Game 2013. Playoffs 4: A’s at Tigers

Well, here we are facing elimination, which is never a pleasant thing. The series so far has been a bit dispiriting, which is why I am muttering to myself and throwing the F-bomb around to keep myself pumped up while I type this. And what the $%*! are you looking at?

This isn’t supposed to be how it goes: the Tigers were built on starting pitching and heavy lumber, sacrificing things like base running, defense, and the bullpen to get there. And it was a winning formula, mostly: the Tigers were 2nd in the league to Boston in runs per game at 4.91, and 2nd in team OPS at .780, with a healthy .434 slugging %. But that has all but disappeared. Since September 1, the Tigers have hit only 16 home runs, good for 14th in the AL (ahead of just Houston). Their slugging % has dropped to .387.  Could Cabrera really mean that much to the offense? He could.

That leaves a team built on starting pitching, and, well, crossing your fingers. And until yesterday, the starting pitching did its part, holding Oakland to 2 runs over the first 2 games, good enough for a split, even with the lack of offense. The pitching finally cracked last night, and Leyland was slow to react, and the game spun out of control. It is easy to understand Leyland’s hesitance to make a change. For the whole season and the first two games of the postseason, Leyland counted on his starters, and they came through.

*****

Perhaps tonight will be different. The Tigers, when they do lose, seem to go rather quietly. It was not so last night. Thanks to Crazy Closer the Tigers lost angry last night. Perhaps that will wake up the bats.

Even though the benches emptied last night, other than the head-to-head between Victor and Balfour it was all rather civil (no pushing or shoving, everyone seemed rather calm about it). But it is worth keeping in mind who is pitching tonight: Doug “16 HBP” Fister. What are the odds that if Fister plunks someone tonight that the A’s will not assume it is a “retaliation?” Stay tuned.

Just in case there is some, um, extracurricular activity…is it too late to sign and activate Kyle Farnsworth?

*****

Back to Mr. Cabrera. Tiger fans have been privileged to watch possibly the best hitter in baseball going all season long. Well, almost all season long. That guy is gone, and hopefully will return for next season. What we have now is a bit of 2006 Sean Casey: a dependable singles hitter who runs at a fast walk.

In a slightly cruel irony, two very nieces pieces about just how special Miguel Cabrera is came out recently, and are worth reading.  Check out is Miguel Cabrera the Hero of the Post-Steroid Era in the New York Times Magazine, which, among other things, looks at his encyclopedic memory, his vicious grin, and the possibility that he intentionally looks bad on certain pitches.

The Wall Street Journal gets into the mechanics of his swing in Miguel Cabrera: The Art of Hitting, which is full of fascinating information not just about Cabrera, but the science of hitting in general.

*****

I have been a bit hard on Austin Jackson in my comments this week, but that is because he is so important to the team–well, he in his role as leadoff hitter is. With a power-hampered Cabrera hitting 3rd, it is important to get some guys in scoring position ahead of him (when they did, he came through with an RBI single). Jackson has been striking out a rate that would impress Brandon Inge (6 in the last 2 games). As I have said, I think people make too much of strikeouts. But there are strikeouts and there are strikeouts: the A’s seem to strike out because they are waiting for their pitch (I’ve seen a few take 2 consecutive curve ball strikes while waiting for a fastball), and from swinging for the fences. Austin just looks like he is blindly hacking sometimes.

At any rate, Jackson might benefit from being moved out of the leadoff role, which doesn’t seem to really suit him. (A lot is made of his speed, but it doesn’t translate to either getting on base or stealing bases. The Tigers are last in all of baseball in stolen bases from the leadoff hitter). I think a worthwhile offseason project will be to find a real leadoff hitter. The Tigers could do worse than work with Jose Iglesias in this capacity (he will have to be more selective in what he swings at–laying off the high fastball would do him wonders).

*****

Leyland pooh-poohed the idea of Kershawing Scherzer ahead in the rotation for a start tonight, which should be no surprise, knowing Leyland. Surprise! Leyland would consider using Max in relief tonight! (In which case Verlander would start in Oakland).

*****

OK, let’s end on a positive note. With our 3-man Game Post rotation, we’ve got our Game 1 starter (and winner of the regular season Game Post League) back on the mound here, and I managed to eke out a 3-2 win in my first start. I’ve got this one.

Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Everyone. Detroit needs a full team contribution today.

Today’s Who You Looking At? Lineup:

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

Whatever happened to Brayan Pena? Just wondering. Don’t look up the A’s numbers against Doug Fister, you really don’t want to know. No, really, you don’t. Don’t make me do this. OK, you asked for it:

  • Coco Crisp (7-for-19)
  • Josh Donaldson (3-for-4)
  • Brandon Moss (3-for-5)
  • Yoenis Cespedes (3-for-6)

Are we sure we don’t want to reconsider that bumping Scherzer up idea?

Game 2013. Playoffs 3: Athletics at Tigers

1-1, 10 games to go.

Relax. Take a deep breath. The Tigers own home field advantage for the rest of the ALDS. Yes, the hitting is a concern. Dare I say a grave one. But offense can be restored as quickly as it was lost, and this offense is simply too good to disappear forever. As KW pointed out, just look at what the Giants did (or didn’t do) during their first playoff series last year. They certainly didn’t have any problem scoring runs in the World Series.

