Archive for the '2011 Tigers' Category

Justin Verlander Wins MVP

This was a pleasant surprise.  Justin Verlander was very deserving and I think this was as much a symptom of the late season collapse by the Red Sox then anything with the voters penchant towards excluding pitchers.  In a bizarre vote, Verlander took thirteen of the 28 first place votes but he also got an eighth place vote and wasn’t put on one person’s ballot at all.  Jaboby Ellsbury came in second place and Jose Bautista came in third.  Someone had Jose Bautista in ninth and that’s also a joke.

Other Tigers to get votes were Miguel Cabrera (fifth place, with two first place votes and he was actually named on all 28 ballots), Alex Avila (who was on six ballots with seventh his best showing) and Victor Martinez (four ballots, highest showing was eighth place).  David Robertson actually picked up a tenth place vote and oddly, Jered Weaver, who came in second place in the Cy Young, wasn’t on a single ballot.

Former Tiger Curtis Granderson came in fourth place.  Verlander is the first pitcher since Dennis Eckersley to win the win the award and the first starter since Roger Clemens in 1986.  He’s the first Tiger to win the award since 1984 but the Tigers have had their share of second places finishers since then with Alan Trammell, Cecil Fielder, Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera all being the runner up at one point.

Justin Verlander Wins Cy Young

It’s been seventeen years, but the Tigers have a Cy Young winner.  As expected, Justin Verlander was the unanimous choice for the award and he took every first place vote.  Jered Weaver came in second place, James Shields came in third and CC Sabathia was in fourth place.  The last award of the season is the AL MVP on November 22 and it’ll be interesting to see if Verlander takes that home as well.

Alex Avila Wins Silver Slugger

The Silver Slugger awards were handed out last night the Tigers had just one winning.  Alex Avila walked with his first (hopefully of many) with a surprisingly good year at the plate.  He was ninth in the American League in WAR (5.4) and eighth in the American League in OPS (.895).  The last time an everyday catcher had an OPS that high was back in the late 1930s when Rudy York was doing it consistently.

Miguel Cabrera fell short and it looks like for the second time in as many days, a Tiger fell short because of east coast bias.  Adrian Gonzalez had a good year but it appears to be good enough to top Cabrera because he was the one who walked away with the award.  Of course many people still think RBIs are a relevant stat to value a player and the fact the Gonzalez had the RBI title probably helped him out.

Former Tiger Curtis Granderson walked away with his first award.  Congratulations to him.

Tigers Come Up Short in Gold Glove

No Tigers won a gold glove this year despite the fact that one was very deserving and another you could have made a major argument for.  Matt Wieters won at catcher and while I can live with that I do think Alex Avila has a great season behind the plate. WAR doesn’t really spell it out (Avila has a -0.1 Defensive WAR in 2011 versus Wieters 1.0) but it just seemed at times that Avila was rock solid both blocking balls and throwing runners out.  Maybe next year Alex.

Austin Jackson is an entirely different story.  Yes, Jacoby Ellsbury had a great season and he probably got a bump because of his offense and because he plays in Boston but Jackson’s Defensive WAR 0.7 was better then Ellsbury 0.4  I know WAR isn’t the be all end of defensive stats and there’s usually not a year that goes that someone (or two or three) gets a gold glove they don’t deserve but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

2011 Tigers Review – Austin Jackson

What’s his Grade – I give Austin Jackson a “C.”  This is probably higher then most people might have thought but buried in Jackson’s low batting average were some optimistic signs.  Yes, he only hit .249 (I wonder who could have predicted that) but he turned some of those doubles into home runs a little earlier then I would have expected from him (keep in mind, Jackson won’t turn 25 until February.  Through August, Jackson looked like he was going to end up with more walks then in 2010 (which he did) and less strikeouts (which he didn’t) but a horrible September in which he struck out 42 times set him back.  While you just can’t eliminate an entire month, you can explain some of this away as fatigue and it’s no surprise that Jackson struggled in the playoffs this year.

