Archive for October, 2005

Long Winter

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops….And summer is gone.

– A. Bartlett Giamatti

I remember when Mr. Giamatti passed away. The networks played this poem and it was read by Ernie Harwell. It’s stuck ever since and whenever another season is in the books, I like breaking it out.

It’s funny how even on Sundays, with football, I find myself surfing the stations trying to find something to watch, knowing just a month ago I could hop on over to WGN to catch a Cubs game or knowing that Sunday evenings ESPN would have their game of the week. Baseball’s done, now I just have to cope with it.

Congratulations to the Chicago White Sox for winning their first World Series in 88 years. Jeff K and Dan threw out how much the 2005 White Sox resembled the 1984 Tigers, and I have to agree.

I’ll be doing my post season awards predictions this week, along with a few other odds and ends.

The End??

If the White Sox have their way, the 2005 baseball season will end tonight. Another season is in the books, and it’s always interesting to look back at what happened.

The White Sox season has to be the most suprising thing that happened in 2005. Back in April, the Hardball Times staff made their predictions, and not one person picked the White Sox to finish first. Three of the twelve picked them to finish second and three people, including myself, picked them to finish fourth. I also took part in a survey over at Baseball Analysts, and even there nobody gave the White Sox a chance. And here they are, one win away from winning it all, and going 11-1 in the playoffs no less.

So should this give Tiger fans hope or not? The Twins should bounce back and be in contention, and I think the Indians are for real. If the White Sox are as well, that means the Tigers have a LONG way to go until they’re at a point where they can contend for the AL Central.

Regardless, enjoy what little of the season we have left. It’s five long cold months until April and opening day.

2005 World Series Prediction

Houston wrapped things up yesterday, so they now travel to Chicago to square off against the White Sox in game one on Saturday. With these two particular teams, we’ll either have the first World Series win in 88 years for the White Sox, or the first World Series win ever for the Houston Astros.

We should see some low scoring games as two of the best pitching teams in baseball go head to head. Throw in the fact that both teams have mediocre offenses, and it should make for some low scoring and close games.

I’m going to say Astros in six games. I like Clemens/Pettitte/Oswalt/Backe better then Contreras/Garland/Buehrle/Garcia. MVP of the series will be Craig Biggio as he adds another notch to his Hall of Fame career.

Enjoying the Playoffs

So far, I’ve been pretty happy with the playoffs. While the ALCS looks like it might end a little early, the NLCS is shaping up to be as good as it was last year. We’ve really seen some great pitching in both series.

Which got me to thinking about which Tigers could be playing a role in either of the league championship series if they played for any of the four remaining teams. Definitely Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez, but other then those two, it’s a little spotty. A healthy Carlos Guillen would be better then David Eckstein. And I could also see a guy like Craig Monroe possibly playing the role of a fourth outfielder. Jeremy Bonderman might be a fourth or fifth starter, and Fernando Rodney and Franklyn German could round out somebody’s pen.

The problem is, most of these guys would be more role players on one of the teams contending for the World Series, while on our team, they’re the best we’ve got. That’s why I think Jim Leyland has his work cut out for him, as Tram did the last three seasons. Throw in the fact that we have a light free agent market this year and it leads me to thinking the Tigers might be a few more years away then I initially hoped.

For now though, I’ll be enjoying the rest of the playoffs. Once things are over with, I have a laundry list of things I want to do on the blog. No diary for the Tigers next year, so I think I’m going to do a combination of season lookbacks like Black Sox Blog is doing, along with some All Decade Teams similar to what Blade over at Reds Cutting Edge has done. One of the things I didn’t get to last off season was a look at Norm Cash’s 1961 season, so I’m also hoping to do something on that. And of course we’ll be following the Tigers through off season along with my weekly Business of Baseball Report over at the Hardball Times.

Instant Classic

In the mid to late 1980s, my favorite National League baseball team was the Houston Astros. Not sure why, but my cousin and I spent hours playing a generic baseball dice game. We eventually graduated to Pursue the Pennant (now Dynasty League Baseball) and while I got the Tigers, he always seemed to gravitate to the Astros. So in 1986, with the likes of Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan, and Glenn Davis, I began cheering for the team. And it’s probably why the last two seasons, once the playoffs were set, I’ve picked the Astros to walk away with the World Series.

