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.

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.

Pondering a Mid-Week Pounding

Thinking ManI’ve never been fond of that old baseball chestnut, attributed to long-time Orioles manager Earl Weaver, “Momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher”, but how else can you characterize the atrocities at Comerica Park this week?

Fresh off a once-in-a-millennium sweep of the White Sox, the Tigers, well, got smoked by the lowly Mariners thanks to three more or less devastating pitch performances. Smoked.

There were so many moments and plays during this series that could’ve turned a game in Detroit’s favor but went the other way — big time.

If I had to choose the turning point in the series, it had to be the top of the fifth in game one on Tuesday night. The Tigers clawed back to tie the game at three — a major hurdle when facing Felix Hernandez — only to watch Phil Coke hand the lead and the game back to the Mariners by allowing four runs.

Talk about a momentum killer.

And then there were the errors: five in three games, four on Wednesday alone.

And, how about that bruising top three spots in the lineup for Thursday’s finale? Austin Jackson, Ramon Santiago and Magglio Ordonez amassed an average of .180. In fact, five players in Thursday’s lineup finished the game with an average of .200 or lower.

And, how about Ryan Raburn’s performance — any facet you choose?

Right now, things look bleak for the Tigers’ offensively and it appears they now lack any momentum.

Then again, tomorrow’s starting pitcher is the Indians’ Jeanmar Gomez, whose record is 0-1, 7.36.

Maybe I like that old adage after all.

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

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

No-Brainer: Ordonez Returns

Magglio Ordonez’s reported one-year, $10 million deal to return to the Tigers is surprising in that it’s both shorter and less-expensive than many anticipated. Once the Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford contracts were signed, everyone following the free-agent market expected Ordonez’s asking price to skyrocket.

On the other hand, it shouldn’t be surprising at all. My sense was that he had a deep sense of loyalty to the Tigers and owner Mike Ilitch, and not only because they paid him handsomely in 2005 when most other clubs were afraid to risk big money on his balky knee. And, by all accounts, Ilitch treated Ordonez with special care during the 2009 season when the slugger’s wife was seriously ill.

In the end, his contract was essentially a hometown discount. And that has got to drive Scott Boras insane.

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

The Non-Sequiturs: Trick or Treat Edition

pumpkin.jpgEach October, I’m astounded to learn that Halloween is the second-largest retail holiday of the year. I’m not a fan of Halloween, though I do like the occasional, or frequent, Kit Kat.

It’s a treat to be able to watch the World Series on Halloween, though the Aubrey Huff and Edgar Renteria sightings are undoubtedly the “trick” part of the equation.

  • In our highest vote-gettin’ poll of the season, Fungo readers were emphatic on what the Tigers’ next offseason move should be: target Nationals’ slugger and free-agent-to-be Adam Dunn.

    Twenty-four percent (148 voters) of the 628 readers casting votes selected Dunn as their top choice. Here are the runners up:

    • Sign Jason Werth (16%, 103 Votes)
    • Sign Victor Martinez (15%, 97 Votes)
    • Trade for a starting pitcher (14%, 88 Votes)
    • Pickup Jhonny Peralta’s option (14%, 88 Votes)
    • Sign Magglio Ordonez (12%, 73 Votes)
    • Other (5%, 31 Votes)

    Thanks to everyone who voted and a special thanks for those that left comments. It was a great discussion. Keep those comments rolling in.

    Continue reading The Non-Sequiturs: Trick or Treat Edition

News Galore on the Way Out the Door

It’s not often Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski gets loose and talks at length about the club’s plans, but on Sunday in Baltimore he did just that, breaking some news and confirming a few long-anticipated decisions:

  • Inge.jpgBrandon Inge gets offered an extension. As Ian wrote this summer, Inge is either loved or loathed in Detroit — with little in between. But I think even those of us who are frustrated by his lack of a strategy when he’s at the plate feel better about third base next season and maybe in 2012, too. In our recent Fungo Pulse Check, 79 percent of respondents (207 of 263 votes) preferred bringing back Inge over Jeremy Bonderman.

  • OrdonezHead.jpgMagglio Ordonez might be back. This isn’t a surprise. The Tigers aren’t picking up the $15 million option on Ordonez’s contract which means he’ll be a free agent, but the Tigers are open to re-signing him. I kept thinking that sentimental Mike Ilitch would tell Dombrowski to pick up the option for old time’s sake. I hope he comes back. If he does sign elsewhere — and you know Scott Boras is already firing up his hyperbole machine — I just pray that he doesn’t go back to the White Sox.

    Continue reading News Galore on the Way Out the Door

Cabrera Victim of Circumstance in MVP Race

Who are we kidding? Miguel Cabrera is not winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
CabreraHead.jpg
And it’s not because of anything he has or hasn’t done.

In any other year Cabrera’s story of redemption would be a much bigger story. It’s just that this year Josh Hamilton‘s road to redemption will likely be more appealing top voters given the obstacles he’s overcome and the fact he’s playing on what’s assuredly a playoff team.

Hamilton, who’s still nursing sore ribs after running into an outfield wall in Minnesota on Sept. 5, has eye-popping stats: a major-league best .361 average, 31 home runs, 97 RBI and a 1.049 OPS.

[callout title=Tigers Often Fall Short of MVP]
Of course, this isn’t the first time a Tigers player has been the victim of the voters’ love affair with players on winning teams.

In 2007, Magglio Ordonez lost out to Alex Rodriguez, and in 1990 and ’91, Cecil Fielder lost out to Rickey Henderson and Cal Ripken, respectively.

The most egregious example of the a Tigers player falling short of the MVP award was in 1987 when Alan Trammell did everything right: hit for average, hit for power, played clutch baseball down the stretch and led his team to a division title.

But it still wasn’t enough.

Toronto’s George Bell — who went 1 for 11 against the Tigers in a division-deciding, final-weekend series — won the award. (You can read the post from 2007 in which I wrote about this, here.)[/callout]

Cabrera, as we know, is putting together a year for the ages himself: .333 average, 34 homers, 116 RBI and a 1.052 OPS.

Consider this, though: Cabrera has 30 intentional walks this season, the most in the majors. Hamilton? Five.

What would Cabrera’s stats look like if he’d had the protection of Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and a more consistent Brennan Boesch all season long? Would it be enough to tack 30 points on Cabrera’s average? Doubt it.

Still, Hamilton has the protection of guys like Vladimir Guerrero, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler. That has to account for something … maybe a lot.

The big difference between these guys is one number: 9.

That’s the number of wins the Rangers have over the Tigers at the start of play today. Which means that even though writers cast their votes for awards before the postseason begins, Hamilton will be playing in October and whereas Cabrera will not.

Miguel Cabrera can mount a challenge to Hamilton over the next three weeks but it likely won’t change the minds of voters who see Hamilton’s stats, triumphant personal story and winning team as irresistible.

I hope I’m wrong.

What do you think?