Taking apart Monday’s walkoff loss

I wrote Monday’s game story from the standpoint that if you were going to trust in a Tigers reliever other than Jose Valverde or Joaquin Benoit to protect a ninth-inning lead, it would’ve been Octavio Dotel, both for his experience as a former closer and in his numbers as a non-closing reliever this year. If not him, who? After all, this is the guy the Tigers signed to provide another veteran presence in the bullpen.

That was the decision for the ninth inning. It’s the decisions leading up to that which make it a little more complicated.

Nobody on the Tigers pitching staff owns right-handed hitters like Dotel has over at least the last couple years. And the one lefty Dotel was due to face, Ichiro Suzuki, was 1-for-10 with five strikeouts lifetime against him. By comparison, Ichiro is 5-for-11 off Phil Coke, including 4-for-6 since the start of last season.

Overall, Dotel had gotten off to a better start than any Tigers reliever not named Duane Below. If you were going to go to the bullpen for the ninth, even with Phil Coke available, Dotel was the most logical option.

The previous inning, the Mariners had three straight left-handed hitters coming up, which made that Coke’s territory. Yes, he could have easily kept Fister in to at least start the eighth, but unless Fister was going to get the chance to go for a complete game, that probably wouldn’t have changed the choice of Dotel for the ninth.

Leyland had not stated any sort of pitch count for Fister, though his move to pull Fister after 73 pitches suggested there might have been a count in mind. (Update: Fister was on a pitch count of 75-85) That said, Fister’s seventh inning was his only one without a ground-ball out. He got two outs on fly balls to left, a well-hit double to left from John Jaso, then a hard-struck line drive out off the bat of Justin Smoak caught (again) by Andy Dirks in left.

If he had another 13-pitch inning to get through the eighth, he would’ve had 86 pitches heading into the ninth with the middle of the Mariners order coming up. Would he have been allowed to head towards 100 pitches in his first start back? Doubt it. That would’ve led to Dotel. The one difference is that Coke would have been available in the ninth once it became clear that Dotel didn’t have it, though that change still might not have happened until after Montero’s double.

The two questions on resting the bullpen:

  1. Why rest Valverde: He pitched all three games against the White Sox over the weekend, totaling 55 pitches. Under those circumstances, Leyland has made it clear that Valverde won’t pitch a fourth consecutive day.
  2. Why rest Benoit: That is arguably a more interesting question. He had pitched the previous two games against the White Sox, but he had rested the previous two days before that. He pitched on three consecutive days just twice last season, and the more recent of those stretches began with a one-pitch outing against the Angels. He had combined for 29 pitches over the last two days.

24 Comments

It still hurts this early morning! I dont necessarily think JL’s logic should be faulted here. Dotel was been very good this year not giving up a run till last Friday night, but last night was crazy his control soooo bad including a wild pitch and another pass ball by Avila. Anyway you all know the story. It was almost looked like he had to be injured, he wasn’t missing by a little, he was missing by a lot
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Hitting is again a problem, but the fact of the matter, there was a two run lead, and whether it’s 2-0 or 6-4 it’s a two run lead and the pen has got to do better. I would say the starting pitchers are feeling a whole lot of pressure right now. I feel like 2008 if they pitch they don’t hit, if they hit they don’t pitch, if they hit and pitch the pen stinks!

My only qualm with the decision is, after 2 straight walks Dotel should of been pulled. Dotel could of stalled the game thrown to first etc. To get Below a few more warmup pitches. But hindsight is 20/20 who would know it would go from worse to worse and he’d throw 2 or 3 straight wild pitches?

Thanks for your explanation Jason. Stayed up to watch, was a little more cranky then usual after this loss. Probably due more to Tigers squandering Fister’s gem then being sleep deprived. On another note, can Santiago get a few consecutive games at 2nd? Ryan made a couple good plays in the field, but he is not there for defense and his offense is struggling to say the least. Why not at least have unquestioned stellar defense with Santiago? Boggles my mind.

