Category Archives: Andrew Miller

Willis and Cabrera putting on the stripes?

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

As of right now I don’t think the deal has been finalized, but the word on the digital street is that Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera are headed to Detroit for 6 players.

The Freep says that, so far as they know at the moment, the package of Tigers going to Florida consists of Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo, Dallas Trahern, Eulogio De La Cruz, and Burke Badenhop.

Let me be the first to say: Dude. WOAH.

This is… unexpected, to say the least. I (and many of you, I assume) had got the impression that Cameron Maybin was Untradeable, and that Miller was in a similar boat. As early as YESTERDAY I had heard this. Now we find out that (probably) both have been traded. I’m wondering what caused the turn-around. Was the hardline stance Dombrowski had with regards to these guys just a front to drive up their value as potential trading chips, or was the hardline stance mitigated because Dombrowski honestly believes that a combination of Willis and Cabrera thoroughly trumped even the stars of the Tigers minor league system?

I tend to think it’s the latter. Maybin and Miller are both very very young and have the POTENTIAL to be excellent. Yes. Very true. But Dontrelle Willis is a 25 year old two-time All Star and Miguel Cabrera is a 24 year old murderer of the baseball. These are guys who are very young and have REALIZED their potential to be excellent. This is probably what Dombrowski was thinking.

Maybe he was also thinking about the age-related issues facing the Tigers for next season and beyond. We do have a lot of rapidly aging bats under contract for the coming season; we’re talking about guys who are good ballplayers, even great ballplayers, but who are starting to fall prey to the ravenous jaws of Time. The Tigers have been pawing at the edges of World Series success the past 2 seasons. So close. Sooooo close! (argh. also, sigh.) Maybe NOW is the time for them to take that final step.

By signing Cabrera the Tigers got the power bat (sadly a righty) that they declined to jump for in ARod, with 8 fewer years on his body. Maybe 7 or 6.5 if you say that the extra weight Cabrera’s put on in recent times is wearing him down. He’s still one hell of a hitter. He hasn’t batted under .300 in 3 seasons, his OBP has been over .400 the past 2 seasons, and his SLG percentage hasn’t dropped below .560 in 3 seasons. Please recall that HE IS 24 YEARS OLD.

Now, Cabrera has primarily played third base the past couple of seasons. Before that he spent most of his time in the outfield. Where do we play him? Obviously I am deeply concerned about the fate of Brandon Inge here. But maybe a more far-ranging outfield position would help whip him back into shape, or would at least give him further motivation on that front? This will be a trying time for Brandon Inge fans, and I encourage my brethren to keep their spirits up, as our scrap-tastic patron midget would want.

If our elderly players manage to spend most of the 2008 season in one piece each, just IMAGINE what our lineup will look like. Just look at the NAMES. Granderson. Polanco. Cabrera? Magglio. Sheffield. Guillen. Pudge. Who-the-heck-ever else. Drool. DROOOOOOOL.

And then we have Dontrelle Willis. Dontrelle Willis, a great pitcher who had a bad year, numbers-wise. Every AL fan is aware of our obvious superiority, and we generally believe that the NL is easier on pitchers’ ERAs. Willis had a 5.17 ERA for the Marlins last season, which is worse than Jeremy Bonderman, who spent every first inning last year curled up in a tiny ball on the mound being eaten by fire ants. Willis’ WHIP was 1.597 which is… pretty bad. This does not inspire confidence, but it is of course possible that he just had a down year.

One of my main concerns with Willis is his delivery. Oh, I know he’s been fairly durable thus far in his career, but that is one seriously whacked-out leg kick. Even more than the Injury Bug, I fear the Complexity Bug. The Complexity Bug attacks players who have batting routines or pitching deliveries that are unusually complex. The more complex a motion is, the more separate parts there are that have to go consistently right to make the entire motion successful. The more parts you have, the greater the likelihood that one will go wrong. You see what I mean here? It’s possible that, last season, there was some weeny thing in Willis’ delivery that was juuuust far enough off, and he just needs to get his ‘feel’ back to retain his glorious former skill.

At the least the Tigers have picked up a guy who can definitely start, and cat knows, after the rotating 5th starter bull dung this past season, we needed that.

