Monday, July 31, 2006

Tigers Acquire Casey, Demote Shelton

As most of you know, the Tigers acquired Sean Casey from the Pirates today for minor league pitcher Brian Rogers. To make room for Casey, Chris Shelton was optioned to Toledo. Casey is batting .296/.377/.408 in 213 at bats this year. His career numbers are .304/.371/.461 in 10 seasons. He has had some good seasons such as his .324/.381/.534 campaign in 2004 for the Reds. However, he has been inconsistent from year to year with several seasons below an .800 OPS which is sub-par for a first baseman. His overall stats this year are not an upgrade over Shelton who is hitting .283/.350/.482. In fact, Shelton has a better OPS - .832 versus .785. However, Shelton has struggled most of the year batting .244/.318/.353 since April 18. Casey also has a reputation as a good fielder although Billfer points out that his statistics suggest otherwise:

Casey brings in a 371 career OBP, and he’s at .377 this year. He doesn’t bring much power to the position with only a .408 slugging percentage. Defensively he’s below average at -4 fielding runs above average. But he does provide a left handed bat, and in an interview today on WXYT he sounded absolutely giddy. Casey is in the last year of his current contract and is making $8.5 million.

Chris Shelton of course has been struggling. His offensive numbers for the season are still better than Casey’s and he has 7 fielding runs above average.


The 24 year old Brian Rogers is a right-handed middle relief prospect who is having a good season for Erie posting a 2.39 ERA with a 69/14 K/BB ratio in 64 innings pitched. He is not regarded as a top prospect but has had two excellent seasons in a row as a reliever. Last year, he had an ERA of 2.06 and a 65/21 K/BB ratio in 65.2 innings for Lakeland.

Shelton will go down to Toledo to work with Leon Durhan on his batting. Shelton has really struggled the last few months but hopefully his career can be salvaged. I, for one, am not ready to give up on him. Regardless of how one feels about his performace this year, it's sad to see him get sent down. He carried the team the first couple of weeks of the year which makes him an important part of this magical season. It would be a shame if he was not on the post-season roster. However, between Casey and Dimitri Young, there is a fairly high probability of an injury. So, if Shelton hits in Toledo, he may be back soon enough.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Mark Fidrych Diary - July, 1976

The Mark Fidrych Diary will be a regular feature on Tiger Tales during the course of the spring and summer. This year is the 30th anniversay of Fidrych's magical rookie season in 1976 and, to honor the memory of that campaign, I will be writing a regular diary of his season from the perspective of a fan who doesn't know what lies ahead. I will update the diary once or twice a week during the season. I was 13 years old that summer so I have some vivid memories but I will also be using retrosheet.org and various newspaper archives to make sure I get the facts straight.

Entries for previous months can be found here: April, 1976 May, 1976 June, 1976

July 29, 1976

Trying to bounce back from his worst start of the year against the Indians last week, Fidrych pitched against the Orioles last night. He pitched with four days rest instead of three days and he was much sharper this time. Rudy may pitched for the Orioles and like so many of Fidrych’s starts this one would be a tight low scoring game.

Neither team mounted much of a threat in the early going and it was scoreless after 3 innings. In the top of the fourth, Bobby Grich singled with one out. Lee May followed with a another single to advance Grich to third. Ken Singleton then hit a grounder to Jason Thompson at first and Grich was thrown out at the plate. With two now out, Fidrych walked Tony Muser to load the bases. Fidrych then got Mark Belanger to ground to second and it looked like the inning was over but Pedro Garcia bobbled the ball and a run scored. Fidrych ended the inning by getting Doug Decinces to ground to third but the Orioles were leading 1-0 after 4 innings.

There would be no more scoring the rest of the way. The Tigers had 2 on with 1 out in the 6th and 2 on with 2 out in the 7th but could not score. May pitched a 6 hit shutout to even his record at 7-7. Fidrych pitched his 13th complete game allowing 6 hits and just 1 unearned run but took the loss. He is now 11-3 with a league leading 1.80 ERA. All of his losses have been shutouts. The other two were a 2-0 loss to the Red Sox and a 1-0 loss to the Royals.

July 25, 1976

The Tigers played the Indians on NBC’s Saturday game of the week yesterday. Fidrych was originally supposed to pitch today on four day’s rest but he was moved up one day so he could pitch in the nationally televised game. There were over 37,000 fans at Cleveland Stadium to watch the Bird.

