Thursday, June 30, 2005


I'm guessing Ugie Urbina is not a fan of Citizens Bank Park, which is his new home in Philly. How could he be? He went from one of the most spacious parks -- Comerica in Detroit -- to a band box.

So far since Urbina was traded from the Tigers to the Phils, he has given up 5 HR in 5 1/3 innings at the Zen and posted a 15.19 ERA. On the road for the Phils, he is unscored upon in three outings.

At Comerica this year, Urbina gave up 4 R in 15 IP and had a 2.40 ERA.

It's got to be tough watching balls that would have been caught in Comerica end up in the seats in Philly. I guess Urbina has got to change his approach at the Zen and realize there is no margin for error. Otherwise, it will be a long second half for Ugie and the Phils.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Mister Roberts

One of the fun features of Baseball is the "similar players" comparisons at the bottom of each player’s page. For example, we recently discovered that through the 2004 season, Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts was most similar to Bret Barberie.

Yes, that Bret Barberie.

Barberie, a utility infielder with Montreal, Florida, Baltimore and the Cubs in the early to mid 1990s, played six years in the majors and hit .271-16-133 in 1,434 at-bats. Roberts ended last year at .264-12-122 in 1,502 at-bats. The major difference between the two players was in stolen bases, where Roberts topped Barberie, 73-16.

One other difference: Those numbers represent Barberie’s entire career.

Roberts, of course, is continuing his career and having a career year, batting .363 with 12 HR and 43 RBI. He has 16 SB and a .435 OBP. He ranks No. 2 in the majors in OPS with a 1.038 mark – right between Derrek Lee and Albert Pujols.

The only other middle infielder to rank in the Top 20 for OPS is Baltimore SS Miguel Tejada, who is ninth (.968).

Roberts is making $390,000 this season. Lee is making $7.7 million, Pujols $11 million, and Tejada $10.8 million. A-Rod, who is fourth in OPS, is making $25.7 million.

Bret Barberie made $958,750 with the Orioles in 1995.

Turns out that Brian Roberts is no Bret Barberie.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Pitching is the art of instilling fear

That was one of Sandy Koufax's famous quotes. Another was "Show me a guy who can't pitch inside and I'll show you a loser."

On this date 50 years ago, Sandy Koufax made his major league debut. Koufax famously had two careers, so to speak -- his wild years and his untouchable years.

In his first six seasons, Koufax was 36-40 with a 4.57 ERA. He averaged 5.3 walks and 8.9 strikeouts per 9 innings. He had five shutouts.

Over his final six years, when he learned to harness his remarkable stuff, Koufax was 129-47 with a 2.19 ERA. He averaged 2.3 walks and 9.4 strikeouts per 9 innings. He had 35 shutouts.

He pitched a no-hitter in each year from 1962-65. In Game 7 of the 1965 World Series, he beat the Twins on a three-hit shutout -- on two days rest.

Mazel tov!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Memory lane

On this date in 1971, Phillies pitcher Rick Wise tossed a no-hitter and homered twice in a 4-0 win over the Reds at Riverfront Stadium. Ross Grimsley, a 21-year-old rookie at the time, got the loss.

Grimsley, of course, had one of the game's most colorful nicknames: "Scuz." It also was accurate.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bonderman, Jeremy Bonderman

In honor of AFI releasing its Top 100 movie quotes of all time (where "Bond, James Bond" ranked No. 22), here's a salute to Tigers ace of the future -- perhaps even the present -- Jeremy Bonderman.

Bonderman got his 9th win of the season last night and helped lift the Tigers over .500 at 34-33. Detroit is 3 GB in the wild card race.

Since his midseason struggles a year ago, Bonderman, a mere child of 22, is 14-7 with a 3.19 ERA over his last 23 starts. He's got two shutouts during that span and has struck out 142 in 160.2 IP. That's 8 K per 9 innings.

Bonderman's success can be traced to pitching coach Bob Cluck telling him to quit thinking on the mound and have fun. Bonderman responded with a 14 K shutout of the White Sox on August 23, 2004.

He is tied for 4th in the majors in wins since then and his ERA is the 15th best in the majors among pitchers with at least 100 IP.

The Tigers got Bonderman, who has a 97-mph fastball, wicked slider and improving change-up, from the A's in the deal that ended up sending Jeff Weaver to the Yankees. I hated that deal when it happened. But it's looking very good now thanks to Bonderman.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Just win baby

Who are the winningest pitchers of the 21st century?

