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.

Six Months Off, Two Months In: The Daily Fungo Returns

Six months ago I turned out the lights on The Fungo. The other day, I changed my mind. I know you’ve got lots of great Tigers blog choices so I hope you’ll work this site into your rotation.

Allow me, if you will, to catch up on the past half-year:

  • Victor Martinez out. I think this injury, like few others that I can remember, showed how close to the edge a Tigers offense was treading. Suddenly the club had no designated hitter, no number-two catcher (though who expected him to catch more than a handful games – at most – in 2012?) and no one to hit behind Miguel Cabrera. And, with Magglio Ordonez not coming back, who else would be a reliable middle-of-the-order hitter?

    Today, I wonder how much better the Tigers would be with Martinez at DH over Delmon Young? Methinks much, much better. I hope the possibility of a September return becomes a reality. If the Tigers have faded by that point I’m sure we won’t see #41 until Spring Training 2013.

  • Prince Fielder in. When word circulated Tigers had signed him for nine years and $214 million not long after Martinez was lost for the season (presumably) I thought “of course they did.” It was the quintessential Mike Ilitch move – and likely displeased Dave Dombrowski for no other reason than he was forced to again deal with Scott Boras. The immediate thought was “they wouldn’t move Cabrera to third would they? Nah.” Ahem.

    As a Tigers fan, who suffered through so many years of superstar-less teams, how could you not love the addition of yet another All Star? I loved it and, with his current .320 average, still do.

    P.S. I heard this on MLB Network Radio yesterday on the way to work and saw it on ESPN.com today:

    Prince Fielder (at 275 lbs) just hit his 10th career triple. According to baseball-reference.com, Prince Fielder is the second player in MLB history weighing at least 275 pounds to have 10 career triples. Adam Dunn (285 lbs) also has 10.

    Delicious.

  • Brandon Inge whines, whiffs and vanishes. So much has been written on this guy that I won’t waste much of your time with it. My issue with Inge, beyond his anemic hitting, was that he suffered from delusions of grandeur.

    Remember when he was the Tigers’ starting catcher and the club signed Pudge Rodriguez? Inge thought he should still be the starter. Remember when they traded for Cabrera and he thought he should still be the starting third baseman? No one argued that Cabrera was a better defender but did Inge really think the Tigers would stick Cabrera in left field in 2008 … or move him to DH after signing Fielder?

    From all accounts Inge is a tremendous person and certainly didn’t deserve to get booed as loudly as he did at Comerica Park. But if he hit even .240, he’d be the Tigers’ second baseman today.

  • Delmon Young shows his ugly side. We didn’t think the Delmon Era in Detroit would be a light and breezy affair, did we? I’ll be surprised if he’s on the roster at the end of June.

  • Verlander’s gem. I was bummed out when Josh Harrison foisted the ball into center, which I heard on the radio. When I saw the replay, I wondered why Jhonny Peralta didn’t lay out and try to knock it down. After a couple more looks it was clear that it would’ve been tough for him to get his glove on it.

    Not since Mark Fidrych have the Tigers had a pitcher you’d pay to see no matter the opponent. Every Verlander start is appointment TV for me.

I could go on – about the infuriating offense, Max Scherzer‘s Max Scherzerism, the inconsistent relief work, Austin Jackson‘s resurgence, Brennan Boesch‘s slow start, Ryan Raburn‘s woes, Doug Fister‘s injuries, dismal umpiring – but why bother?

Final thought: It’s bad enough to see the Tigers struggling as they are, but to see the White Sox sitting atop the A.L. Central is insulting.

And so is the idea of Craig Monroe as a studio analyst. (But I’m sure Rod is happy to have him around.)

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”

The Daily Breakfast: Aug. 3, 2011

Good Wednesday morning, afternoon or evening.

Thanks to everyone who passed along birthday wishes to yours truly yesterday. It was a great day, capped by a soggy Tigers win. The photo here is the cake a friend of mine made for me. It tasted as good as it looks.

Leading Off: The Tigers failed to take advantage of scoring chances aplenty against Colby Lewis, withstood the sudden reappearance of Joaquin Benoit and prevailed thanks to Brennan Boesch‘s heroics to take game one of the three-game set against the Rangers, 6-5. Despite blowing the lead, Benoit did his best Aurelio Lopez immitation hanging around to earn the win. … In the 35 series the Tigers have played this season (not including one-game makeups), the club has won the first game in only 15 of them.

Around the Central: Detroit was the only Central-division team to win on Tuesday night: The Red Sox had a 3-2, walk-off win over the Indians, the Yankees thumped the White Sox 6-0 in a rain-shortened seven-inning game, the Orioles beat the Royals 8-2 in K.C., and the Angels downed the Twins, 5-1 at the Big A.

