Series Preview in Blog: Detroit Tigers

The Twins came this close to sweeping the Mariners this weekend and getting back to even. .500 will have to wait at least two more games, and next up are the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers swept the Indians this weekend, with some fantastic pitching (see below) and some fantastic defense. I’m sure you’ve seen Curtis Granderson’s game-saving catch, but Granderson writes for Big League Stew and offered his thoughts on how improbable that catch really was.  Detroit is traveling to the Metrodome for the first time this year, and they are not terribly excited to be back in Minnesota.  Even though the Tigers have had some struggles in the Dome, here’s some thoughts on what they need to do to succeed in “Hubert Humphrey’s House of Horrors“.  Minnesota is 11-9 at home this season, Detroit comes in with a 9-8 road record.  The Tigers are in first place in the Central, tied with the Royals, and 3 games in front of the Twins.

This actually happened during the last Twins-Tigers series, but Carlos Guillen has struggled mightily this season and he was put on the 15-day DL, so he won’t be on the field this week.  This post points out that while Guillen was in the lineup he provided below average defense in addition to the lowest batting average of any AL Central left fielder (guess which AL Central LF has the highest BA?). Still, some can’t help but think that last year, Guillen would continued to be in the lineup, no matter how dinged up and ineffective he might have been.

A couple of historic links as well; pitch-tipping has been in the news recently (thanks, A-Rod!), which brought up this story from back in the day.  Secondly, I always enjoy reading people’s recollection of their childhood favorite players, especially when they were little known guys who just seemed to have fun with the game.

–PROBABLE PITCHERS–

The Tigers had absolutely phenomenal starting pitching this past weekend, Verlander, Porcello, and Jackson all had fantastic outings, so the Twins will have their work cut out to put some runs up on this staff.

Slowey v. A. Galarraga

Perkins v. D. Willis

Dontrelle Willis makes his return to the major leagues in this game.  He’s been progressing through the minor leagues so far this season, and it’s been a mixed bag of results (but do those results mean anything? You’ve got me).  It’s easy to think that Willis’ return to the big leagues was inevitable, Jim Leyland sounds like he is expecting him to hold his own, or else he may find himself back down in the minors.

Baker v. J. Verlander

Verlander has only allowed one earned run over his last three starts, which could be the result of the addition of a slider to his arsenal.  Verlander has only allowed four hits in his last two outings, so he’s going about as good as a pitcher can right now.  The Twins should see if they can score enough off of Willis that they can carry over some runs into this game.

Series Preview in Blog: Detroit Tigers

A quick two-game series in Detroit kicks off a short 4-game road trip for the Twins. Minnesota is 3-5 on the road (but 2-1 against teams that don’t have Sox as their team name [a-Soxual?]). After this series the Twins will have played one series against each team in the AL Central (they’re 4-5 thus far this year in the division). The Tigers come into the series finishing up an eight-game homestand which has seen a series loss to the Yankees and a series win over the Indians. Like the Twins the Tigers will complete their first circuit of the AL Central with this series (they sport a 5-3 divisional record thus far).  Actually, Detroit is in the middle of a 13-game stretch against only AL Central opponents.

–PROBABLE PITCHERS–

Liriano v. Edwin Jackson

In Jackson’s last start he went 6 innings without allowing a run against the Yankees.  He left with the game tied at 0-0, only to see his bullpen do things that no bullpen should ever do.  One inning later it was 10-0 Yankees, and the game was effectively over.  The big inning has plagued the Tigers this year, which is an incredibly frustrating plague to endure (not like locusts, locusts are a piece of cake compared to the plague of the defensive-miscue-resulting-in-big-innings-for-the-opposition).

Blackburn v. Rick Porcello

Porcello has started four games for the Tigers this year despite never pitching above high-A ball prior to the season.  He is the youngest player to appear in a game in the AL this season.  Predictably it hasn’t been a cakewalk for Porcello, or phellow phenom Ryan Perry (sometimes they just need a hug).  There are arguments on both sides (aren’t there always?) concerning the development of these young pitchers, and the post linked above and the companion poll seem to indicate that Tigers fans feel like he will probably spend some time in the minors this season, once everyone is healthy.  Hopefully the Twins can help him on his way back down to the farm.

