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Splits Will Make You Go Bananas

Lee Panas over at Tiger Tales has been going over the position “battles” (such as they are) pretty thoroughly, and in some of the comments, a consensus was emerging about playing Nook Logan at least sometimes against lefties. Then it occurred to me that, with Dmitri Young’s flexibility to play 1B, 3B and corner OF (assuming the reports about his significant weight loss/better shape are correct – and, by the way, click that link and check out the photo of a really young, much skinnier Dmitri Young… it’s almost comical), we could actually have some interesting platoon possibilities. That led me to look up the 3-year splits (I’ll list just OPS) of the following 8 players (for 6 positions: 1B, 3B, DH and 3 OF’ers) over at

Carlos Pena: 702 v L, 831 v R (129 better v R)
Chris Shelton: 765 v L, 871 v R (106 better v R)
Dmitri Young: 823 v L, 858 v R (35 better v R)
Brandon Inge: 851 v L, 674 v R (177 better v L)
Magglio Ordonez: 921 v L, 856 v R (65 better v L)
Curtis Granderson: 1033 v L, 751 v R (282 better v L)
Nook Logan: 772 v L, 606 v R (166 better v L)
Craig Monroe: 862 v L, 738 v R (124 better v L)

Going by those numbers alone (and I’ll grant to anyone who wants to argue that some of these numbers are coming from very small sample sizes… and I also acknowledge the sabermetric argument out there that, given enough plate appearances, platoon differentials will essentially become the same for all players), here’s how to best fill the 6 available slots against left-handed pitching:

Shelton 1B, Inge 3B, Dmitri DH, Monroe LF, Granderson CF, Ordonez RF, leaving Nook and Carlos Pena for pinch-hitting/defensive replacement duties.

Against right-handers:

Shelton 1B, Dmitri 3B, Pena DH, Monroe LF, Granderson CF, Ordonez RF, leaving Inge and Logan for defensive replacement duties.

Originally, my thought was that perhaps Logan’s split would argue in favor of him getting playing time over Monroe, rather than Granderson (by moving Granderson to a corner OF slot), but Monroe’s split is almost the same as Logan’s, except that he’s higher by about 100 points higher of OPS against both lefties and righties.

The surprise came in Brandon Inge’s quite severe split. He’s not Nook Logan-awful against right-handers, but he’s not anything like good, either. Now, using a 3-year split means that that number also uses his last year of putrid hitting back when he wore the tools of ignorance, but 2003 (when he was injured for some time and got far fewer at-bats than 2004 or 2005) accounted for just 27% of his at-bats against lefties and 23% of his at-bats against righties in this exercise, as opposed to the expectation of about 33%. Now, surely, Inge’s defense at the hot corner (which, by all accounts and many fancy sabermetric measurements, is quite good) must count for something, but getting Inge some pine time in favor of Dmitri at 3B surely looks better in this light, doesn’t it?

Am I the only one who’s noticed?

It’s obvious that Dave Dombrowski has become Rob Parker’s personal whipping boy. When I saw the link on the Detroit News’ Tigers page today with the headline “Dombrowski has failed”, I had no doubt that the column was written by Parker. In today’s column (which I refuse to provide a link to and strongly encourage you not to click on), he makes the following (typically) specious arguments:

The Jeff Weaver trade stinks, because Weaver is “clearly” a better pitcher than Jeremy Bonderman (despite the fact that Weaver had to wait until the eve of Spring Training to sign a contract, because he’s clearly such a valuable commodity), Carlos Pena isn’t “an impact player” (mainly, according to the article, because his batting average has dipped 13 points in his Tiger tenure… Never mind that his OBP has dropped only 7 points and his SLG has jumped 37 points), and Franklyn German stinks. OK, so he’s right on that last one.

We overpaid for Pudge Rodriguez, Troy Percival and Magglio Ordonez. Well, duh, but how much of the fault for this is laid on Dombrowski, and how much on Ilitch? It is public knowledge that Ilitch personally assisted (glad-handing, attending a dinner, and/or actively negotiating) in all three of these contracts.

Speaking of Magglio Ordonez, he has an “oft-injured knee.” (Back here in reality, rational people realize that it’s only been injured once, but the nature of the injury was severe enough that he had to miss significant time for it.) Further, Magglio Ordonez stunk last year because his HR and RBI totals were far below what he had averaged in his healthy White Sox years. Gotta wonder how many interviews Magglio will grant to Rob Parker this year. I’m setting the early over/under at 1, and I’ll be betting the under.

“Only one Dombrowski-built team has finished over .500 – the ’97 Marlins.” Well, in order for this statement to be true, you have to believe that Dombrowski had little to do with the success of the 1990 Expos. I went and looked it up. Yeah, he didn’t have much to do with the acquisition of their hitters (Dave Martinez was the only regular that was a Dombrowski transaction), but he was responsible for the presence of Oil Can Boyd, Kevin Gross and Zane Smith in the rotation, who collectively started 78 games and logged almost 500 IP with ERA’s of 2.93, 3.42 and 3.23, respectively (league-average ERA was 3.79), but a win-loss record of 25-25 (I include the won-loss record for Mr. Parker’s benefit, as that is probably all he would look at, anyways). In the bullpen were Dombrowski Rule V pick Bill Sampen, Steve Frey (over from the Mets in a trade), and free agent pick-ups Dale Mohorcic and Dave Schmidt, who collectively accounted for another approximately 250 IP, with ERA’s of 2.99, 2.10, 3.23 and 4.31, respectively. They accounted for 24 wins against 14 losses and 26 of the team’s 50 saves. In other words, Dombrowski’s pitching acquisitions accounted for over 50% of the team’s innings pitched, most of those quality innings.

Now, do I think the Tigers have a great season to look forward to? Not necessarily. We’re in a tough division, the other teams in our division are only getting better, and we have a recent history of playing poorly against them, and we have an unbalanced schedule staring us in the face. Plus, most of the improvement that the Tigers are looking for is basically an improvement by guys we already have. In some cases, we’re looking for performance improvements, and in others, we’re just looking for the player to stay healthy the whole year.

I’m not saying Dombrowski is some kind of a god and should be above criticism. On the other hand, the fact that Rob Parker actually has a say in the annual Hall of Fame balloting makes me ill, because he just clearly doesn’t get it.

Parker closes his column with this:

“So, when will Dombrowski’s team finally win?

‘I think we’re in a spot where we have to start producing on the field and win some ballgames,’ he said.

If not, Dombrowski should be shown the door.”

Therefore, I close with this thought:

If Rob Parker continues to have merely a passing acquaintance with reality in his baseball columns, he should not be allowed to write them any more.

Reining In Ilitch?

OK, so here’s my reaction to the Ilitch AP interview, sprinkled in with some thoughts I was already having about the Tigers’ off-season so far:

You see, I recalled a Jayson Stark article I read earlier in the off-season. Now, why was I thinking about an article that focuses on the Dodgers? Because of the quote of new Dodgers GM Ned Colletti that is highlighted in a separate block:

“If I wanted to fix things and have half a farm system, I could have done that yesterday. But that’s not the plan. The plan is to be better and still hold the course, to develop and win at the same time. That’s probably the hardest thing to do in baseball – develop and win at the same time. But that’s what we’re trying to do.”

It occurred to me that among the positives of the twin signings of nearly elderly free agent pitchers Todd Jones and Kenny Rogers was that we didn’t have to give up any draft picks as compensation for either of them. In the case of Rogers, the Rangers were contractually obligated to not offer him arbitration, and one wonders if Dombrowski still has enough contacts in the Marlins organization to at least have a hunch that they would decline to offer arbitration to Jones, thus eliminating the concern of losing draft picks (word around baseball is that the Marlins declined to offer Jones arbitration because they don’t feel they will be able to afford to pay for more high draft picks than their own plus those they will be getting as compensation for the Blue Jays’ signing of A.J. Burnett). This is in direct contrast to last year’s signing of Troy Percival, which continues to look worse and worse as time goes on. At least the Magglio Ordonez signing only costs us money.

Then came the Ilitch AP interview. At which point, I think, a thinking Tigers fan can begin to understand a piece of the dynamic going on in the front office of the Tigers. Ilitch is pressing Dombrowski to win, and win now. Thus, the sense of urgency as shown by the firing of Alan Trammell and hiring of the 2200+ games of managerial experience that Jim Leyland represents. Also, we can now understand a little better the signings of Ivan Rodriguez, Rondell White, Jason Johnson, and Fernando Vina in the off-season following the most embarrassing number in recent memory: 119.

So, what to make of this? I see it this way: Ilitch would like to spend like a drunken sailor and win now, throwing caution (and the future of the franchise) to the wind. On the other hand, he finally has a GM he trusts in Dombrowski, and Dombrowski has the authority to put the brakes on ill-considered moves (such as, let’s say, the proposed Granderson and Zumaya for Javier Vazquez trade, which sounds a lot like exactly the kind of idiocy that Randy Smith would have engaged in without hesitation).

So I return now to the Colletti quote. “That’s probably the hardest thing to do in baseball – develop and win at the same time. But that’s what we’re trying to do.” Well, I hate to break it to you, Ned, but you’re the new kid on the block. Get in the back of the line.

What, exactly, is Lynn Henning smoking?

Look, I hate to call out a guy who I respect, and who I actually think does a generally decent job of being the Tigers beat writer. But today’s column, man… Some of this stuff is just head-scratching.