The Tigers got off to a good start scoring a run in each of the first 4 innings against Jackie Brown. In the first inning, Tom Veryzer singled, went to second when Rusty Staub walked and scored on a double by Willie Horton. In the second, Ron Leflore reached on a fielders choice, stole second and scored on a single by Veryzer. Then, in the third, Jason Thompson hit a solo homer. Finally, in the fourth, Leflore walked, went to second on a single by Veryzer and scored on a Staub single. It was 4-0 Tigers after 3 ½ innings.

Fidrych allowed 3 hits but no runs in the first three innings. In the fourth, Rico Carty led off with a single. George Hendrick followed with another single and Carty came around to score when Staub bobbled the ball. Hendrick then scored on a Bruce Kimm throwing error. Boog Powell also singled but Fidrych escaped with no further damage. It was 4-2 Tigers after 4 innings.

In the fifth inning, John Lowenstein singled, Rick Manning doubled and Carty walked to load the bases with one out. Hendrick then tied the game with a two run single. At this point, Ralph Houk removed Fidrych from the game and replaced him with John Hiller. Hiller got out of the inning and it was 4-4 after 5 innings.

Hiller finished up the game pitching 4 2/3 shutout innings. The Tigers won the game 5-4 when Ben Oglivie hit a solo home run in the eighth. So the Tigers bailed out Fidrych but it was the first time in 14 starts that he failed go 7 innings and the second time he didn’t complete the game. Houk indicated after the game that Fidrych may have been tired: “He wasn’t sharp. He was pitching with too short rest. I was afraid he wouldn’t have good stuff and he didn’t.” It sounds like Houk might not hve been too happy with the front office’s decision to move him up for the game of the week. We can probably expect 4 days rest before his next start.

July 21, 1976

Fidrych faced the Twins at Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota today. It was not a sell out but there were over 30,000 fans in Minnesota for the first time this year. The Twins had a little surprise for the Bird before the game. As Fidrych warmed up prior to the first ining, 13 pigeons were released around the pitcher’s mound. It was good natured fun but I think they were also hoping to mess with his concentration. I think the 13 pigeons were supposed to represent his 13th start.

Fidrych fell behind 3-0 after 4 innings. The Twins scored 2 runs in the 3rd and 1 in the 4th. Tony Oliva was involved in the scoring both innings, scoring a run in the 3rd and driving in a run in the 4th. He ended up 4 hits for the game.

Rusty Staub tied the game with a 3 run homer off Bill Singer in the 6th. Aurelio Rodriguez then singled home Jason Thompson to make it 4-3 after 6 innings. In the 7th, Bruce Kimm, The Bird’s personal catcher, led off with a double and Ron Leflore belted a 2 run homer. Thompson singled home another run making it 7-3 after 7 innings.

Staub completed the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the 8th. The final score was 8-3 Tigers. After so many late inning victories, including three 11 inning complete games, Fidrych finally had a relatively easy win. He is now 11-2 with 1.71 ERA and 12 complete games.

July 17, 1976

Fidrych pitched against the A’s last night after just two days rest. He only only pitched 2 innings in the all-star game Tuesday but I was surprised to see him pitch so soon. I thought they would give him a little extra rest. Are they pushing him a little too much? He pitched against Mike Torrez who came into the game 8-9 3.52. The Athletics have a couple of league leaders on their team – Sal Bando with 19 home runs and Bill North with 42 stolen bases.

Fidrych breezed through the first 6 innings allowing just a hit and a walk, facing the minimum number of batters and retiring 16 in a row at one point. Torrez was just as sharp giving up just a single and double.

Fidrych allowed two singles and a walk in the 7th but the A’s could not score. The A’s got two more men on base in the 8th but again failed to score. The game remained scoreless after 9 innings. Torrez, who allowed just 5 hits and no walks was relieved by Rollie Fingers in the 9th. The Bird stayed in the game.

It stayed scoreless until the bottom of the 11th. Ron Leflore led off with a single. Tom Veryzer sacrificed him to second. Rusty Staub was walked intentionally. Then, Willie Horton, in his second game since returning from his knee injury, singled home Leflore to win the game. Fidrych ran onto the field and gave Horton a big hug. The final score was 1-0 Tigers in 11 innings.

Fidrych is now 10-2 with 11 complete games (including 3 that went 11 innings) and a 1.60 ERA. There were 46,000 fans in Tiger Stadium. That makes 196,000 fans for the last 4 home games in which Fidrych has pitched. As usual, the crowd would not go home until Fidrych made a curtain call. Both managers commented on the festive atmosphere at the park. Chuck Tanner claimed that “It was better than a World Series game”. Ralph Houk said: “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s the damndest thing.”


