Wednesday, April 30, 2008

O's Retake AL East Lead

The Baltimore Orioles squared off against the Tampa Bay Rays last night in an unlikely showdown; a battle for sole possession of first place in the AL East between the perennial 4th and 5th place teams.

The O's called up Garrett Olsen from AAA Norfolk to make the start and something entirely unforeseeable happened; he pitched effectively. 6 2/3 IP allowing 2 runs in an eventual 7-4 O's victory. The last time I can recall an Orioles pitcher being called up from the minors during the season for a start, and that pitcher subsequently pitching well, would be Mike Mussina.

A number of things are happening to/for the O's this April that haven't happened for years (haven't really checked that, it may just seem like years). O's pitchers do not lead the AL in walks. The O's are 7-2 in one run games. They are 7-0 in games in which they have 10 hits or more. The bullpen is 4th in ERA in the AL. Daniel Cabrera has 4 consecutive quality starts. Aubrey Huff is hitting with power. I've gotten a second chance to post a blog entry with the O's in first place.

While I harbor no suspicions that the O's will continue to win, they've posted a winning mark in April, which is one more winning month than I suspected in March. They've played well. The defense has been outstanding. The pitching has been effective. The offense has been timely.

It's been thoroughly enjoyable watching Orioles baseball this April.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I told you I was good luck

The Mets' performance over the weekend wasn't exactly dominating, but it was certainly an improvement over the previous week. Facing the three best pitchers the Atlanta Braves had to offer, the Mets managed to take two out of three with neither Johan Santana nor Oliver Perez taking the mound. The starting pitchers only pitched fifteen and two-thirds innings, but the bullpen was solid (Jorge Sosa didn't pitch and Aaron Heilman only gave up one run in one inning of work). And while thirteen runs in three games is hardly an offensive explosion, the bats did show signs of life.

David Wright broke out of a five-game hitless streak with a pair of singles on Saturday. Raul Casanova had four hits in two games including his first home run of the season. And Carlos Delgado smacked a pair of long balls on Sunday, thus igniting the stupidest controversy of the day.

The Mets have now scored 113 runs in 24 games, 4.71 per game. This is only the sixth best mark in the league. While it's too early to declare Delgado reborn, I have little doubt that the offense as a whole will improve, even if Moises Alou never returns.

Although no other starter has had the sort of prolonged bout of uselessness that plagued Delgado, there are still several key players who are underperforming. Jose Reyes is foremost among these, hitting just .237/.272/.392. Reyes has only drawn five walks so far, so perhaps part of his struggle could be chalked up to his approach at the plate, but he's also been somewhat unlucky. He has a batting average on balls in play of just .250 compared to a league average of .291. Carlos Beltran, hitting .224/.359/.412 with a BABIP of .270 is another Met whose numbers should improve as his luck begins to even out. And as evidence that Carlos Delgado's slump isn't entirely the result of having gotten old and/or hating the fans, I point to his .221 BABIP, lowest on the team. He's probably not going to revert to the form of his glory days in Toronto, but at the very least I think a few more ground balls might start finding some holes.

The Mets (13-11) and their offense will try to take a few more steps forward starting Monday as they welcome one of the worst teams in the league to town. The Pirates (10-15) come to town holding the distinction of being the only sixth place team in the major leagues. They will have to tangle with Johan Santana (3-2, 3.12, 32:5 K:BB), Oliver Perez (2-1, 3.62, 24:16) and Mike Pelfrey (2-1, 4.43, 10:10). The Met bats will try to keep up Sunday's good work against Ian Snell (2-1, 4.45, 21:9), Tom Gorzelanny (1-3, 8.46, 13:22) and Zach Duke (0-2, 5.34, 9:8).

The best on the bench

Jim Leyland said yesterday Brandon Inge might be the best defensive third baseman in all of baseball. Yet, if Carlos Guillen and Gary Sheffield are healthy, Inge is on the bench. That's because Guillen will be playing 3B and Sheff will have the DH spot.

Perhaps Leyland is talking up Inge so the Tigers can trade him. But the Tigers have made a mess of the situation surrounding Inge, 3B, Guillen and Miguel Cabrera. No doubt Guillen and Cabrera are superior offensive players. However, in Sports Illustrated's baseball preview, the folks at Baseball Prospectus determined Detroit would be better with Inge at 3B and Cabrera in LF because Inge's defense was so good it made up for his offensive shortcomings.

This season, Inge is playing like he's got something to prove. He's batting .268/.379/.465 and his OPS+ is 128. He's got 3 HR, 14 RBI and 10 R, primarily from the No. 9 spot in the lineup. His .844 OPS is right below Cabrera's .856 and ranks 24th among all AL hitters. Guillen is second at .999, thus the complications. I can't find data on win shares for 2008, but would guess Inge's defense would place him slightly ahead of Cabrera at this point.

I guess this is ultimately a good problem to have. Maybe Brandon can pitch?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Good news, bad news

Good news: Detroit's bats are alive, and the Tigs have yet to put their expected regular lineup on the field in any game.

Bad news: Gary Sheffield's shoulder is still causing trouble, so the regular lineup might never get used.

Good news: Tiger relievers have given up 2 ER in the last 25 IP and limited foes to .157 BA during that span.

Bad news: Detroit wins games by 19-6 and 8-2 and the starters fail to stick around long enough to get the victories. Twenty-three games into the season and the starters have 3 quality starts.

Good news: The Tigers are 8-3 in last 11.

