Archive for July, 2005

Charlie Gehringer Leads Tigers to 51st Win

July 19, 1935 Tigers 9, Red Sox 7 (51-33)

A five run sixth inning was the difference in this game as the Tigers took their second straight game over the Red Sox. Charlie Gehringer had a huge bases loaded triple in the inning as the three different Tigers had three baggers.

Tommy Bridges pitched six innings in earning the win, but he received help from three different relief pitchers. Schoolboy Rowe earned the save as he came in to relieve Elden Auker in the ninth. Rowe got them out of a huge jam after Auker walked the bases loaded.

Schoolboy Rowe Five Hits Red Sox, Tigers Wins 50th Game

July 18, 1935 Tigers 8, Red Sox 0 (50-33)

Schoolboy Rowe ended the Tigers mini-skid with a five hit shutout while he also got things done with the bat. He had the game’s only extra basehit (a triple) as he went three for three with two RBIs and two runs.

Hank Greenberg and Goose Goslin also drove in a pair with singles as the Tigers finally won their 50th game of the season.

With the win, the Tigers once again pulled to within a game and a half of the first place Yankees, who lost in extra innings to the last place St. Louis Browns.

Hindsight is 20/20

The Tigers signing Troy Percival to a two year contract is really appearing to be a glaring mistake. At the time Dave Dombrowski signed Percival many members of the media and fans were puzzled at the signing of an aging closer, who had accrued quite an injury history, to a multi-year deal. In part, Dombrowski was justified in his decision to sign Percival with the mystery surrounding Ugueth Urbina and the unfortunate kidnapping of his mother in Venezuela. Percival provided an insurance policy if Urbina chose not to return.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, they are now stuck with Percival and his immoveable contract. It would appear that Percival has lost most of his former abilities and in all likelihood will be a permanent resident on the Disabled List for the duration of his contract until he choses to retire ala Fernando Vina. As unfortunate as this situation is, the Tigers are now finding out how viable Kyle Farnsworth is as a closing option. They also are now utilizing players like Fernando Rodney, Franklyn German and Chris Spurling in more significant situations and so far have received promising results.

Troy Percival’s opponent OPS (On Base+Slugging) was .769, next worse in the American League to Boston’s Keith Foulke’s .890 as of July 10th. Percival also was yielding 2.52 Hr/9 in his 25 innings of relief. On the other hand, Kyle Farnsworth’s performance would rank 4th in the American League with a .535 opponent OPS and he had yielded 0.24 Hr/9 as of July 10th in 37 innings. It remains to be seen whether Farnsworth has the mental makeup to thrive in the closer’s role but his performance this year is very encouraging.

In regards to the trade deadline, I hope the Tigers have the fortune to be able to move players like Dmitri Young and Rondell White. The team has regressed offensively this season. It is imperative with the lack of bonafide prospect position players in the minors that they continue to add players who can have a long term impact on the team’s development like Tiger enthusiasts are hoping for from players like Curtis Granderson, Chris Shelton and Tony Giarrantano.

Bench Clearing Brawls and the Bullpen

Carlos Guillen was showing sypmtoms of a concussion yesterday, so hopefully he’s okay. Yesterday’s events were unfortunate. Farsnworth will probably be suspended in the midst of a dominant run as closer. Lost in all of this was one of the Tigers most pathetic offensive performances of the season.

With Troy Percival on the DL again, it opens things up for Fernando Rodney and Franklyn German. Rodney threw a very nice game on Friday when he struck out seven batters in three innings of work. Kyle Farnsworth saved back to back games this weekend in his first stint as closer.

The White Sox are on deck and we haven’t done to well against them this year. I guess nobody really has. If the Tigers can win this series on the road, it would go a long way towards putting this split with the Royals behind us.

I’ve got the 1935 diary a little more caught up (at least I’m in July). The Tigers are in the midst of their longest winning streak of the season heading into the 1935 All Star Break. Now if they can just catch those pesky Yankees. I know it’s not the same when I’m a couple of weeks behind, but for the next set I’ll have game recaps so it should make for better reading. All I can do now is rattle off boxscore stats.

Tigers Hit Hard, Drop Series to A’s

July 16, 1935 Athletics 8, Tigers 2 (49-33)

For the first time in almost a month, the Tigers lost two games in a row as they dropped their four game series with the Athletics. General Crowder pitched only six innings and he took the loss.

The Tigers did hit the ball well as they racked up fifteen hits but they left thirteen men on base. Mickey Cochrane and Goose Goslin both had three hits, and Pete Fox hit his seventeenth homer of the season.

