Archive for July, 2006

Sunday: 07.30.2006

Game 3: Santana v. Bonderman

After taking the first two games of the series, the Tigers get to face Johan Santana while going for the sweep. Things aren’t much easier for the Twins as Jeremy Bonderman toes the rubber for Detroit. Powered by seven hits from the first three hitters in the order (Granderson, Polanco & Monroe), the Tigers jumped out to a 6-0 lead yesterday. Nate Robertson and Joel Zumaya labored through the seventh inning as the Twins drew within one. Dmitri Young took Pat Neshek deep in the eighth inning to give the Tigers a much-needed insurance run. They added another in the top of the ninth and Todd Jones slammed the door gently moved the door into a closed position for the 8-6 win after allowing three hits and a run to raise his earned run average to 4.97.

Young has been white-hot since his return to the team. In seven games, he has posted a .400/.429/.760 line with three home runs and seven runs batted in. If he continues to hit, the Tigers will have to juggle at-bats between Young, Monroe and Thames unless one of them is moved today or tomorrow in a trade. Monroe has auditioned nicely in July as well with a .341/.353/.585 line in 21 games with three home runs and 16 runs batted in. Meanwhile, Thames has struggled mightily for the first time all season. Production from Young alleviates the primary need of a left-handed hitter, but a seven game sample isn’t going to convince anyone that he will put up numbers for the next two months.

I expect some type of move from the Tigers, but not necessarily the blockbuster for Bobby Abreu or Alfonso Soriano. The Tigers added a hitter to the bench from the farm with Brent Clevlen being called up as reported at the Detroit Tigers Weblog. In terms of the choice, it is a bit of surprise that Clevlen won out given his season, but as Billfer points out it is likely because of his place on the 40-man roster.

With two-of-three locked up, the Tigers have won their sixth straight series. They are going for their first series sweep since back-to-back series sweeps of St. Louis and Houston in late June.

The weekends are very casual at work and as such I’m rocking the Tigers jersey today to hopefully bring home the sweep.

Friday: 07.28.2006

Detroit v. Minnesota

With the emergence of the Tigers in 2006 and the re-emergence of the Twins within the 2006 season, the AL Central remains one of the most hotly contested divisions in all of baseball. Three of baseball’s best teams reside within it including the World Champion Chicago White Sox. With two of the game’s best pitchers and a resurgent back half of the rotation, the Twins have pushed themselves into the heart of the wildcard race. The Tigers face the best of the best in Minnesota including a tilt against Francisco Liriano tonight. After Brad Radke pitches Saturday, the Tigers face baseball’s best pitcher in Johan Santana on Sunday afternoon. While I don’t know the exact scheduling rules that ESPN adheres to, I’m sure they could have somehow featured this game on Sunday Night Baseball as opposed to the Florida-Philadelphia battle for futility.

Offensively speaking, Joe Mauer takes most of the Minnesota press with his gaudy batting average and on-base percentage. Not enough is made of how Justin Morneau turned his season around to the point where he is delivering average and on-base in addition to his incredible power.

Morneau By Month:
Apr – .208/.274/.416 5 HR, 15 RBI
May – .274/.333/.505 5 HR, 21 RBI
Jun – .364/.400/.737 10 HR, 29 RBI
Jul – .393/.418/.702 7 HR, 19 RBI

Morneau is hitting .377 since June 1st with 17 home runs. Incredibly, Ron Gardenhire insists on batting him fifth when he should clearly be batting cleanup despite the lefty-lefty combo of he and Mauer. Twins guru Aaron Gleeman has felt the same way since mid-July.

As a team, the Twins are hitting over .300 in July (.317) and getting on base at a .368 clip. Nick Punto is in the midst of an 18-game hitting streak in which he is hitting .390 with a .452 on-base percentage. Jason Tyner has come out of nowhere to contribute 18 hits in 51 at-bats (.353) and even Rondell White has exploded with a 1.043 OPS in 11 July games. Imagine if the team were healthy. Currently, Torii Hunter, Lew Ford and Shannon Stewart are all on the disabled list forcing performances from the likes of Tyner and White.

