Monday, May 25, 2009

2009 1st Quarter Report

43 games in, a bit over a quarter into the season, we're sitting pretty at 25-18, good enough for first place and a 4 game lead in the divison. Eat that, MLB experts. Imagine where we'd be if we had a bit of offense along the way, huh? But here's my votes on a few individual catagories early in the year.

Nicest Surprise
There's a few decent contenders here including Brandon Inge, Fernando Rodney, and Edwin Jackson, but I'm going to go with the offensive play of our shortstop duo, Adam Everett and Ramon Santiago. Combined, they are hitting .319 with 4 homers and an impressive 35 RBIs. Who'd have projected that for the first quarter? These guys have been awesome in the field, as advertised, but providing the offensive spark that's been missing from most of our big names is a large part of why we're in first place. A close second place, in my opinion, has been Young Dreamboat Rick Porcello, who's looked much better than a guy that hasn't pitched above A Ball.

Biggest Disappointment
It's odd to have so many disappointments on a first place club. From Guillen to Ordonez, to Granderson and Polanco, we have a bunch of guys off to slow starts at the plate. But overall, I'm going with a pitcher, Armando Galarraga, here. He started well, but he'd been dreadful the past few weeks. Armando was probably our "ace" on last year's underwhelming staff, but this year, he's become the weak link. He's 3-4 with a 5.74 ERA and in danger of leaving the rotation when Jeremy Bonderman returns in the coming week or two. Basically, Armando's become this year's Nate Robertson...not a good thing.

Comeback of the Year
If Dontrelle Willis continues to impress, he may well wrap this award up for the entire league by season's end. But right now, I'm going with Justin Verlander. JV's pitching like the ace we all hoped he'd become once again. After today's stellar performance, he's 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA, leading the AL with 85 strikeouts. Last year's 11-17, 4.84 ERA performance is becoming a distant memory as Verlander's been baseball's best pitcher not named Zach Greinke the past month.

Coach of the Year
When the pitching's good, the pitching coach looks like a genius. When it's bad, the pitching coach becomes a scapegoat. Ask Chuck Hernandez about that. We've been outstanding this year, so Rick Knapp gets this award. He came to us from the Twins organization with a reputation of harping on guys about throwing strikes. And that's just what he's done with guys like Verlander, Jackson, and Zumaya. Walks and ERAs are down and wins are up. Thank you, Rick Knapp.

Best Pitcher
With all due respect to Mr. Verlander's May success, Edwin Jackson has been top notch all season. EJax is 4-2 with an unbelievable 2.55 ERA in 9 starts so far. His wildness has been a thing of the past and he's finally living up to the potential the Dodgers thought he had as a youngster. The man much of Tiger Town groaned about when Matt Joyce was traded to Tampa has been having a career year in Motown. Here's to hoping he keeps it up.

Worst Pitcher
The "Nate Award" so far this year goes to Brandon Lyon. The man was acquired to be our closer and instead has an ERA of nearly 6 while giving up 19 hits (4 homers) in only 19.2 innings. Worse, the man who was known for his good control has given up an alarming 11 walks so far. The Tigers took a chance on Mr. Lyon this offseason, and he just hasn't panned out. Luckily, while looking scary at times, Fernando Rodney has gone 8/8 in save opportunities so far to be the man Lyon was supposed to be.

Best Hitter
You can't stop Miguel Cabrera...you can only hope to contain him. Entering today, the big man was hitting .367 with 9 homers and 33 RBIs. If we could get some hitting in front and/or behind him, those numbers could be even scarier. The man is simply a beast and a yearly MVP candidate while still being in his mid 20's. Getting Cabrera for a bunch of prospects that have yet to work out in Florida might be the best deal Double D has ever pulled off. On top of that, Cabrera has shown huge improvements on defense over at first, putting the icing on the cake for him.

Worst Hitter
Mr. Misty-May was on his way to winning this award going 0-13 as a Tiger before ending his season with an injury, but I'm going with his replacement, Dane Sardinha. Dane's hitting a dismal .095, 0, 2, in 21 at bats so far. I've never seen a major league player look more lost than Sardinha does at the plate. He's also struck out 10 times in those 21 at bats. The kid called "Pineapple" calls a decent game, but we might as well have our pitcher hitting on the days Gerald Laird needs a rest.

Team MVP
Cabrera's an easy pick here, but...God help me...I'm picking Brandon Inge as the MVP of the first quarter of the 2009 season. The guy is playing way over his head hitting .271 (slugging .556) entering today with 12 homers, 31 RBIs, and most importantly, playing a Gold Glove third base. Inge has become Mr. Web Gem this season. He's getting the big hit when most guys not named Cabrera aren't getting the job done. What else can I say? Maybe the 13 year old girls were right all along.

