Rick Porcello’s Debut

Rick Porcello
credit Roger DeWitt

The Tigers first round draft pick from a year ago made his debut of sorts today. Rick Porcello pitched 2 perfect innings, the first of which came while the Blue Jays regulars were in the game. Here’s how his day went:

  • David Eckstein grounds out, pitcher Rick Porcello to first baseman Jeff Larish.
  • Alex Rios grounds out, shortstop Mike Hollimon to first baseman Jeff Larish.
  • Vernon Wells pops out to first baseman Jeff Larish
  • Frank Thomas strikes out swinging.
  • Russ Adams grounds out, second baseman Scott Sizemore to first baseman Jeff Larish.
  • Matt Watson grounds out, third baseman Ramon Santiago to first baseman Jeff Larish.

Six batters faced and no balls leaving the infield. Plus getting The Big Hurt swinging and I think the outing can only be viewed as a positive.

Spring Training Game 3: Tigers at Blue Jays

PREGAME: The Tigers make their first road trip today and the destination is Dunedin. Justin Verlander will start and be followed by new papa Nate Robertson. Rick Porcello is also scheduled to pitch today.

Tigers position players making the trip include Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Edgar Renteria, Jacque Jones, Marcus Thames, and Brandon Inge. They’ll have the unenviable task of facing Roy Halladay.

Game Time 1:05 and it will be available through MLB audio.

IN GAME: The Tigers struck first when Jacque Jones singled leading off the second and Ryan Raburn followed with a double. A first pitch ground ball from Inge scored the run. Jeff Larish popped out on a jam shot and Raburn was stranded at third.

Verlander allowed only an infield single to Matt Stairs (chew on that for a moment) in his 2 innings of work.

-Granderson homered on a full count pitch against a southpaw leading off the 3rd inning.

Rick Porcello recorded two 1-2-3 innings, and was facing the starters in his first inning. Nice start for the kid.

Francis Beltran pitches into, and out of trouble in the 7th inning.

The dream continues, and other stuff

The Tigers are undefeated, and here we are all of 2 days into spring training. Detroit beat a back-up Toronto Blue Jays roster by a score of 4-1.

Curtis Granderson and Magglio Ordonez were the offense with Grandy belting a 2 run homer and Ordonez picking up two hits. The pitchers had little trouble with the makeshift lineup with Virgil Vasquez pitching 2 perfect innings and Bobby Seay getting the save by fanning 2 in the ninth.

Vasquez got the start because Nate Robertson was busy birthin’ a baby boy who was born early this morning. That’s the happy news. On a sadder note, Yorman Bazardo is away from the team because his father passed away.

I didn’t do a game post today because a) the game wasn’t being broadcast at all, and 2) yesterday’s didn’t generate many comments. Still, I noticed quite a bit of traffic today during the game, so if you want spring training game posts let me know.

Reliever injuries

Fernando Rodney’s shoulder is easiest the biggest concern of camp at this point. Yes it’s early and there’s still a full month before the season, but this injury crept up in the first week of camp. Rodney had 2 DL stints last year, and the idea of Rodney being a month-on, month-off pitcher won’t do anything to help a bullpen full of question marks.

The good news is that Zumaya has been cleared to throw and is pain free after his first session. Who knows what will happen, but it has to start somewhere.

Other stuff

Spring Training Game 1: Mets at Tigers

PREGAME: I’m not expecting another 17 runs, but we’ll see what the Tigers lineup can put up against Mike Pelfrey. The Tigers are going with all their regulars save for Gary Sheffield who is busy with that Scott Boras nonsense. Timo Perez will DH in his stead and bat third. Danny Knobler has the lineup, and Jacque Jones is batting 9th with Renteria 7th.

The Tigers send out Jeremy Bonderman.

Game Time 1:05. This one’s on the radio so we can listen along.

POSTGAME: The Tigers prevailed 4-2, but it was a matter of the Tigers bench and minor leaguers knocking off their Mets counterparts. Jeremy Bonderman gave up a run in each of the first two innings. However he was pleased with his performance because there was no pain, and he wasn’t using his trademark slider at all.

