Game 2009.148: Tigers at Twins

PREGAME: Well, you have to score to win. That “duh” statement looms large with the Tigers being shutout Friday night and facing Carl Pavano this afternoon. Pavano of course has shut down the Tigers in each of 4 starts this year. He’s been good enough that he’s thrown 30.1 innings against Detroit. You’d hope that would be enough for the hitting coach to build a competent and executable game plan for the Tigers to follow.

Justin Verlander had a light day his last time out when he threw only 104 pitches. He did allow 5 runs though in his 7 innings as he was bitten by a one winning offensive outburst. It’s an affliction he’s suffered too many times this year (against the Mariners, the Angels, the Orioles, etc). He’ll likely have to be near perfect today.

Detroit vs. Minnesota – September 19, 2009 | Gameday

POSTGAME: I waited several hours to write the postgame in hopes that I could paint a game story that would make sense. Yet nothing about this game made sense.

Somehow Verlander was charged with 5 runs in this game. The mystery isn’t the actual mechanics of assigning runs to pitchers, but the line did not resemble the performance. Verlander was terrific and deserved a much better fate. He did his part as the ace, but you can only pitch around so much lack of run support and dome weirdness.

Offensively the Tigers had hits, but they didn’t really hit Pavano. Somehow the Tigers managed 11 singles without really putting the barrel on the ball. Ground ball singles and bloops, it’s all part of the Metrodome experience but the Tigers still haven’t figured out Pavano. Still, they had their chances and the 2 runs wasn’t close to enough.

Then there was Leyland. He did not have a good game and pretty much every decision didn’t work out.

  • Using Don Kelly as a defensive replacement when he has all of no experience in the dome will be deservedly questioned.
  • Verlander being left in to face Kubel when he was past the 120 pitch mark and Bobby Seay was warm can be questioned. Though Kubel didn’t exactly crush the ball it’s a move that will be second guessed.
  • And pretty much every other move he made of didn’t make will be questioned as things turn south for a team at the the absolute wrong time.

81 thoughts on “Game 2009.148: Tigers at Twins”

      1. No, I’m serious. Until they tie us I’m not worried.

        Seasons go in ebbs and flows and I think that this “low” is about over. I mean just think about it. Lets say we split these two games which is pretty realistic. Then we have 13 games left and have a 3 game lead, with 7 and home and 6 on the road. Lets say we win ~7 of those games which is ~ our season’s winning%. That is pretty conservative and would put us at 86 wins. For the Twins to get to 86 wins they have to go 10-3 after they go 1-1 over the rest of this series.

        You’re telling me that the Twins are going to go 10-3 to tie us? Thats nearly a .780 winning%. I’m sorry I just don’t buy it, especially with their rotation and Justin going down.

        It’s possible, but not likely at all.

      1. I take the lets wait and see. Sure it is easy to overreact, especially if you’re in the “what have you done for me lately boat” but, until they’ve tied us I see no reason to panic.

        Plus, what is that going to do? Either the Tigers win it or they don’t. I’m not on their roster, the players who play have to get hot, or at least some of them do. Even IF they were to take a massive dump on the field the next several weeks and blow it, I wouldn’t stop being a fan.

        Usually the better team wins over the long haul. I think the Tigers have a better group of guys AND a better team than the Twins. If they lose it’ll be sad, but I’ve learned not to base my life around them. If they win, I’ll be ecstatic, if they don’t it isn’t worth getting all upset since you have basically no control.

        I’d like to see them win very much. They’ve only been to the playoffs one time in my lifetime (2006), and it was a sort of vindication for my passion for the team. Going through so many losing seasons has taught me that in order to remain sane not getting too upset over losses especially when we are still in first place is a better strategy.

        Forget about it and try to win tomorrow.

  1. I agree. Today’s the day that we (finally) see the real Carl Pavano, not that imposter who been inhabiting his body when we’ve seen him before this year.

    Plus we have Nate coming back tomorrow. If he manages to stay off the DL for at least six innings, we could take 2 of 3 easily. Then exhale.

  2. If it was the Sox chasing the Tigers, I don’t think I be nearly as concerned. But the Twins have been the bane of our existence ever since 1987. I’m just hoping that the end of the Super Bouncyball Dome will be the end of this curse. One unnoticed factor in flukey Twins luck is the fact that they haven’t had to face Zack Greinke all season in four series’. I swear that the Dome is a curse on the Tigers… Superstitious, I know… but…

    1. Assuming Greinke pitches vs. Boston on Tuesday, he should go against the Twins next Sunday. You’d think the Royals wouldn’t skip him, since they’re trying to get him a Cy Young, which is all they have going for them at this point, but considering how the Twins do seem to catch some breaks, they’ll probably avoid him in their two remaining series vs. KC.

