Monday, September 28, 2009

On a Brighter Note



Brian Roberts has 55 doubles on the season, tying Lance Berkman's MLB record for doubles in a season by a switch hitter.

Friday, September 18, 2009

$18 million man

The Tigers will owe Magglio Ordonez $18 million next season now that his option is guaranteed. Much has been made of this, particularly as Ordonez has struggled offensively much of this season. But maybe there can be room for hope. While it is doubtful Ordonez can produce at an $18-million level in 2010, maybe he can get to $10 million or a little more?

Over his last 35 games entering Friday, Ordonez was batting .382 and slugging .518. His OPS during that span was .971.

Looking at Magg's stats, he is hitting line drives at his usual rate and not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone any more than normal. He also is making contact across the board at his usual rate. The big difference is his groundball rate is 10% higher than usual. Groundballs are outs 75% of the time and -- obviously -- can't be home runs.

If his recent hitting is not just a flash in the pan maybe Maggs can return to being an above-average producer again.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Felix the Bat



In the 26 games he's played since the All Star break, Felix Pie is hitting .317 with 6 HR and 16 RBI and a Slugging Avg of .610. Those 26 games include one in which he hit for the cycle.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The return of Nate

Nate Robertson will return to the Tigers' starting rotation on Saturday after 5 games at Triple-A Toledo where he posted a 1.89 ERA and had a K/BB rate of 21/4 in 19 IP. What a boost an even mediocre (not great) Nate could be.

Detroit hosts TB this weekend. The Tigers are 5 games ahead in the loss column of Chicago and Minny. It would be terrific if the Tigs could take 2 of 3, especially being at home. And the White Sox are playing in the Bronx and the Twins are hosting the Rangers. It could be a chance to open more ground.

This will never happen

But it would be fun to see Jamie Moyer striding in from the pen to close. After the performances of Lidge and Madson, why not? I know conventional wisdom says Moyer's slop cannot be closer stuff. Yet here is something to consider: Moyer was at his best this season on pitches 1-25, when batters went .240/.310/.403 against him.

Here is something else I noticed about Moyer, which would not bode well for him as a closer. Last season, he allowed an OPS of .549 when he had two strikes on a batter. That was dead-on league average. Also, he was super when he was at 0-2, yielding a .342 OPS, which was 27% better than league average.

This year, Moyer is allowing an OPS of .725 when he has two strikes, which is 65% worse than league average. When the count is 0-2, batters are smacking to the tune of a .598 OPS, which is 115% worse than league average.

Again, that's .549/.725 with two strikes and .342/.598 when 0-2. If Moyer cannot trick batters with two strikes, he is in trouble.

Monday, August 24, 2009

C.C. rider

Remember the splash C.C. Sabathia made last year with the Brewers when he was traded from the Indians. Well, as great as Sabathia pitched, he had nothing on Cliff Lee -- at least through their first 5 appearances in the NL.

Sabathia went 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA. He pitched 39.2 innings, allowing 29 hits while walking 10 and striking out 34. Foes had a .559 OPS. He threw 3 complete games including a shutout.

Lee is 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA. He has pitched 40 innings, allowing 24 hits while walking 6 and striking out 39. Foes have a .443 OPS. He has thrown 2 complete games and gave up no earned runs in one.

That sound you just heard was Indians' fans knocking their heads against the wall.

Sabathia made 12 more starts for Milwaukee and went 7-2 with a 1.58 ERA, so Lee still has his work cut out for him if he wants to better Sabathia the rest of the way. But it is an amazing beginning for Lee.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Needing some O

The Tigers added O to their lineup today in the former of acquiring Aubrey Huff from the Orioles. At least that's the hope. Huff has decent numbers, but not up to his usual standards. In that regard, he will fit in nicely in Detroit.

Detroit holds a 3-game lead in the loss column in the AL Central. The formula has been pretty consistent this year -- get good pitching, win; don't get good pitching, lose. The Tigers are 44-7 when allowing 3 runs or fewer. They are 18-48 the rest of the time.

Offensively, Detroit has been shut out only 3 times, but has scored between 2-5 runs in 81 of 117 games. That's 69 percent. They are 32-49 when scoring between 2-5 runs, which thanks to the pitching, isn't bad. They exceed the MLB win percentages for games in which they score 2, 3 and 4 runs. They are below average when scoring 5.

The Tigers are 11-3 when scoring 4 runs, which is a .786 win clip. The MLB average is .517.

Detroit is 11th in the AL in OPS and 11th in BB/K ratio. The Tigers are 2nd in swinging at the highest percentage of pitches in the strike zone, but that could be in part because they are 4th in highest percentage of swings. They are 11th in percentage of making contact on balls in the strike zone and 10th in overall contact.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Smoltz to Detroit?

Way back in 1987, the Tigers traded 20-year-old prospect John Smoltz to the Atlanta Braves for Doyle Alexander. It is one of the most rehashed trades of all time, thanks to what Smoltz became. But Alexander went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA for Detroit and helped the Tigs win the division.

Smoltz was designated for assignment by the Red Sox and I'm not alone in wondering whether he might now finally pitch for the Tigers. He is a Michigan native and it would be pretty wild if he joined the squad and helped them win the division this season.

In Boston, Smoltz posted an 8.33 ERA in 8 starts. According to fangraphs.com, his K/9 was 7.43 and BB/9 was 2.03. Those aren't terrible numbers. His BABIP was a ridiculous .390 and his LOB percentage an equally absurd 57 percent. His line drive percentage was 18, so he's not getting raked. Something doesn't compute.

His fastball is averaging 91.3 mph, which isn't bad either. The speed of his slider is down by about 2 mph, so I wonder if that's the trouble? Batters are making contact on 63 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, so could one guess the slider is no longer a swing-and-a-miss?

Still, given the Tigers need for pitching, it is intriguing.

Cole gets coal in 2009 stocking

In sabermetrics, it is argued that the “three true outcomes,” which are walks, strikeouts and homers, can provide a better window into a pitcher’s future performance than wins, losses and ERA. If that is true, it is worth taking a look at Cole Hamels using this method.

Getting stats from baseball-reference.com, Hamels has faced 542 batters so far this season. He has a 4.77 ERA. Last year, after facing 530 batters (the nearest comparison I could easily calculate), Hamels had a 3.18 ERA.

In 2008, Hamels had 118 K, 33 BB and 17 HR through 530 batters. This season, he has 111 K, 27 BB and 20 HR.

To take it another step, in 2007 Hamels had a 3.69 ERA after facing 543 batters. He had 129 K, 32 BB and 21 HR.

Those numbers aren’t dramatically different, but the results this year have been. That would point toward Hamels being a victim of some bad luck.

In 2007, foes were hitting .251 against Hamels while in 2008 it was .204. This year, it is .283. His line drive percentage for 2007 was 16, in 2008 it was 20 and in 2009 it is 19. So Hamels probably had a little bit of good luck last year in keeping the BA against low, but the 19 percent this season is not bad by comparison.

Hamels’ BABIP this season is .331. It was .270 for all of last year and it was .289 for all of 2007.

Bad luck might not explain all of Hamels’ woes this season. Obviously, other factors can contribute to batters getting more hits. But given that his three true outcomes mirror the past two seasons, bad luck might be part of it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

They might not be giants

Don't you wish Brian Sabean was in your fantasy league? Especially at the trade deadline? Sabean traded one of the Giants top pitching prospects in Tim Alderson for, at best, a slightly better than league average hitting 2B in Freddy Sanchez.

Sabean also gave up another highly regarded pitching prospect for Ryan Garko.

Remember Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser for A.J. Pierzynski? How about that Barry Zito contract?

The Phillies should immediately offer Eric Bruntlett for Madison Bumgarner. And the Tigers should offer Ryan Raburn.

Seriously.

More on Lee trade

More than simply adding the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, the Phillies added the talent at a very minimal cost. Philadelphia gave up pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp along with infielder Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson. Sure, these were four of the Phils top-rated prospects, but that might be an indictment of their system rather than praise.

Carrasco is regarded as a good prospect, but hasn't been tearing it up in Triple-A. He has not pitched as poorly as his 5.18 ERA would suggest, but some have questioned whether he has the makeup to be a top starter.

Knapp is regarded as a very good prospect, but he's pretty much just out of high school and currently on the DL with a sore shoulder. Sure, he might turn into the next John Smoltz, but he was years from helping the Phils, who want to win now.

Donald is a decent prospect, but a man without a place in Philly, stuck behind Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. He was perfect trade fodder. He, too, has struggled at Triple-A.