1. Randy Johnson 93
2. Greg Maddux 90
2. Bartolo Colon 90
4. Mark Mulder 89
5. Tim Hudson 87
6. Curt Schilling 86
6. Roger Clemens 86
8. Russ Ortiz 85
9. Mike Mussina 83
10. Pedro Martinez 82

Martinez is the ERA leader among that group with a 2.55 mark followed by Johnson at 2.76, Schilling at 3.30, Hudson at 3.34, Maddux at 3.43, Clemens at 3.49, Mussina at 3.75, Colon at 3.85, Mulder at 3.95, and Ortiz at 4.08.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Mo Po

It's dangerous to get too excited, but after nine games Placido Polanco is looking like he might be the best mid-season trade addition for the Tigers since Doyle Alexander in 1987.

Alexander went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA and helped lead Detroit to the AL East title in a thrilling stretch run. The Tigers edged Toronto in the final series of the season in one of the greatest, least-talked about finishes to a season in MLB history.

Of course, the Tigers gave up a youngster named John Smoltz to get Alexander, so the deal might have hurt them in the long run. But I've got no complaints. Smoltz was only in A ball at the time, so you're really relying on hindsight to evaluate that deal.

Anyway, Detroit has won 6 of its last 8 and scored eight or more runs four times. This from an offense that was ranked last in the AL prior to Polanco's arrival. Detroit is 33-33 and four games out of the wild card.

In his 9 games with the Tigers, Polanco is batting .378 with a homer (game winner), seven RBI and eight runs scored. His OPS is .928.

Plus, there's this good news from the Free-Press: Right-handed starter Justin Verlander, the Tigers' top draft pick in 2004, was promoted to Class A Lakeland to Double-A Erie, which could be his last stop before the majors. Verlander was 9-2 at Lakeland and led the Florida State League in wins, ERA (1.67) and strikeouts (104). He is due to start for Erie on Tuesday night.

Maybe Verlander makes it to the Show and can push the Tigers over the top.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Nice numbers

Tigers 3B Brandon Inge, a former catcher, is probably the most unlikely leadoff hitter in the majors. But, so far, he’s produced pretty good numbers. This season, Inge is batting .302 with 39 R, 6 HR and 30 RBI. His on-base percentage is a career-best .385.

Inge struggled as a hitter when he was a catcher. He batted .202 in 2002 and .203 in 2003. (He didn’t hit .204 in 2004.)

In 2004, with the arrival of Pudge, Inge was moved to the OF and then 3B. It now appears that catching was a drain on Inge’s hitting. (And for the record Inge was a very solid defensive catcher.)

Over his last 162 games, Inge is batting .285 with 73 R, 17 HR and 84 RBI.

Not too bad, especially from a guy in your leadoff spot. Plus, Inge is only 28 and probably just hitting his prime. He still needs to improve defensively at 3B, but overall he’s been one of the biggest reasons for the Tigers turnaround since 2003.

Polanco update

For those who are interested, reports out of Detroit say that Placido Polanco is a huge hit with his new teammates. His patient style at the plate is rubbing off on the younger players, too.

Since joining the Tigers, Polanco is 10-for-20 with 5 R, 4 RBI and 2 SB. He also been perfect defensively, an area in which Detroit needed help.

Long division

Who is the best team in baseball? The standings would suggest the White Sox, who are 43-22 and winning at an MLB-bests .662 clip. But for what it’s worth, there are only two teams in the majors that have posted winning records against each division in their league – the Orioles and the Padres. (No team has posted a winning mark against every division plus interleague rivals.)

The White Sox are 20-5 against the AL Central this season, and 15-13 against everyone else in the AL. The Angels are 11-6 vs. the AL West and 19-17 elsewhere. The O’s are 18-8 in the AL East and 15-12 outside of the division.

In the NL, the Nationals are 16-13 in the East and 14-11 outside of it. The Cardinals, who have the major’s second-best record of 41-24, are 21-5 in the Central and 13-14 in the others. The Padres are 15-12 in the West and 18-9 elsewhere.

