Opening Day 2008 Postmortem

by billfer on March 31, 2008 · 39 comments

in 2008 Season,Game Post

Yes, it’s only April and there will be losses, but the Tigers let one get away today. The offense created opportunities, and the pitching was decent enough. But the pieces just didn’t come together. I’m not making conclusions based on what I saw today, but I did observe some stuff while sitting behind the left field foul pole.

  • The clouds covered up the flyover. You could hear it, but not see it. But, since that was the only weather related calamity of the day I can let it slide. It was otherwise quite comfortable.
  • Verlander looked quite sharp after the first innings. It took him 20 pitches to get through that first frame, and less than that to get through the next 3. I’ll be honest, I can’t judge stuff when I’m sitting in the outfield (and really even when I’m sitting other places), but the Royals looked uncomfortable.
  • The bullpen as a whole was OK. There’s no way you could reasonably expect Jason Grilli, or most other pitchers, to hold a one run lead with nobody out and runners at the corners. One of the runs was bound to score. Of course limiting to one run should have been within the realm of possibility.
  • I know he takes the loss, but I’m impressed with Denny Bautista. After a cheap ground ball hit it appeared he was going to unravel when he through 3 straight balls to Alex Gordon. But then he fired back to back strikes that tickled 101mph on the scoreboard gun leading to back to back strikeouts. I was actually hoping that Leyland would take him out after that inning where he should have been brimming with confidence.
  • Lead-off walks led to costly runs in two different innings. Once for Bautista and once for Verlander.
  • Todd Jones with a 1-2-3 inning in a non-save situation. That was nice.
  • The new guys – Jones/Cabrera/Renteria – combined for 7 strikeouts on the day. Miguel Cabrera had a homer, which is cool. At least that monkey is off his back right away.
  • Clete Thomas should be happy tonight. He makes his big league debut and doubles in his first at-bat.
  • The crowd seemed kind of dead today, and the stadium never really filled in all the way. Part of that may have been people in lines, and part of it may have been people staying at the bars rather than getting misted on (which it didn’t). The place only really came alive when Brandon Inge threw the bullet from the outfield.
  • Speaking of Inge, very nice game today. The throw was obvious, but he hit a couple balls well and took a walk. And on the diving play, he wasn’t close, but I also don’t know if he’s able to cut that off regardless – at least from my vantage point it didn’t seem a given.
  • And the other play in question, the ground ball in the hole between Renteria and Cabrera, I don’t know that he’s able to make that throw regardless. The Royals had some well placed hits (including the game winner). What are ya gonna do.

And that’s that. I hate the day after opening day.

 
 

{ 39 comments }

Matt in Berkley March 31, 2008 at 9:05 pm

Long time lurker, don’t think I’ve ever posted. Just filling in where Billfer didn’t have confidence in his vantage point (I’m behind home, Section 328).

Verlander looked pretty good, even during the 20 pitch first. Given the ever-changing strike zone today, I think he did pretty well.

From my seat Brandon wasn’t going to get that ball he dove for anyway. Just an unlucky fall (or hitting it where they ain’t, depending on how you look at it). The misplayed one-hopper he tried to barehand (seventh?) was a lot closer. Had he not fumbled it or gloved it and transfered he might have gotten it to Pudge in time to save the run. Have to say, that assist from the outfield was shades of Bobby Higginson- not quite firing a bullet from the warning track, but it was pretty sweet nonetheless.

Eric Cioe March 31, 2008 at 9:24 pm

You could tell on TV that Verlander didn’t have a whole lot of confidence in his fastball today. He struck out someone at 96, and sat at 93. The velocity looked fine but he didn’t control it well. But he more than made up for this with his curve and especially his change, which he threw an awful lot today. That’s the nice thing about having a real live ace – even on days when he doesn’t have his total A game, he keeps you in the ballgame.

By the way, billfer, what did you think of Sheffield today? He drew a bunch of walks. I read someone complaining about this over at MTS, which seemed ridiculous to me. “He gets paid to hit!” Yeah, but getting on base and extending the inning is good too, especially when you have Magglio and Cabrera hitting behind you.

