June 3rd, 2013

Why Rick Porcello was charged with Sunday’s loss

I’ve received several questions since Sunday’s loss asking why Porcello was charged with it, since the go-ahead run was a baserunner (Alexi Casilla) that Phil Coke put on with a base hit (Danny Valencia’s single before Casilla pinch-ran for him). It’s a question that takes way more than 140 characters to explain, but even explaining the concept in plain language isn’t easy. So to the answer the question, I dug into the Official Baseball Rules and found the rule that applies. It’s Rule 10.16(g):

When pitchers are changed during an inning, the official scorer shall not charge the relief pitcher with any run (earned or unearned) scored by a runner who has on base at the time such relief pitcher entered the game, nor for runs scored by any runner who reaches base on a fielder’s choice that puts out a runner left on base by any preceding pitcher.

There is a comment attached to Rule 10.16(g) that better explains the situation that unfolded on Sunday:

It is the intent of Rule 10.16(g) to charge each pitcher with the number of runners he put on base, rather than with the individual runners. When a pitcher puts runners on base and is relieved, such pitcher shall be charged with all runs subsequently scored up to and including the number of runners such pitcher left on base when such pitcher left the game, unless such runners are put out without action by the batter (i.e. caught stealing, picked off base or called out for interference when a batter-runner does not reach first base on the play).

There is a example included that is very similar to the situation Porcello and Coke had yesterday. Even though the reliever put a runner on, once the runner ahead of him (whom the starter put on) was retired on a fielder’s choice, that runner the reliever put on actually becomes charged to the starter if he later scores.

In other words, it’s about how many baserunners the starter had on when he left, not the specific runners. Otherwise, you would’ve had a situation Sunday where Casilla would’ve been Coke’s responsibility on second base, but Chris Snyder would’ve been Porcello’s responsibility on first base. The rule avoids a situation of having baserunners out of order in terms of which pitchers are responsibile for them.

Cabrera leads all AL players in All-Star votes

Miguel Cabrera is finally getting the respect he deserves in All-Star balloting. He not only has lapped his competition at third base on the American League ballot, he currently leads all AL players in votes.

The first balloting update, released Monday, shows how much Cabrera’s Triple Crown season in 2012 and record-setting pace in 2013 have vaulted him among the game’s biggest stars. Cabrera has 1,500,165 votes, double that of Baltimore’s Manny Machado among AL third basemen and about 265,000 more than Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano for the AL’s top vote-getter.

Cabrera’s lone All-Star start in his career came in 2010 as an injury replacement for Justin Morneau at first base. He has six other All-Star appearances as a reserve, including the last two seasons as a Tiger.

The only other Tiger in line to start as of Monday’s balloting update is Torii Hunter, third among AL outfielders with 761,937 votes. He holds a slim leads over Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz, while looking up at Angels sensation Mike Trout and Orioles center fielder Adam Jones.

Prince Fielder is at serious risk of losing his starting spot at first base thanks to Chris Davis’ amazing start and a strong showing by Orioles fans at the ballot box. Though Fielder topped the million-vote mark already at 1,059,300, he trails Davis by just under 117,000 votes.

The potential snub could be at shortstop, where Jhonny Peralta’s hot start earned him just a third-place showing behind Texas’ Elvis Andrus and O’s counterpart J.J. Hardy. However, shortstop is shaping up to be one of the tightest races on the AL ballot this year, with about 187,000 votes separating Peralta from Andrus’ leading total.

Omar Infante’s quietly strong season has him ranked fourth among AL second basemen with 417,333 votes. Victor Martinez, despite his slow start, ranks fifth among designated hitters with 340,967 votes, about 675,000 behind Boston’s David Ortiz.

Game 55: What to make of Leyland’s mea culpa

Jim Leyland rarely does it, but every so often when a game goes awry after a move he has made, he puts the blame entirely on his decision and doles out none of the blame elsewhere. It might be once a year, but for one day, he takes it all on himself.

Sunday’s series finale in Baltimore was that day for him.

“I put this one on me, solely on me,” Leyland said. “[Porcello] was pitching terrific. I understand that. If it was different, the way the lineup was setting up, it would’ve been OK. But the way it set up, I botched it. It was my fault, nobody’s fault but me.”

It was an unusual thing for Leyland to say about one of his best starters over the past few weeks, a starter who took a streak of 16 consecutive scoreless innings into that seventh inning in question. If Porcello had been pulled after six innings and 87 pitches with a 2-0 lead, he would have taken all kinds of criticism, even if the Tigers had held on. The question would’ve been when Leyland was going to trust Porcello to pitch as deep as Detroit’s other four starters.

However, Leyland argued, it would have been the right move.

The reasoning from Leyland was twofold. The O’s had back-to-back left-handed hitters due up to start the seventh inning in Major League home run leader Chris Davis and DH Chris Dickerson. The Tigers had Phil Coke and Darin Downs available. Though Porcello’s splits aren’t as big this year between left and right-handed hitters, the former have historically given him his biggest trouble.

Left-handed hitters were 3-for-20 with eight strikeouts off Phil Coke coming into the day. Get him in at that point, and if he can retire both lefties, Leyland could play matchups against J.J. Hardy with a right-hander like Jose Ortega.

The other factor is that Porcello, though he had retired Davis and Dickerson twice already, was going to have to try to get them out a third time. And while Porcello’s curveball has been a huge pitch for him against lefties, both hitters had already seen it.

Again, it’s a somewhat surprising view towards a pitcher who just went eight scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts in his last start. And it overshadowed the other issues the Tigers faced in that game, from an Alex Avila bunt that turned into a double play to Coke’s struggles in a tight situation to the eighth-inning ball that Andy Dirks seemingly misjudged in left field.

One can question whether Leyland should have had Coke and Ortega warming up leading into the seventh inning so that Leyland could go to his bullpen if somebody reached base. To question whether he should have started that inning at all seemed unusual for Leyland, but in hindsight, he felt strongly about it. He also felt that once the inning got to Hardy, sticking with Porcello against the right-handed hitter in a potential double play situation was the best option.

“In my gut, I knew,” Leyland said. “I just had that feeling when I sent him out there that I should’ve made the move. And your gut usually tells you the right thing.”