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

A memorable inning

I think the scorecard tells the story (as scorecards should). The 4th inning was a thing of beauty and majesty and an inning that won’t be forgotten for quite some time.

The rookies were of course the story of the night. Scott Sizemore and Brennan Boesch both getting their first career homers in the 4th inning. Austin Jackson’s perfect 5 for 5 was exciting to see. It was a pretty special night and seeing Boesch’s emotion had to bring a smile to even the most jaded of sports fans.

I was at the game (some photos below), and can’t really judge Porcello’s location. What I do know is that he was a groundball machine and happened to give up a homer at the worst time, after 2 ground ball singles. So he was getting the grounders, but like in the other games a few too many balls were drilled as well. So maybe we call it improvement, but there’s still work to be done?

  • Johnny Damon was a homer shy of the cycle.
  • Ryan Perry game in throwing gas retired the first 3 hitters on strike outs.
  • I count eight “4-3” outs on my scorecard meaning it was a very busy night for Sxott Sizemore.
  • Phil Coke just couldn’t find the strike zone tonight. On another Coke related note, he seems to be the leader of the bullpen. At least the whole pen followed him down the left field line from the dugout.
  • I loved seeing the Tigers aggressive on the base paths late in the game. Austin Jackson stole second, and even Miguel Cabrera went when he wasn’t being held on (Boesch popped out on the pitch).
  • I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Gerald Laird’s first homer of the season. Good. I’m no longer remiss.
  • Surprised to see Jim Leyland go to his big bullpen guns with such a sizable lead.
  • Props to the fan who caught Sizemore’s homer. The bullpen guys offered him another ball in exchange and he willingly tossed Sizemore’s first career homer ball in.

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

It’s Liriano’s world, we’re all just flailing in it

While the Ryan Raburn error was terribly frustrating. And the Scott Sizemore error made you think, “c’mon, they’re not even in that God forsaken dome and this stuff keeps happening.” This game was all about Francisco Liriano.

Liriano spotted the fastball to both sides of the plate. He froze Tigers hitters with back door sliders and had them flailing at regular sliders that dove at their back foot. Six of the Tigers ten strike outs were off the backwards K variety. They couldn’t even muster a swing.

Credit where credit is due, Liriano put on a clinic an deserved to win.

On the other side Justin Verlander was better. He didn’t walk a batter not named Jim Thome while fanning 7 including victimizing Justin Morneau 3 times. He deserved to get out of the 6th were it not for the Raburn error, but it would have been his final batter regardless with a pitch count of 121.

At least this time out it wasn’t stuff lacking, just efficiency.

  • On a night when 12 of the 27 Tigers outs came on strikeouts, Austin Jackson didn’t have a single one while drawing the only walk, thus ending the 20 game streak. I love baseball irony.
  • Johnny Damon kept the hit streak alive.
  • Fu-Te Ni came into a bases loaded situation and got a come backer to the mound and managed to go 2.1 more innings. He picked up 2 more walks and benefitted from a wide strike zone (just ask Denard Span) but the end result is that he was able to “reset” the bullpen by staying out that long.
  • Eddie Bonine didn’t have it after being so effective and critical to the team’s win on Saturday.
  • For all the talk about the Twins doing things the right way and manufacturing runs and what not, they did strand a lead off triple with their 2-3-4 hitters up. I’m just saying, it happens.
  • Disappointing to see the Tigers play so poorly on defense regardless. In addition to the 3 errors I’d argue that Ordonez didn’t take a great route to Span’s triple. I don’t know if he would have got it, but it appeared if he angled back he may have had a better shot.

Twins 2, Tigers 0

Wins in unexpected places

When your team turns to an emergency starter and you get a win, the aesthetics of such a win become irrelevant. Which is fortunate because this wasn’t exactly a pretty victory.

With Dontrelle Willis battling a stomach virus the Tigers turned to Brad Thomas to try and eat some innings. Thomas wasn’t good the first two innings. He either missed the strike zone or got hammered. Even factoring in an Austin Jackson misplay, you had the feeling that the Rangers should have scored more than 4 runs in the first 2 innings. But Thomas did manage to come out for a quick and painless 3rd inning.

