The Tigers took care of business this weekend with a sweep over the Phillies. They did it in grand fashion with blowouts on both Saturday and Sunday. Since I got rid of my cable, I don’t get to watch the games too often but I was out yesterday and the Tigers just destroyed Raul Valdes. It was interesting seeing the Phillies pitching coach come out in the second inning and I’m sure he told Valdes he had to suck it up and pitch on whether he was getting hammered or not because they didn’t want to waste their pen. Toady is was mostly the Phillies pen that the Tigers knocked around.
With PED suspensions in the forefront, the Tigers have to figure out what they’re going to do at shortstop. Peralta looks like he’ll be serving some time which means the Tigers have a big hole to fill. Argenis Diaz is the guy playing shortstop in Toledo and he has an OPS of .679. So the question is, do the Tigers pull the trigger on a trade or roll with what they have. Or they could get a shortstop in the second trade deadline period. There’s a lot of Top Sports Betting Action going on but I doubt if management knows what do when they don’t know when a suspension is going to come down.
The Tigers other need is the bullpen. Unfortunately, they don’t have a ton of chips in the minors to nab one so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.
It’s been a while so now it as good a time as another to get all nostalgic about the All Star Game. Most of my memories of the game are from the 1980s and my favorite game is still 1987. The Tigers had some solid representation (Alan Trammell, Matt Nokes and Jack Morris) and there are also some other interesting names on the rosters. Namely Larry Parrish, who’s managed for the both the Tigers and their minor league affiliates. Larry Parrish got a hit in only at bat as a pinch hitter and his only All Star Game was in 1979 where didn’t get an plate appearance and only came into the game in the ninth as a defensive replacement (so he’s a lifetime 1.000 hitter in the All Star Game, blame the sample size). Matt Nokes went 0 for 2 in his only All Star Game that year and Tram was 0 for 1 as a pinch hitter. Jack Morris threw two shutout frames and he was the second pitcher in the game after Bret Saberhagen got the start. And the game was 2-0, thirteen inning nail biter.
Now, the All Star Game doesn’t have quite the appeal. Back then, I hardly got to see National League players. Heck, you hardly got to see anyone other than your home team where you got to see 40 or so games on the television. The leagues weren’t so watered down either and with inter league play, you have National League teams playing American League teams on a regular basis. Some years I’ve watched the game, other times I haven’t. This year I probably will catch at least some of it because I’ll be up north and won’t have the work distractions.
Now on to the Tigers. Most of my conversations in the spring went like this. i thought the Tigers should run away with their mediocre division and probably won’t. I also thought the pen was going to be a problem and I’ve also gone out on a limb by saying we won’t win a World Series with Jim Leyland as the manager. This team is the Jekyl and Hyde that we’ve had the previous two seasons. They’ll look like world beaters and the best team in the league for a week or two then they won’t be able to beat even the standing’s bottom feeders for a stretch of time. So in short, the same old frustrating Tigers.
The emergence of Max Scherzer has been nice. Taking away the 13-0 record which is more of a novelty (like Jose Valverde’s 49 for 49 saves two years ago), Scherzer is tenth in baseball in WAR with 3.9. Chris Sale leads the AL oddly despite his 6-8 record but he’s not even a full win behind Scherzer. Only Yu Darvish has more strikeouts in the American League and he might top Justin Verlander for the first time since joining the team. More importantly, he’s pitching almost seven innings a game. Durability has always been a problem and he’s still never had a 200 inning season in the regular season. That should change this year if all things hold.
And the offense is the same as in years past. We have some studs (Miguel Cabrera) but the bottom of the order has some holes. The Omar Infante injury hurt and we also may have to deal with a Jhonny Peralta suspension. Keeping things together in the second half could be interesting.
I don’t do much gambling but I was bouncing around the Sports Geek Website and there’s some interesting content over there. If you want some winning betting picks, it looks like a solid site to check out. There’s even the sports geek youtube page.
