Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Internet Radio Appearance

I appeared on the Knee Jerks internet radio broadcast with Greg Eno and Al Beaton last night to talk about the Tigers.  You can listen to it here.  Big Al also talks about the Tigers at Bless You Boys.  Greg talks Tigers on Where have you gone Johnny Grubb

Tigers Move into First but Zumaya Hurt

The Tigers defeated the Twins in Minnesota 7-5 tonight to move into first place.  They beat the Twins at their own game.  Austin Jackson and Ramon Santiago were peppering infield hits all night long.  Santiago forced a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt.  They stole two bases.  One of the worst hitters in the league this year - Gerald Laird - got a clutch home run in the eighth inning.  They did everything that the Twins have been doing to them for years. 

The Tigers went out in front with a four run first highlighted by back-to-back two-run doubles by Miguel Cabrera and Brennan Boesch.  As usual the Twins did not go down easily.  They spent the rest of the night playing catch up and were almost successful.  Jeremy Bonderman was not sharp leaving with a 5-4 lead with one out in the sixth inning.  The Twins scored a run off reliever Phil Coke in the seventh inning to make it 6-5. It was that kind of night but this time the Tigers held on.

This should be the most satisfying victory of the year for the Tigers and their fans but it isn't.  Joel Zumaya left the game in severe pain after throwing a pitch to Delmon Young.  He appeared to hurt his elbow and collapsed on the mound.  It looked awful. It was reminiscent of Dave Dravecky whose arm literally broke off while throwing a pitch back in 1989.  There is no word on the severity yet but I'm guessing Zumaya is done for the season and maybe more.

Ironically, the Zumaya injury forced Jose Velverde into the game in the eighth inning.  Just yesterday, I wrote that Valverde was being misused in his narrowly defined ninth inning role.   Obviously, this was not the circumstance I was hoping for when I wished he would be used differently.  He did retire the last five Twins in order but it was a bittersweet victory. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Is Valverde Being Used Optimally?

There is no question that Jose Valverde has been awesome this season.  He has surrendered runs in only two of his 33 appearances and has an ERA of 0.56.  He has allowed just 11 hits and has a 29/12 strikeout to walk ratio in 32 1/3 innings.  This has translated into 17 saves in 18 opportunities. While he has been an indispensable piece of the Tigers bullpen this year, I've had the sense that the Tigers best reliever has not been used optimally.

It's the nature of the modern bullpen that a closer will often enter games in non-pressure situations.  Valverde has pitched in eleven games where the Tigers had a four run lead or greater and one in which they were behind by multiple runs.  In many of these cases, he was used simply because he needed work.  He has also has had four saves when he came into the game  with a three run lead.  Thus, he has had only 13 saves where he entered the game with a lead of one or two runs.  Have his talents been wasted in the specialized closer role?

New statistics have been developed in recent years which are better than ERA and saves for measuring reliever performance.  The win probability added (WPA) statistic gives relievers credit based on the effect each batter faced has on the team's probability of winning.  These probabilities vary depending on the game state before and after each play.

Eldon and Harlan Mills applied Player Win Averages – an early version of WPA – to the 1969 season using play-by-play data purchased from the Elias Sports Bureau.  One interesting result was that the leading pitchers in player win average were relievers Tug McGraw of the New York Mets and Ken Tatum of the California Angels.  This was noteworthy at the time, as
relievers were not valued by fans and media in 1969 as much as they are today.

WPA works as follows.  Suppose Valverde comes into the game in the top of the eighth with a two run lead, no outs and a runner on first.  There is a 0.837 (83.7%) expectancy that an average team will win a game given that situation. Now, assume that he strikes out the first batter.  There is now one out and the probability of winning increases to 0.884 (88.4%).  Subtracting the win expectation before the strikeout from the win expectation after the strikeout gives us the value of the play in terms of the probability of winning added by the strikeout, that is, 0.047 (0.884 – 0.837) or 4.7%.

Finally, suppose the next batter, facing Valverde, doubles home a run.  That gives the Tigers a one run lead with a runner on second and one out.  The probability of winning goes down to 0.774 so he loses .110 (0.774 – 0.884) points on that batter.  Summing all the gains and subtracting all the losses for all the batters Valverde faces during a season yields his WPA.  WPA is especially useful for relievers, because of the impact their innings typically have on the outcomes of games. 

