The pitching seems to be coming around

During the early part of the season, the offense was keeping things interesting and the bullpen was chewing up innings for underperforming starters. As of late the the starting pitching has been keeping the team in the game, but not getting the same type of support they got in the first 40 games. That script played out for a frustrated Justin Verlander again today.

Verlander had a rough first inning allowing 2 runs. Sadly, that was enough to decide the game despite JV working through the 7th inning and picking up a quality start. His frustration bubbled over to home plate umpire Laz Diaz who got an earful from the Tigers bench.

image Verlander thought he twice struck out Kevin Kouzmanoff prior to an RBI single in the 7th inning. The pitches were certainly borderline, but ultimately it didn’t matter.

The middle of the lineup which had been so potent was silent. Magglio Ordonez once again hit several balls hard, but directly at  people, including a blast to center with two outs and two on. The main culprit that inning though was Johnny Damon who fanned in the infamous R3L2O situation.

The Tigers regularly got lead off men on, only to see them eliminated on double plays or stranded as the following guys couldn’t find holes.

In the end it was another day of frustration as the glow of the 40 game mark has all but evaporated. This team needs Amber Grand singing the National Anthem in a big way. (incidentally Grand sang during the 7th inning stretch on Sunday and we all saw what happened after that)

  • Boesch has 6 walks this season. Three of them came today.
  • The bottom of the lineup has been brutal, but Alex Avila and Brandon Inge each had 2 hit days, as did fill-in lead off man Don Kelly.
  • Laz Diaz shouldn’t have followed Verlander out to the mound. But he had every reason to toss both Jim Leyland and Verlander. I don’t know if it is an example of restraint on Diaz’s part, or fallout from the Joe West/Mark Buehrle/Ozzie Guillen shenanigans.

Tigers Minor League Wrap 5.31.2010

There’s only one game to cover with Toledo and West Michigan getting washed out and Lakeland having a normal day off.

Harrisburg 9 Toledo 11
Audy Ciriaco continues to hit well since his return from the disabled list picking up a homer, a single, and a walk. Cale Iorg went 3 for 3 with 2 doubles. Wilkin Ramirez had 2 doubles. Jon Kibler allowed 4 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks in 7 innings. Luis Marte allowed a run on 2 hits and a walk while striking out the side. Anthony Shawler made this a close game by allowing 4 runs in his inning of work.

Game 2010.050: A’s at Tigers

The Tigers are trying to salvage a split in their 4 game set with the A’s. They’ll send Justin Verlander out to do battle with Trevor Cahill.

Verlander was quite good in his last outing against the Mariners, but was knocked around a little in the 8th inning leading to a loss. He did manage to give up just his 4th and 5th homers of the season. He started in Oakland a week ago and pitched the Tigers only complete game of the season, a 4 hit, 1 run effort.

Cahill has thrown quality starts in his last 3 outings, and was 1 out short of making it 4 in a row. He faced Detroit twice last season. The first time he was rocked, and the second he went 7 innings and allowed just 2 runs. He only has 17 strikeouts in 35 innings this season, but he’s managed a 3.31 ERA. This is despite allowing 6 homers. Lefties only are OPSing .580 against him this season. This is likely a fluke as they hit him well over 800 last season.

And before I forget. Have a safe and wonderful Memorial Day. A heart felt thanks goes out to all the men and women who make this day and this country what it is.

Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers – May 31, 2010 – MLB.com Preview

Tigers Minor League Wrap 5.30.2010

Toledo 8 Buffalo 7
Jeff Frazier and Brent Dlugach each singled and homered. Casper Wells added his 8th homer of the season. Scott Sizemore went 2 for 3 with 2 walks. And to check in on infield alignment, Danny Worth was playing shortstop, Sizemore at second, and Dlugach at third. Ryan Ketchner allowed 3 runs in 4.2 innings on 6 hits, a walk, and 3 K’s. Casey Fien got the save with a scoreless 9th after Brendan Wise went 2.2 innings of relief to get the win.

Harrisburg 8 Erie 6
Wilkin Ramirez hit his 14th homer, but left after 3 at-bats. Audy Ciriaco doubled and homered. Thad Weber gave up 8 runs, but only 3 were earned, in 5 innings.

