Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tigers Thoughts

Well, now that the Tigers have gotten their one big losing streak out of the way for the season, we should be ready for the stretch run. Or, you can take another view. Enter Salgat, a peripheral associate in the world of BHGM. Salgat is another of the few bastions of baseball love where I go to school; another member of the 'Living Through the Void' group. Salgat's thoughts after Saturday's loss were, "Don't worry about the Tigers losing four in a row, it's just God clearing out all the bandwagon fans." Like I said, another way to look at it. But, in all seriousness, this whole season is hitting us diehard fans pretty hard. Before this year, the only sellouts at Comerica were for Opening Days and the first couple (literally) games after the park first opened. Now they're commonplace. It used to be that Kevin and I could buy upper level seats and head down to the outfield box seats around the 3rd inning, where the ushers that we know would seat us in far better seats. There we would watch the game, talk about how if the Tigers ever got good it just wouldn't be the same, listen to all the Pistons bandwagon fans cheering as they watched the Pistons game in the suites, and enjoy a cool night in the beautiful city of Detroit. Anyway, those times have passed. The Tigers are suddenly the Pistons of the summer. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy having a good hometown team. It just feels a little bit weird. Especially when you're the one who supported them through all the bad times, only to have yourself supplanted by bandwagon fans who claim they love the Tigers. I'm not denying that they love a good team, I'm just denying their true commitment to the game. Which, of course, is encouraged by the fact that they have no idea what they're watching.

In any case, the Tigers do have another difficult run ahead of them. Two more games against the Red Sox, four against the Rangers and four more against the White Sox, followed by a three-game gimme against the Indians and a three game set against the Yankees, which brings us to the end of August. Let's leave this issue for a second. We'll be right back.

Let's take a quick look at the AL West. And, for once, I have something good to say about SI's infamous pick for the 2nd best team in the league. If you've read a post here before you probably know that SI did indeed pick the A's as the 2nd best team in the league in their preseason baseball review. I'm not sure why they thought this; perhaps they were trying to stir something up. I really have no idea. Either way, when I look at the standings today I see that the Athletics have finally chased down that .500; they're now a stunning 14 games above. And this leaves the Angels and Rangers both 5.5 games back. Of course, the Mariners have been surprising the most people, only 10 games back of the leader. Spectacular. I would've put them at least 22 games back by now. In any case, the A's have exploded recently - winning 17 of their last 20 - and it's that rocketship which has earned them first place, for now. But, 5.5 games up is not exactly running away with the division, which is a perfect transition.

Back to the AL Central. While the Tigers wade through the aforementioned schedule, the White Sox play the Royals three more times, the Twins six times, and the Devil Rays three times, in addition to the four games against the Tigers. The White Sox are 6.5 games behind Detroit, and if there's a time to make up those 6.5 games, it's now. Hopefully, it's not my imagination thinking that the White Sox have had an awful time with the Twins this season. In fact, the Twins and White Sox have played 10 games against each other so far this season, with each team taking five. That sounds fair to me. But back to the original question - was the Tigers five-game losing streak really just "god clearing out the bandwagon fans," or was it something more?

People have been thinking it all year, and I think they still might be. They think the Tigers are a fluke; the beneficiaries of an easy schedule. Or of a shot in the arm via a new manager, a la 2005 Washington Nationals, (in that case, it was a new city). Few accepted that the Tigers were a legitimate team earlier in the year, and I'm sure there are still some holdouts. They are wrong. First off, this team wasn't as bad as its record showed last year; I said this before the season even started. I noted that, even if the Tigers only did as good as they were last year, and not as they actually performed, they would be a significantly better team this year. With the minor additions they've made, as well as the one major one in Jim Leyland, I predicted that they would surprise everyone by staying in playoff contention through most of the year. I didn't think they would do this good, but many people who had been paying attention to the team had the same feeling that I did. And this year, guys that were notorious for being the third out in a 2-out pressure scenario last year, (Craig Monroe, Vance Wilson,) suddenly started to come up big for the team. And that's how it went - a team that had been under-achieving finally began to believe in themselves and perform at the level they should have been. That's the nice version, anyway. But you get the point.

