Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bombs Away

The Baltimore Orioles are slugging. Flat out slugging. For the month of July, the O's rank, in the AL, 5th in Batting Average, 2nd in Home Runs, 3rd in Doubles, 3rd in Slugging Percentage and 1st in Runs Scored.

For the season, they are 8th, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th in the same categories.

The O's were 41-40 at the end of June and went 10-16 in the month of July to stand at 51-56.

I did not see this coming. In April, I suspected the O's would have trouble scoring enough runs to win games. I did not suspect it would be because the pitching is worse than last season. I did not think it could be worse.

I give the O's credit for not having tanked. It has been their custom to tank at some point in the 2nd half. Some seasons as early as June. Others as late as September. This team continues to play well and wins most of the games in which they get a quality start. Just this week, the O's sent one of their failing starters back to the minors and put another one in the bullpen.

I doubt that this will improve the starting pitching as the O's have nothing better to start games, but at least Manager Dave Trembley is not settling for failing performances.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Goodbye, Pudge

Pudge Rodriguez was the first high-profile player to sign with the Tigers several years ago, and one of the key reasons for the franchise's turnaround. But this is a business, and the business in Motown is finding help for the bullpen, so Detroit dealt Pudge to the Yankees for Kyle Farnsworth.

Farnsworth was despised in NY. He had the best year of his career in Detroit when he went 1-1 with 6 saves and a 2.32 ERA in 46 games before being traded to Atlanta for Roman Colon and Zach Miner. He is 32 and can strike out a batter an inning.

Pudge was having one his better seasons, batting .295/.338/.417. But he's 36 and this was going to be his final year in Detroit anyway. Brandon Inge, the AL's best defensive 3B, will be the everyday catcher now.

It's yet to be known whether Farnsworth will be the closer, but one would expect he will see at least some time in that role.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What a concept

Detroit salvaged the final game of the 3-game set against Chicago with a win today. When it came time to close, Todd Jones was NOT on the mound. The Tigers turned to Fernando Rodney, who struck out the side. A closer than fans hitters. Interesting.

Friday, July 25, 2008


The Tigers were 1 strike away from a 5-4 win over Chicago and a 4.4 game deficit in the Central. But Todd Jones gave up a groundball single and a 2-run jack to send Detroit 6.5 games back. I didn't see the whole game, but a Bengal bud says Jim Leyland erred by sending Nate Robertson out for the 7th and bringing in Joel Zumaya before he was ready. The White Sox scored 3 times in the frame.

Nonetheless, it was there for the taking. Jones has allowed at least 1 run in 15 of 43 appearances this season. He's gotten saves in 4 of the games he's allowed runs and blown 3 saves. He's got 13 strikeouts in 39.2 IP. He's got 1 K in his last 11 outings.

Every closer is going to blow some saves. I don't expect perfection. But Jones' numbers clearly indicate he must be removed from the role, even if the Tigers don't have a viable option at this point. Maybe it's time to find out what Zumaya can do. Maybe just mix and match. It can't be any worse, can it?

Must act now

Detroit hosts Chicago in a key 3-game set this weekend. The Tigers are 5.5 games behind the Sox in the AL Central and cannot afford any missteps. A sweep would be great, but 2 out of 3 is necessary.

Tonight, the Sox send Tiger-tamer Gavin Floyd (10-6, 3.52) against Nate Robertson (6-8, 5.69). This is it Nate. Step up. Robertson was last seen coughing up a 6-0 lead in Baltimore. Three of his last four have been atrocious.

On Saturday, Detroit gets Justin Verlander (8-9, 3.95) to the mound against John Danks (7-4, 3.03). Verlander is 6-0 with a 2.30 ERA over his last 8. He is 2-6 lifetime against Chicago, but tossed a complete game victory on June 11.

Sunday sees spot starter Zach Miner (4-3, 3.73) taking on Chicago's Javier Vazquez (7-8, 4.57).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Baseball songs

I'm not sure what to make of this, but the review sounds interesting.