Sam March 31, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Billfer,

I was there for as I have been for every CoPa opening day. I agree, the crowd was pretty dead. Opening day is a big party and the crowd never really gets into it like the playoff games. The lines were horrible everywhere. Took me almost 2 innings just to get rid of some beer in the mens room.

-Sam

Mike R March 31, 2008 at 10:03 pm

Anyone complaining about someone getting on base 4 times — regardless whether it’s a hit or not — befuddles me. Especially when two of the walks were worked when he was in the hole 0-2. Granted, Tim Welke helped him out by never really having a defined strikezone other then ‘somewhere in the direction of the backstop, but never the same spot twice.’

Inge definitely would not have gotten to that ball in the alley and if he just ran to cut it off it would’ve gone just as far. Just a gap shot, nothing he could do. His first two AB’s were a completely different sight to behold. Then he went back to chasing in one of his final AB’s.

Kathy March 31, 2008 at 10:43 pm

I sat at home and watched on TV. Kept waiting to hear loud roars when the players were introduced and didn’t really hear any. I also looked for the jets as the camera panned the sky, but just heard them. I agree with Leland that Opening Day is more of an event for fans. For once, Lamont should have held Maggs at 3rd but instead sent him home. They looked a little slow, but I’ll give ‘em a pass for today. Missed Grandy something terrible. Completely agree with Mike R regarding Sheff. Any way you can get on base, go for it.

Bobby March 31, 2008 at 11:08 pm

Sorry, I’m not letting Grilli off the hook.

I love and respect Leyland like no other in baseball. I believe the man will go down as one of the most revered managers in the history of the game.

However, his love for Jason Grilli has me absolutely stymied. What does he (or anyone else in the organization) see in this guy? Honestly, does anyone here think Grilli would make – much less stay on – a team like the Red Sox or Yankees? I mean, we were all witness to one of the biggest choke jobs in playoff history, throwing 12 straight balls to walk the bases loaded in the 8th in Game 4 of the ’06 ALCS. Has he really even proven anything since then?

Sorry – I’m very excited about this team. I’m terribly fond of almost everyone, with the possible other exception of Rodney. But Grilli is simply not the caliber of pitcher that will help this championship-level ballclub. I would HOPE he’s part of a move to bring in some lefty help.

David March 31, 2008 at 11:32 pm

Shef is paid to hit not set the table, the guy in the 3 hole is supposed to be your BEST pure hitter.

The problem I have with his walking is that is just what he would do last year, try and coax a walk from the umpire instead of slapping a double and scoring a run.

It worries me that he is unable to hit, and would rather the umps go on his eye and are nothing of the wiser

I’m a big fan of OB%, but today was a classic example of two many stranded runners

Oh and on the Leyland note, thumbs up for leaving in Jones for an inning, thumbs down (like Bill said) for not yanking Bautista after his inning in the sun so to speak

Grilli I think is better than most fans think, he hass got a very good fast ball, and thinking he is going to come into Verlander’s mess and clean up without any damage and 0 outs is kidding themselves.

Yea today was somewhat dead, probably because the lack of a rally and because of all the drunks, I’ve been to opening day since 2004(against Toronto and Roy Halladay – we won) and that was the best one by far IMHO

at least no more Kwamelicious or Gramcracker, Miss America was a vast improvement (although, I don’t know how much that is saying)

Another side note – the new batting helmets on the 1st/3rd base coaches look cool, hopefully no more deaths induced from a ball on the field (I wonder if umps will have to wear them next)?

Last side note

Trey Hillman managed quite well and did an excellent job showing that this Royal team might do quite well

David March 31, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Shef is paid to hit not set the table, the guy in the 3 hole is supposed to be your BEST pure hitter.

The problem I have with his walking is that is just what he would do last year, try and coax a walk from the umpire instead of slapping a double and knocking in a run.

It worries me that he is unable to hit, and would rather the umps go on his eye and are none the wiser

I’m a big fan of OB%, but today was a classic example of too many stranded runners

Oh and on the Leyland front, thumbs up for leaving in Jones for an inning, thumbs down (like Bill said) for not yanking Bautista after his inning in the sun so to speak

Grilli I think is better than most fans think, he hass got a very good fast ball, and thinking he is going to come into Verlander’s mess and clean up without any damage and 0 outs is kidding themselves.

