Sunday, September 30, 2007

Season Ends with a Bang

The Tigers finished the 2007 season with a 13-3 rout of the Chicago White Sox today. Their final record was 88-74. It may not have been a very meaningful game in the standings but there were quite a few significant individual accomplishments today:

  • Magglio Ordonez went 3 for 4 to finish with a .363 batting average and became the first Tiger to win a batting title since Norm Cash in 1961.
  • Placido Polanco got his 200th hit and finished with a .341 batting average (3rd in the league). He also completed the season with zero errors.
  • Carlos Guillen went 2 for 4 with a homer and 4 RBI and reached triple digits in RBI for the first time with 102.
  • Curtis Granderson went 3 for 4 with 3 steals and finished with a .302 batting average.
  • Mike Rabelo hit his first major league homer.
  • Sean Casey singled in his last at bat as a Tiger.
I will have lots more statistical summaries and season memories in the coming weeks.

Casey Will Not be Back, Pudge Gone too?

The Tigers informed Sean Casey that he will not be returning to the team next year. After the prior announcement that Carlos Guillen is moving to first base, this comes as no surprise. With the Tigers carrying 12 pitchers and a full-time designated hitter, there is no room on the bench for a player who can only play first base and has no speed or power.

Casey was a very popular teammate and is regarded by many as the most personable player in the game. As a fan it was fun watching him interact with opponents at first base and teammates in the dugout. He seems to really love the game and I wish him luck wherever he goes. Casey had this to say about the decision:

"I'm not sad,'' Casey said. "I'm grateful. I've enjoyed my time here so much. Some of the best memories of my 10-year career have been here.''

Casey will be now be a free agent and will likely find a team to offer him a deal as a first base stop gap similar to the role he had this year with the Tigers.

In more surprising (but unfinished) news, Danny Knobler is reporting that the Tigers probably will not pick up Ivan Rodriguez's $13 million dollar option. There is some talk that they might try to sign him for less than $13 million after declining the option. Knobler thinks that it is unlikely that Pudge would accept that and, given the catcher's big ego, I have to agree.

So, they may be looking for a new catcher as well as a new shortstop this off-season. Although he has declined quite a bit both offensively and defensively, Rodriguez would still be difficult to replace. This could be shaping up to be a very interesting and active off-season.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

No Sophomore Slump for Verlander

Last season, Justin Verlander posted a 3.66 ERA in 186 innings in an excellent rookie season. However, skeptics saw the signs of a sophomore slump on the horizon. His fielding independent statistics (strikeouts, walks and homers) were unremarkable. He pitched a lot of innings for a young rookie and had a tired arm in the second half. His ERA in August and September was 5.82. Although, most people felt he had a great future ahead of him, many projected somewhat of a decline in his sophomore season.

Tonight, Verlander pitched his final game of the 2007 season and got a no decision in a 3-2 loss to the White Sox. He allowed 2 runs in 6 innings to finish with 18 wins and a 3.66 ERA for the season. Last year, he won 17 games and had a 3.63 ERA. At first glance, there does not look like there is much difference between the two seasons.

However, a look at the table below shows that he was significantly better this year. First and foremost, his strikeout rate increased from 6 per 9 innings in 2006 to over 8 per 9 innings in 2007. Since his walk rate stayed about the same (just under 3 per 9 innings), his K/BB ratio increased from 2.07 to 2.73. Hitters also hit for less power this year as seen in slugging average against which dropped from .414 to .370. Batting average against also decreased from .266 to .241 and OPS from .742 to .688.

Last year, he was good but also a bit lucky with the defense turning 25 double plays behind him. This year, there were only 11 double plays. although his ground ball rate was about the same. He also stranded an extraordinary 78.3% of his base runners last year compared to 74.7% this year. Left on base percentage is not a random stat but it's not highly consistent either so there was likely some luck involved there last year. I don't have the stats to back it up but some of that might have been the bullpen helping him out more in 2006.

Perhaps the best thing about his season was his consistency compared to last year when he faltered down the stretch. After a brief summer slump this year, he finished strong with no sign of a tired arm. He was good last year, better this year and his future looks as bright as any young pitcher in the game.


Table: Justin Verlander's Stats in 2006 vs. 2007

2006

2007

G

30

32

IP

186

201 2/3

W/L

17-9

18-6

ERA

3.63

3.66

K/9

6.00

8.17

BB/9

2.90

2.99

K/BB

2.07

2.73

HR/9

1.02

0.89

BAA

.266

.241

OBPA

.328

.318

SLGA

.414

.370

OPSA

.742

.688

Friday, September 28, 2007

Guillen will be the First Baseman in 2008

According to Danny Knobler, Jim Leyland announced today that Carlos Guillen will be the Tigers first baseman in 2008. Guillen had already been playing quite a bit of first base this year (35 games) especially in the second half but it was not certain whether it was going to turn into a permanent role. He had a lot of problems defensively this year making 24 errors at shortstop and finishing in the bottom third of the majors in range metrics.

However, Guillen had said on a couple of occasions that he wanted to continue playing shortstop unless they got a really good replacement. He is still suggesting that the replacement will be a good one.
``I know they'll bring in a good (shortstop),'' Guillen said. ``I know it's going to be a good one. I don't know who it's going to be, but I know it's going to be a good one.''
Of course, it should be noted that Guillen said in the past that Cesar Izturis would be a good replacement. Who does Leyland think will play shortstop next year?
``I have no idea,'' Leyland said.
I'm torn as to whether or not I like this move. On one hand, Guillen's defense hurt them at an important position this year. On the other hand, he goes from being a great hitting shortstop to a pretty good hitting first basemen. It's generally easier to find a good hitting first baseman than a good hitting shortstop. I think I'll decide whether I think this is a good move after I learn who the new shortstop is going to be.

The move means that Sean Casey no longer has a starting job and likely won't be with the Tigers next year. He's a popular guy on the team and I can certainly see why but wasn't productive enough so it's no surprise that he probably won't be back. Casey is batting .297 but does not hit for any power at a position where you expect a lot of pop.

