Archive for ‘Playoffs’

Thursday: 10.5.2006

Mr. Rodriguez, Meet Mr. Zumaya

The at-bat between Alex Rodriguez and Joel Zumaya this afternoon was absolutely awesome. It was Rodriguez’s third strikeout of the day and just an awful day altogether for the beleaguered superstar. As I mentioned earlier, I’m beginning to think that if things don’t change for A-Rod, he might find himself in another uniform next Spring. I just don’t know how much longer he can pressure himself into living up to Derek Jeter. I think he is capable of coming up big when it matters most in the playoffs, but maybe just not in New York.

Even Derek Jeter had issues with Zumaya!

Thursday: 10.5.2006

Tied Up At One!!!!!

Huge game today that was filled tons of excitement. Tigers head home tied up at 1 and very much a part of this series. Here is a composite boxscore for the hitters through two:

Detroit Tigers              
Player AB R H RBI HR BB SO AVG
Granderson 9 1 4 3 1 0 1 0.444
Polanco 9 1 3 1 0 0 1 0.333
Casey 8 0 2 1 0 0 0 0.250
Ordonez 7 0 1 0 0 1 2 0.143
Guillen 6 1 3 1 1 2 0 0.500
Rodriguez 8 0 0 0 0 0 2 0.000
Monroe 8 2 2 1 1 0 1 0.250
Thames 8 2 4 1 0 0 2 0.500
Inge 7 1 1 0 0 0 3 0.143
TOTAL 70 8 20 8 3 3 12 0.286
               
New
York Yankees
             
Player AB R H RBI HR BB K AVG
Damon 10 3 4 3 1 0 1 0.400
Jeter 9 3 6 1 1 0 1 0.667
Abreu 8 1 3 4 0 1 0 0.375
Sheffield 8 1 1 1 0 0 2 0.125
Phillips 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000
Giambi 4 1 1 2 1 2 2 0.250
Rodriguez 8 0 1 0 0 0 4 0.125
Matsui 8 1 3 0 0 0 0 0.375
Posada 6 1 3 0 0 2 1 0.500
Cano 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000
TOTAL 70 11 22 11 3 5 11 0.314




The usually very patient Yankees lineup has only taken two more walks than the swing-happy Tigers. In fact, the Tigers have matched them tit for tat with just two fewer hits and as many home runs. I’m already extremely excited for tomorrow’s game. I’ll be working, so I’ll be watching it on a tape delay when I get home.

As for my thoughts on today’s game, I’m obviously extremely pleased. Justin Verlander labored through the first two innings, but remained composed and got the key outs, including striking out Alex Rodriguez with the bases loaded. Speaking of Rodriguez, can he remain in New York after this season? I guess it will depend on a) what he does the rest of the playoffs and b) if they can find a taker for that contract, but with all the drama surrounding him this regular season and another tanking through two games in this postseason, I don’t know that he’s long for New York. Curtis Granderson drew some criticism from me as I suggested that he might be better suited somewhere other than the leadoff spot, but he has responded fantastically in the first two games. Meanwhile, Carlos Guillen has continued to be the team’s best hitter. I love it when he comes up, especially with runners on.

The end of season struggles for the Tigers’ hitters are well documented, but they have shaken it off and been able to hit both of the Yankees starters so far. The good news, aside from getting out of New York at 1-1, is that things should get easier from the starting pitcher standpoint. Randy Johnson dominated the Tigers earlier this season, but he’s dealing with a bulging disk in his back and he was awful to close out September. In the interest of consistency, I won’t put too much weight into his end of season struggles because I’ve been preaching the same with Detroit’s hitting. That said, he gave up five runs in each of his last three starts going 17 and 2/3 innings with a 7.64 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. Jaret Wright is scheduled to pitch on Saturday night. He will put runners on and it will be up to the Tigers to cash in the way they did today.

Kenny Rogers toes the rubber for the Tigers. He hasn’t done much in four divisional series appearances with a 7.04 ERA in seven and two-thirds innings. He is 0-3 with an 8.85 ERA in nine total playoff games. His last playoff appearance was 2003 though, so it is hard to put too much stock in those efforts. An MLB.com article discusses Rogers and his playoff history.

Thursday: 10.5.2006

Jason Verlander…

Ugh… c’mon Jon Miller! He’s got a great set of pipes, but he has clearly lost a step. When a player’s name was Jason, he couldn’t get it right and now he’s calling Justin Verlander, Jason. What a game so far.

Thursday: 10.5.2006

Works For Me!

I had the unenviable task of trying to avoid any news of the score for last night’s game had it gone off. I was at work until 9:30 and I was going to watch the game on my DVR from the start when I got home. Thankfully, it was postponed until today and I’m off!! It’s about an hour and a half until game time and look what just arrived in the mail for me:

I have a few errands to complete before gametime, so in the meantime check out Kurt’s postseason awards. I’ll deliver mine soon as well.

