Archive for April, 2005

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Tigers Walk Away With First Win of the Season

April 18, 1935 Tigers 5, White Sox 4 (1-1)

Patience at the plate and some poor control by the White Sox pitching staff helped the Tigers earn their first win of the season. In all, the Tigers drew twelve walks, including the final one that walked home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.

Tommy Bridges had his share of trouble, but worked out of a few jams to win the game. He gave up four runs, twelve hits, and he walked six runs. Goose Goslin had his second big game in a row, going three for five, with a double and two runs.

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Detroit Tigers Drop Home Opener to White Sox

April 17, 1935 White Sox 7, Tigers 6 (0-1)

The defending American League champions dropped their home opener to the White Sox in a back and forth afair. The Sox jumped out to a four run lead in the fourth, but Schoolboy Rowe held on through the middle innings, allowing the Tigers to tie the game up in the sixth.

Rowe got hit hard in the top of the eighth and gave up three runs that put the White Sox in front for good. The Tigers bounced back with two in the bottom half of the inning, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

Goose Goslin had a big game for the home team. He went three for four with a homerun, and he crossed the plate twice. Schoolboy gave up ten hits and seven runs in the loss.

1935 Detroit Tigers Diary Preview – The 1934 Season

Tomorrow will being my most ambitous project on this blog. I’m going to take a stab at documenting the first season that the Tigers won the World Series. What’s somewhat ironic is when the great Tiger teams are thrown on the table, you always here of 1968 and 1984. Rarely do you hear of 1935. But the third team that usually gets put into that class is the 1934 Tigers.

At the time, the 1934 Tigers set the team record for wins in a season (101), this has since been tied (1961) and passed in both 1968 and 1984, but the mark for winning percentage still stands (.656) to this day.

It was Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane’s first season coaching the team, and he had about as good of a collection of talent as you can get. Four future Hall of Famers played for the Tigers that season, and you can make a strong case that Tommy Bridges should be a fifth. As a team, the Tigers hit .300 (and this included pitchers hitting) and had a team OPS+ of 114.

Hank Greenberg’s 63 doubles is still fourth on the all time list. Five players on the team were in the top 10 in the MVP voting, with the winner and runner up being Mickey Cochrane and Charlie Gehringer. Four starters had an OBP above .400, and Gerhinger’s .450 was second in the league. Five players scored 100 runs, and four drove in more then 100.

And their pitching was solid as well. Schoolboy Rowe and Tommy Bridges both won 20 games, and they finished second and third in strikeouts.

As a team, the Tigers 957 runs scored was more then a hundred more then the next closest team. They finished second in ERA (4.06), second in strikeouts (640), and allowed the fewest walks (488).

About the only negative you can throw at this team is they outperformed their Pythagorean Win/Loss by three wins. Oh, and they did quite pull it off in the World Series as they lost to the Cardinals in seven games. They’d have to wait until the following year to finally claim their ring (and they’d eventually get their revenge by topping the Cards in 1968).

So be sure to check back tomorrow (and throughout the season) as the Tigers make history and bring home their first World Series.

Bullpen Blowup

Maybe it’s something about Fridays. Ugueth Urbina, for the second straight Friday, gave up the lead and cost the Tigers a win. After a fairly mediocre start by Wil Ledezma, Urbina gave up a two run shot in the eighth. The Tigers now stand 0-4 in one run games, and despite a Pythogorean Win/Loss somewhere around .500, the team is now 3-7.

The Tigers team ERA is 5.00, which is pretty much unacceptable considering where they play. Urbina and Troy Percival are dragging this down the most as they stand at 8.10 and 9.00 respectively. You’d figure they’d have the lowest ERA on the team.

With two games left in Kansas City, the Tigers need to walk away with two wins. Jeremy Bonderman can hopefully continue what’s a pretty solid season (if you take away the first inning in his last start), and hopefully Mike Maroth can follow up his solid start with a win.

