Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Detroit Series Preview

Powered by Twins Geek and Dugout Splinters

Runs – 688 (7th)
Runs Against – 546 (1st)

Status Report: Everyone was waiting for the Tigers to fade, and to some extent, they have. They’re 9-17 since they last faced the Twins, and “just” 30 games over .500. Of course, that may have something to do with them waiting for the playoffs for the last two months. Their record still puts them on pace for 98 wins this year, is good enough for a four game lead in the AL Central, and gives them the best record in the American League.

What's Not Working

For months they’ve battled the notion that they couldn’t keep up this pace, in particular because they’re inexperienced starting pitching would fade. But as the season concludes, it is their hitting that is faltering, fueled partly by an injury to their second baseman. Sound familiar?

The Tigers have a couple of weeks head start on the Twins in this story, and that’s not a good thing. Some of Detroit’s bigger (and more expensive) bats struggled through August, which has resulted in an extended slump:

  • Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, previously hitting third, has been bumped down the lineup to the 6th position. For good reason. In August, he only hit .250, and didn’t compensate for that with any power (just 2 HR) or plate discipline (17 strikeout versus 4 walks). There’s no word of an injury, so he might just be wearing down as the season progresses, similar to what we’re seeing on the Twins.

  • Magglio Ordonez has struggled since the All-Star break, and like Pudge, it was made worse by a lack of power (though a home run this week may indicate that he’s bouncing back). Again, there’s no indication that an injury is the problem, but he’s also a 32-year-old who had major knee surgery just a couple of years ago.

  • Detroit needs to hope that this isn’t indicative of a long-term problem, since they owe him $45 million over the next three years. Plus another $33 million for two more years if he makes 135 starts in 2009. The lesson, as always, is that Scott Boras is Lucifer.

  • Coming into August, 25-year-old center fielder Curtis Granderson looked like the leadoff hitter for the next decade. But hitting .156 in August has lowered his production to the level of a fourth outfielder.

  • Detroit was applauded when they were the only AL Central team who improved themselves at the trade deadline, acquiring Sean Casey from the Pirates. But Casey is only hitting .247 since the trade with just two home runs.

  • Third baseman Brandon Inge’s hot hitting helped fuel Detroit’s hot start, but his power has completely deserted him and he hit just .156 last month.

Add all that up, and the Tigers, whose offense was unbelievably hot when they visited in May, have had only the 10th best offense in the American League since the All-Star break. That’s worrisome for a team heading to the post-season, and considering some of the ages of their better players (and how much more guaranteed money they have coming), it’s downright alarming.

What's Working

Obviously, not all the news has been bad, even lately. Craig Monroe has (finally) shown the power that the team anticipated, slugging 9 home runs since August 1st. Carlos Guillen has finally stayed healthy for a full year, hitting .310, slugging over .500, and continuing to produce down the stretch. Marcus Thames has finally fulfilled some of the promise that stat heads claimed he had, with 24 home runs.

Saying More Less

“But I would venture to say I say less to umpires than probably any manager in the league, and particularly at this time of year, I say even more less.''

- Detroit Tigers Manager, Jim Leyland

It’s hard to make your point to an umpire when you can only say “more less”. And Leyland made it harder still in last Thursday’s game versus the Yankees.

Leyland had a point he wanted to make after umpire James Hoye ejected him for criticizing a strike call in the Tigers half of the seventh inning. The inning finished up immediately following the ejection, and Leyland came out to argue his point.

Except that it’s the middle of the seventh inning in Yankee stadium, where Kate Smith’s recording of God Bless America is always played. And that’s proceeded by Yankees public-address announcer Bob Sheppard asking for a moment of silence.

So in the midst of arguing, Leyland honored the moment of silence. Then he listened to Kate. And then he resumed his argument.

“In my opinion, the umpire was trigger-happy. I didn't curse. I didn't do anything,” said Leyland.

“Obviously, I did after I went out there.”

But only after a respectful (and appropriate) patriotic pause. Saying more less, indeed.

On The Hill

Tigers: Justin Verlander (15-7, 3.27 ERA)

  • 2005 (HighA-AA): 11-2, 118.2 IP, 136 K, 1.29 ERA

  • 2006: 165 IP, 157 H, 112 K, 52 BB, 16 HR

  • With apologies to Jon Papelbon and Francisco Liriano, here’s your American League Rookie of the Year. And he still has to be considered a candidate for the Cy Young award, too.

  • See if any of this sounds familiar: the year after he was drafted in the first round, he started in A ball and was promoted quickly, ending up in the majors by the end of the year. The difference between Verlander and Matt Garza is that Verlander wasn’t forced into a pennant race last year.

Twins: Scott Baker (4-7, 6.55 ERA)

  • 2005: 3-3. 53.2 IP, 32 K, 3.35 ERA

  • 2006 (AAA): 5-4, 84.1 IP, 2.67 ERA, 68 K

  • 2006: 68.2 IP, 56 K, 92 H, 15 HR

  • How much does this guy love playing the Yankees? His high point this season was his April win over them, and his victory in the rain last Saturday might as well have been a baptism for the new life it breathed into his starting pitching hopes.

  • After Silva’s start on Wednesday, Baker will need to be impressive to remain in the rotation.

1 comment:

Jack Ungerleider said...

John your Philadelphia connection is showing. Kate Smith was used by the Flyers. I believe that the recorded version of GBA played at Yankee Stadium would be by Ronan Tynan. Especially since he sang it in person there for the end of the 2001 season and a lot in 2002 if I remember correctly.

That said the sequence with Leyland and the umps is a classic.