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.”

28 Comments

When I wrote a couple of times, Jackson MVP, i was no joking or exaggerating. He is second only to Cabrera in the team. He set the tone of the offense,And , now we have the evidence again. Last year, they were lucky and they found QB. But,he was a career minor leaguer and he is gone as soon as he came.
Dirks replaced Jackson, so he has to lead-off. He did well the first week but no more. Why not Hunter leading -off? Infante cant hit away so he is not the answer and he is slumping anyway.
2E is not regular because he is RH and his below average defense. Dirks has been below average this year. No arm still played RF and yesterday a run was on him. Playing far to avoid the xbase and then go for it giving away a 2B.
2E has played SS ,3B, 2b, 1b and LF. There is the utility guy
Worth has been in DL for ever, every week some backup infielder is released . Any of them will be a better option than Santiago. I dont blame him. Playing once every two weeks you cant keep your game sharp. Had him played early in the season but he did not so time to say thanks for your service.
Coke? his only value is to force the opposite manager to waste a PH.
Putkonem and Ortega, they are 6 th innings relievers. They have done their job. Ortega walked a 188 batter? yes, like Valverde does everyday. IR:4. IRS: 0. 2 holds in three saving situations and one blown save. Putkonem:1 hold and stranded the sole runner inherited.
Downs? using him once in a while is rusting him . He is going the Below road.
I take any of them over Dotel.
Al2? we saw the last of him in Detroit. His is in the doghouse and lost it . JL wanted “dirtbags” , he got one and did not like him. He is the next Grilli, Rodney,Miller.
Smyly wont be in the rotation this year. There is your closer.
Rondon must be called up soon. he has nothing to learn in AAA
Keep Garcia once Jackson is back
There is an upside of this: if they fall off the first place, changes will come for good

Mea culpa? I thought the players won and lost the games? How many years have we put up with Leyland trying to manage a pitching staff, let alone a batting order. Mr I is generous and DD tries to get all the right pieces. My daughter put on facebook Friday night, “why does Valverde have a job?” And, I will take the blame for saying Dirks will be a star. Go Tigers!

tell your daughter about Jose’s WHIP this season – mind you without a spring training. If you don’t wanna look it up just tell her 0.868 (for reference, scherzer has a 0.891 WHIP)

I can rarely follow Jim’s thinking regarding bullpen use. Seems he uses strategies without regard to the personnel he has.
To me, it all goes back to Saturday when he wasted Smyly on mop up duty. That was being discussed by those of us in the stands at the time the move was made.

Meaning, we were discussing it as Smyly trotted in from the pen.

how to most effectively use Smyly is the manager’s biggest bullpen challenge right now.

Other than Benoit and Smyly who do we have out there that you can truly count on? That’s on Dombrowski!

For the closer, yes. That’s a decision that comes from the top. For the guys behind him, I would suggest the implosion of their right-handed middle relief has been a factor. For Alburquerque and Villarreal to both end up at Toledo with command issues, and Dotel to be shelved as long as he has (remember, they initially hoped this would be a two-week absence), that has left a crater in the seventh inning and in extra-inning games.

Biggest mistake; having Avila *try* to bunt. After 3 straight hits, why bunt? If you are not confident in Avila, send up a pinch hitter. Use 2E there! That is why you carry 2 catchers on your roster.
Mistake 2, trusting Phil Coke. What has happened to him?
I actually don’t mind leaving Porcello in, he was cruising along. But not having someone ready in the BP is an issue.

And Porcello is right, they are the ones playing. Leyland can take a couple bullets during the season, but sure enough hiters need to bring runners in and our bullpen needs to get outs.

It would appear that, for the most part, the diversion has been successful.

the pressure of the game falls more on the players to perform than the manager to manage. The manager can publicly take the blame for a bad outcome, deserved or not. It serves 2 purposes…it can deflect some of the added pressure of failure from the players and it models accountability which i suspect is important in the clubhouse.
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interesting that catchers on both teams bunted in late and close situations. neither were successful.