What an interesting few years for Jose Valverde. In 2011, he has his “perfect” season. Then last year he was good but had a late season melt down and didn’t get the job done in some high profile games. Then the Tigers gave up on him until he was still available as a minor league signee and now he’s back as the team’s closer.
I know this is 2013 but I still think the “closer” is stupid. Why you’d want to advertise to a team when and how you’ll be using a particular player seems foolish but it’s something most managers buy into these days with Jim Leyland included. I didn’t like how he handled Valverde during the melt down and now to just throw him in there again seems a little desperate. I think Valverde can be a decent reliever but only if he got his velocity back. He pitched well down in Lakeland but that’s, well, Lakeland.
And it’s not even like the pen has been the problem lately but in this one inning at a time day and age, a guy like Drew Smyly can shine in a blow out loss then get buried back into the pen until another starter has a melt down.
With that, I hope Valverde does well. I’m not totally optimistic but I’m interested in seeing him pitch. I’ll also be interested to see over at www.topbettingreviews.com if the Tigers odds of winning go up or down after this weekends tough sweep at the hands of the Angels.
My tax season hangover is about over and as usual, I had the Tigers to keep me company through some of my work. After dropping that first series to the Twins, the Tigers have looked pretty sharp and sit in sole possession of first place in the Central. Everything seems to be working except for the pen, and this shows in the Tigers +24 run differential this year.
For a while, the Tigers were at the top in batting average but closer to the middle bottom in slugging but they’ve turned that around as well. Only the Athletics have scored more runs in the AL than the Tigers and they’re one of the teams we took care of earlier in the week.
Even the bullpen has gotten their stuff together. While the Tigers didn’t address much of what happened when they got beat down by the San Francisco Giants, this team is made for the regular season. Good starting pitching and some mashing at the top of the lineup means this team should, as people expect, run away with the division.
One of the guys I was worried about was Torii Hunter. He could still come back down to earth (his BABIP is currently .481) but whatever he was doing last year to get hits is also working this year. Throw in some slightly better than average defense and you have quite an upgrade over Delmon Young from last year.
As I thought, I’m going to miss the Kentucky Derby again this year. So it stays on my bucket list for one more year. I don’t usually bet on the Kentucky Derby either but always enjoy watching it.
Next up for the Tigers are the Angels. Just one more day of late baseball because the other two games in the series are this afternoon. Hopefully this isn’t the time the Angels get their stuff together and we can get out of this west coast swing with three series wins.
Teams don’t usually make coaching moves at this time of year but that didn’t stop the Tigers from making an adjustment. Longtime Tiger Brandon Inge announced his retirement today after the Pittsburgh Pirates placed him on the disabled list to start the season because of the shoulder that put him down for a good part of the season last year. His new job will be as the Tigers hitting coach.
A polarizing figure for fans, it’ll be interesting to see what the fan reaction is to this news. Inge did have some decent seasons, hitting as many as 27 home runs twice, but his lifetime batting average of .234 and a lifetime OPS+ of 83 makes him interesting choice for this particular spot. Inge is also the Tigers all time leader in strikeouts with 1,189. He left the Tigers for the Athletics last year after the Tigers granted him free agency but now almost a year later he’s back with the team. I also hope he spends some time with Miguel Cabrera at third base because Inge was known more for his fielding than his hitting.
Inge will replace Lloyd Mclendon and while there has been no official announcement, my guess is he stays on with the Tigers in some capacity. He’s been with the Tigers since Jim Leyland joined the team and the hitting coach for the last seven seasons. He’s had his share of successes (namely Austin Jackson last year) but we’ve also seen some guys who have had a hard time turning the corner like Brennan Boesch. I think the move will come as a surprise just because it came out of nowhere.
The official start to the season is tomorrow with the Astros taking on the Rangers while most teams, including the Tigers, kick off on Monday or Tuesday. First up are the Twins who should finish last in the division. We’re also catching the Yankees at a good time with our Opening Day on Friday.
Rick Porcello forced his way into the rotation with a nice spring so Drew Smyly will start the season in the pen. I like working younger guys in the pen for the first couple of years of course whats funny is, Porcello is only six months younger than Smyly. I like the fact that we have some depth so I’m glad we didn’t trade Porcello and I’m hoping this is the season where he finally turns the corner.
