Prior to the season I did a series of posts on items or storylines that I thought could be key to the Tigers success. Here at the break, I thought I’d Keep and Eye on my Keeping an Eye on series
With the best ERA in baseball, I think it is safe to say that Hernandez has worked out okay as a pitching coach.
One of the stats I wanted to observe were K rates and pitches per plate appearance, as Bob Cluck was an advocate of pitching to contact to conserve pitches. Well, in the case of Jeremy Bonderman his strikeouts are at a career high 8.35) and his pitches per plate appearance are at a career low (3.52). Nate Robertson’s numbers are in line with his career, as are Mike Maroth’s. Interestingly, Verlander is allowing 3.77 pitches per plate appearance, which is more than Robertson or Bonderman, but striking out fewer.
In terms of the minor leagues, we’ve the the organization reward solid pitching performances with the early promotions of Jair Jurrjens, Jon Connolly and Humberto Sanchez. We also saw Jordan Tata jump a couple levels. The system has seemed to be slow to promote in the past (see Jordan Tata at Lakeland all year).
Finally we haven’t really seen or heard that much of Hernandez. Leyland seems to make more trips to the mound than Hernandez. Hernandez just gets the occasional trip to talk mechanics or scouting reports, but those seem to be few and far between which may be a testament to improved preparation.
Ah, the injury watch. The Tigers have been hit by injuries, but the training staff has done a good job keeping players on the field. The Tigers lost Mike Maroth for probably 2-3 months, and of course Craig Dingman and Troy Percival were lost before the season. Dmitri Young strained his hamstring, not to mention alot of other stuff that was beyond the realm of physical rehab. And Craig Monroe was sidelined for a couple weeks with an ankle sprain.
Yet the nagging injuries have been kept in check. Carlos Guillen had some knee pain, but didn’t miss significant time. Ordonez had a bruise that only slowed him for a couple games. Placido Polanco had a back injury that limited his performance but he was able to work through with out missing time. Marcus Thames had knee tendonitis but it didn’t slow him down.
The training staff and some well timed rest have kept the key cogs in the lineup. Now everybody find some wood to knock on it until your knuckles are bloody.
Jim Leyland called for more productive at-bats and better situational hitting. I’m not really sure the Tigers have improved in this area. In terms of strikeouts – which are for all intents and purposes are completely unproductive – the Tigers still whiff a ton. In terms of plate discipline, their ratio of 2.7 K/BB is the same as it was last year.
The biggest change in offense has been an increase in power. Their ISO went from 157 last year to 184 this year. They are also a little bit better at not making outs with the OBP going from 321 to 330.
But in terms of productive outs and manufacturing runs…it doesn’t feel any different, but I can’t quantify it one way or the other.
My thinking here was simple, a bunch of players who could help the team in the future (or in trade packages in the present) would be at Erie. The results have been mixed. Erie’s offense has been largely non-existent as Brent Clevlen (103 K’s, 319 SLG) and Kody Kirkland (109K’s) have struggled to make contact. Kirkland has decent power numbers (17 homers), but that is it. Tony Giarratano has been up and down and may now have a torn ACL. Jeff Frazier started off well, but has faded badly (231/272/339). This group has recently been joined with fellow 40 man roster-ees Don Kelly and Nook Logan who were struggling mightily in Toledo.
The pitchers have had more success. Jordan Tata who was slated to head to Erie instead went all the way to the pro’s and now finds himself succeeding at AAA Toledo. Humberto Sanchez (1.76 ERA, 86 K’s, 71 2/3 IP) did so well he earned a promotion and a start in the Future’s Game. Eulogio De La Cruz (3.75 ERA, 46 K, 57 2/3 IP, 1 HR) started the season getting shelled, but has calmed down considerably. And Jair Jurrjens who started in A ball has earned a spot in the Erie rotation and is having considerable success for a 20 year old in AA (3-1, 2.00 ERA).