The Labor Day Breakfast

Happy Labor Day and a warm salute to the working men and women of the U.S. A special hat-tip to my Dad who helped build so many structures around Detroit — including the Ren Cen.

Leading Off: The Tigers completed a deliciously emphatic sweep of the White Sox last night, 18-2. Alex Avila collected four hits, Miguel Cabrera teed off big-time with a double, homer and four runs driven in, and Max Scherzer was terrific in his seven innings of work: five hits, six strikeout and no walks. Andy Dirks also drove in four (but who didn’t?) with a homer and a single.

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The Tigers are in first place, 6.5 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers @ Indians – Doug Fister (6-13, 3.26 ERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (2-1, 5.56 ERA) | 1:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Notes on Fister

Fister is 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA – including a victory over the Indians on Aug. 20 – since joining the Tigers. He’s 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA in four outings versus Cleveland this season.

Notes on Jimenez

Jimenez has given up four runs over 13 innings in his two most recent starts after being smoked for 21 runs in 21 innings through his first four appearances with the Indians.

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Around the Central: The Indians beat the Royals 9-6 and the Angels beat the Twins, 4-1. Today the Twins and White Sox play a day-night doubleheader, and the Royals visit the A’s.

Sports Illustrated’s Joe Lemire looks at what it takes for a big-league pitcher to lose 20 games — a mark which the Orioles’ Jeremy Guthrie is close to reaching; yesterday he lost his 17th. Naturally, the article looks at Brian Kingman and Mike Maroth, the last two pitchers to lose 20.

Losing 20 games is not for the faint of heart. And it’s not for the game’s worst pitchers. For a pitcher to lose 20, there must be a delicate balance of conditions: He can’t be so good that he’s winning games on his own, while he can’t be so bad that he loses the faith of the manager and front office, plus the offense can’t provide meaningful run support. A 20-game loser must be good enough that the team wants to continue giving him the ball. Kingman and Maroth were both in their first full major-league seasons, yet weren’t returned to the minors for more seasoning.

Leftovers from 20: The Postgame’s Eric Adelson wrote about Justin Verlander’s chances for reaching 300 wins, and why JV doesn’t much care for the conventional wisdom:

He doesn’t care for the statistician’s math. And he doesn’t care for history’s math. He knows 20-game winners are rare these days and, therefore, winning 300 in a career is a milestone most people view as unlikely.

(snip)

And still, to those who say it can’t be done, he says, pssshh.

“I disagree with that,” Verlander says, his eyes wide. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Happy 46th Birthday to Rob Richie.

Forty years ago today the Tigers tied a major-league record by using six pinch hitters in an inning (the seventh), but lose 6-5 to the Yankees.

On this date in 1984, Cal Ripken made a first-inning error to let in the game’s lone run as the Tigers beat Orioles, 1-0. Juan Berenguer gets the win and Willie Hernandez picked up his 28th save. Mike Flanagan goes the distance in the loss. Detroit’s magic number is 15.

Finally, Happy 82nd Birthday to Bob Newhart, one of my all-time favorites.

The Monday Report: Bad Penny, Power Rankings and Elliot Gould

Welcome to the end of August, in which the Tigers have amassed a 16-9 record so far. The boys returned home after a 5-2 road trip for four against the Royals.

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The Tigers are in first place, 6 games ahead of the White Sox, 6.5 ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers vs. Royals – Max Scherzer (13-7, 4.21 ERA) vs. Luke Hochevar (8-10, 4.91 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Notes on Scherzer:

Scherzer enters his start this evening versus Kansas City with a 4-3 record and 2.97 ERA over his last nine starts dating back to July 7.

He’s making his 15th start of the season at Comerica Park this evening against the Royals. He is 6-3 with a 3.44 ERA in his first 14 starts at home in 2011.

Lifetime, Scherzer is 4-3, 2.85 ERA against Kansas City.

Notes on Hochevar:

Hochevar will make his fourth start against the Tigers in tonight’s series opener, his third at Comerica Park. He’s 1-1 with a no decision, sporting a 6.48 ERA … both of his decisions have come in Detroit: a 9-5 victory during the Royals first trip of the season on April 10 and then a 3-1 loss on May 13 … he’s allowed 6 earned runs on 12 hits in 13 innings here in Detroit this season, with 5 home runs, all solo shots.