So far, there’s been no official announcement on the team’s closer, but Bruce Rondon was sent to the Mud Hens. My thought is this won’t last and I still think he would have been better served pitching for the Tigers in a non-closer capacity (think Joel Zumaya) for the season. He’ll be with the Tigers soon enough unless something weird happens in Toledo in April.
The Tigers inked Justin Verlander to a nice extension. That’s a lot of money and long term for a pitcher but Verlander is one of the best. I think we get our money’s worth early on but after that, it’ll depend on how Verlander ages.
Taxes are my life right now and I’ll be bogged down for a couple of more weeks. I’m thinking of going down to Kentucky for some Minor League games over Memorial Day weekend so we will see if that pans. I’ve always wanted to get down there to check out the Kentucky Derby but just haven’t been able to make it work. I’ll have to check Derby betting odds before I put down any money on a horse.
Some quick predictions. Tigers win 94 and run away with the division. The Royals should finish second. The Tigers will not regret keeping Porcello because one of the Tigers 2-4 will miss some time and that pitching depth keeps them comfortably on top.
It’s a new year and a new season and while pitcher’s and catchers reported yesterday, the first real day of spring training is today. To kick things off, the Cleveland Indians made things interesting by signing Michael Bourn and while that’s a nice long term move for them, I don’t see he alone making a huge impact on the race.
This sounds a lot like my prediction from last year but the Tigers are, on paper, the best team in their division and they should win the American League Central by 15 games. They should have done the same thing last year and while they managed to make things interesting, they still made it all the way to the World Series. With that, the Tigers didn’t fix any of the weaknesses they showed when they were man handled by the Giants in the World Series. Namely coaching (we still have the sames ones) and our bullpen (which could be really good, but a lot of things have to happen).
The big story this spring (hopefully because if it changes it means someone got hurt) will be who is the closer. Bruce Rondon looks like he has the leg up because of his minor league pedigree but he comes with some risk because of his high walk rate. The 100 mph fast ball is nice, but if he’s walking the leadoff man to start a lot of games, it’s going to make those saves tougher to come by. He also had his struggles this winter in Venezuela especially against lefties.
My choice for close is Rick Porcello if they’re not going to use him in a long relief role (a nearly non-existent thing these days, i.e. a reliever who throws more than one inning). He keeps the ball down, doesn’t give up a lot of walks or home runs and he’s pretty good the first time through the lineup. Let Rondon pitch earlier in the game when we need a punch out, let’s not waster him with nobody one and nobody out in the ninth inning.
College basketball is heating up. For those of you who remember, I’m an MSU grade and I’m hoping the Spartans take care of business tonight against UM. I don’t usually bet on March Madness but I like MSU’s NCAA tournament odds. They’re probably just as good as any other team in what’s shaping up to be a weird season.
Spring training is less then a month away and unless the Tigers do something unexpected, what you see is what you get. After making it to the World Series last year, expectations are high. Most of the pieces from last years team are coming back as well as a couple of newer additions.
The rotation is set. There’s been a lot of chatter about trading Rick Porcello but I’m hoping they hold onto to him. In fact I think the Tigers should give him a shot as the teams closer. Even as a middle reliever, he provides some value because his numbers are better the first time through the lineup. The pen still worries me and that’s even if Rondon pans out.
The lineup is there and it can go in a few different directions. Best case is Victor Martinez comes back strong and Peralta and Avila bounce back. Fielder and Cabrera will be there and it’d be nice to see Austin Jackson follow up his breakout performance with a similar season.
While I’m not going to be putting a bet on Superbowl XLVII, I think the Patriots are going to win it. If I were going to make a Superbowl 2013 prop bets, I’d bet that the NFC team would win the coin flip.
It’s been a little over a week since the Tigers were swept by the Giants and now the talk is about what they’ll be doing next year. They’ve already said that Delmon Young, Jose Valverde and most likely Gerald Laird are gone and one of their pursuits is going to be locking up Anibal Sanchez. Since I didn’t write at all during the final months or the playoffs, here’s my condensed synopsis.
