Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Tigers Amateur Analysis FAQ

To celebrate the start of the exhibition games, I will start to unveil the more “formal” features of spring training. A lot of this will be stuff that I originally published on the old site and republished last year, but I’ve worked on getting everything updated, so there will be some new stuff as well for those of you who have read them before (and I remain hopelessly optimistic that I’ve gained some new readers in the past year). I will post these features intermittently, culminating in my 2010 preview, which will probably be up about a week before Opening Day (But don’t hold me to that). And we’ll get things started with the Tigers Amateur Analysis FAQ…

Q: Okay, so who are you, anyway?

A: Most of you already know me to some degree, but for those of you that don’t: My name is Erin, I am 26 years old, and I live near Toledo (home to the Triple-A affiliate Toledo Mud Hens and the hometown of Katie Holmes, Jamie Farr, Jim Leyland, and, unfortunately, Joe the Plumber). I am currently a pharmacy student at the University of Toledo, and I work as a pharmacy intern. I’ve been a lifelong Tigers fan, carrying on the family tradition (both my grandpas and my dad root for the Tigers as well). My other hobbies include movies (in fact, there is nothing I’d rather do than edit movies), playing computer games, reading, and fencing. I also speak four languages (to varying degrees) and am very, very ADHD, so watch out.

Q: Why is this called the Tigers Amateur Analysis (formerly Total Amateur Analysis)?

A: Isn’t it obvious? I’m far from an expert when it comes to the subject of baseball. I mean, I know enough to enjoy it and to be able to figure out what’s going on most of the time, but a lot of the details escape me. Granted, I’ve gotten a lot better in the past couple years. I no longer capitalize “grand slam” and I am aware that the Montreal Expos are now the Washington Nationals (and by the way, I’m even more clueless when it comes to the National League). I’ve also gotten a lot better when it comes to players’ names. Prior to 2006, the only Tiger on the current roster that I’d ever heard of was Kenny Rogers. And as for the rest of baseball, well, I knew Derek Jeter, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, and about three or four other guys, but that’s about it. My posts have gotten more “professional” in the past couple years (Seriously, the stuff I wrote in early 2007 is terrifyingly bad). One thing you probably never will see on this site are a lot of sabremetrics. I know what some of them mean or are supposed to indicate, but they remain numbers that I can’t visualize. And in a way, I find them to be dehumanizing and they take all the drama out of the game. So probably the most “advanced” stat you’ll see me write about is on-base percentage. At any rate, it does make this blog different from Those Who Know More Than Me, and it’s kind of fun seeing how much singular devotion and gut instinct matches with real expert analysis.

Q: How many games have you been to?

A: Exactly four, all of them at Comerica Park, and all of them in the last three years (August 3, 2007 against the White Sox, August 6, 2007 against the Rays, August 9, 2008 against the Athletics, and August 15, 2009 against the Royals). I’ve also been to two Mud Hens games. I would dearly love to go to more games, but being a college student doesn’t exactly lend to a big cash flow. I am planning on going to two games this season.

Q: So, have you ever actually played?

A: Short answer, no. Long answer, probably not. I’ve never played on a bona fide team, but in middle school and high school, we normally played about six weeks’ worth of softball in gym class. It was rather crude, though. I remember playing a lot of first base in middle school (first base was my favorite position at the time, likely because Cecil Fielder was my favorite player). In high school, I tended to play third base most of the time, but there were never very many balls hit in my direction. From an offensive standpoint, I don’t recall getting a lot of hits, but I was really good at moving runners over and getting them in cuz I didn’t strike out very often and the kids in my class couldn’t turn a double play if their lives depended on it (I also didn’t walk a lot and did a lot of first-pitch swinging). I do remember hitting a lot of ground balls to second base. In case you were wondering, I bat and throw right-handed. If I were to play now, I’d probably catch (I have the body for it, plus my legs are still strong from fencing). And I’d be interested in playing in some sort of summer adult recreational league, but I’m not sure if anyone would take a 26-year-old with a good deal of raw strength but not a lot of athletic conditioning. For what it’s worth, I can throw a softball about 55-60 feet with regularity.

Q: Hey, remember back in the day…?