Now I really find myself cheering for them. With guys like Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio getting one last chance at a championship, along with the likes of seeing the greatest pitcher of our lifetime get out there and not only strike batters out deep into extra innings, but who went to the plate and hacked away like he wants to win the game himself with a walk off homerun.

What a game though. I’ve always been a huge fan of a pitching dual. Since I didn’t tune in until the ninth inning, that’s basically what I got. I thought the fact that Roger Clemens was out there until he wore out and gave up a run made the game even more exciting.

And then it ended. Chris Burke lived the dream by going yard in the bottom of the eighteenth in one of the greatest post season games ever played. It won’t be “as” remembered as if it were a World Series game, but who cares. It was a pleasure getting a chance to watch it.

Screw football. If they kept playing baseball all winter, I’d be switching to the Lions game in between innings, and that’s about it.

Tigers Win First World Championship, Edge Cubs in Game Six

1935 World Series – Game 6

October 7, 1935 Tigers 4, Cubs 3 Tigers Win Best of Seven Series 4-2

With Tommy Bridges on the mound, the Tigers were attempting for the second game to lock up their first World Series. The big difference today was that they’d be playing in front of a home crowd. What wasn’t different was they still were without Hank Greenberg.

The Tigers got on the board first. In the bottom of the first, Mickey Cochrane and Charlie Gehringer put up back to back singles with one out. Goose Goslin popped to the shortstop and then Pete Fox came up big with a one run, two out double. Starter Larry French eventually got out of the jam, but the Tigers had a 1-0 lead.

The Cubs wouldn’t take too long to answer. In the top of the third, Tommy Bridges was touched up for three hits and a run.

The Tigers took their second lead of the game in the fourth. Gee Walker and Billy Rogell led off the inning with singles. Marv Owen laid down a bunt, and while he was able to move Walker to third, Rogell was forced out at second base. Tommy Bridges then hit into a fielders choice at second base, but Gee Walker was able to score as the Tigers took a 2-1 lead. Flea Clifton grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. Oddly all three outs in the inning were made on fielder’s choices.

The Cubs answered in the next half inning. French singled with one out and then Bridges struck out Augie Galan for out number two. Billy Herman then hit a huge two run homer that gave the Cubs the lead for the first time in the game.

The Tigers went down quietly in the fifth, but in the bottom of the sixth, they put together a nice two out rally. Billy Rogell doubled, then scored on a Marv Owen single. The game was tied 3-3.

Neither team really threatened in the seventh or eighth innings. Things looked grim for the Tigers in the ninth when Bridges gave up a lead off triple to Stan Hack. Bridges then struck out Billy Jurges, got French to ground out to him for out number two and then Augie Galan flew out to end the inning.

Flea Clifton struck out to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Mickey Cochrane singled and then moved to second on Charlie Gerhinger’s ground out to first base. Goose Goslin then became the hero of the game by driving home Cochrane with a walk off RBI single.

Tommy Bridges gave up twelve hits and three runs, but he struck out seven as he improved to 2-0 in a series. I’d imagine that without a real hitting star in the series, Bridges would have walked away with the World Series MVP.

The Tigers were World Champions for the first time. It might have been a season too late for Tiger fans, but they finally did it.

Tigers Drop Game Five to Cubs

1935 World Series – Game 5

October 6, 1935 Cubs 3, Tigers 1 Tigers Lead Best of Seven Series 3-2

Still without Hank Greenberg who was nursing an injured wrist, Schoolboy Rowe took the mound for his second start of the series. He was solid in his eight innings of work as he gave up three runs on eight hits with three strikeouts. His only blemishes were a two run homer in the bottom of the third and an RBI double in the bottom of the seventh.

The Tigers once again gave Rowe little run support. They were held to four hits through the first eight innings before finally breaking through in the ninth. Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin and Pete Fox led off the inning with consecutive singles as the Tigers finally got on the board. With the tying run at first base, Billy Rogell flew out to center. Mickey Cochrane let Gee Walker pinch hit for Marv Owen and while he grounded out, he was able to move the runners over. Then with the tying run at second base, Flea Clifton fouled out to first to end the game and give the Cubs new life.