Along with a shortstop, I imagine that they'll be in the market for a left fielder and probably one who bats left handed. There will be a lot of speculation as to who they might pick up but I'm going to wait until I get a better idea of who might be available.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tigers Among Batting Leaders

With the Tigers now officially eliminated from the post-season, it's time to focus on individual stats and they've got some good ones. Every Tigers fan knows that Magglio Ordonez is closing in on the batting title but they've got players in the top 3 in many categories.

OPS
Rodriguez NY 1.055
Ortiz Bos 1.045
Ordonez Det 1.022

Runs Created
Rodriguez NY 149.2
Ordonez Det 137.1
Ortiz Bos 136.1

RC/27 outs
Ortiz Bos. 9.78
Rodriguez NY 9.46
Ordonez Det 9.21

On Base Percentage
Ortiz Bos .440
Ordonez Det .430
Posada NY .423

Batting Average
Ordonez Det 3.59
Suzuki Sea .350
Polanco Det .340

Total Bases
Rodriguez NY 367
Ordonez Det 347
Granderson Det 333

Extra Base Hits
Ortiz Bos 84
Granderson Det 83
Rodriguez NY 83

Doubles
Ordonez Det 52
Ortiz Bos 50
Hill Tor 46

Triples
Granderson Det 23
Guillen Det 9
Crawford TB 9
DeJesus KC 9
Iwamura TB 9

BB/K
Polanco Det 1.28
Sheffield Det 1.22
Kotchman LA 1.21

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bazardo, Tigers Blank Twins 8-0.

Yorman BazardoTigers pitched 7 scoreless innings as the Tigers blanked the Twins 8-0 tonight. Bazardo allowed 6 hits, walked 3 and had 5 strikeouts in an impressive performance. The 23 year old right-hander is making a bid to win a job as a reliever or perhaps even a starter at the beginning of 2008. He has compiled a 2.28 ERA in 22 2/3 innings as a starter and reliever for Detroit. In 136 2/3 innings for Toledo, he had a 3.75 ERA.

The Tigers' 15 hit attack was led by Magglio Ordonez who had his 28th homer, 52nd double and raised his league leading batting average to .359. Other Tigers with 2 hits were Placido Polanco, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Guillen and Timo Perez. Curtis Granderson only had 1 hit but it was his 23rd triple. He is the first major leaguer with 23 triples since Dale Mitchell in 1949. Next up is Ty Cobb who had 24 in 1917. Granderson is also the first 23-23-23-23 man in the history of the game.

For those of you who are still hoping for a miracle finish, the Rays just scored 6 runs in the bottom of the 6th to take a 6-5 lead. A Yankee win in that game would officially eliminate the Tigers.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tigers Shut Out by Twins

Carlos Silva pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings as the Twins shut out the Tigers 2-0 tonight. Nate Robertson pitched a very solid game allowing 1 run on 3 hits in 7 innings, the only run scoring on a second inning single by Nick Punto. As has so often been the case during his career, he received no offensive support from the Tigers who were held to just 7 hits and one extra base hit. They had a chance to tie it in the 9th as they had runners on second and third against Joe Nathan but Pudge Roriguez grounded to short for the final out. The loss left them one loss or Yankee victory away from official elimination.

Magglio Ordonez went 1 for 3 with his 51st double tonight to keep his batting average at .358. Suzuki, who is not playing tonight, is batting .350. So, barring a collapse this week, Ordonez is looking good for the batting title.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thames, Verlander Lead Tigers by Royals

Justin Verlander and the Tigers bench defeated the Royals 7-2 today at Comerica Park. A line-up which included Cameron Maybin, Ryan Raburn, Marcus Thames, Mike Hessman and Mike Rabelo scored 7 runs on 7 hits versus 3 Royals pitchers. Thames led the way with his 16th and 17th home runs, both of them line drives to left field. Raburn had a homer and a double and Placido Polanco added 2 singles to help pace the attack.

Verlander allowed 2 runs on 5 hits in 6 innings and won his 18th game in his second to last start of the year. Bobby Seay and Joel Zumaya then combined for 3 scoreless innings to finish it off.

The win gave the Tigers 85 wins and left them with 6 games to go - 3 at home versus the Twins and 3 on the road versus the White Sox. Some things to look forward down the stretch are:
  • Jeremy Bonderman's start on Tuesday. This doesn't sound like a great idea on the surface but he is supposedly healthy again and they are hoping a strong start will relieve some worry about his future for his sake and for the organization's sake (Edit: His start has been scratched and he has been shot down for the season).
  • Can the Tigers reach 90 wins? It probably doesn't make a big difference whether they win 86 or 88 or 90 wins but I think of 90 wins as a benchmark for a very good season. It's an arbitrary figure but I believe an organization that consistently wins 90 games is a successful organization. Besides, it gives us something to aim for in the final week.
  • The batting title watch. Magglio Ordonez did not play today and is currently batting .358. Ichiro Suzuki is 1 for 3 so far in today's game and is hitting .351.
  • Other individual stats. Ordonez is second to David Ortiz in OBP: .435 to .429. Curtis Granderson is tied for first with Alex Rodriguez with 82 extra base hits. Carlos Guillen has 97 RBI and is trying to reach 100. Placido Polanco has 193 hits which leaves him 7 short of 200.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Four More Hits For Ordonez in Tigers Loss

The Tigers could not overcome an early 5-1 deficit and lost to the Royals 7-4 tonight. Kenny Rogers allowed 5 runs (3 earned) in the first 2 innings before settling down for the next 4 innings. He was not helped by a fielding error by Brandon Inge which led to 2 unearned runs in the first inning.

The Tigers banged out 15 hits tonight but, as has often been the case in the second half, they couldn't bring the runners around. Magglio Ordonez led the attack with 4 hits and Curtis Granderson and Sean Casey each had 3. Ordonez got his 50th double and is now batting .358 for the year. Ichiro Suzuki went 2 for 4 today and is batting .351.