Marson is regarded as a decent hitter, less than great defensive catcher. It seems catching prospects rarely live up to expectations, so I'm always for trading them.

Now, factor in that the Phils also got OF Ben Francisco to add some bench depth, and this deal swings even more in the Fightins direction. Francisco is probably not much more than league average, but he's got a little pop. Plus, the Phils can keep Lee at a reasonable price for next season.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Real-Lee good move

Philadelphia added Cliff Lee to its starting rotation for 4 minor leaguers. The Phillies also got OF Ben Francisco, who will provide a right-handed bat off the bench.

Lee, whose middle name is Phifer, immediately becomes Philly's best starter. Using the Game Score method, Lee has tossed 7 "gems" this year in 22 starts (nearly 32 percent). He has 14 starts with scores of 55 or better. Teams last year won at a .683 clip when starters had scores of 50 or better; the Indians were 7-7 in Lee's 14 games of 55 or better. (The Phils are 32-12, .727, when getting a 55 or better.)

The Phillies have had 19 starts this season in 98 games that qualify as gems. Joe Blanton has 6, Cole Hamels 5, J.A. Happ 4, Jamie Moyer has 2, Chan Ho Park 1, Brett Myers 1. Park is now in the bullpen and Myers is on the DL. The Phils were 16-3 in those 19 gems.

Philadelphia has won in large part thanks to its offense. In the 25 worst starts by Phils' pitchers, the Fightins were 12-13. That's pretty remarkable. Last year, the Angels were 14-29 when their starters had a Game Score under 40. That record led MLB. The Phils are 14-16 in such games this season.

Lee has 3 complete games this season; Phillies starters have 2.

The only troubling component of Lee's game is he is not a groundball pitcher and over the past two seasons only 6 percent of his flyballs have turned into homers. That is a very low number, below the average of 10-11 percent. Pitching in the Zen might change that.

On the bright side, Philadelphia is a much better defensive team than Cleveland, which should benefit Lee.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dead GM Walking

I wasn't all that upset with the manner in which the Mets fired Willie Randolph last June. The New York media was up in arms about the Mets flying Randolph across the country to fire him in the middle of the night and while I agreed that it wasn't the ideal way to deliver the news, I didn't dwell on it. The Mets had fired a bad manager and that was good enough for me. Improving the quality of baseball on the field was more important to me than the team's public relations strategies. Today that balance has shifted.

Obviously the Mets needed to fire Tony Bernazard. If various media reports are to believed, he acted in an extremely unprofessional manner on numerous occasions. Explaining as much to the New York media should have been the easiest thing in the world. But somehow Omar Minaya and the Mets managed to screw that up, too.

Minaya, either through an impromptu bad decision, or a poorly-conceived, Wilpon-approved plot, subtly questioned the motives of Daily News reporter Adam Rubin. Minaya apparently thought that he could insinuate that Rubin was out to get Bernazard fired and take his job and get away with it. The only conclusions that can be drawn from this are that either Minaya doesn't think before he speaks or he's terrible at predicting a media reaction. Given that recent events and the current state of the major league team already bring into question his talent evaluation skills, he's running low on job responsibilities that I could say he executes competently.

It's certainly possible that Minaya is merely a puppet of ownership in this incident. Even if he acted on his own, the whole Bernazard episode raises new questions about the Wilpons' ability to run this organization. I would not be at all upset if they decided in the near future to sell the team. But for now, I think the very least they can do is fire Minaya. He's assembled a bad team and now he's put himself squarely in the crosshairs of the local media. This is far too deep a hole for Minaya to dig himself out of. Now is as good a time as any to make a fresh start with this team with an eye toward next year.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Take two

Detroit swept the White Sox in today's double dip, giving the Tigers a 2-game cushion in the AL Central. Justin Verlander got the job done in the opener with a complete game and a bases-loaded walk by Clete Thomas in the eighth inning gave the Tigs a 4-3 victory in the nightcap.

Good news: Carlos Guillen is back. He was 2-for-3 with a solo HR in the second game.

Edwin Jackson faces Tiger killer Gavin Floyd on Saturday. Rick Porcello pitches for Detroit on Sunday.

Porcello has struggled lately. His ERA is 9.45 in his last 3 starts. His Game Scores are 23-29-32 in those outings. Foes have an OPS of 1.127 in those starts. He does not have a Game Score better than 46 in his last 5 starts. He has pitched 92 innings this year; he tossed 125 innings at Class A Lakeland last season.

The Tigers have tried to limit his workload (99 is the most pitches he's thrown in a game and he's been below 90 in 12 of 17 starts) so it might be too early to think Porcello is hitting the wall. Maybe it's just a slump. Maybe not.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Clunk!

Today, the Tigers lost 2-1 for the fourth time in their last five games. Meanwhile, the White Sox get a perfect game from Mark Buehrle to move into a first-place tie with Detroit.

Now the kitties get 4 games against Chicago.

Meanwhile, MLB.com had a report about Dontrelle Willis working out in Toledo. At this point, the Tigs might want to consider bringing back Willis for his bat. He had an OPS of .856 in 2007.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A vote for Pedro

The Phillies signed Pedro Martinez to a 1-year, $1-million deal, which to me seems like a low-risk, high-reward move (much like the Mets signing Gary Sheffield this season). The biggest questions are whether Pedro is healthy enough to start regularly and how long it will be before he's ready for action.

Last season, Martinez was 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts for the Mets. But he had a 9-game stretch in the middle of his year in which he posted a 3.48 ERA and struck out 42 in 51.2 IP. He was not very good in September, but it is likely because his arm was ailing.

A trip to Fangraphs.com reveals some interesting data. First, Pedro's fastball averaged 87.7 mph last year, which is not far from his 2005 average (88.0) when he went 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA and fanned 208 in 217 IP.

One problem he had in 2008 was he had a career-worst 1.98 K/BB ratio. His K/9 was a career-low 7.18 and his BB/9 of 3.63 was his worst since 1993 (when he was primarily a reliever).

Obviously, his chances of be successful drop if he doesn't have command. According to Fangraphs data, he used his fastball and changeup more than usual last season and barely used his slider. I would guess a sore shoulder might have reduced his ability to throw the slider; he used it 1.6% in 2008 compared to 12.3% in 2005. (It's also possible his sliders were reclassified as cutters, because his cutter percentage was an unusually high 7.3.)

Assuming the slider data is correct, it might hold the biggest key to Pedro being successful. If his arm is good, and he can throw his slider, he might be able to regain his form. Pedro is a smart pitcher at this point in his career, not unlikely Jamie Moyer. Even as Pedro's fastball diminished, he still got hitters out with regularity.

If anywhere near healthy, this might be interesting.

Then Along Came Jones


Adam Jones, the Orioles lone representative in last nights All-Star game, delivered the game winning RBI in the 8th inning with a sacrifice fly to right field scoring the Tigers Curtis Granderson from 3rd base.

Monday, July 13, 2009

At the break

The Tigers are 48-39 and hold a 3.5-game lead over the White Sox and 4-game lead over the Twins. With KC falling 11.5 back, it looks safe to call this a three-horse race for the title.

Detroit is averaging 4.8 runs while giving up 4.4. Chicago is averaging 4.6 runs and giving up 4.6. Minnesota is averaging 4.9 runs and allowing 4.5. Based on runs created and allowed, it would seem the Twins should be better than a game over .500, so that's a concern.

Another concern: The Twins have played 25 games against the AL East (going 6-19). The Tigers and White Sox both played only 14 games against the East (with Detroit going 4-10 and the Sox going 5-9). Detroit still has 22 games vs. the East, with 12 at home.

The Tigers are 27-13 at home.

One advantage for Detroit, the Twins have played 48 games at home (28-20) and they are only 17-24 on the road.

Detroit has 42 starts with Game Scores of 50 or better (going 34-8). The Tigers have 24 starts with Game Scores of 40 or worse (going 4-20).

Chicago has 48 starts with Game Scores of 50 or better (going 35-13). The Sox have 26 starts with Game Scores of 40 or worse (going 5-21).

Minnesota has 47 starts with Game Scores of 50 or better (going 34-13). The Twins have 26 starts with Game Scores of 40 or worse (going 5-21).

To break it down a bit more, Detroit pitchers have 25 starts with Game Scores of 65 or better ("gem" territory) while the White Sox have 26 and the Twins have 16.

This would seem to indicate that Detroit and Chicago will need to get solid pitching in the second half, or they might struggle. The Twins would appear to have a more consistent offense and with any improved pitching could be most dangerous.

