Friday, July 31, 2009

Thank Goodness for JV and Grandy

Photo: Ronald Martinez (Getty Images)

I put off writing this game recap in case a trade was made, and lo and behold, it pays to be patient. First, the game. Justin Verlander is probably the pitcher you want to stop a losing streak, but even he had quite a scare in the fifth inning. I don’t know what happened there, but he sure got mad after giving up the runs. It was really the offense perking up a bit that stopped the slide. The Tigers still left a lot of men on base, but there were so many baserunners that it didn’t really matter, and Curtis Granderson led the way with his two home runs. Miguel Cabrera found his RBI stroke, sort of. He had some of the wackiest hits in this series. I think the hardest hit ball off his bat was the one that Marlon Byrd made a diving catch on. Meanwhile, we have a definitive answer on Carlos Guillen: He simply can’t hit right-handed at the present time. In a blowout game, this isn’t an issue, but I’m sure it’s something that opposing managers will exploit for the rest of the season.

Well, the fans were clamoring for a trade, and they finally got one this morning. Jarrod Washburn is now a Tiger. Personally, I’m surprised that after the Mariners demanded either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain from the Yankees, they’d settle for Luke French and Mauricio Robles. I don’t know anything about Robles (in fact, I’d never heard of him prior to today). Luke French made some nice starts for the Tigers and may become an effective 4 or even 3 starter, but he’s no Joba Chamberlain. Now, here’s hoping that Washburn can maintain that 2.64 ERA that he’s had all year. There’s still discussion about whether a trade for a hitter could still happen given the fact that the Tigers didn’t exactly sell the farm for Washburn. If there is, I probably will not do another update before tomorrow.

After an off-day, can the Tigers continue the offensive resurgence against the Indians? The Tribe has been playing better recently, including a very dominating sweep of Seattle last weekend. They just traded away Cliff Lee, who was scheduled to start for them tomorrow (though the Tigers had already beaten him three times this year; given that, I’d rather they trade Pavano away). They have called up Fausto Carmona to start tonight. He has been pitching well in the minor leagues, but even if he hadn’t, I’d still anticipate the Tigers having a tough time against him, cuz, well, they always do. The Tigers do have Edwin Jackson going for them tonight. He had to battle his way through Chicago’s lineup, but only gave up three runs. Let’s try to cut down on the walks, though, okay? He has already beaten Cleveland three times this year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


This’ll probably be a short post today, as I don’t have a lot of things to say about last night’s game. That’s not to indicate disgust or depression or anything like that. I just can’t come up with a lot of things to say. The backbreaker in this game was that after the Tigers scored three runs, the Rangers immediately came back with four. And the floodgates opened with their #9 hitter. Meanwhile, from an offensive standpoint, you can’t really say this was about squandering a whole lot of opportunities, because, well, they didn’t have many of those. In fact, there were really only two good opportunities. The Tigers cashed in on one, not on the other, and really didn’t do anything for the entire rest of the game.

I spent today out and about and then on the phone for an hour, so it feels to me like last night’s game happened five weeks ago and that tonight’s game won’t happen for another five weeks. And when you’re in dire need of having your pitcher throw a shutout, I suppose Justin Verlander is a good choice to have on the mound. Perhaps asking for a shutout is hoping for too much, but Justin’s already thrown two at Ranger Ballpark. However, he’s not as dominant on the road as he is at home this year. Scott Feldman will start for the Rangers. He’s had himself a nice year, as have several of the Rangers’ pitchers. He’s got a really good earned run average. The Tiger hitters will have their work cut out for them. Again. No Inge tonight, as I suppose Leyland wants to give him tonight off ahead of the off-day, and Thames is in left field instead of Thomas. Magglio continues to be in the lineup, which I suppose brings me back to my reasonable proposal. It seems that Jim Leyland is thinking along the same lines I was. Maggs hasn’t been spectacular, but he’s okay, I suppose. He’s not been hitting nearly as many ground balls as he had been.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Good One to Miss

As expected, I only got to see the first inning and part of the second on TV before we left. I did listen to the entire rest of the game on the radio with the exception of the bottom of the fifth. Yes, that means that it cut into the movie a bit, but as I had seen the movie before and it was difficult for me to see the screen anyways (minivans were not made for drive-ins). Still, I only get to go to the drive-in once every few years, so I wasn’t about to turn down the experience. But I digress. It’s hard for me to get a good read on this game since I had to rely on what Dan Dickerson and Jim Price told me, but I’ll try my best. I thought the bloggers would be all over Armando Galarraga giving up four runs (because, well, that’s what they do), but the consensus among them seems to be that he pitched better than the earned run totals would indicate (his other numbers for the night seem to concur: 6 hits, one walk, and five strikeouts are strong totals, and at one point he retired 12 batters in a row). Really, only three of the Texas Rangers had him figured out (Young, Blalock, and Andrus), and usually you can win if you only have to worry about three guys. But they were all able to bunch hits up in the sixth inning, and it was too much for him. Meanwhile, with the exception of Cabrera striking out with the bases loaded, it seemed that anytime the Tigers had an opportunity, they would either hit the ball right at somebody or one of the Rangers would make a spectacular play (Yeah, with the bases loaded, you don’t want your #3 hitter to hit a little dribbler down the first base line, but by all accounts, Tommy Hunter DID make a nice heads-up play to get the force at home, because he wasn’t going to get Clete at first, and if he hadn’t done that, we’d all be laughing at the “swinging bunt.”). But hey, we got off the one-run scoring that we seemed to be stuck on.

Well, I’ll miss the beginning of tonight’s game cuz I’ll be at work, but it’ll be Luke French against Vicente Padilla. It’s probably only a matter of time before the rest of the league adjusts to Luke French, but we might as well milk him for all he’s worth until that happens. So far, though, the Tigers haven’t really done that. Vicente Padilla is coming off of missing his last start due to swine flu. He’s someone that the Tigers have gotten to in recent years, but prior to that, had good numbers against Detroit. Your Mood Music for tonight: The Tigers are in serious need of some mojo on the road. And so, even though I haven’t seen a single movie of his (nor do I care to), I decided to try to conjure up the posterboy of mojo, Austin Powers. Enjoy!

Monday, July 27, 2009

ESPN: Same Old Story

I don’t know why, but the Tigers tend to play some of their worst games on ESPN. This definitely wouldn’t fall into the category of “worst” (they’ve had Sunday night games against the Twins, Angels, and White Sox over the past couple years that were downright disastrous), it’s not exactly the type of show you’d like to put on for the national audience. Add to that some really bad weekday ESPN games against the Red Sox and Yankees earlier in the year, and no wonder everyone else keeps predicting the Tigers to finish in last place. At any rate, it was another bad outing for Rick Porcello, but it was a different kind of bad outing. In this rough stretch, he’s generally gotten through the first few innings or so okay, only to have a bad time of it starting around the fourth inning. This time, he got roughed up in the first inning and didn’t pitch badly after that, though his control was off for most of the game. And it’s kind of his own fault, too. His error in not covering first base on what should’ve been a double play kinda opened the floodgates (Yeah, I’m aware they gave the error to Everett). But with the ESPN crew blathering about anything and everything except the game, one thing that went unnoticed was that the White Sox did not get a hit after the third inning. Perhaps this is because Ryan Raburn made a really dumb error and Zach Miner walked the bases loaded, so the White Sox weren’t hurting for baserunners, but they didn’t score after the second. Meanwhile, the Tigers actually had the same number of hits as the White Sox, but theirs were all singles, and whether Clayton Richard was just that good or the Tigers just weren’t that motivated, I don’t know (though given that Leyland didn’t seem too unhappy about it after the game, I suppose they were motivated enough).

As I said, the sweep was rather unlikely, but the Tigers have come out of the weekend in first place with a 2-game lead, which is more than what they had going into the weekend. Granted, luck played a part in a couple of those wins, but I’m not gonna complain. Now they need to start winning on the road with a decent amount of consistency, and to do that, they need to score more runs. You have to make your own luck, after all. They gotta find a way for teams to stop pitching around Miguel Cabrera so he can drive in more runs, and Brandon Inge has gotta get going again and bust out of his slump (injury or no). At any rate, the first stop on this trip is Texas (and I hear that the boys did not get into Arlington until around 3 AM, so there’s gonna be some sleepy Tigers). The Rangers are no longer in first place in the AL West, but they’re still hanging around, and they’re still pitching well, despite a bunch of injuries to their starting rotation. Their offense has been on the quiet side recently (which scares you a little bit), but they’ve still been winning a lot of games (sweeping the Red Sox and taking two of three from Kansas City). And through all of this, they’ve been dealing with an outbreak of swine flu in the clubhouse, though most of the affected players are just about recovered (However, I urge the Tigers to take all the necessary precautions, and just so you know, H1N1 spreads by droplet transmission, meaning that, for example, you’d have to touch something that one of the Rangers sneezed on. It is not airborne). That’s good and bad (good because the last thing the Tigers need is a flu outbreak in THEIR clubhouse, bad because some of the Rangers might perform better now). The Tigers have owned the Rangers so far this year, but all those games have taken place at Comerica Park. Things may be different in their yard. At any rate, Armando Galarraga gets another crack at his former team (and, given the late arrival time, I’m surprised he wasn’t sent down to Texas early). I sure do hope his recent resurgence is for real, especially with Rick Porcello starting to fade. He last faced the Rangers in the Tigers’ home opener, and pitched beautifully. I would be so totally ecstatic if he could come up with a similar outing. He’ll be up against Tommy Hunter (and whenever I see “T. Hunter” I always think of Torii Hunter). Hunter has made a couple of really good starts for the Rangers and he has a miniscule ERA of 2.17, so the Tigers will have their work cut out all around. By the way, with Texas scheduled to start three right-handers in this series, expect to see lots of Guillen and not much Magglio. I’m not sure how much of this game I’ll get to see, as I’m headed off to the nearby drive-in movie theater to see Harry Potter (not the first time I’ve seen it, by the way), but I’ll try to follow the game on my mini-radio, if I can.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Take That, Big Fox!

