Thursday, November 16, 2006

Casey at the bat

The Tigers resigned Sean Casey to play first base, the only hole in the lineup. Detroit was going to look for more power at the spot, but after signing Sheffield decided Casey's left-handed bat was a good fit.

I like Casey, mostly because I think I can run as fast.

So much to catch up on

First, a big cheer to AL Rookie of the Year Justin Verlander and Manager of the Year Jim Leyland. I'm sure Mr. Met would like to offer a lusty "boo" to the NL Manager of the Year choice, Joe Girardi, over Willie Randolph. I think Randolph did a great job, but was hurt by the fact the Mets had the division wrapped up by the All-Star break. Even though Willie had no pitching staff, no one paid attention to the fact he still nearly won 100 games.

* * *

The Tigers are going to lose one of the key pieces to the team, lefty reliever Jamie Walker. He's heading to Baltimore, where they should love him. I saw some of the names of lefty relievers still available, and my stomach started to ache.

* * *

Philadelphia signed infielder Wes Helms yesterday. I've seen him referred to as "third baseman" even though he played many more games at first base last season. Obviously, the Phils got him to play third. He has become a better hitter the past two years by shortening his stroke, Charlie Manuel said. The Phils believe he is above average defensively, even though his range factor over the years is horrible when compared to the league average.

Helms hit .329 with 10 homers and 47 RBIs in 250 at-bats last year. Helms has had more than 275 at-bats just once in his eight-year career.

* * *

The Diamondbacks reportedly have made free agent pitcher Randy Wolf their No. 1 target.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ramirez signs with Cubs

Bad news for the Phils, and to a lesser extent if you believe the Tigers were interested: Aramis Ramirez reportedly signed with the Cubs on Sunday.

Motown to sample Sheff's cooking

I have mixed feelings about the Tigers trading three pitching prospects to the Yankees for Gary Sheffield. I'll start with the secondary concern: Anything that could make NYY better is bad.

But the effect of the deal on the Tigers is the primary concern. The pitchers given up were apparently some highly thought of arms, but really didn't figure in Detroit's long-term future if Bonderman, Verlander, Maroth, Robertson, and Miller remain healthy.

Sheffield can be a pain in the butt, but he loves Leyland and Leyland loves him. There's something to be said for that. Furthermore, Sheffield surely makes the Tigers' lineup far better. I imagine the lineup would look like: Granderson, Polanco, Maggs, Sheff, Guillen, Pudge ... not too shabby.

The rest is up in the air. The futures of Monroe and Inge seem to be in question. From what I've read, the Tigers are going to explore the free agent market for a third baseman (Ramirez?) and also were supposed to be interested in Soriano, although I don't know if the Sheffield deal takes that off the table.

I'm surprised the Tigers are looking for help at third because I really like Inge. If nothing else, the Sheffield move shows free agents the Tigers are serious about winning now. It should be an interesting offseason.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Right where we want 'em

My work schedule has cut into my World Series viewing and posting time. But we'll have to rely on history and hope the Tigs are right where they want to be -- down 3-1 to the Cards. Now, if we can only find Lolich, we'll be set.

Actually, I've got a very bad feeling after seeing Curtis Granderson slip and fall last night, helping the Cards to rally for a Game 4 triumph. Is it payback for Curtis Flood misjudging a fly ball in CF in Game 7 of 1968, giving Detroit the title? Perhaps.

This much is clear: The Tigs have been their own worst enemy for much of this series. I don't know if it's the layoff, or nerves, or simply bad timing. But it hasn't been pleasant to watch.

My nightmare of Jeff Weaver doing in the Tigers is coming closer to fruition. But Detroit's play has pretty much defied logic all year, so who knows what will happen next?

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Perhaps this was bad voodoo.


Because of my work schedule, I was unable to see much of last night's game. I guess I should be grateful now. I know the Tigers made a bunch of errors, so I'm guessing the layoff did hurt a bit. But it's only 1 game and it should be easy to quickly put this one behind them.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Is it time yet?

It seems like forever since the Tigers played a game. Hopefully, it won't be a problem for Detroit when WS Game 1 gets under way tomorrow night in Motown. I suspect that being at home should make it easier for the boys to regain their edge.

I thought for sure the Mets were winning NLCS Game 7 last night when Endy made that remarkable catch. Now I have to worry about Jeff Weaver and Juan Encarnacion teaming up to do in the Tigers. What a nightmare that would be.

Detroit swept the Cards during interleague play, although that means nothing now. The only advantage is that the hitters might have seen some of the pitchers before, rather than going into the series cold.

The photo is young Sparky -- in pre-Willie Hernandez days -- with Andy Van Slyke at spring training in 1984. Slick gave me a hard time about being a Tigers fan. How you liking those Tigs now, Slick?

Hmmm, 1984? That was a very good year.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mets 4, Cardinals 2
(NLCS tied 3-3)

All the Mets needed from John Maine was for him to pitch the game of his life to save their season. So of course he went out and did that. Now things get a bit more interesting.

Maine did not start off well, allowing two hits and hitting a batter in the first inning as he struggled with his control. But he was able to escape a bases loaded jam. Jose Reyes then homered to lead off the bottom of the inning, giving Maine a bit of breathing room. After that, Maine settled down a bit. He pitched five and one-third scoreless innings to give the Mets a shot against Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, who pitched a bit better than he did in game two. Maine allowed just two hits and four walks, one of which was intentional. He struck out five. This was a huge performance from Maine, dragging the Mets from a desperate state to one with some room for optimism.

The Mets added just one more run against Carpenter. They strung three singles together in the fourth, with Shawn Green driving in the run. Green had two hits in the game and was also hit by a pitch. And he actually caught two fly balls that the Cardinals were kind enough to hit directly at him.

Fortunately the Mets got a chance to bat against old friend Braden Looper in the seventh. They added two runs on three singles, the last of which by Paul Lo Duca. They would need them.

Three relievers pitched well after Maine was removed in the sixth. Chad Bradford came in with one on and one out and immediately got a double play. He gave up a hit and got an out in the seventh before Guillermo Mota came in and got a twin killing of his own. Aaron Heilman emerged from seclusion to pitch a very good eighth, allowing just a meaningless single to Albert Pujols. Then the Mets turned it over to Billy Wagner.

Wagner had not been pitching well in the playoffs thus far, allowing one run in the LDS and losing game two of the LCS when he gave up three runs. Things did not go any better in this game. He gave up a single and a double before recording an out. He retired the next two batters only to have his nemesis So Taguchi smack a two-run double. He did retire the next batter, but there was nothing about this performance that inspired confidence. Right now it seems the Mets have found themselves a new Armando Benitez.

But none of that matters right now. The Mets, wearing the classic blue hats for the first time this postseason, were victorious and they will host game seven Thursday night. Jeff Suppan (1-1, 2.19 in 12.1 playoff innings) will start for St. Louis. The Mets' starting pitcher will probably be Oliver Perez (1-0, 7.94 in 5.2 playoff innings) who may be relieved by Darren Oliver (0-0, 3.68 in 7.1 playoff innings) after a few innings. Suppan shut the Mets down in game three, but I can't imagine that happening again. He is still Jeff Suppan. The Mets will probably need to score some runs to win this game, but I see no reason why they can't. Like I said yesterday, ya gotta believe!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cardinals 4, Mets 2
(Cardinals lead NLCS 3-2)

Shawn Green is terrible. If he were standing on home plate, he probably couldn't catch some of the pitches that have been called strikes in this series. Maine vs. Carpenter tomorrow. Ya gotta believe!

I'm going to sleep.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mets 12, Cardinals 5
(NLCS tied 2-2)

The dominant storyline entering this game was the uncertainty surrounding the Mets' starting pitcher, Oliver Perez. The Mets' hitters didn't waste much time beating that story into submission. Perez kept the Mets in the game just long enough for the bats to wake up and once that happened, even Steve Trachsel probably couldn't have screwed it up.

It only took the Mets until the third inning to show signs of life and after that, they didn't look back. Down 1-0 in the third, Carlos Beltran launched a solo home run and David Wright followed with one of his own. Perez gave the lead back in the bottom half, but the Mets reclaimed it in the fifth. After Paul Lo Duca reached on an error and Beltran singled, Carlos Delgado launched his third home run in two days to give the Mets a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Perez did give up another run in the bottom of the fifth, so the Mets had to come back with a more emphatic statement in the sixth. Jose Reyes led off with a single and the next six men to come to the plate also reached base. The Mets scored six runs without a home run, with Delgado's two-run ground rule double and a three-rule double by Jose Valentin being the biggest blows. Only Endy Chavez and Perez himself failed to contribute to the inning.

Perez gave up a couple more home runs in the bottom of the sixth, but by then it was too late. His final line was five and two-thirds innings with five runs on nine hits, including three home runs. He struck out three and walked just one. In the end it doesn't look pretty, but he held it together long enough for the offense to break out and that was all the Mets needed. Beltran hit another home run in the seventh, just to be safe.

Every Mets starter reached base at least once and everyone but Chavez and Perez either scored or drove in a run. But, as usual, it was the Carloses who led the way. Beltran reached base five times, drawing two walks in addition to the single and the home runs. Delgado walked once, doubled and homered, driving in five runs. There is just too much firepower in the Mets' lineup for them to be shut down for very long. I would be very surprised to see another game like Saturday's this postseason.

With the series even, we'll see a rematch of game one on Monday. Tom Glavine (2-0, 0.00 in 13 playoff innings) goes for the Mets having pitched excellently, despite what Albert Pujols may think, on Thursday. Jeff Weaver (1-1, 1.69 in 10.2 playoff innings) pitched pretty well himself. Both will be pitching on short rest, so anything can happen, but I feel pretty comfortable with this matchup. And in other news, Orlando Hernandez says he'd be ready if the Mets have some more games to play starting Saturday. I think they could find a spot for him.