Detroit Tigers One Win Away From First World Series Championship

1935 World Series – Game 4

October 5, 1935 Tigers 2, Cubs 1 Tigers Lead Best of Seven Series 3-1

General Crowder got the start for the Tigers as they once again took the field without their best hitter, Hank Greenberg. Crowder got into trouble early and he gave up a leadoff solo homerun in the second inning as the Cubs scored first for the third time in four games.

The Tigers answered in the top of the third. Crowder helped out his own cause by leading off with a single. Jo Jo White singled and moved Crowder over to third, but he was gunned down at second trying to stretch it into a double. Mickey Cochrane walked to put me at the corners and then Charlie Gehringer tied up the game with an RBI double. With runners at second and third and only one out, starter Tex Carleton was able to get out of the inning without any further damage.

Crowder really went on a roll and through five innings had only given up two hits. In the top of the sixth and with two outs, Flea Clifton reached on an error by Augie Galan and moved to second base in the process. Crowder then reached on an error by Billy Jurges and Clifton scored to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.

Crowder continued to throw well but he finally got into a jam in the bottom of the ninth inning. With one out, he gave up back to back singles to put runners at first and second before getting Stan Hack to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.

The Tigers had won their third World Series game in a row and were only one game away from their first World Championship.

It’s Lonely at the… Bottom

The final tallies are in, and Ivan Rodriguez finished the season with 504 at-bats. And 11 walks. According to Sean Lehman’s database, just 3 men have had seasons of more at-bats with exactly 11 walks:

Buck Weaver’s 1919 season for the White Sox, 571 at-bats;
Tommy Corcoran’s 1902 season for the Reds, 538 at-bats; and
Ozzie Guillen’s 1991 season for the White Sox, 524 at-bats. Yes, that Ozzie Guillen.

And there have only been 12 other seasons of even fewer walks in more at-bats than the year that Pudge threw up on the ol’ stat sheet:

1950, 10 walks, 525 at-bats, Don Mueller, outfielder for the New York Giants
1917, 10 walks, 532 at-bats, Dave Robertson, also an outfielder for the New York Giants
1914, 10 walks, 533 at-bats, John Leary, 1st baseman for the St. Louis Browns
1907, 10 walks, 561 at-bats, Hobe Ferris, 2nd baseman for the Boston Red Sox
1903, 10 walks, 559 at-bats, Lave Cross, 3rd baseman for the Philadelphia Athletics
1903, 10 walks, 548 at-bats, Charlie Carr, 1st baseman for the Detroit Tigers

1966, 9 walks, 541 at-bats, Tito Fuentes, shortstop/2nd baseman for the San Francisco Giants
1949, 9 walks, 575 at-bats, Virgil Stallcup, shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds
1912, 9 walks, 523 at-bats, Buck Weaver, shortstop for the Chicago White Sox

1901, 7 walks, 548 at-bats, Candy LaChance, 1st baseman for the Cleveland Blues

1915, 6 walks, 562 at-bats, Art Fletcher, shortstop for the New York Giants
1909, 6 walks, 565 at-bats, George Stovall, 1st baseman for the Cleveland Naps

For what it’s worth, Ozzie Guillen also walked just 10 times in 499 at-bats in 1996, just missing qualifying for this group a second time (note that with that one more at-bat that year, he would have been the second player – both of them career White Sox – to turn the trick twice in his career).

So, no, he didn’t quite re-write the history books… But he’s in an elite group of 15 men (in 16 seasons) with 11 or fewer walks, but more than 500 at-bats (since 1900). Who is Leyland’s preferred hitting coach again?

Tigers Top Cubs in Eleven Innings, Win Pivotal Game Three

1935 World Series – Game 3

October 4, 1935 Tigers 6 , Cubs 5 (11 innings) Tigers Lead Best of Seven Series 2-1

By far the most exciting game of the series, game three saw the Tigers mount a massive comeback without their best hitter (Hank Greenberg injured his wrist in game two), which gave them a two run lead. They then gave that lead up in the bottom of the ninth and the game went into extra frames only to have the Tigers win it in eleven innings.

The Cubs got on the board first. In the bottom of the second, the Cubs scored two runs on a Frank Demaree solo homer and an RBI groundout by starter Bill Lee off of Elden Auker. The Cubs added another run in the fifth on an RBI single by Augie Galan.

The Tigers finally scored a run in the sixth. With one out, Goose Goslin singled and then scored on Pete Fox’s triple. Fox was then picked off at third by catcher Gabby Hartnett to essentially end the threat.