Lakeland 4 Palm Beach 5
The Charlie Furbush freak show continues with 10 K’s and 1 walk in 6 innings. He did surrendered 3 runs on 5 hits this time. Furbush was the subject of a Lynn Henning feature article today and is now sporting a 90K/11BB ratio in 62 innings. Alden Carrithers got 3 more hits. including his first home run.

Dayton 4 West Michigan 7
Jered Wesson pitched 6 shutout innings with only 3 hits and 2 walks allowed against 4 K’s. Mark Newman struggled and allowed 4 runs on 5 hits and a walk in 1.1 innings. Nolan Moody fanned 3 in his 1.2 inning save. Jamie Johnson homered and doubled. Avisail Garcia went 3 for 4. Chris Sedon drew 2 walks and singled.

Roster Moves

I’m way behind in covering this, but the Tigers made a bushel of roster moves this week. Some were a cascade effect from the Robbie Weinhardt DL assignment (the injury doesn’t appear to be too serious). Others at West Michigan were more performance based. Take 75 North has them all covered.

You can’t spell Scherzer without K

In honor of Max Scherzer’s 14 strikeout effort, here are 14 thoughts/items/factoids about today’s 10-2 much needed win against Oakland.

  1. The progress that Scherzer displayed in his 15 AAA innings was very much transferrable and nearly as effective. The velocity that came from his newly reacquired proper arm slot was the biggest difference. Just see the data from the pitch f/x system below which compares his last start to Sunday’s effort.

    image

  2. And just because I took the time to generate the chart, here is the plot of Scherzer’s horizontal and vertical movement. The larger the dot, the faster the pitch.image
  3. The one downside to all the strikeouts was an inflated pitch count in the 6th inning. While matching Mickey Lolich’s 16 K record would have been sweet, it was time for Scherzer to come out after the walk and the hit by pitch. The gaudy K total and the shorter outing meant that according to Baseball Tonight, Scherzer’s percentage of outs recorded via strikeout was the highest since 1900.
  4. Things were less tenuous though because the offense finally perked up against Dallas Braden and the managed to score early and late despite failing in R3L2O situations.
  5. The production came throughout the lineup, which was a welcome change. Two homers came from the bottom half of the lineup. Of course the fact that Carlos Guillen resides in the bottom half should certainly help things. Brandon Inge contributed with the bat as well with a homer and 2 doubles.
  6. This deserves it’s own bullet as well.  Gerald Laird had a multi hit game. It was just his 3rd multi hit game of the season.
  7. Meanwhile Miguel Cabrera made a case for player of the week, despite playing in only 3 games. He hit another homer as part of a 4 hit day and has driven in 8 runs the last 3 days padding his RBI lead which had narrowed and pushing his slugging percentage to .670.
  8. Magglio Ordonez continues to rip the ball, and had 2 well hit balls caught. It was only fitting that a jam shot fell for him in the 8th inning to make up for it.
  9. One guy who has had quietly had a few rough outings is Phil Coke. He was hit hard on Friday night but escaped. He gave up both runs in Sunday’s game.
  10. I said I was going to watch Joel Zumaya’s velocity after he was a little shy of his “normal” velocity in Los Angeles. Today he maxed out at 102.2 and averaged 99.78. I’m going to stop watching his velocity.
  11. When Zumaya struggles people complain that he gets too fastball happy. Today he threw the heater 29 out of 32 times and didn’t get the curve over for a strike. Yet nobody is complaining today.
  12. Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog Archive » Scherzer’s 14 Strikeouts
  13. Johnny Damon drew 2 more walks today (and picked up a hit). Coming into today Damon and Ordonez were tied for 10th in the AL. They both hit in front of Miguel Cabrera. Kind of makes you wonder about lineup protection and having a threat to insure guys get pitches to hit.
  14. I’m out of stuff. Good thing I got to 14.

sregiT ta s’A: 940.0102 emaG

Ugh. Four game losing streak. Yucky funk. Time for backwards post title. Max Scherzer and Dallas Braden on the bump today. Pull up a radio and listen as you head up north or sit around the grill.

