Monday, July 31, 2006

Please, sir, I want some more pitching

It wouldn't be the trading deadline if something didn't go wrong for the Mets. It'd be pretty hard to blame this one on the team's front office, though. Duaner Sanchez wound up with what is being called a separated shoulder when a taxi he was riding in was involved in an accident. And so the Mets had some tradin' to do.

The deal they made probably won't have a major effect on the team's fortunes for the rest of this season. They traded one of their least important and most replaceable offensive starters and received a couple of pitchers unlikely to make much of an impact. And instead of a top Mets prospect leaving the organization, as would be expected on this day, they opened up a spot in the majors for one.

The newest Pirate, Xavier Nady, has had a decent season, hitting .264/.326/.487, showing a bit more power than he had in any previous season. But he isn't nearly one of the best offensive right fielders in the league and his defense has not been impressive at all. Nady was a decent choice to fill the role of seventh or eighth best hitter in a good lineup, but he wasn't an integral part of the Mets' present or future.

Neither is Roberto Hernandez, the man the Mets acquired ostensibly to replace Sanchez in the bullpen. Hernandez was a revelation for the Mets last year, posting a 2.58 ERA in 69.2 innings of relief. He's been quite effective so far this year, too, with a 2.93 ERA in 43 IP. But a closer look at his stats reveals a forty-one year old reliever who has cooled off a bit.

He's giving up a hit and a walk more per nine innings as compared to last year and his strikeout rate has dropped from 7.2 to 6.4. His peripheral numbers are more in line with those of his unimpressive 2003 and 2004 seasons than his excellent 2005. Any decent reliever can get hot for a couple of months and look unhittable as Hernandez has in the past, but expecting Hernandez to regain his 2005 form or replace Sanchez's excellent production seems very optimistic. Fortunately, Omar Minaya is now saying, contrary to earlier reports, that it may be possible for Sanchez to return before the end of the regular season. If that comes to pass and Hernandez is about the fourth best reliever on the postseason roster, they may really have something.

The most interesting part of this deal, to me, is the Mets' acquisition of Oliver Perez. Perez is in some ways a Victor Zambranoesque figure. He's been awful lately, he walks far too many batters and the Mets are surely hoping that Rick Peterson can work his magic and turn him into the good pitcher his stuff says he could be. But unlike Zambrano, Perez actually was good at one point. Oh, and Xavier Nady's no Scott Kazmir.

Perez was significantly better than "good" in 2004. He was one of the best pitchers in the National League with an ERA of 2.98 and 239 strikeouts in 196 innings. But in 2005 he fell apart, posting a 5.85 ERA as his home run and walk rates skyrocketed. His 2006 hasn't been any better as he posted a 6.63 ERA in 76 innings before being sent to the minors where he did not exactly turn things around. He's gotten the walks under control a bit in AAA, but a 5.63 ERA and six home runs in 32 innings indicate he's still got some work to do.

Nevertheless, Perez has shown he has the talent to be a good or even excellent pitcher. And he won't turn twenty-five for another couple of weeks. He may not pitch in the majors again this year and I wouldn't expect much success if he did. But given the old "change of scenery" and a lot of work with Peterson in Spring Training next year, maybe he'll turn in to an asset. Taking a shot at reviving the old Oliver Perez, which was ironically the young Oliver Perez, is an excellent gamble given how little the Mets had to surrender to get him.

The Mets didn't get through the deadline completely unscathed, but things could have gone worse. Lastings Milledge is still in the organization and he'll soon be on the major league roster. And they picked up a decent reliever and a starter who basically amounts to a prospect with a lot of upside. It's not Ed Hearn for David Cone, but I'll take it.

Casey at the bat

Sean Casey must feel like he won the lottery, going from the Pirates to the Tigers. Going from 26 games under .500 to 36 games above.

I'm sorry to see "Red Bull" Chris Shelton get sent down to the minors, especially because he played a vital role in Detroit's start this season. But he wasn't hitting lately, that's for sure.

Casey is a great -- grrrrreeeeaat -- addition to the Tigers. He is a professional hitter and hard-nosed player. He's also above average with the glove. I think he'll fit in perfectly on this squad. He's a Leyland-type guy and you know he's going to come in and play his butt off.