What they said

Michael Rosenberg, Detroit Free Press: With Detroit waiting for a hero, Magglio Ordonez turned to Tigers clubhouse assistant Tyson Steele in the dugout. "You got the champagne on ice?" he asked Steele, before stepping onto the field in the bottom of the ninth inning. "It's over."

* * *

Dan Dickerson, WXYT-AM radio: "Swing and a fly ball, leftield, it's deep, it's way back ... the Tigers are going to the World Series. Three-run, walkoff home run! Ohhh man! Ordonez around third, he's into a mob scene at home! The Tigers have beaten the A's, 6-3, completing a four-game sweep in one of the greatest turnarounds in baseball history! The Tigers, three years after losing 119 games, are going to the World Series! Magglio Ordonez with his second home run of the game. What a sight at home plate!"

* * *

Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press: And sure enough, after a shaky start and a three-run deficit and a bases-loaded blown opportunity and a bases-loaded narrow escape, sure enough, after almost every chance imaginable and the score still tied, 3-3, here came the bottom of the ninth, two outs, two on -- I mean, come on, is this perfect or what? -- and here came your something big, folks, here came Magglio Ordonez, one of those free agents who a few years back might never have signed with the Tigers, and he smoked an 1-0 pitch so high and so far into Comerica Park's leftfield seats that he had time to watch, walk, raise a fist, then raise another fist, then run the bases pointing a new direction for this new era of Detroit baseball.

* * *

Bob Wojnowski, Detroit News: It was a shot in the bottom of the ninth, from the bottom of the heart, a three-run homer by Ordonez with two out that gave the Tigers a 6-3 victory over Oakland on Saturday night and a 4-0 sweep of the American League Championship Series. What ensued on the field and in the stands should be branded unreal, except that we’d seen it just a week earlier, when the Tigers vanquished the Yankees.

What a remarkable sight, again.

What a remarkable team, again.

* * *

Jerry Green, Detroit News: Of course the Tigers would win the American League pennant with a walk-off home run with two out in the bottom of the ninth.

That was the way it was scripted. It could happen no other way in this storybook baseball season.

This little team that couldn’t — that shouldn’t — is going to the World Series. Next Saturday night vs. a team to be determined. At home. At Comerica Park.

Believe it or not.

* * *

A's outfielder Milton Bradley, quoted in the L.A. Times on Kenny Rogers' performance Friday: "I don't know if it would be disrespectful or something, but I almost felt like going over there and giving him a high-five. He was that good."

* * *

Blast from the past, February 2004: Scott Boras, [Ivan] Rodriguez's agent who negotiated the deal with the Tigers, said his client was excited about playing in the AL Central. "Pudge said to me, 'I know that division. That division could be mine,'" Boras said.

And from then-manager Alan Trammell, on the signing of Pudge: "This is how it starts. This is how we get better."

Stan's man?

Stanley once admonished Sparky for buying a cap and immediately working the bill into a curve. He hates when players wear their pant legs pulled down to their shoe tops. Anthony Reyes is all that is right in the Stanley Baseball World. He must become an Oriole. He's already got the ERA for it.

Cardinals 5, Mets 0
(Cardinals lead NLCS 2-1)

This was a total team effort. Bad starting pitching, bad defense and a completely impotent offense left the Mets in serious trouble. Darren Oliver pitched a heck of a game, though.

Steve Trachsel was awful from the start, putting the first three batters he faced on base. He picked off leadoff batter David Eckstein to limit the damage somewhat, but Trachsel was never in control. Still, he had a chance to escape the first inning unscathed. He got Jim Edmonds to pop out for the second out and then Scott Spiezio hit a fly ball to right field. Unfortunately for the Mets, Shawn Green is still their right fielder. He turned this potential third out into a two-run triple with his circuitous route to it and his subsequent hopeless dive. The Mets don't have much choice but to play Green given their only healthy reserve outfielders are Michael Tucker and, theoretically, Chris Woodward. But their failure to call up Lastings Milledge before September 1st, thus making him ineligible for the playoffs unless Cliff Floyd is placed on the DL, looks rather inexplicable right now.

Of course, it wasn't Green who walked the next two batters after Spiezio's triple before getting out of the inning. I don't think he's the one that gave up a home run to pitcher Jeff Suppan to lead off the second, either. Trachsel gave up two more walks and a single before being replaced, with no one out, by Darren Oliver. Oliver let two of Trachsel's runners score, but after that he was excellent, pitching six shutout innings on three hits and one walk.

That was too little, too late, however, because Suppan completely dominated the Mets for eight innings, allowing just three hits and one walk. Jose Reyes's two-out triple in the third inning was the closest they came to threatening. They never put two runners on base in the same inning.

So now the Mets trail 2-1 and have to depend on Oliver Perez (3-13, 6.55) to keep them in the series. Perez is capable of giving the Mets a brilliant outing, but he's also capable of getting knocked out in the first inning. Fortunately, Cardinals starter Anthony Reyes (5-8, 5.06) is a rather similar pitcher. In his final regular season start, he pitched just two-thirds of an inning and gave up four runs on five hits including two home runs. He hasn't pitched since. Anything could happen tonight, even a 1-0 pitchers' duel. After watching this Mets team all year, all I can say is I don't think they'll go quietly.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

1000 words

Moving on

I thought the Tigers were due for a loss when they fell behind 3-0 in Game 4 today, but what was I thinking? Don't look for a bandwagon to jump on; this is a magic carpet.

After limping through the end of the season, and becoming the punch line in jokes again, I'm glad the country has gotten to see what has made the Tigers special this year. Great pitching, timely hitting from a variety of sources, and chemistry. Not to mention another gray-haired manager pushing the buttons.

Leyland said after the game that in spring training the Tigers had a lot of good players, but weren't a good team. Now, he added, they are a good team.

Here is a look at what he meant. The hitting stars by game in the ALCS: Inge, Gomez, Monroe, Ordonez. Polanco, who we noted all year was the player the Tigers could least do without, was the MVP. Granderson and Guillen contributed. And the pitching was solid, again -- Robertson, Verlander, Rogers, Bonderman, Walker, Ledezma, Grilli, Rodney, Zumaya, Jones.

Polly merely has hit safely in all 8 postseason games so far, and has six multi-hit games. Rogers was lights out again in Game 3. Bonderman scuffled in Game 4 to keep the Tigers in the contest, like he was Robertson.

The Tigers are the first team to win 6 straight postseason games by at least 3 runs each.

Now they will have an extended break, which might be the only thing that can ruin this momentum. But in Leyland we trust.

* * *

ESPN radio's Jon Miller gave a tip of the cap to former Detroit legendary radio man Ernie Harwell when I was listening to Friday's game by calling the team "the Tigs," which is how Harwell often referred to the team.


Don't wake me.

Cardinals 9, Mets 6
(NLCS tied 1-1)

The Mets bullpen was pretty bad in the NLDS, but the offense and starting pitching were good enough to overcome it. In the first and third games of the series, the relievers pitched more than half the game and did not acquit themselves well. Game two of the NLCS saw them tasked with the majority of the innings again, and again it did not go well.

In the first round, the Mets non-Glavine starters did not go deep into games, but they weren't awful. While Willie Randolph's removal of John Maine in the fifth inning made sense at the time, he had only allowed one run. Maine was not so adequate this time, allowing four runs in four innings, giving Randolph little choice. He gave up just two hits, but walked five. One of the runs was unearned as a result of an error by Carlos Delgado, but Maine was clearly not sharp.

The offense seemed up to the challenge for most of the game as Cardinals' starter Chris Carpenter fared no better than Maine. He allowed five runs in five innings, four of them scoring on a pair of Delgado home runs. Jose Reyes also had a big game, with three hits, including a double, one walk, one RBI and two runs scored. Paul Lo Duca had an RBI double. Carlos Beltran walked twice and scored once.

As in NLDS game one, things started off well enough for the Mets' bullpen. The tag team of Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano got through two-thirds of a perfect inning there. This time they pitched two full scoreless frames, with Bradford recording five of the outs and allowing just one hit. But Guillermo Mota was once again there to screw everything up.

Mota got the first two batters he faced in the seventh, but then he allowed a single and a walk. Scott Spiezio then hit a ball that cleared the right field fence, only to bounce off of Shawn Green's glove and back into play for a game-tying triple. It would have been great if Green could have oriented his glove in such a direction that the ball would land in it rather than bounce off it, but I have to give him credit for at least preventing the home run. Aaron Heilman then relieved Mota and ended the inning. Mota has now allowed eight hits and two walks in five and two-thirds postseason innings, striking out six with a 7.94 ERA. The Mets may not have much choice but to use him given that the alternatives are Darren Oliver and Roberto Hernandez, but perhaps he could enter the game before Bradford and Feliciano rather than after.

Mota's meltdown only tied the game, however, and after Heilman pitched a scoreless eighth, the game was left in Billy Wagner's hands. So he gave up a leadoff home run to So Taguchi, a man with sixteen career home runs in 960 at bats. Wagner wasn't done, as he gave up two more runs on three hits, including two doubles, before being removed from the game with two outs and a runner on second. Hernandez retired the next batter. Wagner's numbers for the playoffs are no better than Mota's, as he's allowed seven hits and one walk in four and two-thirds innings with four strikeouts and a 7.71 ERA. The Mets aren't going to stop using Wagner in tight games, so he simply has to pitch a lot better than he has.

The scene now shifts to St. Louis for tonight's game three. Steve Trachsel (15-8, 4.97 regular season, 0-0, 5.40 playoffs) is going to have to pitch better than he did last time out if he's going to turn things around for the Mets. Getting out of the fourth inning would be a good start. For the Cardinals, it'll be Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.12 regular season, 0-1, 6.23), who didn't fare much better than Trachsel in the first round. I think some runs may be scored in this game, strike zone permitting.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Random thoughts

Thom Brennaman and Steve Lyons are absolutely dreadful in the booth. You can't count the number of mistakes these guys make. Lou Piniella isn't very polished, and is horrible with the small talk, but actually makes some good observations and comments. His only faux pas so far was gushing about Kendell batting leadoff as a catcher and saying he couldn't imagine any other catcher being able to pull it off. The problem: One other catcher, playing the same game, had done it. Pudge led off 4 games this year.

