Archive for May, 2006

Closing Out May

Todd Jones was the losing pitcher yesterday, and it seems like whenever he loses a game or blows a save, everyone comes out of the woodwork to proclaim that he shouldn’t be the team’s closer.  In my opinion, I think Jones is best left where he’s at for the simple reason that 1)  I think he’s the third best reliever on the team (at least at this stage of their careers) and 2)  closing usually puts a reliever in a lower leverage situation then a middle reliever.

We can use last night’s game as an example.  The Tigers were down by two runs and the Yankees had one on and one out in the sixth inning.  The Tigers were down 6-4 and any additional runs would severely hamper the team’s chances at coming back.  I’d much rather have Joel Zumaya in that situation then having him wasted by bringing him in the ninth inning with nobody out and a two run lead.  Zumaya then got Alex Rodriguez to fly out and then he struck out Jorge Posada.  He finished the game with 2 1/3 innings and gave up only one hit with four strikeouts.  He left the game and the Tigers were still only down by one run game so he increased the Tigers chances of staging a comeback.

By the end of the game, the only player who would have a higher Win Probability Added (WPA) was the other Tiger reliever who I think is better then Todd Jones.  Fernando Rodney got the final hitter out in the eighth and pitched a shutout ninth.  During that time, the Tigers tied the game up.  The game went into extra frames and Todd Jones took the loss.

So the question is, do you want Jones closing games, or would you have put him into any of the above situtation and expected him to do any better.  I’m of the opinion that Leyland played this one right on the money, he just ran out of his better arms.

So I’ve actually been happy with Todd Jones so far.  He’s blown only the one save and then last night’s game, but outside of that, he’s been fairly reliable in his role, and that just happens to be closing games.  I say we keep him there.  Then again, I’ve thought the “closer” has been silly for quite some time so what do I know.

We’re going on our annual baseball trip this year, and it’s a little earlier then normal.  We’re combining a trip to Disney World with a stop at Tropicana Field to see the Devil Rays play the Toronto Blue Jays.  I’ll be back in time to catch the White Sox series, but I’m taking my laptop so I’ll be able to listen to the Tigers take on the Red Sox this weekend.

Double Bagels, Barry Bonds and Memorial Day

Just like that, the Tigers drop two games and the White Sox are there to pick them up.  The Tigers have been outscored 13-0 the last two days, and they’re by two teams the Tigers will have to contend with in September if they’re going to be in the playoff picture.  A lot is being made about next week’s series with the White Sox, but I think these next two series against the Red Sox and Yankees, along with last weekends series against the Indians, are/were just as important.

Here’s why.  While there’s no doubt we have a pretty good chance at winning the division (67.4% going into today’s game), there’s also the Wild Card, which may be much easier to snatch up.  While the White Sox will probably hang with us the whole season, it’ll be the Indians, Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays that will make up the Wild Card picture.  Even with the loss today, the Tigers have a five game lead over the Yankees.  If they take the back end games of this series against the Yankees or even split, it could be as many eight games.  That’s a nice cushion this early in the season.

So not to give up the AL Central to the White Sox, but it’s just as important looking at the bigger picture.

Barry Bonds passed Babe Ruth this weekend.  I think the best job that anyone’s done with this is John Perricone’s post on when Barry Bonds tied the Babe, but I think it’s just as fitting with one more homerun.  Congratulations to Barry Bonds for setting yet another milestone.

While I recognize that Memorial Day is a very important holiday, at this stage in my life I equate it to yard work, which I don’t particularly enjoy.  Needless to say, I wanted to throw out a heartfelt thank you to all of the men and women who have given their lives over the years protecting this country.  I also wanted to get my review of Stranded at the Corner finished, but as usual, I’m behind.

Mike Maroth, Marcus Thames and the Kansas City Royals

It’s almost like the Tigers can’t lose right now.  When I saw Mike Maroth get shelled to the tune of six runs in the first inning, I told myself “well, you can’t win them all.”  Then they crept back into the game and just crushed the spirit of the hapless Royals.