Not pitching in this series (or for the Tigers at all this season so far) is Dontrelle Willis.  He’s still working his way back through the minor leagues, and his starts are getting mixed reviews (to put it nicely, calling someone AAA back of the rotation starter doesn’t really speak to much confidence in their ability to succeed in the bigs).

Series Preview in Blog: Detroit Tigers (4/14-4/15)

A short series with the Tigers starts off the week, two games in Detroit. After facing division leaders in their first four series of the season, the Twins now get the team with the worst record in baseball at 2-10. The Tigers are coming home after a road trip in which they dropped series to both colors of Sox. The 6-6 Twins wrap up a 7-game road trip, on which they are currently 3-2.

Knowing that the Twins and the Tigers would be meeting each other for a couple games this week, I decided to take advantage of the Tigers road trip to Chicago this weekend by attending Sunday’s game betwixt two of our central division foes. ((I didn’t bring the camera this time, so no photos, sorry.)) In that one game I think I have discovered the blueprint for defeating Detroit. ((Someone will probably point out that these conclusions, being drawn from only one game, probably should be taken with a grain of salt. I think it’s a pretty foolproof plan.))

Step 1: Hit the ball to Miguel Cabrera if at all possible. He failed to field a pop fly that landed about 5 feet from the third base bag (in fair territory) because he ran into the umpire (in foul territory). It looked like Cabrera broke in the absolute wrong direction and the umpire just didn’t expect him to be there.
Step 2: Throw strikes, but not all the time. Javier Vasquez made the Tigers’ offense look terrible, they swung and missed at strikes and non-strikes alike all day.
Step 3: Hit as many grand slams as possible. The Tigers seemed to be especially hurt by the two grand slams the Sox hit. (Note: this strategy may be similarly successful with other types of homeruns)

Continue reading

Series Preview in Blog: Detroit Tigers (Round 4)

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Minnesota Twins (49-43) vs. Detroit Tigers (54-36)

The Twins came out of the All-Star break on fire, sweeping Oakland in four games. They enter this series a season-high 6 games over .500, with six games remaining on the current homestand. The Tigers went into the break on a hot streak, 6-1 in July, but they come to the Metrodome after splitting four games in Seattle. The fact that Detroit didn’t win the road series is a bit of a rarity, they have won the last four road series and have a better record on the road, with a 29-17 mark away from the Motor City. That is the best road record in the majors (closest is Arizona at 27-20). The Twins’ home record improved dramatically over the last weekend to 26-20, which is nowhere near the best home record in the majors (Cleveland 33-13 holds that distinction).

I’m not looking for a war with Major League Baseball, but I have a problem that the minute anything happens, suddenly a suspension comes into play. I don’t think that’s right. There are going to be arguments. When you’re playing for big stakes, there are going to be arguments. If they want to take that away, let’s just go to Sunday school.

Jim Leyland, on Pudge’s impending suspension for contact with an umpire

Here’s one of the dangers of blogging. If you post something about the questions facing the team in the second half, there is always the chance that someone else will answer them on their own blog. Then, suddenly, someone else gives their opinions and calls you out. Then, of course, you have no recourse but to answer your own questions. All in all, every one of the three respondents were very wary of the Twins, despite the fact that they aren’t as close as Cleveland.

A little over a week ago, ubelmann looked at the Twins distribution of runs scored and runs allowed. In a similar vein, Billfer at the Detroit Tigers Weblog looks at the same distributions, and surprisingly, the Tigers score more and allow more than the Twins. My favorite quote from the entry was, “with runs allowed, one would expect the Tigers to have a 42.6-43.4 record given normal run support. So essentially without the strength of their offense they’d be a .500 team.” Detroit’s offense has been a strength all season long, and it has been starting with the leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson. He has been among the league leaders in extra base hits the entire season, and has already accumulated 16 triples. So many triples so quickly has drawn some attention, but looking at others who have hit a lot of triples in the first half, there may be a drop-off in the remainder of the season. Granderson doesn’t hit like a typical leadoff hitter. His OBP is lower than ideal, but all those extra-base hits could be a way to make up for that. Baseball Musings looked at the difference and decided that an on-base percentage point is worth more than a slugging percentage point.