1) The Giants are a good team. While we shouldn’t have gotten swept, the opinion that the Tigers were heavy favorites shows how the little things can tip the balance of a series. The Tigers have some flaws and neither the Oakland Athletics or the New York Yankees exposed those flaws. The Giants did. While the Giants were running down balls hit into the outfield gaps, Delmon Young was throwing the ball into the ground. While the Giants were taking pitches and waiting for something good to hit, the Tigers were flailing away. And the Giants have a really good rotation as well. The Tigers pitched well but the difference seemed to be that approach at the plate.
2) Imagine taking a week off of work and then the day you get back you lounge around all day. Your boss asks you WTF and you say that you had too long of a lay off and you’re just not feeling it. Rest is a good thing. Everyone got to nurse their wounds and we also got to reset our rotation. This whole “we were off for to long” is an excuse I’m not buying. These are professionals and baseball is their job. If you say “I had too long of a break” you probably shouldn’t be playing. With that, it’s more a creation of the announcers and then Leyland didn’t help things either.
3) Leyland is back for another year. While he drives me nuts, I don’t really see them hiring someone better so he’s fine for now. What worries me is the Tigers have this two year window where they’ll have Fielder/Cabrera/Martinez and with Max Scherzer becoming a free agent, the Tigers best chance to win may be next year or the year after. Having Leyland at the helm doesn’t make things any easier.
4) The Tigers need help in this order. Bullpen and then outfield. I could live with a shuffling of Avisail Garcia, Brennan Bosch, Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks but that’s a lot of roster spots to be tied up on outfielders. The problem is that none of those four have shown yet they can get it done as an everyday guy. The bullpen we just need some arms. While they should go out and get a couple of decent set up men and just forget the closer thing, it’s not going to happen so I just hope they don’t overpay too much.
Now it’s time to take a peek at the Lions. I was over at SportsBettingWorld.com and I couldn’t find the Lions 2013 Super Bowl odds but at this point, they’ve probably fallen quite a bit since the start of the season. At least they’re playing better now.
Alright, I know it had been a while, but it’s been almost two months since I posted. And I know my writing has been light the past couple of years but both a change in my focus (from baseball blogging to my Michigan CPA practice), my personal situation (I’m now a single father) and the fact that I lost my last big advertiser on this site means the writing is going to be pretty sporadic. I’m not going to go as far as saying I’m retiring, but just don’t expect weekly content much less daily content. So keep me in your feed and you’ll probably see my pop up on occasion if I have something to say.
And how about those Tigers. Red hot one minute and now they’ve cooled back down. I liked the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante deal (although I liked it even more before Sanchez gave up five runs on Saturday) so hopefully we get back on track. This is definitely the most frustrating Tigers team I’ve ever seen and I have a feeling we’ll be saying that through the end of the season (which is hopefully in late October).
Aaron Gleeman, who was one of the select few who was writing when I got started celebrated his tenth anniversary writing on his blog today. He’s one of the pioneers and is a good study on how you can get to where you want to be in an atypical way (at least at the time). Hard work pays off and Aaron is a perfect example of that.
Also, I know this has nothing to do with baseball, but a friend of mine, Rachael Adams, made it to the semi-finals in Maxim’s Hometown Hotties contest. If you could click through and vote for her (you can vote every day), I’d appreciate it.
Baseball is as American as apple pie, old ladies playing bingo at fundraisers, and pick-up trucks and, like America, it has had it’s fair share of scandals over the years. Gambling scandals have plagued the sport since it’s inception but more recently steroid and substance abuse allegations have rocked national headlines.
The Louisville Grays Scandal of 1877 was one of the earliest controversies to effect Major League Baseball. The Grays were in first place at the beginning of the season that year but then started losing game after game, eventually losing 12 out of their 20 games. Their inexplicable losing streak arose the suspicion of league president William Hulbert who had the team investigated. The investigation showed that players Jim Devlin, George Hall, Al Nichols, and Bill Carver had agreed to throw games in exchange for money from gamblers. The four players were subsequently banned from the sport and the Grays never played again once news of the scandal surfaced.