Photo: AP

Well, Fox was all ready to wrap things up there in the ninth inning. They had given out their “Clutch Performer of the Game” award, and they were busy rattling off the names of all their producers. But Curtis Granderson had something to say about that, and that something was a game-tying, RBI double. But let’s rewind just a bit, shall we? Edwin Jackson sure had to battle his way through seven innings. He was not fooling a lot of guys, evidenced by the fact that he walked four, routinely fell behind hitters, and gave up a lot of hard-hit outs. And yet, somehow he managed to go seven innings and only give up three runs. That’s impressive, although I’d really like for him to regain his strike-throwing, dominant form for his next start against the Indians (who, all of a sudden, have gotten a lot of offense and good pitching this weekend, which is kinda scary). Meanwhile, the Tigers couldn’t do much against Gavin Floyd, as per usual (though Chris Rose’s mancrush on Floyd was getting really irritating by the seventh inning). There has been mention that this was only Bobby Jenks’s third blown save against the Tigers, but bear in mind that two of them have happened this year, and both times, Granderson was the one who dealt the game-tying blow. That’s kind of incredible when you realize that just a couple years ago, Granderson was, like, 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts against Jenks. Luck played its part, too. Guillen didn’t hit his game-winning single particularly well, but it found a hole. Hell, the only reason Guillen had the opportunity to deliver that single was because the White Sox only have one lefty in their bullpen right now, and Thornton had already been used, otherwise it would’ve been Magglio in that situation. At any rate, even though Guillen’s never been my favorite player, the guy can put together a long at-bat and can foul off some tough pitches.

By the way, that photo makes me giggle.

Yesterday’s win was big, in that it guarantees a few very important things. First, no matter what happens tonight, the Tigers will get on the plane to Arlington as a first-place team. Second, it guarantees that the Tigers will have won this series. Three out of four this weekend is an absolute dream come true, but why stop there? The Tigers might as well go for the sweep. And it looks as though ESPN has finally taken notice of the Tigers and given them a Sunday night game. I’m not sure how to feel about that, to tell you the truth. National recognition is nice, but the Tigers tend to not play very well on national television. Rick Porcello looked good for the first few innings of his last start before giving up a couple bombs to a couple of Seattle Mariners with really low batting averages. I guess we’ll find out whether that was due to rust or not. This’ll be the first time he’s ever faced the White Sox, and they’ve got a lot of guys who can hit bombs. Jon Danks was supposed to start tonight for the White Sox, but he’s been pushed to tomorrow with a blister problem, so they’re sending out lefty Clayton Richard instead. He has been struggling recently, and he’d be a lot easier to get to than Danks, but nothing’s ever truly easy on ESPN.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Sweep is Twice the Fun

Photo: AP

Considering that a lot of us woke up yesterday with some degree of trepidation, we all went to bed a little bit happier. Eddie Bonine pitched about as well as you’d reasonably ask of him, mohawk and all (It seems that the Mud Hens are trying to employ the same rally tactic that the Tampa Bay Rays did last year; several of the Mud Hens are sporting them. In case you’re wondering, Jeff Larish is not one of them. Not yet, anyways). Considering that this is an offense that Tigers pitching routinely has problems with, three runs in six innings is not bad at all. And the bullpen did a tremendous job of ensuring that the score remained tied. Hell, even Rodney had a 1-2-3 inning (though, considering it was a one-run game, I’m surprised that Ozzie Guillen did not send in either A.J. Pierzynski or Carlos Quentin to pinch-hit). Meanwhile, it was not exactly an offensive barrage, but the boys managed to do just enough to pull away with a victory. Carlos Guillen homered. That’s great. Now can he keep it up? And there were a couple key hits from guys who’ve been taking a lot of flak recently. Dusty Ryan (who almost never plays at all, so he’s not able to get into any kind of rhythm, so you can’t really blame him for not hitting much) came up with a big RBI single (plus he threw out two runners). And while everyone online was making nasty, snarky comments about Magglio grounding into a double play in the eighth, he hit a double instead (turning on a 94-MPH fastball, I might add). That was huge, because it set up the intentional walk to Cabrera, which was eventually followed by the bases-loaded walk to Clete Thomas (Clete’s starting to specialize in that).

I wanted to add a couple of comments regarding some things in the game. First, one of the bullet points on the scouting report for Eddie Bonine was supposed to read “Peaking at the right time.” Instead, some intern can’t spell and it said “Peeking at the right time.” Also, did anyone else notice that there was a teacup in Ramon Santiago’s locker?

These last two victories are big because they ensure that the Tigers will come out of this weekend’s series no worse than tied for first place. But of course we want an even better outcome than that. Edwin Jackson is coming off a start in which he got outdueled by Joba Chamberlain. He typically does not get run support, and hopefully the five walks in his last start were just a fluke and he goes back to throwing strikes. He had a problem with that the only time he’s faced Chicago this year. He only gave up two runs, but he walked four and only lasted five innings. Meanwhile, Gavin Floyd never seems to give the Tigers much. They struggle to score runs against him in the best of times. And even on the rare occasion that they’ll get to him a little bit, our pitching absolutely implodes. I would have Mood Music for you, except I did NOT finish this post this morning and I subsequently ended up working an hour later than I was scheduled to, so I have no time to look for some.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Ace Does His Job

Photo: AP

You know, perception is a funny thing sometimes. The Tigers stranded runners left and right last weekend and the hitters were chastised for not knocking runs in. Justin Verlander seemed to be in a jam throughout the entire first half of the game, and yet he gets kudos for “making the pitch when he needed to.” Whatever it is, somehow Justin went from being at 94 pitches in the sixth inning to throwing a complete game. He did his job, all right. By the way, my Personal Baseball Guru would be absolutely thrilled that Leyland trusted Verlander to pitch his own way out of the bases-loaded, none-out jam in the ninth (Remember, my Personal Baseball Guru is very old school and thinks there’s no reason why guys can’t pitch complete games nowadays). I think it had more to do with the fact that Rodney wasn’t ready to come in, but perhaps Leyland didn’t want what happened to Galarraga to happen to Verlander. Meanwhile, I don’t think the offense hit a ball hard all day, but this turned out to be one of those “hit ‘em where they ain’t” type of games. There were a ton of bloop hits and broken-bat singles (and a squeeze play). You can run on Contreras, and the Tigers took advantage of that.

Now it is time for Game 2 of this doubleheader, and I’m sure that we all feel a lot better now that we know we won’t get swept, but let’s try to do some sweeping ourselves, okay? Eddie Bonine has been called up to make the start (with Freddy Dolsi being sent down to Toledo, and I can’t say I’m unhappy about that). He made a couple of decent starts for the Tigers last year, and started this year in the bullpen (with some not-so-great results). I have seen him pitch for the Mud Hens this year. He gave up a bunch of hits in the early innings but kept the Louisville Bats at bay for the most part (outside of a two-run homer in the first and one run that scored in the sixth). And thanks to Justin Verlander, the bullpen is well-rested. Bartolo Colon will come off the DL to start for the White Sox. His season has been up and down. He’s given the Sox some good starts and some bad starts, but injuries have been a problem for him. The Tigers last saw him back in ’07. As for the lineup? Well, everyone that was on the bench in Game 1 is in the starting lineup for Game 2. That means that Magglio IS in the lineup (so much for that strict lefty-righty platoon) and he’s batting third (Either he has sensational numbers against Colon, or Leyland is playing a hunch). Thames will get the start in left field and bat fifth, Santiago is at shortstop, and Dusty Ryan is catching (and hopefully will start hitting more). By the way, I know I haven’t done Mood Music recently. I hope to start that back up soon. Like, tomorrow.

You're Getting a Lump of Coal

Can we finally be rid of the stupid Christmas in July promotion? At any rate, I think Luke French pitched decently, and probably would’ve had a better line had it not been for a couple errors/defensive mistakes (For some reason, the Tigers haven’t played good defense behind Luke French, although Polanco made a nice play on a line drive that he turned into a double play). Tigers’ pitching as a whole did not walk anybody. Meanwhile, as far as the offense is concerned, well, where’s Pudge when you need him? I mentioned that the Tigers had had their way with Jarrod Washburn in recent years, but I neglected to mention that Pudge (who owns Washburn) provided a lot of the damage. You can’t really point towards failure at scoring opportunities, because there really weren’t that many opportunities (I’m not sure Granderson’s triple counts, because with two outs, you only get one chance to score him). Ironically, through the last turn through the rotation, the only win came on the one night the pitching was kinda crappy.

