Game 108: Tigers at Indians

PREGAME: Anyone else still tired from last night? Hopefully Justin Verlander went home early and got a good night’s sleep. The Tigers used 10 innings worth of bullpen last night and need Verlander to be more efficient than his 110 pitch, 4 inning outing against the White Sox. The Tigers bullpen presumably consists of Freddy Dolsi, Joel Zumaya, and Clay Rapada who was activated with Todd Jones hitting the DL.

On the other side it will be Fausto Carmona. Carmona didn’t make it out of the 3rd before surrendering 10 baserunners to the Twins in his first start off the DL.

DET @ CLE, Thursday, July 31, 2008 Game Preview –

Game Time 12:05

POSTGAME: No offense to speak of. Verlander throwing oodles of pitches. Tigers pitchers combining for 6 walks and 2 HBPs. A pretty crappy end to the series.

This is 2 bad outings for Verlander in a row. Is this a blip, a bump? Are his mechanics bad? Is it a result of the heavy workload he’s carried this year? A bigger topic woth a deeper dive I suppose.

A little Pudge appreciation

When I was driving home last night shortly after the trade came down, I was listening to WDFN. I was more than a little taken aback by the number of callers saying good-riddance to Ivan Rodriguez. While there may be something to that in terms of evaluating the trade, there also seemed to be a glaring lack of recognition for what Tigers fans had the last 4.5 years. They had the pleasure to watch one of the best in the history of the game day in day out and he was wearing the English D.

For the last half decade Tigers fans have had a sure thing first ballot hall of famer playing for their team. This is a good thing. It’s a rare thing. It’s something that needs to be appreciated.

Not everything was pretty with Pudge. He had his superstar foibles. The absolute refusal to take a walk in 2005 and 2007 was maddening. His pouting and petulance likely played a role in dividing the clubhouse in Alan Trammell’s last year and shouldn’t be excused or forgotten. But greatness doesn’t come around that often, and it is even rarer that it comes to teams who threaten the all time loss record.

I know that Pudge came where the money was, so I don’t know how much credit he deserves for coming here. But he did come here and that is pretty special regardless of the circumstances. He also probably gets more credit than he deserves for leadership and handling of a pitching staff. After all, he didn’t even warm-up the starter in the bullpen before games leaving that to the bullpen catcher.

We didn’t see Pudge at his peak, but we did see him when he was still pretty good. He had a phenomenal 2004 season including the month of June when he hit .500. There was the big walk-off homer against the Indians in 2006. There was the extra-inning walk off hit against the Red Sox in 2007. And there were all the baserunners cut down and even more that didn’t try. We saw a guy with over 2000 games caught who can still hit nearly .300 and run the bases like a 28 year old second baseman.

I make a point to keep a mental checklist of all the great players I’ve seen in person. I know the times that I saw Roger Clemens start (steroids or not he’s phenomenal). I remember the time I saw Barry Bonds in person, and the games where Ken Griffey Jr. came to Comerica. And I appreciate every time the Yankees come to town because Alex Rodriguez is a remarkably rare talent. Pudge Rodriguez is in that class. There were problems for sure.  However, he’s the best catcher by far in my lifetime* and I got to see him play for MY team wearing the home whites. And that’s pretty special.

*Okay, Johnny Bench played in my lifetime but he was at the end of his career when I was old enough to discover baseball.

Todd Jones to the DL?

Hey, what do you know? Another injured Tiger. This time it looks like Todd Jones, who has been bothered by a sore shoulder for 6 weeks, may hit the disabled list. I’d guess that the move would be calling someone up from the minors.

Tigers Minor League Wrap 7-30-08

Indianapolis 2 Toledo 1
Jeff Larish went 2 for 4. Yorman Bazardo went 8 innings with 4 K’s, no walks, and 8 hits in 8 innnings.

Erie 4 Akron 3 (10 innings)
Dusty Ryan homered. Wil Rhymes, Jeff Frazier, Ryan Roberson, and Santo De Leon each had 2 hits. Danny Christensen struck out 6 and walked none in 6 innings.

Tampa 5 Lakeland 6 (10 innings)
Ryan Strieby went 4 for 5. James Skelton was 1 for 3 with 3 walks. Alfredo Figaro made his Lakeland debut and allowed 5 runs, but only 2 were earned, with 4 K’s, and a walk in 5 innings. Rob Weinhardt pitched 2.1 innings and fanned 2 allowing 2 hits.