Better or Worse? – Jackson was a little worse in 2011 then he was in 2010 but like I talk about above, it’s not as much as you might think.  If you’re a fan of WAR (I’m using Baseball-Reference’s), Jackson had a 2.4 WAR in 2011 versus 2.8 in 2010.  A lot of this was because his shortcomings at the plate were made up for by a better season out in the field.  He walked nine more times in about the same number of plate appearances so in short, he wasn’t as good as he was in 2010 but I like the development.  If Jackson is the lead off hitter of the future, he took a small step in the right direction this year.

MIP (Most Important Statistic) – 10 home runs.  At just 24, Jackson showed some increased pop at the plate.  If this is a trend, a 25 home run/25 stolen base season in the future isn’t out of the question.  Of course if he’s leading off, his primary job should be to get on base but it’s nice knowing we could have one more potential power bat in waiting.  The only other season Jackson hit more home runs in a season was 2007 when he split time with three different affiliates (he hit most of those home runs with Tampa).

Fun with Splits – In the first inning, Austin Jackson hit .220/.275/.326.  Jackson’s best inning was the sixth inning. When he hit in that inning, he belted .379/.429/.655.  With two outs in the inning, Jackson hit just .159/.257/.298.  He was best with one out when he hit .308/.358/.404.  Jackson also loved the White Sox.  In 15 games, he hit .391/.443/.625.

Conclusion – A lot was made of Jackson’s .396 BABIP last year.  This year, he hit .340 which is still well above average.  Many people think that it means Jackson has more room to drop in 2012 but I think with Jackson’s speed, he should be able to stay above the average .300 until he begins to slow down.  My guess is that we see a slightly better Austin Jackson in 2013 and I hope some of these nice bumps he had (home runs, defense) are trends and not one time occurrences.

Player Reviews and Tiger Trivia

This week I plan on doing a review of each of the Tigers.  I’m going to take a little bit of a different approach so be sure to give me some feedback on what you like and don’t like.  First up will be Austin Jackson.  Look for him tomorrow or Tuesday.

Also, I’m doing some Tiger trivia over at the Tigerblog Facebook page.  At some point, I’m going to put together some prizes so look at this as the exhibition season.  I’m not sure if my latest one is just tough, or if it’s Sunday and people aren’t on Facebook or people just aren’t trying so stop by and give me a guess.

Closing the Door on the 2011 Tigers

Man, it’s been a while since I wrote.  Sadly, I really have no excuse other then I’ve gotten out of the habit.  Work has slowed down a bit this past month and it almost seemed like I was more busy enjoying the season then I felt like writing about it.  This year I went to six Tiger games (a record for me, I live 45 minutes away from the park so it’s not easy especially with having my son half the time) and I went to four other ballparks (three Minor League parks and I went to White Sox game) so I got my share of baseball.  I’m happy about that but I also want to keep this site going so bear with me.

2011 was a good year for Tiger fans and I definitely enjoyed it.  The second crash never happened and the team thrived in the final couple of months.  Of course that appeared to take a toll and the Tigers looked spent going into the playoffs.  I felt tired just watching Alex Avila up there swinging.  The playoffs also pointed to some fundamental flaws that the Tigers had.  I also wasn’t happy about some of Jim Leyland’s stategies but that’s nothing new.  We will always agree to disagree there.

At this point, I’m just riding out the season taking in as much baseball as I can that’s left.  I’m glad this series will go at least six games.  I’m also looking forward to an off-season that should see the Tigers make some plays in the free agent market once again.  Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez’s contracts come off the books and that should free up enough money for the Tigers to make some moves.  They also had five home playoffs games so hopefully some of that money will be put back into the team.  i don’t think the Tigers will make a big splash with another big name but they definitely need to fill in some of the gaps that exist in some of the more unglamorous parts of the roster.  I know a backup catcher and middle relief doesn’t get a lot of attention but if we had some both this year we might be playing in the World Series right now.

I’ve talked about him before, and while I know he had a good post-season, but I hope the Tigers don’t sign Delmon Young to a long term deal.  He has one more year of arbitration eligibility and while I wouldn’t mind seeing him roaming left field next year, I don’t see him as a long term solution.  In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s the one guy that actually ends up at the arbitration table during Dave Dombrowski’s tenure but we’ll have to wait and see there.