Marcus Thames has now hit eight homeruns in 68 at bats after hitting two today.  That’s a homerun every 8.5 at bats.  Just to put that in perspective, Andruw Jones led MLB in at bats per homerun last year with 11.5 so Thames is hitting homeruns at an excellent pace.  He’s also drawing walks and any time you have a four digit OPS, you’re doing something right.  Unfortunately, he’s the odd man out right now, at least with Leyland.  But you think the way he’s been hitting, that Leyland wouldn’t be able to ignore him.  I think he should be the full time DH, but Leyland seems content with using guys like Omar Infante in that spot.

The Kansas City Royals are now 10-35.  In 2003, the Tigers won their 45th game to improve to 10-35 on the season, and then they went on to win their next two games as well.  If the Royals lose either of their next two games, they’ll be on a worse pace then the 2003 Tigers.

And I’m not completely surprised.  While the Tigers have made some poor moves, the Royals management appears particularly inept.  Right now, I think they’re burying a guy who could be their best hitter.  Justin Huber was called up a few weeks ago and he’s been completely ignored.  Doug Mientiewicz has been starting at first base since Mike Sweeney went down with yet another injury and DM has an OPS that’s less then .700.  He just hit his first homerun of the season today and before today, his OBP was higher then his slugging percentage.  Huber can rake, he’s just not being given the chance.

Frame of Mind and Curtis Granderson

I was in the car listening to the Tiger game last night, and they were down 4-0.  In any of the last ten years, I probably would have thought to myself, “another loss, sigh.”  And that was regardless of who they were playing.  This year though, with all of the winning, I’m starting to become a convert.  My first thought was “The Tigers can come back from this.”  And come back they did.  The pitching buckled down and after the third inning, they gave up only one run.  So despite a less then stellar start from Kenny Rogers, the Tigers walked away with yet another win.  Hopefully they get it done tonight as they’re up 1-0 in the fourth inning.

With a lot of “surprise” teams, you usually have a convergence of career years by veterans with the emergence of some homegrown talent.  Mike Maroth would be an example of a veteran who’s having a career year, while a pleasant surprise has been Curtis Granderson.  He had three more RBIs yesterday, and that brings his season total 20.  He’s walking as well.  A lot of projections had him being a potential “20/20” guy and if you would have asked me then which he’d be more likely to attain, I would have said 20 stolen bases.  A pleasant surprise has been Granderson’s power. 

He now has eight homeruns, and a couple of those have come at some pretty key times.  So it looks like once again I was wrong.  With only three stolen bases in six attempts, he’s probably not going to get to 20 steals.  I could see him hitting 25 homeruns though and I’ll take that over the steals.

One area of concern is Granderson’s production at home.  His home OPS is .676 while his road OPS is an impressive .903.  Regardless, we could be looking at a leadoff hitter who hits 25 homeruns, scores a 100 runs and drives in 75.  I’d take those numbers over what we’ve had the last couple of years (think Nook Logan and Alex Sanchez) in a heartbeat.

Granderson is also getting it done in the field.  He leads all outfielders with 1.8 fielding winshares and he also has five fielding runs above average.  Just to put that in perspective, Nook Logan, who was highly touted as a solid centerfielder, had seven total fielding runs above average and if Granderson keeps this up, he’ll probably double that.

Comebacks, Shutouts and the White Sox and Cubs Brawl

Another solid weekend series for the Tigers.  Their seven game winning streak came to end after the Reds blew them out on Friday, but they got back on track with two nice wins over the weekend.

I had a chance to see the end of both Saturday’s and Sunday’s game.  It’s been a long time since I felt this way, but you almost knew the Tigers were going to do something in the ninth inning on Saturday.  Ken Griffey hit the grandslam off of Joel Zumaya, but Curtis Granderson came through with some heroics in the bottom of the ninth with a two out solo shot to send the game into extra frames.  Then the Tigers put runners at second and third with two outs and Craig Monroe hit it well enough to cause Felipe Lopez to misplay it and throw the ball away, allowing Carlos Guillen to score and end the game.