First off, the fascination with trading Pudge Rodriguez… I just don’t know who else will want him, frankly. With the entry of the Japanese catcher, Johjima, signed by the Mariners, that just made the off-season market for catchers that much more of a buyer’s market. Certainly Henning, as the beat writer, is closer to the team than I and has a better feel for how serious the “trade Pudge” movement might be, but I just don’t see it. Not unless we’re willing to take on someone else’s problem contract, and we’ve already got plenty of those, thanks (not to mention we’re probably considering right now one or two more). I won’t even go into the severe hitting problems Brandon Inge has when wearing the tools of ignorance.

Then there’s the matter of Carlos Pena… Here it is, for the last time: Pena is arbitration-eligible this off-season, as he was last off-season. His salary in 2005 was $2.575 million, and the Tigers, by rule of the collective bargaining agreement, cannot offer more than a 20% reduction of that (or $2.06 million) in arbitration. Any team that Pena might be traded to will be under the same restriction. The team does have a way out of this problem, though: They can refuse to offer a contract for him to the arbitrator by a certain deadline (I think this has been Dec. 20 in the past), and the player becomes a free agent, who can sign for any amount with any team. Other teams are fully aware of this situation. Any of the other 29 GM’s would be foolish to trade for Pena under these circumstances. Pena absolutely will not be traded, he will be non-tendered. Write it down. In ink.

As to the outfield situation, my personal feeling is that Curtis Granderson seems to me like the type of player who is athletic enough to handle center field in his youth, but likely will wind up in a corner outfield position. Regular Tigerblog reader Dan has already expressed his disgust for Jim Leyland’s Nook Logan fascination (and while my opinion of Nook is not as strong as Dan’s, I do agree that we shouldn’t be counting on much from him), but if the purpose of the column is to predict what the Tigers’ off-season might look like, we all have to admit to Henning’s correct assessment that the preferred outfield combination will be Granderson-Logan-Magglio.

Henning does do a good job discussing potential starting pitching candidates in case all efforts to sign or trade for starting pitching fall through. People seem to have suddenly forgotten that Wil Ledezma was supposed to have a bright future, and that he obviously hid an injury through last year’s spring training. Then again, watching him struggle through 10 horrific starts will easily obscure that kind of thing in one’s memory.

Then there’s Roman Colon, who had a fantastic 3.27 ERA as a starter in ’05. That’s better than his distant cousin (OK, I don’t believe there is any relation, actually) Bartolo Colon.

And, of course, we are all aware of the very bright future that Justin Verlander represents.

But, still, that Carlos Pena thing just bothered me. There is zero chance of him being traded before the non-tender deadline. Absolute zero.

’05 White Sox Similar to ’84 Tigers?

I mentioned it several times… Something about the 2005 White Sox reminded me of the 1984 Tigers. Regular Tigerblog reader Dan, whose hatred of all things White Sock is both obvious and quite laudable from this Tiger fan’s perspective, disagreed at least to some extent, and I think he has some valid points. But I think I have found what it is that brought those ’84 Tigers to mind: Win pattern. The Tigers had that great 35-5 start, a statistic that no Tiger fan will forget. Hell, I even remembered when the Braves set a record in 1997 for the most wins in April with 19… But they were 19-6, and I recalled those beloved ’84 Tigers finishing April at 18-2. Off the top of my head. Without looking it up. 18-2 beats the hell out of 19-6, but I have now digressed from the topic at hand. No, the White Sox didn’t race out to a 35-5 start. Indeed, they weren’t 10 games over .500 until 14-4, weren’t 20 games over until 39-19, and didn’t reach 30 games over until 56-26 on July 5th. But still, they had a pretty good start and jumped out to a big lead in the AL Central Division right from the beginning. Then, as the “dog days” portion of the season approached, they went through a period of downright mediocre performances, including an astounding 12-16 record in the month of August (the Tigers of ’84 slipped some in August, too, though they squeaked out of the month with an above-.500 mark of 16-15). But as the end of the season approached, the White Sox seemed like they flipped the switch. Their last 5 series went like this: Took 2 of 3 in Minnesota, dropped 2 of 3 at home to Cleveland, won 3 of 4 at home against the Twins, dropped the first 2 and won the last 2 in their 4-game split in Comerica, then swept the final 3 games in Cleveland (despite the games being important to the Indians, and not so much to the Sox), an overall mark of 11-6. The ’84 Tigers in their last 5 series? Took 2 of 3 from the Blue Jays at home, swept the Brewers at home (clinched the AL East during this series), took 2 of 3 from the Yankees at home, won 2 of 3 in Milwaukee, and split a 4-game year-ender in Yankee Stadium, for an 11-7 finish. We all know about the White Sox’s 11-1 record in the playoffs, much like the 7-1 record the Tigers compiled in their post-season.

But that’s a big pile of words… Let’s have ourselves a picture, shall we?

That shows it pretty clear… Most of the ascents align with each other quite well, as do the periods of stability (stretch of near-.500 baseball), with the exception of the White Sox tailspin toward the end there. Then I got to wondering about putting some other teams on there, just as a contrast, to show that other playoff teams from other years had dissimilar patterns. In other words, why other teams have not reminded us of the ’84 Tigers. At first, I wanted the last team from each league with a better record than the 104 wins of the ’84 Tigers, then I went for the last team to finish between 99 wins (’05 White Sox) and 104 (’84 Tigers). I came up with this chart:

Shows pretty clearly that the ’01 Mariners just plain never had a patch of mediocrity, and that the ’04 Cardinals and ’04 Yankees had their patches of mediocrity, but in an entirely different part of the year from where the ’84 Tigers and ’05 White Sox had theirs.

It’s Lonely at the… Bottom

The final tallies are in, and Ivan Rodriguez finished the season with 504 at-bats. And 11 walks. According to Sean Lehman’s database, just 3 men have had seasons of more at-bats with exactly 11 walks:

Buck Weaver’s 1919 season for the White Sox, 571 at-bats;
Tommy Corcoran’s 1902 season for the Reds, 538 at-bats; and
Ozzie Guillen’s 1991 season for the White Sox, 524 at-bats. Yes, that Ozzie Guillen.

And there have only been 12 other seasons of even fewer walks in more at-bats than the year that Pudge threw up on the ol’ stat sheet:

1950, 10 walks, 525 at-bats, Don Mueller, outfielder for the New York Giants
1917, 10 walks, 532 at-bats, Dave Robertson, also an outfielder for the New York Giants
1914, 10 walks, 533 at-bats, John Leary, 1st baseman for the St. Louis Browns
1907, 10 walks, 561 at-bats, Hobe Ferris, 2nd baseman for the Boston Red Sox
1903, 10 walks, 559 at-bats, Lave Cross, 3rd baseman for the Philadelphia Athletics
1903, 10 walks, 548 at-bats, Charlie Carr, 1st baseman for the Detroit Tigers

1966, 9 walks, 541 at-bats, Tito Fuentes, shortstop/2nd baseman for the San Francisco Giants
1949, 9 walks, 575 at-bats, Virgil Stallcup, shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds
1912, 9 walks, 523 at-bats, Buck Weaver, shortstop for the Chicago White Sox

1901, 7 walks, 548 at-bats, Candy LaChance, 1st baseman for the Cleveland Blues

1915, 6 walks, 562 at-bats, Art Fletcher, shortstop for the New York Giants
1909, 6 walks, 565 at-bats, George Stovall, 1st baseman for the Cleveland Naps

For what it’s worth, Ozzie Guillen also walked just 10 times in 499 at-bats in 1996, just missing qualifying for this group a second time (note that with that one more at-bat that year, he would have been the second player – both of them career White Sox – to turn the trick twice in his career).

So, no, he didn’t quite re-write the history books… But he’s in an elite group of 15 men (in 16 seasons) with 11 or fewer walks, but more than 500 at-bats (since 1900). Who is Leyland’s preferred hitting coach again?

That Does It

A four-game sweep at the hands of the lowly Kansas City Royals. It just doesn’t get any lower than this. Then, suddenly… It hit me. The appropriate strategy for the final 10 games of the season: Draft position. Since the powers that be have decided that the first overall pick will alternate between leagues, it’s a close race between the Pirates and the Rockies for first overall (with the Pirates 1½ game “ahead” currently). On the American League side, it is, unfortunately, already mathematically impossible for the Royals to finish ahead of us. However, the Mariners (our next opponent, no less!) are just 1½ games “ahead” of us and we only need to make up 3½ games on Tampa Bay to pass them by. On the NL side, we’ll need to make sure to out-lose the Dodgers, who currently have exactly the same record as we do, and the Rockies are way out front – we need to make up 4 games to pass them (or 5½ games to pass the Pirates, should the Rox find their way to the first overall pick). So, that’s the new plan… There’s 10 games left, let’s lose ’em all, and we could wind up as high as the third overall pick in next summer’s draft.

How will we lose them all? I know, let’s shut down Jeremy Bonderman for the year. Then, let’s feature (in just 10 games, remember) at least two starts each from Sean Douglass, Matt Ginter, and Jason Grilli (and shutting down Bonderman nearly assures this). Hey, while we’re at it, let’s take a look at that lineup, huh?

Catcher: Well, Ivan Rodriguez says he wants to clear his head (see lower half of the Tigers Corner column at the “Bonderman being shut down” link above)? Fine. Let’s start Vance Wilson for the last 10 games. And, while we’re at it, let’s reward Max St. Pierre for his very nice year down in AA… by getting him acclimated to his future career role: backup catcher.

1st Base: You know what? For developmental value, I’m in favor of going ahead and letting Chris Shelton finish out the year here.