Now, we did give up an AWFUL lot to get this deal done, but we just got 2 blockbuster players who are both relatively young. I would be a LOT more annoyed if we had given up all this young talent to get one or two older players, no matter how good. That said…

I know everyone is going to be talking about Maybin and Miller and the other young pitchers. But if it turns out to be true that this trade included Mike Rabelo, I am seriously kind of concerned about that. I know. I KNOW! Mike Rabelo! But think about it. What on earth is our catching situation right now? We have Pudge, whose bones have been slowly liquefying month by month for a couple years now. We have Vance Wilson, if he doesn’t show up for Spring Training with both his arms amputated at the elbow or something, and even if he’s fully recovered from his surgery come April, he’s not exactly a spring kitten himself. We have… uh….. Brandon Inge? (egads, no)

Pudge needs a backup. Period. Pudge needs a GOOD backup, because whoever backs him up is going to end up playing on a fairly regular basis even if Pudge somehow (magic? fairies???) makes it through the entire year without injury. Mike Rabelo was a shockingly good backup. I was always worried about our catching situation, but now I am near frantic over it.

Don’t tell me James Skelton is the answer. The kid is TINY and inexperienced (‘though both, of course, may and probably will change: he is also very young). Nobody above him in the system has much of anything that impresses me. We’ve already discussed the issues with catchers on the market this offseason.

I hope that Mr. Dombrowski has something in the works to address this problem as well. Right, Dave? Right?

Anyways. Wow. The Tigers are looking to contend next season, that much is clear. There is no looking to 2009 or beyond in the Tigers front office. They believe we can win now, and, lucky for us Tigers fans, they are apparently willing to do whatever they possibly can to make that happen.

UPDATE: Matt has the minor league angle covered for this move. Check it out to see what we really gave up to get this kitten done.

Andrew Miller pulls a Bondo

the horrifying Bondermiller, by Samara Pearlstein

Look, I know that we want our vets teaching the kids and sharing their acquired baseball knowledge. But today was just a LITTLE much. Five hits and five runs in 0.2 innings? Was I watching Andrew Miller out there or was I watching Jeremy Bonderman make a surprise start just to torment us all? Perhaps the two of them melded into some kind of terrifying Bondermiller, combining the most awkward aspects of Miller’s uber-rookie status with Bondo’s first inning allergy.

For once, we have to give the bullpen credit. The Royals only got 5 runs tonight, and they all came before the first inning was done. It was a shutout after that. Miller had an ugly outing… about as ugly as you can get, really. But the bullpen gave the offense EVERY chance to come back.

Zack Greinke looked like the Zack Greinke that other teams used to regularly fear and desire, not the Zack Greinke who doesn’t know where he is when he suddenly finds himself on a pitching mound. He only went 4 innings, but that was because he was on a pitch count, and I guess 70 was his limit (he threw 71). Their bullpen, sadly, was just as shutout-happy as ours was.

We’re 4.5 games back now and I blame, in order, starting with the most:

– askdljfhadsfjjkljdf Racist Logos
– the horrible Bondermiller
– the offense
– Royals pitching
– Royals batters
– Tigers injuries
– the Yankees
– the hot weather
– that damn flu virus
– pants

Chad Durbin pimps from the bullpen

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Sorry, Andrew Miller. I know you pitched 6 scoreless innings and managed to get yourself another win despite the fact that you’re so young you’re still wearing Spiderman underwear unironically, but Chad Durbin gets the headline and the leader image, because

a) most everyone else is going to have some kind of awful “Miller time!!!!111!!1eleventy-one LOL!” headline, and I see no need to subject people to more of that sort of thing, and
b) Chad Durbin was in fact pimp.

Instead of being discouraged by his unmerited banishment to the ‘pen, Durbin remained cool, calm, collected, pimptacular. He came in today to pitch 3 scoreless innings with only two hits and one walk. He looked reliable and in charge on the mound.

He ALSO (and this is the good bit) hit a sacrifice fly that went for an RBI! So although he did not manage a hit in his at-bat, he did manage to contribute offensively, and this is A VERY BIG DEAL for a pitcher, especially a newly-minted relief pitcher who, and I cannot stress this enough, was not supposed to be anything at all beyond cannon fodder this season. RBI!! That is DELIVERING THE GOODS. That is PIMP behavior.

Plus he got his very first ever save so, you know, congrats to him for that as well.

We had to face Ledezma again today, which is still weird. THE WOUND IS TOO RAW. Brandon Inge, bless his little high socks, doubled off of him, and then stole third so beautifully that Saltalamacchia (I spelled that without even checking, snap snap etc.) didn’t even attempt a throw. It was as though Inge had timed and anticipated Ledezma’s move perfectly… which is, no doubt, exactly what he did do. Inge may not be the crunchiest kibble in the cat food, but he’s fairly observant when it comes to baseball stuff, and I reckon being Ledezma’s teammate for ages made that steal a whole lot easier.