    2. I’d be more concerned if it were the White Sox. They have more pitching threats. Plus with Peavy returning, and the recent history.

      Long term history against the Twins is well just that. Also, I don’t know any Twinkie jersey from 1987 currently playing.

      1. It does not matter. It is the dome. That place is a curse for the Tigers. I can’t wait for next season when there are no more MLB games in that miserable place.

  3. Here is my proposed lineup for today:
    Raburn LF
    Everett SS
    Huff DH
    Ordonez RF
    Inge 3B
    Granderson CF
    Thames 1B
    Avila C
    Santiago 2B

    Yes, it’s sillier than all–OK, well almost all, I forgot some of the Josh Anderson lineups–of Leyland’s. But it’s based on career OPS vs Pavano (PA in parentheses):

    .714 Granderson (14)
    .532 Polanco (39)
    .875 Ordonez (8)
    .258 Cabrera (12)
    .817 Inge (12)
    .334 Laird (12)
    .762 Everett (22)
    1.000 Raburn (6)
    .765 Huff (17)
    .600 Thomas (10)
    .000 Guillen (9)

    I don’t have much hope for Polly, considering the .539 with 39 PA. And when you add the .258 Cabrera vs Pavano to the Cabrera lifetime Humpdome OPS (.648) i don’t have great hopes for him either.

    The other reason for posting this is the high probability that now that I have, Polanco and Cabrera will combine for about 10 RBI and make me look dumb, which I would just love…

  4. Watching the game tracker. Guillen did not see a strike during that last AB.

    Although the 3rd strike has been called both ways. The 2nd “strike” was way outside.

  5. Darn Fox and there national games was engrossed in the MSU ND game but it is nice to see at least some runs up on the board considering last night

  6. Apparently we’re indeed seeing the real Carl Pavano today as I predicted. Hittable, mediocre stuff. Unfortunately, it’s also the real 2009 Tigers when it comes to stranding RISP.

  7. I’m sorry. Leyland is an imbecile. Why is he so afraid of the the frickin’ squeeze play when Laird and/or Everett come up?????????????

    It’s just inexcusable.

  8. Yeah I’m also enjoying the “national” blackout of the game that’s not available here..listening to the audio while watching USC on their way to losing isn’t the worst though..

  9. It’s just a shame that there is no accountability for Leyland’s stupidity like not squeezing w/one out, bases loaded, and your deadest stick at the plate . . . or subbing a LFer in a dome who hasn’t seen more than 10 innings of play this year.

  10. Kelly play/decision is inexcusable but it never should have come to that. Ge was lost when guillen left a small army on the bases and the laird gidp.

  11. And…now he’s given up. Not only is he an idiot, he’s a quitter. Don’t bother hitting Raburn or Thames for Granderson or anything.

    1. To cost the Tigers the game/the division/the season. If it comes down to that, it may all come down to that play.

  12. This collapse is unreal. Evry second 1/2 half under leyland. So glad he was extended. We will go 0-7 vs the twins in sept.

  13. I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. Hopes of avoiding the sweep rest on the offense scoring more than a couple of runs and Robertson giving at least 5 quality innings.

  14. All season long Leyland has been using Rayburn and Thomas in late innings for defense. So why in the world he put Kelly, who to the best of my knowledge hasn’t played in the dome from hell before, in such a critical situation and series is beyond me!?!

    It’s such a catch-22 with Laird b/c he’s stellar behind the plate defensively but .220 hitters really have no place in a starting lineup 5 out 7 days a week.

    1. Laird is what he is. You can’t knock him because he is so valuable behind the plate. But you CAN ask him to bunt to get the run in, and maybe even possibly for a base hit.

      Here’s the difference between Leyland and Gardenhire. If Nick Punto would have come to the plate in the exact situation, he would have squeezed, and likely one of the Tiger’s infielders would have thrown away the ball at a close play at first and two or three runs would have scored.

      1. The only problem I have with your squeeze complaint is that you have the forceout with the bases loaded. Also, who was at third, Huff? A slow guy + bases loaded = much lower chance of success.

        1. I know there is an element of risk for those reasons. But in my mind, that’s all the more reason… make them try to make a play at the plate — it puts the pressure on the defense. Also, weighed against the prospect of a double play (or an infield pop up — Laird’s second favorite ball to hit) I still feel it’s more probable to execute the squeeze successfully than to avoid the GIDP or infield popup.