West Michigan 7 Quad Cities 2
Christopher White was 3 for 3 with a walk. Ronnie Bourquin, Jordan Newton and Joe Tucker all had 2 hit games. Jon Kibler scattered 10 hits over 6.2 innings so only 2 runs crossed the plate.

West Michigan Quad Cities (in progress)

Oneonta 2 Aberdeen 4
Brandon Douglas went 2 for 4. Billy Nowlin and Angel Flores each homered. Matt Hoffman allowed 3 runs in 5 innings with 3 K’s and a walk. Anthony Shawler surrendered 1 run on 3 hits, 1 walk, and 4 K’s.

GCL Blue Jays 0 GCL Tigers 1 (suspended)

Game 107: Tigers at Indians

PREGAME: Cliff Lee is one of the best in the AL this year. Nate Robertson has been one of the worst – at least in terms of ERA and hits allowed and batting average allowed.

Sorry it’s a short post today. There’s some other news going down

DET @ CLE, Wednesday, July 30, 2008 Game Preview –

POSTGAME (scene from the National Spelling Bee)
Moderator: Please spell Excruciating
Sweaty Genius Kid: Could you please us it in a sentence
Moderator: The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians game last night was excruciating
Sweaty Genius Kid: Excruciating. E-x-c-r-u-c-i-a-t-i-n-g. Excruciating

I guess you can say the Tigers stole one last night. Nate Robertson was awful and only a game ending after 5 hours prevented me from dumping a bucket of vitriol all over Nate. But I got tired and decided to write the post game the morning after. I’ve mellowed.

The pen was, um. Well they only allowed 4 runs in 10 innings of work. And they worked really hard. They threw lots of pitches. Rodney got spanked. Jones got spanked. Fossum nearly got spanked. Seay was a little shaky before becoming a stud and fanning 5. Basically the bullpen for today’s game consists of Joel Zumaya and Freddy Dolsi (only 11 pitches). So if Farnsworth joins the team in time it would be helpful.

But now for the really good: The offense was excellent. Yes, they left some scoring chances on the table in the late innings, but I can’t knock an offense that scores 14 runs. There had to be some timely hits in there somewhere. Special acknowledgment for Miguel Cabrera who is kinda good. Also, Curtis Granderson had 5 hits. Four of them came on opposite field 2 strike singles, and 3 of those came off of left handers.

While the game itself was down right maddening, the multiple comebacks were sublime. And the fact that the biggest part of the comeback came against one of the best pitchers in baseball this year just makes it sweeter.

Pudge traded for Farnsworth

Pudge Rodriguez for Kyle Farnsworth? My first reaction was, and who else did the Tigers get? Rodriguez is having a fine season, and there are teams that are really looking for catching help. Besides the Yankees, the Marlins had also inquired and were turned away. In other words it was kind of a sellers market for the Tigers. If he was going to get moved I anticipated it would be for prospects, or something better than the 2 draft picks they would have secured had Pudge declined arbitration. When the return was a non-elite relief pitcher I actually felt ill. After a few moments of reflection though I feel a little less queasy.

Brandon Inge becomes the full time catcher now and he has an of .758 this season (I was actually surprised to see it was that high). Meanwhile Pudge carries a .755 OPS, but with a .295 average. On a starter perspective it’s surprisingly a push. Of course catching depth has been obliterated and there is a huge drop off when the back-up – presumably Dane Sardinha – enters the game. There’s also the issue of whether or not Inge can hit while catching.

As for Farnsworth the Tigers needed bullpen help and he’s having a nice season with a 8.73 K/9, a 3.45 BB/9 (still not that great). But the guy has allowed 11 HOME RUNS THIS YEAR. His 3.65 ERA is buoyed by a 94% LOB rate – far higher than at anytime in his career.

In terms of the other elements of the trade, both players are free agents at the end of the year. Pudge Rodriguez was going to be a Type A free agent meaning he’d bring back 2 draft picks. Farnsworth was a Type B last year, and would likely be one again this year meaning they’ll get 1 draft pick. So they give up a draft pick in this deal presuming both players were to get offered arbitration and declined. The Tigers save a couple million in the process as Pudge was out earning Farnsworth by about $7 million this year.

