Casey at the Bench

In the 6th inning of game 1 Sean Casey’s left calf muscle went all broken-rubber-band. He of course had to leave the game with Carlos Guillen assuming first base duties and Ramon Santiago taking shortstop.

It’s moments like this that make one question the decision to take 3 back-up infielders – none of whom play first base. Chris Shelton would be looking like an attractive option right about now.

Now the impact of Casey’s loss could certainly be tempered if Omar Infante were slotted into the starting shortstop role. Infante is capable of providing Casey-type offense and is slick enough defensively to compensate for Guillen. However, like when Polanco was injured, we know how much Jim Leyland is fond of Neifi Perez. Perez of course is a switch-batter (notice I said switch batter instead of hitter) and Leyland loves platoon advantage – even if it isn’t an advantage. I fear that Perez who is inadequate defensively and poor offensively will get the bulk of the playing time.

Now if the Tigers survive the ALCS and make it to the World Series, Chris Shelton could be added at that time. But he wouldn’t be replacing Sean Casey, he’d be replacing Ramon Santiago. Only one of Santiago/Shelton can be on the roster at a time because they are using the Tony Giarratano exemption as neither was on the 25 man roster until after September 1st.

39 Comments

  1. Jim

    October 10, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    That’s a scary prospect.

  2. Jeff

    October 10, 2006 at 11:57 pm

    That’s my fear too. Infante at short, Guillen at first.

    I’d sooner take the defensive hit and put Wilson behind the plate and Pudge at first rather than start Neifi.

  3. Marshall in DC

    October 11, 2006 at 12:04 am

    Guess we have to root for the Tigers Pitchers alittle harder.

  4. Marshall in DC

    October 11, 2006 at 12:06 am

    BTW – No way I pull Pudge from behind the plate. If we win this series it will be because of the tigers pitching, and a key part of that pitching is Pudge behind the plate.

  5. T Smith

    October 11, 2006 at 12:09 am

    Please, please say it ain’t so. There is something about Neifi Perez that summons the nightmare of 19-31…. It’s just horrible chemistry if he’s in there. Any other combo works for me. Pudge at first, Wilson catching; Inge at shortstop, Guillen at first… whatever. Just no Perez, ANYWHERE.

    Is Casey definately out? They were saying on Fox that it might just be a muscle spasm. Sometimes that might only bench a guy a game or two…

  6. Kyle J

    October 11, 2006 at 12:12 am

    I think we’d all prefer Infante play at SS until Casey can come back. But I can easily see Leyland going with Perez.

    What surprises me is that he inserted Santiago tonight. I assume this is because he viewed Santiago as being the safest defensive option with a big lead. Still, I’d rather have seen Infante (or Perez, if Leyland plans to start him tomorrow) get a few at bats tonight, as it’s been over a week since he would have hit against live pitching.

  7. T Smith

    October 11, 2006 at 12:27 am

    Typo…meant Infante at shortstop.. Whatever, just no Perez. That’s like having the pitcher up to bat, and we’re not even in the World Series yet.

  8. Walewander

    October 11, 2006 at 1:03 am

    Was it cause Santiago’s a lefty “hitter?” Casey is a blow, but I think we can survive.

  9. Cameron in Singapore

    October 11, 2006 at 1:06 am

    Please put Infante in at short…Guillen at first…It’s the only way that makes sense. Then if we get a lead in the late innings you can bring Santiago in for defense like they did tonight, if Leyland is really convinced that Infante can’t field well. But by all means, by any measure, no Neifi!
    It’s terrible that Shelton is not on the roster.

  10. Chris J

    October 11, 2006 at 3:11 am

    Sigh. What a disaster this is going to be. Santiago and Neifi both being on the playoff roster has no explianation and now the Tigers might well pay the price for another of Leyland’s strategic bungles.

    Leyland, great motivator and for team morale, but he really needs an assistant to strategize for him.

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  12. KS

    October 11, 2006 at 6:22 am

    I can’t see what the possible wisdom ever was in keeping 3 backup middle infielders. There’s not a realistic scenario that comes to mind where there would be a need for that. A decent bat on the bench would have been nice though, even if he can’t pinch run. I would have preferred Shelton but could have lived with Clevlen who suited at least a couple of roles. Which role do Santiago and Perez both serve? Amazing. Very happy with the win though, it’s still fun to gripe if possible.

