Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fun with the 2009 Holiday Catalog

I get the feeling it’s starting to become an annual tradition for me to receive the Holiday Catalog. I shared my thoughts on last year’s edition at my old site. I meant to get this out earlier, but hey, if you’re the stereotyped male who waits until the last minute, consider this a guide (and I’m sure they have some sort of exorbitantly expensive shipping that’ll guarantee delivery by Christmas). Now, t-shirts, jerseys, and hats make wonderful gifts for the baseball fans in your life, and that’s probably the way to go, but doing a blog post on those would be downright boring. So I’ve decided to focus on the quirkier items in the catalog. I’ve tried to display the Tigers version of the item as they are available (If there is no Tigers version, I’ve just gone with the team that was in the catalog). When I first saw these in the catalog, I thought they were candles, but they’re not. Instead, they are salt and pepper shakers. Perfect if you need more salt on your corn chips (see the background). And I’m sure they’d make your dinner parties even classier.

Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who has come through these troubled economic times unscathed. If that’s the case, you might want to plunk down $2249.99 on this beautiful pool table (of course, you’ll end up paying much more than that after purchasing the requisite accessories such as cue sticks, an overhead lamp, bar stools, etc). It should be noted, however, that I love playing pool and if one of you wants to buy me this, I’ll accept it gratefully.
This is described in the catalog as a “Comfy Throw,” but I think we all know it better as a Snuggie. Apparently, Major League Baseball and Snuggie must not have agreed on licensing terms, so the knock-off “Comfy Throw” swooped in and won out. Now you can take “Cult of Clete” to a whole new level.

Back in early November, Ian over at Bless You Boys did a post on gifts you shouldn’t give Tigers fans. He included such items as bobbleheads of Gary Sheffield and Edgar Renteria. This plaque should have been in that post. Because it’s $89.99. Nobody is going to buy this.
Obviously, this is a wall clock (there is also a desk clock version). But it’s really hard to get a clock to look like a baseball scoreboard. Stuff just doesn’t fit (for instance, there’s no such thing as the 69th inning). It looks like someone just took a football or basketball clock and tried to adapt it to baseball.

Since we’ve had to bid farewell to the creepy Polanco photoshopped mousepad, this becomes the new “creepy” item in the catalog. WHY would you put a face on a tree? If you buy this, I hope you don’t have small children because they’ll be having nightmares about the tree monster. By the way, I just arbitrarily chose the Yankee tree. The tree in the catalog did indeed sport the Olde English D, but the image was not available online, for some reason.

Well, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pain, Pondering, and Promise

Before I begin this somber task, I must apologize once again for my tardiness. Someone like Curtis Granderson deserves a lot more promptness. Unfortunately, the Winter Meetings happened smack dab in a two-week period where I am swamped by exams, assignments, etc. as the semester winds down, not to mention work. I deeply regret this. This year’s Winter Meetings will be remembered as a dark time in the Motor City, when Tigers fans were forced to bid farewell to one of our most popular players (and hey, I think most of us were fond of Edwin Jackson as well). I was understandably a lot more upset when Pudge got traded, but Curtis Granderson was in my top 5 (#4, to be precise) and was one of the classiest and smartest human beings, let alone baseball players (and if I was deeply saddened by it, I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone who considered Curtis to be “their Tiger,” to quote an old promotional campaign). And he’ll always be remembered for the numerous sensational catches throughout his tenure. I have longed to be able to watch a great player destined to be a lifelong Tiger. Having been born in 1983, Al Kaline is ancient history to me and I have no memory of Alan Trammel. I badly want a Kaline/Trammel for my generation, and I had high hopes that Granderson would be it. So to have him be gone, just like that, well…it hurts. It hurts a lot. And it will hurt for a long time. I will miss him terribly.

My objective assessment of this trade has taken a day or so to formulate because I have had to gather information from other sources on the background of the acquisitions (though I have watched a surprising number of Diamondbacks games). I wasn’t too sure what to make of Max Scherzer because my perception of him was that he has good stuff but has trouble pitching deep into games. However, I had a tendency to watch games in which the D’Backs lost, particularly if they lost spectacularly (reason being is that Darron Sutton and Mark Grace are downright hilarious when the Diamondbacks lose, but unbearably smug when the Diamondbacks win). Therefore, I probably didn’t have the best sampling, and I admit this. Likewise, I did not know the background on Daniel Schlereth, other than the fact that he was left-handed and his father played in the NFL. All I knew was that the Diamondbacks’ bullpen was so bad that they kept calling up anybody and everybody they could get out of necessity. However, both Scherzer and Schlereth are very highly thought of, as it turns out. In that case, the return on Edwin Jackson looks to be a pretty good one (as an aside, one annoying aspect of this trade is there are too many players with either similar-sounding or downright identical last names). However, I feel like we could have and should have gotten more for Granderson. The word on Austin Jackson from Tiger fans isn’t particularly favorable (though most of their arguments delve a bit too much into the slippery slope of sabremetrics for my taste). They seem to think he’s overhyped. Of the four players we got, Phil Coke has probably been talked about the least. I may have seen him back in July when the Tigers were at Yankee Stadium, but I’m not sure. I did see him in the postseason, but maybe that’s not a good representation of him. In any case, he seems to be serviceable enough, but Grandy was worth more (And as a side note, what is it about Tigers I like constantly getting traded to the Yankees? Cecil…Pudge…now Grandy. Perhaps the reason I don’t hate the Yankees is a simple act of mental self-defense).

Several bloggers more knowledgeable and established than I have come out with numerous posts wherein they basically shed tears and scratch their heads. They absolutely cannot make sense of this trade. On the surface, I agree with them. However, the Tigers have to have some line of thinking to have made this move. It may be flawed (or not), but there has to have been one. This leads me to ponder Dave Dombrowski’s possible motive, and from here on out I will speak almost exclusively on Granderson since I have already reached the conclusion that Edwin Jackson got a good return (Whether you put any faith in the rumor that the Diamondbacks offered Max Scherzer for Edwin Jackson straight up depends on whether you’re more inclined to believe Josh Byrnes or Joel Sherman, so this is the only time I will mention it and it will not figure into my deductions). Dombrowski can be a hard man to figure out at times because his sound bites are so annoyingly cryptic. I’ve become more and more skeptical about the national media’s standard line of saving payroll due to the Michigan economy. For one thing, it’s too simple an explanation, and things are never THAT simple. For another thing, I have read a couple of very well-written articles from
TigsTown and The Detroit Tigers Weblog that attempt to determine where the money comes from and both articles make the assessment that the Tigers’ financial situation is not as critical as one would be led to believe. These articles are very well-researched and their arguments are extremely well-constructed and well-thought out, much moreso than anything the traditional media has come up with. In addition, it would be very uncharacteristic of Mike Illitch to order a huge payroll slash. It’s well-noted how he desperately wants to win a World Series, but the man’s eighty years old. He probably doesn’t have time for another 5-10 year rebuild, and I would guess he knows that. Also, Granderson’s contract for next year was a mere $5.15 million, and everyone knows about how much payroll gets freed up for 2011 anyways, making his contract even more affordable in the long run. So unless I get concrete evidence to the contrary, for now I am ruling out payroll as the (primary) motivation. That leaves “baseball reasons” as the likely explanation. And to that end, I have three theories (and bear in mind that I am merely attempting to gauge Dave Dombrowski’s line of thinking; if they are true, I do not necessarily agree with the logic). The first is that Dombrowski felt that Granderson had peaked and was trying to “sell high” on him. He has done this before (and here I am venturing into unfamiliar territory and am forced to rely on the assessment of others). I do not remember Jeff Weaver as a Tiger, but I do know he did his best pitching in the Olde English D. Since he was traded away, he hasn’t pitched as well (though he did have a decent year for the Dodgers out of their ‘pen in 2009). And I’ve talked to Tigers fans who strongly objected to the Weaver trade at the time it happened (We did get Carlos Peña and Jeremy Bonderman out of the deal). And there was evidence to suggest that Granderson was headed in that same direction (although at this point I believe it was merely a down year). The second theory is that Dombrowski or someone in the front office thinks incredibly highly of Austin Jackson. Jackson was always thought of as the centerpiece of any potential deal for Granderson. Perhaps the most compelling piece of evidence to support this theory is that once the three-way trade talks were believed to be dead, the Tigers suddenly re-opened them and by doing so, they lowered their asking price for Granderson. This would suggest that they believe (erroneously or not) that Austin Jackson will eventually be better than Granderson, and likely within the next two years or so. The third theory is a combination of the first two theories, and of the three, this is most likely candidate. Again, I’m not saying that I agree with any of these. I’m just trying to take a stab at what the Tigers think. Now, it could be that my train of logic is totally off and this was purely a cost-cutting move. It could be that I’m right and Dave Dombrowski’s line of thinking is completely wrong and this’ll blow up in his face. Or it could be that I am right and so is Dombrowski. For all our sakes, I hope this is the case.

