Thursday, May 31, 2007

That long road

It’s easy to forget that a baseball season is a marathon, unlike a football season, where the result of every game carries great weight. I’m trying to remind myself of this fact as I watch the Tigers struggle through their current 1-5 slide.

I hated to see Detroit swept at home by Cleveland, but consoled myself with the knowledge that the Tribe is a good club. Losing 2 of 3 in Tampa Bay, especially the bullpen meltdown on Memorial Day, was tougher to take. Of course, the pen wasn’t helped by Curtis Granderson playing a single into a triple or Mike Rabelo’s throwing error.

The Tigers sure have been streaky. Since the final week of April, they’ve gone 11-1, 1-4, 5-1, 1-5. Hopefully, another 11-1 is around the corner.

That might be tough with a 4-game set in Cleveland upon us. Justin Verlander (5-1, 2.71) meets C.C. Sabathia (7-1, 3.54) in tonight’s opener. The Tigers are expected to be without SS Carlos Guillen (groin strain) and 3B Brandon Inge (chip fracture in toe). Not exactly the news we wanted to read.

Tomorrow it will be Mike Maroth (3-2, 5.04) vs. Fausto Carmona (6-1, 2.89) followed by Chad Durbin (4-1, 4.39) vs. Cliff Lee (2-2, 5.86) on Saturday and Jeremy Bonderman (4-0, 3.34) vs. Jeremy Sowers (1-5, 6.29) on Sunday.

If Verlander wins tonight, the Tigs got a chance to take 3. I'd be happy with a split.

Skipper Jim Leyland remains confident, telling "I don't want anybody feeling sorry for us. We've got what we've got and what we've got is pretty good. I'll take this team anywhere."

It's a boy, Mrs. Walker

Former Tiger reliever Jamie Walker's wife gave birth to a son. They named the child James Leyland, but, remarkably he's not named after Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

What is it?

The Baltimore Orioles are enjoying a 5 game winning streak after Eric Bedard (8IP, 4H, 5K) and Chris Ray combined on a 3-0 shutout of the Kansas City Royals last night in Kansas City. The streak is composed of 2 wins over Oakland in Baltimore and a 3 game sweep of the Royals in Kansas City.

A 5 game winning streak is joyous as is, but what makes this particular one even sweeter is that the Oakland A's were 14-2 in their previous 16 games in Baltimore and Baltimore was 8-16 on the road coming into Kansas City.

The O's have done everything well in the 5 games. All 5 wins were collected by starters. The last 7 days shows O's pitching with a 5-2 record, 2.25 ERA, 21 BB and 42 K in 64 IP. O's hitters have heated up in that same period with a .272 AVG, 10 HR and 40 Runs. O's fielding still leads the AL.

The O's are headed to Anaheim for a 4 game set with the Angels. The O's have had a few winning streaks this season, but thus far, with one exception, they've followed winning streaks with losing streaks of equal or longer duration.

So, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Is it daylight, or an oncoming train?

Monday, May 28, 2007

At least the Yankees lost again today

It is Memorial Day and I, like much of America, did not have to go to work today. So of course the best baseball team in the biggest media market in the country did not play a game. Bangup job, MLB.

The Mets did have a pretty good week as far as the standings went as they won four of six and extended their division lead to four and a half games despite losing their third straight series to the Braves. Whenever this team is struggling a little bit, a series against the Marlins seems to be all they need to get back on track. (Note to many, many sportscasters and writers: yes, "untracked" is a word, but it doesn't mean what you think it means.) This week did bring some new and exciting injuries for the team to deal with but the literal and figurative returns of a couple of key players helped ease the pain.

The Mets' outfield is in tatters, to the point that Damion Easley started a game in left over the weekend, as Shawn Green appears headed to the disabled list with a broken bone in his foot and Carlos Gomez is dealing with a strained hamstring. Ben Johnson (.282/.367/.436 in New Orleans) will come up to take Green's spot on the roster for a few days until Moises Alou is ready to return. That the Mets are dealing with injuries is hardly surprising given how old two-thirds of their opening day outfield was, but things like Green's broken bone and the injuries to Gomez and Lastings Milledge fit better in the category of freak occurrences than predictable events. Luckily, Endy Chavez's offensive production has been just as freakish at .337/.385/.482 so far, giving the Mets some room for error.

While Alou may not be ready to return from the DL just yet, the Mets did get one of their elder statesmen back this week. Orlando Hernandez took the mound on Friday in Florida and pitched six shutout innings on just two hits with four strikeouts and no walks. And though the Marlins may not have put up much resistance against the Mets so far this year, they have scored the third most runs in the National League, so shutting down their offense is hardly an easy assignment.

