The Joe Nathan thread

I figure we can keep the thread going in one place. Plus, I wanted to break up the images on the home page a bit.

So you know – as of 6-9 (didn’t pitch tonight), his FIP is 4.96, and his xFIP is 4.29. BABIP of .313 (though is FB velocity is down nearly 1 MPH to 91.4 which explains this in part).

Not what we need, but he’s had some bad luck as of late.

Breaking down JV’s Strikeouts

(Image from Fangraphs – only takes into account game 1 data)

I did not get to watch the game in real time, so I caught up on MLB.tv videos.  They had one of JV’s nine strikeouts, which I have now watched three times.  Let’s review his strikeouts by inning, count & pitch type.

– 1st/3-2/Fastball
– 2nd/2-2/Curve
– 4th/0-2/CU
– 4th/0-2/CU
– 4th/0-2/CU
– 6th/1-2/Change
– 7th/0-2/CH
– 7th/1-2/FA
– 7th/0-2/CH

I can’t remember JV throwing his change-up for strikeouts this much.  Historically, he throws it about 15% of the time overall.  The Ks on change-ups tonight are great news, because I believe JV relies too much on his fastball in high-pressure situations, and I’m hoping that games like tonight will grant him more confidence in his off speed stuff.  For example, against the Yankees, 6 of his Ks were on fastballs, and the 1 each on a curve and change-up.  In fact, of the 16 pitches he threw to Teixeira, 13 of them were fastballs, including the one Tex parked in RF.

JV went to a 3 ball count four times tonight, and threw his fastball on each occasion.  Two went for walks, and he got a K on one in the first.  In game 1 versus the Yankees, it looks like he went to a 3 ball count nine times (the MLB.com data is  not complete), and threw a fastball every time.

Thus, while his 3 ball pitch of choice is still the heater, at least he went to his off speed stuff for the strikeout pitches.  Against the O’s tonight, his strikeout pitches were pretty equally distributed: 2 FA, 4 CU and 3 CH.  Again, I know it’s early, but I’m hoping that this little snippet will allow him to throw his change more often on 3 ball counts.

What do you make of it?

Tigers sign Benoit (and Adam Dunn talk)

3 years at $16.5M is a hefty price tag for a setup guy who has really only had three good years over his 8 year career.  Benoit had a sick .68 WHIP last year with 75 Ks in 60.1 IPs.  Problem is, that he’s never had a WHIP lower than 1.17 in any of his other 8 full seasons (3 of them primarily as a starter), and he has a career 4.47 ERA, and 1.35 WHIP.

I’m not fond of 3 year deals for middle relievers, and I’m not fond of overpaying for a career year.  Though I will say props to DD for addressing a huge need, and doing so quickly.  I think we’ll get one more in the pen before camp next spring.

I also thought this was interesting – at least some are reporting that Phil Coke will be in the starting rotation next year.

>>>>>

Dunn – It was reported around noon central that talks were heating up with Dunn, but Jon Heyman recently sent this out via Twitter: “hearing dunn isn’t close yet with any 1 team, tho tigers are showing keen interest.”)

Junkballing: Injuries and Verlander’s Workload

A journey through some links that will update us on the Tigers walking wounded, that will put limits on Justin Verlander’s workload, and other odds and ends including bullpen usage and Alex Avila.

Injuries

Word out of Lakeland is that Zach Miner is preparing to enter pseudo game action as part of his rehab assignment. Even with no set backs that would likely but him a couple weeks away from being ready to join the Tigers. And while the bullpen has been overworked and a fresh arm would be helpful, the bullpen has also been pretty effective.

Adam Everett is expected to be back any day now after taking batting practice yesterday. That could prove timely as Jim Leyland is still concerned about Scott Sizemore’s ankle and if he wants to spell him at second, he would have Ramon Santiago as an option with a healthy Everett manning short.

For those that were hoping to get a look at Brent Dlugach, he has cooled off at Toledo as his BABIP hasn’t been able to sustain his strikeout rate (31 K’s in 86 PA’s).

On the minor league injury front the Tigers are hopeful that Jacob Turner’s soreness is an adjustment to a pro pitching schedule and nothing ominous.

Verlander’s workload

With Justin Verlander throwing over 120 pitches in each of his last two starts and not seeing the sixth inning in either, it turned out to be a clubhouse topic yesterday. Leyland says he is going to put a limit on Verlander in his next start regardless of the inning. Verlander acknowledges that he needs to be more efficient but says pitch counts are overrated.

Verlander's Pitch Counts by Game 2009

We’ll see what happens with this limit. I’m sure that Leyland doesn’t want Verlander getting hurt on his watch, but he also had him throw over 120 pitches in 6 of his last 8 outings last season. Verlander has always proven up to the task, I just doubt that Leyland is going to reign him in too much.