2nd Base: Hey, Placido, nice year. Here’s your reward: A nice 10-game rest. Save some for next year, buddy. Somebody get Kevin Hooper on the blower and tell him to grab the next plane to Detroit.

3rd Base: Nice year for Brandon Inge here… Let’s reward him with some time off, too. John McDonald gets the nod for the final 10 contests.

Shortstop: Hey, Carlos, nice job working so hard to rehab that knee… But I tell you what, buddy… Pace yourself. Omar Infante can hold down the fort… It’s only 10 games, after all.

Left Field: Well, Craig, congratulations are in order. You’re leading the team in RBIs, and no one else is even within shouting distance. So what say you shut it down for the last 10 games, and we’ll see if the real Nook Logan will please stand up.

Center Field: Now, you might be asking yourself… Why Logan in left field? Because, like Shelton at first base, we’ll be employing Curtis Granderson in center for developmental purposes.

Right Field: Magglio, buddy, really… We believe you about the knee thing. Even if the Chicago media types don’t. And the sports hernia, well… Stuff happens. But, honestly, let’s not risk anything, huh? Save it for next year. In the meantime, we’ll be putting the strikeout-tastic Marcus Thames in right, because he’s probably got a family to feed and all, and who knows, maybe some other team will see something they like and pick him up for next year. Let’s give him a chance.

Designated Hitter: Wow, Dmitri, you really weren’t kidding when you said playing left field wasn’t really a good thing for you, long term… So, yeah, take a seat, pal. No problem. It’s really better for us to bat our pitchers from here on out, anyways. Warm ’em up for next year’s interleague play, that’s the ticket.

Oh, yeah, and as long as we’re working completely on next year, let’s get Cameron Maybin inked. Way to go, Double-D… Now let’s just work on losing these last 10 games.

Pudge Update

Hoping to avoid ignominy and multiple kinds of records for avoiding walks, Ivan Rodriguez has, just moments ago, entered the double digits for walks on the year, drawing a leadoff walk in the top of the 2nd inning from Jimmy Gobble. This, along with drawing a similar leadoff walk in the top of the 2nd of yesterday’s first game off of Royals rookie J.P. Howell, has given Pudge a grand total of 10 walks on the season. Congratulations are in order.

Single-Digit Walks, Double-Digit Homers

First of all, let’s congratulate Ivan Rodriguez on his 8th walk of the season last night, whereupon he came around to score on Curtis Granderson’s inside-the-park home run. But let’s also appreciate the strange look about Pudge’s stat line on the year. Just as one aspect of it, he’s got quite a good chance to finish the season with double-digit homers (he’s already got this one) and single-digit walks (needs to avoid getting 2 more Annie Oakleys in the Tigers’ last 17 games).

Only 24 men in 25 such seasons (Todd Greene is the only double-dipper) have ever accomplished the feat. Sad to tell, but it was a Tiger that broke the mold: Steve Souchock in 1953 smoked 11 bombs, but walked just 8 times. It happened twice in the ’60’s (Gene Green of the ’62 Indians (11 HR/8 walks) and Willie Smith of the ’64 L.A. Angels (11/8)… right after the Tigers had traded him in the previous off-season), then only once in the ’70’s (Andres Mora of the ’77 Orioles (13/5)). It exploded to 6 occurrences in the ’80’s, starting with the strike-shortened season of Gary Gray of the ’81 Mariners (13/4) and the ’84 seasons of Jim Presley, Mariners (10/6) and Bill Schroeder, Brewers (14/8). It was all the way to 1988 before a National Leaguer turned the trick, but then there were actually 2 of them in that year – Ricky Jordan of the Phillies (11/7), and Bo Diaz’s 10 HR and 7 walks for the Reds that year, a feat made even more memorable when considering that 4 of his walks were intentional (likely he batted #8 in front of the pitcher quite a bit). Tony Armas completed the ’80’s with 11 HR and 7 walks for the ’89 California Angels. The ’90’s were all the more productive, featuring 10 such seasons. Mel Hall started it all in 1990 for the Yankees with 12 HR and just 6 walks (and, though he nearly matched Willie Smith’s high of 118 games with 113, he did get 360 at-bats on the year compared to Smith’s 359). It’s a little hard to remember Andre Dawson as a Red Sock, but he managed to turn this trick in the strike-shortened ’94 season with the Sawx (16/9). Sandy Alomar, Jr. pulled it off in the strike-shortened ’95 season with the Indians (10/7), and ’96 saw two more players do it: Rex Hudler for the Angels (16/9) and Jermaine Dye for the Braves (12/8). 1998 was the real bumper crop, with four players turning the trick: Roberto Kelly for the Rangers (16/8), Jeff Abbott for the White Sox (12/9), Richie Sexson for the Indians (11/6), and Shane Spencer’s amazing debut with the Yankees (10/5). Spencer turned the trick in the fewest at-bats ever, needing only 67. In 1999, the pace slowed to a crawl by comparison, with only Craig Paquette (10/6) of the Cardinals qualifying. 2000 returned to multiple entries, with Shawon Dunston of the Cardinals (12/6) and Fernando Seguignol of the Expos (12/6). Nobody did it in 2001, so naturally there were three qualifiers in 2002: Karim Garcia for the Indians (16/6), Joe Crede of the White Sox (12/8), and Todd Greene of the Rangers (10/2). Oddly enough, Todd Greene duplicated his numbers in both categories exactly the next year, becoming the first man ever to do it twice (much less twice in a row), and also the last man to pull off the feat. Until this year, that is.

Now, among that group, the leader in games is Willie Smith with 118 (Pudge currently has 119), as mentioned Mel Hall leads with 360 at-bats (Pudge is at 469), Rex Hudler leads with 60 runs scored (Pudge has 70), Willie Smith leads with 108 hits (Pudge 134), most doubles goes to Mel Hall with 23 (Pudge 31), most triples is Willie Smith with 6 (Pudge 5), most home runs goes to Andre Dawson, Karim Garcia and Roberto Kelly with 16 (Pudge 14), most RBI is Karim Garcia with 52 (Pudge 49), most stolen bases is Rex Hudler with 14 (Pudge 7), most strikeouts is Jermaine Dye with 67 (Pudge 85), most intentional walks is Bo Diaz with 4 (Pudge 2), most HBP is Andre Dawson with 4 (Pudge 2), most sacrifices goes to Bill Schroeder, Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Shawon Dunston with 4 (Pudge 1), most sacrifice flies is Jeff Abbott with 5 (Pudge 7), most GIDP is Bo Diaz with 16 (Pudge 18), highest batting average is Shane Spencer at .373 (Pudge .286), highest OBP is also Spencer at .411 (Pudge .296), and Spencer also leads in SLG at .910 (Pudge .463).

So, let’s see…. Among 18 categories (15 of them counting stats), Pudge already holds the lead in 8 of them. None of his leads are in the average categories, so you really could say he’s got 8 of 15… And he’s got a real shot at a few more, notably HRs and RBIs (and with more games to play in Comerica Park, he could at least tie for triples, too). Of course, he has the lead in most of those categories mainly due to his commanding lead in just two – games and at-bats. What we are witnessing with Pudge’s strange batting line for the 2005 season is yet another baseball first… (Drum roll, please.) Unless he manages to screw up and walk two more times in the last 17 games, Ivan Rodriguez will be the first ever full-time player with single-digit walks and double-digit home runs.

Personally, I’d be willing to overlook this as an anomaly, because while Pudge has never been what you might call prodigious in the walk department, this season would represent a new low for him (indeed, as has been covered elsewhere, it will be very near to a historic low for all of baseball history). However, if he turns in another performance anywhere close to this next year, it might be time for a new nickname: Ivan “I Hate Walks” Rodriguez.

Time for some perspective

As the Tigers’ season appears headed for a major tailspin here in September, let’s start to put this in perspective. Just two short years ago, the Tigers won 5 of their last 6 games to avoid the ignominy of setting the record for losses in a single season in “the modern era”, by which we mean all teams since 1901. After all, those pesky 1899 Cleveland Spiders went 20-134, but they were owned by the same man who owned the St. Louis Perfectos of that year, who, by no small coincidence, finished 17 games over .500, but still only managed 5th place in the 12-team National League of that year.

I put together some research in the spring of 2004 to see how the Tigers were going to stack up as far as being the most-improved team of all time. I started with the teams that were just truly putrid, the teams that had nowhere to go but up in the following year. Then I set about the more difficult teams to find, the ones that were bad-to-mediocre and improved to quite good or fantastic the following year. The results weren’t that impressive. Despite an improvement of 29 wins over the previous year, it was good for only a 3-way tie for the 18th-biggest one-season improvement of all time, using winning percentage as the measuring stick to even out the changing number of games played in a season over the years, as well as strike seasons and the like. (The title goes to the 1902-03 New York Giants, by the way, who finished with a .353 winning percentage – equivalent to a 57-win season in a 162-game schedule – in 1902, finishing dead last, 53-1/2 games behind the first-place Pirates and even 7-1/2 games behind their nearest competitors, the Phillies. The following year, the Giants played to a .604 winning percentage – equivalent to a 98-win season in a 162-game schedule – finishing just 6-1/2 games behind the Pirates in 2nd place.)