Detroit has 3 regular starters and 5 relievers with ERA+ of 100 or better. Chicago has 5 regular starters and 5 relievers with ERA+ of 100 or better. Minnesota has 1 regular starter and 4 relievers with ERA+ of 100 or better.

The Tigers top of the rotation, with Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson, is better than the White Sox, but Chicago has gotten good production throughout the rotation. The keys for the Tigers, other than hoping Verlander and Jackson continue to shine, will be how rookie Rick Porcello fares deeper in the season and whether Armando Garlarraga can pick up any slack.

Winning Ball for 30 Days


In 27 games over the past 30 days the Baltimore Orioles are 15-12, 9-6 vs. NL teams and 6-6 vs. AL teams.

Over the same time period, the team ERA is 9th in the AL at 4.24. O's pitching has issued the 6th fewest walks and 4th fewest HR during the stretch.

The offense was 5th in BA, Runs, Walks and Number of Pitches. They were 12th in HR and Slugging.

The leather was 10th in Fielding Pct and committed more errors than all but two AL teams.

So, what to make of a winning record over the course of 30 days? 15 of the 27 games against the NL East, who, as a division, spent the month of June in a funk, was a big help and is also where the 3 wins to the plus side came from.

However, winning 6 of 12 from AL teams, including 3 of 7 on a west coast trip made the last 30 days prior to the All-Star break look promising. The O's had a winning stretch in interleague play and followed it up with a break even stretch rather than a losing stretch.

The hitting and defense, although not performing poorly, has performed better in the past and it is not unreasonable to hope for better in the 2nd half. The bullpen has performed well thus far and for the first season in quite a few, they are not "cooked" already. The starting pitching has been competitive over the last month and here's hoping the youngsters continue to get hitters out.

A little rest over the All-Star break and onto July, August and September, where we find out if these O's really are Major Leaguers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"If on-base percentage is so important, then why don't they put it on the scoreboard?"

The author of those words of wisdom, twenty-five year old Jeffrey Braden Francoeur, is now a New York Met and I can hardly believe it. I can't even muster the energy to be sarcastic about this. Jeff Francoeur is terrible at playing baseball. And now he's going to be in right field every day.

Francoeur is hitting .250/.282/.352 this season for an OPS+ of 68. This makes him the new worst hitter in the Mets lineup, by a decent margin. Yes, even on days when Omir Santos is starting. There are only three hitters in the National League with enough at bats to qualify for the batting title and a lower OBP than Francoeur's .282. And while the fact that one of them is Jimmy Rollins is hilarious, it doesn't change the fact that Frenchy is having a truly terrible year at the plate.

And there can be no argument that this is some kind of slump that he might be ready to bust out of, because he had an almost identical line last year. The only difference seems to be that he's walking even less this year. Even when he was "good" in 2006 and 2007, he wasn't actually good. He may have driven in 100 runs both of those years, but he also put together a combined line of .276/.315/.446 and an OPS+ of 95. Yes, even in his best days, he was a below average hitter. Not exactly the stuff that corner outfield stars are made of.

Francoeur does apparently play very good defense, or at least have a very good arm, but then so does the man he's been traded for. Ryan Church can play right field well. He can also play center field, saving the Mets from playing Angel Pagan or Jeremy Reed every day. And, oh yeah, he can get on base every once in a while. Church is by no means a great player, but the one thing Francoeur can do, Church can also do. The fact that he is also not completely hopeless with a bat in his hands is just an added bonus.

There's been talk of Jerry Manuel and/or others in the Mets organization not liking Church for a long time and I guess this just about confirms that. Church didn't always live up to expectations and he had some bad luck with the concussions last year, but when he was able and allowed to get on the field, he was a solid contributor. It would certainly have been possible for the Mets to upgrade the right field position, but they did not do that here. They traded a decent player for one of the worst hitters in the game. And they're going to play him every day. I don't know how much more of this season I can take.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Tonight's the night

Things don't look good for the Mets right now. The team is four and a half games out of first place, losers of fourteen of their last twenty games. Sixty percent of the team's core is on the disabled list and not coming back any time soon. David Wright's OPS has dropped over a hundred points in the last three weeks. But tonight, things start to turn around. Tonight, the Mets have hope. Tonight, the Mets begin the run that will carry them back to the top of the NL East.

Oliver Perez is back!

I'm excited!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Scoreboard watching

The Phillies are 1-0 this season in games in which they've scored 22 runs.

The Phillies are 2-0 in games in which their pitchers allowed 11 earned runs.

The Phillies are 37-7 when scoring 5 or more runs.

The Phillies are 2-26 when scoring 3 or fewer runs.

The Phillies are 4-4 when scoring 4 runs.

The Phillies are 17-7 when leading after the first inning. (A .708 win percentage compared to the MLB average of .692.)

The Phillies are 35-6 when leading after the eighth inning. (An .854 win percentage compared to the MLB average of .955.)

The Phillies are 9-26 when trailing after six innings. (A .257 win percentage compared to the MLB average of .138.)

Inge-ing toward the All-Star Game

Looking at the Wins Above Replacement rankings on Fangraphs.com and the top 3 players in the AL are Rays -- Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford. That trio is followed by Tigers 3B Brandon Inge, who is battling for the final AL All-Star spot in online voting. Vote for Brandon. A vote for Brandon is a vote for goodness.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Fun from Jayson Stark

This note from Stark's ESPN column:

MLB.com's Marty Noble inspired me to look this one up. The Mets just managed to go two straight games without an extra-base hit in Citizens Bank Park, on Saturday and Sunday. So how many other teams have done that since this hitter's palace opened in 2004? How about zero -- in either the same series or even the same season.

Happy birthday to the One Dog

Lance Johnson, the first player to lead both the American League and National League in hits for a season. And he did it in consecutive years, 1995 with the White Sox and 1996 with the Mets.

Johnson once was traded for Jose DeLeon, who had one of the more unusual careers in recent memory. DeLeon twice lost 19 games. He had a losing record in four of six seasons in which he primarily was a starter and posted an ERA+ better than 100 (including going 4-5 with a 2.96 ERA and 5-9 with a 2.71 ERA).

But back to One Dog. In additon to leading both leagues in hits, he was the third player to lead each league in triples and set a record by topping the AL in three-baggers for four consecutive years. And I liked his nickname.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

NL Least

The Phillies lost tonight in Atlanta, pulling the Marlins into a tie for the division lead. As a side note, Jair Jurrjens was the winning pitching on Wednesday night and on Thursday night scored what proved to be the winning run (as a pinch runner). I wonder how often a pitcher has won a game and scored the winning run on back-to-back nights?

Anyway, here is a look at the starting pitching in the division, using our favorite stat, the Game Score. Remember, last year teams with a score of 50 or better won at a .683 pace. The first number below is the Game Scores of 50 or better, followed by the team's W-L record in those contests.

Philadelphia 33 (20-13 .606)
Florida 39 (28-11 .718)
New York 44 (30-14 .682)
Atlanta 46 (30-16 .652)
Washington 33 (16-17 .485)

Interesting that Philly and Washington have the same number of 50+ starts. Phillies fans can hope improved starting pitching. Such would seem reasonable, except the longer the season goes on, the more one wonders whether Hamels and Co. will flip the switch. The Fightins have won 19 games in which their starter's Game Score was below 50, which one would figure cannot continue. The Mets and Braves have only won 8 and 7, respectively.

The Mets, for all their woes, have a better Score total than I expected.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

O's stun BoSox



After losing 8 consecutive games to the Red Sox and trailing 10-1 in the 7th, the O's scored 5 in the 7th and 5 in the 8th to beat the Sox 11-10.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Everything old is new again

I'm a little slow on catching onto some things, but I just saw that Seattle CF Franklin Gutierrez has been given the nickname "Death to Flying Things" in some circles because of his defensive prowess. I guess we will have to start keeping tabs on him.

Mo is no Babe

Mariano Rivera got career save No. 500 last night and also got his first-ever RBI courtesy of a bases-loaded walk. I was thinking about relievers getting saves and also driving in runs, which probably happened more frequently in the past.

That led me to the Tigers' Werner "Babe" Birrer.

Birrer, during his rookie year, got a save against the Orioles on July 19, 1955, thanks to four scoreless innings of relief. He also went 2-for-2 at the plate, with both hits being 3-run homers. Hence, the nickname, no doubt.

It was Birrer's second career save. He finished his career (56 games over parts of three seasons) with four. He finished his career with 2 HR and 6 RBI in 30 PAs.

He played four games for the Orioles in 1956, posting a 6.75 ERA. After being traded by the Orioles, he tossed a no-hitter against the O's Triple-A team.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Town is This?

