The Saturday Breakfast: Al’s Okay, Penny’s Good Enough and Happy Birthday to “Schneider”

Good Saturday morning. Thank goodness Al Alburquerque is going to be okay after a batting practice scare yesterday. The Tigers placed Alburquerque on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion effective August 12 and recalled Ryan Perry from Toledo. Perry appeared in 20 games with the Mud Hens, posting a 3-0 record, 3.03 ERA, seven saves and 30 strikeouts.

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Leading Off: The Tigers won their seventh-straight one-run game, topping the Orioles 5-4 [highlights here]. Andy Dirks went 4 for 4 and knocked in the winning run and Brad Penny was good enough for his eighth win … The victory marked the seventh straight game the club has won by one run. According to STATS LLC, Detroit’s seven straight wins by one run matches a club record, equaling the mark established by the 1944 club. The 1944 Tigers won seven straight such games July 18-29 … In other news, the Tigers transferred the option of pitcher Lester Oliveros from Triple A Toledo to Double A Erie on Friday.

Around the Central: The Indians beat the Twins 3-2 in Cleveland and the Royals handed the White Sox their seventh-straight home loss, 5-1.

[callout title=The Saturday Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, three games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers @ Orioles: Max Scherzer (11-7, 4.33 ERA) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (5-15, 4.38 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Scherzer enters his start this evening at Baltimore looking for his 12th win of the season. With a win tonight, he would equal his career-high win total established with the Tigers during the 2011 season.

His career mark against Baltimore 1-1, 3.46 ERA. This will be the first start of his career at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

With a win tonight, he would join Justin Verlander to become the first pair of Tigers pitchers with 12-or-more wins in the club’s first 119 games of the season since Jeff Robinson and Frank Tanana did so in the first 119 games of 1988.

One hundred years ago today, in a move that only Carlos Zambrano could appreciate, Ty Cobb, apparently believing the Tigers can no longer win the pennant race, begins a vacation.

On this date in 2007, Placido Polanco played his 144th consecutive game at second base without an error. This broke Luis Castillo’s record, set earlier that season. The two streaks overlapped for many months. The Tigers still lose, 7-2, dropping them to eight wins in their past 25 games and a tie for first place with the Indians.

Happy Birthday to Roman Colon, 32, and Jarrod Washburn, 37.

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More great work this week by Paul Swaney and his team at StadiumJourney.com. The spotlight turns to Jerry Uht Park, home of the Erie SeaWolves, the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate. Here’s a taste of Joshua Guiher‘s review:

Jerry Uht Park … was originally built in 1995 at a cost of $8.7 million. In 2006, the park underwent a $4 million upgrade that added a nice scoreboard, a very large picnic area and a second level of seating among other things.

All About Al. In his ESPN.com blog [$], Jim Bowden lists the under-the-radar players on each American League club. His pick for the Tigers is Alburquerque.

Alburquerque has been an important part of the first-place Tigers’ bullpen. The hard-throwing right-hander has an impressive 2.29 ERA with 55 strikeouts and just 18 hits against him in 35 1/3 innings pitched. His fastball plays in the 93-96 mph range, and he has a hard, downward, biting slider that misses bats.

The Phighting Phifty-one-year-old Tony Phillips. Choose your own bizarre angle to this story (with video!), I’ll go with the ‘Tony Phillips is still playing?!‘ perspective.

Did you know that Wilson Betemit is hitting .360 since joining the Tigers last month? With as little as he’s played on this road trip, I’d have guessed it was about 200 points less.

Finally, a Happy 49th Birthday to “Mad Men” star John Slattery. And we can’t forget to mention the 82nd birthday of actor Pat Harrington who played Schneider in the unwatchable 1970s sitcom “One Day at a Time.”

The Daily Breakfast: July 27, 2011

A good Wednesday to you.

The Leadoff: Adam Dunn gave the White Sox 2-0 with a moon shot off Justin Verlander, so Verlander simply fanned him the next three times up. Detroit’s ace gutted out eight innings for his 14th win of the season, 5-4 over Chicago. The Tigers chipped away at the Sox, withstood another blast by Paul Konerko and watched Wilson Betemit drive in the go-ahead run in the eighth.