The Tigers gave up a AA reliever to get Casey, who will be a free agent. I don't know much about the pitcher, other than he was previously a starter. As long as he doesn't turn into the next John Smoltz, I feel very good about this deal.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Goodbye and Thank You David Bell

The expected trading of Phillies veterans started last night when the Phillies traded David Bell to the Milwaukee Brewers for Minor League pitcher Wilfredo Laureano (3-2, 3.96 ERA in Class A).

The move could be seen as symbolic as much as an attempt to improve the teams future with Bell being the last of the big three acquisitions of 2003. Back then the Phillies thought with the additions of Bell, Jim Thome and Kevin Millwood they would be a World Series contender, but the teams continued to fall short of making the playoffs.

I’m going to miss David and his gutsy hard nose play at third and his ability to make hard plays look so easy even though he made the routine plays look hard. I'll also never understand why Phillies fans never ended up embracing David, since he was everything that Phillies fans claim to want from a player.

Abraham Nunez is expeted to take over at third for now, but with Bell being moved it makes me wonder if there might be some truth to the rumored deal with the Yankees that would have the Phillies sending Bobby Abreu for Yankee’s third base prospect Eric Duncan amongst others.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Heating up

Who would have guessed Tigers-Twins would mean something this time of year? Especially given the Tigers struggles over the last decade and Minny's problems earlier this season.

But here we are, and this three-game set in Minnesota has gained importance thanks to the Twins going 34-8 over the last 42 games. Detroit is 7-2 against Minny this season and has an 8.5 game lead. I don't think it's a disaster if the Tigers get swept -- and the Metrodome has been a house of horrors over the years -- but it sure would be nice to quiet the Twins a bit.

Zach Miner, Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman will go to the hill for the Detroiters. Miner has struggled lately and faces Francisco Liriano, whose been nearly unbeatable. This one looks to go in the Twins' column, but maybe it's one of Sparky's reverse locks? We'll hope so. Detroit roughed up Liriano when he was a reliever.

Bonderman vs. Santana on Sunday could be a great one.

The Tigers have 68 wins so far this season. With five more victories, they will surpass their win totals for 10 of the past 12 years. They've already bettered seven of the past 12.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Arms race

The Tigers have finally opened up breathing room in the AL Central, leading by 8 games, but the Twins are looking dangerous. Minny is just 1 game out of the wild card and with Santana and Liriano seem armed to pass the White Sox.

Interesting that the White Sox are pursuing Alfonzo Soriano. Chicago leads the ML in runs and homers, but is well down the list in ERA. Yet, instead of trying to improve the staff, they're looking to add offense.

Maybe they figure there aren't any good arms available and they'll just have to bash teams into submission. It could work.

And speaking of pitching, if the last several games are any indication, it looks like Justin Verlander is going to have to be a stud and carry the Tigers for a while. He has been by far the Detroiters most consistent hurler this year.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

And now a word from our sponsors

I heard this great plug on Saturday's Yankee radio broadcast:

Hideki Matsui may be out, but you don't have to miss you. There's always a great show at Benihana.

In the big inning ...

In case you missed the news, the Tigers last night became the first team since the 1891 St. Louis Browns to score at least five runs in three straight first innings.

Jim Leyland said it didn’t find the mark impressive, just “weird.” He also was unhappy to find out the Browns finished in second place that season.

Todd Jones wanted to make clear to reporters that he wasn’t on the 1891 Browns. “I was in A-Ball,” he joked. I think.

* * *

Brandon Inge is batting .432-2-9 with 10 runs in his last 11 games. His OPS is 1.164. He’s raised his average to .245 – his highest point since May 16 when he was at .246 – to go with 19 HR and 56 RBI.

* * *

Carlos Guillen continues to impress with the stick. He now leads all ML shortstops with a .902 OPS. He’s hitting .302-12-61 with 60 runs.

* * *

The Las Vegas Hilton’s odds on the Tigers winning the World Series have dropped from 100-1 before the season to 5-1. The Mets are the favorites at 4-1.

* * *

Detroit’s staff ERA is 4.32 in July and 4.86 over the last 7 days, which might be a reason for some concern?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Two Carloses are better than one

The Mets' pattern hasn't changed much lately. They keep winning despite less than overwhelming starting pitching. Pedro Martinez hasn't pitched at all this month, yet the Mets have won 12 of 20.

While the looming trade deadline remains terrifying to any Mets fan with a sense of history, it seems unlikely the Mets will add a pitcher capable of making a serious impact. Good thing, then, that no one else in the National League has a very intimidating starting rotation. Tom Glavine and a well-rested Pedro may be enough to take the Mets a very long way given the quality of their offense.

