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Ernie Harwell, Chris Shelton and Buddy Bell

I missed the Ernie Harwell/Fox TV boondoggle. I’m not sure if they aired it when I was listening in on the radio or if I just missed it while watching and typing. Actually, I’m glad I missed it, because it was pretty rude. Had they put Ernie Harwell in the booth and kicked Buck (who I’m not really keen on) and Tim McCarver (who I know a lot of people hate but I actually don’t mind as much), I’m sure more people would have tuned in.

And if you didn’t get enough Ernie and you missed Billfer’s interview with him, you can check out Part one and two by heading on over to his site.

One thing I haven’t touched on too much is the ascent of Chris Shelton. After tearing up and winning the MVP of the Arizona Fall League, and then summarily hitting AAA pitching pretty hard, he finally got the call up when Carlos Pena was sent down after some pretty poor hitting. This has to be the single biggest upgrade the Tigers have made in the second quarter of the season because Shelton has been hitting at a .345/.391/.580 clip in 119 at bats (not including his 1 for 2 night he’s having right now). The .970 OPS is probably the most impressive part of it and the sample size is getting larger so it’s making it more legit.

UPDATE – Make that 2 for 3. He just hit a solo shot.

A couple of reasons why can be deduced by looking at some of the Hardball Times advanced statistics. He’s been extremely patient at the plate (4.2 pitches per plate appearance is the best on the team) and he’s made great contact (26.1% line drive percentage trails only Polanco’s 26.3%). Making good contact has resulted in an impressive .386 batting average on balls in play. And in half of the at bats, he’s matched Omar Infante’s 28 Runs Created (although with the homer tonight, he’s probably passed him).

Buddy Bell is in town. Bell has the distinction of being the manager of the second worst Tigers team ever. After replacing Sparky Anderson in 1996, the Tigers lost 109 games and they set the single season record for homeruns allowed by a pitching staff (241). The pitching staff was even worse then the 2003 version as they sported an ERA of 6.38, which was the second worst of all time. Only the 1930 Phillies had a worse ERA (6.71), although they were a tick worse then the 1899 Cleveland Spiders (6.37).



Case in point about Farnsworth right now. 6 -5 royals. man on second 1 out. why is walker pitching? we need a strikeout. why is farnsworth not in? trammell has no clue on how to use him.

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Posted by michael on July 14th, 2005 at 9:34 pm

Hey look at that! Walker blew it! this is what i was talking about earlier today in my comments about farnsworth. he should have started the inning. instead trammell is wrapped up in his lefty lefty match-ups. All the while, farnsworth just sits there on the bench.

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Posted by michael on July 14th, 2005 at 9:39 pm

Shelton has been awesome. He has has torn the cover off the ball consistantly at every level he has played at. He is a bright spot in an otherwise typical tiger season

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Posted by michael on July 14th, 2005 at 9:54 pm

Come on, michael… With Percival going on the DL, you just knew Farnsworth would become the “closer”. Like I said, I don’t particularly care for “defined roles” much like you don’t, but EVERY team uses one designated man for their closer, and damn-near every team even has a second guy who gets the same role when “The End” goes out with an injury. If you think doing something else is such a hot idea, let me tell you that the 30 managers and GMs recall the mess that was the ’03 Red Sox bullpen when they tried that experiment for about the first half of that season.

My major problem wasn’t so much Jamie Walker, it was what the hell happened to Franklyn German. If he allows only a run or two rather than giving up the grand salami, then we scored what we scored against the KC bullpen, we’re at least going to extra innings…

As to an “otherwise typical Tiger season”… As of the end of last night’s game, we’re 42-45 (.483). Dead-on same as last year (going by the date of 7/14), and with a bunch more reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming schedule, I think. In ’03 (again, as of the end of games on 7/14), we sat at 25-67 (.272). In ’02, 34-56 (.378); ’01, 38-49 (.437); ’00, 39-47 (.453); ’99, 36-52 (.409); ’98, 38-52 (.422); ’97, 42-48 (.467); ’96, 27-65 (.293); ’95, 37-35 (.514). So, there you have it. With a win last night, we would have had the best “through-July-14″ record of any Tiger team in 10 years. Hardly makes for a “typical” Tiger season.

Also recall that the 2000 team made a mini-run toward the fringes of the wild card race that year, and weren’t mathematically eliminated until Sept. 22. And they were at a worse record on 7/14 than we have right now.

Don’t get me wrong, negativity toward the team is part of being a fan of any team… But so is being positive.

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Posted by jeff k on July 15th, 2005 at 9:50 am

There are many instances when a closer is used for 2 innings. last night was a great opportunity to use farnsworth for 2 innings. I understand your points and I enjoy your blog. Especially the 84 juurnal entries. But try and understand that I’m a tiger fan who lives in chicago and has to deal with black sox fans. I don’t know if you know this but they have a massive picture of Eddie Cicotte at their stadium!

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Posted by michael on July 15th, 2005 at 10:13 am

I’m going to have to side with Michael on this one. The “closer” is about the dumbest thing ever invented.