The last few days have seen Tigerland rather melancholy, morose, and depressed, and this is understandable. I feel those same things myself. HOWEVER, there is reason for hope. The sun will rise again, and it may rise as soon as next April as far as we know. My best guess is that the Tigers are trying to position themselves for a big run in 2011 (provided they don’t trade away Verlander or Cabrera), but that doesn’t mean that 2010 has to be a wash. The loss of Granderson will cripple the Tigers…if they let it. But what if they could be motivated by it instead? Motivated to not let it happen again, motivated to inspire Austin Jackson and Phil Coke (Grandy’s “final contributions,” as it were) to reach their full potential, motivated to win in Granderson’s honor, or whatever. Now, making some sort of “win-now” move this offseason would not be prudent (with the exception of maybe signing a closer, provided you can get one for one year and less than $5 million). But the team we have right now is certainly capable of providing plenty of wins, especially when you consider the weak division we play in. There’s an awful lot of talent in the front end of the rotation with Verlander, Scherzer, and Porcello, and it’ll be even better if Bonderman/Robertson/Galarraga can shake off their injury woes and pitch like they’re capable of doing. Of the gaggle of relief prospects in the minors, most won’t be ready until at least 2011, but some may make their presence felt in 2010 and one would hope guys like Ryan Perry continue to improve. The offense may be down two men but most of the remaining guys are still capable of putting up better numbers than they did in 2009. A few things that went wrong in 2009 would have to go right in 2010, of course, and some things that went right in 2009 would have to keep going right. But I have a good feeling about 2010, even though I can’t explain why. As a matter of fact, I’d had a feeling of some dread ever since the season ended, perhaps before. Starting about 36 hours after the Granderson trade, that feeling went away. I have absolutely no logical explanation for it, and so you may discard it and that is your right. But I have a fairly good track record as far as the team’s fortune is concerned. After the acquisition of Miguel Cabrera, Tigers fans everywhere were ordering their champagne in January, and yet I had misgivings (nothing to do with Cabrera, of course). Last year, I was one of only a handful of Tiger writers and bloggers who still believed in the team. Now I feel as though SOMETHING good will happen to the Tigers in 2010 (Bear in mind that it may be something like a division title but it could also merely be some sort of individual achievement; I do NOT believe it would be something so indirect as the Tigers finishing with so bad a record they get the #1 pick in the 2011 draft). If I have to be the sole beacon of hope in Tigerland, so be it. And if there was any way at all that I myself could do to personally ensure victory, I would do everything within my power. Admittedly, I have nothing to back this up, and it is contingent of the Tigers not trading away any more franchise players (a loss of Verlander and/or Cabrera WOULD cripple the team in most circumstances I can think of). But as it stands right now, it goes right back to the two things that I preach are essential for success: Ability and execution. The Tigers still most certainly have the ability. Now they must execute.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Adios, Placido Polanco

We all knew it was coming, but yesterday officially marked the end of the Placido Polanco era in Detroit (Yes, I know four-and-a-half years is kind of short to be considered an “era,” but it’s the same amount of time as Pudge was with the Tigers and I frequently refer to his time in Detroit as “the Pudge era,” so I’m applying it to Polanco). Our old second baseman is moving across the diamond and becoming the Phillies’ third baseman for the next three years (And I’m not a real big fan of the Phillies, but it’s definitely better than having him with the Red Sox or with another AL Central team).

Most of what needs to be said has already been said on other blogs which you’ve probably already read. Polanco wasn’t in my top five (which is the only segment I bother to rank), but if I ranked a top ten, he would’ve been sixth or seventh. He was a hell of a #2 hitter and a hell of a defender (the concept of “E4” has been virtually unknown to Tigers fans these past few years). I know Scott Sizemore is probably ready to take over and I know it’s probably the right strategic move, but it’s still sad to see Placido in another uniform. I have lots of good memories of him, most notably that shot of him rounding the bases and leaping for joy after Magglio’s walk-off home run in the 2006 ALCS, all the while wearing that stupid hood. I’ll certainly miss that large cranium of his (and by the way, this is my favorite picture of Polanco that I have, and not just because Pudge is in it; I just love Polanco’s expression in it).

And so, the Tigers Amateur Analysis bids farewell to Placido Polanco, and I hope you readers will enjoy this Photoshop tribute:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Quick Bits

I wish I had more for you the other day, but I couldn’t think of anything and I felt the need to post something. Today’s post isn’t going to be organized very well, as real life activities have kept me occupied, but here’s a random collection of my thoughts on this Wednesday morning:

--My take on the whole trade situations: I fervently don’t want to trade any of the names mentioned, though you can’t be totally against trading a player ever. The only scenario in which a trade would be acceptable to me would be if the Tigers managed to pull off a big steal (and by that, I mean it would include someone who would make a major positive impact NOW, not five years down the road). The payroll argument is not a particularly strong one at this point because of all the money that’s coming off the books at the end of next season, so salary relief really won’t be needed. Now, it’s possible to pull off a steal by trading away Edwin Jackson (and if the reports that Dave Dombrowski was asking for Brandon Morrow and Shawn Kelley from the Mariners are true, it looks like that’s exactly what they are trying to do, at least right now). It’s still possible with Granderson, but less likely because Granderson isn’t that expensive and he’s a vital part of the team. With Miguel Cabrera, it would be nearly impossible to recoup his value. It’s unlikely that any prospect would measure up, and any money saved by trading away his contract would eventually go towards signing a player like him.

--The arbitration decisions panned out pretty much the way everyone expected them to. Even Dave Dombrowski has publicly stated that he expects both Rodney and Lyon to decline. I, like most I’ve talked to, would like to see them re-sign Lyon, but I wouldn’t go more than two years. Also, if Jason Beck is correct and the Tigers would have to move payroll, I might be a little more hesitant (see above bullet point).

--Over the weekend, MLB Network was running a marathon of old All-Star Games. I happened to watch the end of the ’97 ASG, the entire ’94 ASG, and the beginning of the ’95 ASG (back when the National League won on occasion). It was…amusing, for lack of a better term. I don’t remember if I actually watched either game back in ‘94/’95/’97 (I would’ve been in middle school at the time). With several players, I definitely knew who they were regardless of whether I remembered them playing or not (like Cal Ripken Jr. and Mark McGwire). There were others with names I recognized but didn’t know much more about them beyond that (Chuck Knoblauch, Matt Williams, etc), and this included guys who I know better as broadcasters (such as Mark Grace). Then there were a few to whom I thought, “Who the hell are you?” It certainly shocked me to see how young Mariano Rivera looked in 1997. Along that same line, it was funny to hear the broadcasters refer to certain players as “kids” when I view them as hardened veterans.

--Fun fact: Off all the players who participated in the 1994 All-Star Game, three are still active: Ken Griffey Jr, Randy Johnson, and Pudge Rodriguez (though there’s a strong possibility that the Big Unit will retire now that he’s got his 300th win). Pudge in particular was of interest to me (not surprisingly). It was funny hearing Bob Costas refer to him as the “young, 22-year-old catcher from the Texas Rangers” because I’ll never see him as a 22-year-old. And apparently his nickname wasn’t widely known at the time because the broadcasters never used it (though it did say “Pudge” on his wristbands). It must’ve become more prominent by 1995 because those broadcasters DID call him Pudge. Three random things that I observed were that he looked shorter in those days, his pants were too tight, and he had pretty much the same amount of plate discipline that he does now (which is, to say, not much). Also, Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver were slightly less annoying in the mid-90s.

--This has almost nothing to do with baseball, but I tried playing a Madden game for the first time last night. Now, I suck at video games, so I played it on that super-simplified “Family Play” setting that they put in there for, like, 8-year-olds. Well, I ended up winning the game 73-0 (That included a touchdown on the kickoff return, sacking the quarterback in the first two defensive plays, at least three interceptions that were returned for TDs, and one player who scored five touchdowns). I get the feeling that “Family Play” is a little too easy even for me, but then I look at the instruction manual and see the 3000 different commands that you have to know on normal play and it’s a bit much. I’m the same way when it comes to MLB The Show. I always play in manager mode on that game, and on the easiest setting. Plus, I know it’s just a game, but I’m not real thrilled at the prospect of commentators talking about how bad I am.

--I am currently working on a light-hearted feature regarding the Holiday Catalog. Provided tragedy (i.e. a bad trade) does not strike before I get it finished, I will have it up as soon as I’m done (It might not be until next week, though. Exams and work are taking up a lot of time).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Someone Else's Opinion

I don’t know about you, but I am not looking forward to the Winter Meetings next week. I know I haven’t said much about all the trade speculation that’s floated around, but other bloggers (whose pages you probably already read before reading this) have pretty much said what I would say, and as something new seems to pop up every day, anything I write would rapidly go out of date. It’s also exceptionally complicated for three big reasons. The first is that it’s rather difficult to separate confirmed fact from speculation (And quotes from “anonymous executives” don’t help matters, because if you’re not giving your name, what’s to stop you from just making stuff up?). The second is that my gut instinct is to inherently not trust people, even if they haven’t given me reason not to trust them (this statement goes for both the writers and the Tigers brass). The third is that the national media, for some reason, seems to hold the Tigers in low regard. I don’t know why that is, but it’s getting annoying. Still, I will try to come up with something more substantial later in the week. In the meantime, I spoke with Chuck, my baseball guru, last week, and as per usual, he had some things to say about the goings on in the baseball world. So consider this a “guest blog” of sorts (Some of you may wonder why he doesn’t have a blog of his own. I’m sure he’d enjoy it, but he’s in his sixties and is completely computer illiterate). Here’s his insight (and remember, he’s a Yankees fan):

--He loves Granderson. I think he’d be willing to give up the entire Yankees’ farm system to get Granderson. However, he doesn’t see how trading him would make sense for the Tigers from a tactical standpoint.

--We didn’t talk much about Edwin Jackson, but he seems to think the only reason to trade him would be if Dave Dombrowski managed to absolutely fleece the hell out of the other team.

--This was before Lynn Henning decided to ramp up Cabrera trade talks (Seriously, has there been a completely separate confirmation from anyone else?) but after Ken Rosenthal’s moronic proposal about trading Cabrera to the Red Sox for Mike Lowell and Jonathan Papelbon. Not surprisingly, my baseball guru didn’t think that was a fair return, given his opinion that Miguel Cabrera is a “franchise player” and Lowell and Papelbon are not (plus I’m guessing there’s also the fact that Miggy would be more of a thorn in the Yankees’ side than either of those two).

--Basically, once I gave him the info on the Tigers’ payroll situation for the next few years, he agreed with me on what would probably be the best move for the Tigers: Try to tread water and ride out 2010 and then really go for it in 2011 once all that salary gets freed up (That would mean retaining players who can help you in 2011).