The rest

A Discouraging Turn

The Tigers have taken two turns through the rotation. The first was largely encouraging. A Max Scherzer 1 run effort and reasons for hope from Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman highlighted the pass with rough but acceptable outings from Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello. This second turn though…oh man.

Using the Baseball Musings Day by Day Database it is easy to see how the starters have fared over the last 5 games and it isn’t pretty. The 12 walks issued over the 5 starts is borderline acceptable. But outside of that it is a matter of picking which number is most troublesome. Is it the 42 hits or the run-an-inning pace or the fact that strikeouts are few and far between? Or do you go with the result of all the ineffectiveness which is a bunch of short outings?

Starting Rotation via Baseball Musings

This isn’t rocket science. The starters have to pitch better. All of them. With only 4 of the hits being homers, there is some hope that the BABIP will drop. But the teams that the Tigers have faced (Indians/Royals/Mariners) are far from offensive juggernauts making this all the more concerning.

The third pass through the rotation begins today with Justin Verlander. The Tigers are the only team to not have a starter record an out after the 6th inning. That needs to change and the sooner the better.

Waiting on Willis

Few players on the Tigers roster, or even in MLB in 2010 will receive the scrutiny that Dontrelle Willis will receive. Willis has been a disaster since putting on a Tigers uniform. He was certainly shaky in his second start, but there is no need to rush to judgment.

Two starts into the season Willis has a good start and a bad start under his belt. But he hasn’t collapsed. He hasn’t had a melt down. He hasn’t done anything appreciably different than his rotation mates at this point.

Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander both had their share of struggles their second time out this season. Willis labored through 5 innings, needing over 100 pitches to make it through and being charged with 4 runs along the way. That bested both Scherzer’s and Verlander’s outing. While there is disappointment with all 3, Wilis of course is under the microscope more than the other two given his recent history.

Continue reading Waiting on Willis

Is Bonderman Back?

Jeremy Bonderman returned to the mound, health for the first time since before the All Star Break in 2007 and the results can only be described as encouraging. He retired the first 11 hitters he faced before struggling in the 4th inning. But the best news is that the slider was darting straight down like Bonderman slider of doom that we all know and love.

The pitch f/x data is a little inconclusive at this time. It misclassified the splitter and I don’t know that I trust the 4 seam versus 2 seam fastball splits either. While he got up to 93mph on the fastball a few times, he was usually a few ticks below that. But for those that watched the game, the slider was just nasty.

My only concern is that Bonderman’s velocity seemed to peter out a little as the game wore on. The hope is that this is just a matter of him rebuilding stamina. The graph below is of all the pitches the Gameday classified as a fastball (two-seam and four-seam are included).

Bonderman's Fastball Velocity
That is just nitpicking an outing though where he only allowed 3 baserunners. Bonderman and Leyland were certainly pleased with the outing as well.

For one full turn through the rotation, Tigers starters have all pitched effectively. Granted, they haven’t face offensive juggernauts in the Royals and Indians, but there is reason for some optimism.

Other items from the game

  • I like this version of Magglio Ordonez. He’s driving balls to all fields and getting the results that go with it.
  • I like this version of Brandon Inge too. The one that is selective at the plate and is driving the ball to right center field with regularity.
  • Very nice defense today all around. Adam Everett made a couple nice plays at shortstop and Miguel Cabrera continues to dig everything in the dirt.
  • Ryan Perry got 4 outs and the save on 11 pitches. He looks like a different guy this year. The potential of last year is turning into results this year.
  • The Tigers drew over 35K for game number 2 and I’d expect a similar sized crowd today. It’s great to see a full park, not just on Opening Day

Putting eggs in the Willis basket

The battle for the back end of the Tigers starting rotation has been the story of the spring for Detroit fans. The Tigers are counting on two of the Jeremy Bonderman – Nate Robertson – Dontrelle Willis trio to bill out the last 40% of the starters innings. Bonderman has pretty much had the 4th spot assured leaving Robertson and Willis battling for the 5th spot. But with Robertson outpitching Willis by most measures, it appears that Robertson is on the block and Willis has that  last spot. A dangerous proposition to say the least.

Continue reading Putting eggs in the Willis basket

Junkballing: Pitchers, Playoffs, Plunkings

Debating Saturday’s starter, some news on a tiebreaker playoff game, and more from MLB’s punishment roulette wheel.

Figaro?

Alfredo Figaro has been tabbed for the start in a very key game on Saturday. This is the product of a rainout on Monday and a very young starter who’s arm warrants careful protection.

Rick Porcello simply isn’t an option for this game. Nick Blackburn, also bumped by Monday’s postponement is going on 3 days rest. Quite frankly the Twins don’t have the same type of investment in Blackburn’s future that the Tigers do in Porcello’s. This isn’t a matter of saving Porcello for the rest of the season, it is a matter of not being foolish with an elite talent.