The Tigers then got frisky in the 3rd and 4th innings. They strung together 3 hits, an RBI ground out to get the game within 1 run in the 3rd.

In the 4th inning it was Tigers patience and a screwy wild pitch that gave the Tigers the lead. Ramon Santiago scored from second on a pitch that went through Taylor Teagarden’s 5-hole.* That was enough for the lead, but the Tigers added some more runs as they batted around.

*Does anybody else remember another game in Texas where Nook Logan scored from first base on a wild pitch?

Bullpen Dominance

The story of this game though is probably the bullpen. Eddie Bonine followed Thomas and allowed just 2 baserunners in 3 innings while getting 9 ground ball outs. Bonine threw his knuckler 7 times, all for strikes and 2 resulted in ground outs.
Joel Zumaya was next and recorded 5 of his 6 outs with strike outs. Jose Valverde handled the 9th inning allowing just an infield single.

The final line for the pen was 6 innings, 3 singles, 1 walk, and 5 K’s.

Because Bonine and Zumaya in particular were able to chew up 5 innings, it means that the rest of the pen is available tomorrow.

  • The bullpen would have had one more hit surrendered were it not for a spectacular leaping grab by Jackson. It may be his best catch of the season.
  • Jackson did keep his strikeout streak alive. It’ll end some day.
  • I liked seeing the Tigers taking advantage of the defense and picking up 2 bunt hits. I hate the sacrifice, but love seeing a guy drop one down when the 3rd baseman is playing deep.
  • Adam Everett left the game with a hamstring strain.
  • Scott Sizemore didn’t play due to ankle soreness.
  • Johnny Damon’s hit streak extends to 11 and he reached base 4 times.

Because the centerfielder has to leadoff

With spring training underway there has been a flood of news bubbling up from Lakeland (and of course there are those pesky Johnny Damon rumors). But one that caught my eye was Jim Leyland’s dismissal of Scott Sizemore as the number two hitter. Somewhat understandably I suppose he doesn’t want rookies batting in the top two spots . But why pencil in Austin Jackson as the leadoff hitter in the first place?

Jackson certainly has a number of tools and is deservedly ranked on many top 100 prospect lists. Plate discipline hasn’t been one of those strengths though. He has a respectable .356 OBP as a minor leaguer, but he also fanned 2.3 times for every walk he took.

Sizemore’s greatest asset is his bat. He has maintained a .383 OBP throughout his minor league career supported by a .305 batting average and drawing walks in 13% of his plate appearances. His K/BB ratio is 1.3.

I won’t pretend to know who will have the better season and who will adjust quicker to big league pitching.  But based on all the available data it would point to Sizemore having the better chance at putting up at least a league average on base percentage. The difference though in Jim Leyland’s mind is that Jackson plays center and accordingly he should hit leadoff so he can make things happen.

I couch this all in the fact that I don’t really believe lineups make that big of a difference, and Leyland’s quotes on pitcher and catcher reporting day probably mean even less. But it a suspicious thought process where Jackson has the leadoff spot to lose while Sizemore is pushed to the lower rungs of the lineup.

Photo Credit: Roger DeWitt (hueytaxi on Flickr)

Wrapping up the week

It’s Sunday evening and this concludes my foray into full time blogging. I took this week off to delve into the winter meetings and cover them to the best of my ability. It proved to be an especially eventful week for Tigers fans and this blog. With that we’ll do one last set of hot stove rumors and news nuggets and a couple other thoughts as well.

Continue reading Wrapping up the week

More notes on the trade

UPDATE 7:30 PM: Freddy Dolsi and Dusty Ryan were designated for assignment. I’m surprised by both moves with other seemingly expendable players on the 40 man roster…Jason Beck spoke with Gerald Laird and got his take…Beck also spoke with Dombrowski and Phil Coke’s role has been left open…Danny Knobler sees the Tigers as potentially big spenders after this season.