Yea today was somewhat dead, probably because the lack of a rally and because of all the drunks, I’ve been to opening day since 2004(against Toronto and Roy Halladay – we won) and that was the best one by far IMHO

at least no more Kwamelicious or Gramcracker, Miss America was a vast improvement (although, I don’t know how much that is saying)

Another side note – the new batting helmets on the 1st/3rd base coaches look cool, hopefully no more deaths induced from a ball on the field (I wonder if umps will have to wear them next)?

Oh yea and Guillen should not have gotten an error, it either should have been charged to Miggy (which I disagree with but favor over Guillen) or probably just a runner interference – which it was, Miggy threw it and Gruz collided with Guillen at the same spot

Last side note

Trey Hillman managed quite well and did an excellent job showing that this Royal team might do quite well

Eric Cioe April 1, 2008 at 12:00 am

David, even if he put the ball in play, he only has a 30% chance that it doesn’t make an out.

Besides, didn’t he hit today too? So you can’t say he doesn’t hit. I’ll take a guy who gets on base 5 of 6 times even if 4 of those are walks over a guy who hits 2 of 6 times with no walks.

Mike R April 1, 2008 at 12:04 am

Jason Grilli’s final 28 appearances last season:

28 G, 41.1 IP, 35 H, 16 ER, 32 K, 16 BB, 3.48 ERA, .227/.305/.292 against him with a 1.23 WHIP. Yet, he never got any love coming down the stretch, even from his own manager who refused to turn to him late August when he was actually pitching well. Besides, who are the Tigers to turn to out of the bullpen? It’s not like he’s coming in continually over a Rodney or Zumaya like what might’ve been the case in prior seasons. And like Billfer said, runners on the corners and no one out is INCREDIBLY hard to get out of without giving up at least a run. With 0 outs, runners on the corners, the run expectancy is 1.904.

David: Regarding Sheffield’s walks vs. him hitting, he honestly wasn’t given much to work with. 1 or 2 of the 30+ pitches he saw in the game were on the inner half and him going the other way is not his strength. It’d be like asking a bunt from Miguel Cabrera or for Polanco to consistently drive the ball to the fence in the gaps — just not a strong point in the game. Sheffield, if fully healthy which he is, will hit. I’d say that the problem isn’t him taking 4 walks, it’s the fact that Cabrera, Pudge, Jones, Thomes, Inge went a combine 4-for-18 with 8 strikeouts. If anyone besides Guillen grabs an extra base knock at any point in the game, the Tigers probably win this.

Bottom line for me, if I can get a guy to get on base 4 times in a game, I’ll take it. There’s plenty of pop in this lineup. Besides, Carlos Guillen should be hitting 3rd anyways, in my opinion.

David April 1, 2008 at 1:52 am

I would have stuck him 3rd last year

This year if everyone were healthy Id have

Rentaria R
Polanco R
Guillen S
Maggs R
Granderson L

Shef R
etc.

or flip flop granderson and guillen

Inge did well today IMO at the dish(save for his final AB) even though he only got 1 hit – he got a walk and tagged another ball to the deepest part of the park

Anyone have any predictions for Maggs final season stats?

I know its all a shoot in the dark but assuming he is healthy would 120 RBIS be too much?

Keith in IA April 1, 2008 at 4:11 am

Tough loss. Still looking forward to a great season thanks to DTW and of course the guys wearing the Olde English D.

David G. April 1, 2008 at 8:48 am

I always love the “I hate this guy (Grilli, in this case), let’s move him for something we need”.

Great. So every team is clamoring to get the guy you hate and you think is incompetent? And we are better off dealing him then hoping he replicates his 2nd half last year, which was quite good. Give him time, I think he can be a decent situational arm out there, yesterday’s loss was not his fault.

I am probably more irritated at the time-honored failure to score a run from 3rd with less than 2 outs in the 11th.

Ryan in Brooklyn April 1, 2008 at 8:57 am

I think Sheff taking four walks from the three hole is a great omen for this season. The Royals got away with it yesterday. That’s not going to be the case most days. Pitchers are going to get punished by this lineup for issuing too many free passes. Opposing will have to pick their poison from Shef-Maggs-Cabrera-Guillen. You can’t pitch around all of them.

Today, we let one get away. 12 baserunners in the first 5 innings and only three runs. Most days should be better.

