Monday, August 2, 2010

PFP, Boys, PFP


This is not going to be a very long post, because I didn’t see this game and therefore I have very little with which to analyze. I was able to listen to the bottom of the eighth and the top of the ninth on the radio during my lunch break. From what I hear, Justin Verlander struggled early and then was able to settle down and give the team seven decent innings. Brad Thomas had an effective eighth, and then ran into trouble in the ninth, unfortunately. Also unfortunate was Robbie Weinhardt succumbing to the dreaded pitcher errors that have plagued this team for years. It’s not the first time they’ve lost on a bunt that was thrown away. Zach Miner did that once a couple years ago. Meanwhile, the Tiger hitters couldn’t do anything against Clay Buchholz, or so I’ve heard. I can’t give you any insight into that because all I heard was the top of the ninth, and things sounded pretty good in that inning. And it all started with a little infield single. Once Raburn walked and Papelbon was brought in to face Cabrera, Dan Dickerson and Jim Price sounded as though they were shocked that the Red Sox elected to pitch to him instead of walking him intentionally. I didn’t really think they would walk him in that situation. First of all, it was a three-run game instead of a one-run game. Second, there was nobody out as opposed to two out. Third, Terry Francona is not as “unconventional” as Joe Maddon. Cabrera proceeded to do what he does best: Knock in runs. He very nearly tied the game himself from the sounds of things. But that honor went to Jhonny Peralta, who had quite a decent series in his first few games as a Tiger.

And so the Tigers finished a disappointing 1-6 on this road trip, but the frustrating part is that they rarely looked overmatched. They were constantly one pitch, one hit, or one play away from winning just about every single game on the trip. They are so agonizingly close, but the win-loss record doesn’t reflect that. But yet, here we are and it is now truly do-or-die time. There is still a chance to save this season. Because of some really wacky scheduling, the Tigers have fourteen games left against the White Sox, which means they still control their own destiny for now. But they have to start winning right now. Worst case scenario is that they’ll be eleven games back in the Central by Thursday evening, and I don’t think there’s enough season left to make up that big of a deficit (on the other hand, we DO know it’s possible to make up a seven game deficit with fewer games to play than what we have here). The Tigers haven’t seen the White Sox since mid-June, when Chicago was almost ten games out of first and just about left for dead. Something has happened since then, because they have surged and are winning at a ridiculous rate. However, I have been pouring over Baseball-Reference for the past hour, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out how they are doing it (and no, I don’t think it’s Ozzie Guillen). I know their pitching is good, and I expected it to be. But at the same time, the Mariners also have a good pitching staff (or at least they did before they traded Cliff Lee). Their offense is vastly improved over what it was in June, but they’re still middle-of-the-pack in most categories, much like the Tigers. They are fourth in the league in home runs, which may account for a lot of the wins. They’re also second in the league in stolen bases, but that’s a deceptive stat because there are only two guys on the team with double-digit steal totals (Pierre and Rios). One stat that doesn’t make sense is that their pitching staff has given up the fewest home runs in the American League, and the reason this doesn’t make sense is because their home ballpark is a bandbox (For what it’s worth, the Tigers have given up the second-fewest home runs, so good for them, I guess). Even if you delve into the more detailed offensive and pitching statistics, both the Tigers and the White Sox are right around league average in most categories. Defensively, the White Sox have made fewer errors (by a very large margin), but errors don’t always tell the whole story and I’m not savvy nor interested enough to investigate the more accurate stats. Stumped by stats or no, the Tigers and White Sox hook up for a four-game series that begins with a doubleheader tomorrow. This is not going to be easy for the Tigers to win, but they’re gonna have to find some way to rise above these unfortunate aleatoric circumstances that they’ve found themselves in for the past two weeks, because their backs are against the wall now. I am going to try to do a recap between games, but I can’t promise that, because tomorrow is my birthday and I’ll be out during the afternoon and I’m not sure when I’m coming home. I will warn you, though: The Tigers tend to lose on my birthday, although they did win last year, thanks to a walk-off home run by Clete Thomas. Just in case I don’t have time to post tomorrow, I will try to preview both games now. The day game will feature Rick Porcello against Mark Buehrle. Porcello had a really good start against the Rays, although it will not go in the books as a quality start because he gave up four runs. He got victimized by Carlos Peña, most of which were on plays off the glove of Cabrera, plays that Cabrera normally makes. He has not pitched well against the White Sox in the three career starts he has made against them. Not surprisingly, several of the Sox have good numbers against him. Carlos Quentin, Paul Konerko, Omar Vizquel, and Gordon Beckham all hit .429 or better against him. On the flipside, AJ Pierzynski is 0-for-6. Meanwhile, the Tiger hitters go from facing the Slowest Pitching Staff in the World (since Red Sox pitchers take forever between pitches) to facing Mark Buehrle, the guy who pitches like he’s double-parked outside the ballpark (I borrowed that line from someone else and I can’t remember who). Talk about having to make an adjustment. Buehrle began the year struggling but started pitching pretty well around the time the White Sox began making their run. He did falter in his last start, giving up five runs to the Mariners. He’s 14-8 lifetime against the Tigers with a 2.99 ERA, and they haven’t done much against him since 2007. Part of that might be because Miguel Cabrera is 0-for-12 in his career off Buehrle. Ouch. Of course, maybe that just means he’s due. He’s only struck out once against him, and the majority of outs he’s made were characterized as “weak groundouts,” but he was starting to get the ball up in the air against him when he faced him last June. Jhonny Peralta’s numbers against Buehrle aren’t bad (.288 with six doubles and two home runs), and neither are Johnny Damon’s (.283 with two doubles and a home run), although Damon might be headed to the DL if his back doesn’t improve quickly. Jeremy Bonderman will pitch the night game for the Tigers. He hasn’t been on the mound since last Sunday against the Blue Jays, but it’d be nice for him to join the parade of strong starting pitching that the Tigers have gotten recently. He has not faced the White Sox this year (and had a disastrous start against them last year). The guy he’s gotta watch out for is Paul Konerko, who has four home runs off him. Pierzynski, Ramirez, and Rios have also homered off him in the past, and all four have hit him well for average, too. The starter for the White Sox still hasn’t been posted on MLB.com. I saw the name Carlos Torres floating around, but I don’t want to go chasing down his numbers unless he’s actually pitching. Therefore, if I do a recap tomorrow after game 1, I’ll give you a more detailed preview then.

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