A: Actually, no. I don’t. I’m not one of those people who get all teary-eyed and sentimental about Tiger Stadium and Ernie Harwell, because…well…I can’t. The only memories I have of Ernie Harwell are of those couple games that he filled in for Rod Allen a few years ago, as well as the occasional appearance with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, or on the radio. I have been to Tiger Stadium once, but I don’t remember it all that well, cuz it was about 14 years ago. Our eighth grade field trip was to a Tigers game against the Baltimore Orioles. Long story short, the game was postponed cuz it wouldn’t stop raining, and had I not been sitting in our class’s section when the announcement was made, I would’ve been able to get Cal Ripken’s autograph. Yeah, I might be a tad bitter about that. Other than that, I watched the occasional game on TV, especially when I was about 10 or 11 years old, cuz I always watched the after-school cartoons on FOX (Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, and-yes-Power Rangers), and every once in a while they would show a Tigers game instead. Since my grandparents didn’t have cable, and since I didn’t want to watch Oprah or soap operas, I’d go ahead and watch the game. However, I really don’t remember those games. I have brief flashes and images in my mind. I remember watching Cecil Fielder, and I have some fuzzy and not-at-all concrete memories of one game in particular. I’m pretty sure that it was a home game (at Tiger Stadium) and for some reason, my gut’s telling me it was against either the Toronto Blue Jays or the Texas Rangers (and yes, if it was Texas, the irony does not escape me, and in fact, for sentimentality, I’m kind of hoping it was Texas). But I couldn’t tell you anything about the score or what year it was (sometime between 1993 and 1997 is my guess) or about who played in it. I’m pretty sure that the Tigers were still in the AL East, though. You also have to remember that I was a year old the last time the Tigers won the World Series, and I was only ten in 1993 (the last time they had a winning record prior to three years ago). Essentially, in my experience, the Tigers sucked until 2006.

Q: Have you met any players?

A: None of the current Tigers. I have an autographed baseball from my trip to Tiger Stadium in eighth grade, and after a little research on baseball-reference.com and Google image search, I have determined that it was signed by Justin Thompson and Omar Olivares (I don’t know who they are either, but the ball also has Paws’s autograph, for what it’s worth). I met Gates Brown at one of the games I went to in ‘07, and I have his autograph. As far as other players are concerned, I met Ron Rightnowar (formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers, and the answer to the Trivial Pursuit question about who was the first replacement player after the strike of ’94) when I was in seventh grade. He was a friend of my seventh grade Language Arts teacher, and he is also the uncle of a former co-worker of mine. He is currently the baseball coach for Toledo Christian. Also, there is a guy I went to high school with briefly (he transferred after his junior year) who pitched briefly for the Seattle Mariners in 2008 and is currently a non-roster invitee for the Pirates. He likely wouldn’t remember me, but he might remember my mom, who was his art teacher. If I do make it to more games this year, I’d like to do a lot more dugout-stalking (My best friend and I have tried a little bit , but our timing sucks and we always come up empty). My problem is that I am desperate to come up with something intelligent to say whenever I meet someone famous, but for the life of me, I can’t think of anything, and when the time comes, I tend to clam up and I can barely speak at all. Plus, with baseball players, I have the added complication of wondering whether or not to talk to the Latin players in Spanish. I haven’t decided whether it would be nice, cheesy, or condescending.

Q: Who is your favorite Tiger?

A: I absolutely love Justin Verlander. He is so awesome to watch when he is on his game, and I am glad he’s set to stay with the Tigers for the next five years. Verlander was, until 2008, my second-favorite until circumstances beyond my control bumped him up a notch. My favorite Tiger had been Pudge Rodriguez, and even though I smelled that trade coming a mile away, it still sucked (adding to the suckiness was the fact that I found out about it while I was at work and that it happened only ten days before the game I went to). Pudge remains my favorite player, even though he is nearing the end of his career and seems to be quietly fading away with the Washington Nationals. I know he’s somewhat controversial (not to mention he’s got an ego the size of Texas), but he was the only big name willing to play in Detroit back in 2004, and I really think that’s what jump-started the whole thing. They wouldn’t have made it to the World Series without him. Plus, I kind of have a thing for catchers (probably cuz they’re supposed to be the brains of the operation). And the great thing about catchers is that even when they move on, you can make a strong case that their influence is still there as long as there are still guys who are still there, especially young pitchers. At any rate, as the season goes on, I may discuss Pudge frequently, occasionally, or never. I’ll try to aim for “occasionally,” or more specifically, “where appropriate” (after all, the Tigers DO play the Nationals in Interleague play), but we’ll see. By the way, the drawback to have a starting pitcher as your favorite is that when you only go to one game a year, you’ve only got a one-in-five chance of seeing him.

Q: What other Tigers do you like?

A: There’s quite a gap between Verlander and the rest of the Tigers, but my top five are Justin (reasons already stated), Maggs (sentimental value), Galarraga (I think he’s smart), Inge (heart of the team), and Cabrera (very entertaining as long as he’s sober). Those are the only ones I bother to rank. And just to be clear, players rarely, if ever, “fall” in my standings. The only ways my rankings change are if one of them gets traded/leaves or someone else comes to the team that I like better.

Q: Are there any other teams in particular that you strongly like or dislike?

A: My favorite National League team is probably the Dodgers (despite Manny Ramirez). I also routinely root for the Marlins and Rockies in the NL. Other American League teams that I generally like include the Rangers and Rays. I’m one of the few Tigers fans who don’t hate the Yankees. The Yankees and I peacefully co-exist (possibly because players I like keep getting traded there) As far as teams I don’t like, well, I used to really hate the Atlanta Braves, but for some reason I’ve kinda mellowed that over the past ten years or so. I don’t like Cleveland, cuz, well, they’re the chief rival and their fans drive me nuts (and believe me, there’s a fairly large number of them here in the Toledo area; in fact, the vast majority of my pharmacy class consists of Indians fans). I’m also not crazy about the Boston Red Sox. What I don’t get about the Red Sox is this: When did they suddenly become regarded as the “America’s Sweetheart” of teams? They have almost as big a payroll as the Yankees and they can be just as dominant as the Yankees. So why are the Yankees the Evil Empire and the Red Sox the Valiant Heroes?

