Posted on: June 18, 2008 4:24 pm
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?"
Posted on: June 16, 2008 1:21 pm
The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Detroit Tigers in game 5 of the 2006 World Series to surprise many observers and win the championship of MLB for that year.
That team had stumbled through September, crawling into the playoffs at 83-79. It was widely accepted by most baseball observers that the Padres would certainly put them out in the division series. But the Cardinals had different ideas, defeating San Diego in four games (best of five).
Now the team with the best record in the National League lurked in the NLCS. Surely the 2006 Mets' juggernaut would quickly quell the St. Louis uprising. And it appeared headed exactly that way when Tom Glavine and two relievers shut the Cards out in game one, then held a 6-4 lead in game two after six innings at Shea. Then Scott Spiezio tripled in two to tie it at 6 in the top of the seventh. Billy Wagner got rocked in the top of the ninth by a So Taguchi home run, then the Cards tacked on two more and we had a brand new series heading to St. Louis.
It wasn't easy and it wasn't always pretty following that rousing win. But ultimately the Cardinals would shock all observers and again bitterly disappoint the Met faithful by again winning at Shea in game seven, thanks to a Yadier Molina two-run shot in the top of the ninth.
Now the overachievers packed their bags and headed to Detroit, where the red hot Tigers had waited close to a week for the NL to play out. These Tigers had won seven straight games over the Yankees and Athletics following an opening ALDS loss in the Bronx.
Cards in 5 games. Wow! Where did that come from?
Observers like myself in Motown are still trying to figure that out. Just like the faithful at Shea are reeling from that NLCS loss. Since these two series, the Mets and Tigers have been arguably the biggest underachievers in baseball. And not even very arguably. Go ahead. Present your argument as to a bigger underachiever than either of these two clubs since that postseason. Make my day. Do you feel lucky punk? Well do ya?
Pundits and prognosticators expected lofty achievements from both in 2007 and 2008. Granted, the Tigers have showed a pulse in the just concluded home stand.
But c'mon. A pulse? This team was picked by Sports Illustrated to take all the marbles this year. Even with the excellent three series just concluded, the Tigers are still five under .500 (32-37) after reeling off eight wins in nine contests. Don't bother doing the math (particularly if you are in the "D") to see what the Tigers record was before this awakening.
Chin up though Tigers fans. This story is to be continued. The "strongest division in baseball" is now arguably the weakest (along with the other "strongest division in baseball", the sorry NL West). So now the Tigers are only six games out of first place in this upside down world of "Baseball '08".
Enough about them. We are focusing on the Cardinals. Given up for dead before the 2006 post season. Given up for dead before the '07 season. Not even on the radar screen during this spring.
Now the Cardinals are flying high at 42-29 and trail the Cubs by 3.5 games in the "weakest division in baseball"; err, now better known as the strongest division in baseball. And although the Cubs have played outstanding baseball all year, they have to be at least peeking over their shoulders at St. Louis. You know how battles always wind up between these two. The "little brother" (Cubs) always get a butt whipping from big brother (Cardinals).
Who knows though? That was the way it always was with that other huge rivalry involving big and little brother until the Red Sox changed everything in 2004. And at first glance, one is compelled to believe that Tony LaRussa has this team cobbled together with chicken wire and duct tape. Big breakthroughs in 2004 (Red Sox) and 2005 (White Sox). Could the Cubbies possibly make it 1-100 and win it all this year?
Remember something that is very important here. Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds weren't the biggest guns for the Cards in that Met series in 2006. Yadier Molina and So Taguchi were. They still have Yadier. They also have a fundamentally excellent team. The Cardinals have excellent defense. The team lead MLB in assists, indicative of good range. It ranks 7th in fielding percentage with only 37 in 71 games. They are not in the AL with the Tigers but compare for a moment. Detroit has 93 fewer assists and ten more errors. Not to mention half the club playing out of position. At shortstop the Cardinals have Adam Kennedy with outstanding range. The Tigers have former Cardinal standout Edgar Renteria. Renteria had great range. Only that was in 1998, not 2008 where he has become somewhat of a statue at the position. Back to the Cardinals division, the Cubs have OK defense but not as solid overall as the Cardinals.