Now we’re all knotted up at the top of the AL Central with the White Sox coming into town, so this weekend’s series could be very good or very bad. We’ve got a full slate of baseball today with the doubleheader. And the White Sox are coming off of Mark Buerhle’s perfect game (Anyone else not want that to happen?), which means that Hawk Harrelson’s head isn’t even gonna fit into the press box. What I’m kind of astounded by is that Buerhle’s perfect game came against the Rays, who have a good offense anyways and in particular possess speed, speed, and more speed. You’d think one of them would’ve managed a piddly little infield single at some point (especially since Buerhle gets lots of ground balls). At any rate, though, that means we will not have to see him in this series. For Game 1, the Tigers will face Jose Contreras. Contreras is normally a punching bag for the Tigers, but in his first start back from the minors back in June, he absolutely shut them down, which had all of us in fits. However, he proceeded to rattle off several good starts after that, almost halving his ERA in the process, so maybe it was not a fluke. He has not been quite as sharp recently. Justin Verlander was sharp in his last start, but not sharp enough, as the Tigers only scored one run. The White Sox are one of his two “problem” teams, though he got a complete game win against them at U.S. Cellular Field in June, outdueling Jon Danks. Carlos Guillen is back, too, after going 3-for-4 (all singles) in Toledo last night. He did not play the whole game, but the Mud Hens had a 10-run third inning and the Syracuse Chiefs had position players pitching for them for the bulk of the game. Guillen still can’t play the field or bat right-handed, so for now he’ll be a left-handed DH. Josh Anderson has been DFA’d, but I do hope he clears waivers and gets sent to Toledo. He would be a very useful call-up in September as a late-inning pinch-runner. I will try to do a recap of this game before the second game starts.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Seay It Isn't So!

While I maintain that both Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson could have pitched better at Yankee Stadium, Armando Galarraga truly deserved better. For one thing, you can’t expect him to be overpowering and dominant the way Verlander and Jackson are capable of being, so with last night, you could not have asked for more than what he did. For another thing, he was downright masterful, and for all intents and purposes, he shut out the Mariners (I know he ended up being charged with one run through some quirky rule about runners who are erased on FCs, but he wasn’t in the game when that happened). For some reason, the bullpen hates Galarraga (They did the exact same thing to him in his start against the Mariners last year. Galarraga left the game with a 2-1 lead, only to watch Fernando Rodney give up a two-run homer to Jeff Clement in the bottom of the eighth). The offense is taking a lot of flak for only scoring one run, but it’s hard to draw any conclusions from that because Felix Hernandez is the sort of pitcher who would hold just about any team to one run (or fewer). What it boils down to is that it was a one-run game. It doesn’t matter if the score is 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 5-4, 9-8, or 16-15, the relief corps has a job to do, and they didn’t do it. If the score had been 9-8, nobody would be complaining about the offense when Bobby Seay gave up the home run. They’d be complaining about Bobby Seay. I don’t hold it against him. He just picked an inconvenient time to throw a hanging slider to a guy who finds the seats with regularity.

A couple of injury updates for you: First, Joel Zumaya apparently first started feeling pain in his shoulder about four weeks ago, “but it wasn’t major and he could still throw 100 MPH.” Um, four weeks ago is about the time he started to majorly struggle. Coincidence? I think not. Don’t pitch hurt. Also, we got a little more detail about Brandon Inge’s knee problems (perhaps a little more detail than we wanted). Inge and Kevin Rand tell the story a bit differently, but the gist of it is that there are tears in both tendons (moreso in the left) and that a short stint on the DL probably wouldn’t be enough to relieve the pain, so Inge is determined to keep playing. I’m okay with this, as long as: A) He can’t do any further damage to the tendons, and B) Both his offense and defense remain reasonably high.

Today is the rubber match in this series. The Tigers will face another pitcher who is having a great year in Jarrod Washburn. The lefty has an earned run average that is under 3.00. However, the Tigers have won seven straight games against him. Some of those have been pitching-dominant, low-scoring affairs. More recent meetings have resulted in the Tigers scoring a bunch of runs against him. Something’s gonna give. He’s apparently a sinkerball pitcher, so double plays are a concern (especially since the “righty” lineup is slower than the “lefty” lineup). Luke French is coming off a decent start against the Yankees in which he only gave up two runs (one earned) over six innings (He could conceivably have shut them out if not for some defensive miscues). Brandon Inge is back in the lineup, and Jim Leyland finally remembered that he DOES have two catchers on the team, because Dusty Ryan gets a rare start (though I’m guessing he’ll start one of the games of the doubleheader tomorrow, likely the second game).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yeah, That Makes Perfect Sense

Photo: AP

You have a series between the two top pitching teams in the American League. So naturally the game turns into a slugfest, of course (The Mariners must've brought some of their west coast weirdness with them). I’m not sure what to make of Rick Porcello’s start. At the beginning of the game (like, the first three innings or so), he gave up a lot of hits, but only the Jose Lopez RBI single seemed to be hit hard (everything else seemed to consist of bloops and infield singles). Then came the home runs. Those were definitely hit hard. And they did not stop after Porcello left the game. It seemed no Tigers pitcher was immune except for Brandon Lyon. Yikes.

Meanwhile, the offense apparently just needed to come back to Comerica Park. Or see Garrett Olson, one of the two. The Tigers were almost as home run happy as the Mariners. The big blow came on Magglio’s grand slam (his first since ’02, which ironically came AGAINST the Tigers). I know it came on a hanging breaking ball and not a fastball, but you know, at this point I really don’t care. You still have to hit it (something that Marcus Thames demonstrated in not one, but two of his at-bats where he got hanging breaking balls and just missed ‘em). He needed that, and the team needed it even more, as it turns out.

Okay, the “easy” pitcher is over and done with, and the Tigers did what they needed to do against him. Now comes the hard part. They gotta try to do the same thing against one of the best pitchers in baseball in Felix Hernandez, who seems to be entering his prime this year (with that record and that earned run average, I’m surprised that he isn’t really mentioned as a dark horse Cy Young candidate). The Tigers have faced him once this year, and it came at Safeco Field (duh). They did manage to score three runs against him (of the “manufacture” variety, which include a successful squeeze play), but ultimately lost because Justin Verlander had one strange and bizarre inning in which he gave up five runs. The last time Hernandez was at Comerica Park (back in ’07), the Tigers got to him for six earned runs, but he still won that game because Jeremy Bonderman imploded (He was also in the midst of hiding an elbow injury). Once again, I really want good things for Armando Galarraga. He went from “better” against Oakland to “really good” against Kansas City to “a step backwards” against Cleveland. I want to see those good sinkers and sliders again, not those different-looking pitches that aren’t effective (and please do a better job of keeping Seattle in the ballpark than the guys last night did). He faced the Mariners once last year at Safeco Field. He had serious issues with throwing strikes in that game but somehow was able to hold the Mariners to only one run (This is a game that the Tigers eventually lost because Fernando Rodney gave up a two-run homer in the eighth). Suffice it to say, I don't think the Tigers have the luxury of giving up seven runs tonight, be it from Galarraga or the bullpen. Jim Leyland has every lefty he can get in the lineup, and Ryan Raburn starts at third base tonight in place of Brandon Inge. I suppose Brandon needs a blow. He never really had rest over the All-Star Break, he’s in a bit of a mini-slump, and perhaps the reason for that is the sore knee that’s been bothering him.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Weekend Mojo? Not So Much

I’m not sure whether to be more frustrated by the fact that the last three games were all winnable, or comforted by it. While Justin Verlander arguably pitched better than both Sabathia and his own line on Saturday (given the fact that, from what I’ve been told, none of the hits he gave up in the seventh inning were hit particularly well, including the home run; I don’t know how hard the Tigers hit Sabathia), I’d say Edwin Jackson probably deserved his final line (in terms of numbers, that is; the decision itself is open for debate). In fact, if you raw numbers of hits, walks, and strikeouts, Chamberlain was actually a bit better, although Jackson was more efficient with his pitches (a bit strange, since he walked five in the game). In the end it boiled down to which pitcher was able to keep the ball in the ballpark on a more consistent basis. Unlike the wall-scraper that Verlander gave up on Saturday, the two home runs that Jackson gave up would’ve probably been out anywhere. And again, Saturday’s loss was unusual because Verlander typically gets plenty of run support. Jackson normally does not, so this was more par for the course. However, the offense has to get better for every pitcher. Odd note, though: The Yankees won against Baltimore by a score of 2-1 (that’s three straight 2-1 victories for them), and again all the scoring in THAT game was on solo home runs. Maybe their pitching is just that hot.