--He wasn’t happy with the Cy Young selections because “the win totals weren’t high enough.” He followed that up anecdotally by saying that Denny McClain had the same number of wins (31) in 1968 as Tim Lincecum (15) and Zack Greinke (16) combined. He proceeded to partially retract his criticism of Lincecum, saying that he wasn’t as familiar with the National League and that his guess was that Lincecum won because the two Cardinals pitchers split the vote. He had more ammunition against Greinke. His biggest arguments were that he didn’t win enough games and that most of the teams he beat were under .500. I have largely abstained from giving opinions in these sorts of matters, but I did tell him the popular reasons: Greinke’s ERA and the fact that the Royals’ offense is not very good. Chuck retaliated by saying that Nolan Ryan (His all-time favorite pitcher, from what I can tell) once led the league in ERA and strikeouts but went 8-16 because he didn’t get any run support (I did look this up and he was right. It was 1987 and he finished with an ERA of 2.76, which is actually very good, and he did finish 5th in the NL Cy Young voting that year. One thing that surprised me is he only led the league in ERA one other time, and he finished 4th in the Cy Young voting despite a ridiculous 1.69 ERA in 1981. On the other hand, he only pitched 149 innings that year, which leads me to believe he was injured at some point). Now, he was NOT arguing for CC Sabathia, although he did say he would rank Sabathia ahead of Greinke (in saying that he would’ve placed Greinke fourth). He seemed to be angling for Verlander (“because he’s a horse”) and Hernandez (based on the fact that King Felix had comparable ERA and strikeouts to Greinke but more wins even though Seattle’s offense was almost as bad as Kansas City’s) in some order (I got the feeling he’d place Verlander ahead of Hernandez, though). And please, if you’re gonna criticize, don’t direct it at me. I have no opinion on the matter (if you want to criticize me for having no opinion, fine, although I think that’s kind of pointless).

--This conversation occurred before the MVP voting results came out, but I’m guessing he has no problems with them, given the fact that he told me he wouldn’t be upset if Miguel Cabrera won. Now, I probably would not have voted for Cabrera, but I don’t understand why everyone’s mad that Mauer’s selection wasn’t unanimous. What difference does it make? If Mauer is destined for the Hall of Fame, it’s not going to make or break his selection. And according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, it doesn’t cheat him monetarily. He gets an extra $100,000 for being named MVP, plain and simple. Trust me, if one of our guys is voted Cy Young or MVP someday, I won’t complain if it’s not unanimous. That said, it would be interesting to hear Keizo Konishi’s take on the matter.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from the Tigers Amateur Analysis

I'm sorry this place has been kinda dead for the past couple weeks. I've got some stuff planned, but for now, enjoy your turkey, football games (It helps that I'm not a Lions fan, though I absolutely loathe the Packers; for the record, I don't have a favorite team, but I like the Steelers and Cowboys the best), and crack-of-dawn shopping if you're into that sort of thing. Me? I'm off to my grandparents' and watching the Mythbusters marathon on the Discovery Channel (Who says baseball fans don't have nerdy impulses?).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2009 DIBS Awards

This year, I had the privilege of being invited to participate in the annual awards of the Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes (or DIBS, for short). Voting was done in a similar fashion to how the Cy Young and MVP awards are done, with votes for first place, second place, and third place. Awards were given in four categories: Position Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, Breakout Player of the Year, and Most Improved Player. So without further ado, here’s the results:

Position Player of the Year: Miguel Cabrera
One of the two categories in which the first-place voting was unanimous, Cabrera was the Tigers’ biggest offensive threat all year long. He led the team in average, home runs, and RBIs. Although his season ended on a sour note (to put it mildly), more often than not he was invaluable to his team and oftentimes was the only hitter other teams feared. And those who don’t follow the Tigers may be surprised to learn that he’s actually turning into quite a good defensive first baseman. He’s worked really hard to improve his defense, and it’s seemingly paid off. I don’t follow sabremetrics at all, but the metric-faithful tell me that he’s ranked second among all AL first baseman. Based on my observations, I could agree with that. This past season, he made numerous nice plays and became quite proficient at picking balls out of the dirt (being able to practically do the splits is a big help; for a big guy, he’s surprisingly flexible). Assuming he can put his off-the-field problems behind him, one hopes that he continues to put up big numbers for the Tigers for years to come (Screw you, Ken Rosenthal). Your runners-up were Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco, with Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn also receiving votes.

Pitcher of the Year: Justin Verlander
JV’s the other unanimous choice for first place. And why not? He led the starting staff in wins, strikeouts, and ERA (3.45). Hell, he tied for the Major League lead in wins (19) and his 269 strikeouts were the most in baseball. If it weren’t for a certain guy by the name of Zack Greinke, Verlander would be a serious threat for the Cy Young award (Though in that scenario, I think they would’ve given it to Felix Hernandez). JV led a pitching staff that for most of the year was one of the best in baseball. And like Cabrera, I hope he stays in the Olde English D and dominates hitters for a long time to come. Runners-up were Edwin Jackson and Rick Porcello. Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon also received votes.

Breakout Player of the Year: Rick Porcello
This award goes to a young player who has put up big numbers for the first time. I’d say Porcello definitely qualifies, and he received 18 of the 20 first-place votes. He finished with a 14-9 record, a 3.96 ERA, and a takedown of Kevin Youkilis on his resumé. He formed part of the May/June dominant trio with Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson and after some midsummer struggles came back strong in September, which proved to be crucial once Jackson seemingly hit a wall. And you couldn’t ask for more that what he did in the tiebreaker game. And he still can’t drink until next month. I feel so old. Edwin Jackson and Ryan Raburn received the other first-place votes. In addition, Fu Te Ni (whom I completely forgot about when I filled out my ballot, embarrasingly enough) was given runner-up consideration.

Most Improved Player: Justin Verlander
From leading the AL in losses in 2008 to leading in wins in 2009, JV received 11 of the 20 first-place votes. None of us could figure out what was going on with him in ’08, and once he began ’09 struggling, well, let’s just say I was one of the few bloggers who still believed in him. Then in late April against the Yankees, Justin rewarded my faith in him and showed the world that he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. Also garnering first-place votes were Brandon Inge (who probably would’ve won this had he not been hampered by the knee injury) and Fernando Rodney.

Established in 2005, the Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes now has 21 members who write primarily on the Internet. Its member writers are affiliated with such online organizations as (Booth Newspapers), SB Nation,,, Bleacher Report, Yardbarker, MVN, Fan Blog and Fan Huddle.

The Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes include:

Bless You Boys -- Ian Casselberry
Daily Fungo -- Mike McClary
DesigNate Robertson -- Scott Rogowski
Detroit Tigers Den -- Austin Drake
Detroit Tigers Weblog -- Bill Ferris
Eye of the Tigers -- J. Ellet Lambie
Fire Jim Leyland -- Mike Rogers
It's Just Sports -- Patrick Hayes
Jamie Samuelsen's Blog -- Jamie Samuelsen
Mack Avenue Tigers -- Kurt Mensching
MLive's The Cutoff Man -- James Schmehl and Scott Warheit
Old English D -- Jennifer Cosey
Roar of the Tigers -- Samara Pearstein
Spot Starters -- Blake Vande Bunte
Take 75 North -- Matt Wallace
Tigers Amateur Analysis -- Erin Saelzler
Tigerblog -- Brian Borawski
Tiger Geist -- John Brunn
Tiger Tales -- Lee Panas
Tiger Tracks -- John Parent
Where have you gone, Johnny Grubb? --Greg Eno
Detroit4lyfe -- Bob Biscigliano

Monday, November 16, 2009

2010 and the AL Central: April

NOTE: Just about all this was written before all the trade rumors and speculation started. Understandably, this has caused a lot of concern among Tigers fans (myself included) and a lot of our attention has been devoted to monitoring MLB Trade Rumors with knots in our stomachs. After careful deliberation, I have decided not to change anything in this installment, because nothing has happened yet. When and if a deal goes down, future installments may reflect that. But not this one. At the very least, maybe it’ll take your mind off worrying about Granderson for a few minutes.

This is a feature that I’ll post occasionally at various points throughout the offseason. I’ll be taking a month-by-month look at the 2010 schedule for the Tigers and the rest of the AL Central (You need to know how easy or hard the competition has it at any point, right?). It’s hard to speculate about how any given team will do at this point because we’ve still got tons of trades and free agent signings that’ll happen between now and April 5th. Hopefully, things’ll start to get clearer by the time I post the final installment, which should be shortly before spring training starts. As it stands right now, though, most writers have a more favorable impression of the Tigers than they did at this point last year (except Lynn Henning, who insists the Tigers should trade Curtis Granderson yesterday). However, as we know, they were completely wrong about their impressions last year, so it may be wise to take their opinions with a grain of salt. The biggest threat to the Tigers, at least on paper, looks to be the Chicago White Sox. They are primed to have some very strong starting pitching, and if they find consistent offense and learn to catch the baseball a bit better, watch out. The Twins are kind of an unknown right now. They did win this year and they’ll have most of the same guys for next year, but let’s remember that until September they basically played .500 ball the whole time before going on a hot streak, and their pitching was not particularly impressive during most of the season. Plus, there’s that matter of how that they won’t have their greatest weapon (the Metrodome). However, only a fool would count them out. They have too much of a track record. The other two teams in the Central aren’t expected to make much noise as far as contending, but I’m including them anyways because I want to be thorough (Besides, Kansas City had a hot start in 2009 and I still think the Indians will be better than most people think). There is definitely some quirkiness to the schedule, especially Detroit’s. For instance, they will go through long stretches in April, July, and August with no off-day, and yet there are two different occasions where they’ll have an off-day, followed by a two-game series, followed immediately by another off-day. Speaking of two-game series, the Tigers sure do have a bunch of them (sometimes balanced out by four-game series with the same team, sometimes not; they will only be in Oakland for two games), and there’s an extra home series against the Baltimore Orioles that seems really random. The rest of the teams in the Central have their quirks as well. For instance, the Twins have 11 off-days on Mondays and only four Thursday off-days (Their schedule was very kind to them in terms of off-days. The longest they go without a break is 14 games). But now it’s time to get into detail. Here’s April in the AL Central:

