Friday, June 30, 2006
Marcus Thames homered, as did former Pittsburgh farmhand Chris Shelton. And, of course, former Pirates manager Jim Leyland was on the Tigers' bench.
With the win, the Tigers moved 30 games over .500 at 55-25. All this does is equal the 80-game record of the great 1984 Detroiters that won the World Series.
Bless you boys.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
It appears that pitcher Joel Zumaya, and maybe OF/DH Marcus Thames, are the most sought after players by other teams. I hope the Tigers don't trade Zumaya as arms like that are tough to come by. I know you have to give something to get something, but I'm not a big fan of tinkering with a team that's playing like this one is right now.
Thames is interesting. He's got talent, but can he hit consistently? His trade value will never be higher. But, again, I would hate to see him go because of the attitude and energy he brings. I could live with it, but I wouldn't like it. Of course, if he slumps to .230, I'll wish they'd pulled the trigger on a deal.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Moving on, the Mets won just four of seven games. The offense continued to roll, putting thirty-nine runs on the board, but the pitching was less dependable. Steve Trachsel and Orlando Hernandez each had one good start and one bad one, though Hernandez lost both of his while Trachsel won his two. Alay Soler, with little help from his defense, struggled. At least Pedro and Glavine got back to pitching well.
Billy Wagner also had a bit of a rough week. He only allowed runs in one of his four appearances, but he did blow his fourth save of the season on Wednesday. Overall, Wagner has been very good this year despite a handful of memorable failures. There's nothing wrong with his velocity and his strikeout rate of 11.29 per nine innings is his best since 2001. His control has been a problem, though, as he's already walked 17 batters. Last year he allowed just 20 free passes in more than twice as many innings. He's on pace to surpass his career high of 30 walks, which he allowed in both 1996 and 1997. Even with the control issues, he's an excellent closer. But if he can't locate the strike zone a bit more often, he's not going to be the elite reliever the Mets thought they were signing.
Speaking of guys who aren't as good as the Mets thought they were, Paul Lo Duca hurt himself this past weekend. It's nothing serious and he should return to the lineup soon, but there's no need for him to hurry back. Lo Duca, despite his reputation for clutchness, has a history of starting off strong and fizzling down the stretch. In the past three years, he's hit .302/.356/.426 before the All Star break and .249/.307/.345 after. This year he's hitting .280/.321/.394 in what's supposed to be the good half. Meanwhile, his backup, Ramon Castro, is hitting .256/.347/.427 and throwing out a greater percentage of potential base stealers. I don't expect Castro will ever supplant Lo Duca as the starter, and perhaps he couldn't hold up under the strain of playing every day, either. But letting him start more often than he is now could both help the Mets score runs and help Lo Duca stay fresh until October, when the team will need all the clubhouse presence he can muster.
Now that the Mets have taken two of three from the third-place Blue Jays, they move on up to take on the top two teams in the AL East. First they'll play three in Boston and then head to the Bronx for three against the Yankees, from whom they took two of three at Shea last month. Logically, some team is going to stop Jose Reyes eventually. But I don't think either these teams has the pitching staff to get it done.
The Baltimore Orioles signed free agent pitcher Russ Ortiz and have inserted him into the starting rotation. Ortiz is scheduled to take the mound for the first time as an Oriole on July 1 against the Atlanta Braves.
This season, Ortiz was 0-5 with a 7.54 ERA while with the Diamondbacks. He replaces Adam Loewen (0-2, 6.66 ERA) in the O's rotation who has been sent down to AAA Ottawa.
This move cannot hurt the O's. Loewen had six starts for the O's and has clearly been in over his head. He's got talent and moxie, but not enough to overcome inexperience and lack of command at the Major League level. Loewen pitched about as well as he can pitch at this level (at this point in his career).
Ortiz, on the other hand, has pitched about as poorly as anyone can pitch. His career establishes that he can be an excellent starter. He's had health problems since signing with Arizona. The O's (Mazzone) claim Ortiz is healthy and that he "just needs to pitch good".