However, there are a few problems coming up. First is the pitching. Kenny Rogers has always been a first-half man, despite what anybody on WDFN AM1130 may claim. And, the numbers this season have shown this. In fact, in the six games since the All-Star game, Kenny Rogers has gone 0-3. Granted, in his last game - a loss against Chicago - he gave up 4 hits and 4 unearned runs in 7 innings for the loss. But in those six games, his ERA has gone up a half point, from 3.85 to 4.36. Like I said, first-half guy. Since he's almost 50, I can't blame him. He's actually 41 though, right? Next is Verlander. This guy surprised me. Having seen him pitch in person last year, I didn't expect great things from him this year. I knew he would be good, but I thought the Tigers were making a mistake by bringing him up as early as they were into the rotation. Either way, I commented at the time that even if he was successful, there would come a time when his starts would either have to be skipped over or limited to about 6 innings a piece. And that's starting to happen. On the other hand, Mike Maroth (remember him?) should be coming back soon. A playoff rotation would include Bonderman, Robertson, and Rogers, with Maroth probably added as the fourth man when the need arose, if he stays on track and returns in good shape. Verlander will likely come out of the pen. However, if you're going to look at pitching problems, look at Chicago. Their starters have pitched more innings than any other team since some time last year. It was some neat graphic I saw on Sportscenter a few days ago. Either way, look at Buehrle. Garland remembered that he's Jon Garland, and he's fallen back to Earth. Contreras lost a game. They couldn't keep up the miracle work forever.

Meanwhile, a quick update on my man Roy Halladay. A couple minutes ago, Halladay got win number 15, which puts him in the MLB lead. You'll remember that he was my call for the Cy Young Award winner before the season. He hasn't been on like he was last year, however. His 3.20 ERA is a bit higher than the 2.41 he finished with last season, when he only pitched 142 innings before being struck down by a line drive to the leg, (he has 177 innings down so far this season.) Another thing - am I the only person that thinks Toronto has been 7 games back in the AL East for the entire year? Just a thought.

The Tigers beat the Red Sox tonight, and the Royals beat the White Sox. Make that a 6.5 game lead again, guys.

Also, thanks for the comments from Charles and Jason. I appreciate you guys coming back after the long absence - and that goes for everyone else who's reading now too. I move up to school on the 19th, and I've got a lot to take care of before then, but we should see a post or two before then. I would like to talk about Mark Buehrle, who had previously been the model of consistency before, well, whatever happened to him. Suggest some other topics, and we'll see what comes up.

Gameday: Tigers 4, Reds 9 - May 19, 2006
The Tigers dump Pena and re-tool for 2006 - March 26, 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

How many times can a team take a division with 80 wins?

I was able to catch a little bit of the A's v. Devil Rays game. Not the most interesting of all matchups, and I couldn't find much to tell you about it. Other than the fact that, if one wants to make baseball games more interesting, perhaps they can take after the Oakland Athletics fans, and create their own percussion section at each game. I'm not kidding about this - if done right, you could almost pull off that whole major college sporting event feel.

Recall that last year, the Padres finished 82-80 -- after a hot streak to end the year -- and won the NL West. The fact that the division is terrible is certainly not something new. But here is what's scary - the Dodgers, who have won 12 of their last 13 games, are now in the lead in the NL West. By 10 games? 5, at least? You'd like to think that would be the case, but sadly, it's not. In fact, quite the opposite is true. After Arizona's loss tonight, and pending the outcome of their own game, the Dodgers are in the division lead by exactly one game. However, the Diamondbacks aren't the only thing chasing the Dodgers; so is number .500. Right now, the Dodgers are exactly three games above .500, despite winning - again - 12 of their last 13 games. I don't need to tell you what will happen if a team with any fewer than 85 wins takes the NL West. Well, first, no one besides me will care. At least, not as much as I do. *Edit, 11-16-08: LA and SD both won the division with an 88-74 record. That means LA had to go 40-19 to pull off the win, or 28-18 since this post was written.