The top American League relievers in terms of WPA in 2010 (according to FanGraphs) are listed below:

Daniel Bard, Bos 2.52
Rafael Soriano, TB 2.42
Jose Valverde, Det 1.71
Joakim Soria, KC 1.67
Darren Oliver, Tex 1.61

Valverde ranks a distant third on this statstic but what is most interesting to me is that two of the top five relievers are not closers.

WPA helps to measure reliever performance but it doesn't really get at the main question here which is whether Valverde has been used optimally. Ideally, you would want your best reliever to pitch in the most high pressure situations.  This can be answered using the leverage index concept developed by Tom Tango.  Leverage index (LI) measures how critical a given plate appearance is in determining the final result of a game by looking at the difference in win probability between the best and worst case scenarios.

Tango assigns a value of one to an average game situation.  Higher-leverage situations have values of more than one and lower-leverage situations have values less than one.  Each game scenario is then given a leverage index relative to the average situation.  A leverage index of two, for example, means that the given at bat has twice as much impact on the outcome of the game as the average at bat.  Leverage indexes are averaged over the batters faced by a pitcher to arrive at leverage index per plate appearance (pLI).  If we are just concerned with the index when the pitcher enters the game, then we would use gmLI. 

The AL gmLI leaders in 2010 are listed below:

David Aardsma, Sea 2.08
Daniel Bard, Bos 2.07
Jon Rauch, Min 1.97
Jonathan Papelbon, Bos 1.95
Neftali Feliz, Tex 1.94

Not surprisingly, four of the top five pitchers are closers.  However, Jose Valverde is only 19th in the league with a 1.49 gmLI.  This tells us that many other relievers are seeing higher impact situations than Valverde.  Even more telling is that Valverde does not lead his own team in gmLI:

Ryan Perry 1.70
Jose Valverde 1.49
Phil Coke 1.37
Joel Zumaya 1.29

Perry has been used in higher impact situations than Valverde and Zumaya and Coke are not far behind.

According to the numbers, Valverde has not been used as well as he could have been.  This is not a criticism of Jim Leyland.  All managers use their closers pretty much the same way.  It's more a question as to how well the system works when arguably the league's best reliever is not being used in high leverage spots very often.

Instead of having Valverde enter a dozen or more games in very low impact situation just to get work, wouldn't it be better if Leyland picked his spots using him only when the game was on the line?  I'd rather see him enter a tie game in the eighth inning or with the bases loaded in the seventh than see him get a three out save with nobody on base and three run lead.

I know the argument that relievers need to have roles in order to feel comfortable.  However, John Hiller, Aurelio Lopez, Willie Hernandez and countless others had success without such strictly defined roles.  It will take a lot of courage for a manager to go against the system but I think there is a better way than the status quo.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Nice Debut for Andy Oliver but Tigers Lose 3-1

Andy Oliver had a very impressive major league debut tonight allowing just two runs in six innings versus the hot hitting Atlanta Braves.  He allowed five hits and just one walk and struck out four.  Carlos Guillen's failure to turn a double play ball in the second led to one run.  The other run scored on a homer by Braves catcher Brian McCann.

According to Brooks Baseball, Oliver's fastball averaged over 94 MPH and reached as high as 97 MPH.  That is really fast for a southpaw.   While he threw his hardest in the earlier innings, he did reach 96 MPH on one pitch in his final inning of work. He threw 97 pitches in all.  His arsenal also includes a slider and change-up.

Unfortunately for Oliver and the Tigers, Kris Medlen and four relievers held the Tigers to just one first inning run.  They scored in the first on singles by Ramon Santiago, Miguel Cabrera and Bennan Boesch.  Billy Wagner got his 400th career save by striking out the side in the ninth.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tigers Avoid Sweep

The first two games of this week's series versus the Mets were ugly.  The Tigers were routed 14-6 on Tuesday night and shutout 5-0 last night.  They avoided a sweep tonight by holding off the Mets in a 6-5 squeaker. The win left the Tigers a half game behind the Twins, who were swept by the Brewers.  The streaking White Sox have now won nine in a row and have pulled to within 2 1/2 games of first.  

The Tigers had a 6-1 lead in the sixth but the Mets scored three in the bottom of the sixth and one in the seventh to pull to within one run.  The Tigers secured the victory with some clutch relief pitching.  With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, Phil Coke struck out David Wright and got Ike Davis to fly to Austin Jackson in center field.  Joel Zumaya allowed two hits but no runs in the eighth and Jose Valverde pitched a one-two-three ninth.  Valverde now has a 0.57 ERA and has allowed just 10 hits in 30 1/3 innings.