Analysis on the Probability of Standing Pat

This is it. Here we go. As the calendar winds its way toward July 31, it’s all trade talk, all the time. What will the Tigers do? My own theory is that we’ll mostly stand pat. Why? Well, the team has hit a slump and just can’t seem to put much, if any, distance between them and a .500 record (well, not on the right side of a .500 record, anyways). So, logically, that would make us “sellers” in a potential trade market. For my next few turns, I’ll take a look at just what we have to offer. Today, the infield:

C: Ivan Rodriguez — Somewhat of an untradeable contract (especially for a catcher at age 33), and hasn’t been playing well to boot: at 4.59 Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC27), he’s ahead of only Nook Logan among Tigers who have qualifying plate appearance totals. Here’s another trade-killer… Let’s say a contending team does want him. We’ll need a major-league quality catcher in return. Our minor league system is bereft of quality catching, especially at the upper levels. I suppose one could argue that Max St. Pierre is finally hitting, but is doing so at age 25 in his third try at AA. Nobody will want Vance Wilson the way he’s been going. I’m not even sure we really much want him. Speaking of which, have you seen what Anderson Hernandez has been up to?

1B/DH: Chris Shelton — Young (turned 25 this summer), not yet arb-eligible, and hitting up a storm (a whopping 9.32 RC27, which would place him atop the league if only he had enough plate appearances to qualify) after his lost Rule V season. Not going anywhere. As close to untouchable as it gets, though if you really want to offer us 3 premium prospects (at least one of which is ready right now) or the like for him… And who’s going to do that for a guy that has a… less-than-stellar (and I’m being kind, here) defensive reputation?

1B/DH: Carlos Pena — As bad as he was earlier in the season (a woeful 2.90 RC27), dude is flat-out raking down at Toledo. As much of a disappointment as he was in the Olde English D, the Toledo numbers make you wonder if he has found it again at the age of 27. In fact, he might make some excellent trade bait, assuming we’re looking to buy instead of sell.

1B/DH: Dmitri Young — He’s kind of on the border of whether he would be on the next significant Tiger team at the age of 31 (turns 32 shortly after the end of the season). Making far too much money for his output and relatively poor defense (he’s pretty much down to 1st base duties only), and I recently learned that his 2006 season vests with 500 plate appearances in 2005. Believe me, I am not above rooting for an injury. Furthermore, he stinks right now: a 4.74 RC27, including an odious .309 OBP. His RC27 number is only that high because of his recent penchant for 400+ foot bombs on his one hit he gets in every dozen at-bats or so. He has improved lately (1167 OPS in the last 7 days), but he’s currently at 333 PA… Count me in as pulling for a pull, if you know what I mean.

2B: Placido Polanco — Might be the perfect Comerica-type player, and he won’t turn 30 until shortly after the regular season… Hits line drives, isn’t swinging for the fences on every at-bat… Has compiled a 6.71 RC27 since the trade, and was at 6.01 with the Phils. Word is that the Tigers brass would like to ink him to a Carlos Guillen-like deal… I like the idea of that. However, he might make for some fine trade bait if the Tigers feel like they’re not going to retain him in the off-season, as he is in his “walk year”. If they do sign him to a reasonable deal, he might well find himself in a “sell” trade as the deal draws to a close (see Carlos Guillen comments below).

2B/SS/possible utility role: Omar Infante — Showed a lot of promise last year after quite a down year in 2003, but has lost his job by not keeping it going… His RC27 in 2003 was 2.39, spiked to 5.01 last year, and currently sits at 3.57. On the other hand, he does have the age thing going for him (he’s just 23). If we sign Polanco to an extension or at least have indications that such a deal is close, Infante might be bait for a buying trade.

3B: Brandon Inge — Not yet arb-eligible (and is 28 years old), and his bat has made an amazing transformation since his conversion from catcher… His RC27 in his years playing primarily as a catcher: 1.64, 2.82, 2.78. In the 2 years since then: 5.43 and currently 5.90. To my mind, he’s not going anywhere, but on the other hand, he might be in the “Jeff Weaver role” as the Tiger who can get the most value in return in a “sell” trade. Could Infante play third if we did that?

SS: Carlos Guillen — Age 29 and signed to a very reasonable 4-year deal last year. Had a breakout season at 7.60 RC27 after spending 4 consecutive years in the 4’s. It looks like the improvement was genuine, as he is currently at 7.00 despite battling a knee recovering from surgery all season. About as untouchable as any Tiger, but I do wonder about his age a bit. He is one of the older players on this list, and there does seem to be a replacement there in Infante. Probably not this year, but I could see him going in a “sell” trade near the end of his contract. On the other hand, I would hope that by the end of his contract, the Tigers will be in “buy” mode.