As for Miller, yeah, perfectly solid start. I would still like to see him working out his offspeed stuff more, and obviously everyone agrees on that… Miller himself said that he wanted/needed to develop his offspeed stuff during a little in-game interview with Peter Gammons. And there was this quote from Pudge after the game:

“He’s going to be a great pitcher,” Rodriguez said. “When he starts to work the slider and the changeup, combined with the sinker and the four-seam fastball, he’s going to be tremendous. He’s doing a good job with basically two pitches. When he becomes a four-pitch starter, he’s going to be very, very tough to hit.” article

I would trust Pudge to know.

With all that said, I think it’s clearer than ever where I stand on the issue of the rotation. I want Miller back in Toledo until September. I don’t care if he’s so far above AAA hitters that he’s blowing the snot out of their noses on a regular basis down there. He needs to work on his offspeed pitches, and he’s going to be more free to do so with the Mud Hens than he is as a starter with the big cats.

I know it worked out OK for Verlander (and I was grumbling that we should keep Verlander in the minors longer too, so possibly I have a brain full of kitty litter), but is Miller’s fastball as good as Verlander’s, when Verlander was at the same point in his tender fledgling development? I say that it is not. And it was Verlander’s fastball that had/has to carry him along until everything else comes. Major League hitters haven’t worked out how to get around on Verlander’s fastball yet, because it’s nasty. Miller’s is, I think, more generally hittable, so when hitters start getting used to him, he’s not going to be able to fight back, because he has no other pitches to really fall back on.


Oh, and it turns out that Mike Maroth has himself a little blog over on his own website. Here’s what he thinks of the trade. I have inserted paragraph breaks myself to make it… less a giant block of text.

The hardest part of the day came after I threw a bullpen at the stadium. It was time to tell my teammates good bye. I had been on the other side many times with guys getting traded or released but this was different. This team is special. I had been through a lot with the Tigers and grown up in the Big Leagues with a lot of these players.

Some of the guys I have played with for many years and had been through a lot with them. I played with Brandon Inge the longest starting back in AA in 1999 shortly after I was brought over to the Tigers from the Red Sox. My closest relationship is with Nate Robertson and we spent quite a bit of time talking and encouraging each other to press on. I have been used to spending almost everyday during the season with these guys and now that was going to end.

The relationships you build in baseball are special. You spend as much or more time with guys than you do most of your family. Essentially, they become your family. So, to say good bye to them was hard knowing that I was leaving the Tigers as well as the AL so there was a good chance I wouldn’t see a lot of them for awhile. But, It is time to start new relationships in a new organization and for that, I am excited. See you in St Louis!!!
Mike Maroth’s blog

So, OK, we could critique his writing style… oh, how we could critique his writing style… but I expect most of us are going to be too busy sniffling (Colt might actually be sobbing) over the content of that little gem to worry much about the fact that he writes like a middle schooler trying to bang out a book report.

I just want to remind you all that All Star voting ends at midnight of the 28th (that is, when the 28th turns into the 29th), and you NEED TO GET OFF YOUR RUMPS AND VOTE FOR MAGGLIO ORDONEZ. He is VERY DESERVING of an All Star trip, and he NEEDS VOTES, and ZOMG DO IT. Make multiple Yahoo email accounts just for the purpose of voting! You can vote 25 times per email account! MAKE IT HAPPEN, PEOPLE!

Magglio Ordonez needs my help, your help, the help of all of us! MAKE IT HAPPEN, TIGERS FANS. VOTE!

Oh, and did the “argument/discussion” tonight between Jon Miller and Joe Morgan about the definition of a slugger vs. a hitter and how that pertained to Magglio make anyone else want to stab their ears out? Or was that just me?

welcome back, Kenny

photo by Emily Smith

A day of hellos. A day of goodbyes. A day of incredibly weak blog openers.

It was BLOODY GLORIOUS to see Kenny back on the field (that photo up there is from his rehab start in West Michigan, thanks as usual to the genius lens of Em) in any capacity, and to see him pretty much dealing was even better. Two hits over 6 innings… NO walks… FIVE strikeouts… ZERO runs… and, wait, the best bit? Those 6 innings? He only threw 75 pitches.

I know his arm exploded on the inside, and he’s on the wrong side of 40, and he’s already had quite a lot of wear on the blood vessels in that shoulder, but I can be excused for feeling a little optimism, right? It’ll probably be gone soon, so let me bask for the moment.

*does the “Kenny Rogers is back, and Kenny Rogers pitched like woah” dance*

Now, Magglio. See, look, there goes the optimism. Watch it as it flees.

