Recapping the Return of Anibal Sanchez

Detroit fans have been spoiled rotten by Mike Ilitch‘s generosity with the Red Wings for 30 years and the Tigers for the past 20. But I thought even he’d reached his limit with the addition of Torii Hunter last month. And I’m so glad to be wrong.

The re-signing of Anibal Sanchez – to a contact equal to Justin Verlander’s 2009 extension – is not only another indication of an owner’s urgent desire to win, it’s a reminder of how the Tigers have become a destination of choice for big-name players.

For a long time, the Tigers had to overpay any free agent with even a hint of interest in playing home games at Comerica Park:

Then the winning came and with it a reputation for being a great place to play. Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder and Hunter further proved that. And now with the re-signing of Sanchez, the Tigers must be considered a threat to add big names for big dollars every year. But back to Sanchez. He was the highest-profile Tigers free agent since, perhaps, Jack Morris in 1990. But unlike Sanchez, few expected Morris to bolt for his hometown Twins. (Juan Gonzalez doesn’t count; no one expected him to re-sign with the Tigers after the 2000 season. And thankfully he didn’t.)

With Sanchez sticking around to permanently replace Rick Porcello as the Tigers’ fourth starter, his impact on the rotation could be just as big as Hunter’s in the everyday lineup.

 

What Others Are Saying

If anything, this deal highlights the differences between operating a franchise that will spend money and one that either won’t or is limited by its market size. The Royals had to trade a premium prospect to acquire two years of Shields. The Tigers can just dip into owner Mike Ilitch’s wallet and sign a free agent — this offseason, Torii Hunter and now Sanchez. The Royals might think of themselves as playoff contenders,but this signing makes it a little less likely that will be the case. – Dave Schoenfield, ESPN.com “Sanchez signing makes Tigers clear favorite”.

Did the Tigers overpay for Sanchez? Something like that is somewhat relative. In a vacuum, yes, the Tigers are paying $16 million to a pitcher who, while productive, isn’t exactly great like his impressive paychecks will say he is. Was he the best available left on the market, though, and a pitcher who can help Detroit achieve their goal of winning a World Series before the Tigers as we know them scatter to the winds? That’s why they acquired Sanchez at last year’s deadline to begin with. Re-signing him is simply giving that plan another go, and it’s hard to blame them considering how close they were to getting it done on the first attempt. – Marc Normandin, SB Nation “Anibal Sanchez might be overpaid, but fits Tigers

When the reclining Tigers finally sat up and took enough notice to get off their original four-year, $48 million offer, the Cubs almost got him. The Cubs still might have had him if they had been willing to enter a bidding war that would have saddled them with a potentially bad contract. – Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun TimesTigers outbid Cubs for Anibal Sanchez — but it was close

Some viewed the Tigers as an underachieving bunch, but that did not sway Tigers owner Mike Ilitch’s commitment to winning a World Series. Like he did last year with Prince Fielder, Ilitch swooped in at the last minute to re-sign Sanchez, which preserved one of the strongest pitching staffs in the league. – Jim Bowden, ESPN.com “The AL Central’s strong offseason

[T]he Sanchez signing was essential to preserve the Tigers’ clearest advantage over their divisional foes — and potential October opponents. Detroit’s postseason rotation – Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Sanchez and Max Scherzer — posted a 5-1 record and 1.02 ERA against Oakland and New York in the AL playoffs. And now no member of that group will be eligible for free agency until Verlander and Scherzer after the 2014 season. – Jon Paul Morosi, FoxSports.com “Sanchez signing gives Tigers an edge

What do you think about the Sanchez contract?

Tigers Look to Porcello to Repeat What Bonderman Accomplished in ’06 ALDS Clincher

Five years ago this week, the Tigers sent a young, often frustrating righthander to the mound in the fourth game of the American League Division Series.

With a win, no sure thing with the unpredictable starter, the Tigers would eliminate the Yankees and move on to the American League Championship Series against the Oakland A’s.

Twenty-three-year-old Jeremy Bonderman was the Tigers’ starter that chilly Saturday afternoon and he faced righty Jaret Wright, who’d gone 11-7 witha 4.49 ERA in 30 appearances (27 starts) for New York.

