Verlander is back

When Jim Leyland said he was going to put Justin Verlander on a strict, but undisclosed pitch count today, who thought it would be 120? It probably is a few more than Jim would have liked, but when you have a pitcher as in control as Verlander was today, 120 doesn’t seem to be a stretch at all.

By the numbers

The numbers really do tell a story of how dominant Verlander was today:

  • 23 – The number of consecutive hitters Verlander retired after Torii Hunter singled in the first inning.
  • 82% – The rate at which Verlander racked up first pitch strikes
  • 9 – The pitches that Verlander threw from the stretch. It’s safe to say he wasn’t pitching under duress.
  • 4 – The number of times Verlander went to a 3 ball count. He didn’t walk any batters.
  • 3 – The hits allowed.
  • 72% – Verlander’s strike rate for the day

That’s pretty much as good as it gets and not a moment too soon.

Everybody else

The bottom of the order led the charge today and 5 runs proved to be more than enough. The bottom 4 in the lineup went 5 for 14 and set the table for Austin Jackson who does what Austin Jackson does. He gets a hit or strikes out. Five ABs, 3 hits, 2 strike outs. It really is incredible.

  • Alex Avila reached base 3 times. I’m not sure what was more impressive, his rope double down the line or the 8 pitch walk he worked in the 8th.
  • Brennan Boesch continues to hit and picked up another double. Boesch has been mashing first pitch fastballs since getting called up. This time though he jumped on a first pitch slider. It was nice to see the adjustment for the youngster.
  • It was unfortunate that Jose Valverde had to come in today. He’s now appeared in 14 of the team’s 26 games and is on pace to make 84 appearances this year. It would certainly help with his goal of 74 saves, but that is a heavy workload.

Tigers 5, Angels 1

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

Questioning the IBB

In my opinion these are the hardest losses to swallow. On a night when the team had to have been tired they really did battle. They fought against a closer with an electric arm and tied up a game in the 9th. But then there was a failure. A failure of execution and of strategy. A game where it seems like the manager let his team down.

I wish that Fox Sports Detroit did a post game with Jim Leyland because I’d love to know the thinking in walking Ryan Garko to get to Nelson Cruz. I don’t always agree with Leyland’s decision making process, but I can usually see his side. In this case I don’t really see another side at all. I’m dumbfounded. Given the effort his team gave him in the top of the 9th, they deserved better.

Perhaps I’m making too much of the IBB. The win expectancy only went down 1% for the Tigers. It was actually the smallest WE event of the inning.

Of course Leyland wasn’t the one who walked Justin Smoak, or Nelson Cruz for that matter. Fu-Te Ni’s control has been poor this season (8 walks and 2 HBP in 6 innings). Ryan Perry has to make a better pitch with 2 strikes to Elvis Andrus. If Perry comes in and doesn’t get Garko out, I don’t have a beef with the manager. In this case though it seems like Leyland walked right into what Ron Washington wanted.

The downside is that I spent 3 paragraphs lamenting negative instead of talking about the top of the 9th inning, which was terrific. The at-bats were all solid. Don Kelly fanned but it took 7 pitches. Ramon Santiago had a 13 pitch at-bat that resulted in an out but had to certainly wear on Neftali Feliz. Austin Jackson was determined to not strike out for a 4th time and put the first pitch in play, and Johnny Damon fought off a couple pitches before getting a bloop hit. And of course Magglio Ordonez with the line drive to right to tie the game. Great stuff that should be remembered.

And we haven’t even mentioned Brennan Boesch’s debut which saw him hit a double and a single (and later make a baserunning mistake). We haven’t mentioned Max Scherzer who went 7 innings and fanned 7 in a quality start. There was quite a bit of good in this game, and the players deserved the same from their manager.

  • It’s a quality start Scherzer because one of the runs was unearned and was the result of a charged error when Alex Avila used his mask to corral a ball.
  • Avila did gun down both attempted base stealers.
  • Scott Sizemore had a rough night at the dish with 3 uncomfortable looking strike outs. A pinch hitting appearance by Don Kelly may have spared him the sombrero.
  • Ordonez looked a little off balance at times on the west coast, but he reached base 4 times.
  • Miguel Cabrera’s 5 game double streak came to an end, but Austin Jackson’s 16 game strikeout streak and Johnny Damon’s 10 game hitting streak are still intact.

