Galarraga Arrives a Hero in Arizona

Armando Galarraga, according to this headline, appears to be a popular Diamondbacks player already, which is relative, of course.

In this city, fans are more likely to know the Suns’ 12th man than the Dbacks’ fifth starter. But columnist Dan Bickley says Galarraga’s reaction to the blown call and the aftermath could make him “the most popular losing pitcher in baseball history.”

Here’s a sampling of Bickley’s column in yesterday’s Arizona Republic:

Though he’s only 23-26 as a starter, Galarraga enjoys a lofty reputation among baseball fans. He is viewed as a professional athlete with a heart, a player who can step out of his world and walk in someone else’s shoes. He credits his parents for teaching him to step back and cool off “when something is going wrong, when something makes you want to scream.”

(snip)

Question is, will we love Galarraga in the coming months? That’s hard to say. He will compete for a spot in the starting rotation, and many baseball observers aren’t convinced he’ll ever morph into an impact starter. Still, if his command is as good as his self-control, he has a fighting chance. And he’s very happy for a fresh start, for the chance to throw a perfect game in the National League.

“I’m very excited. I can’t wait to hit. I really like Arizona. That’s a great stadium for pitching,” Galarraga said.

Of course, he’s dead wrong about Chase Field, which is notoriously friendly to hitters. That’s OK. We’ll forgive him. It’s the least we can do.

I’m still not convinced that Dbacks’ manager Kirk Gibson won’t be infuriated by Galarraga’s lack of aggressiveness. I guess we’ll see.

2010: The Year in Lists

2011Calendar.jpgA year ago, we were still stinging from Game 163 and not certain how the Tigers would respond to a crushing end to the 2009 season. Would they regress to 2008’s disappointment or regroup to erase the memory of the ’09 collapse?

The answer was: they’d be relevant. And that, ladies in gentlemen, is the extent of the analysis in this post. Instead of a deep dive into 2010, let’s look at the year in the form of randomly selected lists:

2010 At A Glance*

  • Record: 81-81, 3rd in American League Central, 13 games back of Minnesota
  • Days in First: 13, the last on July 10
  • Biggest Lead: 1, last on July 7
  • Farthest Behind: 15.5 on Sept. 15
  • Most Games over .500: 11, last on July 10
  • Most Games under .500: 5, last on Aug. 19
  • Longest Winning Streak: 7, June 11-18
  • Longest Losing Streak: 7, July 11-20
  • Most Runs Allowed: 15, June 9
  • Most Runs Scored: 13, Aug. 15
  • Longest Game (innings): 14, July 19
  • Times Shutout by Opponent: 10
  • Times Opponent Shutout: 5

Continue reading “2010: The Year in Lists”

Final Thoughts: The Call Was Blown, Now Leave It Alone

Armando Galarraga‘s brilliance on Wednesday night has been tarnished enough by a bad call.

Any move by official scorers, Major League Baseball, the Players’ Union or Amnesty International to “correct” the umpiring gaffe and hand Galarraga a perfect game 18 hours later will tarnish his performance even more.

Isn’t one asterisk enough?

Seriously, how can the official scorer charge an error on the penultimate play? He can’t ding Miguel Cabrera for the throw, it was fine. He can’t penalize Galarraga either; he made the catch, he tagged the base.

For me, the bottom line is that this can only get worse if “they” start tinkering with the results. In many ways, this game will be even more memorable because of Jim Joyce‘s goof.

Think about it, even if Galarraga never wins another major-league game he’ll always be remembered as that guy who threw the perfect game that the umpire blew. Not ideal but not Bill Buckner either.

And what, pray tell, is Galarraga expected to do if he was suddenly — what’s the appropriate word here, awarded, handed, reimbursed? — a perfect game? It makes no sense to try to right this wrong.

It stinks, yes, but it’s how baseball works — or doesn’t sometimes.

Armando Galarraga’s Near-Perfection By the Numbers

GalarragaHead.jpgWhat has gotten lost in all the calls for do-overs and commissioner over-rides is the remarkable precision with which Armando Galarraga pitched against the Indians Wednesday night.

A quick look at the bottom-line stats are stunning on their own:

  • 88 pitches
  • 67 strikes
  • 21 balls

As ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick points out, that pitch count includes the five pitches Galarraga threw to Trevor Crowe for the final out.

Awesome, right? Well, it actually gets better.

Thanks to a Pitcher Report Card produced by the good folks at Inside Edge, we gain insight into these nuggets of statistical goodness:

  • 86 percent of Galarraga’s first pitches were thrown for strikes
  • 93 percent of his first two pitches were strikes
  • 75 percent of his fastballs were strikes
  • 77 percent of off-speed pitchers were strikes
  • 93 percent of two-strike at bats became outs
  • 4 percent of Indians at-bats went to three-ball counts

In fact, out of the 23 categories Inside Edge uses to grade a pitcher’s performance, Galarraga earned an A+ in 20 of them. The three in which he fell short were:

  • 50 percent of 1-and-1 counts became 1-and-2 counts (the MLB average is 54 percent) – Grade: C+
  • 7 percent of outs were strikeouts in four pitches or less (MLB average, 12 percent) – Grade: C-
  • 7 percent of Galarraga’s pitches were swing-and-miss strikes (MLB average, 15 percent) – Grade: F

As you might have guessed, Inside Edge graded the outing an A.