As to this bullpen. It is true that VV has settled things down after being designated as the closer. It has helped to allocate the other roles in a sense. But the main benefit seems more psychological than logical.
We can run numbers all we want to support our varying opinions on VV. The truth is that he was not reliable last year. In fact completely unreliable. He is the same guy only a bit older. Even when he is not getting rocked he is still the same guy that does not have the extremely valuable trait to hold runners on, keeping a DP in order and the runner out of scoring position. He is the same guy that gets his infielders back playing on their heels instead of dynamically engaged in the game. And no one can measure the “uh oh, now what?” factor that must be in the back of the minds of his team-mates when he is called upon.
If we are talking about a championship team, and in Detroit that is exactly what we should be talking about, then you need to have a closer that imbues confidence in your team-mates and fear in the opposition.
I think Rondon has the chance to be that guy. Failing that why wast Drew Smyly. He is a chameleon. He can do any job you want him to. But he should have “a JOB”. Not an indiscript role that goes on for a full season. His talent is being wasted that way.
He probably could be a really good closer. Forget about the stereotype. The big RHP that blows everyone away with one pitch. Seems to me guys like Willie Hernandez, BJ Ryan, Billy Wagner, Sparky Lyle, Dan Plesac John Franco, John Hiller and Wilbur Wood always managed to do the job.
Smyly might relish the role. Give him a chance. At least until he can become a starter if that is the plan. He is virtually languishing in obscurity with his abilities being minimized rather than maximized.

I was just going to go into that myself, and you laid it out well. It’s June now. Porcello is pitching great, as are the rest of the starters. Barring injury, that should continue. Smyly needs a role. It won’t happen because Valverde is here, but I’d like to see Drew close a game. He’s as cool headed a 22-year old as you’ll ever see, and he has put-away pitches. Continuing with Valverde is more a business decision than a strategic one. Too bad. All closers blow saves from time to time, but my money says Smyly could do it better than the Dancing Bear.

Well said, Dan. In “06 it seemed like the BP guys had roles. Nice, ElTigre. We sure do miss action Jackson. Dombrowski? Who could he get?

Two guys you might hear about on the rumor mill when the trade deadline gets closer: Ryan Webb and Mike Dunn of the Marlins. Webb is a big right-hander, but not a big-strikeout guy. His walk rate is up, but he’s controlling damage and stranding runners. Dunn is a lefty, but a good one. Both will be arbitration eligible this winter.

Here’s Lynn Henning again demonstrating how to make friends:
Lynn G. Henning‏@Lynn_Henning33m
“If fans managed bullpens, hot pitchers would be burned to a crisp. Cold pitchers (1 bad outing) exiled. Position players for extra innings.”
What I can’t figure out is how millions of fans would manage one team. That would require a very large dugout. Can’t use “the fans” singularly.

you can easily make it voting thing. like the whackdonalds player of the game….only you’d have to be a tigers fan (maybe you’d have to fill out an application and hand it into the box office). Henning isn’t wrong – fans are shortsighted.
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For example, how is AL ALBQ done with the organization? The guy couldn’t stop walking people – he HAD TO GO – and now he is working on it. Heck 2 days ago he threw his first inning (probably of the year) with no walks. He does that for 4 more innings and you’ll see him in Detroit. BET!

ALL fans are shortsighted? Was a poll taken or something? Quite a generalization.

the majority of fans i see make comments in the internet are. well maybe they are fannies and not fans….

“Making comments on the internet” being the key phrase there. :-) There is a Twitter account devoted solely to reminding people to never read comments.

Jackson took batting practice and he’s sore. Doesn’t look like he’s coming back as soon as we’d hoped. I wonder how long he played hurt or if the injury occurred in the last game he played in.
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Merciful heaven, I miss Gerald Laird.

There are fans and there are fannies. Tiger brass sometimes overlooks the former while pandering to the latter.

BTW, I consider Lorne Henning to be Tiger Brass. I’m sure he has secretly seconded himself to writing favourable articles about his manager!!

you might be right

Meanwhile we could be the Angels losing 4 in a row to Houston.

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