Archive for March, 2008

Tigers Drop Home Opener In Eleven Innings to Royals

The Tigers lost to the Royals today 5-4 in a game where the Tigers definitely had some nice moments.  Miguel Cabrera belted his first homerun as a Tiger, Carlos Guillen belted a huge eighth inning homer to tie the game and then Brandon Inge gunned down a runner at the plate in the top of the eleventh to prevent a run.  Of course on the next play, Inge bobbled the ball but with two outs and the runner going on the crack of the bat, he would have had a tough time making any play at the plate.

Edgar Renteria put the Tigers on the board in the second inning with an RBI double and Gary Sheffield drew a bases loaded walk in the fourth to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.  Cabrera belted his solo shot in the fifth and it looked like the game was in hand with a 3-0 lead and Justin Verlander having a one hit shutout through five innings.

Then the wheels fell of the wagon in the sixth.  Alex Gordon took Verlander deep for a two run blast and then he left runners at the corners with nobody out.  The guy at third scored off of Jason Grilli to tie the game and then the other inherited runner scored on a single off of Aquilino Lopez.  For those who thought the bullpen was a concern, Tigers game number one is also case study number one.

Carlos Guillen tied things up in the eight with a no doubt about it blast but Denny Baustista gave up the go ahead run in the eleventh inning (his second inning of work).  Clete Thomas led off the bottom of the eleventh with a double in his major league debut but the Tigers couldn’t push him around to score.

I looked at the advance Gameday data and the Clete Thomas at bat was an interesting one.  Joakim Soria threw him four straight fast balls to push the count to 2-2.  The fifth pitch was his only breaking ball and he belted it for a double.  Soria handled Renteria in a similar fashion with five straight fastballs to make it 2-2 (there was a foul in there) but it was finally a slider that sent Renteria to the dugout.

And here’s the WPA graph of the game.  When Justin Verlander got the first out in the sixth inning, the Tigers had an 88.4% chance of winning.  This fell to just under 70% after the Gordon homer and it turned when the Royals scored two in the seventh.

The Tigers get the day off tomorrow and then it’ll be Kenny Rogers going up against Brian Bannister.  I’ll be at work so I won’t get to catch this one although I’ll probably Tivo the game.

Game Saver

Brandon Inge just gunned down Mark Teahan at the plate in the top of the eleventh.  If the Tigers pull this one out, that’s the play of the game.

First of Many?

Miguel Cabrera hit his first homer as a Tiger.  Tigers lead 3-0 and Justin Verlander has looked very sharp.  I like our chances in this one.


Ooops, hope I didn’t speak too soon.  Alex Gordon just went yard with a two run shot.

2008 Season Predictions

You can check out my predictions over at the Hardball Times this morning.  People will call me crazy for picking the Reds to win the National League pennant but I really think this team has some talent (although some of it got kicked down to Triple A to start the season).  I also think giving Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey a month or two in the minors will help them out for the long haul.  I’m not a huge fan of Dusty Baker, but he does seem to get his teams to play for him so I view this as a sort of a perfect storm. 

I thought picking the Rays to finish third would put me by myself too but great minds think alike and almost as many people picked them as the Rays.  And it almost worries me that most of the people picked the Tigers. 

Rain in the Forecast

Looks like the weather isn’t going to cooperate with everyone tomorrow, which makes for a very tough decision.  Postponing opening day is a logistical nightmare (ask the Indians last year) and at one point in time, it looked like Tuesday was going to be even worse but they’ve changed the forecast since I last checked.  It looks like the best chance of rain, as of right now, is after 4 pm so the best scenario looks like most of the game is played in a light drizzle and they get it in before the bad stuff comes.

I did my predictions and I’ll link to them over at the Hardball Times when they’re up.  It’s been a while since I’ve gone with the home team but the Tigers have as good of a chance as any this year.  Probably my only surprise team is who comes out of the NL Central, which is a crap shoot anyway.

You have to love opening day.  Barring any rainouts, you could turn the TV on at 1 pm and watch baseball nonstop all the way through to 1 am.  It’s kind of like those opening days of the NCAA tournament, only better because it’s baseball.  I’ll have to take about a four hour break (I’m taking the day off, but not going to the game) but I’ll probably have something on most of the day.  I’m hoping to also try out my Mosaic (you can have six games on at the same time) through MLB.TV tomorrow.