I actually have to cut this a tad short because of work, but here are the pitching matchups for the huge series:

Fri, Jul 28 7:10 pm CDT—F.Liriano vs. Z.Miner
Sat, Jul 29 6:10 pm CDT—B. Radke vs. N. Robertson
Sun, Jul 30 1:10 pm CDT—J. Santana vs. J. Bonderman

Despite the tough pitching matchups, the Tigers will win this series as they gear up for what is sure to be an exciting August and September. I’ll be sure to try and check in during the weekend. GO TIGERS!!!!!!

Thursday: 07.27.2006

An Off-Day

The Tigers have an off today and currently hold an 8.5 game lead over the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins. Well over a month ago, I mentioned that with Francisco Liriano and Johan Santana, the Twins couldn’t languish near the bottom of the American League Central for very long. Now, they find themselves tied with the White Sox and just a half game back of the New York Yankees for the AL Wildcard. My lunch break is nearing an end, but I’ll be back with a preview of the huge weekend set against the Twins, in Minnesota that starts tomorrow.

Friday: 07.21.2006

Two of Three from Sox.

The Tigers finally tamed the South Siders by taking two of three and allowing them just three runs in the final two games after giving up seven in the first. Kenny Rogers went six strong before turning it over to Joel Zumaya and Todd Jones as the Tigers extended their Central Division lead to five and a half games with a 2-1 win. It was the second loss in a row for Chicago’s Jose Contreras after winning 17 without losing. It was also the eighth straight start of Rogers’ that the Tigers have won.

BBP posterboy Marcus Thames‘ take out slide of Tadahito Iguchi has been labeled the play of the game that allowed the Tigers to get the lead in the 7th inning. A double play would have ended the inning, instead Chris Shelton ‘s RBI double turned out to be the difference. The Tigers are now 3-6 against the White Sox after being swept in an early season series in Detroit. The two teams have 10 more games against each other including a three game set in Chicago September 18th-20th. Next is a three-game set against Oakland in Detroit before hitting the road for 10.

Trade Winds
Nothing particularly new on the Alfonso Soriano dealings. It seems that the Nationals are asking for the world and being rebuffed at this point. Bobby Abreu no longer appears to be on the team’s radar with focus shifted to Soriano. The Toronto Blue Jays recently designated Shea Hillenbrand for assignment, but given the fact that the incident was related to personality, I’m not too eager to add a cancer to this clubhouse. Plus, the Tigers are primarily looking for a left-handed bat, which Hillenbrand is not. Nor is Soriano, but he has the luxury of being Alfonso Soriano!!! Jon Paul Morosi mentions Sean Casey, David Dellucci and Matt Stairs as potential options should the Soriano talks reach an impasse. I think this current incarnation of the team is fully capable of a stretch run, so I won’t be terribly angry if they don’t make a move.

Young Returns
Dmitri Young is scheduled to return to the team very soon, but questions regarding where and when he will play remain. I think a Sunday afternoon, Monday or Thursday spot start is the best he can hope for right. The only place to put him is the DH/LF area and you can’t take Thames out of the lineup outside of a rest here and there. Craig Monroe, the hero of the Chicago series, has been swinging a big bat in July out in left, so it’s tough to remove him. He did leave Thursday’s game with pain in his right leg, but it doesn’t appear to be serious at this point. Even still, I might prefer Alexis Gomez to Young if Monroe can’t go. Gomez is 14 for his last 46 spanning 32 games in June and July.

Down on the Farm

Double-A Erie shortstop Tony Giarratano will have season-ending surgery Monday for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Giaratanno, who played briefly for the Tigers in 2005, hit .263 with no homers and 19 RBIs.

Thursday: 07.20.2006

Monroe Grand in Win.

Craig Monroe‘s fifth inning grand slam propelled the Tigers to a 5-2 win on Wednesday night making today’s afternoon game the rubber match. Jeremy Bonderman went just over seven strong with two mistakes to Joe Crede and Juan Uribe. I’m off to work, but I’ll have more on this afternoon’s game and the trade rumors for the Tigers when I get home tonight.

Tuesday: 07.18.2006

Soriano Update

Some names have been attached to the Alfonso Soriano talks in today’s Free Press. Jon Paul Morosi reports that the Washington Nationals initially wanted Cameron Maybin, but that Tigers (wisely) declined. The prime candidate now is Humberto Sanchez. Sanchez is 10-5 between Erie and Toledo with a 2.89 earned run average with 121 strikeouts against 41 walks. Prospects Brent Clevlen and Jair Jurrjens are the two other names that Morosi mentions.