The same could not be said of Carlos Delgado for most of this season, but this past week may have seen him finally turn things around. Prior to the Atlanta series, he was hitting .214/.294/.321 with three home runs on the year. At the time, fewer than twenty players had enough plate appearances to qualify for their league's batting title and a lower OPS than Delgado. Such offensive powerhouses as Juan Pierre and Jacque Jones had him beat. This week he went nine for twenty-five with two home runs, raising his season averages to .234/.306/.359, passing both Pierre and Jones and nearing the lofty heights of Mark Ellis and Ryan Freel. As odd as it sounds that the Mets need someone to make up for Shawn Green's production, that is the case and Delgado may be just the man for the job.

The Mets (32-17) return home this week to get some fresh duct tape to hold their outfield together and host the San Francisco Giants (24-25). While the starting lineup may feature a question mark or two, the same cannot be said of the rotation as the Mets will send out the best they've got. A red hot Oliver Perez (6-3, 2.45) starts game one having shut out the Braves for seven frames in his last start. Perez is now in the top five in the league in wins, ERA, WHIP (1.059) and strikeout rate (8.42 per nine innings). He'll take on rookie Tim Lincecum (2-0, 3.08), who's also had a pretty good month of May. Tom Glavine (5-2, 3.39) and El Duque (2-1, 2.13) will face Barry Zito (4-5, 4.70) and Matt Cain (2-4, 3.23) in the final two games of the set.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Waiting for Dr. Longball

The Baltimore Orioles are 22-27 through 49 games this season. Through 49 games in 2006, the O's were...... 22-27. Despite this, there is still optimism for a winning campaign.

Orioles fielding has been solid. O's fielders have been charged with the fewest errors in the AL (21) which has them leading the AL in Fielding Percentage (.989). They are 5th in the AL in turning double plays.

O's pitching has been competitive. The only concern at this point is the ongoing struggles of reliever Danys Baez, who has recently formed the habit of throwing belt-high, middle of the plate fastballs in 2-0 counts. If the starters continue to perform well and the rest of the pen stays on the beam, having 1 struggling reliever on a 12 man staff is a problem you can take the time to work out.

O's pitching is 2nd in the AL in HR Allowed, 4th in Average Against and 6th in Earned Run Average. On the downside, they are 13th in Walks. This is the big contributor to 8th in WHIP and 9th in On Base Percentage. Solid fielding has diminished the ill effects of this charitable characteristic.

Starters Bedard and Trachsel have performed as would reasonably be expected with their respective track records. Jeremy Guthrie has been a wonderful surprise (11 Games, 5 starts, 2-1, 3.09 ERA, 1.10 WHIP). Daniel Cabrera still struggles with the Base on Balls, but has significantly improved in this regard. In 2006, he finished at 6.32 BB/9. Thus far in 2007, he's at 4.1 BB/9. The loss of Kris Benson (for the season) and Adam Loewen (at least for a couple months) hurts, but the rotation has absorbed these injuries well.

It is the Orioles (lack of) offense that is the primary contributor the Orioles 22-27 record. O's hitters are 8th in the AL in Batting Average, 7th in On Base Percentage, 7th in Hits and 6th in Bases on Balls. These numbers, combined with decent pitching and solid fielding, are good enough to fashion a winning record. However, the O's are 14th in the AL in Home Runs, 12th in Runs Scored and 12th in On Base + Slugging Percentage.

While there is clearly a power outage in Baltimore, the telling numbers for the O's offense are 5th in Total Plate Appearances, yet 9th in Total Pitches Seen. O's hitters are impatient. Many games they (as a team) seem to be in a hurry to make an out. The O's have a competitive lineup, not a great lineup. They are not talented enough to be free swingers. The more pitches thrown, the more mistake pitches thrown. Make the opposing pitcher work. Throughout the lineup, they're good enough to make pitchers pay for mistakes. They must give opposing pitchers more opportunities to make mistakes.

Earl would say, "What we need is a visit from Dr. Longball." Unfortunately for the Orioles, you can't make appointments with Dr. Longball.

You have to be patient and wait for him.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bat men

Over the last 30 days, the only Tigers regular hitting under .281 is Pudge Rodriguez, who is batting .253 during the span. Maggs is .379-9-25, Guillen is .366-4-20, Casey is .329-0-9, Polanco is .296-0-15, Monroe is .293-5-16, Sheff is .293-8-16, Granderson is .281-4-16, and Inge is .281-5-11. That's some thumpin.

Casey seems to have come to life after I wrote he might be done.

While the pitching carried last year's team, this season it's really been the bats. During the same 30 day span, Verlander (3.19) and Durbin! (3.25) have solid ERAs and are 7-1 combined. Bonderman pitched well coming off the DL, which might indicate his 4.26 ERA over the last 30 should continue to drop. Maroth (4.85) has yet to settle into a groove, unless, perhaps, this is the groove he'll have for the entire year. Robertson (5.56) has struggled in his last 4 starts.

