Back away from the ledge

Yes, I know last night’s game was terribly frustrating. The Tigers lost their third one run game of the season. Clearly what we need to do is panic first, and then assign blame. I think that the common responses are that it was Urbina’s fault for blowing the lead, and Trammell’s fault for burning through his pen. Let’s look a little closer at those assumptions.

OK, so it’s hard to defend Ugie here. Uribnia has pitched poorly enough this season to make people stop complaining about Bobby Higginson – which is quite a feat. While he did induce a couple weak bouncers, one of which took a turf hop, he also allowed two walks and a long fly ball to the warning track.

Now what should the Tigers do with Urbina? The popular mantra is “Trade him.” I’m not against trading Urbina, but not right now. While the bullpen should be a strength, I’m not convinced yet. German, Farnsworth, and Ginter (in his one appearance) have looked sharp. However German doesn’t have a strong history to convince me he can continue to pitch at this level. Farnsworth has looked great before only to erupt. And Ginter, well he won’t be your high leverage guy. Walker has been and will be adequate in the lefy specialist role. That leaves Percival, who has a history of being good, and a more recent history of being ok and injured. Despite Urbina’s struggles, given the other question marks in the bullpen the Tigers still need him.

Now demoting him from the set-up role for a game or two might be a consideration, but I doubt Trammell will do it in the near term.

Trammell’s Managing
While Trammell may have turned to the bullpen too early, and too frequently, his early moves paid off. German came in and picked up an out and induced a comebacker to the mound (which he failed to field cleanly). Walker came into face Jacque Jones who struggles against lefties, and induced a weak grounder to second. Of course it scored the run but it wasn’t the fault of Walker. Farnsworth came in and looked very good for an inning and a third.

Trammell then went with Urbina in the 8th, as he had to do. Urbina is the set-up man, and Trammell probably wanted to get him out there in a high leverage situation so he could bounce back from Friday. It didn’t work. Trammell came back with his closer in the 9th, which he had to do. He certainly couldn’t send Urbina back out there, and his other option was Matt Ginter. Nothing against Ginter, but Trammell went with the guy who gave him the best shot to get his hitters up again. It didn’t work.

Trammell put each of his pitchers in with a chance to succeed, and both Urbina and Percival didn’t execute. While I think he went to the pen to early, once he took Maroth out I didn’t mind his moves at all.

The move that really bothered me was sacrifice bunting in the 5th inning. The Tigers had already scored two runs on Monroe’s homer. Inge drew a walk to put a runner at first and nobody out. Mays was looking shaky. At this point color man Rod Allen said, “I’d have Infante lay down a bunt here. Trammell knows that he has to score as many runs as he can against the Twins.” I was thinking to myself how ridiculous that statement was when Infante squared to bunt. Now Infante got the bunt down and successfully advanced Inge, who ultimately was stranded at third.

The problem is that Trammell let a pitcher who was on the ropes have a free out, and in doing so reduced his run opportunity for the inning. It’s great to bunt a guy over if you need a run to tie, or take the lead, or even an insurance run in the 8th. But in the 5th inning it makes no sense.

So Trammell wasn’t perfect, Urbina and Percival weren’t good, but neither was the offense. The Tigers only managed 7 hits, six of them singles. And even of the singles, two were fisted bloopers and a third was a ground ball that was moving slow enough for shortstop Jason Bartlett to catch up with it in the outfield. The Tigers didn’t play that well last night, and still had a chance to win it (blow it) against the reigning division champs. Take some solace in that.

Other game thoughts
-Pena continues to have quality at-bats. It doesn’t look like his swing is quite right, and he seems to be falling back toward first base and fouling off some hittable pitches. However, he’s not swinging at bad pitches and now has 9 walks on the season.
– The rest of the team didn’t seem so patient though. I don’t have a count, but it seemed like they were swinging at the first pitch quite often. Rodriguez didn’t seem to be seeing the ball at all as he was swinging at everything. Magglio Ordonez still hasn’t had a hard hit ball.
-Craig Monroe is looking better than I expected in center. He did a nice job tracking down a long fly ball, and made it look easy. Even his throwing error from right was a well thrown, though ill-advised throw. It was right on the base, knee high.