The Orioles took an 8-20 road record into Philadelphia over the weekend and improved it to 11-20, evening their June record at 9-9.

Perhaps the sweep merely highlights the Phillies struggles at home (13-22) this season. But perhaps, given Philadelphia's proximity to Baltimore, the young Orioles did not realize they were on a road trip. The O's are 21-17 in Baltimore (3-0 in Philladelphia).

The O's head next to "Philadelphia" to play a 3 game set with the Florida Marlins. Feed 'em some cheesesteaks, skip. Promise them a trip to see "Independance Hall". Or "CheerLeaders".

Nolan Reimold is hitting .287 and slugging .546 with 8 HR in 108 AB. It is far too early to declare the rookie a stud, but he's playing one on TV.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ordering runs

Detroit has won four in a row, which coincides with Magglio Ordonez being benched. Miguel Cabrera was moved to the No. 3 spot, with Marcus Thames take over for Cabrera in the clean-up spot. The change in the order actually occurred the day prior to Ordonez's benching, with Maggs being dropped to sixth that day.

Here are some stats for the four games in which the top of the lineup was Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Cabrera and Thames. (Polanco did not play today, so that game is not included.)

Granderson was 7-for-18 with 5 R, 4 RBI and 3 HR.
Polanco was 5-for-16 with 5 R, 2 RBI and 2 HR.
Cabrera was 7-for-17 with 7 R, 4 RBI and 2 HR.
Thames was 6-for-16 with 4 R, 7 RBI and 3 HR.

Granted, this is a small sample, but the top of the order certainly seems to have responded to the changes. Those totals are 25-for-67 (.373) with 21R, 17 RBI and 10 HR. Cabrera also had two doubles.

Verlander back in the groove

Justin Verlander rebounded from his ineffective start at St. Louis to beat the Brewers 3-2 and give the Tigers a sweep of the series. Brandon Inge provided the punch with a 2-out, 3-run tater in the sixth. Verlander struck out eight, but also got eight groundball outs, which he attributed to the best changeup he's had all year.

Prior to his start against the Cardinals, Verlander had tossed eight of nine "gems" as defined by the game scores system. His only "non gem" came against the Orioles, in the game Sparky and Stan attended. But he still won.

Jim Leyland is going to separate Verlander and Edwin Jackson in the rotation. The idea is to give the bullpen a break. Having Rick Porcello, Armando Galarraga and now rookie Alfredo Figaro (in place of Dontrelle Willis) pitch on consecutive days was putting too much of a strain on the pen in consecutive games. Seems like sound logic. We'll see if it works out.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Figaro trims Brewers

Alfredo Figaro won his MLB debut today for Detroit. Figaro took Dontrelle Willis' spot in the rotation. Willis' last win was May 19 (maybe that should say "only win") and the Tigers were 1-4 in D Train's last five starts.

To make room for Figaro, the Tigers sent down backup catcher Dane Sardinha. That means Dusty Ryan is the backup now. Ryan is Detroit's catcher of the future.

The Tigers have won three in a row after losing four straight. Detroit has scored 25 runs in its last three games after going seven in a row with 3 or fewer.

The O's do not stink

Phillies fans were talking this week like a sweep of Baltimore was not only a necessity, but as if the failure to do so was the final indication that the Fighins were in an awful funk.

Well, the Orioles took game one of the series last night. Contrary to the opinion of the talking heads in Philly, they are not horrible. And I'm not just saying that because I'm friends with Stan. As of now, they are only 7 games worse than the Phils. Baltimore is young and talented and inconsistent. That's a far cry from being horrible.

Also, Baltimore is the only team in the AL East playing below .500 ball. The O's entered tonight seven games under .500, which to me seems rather good considering their division.

Upon examination, the O's are 7-3 vs. the NL East this season. They're just in the wrong East.

The best teams in the AL, at least by records, are Boston, the Yankees, Detroit, Texas and Anaheim. The Orioles are 8-18 against those five squads. That puts them at 22-19 vs. everyone else.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Porcello = stopper

Rick Porcello helped the Tigers snap their four-game skid last night. Porcello's last 3 wins have all followed Detroit losses. The Tigs are 8-1 in Porcello's last 9 starts.

Really, Porcello didn't pitch great, but he did well enough. The offense busted out for 6 runs, snapping a seven-game stretch of scoring 3 or fewer.

Jim Leyland sat the struggling Magglio Ordonez. Ryan Raburn batted fifth in his place. I'm not sure this an improvement. Hopefully, a little time off can help Maggs get straight. What makes this compelling is that Maggs gets $18 million next season if he reaches certain levels in games started and/or plate appearances. Given his decline, it would seem the Tigers would do what they can to prevent that.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

This and that

Dontrelle Willis is back on the DL with anxiety disorder, Tigers.com reported. He was 1-4 with a 7.49 ERA and 28 BB in 33.2 IP. Detroit will call up right-hander Alfredo Figaro from Double-A Erie to start on Saturday. Figaro was 5-2 with a 4.10 ERA in 11 starts. He had 59 Ks in 68 IP.

Rick Porcello needs to get the Tigers a win tonight. Detroit has lost four in a row.

The Tigers return home tomorrow to face Milwaukee. Then the Cubbies come to visit.

Curtis Granderson hit 2 HR last night from the leadoff spot. Granderson (2) and Ian Kinsler (3) are the only players with multiple multi-HR games from the top spot.

Brandon Lyon has thrown 11 straight scoreless innings, with 13 Ks.

You can turn off the TV after the 6th inning of most Tigers' games. Detroit is 26-2 when leading after 6. The Tigs are 2-24 when trailing after 6. The only drama is if the game is tied; the Kitties are 6-5.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Trouble

Last night Justin Verlander tossed in a clunker. This is to be expected from time to time. It highlights, though, the trouble with Detroit's pitching. As we've seen, if Verlander and Edwin Jackson aren't picking up wins, the Tigs are likely to struggle.

Pitching won't matter if the hitting remains cold. Detroit has scored 3 or fewer runs in six consecutive games, 7 of 8 and 17 of 24.

Good news: Detroit is 34-30 and still first in the AL Central.

Bad news: The Tigers continue to struggle against quality foes and no longer own Interleague. Detroit is 12-16 vs. teams that are .500 or better (as of this date, not when they met). If you throw in red-hot Colorado, the record is 13-18. Thank goodness the Tigers are 6-0 vs. Texas, otherwise it would be worse.

We anticipated June being a tough month, and Detroit is 6-9.

Dontrelle Willis will not make his next start on Saturday. No word on a replacement, or Willis' future.

It seems more likely that Detroit will be without Carlos Guillen the rest of the year.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The end of the line

Dontrelle Willis can no longer be part of the Detroit Tigers rotation. As much as everyone loves D-Train, he is a wreck at this point. Armando Galarraga is probably approaching the same. Zach Miner can return to the rotation, at least for now, to help.

Of the 21 best "game scores" by Detroit pitchers this year (65 points or better, which Bill James qualifies as "gems"), Justin Verlander has 8, Edwin Jackson has 7 and Rick Porcello has 3. The Tigers have 9 game scores between 55-64, with Porcello getting 4, Miner getting 2 and Jackson and Verlander picking up 1 apiece.

So that means Galarraga (3) and Willis (1) have combined for only 4 of Detroit's 30 game score starts of 55 or better. Also, Miner has made only 4 starts, so his 2 are more impressive.

This might not be Spahn and Sain and pray for rain, but it is clear that the Tigers are getting great performances on a regular basis from the top of the rotation and holding their breath on the rest.

Of course, this is only part of the trouble. The offense, which has been more prone to slump than bop, is a whole other story.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Not Just Yet

The "other shoe" hasn't dropped yet. Today, Brad Bergesen tossed a complete game 5 hitter allowing 2 earned runs in 112 pitches against Atlanta.

Bergesen now has 32 innings pitched allowing 6 earned runs for a 1.69 ERA in his last 4 starts.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fair or foul

Umpire Jim Joyce has had a tough week. Some might argue a bad week. Last night, in the Phillies-Red Sox game, Joyce ruled a potential game-winning HR of the bat of Philly's Greg Dobbs was foul and refused to go to video review. The video most likely would have proved inconclusive, but why have video review if it's not going to be used in a situation like this? In fairness to Joyce, it was a tough call and several Phillies believe he got it right. From what I've read, some fans at the game who were sitting down the line, think otherwise.

