Archive for July, 2006

White Sox Take Game One

This was definitely a downer.  Nate Robertson was roughed up by the Sox (six runs, nine hits in 6 2/3 innings) while Jon Garland took care of business.  Paul Konerko was the primary culprit and he accounted for more then half of the White Sox runs with his two homers.

 I wonder what was up with Jason Grilli.  Five of his seven outs were on strikeouts.  Prior to that, he had eleven strikouts in just over 30 innings.

I like today’s matchup.  Javier Vazquez will go up against Jeremy Bonderman.

Tigers Face White Sox in AL Central Blockbuster

Way back on October 2, 1987, the Tigers started a three game series with Toronto Blue Jays.  The Tigers trailed the Jays by a single game.  This week’s Tigers/White Sox series may be the most anticipated series since that three game series against the Blue Jays.  It’s been a while.

Jon Garland goes head to head with Nate Robertson.  We had a tough time against Garland last year but he seems like a different pitcher despite the 8-3 record.

Tigers Extend AL Central Lead, Comerica Park Pays Tribute to Negro Leagues

The Tigers came up a game short of a sweep, but even then Marcus Thames made things interesting with his nineteenth homerun in the eighth inning.  The Tigers did it all too.  On Thursday, they came from behind to top the Royals and then on Friday, they did it again and won it on a walk off homerun by Carlos Guillen.  Then Justin Verlander combined with Jamie Walker for the Tigers twelth shutout of the season. 

Ivan Rodriguez has really turned it on.  He had the day off today, but he has an eight game hitting streak and in five of those games he had at least two hits.  He’s not quite to the point where he was in 2004, but he’s miles better then what he did for us last year.  And there’s no doubt that the future Hall of Famer will be pivotal in the Tigers chances in the playoffs.

Justin Verlander hasn’t lost since June 7th.  In four of those six starts since losing, Verlander has given up only one run or less.  And the last time he went less then five innings was his second start of the season on April 13.  On top of all this, his ERA is back under 3.00.  Sadly and unless something changes between now and the end of the season, it looks like he’s going to finish third in the Rookie of the Year voting.  It’s just one of those years.

This weekend, Comerica Park paid tribute to the Negro League, and on Saturday the two teams wore their respective home town Negro League uniform. The Tigers wore the Detroit Stars’ uniform and the Royals donned the Kansas City Monarchs’ old uniforms.  I really like the style of both.  The Monarchs were the Negro League version of the Yankees and the Negro League museum is located in Kansas City.

Next up could be one of those defining series of the season.  The Tigers haven’t had much luck against the White Sox, but two of three, or even better, a sweep, would bury the White Sox.  I’ll be going to the game on Thursday.

How Could You Trade Billy Pierce?

Back in late February, we had our local SABR chapter (Don Lund chapter) meeting.  At the meeting, there were a couple of great presentations and one mediocre one (it was by some Hardball Times writer).  At the end of the meeting, a gentleman by the name of Mark Plawecki gave an impromptu presentation on his upcoming book that rates pitchers.  He gave enough information to to make me curious so I began talking to him about it via email.

And now his book is out and it’s called How Could You Trade Billy Pierce? – Essays and Analyses of MLB’s Best Pitchers (1901-2005).  In the book, he introduces his formula for rating pitchers called Park Adjusted Pitching Average (PAPA).  I don’t want to give too much away, but it basically takes how many times a pitcher got a batter out compared to the league average and it blends it with how many runs he gave up compared to the league average.  It’s not too difficult of a calculation to where a non-stathead like me could understand it (I try to think I’m getting better) but it also takes out some more well known, and deceptive, figures thrown around in the main stream media.  For example, wins and losses don’t play into the equation at all, and I like that.  A pitcher could get a win because he got some great offense, some great defense, some great relief pitching, or all of the above.  In fact he could have a rough start and still pick up a win.  PAPA takes all of that out and measures how a pitcher performs specifically on what that pitcher does.

And the ultimate numbers make a ton of sense.  If you flip to 1968 you’ve got Bob Gibson first and Denny McClain second.  Can’t argue too much with that.  In 2005, a lot of people argued against Bartolo Colon winning the Cy Young, and according to PAPA, he wasn’t deserving. At the top of the list are Roger Clemens and Johan Santana, who were obviously the best pitchers sans their win/loss record.  And in 1961, the Tigers dominated the list.  Jim Bunning and Frank Lary came in at one and two and then further down the list is Don Mossi at eight.

Okay, now you’re probably thinking, what do I get with the book.  And my response is, “a lot.”  The first part of the book is the largest, and it breaks down each season.  You get a well written essay on a highlighted pitcher and then you get that year’s top ten PAPA leaders.  You also get the winner of what Mr. Plawecki calls the Foran Award, which is the pitcher with the best PAPA that finished with a losing record that season.  And you also get that season’s World Series gem.  Occasionally, you’ll also get a list.  The 1968 write up has the top ten single season PAPA’s from 1919 through 1993 because the top guy on that list was Gibson in 1968.  After 105 of those, you’d figure the book would be well worth the $13 at, but hold on because you get more.