Fernando Rodney went on the DL today and Zach Miner was recalled from Triple-A Toledo. Bobby Seay (6.30), Jason Grilli (6.75), Jose Mesa (8.10) and Wil Ledezma (8.25) need to improve on those numbers over the last 30 days to aid the battered bullpen.

Write on

Sparky and the Detroit writers think so much alike it's scary. They must be tapped into DTFT.

One day after Sparky comments ...

It hasn't been this much fun to be a Tigers fan since 1984. Last year was good, and memorable and exciting, but it was so unexpected that you kept waiting for the bottom to fall out. This season, you feel the Tigs belong.

... this appears courtesy of Michael Rosenberg in the Free Press:

Anyway, the point is that the Tigers entered the game with the second-best record in baseball and left it in second place. They are now 29-18. Last year, they were 33-14 through 47 games, but because they had lost for so many years, it didn't feel real. There was still that lingering fear that they would go on a 16-game losing streak and re-sign Deivi Cruz.

This is different. Everybody expects the Tigers to be in the race all season. This year, everybody is in his or her seats for the start of the movie. Everybody gets to experience all the wonderful moments of a playoff race.

Friday, May 25, 2007

First-place clash

It's been a while since I've had time to post. What a week! Sweep the Cards. Bonderman comes off the DL and gets through a first inning without giving up a run. Maggs smacks balls all over the yard -- and out of the yard. Wee!

It hasn't been this much fun to be a Tigers fan since 1984. Last year was good, and memorable and exciting, but it was so unexpected that you kept waiting for the bottom to fall out. This season, you feel the Tigs belong. You have no doubt they're right up there with Boston and Cleveland and Chicago and Minnesota as one of the best teams around.

It's almost too good to be true. No Rogers yet, Zumaya on the DL, Bonderman sidelined once, early offensive struggles, inconsistent bullpen -- and the team is on pace to win 102 games!

As for Maggs, hopefully he can stay healthy. It would appear his knee woes aren't affecting him this season. To me, the most telling stat is his ML-best 23 doubles. I would think that means he's driving the ball well, something he wasn't always able to do in the past with his injuries. It looks like the old Maggs is back.

Cleveland vs. Detroit now for the top of the AL Central.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Maybe playing the Yankees six times this year isn't such a bad thing

Watching the Mets beat up on the National League and win a series against the Yankees is a lot of fun. This weekend's series provided both a tight pitchers' duel, with great performances from Oliver Perez and Endy Chavez, and an offensive explosion led by David Wright. But part of the fun of being a Mets fan is having a player or two on your own team to hate.

Even during last year's great run we could choose from Jose Lima or Chris Woodward or Michael Tucker at various times. And of course Shawn Green really hit the spot in the playoffs. This year, David Newhan has put up a pretty good showing in an attempt to fill this role. But this past offseason, Omar Minaya ensured that Mets fans would be able to get their hate on for years to come when he handed a three-year, twelve million-dollar deal to Scott Schoeneweis.

Last year, Schoenweis had a 4.88 ERA with 29 strikeouts and 24 walks in 51.2 innings. How this got him a three-year contract rather than a Spring Training invite, I don't know. In his career, he has been good at retiring left-handed hitters, holding them to a mere .229/.303/.298 prior to tonight's game. Of course, righties have historically smacked him around at a .291/.364/.465 clip. Spending four million dollars a year on a guy to only face lefties might be somewhat defensible if the Mets didn't already have Pedro Feliciano, who does it just was well for less than one-sixth the price and isn't a complete disaster against righties. As it is, Schoeneweis provides Willie Randolph with a pitcher he can use in games he's not particularly interested in winning and gives fans a direction in which to focus their ire when everything else is going pretty well.

This Saturday was such an occasion as the Mets built up a six-run lead against a parade of Yankee pitchers. The Big Scho entered the game with one on and none out in the seventh and wound up facing seven batters before being removed in the eighth. Of the four lefties he faced, he retired three and walked the fourth. The three righties hit a single and two home runs, turning an 8-2 game into an 8-5 game. The late innings of a blowout are a reasonable time to use the worst pitcher in your bullpen, but when that pitcher is a lefty specialist, letting him face Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez in that situation is not quite as reasonable. Schoeneweis now has a 6.50 ERA with 15 walks and 9 strikeouts in 18 innings.