          1. I don’t post often; I share the frustration with the lot here. However, a squeeze w/ a force is a pretty easy defensive play, particularly with Ms. Huff at 3rd. What we should be able to expect is Laird hitting behind the runners and not pulling a pitch on the outer half. Furthermore, a professional hitter ought to know what the defense is giving and what is needed. He needed to lift the ball and avoid the GB. I realize he is tough to double up, but he did not execute which is why he is hitting 220.

            The squeeze in that spot would have to have been a suicide, but yes, the Tigers suck and so does Leyland. Career 500 manager and in game decisions stink. He’s probably great in the clubhouse and knows how to work with players, but he cannot manage a game.

      2. The squeeze should never be an obvious call, if it were it wouldn’t work. It relies on surprise. Do you know where the corner infielders were playing when Laird was up? I have no idea because Fox didn’t show it. Laird has never been afraid to bunt on his own when the 3rd baseman is back. Plus with the runners on base as Jeff mentioned, it wouldn’t have been a smart play if the corners were in.

        1. just wondering – has anyone ever heard of a guy getting thrown out on a suicide squeeze where the bunt was laid down? that would be hilarious to see.

        2. Thanks for the link. Fox didn’t show where the infielders were playing nor suggest or discuss the possiblity. I wasn’t sure how they were defending Laird. I though this was odd because Rod usually always mentions the suicide squeeze in situations like that (he was the calling the game for FOX), and FSN Detroit always analizes the defense.

          I am more confident in Laird’s ability to lay down the perfect bunt than I am in his ability to avoid the GIDP or infield popup. But perhaps that speaks more to my confidence in him up at the plate in that situtation than it does to the risks of executing the play successfully.

  15. The tigers have had every chance to nail the division shut. I can’t think of one team in all MLB that could have possibly flubbed up their chances to win their division, given they were in the Tigers position two weeks ago. I’m extremely disillusioned with Leyland right now. He seems to be a deer in the headlights. Even the games we’ve won have been late inning heroics where the team was fortunate to win/had little business winning.

    #1. When bases are loaded, and your team just can’t seem to get that big hit, and when your best sacrifice guy/worst guy to get the ball out of the infield comes to the plate, for God’s sake, man, lay down the bunt. Get the run in. Make THEM make the play. Keep the inning alive. Employ your best odds to get a run, extend the inning, and employ your best odds at possibly putting up a crooked number. That’s how you win games (unless you have a lineup like the Yankees — where maybe the squeeze isn’t the best play). It’s just so elementary I can’t even begin to fathom what the hell is going through Jim Leyland’s mind with some of the decisions. (Maybe he thinks Gerald Laird is Jorge Posada, or even Joe Mauer? I dunno. I’m just at a loss).

    #2. Refrain from using a AAA player in high-pressure late inning quasi-playoff situations as a defensive substitute. Let me rephrase: DO NOT use a AAA player in high-pressure late inning quasi-playoff situations as a defensive substitute. Keep your veteran/everyday player in and make them make the plays. For the record: If you refuse to play Raburn, Carlos Guillen isn’t horrible in left.

    I’m not going to second guess the decision to keep Verlander in. It just happened to fall the wrong way with that decision — but for the love of God, Gerald Laird couldn’t drive home Miss Daisy let alone a run with a runner on third less than two outs, force at every bag. That has inning-ending double play written all over it.

    It’s almost like the Tigers/Leyland WANT to lose the division. This team is all over the road. They have almost no chance at avoiding the sweep. THIS was the game we needed to win, and the manager found a way to lose the game.

    End of rant. Good night.

    1. I agree with most of your post, especially about Kelly – not bc he’s a bad outfielder, but bc he was put in a situation he’s not accustomed to.

      Keeping Verlander in was absolutely the wrong move. Kubel has a 1000 OPS vs. RHP (including .955 vs. JV), and 6-something vs. LHP. That’s about as big a split as you’re gonna see except maybe Granderson. Seay and Ni have a much better chance of getting Kubel there. Though with Cuddyer’s HR, Kubel’s at-bat didn’t change the outcome. Just utterly inexcusable.

  16. That’s why you pinch-run Wilkin for Huff–which I thought he would do right away, like he has several times in the last few games…even have him steal a base or so, since he seems to be the only guy on the team who maybe can.

  17. I think Leyland thinks because he got lucky using Alexis Gomez in the WS three years ago and the guy “ran into one”, he’s got the magic touch.

    Uhhh, Smokey, that was luck in 2006, not genius.

    Putting Gene Kelly in an unfamilar dance in this kind of game is just asking for it. The ball, the roof, the whatever it is always finds the weakest link.