St. Louis is very resilient. After the Phillies handed them a shellacking for the ages Saturday (20-2), the Cardinals responded with a come from behind 7-6 win Sunday. They may be hurting for a while with "Phat" Albert Pujols out. Yet if they can tread water for the approximate three weeks before he returns, I have a feeling that they'll be all right. They could use a productive Chris Duncan, who was just recalled from AAA Memphis to pick up the slack for Albert. Career farmhand Ryan Ludwick has been phenomenal all year and makes the meat of the order quite formidable. Can he keep it up? Troy Glaus was not hitting for any power until ripping 6 home runs in this month alone. Rick Ankiel is hitting for power, if not average.
Ludwick Pujols Glaus Ankiel Duncan
Pitching? Jason Isringhausen is a key. He believes that he was tipping his pitches (the curve particularly) and that he will be back to his old self soon. That would be a good thing as Ryan Franklin has cooled following an excellent stint as the closer. Adam Wainwright is the real deal as a starter, and Todd Wellemeyer looked good in May (NL Pitcher of the Month) but has been getting lit up lately (started the 20-2 debacle). The team has gotten more than it could have hoped from career journeymen Braden Looper and Kyle Lohse. Continued overachievement here is a key. and the team could really use a good "bridge" guy to get to the closer in the 7th and 8th innings.
Adam Todd Ryan
Summing it up, there are holes as there are on every team in baseball but this team is a bonafide contender as Tony LaRussa has worked magic with what appeared to be a team that would not get very far.
Fans in the Gateway City have something worth rooting for. Down the road we will see how much they will miss former GM Walt Jocketty, who now toils for the division rival Reds.
Posted on: May 8, 2008 12:07 pm
The link above is for the priceless routine by Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?".
Here is a snippet of it with the current Tigers' scenario plugged in...
Abbott: Well, Costello, I'm going to Detroit with you. Jim Leyland, the Tigers' manager, gave me a job as coach for as long as you're on the team.
It would be a whole lot more fun and it would definitely be funnier though, if the team was not 15-20 when we woke this morning.
State of the Tigers...
Six runs Sunday against Boof Bonser to start the game off. 65 pitches thrown in total. In one inning!
Next eight innings. Zero runs. After tiring Bonser out to near exhaustion in one inning, he gets a second wind, and lasts through six innings total. The Twins come back to win 7-6 for a series sweep.
Monday night against Daisuke Matsuzaka. Eight walks off Matsuzaka. Ten walks total for the game. They push across a measly three runs total and go down 5-3.
Tuesday Tim Wakefield knuckles down on a two hit gem. Put the boys to bed at 7:05 with no milk or cookies...they didn't deserve any!
Finally, Tigers 10, Red Sox 9 last night. Feast or famine.
Otherwise, everything is wonderful here in Tigertown. The Pistons and Red Wings are pushing deep into the playoffs and the Lions' just drafted a half-dozen new busts. If you don't care for hockey, basketball or football, laugh at Who's on First.
If we are talking baseball around here, it may be all that we have to smile, or laugh about the way this spring has gone as we forge into summer.
Posted on: April 21, 2008 12:41 pm
Even with all my years of experience following baseball, it seems that I cannot learn that lesson.
The "Game" is never played on paper...
It is even more likely for a fan to fall all over in mad love with his or her hometown ballclub when you have a couple of big deals in the off-season and your team is coming off a couple of succesful seasons.
This doesn't mean that the Tigers will not recover but this is not the kind of start that you ever want or expect from a title contender.
Oh, and if Sports Illustrarted never picks us to even win a division again, let alone the World Series, I'll be fine with that.
NOW LETS GO TIGERS!
Posted on: April 4, 2008 5:19 pm
Thoughts while I am seeking someone to "Talk me off the Ledge..."
What on Earth is going on here?
The mighty (?) Tigers are the only team in major league baseball without a victory.
I know it's only 0-4 but we waited all winter for this?
I was at the opener and enjoyed it a lot. Never mind that I have personally attended five straight losses. It was an exciting ballgame.
The team followed this effort with two sleepwalking losses that wound up a stunning three game sweep at the hands of the Royals. I am not going to denigrate them. Hell, they swept us at home to end the 2006 season, costing us a division championship that we still have not won since1987.
And they do have some excellent young pitchers. The pen between Yoakim Soria closing and Edwin Nunez setting up looks excellent. Everybody talks about Gil Meche but I think Brian Bannister is the diamond of this emerging big three. All he did was stuff the Bengals bats where, er well, you know where - in game two. Zero runs and three hits in seven sterling innings. If Zach Grienke can maintain his composure, he makes it a very solid group. And I'd say he did Thursday. He stuffed the Tigers ba-t-s ...err I have said enough...HAD enough already!