Q: What about other sports?

A: I’m an Olympics junkie. I will watch almost any event that comes on during the Olympics. Obviously, this will not really affect my coverage of the Tigers until 2012. As far as more regular sporting events are concerned, well, I’m a lot more sporadic. I watch the Super Bowl every year and I’ll occasionally watch other football games here and there, but I don’t have a favorite team. I just pick a team to root for on a game-by-game basis. Generally, I’ll root for the Steelers, Cowboys (which was my favorite team when I was a kid), Giants, and any of the teams with “cat” names (although rooting for the Lions or Bengals is kind of a lost cause right now). I really dislike the Packers, Browns, and Ravens. Oddly enough, I don’t watch hockey at all but I do have a favorite team (Go Red Wings!). I do not watch professional basketball at all, nor do I have a favorite team. As far as college sports go, well, a lot of you are gonna hate me for this, but I happen to be that rare breed of person who roots for the Tigers AND Ohio State (this is apparently offset by my co-worker’s sister, who is both an Indians fan and a Michigan fan). I do not watch a lot of college sports, though. I will watch the Ohio State-Michigan game and whichever bowl game Ohio State happens to be in, but that’s it. I will watch college basketball during March Madness, but only because I like filling out those brackets, even though I know nothing about the teams involved. Hey, the first year I filled them out (senior year of high school), I pretty much made arbitrary picks and I ended up being right on all the first-round games except one.

Q: Steroids suck, don’t they?

A: Yes, they do, because I’d much rather talk about other things. As a sports fan and future healthcare professional, I absolutely do not condone the use of steroids. They’re not fair play and they’ll do serious damage to your body if they’re used in that manner. However, since my favorite player has been implicated in this whole steroid mess (though, contrary to popular belief, he was NOT named in the Mitchell Report), and yet remains my favorite player, I do not feel that I have the right to be morally outraged about it. To do so would be hypocritical. Still, I’m not sure what they thought would happen when steroids were banned without any means of testing or enforcing. It’d be like cops not giving out speeding tickets. Main Street would look like the Autobahn. However, does anyone else find it strange that it seems like the vast majority of the suspected steroid users played for either the Texas Rangers or the Oakland Athletics (or both) at some point during their careers? What’s up with that? As far as A-Rod goes, well, he never played for the Tigers, so I really don’t care. I’ve always thought of him mostly as someone that a Tigers pitcher needs to get out. Now, he’s a chemically-enhanced person that the Tigers’ pitchers STILL need to get out. And it’s not like A-Rod was particularly beloved before this revelation anyways. Yankees fans hated him because he didn’t do much in the postseason (Obviously, since the Yankees have now won a World Series and A-Rod played decently, their stance may have softened a bit). Everyone else hated him because he played for the Yankees. They’ve just got more ammo, now. Still, now that A-Rod can’t “save” the all-time home run marker from taint, well, what do you make of Albert Pujols’s chances?

Q: Anything else I should know about?

A: Well, there’s probably several things, but I can’t think of all of them right now. The principal thing is that I’m a filmmaker/editor at heart, and as a result, I see baseball seasons as movies more than anything else (hey, once I found the drama in it, I was hooked). Many people in this world have problems with seeing fantasy and thinking it’s reality. I’m just the opposite. A lot of the time I forget that the players are real people and I just think of them as characters. I’m not sure what effect that has on this blog, but now you know. Oh, by the way, I, like every other blogger, like to use cutesy titles for my game recaps, and if I repeat one from last year, it’s unintentional. It’s hard enough to come up with 162 different titles in the first place, but I’m not going to remember all of them a year later and I’m not gonna go looking. Also, I rarely utilize the venomous tone that sometimes characterizes other blogs. I will get sarcastic, but that’s about it. And that probably has something to do with the fact that my mentality is different from most fans. Most fans have a “replace it” mentality. I have a “fix it” mentality. I’ll use a pharmacist that I used to work with (who happens to be a Tigers fan) as an example. If there is a player on the team who is struggling, his first thought is, “Who do we replace him with?” My first thought is, “How do we get him right again?” The only times I’ll break with that is if a player has never shown me anything in the first place and pretty much sucks from day one (**Farnsworth**), or if a player’s struggles go on for a really long period of time (and even then, my thoughts will usually turn to hypothesizing that said player is either hurt or could use some time in the minors, not towards trading or releasing them, though they may eventually end up there if the struggles continue even further). At any rate, you’ll probably pick up on that tone fairly quickly. And you’ll oftentimes find me in the comments section over at Bless You Boys under the name SabreRoseTiger.

Next Time: The Total Amateur Analysis Glossary. Find out what the hell I mean when I talk about the Reyes Effect, the Milestone Curse, or Umpires on Crack.

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