So, now I’ve got this spreadsheet of greatly-improving teams, with a smattering of truly awful teams that just kept being truly awful in there, too (including the 2002-03 Tigers, the worst regression in history of any team that had lost 100 games in the first year). So in order to understand a little better how the Tigers are doing in “Y+2” after their nightmare year, let’s take a look at some other “nightmare years” in history. I’m going to use a winning percentage equivalent to a 110-loss season in a 162-game schedule (a .321 winning percentage) as my cut-off point. There are 38 such seasons out there, from the 1903 Cardinals to the 2004 Diamondbacks. I’m going to throw out one of them, that of the Baltimore Terrapins of the Federal League in 1915, because the league folded after the season, so they never had a chance to improve, because they ceased to exist. For the “Y+2” data, I’m also going to throw out the 2004 Diamondbacks, because their “Y+2” year is next year. I will use their current record for their 1-year difference, as they have just 21 games left to play.

OK, so among these teams… the putrid, the awful, the wretched refuse of baseball… The average record here is 45-109… Of 37 follow-up seasons, just 5 of the teams managed to actually perform worse in the following year, the Phillies turning the trick twice (’41-’42 and ’38-’39), the Red Sox of ’25-’26, the St. Louis Browns of 1910-11, and the Philadelphia Athletics of 1915-16, with the ’16 A’s being the worst team of the modern era with a lowly .235 winning percentage. But 32 of 37 improved. Even counting the 5 regressors, the average improvement was 92 points of winning percentage, or about 15 wins (and the actual average of wins & losses is 59-95), based on a 162-game schedule. Again, these are teams that largely had nowhere to go but up. Pretty much by definition, they had bottomed out.

Now, what about that “Y+2” year? The actual average of wins and losses improved to 60-93, with a winning percentage of .394, an improvement of 101 points of winning percentage over the “nightmare” year, but just 9 points of winning percentage improvement over the previous year, or about 1 more win in a 162-game schedule. Of the 36 seasons, 14 teams regressed compared to the year before, with the ’28-’30 Phillies leading the way of the yo-yo teams, putting up the following winning percentages: .283-.464-.338. Wins went from 43 to 71 and back to 52. It makes some sense that the top 2 teams when comparing the “Y+2” year to the year prior are 2 of the teams who were actually worse in “Y+1”, the ’41-’43 Phillies and the ’15-’17 Philadelphia A’s.

So, where do the Tigers stand? Of the 36 teams in this group, their current record (63-75, .457 as of this writing, which projects to a 74-88 full-season record) represents 12 extra points of winning percentage over last year’s 72-90 finish, good for 21st place among the 36 teams. Then I remembered that each win in a 162-game schedule contributes a touch over 6 points to a three-digit winning percentage. I went in and entered 75, 76 and 77-win seasons, and the Tigers could only improve 6 spots by the end of the exercise.

However, taking those same 36 teams and comparing the “Y+2” season back to the nightmare season, the 2003-05 Tigers come out much better, gaining 191 points of winning percentage, 5th-best among the group (behind the ’35-’37 Boston Braves, ’61-’63 Phillies, ’46-’48 Philadelphia A’s, and the ’32-’34 Red Sox). And, furthermore, we’re significantly behind the 4th-place Red Sox (it would take a 79-83 finish to pass them), and we’re significantly ahead of the 6th-place ’39-’41 St. Louis Browns (it would take a 71-91 finish to fall behind them).

Speaking of those Browns, of the group, they might well make the best comparison, posting a .279 winning percentage in their nightmare year (compared to the Tigers’ .265). First-year improvements were 179 points for the Tigers, 156 points for the Browns. Second-year improvement was 20 points for the Browns, and currently sits at 12 points for the Tigers. However, it’s going to be difficult to take the comparison much further, because for their third year post-nightmare, the Browns were playing in the war-time American League, finishing 82-69 and in 3rd place. Just 2 years later (that’s “Y+5”, in case you’ve lost track), with rosters still ravaged by war-time absences, the Browns won their only American League pennant. I doubt the Tigers will face the same fortunate circumstances the Browns found themselves in during those years. And speaking of circumstances, the current Tigers and Diamondbacks entries are the only teams in the group working in the free agency era. The 3rd-most recent teams in the group (tie) are the expansion brothers (1969) of the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres.

Well, there you have it. Take it for what you will. We’re not significantly improved over last year, true. However, among a group of 30-odd historical teams that have had nightmarish seasons, we’re actually doing quite good, but the frustrating part is that the vast majority of the improvement came in the first year, and the second year’s improvement looks stagnant by comparison. Let’s put it this way: Our 2nd-year improvement is just a hair behind that of the ’62-’64 Mets (in fact, you need to carry the winning percentages to an extra digit to separate them). But I think we’d rather be in the situation we are in now than those of the Mets teams, who went 40-120, 51-111, then 53-109.

Here we go again…

Another September without really meaningful games. I mean, for those of us keeping track, I suppose there was some thought last September that the Tigers could break the record for the biggest one-season improvement of all time, but even that disappeared pretty quickly.

Now that the pitching is seemingly falling apart before our very eyes, and with the knowledge that a 63-68 record is already under our belt, I’m interested in what the Tigerblog community thinks will happen for the remainder…

There are 7 games left against the White Sox, who we just can’t seem to beat under almost any circumstances… 4 games left against the Indians, 6 left with the Royals, a 4-gamer in Anaheim against LA (if you know what I mean), and 3 back at home against the Mariners… Plus 6 against the Twins, including the final 3 in the Metrodome.

Our magic number for avoiding the cellar is 11, so that is all but sewed up, but I’m wondering… Can we put on a push and pass the Twins? We’re 6 games back with 31 to play… It’s not impossible. Reply with a comment to this entry, give your estimate of number of wins and whether we finish 3rd or 4th (or 2nd, if you’re wildly optimistic).

By the way…. Strange 4-game series coming up with the Indians, with the first 3 in Comerica and the last game at Jacobs Field… I doubt the players would go for it, but I wonder if MLB has ever thought about enhancing close geographical rivals by scheduling a 4-game series between 2 teams with the games alternating cities each day. Might work with the Tigers/Indians.

It’s been a while…

I haven’t made a contribution here in a while, somewhat because life has been a touch too much in the way, and moreso because it’s just been too depressing to contemplate Tiger thoughts since the collapse that began with the trip west right before the trading deadline.

I’m firmly in the Alan Trammell camp. Would I have left in Nate Robertson a couple games back? Yeah, I probably would have. But a manager has to manage the egos on the team, too. My dad hated Sparky Anderson‘s “captain hook routine”, which is what he called it when Sparky would pull a pitcher who was throwing perfectly fine for a fresh arm out of the bullpen. Even in Game 5 of the ’84 Series, he wondered why Sparky wouldn’t trust Dan Petry past 3-2/3 innings, after all, the Pads had only tied the game… But then, once you bring on Bill Scherrer, why, oh why, do you replace him with Aurelio Lopez after one lousy single among his 3 outs? Then you trust Senor Smoke for 2-1/3 perfect innings — that’s 7 up, 7 down — but you bring on Willie Hernandez for the final 2 innings? Let’s just say that the homer Willie gave up to Kurt Bevacqua to draw the Pads to just a 5-4 deficit was not greeted well. I wasn’t as vocally anti-Sparky as my dad was, because I took the big picture into account. You can’t argue with results. Ask my dad about the Willie Hernandez-for-Aurelio Lopez move today, he’ll get a bulging vein in his forehead over it, I guarantee you.

Well, I spent far more words on that than I intended, but part of that was the nice surprise of finding the fantastic play-by-play of Game 5 of the ’84 World Series available from the fine folks of retrosheet.

What I really wanted to comment on today was the demise of Rondell White to a separated left shoulder. I had noticed several times already that Rondell was among the league leaders in batting average, a stat that surprised me. I had not been under the impression that Rondell was the 8th-best hitter in the AL. Then I set out to create a chart that might show why I had that perception. But let me explain something first. Bill James sometimes talked about how much a player’s batting average represented his total offensive output, which got me to thinking about Rondell’s batting average versus his OPS. Now, remember that OPS consists of batting average twice plus a player’s walk rate, plus his extra bases (or isolated power). For instance, let’s say it’s Opening Day, and the top 4 players of your lineup come up 5 times each. If player A goes 3-for-5 on all singles, he has a 600 batting average, 600 OBP and a 600 SLG, for a 1200 OPS. If player B goes 2-for-5 with a home run, he has a 400 batting average, a 400 OBP and a 1000 SLG for a 1400 OPS. If player C goes 2-for-4, both singles, plus a walk, he has a 500 batting average, a 600 OBP and a 500 SLG for an OPS of 1100. If player D goes 1-for-3 with a triple and 2 walks, he has a 333 batting average, a 600 OBP and a 1000 SLG for an OPS of 1600. In that situation, the man with the worst batting average has the team lead, rater surprisingly to some, in OPS. However, the guy who just had 3 singles isn’t so shabby, either, because those singles count toward both his OBP and his SLG, so they are essentially counted twice. Anyways, that is how I came up with the following chart (of the top 25 batting averages in the American League), with the final stat being the percentage of the player’s OPS coming from his batting average (for the formula-friendly, that’s 2xBA divided by OPS).