Auker left the game after six innings of work down 3-1 and was relieved by Chief Hogsett, who walked one and hit a batter in the bottom of the seventh.

With the game winding down, the Tigers came up huge in the eighth inning. Jo Jo White led off the inning with a walk. Mickey Cochrane popped out for the first out and then Charlie Gerhinger doubled to put two men in scoring position. Goose Goslin then tied the game with a two run single. Lon Warneke replaced Bill Lee on the mound, but the pen couldn’t stop the Tigers bats. Pete Fox singled and this was followed up by a Billy Rogell single that scored Goslin. Rogell was caught stealing second for the second out of the inning, but Pete Fox scored on the double steal to make it 5-3. Marv Owen then lined out to end the inning.

Schoolboy Rowe came in to pitch a perfect eighth inning but ran into trouble in the ninth. He gave up three consecutive singles as the lead was to a single run, then Augie Galan hit a fly ball to center deep enough to score the tying run. The game was tied and we were headed to extra innings.

Both teams threatened in the tenth by getting doubles, but both times the teams’ respective pitchers (Rowe and French) got out of the inning. In the top of the eleventh, Billy Rogell singled. Marv Owen then failed to move Rogell over with a bunt and hit into what was effectiely a fielder’s choice. Flea Clifton then reached on an error by thirdbasemen Freddie Lindstrom. Schoolboy Rowe struck out to make it two outs and then Jo Jo White came up with a huge one run single to give the Tigers lead. Mickey Cochrane popped out and stranded two runners in scoring position, but the Tigers had the lead.

Rowe had an easy time in the bottom half of the eleventh to secure the victory. He got Stan Hack to ground out and then he struck out the final two batters to walk away with the win.

Jim Leyland Is Your New Tigers Manager

Looks like the official press conference is this afternoon. Man, this was quick. One knock on Leyland is, when he didn’t have the talent, he didn’t have a great team. Now I guess you can say that about any manager, but based on the Tigers current talent level, I don’t see Leyland coming in as a major coup.

2005 American League (AL) and National League (NL) Playoff Predictions

It’s that time of year. Prior to the start of the season, I predicted a San Francisco Giants/New York Yankees World Series. Barry Bonds didn’t make it back in time to rally the Giants, so only one of those teams even made the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the matchups.

American League Division Series

New York Yankees vs. LA Angels of Anaheim – This won’t be a repeat of 2002 as this time the Angels have home field, but can’t get the job done. Vladimir Guerrero is an exceptional player, but the Yankees offense is just too much for the Angels pitching staff. The Angels take game 2, and that’s it. Yankees win series 3-1.

Boston Red Sox vs. Chicago White Sox – It’s the first ever playoff meeting for these two teams. Anytime Boston is involved, home field is important, but it’s not enough to stop last year’s champions. I thought all season that the White Sox overachieved, and their mediocre second half kind of proves that. The series will be close, but the Red Sox will take it. Red Sox win series 3-2.

American League Championship Series

New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox – This will be the third season in a row these two teams have gone head to head in the ALCS. The bitter rivalry will continue, and each team will take one road game. But the Yankees offense is a little bit better in my mind then the Red Sox, and having Randy Johnson in a seven game series really helps the Yankees out. Yankees win series 4-3.

National League Division Series

Atlanta Braves vs. Houston Astros – This is a tough one to call because while I’d like to see the Braves win another one just because they’ve been there so often, I’d also like to see Roger Clemens in the World Series one more time. I think the Pettite/Clemens/Oswalt triumvirate is just a little too much for the Braves to handle, so I think the Astros come out on top. Astros win series 3-2.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Diego Padres – We have the best team in the majors against a team that probably doesn’t even deserve to be in the playoffs. Cardinals win easily with a sweep. Cardinals win series 3-0.

National League Championship Series

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Houston Astros – I didn’t intend for this to happen, but I have a repeat in the NLCS as well as in the ALCS. Both teams deserve to be there, so I don’t really care. Again, the Astros pitching comes through and carries them over the Cardinals. Pujols and company make the series close. Astros win series 4-3.

