Game 2013.76: Angels at Tigers

Detroit Tigers: 42-33, 1st Place (3.5 ahead of Cleveland).

Well, that did not go well (including those ground ball things we were looking at). What is it with the Angels anyway?  Jason Beck looks at the disaster that was Game 75 in a bit appropriately titled “Breaking Down the Tigers’ Breakdown.” The most distressing thing about the game last night for me is that Porcello has joined the Troubled Starters brigade, following rough outings by Verlander and Fister, and the injured Sanchez. Max is holding it all together right now. Perhaps New Guy Jose Alvarez will right the ship tonight.

Perhaps we should change the subject. How are those Mud Hens doing? What? they lost 16-3 last night? Oh.

OK, how about this. The Tigers may have given up 16 hits last night, but in a game back in 1977, Boston pitcher Reggie Cleveland gave up 18 hits to Detroit. And won, 12-5. And pitched a complete game. Check out his line in the link above: 18 hits with no walks, and only 5 runs (also pitching for Detroit that day: Steve Grilli, father of Jason). This courtesy of John Lowe.

I’m guessing this might be the last 18-hit complete game victory in our lifetimes.

So, where were we…I think there was a game or something last night. At any rate, there is one tonight, and the Tigers are still in first.

Today’s Player of the Pre-game:  Torii Hunter. He was 3-for-4 in that debacle last night, and should have had an assist at the plate. Something tells me he doesn’t particularly like how his former team has been dominating against Detroit.

Today’s Lineup:

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

Game 2013.75: Angels at Tigers

Detroit Tigers: 42-32, 1st Place (3.5 ahead of Cleveland).

Yes, the Tigers are lucky to play in the Central. But if they were playing in the East, they would be in 2nd, only 2 games out of first, behind Boston, from whom they just took 3-of-4. Of course, that was at home. But if the Tigers could figure out how to step up their road game, they could be as good as anybody.

The Tigers finish off their home stand by welcoming the redundantly-named Los Angeles Angels for 3 games before departing for a rough road-trip that begins in Tampa Bay, rolls into the suddenly unbeatable Blue Jay juggernaut for 4 games, then ends in Cleveland. The Angels have owned Detroit lately–they have a 6-game winning streak in which they have outscored the Tigers 34-9. None of those games were at Comerica, however, and the Tigers are a different beast there.

Porcello will try to keep the ball down tonight: last time he faced the Angels he was bombed for 9 runs in less than an inning, including a Trout grand slam on a hanging curve ball.

C.J. Wilson will do his best to avoid joining his teammate Josh Hamilton in succumbing to the well-known Head & Shoulders Curse.

*****

When Porcello is at his best he gets a lot of ground balls. Actually, the Tigers as a team do the same (starters and relievers combined):

  • 858 Ground Balls (11th most)
  • 594 Fly Balls (15th most)
  • 379 Line Drives (15th most)

So the balls put in play are predominantly ground balls, and they do the best at any team of avoiding the dreaded line drive, which results in a .698 batting average (league average; for Detroit it is a fairly average .704).

You’ll notice that even though the Tigers have fewer Line Drives and Fly Balls than Ground Balls, that they are low in every category. This is because so many plate appearances end in strike outs (701, best in the league by 40). Combine that with being 3rd best in allowing the fewest walks (197: the Twins are best at 193), and what you get is just not that many balls put in play of any kind, and not that many total plate appearances. In fact Tiger pitchers have only pitched to 2795 total batters, well below the league average of 2871.

The bad news is that those ground balls have been getting through. The Tigers have a .268 batting average on ground balls hit against them, highest in the AL (the league average is .241; Baltimore is best at .214). Not to mention the ground balls rarely result in double plays (Tigers have turned a league-low 46).  Something to keep in mind for Rick Porcello on the mound.

*****

In other news, the Tigers had a scout at the Marlins/Giants series. They are rumored to be interested in Miami relievers Steve Cishek and Ryan Webb.

*****

Today’s Player of the Pre-game:  Austin Jackson. We’ll ignore the career 2-for-13 he has against Wilson. AJax is .457 (16-for 35) since his return from the DL, which may be energizing the offense as much as the return home. Before his trip to the DL he was in a horrible slump, but also playing through a bad hamstring. One should not forget how well he was hitting to start the season; that swing may be back. Enjoy.

(Oh. And how good does the Edwin Jackson/Curtis Granderson for Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, and Phil Coke (and Schlereth, oh well) trade seem now?).

Today’s Lineup:

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

Game 2013.74: Red Sox at Tigers

41-32, 1st place, 3 games up on Cleveland, winning streak at 1. Now it’s time for Justin Verlander (vs. Doubront) and the most satisfying series win of the season. Some bench guys are going to get starts today. Count on it, and don’t complain about it. The bench has been good. Tub is Love, and Bench is Good. Considering Miggy’s stats in JV starts, it might be a good time to give him a day off. But I wouldn’t count on it, and that I would complain about.

If we update this:

OFFENSIVE WPA/RE24 HEROES (bold = win) + OPPONENT

GAME 68 JACKSON (BAL) 
GAME 69 JACKSON
GAME 70 TUIASOSOPO
GAME 71 PERALTA (BOS) 
GAME 72 CABRERA

And then update this:

OFFENSIVE WPA/RE24 TURDS (bold = loss) + OPPONENT

GAME 68 PENA (BAL)
GAME 69 CABRERA 
GAME 70 JACKSON 
GAME 71 CABRERA, MARTINEZ (BOS)
GAME 72 FIELDER 

And then tote up all the “best in wins” and “worst in losses,” we might come up with something like this:

OFFENSIVE W-L

TUIASOSOPO 4-0
KELLY 3-0
SANTIAGO 1-0
CABRERA 13-3
JACKSON 4-2
PERALTA 3-2
FIELDER 9-7
AVILA 3-3
PENA 0-0
DIRKS 3-5
MARTINEZ 4-8
HUNTER 1-2
GARCIA 1-2
INFANTE 2-5

If we instead looked at “best in losses” and “worst in wins,” we’d get a look into where team results mask the individual contribution:

THE CONTRARIANS W-L

FISTER 1-0
CABRERA 10-3
TUIASOSOPO 4-2
KELLY 2-1
FIELDER 9-5
PERALTA 3-3
PENA 3-3
JACKSON 2-3
INFANTE 2-4
HUNTER 3-7
AVILA 2-5
GARCIA 1-3
SANTIAGO 0-1
DIRKS 0-6
MARTINEZ 0-6

Much of all that won’t surprise you, but some of it should. For instance: Infante, Hunter, Garcia… all overrated offensively.