Something that probably won’t affect the offense at all (in a negative fashion, anyway) is Neifi Perez’ suspension for testing positive for stimulants.

So now we’ve gone from Neifi!! being an occasional defensive help and a constant offensive wasteland to Neifi!! being little more than a dustbunny for the team. You know what I mean. Useless, a little gross, nobody quite knows how it got there, and you really just want to sweep it back under the bed from whence it came.
– Roar of the Tigers

Probably one of the main reasons for the difficulty the Tigers have had in preventing runs has been the fact that it has been a revolving door of pitchers on the club due to injury, promotions, demotions, and trades. Overall, the Tigers have lost about $5M in salary to the disabled list from their pitching staff alone. A majority of that comes from Kenny Rogers missing almost half the season, so that number may be a bit inflated for effect.

Starting Pitchers for the next three days:

Matt Garza vs. Nate Robertson

Garza makes his second start of the ’07 season after his successful debut against the White Sox. Nate Robertson makes his fourth start after coming off the DL. In his last three starts he has gone 1-0, with just over 5 innings per start and an ERA of 4.32. Robertson has his own blog, and he is certainly maintaining a positive attitude about his return to the team and just about everything else.

I couldn’t decide on a favorite Santana image, so you decide: Deranged St. Nick is from Stop Mike Lupica, while the much more cuddly monster is from Roar of the Tigers

Johan Santana vs. Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller represents the second lefty in a row Detroit will throw at the Twins. Minnesota has had a little more trouble with left-handed starters (4.52 R/9) than right-handed starters (5.32 R/9), scoring almost a full run less per nine innings. Counter to that trend, the Twins scored 6 runs off of Miller in 5 innings the last time they met, which has been by far Miller’s worst start of his season. He has earned the decision in all seven of his starts.

Scott Baker vs. Jeremy Bonderman

Once again the series finale will pit Baker against Bonderman. The last time these two met, Baker was excellent, but Bonderman was just one run better as the Tigers avoided a sweep, winning 1-0. Hopefully the Twins find themselves in a similar position coming into the game and get a similarly outstanding performance from Baker, and I’ll take my chances that the offense puts enough runs on the board.

Finally, Gary Sheffield has made some comments recently about steroids, Barry Bonds, and Joe Torre’s treatment of specific players on the Yankees. If you’re interested, here’s some background on the Torre situation, using stories from Sheff’s book to dissect the situation. For the lighter side of the interview, look to Sheffield’s definition of steroids.

Series Preview in Blog: Detroit Tigers (Round 3)

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Minnesota Twins (40-37) @ Detroit Tigers (46-31)

The Twins finished their short homestand with a win on Thursday to give them a series split with Toronto. They begin a 10-day, 11-game road trip with a weekend series against the Tigers. The Twins currently have an 18-17 record on the road. After this series, Minnesota heads into the All-Star break with four-games against the Yankees and four more against the White Sox. The Tigers found their four-game series against Texas shortened to three with a rainout on Wednesday. Before the rainout, the Tigers had lost the first two games, but they rebounded on Thursday to avoid a sweep behind a good outing from Kenny Rogers. Before this series the Tigers blew through the National League with an 8-1 road trip in interleague play. The Tigers are in the midst of a long homestand, as they have 12 games against the Rangers, Twins, Indians, and Red Sox. That will even things out a bit, as before the current homestand the Tigers had played 10 more games on the road than at home (19-16 record at Comerica). The Tigers currently stand in first place in the AL Central, one half game ahead of Cleveland, and six games ahead of the Twins. All things considered, it’s a good time to be a Tigers fan.

