Archive for June, 2006

Rafael Palmeiro

Looks like Raffy is looking to come back.  Even with an off year last year, he had an above average OPS+ and he’s left handed, which Dave Dombrowski seems to be hung up on.  He’d probably be cheap as well.  Plus you’d get the hype of seeing him move of the homerun chain.

Then you could bat Thames as a DH against lefties and have Monroe play LF against lefties and Thames against righties so Thames gets as much time as possible.


Life After Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez

While this isn’t encouraging, it’s definitlely something to think about over the next couple of offseasons.  Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus listed the top 15 catching prospects.  None of them are Tigers, although if memory serves me right, the Tigers used a higher draft pick in this most recent draft on a catcher.  Regardless, as Pudge gets a little older, it’s something Dave Dombrowski has to consider, if not this winter, then next.

Justin Verlander, Nate Robertson and the 1984 Tigers

Back in 2003 (yes, the Tigers did play that season), Jeremy Bonderman made his debut.  While nobody ever admitted it, I had the feeling that Bonderman got wheeled out there prematurely because management thought he might have a good season and be a draw for home games a la Mark Fidrych.  That never panned out, but this year the Tigers have not one, but two rookie sensations.  One of those rookies threw eight shutout innings today and he gave up only three hits with no walks while striking out seven.  Justin Verlander is now 10-4 and we’re at the half way point of the season and what’s funny is now that we have a phenom of our own, he’s being overshadowed by what the team is doing.

The win today was the Tigers 11th shutout of the season, the most they’ve put up in a season since 1978 when they had twelve.  If they get two more, which seems likely, you’d have to go back to 1969 when they had 18.

Not to be overshadowed by Verlander was Nate Robertson’s outing on Tuesday against Roger Clemens.  He outlasted the future Hall of Famer and while he got into trouble in the seventh and had a runner on third with nobody out, Jim Leyland let him pitch out of it and he got rewarded with a win.  Robertson threw seven shutout innings and he gave up six hits and three runs.  Out of the regular starters, Robertson has the best ERA with 3.14, which is good for third in the American League behind Johan Santana and Roy Halladay.

With the shutout today, the Tigers have a team ERA of 3.45.  If the season finished today, that would be the best team ERA the team’s posted since, yet again, 1969 (3.32).

1984 happened a long time ago but everyone remembers their 35-5 start.  What a lot of people don’t remember is that they were equally mediocre over their next 40 games and went through that stretch with an even 20-20 record.  If the Tigers win their game on Friday against the Pirates, they’ll have matched the 1984 Tigers’ record (55-25) through the first 80 games.

The Pirates are on deck, and if they lose today against the White Sox, it’ll be their 13th straight loss.  Normally I’d say the Tigers will be the Tigers and they’ll drop two of three, but this isn’t your usual Tiger team.  I see them following the White Sox and taking at least two of three, if not sweeping the weekend series.  Then the Tigers head out west for six games before the All Star Break.

More Tigers at the Hardball Times

Bryan Tsao at the Hardball Times penned a very good column (looks like first of a series) about how Dave Dombrowski built the surprise 2006 Tigers.  This first installment talks about the pitching staff.

More Tigers at the Hardball Times

Bryan Tsao at the Hardball Times penned a very good column (looks like first of a series) about how Dave Dombrowski built the surprise 2006 Tigers.  This first installment talks about the pitching staff.


The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim may be in last place in the AL West, but their blogosphere is alive and kicked.  Be sure to check out the newest addition at Angelblog.  I helped him out with his model for the 1961 season lookback and it’s interesting looking at this 1961 expansion team’s past.

Cardinals, Curtis Granderson, Marcus Thames and Milestones

The Cardinals are a pretty good team, even when they’re beat up.  Albert Pujols made his return and the knock on the Tigers has been that they’ve only played well against the bad teams.  Hopefully the Tigers dispelled that myth here this weekend with a sweep at home over the Cardinals. 

