Game 150: Tigers at Twins

PREGAME: The Tigers look for their first series sweep since…the last time the Tigers were in the Metrodome. It will be Jair Jurrjens taking on Scott Baker.

Baker has been a tough match-up for the Tigers this year throwing a complete game 1 run 3 hit effort and adding another quality start in his last outing.

The Tigers will send out Jair Jurrjens who has reclaimed a spot in the rotation coming off the DL. In one respect Jurrjens has been pitching lucky with only 7 strike outs in his 20 innings of work. At the same time opposing hitters haven’t been able to center the ball. And Jurrjens is still capable of inducing some swings and misses with his curve ball.

Game Time 2:10 p.m.

: Did anyone else have flashbacks to Oakland? A chance to gain ground on the Indians. A comfortable early lead for the Tigers. Five innings of no hit baseball from a Tiger starter. Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones melting down.

Fortunately the Tigers did enough to hang on this time, adding a couple runs late and Jones hanging on to the lead by his fingertips.

Overshadowed in the bullpen walk-a-thon and adventures in fielding was the fact that Jurrjens was awesome. Clearly it was his best start of the season as he finally started to add some strikeouts taking his season total from 7 to 13 today. Despite entering the 6th with a no hitter, he was never really a threat to pitch a complete game as his pitch count and previous injury just wouldn’t allow it.

Offensively it was a balanced attack with every starter picking up a hit except Pudge Rodriguez (playing the day game after a night game) and Pudge even contributed a key run with a sacrifice fly.

In the end though the Tigers have a 5 game win streak, their first streak that long since they won the last 5 going into the All Star Break. They also picked up a series sweep, their first since the last trip to the Metrodome. Yes the Twins are a dead team right now, watching Michael Cuddyer take pitch after pitch right down the middle was, well, pathetic. But the Tigers still took care of business and did what they had to to make the last 2 weeks of the season compelling.
DET @ MIN, Sunday, September 16, 2007 Game Preview –

Whitecaps win Midwest League Championship

Congratulations to the West Michigan Whitecaps on their MWL Championship. The Caps won the rubber game in a best of 5 series 11-6 over the Beloit Snappers.

It was a night of big innings as West Michigan used an 8 run 5th inning to wipe out the Beloit 5 run 3rd inning.

Scott Sizemore and Michael Bertram each had 3 hits to lead the offensive attack.

Charlie Furbush was knocked out in that 3rd inning and Luis Marte came on in relief and threw 5 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits and no walks while fanning 9.

Congratulations to manager Tom Brookens and the rest of this year’s Whitecaps.

The Surge – Whitecaps Baseball: West Michigan Whitecaps – 2007 MWL Champions
Minor League Baseball: Scoreboard: Scoreboard

Game 149: Tigers at Twins

PREGAME: Perennial Cy Young contender against guy making his first start. This is one of those games you hope to steal.

The Tigers have faced Johan Santana 4 times this year. And while it hasn’t been easy in any start, they haven’t been completely stymied either. His last start against the Tigers he allowed 3 runs on 5 hits while fanning 7 in 8 innings. The Tigers are loading up the lineup with righties as Ryan Raburn leads off and Marcus Thames makes the start at first base with Brent Clevlen getting an outfield start.

For the Tigers it will be Yorman Bazardo, acquired from the Seattle Mariners for Jeff Frazier. If Bazardo goes on to have success with the Tigers, it will be another instance of Jeff Weaver giving back to the organization. Bazardo was DFA’d to make room for Weaver when the Mariners signed him this offseason. Bazardo’s K rates aren’t particularly impressive with only 4.54/9 for Toledo this year, and 5.36/9 in his minor league career. But he does keep the ball in the park and doesn’t walk a whole lot.

Game Time 7:10 p.m.
DET @ MIN, Saturday, September 15, 2007 Game Preview –

POSTGAME: The Tigers won! The Yankees lost! The deficit is 2.5 games, which for some reason seems much more palatable than 3.5 did earlier this morning. Of course it could very well be back North of 3 games again tomorrow, but for the time being we’ve got ourselves a race.

