Archive for July, 2008

Pudge For Kyle – Initial Thoughts

The story of the day is the Tigers trade with the Yankees.  The Tigers sent future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez to the Yankees for former Tiger reliever Kyle Farnsworth.  When I saw the headline, my initial thought was WTF but then I thought about it and in a lot of ways, this move makes some sense.  Here’s why…

1)  The difference between Pudge and Brandon Inge, especially for just two months of the season, isn’t that big of a deal.  Heading into tonight’s game, Brandon Inge has an OPS of .758 and Ivan Rodriguez sits at .755.  Both have been average hitters but Inge’s low batting average with extra base hits is about on par with Ivan Rodriguez’s hollow .295 batting average.  And over the course of the season, Pudge’s defense would definitely tip the scale in his favor but that advantage is muted considerably when you take into account that we’re 2/3 of the way through the season.

2)  Pudge is getting old. He’s 37 and he’s on pace to catch around 130 games.  That wear and tear could take its toll on Rodriguez through the final two months of the season and his career second half OPS is almost 100 points lower then his first half.  Combine that with the stress of playing in the Big Apple and it could be a long two months.

3)  The move might not make a ton of sense now, but odds are good the Tigers aren’t done dealing so when all of the deals are taken together, there could be more method to the madness.  If they can trade the out of favor Todd Jones for even a good backup catcher, it gives the Tigers some insurance behind the plate.  Marcus Thames (Matt Joyce has done well, which could make Thames expendable) is someone with some value and while it might be an odd move, Armando Galarraga’s value could never be higher then it is right now.  The only way trading Galarraga would make sense though is if the Tigers upgrade at starting pitcher.

4)  Kyle Farnsworth, Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya would make a formidable 1-2-3 punch.  While not as good as the combination in Minnesota, this would more closely resemble the solid pen the Tigers had going for them in 2006.  Shortening games is always a good thing especially when you have guys like Zach Miner and Galarraga who aren’t used to throwing a ton of innings.

5)  The draft picks for Pudge probably wouldn’t have been there.  You’ll have some people point to the fact that if someone would have signed Rodriguez, we would have gotten two draft picks but that’s only had we offered arbtitration and he subsequently declined it.  Odds are good Rodriguez would have accepted arbitration and the Tigers would have had him for another for somewhere in the range of $5-$8 million a year.

I guess I like the deal.  It’s low risk and at worse, the loss will be muted because of the short time period.  I’m also curious as to what else the Tigers might do tomorrow.

The Tigers have just scored four runs in the eighth and after being down 8-1 at one point, they’ve tied the game up at 11-11.  The White Sox are probably going to win, so the Tigers need to win to keep their current deficit intact.

Salvage Sunday

The Tigers have won all four Sunday games this month.  The problem is, all four wins have followed at least a two game losing streak (one of the four was a three game losing streak) so all Sunday has been for them is a chance to avoid a sweep.  Still it gives the team a glimmer of hope because the difference between being seven down (loss column) and nine down is pretty huge.  The Tigers still have a long road ahead of them if they even want to have a chance, but if they somehow manage to slip into the playoffs, these four Sunday wins could be a big reason why.

I went to the game today with my son.  We didn’t stay the whole game because it was pretty hot in the sun, but it was nice to see a win.  I was a little annoyed because we got there early and wanted to sit in the shade so we parked in a couple of club seats.  There was nobody sitting in the section at that point, yet the usher gave us all of two minutes before asking me for the ticket that he knew I didn’t have before kicking us out.  I’m sure someone could give me a stupid reason why this makes sense, but to me it seemed pointless.  There was a time, not too long ago, when the Tigers had a tough time selling seats.  Now that they’re good, everyone gets a little cocky but that could always turn so keeping the fans happy should still be a priority.  Letting a dad and his four year old son cool off for a ten minutes until the rest of the crowd actually showed up would have been a nice attempt at customer service but it wasn’t happening.

Anyway, I didn’t get much of a chance to actually see much of the game but I’ll take the win. Zach Miner put in another good performance and Ivan Rodriguez had a nice game and he went four for four.  Curtis Granderson and Marcus Thames both went yard and Miguel Cabrera drove in two more runs.  Cabrera is now up to 74 on the season and with two months and change left, 125 RBIs isn’t out of the question.

Next up is four against the even more depleted Indians who traded Casey Black this week.  We also have the trade deadline and that can get a bit crazy.  Regardless, the Tigers next three series are on the road with the finale in Chicago against the White Sox.

