Game 2013.50: Pirates at Tigers

29-20, 1st place, 2.5 games up.

Great team win last night. JV was good, not great, and the bats put up enough runs to cover up some poor 8th inning pitching and fielding. Valverde came in and gave up his usual baserunner (who somehow didn’t steal 2nd base – worst advance scouting of all time?), before striking out Andrew McCutchen to end the game. Valverde’s .75 ERA is as misleading as an online dating photo, and last night was a great example of this. Two 3 ball counts in 4 batters, and out of 15 pitches, 14 were fastballs between 90 and 93 mph. No one has done more with less since David Hasselhoff did anything.

That’s 7 wins out of 8 in case you lost track. For all of the shortfalls we tend to notice around here, we owe it to the boys to celebrate a job well done.

Let’s go Tigers.

***************

Let’s talk for a minute about Alex Avila. I know that everyone is frustrated with his performance (or lack thereof), and many are clamoring for Pena to be the starter. Over the last ten games, Avila is batting .121; Pena is batting .405. Avila is hitting .171 for the year, and Pena’s average now stands at .313. A few thoughts on this.

1) I don’t know that we have a starter right now. They split starts in the Cle and Min series, and Pena played last night. Yes, some of this is match-ups, but the fact that JL is playing match-ups at catcher says something.

2) Avila isn’t going to hit .171 all year. His BABIP is .221. This is significantly lower than the ~.290 that you see around MLB, and much lower than his career .315 BABIP. So his average will come up. But there is reason to worry. One reason why he has a healthier career BABIP than most is because of his power. But that may have gone away. In 2013 he’s hitting more ground balls than ever before (1.60 GB/FB v. 1.20 career average) and his LD rate of 18.8% is the lowest since his first partial season in 2009 (21.6% career). Simply put, he’s not hitting the ball as hard as he usually does.  This is further evidenced by his low ISO (.114) and manifests itself as a lack of XBH. Pena has 1 less XBH (6 to 5) in roughly 1/2 the ABs.

3) Avila has lost his place discipline. He’s not walking very often (9.5% vs. 12.6% career) and he’s striking out more (31.4% vs. 24% career).

4) Other than Porcello, I don’t know how much direction our staff really needs. So any advantage that Avila may provide in that respect, is likely negligible.

5) Nothing in Pena’s history would lead us to believe that his 2013 start is sustainable, and he’s likely too old (31) to have a breakout year.

Thus, in conclusion, I’m not sure what’s wrong with Avila. Either he’s injured, or his swing has changed. But I also don’t think that Pena is the long term solution. So I’d look for a continuation of a liberal platoon, with Avila getting slightly better over time. I used to have hopes that Avila could be a perennial all-star. With his sweet swing and good eye, he seemed to have the right tools. But the peripherals this year point in the wrong direction. Remember – he’s only 26, so he’s got some time. But not much.

***************

Game two of the home set against the Bucs tonight before the Tigers head to Pittsburgh for another two. If you could only focus on Porcello’s last 5 starts, you’d see a serviceable 2-0 record, 3.24 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 3 QS. Excellent numbers for a #5 starter. Now, for the year, he’s posting a 6.28 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and .299 BAA, which are more inline with the #5 guy in Toledo.

Jeanmar Gomez has been very good this year – 2-2, 2.75 ERA, but not so good against the Tigers in his career – 2-2, 7.82 ERA.

***************

A few notes:

- Cubs pitchers are slugging .667 in May with 6 doubles, 3 HR and 15 RBI.

- Lots of rain forecast for tonight. May be tough to get this one in.

- AJax is eligible to come off of the DL today; but no word on when he’ll start a rehab assignment.

Tonight’s Series Sweeping Lineup:

1. Dirks, LF
2. Hunter, RF
3. Cabrera, 3B
4. Fielder, 1B
5. Martinez, DH
6. Peralta, SS
7. Avila, C
8. Infante, 2B
9. Kelly, CF

50 Comments

  1. Coleman

    May 28, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Not every Tiger blog has a David Hasselhoff reference.