1. J. Damon – BA 332, OPS 852 – 77.9%
2. P. Polanco – BA 329, OPS 817 – 80.5%
3. M. Young – BA 327, OPS 886 – 73.8%
4. V. Guerrero – BA 326, OPS 975 – 66.9%
5. B. Roberts – BA 319, OPS 918 – 69.5%
6. M. Tejada – BA 317, OPS 911 – 69.6%
7. A. Rodriguez – BA 314, OPS 1013 – 62.0%
8. R. White – BA 313, OPS 836 – 74.9%
9. T. Hafner – BA 309, OPS 974 – 63.4%
10. I. Suzuki – BA 308, OPS 794 – 77.6%
11. J. Varitek – BA 305, OPS 939 – 64.5%
12. D. Jeter – BA 304, OPS 831 – 73.2%
13. D. Ortiz – BA 303, OPS 993 – 61.0%
14. J. Peralta – BA 302, OPS 906 – 66.7%
15. G. Sheffield – BA 302, OPS 925 – 65.3%
16. S. Hillenbrand – BA 301, OPS 835 – 72.1%
17. H. Matsui – BA 299, OPS 861 – 69.5%
18. M. Sweeney – BA 297, OPS 864 – 68.8%
19. J. Mauer – BA 297, OPS 805 – 73.8%
20. C. Crisp – BA 296, OPS 788 – 75.1%
21. R. Ibanez – BA 295, OPS 819 – 72.0%
22. J. Lugo – BA 295, OPS 745 – 79.1%
23. B. Mueller – BA 294, OPS 809 – 72.7%
24. I. Rodriguez – BA 290, OPS 752 – 77.1%
25. D. DeJesus – BA 290, OPS 791 – 73.3%

There you have it, Placido Polanco has the least offensive contribution outside of his batting average among this group, and since this is the top 25 batting averages in the league, he’s likely also the leader in that category league-wide. Other players coming in at worse than White are Ichiro, Coco Crisp, Julio Lugo and the Tigers’ own Ivan Rodriguez, mainly due to his precipitous drop-off in the walk department (just 6 in 386 at-bats… far worse than his career average). Or, in other words, the Tigers are owners of (quite likely… again, I haven’t calculated these for all American Leaguers) 3 of the top 6 emptiest batting averages in the league. Small wonder why we’re having problems scoring runs.

Despite My Best Intentions

I have been meaning to get around to concluding my series on why I thought the Tigers would stand pat at the trade deadline this year, and I had already covered the position players in two previous columns. But then work and annoying Yankee fans got in the way, and now I’m going to scrabble together a quick-and-dirty on the pitching staff, which I had previously hoped to do in two separate installments, the starters and the bullpen. Anyway, here we go:

Rotation (alphabetical order):

Jeremy Bonderman: Emerging ace, 22 years old, and not eligible for arbitration until Spring Training 2007. Not going anywhere.

Sean Douglass: Called up from Toledo after Wil Ledezma flamed out of the starting rotation, he’s been surprisingly effective in his starts, but I doubt he could bring us more than a fringe prospect or two… And who would replace him in the rotation as the Tigers try to roar to the front from the rear position of what seems like an ever-tighter cluster of teams in contention for the wild card?

Jason Johnson: Now, here’s a guy that could definitely be tradeable. Contract is up at the end of the year, he has learned the sinker under the tutelage of pitching coach Bob Cluck, and his opponents’ OPS is currently at 736 (for perspective, Mike Mussina is at 742 and Brad Radke is at 753). On the other hand, he may display some loyalty to the Tigers in the off-season because of Cluck and his improvement while he has been here. And then there is that thing I mentioned at the end of the Douglass paragraph, and all of the quotes in the papers coming from the team indicate we’re going for it with the crew we’ve got.

Mike Maroth: Soft-tossing lefty who does get battered around a bit (790 opponents’ OPS), but has games where he looks very Jamie Moyer-esque. Still, unless a contender is absolutely desperate for a lefty, I don’t think he’ll attract very much interest, plus he is eligible for arbitration for the first time this coming off-season, so he’ll be pretty affordable for next year. And I mention here again the desire of Tigers brass to see how far the current group can take us. Mike might be more of a trade target in the off-season than before the deadline.

Nate Robertson: It might surprise some to find that Nate’s opponents’ OPS is actually better than Bonderman’s (OK, just 704 to 705), but Nate does seem capable of dominating at times, despite the occasional one-pitch ejection appearance. And with one full year, one half-year, and a 6-game stint with the Marlins under his belt, he won’t be eligible for arbitration this coming year, but likely will be for Spring Training 2007. Though he is 28 years old, it’s probably worth it to keep him around and see if Cluck can help him to continue to improve his consistency.

Bullpen (alphabetical order):

Vic Darensbourg: Situational lefty recently called up from Toledo… But with the hideous numbers put up by Doug Creek (opponents’ OPS of 964), I have to wonder if a switch to Darensbourg earlier in the season wouldn’t have increased his trade value. One type of player that seems to be overvalued at the trade deadline is a left-handed reliever, and I think the Tigers blew it by letting Darensbourg stay down on the farm too long, thus unable to show his stuff at the big league level in time to attract some trade attention.

Craig Dingman: Also called up from Toledo not too long ago, Dingman has posted an impressive opponents’ OPS of 269 thus far, though that is only in 6 IP. He also earned an emergency save against the Twins when Kyle Farnsworth couldn’t find the plate one night. I don’t think Dingman will be garnering much attention on the trade market, but one never knows. Relievers always seem to be in short supply. Not to mention that Dingman is exactly the kind of player that could easily clear waivers and be traded some time in August.

Kyle Farnsworth: Newly minted closer since the disabling of Troy Percival, Kyle has impressed with his triple-digit fastball, which has led to an equally impressive 11.60 K/9IP and an opponents’ OPS of just 519, which would be the best season of his career if he can keep it up. Farnsworth is eligible for free agency after the season, and so far has indicated two things: (1) he likes it in Detroit, and (2) he’s going to wait it out and “see what happens” (generally this is code for seeing what he can get as a free agent on the market). Still, to trade away our current closer who is throwing lights-out… That just ain’t happening.

Franklyn German: Once thought of as a closer-of-the-future, German has suddenly been vaulted into a long relief role, as evidenced by his insertion when Robertson was ejected on the first pitch of the game down in Tampa. His big problem in the past has been the bases on balls, and at 20 in 38-1/3 innings so far, he still isn’t exactly stingy in that department, but has improved quite a bit. Let’s not forget that he likely won’t be eligible for arbitration this coming off-season, though it could be close. Again, the Dingman comments apply equally here as to his trade-ability.

Fernando Rodney: Coming back from Tommy John surgery and having spent the first half of the season resting and rehabbing in the minors, Rodney vaulted himself into the trusted “setup man” role (8th inning of a close game with the lead) with an outstanding 3-inning outing in the Nate Robertson ejection game down in Tampa. He currently has 11.17 K’s per 9 IP, but kind of average numbers otherwise (727 opponents’ OPS). Still, as to tradeability, he also will not be eligible for arbitration this upcoming off-season, and the Tigers like what they have in him, so I’d be utterly shocked if he was moved.

Chris Spurling: Everyone will want to focus on his horrible outing in Chicago that cost us a 3-game sweep of the hated White Sox, but even with that outing in his overall stats, his numbers look decent to average for a reliever (3.93 K/9IP is low, but a 772 opponents’ OPS isn’t horrible, especially considering that his one horrible outing probably is having a significant impact on that number). The Dingman and German comments on tradeability apply pretty well to Spurling, I would think.

Jamie Walker: Despite having a pretty good year (2.38 ERA, 575 opponents’ OPS, but a near-career low 5.03 K/9IP), Jamie is 34 years old. He has a very reasonable salary and is a left-handed reliever. While I believe the Tigers will hold onto him, he might fetch more than one would otherwise think he could. In a pinch, we might bring up Wil Ledezma for left-handed relief if someone bowls us over in an offer for Walker. Still, I doubt it will happen.

Further Trade Deadline Analysis

Now, for the second in a mini-series. Personally, I think the Tigers braintrust should be in a “selective sell mode” at the trading deadline this year, by which I mean that we should be actively shopping some of our older, more established players, but holding on to a good portion of the core of the team – young players who we won’t trade away, almost no matter the return (but only almost… There is always the possibility of being “bowled over”). The problem is that a number of the older players, particularly guys nearing the end of their contracts, just aren’t performing up to expectations, and will therefore not bring much in return. So my personal prediction is that the team will mostly stand pat. Last week, I took a look around the Tiger infield, and the comments wound up mostly talking about outfielders. I’ll try to do justice to that discussion in today’s column:


LF: Rondell White – Now, here is Exhibit A of Veterans That Should Be Traded. He is entering the final few months of a very reasonable contract (2 years/$6 million), and is considered a “professional hitter” by traditional baseball minds. Of course, what that term usually means is a guy who mostly hits, and probably is at least somewhat lacking in the plate discipline area of his game. I think I have mentioned that I recently unearthed my 1983 Bill James Baseball Abstract, and one of Bill James’ recurring lines was what percent of a hitter’s value is attributable to his batting average (in other words, stripped of all extra bases on his hits and also stripped of walks, hit by pitches and other minor events that work into OBP). Rondell is currently at a merely “OK” 5.64 Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC27), and if I’m doing my math correctly, 3.68 of that (or 65%) is coming straight from his .307 batting average. That 65% figure isn’t ridiculously high, but it isn’t low by any stretch of the imagination (for an extreme comparison, Barry Bonds in 2002 – that’s the year his batting average peaked at .370 – created 19.17 runs per 27 outs, and 5.86 of that was attributable to his batting average, or 31%). In addition to this, Rondell now has an aching shoulder. If he stays with the team through the end of the year, this may actually help us in that he will take away playing time and plate appearances from the horrifically slumping Dmitri Young by dragging DH duties away from him. While I would love to see what we could get from a trade of Rondell, if he saves us having to carry Dmitri on the roster for another year, it will have been well worth it.