On Saturday, I had a chat with my Personal Baseball Guru (remember, he’s actually a friend of my dad’s who is a Yankees fan, but he is a former player in college/independent leagues and is a total expert, albeit very old school). I wanted to ask him about the issue with RISP, and all he could come up with was “with a pitcher of Sabathia’s caliber, you’d hope he’d be able to get himself out of those situations.” Mostly he wanted to talk about Verlander and marvel about how “dominant” he was (again, this is hearsay, as all I saw of Verlander was the seventh inning and I have no way of verifying his previous work). His description of Verlander was that “he’s a horse who should not be on a pitch count.” He said this like someone came in from the bullpen and gave up a bunch of runs, which didn’t happen. He also is really fond of Curtis Granderson and desperately wants the Yankees to find some way of acquiring him. On Saturday, he had lots of positive words for Brandon Inge. He said he was a “throwback” and that he reminded him of the guys he used to root for growing up. When I told him that Brandon was probably the most popular Tiger amongst the fans, his reply was “Well, that tells me that Detroit fans are really smart.” Finally, we discussed the situation with Magglio a bit more. He still maintains that Maggs is simply in a slump, but he wonders if maybe he should get his eyes checked or something (seriously…they tried that with David Ortiz). His justification in saying this is that with a good a hitter as Magglio was, the numbers should gradually decline as he gets older. There should not be such a sharp dropoff. However, the subject of Mickey Mantle came up later in the conversation, and looking over his career numbers, we discovered that he DID have kind of a sharp dropoff in production (from .303 and 35 HR in 1964 to .255 and 19 home runs in 1965, and although he did get back up to .288 in 1966, his averages over his final two years were .247 and .233). However, injuries had kind of taken their toll on Mantle during the final years of his playing days, so make of that what you will. He also had some thoughts on Joel Zumaya. He believes that (assuming the shoulder injury is not serious or career-threatening) Zumaya will be a dominant setup man and/or closer once he learns how to pitch and not try to continuously throw fastballs by people. One last thing from my Personal Baseball Guru: He believes that Mauer will cool off and Ichiro will win the batting title.

Tonight marks the beginning of a six-day, seven-game homestand. The good news is that the Tigers’ offense generally perks up at home. The bad news is that the Seattle Mariners have the best pitching in the league, and the Tigers will be seeing two big reasons for that later on in the series. Therefore, it would probably be a good idea to win this game. They will be seeing the Mariners’ #4 starter, lefty Garrett Olson, formerly of the Baltimore Orioles. His ERA is respectable for a #4 starter (4.53), but it is a bit higher than most of their other pitchers, and he lost his last start against the Indians (by the way, Seattle is starting two lefties in this series, so expect to see Magglio a lot). Meanwhile, Rick Porcello starts for the first time in what seems like a year and a half. He hasn’t been so hot recently. Is it the innings piling up, is he just in a slump, or have teams started to make an adjustment as the scouting reports get more detailed?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Not Good Enough

I don’t really have a lot to say about this one, as I was at work for most of the game (A-Rod hit the home run while I was listening to the game on the radio in the car on the way home). It was an unusual sort of loss for Justin Verlander, in that he’s usually not the tough-luck loser. When he loses, he generally gives up a ton of runs. Still, he’s gotta be more cognizant of the fact that there’s that jetstream/short porch in right field, and that the Yankees have probably figured out by now how to take advantage of it. A-Rod sure did. Even if you forget the home run, he couldn’t slam the door after that, allowing three straight hits (Rod Allen sounded really annoyed about the second run once Marcus Thames homered). Sabathia was gone by the time I got home, but I listened to the beginning of the game on the radio during my lunch break. It sounded similar to the game they played against Gil Meche, where they were grinding out some serious at-bats, but didn’t have anything to show for it. They’d have a 6-or-7-pitch at-bat and find themselves in a 3-2 count, but then they’d pop up or something.

Well, it’s time to try this one more time. This game is on TBS, and the Tigers tend to not do well on national television. It’d be nice if they could change that trend. To tell you the truth, my gut feeling is more concerned about the pitching than the offense. Edwin Jackson has pitched in New York many times for the Rays, so he shouldn’t be intimidated. However, he’s generally a flyball pitcher, and that could be trouble in that launching pad. Joba Chamberlain has struggled a bit of late, but I suppose the All-Star Break can either put you out of your rhythm or help you find it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

[Cutsey Pun Headline Deleted]

Considering that the Tigers are in New York, the home of Broadway, I had the perfect pun all set and ready to go, but considering the latest news on Zumaya, it would be inappropriate for me to use it. Zumaya said he felt something pop in his shoulder while pitching last night, and now he’s on his way back to Detroit for an MRI. Here we go again. Now, he says the pop happened when he threw ball four to Swisher, so it was late in the inning, long after he gave up the home run to Teixiera, but I can’t help but wonder if there were any warning signs at all (which brings me back to the old adage of not pitching hurt). The generalized feeling on the blogosphere is that considering all the complaining, criticism, and declaration that Zumaya could never be an effective pitcher again, no one seriously wanted this to happen. For what it’s worth, Zoom says the pain is in a different part of his shoulder from where the stress fracture was. At this point all we can do is hope this isn’t as bad as it sounds. As far as the rest of the game in a nutshell, well, Luke French kind of got in and out of trouble all night, but I suppose he pitched effectively enough. The Tigers had ten hits but only three runs, which isn’t very efficient. Phil Hughes just made them look bad, and I don’t like that. On a somewhat lighter note, I think I may have found the root cause of the problem:

Where Dick Cheney goes, bad things tend to follow.

I’m writing this post now instead of when I get back from work because it’s a freakin’ day game today and it’ll probably be two-thirds of the way over before I get home. And it’s a battle of aces. The last time Justin Verlander faced the Yankees, it started off that dominant stretch that he went through in May and early June. It would be so totally awesome if this start could set off another dominant stretch for him. He’s been a little more human as of late, but he is coming off a really good start against the Indians. CC Sabathia has already lost to the Tigers once this year but pitched well, and he tends to pitch really well in the second half. He’s coming off a somewhat rough start against the Angels. Hopefully we’ll get news on Zumaya sometime today (and hopefully it’s good news).

Friday, July 17, 2009

And Now Back to Work

It’s occurred to me that I never did a preview for tonight’s game, and as I don’t have much time, it’ll be a real quick one. The Tigers open up the second half in the Bronx. They didn’t have such a good series at Comerica Park, and the Yankees are usually a much better second half team, so this is going to be a difficult weekend (that and the fact that there have already been an insane amount of home runs hit in Yankee Stadium). Luke French will face his biggest test yet. He did outduel Zack Greinke in his last start, but the Yankees have a tad bit better offense than the Royals. The Tigers will be up against A.J. Burnett, who can be totally wild and totally lights-out, oftentimes in the same start. Your Mood Music for tonight: Let’s have Frank Sinatra get us in the Yankee Stadium mood.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

All-Star Wrapup and Midseason Review

Photo: AP

That game certainly moved along once they got the damn thing underway (which took, like, an hour). We got the result we wanted (apparently my gut feeling back in March did not take Carl Crawford into account), and I think the Tigers represented their team nicely. And it was especially exciting that a Tiger made a marked impact on the All-Star Game, which doesn’t seem to happen very often. Curtis Granderson tripled off of Heath Bell with one out in the eighth inning and scored what turned out to be the winning run on a sac fly by Adam Jones. Now, there was some dismay among Tiger fans when Carl Crawford was awarded MVP. Was Granderson more deserving? Maybe, but I’d certainly settle for Curtis hitting many more of those triples in the second half. Edwin Jackson looked good in his inning of work, even though he only threw four pitches (by the way, apparently Tim McCarver is from some strange alternate universe in which the Tampa Bay Rays play in the National League). Brandon Inge did not hit a big home run or make an incredible play, but he DID make it into the game, which is the important part (though with the way the game went, had Evan Longoria been able to start, I don’t think Brandon would’ve gotten in). Justin Verlander did not pitch in the game. I think we all knew that would be the case, and he knew it as well (barring extra innings), but it’s all good. If he keeps doing what he’s been doing since late April, one day he will start the All-Star Game. For now, he seemed to have a good time guarding the Gatorade coolers. By the way, I’d like to apologize for the specific video (not the song) that I used for Mood Music last night. I really didn’t like that the video had Andy Gibb and someone else (can’t remember the name) talking through the bridge, but YouTube didn’t give me much choice. The only other options I had were the TV intro (not the whole song) or a clip that had the whole song but was followed by a really stupid bit from a Seinfeld episode. I know a lot of you will disagree, but I’ll take Andy Gibb over Seinfeld any day of the week.

And now, let us assess the Tigers’ first half and what needs to happen on the other side of the All-Star Break. Back in April, I wrote in my
2009 season preview about the concept of ability, and that just about everyone on the team had either had success before or had the talent to succeed, and it was all a matter of tapping into that ability (If you haven’t done so, I recommend you read my season preview as well as my Spring Training preview just to get an idea where I’m coming from). I’d say that a lot of them have done quite a good deal of tapping. Justin Verlander has evolved back into the dominant pitcher I knew he could be. Edwin Jackson has seemingly realized his potential. Gerald Laird, while being kind of up-and-down at the plate, leads the league in caught stealing percentage. Brandon Inge has become one of the biggest comeback stories in baseball (and with Adrian Beltre having to miss time because of surgery, maybe, just maybe, Inge’ll get the Gold Glove he deserves). You do have some people on the opposite end of the scale, which is kind of the oddity of this season, because several of them are guys you really had no reason to worry about going into the season. Placido Polanco continues to play solid defense, but his average is about 30 or 40 points below his norm (though this really doesn’t get talked about as much as you think it would; perhaps Magglio’s struggles are causing it to be overshadowed). And with the exception of Miguel Cabrera, the Venezuelan contingent hasn’t really been able to tap into their abilities. Magglio’s struggles are well-documented and not very fun to watch (For what it’s worth, my Personal Baseball Guru maintains that it is merely a slump. A very lengthy slump, but a slump just the same. He firmly believes that we haven’t seen the end of Magglio Ordoñez, and I hope he’s right). Carlos Guillen has been hurt most of the year, but wasn’t performing very well before he hit the DL. It seems I keep rehashing my thoughts on Armando Galarraga every time he pitches, so no need to repeat it here other than to say that I still don’t think last year was a fluke. Curtis Granderson is somewhere in between. His home run and stolen base numbers are sensational, but his batting average has taken a dip and with it so have the doubles and triples.