  1. Jason R.

    April 13, 2005 at 1:46 pm

    I would prefer to see one pitcher get through the inning. Jacque Jones may struggle against lefties, but is he really that much of a hitter that you should bother playing matchups? Why not leave German in, particularly when you know the guy after Jones is a righty? You could reasonably argue that a guy like German or Farnsworth would have been a better bet than Walker against Jones simply based on the potential for a strikeout, which as we saw would have been much better than a ball put in play with a man on third. I know that’s hindsight, but still … I just wish Tram would get away from the LaRussa Book and be more efficient with his staff.

    I realize the real harm was not done until the eighth and ninth, and I dont fault Tram for going to those guys when he did. That’s all on Urbina and Percy.

    Re: Pena – I was thinking that while I like seeing his patience, I know there are people out there that think the walk is overrated, and that they would rather he take more cuts. I thought about those folks when watching Craig Monroe bat after Pena. Monroe’s hacktastic ways nullify/minimize the benefits of Pena’s plate discipline. I know that sounds silly to criticize Monroe the day after he hit a bomb, but if his grounded-into-doubleplays equals his home run total, is there really that much benefit in his approach?

  2. joey

    April 13, 2005 at 2:42 pm

    Jason I agree with you about Pena–but I’ve always had a bit of a personal prejudice against hackers who rack up Ks. I’d rather see a dude be patient and work the count than hacking away and strking out on bad pitches. I think Pena has looked vastly improved this season–due solely to his discipline.

    I also agree with you on the subject of pitching changes. Sticking, inflexibly to a formula does not make a winning manager. Billfer I don’t understand why you feel that Trammell had to march Ugie out in the 8th–to keep him happy? Just because he’s been branded as a setup guy? The same goes for always playing the leftee/rightee matchup.

    My feeling is that Farnsworth has been sparkling thus far, and I can look at the dude pitch and tell you he’s a far better option for late innings work than Ugie is. Ugie falls behind batters. Everytime he gets on the mound he falls behind batters. This was the case last year and it’s an even more glaring problem now–which is totally untenable. The dude looks finished.

  3. L

    April 13, 2005 at 2:45 pm

    As a Cubs and Tigers fan (shut up, they’re in different leagues), I’ll let you know that the current call in Chicago to try to trade for Urbina is making me crazy. I’m trying to convince people that he’s not horrible, but also isn’t worth really anyone in a trade — it’s not working so well. If the Tigers can trade him, I would say go for it. Because I don’t know how much longer he’ll have much value.

    So, if I were running the Tigers, I’d be trading him now while I could, but if I were running the Cubs I would be looking elsewhere for a closer. Really, my only two requirements for a closer at this point are that he is neither Urbina nor Hawkins. Too much to ask?

  4. Jason R

    April 13, 2005 at 6:39 pm

    I should clarify the last paragraph I submitted this afternoon:

    Pena’s plate discipline is nearly wasted if Monroe is batting behind him, at least for as long as Monroe goes up to bat with nothing but a big swing in mind. Monroe will get pitched around for his power but also because pitchers know they can get him to swing at most anything.

    I am all for knocking the snot out of the ball, but I hope Craig takes a longer look at the guy hitting in front of him and start to have a more mature plan at the plate.

  5. Joel

    April 14, 2005 at 11:33 am

    Thanks for getting me off that ledge Billfer! Look on the bright side. At least the bullpen has been stron….ummmm…well I mean at least the Tigers are not losing to teams in their own div…..ummm never mind….hey how about Mags….oh geez. OK at least the Tigers game is on TV tonight!

  6. Chris

    April 14, 2005 at 6:58 pm

    What about White’s arm? Just a wild hair, but it really seems like White couldn’t challenge a runner if his life depended on it. So whats everyone think: Is White a huge defensive liability?

    btw – I completely agree about Pena. He’s had some of the best Tiger at-bats of this young season.

