World Series Game 4: Redux

PREGAME: Yeah. I’m not writing a new preview. You can reference the old one here. And if you’re looking for the St. Louis perspective, check out the previews from these fine blog-establishments: Viva El Birdos (very active in game discussion also) and Cardnilly,

Meanwhile, Deadspin wonders if this series will ever end – or more appropriately if it will ever get started again.

In the best interest of ratings

Remember way back in the ALCS when it was going to be too cold to play baseball at night in Detroit? Bud said that the game had to be moved to 4:30 and the move was all because of the weather:

“Would you rather play at 4:30 in the afternoon or at 8:15 and go to midnight? The answer’s obvious,” Selig said. “This is a decision based on weather, and not based on anything else.”

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I guess that only applies to cold weather and not rain. Looking at Accuweather, there is only a 40% chance of precipitation in the late afternoon in St. Louis as opposed 65% during primetime. If you move up the start time, you can always wait out a rain delay even longer. Or maybe due to forecast, try scheduling the first pitch for 8:00 instead of showing a half hour of insipid commentary, commericials, and commercials poorly masked as entertainment.

Man I need this series to get started again.

Now a radar gun story

Now this is getting out of control. This World Series really needs more action and less speculation. Now there is controversy over the
radar gun and Joel Zumaya . Please.

The radar gun has no impact on the game. Yes, Zumaya looks at the gun. But if he’s throwing to the gun instead of the batters, the Tigers have bigger problems.

What I’m really surprised about is that nobody was mentioning that Zumaya was wearing the same batting practice hat that has become a flashpoint around Kenny Rogers. You know, the one with the black underbill that makes it easier for Rogers to hide his gunk?

Who do you start

Starting with the assumption that game 4 is played at some point, who do you start in game 5?  It appears that the Cardinals are leaning towards Jeff Weaver (tip o the DTW hat to Viva El Birdos). For the Tigers I really think it depends on the outcome of game 4.

If the Tigers even the series, I think they’ll keep the rotation the way it is and hope Justin Verlander is good enough. If the Cardinals do in fact move Weaver up, he’s the one guy the Tigers knocked around in this series. I know the Tigers only scored 3 off of Weaver, but the lack of timely hits is much less a concern than the total lack of timely situations in the other games. If the Tigers have similar success against Weaver, then Verlander doesn’t have to be perfect in a game the Tigers must win.

Now if the Tigers drop game 4 they move into a clinch-avoidance situation. At that point I think Kenny Rogers has to be moved up. I know the desire to keep him pitching in Comerica where’s he’s been dominant. And I know the grief he’ll get in St. Louis with the dirt and such. But saving him for a game that might not happen would be ridiculous.

And just to clear up any confusion I might have raised last night (and it really was MLB.com’s fault), Jeremy Bonderman is still pitching game 4.

World Series Game 4: Tigers at Cardinals

UPDATE: It’s a washout. They’ll try and do this again tomorrow night around 8:30. Don’t know if this will hold or not, but as I write this, MLB.com lists Justin Verlander as the starter and TBA for the Cardinals. I hope it’s a goof. Skipping Bonderman would be, ummm, there’s not even words.

PREGAME: I’m far from worried about the series going into this game. Of course another loss tonight and that all changes. Tonight fans of both teams are confident in their starters.

For the Cardinals it will be Jeff Suppan. Suppan has been very good over his last 2 starts allowing only 1 run over 15 innings. In his last start against the Mets he only allowed 2 hits, but did issue 5 walks. The way the Tigers have been swinging the bats, they’ll have a hard time benefitting from any control issues that Suppan might have.

Magglio Ordonez has had considerable success against Suppan posting a 395/469/581 line over 43 at-bats with as many homers as strike outs (2). Brandon Inge has hit for the cycle (plus a double) over 14 at-bats. Placido Polanco has had no success posting a 1 for 13 with 3 walks.

Suppan has been better at home this year, posting a 3.18 ERA and 248 batting average against in Busch Stadium (5.36 ERA, .313 BAA on the road). Lefties hit him better with a +100 margin in OPS (836 vs 736), although they are slightly more likely to strike out (look out Curtis).