Still, the Mets (28-15) won two of three this weekend while the Braves (26-18) lost two of three, giving the Mets a 2.5 game lead in the division as they head to Atlanta for a three-game series beginning on Tuesday. The Mets will take advantage of this day off to skip the fifth spot in their rotation, sending Jorge Sosa (3-0, 2.25), Oliver Perez (5-3, 2.90) and Tom Glavine (5-1, 3.43) to the mound in this series. The Braves' starters will be Kyle Davies (1-2, 5.17), Chuck James (4-3, 4.15) and John Smoltz (6-2, 2.85). The Mets have a definite edge in those first two matchups and game three should be another fun Glavine/Smoltz matchup. These two teams seem to be the class of the National League and the Braves have won four of their six meetings this season. Hopefully the Mets can begin to turn that trend around with this series.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hi, we're the replacements

One of the keys to the Mets' success in the first quarter of the season has been the good play of their reserves. The team has had to deal with significant, if not surprising, injuries and the way some guys have stepped up to fill the holes has allowed the Mets to just keep rolling. This has never been more true than in the games of the last two days.

After splitting the first two games of a four-game series with the Cubs, the Mets turned to Jorge Sosa who joined the rotation when Orlando Hernandez went on the disabled list. Sosa responded with the best of his three 2007 major league starts, allowing just one run on one hit and three walks in seven innings. He's now 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA. Sosa's career stats aren't those of a guy likely to keep this up, but with Mike Pelfrey in the minors and Jason Vargas failing to distinguish himself on Thursday, he'll get plenty of chances to try.

Willie Randolph was apparently so impressed with Sosa's performance that he decided to fill almost his entire lineup with backups in the series finale. Shawn Green shared the outfield grass with Endy Chavez and Carlos Gomez while Carlos Delgado was joined on the infield dirt by second baseman David Newhan, shortstop Roben Gotay and third baseman Julio Franco. Even Damion Easley, who's been the poster boy for surprising fill ins, excelling in Jose Valentin's place, got the day off. Ramon Castro got the start behind the plate, but that's not much of a downgrade from the starter at this point.

While Vargas's Mets debut went a little better than Jose Lima's last year, that's about all that can be said for it. He gave up five runs in seven innings of work, four of those coming on two sixth-inning two-run home runs. It seemed a bit much for the Mets' lineup of scrubs to overcome. Then the Cubs brought in their closer to preserve a four-run lead.

Newhan, inexplicably batting sixth instead of, I don't know, ninth--Vargas is a career .310/.341/.381 hitter compared to Newhan's .253/.316/.383--started the ninth inning with a single and after he narrowly avoided getting doubled off first base on a Castro lineout, the Mets were off to the races. Gomez singled, Carlos Beltran pinch walked and Chavez drew another free pass to bring home a run. Randolph then let Gotay hit with the bases loaded instead of using Jose Reyes or David Wright but it worked as he drove in run number two with a single. After Lou Piniella removed Ryan Dempster in disgust, Wright got a chance to hit for Green and drove Scott Eyre's first pinch into center to bring the Mets within one. Delgado took a ball before grounding a single into right to bring home two runs for the win.

Hopefully the Mets will never start a lineup like that again, but it was certainly was a fun way to win three out of four from the Cubs. Easley, Chavez and Castro are all having good years off the bench which is a good thing given that they all back up guys who are either injured or not hitting very well right now. Franco and Newhan are off to pretty bad starts but the Mets still seem to have assembled a pretty decent bench.

Having dispatched one team struggling to reach .500 the Mets (26-14) host another one this weekend. The Yankees (18-21) will face the business end of the Mets' starting rotation as Oliver Perez (4-3, 3.00), Tom Glavine (4-1, 3.31) and John Maine (5-1, 2.15) get the starts. Andy Pettitte (2-2, 2.68), Darrell Rasner (1-2, 3.28) and Chien-Ming Wang (2-3, 4.54) will tangle with the NL's top offense.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Thoughts on Philly

The Phillies pulled out another dramatic win tonight, and maybe this team is starting to get on a roll. Granted, there are still glaring problems, most notably with the bullpen and bench. But if Eaton and Garcia can give them quality starts, that will take some of the pressure off those concerns.

Philly is 2-8 vs. the NL East’s top two teams, the Braves and Mets. That makes them 17-12 against everyone else. True, the Phils will have to beat Atlanta and NY at some point to truly make noise, but they might not be as bad as their record. They entered tonight averaging 5.2 runs per game, second to only the Mets’ 5.3. Only Florida and Colorado, however, were giving up more runs per outing. Getting Howard healthy and Eaton and Garcia going would be big pluses.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Catching up

Detroit took 2 of 3 in Minnesota, which is plenty fine with me despite Sunday night’s nationally televised blowout. Virgil Vasquez got hammered and was returned to the minors. He started because Jeremy Bonderman is out with a blister-related cut finger. Vasquez was rated the Tigers’ 24th best prospect by Baseball America. He was 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA at Triple-A Toledo this year. He seems to hit batters frequently – 20 times last season and 4 this season (not counting last night).

