Archive for May, 2008

Shutout Number Nine

At least this time, it was a pitcher who you could actually see shutting down a team.  Felix Hernandez threw seven innings of the Tigers ninth shutout in a game that saw the Tigers pick up a mere two hits without a single walk.  In fact just as many batters were hit by pitches then reached base otherwise and one of those was negated when Marcus Thames grounded into a double play.  Placido Polanco had struck out just twelve times prior to this game yet he struck out three times and it’s just the third time in his entire career that he’s struck out three times in a game.

Justin Verlander had a mediocre start and he’s now 2-8.  He gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks with a strikeout in seven innings.  Aquilino Lopez gave up a run in the eighth to finish out the game.

In the fourth inning, Kenji Johjima stole home.  I didn’t see the game, so I’m curious if this was just a straight steal or did something odd happen?

The rubber game is tomorrow afternoon.  Jeremy Bonderman will go up against Miguel Batista.

Marcus Thames and Playoff Odds

The Tigers kick off their series today with the Mariners and there’s quite a bit of news since the Tigers played their last game.  Matt Joyce has been sent down and Clete Thomas has been brought back up.  In the meantime, Marcus Thames is going to get a shot at being the full time left fielder.  This is something a lot of people have been waiting for as Thames is one of those guys who shows just enough flash to impress people.  There’s no doubt the power is there, but it’ll be interesting to see how he does when he gets a healthy dose of right handed pitching.  In 2006, Thames got a career high 348 at bats.  Against right handed pitching that season, he hit .266/.335/.569 which was even better then against left handed pitching.  Still, his career platoon split of over .100 points of OPS is pretty telling. 

It also begs the point that with Jacque Jones gone, Thames is really all there is so you wonder why they waited even this long to make the move.  I still don’t quite understand why Matt Joyce was sent down although the official excuse was that they wanted Joyce to play every day.

Jeff Larish makes his major league debut tonight.  He’ll be batting seventh at the DH spot.  Thames will be batting fifth and in an odd move, Miguel Cabrera has been dropped down to sixth.  Brandon Inge will spell Pudge behind the plate.

Of Baseball Prospectus’ many features are their playoff odd reports.  Every morning, Clay Davenport runs a simulation of the season a million times to see where everyone ends up on average.  Right now, the Tigers stand just under a 10% chance of making the playoffs and they’re slotted at 77 average wins.  They do a lot better in the PECOTA adjusted report, which kind of accounts for the fact that everyone thought the Tigers should be good, so they have them finally living up to their true potential.  There, they still have a healthy 35% chance of making the playoffs with 85 average wins.  In both, the number of wins on average to win the division was around 90-91.  If the Tigers want to win 90, they’ll have to go 68-41 the rest of the way.  That’s a 62% winning percentage, which no team in baseball has right now.  So they’ll have to play just a bit better then the team with the best record in baseball (the Cubs at the moment), just over twice as long of a period of time.

Rising to the Occasion and Wins Versus Losses

You don’t hear a lot about position battles during the season anymore.  In a way though, Jim Leyland has created just that by relegating Dontrelle Willis to the pen in favor of Armando Galarraga. He’s basically telling Galarraga the spot is his for the time being as long as he doesn’t give him a reason to yank him.  So far so good as Galarraga rose to the occasion last night with a nice start in the Tigers win.  Maybe now is a good time to light a fire under some of the other Tigers players.

It’s amazing how good the Tigers have been in their wins yet so bad in their losses.  One of the options at Bill James Online is to view the breakdown for a team by wins and losses and the numbers are skewed.  In the Tigers 31 losses, they’ve scored just 62 runs.  That’s a nice, even two runs a game.  They’re ERA is 5.78 and they’re hitting at a paltry .210/.280/.320.

In the Tigers 22 wins, they’ve scored 192 runs.  That’s almost nine runs a game and they’re hitting .332/.402/.578.  They have more then twice as many homeruns (39 versus 16) in nine fewer games.  Even the pitching is better with a 3.50 ERA.

In a similar chart, the Tigers have scored seven or more runs thirteen times and they’ve won all 13 times.  Similarly, they’re 19-2 when they score six runs or more.  When they scored five runs or less, they’re 3-29.  That includes an 0-20 record in games in which they’ve scored two runs or less.

Marcus Thames Belts Two Homers In Tigers Win

The Tigers avoided a sweep yesterday as they beat the Angels 6-2.  Marcus Thames led the way with a pair of homers and four RBIs in a game that saw five Tigers have multi-hit games.  Curtis Granderson singled twice and scored a pair of runs while Magglio Ordonez reached base three times with two singles, a walk and a run.