* * *

The Marco Scutaro chant is pretty good.

* * *

I missed this story on the Onion Web site, but saw it linked on one of the Tiger blogs. It's pretty funny.

The headline: "George Steinbrenner fires Tigers."
Best line, attributed to Derek Jeter: "The Yankees have a long tradition of winning, and the Detroit Tigers failed to respect that."

* * *

Last week, Al Kaline and Willie Horton threw out the first pitches. The lineup for this weekend: Mickey Lolich, George Kell and Ernie Harwell. Lolich, from what I've heard, was Wayne Gretzky's favorite player as a youngster. Still hard to believe he won games 2, 5, and 7 of the 1968 World Series -- staving off elimination in Game 5 and beating Bob Gibson on two days rest with CG in Game 7.

* * *

It's funny how Tigers fans seem to be jacked up about Kenny Rogers' great record against Oakland. Particularly since they fail to see the irony that a week ago Yankee fans were delighting in Rogers' horrible postseason record and record vs. NY, and we know how that worked out.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mets 2, Cardinals 0
(Mets lead NLCS 1-0)

Both starting pitchers cruised through the early part of this game, aided in part by an inconsistent, sometimes large, strike zone. In fact, for five and two-thirds innings, Jeff Weaver seemed in total control. He'd allowed just one hit and one walk, striking out one.

But with two down in the sixth, he gave up a single to Paul Lo Duca. Carlos Beltran came to the plate having lined out and grounded out in his first two at bats. Then Weaver's 2-2 pitch wound up in a very enticing area of the strike zone only to be quickly relocated to a spot on the right field scoreboard. Carlos Delgado followed with a double but after an intentional walk to David Wright, reliever Tyler Johnson was able to retire Endy Chavez to end the inning. Still, Beltran's two-run home run provided a comfortable lead.

Comfortable because Tom Glavine gave the Mets another excellent performance. After six shutout innings in the NLDS, Glavine blanked the Cardinals for seven. He allowed four hits and two walks and struck out two. He was in a couple of jams, including putting two on with one out in the third. But he got a line drive double play to get out of that. Glavine is etching his name in Mets playoff lore with these performances. If there's a game five, we'll see if he can keep it up on three days rest.

The Mets' offense didn't add anymore runs, though they did threaten against the St. Louis bullpen. They put runners on second and third with one out in the eighth as a result of Lo Duca's second single and Delgado's second double. But Wright and Chavez were unable to capitalize. They had just six hits in the game, but thanks to Glavine, Beltran's bomb was all they needed.

Guillermo Mota relieved Glavine in the eighth and did make things interesting for a few moments. With two outs, he walked David Eckstein on four pitches and threw three balls to Preston Wilson. Believe it or not, those are the guys batting directly in front of Albert Pujols. But Mota was able to avert disaster and got Wilson to pop out foul on a 3-2 pitch. Billy Wagner got Pujols to line out to start the ninth and finished things off, allowing just a walk to Scott Rolen.

This game wasn't all good news, however. Willie Randolph's plan to start Cliff Floyd in left field did not work out well. He apparently tweaked his Achilles rounding first on a foul ball in the second and had to be removed from the game. Chavez is a fine replacement and Shawn Green had a good offensive game with a single, a walk and a stolen base. But if Floyd can't return in this series, that does leave the Mets' bench short a man. And given that the bench already featured Michael Tucker and Anderson Hernandez, it wasn't the deepest to begin with.

Game two will be played tomorrow night and it features another seemingly mismatched pitching matchup. Chris Carpenter (15-8, 3.09 regular season, 2-0, 2.02 NLDS) gets to pitch early as a result of Wednesday's rainout. He'll be opposed by John Maine (6-5, 3.60 regular season, 0-0, 2.08 NLDS). The Mets' offense didn't quite inspire confidence with their failure to pummel Jeff Weaver, but the Cardinals' bats aren't too fearsome either. Another low-scoring thriller may be in the offing.

Zoom, gone

Joel Zumaya is out indefinitely with a sore wrist, the AP is reporting.

This comes as little surprise. A lot of eyebrows were raised last night in Tigerland when Leyland brought in Rodney rather than Zoom to pitch the eighth -- although, none of the FOX braintrust seemed to notice.

This is the second time Zoom has been sidelined by the injury, which is believed to have happened because of the way he grips the ball so aggressively.

Obviously, this is bad news for the Tigers. But I still think the bullpen is deep and talented. Rodney, though, needs to return to the form he flashed last night and early in the season.

It's magic!

There was a great deal of gnashing of teeth among Detroit bloggers and media yesterday when the Tigers' lineup was announced. I took a spin around to see what they were saying, and people were ripping Leyland, which stunned me.

Neifi Perez in the No. 2 spot, Polanco in the 3 and Alexis Gomez in the 8?

Somehow, this madness worked to the tune of eight runs, with Gomez driving in 4.

"If I walk in there on Friday and see my name as the cleanup hitter, I'd expect to get a hit," reliever Todd Jones said last night.

I gave up on trying to figure out Leyland months ago and just trusted him. I'm surprised more people hadn't. He seems, at least for this year, to have an uncanny ability to gauge his players and cajole them into producing.

For example, with Gomez: "I told him it's a 5 o'clock game and that's when you hit most of your home runs (in BP), so I'm going to play you tonight." That bit probably went a long way toward relaxing Gomez.

Actually, the move made sense in that Gomez is a left-handed bat, and the Tigers needed one against Loaiza (who yielded a .319 BA to lefties this season).

The Perez move is more puzzling, but I believe Leyland picked Perez over Infante and Santiago because of his better range at SS and his experience. I'm guessing he batted him No. 2 because he didn't want to disrupt the rest of the lineup, which has been producing quite well. If he batted Perez in No. 9, which is where he probably belongs, then Inge has to move. I think the lineups have worked well with power at the bottom, especially with Granderson hitting well at the top. Perez probably hurts the lineup more in the 9 spot than in the 2. At least in the 2, he can bunt runners along and set the table.

Polanco in the 3 spot also made some sense despite his power. Nobody is hitting better right now. I'm sure Leyland was thinking: Granderson gets on, Perez moves him a base, Polly drives him home. Not bad thinking, when you think about it. (And how unbelievable was it to see Polly get an IBB so the A's could face Maggs?)

Verlander didn't pitch great, but good enough. The bullpen -- Grilli (Cheese), Rodney and Jones -- struck out 6 in a row before Jonesy gave up 3 singles and had to face Frank Thomas with the game on the line. Jonesy loves to make them exciting, but usually escapes.

Like magic.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

One down (game and player)

It's hard to say Detroit's pitchers shut down the A's last night, even though they only gave up a run. The Tigers played with fire, but Oakland doused itself with four DPs and an 0-for-13 collar with men in scoring position.

Nate Robertson did what Nate Robertson does. He scuffled along and shutout the A's for five innings. Fernando Rodney, in whom I have the least confidence of the relievers, did the same for two. Leyland, as was the case in the opening round, does not mess around even with a 5-0 lead going to the eighth, using Zumaya and Jones to close it out.

The Tigers did a great job taking pitches against Zito. Even though the first 8 went down in order, I think it helped set up the later rallies. The announcers, though, were brutal. It wasn't until Detroit scored 4 that they started talking about the patience of the hitters. Thom Brennaman at one point even gushed about Zito "throwing strikes" just because he'd retired a bunch in a row. Just prior to Brennaman's comment, however, a graphic was shown that had Zito throwing something like 18 balls and 21 strikes. But don't let the facts ruin the story you want to tell, and FOX seemed intent on telling a story about Zito being a superstar lefty.

Detroit over the last 4 games has played like it did through the first half of the year. Pitching and timely hitting from different spots in the lineup. No one has carried the load, it's been shared. Last night, it was Inge's time.

This year, the team's ad campaign was built around the phrase "Who's Your Tiger?" As Michael Rosenberg noted in his Free Press column today, who isn't?

Hopefully, Sean Casey's calf injury isn't as bad as it looked. He's out for Game 2. This leaves the Tigers without a true first baseman because Chris Shelton isn't on the roster. Guillen will take over at first, where he played 8 games in the regular season, and either Infante, Santiago or Neifi Perez will play SS. Pudge also has played some first base this year, but it's probably to risky to move him to 1B and put Wilson behind the plate. Not because Wilson can't get the job done, only because you'd have both your catchers on the field. (Actually all three of your catchers, figuring Inge is the emergency backstop.)

It would be great to see Verlander continue the Tigers' success tonight. Detroit faces Esteban Loaiza, another pitcher with a high WHIP (1.42). Loaiza is much better at home (3.71 ERA) than on the road (6.08 ERA). He started 2 games vs. Tigers this year and had an ERA of 8.00. Verlander had 3 starts vs. A's and a 2.25 ERA.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Getting ready for Game 1 ALCS

The Tigers were 5-4 vs. Oakland in the regular season, but the teams haven't played since July 23. Six of the games were in Oakland, where the Tigers were 3-3.

When the teams completed play on July 23, the Tigers were 66-32; Oakland was 51-47.

Detroit's wins: 11-4, 4-3, 10-4, 7-4, 8-4.
Detroit's losses: 3-4, 3-5, 1-2, 5-9.

The Tigers had only one save opportunity, which was converted – by Roman Colon. It was his lone save of the season.

* * *

Barry Zito made one start against Detroit this year and gave up 3 hits and 1 run in 7 IP. He got no decision.

I know Zito is a very good lefty, and he’ll probably go out and toss a gem after what I’m going to say, but it’s not like he’s Koufax out there. He had a 3.83 ERA and 1.40 WHIP this season. I don’t see him being head and shoulders above Robertson, other than on reputation. I would definitely give the edge to Oakland, but not by much. Zito is 55-46 with a 3.85 ERA since going 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA in 2002, which isn’t all that remarkable considering the A’s go to the playoffs annually. One thing is for sure, he’s a workhorse; always over 200 IP every year.