Magglio Ordonez on the DL and Leadoff Problems

When it rains, it pours. Magglio Ordonez hit the DL because of a hernia. Reports on the radio said he’d be out 4-6 weeks minimum, and that’s from the time he has his surgery. I’m not sure how that sickness he had turned into this, but it causes some major problems in the outfield. I guess we’ll have to wait until June to see Mags get his first hit.

This makes the decision to keep Bobby Higginson look even more sound. With Thames up, the Tigers still have four decent outfielders, and we don’t have to rush up a guy like Curtis Granderson. To replace Ordonez, the Tigers called up reliever Andrew Good. With the Tigers current pitching woes, Tram has had to resort to twelve arms a lot quicker then he probably would have hoped.

The series with the Twins was pretty pathetic. The Twins showed why they’re the three time defending AL Central champs, and why the Tigers aren’t quite in their class yet. And this makes the series this weekend at Kansas City that much more important. They need to take two of three or fall even further below .500.

AM1270’s Sports Inferno, with Terry Foster and Mike Valenti, had a lively discussion about the lack of a true lead off hitter. It was agreed that neither Brandon Inge or Omar Infante fit the bill, but I got back to work before I could hear their opinions on who should be the leadoff man.

In my opinion, Bobby Higginson, at least when he’s playing, would be a fine choice. He’s willing to take pitches and work the count. People will point to his .182 average, but you have to hope he’d break out of that slump eventually.

Another unlikely candidate would be Carlos Pena. While he strikes out quite a bit, his eye seems to have improved as he’s boasting a 6/9 strikeout to walk ratio. With the small sample size, he’s got an impressive .459 OBP. Unfortunately I couldn’t find his pitches per plate appearance number, but you figure it has to be decent with that kind of walk rate.

And if you’ve never listend to Sports Inferno (10 am through 1 pm), I highly recommend it. Mike Valenti really knows his stuff, and he’s a Spartan to boot. Terry Foster is one of those rare excellent writers who also makes the transition to being a fine on air host. The banter between the two is very funny at times, but when they get down to business, you know you’ll get a great discussion.

Same Old Problems….

I realize that the Tigers performance thus far is a very small sample of the what may occur during the entire season, yet, I am very troubled by the manner in which they are losing games. They are still losing close games. The starting pitching is still unreliable. In a very short time, I have lowered my expectations significantly.

In a pivotal season, I held very high hopes that the Tigers would make significant improvements. Instead, I have seen an unreliable bullpen that is issuing walks (something it can ill afford to do) and generally unable to slam the door shut. The team could have saved several millions of dollars and kept Esteban Yan and yielded similar results. Especially troubling, any perceived trade value for Ugueth Urbina may be being flushed down the toilet as he continues to perform terribly. The Twin series is a case in point. When they turn to their power arms in their bullpen, you may as well hang it up. The Tiger hitters absolutely can not touch the Twin’s bullpen pitching.

The performance of the starters is also discouraging. Someone on this staff will have to step forward and develop some consistency. Otherwise, it will be a VERY long season. I really like the triumvirate of Bonderman, Ledezma, and Robertson. Those three pitchers appear to have a future ahead of them. The team especially needs to be able to rely on the more seasoned arms of Mike Maroth and Jason Johnson. Neither of them has done anything to prove that they have improved one iota over past seasons. Again, a team like the Twins stands as a stark contrast of what the Tigers should be aiming for performance-wise.

Even more devastating when playing the Twins is their shrewdly technical execution of pure baseball. As soon as Percival walked the Twin hitter on Tuesday night, I knew that they would succesfully sacrifice him over to second and bring in that winning run. The Tigers really can mash the ball. Their team will give teams like the Yankees, Baltimore and Texas a run as far as scoring runs. Yet, as much as Alan Trammell seems to be a proponent of small ball, this is not the type of team who will be able to squeak out a much-needed run against quality pitching. Their execution is sloppy, and the bats remain just as inconsistent as their pitching arms.

The Tigers can ill afford to end the month 5 games out of first place if they intend remaining in the picture as contenders in their division. They have a lot of games against divisional opponents and have to win some of these series. What we have witnessed recently does little to instill confidence that they will be able to do so. I realize, that they have been without their best hitter, still all good teams have to face adversity and overcome it. It is a long season, I hope the Tigers find their groove before it is too late.

