Lost weekend and other ramblings

9-5. That was the series score. Tigers pitchers kept a very good offensive team to just 9 runs and yet were swept because Detroit went 1-26 with runners in scoring position. The numbers are pretty much mind boggling. And 3 of the Tigers 5 runs came on solo homers. The White Sox took 2 out of 3 games in their weekend series meaning that the Tigers lead is down to a slim 1.5 games. It was a crappy weekend for Detroit baseball. They got swept, they didn’t score, and they lost a relief pitcher for who knows how long. But I’ll find some good news in here somewhere.

Pitching is still good

The Tigers continue to get good pitching. Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson came out strong and pitched the way they had for the bulk of the first half of the season. Sustained success for both is key to the Tigers playoff chances and with Verlander’s history of second half struggles, and Jackson’s history of never having been this good before, those are both question marks where the early returns are promising.

Also, outside of Joel Zumaya’s blow-up, the bullpen was just as good as the starters. Fu-Te Ni is probably benefiting somewhat from being the new funky-delivery lefty, but his results have been as impressive with the big club as they were with Toledo. I guess the other good news is that the bullpen is nice and rested.

Unsustainable pace

Fortunately for the offense, they won’t continue to be that bad. Going 1 for 26 in any situational split, or any situation period, isn’t a sustainable pace. They’ll at the very least accidentally get a hit at some point in time. But here is the other side of the coin. The Tigers did a good job early in each of the 3 games of making the opposing starter work hard. They were taking pitches, drawing walks, and putting pressure on the starter and thus creating all those scoring opportunities in the first place. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the lineup got destroyed later in the game and the outs came quicker and easier. The Tigers hitters need to carry the types of approaches they were taking early in the game and sustain them throughout and continue to generate the scoring chances.

The Tigers need more offense, and I’d love to see them add a bat, but it goes way beyond that. Even if they trade for a stud, left handed hitting corner outfielder (which is unlikely), he is only going to hit once each time through the lineup. The Tigers have legitimate offensive threats already in the lineup that aren’t producing. One bat isn’t going to have a big impact as long as Granderson/Polanco/Cabrera continue to struggle.

What is Josh Anderson doing in the starting lineup?

One thing the Tigers could do to improve the offense is to remove Josh Anderson from the equation. Anderson had seemingly played himself out of a starting role before the All Star break with Ryan Raburn getting the bulk of the playing time in left field. From June 29th through the break Raburn had 9 starts, Anderson 5 (and one of those was in centerfield to spell Granderson). Raburn hit 323/364/581 over that span and Anderson hit 200/238/350 with no stolen bases. Yet the team gets to New York and Anderson starts 2 of the 3 games.

Raburn is OPS’ing over 800 against both lefties and righties and he has a pretty even mix of plate appearances this year. Anderson is OPS’ing under 650 against both lefties and righties while drawing 88% of his plate appearances against his favorable platoon side. While he is fast, he isn’t a good baserunner. The glaring mistakes are well known, but there are smaller ones as well. On Sunday he slid into second on a fly ball to centerfield. He was stealing and never saw the ball. Plus he had 2 defensive miscues this weekend. One cost the team runs, the other only cost Jackson 6 pitches. Outside of a late inning pinch runner he should have no role on this team, yet he continues to get starts.