If JV is ordinary today, let us hope for more of the extraordinary from the Comerica Strong bats.

POST-GAME: Tigers 7, Red Sox 5. Wow, what a game. Dramatic, start to finish. Couple things: A. 1B Victor Martinez made the defensive play of the year on Jacoby Ellsbury in the 6th, knocking down a ball scorched down the 1B line, getting back on his feet and to the ball quick as a cat, and then scooping the ball from the ground to 1B and into Smyly’s glove without looking, facing away from the play. SENSATIONAL. B. The Tigers sure caught a break in the 8th on RF Daniel Nava’s catch-and-drop that was called an error, huh? But here’s the thing. To the unaided human eye farther away than 10 feet from Nava, that was an error. Not only did Nava not get back on Garcia’s flyball well enough to make a normal catch, but he was pulling the ball out of his glove (and dropping it) before he’d even established that he’d made the catch. 2B ump Mike DiMuro may have blown the call, in retrospect, but what made this possible is that Nava blew the play.

The Tigers kept giving Verlander the lead, and he kept giving it back. Both Felix Doubront and Verlander struggled with their command on this steamy day and took only 5 innings – as long as either lasted – to go over 100 pitches. After that, it was a battle of the bullpens. The centerpiece of Detroit’s 2-run 1st was Cabrera’s blast to dead center (HR everywhere else, ground rule double at Comerica). CF Ellsbury prevented further damage by robbing Peralta of a RCF gap double with a great catch. 7 Red Sox hitters came to the plate in the two-run Boston 2nd that set the always-in-trouble tone for Verlander’s outing. The Tigers 2nd was a gutsy one. After Infante’s CS/pickoff left the bases empty, 2 outs, Holaday and Jackson came though, and Holaday came in to score on C Ryan Lavarnway’s lazy PB. 3-2 Tigers. The Red Sox 3rd was on the defense. How Peralta and Infante weren’t charged with throwing errors I have no idea, but their clown show helped make it 3-3. With help from Verlander’s strike three called a ball on Mike Napoli. In the 4th, another bluff from crafty Hunter prevented Lavarnway from scoring from 1B on the Ellsbury double, which was big until the next AB, when he scored for a 4-3 Boston lead anyway. In the Tigers 4th, with the bases loaded, RF Victorino bounced off the RF corner wall while making a great catch on Hunter’s deep (just foul) flyball. The post-5th battle of the bullpens was close and tense for a while. Smyly was in a spot of trouble in the 7th, two on and none out. Napoli flied out to Garcia, and Dustin Pedroia had the nerve to tag from 2B. Garcia had him nailed on a perfect throw to 3B, but Cabrera never had it and lost it on the tag, yet another uncharged Tigers error. But Smyly pitched out of the jam. It all started to fall apart for the Red Sox in the 7th. Strange play there. Jackson on 1B, Hunter hits a soft liner that 2B Pedroia drops. Pedroia picks up the ball and runs toward 1B, Jackson retreats to 1B, Pedroia throws to Napoli who tags Jackson at the bag, shortly followed (or preceded?) by Hunter crossing 1B. It ends with Hunter out, Jackson still at 1B. Evidently, Pedroia should have gone to 2B, lost the force there by failing to. Or maybe it was Napoli not tagging Jackson before Hunter got to 1B. I don’t know. Anyway, Tigers load the bases but only tie the game at 4-4 by virtue of an Andrew Miller HBP on Peralta. Remember the great catch by Victorino? He hurt his back. That’s why Nava comes in and strikes out with Ellsbury on 2B against Benoit to end the Red Sox 8th, and that’s why Nava was in RF to make the (official) two-base error that began the Tigers winning 8th. Karma! After Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected arguing the Nava call, his bullpen collapsed. Miller, Wilson, Breslow. Hunter knocked in the go-ahead run with a sac fly, and Fielder came through with a based-loaded single to make it 7-4. The Benoit 9th was not relaxing, but it ended. He struck out Ortiz. He allowed a run. Hunter ended the game in style with a tumbling catch of Stephen Drew’s liner to RCF. Lost in all the excitement: A truly horrid day from Martinez at the plate. Back at it already.

ALL-STAR TEAM

C Holaday
1B Napoli
2B Pedroia
SS Drew
3B Cabrera
LF Garcia
CF Jackson
RF Hunter
DH Fielder

P Smyly

RULE 5 DRAFT PICK: Jacoby Ellsbury

DFA: Daniel Nava

Game 2013.73: Red Sox at Tigers

40-32, 1st place, 3 games ahead of Cleveland, losing streak at 1. Phooey on the Red Sox and their silly beards.

The good great news is that Jose Valverde has been DFA. The talk of repairing him down yonder is just to soften the blow. No freaking way he pitches in a Tigers uniform again, ever. Al-Al is back, and that might be good news, not sure. Thus concludes the good news portion of our broadcast. AJax, out yesterday with “soreness,” has become A-Glass. With Tui on the DL and the well-known “durability” of Andy Dirks, I don’t think Avisail Garcia will be spending much more time in Toledo this season, but he is playing as though he might wish to.

Max Scherzer gets the call tonight. Will he answer it or be the next domino to fall? Beware the Unknown Struggling Rookie looming in the headlights dead ahead. We have learned to fear things like “11.74 ERA” by now.

The Detroit Tigers have played .500 baseball since May 8. The Detroit Tigers have played .500 baseball since May 8. Oh, did I repeat myself?