  13. Sam

    October 11, 2006 at 7:41 am

    Biller,

    I think you are wrong, they could put both Shelton and Santiago on the WS roster. One would use the Giartano (sp?) exception and one would be replacing Casey (they get to make a move for that Injury also).

    -Sam

  14. Nick

    October 11, 2006 at 8:13 am

    I just pictured Neifi Perez starting for us tonight and I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

  15. Bob S.

    October 11, 2006 at 8:45 am

    Big mistake not having Shelton on the playoff roster.Leyland probably felt he needed a lefthanded hitter on the bench-well,a guy who can stand on that side of the plate,anyway.Shelton deserves to be there for the heavy lifting he did in the early part of the season when the Tigers established themselves.
    Interesting name came up in the broadcast booth during the game,good team guy,lefthanded hitter with some mileage left who could platoon in left field,probably come relatively cheap-Luis Gonzalez.

  16. Joey C.

    October 11, 2006 at 10:36 am

    Well, Let’s just hope Casey is just suffering a strain and can make it back into the lineup in the back-end of this series.

    This really is a more terrifying development when you point out that Neifi is likely to make regular appearances.

  17. J

    October 11, 2006 at 11:00 am

    It is not April guys…Shelton cant even make contact! Why in the world would he be a good option at 1st base? For the life of me, I dont understand the comments about what disasterous decisions Leyland has made. What are you talking about. They are playing their best baseball of the year right now. Every decision is working and the breaks are going their way. I for one and happy that Leyland is the manager and not Chris J.

  18. Jeff

    October 11, 2006 at 11:41 am

    I think people would be more comfortable about the situation if Leyland went with Infante instead of Perez. That’s the source of the concern.

  19. jim-mt

    October 11, 2006 at 11:41 am

    I too have become infatuated with Leyland. Nate starting was thought to be a bonehead move, but his winning made everything wonderful, with V, R, & B now pitching. I don’t like Nefei or Wilson much offensively or defensively, but if Leyland wants to bat Nefei clean-up, it probably would work right now.

  20. Chris Y.

    October 11, 2006 at 11:56 am

    Agreed, I had all but forgot about the terror that is Neifi Perez.

    But don’t you think that Leyland favored Infante down the stretch after Neifi got “hurt”? I am praying that’s an indicator of who plays tonight.

  21. Kurt

    October 11, 2006 at 12:09 pm

    Nate has been tremendous all season and was behind only Johan Santana in left-handed quality starts, has an ERA in the 3s, and like 6 of his losses came on quality starts. I don’t see how people could question that, myself. When it comes to Tigers pitchers, I always feel comfortable with Nate. Yeah, he was the weak link in the Yankees lineup, but he pitched better than the results. I look at his full season of work and think he’s fine.

  22. Pete

    October 11, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    I have to agree with “J” and disagree with the conventional wisdom (Billfer=CW) that leaving Shelton off the playoff roster was a mistake. Shelton hit .211/.286/.263 after rejoining the team in September. You can argue that the sample size is too small (21 plate appearances), but Shelton got a lot of ABs in May, June, and July, and his OPS was .703, .642, and .730 in those months. Shelton was left off the playoff roster because he is a liability offensively. The only thing Shelton would add at this moment is better defense and more comfort at first base than Guillen. I would rather have Infante or Santiago getting 3-4 ABs per game in this series than Chris Shelton. If Perez ends up playing, that’s another story (as much as I love Neifi), but in that case Leyland should be criticized for playing Perez over Infante and Santiago, not for leaving Shelton off the roster.

    Bottom line, we shoulda kept Carlos Pena, .190 BA and all.

  23. J

    October 11, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    I am with you Pete. I firmly believe that Neifi is a losing type of player. However, Leyland seems to like him (for whatever reason) and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to disagree with him at this point no matter how unconventional some of his decisions have been. For example, taking out Verlander in the middle of the at bat in Game 2 might have been the most important decision of the playoffs. It was something that no other manager would have done and it might have saved the season for the Tigers. Leyland just seems to really understand this team right now. I still think that leaving Shelton off the roster was the right decision.