Batting titles and other individual achievements will be the main focus for most Tigers fans over the next week as they moved a step closer to mathematical elimination today. The Yankees beat the Blue Jays 12-11 in 10 innings today to cut their magic number to 3 games. The Tigers finish up their series versus the Royals tomorrow afternoon when Justin Verlander faces Jorge De La Rosa.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mathematically in Contention

The Tigers came from behind to edge the Royals 5-4 tonight as they fight to stay in mathematical contention for the wild card spot. Down 4-0 after 4 innings against Royals starter Bill Buckner, the Tigers made it 4-3 on Sean Casey's 4th homer of the year in the 5th. They then went ahead 5-4 on a 2 run single by Brandon Inge in the 6th. Casey, Inge, Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez each had 2 hits. Ordonez is now ahead of Ichiro Suzuki (who was retired in his first at bat tonight) .354-.352 in the batting race .

Jair Jurrjens had his worst game as a Tiger allowing 4 runs on 6 hits in 2 1/3 innings. However, Tim Byrdak kept the Tigers in the game with 4 scoreless no hit innings. After the Tigers went ahead, Fernando Rodney pitched 1 /2/3 scoreless innings to set it up for Todd Jones who saved it with a scoreless 9th.

For those who refuse to give up, the Yankees are 5 games ahead of the Tigers at this moment. It looked like the Yankees had lost tonight but they scored 4 runs in the bottom of the 9th to tie up the Blue Jays 4-4 and are now still tied in the 11th. As I type, the Yankees are 88-64 and the Tigers 84-70. the Yankees magic number is 5. This means that the Tigers and Yankees would have to post any of the following records to force a one game playoff:

Tigers 8-0 Yankees 4-6
Tigers 7-1 Yankees 3-7
Tigers 6-2 Yankees 2-8
Tigers 5-3 Yankees 1-9

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Swept Out of Cleveland

The series started with so much hope for the Tigers but in the end they were swept out of Cleveland and out of contention. CC Sabathia allowed 2 runs on 5 hits in 7 innings against a line-up that made it look like the Tigers are no longer in the pennant race which they really aren't. After today's 4-2 loss, they are now 5 1/2 behind the Yankees and 7 1/2 behind the Indians. The only positive thing I can say about their chances are that they have not yet been mathematically eliminated. That could happen this weekend though.

With no post-season to think about, I'll be hoping they can finish strong and may reach 90 victories. I'll also be focused on individual achievements down the stretch. Will Magglio Ordonez win the batting title? How high will Placido Polanco's batting average go? What else can Curtis Granderson add to his unique statistical line. Can Justin Verlander add a couple more great starts to his resume? There are still 9 games to go and I plan to enjoy them all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Indians Pound Tigers with Long Ball

The Tigers out hit the Indians 12-6 tonight but the Indians won 7-4 on the strength of 4 home runs. Travis Hafner, Franklyn Gutierrez, Victor Martinez and Ryan Garko all went deep on Tigers starter Justin Verlander. JV also did not help himself by walking 3 batters, 2 of which scored on Hafner's blast. The loss put the Tigers 6 1/2 games behind the Indians and 4 1/2 behind the Yankees who crushed the Orioles tonight. It's not looking good.

The Tigers actually led 4-1 after batting around for 3 runs in the 3rd but, like last night, they were shut down for the last 6 innings. Tigers with multiple hits were Ramon Santiago with 3 and Placido Polanco and Gary Sheffield with 2 apiece. They continue to lack in the power department though. After slugging .466 with a homer every 30 at bats in the first 4 months, they are slugging just .428 with a homer every 40 at bats in August and September.

The Indians now lead the season series 11-6 over the Tigers. The Tigers have one more game against the Indians tomorrow afternoon. It will be Nate Robertson versus CC Sabathia.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Crushing Defeat

The Tigers were leading 5-2 after 7. kenny Rogers had just finished a very strong 7 innings. Flame thrower Joel Zumaya was on the mound to start the 8th. It was looking good for the Tigers tonight. Most Tigers fans were thinking it was 10 out of 12 for the Tigers and that the central division lead was down to 3 1/2 games. Not so quick.

It all unraveled pretty quickly in the 8th. Zumaya put the first 2 runners on base and then got the next two on grounders. Up came Jhonny Peralta who had previously homered in the 4th inning. He crushed it to center field for a 3 run homer and the clean victory against the division leaders was gone. Three agonizing innings later, The deciding blow came off the bat of Casey Blake - a solo blast to left center in the 11th off Zach Miner. It was a 6-5 walk off victory for the Indians.

The Tigers did all their scoring in the first 4 innings. Ramon Santiago singled home Carlos Guillen in the 2nd. The relentless Placido Polanco homered in the second to make it 2-0. They added 3 more in the third on a double by Guillen, 3 singles and a Peralta error. Unfortunately, their bats went silent from the 5th through the 11th as they got just 4 more hits the rest of the way off Paul Byrd, Aaron Fultz, Joe Borowski and Rafael Betancourt. Curtis Granderson, Pudge Rodriguez and Brandon Inge all had tough nights going a combined 0 for 14.

The 3 run homer off of Zoom was what really hurt though. He just hasn't been consistently sharp since coming back. It was a pretty serious injury and a long lay off so it's not surprising that he's not at full strength. Still, it's disappointing. Pennant races are fun but they can also be excruciating especially when your team is doing the chasing. There's still hope but they are 3 1/2 back of the Yankees and 5 1/2 behind the Indians. They are running out of time and this was a game they really couldn't afford to lose.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tigers Sweep Twins

Today's game wasn't easy but, for the second time this year, the Tigers swept the Twins in Minnesota. They gave up single runs in each of the last 4 innings and had to work out of 2 bases loaded jams but the Tigers held on to beat the Twins 6-4. Two sweeps in the Metrodome in the same season. Who would have thought that was possible?