White Sox Take Round One

This probably won’t interest most of you, but my nightly schedule usually keeps me from watching at least the first half of Tiger home games.  My son doesn’t go to bed until around 9 pm, so by the time I get settled in and turn the game, it’s usually pretty much decided.  I was able to catch bits of this one while he was playing and of course just about every time I had the game on, the Tigers were leading.

In fact, the White Sox never had the lead in this one until the ninth inning.  The Tigers would score, the White Sox would answer.  Then Carlos Guillen belted a solo homer in the seventh inning and all looked well.  The eight inning went by without incident and Todd Jones looked like he was set to cruise through the ninth when he got the first two batters out.  Then disaster struck.  Carlos Quentin put one through the left side of the infield and then Jermaine Dye took Jones deep to turn a Tigers one run lead into a one run deficit.

It’s too bad because the Twins lost as well.  Now the Tigers will six 6 1/2 back, and more importantly, they’ll be seven back in the loss column.  If they lose either of the next two games, it could determine whether the Tigers decide to be buyers or sellers heading into the trading deadline.

Tigers Sweep Royals

The Tigers went a long way towards evening their record against the Royals after they pulled off a three game sweep in Kansas City.  The Tigers outscored KC 33-6 and in no way, shape, or form did the Royals ever have a chance in any of these games.  Yes, Kansas City is still one of the worst teams in the American League but these are also the games the Tigers have to win (and hadn’t the first two months of the season). 

This afternoon, Armando Galarraga took a perfect game into the seventh inning only to have David DeJesus single to lead off the frame.  In all, he gave up just one run on three hits and a walk with a career high seven strikeouts in seven innings of work.  Casey Fossum and Todd Jones then pitched a scoreless inning each to close out the game.

Magglio Ordonez and Placido Polanco each had a team high three hits.  Miguel Cabrera continued his impressive week with two singles and three RBIs.  He now has 14 RBIs in the last five games.  Curtis Granderson tripled for the sixth time this season and while Carlos Guillen didn’t get a hit, he walked twice and scored a pair of runs.

The Tigers now get a day off and then they start a very important three game series against the White Sox.  Nate Robertson gets the nod on Friday and he’ll go up against Gavin Floyd.  The White Sox have cushioned their first place lead and they’re 2 1/2 ahead of the Twins and 5 1/2 ahead of the Tigers.  I’ll be going to Sunday’s game with my son.

Jeff Passan has a solid column on Joel Zumaya’s comeback.  Good stuff.  And not that I’m in Jeff’s class, but I’ve also gotten back to writing, after a short hiatus, my Business of Baseball Reports over at the Hardball Times.

Justin Verlander Shines In Split With Orioles

Justin Verlander helped the Tigers salvage a split against the Orioles today.  He gave up an early run in the second inning, but after that he gave up just a pair of hits and he pitched deep into a game where the Tigers needed to give their pen a rest.  He only struck out three, but he walked just three and Justin has now won his last six decisions.  Todd Jones came in to got the final batter out, and he did after giving up a walk.  What was equally impressive was that Verlander threw all of those innings in what was an above 100 heat index.

Magglio Ordonez and Marcus Thames both went yard while Gary Sheffield drew three walks.  Ramon Santiago continues to impress and he went two for four to bring his season batting average up to .358.

Of course there was the disappointing loss Saturday night.  Yes, the Tigers got hosed on that play at the plate but it should have never gotten to that point.  A six run lead, when you’re fighting for your playoff life, is something you shouldn’t give up.

Speaking of playoffs, the Tigers sit 6 1/2 back. Doesn’t sound like much until you do the math.  Baseball Prospectus thinks it’ll take 91 wins to win the American League Central and that the White Sox have about a 69 percent chance of hitting that mark.  With a 49-49 record, the Tigers have to go 42-22 to hit the 91 win mark, which is just over a 65% winning percentage.  Basically, they’re going to have to be the best team over the final two months of the season.  Another way to look at it is if the White Sox and Twins both go .500 the rest of the way, then 87 or 88 wins will get it.  Even then, the Tigers will have to go 38-26, which means they’d still have to play close to what a 100 win team would be.

Kansas City is up next.  Zach Miner is going to get the start so we’ll how that goes.  First round pick Luke Hochevar throws for Kansas City.  His best start of the season was against the Tigers on May 14 when he threw six innings of shutout ball.

