Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Something fishy

The Phils have 10 games remaining with the Marlins, including the final series of the season. Hard to believe, but there's a possibility that series could decide the wild card.

Joe Girardi has got to be NL Manager of the Year for having Florida a game under .500 at this point. Especially when you consider Dontrelle Willis is 9-10!

I'm not sure how the Marlins are doing it. Maybe the NL is just that bad. Florida ranks 8th in the league in runs and OPS and is 12th in batting average. The pitching is 6th in ERA, but 14th in OBA allowed. The defense is 15th.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The new Ryno

I was a little worried about Ryan Howard being able to be the big bat in the Phillies lineup. I admit it. And I admit I was wrong.

All my concerns about his strikeout totals in the minors and ability to hit lefties haven't hurt him in the Majors. He tied Michael Jack's team record for homers with 48, and will smash the mark by the end of the season.

Entering last night, Howard was batting .325-19-51 in 43 games since the All-Star break. He is a legit MVP candidate, especially if the Phils win the wild card.

He's hitting .276 against lefties, too. Not as good as his .303 mark against righties, but very good nonetheless.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Surveying the wreckage

I've come out from under the covers to take a look at the damage that's been the Tigers' last dozen games. It's not pretty. But the team is still in first place, four games up on the Twins in the loss column, so we're hanging on.

A trip to the Bronx is unsettling, especially with the way Detroit's pitchers are going right now. The worries about the young arms are coming true, but it's still too soon to determine whether this is a bump in the road or a trend.

This much I know: The Tigers are 4-8 in their last 12 and three of those wins came from Kenny Rogers.

The slide also coincides with Placido Polanco's absence. Detroit was 8-6 in its first 14 games in August with Polly.

Craig Monroe has done a decent job taking over the No. 2 spot in the order, batting .277-3-8 during the span. But leadoff man Curtis Granderson is hitting .118-1-1 with 3 runs during that time. He's got a .424 OPS. That's OPS!

Maggs also has struggled, batting .200 during the last 12. So, there's no consistency in the lineup -- not with Granderson at No. 1 and Maggs hitting in the cleanup spot. Pudge is batting .357 in the last 12, but it's not worth much when no one is on base.

Leyland has juggled the lineup to no avail. He's only used the same batting order twice in the last 12 games. Pudge has hit leadoff twice. Omar Infante -- Omar Infante! -- has batted sixth once. Monroe in the 2 spot and Guillen at 5 have been really the only constants.

At least the Tigers got a win Sunday to end the weekend on a good note. Hopefully, they can get it together against NY. Then come key setup series against the Angels and Mariners before facing a steady diet of AL Central teams.

One more bit of bad news: Leyland said he doesn't expect pitcher Mike Maroth back this season. The pitcher has experienced "tenderness" during his rehab assignment.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blass and Clemente

I just finished reading the book “Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero” by David Maraniss. It’s a good read, but one thing struck me when I completed it. How much did Clemente’s death affect Steve Blass?

Blass appeared to be close to Clemente, and delivered the eulogy at the team’s memorial service for the late star. In the five seasons prior to Clemente’s death, Blass was 78-44 with a 3.05 ERA.

In 1973, following Clemente’s death, he developed the so-called “Blass Disease” where he couldn’t find the plate. In just 88.2 innings, he gave up 84 walks (equaling his total in 249.2 innings the previous season) hit 12 batters and yielded 109 hits. He was only 31.

When discussing the 1971 World Series against Baltimore, the author writes about Blass’ nerves prior to starting Game 3. He writes that Blass and Clemente often met in the trainer’s room prior to games, just as they did prior to that start, and that “just being in the vicinity of Clemente was reassuring.”

I’ve never read anything linking Blass’ later pitching woes to Clemente’s death, but I didn’t have much reason to think about it prior to reading this book. I wonder now if there was a connection. It seems, on the surface, to make sense.

Only the strong survive

Just when I started feeling good about the Tigers bouncing back yet again, this arrives in the mail.


