Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Alluring Mystique of the Left-Handed Catcher: Why?

NOTE: I’ll get to Nate Robertson stuff later, because I was two-thirds of the way through writing this post when that news broke, and now that I put the effort into writing it, I want to post it.

We’ve entered the home stretch of spring training and the roster has thinned out significantly. Today we learned that Alex Avila will indeed begin the year as the backup catcher. Avila’s somewhat of an enigma to me. When he first got called up, there were all sorts of concerns throughout the Tigers fan community. After all, he’d only been catching for about two years and was only in his first professional year, plus prior to his callup, he’d been in somewhat of a slump (if I remember correctly). Then he has a good five weeks or so in the big leagues and all of a sudden, these same fans are treating him like he’s the next Johnny Bench. Did I miss something? Where’s the hesitation? Dusty Ryan put up good numbers in slightly fewer plate appearances in 2008 and he’s no longer with the Tigers. Avila probably will be a good player, but I don’t think there’s enough information to treat him like a known commodity yet. At any rate, in light of Avila making the team, I want to discuss something I have not understood and I have not received a satisfactory answer for: The left-handed catcher.

Baseball people talk about left-handed catchers like they are a rare and precious commodity. Without looking up rosters, I can name five left-handed starting catchers off the top of my head (Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, AJ Pierzynski, John Baker, and Miguel Montero). I can think of another four (Jorge Posada, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Victor Martinez, and Dioner Navarro) who are switch-hitters. And that’s not counting backup catchers and guys I’ve forgotten about (I know I have). That accounts for about a third of teams (I rounded up to make up for the guy I know I’ve missed). Every team needs to have a couple of good left-handed bats, obviously, but for some reason, the impression I get from baseball people is that the left-handed catcher is a more valuable hitter than any other lefty, and I have no idea why that is. I asked my Baseball Guru about it, and his answer was that since catcher is a position where you have to throw right-handed, most of the people who catch are going to be natural righties, and therefore not that many catchers will bat left-handed (essentially, “because they’re rare”). I’m still not satisfied with that answer because there are other positions that require you to throw right-handed, and yet, you almost never hear of people drooling over a left-handed third baseman or a left-handed shortstop (and when it comes to left-handed second basemen, I can only think of Chase Utley and a few switch-hitters, which would make them even more rare). Also, there are plenty of outfielders and first basemen who throw right-handed but bat left-handed. It also seems to me like a left-handed catcher would be an offensive liability, especially in the late innings (since generally, righties hit righties better than lefties hit lefties). Basically, in my world, if I’m the GM or manager, I just want a decent number of lefty bats in the lineup. I don’t care if they’re catchers, outfielders, shortstops, or whatever.

Another thing I don’t understand is that switch-hitting catchers get a little bit of love, but not nearly as much as the lefties. You’d think they’d get more love. After all, being able to hit from both sides of the plate would take care of that offensive liability I pointed out previously, at least in theory (in practice, switch-hitters tend to be better from the left side because that’s where they get more ABs from, but there are exceptions). I know Avila used to be a switch-hitter. I wonder why he stopped doing that.

And then there’s the question of defense. I have no idea if there is any marked difference in defensive ability between right-handed catchers and left-handed catchers, and I’m not going to look it up. But it seems like the current crop of left-handed catchers are more known for their bats than their gloves. Pierzynski, McCann, and Baker all generally have caught stealing percentages in the low twenties. Joe Mauer is slightly above average defensively, but wins Gold Gloves because with the offensive numbers he puts up, he’d have to be a complete butcher not to. My Baseball Guru has the old-school philosophy that the catcher’s priorities are to work well with the pitchers, block balls in the dirt, and throw out runners. Anything you get offensively from him is gravy. I tend to share that belief. Now, if you get offense from a catcher who is a good defender, that’s awesome, and I think Avila has the chance to do that. His arm is plenty strong enough by the looks of things, and now it’s down to footwork and other mechanics, as well as blocking balls. Personally, I think he’d be better served in the long-term honing his defensive skills by being an everyday catcher at Toledo. After all, the Tigers have a long and proud history of excellent defensive catchers (Freehan, Parrish, and Pudge all won multiple Gold Gloves and could throw out runners with the best of ‘em, and Laird should have won the Gold Glove last year). I want Avila to live up to that legacy, but he still needs work in order to get there.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Tigers Amateur Analysis Guide to Baseball Fashion

Those who know me in real life will be the first to tell you I am anything but a fashion diva. It takes a lot to get me out of jeans and three-quarter sleeved shirts. However, I do not have to be on television every single night, whereas our stars of the baseball world do. Therefore, as a public service, I’ve provided this handy fashion guide to keep our boys of summer looking their best (And if you're new here, trust me, this guide used to be a lot shorter. It seems to have grown exponentially over the years as I add stuff but rarely remove anything).