Other Stuff

  • The extent of Joel Zumaya’s injury still isn’t fully known but it is a re-aggravation of his stress fracture. I’m sure the 3 inning outing in Minnesota didn’t help the situation, but I wouldn’t blame it either. That shoulder has experienced a ton of trauma. I think there are only so many times Zumaya can throw the ball 100mph before the next injury occurs.
  • The Tigers were 1 of 7 teams to have scouts on hand for Halladay’s outing yesterday. The White Sox weren’t. I don’t think the Tigers have the pieces, or at least pieces they’d be willing to part with, to get Halladay so I’d chalk up yesterday’s appearance to either due dilligence or gamesmanship.
  • What is the smarter financial move for Mike Ilitch, who is faced with decreased revenue due to lower ticket sales and decreased corporate sponsorship, dumping payroll or adding players to keep the Tigers in the hunt? Extended contention and a possible playoff birth will do more to help the franchise’s economic outlook than trying to save on salary. The Tigers need to get through 2010 and then there is considerable salary relief coming.
  • Brandon Lyon has added a cut fastball and he has tweaked his delivery.
  • Curtis Granderson is holding a wine-tasting charity event this Thursday that features a bachelor auction. For more information on purchasing tickets, or if you’d like to learn how you can take home your very own Granderson or Jackson head over the Grand Kids Foundation site.
  • FS Detroit has started to replay each Tiger game at midnight with the Tigers live postgame show to air at 3 a.m. So if you miss either the first time, you have a second chance to DVR it.
  • Also coming up on FS Detroit is Batting Stance Guy. He’ll be recreating Magglio Ordonez’s ALCS homer and Justin Verlander’s no hitter. For more on Gar Ryness, check out his appearance on Letterman. He’s already got a compilation of Tigers past and present.

Porcello’s 15 starts

Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers.

Earlier in the week Jim Leyland made the announcement that Rick Porcello’s  next start would come July 21st and that he has 15 starts left. Porcello has been on inning and pitch restrictions as the Tigers try not to burn out one of the most promising young arms in the game. Through his first 16 starts he has amassed 87 innings. With 15 more starts and assuming the same type of restrictions on start length he would finish this season with 165-170 innings. But do those 15 starts include a potential postseason appearance?

I decided to look at how things shake out the rest of the way. Barring rain outs and keeping the rotation intact Porcello’s remaining starts could be:

Date Rest
21-Jul  
26-Jul 4
1-Aug 5
6-Aug 4
11-Aug 4
16-Aug 4
22-Aug 5
28-Aug 5
2-Sep 4
8-Sep 5
13-Sep 4
18-Sep 4
23-Sep 5
28-Sep 4
3-Oct 4

 

That’s 15 starts and it takes us right into the Tigers final series of the season against the White Sox. So if the Tigers do make the post season, does Rick Porcello have a role? Does he pitch out of the bullpen? Do they wait and see what happens? Or do they skip him at some point. In late August there are a couple of off days and the Tigers could push him back meaning he doesn’t pitch in the final series, saving a start for a potential post season appearance.

Junk Balling – All Star break edition

A pile of links on the eve of the All Star break…

If you find yourself a little bored with the Tigers game today, you can always flip over to ESPN and catch Scott Sizemore, the lone Tigers representative in the All Star Future’s game. With Polanco on the last year of his contract and Sizemore hitting a combined 300/392/508 line between Erie and Toledo it’s reasonable that he may be the Tigers second baseman next year. But Keith Law doesn’t seem to be that high or low on him.

With Brandon Inge making the All Star team he will earn a $25,000 bonus. Really. Given Inge’s career can you imagine that as a negotiating point? Granderson will also get $25K. There’s no mention of what happens if Inge wins the home run derby but the consensus seems to be it doesn’t mess up your swing.

Galarraga carries the bag - screen grab from Sports Center

Before Armando Galarraga got knocked around on Saturday night, I was ready to explore a theory about the good luck charm that is the High School Musical backpack. It’s the backpack that the relievers carry out to the bullpen full of treats and snacks and such and it is the responsibility of the least tenured rookie. Well, Fu-Te Ni has had the bag and he’s pitched well, and then in the 16 inning game Armando Galarraga was the only man in the pen and had to carry it back, and followed it up with his best start. But Ni had a run charged to him last night and Galarraga had 4 so there goes that theory.

The interesting thing about Fu-Te Ni is that he seems to move around on the rubber when he faces righties as opposed to lefties. I’ve wondered why more pitchers wouldn’t do this.

Carlos Guillen is set to begin a rehab assignment. He could equate to a mid season trade if he can return and be productive. I’d hope the Tigers aren’t pinning al their hopes on Guillen, but it does make sense to take a look before giving up too much for a bat.

Rick Porcello won’t pitch in the Yankees series after the All Star game. Luke French, Justin Verlander, and Edwin Jackson will start in the Bronx. Porcello’s next start hasn’t been announced. But he is blogging now.