Around the Central: The Indians lost to the Angels 2-1, the Red Sox trounced the Royals, 13-6, and the Twins outlasted the Rangers in Arlington, 9-8.

[callout title=The Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, two games ahead of the Indians.

There are four days left until the trade deadline.

Today’s game: Birthday Boy* Max Scherzer (11-5, 4.35 ERA) vs. John Danks (3-8, 3.92 ERA)| 2:10 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1

*Scherzer’s 27 today.

On this date in 1938, Hank Greenberg, who had hit home runs his last two at bats the day before, homered his first two times up to tie the major-league record of four in a row. Greenberg had a record-setting 11 two-home run games during the season.

In 1958, the Tigers and Phillies swapped catchers with the Tigers picking up minor leaguer John Turk and cash for Jim Hegan.

Ten years later, Denny McLain shut out the Orioles, 9-0, for his 20th win of the season for the first-place Tigers. McLain is only the third pitcher in the 20th century to win his 20th this early: the others were Rube Marquard on July 19, 1912 and Lefty Grove on July 25, 1931. His record is 20-3.

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Who Wants the Central?: According to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, no one wants to win the division. But …

In a race this chaotic, the schedule can make a difference. While the Tigers are finished playing Boston and New York this season, the White Sox welcome the Red Sox and Yankees to Chicago for seven games starting Wednesday. As for the feisty Indians, they have 10 games against Boston, Texas and Detroit in early August. That’s their sink-or-swim stretch.

“It’s a weak division,” said a National League personnel man, “but I’ve liked the Tigers all year. Never underestimate a team with a good offense and an ace [starter]. You just don’t have long losing streaks.”

Discuss.

As Bad as It Gets: By now we all know that Paul Konerko wages war on the Tigers’ pitching staff every time he faces Detroit. After watching him launch another homer on Tuesday night I had to see what his career stats are agains the Tigers. Heading into play last night, Konerko had logged 196 games against Detroit and has put together this line: .291 average, 40 home runs, 133 RBI and a .872 OPS.

Papa Grande’s Streak Marches On: Jose Valverde converted his 27th consecutive save to begin the season on Tuesday at Chicago. His 27 straight saves are the second-longest save streak in Tigers history. Willie Hernandez converted 32 straight save opportunities April 6-Sept. 23, 1984.

Miscellany: On this date in 1940 Bugs Bunny made his debut in the Warner Bros. animated cartoon “A Wild Hare.”

Finally, happy trails to Kris Draper. I’ll miss watching #33 next season — and especially during the playoffs.

The Daily Breakfast: July 23, 2011

BreakfastGood morning from Metro Airport, where I sit and write this with bleary eyes after an overnight flight from Phoenix. I’ve got an hour to kill before my ride arrives.

Leading Off: The Tigers continued their stunning dominance of the Twins with an 8-2 beat down on Friday night. Eleven in a row against Minnesota certainly has a nice ring to it, but wouldn’t have one win in late September 2009 been nice (not to mention October)? By gones. Max Scherzer pitched his fourth strong game in a row – he allowed two hits and a walk over his final five innings – and the remarkable Jhonny Peralta (3 for 5, four RBI) continued his torrid assault on the Twins this season. How does a .542 average, 1.764 OPS, four home runs and 13 RBI in seven games sound? Meanwhile, the Tigers did not trade for James Shields, Clayton Kershaw or Carlos Beltran but they did sign two draft picks: first baseman Aaron Westlake from Vanderbilt University (third round) and righthanded pitcher Tommy Collier from San Jacinto College (22nd round).
[callout title=The Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, 1.5 games ahead of the Indians, and five up on the White Sox.

There are eight days left until the July 31 trade deadline.

Today’s Game: Brad Penny (7-6, 4.47 ERA) vs. Scott Baker (7-5, 3.01 ERA) | 4:10 p.m. FOX/1270 & 97.1

Penny is 2-0 with a 5.79 ERA in four starts against the Twins, but surrendered five runs and 10 hits in six innings and did not receive a decision in a 6-5 home win over Minnesota on May 30. Baker is making his first start since July 5.