The Tigers regular lineup only mustered an infield single. But Marcus Thames, Brandon Inge, and Mike Hessman all contributed to a 7th inning rally.

The Tigers bullpen allowed only 2 hits and a walk over 7 innings.

Play Ball

Realish, live, Tigers baseball today. It’s the annual spring training kickoff against Florida Southern. The game is 1:05pm. Todd Jones gets the start, and most of the regulars will be playing for only an inning or two. There’s no broadcast, but there is a live box score at the Florida Southern site.

Miguel Cabrera homers against Florida Southern

POSTGAME: Well, the offense seems to work. The above photo was taken by Deran of Lakeland Flying Tigers Blog (click the picture for more from today’s game) and it is Miguel Cabrera smacking a missile to center field. The ball hit off the top of the batter’s eye which is located beyond a fence that is 420 feet from home plate.

It was the second homer of the inning following a two run Placido Polanco shot. The Tigers offense rolled up 17 runs including a solo homer from the beleaguered Brandon Inge. Mike Hollimon, my choice for utility infielder I’ll have you know, hit a 3 run jack of his own, to go with a double. In all the Tigers had 5 dingers with Scott Sizemore adding one to his two walks.

Jeff Larish had two hits and two walks while Freddy Guzman had a 3 for 4 day with a triple.

Jordan Tata was charged with all 4 runs in 1 2/3 innings and he didn’t help his cause with 3 walks.

Yes, the Tigers are projected to have one of the best teams in the majors while Florida Southern is a college. The Tigers were supposed to win big. I’m just happy to have a post game report to do, and I’m happy that the good guys did what they were supposed to.

Detroit 17 Florida Southern 4

Only way to get Opening Day tickets

The Tigers announced that a limited number of full season ticket packages are now on sale. They also announced, and this really isn’t a surprise, that there will be no single Opening Day seats available when single game tickets go on sale on Saturday morning. So if you want Opening Day at face value, you’ll have to go the full season route.

Of course there are always resellers like StubHub. Right now there are 434 listings with the cheapest seat being a single bleacher ticket for $149.99. To get a pair closer to the field than Ford Field it starts at $165. These prices are up considerably since the $130’s where tickets were listed in January.

Other details for the single game ticket sales include:

Individual tickets for all other games on the 2008 schedule will be available on March 1, while supplies last, and individual purchases on Saturday will be limited to 12 tickets per game.

For fans purchasing tickets at the Comerica Park Box Office on Saturday, wristbands will be distributed by ballpark security personnel beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, February 29. Customers with wristbands will be given priority when the lines are formed. Customers will not be allowed to stand in line at the Box Office until 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 1. Free parking will be available in Lot 1 at Comerica Park for people purchasing tickets.

Single game tickets will go on sale on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Comerica Park Box Office, online at www.tigers.com, over the telephone by calling (866) 66-TIGER (84437), at 32 Detroit-area Meijer stores and at Hockeytown Authentics, 1845 E. Big Beaver Road, in Troy.

The Meijer store option is new, and might be a decent bet.

One lineup question answered

One of the few mysteries for Tigers fans to debate this spring is the batting order. The players that will comprise that lineup have long been identified, but their positioning has a few questions. One of those was answered today with the announcement that Ivan Rodriguez will bat 8th. Does that make sense for the Tigers, or does it even matter. We’ll turn to the lineup optimizer to see what we can find out.

If you go with the theory that the team’s worst hitter should bat 9th (and it’s not really a strongly contested theory), then it would seem Pudge should bat 9th. He’s the best bet on the team to post a sub .300 OBP, and therefore the team’s most prolific out maker. But there is also the issue of the fact that Rodriguez is a Hall of Famer and a very proud player.

Using Pinto’s lineup tool, I plugged in the PECOTA weighted mean projections for each of the regulars in the Tigers lineup. I assumed Jones as the left fielder, even though Thames will get his share of at-bats in a platoon. Rodriguez was commonly slotted in the 8th spot in the optimal lineups which would score about 5.3 runs per game. So maybe Leyland is a fan of the tool as well? As an aside the RPG number is less than some earlier forecasts, as PECOTA isn’t as big a fan of the Tigers lineup as some other systems.