For what it’s worth – and the last series showed that you can throw the past out the window – Zito had a 4.71 ERA at home and 2.97 on the road.

* * *

Is being undisciplined contagious? It must be. Sean Casey has a lifetime .368 on-base average. That’s one of the primary reasons the Tigers traded for him.

After coming to Detroit, Casey’s OBA was .286.

* * *

Speaking of .286 OBAs, that’s what Oakland’s OBA was in its series sweep of Minnesota. The A’s batted .245, second worst in the first round, ahead of only the Padres. The Tigers hit .309 (best) and had a .338 OBA (third).

Oakland had a 2.33 ERA in the first round, second best to St. Louis’ 1.50. The Tigers were fourth at 3.60.

In the regular season, Detroit’s offense ranked fifth in the AL in runs; the A’s were ninth. The Tigers were, of course, best in ERA while Oakland was fourth.

On paper, you’d have to figure that if the Tigers hit and pitch like they did in the first round, and the A’s do the same, it’s Detroit’s series. But there was a lot of worthless paper after the first round, too.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Rotation set

The Tigers will use the same Robertson-Verlander-Rogers-Bonderman rotation vs. Oakland. Some speculated it might change, but why fix it if it ain't broken? Robertson has already endured what will quite possibly be the toughest starting assignment of his life, Game 1 in Yankee Stadium.

This way, the first time through, Robertson pitches on 6 days rest, Verlander on 5, Rogers on 6 and Bonderman on 6.

Of course, they could skip Robertson, which then puts everyone else on a more “normal” schedule. However, if by chance the Tigers are down 1-2 heading into Saturday (which would simply mean everyone holds serve, so to speak), then it would fall to Robertson on 10 days rest.

I’m not sure how Robertson pitches on extended rest, but the chance of a rusty Robertson taking the mound in such a pivotal game isn’t appealing. The other option would be to skip him again (and show no confidence in him at all for the ALCS) and send out Verlander on 3 days rest. Verlander, I think we’ve seen, is better on regular to longer rest at this point.

So it comes down to this: If it’s 1-2 heading into Saturday, do you want Bonderman on 6 days rest or a very well rested Robertson or short rested Verlander? I want Bonderman.

Then, depending on the situation, you can continue with the rotation or start bumping up guys on 3 days rest. I think this is more sensible. And if Robertson and/or Verlander win one or both of those first two games in Oakland, then you’ve really got options.

Hopefully, all this is rendered moot by the Tigers just continuing to roll.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Oakland meeting a team it launched?

There were many great victories for the Tigers this season, but none more valuable than April 20 when Detroit rallied from 3-1 down in the ninth to win at Oakland, 4-3. There might have been other triumphs as valuable, but it’s hard to overlook, in my eyes, the significance of this one.

This was the game that featured Brandon Inge’s 15-pitch AB that resulted in a one-out walk to load the bases, followed by Curtis Granderson’s walk to force home the winner. Leyland called it a “one-and-half Marlboro” AB by Inge.

It was the Tigers’ first come-from-behind win of the season and put their record at 9-7. It came two days after Leyland’s now-famed tirade against the losing culture in Detroit.

Entering the game, the Tigers had lost 7 of 10 after opening the campaign with 5 consecutive victories. The April 20 triumph started Detroit on a 27-7 run.

There’s no way to know what might have happened if the Tigers lost that game. Maybe their slide would have continued, maybe not. But it’s certainly conceivable that this game, on the heels of Leyland’s comments, got the players to believe.

Mets 9, Dodgers 5
(Mets win series 3-0, advance to NLCS)

Steve Trachsel didn't exactly step up in his first postseason start and the bullpen that's been a strength all season was a bit shaky as well. But another balanced offensive assault was able to overcome any pitching troubles and finish off the sweep for the Mets.

Trachsel gave up just two runs, but he was removed with one out in the fourth having allowed six hits and one walk while striking out two. Willie Randolph's strategy to compensate for his lack of starting pitching seems to be to use as many pitchers as he possibly can on the nights when Tom Glavine isn't pitching. Given the quality of the Mets' relievers and the extra days off they have to rest in the playoffs, it's not a bad idea. But it hasn't gone all that well so far.

In game one, five different relievers combined for four and two-thirds innings and gave up four runs. In game two the bullpen allowed one run in three innings. Game three was another rough one for the 'pen, as they gave up three runs in five and two-thirds. All of those runs were charged to Darren Oliver, who got Trachsel out of a second-and-third, one-out jam in the fourth before creating his own trouble in the fifth.

Oliver gave up a single, a Jeff Kent home run and another single with two outs in the fifth, blowing the Mets' two-run lead. Chad Bradford came in to save the day, but got a bit unlucky on a bloop single by Russell Martin and a walk to Wilson Betemit who refused to chase some very close pitches. Pedro Feliciano then entered with the bases loaded and his pitches to James Loney were not so close. He walked Loney to force in the Dodgers' fifth run before getting out of the inning.

The Mets' had built their lead by scoring three in the first inning on a walk and five consecutive two-out singles. They added another the third on single by Cliff Floyd and a double by Shawn Green, both coming with two outs. Floyd reaggravated his left Achilles on the way home and had to leave the game, but Green stepped up with a big night, driving in two runs with two doubles and a single.

After Trachsel and the bullpen gave back the four-run lead, the hitters wasted no time in reclaiming it, putting three runs on the board in the top of the sixth on four hits and a walk. This put the Mets up 7-5 and the bullpen did not allow another run. Guillermo Mota, who allowed three runs in the first game, pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one strikeout. Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner pitched one scoreless inning each to finish things off. The offense added two more runs in the eighth, sparked by a Chris Woodward leadoff double.

Seeing the Mets as the only New York team left in the playoffs is certainly sweet. And now they have a chance to arrange their NLCS starting rotation however they like while St. Louis and San Diego will need to burn their aces just to get there. But these wouldn't be the New York Mets if there weren't new and exciting reasons for concern.

Cliff Floyd had a big series, going four for nine with a walk, a home run, three runs and two RBI. Now it's unknown whether he can play in game one of the NLCS. He seems optimistic and three days off will surely help. And both Endy Chavez and Shawn Green wound up having good series with three hits apiece. But the loss of Floyd's bat would be a significant blow to the Mets' starting lineup and bench.

And then there's the bullpen. New York relievers pitched thirteen and one-third innings, or just one out fewer than the starters, and posted an ERA of 7.43 on sixteen hits, three walks and two home runs with twelve strikeouts. Most of that is the fault of Oliver and Mota, neither of whom is likely to pitch the ninth inning of a tie game, but if Randolph if going to go to his bullpen as early as he did in these three games, those guys are going to have to pitch well.

We've got three days to dwell on issues like these while the Cardinals and Padres continue to fight for the last spot in the LCS. The Mets won the season series against both teams. Game one starter Tom Glavine pitched once against the Cardinals, getting the win while allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk in six innings. He did not face the Padres. Either way I like the Mets' chances. I'm just not sure whether it'd be fun or scary to see Mike Piazza come back to Shea for the NLCS. Probably a bit of both.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Man of the Year

Roar restored

There's no need for overanalysis here: Good pitching still beats good hitting.

Jeremy Bonderman showed why he is regarded as the Tigers' potentially best pitcher today in shutting down NY's "vaunted" lineup. I couldn't be happier for him, even though I've voiced my frustration with him. I'm not alone. Leyland said Bonderman was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The offense was terrific, scoring early to take some pressure off Bonderman. Heck, it was 7-0 before the Yanks got their first baserunner in the top of the sixth.

This team has been great fun to watch simply because you never can count them out. I figured they were in trouble early in the season when Maroth went down. I thought they were in trouble when Polanco went down. I figured they were cooked when the White Sox and Twins were on their tails. No one gave them a chance in the playoffs after getting swept by KC and losing the division. Time after time after time, this group responded.

Making it even more gratifying is the fact that 10 players on this year's team were part of the 119-loss debacle in 2003. Sure, Maggs and Pudge and Polanco and Casey and Guillen and Granderson and Thames and Verlander and Zumaya and Jones and Rogers were key newcomers since then, and the Tigers wouldn't be playing next week if not for them.

But it's great for Inge and Santiago and Monroe and Infante and Bonderman and Robertson and Maroth and Walker and Ledezma and Rodney to be here to enjoy the moment. They deserve it, and it's nice that there wasn't a total overhaul of the club to get to this point. It was fitting that Bonderman, Monroe, Inge and Walker all played a part today, with Walker getting to be on the mound for the final out.

How great was that celebration, too? Leyland kissed a fan (a male one at that) and the team came out for a victory lap, spraying champagne on the fans.

I know there are still 2 more series to win for the ultimate prize, but this was about burying the past and proving to everyone that this team belonged. I'll worry about the Oakland series come Monday.

Bless you boys.

Ken-ny! Ken-ny!

There's not much more to say after Rogers took care of the Yankees, in a way he wasn't supposed to, in Game 3. He was a man possessed, and the Tigers did all the little things to give him the support he needed.

I'm trying not to get too high after the last 48 hours, but it's tough. The job still needs to be finished. Hopefully, Bonderman can throw one of the gems he's capable of in Game 4.

I believe WFAN genius Mike Francesa owes partner Mad Dog season tickets for his beloved SF Giants now, plus transportation. Doggie made a crack after Game 2 about coming in Saturday morning to do his show and talking about Rogers giving up 1 run in seven innings in a Tigers' win. Francesa scoffed and said there was no way Rogers would shut down NY and made the ticket offer if he did.

The Yankee offense has scored in just one of the last 18 innings. A-Rod said there's tension in the clubhouse. If there ever was a chance to take the favorites out, it will be Saturday with Bonderman vs. Wright.