It's about time

After bumbling around for weeks, the Phils finally got the Mets where they want them -- above them in first place.

Getting high

The Tigers swept the Royals in a 3-game set after going 0-6 vs. KC in their first two series.

Detroit is now 3 games over .500, the high water mark of the season so far, with 61 to play. The Tigs were 12 games under .500 on June 6 and 11 GB on June 9. They are 28-13 in their past 41 games and 5.5 GB. So it took them essentially six weeks of .683 ball to cut the deficit in half. There is no margin for error.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The Orioles have the worst starting pitching in the AL.

O's starters have given up more earned runs, more home runs, hit more batters and walked more batters than any other starting staff in the league; all while pitching fewer innings per start than all but 3 teams (New York, Seattle, Texas).

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's gonna be the future soon

With the Mets in a first place tie, winners of eleven of their last thirteen games while the trade deadline looms like a mythical beast from the deep, lurking just below the surface, threatening to take a chunk out of the farm system at any moment, I thought I'd take this time to peer into the future of the 2008 New York Mets. The next sixty-three games seem likely to culminate in another photo finish atop the NL East, but a lot could change by the end of July, let alone the end of September. Here are a few scenarios that might come to pass and my thoughts on their relative likelihood.

Scenario One: The Marlins win the division.

Not gonna happen. Moving on...

Scenario Two: The Mets acquire Raul Ibanez and Jose Vidro from the Mariners in exchange for Fernando Martinez and Jon Niese.

The Mets are short a corner outfielder or two and Ibanez's name has come up in trade rumors. Martinez, now hitting .287/.331/.414 at Binghamton, is still nineteen years old and the Mets' most attractive trade commodity. The twenty-one year-old Niese has a 3.22 ERA and 104:43 K:BB ratio in 117 1/3 innings for the B-Mets. I just threw Vidro in because he's a former Expo and he can't play second base anymore, so I thought he'd fit right in on the Mets' bench.

If your only frames of reference for Omar Minaya as a GM and the Mets as a franchise are June 27, 2002 and July 30, 2004, respectively, this would seem like the mostly likely scenario. A move similar to this one would be disastrous for the Mets' still thin farm system and not much of a boon to the major league club. Ibanez is only hitting .278/.344/.454 and is reputed to be a terrible defender. Counting on Fernando Tatis, Endy Chavez and Marlon Anderson to man the outfield corners is far from an ideal solution, but the Mets shouldn't mortgage the future (again) for the likes of Ibanez or Xavier Nady.

Mets fans have seen too much to completely rule this out. But right now I feel like if the Mets are going to put too much faith in a mediocre veteran outfielder, it's going to be Tatis. The Mets may make a minor move or two in the next ten days, but I don't think Fernando is going anywhere.

Scenario Three: The Mets keep winning eleven out of every thirteen games and run away with the division.

Keeping up the pace of the last two weeks would give the Mets 106 wins on the season, more than enough to put away the division. If Mike Pelfrey (1.86 ERA, 20:3 K:BB, 29 IP in his last four starts), Oliver Perez (1.38 ERA, 27:11 K:BB, 26 IP in his last four starts), Carlos Delgado (.419/.500/.726 in July), Fernando Tatis (.378/.440/.733 in July) and Ramon Castro (.357/.379/.643 in July) stay hot all year, it might be possible. But that is about as likely as Ryan Church coming back next week and picking up where he left off.

Scenario Four: The Phillies edge the Mets in a close race.

Maybe a change of scenery will help Joe Blanton regain his reliable 2007 form. Maybe Jimmy Rollins will start to put some distance between himself and Cristian Guzman in the race to be the third best shortstop in the division. Maybe every Mets/Phillies game will come down to Billy Wagner pitching to Pat Burrell. If any or all of these things happen, the Phillies could once again narrowly defeat the Mets for the division crown. The Phillies have enough talent and the Mets enough flaws to make this a distinct possibility, but I don't think it's the most likely outcome.

Scenario Five: The Mets emerge victorious in a close race.