So, if Ortiz continues to pitch poorly, it only means that the O's lose the games he starts. They've been losing those starts all season anyway (Chen and Loewen). Arizona is paying Ortiz' salary (the O's pay only the pro-rated minimum salary), so the gamble costs the O's almost nothing. Of course, if Ortiz returns to form, that in itself is a huge improvement to the O's starting pitching.
The guaranteed improvement is that the O's get Loewen back down to the minors where he can develop his skills with first hand knowledge of what it's going to take to compete in the AL. If he develops command of the strike zone, he will be a solid major league starter.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
The Tigers have gone 9-1 in their last 10 and have put no ground between themselves and the White Sox. Or the Twins, for that matter. That’s because the Sox and Twins are also both 9-1 in their last 10.
Detroit has the best record in baseball and is on pace to win 109 games, or so. And yet they lead the Central by a scant game as CWS headed into its Sunday night contest against the Astros. This is no way for the baseball gods to treat fans that have waited more than a decade for a good team.
(Of course, I'm sure the White Sox and Twins fans are lamenting their inability to make up any ground. Shut up, we're due.)
Star-in-the-making update: Curtis Granderson, who Brandon Inge has labeled the Tigers’ “clutch MVP of the first half,” is batting .344-4-24 over his last 31 games. He’s also got 28 runs, 10 doubles and three triples during that span and his OPS is a cool 1.000.
For the year, he’s batting .377 with a 1.206 OPS with runners in scoring position.
Quote of the week: “There's no fluke anymore. There's no, we'll see how they do in the first half, or after 50 games. We are a good team.” – Brandon Inge. By the way, the Tigers are 14-3 since beating the White Sox on June 8 (thank you Gambler) and ending their mini-slump against the Yankees, Red Sox and CWS.
Worth the price of admission: The Tigers drew a three-game Comerica record 125,417 fans for their sweep of the Cardinals. A number of other fans reportedly watched games from the roof of the parking garage beyond the left-field wall.
Hump Day lumps: Detroit has lost its last four Wednesday games. That equals the number of losses the Tigers have had all other days of the week since May 31.
Call him Mr. Thames: Marcus Thames has always had power – and a flair for the dramatic. He hit a grand slam in his first game up with the Tigers in 2005. He homered in his first at-bat with the Rangers in 2003. And, of course, he homered on the first pitch he ever saw in the majors, as a Yankee – off Randy Johnson.
The story is that Leyland’s brother, Larry, sold the manager on Thames. Larry Leyland has been a frequent fan at Triple-A Toledo, where Thames has seen plenty of action the last couple years.
During his career as a Tiger, Thames has 32 homers and 77 RBI in 437 AB. He entered this season a .232 hitter, though. Now he’s batting over .300. If he can bat .280 with the power he has, watch out. As he’s already proven this year, he can be very dangerous.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
There is debate amongst Orioles followers regarding the value of Jay Gibbons to the Baltimore Orioles. Gibbons supporters claim he is a hustling ballplayer with adequate range in right field and a moderately powerful left handed hitter. Gibbons detractors claim he is mediocre at best in all facets of the game and would represent almost no loss if the Orioles didn't have him.
Gibbons has been absent from the O's lineup most of the past month due to the death of his father followed immediately by a trip to the DL (where he remains as of today).
For this season, Gibbons offensive production is as follows:
Using a "Run Production per Game" formula of (Runs + RBI - HR), Gibbons produced .85 Runs per Game.
Gibbons has hit behind Miguel Tejada and ahead of Ramon Hernandez for most of those 48 games. Tejada's offensive production looks like this:
|Tejada w/o Gibbons||27||114||15||33||6||3||19||9||.339||.289|
Tejada has produced 1.27 runs per game with Gibbons hitting behind him and 1.14 runs per game w/o Gibbons behind him. So, sans Gibbons, the O's lose his .85 runs per game plus .13 runs per game from Tejada for a total Gibbons Effective Runs per Game value of .98.
Ramon Hernandez offensive production looks like this:
|Hernandez w/o Gibbons||27||106||9||25||10||4||15||7||.281||.236|
Ramon has a 1.12 Runs per Game with Gibbons in front of him and .74 runs per game w/o Gibbons for a differential of .38 runs per game bringing Gibbons Effective Runs per Game to 1.36.