So what do the Tigers need to do? The most important thing is to somehow, someway avoid the dreaded second half slide that seems to haunt this team year after year. I talked about this back in April. I don’t know why, but for some reason, the Tigers usually suck in the second half. Something always seems to go wrong. Either the pitching hits the skids or the offense goes cold or someone gets injured and the team can’t recover (or all of the above). This was going on long before Jim Leyland or Dave Dombrowski arrived on the scene, so they’re not to blame. I don’t know how they’re gonna do it, but they need to not do that this year. They need to have a winning second half, and by a good margin. One thing they have going in their favor this year as opposed to previous years is that so far, they are playing extremely well at home. This is important because the majority of their games in the second half (41 to be exact) will take place in the friendly confines of Comerica Park. They have more home games left than do either the Twins or the White Sox (plus, they only have to go to the Metrodome and U.S. Cellular Field one more time, whereas both of those teams have two series remaining at Comerica Park). Now, they WILL still have to play better on the road (where they currently sit at five games below .500), and that won’t be easy. They’re still yet to see Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Tropicana Field (and the Rays have been playing a lot better lately, plus their home record is stellar), and they still have one more visit to Angel Stadium (where the Angels have been playing better of late). However, they only have to go to the west coast one more time and no road trip will last longer than six games (barring any rainouts that would lead to makeup games). Meanwhile, the Twins are done with the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox and are playing a lot of series against sub-.500 teams in the second half, but they also have two ten-game road trips (including one right out of the chute starting tomorrow that starts in Arlington before beginning a west coast swing), as well as two seven-game road trips (and at 17-24, Minnesota’s actually been worse on the road than the Tigers). The White Sox have already been to Tropicana Field, but they aren’t done with the Rays (though they will be by this time next week). They have not seen the Yankees OR Red Sox at all yet (and they have two series left against the Angels), so already their schedule is not as easy as Minnesota’s. They HAVE been a decent road team with a 23-22 record away from the Cell (though they will start the second half at home). However, late August/early September is going to suck for them (something the Tigers desperately need to take advantage of). They have an off-day on August 20th. They will not have another off-day until September 10th. That is a stretch of twenty straight games without a break, beginning with a three-game home series against the Orioles. It gets even better. Included in that stretch is an eleven-game road trip that begins with a four-game series at Fenway Park, IMMEDIATELY followed by a three-game series at Yankee Stadium (that’s a road trip from Hell in and of itself). That’s followed by a trip to the Metrodome and an Interleague makeup game at Wrigley Field. Then they come home to another four-game series against the Red Sox before wrapping up their marathon with a two-game set against the A’s. And what will they be doing on their off-day? Flying out to the west coast. So when you look at the sheer number of road games left for the Twins and the unbelievably grueling schedule for the White Sox, you can see that there are a couple of opportunities the Tigers need to capitalize on.

Other things:

Pitching: Obviously, they’ll need Verlander and Jackson to continue pitching like they have been (or even better, pitch like they did in May). In the past, Verlander’s tendency has been to have a rough late July/early August, pull it together and have a couple of good starts in late August/early September, falter again through September, and then win his final start. He probably won’t be able to afford to have lengthy struggles this time around. Jackson’s a bit of an unknown commodity, as he’s having the best year of his life, so any numbers he’s put up in the second half before are almost meaningless (If you’re still interested, according to, in the past two years he has generally pitched well in August but not September). They will also need either Armando Galarraga or Rick Porcello to step it up and win the majority of their games (if I could only choose one of the two to have a successful second half, I’d take Galarraga because he can give you more innings than Porcello), as well as consistent (i.e. around .500) starts from their four and five starters. As far as the bullpen goes, Rodney, Seay, and Lyon need to keep up the good work. Zumaya needs to pitch like he did when he first came off the DL. That means quit walking people and make better pitch selections. The pitching staff as a whole needs to throw more strikes. They started off the season real good in that regard, but starting in June the walks started piling up. That needs to stop.

Offense: Need some. While re-reading my season preview, I came across this statement that has turned out to be rather prescient:

“…I wanted to say that the offense, outside of a couple games, never really
wowed me during the spring, and maybe that’s a little bit cause for

At the bare minimum, the Tigers are probably going to need strong second halves from Cabrera, Inge, and Granderson, and they’ll need at least one, if not two, other guys to step up. Polanco probably needs to be one of them, and I’m really, really hoping that Maggs can break out of it. And I don’t think relying on Carlos Guillen to be your “Trade Deadline pickup” is such a wise move. If he comes back and hits the crap out of the ball, great. But he was only hitting, like, .200 with no home runs before he went on the DL. Now, that may have been due to the injury, but we don’t know. Not to mention the fact that he has not been able to stay healthy in three years. The Tigers will be monitoring the trade market for a bat, but it’s a crappy year for buyers because so many teams are still in contention. There’s been talk of the Tigers perhaps trying to acquire Aubrey Huff. I keep wondering what the price would be to get Luke Scott (he may be somewhat of a defensive liability, but he’s a left-handed power hitter who is hitting around .300 right now), but the folks over at
MLB Trade Rumors don’t seem real high on him, so maybe I’m missing something.

Defense: The position players just need to keep up the good work. The pitchers could field their position better, though.

Overall: I’ll repeat what I said back in April. The Tigers CAN do it. They have proven themselves capable of making the postseason thus far. WILL they? That’s up to them. It won’t be easy, but it’s far from impossible.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hopefully Brandon Was Just Saving It For When It Counted

This is gonna be a REALLY short post. I just got home and the All-Star Game starts very shortly (supposedly…realistically, there’ll probably be an hour or so of FOX pregame hoopla before any meaningful pitches are actually thrown). I did watch the entire Home Run Derby last night even though Inge made a real early exit. Hey, he’s not the first to have been shut out, and it certainly didn’t seem to put a damper on his enthusiasm. Also, Chris Berman came up with a horrible nickname for him and then sounded more and more like a chicken as the night went on. By the way, they really should do one of those “This is Sportscenter” commercials with Inge. He’s such a goof that he’d be up to almost anything. But they won’t do it. Trust me.

Okay, now the fun begins with the All-Star Game. Roy Halladay against Tim Lincecum. Hopefully this thing doesn’t drag on too long, because I do have to get up early. Remember, back in my season preview I predicted the National League would win, but I’ll be rooting very hard for the AL. And I’ll be rooting very hard for the Tiger representatives to come up big. According to Danny Knobler, Edwin Jackson is scheduled to pitch fourth for the AL (after Halladay, Buerhle, and Greinke). Verlander, along with Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield, will only be used in extra innings (presumably because Verlander and Beckett both pitched on Sunday and using Wakefield would raise the issue of who would catch him). I’d imagine we’d see Granderson at some point, though Joe Maddon says it could be in any of the outfield spots. Brandon Inge? Well, like Carlos Guillen last year, his versatility could hurt his chances of making it into the game (the only reason Guillen played last year is because the game went deep into extra innings). There’s also a chance he could catch, which I’m sure none of us want. We all want to see him at the hot corner. However, Evan Longoria has had to pull out with an infected ring finger, so Michael Young will be starting at third base. Chone Figgins is taking Longoria’s place on the AL roster. You would think that since Inge won a fan vote and Figgins was just an injury replacement, that Brandon would have “seniority” to relieve Michael Young at third, but you don’t know (But hey, Figgins can also play the outfield and second base, so why not make him the “just in case” bench player? He’d make a hell of a pinch-runner as well). I do have Mood Music for you tonight. I was all set to use the most obvious choice (Smashmouth’s “All-Star”), but another song came up on my iPod this morning and it immediately made me think of Brandon Inge. He’s not my favorite Tiger (more like 4th or 5th), but knowing all that he has gone through in his career, his boyish excitement at being an All-Star is nothing short of infectious, if not touching. So Brandon, this is for you, buddy.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Into the Break on a High Note

Photo: AP

That was pretty good work for a Sunday afternoon, and it was an especially good tune-up for a couple of our All-Stars. Justin Verlander continued his turnaround against the Indians by firing seven shutout innings (though with 116 pitches thrown, he’d probably only be good for one inning in the All-Star Game, and a quick one at that). The only real dark spot of the afternoon was the fact that Zach Miner could not throw strikes in a 10-0 game and blew the shutout by walking in a run (Much has been made about how the Tigers’ pitchers have given up more bases-loaded walks than anybody, and by a large margin, but I think it’s the same four or five guys who are doing it; without looking it up, I know Dontrelle Willis has four, Joel Zumaya has at least that many, Brandon Lyon has at least two, Zach Miner has at least one, and Edwin Jackson has two, though they both came in the same game, and that was back in late April). Meanwhile, the 4,5, and 6 hitters in the Tigers’ lineup had an absolute field day. Marcus Thames had four hits, Clete Thomas had 5 RBIs and fell a double shy of the cycle (that is the second time this year he has almost cycled), and Brandon Inge certainly hit like an All-Star by blasting two home runs. You think he’s ready for the Home Run Derby?

