The Ordonez Kerfuffle

The Magglio Ordonez benching/non-benching is the story that just keeps on giving. At this point I think everybody except Barack Obama has had their say. Let’s put it all together and see what we can come up with:

Thursday

Jim Leyland announces that Ordonez wouldn’t be starting that night in St. Louis and that he would be out of the starting lineup indefinitely. Headline writers use the term “benched” liberally as it seems that Ordonez is being placed on the bench.

Continue reading The Ordonez Kerfuffle

Tigers extend Jim Leyland

The Tigers today announced the extension of Jim Leyland’s contract through the 2011 season.

“We are happy to announce a two-year contract extension for Jim Leyland today,” Tigers President, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager David Dombrowski said. “Jim is an outstanding manager and he has done a great job for the Tigers.  We look forward to Jim leading our club for years to come.”

Edwin Jackson’s 132 pitches

Edwin Jackson threw 132 pitches to help the Tigers complete a sweep of the Texas Rangers. Pitch counts and the hubbub around them are fodder for controversy. I tend to favor caution in these scenarios but am willing to consider each game on an individual basis. Who was the pitcher? What was the game state? Is there an off day coming up? How much rest is he pitching on? What is the pitcher’s injury history? And on and on. I don’t think there is a simple answer to the right number of pitches, but today Jim Leyland left Edwin Jackson in too long. I worry if this is going to be a pattern in 2009.

Let’s look at today’s game and analyze the situation. Jackson had an extra day of rest having last pitched on Friday. His pitch count was also a manageable 97 pitches in that last start, well at least it seemed manageable. But don’t forget there was a rain delay that lasted over an hour and Jackson pitched on both sides of that delay meaning he threw extra pitches in the cage. His workload was actually higher that game than the 97 pitches would indicate.
Continue reading Edwin Jackson’s 132 pitches

Rotation shuffle

With today’s rain out, the Tigers have changed their rotation, or have they demoted Zach Miner to the bullpen?

The two different stories have a different feel to be sure. First though, the upcoming pitchers are: Galarraga, Verlander, Jackson, Porcello. That’s what we know for sure. The Tigers are effectively skipping Rick Porcello this turn through the rotation. And with an off day Thursday, and another off day on Monday, Galarraga is expected to start the Tuesday game in LAAnaheim. Which means Zach Miner is being skipped in the next turn through the rotation.

I really think this is more a matter of maximizing the starts for the Verlander/Galarraga/Jackson triumvirate than it is a relegation of Zach Miner to the bullpen. Miner wasn’t good on Monday, but not many pitchers were good in that weather and I can’t see that as a reason for him to lose a spot in the rotation. But…who knows what will happen between now and the next time the team needs a 5th starter.

The one about the bullpen last night

Gut wrenching losses are good fodder for second guessing (and page views). My thoughts and perspective on what happened last night (some of these may sound like a defense of decisions made or not made, that’s not necessarily the intent).

1. Why take out Edwin Jackson, he was pitching awesome? Edwin Jackson had been pitching awesome, until he lost his control. For those that hate pitch counts as a reason to pull a pitcher, you should love this decision. Clearly the 89 pitches weren’t the issue. It was the fact that after peppering the strike zone all night he started falling behind hitters.

2. Why only one batter for Bobby Seay? Leyland was playing platoon advantages. Look at the righties coming up after Snider. There wasn’t a lefty in sight. Seay did his job.

3. Why not Ryan Perry then? The popular belief is that this was too much of a pressure situation for a debut. I don’t believe it, and I don’t think Leyland does either. When Zumaya debuted it was in a hold situation. He’s not afraid of that at all. And really, if Perry comes in a blows it then how many question why he was brought into a pressure situation to debut? A ton. Most questioned when Rodney and Zumaya were brought into pressure situations when first returning last year, and they’d faced those situations before. No. The real reason was because at the moment Leyland views Lyon as his second best reliever behind Fernando Rodney.

4. Why use your second best reliever in such a high leverage situation? This is the better question, and one that stat heads have been hammering on managers for for years. But if it’s not the 9th you can’t use your closer for some reason.

5. Why leave Lyon out there in the 9th? I’ve got nothing. This was stupid. Even if you let him start the inning, when he continues to struggle why not go get him. Ridiculous.