The Orioles, as a team, have scored 5.17 runs per game with Gibbons in the lineup and 4.39 runs per game w/o Gibbons in the lineup (a difference of .78 runs per game). So, the O's have managed to replace .58 effective runs per game of Gibbons 1.36 effective runs per game contribution.
The bottom line is that Gibbons is twice as productive as anyone the Orioles have to take his place and he improves the productivity of Tejada in front and Hernandez behind him. It's enough for me to wish for Gibbons' speedy recovery.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Other random Phillies notes.
Ryan Howard is the fastest player in the history of Major League Baseball to ever hit 25 homeruns in their sophomore season. Quicker then Joe DiMaggio and Eddie Mathews.
Ryan Howard’s monster third deck blast from Monday has been honored with a white H pained on Seat 8, in Section 304, Row 1.
Randy Wolf got roughed up in his first double A rehab start. Wolf lasted 3 2/3 and gave up 6 runs on 71 pitches. YAR!
The Tigers are 3 games better than the NYM, yet have just a one-game lead over the White Sox in the AL Central. Meanwhile, the Mets are 9.5 up in the NL East. Sigh.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Some have called this the worst trade in Tigers history, but I'm not among them. There was no guarantee Smoltz would become the pitcher he did, and Alexander and Detroit overcame a 2.5-game deficit with a week to play by sweeping Toronto on the final weekend. (Frank Tanana beat Jimmy Key 1-0 in the finale -- why don't people talk about this more?)
Anyway, last year, the Tigers dealt Kyle Farnsworth to the Braves for a minor-league pitcher named Zach Miner. After last night's complete game win, Miner is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA for Detroit since being called up to replace injured Mike Maroth. Farnsworth is blowing games for the Yankees.
Have the Tigers gotten their Smoltz thanks to that deal? Way too early to tell, but fun to think about.
And speaking of Smoltz, who can become a free agent at the end of the season, might he end up back in Detroit this year? He said that if he's traded, the Tigers would be a natural fit. Imagine a staff of Rogers, Smoltz, Bonderman and Verlander or Robertson heading into the postseason. Food for thought.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Stieb was always one of my favorite pitchers, even though he hurled for the rival Blue Jays. Maybe I liked him because he kind of had a Jack Morris-type nastiness. Anyway, I was reminded that in a two-year period, 1988-89, Stieb lost three no-hitters with two outs in the ninth. Those were among five one-hitters he threw.
In fact, Stieb ended 1988 with back-to-back one-hitters and pitched another in his second start of 1989 – three one-hitters in four freakin’ starts! He finally tossed a no-no in 1990.
Stieb led all AL pitchers in the decade of the 1980s in ERA (3.32) and shutouts (27) and was second in wins (140, behind Morris’ 160).
What killed Stieb was his record. He never won 20 games, but eight times had an ERA of 3.25 or lower. His ERA was more than a full run better than the league’s ERA on six occasions.
Take 1985 as an example. Stieb posted an AL-best 2.48 ERA – well below the league’s ERA of 4.23 – and went 14-13. And Toronto won 99 games that year. It makes no sense. Making even less sense, Stieb got 2 points in the Cy Young voting and finished tied for seventh. His teammate Doyle Alexander (17-10, 3.45) was sixth. Neyer figured Stieb should have won three Cy Young Awards -- he won none -- based on Win Shares.
In 1981, Stieb was 11-10 for a Blue Jays squad that won just 37 games (strike-shortened season). I could go on, but you can see for yourself.
Monday, June 19, 2006
The Mets' offense had a terrific week, scoring more than six runs a game to bail out their shaky pitchers. Jose Reyes was spectacular, getting a hit in exactly half of his at bats with nearly half of those going for extra bases. Despite his struggles earlier in the season, Reyes is now hitting .269/.336/.439. His on base and slugging percentages would both be the best of his career by a narrow margin if he kept them up through the end of the season. He's now drawn more walks than he did all of last year in 95 fewer games and he's on pace to top his totals of doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases as well. After his injury troubles in 2004 and his disappointing 2005, Reyes appears finally to be making good on the promise he showed back in 2003.
