Friday, June 29, 2007

Upcoming Schedule

I will be on vacation up in Vermont from Saturday through Monday and will have little or no internet access until some time on Tuesady. During my absence, the Tigers will play two games on National TV versus the Twins.

Tomorrow, they will face off at 3:55 on Fox (always bad news for out-of-staters with MLB Extra innings). It will be 22 year old Andrew Miller versus 23 year old Kevin Slowey. It will be Miller's first start against an American League team. On Sunday, they will be playing at 8:00 on ESPN with Jeremy Bonderman facing Scott Baker. Gary Sheffield will miss both weekend games as he serves his suspension.

Marquee Pitching Matchup Goes Sour

Tonights's game was billed as a showdown between Justin Verlander and Johan Santana but it didn't work out as planned as the Twins routed the Tigers 11-1. Verlander did not have good control tonight and ran into trouble in the very first inning. He gave up a couple of singles (one of the infield variety) and a couple of walks leading to two runs. Carlos Guillen did not help matters by bobbling a double play ball and failing to make a throw on an infield grounder. It was the type of inning you except to see in Minnesota rather than Detroit.

Verlander settled down and retired 11 in a row but then ran into more trouble in the 5th. He loaded the bases on walks and then allowed a grand slam by Joe Mauer. He left after 5 innings trailing 6-0. Jim Leyland said after the game that Justin was working too fast and seemed flustered. He was not concerned though calling it part of the growing process.

Macay McBride followed Verlander with two perfect innings. Eulogio DeLaCruz was much less successful allowing 5 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks in 2 innings. He has now allowed 8 runs in his last 4 innings over 3 appearances.

Placido Polanco provided all of the Tigers offense with a solo homer off of Santana in the 6th. He also had a single, a double and a stolen base. Carlos Guillen had his 11 game RBI streak come to an end. Magglio Ordonez extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a single in the 5th.

Byrdak Goes on DL, Miner Activated

Tim Byrdak joined the parade of Tigers pitchers going to the disabled list this year as he was placed be on the 15 day DL with elbow tendonitis today. Byrdak has been one of the better Tigers relievers this year but has struggled as of late. According to Tim Kirby at MLB.COM, the injury may be the reason for his recent problems:

Byrdak said his arm began to bother him against the Phillies on June 15. Byrdak had been one of the Tigers' most reliable relievers up to that point, with a 1.72 ERA over 17 1/3 innings. He gave up three runs in that game against the Phillies and has since given up four more runs in three appearances to push his ERA to 3.66.

He said his slider didn't have the same movement because of the injury.
Byrdak will be replaced on the roster by Zach Miner who was activated from the disabled list.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rogers Allows Run, Tigers Win

The Tigers salvaged one game of their three game series with the Rangers with a 5-2 victory this afternoon. One of the biggest stories of the day was Kenny Rogers finally allowing a run. After pitching 34 1/3 scoreless innings including 23 in last year's post-season, Rogers gave up a run in the sixth inning when Kenny Lofton scored on a sacrifice fly by Michael Young. Of course, a bigger story is that today's game was further confirmation that Rogers is strong and healthy after missing two and a half months due to a blood clot. In six innings of work, Rogers allowed just that one run on 4 hits and a walk.

Rogers left with a 3-1 lead thanks, in part, to a 2 run single in the 5th by Carlos Guillen. Gary Sheffield added to the lead with a 2 run homer, his 18th of the year, in the 7th. This time the bullpen held on to it. Chad Durbin allowed 1 run on 3 hits in 2 innings. Much to the dismay of many Tigers fans, Todd Jones then entered the game in the 9th with a 5-2 lead. On Wednesday, Jones took responsibility for Tuesday's loss but also received a vote of confidence from Jim Leyland. Today, Jones quieted his doubters with an easy one two three inning to gain his 19th save of the year.

The victory left the Tigers 1/2 game ahead of the Indians and 6 games ahead of the Twins in the AL Central. The Tigers now take on the Twins in a three game series. The opening game will feature a match-up between two of the best pitchers in the game - Justin Verlander and Johan Santana. On Saturday and Sunday, the Tigers will be without Gary Sheffield who will serve a two game suspension for the bat throwing incident in Cleveland 4 weeks ago.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Rodney Placed on Disabled List

Fernando Rodney was placed on the 15 day disabled list today with "tendonitis". This is his second trip to the disabled list this year. This might explain the loss of velocity and inconsistent command he has experienced all year. They hope to have him back immediately after the all-star break. Rodney was replaced on the roster by Nate Robertson who made his first start since returning from the 15 day disabled list himself.

Tigers Lose Ugly Game to Rangers

The Tigers lost a really sloppy game 9-6 to the Rangers tonight. It was a poorly played game and not much fun to write up but here are some thoughts:

The good news was that Robertson came back with a solid performance allowing 1 run on 4 hits and 2 walks to go with 4 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He left with a 3-0 lead and two on base. Hopefully, this game is an indication that the two week rest cured whatever was ailing him.

The bullpen which had seemed to be straightening out a bit lately was awful tonight. Jason Grilli and Tim Byrdak allowed 5 runs on 3 hits in the 7th inning to put the Tigers down 6-3. After the Tigers came back to tie it in the 8th, Todd Jones gave it right back in the 9th. He allowed 3 runs on 3 hits and a walk in a non-save situation.

The defense did not help tonight. Errors by Brandon Inge and Craig Monroe and a missed opportunity to throw out a runner by Mike Rabelo fueled the 5 run 7th. Magglio Ordonez then turned a single into a triple with a misplay in the 9th.

