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?

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