Less encouraging this week was the failure of Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez to dominate opposing hitters. The two of them allowed 12 runs in 18.1 innings. The Mets did win both of Glavine's starts and the first of them might have been less ugly played somewhere other than Citizens Bank Smallpark, but the Mets can't really afford to have these two regress to being merely good pitchers. Even with Alay Soler continuing to impress, the Mets need their pair of aces to compensate for the ineffectiveness of the rest of the rotation. I mean, with a nine and a half game lead, they can afford it for now. But come October, Pedro and Glavine need to be Pedro and Glavine.
The Mets don't get to rest on their lead this week, though, as they face a pair of teams with legitimate playoff aspirations. First they play four at home against the Reds, the current National League Wild Card leader. And then it's off to Toronto for three against a Blue Jays team that trails the Yankees by just three games. The Mets have really beat up on their own division so far this year. Now we'll see if they can keep it up against the rest of baseball.
The Philles can’t go for a rent a player type since that would further hamper the future of the team, so young but major league worthy pitchers are needed. Not really something that’s easy to find mid season and teams often don’t want to give up that kind of cheap pitching and possibly great pitching. Also there is the problem that the most movable pieces are the corner outfielders which both make a lot of money that a team giving up a young pitcher most likely would not want to take on. The fact is if the Phillies are going to make the moves necessary they probably would have to take some big chances on high risk players like Mark Prior who maybe able to be had for a Pat Burrell or Bobby Abrue, but may turn out to be completely wasted on the DL or never live up to his potential and turn out to be anything better than what the team already has.
The one player that maybe able to be moved to bring in some serious value in return is Jimmy Rollins. J-Roll is going to be making decent market value for is position and is locked up while. He’s still young enough that his contract is fair and his defense is amongst the best in the league at short stop, but again the problem is that you need to find a dance partner and there aren’t that many if any teams that need a short stop this year that would have a pitcher the Phillies would want.
Still there is hope, even after how bad the last week has been the Phillies managed to gain a ½ game back in the Wildcard and are only 3 back. I know on the 19th of June one doesn’t want to think of the Wildcard but to catch the Mets right now the Phillies would pretty much need The Mets to fall completely apart, so it’s the giver of false hope the Wildcard that we’ll have to dream of. Maybe Randy Wolf can come back, maybe when Liber comes back he can catch some of his old form. This week may tell us a lot about if the Phillies may try to be buyers or sellers at the dead line, but probably not. That’s the one thing the Wildcard has really screwed up. Too many teams still have hope.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
First, Rogers is 10-3 with a 3.17 ERA. On Sunday, he picked up his 200th career victory.
Detroit is 11-4 in games started by Rogers. In the four losses, the Tigers scored a total of five runs and were shutout twice.
He is probably responsible for having the Tigers at least 10 games over .500 on his own – remember, he essentially replaced Jason Johnson in the rotation. It would be easy, based on history, to surmise that Johnson could be at least three games under .500 at this point. (He’s 3-7 for Cleveland.)
Rogers helped set the tone for the pitching staff by tossing six innings of three-hit ball to beat KC on opening day. Two of his other April wins followed a Tigers’ loss. Two more of his victories since then have followed defeats.
Over his last four starts, Rogers has pitched seven innings twice and eight innings twice. His median innings pitched per game for the year is seven innings.
Finally, of course is the impact Rogers has had on the staff as a whole. He is a legitimate No. 1 starter, which immediately moved all the other Tiger starters into spots where they were better suited. Let’s face it, having Robertson slide from No. 2 to No. 3 and Maroth (when he was healthy) from No. 3 to No. 4, makes this staff much more formidable. Not to mention that Bonderman gets to relax in the No. 2 spot and almost gives Detroit a 1 and 1A in the rotation.
There is no way to quantify what Rogers has meant to the club as a mentor to the young pitchers, but it has to be substantial. The Tigers entered Sunday with a ML-best 3.61 ERA. Consider this – the last time an AL team led the majors in ERA was in 1990 when Oakland did it.
The Center for Disease Control has been alerted to an outbreak of O's Fever in the borough of Queens.
