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.)

The Game 5 Non Sequiturs

Here we are, a couple of hours from the most nerve-wracking Tigers game since Game 163 and the club’s first winner-take-all game since the 1972 ALCS, as Lee Panas pointed out after Game 4. Let’s see what happens. (Not unlike to my approach to this post.)

Jim Leyland this afternoon explained why we’ll see Max Scherzer and not Justin Verlander should the Tigers need a long-man:

“I don’t think it’s a wise decision. Like I said, those innings he pitched the other night, all the innings he’s piled up this year, all the strikeouts, all the adrenaline, and the fact that he’s throwing 100 miles an hour in the eighth inning [on Monday night], if he comes in this game tonight, there’s no telling what he would be throwing with the way this crowd is going to be and everything. I just don’t think it makes sense.”

Tonight’s game marks the seventh time in the Tigers post-season history they’ve had a series go the maximum number of games. Detroit has compiled a 2-4 record in the previous six series.

  • Wins: Game 7 of the 1945 and 1968 World Series
  • Losses: Game 7 of the 1909, 1934 and 1940 World Series; Game 5 of the 1972 ALCS

Jerry Crasnick focuses on Doug Fister and Delmon Young in this ESPN.com story. Here’s one scout’s view on Fister:

“The gun doesn’t tell the story on him,” the scout said. “He’s a movement guy with good location, and velocity doesn’t matter that much. He’s so tall [6-foot-8] and he’s straight over the top, so he gets great ‘down’ plane. When he’s down in the zone, it’s like hitting a bowling ball.”

By the by, Fister surrendered five home runs over his final 19 outings of the season dating back to June 14, a stretch of 129 innings pitched. He allowed 0.46 home runs per nine innings this season, lowest in the American League.

On this date in 1945, a goat and its owner make an appearance at Wrigley Field for Game 4 of the World Series between the Tigers and Cubs. The pair is told to leave before the game ends, angering the owner (and presumably the goat). The Cubs lost to the Tigers, 4-1. The Tigers go on to win the Series in seven and the Cubs won’t win another National League championship for the rest of the 20th century. And thus was born the Curse of the Billy Goat.

Young’s two home runs during this ALDS matches a Tigers record. Both Curtis Granderson and Craig Monroe hit two home runs for Detroit during the ALDS in 2006.

That’s all I’ve got. Except for this: Tigers 5 Yankees 2.

Enjoy the game.

Tigers Look to Porcello to Repeat What Bonderman Accomplished in ’06 ALDS Clincher

Five years ago this week, the Tigers sent a young, often frustrating righthander to the mound in the fourth game of the American League Division Series.

With a win, no sure thing with the unpredictable starter, the Tigers would eliminate the Yankees and move on to the American League Championship Series against the Oakland A’s.

Twenty-three-year-old Jeremy Bonderman was the Tigers’ starter that chilly Saturday afternoon and he faced righty Jaret Wright, who’d gone 11-7 witha 4.49 ERA in 30 appearances (27 starts) for New York.

Tigers fans didn’t want to seem overconfident, but compared to the Yankee starters in the series’ first three games (Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson) Wright seemed like a notch above batting-practice quality.

That day, the Tigers staked Bonderman to a 3-0, second-inning lead on home runs by Magglio Ordonez and Craig Monroe. They tacked on five more runs by the end of the sixth. (Detroit chased Wright with two outs in the third after he’d surrendered four runs on five hits.) The late Cory
Lidle
allowed three runs in his inning-and-a-third of work.

But at the start of the day, all eyes were on Bonderman. Could he handle the big stage, an elimination game against a New York lineup that Jim Leyland dubbed “Murderer’s Row and then Cano” and prevent a trip back to the Bronx for a decisive Game 5?

Could he ever.

Continue reading “Tigers Look to Porcello to Repeat What Bonderman Accomplished in ’06 ALDS Clincher”

The Daily (Continental) Breakfast: July 28, 2011

[callout title=The Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, two games ahead of the Indians and a mere 3.5 games ahead of the White Sox.

There are three days left until the trade deadline.

Today’s game: Brad Penny (5-5, 4.61 ERA) vs. Joel Pineiro (7-7, 4.51 ERA) | 1:05 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1

FYI: Penny surrendered three runs in the first inning of his start on July 6 against the Angels, but he earned the win as the Tigers rallied for a 5-4 victory.

On this date in 1989 the Tigers acquired lefty Brian Dubois from the Orioles for aging infielder Keith Moreland. On July 28, 1993, Travis Fryman collected five hits and hit for the cycle in a 12-7 loss to the Yankees. And 10 years ago today, Detroit picked up port-sider Mark Redman from the Twins for reliever Todd Jones.