The Cardinals and the Tigers have quite a past and two of the Tigers nine World Series appearances were against the Cardinals.  In 1934, probably the greatest Tiger team of all time lost an exciting seven game series to the Gas House Gang.  And then in 1968, the Tigers beat the Cardinals in another exciting seven game series and became one of the few teams to ever come from behind from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series.

Curtis Granderson had an excellent series against the Cardinals this weekend.  He had seven hits and he scored six runs in the three games against the Redbirds and he even hit a homerun and stole a base.  We’re not even at the midpoint season and he has 51 runs and he’s now hovering just under the .300 mark with a .296 batting average.  He’s also doing his job at the leadoff spot and he’s seventh in the American League with 4.2 pitches per plate appearance and the guys in front of him are some pretty big names (Jason Giambi and Manny Ramirez are two of them).  He could have somewhat of a decline in the second half because he might not be able to keep up his .387 batting average on balls in play but even if he tapers off, he should put up some pretty nice numbers in his first full season.

What a game on Saturday.  Marcus Thames came in and hit a two run homerun in the bottom of the ninth off of Jason Isringhausen to tie the game up.  Thames didn’t drive in the winning run, but it was that blast that put the Tigers in a position to win that game.  Thames now has 15 homeruns in 165 at bats and his slugging percentage is .661.  He has 28 extra base hits and the team leader, Granderson, has 32.  And that’s in a little more then half of the at bats.

I didn’t confirm this, but I heard on the radio that only two previous Tiger teams have had at least 50 wins at the 75 game mark.  The one time was 1984 when the Tigers won their last World Series.  The other time was 1911, who were 51-24 at the 75 game mark.  The 1911 team really collapsed shortly after that.  Their high point was 59-24 when they were 5 1/2 games in first place on July 18, 1911.  After that point they went 30-41 and finished in second place, 13 1/2 games out of first place.  1911 is also what was probably Ty Cobb’s best season.  He hit .420 that year, his career best and the eighth best single season average of all time.

Next up is the Astros, who are playing right now against the White Sox.  And speaking of the Sox, they’re still red hot.  If they can pull this game out (they’re down 2-1), they’ll have won their tenth straight game.  Tuesday’s matchup is probably the most interesting because it’ll be Roger Clemens second start since coming back for the Astros.


Speaking of milestones, this the 1,000 post at Tigerblog.  Most were written by me, but a few others made did their share as well.  It took me over three years to get here so post 2,000 will probably happen sometime in 2010.

Humberto Sanchez, Carl Crawford and John Smoltz

Humberto Sanchez’s name has been thrown around all over talk radio the past couple of days, and it’s possibly for the wrong reason.  After three mediocre seasons in A and AA ball, Sanchez has had a breakout performance.  He started the season in Erie and in eleven starts, he went 5-3 with a 1.76 ERA and he struck out 86 in 71 2/3.  He then got promoted to Toledo and proceeded to win the International League player of the week.  Since getting the promotion, he’s given up only one run in nineteen innings and he’s struck out 17 batters in 19 innings.

Pretty good numbers, and the reason his name is being thrown around is, because many people think Joel Zumaya and Justin Verlander are just about untouchable, that Sanchez appears to be the primary trade bait to help put the team over the top.  A lot of names have been mentioned in trade rumors, but the two who appear to be the most prevalent are Carl Crawford and John Smoltz.

I think trading for Crawford would be a big mistake.  Yes, he’s definitely got some speed and he’s having a career year at the plate as far as homeruns, but his fielding has been off (-2 fielding runs above replacement) and he’s actually on pace to have fewer extra base hits then he’s had the last few years.  His homeruns are up (10) but his doubles and triples are way down.  I just don’t see him being that much of an upgrade over Marcus Thames.

John Smoltz is a different matter.  Even with the solid pitching by Zach Miner, having John Smoltz in the front of this rotation would be huge come playoff time.  The question then would be, would I trade Sanchez for Smoltz.

