Archive for April, 2011

Wrong Direction

The Tigers took their four game winning streak into a three game series at home against the Mariners and simply laid an egg.  Three games, three mediocre outings by the Tigers starters and a grand total of six runs over three games.  The Mariners offense is pretty bad and they managed to rack up 24 runs over the three game set.  That’s not good.

Most disconcerting was Justin Verlander’s start on Wednesday.  His April woes seem to continue and while his ERA is a solid 3.64, he’s given up at least three runs in his last three starts.  I know that’s not bad, but this is our ace and since his complete game on April 11, he’s seen his ERA go up by almost half a point.

Right now, the Tigers offense is middle of the pack.  They have a .250 batting average (probably before today’s game) with 104 runs.  Offense seems to be down across the board though.  The Indians have the best batting average but they sit at just .271.

Speaking of the Indians, they have the best record in the American League right now.  I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s not going to last but the Twins and White Sox are both six back with the Tigers just ahead of them four games behind first place.  In fact the Indians are the lone team with a winning record right now.

In fact things are downright odd.  In a league with 14 teams, only five have winning records.  The Royals are right at .500 and then eight teams have losing records.  The same goes in the National League.  There’s only five teams with winning records, four teams dead even at .500 and then seven teams below the .500 mark. It’s definitely a weird start to the season.

And next up are those Indians with a three game series beginning tomorrow night.  This harkens back to 2007 when these two teams duked it out for the division title most of the year.  The opener will have Max Scherzer going up against Jeanmar Gomez.  Gomez has had a tough time this year so I like our chances.  The Indians are 9-2 at home so they’ve had some success in their own ballpark.

White Sox Sweep

The Tigers took care of business behind some solid pitching this weekend with a three game sweep over the Chicago White Sox.  It’s the Tigers fourth straight win and they now sit at 12-10, tied with the Royals and two losses back of the Indians.  I could have done without the slow start, but if you would have asked if I’d have taken 12-10 after 22, I would have taken it so the end result isn’t all bad.

What I thought was going to be a weakness (the rotation) has turned into the Tigers strength.  The Tigers gave up three runs in the series opener (Verlander gave up three solo home runs) and since then, they held the White Sox scoreless.  They’ll take the shutout inning streak into a three game home stand against the weak hitting Mariners tomorrow.
I like the season Brennan Boesch is having.  His power isn’t quite there yet, but 10 walks versus 12 strikeouts is something I’ll take any day.   And despite not having a starting role, he’s managed to play in 21 games, whether it was because he was hot at the plate or because of injuries.  I don’t expect him to hit even.300 by season’s end but .280 with a .750 OPS out of a guy who started the season as your fourth outfielder isn’t all bad.

And then there’s Miguel.  He does know how to get those personal problems that plagued him this spring out of our minds.  He now has a six game hitting streak and in three of those games he had a pair of hits.  He leads the team in RBIs and in runs (in fact he leads the league in runs) and just wait until things warm up and he starts hitting more out of the park.

Brad Penny’s start on Saturday was encouraging.  Jarrod Washburn was starting to come to mind but he turned things around with some shutout frames in the middle game of the series.

It’s Phil Coke versus Felix Hernandez in the opener tomorrow.  I’m thinking about making my way down to the game although the weather isn’t looking to hot.

Justin Verlander Strikes Out Number 1,000

A little over five years ago, Justin Verlander broke onto the scene and somewhat surprisingly made the 2006 team as the Tigers broke camp after a couple of spot starts the year before in 2005.  Since then he’s established himself as a bona fide ace and he hit a major milestone yesterday with his 1,000 strikeout.  He needed only 1,100 1/3 innings to do it and while Verlander is still only 28, he’s getting into some select company.

You wouldn’t think 1,000 strikeouts for the same team would be a lot but 1,000 on the nose puts him tied for 14th with Joe Coleman.  With 100 more strikeouts, he’ll be in the top ten.  Mickey Lolich is the lone Tiger with more then 2,000 strikeouts with 2,679 and Jack Morris just missed the mark with 1,980.  In contrast, his 85 wins puts him at 24th all time on the Tiger list.