The Tigers will feature Jeremy Bonderman who sports the best peripherals on the staff. He’s basically had one rough inning in his last 2 starts. That inning being the first in game 4 of the ALCS when he surrenedered 2 runs.

Caridnals hitters have pretty limited to exposure to Bonderman with only Scott Spiezio and Ronnie Belliard gathering more than 15 at-bats. Belliard is 3 for 21 and Spiezio is 4 for 15 including a homer.

Bonderman’s road ERA of 3.63 is almost a full run lower than his ERA at Comerica Park.

Tigers Lineup

CF – Granderson
LF – Monroe
SS – Guillen
RF- Ordonez
1B – Casey
C – Rodriguez
2B- Polanco
3B – Inge
P – Bonderman

I’m totally down with this lineup. Pudge didn’t move, but if he turns in another 0-fer hopefully it won’t be as damaging. Let’s just hope that 2-3-4-5 can put something together. For that matter anybody putting something together would be nice.

Cardinals Lineup

SS- Eckstein
LF – Duncan
1B- Pujols
3B – Rolen
CF – Edmonds
RF – Wilson
C- Molina
2B- Miles
P – Suppan

The weather figures to be awful, so this might be a moot point. If they play, it is expected to start at 8:30ish.

Exposure

With the Tigers being awful for a long time, and merely bad the last 2 year, they have accumulated a pile of players nobody knows about. That’s why it’s been neat to see some the exposure that the Tigers are getting. For one it’s nice to see them get recognition. Second, it’s nice to get an unbiased opinion. We’re used to seeing our Tigers, and we’re used to seeing bad Tigers. Up until this year, I often thought my ability to evaluate players was seriously skewed because of the team I was watching.

Baseball Prospectus has a profile of Carlos Guillen today. This run has done wonders for the “best player you never heard of” or “MVP candidate” talk with regard to Guillen. If he can replicate his 2006 performance next year (which means staying healthy) he stands a good chance to be in the MVP race, as opposed to someone filling out the bottom of tha ballots. (On another note, the profile was penned by Marc Normandin who also blogs at the wonderful Beyond Boxscores)

John Sickels has been running Prospect Retros of some of the more interesting stories in the World Series. It’s fun to look back at these players to see who beat the odds, and who never lived up to expectations. In the last couple days he’s done Tigers Kenny Rogers and Craig Monroe, as well as former Tiger and current Card Juan Encarnacion.

The Lineup Shuffle – or deck chairs on the Titanic?

Do the Tigers need to change their lineup? Jim Leylandis certainly considering it. The lineup question was one I was going to pursue yesterday before I ran out of time. Last night’s 3 single effort certainly has stirred the pot to the point of action.

The obvious problem with the Tigers lineup is that their best hitter, Carlos Guillen, is hitting 5th instead of the more conventional third. It hasn’t bothered me too much as I rationalize that it helps clean-up hitter Magglio Ordonez see better pitches, and Ordonez was better at getting on base than the 1 & 2 hitters late in the season.

But with Ivan Rodriguez hitting behind Guillen, guy who is hitting the worst in the lineup is behind the guy who is hitting the best. Guillen won’t get anything to hit, and a walk won’t help much if a 4-6-3 double play is right around the corner.

If it were up to me, tonight’s lineup would be Granderson-Polanco-Guillen-Ordonez-Monroe-Casey-Rodriguez-Inge-Bonderman. And really Monroe and Casey could be flipped. Both have showed signs of life this series

Now Leyland will probably make a change tonight, but it won’t be that drastic. It may just be moving Polanco to 2nd and Casey to 3rd dropping Monroe down to Casey’s slot. It’s a lineup that Leyland is comfortable with, but it won’t address the problem of having Guillen and Pudge paired.

Now the funny thing is that it takes a game like last night’s to prompt the change. In all reality the lineup order last night made no difference. There’s no way to optimize a lineup that produces 3 baserunners all night.

UPDATE: Via Danny Knobler tonight’s lineup: Granderson cf, Monroe lf, Guillen ss, Ordonez rf, Casey 1b, Rodriguez c, Polanco 2b, Inge 3b, Bonderman p.