With the Indians losing 4-3 to the Royals, the victory moved the Tigers to within 4 1/2 of the division lead. Perhaps more importantly, they are just 2 games behind the Yankees in the wild card race pending the outcome of the Yankees/Red Sox game tonight. Regardless of the outcome of tonight's game, it's been a great weekend of baseball reminiscent of the 1987 race with the Blue Jays. That's a much better feeling than August which felt more like the ill fated 1988 race.

I was hoping that Jair Jurrjens could give them another 5-6 solid innings today and he did just that. He pitched no hit ball for 5 1/3 innings before allowing a double to Nick Punto and a triple to Jason Tyner. He was taken out after that but the 21 year old pitched another great game - 1 run on 2 hits and a walk to go with 6 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He left with a 4-1 lead and it stayed that way as Tim Byrdak got the last two outs with no further damage being done.

The last three innings were nail biters. Byrdak returned to the mound for the 6th inning and got himself in trouble with a three base throwing error on a squibber to the left of the mound. On the very next play, left fielder Timo Perez misplayed a soft liner by Brian Buscher and a run scored making it 4-2. Chris Heintz followed with single but the Tigers got very fortunate when Buscher went through the stop sign at third base and was easily thrown out at the plate. Byrdak allowed another hit in the inning but got out of the inning with no further damage.

The Tigers were leading 6-2 going to the bottom of the 8th but the game was far from over. A walk by Bryrdak and 2 more walks by Fernando Rodney loaded the bases with 2 outs. Joel Zumaya then came in and allowed a bases loaded walk to make it 6-3. It was looking like a Metrodome meltdown as pinch hitter Joe Mauer came up to the plate but Zoom put out the fire by striking him out on 3 pitches.

Then came the 9th and Todd Jones was looking for his third save in the series. Luis Rodriguez led off with a triple and Nick Punto followed with a single. It was now 6-4 and the Piranhas were on the attack. Jones retired the next 2 batters but then Torii Hunter singlesd and Justin Morneau drew a walk to load the bases. Jones finally got out of it on a nice force play turned by Ramon Santiago and Placido Polanco. The save was the 300th of the roller coaster's career and it's appropriate that #300 was a classic Todd Jones save.

The Tigers got off to a great start offensively when Curtis Granderson hit his 22nd homer of the year over the baggy in right. I'm getting into arbitrary cutoffs now but Granderson is the first player in the history of the game to reach the quadruple 22. the Tigers scored 2 more in the second on singles by Timo Perez and Ramon Santiago, a throwing error by pitcher Scott Baker and a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Brandon Inge scoring Santiago. As you can imagine, the squeeze made Rod Allen quite happy. They went up 4-0 in the 3rd when Gary Sheffield doubled and Magglio Ordonez singled him in.

For a while, the 4 run lead looked safe but they needed more and they got them in the 8th. Carlos Guillen doubled in one run and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Pudge Rodriguez. That gave them a 6-2 lead at the time and from there it was up to the bullpen.

The Tigers now go to Cleveland for a 3 game series. It will be Kenny Rogers, Justin Verlander and Nate Robertson trying to do their Jack Morris, Frank Tanana and Doyle Alexander imitations versus Paul Byrd, Jake Westbrook and CC Sabathia. At the same time, the Yankees will host a three game series with the Orioles.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tigers Hold on to Beat Twins 4-3

It was Yorman Bazardo in his first major league start versus two time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. Not a promising match-up for the Tigers. That didn't bother the Tigers in the first inning though. They loaded the bases with one out and Carlos Guillen knocked in a run with bloop single to right just out the reach of Michael Cuddyer. The seemingly ruvenated Pudge Rodriguez followed with a long double off the Metrodome baggy in right to clear the bases and put the Tigers up 4-0. That turned out to be all they needed and that's good because that's all they got off Santana who allowed just 2 more hits over the final 7 2/3 of an 8 inning stint.

I was hoping the Tigers would get 4 or 5 solid innings out of Bazardo and they did. He went 4 2/3 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits. He allowed a run in the 3rd inning on 2 singles and a wild pitch, one which looked like Pudge could have had. The Twins scored again in the 5th on a double by Luis Rodriguez, a fly ball to right and a grounder to second. Bobby Seay then came in to get Joe Mauer on a grounder for the final out of the inning.

Seay was the first of 4 Tigers relievers including Zach Miner, Joel Zumaya and Todd Jones. All pitched well although Miner made a throwing error which cost him a run in the 7th. Joel Zumaya came in after the error and got Mauer to hit into a double play to end it. He followed with a 1-2-3 8th to set up Todd Jones. Jones allowed a walk in the final frame but managed to get his 299th career save.

The win was their 82nd of the season and guaranteed the Tigers their first back to back winning seasons since 1988. More importantly, it moved them to within 2 1/2 games of the Yankees who lost 10-1 to the Red Sox today. The Tigers will go for a sweep of the Twins tomorrow afternoon. It will be Jair Jurrjens versus against Scott Baker but then who really cares about matchups after today's game?

Tracking the Tigers

Ian Casselberry is the featured blogger in USA Today Sports Weekly this week. It's been a great year for Ian who earlier was featured on ESPN. His blog Bless You Boys is very entertaining and it's one of the first ones I read every day. Congratulations Ian.

Dan Fox at Baseball Prospectus did an analysis using enhanced game day or pitch/fx data to categorize Major League hitters by eye. Billfer followed up by doing a similar analysis for the Tigers. Not surprisingly, Pudge Rodriguez swings at more bad pitches than any hitter on the team and in baseball. The results for a couple of other Tigers are more surprising. Both articles are must reads.

Another analyst who is looking at pitch/fx data among other things is relatively new baseball blogger Josh Kalk who writes "From Small Ball to Long Ball".

Samara has pictures up from a game attended by several of the Tigers bloggers.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Tigers Win But Can't Gain Ground

With every Tiger game being crucial and scoreboard watching becoming a bad habit, it's starting to feel like a pennant race. The Tigers topped the Twins 4-2 in the Metrodome tonight and for a while it looked like they might gain ground on both the Indians and Yankees. The Yankees for sure (or so it seemed).

