Archive for May, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

I think Memorial Day is one of the more misunderstood and under appreciated holidays.  It was also a pretty big baseball day back in the days.  When the season started in mid-April, Memorial Day usually signified the quarter point of the season and it usually had all teams playing doubleheaders.  Now, there’s a handful of teams that didn’t even play today.  I know doubleheaders are a thing of the past and television usually dictates the schedule but this is another tradition I wouldn’t mind seeing come back.

The Tigers lost today and that meant the Tigers finished the May with a losing record (12-14).  They’ve also dropped seven of their last nine in their toughest stretch to date.  During the nine game stretch, they’ve gone from tied for first place to four games back (the Twins play later tonight) so the Twins have really capitalized.  It’s like the end of last season, just in May.

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The big news over the weekend was that the Tigers finally gave up on Dontrelle Willis and designated him for assignment.  It’ll be interesting to see what the Tigers can get for Willis (if they can get anything).  This season so far was weird because Willis wasn’t downright horrible, he was just consistently mediocre.  In seven of his eight starts, he pitched at least five innings and while he never gave up more then four runs in a start, he was usually in the three to four run window.  With Max Scherzer finding his groove in Toledo, it just made sense that he get brought back up.  The question then was, who was out and Willis was probably the worst of the bunch that made sense (Porcello is struggling, but they’re not paying him a bunch of money and he’s only 21).

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And what a re-debut for Scherzer.  He struck out 14 in just 5 2/3 innings and he picked up just his second win of the season.  In Scherzer’s start, Joel Zumaya picked up the save and with it, an odd trend has developed (and will probably be broken this year).  Joel Zumaya has five career saves, and he has exactly one in each of his five seasons with the Tigers.    No more then one, and no less then one each season.

We’re four games into the Carlos Guillen at second base experiment and so far so good.  Guillen hasn’t made an error but he’s just two for fifteen since coming off of the disabled list.  He did hit a home run which helps.  Overall, the Tigers are hitting just .221/.316/.325 from their second baseman (prior to today’s game) and it’d be nice to see Guillen get back into a groove and bring that up.

The Tigers host the Indians beginning tomorrow.  It’ll be Jake Westbrook against Jeremy Bonderman in the opener.

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Chad Billingsley Shuts Down Tigers In First Interleague Game

The Tigers managed just one run on four hits as they were shutdown by Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers bullpen.  Austin Jackson had a pair of hits (single and a double) and he scored the lone run in the first inning when Magglio Ordonez drove him in with a sac. fly.  Ordonez also drew a walk (it’s funny how you look at these things when you’re trying to scrape together hitting highlights when they aren’t there) and Brandon Inge doubled.

Dontrelle Willis had another rough start and we’re now almost a month removed from his last win when he threw six shutout innings.  He got off to a good start and gave up just a single in the first three innings but then in the fourth, after going through the lineup once, the Dodgers started producing on him.  The fourth inning was particularly weird because the Dodgers got a run on just one single.  With two outs, it went single, wild pitch, walk, walk then HBP.  He gave up two more runs in the fifth (one with a wild pitch) and then another in the sixth (although the RBI hit came off of Eddie Bonine, who inherited Willis’ runner).

After that, the pen did their job but the Tigers couldn’t get the bats going.  Brad Thomas pitched two shutout innings to close out the game.  It’s nice to see him getting back on track after some bumps in late April.

Tonight, it’ll be Armando Galarraga going up against John Ely.  It’s a late afternoon game in LA so it’ll be the Tigers regular time slot at seven.

Is Jeremy Bonderman Back?

The Tigers are one of the hottest teams in the American League right now and Jeremy Bonderman, who looked like a shell of his old self in April, has now put together three nice starts in a row.  He even came out of the bullpen earlier in the week and threw a shutout inning.  His latest outing was yesterday and he struck out a season high eight batters in six innings en route to his second win of the season.  He did walk four and the Athletics offense is in the bottom half of the league but he’s gone at least six innings and given up two earned runs or less in each of his last three starts and he’s striking out almost a batter an inning on the season.

The strange thing is, I don’t know how he’s doing it.  His velocity is still down and while pitchers have reinvented themselves after injuries (Frank Tanana for example), Bonderman has made the transition pretty quickly.  He is throwing a lot of sliders but in this last start, he didn’t throw above 91 and most of his fastballs were in the high 80s.

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His numbers don’t look too out of whack though.  He has a .299 batting average on balls in play which isn’t too strange.    A big reason for his success is he’s really getting righties out (.544 OPS) but one concern is that he’s giving up a lot of fly balls and if he’s not careful, that could come back to haunt him.  Still, all in all Bonderman has been one of the Tigers better starts outside of Justin Verlander.

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Interleague play begins today and the Tigers are in LA to take on the Dodgers.  It’s Dontrelle Willis against Chad Billingsley.  It’s the last game of the day at 10:10.

Galarraga Wins Season Debut

Armando Galarraga made his first start of the season for the Tigers and while he thought he could do better, the end result was a win.  He needed 103 pitches to get through 5 2/3 innings and he gave up a run on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts.  The pen then did their thing (again) with Jeremy Bonderman, Ryan Perry and Jose Valverde throwing a shutout inning each.  The only reliever who really got into trouble was Fu-Te Ni, who gave up a couple of singles and a walk before he got J.D. Drew to strike out to end the inning.

