Joaquin Benoit and his rash of round-trippers

Relievers ride good stretches and bad struggles over the course of the year. The short nature of their outings normally leads to pass-fail grades rather than anything in the middle like a quality start. So the Tigers aren’t panicking over what they’ve seen from Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit over the past week or so.

Still, Jim Leyland isn’t downplaying how badly they need those two to pitch well.

“Obviously, Cokey and Benoit have been struggling a little bit,” Leyland said Thursday, “but they’ll straightened out.”

There’s a difference between the two situations. Unlike Coke, Benoit had borderline All-Star numbers going into the All-Star break. He was back in the conversation among the best setup men in baseball. Moreover, he has had stretches like this before.

The quirky part, though, is that Benoit isn’t getting roughed around. In fact, he’s still averaging less than a hit an inning since the All-Star break, nine hits over 10 innings for a .243 average. The problem is that seven of those nine hits are home runs. When his pitches are getting hit, they’re hit hard.

By comparison, Benoit gave up one home run over his first 36 innings, with 48 strikeouts over 36 innings.

It’s not one pitch either. Even when he gave up home runs on consecutive pitches Thursday, the first was off a 96 mph fastball to Mark Teixeira on a 2-0 pitch, and the second on a first-pitch changeup up and out.

You wonder, though, if Eric Chavez might have been onto something when he talked about the home run he hit off the changeup, a normally deceptive pitch Benoit uses to get swings and misses.

“My numbers aren’t very good against him,” Chavez said. “In fact, they’re pretty terrible (3-for-16 before that home run). I was looking for a heater, and I believe he left a changeup kind of up and away and I just saw it out of his hand.”

The key to the changeup, of course, is that it’s got to look like the fastball coming out of a pitcher’s hand. The delivery and everything has to be similar, only the velocity has to be different. If Chavez is able to pick it up out of the hand, it’s interesting.

Nobody else has said anything about picking up Benoit’s pitches like that. In fact, both of the home runs off Benoit last Sunday came off 95 mph fastballs in hitters’ counts after swinging and missing at changeups to start off the at-bats. So was Taylor Teagarden’s walkoff home run off Benoit July 14 in Baltimore (after seeing four consecutive fastballs).

The good news about something like that is that it’s easier to correct than, say, an arm injury. Benoit’s velocity suggests no arm injury.

7 Comments

TigersProspectReport‏@TigersProspects

LHP Daniel Schlereth went 1IP, H, ER, 0BB, 2K on rehab. Now 0-0, 3.86, 2 1/3IP with 3K/1BB

wow that is good news. a good pitching daniel schlereth could be a very important piece of the pen.

It’s all part of the game. Benoit struggled early last season before practically matching his numbers from 2010 the rest of the way. It’s more striking this year because he was a lock down guy until recently. He’ll get it back.
One thing about playing those teams from the Senior League (the Yankees); they’re very very smart.

Thinking of postseason play, I was looking at some head to head numbers as it may effect homefield for Wild Card (VERY important) and the other series.
.
We’re 4-6 with NY so that’s gone.
2-5 with Texas so we’d have to sweep to tie.
One up on Baltimore with three to play.
Even with Oakland with three to play.
Up two on LAA with a big six to play.
Finished 5-2 over Tampa.
Up three on Chicago (you never know) with seven to play.
.
These games may have to be looked upon as big ones where you don’t rest your best players. On the other hand, this zany postseason schedule this year has the lower seeded team getting the first two DS games at home.

i posted all these numbers previously and someone said “I wanna division -screw the wildcard!”

To put those numbers in perspective:last year: 6-3 against Texas/NY 4-3. Before this season Detroit won 15 of last 18 regular season games against Texas at CoPa

last i looked at the schedule – it got a bit easier after Fri, Sep 14. for convienence: http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/schedule/_/name/det/detroit-tigers and b4 everyone says those teams play us hard http://espn.go.com/mlb/standings/_/group/5

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