Today’s game was equally as dramatic, and while it didn’t have the billing of Justin Verlander vs. Johan Santana, it was equally as impressive.  Aaron Harang threw seven shutout innings, but he finally got into trouble in the eighth inning.  Brandon Inge drew a leadoff walk and then Vance Wilson (his name seems to keep popping up in the close games) turned a bunt attempt into a two base error when Harang was forced to try to shuffle pass it (unsuccessfully).  Then Placido Polanco came up huge with a pinch hit RBI single to drive home the only run of the game.  Nate Roberton and Todd Jones combined to throw a three hit shutout.

Two things of note.  Todd Jones saved his 155th game as a Tiger, making him the all time Tigers leader.  Just behind him is Mike Henneman, and in third place is my personal favorite, John Hiller.  I think Hiller was one of the best and most underated relievers of all time and a great story because of his comeback after a heart condition.  Also, the Tigers threw their eighth shutout of the season, which leads all of baseball.  Oddly, all of those shutouts have been combined with a starter and at least one reliever.  In fact, no Tiger starter has completed a game yet.  In 2005, the Tigers had nine shutouts, but that was their season ending total.  The last time they had at least ten, which is certainly attainable, was in 1990, when they had twelve.

I also happened to be watching the White Sox/Cubs game on Saturday when the brawl happened.  While I’m not certain what, if anything, A.J. Pierzynski said to Michael Barrett, it didn’t to appear to me that anything was out of sorts.  I thought the punch by Barrett was a sucker punch and I also didn’t think A.J.’s slapping home plate was all that strange.  I’m sure we’ll hear more about this over the next few days.

Kansas City is on deck for a four game series. Odd scheduling, because the Tigers were at home all this past week, then they go to KC, and then come back and play ten straight games at home.  The White Sox lost to the Cubs today, so the Tigers are back on top of the division, and for that matter, all of baseball.


Sounds like the old Sparky truism was all over the radio about looking at where a team is at after the first forty games.  We’re at the quarter point of the season, and the Tigers have the best record in the majors.  At least they’ll be tied if the White Sox beat the Devil Rays tonight.

I heard this on the radio and didn’t confirm it, but the Tigers have only started at least 27-13 in five previous seasons.  The last time it happened was 1984, and we all know what happened that year. 

I commented on this on my Tiger column at the Hardball Times, but I just keep waiting. Most of it is conditioning because as Tiger fans, we’ve been disappointed for so long.  Just to put things in perspective though, I went to a game with my dad on June 20, 1993.  The Tigers beat the Brewers and it was the team’s eleventh win in the previous fourteen games and the Tigers were 43-25.  The Tigers stood two games ahead of the Blue Jays and things were looking good.  Ten games later, all of which were losses, the Tigers found themselves down by 4 1/2 games and the team was in third place.  The Tigers later flirted with first place but ended the season in fourth place at 85-77.

So things can happen fast.  I’m hoping Jim Leyland will be able to keep the players in line, but in so many ways, especially with regard to the rotation, the Tigers are blowing away expectations.

What a game yesterday.  I was going to go, then a friend cancelled so I gave up the tickets.  My favorite kind of game is a pitcher’s duel and I missed a great one.  What’s even funnier was, i was watching the game and was annoyed that Leyland didn’t hit Pudge for Vance Wilson, who then hit the game winning two run shot.  Once again, that’s probably why Leyland’s in the dugout and I’m not.  It still boggles the mind though.

The Tigers have won seven straight.  I heard this on the radio as well and didn’t confirm it, but the last time they had that long of a winning streak was 1993.

Interleague play starts and outside of a series next week against the Royals, the Tigers face some high powered hitting teams so that pitching staff will be put to the test.  The Reds have dropped off after a five game losing streak, but with guys like Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns, this lineup can do some damage.  Best case scenario is, we’re talking about a ten game winning streak on Sunday.