Jim Leyland put Ramon Santiago second in the order and he belted his first home run of the season.  Johnny Damon went two for two with two walks, a run and an BRI and Danny Worth made his major league debut and he went one for three with an RBI.

The Twins also won so the Tigers still sit 2 1/2 games back of first.  Next up are the White Sox who have still been struggling to start the season.  Rick Porcello looks to follow up his best start of the season earlier in the week against the Yankees and the Tigers will take on a familiar face in Freddy Garcia.  The White Sox are the only AL Central team the Tigers haven’t faced this year and it’s a two game series before the Tigers head out west again.

Tigers Make Some Changes

If you had asked me during spring training what the future was for some of the Tigers newer players, I would have predicted that Scott Sizemore would struggle, Austin Jackson would start the season in Triple A and eventually get up to the majors mid-year and that Max Scherzer would win 13-15 and make a solid number two option to Justin Verlander.  I got the Scott Sizemore part right but Austin Jackson not only made the team, he’s contending for a batting title.  And now Max Scherzer, after a rough start to the season, has been sent down to Toledo to work on his stuff.  Sizemore joins him in what’s the first big overhaul of the Tigers starting front.

The Tigers are 21-16 and while their 3 1/2 games back of the Twins, the Tigers must have felt it was time to address some of their problems now. Carlos Guillen coming off of the disabled list also must have called their hand.   So Guillen will be the new second baseman and Armando Galarraga will rejoin the Tigers rotation (and he pitches today).  Danny Worth was also called up and he’ll see some time at second base, along with Ramon Santiago, until Guillen comes back.

At second, Sizemore was the 31st “best” defensive second baseman if you use Bill James Online’s runs saved system so even with Guillen over there, it can’t get much worse.  Galarraga was solid for the Hens (although two starts ago he was rocked) so we’ll see how it all plays out.

The Tigers won in twelve last night and Brennan Boesch continued to rake.  He went four for six with two RBIs.  Ramon Santiago drove in the game winner with a bases loaded walk and Brandon Inge tied the game in the eighth with a one run double.  The pen pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings and Joel Zumaya shined again with 2 1/3 innings of shutout relief.  Good stuff in the 7-6 win and in front of a packed house no less.  This afternoon it’s John Lackey against Galarraga.

Farwell Ernie

Ernie Harwell = Baseball

It’s a simple calculation.  When I grew up, baseball becamse a passion for me.  The Tigers had their share of good teams in the 1980s and one of the things people take for granted is all of the baseball on television.  Back then (I sound like an old man), you got around 30-40 games on television a year.  You got the game of the week on Saturdays and that would be your only chance to see teams from the National League (as well as the All Star Game, which was still a big deal).  If you wanted to follow your team, you had the newspapers and then the radio.  For most of my growing years, Ernie Harwell (and Paul Carey, who I feel is vastly underrated and should get some props as well) was the man.  As a kid you didn’t know how good he was because you didn’t have anything to compare it to.  He was just the guy who described everything for you so you could follow the game.

His catch phrases were all classics and he did a great job of not overusing them.  I remember doing a double take when he called a foul ball and said it was caught by a gentleman from Southgate (my hometown) and whenever the Tigers turn a double play, “two for the price of one,” pops into my head to this day.

Most nights, I fell asleep listening to the game.  I didn’t have the transistor radio under my pillow, I had the radio with a set of headphones so I could listen covertly.  To this day, Ernie’s voice is imprinted in my brain and whenever he’s on a commercial or something, I don’t even have to look to know who it is.

Now he’s gone.  And while it’s a little sad, you know Mr. Harwell, who was a man of deep faith, is in a better place.  Your’e one of a kind Ernie.  Thanks for all of the memories.

Weekend Wrap

The Tigers capped off a great week with yet another win as they put together their fifth straight win.  They didn’t need a bunch of home runs or a walk off hit but what they did get is some solid pitching by Justin Verlander to go with some timely hitting.  Verlander threw 120 pitches and pitched into the ninth inning but the Tigers needed Jose Valverde to get the final two outs of the game.  This was just what the Tigers needed because it gave the rest of the pen a much needed break.  Verlander gave up just three hits with seven strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings.

Verlander threw a 98 mph fastball to the final batter he face in the ninth inning.  Earlier in the inning, he threw four consecutive fastballs to Maicer Izturis where he was consistently in the mid-90s so Verlander still had it even with all of the innings he threw.

The Tigers did most of their damage in the fifth inning when they scored four runs.  Five hits, a walk and a wild pitch resulted in four runs.  Austin Jackson then drove in a run in the sixth with a single.  He finished three for five and he’s now hitting .367.  Jackson is also getting it done in the field and at least according to =/-, Jackson is the seventh most effective centerfielder in baseball right now.

On Saturday, the Tigers won a barnburner.  Johnny Damon hit his first home run as a Tiger and it was a walk off blast.  Jeremy Bonderman also had his best start so far this year with six innings of good enough pitching.   The pen also came through with three innings of shutout relief.

The win kept the Tigers a half game back of the Twins and they’re five games ahead of the third place Indians.  Now the Tigers have to play their first game at Target Field as they take on the Twins for three beginning tomorrow.  Game one has Max Scherzer going up against Scott Baker.  Both pitchers have struggled at times and hopefully Scherzer puts something nice together.

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