CF: Nook Logan – While Nook’s 3.98 RC27 are anemic and possibly bordering on pathetic, he is one of the fastest players in baseball. Tigers brass feels that this gives their lineup a dimension that it wouldn’t otherwise have, and the thought is that with other traditionally defense-first positions (catcher, 2nd base and shortstop) featuring players who they feel can be among the best offensive players at these positions (Ivan Rodriguez (slumping and currently 8th among AL catchers in RC27… and behind Bengie Molina, to boot), Placido Polanco (currently 2nd among AL 2nd basemen in RC27), and Carlos Guillen (currently 5th among AL shortstops in RC27), respectively), they can afford to have a defense-first Logan patrolling the middle garden. However, he has recently botched some plays and called into question his defensive skills. On the other hand, his speed makes up for whatever mistakes he will make more often than not. And let’s not forget, for purposes of this column, that he debuted last year and won’t even be arbitration-eligible until at least after 2006. We’re not likely to be trading him until we at least get a better feel for his capabilities.

RF: Magglio Ordonez – We can argue this free agent signing some more, and I’m certain we will come 2011 and 2012, when we will likely still be paying Magglio like he’s a near-MVP caliber player, whether he actually is or not. Currently, he is still shaking off the rust from his lengthy lay-offs due to knee surgeries and a hernia surgery, and he’s already up to 6.21 RC27, 3rd-best on the team behind Chris Shelton (8.18) and Polanco (6.71). Again, for purposes of this column, the main item is that Magglio isn’t getting traded anywhere anytime soon.

Corner OF/Dabbles in CF: Craig Monroe – I’m counting him as a starter, because he wound up playing a lot of RF while Magglio was out, and he’s been getting playing time in LF now that Rondell White is having shoulder trouble. Here is a guy who is creating just 4.91 runs per 27 outs, we have a center fielder who we like much better defensively, and yet he’s still getting playing time with regularity. One wonders if we can’t attribute the offensive problems of this season largely to this fact: In RC27 among AL outfielders, Rondell is 12th, Monroe is 24th, and Nook Logan would slot in at 33rd (amazingly, that’s higher than Sammy Sosa), if he had enough times at bat to qualify. Along with Carlos Guillen not being in the lineup on an everday basis plus Dmitri Young’s prolonged slump, it’s little wonder we’re 4th-worst in the league in runs scored. Will Craig Monroe draw any interest from other teams, especially when he’s due to be arbitration-eligible for 2006? We’d be lucky if his rotting carcass drew flies at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get non-tendered (a la Robert Fick in the 2002-03 off-season) over the winter. And let’s make this clear: If Craig Monroe were a valuable commodity, he could really bring something on the trade market since his first season of free agency is still a couple of years away. Big-spending teams wouldn’t mind his arbitration-eligible-level salaries for a few years. However, smart big-spending teams aren’t interested in his level of production (or lack thereof).


Well, there’s Dmitri Young… Who we discussed last week as a 1B/DH and whose RC27 is at a woeful 4.81 for that position… And there’s Kevin Hooper, a minor league call-up that was almost completely indefensible… But, really, it’s been those 4 guys sharing the outfield duties for the most part, with the exception of Marcus Thames and other temporary help that came up from Toledo in mostly brief stints. Speaking of which…

Minor Leaguers:

Marcus Thames, who is 28 years old, but is absolutely killing AAA pitching. That OPS is 1349. That is not a misprint. RC27 numbers are not figured specifically at Minor League Baseball’s site, but my quick-and-dirty figuring puts Thames’ RC27 at a ridiculous 18.98. For purposes of trade talk, I would say that here is a guy that a team like the Pirates or the Rockies should be clamoring for. I’m not sure of his arbitration eligibility (my “eyeball” guess is that he won’t be eligible until 2007 at least), but a low-budget team should covet a bat that is doing that in Triple-A, even if he’s a bit old to be a prospect. However, that is looking at things as if the Tigers are in full “buy” mode. At 2 games under .500 with almost 100 games under our belts and with 7 teams between us and a playoff berth, I don’t really think we should be. Look, Justin Verlander is coming up for a double-header start Saturday against the Twins, and the Tigers say he’ll be going right back down after the game. Kevin Hooper will likely go down to Toledo to make room for Verlander, and we’ll need to pluck someone else from the minors when we send Verlander right back down. I say let’s bring up Thames, plunk his name in the lineup for at least a month solid in LF (most of his slumps have been when he was asked to suffer through merely intermittent duty), have Rondell White play DH until his shoulder gets better or he’s traded, have Craig Monroe and Nook Logan share CF duties, and sit Dmitri Young on the bench for a while (with intermittent “Rondell needs a rest” DH duties until Rondell gets traded).

Curtis Granderson, who is, by comparison, 24 years old (it occurs to me now that I haven’t mentioned the ages of the others – Rondell is 33, Logan is 25, Magglio is 31 and Monroe is 28) and who the Tigers hope can handle center field duties. Let’s take a look at his Toledo stats, shall we? That’s an OPS of 876, sort of in the good-not-great category. And my quick-and-dirty of RC27 comes out to 7.12, also in the good-not-great range. In the realm of “is he up for trade bait”, I would have to say no. He is more in the category of a player that low-budget teams would be interested in if the Tigers would make a “buy veteran talent to win now” trade. Again, I don’t think we’re in that position right now.

Analysis on the Probability of Standing Pat

This is it. Here we go. As the calendar winds its way toward July 31, it’s all trade talk, all the time. What will the Tigers do? My own theory is that we’ll mostly stand pat. Why? Well, the team has hit a slump and just can’t seem to put much, if any, distance between them and a .500 record (well, not on the right side of a .500 record, anyways). So, logically, that would make us “sellers” in a potential trade market. For my next few turns, I’ll take a look at just what we have to offer. Today, the infield:

C: Ivan Rodriguez — Somewhat of an untradeable contract (especially for a catcher at age 33), and hasn’t been playing well to boot: at 4.59 Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC27), he’s ahead of only Nook Logan among Tigers who have qualifying plate appearance totals. Here’s another trade-killer… Let’s say a contending team does want him. We’ll need a major-league quality catcher in return. Our minor league system is bereft of quality catching, especially at the upper levels. I suppose one could argue that Max St. Pierre is finally hitting, but is doing so at age 25 in his third try at AA. Nobody will want Vance Wilson the way he’s been going. I’m not even sure we really much want him. Speaking of which, have you seen what Anderson Hernandez has been up to?

1B/DH: Chris Shelton — Young (turned 25 this summer), not yet arb-eligible, and hitting up a storm (a whopping 9.32 RC27, which would place him atop the league if only he had enough plate appearances to qualify) after his lost Rule V season. Not going anywhere. As close to untouchable as it gets, though if you really want to offer us 3 premium prospects (at least one of which is ready right now) or the like for him… And who’s going to do that for a guy that has a… less-than-stellar (and I’m being kind, here) defensive reputation?

1B/DH: Carlos Pena — As bad as he was earlier in the season (a woeful 2.90 RC27), dude is flat-out raking down at Toledo. As much of a disappointment as he was in the Olde English D, the Toledo numbers make you wonder if he has found it again at the age of 27. In fact, he might make some excellent trade bait, assuming we’re looking to buy instead of sell.

1B/DH: Dmitri Young — He’s kind of on the border of whether he would be on the next significant Tiger team at the age of 31 (turns 32 shortly after the end of the season). Making far too much money for his output and relatively poor defense (he’s pretty much down to 1st base duties only), and I recently learned that his 2006 season vests with 500 plate appearances in 2005. Believe me, I am not above rooting for an injury. Furthermore, he stinks right now: a 4.74 RC27, including an odious .309 OBP. His RC27 number is only that high because of his recent penchant for 400+ foot bombs on his one hit he gets in every dozen at-bats or so. He has improved lately (1167 OPS in the last 7 days), but he’s currently at 333 PA… Count me in as pulling for a pull, if you know what I mean.

2B: Placido Polanco — Might be the perfect Comerica-type player, and he won’t turn 30 until shortly after the regular season… Hits line drives, isn’t swinging for the fences on every at-bat… Has compiled a 6.71 RC27 since the trade, and was at 6.01 with the Phils. Word is that the Tigers brass would like to ink him to a Carlos Guillen-like deal… I like the idea of that. However, he might make for some fine trade bait if the Tigers feel like they’re not going to retain him in the off-season, as he is in his “walk year”. If they do sign him to a reasonable deal, he might well find himself in a “sell” trade as the deal draws to a close (see Carlos Guillen comments below).

2B/SS/possible utility role: Omar Infante — Showed a lot of promise last year after quite a down year in 2003, but has lost his job by not keeping it going… His RC27 in 2003 was 2.39, spiked to 5.01 last year, and currently sits at 3.57. On the other hand, he does have the age thing going for him (he’s just 23). If we sign Polanco to an extension or at least have indications that such a deal is close, Infante might be bait for a buying trade.

3B: Brandon Inge — Not yet arb-eligible (and is 28 years old), and his bat has made an amazing transformation since his conversion from catcher… His RC27 in his years playing primarily as a catcher: 1.64, 2.82, 2.78. In the 2 years since then: 5.43 and currently 5.90. To my mind, he’s not going anywhere, but on the other hand, he might be in the “Jeff Weaver role” as the Tiger who can get the most value in return in a “sell” trade. Could Infante play third if we did that?

SS: Carlos Guillen — Age 29 and signed to a very reasonable 4-year deal last year. Had a breakout season at 7.60 RC27 after spending 4 consecutive years in the 4’s. It looks like the improvement was genuine, as he is currently at 7.00 despite battling a knee recovering from surgery all season. About as untouchable as any Tiger, but I do wonder about his age a bit. He is one of the older players on this list, and there does seem to be a replacement there in Infante. Probably not this year, but I could see him going in a “sell” trade near the end of his contract. On the other hand, I would hope that by the end of his contract, the Tigers will be in “buy” mode.