The Black Sox Scandal is probably the most famous scandal in the history of baseball. In the 1919 World Series The Chicago White Sox faced off against the Cincinnati Reds and lost. The White Sox gave an exceptionally poor performance and were immediately suspected of throwing the game. In 1920 eight players, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were brought up on criminal charges. Though the players were acquitted they were banned from organized baseball for life.
1919 was a year of controversy for the MLB. Center Fielder Benny Kauf led the Federal League in batting for two seasons and then moved on to play for the New York Giants in 1916. Three years later, in December, 1919, Kauf was charged for operating a car-theft ring. Kauf case was heard in 1921 and was acquitted of all charges. Despite being acquitted he was banned from the MLB by commissioner Kenesaw who believed that Kauf’s acquittal was “one of the worst miscarriages of justice ever to come to my attention.”
In the 1980’s you the Pittsburgh drug trials and the Pete Rose gambling scandal. Pete Rose, manager of the Cincinnati Reds and baseball’s all-time hits leader, was accused of betting on Major League games while he was the manager. Rose, facing harsh punishment and damning evidence, agreed to a voluntary lifetime band from baseball. Since 1989 Rose has tried to be reinstated twice but was turned down both times.
The Pittsburgh drug trials made national headlines in September of 1985. Several players for the Pittsburgh Pirates, including Dave Parker, Lee Lacy, Lonnie Smith, were summoned before a Pittsburgh grand jury to testify about drug abuse. Tales of prominent baseball playings purchasing and consuming a variety of drugs, such as amphetamines and cocaine, during games shocked the jury. Even the team’s mascot was implicated and accused of selling drugs and introducing players to drug dealers. In the aftermath of the trials seven drug dealers pleaded guilty to a variety of charges while several players were suspended from playing for varying lengths of time by baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth.
Substance abuse among professional baseball players once again made headlines in the mid to late 2000’s. The controversy was a result of a book (written by former MLB outfielder and designated hitter Jose Canseco) called Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big. In the book Canseco claimed that a vast majority of MLB players used steroids to enhance their perormance.
Rafael Palmeiro was one of the players Canseco called out in his book and appeared before congress in March 2005 where he, and several over of the sport’s top players, testified about substance abuse. It was during the trial that Palmeiro uttered the famous words, “Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.” Despite his ardent denial of steroid abuse Palmeiro tested positive the steroid stanozolol just five months later and was thus suspended for ten days.
Most professional baseball players have never thrown a game in order to get some extra cash or used steroids to give them an edge over the competition. However, when the ones that engage in these illicit activities get caught the image of baseball itself gets tainted.
Thank you interleague play. The Tigers won another series and it was their first since they swept the Twins and it’s just their second series win since they took two of three against the Pirates in mid-May. Sunday’s win was particularly fun because not only did they come back from a nice sized deficit, but they did it against the nearly unhittable Aroldis Chapman. Now the Tigers have three games against one of the worst teams in baseball, the Chicago Cubs. Let’s do a glass half full piece and look at some of the positives.
Austin Jackson is back. He was one of the starts on Sunday and he still has the team’s best OPS with .955. Also on offense, Miguel Carbera and Prince Fielder are having good (but unfortunately not great) seasons. If one or two other guys get their stuff together, this offense can really start humming. Even with all of their struggles this year, they’re sixth in the American League in runs scored (263) and fifth in OPS (.742).
On the pitching side, Verlander has been Verlander. His walk rate is up a little as has his hit rate but his home run rate is down. Ignore the 5-4 record because that’s pointless but he’s a couple of good starts from being right where he was at last year. After that is where I get worried. Doug Fister is on the shelf again and everyone else has been erratic. Casey Crosby has struggled and while I think he’ll be a good back of the rotation pitcher, he just doesn’t look ready yet. Even more important has been Jacob Turner’s struggles for the Hens. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see Thad Weber up soon. He’s not a blue chip, but he’s been the best of the rotation farm hands with Toledo this year.
