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.

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

Rolling

When Victor Martinez crushed an offering from Tony Sipp on Wednesday for a grand slam, things seemed to change for a Tigers team that is on a remarkable roll.

Up to that point, I was thinking (and maybe you were too), that you could see a loss coming in the finale against the Indians.

As the script often goes in these situations, it was a getaway game, the Indians were ready to make their last statement of the season and Justin Verlander was due for a bad outing.

Nope.

This team is rolling.

  • Frankly, I’m tired of all the reminders of 2009 – and the Indians radio announcers beat that drum incessantly during the series.

  • Starting play on Friday against the Twins, the Tigers have played 143 games. Here’s a look at how the club’s 81-62 record and 8-1/2-game lead compares to seasons in which it contended:
    • 1984: 92-51, 10 1/2 games up
    • 1987: 86-57, Tied for first with Toronto
    • 2006: 86-57, 3 games up
    • 2009: 77-67, 5 1/2 games up

Continue reading Rolling

Labor Day Leftovers, SweetSpot Style

In case you missed it, ESPN.com’s SweetSpot blog has featured a nice collection of Tigers-focused posts over the past few days:

  • Dave Schoenfield lists his unsung heroes, among them is Jhonny Peralta:

    I’ve sung Peralta’s praises on several occasions, but everyone just keeps talking about this Verlander guy. All Peralta has done is hit over .300 with power and played surprisingly well on defense. He’s been the best shortstop in the AL.

  • In case you missed it on Thursday, ESPN ran “What’s important in September” list for each American League team. Here was my contribution about the Tigers:

    The pressing issue for the Tigers in September is finding a consistent rotation behind Justin Verlander. At times, Detroit’s starting five — or at least four of five (sorry, Brad Penny) — has looked sturdy enough to be a scary proposition for a Division Series opponent. At others, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have looked dreadful and scare only Tigers fans. If trade-deadline prize Doug Fister can continue the trend of his past three starts (21.2 IP, 2 ER, 15 hits, 1 walk and 18 strikeouts), the Tigers will feel considerably better about October.

  • Joe Janish from the Mets Today blog examined the Tigers/Diamondbacks/Yankees trade from 2009 and sees all three teams as winners:

    Though none of the players the Tigers received are having an MVP-caliber year, it’s fair to say the deal worked out well for them as well. After all, they are currently leading the AL Central by 6.5 games, with roughly one-sixth of the team’s 25-man roster filled by players obtained in that deal — including their starting center fielder and their No. 2 starting pitcher.

  • Ben Jedlovec writes Austin Jackson was the best on defense in August.

    Austin Jackson led baseball with 11 Defensive Runs Saved in the month of August, and his 17 Defensive Runs Saved this season is tied for third among all center fielders. Robinson Cano tied for the infield lead with 7 Runs Saved on the month.

That is all.

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

All-Star Game Notes and Non Sequiturs

Sometimes I want to rail on Major League Baseball about the lameness of so many things it does — the vapid celebrity softball game, the interminable Home Run Derby, the “this-time-it-counts” angle on the All-Star Game — but then I realize it’s probably me just getting old.

  • The Tigers’ collection of All Stars is the largest since 1985 when the club sent six players to the Metrodome for the game managed by Sparky Anderson. Here’s a look at the largest classes of Tigers All Stars since 1984 and the team’s record that season:

1984 (104-58)
Willie Hernandez
Chet Lemon
Jack Morris
Lance Parrish
Alan Trammell
Lou Whitaker

1985 (84-77)
Willie Hernandez
Jack Morris
Lance Parrish
Dan Petry
Alan Trammell
Lou Whitaker

2007 (88-74)
Carlos Guillen
Magglio Ordonez
Placido Polanco
Ivan Rodriguez
Justin Verlander

2009 (86-77)
Curtis Granderson
Brandon Inge
Edwin Jackson
Justin Verlander

Clearly, the better the Tigers were, the more players they sent to the All-Star Game. For a long time though, the Tigers were a team that had little to offer the American League manager. From 1996 through 2003, Detroit sent a single player to the game. In some cases the pickings were particularly slim (see 2002).

1996 (53-109)
Travis Fryman

1997 (79-83)
Justin Thompson

1998 (65-97)
Damion Easley

1999 (69-92)
Brad Ausmus

2000 (79-83)
Todd Jones

2001 (66-96)
Tony Clark

2002 (55-106)
Robert Fick

2003 (43-119)
Dmitri Young

Ugly, no?