The Tigers start a 4-game series in Boston tonight with Nate Robertson facing Dice-K. I think Detroit can score on Dice-K, but I also think they could whiff a bunch of times, too. Of course, the Red Sox have had their way with Nate over the years.

For the rest of the series, it will be Justin Verlander vs. Tim Wakefield, Mike Maroth vs. Julian Tavares and Chad Durbin vs. Curt Schilling. I haven’t been following Boston’s rotation closely, but I wonder if Wakefield’s success (1.79 ERA) this season is partially the result of following Dice-K.

Durbin is 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA over his last 4 starts. I wonder if Maroth watches Jamie Moyer pitch. If he doesn’t, he should.

Boston and Detroit are tied for No. 2 in runs in the AL, with 198, just 2 behind the Yankees. The Red Sox are batting .278 (No. 1) and the Tigs are hitting .272 (No. 4). The teams rank 1-2 in OPS, with Boston at .810 and Detroit at .787.

The Red Sox’s ERA is 3.27 (No. 2) and the Tigers is 4.45 (No. 6).

Brandon Inge is .450-1-5 over the last 7 games (best of all only 2 K). Magglio Ordonez is .389-2-6 while Craig Monroe is .368-1-2.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

There's no such thing as too many Carloses

Another week, another four wins for the Mets. They slipped to second place, a half-game behind the Braves, and Moises Alou got hurt again but otherwise it was another good week for New York's leading baseball franchise.

It was a pretty ordinary week for the offense as they scored thirty runs in six games. Not so ordinary was the contribution of David Wright, whose bat seems to be finally coming alive. The Met third baseman had nine hits in twenty-four at bats including three doubles and a home run and he also stole four bases including three in Sunday's game. He's still hitting just .262/.358/.404 for the season, but at least he's starting to come around. Carlos Delgado is even further from respectable numbers at just .209/.287/.328, but at least he hit a couple of home runs this week.

Not all struggling Mets will get as many chances to succeed as those two as Mike Pelfrey found out this weekend. After a Saturday start in which he gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings, Pelfrey was sent down to AAA New Orleans. In six starts he went 0-5 with a 6.53 ERA. He gave up 36 hits and 17 walks in 30.1 innings and struck out just twelve. I have little doubt that Pelfrey will be back in the majors at some point this season, but he clearly has a lot of work to if he's going to develop into a successful starter.

With Pelfrey in the minors the Mets are left with just four starters for the time being as they called up outfielder Carlos Gomez to replace Pelfrey on the roster. The twenty-one year old Gomez entered the season as one of the Mets' top prospects and held his own at AAA despite his youth, hitting .286/.363/.414 in thirty-six games. He got the start in right field on Sunday and wasted little time in making an impression at the major league level, hitting a double and a single, stealing a base and looking very good defensively. Gomez is probably not long for the Mets' roster as they'll need a starting pitcher on Thursday. He's better off playing every day at AAA than sitting on the bench in the majors anyway and he still needs to add some power to his offensive game before he'll really look like a major league corner outfielder. But what he showed on Sunday gave Mets fans a glimpse at a very promising future. The Mets have a rather old outfield now but there may be some very exciting reinforcements from the minors in the next couple of years with Gomez, Lastings Milledge and eighteen-year-old Fernando Martinez all looking like potential major league regulars.

Also giving fans something to be excited about on Sunday was Oliver Perez, who bounced back from a rough start earlier in the week in which he gave up eight runs in one inning thanks in large part to some awful defense behind him. With a terrific outfield of Gomez, Carlos Beltran and Endy Chavez backing him up, he flirted with a shutout, allowing just one hit to the opposing pitcher in the first eight innings. He allowed a solo home run and left the game with one out in the ninth but it was still a brilliant performance. In addition to the two hits, he gave up two walks while striking out six and lowered his season ERA to an even 3.00.

Up next for the Mets (23-13) is a four-game series at home against the Cubs (17-18), who lost two of three in Philadelphia over the weekend. Tom Glavine (4-1, 2.98), John Maine (5-0, 1.79) and Jorge Sosa (2-0, 2.77) will start the first three games for the Mets. Hopefully game four will not be a repeat of the Chan Ho Park experiment. For the Cubs it will be the inexplicably sucessful Jason Marquis (5-1, 1.70) along with Carlos Zambrano (3-3, 5.83), Rich Hill (4-2, 2.51) and Angel Guzman (0-0, 3.57).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Nightmare Weaver

How bad has Jeff Weaver been this year? Today he gave up 6 runs in 5 IP and LOWERED his season ERA by a run. Another multi-hit game from Brandon Inge for the Tigers, who have won 8 of 9 and moved into a tie with Cleveland for first in AL Central.