Tigers fans didn’t want to seem overconfident, but compared to the Yankee starters in the series’ first three games (Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson) Wright seemed like a notch above batting-practice quality.

That day, the Tigers staked Bonderman to a 3-0, second-inning lead on home runs by Magglio Ordonez and Craig Monroe. They tacked on five more runs by the end of the sixth. (Detroit chased Wright with two outs in the third after he’d surrendered four runs on five hits.) The late Cory
Lidle
allowed three runs in his inning-and-a-third of work.

But at the start of the day, all eyes were on Bonderman. Could he handle the big stage, an elimination game against a New York lineup that Jim Leyland dubbed “Murderer’s Row and then Cano” and prevent a trip back to the Bronx for a decisive Game 5?

Could he ever.

Continue reading “Tigers Look to Porcello to Repeat What Bonderman Accomplished in ’06 ALDS Clincher”

Tigers Roster Set … and a Tad Upsetting

In 1984, the Tigers made the no-brainer decision to leave southpaw reliever Sid Monge off the playoff roster. Monge had an undistinguished half seaon with the Tigers after being picked up off waivers from the Padres — 1-0, 4.25 ERA in 19 games.

He didn’t pitch enough in the regular season and, left hander or no, he wasn’t going to appear in the ALCS or World Series. And God knows we didn’t want him to.

This morning we learned that another seemingly no-brainerish decision — to leave Brad Penny off the ALDS roster — was, in fact, not made. What the …? Jim Leyland hasn’t, and likely won’t, offer much to the media to chew on in the way of rationale for this decision.

Here’s the most obvious question: In what scenario, a Game 4 start, long relief, middle relief, would any Tigers fan feel comfortable seeing Penny on the mound? Speaking for myself: None.

Jason Beck reports on his blog:

Both Rick Porcello and Brad Penny are on the roster. One of them is expected to start Game 4 is necessary (sic). The other will work out of the bullpen.

Would I feel better seeing David Pauley? It depends. If it’s relief, absolutely. And would I feel more confident in Porcello starting Game 4? Ditto. (But if there’s a rainout between tonight and Game 4, are we still to believe that Justin Verlander won’t make that start?)

And what about Ryan Perry? Can the Tigers afford his baffling inconsistency in the postseason?

So what we’ve got are four pitchers — the three P’s: Penny, Porcello, Perry, and Max Scherzer — on the ALDS roster that make us wonder if the good version or bad version will show up.

I have no problem with the position-player decisions, even backup catcher Omir Santos. There’s no way Leyland is going to lose a playoff game — or series — by having to put Brandon Inge or Don Kelly behind the plate. No chance. I think Santos makes sense.

But the real news here is Penny. I’m afraid that if we see him in this series we’re going to long for Sid Monge.

Dave Schoenfield weighs in on both A.L. Division Series rosters on the SweetSpot blog.

The End of Denny McLain’s Career Began in 1966

A couple weeks ago, friend of the Fungo Lynn Henning wrote why it made sense to give Justin Verlander an extra day of rest heading into the three-game weekend series against the Indians.

In the column, Henning pointed to specific examples in Tigers history where heavy workloads resulted in truncated careers – among them Mark Fidrych.

Here’s the gist:

[L]et’s talk about some past Tigers history that might help put the Verlander decision in better perspective.

(snip)

Denny McLain won 31 games in 1968 — the only man in the past 77 years to have done so — and 24 the following season.

He won two Cy Young Awards during those two seasons. He won Most Valuable Player in 1968.

He pitched a combined 661 innings — no misprint — during those two campaigns.

He was 25 years old at the end of the ’69 season.

He won 21 games, total, the remainder of his career. His arm had been fried during those two colossal seasons.

I knew pitchers 40 years ago regularly went deep in games and threw a lot of pitches, but McLain’s output in 1966 was staggering.

On Aug. 29, 1966, McLain threw 229 pitches in the Tigers’ 6-3 win over the Orioles. He gave up eight hits, walks nine and struck out 11 Orioles to notch his 16th win. According to the Baseball Reference.com box score, McLain faced 43 batters in the game.

He was just 22 at the time.

In that game, McLain set the Orioles down in order only one time, the bottom of the second. In every other inning he faced, on average, about five hitters per inning.

Did I mention he was only 22?