We'll have more thoughts tomorrow - in fact, it's quite possible that I will just be watching baseball games all day tomorrow; now that I'm done with work, there aren't a huge amount of things to do for the next week.

The NL West: Citizenship Revoked - March 19, 2006

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bronson Arroyo and more ruined No Hitters

As most of you know, the season of 'football interfering with baseball' is starting to warm up. I checked out the Worldwide Leader, and I saw another football headline, despite the fact that no one is actually playing football now. It happens every year, right around the time I go back to school - which is in nine days - and I dread it. Football, with the exception of soccer, is my least favorite sport. In any case, a few quick hits for right now, and we'll be jumping back into the normal stuff soon. There is no huge excuse for the past 40 day absence. I simply couldn't spend as much time following baseball and working a full time job as I could during the school year. I know that many readers work full time jobs as well; in fact, I would say most of you do. And most of you would find that something like this is just impossible to do every single day. On that note, you can check Kevin's post in the Chatbox,

KEVIN: rumor has it, reid is planning a great return to the blog. He may say he has been "very busy" but he is lying. He has just been lazy, and has been catching up in watching The Office

Yeah, that's pretty much it. If you haven't seen The Office, you need to watch the entire 2nd season now. It's fantastic.

Former Red Sox Bronson Arroyo decided that, since he hasn't won a game in nearly two years (actually, since June 19th,) that it must be his hair's fault. So, for today's game against the Cardinals he put his hair into cornrows, hoping that whatever black magic "broke" The Boston Curse would bring him a win. It didn't, and he gave up four home runs instead. But it's good to see that spending time with his hair stylist is more important than trying to figure out why he can no longer pitch. Actually, stop yourself, Bronson Arroyo was never a great pitcher. Pre-June 19th, he was 9-3 with a 2.47 ERA. So Arroyo was pretty good for about two and a half months. Nothing, least of all hair, can bring that back.

Last night, I had the fortune of watching two no-hitters get broken up in the 6th and 7th innings, and I was responsible for both. As most of you know, I have a strange ability to stop a no-hitter in its tracks, as soon as I open my mouth to Kevin. Last night was no exception. First case, David Bush on the mound against the Cubs. And obviously, if two months ago you had asked me which of the 30 teams would get no-hit this season, I would tell you the Cubs or the Royals. Probably the Royals, since the Cubs have the Dusty Baker "don't walk, you'll clog the bases" strategy. Anyway, it's the top of the 6th inning and Bush is still running a no-hitter. Knowing my past experiences, I try to tell Kevin why I can't watch the Yankees game. I tell him I'm doing something that involves the letters 'MLB', and that one of the teams has the first two letters of the aforementioned three in it, while the other team has an NFL team in the same city which utilizes the final letter. Alas, the next at bat, Bush gives up a hit to Juan Pierre, of all people. How this happened is less of a mystery than how Pierre's OBP skyrocketed to a lofty .322, with an average of .276. The last I remember, Baker was still plugging him into the leadoff spot with an OPB circa .280.

The next game finds us at US Cellular Field, (formerly New Comiskey, before the sellout.) This one was never in doubt, because after I sent Kevin on the hunt for what I was doing, (see above,) he responded with, "dude no way Johnson is going to pull it off," which is a shotgun blast to whatever chances Randy ever had. I told him to shut up, and about three seconds later Bush gave up his bid. So, I went over to the Yankee game, knowing I wouldn't be seeing anything special, but knowing that if I didn't switch over, I would, in fact, miss something special. The next White Sox up to bat gets a hit. I can't make this stuff up, people. In the past year, I have ruined six potential no-hitters or perfect games, three of which were in the sixth inning or later.

Thanks for holding out - the site has still been getting nearly 100 hits a day - and know that we won't be hearing any talk of football here for the remainder of the season. See you guys again tomorrow.

Good thing I started Jeff Suppan tonight - April 18, 2006
The Hit Streak v. The Perfect Game: Superstitions - April 3, 2006
Maroth, Dusty Baker v. BB, and Marlins - April 26, 2006