Game 144: Tigers at Twins

PREGAME: This is kind of a big game. And it’s Jeremy Bonderman against Johan Santana. And it’s not on TV if you live in Detroit.

Game Time 2:10

POSTGAME: After seeing so many frustrating games where either the offense was good and the pitching was bad or the more common situation where the pitching was good but the offense was bad, the Tigers put it all together and combined the bad pitching with the bad offense for a 12-1 thumping.

I was excited early in this game because MLB.TV neglected to blackout my feed. But then I kind of wish they would have.

Bonderman still continues to confuse me, but not opposing hitters. His fastball velocity is still there. His slider is still sharp. He manages to locate both pitches for the most part. He keeps getting strike outs, but it takes him a long time to do it. And the guys he doesn’t strike out seem to put the ball in play with some measure of authority. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of a change-up, or if his pattern has become predictable. But the stuff still seems to be there, but the results aren’t.

As for the offense, the approach was actually decent for the first 4 innings. Even when the Tigers would fall behind, they’d work the count back even or to a full count. Santana was averaging 20 pitches an inning before a 10-pitch-strike-out-the-side-5th inning. But despite the best intentions, the Tigers found themselves in one of those multi-multi-inning funks where they couldn’t get a baserunner near scoring position.

Thank goodness for an off day.


  1. Adam

    September 10, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    It’s really, extremely hard to be optimistic about this game. Not only is it Bonderman vs. Santana (I want my Mommy), it’s the Twins’ bats against ours.

    If we win this game, it’ll pretty much be a miracle.

  2. Andy in NY

    September 10, 2006 at 2:17 pm

    I’m going to say this without any hyperbole: I think there’s about as good a chance as there ever is in baseball of our team getting no-hit today, between how good Santana is and how bad our hitters have been over the past month.

    I’d put the over-under on total hits for the Tigers in this game at 2.

  3. Adam

    September 10, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    Oh yeah. I just want to say that Chris Shelton, Neifi Perez, and Brent Clevlen are all in the lineup.

  4. charlie

    September 10, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    interesting lineup…a few changes…we’ll have to see although he put neifi back in why? dh andrew miller…just as likely he will hit as neifi.

  5. Anthony

    September 10, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    I can’t believe this is not on TV. A sunday game with 3 weeks left in the season, in the middle of the pennant race.

  6. Andy in NY

    September 10, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    One bright side, Santana’s thrown 73 pitches through 4 innings. Perhaps we’re taking a more disciplined approach today? If we keep it up, we might get to the bullpen in the seventh inning which would give us a shot.

  7. T Smith

    September 10, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    1. Clevlen should have laid down a bunt after the lead-off Wilson walk. What is Leyland thinking? At least we would have two at bat’s to try to make this a 2-1 game.

    2. Neifi Perez should NEVER be allowed to bat…not to mention in a RBI situation. Yeah, yeah…Omar’s error may have cost us the game last night. But I don’t see Perez doing at better defensively. How ’bout that throw to first after being deflected off Shelton’s mitt? Luckily Wilson was there at back-up.

  8. Tater

    September 10, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    I thought the same thing about Santana’s pitch count through 4 — but striking out the side on 10 pitches in the 5th hardly helps on that front. With Bonderman in trouble in the 6th this one looks bleak.

  9. T Smith

    September 10, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    Another beef:

    I disagree with sitting Pudge today. We have two off days next week; this is essentially a playoff game. We need our A-team in there.

    Anyway, the Twins picking off bases has cost one, maybe two runs. Wilson hasn’t been on target, or hasn’t even attempted a throw.

    One more thing…did I mention Neifi Perez should NEVER be allowed to bat?

  10. Adam

    September 10, 2006 at 4:05 pm

    Goodbye playoffs.

  11. Pete

    September 10, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    As much as I hate to say it, I think Minnesota is going to win this division. The White Sox are losing, but with Cleveland’s bullpen you never know. The Angels have a very legit chance at the wild card. The White Sox are stuggling and have a difficult schedule remaining. At this moment I would say the Tigers will make the playoffs (barely) as the AL wild card, but it’s hard to be optimistic about anything right now.