The Tigers jumped out early on Johan Santana taking advantage of Carlos Guillen bloop hit and a Pudge Rodriguez baggie blast. It looked like it might be a relatively short night for Santana as the Tigers forced him to throw 45 pitches in the first 2 innings. That was the good news because Santana only needed 25 pitches to get through the next 3 innings as he clearly settled in.

The Twins kept things uncomfortable plating a run on a wild pitch, and turning a double, a fly ball, and a ground out into their second run. Bazardo was solid, but came up one out short of qualifying for the win. Actually, it was one strike away as he went up 0-2 on Jason Kubel and after a foul ball Bazardo widely missed the zone with 4 straight pitches.

The bullpen was mostly solid as Bobby Seay pitched a scoreless inning fanning 2. Joel Zumaya went 1 2/3 getting a double play on his first pitch and having an easy 1-2-3 8th. Todd Jones issued a 2 out walk, but the 9th was otherwise unavailable. The only blemish was Zach Miner’s outing, which would have been fine if not for that PFP stuff. A one out ground ball single by Nick Punto, a steal, and a walk had 2 men on. Miner got the comebacker to the mound, threw high to second pulling Santiago, who threw late to first, meanwhile Punto scored. A double play ball resulted in no outs and a run.

A win is a win and the Tigers are at the very least keeping the pressure on the Yankees and keeping Detroiters interested. A second straight sweep in the Metrodome is a lot to ask for, but when the rookie beats Cy Young, anything seems possible.

Game 148: Tigers at Twins

PREGAME: Anyone remember the last time that Nate Robertson faced the Twins? Nate went 7 innings and allowed only 3 hits and 2 walks as he handed a shut out over to the bullpen which Macay McBride and Todd Jones protected. It was in the Metrodome and he was opposed by Matt Garza. Of course Robertson had to be that good because Garza was his equal allowing 3 hits in 7 innings with the difference being an unearned run.

The win was the start of a sweep that had the Tigers with the best record in baseball when they left the Twin Cities. And the rest was crappy history.

Now Robertson heads back to the dome to take on Matt Garza at the start of a series that they need to cling to slim playoff hopes. Nate’s been a yo-yo in his last 4 starts, but he was down last game so maybe he’ll be up again. Garza has been roughed up a little in his last 2 starts allowing 9 hits in each game and not making it out of the 6th inning.

Of course the bigger issue than tonight’s game for the Twins is the resignation of GM Terry Ryan. While he’s had a tendency to miss on veteran/cheap free agents the last couple years, and he’s always seemed a little gun shy in trading that wealth of young talent, he’s done a tremendous job given his resources.

Game Time 8:10pm

POSTGAME: Nate was definitely up and pitched a very solid game. He had a small bout with control in the 4th inning, but rebounded well. I’m not sure how much of Robertson’s performance was the Twins and how much was Nate.

But the at-bat of the night had to belong to Pudge Rodriguez who worked a 9 pitch walk with the bases loaded. The number of pitches matched his season total for walks. Regardless, he fouled off strikes and took the balls, and was quite pumped afterwards. I’ve never seen that kind of reaction to a walk.

Pudge’s walk tied the game and kept the bases loaded for his Timo-ness who of course climbed the latter and lined a single to right field to give the Tigers their final margin of victory. As big as those at-bats were, the key plate appearance was probably Gary Sheffield’s, where he should have been called out looking. But I won’t complain.

The trouble is, even with the win the Tigers effectively lost ground as the Indians and Yankees both came from behind. The Indians win wasn’t really surprising, but the Yankees win was. The Red Sox blew a 5 run lead in the 8th inning – if only they had gone out and gotten some bullpen help at the trade deadline this would have never happened 🙂

Fish Eye on the Tigers

Dan Fox at Baseball Prospectus recently did a post where he used the enhanced gameday (aka pitch/fx) data to categorize hitters by eye. He broke hitters down into the following groups and subsequently created some pretty slick graphs.