The Baltimore Orioles have taken the first 2 of three games from the NL East leading NY Mets in surprising fashion. The Orioles have delivered timely hitting to take advantage of sloppy Mets defensive play and backed it up with good pitching.
Getting 6 and 8 innings pitched in games 1 & 2 from starters Bedard and Benson, respectively, easily represents the best two game stretch of starting pitching for the O's all season. The bullpen has 4 innings of shutout baseball.
I suspect Mets manager Willie Randolph has some medicine for the Mets affliction and no doubt gave 'em all a dose of it after last nights game in which the Mets committed 3 errors.
The final game of 3 is today and the Mets send Tom Glavine to the mound. A solid left handed starter combined with a dose of "Get yer head out of yer #!$@%@$" from Randolph, will likely be enough to stay the CDC from quarantining the borough.
As for the carrier of O's fever, I can only say "Go North, young germ".
Saturday, June 17, 2006
What I did was take the Top 20 RBI men in the ML. I added their runs scored and RBI and then subtracted their HR so they didn’t get credit for two runs. I then divided the total by their plate appearances and came up with, for lack of a better term, their run production average, or RPA.
Obviously, factors outside the individual player's control are part of this study, and I haven’t thought much about how to resolve that yet. For instance, a player can only drive in runs if guys get on base ahead of him, and can only score – outside of a HR – if someone behind him drives him in. So the strength of a team’s lineup can help or hurt a player in these rankings.
Anyway, below are the Top 20 RBI men ranked according to RPA. The first number is runs produced followed by plate appearance and then their average (with their RBI rank in parentheses). Following the Top 20 are four players I did just out of curiosity.
Does this have any value?
Pujols 92-233 .395 (1)
Beltran 84-254 .331 (T11)
Hafner 93-289 .322 (T6)
Thome 87-277 .314 (T4)
Giambi 77-251 .307 (T11)
Glaus 83-280 .296 (T13)
Tejada 89-305 .292 (T13)
A Jones 80-284 .282 (T2)
Berkman 74-263 .281 (T4)
Morneau 69-250 .276 (T13)
Konerko 78-287 .272 (T17)
C. Lee 79-290 .272 (T6)
Ortiz 79-291 .271 (T2)
Lopez 82-304 .270 (T17)
Wells 76-283 .269 (T9)
Wright 79-296 .267 (T19)
Guerrero 73-277 .264 (T9)
Bay 79-300 .263 (T13)
Howard 70-275 .255 (T6)
Burrell 65-255 .255 (T19)
The other four:
Abreu 90-292 .308 (T27)
A Rod 85-283 .300 (T30)
Holliday 80-276 .290 (T27)
Blaylock 80-290 .276 (T27)
Friday, June 16, 2006
Detroit has 95 games remaining. That means if the Tigers go just 47-48 the rest of the way, they still hit 90 wins, which probably keeps them in the postseason chase. Obviously, we're hoping for better than .500 the rest of the way, but at least this is comforting.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
This year, he’s back around .220, although he has 13 HR and 39 RBI already. He is often mentioned as one of the Tigers’ best – if not the best – all-around athletes.
What’s really odd, to me, anyway, is that he’s got 39 RBI on just 48 hits. Among the top 50 players in the AL in RBI, there’s only one with more RBI than hits, and that’s Jason Giambi with 50 hits and 51 ribbies. So Inge is picking up 0.81 RBI per hit. For comparison, leaders like Vernon Wells and Vlad Guerrero are at 0.66 while Miguel Tejada is at 0.57.
So, you have to figure Inge is a demon with runners in scoring position, right? Wrong. He’s batting .234 with RISP.
I have no idea how he’s doing it. All I know is he appears to be too talented to be a .220 hitter, and too poor of a hitter right now to be driving in runs like he is. But I’m glad he is.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Curtis Granderson drove in the winning run and was 4-for-6 on the night. Jim Leyland called him "a jewel" after the victory. For the season, our star-in-the-making is hitting .285 with 9 HR and 31 RBI. Not bad for a leadoff man. He's got a .385 OBP, but strikes out a lot -- 71 times so far.