[callout title=The Rundown] The Tigers are in first place, 3 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Doug Fister (3-12, 3.33 ERA) vs. LHP Matt Harrison (9-7, 2.94 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM & 97.1 FM

Fister, who will wear number 58, makes his Tigers debut tonight.

He suffered the loss in each of his last seven decisions with Seattle, despite posting a 3.42 ERA over the 10-start stretch dating back to June 4. The seven-game losing streak matches a career long for Fister as he suffered the loss in seven straight decisions with the Mariners May 19-Aug. 4, 2010

Also, Fister enters his start having compiled a 2.96 ERA over his last seven starts dating back to June 21. Opponents are hitting .221 against him during the stretch.

Happy 27th Birthday to Matt Joyce. Today’s also the 39th birthday of Wendell Magee. Happy 59th to Dan Meyer. Also born on this date was hall of famer Harry Heilmann (1894-1951). He hit .342 in 15 seasons with the Tigers (1914, 1916-29).

On this date in 1980, Al Kaline was inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with Duke Snider,  Chuck Klein, and Tom Yawkey.

[/callout]

Messing with Texas: The Tigers enter tonight’s game having won 15 of the club’s last 18 games versus the Rangers at Comerica Park dating back to Sept. 11, 2007.

Streaks: The Tigers’ record in their last five games is 3-2; last 10, 5-5; last 15, 9-6; last 20 games: 11-9.

Random Thoughts: Watching Austin Jackson‘s strikeout total mount, does anyone else fear that he’ll become the next Gary Pettis?

Video: On this date in 1960, the Tigers and Indians traded managers. Here’s a video from ESPN that I tried to embed in the post but to no avail.

Bush League or Not? ESPN’s Dave Schoenfield wrote a post about the Justin Verlander/Erick Aybar broo-ha-ha and, like most observers I’ve read, comes down on the side of the Angels’ shortstop:

Verlander wasn’t too happy with the play.

(snip)

You know what I say?

Give me a break.

Aren’t the Angels trying to win a game? They were down 3-0, the bunt is a big part of Aybar’s game, and they’re in a pennant race. It was 3-0 at the time, hardly a blowout. Aybar’s job is to get on base. And it worked — Verlander threw away the bunt attempt for an error and the Angels went on to score two runs.

I think I agree, begrudgingly.

Need gift ideas? I received this morning an email from the Tigers’ online shop offering Tigers locker name tags, at varying prices. On Saturday I tweeted from the Comerica Park pro shop a photo of a Mitch Meluskey locker name tag that could be yours for $5. Now you can get the tags from more notable players and coachesand former players and coaches. How about a David Purcey, Casper Wells or Rick Knapp tag? They got ’em.

Finally, Happy 85th Birthday to incomparable Tony Bennett.

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”

Friday Freehans, Link Style

The Tigers make their first visit of the year to Chicago which typically means nothing but anguish.

Not this weekend.

Detroit’s recent good fortune against the Sox continues. (Right?)

  • Here’s a terrific piece about Sparky Anderson from someone who knew him in his southern California community for 40 years.
  • Out here in Phoenix, there’s some noise about the Diamondbacks pursuing the Mets’ David Wright. All things being equal — and Brandon Inge’s mono notwithstanding — I’d sure rather see him in Detroit. What about you?
  • The Tigers’ all-time record against the White Sox heading into play tonight is 1,012-996-1. Why does it seem as if  half those losses have come since 2004?
  • Two tidbits about tonight’s starter Andy Oliver: 1. He was selected to participate in the Futures Game held prior to last year’s All-Star Game in Anaheim, but was unable to participate because he’d been called up to the Tigers. 2. Following last season, Baseball America named Oliver the third-best prospect in the Tigers organization, the 13th-best prospect in the EasternLeague and the 19th-best prospect in the International League.
  • On this date in 1952 the Tigers acquired lefty Bill Wight, infielders Johnny Pesky, Walt Dropo and Fred Hatfield and outfielder Don Lenhardt from the Red Sox for righthander Dizzy Trout, infielders George Kell and Johnny Lipon and outfielder Hoot Evers.
  • Have you been itching for a closer look at the Tigers’ platoon situations? ESPN.com’s Christina Kahrl has you covered:

The Tigers might be the team with the most potential variations, to the point that Jim Leyland could flirt with multi-positional solutions every bit as creative as [Rays skipper Joe] Maddon’s. After all, the Tigers broke in Ryan Raburn in a multi-positional utility role with a lean toward starting him against lefties in the past, and using youngsters Andy Dirks and Casper Wells as platoon outfielders now. Raburn and Brennan Boesch have struggled to stick in regular roles, opening up a host of possibilities for Leyland to try to hide some of his players from the sources of some of their struggles.

Finally, Happy 61st Birthday to singer Suzi Quatro, who played Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days. Did I just date myself?

Have a great weekend.