The O's won another ball game last night defeating the Twins 6-3 behind a stellar pitching peformance from Adam Loewen (8 IP, 4H, 1 R, 0 BB). In the 7 games since being swept in Boston, the O's have gone 5-2. In those 7 games, 6 of them have seen solid starting pitching performances. Erik Bedard stumbled last Sunday (5 IP, 7 R) against the Blue Jays to end a season high 4 game winning streak for the O's. That stumble makes Loewen's effort last night look even better. The team ace gets beat up to end a winning streak and the next guy goes out and pitches a gem to (hopefully) get another winning streak started.

In the last 7 days, O's pitching has a 2.67 ERA and a record of 5-1.

The O's are definitely having a power surge, belting 5 HR's off of Carlos Silva last night to bring this recent 7 games total to 15. Brian Roberts and Corey Patterson went deep to complement the 3 HR's hit by Nick Markakis. Markakis is the 1st Oriole to hit 3 HR's in one game since Albert Belle did it in 1999.

Markakis is hitting .344 in August with 12 extra base hits (7 HR, 5 2B) out of 22 safeties. In the 6 games that Markakis has hit 2nd in the order, he is 10 for 23 with 6 HR, 10 RBI and 11 Runs Scored. That qualifies as 'starting to show some power'.

Solid pitching and home runs. Earl Weaver would be proud.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Down but not out?

There is a difference of opinion regarding how Aaron Rowand's injury might affect the Phils. Brian says the Fightins will overcome. I'm not sure. The Phils went 5-8 with Rowand out of the lineup when he busted his nose (and 2-8 in the final 10 games of that span).

It's not that I don't think Victorino can step in for Rowand. I just think his loss hurts the bench too much and might hurt the lineup overall.

Weird, too, is that Rowand gets hurt just as he's getting hot. When he broke his nose, Rowand was .326-4-12 in his previous 12 games. This time, Rowand was hitting .308 in his previous 13 games with 8 runs and 4 RBI.

We'll see what happens. One thing -- Pat Burrell could step up and be even just half the player everyone hoped he might be. I'm not holding my breath.


It turns out the Tom Glavine's situation is not as serious as feared and he could be back on the mound by next week. I guess the nation can resume preparation for Subway Series 2: This Time The Good Guys Win. Coming soon to a stadium probably nowhere near you.

Holding the lead

Justin Verlander has become what Jeremy Bonderman was supposed to be for the Tigers, namely, a stud. The guy might get knocked around every now and then, but he always seems to bounce back. I'm starting to lose faith in Bonderman being a No. 1 guy. He's just so inconsistent, which you wouldn't expect now with all the experience he has. But, he's still young, so I should cut him some slack, I guess. Make no mistake, I'm certainly glad to have him.

With last night's much needed victory over the Pale Hose, the Tigers improved to 9-12 (by my count) with Polanco out of the lineup this year. The addition of Neifi Perez doesn't make me do backflips, but provides some depth. I don't think he's got much range, but probably makes the routine plays.

The Tigers don't have any hitters in the lineup that teams really need to fear on the level of a Ryan Howard or Albert Pujols, etc., but they don't really have any guys in the lineup that you can think are sure outs, either.

Craig Monroe might be emerging as the Tigers best bet to become the most feared stick in the lineup. Over his last 50 games, Monroe is .344-11-41 with 34 runs. He seems to be tough in the clutch, too.

This from the Detroit News: When asked if a 6 1/2-game lead sounds a lot better than 4 1/2 — which it would have been had the White Sox won — Leyland said: “Sure, I didn’t go to school to eat my lunch. I can add, too.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

Mostly armless

After months of being concerned about the Mets' starting rotation despite their continued winning, I think I've finally got reason for alarm. Neither Pedro Martinez nor Tom Glavine will pitch this week. Pedro will likely be back and effective in plenty of time for the postseason, but Glavine could be out much longer after the discovery of what may or may not be a blood clot in his left shoulder. If the worst case scenario comes to pass and he is out for the rest of the season (or longer), it will be a serious blow to the team's postseason hopes.