Three days later, on Sept. 1, McLain faced the Indians in Cleveland and again went the distance, facing 39 batters. He retired the side 1-2-3 twice in the game but otherwise had a similar pattern to his previous start. (The Tigers won, 4-2.)

[callout title= McLain By the Numbers]

13-4 – McLain’s record in the first half of 1966

7-10 – His record in the second half

.214 – Opponents’ batting average against (lefties hit just .199 off him in ’66)

21 – The number of starts McLain made (out of 38) on three-days rest

1.13 – His ERA in the one start he had on two-days rest (one ER over eight innings)

6.16 – His ERA in the first inning

2.52 – His ERA in the ninth inning

8 – The number of starts to begin the season in which McLain pitched seven or more innings

[/callout]

On Sept. 6, McLain pitched nine innings, allowed 11 hits, two runs and struck out six, in an 8-2 win over Washington at Tiger Stadium. He faced 38 Senators hitters in this game, his 18th win.

McLain’s 1966 campaign concluded with him making three starts in the span of eight days. On Sept. 23, he didn’t make it out of the third inning, surrendering eight earned runs on seven hits.

Three days later he went eight innings, allowed one run on four hits against 30 Angels batters on the way to his 20th win.

On Oct. 1, the next-to-last day of the season, McLain would pitch 3 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits. He took the loss, his 14th, 5-2 to the A’s.

Fourteen and a third innings in three days. Totals like that can certainly make it a bit easier to appreciate today’s pitch-count obsessed mindset in baseball.

All told, McLain threw 264 1/3 innings in 1966. Forty years later, a 23-year-old Verlander threw a comparatively meager 186 innings – and there was talk then that he was approaching overworked status.

There’s no chance the Tigers would put such a ridiculous workload on Verlander – or, in a more apt comparison, Rick Porcello, and Lynn Henning’s column makes a good case for why pitch counts matter, even though I admittedly roll my eyes when I hear them mentioned during games.

And a closer look at a season from 45 years ago explains Denny McLain’s precipitous fall from a 31-game winner at the age of 24 to the loser of 22 games three years later, and his departure from baseball when he should have been entering his prime.

Game 163: Microcosm, The Sequel Nutshell

ESPN highlights available here.
knockedoutboxer.jpg
The Score: Twins 6 – Tigers 5, 12 innings

The Gist: The Tigers and Twins played a game for the ages and both teams followed the respective scripts of the past three weeks. For the Tigers, that meant squandering countless opportunities and watching a division lead evaporate. For the Twins: everything going their way. Rick Porcello was awesome, Miguel Cabrera showed up for the first part of the game and Fernando Rodney, while taking the loss, pitched almost brilliantly in what was assuredly his last Tigers performance.

The Quote: “No matter what we did, it seems like it wasn’t meant to be. This is the best game, by far, that I’ve ever played in no matter the outcome.”Brandon Inge

The Stat: 1 – The go-ahead run scored by Don Kelly in the 10th. Oh, how I wish it would’ve held up…for his sake.

Up Next: Spring Training, Lakeland, Fla., February 2010

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Game 156: Microcosm

ESPN highlights available here.
ScorecardXSmall.jpg

The Score: Twins 3 – Tigers 2, 10 innings

The Gist: Stop us if you heard this one: The Tigers had plenty of baserunners but a dearth of clutch hitters. Rick Porcello was lights-out for the Tigers over six-and-a-third innings but his offense made Nick Blackburn look like Bert Blyleven. And just like that, the Tigers’ lead is one game. Blackburn retired 12 Tigers in a row at one point as the offense hibernated.

The View: All year long I’ve been wanting to say that this team has no heart. But a team that spends the better part of four months in first place deserves the benefit of the doubt. Until now. Who cares that they rallied back from a 5-0 deficit against the White Sox three days ago? The Tigers had a chance today to make a statement — about the series and the season — and they did: “We can’t hit.”

The Quote: “[crickets]” — The Tigers’ offense.

The Stat: 100Joe Nathan‘s save percentage against the Tigers in 30 attempts.

Up Next: Twins @ Tigers – Game 2 Tonight – 7 p.m. ET

Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.41 ERA) vs. Brian Duensing (5-1, 3.33)

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