It feels like yesterday that the Tigers were opening their season.  Yes, I’m getting old and that changes your perspective on time but it just seemed like this season flew by.  Lets hope that the offseason goes by just as fast.  It’s already weird not having the Tigers around and it’ll feel equally weird not having baseball in general to listen to.  I do have some things planned for the offseason so I do hope you stop by or at least subscribe to my feed.  Or you can find on Facebook (and yes, I plan on doing more with that as well).

Tigers Get Yankees In ALDS

Well, the playoffs are finally set..  The Rangers won six straight to match the Tigers four straight wins down the stretch and they get home field so the Tigers get the Yankees in the first round beginning Friday.  The Rays completed their incredible comeback and they’ll face the Rangers in the first round Friday afternoon.  If you’re a half glass full kind of guy, I’d say facing the Yankees isn’t a horrible thing because I think the Tigers match up better against the Yankees in the shorter series then they might in a seven game series.

The Yankees finished with the best record in the American League in the best division in baseball and that’s no small task.  While they’re starting pitching once you get past CC Sabathia is a little spotty (I’m still not sold on Ivan Nova), they have some very solid middle relief and of course the top of the line offense.  Game one is going to be pretty important with Verlander on the mound.  For those of you who want to continue with the Doug Fister/Doyle Alexander comparisons, Alexander was horrible come playoff time in 1987 but Fister pitched pretty well in Yankee Stadium in one his start against them this year.

In looking at the pitching matchups, I think the Tigers have a slight edge in each of them but the Yankees make up for it at the plate. While it’s easy to look at the fact that the Yankees had the second best offense (runs scored) and the Tigers the fourth, there were 80 runs between the two of them.  Only the Red Sox scored more runs then the Yankees did.

Game one, while big in a lot of five game series, is going to be extra important in this series.  Whichever ace can win will get their team sitting pretty.  And we’ll see if Jim Leyland sticks with his “no Verlander on three days rest” if the Tigers backs are against the wall.  I still think one of his big mistakes in 2006 was not pitching Kenny Rogers over Nate Robertson in game five of the World Series that year (and that wasn’t even a rest issue because they had the rain out).

I’m going to go with he happy prediction.  Tigers take game one and two at Yankee Stadium, Yankees survive by taking game three and then the Tigers wrap it up in four a la 2006.  I’d be interested to see who outside of Detroit makes a similar prediction though.  Now I just have to work on getting my Tiger playoff tickets.

Next Stop – ALDS

The Tigers beat the Athletics last night and for the first time in 24 years, Detroit has a division championship.  Back in 1987, I was starting my junior year in high school and those last couple of weeks of that season were about as exciting as you can get.  This time around, the Tigers still have eleven games left to play.  It’ll be interesting to see how the final week and a half of the season is handled because while there is still something to play for, the eye has to be on the prize and there’s still a long way to go for that.  Getting Verlander set up so he’s rested and ready for game one of the ALDS should be the first priority.  Not that he can’t handle the pressure, but he’s going to be the key to making an extended run in this thing.

The Tigers are two games ahead of the Rangers and three back of the Yankees (four in the loss column).  If the playoffs started today, the Tigers would face the Red Sox in round one.  A month ago I would have been scared of that series but these two teams have taken divergent paths the past few weeks.   The Red Sox look like they have the Wild Card in hand and they can effectively wrap it up with a win this weekend.  Of course if the Rays win the next two, things will go back to interesting.  Josh Beckett returned yesterday and looked sharp and unless this one goes to the wire, Beckett/Verlander is going to make for an interesting game one matchup.

The Yankees really worry me, as they should.  The starting pitching, once you get past CC Sabathia, is pretty spotty, but with this offense and their middle relief, the Yankees don’t need a starter to do much more then pitch six innings and not let the game get out of hand.  I think a lot is going to come down to who can shorten their first round series the most.  If a team like the Tigers can sweep while the Rangers and Yankees goes to five games, it’ll give the Tigers some flexibility in how they arrange their pitchers in the ALCS.