  12. Boston Fan in Michigan

    September 10, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    The Lions were more interesting to watch than that would have been. But it would’ve been nice to have the option.

  13. Chris Y.

    September 10, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    Ugly series.

    Hope the team had fun playing (?) in a pennant race while it lasted, ’cause at this rate the Tigers role in it is quickly fading.

  14. Bob S.

    September 10, 2006 at 7:04 pm

    I wish these guys would stop trying so hard to make my pre-season dream of a .500 year come true.

  15. Kyle J

    September 10, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    It’s getting awfully lonely on the bandwagon.

    A few points:

    1) Going into today’s game, Baseball Prospectus’s ELO-adjusted odds (which accounts for recent performance) gave us a 95% chance of making the playoffs. The bettors at one reliable Internet gambling site currently give us an 89% chance.

    2) In an earlier game thread, someone stated that this team “doesn’t deserve to make the playoffs.” It astounds me that someone would make that statement about a team with an ERA 0.37 points lower than the next best team in its league.

    3) Jeff M, why won’t you just concede that the team should have traded for Albert Pujols at the deadline? 🙂

    Everbody’s down, but in the words of a current ESPN commercial, “Use small words, because you’ll have to eat them.” This team is still in very good position to make the playoffs.


  16. Cameron in Singapore

    September 10, 2006 at 8:36 pm

    Wow…this really stinks…
    But I’ll stay with you on the bandwagon Kyle. They still have a pretty good chance of making the playoffs (though the 95% is based on mathematical odds, not the Tigers bad play lately) and I think they’ll do it. It’s just disappointing that what seemed like such a sure thing is now up in the air.
    On the bright side, the White Sox are also struggling, nobody else is in striking distance for the playoffs (it’s 3 teams for 2 spots), so we should still make it.

  17. HrbekIsMyHero

    September 10, 2006 at 9:22 pm

    Twins fan here. In all seriousness, keep the faith. No one in the Twin Cities wants to see the bloody expletive deleted White Sox in the playoffs. Please stomp them into oblivion and get into the playoffs. God knows you deserve it after some of the recent seasons. Gotta get some of that negativity out of your heads! You’re still in first place and I think it will be hard to catch you. We’ll settle for the wild card. Honestly, good luck. Hope to see you in the ALCS!

  18. Greg

    September 10, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    Yes the bubble gum has worn off, the pitching is inconsistent, the strategy is questionable, the hitting is horrendous, and we have Neifi Perez …

    But it’s important to remember that if the playoffs started next week, we’re win. I’d rather have our record than the Twins as of today.

  19. Joey C.

    September 10, 2006 at 9:42 pm

    Hrbek, no offense, but I’m really hoping we don’t see the the Twins should we make the playoffs.

    They could very well get it done this season if Liriano comes back healthy. A seven game series against a 1-2 combo like that is pretty tough to win.

  20. Jeff M

    September 10, 2006 at 9:46 pm

    It’s getting awfully lonely on the bandwagon.

    My seatbelt’s on; I’m not going anywhere. I still have tickets to 8 more games.

    Jeff M, why won’t you just concede that the team should have traded for Albert Pujols at the deadline? 🙂

    I would, but they were asking for Monroe! C’mon… Thames maybe, but Monroe’s untouchable.

  21. Sam

    September 10, 2006 at 10:04 pm

    I’m still on the bandwagon.

    Look Minny is the best home team in baseball. That Dome is bad news. We were 11-8 aginst those guys this year. 95-77 will be enough to get into the playoffs.


  22. stephen

    September 10, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    kyle j, where are you getting the magic kool-aid and where can i get some? the tigers are like the guy who led the triathlon all the way and then goes incoherent and incontinent in the last 500 meters. will the tigers struggle across the finish line first with excrement on their legs or will they have to be meidvacked out with a dq?

    next year: sign soriano for three years at $40 and sheffield two years at $20. trade one blue chip pitcher for a first baseman.