  • I still think it’s remarkable that Alex Avila is the starting catcher in tonight’s game. Whoda thunk it, especially after a dreadful Opening Day series against the Yankees when Avila looked about as lost as a player can look. I guess that’s why, as Rod Allen says, you play the games. Jason Beck has a nice piece recapping the Tigers’ All Stars’ respective experiences in Phoenix.
  • The water is so far past being under the bridge, but isn’t it still a bit weird to see Curtis Granderson starting in the All-Star Game … as a Yankee?
  • Six years ago today in the Home Run Derby at Comerica Park, Bobby Abreu destroyed the records for a single round, the championship round and the grand total for all three rounds of the derby by hitting 41 homers into every part of yard. The Phillies outfielder went deep 24 times in the first round, tacks on six more in the second round and finishes with 11 more in the championship round.
  • Looking ahead to the pitching matchups for this weekend’s series against the White Sox:

Friday | 7:05 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1
Justin Verlander (12-4, 2.15 ERA) vs. Gavin Floyd (6-9, 4.59 ERA)

Saturday | 4:10 p.m. FOX/1270 & 97.1
Max Scherzer (10-4, 4.69 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (5-7, 4.30 ERA)

Sunday | 1:05 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1
Brad Penny (6-6, 4.50 ERA) vs. Jake Peavy (4-2, 4.83 ERA)

Finally, on this date in 1979 the White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game of twi-night doubleheader against the Tigers when more tha5,000 fans refuse to leave the field during Disco Demolition Night. I wrote about it on the 30th anniversary.

Today’s Tiger: Jason Thompson

Jason Thompson

  • Born: July 6, 1954 in Hollywood, Calif.
  • Bats: Left Throws: Left
  • Height: 6′ 4″ Weight: 200 lb.
  • Acquired: Drafted by the Tigers in the fourth round of the 1975 amateur draft.
  • Seasons in Detroit: 5 (1976-80)
  • Uniform Number: 30
  • Stats: .256 avg., 98 HR, 354 RBI, .779 OPS
  • Awards: Three-time All Star (1977, ’78 and ’82)

JasonThompson.jpg
On May 27, 1980, Tigers GM Jim Campbell traded my favorite player, first baseman Jason Thompson, to the California Angels for outfielder Al Cowens.

The Hollywood native joined the Tigers full time in 1976 and played 123 games that year, hitting .218, with 17 home runs and 54 RBI. Two of the homers cleared the rightfield roof at Tiger Stadium. It was in 1977, though, that he made his mark: .270, 31 homers and 105 RBI — and earned an All Star Game selection.

Continue reading Today’s Tiger: Jason Thompson

Three-ish for Thursday: Festivus, Feller and My New Job

Here we are one week before Festivus and the Tigers have given fans mere stocking stuffers compared to the gifts White Sox, Nationals, Red Sox and, most recently, Phillies fans received.

Then again, only in this offseason could a guy of Victor Martinez’s caliber be considered value-bin material. Now that the big names are off the board, the Tigers are left to browse the remainder table for their missing pieces — unless a trade goes down.

  • In March 2009, my friends John and Steve came to town for some Cactus League action. The first game we attended was at the Indians and Reds shared facility in Goodyear, Ariz. (Though the Reds wouldn’t move to the Phoenix region until this past Spring.) We all agreed that the game between the Tribe and the Brewers might have been the longest Spring Training game in history, which made Bob Feller’s performance that day all the more remarkable. He sat in the shade down the leftfield line and signed autographs for the entire game — and it was a steady stream of fans, despite it being far from a sellout. Impressive indeed.
  • I was never a fan of Feller because he played the Crabby-Old-Man role for so long and his comments about Jackie Robinson in Ken Burns’ “Baseball” series seemed inappropriate.

    Nevertheless, baseball lost a legend yesterday. A legend that posted a 41-29 record and a 3.44 ERA against the Tigers in his 18-year career — his record at Briggs Stadium was 21-14 in 38 starts — only the White Sox and Athletics lost to him more. In fact, the Yankees were the only club to have beaten Feller more than they lost: 37-30.