Anibal Sanchez takes the rock this afternoon. Our #3 playoff starter is the reigning AL ERA leader. How sick is that? He was incredible during last year’s WS run, posting a 1.77 ERA and .192 BAA despite a 1-2 record. He allowed 2 ER on 5 hits in 6 1/3 in Game 3 of last year’s ALDS versus Oakland, but I feel confident that things will be better today.

Selected Sanchez Splits for 2013:

– v. Oak: 1-0, 12 IP, 3.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP (7 BBs), .596 OPS

– Day games: 4-3, 3.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .589 OPS

– at Comerica: 8-3, 2.70 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .606 OPS

Same for Jarrod Parker

v. Det: 0-1, 3.1 IP, 21.60 ERA, 3.30 WHIP, 1.345 OPS

– Day Games: 5-3, 4.32 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .705 OPS

Johnny Peralta will get his first start of the series in LF this afternoon. Unfortunately, Dirks and Kelly have been so bad against righties this year, that Peralta’s .750 OPS versus righties will be a remarkable improvement.

It’s expected to be overcast with temperatures in the upper 50s this afternoon.

A few notes:

– Cabrera has reached base in every postseason game he’s played in – 26 in a row now.

– Today’s game will be exclusively broadcast on the MLB Network.

– For the A’s, Josh Donaldson moves to the No. 2 spot and Jed Lowrie falls to third. Seth Smith will DH for a second straight game. He’s 6-for-17 with two career homers off Anibal Sanchez.

Today’s Take the Series Lead Lineup:

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

1:07pm ET start today. So take a long lunch.

 

Game 2013. Playoffs 2: Tigers at A’s

This new season is off to a great start. For the “bad guys,” 27 outs and 16 of them strikeouts. 2 runs, and you can practically write off one of them. 3 hits, 6 baserunners. This, for the good guys, against an Oakland team that has pretty much demolished everything in its path since they fired up the steamroller in their last meeting with the Tigers. Outstanding.

Let’s compare notes on last night’s game. Here are mine:

ALDS Game 1: Detroit 3, Oakland 2. Tigers score 3 in the first, highlighted by the rarely seen (from anyone) Rally Reignited, a two-out, bases-empty double from Victor Martinez followed by a “single” from Alex Avila that’s booted by 1B Barton and 2B Sogard and scores Victor all the way from 2B for run #3 (see final score). Max Scherzer is good. Bartolo Colon is also good, as is SS Lowrie in making a play that nips Jose Iglesias. Andy Dirks misplays and then gets a bad bounce on the Cespedes triple, but Max doesn’t let it bother him. Miguel Cabrera hits the ball very hard but is out, and Victor goes down swinging on back-to-back change-ups from Colon (a double rarity). Max walks Crisp on four pitches and wild pitches him to 2B, but it comes to naught. Andy swings on the first pitch and is roundly and probably justifiably criticized by the radio guys for wasting an at bat, while 3B Donaldson draws praise for foiling a Jose Iglesias bunt for a hit attempt. Max strikes out the side, the heart of the order; he’s been dealing all along, and now it’s starting to get ridiculous. Great bunt by Torii Hunter gets him aboard. He tries to catch the A’s sleeping with a SB attempt between pitches. Doesn’t work (some say he was safe), but no complaints. 1-2-3 and strikeouts #8 and #9 for Max in the 5th. Three straight hits, but the rally is deflated by sending Victor home from 2B on Omar Infante’s single to RF-with-arm Reddick. Outcome and criticism equally predictable and equally just. Max walks Crisp again but otherwise has a great “don’t let the tide turn” inning. Colon out, Otero in, and the Tigers 9-1-2 go down meekly. Jose Iglesias makes a highlight play without the highlight throw, and Moss is at 1B. This shouldn’t count for much, but it does when Cespedes makes Max’s 2-2 fastball go far away quickly and convincingly. Max comes back strong to keep it a 3-2 game and finish with 7 superb innings peppered with 11 K. LF Cespedes loses Victor’s drive for a two-base error, but Alex strikes out to end the insurance run threat. Nonetheless, this Martinez-Avila thing is becoming quite the rally combo. Miguel out, Ramon Santiago in at 3B. Drew Smyly pitches well around yet another walk to Crisp, and Joaquin Benoit comes in to get the sigh of relief third out. Still nothing happening for the Tigers against Doolittle in the top of the 9th, despite a cameo from Jhonny Peralta at the plate (Don Kelly will be in LF for the bottom half). Joaquin puts it away in impressive fashion against the A’s 4-5-6, at least two of them major threats to tie the game with one swing.

* Spotlight on Max Scherzer. His pitching performance in Game 1 has to rank high in Detroit Tigers postseason annals. I’m anxious to see how his BR Game Score compares with some of the 1968 WS starts, in particular.

* Rather surprisingly, since 2000, the ALDS teams that have won Game 1 have only gone on to win the series 15 of 26 times. But since 2007, it’s been 10 out of 12. Also since 2007, winners of Game 1 away from home have gone 5-0 in series wins.