At the back of the book, you get a series of lists that attempt to break down who the greatest pitchers are.  You get a top 25 list based on peak value and a top 25 list based on career value as well as some back up information that was used to compile PAPA (like average innings pitched).

In conclusion, I really liked this book and I can see myself referring back to it often.  And it has a little of something for everyone.  Essays for those looking for some history, lists for those looking to compare some of the greats and commentary on each of the seasons so you know which teams had the best pitching in a given season.

Reliving the 1984 Tigers…..Again, Pat Caputo and Hawkers

Alright, I started this project thinking people might need a lift by now, but who would have thought three months ago that the Tigers would be the best team in baseball.  Anyway, I took the 1984 aspects of my site (the diaries, news on Tram and the debate I had where I took the 1984 Tigers head to head against the 1975 Reds) and categorized them and copied everything over to what I’m currently calling the 1984 Tigers Tribute Site.  It’s not going to be too active, but if you ever wanted to check out all of the times I mention Willie Hernandez in the diary or Dave Bergman’s 13 pitch at bat that ends in a walk off homerun, then it’s way easier to find then it would be here.  I’ll also be updating the site periodically as I pick up news on the players and coaches of the team (Tram’s next managerial job?) and I’ll probably highlight my posts here because they won’t be very frequent.

I’ve always enjoyed Pat Caputo’s commentary on the radio.  He really knows his stuff when it comes to baseball and he was the Tigers beat writer for the Oakland Press.  He’s probably forgotten more about baseball then I know (then again, he really hasn’t forgotten much, hence the nickname The Book).  Mr. Caputo’s started a blog called Open Book and his latest post is about the National League’s troubles in the All Star game.

Comerica Park is host to the First Ever Hebrew National Higher Authority Hawker Award.  Basically it’s a contest for the most unique hot dog vendor.  The contest will conclude on July 21 in a finalist show down during the pregame of the Tigers game with the Oakland A’s.  You can the download the press release if you’re interested in the checking out the specifics.  My money’s on Charlie, who’s a great sales man and a treat at the ball park.

All Star Game Memories, Prospects and the Playoffs

With the All Star game set to start, I thought back to All Star games past to see if I had any distinct memories and realized I have several.  I remember betting my mom a nickel on every All Star game as a kid.  I took the American League and she took the National League.  It was the 1980s, so I lost a lot of nickels.  I remember watching the 1981 All Star Game (I had just turned 10) at my Uncle Heinie’s cabin (I want to say it was in Dodge City, MI but I could be wrong).  I also remember seeing four Tigers on the field at one time in the 1984 All Star Game.  Lou Whitaker, Chet Lemon, Jack Morris and Lance Parrish all played at the same time.  And then there was the 1983 All Star game, which was one of the biggest blowouts ever.  Fred Lynn hit the first grand slam ever in an All Star game.  My all time favorite game was 1987.  The game went late into the night and the National League won it 2-0 in 13 innings on a Tim Raines two run triple.

As my son gets older, I hope he’ll enjoy baseball as much as I do and that we’ll have All Star memories of our own.

John Sickels did his mid-year review of his preseason prospect list.  Great stuff as always from John, and if you want some awesome prospect coverage, I highly recommend you subscribe to his newletter.  One nice thing in his writeup is the top three are all living up to their billing.  The bad news is, the Tigers don’t have a ton of depth.  You have to go all the way down to Humberto Sanchez to find someone else who’s doing pretty well. 

All right, I’ve resisted talking about the Tigers and the playoffs up until now, but it’s the second half.  And the first eight days after the All Star break could go a long way towards who ends up in the postseason.  The Tigers start out with a four game series against the Royals, which they should win at least three of four.  The White Sox then square off against the Yankees, which is almost like a no lose for us.  If the White Sox win, then the Yankees get buried and the Tigers build a larger lead for the Wild Card.  If the Yankees win, then Tigers cushion in the AL Central should get better assuming the Tigers take care of business against the Royals.

Then right after that, we get a three game series against the White Sox.  I’ll be going to the day game on Thursday (and with some White Sox fans) so it should be a good time.  If the Tigers can go 5-2 over that seven game stretch, they’ll have a larger cushion whether it’s over the Yankees or the White Sox.

And if you like numbers, according to Baseball Prospectus’ Monte Carlo simulation, the Tigers have a 93.6% chance of making the playoffs.  Even the White Sox have a nice chance with 70.9%.  Only the Mets have a better chance at 98.7% and the Tigers have the most expected wins at 102.