Despite the significant disparity in pitcher friendliness of Shea Stadium and Citizen's Bank Park, the Mets have only scored 11 fewer runs than the Phillies. The teams are almost even in OPS+, with the Mets at 105 and the Phillies at 104. After a slow start, the Mets' offense has turned out to be pretty good, thanks largely to a .308/.374/.473 month of July. They've been helped by Tatis's shocking resurgence and the rebounds of guys like Endy Chavez and Damion Easley who got off to terrible starts to the season. But while those gains may be fleeting, this team has the offensive core to keeping scoring all season long. Jose Reyes (.300/.364/.482), David Wright (.286/.386/.513) and Carlos Beltran (.271/.363/.477) aren't going anywhere and Carlos Delgado (.261/.343/.472) seems to have enough left in the tank to be an acceptable fourth best bat. With Ramon Castro healthy and getting the starts against lefty pitching, the lineup is even more solid. The Mets aren't going to be the top scoring offense in the league, but they can certainly remain in the top five.

As for pitching, there are certainly some areas of concern. Pedro Martinez has not been good and there's not a lot of reason to expect he will be. John Maine is having a lot of trouble locating the strike zone, as a result of which, he's lasted fewer than five innings in three of his last four starts. But given Oliver Perez's turnaround since the change in pitching coaches and Mike Pelfrey's apparent arrival as a serious major league starter, the news isn't all bad. And then there's Johan Santana, with a 3.10 ERA and 116:38 K:BB in 130 2/3 innings. He's been excellent though not dominant. If this is all he has, this year will be somewhat disappointing. But he is still Johan Santana and he still has twelve of thirteen starts to go. This could still be quite a formidable rotation by the time September or October rolls around.

Altogether, I think the Mets have a comparable offense to the Phillies and a superior starting rotation. I think the race will remain compelling for most if not all of the next two months, but in the end the Mets will prevail by two or three games. The Marlins will be a few games further back.

All of this action will get underway on Tuesday as the Mets host a three-game set with nem Phillies. Santana (8-7, 3.10, 116:38 K:BB) will take on Blanton (5-12, 4.96, 62:35) in game one. Maine (8-7, 4.22, 98:54) vs. Brett Myers (3-9, 5.84, 88:44) and Perez (6-6, 4.36, 95:63) vs. Jamie Moyer (9-6, 3.90, 73:34) will be the matchups in the final two games.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hope sinks

At this point, not even Barack Obama could feel optimistic about the Tigers chances to make the playoffs this year. Detroit salvaged a split in Baltimore, but should have taken 3 of 4. The pitching continues to be a point of concern, so it might not matter anyway.

I'd say the Tigs only hope of making the postseason lies with winning the AL Central. With two teams to chase down, this seems unlikely. Detroit has enough games against Chicago (9) to make a difference, but only 3 remaining with Minnesota. And the Tigers don't have a winning record against either this year.

Detroit needs to pass 5 teams in the wild card standings, including the Twins.


I've been busy with work, so I haven't had a chance to comment on the Joe Blanton trade to Philly. I can't assess what the Phils gave up, and from what I've read it's a mixed reaction. It seems they gave up some of the top potential talent in their system, although that might be faint praise.

So I'll focus simply on Blanton, who is 27. He was 14-10 with a 3.95 ERA last year and is 5-12 with a 4.96 ERA this season. The numbers indicate he might have greatly benefited from pitching in Oakland's spacious ballpark. That doesn't bode well with the change to the tiny Zen.

But why the struggles this season? I'm not a pitching coach, but I play one by misreading and speculating. (All the follow stats are from First, Blanton's K-BB ratio is worse. Last year, his K/9 and BB/9 were 5.48 and 1.57, respectively. This season, those numbers are 4.39 and 2.48. Last year, he threw 65% strikes, this year it's 63%, so there's not much difference there.

His line drive, groundball and flyball percentages all are similar to 2007. His BABIP was .306 last year and is .310 this season.