* Anyone remember Detroit vs. Oakland in the 1972 ALCS? I don’t have clear memories besides bitter disappointment. I don’t know how much of it I watched or listened to; I may have followed most of it by newspaper. I remember plenty of the names on both sides, of course; the Athletics were so star-studded that I probably remember more of those names. I wonder how many of the 1972 Tigers I can name without looking it up. Let’s see… Lolich, Coleman, Brinkman, Rodriguez… after that I start to get confused about how many of the 1968 guys were still on the team. Horton, Stanley, Cash, Northrup, Brown, McAuliffe, Freehan – were they still around? I’ll take a couple more stabs in the dark with Hiller and Timmerman, and then give up and check the record.

Ha! I must have really taken Mr. Tiger Al Kaline for granted back then. Couldn’t recall now how far into the 70s he’d played. Anyway, what a series. Look it up (if you need to). Heartbreaker. Starting lineups for the decisive game:

1972

2006 was sweet, of course. Saw a clip of the Magglio HR recently and had the thought that this is what the Tigers see in Castellanos. Last year was a close call, but I think the better team won, for sure. I’ve got a good feeling about the current series. Is it just the way it’s started, or are the stars and the planets really aligning in Detroit’s favor? It’s hard to be pessimistic, up 1-0 and JV coming up. Bats, schmats. I don’t think the unknown rookie jinx is valid for the postseason. No. I really think that has expired. Call it a guy feeling.

Game 2013. Playoffs 1: Tigers at A’s

After 162 games and 162 game posts and after how many countless ups and downs, here are the Tigers right where we expected them to be from the first “Play Ball!” on the chilly April Fool’s Day that began the season: right where they were last season, beginning play in the ALDS against Oakland, representing the Central Division.

The Tigers didn’t exactly finish the season with a roar:  they lost 5 of their last 7, and only scored 14 runs in the process, a meager output for what is supposed to be one of the best offenses in the league. But this is a new season right now: all bets are off, we start over from scratch, and there is no such thing as momentum (just ask Cleveland, after they roared into the Wild Card game off of a 4-game win streak.

This is the 2nd season in a row that the Tigers have kicked off the postseason against the A’s; the two teams are establishing a serious friendly rivalry (and it is friendly: unlike most rivalries it is difficult to think of any real contentious moments between the teams, unless you want to go back to 1972 when Bert Campaneris launched his bat at Lerrin Lagrow).

*****

ALDS Schedule:

  • Game 1: Tigers at A’s, Friday 10/4, 9:37 PM EST (TBS) Max Scherzer vs. Bartolo Colon
  • Game 2: Tigers at A’s, Saturday 10/5, 9:07 PM EST (TBS) Justin Verlander vs Sonny Gray
  • Game 3: A’s at Tigers, Monday 10/7, 1:07 PM EST (MLB) Anibal Sanchez vs Jarrod Parker
  • Game 4*: A’s at Tigers Tuesday 10/8, TBD (TBS) Doug Fister vs. Dan Straily
  • Game 5*: Tigers at A’s Thursday 10/10 TBD (TBS) Max Scherzer vs Bartolo Colon

*If necessary

(Game 4 will be at 5:07 if the Rays and Red Sox are still going, or 7:07 if they are over).

(Game 5 will be at 9:07 if the Rays and Red Sox are still going, or 8:07 if they are over).

Series umpires: Gary Darling (crew chief), Tom Hallion, CB Bucknor, Mike DiMuro, Jim Reynolds, Mark Wegner. I don’t believe any of these umpires have ejected Jim Leyland or Miguel Cabrera this season.

TBS TV crew: Don Orsillo (voice of the Red Sox), Buck Martinez, and Dennis Eckersley. The Eck is a treat to listen to.

Detroit ALDS roster:

Pitchers:

  • Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister
  • Joaquin Benoit, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque, Jose Alvarez, Luke Putkonen, Rick Porcello.

Position Players:

  • Prince Fielder, Omar Infante, Jose Iglesias, Miguel Cabrera, Ramon Santiago, Hernan Perez
  • Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Andy Dirks, Jhonny Peralta, Don Kelly
  • Alex Avila, Brayan Pena
  • Victor Martinez

Notable omissions: Bruce Rondon (elbow soreness), Phil Coke (Phil Cokeness), Matt Tuiasosopo.

Jim Leyland said he will be making out his lineup using “some statistical analysis, some guy feeling, a combination of those things.” We’ll leave it to our clever readers to figure out which move is which.

During the Tampa Bay-Texas Game 163 event, there was much clucking of tongues by the broadcast crew about Texas having Nelson Cruz back from his 50-game suspension. The home audience had no such qualms, and gave him a standing ovation. I expect there will be a bit of chatter when Jhonny Peralta first enters the series, and I think for the fans it will be a non-event. It would probably be fitting if he is brought in to face Big Bart Colon, who quietly sat out 50 games last season for a testosterone violation.