And now, the flip side of yesterday’s “offensive hero” list:

OFFENSIVE WPA/RE24 TURDS (thru 67 games, bold = loss) + OPPONENT

GAME 1 AVILA (MIN)
GAME 2 FIELDER 
GAME 3 FIELDER 
GAME 4 PERALTA (NYY)
GAME 5 MARTINEZ, SANTIAGO
GAME 6 INFANTE, MARTINEZ 
GAME 7 PERALTA (TOR)
GAME 8 AVILA 
GAME 9 DIRKS
GAME 10 MARTINEZ (OAK) 
GAME 11 JACKSON, MARTINEZ
GAME 12 INFANTE
GAME 13 AVILA (SEA)
GAME 14 INFANTE 
GAME 15 AVILA
GAME 16 FIELDER (LAA) 
GAME 17 JACKSON, INFANTE 
GAME 18 MARTINEZ 
GAME 19 JACKSON (KCR)
GAME 20 MARTINEZ 
GAME 21 PERALTA. PENA (ATL)
GAME 22 FIELDER
GAME 23 FIELDER
GAME 24 INFANTE (MIN)
GAME 25 DIRKS
GAME 26 MARTINEZ 
GAME 27 PENA (HOU)
GAME 28 HUNTER
GAME 29 FIELDER, JACKSON
GAME 30 CABRERA
GAME 31 AVILA (WSN) 
GAME 32 HUNTER 
GAME 33 HUNTER (CLE)
GAME 34 CABRERA, JACKSON 
GAME 35 MARTINEZ 
GAME 36 CABRERA (HOU)
GAME 37 HUNTER, GARCIA
GAME 38 CABRERA, FIELDER 
GAME 39 HUNTER (TEX) 
GAME 40 KELLY, HUNTER
GAME 41 INFANTE 
GAME 42 DIRKS, MARTINEZ 
GAME 43 TUIASOSOPO (CLE)
GAME 44 INFANTE, MARTINEZ
GAME 45 DIRKS, PENA (MIN)
GAME 46 MARTINEZ
GAME 47 GARCIA, DIRKS 
GAME 48 DIRKS
GAME 49 GARCIA (PIT)
GAME 50 DIRKS 
GAME 51 PERALTA, INFANTE 
GAME 52 DIRKS 
GAME 53 PERALTA (BAL) 
GAME 54 DIRKS, AVILA
GAME 55 AVILA 
GAME 56 MARTINEZ, HUNTER (TBR)
GAME 57 FIELDER, GARCIA 
GAME 58 DIRKS
GAME 59 FIELDER (CLE)
GAME 60 MARTINEZ, GARCIA
GAME 61 INFANTE, AVILA
GAME 62 INFANTE, FIELDER (KCR) 
GAME 63 HUNTER
GAME 64 MARTINEZ 
GAME 65 HUNTER, TUIASOSOPO (MIN)
GAME 66 DIRKS 
GAME 67 FIELDER

I wouldn’t make too much of a certain name coming up 14 times. I’m sure Gary Martinez, I mean Victor Sheffield, I mean Victor Martinez has just been a bit rusty and will soon get going, as we all wish he would, though perhaps in different ways. Maybe we can blame Brennan “11” Dirks instead.

Shut them down, Max! Please.

POST-GAME: Tigers 10, Red Sox 3. Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about. The historic Max Scherzer (first Tigers starter ever to start the season 11-0, first in 16 years in MLB) gave up a couple quick runs in the 1st, including a David Ortiz bomb, but thereafter was dominant, not in a highlight reel kind of way, but in the best and most frustrating way to the opponent (or their fans – we’ve been there, eh?) – effective and effectively untouchable. The Tigers came out strong right away against rookie Allen Webster, fill-in for injured Clay Buchholz, and loaded the bases for Fielder. Who struck out. Leaving this up to Martinez was not what we had in mind, But leave it to Victor to have a sensational game after a 7 for 45. He took a Webster pitch to the railing in RF. GRAND SLAM. Given the lead, Max cruised. Webster wasn’t so bad through 4.1, striking out 5 (he even struck out the side in that damaging 1st), but when he came out, the Tigers piled on against long man Franklin Morales, who left the game (injured?) after Infante’s HR with new OBP sensation V-Mart aboard made it 9-2 in the 7th. Alburquerque came in for the 8th and worked himself into and out of a jam, and Putkonen pitched a somewhat rocky 9th that would have been easier (and possibly scorelesser) without Jhonny Solid’s uncharacteristically poor relay throw on a would-be GIDP off the bat of Mike Carp. I like 10-2 better than 10-3, but I’ll take either. The Tigers hitting was Comerica Hot, with 11 of the 15 hits off the bats of Jackson, Hunter, and – gak – Martinez (5 RBI, after all those mean things we said about him) and Dirks! The 5 walks didn’t hurt, either. Jackson was the defensive equivalent of Country Strong (Nationwide?) in CF. New nemesis Jose Iglesias was de-nemesized when his extension of single to double resulted in a tumble over the bag and a Hunter-to-Peralta putout that reduced a possible-stress inning for Scherzer to dust. Fielder had a bad day, missing out on two prime opportunities to turn this into a blowout of Astro-Proportion. The running joke of the series is RF Shane Victorino now twice throwing to 1B on Cabrera singles (it’s going to work eventually if Miggy isn’t careful), and Hunter and Ortiz played off this joke later in the game when Ortiz singled.

ALL-STAR TEAM

C Pena
1B Carp
2B Infante
SS Drew
3B Cabrera
LF Dirks
CF Jackson (oh, he’s bad… he’s Nationwide)
RF Hunter
DH Martinez
P Scherzer

RULE 5 DRAFT PICK: David Ortiz

DFA: Franklin Morales

Game 2013.72: Red Sox at Tigers

40-31, 1st place, 4 games ahead of Cleveland, winning streak at 1.

Matt Tuiasosopo was supposed to start in LF yesterday, but was held out because of “intercostal” something or other. Is that a religious injury of some kind? I’m not sure what this means for the upcoming games, but I don’t like it. Meanwhile, Avisail Garcia was “sent down” to Toledo to make room for Jose Alvarez. I’m not sure if he actually goes to Toledo physically or not. Could be that they just “send down” Alvarez and “bring up” Garcia again now, and repeat the whole silly process for the next Alvarez start. Maybe they’re both staying in a Detroit hotel room with a “Toledo” sign on the door.