The 3 run 8th inning rally by the Tigers was highlighted by a 2 run single by Sean Casey. Casey was 3 for 4 with 3 RBI on the night and is now hitting .297 after his abysmal start. He is batting .351 in May and June.

Curtis Granderson went 2 for 4 with with a homer and a stolen base. He now has 22 doubles, 14 triples and 10 homers. This puts him on a pace for 20+, 20+ triples and 20+ homers, a feat that has only been accomplished 5 times in the history of the game, most recently by George Brett in 1979. Obviously, the most difficult part of this troika is the triples.

The Tigers now play two consecutive mid-week day games as they try to salvage a split of the series. Tomorrow, it will be Kenny Rogers versus Kevin Millwood at 1:05.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Rangers Stop Tigers

After winning 7 consecutive games on the road against National League teams, the Tigers returned to Comerica Park today and got whipped by the Rangers 8-3. Jeremy Bonderman dug a hole with his usual one bad inning. This time it was the third inning. After getting the first 2 outs in the inning, he proceeded to allow 3 singles and a walk for 2 runs. Then he threw wild to first on a grounder back to the mound for 2 more runs. Bonderman settled down after that and pitched shutout ball for the next 4 innings. He also struck out 9 on the night but the damage had been done and Tigers could not come back. For what it's worth, it was Bonderman's first loss of the year.

The Tigers had 5 runners on base with less than two outs in the first 2 innings but could only score 1 of them. In all, they had 8 hits including 2 apiece for Curtis Granderson, Sean Casey and Brandon Inge. One of Granderson's hits was his 14th triple of the year leaving him 12 shy of the American League record of 26.

A decision needs to made on who to send down when Nate Robertson rejoins the roster and starts tomorrow. I still think it will be Macay McBride who made his Tiger debut tonight allowing 2 hits and 1 run in 1 inning. Eulogio DeLaCruz did not help his cause either though as he gave up 3 runs and a walk in the 9th inning. We'll find out tomorow.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Tigers Sweep Braves

In a near carbon copy of Friday night's game, the Tigers shutout the Braves 5-0 tonight to complete a sweep of the three game weekend series. Just as on Friday, tonight's game was scoreless until the Tigers batted around in the 6th. This time, they scored 4 runs in the inning which turned out to be more than enough. The nice thing about today's game is that the new pitching allignment went perfectly according to plan. Newly annointed full-time starter Andrew Miller pitched 6 scoreless innings and starter turned reliever Chad Durbin pitched 3 scoreless innings for the save.

In his 6 innings of work, Andrew Miller allowed 4 hits and two walks and struck out 2. He was removed in the 7th after walking Andruw Jones to lead off the inning. As in previous starts, Miller relied almost exclusively on his fastball. He was able to survive due to good control and excellent movement. I'm not sure how long he can get away with just one pitch but he had no problems tonight.

Durbin struck out 3, walked 1 and allowed 2 singles in his 3 innings. It was an encouraging performance and an indication that he could be quite valuable in his new role. I think his role will be a middle to long reliever who bridges the gap between the starters and the short relievers. However, The bullpen is currently in flux and I'm not sure if anything other than Todd Jones as the closer is really set right now.

The 4 run 6th began with a beautiful bunt single by Omar Infante, playing center field in place of Curtis Granderson with lefty Chuck James on the mound. They chipped away with 4 singles, 2 walks and a hit batsman. The runs scored on an RBI single by Gary Sheffield, a bases loaded walk to Carlos Guillen and a 2 run single by Pudge Rodriguez. Chad Durbin, who looked pretty good up at the plate, drove home another run with a sacrifice fly in the 8th.

Notes:

Ordonez had 2 singles in 5 trips and is currently batting a league leading .381. He has been so good this year that a 2 for 5 day with no extra base hits almost feels like a let down.

Wil Ledezma pitched again for the Braves tonight. After striking out the side in the 9th on Friday, he allowed a run on hit in the 8th inning tonight. Speaking of which, Eric is not too happy with the Ledezma for Macay McBride exchange.

The win gave the Tigers a 14-4 record this year and 29-7 record over the last 2 years in interleague play. They will now play only American League teams for the rest of the year. Next up is a 13 game homestand versus the Rangers, Twins, Indians and Red Sox

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Extra Base History

With the season rapidly approaching the halfway mark, Magglio Ordonez and Curtis Granderson are still chasing Extra Base Hit history. So today, I'll take a closer look at where they stand. In 73 games, Magglio Ordonez has 34 doubles. If we project that over 162 games, that comes out to 75 doubles. As Table 1 below shows, that would break the all time Major Leagure record set by Earl Webb of the Red Sox in 1931. So Ordonez is chasing a 76 year old record. When you consider that the single season home run record has been broken 4 times since 1931, the doubles record would be quite an accomplishment. Hank Greenberg holds the Tigers record with 63 in 1934.

Table 1: All-Time Single Season Doubles Leaders

Player

Team

Year

Doubles

Magglio Ordonez

DET

2007

75*

Earl Webb

BOS

1931

67

Joe Medwick

STL

1936

64

George Burns

CLE

1926

64

Hank Greenberg

DET

1934

63

*Projected over full season


Curtis Granderson is also chasing history. With 13 triples so far, he is on a pace for 29 triples over 162 games. That would not be a Major League record as Chief Wilson had 36 for the Pirates in 1912 (see Table 2). It would, however, be an American League record. The current American League record is held by Sam Crawford of the Tigers who had 26 in 1914. That's a 93 year old record! Given the smaller sizes of the parks in the modern era, this would be a very difficult record for anyone to break today. It would certainly be one worth national attention if he started getting close.