July 14, 1976

The all-star game was last night and these were the starting line-ups:

American League

Ron Leflore LF
Rod Carew 1B
George Brett 3B
Thurman Munson C
Freddie Lynn CF
Toby Harrah SS
Rusty Staub RF
Bobby Grich 2B
Mark Fidrych P


National League

Pete Rose 3B
Steve Garvey 1B
Joe Morgan 2B
George Foster CF
Greg Luzinski LF
Johnny Bench C
Dave Kingman RF
Dave Concepcion SS
Randy Jones P



It was cool to see three Tigers starting the game. I’ve talked a lot about Fidrych’s stats in previous entries but Leflore and Staub are also having good seasons. Leflore is batting .330 with 50 runs scored and 29 stolen bases. Staub is hitting .310 with 6 homers, 17 doubles and 48 RBI.


Fidrych did not have a good night. Rose led off the game with a single and scored on a triple by Garvey. Another run scored on a grounder by Foster. Fidrych pitched 2 innings allowing 4 hits and 2 runs. Two runs was all the National League needed as they went on to win 7-1. It was their 13th win in the last 14 years.


The other Tigers made contributions offensively. Leflore had a single in two at bats and Staub had two singles in two at bats. It was not nearly enough though. Now it’s back to the regular season with a 4 game series versus the A’s. Fidrych is scheduled to pitch Friday night on just two days rest.

July 10, 1976

Fidrych faced the Kansas City Royals, the top hitting team in the league, tonight. Dennis Leonard, who came into the game with a record of 8-3 3.07, pitched for the Royals. Once again, Tiger Stadium was filled with over 51,000 fans. The Bird has attracted 150,000 fans in his last three starts. He’s earning a lot of money for the team right now but makes only $16,500. It doesn’t bother him though. He said:”I was getting $2 an hour working in a garage only a couple of years ago. Right now, I’m making more money than my father.”

The first three innings of tonight’s game were scoreless. The Royals broke the ice in the top of the 4th. With one out, George Brett, John Mayberry and Hal McRae hit consecutive singles to score a run. The Royals led 1-0 after 4 innings.

There would be no more scoring for either team the rest of the game. Both pitchers went the distance. Fidrych did a great job scattering 9 hits and allowing just 1 run against a very tough team but Leonard was a little better. Fidrych is now 9-2 with 10 complete games and a league leading 1.78 ERA.

It was announced today that Fidrych will start the all-star game against Randy Jones (16-3, 2.53) of the Padres. It’s not too many times a rookie pitcher starts the all-star game. When asked what was his biggest thrill before the all star game, Fidrych responded:”Getting a minibike and working on cars.” Rusty Staub and Ron Leflore will also represent the Tigers in the game.

July 4, 1976

I just got back from the big bicentennial parade and am getting ready for the family cookout later. Fidrych faced the Orioles last night before another massive crowd of over 51,000. Mike Cuellar pitched for the Orioles. Listening to the radio, it sounded as if the fans went crazy on every pitch thrown by Fidrych. Once again, it felt like a playoff atmosphere. It is amazing how the Bird has caught on.

After Fidrych retired the Orioles in the top of the first, Ron Leflore led off the bottom of the inning with a single and then stole his 27th base of the year. Tom Veryzer then walked to put runners on first and second and Rusty Staub followed with a 3 run home run, his 6th of the year. The Tigers led 3-0 after one.

In the bottom of the 4th, Jason Thompson led off with his 12th home run of the year. He always seems to hit well with Fidrych is on the mound. The score was 4-0 Tigers after 4 innings.

There would be no more scoring in the game. Fidrych pitched his best game yet and earned his first shutout while allowing just 4 hits and 3 walks. He is now 9-1 with a league leading 1.85 Era and 9 complete games. Just like the previous game against the Yankees, the fans refused to leave when the game was over. They chanted “We want Bird” over and over until he came out of the dugout and waved to the crowd.

I read today that President Gerald Ford called him after the game to congratulate him. Fidrych, however, was so convinced that it was his teammates playing a joke on him that he refused to take the call. He doesn’t want to get a big head though. He said:”If that starts to happen I want somebody on the club to smack me down. I want somebody to say, “you’re too cocky. You’re not that good. You’re only a rookie.”

The Tigers have now won 10 of their last 13 and are 36-36 overall. They have also moved into third place in the AL East. That’s not bad for a team that lost 105 games last season.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Tigers Hang On to Beat Twins

The Twins made this one interesting late but the Tigers held on to win the second game of the weekend series 8-6. The Tigers scored 6 runs on 9 hits in the first 4 innings off Brad Radke and Kyle Lohse to take a 6-0 lead after 3 1/2. One of the hits was a two run homer by Curtis Granderson, his first of the month.