Joyce also was involved in a call at home plate in the Tigers-White Sox series earlier this week. He called a Chicago runner out -- on what would have been the game-winner in the ninth -- although replays indicated he was safe (at least that's what Hawk Harrelson repeatedly told me). Again, it was a very close play.

Still, it makes for a tough week.

Batman

Rick Porcello pitched a great game last night for the Tigers and also drove in two runs with two-out hits. Porcello is the first Detroit pitcher since Woodie Fryman in 1972 to get a win, two hits, and two RBI in a game. (Of course, pitchers haven't had many chances.)

Curtis Granderson is batting .315-3-11 in his last 19 games. He also has three doubles and a triple. So far, Grandy only has seven two-baggers and two three-baggers this year. He had 26 and 13, respectively, last season. He had 38 and 23 in 2007. His line drive percentage is 18.1, his lowest mark since playing 9 games in 2004. He's also got more infield flies (14.4%, double his career rate) and only one infield hit (compared to 14 each of the past two seasons). Hopefully, he's starting to find his groove.

Detroit has 95 doubles as a team. Only the White Sox, with 83, have fewer. The league average is 113.

The Tigers are 44-14 in Interleague play since the start of 2006. That's not the best record in the bigs, though. Oddly, another AL Central team -- the Twins -- own that mark. Minnesota is 45-13.

Armando Galarraga pitches tonight for the Tigers. Galarraga was terrific in 3 of his first 4 starts this year, awful in his next 4 and fair in his most recent 4. With the way the top of the rotation is going, I can live with fair. If he can continue at that rate, Detroit will be OK, even with Dontrelle Willis as the No. 5 starter. If he returns to earlier form, the Tigs will be in very good shape. If he regresses, it will be a struggle, with Porcello holding the key.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder


I've got it
I've got it
I've got . . . doh!

Friday, June 12, 2009

You cannot be serious

I would like to argue that tonight's loss by the Mets to the Yankees was perhaps the worst June loss in the history of the sport of baseball. Sure, it can't compare to some of the worst September or October losses suffered by this team or others, but I don't see how a loss in June could get much worse. Let's review the facts.

The starting pitching matchup was Livan Hernandez vs. Joba Chamberlain. In spite of this epic mismatch, the Mets entered the bottom of the ninth with a one-run lead. They had this lead because they came from behind on three separate occasions. They had this lead because Chamberlain was so wild that he only lasted four innings and the Mets scored two runs in the third without a hit or even a sacrifice. They had this lead because, with two outs in the top of the eighth and the score tied at seven, Joe Girardi brought in Mariano Rivera to face Carlos Beltran and David Wright and the Mets' two studs proceeded to put a run on the board against the greatest closer who ever lived with a walk and a double.

Then Francisco Rodriguez, heretofore perfect in save opportunities, put a couple of runners on base in the bottom of the ninth, as is his wont. But he got a couple of outs, too. The game came down to a New York Post headline writer's dream matchup of K-Rod vs. A-Rod. The Met closer threw three straight balls to the three-time MVP. But then he got a strike. And then, at long last, he got a lazy pop up to second base. The kind of pop up that would likely have, had there been fewer than two outs, caused an umpire to call the infield fly rule, declaring A-Rod out. But in this case, no umpire could declare A-Rod out. Because there were two outs. And, oh yeah, because LUIS CASTILLO DROPPED THE BALL.

The Mets' losses to the Phillies this week were pretty disheartening in that a Mets team half-full of scrubs came agonizingly close to winning two or three from the defending champs. But this game against the Yankees, where the Mets had the lead in the bottom of the ninth against all odds and got the third out only to have it taken away in this most unlikely manner this side of bird interference, is even worse. It would be easier if I could blame Jerry Manuel for his terrible bullpen management or Omar Minaya for assembling a team that has Omir Santos on the field in the bottom of the ninth in a tight ballgame, but no. The Mets were put together and managed well enough to win this game except that Luis Castillo forgot how to catch a baseball. If I hadn't watched the Mets for the last three years and the twenty before that, I could hardly believe this happened. It's too ridiculous a series of events to actually take place in the real world. But any long time Mets fan can believe it. This is just a little worse that what we've seen so many times before. Could this happen to any other team?

News, notes and random thoughts

Jim Leyland returns to Pittsburgh. Looks for his initials carved in Pirates dugout, along with a pack of Marlboros left behind from 1996.

Red Wings vs. Penguins in Game 7 of NHL Stanley Cup finals tonight. Tigers vs. Pirates. I believe this is the first time since 1971 (Montreal vs. Chicago) that the cities involved in the Stanley Cup final also met on the baseball diamond during the series.

Dontrelle Willis gets to hit on Sunday. Now we'll see why the Tigers acquired this guy.

Six of Detroit's last eight games have been decided by a run. The Tigers won five.

Detroit took 3 of 5 in Chicago; can't expect better. Mostly feared worse.

The Tigers cannot solve Gavin Floyd. He's 5-0 with a 3.55 ERA in 11 starts vs. Detroit. His career ERA is 4.97. Go figure.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Well balanced

There is only one team in MLB that has a winning record against every division and Interleague. That teams is the Philadelphia Phillies. The Fightins are 18-12 vs. the NL East, 5-3 vs. the Central, 9-7 vs. the West (no thanks to Brad Lidge) and 2-1 vs. the AL.

Los Angeles has the MLB's best record at 40-21, but it appears to be largely the result of playing in the NL West. The Dodgers are 26-10 in their division; 14-11 elsewhere. Consider, the NL's worst teams outside of the West -- Florida, Washington, Pittsburgh and Houston -- are a combined 25-19 vs. the NL West.

If the Phils can ever figure out how to win at home (12-14) they might be the best team in baseball.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rauuul

Raul Ibanez is being forced to answer questions about PEDs.

I think Citzens Bank Park is the PED in question here. From 2004-08, Ibanez averaged .291/.354/.477 for Seattle. His AB/HR was 26.93. Those are pretty decent numbers, particularly because Seattle is not considered a hitters' park.

Now, let's look at Pat Burrell, the man Ibanez replaced. When Burrell played in Veterans Stadium, his numbers were .253/.348/.473. His AB/HR was 19.95. Those figures are not far off from Ibanez's.

When the Phils moved into the Zen, Burrell's numbers became .261/.382/.495. His AB/HR was 16.76. Only once in the Vet did Burrell slug for better than .500, but he did it his final four seasons in the Zen.

This is not a perfect comparison, for one thing Burrell was righthanded and Ibanez is lefthanded, but it's probably not bad. Certainly, it was reasonable to expect Ibanez's numbers to improve with the Phillies. Not only is the ballpark a factor, but Ibanez is in a more productive lineup with the Phillies. Last year, Philly scored 799 runs; Seattle scored 671.

It would seem unlikely Ibanez can continue his torrid pace. Maybe he's just enjoying a hot streak, energized by his new surroundings. But it seems there are plenty of valid reasons for his numbers other than medicine.

Walk away

The Tigers won an ugly one last night against Chicago. Detroit blew leads of 3-1 and 6-3 and might have gotten help from the umpire as well on a play at the plate in the bottom of the ninth.

Detroit yielded 12 walks and still won. The teams combined for 20 BBs and 14 hits.

Each team managed to produce a 3-run inning with the benefit of only 1 hit.

The Tigs are 2-1 during this 5-game series in Chicago and 13-10 vs. the AL Central this season.

AttaBoy Rook!

Baltimore stopped the bleeding (at least momentarily) last night with a 3-1 victory over Seattle.  O's rookies provided much of the heroics.

In facing Seattle for the 2nd time in consecutive starts, Brad Bergesen tossed 8 innings of 5 hit, shutout baseball using only 97 pitches. Bergesen has 23 IP with 4 ER in his last 3 starts.  The first of those 3 starts coincides with the callup of catcher Matt Wieters.

Nolan Reimold hit his 7th HR in 78 ABs.  Reimold also produced an RBI single later in the game.

Last nights game was as enjoyable as the recent west coast road trip was painful. While simultaneously expecting the "other shoe to drop", I shall wait with great anticipation for Bergesen's next start. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

No. 1 hit

When making the first overall pick in the MLB draft, it's been historically wise to take a hitter. The likes of Justin Upton, Joe Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Pat Burrell, Darin Erstad, Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., B.J. Surhoff, Shawon Dunston, Darryl Strawberry, Bob Horner, and Harold Baines were all No. 1 picks over the past 30-some years. Heck, even a guy like Phil Nevin was productive.