I stayed up and watched that disaster. Very bleary-eyed this morning. Wasted opportunities aside; people need to do their job in the ninth. As soon as Dotel threw that first pitch to Ryan that almost hit him, I said what I always say when Valverde lets the leadoff man get on: “Oh boy, here we go!”. The late innings are an adventure right now; so different from last year’s lock down. Bullpens are so fickle from season to season. JL takes no blame for that game last night. Guys have to do their jobs. Dotel looked like a wide-eyed rookie in the ninth and Avila did not help his pitcher out. I dont know what they called the 2nd one, but IMO, it was a passed ball. He was lazy and tried to backhand it.
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I am happy to see Dirks doing well after getting his shot. I have always liked him and was an advocate for him to be the LFer with DY as the DH over the winter.
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We had some bad luck last night but we also had good luck as both runs had Fielder bloop singles involved that could have been caught.
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Dan, while I agree a better throw from Raburn would have got the runner, I was surprised he made it as close as he did. In that situation, the outfield is shallow. Couple that with the fact it was a liner to his right and he was unable to get behind it; he still got a pretty good throw off. Closer than I thought it would have been.
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No panic yet. We were 12-17 last year. But the way we are losing is getting tough to swallow.
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Let’s try again to start a streak.
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Go Tigers.
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– Bob

You’re right, Bob. The second one was called a passed ball. I didn’t see the replay on it. Dotel and Avila both said his pitches were moving inside on right-handed hitters, even pitches that were supposed to do the opposite. That one might have crossed him up.

Turn the page. Move on. Tonight the last line of our lineup will read P: Verlander. Let’s bounce back in the series. The last five games have scores more indicative of an early round of the hockey playoffs. That transition from hockey to no hockey in Detroit is always tough.

Fortunately for me I kept dozing on the couch so after the 7th I called it a night. So I got to see the dandy of a game that Fister had – that guy looked terrific. and he is just so cool out there, doesn’t get fired up, very even keeled.

Thankfully I missed the drama of the 9th inning. I also agree that Dotel was the logical choice, just tough to see another great starting performance lost by the back end of our bullpen.

That shot by Miggy that hit the pitcher was tough – those are the bad breaks we have been getting – an inch over and it likely is a base hit and scoring runs. Bad luck for the pitcher too – that must of really hurt.

Glad to see Brennan get a hit, and yes, Dirks is really coming through for them right now in that 2 spot.

I only have one question! Why is Raburn still in the line up!!!!!!!

Don’t questions end with a ? :)

I agreed with the decisions last night with pitching – Fister pitched 7 strong innings but the last inning his pitches were ticking up in the zone. Godd decision. Coke pitched maybe his best inning of the year, his stuff looked great. And Dotel, well, he has been our best reliever, until last night. Stuff like that happens, I hope it was a blip.
The only question I would have for Leyland, and it is inspired by last night but, again, agree with what he did. Is there any time when a reliever throws so well in one inning that it changes the course for the next? Last night, can Coke (in this case) pitch so well that you trot him out for the 9th as well, even if that wasn’t the plan.
The bigger issue, guys giving away too many at bats. WE needed more than 2 runs off those pitchers.
Anyone else notice how the strike zone shrunk after the Tigers barked about an obvious ball 4 from Furbush?

Any pre-1995 manager would have come back with Coke in the 9th because he was on. That’s not how we do it these days. Leyland did what every manager does. They go through enough relievers until they find the guy that doesn’t have it that night. It’s an idiotic way to manage a bullpen, but that’s how they all do it so “that’s just the way it is.” Can’t blame Leyland. Can blame the way the game is managed here in 2012. So much for old school. I guess we never dreamed an old veteran like Dotel would blow up like that. It’s still mind boggling this morning.
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The pivotal play of the game was Cabrera’s liner off their pitcher. It scores runs, we have one out and possibly more runs to come, and we’re hitting that guy pretty good. Instead we get an inning ending DP and the Japanese fellow comes in and begins the shut down process.
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I hear this a lot. “We were 12-17 at this point last year.” Heard John Keating say it again last night. That is a false reality, unless you think we’re going to play .702 ball over the final two months, or .769 over the final six weeks. That’s how we won 95 games last year. Think we’ll do that again? I think that line of reasoning should be retired by the fans, the media and most of all, the Tigers themselves.

To watch that gem by Fister get away was a crime. Pure and simple. My beef with Leland,besides his inappropriate comments about Hamels, is why he left Dotel in there to flounder?
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I don’t believe this game would have been the same at Comerica because the crowd would have gone insane with booing and Jim would have gone out there much sooner and yanked him. I have nothing to say about the hitting because, imo, Jim lost it in the 9th with craziness.

As usual, Rich, you make a good point regarding the record.
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Point taken. I was more making the point that it is not panic time … yet.
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Go Tigers.
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— Bob

Rich, I think the point is that early season struggles do not guarantee continued struggles. We didn’t need to win 95 games last year to win the division, and we may not this year, either. We only have to play at a .567 clip the rest of the way to win 90 games, which should at least earn a playoff berth of some kind. I think that is quite possible, don’t you?