We know that Granderson, Polanco, and Ordonez will assume their same spots in the order. We also know that Carlos Guillen will bat 6th. That leaves Cabrera and Sheffield to bat either 3rd or 5th and Renteria and Jones to fill out the 7th and 9th spots. I played with each combination and the results are below.

2008lineups.JPG

Essentially it makes very little difference how those remaining spots shake out. That’s not to say there aren’t some things Leyland is likely considering. With Pudge batting 8th, it means that he’ll have back to back left handers in either the 6-7 positions for 9-1 positions. My guess is that Jones bats 7th because Carlos Guillen’s ability to switch hit will prevent an opposing manager from doubling up with a left hand reliever. Plus Leyland frequently batted Guillen and Casey back to back last year. Conversely, Marcus Thames coming off the bench could provide such a deterrent in a 9-1 scenario as well.

As for Cabrera and Sheffield, Henning thinks that Shef will get the 3 spot. My inclination is to think Cabrera should get it, for the simple reason he’s a safer bet to put up the better numbers.

Aside from the lefty-righty staggering, the most important thing is to keep everyone happy. I know it’s foreign for a stat-guy like myself to advocate those “softer” human issues. However, given that there is so little difference in expected output, shiny happy productive players will help to insure that the most comes from the lineup.

Color me surprised, Tigers like Cabrera’s glove


credit Roger DeWitt

I’d consider this the first bit of surprising news coming out of camp, but the Tigers are impressed with Miguel Cabrera defensively at third has had me a little nervous since the trade was made. A rotation with three southpaws, two of which are extreme ground balls pitchers, means that third base becomes very important. Whether or not this is spring-training optimism talking remains to be seen (Jose Macias was dubbed a gold glove centerfielder by Randy Smith one spring).

Defensive metrics have been quite unified when assessing Cabrera’s defense. It’s not that just that he rates poorly, it’s that he rates as one of the worst at this position.

His struggles had been largely blamed on his weight gain, which became most problematic last year. It’s been widely reported he has arrived to camp in great shape having lost that extra weight. But he rated at -14 runs per 150 games using UZR in 2006 as well. In 2005 when he was primarily a left fielder, he rated as -21 runs according to UZR. So his defensive struggles probably weren’t only the result of his weight.

Moving beyond the weight though the Tigers have been very impressed with his soft hands and are now thinking his defense could be a plus.

“We haven’t worked anyone hard yet as far as movement,” said manager Jim Leyland, “but I can see he has very good hands, soft hands. (Infield coach Rafael Belliard) has looked at tape after tape of him and has said to me that he has a chance to be real good.”Tigers love Cabrera’s glove

It raises an interesting question as to what extent the Tigers can “coach him up.” He apparently as the hands, and his arm strength has long been well regarded rating a 70 in the fans scouting report. Are the tools there to turn him into a defensive force? Can Rafael Belliard help him with positioning and throwing accuracy? I’m still skeptical, but also encouraged.

The gang’s all here

Full squad workouts are now underway.  Before you know it we’ll have the first pitch of the Florida Southern game.  But for now, here’s a summary of the day’s stories out of Lakeland:


credit Roger DeWitt

Helter Skelton

Catcher James Skelton has been on my radar for a little while now as really the only catcher prospect in the system. The only thing is his prospect status is diminished because of his diminutive stature according to many. Take 75 North is also a fan and was happy to see a Jason Beck profile of Skelton.

It’s all about the hair


credit Roger DeWitt

First base prospect Jeff Larish reported to spring training with Ordonez-esque flowing locks. Leyland quipped

“The hair looks better when they hit it over the fence.”

Speaking of Magglio he spoke to reporters and talked about his batting title season, wanting to be part of a championship team, and that he’s basically ignoring Jose Canseco.

Other stuff

[Mlive] Leyland: Don’t call us team to beat. Skip says it’s Cleveland’s division until someone takes it from them.
[DetNews] Rodney’s tuneful ways are weird, but wonderful. Fernando the free spirit.