April 5-8 (Mon-Thu): @ Kansas City Royals (3; Off-day Tuesday, April 6)
April 9-11 (Fri-Sun): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
April 12-14 (Mon-Wed): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
April 15 (Thu): Off-day
April 16-18 (Fri-Sun): @ Seattle Mariners (3)
April 19-22 (Mon-Thu): @ Los Angeles Angels (4)
April 23-26 (Fri-Mon): @ Texas Rangers (4)
April 27-29 (Tue-Thu): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
April 30-May 2 (Fri-Sun): vs. Los Angeles Angels (3)

With this schedule, you could easily imagine the Tigers getting off to either a great start or a horrible one. It’s about an even mix of the AL Central (mostly the two teams predicted to be “bottom feeders” by the media) and the AL West (and the Tigers did their best work against the West in 2009). The last time the Tigers started their season in Kansas City was 2006, and they definitely got off to a real good start then. However, bear in mind that the starting pitchers for Kansas City in that series were Scott Elarton and Joe Mays (It was a two-game series). Um, yeah (and I’m glad I looked that up, because I would have said Jeremy Affeldt and Elmer Dessens). It’s a whole lot different this time around. We know that, barring injury, Opening Day will feature Justin Verlander against Zack Greinke (They have matched up before, back in 2007. Justin won, Pudge hit a grand slam, and Greinke threw 50 pitches and didn’t make it out of the first inning; that was 2007, though). Game 2 is likely to be Edwin Jackson against Gil Meche. After that, I’m not sure. You would like to think Rick Porcello for game 3 (probably against either Kyle Davies or Robinson Tejeda), but Leyland may elect to go with someone else and have Porcello pitch the home opener. All told, our pitchers certainly have the ability to outpitch Greinke and Meche, but that is no easy task and Kansas City has been getting off to hot starts the past couple years. After this brief road trip to begin the season, it’ll be time for the opening homestand against the Indians, and then we see the Royals again (but likely won’t have to face Greinke again with such a quick turnaround). Once they have their off-day on the 15th (Jackie Robinson Day; poor Jackie’s gonna have a bunch of teams not being able to honor him cuz a lot of teams are off then), they will not have another one for a stretch of twenty games. Yikes (This is one of those instances where you pray for rain at some point just so the boys can get some rest). That long stretch begins with an 11-game AL West road trip (and while this is kind of sucky, it still beats that Fenway/Yankee Stadium/Metrodome/Wrigley Field road trip that the White Sox had) that includes a three game series at Safeco Field and four-game series each against the Angels and Rangers (I hate 4-game series, no matter who they are against or where they are). As April winds down, the Tigers go back home and get their first look at the Twins in 2009 before hosting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Of the five AL Central teams, Detroit has the “easiest” schedule in terms of how their opponents did in 2009 (the Tigers are the only team in the Central whose April opposition was a combined sub-.500 this past year). However, they MUST do better against the Central. At first glance, their final record of 39-34 against the Central seems respectable, but it only looks that way because they went 14-4 against the Indians (Give them credit, though. None of the other teams in the Central dominated Cleveland like the Tigers did, and three of those losses were to Carl Pavano). They went 9-9 against both Chicago and Kansas City, and 7-12 against Minnesota (Granted, they had much better records against both the White Sox and Royals for nearly all of the season. Chicago and KC did most of their damage to the Tigers in September. Therefore, you could argue that the real key is for the Tigers to “finish what they started,” so to speak). So even though there are plenty of teams that the Tigers can (and should) beat if they want to be taken seriously as a contender, April will be a grueling month nonetheless.
Home games: 12
Road games: 14
Detroit’s 2009 record against opposition: 47-35
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opposition: .499

White Sox
April 5-8 (Mon-Thu): vs. Cleveland Indians (3; Off-day Tues, April 6)
April 9-11 (Fri-Sun): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
April 12-15 (Mon-Thu): @ Toronto Blue Jays (4)
April 16-18 (Fri-Sun): @ Cleveland Indians (3)
April 19 (Mon): Off-day
April 20-22 (Tue-Thu): vs. Tampa Bay Rays (3)
April 23-25 (Fri-Sun): vs. Seattle Mariners (3)
April 26 (Mon): Off-day
April 27-29 (Tue-Thu): @ Texas Rangers (3)
April 30-May 2 (Fri-Sun): @ New York Yankees (3)

The White Sox have the fortune of getting their off-days spaced out a bit more evenly than the Tigers, at least at in April. They begin their 2010 campaign at home against the Indians (Pure speculation here, but I’m guessing the Opening Day matchup will be Jake Peavy against Justin Masterson). They get some AL East action right away, which is good and bad if you’re the Tigers. It’s good in that it might help them stumble out of the gate a bit. It’s bad in that you won’t be able to rely on the big, bad, AL East to slow them down if you need it later in the season (although they handled the Rays fairly well last year, going 6-2, but they were 1-6 against the Blue Jays; for the record, they were 3-4 against the Yankees, which is better than what we did). While the Tigers see a lot of the Royals right away, the White Sox see a lot of the Indians. Their longest stretch without an off-day in April is eleven games (April 7-18). After hosting the Indians and Twins, they head up to Toronto for four games (one of which will hopefully feature Roy Halladay), followed by a three-game set in Cleveland. After a Monday off-day, they host the Rays and Mariners. They wrap up April with another off-day, followed by a six-game road trip where they visit the Rangers and Yankees.
Home games: 12
Road games: 13
Chicago’s 2009 record against opposition: 32-41
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opposition: .516

April 5-8 (Mon-Thu): @ Chicago White Sox (3; off-day Tuesday, April 6)
April 9-11 (Fri-Sun): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
April 12-15 (Mon-Thu): vs. Texas Rangers (3; off-day Tuesday, April 13)
April 16-18 (Fri-Sun): vs. Chicago White Sox (3)
April 19 (Mon): Off-day
April 20-22 (Tue-Thu): @ Minnesota Twins (3)
April 23-25 (Fri-Sun): @ Oakland Athletics (3)
April 26-28 (Mon-Wed): @ Los Angeles Angels (3)
April 29 (Thu): Off-day
April 30-May 2 (Fri-Sun): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)

The Indians have the easiest schedule in terms of rest, with a whopping four off-days in one month, but they have way more road games than home games. Also, they face a couple teams that they didn’t do so well against last year, particularly Detroit (4-14) and Texas (1-8). Like the Tigers, all of April is confined to the AL Central and the AL West. They start their season with a six-game road trip, visiting Chicago and then Detroit for our home opener (Hopefully the Tigers can be as dominant against Cleveland as they were in 2009). From there, they head on across the lake to their home opener against the Texas Rangers (Gee, that brings back memories of 2000, when I was in Cleveland for their home opener, which was also against the Texas Rangers. The Rangers won that game). They also get the White Sox on their first homestand. The Indians then embark on a nine-game road trip that has the potential to take them through three dramatically different climates, from mid-April Minneapolis (could go either way) to cool-but-probably-not-freezing northern California to the OC as they take on the Twins, A’s, and Angels. They wrap up the month by beginning a homestand against the Twinkies.
Home games: 9
Road games: 15
Cleveland’s 2009 record against opposition: 25-51
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opposition: .525

April 4-8 (Mon-Thu): @ Los Angeles Angels (4)
April 9-11 (Fri-Sun): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
April 12-15 (Mon-Thu): vs. Boston Red Sox (3; off-day Tuesday, April 13)
April 16-18 (Fri-Sun): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
April 19 (Mon): Off-day
April 20-22 (Tue-Thu): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
April 23-25 (Fri-Sun): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
April 26 (Mon): Off-day
April 27-29 (Tue-Thu): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
April 30-May 2 (Fri-Sun): @ Cleveland Indians (3)

The Twins begin 2010 with a heavy dose of the AL Central, with a series apiece with the East and West mixed in for good measure (And they are going to be on the road a lot; they only have nine home games in April). Like the Tigers, they start their season on the road, kicking things off with a 4-game set against the Angels (I’m not going to speculate on Opening Day starters because the Twins don’t really have a clear ace and the Angels have some offseason fiddling to do with their impending free agents) followed by a 3-game series in Chicago. Target Field will be inaugurated with the Boston Red Sox as its first visiting team. After series with the Royals and Indians, the Twins begin a nine-game, three-city road trip to Kansas City, Detroit, and Cleveland to close out the month. Even though they have all those road games, this is not necessarily a tough month for the Twins because they have so many games against the Central, and somehow they know how to beat the teams in their own division (46-27 against the AL Central in 2009; oddly enough, the team they had the toughest time against was the Indians, against whom they went 10-8).
Home games: 9
Road games: 16
Minnesota’s 2009 record against opposition: 40-37
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opposition: .501

April 4-8 (Mon-Thu): vs. Detroit Tigers (3; off-day Tuesday, April 5)
April 9-11 (Fri-Sun): vs. Boston Red Sox (3)
April 12-14 (Mon-Wed): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
April 15 (Thu): Off-day
April 16-18 (Fri-Sun): @ Minnesota Twins (3)
April 19-21 (Mon-Wed): @ Toronto Blue Jays (3)
April 22 (Thu): Off-day
April 23-25 (Fri-Sun): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
April 26-28 (Mon-Wed): vs. Seattle Mariners (3)
April 29-May 2 (Thu-Sun): @ Tampa Bay Rays (4)

Kansas City’s April features an almost equal amount of the Central and the East (with one series against the West). As previously mentioned, they start off 2010 against the Tigers (Verlander vs. Greinke). The Red Sox also come a-calling before the Royals head out on the road. Their first road trip of the year features visits to Detroit, Minnesota, and Toronto. Following an off-day on the 22nd, they return home for six games against the Twins and Mariners. They finish up April down at Tropicana Field with a 4-games series against the Rays (and oh, by the way, the Royals went 1-9 against the Rays this past year). The Royals look like they have a difficult schedule in April. It’s Kansas City and they’re not expected to do much. In addition, they have the “hardest” schedule of the AL Central in terms of basing the opposition on 2009 records. Also, of the teams they face in April, only Toronto finished 2009 below .500 (and there are some national writers whose attitudes suggest they feel that the Blue Jays are still better than any team in the Central). However, as I’ve said, they’ve gotten off to hot starts the past couple years (Well, for them at least; they went 12-10 in April 2009 and led the AL Central into May).
Home games: 12
Road games: 13
KC’s 2009 record against opposition: 28-42
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .526

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Brief World Series Wrap-Up

Well, congratulations to the New York Yankees and their fans. As much as the Tiger community is complaining about it, it is the team I wanted to win, and nine years is a long time for them, at least. The last time the Yankees were the World Champs, I was a senior in high school. It turned out to be a rather evenly-matched series, but the odd thing is that nothing the Yankees did really stood out. They didn’t really have dominant pitching (outside of AJ Burnett in Game 2 and Mariano Rivera). It wasn’t really an offensive barrage (Jeter, Damon, and Matsui were hot. Everyone else was hitting at or near the .200 mark). Really, Game 6 was the only game where they didn’t look either precarious or overmatched. And yet they still won. And so did Fox when it came to the ratings. Hey, if everyone hates the Yankees, why do they watch them, then? But oh well, better them than the Phillies. And so baseball in 2009 has officially come to a close. By the way, one of these days I WILL find out who decides the World Series MVP (Seriously. I’ve asked Tigers, Dodgers, AND Yankees fans this question, and none of them know).