[/callout]Good soggy morning in The D. The Tigers grounds crew is earning its keep today getting Comerica Park ready for today’s matinee opener against the Angels.

The Leadoff: John Danks mystified a Tigers lineup cut that suddenly looked as if it was cut from the Craig Monroe cloth: see ball, swing. The predictable outcome? A 2-1 loss to the White Sox.

Around the Central: The Indians, who acquired Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs, were no-hit by the Angels’ Ervin Santana — but scratched across a run — and lost 3-1. The Royals lost 12-5 to the Red Sox and the Twins beat the Rangers, 7-2. Did anyone notice the Indians are now only two games above .500?

Penny’s Bizarro World: Penny has limited lefthanded hitters to a .244 batting average this season. Righthanded hitters are batting .322 with Penny on the mound in 2011.

Today’s Blast from the Past: Here are three former short-time Tigers for your consideration: Francisco Cruceta, Doug Flynn and Mickey Mahler.

Finally, Happy 68th Birthday to basketball hall of famer and former U.S. senator Bill Bradley.

Tigers Today: April 4, 2011

OriolesTigers’ Record

1-2; 4th place, 1.5 GB Royals

Today’s Game

Tigers @ Orioles | 3:05 p.m. ET – Baltimore | On the air: FSD/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Pitching Matchup

Rick Porcello (0-0) vs. Jake Arrieta (0-0)

Yesterday’s Results

Tigers 10 – Yankees 7

Continue reading “Tigers Today: April 4, 2011”

Today’s Tiger: Warren Morris

Warren Morris

  • Born: Jan. 11, 1974 in Alexandria, La.
  • Bats: Left Throws: Right
  • Height: 5′ 11″ Weight: 190 lb.
  • Acquired: Signed as a free agent by the Tigers Dec. 19, 2002.
  • Seasons in Detroit: 1 (97 games in 2003)
  • Uniform Number: 24
  • Stats: .272 avg., 6 home runs, 37 RBI, .689 OPS

If you keep trying to remove the memory of 2003 only to be reminded by, well, us, we’re about to hurt your effort a bit further. Today we’re looking back on infielder Warren Morris.

He played second base for the ’03 Tigers, hitting .272 in 97 games for that record-setting club. Four seasons earlier Morris finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year Award, hitting .288 with 15 homers, 73 RBI and a .787 OPS for the Pirates.

Three seasons before that, in 1996, Morris hit a ninth-inning College World Series Championship-winning home run against Miami. From Wikipedia:

LSU reached the championship game of the College World Series in 1996, and was trailing Miami 8–7 in the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Morris came up to the plate with one runner on base, and hit Miami relief pitcher Robbie Morrison’s first pitch just inches over the right field fence. The walk-off home run won the game for the Tigers 9–8. It was his only home run of the season, and is the only walk-off championship-winning home run in College World Series history.

(Watch it here.)

Continue reading “Today’s Tiger: Warren Morris”

The Brandon Inge Conundrum

Note: I started writing this piece and realized that Tom Gage wrote about 900 words on the same topic. While it might not be the freshest take, I’m posting it anyway for your consideration.
Inge.jpg

For the life of me, I can’t remember a Tigers player that enraged me the way Brandon Inge does these days.

Yes, long-time readers of the Fungo remember my constant bellyaching about Craig Monroe but that was on a different level entirely. Monroe, I thought, was the most self-centered player on the Tigers; swing for the fences regardless of the situation, play defense when he felt like it.

Inge, I believe, is a team player. No question. He gives his all in the field and … perhaps at the plate. And we all know he played the second half of 2009 with two useless legs and still managed to play tremendous defense.

A total gamer.

But why then do I see him come to the plate and immediately think, depending on the scenario: pop-up, strikeout or double play? Is it the tattoos? His petulant attitude when the Tigers signed Pudge Rodriguez and traded for Miguel Cabrera? The soul patch?

I think it’s all the above.

What pains me about this is my affinity for the Tigers. I don’t enjoy not liking Tigers players. The White Sox? I relish in despising all 25 on the roster. Sure, every Tigers team has featured a player that drove me looney, but this is unprecedented for me. (Well, in the case of the 2010 Tigers there are two maddening players: Inge and Ryan Raburn.)

Inge is hitting .253 coming into play today but get this: he’s hitting .326 in June — .333 with runners in scoring position after hitting just .182 and .174 with RISP in April and May respectively.

So what are we to make of this? Is Inge’s offensive production on the rise or is he setting us up with a rope-a-dope that will send us into a rage when he strands five runners in a game but makes two game-saving catches? (Speaking of D, he’s committed five errors and is on pace to match — if not surpass — last year’s 20. His fielding percentage is .972.)

No matter what fuels this fire I’ll have to live with it. Chances are Brandon Inge will be back at third base for the Tigers next season.