I. Pants/Socks

A. This is the point that creates the biggest bone of contention for me, as many of you have learned the hard way over the past couple years. Sometimes I think they ought to just go back to those stirrups and “sanitary hose” (God, I really hate that term; it sounds like some sort of feminine hygiene product), cuz that didn’t look good on anybody, so I would have no basis for criticism (though how they managed to keep the stirrup in their shoes is a complete mystery to me, cuz I wore stirrup pants back when they were popular in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s and I could never do it). At any rate, there’s a lot of people that go around arguing that the high socks-look (actually, I’m pretty sure that most guys have their socks pulled all the way up regardless, so “high pants” would be a more accurate term, but I digress) is more traditional and therefore everyone should wear their pants that way. It may be the more traditional look, but in reality, it’s a tricky look to pull off, and you have to have the right body for it. Curtis Granderson, Brandon Inge, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ichiro Suzuki are four guys who can pull off the look. It’s difficult to explain what the “right body” is, but in general, guys who look good with the high socks are of slightly-above-average height (usually around 5’11” to 6’1”) and slender but not skinny. However, the most important factor is that his body is in proportion (i.e. legs/arms not too long or short, etc). I cannot stress this enough. Your body MUST be in proportion, otherwise the high socks will accentuate and exaggerate whatever part of your body is out of proportion. If you are fat (Carlos Silva), the high socks will make you look fatter. If you have cartoonishly long legs (Andrew Miller), the high socks will make your legs look even longer. If most of your build is concentrated in your chest/shoulders and your legs are just a tad too short (Pudge Rodriguez), the optical illusion created by the color differential of the high socks against the lighter-colored uniform will cause the eye to attempt to fit the same amount of mass into less space, and as a result, you will look rather boxy (You can tell I REALLY thought about that one). If you have calves that are the same width as your thighs (Chris Shelton), the high socks will remove all semblance of definition and your legs will look like two-by-fours or somehting. I think you get the point by now. Pudge used to drive me crazy whenever he did it (mostly because I could NOT figure out the pattern, which is enough to drive me nuts regardless of appearance). Miguel Cabrera is now my prime target. Prior to his arrival with the Tigers, the high socks were an infrequent (but largely predictable) occurrence. Now it’s become more common (though less prevalent in 2009), and, from what I can tell, totally random (which, as I said, really drives me crazy; seriously, if I could figure out the reasoning, I would be so much more at peace with this issue). And Cabrera’s just too big for that look (there are other problems with it as well, which I shall get to in due course).

  • There are, however, a couple loopholes that certain (keyword “certain”) guys can use to cheat the proportion rule. The first is if their pants are really baggy. I don’t have an everyday example to back this up, but this loophole gets illustrated terrifically during Negro Leagues Weekend when the Tigers wear the old Detroit Stars uniform. That uniform’s pants are so baggy that those who choose to wear the pants long don’t look quite right, whereas guys like Verlander and Magglio look fine (well, “fine” given the fact that pretty much no one looks spectacular in those uniforms).  
  • The other loophole is the “alternate” solid color jersey that many teams possess. For some reason, it really cuts down on the “color differential” between the dark-colored socks and light-colored uniforms that I think is at the root of the proportion problem. Dontrelle Willis (who has a very short torso and comparatively long legs) is a good illustration of this. However, the Tigers do not have alternate jerseys, so this loophole becomes rather moot for most of my discussions. 
  • Bear in mind that these loopholes only work for SOME guys. There are many more guys for which these loopholes will do absolutely nothing and who will look terrible with the high socks no matter what. The Tigers’ Macay McBride and the Marlins’ Taylor Tankersley (Is he still with the Marlins?) are prime examples. As far as the Astros’ Hunter Pence is concerned, well, he’s just creepy-looking with the high socks and I don’t know why. 
  • I am a bit more lenient if everyone on the team is wearing the high socks as some sort of kumbaya rally tactic to get out of a losing streak. The Tigers briefly did this a couple years ago. It was funny at the time (I think it piqued my curiosity more than anything else), but I get the feeling that, had it continued for more than two games, it would’ve become old after about one turn through the rotation.

B. If your team’s socks are BRIGHT red (a la the Angels or Red Sox), BRIGHT blue (a la the Cubs, Rangers, or Royals) or striped (a la the Cardinals), under no circumstances will the high socks look good on anybody. Please avoid wearing them.

C. Black socks are kind of strange. With some teams, like the Orioles and the Astros, the socks are like the great gaping void of darkness, so dark that light cannot escape from it (hmmm…they must be made out of this material). I half expect all surrounding matter to be sucked into this void of blackness. Needless to say, this is very distracting, and I would recommend avoiding this problem altogether if you play for one of these teams. On the other hand, some teams, such as the Marlins, have black socks that look perfectly fine and those players are perfectly free to show ‘em off provided they conform to the other rules in this guide.

  • Oddly enough, the Yankees have dark blue socks (I think), and yet A-Rod exhibits the “great gaping void of darkness” phenomenon just the same. I’m not sure what to make of that, because I think he would have the body for it if not for the fact that his butt’s just a little too big. Damn superstitious bastards. Of course, it’d probably help matters even more if he didn’t look like he was sucking on a lemon every time he’s in the batter’s box. The “gaping void of darkness” also seems to occur with Magglio, unless the broadcast is in HD (and you don’t realize until then just how thick Magglio’s legs are).

D. Bald white guys should never wear the high socks. Ever.

E. Socks with logos on them = Very, very bad. I’m looking at you, Miguel Cabrera.

F. Catchers in general should not wear the high socks. Perhaps the worst-looking catcher with this look is Johnny Estrada, formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers (I have no idea where he is now). An enormous upper body coupled with tiny-but-round calves makes for a disastrous combination (he looked especially bad in the Verlander no-hitter).

G. If you do wear the high socks, please make sure your pantlegs are even with one another. This is something else that Miguel Cabrera frequently drives me nuts with. His pantlegs are almost never even and it seems like one is always on the verge of falling down (Perhaps he should take the hint, but I digress; admittedly, he has gotten better at this). Now, I’ve never worn a baseball uniform, nor have I been around someone in a baseball uniform, so it’s a complete mystery to me as to how players get their pantlegs to stay up in the first place (If anyone could enlighten me, I’d be most grateful). But guys like Brandon Inge can do it and get their pantlegs even the whole time. At the very least, could someone show Cabrera how to do it properly? Uneven pantlegs are even more annoying on pitchers, because then I have to look at it for the entire inning.

II. Hats/Batting Helmets

A. Please try to keep your hat clean (i.e. no white fingerprints all over the bill).

B. In the same vein, please do not lather your batting helmet in pine tar. It looks really bad. If it’s a dark helmet, it looks rusty. If it’s a brightly-colored helmet, it looks like someone set it on fire. Luckily, this doesn’t seem to be an issue with the Tigers, who all appear to have nice, shiny helmets. Good job, boys.

C. I suppose some comment about the “Great Gazoo” helmets is in order here. They’re supposed to protect against concussions. But boy, are they silly-looking.