Jacobs Field, Mike Maroth and Interleague Play

The Tigers swept the Indians, and thanks to the AFLAC trivia question on Fox Sports, I now know that this is the first time that the Tigers have ever swept the Indians at Jacobs Field.  You have to go way back to 1990 at Cleveland Stadium to find the last time that the Tigers swept the Indians in Cleveland.

What a run by Mike Maroth.  With today’s win, he’s now 5-2 with a miniscule 2.18 ERA.  His strikeout to walk ratio is only 17/14 and that’s nothing to write home about but he’s kept the ball in the park (three homeruns), benefited from the improved Tiger defense and has managed to strand a ton of batters.  Coming into the game, he had a mediocre 1.42 WHIP, but his left on base percentage was 87.6%.  So he’s giving up baserunners, just not in bunches and he’s leaving most of the ones he gave up on base  I’m not terribly optimistic he’ll be able to keep it up, but like the Tigers in general so far, I’ll take it while I can get it.

Interleague play starts this weekend and the Tigers host the Reds.  Blade and I were hoping to catch a game with the Reds in town, but I don’t see it happening.  I am going to try to go to the game on Wednesday.  I’ll get to see Justin Verlander up close for the first time as well as Johan Santana.  With that, I still don’t like interleague play.  It messes up the schedule, they never gave the Tigers a real “rival,” and I just don’t see it as increasing attendance outside of whoever gets to host the Yankees (and now Red Sox).  Then again, I’m the one who wants to go back to the “no playoff” structure that was in place prior to 1969 so I’m old school.

The Twins are in town this week beginning Tuesday and they’re kind of a new team since the Tigers rolled out of their last weekend.  They’ve won seven of their last ten and they’re now ahead of the Indians by one game.

Jim Leyland’s WTF of the Week

Jim Leyland continues to boggle Tiger fans’ minds.  This weeks “odd move” is taking place in tonight’s game (Tigers are up 1-0).  Ramon Santiago and his career .296 OBP is hitting lead off of all places.  He’s one for two so far, with a lead off single so maybe Jim Leyland is a seer of sorts.

The only run was on a Chris Selton solo shot so hopefully he’s out of his slump.  Bonderman’s throwing well in a light rain. 


Santiago went two for four with a run.

Rain Outs, Standings and Fantasy Baseball

The Tigers’ game was rained out tonight in Baltimore, so they end up with a split of what turned out to be a two game series.  I’m annoyed because I picked up Justin Verlander in my fantasy baseball league because he was set to have two starts (we have a one week lock), but now with everyone being pushed back, that’s not going to happen.  In fact with rain in the forecast and Cleveland just down the street, we might see some more rain delays, if not postponed games.

This should be an interesting upcoming series.  The Indians have been struggling, but they’re still a dangerous team.  If the Tigers can manage two out of three, they can further push the Indians down and give them some early breathing room by making it a two team race out of the gate.

Note to self – If you’re going to throw up a section with the AL Central standings, try to keep it updated.  I thought it would be a cool function but I’ll try to make a better effort to keep it current.

I’m going to be doing an occasional piece for Creative Sports, a fantasy baseball website.  Once or twice a week I’ll be writing up something on the Tigers from a fantasy perspective and my first piece should go out tomorrow.  I recommend you check out the site if you’re into fantasy baseball.

The More Things Change……

….the more they stay the same?  This was a tough series to lose.  While there’s no shame in losing to Johan Santana on Sunday, Saturday’s game didn’t sit to well.  They don’t call him the roller coaster for nothing and Todd Jones blew his first game of the season.  Already I’m hearing people talking on the radio about the Tigers supplanting Jones as the closer, but I don’t see that happening.  Also troubling in Saturday’s game was that the Tigers struck out ten times (and Scott Baker isn’t much of a strikeout pitcher) and didn’t walk at all. 