  7. billfer

    April 14, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    Jason- good point about Monroe hitting behind Pena. Pena’s ability to not make outs is negated by Monroe’s ability to make multiple outs.

    As for the bullpen usage, I mentioned originally that I’d wished he had left Maroth in longer. However, my point was that with all the switching, and it may have been too much, it did what he wanted. Just not getting the results he wanted.

    As for Urbina being the setup man, you can’t bail on him after 3 outings. If someone with a history of success fails after 3 games you don’t give up on him. If that were the case, Magglio would be relegated to 4th outfielder duty after his 0-10 start.

    If Urbina continues to falter, something needs to be done, but we weren’t at that point on Tuesday

  8. Jason R

    April 14, 2005 at 8:29 pm

    By the way, right on with the critique of the bunt in the fifth. “Trammell let a pitcher who was on the ropes have a free out.” Can’t say it any better, really.

    It never ceases to amaze how a manager can watch his boys start an early or middle inning with a walk, a dinger, and another walk, and then decide he needs to *manufacture* a run with the top of the order coming up and nobody out. That’s just plain stubborn.

  9. Joey

    April 15, 2005 at 10:43 am

    Is it just me or does Urbina not look like himself on the mound this year? Sometimes I feel like he doesn’t care what happens. Ho-hum I gave a few more runs, no big.

  10. Chris

    April 15, 2005 at 9:02 pm

    This Urbina deal is a broken record. With an emphasis on BROKEN.

  11. Joey

    April 16, 2005 at 12:49 am

    What’s the connection between hacking and hitting into DPs?

  12. Jason R

    April 17, 2005 at 8:58 am

    The idea is this:

    A competent major league pitcher knows which of his pitches, if thrown the way he wants them thrown, will induce groundballs and which ones will induce flyballs. Some are better than others at doing this, but I would venture most major leaguers can get hitters to do what they want with some degree of regularity.

    The pitcher’s job at getting the hitter to hit what he wants him to hit is made that much easier when he knows the guy at the plate will swing at anything and everything that comes out of the pitcher’s hand.

    So, if I’m a competent major league pitcher and I walk Carlos Pena (*intentionally* or otherwise), then I can pretty much shake it off with Craig Monroe coming up next. Unless I make a greivous error and simply let one hang up high in the strike zone, I can feel pretty good about my chances of getting Monroe to hit it where I want him to hit – on the ground, prefferably in the middle of the infield where my keystone combo can scoop it up for the 6-4-3 (or the 4-6-3, depending on how I am feeling at the moment.)

    Monroe has good power. That is an asset. But the asset gets neutralized by his lack of selectivity and discipline in this situation, which in turn neutralizes whatever benefit achieved from Pena’s selectivity and discipline.

  13. Joey

    April 17, 2005 at 2:03 pm

    I get your point, but when I hear “hacktastic” I usually think of guys who strike out a lot, and generally speaking high K guys don’t hit into many double plays because they’re not getting the ball into play.

    Has Monroe grounded into a lot of DPs already? I haven’t noticed, but checking stats from last year he only hit into 8. Even if he ups that number a little this year, it doesn’t seem like too big a deal and certainly won’t negate Pena’s improved OBP.

    Something that’s been bugging me is watching the Tigers run into outs on run scoring plays. It seems to happen a lot. The lead runner scores but then a bad decision leads to someone else being thrown out–often to end the inning. Trammell and his coaches have always demonstrated a recklessness on the paths that I think ends up killing momentum and costing us runs.

  14. Jason R.

    April 18, 2005 at 11:23 am

    Monroe has not accumulated that many DPs thus far. However, you have to have someone on base in order to ground into a DP, so it could have been that he was hitting behind Inge or White or someone without much OBP ability last season. I think I just freaked when considering how often Pena will likely be on base ahead of Monroe.