Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rodrigo can be proud! (Me so sad....)

Rodrigo Lopez has been named Orioles Opening Day starter for 2006. This is Rodrigo's 3rd Opening Day start for the O's in the last 4 years. With this start, Lopez will join exclusive company in Baltimore's record books. Just four other Orioles -- Steve Barber, Dave McNally, Jim Palmer and Mike Mussina -- have pitched as many as three Opening Day games for the O's. Palmer and Mussina are tied for the most with six each, and McNally worked five openers as Baltimore's ace.

Barber 121 106 3.36 466 272 59 21 1999
McNally 184 119 3.24 424 396 120 33 2730
Palmer 268 152 2.86 558 521 211 53 3948
Mussina 224 127 3.64 443 443 56 23 3013
Lopez 51 43 4.56 137 118 5 2 748.1

Now Available

The most prolific pinch hitter in the history of Major League Baseball.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Walk this way

At first glance, the Tigers seemed to have some pretty good offensive numbers last season. Especially in batting average, where their .272 mark was fourth best in the AL. They also led the league with 45 triples and were seventh in homers. They were fifth in hits and sixth in slugging.

Yet they ranked 11th in runs. The reason? Walks, or lack thereof. The Tigers walked just 384 times, worst in the AL. The Red Sox, who led the league in runs and bases on balls, drew 269 more freebies than Detroit.

That's 1.7 extra baserunners per game. Not to mention what it does to the opponent's pitch count and helping a team get into their foe's bullpen. And the Red Sox didn't do it at the expense of hitting their way on, either, leading the AL in that category, too. But that also makes sense -- work deeper into counts, see better pitches to hit.

If you looked at the top run-scoring teams in either league last season, most were among the leaders in walks, too. Oddly, strikeouts didn't seem to matter too much as the Red Sox were right up there as well. In the AL, the top six teams in runs were also among the top six in walks. And three of those squads struck out more than 1,000 times.

Much has been made of the Tigers needing to cut down on strikeouts, which would be nice, but they really need to make strides in walks.

If you're a Tigers fan, you have to believe the starting pitching will be good enough to be competitive. If the starters falter, there's no hope, anyway. If the pitching blossoms, then it will fall on the offense to score runs. That will be the key to the first winning season since 1993.

Monday, March 27, 2006

'Los is a loss

The Tigers released 1B/enigma Carlos Pena over the weekend. It's not much of a surprise given that Pena was batting .160 in the spring and Detroit will only have to pay a quarter of his $2.8 million salary by dumping him now.

I love the quote by Pena's agent, $cott Bora$:

"Jim Leyland is a pitching and defense guy. If Jim had managed the club last season and gotten to make an independent appraisal of Carlos, I think this might have gone differently."

Differently? Granted, Pena is a smooth fielder, but he hit .235-18-44 last year and was dropped to the minors during the middle of the season. Chris Shelton took over at first base and batted .299-18-59 with an .870 OPS (compared to Pena's .802). Plus, Dmitri Young can back up Shelton. He hit .271-21-72 last year and is a lifetime .291 hitter. Pena is a .243 career hitter.

Pena was one of the centerpieces in the trade that sent Jeff Weaver from Detroit. Good thing the Tigers also got Jeremy Bonderman in return. Pena seems like a classy guy, so we hope he can find himself somewhere else. But it wasn't going to happen in Motown.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

O's to repeat

The Baltimore Orioles easily have the 4th best team in the AL East.

AL East finishes:

2006 - 4th <-bold prediction
2005 - 4th
2004 - 3rd
2003 - 4th
2002 - 4th
2001 - 4th
2000 - 4th
1999 - 4th
1998 - 4th

Friday, March 24, 2006

No more suspense

The curtain closed on whatever drama there was in Tigers camp when Jim Leyland named Justin Verlander the team's fifth starter. The rotation is set, as are the starting position players.

Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, Mike Maroth and Verlander will form the rotation. Verlander has a fastball in the high 90s and wicked breaking stuff. This has the makings of a solid group, but still needs to prove itself. There is no doubt a ton of potential.

Joel Zumaya, another top prospect who lost the No. 5 slot to Verlander, will begin the season in the bullpen with the Tigers. There is a report Detroit is interested in Phillies left-handed reliever Rheal Cormier. I guess they didn't see him pitch last season.

The batting order, particularly the top, remains unsettled. But you have to like a lineup of Pudge Rodriguez (C), Chris Shelton (1B), Placido Polanco (2B), Carlos Guillen (SS), Brandon Inge (3B), Craig Monroe (LF), Curtis Granderson (CF), Magglio Ordonez (RF) and Dmitri Young (DH). That looks like some runs.