On this date in 2002 the Tigers acquired infielder David Espinosa and two players to be named, outfielder Noochie Varner and righthander Jorge Cordova, from the Reds for righty Brian Moehler, infielder Matt Boone and cash-money.

Fifty years ago today, the Tigers and A’s used 21 pitchers, 11 for the Detroit and 10 for the Kansas City (10) set an American League record for most pitchers used in an 18-inning doubleheader. At three hours, 54 minutes, the second game is the longest nine-inning affair in A.L. history. The entire doubleheader lasts six hours, 50 minutes, a major-league record. The Tigers sweep 6-4 and 17-14, taking first place by one percentage point. How long would that double-dip last today?

[/callout]Around the Central: The White Sox blanked the Indians 3-0 in Cleveland while the Royals were dropping a 10-spot on the Rays in sweltering K.C.

Speaking of Jhonny: According to Elias Sports Bureau …

Jhonny Peralta followed up on Thursday night’s 3-for-4 performance against the Twins by going 3-for-5 with four RBI against the Twins on Friday. He’s now hitting .429 (42 for 98) against A.L. Central opponents this season, an in-division batting average that is more than 50 points higher than that of any other major-league player with at least 100 plate appearances in division games this season. Jacoby Ellsbury is next-best, at a distant .374.

City Hall Looks Dumb on this One: Yesterday, NPR’s All Things Considered program aired a story about the group of fans that are taking care of the old Tiger Stadium grounds for the purposes of, you know, playing baseball. Here’s the intro of the segment by ATC host Robert Siegel:

Imagine watching a place you love and that your family has loved for generations fall into disrepair. Well, that’s how it’s been for many Detroit baseball fans, who think of the corner of Michigan and Trumbull Avenues as sacred ground.

It’s the site of the old Tiger Stadium, which was torn down in 2009. One group of fans decided to take care of the lot that remained, but while they may think they’re being helpful, the city of Detroit sees it differently.

Listen to the segment here.

Finally, Happy 50th Birthday to Woody Harrelson.

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.

Is it Time for Mechanical Adjustments?

Many times during the baseball season we’ll hear that a pitcher is currently undergoing or falling victim to a failed “mechanical adjustment”. Generally more common with starters, we heard this very thing early last season about Tigers starter Max Scherzer. He said that he was able to see on video that he wasn’t getting the correct “extension” on his pitches, went to the minors briefly, and came back the Tigers best starter in the second half.

The way Justin Verlander is pitching this year, the only title up for grabs now is second best starter on the staff. Still, I’m sure no Tigers fans would mind if Scherzer or Rick Porcello solidify that spot, but the way they’ve both been throwing of late would give anyone pause.

Continue reading “Is it Time for Mechanical Adjustments?”

Will the Real Max Scherzer Please Stand Up?

The Tigers enter play on Tuesday night mathematically behind the Cleveland Indians, though its clear the club has positioned itselfquite well thus far this season as Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds favor Detroit with a 58.6% chance of playing in October.

A big part of the team’s success has been the stellar performance of staff ace and early Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander, who leads the majors in WHIP with a microscopic mark of 0.85.

Since baseball went to the divisional format in 1969, only two pitchers have pitched to a WHIP below 0.90 in at least 15 starts and both of them (Greg Maddux in 1994-95 and Pedro Martinez in 2000) went on to win the Cy Young.

Even with other starters like Jered Weaver, James Shields, and Josh Beckett having great years anyone would have to think that most of the votes would go Verlander’s way at this point.

Verlander’s teammate Miguel Cabrera learned how difficult it is to take regular season awards home without making the playoffs last year as despite a six month assault on American League pitching Josh Hamilton won the AL MVP while missing most of September because his teammates stepped up and clinched the division.

Had the Tigers done the same, its entirely possible that some voters would’ve filled out their ballots differently. It’d be a shame for Verlander to suffer the same fate as Cabrera, but he likely won’t if he continues to pitch like this and his partner at the top of the rotation can get back to the level he was at last year.

The man I’m referring to is Max Scherzer, who enters tonight’s start against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 4.32 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, which tops only Brad Penny in the Tigers rotation.

Continue reading “Will the Real Max Scherzer Please Stand Up?”