The pitchers taken No. 1 were David Price, Luke Hochevar, Bryan Bullington, Matt Anderson, Kris Benson, Brien Taylor, Ben McDonald, Andy Benes, Tim Belcher, Mike Moore, Floyd Bannister, and David Clyde. Certainly, there are some decent pitchers in there, but none that match their hitting counterparts.

Is This It?


The O's return to Baltimore tonight after completing a dismal 6 game west coast road trip to Seattle and Oakland.  The O's left for the west coast at 5 games under .500 and return at 9 games under.  They scored 10 runs in the 6 games. O's starting pitching managed a total of 4 2/3 IP in the 3 contests in Oakland.

The O's managed a 14-15 month of May despite turning over nearly the entire starting rotation.  The optimism generated in May by  the young starters from AAA, the promotion of Matt Wieters to the starting catcher spot and the hot start by rookie left fielder Nolan Reimold, did not even get a chance to dissipate.  The 1-5 start to June on the west coast simply crushed it.

Considering the O's penchant for tanking mid to late season, this trip is even more the disappointing.  Yet, the O's are a younger team now than they were even a month ago.  The question is:  Are they resilient?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

For starters

Baseball-reference.com posts the "game scores" for starting pitchers, but until yesterday I didn't know what to make of them. The stat was created by Bill James and while reading the terrific Bill James Gold Mine, I came across this note: In the major leagues as a whole in 2008, the winning percentage of teams with a Game Score of 50 or above by the starting pitcher was .683 --- an 111-win pace.

An explanation of Game Score follows, from baseball-reference.com: Start with 50 points. Add 1 point for each out recorded, (or 3 points per inning). Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th. Add 1 point for each strikeout. Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed. Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed. Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed. Subtract 1 point for each walk.

So, I wondered how the Tigers have fared so far this year when their starters have posted 50 or better. The answer, entering Sunday's game, was 24-5 (.828).

By pitcher, with starts in parentheses, it was Justin Verlander (12) 6-2, Edwin Jackson (12) 6-2, Rick Porcello (10) 6-0, Armando Galarraga (11) 3-1, Zach Miner (4) 2-0, Dontrelle Willis (5) 1-0.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Stonewall Jackson

The Tigers scored only two runs again tonight, but Edwin Jackson made those runs stand up. Jackson fired a 4-hitter, on 109 pitches, against Anaheim. He struck out five and lowered his ERA to 2.16 for the year. He is 5-1 with a 0.76 ERA in his last six starts.

Another Bill James nugget: Jackson was the only starter in MLB to make more than two-thirds of his starts (44 of 62) against teams that finished .500 or better over the previous two seasons. He faced playoff-bound teams 13 times in 2007 and 8 times in 2008.

Gold Mine gem

Tigers catcher Gerald Laird caught some flak (and later was plunked) for bunting to lead off the sixth inning against Boston's Josh Beckett, who at the time was tossing a no-no, during a game earlier this week. Detroit was losing 4-0. Laird's attempt was foul.

So is it a no-no to bunt at that point in a no-hitter? I'd say not. Laird was trying to get something started for his team, which was struggling to get anything going.

Tonight, I was paging through the Bill James Gold Mine and came across this entry regarding Laird: "Gerald Laird 'bunted' .545 last year (six hits in 11 at-bats). He's bunted 49 times over the last three years, going 23-for-39 (.590) with 10 sacrifice."

Given those numbers, Laird was playing his game. It wasn't as though he was doing something out of the norm simply to break up Beckett's no-hitter. If this game was say 6-0 or 7-0 in the eighth or ninth inning and Laird bunted, perhaps that could be labeled bad form. But Laird's job is to help the Tigs, not aid Beckett's no-hit bid. Especially when the score still was such that Detroit could put itself in position to tie the game with one swing.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Getting the runs

For the second consecutive year, the Tigers have shown the ability to put up runs in bunches. For the second straight season, they've shown an inability to score consistently.

Entering tonight's game against Anaheim, Detroit was sixth in the AL with an average of 5.1 runs per game. That seems pretty good, on the surface. But the Tigs, following their 2-1 loss this evening, have won just 4 games in which they've allowed more than 3 runs. They are a terrific 24-2 when holding foes to 3 runs or less.

It just seems amazing to me, though, that a team can average more than 5 per game and yet cannot win when giving up more than 3. Detroit is 3-16 (.158) when allowing 4 to 7 runs. The rest of MLB was playing at a .396 clip when giving up 4-7 runs, entering tonight. Given the expected prowess of the Tigers' offense, one would expect them to be able to win more often than .158 in that range.

The Tigers .750 OPS entering tonight was below the AL average of .765.

Willis and Koufax

Dontrelle Willis joined Sandy Koufax in baseball lore yesterday. Unfortunately, it wasn't in a way he would have preferred, even if it did involve allowing no hits.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Getting himself out

Garrett Atkins is on one of my fantasy teams and is really struggling. One good thing about the advanced stats on Fangraphs, you can try to see what's wrong. Surprisingly, Atkins' strikeout rate is lower than last year and his walk rate is improved. So that's not the answer.

Last year, Atkins batted .286/.328/.452 with 21 HR and 99 RBI. This season, he's .188/.264/.273 with 3 HR and 17 RBI. He only has 6 doubles and zero triples.

Of concern, Atkins' power stats have dropped steadily since 2006, when he posted a .965 OPS. His line drive percentage this season is a career low 14% compared to 22-24% the past several campaigns. He seems to be seeing fewer fastballs and more curves, but not a huge difference.

The most noticeable difference is in his contact rate on pitches outside the strike zone. His overall contact rate is almost the same as last year, but he is seeing fewer pitches inside the strike zone and making contact at 5.5% higher rate. I guess he is putting weak balls into play rather than driving balls. Hence, his struggles.

Slumping Tigers

Detroit has won just 4 of its last 11 and has not looked good at all against Boston.

The offense is .243/.309/.353 during that span. They have left an average of nearly 7 runners on base per game. This is an offense that can drive you crazy, scoring double digits one night and scuffling the next. Other than Miguel Cabrera, no one has been consistent. The Tigers, as a team, are below average in almost every measurable way.

At some point, you start to worry that these are not slumps, but trends. I'm not sure we're at that point, but we might be by the All-Star break.

The pitching has given up an average of 4.3 runs over the past 11 games and has a 4.12 ERA. Those numbers don't look too bad on the surface, but the Tigers have gotten only 4 above average starts during that span (based on the pitcher's "game score" on baseball-reference.com).

Detroit still holds 3.5 game leads over the Twins and White Sox in the AL Central. But the Tigers have fattened their record by going a combined 11-1 vs. Texas and Cleveland. For some reason, Detroit owns the Rangers, and the Tigs caught the Tribe in a freefall.

The Tigers are a combined 5-15 vs. Chicago, Minnesota, Boston, Anaheim, New York and Toronto. The White Sox and Twins are their primary pursuers while, outside of Texas, the remainder are the best teams Detroit has faced so far.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

No joy of six

So much for the solid run by Rick Porcello. Oh well, these kinds of nights are to be expected with young pitchers. This was Porcello's worst outing since April 29 vs. the Yankees. If Porcello follows this setback with another five wins in a row, we'll take it.

Meanwhile, the news from Tigers.com is that Jeremy Bonderman is awaiting word on his next start. Bonderman fired eight shutout innings on Sunday for Triple-A Toledo. He has not been told when, or where, his next appearance will be.

Marcus Thames is nine games into a rehab stint at Toledo, where he is batting .263-1-5.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Porcello growing up fast

Rick Porcello starts tonight vs. Boston. The Tigers could really use a solid outing, considering Armando Galarraga and Dontrelle Willis are the next two in line. Porcello showed a little moxie last time to the hill, winning at KC to give Detroit the series. This might be his first really big start at Comerica.

Detroit's schedule is fairly tough this month, mainly because the NL Central seems so competitive and that's who the Tigers will see in Interleague play. Of course the NL Central might only seem competitive when compared to NL clubs. But the NL did better the first time round in Interleague this season.

Just a side note from the Tigers press jottings: Curtis Granderson homered from the cleanup spot on Sunday, making him the first player this year to homer from starts in the leadoff spot and cleanup. He is the first Detroit player since Bobby Higginson in 1996 to accomplish the feat.

That Bastardo

I think the Phillies made a good move in promoting Antonio Bastardo to fill Brett Myers' spot in the rotation, although it puts Philly in the unusual situation of having four lefty starters in the rotation. Phillies fans are going nuts about losing Myers and needing to trade for, among others, Jake Peavy. While I think Peavy is a great pitcher, I'm not sure the Phils have the talent to offer San Diego, nor am I sure they want to take on Peavy's salary.