Rick G April 1, 2008 at 9:53 am

I’m not sure if anyone else wondered about this, but in the 11th inning, after Cleats Thomas doubled, was it the right play to bunt him over? I thought it was (especially with Inge at the plate!), but wanted to double-check it.

According to Baseball Between the Numbers:

Runner on 2nd, no outs = 62.5% chance of scoring run(s)
Runner on 3rd, 1 out = 66.1% chance of scoring

So it is the right play, assuming your sacrifice bunt is successful, which it was in this case.

By the way, bunting a man from first to second with no outs reduces your chances of scoring from 41.7% to 41.0%, not counting what happens if you fail.

Andy in Texas April 1, 2008 at 10:16 am

It would stand to reason if the 3 hole is a team’s best ‘pure’ hitter doesn’t get anything to ‘purely’ hit, he’s not swinging.

He’s there for a reason. No amount of pleading in the form of, “He’s paid to hit” is going to be sufficient.

Perhaps those folks saying that should add this word at the end of their refrain: “STRIKES”. I can hear them flip that a moment later if Sheff grounds out to the SS on ball four. “That’s ball FOUR, get to Maggs!”. Yep, you can have it both ways.

Further, anytime a team can get the opposing team’s pitcher deep into counts, thus shorten his stint on the mound, it’s a GOOD thing.

Blake April 1, 2008 at 10:49 am

Did anyone else who was there feel like Inge got the loudest ovation when being introduced?

adam April 1, 2008 at 11:12 am

Seriously? People are actually complaining about 4 walks!? A walk is better than making contact with the ball no matter who you are or where you bat in the line-up. Putting the ball in play doesn’t gaurentee results; A walk does. He even walked with the bases loaded if I recall….

People will always find something to complain about.

Ken from Cincinnati April 1, 2008 at 11:23 am

Trust me, nobody wants to produce extra bases and long balls on this team more than Sheffield. Why do you think he kept putting himself in pitcher’s counts early on in the at bat? He was trying to destroy everything close to the zone. Once he went 0-2, he simply refined his approach to be more selective and showed us why he has the best eye on the team. I felt like he knew how the pitch was going to be called before it was even thrown, and that’s a good sign for his mental focus this year. I’m looking for him to have a great season if he’s healthy. Hopefully he can help Cabrera’s eye a bit, because beyond the HR, Cabrera was wiffing on some pretty ugly pitches.

Chris in Dallas April 1, 2008 at 11:47 am

Haha. Of all the things I expected to hear people complaining about on the ol’ message boards, Sheffield drawing 4 walks was definitely not among them. The last time I checked, getting on base is a good thing…

David April 1, 2008 at 12:18 pm

I think you are missing my point

The reason that I am pointing this out is only for Sheffield and no one else

I value OB% highly, but in his particular case at least right out of the gate I would like to see him make contact and hit some balls and here is why

1) Injured on and off the last few years, most notably last year where in back to back months(August and September) he hit under .190

ie playing in pain when he shouldn’t have been – hurting the team on the field and keeping himself hurt when he should have been resting

2) He had a poor spring which leads me to believe that he could still be hurting

– if a player is hurt like Bonderman last year or Rodney last year and this year you somehow get them to speak up and bench them rather than watch their performance (and the teams) suffer,

it is a lot better for the player and the team (if other pitchers find out he is in pain then he will not walk 4x per game)

3) He is the DH and sitting the 3 hole, yes getting on base is fine and walking with the bases loaded great if you aren’t getting anything to hit, but he was – check out gameday

and the pitch he was walked on was at his knees right down the middle – ie a strike for most guys

The one time I heard him being interviewed in spring training he said something along the lines of -The key to the success of this lineup, scoring as much as his Yankees did a few years ago, is not letting anyone get complacent and not saying “Oh the guy behind me will just do it”

So why didn’t he practiced what he preached? (give it is only one game, but still he could have at least hit a single and drove in two runs)

The score was 1-0 at the time bases loaded 2 outs, he should have taken what he said to heart and tried to get it done, at least not taken that last pitch and instead foul it off to see if Meche would make a mistake rather than relying on Magglio

He was given quite a few right down the middle pitches that he did nothing with and went chasing after balls, and took some very borderline pitches that I’d venture to guess many other MLB players wouldn’t have gotten the same call

My guess is that he can’t hit right now, is still injured and by the end of April his “performance” will be similar to what it was at the tail end of last year

After one game and his ST that is my guess, it could be wrong, but he has me worried

AGAIN I’m NOT SAYING he is the reason we lost, I’m just worried that he could be hurt

Eric Cioe April 1, 2008 at 12:22 pm

Look at the end of his spring training, where he hit a few home runs. One of them was clocked leaving the bat at 150 mph. You can’t do that when you are injured.