It's been a fun start to the 2009 season in Tiger Town. The Tigers are winning with pitching and defense, something that never seems to happen in Detroit. Things continue to look up with Bondo and Thames coming back from injury and Magglio Ordonez starting to heat up at the plate. If we can get Granderson hitting again and get something out of Carlos Guillen when he comes back, perhaps this team can fulfill the expectations that last year's team had coming into the season. But I'm getting WAY ahead of myself here...keep up the good work, guys.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Catfight: Sheff vs. Clete

It's a Battle of the Titans as I compare our old #3 guy to our, sigh, new #3 guy. It's Gary Sheffield vs. Clete Thomas! Gary's numbers are currently .257, 3, 9, .396, .459 in 74 at bats in New York, while Clete's hitting .286, 1, 6, .375, .429 in 56 at bats. Gary has the early lead, but we can go deeper than that, can't we?

1. Looks
Sheff: Like a man-beast.
Clete: Constipated.
Advantage: Sheffield.

2. Major League Teams
Sheff: Has played for 8 of them.
Clete: 8 have heard of him.
Advangage: Sheffield.

3. All Star Games
Sheff: Played in 9.
Clete: Voted in 4.
Advantage: Sheffield.

4. 500+
Sheff: Homers and counting.
Clete: Cult Members.
Advantage: Sheffield.

5. Walks
Sheff: 70-100 times per year.
Clete: To the bus stop to get to the balkpark.
Advantage: Sheffield

6. The Cream
Sheff: Took with Barry Bonds.
Clete: Now shaves TWICE a week!
Advantage: Clete. No one wins with PEDs.

7. Favorite Uncle
Sheff: Dwight Gooden
Clete: Uncle Pete?
Advantage: Clete. Say no to drugs, kids.

8. Defense
Sheff: 1 error the past two years.
Clete: 4 errors the past two years.
Advantage: Clete. C'mon...I've played about as much MLB outfield as Gary has the past two years.

9. Latinos
Sheff: Says they're easy to control.
Clete: Controlled by the Venezuelans.
Advantage: Clete. Can't go against Magglio.

10. Costing Us
Sheff: $13.6 million to play in New York
Clete: Probably the minimum
Advangage: Clete. Bang for the buck.

And Clete comes from behind to...tie? We need a tie breaker...

11. Scrappy
Clete: Term used to describe him.
Gary: His drug dealer's nickname.
Advantage and winner: CLETE!

Well, the numbers don't lie. I guess I should shut up over my disgust over Gary leaving as Michael Clete Thomas has come out on top in the end.

Tonight: Game 2 against the Colorado Grillis. Can we win 8 in a row?

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Month Late: Adios, Timo.

timo perez Pictures, Images and Photos

Timo Perez has been a favorite of mine for a couple years. I was somehow hoping that he'd make the team this year out of Spring Training. He did hit .333, 1, 5 in Lakeland with a .345 OBP. But a 34 year old journeyman outfielder that's played for 4 teams with non-superstar success isn't going to high on the priority list when there's kids to take a look at. But I still rooted. He didn't make it...and I guess I kinda forgot about him.

Until today. Wilkin Ramirez made his debut yesterday and did well crushing the first homerun of his career in his first MLB game. I can't wait to see more of the kid. But with Sheff being released, along with Thames and Guillen going down, I started thinking, why can't Timo get a call up? Raburn, Larish, and Clete are doing well, but Timo's my boy. Leyland even called Perez the best pinch hitter on the team this spring. Then it dawned on me...I haven't heard anything on him with the Hens this year. I am a moron.

Timo was designated for assignment in April and I'm not sure if he didn't accept it or they ended up releasing him. (Wikipedia says released.) I had thought for sure that he was heading to the Hens again, but I guess not. He's currently playing in the Mexican League for Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz. Timo's hitting .302, 1, 10 with a .393 OBP. No big surprise...that's what Timo does. In '07 with us, he was one of the few that didn't quit at the end of the year hitting .389, 0, 13, .427. Last year with the Hens, he hit .302, 13, 63, .374. What's he doing in Mexico? The Nationals couldn't use someone like him?

I'll miss you, Timo. There has to be a place for a guy like you in the Major Leagues. Sorry I forgot about you for a while. Won't happen again.