*****

While the Tigers ended the season with a lull, the A’s went out with guns blazing. They won 7 of their last 10, but it’s the manner in which they did it that catches the eye. Not known as an offensive power, they put up 72 runs over their last 10 games, including a four-game sweep of Minnesota in which they scored 8, 11, 9, and 11. Yes, it’s Minnesota–who went on to play Detroit and held them to 3, 4, and 1. Luckily, there is no momentum when it comes to the postseason.

Oakland won the season series between the two teams 4-3, and took 3 out of 4 in Detroit in August. Here are the box scores for the season series for those who are interested:

OAK 4, DET 3

DET 7, OAK 3

DET 10, OAK 1

OAK 8, DET 6

OAK 6, DET 3

OAK 14, DET 4

DET 7, OAK 6

*****

About that stadium. O.co Coliseum–which has to be the worst-named stadium in baseball–is the white elephant of stadiums. It is unique in having an enormous foul territory, and, mysteriously, seems either impossible or reasonable to hit a ball out of, depending on…well, something, who knows. I’ve seen a lot of games in this stadium, under its previous, more mellifluous names. Back in the day one had a very pleasant view of sunset against the Oakland hills until Al Davis built “Mount Davis” in centerfield (an addition for extra football seating), which has all the charm of…well, of Al Davis. The A’s have gotten their revenge by playing into October on a regular basis, which means the Raiders have to play on dirt (O.co remains the only multi-use football-baseball stadium).

The best part about the stadium though is that the bullpens are on the field, down the right field and left field foul lines, and the seats behind the bullpen areas are some of the best inexpensive seats in all of baseball. It is a very different thing watching these guys from, say, 20 feet away, and you notice all sorts of things you wouldn’t otherwise (Al Alburquerque has an incredibly upright posture). Who knows when they will finally get a new stadium: currently they are in the middle of a lawsuit against MLB to get a San Jose stadium (San Jose is technically San Francisco Giants territory; depending who you listen to this lawsuit will amount to nothing, or threaten the whole MLB antitrust exemption).

*****

Just for fun, I’ll throw this in in case anyone wants to look back and see what ESPN’s predictions were before the season started. The Tigers were the AL favorites to win the World Series; the overwhelming NL favorites were the Nationals (oops).

Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Alex Avila. Let’s call it a gut feeling.

Today’s Postseason Opening Day Lineup:

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

Game 2012 Playoffs.13: Giants at Tigers

Delmon Young was asked what the Tigers are going to do to change their luck: “Like sacrifice a chicken or something? We’re not going to do that.”  (@beckjason).

Well that seems reasonable.  Not that anyone has suggested any better ideas.

Delmon also states the painful truth when he says that “we haven’t hit all playoffs,” not just against the Giants.

And yet in some ways, this is the team we have seen all season. They may have averaged 4.48 runs a game, but seldom did they score 4 runs; they were more likely to put together a run of 1 or 2-run games, then a run where they bombed the other team.

This is a feast-or-famine offense, nothing average about it.

The base running/base coaching issues, the sloppy play in the field, the inability to advance runner, the ill-timed GIDPs, the waste of brilliant starting pitching…these are all things so familiar to Tiger fans this year.

And yet that does not tell the story of the 2012 Tigers either; these Tigers, with all of these flaws, won their division, and played their way into the World Series.

They are a streaky team, having a bad streak at the worst time. But a new streak can start anytime.

As Justin Verlander tweeted this morning: “History is life’s greatest teacher and if it’s taught us anything it’s that nothing is impossible.”

Every season ends sometime, even for the winners. The players will pack up and head off to wherever they spend the winter; Octavio Dotel will buy some nice shoes; some players will be back, some won’t; management will be back at work on creating the 2013 version of the Detroit Tigers.

But it really is too soon–if nothing else for those 40,000 plus great Detroit Tigers fans holding tickets to One More Game. Here’s hoping the boys come through for them.  And while we’re at it…the Giants fans are great fans as well.  Let’s give them another game! What could be more fun than extending the series to Wednesday, for the team in the Halloween colors and costume beards.

Your Win One for the D Lineup: (Update: Avila scratched with right forearm soreness. Kelly is backup catcher).

 

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

Game 2012 Playoffs.12: Giants at Tigers

4 games to go.

I distinctly remember the off days leading up to the ’06 series. I was watching John Kruk (on ESPN) during the Cardinals/Mets series, and someone asked him who his pick would be to win the NLCS. Kruk just laughed and said something to the effect of “does it matter? Detroit’s going to win the whole thing.” What a great feeling that was. And how quickly it dissipated after game 4 in Detroit.

I think we all felt that way leading up to Wednesday’s game, even in spite of the long off days WS stats. But now the stuff has hit the fan…check this out:

Of the 52 World Series to see a team go up 2 games to zero, 41 of those teams leading have hung on to win the series. Further, only one team out of the last fifteen trailing 0-2 has triumphed over their opponent. The Tigers are 0-2 in WS when they started 0-2.