In the 4th inning, Justin Morneau (.358/.395/.673 in his last 68 games) drilled a two run shot off Nate Robertson to make it 6-2. I acquired Morneau rather cheaply for both of my fantasy teams so I've been enjoying his season but I was still hoping the Tigers would shut him down for the series. In the seventh, Robertson allowed another two run homer to rookie Josh Rabe. It was Rabe's first career home run. After allowing one more hit , he was relieved by Joel Zumaya with nobody out. The runner Jason Tyner scored on two wild pitches and a sacrifice fly to make it 6-5. Zumaya then settled down to pitch two scoreless innings.

Dmitri Young led off the 8th with a home run to make it 7-5. Young is now 10 for 26 with 3 homers since coming off the disabled list. I was very skeptical that Young could come back at all but this past week has been promising. The Tigers added another run in the 9th to make it 8-5. It turned out that Todd Jones needed the extra breathing room tonight. He struck out the side in the 9th but gave up three singles and a run in the process. It was the first time in 13 games that Jones allowed a run. Thankfully, Morneau was left on deck when Cuddyer struck out to end the game. I was not looking forward to Morneau providing me with any more fantasy points tonight.

The 8-6 victory gives the Tigers 70 wins for the season and July is not over yet. Last year , they won only 71 all year. The amazing season just keeps getting better.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tigers Take Game 1 from Surging Twins

The much anticipated series between baseball's best team and baseball's hottest team got underway tonight before over 40,000 fans in the Metrodome, one of the game's noisiest stadiums. The raging Twins (12 of 14 and 34 of 42) came into the game tied for second place 8 1/2 games behind the Tigers. Like so many games recently, it was a playoff atmosphere tonight. Pitching for the Twins was rookie Francisco Liriano, Major League Baseball's ERA leader at 1.93. He was facing Tiger rookie Zach Miner who had given up 10 runs over 6 2/3 innings in his last two starts. The odds weren't too good for the Tigers but they've been beating the odds all year and tonight would be no different. The Tigers outdueled the Twins 3-2 in a tension filled 10 inning game won on a single by Craig Monroe in the top of the final frame.

The Tigers scored two runs off Liriano in the first when Curtis Granderson singled, Placido Polanco walked and Magglio Ordonez hit a two run double. For the next 7 2/3 inning, the Twins rookie pitched like a Cy Young candidate allowing no more runs and just one more hit before departing after 8 innings. In all, he pitched 8 innings giving up just 2 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks and tying a career high with 12 strike outs.

Fortunately, for the Tigers, Miner pitched a solid game allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks in 6 innings. Jamie Walker followed with 2 scoreless innings and Fernando Rodney pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. The game was tied 2-2 after 9 innings.

Shelton led off the 10th with a single, went to second on a sacrifice by Vance Wilson and to third on an infield hit by Polanco. With runners on first and third and two outs, Craig Monroe stepped up to the plate. Monroe had struck out 3 times and hit into a double play his first 4 times up and looked hopeless doing it. However, Monroe sems to have a knack of coming through with a big hit just when you're about ready to give up on him. Tonight he did it again - a single to left off Juan Rincon to put the Tigers up 3-2.

Todd Jones, who has now gone 12 straight games without allowing a run, pitched a 1-2-3 10th to get the save. Jones received a lot of criticism from fans in the early going, and deservedly so, but he has been pretty solid for about a month now. The Tigers are now 8 1/2 games ahead of the White Sox (who beat the Orioles today 6-4) and 9 1/2 ahead of the Twins. They are seemingly running away from all of baseball with the nearest team (the Red Sox) 7 games behind.

Frank Catalanotto: The RBI Man

Earlier in the week, I listed the Major League RBI percentage leaders in 2006. Today, I’ll look at the leaders for 2002-2006 combined. Again, the data comes from Baseball Musings by David Pinto. The top 20 batters with at least 1000 runners on over that period are shown in the table below. You can see that the larger time window yields a list that includes mostly big sluggers. This is because it is difficult to consistently knock in runs over a long period of time if you do not also slug consistently.