Tigers Kick Off Second Half With Win

I know, the All Star Game is no longer the absolute split between the first and second half anymore but I still look at it as a fresh start of sorts.  The Tigers seemed to like the time off and they won a tough contest against the Orioles tonight.  It seemed like every time the Tigers scored the Orioles would answer and through five innings, Baltimore had a 4-3 lead.  Brandon Inge put the Tigers ahead for good though with a two run shot in the sixth and then Marcus Thames gave the Tigers some needed insurance with a solo shot in the seventh.  Todd Jones didn’t disappoint and he gave up a run in the ninth with some help from a Ramon Santiago error but 6-5 was as close as the Orioles would get.

Gary Sheffield put the Tigers on the board with a monster two run shot in the second inning.  It was his only hit but he also drew a walk.  Edgar Renteria and Marcus Thames had a team high two hits while Magglio Ordonez went one for five in his first game back from the disabled list.

Kenny Rogers picked up the win but he got his share of help from the Tigers defense.  In the second inning, the Orioles already had two runs and there were runners on first and third with nobody out when Brandon Inge started an interesting 5-4-2 double play.  He checked Melvin Mora at third, had time to throw Ramon Hernandez at second base and then Placido Polanco threw home to get Mora.  That was the first of four double plays that the Tigers made.

The Tigers ended up using six pitchers although two of those threw to just one batter.  In all, the pen held on well enough and they combined to give up just one unearned run in three innings.

Tomorrow it’ll be Armando Galarraga going up against Jeremy Guthrie.  Guthrie is a right hander who, despite having a 5-7 record, has some very solid numbers.  Hopefully Armando is on his game and the Tigers can make it three straight.

There’s some interesting news with regards to Tiger Stadium.  If you believe what the newspapers are saying, the Stadium is on it’s last leg.  If you’re a fan of saving the ballpark though, you got a little glimmer of hope earlier thie week because Senator Carl Levin was able to get $4 million in funding to help save a portion of  Tiger Stadium in the HUD appropriations bill.  This could go a long way towards saving a part of the ballpark for future use.

On a seperate note, you can do your part if you want to see a portion of Tiger Stadium preserved.  No other old ballpark is left standing so it’s interesting (and not surprising) that Detroit wouldn’t want to be trendsetters here.  You can read about what the Old Tiger Stadium Conservacy is trying to do as well as make a donation if you’d like to help the cause.

Tigers Avoid Sweep, Head Into Break With Even Record

I guess there’s two ways to look things.  If you would have told me the Tigers would be at an even 47-47 record at the All Star break back in March, I would have been extremely disappointed.  Had you asked me in early June, I probably would have been excited. It’s been one of those years where expectations have definitely been tempered and with some help from the Rangers, the Tigers still sit seven games out of first place despite dropping three of four to the Twins.

And what a series.  The Tigers were outscored by a single run through the four game series, yet they manage to win just one of four.  And while the Tigers have turned it around as of late (taking out the last week or so), Justin Verlander has been one of the guys to lead the charge.  He struck out eight today in seven solid innings and he gave up just four hits.  In his last eight starts, he’s thrown 53 innings and struck out 52.  He’s also shaved 3/4 of a point off of his ERA and he’s now won five straight games.  Not too shabby for a guy who looked to be making a run at 20 losses.

Matt Joyce hit his ninth homerun of the season and what a surprise he’s been.  His batting average and OPB isn’t anything special, but that .600+ slugging percentage looks might fine.  17 of his 25 hits have been for extra bases and he’s hit six of his nine homeruns at home.  Not too bad for a guy who didn’t even show up on most prospect lists heading into the season.

Clete Thomas belted his first career homerun and while his batting average has tapered off, he’s still hitting a healthy .284 although he’s benefited from a .360 (prior to today’s game) batting average on balls in play.  He’s also drawn 14 walks which is a solid mark for the number of times he’s come up to the plate.

I might find time in the next couple of days to pen my typical “The All Star Game is no longer what it used to be” column that I’m known for this time the year.  In the meantime, I’m happy that work is going to be lightening up and Burn Notice is back on the air.  The first show of the season was solid and it looks like they’re not going to make too radical of a turn from what was a solid first season.  I don’t watch much television and I pick my shows wisely and outside of maybe 24, which isn’t on for another several months, Burn Notice is the best show around.