It seems that offensively, Pudge, Maggs and Guillen are going to be fairly consistent. The rest of the lineup produces a new star regularly. Our man of the hour is DH Marcus Thames, who is hitting .310 with 12 HR in just 125 AB. He's got a 1.079 OPS.
Zach Miner got his first win filling in for Mike Maroth, so that was encouraging. The Tigers got Miner from the Braves when they dealt Farnsworth last year. He was 6-0 with a 2.82 ERA at Triple-A Toledo this season. He is only 24 -- meaning 3/5 of the rotation is 24 or younger -- but has six years in the minors.
One guy that's overlooked in the pen is Jamie Walker. This guy has been incredible, posting a 0.93 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in 19.1 innings. He has 17 K and just 2 BB. He's allowed only two runs.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez had a bit of a rough week, but a couple of other starters stepped up to earn some lopsided wins. Orlando Hernandez pitched the Mets' first real complete game of the season on Friday, allowing just one run. And Alay Soler had two excellent starts, allowing one run in sixteen innings including a complete game shutout on Sunday. One good start doesn't erase all of the bad pitching Hernandez has done this year, but Soler is a different story. He's had one terrible start this year, but otherwise has ranged from solid to excellent. Four major league starts can only tell you so much, but right now he's the closest thing the Mets have had to a legitimate third starter all year.
Of course, concerns about pitching become less important when your offense is scoring nearly eight runs per game, as the Mets did this week. Carlos Beltran and David Wright remain unstoppable. And Carlos Delgado sprang to life, hitting .391/.429/.870 on the week. The Mets temporarily lost Cliff Floyd to a sprained ankle, but so many other hitters had big weeks that he was hardly missed.
The Mets start off this week with a chance to expand their six and a half game lead over the Phillies with a three game series in Philadelphia. Then they'll return home to breathe new life into the heated Mets/Orioles rivalry for three games. It will be nice to see clips of those Tommie Agee catches again.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Hopefully, this isn't a trend, just a patch of bad luck. But Ernie Harwell didn't nickname Todd Jones "roller coaster" without reason.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Even with their slump, which was inevitable given the way they'd been playing, they have the best record in the majors and a 2.5 lead over the CWS in the AL Central. As Stanley says, it's just time to grind it out until another hot streak comes around. Also, it shows the importance of whipping up on the weaker competition so you have a cushion to absorb slumps.
Justin Verlander was named the AL Rookie of the Month.
The Tigers grabbed UNC lefty pitching standout Andrew Miller with the sixth pick of today's draft. Many expected Miller to be the No. 1 player on the board, so this was quite a break for Detroit.
Monday, June 05, 2006
The big story of the week was the arrival of top prospect Lastings Milledge in the major leagues. He got off to a slow start and his behavior drew quite a bit of hot air from the local media. But a big game on Sunday gave a glimpse of his potential. In five games he's already hit a pair of doubles and a home run and his defense has been pretty impressive when he's not making dumb rookie mistakes. He may head back to AAA when Xavier Nady is healthy, and that's probably not the worst thing in the world. But Milledge should be a solid major league outfielder by next Spring at the latest.
Also making the most of an opportunity to start this week was Jose Valentin. Once the Mets finally accepted that Kazuo Matsui's offensive ability had not accompanied him on his journey from Japan to the US, they gave Valentin a shot at playing second base. He'd gotten off to a terrible start in a reserve role, but had shown signs of life in May. And he kept it up once given the chance to start, leading the team with a 1.455 OPS and three home runs this week. Second base has been the biggest hole in the Mets' daily lineup this year, but if Valentin can resemble the player he was prior to his lost 2005, he can definitely fill that hole.
First base, on the other hand, has become a problem. Carlos Delgado hit just .208/.300/.406 in May after an excellent April. The Mets have had enough offense to pick up the slack, but this slump has really become a concern.
Otherwise, the story remains unchanged for the Mets. They keep winning despite a lot of bad pitching. This week they'll take their show on the road to the west coast with three games in Los Angeles and four in Arizona. Hopefully Bill Plaschke will find the time to write another love letter to Paul Lo Duca upon his return to LA.