III. Shoes

A. I know this look isn’t terribly popular, but I like shoes with lots of white or gray in them. I’m not necessarily talking about all-white shoes like the ones the Oakland Athletics wear (although they aren’t bad either). I’m talking about shoes that are black but have lots of white or gray in the design. This could also be considered a loophole to allow some guys to get around the high-sock-proportion rule. It also helped A-Rod for the brief time that he wore them.

B. If you insist on wearing Adidas brand spikes, please wear them with long pants and no shin guard. If you wear Adidas spikes with a shin guard, it looks like you’re wearing spats. If you have the high socks, it looks like you’re wearing those “athletic” flip-flops (for lack of a better term) with black socks, which was a look that was quite popular with the jocks both when I was in middle school and when I was in high school. I didn’t like the look then, and I still don’t like it.

IV. Batting Gloves

A. This isn’t a real biggie with me, but I’m not all that fond of all-white batting gloves. I don’t know. It’s just a little too reminiscent of Mickey Mouse for my taste. But I’m not gonna make a huge deal out of it.

V. Protective Gear

A. Please do not wear white shin guards. They look okay with the home uniform, but against the gray road pants…um, no.

B. I really can’t explain this one, but for some reason, I really like the contrast created by the straps of the catcher’s shin guards against the white pants. I don’t know why, and I realize it’s quite bizarre. But for some reason, it’s just one of life’s simple pleasures for me (and please note that this is not a sexual thing). However, the pants have gotta be long for it to work (since I need to see both the upper and lower straps), the straps have to be dark, and the shin guards can’t have a whole lot of additional equipment (i.e. “Knee-Saver” pads or that sort of thing). This isn’t necessarily a fashion rule, per se, but it’ll get you bonus points, especially if you’re not that tall a catcher.

C. I realize you guys have gotta protect your manhood, and I have no problem with that (After all, you wouldn't want to end up like Adrian Beltre). But please, get a cup that fits. It’s bad enough watching y’all spit every three seconds. I don’t want to have to see you adjusting your crotch whenever you run the bases.

D. Along those same lines, please do not prop your bat up against the protective cup at any time. I’m not even gonna get into the Freudian implications.

E. If you wear the old-style catcher’s mask, don’t flip the helmet around so that the bill is facing forward when you go out to greet your pitcher at the end of the game. It looks wrong. The only catcher I know of who can get away with this look is Miguel Olivo.

VI. Jewelry

A. There are a lot of sportscasters who disapprove of all the bling-bling. I don’t mind it so much as long as it’s not too gaudy or distracting (and I have no idea how Carlos Guillen isn’t absolutely weighed down by those huge crosses he wears).

B. This is another one that’s more “bonus point” than “rule,” but I like it when the guys wear bracelets.

Whew! That was a long one, and I'm sorry if the organization is confusing, but Blogger sucks and won't let me keep Microsoft Word formatting. By the way, I hope you appreciated this because getting this thing to post took forever. Anyways, I'll have my season preview sometime next week (probably after the roster is sorted out), and in the meantime, I'll chime in with some spring training thoughts once or twice before then.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quick Bits

To tell you the truth, I don’t really have a lot to say, but I signed up for Twitterfeed last night and I apparently screwed up by posting the final installment of 2010 and the AL Central too soon after it “found” my post from last week. Therefore, I want to post something today to make sure it’s working correctly. So here’s some Quick Bits for you:

• We’re down to three in our search for the final two starting pitchers (And I’ll put my neck on the line and say there’s a golden opportunity for Armando Galarraga to hone his command in Toledo and come back once someone in the Detroit rotation gets injured or starts to struggle. He just has to take advantage of it; as I said last time, his stuff looks plenty good enough). Some are including Eddie Bonine in the hunt along with Bonderman, Robertson, and Willis. However, while I think Bonine’s got a good shot at taking the injured Zach Miner’s role as the swing man in the bullpen, I believe the Tigers would likely only name him as a starter if two of the other three really crashed and burned over the final few spring training games. Everyone’s been kinda holding their collective breath, waiting for that to happen (especially with Dontrelle Willis), but so far, it hasn’t.

• Meanwhile, Lynn Henning thinks that the Tigers are going to release Dontrelle Willis. While that is a possibility and I think the Tigers came into spring training prepared to eat the $10-12 million on someone’s contract (after all, they released Gary Sheffield very close to the end of spring training last year), Henning’s primary argument seems to be that D-Train’s not throwing as hard as he used to (Or perhaps he was talking to Carlos Lee, who, when asked by FS Houston’s Jim Deshaies if he was impressed by Dontrelle’s pitching, replied, “Uhhh…not really”). John Parent at Motor City Bengals provides an excellent rebuttal to this argument, and I also think that Henning’s not providing a strong enough reason. It’s as if he wrote the bulk of this article weeks ago (likely focusing on command, not velocity), and then when Willis continued pitching effectively and not fitting his script, he decided to change “not throwing strikes” to “not throwing hard” and run the article anyways. But remember, Henning’s got a 50/50 chance of being right no matter what his argument is (command, velocity, tilted hats, whatever). Either Dontrelle will be released or he won’t be, but even if he is, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Henning knew about it.

• Matt Sussman at MLive writes a somewhat tongue-in-cheek article about how to improve extra innings. I (along with most baseball fans, I suspect) don’t mind the current system (because you rarely get games that go beyond 12 innings or so, and once you get beyond that point, it’s late and you get kinda giddy and punchy anyways), but it made for an interesting read. His first suggestion (starting each extra inning with men on base) was actually a rule in the Olympics (as well as the World Baseball Classic, I believe), so it’s not as farfetched as it may seem. His only other suggestion that I might entertain is allowing one player to re-enter the game in extra innings.

• There seems to be an injury epidemic among closers in the AL Central. The major one is that Joe Nathan has a torn ligament in his elbow and will undergo Tommy John surgery, which means his 2010 is over before it even started. However, the Twins lead such a charmed existence that some career minor leaguer is likely to come in from Triple-A and rack up, like, 60 saves or some ridiculous number like that. Indians’ closer Kerry Wood has a lat strain and will miss 6-8 weeks, and Bobby Jenks has been dealing with a calf injury, but he’s expected to be ready for Opening Day (he pitched yesterday, as a matter of fact). Nevertheless, Jose Valverde and Joakim Soria have gotta be just a little concerned.