And that will be my Rick Reilly-ish jibberish for THIS month. Please tune in next time when I'll most likely be back to my usual poop humor. Good luck, Timo. Someone should have started you a Cult.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Injuries: Not Always A Bad Thing

Normally, when you think of a MLB team's players going on the DL, it's a bad thing. But with the multiple Tigers that have been hurt already, I think it's actually helping the team in both the short term and the long run. We've been able to take a longer look at some of the AAA kittens and have been able to rest some of the older guys. Here's a quick peek.

Carlos Guillen, shoulder
Carlos wasn't doing too much before heading to the DL, but since he's been gone, Magglio's been able to DH more and it seems to be helping him at the plate. More importantly, Jeff Larish has had a chance to come back and he's been doing quite well. Take your time coming back, Carlos. Then again, it'll probably only be a couple more weeks before you're hurt again.

Mr. Misty-May Treanor, torn labrum, right hip (out for year)
Dane Sardinha hits about as well as Ty Cobb does...and by that I mean Ty Cobb's remains today. But the kid can catch. The players seem to like him. And Rod loves calling him "Pineapple" (racist jerk). I'd still like to see the Tigers be on the lookout for a quality MLB backup catcher (or starter if Laird keeps struggling), but I guess there's more important things to worry about than getting a .240 hitting backup to replace your .200 hitting backup. (I hope he hits .200.)

Marcus Thames, left ribcage strain
Every year, Jim struggles to find Marcus Thames some at bats. With the big man gone, though, he's been able to play Josh Anderson, Clete Thomas, and Ryan Raburn a lot more and find out what they have to offer. I've loved what I've seen out of Anderson, Clete's been better than I expected (he's still not a #3 hitter, though), and Raburn's finally catching fire. It's fun to watch Thames swing for the fences, but I'm willing to bet that Leyland's happy to have the chance to watch the three young guys play a bit.

Jeremy Bonderman, thoracic outlet surgery
Dontrelle Willis, crazy

With the two starters out, we got the MLB debut of Dreamboat Rick Porcello, who's been quite impressive for a guy so young. In fact, if JV and EJax weren't being so dominant, I think Rick would be getting more attention. Also, extended looks at Miner and Galarraga have helped to see who truly belongs in this rotation. With Bondo returning soon and Galarraga struggling so much, I can see Armando becoming the odd man out, which I don't think would have happened without the mentioned injuries. Willis and Bondo continue to remain question marks at this point, though.

Nate Robertson, bruised labia (or whatever)
Poor Nate. He has to feel unwanted and forgotten at this point by everyone. (I'm still here for ya, buddy.) There just is no place for him on the team anymore and with his injury, "The Tickler" Luke French has been able to come up and throw a couple scoreless innings for us. Yet another kid for Leyland to get a good look at.

Last year was different. Granderson going down early killed this team from the start. Injuries continued all year. This year, negatives have become positives. Hopefully, this trend continues and the Tigers can keep learning from the chances the younger guys have been given in 2009.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A New Hero Emerges

Tonight's beatdown of the A's was fun to watch after the torture of the past few days in Minnesota. I could talk about Raburn finally doing SOMETHING and hitting a Grand Slam. I could talk about Inge's bomb making it the first time the Tigers have had two grannies in a game since 1968. I could mention EJax continuing to dominate. Magglio finally had a good game. Etc, etc, etc. I could talk about all that. (I think I just did?) But, no. There is something WAY more important here.

Luke French made his debut with a 1-2-3 ninth. This guy is screaming for a nickname.

Frenchy? Too obvious.

French Fry? Too greasy.

Cool Hand Luke? Maybe...but what else do we have?

French Bulldog? Hasn't earned it.

French Toast? Only when he pitches poorly.

Luke Skywalker? Nate...I am your father. That made no sense...

Saint Luke? No. Religious people get angry easily.

The French Connection? No. We would need another Froggy guy for that. Wait a minute...

The Frog? The kids would get into that...

The French Kiss? I like that for whatever his strikeout pitch is.

Luke Perry? When French and Ryan Perry pitch in the same game? I'm sorry...

The French Revolution? I'll save that for a blog title one day...

Victor French? He was the bearded guy in the A's hat on "Highway To Heaven". Screw the A's.

Luke-Kemia? That will make people sad...

The French Tickler?

Luke French, I dub thee "The Tickler". Good luck in your stay in Detroit.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lyon Heart

It's hard to remember back to back heartbreaking games like these two to the Twins. I'm a bit sick to my stomach and tired of throwing up in my mouth watching this bullpen the past two days, but I would like to say one thing.

