April 2006

Sunday stats and other thoughts

Guillenthames A statistical postmortem on the sweep, courtesy of ESPN.com:

  • The 33-1 margin for the series is tied for third-highest in a three-game set since 1951.
  • The Tigers were involved in two larger series scoring margins in that span. They outscored the Twins by a 45-10 margin in late April of 1993, to take the tops at 35. The second-largest is 34, but the Tigers were on the losing of that end with a 43-9 blasting by the Red Sox in June 1953.
  • The last series decided by 32 runs was a 36-4 Angels sweep over the Indians in 2002.

Now some other notes about those series, courtesy of retrosheet.org:

  • The Tigers’ sweep of the Twins in ’93 actually took place on the road at the Metrodome. And they didn’t get much from Cecil Fielder, who went 2-for-11 with a double and an RBI for the series. He went 0-for-4 in a 17-1 Tigers win in the middle game of that series April 24.
  • That ’93 Tigers team actually scored more runs in a series later that season, scoring 47 in a three-game sweep of the Orioles August 10-12 at Tigers Stadium. That series doesn’t rank in the above list because the Orioles scored 17 in that series, including 11 in the series finale that they still lost by six.
  • The ’53 series Detroit lost to the Red Sox by a combined 34 runs wasn’t a sweep. In fact, the Tigers picked up a 5-3 win in the opener June 16 before the Sox put on a show at Fenway Park for a 17-1 Tigers loss in the middle game and a 23-3 defeat in the finale. Those losses dropped Detroit to 14-43 on the season. Those same Tigers lost a 15-0 game at Yankee Stadium later that year as well as 25 other games in which they gave up double-digit runs.

One other interesting side item from Sunday went into my late notebook. Jim Leyland said he took out Kenny Rogers after eight innings because he needed to get Todd Jones some work, but also because he wanted to save Rogers. By sparing Rogers an inning here and there at maybe 15-20 pitches apiece, Leyland said, and it could add up to nearly 80 pitches over three starts. That’s a new one for me. It’s something I didn’t expect to hear from Leyland in this situation, where Rogers didn’t seem to be doing anything but cruising, and from a manager who has said other times he doesn’t put much into pitch counts. The deciding factor has to be the competitiveness of the game and whether the closer needs some work.

Given how uncompetitive this weekend’s series was, it’ll be interesting to see if the Tigers can avoid a letdown when the 5-17 Royals come to town coming off four losses in their last five games and problems scoring runs in all but one of them. Unfortunately, Detroiters who aren’t going to the game have to stay up past midnight to watch it on TV. If the Red Wings game goes to overtime, the Tigers on tape-delay is going to be running way too late. Unfortunately, the Wings and Pistons playing the same night didn’t give much of any other option.

Somebody asked what the tape delay means for the Extra Innings and MLB.TV packages. I don’t think it makes any difference, because the game is also on the Royals network.

Twins-Tigers: Rivalry revisited

Part of the requirement for a rivalry is that it has to be competitive. In that sense, it was hard to call Twins-Tigers a rivalry the last five years considering how one-sided the results were. Yes, they played some pretty competitive, pretty entertaining games, but generally the Twins took care of business when they needed, and the only big Tigers victories in retrospect were the ones that kept them from 120 losses in 2003.

After just two games, even with a 27-1 margin, you can’t say the balance has completely flipped. Still, sensing the clubhouse after Saturday’s win, there’s definitely a sense
that while the Tigers enjoyed these romps, they’re not surprised they’ve played well. Brad Radke’s pitches were over the plate far more than usual Friday night, and Carlos Silva’s pitches were elevated early and often Saturday. Good teams make pitchers pay for that. The Tigers in the past have let pitchers get by at times with less than their best stuff.

Silva’s problems are arguably more concerning for Minnesota because he’s a contact pitcher who doesn’t have the veteran savvy to get away with bad locations. If the Twins are going to make something out of their season, it has to come through pitching, and it largely has to come from the arms they have now.

Whatever happens Sunday, the Tigers will get a better idea how they stack up against Minnesota next weekend at the Metrodome. If they can play on the Twins turf and look solid, that’ll be a huge sign for this team.

Dmitri on Delmon

Dmitri said he has talked with his younger brother since his incident in Pawtucket, but didn’t want to comment further. Can’t blame him. Dmitri has stood up for his brother before, especially when the Devil Rays didn’t call him up last September, but there’s not a lot he can say in public this time that would help the situation.