Spelling Porcello

Because you can’t spell Porcello without 2 O’s, 2 L’s, an R, a C, an E, and a capital P…The Tigers are taking advantage of an offday in the schedule and the All Star to skip Rick Porcello’s turn in the rotation. Porcello is done until after the All Star Break and while the rotation hasn’t been set (with a 4 day break the Tigers could start anyone the first game back) it is conceivable that Porcello doesn’t pitch until the 24th for a double header. I doubt they would wait that long, but it is possible from a scheduling standpoint.

Jim Leyland was clear that this had nothing to do with Porcello’s recent struggles and it was part of the plan. I do believe him in this regard, but the fact that Porcello isn’t exactly on a roll made the decision that much easier.

I think Leyland has a done a wonderful job managing Porcello’s workload. I believe the plan going into the season was to have him throw about 175 innings. At the half way point he is at 87 inning putting him on pace for 174. And in game pitch count totals have been kept well under control.

The rest of the rotation is:

  • Tue: Verlander
  • Wed: French
  • Thr: off
  • Fri: Jackson
  • Sat: Galarraga
  • Sun: Verlander

Verlander on Sunday presents an interesting situation with his All Star status, but it shouldn’t be a problem for him to pitch 1 inning the following Tuesday and with 13 pitchers on staff there should be no reason for any pitcher to pitch more than 1 inning.

Porcello to miss turn in rotation

Figaro has shorter leash than Willis

That didn’t take long. Alfredo Figaro is being bounced from the rotation and Luke French will make his first career start Friday night at the Metrodome. Figaro heads to Toledo, so he still ends up with a promotion in the deal.

Figaro did struggle in his 2nd start, and he pitched out of a number of jams in first effort. The optimist can look at his heat and the breaking ball he featured when it wasn’t being hung. The pessimist sees someone who doesn’t locate his pitches well enough to be effective. The two sides meet in the middle and say, maybe he just needs to refine his stuff a little in the minors.

French is left handed which could be a factor in this decision as well with the Tigers taking on Morneau, Mauer, and Kubel next weekend. (Kurt figured this out before the move was even made) French has also been pitching pretty good and has earned the promtion. He has quality starts in 5 of his last 6 outings, and the one where he didn’t it was 4 runs in 6.2 innings. Over those last 6 starts he has 41 K’s and 7 walks in 43.1 innings.

Faster than fast – the quickest pitches of 2009

On Tuesday night Joel Zumaya threw a ball that the Comerica Park gun, and the Fox Sports gun clocked at 104mph. That is freakishly fast and a little hard to believe, at the very least there was probably some rounding up. A check of MLB.com’s pitch f/x data had the pitch 50 feet from home plate at 102.2mph. So the stadium gun was likely a little hot, but that is still obscene. It did make me curious about the fastest pitches thrown this season.

By my check the pitch f/x system has recorded 91 pitches that topped 100mph this season (through 6/25/09). Of those 91 pitches, they basically all belong to Zumaya.

Pitches 100mph+
Pitcher Pitches
Zumaya 84
Verlander 2
Jimenez 1
Parnell 1
Broxton 1
Lindstrom 1
Lowe 1
Total 91

 

If you order the pitches in descending order, Zumaya actually has the 38 fastest pitches this season (Justin Verlander had the 39th) and 57 of the 58 fastest. Zumaya has 28 pitches at 101mph or faster.

As for the fastest pitch this season? It wasn’t the pitch that finished Bradley which came in a 102.2. But it did come earlier in the at-bat when Zumaya hit 102.7. For good measure he came back the next day and hit 102.6 against Mike Fontenot. Those are the 3 pitches this season top the 102mph barrier.

Willis will start Sunday

The Tigers have made a decision, at least for the time being, to stick with Dontrelle Willis in the starting rotation. Jeremy Bonderman will head to the bullpen…for now. Keeping Willis in the rotation is probably the right decision if Bonderman is the other option. Of course I kind of agree with Lee that perhaps that pool should include Zach Miner. That doesn’t seem like an option the team is exploring at the moment though, so what can we take from this decision?