Thanks, Brandon Lyon. You tried. Lyon had no business being in the game as long as he was. Shame on the Tigers management for not having a full team available for the game. Sure, you don't usually see a 13+ inning game coming, but if Nate's really been hurt this long, they should've been prepared. Everyone, including myself, has given Lyon a hard time so far. But for him to be out there, 60 pitches in, and still throwing while clearly out of gas...at least he tried. And he took one for the team. Too bad they didn't get another inning out of Rodney.

Damn you to hell, Joe Crede: Tiger Killer. But I'm more upset with Tigers management right now. Bring on the A's. Hopefully things will go a bit better with them.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Taking On The Cult

(braces for hate mail...okay)

cult: an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, esp. as manifested by a body of admirers.

There is no way we are going to contend in our division with Clete Thomas continuing as our #3 hitter. I'm sorry. I don't know what kind of Clete's Kool Aid that Tigertown (or Jim Leyland) has been drinking when it comes to this guy, but it's that simple. Even Jason Beck's been infected with The Clete, as I call it. I can't find it now, but the other day on tigers.com he referred to Thomas as "explosive". He has one career home run! WTF?

I like Clete Thomas. I think he's a nice #4 or #5 outfielder. But he's not especially good at anything. He's not a great hitter. He's not great on defense. He's kinda fast, but not blazing. He's a left handed David Eckstein playing outfield. Sure, he's gritty, pesky, hard-nosed, and all the other words sports writers use to describe little white guys that try hard, but he's not a #3 hitter for a MLB contender.

This year in Toledo, coming off of an injury, Clete hit .236 with 1 homer and 10 RBIs. Then, Carlos pulls his normal DL thingy, and all of the sudden, Clete's hitting in the Kirk Gibson spot in the lineup with the big boys. Excuse me? What kind of pictures does Clete have of Jim Leyland that the Marlboro Man doesn't want us knowing about?

Clete had that big game against Cleveland in his first game back going 3/4 and missing the cycle by a homer. Awesome job. But since then, in the #3 hole, and after today's 2 singles, he's 5/18 with no homers and 1 RBI. That RBI (and one of those hits) was a weak grounder against the Tribe that their second baseman double clutched and Clete was safe. It should've been an error. Nice hustle, Clete. But weak grounders are not what we need out of the #3 spot.

Carlos and Marcus are gone for now. But why is Clete even playing every day? We already have a left handed, left fielder that is a better hitter, faster runner, and I think, a better defensive option. He is Josh Anderson...or Mr. Anderson to you and I. So far, Josh has hit .327 this year with 0 homers and 7 RBIs. He's 6/7 in steal attempts with a .373 OBP. What has he done to make Jim Leyland mad?

We are 3-2 in the games that Clete has batted third. And other than the first one, we aren't scoring runs. The pitching has carried us. I understand Jim's want of going lefty/righty in the lineup, but there are better options. I can't be the only one that's been screaming to the heavens to move Curtis Granderson to the 3 spot. (And what's Jim smoking batting Curtis 5th? Cabrera does not need protection at the expense of limiting Curtis' at bats.) Hell, if you still want to keep having Grandy lead off, put Larish there! I'd rather see Larish swinging for gaps than Clete legging out an infield hit batting third.

My ideal lineup for this team right now is as follows.

1. Josh Anderson, LF
2. Placido Polanco, 2B
3. Curtis Granderson, CF
4. Miguel Cabrera, DH
5. Jeff Larish, 1B
6. Magglio Ordonez, RF
7. Brandon Inge, 3B
8. Gerald Larid, C
9. Santiago/Everett, SS

Use Clete to give guys some days off...not to anchor the lineup.

After all, who would you want backing you up?

Mr. Anderson?
neo matrix Pictures, Images and Photos

Or Cletus?
cletus Pictures, Images and Photos

Don't kill me, Cult. I'm just looking out of the good of the group.

Friday, May 8, 2009

What's In A Name?

Nicknames. I think baseball, more than any other sport, embraces nicknames for their players, especially in their home towns. There are obvious exceptions in other pro sports including Shaquille O'Neill's 50 nicknames or "Sweetness" Walter Payton, but only in baseball, I think, does almost every player on the team have some sort of nickname to their fans. Some stick, some don't. Many come to be part of a player's legacy. For instance, Ty Cobb is remembered as "The Georgia Peach". Makes him seem nice instead of calling him "The Racist Prick", which may have been more fitting.