The Indians were down 4-1 to the Royals after 6 and 4-3 after 7 but they eventually came back to win 5-4 on a walk off homer by Casey Blake. The other score we were watching looked even more promising. The Yankees were losing to the Red Sox 7-2 after 7. However, the Yankees exploded for 6 runs in the 8th inning off Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon and the Yankees won 8-7. So, the Tigers remain 3 1/2 in back of the Yankees and 5 1/2 behind the Indians.

The Tigers were trailing 2-1 after 5 innings and Twins starter Matt Garza was looking strong. However, the Tigers rallied for 3 runs in the 6th inning to take a 4-2 lead. Curtis Granderson led off the inning with a single. It took them a while to score him but they did that and more. Gary Sheffield and Carlos Guillen walked to load the the bases with two outs. Pudge Rodriguez then worked an improbable 9 pitch walk (only his 8th unintentional free pass of the year) to force in the tying run. Unlikely September hero Timo Perez followed with a 2 run single to put the Tigers in front 4-2. Perez is now batting .429 in 62 at bats for the season.

The on again off again Nate Robertson pitched one of his good games tonight allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks in 7 innings. Tim Byrdak hit Joe Mauer on a 1-2 pitch to lead off the 8th and was then immediately replaced by Fernando Rodney. Rodney ended the inning with 2 strikeouts and a caught stealing. Todd Jones preserved the lead in the 9th with a 1-2-3 inning. He didn't strike out the side like he did in the previous game but he kept the ball in the infield for 3 easy outs.

The pennant chase continues tomorrow night as the Tigers throw Yorman Bazardo up against Yohan Santana. That is not a promising match-up but the Twins are playing poorly and have not given Santana much support this year. Hopefully, Bazardo can get through 5 innings and then the bullpen can take over.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Verlander, Sheffield Lead Tigers Over Rangers

Justin Verlander allowed just 1 run in 7 innings as the Tigers topped the Rangers 5-1 to win their 3 game series with the Rangers. Gary Sheffield provided all the offense Verlander needed with a 2 run homer in the first inning. It was the first homer since August first for the slumping and injury riddled designated hitter. Magglio Ordonez added a 3 run homer in the 6th and is now batting .358 after a 1 for 3 night.

After a summer slump which raised his ERA to 3.95, Justin Verlander has bounced back with 4 consecutive strong games to lower his ERA to 3.47. As the table below shows, JV has allowed just 3 runs in 28 2/3 innings (a 0.94 ERA) and has a 26/6 strikeout/walk ratio over his last 4 starts. The surge has certainly put to rest concerns about a tired arm.

Table: Justin Verlander's Last 4 Starts

Date

IP

H

R

ER

BB

K

8/27

7

3

0

0

2

6

9/1

6 2/3

6

1

1

3

10

9/7

8

7

1

1

0

3

9/12

7

7

1

1

1

7

Total

28 2/3

23

3

3

6

26


Joel Zumaya pitched for the first time since he ripped a finger nail and was perfect in the 8th inning. Todd Jones closed out the game by striking out the side. Yes, the roller coaster struck out the side for the first time in 2 years.

The Yankees will likely maintain their 4 game lead in the wild card race as they lead the Blue Jays 4-3 in the 9th. The Tigers did pick up a game on the Indians who lost to the White Sox today. Detroit is now 5 1/2 games behind the division leaders. Next up are the Twins for a 3 game series in the Metrodome starting on Friday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tigers Split DH with Rangers

So much for building off last night's dramatic finish. Any momentum from that game quickly disappeared in the first game of today's doubleheader versus the Rangers. The Tigers were never in the game as the Rangers routed them 13-6. Starting pitcher Chad Durbin made an early exit after allowing 5 runs in 2 2/3 innings. A parade of relief pitchers did not do much better as the Tigers were down 11-0 before they could get on the board with 5 runs in the 8th. The wind was blowing out at Comerica and the Rangers had 7 home runs including 2 by Marlon Byrd.

The Tigers had one homer, a three run shot by Mike Hessman in the 8th. Tigers with multiple hits included Timo Perez with 3 and Hessman, Sean Casey and Marcus Thames with 2 apiece. Several of the regulars did not see much action in the first game. Pudge Rodriguez, Placido Polanco and Gary Sheffield did not start and Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez and Brandon Inge were removed early as the game became a rout.

They salvaged a split by taking the nightcap 4-1. They jumped out to 3-0 first inning lead off Brandon McCarthy on a walk, 3 hits and 3 stolen bases. Gary Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez each had RBI singles and Pudge Rodriguez an RBI double. Curtis Granderson had 2 of the stolen bases and now has 22 stolen bases in 23 attempts for the season. McCarthy did not make it out of the first inning but Jamey Wright calmed things down allowing one run in 6 innings.

Tigers starter Jair Jurrjens pitched a solid game in his first outing since coming off the disabled list. He allowed just 1 run on 3 hits in 5 innings. Jason Grilli, Fernando rodney and Todd Jones finished it off with 4 scoreless innings.

The Yankees currently have an 8-2 lead in the 8th so the Tigers will likely be down 4 games in the wild card chase at the end of the day. The Tigers are 6 games behind the Indians in the AL Central pending the outcome of their game with the White Sox tonight. Right now, they are tied 3-3 in the 5th inning. The Rubber match of the series between Detroit and Texas will pit Justin Verlander versus Edison Volquez tomorrow night.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fantastic Finish

The season reached perhaps its lowest point yesterday with the rout at the hands of the Mariners combined with Indians and Yankees victories and the news about Bonderman's injury after the game. Many fans had all but conceded that the Tigers were out of the playoff picture. Posters on message boards were discussing off-season moves and 2008 starting line-ups. Today's make-up game with the Blue Jays was a ho hum affair for 8 innings. With the Tigers down 4-1, it looked like another nail in the Tigers coffin. The only question was whether Blue Jays starter Roy Halladay would get a complete game.