Armando Galarraga had one of his best starts of the season and he pitched into the ninth inning when he finally yielded two runs.  He gave up two runs on four hits and three walks with the two runs coming on a two run homer in the ninth.  Todd Jones came in and he got the final two outs of the game.

The league has been trying to pick up the pace of the game and at least last night, it worked.  The game clocked in at just 2:35.  Tuesday’s game was even shorter at 2:20 and this is in a time when three hour games are usually the norm.

The Tigers have the day off while the they travel to Seattle to take on the Mariners.  This is the team the Tigers swept last week so hopefully they can do it again and finally get back on track.  Nate Robertson pitches the opener and the Tigers hitters will face Carlos Silva.

Gary Sheffield Hits the DL, Tigers Lose Again

The Tigers offense was held in check once again as they lost a 3-2 game to the Angels late last night.  This time, the Tigers managed just three hits and one of them was a two run shot by Miguel Cabrera.  The Tigers rotation contiued their turnaround as Jeremy Bonderman had a nice start.  He gave up just two runs on six hits and he struck out seven while walking just one in 7 1/3 innings.  Aquilino Lopez gave up the game winner in the bottom of the ninth after the Angels scored two in the eighth to tie the game.

Gary Sheffield is now on the disabled list and Jeff Larish has been called up to take his place.  I like this move because the immediate reaction would have been to call up Mike Hessman with all of the homers.  Larish has been no slouch though and he’s hitting .274/.369/.589 with sixteen homers at Toledo.  He walked at least 80 times each in 2007 and 2006 and I like that dimension.  And hopefully he’ll play as well as his predecessor callups, Clete Thomas and Matt Joyce.

The rubber game is tonight.  It’ll be Armando Galarraga going up against Joe Saunders.

Yes, It’s Another Shutout

On a good note, Kenny Rogers had his best start of the season.  Seven shutout innings, and he gave up just five hits and a walk.  The pen did a nice job too with Freddy Dolsi, Zach Miner and Bobby Seay combining to give up just one run in 4 1/3 innings.  Unfortunately, that one run was the only one for either side as the Tigers lost to the Angels 1-0 in twelve innings.

It’s bad enough getting shutout again, but to go twelve innings without scoring a run?  Five different Tigers managed a hit a piece while Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen drew two walks each.  Carlos Guillen made two more errors at third but neither played a part in the run the Angels scored in the twelth.

The end result is the Tigers are no back in the cellar in a tie with the Royals (who have lost eight straight).  Jeremy Bonderman gets the nod tonight and it’ll be Ervin Santana throwing for the Angels.  Game time is 10 pm so it’ll be a late one.

Mediocre Tigers?

The Tigers just kicked off their game with the Angels.  During the pregame show, I decided to check something.  On August 7, 2006, the Tigers essentially peaked in their magical season.  They were 40 games above .500 before they went on a little bit of a spill.  What’s odd is how that stretch has basically gone on into 2007 and now into 2008.  Since that time (almost two years), The Tigers are 128-134 in the regular season.  If you count their 8-5 playoffs in 2006, then they’re 136-139.  Almost .500.  So for a long period of time, the Tigers have basically played like a .500 team.

Anyway, some food for thought as you’re watching the game.

Francisco Cruceta Gives Up Slam, Tigers Give Up Another Series

The Tigers failed to capitalize on both their sweep over the Mariners and their 19 run outburst last night as they dropped the rubber game to the Twins.  You have to feel for Justin Verlander in this one because he threw another nice game.  Then he had to watch Francisco Cruceta give up a grand slam to Jason Kubel.  Cruceta now has seen his ERA baloon from 1.86 to 5.06 in the course of one bad inning.  Todd Jones also gave up a run but by that time, this one was pretty much over with.

Of course it didn’t matter all that much because the offense laid another egg.  If it weren’t for Carlos Guillen’s solo homer, this one might have been another shutout.  Guillen was three for four and he was a triple short of the cycle.  Gary Sheffield had a pair of hits and that put him further above the Mendoza line.

I’m not sure who I feel more for.  The Tigers have to hit the road and fly to Anaheim for a game with the Angels tomorrow night.  On the other hand, while the Angels will be flying home, they’ll be doing it in the middle of the night because they’re playing a night game as we speak (it’s 2-2, extra innings would be nice).  We’ll be missing John Lackey, which is nice because he’s looked sharp since coming back from the disabled list.  Tomorrow, it’ll be Kenny Rogers going up against Jon Garland.  The Tigers know Garland well and he’s 13-6 against Detroit. 