• Finally, the Tigers play the Nationals tonight in a rare spring training night game. I know it’s only on the radio and not on television, but any chance of Pudge making the trip to Lakeland? (There was a time when I couldn’t bear the thought of him in a uniform other than the Olde English D, and I still miss him, but time has gotten me used to the concept. I still can’t watch him bat against the Tigers, though).

Monday, March 22, 2010

2010 and the AL Central: September/October

This is what it all comes down to, doesn’t it? As we learned the hard way in 2009, sometimes all it takes is one month. Which is why you work real hard the rest of the season to make sure you’ve either got a big cushion (if you’re leading the division) or you keep it close enough to give yourself a chance (if you’re in second or third place). So let’s see how that final stretch maps out for each team:

September 3-5 (Fri-Sun): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
September 6-9 (Mon-Thu): vs. Chicago White Sox (4)
September 10-12 (Fri-Sun): vs. Baltimore Orioles (3)
September 13 (Mon): Off-day
September 14-15 (Tue-Wed): @ Texas Rangers (2)
September 16 (Thu): Off-day
September 17-19 (Fri-Sun): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
September 20-22 (Mon-Wed): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
September 23 (Thu): Off-day
September 24-26 (Fri-Sun): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
September 27-29 (Mon-Wed): @ Cleveland Indians (3)
September 30-October 3 (Thu-Sun): @ Baltimore Orioles (4)

Contrary to popular belief, the Tigers didn’t collapse in September. They went 17-16 in September and October combined, which is what everyone said they had to do (they were really bipolar about it, with lengthy winning and losing streaks, but still). Just like in 2009, the final month of the regular season will be jam-packed with the AL Central. They’ll play each division foe at least once, and they’ll have to deal with the Royals (who like to screw with us in September) and the White Sox twice. And that’s how the month begins: A series in Kansas City followed by a return home to meet the Sox for a four-game series. After they depart, the Orioles come to Comerica Park for a second time (which seems really random, and I’m guessing it’s the result of the high number of two-game series the Tigers play in 2010). Then there’s the other off-day/2-game series/off-day sequence of the year (the good thing about this is that it provides the Tigers with ample rest down the stretch). After that brief 2-game stay in Arlington, they journey to the Cell to see the White Sox one more time. September 20th marks the beginning of the final homestand, which’ll feature visits from the Royals and Twins (That point I made about playing well against your own division? Yeah. It comes into play right here). Unlike 2009, where the Tigers seemingly had the advantage by concluding the season at home (this was nullified once a tiebreaker became necessary), they’ll have to do it the hard way in 2010: on the road. Their last seven games are away from Comerica Park. They are against teams that are not expected to be contenders, but if you’re the Tigers, you can’t think that way at all. At the same time, though, they ARE teams you must take advantage of and based on how the Tigers’ September opponents did in 2009, they have the easiest schedule in the Central. At any rate, they wrap up the 2010 regular season with three at Progressive Field and then four (not one, as other sites have reported) at Camden Yards (and hopefully they’ll be busy getting ready for the postseason during this road trip). Do I need to stress the importance of playing better on the road?
Home games: 13
Road games: 15
Detroit’s 2009 record against opposition: 51-39
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .459

White Sox
September 2 (Thu): Off-day
September 3-5 (Fri-Sun): @ Boston Red Sox (3)
September 6-9 (Mon-Thu): @ Detroit Tigers (4)
September 10-12 (Fri-Sun): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
September 13 (Mon): Off-day
September 14-16 (Tue-Thu): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
September 17-19 (Fri-Sun): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)
September 20-22 (Mon-Wed): @ Oakland Athletics (3)
September 23 (Thu): Off-day
September 24-26 (Fri-Sun): @ Los Angeles Angels (3)
September 27-30 (Mon-Thu): vs. Boston Red Sox (4)
October 1-3 (Fri-Sun): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)

By September, whereas the Tigers and Twins will be done with the AL East’s “three-headed monster” (Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays…Seriously, could any of you imagine me typing that about three years ago?), Chicago still has seven games left with the Red Sox. Like the Tigers, they also get a healthy dose of the AL Central down the stretch as well. Their September starts with what could be a grueling road trip through Boston and Detroit. However, after that they start a nine-game homestand where it’s all AL Central all the time (Royals, Twins, and Tigers). By the way, if you haven’t noticed, they have a ton of home games in September/October. Their final road trip of the year takes them out to the west coast to face the A’s and Angels. While the Tigers have to finish the year on the road, the final seven games for the White Sox will be at home. They’ll square off with the Red Sox for four, and then finish 2010 the way they started: a three-game series against the Indians.
Home games: 17
Road games: 13
Chicago’s 2009 record against opposition: 47-51
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .502

September 2-5 (Thu-Sun): @ Seattle Mariners (4)
September 6-8 (Mon-Wed): @ Los Angeles Angels (3)
September 9 (Thu): Off-day
September 10-12 (Fri-Sun): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
September 13 (Mon): Off-day
September 14-16 (Tue-Thu): vs. Los Angeles Angels (3)
September 17-19 (Fri-Sun): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
September 20-22 (Mon-Wed): @ Minnesota Twins (3)
September 23-26 (Thu-Sun): vs. Kansas City Royals (4)
September 27-29 (Mon-Wed): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)
September 30 (Thu): Off-day
October 1-3 (Fri-Sun): @ Chicago White Sox (3)