I’m going to try to make it down for one more game.  It’ll be interesting to see what the crowds are like now that the playoff spot is in hand.   The Tigers continue on in Oakland this afternoon.  It’ll be Rick Porcello against a solid Gio Gonzalez.

Looking Ahead

It’s been a nice six days for Tigers’ fans.  After back to back sweeps over the White Sox and Indians, the Tigers now sit nine games ahead of the second place White Sox and they’re eight ahead in the loss column.  With their magic number at 12, the Tigers would need a complete collapse coupled with a hot streak by either Chicago or Cleveland to blow this one.  Now they’re looking at a half game deficit with the Texas Rangers for home field in the first round of the playoffs.

So, it’s time to start thinking, if not preparing for the playoffs.  With the expanded rosters, you should see a few more days off for some of the regular players and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Tigers stretch out the rotation a little bit.  They also need to align things so Justin Verlander gets that game one start.  The bad thing is, the Yankees and Red Sox (the likely opponents for the Tigers) are going to be able to do the same thing.

It’ll be interesting to see what Jim Leyland does with the rotation once the playoffs start.  I know in 2006 he stuck with a four man rotation for better or worse but I think this year, it’s imperative that Verlander be on the mound as much as possible.  While going to three days rest might not be best early on, you have to at least think about if the Tigers get their backs against the walls.  Of course best case is, they shorten their series as much as possible so they’re not tempted to try something more radical.

I figure it’ll be Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister as the front three with Rick Porcello being the fourth guy if needed.  Another big thing will be getting Victor Martinez back behind the plate.  Alex Avila will probably catch most of the games but you want Martinez ready in the event something happens to Avila.

The Tigers host the Twins this weekend then they hit the road for a week and half.  I was hoping to get down for one more game this year but it might be tough because this weekend isn’t an option.  It might be the Friday or Saturday game against the Orioles which you would hope by then the Tigers would have wrapped up the division.

Tigers and Win Probability Added

August is typically one of my busier months with the CPA practice.  Combine that with being a full time dad half the time, my writing time has diminished.  It basically goes in spurts.  Anyway, I took a break and decided to go to Fangraphs to look at the Tigers Win Probability Added figures.  For those of you who don’t what WPA is, it’s basically the amount you have added to your team’s chances of winning.  Looking at yesterday’s game as an example, the big hit was Austin Jackson’s two run home run.  That took the Tigers from a 57.8% chance of winning the game to an 83.3% chance of winning hence that one hit game Austin Jackson a .255 pop.  While it doesn’t totally give a player a clutch score, it does provide how valuable that players hits are.

Some basic weaknesses behind WPA is it gives a lot of credit to high leverage hits.  So a grand slam in the first inning isn’t as valuable as a grand slam in the ninth when you’re down by three runs.  Four runs is four runs.  Also, if your teams wins, your overall WPA for the game is going to be .500.  If you lose, it’s -.500.  So the players are winning teams are going to have a higher WPA then their counterparts on losing teams.

Austin Jackson’s overall game WPA was .204.  That two run home run was big, but it was his only hit.  Max Scherzer’s start was worth more and he had a .331.  Joaquin Benoit’s shutout inning was worth more then Jose Valverde mostly because Benoit was pitching with a one run lead while Valverde was pitching with a three run lead.

If you look at the Tigers leaderboard, you find some interesting things.  Miguel Cabrera tops the list and that’s not a surprise. In fact his 4.38 WPA is the fourth best in all of baseball amongst hitters.  Alex Avila is second and Victor Martinez is third.

Justin Verlander sports a 4.10 WPA.  That’s second in all of baseball just behind Jered Weaver. Unfortunately no other starter has a positive WPA.  Jose Valverde is second with 2.60 and Al Alburquerque is third with 1.21.  The bottom three are Rick Porcello, Phil Coke and Brad Penny (who’s dead last).   The bottom three on the hitting side are Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez and Ryan Raburn (who’s at the bottom of the list).

So just something to check out when you’re board.  They have a cool iPhone application and you can also check out their site and they update the games in real time.