So what’s on tap here? Well, I probably won’t post stuff every day, but there’s bound to be plenty of hot stove action to weigh in on. I will also have part one of my 2010 schedule feature up within the next few days (It’s ready. I’m just having a difficult time determining when would be an appropriate time to post it). And I’ll probably come up with a random quirky one-time feature or two along the way (especially if sends me their holiday catalog again), so stay tuned.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Postseason Thoughts: LCS Wrapup and Mini-World Series Preview

When the postseason first began, I was hoping for a Yankees-Dodgers World Series (I realize I am totally playing into the media’s hands here, but I wanted it for different reasons than the media). I got the Yankees (and I mostly wanted them because I wasn’t that excited at the prospect of rooting for the Angels, and there was no way I was gonna root for the Twins or Red Sox), but damn it, I wanted the Dodgers in there. However, the team that led the National League in pitching (and had a decent enough offense) just never really looked like it against the Phillies. Just about everyone in what had been a very strong bullpen got touched up, and it seemed like every inning they were either walking a bunch of guys or giving up 3-run home runs. Vicente Padilla’s good run finally ran out at an inconvenient time for the Dodgers. Meanwhile, over in the ALCS, the Angels’ offense woke up for one game, but that’s it. Not even the hot-hitting Jeff Mathis could save them in game 6. But you have to wonder: How many times did the Yankees actually beat the Angels and how many times did the Angels, in fact, beat themselves? On a side note, I am shocked (but relieved) that CC Sabathia was declared MVP (Voted MVP? Who decides these things? No one seems to know) and not A-Rod.

And so now we have a Yankees-Phillies World Series matchup. And though I am quite literally the only Tigers fan doing this, I am rooting for the Yankees all the way because I don’t hate them and I can at least feel nostalgic. The Yankees are a better matchup against the Phillies than the Angels would have been, that is for sure. The starting pitching for both teams has been solid. Their bullpens have flip-flopped a little bit, though. The Yankees had the much stronger bullpen in the regular season, but in the postseason, they gave up a few runs to the Angels. The Phillies’ bullpen was virtually untouchable against the Dodgers (their relievers bent, but they didn’t break). Neither Mariano Rivera nor Brad Lidge has blown a save yet, which is significant given the fact that they are the only closers in the postseason not to have done so. The offense is a bit tricky to figure out. Of the eight postseason teams, only the Phillies have consistently hit with runners in scoring position (the ungodly numbers of three-run homers they’ve hit exemplify this). The Yankees, outside of a couple games, really haven’t. A lot of their offense has come from solo home runs and taking advantage of the numerous errors the Angels made (In fact, they went a stretch of over two games in the ALCS without getting a hit with a runner in scoring position). No one really talked about this because the Yankees won (though they did touch on Nick Swisher’s struggles by the end of the ALCS), but if these games against the Phillies feature both pitching staffs showing up, it may come back to haunt them. We will find out on Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Postseason Thoughts: October 20

I thought I’d check in with some thoughts and observations now that we're in the middle of the LCS games:

NLCS: Dodgers-Phillies

Man, oh, man did last night suck (especially since I had to get up at six in the morning). With the exception of Game 2 (the one game I did not see in this series), the Phillies just seem to own Dodger pitching. The Dodgers are supposed to be the ones with the good bullpen, and yet the Phillies are pummeling Dodger relievers while the Dodgers have hardly touched the guys in the Phillies’ ‘pen (Admittedly, it’s hard for a team to “get to” the other team’s bullpen when the starter is going seven or eight innings). It seemed like they’d gotten the problem solved last night. There was timely hitting, decent starting pitching, and effective (albeit sometimes scary) relief work. The Dodgers got to within one out of guaranteeing a trip back to Dodger Stadium. They had their hard-throwing closer Jonathan Broxton on the hill (Broxton throws his SLIDER at 93 mph. Most guys can’t even throw their fastball that hard). However, struggling closers have been a theme of this postseason (along with crappy umpiring). Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Franklin, Houston Street, and Brian Fuentes all have had issues and blown saves (extremely costly for the first three on that list). It was apparently Broxton’s turn (which leaves Brad Lidge and Mariano Rivera as the only two closers who haven’t blown a save yet this postseason…perhaps not coincidentally, these guys pitch for the two teams who are in the best position to advance). He got Raul Ibañez easily enough for the first out. Then Matt Stairs came to pinch-hit. I remembered that he hit a crushing home run against the Dodgers in last year’s NLCS. I had forgotten that he hit it off of Broxton. Apparently Broxton hadn’t forgotten. He walked Stairs on four pitches. Then Carlos Ruiz (who is to the Dodgers what the combination of Nick Punto and Joe Crede are to the Tigers) got hit by a pitch. Now, I haven’t seen Broxton pitch a lot. I saw a fair few Dodgers games during the regular season, but I would usually fall asleep before they reached the ninth inning. At this point, it looked like a typical Fernando Rodney save. However, Rodney would’ve proceeded to get a double play ball and get out of it by a thread (you know he would have). Broxton is a great closer, but apparently he can’t duplicate Rodney’s ability to get out of jams. At least, he couldn’t last night. It looked like he was going to. He got Greg Dobbs to line out softly to third. But Jimmy Rollins ended all of that (though how Ruiz, a catcher, scored from first with the arms the Dodgers have in the outfield and the bandbox that is Citizen’s Bank Park is beyond me). And now the Dodgers are REALLY up against the wall. And the crazy thing is that they’re going to have to rely on Vicente Padilla to get this series back to Dodger Stadium (the crazier thing is that Padilla’s actually been their best starter so far in the postseason). At the same time, they’re going to have to find a way to get to Cole Hamels again. By the way, if you want to know more details about the “struggling closer” trend, Eric Stephen over at TrueBlueLA has a nice article on it.

ALCS: Yankees-Angels

With the NLCS going the way it’s going, there is now no doubt in my mind that I want the Yankees to win this series. I don’t want the Phillies to win the World Series (since it’s looking increasingly likely that they’ll get there), and I believe the Yankees have a better shot of beating them than the Angels do. Still, I want to get in as much baseball as possible before it all ends, so at the same time, I do want this series to go the full seven games (I also want the NLCS to go seven games, but that desire has been created out of necessity). This thought has also occurred to me: If the Tigers had made the postseason and they’d somehow been able to get past the Yankees, given how the Angels have played in this series, I honestly believe the Tigers would have had a really good chance at winning the ALCS (If the Angels were hitting the way they did in the regular season, I would not have been so confident in making that statement). The Yankees have displayed some very strong pitching from both the starters and the bullpen, but the Angels essentially gave the first two games to them through a combination of stranding runners and making a bunch of errors. Unlike in Denver, where hats with earflaps were in vogue, there was more of a mix of hats with earflaps and those silly hoods that will always make Tiger fans think of Polanco. Seriously, it took until last night’s game (in Anaheim) before I was able to see Robinson Cano’s face for the first time in this series. As I said, I didn’t particularly want to see the Yankees lose Game 3, but if it’s gonna go seven games like I want it to, they have to lose sometime. Plus, I like seeing Tim McCarver look like an idiot. He was adamant that Reggie Willits should pinch-run for Jeff Mathis in the tenth. He would not shut up about it (It turned out to be moot, since Mathis was erased on a force at home that would’ve erased any runner). As it turns out, Mathis delivered the game-winning hit (and maybe with the help of some over-managing on Joe Girardi’s part, from all the pitching changes to giving up the DH to get Johnny Damon out of the outfield, which meant he had to pinch-hit for Mariano Rivera in the bottom half of the inning). By the way, did Jerry Hairston, Jr. ever get up after crashing into the wall? The whole time the Angels were celebrating around home plate, he was lying on the warning track. One thing that should be noted is that the Yankees have not gotten a hit with a runner in scoring position since Derek Jeter’s RBI single in the sixth inning of Game 1. They were 0-for-8 in Game 2 with RISP, and they were 0-for-8 again yesterday (all their runs came via four solo home runs). Nobody’s talking about this right now because the Yankees still have the advantage, but if the Angels should win tonight or (and this is unlikely) pull ahead with a win in Game 5, it’ll get noticed. You heard it here first, folks.

By the way, it should be noted that the television broadcasters utilized by Fox and by TBS are awful. I KNOW there are some good baseball announcers out there somewhere, and that once upon a time, they were used in nationally televised games. Also, I apologize for the weird formatting. I had to use Firefox to post this (and the combination of Firefox and Blogger can get ornery), as Internet Explorer won’t even load.

Monday, October 19, 2009

2009 Season Review Part Two: Looking Ahead

I suppose I should offer you a disclaimer up front: This part of the season review ventures into territory that I am, admittedly, not well-versed in, such as arbitration and contract negotiation. Still, I will try my best.