I say, absolutely.  And for a couple of different reasons.  One reason is, Sanchez hasn’t done much until this year and he was never really highly touted so I’m wondering whether he’s even for real.  John Sickels gave him a C rating in his prospect book although he does say Sanchez could be really good (or really bad, or somewhere in between).  Also, I think Baseball Prospectus’ mantra of “there is not such thing as a pitching prospect” would be another reason.  Sanchez isn’t a sure thing.  Smoltz is pretty close to one.

The ultimate irony of all this is, the Tigers traded John Smoltz, a pitching prospect at the time, for Doyle Alexander way back in 1987.  A lot of people blast that trade but I still think it was a good deal.  We wouldn’t have made the playoffs without Alexander, who went 9-0 down the stretch. And while we didn’t win the World Series, we would have never even had a chance without him.  So to now trade a pitching prospect for John Smoltz is, well, odd.

I’m probably going to get blasted for this, but I think if Joel Zumaya’s future is as a closer, I’d rather see him get shipped out.  As good of a closer as he could be, that doesn’t make up for a quality starter.  Just my two cents.

Tiger Stadium, Kenny Rogers, Mark Prior and the Cleveland Indians

In case you missed my rant about the city of Detroit tearing down Tiger Stadium, you can either check it out below this post or you can click here.

Kenny Rogers won his 200th career game this afternoon.  He got a ton of run support and the end result of all this was another sweep for the Tigers, this time at the Cubs expense.  The White Sox just won’t let up though because they swept the Reds.  So we still have a game and a half lead despite winning eight of our last ten games.

Mark Prior looked very rough in his first start of the season today.  His offspeed stuff wasn’t working, and he wasn’t putting his fastball where he wanted it to go.  On top of that, his velocity was down closer to 90, which made this look more like a slow pitch softball game in the first inning.  Brandon Inge and Chris Shelton both homered twice and the Tigers tied a team record with eight homeruns in the game.

While the Tigers might be the positive surprise of the season, the Cleveland Indians are probably the negative surprise.  The Twins have now passed the Indians in the AL Central after a seven game winning streak and the Indians are now six games below .500.  This was the team that was supposed to compete with the White Sox in the central, but it doesn’t look like it’s happening.  The primary culprit has been their pitching.  Last year, they led the league with a 3.61 ERA.  This year, they’re at 4.91.  The offense is good, but it’s not that good.  I took some heat for saying Kenny Rogers would be an upgrade over Jason Johnson back when we signed Rogers, and Johnson is sitting at 3-7 with a 6.00 ERA.

The Tigers hop on a plane and start a three game series with the Brewers tomorrow.  The Brewers got off to that really good start out of the gate, but they’ve settled back to .500.  They’re riding a three game winning streak though.  All we can do is keep on winning if we want to stay ahead.

Good Bye Tiger Stadium

First off, let me get this off my chest.  I’m pissed.

There, I don’t really feel better, but that will at least let you read this knowing my frame of mind.  It was announced earlier this week that the city of Detroit was going to raze Tiger Stadium.  They also released some very cute pictures of what they plan on doing with the site once the stadium is destroyed.  The spin doctors were out in full force and there were a lot of mistruths and half truths being flung about.  Let me just say, I’m not surprised that sites like this are around.

In a day of ferris wheels, retractrable domes and food courts, Tiger Stadium’s claim to fame was simple.  In no other major league park could you get closer to the action.  So if you love baseball, you loved Tiger Stadium.  Think getting in the front row of the upper deck at Comerica Park is a nice seat?  That’s nothing because the closest upper deck seat at Comerica Park is further from the ball field then the furthest upper deck seat at Tiger Stadium.  And if you sat in the front rows of the upper deck behind home plate, you were literally on top of the action.