Leyland might have lost Manager of the Year to Gardenhire when the Tigers failed to win the division. But there's no question now who deserves the honor after the skip got this ship turned around again.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mets 4, Dodgers 1
(Mets lead series 2-0)

I read more than once that the Mets don't have enough starting pitching to make it through these playoffs. I guess it just goes to show...Tom Glavine can't read. It's sad, really.

The Mets' de facto ace took the ball in game two and pitched six excellent innings, doing more than enough to compensate for a less than stellar offensive evening. He shut the Dodgers out, allowing just four runs and two walks while striking out two. A double by Julio Lugo in the fifth was the only extra-base hit he gave up. The fifth was one of two innings in which Glavine allowed two baserunners, and Lugo was the only Dodger to reach third base against him. He got through the first three innings without allowing a hit, giving the Mets a chance to take an early lead, and seemed in control from start to finish.

The Mets' offense did score first and eventually built a four-run lead, but they did not repeat the powerful assault of game one. A double by Paul Lo Duca was the only extra-base hit among the Mets' seven and it did not contribute to a run. The Mets' first three runs actually scored on outs.

In the third, starting right fielder Endy Chavez outdid Shawn Green the first chance he got, pulling off an excellent drag bunt for a single. He moved to second on a wild pitch and went to third on a weak grounder by Glavine. He then scored on a ground out by Jose Reyes.

Chavez also played a role in the Mets' next minor rally in the fifth. After Jose Valentin walked to lead off the inning, Chavez singled. Both moved up on Glavine's sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk to Reyes loaded the bases. The Mets were again unable to come through with a big hit, but a fly ball by Lo Duca brought Valentin home.

The Mets loaded the bases one more time in the sixth and while they still didn't quite bust things open, one hit and some lousy Dodger defense helped put two runs on the board. After David Wright and Cliff Floyd singled, Valentin tried to bunt and was safe on pitcher Brett Tomko's throwing error. Third baseman Wilson Betemit would have had an easier time getting an out, but he ran to cover third base, leaving Tomko to try a difficult throw. Chavez then grounded into a force out at home and Julio Franco pinch hit into what should have been a double play. But Rafael Furcal chose not to charge Franco's slow grounder and the elder statesman was able to beat the throw to first, bringing Floyd home. A single by Reyes completed the Mets' scoring for the day.

After that it was up to the Mets' bullpen which, as you might guess, worked out okay. Pedro Feliciano allowed one walk but pitched a scoreless eight. Aaron Heilman gave up a solo home run to Betemit in the eight, but that was all. Billy Wagner had a much easier time in the ninth than in game one, finishing off the Dodgers on three ground balls, even though Reyes pulled Delgado a bit off the bag with his throws on the first and third of them.

Glavine was the closest to a sure thing in the Mets' rotation at the start of this series and he lived up to expectations in this game. John Maine pitched well enough in game one and the Mets may have the offense and bullpen to overcome less than stellar starts. But having Glavine on top of his game will be a huge boost for as long as he can keep it up.

And then there's Endy Chavez. Willie Randolph surprised me by replacing Shawn Green so soon and Chavez went out and led the team in hits. His defense is undeniable and hopefully this offensive outburst has earned him another start or two. The least Randolph can do is ride the hot hand now that the Mets have some margin for error.

They also have a day off before they try to finish off the sweep. Game three will be played at 7:30 on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Greg Maddux (15-14, 4.20) will try to stave off elimination for the home team. There seems to be some uncertainty about who'll start for the Mets, but right now Steve Trachsel (15-8, 4.97) is officially the man. It would be the first playoff start for a pitcher who's done pretty well in some big regular season games, including the division clincher this year. He didn't pitch as well as his record would indicate this year and he got rocked for four runs in two and two-thirds innings in his one start against the Dodgers. But right now it's easy to be optimistic. One more win and the Mets are playing for the pennant.

Tied up

I guess the varsity failed to show up today at Yankee Stadium. Must have. How else could you explain this: Tigers 4, NY 3.

After days of listening to the NY talking heads, led by Mike Francesa, tell us how the Yanks wouldn't even break a sweat against the Tigers, it's 1-1 heading back to Detroit. Adding to the joy is hearing A-Rod booed again in the postseason by NY fans.

Justin Verlander (Vroomlander) had enough 100-mph heat to keep the Tigers in the game early. Johnny Damon hit a three-run homer with two outs in the fourth, but otherwise Verlander danced out of trouble.

He scuffled out of a bases-loaded jam in the first, getting A-Rod to K. The Yanks got men on first and second with no outs in the second, but again were thwarted. A double play erased a leadoff baserunner in the third.

Jamie Walker relieved Verlander with one out in the sixth and a runner on first, and induced the DP to end the frame. He got the first out in the seventh and yielded to Joel Zumaya (Zoomaya) and his 102-mph heat. Zumaya retired all five batters he faced, three on strikes, including A-Rod to end the eighth.

Todd Jones gave up a leadoff single in the ninth, but avoided any further trouble with a strikeout and two pop outs. Whew!

Marcus Thames, who missed the last several games of the regular season because of illness, was 3-for-4 with 2 runs and an RBI. Curtis Granderson (photo) had a sac fly and an RBI triple that plated Thames with what proved to be the winning run in tne seventh. Carlos Guillen had a solo HR in the sixth.

Would be great if Tigers could get Maggs and Pudge -- especially Pudge -- going. But a split was all I wanted here, and that's what the Tigers delivered.

Rain drops keep fallin' on my head

Michael Rosenberg has a good column in the Detroit Free Press today about last night's rainout debacle at Yankee Stadium. What a joke. No one is blaming the Yanks for the mess, but they are the Evil Empire.

All along the Tigers were told last night's game would be played. They were told be ready to go at 10. Verlander started to get ready and then a little while later, after he'd stretched and started throwing, was told the game was off. Interestingly, the Yanks never came out for warm ups.

Compounding the trouble was the Tigers had no hotel to return to since they were planning to travel to Detroit after the game.

As Rosenberg wrote: "Playing the Yankees is hard enough. Why must it be so hard to not play the Yankees?"

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mets 6, Dodgers 5
(Mets lead series 1-0)

Playoff baseball is the best.

Relaxing moments in this game were rare and fleeting. The Mets got pretty good hitting and pitching, but defensive lapses, some surprising and some not, helped turned this into a very tense game. Still, the Mets got a win despite replacing their starting pitcher at the last minute, leading one to wonder if anything can stop their march to the pennant.

Given the state of their starting pitching, the Mets will probably have to score a bunch of runs to go anywhere this postseason and Carlos Delgado made sure they got off to a good start. In his first playoff game, the Mets' first baseman drove in the team's first run with a monstrous home run over the center field wall in the fourth inning. He finished the day with four hits, two runs and two RBI. Cliff Floyd also homered in the fourth, giving the Mets their first slim lead.

Meanwhile, John Maine stepped up on short notice and Willie Randolph got him out before the game had a chance to get away from him. He allowed one run on six hits and two walks in four and one-third innings while striking out five. He was helped out by a bizarre play in the second that saw two Dodgers get tagged out at home plate within seconds of each other, but overall he was solid. And the Mets' deep bullpen did a great job backing him up, as Pedro Feliciano and Chad Bradford each got one out in the fifth with two runners on base.

The Mets built their lead to 4-1 in the sixth on one of David Wright's two doubles, but the comfort of that margin was short-lived. With one on and none out in the seventh, Jose Valentin fielded a ground ball and tried to make a very difficult throw to second rather than taking the easy out at first. He got neither out and this snowballed into a three-run inning on Guillermo Mota's watch. Valentin has been very good defensively all year but this lapse could have been very costly.

Also having a rough defensive game, somewhat less surprisingly, was Shawn Green. I don't know if Endy Chavez would have caught the ball that went over Green's head in the second, leading indirectly to the Dodgers' first run. But I think he probably would have gotten his glove on one or both of the doubles hit to right against Billy Wagner in the ninth. Those doubles added up to LA's fifth run while Chavez was standing in left, having replaced Floyd in the eighth. On the other hand, Green did go hitless in four at bats with four runners left on base, so at least he didn't ground into any double plays.

A lot of players contributed to this win. Offensively, in addition to Delgado, Floyd and Wright, Carlos Beltran drew three walks and scored one run and Jose Reyes walked, stole second and scored in the seventh. And the Mets used six pitchers in a way that didn't really tax the bullpen. Mota pitched two innings--one excellent, one not--but Feliciano and Bradford threw a total of eight pitches, Aaron Heilman pitched a perfect eighth and Wagner needed just twenty pitches despite giving up a run on two hits and striking out two.

Tom Glavine (15-7, 3.82) will be the guy hoping to give those relievers some extra rest tomorrow. He's 12-10 with a 3.58 ERA in thirty-two career playoff starts. The Dodgers will counter with Hong-Chih Kuo (1-5, 4.22), who has not started thirty-two playoff games but did pitch well against the Mets one time in September. We'll see if the Mets have figured him out yet as they go for a commanding 2-0 series lead Thursday in prime time.

Maybe I'm just paranoid

Autumn in NY

Well, Nate battled, but it wasn't good enough. He didn't completely unravel when the Yanks went crazy in the third, and it's amazing how a break here or there would have kept that from being a big inning. I was happy the Tigers didn't lay down and actually had the tying run at the plate in the seventh.

I guess we will just hope for better tonight with Verlander on the hill. At least the kid has got a sense of humor. After being barraged with questions about how great the Yankees' lineup is, Verlander quipped: "They're pretty tough to get out when the ball is sitting up on a tee. That was probably the only better lineup I faced than these guys."

Tigers had their chances early last night and either ran themselves -- or didn't run themselves -- out of innings. Once they ran into a DP, another time they didn't run, and hit into a DP. Oh, well. I have no fears about them scoring some runs. Just need to keep NY in the 4-6 range. Verlander made 1 start vs. NY this season and gave up 6 runs in 5 IP. Obviously, we need better tonight.

It kills me to see Abreu in pinstripes smacking the ball all over the yard.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Note to El Duque

From, Satchel Paige: “Avoid running at all times." Satchel, too, was born in 1969.