Monday: 07.17.2006

Angels Ascending.

Featured in July 8th Newsletter:

At the Break…

by Paul Sporer

At 41-45, to say the Los Angeles Angels have been a disappointment is as obvious as it is an understatement. Not to be outdone by the Minnesota Twins, the Angels have decided to spot the entire American League West the first half. Unlike the Twins, they aren’t stuck battling two of baseball’s best and as such, they are just four games back of the division leading Oakland A’s. The team is finally starting to show that they are in fact interested in winning this season starting with the selection of the right Weaver (Jered) for their rotation. His brother, Jeff, was moved this week to the St. Louis Cardinals for a Mark McGwire commemorative button. But even still, they are still a few moves from putting their best foot forward in this division race.

First off, they need to get Howie Kendrick back on this team immediately. He is once again crushing the competition in Triple-A ball and does the team no good down there. He is currently sporting a .369/.409/.627 batting line with 13 home runs, five triples and 25 doubles. He is also 11-for-14 in stolen bases. They currently have Adam Kennedy filling the second baseman’s role, and while he is solid in his right, there is no reason to let him block Kendrick. Kennedy is hitting .260/.317/.355 which does nothing to help a team that painfully struggles to score enough runs for their rotation.

Something needs to be done about Garret Anderson, too. If they are truly serious about competing at a high level, then his at-bats need to be cut. He has been utter garbage since his hot April. He has just three home runs in 194 at-bats after hitting four in 94 April at-bats. He has not come anywhere near his .309/.356/.511 April line, either. If they aren’t going to take him out of the lineup more (and they probably won’t) they at least need to drop him in the lineup in favor of Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera.

One move that has worked out beautifully for the team was the promotion of Napoli. His 11 home runs, in just 135 at-bats, give him the second-most on the team (Vladimir Guerrero, 18). Speaking of Guerrero, he is having a “down” year by his standards meaning improvement is expected on his .304/.346/.514 line. Add Kendrick, shuffle Anderson, getting continued production out of Orlando Cabrera, Napoli, Robb Quinlan, Rivera, and Tim Salmon with some improved second half numbers from Guerrero and this team can make a move, because the pitching is there.

With Weaver, Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey, and Ervin Santana, the Angels throw five guys that can all pitch a shutout on any given night. Meanwhile, rubber-armed Scot Shields and his supporting cast of Hector Carrasco, Brendan Donnelly, and Kevin Gregg all leading to ace closer Francisco Rodriguez anchor the bullpen. The Angels, not the Texas Rangers, should be the biggest worry of the Oakland A’s for the second half.

That piece was written during their second of three straight wins against the Athletics. Coupled with their post-All Star sweep of the Devil Rays, they have won six straight and nine of 10 to pull within 1.5 games of Oakland. Oakland handled their own taking three of four from the Boston Red Sox including two routs over the weekend to prevent the Angels from gaining too much ground.

The Angels got one of their keys to success down by recalling Kendrick, unfortunately it only came about because Escobar hit the disabled list. In his first major league game since a stint in early May, Kendrick when 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. The catalyst, as expected, has been Guerrero. In just 11 July games, he topped his June home run total of three. He is hitting .422 in July with four home runs and 12 runs batted in. Though I called him out last week, Anderson has answered the bell in nine July games, hitting .333 and getting on-base at a .450 clip.

It remains to be seen how long they’ll stay hot, but in terms of pure talent, this team was too good to be playing so poorly. The rest of the rotation should be able to pick up the slack while Escobar is out, but Lackey may decide to pick it all up on his own. He has thrown 24.7 straight scoreless innings and won his last four decisions with a 0.82 ERA, 0.58 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 32.7 innings. His 2.69 trails just Francisco Liriano (2.12) in the American League and Brandon Webb (2.58) in the National League for the Earned Run Average Crown.

Next up for the Angels are the struggling Indians, who were dumped for three of four against the Minnesota Twins coming out of the All-Star Break. The series presents a perfect opportunity for the team to remain hot before entering back-to-back to road series’ against Kansas City and Tampa Bay before getting Boston and Oakland to close out July.

Saturday: 07.15.2006

Soriano to Detroit?