The biggest myth that the spinners in Detroit would like you to believe was that there was no viable alternative presented to the city that would keep the stadium intact. This is a flat out lie, and I encourage you to check out the website Corner Chatter.  There you can download two plans that were basically ignored by the city council that have money behind them and would have allowed for the stadium to remain.  The biggest problem would have been that this might compete with Mr. Ilitch’s ballclub so neither plan really got off the ground.

And speaking of Mr. Ilitch, he’s been paid several hundred thousand dollars a year to “maintain” the ball park.  I’d like to see what he exactly spent this money on.  Security is nonexistent and it appears the “maintenance” has been little more then cutting the grass.  Tiger Stadium was left to die just so this decision could appear so pleasant in many people’s eyes.

Now, let’s get to the “plan.”  Apparantly there’s going to be some retail and condos, and a portion of the field will be left for little league play.  There’s just one problem.  The city doesn’t have the money to deveop the site, and nobody’s stepped up to develop it either.  Just like nobody’s stepped up to develop the rest of the vacant land in the city.  I hope I’m wrong, but I’d be willing to bet that five years from now, the site will still be vacant.

Stuck in the middle of all this are the residents of Corktown, who you also have to feel for.  They’ve had to have the monolith sit in their back yard and watch it die.  I can’t completely blame them for wanting it gone but would this have been the case had some of these alternative plans to keep the stadium up gone through? 

And one last thing, Michigan and Trumbull LLC, who have been instrumental in trying to save Tiger Stadium, offered to maintain the park for free until a plan that would keep the stadium standing was found.  You’d think a city strapped for cash would be willing to jump all over this, but I guess they’d rather throw money to the local millionaire instead.

And if you want to educate yourself on the subject, the first place I’d start is the fantastic DVD, Stranded at the Corner.  You get the facts on the fight to save the stadium along with some fantastic history of the old ballpark.  I’ve watched it once and I plan on doing so again here soon, and if you’re a Tiger fan, I highly recommend it.  You’ll also get to see the plaque that’s recently been stolen.

I also recommend you check out Field of Schemes, which is a great resource for any and all stadium related issues.  Tiger Stadium has been a hot topic lately on the site.  And I also recommend John Brattain’s column on the whole situation at the Hardball Times.  Finally, you can check out Save Tiger Stadium for some great facts and historical information.

I know none of what I’ve written will change a thing, and I really feel for the people who have fought for years to try to keep the old ballpark.  That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t know the facts though and hopefully a few eye’s are opened to what’s going on before the ballpark is taken down.

Devil Rays, Zach Miner and Wil Ledezma

It’s funny how a good couple of months can change everyone’s perspective.  Even with a bad team in town like the Devil Rays, I would normally be happy with winning three of four.  And ironically, I expected to lose a game, but it wasn’t the one we actually lost.  I thought either Verlander would lose to Kazmir (and in a way, he did) or Zach Miner would drop his start.  Instead, it was the Kenny Rogers game that the team dropped.

And in that game, the rollercoaster struck again.  After a perfect eleventh inning, Todd Jones ran into all sorts of trouble in the twelth and ended up yielding four runs.  Worst of all, he hit Rocco Baldelli with two outs to load the bases before giving up back to back doubles and those four runs.  And while the offense can be held somewhat at fault for this one (one run, five hits over twelve innings), Todd Jones is really making things tough for this team the past couple of weeks.  Not only has he done a poor job, but he’s obliterating any value he might have on the trade market.

Regardless, it was another series win.  It looks like the White Sox are going to lose today, so we’ll still have the best record in baseball and we’ll have a nice 2 1/2 game lead in the AL Central.

Zach Miner had another nice start today and he’s now 2-1.  He threw 108 pitches and gave up only three hits over seven innings.  That Kyle Farnsworth deal is looking better and better.  I keep hearing late July/early August for Mike Maroth’s return, so hopefully he’ll be able to keep at least some of this up until then.

Wil Ledezma was called up from Toledo and it looks like he’ll be coming out of the pen.  He walked one and struck out two in the eighth today in his season debut.  Last year, Ledezma was billed as the next Johan Santana, mostly because he was a rule five guy and he’s left handed like Santana.  He fell on his face early and has played for Toledo pretty much since.