Table 2: All-Time Single Season Triples Leaders (since 1901)

Player

Team

Year

Triples

Chief Wilson

PIT

1912

36

Curtis Granderson

DET

2007

29*

Joe Jackson

CLE

1912

26

Sam Crawford

DET

1914

26

Kiki Cuyler

PIT

1925

26

*Projected over full season


Both Magglio and Curtis are also collecting a lot of extra base hits (EBH) of all kinds and are on pace for the Tigers all-time record. Ordonez has 47 EBH hits which puts him on a pace for 104 for a full season. Granderson has 44 which projects to 98 over a full season. Neither mark would challenge the all-time record of 119 set by Babe Ruth in 1921 (see Table 3). However, Ordonez would break the all-time Tigers record of 99 posted by Hank Greenberg in 1940.


Table 3: All-Time Single Season Extra Base Hit Leaders

Player

Team

Year

EBH

Babe Ruth

NYY

1921

119

Lou Gehrig

NYY

1927

117

Chuck Klein

PHA

1930

107

Barry Bonds

SF

2001

107

Todd Helton

COL

2001

105

Magglio Ordonez

DET

2007

104*

Hank Greenberg (Tigers Record)

DET

1940

99

*Projected over full season

Tigers Top Braves 2-1, Verlander K's 11

The Detroit Tigers won their 6th straight game today by edging the Braves 2-1. Justin Verlander pitched 7 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits while piling up 11 strikeouts. That was the second highest strikeout total of his career; the first highest being the 12 K's in his no hitter two starts ago. I did not see the game because it was blacked out in Massachusetts but it sounded like he was nearly as tough as he was in his no hitter. The Braves had been shutout two straight games coming into this series so we don't want to get too giddy but it looks like Verlander may be turning the corner from very good young pitcher to dominant ace.

The Tigers scored their first run in the second inning when Carlos Guillen walked, went to second when Pudge Rodriguez was hit by the pitch by Kyle Davies and scored on a single by Sean Casey. They went up 2-0 when Carlos Guillen hit his 12th home run of the year in the 4th inning. The Braves scored their only run on a homer by Chipper Jones in the bottom of the 4th.

A 2-1 lead never feels comfortable with the Tigers bullpen but they were sharp today. Tim Byrdak allowed a double to Matt Diaz to start the 8th but then struck out Kelly Johnson. At that point, Fernando Rodney came in and retired the last two batters of the inning. Todd Jones then had a relatively easy 9th inning allowing just one walk. Seeing Rodney and Jones routinely get the last 5 outs was encouraging as that sort of thing has not been happening too often lately.

Notes

It was a rough day for Curtis Granderson who struck out 4 times. Granderson, who has struck out at a rate of more than one a game in his career seemed to be making some progress in that area as of late. He had struck out just 11 times in his previous 22 games. Hopefully, this was just one bad game. When he does make contact, he does a lot of damage as he is still second in the league behind Magglio Ordonez with 44 extra base hits.

Magglio Ordonez played today after leaving yesterday's game when he was hit by the pitch. He went 1 for 4 this afternoon.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pitching Rotation is Set

With the trade of Mike Maroth, the return of Kenny Rogers tonight, and the return of Nate Robertson next Tuesday, the starting rotation is now set for the near future. In an interview on WXYT in Detroit today, Dave Dombrowski announced that Andrew Miller is staying and that Chad Durbin is heading to the bullpen. So, here is the rotation for the next 5 days:

Sat - Justin Verlander
Sun - Andrew Miller
Mon - Jeremy Bonderman
Tue - Nate Robertson
Wed - Kenny Rogers

As long as Rogers and Robertson prove to be fully healthy and Miller continues to pitch well, those 5 will remain in the starting rotation. The remaining issue now is who gets sent down after Robertson is added to the roster. Todd Jones, Chad Durbin, Tim Byrdak and Fernando Rodney would seem to be locks. So, one of Jason Grilli, Bobby Seay, Eulogio DeLaCruz or Macay McBride would go. My guess right now is that McBride would be sent to Toledo for more seasoning.

Rogers, Tigers Blank Braves 5-0

The last time we saw Kenny Rogers in games that counted, he was pitching 23 consecutive shutout innings in post-season 2006. Today, he had his 2007 debut after undergoing surgery to clear up a blood clot in his shoulder. He was back to his cool, calm self again after displaying rare emotion last year in the playoffs. Regardless of his demeanor, he picked up right where he left off with 6 shutout innings allowing just two hits and no walks. Rogers, Jason Grilli, Bobby Seay and Eulogio DeLaCruz and three relievers combined on a two hit 5-0 shutout over the Braves.

It was a scoreless pitchers duel between Rogers and Atlanta starter John Smoltz for 5 innings. Then the Tigers exploded for all 5 of their runs in the 6th inning. Magglio Ordonez plated the first run with a two out single. Carlos Guillen followed with a two run double and Pudge Rodriguez added a one run double. Brandon Inge capped the scoring with a single.

Ordonez gave the Tigers and their fans a big scare when he was hit on the hand with a pitch by Chad Paronto in the 8th inning. Thankfully, x-rays later revealed that there was no break and that it's just a bruise. He is listed as day to day and he expects to play tomorrow.

One interesting side note was Wilfredo Ledezma's Braves debut. He struck out the side in the 9th.