Scherzer Steps Up

This three game series with the Indians is off to a lot better start then last week’s at Cleveland.  Max Scherzer got the better of an impressive pitching duel between he and Josh Tomlin as the Tigers took game one at Comerica Park.  After 129 pitches, Scherzer left the game with a 2-1 lead in an impressive and important start.  He gave up just one run (and even that was suspect because he should have gotten out of the inning on a blown ball call) on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts.  The Tigers helped him out by getting a couple more runs and the relief duo of Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde finished up the game with a shutout inning a piece.  For Valverde, he picked up his 36th save in 36 chances.

All of the runs came via the long ball.  Austin Jackson showed the Tigers the way with a two run shot in the seventh.  Then in the eighth, Alex Avila and Johnny Peralta hit back to back solo home runs.  Peralta was the lone Tiger with two hits and while nobody drew a walk, the Tigers struck out just twice.

Then the controversy started.  After the game it was announced that the Tigers would send down Andy Dirks in place of Brandon Inge.  I like this move for a few different reasons.  One, Inge is a lot better then Betemit against lefties.  Two, Inge is better defensively and they now have have way too many outfielders. Finally, it’s a chance for Inge to earn a spot on the playoff roster.  It’ll be interesting to see if he rises to the challenge.

The White Sox lost their third straight so that helped as well.  The Tigers now have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Indians (one in the loss column) and a five game lead over the White Sox.  Game two against Cleveland is tonight.  It’ll be Doug Fister going up against David Huff.  I know it’s a small sample size, but Inge is three for five in his career against Huff, who’s a lefty.  Just something to watch.

Tigers Trade for Delmon Young

I don’t think I’ll be able to get to this tonight so I’ll write more tomorrow, but the Tigers traded for Delmon Young.  They gave up Cole Nelson and player to be named later.  Interesting move.

Nice Comeback

After the Tigers were down 5-0 last night, even I tuned them out for a bit.  Of course with the help of my EPSN Sportscenter iPhone app, I was able to more easily keep tabs on the Tigers as they came back from that deficit.  Scherzer gave up five runs in the second but the Tigers scored five runs in the sixth. Miguel Cabrera accounted for three of those runs with a sac. fly and a two run home run and the game winning RBI came on Ryan Raburn’s two run single.

What I really like was how the Scherzer was able to buckle down and give the Tigers seven innings. He ended up with ten strikeouts, which is a season high.  Phil Coke and Jose Valverde threw shutout innings to close out the game and Valverde picked up his 35th save.

On Thursday, Justin Verlander won his 100th career game.  He’s also four strikeouts away from his third straight 200 strikeout season. That puts him in select company with only Mickey Lolich (six straight) and Joe Coleman (three straight) on the Tigers leaderboard.   His 100 wins puts him tied for 16th on the Tigers chart with Ed Killian and he’s five back from the 15th spot (Schoolboy Rowe).  He needs to get to 123 (Frank Lary) to get into the top ten.

The Tigers can’t quite seem to shake the Indians and the White Sox though. Both won yesterday so the Tigers are still three up on the Indians and five up on the White Sox.  This afternoon we’ll see Doug Fister take the mound and he’ll face Jo-Jo Reyes.  Then it’s back home for the Twins.  I was hoping to make Monday’s game but it’s not going to happen.

Indians Take Round One

The Tigers have a big couple of weeks as they started a road series against the Indians last night (with a loss) and then they have them at home next weekend.  They’re off to a bad start in this series, but if they can win both of those series, they can push the Indians down to six games which would give them a nice lead heading into the final month and a half.

Last night’s loss was a tough one.  First you had the two hour rain delay, then you had the fourteen innings.  Now both teams have their pens in shambles so the Tigers need some innings out of Rick Porcello tonight.  Fortunately the Tigers had their day off so it’s not as bad as it could be.  The Indians throw Ubaldo Jimenez, who was roughed up in his first start as an Indian and has had three poor starts in a row.

The big news this week were the contract extensions.  Jim Leyland gets one more year and Dave Dombrowski gets through 2015.  Mixed feelings because while both have done a good job and put the Tigers back in the map, they haven’t been able to recapture that magic since 2006 (hard to believe that was five years ago).  This year could be the year but they still have some work to do.  Then again, the other questions is who’s out there.