I said I would try to get those Mud Hens pictures up today, but that never happened. I will try to get them up sometime during the All-Star Break, but no guarantees. I’ll be on a school-related internship this week, working 8 AM to 6 PM at a hospital that’s about 45 minutes away, so I’m gonna be busy (and not sleeping very much). Therefore, posting may be on the light side for the rest of the week. However, I will be cheering Brandon Inge on in tonight’s Home Run Derby (I usually don’t watch the Derby, though I did watch last year, but for Brandon, I’ll make an exception; I would’ve made an exception for Magglio two years ago but I was working that night).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

YOUR 2009 All-Star Tigers

I’ll have a recap of today’s win tomorrow, but I wanted to deliver the fruits of my Photoshop labor. Feel free to use any or all of these pics on your site, blog, Facebook, Twitter, whatever, as long as you let everyone know where they came from. By the way, yes, the Inge poster is pretty much the same as the one I made for his Final Vote campaign. I just changed the text and added the Olde English D silhouette in the background. To tell you the truth, I had the toughest time with the Jackson poster, because I didn’t have many photos of him. At any rate, I hope you enjoy.

0-2 On Throwback Days

I forgot to mention this in my preview last night, but I had a dream about this game on Friday. I rarely dream about specific games. The last time I had a dream about a specific game, it was back in May and it was about the second game against the Rockies. In my dream, the Tigers won 11-3. In reality, they lost 4-3. Apparently, “gut feeling,” which has served me well the past few years, does not translate into the subconscious. At any rate, in my dream about last night’s game, it wasn’t pretty. I don’t remember what the final score was, but in the dream, Galarraga only lasted two-thirds of an inning. While the real thing wasn’t nearly that bad, it was still a loss. One of the things that’s been haunting Armando Galarraga are those different-looking pitches I keep bringing up, and it’s tough to tell, but it looks like a few more of those returned last night. The third inning was kind of what doomed him. He got two relatively easy outs, then gave up a triple to Grady Sizemore (who hit Galarraga well last year too, so that’s not really anything new), and then I’m not sure if he was deliberately trying to pitch around Victor Martinez (who doesn’t have much of a history against Armando, but is the Indians’ best hitter) and Shin-Soo Choo (who does have good numbers against him) or if he was trying to be a little too fancy to get them to strike out, but if it was the former, you have to seal the deal by getting Hafner, and he wasn’t able to do it (By the way, Leyland’s postgame comments were pointed and relevant, but he got his facts wrong a bit, because Galarraga did NOT walk Sizemore). Ironically, on a night where the Indians made quite a few hard-hit outs, their runs against Galarraga scored on a sacrifice fly, a liner that bounced out of Ryan Raburn’s glove, and a very weakly hit ground ball that somehow found a hole. Meanwhile, was the ball carrying to right center field, or what? It seemed like every ball that was hit in that direction went to the wall. Too bad the Tigers couldn’t take advantage of that. Meanwhile, have I mentioned that I’m not real crazy about Freddy Dolsi? He gave up an RBI double to Jhonny Peralta to make the score 5-2 Indians. Miguel Cabrera would later hit a two run homer in the bottom of the ninth. You do the math. On a side note: That is the first time in what seems like the entire season that I’ve seen Cabrera homer to right, after doing so with regularity last year. In fact, that may be his first opposite-field shot this year. I don’t have a spray chart handy, so I can’t back that up. Also, you know who actually looked good in that Detroit Stars uniform? Adam Everett. I don’t know why, but he did.

Okay, this is your last chance to get your fill of Tigers baseball before the All-Star Break. With Rick Porcello being skipped, that means that Justin Verlander will start today’s game, which pretty much guarantees that he will NOT start the All-Star Game (and if you believe’s Mike Scott, who is filling in for Jason Beck this weekend, he may not pitch at all in the All-Star Game, although Tuesday WOULD be his normal side session day). After being haunted by the Indians for pretty much his entire career, Verlander has beaten them twice this year, both times in impressive fashion. However, that was during that stretch in which he was flat-out dominant against everybody. He’s been a little more human recently, similar to Zack Greinke. He hasn’t really pitched THAT badly, but this is a team that has hurt him many times in the past. If doubt starts to creep in, trouble may not be far behind. Meanwhile, the Indians will send out Tomo Ohka, whom the Tigers have not seen since early 2007 when he was with the Blue Jays. By the way, I finished my All-Star Photoshop fun, and I will try to post those pictures later today.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Run Support is a Beautiful Thing

Photo: AP

(Semi) quick post today, as I just got home from work and I don’t have a lot of time to elaborate on the finer points of last night. Suffice it to say, Edwin Jackson pitched superbly. He may have fallen behind hitters a little bit more than I’m comfortable with, but it doesn’t really show up in the boxscore, and he’ll be going into the All-Star Break on a high note. And while I can’t say the offense was rolling, they did get three runs for him early, which is more than they usually do. Ironically, the big hit was a two-run single off the bat of lefty Josh Anderson (who was thrown out trying to advance to second on the throw; while I appreciate his aggression on the bases, it has gotten him into trouble recently). By the way, is it just me, or is Brandon Inge maybe caught in a bit of a cold snap? He had an important base hit early last night, but didn’t really do much after that. And that’s pretty much how he’s been on the entire homestand. The Marcus Thames home run in the eighth inning was both a blessing and a curse, because it provided much-desired insurance, but also ensured that Fernando Rodney would not pitch well. Why couldn’t Brandon Lyon pitch the ninth and not Rodney? I don’t remember Leyland ever using Todd Jones in this many non-save situations before. Finally, a couple injury notes: Zumaya was taken out of the game in the eighth inning with a bloody thumb. There seems to be some confusion as to whether it’s a cut or a blister, but I know I saw him messing with his thumb while he was warming up in the bullpen, so it’s something he knew about when he took the mound. Also, some of us have observed that Cabrera has slowed down at the plate over the past week to ten days. Could he be banged up as well? There were a couple shots of him in the dugout last night talking to Leyland and Kevin Rand, and they seemed to be looking at his knee. If that’s the case, hopefully the time off during the All-Star Break will do him some good.

But Edwin Jackson’s fine performance was definitely not the highlight of baseball last night. Back when I did my season preview, I made the “gut feeling” prediction that there would be one no-hitter this year, and it would be in the National League. Whether I was right about there only being one remains to be seen (though if one of the Tigers’ pitchers wants to throw one, I’ll gladly be wrong), but I was correct about the league. Congratulations to Jonathan Sanchez of the San Francisco Giants. I watched the ninth inning, and it sure was exciting. His only baserunner reached on an error in the eighth (If I was Juan Uribe, I would make myself scarce for some time). The Tigers saw him last year in Interleague play, and fittingly enough, it took them until the fifth or sixth inning to get their first hit. I also remember Ryan Raburn hit a pinch-hit home run that either tied the game or put the Tigers ahead (It was a game that the Tigers eventually won). But it’s a great redemption-type story. Sanchez is a very talented lefty, but he was struggling this year to the point where he got sent down to the minors, and then called back up and put into the bullpen. He was only inserted back into the rotation because Randy Johnson is on the DL. I’d say he earned himself another start. And the great thing is that his dad had flown in from Puerto Rico to see his son, and it was the first time he ever saw him pitch in the majors in person. So good job, Jonathan Sanchez.

Tonight is the Negro Leagues Tribute Game in which the Detroit Stars host the Cleveland Buckeyes, and everyone wears those wacky, baggy throwback uniforms. The pitching matchup features Armando Galarraga against Carl Pavano. Those two faced off back in May, and it wasn’t pretty. For Galarraga, it touched off a long two months worth of struggles. He has shown signs of turning things around, first by gutting his way to a victory against the Cubs, then battling control problems to beat the A’s before a fantastic performance his last time out against the Royals, only to settle for a no-decision. This could be the telling start. Prior to his disastrous outing against them in May, Galarraga had pretty much dominated Cleveland, but the Indians are much more patient and have a much better offense than the Royals. I’m cautiously optimistic, but I am nervous nonetheless. Carl Pavano hasn’t been all that bad for the Tribe. He’s had some really good starts (including one against the Tigers in the aforementioned May game), and he’s been pretty good recently. I think the only reason his earned run average is so high is because when he does have a bad start, it’s a REALLY bad start. The Tigers have already lost one throwback uniform game. It’d sure be nice for them to win this one. By the way, this marks the first time since 2005 that Justin Verlander has NOT started the Negro Leagues game. I love Justin, but I was getting curious as to how silly the other starting pitchers look in those wacky Detroit Stars uniform.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Mud Hens Amateur Analysis + Another All-Star