Tomorrow afternoon, it will be Justin Verlander versus Kyle Davies at 3:55 on the dreaded Fox game of the week. By dreaded, I mean that the game will be blacked out for most Tiger fans living outside of Michigan.

Curtis Granderson Interviews

Curtis Granderson did a very long detailed interview on a lot of subjects with Sporting News Radio this afternoon. As usual, I was very impressed with what he had to say and how he said it. He is one of the most well-spoken players I have heard. The interview has been broken into two parts and can be found here:

part1

part2

There is also a question and answer piece with Curtis over at the Hall Of Fame Baseball for the classroom blog. And, in case you have not seen it yet, he has a regular blog over at ESPN.

Maroth Traded to Cardinals

Mike Maroth has now officially been traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player to be named later. The Tigers and Cardinals had agreed upon a list of potential players to complete the deal. As Billfer explains, players to be named later generally need to be announced within six months. In this case, the Tigers will scout the players on the list and choose a player no later than September 15. I'm not sure of the significance of the September 15 date.

Maroth was one of only two Tigers (the other being Brandon Inge who had been with the team since 2002). Maroth has struggled this year coming off of last year's elbow surgery. In 78 1/3 innings, he has compiled a 5.06 ERA, has allowed 97 hits, 15 homers and has a 28/33 K/BB ratio. The trade will clear room on the roster for Kenny Rogers, who will make his 2007 debut tonight versus the Braves.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Overachieving Tigers

After scoring 32 runs in a three game sweep of the Nationals, the Tigers now lead the league in runs with 439 in 71 games (6.18 runs per game) which puts them on a pace to score about 1,000 runs for the season. This would be an all-time Tigers record and would be one of the highest run totals in Major League history. Before the season started, I predicted that they would score about 820 runs and I was being more optimistic than some of the most popular projection systems. So, today I'm going to re-vist the projections for individual players and see just how much players are overperforming their projections.

The Table below compares the pre-season projections for OPS with the actual OPS after 71 games. I have two projection columns. The first column (Science) is the average projection from 5 popular projection systems:
If you want to see the projections for other stats (BA,OBP,SLG), they can be found in an earlier article.

Column 2 (Tiger Tales) is the projection from my season preview. Column 3 (Reality) is the real OPS figure after 71 games. Finally, column 4 (Diff) is the difference between my projection and reality.

Table: Pre-season Projected OPS Versus Real OPS (after 71 games)

Player

Science

Tiger Tales

Real

Diff.

Granderson

.793

.811

.919

+.101

Polanco

.750

.759

.809

+.050

Sheffield

.845

.868

.941

+.073

Ordonez

.813

.823

1.122

+.299

Guillen

.865

.875

.948

+.073

Rodriguez

.761

.768

.758

-.010

Casey

.777

.754

.718

-.036

Monroe

.784

.778

.712

-.066

Inge

.761

.753

.799

+.046

Thames

.831

.824

.764

-.060

Infante

.715

.740

.719

-.021


The following players are overperforming their projections by at least 50 points: Curtis Granderson (+101), Placido Polanco (+50), Gary Sheffield (+73), Magglio Ordonez (+299!) and Carlos Guillen (.073). It's not too often you see the top five players in a line-up blowing away reasonable pre-season projections like that. If I had used the scientific projections, the differences would have been even bigger.

Not everyone is overperforming though. Craig Monroe (-.066), Marcus Thames (-.060) and Sean Casey (-.036) are not hitting as well as expected. Still, there are more players exceeding expectations and by larger amounts than players failing to meet expectations. This would suggest that there will be somewhat of a drop off in production as the season goes along.

Now, I don't expect Ordonez to finish with an OPS of .823 but maintaining his 1.122 pace also seems unrealistic. Similarly, I think we can expect Granderson, Polanco and Guillen to fall back a bit closer to their projections. I'm going to say that Sheffield will defeat his increasing age and keep it up. He has shown in the past that a mid .900s OPS is something he can do routinely when healthy. Some players such as Monroe and Thames are likely to improve but I'm expecting more drops than gains the rest of the way.

So what does this mean as a team? Well, I'm pretty sure my pre-season prediction of 820 runs is going to be way off but I don't think they'll score 1,000 runs either. 900+ runs looks like a good bet and that would either lead the majors or be very close.

Robertson Nearly Perfect in Rehab Start

Nate Robertson pitched six innings of no hit ball for the AA Erie SeaWolves in a rehab start versus the Altoona Curve today. It was the first game of a doubleheader and doubleheader games only go 7 innings in the minors so he was one inning away from a no hitter. However, he reached his pre-determined pitch limit of 75 by the end of the sixth inning and was pulled at that time. Danny Zell came in and proceeded to give up 3 runs and 4 hits as the SeaWolves won 12-3. Robertson walked only 1 and struck out 6 along the way.

The start was a positive sign for Robertson who has been on the 15 day disabled list with a tired arm. Nothing has been announced but I would guess that he'll start for the Tigers next Tuesday. With Kenny Rogers and Robertson returning to the team, the Tigers will have to drop two pitchers from the rotation to make room. Four spots are locked up by Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson. The fifth spot will go to either Mike Maroth, Andrew Miller or Chad Durbin.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Macay McBride Acquired from Braves

In a swap of young lefties, the Tigers traded Wil Ledezma to the Braves today for Macay McBride. McBride, who is 24 years old, has pitched 112 games as a lefty specialist for the Braves over the past 3 years. Last year, he had a 3.65 ERA and 46/32 K/BB ratio in 56 innings over 71 games. This year, he has a 3.60 ERA and 17/15 K/BB ratio in 15 innings so it's clear that he has control problems. He has a low 90s fastball and a very good slider and is very tough on lefties. Lefties are batting .160 against him this year and .176 in his career.