Right now I have to assume, if for no other reason than the sake of my own sanity, that Pedro will pitch the first game of the Division Series. The Mets' ace as been somewhat inconsistent this year and is on the disabled list for the second time. That his two injuries were different rather than one recurring problem is only slightly comforting. But health is really the only question with Pedro. Most of his worst starts this year occurred right before or after a stint on the DL. When he's been healthy, he's often dominated, striking out batters more frequently than any National League starter but Jake Peavy. Being healthy in October should be Pedro's only concern for the next six weeks.

If he is able to return this season, Glavine will presumably pitch game two. After rough months in June and July in which he posted ERAs of 4.93 and 6.00, respectively, Glavine had returned to form somewhat in August. Despite a 1-2 record, he pitched well in all three of his starts, never allowing more than three runs or pitching fewer than six innings, earning a 3.60 ERA for the month. His strikeout-to-walk ratio, which had been so good (60:14) in the first two months of the season and so unimpressive (31:26) the next two, bounced back to a solid 12:5. He also cut down on his hits allowed after giving up significantly more than one per inning in June and July. And the two home runs he allowed in August were quite a bit better than the ten he gave up in the month of June alone. In short, he seemed to be rediscovering some of what made him successful at the start of the season. If he is unable to return this season, the Mets will have a very difficult time replacing him.

The back of the rotation has been showing some signs of life, however. John Maine has been excellent, with a 2.68 ERA in eight starts and one relief appearance, striking out 41 and walking 14 in 50.1 innings. Providing further dividends from the Kris Benson trade is Orlando Hernandez, who's often been great since the Mets acquired him for Jorge Julio. Every once in a while he'll get absolutely demolished, but he's also capable of a brilliant performance like Sunday's six shutout innings. And then there's Steve Trachsel, whose pitching is beginning to match his pretty 12-5 record. After going 3-1 in July with a 6.15 ERA, 33 hits in 26.1 IP and a 13:17 K:BB ratio (that is not a typo), August has been his best month with a 3.24 ERA in 25 IP. Any of these three looks like a competent third or fourth playoff starter right now. Maine or El Duque on a good day might be able to impersonate a number two, particularly given the caliber of opposition they'll face in the NL, but I'd rather not try it in the World Series.

Some options have begun to emerge in the minor leagues as well. Brian Bannister, who escaped the major leagues with a bad hamstring and a 2.89 ERA despite allowing a ton of baserunners in April, has started to pitch well in AAA. In his last two starts for Norfolk, he's allowed one run in fourteen innings, striking out twelve and allowing just one walk and nine hits. Oliver Perez has been at least as impressive in his last two outings, giving up just one run in thirteen innings with eighteen strikeouts, three walks and six hits. Seven innings of one-hit ball with eleven strikeouts this past Saturday raised hopes that perhaps the 2004 version of Oliver Perez still lurks somewhere within his body.

So, if Glavine can't pitch, the Mets won't exactly be setting the ball up on a tee for the opposing team. They have some guys who, if they have a good day and/or a lot of offensive support, could win a playoff game. Especially if the opposing starter is the likes of Jeff Suppan or Aaron Harang. Still, I'd much rather have Glavine out there to face Randy Johnson in game two of the World Series. Oh, you know it's going to happen. Eat it, rest of the country.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Big Game for O's?

Baseball teams with a 54-68 record do not play big games.
But since I have the misfortune of holding the Baltimore Orioles in favor and I pine for something to care about, I have elevated todays game with the Toronto Blue Jays to Big Game status.

This requires a modicum of imagination.

Baltimore took 2 in a row from the Yankees in the Bronx and came home and whipped the Blue Jays 7-2 behind a solid starting pitching performance from Kris Benson (7IP, 6H, 2ER). This makes 3 wins in a row (tying the season high for the O's) and 4 straight solid starting pitching performances (which I believe is a season high).

The O's send Daniel Cabrera to the mound today against the Blue Jays Sean Marcum. If Cabrera can produce a solid performance today, it would represent the first time in I don't know how long the Orioles have taken a complete turn through the starting rotation with a good performance from each pitcher. It certainly hasn't happened this season or last.

