The Indians and Tigers awakened this morning perhaps heading in different directions. Sure, Detroit has been hot for two weeks and Cleveland has not.
But they awoke dead even in the AL Central, tied for third at a very disappointing 33-38. I'm sure neither team is sending members on the opposing side "Get Well Soon" cards. Those are likely arriving only from immediate family members. There is no crying in baseball. Not much sympathy either.
The two teams are having similar problems. Start with pitching. Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia (the former considered a Cy Young Award contender and the latter the defending Cy Young Award winner) have had some outstanding moments. But collectively, Verlander at 3-9, 4.55 and Sabathia at 5-8, 4.26 are not headed for that prize. At least not this season.
Each team has lost two pitchers in their respective rotations for all or a large chunk of the remainder of the season.
For the Tribe, Fausto Carmona (19-7 in 2007) is a week or two away from a return and may be ready to return to form. He went 4-2, 3.10 prior to his strained hip. They are not so lucky with Jake Westbrook, on his way to Tommy John elbow surgery and done for 2008.
The Tigers have lost Jeremy Bonderman for the season to blood clot surgery. He is fortunate to be alive and with any luck will return next spring. Dontrelle Willis is buying the spreads for players in the bushes Lakeland (Class A) off his multi-million dollar contract, and he's hopeful that his career that has careened off the rails, will somehow get back on track. I wish him all the best, he's a stand up guy and a class act. Still he may be all done, another victim of Steve Blass/Rick Ankiel syndrome. In short, unable to throw a ball at on the Jersey boardwalk with any reasonable certainty that it will land in the ocean.
Each club has had one pleasant rotation surprise.
Cleveland has the bigger package with the resurgent Cliff Lee and Detroit the smaller package in Kenny Rogers. Lee (10-1, 2.55) has been as effective as any pitcher in baseball all season.
Rogers (5-4, 4.36) is a "feel" pitcher and must be comfortable to succeed. Kenny looked like he might finally be done at age 43 until recently. He's not going to overpower many hitters Recovering from blood clot surgery of his own in 2007, he appears to just now be getting that "feel" back. He has pitched at least seven innings in five straight starts, and has not allowed more than two runs in any of them. Sadly, run support has not been there for "The Gambler". A string of four straight no decisions ended in San Francisco last night with a 5-1 Tigers win.
Great segue to my main point. Where's the hitting?
Let's examine team stats.
I say hitting is the larger problem so far for each ballclub.
It simply is not pitching. I tried but could not come up with team pitching stats up to the point of last year's All Star break. But here's the comparison of team ERAs through last night's games and at the close of last season.
Indians 2007 season 4.05. So far this season 4.16.
Tigers 2007 season 4.57. So far this season 4.59.
The two teams record as stated earlier are dead even this year. Last year on this date, the Indians were 41-28 and the Tigers 40-29.
Detroit was 52-34 and Cleveland 52-36 at the All Star break last year. So Detroit had played 86 games and Cleveland 88 by that reference point. Each have played 71 so far this season. As of this morning then, the Tigers had played 81% of the number of games as at last season's break and the Indians had played 83%. The run production numbers I'll cite team wide for last year will be reduced based on that percentage of total games played so far this year with the number of games each had played by last year's All Star break. This year's numbers are actual.
Here we go.
Indians 2007 vs. 2008
Runs: 380/322 (-58)
Runs per game: 5.35, 4.54 (down .81/game)
HR: 88/67(down 24%)
Batting average: .272/.246 (down .026)
OBP: .350/.317 (down .033)
SLG %: .442/.376 (down a whopping .066)
Tigers 2007 vs. 2008
Runs: 424/339 (-85)
Runs per game: 5.95/4.77 (down a whopping 1.17/game)
HR: 85/74 (down 13%)
Batting average: .290/.266 (down .024)
OBP: .352/.338 (down .014)
SLG%: .473/.424 (down .049)
I don't have OPS numbers or batting averages with runners in scoring position statistics. I think what I have cited above will suffice though. Don't you?
Pictured below are some of the guys that must pick it up, with the biggest culprits appearing first. By no means are they the only ones. Some will not be able to pick it up any time soon or at all because of injuries. I could go on and on, and I have some stats that appear next to each, but I have said enough.
2007 All Star Break 49 R, 14 HR, 57 RBI, .262BA, .397 OBP, .452 SLG
Today 16 R, 4 HR, 22 RBI, .217BA, .326 OBP, .350 SLG
"Is it physical problems, in his head, or what? Where's "Pronk"?"
2007 All Star Break 44R, 16 HR, 68 RBI, .324 BA, .382 OBP, .553 SLG
Today 17R, 0 HR, 21 RBI, .278 BA, ..332 OBP, .333 SLG
Out until at least All Star break, arthroscopic elbow "cleanup"
"O HR! When did V-Mart turn into Jason Kendall?"
2007 Season (with Marlins) 91R, 34 HR, 119 RBI, .320 BA, .401 OBP, .565 SLG
Today 34R, 10 HR, 42 RBI, .284 BA, .356 OBP, .471 SLG
"Coming around but will have to get real hot to approach '07 numbers. May get close though as he gets more acclimated."
2007 Season 107R, 25 HR, 75 RBI, .265 BA, .378 OBP, .462 SLG
Today 18 R, 3 HR, 12 RBI, .213 BA, .344 OBP, .341 SLG
"And most of the 2007 production included nearly nothing after injury in late July. Team hasn't been the same since. Rushed back too quickly from bum shoulder. Says he's feeling better and may be back soon. Could be, but also could be through."
2007 Season 117R, 28 HR, 139 RBI, .363 BA, .434 OBP, .595 SLG
Today 40 R, 10 HR, 42 RBI, .302, .376 OBP, .459 SLG
"It almost isn't fair. He's still having a productive year but set the bar so high last year. Still, even though last year was a career year, he put up similar production numbers in multiple seasons in Chicago, so who knows?"