  • The response to our most recent Flash Poll was astounding — more than 2,100 votes. Thanks for weighing in. We asked Should the Tigers pursue Curtis Granderson to play left field? The context in which we were asking — but didn’t articulate in the question — was pure speculation that if the Yankees landed Carl Crawford, then Granderson might be available.As you can see, 86 percent of respondents would like to see him back in a Tigers uniform — though most weren’t willing to do it at any cost:
    • Yes, depending on the cost. (45%, 987 Votes)
    • Absolutely. (41%, 891 Votes)
    • Bygones. (14%, 302 Votes)
    • Total Voters: 2,180
  • Thanks again for participating, and watch for our next poll soon.

  • Random items: On this date in 1996, the Tigers traded second baseman Mark Lewis to the Giants for first baseman Jesse Ibarra. Lewis came to the Tigers from the Reds in a trade for David Wells … Today’s the 46th birthday of Bill Ripken … Shouldn’t the Tigers make an offer to Jim Thome, if for no other reason than to see what he can do at Comerica Park? … I’m intrigued by what the future holds for Jeremy Bonderman. Where does he sign? Does he come back at all? It’s been awfully quiet on the Bondo front … And this is funny, if not childish. When the Diamondbacks were pursuing (and eventually signing) reliever J.J. Putz, the D-backs’ outstanding beat writer, Nick Piecoro, had to deal with an interesting technological problem. Whenever he wrote “Putz”, the Arizona Republic‘s publishing system would replace it with “(inappropriate term)”, leaving each Web article on the subject with a few instances of “former White Sox reliever J.J. (inappropriate term)”. Putz’s name appeared uncensored, as it were, in the print editions of the Piecoro’s articles but not without the writer needing to produce a tedious workaround. Last week Piecoro reported on Twitter that the tech guys finally got it figured out.

Finally, you probably noticed that posting here has been lighter than normal over the past couple of weeks. Here’s why: after more than seven years as a self-employed freelance writer, I’ve gone back to work in the corporate world.

(If you’re interested in where I’m working, here’s a hint: it’s the parent company of the school Jim Leyland‘s son is attending (he mentions it in this piece by Lynn Henning), though Leyland doesn’t get the name exactly right.) As a result, I’m trying to get a feel for my new schedule — and a wardrobe based on more than t-shirts. Hang with me while I find the groove.

Monday Mankowskis: Winter Meetings Edition

PhilMankowski77.jpgOne by one, the Tigers’ alleged free-agent targets are signing with other clubs and in the case of Adam Dunn, with the hated White Sox. Now that Jayson Werth has sign a gargantuan deal with the Nationals — the Nationals? — Detroit is left to shoot for the moon (i.e., Carl Crawford) or swing another blockbusterish trade.

I’m still betting on the latter, though the Tigers have fewer minor-league chips to parlay into an impact big-leaguer, and the ones they have — Andy Oliver, Jacob Turner — are the premier prospects. But who wants to see them dealt? Not many, I’m guessing.

Meanwhile …

Continue reading Monday Mankowskis: Winter Meetings Edition

Monday Mankowskis: Inge and Peralta More Alike Than You Think

No Tigers baseball for a week, how are you managing? Here in Phoenix we’re prepping for another season of Arizona Fall League action. (More on that later.)

In the meantime, here are some odds and ends from the last week:

  • If you’re still coming to grips with the notion of Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta manning the left side of the Tigers’ infield next season, here’s something I noticed that will either make you feel better or worse – and nowhere in between.

    Based on this year’s stats, it appears that Inge and Peralta are practically twins:

    2010 Stats Inge Peralta
    Games 144 148
    At bats 514 551
    Hits 127 137
    Home Runs 13 15
    RBI 70 81
    Average .247 .249
    On-base Percentage .321 .311
    Slugging Percentage .397 .392
    OPS .718 .703

    Of Peralta, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski last Sunday said: “We don’t know what we will do with his ($7.25 million) option, but would like him back next year as our shortstop.”

    I’m like many Tigers fans: skeptical, at best, about Peralta as a full-time shortstop. True, he’ll bring more pop to the position than either Danny Worth or Ramon Santiago. But that’s not saying much, is it? As for his defense, the 2010 edition of Baseball Prospectus described Peralta as “increasingly immobile.”

    Gee, if we wanted an immobile shortstop, why not give the job back to Carlos Guillen?

    Discuss.

    Continue reading Monday Mankowskis: Inge and Peralta More Alike Than You Think