Lifetime, Hochevar is 3-4 against the Tigers with a 5.10 ERA in 10 games, including 9 starts, and is 2-2 at Comerica Park with a 6.04 ERA in 5 games.

Miguel Cabrera is hitting .480 off Hochevar.

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Leading Off: Brad Penny proved to be a stopper after all: a momentum stopper. Maybe it was too much to ask for, a sweep of the Twins in the last trip to Target Field this season, but the Tigers lost with a flourish, 11-4. Ramon Santiago collected four hits but other than that, it was a stinker. And what about poor David Pauley? The forgotten man of the bullpen might have showed once and for all why he is the forgotten man of the bullpen: 2 IP, 4 hits, 4 runs (all earned), a walk and homer. Meanwhile, Wilson Betemit is hitting 110 points higher than Brandon Inge Carlos Guillen is slated to begin an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple A Toledo tonight and soon thereafter will throw second base into disarray.

Around the Central: The Royals did their part to help the Tigers to no avail, beating the Indians 2-1, and the White Sox finished off a sweep of the Mariners, 9-3.

The Tigers moved up two spots in ESPN’s Power Rankings this week to number 7, seven spots ahead of the Indians and nine ahead of the White Sox.

Alex Avila extended his current hitting streak to 12 games yesterday at Minnesota. He compiled a 10-game hitting streak earlier in the month, doing so August 2-13. Avila is the first Tigers player to have two hitting streaks of 10 games-or-better in a single month since Roger Cedeno(!) did so in May of 2001. Cedeno posted two 10-game hitting streaks that month for the Tigers, doing so May 1-11 and May 15-25.

Paul Sporer wrote that Justin Verlander’s20th win was nothing but a symptom of greatness.

Joe Janish looks at waiver wire deals of the pastand finds two Tigers deals worth mentioning, if not remembering.

On this date in 1925, the city of Detroit hosted a dinner for Ty Cobb honoring his 20 years in a Tiger uniform. He was given a trophy by the city and $10,000 by the club.

On Aug. 29, 1959, Hamtramck won the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pa.

Finally, Happy 73rd Birthday to actor Elliot Gould who is known for many roles, but my favorite will always be that of Reuben Tishkoff in “Ocean’s 11” and 12 and 13.

Video: The Second-best Defensive Play to End a Tigers Game

I’ve decided that yesterday’s play by Austin Jackson and Alex Avila was the most exciting defensive play to end a Tigers game since July 24, 1983 when Chet Lemon stole a homer from Rod Carew at the Big A.

The catch gave the Tigers 4-3, 12-inning win and kept them just a half-game out of first behind the Orioles.

Here’s a WDIV Tigers promo from 1986 that plays off that unbelievable catch.

The Monday Report: A-Jax’s Throw, Ron LeFlore’s Record and Mats Wilander’s Birthday

Welcome to the last full week of August. The Tigers enjoy a 4.5-game lead on the Indians today. The last time they led the A.L. Central by that many games was Sept. 16, 2009.

Leading Off: I’ve watched a lot of Tigers baseball in my time but I can’t recall a more exciting final out sequence as the one we saw on Sunday to preserve a 8-7 Tigers win. Austin Jackson’s flawless throw to Alex Avila. Rick Porcello seemed hell bent to surrender a seven-run cushion but thankfully the bullpen did enough to blow it entirely … The Tigers head to Tampa Bay for a four-game set … They also are looking for their first winning streak of more than three games since June 7 when they had a four-game winning streak snapped.

Around the Central: The White Sox crushed the Rangers 10-0 at U.S. Cellular Field; the Red Sox downed the Royals, 6-1, and the Yankees blanked the Twins, 3-0.

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The Tigers are in first place, 4.5 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers @ Rays — Justin Verlander (18-5, 2.31 ERA) vs. Jeff Nieman (8-4, 3.29 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Verlander has won each of his last six starts for the Tigers dating back to July 21, compiling a 2.36 ERA and 51 strikeouts during that stretch.

In nine career starts against the Rays, Verlander’s 5-1 with a 3.88 ERA.

With a win tonight, he would equal his career high in victories set in 2009. It would mark the fastest a Tigers pitcher won his 19th game of the season since Mickey Lolich did so in the club’s 114th game of the 1972 season.

