Postcard from LA

No, I wasn’t in Los Angeles for this series. This is more of a collection of postcard sized thoughts from the Tigers weekend series against the Dodgers.

Armando Galarraga

The theme for Galarraga was inconsistency with the slider. There were times that it was awesome, like when he got Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp flailing at pitches well outside of the strike zone. And then there was the at-bat where he hung multiple ones in the middle of the plate to Casey “freaking” Blake. It’s likely that Galarraga has one more start to make a statement before Max Scherzer is busting down the door to come back. Of course there is that other factor known as…

Dontrelle Willis

Willis looked terrific at times. He was getting ground ball after ground ball. He was working efficiently. And then things got funky with 2 outs in the 4th innings. A single, a wild pitch, and a walk seemed to set things in motion. Willis did hang in against Reed Johnson who worked a 9 pitch walk. But then it was  HBP and Willis never looked comfortable again.

That seems to be the story with Willis this year. It is a pretty fine line that Willis walks between effective and excruciating.

Strategery

I’m not so much a fan of National League baseball. I don’t care to see pitchers hitting, or being lifted while they are still effective for a pinch hitter. That said, Saturday and Sunday provided some interesting maneuvering by Jim Leyland. It worked on Sunday, not so much on Saturday.

Saturday we all understand the ramifications of Magglio Ordonez being lifted earlier in the game so he wasn’t available in the 9th inning. It’s kind of the nature of the beast and Leyland went all in earlier in the game. It happens. But I think back to a moment in the top of the 4th inning where the Tigers had 2 on and 2 outs and Armando Galarraga up. I understand wanting more than 3 innings from a starter, but Galarraga hadn’t been particularly effective and the Tigers needed runs. Leyland let Galarraga hit, the inning ended, and Galarraga came back and gave up 3 runs in the bottom half of the inning.

I’m not saying that Leyland messed up. It was the 4th inning after all. But with the benefit of hindsight it is easy to look back and say what if. I guess that’s the draw of NL ball.

Things went better in the 9th inning of Sunday’s game where Dontrelle Willis played a key role without getting in the batters box. It forced Torre’s hand and he did what Leyland wanted by bringing in the lefty. That Sherrill fell behind 2-1 and set up the perfect squeeze situation certainly made everyone look smarter.

R3L2O

The Tigers were remarkably efficient in the famous runner-on-third-with-less-than-2-outs scenarios this weekend. They capitalized in such a scenario in the first inning in each of the 3 games. For the season the Tigers have had 98 R3L2O scenarios and have scored 46 runs. The 47% success rate is below the league average of 49%.

Odds and Ends

  • Danny Worth played some dazzling defense. The fact he has chipped in some singles is gravy at this point. He’s bringing to the table what Adam Everett is supposed to. This is probably premature, but how much more time does Everett have to get his batting average into the .220 range?
  • The Austin Jackson play was scary, but fortunately there doesn’t appear to be physical damage beyond swelling which will hopefully go down quickly. Coincidentally enough there was a segment on Baseball Tonight on Thursday about David Wright’s struggles with the low and outside pitch since his beaning last season. I don’t know about the statistical relevance of those struggles, but it was the first thing that I thought of after seeing Jackson get up and walk off the field.
  • Joel Zumaya was pretty nasty, but his fastball was down in velocity. He was sitting at 98-99mph and only hit 100mph once. I don’t know if this is cause for concern, or if it was done by design. It is something to watch though. Clearly, he was still effective, but he’s had a lot of multi-inning relief appearances and it bears watching.

35 Comments

  1. Jeff H

    May 24, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Is Zumaya’s velocity really down or is the gun at Dodger Stadium more accurate? Price and Dickerson frequently make comments about the gun at the Copa being “hot”.

  2. Eric Cioe

    May 24, 2010 at 11:20 am

    My guess is that their gun might be a bit slow in comparison. Fangraphs has him at that velocity plenty this season. Part of it might be the gun, part might be the weather, part might be his arm that day. I don’t think it’s anything at all to worry about. Remember, there was a time last season when Zumaya was averaging over 100 mph, and he was getting destroyed.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/pitch.....8;pitch=FA

    • billfer

      May 25, 2010 at 7:57 am

      I’m not worried, but it is something I’ll watch. There is a good chance it is nothing, but given Zumaya’s injury history…

  3. Angus

    May 24, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I would agree with the Eric. It looked like he has more movement on the fastball this year. Also seems to be switching things up a bit as well. I saw a game a while back that he was over 100 but put out like 10 to 12 straight fastballs. With no movement hitters can foul these off all day long. The gun does not matter too much as long as the movement is there. Same reason Verlander can run into high pitch counts on the games that he pitches. Gets the K but takes a while to get there.

  4. Keith (Mr. X)

    May 24, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Spot on Biller.

    I wonder the same thing about Everett. I’d like to see Worth play a few games at SS before any decisions are made when Guillen comes back.