As to why the managers do it, I don’t really know. For a cheap price, you can buy The Hardball Times Bullpen book and it goes through the history of the closer (which began with Bruce Sutter).

As far as the Red Sox experiment, it didn’t fail because of the idea, it failed because they didn’t have the arms. Look at the way Sparky used the pen in 1984. Lopez closed out a lot of games, and both (Hernandez and Lopez) of them went three innings on several occasions.

In addition, keeping so many pitchers who only throw one inning taxes the offense. If you had relievers who could go two or three innings (other then your long man), it would free up a spot or two to help round out the bench.

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Posted by Brian on July 15th, 2005 at 10:33 am

jeff,

i agree with you that the problem in yesterday’s game was the German Meltdown. My point is that when the walker experiment failed and he exits with 1 out and the bag loaded that was the point to go right to farnsworth. we needed a strikeout there like no bodys business. the damage needed to be limited to give the team a chance. These are the moves that Trammell has made all year long. German looked awefull. He went 0-2 on the first hitter he faced then threw him 4 straight breaking pitches and walks him. Its just frustrating. Keep up the good work onthe blog though and we will weather this tiger storm no matter how many years it takes.

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Posted by Michael on July 15th, 2005 at 11:04 am

Ozzie Guillen is quietly using a smarter, less role-heavy system in Chicago, and he’s been doing it pretty much all year. He brings in the guy who can get the out, and nevermind the roles. Just because 29 managers use the “closer” system doesn’t make it right.

Time and time again this season, we’ve seen Walker (who I believe, mind you, is a good pitcher) or someone else come in for the sake of a matchup when what we really need is an out, preferably a strikeout. If it’s late and close, men in scoring position, and we need a strikeout, Farns should be in there.

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Posted by Dan on July 15th, 2005 at 11:10 am

I’m in agreement with you guys… Copy and paste this into your browser:

http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/B06040DET1984.htm

Notice the situation when Willie was brought in… Far less dangerous than bases loaded and 1 out, and the team was *down 3-0* at the time.

But my point is that if you’re going to call for Trammell’s head over this, be careful what you wish for, because everybody does it.

The point about the ’03 Red Sox bullpen is that its failure (whether it was in the design or in the execution) makes everyone wary of trying it again, whether that makes sense or not.

When the Tigers scored the 9th run last night, I rolled my eyes just like every Tiger fan did… It would have been the winning run if not for the grand salami.

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Posted by jeff k on July 15th, 2005 at 11:17 am

Jeff,

That I definitely agree with. The aborted bullpen by committee the Red Sox attempted has basically forced the hand of the other managers into conformance. The other managers won’t try something “radical” knowing it could be their head.

I think the Braves have been doing this as well. Kolb got off to a bad start so they never really established a closer. Not sure if this is still in place though.

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Posted by Brian on July 15th, 2005 at 11:20 am

Let me be clear, here… This kind of discussion is fantastic.

Frankly, I thought that people would have jumped on you for labeling Buddy Bell’s ’96 Tigers as the worst Tiger team of all time, despite the record of the ’03 team…

But it seems the bullpen woes are predominating right now.

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Posted by jeff k on July 15th, 2005 at 11:37 am

Jeff, What i wish for is for Davey Johnson to coach the tigers. The organization sold this team as a “win now” team. Trammell however does not coach by that slogan. He has also proved that he cannot get a team over .500.

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Posted by Michael on July 15th, 2005 at 11:40 am

I have no qualms with calling for Trammell’s head. He is a godawful manager, and this is just one of the many things he does not understand about how to win baseball games. Nice idea on Davey Johnson, but I’ll also submit the name Larry Dierker for consideration.

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Posted by Dan on July 15th, 2005 at 11:51 am

I like Dierker too but he had that brain malfunction not too long ago. he could short circuit at anytime.

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Posted by Michael on July 15th, 2005 at 12:11 pm

I dunno, guys… Johnson hasn’t managed in 5 years… And he’s 62… He might just consider himself retired at this point. He does go back far enough to remember when closers were used entirely differently, though.

With Dierker, I’d fear for the futures of Bonderman, Verlander and Zumaya. If I recall correctly, Dierker was old-school in the “finish what you start” mentality.

I don’t know who is out there really that might be willing to buck the trend of “defined roles” in the bully.

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Posted by jeff k on July 15th, 2005 at 12:24 pm

What about Leyland? He even coached for Dombrowski.

The guy I feel for is Bruce Fields. Here he was the runner up to Tram, and he’s basically worked himself out of a future coaching job for a while by talking the batting coach job for such a bad team.

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Posted by Brian on July 15th, 2005 at 1:15 pm

Dierker is one of the Astros play-by-play guys, and he’s very smart. He’s progressive, too. He’s willing to be open minded, and I highly doubt he has the finish-what-you-start mentality still. Even if he does a little, like I said, he’s always been very openminded and not critical of objective analysis/sabermetrics. The man’s baseball mind dwarfs Trammell’s, which, I admit, is the faintest of praise.

Leyland is almost as old as Johnson, and he smokes like a chimney. Dierker’s blood vessel in the brain issue is all cleared up, I believe.

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Posted by Dan on July 15th, 2005 at 1:56 pm


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