For a while, it looked as though the Indians were gonna do what they’ve done for most of the past several years and have a good second half. I mean, they had a decent August (15-12). Then September rolled around and they went 7-25. Now THAT’S a collapse. And yes, they get a good dose of the Central in the final month of 2010 as well. They’ll begin September on the west coast with a four game series in Seattle followed by a three-game series in Anaheim (This’ll end 16 games with no break). During the ensuing homestand, they’ll have an off-day/3-game series/off-day sequence, which is not as wacky as what Detroit has, but still. The opponents on this homestand include the Twins and Angels. They then head on the road for six, visiting Kansas City and Minnesota. Their final homestand of the season features a four-game series against the Royals, followed by a three-game series against the Tigers (at which point the Indians will probably just be happy to be facing a team that is NOT the Royals, Twins, or Angels). They end their season on the road in Chicago. If the Indians are in contention, they’ll have to work for it down the stretch. They’re on the road a lot, and they have the toughest schedule of anyone in the division.
Home games: 13
Road games: 16
Cleveland’s 2009 record against opposition: 38-50
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .512

September 3-5 (Fri-Sun): vs. Texas Rangers (3)
September 6-8 (Mon-Wed): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
September 9 (Thu): Off-day
September 10-12 (Fri-Sun): @ Cleveland Indians (3)
September 13 (Mon): Off-day
September 14-16 (Tue-Thu): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
September 17-19 (Fri-Sun): vs. Oakland Athletics (3)
September 20-22 (Mon-Wed): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
September 23 (Thu): Off-day
September 24-26 (Fri-Sun): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
September 27-29 (Mon-Wed): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
September 30-October 3 (Thu-Sun): vs. Toronto Blue Jays (4)

Oh, yes, indeed. All it takes is one month sometimes. Sometimes you can hover near the .500 mark all season and then inexplicably go 17-4 down the stretch. Remember when I said that even if the Royals and Indians aren’t contending, they’re going to have a lot to do with who wins the Central? Yeah, you see it now (By the way, if Detroit is out of it in September, I don’t think they’ll have a lot to say about the division race because history indicates they suck at playing spoiler). Plus, Minnesota has a ton of home games in September AND they end the season at home. They have home series against the Rangers and Royals to start the month. They’ll embark on a six-game road trip after that, which takes them to Cleveland and Chicago. The Twins return home on the 17th to host the A’s, followed by the Indians. After their final off-day on the 23rd, their final road trip involves three against the Tigers, followed by three against the Royals (boy, they sure do see Cleveland and Kansas City a LOT in September). As I said before, they end their season at home with four against the Blue Jays. So as you can see, between the large number of home games and the ease of the opponents based on 2009 results (not as easy as Detroit’s, but still very sub-.500), the conditions are ripe for another huge September surge for the Twins.
Home games: 16
Road games: 12
Minnesota’s 2009 record against opposition: 59-42
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .469

September 2 (Thu): Off-day
September 3-5 (Fri-Sun): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)
September 6-8 (Mon-Wed): @ Minnesota Twins (3)
September 9 (Thu): Off-day
September 10-12 (Fri-Sun): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
September 13-15 (Mon-Wed): vs. Oakland Athletics (3)
September 16 (Thu): Off-day
September 17-19 (Fri-Sun): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
September 20-22 (Mon-Wed): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
September 23-26 (Thu-Sun): @ Cleveland Indians (4)
September 27-29 (Mon-Wed): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
September 30-October 3 (Thu-Sun): vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4)

Is it just me, or do the Oakland Athletics show up a lot against the AL Central in September? At any rate, the Royals went 14-15 in September/October 2009, though that featured a hot streak that occurred at the most inconvenient of times for the Tigers. The rough finished featured being swept at the Metrodome, the turning point of which was a bad decision by Zack Greinke to pitch to Joe Mauer with a base open and two outs in a scoreless game (So in a battle of the Cy Young winner vs. the batting champ, the batting champ wins? I thought good pitching was supposed to beat good hitting). At any rate, their September starts with them at home against the Tigers. After that they head out on the road to Minnesota and Chicago. Following the six-game road trip is a six-game homestand against the A’s and Indians. The off-day on the 16th is their last of the year, as they’ll play the remaining seventeen games consecutively. Their final road trip takes them to Detroit and Cleveland. The Royals finish up 2010 at home with three against the Twins and four against the Rays.
Home games: 16
Road games: 13
Kansas City’s 2009 record against opposition: 35-55
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .489

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Random Spring Training Thoughts

Yesterday was quite a joyous occasion, because it marked the first spring training telecast on Fox Sports Detroit. Granted, I had been able to see the Tigers twice before this spring thanks to MLB.tv (Steven Strasburg’s debut on MASN, and the Mets game over the weekend on SNY), and I’ve listened to almost every game on one radio broadcast or another, but nothing beats having Mario Impemba and Rod Allen on the air for the first time in 2010 (and there were several points during the offseason where I felt in need of their spin). I didn’t even mind the interviews with Johnny Damon and Alex Avila that went on just a little too long.

I don’t have a lot of other thoughts (at least regarding spring training) at this point, but here are the few I do have:

In the battle for the final two spots in the rotation, the lefties have been more impressive than the righties in terms of results (though I haven’t seen either of them on TV yet). Bonderman had a shaky-but-scoreless first outing, a really rough second outing, and a much better third outing. Armando Galarraga (who is the one I personally would like to step up) seems to be portrayed as far behind the rest of the pack (partially because of performance, partially because he’s not as expensive as the others and he still has a minor league option left). Thanks to yesterday’s broadcast, he’s the only one of the four that I’ve seen on television. The fact that the camera angle was off-center made it hard to track the strike zone, but to me, the movement on his pitches looks closer to how it did in 2008 (His pitches in 2009 had a different sort of movement to them, and given the results, presumably it wasn’t a good sort of movement). His slider in particular looked pretty good and, for the most part, he seemed to be able to throw it where he wanted to. However, he had some command issues with the fastball, especially in the second inning when he fell behind several hitters and threw a lot of pitches. Oddly enough, he looked better in the third inning, which is when he gave up the runs (and for the record, he looked all right in the first inning). All in all, three strikeouts and no walks is a positive sign. I think there was some progress made. He’s still got a ways to go, and I don’t think he’ll get there before the end of the spring, but the fact that his pitches look good again is reassuring.

I did see the game against the Phillies today (and I’d like to point out that so far, the Phillies are really the only team that’s shut down the Tigers’ offense). Verlander did give up the two home runs (and cue that cliché about power pitchers giving up LONG home runs), but his stuff looked really good.