Perusing PECOTA

Baseball Prospectus released the first run of their 2010 PECOTA numbers this week, which makes for much fun in the stat-centric baseball community. PECOTA differentiates itself from many of the other predictors by finding pools of comparable players to make their predictions. While the numbers are premium content (and can also be found in the printed annual), I will share a few of the items that jumped out at me about the Tigers.

The system puts the Tigers at 78-84 which is 3rd place in the AL Central behind the division leading Twins (83-79) and the second place White Sox (80-82). The Tigers run prevention is pegged at 2nd in the division at 776 runs allowed; the White Sox are first at 751. But an offense full of questions from young and old players alike is expected to be the division’s worst.

Continue reading Perusing PECOTA

The Tigers catching situation

In the midst of a big unannounced move yesterday, the Tigers did make a small official moves. The Tigers signed catcher Robinzon Diaz to a minor league contract. It is mostly just a depth move, but it does give the Tigers a few options behind (or next to) Gerald Laird in 2010.

In 2009 the Tigers worked with a rotation of Dane Sardhina, Dusty Ryan, and Alex Avila as Laird’s caddy. Sardhina is just an abysmal hitter. Ryan has good pop and a cannon for an arm but seemingly couldn’t win over Jim Leyland. Avila burst on to the scene with the bat and probably raised expectations beyond a reasonable level with his August performance but he’s still quite new to catching.

So the Tigers inked Diaz to become an insurance policy. Avila needs to catch on a regular basis and initially it may be better if he does so in the minors. He went to winter ball but struggled. His struggles probably weren’t a large factor in the decision to get Diaz. But the Tigers expect for Diaz to compete for the back-up role regardless.

Some feel he can compete for a job as backup catcher in spring training
Dombrowski on Diaz

As for Diaz’s game, he has a decent defensive reputation and offensively he seems Randall Simon-esque in his refusal to not put the ball in play. He won’t be a game changer but he is another option.

Image credit Pshanks on flickr

Avila and Lambert up

It’s almost like the Tigers got a bulk discount on a shuttle between Toledo and Detroit. Wilkin Ramirez’s stay in the Detroit was very brief and expressly for the purpose of facing Brian Matusz. Chris Lambert will replace him on the roster. But that’s not all my friends. We also have a lefty catcher in our midst with Alex Avila replacing Dusty Ryan on the roster. Let’s think this through now because there are some implications worth considering before we debate the merits of the moves.

  • Ramirez will not be bumping Magglio Ordonez from the roster for at least 10 days. Barring a DL stay Ramirez cannot be recalled.
  • Alex Avila will likely not burn an option year this year. If even the Tigers decide to change their minds and send him down, as long as he spends less than 20 days off the big league roster it won’t count as an option. So if he’s up for another 8 days that won’t be an issue with the roster expanding on September 1st. He will accrue service time, but probably not enough to move his free agent clock up a year. It does mean he will need to remain on the 40 man roster in an offseason where he otherwise wouldn’t need to.
  • I have a hard time seeing how Dusty Ryan has a future in the franchise. Laird has been struggling mightily at the plate and Ryan still could supplant him more than once a week. Now he’s being exchanged for a catcher who has one year of professional catching experience.

As for the new guys, Avila is one of the two guys I consider to be nearly untouchable largely due to the fact i envisioned him filling a critical role in the near future. I wasn’t thinking this month though. Avila’s overall numbers are very impressive…for a guy one year removed from the draft playing in AA. But his 262/360/446 line is far from overwhelming and he’s only hitting 191/280/393 in the last 28 days (thank you minorleaguesplits.com.

Lambert has been pitching very well for the Mud Hens as a starter. In his last 10 starts he has a 2.07 ERA with 52 K’s and only 11 walks. He’ll presumably pitch out of the bullpen until the team decides to recall either Casey Fien (at least 10 days from now) or Jeremy Bonderman gets healthy.