They've now scored more runs than any team in the NL and they've done it without a lot of help from their first baseman. Carlos Delgado's recent slump got so bad that his OPS dropped below that of second baseman Jose Valentin last week. Now, Valentin's having an excellent year, but Carlos Delgado should not be outhit by his second baseman.

Delgado has at least temporarily postponed his descent into a Robbie Alomardom, however. In his last five games, he has seven hits in fourteen at bats, as well as five walks. Three of the hits were home runs giving him a total of three home runs in the month of July.

Things may yet get ugly before his contract expires, but right now it seems Delgado can still be an asset to this team. The return of the real Carlos Delgado along with the emergence of Valentin and the continued excellence of David Wright and Carlos Beltran makes for a very potent starting lineup. The Mets may not have much of anyone to start the third game of a playoff series, but I like the offense's chances against any third starter they might face.

Jamily man

David Bell is a big Pearl Jam fan, as evidenced by Pearl Jam playing whenever he steps into the batter’s box.

On May 28, Bell attended Pearl Jam’s concert at the Tweeter Center in Camden. At that point, he was hitting .258-4-19 with 18 R and a .724 OPS in 45 games.

Since the Pearl Jam concert, Bell is .315-1-11 with 19 R and a .792 OPS in 42 games. Not earth shattering, but certainly much improved. He’d probably have more RBI if Pat Burrell could run.

I’ve never understood why Philly fans haven’t warmed to Bell. He plays his butt off and has battled through injuries. He might make mistakes, but it’s never from lack of effort. He seems like a guy Philly fans would embrace. Instead, Sal Fasano got showered with love while Bell still hears boos.

C’mon Philly, show the boy some love.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Put it on the boooaard ... yes!

First, I got to listen to Hawk Harrelson call the Tigers-White Sox game today. I used to think he was somewhat entertaining, but now he's just plain annoying. Maybe because I'm a Tigers fan.

Anyway, Jeremy Bonderman and Kenny Rogers came through like aces over the last 24 hours to help Detroit take 2 of 3 from the White Sox. That bumps the Tigers lead up to 5.5 games and, hopefully, will get everyone off the boys backs about not being able to beat Chitown. Heck, the Tigers have take 3 of the last 4.

Craig Monroe's grand slam helped Detroit last night and Marcus Thames (photo) broke up a double play to help the Tigers today. Chris Shelton drove in the winning run right after Thames kept the inning alive.

Hopefully, there will be no letdown against Oakland over the weekend. But the Tigers have taken another step toward in their campaign to restore the roar.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Phalling Phlat

For all the talk from the Phillies about the second half being a new start, it sure looks old to me.

This weekend's crowd for the Braves series -- if there is a crowd -- won't be in the best of spirits, I'm sure. Given a choice of landing in Philadelphia or Beirut, which would most Phils choose?

Good story in the Inquirer today, too, detailing the lack of talent in the system. No present, no future.

Happy that ESPN decided Braves-Phils would be the Sunday night game. Gives me something to look forward to all day.

I really believe this era of bad mojo was ushered in by the Phillies painting the Phanatic red before the season. The gods have spoken.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Ready for battle

The Tigers, after taking three of four from the Royals, welcome in Chicago for a key three-game set against the White Sox. At least with a 4.5 game lead in the AL Central, thanks to the Yanks smacking around CWS, Detroit is guaranteed to remain in first place.

Robertson faces Garland in the opener followed by Bonderman vs. Vasquez and Rogers vs. Contreras.

This is where it gets interesting.

Robertson is 19-16 with a 3.60 ERA before the All-Star break; 9-18 with a 5.90 ERA post break. He’s 4-4 with a 4.09 lifetime vs. Chicago. Bonderman is 28-28, 4.49 before the break; 12-21, 5.16 in the second half. He’s 3-6, 4.08 against the Sox. Rogers is 119-75, 4.27 first half; 82-59, 4.12 second. He’s 14-7, 4.56 against Chicago.

Those numbers are a little scary, especially on top of having to worry about Verlander hitting the rookie wall. There’s been talk of the Tigers going to some kind of six-man rotation when Mike Maroth returns.

Detroit still leads the league with a 3.54 ERA. The White Sox are eighth at 4.59. Chicago is tops in runs with 532 and the Tigers are seventh with 483.

On the bright side, Dmitri Young could be on his way back soon. This not only helps the Tigers with another bat, but, I’m guessing, it could start the trade pendulum a-swingin.