Offensively, the Tigers jumped out to their early lead on the strength of a two run homer by Magglio Ordonez (two hits on the night) in the third and a two run shot by Ryan Raburn (three for three) in the fifth. Other Tigers with multiple hits were Miguel Cabrera with two and Brennan Boesch with three.

Boesch now has 202 plate appearances leaving him 18 shy of the number he needs to qualify for leadership in various batting categories.  To qualify, a player needs to have a PA total of 3.1 times the number of games played by his team.  For the Tigers, that is 71 games times 3.1 = 220.  Among players with 200 PA, Boesch's .346 batting average is third in the league.  He leads in slugging average (.632) and is third in OPS (1.031).          

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Andy Oliver to Start for Tigers on Friday

Jon Morosi is reporting that the Tigers will call up Andy Oliver from Double-A Erie to start Friday's game versus the Braves in Atlanta.  He will be taking the spot in the rotation vacated when Rick Porcello was demoted to the minors over the weekend.  Oliver is one of the top prospects in the Tigers organization, so this is exciting news.  He has a 3.61 ERA and 70/25 K/BB ratio in 77 1/3 innings for the SeaWolves this year.

The left-handed Oliver was the Tigers second round pick in the 2009 draft.  According to Mark Anderson of Scout.com, he throws hard for a lefty with a fastball that sits at 92-94 and touches 96.  He also has a slider and change-up.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dear Mr. Fidrych

Detroit native Michael Cramer was 12 years old in 1976, the year Mark Fidrych took baseball by storm and became a national sensation.  Cramer was one of 50,000 fans in attendance the night Mark Fidrych beat the Yankees on national television and became a hero to young fans across America.  Like so many Tigers fans who were around to witness that incredible rookie season, Cramer idolized the Bird and has never forgotten the excitement he felt that summer.  Cramer, now a Chicago lawyer, was determined to share his memories of Fidrych in a special way.

Working on nights and weekends, Cramer wrote, directed and starred in an independent film titled "Dear Mr. Fidrych".  In the first half of the movie, Marty Jones (played by Cramer's son Noah) is an intellectual 12-year-old boy, who is teased by school bullies for his interest in poetry.   He also loves baseball and is frustrated at being stuck on a Little League minors team when he knows that he is good enough to play in the more competitive and esteemed Little League majors.

Marty writes a poem and sends it to Fidrych, who thinks it is "cool".  The Bird writes back telling Marty that the poem inspired him to beat the Angels the next night.  From that point on, things start to go well for Marty.  Most notably, he gets a chance to play in Little League majors and becomes one of the stars of the team.

The movie then goes forward thirty years where Marty (played by Cramer himself) is a Chicago advertising executive, who still dabbles in poetry.  His career and marriage are falling apart and he decides that he has to get away.  So, he takes a road trip with his son (played by his real life son Jack) from Chicago to Boston in hopes of meeting the Bird.  They do eventually meet Fidrych (who plays himself) on his farm in Northborough, Massachusetts.  The charismatic yet unassuming Fidrych did not disappointment in being his genuine friendly self.

Yesterday, I took my mother to see the movie at the Strand Theater in Clinton, Massachusetts, which is not too far from Northborough.  The theatre was built in the 1920s and definitely has the feel of an old-time movie theater.  It is unique in that it has comfortable seating with tables where people can eat a meal as they view.  I suspect many in the audience were relatives and friends of Fidrych and they were delighted to get the chance to thank Cramer personally after the movie.

The movie was artistic and skillfully done and I enjoyed it very much.  Cramer did a great job capturing the thoughts and feelings of a young baseball player and fan.  I also thought the storyline was realistic yet compelling from beginning to end.  The acting was good too and the younger Cramers - Noah and Jack - were especially talented.  Tigers fans of the 1970s will also enjoy the familiar names and sights which show up throughout the movie.  I recommend the movie to all Tigers fans and Fidrych fans if the movie ever shows in your area.

Sadly, Fidrych died in a tragic accident on his farm a couple months before the movie was completed.  Cramer was shocked by the news of the death and regrets that Mark never saw the final product.  However, he hopes that the movie will help keep the memory of Fidrych alive for those who experienced the Bird phenomenon and those who wish they did.

More information about the movie can be found at the following links:

DearMrFidrych.com

Worcester Telegram

Porcello Sent to Minors

The Tigers optioned struggling right-hander Rick Porcello to Triple-A Toledo this morining.  It is not yet known who will take his place on the roster.  Porcello has been a disappointment this year as he has posted an ERA 6.14.  Last year, his ERA was 3.96.