    Austin Jackson got 2 pitches up and in before he got hit in the head. I think that HBP was no accident and want some retribution. We won’t get it unless we face LA in the World Series. Remember what Al Cowens did to Ed Farmer back in 1980?

    I can’t believe how well we did these past 5 weeks vs NY, BOS, MIN, LAD, LAA, TEX. Against those teams it’s easy to see why our run differential isn’t that good. We got a cushy schedule for next 24 games, so now is a good time to take the division lead and pad our stats some.

  5. Stormin Norman $

    May 24, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    The early and thus far fairly consistent success by Boesch, Jackson and Worth has to be inspiring for guys in the Tiger farm system… knowing your major league club will call you up if your production is impressive and/or a position/need presents itself is important for farm-hands.

    I’ve got to give the Tigers credit for having the faith to play/try the rookie position players this year… sure, Boesch’s and Jackson’s production likely helped with DD and JL’s “faith” in them… but i thought they gave Sizemore a fair shake, and agree with their decision to AAA him and Scherzer, and to pull the trigger on the Worth call-up (instead of waiting for Guillen)… and if Worth keeps hitting (and fielding), they should put him at SS and/or 3B – seeing as i doubt Everett and Inge will be with the club next year.

  6. JCM

    May 24, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    The ex Tiger curse strikes again. Pudge in DL

  7. Kevin in Dallas

    May 24, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Great stuff billfer. I really appreciate the insight.

  8. jud

    May 24, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    I sat around a bunch of LA baseball fans that were right up on things and they called it the “Hollywood GUN” saying with a smirk everything out here is exagerated…EVERYTHING! the 104 and several 102′s sunday they all agreed very fast very fast indeed but no 104

  9. jud

    May 24, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    I don’t know what gun speed u saw on TV or Gameday but the stadium gun sunday was over 100 on every fastball Zoom threw. Including 102- 0n 3of them……. and a 104 .
    At least 6 were 100 or 101> That was in Sundays game……….. Again read my previous post

    • billfer

      May 25, 2010 at 8:01 am

      I used gameday data. While there is variation in those numbers from park to park, there seems to be more consistency than scoreboard or broadcast readings.

  10. stephen

    May 25, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Yeah, I listened to the Dodgers broadcast Saturday and according to their gun, Zumaya was hitting 102 and 104. Who knows who is right, but I don’t think his velocity is dropping.

  11. stephen

    May 25, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Can we talk about the elephant, aka the Inge, in the room?

    The guy is hitting .196 since last year’s all-star break.

    • Coleman

      May 25, 2010 at 1:24 am

      Thanks…the Ingephant!

      I’m always looking for new nicknames

    • Rick G

      May 25, 2010 at 8:07 am

      Yeah, he’s the Babe Ruth of the bottom half of our lineup.

      I wonder if his knees are good enough to catch?

    • Mark in Chicago

      May 25, 2010 at 10:14 am

      stephen-
      who is your anti-tiger when Inge leaves after this year? Everett will be gone too, so no fair picking him. Laird, maybe? He’ll probably be a backup as they give the everyday job to Avila, so he’s out. i’m curious…

      • stephen

        May 25, 2010 at 4:40 pm

        That’s a good question. I think my distaste for Inge was controllable until he made the All-Star team despite have an OPs over the league average only once in his career. It was like Kwame Kilpatrick being appointed a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

    • Kevin in Dallas

      May 25, 2010 at 10:22 am

      I’m certain that DD thinks about it day and night. I’m wondering if Worth or Guillen can play third. I’d like to give Guillen a spin through there. I’m fine with Santiago at SS.

      • Kevin in Dallas

        May 25, 2010 at 10:23 am

        Didn’t Guillen start at 3B in ’08? Can someone remind me how that went? I know that injuries are a concern, but isn’t every game borrowed time with him anyway?

        • andre

          May 25, 2010 at 12:24 pm

          Yeah, Bill made that point a while back too re: Guillen’s health being unrelated to position. Still, I don’t know what about Worth’s minor-league career makes people think he’ll be a better option offensively @ 3B than Inge. While I never know if I’m reading defensive stats right, Inge seems to be his usual defensive-stalwart-self. Basically I don’t see what Worth brings to the table in terms of significant (or even marginal) upgrades; he looks like Everett Jr. with ever so slightly more of an upside. The initial plan seemed to be using him as a place-holder until Guillen could take over @ 2B, I don’t think Worth has a big enough sample size in the majors, at least not to the point where he merits 2B and thereby sacrificing Inge’s spot for Guillen @ 3B.

          • Stormin Norman $

            May 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm

            I agree, Guillen at 3B was and still is a bad idea for a few reasons. As for Worth’s ‘sample size in the majors’, without questions there’s not much, but the same could have been said for Boesch, AJackson and Sizemore, and ‘thus far’ 2 out of 3 have worked-out allright.