Now Rob Neyer has suggested that the Tigers would be better served by pitching Verlander on short rest on Saturday and giving Porcello the start on Sunday. This is much more palatable from a workload perspective. Verlander looks to be a freak in terms of  his ability to handle high pitch counts…so far. We’ll know more by how he responds next year. Continue reading Junkballing: Pitchers, Playoffs, Plunkings

Eddie Bonine is your 5th starter

Flashback a week. The Tigers had a big lead in the division and they were surging. Nate Robertson had turned in two solid performances. Jarrod Washburn’s troubles were optimistically assigned to a sore knee that would hopefully be better with a little rest. Armando Galarraga’s struggles were tied to elbow inflammation and with a little rest there was reason to think he wouldn’t be awful. This would be great news to have potentially 6 starters down the stretch with a big lead and 3 key cogs to the rotation having worked more than they ever had and looking for rest. Oh well. It was a good thought at the time.

Robertson has since gone down with pelvic inflammation. Washburn’s knee isn’t better. Galarraga’s elbow isn’t better. And so what may have been 6 is now 3. Washburn will search for effectiveness in the rotation and Eddie Bonine has been promoted to 5th starter for the remainder of the season.

Now remainder of the season could be 1 start, the actual remainder of the season, or something in between. Jim Leyland has been known to make decrees before only to change his mind a week later – at least he isn’t stubborn in that regard. The duration of Bonine’s spot is probably equally contingent on Bonine’s effectiveness and the health of Robertson and Galarraga. Though I suspect that Galarraga returning to the rotation would be a stretch at this point.

Robertson’s problem flared up after his start against Cleveland and he had hoped to make it through 5 innings against the Blue Jays, but it didn’t work so well. Still, if he can get back quickly he could find a spot as a starter.

The bigger downside of all the shuffling has to do with not just the potential effectiveness or ineffectiveness of injured and replacement players, but the increased importance that Verlander/Jackson/Porcello starts take on down the stretch. Extra rest or skipped spots don’t look to be an option for any of the 3 over the last 3 weeks of the season. And with a potential playoff spot and additional innings coming for all 3 pitchers that has to be a concern. Then again, just add it to the list.

Knapp ges the WSJ treatment

Rick Knapp has made the big time now. No, not just his job as pitching coach for one of the AL’s best staffs, but he was the subject of a feature in the Wall Street Journal. He was mostly anonymous until the Tigers hired him to replace Chuck Hernandez and now he’s been dubbed a miracle worker. Nice career arc for Mr. Knapp.

Lot’s of good stuff in the article, but one thing in particular caught my eye:

Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and John Smoltz crafted Hall of
Fame-caliber careers with the assistance of split-fingered fastballs.
Mr. Knapp frowned on it, viewing the splitter as a “trick pitch” that
harmed young arms more than it helped them.

“If you spread your first two fingers out and extend your arm as you
throw the ball as hard as you can, that doesn’t feel real good,” he
says.

Interesting in the sense that Bonderman is trying to develop the pitch as we speak. But Bonderman also is far removed from being a rookie.

The Detroit Tigers’ Miracle Worker – WSJ.com

Infirmary report and other thoughts

Aside from Joel Zumaya’s season ending surgery, the news is actually pretty good on the injury front. So much so that the only wound licking to take place should be residual pain of a 2-4 road trip.

  • Carlos Guillen, already swinging a productive stick from the left side, could be playing in left field by the end of the week. Now Guillen in left isn’t necessarily good news from a defensive perspective but it also means he isn’t locked into the DH role. Beck’s Blog: Guillen close to playing in field
  • Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson had good reports the day following their simulated game and head out on rehab assignment. Both will be in Toledo starting Tuesday (so the Mud Hens should eat well) with the goal to stretch Robertson out as a starter while Bonderman will be pitching out of the pen. I wouldn’t expect Robertson back before September 1st when the rosters expand. Tigers Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson to pitch in Toledo on Tuesday | Freep.com | Detroit Free Press
  • After Saturday’s effort I’m in no hurry to bump Porcello from the rotation, but the addition of either pitcher, or someone else after September 1st could help to curtail Porcello’s workload down the stretch. With a bigger roster to work with Leyland could do some split starts with Porcello if need be.
  • Brandon Inge’s balky knees have bothered him less of late due to a change in his treatment regimen, and the fact he’s been working with a specialist on a way to put the pain out of his mind.
  • Gerald Laird has been the Tigers best baserunner. Who knew? Tiger Tales: A Detroit Tigers Blog: Gerald Laird Leads Tigers in Base Running
  • Speaking of Gerald Laird, i was wondering if he might have any soft of advantage working with Jarrod Washburn since they spent several years in the AL West together. Turns out Laird only has 16 plate appearances against him. And in case you were wondering, Luke Scott is only 1 for 3 off of Washburn lifetime. 
  • Finally, a look at Rick Porcello’s awesome outing through the lens of pitch f/x. Fire Jim Leyland: Rick Porcello’s Start Through PITCHf/x