Game 2010.023: Twins at Tigers

Way back in the early days of the season, the Tigers swept the Cleveland Indians. It was the last time they won a series. Granted, they did notch 2 splits on the road so it hasn’t all been bad. Today it will be Dontrelle Willis looking to edge out Carl Pavano.

Pavano had this bizarre mastery over the Tigers last year. Overall he had a 5.10 ERA last year. Against the Tigers it was 3.00 and he went 4-1 in his 6 starts. This year he’s pitching quite good against everybody though. He’s 3 for 4 in quality starts and has only walked one batter this season while fanning 17.

This isn’t an ideal match-up for the Tigers hitters, and it isn’t ideal for Willis either. Even with improved control, walks have still been an issue this year – just not a debilitating one. And the Twins are the only AL team to earn more free passes than Detroit.

Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers – April 29, 2010

55 thoughts on “Game 2010.023: Twins at Tigers”

  1. yeah, there’s being aggressive and there’s being foolish. Pavano has thrown 13 pitches COMBINED in the last 2 innings.

  2. Early returns, sample size, qualifier, qualifier, qualifier…. BUT

    List of thing the majority of the fanbase was wrong about:

    1. Granderson for AJax, Coke and company was a bad trade.

    AJax may still end up hitting .250 or whatever, and he won’t match granderson’s power, but he seems to get on base, run well, and play great D. He’ll also save a boatload of cash over the next 3-5 years.

    2. Valverde and Damon are mistakes and too expensive.

    Both fit major needs and are playing up to their talent. They’re worth every penny and don’t require a long term financial committment.

    3. Robertson should be starting instead of D-Train

    Robertson, despite pitching in the NL, has a higher ERA and WHIP than D-Train at the moment, even with Dontrelle’s poor relief performance coming of illness.

    4. Sizemore should be hitting near the top of the lineup instead of Jackson.

    I imagine they’ll both have their ups and downs but right now the results say its clear Jackson is a better fit hitting there (though I imagine Sizemore would see better pitches in that slot.)

    5. Guillen is injury prone and this team needs another big bat in the lineup.

    OK, no one was wrong about THAT one.

    Number of people in fanbase mad about being wrong:

    1. 1. Granderson for AJax, Coke and company was a bad trade.

      I don’t know that very many people felt that way (they may have, but I never knew about it). And those that did believed it was a bad trade simply because Granderson’s stature as a fan-favorite and contributor in the community. Outside of that, though, you’re very correct in the way you summed up the deal.

      2. Valverde and Damon are mistakes and too expensive.

      This one (at least in Valverde’s case) is still probably true. Valverde is a good reliever who has certainly helped shore-up the back end of the bullpen. The problem is, he’s still only a reliever who’s true value in terms of wins and losses is insignificant compared to starters/position players. Couple that with the fact that the Tigers were essentially bidding against themselves and I think a pretty good argument could be made for that being a poor deal. Either way though, he’s certainly helped and the Damon deal still made a lot of sense.

      3. Robertson should be starting instead of D-Train

      Personally, I think it’s a toss up. Dontrelle has certainly performed admirably so far this year (and quite a bit lucky, as well) but I still think Nate would have had the better year. It’s a question to come back to near the end of the year and reflect on, but frankly, your guess is as good as mine as to who’s better. D-Train was good today though, and it was great to see.

      4. You’re right. Haha, no quibbles with that one.

      5. Guillen is injury prone and this team needs another big bat in the lineup.

      Guillen is injury prone, and this team might need another big bat soon, but right now they’re absolutely raking. Getting on base at a fantastic clip, getting a ton of extra base hits (not HRs, but doubles anyways), and scoring a decent amount of runs. The issue right now is pitching, but that could change as the season progresses and Jackson and Co. start regressing and getting less lucky.

      1. 1. A LOT of people were very turned off by the Granderson trade. It may have been an emotional reaction, but people used all kinds of performance arguments to justify why they were against it. DD was getting killed for this deal.

        2. Maybe you’re right about Valverde being overpaid if you look at his performance as an individual. The way I see it though, youre willing to pay more if you have a major need. Valverde’s signing has a trickle down benefit that lets Perry and Zumaya and the other relievers develop at an appropriate pace and avoid being overworked.

        3. Robertson may be better in the end, but Dontrelle has way more upside and I think thats why they kept him. I think the fan base is being risk-averse and prefers the known mediocrity (to put it kindly) of Robertson to riding the D-Train roller-coaster

        5. The hitting is fine so far but is being carried by the upper-half of the lineup playing over their heads. In the long-run 5-9 have to produce as well.

  3. OK, I know I’m going to jinx it, and when this all blows up everyone can blame me. But Dontrelle looks fantastic today (baed on my Gameday experience). Granted, it’s a Twins lineup without Mauer and Morneau, but he’s given up 2 hits and 1 walk with 6 K’s. 75 pitches through 5. Color me surprised.