The only major difference I noticed was he is throwing more fastballs and fewer sliders. His curveball and change rates are virtually the same. His velocity on his fastball is right around 89, the same as last year. However, his average velocity on his curve is up (from 72.9 to 75) as well as on his slider (from 80.9 to 82.3).

So, has Blanton been overthrowing on those pitches? I have 2 theories here. First, the increase in velocity, particularly on the curve, is cause the pitch to flatten out a little and make it more hittable. My other idea is Blanton's increased velocity has hurt his control on those pitches, and maybe his confidence, and forced him to throw more fastballs. Perhaps his fastball is more hittable.

Anyway, it seems something worth exploring. Also worth noting was Blanton was 2-6 with a 3.69 ERA as of mid-May. He was 3-6 with a 6.44 ERA since then.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


The old English D never looked so good. Now, to use this inspiration to make a postseason run as the post All-Star break push gets under way.

It looks like it could take close to 94 wins to make the playoffs in the AL, and probably no fewer than 90. Detroit has 68 games remaining and 47 wins to date. That means going 43-25 at worst, but probably needing to go 47-21. In case you were wondering, 47-21 is .691 ball. That's pretty ridiculous. Winning 20 out of every 30 is only .667 ball.

The Tigers and Orioles are the only AL teams to get going tonight. Kenny Rogers (6-6, 4.55) faces Garrett Olson (6-4, 5.65). Olson has never faced Detroit.

Magglio is back. He will be in the No. 4 spot, as he has been all season. Marcus Thames will bat third. Brandon Inge gets a start at 3B because Carlos Guillen is in Detroit due to a family situation.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

All-Star break breakdown, Tigers pitching

Here are a few interesting tidbits about Detroit's pitching (and, in a way, defense) at the break.

One stat jumped out at me off the bat. (A pun!) Tigers' lefties have an OPS+ 134 vs. LHB. That's the least frequent situation faced, with 431 PAs, but it seems most of the time you're using a lefty to specifically get out a lefty. So that's troublesome.

Detroit's RHP is OPS+ 85 vs. RHB, its best situational stat as far as matchups.

The Tigers have a 4.41 ERA both at home and on the road. At least they're consistent.

Here's an oddity, it would appear: Detroit's OPS+ is 115 in wins and 90 in losses. That, to me, would indicate the hitting is carrying more of the load in victories and is also underperforming in losses.

Detroit has an OPS+ 107 with RISP. The number is 108 with RISP and 2 outs. The hitting, remember was particularly weak with RISP and 2 outs, so coupled with the pitching, that explains some of the Tigers' struggles.

As far as hit location, the OPS+ is 134 on balls to the infield. That would indicate some weak defensive range, perhaps? Not a surprise. Balls pulled by LHB (124) and balls hit the other way by RHB (120) might indicate trouble on the right side of the field, I'd say. The numbers for flyballs (72) and balls to the OF (90) are good, so the trouble is on the ground, again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

All-Star break breakdown, Tigers offense

Even though this isn't the official mid-point of the season, here is a look at the Tigers' offense at the All-Star break. First is Detroit's OPS+ by batting order position, compared against the AL average.

1st -- 111
2nd -- 107
3rd -- 76
4th -- 114
5th -- 103
6th -- 110
7th -- 98
8th -- 96
9th -- 178

So, the only spot in the order lighting it up is the No. 9 spot. The No. 3 spot is trouble and the remainder of the middle is above average, but nothing special.

I would like to see Magglio Ordonez, when he returns from the DL, move to the No. 3 spot. He's batting .307/.376/.490, all in the No. 4 spot, where his OPS+ vs. the league is 110. Overall, however, his OPS+ vs. the league is 134.

Miguel Cabrera needs to hit No. 4. He's only got 51 PAs in that spot, but his OPS+ vs. the AL is 142. Cabrera was brought here to be The Man. Let's make him so. His OPS+ vs. the league in the No. 5 spot is 107.

Carlos Guillen can bat No. 5 and Marcus Thames should see more time in the lineup, preferably in the No. 6 slot. Matt Joyce also can see time in the No. 6 hole, getting time from Thames against some righties.