Mendoza line

Brandon Inge has 6 hits in his last 11 at-bats (three straight multi-hit games) and is now hitting a cool .200. He was batting .111 on April 24.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Surprise, surprise, surprise

Milwaukee 24-10
Ian Kinsler 9 HR-24 RBI
Sammy Sosa 7 HR
B.J. Upton .366 BA
David DeJesus 27 R
Barry Bonds .338-11-23
Adam Dunn 6 SB
Shawn Green .344-4-19
Fausto Carmona 3 wins-2.97 ERA
Mark Hendrickson 2 wins-1.95 ERA

Hit parade

The hits just keep coming in Motown. Five Tigers had multi-hit games last night, including Craig Monroe, Omar Infante and Brandon Inge. Detroit will be very tough to beat if that type of hitting continues at the bottom of the order. They drove in 7 and scored 4 times.

Infante is developing into a super sub. Last night he played in CF for Curtis Granderson. He's just 25 and it might be time for Jim Leyland to find him more at-bats. I have a feeling he could see more action in CF when the Tigs faces lefties (sitting Granderson). The previous two seasons he got a total 630 AB and hit 13 HR with 68 RBI. Not too shabby.

Magglio Ordonez hit 2 doubles and now has an AL-best 18. His 1.056 OPS is fourth in AL. Carlos Guillen (.914) and Granderson (.892) rank 13th and 14th, respectively.

Monroe and Maggs also made diving catches in the 9th last night to help preserve the win. The Tigers have scored at least 7 runs in 4 of last 8.

Jeremy Bonderman gave up 3 runs in the first inning last night. He's got a 15.43 ERA in the first innings of games this season and 1.18 ERA the rest of the way.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mariners visit

The Tigers play 3 against Seattle starting tonight. It will be Horacio Ramirez (2-1, 6.64) against Jeremy Bonderman (1-0, 3.69) in the opener. Amazingly, the ERAs get worse from there for the Mariners: Cha Seung Baek (0-0, 7.53) faces Nate Robertson (3-1, 2.48) and Jeff Weaver (0-5, 15.35) meets Justin Verlander (2-1, 2.75) in the finale.

Baek is tough to figure; he got shelled in Yankee Stadium in his past start, but had a no-no into the 6th inning against KC. Oh, wait; maybe that’s not tough to figure after all.

Bonderman got extra rest because of a blister. The Tigers will be seeing Weaver for the first time since he ended their World Series nightmare. Can the Tigs extend their win streak to 10 before heading to Minnesota?

Joel Zumaya is out for at least 12 weeks. Aquilino Lopez has taken Zumaya’s spot, but that might be temporary. Zach Miner filled in as a starter and reliever last year for the Tigers, but this year is 0-4 with a 6.69 ERA at AAA Toledo. Dennis Tankersley has pitched fairly well (3-1, 3.47) at Toledo and could be in the running to join the big team, I would think. I wonder if Detroit might bring him up with the idea of dealing him. He’s still only 28 and once was a very bright prospect. I’d say he’s in a position where he needs to help the club now; I can’t see the reason to keep him around at Toledo, especially after Rogers returns. Detroit appears to have plenty of starting pitching prospects in the minors, already.

Hopefully, too, Jose Mesa is better.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hot hitting

The Tigers over the last 6 games are slugging .545 (best in AL during span) while batting .318 (2nd) with 42 runs (2nd) and 9 HR (2nd). Playing the Royals, who looked nothing like the team that showed some spark in early April, is a help. But so, too, it seems was Daniel Cabrera throwing at Gary Sheffield.

As soon as I started worrying about Sean Casey, he goes 7-for-13 with two doubles. Craig Monroe says he stopped thinking, which led to a .348 BA the past six games. Those are two key bats in the bottom part of the order. Even Brandon Inge hit .227 over the last six (yes, not great, but double what he’d been hitting).

Now Detroit must overcome the loss of Joel Zumaya. Hard to imagine dislocating your finger (or whatever he really did) by throwing a ball. He will be the third key Tiger pitcher from last year that will either miss the entire year or part of it, joining Jamie Walker (gone to Baltimore) and Kenny Rogers (surgery).

In 2006, Rogers was 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA, Zumaya was 6-3 with a 1.94 ERA and Walker was 0-1 with a 2.81 ERA. Tough to lose those types of numbers.

Rockets red glare

If you think you can stomach it, check out Suzyn Waldman's reaction to Clemens in the house.

American League Least

The Baltimore Orioles are 3-10 in their last 13 games and tied for 3rd in the division, one game behind the Yankees and 6 1/2 games behind the division leading Red Sox (the only team in the division with a winning record).

2 of the 5 starters in the O's opening day rotation are on the DL, however, if your starting pitching isn't very good to begin with.....

While recent outings against the Mariners and the signing of Roger Clemens suggest the Yankees have solved their pitching woes, this remains to be seen.