  4. I’m worried about the strikeouts as much as the next guy, but A-Jax is winning us some ballgames.

    1. Granderson struck out just as much and batted 90 points LOWER. It’s nice having a real lead off hitter. This kid is talented.

      1. I was just going to add that we don’t have to deal with Granderson’s horrible platoon splits, either. They were killing us late in games since Leyland would never pinch hit.

        But then I looked and Austin’s platoon splits so far this year are pretty horrible too.

        His OPS vs. righties is 1.021 and vs. lefties is 0.345. What? Only 22 AB vs. lefties, though.

      2. As of right now, that’s all the result of being extremely lucky.

        That’s not to say that Jackson isn’t a talented kid — that much is for certain — it’s to say a BABIP of nearly .500 and a line drive rate of 35% are completely unsustainable. FanGraphs looked into his strikeout numbers recently, and he’s on pace to absolutely SMASH the strikeout record. Even if he regresses in terms of K% (and everything else, presumably), he’ll still strikeout too much for his lack of true power.

        All that said, he plays a good defensive centerfield and has a high enough walk-rate to be a very good player. He just really needs to cut back on the Ks so when his lucky numbers regress, he’ll still be a viable leadoff hitter.

          1. Haha, right. And 2 singles with at LEAST another line drive (I didn’t see his first single, so maybe two).

            I can’t even joke, though, the man is simply unconscious right now. If that K rate continues to drop, he could be a very good baseball player.

        1. Yes, there is widespread opinion in the sabermetric community that he’s extremely lucky right now. Did you know that he done this exact same thing last season in the minors. He had a .511 BABIP last April, a .468 BABIP last May, and a .465 BABIP last September.
          Coincidence? How can somebody be so extremely lucky 2 years in a row?

          There are 2 possibilities:
          1) Austin Jackson is extremely lucky two years in a row
          2) There is a huge flaw in this luck evaluation process

          He’s had 4 months in the past 2 seasons where his BABIP has exceeded .450. I’ve seen plenty of AB’s from him where his patience has been well beyond normal skill level. He’s picking cherry fastballs, like picking deliciously ripe cherries from a tree. If that’s luck… then he’s just extremely good at being lucky.

          Source to minor league splits – (click on 09 near splits)

        2. I’ll take your lucky numbers, Birchman, and see you with a kid who, with two strikes on him in one at bat, lays off a hanging curveball just out of the strike zone, a pitch that most impatient young hitters will swing themselves out of their shoes to crush but only fly out to right; watches another curve in the dirt, sees another off-speed pitch that fools him, keeps his hands and weight back, and smacks a worm-burner up the middle for an infield base hit. Then, with one strike and a man on, keeps his hands back again, waits, and delivers a sharp single to right field in another at bat. BAPIP doesn’t measure patience and keeping your hands back, seeing pitches and getting used to the strike zone. It is another statistic to discuss during and after the season. He is a very fine hitter. Much more polished than Granderson.

  5. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. MVP.

    Did anyone see Zumaya’s resurgence coming? Filthy.

    1. I always expect the worst with pitchers… But Zumaya looks GREAT this year! I think it’s safe to say that he’s regained his old form.

  6. What a great win! We took advantage of our few opportunities against a pitcher who was throwing really well; got a quality start from a starting pitcher (D-Train looked great!); only used 2 arms out of the pen (both of whom dominated); and closed out a winning series against the division leaders. What more can you ask for?

    This series really puts into perspective how important it was for the team to mitigate damage from what could have been a disastrous west coast trip. These guys are displaying a wonderful resliency. It’s great to see.

  7. Gorgeous. This team has spirit. Love the rookies. And I love seeing Willis getting it going. It’s always distressing to see a talented, good person struggle as he has. Of course my ticket package included Tuesday’s game, from which I am just thawing out!!

  8. Looking Good today, I’m heading out for a Willis Jersey tonight 😉

    I hope we Thump LA coming in on Friday. Twins are at Cleveland, lets hope they can get it together.


  9. Great series win after the way Liriano completely shut us down Tuesday night. The team is showing a lot of character in April. Four or five gutty-type of comeback wins, with the latest being last night’s Houdini act after getting down 6-1 in the 4th inning. Of course as soon as Verlander and Porcello get it back together, the bullpen will disintegrate (the pessimist in me always reigns supreme).