From what I’m reading, many of you want to blame Leyland, but honestly, I just don’t see it. Here are my thoughts (just my opinion, feel free to counter):

  • Game 1 is on Verlander. He gets lauded like an ace, he gets paid like an ace and he dates like an ace. He needs to pitch like one. To pin that one on anyone else is ridiculous. I don’t expect him to pitch a shutout every time out, but he needs to get through 6 or 7 and give the team a chance to win.
  • Game 2-  I actually agreed with Lamont’s decision to send Fielder based on where the ball was, and the moment in the game. At worst it’s a 50/50 call. I don’t want to release him for the blown decisions all season long, but I don’t think Lamont/or Leyland is to blame for game 2. You blame the bats or credit the Giants’ pitchers, but I don’t know what different managerial decisions Leyland could have made. If you want to question playing back for the double play, that’s fine, but the Tigers are an above average offensive team. We can’t be scared of a run.

But let’s move on.

I don’t want to talk about the rest of the series, I want to talk about one game. Let’s be honest, tonight is a must win.

The Tigers will have their work cut out for them against righty Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong returned to MLB in 2011 after 3 years in Japan. His 2011 campaign was good enough to land him an All-Star spot, and in 2012 he went 14-9 with a 3.37 ERA, .242 BAA and 1.23 WHIP. He throws a low to mid-90’s fastball (4 seam and 2 seam), along with a slider, curve and change-up. One of the greatest reasons for his improvement has been his K rate, which is 6.74/9 for his MLB career, but was 6.96/9 in 2011, and 7.5/9 for 2012. He’s striking out 8.52/9 this postseason.

Speaking of the postseason, he’s been phenomenal, posting a 1.42 ERA and a .89 WHIP covering 3 starts and 19 innings. His splits are pretty routine for an above average righty, and he walks about 3 per game. Oh yeah – he had a streak of 16 consecutive quality starts earlier this season.

Anibal Sanchez will need to bring his best stuff tonight. I like where his head is right now:

“We need to start over,” … “We need to forget what happened in San Francisco. I know we’ve got the talent. That’s why we’re here.”

Sanchez has the physical capabilities, and I have been impressed with his composure. Plus, he’s 3-1 in 5 career starts versus the Giants. Blanco is 4-7 off of Sanchez, and Pence is 6-18. Sandoval is 1-6 with 0 HR.

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

Here’s why we win tonight:

1) The Tigers were 22-8 at Comerica to close out the season and are 4-0 at Comerica in the postseason.

2) Andy Dirks is in the lineup and covering left field.

3) We’re simply too good to lose 3 in a row.

Tonight’s Back in the Series Lineup

1. Jackson, CF
2. Berry, LF
3. Cabrera, 3B (1-for-5 off Vogelsong)
4. Fielder, 1B (0-for-3 off Vogelsong)
5. Young, DH (1-for-3 off Vogelsong)
6. Dirks, RF (0-for-3, 2 K’s off Vogelsong)
7. Peralta, SS (1-for-2, 1 walk off Vogelsong)
8. Avila, C (0-for-1, 2 walks off Vogelsong)
9. Infante, 2B (7-for-11 off Vogelsong)

Game 2012 Playoffs.11: Tigers at Giants

Well, there are two ways to look at Game 1 of the World Series. One is that SF beat Detroit in every aspect of the game: pitching, relief pitching, fielding, hitting, lucky bounces (there wasn’t much significant base running). The other side of this is that it is only one game, regardless of how badly Detroit was beaten.

Well, there is actually a 3rd aspect.  This World Series opened up in eerily similar fashion to the 2006 World Series:  the Tigers with a long layoff (5 days this year, 6 in 2006), Justin Verlander gets shelled, the Tigers are beaten handily, and…well let’s hope it isn’t the same “and.” (One difference is that so far there has been no infield Clown Show, although Delmon Young is always an adventure in LF).

(By the way it is becoming clear that Justin Verlander is just NOT the same pitcher with extra rest).

Speaking of Delmon, he apparently has gone viral as they say (and figures it would be DY), throwing the pitching staff (i.e. Verlander) under the bus (the proverbial one, even Delmon hasn’t gone there yet): “Offense? We were down 4-0 quick, so you can’t blame the offense,” said Young. Except that the offense, as was the case many times this season, disappeared, and, as was the case many many times this season, disappeared against the ol’ Crafty Lefty.

Even Cabrera jumped on the under-bus chucking.  When asked what made Zito so effective he answered “The run support.”

C’mon guys! I just posted this big thing yesterday about how one of the remarkable things about this team (and Leyland’s leadership) was the lack of in-fighting, the real camaraderie where everyone had each other’s back. So just cut that out.

A longer-term issue to watch in the series: the Tiger bullpen.  Starting a pitcher short (in order to keep WS Mascot Ramon Santiago on the roster), the bullpen now has a certain Large Potato one doesn’t not dare to use.  Prediction: if the series goes beyond 5 games, Max Scherzer will appear in later innings.

On a random ex-Tiger note, a very nice piece about ex-Tiger Aubrey Huff is here.

Random Prediction:  Doug Fister will get a hit.

Random Prediction 2: Pablo Sandoval, as difficult to walk as Delmon Young, will nonetheless draw a walk tonight.

Your Series-Evening Lineup:

1. Jackson, CF
2. Infante, 2B
3. Cabrera, 3B
4. Fielder, 1B
5. Young, LF
6. Peralta, SS
7. Garcia, RF
8. Laird, C
9. Fister, P

Game 2012 Playoffs.10: Tigers at Giants

4 games to go.