  24. Nick

    October 11, 2006 at 1:33 pm

    First, lets not forget that Santiago is a worse hitter than Perez. Neither should be starting, but at least you can defend the Santiago decision by viewing it as a defensive upgrade at SS. Perez is a downgrade from Guillen (not to mention Infante) at SS and a downgrade from Casey in the batting order.

    Say what you want about Shelton, but he was no more of a liability than Casey at the plate from May-Sept than Casey was during his regular season with the Tigers. If September numbers were all that mattered, the Tigers would be going home right now.

    If Shelton hits like he did from May on, he is basically no worse than Perez offensively, and a defensive upgrade at 1B over Guillen (plus it prevents the downgrade of putting Perez at SS). Would he be a better choice than Infante? I’m honestly not sure, and if Leyland goes with Infante then none of this really matters. But going with Perez is basically indefensible.

  25. Jeff

    October 11, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    The decision to yank Verlander in the middle of the at-bat was unusual. It certainly wasn’t unjustifiable, as his final two pitches showed an obvious drop in velocity.

    The decision to start Robertson wasn’t even particularly unusual and there were strong arguments for it: it preserved the rotation and gave everyone else one extra day off. Robertson had pitched very well down the stretch, and he wasn’t afraid to challenge hitters. All he needed was some run support.

    A decision to start Neifi Perez simply cannot be justified in any way. The first two decisions were only hunches in that Leyland saw a couple decent options and took one that most of the experts wouldn’t have taken. But Leyland’s choices in those instances were based on some pretty solid evidence (Nate Robertson going up against Zito isn’t exactly Floyd Giebell vs. Bob Feller–but even the Giebell choice made sense as the Tigers only needed 1 out of 3 games, so why not sacrifice the first game?).

    Playing Neifi over Infante or Wilson has no basis other than a total hunch. I will be thrilled if the hunch works out and he goes 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI. But there are significantly better alternatives.

  26. Bob S.

    October 11, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    There’s no way that Perez AND Santiago should be on the playoff roster instead of Shelton.They’re the same player.Inasmuch as the A’s aren’t much of a threat to run,catching Wilson and playing Pudge at first seems an equally good option as putting Guillen at first and Infante(and not one of the 0/4 twins)at shortstop.

  27. Kurt

    October 11, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    Bob, allow me to say, I like the way you think!

  28. Walewander

    October 11, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    Neifi is starting. Good god in heaven.

  29. T Smith

    October 11, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    J–

    With all due respect–and with some agreement–Leyland does seem to have the Midas touch lately; but that has been his MO all year. He’s been golden, defies the odds, but then one really ridiculous decision seems to change the tide. In my view, Nefi Perez might just be that decision. We’re playing a chamption-caliber team. We can’t afford to turn the tide to another 19-31esq-like stretch. Cuz if we do, we’ll be losing this series in 5.

    I don’t mean to imply Leyland isn’t the man; I certainly don’t mean to start getting negative;Leyand’s been great and seems to have righted the ship. A lot of his decisions I agree and/or disagree with queitly, understanding I could be wrong and probably am most of the time, but no decision do I question with more zeal than I do starting Neifi Perez.

    This team has won with Shelton in the line up, this team has won with Infante in the lineup, this team has won when Pudge goes 1-14, this team has won when Inge is shut down for games at a time, this team has won with Wilson catching, this team has won with Ordonez in a funk; BUT THIS TEAM HAS NEVER WON with Neifi Perez in the lineup (Obviously, I’m not talking about winning one or two games; I’m talking about winning over a stretch).

    Call me paranoid, superstitious, whatever. We have NEVER WON WITH PEREZ IN THE LINEUP.

    I understand it’s a very small sample, but I still think there is something to that, and I for one don’t want to test the statistics

  30. Andrew

    October 11, 2006 at 5:34 pm

    Are we conceding tonight’s game by batting Perez 2nd?

  31. Bob S.

    October 11, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    I sure hope you’re being funny about Perez batting second.I can’t afford a new television right now.

  32. Joey C.

    October 11, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    Nick, I agree that a consideration of the team’s defense is key when looking at the current situation.