Enjoying a rare day off, I was watching the New York Yankees obliterate the Chicago White Sox on FOX. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were talking with Ken Rosenthal. The discussion focused around the Yankees and what they would or wouldn’t do at the break. GM Brian Cashman has been adamant that they are not going to gut the farm system for deadline help. Rosenthal said the Mets, Yankees and Red Sox were players for Bobby Abreu. Then Buck put Rosenthal on the spot asking where Alfonso Soriano would end up. His answer? The Detroit Tigers. He said although the Tigers would love left-handed help, specifically Abreu, he just had a feeling that Soriano would end being their lineup help. Soriano has been excellent in his first season with the Washington Nationals hitting .275/.344/.559 with 27 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Jon Paul Morosi of the Detroit Free Press wrote about Soriano yesterday, but was less optimistic about the chances of him ending up in Detroit.

Wednesday: 07.12.2006

Pace Game III

The Detroit Tigers are baseball’s best team with a 59-29 record on July 12th, 2006. Even if I had had the audacity to predict something like that back in March, I don’t know if I’d have even believed myself. I know that the people I talk to about baseball on a day-to-day basis would have laughed me out of the room. Nevertheless, the Tigers have shown that they are not only contenders, but a force to be reckoned with in the American League Central. A lot can happen in 74 games and things will shuffle amongst several teams from now until the July 31st trading dealine, but I like the direction this team is headed in, both now and in the future.

Here is my third look at the pace of the offense for 2006:

Curtis Granderson 160 609 105 169 37 7 20 79 87 179 13 7 0.278 0.366 0.462 0.829
Magglio Ordonez 153 591 87 184 29 0 29 114 48 88 2 6 0.312 0.362 0.511 0.873
Placido Polanco 138 587 72 168 28 0 6 59 20 41 2 4 0.285 0.318 0.361 0.679
Ivan Rodriguez 134 556 77 171 29 6 13 72 22 85 6 2 0.308 0.335 0.450 0.786
Carlos Guillen 156 556 92 166 48 4 18 96 72 90 22 9 0.298 0.379 0.497 0.875
Chris Shelton 158 554 74 156 22 7 29 77 50 156 2 4 0.282 0.348 0.508 0.857
Brandon Inge 156 541 81 120 29 4 31 87 46 145 6 7 0.221 0.281 0.463 0.743
Craig Monroe 138 495 81 122 31 0 24 77 24 120 2 4 0.245 0.280 0.454 0.733
Marcus Thames 112 372 72 110 31 0 31 64 41 88 2 2 0.297 0.373 0.634 1.006
Omar Infante 63 199 26 52 9 4 4 22 9 46 2 2 0.259 0.304 0.398 0.702
Vance Wilson 55 162 22 48 13 0 7 24 0 35 0 4 0.295 0.319 0.511 0.830
Alexis Gomez 74 140 24 39 6 2 2 11 7 28 7 0 0.276 0.313 0.382 0.694
Ramon Santiago 53 114 15 22 0 2 0 2 2 22 2 0 0.194 0.219 0.226 0.445
Dmitri Young 28 109 9 18 6 0 0 7 7 33 2 0 0.169 0.222 0.220 0.443
162 5648 838 1550 322 35 215 793 436 1180 68 50 0.274 0.330 0.458 0.788

Four players are on pace to top 25 home runs, including Brandon Inge at 31. Inge’s other numbers aren’t very good at all, but he continues to deliver big power at the bottom of the lineup. Surprisingly, just one player is on pace for 100+ runs batted in. Magglio Ordonez has been able to stay healthy and is producing just as the team had hoped when they signed him from the Chicago White Sox last year. He has already played one more game than he played all of last year. Ordonez is battling Carlos Guillen for the offensive MVP of the team and if both kept at their current pace, I’d be inclined to hand Guillen the prize. He is just two games away from matching his 2005 total. The health of these two have been every bit as instrumental in the team’s success as the excellent pitching. I have to make the standard comment about Curtis Granderson‘s exorbitant strikeout total. Obviously, I don’t like it, but you can’t say enough about what he has done as the team’s leadoff man this year.