Jeff April 1, 2008 at 12:41 pm

The biggest offensive problem this team has had, going back several years, is lousy pitch selection and low on base percentage. Sheffield’s refusal to swing at difficult-to-hit pitches is far preferable than Pudge’s “I ain’t gonna take ball 4″ approach.

Some people seem to think that batting is a game of Pong, where you’re supposed to block every pitch that might be called a strike with your bat. The famous Ted Williams photo with the baseballs with batting averages on them lined up through the strike zone is very instructive as to what strikes are best to hit.

There are numerous on-the-corner pitches which may be called strikes that hitters shouldn’t swing at early in counts because the likelihood of a grounder to first is high. With two strikes or down 0-1 the calculation changes.

When a hitter is given the green light on 3-0 or 3-1, it’s not “swing at any pitch that might be called a strike”; it’s “swing at a pitch if it’s grooved”.

Teams get 27 outs per game. Wasting them by swinging at ball 4 just to avoid walks is insane.

David April 1, 2008 at 1:45 pm

The most important pitch was when the bases were loaded with two outs, the count was 3-2, and he watched what should have been strike 3 float on by – right down the middle at his knees

Gary Sheffield is no Ted Williams, but I agree with your point, but it is useless in this case

He does swing at balls and does take strikes, but somehow gets some borderline pitches due the the umps relying on what seems his eye (giving him the benefit of the doubt)

Check out yesterday’s archived gameday

He did swing at balls and pitches he should have smacked early in the count and then decided to take some pitches

Eric I didn’t know that, maybe he isn’t injured, I sure hope so

Mark in Chicago April 1, 2008 at 1:58 pm

Crappy loss, we let too many opportunities get away. I suppose it’s a good sign we had so many guys on base, I would hope for better execution and results as we get 5-10 games in or so and players get their timing back.

However, it’s good to have a game thread and postgame wrap once again to chat in.

chris April 1, 2008 at 2:27 pm

personally i think we’re going to really miss curtis in the #1 hole, he’s an energetic player that really gets things going for us at the top of the lineup.

Bix April 1, 2008 at 3:41 pm

It’s one game — a frustrating one, for sure — but it’s one game. Sheff needs to be taking walks (if they’re handing them to him), if for no other reason than it helps work the other teams pitchers. With so many early swingers in the lineup (historically, though they say they’re working on that) it’s a huge help to make the opposition throw 4-5 extra pitches per at bat. Look at the way the RedSox and Yankees work the other team’s starter — Abreu, Damon, Youk, Matsui all are in the top 20 for PPA, while only Inge(?) is up there for us. On the NL list, Renteria is solid too, so having two guys at the top of the order (for now) that churn pitchers is a real asset.

Obviously, having him (or someone) on base when maggs/miggy/guillen hit their 80+ homers this season will result in 80+ more runs…and a half-run a game is no small potatoes.

Kevin in Austin April 1, 2008 at 5:05 pm

David is really getting hammered here. David – I want to say that I see your point, though I don’t agree with it. Yes, it would be nice to know that Sheff isn’t injured, and we all want him to be aggressive. But I’m pretty sure that Ted Williams himself would be pleased with a 4 walk day.

Having a day off after an opening day loss is absolute hell.

Sam April 1, 2008 at 5:35 pm

I am pretty proud of the fact that I have been to every Comerica Park opening day. I put together a spreadsheet of the lineups and summaries. We are 3-6 in home openers at Comerica and haven’t won since DY’s 3 HR show in 2004. Here are the worst players to start at each position:

C – Mitch Melusky (2002) – He even batted 5th! Mitch had all of 6 hits in his Tiger career!