  23. Andy in NY

    September 10, 2006 at 10:50 pm

    soriano is going to get beltran length/money from someone – that means something like 7 years at 110 mil. – 3 yrs. and 40 mil would never in a million years get the deal done.

  24. stephen

    September 10, 2006 at 11:22 pm

    i mistyped, meant to say 3 yrs at 50. actually most of the scuttlebutt has soriano getting 4 yrs at 60 in a 14-15-15-16 type of deal with a fifth yr 18 option with a 2 m buyout. unless the yankees get in, and they have no where to put him, no one is gonna give soriano manny ramierez money or years.

  25. Kyle J

    September 10, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    1) It’s not magic kool aid. It’s the fact that the odds are still in our favor because of the way we played the first 120 games of the season (remember those?). Let’s not forget the situation the White Sox were in last year at this time. I’m not saying we’re going to win it all, but baseball is a funny game. You can’t extrapolate any given trend indefinitely. Just as the winning wasn’t going to go on forever, the losing isn’t either.

    2) You’re not going to get Soriano for $13 million per year–and he’s going to get more than three years. And if people think we’re overpaying for our current aging, unathletic right fielder, I’m sure they’ll love what Sheffield will look like over the next couple years.

  26. Kyle J

    September 10, 2006 at 11:50 pm

    Started typing before Stephen corrected his Soriano figures.

    Anyway, I bet Brian Cashman would rather have our stable of young pitchers than his lineup of aging sluggers. The future is bright . . . and the present isn’t quite as dismal as we think it is at this moment.

  27. T Smith

    September 11, 2006 at 12:30 am

    Last 32 games (Games 112 – 144):
    W-L Games back
    2004 Tigers: 14-18 –
    2005 Tigers: 13-19 1
    2006 Tigers: 10-22 4
    2003 Tigers: 7-25 7

    Wow, the 2004 Tigers actually have 4 games on us during this stretch, and we’re actually closer to the worse Tiger team ever than the two medicore teams we watched the past couple years.

  28. Coach Jim

    September 11, 2006 at 1:49 am

    Billfer: your comment about Bonderman becoming predictable is quite true. The baffling thing to watch is when the ball does exactly what he wants and he still gets hit. Do you suppose the answer lies in the fact that 90% of the time the slider dips low and away (RH batters) and the fastball is inside? If a batter can cue on that pitch recognition he can anticipate the location of the ball with a good deal of certainty. So he might paint the low outside corner with a biting slider, but that’s just what they were expecting…BAM!

    On the other hand, the Tiger batters look like they are GUESSING WRONG at every at-bat. But what a rerun that is.

    What happened to the morale of this team?

    By the way, consider this. It’s a pretty ugly streak going right now, but the schedule gets significantly easier from here on out, save one series with the White Sox. And isn’t it the weak teams that we beat the snot out of before all this craziness started? The most probable scenario is that the Tigers get well on all that bad pitching they’re about to see and head into the playoffs with their confidence high.

  29. Jojo SunDevil

    September 11, 2006 at 1:51 am

    T Smith, thats a bad stat, but I am officially in panic mode, Im still on the bandwagon, this has just been a depressing three weeks. Will someone please make some plays, and can we get a 4 game winning streak. Just 4??

    Also, will someone get Polanco some cortisone we need him in the lineup now.

    And why is Jim Leyland so passive. Yell, get mean, this team needs it. Embrace the pennant race. I got somethin you can embrace. Get mean. Get snide. Get on em. Monroe’s blunder in left today in the 2nd, thats just bad discipline and bad baseball.

    Lets Go Tigers!!!

  30. Coach Jim

    September 11, 2006 at 1:53 am

    …on the other hand – we have Neife Perez

  31. Joey the K

    September 11, 2006 at 3:18 am

    I am planning on flying out from Portland OR for the playoffs, I was hoping for a decisive series win to help me figure out what dates to fly out for. Them Tigs ain’t making it easy on me, and airline tix keep going up!

  32. billfer

    September 11, 2006 at 7:42 am

    Coach Jim,

    I’ve thought the same thing about Bondo’s slider. To right handed hitters he always throws it low and away, essentially so they can’t hit it. But if it becomes predictable, they can lay off it. Now his go to pitch becomes a ball instead of an out.