In what’s probably the most meaningless game of the year, the Tigers lost their final spring training game in Houston against the Astros.  Nate Robertson had his worst start of the spring while Yorman Bazardo was simply pummelled in the sixth inning.  Carlos Guillen belted his seventh homerun and he was second to only Ivan Rodriguez in that department (Pudge hit eight).   Guillen led the team with RBIs while Pudge led the team with sixteen runs.  On the pitching side, Aquilino Lopez of all people led the team in strikeouts with 17 which is probably why he earned a spot in the pen.  Dontrelle Willis had 15 walks in 16 2/3 innings.

Baseball (real baseball) is here and I couldn’t be happier.  Hopefully the Tigers can put the Royals away tomorrow and get off to a nice start.

And Then There Were 25 – The Clete Thomas Story

At this time of year, a big deal is made about the final roster spot.  It all turns out to be moot because while this player gets the privilege of playing in the major leagues, they’re also the most expendable so if they don’t pan out, the 25th man becomes a new 25th man.  Someone else gets hurt and now the 25th man is the 24th man and so on.  The final decision turns out to be all a big deal over nothing, except probably for the guy who makes the team and the handful of people who didn’t make the cut.

That player 25th player happens to be outfielder Clete Thomas.  The Tigers sixth round pick in 2005, Thomas had an exception debut in the season he was drafted.  He demolished New York/Penn League pitching (1.017 OPS in 70 at bats) before getting bumped up to West Michigan, where he finished off the season with some solid numbers (.284/.356/.376).  In 2006, he played the entire season at Lakeland where he appeared to hit a ceiling.  There he hit just .257/.333/.367 with 127 strikeouts.  He did steal 34 bases and he picked up 30 doubles.

He bounced back last year playing for Erie.  He belted a career high eight homers and he saw a 64 point improvement in his OPS (.764 last year for Erie).  He also struck out less (110) and walked three more times in just four more plate appearances.  His base stealing seemed to meet their match though and he stole just 18 bases in 29 attempts.

Then when you combined a solid spring season (.345 batting with a .500 OBP in 26 at bats) with a Curtis Granderon injury and you have your fifth outfielder.  Clete will probably spell Brandon Inge out in center once in a while but his big league at bats will probably come sparingly.  And his time with the club will probably coincide with how long Granderson is out.

Brandon Inge and Comerica Park

Brandon Inge got it done at the plate today and he was a perfect three for three with three RBIs and a run.   Inge got another start out in centerfield where he’ll start the season and he was also batting ninth, which will most likely be his spot in the lineup.  Clete Thomas belted a two run homer while Placido Polanco went yard with a solo shot in the Tigers 14-5 rout over the Phillies.  It was the final game at Joker Marchant this spring.

Kenny Rogers threw four solid innings in the win and that was his final spring start.  Preston Larrison threw 1 1/3 shutout innings and he could be a dark horse to make the team as a reliever while Aquilino Lopez, another guy who could make the squad, threw a shutout fifth inning.

Just in time for what should be a record setting season at Comerica Park, the team added 778 seats out in right field.  Unless the Tigers fall flat on their face, we should see the team top 3 million fans again this season.  For the first time in a long time, the Tigers are a tough ticket to get before the season even gets underway.

Alan Trammell, the Hall of Fame and Bill James Online

Bill James takes on the question of Alan Trammell’s Hall of Fame chances in an interesting read.  It’s subscriber only but I definitely like James’ logic and conclusions in this analysis.

Dontrelle Willis and Tim Byrdak

Dontrelle Willis had another tough time this afternoon in the Tigers 7-4 loss to the Pirates.  He was shelled for seven runs in just three frames and he gave up eight hits and four walks.  No, this wasn’t the Yankees, it was the Pirates.  Even pitcher Zach Duke picked up a pair of hits off of Willis and this caps off a pretty poor spring. 

Willis is one of the polarizing figures with a lot of people on both sides.  His advocates like his style and his near Cy Young season a couple of years ago while his detractors look at his poor 2007 and a move to the American League as a disaster waiting to happen.  I’m leaning more towards the positive but after this spring, it’s hard not to be worried.