What a tremendous season:

AL Central Division Champs.

AL Division Series Champs.

AL Pennant.

Triple Crown Winner.

Perhaps another Cy Young winner.

But you know what? It’s not enough. The D deserves more.  And we’re gonna get it.

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

Now, as I’m sure you have all see, there is an abundance of Tigers media out there right now. It’s starting to consume my life, to be honest. But we only get a max of 9 days of this, so I’m just gonna fight through it. I do, however, want to point out a touching ESPN.com story on Jim Leyland, and one on CNN SI about winning the title for Mr. I. If you can spare some time in-between the hundreds of other articles out there, check ’em out.

The Tigers advance to the World Series for the 11th time in franchise history – with 4 wins in ’35, ’45, ’68 and ’84. I’ve only been around for the ’84 series, but all I remember from ’84 is the kick-ass place-mats from Elias Brothers. Yes, I just bid on those. If the Tigers win again, I’ll buy whatever place-mats Big Boy puts out for 2012.

So on to tonight’s game.

Barry Zito, who still has another year left on his massive 7 year contract that pays him roughly $18M per year, climbs the mound for the Giants. Since signing that tremendous contract, which at the time was the largest contract ever given to a pitcher, Zito has been a tremendous disappointment. Until this year he had not posted a winning record with the Giants, and has still yet to post a sub-4 ERA. Over the years Zito has morphed from a hard throwing lefty with two great out pitches (curve & change) to a finesse pitcher who rarely tops 87 and looks to work the corners and fool the hitters. Today, he throws a few different fastballs and his curve and change in roughly equal proportions.

In 2012, Zito went 15-8 with a 4.15 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, walked 3.42/9, and only struck out only 5.57/9. Bochy’s decision to go with Zito for Game 5 of the NLCS looked to be more of a long-shot than anything, though his masterful 7.2 IP, 6 H, 0 ER effort may have sparked the Giants to the NL pennant. But all in all, he’s a mediocre pitcher who will try to out think the Tigers (remember that Kenny Rogers had quite a bit of success doing this for the Tigers in the ’06 playoffs).

The Tigers haven’t hit that well in the postseason, though they are hitting better than everyone else. DY and Peralta look to be locked in, and Fielder and Cabrera could each carry a game on their own. Not much history v. Zito, but Cabby is 2-8, Fielder is 3-18, and DY is 2-3.

Verlander takes the ball perched as the best pitcher in baseball (if you believe the pundits, stats, fans, other players, etc.). This will be JV’s 12th  career postseason start, and 3rd in the World Series.

The Tigers lineup is as expected, other than Avila in against the lefty Zito. But Laird is 3-15 off of Zito, and Avila has caught all 3 of JVs postseason starts this year.

A few notes:

– Buster Posey was the best hitter in baseball against lefties this year –  .433/.470/.793.

– The vast majority of the predictions out there pick Detroit.

– DY plated all four game winning RBIs in the Yankee series – making him the 1st player in MLB history to do that. Heck, 4 game winning RBI in any single post-season series is an MLB record.

Your Game 1 Lineup:

1. Jackson, CF
2. Infante, 2B
3. Cabrera, 3B
4. Fielder, 1B
5. Young, LF
6. Peralta, SS
7. Garcia, RF
8. Avila, C
9. Verlander, P
Let’s…go…Tigers!

A Public Apology to Jim Leyland

I was wrong (again…so I think). On September 27th, prior to game 156, I posted that this would likely be Leyland’s last regular season game in Detroit. Now I’m certain he’ll be here next April.

As intolerable as Leyland’s idiosyncrasies, tendancies and hunches are, it is these same foibles that have him in his 2nd WS as a Tiger in 6 years. Take that in for a minute.

If you take a close look, it’s really the positives that emerge from his faults (as we see them) that have the Tigers playing for their 5th World Series title.

He’s loyal to his players, almost to a fault. Every single one of us has either written, said, or thought “why is ______ still playing?” Likely all 3, and likely multiple times. So how do guys like Peralta and DY, who had career low years, respond? By leading the offense and winning ALCS MVP, respectively, of course. Heck, Phil Coke seemed destined for the island of misfit toys next to Charlie-In-The-Box and the spotted elephant when he couldn’t get lefties out in the 6th inning. Now he’s striking out Raul Ibanez with the deadliest slider you’ll ever see on a 3-2 count.

His lineups are crazy…but he gets everyone involved, and keeps players fresh. In the playoffs, we had key contributions from guys like Garcia, Kelly and Worth. Kelly scored a key run, Garcia set Tigers pinch-hitter records, and think about that play Worth made in game 2 of the Oakland series. Santiago doesn’t make that play; Peralta certainly doesn’t. Thank goodness Worth was ready to play.

His bullpen management could politely be called stubbon and is a constant source of derision on the DTW. But let’s credit him for loosening up in the NYY Series, even if it was a game too late. He could have easily, and likely justifiably, used Valverde in game 4, but he stuck with Coke, in a move that I think foreshadows the World Series – go with Coke, or the hot hand (if it’s someone else).