  • Square: This is the new metric, defined as the percentage of pitches in the strike zone swung at and made contact with. A high value here (relative to the average of over 87 percent) indicates that when the batter offers at a strike he usually makes contact. On the contrary, a lower value indicates hitters who, for reasons such as a long swing, are more apt to swing through strikes.
  • Fish: Defined as the percentage of pitches out of the strike zone that the hitter swung at. A higher percentage here indicates that the hitter may have trouble recognizing pitches since he is offering at pitches that would likely be called balls. Average values here are between 32 and 33 percent.
  • Bad Ball: Defined as the percentage of pitches out of the strike zone that were swung at where contact was made. This includes foul balls, although there is an argument to be made that a foul ball is not the intended outcome, and so should be discounted in some way. A higher value in this category indicates that, when swinging at bad pitches, the hitter is at least able to get the bat on the ball. Average values lie around 73 percent.
  • Eye: Defined as the percentage of pitches in the strike zone on non-three and zero counts that were taken for strikes. A smaller value in this metric indicates a player who recognizes strikes and aggressively offers at them. I excluded 3-0 counts, since a hitter is much more likely to let a strike go by in this situation, and we don’t want to penalize them for that behavior. Average values here are in the range of 25 to 27 percent.

While Detroit Tigers hitters were included in the analysis, it was tough to tease out exactly where they fell. Inspired, I thought I do the same analysis but focus on the Tigers. My numbers didn’t work out exactly the same as Fox’s, but the categorization of the players seemed to be fairly consistent. One reason for the disparity on the Eye metric is that the way I parse the data, I didn’t have the count readily available so I didn’t filter out taking on 3-0. The other discrepancy is probably the width of strike zone used. Fox said he used the 17 inch wide plate. Because only a portion of the ball has to cross the plate for a strike, I included the radius of the ball on either side of the plate as well. I’m also not sure how he included bunts and bunt attempts or being hit by a pitch. Regardless, the points remain the same.

As for the specifics on how the numbers differed, here are the league averages I calculated for each:

  • Square: 86%
  • Fish: 29%
  • Bad Ball: 70%
  • Eye: 36%

Fox then graphed Fish value against Eye values which put hitters into one of four categories. The graph of just the Tigers hitters is below:

Tigers batting eye

The first things that jump out in these types of graphs are the outliers. I don’t think that anyone is surprised that Pudge Rodriguez swings at more pitches out of the zone than anyone on the team. In fact, he swings at more than anyone in Major League Baseball.

What may surprise though is Sean Casey being in the lower left quadrant. Casey doesn’t strike out a whole lot, but he tends to swing at the bad pitches and take the good ones. The other surprise, especially given his strikeout rates, is Brandon Inge who is better than many of his peers in swinging at the pitches he should swing at and taking the ones he shouldn’t. Of course check swings where you go to far are still counted as swings so make of that what you will.

The last thing to notice is pretty much a team wide trend, and that is that the team tends to lean towards to the left, and that they are more likely than a typical team to chase pitches out of the zone. Even those players in the more patient hemisphere still are towards the middle. On a team level it confirms what pretty much everyone suspected based on observations.

The table below has the numbers for each of the Tigers:

Brandon Inge 84% 27% 54% 35%
Cameron Maybin 80% 30% 40% 39%
Carlos Guillen 86% 32% 73% 20%
Curtis Granderson 89% 29% 63% 36%
Gary Sheffield 87% 27% 79% 42%
Ivan Rodriguez 81% 54% 77% 25%
Magglio Ordonez 88% 28% 76% 25%
Marcus Thames 73% 41% 63% 25%
Mike Hessman 82% 35% 65% 29%
Mike Rabelo 83% 34% 74% 17%
Omar Infante 84% 38% 79% 38%
Placido Polanco 96% 29% 89% 39%
Ramon Santiago 86% 43% 73% 26%
Ryan Raburn 77% 32% 60% 28%
Sean Casey 95% 39% 84% 43%
Timo Perez 88% 37% 84% 32%
Team 86% 33% 72% 32%

Baseball Prospectus | Articles | Schrodinger’s Bat: The Return of the Fish Eye

The 8th Inning

Sam Hoff has been breaking down how the Tigers do in each 18 games stretch of the season, as 18 games is 1/9th of the season, or 1 inning. The 8th inning includes games through Monday night.