Given the unbalanced schedules, these numbers bode well for most of the division leaders, I’d say. You’ve got to take care of biz in the division, and these teams, generally, are the best in that category. The only division leaders that don’t have the best record in divisional play are the Nationals and the Padres. In the NL East, Atlanta is 18-14 in the division. In the NL West, the D-backs are 20-12 while the Dodgers are 17-11.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bronx cheer

Steinbrenner is apparently so disgusted with the Yankees that he's tearing down the stadium:

NEW YORK -- A new Yankee Stadium leaped from past dreams to future reality Wednesday, when club and government officials parted the curtain on construction plans for an $800 million project to replace and honor the Major Leagues' third-oldest ballpark.

Numerous political dignitaries, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Gov. George Pataki and a host of city and Bronx elected officials, joined Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in an event highlighted by the unveiling of renderings of the 51,000-seat park targeted for a 2009 opening.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Winning ways

After thinking about Hooks Dauss being the Tigers all-time leader in pitching wins, I wondered who leads every franchise. Well, with the exception of the newer expansion teams, here's the list:

Braves: Warren Spahn, 356
Orioles: Jim Palmer, 268
Red Sox: Roger Clemens, Cy Young, 192
Cubs: Charley Root, 201
White Sox: Ted Lyons, 260
Reds: Eppa Rixey, 179
Indians: Bob Feller, 266
Astros: Joe Niekro, 144
Royals: Paul Splittorff, 166
Angles: Chuck Finley, 165
Dodgers: Don Sutton, 233
Brewers: Jim Slaton, 117
Twins (Washington): Walter Johnson, 417
Mets: Tom Seaver, 198
Yankees: Whitey Ford, 236
Athletics: Eddie Plank, 284
Phillies: Steve Carlton, 241
Pirates: Wilbur Cooper, 202
Padres: Eric Show, 100
Giants: Christy Mathewson, 372
Mariners: Jamie Moyer, 131
Cardinals: Bob Gibson, 251
Rangers: Charlie Hough, 139
Blue Jays: Dave Stieb, 175
Nationals (Montreal): Steve Rogers, 158

Just a thought

There has been talk from time to time about the Phils moving Ryan Madson from the bullpen to the rotation. Madson, a starter in the minors, won 12 games at Scranton in 2003 and 16 at Reading in 2002 with a 3.20 ERA. He also won 14 with a 2.59 ERA in the South Atlantic League in 2000.

Anyway, with Tim Worrell getting ready to make a return shortly ... and the addition of Ugie Urbina to the pen ... and the loss of Randy Wolf to the DL ... and the Phils' already suspect back of the rotation ... do the Phils consider moving Madson?

If Worrell returns to form, he can take over Madson's role because Urbina has already taken over Worrell's former role.

The other option would be to leave Madson in the pen and hope you can get 5 innings out of whatever starters you use. Then you can start bringing in Aaron Fultz, Madson, Worrell, Urbina and Wagner.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

An apology

I'm sorry, Pat Burrell. I'm sorry I ever doubted you. I'm still not crazy about your swing, but, hey, Dave Winfield didn't have a pretty swing and all he did was hit .308 or better four times, blast 465 homers and go to the Hall of Fame. And let's not even examine Vlad Guerrero's swing.

You're only 28 and maybe just now coming into your prime, like many players do at that age. Maybe it was Larry Bowa. Maybe it was the nagging injuries. Whatever the reason, you're hitting .324 with 13 homers and 54 RBI and should be an All-Star this season.

Of course, the true reason for the turnaround is probably the fact that I don't have you on my fantasy team this year, as I had the previous few seasons.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Who Am I?

In the 1999 and 2000 seasons, I recorded 4 strikeouts in one inning 3 times.

Voodoo Boy says....

The Red Sox victory in the 2004 World Series did not break the "curse of the Bambino". Their dramatic 4 game sweep after falling behind 3-0 in the ALCS passed the curse on to the Yankees.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Good Time Charlie

Charlie Manuel withstood his share of bashing, some deserved and some premature, when the Phillies started the season so poorly. Now that the Phils are the hottest team in the majors and have gotten into the fight for the NL East, how much credit should Manuel receive?

Is it just a fluke, or is Manuel's laid-back, positive approach paying dividends? Would such a turnaround have happened under the fiery Larry Bowa, who would have blown his stack multiple times in April and early May?

It appears Manuel is a player's manager and the players have responded. I think that deserves some credit. He stayed the course and kept preaching his good-time message. Now, if the fans in Philly would only enjoy it and forget about T.O. and the Eagles for a month or so.