Tonight it’ll be Max Scherzer against Paul Maholm. Sherzer was roughed up in his last start against the Indians but prior to that, he had three decent starts in a row. Maholm hasn’t had a good season but he’s been very good against Prince Fielder. Prince is just six for 48 with no extra base hits in his career against Maholm. He’s given up nine home runs in 60 innings though so I expect a home run or two today.
The Tigers are now a couple of innings into the first game of their ten game road trip and this one has some importance because it’s against the first place Indians. The Tigers took two of three against the Pirates over the weekend and that’s quieted some people down. I also have a lot of people asking me what the deal is with the Tigers. Here’s what I tell them.
The Indians aren’t that good. The Tigers aren’t as bad as they’ve been playing. This rough start just means that the Tigers are going to win the division by ten games instead of fifteen. Since we’ve beat the Tigers up a lot of late, let’s look at some of what they’ve done well.
The Tigers pitching staff is first in strikeouts, third (best) in walks and yet they’re tenth in runs allowed. If those first two rankings stand, that last ranking is going to come down. It just about has too. You can probably credit some of that to the defense but even if the Tigers can pop into the top half in the league in runs allowed, it should put them into positive territory in run differential.
While Cabrera hasn’t gotten going at the plate yet (his .850 OPS would be his worst since his rookie year), his defensive cost hasn’t been too bad. Of course this is just one defensive metric but if you look at baseball-reference.com’s defensive WAR, he’s at -.4. If he keeps that pace, he’ll be at -1.6. Last year at first base, he was -1.3 so his cost is only marginally more what he cost them at first base last year anyway. Now if the new position is somehow costing the team at the plate, that could be another story but I’m not quite sure how we can quantify that.
While some of the Tigers farmhands are off to mediocre starts and Jacob Turner had a subpar outing his last time out, Thad Weber has been a nice surprise. He has 35 strikeouts and 6 walks in 39 innings. You don’t like the four home runs but he has a nice ground ball percentage and just a .196 batting average against. Right handers are only hitting .164 against them.
The Indians put another run on the board so it’s 3-2 Tigers at the end of the third. Hopefully Rick Porcello can get through this one.
Drew Smyly made his seventh start of the season and for the sixth time this season he didn’t get a decision. He still sits at 1-0 and he has yet to “lose” his first major league start. A more telling look is the fact that the Tigers are 4-3 in his starts but in two of those losses, the opposition scored two runs or less (in the game, not just against Smyly. Still, last night’s go against the White Sox was his first yet and it breaks his streak of starts where he went at least six innings (in his case, exactly six innings) and gave up two runs or less. He also has the distinction of being the first left hander to give up a home run to Adam Dunn since 2010.
I’ve harped about the Tigers lack of depth so here it is one more time. Luke Putkonen could turn out to be a servicable major league pitcher but right now, he needs to be in the minor leagues. The fact that he’s with the team just goes to show how thin we are. Of course this could be a segue into how most major league managers don’t use the bullpen correctly and if they did, they wouldn’t have to carry so many pitchers but we’ll save that one for another day. Putkonen has pitched four times and in three of those, he’s given up runs. This is also completely unrelated, but he’s only pitched in losses and two of those times he picked up the “L.”
And then we get to Duane Below who has been better then I expected. For a soft thrower, he struck out four yesterday and that was only in two innings. The guys who don’t bring the heat tend to get exposed eventually so hopefully Below can adapt as the season goes on. So far, he’s been one of the few bright spots in the pen.
Today’s game is at 2:10 and it’ll be Max Scherzer against Jake Peavy. Peavy has been one of the hotter pitchers of this short season so this could be a good one. If we lose, we’ll fall behind the White Sox into third place so hopefully they can get it done.