With my going to the Mud Hens game last night, I broke a streak of sorts: Up to that point, every baseball game I had been to featured Ryan Raburn in the starting lineup (He’s still been in every Tigers game I’ve been to, so that streak is still alive). The only other time I went to a Mud Hens game was in June of 2007. Back then, I recognized very few names in the lineup. This time, the only name I didn’t recognize was Jeff Frazier, the right fielder. Everyone else was either a Tigers prospect, was with the Tigers at some point in the last two or three years, or was with the Tigers in Spring Training (At the same time, the only two Louisville Bats whose names I recognized were Adam Rosales and Corky Miller). And bear in mind, I’m only talking about guys who were either in the lineup or on the mound at some point during the game (I know for a fact there are several pitchers that I don’t know). At any rate, Eddie Bonine (a name we’ll all recognize) was the starting pitcher. He didn’t start out too great. He had given up seven hits after three innings (including a two-run homer in the first), but he managed to go six innings and only gave up three runs. And you think the Tigers squander scoring opportunities? Try watching the Mud Hens sometime. They didn’t get on the board until the bottom of the fifth, when Max St. Pierre hit a solo home run (though, to be fair, they had not had many opportunities up until that point). They tied the game up in the eighth, but did no more. They then proceeded to get the leadoff man on (via walk or single) in the ninth, tenth, AND eleventh innings. Each time, the runner was sacrificed or otherwise moved over to second, but the Mud Hens never got him in. Will Rhymes made it as far as third in the eleventh via a steal, but Scott Sizemore (who was at the plate at the time) struck out, and Jeff Frazier grounded out to end the inning. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of the Mud Hens struck out once the runner was moved over to second (Speaking of strikeouts, according to, the Mud Hens as a team have struck out 786 times. The Florida Marlins, who lead the Majors in strikeouts, have struck out 676 times, which is amazing when you consider that the Marlins have probably played about thirty more games than the Mud Hens). The Bats finally got two runs off Clay Rapada in the top of the twelfth, and though the Mud Hens did get a couple runners on in the bottom half, they didn’t score. And apparently, this sort of phenomenon is nothing new for the boys in Toledo. I did take some pictures while I was at the game, and I will try to have some of those for you during the All-Star Break (although I warn you, I’m not a very good sports photographer and there are a lot of pictures of Jeff Larish, simply because we were sitting down the first base line and he was the closest player to us).

And now for yesterday’s big news: What began as a horrible snub last Sunday has ended in a marvelous victory. We have succeeded in getting Brandon Inge into the All-Star Game. I thought that beating out Ian Kinsler would be a very tall order, but Tigers fans are stubborn and don’t quit. Congratulations to Brandon and good job, Detroit fans. I also have to send a shout out to all those Phillies fans who voted for Inge alongside Shane Victorino. That was one fruitful partnership, because it got both guys in. I’ll try to tinker around with Photoshop some more and see what I can come up with, if I have enough time.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hey, We Beat Zack Greinke!

Photo: AP

I can’t give you a lot of firsthand insight into this game, because by the time I got home from work, it was the bottom of the eighth inning and there were two out. At any rate, from what I’ve heard, Luke French did a decent enough job. Billy Butler solved him almost immediately and he fell behind a few hitters, but you can sometimes get away with that sort of thing when you’re facing a normally below average offense like the Royals (and yes, with the injuries they’ve had, I would classify the Royals’ offense as “below average” rather than “underachieving,” like I did with Oakland). It looks as though the bullpen turned in a strong performance, capped off by Rodney’s perfect ninth. Meanwhile, the offense didn’t manage a whole lot against Royals’ pitching (which, against Greinke, is to be expected), but they were able to manufacture a few runs (and take advantage of some mental lapses by the Royals’ defense), which they did with great success early in the year but hadn’t done a lot of lately. As I’ve said before, I don’t find small ball to be that entertaining, but it’s nice to be able to do it, cuz that’s usually the only way you’re gonna beat guys like Zack Greinke, and with the Tigers’ pitching staff being reasonably strong, you can eke out a few wins that way. By the way, Brandon Inge’s bat seems to have gone quiet over the past few days, but he’s still got that defense. And he made Web Gems last night. Nothing like a little free publicity.

Before last night’s game, Jim Leyland
announced that the newly called-up Clete Thomas will form one half of a left-right platoon with Magglio Ordoñez in right field. While I can’t say I’m happy about the decision from an “uneducated fan” perspective, from an “educated fan” perspective, it makes logical sense, and I can’t come up with any rational argument against it. As of right now, Maggs hasn’t provided Leyland with much incentive to not make such a move, and judging by his (brief) comments, Maggs knows and understands this. And from the perspective of a general manager, it provides Dave Dombrowski with the chance that Maggs won’t reach enough plate appearances for his option to automatically vest (simply because the vast majority of people in this world are right-handed), and it’ll give the Tigers an opportunity to resolve this contract problem without things getting (too) ugly (This is why I hate contract negotiations). Now, it still might not work. The plate appearances thing will largely be dependent on the schedule (For instance, last year the Tigers went through a stretch of two or three weeks without facing a lefty, while on the last road trip this year, five of the nine starting pitchers they faced were left-handed). For the record, currently the White Sox and Indians both have three lefties in their rotation, while Minnesota has two and Kansas City has one. Also, if Clete Thomas struggles or gets injured, then what do you do? Still, I like Magglio a lot, and it’s sad that they’ve had to resort to something like this. I went through something very similar last year when Leyland decided to alternate Pudge and Inge behind the plate, and I came up with what I deemed to be a very reasonable proposal then and I think that proposal fits well now: It’s up to Magglio to play his way back into the lineup more. If he gets hot and starts mashing lefties, then Leyland should give him the chance to start a little bit against righties (maybe against some that he’s had good numbers against, at least to start out with). And then see how it goes from there. In Pudge’s case, he got hot almost immediately after the alternation started, but that whole thing ultimately lasted about two weeks at the most, because Brandon Inge ended up on the disabled list shortly thereafter, so Pudge became the starting catcher again by default. I’m not sure if he would’ve been given that job had that not happened (he DID earn it, though, no matter what anyone else says), but it is worth noting that Pudge did catch most games even after Brandon returned, right up to a few days before he got traded. I understand that the contract situation complicates matters a little more in Magglio’s case (meaning there’s a lot less wiggle room), but I still think it’s a reasonable proposal.

Okay, with the heavy roster analysis stuff out of the way, I’d like to mention a couple of oddities about the last two games. First, remember the second game where a guy sitting behind the dugout caught a large bat shard one-handed while talking on his cell phone? He was at the game last night, too. I noticed him in one of the crowd shots during the ninth inning. Also, I forgot to mention this in the last post, but right before Polanco hit the two-run homer, Bruce Chen struck out Granderson and the Royals started jogging off the field thinking it was the third out. That is the third time in the last two weeks that a team has lost track of how many outs there were. It happened to the Dodgers, and then later in the week it happened to the Red Sox (that was the game in which the Red Sox blew a 10-1 lead in the late innings).

The Tigers are off today, and tomorrow night starts the last series before the All-Star Break. It’ll be against the Indians, who will likely be kind of limping in (although as I write this, they DO lead the White Sox 6-2 in the second inning). The Indians have a good offense, much better than the Royals (and with some of the Tiger pitchers having issues with the Royals, that might be a problem). Their pitching continues to be a major issue, although the Tigers will be facing their two most effective starting pitchers in this series (at the same time, they are sending THEIR two most effective pitchers out there as well). There seems to be some confusion as to whether the Indians are starting Cliff Lee or Carl Pavano tomorrow night, but the majority opinion seems to lean towards Cliff Lee, so I’ll go with that. The Tigers have beaten Lee twice this year, although they didn’t exactly knock him around either time (and both times, he was just plain outdueled by Justin Verlander). Lee’s only 4-8, but he’s got a really good earned run average, so he must not be getting a lot of run support. The Tigers will be sending out Edwin Jackson, who also doesn’t get a lot of run support, and based on who he’s up against, he probably shouldn’t expect much for this game, either. Two pitchers who don’t get much run support? Something’s gotta give. And the Tigers may be off today, but I am not. I will be at tonight’s Mud Hens game, and hopefully I’ll have a full report for you tomorrow. By the way, you still have about an hour left to vote Brandon Inge (and his running mate, Shane Victorino) into the All-Star Game. They were both leading their respective leagues as of two o’clock, but not by much, so now is not the time to be complacent. Keep voting!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Elvis Has Left the Building...And So Has Cabrera, Polanco, Thames...

Photo: AP

And after the Elvis-themed headline, I have no segue. I just had to have something Elvis-themed, and since I’m not an Elvis expert, it’s the best I could come up with. It started out not looking like a good night for Verlander. The Royals made him throw a lot of pitches early (of course, the catcher’s interference call loomed large, and he wasn’t helped out later with an Inge throwing error). Mario & Rod mentioned that the flu was making its way around the Tigers’ clubhouse. They brought it up because Marcus Thames isn’t feeling too good, apparently, but I can’t help but wonder if Justin’s got it too. There were several shots of him in the dugout coughing. It didn’t seem to affect his velocity, though. Sick or not, he was somehow able to put things together after the second inning and go six. And he finished with a really strange line: 11 strikeouts, no walks, but every hit he gave up seemed to be hit hard. The Royals didn’t make life easy for Verlander or, for that matter, anyone on the Tigers’ pitching staff. It seemed like they had multiple baserunners in every inning, and the tying run seemed to always make its way to the plate. Still, it never made its way across the plate, and I guess that’s the important thing. But yikes!