Myers was pretty much statistically average this year, so if Bastardo can be statistically average, it's a wash. He might even be better. I don't think he will be much worse. One thing I give the Tigers credit for -- they're not afraid to use talented young players if they believe those players give them the best chance to win. The Phillies always seem afraid to do anything with young players, and I think that goes back even to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. So this is a stunning move; I fully expected them to bring back Kyle Kendrick.

So let's see what Bastardo can do rather than run out and trade for Jason Marquis. Bastardo had 51 Ks and 10 BBs in 47.1 IP at Double-A and Triple-A. His strikeout rate has always been good and he's lowered his walks substantially. He's got 265 IP in the minors. It's time.

Baltimore 1 Seattle 0

Monday, June 01, 2009

Triple trio

Sparky and Stan were in attendance when Orioles catching phenom Matt Wieters got his first MLB hit --- a triple. We wondered, how many catchers had their first hit be a triple? I don't know the answer to that question, but research revealed the following bizarre factoid:

When Wieters hit his triple, the Tigers' Dane Sardinha was the catcher.

Dane Sardinha's first MLB hit was a triple.

The catcher when Sardinha hit his triple was Colorado's Yorvit Torrealba (in Interleague play).

Yorvit Torrealba's first MLB hit was, you guessed it, a triple.

That is too weird. Keep an eye on catchers looking for their first MLB hit when Wieters is behind the plate. Chances are it'll be a three-bagger.

At least Halladay's in the AL

I have no idea who Craig Stammen is, other than he pitches for the Washington Nationals, is a rookie, and is making two starts this week. As if being with the Nats wasn't punishment enough, the young Mr. Stammen, who has 11.1 IP in the bigs under his belt, will be matched against Tim Lincecum and Johan Santana. Check please!

In the Short Term


The O's are 5-2 over the last 7 days with a team ERA of 3.18.

I could stand a few more days like this.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Eric The Red

I noticed on baseball-reference.com that it was Eric Davis' birthday. If he is not the classic "what if" player, he is in the discussion.

Never did Davis get more than 474 ABs in a season. The year he got 474, in 1987, he batted .293/.399/.593. He had 37 HR, 100 RBI, 120 R and 50 SB in 129 games. He also won a Gold Glove. Amazingly, that performance landed him only 9th in the MVP voting. That was the year Andre Dawson won with the last-place Cubs, so go figure.

Davis was the first player to hit 25+ HR and steal 80 bases, in 1986. Rickey Henderson later joined him in the club that same season. They are the only two players to accomplish the feat.

WAR. What is it good for?

The wins-above-replacement All Stars in the American League:

C -- Victor Martinez, 2.3
1B -- Justin Morneau, 2.1
2B -- Ian Kinsler/Aaron Hill, 2.3
SS -- Jason Bartlett, 2.7
3B -- Evan Longoria, 3.0
OF -- Torii Hunter, 2.1; Adam Jones, 2.0; Nelson Cruz, 1.9

The wins-above-replacement All Stars in the National League:

C -- Russell Martin, 0.8
1B -- Albert Pujols, 2.3
2B -- Chase Utley, 2.0
SS -- Hanley Ramirez, 2.4
3B -- Ryan Zimmerman, 2.7
OF -- Raul Ibanez, 2.9; Justin Upton, 2.3; Mike Cameron, 2.3

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The RC27 all-stars

With the All-Star voting under way, here are the top American League players by position in runs created per 27 outs, according to ESPN.com:

C -- Victor Martinez, 9.47
1B -- Justin Morneau, 10.24
2B -- Ian Kinsler, 7.63
3B -- Evan Longoria, 8.58
SS -- Jason Bartlett, 10.07
OF -- Adam Jones, 10.07; Jason Bay, 9.05; Torii Hunter, 8.63.

Here are the top National League players:

C -- Ramon Hernandez, 4.99
1B -- Joey Votto, 10.72
2B -- Chase Utley, 9.13
3B -- David Wright, 8.30
SS -- Hanley Ramirez, 8.18
OF -- Carlos Beltran, 9.99; Justin Upton, 9.61; Raul Ibanez, 9.50.

O's Sweep Jays

The Baltimore Orioles completed a 3 game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays with a come-from-behind (twice) 12-10 victory yesterday at Camden Yards.  It is the O's first sweep of the Blue Jays since 1994.

Nolan Reimold hit a walk-off 3 run homer in the 11th to cap the final comeback.  It is the recently called up rookie's 4th home run in 49 ML AB's.  

Luke Scott homered on the first pitch offered to him in his return from the DL.

Rich Hill got roughed up in his 3rd start of the season, lasting only 3 1/3 innings and surrendering 7 runs (6 earned).   The bullpen combined for 7 1/3 innings allowing 3 runs and keeping the O's in the game long enough for Jays starter Roy Halladay to depart and the Jays bullpen to take over, setting the stage for the O's 5 run 8th inning to tie the game and 4 run 11th inning to win it after falling behind in the top of the 11th.

The Tigers come to town today for a 4 game set.  David Hernandez (3-1, 2.91 ERA at AAA Norfolk) has been called up to take the start for Koji Uehara, who was placed on the DL yesterday.  Hernandez has 60K in 43 1/3 IP including a 14K performance in his last outing in the minors.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Two outta three ain't bad

Detroit went to KC, its nearest competitor in the AL Central, and took 2 of 3. Considering the loss came against Zack Greinke, you can't hope for better. Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello picked up wins and the offense, with the exception of the Greinke game, was potent. The Tigers scored 13 times in Verlander's start and 8 times for Porcello. With each start, Porcello is removing any doubts that he belongs in the bigs.

The Tigers are now 4 games up on KC and travel to face the resurgent Orioles in Baltimore. The Birds are 14-11 at home, so this will not be easy. Detroit is 2-5 vs. the AL East this year. Armando Galarraga and Dontrelle Willis will be followed by Verlander and Edwin Jackson in the 4-game set. If Detroit can take one of the first two games, it has to feel good heading into the final two contests, although Jackson's history vs. Baltimore (2-4, 5.44 ERA) is unsettling.

Offensively, Detroit continues to get solid contributions from unlikely sources. Ramon Santiago is batting .348/.370/.565 (3 HR-20 RBI in 69 ABs) while Brandon Inge is at .274/.367/.535 (12 HR-33 RBI in 157 ABs). Jeff Larish has seen limited action, but has 4 HR and a .358 OBP despite a .222 BA.

Encouraging signs from Magglio Ordonez and Gerald Laird over the past 7 days, with Maggs at .357/.471/.429 while Laird was at .389/.450/.611.

Curtis Granderson continues to struggle. On one hand, this is troubling. On the other, it's remarkable the offense has been able to produce relatively well with him hitting so poorly. If Grandy can flip the switch, and Carlos Guillen and Marcus Thames come back and hit, and Jeremy Bonderman eventually rejoins the rotation, well, that's a lot of "ifs" but they should worry the AL Central. Detroit is 7 games over .500 without much contribution from those four key players.

One Good Turn


The Orioles most recent turn through the rotation was the best of the year by far and resulted in 4 victories for the Birds.  

The wins came against the lowly Nationals and the slumping Blue Jays.  

It is , nonetheless, encouraging because Baltimore has often been the destination for ailing teams to get well.

DateStarterIPHitsRunsResult
5/26/09Jason Berken572Win 7-2
5/25/09Jeremy Guthrie771Win 4-2
5/24/09Brad Bergesen5 2/384Lose 8-5
5/23/09Koji Uehara330Win 2-1
5/22/09Rich Hill5 2/332Win 4-2

Jason Berken pitched as well as could be hoped for in his ML debut.  Jeremy Guthrie finally put together a start without throwing a bunch of fat pitches.  Brad Bergesen pitched well enough to win and left with a lead, however, the bullpen could not hold it.  Not too discouraging considering the bullpen had thrown 12 1/3 innings in the previous two days in nailing down tight victories.  Uehara pitched 3 scoreless innings before leaving with a tweaked hamstring and Rich Hill posted a 2nd consecutive good start which the bullpen finished up in a 12 inning affair.

Uehara is expected to miss his next start with the hamstring problem, which means the next turn through the rotation will have only Guthrie remaining from the Opening Day rotation.  Both Berken and Bergesen are O's minor league products and a 3rd is expected to be called up to take Uehara's next start.

The O's also announced that catcher Matt Weiters will be called up to make his ML debut in Baltimore against the Tigers on Friday night.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

History making (or at least duplicating)

Edwin Jackson faces Zack Greinke tonight. Could be a great duel. Greinke shut down the Tigers in April.