First of all, Bonderman isn’t ready. I don’t think there is a lot of questioning of this point. I don’t see him being able to rebuild his arm strength pitching in sporadic low leverage situations in the pen. My guess is he gets optioned to Toledo (assuming he clears waivers and agrees to it) to work in the rotation and hopefully get his velocity back. He’s in the pen now because they need another arm in the pen, and likely want to bring Ryan Perry back. But Perry has to stay on optional assignment for a minimum of 10 days.

As for Willis, it appears he is pitching just well enough (not necessarily good) to hang in the rotation. This will be another test. I guess the goodish news is that we get to see Dontrelle hit for the first time.

Friday’s Bloops and Blasts

A bunch of stuff that I should highlight or comment on that I just haven’t gotten around to doing so I’ll let others do it for me:

  • Ian drops the hammer on Dontrelle after yesterday’s debacle. I give Ian credit for coming strong (damn, I sound like Jim Rome). I’ve yet to comment because while I’ve watched the replay, I still can’t even digest what happened. So take it away Ian: D-Train Disaster: Red Sox 6, Tigers 3 – Bless You Boys

    Congratulations, Dontrelle. You pitched well enough in the first four years of your career to get a $29 million contract. You benefited from a career-worst decision by a general manager and owner who felt they needed to push their team through an open championship window before it closed. You got to cash in on a 22-win season that took place four years ago. Kudos to you, sir. But this has been a massive failure. Seriously, man – you and the Tigers should be done professionally.

  • Here is a look at Edwin Jackson’s Success Through Pitchf/x. It’s one of those posts that I’ve been wanting to do. It looks like the slider has more down action this year than last. (h/t Bless You Boys)
  • The folks at It’s Just Sports just relaunched their blog, and I was honored to be part of the Better Know a Blogger feature this week.
  • The Tigers recent struggles have people wanting change. Kurt takes a rational look some of the options the Tigers may have
  • And from the Good News department, Rick Porcello was AL Rookie of the Month and Justin Verlander took him the AL Pitcher of the month honors

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

Dontrelle’s Debut

Pretty much everyone has beat me to this, but I still feel I should offer up something about Dontrelle Willis’s first start of the year. There are a couple ways to approach the assessment.

You can look at a final line that included 10 hits and 2 walks in just under 5 innings and come away unimpressed or even discouraged. Especially when you look at the fact he only notched one swing and a miss.

Or you can look at the start in the context of last year when the strike zone proved to be a foreign land to Willis. That he only walked 2 in his time on the mound could be a step forward. And even when he missed the zone, he missed by reasonable amounts, like you’d see in a regular start.

Figure 1 Pitch Location

Dontrelle Willis Pitch Location

I’m encouraged in that I don’t see him pitching scared. He came inside to both lefties and righties. I don’t know if that is by design or a lack of control in the strike zone, but the absence of unintentional pitch-outs is encouraging.

Continue reading Dontrelle’s Debut

Justin Verlander’s New Slider

Justin Verlander has turned in 3 remarkable outings in a row amassing 31 strike outs as hitters can’t catch up with his heater or their knees buckle with the curve. But very quietly Verlander has added a slider to his repertoire.

This pitch received significant attention from Rod Allen and Mario Impemba last night when he picked up a swinging strike with it against Kelly Shoppach. But he actually began throwing it as early as the April 27th Yankees game. The pitch was first noticed by Eric Cioe (who comments here on occasion) and he posted about it at Motown Sports.

Continue reading Justin Verlander’s New Slider

Tigers swap lefty bat for lefty arm

The Tigers optioned Jeff Larish down to Toledo to make room for lefty reliever Clay Rapada. My read is that this has little to do with Larish and more to do with Bobby Seay pitching every day and a bunch of games against lefty heavy teams coming up. Seay has pitched 3 days in a row and it would have meant Nate Robertson was the only lefty available for today’s game. With Carlos Guillen gimpy I’d expect Larish’s stay in Toledo to be brief.