  10. Willis now has as many wins as any of the other regular starters. Who would have predicted that? (5w-7l)

  11. Awfully quiet in here tonight after a great win. D-train throws a gem, LEADS the team in ERA, and crickets….hmmm….Outside of Keith, most everyone on this blog was calling for DD’s job for the Robertson send-off. My thoughts then were if we could get a good quality game, especially against the Twins, from Willis I would be happy. Color me happy boys! Really, with Galaraga throwing well down in Toledo and so can replace Willis if he melts down, everything from here on out from Willis is gravy. Furthermore, that Granderson deal looks terrible still doesn’t it….for the Yanks! Granderson, 2 homers, .230ish and about ready to be platooned. Jackson, .330, stellar defense, stealing bases, causing havoc, not bad; Coke, shutting teams down, 1.30 ERA and dropping, not bad. Coke really impresses me. First chance to see the boys on the television last night, and his two-seamer with the sinking action at the end to righties is something fierce.

    1. I expect to see a bit of regression out of Willis before too long. He was not terribly accurate or efficient today, so it seems like he easily could have given up a few runs today. I’m ok with that, though. If we get anything close to a league average performance out of Willis in most of his starts, I’ll be thrilled. As long as he can hang in there and not disintegrate, I’ll gladly take it.

    2. “Outside of Keith, most everyone on this blog was calling for DD’s job for the Robertson send-off”

      You realize that you get no points for exaggerating, right?

      Willis is a welcome surprise…but it is a SURPRISE, like out of nowhere. IF you called it, then great, but it was far from a lock and he continues to have the worst FIP of the Tigers starters. By all means, celebrate while you can.

  12. “By all means, celebrate while you can.”

    Point I was trying to make was that we all should be celebrating it. Yes I looked thru the blog posts about this topic and you and the other prolific posters all had Willis causing nothing short of armegeddon when we stepped on the mound (though you did write that you would be happy to eat crow if you were wrong).

    And up to Molby: He will be league average only because he will have games like today, and major meltdowns along the way to balance things out. I fully expect it. But I also expected Robertson to get pummeled by the Twins if we kept him, and Willis to be effective, but I did not imagine this effective. Who knows if Robertson would have done well, but the major distinction between him and the D-Train is the unknown. Willis is Nuke Laloosh after hitting the bull–you don’t want to dig in against him because you don’t know where he is going to throw it. And as Cuddyer said, Willis gave them nothing to hit. Maybe that is the Twins weak spot–not as much discipline at the plate that you would expect from a top hitting club.

    1. “though you did write that you would be happy to eat crow if you were wrong”

      This is true, your DD hyperbole not so much.

      1. It may be hyperbole, but the spirit is correct. Anyone who praised or defended DD over the offseason found little to no support.

        1. Sorry mat, that’s over simplifying it.

          There was a healthy debate over DD’s off-season moves, with many people taking different stances on his various deals. I think you’d be hard pressed to show that “we” were all in unison calling for Dave to resign. I’m sure there were plenty of people who were pro his early moves then con on his Robertson move, and vise-versa.

          I’ll admit I saw Willis losing his roster spot by May, so I wasn’t terribly impressed with footing almost the entire bill for any wins Nate gets the Marlins. However, turning that into “calling for DD’s job”? Again, not so much.

          I’ve always wanted Willis to succeed, I think most of us have, there was just rarely enough evidence to give us hope. I am happy with his success so far, as I think most Tigers fans are, I just think that its a little early to be calling “gotcha” on anyone who criticized the Robertson deal while ignoring the facts at the time.

          1. “while ignoring the facts at the time”

            Ahh, so I was lucky making this call? Are there saber-metrics for a guy who blogs correctly. ABP maybe. The facts were this: Robertson was terrible out of the pen last year, his best years are clearly behind him, and obviously based on the early returns DD was right in giving Willis another chance. Now if that continues thru the season who knows, but if I had to guesstimate, I would think he finished with a .500 record with an ERA a bit over 4.00. That’s wishful thinking, but I am an optimist generally.

            As far as simplification, I nor anyone else has time to write a brief addressing all arguments/counter-arguments made, but as Mat correctly pointed out, that was the spirit of the off-season. Hell, TSE was clamoring for the GM job! There was a general malaise over the summer about where the team was moving, everyone lamenting over the Granderson trade like we traded Stevie Y. in his prime, etc. He and other saw that we could not go to war with the team we had last year and expect to compete with the Twins again this year, moved two of his most bankable assets and got a very nice return in the process. I mean, this was supposed to be a down year before he signed Valverde and Damon. He made some bold moves, why he is getting paid what he does, and the early returns are nice.

            1. “Hell, TSE was clamoring for the GM job!”

              I pray you jest, and aren’t really using that as an actual sample of the off-season reaction.

              “The facts were this: Robertson was terrible out of the pen last year”

              Robertson’s FIP was 4.55, in 50 INs of work last year. That’s where Willis sits right now through 24 INs, which is leagues better than any of his previous work for the Tigers at the MLB level (8.30 in ’08 and 6.22 in ’09). Its been years since Willis finished a season with a better FIP than Robertson,

              “his best years are clearly behind him”

              No arguments on this.