Dontrelle’s End

After two and a half years of  expectations, hope, patience, and frustration the Tigers have finally cut bait with Dontrelle Willis as he has been designated for assignment to make room for Max Scherzer. Is this decision a move towards less tolerance for failure, or just a matter of “enough is enough”?

It may seem curious to ask the question about less tolerance for failure given Dontrelle’s track record. There have been season long DL stints for knees and anxiety. There has been additional coaching and stays down at A ball to get him out of the spot light. There was the decision to bring him north this season despite the fact he hadn’t out-pitched his competitors in spring training. Through it all the Tigers stuck with him and his large contract, until last night.

Expectations

I think it’s fair to say the Tigers gave Willis every chance. While I don’t disagree with the move at all, the timing itself is a little surprising. After two seasons of implosions, Willis has an ERA, a FIP, and an xFIP that are all under 5.00. Not great or even good, but at least on the brink of serviceable. Given the contract it is disappointing to say the least, but he’s getting paid regardless.

Willis has at times looked good and at times looked out of sorts. Sometimes within the same game, sometimes even within the same inning. But the fact he looked good at times exceeded my expectations. His strikeout rate is the highest it’s been since 2003 and his walk rate is the best of his Tigers career (a still miserable 6 BB per 9).

So my question is, what exactly were the Tigers hoping for out of Willis this season? Dombrowski’s comments on the matter are rather gray, and I doubt we’re getting the whole story. Given his entire career arc, I think Willis is pitching as well as could have reasonably been expected.

Quicker to move

Here’s where I make a logical leap. I hope you can join me because it may be encouraging. Given the Willis DFA, the Sizemore and Scherzer demotions, and the commitment to Brennan Boesch is it out of line to think that the organization is looking to be more swift in swapping out underperformers and maximizing talent on the 25 man roster?

There are still gaping holes at catcher and Adam Everett has been awful as well. With the catcher situation there isn’t an upgrade readily available. With Everett he’s receiving less and less playing time (he and Santiago have evenly split SS duties) and my guess is the Tigers are keeping Everett around to hedge their bets in case Carlos Guillen can’t stick at second and Scott Sizemore can’t fully find his hitting stroke. Throw in Danny Worth and Everett’s leash may be shortening as well.

Margin for Error

The Tigers have made a payroll commitment to “go for it” this year and they have some terrific players to build around. But there are also enough question marks that the team has very little margin for error relative to the Minnesota Twins.

It isn’t time for rash decisions, but the team has to move swiftly if they have chances for quick upgrades. For now that means dipping into their minor league talent pool and they’ve done a nice job of extending the 25 man roster for several weeks now.

Game 2010.048: A’s at Tigers

Rick Porcello and the Tigers against Brett Anderson and the A’s. Here’s hoping for a win. It’s me and Mrs. billfer’s anniversary tonight so you cats are on your own.

Brennan Boesch gets the night off after not getting the ball out of the infield. Probably a good place to spot Ryan Raburn regardless.

  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Damon, DH
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Raburn, LF
  6. Guillen, 2B
  7. Inge, 3B
  8. Laird, C
  9. Everett, SS

Frustration 101

Well, at least Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen made significant returns to the lineup. Beyond that the theme of the night was frustration. Despite Cabrera’s 3 homer heroics the Tigers managed to repeatedly come up short in most facets of the game.

Cabrera was spectacular. Each of the 3 homers were crushed no-doubters. Unfortunately the rest of the team didn’t follow suit.

And then there is Dontrelle Willis. Once again he wasn’t good, but once again he wasn’t the reason the team lost. It’s safe to say that the game was close in spite of Willis rather than because of him.

As for the bullpen management, I have a hard time complaining about this one. I like that Ryan Perry was thrust into a difficult 2nd and 3rd situation. Because of the 9th inning it’s easy to forget that Perry escaped the 8th without incident.

The 9th inning was just a disaster, but only one of those pitches I can hang on Perry and that was the Mark Ellis HBP. The double was a fluke. Ordonez was playing deep, Guillen was playing up the middle. It truly was no man’s land.

The swinging bunt was a fluke, though the fact that Fu-Te Ni gave up on the play was frustrating. I don’t know that they can get an out on that play, but Ni didn’t give himself a chance.