Sunday wrapup

Hopefully this will be the end of the late-late night blogging until the Tigers head back to the West Coast in July. Tigers fans can only hope their team handles that trip to Oakland and Seattle as well as they handled this one.

Much as the skeptic in my mind wants to dismiss this as a hot team finding a good start, I keep coming back to the fact that this is the West Coast in April. Normally that’s enough by itself to cost a team a couple games between two cities, or at least a couple bad pitching performances. But for various reasons, this staff is on a roll. They still have one more city to go, though.

To me, Verlander was better today than he was on Tuesday. He pitched like somebody who was trying to get hitters out quickly rather than overpower them. This outing had a five-inning start all over it after 121 pitches in Oakland, but he showed a little different side to his game. This is what Tigers fans should want to see.

On a side note, I’m sure the Vance Wilson trade from last year has come up this month in the wake of Anderson Hernandez making the Opening Day roster for the Mets. I think Sunday showed the value of having a good backup catcher. I can’t pretend I know Rene Rivera’s game after watching him for a day, but that was one of the rougher games I’ve seen for a catcher in a while. Meanwhile, Wilson calls a good game with Verlander, makes a play at the plate and has two hits. Could the Tigers have gotten that type of catching from some other backup? Possibly, but Sunday shows what the alternative could’ve been.

I’m not covering the Angels series, so that’ll throw a wrench into this blog for a few days.

Different lineup Sunday

Infante batting third and playing third, Guillen batting fifth at DH. Leyland said before the game that they’ll have to play this game different and scrap out some runs, but that they probably would’ve had to do that anyway no matter who was in the lineup against Felix Hernandez.

No O in M's

Two games, two pitching duels, though I’m not sure how much Gil Meche was part of Saturday’s duel. Whatever the case, there are two distinct impressions out of this series already. First, Seattle’s offense doesn’t look nearly the same without Richie Sexson or Adrian Beltre hitting well. They can’t seem to create offense in that circumstance without Ichiro, and pitchers know that enough to pay attention when Ichiro is on base. M’s manager Mike Hargrove basically dismissed Robertson’s impact after the game.

“Not to take credit away from Robertson, but it was us not being patient and trying to do too much,” Hargrove said. “Tonight, we were our own worst enemies. We tried to make things happen when they weren’t there.”

That said, the Tigers wouldn’t have pulled out three low-scoring games like this last year, no matter how many lumbering first basemen Pudge threw out. It was hard enough for them to win four straight last year, period, but that sense of waiting to see what goes wrong seems to be gone. Detroit’s starters are making pitches, arguably none bigger than Robertson’s called third strike on Sexson in the seventh.

Hopefully everyone has a chance to watch at least the first few innings Sunday. Verlander vs. King Felix could be a matchup of two future Cy Young candidates.

The first one

to try to steal against Pudge this season is … Richie Sexson? Something went horribly wrong there.

Spurling sent out; Kelly OK

Jordan Tata is sticking with the big club for now. The Tigers optioned Chris Spurling to Toledo to make room for Todd Jones to be activated from the DL. It wasn’t the expected move, but Rodney’s move back to setup and Joel Zumaya’s emergence already this season meant the Tigers have stronger options right now in the seventh and eighth innings.

Updating Don Kelly’s situation, Tigers head trainer Kevin Rand said he’s OK but he’ll miss a few days. It doesn’t sound like he was in the hospital long.

Kelly injured – by relay throw

I’ve never heard of an injury happening this way, but Don Kelly was taken to a Charlotte hospital last night after being hit by a throw. Not a pitch, but a relay throw from right fielder Ryan Ludwick during the Mud Hens loss. Here’s the detail from The Blade in Toledo:

The injury to Kelly came on the two-run single by Lopez. Ludwick’s throw from right hit Kelly squarely in the back of the head.

"I believe he thought Ryan was going to throw the ball to home plate," Parrish said. "He took a pretty good hit."

Kelly was taken to a Charlotte hospital for observation and his status is day-to-day.

Josh Phelps was involved in another bizarre play, being ejected for arguing Jack Hannahan being picked off, but that’s a whole other story.

Todd Jones ready to go

Jones came out of his second simulated game fine Wednesday. Barring something unforeseen, he’ll be activated Friday at Seattle. He’ll pitch an inning at some point in a non-save situation to get acclimated to game action again, then he’ll be back in his closer’s role, with Fernando Rodney pushed back to setup and Joel Zumaya working behind him. Considering the Tigers have had only one save situation since the first week of the season, it’s not like anybody is acclimated to closing at the moment.