The Tigers OPS+ is 122 at home and 91 on the road. This is a little surprising because Detroit was a good road team in the past (110 in 2007 and 112 in 2006).

Detroit has a 97 OPS+ with RISP, which is not good considering the potential in the lineup. The Tigers are 92 OPS+ with RISP and 2 outs. Their OPS+ is 82 in that situation when compared to their overall team value.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Twins killing

Minnesota is 9-4 vs. Tigers this season.

Detroit is 13-23 vs. AL Central.

Blech! That's the best I can do.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What goes around, comes around

Today, the Tigs were the ones to blow a comfortable lead. This one hurts. I don't want to dump on Todd Jones, but Detroit needs to find a better answer for the 9th inning.

Jonesy has blown only 2 saves this year (and his defense didn't help him today) but he's been ineffective in plenty of outings. You can't pitch to contact in the 9th, and that's all Jones can do. He's got 12 Ks in 36 IP.

By my count, he's allowed at least 1 run in 13 of 38 appearances. Jones' counterpart today, Joe Nathan, has allowed a run in 4 of 38 and today pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


The Tigers have some momentum going into a big 4-game set against Minnesota. They rallied from a 6-0 deficit tonight for an 8-6 win thanks to Casey Fossum pitching out of a bases-loaded jam, Carlos Guillen's defense in the ninth and Miguel Cabrera's walk-off 2-run tater.

Jim Leyland said recently he thought Cabrera was settling into a groove. Entering tonight, Cabrera was .319/.370/.537 in his last 50 games. He had 9 HR and 31 RBI. Over his last 25 games heading into tonight, he was .340/.379/.619 with 7 HR and 17 RBI.

Detroit is 22-8 in its last 30 games.

Seven and seven

Detroit smacked around Cleveland last night, with Miguel Cabrera hitting 2 HR. The Tigers are still 7 GB the White Sox in the AL Central. They also are 7 GB the Red Sox in the wild card.

Justin Verlander improved to 6-9 with the win last night. He is 5-3 with a 2.75 ERA in his last 11 starts. His BB/K is 28/58 in 72 IP compared to 21/30 in 49 IP during his 1-6 stretch to open the campaign.

Tonight, Eddie Bonine (2-1, 4.30) goes for the Tigers against Paul Byrd (3-10, 5.53), who baffled the kittens in June. Byrd's been awful lately (1-6,. 7.85). A Detroit victory means a sweep in the 2-game set.

Carlos Guillen owns Byrd: .444/.474/.833 in 38 PA.

Ahead are the Twins and the All-Star break. It would be nice to take 3 out of 4 against Minnesota. That would put the Tigers at 49-45 at the break.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

All-Stars by SABR

Joe mentioned a few statistical ways to pick the All-Star teams, so here are some NL numbers based on Hardball Times' win shares and runs created stats (with voted NL starter in parentheses). Win share leaders are shown first, followed by runs created.

C - McCann/Soto; Martin (Soto)
1B - Berkman; Berkman (Berkman)
2B - Uggla; Utley (Utley)
3B - Jones; Jones (Jones)
SS - Guzman/Ramirez; Ramirez (Ramirez)
OF - McLouth/Beltran/Bay; Burrell/Bay/McLouth

The NL reserves at catcher are McCann and Martin, so all 3 stat leaders made the squad. Berkman was an easy pick as the starter; Pujols and Gonzales were selected as reserves. Uggla and Guzman were picked as reserves up the middle along with Tejada. Aramis Ramirez is the reserve 3B. The OF sees Holliday, Ludwick and McLouth join the team.

McLouth should be there, but probably with Burrell, Beltran, Hart and Bay. Reyes should get the nod over Tejada at SS. Pujols and Gonzales are OK at 1B. Wright probably gets a slight edge over Ramirez at 3B.