So at this point, for the Tigers not to make the playoffs, you’d need a pretty heavy duty collapse.  Hopefully Jim Leyland can keep things together and here’s to enjoying what’s hopefully as good of a second half.

Heading Into the Break and the Homerun Derby Myth

I still really enjoy the All Star Game.  The actual game, that is.  Maybe it’s the fact that, back when I grew up, the game seemed to have more meaning (to the players) and it was a way to see players you normally wouldn’t get to see.  Last night I watched two different National League games on television and interleague play has also watered things down.  I think the whole “World Series Home Field Advantage Thing” is a joke as well, but I’ll watch at least most of the game.

If the Tigers win today, they’ll have 60 wins heading into the All Star break.  The last time that’s happened was, well, never.  In 1984 they had 57 wins and that’s the most I could find (I didn’t look at every season’s log, but I checked the years where I’d expect them to be close).

This is more of a question then commentary.  I’ve been hearing a lot about how the Home Run Derby ruins a hitter’s swing.  Everyone points to Bobby Abreau, who seems to be in somewhat of a power slump since he won it last year.  Maybe I’m just being naive, but when I played softball, I had enough sense to “fix” my swing if I wasn’t hitting well.  I just don’t see how the derby can mess up a professional hitter’s swing to the point where it can’t be fixed relatively quickly.  If someone knows the answer to this, I’d love to hear it.  Then again, Bobby Abreau is having a fine season, he’s just not hitting homeruns and that’s what most people look at.

I also enjoy the Futures game, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to catch that due to a family obligation.  Cameron Maybin and Humberto Sanchez are the two Tigers highlighted   I’ve done a better job of keeping track of prospects (mostly due to Minor League Ball), so when I saw the rosters, I recognized quite a few names.  Maybe next year.

Craig Monroe, Sean Casey and the Hit and Run

This has come up frequently in the comments so it’s time to put some numbers to it.  How much is having Craig Monroe in the lineup hurting our team?  In looking at today’s starting lineup, two things jumped out at me.  Craig Monroe and Brandon Inge have a pretty low batting average compared to everyone else.  Even Alexis Gomez is hitting around .280.  Inge has an excuse because he’s out there just as much for his glove then anything.  While his hitting has been below average, he already has 12 fielding runs above average.  Last year, he had 13 total and he was a top five third baseman.  So I can live with that.

From a corner outfielder, that’s an entirely different matter.  Right now, Craig Monroe has a zero Batting Runs Above Replacement.  Let that sink in for a minute.  In 253 at bats, Monroe has hit about as good as you’d expect a decent AAA guy would hit if he were called up to fill in a spot.  That’s not good so that’s one strike against Monroe.

He’s actually done okay with the glove.  He has two fielding runs above average so he hasn’t hurt us there, but you also have to keep in mind who he’s taking at bats away from.  Marcus Thames has played in 58 games and has 192 at bats.  So there have been 27 games where he hasn’t even touched the field (or the plate).  So he’s only played in 2/3 of the team’s games.  With 21 batting runs above replacement so far this season, Thames could easily be up close 25 or 30 at his current pace.  So if you take what Thames has lost because the team’s stuck with Monroe, you have about five to ten runs, or about one win.

The latest guy who’s been named in a Tiger trade rumor has been Sean Casey, and it sends a shiver up my spine.  Yes, he’s a career .305 hitter, but he also grounds into a ton of double plays.  27 last year alone.  He’s also been hurt this year and his last good season was 2004.

On the radio, a bigger deal was made about the fact that Leyland didn’t have Monroe bunt in the tenth after Carlos Guillen got to second on a stolen base then the botched hit and run attempt in the fifth.  While I’m sure Jim Leyland’s reasoning was that he didn’t want Wilson to hit into a double play, I agree with the Dan and think it was a bad move.  Vance Wilson is a career .250 hitter and a back up catcher and you can’t expect him to make contact consistently nor should you expect Chris Shelton to be able to run it out and get the stolen base.  The net result was one run, which was the difference in the game.

The Tigers won today and they avoided the sweep. Now it’s on to Seattle for a three game set before the All Star game. Part of me doesn’t want Justin Verlander to win that final spot on the team because I think he’d be better off with the rest. As it stands, it looks like Francisco Liriano is in the driver’s seat right now.

Fernando Rodney and Birthdays

While I tune in to just about every Tiger game, rarely do I ever get to watch or listen to even close to an entire game.  Today I got to watch the Tigers from the second inning on and it was a good one.  Once again, Fernando Rodeny got into trouble with his walks.  He now has 22 in 39 2/3 innings but that isn’t as noteworthy as how they come.  The last time he gave up two walks, he lost the game on June 6 against the White Sox.  The Tigers have one of the best defences in the game.  Throw the ball over the plate, just keep the ball down and that infield defense will take care of things.  Don’t put the winning run on base without having the other team work for it.