The Tigers play three at Wrigley field this weekend.  And true to Wrigley field, all three games are day games.  The White Sox travel to Cincinnati.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

After a rough patch the past couple of weeks, the Tigers have now rattled off four straight wins.  Last night’s game was particularly important because after a series of days, the bullpen had been taxed.  The team didn’t get a day off on Monday, so one of two things had to happen on Tuesday.  Fortunately, the Tigers accomplished both of those things.

Step one to resting your bullpen is getting a nice long start from your starter.  Kenny Rogers went eight innings, something he had only done twice prior to this in 2006.  That’s the easy one.  The longer your starters go, the less you need your pen.

The second thing, which is probably just as is important, is scoring some runs and the Tigers did that as well last night.   Even if Rogers left after seven innings, they could have went to the back end of their bullpen to finish the game.  In this one, they only needed one inning from Jason Grilli.  If the bats weren’t there and the game was close then Leyland would have been forced to either pitch one of his front end bullpen guys on short rest or risk the game by throwing someone like Grilli in a high leverage situation.

The White Sox have kept pace with the Tigers over the past few days and they still sit a game and a half back.  Just as important, the Tigers have outplayed the Yankees and Red Sox, so they’ve created a larger cushion (4 1/2 games) when it comes to the wild card.

Jeremy Bonderman throws against Mark Hendrickson tonight.  One more win, and the Tigers will have matched their season win total for 2003.

Zach Miner and a Little Relief

Prior to the losing their previous three series, the bullpen was looked at as a major strength for the Tigers.  Todd Jones had only blown one game and both Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya were throwing extremely well.  Since then, Jones has blown three games and Rodney looks like he can’t get into a game without walking a couple of guys.  Zumaya has been the one guy to throw consistently well through this tough patch.

Today, Jim Leyland appeared to make the right decision by leaving Joel Zumaya in there for three innings however I say he was pretty much forced too.  Todd Jones had thrown in the previous three games and while Rodney had the day off on Saturday, he had thrown both Thursday and Friday.  Zumaya, on the other hand, had only thrown 1 2/3 over the previous four days.  So before you give Leyland too much credit, lets see how he handles the pen over the next week to see if he’s really changed his ways.

The other thing to note is, Jamie Walker has quietly put up some very nice numbers.  He’s struck out 16 and only walked one and he has a rock solid 0.95 ERA.  He’s thrown only 19 innings and his numbers probably warrant some more use.  What’s even more odd is, he’s completely shutting down right handers, who are hitting only .150 against him.  Both homeruns that he’s given up have come against lefties although his strikeout numbers aren’t nearly impressive against righties.  This is a nice guy to have in the hole as your fourth reliever and, along with about fifty other reasons, makes Todd Jones expendable.

The Tigers won their first series since they took two of three against the Indians two weeks ago.  Regardless of whether the White Sox win or lose tonight, the Tigers will remain in first place heading into their four game series with the Devil Rays.  There’s a very nice pitching matchup tomorrow with two young guns going head to head.  Scott Kazmir is having a breakout season and he’ll lock horns with Justin Verlander.  Just looking at the pitching matchups, I’d be disappointed if we didn’t come out of this series with three of four.

Prior to today’s game, the Tigers still led the majors in ERA, just a tenth of run better then the New York Mets.  They’re still treading dangerously though.  They’re letting guys get on base, but their 76% left on base percentage is best in the majors so they’re able to get out of jams.  Not sure how much of that is Todd Jones, but it looks like more of a “bend but don’t break” pitching strategy and their strikeouts per nine innings of 6.1 (which is exactly the league average) sort of bears that out.  You just wonder how much longer they’ll be able to keep it up.