Oh those intentional base on balls

The Tigers struggled with walks in 2008. This is well documented and fairly obvious with the Tigers issuing more walks than every team other than Texas. It resulted in Chuck Hernandez losing his job and the Tigers bringing in a coach who built his reputation on pounding the strike zone. But a significant chunk of those walks came at the hands of Jim Leyland.

The Tigers led the American League in intentional walks with 63. The next closest team had 45 which means Detroit issued 42% more walks than the next most free pass happy team. It also means that instead of ranking 13th in the AL in walks, they rank 11th in unintentional walks. Still poor, but not as ridiculously awful.
Continue reading Oh those intentional base on balls

Tigers name Rick Knapp pitching coach

The Tigers found their pitching coach, and they poached him from the Twins. He is Rick Knapp and he’s served as the minor league pitching coordinator for the last 12 years in the Minnesota organization.

I really like this move. The Twins have a tradition of producing striking throwing machines on a regular basis, and you’d have to think that Knapp gets some of that credit. The Twins have walked the fewest number of hitters in the AL in 4 of the last 5 years.

The trick for Knapp now is to see if he can translate his development skills to pro pitchers and get the Tigers staff throwing strikes. His biggest challenge of course is with Dontrelle Willis, who’s struggles are well known. He will largely be evaluated though based on his work with Justin Verlander to see if he can help Verlander regain his studly-ness.

I am excited about Knapp’s long term potential impact as he imparts his philosophies on the young pitchers in the organization. Plus he won’t be churning out those arms for the division-rival Twins anymore.

Google Stalking

  • Jeff Passan wrote an article in August and Knapp was largely the subject. But one takeaway was that the Twins control strength goes beyond instruction and it is an organizational philosophy that goes down to talent evaluation. It will be very interesting to see what Knapp does with guys who were largely sought out for velocity and stuff.
  • In an article about Kevin Cameron, Cameron mentions that one year there was a rash of shoulder injuries to many Twins minor league pitchers. I don’t like the sound of that, but don’t know enough about it to judge either.
  • Knapp was discussed in reference to some tools and techiniques he used in assisting David Bromberg. (h/t)

Either Jim Leyland forgot to pack his razor…

…when he left for Lakeland. Or he’s going with a new look. A beard and no cigarette.

credit Roger DeWitt

(Yeah, it’s been a long week and I don’t have any analysis to post yet).

More candid talk from the top, Leyland speaks

Manager Jim Leyland was on Mitch Albom’s show and the Free Press has the transcript in 3 parts. The links to all follow, but here are some highlights and my comments.

If I was looking at the two major culprits and without pointing fingers and necessarily individuals, the two major culprits were the pitching and the defense there’s no question about that, it’s a no brainer for me. We didn’t catch the ball very good, we had mediocre pitching with a mediocre defense and that’s a brutal combination, and that’s basically what happened to us in my opinion.

Mediocre is being generous, but I think that is a matter of semantics. He gets it was bad.

Well, I don’t think it will be correct to discuss what Dave and I talked about. I’m sure Dave knows that I’m very disappointed, which I am. I make no bones about that because I want to manage this team. If you’re saying if I have any defense for this year, no I don’t, but I think the overall picture I think it’s pretty fair on my part. But I’m a big boy and I think Dave has tough decisions to make and for whatever reason he chose to go this direction and I respect that. I’m not afraid of anything. I think if I do a good job next year I think I’ll be extended. If I don’t I’ll be fired. If I would have been on the last year of my contract this year I would have been fired instead of the coaches because those guys were the scapegoats for people not doing their jobs, it’s that simple. There is no secret to this stuff. I’m not going to lie to anybody or beat around the bush. Chuck Hernandez and Jeff Jones were basically fired because the pitching was terrible.

This was in response to a question of why Leyland’s contract isn’t being extended. I actually don’t see the need for an extension. I hear it all the time about the lame duck coach/manager, but this isn’t some young manager. It’s a guy that’s been around forever and who the player’s respected the crap out of not that long ago. I can’t imagine players buying into him more with or without an extension. Plus keep in mind, Leyland was offered a longer contract after 2007 but didn’t want to extend it that far and go on a more year to year basis.

I think if you put us all on the dartboard, you know, you can put several people on a dart board and if you threw a dart you would probably hit the right guy with the dart because we were all guilty.

and

I would extend tomorrow — I would extend in June — I would extend in July — I would extend in August — I want to manage the Tigers. I can’t make it anymore simple than that to everybody and I think I deserve to manage the Tigers, but if you’re not wanted, you’re not wanted. I don’t want to be anywhere I’m not wanted.