Speaking of Verlander, Reggie Sanders said he reminds him of a right-handed Randy Johnson. I’m hoping that’s a compliment.

Our friend Fish just returned from Chicago today. He informs me it’s a toddlin’ town.

A call to arms

One thing that's driven me crazy this season is listening to Phillies fans, and radio talkshow folks, drone on and on about how the Phils failed to get a No. 1 starter. Who were they supposed to get? Where was their failing?

These knuckleheads think because they were able to trick their secretary into trading them Roy Halladay for Rich Aurelia in their fantasy league that swinging a deal is no great effort.

The fact the Mets have had to turn to Lima Time and the Yankees have signed Hell Sid tells you all you need to know about the dearth of quality arms.

Although, I hear Jimmy Haynes is available.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Hell Sid

One can imagine the trepidation among O's fans as they watch Sidney Ponson land in the House That Ruth Built.

Sure, there is every indication that Sir Sidney will pitch only slightly better than the guys throwing those BP fastballs in the HR Derby. But in the back of every Yankee-hater's mind is the thought of Ponson being somehow rejuvenated and leading NY to the East title.

I know, that's as likely as Aaron Small going 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA down the stretch.

Oh, nevermind.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mets at the midpoint: I hate July

The Mets eased into the All-Star break by winning five of eight games in a busy week. The offense remained good, the pitching remained troubling and neither John Maine nor Mike Pelfrey could do anything about it. But now we move into what has recently been the hardest time of the year to be a Mets fan. It is July and as a result, rumors of the Mets emptying their farm system to acquire washed up veterans are flying. So I thought this would be a good time to look back at Omar Minaya's offseason trades and see how they're working out so far. Maybe he really does know what he's doing and I can relax.

The first significant trade of the winter was the deal that sent Mike Cameron to San Diego in exchange for Xavier Nady. Cameron was recovering from a serious injury and stuck playing right field if he were to remain on the Mets, so his trade value was certainly diminished a bit. Still, it seemed Minaya jumped the gun a bit in making this trade when he could perhaps have received more by getting a CF-less team like the Red Sox involved in the bidding.

At the artificial midway point of the season, this deal is not looking so great. Cameron got off to a slow start but is now hitting .259/.349/.440 in a very tough pitcher's park. Nady is at .265/.321/.484 and has actually played fewer games than the once injured Cameron. Nady has also looked pretty bad defensively and I seriously doubt the same could be said for Cameron. While the Mets did save a bit of money with this deal, I think they clearly wound up with the inferior player. The Mets couldn't have utilized Cameron in center field the way the Padres have, but I still think they could have gotten more for him.

Next up was the biggest deal of the season and the one I liked the most at the time. Carlos Delgado came to the Mets while Mike Jacobs and top pitching prospect Yusmeiro Petit went to Florida. Delgado got off to a hot start in April only to cool off considerably in May. He bounced back with a good June but his overall numbers are still not good.

Delgado is hitting .252/.344/.513, which would add up to his lowest full-season OPS in ten years and his lowest OBP ever. Perhaps more disturbing is that Jacobs is putting up nearly identical numbers. He's hitting .278/.351/.494 in about forty fewer at bats. Petit has struggled in both the minors and the majors this year, but even so, this trade is a looking like a disappointment. The thirty-four year old Delgado, whom the Mets have signed up for two more years, isn't even out-hitting the twenty-five year old he was traded for. I still believe Delgado has it in him to finish strong. And in any case he's been a significant upgrade over the 2005 Mets' first basemen. But when the Mets are paying $13 million for a thirty-six year old Delgado in 2008, Mike Jacobs might be down in Florida making them regret it.

The Mets made one more deal with the Marlins this winter and that one is more obviously not working out. Gaby Hernandez is having a solid year in high-A ball at age twenty, posting a 3.24 ERA in 111 innings with 107 strikeouts and just 31 walks. Meanwhile, the guy the Mets got for him isn't outplaying his own backup or the guy he replaced.

Paul Lo Duca is showing us all how useless a .300 batting average can be if you don't have any patience or power to back it up. At .302/.343/.409, Lo Duca is about even with Ramon Castro, who's slumped a bit lately to drop to .255/.347/.402. Castro remains the superior defensive player. And out in San Diego, old Mike Piazza is hitting .290/.348/.504 playing only slightly less often than Lo Duca. There was no way Piazza was coming back to the Mets and even I didn't think playing him every day was a good idea. But it sure would be nice to have him around now.