Ernie Harwell, Chris Shelton and Buddy Bell

I missed the Ernie Harwell/Fox TV boondoggle. I’m not sure if they aired it when I was listening in on the radio or if I just missed it while watching and typing. Actually, I’m glad I missed it, because it was pretty rude. Had they put Ernie Harwell in the booth and kicked Buck (who I’m not really keen on) and Tim McCarver (who I know a lot of people hate but I actually don’t mind as much), I’m sure more people would have tuned in.

And if you didn’t get enough Ernie and you missed Billfer’s interview with him, you can check out Part one and two by heading on over to his site.

One thing I haven’t touched on too much is the ascent of Chris Shelton. After tearing up and winning the MVP of the Arizona Fall League, and then summarily hitting AAA pitching pretty hard, he finally got the call up when Carlos Pena was sent down after some pretty poor hitting. This has to be the single biggest upgrade the Tigers have made in the second quarter of the season because Shelton has been hitting at a .345/.391/.580 clip in 119 at bats (not including his 1 for 2 night he’s having right now). The .970 OPS is probably the most impressive part of it and the sample size is getting larger so it’s making it more legit.

UPDATE – Make that 2 for 3. He just hit a solo shot.

A couple of reasons why can be deduced by looking at some of the Hardball Times advanced statistics. He’s been extremely patient at the plate (4.2 pitches per plate appearance is the best on the team) and he’s made great contact (26.1% line drive percentage trails only Polanco’s 26.3%). Making good contact has resulted in an impressive .386 batting average on balls in play. And in half of the at bats, he’s matched Omar Infante’s 28 Runs Created (although with the homer tonight, he’s probably passed him).

Buddy Bell is in town. Bell has the distinction of being the manager of the second worst Tigers team ever. After replacing Sparky Anderson in 1996, the Tigers lost 109 games and they set the single season record for homeruns allowed by a pitching staff (241). The pitching staff was even worse then the 2003 version as they sported an ERA of 6.38, which was the second worst of all time. Only the 1930 Phillies had a worse ERA (6.71), although they were a tick worse then the 1899 Cleveland Spiders (6.37).

Tigers Bats Go to Sleep as Athletics Edge Tigers

July 14, 1935 Athletics 4, Tigers 3 (49-32)

The Tigers 50th win eluded them as the A’s tagged Schoolboy Rowe in the bottom of the tenth to put the game away. The Tigers didn’t give him much run support as they managed only five hits in the game.

Hank Greenberg had three of those five hits and drove in all three runs. Mickey Cochrane scored twice.

Tigers Get Off to Rough Start in Doubleheader, Salvage Split

July 13, 1935 Athletics 18, Tigers 5 (48-31)

This wasn’t a good way to start a double header. Fortunately the Tiger’s pitching staff was somewhat rested from the All Star Break as the A’s jumped all over Elden Auker, who couldn’t even last two innings. By the end of the fourth inning the score was 13-2.

Hank Greenberg was two for four and Pete Fox scored twice. Other then that, there was little good to say about this game. It would be the worst defeat of the season for the Tigers.

July 13, 1935 Tigers 6, Athletics 3 (49-31)

Tommy Bridges bounced back after a couple of poor starts as he gave the Tigers a much needed jolt after the drubbing they took earlier in the day. He’d give up 10 hits, but only three A’s crossed the plate.

Mickey Cochrane went two for four with two runs scored and Hank Greenberg went two for four with a homer, two runs and two RBIs.

The split put the Tigers a game back of the first place Yankees, who lost their game to the White Sox.

All Star Game Thoughts

The 2005 All Star Game has come and gone. As I look back on it, I thought it was an okay game. No real drama, but it was nice being able to see the guys play. It’s funny how with the advent of cable television and the internet, it’s much easier to follow ALL of the teams. It wasn’t that long ago that the All Star Game was a huge deal just because it was one of the few times you got to see some of the National League players play. And the only time you saw the AL play the NL other then in the All Star Game was in the World Series. So while I like having a couple of choices every night as far as games to watch, I do miss the nostalgia.

It was nice listening in on Ernie Harwell in the fourth inning. While I thought they should have let him do more play by play (he only called one batter, Jason Varitek’s walk in the bottom of the fourth), hearing him in the booth is always a good thing.