I’m sensing tension between Leyland and Dombrowski, and not the good kind like between Sam and Diane.

Some guys I really believe can’t handle making the money. I don’t think they can live up to expectations of it. It all sounds good when the agent is talking and they want the contract and they get the money, but truthfully, I believe that there are some players that can’t handle that. They almost go into a little bit of a shell, you know – like ‘Oh my god, so much is expected of me.’ They’re better players probably when they’re not making quite as much.

He was later asked if the Tigers have anybody like that to which he responded “I think so.” Don’t really know how to fix this. It gets to be a point where players have reached the service time marks to get their paydays. Of course you can let them walk, but how do you know who can and can’t handle it prior to giving them the contract. And he has to be talking about Robertson and Inge (and maybe Willis) right?

I think the one thing and this is going to sound crazy, but the one thing that I might do different, looking back at it now and I’m not sure it would have made a difference — but the one thing I might have done different — I would have not started him opening day. I definitely think that he felt he had to be the horse. When Bonderman went down he felt he had to be an even bigger horse. I just don’t he think he was ready for that yet and in defense of him, he’s not supposed to be ready that yet. I mean he’s still a young kid, he’s a young pitcher and maybe I put a little undo pressure on him by naming him opening day and people talking about, well, he’ll have to step it up now.

This is in response to a question about Verlander’s struggles against the Central. Leyland went down this tangent. Leyland also had him start the first game of the World Series as a rookie which didn’t turn out that well. Maybe he’s not a big game pitcher, or maybe it is a part of the maturation process.
Leyland: ‘The two major culprits were the pitching and the defense’ | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press
Leyland: ‘I think I deserve to manage the Tigers, but if you’re not wanted, you’re not wanted’ | Freep.com | Detroit Free PressLeyland: ‘Maybe naming him the opening day pitcher was a mistake’ | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press

Position roulette, Inge and Guillen edition

I was hoping to have a chance to run some numbers, but until I do I figured it was worth posting that Inge will play third and Guillen left field next season. I won’t completely pass judgment until I can do the math on this, but for the moment I’m thinking this doesn’t actually help much of anything except defense at third base. And why announce this news, at this point anyways? And of all players, why guarantee Brandon Inge a job going into next year (177/279/287 line since the Pudge trade!)? Odd. Very odd. Feel free to discuss.

Dombrowski says Leyland will be back

Dave Dombrowski told Lynn Henning and the Detroit News that Jim Leyland will be managing the Tigers next year. Seeing as this wasn’t a sound bite, it’s tough to get a flavor for how ringing the endorsement was given this is the quote that Henning had:

“Yes, oh yeah,” Dombrowski said when asked if Leyland would absolutely return in 2009. “He’s under contract next year.”

No mention of his aptitude or qualifications, simply a statement that Leyland is under contract. Curious?

As for my take, I agree with Leyland in that he stunk this year. I’ve never been a fan of his in game management, but watching the 2006 team made me question my previously held belief that managers couldn’t really make that much of a difference. Maybe a capable leader could motivate professionals making millions of dollars to play better.

But then there was this year. A year when the team came out flat. When the team was making fundamental baserunning, fielding, and pitching mistakes. That’s all on Leyland’s watch. The good of 2006 and the bad of 2008.

Then there is the matter of the August-September swoons. I wasn’t worried the first 2 years, because a sample of two hardly marks a trend. But this year’s limp to the finish line is enough to make me concerned.

In short, I don’t know if I want him back.

This new lineup isn’t a temporary thing

The last 2 games have featured Magglio Ordonez hitting 3rd and Miguel Cabrera hitting clean-up. That’s going to last awhile, like into next season.

I don’t think lineups make a huge difference, but it never felt right having a hitter like Cabrera batting below the clean-up spot. And with Leyland not liking to shuffle guys, it meant having some unusual players hitting 3rd. No disrespect to guys like Marcus Thames or Ryan Raburn, but when you have Ordonez and Cabrera the previously mentioned guys shouldn’t be pushing them down in the order.

As for Leyland’s thought process for the sequencing? It was up to Magglio.

“I told Magglio, ‘You’ve got your choice of where you can hit, third or fourth.’ He took third.”

As I mentioned I’m not a big lineup guy, so this seems like the perfect way to give veterans a say and keep them happy and comfortable.