And now the Tigers are making their own holes in the bullpen.  Last year’s breakout reliever, Tim Byrdak, has been given his release.  He filled in admirably as the Tigers left handed specialist when Jamie Walker left for the Orioles but now he’s off the team after a very rough spring.  That leaves Bobby Seay as the Tigers primary left hander coming out of the pen to start the season.  Macay McBride is an option but he’s still a work in progress.

Kenny Rogers gets his final start of the spring tomorrow against the Phillies.  It’s on FSN, but it’s an afternoon game.

Ivan Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera and Rick Porcello

Ivan Rodriguez continued his hot spring and you have to hope that this carries over into the regular season.  Pudge hit his eighth homer of the spring and after going one for two, he raised his spring batting average to .358.  Magglio Ordonez also continued to rake with three hits, two runs and and an RBI while Miguel Cabrera picked up two singles and he scored twice.  Justin Verlander struggled and he gave up six runs in three innings and Tim Byrdak was also roughed up.  The Tigers pulled it out though with a 10-9 win.  Dontrelle Willis makes his final start of the spring tomorrow afternoon against the Pirates.

Speaking of Cabrera, his blockbuster extension was finalized.  Cabrera will make $152.3 million over the next eight years and it’s the fourth largest deal in baseball history.  It’s fitting because Cabrera is an elite hitter and in four or five years, you’ll probably see more and more $20+ million per year deals being signed.  What a lot of people forget is, Cabrera still doesn’t have an official at bat as a Tiger yet but here’s to hoping that Cabrera is the lynchpin of at least a few Tigers playoff runs.

Jon Paul Morosi wrote a very interesting article about Rick Porcello’s spring.  Be sure to check it out at Baseball America.

Curtis Granderson, Brandon Inge and Nate Robertson

Curtis Granderson was placed on the disabled list with his broken finger.  This is a kick in the you know what and it kind of rains on the whole Miguel Cabrera contract extension parade. It looks like he’ll be out at least the first two weeks of the season barring any set back.  Interestingly enough, Brandon Inge appears to be ready to take over as the starting centerfielder.  It also means Ryan Raburn will stick unless the Tigers go with Freddy Guzman instead.

Nate Robertson threw his second to last spring start of the season and once again got the job done.  He gave up just a single run in 5 1/3 innings and that drops his spring ERA to 1.26.  Zach Miner took the brunt of the damage with a two run eighth in the 5-3 win.  Justin Verlander gets the start tomorrow and it’s a 6:05 start time.

Tigers and Tribe Tie

With just over a week until opening day, the Tigers tied the team that should be right there with them in the AL Central this year.  Travis Hafner belted a solo shot in the sixth inning to tie it 3-3 and nobody else scored from then on.  Yorman Bazardo had a nice outing with three perfect innings and it was Denny Bautista who gave up that solo shot to Hafner.

Gary Sheffield provided the bulk of the offense with a two run blast.  Magglio Ordonez and Placido Polanco were the only Tigers with two hits and it’s not ironic that those were the two guys to pick up 200 hits last year.

Nate Robertson has looked sharp this spring and he gets the start tomorrow against the Nationals.  Still no further word on the Cabrera extension but the physical is supposed to go down tomorrow.

Tigers Rumored to Have Locked Up Miguel Cabrera for Eight Years

I saw this over at Rotoworld first, but it looks like Tigers fans got a nice little Easter present.  Apparantly the team is close to inking Miguel Cabrera to an eight year, $153 million deal and all that’s left is a physical.  This is a huge commitment but they have one heck of a player in Cabrera.  This also blows away any other contract the Tigers have ever made (although they may have to come close when they have to deal with Justin Verlander’s free agency).

More on this as it develops.  We probably won’t get much until after the holidays.

Relief Pitching and Curtis Granderson

Florida is an odd state weather wise, and this is coming from somebody from Michigan.  Whenever we’re down there, we could pretty much expect a short, torrential rain storm at some point during the day, regardless of whether it was a nice day or not.  It could be perfectly sunny when a big rain cloud plows through, gets everything wet and moves on only to bring the sun back.  And every once in a while, the rain can be more substantial and go on for hours.

That must have been what happened during the Tigers/Phillies game today because they lasted just four innings. Kenny Rogers got in a few innings but the scary news was seeing Curtis Granderson getting nailed by a pitch.  He got his on the hand and while he’s expected to get some X-rays done, it looks like he’s okay.