According to this guy, the Tigers have a couple of sure Hall of Famers in their lineup, and there are a few others who may get a look currently in the AL Central.

Detroit has been scoring runs at a very impressive pace so far this season. Coming into the season, the Tigers offense was believed to be pretty potent, but thus far they have surpassed all expectations. In fact, in addition to some impressive streaks, several players are on record-setting paces. It’s good to know that even with all the success, there are still some hitters that can be had.

Fortunately the Twins won’t have to worry about Gary Sheffield for two of the three games in this series.

The Tigers are throwing some successful pitchers at the Twins. The three Tigers starters have a record of 20-4 with a 3.25 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 33 starts. They have averaged 6 1/3 innings pitched per start.

The series opens with the marquee matchup, Johan Santana vs. Justin Verlander (9-2, 2.78). Verlander has only allowed four runs over his last four starts, which include two shutouts and one no-hitter, with all the requisite superstitions being observed. The Twins handed him one of his two losses in his shortest start this season back in April (3.0 IP, 5 R, 8 H, 0 SO).

Saturday afternoon Kevin Slowey will take on Andrew Miller (3-1, 2.70), who has four starts this season, all against the National League. Miller replaced Chad Durbin in the rotation, and even though he’s had some success so far (two starts with 0 runs allowed), people are pleading caution with his development.

Scott Baker will pitch the finale on Sunday night opposite Jeremy Bonderman (8-1, 3.90). Bonderman went 4-1 in June despite allowing 4 runs per start with an ERA of 4.99. Bonderman will be attempting to get back to a .500 record for his career, after a very rough start.

While the starting pitching has been solid, the bullpen has been the source of some gnashing of teeth. The Tigers have taken some steps to adress their issues, the aforementioned moving of Chad Durbin from the rotation to the bullpen, as well as the callup of Eulogio De La Cruz. In addition, Wilfredo Ledezma was traded to the Braves for Macay McBride. There is some debate as to whether this actually helped the Tigers very much.


Verlander taking the new guy under his wing (from Roar of the Tigers)

Todd Jones has been a target of a lot of the bullpen criticism, although he still has the manager’s confidence. And, really, his problems are all very simple, once they are properly explained.

That’s a lot of words about one bullpen. It might be simpler to understand the Tigers relief corps through some mind-altering drugs.

Finally, the Tigers recently traded Mike Maroth, who is, without a doubt, one of the classiest major leaguers out there. He suffered through the losing years and, because of injury, didn’t get to fully share in the successes of last year. Now this year he found himself the odd man out of a good rotation, but still took the time to thank Detroit fans on his blog (June 23rd entry). It hasn’t been decided who Maroth has been traded for, but here’s a novel approach to name the ever popular ‘player to be named later’.

Series Preview in Blog: Detroit Tigers (Round 2)

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Well you’ve all been very patient, and, since you’ve been so well behaved, I’ll make good on my promise to you from last time. Here’s one of the many hilarious hijinks that ensue when a Twins fan and a Tigers fan share the same office. The baseball season had just started, and I was feeling the need to remind our poor misguided Tigers supporter that he had lost, in spectacular fashion, the friendly wager we had agreed to the previous year. When he stepped out of the office for a moment early one morning, I siezed the opportunity to change his desktop wallpaper to the following image:

Now, I have to take a moment to explain how the email system works for our offices. There are the standard person to person emails, but also the “list-serve” emails that go out to the whole group. When one sends an email to the “list-serve”, all subsequent replies to this email are also sent out to the whole group via the same mechanism. No doubt, many of you can see where this is going. Our erstwhile Tigers fan returned to his desk to find his desktop altered and he was so enraged that he sent an email intended for me that contained only two words, the first of which I won’t repeat here, the second of which was ‘you’. Of course he had replied to an email that I had sent the entire group, and so when everyone (including our boss) came into work that morning, they had a little bit of a surprise waiting for them in their inbox. Fortunately, the Michiganite realized his mistake immediately and sent a preemptive apology shortly after the initial email. Since there were no serious consequences of this (other than a reprimand from the boss) I have to say that this caper worked out almost as well as I could have possibly hoped.