The 8th Inning is over.

Each 18 games represent 1 inning of a baseball season. The Tigers record so far in each Inning:

                                                        Starters:         Bullpen:
    W-L   RS-RA   HR-SB-AVG/OBA/SLG    W-L-IP-   ERA       W-L-S-ERA
1: 10-8   86 -79  17-9 -235/313/380    5-2-110.2-3.66      5-6-8-4.68 
2: 13-5   112-97  23-10-308/377/518    9-3-102.1-4.84      4-2-8-5.03
3: 7-11   110-96  26-7 -310/364/517    7-7-110.2-3.99      0-4-3-7.80
4: 13-5   136-75  20-5 -324/390/508   13-4-103.0-4.37      0-1-2-3.47
5: 11-7   91 -79  23-20-272/357/443   10-5-112.0-3.46      1-2-7-3.33 
6: 7-11   84 -113 17-8 -276/325/415    3-8- 99.2-6.59      4-3-6-4.31
7: 7-11   83 -110 20-10-266/315/436   4-10-101.0-6.50      3-1-4-5.12
8: 10-8   95 -77  15-18-298/373/455    4-5- 91.1-4.93      6-3-1-3.18

The 8th inning started with a loss to Cleveland, the Tigers then took 3 of 4 from the Yankees, that was followed by losing 5 out of 7 to KC, Oakland, and the White Sox. Winning 5 out of the last 6 including last night’s miracle gives some glimmer of hope. I think the Tigers must get to 92 wins and sweep Cleveland in the remaining 3 game set to have a chance. That would mean going 14-4 in the 9th inning. The Tigers have not had a 14-win inning in 2006 or 2007, though they have had four 13-win innings.

The offense came to life as Granderson, T Perez, and Maggs all batted over 400 with a OPS over 1000 (Granderson and Maggs tied for the lead with 15 RBIs). Polanco, Inge, Pudge and Casey all had good performances. Carlos Guillen was 2-12-235/304/397 as he continues to get RBI even though he is slumping. Thames has played himself onto the bench as he morphed into C-Mo with a 1-7-209/244/349. Ramon Santiago started 8 games and performed as expected (235/297/353). The rest of the team was 127/238/181 in 110 ABs including 0-17 by Sheff.

Verlander is hot as he won all 3 starts with a 0.83 era. Robertson, Rogers, and Durbin combined for 7 starts without a win, but did have a combined 3.38 era in 40 innings. Bonderman was 1-3 in 4 starts with a 7.91 era. Miller, Jurrgens, and Vasquez had 4 starts combined lasting a TOTAL of 10.1 innings in those starts.

The back end of the bullpen (Zumaya, Rodney, and Jones) was 0-2 with 1 save and a 5.40 era in 23.2 innings. The middle relief of Grilli, Miner, Seay (3 wins!!!), and Brydak were a combined 4-0 with a 0.92 era and a 0.67 WHIP in 39 innings. The rest of the pen (Bazardo, Capellen, Durbin, and Vasquez) was 2-1 with a 6.23era in 13 innings.

I read where baseball prospectus gives the Tigers a 15% chance of making the playoffs. I think they may be generous. Unless Cleveland totally collapses (I can’t see a Yankee collapse), we need 14 wins to have a shot. With the rotation in flux and the middle relievers presently carrying the load, 14 wins is a real long shot.