Wil Ledezma, who is 26 years old, has shown a lot of promise at times but has been inconsistent. After compiling a 3.58 ERA in 60 1/3 innings as a starter and reliever in 2006, he has had a 4.79 ERA with 26 walks in 35 2/3 innings as a reliever this year. One reason for the trade may be that he is out of options and must clear waivers before being sent to the minors. McBride, on the hand, has options remaining which gives them more flexibility. The thinking might also be that Ledezma is better as a starter and they have a biggeer need for relievers. I've always liked Ledezma but it's basically a lateral move of two promising but very inconsistent lefties.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tigers Destroy Nats, Casey Homers

The Tigers were not going to let the bullpen blow this one as they ran up a 12-0 lead after 4 innings and went on to trounc the Nationals 15-1. They had 17 hits and 8 extra base hits but perhaps the most celebrated hit of the night was a three run homer by Sean Casey off Jason Simontacchi in the 3rd inning. Why was this such a big deal? Casey, the most controversial topic on Tigers messageboards this season, had gone 232 plate appearances without a home run before that blast. Only light hitting Luis Castillo and Juan Pierre have had more plate appearances without a homer in 2007. He also had a double, a walk and 4 RBI on the night.

Other than the homers, Casey has been hitting quite well since April as the Table below illustrates. Since his awful start, he has batted .341/.397/.449 in 138 at bats. For the season, he is now batting .287/.346/.375. The slugging average is still way too low for a first baseman but he is no longer the black hole he was in April or last August and September (.245/.286/.364) for that matter.

Table: Sean Casey's splits

Split

AB

BA

OBP

SLG

April

78

.192

.259

.244

May-June

138

.341

.397

.449

Total

216

.287

.346

.375


The other noteworthy story of the night was Chad Durbin who may still be competing to stay in the rotation with Kenny Rogers and hopefully Nate Robetson soon back on the team. Durbin pitched six innings allowing just 1 run on 5 hits and, most encouraging, no walks. I still suspect he is headed for the bullpen(which certainly could use a boost) but either way his start tonight was a positive sign.

They try to complete the sweep of the series tomorrow night at 7:05 when Jeremy Bonderman faces Mike Bacsik.

Pitching Changes on the Horizon

The Tigers figure to be shuffling their pitching staff quite a bit over the next couple of weeks. The changes begin on Friday when Kenny Rogers makes his first start of the season. It is not known who will be removed from the rotation to make room for Rogers. It won't be Andrew Miller who is scheduled to face the Braves on Sunday night. It could be Chad Durbin or Mike Maroth. My guess would be Durbin going to the bullpen and Maroth staying. That is, unless Maroth is traded as has been rumored most recently in Danny Knobler's column.

There is more to the decision though. Nate Robertson is making a rehab start for the Erie SeaWolves on Thursday and could be ready to pitch for the Tigers next week. In that case, both Maroth and Durbin could be removed from the rotation. My prediction is that, by the end of next week, the rotation will consist of

Justin Verlander
Jeremy Bonderman
Kenny Rogers
Nate Robertson
Andrew Miller

I also think that Durbin will be in the bullpen playing a prominent role and that Maroth will be pitching for another organization. That all assumes that Rogers and Robertson are completely healthy, that they decide to keep Miller beyond Sunday, and that they can find a suitable trade of Maroth. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Tigers Hang On to Nip Nationals

It was a prototypical win for the 2007 Tigers tonight. They took a 9-1 lead after batting around for 6 runs in the 5th inning. The inning started with a double by Mike Maroth and ended with a towering home run to left by Marcus Thames. And the rout was on ... for a little while. Mike Maroth pitched 3 hit 1 run ball for five innings but could not get anybody out in the 6th and left with a 9-3 lead and the bases loaded. A Carlos Guillen error did not help matters. Bobby Seay allowed 2 of the inherited runners to score and the lead was down to 9-5 through 6.

Jason Grilli and Eulogio DeLaCruz (who was called up from Toledo today) each pitched a scoreless inning to bring it up to Jones in the 9th still with a 9-5 lead. Jones has not been a very reliable closer as of late but a 4 run lead still seemed safe with the light hitting Nationals coming to the plate. The Roller coaster proceeded to go out of control and terrified Tigers fans everywhere by allowing the following sequence:

Ryan Langerhans doubled
Old friend Robert Fick singled
Christian Guzman tripled
Felipe Lopez singled
Ryan Zimmerman singled

It was now a 9-8 game with runners on first and second and nobody out. Jones camly retired the next 3 Nats in order and the Tigers once again narrowly escaped with a victory in a game that previously looked like a rout. It was almost as if Jones planned it that way.

Detroit Tigers Podcast

Mike McClary has some more interviews up on the Detroit Tigers Podcast. Mike does a very professional job on all of his interviews. He seems to make all of his guests comfortable and has the ability to get them to talk freely and honestly about baseball and their experiences in the game.