Everyone better stay healthy, though, because depth is lacking.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bud better than Bo?

The switch to Budweiser pays an early dividend.

Center of attention

Jim Leyland said that if the season started today, Curtis Granderson would be the Tigers’ center fielder. This is fine with me, and probably not much of a surprise. Nook Logan has tremendous speed and would be great in the leadoff spot for that reason, but hasn’t been able to reach base consistently.

Granderson, who just turned 25, batted .290-15-65 with 22 SB for Toledo last year before joining the big club. He hit .272-8-20 in 162 at-bats. He also smacked three triples.

He played college ball at Illinois-Chicago and was a Baseball America second-team All-American. He was the Tigers’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2004. That season, he played at Double-A Erie and batted .301-21-94 with 14 SB and 89 R before getting a September call-up.

This spring, Granderson is batting .395 with a .531 OBP. He’s got 5 homers and 8 RBI and is 5-for-5 in stolen bases. Logan is batting .188 and has a .291 OBP. He leads the team with 6 SB.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Tearing it up

Non-roster invitee Josh Phelps seems destined for Triple-A Toledo despite a solid spring so far. Phelps is batting .571 with 3 HR and 8 RBI in 28 AB for the Tigers. He’s also got 5 doubles and thinks he could thrive in Comerica by taking advantage of the spacious gaps.

Hard to say if he’ll get a chance to find out. But Phelps is only 27 years old and has shown flashes of being a good hitter. Lifetime, he’s got 57 HR and 212 RBI in 1,203 AB. He batted .309 with 15 HR and 58 RBI in less than half a season as a Blue Jays’ rookie in 2002. He’s got a .268 career average. Most encouraging is that he’s only struck out 4 times, and walked 4 times, this spring.

Phelps most likely would fill the DH role, and could also play first, but the Tigers have got too many players there already. His only hope is to see either Dmitri Young or Carlos Pena traded. Young hasn’t seen much action this spring because of a strained quad, but could be returning soon.

Young is the more versatile player and better hitter. I’m not sure what you could get for the once-highly-touted Pena at this point. Despite his power surges, this is a guy that’s batted .253, .248, .241, and .235 since becoming a Tiger. Notice that each year is worse than the previous season, too. He’s only 27, too, and looks like a hitter – except after he swings. Easily the most frustrating player to watch in recent memory.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Wanted: Tigers

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said yesterday that his squad lacked personality, swagger and meanness. He's not happy about it, either.

Leyland said the Tigers were a great bunch of guys, the best he's been around, but needed to show a little more edge on the field. I guess they need to be tigers, not just Tigers.

Pudge certainly is one guy who can play with a mean streak and attitude. So is Dmitri Young. Beyond that, maybe Jeremy Bonderman. Even so, that's a short list.

Maybe nice guys do finish last.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What are the odds?

According to Benjamin Lee Eckstein/America's Line

To win the World Series:
Yankees 5-2 (favorite)
Phillies 15-1
Mets 25-1
Orioles 50-1
Tigers 75-1
Royals 250-1 (last)

First AL manager fired/resign:
Showalter, Rangers, and Francona, Red Sox, 5-1 (co-favorites)
Perlozzo, Orioles, 12-1
Leyland, Tigers, 15-1
Torre, Yankees, 20-1 (last)

First NL manager fired/resign:
Melvin, D-Backs, and Hurdle, Rockies, 5-1 (co-favorites)
Manuel, Phillies, 6-1
Randolph, Mets, 15-1
Cox, Braves, and LaRussa, Cards, 25-1 (last)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Time to get started

There don't seem to be many questions in Tigers camp this spring. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing.

Only one spot in the starting rotation is up for grabs, and Justin Verlander appears to have the inside track. He will make his first spring outing today, so I'm sure all eyes will be upon him.

Otherwise, it's Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Mike Maroth in the rotation. Time for the latter three to take a big step forward this season.

The only other major question is what will happen with Dmitri Young and/or Carlos Pena. Chris Shelton will play first base, either Young or Pena will spot Shelton and DH. Young reported to camp in great shape. Pena has been enigmatic, to say the least, ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble every time our hopes soar over one of his hot streaks.

If Pudge is healthy and happy, that would be a plus. Ditto for Maggs. Hope springs eternal, but if all things fall into place, the Tigers are a playoff contender. Of course, all things MUST fall into place. There's no wiggle room.