Rotation set, Jurrjens stays and Bazardo starts

The Tigers have set their rotation and Jason Beck has it:

This Fri-Sun at Minnesota: Robertson, Bazardo and Jurrjens
Next Mon-Wed at Cleveland: Rogers, Verlander and Robertson
Next Fri-Sun vs. KC: Jurrjens, Rogers, Verlander
Sept. 24-26 vs. Minnesota: Robertson, TBA, Jurrjens
Sept. 28-30 at Chicago: Rogers, Verlander, Robertson

Notable is that Jair Jurrjens stays in the rotation after feeling fine after last night’s start. Also, Yorman Bazardo who threw 3 innings in the first game yesterday will make his first start of the season. There’s still a TBA so his performance on Saturday will probably determine whether he gets a 2nd start.

There will be 4 more starts for Nate Robertson and Kenny Rogers. Justin Verlander will have 3 more after tonight.

Of course if the Tigers get eliminated Jim Leyland may decide to spot start some of the kids in the last couple series.

Beck’s Blog: Rotation now set

Game 147: Rangers at Tigers

PREGAME: The Tigers will throw out the first pitch of their 4th game in 48 hours tonight. It will be Justin Verlander throwing said pitch, and he’s been quite ace like in his last 3 starts. He’s allowed 2 runs in his last 21 2/3 innings and for tonight anyways he holds the Tigers slim playoff hopes in his hands.

He’ll be opposed by Edinson Volquez. The right hander is coming off a 2 hit, no run 6 inning effort against the A’s. He’ll be making only his 3rd start of the year. The Tigers faced him once in 2006 an knocked him around for 3 walks and 8 hits chasing him in the 4th inning.

Game Time 7:05
TEX @ DET, Wednesday, September 12, 2007 Game Preview –

Game 146: Rangers at Tigers

PREGAME: Hey! It’s bloggers night so the Tigers are sure to do something…maybe. The Tigers have proven time and time again they aren’t big on momentum, so let’s hope they prove it again and bounce back from this afternoon’s shellacking.

The pitching match-up is 2 guys who are fresh off the DL in Brandon McCarthy and Jair Jurrjens. Don’t know what to expect from either, but the Tigers used a whole lot of bullpen today. McCarthy will have a short night, and that’s already been decided.

The Tigers will be sending out their A lineup tonight, which should have gotten some rest today. Meanwhile the Rangers will be tired from swinging the bat and running the bases.

Game Time 7:05

TEX @ DET, Tuesday, September 11, 2007 Game Preview –

Game 145: Rangers at Tigers

PREGAME:It will be Chad Durbin and Vicente Padilla in the first half of today’s doubleheader. Padilla has been awful away from home this year with a 9.06 ERA in 51.7 innings. Last year it wasn’t an issue, so it’s most likely coincidence that his worst starts have come away from Arlington. He spent some time on the disabled list in July and August and in his 5 starts since coming back he has a 4.08 ERA with 16 K’s and 7 BB’s in 28 2/3 innings.

Durbin has been the ultimate swing man this year. He’s made 34 appearances, 18 as a starter and 16 from the pen. He’s back in the starting role again, and it will be his 2nd start since rejoining the rotation. He pitched 5 shutout innings in 78 pitches against the White Sox. I’d imagine he can throw a few more pitches today, hopefully with similar results.

The Tigers are using the B lineup, although it’s getting harder to tell them apart. Timo and Casey are hitting 2-3 in the lineup. Maybe Timo and The Mayor can team up for some magic. I mention this only because I wanted to say Timo and The Mayor. Doesn’t it sound like a cop show? Timo and The Mayor. Timo and The Mayor.

Game Time 1:05

The Bonderman Elbow Saga Takes a Positive Turn

Yes he’s still injured, but at least it isn’t the dreaded UCL injury, and it’s not even the surgically fixable bone chips. Instead everything is intact mechanically and it is diagnosed as elbow inflammation – meaning R & R should resolve it in the short term, though he probably is done for the season. The fact that this has been a recurring injury the last 3 years though means it is something to watch for, and also something the Tigers and Bonderman need to learn how to deal with.