I'm not here to wax poetically about the Royals starting pitchers!
Jim Leyland summed it up perfectly following the 4-1 loss yesterday.
All told, the team went 2-22 in the series against Kansas City with runners in scoring position. Of course, most of this was in game one because they had only a few runners in scoring position the last two games in the series, and but one Thursday.
They went scoreless for eighteen innings consecutively. This is the club that many pegged to challenge the 1,000 runs scored barrier! They may eventually make it but I'm ready to see them start scoring.
Well, they did today. But they id soething else even better. Something that you don't like your home team to do better...
The White Sox beat the Tigers 8-5 and made it 0-4 and the Stranders, who left another dozen men on base in the first four innings!
For those who don't feel like doing the math, they were perfect here! The maximum number or runners you can leave on base in four innings is...ready for this?
Gary Sheffield has a torn tendon in his ring finger and could be out for weeks.
Miguel Cabrera has a strained quad.
Curtis Granderson is at least two or three weeks away from returning.
Jason Grilli is still starting bigger fires than they had out in San Diego last fall.
I know. I know.
I know it's only four games in.
But still, can we get a do over, or something.
Somebody, somewhere, anywhere (even Cleveland), find me a silver lining in this swiling mass of gray and black.
And do me a favor.
Talk me off the ledge. It's still really damp and cold out here in Motown...Maybe Miss America can do something...I need your sweet smile honey. Come on back to the ballpark. And coach Mr. Grilli on how not to be such a gas can if you can, dear.
Posted on: April 1, 2008 12:25 pm
Young, talented, and beautiful Kirsten Haglund, a.k.a. "Miss America" from Farmington Hills, Michigan did double duty at the Tigers' home opener yesterday. Make that triple duty.
Act I. She sung the national anthem before the game. Beautifully done.
Then she reared back and fired the "first pitch" to Pudge Rodriguez. High hard one! Strike at the letters. She was so excited that she was jumping up and down waving her arms wildly.
Act II signed, sealed and delivered.
Incredibly, the tiara didn't budge? Super glue? Gorilla glue? Hell, she was so smoking...it probably didn't have any glue holding it up there at all! She could have probably stepped on the conveyor at a car wash and put herself through and the tiara would still be sitting there when she got through. Only it would be a little bit shinier with the hot wax...
Act III. Seventh inning stretch. Royals leading 4-3. She strolls out to the front iof the plate and sings "God Bl;ess America".
The gray, yet surprisingly mild day was wildly celebrated here in grimy, pothole filled Motown, even though the local nine lost in eleven to the Royals. The new guy (Miguel Cabrera) belted one out in left to make it 3-0 in the fifth. Former third baseman, now super sub Brandon Inge made a perfect throw from center in the eleventh inning to nail a Royal trying to score the go-ahead run.
Unfortunately that was followed by a Texas leaguer off the bat of Tony Pena Jr. that dropped in front of Brandon. This time he tried to barehand it and in his haste to hurry the relay, it slipped off his hand and the game slipped away from the Tigers.
But it will go down in my attendance sitting comfortably in the third row of the right field upper deck as a great memory.
The day Miss America arrived and none of the greaseball politicians were anywhere in sight. Now, as long as Kwame doesn't have Kirsten's cell number.
You can never be sure that he will not get that trigger finger engaged...
STOP HIM before he texts again!!!
Posted on: March 7, 2008 2:04 pm
Musings from the public library on a day off...
I signed up in an autodraft league with a couple colleagues from CBS (ksudodgers and brony). You set draft priorities by position and hers's what I came up with. Ksudodgers and I just swung a major trade. I swapped Vernon Wells, Chase Utley and Jon Garland for Justin Verlander, Grady Sizemore and Ian Kinsler. It's nice to actually find a realistic trading partner, we swapped proposals and I feel we each got solid value.
I think my team could be a powerhouse (don't we all think that in March?)
Here is my current roster:
1B Ryan Howard
2B Ian Kinsler
CF Grady Sizemore
Utility Kevin Youkilis
2B Jeff Kent
OF Jermaine Dye
DH Gary Sheffield (must make 5 non DH starts before ineup eligible, that's why I got him off waivers)
What do you think guys?
Posted on: February 28, 2008 7:47 pm
Faces in new places all around the American League