              “and obviously based on the early returns DD was right in giving Willis another chance.”

              Yes, 10% of the way into the season, so many things are obvious and all trends must inevitably continue.

              Anyways, happy for Dontrelle.

    2. I agree with this. Willis is far more up and down. He may pitch us to some 11-4 losses, but there will be some 4-1 wins along the way. Nate is going to provide consistent 6-4 losses. Of course, the offense won’t always score 4 runs, but the point is that Willis has more upside… and its not really totally out of nowhere. The guy has demonstrated throughout his career that he can be effective. He just hasn’t managed to keep it all together for the last several years.

  13. “Robertson’s FIP was 4.55, in 50 INs of work last year. That’s where Willis sits right now through 24 INs, which is leagues better than any of his previous work for the Tigers at the MLB level (8.30 in ‘08 and 6.22 in ‘09).”

    His FIP is higher without plugging the numbers because his walks per inning are probably the highest in baseball. But again that is the point (the sabermets are great for crunching numbers, but there is a reason accountants do run things): Willis is the unknown to hitters. Again Willis is not going to turn into Sandy Koufax overnight, but he has better stuff than Robertson, and if DD and Leyland thought he was looking better than he has, even if Robertsone pitched better in spring training, the nod has to go to Willis.

    1. Not to reply to my own reply (but I will anyway), but the saber-mets are fun to play with, but those numbers cannot be the be-all/end-all. Anyone with a computer can google the ‘metrics, plug numbers until they are blue in the face, and come up with some archiac formula combing the numbers as to why Raburn may be the second coming of Al Kaline. But that is part of the equation. Willis’ metric numbers over the last couple years have been terrible because….tadaaa, he was terrible. So were his ERA, walks, and innings. Not one ‘metric you plug in from his first two years is going to flush out anything that he is doing now. Those metrics cannot predict the future as much as past performances on the stock market are 100% predictable. DD and Leyland have the inside scoop, the insider tips/trading access, if you will, and see him throw everyday, they say how he acts, etc. and so the benefit of the doubt ALWAYS has to go to these guys.

    2. I feel like we’re getting into dead-horse/talking past each other territory. So I think this’ll be all from me.

      “His FIP is higher without plugging the numbers because his walks per inning are probably the highest in baseball.”

      It was higher for a variety of reasons, including hits, HRs, not striking out that many batters and generally being a disaster on the mound.

      “But again that is the point[…]: Willis is the unknown to hitters.”

      I think our (the Willis “skeptics”) point was that, to the extent Willis was unknown to hitters, it was because the strike-zone was unknown to him: hence there was never a reason to swing at Willis’ pitches in the first place.

      “the sabermets are great for crunching numbers, but there is a reason accountants do run things”

      Maybe its just me, but I don’t think your point here is as self evident as you think it is.

      Ok, in the end I think I get some of what you’ve been saying though, and I agree with the assessment that Willis had a higher ceiling than Robertson. I just don’t think it’s accurate to pretend like Willis had a good chance of reaching this ceiling and surpassing Robertson. If this is a sign of things to come from Willis that’s great, for Willis, the Tigers and us fans.

      1. Seriously, Andre, I dare you to come up with a full blog post without taking a sentence out of the whole of someone else’s and attempt to pick it apart. Twenty cyber-bucks on it that you can’t do it.

        I am not pretending that Willis had a good chance, I was basing it on what DD and Leyland saw during the off-season, and I rationalized their call. For the guys who thought they could channel their inner Rob Neyer and predict Willis’ demise, there is a reason why he is a blogger and not a GM. (And it was “there is a reason why accountants don’t run things”).

        1. “I was basing it on what DD and Leyland saw during the off-season”

          See that’s the issue… aahhh crap I just lost the dare/bet.

  14. We should only blame Willis and Robertson for being dreadful the last few seasons. They both deserved to loose their jobs. Their performance issues pushed us to trade Matt Joyce for Edwin Jackson (then flip EJ for Scherzer) and rush Porcello to the majors. We got lucky that both Porcello and Edwin panned out last season. The year before we got lucky when Galarraga came out of nowhere. I didn’t call for DD’s job, but I wasn’t thrilled that both Willis and Nate were clogging up spots on our 40 man roster. If we could trade Willis right now (and unload his salary) for a long-shot prospect, I might not hesitate to make that move. I’m getting tired of crossing my fingers every time he pitches and think we might be better off without him. I’m 100% behind Galarraga getting called up, it’s just a matter of freeing up a rotation spot for him.

    1. “loose their jobs” – what the heck is that? LOL. I hope everyone knows I meant lose.

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