Memorial Day at one point in time was a huge baseball day.  When the season started in mid-April, Memorial Day usually signified the quarter point of the season and you usually had doubleheaders across the league.  Now, you have a bunch of teams not even playing on the holiday.  ESPN used to have games all day as well, but it looks like this year, you’ve got high profile sports like college Lacrosse and the Best of Mike and Mike in the Morning instead.  It’s just as well because I’ll be out in the yard most of the day.  The Tigers don’t start until 9 pm.

Magglio Ordonez Homers Twice In Tigers Blowout Win Over Twins

For the second time this season, the Tigers have put up 19 runs as they demolished the Twins 19-3.  The Tigers had all nineteen runs by the fifth inning so it looked like they might leap over that 20 run mark but not tonight.  Magglio Ordonez belted two homers, drove in six and scored four times to lead the way while Placido Polanco had a team high four hits with an RBI and four runs.  Every Tiger starter had a hit and Carlos Guillen was the only starter who didn’t score a run.  Ivan Rodriguez was the only Tiger starter not to drive in a run.

Nate Robertson put together a solid start and he benefited greatly from all of the offense. He improved to 2-5 and he gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.  Aquilino Lopez threw 2 2/3 shutout innings to close out the game.

The rubber game is tomorrow afternoon.  It’ll be Justin Verlander going up against converted starter Glen Perkins. 

Tigers Finish Sweep Over Mariners

The Tigers finished off a series that saw them pile on 30 runs over the Mariners this week.  If anything, this was a series that Tigers needed to turn things around.  The Mariners had as bad of a record as the Tigers at the time and we were also missing Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez.  It wasn’t always pretty, but the Tigers got the job done and now they ride a three game winning streak into a home series against the Twins this weekend.

Brandon Inge didn’t put the Tigers on the board but he opened the game up with a three run blast in the second inning.  Matt Joyce chipped in with a two run shot and he now has five on the season since getting called up.  Gary Sheffield had a team high three hits to go along with two runs while Magglio Ordonez doubled twice and drove in two.  In all, eight of the Tigers thirteen hits were for extra bases.

Jeremy Bonderman put together a nice start and he’s now 3-4.  He gave up two runs on eight hits and two walks with two strikeouts in six innings.  Freddy Dolsi threw three perfect innings and he picked up his first career save.

The White Sox and Indians are tied 1-1 and if Chicago wins, it’ll be their eighth straight.  Everyone else outside of Detroit has had a tough few games so while the Tigers have made up no ground on the White Sox, they’re close to leaping over the Royals to move into fourth place.

Tomorrow, it’ll be Armando Galarraga going up against Kevin Slowey.  It sure would be nice to keep this winning streak going.

Denny Bautista is going to spend some time with the Hens beginning Saturday for his rehab assignment.  The bullpen has been a pleasant surprise but it sure would be nice to get the fireballer back in there.

Tigers Trash Mariners With Seven Run Third Inning

It’s been a while since the Tigers won back to back games but they got it done tonight, topping Seattle 9-4.  They scored two in the second and then they piled it on in the third with seven.  It was somewhat disconcerting that they didn’t score after that but it was more then enough for the win.

Marcus Thames had the big hit of the game with a grand slam in that big third inning.  Every Tiger starter got a hit and five had a pair.  Brandon Inge had a nice game with a double, triple, two RBIs and a run while Placido Polanco doubled, singled and scored a run

Kenny Rogers picked up the win despite a mediocre start.  He gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks with two strikeouts.  Zach Miner did a nice job with 2 2/3 shutout innings

The Tigers go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon.  It’ll be Jeremy Bonderman taking on Miguel Batista.

It was also decided that Dontrelle Willis would rejoin the Tigers but he’ll spend some time in the pen.  It was also timely that Clay Rapada hit the disabled list because that’s how the Tigers freed up a spot to make room for Willie.  Armando Galarraga will remain in the rotation for the time being.

Tigers Take Out Frustrations On Mariners

In a game that was way more interesting then it needed to be, the Tigers put one in the win column against the Mariners tonight.  The Tigers took an 11-1 lead into the seventh inning only to see it turn into a 12-8 win.  They needed Todd Jones to get a double play in the ninth to get out of what was already a four run inning by the Mariners.