We've been especially lucky in Detroit. From Mark "The Bird" Fidrych to "The Big Wheel" Lance Parrish to Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez and back to "Mr. Tiger" Al Kaline, we've had some great ones. Even many of our not-so-great players have had memorable nicknames. William Henry Barnes will always be "Skeeter" to Tiger fans and Exavier Prente Logan will always be "Nook". I've been lucky enough to have rooted for guys like "Big Daddy" Cecil Fielder, Chet "The Jet" Lemon, "Sweet" Lou Whitaker, Mickey "Fruit Loops" Tettleton, and their leader, George "Sparky" Anderson over the years. In recent years, we've had "The Gambler", "The Mayor", and "The Human Roller Coaster" playing for us. As for the current group? Not a great group for nicknames. Some are famous for them. Others just have nicknames amongst myself and my friends, or at blogs I've read. Here's a quick list.

Joel Zumaya: "Zoom", "Glass Joel"
Justin Verlander: "JV", "Justin Credible"
Magglio Ordonez: "Maggs", "The Big Tilde"
Brandon Inge: "Special Little Guy", "Cringe", "BInge"
Placido Polanco: "Polly", "Mr. Potato Head"
Miguel Cabrera: "Cabby", "Ca-boom", "Miggy"
Curtis Granderson: "Grandy", "Mr. Perfect"
Jeremy Bonderman: "Bondo"
Rick Porcello: "Dreamboat Rick"
Fernando Rodney: "Capt. Crookedhat"
Dane Sardinha: "Not So Great Dane"
Ramon Santiago: "The Little Tiger That Could"
Josh Anderson: "Mr. Anderson", "Neo"
Dontrelle Willis: "D-Train", "D-List"
Zach Miner: Zach "Should Be In The" Miner(s)
Marcus Thames: "Well-Tanned Rob Deer"
Brandon Lyon: "Todd Jones Jr."
Jim Leyland: "The Marlboro Man"

And, of course...

Nate Robertson: "DesigNate Robertson"

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Always A Tiger Update

I try to keep up on ex-Tigers when they leave town. "Always A Tiger", you know...yeah, I'm a dork. Here's a list of how the boys are doing early this season, position by position. My apologies if I missed anyone.

SP-Jair Jurrjens, Atl, 2-2, 1.89 ERA, 33.1 IP, 16 K
SP-Andrew Miller, Fla, 0-1, 6.94 ERA, 11.2 IP, 3 K
SP-Brian Moehler, Hou, 0-2, 27.00 ERA, 4 IP, 1 K
SP-Jeff Weaver, LAD, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 4 IP, 4 K
RP-Jamie Walker, Bal, 0-0, 1.93 ERA, 4.2 IP, 5 K
RP-Kyle Farnsworth, KC, 0-3, 8.59 ERA, 7.1 IP, 7 K
RP-Troy Percival, TB, 0-1, 3 SV, 2.45 ERA, 7.1 IP, 3 K
RP-Jason Grilli, Col, 0-1, 1.04 ERA, 8.2 IP, 12 K
RP-Doug Brocail, Hou, 1-0, 4.76 ERA, 5.2 IP, 4 K
RP-Casey Fossum, NYM, 0-0, 2.25 ERA, 4 IP, 3 K
RP-Chad Durbin, Phi, 1-0, 4.50 ERA, 14 IP, 11 K
RP-Trevor Miller, StL, 0-0, 5.40 ERA, 6.2 IP, 8 K
RP-Wil Ledezma, Was, 0-0, 9.53 ERA, 5.2 IP, 8 K

C-Ivan Rodriguez, Hou, .253, 3, 10, .294 OBP
C-Brad Ausmus, LAD, .438, 0, 3, .500
1B-Carlos Pena, TB, .271, 11, 28, .364
1B-Tony Clark, Ari, .185, 2, 5, .267
2B-Omar Infante, Atl, .367, 0, 6, .407
2B-Jason Smith, Hou, .000, 0, 1, .000
3B-Jack Hannahan, Oak, .167, 1, 1, .167
SS-John McDonald, Tor, .111, 0, 0, .111
SS-Edgar Renteria, SF, .250, 2, 11, .326
OF-Gabe Kapler, TB, .229, 0, 0, .308
OF-Matt Joyce, TB, .100, 1, 1, .250
OF-Cody Ross, Fla, .222, 4, 15, .253
OF-Cameron Maybin, Fla, .216, 1, 3, .283
OF-Gary Sheffield, NYM, .176, 1, 4, .333
OF-Matt Stairs, Phi, .308, 2, 6, .438
OF-Craig Monroe, Pit, .276, 2, 10, .323
OF-Andres Torres, Pit, .222, 1, 1, .417

Carlos Pena for MVP, Jair Jurrjens for Cy Young, and Jason Grilli for the Rolaids Relief Award. Who'd a thunk it? Sigh.