His peripherals have declined across the board.  In particular, his rate of strkeouts per nine innings has dropped from an already low 4.69 to 4.22.  Most notably, his groundball rate has plummeted from a league leading 54.2% to 47.4%.  The reason for the latter result is lack of command of the sinker which was the key to his success last year.  He will work on that, as well as probably refining his breaking pitch and change-up in Toledo.

The leading candidate to replace Porcello in the rotation may be Enrique Gonzalez, who has not allowed a run in two relief appearances so far.  Gonzalez had a 3.31 ERA and 53/16 strikeout to walk ratio in 11 starts for Toledo this year.  He started 18 games (along with 4 relief appearances) for the Diamondbacks in 2006 posting an ERA of 5.67.

Other possibilities to replace Porcello include Alfredo Figaro (4.30 ERA in 12 starts for Toledo) and promising left-hander Andrew Oliver.  Oliver, the Tigers second round pick in the 2009 draft, has a 3.61 ERA and 70/25 K/BB ratio in 77 1/3 inning for double-A Erie this year. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Inge Helps Tigers Extend Streak to Seven

The Tigers broke a 5-5 tie with a two run rally in the eighth inning and beat the Diamondbacks 7-5 tonight.  After Brennan Boesch reached first base on an uncharateristic ten pitch walk, Brandon Inge slugged a triple over center fielder Chris Young's head to give the Tigers the lead.  Alex Avila followed with a single scoring Inge with an insurance run.  The win was the seventh in a row for the Tigers and it pulled them to within a half game of the first place Twins, who lost 9-5 to the Phillies tonight.

The Tigers jumped out to an early 4-0 lead versus old teammate Dontrelle Willis.  Magglio Ordonez belted a two run homer in the first to give the Tigers a 2-0 edge.  The Bengals added two more in a second inning highlighted by doubles Brandon Inge (three hits on the night) and Danny Worth.   

Starter Armando Galarraga was unable to take advantage of his good fortune allowing four runs in 4 1/3 innings and leaving with the game tied 4-4.  It was the first poor performance for the right hander since his imperfect game on June 2.  As has often been the case this year, the Tigers bullpen bailed out a starter and won the game.  Tonight it was Eddie Bonine, Phil Coke and Jose Valverde throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings. 

Red Hot Tigers

Magglio Ordonez is batting .413 in his last 24 games.  His .331 batting average is seventh in the American League and his .410 OBP ranks him fifth.

Brandon Inge has hit in 15 of his last 17 games at a .361 clip.  He has raised his batting average from .229 to .264 over that period.


Injury Report

Austin Jackson missed his fourth straight game with a lower back strain.  With the Tigers winning without him, he may be held out until the series opener versus the Mets in Tuesday at New York.  

Miguel Cabrera left tonight's game due to dizziness in the fifth inning.  There is no report at this time on the cause of the problem or whether he'll miss any additional time.  

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Another Sweep for Tigers

The Tigers continued their domination of National League opponents by defeating the Washington Nationals 8 to 3 to complete a three game sweep.  That gives them six victories in a row and back to back sweeps over Washington and Pittsburgh.  With the Twins 5 to 1 loss to the Rockies today, the Tigers are now just a game and a half out of first place.  They were four and a half out a week ago.

Jeremy Bonderman pitched another strong game retiring the first 11 batters and allowing two runs on five hits to go with seven strikeouts and no walks.  With the inconsistent pitching of Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer, Bonderman has been a life saver for the Tigers rotation this year.  He has a 4.06 ERA and an impressive 59/20 strikeout walk ratio for the season and has gotten better as the season has progressed.  In his last eight starts, he has seven quality starts and has pitched at least seven full innings five times.     

Unlike some of his recent starts, the Tigers gave Bonderman plenty of hitting support today.  They bombarded starter Luis Atilano and four relievers for 19 hits.  Every starter had at least two hits except Don Kelly.  Ramon Santiago (four hits) and Magglio Ordonez (three hits) paced the attack.  This was all accomplished without the services of Austin Jackson (out with a sore back) and Johnny Damon (a day of rest).

For the series, the Tigers pounded Nationals pitchers for 23 runs on 38 hits.  On the other side of the ball, Tigers pitchers struck out 32 while walking just three.  The Tigers will attempt to continue their streak in a three game weekend series versus the Diamondbacks.       