In a recent episode, he talked to Mario Impemba, Lynn Henning and blogger/podcaster Josh Wallen about Justin Verlander's no hitter. Yesterday, he had a round table discussion with regulars Ian Casselberry (who also blogs at Bless You Boys) and Josh Wallen along with new addition John Milton. They discussed the no hitter and many other Detroit Tigers topics.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Tigers come back to Top Phillies 7-4

I was up in Manchester, New Hampshire today watching the Erie Sea Wolves play the New Hampshire Fisher Cats at MerchantsAuto.Com Stadium. Watching a game at MAC Stadium is a little more expensive than watching a game at most minor league stadiums. However, it is a great place to watch a game and the cost is only a small fraction of the cost for a game at Fenway Park. MAC stadium is one of the best designed stadiums I have ever seen. It is built in such a way that every seat in the stadium other than the luxury suites is as close to ground level as possible. You can sit in the top row and still feel as if you are right on top of the action.

The SeaWolves didn't look too good in losing 11-5 to the FisherCats. The hitting stars for the SeaWolves were Matt Joyce (3 hits including a homer) and Mike Hollimon (2 hits including a long homer). Starting pitcher Eddie Bonine was rocked for 5 runs on 10 hits in 5 innings.

I left the game early and got back to my car to hear the end of the Tigers game. I'm really enjoying my first season of XM radio this year. I learned that the Tigers were losing 3-1 after 6 innings and that Justin No Hit Verlander gave up a single in the second inning to Abraham Nunez plus 5 more hits. My timing turned out to be very good as I got there for the 7th inning come back.

With one out in the top of the 7th inning, Brandon Inge doubled to get things started. Then, unlike Thursday afternoon, Jim Leyland used some of his resting regulars in pinch hitting roles. Carlos Guillen pinch hit for Neifi Perez and singled. Gary Sheffield batted for Verlander and singled in Inge to make it 3-2. With two outs and runners at second and third, Placido Polanco was walked intentionally to load the bases. Slumping Craig Monroe then got one of his patented late inning hits, a single off the glove of the third baseman Nunez. This made it 4-3 Tigers. Magglio followed with a two run double making it 6-3.

Now, it was up to the bullpen to hold the lead for 3 innings. Given the way they have pitched as of late, this was far from a sure thing. However, Bobby Seay, Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones held the Phillies to 1 run in 3 innings and the Tigers won 7-4.

So, the Tigers took two of three from Phils to remain one game in back of the Cleveland Indians who beat the Braves today. The Tigers now travel to Washington for a three game series with the Nationals.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Detroit Tigers Prospect Report - June 16, 2007

During the course of the year, I will be giving statistical updates and other information on the Tigers organization. I will cover all the consensus top prospects as well as other noteworthy perfomers. For daily recaps and other news on Tigers prospects, check out Matt Wallace's Take 75 North and Mike Cassidy's Tigers Minor League Blog.

In my last report, I updated the progress of players in the consensus Top 20. This week, I will look at 10 prospects who were not in the consensus Top 20 at the beginning of the season but have boosted their stock with solid seasons this year. The prospects below are listed in no particular order

Ryan Raburn is an old prospect at 26 but is having a big year at Toledo batting .295/.401/.564 with 15 homers and a 41/53 BB/K ratio. He has always been a solid hitter but has struggled to find a position. After years of struggling defensively as an infielder, he is now an outfielder. The right-handed batter is hitting well enough this year where he might get a shot just because of his offense. He also impressed Jim Leyland in spring training.

Lucas French is a 21 year old left-hander who is pitching for Lakeland this year. He has a 3.80 ERA and 51/16 K/BB ratio in 73 1/3 innings pitched. He has an average fastball and a good curve and change-up.

Burke Badenhop is a 24 year old right-hander who has a 3.09 ERA and 44/20 K/BB ratio in 75 2/3 innings for Lakeland this year. He is not overpowering but has good control and gets a lot of ground balls (1.57 ground out/air out ratio).

Michael Hernandez is a 23 year old outfielder who is batting .291/.350/.530 with 11 homers for Lakeland this year. He probably needs to be more consistent because he has been streaky in his two years as a professional. He does have some good potential offensively though. He needs to improve his defense and if he does, he'll be an interesting prospect.

Angel Castro pitched in the Dominican Summer League last year and is making his debut in the United States at the age of 24. He throws in the low 90s and is a fairly polished pitcher who also gets a lot of ground balls He has a 2.97 ERA with a 42/22 K/BB ratio and 1.67 GO/AO ratio in 72 2/3 innings for West Michigan. He is old for his league so hopefully he'll get moved to a higher level during the summer.

Duane Below is a 21 year old soft tossing lefty pitching for West Michigan this year. He makes this list because of his age, handedness and high strikeout rate. He has a 3.64 ERA and 68/28 K/BB ratio in 71 2/3 innings this year.

Deik Scram not only has a great name but is also a raw athletic prospect having a strong year offensively for West Michigan. The 23 year old left-handed batter is batting .344/.423/.474 with a 26/36 BB/K ratio. He is very fast and has 12 steals in 15 at bats. His outfield defense reportedly needs some work.

Chris Cody is a 23 year old lefty having an outstanding year for West Michigan. He has a 1.77 ERA and an amazing 92/15 K/BB ratio in 91 1/3 innings. He is definitely a soft tosser but has excellent control.

James Skelton has an interesting profile for a catcher as he bats left-handed and has better than average speed. The 21 year old is a good defender and is having a good year with the bat at West Michigan. He is batting .333/.394/.463 in 165 at bats.