He looks good, he’s happy, and other reports from spring training

Imagine if the players turned the tables on the beat writers during spring training and wrote stories about the beat writers.

“The official reporting date wasn’t until the 14th, but he was down here a couple weeks ago getting ready.”

“You can tell he was really working out this offseason. His vocabulary has grown as much as his forearms. Both are the product of intensive typing.”

“He’s excited to be down here. You can hear it in his voice when he talks about how excited he is to get to work.”

“As the new guy on the beat, he’s still trying to get a feel for his fellow media members, but he seems to be fitting in great.”

“As a 6 year veteran, and the only remaining beat writer from that awful 2003 team, it’s clear that he’s a leader in and out of the locker room and the other guys look to him for cues.”

“He’s excited to try out the new language he was working on over the winter. By adding Spanish to his repertoire he should really have an advantage over the competition. If he can gain confidence in it, it could be what he needs to push him from beat writer to elite columnist.”

I kid of course, especially on a day when there is so much news coming out of camp.
Continue reading He looks good, he’s happy, and other reports from spring training

Men in uniforms

Brandon Inge on first day of Spring Training
credit Roger DeWitt

The first day of official workouts. Now we’re rolling.

Link round up

Catching up with Inge – Detroit Tigers Insider – MLive.com
A TALE OF TWO CATCHERS
Jim Leyland addresses Brandon Inge’s future with Tigers
Leyland isn’t concerned about lineup, is concerned about bullpen
The Official Site of The Detroit Tigers: News: Notes: Porcello gets first taste

Inge on Inge and Leyland on Inge

In an effort to move things along and avoid having everyone answer the same questions over and over again, Jim Leyland and Brandon Inge held a mini-presser. The main message wasn’t anything new. Everybody wants Inge to be traded. It may or may not happen. Inge just wants to start and he won’t be a cancer. Leyland also stated that Vance Wilson’s progress wouldn’t be a factor in Inge being moved.

The most interesting quote though came from the Freep article.

“I went to work on my swing this off-season,” Inge said. “My swing was a little long. Cutting down strikeouts is crucial.”

Glad to hear some self awareness.

Remember when PFP was a big deal?

Rick Porcello and Bobby Seay

In non-Inge news the Tigers have some pitchers in camp as well. The first day of workouts means PFP, which was a circus last year.

Rick Porcello was put into Kenny Rogers pitchers-fielding-practice group, and it probably wasn’t by accident. Porcello marveled at Rogers, then again Porcello was probably marveling at quite a bit. He’s not even a full year removed from high school. Most of his friends are making spring break plans while Porcello went south to work out with a major league club.

The bullpen

Leyland is concerned about the bullpen and realizes how important talent evaluation will be this spring

“We have to do a better job than ever of projecting what a guy is going to do (in the regular season). We have to find out everything we can about their personalities and their understanding of what is going on.”

While normally there is quite a bit of flexibility in making some of these bullpen decisions, the option status of many of the candidates means that at least one player will be cut loose. And nobody wants to see the wrong guy jettisoned.

One of those guys in contention, Francisco Cruceta is a late arrival. He’s having visa issues getting into the country.

Spring Training day .5 round-up

Dontrelle arrives at Lakeland
credit Roger DeWitt

While today was officially “Pitchers and Catchers report” day, it was just that. Reporting day. The official workouts don’t begin until tomorrow. Still, the players and beat writers are all in town so the stream of news has started to flow.

The links to the stories are below with my comments to follow:

Beck’s Blog: Happy Reporting Day
Det News: Leyland – Strong possibility Inge will get traded
Det News: Tigers catchers Wilson aims for mid-March return

Opening Day starter

It’s the first-ish day of spring training so of course it is time to find out who the Opening Day starter will be. Leyland is leaning towards Justin Verlander which really is who it has to be isn’t? I don’t think there’s much mystery that the rotation will be Verlander-Rogers-Bonderman-Willis-Robertson. Rogers will be sandwiched between the two righties and Willis and Robertson will fill out the 4 and 5 spots.
Continue reading Spring Training day .5 round-up