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Raburn Finally Comes Through

Who guessed that Ryan Raburn would hit his first home run of the 2010 season on June 15?  It took a long time but he made it count.  He hit a three run blast to left field in the bottom of the fifth to put the Tigers in front 7-4.  That would be the final score as the Tigers won their fourth consecutive game in interleague play.

Raburn, who had two hits and 4 RBI today, is now hitting a paltry .180 with a .575 OPS in 97 plate appearances.  Keep in mind that he also got off to a fairly slow start last year when he was batting .243 with four homers in 85 PA through June 15.  From June 16 to the end of the season, he batted .310 with a .933 OPS   One can only hope that he can have a similar rebound this year.  However, barring an injury to one of the outfielders (something we certainly don't want to see), he's not going to get a lot of at bats. 

It was great to see Magglio Ordonez return to the line-up today after missing six games with a sore oblique muscle.  He celebrated with a four hit game, his first of the year and 22nd of his career.  It's a much different team with Ordonez in the third spot and they can't afford to have him miss a lot of games.  What a difference a year makes.  Many fans were singing a different tune last year hoping he would miss enough games so that his vesting option would not kick in.

Gerald Laird started versus the left-handed John Lannan and got three hits today.  Yes, three hits for Laird and all of them were hit pretty hard.  He did make a throwing error which led to a run but who needs defense when you can hit like that?  His batting average soared to .178 with the performance. 

Max Scherzer allowed three earned runs on seven hits but struck out nine in six innings.  He is a new pitcher since returning from Toledo.  He was averaging 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings prior to the demotion.  Since coming back to the majors he has struck out batters at the rate 12.4 per nine innings.  Phil Coke, Joel Zumaya and Jose Valverde nailed down the victory with three scoreless innings of relief.     

Monday, June 14, 2010

Win a Free Copy of Beyond Batting Average

There will be a series of contests this week where you can win a free copy of my book Beyond Batting Average.  I will keep track of them in this post which I will update throughout the week.  Three of them are up now at the following sites:

Crashburn Alley, a Phillies blog written by Bill Baer.

Crawfish Boxes, an Astros blog authored by David Coleman.

Talking Chop, a Braves blog written by Martin Gandy

You can get more information about the book including a 30-page preview here.

On another note, Michael Street reviewed my book at his site LoveMyTeam last week.  Here is an excerpt:
Lee Panas, a baseball writer, Detroit Tigers fan and research analyst at Brandeis University, has written Beyond Batting Average, a book that breaks down every baseball statistic you can think of (and many you may never have heard of) to show what the stat measures, where it came from, and what problems it presents. This incredibly helpful guide needs to be on the bookshelf of every baseball fan, and should be required reading for anyone wishing to be a baseball analyst...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Walk-Off Homer for Guillen in 10th

Carlos Guillen played the part of a goat for the first nine innings tonight.  He managed to fail in the field, on the bases and at the plate.  In the top of the second, Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno reached safely when Guillen was late to cover first on a bunt back to the mound.

Then, in the top of the second, Guillen was too slow to tag up on a fly ball by Gerald Laird and was thrown out at third.  The play cost the Tigers a run as the next batter Danny Worth smashed a double which would have scored Guillen. 

The Tigers second baseman then hit into a double play with the bases loaded ending a threat in the fifth inning.  He left three additional men on base by making the final outs of the third and seventh innings. 

Guillen atoned for all his earlier sins when he lined a two balls, no strikes pitch from reliever Brendan Donnelly over the right field fence leading off the bottom of the tenth inning.  The home run gave the Tigers a 4-3 victory, their second in two nights versus the Piates in interleague play.

Until Guillen's homer, it was a frustrating night for the Tigers offensively.  They had 16 batters reach safely in the first nine innings but managed only three runs.  They scored a run in the second on a sacrifice fly by Gerald Laird.  That was the same play as Guillen's baserunning gaffe, so Laird hit the ball 400 feet and still managed to hit into a double play.  It's been that kind of season for the Tigers catcher.

The Pirates then gave the Tigers two runs in the seventh.  Reliever Evan Meek fielded a hard grounder from Miguel Cabrera which should have been an inning-ending double play.  Instead of going for the easy two, Meek went to third to get the runner there.  The next batter Brennan Boesch then tapped one back to Meek, who threw to first baseman Ryan Doumit for what once again should have been the final out.  Doumit missed a ball he probably should have caught and two runs scored. 