The Red Sox can generally be relied upon to come back to their competition.

So, while I remain hopeful that the O's can still get it together and post a winning campaign, I'm starting to wonder if they have a better chance of winning the division.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Roger who?

A week ago, the Mets held a half-game lead over second place Atlanta in the National League's Eastern Division. A tumultuous week in which the Mets went four and three against the Marlins and Diamondbacks only served to reduce that margin by half a game. Now some health concerns leave the Mets' shared spot atop the heap as tenuous as it's been in a while.

Orlando Hernandez and Jose Valentin hit the disabled list this week and the results from their replacements have been mixed. Chan Ho Park had an awful start in which he allowed seven runs in four innings on Monday, though with a little help from his defense his line would have been a lot less ugly. Nevertheless, he was quickly returned to AAA New Orleans in favor of Jorge Sosa, who pitched a solid six and one-third innings on Saturday, charged with just two runs on four hits and two walks. Neither Damion Easley nor Ruben Gotay did much hitting out of the second base position, though one of Easley's two hits this week was a home run that keyed Thursday's ninth inning comeback win. Easley probably isn't going to be as bad as this two-for-twenty week might indicate but then Sosa probably probably won't be as good as his first start for much longer either.

Fortunately, even without El Duque the Mets' pitching staff has some room for error thanks to three guys pitching well and one guy sort of getting by. Tom Glavine had his worst start of the season on Thursday, giving up four runs in six innings in a game the Mets wound up winning anyway, but overall he is 3-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 41.1 innings. Oliver Perez continued to put memories of his disastrous second start behind him with an electrifying performance on Wednesday. He gave up three runs in five and two-thirds innings, but two of those runs were the direct result of an error by David Wright on a play that should have ended the sixth inning. Had Wright caught Joe Borchard's line drive, Perez would have finished the sixth inning with just one run allowed on three hits and three walks with ten strikeouts. As it is, he's got a 3.41 ERA with 36 Ks and 10 walks in 29 innings.

Of course, neither Glavine nor Perez quite compares to John Maine, who gave up one run in six innings this week and saw his ERA go up as a result. His 1.37 mark is still fairly comfortably the best in the majors. Maine's certainly had some luck on his side as far as balls in play finding the gloves of his teammates with a batting average on balls in play of .232 compared to a league average of .299. But he's also striking out more batters than he ever has in the majors at 8.5 per nine innings. He's also walking more than ever at 4.1 per nine, but he's cut that down significantly in his last three starts, allowing just six free passes in 21.2 innings. Maine is probably not going to keep his ERA under two all year nor even contend for a Cy Young Award, but I think the questions about whether he can be a solid major league starter can be put to rest for a while.

The same cannot be said of Mike Pelfrey, who had another difficult week. The twenty-three year old gave up six runs in 11.2 innings over two starts this week, which looks a bit like progress. If Pelfrey could give the Mets an ERA around four and a half this year, he'd be a perfectly adequate fifth starter. Unfortunately, the way he pitched in these two starts makes him unlikely to maintain even that modest level of success. He gave up eight hits and seven walks and struck out just four. He also hit three batters. His apparent strategy of "pitching to contact" to generate ground balls is just not going to work for very long if he keeps putting this many runners on base. There's no reason he can't still have a very bright future, but if he doesn't start showing some improvement soon he will likely need to spend some quality time in AAA.

The Mets (19-11) head to San Francisco next to take on the Giants (16-13). The Mets will come out firing with the cream of their pitching crop--Perez, Glavine and Maine. The Giants will respond more or less in kind with Barry Zito (2-3, 3.52), Matt Cain (1-2, 3.08) and Matt Morris (4-1. 3.20). Former Giant Moises Alou missed the last three games in Arizona with a swollen keen, so who knows if he'll be back to take on his old team? As for Barry Bonds, he's hit .325/.433/.563 in 80 at bats in his career against Glavine, but he's just one for seven with three walks against Perez and has never faced Maine.

What else could be done?

This past week, the Baltimore Orioles placed starting pitcher Adam Loewen on the DL with a hairline fracture of the throwing arm, reporting that the fracture has been there all season.

Loewen is 2-0 with a 3.56 ERA.

Perhaps, instead of putting Loewen on the DL, O's management should break the arms of the rest of the pitching staff.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A cut up

Magglio Ordonez got his hair cut for the first time since a trim prior to last year's World Series. He said he could no longer coif his locks under his cap. Commented Jim Leyland, "Don't worry, Maggs. We'll get the guy who did this to you."

It's all laughs now for the Tigs, who have won 5 in a row. Not even Chad Durbin being moved to start Sunday because of Jeremy Bonderman's blister can bring us down.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


The Tigers have played 14 one-run games in just 27 outings this year. Good thing Jim Leyland is already gray (and Sparky doesn’t have far to go). Detroit has won 9 of the one-run games.