He’s an emotional guy, which likely explains his seemingly non-rational decisions. But that emotion forges a bond with his players, and as hard as Mitch Albom tries to fabricate it, you won’t see a better moment than the one we witnessed when he pulled Cabby in the season-ender after Cabrera had clinched the triple crown.

About a month ago, I posed a question on here and asked how far would JL have to advance for you to want to bring him back next year. I said 1 series, which he’s eclipsed. Several of you commented that no matter what you wanted him gone next year. Has anyone else changed their mind? A recent Freep poll concluded that 70% of respondents want JL back. Where do you stand now?

One final thought:

“Sometimes I look around the stadium and I get a tear in my eye,” Leyland said. “I wish I didn’t show it. But to see those people waving those towels? To see them so happy? I truly believe the game impacts their lives.”

He’s talking about us.

Waiting In The World Series On-Deck Circle

Just a few thoughts while we wait patiently to see if Detroit will have a World Series rematch with St. Louis, or if the Tigers will take on the Giants.

Regardless of who the other half of the World Series matchup is, Detroit will begin the series Wednesday on the road. The blame for that falls on none other than Justin Verlander (although one could make a case for blaming Bud Selig), who laid an egg in his All-Star start and gave home field advantage to the NL team.  I imagine he is in for some good-natured ribbing.

If St. Louis beats SF on Sunday, the 2012 World Series will be the first ever in which two teams with under 90 regular season wins face each other.

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And because Wednesday’s game is in the NL park, our ALCS MVP DH will have to find a new gig; Leyland confirms the plan is to play Young in LF in Game 1.  This may cut down on Quintin Berry appearances.  It is worth noting that Q-Berry hit .314 (11-for-35) with a HR and 5 RBI in Interleague play.

Young will get a chance to practice his fielding, um, skills on Sunday and Monday: Jim Leyland, having experienced the 2006 World Series where the Tigers came out flat after having 6 days off, decided to try something different this time around, and is bringing players from the instruction league in for some scrimmage time.  My advice to the scrimmagers:  bunting, lots of bunting (those who remember 2006 will understand).

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Speaking of Leyland, Dave Dombrowski has publicly proclaimed:  Jim Leyland is welcome back.

Here is Leyland talking about the Yankee sweep.

Gene Lamont got less love:  Boston seemed uninterested in Lamont this time around in their managerial search (Farrell appears to have the job, although Toronto will have to be compensated).  Lamont says the Red Sox would have been better off if they had gone with him last time around.

And just for fun, let’s review some of the numbers from the Yankee series:

  • The Tigers swept the ALCS without ever trailing, joining the 1984 Tigers as the only teams to do so.
  • The Tigers became the first team to win 5 straight postseason games against the Yankees
  • The Tigers are the only team in the AL to be undefeated in posteason series vs the Yankees (3-for-3), and their 10-3 record gives them the best winning percentage of any franchise.
  • Delmon Young became the first player to have the game-winning RBI in all 4 wins of a postseason series.
  • The starting staff finished with a series ERA of 0.66, the 2nd best ever in a best-of-seven series (the 1966 Orioles had 0.61 against the Dodgers).

Game 2012 Playoffs.9: Yankees at Tigers

ALCS, Tigers 3, Yankees 0.

One more ho hum brilliant Justin Verlander performance, and the Tigers have the champagne on ice ready to celebrate their 2nd world series appearance in the Leyland/Dombrowski era, and at home again.

Not that there aren’t plans to keep the bubbly for another day if necessary: with CC Sabathia on the mound, the Tigers aren’t thinking the  ALCS is over.  Sabathia is coming off of a Verlander-like 4-hit complete game win in his last outing against the Orioles, the Tigers have struggled against lefties (especially Fielder with his wan .739 OPS against lefty starters), and it’s hard to sweep any series against anyone, much less a playoff series against the Yankees.

And Nature is furrowing her brows upon the party; rain may end up postponing the event.

Still, broom sales in the Motor City have been brisk.

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Verlander wasn’t the only hero last night.  Delmon Young continues to be a pain in the Bronx, hitting hitting his 5th career home run in 8 career playoff games against the Yankees.  And he even added a dig at Yankee stadium after the game: “I knew I hit it hard enough, but we weren’t in Yankee Stadium, so I had to wait an extra 30 feet for it to land.” (Jason Beck twitter).

And Phil “Not the Closer” Coke recorded his 2nd consecutive postseason save (who is the last Tiger pitcher to do that?). Not that he didn’t have a bit of trouble, but his strikeout of Ibanez made up for it.

In the words of Mr. Coke himself, “I kind of felt like I might have gone a little unconscious as soon as I posted it up and let it go.”

More fun with Coke, the Disgruntled Former Employee of the Yankees here.

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So, we here at DTW don’t have to be as careful as the Tiger players, and can indulge in such things as figuring out who we would want to face in the World Series.  I haven’t spent the time (yet) to work out what the best matchup is, and am split on the non-rational aspects of the question:  I lived in Giants territory for a long time, and have many Giants-fan friends, and yet a rematch of 2006 seems awfully appealing.