Galarraga’s surgical approach to the Cleveland lineup also included first-pitch strikes to every right-handed batter he faced (73 percent to lefties). Remarkable.

For a while, perhaps a long while, baseball fans will remember this game for what happened when the 27th batter hit a ground ball to Miguel Cabrera. That’s fine.

But I hope Tigers fans will also remember how tremendous — rather, how virtually perfect Armando Galarraga’s pitching was on June 2, 2010.

So Who Is Billy Buckner?

It’s pretty clear that the Tigers don’t have big plans for newly acquired Billy Buckner.

Yesterday Dave Dombrowski described the right hander’s role in the organization thusly:

“He gives us depth at Toledo.”

Didn’t they say the same thing about poor Mike Hessman?

Given Buckner’s numbers — a 6.56 ERA for the Diamondbacks in 29 games (16 starts) in parts of three seasons — and a 0-3, 11.08 ERA record this season, you can’t argue with the Tigers doing nothing more than simply plugging a roster opening at Toledo with Buckner. And, because tonight’s starter, Armando Galarraga, appears set to stay in Detroit for a while the Mud Hens needed a body.

So, play along as we noodle the idea of Buckner arriving in Detroit some time this summer. Is he as bad as his stats would indicate?

Continue reading “So Who Is Billy Buckner?”

2009 Player Profile: Armando Galarraga

Armando Galarraga #58

  • Height: 6′ 4″ | Weight: 180
  • 2008 Stats: 13-7, 3.73

GalarragaHead.jpgOn April 15, 2008, the Tigers summoned Armando Galarraga from Toledo for what most presumed was a short-term stint for the rookie right-hander. He made his Tigers debut on April 16 in Cleveland – a period when the Tigers desperately needed wins – and tossed a gem: 6.2 innings pitched, one hit, two runs, no walks and six strikeouts. At that time, little did the Tigers know how significant Galarraga’s impact would be.

In 30 appearances (28 starts), he posted a 13-7 record with a 3.73 ERA in 178.2 IP — and became the de facto staff ace. For his effort, Galarraga ranked fifth in the American Rookie of the Year voting. His recipe for success in 2008 was simple: throw strikes early and often – nearly 70 percent of his first-pitch fastballs were strikes – and nibble at the outside corners. Another ingredient: dominate right-handed hitters; they batted a meager .174 off Galarraga – nearly 90 points less than lefty hitters.

If the Tigers’ pitching staff is to rebound collectively in 2009, it will depend on an encore performance by Galarraga. And if top-line starters Verlander and Bonderman return to form, the Tigers will boast a dynamic rotation that few A.L. Central teams can match.

The Top 10 Tigers Stories of 2008: #2 – The Pitching. Oh, the Pitching.

Number2.jpgIf we had to narrow the Tigers’ dismal 2008 to one culprit it would be the pitching. While Detroit’s offense had many fits and starts throughout the season, the pitching was pretty much the same from March 31 to Sept. 28: awful.

Whether it was Dontrelle Willis‘ sudden inability to throw strikes or Justin Verlander‘s season of wild inconsistency or merely the bullpen’s tendency to do just about everything wrong, the pitching was Public Enemy No. 1 at Comerica Park and 13 other American League parks (not to mention parks across the N.L. West).

One final look at the Tigers pitching woes:

  • Team ERA: 4.91 — 12th in A.L.; 27th in MLB
  • Strikeouts: 991 — 11th / 25th
  • Walks: 644 — 13th / 27th
  • Blown Saves: 26

Oh, what the hay, let’s take a quick look at how the rotation fared:

  • Verlander: 11-17, 4.84 ERA, one (and the Tigers’ only) complete game
  • Armando Galarraga: 13-7, 3.73
  • Kenny Rogers: 9-13, 5.70
  • Nate Robertson: 7-11, 6.35
  • Jeremy Bonderman: 3-4, 4.29
  • Willis: 0-2, 9.38

Yep. Ugly.

But thankfully the 2008 season — and soon this list — is over and done with.

The Top 10 Tigers Stories of 2008: #3 – ¡Viva Armando Galarraga!

Number3.jpgI know. There have been few uplifting things to focus on when looking back on the 2008 Detroit Tigers.

But there was one — if only one — story that made Tigers fans hopeful and it came as a result of a under-the-radar trade with the Texas Rangers on Feb. 5. The Tigers acquired Armando Galarraga for nonroster OF Michael Hernandez. Sweet trade.

On April 12, the Tigers put Dontrelle Willis on the DL and three days later they summoned Galarraga from Toledo. He made his Tigers debut on April 16 in Cleveland and threw an absolute gem when the Tigers flat-out needed wins: 6.2 IP, one hit, two runs, no walks and six strikeouts.

At that time, little did the Tigers know how big Galarraga’s impact would be compared to Willis’. In 30 appearances (28 starts), the 6 ft. 4 in. righty posted a 13-7 record with a 3.73 ERA in 178.2 innings pitched — and became the de facto staff ace. For his effort, Galarraga earned the Tigers Rookie of the Year honor and ranked fifth in the American Rookie of the Year voting.

So, though it might’ve felt like it, all was not lost in 2008. Thanks to Armando Galarraga.