Last year, a bunch of writers were expecting/imploring the Tigers to sell everyone off and rebuild. I thought they had a chance to contend and advised waiting until the Trade Deadline to determine whether that particular course of action was appropriate. My viewpoint turned out to be the correct one. This time, it’s a little bit trickier. By no means do I think they should rebuild. They can still contend (This is, of course, assuming that our pitching holds up; i.e. Verlander doesn’t suffer any ill effects from his workload, that Jackson’s struggles were merely the result of him hitting a wall, that Porcello doesn’t have a sophomore slump, and that Bonderman/Galarraga/Robertson can remain healthy and effective; these are dangerous but necessary assumptions). However, my gut feeling is that it’ll be harder for them to contend next year than it was this year. At this stage, the White Sox are looking like the biggest threat. They are going to have a really tough starting rotation (Peavy, Buerhle, Danks, Floyd, and Garcia), and if they can get at least a slight bit of consistently out of their offense, defense, and bullpen, they are going to be very difficult to beat (Not impossible, though. Seattle had the best pitching in the league and they finished third in their division). The Twins are kind of an unknown quantity right now. They came on real strong at the end, but which is more representative of them: Their September run or what they did the rest of the season? A lot of guys on their offense had career years, but their pitching was not all that impressive for most of the year. The big question surrounding the Twins is, of course, how they’ll fare without being able to rely on Metrodome weirdness. Kansas City is not expected to do much, but they do have at least two really good pitchers in Greinke and Meche (if he can stay healthy), and possibly a third if Robinson Tejeda can overcome the control problems. If you end up playing them when they’re in that part of the rotation, wins won’t necessarily come easy. And all the experts (and virtually all the bloggers) are expecting a miserable, rebuilding season for the Cleveland Indians. However, something’s telling me that the Indians will be better than a lot of people expect them to be. Maybe they won’t contend, but with all the highly-touted prospects they’ve gotten in these trades, I don’t really expect them to roll over, either. The Tigers can contend, but they’ll have their work cut out for them.
The big hurdle, as most everyone knows, is the fact that most of the payroll is already tied up in existing contracts, and with a lot of key players eligible for arbitration, one of whom (Verlander) should be locked up long-term, there’s not going to be much left for going after free agents (or even keeping ours). There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that is that a lot of these overblown contracts will come off the books after 2010, and some are estimating that the Tigers will have $50-60 million in payroll freed up. However, for now, we’ve got to just ride through it.

The starting rotation looks to be low on the priority list as far as adding pieces go. As I already said, there are quite a few assumptions that must be made, but for now, the Tigers have a good 1-2-3 punch. Locking up Justin Verlander is very important, and should be one of the first things they cross off the list (negotiations with Verlander have been difficult in the past, however, making for an excellent example of why I don’t really like offseason dealings; more often than not, they make even the most highly thought-of players look despicable), although it’s probably not a good idea to go more than four years for a pitcher. As far as the fourth and fifth starters go, Dave Dombrowski believes Bonderman will be ready, and the last spot seems to be up for grabs, with Galarraga, Robertson, and Bonine the most likely candidates. Obviously stuff can happen and things can change. Injuries are a real good way of causing that. It always seems like when you “know” which five guys are going to be in the rotation at the beginning of spring training, something will happen and you’ll end up with someone you weren’t expecting. But for now, there are other needs to address.

The bullpen is expected to undergo an overhaul of sorts, which you’d expect when both your closer and your top setup guy are free agents. Payroll constraints will prevent the Tigers from being able to retain everyone, and they almost certainly won’t be able to keep both Rodney AND Lyon. If it were up to me (and I don’t like making these sorts of statements), I would make more of an effort to re-sign Lyon and make him the closer for next year (as strange as it would be seeing Rodney in another uniform). Lyon had a very successful year, however, so I don’t know how difficult that would be (They should definitely offer him arbitration, at the very least). The closer market isn’t as dynamic as it was last year. Probably the biggest name on the market this offseason will be Jose Valverde. At the same time, I admittedly don’t know all the teams that will be in need of a closer. Still, Dave Dombrowski has said that their preference is to sign a veteran to close, which is probably a wise move. We don’t know if Zumaya will remain healthy/effective, and I don’t think Ryan Perry is ready yet. As far as the rest of the bullpen goes, one or two of those arms we keep hearing about might be ready, but it looks likely that it’ll be largely the same group that we saw this year.

Before we move on, I’d like to take a moment to discuss Inge, Galarraga, and Zumaya. What do they have in common? They all struggled and they were all injured at some point in the season. I think it’s very likely that their struggles were caused by their respective injuries. I know there are some who disagree with me. But we must find out for sure. We have to see how these guys perform when we know they’re completely healthy (Inge during the season, the two pitchers during spring training at minimum). We must eliminate the injury variable. To do otherwise is just bad scientific form.

As far as the outfield goes, well, center and right are pretty much settled. Left field seemingly remains up in the air. There seems to be some disagreement among Tiger fans about whether to obtain a corner outfielder with a big bat through trade (none of the suggested names have met with much enthusiasm so far, though) or whether to give Ryan Raburn a shot as an everyday player (Marcus Thames is expected to be non-tendered). No one seems to want Guillen out there. They’d prefer that he DH (Guillen doesn’t want to DH, though). I caution that defense should still be a very high priority, but if we must sacrifice a little D for the sake of getting more offense, this is probably the position to do it. I’ve heard the names Milton Bradley, Scott Podsednik, and Brad Hawpe mentioned on
Bless You Boys, and as I said, no one seems to be wild about any of them (with the exception of about two or three people who very much want Milton Bradley and are very vocal about this desire). I considered Luke Scott around the trade deadline, but since then, I’ve kinda cooled off on him. He had a horrible second half, batting only .208 with only seven home runs (Yeah, I know that fits the description of certain Tigers, but as far as I know, Luke Scott wasn’t injured). I also thought of Jeremy Hermida, but once I looked up his numbers, I wasn’t wowed by him either (He only batted .259 for the season, though he did bat .312 in August before missing nearly all of September with an oblique injury). All these suggestions are just underwhelming. I can think of four guys in the NL West alone that I would rather have, though we don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell at getting any of them. At the same time, though, I feel it’s definitely possible to get more offense out of the guys we already have (just as I felt the same way about the pitching after 2008). I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but looking at our roster, I feel as if nearly all our guys are capable of more than what they did.

The infield is a place that might look significantly different in 2010. We’ll still have Inge and Cabrera anchoring the corners, of course (and hopefully, Inge’s knees will be 100% and Miguel will have gotten his off-the-field problems sorted out). However, it’s looking incredibly likely that we will not be able to keep Polanco, which is sad. But he will probably be the top draw second baseman on the free agent market, and the Tigers won’t be able to afford him if that’s the case. I’ll miss that large cranium of his (and if he signs with another AL Central team, I’ll be heartbroken). He does project to be a Type A free agent at this point, so it’s probably worth offering him arbitration. If he accepts, great. If he declines, we at least get two draft picks. Right now, it looks as though the Tigers are prepared to have Scott Sizemore as their starting second baseman next year. I am most definitely not an expert on prospects. I know Sizemore projects to hit for more power and has more speed than Polanco but won’t be nearly as good defensively. I did see him in person once at a Mud Hens game. Between Erie and Toledo, he hit .308, but like the rest of the Mud Hens, struck out a lot. Which leads me to another issue: With Polanco gone, we’re gonna need another #2 hitter (not an easy task when you consider Polanco is one of, if not THE best #2 hitter in baseball). Some Tigers fans have the idea of sticking Magglio in the 2-hole. Maggs does fulfill two of what I consider to be the three requirements for being a good #2 hitter (if, in fact, his August and September numbers do indeed reflect what he is still capable of). He can hit for average and he doesn’t strike out that often (though he does strike out more often than Polanco). However, he isn’t what I would call a “bat-handler” and I feel you would be doing him a disservice by trying to make him into one. Personally, I keep wondering what Sizemore would net us in the trade market (Perhaps a much more attractive option in the outfield than Brad Hawpe, should he be packaged properly? “He” meaning Sizemore). Shortstop is also an issue since Everett is a free agent. He would probably be fairly inexpensive to re-sign, and you could continue his platoon with Santiago. There are concerns about Cale Iorg, though. Last year, Dombrowski proclaimed that Iorg would be a “superstar” one day, but he had an awful year at Erie. 2010 will probably be “now-or-never” time for Iorg, and I’d be shocked if he made it to the big leagues next year. Catcher is kind of a bone of contention. Depending on whether you value more defense or more offense in your catcher, Gerald Laird was either a great find or a disappointing failure. Now, I did approve of the Laird trade when it happened, and though I expected more from him offensively (and I see no reason why he CAN’T match his career average of .250 next year), I think sheer number of runners he threw out and his ability to work with the pitching staff (which cannot be quantified mathematically) far outweighed his lack of contribution with the bat. My personal baseball guru put it another way: “Your catcher is there for defense. Anything you can get out of him with the bat is gravy.” I think, as Tiger fans, we have been spoiled in recently because we’ve had catchers like Bill Freehan, Lance Parrish, and Pudge Rodriguez, all of them good hitters AND good defenders. I do NOT think Alex Avila is ready to be a starting catcher, but having putting him in an “apprenticeship” role might be advantageous, with the idea that you could slowly transition over to him by the end of the year, depending on how the season goes (Remember, at this point last year, a lot of fans thought Dusty Ryan would be our catcher of the future). I do say this with a bit of reservation, because the left-handed bat presents what may be an offensive liability when facing left-handed pitching, and because so often, it seems like the sole reason for having a left-handed hitting catcher is because he hits left-handed. I’m not gonna bother quantifying this, but it seems like the current crop of left-handed catchers in the big leagues are not particularly good throwers. AJ Pierzynski, Brian McCann, and John Baker immediately come to mind. Miguel Montero has gotten better, and Joe Mauer is okay, but they are still not at the level of the Molinas, Pudge, or Laird when it comes to throwing. Alex Avila is still sort of learning the position, and he did have a good success rate throwing out runners in Erie, so hopefully those skills will start to translate next year.