Cabrera is 2-1 in 3 starts vs. the Blue Jays this season pitching 18 innings in the 3 contests while allowing 13 hits, 5 runs and 9 walks. Cabrera and Marcum faced each other on August 8th with Cabrera getting the win and Marcum getting a No Decision. I do not give the Orioles the pitching edge in any game Cabrera starts, but if I were forced to do so, I would give it for this game.

The Orioles are undefeated (3-0) with Nick Markakis batting 2nd in the order. Markakis is 6-12 with 2HR, 5 RBI and 6 Runs Scored in the 3 games since being moved to the 2 hole.

The O's may be experiencing a power surge. 6 home runs in the last 4 games and none of them by Tejada. Melvin Mora went deep in yesterday's victory over the Blue Jays.

So, on to victory this afternoon against the Blue Jays and season highs all around! I can hear the Orioles faithful chanting - You can't take us with Markakis!.... (batting 2nd)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Something Positive

In the midst of their annual August/September swoon, the O's took 2 of 3 from the Yankees in the Bronx this week. Winning a road series for just the 5th time in 19 tries makes this O's fan feel like there may be hope (for next year).

All 3 starters turned in solid performances. Erik Bedard pitched 6 innings allowing 1 run in Game 1. Adam Loewen pitched 5 2/3 innings allowing 2 runs in Game 2 and Rodrigo Lopez pitched 7 innings allowing 2 runs in Game 3. It may be the first time all year the O's have turned in 3 consecutive solid starting pitching performances.

For Games 2 & 3, Nick Markakis was moved up to the 2 slot (from 8 or 9) in the batting order and responded by going 3 for 8 with 2 HR and 5 RBI.

The O's hit 5 homers in the 3 game set, none of them by Tejada (Millar, Roberts, Markakis (2), Tatis). The O's have hit precious few dingers the last 2 1/2 months. It's more likely that this was a lapse in Yankee pitching than a power surge by the O's lineup, but either is positive.

Russ Ortiz pitched a 1-2-3 8th in the Game 3 win. Of course, with a 10 run lead, there was no pressure involved, but it still represented Ortiz' 2nd straight effective appearance, which, albeit small, is still a milestone on his road back to (hopefully) recovering his form.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Honest Jim

The Detroit News ran a very interesting story today about Leyland and Omar Infante's role as Placido Polanco's replacement. Let's just say Infante shouldn't get comfy in the lineup.

Leyland said he had confidence in Infante, but also noted the team had no other option. If it could find another option, he said they would be willing to explore it. I was thinking Mark Grudzielanek would be a possibility, and wasn't alone in that assumption, but he just signed an extension with KC. I don't see a lot else out there, especially with so many teams still fighting for the postseason. Maybe Aaron Miles of the Cards? That's just a guess.

When Leyland asked what he would most miss about Polanco, he responded that there were "seven things." That tells you how much respect Leyland has for the guy. "He does every little thing for this club that a manager could want," he added.

The seven things are: Steady on every routine grounder, turns every routine double play, can hit-and-run, can hit a fly ball when needed, gets the 2-out hit when needed, can sacrifice, can make the great plays.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

We’re Number 1

In runs scored that is! After last night onslaught the Phillies have the most run scored in the National League (625), just ahead of the Mets. Also Abraham Nunez has a 7 game hitting streak. No doubt he has been the key to the offence the last two nights, though one thing that is impressive about the last two games is that the Phillies have scored 24 runs with out Ryan Howard going yard.

The Re-Match!

Tonight it’s Jon Lieber (4-9, 5.51 ERA) Vs. Tom Glavine (12-5, 3.92 ERA). Lieber has a 1.80 ERA in his last two starts, including that complete game loss to the Mets and Tom Glavine last week

The Phills start tonight 2.5 out of the Wild Card and 2 games under .500 .

Shouldering the load

The Tigers are expected to find out today whether they’ve lost Placido Polanco for the season. Polanco injured his shoulder in last night’s win over the Red Sox, forcing Pudge Rodriguez to play second base for the first time in his career.

Pudge said after the game that Polanco was done for the year, which could be a significant blow for the Tigers. Polanco is a solid run producer, responsible for 0.92 runs per contest when using runs + RBI – HR / games played formula. More importantly, he is great in the No. 2 spot because he rarely strikes out (just 25 times in 435 AB). Plus, he's steady with the glove, too.