Every pitcher in camp seemingly has an ERA of zero or over five. I don’t think you can read much into that at this point, though.

Everyone’s hitting better than they did last year except for Guillen, Sizemore, and Everett (and Inge, but he’s only just started playing in games). I’m not going to read much into that either (I hate using this as an example, but in 2008, Pudge hit eight home runs in spring training and only hit nine for the entire 2008 season). There’s been some debate over at
Bless You Boys about the validity of spring training performances. If a guy turns in a really good spring training performance, you have the right to regard it with some skepticism (especially if it’s out-of-character), but on the other hand, you can’t not reward it. Sometimes you end up like Juan Rincon, but usually you can at least milk a little bit out of him and he may end up surprising you (like Carlos Peña did for the Rays a few years back).

There was a big knock on Austin Jackson for the amount of times he struck out in the minor leagues last year, but so far he’s demonstrated a decent amount of patience at the plate. I wonder what the split was last year on strikeouts looking versus strikeouts swinging.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Tigers Amateur Analysis Glossary

During the 2007 season, I had a tendency to kind of coin my own phrases to describe certain situations. I expanded on the list in 2008 and 2009. Not wanting to leave you newcomers in the dark, I’ve helpfully decided to compile my terms into this short glossary, so enjoy.

[Name] Also Swears in English: During every television and radio broadcast of baseball games, there are microphones set up all over the park. Some of those microphones are near home plate or the dugouts, which means that sometimes they pick up someone saying something you’re not supposed to say on television. It’s kind of amusing because it forces the broadcasters to make awkward apologies and hope they’re not fined by the FCC. Anyways, the catchphrase originated one day when Pudge Rodriguez (a native Spanish speaker) struck out or popped up or did something he didn’t want to do at the plate. As the microphone near home plate picked up his frustration, I observed, “Hey, Pudge swears in English” (Granted, perhaps I should not have been surprised by this, given that he’s lived in the United States for, like, 20 years and speaks English fairly well). Shortly thereafter, I noticed that a great deal of the non-native English speakers still chose English as their profanity language of choice. The phrase has now expanded to include any incident of obvious swearing, either by lip-reading or being picked up on the mic, regardless of the player’s country of origin.

Baseball Guru: This is my website name for one of my uncles (well, it’s a bit more complicated than that, since he’s divorced, but I won’t bore you with the details). His name is Chuck and he’s a former catcher (high school, college, and independent ball, I think) who knows a lot about baseball. He’s the first person I go to if I feel I need more insight on something. He is a Yankees fan, which I’m sure will upset some of you, but he likes the Tigers very much as well (except when they’re playing the Yankees; in fact, they are the team he fears the most because according to him, no matter how good or bad the Tigers are in any given season, they always play the Yankees really tough). His favorite player all-time is Mickey Mantle. His favorite current Yankee is Derek Jeter, although I know for a fact he loves Granderson (It was a dream come true for him when that trade happened). Among the Tigers, he seems to be particularly fond of Brandon Inge and Justin Verlander. He is quite old school, meaning that he isn’t about to whip a bunch of UZRs and WARs at you, and he subscribes to notions like starting pitchers being able to finish their own games.

Fashion Police: This is the unavoidable tendency I have to comment on someone anytime they look “different” in some way, shape, or form, be it wearing their pants differently, new shoes, or a change in facial hair. I also do a Fashion Police report anytime there’s a fan wearing some sort of wacky outfit. It can end in either a positive or negative assessment, but it’s not a feature I particularly enjoy, mostly because I end up completely rambling about the subject and losing all credibility whatsoever.

Human Voodoo Doll/Sympathy Pain: I kind of alternate between these two terms, so I’ve put them together in the glossary. Back in 2007, I seemed to frequently come up with little bumps and bruises that oddly coincided with the players suffering similar injuries. It started one day at work when I was telling one of my co-workers about the time I pulled my hamstring while fencing. I got home that night and turned on the game, only to learn that Pudge had had to leave with a hamstring injury. And so it continued for most of the season. Magglio got hit in the hand by a pitch, and then my hand was really sore for about two weeks (to the point where it was excruciating to open stock bottles). I had a sore back one day, and Brandon Inge missed the game with back spasms. Pudge and I had issues with dizziness around the same time. The reason it has two different terms is that the timing of these coincidences was never consistent. Sometimes, the “real” injury would happen first, and then I would feel it, and sometimes it was the other way around. My co-worker was the one who coined the “sympathy pains” term. My best friend Laura, mistaking one of my posts to mean that I always suffered the injury before the players, suggested the Human Voodoo Doll. I guess the term I use is gonna depend on the timing, but hopefully I won’t have to use either. This was not as prevalent in 2008 and I can’t think of a single time in 2009 when it happened, so it seems to have gone away. I’ve kept it in the glossary just in case.

It’s a West Coast Thing: For some reason, games that the Tigers played in ballparks on the west coast are prone to really strange things happening, be it fan interference, kissing, broadcasters focusing more on the cotton candy vendors than the game, pitching meltdowns, blown saves, highlight-reel plays, ejections, balls taking weird hops, a series of bad calls that turn out to be the deciding factor of the game, you name it. Angel Stadium and Safeco Field are more prone to strangeness than McAfee Coliseum, but it has its moments as well. Usually the weirdness is either bad (see “Twilight Zone Hell”) or funny, but every once in a while it will help the Tigers out. Occasionally, one of those west coast teams will bring the weirdness with them to Comerica Park.

Mood Music: This is a feature I introduced last year. Following my paragraph previewing the next game, I embed a Youtube video of a song that I think is appropriate to that game for one reason or another (usually I’m aiming more for the song itself than for the video content, but occasionally it’s a movie scene or something). I do not do this with every game (sometimes I’m short on time or nothing’s inspiring me). Also, I will repeat songs within the season sometimes (not very often), because there are only so many songs I can use.

