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!

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