Now, the Kitties head to KC riding a wave after sweeping Baltimore. Usually, I’d be happy just winning the series, but given the way Detroit is playing now and the way the probables line up, I’m hoping for another sweep.

Friday’s tilt features Justin Verlander (1-1, 2.79) against Brian Bannister (0-1, 4.91) while Saturday’s game has Mike Maroth (2-0, 4.82) taking on Odalis Perez (2-3, 6.91). The finale is Jeremy Bonderman (1-0, 3.69) against Zack Greinke (1-3, 4.70).

Verlander is coming off a poor outing against Minnesota, so KC might be just what the doctor ordered. The Royals are 11th in AL batting (.248), 11th in runs (107), 11th in slugging and 9th in OBP (.323). They have only 3 players with more than 10 RBI and none with more than 13. Detroit has seven players with 10 or more RBI and five with more than 13.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


A lot is being made about Gary Sheffield’s hitting surge, but to me the bigger news is Craig Monroe’s efforts of late. Monroe hit the game-winning homer today in a 3-2 win over the Orioles and hit a 2-run blast Tuesday that helped Detroit overcome a 2-0 deficit.

Even though Sheffield struggled with the batting average, he was drawing walks, stealing bases (STEALING BASES!) and scoring a ton of runs. I had no worries about him. Plus, I’m sure Placido Polanco (.363) and Magglio Ordonez (.337) have benefited from Sheff hitting between them.

Monroe’s emergence is necessary for the Tigers to return to the heights they enjoyed last year, when C-Mo had 28 HR and 92 RBI. You can’t easily make up for that type of production at the bottom of the order. Monroe hadn’t homered since April 11 prior to yesterday. All 3 of his homers this season are against Baltimore.

A funny game

Tigers’ record in games started by (with pitcher’s record and ERA):

Nate Robertson 2-3 (2-1, 2.43)
Justin Verlander 3-2 (1-1, 2.79)
Jeremy Bonderman 2-4 (1-0, 3.69)
Mike Maroth 5-0 (2-0, 4.82)
Chad Durbin 3-2 (1-1, 6.39)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Maybe last night’s dustup with the O’s will get the Tigers going this season. Cabrera might have awakened a sleeping giant.

Detroit is 14-11, and there’s nothing wrong with that. How they’ve gotten there, I have no idea. The late-game heroics certainly didn’t hurt.

The Tigers rank 9th in the AL in batting average, 9th in OBP and 7th in slugging, yet 3rd in runs. You would think that means a lot of homers, but they’re 8th in that department. The runs are misleading since 49 came in 5 games, which means 78 in the remaining 20.

The pitching ranks 7th in ERA, 7th in WHIP, 7th in BAA (.254) and 7th in OBA.

The team stats are utterly unremarkable. The individual stats are simply bizarre. Sheffield is having one of the great .200 seasons; he’s tied for 3rd in the AL in runs with 22. Maggs is 5th while Granderson, who is tied for 2nd in strikeouts, is tied for 7th. Granderson, Inge and Monroe have 28 strikeouts each, uniting them at No. 2 in the standings.

Polanco ranks 4th in BA and is joined by Maggs and Guillen in the top 20. Maggs is 2nd in RBI and Guillen is 10th. Sheff, Guillen, and Maggs are among the tops in walks.

So, maybe last night's ruckus and Sheff's big homer will get the team rolling like Leyland's tirade did last season.

What's the Difference?

The Orioles and Tigers resumed a plunking tiff last night in Detroit that started in Baltimore 3 weeks ago during the first series between the two clubs. The Tigers plunk Tejada and the Orioles retaliate by plunking Sheffield. This is generally considered an honorable pursuit amongst baseball teams striving for an edge over a worthy foe.

Last night was different, though, and arguably illustrates why the Orioles may be only flirting with the status of "worthy foe" and why the Tigers may be flattering them by treating them as such.

First of all, Tejada offered at the Bonderman pitch that started last nights episode. He put it in play. He followed this by not running to first and then posturing and jawing at the Tigers pitcher. While Tejada may believe his tantrum was brought on because Bonderman threw at him, the reality is that the tantrum was brought on because Bonderman retired him.

When the Orioles retaliated by hitting Sheffield in the middle of the back, Sheffield dropped his bat lightly and trotted to 1st base. No stare, no jawing, no posturing. Just take your base.

Tejada is clearly the Orioles best player. Tejada is widely regarded (amongst the talking heads) as the O's on field leader. The O's will not be a winning team until they get winning on field leadership. You can't throw a tantrum because you made an out. You can't hit the opposing teams' big hitter because your big hitter made an out. Your focus must be on winning, not on protecting your man.

Sometimes, your man just has to be a man.