In the end the pitching wasn’t quite good enough, the fielding wasn’t quite good enough, and the hitting certainly wasn’t good enough. For the 4th time in 5 games the Tigers came up on the wrong end of a close game.

  • Magglio Ordonez didn’t have a particularly good game. It’s rare he strikes out twice. And while he was active in right field with 7 outs recorded, his inability to get to the double or gun out the runner on the sacrifice fly in the 9th hurt. I think Maggs catches too much flack for his defense as there is nothing wrong with being okay. But he didn’t play well last night. The 8th inning double he didn’t read well and the throw to the plate was accurate but without zip.
  • Phil Coke escaped scrutiny because nobody scored in the 8th inning but he faced 4 batters and all 4 laced line drives.
  • Alex Avila has often hit the ball hard right at people this season (he’s also struck out a lot so I’m not saying his batting average is all bad luck), but he managed 3 dribblers tonight and a catchers interference.
  • Not everything was bad though. Guillen played fine at second base and worked 3 full counts at the plate. The time he didn’t work a full count he ripped a double.

Tigers Minor League Wrap 5.28.2010

Toledo 7 Buffalo 3
Alfredo Figaro was roughed up for 5 runs on 10 hits and 4 walks in 4.1 innings. Ryan Strieby and Casper Wells each homered. Scott Sizemore doubled and singled.

Harrisburg 4 Erie 7
Andy Oliver fanned 6 and walked none, limiting Harrisburg to 1 run in 7 innings. Matt Hoffman struggled in relief allowing 3 runs while only recording 2 outs. Audy Ciriaco hit a 3 run homer and Josh Burrus had 2 hits.

Lakeland 7 Palm Beach 2
Kody Kaiser continues his hot hitting with 3 more hits including a double. Billy Nowlin also had 3 hits including his 2nd homer. Alden Carrithers walked twice and singled. Brayan Villarreal went 7 innings with 9 strikeouts and a walk and 2 runs allowed.

Dayton 5 West Michigan 4
Jamie Johnson tripled and singled. Jordan Lennerton had 2 hits and a walk and has reached base 20 times in his last 8 games including 5 doubles. Jade Todd went 8 innings and allowed 3 runs on 7 hits, 1 walk, and 4 K’s. Kevin  Faulk blew the save and took the loss.

Game 2010.047: A’s at Tigers

The Tigers have dropped 4 of their last 5 games. They’ll try to right the ship tonight with Dontrelle Willis on the mound as they welcome in the Oakland A’s.

Willis was good and bad in his start against the Dodgers last weekend. He was getting ground balls, and then he got wild. With Max Scherzer throwing bullets down in Toledo Willis may be in a competition with Armando Galarraga for a spot in the rotation. Willis has the advantage of contract status and left handedness, but one wouldn’t think he can’t afford too many outings like his last one.

The A’s send out a former NL pitcher turned reclamation project of their own in the form of Ben Sheets. Sheets hasn’t pitched through the 7th inning, but he is starting to rack up some strikeouts with 8 K’s in 3 of his last 4 games.

Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers – May 28, 2010 – MLB.com Preview

Carlos Guillen is back

Carlos Guillen has been activated from the disabled list. Danny Worth is the odd man out and will return to Toledo with an impressive week of MLB experience under his belt.

Guillen will slide into the 6th spot in the lineup behind Brennan Boesch. Worth meanwhile played defense that was impressive enough to give many pause about Adam Everett’s longevity with the team.

Everett isn’t expected to hit much, but like Gerald Laird he’s expected to hit more than he is. It’s one thing to trade some offense for defense, it’s another to forfeit a spot in the batting order. Despite Worth’s ability to pick up some singles in his short stint, he isn’t a good bet to hit much more than Everett. Worth has the benefit of being the new guy and the possibility of the new guy is certainly more intriguing than the reality of the current guy.

On the other hand we’ll see how much defense fans are willing to sacrifice for offense with Guillen moving to second base. I have a feeling the experience won’t be nearly as bad as many feel it will. At the same time I’d take slightly below average defense for Guillen’s offense at the position.