I was curious why Leyland didn’t walk at least one guy after Shannon Stewart tripled home Nick Punto.  That would have set them up at a chance for a double play, but I can also see Leyland’s logic in not doing so because he would have either had to face Joe Mauer or Torii Hunter.

Magglio Ordonez has been locked in the past few days.  He hit a homerun in each of the three games against the Twins and with two more hits today he’s now hitting .313.  It’s nice to see he’s finally getting around to earning that paycheck.  Hopefully he’ll be able to keep it up.

Joel Zumaya had another nice outing on Saturday. He came in with Joe Mauer on second base and two outs and struck out Torii Hunter to end the inning.  Then he put the Twins down in order in the eighth inning.  He touched 100 miles an hour a few times on the gun.

The Tigers are off tomorrow and play a three game set at Baltimore beginning Tuesday.  The Orioles have lost their last five games and eight of their last nine so hopefully the Tigers can get back on track against against a struggling team.  The Orioles are dead last in MLB with a 1.64 WHIP and they’re second to last with a 5.55 ERA so it looks like Leo Mazzone hasn’t been able to work his magic quite yet.

Tigers Split Series With Angels, Finish Homestand 6-1

So much for the Tigers’ home woes.  Prior to this game, the Tigers were 2-5 at home.  That turned that around in a hurry and the Tigers had their first six game winning streak since late June, 2004. 

Dan brought this up in the comments of my last post.  Alexis Gomez hit third in the order today, which is a little, well, odd.  To make it more odd, I just heard on the radio that when Dmitri Young comes off the disabled list, it’ll be Gomez who’s designated for assignment.  So if he doesn’t clear waivers, this could be his last game as a Tiger.  If he’s good enough to hit third, he’s good enough to keep, right?  Guess not although I’m not quite sure why he’s been getting more time then Marcus Thames has been of late.

The Tigers are now 19-10.  Say they hit a rough patch and go 4-7 in their next eleven games.  They’ll hit the quarter point with a 23-17 record, which is way better then I thought they’d be.  And not to bring up the dreaded past but the 2003 Tigers won their 19th game on June 30 of that year.  Whether they keep it up or not, the Tigers have definitely improved their product since that horrific season.

The Tigers travel to Minnesota this weekend to take on the Twins again, who have won a few games since the Tigers embarassed them last weekend.  Regardless, this is a great time to keep the team’s winning ways going.  The Twins are still struggling at the plate and they have by far the worst offense in baseball.

Just to check out some of the team stats for the Tigers at the Hardball Times, the Tigers have the most Pythagorean wins with 20.  They’re tied for the lowest groundball percentage in the American League with 39% and they have the second best slugging percentage at .484.  On the pitching side, they lead MLB in ERA with a 3.01 and they’re also tops in defensive effeciency with .746.  They’re also tops in the American League in groundball percentage (48%) and line drive percentage (16%).  Note that this was all before today’s game.

Have a great weekend.

Another Series, Another Sweep

The Tigers, like the Energizer Bunny, just keep going, and going.  They swept the Royals in their two game series, and while that’s nothing spectacular in and of itself, I am pretty happy that the Tigers took care of business against the worst team in baseball.

Mike Maroth continues to pitch very well.  While his strikeout to walk ratio isn’t anything to write home about (12/10 in 30 1/3 innings), he has a very respectable WHIP (1.25) and he’s given up only two homeruns.  Guess it goes to show how a better defense can improve a softer throwing pitcher.  The ball gets put in play, but more are converted for outs and right now, the Tigers lead the league in defensive effeciency.

Believe it or not, the White Sox lost so the Tigers are now a half game back of Chicago.  I’m not sure what’s more surprising, that the Tigers have the third best record in the majors or that the Reds have the best record.

Now I’m going to leave this to commentors, but one thing I was wondering the other day was, if Alan Trammell were still in charge, would this team have played this well for him?  I know we’ll never know, but it’s not like Jim Leyland has done anything spectacular out there (please correct me if I’m wrong).

The Angels roll into town for two games.  Hopefully we do a little better then when we faced them out in Anaheim.

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