It also appears the Tigers are going to take a look at how the players and organization communicate about injuries:

Leyland said the organization will review the process by which players report health issues and how the team documents them. He has no problem with the way the medical staff handled it, he said, but he wants his players to be up-front and honest when they’re not feeling right.

“If there’s a sign,” Leyland said, “we want to know about the first minor sign of anything.”

It’s a catch-22, Leyland said, because a sign of an injury could turn out to be a meaningless injury. But they want to get players to at least trust that the club won’t overreact. As Leyland put it, he’s not a mind-reader.

Jeremy Bonderman also explained his mindset, and it became understandable why he thought he could tough it out:

“People can criticize if they want,” he said. “I understand where they’re coming from, but my belief is if you don’t go out and try, you never know. I wanted to find out how bad it was. I thought if I could go out and help my team win, that I could keep going.

“I didn’t tell anybody how bad I was. Maybe I didn’t do the smartest thing in the world, but they gave me a [long-term] contract [last offseason] and they believed in me to go out and pitch.”

The Official Site of The Detroit Tigers: News: Detroit Tigers News

Game 144: Blue Jays at Tigers

PREGAME: That’s just the kind of season it’s been for the Tigers. They face the Blue Jays 6 times all season, and Roy Halladay starts half of those games.

Halladay was masterful in his last start against the Tigers when he went 10 innings in an extra inning duel against Jeremy Bonderman. In typical Halladay fashion he’s continued his excellence going 8 or more innings in his last 6 starts.

The Tigers will hope that Kenny Rogers can repeat his performance from last week against an offense that looks to be a little more of a challenge. And hopefully the Tigers can get at least 6 innings out of Rogers, because with Bonderman going out early yesterday and a double header slated to be started by a swing man and a guy returning from the DL on Tuesday, the pen might get taxed.

Game Time 7:05
TOR @ DET, Monday, September 10, 2007 Game Preview –

: Something funny happened in the 9th inning tonight. I was wrapping up this post game section, and I’d actually prepared some analysis. You see, I was frustrated with the Tigers for being so impatient with runners on base. Like did you know that Detroit had 19 plate appearances with runners on base, and 17 with the bases empty. Yet with runners on base they saw all of 50 pitches, and they swung at 29 of them which resulted in a lot of quick innings and enabled Halladay to start the 9th.

But then the Tigers get a gift of a hit on a blown call, but then the baserunner was eliminated by a tremendous double play so karma evened out. And a 2 out ground ball single seemed harmless enough, but then Brandon Inge laced a single to center to bring up the tying run in the form of Curtis Granderson. As good as Granderson has been this year, he hasn’t been especially clutch, and it seemed that a left handed reliever would take care of him one way or another. But Toronto went to a right handed reliever and Granderson fisted one up the middle, just out of the reach of those pesky infielders scoring 2 runs.

A line drive single by Polanco put a very speedy tying run in scoring position who was then advanced to third base by a patient Gary Sheffield. Polanco got himself a 2-0 count before singling on 2-1 and Sheffield walked after getting ahead 3-1. I was all set to sing the virtues of patience when Magglio Ordonez comes up and punches the first pitch he sees through the right side to plate Granderson and Polanco. And Ordodnez did his best to stay in the MVP race, even as A-Rod homers every other at-bat.

It was a tremendous comeback and any win against a pitcher the caliber of Halladay feels that much sweeter.

Kenny Rogers was very good, and he went deeper than I would have expected. He threw quite a few pitches early, but got through the 5thand 6th on 15 pitches combined.

And the Tigers won despite losing 2 players to injury as Joel Zumaya went out when he peeled back the fingernail on his index finger and Pudge Rodriguez left with dizziness early on. In the post game presser Jim Leyland said that if Pudge can’t go in the night game tomorrow, Dane Sardhina would be activated, and a 40 man roster move would have to be made.