Fungoes

The Monday Report: Power Rankings, Masao Kida and Johnny Cash

The Tigers embark on their final roadtrip of the season and Detroit fans can gleefully bid adieu to Ozzie Guillen and his band of jolly outlaws.

Leading Off: The Tigers beat the Twins 2-1 yesterday for the club’s ninth straight win — their first of that length since May 1984. Doug Fister shutout the Twins over seven innings for the win, while Jose Valverde posted his club-record 43rd save of the season. Delmon Young led the Tigers with two hits and an RBI.

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The Tigers are in first place, 10.5 games ahead of the White Sox.

The magic number is 7.

Today’s Game: Rick Porcello (13-8, 4.87) vs. John Danks (6-11, 4.09 ERA) | 8:10 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Notes on Porcello

With a win tonight, Porcello would match his career high established during his rookie season with the Tigers in 2009.

He’s compiled a 2-0 record and 2.75 ERA over his last three starts. And, he’s issued two-or-fewer walks in 23 of his 27 outings for the Tigers this season.

Notes on Danks

In his last start, last Tuesday in Minnesota, Danks suffered the third loss in his last 13 starts.allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits over six innings.

He became just the third pitcher since 1961 to go 0-8 before June 1. The 0-8 start was the first by a pitcher who won 15 games or more the previous season since Montreal’s Dale Murray in 1976 (also 0-8).

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ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume says that if there were a catchers draft, Alex Avila should be the easy number-one selection:

Avila has been the best catcher in baseball this season. Among the game’s everyday catchers — let’s say those who have started more than 100 games behind the plate — Avila leads the majors with a .300 batting average, .391 on-base percentage, .522 slugging percentage and .913 OPS. He’s No. 1 across the board. Remember, this hypothetical applies to catching actual games, not your fantasy league team, so forget about Victor Martinez or Mike Napoli — the guy you draft has to actually crouch down and catch for you every day. Avila has done exactly that for the Tigers.

Austin Jackson enters tonight’s game having hit safely in each of his last 15 games against the White Sox. He is hitting .403 with four doubles, three triples, three home runs and nine RBI during the 15-game stretch.

Looking for some autographed Tigers memorabilia? You’re in luck. MGOAuction.com, an auction site of primarily University of Michigan sports memorabilia, has several Tigers items up for bid. The items include autographed baseballs signed by Justin Verlander, Jose Valverde, Victor Martinez, Andy Dirks, Brandon Inge and other items signed by Alex Avila, Al Kaline and Todd Jones. Proceeds benefit a series of undergraduate scholarships at UM including the Bernard “Pat” Maloy Cancer Scholarship, the Shelly Kovacs Scholarship. Check out MGoAuction.com.

The Tigers have finally leap-frogged the Diamondbacks in ESPN.com’s Power Rankings this week and earned a spot a number four. (Though they couldn’t crack John Kruk’s rankings.) And, the Tigers are this week’s U.S. Army Team of the Week.

Eighty years ago today at Fenway Park, Eddie Durham and the Tigers Arthur “Red” Herring faced off in a 13-inning pitching duel. Durham won, 1-0.

The funny thing about this nine-game winning streak and 10-1/2-game lead? The anti-Jim Leyland crowd sure has been quiet.

Birthdays! Happy 71st to Mickey Lolich, Happy 55th to Mark Thurmond, Happy 52nd to Scotti Madison, and Happy 43rd to Masao Kida.

Finally, music legend Johnny Cash died on this date in 2003 at the age of 71. Let’s remember him with one of his classic songs, “A Boy Named Sue.”

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Fungoes

A Few Thoughts on Leyland and Dombrowski

LeylandFrom what I can gather on the web and on Twitter, the local reaction to the extensions of Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski has not been broadly positive. Nationally, it’s another story.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that I’ve been a Leyland backer — and one of Dombrowski, too. Fifty-one weeks ago I wrote a piece titled In Defense of Jim Leyland and though the circumstances are different this year than last, I still think Leyland deserves another year.

That’s not to say some of his in-game decisions don’t drive me batty. Ryan Raburn as late-inning defensive replacement? Jose Valverde in non-save situations? Brandon Inge? The featherweight lineup featured in so many getaway games?

For me, the bottom line is that Leyland knows more about his team than I do. He knows who’s got aches or pains or problems on the homefront that can affect performance. I don’t. What’s more, the players sure appear to respect the man — something you didn’t sense in the bad old days of Alan Trammell, Luis Pujols or Phil Garner.

A few years ago I went to a Tigers-Angels game in Anaheim and sat in utter disbelief that Leyland bypassed every opportunity to pinch hit Marcus Thames against a lefty for light-hitting batters. What was he thinking?!

Later that day I read in the game story that Thames had sore ribs and wasn’t available. And to think I could’ve used that my energy on the more productive and satisfying booing of Craig Monroe.

I know many Tigers fans believe Leyland has screwed up this team in one way or another for the better part of six seasons. For me, I see a guy who has the Tigers with a four-game lead in early August.