The Tigers salvaged a split of their four game series with the Athletics yesterday and they need a nice start by Justin Verlander and an Inge-less Athletics lineup to do it. He threw seven solid frames and came out after that because a callous on his throwing hand broke. Still, he needed just 104 pitches to get through seven innings to pick up win number four. From there, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde pitched a solid inning each to close out the game. Benoit gave up a walk but that’s now two straight for Valverde where he hasn’t allowed a baserunner.
Of course it’s the offense that’s still been frustrating. I talked about this in the preseason but the guys I were most worried about were Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta and how it’d be unrealistic for them to repeat their 2011 seasons. I didn’t think they’d struggle this much though and once you get past Prince Fielder in the lineup, it thins out considerably. Fortunately Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks have picked up some of the slack but at some point you’d expect them to come back down to earth as well.
On Austin Jackson, his splits are just bizarre. He’s hitting .382 against right handed pitching but only .179 against left handed pitching. As a right hander, you’d think this trend would eventually end. Then again, six of his eight home runs have come against lefties and that’s in only 86 plate appearances versus two against right handers in 180 plate appearances. He’s also getting a lot of production in that first at bat of the game where he’s hitting .423/.483/.769 and four of his eight home runs have come in that leadoff at bat. Two more of his home runs have come when he’s led off in the inning other then the first.
It’s Drew Smyly against John Danks tonight. The Tigers are now within breathing distance of slipping back into first place and these division games are pretty important considering the team’s slow start.
Despite not having his best start, Justin Verlander helped push the Tigers back onto the winning side of the record with a 6-4 win over the Mariners. He had the one rough inning in the third where he gave up three but other then that, he looked pretty solid. His usual velocity was there even in his final inning (his last pitch was 97 mph) but what’s worrisome if how he’s piling up the pitch count and only pushing into the sixth inning.
Jose Valverde scared us all again by walking the bases loaded but he got Jesus Montero to foul out to end the game. Joaquin Benoit had a solid outing and he just needed twelve pitches to get through the eighth inning and Phil Coke gave up a run but the good thing is, the flood gates didn’t open and the Tigers were able to hold on for the win.
Andy Dirks continues to shine and he drove in three runs. Prince Fielder has also begun to heat up and he belted his fifth home run. Interesting note on Fielder is that all five of his home runs have come with nobody on even though he’s been a better “hitter” with men on base. He’s hitting .286 with nobody on but .364 with men on base so you wonder if he’s looking more for the single and driving in the run then swinging for the fences if there’s ducks on the pond.
The Indians lost so the Tigers are now two games back of first place. Tonight it’ll be Drew Smyly against Jason Vargas in the rubber game. Smyly has a pretty good chance of having another great outing with the poor Mariners offense and he’s throwing in the pitcher friendly Safeco Field. It’s another late game.
Doug Fister made his return to the Tigers rotation yesterday and you have to be happy with the results. He was able to keep his pitch count down and threw seven shutout innings while needing just 73 pitches. He didn’t walk anyone and he struck out three. Keep in mind this was against a weak Mariners offense but it was a nice season re-debut. As usual, we saw a lot of two seamers and Fister was consistently in the high-80s and low-90s. He’ll pitch again on Sunday against the Athletics so we’ll see if he can keep this up.
Then we get to the pen. Phil Coke (nice start to the season) threw a shutout frame and then Octavio Dotel came in to pitch the ninth. He walked the first two guys after giving up just two weeks all season before that. A wild pitch and a passed ball gave the Mariners one run then a double tied the game up. Dotel was pulled and while Duane Below kept his ERA at 0.00, the winning run scored on him when John Jaso hit a sac. fly.
While the whole win/loss record is a bad indicator of just about anything, it’s kind of telling that the starters are 7-9 and the pen is 7-5. Twelve no-decisions by the starters seems like a lot and to put it into perspective, there were 43 no decisions by starters last year. This year, we’re on pace to top that by the end of July. It means one of two things. The Tigers are playing a lot of close games and that the pen is struggling. This year, the pen has a 4.25 ERA and it’s actually higher then the rotation’s 3.81.
The Indians swept their doubleheader so the Tigers sit three games back of first. I’m still not worried, but that doesn’t mean this team doesn’t frustrate the heck out of me. Tonight Justin Verlander is on the mound though so hopefully he can put a stop to this.