Comments are Back

I was disappointed when I had to get rid of my comments section. It was always nice hearing from the readers, but comment spam became too burdensome.

But my web guy has come up with a to fix things, so it will allow me to open up my posts to comments again. I’m going to start with my post this morning.

Tigers are tied 2-2. Hopefully they can pull this one off.

More of the Same

Is it too early to panic??

Our new and improved bullpen has been more of a liability then an asset. Outside of Farnsworth, our top three have vastly underperformed. They’re also 0-3 in one run games, which was a number several people pointed to as the bane of the 2004 Tigers and the inadequacies of that team’s bullpen. I know it’s early, but Urbina and Percival have already lost a game each.

Throw in inconsistent starting pitching and a slew of injuries, and it could make for a rough first month. Guillen and Ordonez were both out of the lineup, and with Ramon Martinez on the DL, Tram’s very limited in what he can do.

Fortunately, the Tigers go to Kansas City. If they can beat the Twins tonight, then take two of three against the Royals, they’ll be right back at .500.

Tigers Fall Just Short in Weekend Finale

I had a chance to watch most of this game, and it was nice to see Bonderman and the Tigers battle their way back into this. Jeremy simply got clubbed in the first inning, and he was somewhat lucky to come out with “just” six runs. But he calmed down and actually gave the Tigers five quality innings following the first, and it gave the Tigers to claw their way back into it.

The final was 7-6 and the Tigers finish their home stand with a 3-3 record. Not bad, but not great either. Hopefully they’ll be able to take two of three against the Twins, considering we shouldn’t see Radke or Santana.

Did you know….

…that the Tigers are second in the AL in OBP with .365, that their GB/FB ratio is above average at 1.41, and that Pitches per Plate Appearance and Line Drive Percentages are both above the league average???

If not, the Hardball Times has their first of many pages of cool stats up on their Team Page. Be sure to check this stuff out. Over the next couple of weeks, more and more will be added to the point where you could spend hours just going through them.

Closer vs. Set Up

The Tigers, and Ugueth Urbina, lost yesterday. The final score was 4-3. With the score tied 2-2, Urbina gave up a two run shot to Aaron Boone, and while the Tigers tried to stage a comeback in the eighth, they fell just short.

A lot was made by the announcers about Urbina no longer being the “closer,” and I specifically remember last year Urbina saying (at least the announcer said he said it) that if it’s not a save situation, he struggles because he needs the pressure. Now I’ve never played professional sports, and I topped out at about Open League Softball (and our team was pretty sad). But isn’t every out important. Why should it matter if we have a four run lead or a one run lead in the ninth. Shouldn’t the pitcher pitch the same, i.e. to get the batters out.

Now we fast forward (from last year, I guess from today we’re rewinding) to yesterday. Isn’t coming into the game in the eighth with the game tied about as high pressure as you can get? Getting those three outs are almost as important as getting the three outs in the ninth. But Urbina came in and dropped the game. Hopefully he’ll be better next time, but in the first “real” test of what’s supposed to be a vastly improved bullpen, we came out on the losing end.

And this all gets back to how relievers are measured, and the current measurements are poor. If you want a great read on relievers, and a ton of very cool, and very quality, statistics on relievers, be sure to check out the Hardball Times Bullpen Book.

Opening Day Reflections, Juan Jr.?

Opening day was an absolutely splendid experience. It was a beautiful, sunny day. The stadium was packed and charged with excitement. Jeremy Bonderman was impressive. It was even more exciting after Dmitri Young hit his third homer of the game and was given a standing ovation, which he obliged with a tip of the cap. Yet, I was left wondering about many of the people who were in attendance. Were they actual fans of the sport or were they at Comerica Park to sample the near Mardi Gras-like atmosphere? Was the game really a family affair or was it an excuse for adults to skip a day of work and get completely soused? Was it necessary for the group of fans to smoke marijuana and cigarettes at the game? Did it heighten their experience? I hate to come off like a prude, but it is interesting how the sport has become almost an auxiliary affair. The attendees seemed more concerned with attending an event which allowed the rabble to rouse. Hey, I had a couple of beers, too. I guess I just wonder about people’s priorities and whether or not these same people will be attending games in June and July?