The starters have been a bit wobbly lately. 10 strikeouts notwithstanding, even Scherzer’s last outing was wobbly. Time for Judge Doug Fister to restore some order in the courtroom here.

WPA and RE24 have some limitations. Defense counts for nothing, and I don’t see them being analogously applicable to pitching as with some other stats (BAA, for instance). However, they are magically delicious when it comes to a game by game analysis of offensive impact and productive at bats. If you note nothing else from the list below, please note that every position player is on it, starter to bench. It is not opinion but fact that Don Kelly was the unquestionable offensive star of Game 27 against the Astros, as unlikely as it may seem that Kelly would ever be such, and you may look up the box score and full play-by-play if you doubt it. Of course, some names will be harder to miss than others. Looks like a couple of guys are earning those big paychecks. Behold the magical deliciousness:

OFFENSIVE WPA/RE24 HEROES (thru 67 games, bold = win) + OPPONENT

GAME 1 FIELDER (MIN)
GAME 2 CABRERA
GAME 3 JACKSON
GAME 4 FIELDER (NYY)
GAME 5  CABRERA
GAME 6 TUIASOSOPO
GAME 7 CABRERA (TOR)
GAME 8 PERALTA
GAME 9 AVILA. FIELDER
GAME 10 FIELDER (OAK)
GAME 11 FIELDER
GAME 12 JACKSON
GAME 13 CABRERA (SEA)
GAME 14 TUIASOSOPO
GAME 15 FIELDER
GAME 16 CABRERA (LAA)
GAME 17 FIELDER, CABRERA
GAME 18 FIELDER
GAME 19 INFANTE (KCR)
GAME 20 INFANTE, HUNTER
GAME 21 MARTINEZ, TUIASOSOPO (ATL)
GAME 22 INFANTE
GAME 23 JACKSON, CABRERA
GAME 24 FIELDER. DIRKS (MIN)
GAME 25 CABRERA, FIELDER
GAME 26 CABRERA
GAME 27 KELLY (HOU)
GAME 28 AVILA
GAME 29 CABRERA
GAME 30 FIELDER, DIRKS
GAME 31 PERALTA, FIELDER (WSN)
GAME 32 TUIASOSOPO
GAME 33 AVILA, CABRERA (CLE)
GAME 34 INFANTE, PERALTA
GAME 35 PENA
GAME 36 DIRKS (HOU)
GAME 37 SANTIAGO, MARTINEZ
GAME 38 TUIASOSOPO, GARCIA
GAME 39 KELLY, CABRERA (TEX)
GAME 40 CABRERA
GAME 41 HUNTER
GAME 42 FIELDER, CABRERA
GAME 43 CABRERA, DIRKS (CLE)
GAME 44 CABRERA
GAME 45 CABRERA (MIN)
GAME 46 CABRERA, DIRKS
GAME 47 PENA, HUNTER
GAME 48 GARCIA
GAME 49 MARTINEZ, PERALTA (PIT)
GAME 50 AVILA
GAME 51 CABRERA, KELLY
GAME 52 FISTER (yes, batting)
GAME 53 CABRERA (BAL)
GAME 54 PERALTA, TUIASOSOPO
GAME 55 FIELDER
GAME 56 FIELDER, TUIASOSOPO (TBR)
GAME 57 AVILA
GAME 58 MARTINEZ
GAME 59 HUNTER (CLE)
GAME 60 FIELDER 
GAME 61 KELLY
GAME 62 CABRERA (KCR)
GAME 63 CABRERA, KELLY
GAME 64 PENA, FIELDER
GAME 65 FIELDER (MIN)
GAME 66 FIELDER
GAME 67 JACKSON, HUNTER
 

POST-GAME: Red Sox 10, Tigers 6. As the score might indicate… we will have nothing to say about missed opportunities and Fielder going 0 for 5 with 13 double plays. This one’s on the pitching. Fister was fooling no one. Not terrible, but bad enough to be gone in the 4th, by which time it was 6-0 Boston. Balls just kept finding holes through the infield. This will happen to groundball pitchers, especially on this team. Jon Lester was not sharp, either, though the Tigers kept finding ways to beat themselves against him. The drama in this one boiled down to two innings. Tigers 5th: Down 6-1 and seemingly on the road to hopelessness, Dirks homered to Belle Tire, and Cabrera took a Lester change-up deep for 3 runs, and suddenly it was a ballgame again, 6-5 Red Sox. Red Sox 8th: With the Tigers down 7-5, men on 2nd and 3rd after Phil “I Told You So” Coke was brought in for a second inning against all reason, new arrival Alburquerque came in and actually pitched well. And yet 2 more Boston runs scored, first on a close play at the plate (I think Saltalamacchia was safe) that drawn-in Peralta and Pena weren’t quite equal to, and then on a mere squib of a WP and another play at the plate that Al-Al and Pena weren’t quite equal to. There were good defensive plays. In the 3rd, Miggy charged – see what can happen when you CHARGE a tapper, Miguel? – and made a great barehand and throw to nail Pedroia at 1B (though a run scored from 3B). In the 5th, Hunter’s bullet throw from RF doubled off Mike Napoli at 1B (yet another close play). There was bad, as in Garcia, formerly known as “CF Of The Future,” muffing an altogether routine single in the 9th and allowing a run to score from 1B in the process. All in all, though, it was a game where the Tigers were a day late and a dollar short on defense. Downs got a big DP in relief of Fister and an impressive 3-pitch K on Ellsbury, and was OK in his long relief, despite giving up what seemed at the time a crucial run. Coke had a nice 7th and should have said goodbye thereafter. Evan “White Flag” Reed (good call, Coleman) pitched the 9th and had your average white flag inning, again demonstrating the Tigers surplus of eminently hittable pitchers with “great stuff.” Shane Victorino was a one-man wrecking crew, reaching 5 times with 5 RBI. Cabrera deserved a better outcome on a fine 4 for 4 evening himself.

