Battle Won; Casualities Suffered.

With the way the season has gone, any Tigers fan had to love the idea of Justin Verlander taking the hill in the third game of a series when the team is going for a sweep. However, Verlander once again didn’t have his best stuff as the sweep was denied in Boston. He was reliant upon his fastball and it failed him to the tune of five runs over six innings along with seven walks allowed, a career-high. After allowing 13 hits to the Chicago White Sox on Friday, Verlander switched to a larger glove for this start for fear that he might have been tipping his pitches. I guess it wasn’t the glove. With two bombs in a row, Verlander is at a turning point with his next start. Did he just tip some pitches and “not have it” the past two? Or is he legitimately tired and in danger of doing serious damage each time he pitches from here on out? It goes without saying that the Tigers will have no chance of sustained postseason success without Verlander in the rotation. I think maybe another skipped start could do a rookie good.

The biggest casualty of the series win in Boston was second baseman Placido Polanco. According to Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus, Polanco should be out for about a month. Carroll writes the members-only Under the Knife column, so I’ll refrain from posting exactly what he says, but he mentions that Jim Leyland wouldn’t be definitive without advice from the medical professionals on the team and that when he does return, it will be his hitting that could suffer the most. Rumors of the team acquiring Mark Grudzielanek were squelched by a painfully bizarre contract extension for the aged 2nd sacker (credit: Mack Avenue Tigers). Ramon Santiago was recalled to fill the roster spot, meanwhile Omar Infante will play second base and Craig Monroe will likely bat second in Polanco’s absence. I’ll use Free Press writerJohn Lowe‘s description of what Polanco means to the Tigers because I think he sums it up very nicely, “As the second baseman and second-place hitter, Polanco is not the most powerful or spectacular part of the Tigers’ machine. He is more like the oil that keeps it going smoothly.” He rates as the toughest hitter to strikeout in baseball at one for every 17.4 at-bats, an asset on a team known for striking out.

Speaking of the team’s strikeout troubles, Buster Olney of ESPN.com blogged (Insider-Only) about the Tigers’ inability to work counts and wear out starting pitchers. Ranking 28th in walks and 6th in strikeouts, Olney suggests the team is not fit for October without some serious adjustments to plate patience. Frankly, he is right. I am confident that this team can get to the playoffs with the American League’s best record, but they need to stifle the free-swinging ways if they want to go deep into October. The power is there, the never-say-die attitude is there, but in an environment where things really tighten up, this team will need to take advantage of extra chances on base by drawing more walks and fanning less.

Staying with ESPN, a former favorite of mine that I believe fell off immensely is making a nice comeback. On the national scale, he didn’t fall out of favor, so it is more of a personal comeback. Bill Simmons‘ American League breakdown article from yesterday was vintage Simmons. He went away from his reliance on reality show/USWeekly jokes and droning on about a new ESPN 13 channel. Instead, he just broke down the American League with a delightful mix of well-done analysis and relevant humor. I was most impressed because I was not sure he would have a firm grasp of the goings-on of all 14 teams in the junior circuit, but he acquitted himself handily. He ranked the Tigers second, which I’m fine with and suggested that Joel Zumaya might be the league’s most intimidating reliever. He brings up something I never forget and that is the stroke of the luck the Tigers got when Juan Gonzalez said “no” to the ludicrous $150 million dollar offer:

“(Second-strangest thing about the Tigers: Six years ago, they offered Juan Gonzalez a $150 million contract that would have destroyed them for the rest of the decade if he wasn’t dumb enough to turn it down. It’s almost like the entire franchise had a near-death experience. Anyway, they took advantage of that second life and now they’re headed for 100 wins. … Meanwhile, Juan Gone is playing in the Independent League along with my buddy JackO’s pal from home, and after JackO drove to Jersey to catch one of his friend’s games, they stopped at a Subway for dinner afterwards, and who walked in but Juan Gonzalez? That’s right, the two-time MVP Juan proceeded to sit down at a table and eat a Subway sandwich by himself. These are the things that happen when you turn down a $150 million contract. I feel like you need to know these things.)”

There is no let up in the schedule for the Tigers after back-to-back series in Chicago and Boston. They are home for eight, but it is four apiece against Texas and then the White Sox again. The Rangers come in as winners of six of their last seven and feature a dangerous lineup. However, their staff is one that the Tigers can get to (and have, though back in April). The pitching matchups are as follows:

Thu, Aug 17—–6:05 pm CDT—–K.Rogers vs. E.Volquez
Fri, Aug 18—–6:05 pm CDT—–Z. Miner vs. K. Millwood
Sat, Aug 19—–6:05 pm CDT—–N. Robertson vs. J. Koronka
Sun, Aug 20—–12:05 pm CDT—–J. Bonderman vs. V. Padilla

According to Baseball Prospectus’ Stat of the Day, Todd Jones is the fourth most leveraged pitcher in the American League of those with 20 or more innings:

STAT OF THE DAY  
   
Top
5 Most Leveraged AL Relievers
Player Team LEV
Tyler Walker TBA 2.18
Jonathan
Papelbon
BOS 2.11
Mariano
Rivera
NYA 1.97
Todd Jones DET 1.94
Joe Nathan MIN 1.89

Given the way he has responded (or not responded), I’d say that this is a bad thing.

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