World Series

New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros – It’s the Astros first World Series, and the Yankees 40th. Roger Clemens goes against his former team, and if things work out right, he goes head to head with Randy Johnson. Seeing two of the best pitchers in my lifetime in the World Series would be a real treat. The Astros hitting is just enough to get them by with their awesome staff. Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell rise to the occasion (as does Roger Clemens) as they all know this could be their last chance. Astros win series 4-3.

I know I picked a lot of seven game series, but I think a lot of the teams are pretty evenly matched. Plus I like the drama and I want to see as many games as I can before the season closes out.

Alan Trammell Fired as Tigers Manager

The writing was on the wall, and it became official today. Alan Trammell was offered a job with the organization as Special Assistant to the GM, but he’ll no longer be the skipper of the Tigers.

I know I’ve taken some heat for defending Trammell. While I know at times his decision making has been questionable, I never thought he was given the support and tools to win. Which is why I was calling for management to give him one more year at the helm.

Now the search for a new manager begins, with Jim Leyland being the odds on favorite. Although he’ll be courted by Pittsburgh as well, so we’ll see what happens. I wouldn’t mind Bruce Fields getting another shot as well.

Tigers Blow Out Cubs in Game Two of World Series

1935 World Series – Game 2

October 3, 1935 Tigers 8, Cubs 3 Best of Seven Series Tied 1-1

The Tigers had just as many hits and four more runs in the first inning then they had the entire first game of the series. Jo Jo White led off the game with a single and scored on Mickey Cochrane’s double. Charlie Gehringer then drove in Cochrane with a single. Hank Greenberg then capped off the offensive onslaught with a two run homerun. Cubs starter Charlie Root left the game with four runs on the board and nobody out in the game. Reliever Roy Henshaw walked Goose Goslin to make five consecutive Tigers reaching base, but he got out of the inning when Pete Fox lined into a double play followed with a Billy Rogell ground out.

The Tigers added three more runs in the fourth inning to open the game up to a 7-0 score. All three runs were scored with two outs. Pete Fox popped out to third and Billy Rogell struck out before Marv Owen was hit by Henshaw. Tommy Bridges singled and Jo Jo White walked to load up the bases. Then Henshaw threw a wild pitch that scored Owen and moved the runners to second and third. Mickey Cochrane walked to load up the bases again before Charlie Gerhinger came through with a two run single. Henshaw left the game with two men on, but reliever Fabian Kowalik was able to get Hank Greenberg out to end the inning.

The Cubs finally put a run on the board in the fifth and added two runs in the seventh but they came nowhere close to mounting an effective comeback. Pete Fox drove in Charlie Gehringer with a single in the seventh to add another run that ended up not being needed.

Tommy Bridges held the Cubs in check, holding them to three runs (two earned) on six hits and four walks. He struck out two. Hank Greenberg struggled in the field and made two errors, bringing his series total to three.

The Tigers may have won the game, but they may have lost their best hitter. Hank Greenberg injured his wrist trying to score and it was uncertain what his status would be for the rest of the series.

Tigers Drop Fifth Straight to Finish the Season

Sigh, another Tiger’s season is in the books. With 71 wins, they finished a game worse then they did last year. Moving backwards is a bad thing, no matter how you look at it.

Dave Dombrowski has some tough decisions to make in the offseason. I think the starting pitching is the first place we need to start. Once again, we finished with an ERA that was worse then the league average (and in what’s considered a pitcher’s park). The Tigers also gave up an inordinate amount of homeruns for a team that once again, is supposed to play in a park where homeruns don’t happen as often. And the Tigers finished second to last (thank you KC) in strikeouts. All of that means a lot of balls are put into play, which is never a good thing when you’re defense is middle of the road.

I’ll throw out some playoff predictions tomorrow. Should be a fun October with most of the usual suspects (Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Angels and Cardinals) along with some fresh faces.

Tigers Drop Game One to Red Hot Cubs

1935 World Series – Game 1

October 2, 1935 Cubs 3, Tigers 0 Cubs Lead Best of Seven Series 1-0

The Tigers league leading offense came out flat as Cubs starter Lon Warneke held the Tigers to a mere four hits. Schoolboy Rowe threw a nice game but walked away with the loss. He gave up only three runs (two earned) on seven hits while striking out eight.

Pete Fox had two of the Tigers’ four hits. Of particular concern was the Tigers made three errors and one of those, a throwing error by Rowe was a key to the Cubs jumping out in front 2-0 in the top of the first inning.

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