  18. But all this is academic until there are many more empty seats at Comerica. Illitch is a businessman, plain and simple. If he had any honor or competitive spirit, he would have been at that game today in MN, walked in to the clubhouse and DD’s box office carrying little pink pieces of paper, and walked Mr. Pall Mall and the man w/three titles to a one way bus to a cheap hotel in the downtown Motor City.

    Really . . . it’s just a game. We get upset when an overpaid roster has a Halloween party on the plane to MN when they should be focusing on how they can come out of a series w/more than a one game lead. The players don’t care, Leyland doesn’t care, and Illitch won’t care as long as those old turntyles keep turning. But he knows that baseball, unlike Hockey, is STILL America’s pastime, a family event that a lot of non-baseball regs frequent a couple times a year, dish out a lot of cash for snacks, beers, and stroll thru the gift shop on the way out . . .

    Mr. Illitch, you obtuse piece of flotsam, if you are reading this, nice product from April to Sept.

      1. Yeah, who cares that they had a party on a plane?

        I also don’t get these “I can see it in their eyes, they have no fire!” comments on here.

        There’s no reason to think these guys aren’t trying.

        1. They are trying. They just aren’t producing.

          The Tiwns are also trying. They ARE producing.

          Read into that what you will.

  19. This series, and the previous one, have been disasters. It’s hard for me though to really see what past seasons, with different rosters, have to do with it.

    The frustrating part of this game for me was that if Old Smokey just followed his same old, predictable, SOP–pinch running for Huff, Raburn to left, Clete to right for defense–they would probably have won.

  20. Actually now that I think of it that might have really freaked out the Twins and given them an edge for tomorrow’s game…

  21. Near as I can tell, my team is still in first place. That they continue to be there is what matters. How it happens, with all the ups and downs, is what makes it fun and exciting.

  22. A couple things responding to things that have come up repeatedly. I think we’re reading too much into the emotional state of the team. I just say this because there isn’t anything close to agreement in the comments.

    If the team is tight, then wouldn’t that imply they do care? If they didn’t care would they be tight? And if they were tight would they be having fun with the rookie hazing? And I really don’t know that “heart” results in a ball finding a hole. Did Orlando Cabrera have heart when he hit a routine fly ball to left field? Is that the difference?

    1. Good point. What kills me is Cabrera thinking he was clutch when he got to 2B and when he scored. He it an effing routine popup and he carries on like he did something great.

      Did anyone catch Kubel’s wink at Verlander when he was pulled? Verlander looked over at him on his way off the mound and Kubel winked. I hope Verlander said, “Nice hit, Sally” or something to that effect.

      I think the handwringing over Kelly being in there has some validity to a point. Does anyone think catching a fly ball is difficult for a guy who is paid to so and probably has been doing so since he was 10? Also, do you think it was the first fly ball he saw this weekend? I’m sure he got a ton of work in that crappy dome during BP.

      I know he shouldn’t have been in there, especially since he was pinch hit for in the 9th, which makes Leyland’s move even more dubious. Verlander made two good pitches on Cabrera and Kuble. Cabrera pops out and Kubel gets jammed on a 98 MPH Fastball and flares it to LF. It wasn’t like Verlander was out of gas and made mistakes.

      But the stat that showed opponents hitting almost .330 lifetime off Verlander when bases are loaded was a bit disconcerting. Someone made the point LaRussa would probably have known that because him and Duncan have those gigantic scouting notebooks in front of them.

      Leyland has cigarettes.

      1. “I think the handwringing over Kelly being in there has some validity to a point. Does anyone think catching a fly ball is difficult for a guy who is paid to so and probably has been doing so since he was 10?”

        My problem isn’t with Kelly. I think he’s fine in the OF. But you don’t put a guy in the metrodome who has played only two games out there in his entire life.

    2. Several things

      1) In situations like we had today (so many base runners so few runs) part of the credit has to go to the opposing team. We aren’t playing robots. Give them some credit.

      2) Situational/clutch hitting relies on finding holes and swinging at pitch you know you can drive. Sometimes guys get overanxious and too aggressive and GIDP or fly out on a pitchers pitch – which we saw several times tonight.

      As far as the pitching, I think you’ve got to let Verlander go after them, but once the guy has a high pitch count and it is late in the game and he allows a base runner or two it is about time to yank him and put in a guy like Seay. As good as Lyon has been lately, he allows too much contact in a situation like that, in that wacky place. I thought that could be categorized in the “dumb as h3ll move” category by Leyland.

      Anyways lets see what happens in the finale.