Who am I

I am the only pitcher to be the all-time wins leader for two different franchises. As it turns out, one in each league.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Polanco for Urbina

As a fan of the Phillies in the NL and, more importantly, the Tigers in the AL, this trade obviously holds great interst.

For Philadelphia, I think it's a slam dunk great move. Urbina can pitch the 8th and can spell Wagner, or step into the closer role if Wagner gets hurt. The Phils bullpen has an ERA of 5.68, so GM Ed Wade went out and got the best available arm. He deserves credit for this one.

Some Phils fans have been crying that Wade should have received more than Urbina and utility infielder Ramon Martinez. C'mon. He was trading Placido Polanco, not Jeff Kent. He wasn't going to get a quality starter for Polanco -- especially when teams are so reluctant to trade arms to begin with.

Furthermore, the Marlins were in the running to get Urbina. The Phils prevented a division rival from improving itself while giving their own pen a big shot in the arm.

For the Tigers, this is obviously an upgrade at second base -- both offensively and defensively. Polanco is a pro's pro and should be a great addition to the team.

However, Detroit is 12 GB behind the White Sox in the AL Central and 8 GB behind the Twins for the wild card. Unless the Tigers are planning additional moves off this one, or really believe they can get back above .500 and contend for the playoffs, this might be a bad trade. Polanco is signed only through 2005, and it hardly seems like the time for the Tigers to rent a player.

Nonetheless, I love Polanco as a player. He hits for average, puts the ball in play (only 48 K in his last 661 AB) and he can play a number of positions -- all well, too. He definitely improves the middle infield situation and will help the lineup.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A big bear

Just when it looked like the Cardinals might run away with the NL Central, the Cubbies have won 13 out of 16 to make things a little more interesting. Chicago was 18-22 on May 21 and 8 GB St. Louis.

Derreck Lee is having a great year for the Cubs. During their current 13-3 stretch, Lee is batting .467-5-14 with 17 runs. Not bad. For the season, Lee is hitting .385-17-52. He leads the NL in nearly every major offensive category except RBI (second) and stolen bases (9, which places him 10th).

Of course, with Albert Pujols around, Lee won't be voted to the All-Star team. Pujols (.333-14-45) leads Lee by about 313,000 votes.

I guess the Yankees really are that good.....

On May 5, the Baltimore Orioles stood in 1st place in the AL East with leads (in the loss column) over division rivals as follows:

Boston -3
Toronto -3
New York -7
Tampa Bay -9

May 5 is also the day Sammy Sosa went on the DL, starting a string of injuries over the next few days and weeks to O's starters including Luis Matos, Larry Bigbie, Javy Lopez, Erik Bedard, Brian Roberts and Geronimo Gil (of course, Gil doesn't really count as he only became a starter after Lopez went on the DL). Only Sosa is currently back in the lineup.

Today, the Orioles stand in 1st place in the AL East with leads (in the loss column) over division rivals as follows:

Boston -4
Toronto -6
New York -7
Tampa Bay -15

As you can see, only the New York Yankees have not lost ground during this span. I now understand why they remain the favorite of the talking heads.

AL All-Star Voting

A look at the leaders in the AL voting, and who should be leading:

American League
1B - Tino Martinez, Yankees (.238-12-30)
Should be: Mark Teixeira, Rangers (.303-14-43)

2B - Brian Roberts, Orioles (.368-11-33)
Should be: Roberts

SS - Miguel Tejada, Orioles (.326-16-49)
Should be: Tejada

3B - Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (.317-17-49)
Should be: Rodriguez (as much as I hate to say it)

C - Jason Varitek, Red Sox (.306-10-23)
Should be: Varitek

DH - David Ortiz, Red Sox (.294-13-46)
Should be: Ortiz

OF - Vlad Guerrero, Angels (.303-7-24); Manny Ramirez, Red Sox (.256-11-43); Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners (.310-3-17)
Should be: Garret Anderson, Angels (.313-7-47); Johnny Damon, Red Sox (.348-1-31); Ramirez

Walk this way

I was checking out stats since the start of the 2001 season, and came across this nugget. Even though Barry Bonds is on the sidelines I figured it still was worth sharing.

Since the start of the 2001 season Bonds struck out 239 times and was intentionally walked 284 times. His total walks for that time period were 755. (Hmm. That number sounds familiar.)