Wednesday: 10.4.2006

The Lineups: Game 2

Tigers Lineup

SP – J.Verlander

CF C.Granderson
2B P.Polanco
1B S.Casey
RF M.Ordonez
SS C.Guillen
C I.Rodriguez
LF C.Monroe
DH M.Thames
3B B.Inge

Yankees Lineup

SP – M.Mussina

CF J.Damon
SS D.Jeter
RF B.Abreu
1B G.Sheffield
DH J.Giambi
3B A.Rodriguez
LF H.Matsui
C J.Posada
2B R.Cano

Game Time 7:05 PM Central

Wednesday: 10.4.2006

The Aftermath: Game 1

You know, it doesn’t really sting as bad as I thought it might. I desperately wanted a game one win for the Tigers, as I’m sure we all did, but there are positives to take from the game. First off, a shutout would have been devastating given the chances the team had, so I was happy to see them get the four spot, and they were in it at 5-3. Don’t worry, I’m not going to drone about moral victories, but this team acquitted themselves fairly well. The Yankees punish teams for mistakes and they did exactly that when Nate Robertson misplayed the dribbler by Johnny Damon. It was an extension of them taking advantage of the fact that the Tigers couldn’t capitalize in the 2nd and 3rd innings. With two or three runs on the board, the team can shake off a 5-run third inning. Instead, they were behind the 8-ball.

The team did respond with the 3-run fifth and I think a lot can be taken from that. Chien-Ming Wang pitched well, but he is their best pitcher and they got to him for eight hits and three runs. They banged out 12 hits in all, just two fewer than the Yankees, but the timing of them wasn’t as effective as it was for the Bombers. The Tigers were rudely welcomed by Derek Jeter, who went 5-for-5 with two doubles, two singles and a homerun. In other news, all shoelaces and belts were removed from Alex Rodriguez‘s locker.

The nervousness and excitement of being in the Bronx in October is gone for this team now. All the youngsters that may’ve had the deer-in-the-headlights feeling have the first game under their belts. Meanwhile, the veterans that are not playoff-tested can now relax and focus. I put a lot of stock in game 1 and really wanted to see the team get that one, but it didn’t happen. That obviously places even more importance on game 2 and Justin Verlander. Take this one and they are very much part of this series.

Thanks to Kurt from MAT for pointing out Nate Robertson’s blog. Nice to see Nate’s take on game one and how the team is now experienced after a tough battle.

Tuesday: 10.3.2006

The Lineups: Game 1

Tiger Lineup
CF C.Granderson
2B P.Polanco
1B S.Casey
RF M.Ordonez
SS C.Guillen
C I.Rodriguez
LF C.Monroe
DH M.Thames
3B B.Inge

Yankees Lineup
CF J.Damon
SS D.Jeter
RF B.Abreu
1B G.Sheffield
DH J.Giambi
3B A.Rodriguez
LF H.Matsui
C J.Posada
2B R.Cano

Game Time 7:19 Central

Tuesday: 10.3.2006

Detroit Tigers v. New York Yankees

The plan was for me to go to Detroit and enjoy a first round playoff game this week with my sister and my brother-in-law. I even ordered a new Detroit hooded sweatshirt for the trip that arrived yesterday, just in time for my planned trip. Of course, the final two months of play put that plan in peril and finally the last weekend of the season dashed it altogether. Nevertheless, we must trek on. After all, the Detroit Tigers are in the playoffs for the first time since I was six. Needless to say, I don’t really remember any of that season so this is the first time I get to enjoy my absolute favorite professional sports team (Detroit Lions #2) in postseason action. Instead of keeping the entire day off at work, I am going to go for a half day (12-5), but I will be home in plenty of time for the game.

It’s obvious to anyone with a pulse that the Tigers are significant underdogs against these New York Yankees, but that doesn’t mean they cannot win. They need plenty to go right, but the October mantra is plus pitching beats plus hitting and the one thing the Tigers have is plus pitching. During the September skid, the staff still posted a composite ERA of 3.80, including sub-3.00 figures posted by Game 1 starter Nate Robertson (2.76) and Kenny Rogers (2.79). Both left-handers will be keys to the series for the Tigers. In fact, at the risk of looking like I’m aping ESPN, I feel that Robertson is probably the key player in the series for Detroit. I told my dad this over the weekend and Keith Law wrote as much in his preview of the series this morning. Robertson allowed .181/.218/.269 line against left-handers this season. The Yankees lineup features just three right-handed batters in Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield. Meanwhile, the rest of the lineup is filled with lefties and switch hitters with Bobby Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams. I know, that is 11 players. Very scary stuff.