Enough pontificating, is anybody else besides me starting to get worried about Magglio Ordonez and his mystery ailments? When my cohorts and I were riding to the game I told them that I thought Ordonez would miss several games after the opener. I hate to apply the pressure of expectations this early, but what gives? Is Ordonez going to become Juan, Jr.? I am very nervous about this situation. I am more nervous now than I was when they hastily signed him.

If you get the opportunity, pick up a copy of “Three Nights in August”, by H.G. Bissinger. Bissinger, the well-known author of “Friday Night Lights”, does an excellent job documenting a three game series between the Cubs and Cardinals late in the summer of ’03. Bissinger was awarded with a carte blanche view of the clubhouse, coaches and players. He was able to really look at the laborious way in which Tony LaRussa agonizes over his team as he tries to utilize the strengths of his players and avoid exposing their weaknesses. Bissinger uses each chapter to focus on a player and connects that players story with events that occur during the series. Excellent read!

What a Difference…..

…a single game can make. And what a difference a subsequenly horrible game can make. Tuesday everyone was talking division title. Now people are a lot more reserved. Probably the most interesting part about this is the Royals send their best starter, Zack Greinke, to the mound tomorrow. I’m smelling a series loss.

But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a long season. Sparky always said every team wins 60 games and loses 60 games. It’s those middle 40 that make the difference. Fortunately he didn’t stick around to see the 2003 Tigers, or he’d know 60 wins isn’t a guarantee. If we then sweep the Indians this weekend, all will be better again.

In the “stretching myself too thin” category, I’m going to be doing yet another writing assignment. At Reds Cutting Edge, I’ll be doing a 1975 Reds diary. Blade has the intro up, so check out the site today, and then be sure to stop back tomorrow for Opening Day.

Even More 2005 Baseball Predictions

Baseball Analysts has posted their compilation of predictions from their staff and the writers who took part in their Two on Two chats. Be sure to check it out.

More 2005 Baseball Predictions

If you missed it, the Hardball Times put up their staff predictions. Craig was the only one who hung tough and picked the Tigers to finish in second place with me. I picked the Giants expecting Bonds to be back by mid-May.

Historic Day at Comerica Park

What a way to start the season. The Tigers made the most of their renovations by putting on a show in front of a record crowd at the ballpark. Dmitri Young became the first Tiger to hit three homers on an Opening Day as the Tigers laid down a beating on the Kansas City Royals.

Not to be outdone, Brandon Inge hit a two run shot of his own, and drove in three runs. The only Tiger starter who went hitless was Magglio Ordonez, so hopefully he’ll get his when we need it on Wednesday.

Jeremy Bonderman threw a very solid game against a relatively weak Royals lineup. He struck out seven batters over seven innings.

This is a pretty important series for the Tigers. Not because they were playing a good team, but because they need to come out of this series with at least two wins. Good teams beat bad teams. The Royals are a bad team, but until the Tigers show they can beat the bad teams consistently, they won’t be able to take that next step, contention.

At least for a couple of days, Tigers fans have something to be happy about.

Sick Again

This is sounding like a broken record, but I was in bed all weekend with the stomach flu. When people tell you that infants are germ factories, they’re not kidding. I was hoping to put the whole sick thing behind me once April started, but this weekend might have been the worst. Thankfully I’m feeling better today, so I’ll comment on the Tigers Opening Day game tonight.

Baseball’s here folks. It doesn’t get much better then this.

Ernie Harwell Interview

There’s two guys who, when interviewed on the radio, I literally pull the car over to make sure I catch the whole interview. One of those guys is Sparky Anderson. He’s very entertaining to listen to, and while I don’t always agree with his strategy, he’s the Hall of Famer not me, so what do I know.

The second guy is Ernie Harwell. If there’s one guy I could sit down and talk baseball with for a few hours, it’s Mr. Harwell. And Billfer got to do just that, so make sure you check out his interview with Ernie Harwell.

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