Next on the walks list was Bobby Abreu with 491.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Overlooked and forgotten

Here's a trivia question that will win you any amount of money or any number of drinks at the bar:

What pitcher has the most wins in Detroit Tigers history?

Jack Morris? Nope. Hall of Famer "Prince" Hal Newhouser? Good guess, but wrong. Mickey Lolich? Sorry.

It's George "Hooks" Dauss, who won 222 games for the Tigers from 1912-1926. Entering this season, Dauss, whose career record was 222-182 with a 3.30 ERA, ranked 68th in baseball history for wins. And no one knows it. (For the record, Dauss also had 40 saves in his career.)

Rob Neyer, who wrote the terrific "Big Book of Baseball Lineups," admits in the book that he had no idea Dauss was the Tigers all-time leader. And Neyer is generally regarded as a pretty sharp baseball historian.

But this is not a surprise. Even in reading books about the history of the Tigers, Dauss usually gets only a passing mention. To me, this is stunning.

Dauss never pitched for a championship team, so that's probably part of the reason. He also played for many mediocre Tiger teams, which finished better than fourth only five times in his career. But, still, this is an injustice.

Called "Hooks" because of his wonderful curve, Dauss ranked among the league's top eight pitchers in wins seven seasons and won more than 20 games three times. Nine times he ranked in the top eight for complete games. Four times he was among the top nine in win percentage.

In 1917, Dauss went 17-14 with a 2.43 ERA and six shutouts. He lost three times when the Tigers were blanked and dropped six more games in which Detroit scored two or fewer runs. (Thanks to the Baseball Page.)

Granted, he probably wasn't as good a pitcher as Morris or Newhouser or Lolich, but it's time for Hooks to get his due.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Rally cats

Suddenly, the Tigers are the Comeback Kids.

Just a few days ago, Detroit was 2-17 when trailing after six innings. Then came a 6-run 7th against Baltimore on Sunday in an 8-6 win. Then came a 5-run 7th against Texas on Wednesday in a 6-4 victory. Then came 2 in the 9th and 1 in the 10th to win 6-5 today over the Rangers. Plus, the Tigers got 2 runs in the 8th in a 5-3 win over Baltimore last Saturday.

A team that looked relatively lifeless a week ago in NY now is a game under .500 and only 5 GB in, dare I say, the wild card race.

The win today might have bailed out manager Alan Trammell, who probably left starter Nate Robertson in the game too long. Robertson wiggled out of trouble in the third, fifth and sixth innings before giving up a 3-2 lead in the seventh while being over 100 pitches.

Then again, Texas used two infield hits, an error and two sac flies to do the damage, so it’s not like they were pounding the ball.

Now, the Tigers have three games at home against Baltimore, which should enter Comerica reeling after being one out away from taking 3 of 4 in Boston. After facing the O’s, Detroit has 12 games against NL West teams. Then comes three games against each Minnesota, Arizona, the White Sox and the Yanks.

What might Mazzilli do?

Orioles starting pitching had a 3.96 ERA when starting catcher Javy Lopez went on the DL. The starters have a 2.17 ERA in the 8 starts since with Geronimo Gil and Sal Fasano behind the plate. Lopez has a broken right hand and won't be back til July at the earliest.

Gil and Fasano are excellent behind the plate but neither can hit. Lopez is an excellent hitter but average behind the plate.

If the O's starting pitching continues to shine with Gil and Fasano behind the plate, what will Mazzilli do with Lopez when he comes off the DL?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Strangers no more

The hottest team in the majors is the Texas Rangers. It's no surprise that the Rangers are putting up runs, not with Alfonzo Soriano, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Mench, Michael Young, and Hank Blalock pretty much mashing the ball.

But The Gambler at 7-2 with a 1.65 ERA? Bet nobody saw that coming. In fact, Rogers has won 7 consecutive starts and posted an 0.87 ERA during that stretch. Only once in the previous 7 seasons did Rogers have an ERA under 4.

Equally surprising is the pitching of Chris Young, who is 5-2 with a 2.93 ERA. Young has posted a 1.59 ERA over his last 7 starts, going 4-1 in the process.

You will win your fair share of games with a 1-2 punch like that.

I'm quite pleased to see Young doing well, having had the chance to cover some of his games while he was at Princeton. Those were basketball games. He was the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 1998-99. He also was first team All-Ivy in baseball that year.