    • Only Tiger Fan in Mississppi

      May 28, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      Yeah…well done Kevin….if the Tigers were only .500 the lynch mob would be circling Avila. No team can be perfect all the time.

  2. StormanNorman$

    May 28, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    RE: Avila, and Kevin’s (good post btw) #3 point – “Avila has lost his place discipline. He’s not walking very often” … I believe he still has a good sense of the strike zone (and doesn’t swing at many bad pitches) but because pitchers feel they can throw it by him, they’re challenging him w/more strikes – and he’s just taking or missing them.

    I know that good defensive/hitting MLB-ready catchers are hard to find, especially in the DET farm system, but having said that, wouldn’t it be better for Avila to get 7-10 games of ABs in Toledo to help him find his swing? …and I know he’d have to ‘accept’ an assignment, but couldn’t they manufacture some ‘injury’ (to help shelter his ego/confidence) that would give him a couple days off then prompt the “rehab assignment”? Just spit-balling here – since extra BP and a few days off here and there don’t seem to be working for him.

    • Smoking Loon

      May 28, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      I find less significance in the MLB average BABIP and more in looking at the BA/BABIP differential by type of hitter. Avila’s 2011 and 2012 numbers were .070 apart. This year and 2010, they were .050. With an elevated K rate, the following disappointment would actually be a relief:

      104 G, 333 PA, .228/.316/.340/.656, 7 HR, 31 RBI

      I think that might be as much or more than we can hope for.

      In 2010, Avila perked up in June (before fading again). That perking up is the main reason his 2010 line doesn’t look more like 2013.

      • Smoking Loon

        May 28, 2013 at 8:14 pm

        “I believe he still has a good sense of the strike zone (and doesn’t swing at many bad pitches) but because pitchers feel they can throw it by him, they’re challenging him w/more strikes – and he’s just taking or missing them.”

        I agree. What puzzles me are some of the takes. Actually, a lot of them. He’ll take a certain pitch for a strike, then get it again and swing and miss. It makes you wish he’d just come out hacking to begin with. Might increase the odds of running into one.

  3. The Strategy Expert

    May 28, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Well my opinion FWIW is that he was overrated due to some of the early success he had. I have seen many people claim things like how he is the best Catcher the Tigers have ever had, and others saying he might be the best or just about the best Catcher in baseball, and this was all based on nothing other than one season in 2011 (plus a great 2009 for a whopping 72 PAs. I think he just had a somewhat lucky and fortuitous season and he hasn’t developed certain credibility to be a long-term star, although he still could be as his future is still up in the air and to be determined. I like Alex a little bit but he has never impressed me at the plate, and most importantly I hate that I don’t see a big upside or a strong enough certainty for him to be a star or big value player. And what are they going to do for all of his future years now that he’s starting to earn some sizable monetary amounts?

  4. Smoking Loon

    May 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    If this one gets rained out, do they skip Porcello in the rotation once again?

    • Smoking Loon

      May 28, 2013 at 11:54 pm

      Does this qualify as a reverse jinx question, even though it was in earnest and I wasn’t *hoping* for Porcello to miss a start?

  5. jud

    May 28, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    I agree with Loon. I am puzzled by a lot of his takes. If he is guessing, which I think he does too much of he will take pitches right down the middle, fall behind then makes out after out after out on marginal pitches…

  6. Coleman

    May 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Ricky P in maybe his best start of the season. Can we finagle maybe one run for the guy?

    • Coleman

      May 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      No walks and 8 strikeouts. That deserves a Wow.

      • Coleman

        May 28, 2013 at 9:56 pm

        Make that 9.

        • Vince in MN

          May 28, 2013 at 10:02 pm

          Only 2 fly ball outs.