Sure I do. I predicted 95 wins this year and stand by that, or something close to it. Obviously it’s not time to panic (is there ever a time to panic in baseball?), but my point is cautionary. Every team that has an unexpected down season starts out by saying “it’s early.” You hear it every year.
It’s always early…….until it’s too late.

It’s early. But the next day makes the end of the season 1 day closer. The worry I have is the lack of vision and the stubbroness we have been accustomed to with JL getting even more acute.
Yes, Raburn will start hitting but when? How many more games will the fans and the role players sit back and wonder why their manager figures they aren’t good enough to play while the alternative is an automatic out and a rally killer?
Why are Below and Ballester resting their arms?
I mentioned last night that I thought Raburn should be optioned to Toledo. Why not? He can get his swing and timing back and get his mind cleared there. And I’m sure he will. IMO this is what should have been done with him the last couple of years with his available options.
Who do you replace him with from that roster? I don’t know, maybe someone who can provide a base running threat. We have 4 other guys who do nothing on the bench why not have one that can specialize on something that can put pressure on the other team.
If I am manager of this team this is what I do:
-Clubhouse meeting-if you need to tear a strip off you do it.
-Act upon personal realizations. Even JL knows he is stubborn and has to see that is counter productive
-Charge Alex Avila with becoming leader in that clubhouse and to play with more passion.
-Insist that his hitting coach help some of these guys out. An offense doesn’t produce in football, what happens to the offensive coordinator?
-Give AJ free reign on the bases and tell him you want to see him start swiping 3rd too
-Make these guys sacrifice themselves for the team. Read bunt. The free-swinging at all costs and all times only exacerbates the individual approaches and diminished team play that we have been seeing. Find a way to win.
Make sure Andy Dirks is getting superior treatment for his hamstring. Don’t overplay him in the field if he is babying it.
-Tell Valverde that he has to at least LOOK at the runner on 1st base and not 2nd base (where the runner actually will be in a few seconds). This is not that hard to do and a team player making millions of $ per year owes that to his team. Valverde is not good enough to spot the other team RISP any longer. He is not Eddie Feigner.
I could go on.

Eddie Feigner. :-) I saw that guy’s act in Ann Arbor once. He spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get someone to provide company in his van. Thanks for the memory, Dan.
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I think the hitting issue is mental, not mechanical. The thing is, if Cabrera’s two shots go through, if Raburn’s drive lands an inch fair instead of an inch foul, we’re not having this conversation this morning. Mainly, we’ve got too many guys trying to go deep, but even when they have good solid ABs and get on base, nobody is getting the big hit. If you’d have told me Jackson would have the start he’s had and we still weren’t scoring, well…………

All of our concerns may be validated or invalidated tonight. If Millwood makes us look bad or we are able tomake him look bad.
Pivotal night for the Tigers –especially with JV toeing the rubber and coming off a poor game.

Question, how much do we miss Victor’s leadership?

We miss his BAT! It can’t be quantified with statistics, but one could make a case that Victor was 50% of a successful offense last season, just from his place in the lineup and how he kept rallies alive. The man was incredible. Considering it was his first season as a full time DH only makes it more astounding. I don’t think anyone realized how irreplaceable he is. Many of the “experts” only saw the Fielder acquisition and didn’t consider who Prince was replacing.

When you lose a game like this it’s best to look for some positives and then move on. Our starting pitchers have strung together six of those quality start things. Our new top of the order combo (Jackson and Dirks) are absolutely on fire the last three games. Baby steps. Recently, Jhonny got off the snide and hit his first homer of the year and WOW it was a walk off, too. By the way, he also has hit over .300 the past ten games!! Maybe we should slide him a little higher in the batting order. Nice to see Boesch come through in the eight spot. We need rbis from all nine spots. To get this order really working, all these guys have to stop pressing and just go have fun. Go Tigers.

If JV gives up two runs, which is fantastic, we have to score three. I’m a little worried.
Greg

Coke was sharp and if he had been left in with a bad result, Leyland would have been ripped. I was thinking leave Coke in. They signed Dotel to be the 7th inning guy and to close if the top two were off. He did not get the job done, so move on to tonight.

Beck’s logic is absolutely sound. Dotel was a logical choice at the time, knowing what we knew then. It should have been clear though that he didn’t have the stuff, and gotten him out of there. At least after 2 walks where he threw one strike. If not then, then especially after the wild pitch. Dotel was nowhere near the strike zone the entire time. Mighta sucked asking Below to come out a little cold, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

So Dotel deserves blame, but Leyland decides once again to give me reason to want him fired when I come around to liking him.

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