1B – Chris Shelton (2006) – 1B and LF are the toughest positions to fill. Shelton has had the shortest career when compared to Tony Clark, DY, Carlos Pena, and Sean Casey.

2B – Ramon Santiago (2003) – Nothing against Ramon, and I could even see him starting at SS. But you know you may be headed to 100+ loses (actually 119) when he is your opening day 2B.

SS – Shane Halter (2002) – Actually I disliked the 2002 team and kind of liked the 2003 team. The 2002 team lost 106 games with old players who had received stupid contracts (Like Halter) where 2003 was just a bunch of kids who had some talent but weren’t ready. Halter was a HORRIBLE SS.

3B – C Paquette (2002) – See the Shane Halter comment.

LF – D Young (2003) – D Young is only on this list because they actually started him in LF!!! Come on, he belongs at DH or at best manning 1B

CF – Gene Kingsdale (2003) – Part of a trade from SD. Kingsdale never did anything with the Tigers batting .208 in 120 abs in his last major league experience.

RF – Jacob Cruz (2002) – AAAA player defined as he played parts of 9 seasons having a grand total of 176 major league hits.

DH – Billy McMillon (2001) – Did not have as good as career as Cruz as he only had 149 hits in parts of six seasons.

SP – Nate Cornejo (2004) – Got his last career win on opening day 2004. He had 103 strikeouts in 313 career innings which is a pretty mind boggling stat.

-Sam

Chitown_T April 1, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Did anyone else notice Jacque Jone’s approach yesterday. Seems a lot like C-Mo’s. This was one of the only real negatives I took from yesterday’s game. I fully expect JJ to be below the Mendoza line this year.

T Smith April 1, 2008 at 6:23 pm

I have no problem whatsoever with Shef taking the questionable pitches — some for strikes — but as long as they are mostly for balls. Yes, I agree, some of the balls yesterday should have been strikes. I was shocked at the ball four call that rendered a RBI for Shef intstead of an X.

In my estimation, the reason why it’s a good thing is because pitchers will have to alter their approach, so long as Sheffield is drawing walks. If Sheffiled is going to develop a keen reputation for having a ciscerning eye — which looks to be the case — pitchers are going to have to go after him and throw strikes to get him out. And I think once opposing pitchers attack the strike zone and challenge him with strikes, you will see Shef hit exactly like “he’s paid to hit.”

Brian P April 1, 2008 at 6:25 pm

I remember Rod or Mario saying it looked like Jones was trying to pull everything. So if he’s trying to find the left-center gap every at bat, then things will continue to be ugly.

Eric Cioe April 1, 2008 at 7:23 pm

Brian,

Jones is a lefty, so if he’s trying to pull it, it would go to right field, not left.

Kyle J April 1, 2008 at 8:22 pm

I think Sheffield drawing as many walks as possible is great for the offense. Best possible protection for Magglio and Cabrera is to have at least one runner on base when they get to the plate.

In the land of the theoretical, I’d do this, to put the top two OBP guys at the top:

Guillen
Sheffield
Cabrera
Magglio
etc.

billfer April 1, 2008 at 8:39 pm

Matt – thanks for the confirmation and welcome to the comments section!

David – if Sheffield is hurting I’d be concerned, but not frustrated with him for getting on base 4 times. I’ll admit I was in no position to judge the pitches, but that first walk prevented Meche from having an easy 1-2-3 inning.

Sam – Impressive record keeping, not so impressive lineup they put out there. Eck.

Kathy April 1, 2008 at 10:37 pm

Please, no complaints about Sheff today. He just sent me a 8×10 personalized photo of himself. I’m thrilled to death! If anyone’s curious, it’s at garysheffield.com. And, yes, I sure miss Grandy at the top of the order.

Kevin in Austin April 1, 2008 at 10:52 pm

Sam – great, great post. Thanks for taking the time.

Brian P April 2, 2008 at 10:30 am

Woops. I was even imagining the right-center gap when I typed that, but apparently my brain switched left-handed batter pulling to right field.

Angus April 2, 2008 at 10:37 am

Bilfer, Did not make Opening Day, but my first stop to get a feel for the day was at DTW. 2005 was the best year with Dimitri putting 3 out of the park. That was exciting. I agree that the crowds are getting worse. Keep up the good work.

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