Game 2 Recap: Tigers 5 – Yankees 3

ESPN highlights available here.
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The Score: Tigers 5 – Yankees 3

The Gist: Miguel Cabrera got to Freddy Garcia early, crushing any potential mind games the Yankees’ starter could potentially play on the Tigers, lining a two-run homer down the rightfield corner. Cabrera finished with three hits and RBI. Victor Martinez and Don Kelly drove in the other two runs to give a cushion that wasn’t needed until the bottom of the ninth. The bulk of the day belonged to Max Scherzer who was brilliant, no-hitting the Yankees for six innings. I won’t go into Jose Valverde‘s appearance. If you were lucky enough to miss it, just know it was an inning fraught with panic and despair.

The Quote: “It’s going to be electric.” – Justin Verlander on the environment Monday night at Comerica Park for Game 3.

The Stat: 1 – The number of stolen bases by Cabrera, the only one in the game by either team.

Up Next:

Monday: Tigers vs. Yankees @ Comerica Park | 8:37 p.m. ET | On the air: TBS/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (19-8 3.00 ERA)

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Baseball Prospectus: Alex Avila is Tigers’ Secret Weapon

Ben Lindbergh at BaseballProspectus.com today makes an interesting case for Alex Avila as the Tigers’ most valuable player.

Miguel Cabrera gets most of the accolades in the Detroit Tigers’ historically top-heavy lineup, and not without reason — the first baseman’s .349 True Average (TAv) trails only Jose Bautista’s among American League batters. However, Cabrera hasn’t been the most valuable position player in Detroit this season. That title belongs to Alex Avila, a 24-year-old catcher who came up through the Tigers’ system before making his major league debut late in 2009.

Avila acquitted himself well in his initial exposure to the majors but his bat crashed back to earth last season, when he hit .228/.316/.340 while splitting catching duties with Gerald Laird. This season, however, he’s hit well enough to take over the team lead in Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP), posting a 3.4 figure to Cabrera’s 3.1.

My eyes glaze over on most of the statistical stuff, but the point of the article is interesting.

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)

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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”

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”

Martinez Official, But More to Come … Right?

Martinez.jpgDespite what some national guys are saying about the Victor Martinez signing, I think it’s outstanding.

Is it Jayson Werth or Adam Dunn? No. But signing Martinez to hit behind — or maybe in front of — Miguel Cabrera makes the Tigers’ lineup more formidable — especially when Martinez is in the lineup in place of Alex Avila.

As Jayson Stark writes this morning, the prevailing wisdom is that Dave Dombrowski isn’t done.

So even after making four significant signings, the Tigers clearly aren’t done.

They’re not finished with their bullpen. And they’re still prowling for a big right-handed, corner-outfield bat. They could be players for Jayson Werth. They could bring back Magglio Ordonez. They could have a surprise in store. But they have the dollars to make almost anything possible.

But is that it? It’s certainly impressive the amount of business the Tigers have accomplished. Yet even with all the activity the Tigers have had this month, I still think it will make the Winter Meetings next month even more intriguing — and worth watching.

There has to be a trade of some sort in the offing, right? If they miss out on Werth, do they make a deal for a slugger? Do they go after Hanley Ramirez and shift Jhonny Peralta to second? Purely speculation, of course, but I just can’t see the Tigers going to the Winter Meetings and not be open for some degree of business.

What do you think?

Here’s the Boston Globe’s story on Martinez’s conference call today announcing the deal.

In unrelated news, Happy 63rd Birthday to one of my favorite all-time Tigers, Richie Hebner. Today’s also the birthday of Mike Moore, brilliant with the A’s, dreadful for the Tigers from 1993-95. He’s 51.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday Tananas: Fred Lynn, Ted Power and Don Draper

bananas.jpgIs it just me or were there a lot of Aug. 31 trades made back in the day? Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s it seemed that Oakland was always adding a big name at the deadline — Willie McGee, Ruben Sierra, Harold Baines. Just asking.

No Hitters? No-Hitter!

Thumbs Down.jpgIt seems awfully unfair for a guy to throw a no-hitter against a team that evidently has no hitters, doesn’t it?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I didn’t see any of Monday night’s bizarro-rama — Max Scherzer also had a no-hitter going into the sixth?! — because I was out at a family thing. (I think I would have put my marriage in jeopardy had I attempted to participate in Baseball Tonight Live on ESPN.com while at the restaurant.)

Nevertheless, I listened to the Rays’ announcers call the ninth inning on XM Radio on my way home. What a weird experience that was. The last time the Tigers were no-hit — June 2, 1990, by Randy Johnson — I couldn’t have listened to the Seattle feed even if I wanted to.

Whoa. Got off track there.

Anyway, what are Tigers fans supposed to do now? Their team is still — astonishingly — a mere three games out of first place at the end of July. You can’t give up on them, can you?