At least my co-worker’s email was spelled correctly (from Lookout Landing)

After this series, the Twins don’t play Detroit again until the end of June, so I’ll have to instigate something else by then so I can relay it on to you all.

Minnesota Twins (17-17) v. Detroit Tigers (21-12)

The Tigers come to the Metrodome having won 9 of their last 10, including an eight game winning streak that started with Brandon Inge’s walkoff HR versus Jesse Crain and was snapped on Wednesday. That stretch included sweeps of the Orioles and Royals as well as their series victory over Seattle earlier this week. The Twins have not been as hot recently, losing their last three series to the Devil Rays and the Sox of both colors. Detroit currently holds a half-game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central while the Twins are 4.5 back in fourth place. It would be great to see the Twins scratch out some victories here and stay close to the top in the division. The Tigers are 11-5 on the road, and have won 4 straight outside of Michigan. The Twins are 9-11 at home and need a sweep here to get above .500 at the Dome before their 9-game road trip begins on Tuesday.

On to the Bengals:

First off, there’s been a lot of discussion of Joel Zumaya due to his upcoming lengthy stint on the disabled list. Not that he asked, but I would suggest he use that free time brushing up on his thespian skills.

Everyone weighed in on the Zumaya injury. First of all, Zumaya hasn’t pitched that well thus far this year, so the impact is less than it might have been at some other point in time. Of course, this reminds everyone of Zumaya’s injury last year, supposedly caused by the video game “Guitar Hero”. It seems unlikely that he made the same mistake twice, but there are other video game options out there. Here’s a rundown of who will be taking his spot in the bullpen while he’s out. For the coolest illustrations of what possible injuries, this is the place to go.

The last link in that paragraph is to Roar of the Tigers, which has some of the best graphics that accompany each entry, I couldn’t decide on one to add to this post, so make sure you check some of them out. There is also a photojournal of Roar of the Tigers operator Samara spending the day at Comerica Park watching the Twins and Tigers in their series finale earlier this season. (included is a pretty good picture of Torii’s fat lip)

Here is a rundown of the entire Tigers team after 30 games. First the pitchers, then the hitters. If you’re wondering who the “Black Hole of Suck” is, it’s this guy. Curtis Granderson got good reviews in that article, and some Tiger’s fans are beginning to compare him to other elite center fielders in the AL Central. Also hitting well thus far is Magglio Ordonez, who apparently isn’t the superstitious type. After a monster April with his long flowing locks growing ever more untamable, he cut his hair last week. This was a big enough news event to occasion some comment and even made it into this illustrious compendium of baseball writing (no doubt a highlight for Mags).

“Pudge Rodriguez is one of the most touchy-feely catchers in the majors. More than anyone playing today, when he goes out to the mound, he’s likely to be grabbin’ at his pitchers. And because he’s Pudge and he’s been in the league for 60 years, he does it right.”
-Samara Pearlstein @ Roar of the Tigers

Even disregarding his pitcher handling (get it?) prowess, there isn’t really a capable backup for Pudge right now (Mike Rabelo has little to no bat). What will the Tigers do when Pudge is gone? Right now it doesn’t look so good in the farm system.

The Twins will face Mike Maroth, who equaled Santana last time they met, Chad Durbin, and Jeremy Bonderman, who has been suffering from Brad Radke disease thus far this season (Opponents are hitting .424/.441/.697 in the first inning).

Speaking of the first inning, the Tigers are saving their excitement for either very early or very late in games. They are scoring more in the first and ninth than they did last year, and giving up more runs in the first and ninth as well. So if the Twins can just get through that first inning (right, Mr. Ortiz?) they should be alright.

Finally, here’s one blogger’s attempt to equate the Detroit Tigers roster with the characters of Homestar Runner. If you’re not familiar with Homestar Runner (in which case, I’m with you) here’s a reference, so now you can appreciate the jokes.