And I think he’s the guy who can lead the club to a first-place finish this year.

Okay, tell me how wrong I am.

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Fungoes

The Daily Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

BreadcrumbsWelcome to the weekend.

Leading Off: The Royals or the Tigers’ bullpen, depending on your point of view, did their best to ruin another terrific outing by Rick Porcello – but neither was up to the task. The Tigers came back, after leading 3-0, to win 4-3 in 10 innings. Daniel Schlereth (1-1) earned the win in relief for Detroit, while Jose Valverde notched his 31st save … Porcello went 6 1/3 allowing seven hits and three runs. He was pulled in the seventh and Jim Leyland explained why … With last night’s win the Tigers are 7-3 against the Royals this season and now 27-27 on the road this season.

Around the Central: Michael Young and Rangers spoiled Ubaldo’s debut with the Indians, defeating Cleveland 8-7 in 11 innings, the five-games-under-.500 White Sox beat the 10-games-under-.500 Twins 5-3 at Target Field.

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The Tigers are in first place, 4 games up on the Indians.

Today’s Game: Justin Verlander (15-5, 2.24 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (3-4, 5.05 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. ET | On the air: FSD/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Verlander enters his start this evening versus the Royals leading the American League with 178 strikeouts and a .186 batting average against, while he is second with 15 wins and 6.02 hits per nine innings, third with a 2.24 ERA and fourth with 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.8 walks per nine innings.

He’s 12-2 with a 2.31 ERA in 18 starts during his career against Kansas City (7-2 with a 1.62 ERA at Kauffman Stadium). He leads active pitchers since the start of the 2006 season with 12 wins, a 2.31 ERA and 110 strikeouts versus the Royals.

With seven more strikeouts, Verlander will match Denny McLain for ninth place all-time in franchise history.

On this date in 1938, the Tigers fired manager Mickey Cochrane.

On Aug. 6, 1947, Skeeter Webb of the Tigers pinch runs for Fred Hutchinson against the Indians and scores. Detroit bats around, and Webb lifts a flyball that scores a run in the nine-run eighth. Stubby Overmire wins, 13-6, in the first game of a doubleheader. Detroit sweeps, winning the nightcap, 7-5 behind Hutchinson.

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More on JV’s Mastery: Buster Olney today writes that Verlander has started to consider adding another pitch to his arsenal: a split-finger fastball.

The suggestion amused Avila. Verlander, after all, already has refined four pitches – his fastball, changeup, slider and curveball. “The way he’s been pitching this year,” Avila said, “he’ll throw almost any pitch in any count.”

That’s no lie. Hitters’ batting average against him in the 2-0 (and beyond) hitter’s counts? .171, that’s third in the bigs behind Cole Hamels (.170) and Ricky Romero (.157).

Against 3-1 and beyond counts he ranks tied for eighth overall (with Matt Cain and Matt Garza) with a .161 average against.

Betemit: The 46-percent Solution? When the Tigers traded for Wilson Betemit last month the hope was that he’d be an upgrade at the plate over his predecessor, Brandon Inge. Sure, he’s hitting .281 in his 12 games in Detroit but in 39 at bats he has 18 strikeouts. Even Inge was better than that (60 strikeouts in 215 at bats, or 27 percent.)

The Odds are Good; the Goods are Odd. As of this writing, Baseball Prospectus has the Tigers’ playoff odds at 80 percent … or to be more specific: 80 percent to win the division, 0 percent to win the Wild Card spot. Sadly for Indians fans, BP has them with the third-best odds (6.9 percent). The White Sox are second with 11.5-percent. Take heart, Twins fans. BP says your club still has a 1.6-percent chance of taking the division.

Draft-pick Signings: The Tigers today announced they’ve agreed to terms with two players selected in the June draft: shortstop Brandon Loy from the University of Texas (fifth round) and righthanded pitcher Chad Smith from the University of Southern California (17th round). The Tigers now have agreed to terms with 30 of the club’s selections from this year’s draft.

Finally, Happy 39th Birthday to outfielder Duane Singleton who appeared in 18 games for the dreadful 1996 Tigers. He hit .161 with 15 strikeouts in 61 plate appearances.

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Fungoes

Could Jacob Turner be the Tigers rotation answer?

Yahoo Sports

With the July 31st trade deadline just two weeks away, what the Detroit Tigers are going to add to the Major League roster in these next two weeks has become a hot button topic to say the least. The Tigers, like many teams, are looking for another starting pitcher. Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman reported that the Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, and a few other teams are looking at Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda; Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reported that the Tigers were in Colorado scouting Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenezon Thursday night. The Tigers are also looking for someone to plug in at third base, but haven’t been directly linked to names yet.

