2012 Top 10 Stories: #9 – Brennan Boesch Vanishes

What difference can a year make? Look no further than The Case of Brennan Boesch.

In the 2011 ALCS, the Tigers desperately missed Boesch in the lineup’s number-two slot. How he could’ve elevated the order’s production when Magglio Ordonez went down with a broken ankle.

A year later the Tigers were back in the ALCS and Boesch was nowhere to be found, left off the roster just as he was in the ALDS against the A’s. How far had he fallen? Far enough to be replaced by a 21-year-old who didn’t face big-league pitching until September – and who started the season at Lakeland.

If ever a player embodied the notion of wait-’til-next year it was Boesch. Coming into 2012, the Tigers were counting on the 27-year-old to have a breakout, injury-free season and live up to the promise we’d all witnessed in 2010 and ’11. With Victor Martinez on the shelf for the year, Boesch’s healthy return was crucial.

He got off to a promising start in Spring Training, hitting .288 with six homers, and 21 hits in 24 games. Unfortunately, his Grapefruit League performance didn’t translate to the regular season.

By the end of June, it looked like his return was anything but healthy. He was hitting below .250 and with only seven home runs showing none of the power the Tigers had hoped for (and probably expected.) About six weeks later, he talked about his still-tender thumb and how it hampered his swing:

“Once you do surgery on your hand, things need to re-create, they need to reboot,” Boesch said.

(snip)

“I never blame performance on injury,” said Boesch, who was expected to deliver a steady punch in manager Jim Leyland’s lineup, but who found himself Tuesday batting .247, with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs. “But have I played long enough to make necessary adjustments when dealing with an injury?

“Probably not.”

By the time August arrived Boesch was a non-factor, appearing in a mere 19 games. In fact, beginning in May, Boesch played in fewer games each successive month: 27 in May, 25 in June and 23 in July. Not coincidentally, his playing time reached season lows when Andy Dirks returned from the disabled list in August.

So it came as no surprise that Jim Leyland left Boesch off the ALDS roster.

“The Boesch decision was a tough one,” said Leyland, “but it made sense for versatility and things of that nature. Plus he hasn’t been playing lately, so it was common sense.”

Again: What difference can a year make? Enough that Don Kelly and Quintin Berry leapfrogged Boesch on the Tigers’ depth chart. I agreed with the decision at the time, but admit I would’ve rather seen Boesch taking cuts against the Giants’ bullpen than Berry, even if the results were the same. There’s always a chance Boesch, unlike Berry, will connect on a long ball.

At the Winter Meetings this week, the Tigers were reportedly listening to offers for Boesch; among others, the Mariners and Mets were showing guarded interest. But as of this writing, he’s still a Tiger. But if he has a lackluster Spring Training and Garcia or Nick Castellanos pass him on the left, chances are Brennan Boesch is to achieve his potential, it’ll be for a team other than the Tigers.

Brennan Boesch’s 2012 Stats

Split G PA H 2B HR RBI BA OPS
April/March 22 94 21 2 3 11 .231 .607
May 27 110 25 7 2 8 .245 .663
June 25 97 20 3 2 8 .220 .576
July 23 82 23 7 4 17 .295 .868
August 19 63 14 1 0 5 .246 .616
Sept/Oct 16 57 10 2 1 5 .196 .614
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table | Generated 12/6/2012.

The Top 10 Stories of 2012

ALDS Game 1 Non Sequiturs

There are some 2-1 or 3-1 games that you know are too close for comfort. Others, not so much.
[callout title=The Gist]ALDS Game 1

Tigers 3– A’s 2

W:Justin Verlander (1-0)

L:Jarrod Parker (0-1)

Save:Jose Valverde (1)

HR:Alex Avila (1)

Boxscore

Highlights[/callout]