Series Preview in Blog: Detroit Tigers

This post is also published at Stick and Ball Guy’s site. Stop by and check out what SBG Nation has to say.

Hypothetically, let’s say I have a co-worker from Michigan who is a Tiger’s fan. And let’s say that in March of 2006 he offered a small wager that the Tigers would finish with a better record than the Twins. If he had offered that, I would have accepted without batting an eye (easiest $5 I could have made, right?). Imagine that, and then imagine the cocky overconfidence that surely would have taken over this co-worker in June, followed by the disbelief when the Tigers were swept by the KC Royals on the last weekend of the season. If this wager had happened, I would still keep the note that accompanied my theoretical $5 (“Here’s your money, go to hell”) on my desk at work. For the next Tigers series, remind me and I’ll tell you how this same co-worker accidentally sent a profane email to our whole office because of the Tigers/Twins rivalry…

Minnesota Twins (12-10) @ Detroit Tigers (12-9)

More AL Central madness on tap this weekend with the Twins first series this season against the Detroit Tigers. Minnesota snapped their four game losing streak by scratching out a 1-0 win in 11 innings over Kansas City yesterday. Detroit returns home after a road trip consisting of a two game split with Anaheim and a win over Chicago before being rained out yesterday afternoon. The Tigers are 4-4 at home thus far this season, while the Twins are 5-3 on the road.

Since this series takes place in Detroit, all the Tigers’ hitters will come to the plate with their own entrance music playing. A full recap and rating of the starting nine’s musical stylings is provided by Mickey Tettleton Memorial Overpass.

I don’t think he meant to, but this guy is clearly mocking the Twins offensive struggles.

There are a couple of Tigers with their own blogs. Curtis Granderson has a blog at ESPN, and he’s done an excellent job thus far, discussing life on the road as well as his own perspective on the Jackie Robinson anniversary. I enjoyed almost all of his entries, and recommend you give them a read. Nate Robertson blogs for MLB.com and he’s dicussed several topics, including changes in his facial hair.

A turn through the lineup consists of an outfield of Monroe, Granderson, and Ordonez. Gary Sheffield starts most games as the DH, but was given a spot on the all star ballot as a Tigers outfielder. This meant Granderson could not be fit onto the ballot, which seems unfair, given the start he’s off to. Sheffield, on the other hand has struggled early in the season, but you have to think he’ll come around. Brandon Inge starts at third, and he has had an atrocious start to the season. In fact, he may be the only third baseman in the league with a lower batting average than Nick Punto. He’s not the only infielder who’s struggled, Sean Casey is also off to a terrible start, but even then no one deserves this. Carlos Guillen, who may be playing hurt, and Placido Polanco, whose been the most consistent hitter thus far, round out the infield. Ivan Rodriguez remains behind the plate for Detroit.

We won’t see Jeremy Bonderman this series, but he’s had five starts this season without a decision. The first four starts this worked against him, as he pitched extremely well with nothing to show for it. Last time out, however, it took quite the comeback in order to get him off the hook. Even if he felt he deserved the loss, he’s still stuck at 0-0.

The Twins will see Nate Robertson, Justin Verlander, and Mike Maroth as the three starters this weekend. In their last starts these three combined to walk 12 batters in 18 innings. Hopefully the Twins will learn a little patience and exploit that this weekend.

The bullpen has Jason Grilli and Fernando Rodney, with Wilfredo Ledezma and Bobby Seay as lefties, and Todd Jones as the closer. Rodney has had a rough go of it so far this year, collecting 4 losses and allowing a run in five of his nine appearances. Last but not least is fireballer Joel Zumaya, who is the subject of this unconventional scouting report.

Finally, even in the internet world it’s possible to suffer from foot-in-mouth syndrome. Read the entry, then the disclaimer at the end. Whoops.

OTHER DETROIT BLOGS:
http://www.dailyfungo.com/
http://detroittigertales.blogspot.com/