There is the chance, though, that the Tigers have a solution in their own farm system. I’m of course talking about the organization’s number one prospect Jacob Turner. Many Tigers fans and people around the team are worried that if he’s brought up before he’s “ready” it’ll hurt his future. Jim Leyland even told the Detroit News when asked about Turner’s chances of being called up in the next month, “Long shot speculation.” But, with Turner, Nick Castellanos and not much else down on the farm, the Tigers may be hard-pressed to find a deal that gets them more than a Jarrod Washburn redux.If the Tigers can’t make a deal for Kuroda or the Orioles’ Jeremy Guthrie without gutting the farm system, then they should just call up Turner.

With Turner pitching Friday night and the Tigers needing a Wednesday starter, there’s no reason not to call him up for that start as he is the club’s best internal option. It’s doubtful that in the last year of his contract Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski is worried about starting Turner’s service time or the possibility of him eventually earning “Super Two” status, which is something that may not even exist anymore after this next round of collective bargaining.

The biggest issue for Turner the rest of the way will be managing his innings. Turner has already thrown 100 innings at Double-A this year and the Tigers don’t want to push the 20-year-old too hard. I’d be speculating on the innings limit, but it’s probably in the neighborhood of 150. Still, even if they hold him to six innings a start the rest of the way he’d make a big impact on this team if he’s effective.

The Tigers need a pitcher for next week unless they decide to skip someone and Turner is the best option at their disposal. He may not be 100% “ready” for The Show as his secondary offerings could still use some work, but we’re talking about a 6-foot-5 power arm with plus control. As they say, flags fly forever. You don’t let premium talent work on stuff at Double-A during a pennant race. You may think I’m crazy about rushing this young kid, but there were plenty of people in Spring Training saying this young guy on Seattle still needs to work on his secondary pitches. His name was Michael Pineda and so far this year he’s outpitched teammate and 2010 Cy Young award winner Felix Hernandez.

Turner isn’t going to be the horse that carries them deep into the playoffs, but the Tigers already have a guy for that job. The idea that Turner isn’t “ready” and therefore can’t fill-in as the fifth starter down the stretch is a bit of hyperbole. That seems like the perfect role for him this year.

Nick Shlain, a Journalism student at Eastern Michigan University, writes for Detroit Baseball Page.com. You can follow him on Twitter @nshlain.

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Fungoes

Friday Fungoes: The 40-game Mark, Verlander’s No-hit Follow Ups, Magglio’s Demise

Every year someone (usually Tom Gage) rolls out the time-worn Sparky Anderson truism about not judging a team until after it’s played 40 games. I suppose it’s my turn.

On Saturday against the Royals the Tigers will play game number 40 and, at worst, will finish that game at an even 20 and 20. So what conclusions can we draw from these first 40 games? For that matter, what conclusions can we draw from the past week, which delivered some terrific baseball?

Are they as bad as they looked against the Royals in April and the Tribe two weeks ago? Or are they as good as the club the swept Chicago at home?

I hate to punt on this, but I think we’ll know more about the Tigers after another series against the Royals, Indians and White Sox.
What do you think?

In the meantime, here’s a look at the Tigers’ record after 40 games since Jim Leyland arrived in Detroit.

  • 2010: 23-17
  • 2009: 24-16
  • 2008: 16-24
  • 2007: 24-16
  • 2006: 27-13

As I’m writing this, Justin Verlander has kept the Royals hitless through four innings. Earlier this week I was wondering how he fared in the start following his June 12, 2007 no-hitter. Well, it was a bit different from his 12-strikeout torching of the Brewers. Verlander’s next start came against the Phillies on Sunday, June 17 at Citizens Bank Park. His final line: six innings, seven hits, two walks, three earned runs.  The Tigers won, 7-4.

I sure hope we haven’t seen the last of Magglio Ordonez, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list today.

“He’s been feeling the effects of his ankle off and on during the season here,” trainer Kevin Rand said. “We decided to look at it, and to err on the side of caution, we’re shutting him down.”

The stats are ugly: .172 with one home run and five RBIs in 26 games this season. I can’t believe that his hitting skills have plummeted to Gerald Laird levels simply due to age. You?

Buried at the bottom of the Ordonez story is this little update on Carlos Guillen.

Guillen was in the clubhouse as well and has started baseball-related activities again.

Guillen says he’s been able to hit, run and take ground balls, although there’s still no timetable for his return.

Talk about a forgotten man.

Finally, on this date in 1913, Joe Louis was born. He was the world heavyweight champion for a record-setting 12 years.

Have a great weekend.

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Fungoes

Identity Crisis

The best teams in any sport have an identity.

Even the teams who do everything well, that’s their identity.

The Tigers don’t have one. They’ve won and lost games with pitching. They’ve won and lost games with hitting. They’ve won and lost games with defense. For now, they don’t know who they are, and, if they don’t develop something soon, something like the Giants did last year, it’s going to be terminal.

Continue reading

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Fungoes

Opening the Tigers’ History Book

OldBookXSmall.jpgWhile we await the Tigers’ next move this offseason, let’s look back on the trades the club made on this day in …

And on Nov. 20, 1985, the Pirates hired White Sox third base coach Jim Leyland to be the club’s 33rd manager in history.

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