The other two significant trades of the offseason saw the Mets trade pitching for pitching, some of which they've since traded for more pitching. Jae Seo and Tim Hamulack went to the Dodgers in exchange for Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll. And Kris Benson went to Baltimore for John Maine and Jorge Julio, who has since been traded to Arizona for Orlando Hernandez.

The deal with the Dodgers seems like the best of the bunch as Sanchez has been very good in relief while Seo struggled mightily in LA. Seo's since been traded to Tampa Bay and pitched well against the Yankees. I swear if Jae Seo and Scott Kazmir lead the Devil Rays to the top of the AL East one of these years, I will never forgive the Mets. But I digress.

Benson's apparently been his usual mediocre self in Baltimore, just with a bit of AL inflation added to his standard 4.something ERA. Neither Julio nor Maine has been any better for the Mets, but Hernandez has at least added a bit of stable adequacy to the back of the rotation.

Wow. Looking at all of these trades together, a picture begins to develop. And it is not pretty. I thought this could be an unusually relaxing July, given the Mets' enormous division lead, and all I'd have to complain about would be the weather. Now I'm not so sure. I guess I'll get started on my "they traded what for Livan Hernandez?" post.

He's not old, he's mature

So Jim Eriotes, 83, became the oldest person to play pro baseball on Tuesday when he struck out for the Sioux Falls Canaries in his only at-bat.

What really impressed me, though, is he batted lead off. Take that Julio Franco. It sure would have been fun to see him leg a double into a single.

I liked Eriotes’ quote in the AP story about his performance. “If I got a couple more at-bats, I’d get a hit. Easy,” he said.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Guillen is swingin'

The Tigers will start the second half of the season the same way as the first – against the Royals. Hopefully, the results will be the same, too. Detroit is 8-0 vs. KC so far this season. After the four games with KC, the Tigers have three against the White Sox.

SS Carlos Guillen is very quietly putting together a great season. He’s .298-10-52 with 12 SB and 50 runs. Last year, Guillen struggled through an injury-plagued season but still batted .320. In 2004, he hit .318-20-97 and had a .921 OPS.

His .875 OPS this year is second on the Tigers, behind Marcus Thames’ 1.006. His OPS also ranks second among all SS in the game, trailing only Derek Jeter.

* * *

Brandon Inge continues to amaze and perplex me. He’s got 17 HR, tied for most on the team, and 47 RBI – all while batting .221. Remarkably, he’s hitting .221 at home, and .221 on the road. He hits .232 with RISP, which is substantially better than his .206 mark with the bases empty.

* * *

Seven Tigers have at least 10 HR this season. Only Pudge and Polanco do not among the regulars.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

What Did He Say?

Nick Markakis, 22 yr. old rookie outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles, is making a statement.

Excluding AL scouting reports, it is unlikely to be heard beyond the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay.

In 2005, Markakis played 92 games for Class A Frederick, hitting .300 before being promoted to Class AA Bowie for their final 33 games. Markakis hit safely in 28 of 33 games in AA earning him the Orioles "Minor League Player of the Year" and an invitation to the Orioles spring training camp where he impressed enough to make the team.

Having only 33 games experience in facing AA level pitching, it was no surprise that Markakis was overmatched by AL pitching. The "Book" on Markakis said he couldn't handle the fastball on the inside corner. He couldn't. AL pitchers pounded it in there and Markakis watched or flailed.

He hit .182 in April.

Meanwhile, Terry Crowley, Orioles hitting instructor, had been crowing all along about Markakis patience at the plate (which he has) and about his aplomb at executing several of Crowley's "secret" hitting drills (of which we can never be certain). The confidence appears to be well founded.

In May, Markakis hit .254.
In June, .338.
So far in July, .467.

His season average stands at .272. He has not shown any power (8 2B, 2 HR), but he did have some pop in the minors and he's only 22, so he'll likely beef up over the next few years.

In just 3 months, with only 33 games of professional baseball at the AA level, Nick Markakis is forcing the AL to rewrite the "Book" on him. Many hitters never achieve that. If Markakis can survive the rewrite (which usually calls for plunking), the O's may well have a solid hitter in the lineup for years to come.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Steal blue

In honor of Pudge making the All-Star game as a starter (Sparky needs to get his eyes checked) let’s talk about stolen bases. Thanks to Pudge, the Tigers have yielded a ML-low 18 stolen bases in 35 attempts, also the ML low.