Table: Major League RBI % Leaders 2002-July 28,2006

Player

Runners On

RBI

HR

RBI %

Mike Sweeney

1296

337

85

19.44

Garret Anderson

1905

461

97

19.11

David Ortiz

2038

558

173

18.89

Vladimir Guerrero

1867

502

155

18.59

Albert Pujols

2048

577

197

18.55

Gary Sheffield

1848

479

138

18.45

Carlos Delgado

2000

534

165

18.45

Magglio Ordonez

1559

387

100

18.41

Travis Hafner

1312

346

105

18.37

Manny Ramirez

2065

564

186

18.31

Miguel Tejada

2273

555

139

18.30

Carlos Beltran

1815

469

137

18.29

Chase Utley

1020

247

62

18.14

Scott Rolen

1770

429

112

17.91

Mark Teixeira

1575

402

121

17.84

Carlos Lee

1901

487

148

17.83

Frank Catalanotto

1021

214

32

17.83

Larry Walker

1176

282

74

17.69

Miguel Cabrera

1476

353

93

17.62

Richie Sexson

1689

438

143

17.47


One notable exception is Frank Catalanotto who ranks #17. I wanted to look at little closer at Catalanotto so I did a year by year breakdown which is shown in the table below. Each year (except 2002), I used a cutoff of 150 for runners on to determine the ranks. I used a cutoff of 100 in 2002 because Catalanotto had only 113 runners on that year. The rank column shows where Cat ranked among roughly 300 eligible Major Leaguers each year. He finished in the top 40 in 2002, 2005 and 2006. His worst rank was 137 in 2004 which is still better than more than half the players in the majors. So Cat has been fairly consistent at getting runners home for someone without much power. I’m really not sure what this says about him without further investigation but I found it interesting.


Table: Frank Catalanotto’s RBI % in 2002-2006

Year

Rank

Runners On

RBI

HR

RBI %

2002

35

113

23

3

17.70

2003

91

283

59

13

16.25

2004

137

168

26

1

14.88

2005

22

275

59

8

18.55

2006

2

182

47

7

21.98

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

RBI Percentage

RBI has long been one of the most popular baseball statistics among fans and media. I rarely talk about RBI on Tiger Tales because I consider it to be a team statistic more than an individual statistic. This is because the number of RBI a player accumulates is highly dependent on where he bats in the line-up and the ability of his teammates to get on base in front of him. I’ve always thought it would be nice if there was a readily available RBI stat which took into account the number of opportunities players had to drive in runs. Thanks to David Pinto’s very useful day to day database at Baseball Musings, one is now available.

RBI Percentage is the rate at which a batter drives in runs relative to the number of runners on base when he comes to the plate. It is computed as follows: ((RBI-HR)/runners on)*100. For example, Magglio Ordonez has come to the plate with 268 runners on base this season. He has driven in 68-16= 52 of them for an RBI % of 19.4. It’s not a perfect stat. One problem is that it gives a player the same credit for knocking in a runner from third as for knocking in a runner from first. There are ways that you could weight the opportunities so that a player gets more credit from driving in runs in more difficult RBI situations but I’ll work with Pinto’s basic RBI % stat for now.

The table below shows how the Tiger hitters rank among 304 Major Leaguers with 100 or more runners on. Ordonez (25th in the majors) is the highest ranking Tiger. Other high ranking Tigers are Carlos Guillen (18.99, 29th ) and Brandon Inge (18.35, 44th). The lowest RBI % on the team belongs to Chris Shelton (12.44%, 251st).

Table: How the Tigers Rank in RBI % Among Major Leaguers

Rank

Player

Runners

RBI

HR

RBI %

25

Ordonez

268

68

16

19.40

29

Guillen

258

61

12

18.99

44

Inge

218

60

20

18.35

77

Granderson

209

47

11

17.22

107

Polanco

208

37

3

16.35

111

Rodriguez

234

46

8

16.24

122

Monroe

231

51

14

16.02

162

Thames

162

43

19

14.81

251

Shelton

225

44

16

12.44


The Table below lists the top 20 Major Leaguers in RBI percentage. It is not too surprising that Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran and Albert Pujols rank near the top. It is surprising however that Frank Catalanotto is second in the majors and first in the American League in RBI percentage.

Table: Major League Leaders in RBI Percentage – July 25, 2006

Player

Runners

RBI

HR

RBI %

Lance Berkman

264

88

26

23.48

Frank Catalanotto

179

47

7

22.35

Carlos Beltran

244

82

28

22.13

Albert Pujols

252

86

33

21.03

Olmedo Saenz

134

36

8

20.90

Vladimir Guerrero

278

78

20

20.86

Freddy Sanchez

245

56

5

20.82

Bobby Abreu

274

65

8

20.80

Raul Ibanez

282

78

21

20.21

Juan Rivera

154

46

15

20.13

Russell Martin

174

39

4

20.11

Justin Morneau

274

81

26

20.07

Jose Valentin

150

41

11

20.00

Michael Young

285

65

8

20.00

Gabe Gross

105

29

8

20.00

Daniel Uggla

201

54

14

19.90

Jorge Cantu

157

39

8

19.75

Johnny Estrada

218

51

8

19.72

Jeff DaVanon

137

32

5

19.71

Gary Matthews

198

49

10

19.70

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