. Not that he will be anywhere near a bargain.

The Tigers will likely be very bad in 2018 and pretty bad in 2019. After that who knows, they could have turned over the whole roster. But next year, it's Machado, Presley, Mahtook, McCann, Castellanos (predictably awful in RF so far), Candelario, Miggy, Iglesias, i.e. not much. Kinsler will likely be gone. Jacoby Jones, whoopee. And the pitching will be worse than the offense, likely much worse.
   19. Cooper Nielson Posted: September 15, 2017 at 03:57 AM (#5532230)
The Tigers will likely be very bad in 2018 and pretty bad in 2019. After that who knows, they could have turned over the whole roster. But next year, it's Machado, Presley, Mahtook, McCann, Castellanos (predictably awful in RF so far), Candelario, Miggy, Iglesias, i.e. not much. Kinsler will likely be gone. Jacoby Jones, whoopee. And the pitching will be worse than the offense, likely much worse.

You're probably right, but I'm trying to stay optimistic, so I have this idea that maybe the pitching COULD be adequate as soon as next year:

1. Fulmer is healthy
2. Norris is healthy and pitches like he did the last two months of 2016. He's talented and has at least some track record of success. Just needs to show more durability (longer starts and more of them).
3. Zimmermann figures out some adjustment to cope with the new reality of being an old, has-been pitcher, and manages to be average-ish.
4. Boyd shows some improvement and also manages to reach average-ish.
5. One of the prospects emerges in spring training and nails down a job. Maybe Grayson Long.
6. The Tigers sign some kind of cheap veteran presence who can soak up 180 innings with an ERA below 5.00. An R.A. Dickey type.

I'm actually more concerned about the offense than the pitching. If Miggy doesn't come back strong, there's just not much there. Castellanos is an OK hitter with the chance to get better (career 103 OPS+ so far, and he's still only 25), Candelario might be decent, and I guess McCann could have one of those surprise catcher breakouts (like Todd Hundley 1996, Charles Johnson 2000), but there's no one really likely to be a "big bat."
   20. Crosseyed and Painless Posted: September 15, 2017 at 12:15 PM (#5532410)
They really can't convince Miggy to DH? Seems like paying VMart to go away and making Cabrera DH and Castellanos 1B is the obvious way to go.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: September 18, 2017 at 04:48 AM (#5533603)
I know it's correct given the inflation in MLB, but man, that's still shocking to read.

I did say "acceptable" not good. But yeah, even when he signed it, we were talking about $7-8 M/WAR and then you've got to factor in inflation after that. Without thinking about it too much, I'd still put genuine break-even at maybe 28-30 WAR. But in a world of Josh Hamiltons and Prince Fielders, $240 M for 25 WAR is not something to get worked up about.

Actually, three more years on Zimmerman, Walt...

I could have been clearer -- I was already writing off 2018 as hopeless and expensive for the Tigers. After that, it's "just" Miggy and 2 years of Zimmermann. Your idea on JZ is basically the Doug Fister sweepstakes -- he used to be a good pitcher, how bad can he be? It's also the Dan Haren sweepstakes...

On Miggy's potential to bounce back next year ... I just can't see it. He might bounce back to average 1B/DH type 115-120 OPS+ levels. (If it's injury, why would you expect an injured guy to bounce all the way back at 35? And what are the re-injury risks?)

I'm sympathetic to the idea that he's one of the truly great hitters and their bats don't age the same as others (the bodies are a different matter). And there's some truth in that as I showed way back when I was projecting Pujols' future ... which of course didn't turn out so well but them's the breaks. I showed that of the elite of the elite, Frank Thomas was about the worst outcome in terms of quality. That said, I remember I used a very high "elite of the elite" cut-off -- Miggy's career might not have quite qualified, I recall discussion as to whether ARod was a GREAT hitter (great player for sure) with me opining that he was more in the group where things were more hit and miss. Miggy does have those monster years though to suggest he had reached elite of elite.

But mainly that just means that at the end of last year, there was no way you could predict Miggy's 2017. But now we've got the disastrous 2017 and that raises questions about the future.

It's almost pointless to look for comps but it beats working. Integration era, ages 31-33, OPS+ >= 140, PA >= 1200

That's actually 60 players with Miggy at #21. He's behind Killer, Mantle, Thome, Edgar, Morgan, Kaline (!), Sheff, Rickey and DiMaggio ... he's ahead of (roughly same range), Aaron, ARod, Clemente, Manny, Edmonds, Phelps (there's a great comp! :-), Bagwell, Reggie Smith, Delgado and Jack Clark.

We'll take that as our comp group, a range of 151 to 166 OPS+ with Miggy at 158. That's 19 players and none of them are still playing. Rickey is obviously a crappy comp ... Morgan, DiM, Clemente, Smith aren't great ... and of course Phelps. That puts us down to 13 reasonable comps.

At age 34, there were a number of declines -- ARod down to 123, Kaline to 116, Morgan to 105, Phelps to 103 and Thome to 85 in his injury year.

If we look at the full bunch from 35-37, there is the promising example of Thome who bounced back to 143 in 1750 PA. Reggie Smith bounced back in terms of quality but had just 800 PA. Anyway ...

Aaron, Edgar, Manny, Clemente, Mantle and Thome all hung on very nicely with OPS+>=140
Kaline, DiMag, Sheff, and Killer were 129-138 but none averaged substantially more than 1500 PA
Bagwell, Delgado, Rickey, ARod, Edmonds, Clark and Morgan were 112-120 but none reached 1500 PA
and Pehlps.

So the "one true comp" of Thome worked out very well ... although that was "just" 11 WAR for those 3 years. The median OPS+ was 135; the median WAR was about 8; the median PAs were about 1435.

So I'm highly confident he'll be better than Ken Phelps from 35-37!

Don't get me wrong, Miggy has as good a chance to be the next Aaron/Edgar/Manny/Thome as any player not named Trout and there's absolutely no reason other than his terrible 2017 to think he'd turn out worse than Sheff (135 OPS+, 8.2 WAR) for 35-37. Bagwell is probably the worst outcome for somebody in Miggy's career class and that was 120 OPS+ and 8 WAR, derailed by his career-ending injury at 37.

So what the heck, not so bad -- call it a 1/3 chance of being Thome, 1/3 of being Sheff and 1/3 of being Bagwell with less defensive value (call it 6 WAR). Or maybe 1/4 chance of all of those and 1/4 chance he'll struggle to get over 1000 PAs over the next 3 years.

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