Zach Miner picked up his first career win on Saturday.  He threw six innings and gave up two runs on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts.  Lyle Overbay took him deep for a two run shot to account for the two runs.  There’s really not a lot on Miner that I could find other then that he was the guy who came over with Roman Colon in the Kyle Farnsworth trade.  He’s already 24 so he’s old for a prospect.  I had to go all the way back to John Sickel’s 2005 Prospect Book and while he did say that Miner had one of the better arms in the Braves system at the time, he gave him his worst grade (C).  But he faced a top notch offense in Toronto and came out looking good, so hopefully the kid will be able to keep it up.

Salvage and Marcus Thames

The Tigers took the final game of the White Sox series to avoid the sweep.  Had they lost, they would have dropped out of first place, and fortunately they salvaged that last game win.  As it stands, we’re tied 2-2 with the Blue Jays, and it’d be nice to use this win to build some momentum.

I’m not sure what Marcus Thames did to someone of power in the Tigers organization.  For the last two years, he’s been buried in favor of Craig Monroe despite the fact that they’re pretty much the same type of players.  This year though, Thames has thrived on his part time role while Monroe has faltered, and with the ankle injury to Monroe, Thames is finally going to get his chance.  He had 11 homeruns in 110 at bats heading into todays game and he has an OPS of 1.094.  You would have thought he’d get a chance sooner, but the mind of major league managers work in mysterious ways.

Tigers Draft Andrew Miller in First Round of Amateur Draft

When the best player in the draft falls into your lap, you have to take him.  The big knock on Andrew Miller wasn’t that he couldn’t throw, it was that he was going to cost whoever drafted him.  He was billed as the best player in the draft, and he’s a Detroit Tiger.  Jeff Passan has an excellent column on Miller so be to check it out.

This is an encouraging sign for the franchise.  It shows that Mike Illitch is willing to open up his pocket book to create some homegrown talent.


Tropicana Field and the Chicago White Sox

We’re back from our trip, and while it was relatively stressful at times, overall it was a very nice time.  My son got to meet Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Stitch, as well as a handful of other characters, and along the way, we made a stop at Tropicana Field to see the Devil Rays play the Toronto Blue Jays.  We sat just outside the new picnic area that the new managing partner had installed this year and overall, it was a nice park for being indoors.  My wife loved the fact that it was air conditioned and with the Devil Rays second to last to their Florida brethren Marlins in attendance, it made for decent family experience because it wasn’t too crowded.  I was impressed with the fans that were there, even if it was a pretty sparse crowd.  My family left early and I moved up to around the third base line after that and had a pretty good view of the rest of the game.

Just a couple of things of note, there’s no upper deck in right field but the upper deck along the first base line goes way up.  It’s pretty assymetrical.  Reed Johnson opened up the game with a homerun on the second pitch and then he homered again in the ninth to cap off a career day.  This is worth noting because I picked up Johnson for my fantasy because I’m short on runs and Johnson was my best option at the time.  I rewarded him by dropping him this week in favor of a hot Matt Kemp out in LA.

The Tigers play three in Chicago against the White Sox starting today.  Nate Robertson kicks things off against Freddy Garcia and hopefully the Tigers can set the stage by winning tonight.  A sweep would be huge and would give us a 5 1/2 game lead, although even if we drop two of three, we’ll still be in first place.  Neither the White Sox nor the Tigers have been playing great, so it seems like whoever can pick themselves up first will go a long way towards gaining ground in the division.

I’m going to stand by what I said in my column about Todd Jones being the closer.  I know he blew Friday night’s game, but that’s going to happen regardless of who we have in there.  Mariano Rivera has two losses and one blown save, and Todd Jones has two blown saves and three losses, although on Friday he had one of each.  It happens to the best and worst closers and all I was trying to say was, I’d rather have Jones coming in where a couple of hits won’t hurt him versus bringing him in with runners on in a key situation in one of the later innings.

And I did write this with the assumption that we were stuck with Jones.  I argued against spending $5 million per on him when it happened and while he hasn’t been “horrible” this year, he hasn’t yet warranted the salary.

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