On this date, Ron LeFlore swiped his 27th consecutive base as the Tigers beat the Twins, 7-3. He began the streak on July 16.

On this date in 1981, the Tigers acquired first baseman Ron Jackson from the Twins for outfielder Tim Corcoran.

On Aug. 22, 1997, The Tigers pounded the Brewers, 16-1, with the aid of 23 hits and an 11- run seventh inning. Bobby Higginson got five hits, while Travis Fryman and Tony Clark drive in four runs apiece.

Happy 35th Birthday to Jeff Weaver. Also celebrating today is Doug Bair; he’s 62.

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  • The Tigers are #10 in ESPN’s Power Rankings, up from nine last week. They trail the D-backs (who have one more win) and this week’s opponent, the Rays (#7).
  • Somehow I missed out on Dave Schoenfield’s reminiscing about Chet Lemon last week:

    If you’re too young to remember Chet Lemon, he was a superb ballplayer. He could them run down in center field — in fact, his 512 putouts with the White Sox in 1977 remains the American League record, not bad for a guy who had converted from third base as a rookie the year before. He hit .300 three times, had some power, drew some walks, got hit by 10 to 20 pitches a season. He did a lot to help his teams win.

    What Chet Lemon wasn’t very good at was stealing bases.

  • This is a topic that deserves more thought than I have time for today but am I the only one who thinks Miguel Cabrera has a profound lack of hustle on the bases, particularly out of the batter’s box?
  • SI‘s Joe Sheehan thinks the stars are aligning in the Tigers favor after sweeping the Indians:

    Jackson’s base-runner kill helped Jose Valverde escape a bases-loaded, no-out jam and convert his 37th consecutive save this season. The Tigers have fended off a series of challenges by the Indians, and after a trip to Tampa Bay get seven games against the Twins and Royals to stretch their lead before six more against the White Sox and Indians. That week may represent both teams’ last shot to keep the Tigers from making September a coronation.

  • Are the Tigers winning with other clubs’ talent?
  • Not a game goes by that I don’t wish the Tigers still had Placido Polanco batting second.
  • It doesn’t matter if the Twins send Jim Thome to the Indians before Aug. 31. The Tigers are set to face both clubs six more times this season so, they’re hosed either way.

Finally, Happy 47th Birthday to tennis hall of famer Mats Wilander who, in 1988, won the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open.

The Friday Breakfast

Welcome to the weekend and a big series against the Indians at Comerica Park. Cleveland will avoid facing Justin Verlander in the three-game set, much to the chagrin of Tigers fans.

Leading Off: The Tigers were off on Thursday and likely spent part of the day kicking themselves over missing an opportunity to beat the Twins and take the series. You know, kinda like how they kicked the ball around the diamond and let the  Twins beat them, 6-5. Unfortunately, the boys remembered how good they used to be at losing to Minnesota in myriad ways … Every time the Tigers face Joe Nathan I think to myself, This is the time they beat him. Alas …

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The Tigers are in first place, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers vs. Indians – Max Scherzer (12-7, 4.37 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (12-5, 3.97 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Scherzer is making his 14th start of the season at Comerica Park this evening against the Indians. He’s 5-3 with a 3.63 ERA in his first 13 starts at home in 2011.

He enters this start versus Cleveland having limited opponents to two-or-fewer walks in 15 of his last 17 starts for the Tigers. He has issued two-or-fewer walks in 19 of his 25 starts this season.

Lifetime at Comerica Park, Scherzer is he is 13-7 with a 3.28 ERA in 28 outings.

Scherzer has limited opponents to a .203 batting average with runners in scoring position in 2011.

On this date in 1974, the Tigers acquired catcher Jerry Moses from the Yankees and traded righthander Jim Perry to the Indians and righty Ed Farmer to the Yankees (the Indians traded RHP Rick Sawyer and OF Walt Williams to the Yankees) as part of the three-way deal.

On this date in 1921, at the age of 34, Ty Cobb became the youngest player to collect 3,000 hits when he singles off Red Sox’ Elmer Myers.

Happy Birthday to David Palmer, 54; Terry Harper, 56; and, Fred Lasher, 70. Here’s a bio of Lasher on SABR’s Bio Project website, it also appeared in Mark Pattison and David Raglin’s 2008 book, Sock It To ‘Em Tigers–The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers.