Mike Rabelo led off the bottom of the 9th with a single but Timo Perez followed by grounding into a double play to shortstop and there were two quick outs. Even the most optimistic of Tigers fans could not anticipate what lay ahead. With 2 outs, Sean Casey kept the game going with a single to center. At that point, Halladay was removed from the game and replaced by Casey Janssen. the first batter he faced was Brandon Inge who singled and then moved up to second on defensive indifference.

The next batter Curtis Granderson now represented the tying run and suddenly things were getting a little interesting. Granderson singled to right center to knock in 2 runs and make it 4-3. Placido Polanco followed with a single to left to put 2 runners on again. Gary Sheffield worked the count to 3-2 and then walked to load the bases. Up came Magglio Ordonez who already had three hits on the night. The amazing Magglio came through again with a hard single through the hole on the right side of the infield. Two runs scored and the improbable comeback was complete. The Tigers had won 5-4.

The ensuing celebration was a sight to see. Jim Leyland rushed onto the field and joined his players as they hugged and jumped up and down. It was the kind of scene that made you believe that there is still hope. And even if they don't make it, this is a game that will not soon be forgotten. It was truely one of the most thrilling comebacks I've witnessed in almost 40 years following the team. Yes, at least for tonight, I actually believe they are still in the hunt.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Bonderman's Elbow Hurting.

I did not see todays game but they lost by a touchdown 14-7. I already talked about Curtis Granderson's 20 20 20 and nothing much else good happened in the game so I'll give no re-cap. The big news of the day was that Jeremy Bonderman admitted after the game that his elbow has been hurting for a while:
He admitted afterward that he is feeling a “sharp pain” on the outside of his elbow, and manager Jim Leyland said Bonderman would probably be shut down indefinitely.

“I’m done for awhile,” Bonderman said. “I know that.”
There was talk of an elbow problem after his previous start. He admitted there was a little soreness but he said he was OK and Jim Leyland said he was OK so he pitched again today and got shelled for 7 runs in 1 1/3 innings. He is now scheduled to get an MRI and there is a good chance he'll miss the rest of the season.

Looking at the difference between his first 18 games and the last 10 games illustrated in the table below, it seems obvious that something was not right with Bonderman in recent starts. The table shows that his ERA went from 3.53 in his first 18 games to 8.40 in his last 10 games. Two of the more striking numbers in the table are his decrease in strikeouts per 9 innings (8.2 to 5.9) and increase in walks per 9 innings (1.9 to 3.8). These are two stats on which he has almost always excelled even during his rough stretches in previous years.

Table 1: Jeremy Bonderman's Splits

Period

G

IP

ERA

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

H/9

4/2 – 7/19

18

119 2/3

3.53

8.2

1.9

1.0

8.8

7/20 – 9/9

10

54 2/3

8.40

5.9

3.8

1.6

12.5



Many speculated that it was all mental but that seemed a bit far fetched to me and now we are finding out that he has been experiencing pain for some time. While he had not lost much if any velocity in most starts, his command in the past 10 starts had been horrible. Billfer questions whether the Tigers management handled the situation as well as they could and I have some of the same questions. Obviously, Bonderman is to blame for not admitting to the problem earlier. However, shouldn't his horrible lack of command been a signal that something was wrong? And he did say that he had some soreness after his last start so why was he not checked out before today's start?

Granderson Reaches 20 20 20 20


Curtis Granderson stole his 20th base in the first inning of today's game to became the third player in the history of the game to reach the quadruple 20 in a single season: 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. As most of you have heard by now, the other two were Willie Mays in 1957 and Frank "Wildfire" Schulte in 1911. Their statistics for those seasons are shown in the table below.

Table: Quadruple 20 Breakdowns

Player

Year

2B

3B

HR

SB

Frank Schulte

1911

30

21

21

23

Willie Mays

1957

26

20

35

38

Curtis Granderson

2007

36

22

21

20


Admittedly, the 20 20 20 20 criteria are rather arbitrary and the Q20 is mostly driven by the 20 triples. Neither 20 doubles, 20 homers or 20 steals is a rare feat. Still, the Q20 is an indication of very well rounded offensive player.

Willie Mays needs no introduction. He was one of the all-time greats and 1957 was not even his best season. It was a good one though as he led the league in OPS+ with 173 meaning, after adjusting for ballpark and league, his OPS was 73% above average. He also finished 4th in the MVP balloting that year.

Who is Frank Schulte? He was an outfielder who played from 1904-1918 mostly for the Chicago Cubs. He was not a Hall of Famer but was a solid all around player who was an important figure in 4 National League pennants for the Cubs. 1911 was his best season as he lead the league in homers (21) and OPS+ (155) and was voted the league MVP. He also led the league with 10 home runs in 1910 and had a 137 OPS+ that year.

According to The Biographical Baseball Encyclopedia, he was a daring base runner who stole home 22 times in his career. However, that's not how he got the nickname "Wildfire". He received the nickname because of his admiration for actress Lillian Russell who was in the play Wildfire. At the time of the play, she invited Schulte and some of his teammates to a party. Shortly afterwards, he named one of his horses "Wildfire" and soon enough he wound up with the same nickname himself.

So, Curtis Granderson is in good company and should be congratulated for his feat. He has done much more than reach the Q20 this year. He also is among the league leaders in several other categories: 4th in runs created, 9th in OPS, 5th in slugging, 2nd in runs and 2nd in extra base hits.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Tigers Outslug Mariners 12-6

It was a see saw affair for the first 5 innings tonight as the Tigers took 3-1, 4-3 and 5-4 leads only to see the Mariners tie it up each time. They finally went ahead to stay in the 6th when they scored 3 runs to make it 8-5. That inning was highlighted by a two run homer by Brandon Inge. They then broke it wide open when Placido Polanco smacked a three run double in the 7th to make it 11-6. Pudge Rodriguez capped the scoring with a solo homer in the 8th to arrive at the 12-6 final score.