I can certainly buy into this lineup. Guillen is between guys who might do something positive, and he’s also between 2 righthanders which may discourage the use of a lefty reliever to turn him around.

World Series Game 3: Aftermath

It’s not so much the loss that is troubling. I actually expected Detroit to lose this game just based on the pitching match-up. It’s that once again they looked so incredibly bad in losing.

Here’s the list of Tiger highlights:

  • Neifi Perez comes off the bench and makes a nifty double play to retire the side in the 8th inning.

Yeah. That’s it.

Meanwhile the lowlights:

  • The Tigers never had a runner touch 2nd base. (thanks T) The Tigers had one baserunner in scoring position all night.
  • No Tiger reached a 3 ball count. In fact no Tiger saw more than 5 pitches in an at-bat.
  • The Cardinals scored 2 runs in the 6th inning without a hit.
  • The Cardinals added a run in the 8th with the benefit of one single.

The tough thing, okay one tough thing, is that Nate really gave the team a chance. He recorded his first 1-2-3 inning since the 2nd inning of his September 21st start. He allowed 1 base runner in the first 3 innings and that was a 2 out walk.

But oh those walks. Four of the five baserunners who scored reached base via the walk.

Now Chris Carpenter deserves credit for making the Tigers look so bad. At the same time, the Tigers spent a significant part of the stretch run tipping their cap to the opponent. They have to find a way to get things going against Jeff Suppan tomorrow.

The series is far from over, and I like the Tigers chances with Jeremy Bonderman on the mound tomorrow night. But the offense has to do something, anything. Even making Jeff Suppan throw 15 pitches in an inning would help. Another offensive display like tonight’s and it won’t matter how many runs Bondo allows.

And as for the Joel Zumaya throwing error. It was a questionable decision exacerbated by a horrible throw. If the throw is on the money, it’s much less of an issue and with Pujols running a triple play isn’t a ridiculous notion.

I’ll append the wrap-up of other people’s thoughts in the morning.

What Others Are Saying

Continue reading World Series Game 3: Aftermath

World Series Game 3: Tigers at Cardinals

PREGAME: The series shifts to St. Louis and the new Busch stadium. Busch has played as slightly more of a pitchers park than Comerica Park has. The pitching match-up will be Nate Robertson against Chris Carpenter.

The Tigers faced Carpenter once this year and jumped on him for 9 hits, 6 for extra bases, and scored 7 runs over 7 innings. It was an interesting line for Carpenter in that he also fanned 9 Tigers hitters and walked none.

In terms of individual match-ups, most of the Tigers have decent career numbers against Carpenter. Pudge Rodriguez has a 970 OPS over 26 at-bats against Carpenter. Given that Pudge is 0-fer a long time, this help get him on track.

Carpenter has been much better at home this year with a 1.82 ERA and only 7 homers allowed over 124 innings. He is brutal on right handers with a 571 OPS against. Left handers do substantially better, but still not good, with a 727 OPS but that’s kind of what makes Carpenter the staff ace.

Nate Robertson has limited experience against the Cardinals lineup. Ronnie Belliard has a pretty good track record and is 8 for 25. Preston Wilson though has 5 at-bats, and 5 hits off of Robertson. And with Wilson slotted right in front of Albert Pujols, there’s not pitching around him.

Detroit Lineup

CF- Granderson
LF – Monroe
2B – Polanco
RF – Ordonez
SS – Guillen
C – Rodriguez
1B- Casey
3B – Inge
P- Robertson

Carlos Guillen’s efforts are largely going to waste with Rodriguez failing to generate any offense. If he doesn’t do something this game, against a pitcher he’s had success against, he’s got to be moved down in the order.

St. Louis Lineup

SS- Eckstein
LF – Wilson
1B- Pujols
3B- Rolen
2B- Belliard
CF- Edmonds
C- Molina
RF – Taguchi
P – Carpenter

I give credit to La Russa for sandwiching Pujols with the 2 hitters who have had a solid track record against Robertson.

Game Time 8:30ish, or about 10 minutes after you think you can’t possibly take any more Zelasko.