Chris Shelton weathered a horrible June and has started out July very nicely putting him on pace for a very solid season after his white-hot April. One thing I’d love to see improve in the second half is Placido Polanco‘s plate patience. The .318 on-base percentage he currently sports is his lowest since a 94-game stint with St. Louis in 2002 (.316). Given that he has a full-time job now, Marcus Thames‘ numbers remain skewed because he could play as many as 20 more games than his 112 pace. Pacing is by no means a perfect science. I’d like to see some separation in Thames’ home runs and RBI totals.

How about the pitching?

Jeremy Bonderman 33 33 15 7 0 0 219 197 85 85 11 55 204 8.35 1.14 3.46
Nate Robertson 33 33 15 9 0 0 212 203 79 90 24 75 144 6.09 1.31 3.36
Kenny Rogers 33 33 20 6 0 0 210 203 90 96 28 50 120 5.10 1.19 3.85
Justin Verlander 31 31 18 7 0 0 203 179 68 72 20 61 127 5.61 1.17 3.01
Mike Maroth 17 17 9 4 0 0 88 103 35 37 15 28 41 4.13 1.48 3.56
Joel Zumaya 66 0 7 2 2 37 79 50 18 20 9 37 99 11.22 1.08 2.08
Zach Miner 13 13 11 2 0 0 77 70 22 26 7 24 53 6.21 1.21 2.57
Fernando Rodney 68 0 7 6 13 18 75 50 31 42 7 41 77 9.22 1.20 3.73
Todd Jones 61 0 2 9 42 0 63 77 41 41 6 13 20 2.91 1.44 5.82
Jason Grilli 46 0 0 2 0 9 52 52 22 24 4 26 18 3.14 1.47 3.77
Roman Colon 22 2 2 0 2 6 45 52 24 24 9 15 31 6.20 1.46 4.74
Jamie Walker 52 0 0 0 0 13 44 31 6 6 6 4 37 7.50 0.79 1.13
Bobby Seay 26 0 0 0 0 0 28 26 20 20 2 17 22 7.04 1.50 6.46
Jordan Tata 13 0 0 0 0 0 26 17 11 13 2 13 11 3.86 1.14 3.86
Chris Spurling 17 0 0 0 0 0 20 24 7 7 4 7 7 3.18 1.50 3.18
Wilfredo Ledezma 11 0 2 0 0 4 6 4 0 2 0 2 4 5.40 0.90 0.00
Tigers 162 162 109 53 59 87 1454 1335 560 604 153 466 1016 6.29 1.24 3.46

Few were more critical of the Kenny Rogers than myself. This blog was not yet in existence, but I was livid. I’m here to say that I was (obviously) wrong. Rogers started for the American League All-Stars last night and is on pace for 20 wins. His 2nd half durability is a question mark after a hot start in 2005, but at least some of his fall off could be attributed to the camera man incident. Even if he doesn’t win 20 games, he has been a true asset to this staff.

Justin Verlander has been one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball this year, but Jim Leyland appears to be set on not over-extending his prized rookie. In fact, Verlander won’t start again until July 18th. Despite his amazing success, he might not even win Rookie of the Year in the American League because of division opponent, Francisco Liriano. I’d rather Leyland protect the arm for the future (and maybe playoffs) than run him out there to accumulate stats for some award.

How great has Zach Miner been? Mike Maroth was pitching remarkably well before going down with an elbow problem and Miner has filled in beautifully. I don’t he can be expected to continue with a 2.57 earned run average, but if he can give six-plus innings and get the game to the bullpen with a lead, he will make plenty of fans happy. I haven’t even mentioned Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson, who have both been excellent this season. Bonderman is really showing that he has the stuff to be an elite pitching moving forward. His starts have been an absolute treat to watch.

Finally, I’ll just say that Joel Zumaya is the man. Hardly groundbreaking, insightful information but what more needs to be said of him and his greatness? I can’t wait to watch this team come out for the 2nd half and I look forward to seeing how they maintain and deal with their early success during the dog days of summer. I think a few moves, though maybe nothing major, are in forthcoming, but we’ll just have to see how the next 19 days play out.

Tuesday: 07.11.2006

All-Star Break!!

Work’s been sucking up my time of late, but I’m not going anywhere. I’ll do an All-Star Game Pace Game today or tomorrow and talk about the team going forward. I’ll also probably have a few things to say about tonight’s game after I watch it when I get home from work.