Nate Robertson was not sharp at all tonight as he gave up single runs in each of the first 5 innings and failed to make it through the 5th. Zach Miner took over, finished the 5th and allowed 1 run in 2 1/3 innings. Fernando Rodney and Yorman Bazardo finished it off with one perfect inning each. The fielders backed the pitchers with several fine defensive plays including 2 diving catches by Timo Perez and a barehanded catch and throw by Inge that was so impressive that Rodney cracked a smile.

The big story of this game though was an offensive explosion that produced 15 hits including 7 of the extra base hit variety. The big hitters were:
  • Ivan Rodriguez - 4 hits including a homer
  • Timo Perez - 2 singles and a triple
  • Placido Polanco - 3 hits and 4 RBI
  • Curtis Granderson - a single and a triple
The nightly Granderson update is that the triple was his 22th of the year. That is the most triples since Snuffy Stirnweiss had 22 in 1945. Dale Mitchell had 23 in 1949.

The victory was their 4th in a row but they were unable to gain any ground on the Yankees who toppled the Royals 11-5. So, they are still 3 behind in the wild card race. They are 4 1/2 behind the Indians in the Central pending the result of their game with the Angels tonight. The Indians are up 3-0 in the 6th at this moment. The Tigers will try for a sweep of the Mariners when Jeremy Bonderman faces Felix Hernandez tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Verlander Shines, 3 in a Row for Tigers

Justin Verlander pitched 8 strong innings to lead the Tigers past the Mariners 6-1 tonight. Verlander was not dominant (12 fly balls and only 3 strikeouts) but had great control and was very efficient using just 92 pitches in limiting Seattle to 1 run on 7 hits and 0 walks. It was the first time he had gone more than 7 innings since his no hitter against the Brewers on June 12. Joel Zumaya did not have good control but got through a scoreless 9th to close it out.

The Tigers got all the runs Verlander needed with a 2 run first. Curtis Granderson led off with an infield single and scored on a double by Placido Polanco. Magglio Ordonez then singled home the second run of the inning. They scored another run in the second and added 3 more later in the game against Mariners starter Miguel Batista.

The Tigers had a total of 10 hits and the attack was highlighted by a couple of individual seasonal feats. Curtis Granderson hit his 20th homer in the second inning to leave him one stolen base short of the quadruple 20. Magglio Ordonez went 2 for 4 to retake the lead in the batting race over Ichiro Suzuki who went 0-4. Ordonez is at .354 and Suzuki at .352. The surprising Timo Perez also had 2 more hits tonight.

For the first time since July 19, the Tigers have a 3 game winning streak. They have now moved past the Mariners in the wild card race and are 2 1/2 behind the Yankees who lead 3-2 in the 7th inning as I type. In the AL Central race, they are 5 1/2 behind the Indians who are playing the Angels in a west coast game tonight. The Tigers take on the Mariners again tomorrow night with Nate Robertson facing Jeff Weaver.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Another Late Rally for Tigers

After rallying in the 11th inning to beat the White Sox 2-1 last night, the Tigers scored 2 in the 9th for a 3-2 comeback victory against the same Pale Hose this afternoon. Last night's hero, Timo Perez, got today's rally started with a pinch hit infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error. After one was out, Sean Casey then brought home pinch runner Cameron Maybin with a pinch single to left. With two out, Placido Polanco then singled to left to bring home pinch runner Omar Infante from second with the winning run. It was their second walk off win in less than 18 hours.

The Tigers went ahead 1-0 in the third inning when Brandon Inge hit his first home run since July 21. Inge went 3 for 4 for the day after getting a pinch double in the 11th inning last night. Hopefully, this is a sign that he is breaking out of his summer long slump. The only other Tiger with multiple hits was Polanco who had 2 singles.

Chad Durbin pitched a solid 5 shutout innings on 4 hits and 1 walk. Jason Grilli followed him with 2 perfect frames so they got 7 scoreless innings from unexpected sources. Fernando Rodney blew the lead in the 8th when he allowed 3 hits including a 2 run double by Paul Konerko. Bobby Seay then kept the deficit at 1 run with a 1-2-3 9th including 2 strikeouts.

So, the Tigers took 2 of 3 from the last place White Sox, a team that has owned them most of the year. They did not get many innings from their starters in this series as none made it through 6 innings but they held the White Sox to just 6 runs in 3 games. Kenny Rogers and Durbin both did well and they got a good team effort from the bullpen throughout the series. On the negative side, they scored only 6 runs in 3 games against a pitching staff that had been getting pounded. On the plus side were two clutch late inning rallies and contributions from players, such as Inge, Casey and Pudge Rodriguez, who had not been doing much in recent weeks.

They are now 6 1/2 games behind the Indians pending the outcome of their game with the Angels tonight. In the wild card race, they are tied with the Mariners 3 games behind the Yankees. They open up a three game weekend series at Seattle tomorrow night with Justin Verlander facing Miguel Batista.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Timo! Timo! Timo!

In a game that neither team seemed to want to win, the Tigers finally ended it thanks to the batting of two unlikely heroes. It was 1-1 in the 11th inning and 22 men had been left on base, 14 by the Tigers. In the bottom of the 11th, the badly slumping Brandon Inge doubled with two outs. The White Sox then walked Carlos Guillen to pitch to Timo Perez. With Health Phillips pitching in his first major league game, it was lefty versus lefty and Tigers fans feared two more LOBs but Timo smashed a hard liner all the way to the right field wall for a walk off hit. The Comerica Park crowd erupted into a chant of Timo! Timo! Timo! as Perez returned to the dugout.

The big news in the early part of the game was Kenny Rogers pitching 5 solid innings in his first start off the disabled list. He was quite sharp allowing just 2 hits and piling up 6 strikeouts. The only run came on a homer to Danny Richar in the third. The Tigers also received stellar relief pitching as Tim Byrdak, Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, Todd Jones and Bobby Seay combinedto pitch 6 scoreless innings on just 2 hits.