The boys didn’t get a lot of hits, but three of them left the yard (I still haven’t figured out whether that Arby’s promotion is good in Ohio or not). And they were able to take advantage of walks, which they don’t often do. Miguel Cabrera busted out of his power drought in the first inning, and then Polanco and Thames came up with big home runs later. The Thames home run was especially sweet because it was a three-run shot that came after Cabrera had been intentionally walked (which really was the right strategic move; Thames has as much power as Cabrera, if not more, but he’s also more prone to striking out). You would’ve liked them to put up more runs against the Royals’ bullpen, but if you can’t win with eight runs, you have pitching issues.

Well, winning this series is going to be a very, very, very tall order. Zack Greinke has not been quite as dominant lately, but that just means his ERA has jumped up to 2.00. Luke French was okay against the Twins. He allowed a bunch of baserunners, but limited the damage. The Tigers made a roster move last night. Don Kelly has been DFA’d, and Clete Thomas (who was tearing it up at Toledo) was called back up (During last night’s postgame show, they went to some footage of Dave Dombrowski to announce the move, and I thought sure that meant the end of Magglio Ordoñez; fortunately, I was wrong, for now). Leyland has already said that Clete will be in the lineup tonight. I’m assuming he’ll be there in place of Magglio, who doesn’t hit Greinke well in the best of times. I’ll be at work tonight, so in my place, you will have to vote for Brandon Inge twice as much, because I won’t be able to do it (While you’re there, vote for Shane Victorino as well, because the Tigers have entered into a “mutual voting” partnership with the Phillies). Inge was in first place as of this afternoon, but this is no time to rest on your laurels. Keep voting!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Armando Deserves Better

I rather wanted this one to start with, and as the game went on, I wanted it more. But it was not to be. Armando Galarraga was pretty damn good. He walked the first batter of the game, but after DeJesus was caught stealing, he settled down and didn’t walk anyone else. His pitches looked very, very good. There were very few of those “bad” different-looking pitches. It was certainly a joy to watch. I’m not going to proclaim anything just yet, though. We’ll see how he does against Cleveland first, since the Indians are much more patient and have a better offense than the Royals (And with Porcello being skipped in the rotation, that means that Galarraga will have the “honor” of pitching wearing that baggy Detroit Stars uniform). And I know Leyland wanted to discuss the lack of offense rather than the ‘pen (dismissing it as “those things happen”), but what happened with Zumaya and Rodney was kind of irrelevant to the offense anyways, especially Zumaya. Even if the offense is going well, you’re still going to have a one-run lead at times, be it 1-0, 2-1, 5-4, 9-8, or 16-15. Zoom’s gotta find some way of protecting that lead (although when he does get burned, it’s usually either walks or bad pitch selection; this time it was a little of both). Rodney’s struggles in non-save situations are well-documented, so there’s no need to elaborate.

It’s tough to tell what to make of the offense. Placed within the context of what has been going on, it seems that the struggles continue. However, when you consider that it was a Gil Meche start, it’s par for the course, at least in my experience. It seems like anytime he pitches against the Tigers, Meche gives up a bunch of baserunners, but not a lot of runs. Whether that is the result of the Tigers being ineffective or Meche making a pitch when he absolutely has to, I don’t know. But this is definitely not the first time I’ve seen it happen. And the Tigers were definitely grinding out at-bats. Many of them saw seven or eight pitches, but they just didn’t come up with much. Leyland says the double play ball that Everett hit to close out the second was hit hard, but in the wrong place (obviously). In the sixth inning, Laird smoked a ball right to Mark Teahen to close out the inning and strand runners. However, a lot of those hard-hit outs came from the bottom of the order. The top really hasn’t done much in the past several days.

Tonight, it’s Justin Verlander against Bruce Chen. Justin is coming off a loss in Oakland in which he gave up two two-run homers. If he’s gonna rebound, Kansas City might be the team for him to do it against. Meanwhile, Chen has not won a game for the Royals yet, but his earned run average isn’t bad. There are some Tigers that have had some at-bats against him, but they haven’t come since, like, 2005, so they may as well be facing him for the first time. Which has presented some difficulties this year (For what it’s worth, however, the previously struggling Brett Anderson who stymied the Tigers in Oakland threw a complete game shutout against the Red Sox last night, so take from that what you will). With the lefty on the mound, Leyland’s loaded his lineup with righties (except Granderson). And while you’re watching the game, make sure you stay right near your computer and vote for Inge the entire time. He did take over the lead (briefly) last night, but Ian Kinsler passed him this morning, so Brandon needs your help. Your Mood Music for tonight: It’s Elvis night at Comerica Park, so I had to naturally come up with something of his. Given Verlander’s tendency to work quickly (hopefully, not too quickly), I settled on “A Little Less Conversation.” Besides, the Tigers’ offense could use “a little more bite and a little less bark, a little less fight and a little more spark,” so to speak. And if Verlander loses a close pitching duel (say, 1-0 or something like that), I’ve got a headline for tomorrow. Hopefully, I won’t have to use it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Metrodome Strikes Again

I’ll get to the All-Star discussion in a moment, but I suppose I briefly have to touch upon yesterday’s game. I really can’t give you any personal insight whatsoever, because I was at work the entire time the game was on (though the pharmacist had ESPN GameCast up and I was able to listen to the second and third innings on the radio during lunch). By just about everyone’s account, Rick Porcello got rattled in the fourth inning after the Morneau home run (Or was it the 10-pitch walk to Cuddyer?). And I said this the last time, but I’ll say it again: QUIT WALKING NICK PUNTO. It just causes bad things to happen. I obviously I did not see Everett’s error (and maybe I should go back and watch it), but did he throw the ball down into the right field corner or something? How does a throwing error score three runs? I suppose it’s par for the course, because the Tigers generally don’t pitch well or play good defense at the Metrodome (The offense is a bit more unpredictable). The good news is that there’s only one series left there.

I found out about the All-Star selections while I was at work, and my general impression was that the AL roster was still too Red Sox-heavy, but both teams have a little more diversity to them than they did last year (when you may as well have just played the Red Sox against the Cubs). And it’s nice to see more than one Tiger on the roster once again. Verlander was pretty much expected. Jackson was a little bit of a surprise, mostly because he’s still somewhat under the radar, largely due to the lack of run support (though it probably helped him that Joe Maddon is managing the AL). I was surprised to hear that Granderson made the team. I thought the outfield was more crowded, and that his somewhat low batting average might keep him from making it, but apparently the players thought otherwise, so good for him. And our pharmacist (who is also a Tigers fan) was totally pissed off that Brandon Inge was not selected. He had to look up Michael Young’s numbers and began complaining that Inge has significantly more home runs and more RBIs (and Inge’s defense is virtually second to none). At any rate, Brandon does still have a chance with the Final Vote. He’s got a rather steep uphill battle, because Ian Kinsler is likely the heavy favorite by virtue of the fact that he was leading in the starting vote as recently as last week, only to be overtaken by Dustin Pedroia at the last minute. He’s also seemingly gotten the endorsement of just about every national baseball pundit and last night’s Rangers game was nationally televised, which generated even more publicity. If Inge does have anything in his favor, however, it is that the Tigers will be at home during the Final Vote, while the Rangers are on the road. As of this afternoon, Kinsler was in the lead, with Brandon a close second (at least, according to Jason Beck). So once you’re done reading this, head on over to and vote! By the way, I tinkered around with Photoshop last night, and I came up with this. Feel free to use it in spreading the word:

As I’ve already mentioned, the Tigers are back at Comerica Park for the days leading up to the All-Star Break, and that might be a good thing (and not just for Brandon Inge). Recently, home has been where the runs (and the wins) are. This will mark the first time this season that the Royals have come to Comerica Park. And yes, we have to face Greinke again, but we’ll worry about that on Wednesday. Since the Tigers last saw them, the Royals have pretty much fallen out of the race, but they are still sending their two best pitchers to the mound in this series. I already mentioned Greinke. Tonight, the Tigers face Gil Meche. Meche has had kind of a strange season. He’s either been really good or really bad in his starts (I believe he was good in his last start). The Tigers last saw him on Memorial Day, and he didn’t last very long as he was battling back problems and the Tigers scored a bunch of runs against him (I think that was the game in which the Tigers scored in every other inning). However, I’m assuming that he’s healthy now and he’s generally pretty lights-out at Comerica Park (which is strange, because the Tigers have several guys with good numbers against Meche). Meanwhile, Armando Galarraga’s last outing (which seems like forever ago) resulted in a win and maybe a shred of hope. The six walks were bad. They were very, very bad, and he needs to keep the walks down to, say, three or fewer tonight. But his pitches looked better. I’m sorry I can’t be more descriptive than that. They just looked better. There were not as many of those ineffective different-looking pitches I’ve talked about. And it’s probably coincidence (since I don’t think personal catchers are a good strategic move unless you have a knuckleballer or something like that), but I feel it’s worth mentioning that Dusty Ryan has caught his last two starts (both of which he won). Gerald Laird will catch him tonight. Regardless of who is behind the plate, will Armando be able to take another step forward? Dear God, I hope so. And vote for Inge!