The one about the gunk

There’s really no getting around the Kenny Rogers and the yellow thumb of crud. I was hoping this would go away as a non-story, especially with all of the principles involved saying it is a non-story. Despite that, everybody and their brother has become an expert on pine tar and it’s physical properties and they can spot it instantly. We’ve also all become very well versed on section 8.02 of the rule book.

Here’s what I think and don’t think about the situation:

  • Yes, the media is making a big deal out of this. This is what the media does. I don’t think there is any sort of McCarver-pro-Cardinals conspiracy going on. It was actually one of the more astute observations made by McCarver. It was definitely something worth noting and pointing out. McCarver also mentioned it was common for pitchers to do this in cold weather.
  • I think the sequence of events is critical to understanding the situation – or for at least assigning blame. Fox did their best to make this confusing and I haven’t really seen it clarified. If in fact Kenny Rogers finished the first inning, and then somebody told each bench what was happening, Rogers could very well have gone down and washed off the stuff all on his own. This is probably the same time that Steve Palermo notified the umpiring crew of what was going on. If Rogers comes out for the 2nd with a clean hand, what could La Russa or the umpires do at that point? There was nothing to find.

    It doesn’t change the fact that Rogers pitched with stuff on his hand in the 1st inning, but if he was in fact cheating he’d gotten away with it – at least in baseball terms.

  • If in fact La Russa could have made something about it but didn’t, I’m willing to bet it has nothing to do with his relationship with Leyland. That doesn’t even seem like a realistic possibility. I’d be more inclined to believe it had to do with La Russa understanding the context, and that this appears to be a pretty common practice.
  • If you’re in the camp of “how do you explain how a guy who was awful in the postseason can suddenly be dominating?” I’d just respond with sample size. Rogers was bad in the playoffs – 7 & 10 years ago – in a small sample size. Maybe he’s learned a thing or two, or maybe he’s cheating. I just don’t think that argument is very damning.
  • Don’t look for any suspensions. It has passed. If they had caught Rogers, and by “they” I mean the umpires, he should have been ejected and suspended. That window closed when Rogers washed his hand.
  • This is really a different subject but Fox is impacting on field game play. It happened when the start time of Game 3 of the ALCS was moved up to accomodate the New York Mets game. It happened again last night when it prompted Steve Palermo to talk to the umpires during a game. Where should the line be drawn.
  • Finally, I understand being pissed off if your a Cardinals fan. But I’m not sure what emailing me will hope to accomplish. I don’t want to paint Cardinals fans with a broad brush, and I know this isn’t indicative of the majority. But if you are a Cardinals fan, and you’re thinking of sending me something like:

    Hey Pine Tar, or I mean Detroit,
    Did you ever try cheat yourself to a world series victory. Your baseball team
    sucks and so does your filthy city. I guess you need to do whatever it takes
    to try and make the big time. Fat chance that will ever happen. Do the good
    guys a favor, quit wasting our time trying to cheat and get the f&%# out of
    baseball.

    you can probably just keep it to yourself. I’ve gotten several of this ilk today. My only question for these people is, “is this just your internet personality or are you actually an idiot?” And in a similar vein, please no more butt-wiping jokes.

Finally, there were some actual articles of interest related to this saga. Via Baseball Musings, Uniwatch details that Kenny Rogers wears the batting practice hat instead of the standard issue 5950 during games. It’s a different material and the underside of the brim is black as opposed to gray.

Also, Nate Silver took a look at Rogers home and road splits to see if Rogers is cheating at home and not ont he road. The stats don’t clear him, nor do they convict him.

Finally, someone having some fun with the situation.

World Series Game 2: Aftermath

And we have ourselves a best of 5 series. It was very comforting to see the team come out and shake off a bad game.

The Tigers seemed to get their hitting timing back, even if they couldn’t get timely hits. They knocked out 10 hits and put runners in scoring position in each of the first 6 innings. They should have had more than 3 runs to show for their efforts, but getting the guys on in the first place was an important part of the equation. Weaver was constantly having to work under pressure.