ALL-STAR TEAM

C Pena
1B Napoli
2B Pedroia
SS Drew
3B Cabrera
LF Dirks
CF Ellsbury
RF Victorino
DH Ortiz
P Breslow

RULE 5 DRAFT PICK: Jose Iglesias

DFA: Avisail Garcia

 

Game 2013.71: Red Sox at Tigers

The Detroit Tigers (39-31, 1st place, 3.5 games ahead of Cleveland, losing streak at 2) continue their home stand with a 4-game set against the Clay Buchholz-less Boston Red Sox (44-30, 1st place AL East). The forecast says Detroit weather all good for the first couple games, fair chance of rain over the weekend that could affect play.

Thursday, June 20, 7:08 PM EDT: RHP John Lackey (4-5, 3.08) v LHP Jose Alvarez (1-0, 1,50)
Friday, June 21, 7:08 PM EDT: LHP Jon Lester (6-4, 4.37) v RHP Doug Fister (6-4, 3.21)
Saturday, June 22, 7:15 PM EDT*: RHP Allen Webster (0-1, 11.74) v RHP Max Scherzer (10-0, 3.08)
Sunday, June 23,  1:08 PM EDT: LHP Felix Doubront (4-3, 4.38) v RHP Justin Verlander (8-5, 3.72)

*National on Fox, meaning blacked out for us MLB.tv folks

MEET THE RED SOX*:  HITTING: .268 AVG (Tigers .281), .345 OBP (.348), .443 SLG (.428), .788 OPS (.776),  371 R (343), 82 HR (72), 58 of 71 SB (21 of 27), GIDP 59 or 11% (61 or 11%), INFIELD HITS 68 or 10.3% (52 or 7.6%). STARTING PITCHING: 3.70 ERA (Tigers 3.38), .241 BAA (.237), 1.30 WHIP (1.13), 401/174 K/BB (465/107), 54 HR (31). BULLPEN: 213 IP (Tigers 191), 12-8 W-L (4-13), 3.89 ERA (3.76), .246 BAA (.234), 1.36 WHIP (1.27), 231/91 K/BB (200/77), 26 HR (17), IRS% 27% (30%) DEFENSE: .986 FPCT (Tigers .989), .692 DefEff (.686), 59 DP (52), 76% SBPCT (75%), OF ASSISTS 15 (9), UNEARNED RUNS 20 (13).

*Thru 69 games

You could have – would have – called this another “are they ready?” series before the one just concluded against Baltimore. (You may recall that the Tigers failed the first two such tests against the Rangers and the Pirates.) At this point, a split with Boston would be a pleasant surprise, though the Red Sox feature a bullpen that the Tigers could munch on if they were so inclined. But I’m guessing that they’re not so inclined.

A few tidbits on the best starting rotation in baseball:

INNING-OWNERS*: MASTERS OF THEIR DOMAIN (thru 67 games)

SCHERZER 52.2% (48 OF 92)
ALVAREZ 50.0% (3 OF 6)
PORCELLO 40.3% (29 OF 72)
SANCHEZ 36.1% (30 OF 83)
FISTER 35.8% (34 OF 95)
VERLANDER 26.1% (23 OF 88)

*Perfect but for any IBB or ROE

IMPERFECT INNINGS ERA (thru 67 games)

ALVAREZ 3.00
SANCHEZ 4.25
VERLANDER 4.57
FISTER 4.87
SCHERZER 6.54
PORCELLO 9.18

INTERESTING COUNT DATA (BAA/OPSA) thru 67 games

1ST PITCH*** 0-2******* 3-2****** 3-BALL%** HOT COUNT**** NOT COUNT***** K COUNT
VERLANDER .222/.633 .152/.391** .333/.974 18% 1-2 .158/.366 2-1 .611/1.690 1-2 (60%)
SCHERZER .343/.905 .146/.341* .057/.498 18% 2-2 .079/.238 1-0 .438/1.537 0-2 (59%)
PORCELLO .458/1.208 .190/.381** .286/.819 20% 1-2 .070/.233 1-0 .563/1.250 0-2 (57%)
SANCHEZ .548/1.322 .122/.244* .200/.710 19% 1-2 .037/.073 1ST PITCH 1-2 (65%)
FISTER .324/.780 .188/.517** .351/.922 17.5% 2-2 .182/.400 1-1 .393/.842 2-2 (47%)

 

(The bold type and asterisks are for separation and readability only, nothing more. Haven’t quite worked out the table insertion thing…)

And now, the situation…

The Tigers are fresh off their most humiliating loss of the season, a 13-3 rout at home that went from bad to worse to what we hope will be the last pitch Jose Valverde throws as a Tiger. Tell me something. Why does Miguel Cabrera not charge the Flaherty grounder in the 4th, two outs, man on 2B, Orioles up 2-0? Mario Impemba on Cabrera waiting on the ball at the bag and attempting to tag Hardy out there: “Really Miggy’s only play.” I don’t think so. I think that was a horrendous error in judgment that sent the game on its way to the toilet. I’ll have nice things to say about Miggy later, but that play is one big black eye. HUGE black eye. Even if the tag at 3rd is the only play, it was still misplayed, at great cost. I will get to the oft-neglected subject of defense next series.

Oh, I get it. The Tigers are a good hitting team. Not a good scoring team. Thanks for clearing that up, Tigers hitters. Anibal is out. That hurts. Austin is back, and way back. That helps. Valverde has reached the point of no return. Avila is on the DL, which may end up saving him his job as the starting catcher. Verlander has become some guy who reminds you a bit of Verlander at times. Roster confusion abounds, with someone about to be sent down due to Alvarez coming up for a start or two for Sanchez (we hope it’s only a start or two, despite the promise shown by Alvarez) and one too many outfielders already here and a possible bullpen shakeup brewing… but it might all be sorted out by the time you read this. Tuiasosopo is still hitting, still hardly playing, still causing much consternation among those of us permanently afflicted with Marcus Thames Disorder. Cracks are showing in the 800-Run Offense and the rotation may be starting to buckle, while the bullpen remains as unsettled and perplexing as always. I’m telling yeh, it’s all building up to something… something that can only be redeemed… with FIRE.

Coleman made an astute observation related to The Late Inning Troubles and Mr. Cabrera, or Cabby, as we like to call him. I’ll paraphrase: Miggy is so clutch before the clutch that he often makes the clutch unnecessary. More about him and Tigers offensive performance overall – impact and efficiency – in the game posts to come.

