Thursday, April 15, 2010

You Can't Come Back Every Time

Well, I know I’m tired of being singled to death by the Royals (+ Jose Guillen homer). I only saw the tail end of the game (plus I listened to most of the seventh inning on the radio), so most of my analysis has to be based on Gameday. Rick Porcello really had to work through the first four innings or so. He managed to finally make an adjustment and go six innings, which surprised me. Things kinda fell apart once the bullpen came in, although everyone already knows about the go-ahead sacrifice fly that probably should have been an error on Gerald Laird. To me, it looked like he never caught it cleanly and never had that firm a grip on it. Therefore, even the slightest bit of contact was gonna jar the ball loose from his hands, and that’s exactly what happened. It’ll happen sometimes, and I know he’ll make the play next time the opportunity presents itself, so there’s no use in dwelling on it. Besides, Perry didn’t help matters by giving up a home run to Jose Guillen on an 0-2 pitch. Phil Coke also had his issues, and Eddie Bonine mostly just pitched into some bad luck.

It looked like the Tigers were going to make their comeback against Kyle Davies in the fifth, when he loaded the bases with nobody out. Miguel Cabrera did deliver the tying run, but he did it by grounding into a double play, which kinda killed that inning. Meanwhile, it seems like the only Kansas City reliever that they can’t touch is John Parrish (Huh?). Unfortunately, it seems Trey Hillman has figured this out. Granted, Joakim Soria is no pushover, and he’d be in along with Parrish if Cabrera hadn’t homered off him last week. There’s been some griping about Leyland using Don Kelly to pinch-hit for Everett, but when you think about it, none of the players on the bench were that attractive an option. Alex Avila hasn’t exactly been swinging a hot bat (plus you don’t want to burn a catcher if you don’t have to) and it’s not a situation you want to put Austin Jackson in. I suppose I would’ve preferred Ramon Santiago to Don Kelly, but that’s splitting hairs, as I can’t imagine any of those four having success against Soria. Hell, Soria made Magglio look really bad when he struck him out in the bottom of the ninth.

Around the blogosphere there’s been a lot of griping about the Tigers who aren’t hitting, particularly Damon and Laird. Obviously, Damon’s got a much better track record, but I still think nine games isn’t really a large enough sample size to know anything. As an attempt to put things into perspective, here’s a list of some other guys who are off to slow starts (averages are as of this morning, and I realize that some of them have played already today):
Milton Bradley (.133)
Mark Reynolds (.179)
Chipper Jones (.188)
Troy Tulowitzki (.212)
Yadier Molina (.200)
Carlos Lee (.097)
AJ Pierzynski (.226)
Adam Dunn (.136)
Michael Young (.156)
Victor Martinez (.229)
Mark Teixiera (.097)

Okay, so the Tigers got through their early stretch against the predicted bottom feeders 6-3, which is pretty good (the equivalent of taking two of three each series). Now they have an off-day, and then the sucky part of the schedule begins (seriously, I didn’t realize how crappy it was when I did my schedule feature cuz I separated it by month). They’ll be playing their next twenty games without an off-day, and something like their next thirty-four games against teams that finished above .500 last year (yeah, I’m being lazy today). At any rate, they start out this stretch on the west coast, beginning with a three-game set against the Mariners. The M’s, who were predicted by many to win the AL West, are off to a slow start this year, but I suspect they’ve got better bullpen pitching than Kansas City or Cleveland, so maybe we shouldn’t rely on comebacks in this series. Jeremy Bonderman will start things off for the Tigers. Prior to beating Cleveland on Saturday, his last win was in 2008, and it was against the Mariners. Ichiro (who was off to kind of a slow start himself) hits him well, as does Milton Bradley, but nothing stands out in his numbers against the rest of the Mariners. The starters need to get seven innings (at least) on a regular basis, though. And it’s a bit mystifying why their pitch counts get so high so fast. They are throwing strikes and they aren’t walking guys (the bullpen is walking too many, but that’s a different story). Even Dontrelle Willis has only walked five in his two starts combined (Granted, there have been a couple of untimely walks mixed in there, as Justin Verlander will attest to). To date, none of the starters have had a start where they threw less than 60% strikes. And yet they’re giving up a ton of hits and opponents are having very long at-bats against them by fouling off a lot of pitches. So how do you fix that? In the meantime, the offense has to find a way to rack up five runs or more against an opposing starter and get his pitch count up so that HE’S the one only going five innings. Unfortunately, they’re facing Felix Hernandez so that might be difficult. There are a couple Tigers with good numbers against him. Gerald Laird’s a decent .278 against him (though if Leyland sticks to his pattern, Alex Avila will be starting this game), but Miguel Cabrera bats .545 (6-for-11) and Johnny Damon is at .615 (8-for-13 with four doubles and a home run; he’s the only current Tiger to have homered off of King Felix). As for your Mood Music, well, we’re on the west coast, and that’s where weird things happen. So I’m gonna do the same thing I did last year and give you the Twilight Zone theme. Have fun with your week of sleep deprivation.

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