Justin Verlander looked like his old self today.  He gave up just one run on four hits and a walk with seven strikeouts.  The pen didn’t do a great job but they had plenty of runs to work with. 

Four homeruns provided a bulk of the Tigers offense.  Magglio Ordonez, Edgar Renteria, Curtis Granderson and Carlos Guillen all went deep.  Renteria came within a double of hitting of rthe cycle and he finished with five RBIs.  The only Tiger regular who didn’t get a hit was Matt Joyce and even he reached base with a walk.

Jason Grilli has been shooting his mouth off about the Tigers having poor chemistry and Jim Leyland fired back with some explitives.  It’d be nice if the team could use this to get a charge.

Tomorrow, it’ll be Kenny Rogers going up against Jarrod Washburn.  It’s bad when you have a guy like Washburn with around a 5.50 ERA and your starter has an ERA over one point higher.  Hopefully Kenny can find his form tomorrow night.

Jacque Jones Heads to Florida

Jacque Jones has a new home as he was signed to a minor league contract by the Florida Marlins.  Who would have thought back in March that a move from Detroit to Florida would have put a player from a last place team to a last place team.  He’ll start out in extended spring training but he’s expected to be in a Marlins uniform by the end of the week.  It’ll be interesting to see if a change of scenery helps out Jones.

Tim Byrdak On the Tube

I’m watching the Cubs/Astros game and I was interested in seeing Tim Byrdak getting some time on the mound.  Talk about an odd stat line.  In 9 2/3 innings up until tonight, he has a 1.552 WHIP, yet he hasn’t been credited with an earned run.  And his control problems folowed him to Houston and he has a 3/8 strikeout to walk ratio although two of those walks were intentional.  He’s doing his job against lefties though.  Probably the most interesting stat line is when he goes to a 3-0 count.  It’s a small sample size, but all four batters who have gone to 3-0 against him have drawn a walk.  And when he goes to a three ball count, hitters have an .818 OBP against him.

Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney to Throw This Week

While the bullpen hasn’t been a huge problem this year, it’s nice to see that Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney are both making their way back.  Both will throw during extended spring training this week and it’ll be interesting to see where they’re both at.

Tigers Have Issues

Jim Leyland’s words, not mine.  Looks like Leyland and the front office don’t have the day off while the team does.

Shutout Number Seven

Just one day after the Tigers snapped their five game losing streak, they go and suffer another shutout.  At least this time it was against a future Hall of Famer as Randy Johnson and the D-Backs pen held the Tigers to just seven hits.  Placido Polanco and Edgar Renteria both had a pair while Miguel Cabrera had a tough time with three strikeouts, although he did belt a double.

Magglio Ordonez’ 180 errorless game streak came to an end today.  He also went 0 for 4 and he grounded into a double play.  At .307, he’s the only Tiger regular who’s now above .280 so the Tigers team batting average has definitely been in a free fall the past couple of weeks.  Combine this with a league worst 4.94 ERA (this may be before today’s game) and it makes for an ugly combination.

Speaking of pitching, Nate Robertson held the Diamondbacks scoreless through the first four frames but then gave up a pair in both the fifht and sixth innings.   The end result is Robertson’s ERA is still over 6.00 where it’s been since his very first start.  Zach Miner threw two scoreless frames and he struck out two but all that did was keep the game close.

The Tigers get a day off and then Seattle rolles into town.  The Mariners are a half game ahead of the Tigers for the worst team in the American League so who ever loses the series will be in the cellar.  And the Tigers have to be concerned because the While Sox have rattled off five straight wins.  The days of saying, “Well, they’re bad but they’re only three out” are over.  The Tigers are now 6 1/2 games back of first and they’re 4 1/2 games back of the Twins in fourth place. 

Tigers Blow Three Run Lead In Fifth Straight Loss

The Tigers latest slide continued as they dropped their fifth straight game.  Curtis Granderson drove home Edgar Renteria on a sac. fly in the third and then Miguel Cabrera drove in two with his seventh run of the season.  Unfortunately, it went down hill from there.  Eric Byrnes took Jeremy Bonderman deep in the fifth to make it 3-1 and then he and Zach Miner combined to give up three in the seventh to make it a 4-3 loss.  The game winner scored on a Carlos Guillen throwing error.  I didn’t see the game so I don’t know what happened, but it’s his fifth error since taking over at third base.