A Comeback For Me, a Comeback For You

Yesterday’s 8-6 win over the Indians was definitely one of the bright spots of the Tigers’ season.  The team clawed back from a 6-0 deficit and they capped off the dramatics with a two run walk off homerun by Miguel Cabrera.  Carlos Guillen showed he can still flash the glove and the Tigers got some big time help from the pen.  Casey Fossum pitched himself out of a huge jam by striking out the side after loading the bases up with nobody out and it looked like a 2006 flashback with both Joel Zumaya and Todd Jones throwing scoreless frames to close out the game.

Then the Tigers turn around and have an almost as disappointing loss.  Up 6-2, they let the Twins claw back into the game today and the Twins sent the game into extra frames when they tagged Jones for two in the ninth.  Then in the eleventh, Justin Morneau took Freddy Dolsi deep for the game winner.  Matt Joyce hit his second homerun in as many days and Marcus Thames had three hits, it was just all for naught.

The Tigers have made a slew of roster moves the past couple of days.  Ramon Santiago came off the disabled list and Mike Hollimon was sent down.  Dane Sardinha moved down in place of Brandon Inge and then Eddie Bonine was sent down and Jeff Larish was called up.  Bonine was moved down not because he was being bumped from the rotation, but because the Tigers don’t need him for close to two weeks.  In the meantime, he’ll get some innings in Erie for the SeaWolves.

It’ll be Armando Galarraga throwing tomorrow night with Glen Perkins throwing for the Twins.  Kansas City has blown two straight games and they’re down 1-0 tonight to the White Sox.  Another Chicago win means the Tigers are eight games back, which isn’t good.  Right now, the Tigers PECOTA adjusted projected chance of making the playoffs was just 11.6% and that was before today’s loss.  Oddly, BP still has the Tigers with a better chance then the Twins, although that margin will shrink after today’s loss.

Tigers Salvage Seattle Split

I said this last week but anything less then three out of four would be considered a disappointment this weekend against Seattle.  I guess if your a glass half full kind of guy, the Tigers’ salvaged what could have been a disaster series by winning a 15 inning pitchers duel this afternoon.  Yeah, they only split, but it could have been a whole lot worse.  Marcus Thames drove in the game winner with a sac. fly and an awesome start by Nate Robertson didn’t got to waste.  Give some props to Joel Zumaya, Freddy Dolsi, Aquilino Lopez and Todd Jones because they held the Mariners to just two hits in a combined six innings.  Ryan Raburn homered for the other run in the 2-1 win and Ivan Rodriguez had four of the Tigers’ eight hits.

Fernando Rodney was the goat last night.  He gave up a two run homer to Jeff Clement in the bottom of the eighth inning and that turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 loss.  It’s too bad because Rodney appeared to have turned the corner with five straight appearances without giving up a run.  Now you have you have to be concerned again whenever he’s called on in a high leverage situtation.

The Tigers have the day off tomorrow while they head home for two against the Indians.  It was supposed to be C.C. Sabathia throwing for the Indians in the opener but it looks like he’s going to be a Brewer so we’ll fortunately miss him.  I’m not sure who the Indians will have throwing in his place but whoever it is, it’ll be better then facing the big lefthander.

The Twins have rattled off five straight wins while the White Sox have stayed hot as well so the Tigers deficit is 7 1/2 games.  This weekend series against the Twins will be pretty important but the Tigers have to make sure they’re not looking ahead because they still have to take care of business against the struggling Indians.

Tigers Head Into Seattle Seven Games Down

The biggest problem with digging yourself into a hole in baseball is you usually need a lot of things to go right to get out of it.  The Tigers winning streaks and impressive June are now a thing of the past and after just two straight losses, the Tigers now find themselves seven back of the White Sox and four and a half back of the Twins.  Thankfully they came back in that Monday game because had they not pulled that game out, things would be looking even more grim.

Still, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.  The Tigers play four games against the AL worst Mariners and you have Felix Hernandez and J.J. Putz both out.  The Tigers will catch Erik Bedard for the first time this season, but after making him my second round pick in my fantasy draft, Bedard has looked very mortal.  The good news is, anyone should like the Tigers chances in this series.  The bad news is, anything worse then three of four will be considered a disappointment.

After missing a couple of games, Miguel Cabrera is back in the lineup.  Edgar Renteria has the night off and both Michael Hollimon, Clete Thomas and Matt Joyce will get the nod in the starting lineup.  It’ll be Justin Verlander going up against Carlos Silva. 

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