Tom Glavine's calf to enter witness protection program

The Mets may have lost another starter to a calf injury, as Orlando Hernandez "felt discomfort" in his right calf while jogging on Tuesday. He's now questionable for his game one start and likely to be replaced by John Maine, though the extent of the injury is not yet known. If El Duque is unavailable to pitch at all in the series and the Mets therefore have to use Oliver Perez or Darren Oliver as their fourth starter, this could be a serious blow. On the other hand, if Hernandez's injury isn't serious and he just has to be bumped back to game three, it might actually represent an upgrade in the Mets' top three, trading Steve Trachsel for Maine. Either way, the Mets have the offense to slug their way through this series, even if Shawn Green has already been announced as starting. But the hitters' job may have just gotten a bit tougher.

On a lighter note, much of the media coverage of this story refers to Hernandez as a "40-year-old right-hander" even though his profiles on the ESPN and MLB websites claim he was born in 1969. I just don't know what to believe anymore.

Who dat?

"Dave Robertson," Yanks manager Joe Torre said, "is a left-hander who's not afraid to throw strikes."

As the Detroit News pointed out, Nate Robertson does that, too.

Dumb and dumber

Angelos and Loria.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Let the games begin

Now that the disappointment has subsided, and it's hard to remain too disappointed about being in the playoffs for the first time in 19 years, I'm hopeful that the way this all has played out can be to the Tigers' advantage.

Certainly, it's tough going into the playoffs on a five-game skid. But this all could play into Leyland's masterful hands.

The Tigers enter the postseason having accomplished nothing, in a way, and should have a chip on their shoulders. I'm sure Leyland will point out that no one is giving them a chance to beat the Yankees. I'm sure he'll mention how little respect they're getting despite leading the majors in ERA and winning 95 games -- only two fewer than NY.

Chances are that the Tigers would have had to beat the Yankees at some point to advance to the World Series. I'd rather have to beat them only three times than four, so this five-game set again plays to their favor.

Nate Robertson, who has earned my respect this year for his toughness, starts Game 1. He faces a ridiculous NY lineup filled with All-Stars. But I believe he is going to battle his butt off. He had a 2.76 ERA in September. He gave up 2 ER in 7 IP in his only Yankee Stadium start this season and threw a 1-run complete game against them last season (and lost). Lefties hit just .221 against him this year.

Chien-Ming Wang, the Yanks' starter, shut out the Tigers in 7.2 IP in his only Yankee Stadium start against Detroit. He gave up five runs in 4 IP in a start at Comerica.

I think Detroit will score some runs -- that hasn't been a problem lately. It's a question whether they can slow down the Yankees' offense. I think Robertson has a chance. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but it certainly would rattle the cage if he can.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

It's the most wonderful time of the year

After a weekend sweept of the Nationals, the Mets finished with a record of 97 wins and 65 losses, fifth best in team history. They'll begin the Division Series on Wednesday at 4 PM against the Wild Card Dodgers (88-74). These teams played seven times in the regular season and the Mets won four.

Orlando Hernandez (11-11, 4.66) will start game one for the Mets. He was 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers this year, but he's pitching better now than he has all season, posting a 2.01 ERA in five September starts. Derek Lowe (16-8, 3.63) will start for the Dodgers. He pitched just once against the Mets, allowing two runs in six innings, and he was also good in September with a 3.08 ERA in six starts.

These two have actually started against each other in a playoff game once before. In game four of the 2004 American League Championship Series, Lowe's Red Sox beat El Duque's Yankees 6-4, though neither pitcher figured in the decision. Each allowed three runs, Lowe in five and one-third innings, Hernandez in five. Lowe also pitched in relief in two games Hernandez started in the 1999 ALCS. The Yankees won both games and Hernandez pitched considerably better than Lowe, allowing four runs in fifteen innings compared to Lowe's three runs in five and one-third. It will certainly be fun to see them face off again for another two teams with a bit of postseason history. It's time we got some payback for 1988. Let's go Mets!

Stumbling into the postseason

After the Tigers clinched a postseason spot, I kept telling myself it didn’t matter whether they won the division or not. They were playing with house money, I figured.

I also figured the players would relax after weathering the storm and play loose, and play well down the stretch.

Now, after watching Detroit drop its final five games, including the last three to KC, I feel differently. I feel deflated. One win, that’s all that was needed to win the division and stay home against Oakland in the playoffs. Now, it’s off to NY.

The offense wasn’t bad – the Tigers averaged 6 runs per game over their final six games. The pitching, though, went south, and that’s very troubling.

Kenny Rogers finally tailed off, although since he carried the team in August and September, I figure he deserves a pass. But he’s definitely got to step it up now. Justin Verlander was rested, so hopefully that pans out.

Nate Robertson will start Game 1 in NY. He’s either the Tigers’ third or fourth best starter, so that’s a bit of a concern. Where you rank Robertson depends on whether you rate Jeremy Bonderman on his stuff and potential, or on his performance.

Bonderman again came up small on Sunday, failing to hold a 6-0 lead. Your ace, or future ace, whatever the talking heads want to call him, needs to preserve that kind of advantage with the division on the line. Bonderman is a stand-up guy and always takes the blame for his failures, but we could do with less standing up and more stepping up.

Hopefully, Jim Leyland can get the team to put its disappointment – and losing streak – behind it and be revved up for the playoffs. He’s pushed the right buttons so far, but I fear this will be a challenge.

The house never lets you enjoy that money.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Who Am I?

Last night, Miguel Tejada collected base hits number 210 and 211 tying the Orioles franchise record for most hits in a season (Ripken, 1983). With one more base hit, Tejada will own the single season hits mark for both the A's and the O's.

I am (currently) the only player in Major League history to own the single season hits mark for two different ML franchises.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Shawn Green stinks or: Thoughts on the Mets' postseason outfield

With the return of Ramon Castro from the disabled list, most of the decisions regarding the list of position players on the Mets' postseason roster are easy. Maybe there's some question as to whether Michael Tucker or Ricky Ledee gets to be the sixth outfielder, but if that winds up mattering, the Mets will be in some trouble already. It also seems like there's not much question as to who the Mets' starting outfield will be. Unfortunately, the Mets appear likely to make the wrong decision.

No one with eyes could argue that Shawn Green is a better defensive outfielder than Endy Chavez. Chavez is simply great, perhaps the best outfielder on the team. Having both Chavez and Carlos Beltran in the same outfield gives opposing offenses precious little room to place fly balls and line drives for hits. Green, on the other hand, stinks. He may make the occasional diving catch on a ball that Chavez would've caught with ease, but the fact that his hat flies off every time he runs is the only resemblance he bears to Willie Mays.

Of course, Shawn Green isn't getting paid eight million dollars this year for his glove. This is a guy who hit over forty home runs...four years ago. But Shawn Green circa 2006 is a hitter clearly on the decline. His OPS is under .800 and down about sixty points from last year. He's hit just fourteen home runs. In fact, he's been so bad that his on-base and slugging percentages are virtually identical to those perennial offensive sinkhole Endy Chavez. Chavez is having a career year, hitting .307/.348/.430 entering tonight's game, compared to Green's .277/.343/.429. Neither of these lines is great. Neither is even as good as the average NL right fielder. But given Chavez's speed and defense and Green's opposite of speed and defense, there can't be much question who's been the better player.

The Mets have run roughshod over the National League this season, and the difference between them and the next best team is probably greater than the difference between Green and Chavez. But with their offense slumping since clinching the division and their pitching growing more uncertain by the day, they can't afford to give away any runs on offense or defense. Endy Chavez is one of their three best outfielders. He may be in the top two at this point. There's no good reason he shouldn't be standing in right field when game one of the NLDS begins.

Short division

Apparently, neither Jim Leyland nor Ron Gardenhire is too caught up in winning the AL Central. Gardenhire said Johan Santana won't start Sunday; he's going to start Game 1 of the playoffs. Leyland said Justin Verlander won't start this weekend, so he can get additional rest for the postseason.

Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosneberg quipped, "If this is a race, it's a race-walk."

The talking heads keep saying it's best to win the division because it means not having to face the Yankees in the first round. But might it be best to meet the Yanks in a five-game set rather than seven? Hard to say. Part would depend on Randy Johnson's back, I guess. If he's not healthy, maybe it's better to see NY in seven games because their pitching will be thin after Wang-Mussina.

Placido Polanco is 4-for-6 with five RBIs since his return. He drove in 3 of the Tigers' 4 runs last night; two with a two-out single and the other on a squeeze bunt. Welcome back!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Memory lane

The last time the Tigers made the postseason, the squad looked like this:

C – Matt Nokes, .289-32-87
1B – Darrell Evans, .257-34-99
2B – Lou Whitaker, .265-16-59
3B – Tom Brookens, .241-13-59
SS – Alan Trammell, .343-28-105 (robbed of MVP)
OF – Chet Lemon, .277-20-75
OF – Pat Sheridan, .259-6-49
OF – Kirk Gibson, .277-24-79
DH – Bill Madlock, .279-14-50
Key reserves – Larry Herndon, .324-9-47 (one very key HR); Dave Bergman, .273-6-22.

P – Jack Morris, 18-11, 3.38; Walt Terrell, 17-10, 4.05; Frank Tanana 15-10, 3.91; Doyle Alexander, 9-0, 1.53; Dan Petry, 9-7, 5.61; Mike Henneman, 11-3, 7 Sv, 2.98; Eric King, 6-9, 9 Sv, 4.89.

Again, this is one of the greatest final two weeks of a season that nobody seems to talk about. The Tigers were 4 GB Toronto with 8 to play, but had the good fortune of playing the Jays four more times. They won all four. Herndon’s HR on the final day helped Frank Tanana (photo) beat Jimmy Key 1-0 and win the title. Both pitchers went the distance.

Over the last two weeks the teams played seven games; six were decided by one run and two ended in extra innings. Four times the winning run scored in the final inning. The Jays ended with the second best record in the AL.