The Tigers also signed their top pick, James McCann.  They didn’t have a first round pick and they locked him up well before the August 16 deadline.

Big game again tonight.  Let’s hope Porcello brings his A game.

Tigers Trade and Jacob Turner Loses In Debut

Tigers top prospect Jacob Turner made his major league debut while the Tigers shuffled their roster after their trade with the Mariners.  He took the loss but you can’t be too disappointed with how he pitched.  He started off with four shutout innings before he gave up a run in the fifth then got charged a run in the sixth before getting pulled out as he came up to around 100 pitches.  In all, he gave up two runs on three hits and three walks with six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.  Phil Coke was hit hard and he gave up three runs in 2 1/3 and then Dan Schlereth pitched 1 1/3 shutout innings to close out the game.

The Tigers made their trade yesterday.  They traded Casper Wells, Charles Furbush and Francisco Martinez to the Mariners for starter Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley.  This isn’t a bad deal because none of the guys the Tigers gave up were true blue chip prospects.  Casper Wells looks decent but he doesn’t have a spot and while Furbush has looked solid, the team didn’t seem to want to commit to him as a rotation guy. Fister is having a solid season but the low strikeout numbers worry me.  He has been fairly consistent (in a good way) the past couple of months despite not getting a win but everytime I think of this deal, I also think of the trade we made with the Mariners a couple of years ago for Jarrod Washburn.  David Pauley looks like a solid addition to the pen but again, I’m not quite sure how he’s doing it because he also has lower strikeout figures.

Of course the Indians drew Ubaldo Jiminez so that makes the race a little more interesting. It’s interesting seeing teams like the Indians and Pirates on the buying side.  The Indians did win yesterday so that lead is now down to 1 1/2 games.  Today is a treat because it’s a battle of Cy Young contendors.  Justin Verlander goes for the Tigers and the Angels throw Jered Weaver.  Should be a fun one to watch.

Turning the Corner

After getting hammered by the Mets on June 28, Rick Porcello has had five straight solid starts in the month of July and he appears to be turning the corner in his development.  He won all five of his starts, pitched at least six innings in all but one of those starts and he gave up three or fewer runs.  He was just about lights out last night when he pitched eight innings and struck out six with walking anyone.  He’s pretty much a lock to set a career mark in strikeouts this year.  His rate per nine is up almost a full strikeout and while his walks are up, they’re only up a hair.   If Porcello finishes strong, fifteen wins is pretty much a lock and if he keeps up what he started in July, you could see 17 wins.  Not too bad for a guy that is effectively a senior in college.

I was listening to the game on the way home and Dan Dickerson and Jim Price made a big deal about how good of a hitter Victor Martinez is with two strikes.  They definitely did their homework because Martinez is batting .317 with two strikes on him in 2011.  Even more impressive, he’s hitting .308 after he goes 0-2.  He’s actually hitting better when the pitcher is ahead (.347) then when he’s ahead (.296) in the count.  Just looking at his splits some more, after he goes 3-0, he’s only hitting .222 but he has a .650 OBP.  After 3-1, he’s hitting .360.

The Tigers now have their biggest lead of the season with a 2 1/2 game lead over the Indians.  They’re three ahead of the White Sox.  There’s still a lot of games within the division so these last couple of months should be interesting.

Brandon Inge is off to a nice start for the Mud Hens.  In eleven games, he’s hitting .286 with three home runs.  My guess is we’ll see him in September.  The Tigers affiliates aren’t doing well this year.  The only team with a solid chance at making the playoffs is Connecticut and even they have a losing record.

This afternoon it’s Duane Below going up against Dan Haren.  I was hoping to get down to the game tomorrow to see the awesome pitching matchup between Justin Verlander and Jared Weaver but I don’t think I’m going to be able to pull it off.   The Tigers are on Fox at 4 pm.

100 Games In

The Tigers played their 100th game of the season in a loss to the Minnesota Twins.  That loss snapped an eleven game winning streak over the Twinkies after really solid starts by Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer extended the streak.  Brad Penny wasn’t horrible, but the Tigers ran into a fresh Scott Baker and while he was on a pitch count, he shut the Tigers down in the five innings he pitched.  In all, Penny lasted seven innings and he gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks with four strikeouts.  The loss drops him to 7-7 on the season.