Bad news: Detroit's next opponent, the Angels, are 8-3 in their last 11.

Good news: Curtis Granderson in 2 games has 4 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB.

Bad news: Detroit's leadoff men had 3 R, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 5 BB in Granderson's absence (21 games).

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Is it September already?

After reaching the lofty heights of a 10-6 record last weekend in Philadelphia, the Mets have gotten an early start on this year's collapse. They've now lost four of their last five, outscored 32-18. Their means of defeat have ranged from inadequate starting pitching to inept offense to incompetent relief.

The bats have seemingly all gone cold at once. Except for Carlos Delgado, who was cold to begin with. Over the last five games, Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran hit a combined .167/.286/.283. There is plenty of uncertainty in the Mets lineup on its best day. With Delgado acting out his worst case scenario on a daily basis and Raul Casanova making Met fans long for Brian Schneider's fearsome bat, the team really can't afford a slump from the guys who actually can hit. On the bright side, Luis Castillo hit five singles in the last two days, bringing him all the way up to .273/.360/.288 for the year.

Pitching was supposed to be the team's strong point and while, on the whole, the pitchers have been good, they haven't been nearly the dominant force needed to make up for the offense's inconsistency. After Thursday night's ten-run effort, they've allowed 89 on the year or 4.24 per game. It would be easy to blame Willie Randolph's bullpen management for this, or even the relievers themselves, but the starters are not without fault.

Mets starters have posted a 3.59 ERA so far this year, but they've averaged less than six innings per start, leading Willie to utilize at least three or four relievers almost every night. A Met starter has recorded more than eighteen outs eight times. A starter other than Johan Santana has done so just three times. Not once has a starter recorded more than twenty-one outs. With the Mets in the middle of a stretch of sixteen games without a day off, the bullpen hasn't had much chance to catch its breath.

A few relievers are off to very good starts. Joe Smith has pitched 10.1 innings, allowed just seven hits and three walks and struck out eight. The returning Duaner Sanchez has pitched five good innings, allowing just two hits and one walk with three strikeouts. And Billy Wagner has been dominant, having allowed no hits and just two walks in eight innings with eight strikeouts. Unfortunately, almost everyone else has struggled.

Scott Schoeneweis has been decent facing mostly lefties, allowing four hits and one walk in 5.1 innings, though he's only struck out one and did allow a home run to Chase Utley. Pedro Feliciano has disappointed, allowing seven hits and six walks in 5.1 innings, though he has struck out eight. But the biggest problem has been Aaron Heilman and Jorge Sosa, who lead the pen in apperances and innings pitched. In 27.2 innings, they've allowed 16 walks and 33 hits including an absurd eight home runs. Sosa's uselessness is not a total shock, but Heilman's complete implosion is a serious blow to the pen. Willie believes that Heilman is a top setup man, although after Thursday's performance, his faith may be shaken a bit. Heilman entered a tie game in the sixth with runners on second and third and two outs. The batters he faced went: walk, grand slam, single, single, strikeout. If Willie stops using Heilman in keys spots for a while, Sanchez and Smith may be able to pick up some of the slack, as may Feliciano if he can relocate the strike zone. But if the Mets keep playing close games in which their starters leave after or during the sixth inning, we'll probably continue to see Heilman on the mound with the game on the line.

With all that on their minds, the Mets (11-10) return home this weekend to host the Braves (11-11). Mike Pelfrey (2-0, 3.18, 9:6 K:BB), John Maine (1-2, 3.57, 16:14) and Nelson Figueroa (1-1, 4.05, 16:10) will take on Jair Jurrjens (2-2, 3.20, 21:9), Tim Hudson (3-1, 2.93, 16:5) and John Smoltz (3-1, 0.78, 31:6), respectively. This weekend will also see the return of someone who has not been seen at Shea Stadium in many months and who may be just what this team needs to turn its luck around. Yes, if you look out to left field on Saturday, you may see the familiar face, up in the mezzanine level. Also possibly Moises Alou on the field.

Fun with numbers

Tigers are undefeated and score 19 runs/game with Curtis Granderson in the lineup.
Six of the last 11 Tigers' games have featured a team scoring double figures (four times by Detroit).
Magglio Ordonez reached 1,000 career RBI on Tuesday.
Detroit has 98 BBs this season, tied for tops in the AL.
Tigs are 11-for-11 in SB attempts.
Detroit is 7-3 in last 10 games, batting .304/.395/.519 during span.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tigers on the move

Detroit announced Miguel Cabrera is moving from 3B to 1B and Carlos Guillen is moving from 1B to 3B. Neither player was having a good season in the field, so this might help. It could definitely help Cabrera so he won't have to worry as much about playing defensively. He must have felt some pressure taking over for a defensive wiz at 3B.

Curtis Granderson could be in the lineup soon -- maybe tonight. Placido Polanco could return as well. Just 21 games into the campaign and only Magglio Ordonez and Edgar Renteria have played every contest this year.

The Tigers bullpen could get a boost soon. Francisco Cruceta, who was long delayed in getting to the U.S. because of visa trouble, tossed 3 scoreless, hitless innings for Triple-A Toledo last night. He struck out 6.

Denny Bautista (0.96 ERA) has been solid in the pen. Aquilino Lopez has an ERA of 0.63, but has allowed 6 of 14 inherited runners to score, a tad on the high side.

Justin Verlander pitched better last night, but still doesn't seem to be his old self.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Listen to Hank!