The Tigers once again evened their record to 10-10.  It’s bizarro world this year because if you had put a gun to my head and asked me what order the teams in AL Central would finish, I would have probably chosen the exact opposite of how it is right now.  Fortunately there’s 142 games still for the team to get back on track.

The Tigers will see a familiar face this afternoon when the take on the White Sox.  Brad Penny tries to right the ship and the Tigers will face Edwin Jackson.

There and Back Again

On Friday, things were looking up.  The team won their fourth straight game and pushed their record to an even 7-7 on the season.  Two games (and only three runs) later, and the Tigers are back to two games below .500 where they sit in fourth place in the AL Central.  Probably the only good news is, misery loves company because the fifth place team is the Minnesota Twins at 5-10.

At least lately, offense has been the problem.  The Tigers sit near the middle of the American League with a .240 batting average and while that’s something they can recover from, the fact that they’re second to last in ERA doesn’t make for a great combination.  It seems like every game brings a different challenge and so far, they haven’t quite been able to put it all together.

Yesterday’s game was the perfect example.  Brad Penny was solid through four innings then he got knocked around in the fifth and probably pitched an inning too long and gave up another in the sixth.  The pen (Brad Thomas in this case) gave up an inherited run but for the most part, held on.  Then of course the offense laid an egg with just a single run off of a Casper Wells homer and five total hits.  And this isn’t the Yankees, because the A’s sit at 8-8.

Even the Tiger hitters that were getting it done early are now struggling.  After starting out 11 for 29 in his first eight games, Jhonny Peralta has gone one for eighteen in his last seven.  The only guy hitting above .300 is Miguel Cabrera at (.304) and since April 9, Magglio Ordonez has played in just two games.

Some good news, and that’s the fact that the Tigers now head to Seattle for three games before coming home.  The only team in the American League with a worse record then the Mariners is the Boston Red Sox.  They have a MLB worst .214 batting average so if the Tiger hurlers can’t get back on track against these guys, you wonder who they can get back on track with.  Max Scherzer gets the nod in the series opener tonight and Jason Vargas goes for the Mariners.  Game time is 10:05.

Three Series Down, Three Series Lost

The Tigers wrapped up their third series of the season yesterday and for the third straight time, they lost the series.  And it’s just in time for the Texas Rangers to come into town and they’re only 8-1 and the defending AL champs.  Unfortunately, there’s not just one thing we can look at and say “that’s been the problem.”  On Saturday they got a really nice start from Phil Coke and the Tigers only put one run on the board.  Then on Sunday they get five runs and Rick Porcello got knocked around.  Justin Verlander has, as expected, been the most consistent starter with Max Scherzer right behind although even though Scherzer is 2-0, his numbers aren’t all that great because of the rough start against the Yankees.

The pen has also had their rough outings.  Throw in an injured Ryan Perry and Joel Zumaya and it makes for a much shorter pen then the Tigers were looking at coming into spring training.  Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde have done their job, but you’re only going to see them if the rotation and the back end of the pen does what they’re supposed to do.

On the hitting side, Miguel Cabrera has done his job and Jhonny Peralta and Brennan Boesch have been nice surprises but Magglio Ordonez and Victor Martinez have yet to heat up.  As expected, Austin Jackson has also come down to earth and he’s tied with Josh Willingham for the AL lead with 14 strikeouts.

Just looking ahead, this Rangers series is just what the Tigers don’t need.  Fortunately they’ll have Verlander and Scherzer both throwing.  Then they head out west to play the 4-5 Athletics and the 2-7  Mariners.  Those west coast series can be tough but they’re also teams the Tigers should be able to hang with.

Joel Zumaya once again ran into a wall and his throwing program has been halted.  Once again he felt some discomfort in his throwing elbow so he’ll sit for another couple of days.  Also at the bottom of the Zumaya story is some talk about Benoit and whether he’ll see more then one inning of work.  Yes, he’s had some injury concerns in the past but I also hate how bullpens are used these days.  Let’s hope that if the Tigers need that big out in the seventh, we’ll see the best pitcher in there.  It also looks like Ryan Perry will be back April 22.  Gametime is 1:05 and I wish this game were next week because I would have gone down to the ballpark.

Jacob Turner Shines In Erie Home Opener

If a guy like Brad Penny continues to struggle you wonder how long they’ll be able to keep Jacob Turner down when he pitches like this.