All right – here goes nothing, eh? Good luck, Jose Alvarez (with the Spirit Of Sanchez to guide you, as per the above). All eyes are upon you, you skid-stopper, you.

POST-GAME: Tigers 4, Red Sox 3. Good game, wrong result THEY DID IT! FIRST 2013 WALKOFF WIN!! Alvarez was as good as last time for 2 innings, then seemed to have a case of realizing where he was and who he was facing. John Lackey was quietly impressive in a Doug Fister “What just happened here?” way. On Jacoby Ellsbury’s 1st inning leadoff HR bid, Hunter made a good catch at the wall look “great” in a “Torii Hunter” kind of way. The suddenly wild Alvarez loaded the bases in the 3rd but wiggled out of it, with Leyland coming out to jaw about the HBP on Victorino that wasn’t really that debatable (see later). David Ortiz had been carved up by Alvarez in the 1st, but caught up to him in the 4th, sending a decent pitch outta here to RF. 1-0 Boston. In the bottom half, our so-called DH left Cabrera standing at 3B after more baserunning genius from Miggy (taking the base on a “WP” that barely got away, C Ryan Lavarnway just unable to find it). Hunter asked for more debate on his debatable defense in the 5th on the Jose Iglesias triple. It looked either lazy or way too safe as he allowed the ball to roll to the RCF wall and circled back around to get it, but in fact he had misread the ball speed on what might have been a long single and taken the wrong route in the first place. It might be a stretch to say this cost the run on the following Ellsbury single, though. 2-0 Red Sox. The Tigers cooked up a fine rally in the bottom half, rescued at the eleventh hour by the speedy Jackson loading the bases with a fine IF single 3B Will Middlebrooks didn’t have a chance to throw him out on, and Hunter delivering by muscling a flare into RF for 2 runs. Then Lackey struck Cabrera out (again). Tied at 2. Putkonen comes in for spent Alvarez to start the 6th, good move, side retired. The amazing run of good bullpen management (GBM) continues in the 7th with 2 outs from Putkonen and then Coke coming in to (stock phrase) carve up Ellsbury. In the Tigers 7th, a rare bad bunt by Infante wastes an out (popped), and the inning goes for naught (great takeout slide by Dirks to bust up a DP, though). GBM ends abruptly in the 8th with Coke coming back out (huh?) to hurl 9 straight balls and, eventually, allow an Ortiz single to make it 3-2 Boston. Smyly to the rescue, GBM restored. Smyly does a allow a “HBP” that isn’t even close to Lavarnway (and Leyland doesn’t argue this one), but gets three outs and leaves ’em loaded. That is what you call a save. Even when the team’s behind. Bottom 8th, Miggy strikes out for the 3rd time (Koji Uehera this time) and Prince breaks hearts with a deep fly to CF that doesn’t get out. Smyly’s 9th was marred only by the Victorino double. Tigers up, down one, last chance. Closer Andrew Bailey in for the Red Sox. Martinez, the guy I was so sick of earlier in the game… well, he can’t get around on a fastball any more, but he still has the eye, and he draws a walk. Kelly in to pinch-run. Peralta goes to two strikes quickly, which he apparently likes to do. Then he pulls off the improbable, the seemingly impossible. He puts it into the bullpen beyond LF. Game over. Win #40 in the books.

ALL-STAR TEAM

C Pena
1B Fielder
2B Infante
SS Peralta
3B Middlebrooks
LF Dirks
CF Jackson
RF Hunter
DH Ortiz
P Lackey

RULE 5 DRAFT PICK: Drew Smyly

DFA: Phil Coke

Game 2013.70: Orioles at Tigers

blah. That’s my response to last night’s game. So blah that we’ll skip the regular format, and get a new fresh post up ASAP.

Yes, JV looks off, but as I discussed before, he’s actually been pretty good. Well, last night was bad, but I’m not worried.

I have faith in Ricky P to pitch us to victory. Four straight quality starts with a 1.33 ERA and .70 (not a typo) WHIP during that time. Orioles have a strong lineup, but Porcello has been pitching well.

Series winning lineup coming soon…

Game 2013.69: Orioles at Tigers

39-29, 1st place, 5 games up on Kansas City who is 8-2 over their last 10 and has passed Cle to move into 2nd.

Good solid win yesterday. Scherzer was good, but not great, on his way to his ML leading 10th win. I don’t think anyone would argue with me on that. Thank about that for a second, the guy Ks 10 and allows 1 run over 6 innings, and it’s only a “good” outing for him. He was incredible in jams, as the one hit the Orioles got with a RISP off of him only advanced a runner to third. A high K rate will strand a lot of runners. Scherzer would be the best pitcher on a number of staffs around the Majors.

The offense pounded out 14 hits, though only 2 of them were XBH, including the Miggy HR and another two-bagger for Johnny Doubles.

JV climbs the hill tonight looking for his 10th win. Wait, he only has 8 wins? He didn’t get a win last time out? It’s okay, I expect he’ll be at 10 in 6 days. JV is 8-0 vs. the O’s with a 2.93 ERA.

Thanks to an injury to Jason Hammel, the Tigers face Zach Britton tonight. Britton is a struggling lefty who was in the majors for all of 2011, then roughly 1/2 of 2012, and will be making his second start in 2013. His career WHIP is 1.49, his career ERA is 4.85, and he has a career K rate of just 6.19. The Tigers should have their chances early and often tonight.

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

Saw some good stuff on the web today, so an expanded few notes:

– My brother gives pretty good gifts, but Justin Verlander gives better ones.

According to Fangraphs, the Tigers 2013 WAR projects to be the third best of all time. Yes, your 2013 Tigers are being mentioned in the same breath as the ’27 and ’39 Yankees. Even more interesting is the current Tigers WAR rankings: Cabrera (4), Sanchez (3.4), Verlander (3.0), Scherzer (3.0) and Fister (2.7).  I really liked this quote:

“The rotation is obscene. Dave wrote about this at the end of May. With Rick Porcello suddenly striking batters out, all five of the starters would be top starters on other teams, and Drew Smyly isn’t bad as insurance. Cabrera, in his prime, is one of the best hitters ever, and Prince Fielder is obviously dangerous, and look at those performances from Avila and Martinez. Avila stands to improve, and so does Martinez, and if they don’t, the Tigers could make roster upgrades as they think about the playoffs. Nick Castellanos appears to have figured out Triple-A, clearing the way for him to figure out the majors, and that’s good young support.”