Hank Steinbrenner says Joba Chamberlain should be a starter, and for once in my life I find myself in full support of a Steinbrenner. Send Joba to the minors for a month and then limit him to pitching every fifth day. Please!

Last year, Joba appeared in 19 regular-season games after his August call-up. The Yankees went 17-2 in those games (both defeats came in extra innings). Four times he entered games with the Yankees ahead by a run; three times the game was tied and once the Yanks trailed by a run. Otherwise, he made five appearances with NY up by 2 or 3 runs and 6 appearances with the Yankees ahead by more than 3 runs.

If he was a starter during that time, he probably would have made 10 starts and left a void in the 7th and 8th innings. Even if he was 10-0, I don’t think he would have surpassed the value he provided the Yankees by making 13 appearances in close games. Five times he pitched 2 innings and three other times he went more than 1 inning.

Putting Joba in the rotation essentially cuts in half the number of games in which he can appear. I’m all for that.

Seven & Seven

The Tigers opened the season with 7 consecutive losses and now have finally arrived at 7 wins, albeit not in a row. Detroit is 7-6 since its disastrous start. Here are some numbers:

First 7 games
Pitching: .278/.366/.452
Hitting: .234/.308/.332

Next 13 games
Pitching: .251/.360/.402
Hitting: .263/.352/.408

The White Sox's numbers for the season are .248/.319/.327 on the pitching side and .242/.336/.423 on the hitting side.

I'd have to think the Sox can't sustain the pitching line while the Tigers pitching, particularly the starters, can't get worse.

Detroit faces Texas next in a battle between the two worst teams in the AL. This could be a chance for the Tigs to get well.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Arm - and - ohs

Armando Galarraga has been with the Tigers for a week and now leads the team in wins with 2. He pitched 5-1/3 scoreless innings today for Detroit to help get a split in Toronto.

An story reports that Dontrelle Willis is making progress in coming back from his hyperextended knee injury. It also claims Willis' return will be "a major boost" to the Tigers' rotation. Considering Galarraga is in Willis' spot, I'm not sure. Of course, the way the remainder of the starters are throwing, Willis' return probably can't hurt.

Detroit's win today coupled with Texas' loss in Boston pulls the Tigs into a tie with the Rangers for the worst record (7-13) in the AL.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Statistical Analysis

The Baltimore Orioles are 11-7 through 18 games, on pace to win 99 , in 2nd place and a mere 1/2 game out of first in the AL East.

I have seen the games.

I have analyzed the numbers.

It is impossible to discern how they've done it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ouch, again

I see how this season is gonna be. Score 11, give up 11. Justin Verlander's struggles are becoming a concern. His velocity is down, which is either indicative of an injury or is because the Tigers want him to ease up on the gas in favor of control and longevity. If it's the latter, it could be another example of a team messing up a good thing. Now he's got no heat and no control.

Verlander's woes have taken the heat off Zach Miner, who might be Zach Minor (as in league) soon.

Miguel Cabrera turns 25 today. At least that's his story. He's batting .361/.385/.583 in last 9 games.

Detroit's pitchers with a runner in scoring position and 2 outs: .384/.477/.479. With a runner on third and less than two outs: .407/.477/.926. Yes, that says .926 SLG, thanks to giving up 4 HR in those situations.

The 6th and 7th innings have been tough for the pitchers. In the 6th: .370/.461/.699. In the 7th: .328/.423/.433. The 8th is only better by comparison: .288/.386/.424. Foes have scored 27 times in the 6th, 16 in the 7th and 13 in the 8th.

Tigers go 4 against Toronto. Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Armando Galarraga go for Detroit, which will miss Roy Halladay. I guess we'll hope for a split, but I've about given up trying to figure out this squad.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

One year ago today

Joe posted this headline on DTFT:

"At least the Phillies can look forward to a good draft pick next year"


Three at last

A bona fide win streak! Detroit's bats kept thumping last night and (more importantly, I think) Armando Galarraga, subbing for Dontrelle Willis, delivered a great start (6-2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 6 K). His effort was only the second quality start for the Tigs so far this season.

Hard to believe Detroit went from back-to-back shutouts to 30 runs in 3 games. The Tigers are 5-2 when scoring 5 runs or more. They are 0-8 when scoring 4 runs or less.

Nine of Detroit's first 12 HR were solo. Last night, not so. Edgar Renteria went salami and Miguel Cabrera had a 2-run jack.

I think the Tigs missed Curtis Granderson more than expected. So far, the production from the leadoff spot is the worst in the AL (.234/.275/.281 with 2 R). Consequently, perhaps, Placido Polanco has struggled in the No. 2 spot, which also has the worst production in the AL. Those weaknesses make any slumps more pronounced -- especially when almost the entire team is slumping at the same time.

Entering this 2-game series against Cleveland, I was thinking split. Now I'm in sweep mode. The Indians are down and Detroit needs to take advantage, just like teams did against them. Let's make it 4 in a row.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Did the Phillies ruin Kyle Kendrick when they punk'd him this spring, as some have suggested? Kendrick's got a 6.14 ERA in 2 starts so far this season. Many didn't expect him to have another year like 2007 when he was 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA. For one thing, he only struck out 3.8/9 IP and he gave up 1.25 HR/G. He only walked 2/9 IP, but his stats certainly were aided by him stranding a ridiculous 78% of baserunners.