Farnsworth kind of fills a need, but not that well. The Tigers don’t take a huge hit in terms of production and aren’t giving up on the season. But my issue is that I think the Tigers could have done better for Pudge. He’s having a good year at a hard to fill position. Factor in the loss of a draft pick and it’s not good. No young player coming back? Not awful, but Dave Dombrowski failed to maximize Pudge’s value. Yankees win this one easy.

Tigers Minor League Wrap 7-29-08

Indianapolis 3 Toledo 5
Kody Kirkland homered twice. Timo Perez doubled twice. And Clete Thomas singled twice (plus he walked). Chris Lambert went 7 innings and allowed 3 runs on 4 hits, a walk, and 4 K’s. Clay Rapada got the 2 inning save fanning 2.

Erie 11 Akron 5
Casper Wells hit for the cycle with 5 RBI. Wil Rhymes went 4 for 5 and was missing the homer to complete his cycle. And a bunch of guys got 2 hits each. Lauren Gagnier allowed 4 runs on 8 hits in 6 innings.

Lakeland 7 Tampa 0 (in progress)
I’m guess this one was delayed since it’s only in the 4th as I write this. But James Skelton homered and tripled, so that’s noteworthy. Jonah Nickerson is throwing 1 hit ball through the first 3.

West Michigan – PPD. But check out this story from Andrew Hess and his hotel experience.

Oneonta 10 Aberdeen 5
Bryan Pounds homered and singled. Billy Nowlin went 4 for 5. Hayden Parrot, Wade Lamont, and Mike Gosse all had 2 hits. David Stokes allowed 3 runs on 9 hits, a walk, and 6 K’s in 5 innings.

GCL Tigers 5 GCL Blue Jays 3
Alexis Espinoza was a triple shy of the cycle and picked up 4 RBI. Luis Palacios was 3 for 5 with 2 doubles. Victor Larez struck out 5 and allowed only 3 hits in 5 innings. Brandon Hamilton allowed 4 hits and 3 unearned runs in 2 innings.

Game 106: Tigers at Indians

PREGAME: After a lackluster effort the Tigers can hopefully muster some offense against Matt Ginter. You may remember Ginter as a former Tigers pitcher and an accomplished banjo player. The Indians picked him up and he’s allowed just 3 runs in 2 starts with no walks.

Armando Galarraga takes the ball for Detroit. He had that whole perfect game thing going on in his last start against the Royals. I was hoping he’d get it just so I could see if he was capable of smiling. He’s faced Cleveland twice and has 10 K’s against 2 walks in 12.1 innings.

DET @ CLE, Tuesday, July 29, 2008 Game Preview –

Whipping boy powers activate
Whipping boy powers activate
POSTGAME: The Whipping Boys came through again tonight. The triumvirate of Edgar Renteria, Gary Sheffield, and Brandon Inge all had 2 out RBI doubles tonight, and Inge added 2 run homer as well. Actually every one had a hit or two tonight, but those 3 came up with 7 of the 8 RBI. Considering Chris Guccione’s dynamic strike zone everyone fared well.

Armando Galarraga fared okay, but wasn’t quite as sharp as his past outing – which would be quite tough to do in all fairness. The bullpen kind of got the job done, but man – those freakin walks.

Why look elsewhere for bullpen help?

One area where the Tigers have been rumored to be shoppers is the bullpen. It’s a situation that has been exacerbated by Todd Jones’s failures, Freddy Dolsi’s shoulder fatigue, and Joel Zumaya’s tricep issues and general control problems. But why don’t the Tigers look inside the organization? After all this is a team that used its first 4 picks in the 2008 draft on college relievers. Shouldn’t they be able to take advantage to bolster the pen?

While first round pick Ryan Perry just started pitching in games last week, other members of the 2008 class have been pitching for several weeks with considerable success.

Rob Weinhardt, the 10th round pick, has put up the most sparkling numbers and he’s done it at Lakeland. Going into today he had allowed 2 hits, a walk, while fanning 21 in 15.1 innings. He’s joined in Lakeland by 2nd round pick Cody Satterwhite who has pitched 4 scoreless innings with 6 K’s while allowing 5 baserunners.