The Yankees wear pitchers out by drawing an average of four walks per game. This was a heavy contributor to their league-best .363 on-base percentage. Thankfully, the Tigers are second best among playoff teams at preventing walks, allowing just three per game (Minnesota, 2.2). Walks will be the key to this series. However, it will be based on how many the Tigers hitters are able to draw that goes a long way in determining their fate. This is hardly groundbreaking information as it has been an oft-discussed issue all season that the swing-happy Tigers must show some semblance of patience to be successful in the playoffs. Here is table that shows the team’s ability (or inability as it were) to take walks by month and in particular situations:

Month BB/K BB/G
Apr 0.40 2.65
May 0.38 2.68
Jun 0.34 2.81
Jul 0.35 2.36
Aug 0.36 2.17
Sep 0.44 3.19
     
Situation BB/K  
None
On
0.36  
Runners
On
0.40  
Scoring
Pos.
0.48  
Inning
1-6
0.39  
Inning
7+
0.37  



The Tigers play a softballesque sort of game that cashes in on home runs, but you have to have runners on base for those home runs to truly count against a team like the Yankees. Solo home runs won’t put this team at bay for too long. The team hit 117 solo home runs against just 86 with runners on. If they can reverse the trend and hit 58% (or more) of their home runs with runners on, it will take some pressure off of their pitching staff.

Carlos Guillen is the key hitter for the club as he has been the best throughout the season. He should probably be batting third instead of fifth. I doubt manager Jim Leyland will make any sweeping changes to the lineup including the move of Guillen, but another to consider might be to remove Curtis Granderson from the leadoff spot. He put together an impressive season, but his strikeout problem actually peaked in September with 35 (lumping in the October 1st game). In fact, the opening lineup is in the balance due to Marcus Thames’ flu. How would I set the lineup? Glad you asked:

Curtis Granderson, CF
Placido Polanco, 2B
Carlos Guillen, SS
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Ivan Rodriguez, C
Craig Monroe, LF
Sean Casey, 1B
Marcus Thames, DH
Brandon Inge, 3B

I understand the idea behind Casey batting third, but he isn’t anywhere near his on-base percentage displayed in Pittsburgh earlier this season and Cincinnati in past seasons. For now, I’d prefer him sixth. I know I just got done saying Granderson might be better suited away from leadoff, but I just love Polanco in the two-hole and no one else strikes me as a leadoff hitter. Though a very limited sample (12 at-bats), Rodriguez was exemplary as a leadoff hitter and I could see throwing him up there. The simple fact is, lineup order isn’t a huge deal and its construction won’t impact the series enough to worry any further about it. The team needs to be patient and get on base whether they are the first, fifth or ninth hitter.

So what about those key pinch-hit situations that make October so exciting? The Tigers bench is laden with a trio of punch-less middle infielders, an effective if unthreatening backup catcher and an average outfielder. Omar Infante, Neifi Perez and Ramon Santiago made the roster with Vance Wilson and Alexis Gomez. The entire roster shakes out as follows (thanks to DTW.com):

Infielders: Casey, Polanco, Guillen, Inge, Infante, Perez, Santiago
Outfielders: Monroe, Granderson, Ordonez, Gomez, Thames
Catchers: Rodriguez, Wilson
Starting Pitchers: Robertson, Verlander, Rogers, Bonderman
Relief Pitchers: Jones, Rodney, Zumaya, Walker, Ledezma, Grilli, Miner

So I have been thinking about this series non-stop since Sunday evening. Am I just psyching myself into believing my beloved team can compete? How can the Tigers win this series? I mean, honestly, how can they? First off, they can get back to what they did at the beginning of the season and that is pitch fantastically with nearly flawless defense behind those hurlers. Any extra outs given to the Yankees will almost be automatic runs, because there is no break in the lineup. That said, to completely write the Tigers off, as most of the national media have, because they limped in on one helluva sour note is foolish at best. You can’t erase what the team did this season and suggest that a poor month (though horribly timed) is enough to discount their accomplishments. The only carryover from September the Tigers will want to bring with them is their increased patience at the plate. If they get men on base, they most certainly can hang with this team. Everything about momentum and crying in our beers over last weekend ends now. It’s game time. The 2006 Detroit Tigers are in the playoffs and everyone is 0-0. In a short series, everything is heightened and I truly believe that a Game 1 win tonight will set the tone for the Tigers to take down the Bronx Bombers.

Detroit in five.

I have to go to work…

Preview Central
Detroit Tigers Weblog
Mack Avenue Tigers
ESPN Game Preview
ESPN – Keith Law
Detroit Tigers Tales
Baseball Prospectus
Hardball Times
CBS Sportsline
Freep – Mitch Albom
Baseball Analysts

Complete Playoff Predictions
Oakland over Minnesota in 5
Detroit over New York in 5
Oakland over Detroit in 6

St. Louis over San Diego in 5
New York over Los Angeles in 4
New York over St. Louis in 5

Oakland over New York* in 5

*If El Duque is seriously injured, I’ll jump on the Cardinals bandwagon in full force.