But Kendrick's start probably isn't as bad as it looks. The Phillies turned 71.9% of balls in play into outs last season, which I don't think is an unusually high figure. This year, the number is 65.7%, which is a little low. Walks have hurt Kendrick, but he's got a 57.6 groundball percentage, which is an improvement over last year. Unfortunately, his line drive figure is 6% higher, too, which might contributed to that low DER.

Kendrick should improve, I think.

That's 2!

Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Miguel Cabrera hit homers last night to help lift Detroit to a 6-5 win and sweep the Twins in a 2-game set. The boppers are starting to bop. Finally, a win streak!
Still, the Tigers are 4-10 and visit Cleveland next. Fortunately, the Indians are reeling after getting punched around in the late innings by Boston. Tonight Detroit sends Armando Galarraga to the mound, taking the place of Dontrelle Willis. The Indians counter with C.C. Sabathia, who has struggled. Justin Verlander vs. Fausto Carmona in Game 2. I'd be happy with a split.
If it's going to take 94 wins to reach the playoffs, Detroit needs to go 90-58 the rest of the way. That's .608 ball. Not impossible, but not easy. Particularly if the pitching remains suspect and the hitting erratic.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Six of one, half a dozen of the other

Twelve games into the season, the Mets' record sits at an even .500. This despite the fact that they have outscored their opponents 64-47. Some things have not gone as planned, as evidenced by the fact that Scott Schoeneweis has thrown more innings than Pedro Martinez. But there have also been some pleasant surprises, and I'm not just talking about Angel Pagan's ridiculous .381/.462/.500 start.

Coming out of Spring Training, the Mets' starting rotation didn't seem to have much depth behind the top four starters. When Pedro went down and Orlando Hernandez's foot continued to keep him out of action, the situation seemed dire. But the Mets' fifth and sixth starters, Mike Pelfrey and Nelson Figueroa, have held their own. After Pelfrey's terrific seven shutout innings on Tuesday, they have combined for a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings with 14 strikeouts and 7 walks. Figueroa (nickname suggestion: Nellie Figs) may not be anything more than a decent spot starter, but he did give the Mets eight innings in his debut and if he can keep his ERA around its current level of 4.50, he will have some value at the back of the rotation. Pelfrey's hot start is more intriguing. He had a solid debut, allowing two runs in five innings, and followed it up with the best start of his young major league career. If he can begin to make good on the potential he showed in the minors and in college, the Mets' rotation would be all the more formidable.

Some other notable things happened at Shea on Tuesday. Lastings Milledge made his return to Shea and smacked a double in his first at bat. He was thrown out trying to steal third, but replays showed him to be safe. He later drew a walk. Ryan Church and Brian Schneider combined for just a single and a walk while defensive wizard Schneider allowed his third passed ball of the season. Luckily the Mets still have Jose Reyes and David Wright, who combined for seven hits including for extra bases. And Duaner Sanchez made his long-awaited return to the majors, pitching a scoreless ninth with one hit and one strikeout.

The Mets (6-6) will finish up this series with John Maine (0-1, 4.50, 6:8 K:BB) and Figueroa (1-0, 4.50, 7:3 K:BB) on the hill the next two nights. Lefties Matt Chico (0-2, 3.72 12:4 K:BB) and John Lannan (0-2, 6.75 6:7 K:BB) will take the ball for the Nationals.

It's a win!

OK, it wasn't pretty but at this point we'll take whatever we can get. The Tigers went 24 innings without scoring, then erupted for 11 runs in 3 frames. Maybe the fact Pudge Rodriguez hit a ball to the warning track that ended up a HR after bouncing off the fielder's glove is a sign this is going to turn around for Detroit.

Still, the Tigs made 3 errors and the bullpen gave up 4 runs after Detroit closed within 5-4. They've still only gotten 1 quality start this season and the starters have a 6.31 ERA.

The Tigers are 3-2 when scoring 5 or more runs.

But enough of the nitpicking. Maybe Detroit can start a win streak now.

Monday, April 14, 2008

It can only get better, right?

So Jim Leyland finally saw enough and lost it on the boys. Wonder if he threw bats in the shower.

Leyland: You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Andy!
Andy (Van Slyke): Lollygaggers!
Leyland: Lollygaggers. What's our record, boy?
Andy: Two and ten.
Leyland: Two and ten! How the hell did we ever win two?
Andy: It's a miracle.
Leyland: It's a miracle!

The Lancaster Barnstormers are my new favorite team.

I'd like to offer analysis of the Tigers pathetic start to the season, but what really can you say? The numbers are as awful as the win-loss record. They can't hit (.235/.322/.335), they can't pitch (5.94 ERA/1.63 WHIP) and they can't field. Curtis Granderson, Carlos Guillen, Miguel Cabrera, Gary Sheffield and Dontrelle Willis all have missed time with injuries. Amazingly, they've not been buried in the AL Central.

The next two weeks will determine whether this is a bad team or simply a team that had a bad stretch to open the season.

Friday, April 11, 2008

One and done

I figured the Tigers would go 1-2 in Boston, which is what they did. That leaves the expectation gauge at -4. Ahead is a 3-game set in Chicago. It's Dontrelle Willis vs. Jose Contreras tonight followed by Justin Verlander against Gavin Floyd and Kenny Rogers vs. Mark Buehrle. Looking at those matchups, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Detroit wins 2 of 3. They should have an advantage tomorrow and the other two are toss ups. The Tigs need to start winning some toss ups. Actually, winning of any kind would be appreciated. reported that Detroit's pitchers tossed 212 pitches last night, 113 for strikes. Nate Robertson breezed early and struggled with command later. Tigers have yielded 47 BBs this year, second most in MLB, and .289 BA, which is third worst in MLB. A bad combo. The .830 OPS against them is worst. They're throwing 3.92 pitchers/plate appearance, which is fourth worst in bigs.