Now it’s back to reality. Tigers start off with a four game series against the Royals tomorrow. Hopefully they can keep up their recent hot streak. Fighting for a Wild Card spot might be too tough a road to travel, but I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of the season. Seeing Jeremy Bonderman blossom into a star has been the best thing about 2005. 20 wins isn’t out of reach, and that in and of itself will make the season a good one for me.

Special Treat

Ernie Harwell is supposed to do the radio play by play in the fourth inning. I’ll definitely be listening to this.

General Crowder Five Hits Senators, Tigers Continue Winning Ways

July 12, 1935 Tigers 2, Senators 1 (48-30)

General Crowder threw a gem in this pitching duel as the Tigers won their series against the Senators. Crowder gave up only one run on five hits.

The Tiger’s bats didn’t far much better then the Senators did as they were held to seven hits. Marv Owen and Hank Greenberg drove in the two Tiger runs and they both singled twice.

Thank you, Bobby Abreu

Bobby Abreu really did us a favor last night. The next time a Troy Glaus or Jeff Kent-level free agent comes to town, the Tigers brass will have an answer when they ask about the distant fences. “Remember Bobby Abreu? The guy who had never hit more than 31 homers in a season? He came in here and hit 41 in that home run derby on a hot July evening.” What a fantastic way to dispel the rumors that Comerica is a historically horrible place to clear the fences.

And, hey, check out this page… Comerica, it seems, is quite some distance from the toughest place to go yard. I think that, since they moved the LF fences in, it plays pretty fair. Now, are you going to have some frustrating outs when you either hit it to the wrong part of the yard or during cold weather? Yes. But on hot summer days, it plays quite differently. Is it one of the better pitchers’ parks out there? Yes, but not extremely so. No way is it a “reverse Coors”.

Tigers Edge Senators For First Second Half Win

July 11, 1935 Tigers 7, Senators 6 (47-30)

A six run fourth inning by the Senators appear to put this one out of reach, but two runs in the eighth put the game into extra frames. The Tigers didn’t waste much time in extra innings as Billy Rogell reached base on an error and scored the winning run on relief pitcher Chief Hogsett’s single.

The Tigers had only seven hits, but both Charlie Gehringer and Goose Goslin homered. Schoolboy Rowe pitched 7 1/3 innings with the big fourth inning his only real flaw. He struck out four.

Tigers Comeback to Top Senators

July 11, 1935 Tigers 7, Senators 6 (47-30)

A six run fourth inning by the Senators appeared to put this one out of reach, but two runs in the eighth put the game into extra frames. The Tigers didn’t waste much time in extra innings as Billy Rogell reached base on an error and scored the winning run on relief pitcher Chief Hogsett’s single.

The Tigers had only seven hits, but both Charlie Gehringer and Goose Goslin homered. Schoolboy Rowe pitched 7 1/3 innings with the big fourth inning his only real flaw. He struck out four.

Peter Gammons, Mid Season Surprises, and the D-Rays

It’s always nice to see the Tigers being mentioned by the national media (unless of course it was 2003). Peter Gammons mentioned somewhere (I heard this on the radio but I couldn’t find the story to confirm) that he thinks the Tigers are the team to watch out for in the second half. He also posted the results of a poll of 50 GMs, executives, scouts and managers. Brandon Inge’s name came up a couple of times. He trailed only Brian Roberts as the most improved player and he finished tied for fifth for best fielding infielder. Not too shabby for a guy who just over a year ago didn’t have a job.

With the All Star game in a couple of days, I thought back on what I thought was the biggest surprise of the first half of the 2005 season. For the Tigers, I think it’s the fact that they’re pitching has been carrying them. Prior to the start of the season, I figured if anything, the hitting would be the strength while the pitching staff would be mediocre. But this is turning out to be one of the best pitching seasons for the Tigers in quite some time. At this point in time, the Tigers have a 3.88 ERA. The last time they had an ERA that good for an entire season was 1988 when they posted a 3.72 ERA. I know there’s a long way to go, but even if the pitching staff tanks and that number goes up to 4.25, you’re still looking at 1988 as the last time it’s been that low.

As far as the entire league, I think the Yankees topsy turvy season has to be at the top, with the White Sox run a close second. I picked the Yankees to win the AL penant, and I’m still standing by it. I also think you’re going to see the White Sox taper off, but at this point, they’d have to play pretty bad to give up their lead.

The Tigers finished off the Devil Rays and won three of four. They were a couple of outs away from a sweep, but Troy Percival once again had problems in the ninth Saturday night. With three blown saves and two other losses, I really don’t think we’re getting our money’s worth considering he’s only saved eight games. But the Tigers head into the All Star break winning five of their last six, which is definitely a good thing.