– With Jose Alvarez filling in on Thurs for Sanchez, who gets sent down? Likely to be an outfielder, says James Schmehl of MLive. Also note Schmehl’s distaste for the bunt and his reasoning why (3rd question down).

– I think that it’s safe to say that Valverde has officially lost the everyday closer role. Though my guess is that he’ll still get first shot in a close game.

Mike Heath is old enough to be a grandfather?

Tonight’s Series Clinching Lineup (remember, we gotta win series):

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

Game 2013.68: Orioles at Tigers

38-29, 1st place, 4.5 games up. Which is the 2nd biggest division lead in the majors.

The Tigers took care of business in Minnesota taking the three game series with the win yesterday. Good teams have to win series against no so good teams. So good job, boys.

A much more formidable opponent rolls into the D tonight, a place that has been very difficult for opposing teams this year. The Tigers are an AL high 12 games over at Comerica this year (22-10), mostly thanks to a prolific home offense which was mentioned in Coleman’s opener yesterday. Here are some selected home stats with their ML ranks in parenthesis:

– Avg. .302 (1)
– OBP. .370 (1)
– Slg. .455 (3rd)

But again (I think I brought this up a few weeks ago) the home XBHs aren’t there – as they are 17th, 16th, and 16th, in 2B, 3B, and HR, respectively. This is easy to pinpoint by looking at home/away splits for individual hitters. Cabby and Fielder are both mashing home and away, but Peralta (128 points), Infante  (239), Avila (145) and Martinez (86) all are experiencing significant dropoffs in slugging away from Comerica. I guess the other way of looking at this is that Peralta, Infante hit at all-star levels at home! And Martinez and Avila hit at near league average levels!

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

The Orioles come into town at 40-30 after having taken 2/3 at home against the 1st place Red Sox. The Orioles lead the majors with 15 series wins in 2013. Jake Arrieta gets the start in place of Jason Hammel, who is getting an extra day to recover from illness. Arrieta lost his starting job back in April after posting a 6.63 ERA and failing to reach the 6th inning in 4 starts. This will be his first major league appearance since then.

Mad Max Scherzer could set Tigers history tonight…no Tigers starter has ever started a season 10-0. Over his last 5 starts, Max has a microscopic .69 WHIP, a 2.00 ERA, and 38 ks in 36 innings. He was given a no decision against the Orioles when they walked off with a bomb off of Valverde. Max hasn’t forgotten I’m sure.

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

The big news of the day is that Anibal Sanchez (strained right shoulder) and Alex Avila (deep contusion on his left forearm) were put on the 15-day DL today; though I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone.

Here’s your it happens other places too note for the date: Ron Washington told reporters yesterday that even “Detroit lost 7/8 at one point in time this season”.  Panic is sweeping the Metroplex regarding the Rangers.

Tonight’s Lineup:

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

 

Game 2013.67: Tigers at Twins

Detroit Tigers: 37-29, 1st Place (4.5 ahead of Cleveland). 

Here are a few of the things that we know, statistically, about the Detroit Tiger offense at this point in the season:

  • They struggle on the road (.259/.726, vs. .302/.825 at home).
  • They are more likely than most teams to score 2 runs or fewer (18 times so far).
  • They are more likely than most teams to score 7 runs or more (21 times so far).
  • They struggle mightily in late innings, particularly in late and close situations (league worst; see yesterday’s post).

Let’s set aside the more specific late and close statistics for now, and just look at the overall late inning statistics. In innings 7-9 the Tiger hitters come out 14th best in OPS out of 15 teams (luckily that 15th team is Cleveland):

  • BA: .220 (13th)
  • OB: .276 (8th)
  • SLG: .313 (15th)
  • OPS: .622 (14th)
  • Runs: 57 (15th)

So once it hits the 7th inning, the Detroit Tigers become the American League team least likely to score. It has been said that the bullpen problems put pressure on the hitters. Doesn’t it seem likely that knowing that there are no more runs coming from the offense also puts pressure on the bullpen?

Here are the individual numbers, ranked by OPS, for inning 7-9 hitting:

  1. .286/.929 Tuiasosopo
  2. .254/.853 Cabrera
  3. .266/.791 Fielder
  4. .274/.714 Infante
  5. .245/.656 Dirks
  6. .254/.649 Peralta
  7. .235/.611 Martinez
  8. .184/.525 Avila
  9. .195/.511 Jackson
  10. .222/.489 Pena
  11. .200/.471 Garcia
  12. .138/.458 Kelly
  13. .113/.376 Hunter
  14. .067/.243 Santiago

Quick reaction: let’s have more Tuiasosopo!

You’ll notice above that On Base is the only category in which the Tigers are decent (8th). In other words, somebody is getting a lot of late inning walks. Those somebodies are Cabrera (14) and Fielder (12), which is why they are so high up on the OPS ranking. In other words, once it gets late in games, teams are pretty much done pitching to those two.

Apparently they have plenty bases open by the time Cabrera comes up, with Hunter struggling with a .214 late inning on base percentage. Torii was the biggest surprise for me when I pulled these numbers up. Here are his splits:

  • Innings 1-3: .416/1.004
  • Innings 4-6: .273/.681
  • Innings 7-9: .113/.376

So there it is, over the course of a game Torii Hunter goes from a .400 hitter to an average hitter to a pitcher trying to bat. Is it fatigue? He seems to have lost a step in the outfield. Maybe Leyland knows what he is doing giving Hunter frequent days off?

*****

Today Doug Fister takes on the Pajama Man, P.J. Walters. These two faced off on May 25, where Walters bested Fister in a 3-2 victory, sprinkling 8 hits over 6 innings. Pena had a big game against Walters (3-for-4), and Peralta hit a solo shot. Walters has pitched well since then, and has a 2.49 ERA for the season. As in his first outing against Detroit, guys do get on base against him–his WHIP is 1.46–but they don’t seem to score. Fister has his fingers crossed–the Tigers have put up a total of 4 runs in his last 4 starts.