The starters need to get it together and get deeper into games, particularly to save this bullpen. Jeremy Bonderman is averaging 16.32 pitches per inning, the best among Detroit's starters. Robertson is the worst at 19.16. By comparison, Toronto's Roy Halladay is averaging 13.47 pitches per inning. KC's Zach Greinke is at 13.73. Minnesota's Boof Bonser at 13.85.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


It took much longer than expected, but the Tigers got victory No. 1. It wasn't a perfect performance, and some of the early season bugaboos (fielding, LOB, in particular) continued, but the bats finally woke up a bit. Detroit got 10 hits and 8 walks while only fanning twice. Defensively, there were 2 errors but also 4 DPs.

Jeremy Bonderman was good enough, and didn't fall apart when his defense let him down. Bobby Seay was terrific and Todd Jones made it interesting in the 9th. Bonderman, reportedly, went without his changeup last night and threw only fastballs and sliders.

Pudge Rodriguez got career hit No. 2,500 last night. He is the 87th player to reach that level.

The bottom of the order really delivered: Carlos Guillen had 3 runs thanks to 2 BBs and a HR; Edgar Renteria had 3 hits, including 2 doubles, and drove in 2 while scoring 2; Marcus Thames had a 2-run HR; and Brandon Inge had a 2-run single in the eighth to break open a 4-2 game.

I figured on one win in Boston, so if the Tigs can get another tonight it would be a great step forward. Nate Robertson faces Tim Wakefield. Maybe Magglio Ordonez busts loose; he's got a .455 BA and .788 SLG vs. Wakefield. Robertson hasn't had much success at Fenway (7.56 ERA in 16-2/3 IP) but has held David Ortiz to a .158 BA in 19 career ABs.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Oh, the horror

When will it end? The Tigers are 0-7 and no team has ever started 0-7 and made the postseason, so one week into the campaign and I'm forced to look at a situation that, at least historically, is hopeless. For some reason I thought a photo of a Tiger seemingly over-run by piglets was appropriate.

Detroit has been outscored by 29 runs in seven games. The Tigs have only scored 15 runs while the AL average at this point is 32. This is mindboggling bad for a team with so much talent.

Here are some other offensive numbers vs. the AL average:

BA .234 - .255
OBP .308 - .328
SLG .332 - .399
P/PA 3.71 - 3.76
GB% 43 - 46
LD% 18 - 17
BABIP .276 - .286
BARISP .140 - .255

The two most glaring stats, to me, are the average with RISP and the OPS. The Tigers' SLG of .332 is obviously awful -- and then consider Juan Pierre has a career .373 SLG and even managed .353 without a HR last season -- and you really feel sick.

It would seem the Tigers have had some degree of bad luck, although I think it's minor because I haven't really seen Detroit batters stinging the ball.

Here are pitching stats vs. the AL average:

ERA 5.20 - 3.98
DER .688 - .701
LD% 15 - 17
GB% 45 - 46
IF/Fly% 18 - 17
K/G 5.3 - 6.2
BB/G 4.3 - 3.2
HR/G 0.90 - 0.93
SLG .452 - .399
LOB% 64 - 73

The strikeouts, walks and LOB% jump out. Also, the DER, which was closer to the league average prior to yesterday's game. The infield defense has been getting ripped by fans, particularly Carlos Guillen's play around the bag at first and Miguel Cabrera's at third. Even Placido Polanco has been dragged down, making his first E in more than a year. I know it's early, but Cabrera's range-zone rating on Hardball Times is a pathetic .455. Polanco's has dropped to an AL worst .636 among 2Bs.

If the Tigs are going to walk more batters, strikeout fewer and get to fewer balls than the average AL team, there is no way they will overcome this 0-7 start.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Welcome to Boston

Tigers start a 3-game series this afternoon in Boston. Kenny Rogers faces Daisuke Matsuzaka. Tomorrow night it’s Jeremy Bonderman against Jon Lester and Thursday it’s Nate Robertson vs. Tim Wakefield. Expectation level: 1-2.

Rogers is 5-6 with a 5.48 in 90.1 IP at Fenway Park. That’s 24 games, 14 starts.

Detroit’s starters are 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA this year. They’ve given up 32 hits and 16 walks in 34 IP. They’ve got 20 K. The relievers are 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 22 IP. They’ve given up 25 hits and 11 walks while striking out 15.

Yorman Bazardo, Aquilino Lopez and Jason Grilli have combined to permit all 7 of the first batters they’ve faced to reach base. Overall, the bullpen has allowed 9 of 19 first batters to get on. (Boston has allowed 4 of 19 to reach.)

The Red Sox are off to a slow start, but might be energized by finally coming home. Boston opened the campaign with an 18-day, 4-city, 3-nation road trip, logging about 16,000 miles.

Dice-K is coming off a sharp outing against Oakland in which he retired 16 of the final 17 batters he faced. Last year, he got his first CG against Detroit, winning at Fenway. This is probably not the guy the Tigs want to face while in a funk. If they're patient, they might have a chance, but if they're pressing he could make them look silly with his assortment of crazy moving pitches.

Monday, April 07, 2008


OK. It wasn't the day games.