  23. I didn’t get to see the game; I was coaching my little league game. From the comments here, I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve always thought that Jimmuh makes some bizarre decisions. I gotta agree, throwing Don Kelly into the HHHM-dome with the game on the line seems…desperate. Sometimes Smokey gets lucky with these kinds of moves. Even when he does though, I’m not fooled by the results. A dumb move is a dumb move. Sparky used to day “your manager can’t win you games, but he sure as {heck} can lose ’em for you.”

    What happened to the bats Lloyd?

  24. Bill, why don’t you just manage the team? You think you know everything so why not? “Putting Kelly in will be questioned.” You are the master of hindsight. So sick of know it all Tiger fans… you know who you are.

    1. Pablo, what specifically do you disagree with? I’d like to hear a substantive argument – your insights could contribute to the discussion.

    2. Why come here and say something like that?

      There is prevailing wisdom of what to do and what not to do from those who have watched baseball play out year in year out and also those who study it as a science – be it in math/statistics or psychological or both.

      Instead of resorting to ad hominem attacks on the author of this site and some unnamed followers, why not directly attack what is said. For example talk in ideas vs. bashing the person who brought it up. It only serves to either infuriate the person and results in a counter attack back, or have everyone ignore you.

      I assume you agreed with Leyland’s decision then. Why not provide any sort of reasoning as to why you think he was right and Bill was wrong?

      To be honest with you, I know myself I’ve seen a lot of things play out and in game stuff I’ve been able to “call”/ accurately forecast many results, much more than most anyone I’ve ever met.

      Call it a snobbish attitude or self confidence but, I know in my case at least in this area it is somewhat deserving. I’ve been told personally by too many people IMO for it not to be the case. Sure I’ve been wrong – no one ever is perfect.

      You are right that in hindsight things are 20/20 and you will never know if he actually thought that the Kelly switch was a bad move when he realized he was subbed in or only post game.

      Anyways you’re entitled to your opinion, and if you want to bash the know-it-all Tiger fans go ahead. My suggestion is to either not read the posts here if you don’t like it, or to attack ideas. Usually attacking someone personally gets you nowhere.

      Hope that helps at least a little, if not oh well. It’s past my bedtime. Goodnight.

    3. Woah. Read again what I wrote. I didn’t say Leyland was an idiot. I didn’t even say he made bad decisions. I said his decisions didn’t work. That is completely different. I also said he decisions would be questioned which is more a function of the team losing than the decisions themselves. That may be more me being the master of the obvious rather than the master of hindsight.

      Managers can make bad decisions that work out, they can make good decisions that don’t work (and I when I say bad and good I speak in terms of logical decision making that increase the team’s odds of winning based on years of empirical data). There are a lot of decisions that aren’t so clear cut in the good or bad category (and those are the ones that spark the most debate in places like this). I’ll usually try to present both sides of a decision and where there is sufficient grey area I rarely call a manager out and instead I’m thankful I don’t have to make the decision.

      A couple weeks ago Leyland gave Joe Maddon a managerial ass-kicking where every decision he made, even the ones that were questionable, worked. It hasn’t been working that way for the last couple weeks. I don’t do name calling, I don’t say he sucks, and typically I’ll defend him more than bash him.

      BUT if you’re going to call me out, which is fine, please do me the favor of actually reading what I wrote. That’s all I ask. And in terms of being a know it all. I’d never consider myself a know-it-all, but I’m glad that you think I am.

  25. History Lesson:

    2006: The team had a 76-36 record and a 10-game lead on August 7th, they then went 19-31 the rest of the year and lost the division (getting swept by KC at home to end the season).

    2007: The Team had a 59-38 record which was the best record in baseball and a 2-game lead on July 23rd. They got swept at Chicago in a double header the next day on route to a 29-36 finish.

    2008: After a horrible start, the team climbs back to a 52-49 record on July 23rd. They were within 5 games of the White Sox. A blown save by Todd Jones against the White Sox starts a 22-39 run to end the season.

    2009: Tigers win 6 in a row and on 9/6/2009 hold a 7-game lead on Minnesota. A 3-9 record including 1-5 against the Royals in the next 12 games leaves the Tigers a mere 2 games up.

    Much like the button from the Truman show, I find myself wondering “How’s it going to End?”

  26. I understand all the frustration…I even vented a bit last night. But I’m 39 and caught my 1st Tigers game at Tiger Stadium in 1984. I was all of 14. Three years later the Twins ended the 1987 season. Between that year and 2006 we never had a chance to second guess the managers or complain about line ups or substitutions etc. As nerve racking and agrravating as these guys have been this year, I’m glad to say that for 3 of the last 4 years they have a winning record and are playing some meaningful baseball right now.

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