[/callout]Around the Central: The Indians doubled up the White Sox, 4-2; the Royals lost to the Red Sox and are now 23 games under .500, and the Twins lost to the Yankees and CC Sabathia, 8-4.

Leyland’s Ugly Lineups: At least that’s what Dave Schoenfield wrote:

No matter how you slice it, Detroit’s best hitters have been, in order: Cabrera, Avila, Peralta, Martinez, Boesch and then a big drop to Dirks and regular leadoff hitter Austin Jackson. So with several good lineup options, Jim Leyland has instead chosen to bat two players with poor on-base percentages in front of his best hitter. And he continues to bat his second- and third-best hitters sixth and seventh.

I know there’s a goodly number of you who agree 100 percent — or more, if that were possible.

Did you know the Tigers are 27-18 against clubs from the A.L. Central this season? Detroit’s .600 winning percentage is tops among all A.L. clubs with the .600 winning percentage against the division.

Keith Law looks at the A.L. MVP race and the contenders, which include Justin Verlander:

I’m not sure what sort of voting calamity would have to occur for a pitcher to win an MVP award, but indulge me for the moment, since the rules for MVP voters do not in any way exclude pitchers, and any voter who omits them entirely is violating the spirit of those rules, if not their letter as well. Such a voter is also ignoring the value that a top-end starting pitcher can create, whether it’s Roy Halladay this year in the National League or Verlander in the American.

An august August for Avila. Alex Avila enters tonight’s game hitting .426 with three doubles, a triple, three home runs and 11 RBI in 14 games during August. He’s leading American League players with a .426 batting average and .542 on-base percentage during the month, while he is third with a .723 slugging percentage.

Finally, Happy 63rd Birthday to Gerald “Major Dad” McRaney. Have a great weekend.

Baseball Prospectus: Alex Avila is Tigers’ Secret Weapon

Ben Lindbergh at BaseballProspectus.com today makes an interesting case for Alex Avila as the Tigers’ most valuable player.

Miguel Cabrera gets most of the accolades in the Detroit Tigers’ historically top-heavy lineup, and not without reason — the first baseman’s .349 True Average (TAv) trails only Jose Bautista’s among American League batters. However, Cabrera hasn’t been the most valuable position player in Detroit this season. That title belongs to Alex Avila, a 24-year-old catcher who came up through the Tigers’ system before making his major league debut late in 2009.

Avila acquitted himself well in his initial exposure to the majors but his bat crashed back to earth last season, when he hit .228/.316/.340 while splitting catching duties with Gerald Laird. This season, however, he’s hit well enough to take over the team lead in Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP), posting a 3.4 figure to Cabrera’s 3.1.

My eyes glaze over on most of the statistical stuff, but the point of the article is interesting.

Tigers Prospects Dry Up After Arizona Fall League

Note: This article first appeared on ESPN.com’s SweetSpot blog today.

When the Tigers traded Scott Sizemore to the A’s over Memorial Day Weekend, it brought an abrupt and mildly startling end to his tenure as Detroit’s second baseman of the future. The Tigers, after all, anointed him as the heir apparent to Placido Polanco almost immediately after they lost Game 163 to the Twins in 2009.

Polanco was eligible for arbitration, which coincided with the Tigers’ momentary spending freeze, and soon he was back with the Phillies doing everything fans in Detroit had come accustomed to: steadiness in the field, reliability at the plate.

But back to Sizemore. The Tigers sent him to the Arizona Fall League – “a graduate school” for top prospects, according to the AFL Media Guide – in 2007 and again in ‘09 in what they undoubtedly expected to be a final tuneup before handing over the keys to second base to him for the foreseeable future.

Within days of the 2009 AFL season, Sizemore’s ankle was broken as he attempted to turn a double play and his fall league experience went kaput. It didn’t stop the Tigers from hoping that he could recover in time for spring training.

Fast forward to May 27 when he was dealt to Oakland for David Purcey (himself an AFL graduate) and the book was closed on Sizemore’s career in Detroit: 65 games, a .223 average, .605 OPS and a mere three home runs. Not legendary stuff and certainly nowhere close to Polanco’s track record.

Continue reading “Tigers Prospects Dry Up After Arizona Fall League”