Thank you, Bobby Abreu

Bobby Abreu really did us a favor last night. The next time a Troy Glaus or Jeff Kent-level free agent comes to town, the Tigers brass will have an answer when they ask about the distant fences. “Remember Bobby Abreu? The guy who had never hit more than 31 homers in a season? He came in here and hit 41 in that home run derby on a hot July evening.” What a fantastic way to dispel the rumors that Comerica is a historically horrible place to clear the fences.

And, hey, check out this page… Comerica, it seems, is quite some distance from the toughest place to go yard. I think that, since they moved the LF fences in, it plays pretty fair. Now, are you going to have some frustrating outs when you either hit it to the wrong part of the yard or during cold weather? Yes. But on hot summer days, it plays quite differently. Is it one of the better pitchers’ parks out there? Yes, but not extremely so. No way is it a “reverse Coors”.

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

What to do? What to do?…. I think we’ve all faced a time in our lives when, for whatever reasons, we had a number of options in front of us, and didn’t know which path to choose. I know I have had times when I wished I had fewer options than what I did, simply because it would make the decision easier. You don’t sleep well, every waking moment is spent considering the options and the consequences. And somewhere deep down, you know there are unanticipated consequences, things you just can’t possibly know. Yet, you worry about that, too, trying to anticipate the unthinkable. It’s your life, and you’re trying to make the best decision possible. It can be a lot of pressure.

I wonder how Dave Dombrowski is sleeping these days. Let’s face it, he’s got to be shopping Rondell White. That one is a no-brainer. Rondell’s trade value is never going to be higher than it is right now. And with Magglio Ordonez coming back, moving Craig Monroe over to left field and keeping Nook Logan’s stellar defense (and whatever offense he provides is gravy) in the lineup makes a ton of sense. But there are (likely) offers on the table that are varied. Do you take the offer from a fellow contending team who is trading strength-for-strength (which is what the Polanco-Urbina trade boiled down to), or do you ship him to (let’s say) Atlanta for some of their premium prospects?

In a way, I would bet that Dombrowski is fervently hoping that Curtis Granderson just continues to muddle along down in Toledo with numbers that look good-not-great… Curtis going on a hot streak would just mess everything up. Wait. Then again, maybe we could send him out to a “seller” team if he picks it up… Hell, we’ve got that Monroe-Logan-Ordonez outfield set for a few years. They can hang in there until the next outfield prospect comes along, right? Or will Curtis start tearing it up for some other team starting immediately after we trade him? I still remember that Randy Johnson trade I made in Montreal… People forget, there was little clue that he was going to The Big Unit or even merely above average at the time of the trade. Hell, he struggled mightily in Seattle for a while before he suddenly figured it out. And let’s not forget that Mark Langston pitched well for us… Jeez, a 2.39 ERA and 12 wins in 24 starts… How can you complain about that? Uh, wait, where was I again? Yeah, Granderson… Mark him as potentially a big part of the 2007 Tigers… And also as a guy who can potentially bring us what we need to get over the top right here in 2005.

And that young pitching… Wow, Verlander and Zumaya are just lighting it up down there, aren’t they? Makes you wonder if some “seller” team might be interested in Wil Ledezma, doesn’t it? Or would a “buyer” team be interested in Mike Maroth? What are each of those teams offering? But we should probably wait and see how Sean Douglass will perform as a fill-in, right? Or are we being offered, in return for Ledezma, a guy who can start for us right now?

We’ve already traded away excess from our bullpen, but it makes you wonder if anybody would be interested in Matt Ginter. Or is one of the contending teams fishing around for a LOOGY? Has anyone else noticed that Vic Darensbourg hasn’t allowed a run in Toledo all year?

Then there is the “X” factor… And here is where his experience in the now-infamous Randy Johnson trade might come in handy… On the day of that trade, Dombrowski’s Expos were at dead-on .500, and it was a little early yet… They were 23-23, and the date was just May 23. The Expos finished up dead-on at .500, too, 81-81, 12 games back of the Cubs in the NL East (and, just for fun, they finished 8 games back of the Padres, who would have been the wild card winner that year, had there been one… For that matter, they would have been only 6 back of the Mets, who would have won the fictional NL East title with the Cubs moved to the imaginary NL Central). So the “X” factor is this: How the big club performs between now and… let’s say about 10 games after the all-star break (that’ll be a touch more than a week before the July 31 trade deadline). Is Magglio back and raking? Is any of the starting pitching on the DL? Is Verlander punishing the Eastern League just like he did the FSL? Is Zumaya ready for the call? Just what are the honest chances that we’ll actually be able to make a race of it for the wild card?

Of course, in years past, Verlander would have been up to Erie by mid-May, Zumaya would have been up to Toledo about now, and Tiger fans would be clamoring for them to get a chance in The Show, because, after all, they couldn’t be much worse than the crap we’re running out there now… But that was years past. Let’s face it, come next year’s spring training, if we do nothing… We’re going to have too much starting pitching. Any GM has to smile at the very thought.

In our lives, we sometimes run into situations where the number of options seems overwhelming. Dombrowski might be feeling a little bit of that right now. On the other hand, I don’t think he thinks of this as a bad thing. Indeed, this is not a bad thing at all. Remember back when we were in the 7th year of Randy Smith’s 5-year plan? Dombrowski is now in his 4th year at the helm (and I suppose you could argue that it’s really only his 3rd, as the 2002 season represented something of a necessary purge of the Randy Smith plan), and I see very positive things for Year 5… And that’s even if you discount what’s happening right now, in Year 4.

Minor Observations

I was looking over the box scores from the Tigers’ minor league affiliates from yesterday’s games this morning.

Down in Toledo, Wil Ledezma got the start and took the loss. He was relieved for 2 innings by Matt Roney, and the Mud Hens also got 1 inning from former Tiger Nelson Cruz. The starting lineup included Curtis Granderson in center field and Ryan Raburn at 2nd base, both having made appearances with the Tigers (granted, both were only September call-ups last year), and, of course, Carlos Pena, who accumulated 150 plate appearances for the Tigers this year.

In Erie, Nate Cornejo got the start and also took a loss. Former Tiger Rule V pick Mark Johnson also pitched 2 innings in relief. The starting right fielder was Byron Gettis, who appeared in 20 games with the Royals last year.

Where am I going with this? It sure is nice to look at box scores down on the farm and find guys who really couldn’t perform at the major league level down there working on their game. Much unlike in recent Tigers history, when you would wake up in the morning, scan the Tigers’ box score, and find names that had been down on the farm just weeks (or even days) earlier.

Further on the Urbina-Polanco Trade

The take on the Tigers heading into the season was that we were going to have a mighty fine lineup, but the pitching would be the question mark. Now, 57 games into the season, the stats show just the opposite. The Tigers are 9th in the AL in team OPS, and that’s about 50 points higher than the worst team (A’s) and 100 points worse than the best team (Orioles). Sticking with OPS to measure pitching prowess (that is, opponents’ OPS), the team-wide opponents’ OPS is 5th best in the league, which is 55 points off the best (Indians?) and 97 points better than the worst (D-Rays). So adding a proven hitter like Polanco to an already potent lineup (well, it will be “already potent” once we get Magglio Ordonez back to hitting like his old self) makes complete sense to compete this year.

But here’s the question: Can we compete this year?

I, for one, don’t think it’s impossible. Today’s Danny Knobler column got me to thinking about this. Specifically the part where he talks about the ’87 Tigers, who started at 30-27, but put together a stretch of 13 out of 15 wins later in the season. That column brings me to a point of agreement that my boss and I share about baseball seasons.

We all know the old saw about baseball: Every team wins 50 games (well, most teams, anyways… Teams like the ’62 Mets and the ’03 Tigers being exceptions to the rule), every team loses 50 games (again, minor exceptions such as the ’98 Yankees or ’01 Mariners), it’s what you do with the rest of the games that makes the difference. Of course, even a Phillies phan like my boss had heard of the fantastic 35-5 start that the ’84 Tigers had. And, in fact, the ’93 Phillies roared out to a 17-5 start by the end of April. After losing on May 1, they then pulled off a stretch of winning 6 out of their next 7, leaving their early record at 23-7. That’s no 35-5, but if you subtract those numbers from their final record, you notice they went 74-58 for the remainder of the season. Even our beloved ’84 Tigers went 69-53 after the 35-5 start. So, the pet theory that my boss and I have is this: Any team can get on a stretch of about 40-50 games when they are just lights-out, and that is good enough to make the playoffs, assuming they can go just a touch above .500 for the remainder of the schedule. Looking at the month-by-month totals for those two teams confirms it: The ’84 Tigers were an uninspiring 16-12 in July, and an even worse 16-15 in August. The ’93 Phillies went 14-14 in July, and 15-15 in September (plus three games of the regular season in October). The ’05 Tigers? 11-11 in April, and 12-15 in May, plus 4-4 so far in June. Now, granted, the ’05 Tigers need to step it up, and step it up now, to get somewhere, but with the upgrades at 1st base, 2nd base, and the decision to forego a 5th starter for a stretch (and consider talent elsewhere, whether that be Toledo or possibly a trade, for the 5th starter once one is again needed)… Plus Magglio Ordonez’s return looking to be on the short side of the originally estimated 8-12 weeks… You can envision a scenario where they will rip off something like a 19-7 July (similar to the ’84 team’s 19-7 record in May) or an 18-10 August (similar to the ’93 Phillies’ 18-10 record in June). If they did both of those on top of a June that leaves them at dead-even .500 (let’s say 14-11)… They’d be sitting at 74-54 with 34 games remaining. Even just an even .500 in those remaining games gets you to 91 wins, which should make them right there in the playoff hunt.