Tomorrow afternoon, Rick Porcello goes to the hill for Detroit. From Tigers.com:

"A win in this start would make Porcello the first MLB pitcher 20 years old or younger to win five straight starts since Dwight Gooden in 1985. Porcello is already just the sixth pitcher since 1900 to pitch four straight starts and allow one or no runs before his 21st birthday, joining Kerry Wood, Fernando Valenzuela, Walter Johnson, Christy Matthewson and Chief Bender."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Out on the Lidge

Brad Lidge has been far from "lights out" this season. It seems batters are laying off his slider and Lidge is struggling. His K/9 is 9.6; he's never had a season below 10.3 and last year it was 11.9. His BB/9 is 5.5, which is a full BB higher than last year, which was his worst season going back to 2002. He is allowing 2.75 HR/9, which is well above his 0.84 career average, and foes have a .400 BABIP.

His pitch selection, at least cumulative, mirrors last year. He's throwing 44.8% fastballs (93.4 mph) compared to 43.4% (94.3 mph) in 2008. He's throwing 55.2% sliders (85.2 mph) compared to 56.2% (85.1 mph) last season.

Lidge's first-pitch strike percentage is a career low 49% this season. He is throwing 43.6% of all pitches in the strike zone, which is also a career low. Without tracking every AB, it would seem he is falling behind in the count and having to throw strikes. The batters are taking advantage of those offerings.

Hitters are swinging at 29.2% of Lidge's pitches outside of the strike zone, nearly identical to last year. But they are swinging at 64.1% in the strike zone, compared to 59.1% in 2008. Also, they are making contact at 86% in the strike zone, compared to 78% last season and 75% historically.

So armchair analysis would suggest Lidge is the victim of patient hitters/poor control and some bad luck.

V is for victory

Justin Verlander continued his string of strong starts as the Tigers beat KC 13-1 today. It was a good win following disappointing back-to-back losses to Colorado at home.

From Tigers.com: "(Verlander's) 0.85 ERA in his last six starts still can't match (Zack) Greinke's 0.82 ERA for the season, but his 5-0 record and 60 strikeouts over 42 1/3 innings in that span means plenty. Not only has he not allowed a home run since April 22 against the Angels, he has allowed just three extra-base hits of any sort in that span."

Best of all, this means Verlander is on target to pitch Saturday in Baltimore when several interested observers will be there.

Detroit has the fifth-best record in MLB and the second-largest divsion lead (the Dodgers have the best in the NL West).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rolling

The Tigers continued to get contributions from throughout the lineup and Rick Porcello's emergence, along with the frequent dominance of Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson, has give Detroit the chance to be patient with the rest of the rotation. Porcello is 5-3 with a 3.55 ERA. His performance this season has allowed the Tigs to live with the inconsistency at the back of the rotation. If Detroit starts getting good outings on a regular basis from Dontrelle Willis, and if Jeremy Bonderman comes back strong, watch out.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Golden opportunity

I know it's too early to get caught up looking at the loss column, or so I'm told, but it's the easiest way to look at the standings. And Detroit has a great chance this weekend to take an early hold on the AL Central.

The Tigers are 23-16 and four games ahead of second-place KC in the loss column. They've got a seven-game edge over Minnesota and Chicago and 10 games over Cleveland. They've won six in a row and here comes Colorado (16-24) to the Motor City.

Hopefully, the Tigs don't start looking ahead to a set against KC following the Colorado series. The Tigers are 42-12 in interleague play over the past three seasons.

Detroit finishes the month with four games in Baltimore. This is a key 10-game stretch because June's slate, beginning with Boston, is tougher.

First strikes

More on first strikes. Here are the leaders in MLB for first strike percentage (above 64%):

Dan Haren, Roy Halladay, Koji Uehara, Kevin Slowey, Randy Wolf, Javier Vazquez, Roy Oswalt, Johan Santana, Joel Pineiro, Jered Weaver, and Jake Peavy.

No one in that group has an ERA above 4.50 and they've combined for a 3.20 ERA.

Of course, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain both have first strike percentages of 54.3, so go figure.

The AL averages for 0-1 counts are .317/.327/.479.
For 1-0, they are .330/.336/.543.

For after 0-1, they are .239/.283/.358.
For after 1-0, they are .281/.399/.471.

So, it still looks like you'd rather start with strike one.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Knapp time

Rick Knapp might be the best addition made by Detroit in the offseason. Pitching coaches are like QBs -- getting too much credit when things go well and too much blame when things go wrong. But one must start to believe Knapp is working some kind of magic with the Tigers. He came with a rep for developing pitchers who throw strikes. Now, consider the following:

First pitch strike percentages by Detroit starters (with career average): Justin Verlander 62.1 (58.3); Edwin Jackson 60.5 (54.9); Rick Porcello 55.5 (N/A); Armando Galarraga 63.5 (60.9); Dontrelle Willis 59.1 (57.4). Tigers closer Fernando Rodney is at 78.8 (56.8).

From what I could find, it seems the average is 58-59. Greg Maddux, as a well-known first strike machine, was in the 65-68 range from the stats I found.

I don't know if first-pitch strikes equal success, but that would seem to be the logic.

Detroit's staff is 2nd in the AL with a .321 OBP and 3rd with a 1.35 WHIP. The Tigs are 3rd in K/BB ratio, at 2.07 and lead the AL with 7.49 K/9.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

D Train rolls

Dontrelle Willis got his first win since Sept. 25, 2007 as the Tigers beat Texas 4-0. Willis went 6.1 innings and gave up 1 hit, 2 walks and struck out 5 to get his first victory for Detroit. Four relievers tossed hitless ball from there as the Tigs continued their mastery of the Rangers.

Willis' performance was solid; he retired 17 in a row at one point. On the surface, it seemed Texas might be a bad matchup because the Rangers entered averaging 5.65 runs/game, the second best in the AL, and topped the league in homers. But Texas was 13th in walks and 3rd in strikeouts, so their weaknesses were perfect for the heretofore erratic Willis.

That being said, Texas hit better against lefties this year, so it was nice to see Willis in command. Willis threw 101 pitches, 61 strikes.

It would be foolish to declare Willis back, but it is nice to be able to even have reason to consider it.

Detroit has 6 shutouts this season. The Tigers are 17-0 when allowing 3 or fewer runs. All other MLB teams are an average of 11-3 when giving up 3 or fewer runs.

News and notes

Detroit has won 11 of its last 14 against Texas. The Tigers are averaging 8.5 runs/game during that span.

The Tigers have commited only 18 errors this season.

Wilkins Ramirez will join the big club to take Magglio Ordonez's spot. In 30 games at Triple-A Toledo, Ramirez hit .316-5-13 with 14 SB. Ordonez was placed on the bereavement list.

Detroit is 12-3 when getting a quality start. The Tigers are 17-7 when scoring first. They are 17-3 when they outhit their foes.

AL shortstops have combined for a .709 OPS this year. Detroit's getting .780 production from its shortstops (Adam Everett and Ramon Santiago).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Going to 11

The Tigers rallied from a 6-0 second-inning deficit yesterday to beat the A's 11-7. Armando Galarraga's recent struggles continued -- he failed to get out of the first frame -- but there are little signs Detroit could have some magic this season. After all, it was Ramon Santiago, with his 4-for-4 effort, who keyed the Tigs comeback. Come September, this might be one of those games that takes on added meaning.

Granted, Oakland is reeling, so this might not be the best test. But there's no need to apologize for beating weak teams.

The Tigers have scored at least 9 runs in four of their last five games. Now they face first-place Texas, but Detroit has fared well against the Rangers in the past, sweeping three games in early April.

O's Treading Water

The O's have managed a 7-6 record in the 13 games since a season high 6 game losing streak to end April and start the month of May.

Pitching woes continue to plague the Orioles, whose starters have the highest ERA and the lowest IP per Start in the AL.  Only the Oakland A's starters have fewer Wins than O's starters.

The O's bullpen has started to round into form with merely the 10th highest ERA in the AL.  If the starters don't soon start pitching deeper, this trend will not last for long.

Defensively, the O's have tightened up over the last 13 games.  They now have only the 10th highest number of errors in the AL, but still have surrendered the most Unearned Runs.

The O's offense is playing respectable baseball, ranking 6th in Batting Average, 7th in Slugging and 8th in Runs in the AL.  The offense has been carried by Roberts, Jones, Markakis and Huff. If the rest of the roster gets "off the schnide", there is still hope for a potent offense.

The highlight of the last 13 games is this.