    • Vince in MN

      May 28, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      Somebody is going to have to run into one.

      • Smoking Loon

        May 28, 2013 at 11:52 pm

        Speaking of running into one, I liked Avila going after the first pitch. Maybe we’ll see more of that with good results until pitchers stop being so brazen with him.

  7. jud

    May 28, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Not sure if I have ever seen Porcello better…great ball movement…location…nice job!!!

  8. Coleman

    May 28, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Cy Porcello

  9. Vince in MN

    May 28, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Pinch hitting for Avila! Leyland doesn’t let two catchers in the same game very often.

  10. Vince in MN

    May 28, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Not PH Tui for Dirks (scratches head)?

    • Smoking Loon

      May 29, 2013 at 12:00 am

      I was thinking Tui when Garcia came on. Oh well.

      The Pena at bat was bizarre, even for Pena. He was determined to swing at anything and everything. Being aggressive is fine, but he just looked spastic. I think I would have actually preferred the bunt THERE, even with one out. I really do. Pena *can* come through with the big hit sometimes, but… in retrospect, that was just kind of ugly.

  11. Coleman

    May 28, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    NO! Bring Ricky back for the 9th!

    • Vince in MN

      May 28, 2013 at 10:41 pm

      Section 3.1.a “With the score tied 0-0 in the top of the ninth bring in the 8th inning guy.” It’s in the book, the chapter entitled “How To Use A Bullpen”.

    • Smoking Loon

      May 28, 2013 at 11:51 pm

      I was thinking the same. I’m sure many of us were. I suppose that little bit of slippage in the 8th cost Porcello the CG opp.

  12. judpma

    May 28, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    theres one of the biggest differences in Martinez after the knee surgey….warning track power. He hit that as good as he can..

    • Smoking Loon

      May 29, 2013 at 12:03 am

      That’s a good observation that I’m afraid might be right on the money. I thought that ball was gone off the bat, like everyone did. It came down looking very ordinary.

  13. Coleman

    May 28, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Wait, bunting, is that allowed? (Leyland flipping through rule book).

    (I did that one for jud; how’d I do?)

  14. Kevin in Dallas

    May 28, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    Man, what a game this has been. I’ve got MIA/IND on the TV. Good sports night.

  15. JOE Z

    May 28, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    lol a garcia just watching that 0-1 perfect bunt ball go for a low strike

  16. Coleman

    May 28, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    I am NOT a fan of this bunt call.

    • Smoking Loon

      May 28, 2013 at 11:36 pm

      I wasn’t a fan of Garcia’s bunt technique. Pretty bizarre. You’d think a guy with his speed to 1B would have the bunt in his arsenal. Maybe just can’t sac bunt. Weird, in any case. Even though he ended up advancing the runner anyway.

  17. Kevin in Dallas

    May 28, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    You think Peralta will steal here?

  18. JOE Z

    May 28, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    1-0 pitch, i mean, got the job done either way i guess, finish them

  19. Kevin in Dallas

    May 28, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    Plenty of time left. We’re gonna bust up Grilli’s perfect season. This is gonna be sweet.

    • Coleman

      May 28, 2013 at 11:21 pm

      Hopefully he will remember his time in Detroit in which he was known as Gas Can Griilli.

      • Coleman

        May 28, 2013 at 11:30 pm

        Crap, Grilli is actually…good.

  20. Coleman

    May 28, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    That was inevitable.

  21. judpma

    May 28, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    when you basically get nothing out of 2-3-4-5..you should lose…..sorry Rick, great pitching

    • Coleman

      May 28, 2013 at 11:34 pm

      When was the last time you saw a team go 10 inning with 0 runs and win? Yeah, this one is on the guys with the bats.

      • Kevin in Dallas

        May 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm

        Not gonna win them all. Great game. See everyone tomorrow.