Reyes Effect/Pavano Effect: This is my term for the phenomenon of the Tigers offense being absolutely stymied by a normally so-so, unremarkable, or unknown opposing pitcher. It’s named after Anthony Reyes (formerly of the St. Louis Cardinals, now with the Cleveland Indians), who completely handcuffed the Tiger batters in Game 1 of the 2006 World Series, retiring 17 guys in a row at one point (and going into this matchup, the odds were dramatically in favor of Justin Verlander, who ended up struggling and began the parade of pitcher errors that became the theme of the entire World Series). Reyes went on to have a rather dismal 2007, finishing 2-14 with a 6.04 ERA, and one of those losses did come against the Tigers. The Indians somehow ended up with him in 2008, and to his credit, he did make a couple of decent starts for them, but had Tommy John surgery midway through 2009. Pitchers who turned in a Reyes Effect performance on the Tigers in 2007 include Josh Towers of the Toronto Blue Jays, Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics, Cha Seung Baek of the Seattle Mariners, and Kameron Loe of the Texas Rangers. Now, occasionally I branded a performance as a Reyes Effect, only to reverse my diagnosis further on down the road, usually because that pitcher turns out to be consistent and effective in most of his starts regardless of the opposing team. James Shields of the Rays is an example of this. The Reyes Effect did rear its ugly head in 2008 and 2009 as well, but I’m not gonna look up who the pitchers were cuz I’m just too lazy (The 2007 list was a leftover from when I originally made this glossary). The Pavano Effect is named after Carl Pavano. It occurs when a Reyes Effect-type pitcher proceeds to stymie the Tigers multiple times throughout a season.

That F**king Drum: I really hate that drum that they play incessantly during the late innings at Jacobs/Progressive Field. It’s incredibly annoying (which is a shame, since I’ve been kinda curious about seeing the Tigers on the road, and Cleveland would be the most logical choice, geographically speaking). Also, if I’ve got the TV playing too loud, that drum is always at a different rhythm than what my heart is beating at, and that hurts (It’s kind of like standing next to a large subwoofer that’s blaring out hip-hop music).

There’s That Bear Again: This is a line from an Animaniacs short called “Hollywoodchuck” (you can find it quite easily on YouTube). In the cartoon, the woodchuck would keep running into the bear, who would then pummel him in some creative fashion while the narrator would dryly observe, “Oh, there’s that bear again.” Back in ’07, there was a game that the Tigers were playing against the Indians in which one of the Indians was hitting Tigers pitching particularly hard (I think Travis Hafner). At some point late in the game, said Indian was coming up to the plate with some runners on and Mario Impemba commented “There’s that guy again” in the exact same tone. Since then, that line has popped into my head anytime an opposing player is hitting the Tigers particularly hard.

Total Amateur Analysis: This is what the site used to be called, and I’m sure I’ll screw up sometime and use the old name, so now you know.

Twilight Zone Hell: This is a game in which strange things happen that turn out to be bad news, and the Tigers end up losing. More often than not, Twilight Zone Hell makes its home on the west coast (see “It’s a West Coast Thing”).

Umpires on Crack: I’m not one to blame umpires for Tiger losses. That’s not my thing, and it smells largely of scapegoating to me, since no one’s perfect. That said, there are a few games where umpires either make consistently bad calls, or one whacked-out call turns out to be the deciding factor in a game. That’s where Umpires on Crack comes in. And I think we all can come up with one big, fat, tragic example of that right off the top of our heads.

Wardrobe Miscues: This is similar to Fashion Police, except Wardrobe Miscues are almost always negative.

I’m sure I’ll be coining more phrases this season, but this’ll do for now.

Coming Soon: The Tigers Amateur Analysis Guide to Baseball Fashion.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

2010 and the AL Central: August

Ah, August. The last hurrah before school starts again. It’s usually a busy month for me (my birthday, my annual trip to Comerica Park, etc). This is the month where the grind of the season starts to wear on some teams. Who will be the one to collapse in August 2010? Hopefully not Detroit.


August 2 (Mon): Off-day
August 3-5 (Tue-Thu): vs. Chicago White Sox (3)
August 6-8 (Fri-Sun): vs. Los Angeles Angels (3)
August 9-11 (Mon-Wed): vs. Tampa Bay Rays (3)
August 12 (Thu): Off-day
August 13-15 (Fri-Sun): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
August 16-19 (Mon-Thu): @ New York Yankees (4)
August 20-22 (Fri-Sun): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
August 23-25 (Mon-Wed): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
August 26-29 (Thu-Sun): @ Toronto Blue Jays (4)
August 30 (Mon): Off-day
August 31-September 2 (Tue-Thu): @ Minnesota Twins (3)

The Tigers begin August with a Monday off-day before starting a nine-game homestand that’ll likely prove to be a challenging one. The White Sox come a-calling on my birthday, and the last time that happened, it was 2007 and it didn’t go so well (That was the first Tigers game I ever went to. They lost 7-4, three White Sox hit home runs and it was the only time I ever got to see Pudge play in person. The Tigers tend to lose on my birthday, although they won in 2009). After the White Sox depart, the Tigers will host the Angels and then the Rays. They have an off-day on the 12th, after which they’ll find themselves in a stretch of seventeen games in a row, beginning with a difficult seven-game road trip to U.S. Cellular Field and Yankee Stadium (and remember, the Yankees tend to be a much better second-half team). They then return home for three against the Indians (another team that usually does better in the second half) and three against the Royals (who tend to be a pain in the ass at the most inconvenient of times). They finish August on the road. Specifically, it’s a ten-game, three-city road trip that begins in Toronto (Wow, we go there in August and not April? That’s unheard of). The Tigers wrap up August in Minnesota. In recent history, August has generally not been kind to the Tigers. That was not really the case in 2009, as they finished the month 16-13. Hopefully that starts a new trend.
Home games: 15
Road games: 14
Detroit’s 2009 record against opposition: 53-50
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .505

