Saturday, February 28, 2009

Swing shift

Brandon Inge reportedly has changed his approach/positioning at the plate this year. In an effort to get excited about every possible little thing that means nothing yet, we are happy to note that Inge has 4 hits, including a double and homer, in 6 ABs. And zero Ks.

We hope this new approach continues to produce results. Inge is one of those oddities, it seems, in that he sees a lot of pitches per at-bat, but has an awful batting average and on-base percentage. Never has he seen fewer than an average of 4 pitches per AB in his career. The new approach supposedly will improve his ability to handle inside pitches -- pitches he would foul off or miss entirely.

We'll see how this plays out. There was a time when Inge actually wasn't awful offensively. If he could get his OPS back to the .750-.780 range, it might make the Tigers lineup extremely potent.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Late Bloom-er

One pitcher to watch this spring in Detroit's camp is lefty Kyle Bloom. The Tigs picked him up in the Rule 5 draft. He played in the Pirates' farm system previously.

From what I've read, Bloom has got a fastball that hit the upper 90s and a curveball that's already impressed Jim Leyland. Control issues have plagued him in the minors, but supposedly he made some adjustments late last season and finished strong. On the down side, he just turned 26 and has never pitched above Double-A.

He's tossed an inning this spring, striking out 2 and getting a save. He started 111 of 117 games in the minors, but his only hope with Detroit is in the pen. Bobby Seay is the only lefty reliever who figures to be a lock on the roster.

Rhymes and reason

One of the joys of spring training is finding names you'll likely not see once April arrives. Today's Tigers box score included Casper Wells and Will Rhymes. I like those guys just for their names alone. Wells is probably in the middle of any list of the top 20 Detroit prospects and Rhymes is thought of as a utilityman, at best.

Of course, part of my fascination with the names is to avoid acknowledging the pitching lines for D Train and F Rod. The Detroit Free Press reported about Dontrelle Willis:

One inning pitched (faced three batters in fourth), three hits, four runs, two earned runs, one walk, no strikeouts, one hit batter.

"I felt great," Willis said. "I know my (pitching) line doesn't show that, but I felt great. A couple of balls got away from me, and my tempo kind of got out of whack at the end."

Asked what he was happiest about in his performance, Willis said, "I'm happy about everything but the line. But I'm happy that I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes and stay ahead (in the count) for the most part."

I guess I'm happy about everything but the line, too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bulking Up

Adam Jones has gained 10 lbs

There may be progress in getting Felix Pie into Spring Training, which would add another 170.

Go O's!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Grand indeed

There is no question that we love Curtis Granderson at DTFT. And why not? He busts his butt every day and leaves the batter's box on the fly every time he puts the ball in play. And he's a heck of a nice guy, too. If that wasn't enough, he lists "A Christmas Story" as one of his 3 favorite movies.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

D Train chugging along

Early reports from Tigers camp regarding Dontrelle Willis are encouraging. Of course, one might expect little else this time of year. But Jim Leyland said a recent session by Willis was the best he'd thrown since being acquired by Detroit.

New pitching coach Rick Knapp comes to the Tigers with the rep of teaching pitchers to pound the strike zone and is given credit for the success of Twins pitchers (Knapp's previous gig was as Minnesota's minor league guru) in throwing strikes. He's reportedly given Dontrelle, in a nutshell, the same advice Nuke LaLoosh received from Crash Davis -- Don't think, meat. He wants Dontrelle to be Dontrelle and focus on fun and not his delivery.

Dontrelle Being Dontrelle doesn't sound quite as cool as Manny Being Manny, but if it leads to wins for the Tigers, it will acquire a nice ring.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Could Be A Good Sign

O's newly acquired veteran catcher Greg Zaun reports that Koji Uehara has "above-average Major League stuff".

I hope he really means "as compared to Major League pitchers", and not "as compared to Oriole pitchers".

Monday, February 16, 2009

Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance to Anything)

Someone was talking about the Dead Milkmen today, which always leads us to ex-Tiger Jim Walewander. The quirky Walewander might have been forgotten if not for his professed love of the Dead Milkmen, which was even listed on his baseball card. Walewander's career amounted to 242 at-bats over parts of four seasons (he was primarily used as a pinch-runner or late-inning defensive sub). He batted .215 with 1 HR and 14 RBI in his career.

Here is part of the beauty of the Walewander story, though. As a rookie in 1987, he got the Dead Milkmen to visit Tiger Stadium and even meet Sparky Anderson in the dugout (photo). Then, Walewander went out and hit the only HR of his big league career. It came off Willie Fraser of the Angels on July 26. As they say, you can look it up.

Blue Jays' fans might remember Walewander for a different reason. Twice down the stretch in 1987, Walewander scored the winning run as a pinch-runner in extra innings against Toronto. The first time came on Sept. 27 when Walewander ran through a stop sign to score on Kirk Gibson's single and reduce Detroit's deficit to 2.5 games. It started a season-ending 7-game skid for the Jays and the Tigers won the division on the final day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The positive thinking begins

The Tigers are heading into camp and it's time to be optimistic about the upcoming campaign. Sure, the Kitties were a mess last season, but that's the past. I'm not here to talk about the past. We're coming here with hope for 2009. Can the Tigers return to the postseason? Yes we can.

There are plenty of reasons to think the Tigers can rebound from last year's 74-88 season. First, if Detroit can stay a little bit healthy, it will go a long way. The starting rotation could be better if Justin Verlander regains his Cy Young-type form, if Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson bounce back from injuries, if Edwin Jackson improves on the form he displayed in Tampa, and if Armando Galarraga duplicates his solid rookie year. Then, there's Dontrelle Willis, who could become a functional big leaguer again, and Zach Miner, who adds some depth. Rick Porcello waits in the wings.

The back of the bullpen could be outstanding if Joel Zumaya is healthy and Fernando Rodney pitches to his stuff and Brandon Lyon finds consistency.

Offensively, Miguel Cabrera could be poised for a monster season now that he's got a year in the AL under his belt. He ended 2008 on a tear. A healthy Gary Sheffield would up the ante, as would having Curtis Granderson for a full season. If Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen and Placido Polanco produce at their usual levels, the offense could resemble the feared lineup everyone expected last year.

Even more importantly, the defense should be much better. Cabrera should be more comfortable at first. The return of Brandon Inge to third and addition of Adam Everett at short could alone, if you believe some of Fangraphs defensive metrics, save the Tigers 50 to 80 runs over 150 games compared to last season.

Sure, there are a lot of "ifs" but they're not ridiculous. If some of the ifs come through, the Tigers will be contenders. If most or all come through, they will be a force.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hooray for Stan

Well done for finally getting DTFT on the board in 2009. And you're right: 37 pitchers probably aren't enough for the O's. Rich Hill could be a big addition, or a bust. Tough call, but well worth the risk, I think. The O's outfield could be exciting.

Ahhhh..... Spring!

The Baltimore Orioles have 37 pitchers reporting to Spring Training.

It probably won't be enough.