We’re one day removed from the end of the first month of baseball season and the Tigers sit at 11-11. Considering they’ve dropped eight of their last ten, that start is a little disappointing. We all knew this team had it’s share of holes but I didn’t think they’d be exposed this quickly. That doesn’t mean we should be panicking because the Tigers are still just a game back of first place. The baseball season is a marathon and let’s hope some of these early moves that we’re questioning now seem to make sense in the second half of the season.
When the Tigers traded Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, I was very happy to get Max Scherzer in return. Of course since then his time with the Tigers has been, well, erratic. At times he’s looked like Justin Verlander and at other times he’s looked like, well, not nearly as good as Justin. He’ll turn 28 in July and by now, I would have expected him to have turned the corner to stardom but instead, he’s taken several steps back. His strikeout rate is still there but his walk rate is also up and he’s been very hittable. You’d expect his .453 batting average on balls in play to come down but that still wouldn’t push Scherzer into even the “good” column. His velocity still seems to be there because he was consistently in the mid-90s so you hope he rights the ship soon.
By now everyone has heard of Delmon Young’s transgressions and for now, he’s on the restricted list. I haven’t heard too much of the details on what happened other then that there were racial slurs involved and he was extremely intoxicated. For now I’ll hold off on any judgement until the facts are straight but for now, the Tigers have replaced him with Brad Eldred who was lighting up Toledo. Eldred has spent a lot of time in the minors and has little success in the majors. After tripling in his first at bat, he’s gone one for twelve with five strikeouts since.
Brandon Inge is now an Athletic and we’ll see him in about a week and a half when the Tigers go out for a west coast swing. I’ve always been a fan of Inge’s but he has become a distraction and of course, it’s been a while since he’s hit the ball well. As it stands, he’s the Tigers all time leader in strikeouts and up until recently, he had hit more home runs in Comerica Park then anyone else (Miguel Cabrera is now the leader). I hope he finishes out his career in a good way (other then when he plays us).
This is another big series because, like the Mariners last week, the Tigers have a good chance to run the table. Wednesdays pitching matchup is particularly favorable with Verlander going up against Luis Mendoza. If I were into sports betting, I’d be putting my money on the Tigers in that one.
Tonight, Duane Below makes his first start of the season. We’ll see if we can get this one in with all of the rain we’ve gotten.
The Tigers had the day off and they’re coming off a tough series against the Rangers. 10-6 isn’t bad, and the Tigers are tied for first place but it could be better and hopefully Max Scherzer rights his own ship tonight. Rather then doing a “two weeks and a half in review” let’s just look at some randomness.
First off, Austin Jackson leads the team in OPS (.882) out of the staters. Better then both Prince Fielder and Miguel Carbera so far, Jackson leads the team with nine walks and he has four doubles, a triple and a home run. He also leads the team with 17 strikeouts and he’s the only Tiger to have a sacrifice hit.
Seven of Jhonny Peralta’s fourteen hits have been doubles. He’s on pace for 70 doubles and no home runs. I wonder if that’ll stick.
Ryan Raburn has a .271 OPS with a .098 slugging percentage. I think he’s taking this whole “bad first half” thing a little too far.
Drew Smyly has a higher WHIP (1.375) then his ERA (1.13). His only two earned runs have come on solo home runs.
After a 3-0 count, the Tigers have 18 walks in 30 plate appearances but no hits.
Against number nine hitters, Tigers pitchers have an OPS against of .436. Against number eight hitters they have an OPS against of 1.040.
Alex Avila has just as many errors (2) as Miguel Cabrera.
In 16 games, the Tigers have used eleven different batting orders.
Last week, Tiger Stadium would have turned 100 years old. In a great column, Chris Jaffe runs through what he considers the 10 greatest games played at Tiger Stadium. My favorite on the list was the 1987 Blue Jays series. Good stuff as always out of Chris and if you want more from him, be sure to check out his run down of Ivan Rodriguez’s career as he’s retiring today.