    And with lefties, how often do we see his fastball tail off the plate?

  33. Kyle J

    September 11, 2006 at 10:04 am

    “And why is Jim Leyland so passive. Yell, get mean, this team needs it.”

    There’s a fine line between firing up the team and creating a sense of panic. An important job for a coach is to not let a team get too up or too down. This is something that Tom Izzo is very good at. He talks his team down when they’re playing well and talks them up when they’re playing poorly. Leyland operates the same way.

    BP’s ELO-adjusted odds (which DO account for recent performance) still give the Tigers a 95% chance of making the postseason. They really like the Twins’ chances (80%) over the White Sox’s (25%).


  34. adr

    September 11, 2006 at 10:31 am

    Hard not to be discouraged after this one, (Adam: “Goodbye Playoffs”) but there’s always a “gut check” for every team as Jeff and Sam realize.

    The good news: There’s 18 more games to play, we’re up by two, and our two opponents have harder schedules (determined by win-loss records of who they play) than we do (baseball equivalent of: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses).

    One thing I’d say in retrospect is that the front office sat on their hands a little bit at the trading deadline, believing that we “had it all” and didn’t need to make significant improvements. Casey, whose acquisition I cheered, has proven to be a bust. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ acquisition of Abreu looks like a brilliant move that put them back into a sure bet for the playoffs.

    Regardless of how it all turns out, none of us expected to be here at the beginning of the season and we’ve had a heck of a ride.

    Ain’t Baseball Great?

  35. Kyle J

    September 11, 2006 at 10:36 am

    Tom Gage has an interesting note on swinging at first pitches:

    That’s twice Guillen has swung at the first pitch in this game with no results to show for it and I can certainly see your point about taking a pitch, but so often the best pitch these guys are going to see is the first one – here are the numbers to prove it (the batting averages of tonight’s lineup when they put the first pitch in play this season) Guillen, .406 Ordonez .326 Pudge .427 Monroe .417 Granderson .489 Casey .424 Thames .317 Inge .333 Infante .515 That’s why they like the first pitch

  36. Bob S.

    September 11, 2006 at 10:40 am

    Kyle,I don’t see anyone jumping the bandwagon here.It’s only fair to question who this team is-the one we watched the first 4&1/2 months of this season,or the one we’ve been suffering with the last 10+ years.You have to admit,what we’ve seen lately isn’t encouraging.Who’d of thought that Polanco was such a lynchpin of the Tiger offense that his absence would precipitate such a slide?For all Scheffield’s skills,he’s never impressed me as a guy I’d want on my team-plus,he’s 37 years old coming back from an injury.Soriano,sure,and Nick Johnson,as someone mentioned in a previous thread,is intriguing-a left hand hitting first baseman.Bonderman’s dropoff is puzzling-maybe it’s as simple as resting him a start-if my memory serves me correctly(always a risky proposition at my age),second half declines are somewhat characteristic for him.

  37. Nick

    September 11, 2006 at 11:19 am

    Kyle, that’s a terrible statistic. It’s bad enough to only look at when they put the pitch in play (what are their batting averages when they put the 2nd pitch in play, for example?) but most players will have good BA’s when they swing at the first pitch, since you don’t usually swing at the first pitch unless it is a good pitch (at least not if you want to stay in the majors for very long).

    How do those numbers compare to other players in the same situation. .326 for Magglio, .317 for Thames, and .333 for Inge sounds terrible to me (that is just my gut reaction without looking at any actual data).

  38. Jeff

    September 11, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    Batting average isn’t the relevant stat for comparison, it’s on-base percentage. After all, if you put the first pitch in play it’s neither a strikeout nor a walk. And a team’s typical OBA is something like .340.

  39. Nick

    September 11, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    That’s only partly true, because there is an opportunity cost to swinging at the first pitch or taking it. That .340 OBP occurs when the count starts at 0-0, but if you take the first pitch the count is always either 0-1 or 1-0 (never still 0-0), which will decrease or increase the expected typical OBP. So the break even OBP after putting the ball in play on the first pitch may be higher or lower than .340.