        • Smoking Loon

          May 28, 2013 at 11:44 pm

          Shame to waste Porcello’s work, though. That’s gotta be up there in the top 5 this year, along with a couple each from Scherzer and Sanchez. *Verlander* hasn’t been that good this year, good as Porcello was today. Really wow. Good defense behind him, too, except for maybe that that lazy stab by Peralta on the SB throw.

          Ortega kinda did a Phil Coke. A bit of uh-oh, then good to really good, then done in by one pitch.

  22. Kevin in Dallas

    May 28, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    Wow. That was nasty.

  23. Coleman

    May 28, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    Grilli owns us.

  24. judpma

    May 28, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    not one of the third strike pitches were near the strike zone…Tigers being Tigers!!!! zero discipline at the plate!!!

  25. Smoking Loon

    May 28, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Hunter, Cabrera, Fielder. I’ll remember this 11th inning next time I think I’d rather see them at the plate with a game on the line. Lame.

  26. Smoking Loon

    May 29, 2013 at 12:22 am

    Only 1 team in MLB with as many or more situational AB has scored fewer runs than the the Tigers (13) 9th inning or later. The Tigers 3-4-5 guys are 9 for 40 in this split. The Tigers find themselves even with the Houston Astros in OPS (.546) here.

    Even a good hitting team can’t dominate all the splits, I guess. But this late inning stuff from the bats might make the bullpen look a bit worse than it is.

    • Smoking Loon

      May 29, 2013 at 12:24 am

      Stats don’t include tonight’s game, I might add.

      • Smoking Loon

        May 29, 2013 at 12:30 am

        The 9 for 40 cited was actually for extra innings. Including tonight’s game, Cabrera-Fielder-Martinez are 12 for 59, 9th inning or later. 1 XBH (a HR), 4 RBI.

  27. Jerry the Tiger Fan

    May 29, 2013 at 2:58 am

    Tough one tonight. We couldn’t get thru those pesky 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th innings tonight and that is too bad because we all know that the Tigers just dominate 14-inning games (2-0 this year). :-)

    Seriously though, that was a real waste of what will undoubtedly be Porcello’s best start of 2013. I feel bad for Rick that he got nothing to show for that effort.

    I’m wondering if Cabby doesn’t need a day off soon. He looks real bad these last 4 games. I can’t remember him having a stretch like this where he is swinging at and missing so many pitches. Cabby’s had slumps before in Detroit, but I can’t remember one in which he is just flailing at pitches like he has been since Saturday. Maybe he’s just tired or maybe he has a nagging injury that we’re not aware of, but he does not look right. No days off this week (next Monday is the next open date for DET) so I’m wondering if Ol’ Smoky will give Cabby a breather for one of the games in Pittsburgh. It might not be a bad idea.

    • Coleman

      May 29, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      Speaking of wasting Porcello’s performance: the last time a Tiger pitcher went 8 shutout innings with at least 11 strikeouts and lost? Earl Wilson in 1966 (surprised Earl didn’t knock in the winning runs himself).

  28. Smoking Loon

    May 30, 2013 at 1:02 am

    http://www.detroittigertales.c.....-rule.html

    My idea for a new designated hitter concept:

    1. DH always bats in the traditional #9 pitcher’s spot.
    2. DH is in essence a rotating pinch-hit position; you can go to bat as such once per game and no more.
    3. Appearing as the DH does not prohibit you from entering the game at any later point as a defensive replacement and batting again in the batting order position of the player you replace. Players coming OUT of the game, however, are NOT eligible to reappear as the DH.
    4. Should a team use up all of the bench for the DH during the course of the game, only pitchers will be available to bat in the DH position thereafter.
    5. Pitchers MAY bat in the DH position as a matter of preference or strategy, but again, only ONCE, regardless of whether said pitcher is still in the game when the DH is due up again.

    From this it would follow that normal strategy would be to have the pitcher bat as the DH at least the first time around. After that, you would tend to save your best bench hitters for later use as DH, with situational exceptions.