Omar Infante will take over at 2B, and will probably hit second sometimes. I’d expect Brandon Inge, Marcus Thames and Craig Monroe to hit in the No. 2 hole occasionally, too. Infante, who only has 140 AB this season, has batted at least twice in every spot in the lineup.

Jeremy Bonderman has deserved better his last two outings. He’s gotten no decisions despite allowing just four runs and 13 hits in 14.2 innings against the Twins and Red Sox. He’s struck out 13 and walked 3. It’s very nice to see him stepping up at this time of year.

Mike Maroth could be back soon if his next rehab start goes well. It might be perfect timing. Justin Verlander’s last two starts have lasted just 5 innings each and he’s allowed a total of 21 hits and 8 runs.

Nate Robertson has been an awful second-half pitcher in his career, but he’s been solid this season. Robertson has battled in every start and is 3-2 with a 4.73 ERA. Not super, but he’s keeping his team in games, and that’s what matters at this point.

Sean Casey has been playing well since joining the Tigers. He’s hitting .311-2-12 in 14 games and had a big 2-run double last night.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

It’s going to be a long two weeks.

Since the beginning of the season I’ve been pointing to September as the month the Phillies will make their move. The team doesn’t play a team over .500 the whole month and their toughest opponent will be the Houston Astros for a 3 game series. The rest of the month it’s the Braves, Marlins, Nationals and Cubs. The Phills should be able to put up some wins and have their best month of the season. The problem is that over the next 2 weeks the Phillies have 6 more games against the Mets. If the Phillies can hang around the Wild Card race by a few games by the end of the month they may have a real shot at this thing.

The bad news is Tom Gordon is being shut down and we have no idea for how long, but for at least the rest of the Mets series. Apparently Flash as been pitching hurt, which can be seen by his performance over the last few games. In the mean time Arthur Rhodes, Ryan Madson and Rick White (shudder) will be filling in. Man that’s scary…

The good news is Cole Hamels seems to be as good as advertised and right now is the Phillies best pitcher and over his last 3 starts he has lived up to his ace billing. Plus he’s a lot a fun to watch pitch. Though I didn’t get to see last night’s gem since it was over by the time I got home from school.

Tonight it’s Rand Wolf Vs. El Duque

The Phills start tonight 3.5 out of the Wild Card and 3 games under .500 .

Friday, August 11, 2006

For What It's Worth

Brian Roberts stole 2nd base in the top of the 3rd inning against the Red Sox tonight to notch his 30th stolen base this season. Corey Patterson had 37 steals going into tonights game.

Roberts' and Patterson's stolen base totals mark the first time in Orioles franchise history they've had two players with 30+ stolen base seasons.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What, me worry?

Every time I think the wheels are going to fall off for the Tigers, they go out and smack people around and win a bunch of games.

I was worried with Rogers pitching poorly and Verlander's arm being "tired," but why? As my Aussie friends say: No worries, mate. If the pitching goes a little soft, the hitting carries them. If the hitting is off, the pitching is on. It's amazing how this season has played out. When Pudge hit his walkoff the other night, I felt that was the final sign that this is the year of the cat.

Now some stats: Craig Monroe is .400-6-18 over his last 18 with 1.184 OPS. Todd Jones has given up 2 ER in his 19 appearances since June 16. He's 1-0 with 14 saves during that time.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Guillen hits for the cycle, Casey homers, Verlander gets win No. 14, Tigers equal their victory total from last season – it was another great night for the Detroiters.

Heck, Brent Clevlen even hit two homers. Clevlen, 22, has been considered one of the Tigers better prospects, but has struggled this season in Double A. He was recently called up, and some speculate it was so teams could get a look prior to the trade deadline. With the deadline passed, we’ll see what his role is down the road.

Placido Polanco, a terrific No. 2 hitter, is batting .397-0-8 with 8 runs in his last 15 games. He always puts the ball in play, striking out just 1 time during that span. He’s got his average back above .300, at .301. Much underrated/overlooked, like Guillen.


Nick Markakis batted .403 in July, raising his season batting average to .298.