            The possible justification for ‘trying’ or platooning (w/Inge and Everett) Worth and/or Santiago at 3B a/o SS once Guillen takes over at 2B, is the ‘sample size’ of Inge’s and Everett’s offensive production (or lack thereof)… and not that Santiago or Worth offer a whole lot better (offensively and certainly defensively), but we pretty much know what we’re going to get out of Everett and Inge.

            • andre

              May 25, 2010 at 2:34 pm

              [quote]“the same could have been said for Boesch, AJackson and Sizemore, and ‘thus far’ 2 out of 3 have worked-out allright.”[/quote]

              The difference is that those three all had minor-league numbers that indicated they had good potential to fulfill their roles: Boesch – .828 OPS (in 130 AA games last year); AJacks – .356 OBP (MiBL career); Sizemore – .821 OPS (MiBL career)

              …meanwhile: Worth – .659 MiLB career OPS (hasn’t finished a season higher than .723 OPS since 2007, and is coming off a .589 OPS season in 2009).

              So unless he’s wicked with the glove and Everett has dropped off in that dept (haven’t seen much of either thanks to weird TV schedule so far), there’s not much to suggest he should replace Everett, let along Inge.

              • andre

                May 25, 2010 at 2:35 pm

                guess i don’t know how to use the quote feature after all.

          • kathy

            May 25, 2010 at 7:08 pm

            Worth looks much more comfortable with the glove than Sizemore. His hands are quicker and he moves better than Sizemore. imo.

            • Coleman

              May 25, 2010 at 7:16 pm

              As Jim Price said, he has “soft hands”…which he also always says about Miguel, so I guess that side of the infield could be very soft-handed.

  12. jud

    May 25, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I bet Inge re-signs for a little pay cut for next year due strictly to his popularity with the fans and more so with Leyland . The only way Inge goes if they pick up Good FA singing. Everett on the other hand is a goner.

  13. rings

    May 25, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    I watched Jackson dodge the first two up and in offerings, and commented to my viewing partner that he was turning incorrectly INTO the pitch, instead of turning his face AWAY from the pitch (and dropping his shoulder into the flight path to absorb the blow if he’s beaned).
    Unfortunately, he did it again on the third pitch and he was VERY fortunate he wasn’t hit in the face and/or had his career ended (Dickie Thon anyone?).

    Two point:
    - all levels of the organization should reiterate the importance of turning away from inside pitches.
    - I truly don’t think this was intentional…Troncoso was obviously having problems with his command and Torre removed him from the game immediately. If you’re making a “point” by pitching inside, its probably not the happy-go-lucky rookie outfielder you choose as a target.

    On the “Ingephant” issue, I personally hope he goes away. He’ll learn a HUGE lesson in the business of baseball if he’s in an organization that doesn’t coddle him the way the Tigers do. That said, it is a business, not a popularity contest. If the Tigers can pick up a viable option – with $$ to spend this offseason – they’ll do it. If they spend that $$ instead on a C, SS, 2B or SP, then he’ll probably be back at a discount.
    Either way, he’s taking a pay cut, whether from the Tigers or someone else.

    • KW

      May 25, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      Totally agree about Inge. I get that he’s a fan favorite, but I’ve never really understood why*. Yes, he’s been one of the more athletic third-basemen in baseball, but aside from the occasional highlight-reel play, what exactly does he offer? If someone keeps track of all-time leaders on check-swing strikeouts, Inge must be #1.

      I’m all for letting him walk after this season, but I guess if we signed him to a 2yr/10mm contract, I wouldn’t be too upset. And didn’t he just buy a new home near A2? Maybe he knows he’s going to be sticking around for a while.

      *Okay, I do have a theory. He’s the longest-tenured Tiger, he plays defense with heart, he has that hard-working blue-collar Michigan look about him, and he’s white. The last two are especially important to people in Michigan (or at least in W. Mich where I’m from).

      • andre

        May 25, 2010 at 5:51 pm

        I don’t know if I’m more offended by this as a “white” person, or as a W. Michigan native.

        • Coleman

          May 25, 2010 at 6:04 pm

          Perhaps he is just trying to say Inge is the White Elephant in the room…

        • KW

          May 25, 2010 at 6:57 pm

          I hope I’m not the only one who finds it humorous that a white person offended a white person by suggesting white people in West Michigan have a preference for white people.

          Coleman: White Elephant in the room might be the most appropriate nickname for Inge I’ve ever heard (although I like to call him Charles Binge myself).

          • Coleman

            May 25, 2010 at 7:09 pm

            I can say that because I’m a white elephant

  14. JCM

    May 25, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    White people like white people
    Afro-American people like Afro-American people
    Asian american people like asian american people
    Hispanic( so called) like hispanic people
    People tend to be with people like them, it an atavism enough strong to make fail integration efforts
    An it not about race. Young people hang with young people . And old people with old people

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