The big news this week was the Tigers designating Brandon Inge and trading for Wilson Betemit.  What was nice was seeing Inge take his minor league assignment.  To call this season a struggle would be an understatement and something needed to happen.  Betemit is a solid fill in for now, but since joining the Tigers he’s gone just two for twelve so we’ll see how this one pans out.

The Tigers are 4-4 since the break and they still sit in first place, a game ahead of the Indians (although they’re tied in the loss column).  This afternoon it’s Rick Porcello against Francisco Liriano with the White Sox on deck this Monday.


The first half of the Tigers season is in the books and the All Star Break is upon us.  The Tigers didn’t have a great week leading into the break but they still sit a half game ahead of the Cleveland Indians despite being a loss back because they’ve played three more game then Cleveland.  The White Sox had a rough week as well and they’re five back while the Twins have slowly put themselves back into the mix and they sit 6 1/2 games back.  At this point, I still don’t think the Indians are what they were in the first half and I don’t think the Twins have enough in the tank to make up the difference so I see the second half being between the Tigers and the White Sox.

One of the reasons for the Tigers success is they have a better record within in the division then any other team.  At 18-8, they’ve been able to make up ground especially after their lackluster interleague performance.  They’re also getting it done at home once again.  Still, they’re on pace for just 86 wins but it’s looking more and more like whichever AL Central team gets to 85 first will probably walk away with the playoff berth.

Of course the big story in the first half is Justin Verlander.  His ERA is now down to 2.15 and he leads the league in strikeouts (147), WHIP (0.874) and innings pitched (151).  It’s been 20 years since the Tigers had a 20 game winner (Bill Gullickson) and they’ve only had seven in the past 40 years.

It’s also time to eat a little crow.  Back in March I posted some predictions and here’s how I’ve done so far.

1)  The Tigers are competing for the division.  One for the good guys.

2)  Brandon Inge is having a career year, it’s just horribly so.  Even if Inge has a solid second half it’s going to be hard for him to even hit .250.

3)  Ryan Perry has been hurt and mediocre.  Another blown call.

4)  This one also wasn’t very tough.  I predicted Austin Jackson would hit right around .250 and here he is at .245.  His walks are up though.

5)  I knew I had heard the “whoever 85 first wins the division” line before.  I wrote that above before I went back and looked at this.

6)  Jacob Turner hasn’t been called up yet but he’s having a solid season for Erie as a 20 year old.  Not sure if we’ll see him as a September call up but if the Tigers are in the mix they could use all of the good arms they can get.

7)  The Tigers are on pace to win exactly 86 games.  Hopefully they come closer to 90 though and break the string of poor season halves they’ve had.

So all in all, not too bad.  Blew the Inge and Perry calls, but was at least close on everything else.

I’ll also throw in this in because it’s become an annual tradition but it’s disappointing what the All Star Game has become.  When I was a kid, the All Star Game was a big event.  Now you have players bowing at left and right and the roster morphs over a weeks time.  Of course it was also one of the few times you go to see all of the NL stars out on the field because back then, baseball on television wasn’t as prevalent.


I hope I did my math right, but the number in the title has some significance.  The Tigers sit at 45-41 right now and with six games left in the first half, they need just one win to finish going into the break with at least a .500 record.  Since Jim Leyland took over the team in 2006 and the Tigers got “good” their combined record in the second half of the previous five years is 170-200.

So, while the Tigers have given us some hope in the first half in most of the last six years, they’ve also left us wanting in most of those years as well after mediocre to poor second halfs.  Hopefully this year is the difference.  Here’s some interesting facts I dug up while putting the numbers together.  All of these are since 2006.

The Tigers have never had a losing record in the first half.  Their worse was 47-47 in 2008.  Their best was 2006 when they started 59-29.  They’ve never had a winning record in the second half.  Their best record is 38-38 which was 2009.  Kind of along these same lines, the Tigers have had at least 47 wins in the first half (this could be broken this year) and they’ve never had more then 38 in the second half.

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