After all, on July 26, 2009, the eventual division champion Twins were one game under .500 and in third place just four games out.

Apple to apples? Not even close. Even though the Twins lost Justin Morneau they surged. Without Magglio Ordonez the Tigers are already showing signs of retreat.

So what if the Tigers pick up a hitter or two this week? Does Adam Dunn give them enough of a jolt — and protection for Miguel Cabrera? More than Aubrey Huff did last year. Would it help to bring Jermaine Dye back from retirement home? What about Carlos Delgado? Or Joe Crede?

Now this post has taken a turn toward the absurd. But that’s what we’re facing, isn’t it?

Even if Dave Dombrowski manages to add a few pieces will they be enough. It’s hard to believe they would be.

But he better get someone to hit the ball. Otherwise, Matt Garza‘s no-hitter might not be the last we see against the Tigers this year.

Final Thoughts: The Call Was Blown, Now Leave It Alone

Armando Galarraga‘s brilliance on Wednesday night has been tarnished enough by a bad call.

Any move by official scorers, Major League Baseball, the Players’ Union or Amnesty International to “correct” the umpiring gaffe and hand Galarraga a perfect game 18 hours later will tarnish his performance even more.

Isn’t one asterisk enough?

Seriously, how can the official scorer charge an error on the penultimate play? He can’t ding Miguel Cabrera for the throw, it was fine. He can’t penalize Galarraga either; he made the catch, he tagged the base.

For me, the bottom line is that this can only get worse if “they” start tinkering with the results. In many ways, this game will be even more memorable because of Jim Joyce‘s goof.

Think about it, even if Galarraga never wins another major-league game he’ll always be remembered as that guy who threw the perfect game that the umpire blew. Not ideal but not Bill Buckner either.

And what, pray tell, is Galarraga expected to do if he was suddenly — what’s the appropriate word here, awarded, handed, reimbursed? — a perfect game? It makes no sense to try to right this wrong.

It stinks, yes, but it’s how baseball works — or doesn’t sometimes.

Armando Galarraga’s Near-Perfection By the Numbers

GalarragaHead.jpgWhat has gotten lost in all the calls for do-overs and commissioner over-rides is the remarkable precision with which Armando Galarraga pitched against the Indians Wednesday night.

A quick look at the bottom-line stats are stunning on their own:

  • 88 pitches
  • 67 strikes
  • 21 balls

As ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick points out, that pitch count includes the five pitches Galarraga threw to Trevor Crowe for the final out.

Awesome, right? Well, it actually gets better.

Thanks to a Pitcher Report Card produced by the good folks at Inside Edge, we gain insight into these nuggets of statistical goodness:

  • 86 percent of Galarraga’s first pitches were thrown for strikes
  • 93 percent of his first two pitches were strikes
  • 75 percent of his fastballs were strikes
  • 77 percent of off-speed pitchers were strikes
  • 93 percent of two-strike at bats became outs
  • 4 percent of Indians at-bats went to three-ball counts

In fact, out of the 23 categories Inside Edge uses to grade a pitcher’s performance, Galarraga earned an A+ in 20 of them. The three in which he fell short were:

  • 50 percent of 1-and-1 counts became 1-and-2 counts (the MLB average is 54 percent) – Grade: C+
  • 7 percent of outs were strikeouts in four pitches or less (MLB average, 12 percent) – Grade: C-
  • 7 percent of Galarraga’s pitches were swing-and-miss strikes (MLB average, 15 percent) – Grade: F

As you might have guessed, Inside Edge graded the outing an A.

Galarraga’s surgical approach to the Cleveland lineup also included first-pitch strikes to every right-handed batter he faced (73 percent to lefties). Remarkable.

For a while, perhaps a long while, baseball fans will remember this game for what happened when the 27th batter hit a ground ball to Miguel Cabrera. That’s fine.

But I hope Tigers fans will also remember how tremendous — rather, how virtually perfect Armando Galarraga’s pitching was on June 2, 2010.

How Miguel Cabrera’s Recovery is Playing in Venezuela

NotebookXSmall.jpgJorge Arangure Jr. writes an interesting piece today on ESPN.com’s La Esquina blog [$]. Here’s the gist of it:

Cabrera needs to repair his reputation, not only in Detroit, but also in his native Venezuela where he remains a polarizing figure. Despite being perhaps the best player from his country, Cabrera is universally beloved — not even close. Even this latest news, as humanizing as it was, may not be enough to sway public opinion yet.

“Some fans were a bit skeptical,” said Venezuelan journalist Efrain Ruiz, who writes for El Univeral. “Miguel has a difficult personality, without a doubt. But he’s always been asked to replace Andres Galarraga as the country’s national idol, and he simply doesn’t have that type of charisma. I really believe that’s weighed on on a lot, the tremendous pressure that exists to replace ‘The Cat.'”

How are you feeling about Cabrera these days: holding a grudge or forgiving and forgetting?