Most of you will be reading this tomorrow (Wed.), which is my 35th birthday.  I picked the wrong profession because with quarter end, I won’t be able to enjoy it much because I’ll probably have to work late.  Hopefully the Tigers will win tomorrow though, and avoid getting swept.  Other then that, I have everything I need or want.

Steve Yzerman and the Tiger’s Starting Rotation

I know this is a baseball blog, but Steve Yzerman sort of transcends the whole sports blogosphere.  Steve Yzerman announced his retirement today and I have to say it was an honor and a privelage to have him as a player in Detroit.  He’s a class act and will go down as one of the top ten athletes to ever play for a Detroit team.  He played for the Red Wings since he was drafted in 1983 and he was the cornerstone of three Stanley Cup championships.  I wish Mr. Yzerman the best in the next stage of his life.

A lot of people, including myself, are worried about the Tiger’s rotation in the second half.  Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson have had poor second halfs the last two seasons and both Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander were shut down in September last season.  Outside of Rogers, the only Tiger to ever log 200 innings in a season is Mike Maroth, and he’s sitting on the disabled list.  If the Tiger’s rotation does as well in the second half as it did in the first, it will be the miracle the likes of, well, the Tigers having the best record in baseball in July.  I guess ANYTHING can happen, but there is some good news.

Probably because of the strength of the Tiger’s pen, Jim Leyland has been able to save the starter’s arms.  A case in point was last week when Justin Verlander had a shutout through eight innings.  Rather then bringing him in for a ninth inning to notch a complete game shutout, he instead went to Jason Grilli.  This was smart baseball.  Each of these guy’s arms have limits.  So far we don’t know what those limits are because you never know until you get there.

Baseball Prospectus has a measure called Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP).  Here’s a column on it’s history although this was written in 2004 so it could have been refined since.  Basically it works just like it sounds and it’s a measure of a pitcher’s usage.  Higher PAP, more abuse and the more chance of a breakdown in the near future.  There are guys like Livan Hernandez who seem to defy the odds.  So it’s interesting looking at this to see which manager’s are riding their starters or to see where the Tiger starters are at.

And this is where the good news is.  The first Tiger is Nate Robertson but he’s way down at 37.  He did max out in one start at 120 pitches, but his average per start is only 95.  Since he’s had a number of quality starts, that means he’s going later in the game yet still not throwing an exorbiant number of pitches.  I think this qualifies as good.

Next on the list is Justin Verlander at 41.  Now here’s where I lose the logic because his average number of pitches is great then Robertson as is his total number of pitches.  Yet Verlander is a few notches below Robertson.  Jeremy Bonderman is way down at 59.

So my point, without knowing exactly how PAP works, is that the Leyland has done a pretty good job with his starters.  We’re in first place and it doesn’t seem like he’s had to ride his starters.

All Stars, Mark Redman and Ozzie Guillen

At this point in time, Kenny Rogers and Ivan Rodriguez are your Tiger representatives at the All Star Game.  I only caught bits and pieces of the announcements on ESPN, but it looks like Justin Verlander has a shot in the ESPN vote off that they’ve done the past couple of seasons so it could end up at three.  His stiffest competition will probably be from Francisco Liriano.  I’m not completely surprised because of the rules (every team has to have a player), but the most conspicuous abscense will be Magglio Ordonez.  You wonder how much his feud with Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox played into that.  Regardless, I didn’t see anybody in the outfield that wasn’t deserving so it was definitely a tough choice.

Former Tiger Mark Redman will be in his first All Star game, more because of the team he plays for then his on field performance.  Redman has a 5-4 record and a 5.59 ERA with a dead even 30/30 strikeout to walk ratio.  I would have thought Mark Grudzielanek might get the spot because he’s second base, but Jose Lopez was very deserving and he ended up getting the back up spot there.

Six White Sox made it and while that sounds like a lot, none of the guys Guillen brought in were questionable and it could have been a whole lot worse.  You could have made a case for A.J. Pierzynski, Joe Crede and Tad Iguchi.  All have had solid seasons.  Anyway, it’s tough when you’re a manager because just about every player gets a bonus for making the All Star team so the players who get snubbed lose out on several thousand dollars.  And when it’s you’re own manager snubbing you, it doesn’t make for a comfortable club house.

The Tigers won two of three in Pittsburgh and they certainly did make things interesting.  Todd Jones got into trouble today but pitched out of his own jam.  Zach Miner picked up the win and he’s now 5-1 despite Fernando Rodney and Roman Colon giving up six runs in the seventh inning to make it a one run game.  Miner has now won four straight starts   The White Sox lost so the Tigers lead is back to 2 1/2 games.  If the Yankees lose tonight to the Mets, the Tigers lead for the Wild Card spot will be a nice, comfy nine and a half games.

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