White Sox

August 2 (Mon): Off-day
August 3-5 (Tue-Thu): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
August 6-9 (Fri-Mon): @ Baltimore Orioles (4)
August 10-12 (Tue-Thu): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
August 13-15 (Fri-Sun): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)
August 16 (Mon): Off-day
August 17-19 (Tue-Thu): @ Minnesota Twins (3)
August 20-22 (Fri-Sun): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
August 23 (Mon): Off-day
August 24-26 (Tue-Thu): vs. Baltimore Orioles (3)
August 27-29 (Fri-Sun): vs. New York Yankees (3)
August 30-September 1 (Mon-Wed): @ Cleveland Indians (3)

August killed the White Sox in 2009. They went 11-17, culminating in a hellish road trip to Boston, New York, and Minneapolis that completely took them out of contention. August 2010 gives them a fair amount of the East and a lot of the Central. They begin in Detroit for three before heading to Baltimore. I should point out that August features the second of only two long stretches with no break for the entire season for the White Sox (The schedule was kind to them in that regard). They return home on the 10th to face the Twins, followed by the Tigers. They’ll see Minnesota again on their next road trip, as well as Kansas City. After their off-day on the 23rd, they’ll have a six-game homestand that features the Orioles and the Yankees. The White Sox finish up August in Cleveland with three games against the Indians. The Sox have slightly more road games than home games in August, but they’ll be seeing a lot of the same teams twice, and they have the easiest schedule of the Central in terms of winning percentage.
Home games: 12
Road games: 15
Chicago’s 2009 record against opposition: 41-47
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .483


August 2-5 (Mon-Thu): @ Boston Red Sox (4)
August 6-8 (Fri-Sun): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
August 9 (Mon): Off-day
August 10-12 (Tue-Thu): vs. Baltimore Orioles (3)
August 13-15 (Fri-Sun): vs. Seattle Mariners (3)
August 16 (Mon): Off-day
August 17-19 (Tue-Thu): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
August 20-22 (Fri-Sun): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
August 23 (Mon): Off-day
August 24-26 (Tue-Thu): vs. Oakland Athletics (3)
August 27-29 (Fri-Sun): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
August 30-September 1 (Mon-Wed): vs. Chicago White Sox (3)

The Indians will be at Fenway Park for four games to begin August. They’ll then return home for a nine-game homestand against the Twins, Orioles, and Mariners. Following the off-day on the 16th, they’ll head out on the road, visiting Kansas City and Detroit. They have another off-day on the 23rd, followed by a nine-game homestand against the A’s, Royals, and White Sox that’ll take them right into September. The Indians have a TON of home games in August, and as I said earlier, the Indians tend to be a better second-half team (even if they are out of contention at this point, these two facts make them a dangerous team). In 2007, they ran away with the Central crown after spending most of the first half in a tight back-and-forth battle with the Tigers. In 2008, they recovered from an awful first half (during which last place seemed all but assured) to finish the season in third place at exactly 81-81. It looked like they were going to do the same in 2009. After going 12-12 in July, they went 15-12 in August (the only month they had that was north of .500). Then September came, but that’s a story better suited for next time.
Home games: 18
Road games 10
Cleveland’s 2009 record against opposition: 45-60
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .490


August 2-5 (Mon-Thu): @ Tampa Bay Rays (4)
August 6-8 (Fri-Sun): @ Cleveland Indians (3)
August 9 (Mon): Off-day
August 10-12 (Tue-Thu): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
August 13-15 (Fri-Sun): vs. Oakland Athletics (3)
August 16 (Mon): Off-day
August 17-19 (Tue-Thu): vs. Chicago White Sox (3)
August 20-22 (Fri-Sun): vs. Los Angeles Angels (3)
August 23-26 (Mon-Thu): @ Texas Rangers (4)
August 27-29 (Fri-Sun): @ Seattle Mariners (3)
August 30 (Mon): Off-day
August 31-September 2 (Tue-Thu): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)

The Twinkies will be on the road to start off August (a ten-game, three-city road trip, to be exact). After a four-game series at the Trop, they head on up to Progressive Field for three, and finish up at the Cell. They then return home for nine. Their homestand features visits from the A’s, White Sox, and Angels. After long stays both on the road and at home, their next road trip is a bit shorter (seven games) and features visits to Arlington and Seattle. The end of August marks the beginning of another nine-game homestand for the Twins (most of which will be in September). We’ll be the first opponent. As you can see, the Twins will be on the road a lot in August and it’s a difficult schedule in terms of the teams they’re facing, but they are also teams that they did well against in 2009.
Home games: 12
Road games: 17
Minnesota’s combined 2009 record against opposition: 51-45
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .507

August 2-4 (Mon-Wed): @ Oakland Athletics (3)
August 5 (Thu): Off-day
August 6-8 (Fri-Sun): @ Seattle Mariners (3)
August 9-11 (Mon-Wed): @ Los Angeles Angels (3)
August 12-15 (Thu-Sun): vs. New York Yankees (4)
August 16 (Mon): Off-day
August 17-19 (Tue-Thu): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
August 20-22 (Fri-Sun): vs. Chicago White Sox (3)
August 23-25 (Mon-Wed): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
August 26 (Thu): Off-day
August 27-29 (Fri-Sun): @ Cleveland Indians (3)
August 30-September 1 (Mon-Wed): vs. Texas Rangers (3)

The Royals begin August with a nine-game west coast swing. Their series with the A’s to kick off the month marks the end of a 20-game stretch with no off-day. They then visit Seattle and Anaheim before coming back to KC for a ten-game homestand against the Yankees, Indians, and White Sox (August features a lot of the West and a lot of the Central for the Royals). This is followed up by a six-game road trip to Detroit and Cleveland. They finish up the month at home with a three-game series against the Rangers. This’ll be a challenging month for the Royals. They’ll be on the road slightly more than at home, but it includes a long west coast trip and series against several teams that are expected to be in the playoff chase. Not surprisingly, the Royals are forecasted to have the most difficult August schedule of the AL Central teams.
Home games: 13
Road games: 15
Kansas City’s combined 2009 record against opposition: 39-54
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .522

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.