Jeremy Bonderman tossed seven scoreless innings allowing just two runs on six hits.  He was hit pretty hard early in the game but retired the last twelve batters he faced.  It was a nice rebound from his awful outing versus the Royals last weekend.  He left with a 3-2 lead but Joel Zumaya gave up a run in the eighth on three hits.  Jose Valverde retired struck out the side in the ninth and Phil Coke pitched a scoreless tenth to give Guillen his opportunity. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tigers Win in Return to Comerica

After a disappointing 2-4 road trip to Kansas City and Chicago, the Tigers returned home tonight and beat the Pirates 6-2. Some notes on the game follow:
  • Justin Verlander was not dominant (3K, 4 BB) but allowed just two runs on four hits in seven innings.  He now has a 2.39 ERA in his last nine games after a rough start to the season.  
  • Austin Jackson went 0 for 5 and is now just 2 for 31 since June 4.  His batting average is down to .306 from a high of .377 on May 3.  He did make another outstanding play tonight though.  He made a long run to track down a fly ball to deep right center with his back to the plate.
  • Brennan Boesch had two hits including his 8th home run.  If he had enough plate appearances, his .643 slugging average would be third in the league behind Justin Moeneau and Miguel Cabrera.
  • Brandon Inge went 3 for 4 to raise his batting average to .251.  He is now 17 for 43 in his last 11 games.
  • Alex Avila went 3 for 3 and is now 9 for his last 21.  He has struck out just two times in his last 10 games after whiffing 21 times in his first 24 games this year.   

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

What's Wrong with Porcello?

The Tigers were routed by the White Sox 15-3 tonight and Rick Porcello was the victim again.  Porcello got through the first three innings allowing just one run but completely fell apart in the fourth as the White Sox scored seven runs.  In all, Porcello allowed eight runs on eight hits and not many of the hits were cheap ones.  The damage included two home runs, two doubles and and some hard hit singles. 

Porcello has now seen his ERA rise from 3.96 in his rookie year to 6.09 this year.  His peripheral stats have regressed across the board from 2009 to 2010.  His ground ball rate has plummeted from an American League leading 54.2% in 2009 to 48.9% this year.  His strikeout rate which was already low at 4.7 per nine innings last year is down to 4.0 this year.  His walk rate per nine innings has increased from 2.7 to 3.1. 

Opinions vary on the reasons for his problems but there is a consensus on a couple of points.  His sinking fastball is not working this year like it did last year.  He seems to be getting it up in the zone more often, which is the likely reason for the decrease in ground ball rate.  According to FanGraphs, he was 16.1 runs better than average with his fastball last year.  This year, he was 3.1 worse than average before today's disaster.

Beyond his fastball, the 21-year-old right-hander doesn't have any plus pitches as of yet.  Both his breaking pitch and change-up need work.  So, when he has trouble locating his fastball, he's not an effective pitcher.

It's way too early to panic about the career of a pitcher as young as Porcello.  But what about this year?  Is it time for the Tigers to send him to Toledo to refine his game?  They sent Max Scherzer down a few weeks back and he has come back with better stuff just two weeks later.  I'm think that Porcello could be next.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tigers Draft Third Baseman and Reliever with Early Picks

The Tigers lost their first round pick in the 2010 First Year Player draft to the Houston Astros when they signed free agent reliever Jose Valverde this off-season.  However, they did gain two supplemental picks at the end of the first round for losing Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon to free agency. 

They used one supplemental pick (the 44th pick in todays' draft) to sign high school infielder Nick Castellanos.  The 6-4 225 pound Castellanos played shortstop for Archbishop McCarthy High School in Southwest Ranches, Florida.  The Tigers have already revealed that Castellanos will play third base as a professional.  He reportedly has good power potential and the skills to be a solid defender at the hot corner. 

Baseball America had Castellanos listed as the 14th third round pick in their final mock draft. He slipped to the Tigers due to sign-abilty issues - he has committed to the University of Miami.  The Tigers have been aggressive in selecting and successfully signing these types of picks in the past. 

The Tigers then selected reliever Chance Ruffin of the University of Texas with the 48th pick.  The six-foot-one right-hander had a 0.73 ERA and 96/18 K/BB ratio in 61 2/3 innings this spring.  He is a polished pitcher, who could move quickly through the system.  Ruffin is the son of former major leaguer Bruce Ruffin. 