Ryan Strieby is a 6-6 220 pound 21 year first baseman with good power potential. His batting .294/.371/.446 with a 30/36 BB/K ratio for West Michigan this year.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tigers Outslug Phillies 12-8

It was another wild game with lots of hitting and not so much pitching for the Tigers tonight. The Tigers built an 11-3 lead by scoring 2 in the 3rd, 4 in the 5th and 4 in the 6th. They batted around in both the 5th and 6th and appeared headed for a easy rout. With the Tigers bullpen, no lead is safe though and they needed 5 pitchers to come away with a 12-8 victory. Ivan Rodriguez led the Tigers attack with a home run, 2 doubles and 5 RBI. Sean Casey went 4 for 5 with 2 doubles and narrowly missed his elusive first homer of the year.

Starter Jeremy Bonderman did not have great stuff tonight. He did not have good command of his slider and that is always a very bad sign for Bonderman. He looked like he was throwing more change-ups than usual but those didn't work too well either. After allowing 5 homers in his first 72 innings, he allowed 4 of them tonight. Luckily, they were all solo shots. Jimmy Rollins led off the game for the Phillies with a homer and Ryan Howard also hit one in the first inning. Rollins hit his 2nd of the game in the 5th and Greg Dobbs added one in the 6th. In all, Bonderman gave up 5 runs on 9 hits in 6 innings.

Then the bullpen took over and made it interesting as usual. Tim Byrdak gave up a 2 run homer to Shane Victorino in the 7th and 3 runs in 1 2/3 innings. Fernando Rodney allowed a run scoring triple in the 8th. Bobby Seay retired the first 2 batters in the 9th before walking Aaron Roward. Todd Jones then came in and walked Pat Burrell before striking out Dobbs for the final out.

Tomorrow, it will be 22 year old Andrew Miller versus 44 year old Jamie Moyer ay 7:05.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tigers Lose it in 8th

Fernando Rodney gave up a 2 run homer to Billy Hall in the 8th inning tonight to blow a 2-1 lead and the Brewers held on to win 3-2. Mike Maroth allowed 9 hits and 4 walks but just 1 run in 7 innings. He was helped out by 3 double plays, some superb defense by Curtis Granderson and Neifi Perez, a caught stealing and his own pickoff.

Maroth received little offensive support tonight as the Tigers were held to 2 runs by emergency starter Carlos Villanueva (pitching in place of Chris Capuano who had a groin problem) and 5 relief pitchers. The Tigers scored a run in the 4th when Gary Sheffield doubled and Magglio Ordonez followed with a single. They took a 2-1 lead in the 7th on a single by Brandon Inge, a sacrifice by Perez and a single by Granderson. They had numerous other chances to score but hit into 2 double plays and left 8 men on base.

Tonight's game probably would have been a heart breaking loss on another night but tonight I was distracted by thoughts of last night's masterpiece by Justin Verlander. Yesterday, I mentioned that I was more impressed by his dominance than the fact that he pitched a no hitter. After reflecting on it some more, I'll say that it may have been the best game I have ever seen a pitcher pitch. I did see Roger Clemens strike out out 20 Tigers without a walk in a game in 1996 but the Rocket gave up 5 hits. It's hard to choose between those two games. I can state with confidence that it is the best game I've ever seen by a Tigers pitcher in all my many years following the team. That includes Jack Morris, Mark Fidrych and anybody else I can remember. That is how amazing he was last night.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

NO HITTER FOR VERLANDER !

Photo credit: Duane Burleson (AP)

Justin Verlander is almost always good. Usually very good. He has been arguably the most consistent pitcher on the team over the past two years. He has the best stuff on the staff. He pitches more like a poised veteran than a 24 year old Sophomore. However, he rarely pitches a dominant game. His career high in strikeouts coming into tonight was 8 and he gives up a lot of fly balls. He often remarks that "I didn't have my best stuff tonight" or "I didn't have all my pitches". Tonight, it was clear from the start that he had everything working - a fastball reaching 100 MPH, a nasty curve, an excellent change-up. In the first inning, when he struck out Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino, you could sense this was going to be big night for Verlander.

He had one more strikeout in the 2nd and another in the 3rd. He did allow his first base runner, a walk to Billy Hall, in the 3rd. Brandon Inge's solo homer in the bottom of the third gave Verlander the only run he would need. Justin struck out the side around a walk in the 4th. He now had 7 strikeouts through 4. He added another strikeout in the 5th to tie his career high. he allowed his third walk of the game in that inning but still no hits. It's at that time, I was realized he had a chance for a no hitter.

Verlander retired the Brewers in order in the 6th and also recorded his 6th strikeout. The Tigers gave him some breathing room with 2 runs in the bottom of the inning thanks, in part, to Curtis Granderson's 13th triple of the year. Now ahead 3-0, the 24 year old right-hander got the Brewers 1-2-3 again in the 7th but this time he needed some help. Magglio Ordonez made a sliding catch of a sinking liner off the bat of Corey Hart to preserve Verlander's gem. The inning ended with his 1oth strikeout.

With a 4-0 lead in the 8th, he allowed a one out walk to Billy Hall, the third walk of the game given to the Brewers center fielder. The next batter Gabe Gross then hit a shot past Verlander towards the middle and the hearts of Tiger fans skipped a beat. However, shortstop Neifi Perez, subbing for Carlos Guillen, made an excellent stop and then flipped it to Polanco to begin an inning ending 6-4-3 double pay.

The crowd in Comerica Park was on it's feet on every pitch in the 9th. Verlander started out the 9th the same way he began the game. He struck out Counsell for his 11th of the game. He followed that up with a strikeout of Graffanino, the 4th time he had punched out the Brewers second baseman on the night.