Since then it’s been the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good: Cecil Fielder, Travis Fryman, Mickey Tettleton, Tony Phillips, David Wells, Bobby Higginson, Tony Clark, Damion Easley, Todd Jones, Doug Brocail, Dean Palmer, Jeff Weaver, Dmitri Young.

The bad: Gary Pettis, Ray Knight, Rick Schu, Darnell Coles, Urbano Lugo, Rob Deer, Pete Incaviglia, Dan Gakeler, Steve Searcy, Les Lancaster, Buddy Groom, Eric Davis, Mike Moore, Tim Belcher, Phil Nevin, Felipe Lira, Sean Bergman, Ruben Sierra, Chris Truby, Eric Munson, C.J. Nitkowski.

The ugly: Juan Gonzalez, Torey Lovullo, Charles Hudson, Scott Aldred, Kevin Ritz, Jose Lima, Todd Van Poppel, Clint Sodowsky, Dave Borkowski, Adam Bernero, Nate Cornejo.

There also was the simply mediocre: Carlos Pena, Robert Fick, Wendell Magee, Mark Redman, Jose Macias, Deivi Cruz, Shane Halter, Juan Encarnacion, Roger Cedeno, Steve Sparks, Brad Ausmus, Luis Polonia, Hideo Nomo, Danny Patterson, Gabe Kapler, Justin Thompson, Dave Mlicki, Willie Blair, Joe Randa, Brian Hunter, Bryce Florie, Melvin Nieves, Bob Hamelin, Frank Catalanotto, Omar Olivares, Mike Heath, Fred Lynn, Paul Gibson, Jeff Robinson, Lloyd Moseby, Milt Cuyler, Skeeter Barnes, Dan Gladden, Bill Gullickson – you get the picture.

These lists were hard to create and I didn't include players already listed on the '87 squad or current team. I'm sure some players would move to different categories depending on my mood. The bad and the ugly, in particular.

But the past is dead. RIP.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

One more to go

The Tigers moved within a game of clinching a playoff spot by bashing KC tonight. Detroit is 13-1 vs. the Royals this year.

Either a Tigers win or White Sox loss Sunday clinches the Detroiter's first postseason berth since 1987. The Tigers are 7-4 since dropping three in a row in Minnesota earlier this month.

Placido Polanco returned to the lineup today and went 3-for-4. His first at-bat was a two-run double in a 10-run first inning for the Tigers.

Kenny Rogers allowed one run in eight innings. He is 6-1 with a 1.72 ERA in his last 10 starts. He's 17-6 overall.

The only downer for Detroit was Mike Maroth giving up three runs in the ninth as he tries to come back from elbow trouble. It seems unlikely at this point he'll be much help in the postseason, which is unfortunate. He's given up five runs in his last two outings.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Phils' bats doing damage

Just some stats on the Phillies.

Prior to the All-Star break they batted .256, which tied with Houston for worst in the NL. They had 420 runs, good for seventh. They had a .332 OBA, which was 11th.

Since the break, they’ve batted .275, which is best in the NL. They have 386 runs, again the tops. They have a .360 OBA, which is, you guessed it, No. 1.

Pitching wise, they had a 4.82 ERA before the All-Star break; they have a 4.45 mark since. It’s not much of a difference, moving them from 13th place to 11th.


A moderately sized group of Orioles fans staged a demonstration at yesterdays' O's vs. Tigers contest protesting the Orioles losing ways.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos responded thusly, "Whoever joins that protest has no comprehension of what it costs to run a baseball team. When you get down to facts, putting together a team that can compete in the AL East means having a payroll between $100-110 million. That money comes from the consumer, and I have chosen to keep ticket prices to a minimum. Our payroll is $75 million, and our ticket prices average $22. Some of the teams we compete against charge an average of $45. We're going to have to match the competition. How to do that is a decision I will make in the future."

I agree with the demonstrators. Angelos is a Loser. While Angelos is correct to point out that I have "no comprehension of what it costs to run a baseball team....", the fact that he uses this excuse marks him a Loser.

It is not my fault that it is expensive to operate a Major League Baseball franchise. Nor is it my fault that the Orioles have 9 consecutive losing seasons. Even if I had any comprehension of the costs involved, the Orioles would still have 9 consecutive losing seasons. There is nothing I can do about it.

Except stop giving a *#$&^#$.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hit the Reset Button

After 152 games the Phillies are tied with the Dodgers for the NL Wild Card and all of a sudden it’s a 10 game season. At this point you could look at the schedule and try to shape it up, but really that doesn’t mean much now. Which ever team wins more in the next 11 days is in the playoffs and the other has to hope the Padres fall apart. Find whatever man up or put up or shut up cliché you want.
It’s time to see if Red really does means Go!


The Tigers just about ended the White Sox season last night, thanks to Brandon Inge and his great defense at third, not to mention hitting.

Inge makes a number of errors at the hot corner, but nobody -- nobody -- makes more spectacular plays there, either. He's made 20 errors, which is second worse in the AL to A-Rod's 23. However, his range factor is 3.39, which is the best in the AL among regulars. The range factor is putouts + assists x 9 divided by innings played.

He's picked it up with the bat, too. He's batting .298-4-14 in September. He's hitting .297-8-31 since the All-Star break and has a .359 on-base average and .833 OPS during that time. Those numbers are somewhat deceptive because he went .250-1-4 in August, so it's not like he's been swinging at a steady clip. But like his defense, Inge is streaky with the stick -- but the hot streaks are great. He's got 78 total RBI, not bad for the No. 9 spot.

Detroit proved it could play with a team like the White Sox. After going 1-5 against them to open the year, they finished by winning 6 of the last 13 games. They were 2-1-1 in series during that span (Chicago had a three-game sweep in August).

The Tigers don't have any player with 30 HR, but they have four with at least 20. Only the White Sox and Yankees have that many players with at least 20 HR in the AL. If Carlos Guillen can smack one more, Detroit will take the lead with five.

Happy to see Bonderman put in a solid effort last night, too. He struggled, particularly early, but never collapsed. That's the key.


The Orioles traditional season ending swoon has hit full stride. The O's are 6-13 in September with 10 games remaining in the season against the Tigers, Twins, Yankees and Red Sox. Even the mighty Markakis has succumbed to tradition, hitting .221 thus far in September.

Eric Bedard has continued to pitch well notching his 15th win of the season in his last start to go with a 3.62 ERA. Well...., he's Canadian and I suspect he doesn't give a damn about tradition.

Adam Loewen has pitched well enough since returning from Triple A to post a winning record at this point (6-5). Loewen hails from Canada as well.

Hayden Penn finally managed to post a good start (against the Devil Rays) going 6 2/3 IP while allowing 2 ER, lowering his ERA from 27.00 to 15.43 since being called up at the beginning of September. He's from California.

The O's magic number for securing their traditional finish in the East is 3.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Justin Verlander will be glad to no longer have to face Chicago this year.

The rookie is 1-4 with a 7.82 ERA in 25.1 IP against the White Sox. He's given up 10 homers to CWS, which is an incredible number when you consider in his other 155.2 IP he's allowed only 11 homers.

If you take the White Sox games out of Verlander's stats, he's 15-5 with a 2.95 ERA this year. He's owned the Twins, going 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Maggs strikes back

Maggs did it to his former team tonight, blasting two homers as the Tigers beat CWS 8-2. Another great effort from Kenny Rogers, too.

Ordonez seems to have regained his stroke. Maybe he prefers the cooler weather?

In April: .304-5-14
In May: .320-7-21
In June: .316-3-23
In July: .247-1-17
In Aug.: .260-2-10
In Sept.: .316-2-10 (entering last night)

The Tigers, after struggling with the bats, have scored at least 8 runs in three of their last four. Go figure. Baseball is a funny game.

Rogers tossed 6 shutout innings. In his last 9 starts he's 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA.

As a side note, congrats to Mr. Met for finally getting to pop the cork.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Twenty something

Watching the Tigers get beat by the O's today, I heard the commentators talking about the AL Central having three teams at least 20 games above .500, and how rare that was. The didn't give more details, though.

If my research is correct, it's only happened once in the AL since it was divided into three divisions. That was in 2002, in the West. That was the first time it happened since 1989, when there was two divisions. Again, it was in the West.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Nate the great

The Tigers beat the Orioles in the opening two games of their series, giving them back-to-back wins for the first time since August 21-22 when they won the first two of the White Sox series.

Nate Robertson got the victory Saturday night with 8 strong innings. For all my concerns about his past second-half failures, Robertson has been more than solid. He's scuffled, sure, but he's kept Detroit in nearly every game he's pitched lately. That's all you can ask for.

Excluding one bad start against Chicago, Robertson has posted a 2.09 ERA in 8 August-September starts. He's 3-5, which indicates how poorly the Tigers have been hitting.

Matt Stairs is a nice addition for the stretch run; too bad he's not eligible for the postseason roster if the Tigers can hold on. I think they will, especially since they've only got to finish ahead of either Minnesota or CWS -- and those two teams finish the season against each other.

Stairs made a nice play Saturday night getting caught in a rundown and allowing gimpy Carlos Guillen to score easily from third on a fly ball. That gave Detroit an insurance run, and Robertson and Jonesy took it from there.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Break out the lumber

So, the Orioles tonight are starting a guy named Hayden who has an ERA of around 36 and a WHIP over 5? I'd like to think the Tigers are good for some runs, but who knows? They haven't been able to slap around many people lately.

Mr. Met had been quiet for a while. Guess he was enjoying a siesta before the postseason begins. As for the division being a foregone conclusion, oh, how lucky you've been. I'd take that right about now.

I read Placido Polanco might return next week. Hopefully, it won't be too little, too late.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Maybe we'll come back to Earth, who can tell?

The Mets' magic number to clinch the National League East championship is down to one. They will surely clinch this weekend. Now, their clinching has been a foregone conclusion since about the middle of June. Also, the Mets were in the World Series as recently as 2000. Fans of serious long-suffering franchises have every right to scoff at Mets fans who act like this is a long time coming. There are plenty of reasons to view this as a less than dramatic event. Still, it's going to be a lot fun.