And without a game to write about, Jason Beck talks about the Tigers pursuit of bullpen help.  Fernando Rodney is on the shelf as is Joel Zumaya, while Francisco Cruceta is still in the Dominican Republic.  That leaves guys like Bobby Seay, Tim Byrdak and Denny Bautista with big roles going into the first couple of weeks of the season.

Dontrelle Willis Has Another Rough Start In Tigers Loss to Jays

Dontrelle Willis was solid through three innings but then a four run fourth inning knocked him out of the game.  In all, he gave up five runs on seven hits and four walks with a strikeout in 3 1/3 innings.  Zach Miner threw 2 2/3 innings of shutout relief while Aquilino Lopez continued his exceptional spring with a hitless eighth inning.

Gary Sheffield and Ivan Rodriguez both went deep in the 5-3 loss.  For Pudge, it was his seventh long ball of the season.  He had just eleven homers all of last season.  Unfortunately for the Tigers, those two homers accounted for half of the Tigers four hits in the game.

Kenny Rogers get the starts tomorrow against the Phillies and the Tigers’ hitters will be going up against a familiar face.  Chad Durbin will be that familiar face.

Denny Bautsita Looks Mortal In Tigers Loss to Braves

Denny Bautista has looked pretty impressive this spring but he finally ran into a road block in the Braves tonight.  He gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth to blow a 2-1 Tigers lead.  It was the first time all season he’d even given up a run and despite the rough outing. Bautista could still be a huge part of solidifying the Tigers beat up pen.

Todd Jones threw two shutout innings but his ERA is still well north of eleven.  Justin Verlander gave up a solo homer to Chipper Jones in 5 1/3 innings.  He did walk four which was a little bit out of character but he gave up just three hits.

Placido Polanco had two of the Tigers six hits and both were doubles.  He and Timo Perez drove in the Tigers runs.  Brandon Inge spent some time behind the plate and it oddly didn’t affect his hitting because he singled in his only at bat.

Tomorrow is a day game against the Jays and the game is FSN.  Dontrelle Willis gets the start.  At this point, you’ll be seeing more and more of the starters as the Leyland makes his cuts.

Rick Porcello Stays In Lakeland

The Tigers made some cuts yesterday and while the names many not be surprising, it’s interesting that they’re starting Rick Porcello in Lakeland.  This just signifies what the Tigers think of first round draft pick and with a good showing, he could even see some late time at Erie.  I figured he’d at least get his feet wet with the White Caps but he must have impressed enough to skip right by that level.

Tigers Preview

My Tigers preview at the Hardball Times was posted today.  It’s nice that at least a couple of the questions I pose are positive ones.  I began doing these back in 2005 when things were less rosy.

Dontrelle Willis Struggles As Tigers Drop Two

The Tigers lost both of their games today and neither were pretty.  Dontrelle Willis got the start on the road and I was able to watch some of this game on MLB.TV.  Willis got through the first couple of innings with no problem but then he ran into trouble in the third and gave up three runs.  Zach Miner and Bobby Seay each gave up a pair of runs while Aquilino Lopez was the lone pitching star when he struck out two in two hitless frames.

Marcus Thames hit his third homer of the spring but unfortunately that accounted for half of the Tigers offense.  Gary Sheffield doubled and scored while Edgar Renteria went one for one with two walks.

The Tigers also lost to the Mets 7-4.  Yorman Bazardo and Freddy Dolsi were each tagged for three runs while Virgil Vasquez looked sharp with 3 1/3 solid innings of relief.  Carlos Guillen hit his fifth homer While Ivan Rodriguez was a perfect three for three batting leadoff.

It’s the Reds tomorrow as the Tigers play another day game.  I’ll have to take a late lunch tomorrow because the game’s on FSN.  Kenny Rogers gets the start.

Gary Sheffield Hits First Spring Homer In Tigers Tie

The Tigers tied the Braves 6-6 and most of the Tigers offense came from the top of the order.  Gary Sheffield belted a two run homer, his first of the spring, while Placido Polanco had two hits, two runs and two RBIs.  Magglio Ordonez was a perfect three for three and he drove in a run.

Jeremy Bonderman was roughed up and he lasted just four innings.  He gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts.  Freddy Dolsi was tagged for two runs while Francis Beltran pitched two shutout frames to close out the game.

Tomorrow is the Tigers first night game.  It’s a 7:05 start on the road againt the Astros with Nate Robertson getting the start.

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