Detroit looked awful last night on national TV. The Tigers got 9 hits and 3 BB and only K'd twice, but hit into 5 DPs and rarely stung any balls. Justin Verlander gave up a leadoff HR to Nick Swisher and the rout was on. The ugliness wasn't all on Verlander as 5 of the 9 runs he yielded were unearned.

Two teams since 1903 have made the postseason after starting the year 0-6. Of course, much of that time doesn't include the wild card era. Also, I don't know the number of teams to start 0-6. So while that stat seems daunting, I'm not sure it matters. I would guess most of those 0-6 starters were truly bad teams, and I don't believe the Tigers fall into that category, although I would have little to back up that assertion at the moment.

With the way the pitching went last night, not much was going to save Detroit. However, I hated Jim Leyland's lineup with Pudge Rodriguez and Marcus Thames in the 1-2 spots. Both guys have posted OBPs below .300 two of the last three seasons. I don't think this is the way to jump start the offense. Poor Edgar Renteria hasn't seen the No. 1 spot since getting 3 hits from it the second game of the campaign.

Detroit's offense is .245/.316/.358 at this point. Blech! At this rate, the Tigs will be challenged to top 400 runs for the season, much less the 1,000 many thought they could reach. But the offensive woes don't mean Detroit is relegated to losing. The Yankees are .239/.291/.367 and have scored only 2 more runs than the Tigers, yet are 3-3.

The Tigers' ERA is 5.30, which is worst in the AL, and their .768 OPS against is 12th.

Maybe Detroit can find itself on the road. It won't be easy with Boston next up.

O's Atop AL

The Baltimore Orioles are 4-1 and stand atop the AL after Week 1 of regular season competition. How can this be?

The O's had the fewest at-bats (158) and the fewest hits (43) in the AL in Week 1. They also struck out the least (26), drew the 5th most walks (21) , stole the most bases (7) and scored the 6th most runs (27). They clearly squeezed all the blood out of that stone.

O's pitching walked 3.4 per 9 IP in Week 1 compared with 4.4 per 9 IP in 2007. The bullpen allowed 2 runs in 18 1/3 IP and those 2 runs were given up when the O's had a 5 run lead.

The O's came from behind to win 3 games.

Lastly, it appears that right now may be the best time all season to be playing Seattle. The Mariners are in a funk. J.J. Putz is out. Erik Bedard missed his turn in the rotation with an inflamed hip. The defense played awful and the Mariner bullpen started fires and poured gas on them.

Daniel Cabrera starts on the mound for the Orioles today. The enigmatic flame thrower had what has become a typical performance in his season debut going 4 innings and surrendering 5 walks, 6 hits and 6 runs. He is tough when he throws strikes. Maybe he'll throw strikes today and the 2008 Week 1 fantasy can continue.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

At least I'm not a Tigers fan

The Mets' season is five games old, so I think it's about time I start complaining about Willie Randolph's bullpen management. I will give him some credit for apparently having figured out how to use Scott Schoeneweis. In Schoeneweis's first two appearances, he faced a single lefty and in his third, he faced a lefty and a switch hitter. Of course, that third lefty got a run-scoring hit and the switch hitter was Chipper Jones, but it's a step in the right direction. Last April, Schoeneweis pitched at least an inning in more than half of his appearances. He gave up eight walks and seven hits in nine and two-thirds innings. So far this year, he's retired three of four batters.

Randolph's usage of another lefty has been a bit more confusing. Pedro Feliciano, the team's second or third best reliever, has made just one appearance and the Mets had a lead of eleven runs at the time. On Saturday, in the sixth inning, with the Mets down by a run, a runner on base and Mark Kotsay and Larry coming up, in came Schoeneweis. An inning later, with the Mets down by two with Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur scheduled to bat, Willie went with Jorge Sosa. Six batters later, Sosa was still in the game and the Mets were down by six runs. I know that there's no chance of Willie using his best reliever, Billy Wagner, in a tight spot before the ninth inning. But is using one of his "set-up men" before the eighth to prevent the game from getting away too much to ask? Sosa is useful to have around as a long reliever and spot starter, but using him in a critical spot while Feliciano sits doesn't make a lot of sense.

Of course, Saturday did not go well for the Mets from the start. John Maine lasted only four innings in his season debut, allowing four runs on eight hits and three walks with five strikeouts. Starting pitching was not a problem on Sunday as Johan Santana's second start went even better than his first. He allowed just one run on seven hits through seven innings with three strikeouts, but a bad day by the Mets offense against John Smoltz and a bad pitch from Aaron Heilman to Teixeira saddled Santana with a loss.

Mets (2-3) hitters will have a bit of an easier task as they head home to take on the Phillies (2-4) starting Tuesday. Jamie Moyer (0-0, 7.36), Kyle Kendrick (1-0, 7.20) and Adam Eaton (0-0, 3.52) will start for the Phillies. Oliver Perez (1-0, 0.00), Mike Pelfrey (3-8, 5.57 in 2007) and John Maine (0-1, 9.00) will try to get the Mets back on track.

Night time the right time?

The Tigers are 0-5 and clearly don't like playing day games. Tonight on ESPN they will take the field for the first time under the lights, so let's hope the result is a win.

Not much to say about the Detroiters at this point. They've scored first in 3 of 5, but have gotten only 1 quality start and the bullpen has allowed 5 of 10 inherited runners to score. They've only out-hit their foe once, which was yesterday, thanks in good part to Dontrelle Willis giving up 7 walks rather than hits.