Monday, June 07, 2010

Beyond Batting Average on Amazon

It was a long process but my book Beyond Batting Average is finally listed on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.  I make more money if you purchase at Lulu but I know that some people prefer to shop at well known sites and they now have that option.  If you want to preview the book before buying, Lulu is the only place you can do that at this time.  Lulu is also the only place where you can get a pdf version for $7.00.  The paperback book costs $14.00 plus shipping.  

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Adam Everett to be Released

The Tigers announced that they will be releasing Adam Everett prior to Tuesday's game versus the Chicago White Sox.  They will recall rookie infielder Danny Worth to take his place on the roster.  Manager Jim Leyland did not give details on how playing time would be split between Worth and Ramon Santiago.  However, Leyland usually likes to give new call-ups a chance to play.  So. I would guess that Worth would get the majority of playing time at shortstop initially, although Santiago will probably still get a couple of starts per week. 

Everett hit only .238/.288/.325 in 2009 but his strong defense was enough to compensate for his weak bat.  However, his defense was not enough to offset his .185/.221/.247 line this year and he was showing no signs of improvement.  I always liked Everett.  He seemed like a smart player, who knew his role on the team and I enjoyed watching his smooth defensive play.   

Worth batted just .239 with a 24% K rate between double-A Erie and triple-A Toledo in 2009 and his prospect status took a hit.  He has made some strides as a batter this year however.  The 24-year-old right-handed batter was hitting .287 with a 16.7% K rate at Toledo.  He also batted .333 in 24 at bats in a brief stint with the Tigers.  He has played mostly second base this year, but is a strong defender at both middle infield positions.
   

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Valverde Saves Tigers Again

The Tigers topped the Royals 4-2 tonight to even the series at one game apiece.  Here are some notes:

Mario Impemba and Rod Allen kept remarking how often Justin Verlander was throwing the ball 100+ MPH but, as is often the case, the gun was apparently too fast.  According to Brooks Baseball, he threw only two balls as fast as 100 with a maximum of 101.  He did average 97 MPH though which is higher than his  95.5 average for the season.  He was not really dominant striking out only four.  He was effective enough to pitch seven innings of two run ball with both runs scoring after he left in the eighth.

Joel Zumaya came in with two runners on in the eighth but couldn't find the plate.  He was taken out of the game with some kind of finger injury.  It appeared to be a blister but you never know with him.  Hopefully, he doesn't miss much time.

Jose Valverde was forced to come in before the ninth inning and pitched 1 2/3 innings for the first time this year.  He ended the eighth by inducing a double play and then pitched a scoreless ninth.  He has not allowed a run in 22 consecutive appearances since his only blown save of the year on April 7 versus the Royals.  That streak ties Todd Jone's team record.  Valverde now has an 0.39 ERA for the season.

Miguel Cabrera blasted his 17th home run tonight and now has eight in his last ten games.

Alex Avila had two hits in three trips and now has 9 hits in his last 24 at bats.  With Gerald Laird still in a horrific season long slump, Avila will see increased playing time as long as he keeps hitting.

Scott Sizemore has not sulked with his demotion to triple-A Toledo.  He had four hits tonight to rise his batting average to .380.  His only position is second base though, so he'll stay in the minors as long as Carlos Guillen remains healthy.

Armando Galarraga is currently the feature story on CNN.COM.  What were the odds of that happening when the season started?  

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Graceful Reactions Appreciated but Frustration Lingers

I don't need to explain what happened in the The Tigers game last night.  The perfect game ruined by the very imperfect call has been the lead sports story all day, even on non-sports media outlets.  The central theme in many cases has been the graceful way in which the everyone involved has handled the aftermath of the call.

This situation could have become tense, awkward and even violent.  However, an ugly scene was avoided thanks to the commendable reactions of umpire Jim Joyce and the Tigers.  First, Joyce realized he made the wrong call as soon as he saw the video after the game.  Unlike many in modern society, he made no effort to deny or cover up or even to to make excuses for his egregious error.  He was flat out wrong and that's what he told us.  He also apologized to Armando in the clubhouse immediately after the game.

Galarraga never complained about the miscall and stayed calm throughout.  In fact, any fan who saw the incident on television will never forget the look on his face seconds after it happened.  While the rest of us were shocked and angry, he gave us a "That's life.  What can you do"? smile.  He then went back to business and got the final out to end the game.

Galarraga knew that Joyce's post-game apology was sincere, and noting his distress, he gave him a big hug.  He knew that the umpire felt worse than anyone.  In Galarraga's own words, "nobody is perfect".  It was a very mature response from the 28-year-old pitcher.