It’s also well within the realm of possibility that there will be some acquisition that most of us aren’t expecting. Dave Dombrowski does get quite creative at that. In the past, he’s traded for guys I have thought of as possibilities to fill needs (Renteria and Laird; hey, all I said was that they were names I thought of, not necessarily that they worked out, though in Laird’s case I’m happy with the result). At the same time, he’s gotten guys that I wasn’t expecting that have made huge impacts on the team (Cabrera and Jackson). So if you think you’ve got this offseason figured out, you probably don’t.

Like I said, at this point, there’s little more to do than speculate. I still don’t have a good impression of how next season will go. Hopefully I’ll get a better gut feeling as we get closer to spring training. In the meantime, feel free to hang around the site. I’ll be filling you in on my postseason thoughts, and whenever the Tigers DO make a move, I’ll weigh in on it as well. I’ve also got a feature planned where I’ll be comparing the 2010 schedules of the AL Central teams month-by-month. So stay tuned.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2009 Season Review Part One: Looking Back

I meant to get this post up earlier, but with school and all, it just keeps getting pushed back. Still, here it is. I’m going to follow a similar format to what I did last year: I’ll present my review in two parts. Part one (today’s post) will look back at the just-completed season. Part two (which will hopefully be up in the near future) will take a look at what the Tigers should address as they prepare for 2010.

One thing you’ve probably figured out by now is that it’s very easy for me to think of things in cinematic (or fictional) terms. Last year, I compared the ’06, ’07, and ’08 seasons to the three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, in that the first one was downright awesome, the second was okay, and the third…well, it had a few good moments, but ultimately left you feeling unsatisfied. I’ve run out of Pirates of the Caribbean movies to compare seasons to, so I’ve found a new metaphor. 2009 was The Sopranos: A great, great show that had a really abrupt and sucky ending. Seriously. You may as well have cut to a black, silent screen as Carlos Gomez was rounding third in the bottom of the 12th. It would’ve provided the same amount of closure. Which is, to say, not much. And then there’s the frustration of knowing that they quite literally came up one win short. And I’m not talking about game 163. Nor am I talking about the Saturday night “hangover” game. It probably should not have come to that, because there’s about 75 other games to choose from. They lost the first game of the season despite scoring five runs off Roy Halladay because Verlander hadn’t quite gotten back on track yet. There was a rash of games after the All-Star Break where they lost 2-1. They lost a game in Boston because of Rick Porcello plunking Kevin Youkilis and getting ejected (Everyone got mad at Cabrera after his story broke, but I seriously think I am the only one that feels that the whole Porcello thing was not a smart move. I enjoyed the Youkilis takedown, and I know there’s this whole subculture when it comes to hit batters and retaliation, but he’d already delivered the message to Victor Martinez and he put the pitching staff in a very shaky position because Edwin Jackson had only gone four innings the night before and Armando Galarraga, who was scheduled to start the following night, was sick as a dog, and Porcello knew all of this). There was that final series in Kansas City where the Tigers probably could’ve taken two of three (despite not scoring THAT many runs) if not for an ill-timed pitching meltdown. Yes, there are 77 games to second-guess. Pick one. One’s just as valid as another. But, as my old church pastor said, “if only” is not a healthy way to live. And that is where perspective comes into play.

Back when I did my season preview in March, I really made no actual predictions other than feeling like the Tigers would be better than they were in 2008. I said they had enough talent and potential to win between 85 and 90 games and contend for the AL Central title. They did just that. Most people did not give them that chance. A couple other bloggers did (Kurt over at Mack Avenue Tigers being one of them), but the media, the sabremetric computer simulations, and the “experts” all expected them to finish, at best, in third place (with a sub-.500 record in most cases), and most of them picked the Tigers to finish fourth or last (depending on how favorably they viewed the Royals). And yet, one thing you can say is that all season long, the Tigers defied both math and prognostication, for good or bad. All throughout the summer, the experts waited for the Twins or White Sox to pass them. That didn’t happen. Then in September, when all the pundits and columnists said the Tigers had this thing wrapped up and the computer simulations were giving them a 91% chance at the playoffs (meanwhile, I was pretty much the only one noticing that the Tigers still had seven games left against the Twins), the Tigers proved them wrong again. Or, should I say, the Twins proved them wrong? This is one reason why I don’t buy into sabremetrics. Sabremetrics assumes that everything is constant, that circumstances and players don’t change. But it’s not always like that. Baseball IS dynamic. Things DO change, and unexpected things happen all the time. It’s called the human element. The Tigers are not the ’07 Mets. They did not choke. The Twins were the ’07 Rockies, plain and simple. After the Tigers swept the Rays, we the fans were told that all the Tigers had to do was play .500 ball the rest of the way and they would easily win the Central. They pretty much did just that, ending up a game or two under .500 after that point, which is not great, but is not dismally bad either (They were just really streaky about it, which is what made it look worse than it actually was). The Twins, meanwhile, would have to play close to .800 ball, which is something they had not done at any point in the season (mostly because their pitching was too inconsistent; a lot of their hitters had career years). The best record they had had up to that point was 3 games above .500. Then a funny thing happened: They lost Justin Morneau to injury. Apparently he was holding them back, because, in one of the biggest examples of Baseball Often Does Not Make Sense, they went 17-4 over their last 21 games, including game 163 (three of those losses came to the Tigers, and the other one was to Zack Greinke). The Tigers did what they “needed” to do. The Twins did what they “could not possibly” do. And in the end, the Tigers became the Metrodome’s last victim.

Of course, things went wrong, mostly the offense. After being quite high-powered in 2007, they kind of went “all or nothing” in 2008, and the issues that they began to have last year kind of came to the forefront this year because the pitching wasn’t masking it anymore. And just like how a lot of guys had career years in ’07, many of those same guys had subpar years in ’09. Polanco and Magglio struggled through the early part of the season before turning it up near the end (Maggs was especially bipolar; he was hitting .225 at the end of May and then went on an absolute tear after the All-Star Break to finish the season at .310). Inge had an incredible first half before his knees betrayed him. Most of Cabrera’s numbers were right where you’d want them to be, but 103 RBIs is low for him (though you could easily make the argument that there weren’t that many guys on the bases for him to drive in). Granderson’s season was really weird, because he had a career high in home runs and had a decent year when it came to stolen bases, but his average and his ability to hit doubles and triples went down considerably, as did his average against left-handed pitching (which was somewhere around .250 last year, certainly an acceptable number).
Like they have in previous years, injuries certainly played a part. Jeremy Bonderman essentially had a lost season, as did Nate Robertson. Carlos Guillen missed a large part of the season with the shoulder problem. Jarrod Washburn’s knee injury never really allowed him to contribute. I suspect Armando Galarraga spent a good chunk of the season hiding an elbow injury that limited his effectiveness and control. The big blow was probably Brandon Inge and his knees, which was very sad to watch when you consider what a great first half he had. Some tried to argue that he was merely regressing to the norm, but the timing of the injury in relation to his struggles is too much of a coincidence to have any certainty in a statement like that. And then we have Joel Zumaya. We’re getting to the point where you might as well just copy and paste his name into the injury paragraph every year. And I know he struggled for about a month leading up to that disastrous outing at Yankee Stadium, but there is some evidence to suggest that he was trying to pitch through the sore shoulder. Oddly enough, though, outside of the struggles and losses that were his own doing, the team really didn’t miss a beat after Zoom went on the DL. Brandon Lyon stepped in and did a very good job in Zumaya’s stead.

What went right? Pitching and defense, which is what the focus turned to after last season. There were some bumps and lapses along the way (they had some horrible series defensively against the Angels and Yankees early in the season, and then there was that span in early summer where the pitching staff gave up a ton of bases-loaded walks), but overall, it’s what carried them all year. Justin Verlander found his dominating fastball again and went from leading the league in losses to tying for the league lead in wins and leading the majors in strikeouts. And it didn’t look good for him in April. The first Game Thread I ever visited on BYB was that April game he pitched against the Angels (the start right before he “found it”), and I was seriously the only one with a kind word to say about him. I never lost faith in him. And I was rewarded for that, and hopefully he’s got ten or fifteen years left of that dominance (wearing the Olde English D, of course). There were several people on the Tigers blogosphere that were not happy about the Edwin Jackson trade when it first happened. Those sentiments quickly faded, and it sure does look like that trade was a steal, with the Tigers coming out on top. I know he started to slide in late August/September, and hopefully he just hit a wall (after all, he pitched more innings than he had in his life), because he has gotten progressively better each year. I wasn’t sure what Rick Porcello would bring when the Tigers first decided to stick him in the rotation out of spring training. I felt that either he would impress mightily or that he would flame out and never reach his promise. Luckily, it was the former. Porcello probably deserves to win Rookie of the Year. I’m not sure he will, since the voters tend to prefer position players over pitchers, but he should at least finish in the top three or four. The back end of the bullpen also got better. Brandon Lyon had a terrible April, but after that, something clicked, and for the rest of the season, he was probably the most consistent reliever we had. And I don’t think anyone was sure what to expect when Leyland decided to make Rodney the closer at the beginning of the season. But hey, the guy only blew one save all year (and in that game, he really didn’t pitch all that badly). It was usually an adventure when he took the mound. He had a tendency to make things way too exciting. But he got the job done. And then there was the defense. Gerald Laird may not have contributed much with the bat, but with the number of runners he was throwing out, I could certainly live with that. Same with Everett/Santiago at short. Moving Inge back to third base made a big difference, even with the injury, and Cabrera’s starting to turn himself into a pretty decent defender at first base, though he’ll probably never get recognized for it. Inge and Laird certainly deserve the Gold Gloves for their positions, but with the offensive struggles (which shouldn’t be part of the equation but is), likely will not win (I’ll take a stab and say Mauer and either Evan Longoria or Michael Young). Polanco might win the one for second base, and he’d certainly deserve it.