Farther down at West Michigan 3rd rounder Scott Green has a 1.00 WHIP in his 9 innings with 7 K’s, 1 walk and 8 hits allowed. Fourth round pick Brett Jacobson sports a 3.07 ERA in 14.2 innings with 13 strike outs against 3 walks.

If you want someone with more experience, Casey Fien caught Leyland’s eye this spring and has a 2.96 ERA in 45.2 innings at Erie (he was just promoted to Toledo) with 42 K’s and 12 walks. His only blemish is that he’s a fly ball pitcher with 5 homers in 45.2 innings.

Or there is Chris Lambert who has been starting with some success for Toledo. He has a 3.42 ERA and a 97:41 K:BB ratio in 118.1 innings. I don’t know if he can start, but the Tigers will likely be adding him to the 40 man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft regardless so why not see if he can help now?

Now the trouble with all the previously mentioned guys is that they are right handed. But Clay Rapada is still toiling in the organization and has a 2.70 ERA for Toledo and has fanned 28 in 20 innings.

I’m sure that Dombrowski and company are aware of what is in the system. But in my mind if you make such a concerted effort to draft college relievers, a big part of the value is that those arms should be close to big league ready and their value is enhanced by being able to contribute quickly. If none can contribute then I question the selections. I don’t question the scouting, because quite frankly I’ve never seen these guys pitch and I’m far from qualified to do the assessment anyways. But it doesn’t mean I can’t question the philosophy. Combine that with a lefty specialist who seems capable of the role and I can’t figure out why the Tigers would give up anything of value for what would likely be a nondescript bullpen arm.

Game 105: Tigers at Indians

PREGAME: Holy craftiness Batman. Kenny Rogers and Paul Byrd. That’s 80 years worth of pitcher doing battle tonight.

The Tigers fresh off a 3 game road trip to Comerica Park play a Cleveland Indians team that is showing some signs of life. Since the last time these two teams hooked up, the Indians have been average nearly 6 runs per game. But now that the evil that is Casey Blake is gone, that should work in the Tigers favor.

Rogers pitched well against the Royals his last time out before rain cut his outing to only 6 innings. Rogers has only faced the Indians once this year, and recorded a 7 inning quality start no decision back in June.

Paul Byrd is kind of a middling pitcher against teams that aren’t Detroit. He held them in check his last time out, and only made one start since then, a 5.1 inning, 9 hit, 1 walk game against the Angels.

Gary Sheffield sits tonight, and Marcus Thames is your DH with Matt Joyce playing left field. And Todd Jones is your closer while Fernando Rodney recuperates from his 42 pitch outing yesterday.

1. Curtis Granderson, CF
2. Placido Polanco, 2B
3. Carlos Guillen, 3B
4. Magglio Ordonez, RF
5. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
6. Matt Joyce, LF
7. Marcus Thames, DH
8. Ivan Rodriguez, C
9. Edgar Renteria, SS
DET @ CLE, Monday, July 28, 2008 Game Preview –

Game Time 7:05

POSTGAME: Not many nice things to say about this one. The Tigers came out aggressive and were trying to jump on first pitches their first time through the order. Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, and PUdge Rodriguez hit balls well to the opposite field that first time through, but it resulted in no hits. The offense drew a couple walks the second time through making Byrd work a little, but they still couldn’t mount a rally and in the end mustered all of 4 hits. If there is a silver lining scouts watching Byrd may be enticed enough to take him off the Indians hands.

Kenny Rogers was good for the first 5 innings, but was hammered in the 6th and knocked out after 2 homers and 3 runs.

Todd Jones out as closer

Jim Leyland hasn’t been shy about making changes to established roles this season. He quietly announced a big one on the radio pre-game show with Dan Dickerson when he said that Todd Jones is out as closer and Fernando Rodney would primarily assume the role.

It had become clear over the last couple weeks that Jim Leyland was losing confidence in Todd Jones. Leyland announced a couple weeks ago that he was going “to watch him” speaking more about his usage and indicating that Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney would receive some opportunities. In Baltimore he let Joel Zumaya pitch a second inning to try and get the save instead of Jones.

