Prior to the losing their previous three series, the bullpen was looked at as a major strength for the Tigers. Todd Jones had only blown one game and both Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya were throwing extremely well. Since then, Jones has blown three games and Rodney looks like he can’t get into a game without walking a couple of guys. Zumaya has been the one guy to throw consistently well through this tough patch.
Today, Jim Leyland appeared to make the right decision by leaving Joel Zumaya in there for three innings however I say he was pretty much forced too. Todd Jones had thrown in the previous three games and while Rodney had the day off on Saturday, he had thrown both Thursday and Friday. Zumaya, on the other hand, had only thrown 1 2/3 over the previous four days. So before you give Leyland too much credit, lets see how he handles the pen over the next week to see if he’s really changed his ways.
The other thing to note is, Jamie Walker has quietly put up some very nice numbers. He’s struck out 16 and only walked one and he has a rock solid 0.95 ERA. He’s thrown only 19 innings and his numbers probably warrant some more use. What’s even more odd is, he’s completely shutting down right handers, who are hitting only .150 against him. Both homeruns that he’s given up have come against lefties although his strikeout numbers aren’t nearly impressive against righties. This is a nice guy to have in the hole as your fourth reliever and, along with about fifty other reasons, makes Todd Jones expendable.
The Tigers won their first series since they took two of three against the Indians two weeks ago. Regardless of whether the White Sox win or lose tonight, the Tigers will remain in first place heading into their four game series with the Devil Rays. There’s a very nice pitching matchup tomorrow with two young guns going head to head. Scott Kazmir is having a breakout season and he’ll lock horns with Justin Verlander. Just looking at the pitching matchups, I’d be disappointed if we didn’t come out of this series with three of four.
Prior to today’s game, the Tigers still led the majors in ERA, just a tenth of run better then the New York Mets. They’re still treading dangerously though. They’re letting guys get on base, but their 76% left on base percentage is best in the majors so they’re able to get out of jams. Not sure how much of that is Todd Jones, but it looks like more of a “bend but don’t break” pitching strategy and their strikeouts per nine innings of 6.1 (which is exactly the league average) sort of bears that out. You just wonder how much longer they’ll be able to keep it up.
Zach Miner picked up his first career win on Saturday. He threw six innings and gave up two runs on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts. Lyle Overbay took him deep for a two run shot to account for the two runs. There’s really not a lot on Miner that I could find other then that he was the guy who came over with Roman Colon in the Kyle Farnsworth trade. He’s already 24 so he’s old for a prospect. I had to go all the way back to John Sickel’s 2005 Prospect Book and while he did say that Miner had one of the better arms in the Braves system at the time, he gave him his worst grade (C). But he faced a top notch offense in Toronto and came out looking good, so hopefully the kid will be able to keep it up.