My All Star Game plans are the same as last year. I’ll watch the first couple of innings with my son before he goes to bed and I’ll probably finish my column for the Hardball Times with the game on in the background after that. Hopefully the next time the All Star game comes into town, I’ll be able to go to the game with him.

Tigers Start Second Half With Loss

July 10, 1935 Senators 12, Tigers 11 (46-30)

The Tigers lost their first game in almost two weeks, but they didn’t go down without a fight. The Senators put seven runs on the board in the first inning and were up 12-5 before they made an attempt at a comeback. They scored a single run in the eighth, then in the ninth Charlie Gehringer led off the inning with a solo homer. Four runs later, the Tigers were down by a single run and Charlie Gehringer was back up with the tying and winning runs on base. Unfortunately, he couldn’t repeat his heroics of earlier in the inning, and he flew out to end the game.

Six different Tigers had multihit games and Joe Sullivan came in to relieve Tommy Bridges of the shelling he took in the first inning. In all, Bridges was only able to get a single batter out before giving up four hits.

Tigers Head Into the All Star Break With Ten Straight Wins

July 7, 1935 Tigers 12, Browns 5 (46-29)

For the fourth time in five games, the Tigers scored double digit runs against the bottom dwellar of the American League. The win was their tenth straight, and they headed into the All Star Break a single game back of the first place Yankees.

The Tigers put up eleven of their twelve runs in the first three innings as they gave Elden Auker plenty of run support. Charlie Gehringer went three for three with four runs and Hank Greenberg went two for five with a double, a triple and three RBIs.

Auker was hit hard, but he only yielded five runs, all of which were driven in by Moose Solters with three homers. Schoolboy Rowe threw two shutout innings to end the game and the Tigers went into the break on a winning note.

Tigers Edge Browns for Ninth Straight Win

July 6, 1935 Tigers 7, Browns 6 (45-29)

The Tigers won their ninth straight game as they came from behind against the Browns. Tommy Bridges only lasted two innings as the Browns took a 5-2 lead, but a run in the bottom of the second shaved the lead to two runs. The Tigers added a run in the fourth and then took the lead for good in the sixth with two more.

The top three batters (Fox, Cochrane and Gehringer) scored all seven Tiger runs . Charlie Gehringer went two for two with two runs and two RBIs while leadoff hitter Pete Fox scored three runs.

Schoolboy Rowe held the Browns in check for the final seven innings as he gave up only a single run on five hits to earn the relief win.

Box Scores, Old News and Birthday Presents

Box scores cannot tell the entire story of a baseball game. At times, when I don’t get to catch the game on television, I rely on them for my columns. And when I checked out the boxscore for Justin Verlander’s debut, it obviously told me a different story from what really happened. If you want a different (and better) take on what happened, check out the comment Todd left on my column last night. Todd also has his own blog, Be the Power. Be sure to check it out.

Quite a bit happened both when I was getting ready to leave for my weekend trip and while I was gone. Magglio Ordonez made his real debut for the Tigers and hit a homerun in his first game back off the DL to help the Tigers top the Yankees. He doubled on Saturday but was held hitless the rest of the weekend. Fortunately he bounced back today and hit a two run shot tonight and the Tigers are up 3-1. He also has his first multihit game in a Tiger’s uniform.

Also of note was the shifting of Bruce Fields and Kirk Gibson. A lot of what I’ve read I agree with. Fields is a former minor league manager and is probably a better sounding board as far as strategy goes because he’s been there before. But I just don’t picture Gibby as a hitting instructor. In a radio interview Tram simply stated things weren’t working and things needed to change. Apparantly Gibby isn’t too happy about it, so it’ll interesting to see what happens once the season ends.

Finally, Ivan Rodriguez got the nod as the lone Tiger All Star. I thought consideration could have been given for both Jeremy Bonderman (ace of the staff with 10 wins) and Brandon Inge (third in the AL in VORP among thirdbasemen). Grady Little said Matt Clement, who was also snubbed, would have gotten the start ahead of Bonderman anyway so it looks like Jeremy will have to wait until next year.

I also want to thank everyone for the birthday wishes. Some of you even wanted to send me money or presents. It’s not that I disapprove of people who do, but I don’t solicit donations. The advertising pays for any site maintenance, but I guess there’s also the time I put into the site. If you’re seriously interested in making a donation, send me an email off line or check out my wishlist.

Probably the best birthday present was hitting a milestone today. Sometime tonight I’ll have my 50,000th visitor. I know that’s a weeks worth of traffic for some of the larger sites, but it’s something that I’m proud of.

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