On Friday night Aquilino Lopez was warmed up and at the ready if Jones started to unravel – the type of move Leyland would NEVER make in the past. We all remember a certain game in Cleveland last year where Jones didn’t have it, got hammered, and Leyland refused to get anybody up in the pen. Jones blowing the Friday game after coming so close to securing the win was apparently the last straw.

Even with 2 blow-ups, Rodney has been the Tigers most effective reliever since coming off the DL*. Since June 16th Rodney (and not counting today) has thrown 14 innings and has allowed 8 walks, 10 hits, and he’s fanned 12. Over the same period Todd Jones has thrown 14.1 innings and allowed 22 hits with 2 walks, 4 HBP, and only 4 K’s. (And if you were wondering about Zumaya he’s gone 16.1 innings with 16 hits, 15 walks – ouch, and 16 K’s)

*Actually Bobby Seay probably deserves to hold that title. Over the same span he’s allowed just 6 hits and 6 walks in 12.1 innings with 13 strike outs. Why are the Tigers looking for a lefty reliever?

Rodney is much maligned though among Tigers fans. I attribute it to the fact that he wears his hat crooked. And when he blows up he really blows up. Still he is capable of extended periods of dominance – like 2006 for example. Or even last year after he returned from the DL and allowed all of 3 hits and 4 walks in his first 11 games back while fanning 17.

Now there are questions about this move. Primarily what role does Todd Jones play? He can’t be brought in to tough jams. Does he fill the Aquilino Lopez role of keeping a deficit from expanding, or eating an inning or two with a multi-run spread? And second there has to be concerns about Rodney’s health. He looks great at the moment, but he’s missed big chunks of the last 2 years and a 45 pitch outing today probably isn’t the best strategy.

I like seeing Rodney get the opportunity, and I like the willingness of Leyland to make a move. Stubborn is a difficult tag to hang on the skipper this season in that he’s tried a number of things. I think Rodney will probably fare okay, but be ready for a different type of rollercoaster. Jones would take you through highs and lows in any given outing but would typically get the job done in most outings. Rodney will wow you sometimes and kill you other times. It’s a matter of inter-outing rollercoaster versus intra-outing rollercoaster.

UPDATE: The Detroit News has some audio with Todd Jones. He says all the right things, but the guy is crushed. And yes, he’s struggled and the move is the right one to make, and he’s a professional, and he gets paid millions of dollars, and he’s made some questionable comments in his columns. I know for all those reasons people aren’t supposed to feel sympathy, but I can’t help it. I do.

Game 104: White Sox at Tigers

PREGAME:Here’s where I fess up a little. I’m writing this in the past so I don’t know what happened last night. So I can’t provide much context. The pitching match-up is Zach Miner and Javier Vazquez.

Vazquez looked nasty earlier in the year when he dominated the Tigers leading to a Leyland tirade. Since then he’s been not nearly as good. In his last 8 he has a 6.39 ERA despite striking out a batter an inning. But he can still flash the dominance with 2 10 K starts.

Zach Miner will try to stymie the Sox the same way he baffled the Royals. I think this will be a little tougher task.

CHW @ DET, Sunday, July 27, 2008 Game Preview –

POSTGAME: This series felt so much like the Twins series. The Tigers coming off a good series and welcoming in a team they are chasing. A crushing come from ahead loss, a comeback (or two) that falls short, and suddenly the team is trying to avoid a sweep on Sunday.

For that reason Zach Miner’s performance was something special. The 8th starter in the rotation came up and and held down the Sox for six innings with no walks and 5 strike outs. A terrific game.

The offense hasn’t been a problem since the All Star break and after wiping out an early 1 run deficit, added on a couple more throughout the day.

Then there is bullpen flux. Joel Zumaya was supposed to pitch 2 innings and hand the ball to Rodney. Instead he pitched into his second inning before handing over the ball prematurely due to shoulder tightness. Rodney stuck around for the rest of the game, but struggled in the 8th and took all 3 hitters in the ninth to 0-2 counts, and then 3-2 counts, before striking each out.

Zumaya is presumably out for a couple days, and Rodney definitely can’t pitch tomorrow. So if need be the Tigers will have to scramble at the end of the game. At least they have a guy with some closing experience to hand the ball to if need be.

I’m not happy with the series, but I said going in as long as the Tigers don’t get swept they’d still be in OK shape. But it sure would have been nice to take advantage of one of the first 2 games.