I don’t know about you, but after the Tigers took a 2-1 lead over Jarrod Parker and the A’s in Game 1 of the ALDS it seemed to me like it would be tough for Oakland to score — thanks to the generous strike zone offered by umpire Jim Reynolds. And that’s only because Justin Verlander made it through the first couple of innings without suffering much damage. Coming into Game 1 my fear was Verlander would be the amped-up version we’ve seen in other postseason (and All-Star Game) outings. Despite a high pitch count in the early frames, this certainly looked like his best playoff performance. ESPN.com’s Dave Schoenfield agrees:

For Verlander, it was the best postseason start of his career. In seven previous starts (not counting the rain-shortened one-inning outing against the Yankees in last year’s division series), he had allowed at least three runs in each game and owned an unimpressive 5.57 ERA. He was shaky at the start, needing more than 60 pitches to get through the first three innings.

While I hope he’s right, I’m not sure I agree with Dave that the A’s are in trouble after just one loss. Remember when it was doom and gloom after Game 1 of the ALDS in 2006 and 2011? The Tigers fared just fine. A 2-0 lead heading to Oakland would be sublime, of course. And let’s hope for that.

Other thoughts:

  • Did you know that it was a year ago today the Tigers defeated the Yankees in Game 5 of the ALDS? It feels like a year to me. Speaking of anniversaries, today’s the three-year anniversary of Game 163.
  • Remember what a huge loss Brennan Boesch was last year in the playoffs? From difference maker to healthy scratch just like that.
  • From Baseball-Reference.com: On this date in 1945, a goat and its owner make an appearance at Wrigley Field for Game 4 of the World Series. The pair is told to leave before the game ends, angering the owner. The Cubs lose to the Tigers, 4-1. Detroit will go on to win the Series in seven games and the Cubs won’t win another National League championship for the rest of the 20th century. A belief that the Cubs were cursed by the goat will eventually develop.
  • I have no doubt Jim Leyland‘s going to be back next year as manager. With Terry Francona taking the Indians job, there aren’t many high-profile managers waiting in the wings — unless you want a retread like Larry Bowa or Bobby Valentine. I don’t.
  • Watching MLB Network’s post-game show, the usually sharp Ron Gant made a curious comment about the Tigers: He’s worried about the top of order, not the usually anemic bottom third. Host Brian Kenny seemed confused by the, ahem, insight too. I’ll give Gant the benefit of the doubt that he meant the bottom of the Tigers lineup is worrisome.
  • Michael Rosenberg has already filed this piece for SI.com, saying that JV is ready for postseason success. The lede:

Shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday evening, Oakland A’s outfielder Coco Crisp committed the dastardly, almost treasonous act of hitting a home run off of Justin Verlander. and that was enough of that. The A’s did not score on Verlander again. Eleven times, they struck out and had to go back to the dugout, or to their rooms without dinner. I can never remember which.

Verlander did not come here to play your silly games, Mr. Crisp. He came to this postseason to dominate, the way he has for the last two seasons, and to fix the one little blemish on a career that could bring him to the Hall of Fame.

Enjoy the few hours between now and Game 2.

It’s Not Just You: The Tigers Don’t Deliver with Bases Loaded

In the first inning of Tuesday night’s ALDS Game 4, Yankees starter A.J. Burnett was on the ropes. He’d walked the bases loaded and with two out Don Kelly ripped what appeared to be a liner over Curtis Granderson’s head in centerfield. (Lord knows we still love Grandy in Detroit, but his reaction to that ball might’ve been one of the reasons the Tigers were willing to deal him in 2009.)

Unfortunately for Kelly and the Tigers, Granderson recovered and made a leaping grab that definitely saved the game for the Yankees and perhaps the series.

It was the second game in a row the Tigers had loaded the bases in the early innings with a chance to blow the game wide open. At least in Game 3 Miguel Cabrera plated a run when he grounded into a double play.

How many times this season have we seen the Tigers load the bases only to come away empty handed?

For the past six months I asked that question only rhetorically. Thanks to some horrific relief work in the eighth, I had time (and good reason to) visit Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index to get the definitive answer.

Continue reading “It’s Not Just You: The Tigers Don’t Deliver with Bases Loaded”

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”