Manager Jim Leyland, whose strength lies in his people skills, did not disappoint. He explained that Joyce is a good umpire who made a mistake.  He reminded us that "umpires are human".  Fans are human too.  That's why he had Galarraga bring out the line-up card to Joyce this afternoon before the game.  He wanted the fans to see the pitcher and the unpire making peace in public.  It worked.  While there was a smattering of boos, there were also cheers and the game went on without incident.

Everybody involved was both professional and compassionate and that has been recognized by the national media.  As Joe Posnanski wrote, they taught us a lesson in how to deal with a bad situation.  Instead of making things worse, they made them better and that is much appreciated. 

However, many of us are still not over the disappointment of the lost perfect game.  Sure, there have been two other perfect games in the past month but it's still a rare event.  There have been only 20 perfect games in the majors and none in the 110 year history of the Tigers.  Those of us watching the game saw a historic moment last night, only to have it snatched away immediately and needlessly.  Instead of a celebration, we got a day of controversy.

This game is getting more attention than the recent perfect games thrown by Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay.  It may ultimately be remembered longer than any perfect game other than Don Larsen's World Series masterpiece.  It may be the historic event that leads Major League Baseball to employ expanded instant replay, so no such injustice can occur again.  We understand that some good may come from all this. 

However, we don't want to talk about a bad call or how the event might change the way the game is officiated in the future.  We can take some pride in the way out pitcher and manager responded but we didn't want it to come to that either.

We can say that "we know Galarraga pitched a perfect game and that's all that matters".  It's not that simple though.  Baseball is a game of records and we can't truly relish the game if it's not official.  We just saw a perfect game but we really didn't.  We want to savor a once in a lifetime baseball event but we can't. 

We wish to discuss the details of Galarraga's outstanding performance.  We want to remember Austin Jackson's magnificent catch and everything else that goes along with a memorable game like this.  We try but all discourse leads back to "the call".  We are left confused and frustrated and don't really know what to think.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

What Else Happened Tonight?

The big story of the night was, of course, Armando Galarraga getting robbed of a perfect game by umpire Jim Joyce. We should be celebrating a perfect game right now but I talked about that in another post and I'm sure I'll have more to say later.  However,  I wanted to have a separate post to talk about the rest of the game.  Regardless of the outcome, it was still one of the best games pitched in the history of the Detroit Tigers. 

The Big Cat needed just 88 pitches to retire 28 Indians batters and only 21 of them were balls.  His fastball was zippier than usual - an average of 92.8 MPH with a maximum of 95 MPH (according to Brooks Baseball).  He generally averages 91 MPH.  His slider was superb all night.  He only struck out three but there were very few hard hit balls.  It was truly a masterful performance by the Tigers supposed fifth starter. 

There actually was one very tough out in the ninth.  Mark Grudzielanek hit a deep fly ball to left center field leading off the ninth inning.  Austin Jackson tracked it down and made an incredible running catch with his back to the plate.  It was a great play in any situation but, given the circumstances, it would have gone down as one of the greatest catches in Tigers history...if not for the blown call later in the inning.

Jackson also had three hits on the night, adding to his campaign for Rookie of the Year.  Miguel Cabrera hit his 15th homer of the year and had one other hit as he continues his MVP type season.  For a while, it looked like his second inning home run would be the only run scored as Indians starter Fausto Carmona held the Tigers to one run in seven innings.  The Tigers added two in the eighth on singles by Jackson, Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordonez and an error by Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.  The final was 3-0 Tigers.

But this night belonged to Galarraga.  Congratulations to Armando for retiring 28 batters in a row.

Galarraga was Robbed

I've been watching baseball for 43 years and I never complain about umps because I think bad calls even out over time.  However, calling Jason Donald safe at first base to rob Armando Galarraga of a perfect game was inexcusable.  That's the kind of situation where you call him out if it's close and it really wasn't that close. Jim Joyce flat out blew it.  A perfect game is a once in a lifetime event for a player, for a team and for a fan.  You can't blow a call in a situation like that.  I think it's something that Joyce will never live down.

I heard Milt Wilcox's near perfect game on the radio in 1983 when Jerry Hairston, Sr got a hit after the first 26 batters were retired.  Remembering that, I was thinking of all kinds of awful scenarios in my mind tonight.  Maybe there would be an error or a hit batsman or a bloop single.  Never did I think Galarraga would pitch a perfect game and get it taken away on a blown call.

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