    Either way, just looking at the sample sizes involved with the Tigers players makes me think it is irrelevent because they are way to small to draw any usefull conclusions.

  40. Kyle J

    September 11, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    Yes. I agree that the BA stats need more context/analysis. For the guys hitting above .400, though, that has to be a significant stat. We know that batting average on balls in play tends to hover around a fairly narrow range. My guess it that an average over .400 on the first pitch has to at least balance out the downside of being in an 0-1 count if you don’t put the ball in play.

  41. Kyle J

    September 11, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    Also, a good portion of the time, you’ll be in an 0-1 count even if you don’t swing.

  42. Coach Jim

    September 11, 2006 at 2:11 pm

    That stat says “put the ball in play” not “swing at the first pitch.” Add in all the times they swung and missed and see what the averages are.

    Note: anything less than 100 is too small a sample to be relevant.

    Another note: when I played, I ALWAYS took a strike, but I don’t think you can do that at the major league level anymore. It seems everyone can throw 96mph nowadays. Go back to the 84 Tigers and there aren’t many pitchers that could hit 90. Morris topped out at 93-94; Petry was more like 90-91; Rozema had a fastball in the LOW 80s; Hernandez might have touched 90. Lopez and Berenguer may have touched 91-92 and were considered fireballers. You don’t consider Todd Jones a hard thrower, but that’s what he throws today.


    I want to create a new batting measure stat, call it…Success Rate. Include ALL the plate appearances and divide successes by total PAs. Successes would include:

    hit by pitch, catcher’s interference, etc.
    safe on error
    any out that intentionally advances runners (all bunts, sacrifice flies, even flies that advance runners that don’t score)
    Oh, and a fielder’s choice would NOT be a success like it is for OBP.

    On-base percentage is misleading because all sacrifices count against you. And I’d like to see those at-bats where a G4 that advances the runner from 2nd to 3rd counts FOR you somewhere besides the manager’s memory.

  43. Nick

    September 11, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    Kyle, the sample sizes are so small that hitting .400 in 70-100 AB’s is basically meaningless, and again they better see improved performance when they are putting the first pitch in play because they aren’t forced to swing at the pitch. We know BABIP hovers around a narrow range, but does BABIP on the first pitch hover within the same range, or a much different range? I’d be willing to bet the later is true.

    A FC is not a success in OBP, it’s an out and it counts against you the same way it does in BA. Also, while sac flies count against the batter, sac bunts do not. This is because a sac fly is mostly a random event, while a sac bunt is intentional.

    G4 that advances a runner from 2nd to 3rd doesn’t count for you because it’s not actually a good thing (just better than some of the alternatives). You could count the number of times they occur and call it a swinging sacrafice or something, but I’m not sure anyone would actually care. I do agree that OBP could include advancing on errors. It doesn’t make much difference to the end result though, since errors are infrequent and the biggest factor in determining the number of times someone reaches on an error is batting right handed.

  44. Kyle J

    September 11, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    Hmmm. Again, I agree that analysis of the pros/cons to swinging at the first pitch is complex. I do wonder, however, why anything good the team does is the result of a small sample size (back to the debate about DY’s performance after he came back) while anything bad the team does is the result of some fundamental flaw that is going to occur perpetually until the end of time.

    I’m as big a fan of high OBP as anyone, I just think:

    1) Taking the first pitch is not going to automatically result in high OBP. Eventually, pitchers will start throwing fastballs down the middle of the plate (like they did to Shelton) and you’ve just put yourself automatically one strike behind in the count.

    2) We don’t have hitters naturally prone to getting walks. Hopefully, this is something that will be corrected going forward. (And, of course, we should have doubled Abreu’s salary to come to Detroit, right Jeff M?) For now, though, I don’t think you can chalk all our problems up to swinging at first strikes. I suspect our hitters haven’t changed much in their approaches from the first 120 games of the season to the last 30.