Even though the Mets have been to the playoffs twice in last seven season, they haven't won a division title since 1988. In 1999 and 2000 they had to play second fiddle to the Braves. Now they've emphatically put an end to the Atlanta's historic run of regular season excellence. Granted, that happened a couple of days ago, but it won't really be time to celebrate until the Mets officially claim the title for themselves.

That lengthy drought featured many bad teams and painful moments. The 2004 season may not rank as the worst. But the speed of the team's turnaround has been remarkable. In July of 2004, the Mets had a bad, old major league team and they gutted their farm system for no good reason. Afterwards, the team needed a lot of help just to be competitive and those in charge seemed exactly the wrong men for the job. That the Mets have gone from this seemingly hopeless situation to division champs in just two years is nothing short of amazin'.

I've had plenty of criticism for Omar Minaya's individual moves since he took over as general manager. And he keeps doing things which defy logic (Shawn Green, take a bow). But there's no question he's done a lot of things right. To take the mess of 2004 and build a team that may win 100 games with a mix of veterans and young stars isn't easy, regardless of the team's budget. Jose Reyes and David Wright blossoming into two of the best players in the game has certainly helped. But after some of the guys who've occupied Minaya's office in recent years, the fact that neither one was traded away for the proverbial bag of balls is worth applauding.

Once the Mets clinch, we can get back to worrying about the playoff roster. Will Steve Trachsel really get a start? Could someone please play well enough to take Shawn Green's spot in the lineup? They're not going to wear the black hats in a home playoff game, are they? All good questions. But for one day, we can just be happy. The Mets are about to be the champions of the National League East.


The Tigers aren't the only ones feeling the SI jinx. Chase Utley appeared on a portion of the SI cover on August 9. Since then, he's batting .215-7-18 in 32 games. He's got a .724 OPS. Prior to his appearance, he was .327-21-71 in 111 games. He had a .940 OPS.

I guess the fact he only appeared in a corner of the cover, unlike Verlander who got the whole cover, has prevented the Phils -- as a team -- from sliding into the abyss.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hack attack

An interesting column regarding the Tigers hitting woes, from Michael Rosenberg in the Free Press. Like Yogi said, "How can you hit and think at the same time?"

Dancing in the seats

What a night in Detroit. The Tigers hit 3 solo homers and Craig Monroe threw out 3 baserunners – two at the plate! – to propel them to a 3-2 win.

Where does one begin? Monroe’s throws were great, especially in the rain. On the second peg to the plate, Pudge did an awesome job deking the runner, I thought. He just stood there, nonchalant, as if there wasn’t going to be a play, then slapped down a tag at the last moment while blocking the plate with his foot.

Carlos Guillen drilled two homers while Marcus Thames had one. Guillen’s second dinger was right-handed, which maybe is a sign that things are going to turn around for the Tigers. Guillen hits .325 as a lefty but .273 as a righty and has better power from the left side. So to hit a walkoff last night from the right side was huge.

Finally, the crowd – at least those that sat through the rain for the night – was pretty incredible. They were as energetic as one could expect, and as the Tigers celebrated like little kids, a good number of fans stuck around in the rain, cheering and dancing, long after Guillen’s homer landed in the seats.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I just realized

Miguel Cabrera is very quietly having a monster season, worthy of MVP consideration, I’d say. Cabrera leads the NL in hitting at .340 and has 25 HR, 109 RBI (5th in NL) and 105 runs (8th). He’s got a 1.017 OPS (4th). He batted .379-7-32 in August.

I never was a big believer that Chris Carpenter was that good. Now, I must. It’s hard to ignore 15-5, 3.46 in 2004; 21-5, 2.83 in 2005; and 14-6, 2.84 this year. He was a .500 pitcher prior to joining the Cardinals. He’s been a far better pitcher at home this year (1.60 ERA in 14 starts) even though St. Louis’ new park is supposed to be hitter friendly.

Monday, September 11, 2006

O woes

The Tigers offense is MIA as the stretch run heats up. Detroit’s once large lead in the AL Central is down to a game in the loss column to the Twins after losing 3 of 4 in Minnesota.

Detroit is 8-17 in its last 25 games. The Tigers median number of runs scored per game in their victories during that span is 7. The median number of runs scored per game in the losses is 2. They’ve scored 2 or fewer runs nine times. They’re 0-6 in one-run games and 1-5 in games decided by two runs.

During the last 30 days, the Tigers have a .253 batting average, which ranks 13th in the 14-team AL. The on-base average during that time is last, at .300.

Adding to the woes, Detroit’s committed 22 errors in the last 29 games; only Tampa Bay is worse.

Fortunately, the pitching staff has a 3.84 ERA in the last 29 games – fourth best in the AL – otherwise the damage could be much worse. The Twins have a 3.14 ERA during the same time period.

Detroit has a two-game home series against Texas coming up. Kenny Rogers and Justin Verlander are the scheduled starters. Two wins are a must. Then the Orioles come to town for three games.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Round 1 of the Detroit-Minny clash goes to the Tigers in a romp. Curtis Granderson started the bashing with a HR and the Detroiters never looked back.

Anoter outstanding game from Verlander, too. There was some concern he was tipping pitches in August, when he gave up 42 hits in 27.2 innings. He's given up 12 hits in 14 IP this month. I think his last 3 wins have followed Tiger losses.

Marcus Thames is putting together one of those odd HR-RBI seasons. He's got 25 dingers and just 57 ribbies. He ranks 19th in the AL in homers (and would rank 6th in HR/AB if he had enough appearances) but is tied for 57th in RBI.

I know there are others who have strange RBI totals given the number of homers they hit. Ex-Tiger Rob Deer (32 HR-64 RBI in 1992) jumps to mind. Deer had six consecutive years of at least 21 HR and never had more than 69 RBI. Struggling to hit .200 probably had a lot to do with it.

Barry Bonds in 2003 had 45-90, so another 2 RBI/HR ratio like Deer. I've looked up some of the other obvious suspects (Mickey Tettleton, Gorman Thomas, Pete Incaviglia, Steve Kemp) and, while some got close to that ratio, none matched it. So I wonder what the lowest ratio is? At least for guys with at least 20 HR.

When I looked up Steve Kemp, it drew me to Chet Lemon (traded for each other). It's hard to believe that Chet was such a great defensive outfielder with good range, and yet couldn't steal a base to save his life. I remember that Bill James once wrote that Chet ran the bases "as if confused by their sequence."

Chet went 0-for-7 in the SB category one year. In half of his 16 seasons he was thrown out more often than successful. The other 8 times, it was about a 50-50 proposition.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Time to buckle up. The Tigers and Twins begin a critical four-game series tonight in Minnesota. Justin Verlander against Scott Baker.

Baker gave up 14 runs in 8.2 innings in two starts prior to being sent to the minors in August. He returned Saturday to throw 2-hit ball over 5 innings against the Yankees. Verlander must come through. If nothing else, a win in the opener guarantees the Tigers leave town in first place and might relax them.

(We are attempting to reverse the SI curse by running Verlander's photo here.)

Next it’s Wilfredo Ledezma against Matt Garza and then Nate Robertson vs. Boof Bonser. In the finale, Jeremy Bonderman faces Johan Santana.

For the record, “Boof” is Bonser’s legal name. He changed it from “John” in 2001. Sure wish the Giants hadn’t traded Bonser, Joe Nathan, and Francisco Liriano for A.J. Pierzynski. What in the hell were they thinking?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Oh funk

The Tigers are officially reeling, I believe. After today's loss to Seattle, the Detroiters have dropped 19 of their last 28. They're 4-10 since Justin Verlander's appearance on Sports Illustrated's cover.

On top of the hitting woes, which will be documented below, the Tigers released Dmitri Young. It's very hard to say how this will affect the club at this fragile time. It could shake them up, or send them into a deeper funk. The move certainly stunned just about everyone, apparently.

As for the bats, they must awaken. Detroit is hitting .233 with a .687 OPS in its six games this month. Here is a look at the Tigers' hitting by month:

Month Games Average Runs OPS
April 25 .286 133 .833
May 28 .264 130 .756
June 27 .274 157 .783
July 25 .294 129 .783
Aug 29 .263 116 .727

On the bright side, thanks to the pitching, the Tigers rarely get blown out. And they've shown a fighting spirit and ability to bounce back. But with the lead in the AL Central dwindling, they're going to have to start hitting better. The fears about the squad's lack of depth are being realized.


Hmmm. This sounds familiar.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Must see TV

There are very few players that require your full attention when at the plate. Ryan Howard now ranks No. 1 in that category.

I was in attendance Sunday as he blasted 3 homers in the first game of the Phils' doubleheader. Those were Nos. 50, 51 and 52. He hit No. 53 on Monday (without me). He don't hit no cheapies, either.

The NL MVP race will come down to Howard and Pujols. Over their last 50 games, crunch time, Howard has an edge -- although both are hitting well. Howard is .359-24-62 with 43 runs and 1.285 OPS. Pujols is .328-14-41 with 40 runs and 1.044 OPS.

People are going to stop pitching to Howard, more than likely. He's got very little protection. Anyone seen Pat Burrell lately? Since hitting 2 homers against the Mets (what else is new?) on June 15, he's got 6 HR and 34 RBI in 59 games. He's got an .830 OPS during that time.

The Phils had 10,000 walkups Monday to get a sellout crowd of 44,000-plus. I wonder if that was because of Howard/wild card fever or because Roger Clemens was pitching? Maybe a combo, but I'm leaning toward the Rocket.

Speaking of homers, it was nice to see Maggs find the seats again. Been a while.

The Tigers got good news in that Mike Maroth should be ready to be activated from the DL this week. He's expected to work out of the pen for a while.

Hopefully, the road-challenged Mariners will be the right medicine for the Detroit bats. The offense needs to find itself again, with or without Guillen and Polanco. Maybe Chris Shelton will think it's April again?