The Tigers have a 4.79 ERA, which is among the worst in the AL, ahead of only the Yankees and White Sox (not that Detroit has taken advantage). Chicago leads the AL in OBP (.360) and HR (9) while the Tigers' .312 OBP is better than 5 teams in the AL.

Brandon Inge, who drove in all 3 runs yesterday, and Clete Thomas remain the few offensive bright spots.

Expectation wise, I'd say the Tigers are -4. Tonight, against Mark Buehrle, I'd say the Tigers have a minimal advantage with Justin Verlander. Buehrle struggled in his first start, but is 12-8 lifetime against Detroit.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

O's Atop AL East

The Orioles are 2-1 and stand atop the AL East (albeit merely alphabetically). As this is my last chance to post whilst the O's are in 1st place, I strike while the iron is hot.

Starting pitching has thrown 15 of 27 innings and surrendered 13 runs. The bullpen has surrendered 2 runs in 12 innings. The Orioles pitching staff does NOT lead the AL in walks.

The O's have homered 4 times in the first 3 games. They've stolen 4 bases in 5 attempts.

The defense has played well. While they've committed two errors, they've also made excellent defensive plays to nullify the ill effects of said miscues.

Alas, the starting pitching may be the only performance thus far that the O's can sustain.

Friday, April 04, 2008


The story about the Tigers' 8-5 loss today against Chicago describes the crowd as "predominantly angry." It looks like the Tigs are doing their best to keep from stealing the Red Wings' thunder heading into the NHL playoffs.

Jason Grilli gave up a 3-run HR to A.J. Pierzynski during a brutal 7th-inning performance. But the real turning point here was the third inning after Detroit tied the score at 2-2. Nate Robertson got two outs in the top of the third and then plunked Jim Thome, walked Paul Konerko, gave up an RBI double to Jermaine Dye and a two-run double to Pierzynski.

Detroit rallied again to tie the score thanks to a two-run double by Pudge Rodriguez and an RBI single by Jacque Jones in the bottom half of the frame, but Robertson cannot give up 3 runs with 2 outs and no one on base. Who knows, it might have cost Robertson pitching another inning rather than only 5. If he goes 6, maybe we don't see Grilli today.

Clete Thomas and Pudge went 3-for-4. Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen both had 3 walks.

I'd say this was a game the Tigers figured to win. I'm putting them at -3 in the expectation category. Who know what will happen tomorrow with Willis vs. Floyd. But the Kitties need a win badly and Floyd might provide a chance to pound out a victory.

Quick hits

The Tigers have given up 13 runs this season, 11 of which scored in the 6th inning or later.

Only 3 of the runs have been charged to the bullpen, although the relievers have allowed 3 of 8 inherited runners to score.

Detroit has 3 HR this season, all solo.

Since the start of the 2004 season, Nate Robertson has allowed just 8 HR against left-handed hitters. Mariano Rivera (5) and Mike Timlin (7) are the only pitchers to permit fewer.

Dontrelle Willis faces Gavin Floyd in a FOX telecast Saturday. Sounds like runs.

Miguel Cabrera should be back in the lineup today at DH. Brandon Inge will play 3B and Clete Thomas will be in CF.

Jim Leyland says Gary Sheffield's injured finger should not land Shef on the DL.

Inge, who people worried about being disgruntled after losing his job to Cabrera, has started all 3 games this season and is one of the few Tigers worthy of praise thus far.

I was surprised Leyland dropped Edgar Renteria from leadoff to 7th yesterday and put Thomas in the No. 1 spot. Renteria had 3 hits the previous day. It was Thomas' first career start.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Broom me

No one is shocked to see a sweep in Detroit to open the season. Except few figured it would be the Royals doing the broom work. Another day, another lack of production. At least today the Tigs got on the board thanks to a solo HR by Brandon Inge.

Detroit scored 1 run over the final 21 innings of the series. Jeremy Bonderman pitched well for a while, but gave up a 2-run HR to Alex Gordon in the 4th and was charged with four runs total. The Tigers were without Miguel Cabrera because of a quadriceps strain.

It's a long season, so there's no need to panic. But the outcome of this series is surprising because you had to figure Detroit realistically takes 2 out of 3 at home. So, I'd say the Tigers are -2 on the expectation scale.

Next is 3 at Comerica against the White Sox and then 3 in Boston.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

This was fun for about a day

Only the Mets could find a way to outscore their opponents twenty-four to seven over three games and come out feeling like losers. Yes, the Mets' offense thoroughly pounded what passes for major league pitching in the Florida Marlins organization. And yes, the Mets got a good first start from their big offseason acquisition and an even better one from their talented but inconsistent third starter. But who cares? Pedro's hurt again.

After making it though five fall starts, the whole offseason and all of Spring Training with his arm intact, Pedro Martinez was felled by a strained hamstring less than four innings into his 2008 season. He'll be out for at least a month and probably more. For the moment the task of replacing him will fall to Nelson Figueroa who, prior to tonight, hadn't pitched in the majors since 2004. Orlando Hernandez could help if he ever figures out how to throw the ball to the plate without his foot hurting him. And all of this is dependent on Mike Pelfrey pitching well enough to stay in the majors. Johan Santana, Oliver Perez and John Maine still make for a pretty formidable trio, but beyond them, the Mets' rotation is looking rather fragile.