What do the rest of you think?

Stat of the Day: Delmon Young vs NY in 2011 playoffs: .316, 1.170 OPS, 3 HR.  Delmon Young vs NY in 2012 playoffs: .308, 1.203 OPS, 2 HR. Should the Tigers sign Young for next season in case they play the Yankees again?

His lifetime postseason numbers: 2.39, .817 OPS. He’s hardly Mr. October…it’s just the Yankees.

Today’s Player of the Pre-game:  Gerald Laird. Gerald Laird? Yes, Gerald Laird. In 28 PAs against CC Sabathia, Laird has hit .417, been on base at a .500 rate, and has hit a HR and 2 doubles, for a tidy 1.125 OPS.  Picking up Laird was one of the better minor moves of the offseason, and it would be nice to see him get back-to-back World Series rings.

Today’s CC Riding Lineup

  1. Austin Jackson CF
  2. Omar Infante 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera 3B
  4. Prince Fielder 1B
  5. Delmon Young DH
  6. Jhonny Peralta SS
  7. Andy Dirks LF
  8. Avisail Garcia RF
  9. Gerald Laird C

Game 2012 Playoffs.8: Yankees at Tigers

2 more to the WS, 6 more to a championship.

How’s everyone doing out there? Feeling pretty good?

I sure am. I don’t think I can get enough of the MLB Network these days, though Dan Pleasac breaking down Paws’ YMCA dance did seem like they had run out of things to discuss.

Game 3 tonight in the D, Phil Hughes v. Justin Verlander. My prediction is 5-2 Tigers. But I do have a few concerns.

Concern #1) The lineup shakeup. Rodriguez and Swisher have been very easy outs – a combined 3-15 with 0 XBH. Gardner, especially at the top of the lineup, could be the spark the Yankees need. Remember, he was 7-17 in last year’s ALDS.

Concern #2) The Yankees are the Yankees. They won an AL best 95 games this year, and their 804 runs scored were 2nd in the Majors (Texas 808). That’s 98 more runs than the Tigers, or .6 more per game. Cano will get a hit at some point in time.

Concern #3) Leyland goes with his gut. Hughes’ reverse splits are ridiculous (.211 BAA, 2.32 ERA v Lefties, .308 BAA, 6.54 ERA v Righties), yet Leyland stacks the lineup with lefties. Who knows what else he may do tonight.

Concern #4) It can’t be this easy, can it? I mean, JV goes to 3-0, the Tigers up are 3-0, with 2 games left at home?

But here’s why we do win:

1) Phil Hughes isn’t that good. After a rough April and May, Phil Hughes showed glimpses of the front line starter the Yankees thought he could be. He went 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA in June, and 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA in July with a combined 1.06 WHIP and 58 Ks in 68 IPs against only 16 walks. But he regressed a bit in August as his BAA went up and Ks went down, and then blew up in September with a 5.19 ERA. For the season he was 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He had a great outing against Baltimore last week, allowing only 1 ER in 6 2/3 in a game 4 no-decision (Os won in 13). He faced the Tigers twice this year, pitching a complete game gem on June 3 when he allowed only 1 ER and struck out 8, and then was pounded for 8 hits and 4 ER in 4 1/3 on August 7th. Cabrera is 9-22 with 4 HRs off of Hughes, and Jhonny Defender is 10-20

2) The Tigers will hit again. Other than Jhonny (.852), no one has a playoff OPS higher than .732.  This won’t last.

3) Justin Verlander. JV is 1-0 with a 5.02 ERA against the Yankees with 17 Ks over 14.1 IP in 3 career post-season starts, but I expect him to be much better tonight. He struck out 11 in each of his first 2 playoff starts, and his .75 WHIP is topped only by his .56 ERA. Opposing hitters are batting .130.

4) I like our bullpen. Fangraphs posted a long piece yesterday which states that the Tigers’ pen really isn’t that bad, and concluded that it is likely mismanaged. The author took a particular liking to Al Al. Get in line. Phil Coke was phenomenal on Sunday night, allowing only 1 hit and throwing a ridiculous 23/28 strikes over 2 innings in saving game 2. Coke joins Guillermo Hernandez (you may know him as Willie) as the only pitchers in Tigers post-season history to register as 2+ inning save. The entire pen should be well rested tonight, though I’d be surprised to see Coke go more than 1 or 2 batters. (Note that Leyland hasn’t said whether Valverde will be used in a save situation tonight.)

Remember, as good as we feel about JV tonight, if the Yankees can eek out a win, they’ve got CC Sabathia going tomorrow, and they might be feeling that 2-2 is right around the corner. So let’s not take anything for granted.

A few notes:

– ARod and Swisher are out, Chavez and Gardner are in. This is Gardner’s 1st start since April 17th. Rodriguez was 4-6 off of JV this year, but on a 0-18 streak against righties.

– JL has made the post-season 7 times in 21 years of frustrating fans.

– Marcelo Carreno is the PTBNL in the Jeff Baker trade from August 5th.

WS tickets go on sale tomorrow morning. They are only good if the Tigers win 2 more games.

Tonight’s 3-0 Lineup:

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