The Lambert move is fine by me. He’s earned a spot. The Avila move is a mystery. I understand wanting to get some offense from the catcher spot and with Avila being a lefty it makes for a more natural time split for Laird who is scuffling. But I can’t see how this helps Avila in the long term and it’s not that clear to me how it helps the team in the short term. There is a big enough learning curve for typical players, let alone catchers. This is a rush move and can only be considered a move of desperation. Then again if you feel the need to call up a player from the minors just to face a guy making his big league debut because nobody else on the roster can hit…then maybe you’re past the point of desperation.

The Weekend Trade Rumor Roundup

It’s that time of year when trade rumor talk is through the roof. Combined with the Tigers recent struggles, I know this is top of mind stuff for many. I don’t do a lot of trade speculation here, mostly because I’m too lazy to conjure up potential deals. However, I do know this is a hot topic so please use this space to discuss things. Below are a couple of my thoughts on who the Tigers shouldn’t give up, as well as some links to current-ish rumors.

Continue reading The Weekend Trade Rumor Roundup

Tigers have nice fall debut

The Arizona Fall League kicked off and the Tigers representatives represented the Tigers well (how’s that for a sentence?). Wil Rhymes, Casper Wells,and Jeff Larish hit 2-3-4 and each picked up a hit. Wells was the only homer of the game and he knocked in 2. On the pitching side, Rudy Darrow pitched a perfect inning with 2 K’s and Casey Fien allowed 2 hits with 4 K’s in 2 innings of work.

Things are off to a decent start for the Tigers Hawaiian contingent. Andrew Hess has made 3 outings in relief has fanned 8 with only 1 walk in 8 innings with only one walk allowed. James Skelton is posting his customary high OBP at .500 in his first 6 games. Kyle Peter has struggled somewhat posting just a .579 OPS while still looking for his first extra base hit.

Alex Avila - cr Roger DeWitt
Alex Avila - cr Roger DeWitt

Things are also busy in Tigertown. Mark Anderson of Tigstown.com was on hand to take in some of the Instructional League action and filed daily reports. It’s premium content, but today he looked at the catchers and first baseman and the report on Alex Avila was glowing.

The good news is the daily reports don’t appear to be premium content, so you can read some of it for yourself. And if you want to see for yourself, our friend Roger DeWitt has captured quite a few images of the action.

The Tigers might have some minor league catchers

Take 75 North runs down all of the catching roster moves that took place in the wake of the Pudge Rodriguez trade. The Tigers organizational catching situation has been described as barren, and that’s not quite fair. There are a couple intriguing prospects who are worth following as they will now be tested at higher levels.

Dane Sardinha was called up to Detroit.
Dusty Ryan went from Erie to Toledo.
James Skelton bumped up from Lakeland to Erie.
Adrian Casanova moved from West Michigan to Lakeland.
Angel Flores will be taking a drive west from Oneonta to West Michigan.
Oneonta doesn’t have to replace Flores because they already have Joe Bowen and Tyler Weber on the team.

The two to keep an eye on are Dusty Ryan and James Skelton. Ryan has burst on to the scene a little bit with his bat this season. Baseball America rated him as the organization’s top defensive catcher. But up until this year the bat hadn’t played with his highest OPS season was the 693 he posted as a 21 year old in West Michigan. However this year he has a 255/345/472 line for AA Erie.

He only has a 15% line drive rate so his .326 BABIP is inflated. But there is something to be said for the 14 homers he has to date. The season hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency. His monthly OPS from April through July have been: 1.022 – .730 – .893 – .675. So his promotion to AAA either coincides well with the up and down nature of his season. Or it coincides horribly with a time where he is either a)regressing to the mean or b)tiring out.

James Skelton has swung a high average, low power bat for the last couple of seasons. That has continued into 2008 where he has a 308/465/409 line. He missed time in June due to injury, but has come back with a little more pop. He picked up 7 of his 12 extra base hits in the month of July. The biggest knock on Skelton is that many feel he’s just too small to be a catcher if he weighs 165 pounds. I have no idea if this is true or not, but the dude is tiny.

Between Ryan, Skelton, and even Alex Avila (290/362/331 at West Michigan) the position isn’t completely empty in the organization. While it does lack top flight prospects, the Tigers aren’t unique in that regard. And with the promotions of Ryan and Skelton the Tigers get another month to evaluate each as they are one step closer to the bigs.