Fortunately the Mets' offense looks capable of picking up some of the slack in the absence of dependable pitching. Every Met regular, aside from Carlos Delgado, had a good series with the bat. David Wright, with six hits including three doubles and one home run, and Carlos Beltran, with five doubles including one that would have been a home run if not for some overzealous umpiring, led the way. In total the Mets hit .330/.409/.486 in the three games. If they can keep up this success once they face a pitching staff whose total salaries are greater than what Santana will make this year, they should be in good shape.

The Mets (2-1) will take on slightly tougher competition starting Friday as they head to Atlanta for a weekend series against the Braves (1-2). John Maine (15-10, 3.91 in 2007), Mike Pelfrey (3-8, 5.57 in 2007) and Johan Santana (1-0, 2.57) will start for the Mets. Tim Hudson (0-0, 2.57), Tom Glavine (1/3 IP, 7 mean, 0-0, 1.80) and John Smoltz (14-8, 3.11) will go for Atlanta. This is, of course, assuming that none of them are forced to start on Thursday when scheduled starter Mike Hampton unexpectedly contracts polio during warmups.


If today was any indication, it's clear why the Tigers needed to acquire Edgar Renteria. He produced the only hits for Detroit this afternoon in a 4-0 loss. Renteria was 3-for-4 while the rest of the lineup took the collar (with 8 K and 1 BB) against Brian Bannister and two relievers. Bannister's dominance no doubt stems from his embracing sabermetrics.

Kenny Rogers pitched well for the Tigers, giving up 2 runs in 6 IP. He fanned 4 and walked 1. Once again, though, KC came through with two-out hits. All 4 runs scored after two were away.
Opening the season by losing the first series to the Royals isn't exactly the way you want to break from the gate.
It can leave you feeling small.

Talk of the town

Who said it?

"It's going to be a self-fulfilled prophecy. You guys are going to write about it. Everybody's going to wait until late in the game, a lead gets away, and everybody says, 'See? We told you.' The truth of the matter is all of the guys on this staff can get guys out or they wouldn't be here. These are the guys we've got. We're going to go with them. That's the way it's going to be. We need to embrace some of these guys instead of kick them."

That's Todd Jones in the Free Press. Just as easily could be Philly.

Game note highlights

Here are some facts from the Tigers press notes for today's game against KC:

Kenny Rogers can move into a tie for 21st place for career wins among lefties with a victory today against KC.

Magglio Ordonez is 8 RBI shy of 1,000 in his career.

Pudge Rodriguez is 4 hits shy of 2,500.

Gary Sheffield needs 6 RBI to tie former Tigers star Al Kaline for 35th place on all time list, with 1,583.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Finding relief

Phillies fans are already throwing in the towel because of the state of the team's bullpen. This led to a discussion with my brother about relievers.

Some of the fans and talking heads in Philly are blaming GM Pat Gillick for not buying help for the bullpen. I happen to agree with Gillick's philosophy of not giving long contracts or big deals to pitchers, particularly relievers, because they're so streaky. I opined that the best way to build a bullpen was from within, coupled with lucky low-risk pickups, like the Phils got with J.C. Romero last year.

After thinking about it a little more, I came to the conclusion that chasing help can be extremely difficult. Look at the Orioles last season, just as an example. Furthermore, the recently successful teams in the AL (which is where I limited my thought process being a Tigers' fan) pretty much all have relievers that pitched only for them during their careers.

Consider Mariano Rivera in New York, Jonathan Papelbon in Boston, Huston Street in Oakland, Francisco Rodriguez in Anaheim, Bobby Jenks in Chicago, J.J. Putz in Seattle.

Cleveland got 45 saves (and 5.07 ERA) from journeyman Joe Borowski last season, which bucks the trend to a degree, but the Tribes' key reliever Rafael Betancourt fits the profile. When the Tigers reached the World Series in 2006, it was with well-traveled Todd Jones as the closer, but Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya were the heart of the pen.

Minnesota's Joe Nathan came over in a trade from San Francisco, but he had only 1 save in four seasons by the Bay.

I'm not sure there is anything to this quick analysis, but it does seem to suggest it's worth consideration.

Game 1 is no fun

Thoughts from Opening Day:

Some in Detroit already have the sky falling. There’s no doubt the Tigers let one get away, but these things will happen over 162 games. It’s only more noticeable because it’s Game 1.

Miguel Cabrera made a throwing error on the first ball he handled, but later made his first hit a HR. This, in a nutshell, is what many projected.

Brandon Inge’s two-out BB in the second inning set up Edgar Renteria’s RBI single to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. Inge also threw out a runner at the plate in the 11th from CF.

Magglio Ordonez got thrown out at home in the third to end the inning. I didn’t see the game, so I’m not sure if it was a good move to send him. But my general thought is with two outs you go for it and force the defense make the play.

Justin Verlander fizzled after being tough early. He gave up a 2-run HR in the sixth and then walked the leadoff man in the seventh, followed by a single to make it first and third. Jason Grilli and Aquilino Lopez gave up RBI singles and KC led 4-3. Tough situation for the pen with first and third and no outs, but you have to limit the damage to a run, I think; particularly when the second RBI hit came with two outs.

Denny Bautista let the leadoff man reach base in both the 10th and 11th. He escaped the 10th and looked like he could do the same in the 11th, but it wasn’t to be. Again, the big hit came with two outs.

Detroit got a runner to third with one out in the 11th, but Renteria K’d and Placido Polanco grounded out. I understand it was a nice stop by Gordon in the hole.

The Tigers had four doubles and two HR, but it wasn’t enough. They left 10 runners on base, which is too many for this lineup, but will happen from time to time.