Bullpen Falters, Tigers Fall to 2-4

Ryan Perry was the latest casualty.  He wears contacts and he has an eye abrasion so he can’t put his contacts in for about a week.  That put him on the 15 day disabled list and in his place, Robbie Weinhardt got the call up.  And the bullpen needs all the help they need right now because they once again cost the Tigers in a game where they should have picked up the win.

Brad Penny got off to a nice start (two runs through five) but then ran into a walk in the sixth when he gave up a two run home run to Andruw Jones.  Brayan Villereal got the Tigers out of the sixth but then the bottom of the seventh (the Tigers had taken a 5-4 lead) was a disaster.  Brad Thomas and Enrique Gonzalez were tagged for five runs in the frame and even Dan Schlereth gave up an inherited run.  I know it’s early, but this is a bad trend because especially the Tigers back three in the rotation don’t give me a lot of confidence (right now). Knowing the pen isn’t going to be there to pick up the slack could lead to a rough April.

Brennan Boesch had another nice game with a a double, a single a run and an RBI.  Austin Jackson went two for five in his first multi-hit game of the season.  And it also looks like, at least early, his spring strikeout to walk ratio was an anomaly because he’s already struck out ten times with just three walks so far.  In fact he’s struck out at least once in all six games.  Alex Avila belted a solo shot and he walked and scored a run as well.

Today is opening day.  It’ll be the Tigers and the 4-2 Royals at 3 pm.  Max Scherzer will go up against Kyle Davies.

Slow Starts Abound With 1-3 Tigers

First off, the 1-2 start by the Tigers didn’t worry me too much.  The Yankees are still an elite team and that lineup is just brutal.  I knew we were in trouble when the pen didn’t get the job done after Justin Verlander’s solid start.  Throw in one game against a better then usual Orioles team and a lineup full of sick players and I’m not too concerned that the Tigers are 1-3.  If they start 10-20 I’ll be worried but with the Royals coming up, the Tigers can turn things around in a hurry.

A lot has been made of Alex Avila’s slow start and that continued today.  He did draw a walk, but he’s now 1 for 10 in three games.  Probably more worrisome is Magglio Ordonez, who’s one for eleven (he got his first hit today).  The slow start is one thing but the fact that his ankle is giving him some troubles are another.  This is our number three hitter and we can have him struggling for long.

Also of some concern was Brad Penny’s start on Saturday.  Yes, the Yankees are good but he had a tough time getting anyone out.  Phil Coke struggling out of the pen is also a tough sign.  He’s given up runs in each of his two appearances so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do when he pitches a little deeper into the game.

Still, a two game winning streak puts the Tigers back at .500.  And the Royals aren’t going to stick as the first place team and the Tigers are right there with the 1-3 Twins.  If this stuff continues through the end of this week though, then that will be a different story.

Verlander is Okay

I heard a completely unsubstantiated rumor that Justin Verlander was okay.  In fact it doesn’t even look like he had to go see a doctor or anyone for that matter.

April Fool’s Day has become a little bit of a tradition. If you want to check out past poor attempts at humor, be sure to click here.

Justin Verlander to Visit Dr. Andrews

The Tigers lost their season opener yesterday and while Justin Verlander threw a nice game (six solid frames), he threw 30 pitches in the first inning alone and he managed through 115 pitches through six innings.  It’s not clear whether it was the early work, or whether it was the higher early pitch count in such cold weather, but there was some soreness and the Tigers aren’t taking any chances and he’ll get to visit with renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

The pen let the Tigers down yesterday and Phil Coke’s outing was particularly troubling.  Inge didn’t help with a throwing error but Ryan Perry came in to help but even he gave up one of the inherited runners left by Coke.  The only guy to really get out of an inning unscathed was Dan Schlereth and even he threw a while pitch and let a Ryan Perry run score.

Brandon Inge was the lone Tiger with two hits. He singled and doubled.  Miguel Cabrera went one for two with a walk, an RBI and two runs.  There weren’t a lot of hitting stars with CC Sabathia on the mound and the Tigers managed just six hits in all.

As far as Verlander, let’s hope he’s okay.  How would he be able to celebrate April Fools day with a bum arm?

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