Miller time

Andrew Miller, one of the Tigers traded in the Miguel Cabrera-Dontrelle Willis deal, appears to be finding his way with the Marlins. After going 1-2 with a 9.12 ERA in his first 6 starts, Miller has gone 4-5 with a 3.42 ERA in his last 12 starts. Foes have a .632 OPS vs. Miller in those last dozen, compared to 1.082 in the first 6.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Democracy doesn't work

The All-Star rosters have been announced and, as usual, the fans, coaches and players have made some odd choices. The only Met on the National League roster is Billy Wagner. Johan Santana, top five in the league in ERA and strikeouts, didn't make the cut. David Wright (.288/.385/.508, 137 OPS+) couldn't beat out Aramis Ramirez (.280/.379/.493, 126 OPS+) for the backup third base spot, but at least Wright made the "Final Vote" ballot.

But the biggest Met snub is Jose Reyes. At .294/.355/.482 with 29 steals, Reyes's numbers are almost identical to those of his best season in 2006 and he's doing it in a year when the average National Leaguer is hitting .258/.329/.409 compared to .265/.334/.427 two years ago. Instead of Reyes, the NL bench will feature Miguel Tejada, who's hitting .282/.319/.437 in a much better park in which to hit.

Every year the All-Star selection process yields some inexplicable results. And given the important role the All-Star Game plays both in deciding where the World Series will be played and definitively separating Hall Of Famers from washed up nobodies, I think it's time something be done. Major League Baseball needs to take the decision out of the fat, fleshy hands of fans, coaches and players and put it in the shiny metal claws of a sophisticated computer program. Ideally this computer would calculate something similar to VORP while taking into account some slightly more nebulous factors to make sure the game is still "fun." It could determine numerical values for making sure the home team and city are well represented and stocking the rosters with big-name stars that the viewing public will want to watch. MLB should probably hire NASA to design this program but if that is cost prohibitive, Nate Silver will suffice. Once this system is in place, All-Star rosters will henceforth be perfect representations of the best each league has to offer. This will ensure the fans get the best game possible, the television networks get the highest ratings ever and the grizzled old sportswriters get something to complain about. Everybody wins!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Initial thoughts

Detroit faces Seattle pitcher R.A. Dickey tonight. Hopefully, the Tigers have more success against him than the Mets had last night against J.A. Happ, who took the place of R.J. Swindle on the Phils roster. WTF.

Of course, the Mets struggled against Dickey (7 scoreless IP) recently; the only worthwhile start by Dickey lately (1-6, 8.54 ERA in last seven games).

Armando Galarraga goes for the Tigers. Advantage good guys, who look to inch above .500 again. Detroit has a .973 OPS in 44 PA vs. Dickey in his career.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Joie de vivre

The Tigers started 3 rookies -- Clete Thomas, Matt Joyce and Michael Hollimon -- last night in their 8-4 win at Seattle, and all contributed. I don't believe it is a coincidence Detroit's season turned when injuries forced something of a youth movement. All 3 rooks from last night have posted an above-average OPS+ in their limited action, and have provided some clutch moments, too. Armando Galarraga has been, by far, the Tigs most consistent and best starter. Freddy Dolsi has provided a little spark in the pen.

When the Tigers won unexpectedly in 2006, there was a youthful exuberance on the field. Probably a lot like what's happening in Tampa this year. This year, the exuberance was replaced by a businesslike atmosphere. Compounded by the early-season losing, there seemed to be no joy in Mudville. The young guys bring back that life. And I've noticed it's seemed to spread. The winning helps, of course. But I think seeing guys out there with something to prove might have re-lit the fire in the veterans.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Chicks dig the long ball

I haven't heard much of anything about home runs this season, but I noticed in recent weeks that it seemed a number of players had a good number of homers. Since we're roughly at the halfway point of the season, I took a look at the figures and there are 37 players with at least 15 HR so far. If we double that number, it means 37 players would hit at least 30 for the year. That would be the most players with at least 30 since 2001.

Of course, that pace can be expected to drop off now that Brett Myers, who apparently misunderstood Nike's old ad, was sent to the minors.