See? That’s not so hard. On top of which, it’s much better than sounding the warning that we’re 7.5 games back in the wild card (and would have to leapfrog 6 other teams) and 12 games back in the division.

Are a thousand words worth a picture?

It was twenty years ago today… No, wait, it was actually 21 years ago. And it was 21 years ago tomorrow. That “twenty years ago today” line, though… Always makes folks think of Sergeant Pepper and stuff. But I digress.

Anyways, the date I am thinking of was June 4, 1984. Much of what I am about to write comes straight from my brain cells. Much more comes from the wonderful archives at retrosheet. What was happening on June 4, 1984? Well, any Tiger fan worth his salt will probably recall the 3-game sweep at the hands of the lowly Mariners in the King-dump over Memorial Day weekend (May 25-27) of that year that ended the fantastic, record-setting 35-5 start. What is less remembered is that we followed that up by taking 2 of 3 in Oakland, then returning to The Corner and losing 2 of 3 to the Orioles. And what were the Toronto Blue Jays doing at around that time? Over that Memorial Day weekend, they swept 4 games in 3 days from the Indians north of the border (an old-fashioned Sunday doubleheader). They then split 2 games (appears as though one may have been rained out) in Comiskey Park (the original), then returned north of the border (bizarre travel schedule, I must say) to take 2 of 3 from the visiting Yankees. In sum, then, the Tigers had gone 3-6 since the 35-5 mark (total of 38-11), while the Blue Jays had gone 7-2 in that time, building on their 27-14 start (for a total of 34-16). Or, in other words, in the space of two weekends plus the week in between (9 days), the Blue Jays improved their position from being 8½ games behind a team that had all the looks of a juggernaut to being a mere 4½ games behind a team that suddenly looked beatable, falling to such pitching luminaries as Ed Vande Berg, Mike Moore, Matt Young, Bill Krueger, Storm Davis and Mike Flanagan in those 9 days. These are the circumstances that set the stage for a 4-game set between the Blue Jays and Tigers at The Corner, starting on that fateful date, June 4, 1984.

Remember, now, that Bobby Higginson and I are the same age, with the same birth date to boot. For those too lazy to go look it up, that means I was set to turn 14 years of age later that summer, a fantastic age to cement my Tiger fandom with a team for the ages. But we didn’t know all that on Monday, June 4, 1984. We only knew then that the Tigers had fired off a great start, even a historic start. We did not yet know the finish, and here were the second-place Blue Jays, somehow just 4½ games back with 4 games head-to-head against the Tigers. I’ll also mention here that the Orioles were another 5 games back of the Jays in the standings, meaning that the Blue Jays were the only team that could make a plausible case for being able to catch the hot-start Tigers.

My dad is a paint chemist. He formulates different kinds of paint for multiple different applications. Living in the greater Detroit area, of course he worked almost exclusively for paint companies that were suppliers to The Big Three automobile manufacturers. Of course, these paint companies made sure to have a pair of season tickets to all the major sports teams in the area, to host a client and have a casual business chat over a ball game. My dad had secured the company pair of tickets for The Corner on the night of June 4, 1984. These were in the lower deck, third base side, second row behind the Tiger dugout. Seats so good that surrounding seats were owned by Jimmy Butsicaris, proprietor of the Lindell AC. At my first game ever (August 12, 1980, started by none other than Mark Fidrych on one of his many comeback attempts), Jimmy himself had gotten a ball tossed to him by one of the players and handed it to me.

So, on Monday, June 4, 1984, the Toronto Blue Jays were in town to play possibly the most pivotal early-June series in the history of baseball. It wasn’t a playoff game or even in the pennant drive, but it felt like it. I wish I could say the place was packed, but retrosheet tells me different (Attendance: 26,733). The Tigers had their fourth-best starter going, Juan Berenguer, against the Jays’ ace, Dave Stieb. I’ll summarize the early innings briefly: Willie Upshaw hit a solo shot in the top of the 2nd, and he was on base later for George Bell, who hit a 2-run shot in the top of the 6th for a 3-0 Jays lead. Through 6 innings, the Tigers could only manage 3 hits and 5 runners left on base against Steib. But, after the 7th inning stretch, Chet Lemon took one for the team, Dave Bergman singled, and Howard Johnson went yard off of Steib to tie the game. As a side note, Sparky had lifted Berenguer before that inning, bringing on none other than Willie Hernandez with 2 outs in the top of the 7th. Willie wriggled out of a man-on-third, nobody-out situation in the top of the 8th after the Tigers had tied it up, and he and Dennis Lamp (who had replaced Steib 3 batters after the Johnson home run) traded goose eggs right through to the bottom of the 9th, when Bobby Cox called on the lefty Jimmy Key to face Kirk Gibson with 2 outs and Dave Bergman standing on 3rd base. Sparky countered with Larry Herndon off of his bench (Johnny Grubb had drawn a spot start that night in LF), but Larry bounded back to Key to end the inning and send the game to extra frames.

My dad loves the Tigers, but he did have to get back to work the next morning. We lived kind of far out from Detroit, and he had a 50-mile one-way commute. He had, earlier that day, commuted those 50 miles home to get me, then came back those same 50 miles (and then some) to get to The Corner. He made a little agreement with me that we would stay for the end of any inning that started before midnight. If the clock struck 12:01 before the start of, say, the 12th inning, we were just going to rush to the car and listen to the remainder of the game on the radio on the way home. So, the Jays came up to bat with Willie Hernandez STILL on the mound. He struck out Lloyd Moseby and got Willie Upshaw on a fly ball to center field. Note that Moseby and Upshaw were both left-handed hitters. At this point, Sparky called on Aurelio Lopez, who got Cliff Johnson (right-handed batter) to ground out to second. For the bottom of the 10th, I think Bobby Cox must have wanted Jimmy Key (his left-hander) to pitch to Darrell Evans, but he, unfortunately, had to get past Lance Parrish first. Parrish stroked a single to lead off the inning. Evans bunted Parrish over, and Cox called for Roy Lee Jackson, a righty, to face righties Rusty Kuntz and Chet Lemon coming up. Kuntz grounded out back to the box, but Chet Lemon managed to work a 2-out walk, leaving things up to Dave Bergman with 2 on and 2 out. It is here that I depart from retrosheet’s information and give the account from my own memory, not even from a scorecard.

I took a peek at the scoreboard clock when Dave Bergman came to the plate: 11:36. In my adolescent mind, I was thinking that, with 2 on and 2 outs, if Bergie could just hurry up and either get a base hit or make the 3rd out, a theoretical 11th inning COULD be played fast enough that the 12th could begin before midnight. Dave Bergman had other ideas. He worked the count against Jackson to two balls and a strike, then took a called strike two. He then proceeded to put on The Dave Bergman Show. He fouled off the fifth pitch, and fouled off another. And yet another, and yet another. At some point, I lost count (I didn’t count things like that back then). He finally decided to take a pitch, which the umpire agreed with him on, calling it ball 3. Bergie wasn’t done yet. Now facing a full count, he fouled off another pitch. And another, and yet another, and yet another. I can’t be positive, but he fouled off at least 3 or 4 pitches on the 2-2 count, and at least that many again on 3-2. I had forgotten all about the time. Then, Jackson threw one in, and Bergman connected for a 3-run homer into the upper deck in right field. He didn’t need the overhang, either. From where I was sitting along the third base line, the ball was traveling dead straight away from me, as if I had thrown it from my seat. I don’t know if it was a cloudy sky that night, or if it was a new moon, but the sky seemed particularly dark. I can still see the flight of that ball in my mind’s eye as if it happened yesterday, the white ball lit brightly by the stadium lights against an inky black sky. Oh, yeah, and I noticed the stadium clock when Bergman came around and touched home plate. It read 11:51. He had been at bat for 15 minutes. Sparky called it the greatest at-bat he had ever seen the next day in the papers. (If anyone has their copy of “Bless You Boys” still around, I’d love it if you would pitch in and type in Sparky’s comments on Bergie’s at-bat in the comments.)

Well, then the Tigers lost the next 2 to the Jays before salvaging the series split with a win in the final game of the series. We went on to take 3 of 4 from the Orioles before facing off against the Jays in Toronto the following Monday (the Jays got swept in 3 by the Yankees in between) for a 3-game set, with the Jays taking 2 of the 3, and you could argue that we really put the Jays away by gaining those 3½ games between the two Jays series and going 11-5 for the remainder of the month of June while they went 7-10 (including being swept in a 4-game series in Milwaukee), thus gaining another 4½ games and leaving the Jays a full 10 games back as of the morning of July 1st. But that was one sweet homer that I’ll never forget in quite possibly the highest pressure game ever played in the early part of the month of June (notice all the pinch-hitting, pinch-running, and especially Sparky’s use of his best reliever for 3 full innings, including bringing him in when the team was down by 3!). Let’s just say that a lot of Tiger fans may have wondered why Dave Bergman was included among the former Tigers to take the field at the closing ceremony for Tiger Stadium. But as for me, I was proving Tom Hanks wrong. There is crying in baseball.

Okay, so that is exactly 1,900 words. So I lied.

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