*****

Today’s Player of the Pre-game:  Let’s go with Dad here. Happy Father’s Day everybody!

Today’s Where’s Pena? Lineup:

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

No, that is not a mistake, Avila gets the start again, despite Pena having the 3-for-4 day against Walters May 25. I guess Avila is “due.”

Game 2013.66: Tigers at Twins

Detroit Tigers: 37-28, 1st Place (4.5 ahead of Cleveland). 

Who the (expletive) should Leyland close with? (to quote the skipper). Well it looks like the answer, for now, is going to be Jose Valverde, who is still the closer. (Although it should be noted that Valverde’s appearance was not a save situation, and that Phil Coke was warming up in the bullpen). Valverde himself was campaigning for an appearance, and “wasn’t shy” about it.

*****

In Friday’s pre game talk Leyland followed up his “who should I close with?” rant by putting a little heat on his offense. When someone mentioned that the offense seems to fall off in late innings, Leyland went off: “Why don’t you write about it?” Leyland said. “You write about Valverde. You write about the (expletive) closer. Write about that. Write about it…We have to improve in close games,” Leyland said. “We haven’t done very well in close games. We’ve been terrible.”

That IS the other side of the poor record in one-run games (7-11) and extra inning games (2-7): if the offense regularly disappears in the late and close situations, eventually a crack will show somewhere in the bullpen. It is possible to have your bullpen give up a run or two and still win games.

Here is what happens to the Tiger hitters in “Late and Close” situations:

  • BA: .198 (15th)
  • OB: .291 (13th)
  • SLG: .267 (15th)
  • OPS: .558 (15th)

They also have scored a mere 23 “late and close” runs, which is also dead last (Baltimore is best with 72).

Blame can be evenly spread, even Cabrera isn’t immune. Here are the team late and close BA/OPS numbers.

  1. .231/.858  Tuiasosopo
  2. .278/.806  Infante
  3. .167/.786  Santiago
  4. .289/.684  Peralta
  5. .211/.671  Avila
  6. .231/.605  Jackson
  7. .222/.596  Kelly
  8. .220/.587  Fielder
  9. .238/.499  Pena
  10. .135/.482  Cabrera
  11. .130/.390  Dirks
  12. .114/.368  Hunter
  13. .143/.343  Garcia
  14. .139/.339  Martinez

*****

All that aside, today’s matchup projects to be one that favors the Tigers. Detroit sends out Anibal Sanchez, who was a Joe Mauer single away from no-hitting the Twins the last time he faced them. The Tigers face Deduno, whom they knocked for 6 runs in 5 innings.  Dirks had 3 hits against Deduno in that game, and Kelly hit a home run, and they are both in the lineup today, in case you thought nobody paid attention to these things

*****

Today’s Player of the Pre-game:  Victor Martinez. Teams have been putting Cabrera on base, and Fielder has been making them pay.  Deduno pitched around Fielder the last time the two teams played (2 walks), and Victor couldn’t capitalize. He is likely to get another chance tonight…hopefully not when the game is late and close (see list above).

Today’s Donkified Lineup:

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

Game 2013.65: Tigers at Twins

Detroit Tigers: 36-28, 1st Place (4.5 ahead of Cleveland).

Well the Tigers had a much-needed day off to shake off their latest one-run loss (their 11th), a 2nd consecutive Valverde home run derby which even had manager Jim Leyland playing hot potato. When Leyland says “who the (expletive) should I close with?” he does have a point. It wasn’t Leyland’s idea to have Valverde as a closer, and he has tried everyone from Coke to Benoit to Alburquerque to Rondon in the role, with nothing but problems. And when you look at the trade options Dombrowski has (Papelbon?) I can imagine he has his own expletives.

This Closer creature is a mysterious beast, often record-setting one year and a scapegoat the next. And it is also a fairly new creature, one perhaps spawned by a baseball writer who created the Save statistic (thanks to StorminNorman$ for the link, I recommend reading this).  One thing in the article that’s hard to argue with: Billy Beane’s point that you can look at all the probabilities you want, but closing a game is an emotion magnet, with the fans, the writers, and even the players drawn in. There is something about being ahead in the 9th and then losing that just does not sit well. The fan comments on blogs are one thing, but even the Tiger players looked demoralized Wednesday.

So the logical answer to Leyland’s question might be that you don’t need to “close with anybody.” Does it really make sense to only use who is supposedly your best relief pitcher in “save situations,” games that statistically you are overwhelmingly going to win no matter who pitches? It is almost a self-perpetuating system: closers are judged–and paid–by numbers of saves, then used in such a way to maximize their numbers of saves without a real thought whether this is really the best way to use them.  Oh, and they only pitch the 9th and only the 9th inning.

This is not to suggest that there is any chance of Jim Leyland doing anything other than having a Setup Guy/Closer system. In that light, I’ll throw this in: last night Rondon K’d the side in the 9th for a save for the Mud Hens.

****

Just for fun:

World Champion 1968 Detroit Tigers bullpen:

  • ERA: 2.26
  • WHIP: 1.113
  • W/L:  29-13
  • Saves: 29

Saves:

  • 7 Pat Dobson
  • 7 Darryl Patterson
  • 5 Fred Lasher
  • 3 John Warden
  • 2 John Hiller
  • 2 John Wyatt
  • 1 Mickey Lolich
  • 1 Don McMahon
  • 1 Dennis Ribant

*****

In other news, the Tigers signed Johnathan Crawford, their top pick in the draft, along with 18 others, including Ben “Little Bro” Verlander.

*****

As for tonight, the big news is that Ajax is back! To make room for Jackson, Avisail Garcia has been returned to Toledo. There is also a guy in Center for Minnesota who may look familiar: Clete Thomas gets the start for the Twins tonight.

*****

Today’s Player of the Pre-game:  Austin Jackson. Let’s see if Austin can wake up the road offense. He is only 4-for18 career against Diamond, but I am predicting he comes back with a flourish.

Today’s Welcome Back Ajax Lineup:

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

Avila gets the start even with the lefty pitching; Infante works his way up into the 8th spot.