God help me.

Tuesday Tananas: A-Jax Reality Check, CoPa Reviews and Inge’s Pop Outs

crabbydude.jpgSome thoughts and recommended reading culled during what sounds like another dreary day at Comerica Park.

  • Despite his 4 for 28 slump during the current home stand (at least through the fifth inning today), Austin Jackson continues to be an early favorite for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Given Curtis Granderson‘s poor start and injury one would think Yankees fans would like a do over on that trade. Not exactly. Over at It’s About the Money, Stupid, Will breaks it down — and soars over my head on some of it — with a statistical view. The gist:

    [Jackson’s] batting average on balls in play is an outrageous .459. Regress that to league average (which is what happens when you add enough at bats to his resume), and here’s what happens to his numbers. His batting average falls from .331 to .216, and his OBP falls from .382 to .267.

  • Have you seen the website StadiumJourney.com? If not, take a few minutes to check it out. Paul Swaney and a host of others have produced detailed reviews of major league ballparks, NFL stadiums, and NBA and NHL arenas. You can become a member and add your comments to the reviews. Recently they added a review of Comerica Park and give the venue a five out of five in terms of return on fan investment. Take a look.

  • If a current Tigers player is approaching Craig Monroe-like status with yours truly it’s Brandon Inge. If the two batters ahead of him walk, you can guarantee Inge will swing at the first pitch and pop out. Or at least it seems that way.

    I looked at his outs so far this season and here’s how it breaks down coming into today: 32 strikeouts, 37 ground outs and 65 flyouts. (Unfortunately, ESPN.com doesn’t carve-out the popouts within fly balls.) Bottom line:

    • 64 percent of Inge’s outs on balls in play are in the air
    • 28 percent are ground outs
    • 24 percent are strikeouts

    I’ll need to dig deeper to see how this aligns with his teammates but at the very least I feel better knowing that Inge is a flyout machine.

  • Last week’s Fungo Pulse Check poll was either poorly timed or prescient. The flurry of roster moves made the question practically moot, but we kept it going anyway. The results:

    Who will the Tigers send down when Carlos Guillen returns from the DL?

    • Don Kelly (43%, 86 Votes)
    • Ryan Raburn (30%, 60 Votes)
    • Brad Thomas (22%, 43 Votes)
    • Alex Avila (3%, 6 Votes)
    • Brennan Boesch (2%, 4 Votes)

    If you haven’t yet, cast your vote in this week’s poll.

Take heart. There are only 17 more games against the White Sox this season.

Three for Thursday: C-Mo, Run Less, Tony Packo’s Edition

3 fingers.jpgStill fighting the flu, but always have time to offer three for Thursday:

  1. There are certain teams that I really pull for to turn it around once and for all. Among them, the Pirates and Reds. This afternoon I watched the Reds trump the Cubs at Wrigley and browsed the Web to see what’s going on in Pittsburgh. The first article I see is on The Detroit News site boasting of a Pirates resurgence with the help of Fungo Enemy Number One, former Tigers hack, Craig Monroe. I may need to reevaluate.

  2. I’ve always loved watching Mike Scioscia teams. Aggressiveness personified. Not afraid to squeeze at any point in the game. Rubber-armed Scot Shields. This Angels writer, though, disagrees with the take-the-extra-base approach and thinks it’s outdated…by 20 years.

  3. The Tigers’ (or is it Mud Hens’?) pickup of Jason Tyner is puzzling. Or maybe not. Perhaps the Hens need some depth. Anyway, today is Tyner’s 32nd birthday. Let’s hope he spends part of it at Tony Packo’s.

Game 8: Tigers 1-1 on Wednesdays in 2008

The Gist: It took more than a week, but the Tigers left the field with a win on Wednesday night, 7-2 over the Red Sox. Naturally, Todd Jones did his thing to make any level of comfort more than a bit tenuous. Huzzah, Marcus Thames! The man simply delivers when the Tigers need him. Jeremy Bonderman pitched five innings, gave up one earned run and nearly managed to walk a batter in every inning.
ScorecardXSmall.jpg
The Quote: “With Jones you’re not going to get many clean, 1-2-3 saves.” — NESN analyst and former Red Sox second baseman Jerry Remy.

The Stat: 5. The number of men left on base by Gary Sheffield on Wednesday. Sheff must be channeling his inner Craig Monroe these days.

I’m Just Sayin’: This season has been so bizarre that it’s difficult to wrap the brain around it. Beyond the oh-fer start, the pitching has been sub-optimal and the hitting — oh, the hitting! But what in the world is happening when Placido Polanco starts, as Ian Casselberry said this evening, a new streak based on consecutive games with an error?

It’s been a while since Tigers fans hoped for a 2-7 record, but that’s the sitch tomorrow night.