On the other side, Kenny Rogers allowed only 2 walks in the 2nd through 7th innings. He made it through 8 innings on only 97 pitches (by my count, certainly not unofficial). Kenny’s pitches/strikes by inning:

      1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8
   19/13     14/9      10/6     8/5      11/8     13/6    16/10    6/4

As for the Tigers approach, they were a little more patient and worked four 3-ball counts off of Weaver which was 3 more than the night before off of Reyes.

Keeping score at home, I made some notes throughout the game:

  • It was great to see the Tigers score again in the first inning. It was even better to see Kenny Rogers protect the lead with an easy 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 2nd.
  • I was actually a little worried that the Tigers were reverting to their impatient ways in the 2nd inning. They managed a couple hits and a hard hit double play ball from Curtis Granderson. But Weaver threw only 8 pitches in the inning. Fortunately the longer at-bats returned in the subsequent innings.
  • Kenny Rogers was awesome again, but he also benefitted a couple times from luck. In 5th inning he allowed a walk to Jim Edmonds. Preston Wilson hit a ball well to center where Curtis Granderson made a diving play out near triple-ville to save a run. In the 6th a walk to Scott Spiezio was followed by a rocket to Craig Monroe off the bat of Albert Pujols.
  • Todd Jones will get skewered tomorrow morning. But like the tricky Oakland save, it’s not like he pitched bad. He got Pujols to hit a weak grounder and was 1 strike away from a 1-2-3 inning. A bloop hit, an error, and another blooper and next thing you know the game is in doubt. I would love to see Jones spend a little time improving his defense. Anything through the box is an adventure with Jones.

Now there will be quite a bit made of the gunk on Rogers hand. He had it there in the other playoff games as well. I don’t know what to make of it, and when I say that I don’t know what Rogers gains from it. He certainly didn’t struggle after it was removed. He also didn’t seem to be trying to hide it. But if the Caridnals had a chance to get Rogers out of the game, and perhaps the series, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t have tried to do it.

I’ll have the commentary round up appended here early in the morning.

What others are saying

Continue reading World Series Game 2: Aftermath

World Series Game 2: Cardinals at Tigers

PREGAME: The Tigers played poorly for the first time this postseason last night and they find themselves in a 1-0 hole. They also find themselves in what is probably the biggest pressure game of the postseason. When they were down 1-0 to the Yankees, they were supposed to lose. This time they are the favorites looking to even the series. Whether or not it is the team that is feeling the pressure, or just the fan base, remains to be seen.

The Tigers will turn to Kenny Rogers who has been absolutely dominating in 2 post season starts not allowing a run. He faced the Cardinals once this year and the results weren’t that impressive with 10 baserunners and 6 runs in 5 1/3 innings. Scott Spezio is the Cardinal with the most success against Rogers posting a 395/439/605 line over 38 at-bats which helps explain why he was added to the Cardinals lineup DH’ing from the 2 hole.

The Cardinals will trot out former Tiger Jeff Weaver. Weaver made 1 start in Comerica this year and took a loss despite allowing only 2 runs over 7 1/3 innings. Lefties posted a 1.004 OPS against him as opposed to a .743 OPS for right handers. Here’s hoping that Sean Casey looks better than he did last night.

Pudge Rodriguez, Placido Polanco, and Craig Monroe are a combined 2 for 19 off of Weaver while Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen have had moderate success.

In the postseason Weaver has posted a 2.16 ERA over 3 starts and 16 innings. The small run total is a little surprising considering the 7 walks and only 5 strikeouts over that span.

St. Louis Lineup

SS – Eckstein
DH – Spezio
1B – Pujols
3B – Rolen
RF – Encarnacion
CF – Edmonds
LF – Wilson
C – Molina
2B – Miles

Scott Rolen has been moved up as right hander to try and keep Albert Pujols from being pitched around. Also, Ronnie Belliard and his 2 for 22 lifetime record against Rogers has been swapped out for Aaron Miles.

Detroit Lineup

CF – Granderson
LF – Monroe
2B – Polanco
RF – Ordonez
1B – Guillen
C – Rodriguez
DH – Casey
3B – Inge
SS – Santiago

Same lineup as last night. I’m not a big fan of Sean Casey DH’ing, but it is a lot more palatable tonight given Weaver’s left/right splits.

Game Time 8:00ish