Errors don’t always tell the whole story, but Guillen’s other numbers aren’t encouraging at third either.  If you’re a fan of Revised Zone Rating, Guillen ranks pretty far down the list of AL thirdbasemen with a .643 RZR.  Only three other third basemen with at least 100 innings have a lower RZR then Guillen and ironically, one of them is Miguel Cabrera.  Only Morgan Ensberg and Mike Lamb have lower ratings then the two Tigers.  Brandon Inge has the third best RZR of third basemen with at least 100 innings and he also hadn’t made an error.

So the question is, what’s the lesser of three evils.  It looks like Guillen and Cabrera are a wash at best but you’d have to hope that Guillen would improve over time.  Brandon Inge is by far the superior fielder, but then you have his bat in the lineup.  Best case scenario is Gary Sheffield can play most of the rest of the season in left, and that would allow Guillen and Cabrera to swap time at DH, allowing Brandon Inge to get as much time at the hot corner as possible while still keeping the Tigers best bats in the order.

Jeremy Bonderman walked four and struck out five so his strikeout to walk imbalance is still there.  At least he threw six solid innings.  You can fault him, Miner and Guillen for the three runs in the seventh but I think this one falls on the offense.  Once again they scored some runs early, but couldn’t finish and provide the kill.

Tonight it’ll be Armando Galarraga going up against rookie sensation Max Scherzer.  Scherzer has an 18/3 strikeout to walk ratio and the way the Tigers have been hitting, this could be an ugly game if they don’t pick their spots.  Should be a fun game to watch because Scherzer is one of those promising future stars.

Tigers Suffer Sixth Shutout of the Season

This time it was Luke Hochevar who made the Tigers look feeble at the plate.  The end result is the Tigers third straight loss and it’s their ninth loss in eleven games since sweeping the Yankees in the Bronx a couple of weeks ago.  The Tigers managed just six singles and the only hitter with a pair was Miguel Cabrera.  Magglio Ordonez singled but that was pretty much negated because he grounded into a double play.  The only other hitter to reach base twice other then Cabrera was Curtis Granderson, who singled and drew a walk.

Justin Verlander picked up just his second quality start of the season but because of the lack of offense, it turned into his fourth straight loss.  He gave up just two runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts.  I still don’t know what’s wrong with Justin.  His walk rate is up and his strikeout rate is down.  That’s usually a deadly combination.  And while he didn’t give up any yesterday, he’s also on pace to give up more homeruns.  If we didn’t need a turnaround so badly, I’d say we give him some extra rest.

Sparky Anderson always said it’s tough to judge a team until 40 games are in the bag and that’s where the Tigers are at right now.  Unfortunately, it’s not pretty and they’re eight game below .500 with a 16-24 record.  Only the Mariners have a worse record in the American League.  Still, they’re just five games out first place so if they can put together a seven of ten streak or something along those lines, they could see a pop in the standings.  And the Indians just moved into first place so that cream has finally risen to the top.

It’s get away day so we have an afternoon game.  Kenny Rogers gets the ball for the Tigers and he’ll face Gil Meche.  Neither have had a good start to the season so we’ll see which one turns it around today.

Edgar Renteria Error, Lack of Clutch Hitting Cost Tigers In Series Opener Against Royals

The Tigers are 16-23 with just one game left to the quarter point of the season.  The Tigers got their share of base runners with nine hits and four walks but they hit into two double plays and they stranded nine men.  Matt Joyce belted his second homer of the season and Carlos Guillen doubled home Placido Polanco for the Tigers only two runs of the game in the 3-2 loss.

Nate Robertson had his best start of the season go to waste.  He gave up just two runs on ten hits without a walk and he struck out two in seven innings.  He needed just 82 pitches to get through those seven frames.

Francisco Cruceta got off to a nice start in the eighth inning when he got the first two batters but he gave up a double to Jose Guillen and a then he walked Brett Butler.  Mark Teahen then hit one up the middle and while Edgar Renteria made a nice play to get there, he did this goofy backhanded flip that was no where close to the bag.  This allowed Guillen to scamper home for what would eventually be the game winning run.  It’s a catch-22.  He could have held on and had no chance of getting the out, yet held the bases loaded.  Instead, he took the chance to get out of the inning and it backfired.

On Sunday, I talked about how Magglio Ordonez seems to be one of the big drives in the Tigers wins.  He finished zero for four and of course the Tigers lost. 

Justin Verlander gets the nod tomorrow and he’ll face rookie Luke Hochevar.  I’m interested in seeing how this number one draft pick throws and it’d be nice if Justin Verlander can turn his season around.

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