It was down to one more out and up came the dangerous JJ Hardy. Verlander got two quick strikes on him but then he fouled off a couple of pitches to stay alive. Finally, he hit a routine (although it didn't seem that way at the time) fly ball to Ordonez in right and the no hitter was complete. It was the first no hitter for the Tigers since Jack Morris in 1984 and the first no hitter at home since Virgil Trucks in 1952.

The best part about this no hitter was not so much that it was a no hitter. It was the fact that he did it so easily - 12 strikeouts, 10 ground outs, just 3 balls out of the infield, an easy ninth inning. This was not one of those flukey no hitters that happen once in a while. Just the other day, a poster on Motown Sports was asking why I didn't think that Verlander had been dominant in his career so far. He asked me to define "dominant". I wrote one of my essays on fielding independent pitching and pitch counts. I'm not sure whether anyone bothers to read that stuff though. So, I'll use the word in a sentence. Tonight, Justin Verlander was DOMINANT.

All Star Voting

Scott Warheit is drumming up support for Placido Polanco over Robinson Cano for the All Star game. Either BJ Upton or Brian Roberts may be more deserving but a strong case can also be made for Polanco. Certainly Polanco belongs there ahead of Cano who is not having a strong season. Warheit's campaign seems to be working as Polanco has moved from 8,000 votes behind Cano to 52,000 votes ahead over the last few days. To make sure he stays in the lead, go vote for him. Also vote for Magglio Ordonez and write in Curtis Granderson while you are at it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Run Preventing Events Update

Today, I’ll return to the batted balls versus pitchers theme of last winter. To review, an at bat can result in any of the following events:


  • Strikeout
  • Base on balls
  • Hits batsman
  • Ground ball
  • Line drive
  • Outfield fly
  • Infield fly

Three of those events are generally favorable events for pitchers:


  • Strikeout (SO)
  • Ground ball (GB)
  • Infield fly (IFF)

I will call these run preventing events (RPE). Of course, a ground ball is not as easy an out as a strikeout or an infield fly and can have a negative result for a pitcher. However, inducing a lot of ground balls will help to prevent runs over the course of a season. On the other hand, it is good for pitchers to avoid, for the most part, the following events:


  • Base on balls
  • Hits batsman
  • Line drive
  • Outfield fly

Last year, I constructed a stat called Run Preventing Event Percentage (RPE%) = (SO + GB + IFF)/BFP where where BFP = Batters Faced by Pitcher. Striking out batters and inducing grounders have been shown to be repeatable skills. Getting batters to hit infield flies is not stable from year to year (correlation = .10 between 2005 and 2006). However, infield flies are relatively rare compared to other batted ball types and including them does not change the RPE% substantially in most cases. Plus, I suspect (without statistical evidence) that this is a real ability for some power pitchers.


It turns out that RPE% is fairly stable with a .66 correlation between 2005 and 2006. It can also be considered a fielding independent stat because, although the end result is not independent of fielders, getting a grounder or infield fly to happen in the first place has nothing to do with fielders. It is as stable or more stable than FIP but it is not weighted and thus does not explain as much about runs allowed. RPE% is just an exploratory stat for now.


There are 47 American League starters with 60 or more innings pitched so far. Table 1 lists the RPE% rankings for Tigers starters. Table 2 lists the top 20 pitchers in the league. The raw dataused for the calculations were extracted from The Hardball Times database. We can see that Jeremy Bonderman (RPE%=58.5) ranks very well (7th in the AL) as he does on most fielding independent stats. As with the FIP stat discussed yesterday, Justin Verlander does not rank especially well on this statistic: 24th at 53.2%. Because he is good at stranding base runners, I suspect his RPE% with runners on base is better. Still, I believe he will need to improve his FIP components (more ground balls, more strikeouts or fewer walks) in order to keep his ERA down. Nate Robertson (25th) and Chad Durbin (30th) rank a little better on this statistic than they did on FIP.

Table 1: Run Preventing Events for Tigers Starters through June 9, 2007

Rank

Pitcher

BFP

K

GB

IFB

RPE

RPE%

7

Bonderman

299

64

103

9

176

58.8

24

Verlander

319

56

102

12

170

53.3

25

Robertson

296

34

119

5

158

53.2

30

Durbin

296

36

109

10

155

52.4

45

Maroth

294

22

98

9

129

44.0



Table 2: Run Preventing Events for Top 20 AL Starters through June 9, 2007

Pitcher

Tm

BFP

K

GB

IFB

RPE

RPE%

Carmona

CLE

307

33

163

2

198

64.6

Beckett

BOS

285

67

104

11

182

63.7

Wang

NYA

256

29

127

5

161

62.8

Burnett

TOR

360

96

117

8

221

61.3

Halladay

TOR

280

46

121

4

171

60.9

Meche

KC

378

68

148

12

228

60.3

Bonderman

DET

299

64

103

9

176

58.8

Bedard

BAL

343

95

101

5

201

58.7

Gaudin

OAK

328

51

127

9

187

57.1

Cabrera

BAL

366

68

130

11

209

57.0

Escobar

LAA

298

52

105

12

169

56.9

Sabathia

CLE

365

83

114

9

207

56.6

Blanton

OAK

366

63

130

12

206

56.2

Pettitte

NYA

349

46

140

9

195

56.0

Shields

TB

387

83

117

15

216

55.8

Guthrie

BAL

255

42

95

4

141

55.3

Buehrle

CHA

279

48

97

8

153

54.8

Loe

TEX

283

35

118

2

155

54.8

Santana

MIN

344

96

79

11

187

54.3

Haren

OAK

374

76

108

17

201

53.7

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