Offensively, it was another frustrating first 10 innings as the Tigers has plenty of base runners and 6 stolen bases but could not bring anybody around to score. The only run before the 11th inning walk off was a home run by Mike Hessman who started at third base in place of Inge. Tigers with multiple hits were Pudge Rodriguez who had a double and 2 singles and Perez with 2 singles. Curtis Granderson did not have a great night going 1 for 6 but he did steal 2 bases to move closer to the Quadruple 20:

36 doubles
21 triples
19 homers
19 stolen bases

It's hard to get really excited about a team which has gone 17-29 since July 19th, is 7 games out of first and trailing 2 teams in the wild card chase. But Rogers is back, Sheffield returns tomorrow and Timo is a hero so there is still hope.

More Curtis Granderson and Other Notes

Curtis Granderson is in the news again today:
  • He was the Tigers nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award which is given to a player who combines excellent baseball skills with dedicated community service. Grandy has done extensive work in the Detroit schools among other things. You can vote for him at MLB.COM.
  • Tigers fans know all about Grandy closing in on the quadruple 20. Tim Kurkjian of ESPN talks about his noteworthy stat line.
  • He also did a chat with fans today. You need ESPN insider to read it.
In other news:
  • Danny Knobler talks about a possible problem with Jeremy Bonderman's elbow. Bonderman and Jim Leyland say that it is just a little soreness and that he'll be OK for his next start. Some of his teammates are not so sure. Billfer has already given his thoughts on this issue and my reaction is the same so I'll just point you to DTW.
  • Magglio Ordonez was out of the line-up tonight with a sore heel but is expected to be back tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Garland Stymies Tigers

Jon Garland came into tonight's game with a 8.00 ERA in his last 8 starts but tonight he held the Tigers to 1 run on 7 hits in 7 innings as the White Sox defeated the Tigers 3-1. The Tigers also could not do much against the Chicago bullpen as Ehren Wasserman and Bobby Jenks each pitched a scoreless inning to close it out. The only Tiger with multiple hits was Carlos Guillen who had a single and a double.

It was a mediocre performance by Jeremy Bonderman who once again struggled to control his fastball. He gave up 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks in 5 1/3 innings. The two big blows were a solo homer by Josh Fields in the third and a 2 run shot by Alex Cintron in the 6th. Zach Miner took over and pitched 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

The White Sox may be in last place in the AL Central but they have owned the Tigers this year. They have won 9 of 13 and have 5 game remaining. Hopefully, two returning players can help change the Tigers fortunes. Kenny Rogers starts tomorrow night and Gary Sheffield expects to return on Thursday.

Tracking the Tigers

Tiger links from around the internet:

Mike McClary interviewed author Tom Stanton who has written several books about the Tigers and baseball in general. Mike is a great interviewer and I highly recommend his podcasts.

Like most Tigers fans, Ian, Kurt and Greg Eno are very frustrated but still hopeful (I think).

Curtis Granderson has another blog entry up.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Back From Vacation

No, I haven't given up on the Tigers. I just got back from Vermont where I had no internet access for the weekend. I did have cable in my hotel room and XM in my car but the only inning I actually heard was the 9th inning on Sunday and I wish I hadn't. Because I saw so little, it would be pointless for me to try to offer any analysis of the last 2 games. Sunday's game was a killer though especially given that they had a chance to gain on the 3 teams they are trying to catch.

They are now down by 6 games in the AL Central so a division title is not looking too realistic right now. The wild card looks like a better opportunity. the Yankees lead the wild card by a game over the Mariners and 2 1/2 games over the Tigers. The Yankees have been the strongest of the 3 teams since the all-star break but their shaky pitching staff makes them vulnerable. The Mariners don't look very strong to me. I think the Tigers can win this thing if they finish strong.

What I'm not too confident about is the Tigers finishing strong. They have gone 16-28 since July 19. That's more than a quarter of the season which is a pretty long "slump". They are not healthy. They are not playing consistently well in any phase of the game. They have resorted to desperate measures such as promoting the exciting but very raw and unready 20 year old Cameron Maybin. Jim Leyland is juggling unproven rookies and mediocre backup outfielders in the third spot of the line-up. Ramon Santiago is their new starting shortstop. This is a move of which I approve give the alternatives but the fact that they have forced into such a move shows how the season has unraveled.

Up next is a 3 game series against a team that has actually played as poorly as the Tigers over the last month and a half. The last place Chicago White Sox come to Comerica having lost 8 out of 10. Game one will be tomorrow night with Jeremy Bonderman facing Jon Garland. A lot of things need to go right if the Tigers are going to get into the playoffs. One of those things is a strong finish by Bonderman. Hopefully, he can build on his strong performance versus the Royals last week.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Tigers Tie it in 9th, Lose it in 10th

The Tigers opened up the weekend series by losing to the Athletics 5-4 in 10 innings tonight. Down 4-2 in the 9th inning against Huston Street, they rallied for 2 runs to tie it 4-4. Carlos Guillen and Pudge Rodriguez led off the inning with singles. Brandon Inge then flied out to right for the first out and pinch hitter Timo Perez grounded out to second to score the first run. Then the Mighty Casey stepped up to the plate in a pinch hitting role and singled home the tying run. There was joy in Mudville but it was only temporary.

Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless 9th to keep it tied. That made it 11 straight scoreless appearances for Rodney. Then The Tigers failed to score off Street in the 10th. Joel Zumaya came in to pitch the bottom of the inning and allowed a double to Mike Piazza followed by a game winning single by Dan Johnson.

Starter Virgil Vasquez gave up 4 runs and 6 hits including 3 homers in 4 innings of work. The bullpen (which had given up just 3 runs in 37 innings before the run off Zumaya) was good again tonight as Jason Grilli, Tim Byrdak and Chad Durbin pitched 4 scoreless innings to keep the game close.

Meanwhile, the Indians came from behind to beat the White Sox 8-5 tonight and now have a 5 1/2 game lead in the AL Central. The wild card race stayed the same as the Mariners and Yankees both lost. The Tigers are 3 behind the Yankees and 2 behind the Mariners. Tomorrow afternoons game between the Tigers and Athletics is an excellent match-up between Justin Verlander and Danny Haren.

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