    Shelton had turned into a pretty good fielding 1B by the middle of the season. Obviously Guillen has ability with the glove, but I just don’t like seeing players work out of position–look at Sheffield in the ALDS. I would feel much more comfortable with Shelton on the receiving end of errant throws than I do with Guillen.

    And, yes, I do think the negatives of this situation are amplified because Leyland is likely to go with Neifi.

  33. Jeff

    October 11, 2006 at 6:19 pm

    Unfortunately, Bob S, Perez *is* batting second (check Knobler’s blog).

    Not only that, Alexis Gomez is DH’ing rather than Thames.

    Unbelievable.

  34. Pete

    October 11, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    Well, after five games of competent managing, the old Jim Leyland, the one who probably cost the team a couple victories down the stretch with his ridiculous lineups, is back with a vengeance. I will give him the benefit of the doubt as to Gomez and assume that Thames is sick or hurt or something, becuase Thames has played well in the postseason (pretty much all year, really) and I can think of no other reason why he would not play tonight. But Perez batting second is inexcusable. Obviously we all agree that Perez should not be playing over Infante, and probably not over Santiago either. Batting any of those guys anything other than ninth is ridiculous. Batting Perez second is an outrage. Just an absolute joke.

  35. Joey C.

    October 11, 2006 at 6:51 pm

    I know Brandon had a great game yesterday and Granderson has been great in the postseason, but imagine this scenario…

    Man on 3rd. Less than 2 outs. Inge, Granderson, Perez are the next three hitters. I’ve been frustrated with Inge and Granderson batting consecutively so many times this year–and now he adds this cherry on top?

    ARGGHH.

    Let’s hope Perez and Leyland prove us all wrong.

  36. Mark in SF

    October 11, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    I’m waiting for a comment about about how the Tigers don’t “deserve” to win if they’re dumb enough to bat Neifi Perez in the number-two spot. Can we see one of those comments?

    Look, I’m no Neifi Perez fan. (Anybody who is, or might have been, is probably not a visitor to this blog.) But why all the ranting and raving?

    We can all agree that losing Sean Casey hurts — he was a bigger force offensively and defensively than Shelton, Santiago, Infante, or Perez. That’s why he was recruited, and that’s why he was the starter in the playoffs.

    And we can all argue about which player should replace him. My preference is Infante, but to be honest, none of the three on the current roster are so spectacular that the choice is obvious.

    We can even argue about whether it was foolhardy to leave Shelton off the playoff roster. In retrospect, it certainly was. But you can’t predict things like Casey’s injury. If Polanco had reinjured his shoulder (a much more plausible scenario until yesterday), we would have been glad to have the extra infielders. It was a choice that looks extremely bad only in retrospect. It looked only marginally bad at the time.

    What makes no sense to me is to bash Perez and Leyland. Neifi Perez is not the reason the Tigers played poorly in August. And he won’t be the reason we win or lose the ALCS. It is true that Perez is a lousy offensive player, but let’s keep some perspective.

  37. T Smith

    October 11, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    Somebody tell me Perez ISN”T BATTING SECOND!!!

    This is just a joke, right?

  38. T Smith

    October 11, 2006 at 7:33 pm

    Mark in SF–

    With all due respect, I have to disagree. Of course he is not the reason why the Tigers played poorly in August–but he played a large (hitless, and useless) hand in a series of bad breaks and lack of production, all of which fed to the next in a big organic mess and contributed to a serious downward momentum.. with the execption of Inge and Pudge (during th ALDS), every Tiger has had a huge series or has contributed in a clutch situation. And now, it appears Inge is out of his funk and Pudge is coming around, too. We are hitting on all cylinders right now. If we bat Perez 2nd, and he goes 0-5, that’s just huge, and can possibly will cost us the game.

    I just don’t understand this move whatsoever. Hopefully, knock on wood, I’ll understand it a little better after the game tonight.

  39. Nick

    October 12, 2006 at 10:37 am

    One thing I do worry about is Guillen injuring himself at 1B. Playing 1B isn’t easy (it just doesn’t require a ton of athleticism), especially when you’ve been preparing to play SS and you don’t have alot of experience at the position. Losing Casey hurts some, but the reality is he was probably the worst hitter in our lineup. Losing Guillen would be a major blow.