That means teams try to steal on the Tigers once every 2.3 games. I would think that’s got to be a comforting thought for the pitchers, who know they can focus more on the batter rather than divide their attention with runners on base. It’s got to be a significant factor in Detroit having the major’s best ERA.

Or is it? Upon further review of the stats, I noticed that San Diego, which has the major’s second-best ERA, has given up a ML-high 69 stolen bases in 79 attempts. And the Mets, who are No. 3 in ERA, have given up 63 SB in 82 tries.

I know that Bill James believes stolen bases to be overrated, and, if I remember correctly, argued that being caught stealing costs more runs than successful attempts create. The White Sox lead the majors in runs, but are 12th in stolen bases. The Red Sox are No. 2 in runs and No. 29 in thefts. Of the top six teams in runs, only the Yankees are in the top six in stolen bases. The Blue Jays are No. 18, the Tigers are No. 22 and the Indians are No. 26.

I must ponder this. Perhaps it is just best to say, and I think Stanley would agree, that stolen bases matter, except when they don’t.

Mets Week Thirteen: Seriously, enough with the interleague play already

I'll just say it's a good thing the playoffs don't start this week, even if that would mean the Yankees not making it. The Mets went on the road to face the class of the AL East and wound up doing their best impression of the entire history of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays franchise. They lost five out of six games and most of them by wide margins. If the front office wasn't constantly searching for some decent starting pitching, they had better be now. I hear Jeff Weaver's available.

Alay Soler, who had often looked to me like the third best starter on this team, had an absolutely disastrous week. Limaesque, you might call it. Two starts. Seven innings. Seventeen hits. Six walks. Four home runs. Sixteen runs. Zero strikeouts. With John Maine healthy and pitching adequately in Norfolk, Soler may not be long for this rotation.

Steve Trachsel and Orlando Hernandez actually had the two most effective starts of the week, though only Trachsel was able to win a game. Each allowed just two runs against the Yankees with Trachsel pitching six innings and Hernandez seven. Still, both men have been quite inconsistent and each has an ERA just south of five. I think the Mets are going to have to do better that these guys if they're going to go deep into the playoffs.

In happier news, six Mets were named to the All-Star Game on Sunday. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Paul Lo Duca will all start for the NL and Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez were chosen for the pitching staff. Billy Wagner is also on the ballot for the fan-selected final spot, though I think Nomar Garciaparra deserves it more. Lo Duca isn't one of the five best catchers in the NL and doesn't really belong in this game and I would be pretty surprised if Pedro even went, let alone pitched, especially now that he's missing a start tonight due to a sore hip. But it will still be fun to see all those Mets in the lineup given that they may actually have some stake in the outcome.

Also, congratulations to that kid from Tampa Bay who made the AL squad. I think he might have a future in this game.

Even with Pedro missing tonight's start, things will get a little easier for the Mets. They'll begin a four-game series with the worst team in the National League, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Then they'll finish off the first half with four games against the Marlins, who have somehow climbed all the way to third place in the East.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Halfway home

We’re at the halfway point and the Tigers are on pace to win 110 games. What a ride it’s been, and hopefully it will continue. Even if Detroit goes 40-41 the rest of the way, and there’s no reason to think this team will fall apart, that gets them to 95 victories.

This has been a true team effort, as evidenced by the All-Star voting. No Tigers will be starters. Pudge finished second at catcher and second baseman Placido Polanco was the only other Detroit player to crack the top five at his position. Polanco was fifth.

It’s understandable. I can’t even pick a first-half MVP for the team. Maggs has got to be considered for his .313-15-58. But Thames, Guillen, Pudge, Granderson, and Shelton all have been major players at some point during the year so far. Inge still isn’t hitting for average, but has dangerous power at the bottom of the order.

Obviously, the pitchers deserve recognition, too. Rogers, despite a couple poorer starts lately, has led the way for much of the campaign, on the field and off.

Verlander (10-4, 3.13) also has been great, as has Robertson (8-3, 3.14). You can’t overlook the bullpen with Zumaya, Rodney and Walker. And Zach Miner has stepped into Maroth’s spot in the rotation and produced 4-1, 2.59.

That’s 14 guys playing big roles without even mentioning the contributions of Bonderman and, before his injury, Maroth. That’s probably why you can be optimistic entering the second half – this isn’t a team relying on any one person for its success. It would take a massive collective slump to send this team in a long-term tailspin.

At least that’s what I’m hoping.