UPDATE: 4:50 PM: The press conference just ended Dave Dombrowski fielded most of the questions. Here are the notes:

  • Dombrowski: team needed to make adjustments. Wanted to get a young starter and a young centerfielder to start. Team is trying to stay competitive and set themselves up for the future.
  • On Schlereth: He was a player the team considered drafting in 2008. For the Diamondbacks to include him, they were going to need a second arm which brought in the Yankees.
  • On Austin Jackson: they are counting on Jackson to make the big league club. They have been scouting him for a while. “Jim Leyland breaks in young players as well as anybody.”
  • Cashman on Granderson: After speaking about how hard it was to give up the young players that they did he went on to say he’s a premiere player and an exceptional character guy. He can step in right away as an established player which was important with potential departure of Damon and Matsui
  • Dombrowski on trading Granderson and his popularity: It’s difficult and he told Granderson it was one of the more difficult calls he’s made in his career. Granderson has meant a lot to the franchise, the city, and the state but it is a business decision. He’s a unique individual. Hope is that they have acquired more players that the fans will learn to love.

UPDATE: 4:08 PM: Now pretty much every writer says its official and the presser comes at 4:30. Also John Lowe has a story on Leyland’s media session this afternoon and his concerns about the youth of the team and the right handedness of the lineup.

UPDATE 3:35 PM: Joel Sherman just tweeted that the trade is official. Expect press releases and a news conference very shortly.

UPDATE: 2:10 It sounds as if Jim Leyland is holding court with some reporters at the moment. Kevin ‘Duk Kaduk of Big League Stew (@bigleaguestew) has been tweeting the notes. Leyland is frustrated to be talking about players he used to have and is worried his lineup is too right handed. Sounds like a familiar refrain.

It looks like there will be plenty of news, notes, and opinion on the trade that will come out today – along with a formal announcement and quotes galore. I’ll use this post to try and capture some of the more salient information.

As of 11:15 AM what’s being reported is:

What the Tigers got

As unpleasant as giving up Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson is, the Tigers did manage to net themselves a handful of players who will be able to help in 2010. For the most part these aren’t prospects where fans need to hope that they pan out. The Tigers added a starting pitcher, 2 bullpen arms, and hopefully a centerfielder for the near future.

Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer is headliner of the group and he will take over Edwin Jackson’s spot in the rotation. Scherzer is a year younger than Jackson, but with only a year and a half of service time he won’t reach free agency until the 2015 season. The righty was Arizona’s top pick in the 2006 draft.

In 2009 Scherzer fanned better than a batter an inning and his 3.87 FIP was impressive. He’s a fastball (94ish), slider (84ish), change-up pitcher (85ish). Even if ‘09 was a breakout year for Jackson, Scherzer’s year was better.

Plus Scherzer is sabermetrically inclined so that should be fun.

Scherzer image credit: tunnelarmr on Flickr Continue reading What the Tigers got

The blockbuster that stalled

Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi report that the framework for a blockbuster deal (h/t) between the Tigers, the Diamondbacks, and the Yankees was in place before at least one of the teams pulled out. The Tigers would have sent Edwin Jackson to Arizona, Curtis Granderson to the Yankees, and they would have received Max Scherzer with other young players floating to each team involved.

This would mesh with the various reports throughout the day that Arizona was looking like the destination for Jackson, and it also connects the dots on a report from Nick Piercoro about a third team being needed for the Diamondbacks to give up Scherzer (h/t).

From the sounds of the Fox Sports report it wasn’t Arizona who balked on the deal meaning it was the Tigers and/or the Yankees who passed. The Tigers had set their price for Granderson as Phil Hughes and Austin Jackson and with Jackson included in an outbound package I’d guess the Tigers would have been looking for Scherzer, either Jackson or Hughes, and then probably an additional prospect from the Yankees.

UPDATE: The Tigers would have received Scherzer, Jackson, Phil Coke, and Mike Dunn

What we don’t know is if this deal is dead, or just dormant.