Even though we came up short, you have to agree that this season sure was entertaining. There are so many moments that I am going to remember, from Galarraga’s gem/Cabrera’s grand slam in the home opener to Brandon Inge making the All-Star team to Clete Thomas hitting a walk-off home run on my birthday. Of course, my favorite moment is probably the 1-0 complete game that Verlander pitched in Cleveland, highlighted by Curtis Granderson’s amazing catch to rob Grady Sizemore of what would’ve been a crushing game-winning home run. And there are many more.

And that wraps up my look back at 2009. Stay tuned for part 2, where I’ll take a look at what needs to be done for 2010.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Postseason Thoughts So Far

Since it’s taking longer than I anticipated for me to get my season review finished (work and school obligations have interfered with that), I’ll fill you in on my postseason thoughts in the meantime, now that all the divisional series have wrapped up (All photos from Getty Images).

American League

ALDS: Yankees-Twins

I totally rooted for the Yankees in this series, both because I don’t hate them and even I am allowed to feel vindictive every once in a while. And a funny thing happened: the Twins started to have the same problem that the Tigers had during the regular season, which was squandering scoring opportunities. Game 2 in particular bore an uncanny resemblance to game 163. The Twins even got the Yankees to line into a double play in a tough spot, just as they had done to the Tigers (Minnesota sure is getting adept at inducing the line-drive double play). However, with the exception of the double play, this time just about everything went AGAINST Minnesota. I already mentioned the multitude of guys that the Twins left on base (17, to be exact). A-Rod hit the home run about two minutes after I said “Joe Nathan likes to blow saves at Yankee Stadium.” And, just like in game 163, there was a blown call that totally changed the outcome of the game. In our game, it was the Brandon Inge HBP that wasn’t called. In this game, it was a ball that Mauer hit that was ruled foul but was clearly fair (even my Personal Baseball Guru complained about that, and he’s a Yankees fan). Mauer did eventually single in that at-bat, but had the call been right, he would have had a double, and the Twins would have scored in that inning had everything else played out the way it did. As it stands, they loaded the bases with nobody out, did not score, and Teixiera ended the game with a walk-off home run to lead off the bottom half of the inning. That game was such a karmic smackdown that those of us on Bless You Boys that night jokingly decided that Miguel Cabrera used his powers as a high priest of Santería to curse the Twins. Then in Game 3, the Yankees were able to do what the Tigers couldn’t: Kill the Metrodome. For most of that game, we all watched as Carl Pavano was able to mow down a team other than the Tigers (and the resulting TBS mancrush was irritating, to say the least). Home run power finally gave the edge to the Yankees, and it helped that Minnesota’s bullpen allowed a couple add-on runs (I will add this: Ever since he threw that pitch behind Adam Everett, Jose Mijares was not nearly as effective). And yes, I am going to make the unpopular choice to root for the Yankees in the ALCS.

ALDS: Angels-Red Sox

I don’t particularly care for the Angels, but seeing as how I absolutely do not like the Red Sox, I rooted for the Angels in this series. I didn’t get to see a lot of these games, due to a combination of work and the late start time of the first two. But it looks as though the Angels finally figured out how to beat the Red Sox. They got good starting pitching in the first two games, and then in game 3, at Fenway, with two out and nobody on, they scored three runs off Papelbon to overcome a two-run deficit. I watched the replay of that just to see the Fenway faithful cry (call me sadistic). The interesting part is that Vladimir Guerrero (who is notorious for his struggles in the postseason, much like A-Rod) delivered the knockout blow. I think one of the things that is different for the Angels this year is that their offense is a lot better (and most of it has come from the same guys who were in the postseason last year and the year before). Their pitching wasn’t quite as good in the regular season as it had been the past two years, but it stepped up when it needed to. And now comes the scenario that my Personal Baseball Guru dreaded. He talked to me about it last Saturday. He was actually rooting for the Red Sox because he felt the Yankees were more likely to beat them in the ALCS. Apparently, the Angels usually have the Yankees’ number (kinda like how the Tigers have dominated the Texas Rangers recently). I honestly don’t know what to expect from this series. The starting pitching looks pretty even. If it comes down to it, the Yankees have a better bullpen, but the Angels’ starters have gotten pretty deep into games so far. Both teams have a ridiculous number of switch-hitters. The Angels have more speed while the Yankees have more power. Regardless, I’m still rooting for the Yankees because I just don’t have that much enthusiasm for the Angels.

National League

NLDS: Dodgers-Cardinals

With the Tigers gone, I pretty much decided to root for the Dodgers all throughout. I like most of the players on the team, and, like New York, they are located in a city that I’d like to visit (Plus, I hung out during a couple Game Threads at TrueBlueLA, and the Dodgers fans there are really nice). Not a lot of people were expecting the Dodgers to beat the Cardinals. I myself pointed out the apparent pitching mismatch the last time I posted (though I failed to point out that the Dodgers probably had the better bullpen; this was an unfortunate oversight). As it turns out, the Cardinals, like the Twins, were doomed by squandered scoring opportunities. Game 1 was a showcase in squanderage by both teams. The Dodgers and the Cardinals combined to leave THIRTY men on base. Game 2 saw Matt Holliday go from hero to goat. He hit a solo home run that accounted for one of the two Cardinal runs, and unlike Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright pitched extremely well. All that was negated with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when Holliday lost a sinking liner in the towels, of all things. That opened the door, and the Dodgers jumped on the opportunity. In game 3, Vicente Padilla (whom the Tigers jumped on so many times when he was with Texas) pitched the game of his life and the Dodgers not only beat the Cardinals in the NLDS, they swept them (the fans at TrueBlueLA posted an ESPN graphic showing all their “experts” except one picking the Cardinals). Now, I don’t dislike the Cardinals. If they had won, it would not have been the end of the world. I just like the Dodgers more.

NLDS: Rockies-Phillies

Alas, I suppose they can’t all go the way I wanted them to. In three of the four division series, the team I rooted for won. This was the one that didn’t. When the series began, I had no strong feelings either way towards the Rockies (that all changed; details to come), but I just don’t like the Phillies. Unfortunately, the Phillies had the means to execute what I must admit was a brilliant strategy: Lots of left-handed pitching. For the last several years, we’ve heard that the Tigers are too right-handed. Well, if that’s the case, the Rockies are an example of a team that is too left-handed. And they paid the price for it. Plus, the big guys in their lineup didn’t really come through and as a team, they only hit two home runs. Meanwhile, Magglio must’ve broken Houston Street with that 3-run homer in the ALCS, cuz he struggled through the postseason. He got the save in game 2, but it was an adventure, and he took the loss in both game 3 and game 4 (As an aside, I’ll say that the umpiring has been crappy this entire postseason, including our game, and the team in each division series that was victimized by it failed to recover). Game 4 was especially painful (I can’t really tell you about the end of game 3 because I was already asleep when that happened). Street was one strike away from sending everyone back to Philadelphia, and then he ended up walking Chase Utley. Ryan Howard followed up with a 2-run double that tied the game, and then Jayson Werth followed with a bloop single that scored Howard and gave the Phillies the lead again after the Rockies had staged one very entertaining comeback in the bottom of the eighth (one of the most hilarious moments this year has to be Dexter Fowler completely jumping over Chase Utley). One significant byproduct of this series (on a personal level, at least), is that I have officially gone nuts over one of the Rockies: the 23-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (pictured above). Usually, when I decide I like someone (be it strictly platonic, as with Pudge, or, and this is exceptionally rare, there is a bit of aesthetic pleasure mixed in, as with Verlander; for the record, there are only 3 players that I have found “aesthetically pleasing”), either they kinda gradually grow on me (Brandon Inge did this) or it’s instant, spurred on by something they’ve done to which I react by thinking/saying “That is AWESOME” (with Pudge, it was the first time I saw him throw out a runner; with Verlander, it was the first time I saw him touch triple digits). All Carlos Gonzalez did was step into the batter’s box and I decided I liked him. I didn’t know why (and I still don’t), but I liked him (the only other time I’ve done this was with Kurt Suzuki of the Oakland Athletics, whom I also find “aesthetically pleasing”). This was actually in some game late in the season (and I can’t remember which one). I just forgot about it until the NLDS. Bear in mind I pretty much knew nothing about him before this series (And actually, he was with the A’s when they came to Detroit last year. He batted cleanup in the game I went to. I don’t remember him, though). He certainly gave me plenty of legitimate reasons to like him in the NLDS, though (As another aside, I came across an interview with him, and he speaks English very well; he bats left, throws left, and also has the same birthday as my dad). Gonzalez (nicknamed “CarGo,” according to the folks at Purple Row) was by far the Rockies’ hottest hitter. He had himself a series: 10 hits (including a home run), nine of which came against left-handed pitching. It got to the point where I was seriously considering what it would cost for the Tigers to get this guy. It’s probably WAY more than they’d be willing to give up (and I would totally agree with them, if that were the case), but it sure is tantalizing because it looks like he represents a whole lot of things the Tigers need. He’s a lefty who apparently can hit left-handed pitching. It looks as though he’ll hit for average and for power. He can run, so there’s a stolen base threat and good speed in the outfield. I have heard he’s a good defender, and I have seen firsthand that he has a GUN for a left arm. I’m not an expert on prospects (far from it), but this is a good-looking player (and I mean that in multiple senses of the phrase). Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite carry the rest of his team, which means no more Carlos Gonzalez in the postseason. Hopefully by the time I see him again I will have figured out why I decided to like him (right after I figure out why I like Kurt Suzuki). And so the Dodgers and the Phillies are set for a rematch in the NLCS. I’m not sure how this will go. The Phillies have the edge with starting pitching, but then again, so did the Cardinals. The Dodgers have the edge in the bullpen. The Phillies are heavily-laden with lefty power hitters. The Dodgers don’t have as much power, but their lineup is a bit more balanced in terms of lefty-righty. The Dodgers have home field advantage this time around, but the Phillies were one of the best road teams in baseball this year. So I don’t know how this’ll turn out. I’ll certainly be rooting for the Dodgers, though.