  45. Nick

    September 11, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    I’m not sure where you are getting the “anything good…anything bad” part of your complaint from. I’m simply pointing out that having high BA’s when putting the first pitch in play isn’t exceptionally meaningfull in the context you provided. I’m not even saying swinging at the first pitch is a bad idea (it isn’t if it is a good pitch you can hit hard). I’m saying the statistic used to show why they swing at the first pitch isn’t telling us much. It is a sample size issue whether it is a good thing or a bad thing.

    Obviously you can’t just take every first pitch, you just have to make sure you swing at good pitches when you do swing at the first pitch. The Tigers problem isn’t that they swing at to many first pitches, it’s that they swing at to many bad pitches (regardless of the count).

    Our approach at the plate is certainly part of the problem, and it has been part of the problem all year long. When we are pitching and fielding like the best defensive team in baseball, it doesn’t matter because we’ve got alot of power and can generate enough runs to overcome that. When our pitching and/or defense slumps a bit we’re going to have problems. That combined with a very tough part in the schedule leads to a rough month or so of baseball. I still think we’ll be fine, not only making the playoffs but also playing well in them.

  46. Kyle J

    September 11, 2006 at 5:33 pm

    The “anything good . . . anything bad” complaint isn’t directed toward you. I understand all the points you’re making. (Although it becomes very hard to analyze anything within the context of one season, if you need a statistically significant sample size.)

    My point is a larger one–that we take everything bad that happens and magnify it while ignoring anything good that happens. The stats on BA on first pitches put in play doesn’t necessarily prove anything about the overall approach. But it does point out that often times good things do happen on the first pitch.

    A week or so ago, Casey swung at a first pitch and flew out. Someone posted something complaining about it. Next time up, Casey swings at the first pitch and drives in a run with a hit. That, of course, goes without note.

    Absolutely agree that the Tigers are prone to swinging at bad pitches. I just wonder whether (1) this is really something new and (2) it can be changed.

  47. Chris M

    September 11, 2006 at 6:26 pm

    I looked at what percent of the time some teams put the ball in play on the first pitch:

    DET 12.2%
    NYY 11.8%
    CHW 12.2%

    Not much difference between the highest scoring teams and the Tigers.

    Individual players:
    Maggs 17.0%
    Pudge 16.4%
    Granderson 7.8%
    Inge 7.4%
    Shelton 6.6%

    On the Tigers at least, the people striking out the most tend to not put the ball in play on the first pitch.

    But like others have said, the Tigers problem is that they can’t seem to tell the difference between a good pitch and a bad pitch.

  48. Chris M

    September 11, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    What’s most frustrating to me is when a Tiger is at the plate, its early in the count, the pitch is right down the middle and he watches it go by. Then the next pitch is in the dirt, a foot off the plate, and he swings and misses. None of the Tigers seem to watch for a good pitch to hit, at least not consistently. I wouldn’t mind if more Tigers struck out looking on a borderline pitch, if it meant they were being more aggressive with pitches that were good to hit.

  49. Anthony

    September 11, 2006 at 10:10 pm

    Do you thiink they’ll replace the hitting coach after the season? Maybe that is a problem.

  50. stephen

    September 11, 2006 at 10:30 pm

    hey, anyone know how many teams have blown 10 game leads with only 50 games left? i’m thinking the 78 red sox. others?

  51. billfer

    September 11, 2006 at 10:40 pm

    Kyle and Chris, thanks for posting the information from Gage and the followup information. I do have the same issues as Nick in terms of it not really representing what Gage is trying to present though.

    I did a couple of quick calcs for Monroe and Granderson where I looked at their batting averages without strikeouts (which is essentially what Gage was measuring). Granderson was at 370 and Monroe was at 349. So at least for those 2 batters, there does appear to be an advantage to getting the first ball in play. Now of course sample size rears it’s ugly head, but it is safe to say that for a handful of guys on the team, swinging early hasn’t been detrimental so far.

    I’d also agree that the number for Inge, Thames, and Ordonez are hardly compelling.

  52. Kurt

    September 11, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    Stephen, 50 games out boston led by 7.5. They led by as many as 14 was it? in July. I don’t know if that makes them better or worse than what we’re staring into. But no use getting worked up either way right now.