I know, I know: X-Rays were negative. The fact that the ball ricocheted as much as it did, combined with the negative X-Ray, indicates to me that the ball may have glanced off the bat and thus not hit his hand full-on. Which is good! Just a bruise! JUST A FLESH WOUND! OPTIMISM!!

Except that I have my usual paranoid fears, in this centering around the completely unfounded worry that there could be a small fracture in his hand that the X-Ray didn’t pick up… the kind of thing that would enlarge and become problematic if he continues to play without getting it properly treated. Seriously, this is the stuff I worry about.

It’s not as though we haven’t got anyone other than Magglio in the lineup. He can sit out a few days if need be, to let the swelling (if swelling there is) on his hand go down without doing too much damage to the offense. But he IS our best hitter (best hitter anywhere! eee!), and so yeah. I worry. If he has some sort of tiny hairline fracture, and it messes with his grip…. you know where that leads. DL. AND WOE.

Also sad today: being faced with Ledezma, in his brand new capacity as a Brave. Nothing major, I know, but the times, they are a-changin’, and we no longer have anyone on the team named ‘Wilfredo’. This is a harsh blow that was felt more keenly when we had to try to bat against an opposing Wilfredo. Oh, baseball is indeed cruel.

I also heard that Miller is slated to remain in the rotation, with Durbin moving to the ‘pen when Nate gets back from his imaginary injury. Don’t like it. I’ve been telling everyone that I wouldn’t mind seeing Miller head back down to AAA for a bit and making his triumphant return in September, but apparently the team has other plans. Billfer brings up a good point about young pitchers (see: Verlander) and arm fatigue due to a sudden jump in innings pitched (see: Verlander at the end of last season). I assume someone in the Tigers’ organization has weighed all these factors. I’m just setting myself up pessimistically again.

And of course if you see below, you will note by the deformed avian heading that Mike Maroth has been traded to the Cardinals for ANONYCARDINAL, to be recieved at a later date.

But I am happy. HAPPY. LOOK AT MY GRIN. Kenny Rogers IS back, even in the midst of all this turmoil and insanity, and he seems to be REALLY back, so throw your flower petals into the air and dance a merry hippy dance, Tigers fans. For this one thing at least.

chipping away at the rock of Tiger pitching

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Admittedly, the rock of Tiger pitching has on occasion been more like “the weak pebble of Tiger pitching”, especially in the bullpen, but you know, anything in the service of a dumb Photoshop gag.

The Phillies never had a big inning in this game, at least not when it came to scoring. There were some messy innings that I guess the unscrupulous blogger could call ‘big’, especially when Andrew Miller started plunking guys hither and yon and making errors (o tender pitching youth), but they never managed more than one run per inning. Of course, when you do that in 6 different innings, you’re still going to have a pretty effective offensive game, even if it is more chipping than overpowering blasting. Behold my attempt to use the word ‘inning’ as many times in one paragraph as I possibly can, because there is no good synonym for the word ‘inning’.

The two home runs that the Tigers got early (courtesy of Guillen and Granderson) made it seem like there was going to be a dynamite-blast of tiger-striped offense, but The Aged Jamie Moyer settled down and that was it for us. He only allowed 4 hits over 7 innings, and two of those hits were the two early home runs. I guess there’s a reason he’s stuck around the league as long as he has.

As was the case a couple games ago, a last-inning spurt of offense started to draw up the tender spring seedlings of our hope before crushing them under the cruel indifferent lawn mower blade of a loss. Last time I bemoaned the lack of Polanco, Guillen, and Pudge, saying how their presence in the lineup might have made the game winable. In this game Polanco did provide an RBI double in the 9th, but hilariously (read: not very hilariously at all) it was Guillen and Pudge who made the last two outs of the game. Shows what I know.

Although this post is about Saturday’s game, I am in my usual fashion writing and posting it in the wee hours of the morning, so it’ll be up on Sunday. I will therefore take this opportunity to say a little something in a timely, holiday-related vein.

Father’s Day is usually a big deal in the baseball world, in part because the sport is seen as such a ‘father-son’ kind of thing. I always give a hearty WHATEVER to that, because in my case it would be father-daughter, and heck, my mom’s a Red Sox fan who always scoffs in mild disbelief when I’m watching a Tigers game instead of a Red Sox game (which does not always happen; sometimes I watch the Sox game instead. On those days, I wing posts over here based on box scores and my own fertile, deranged imagination). Baseball is a whole-family affair in the Pearlstein household.

It is, however, solely my dad’s fault that I’m a Tigers fan. He grew up in Michigan and has gleefully encouraged me to follow the Tigers ever since I started getting interested in baseball, which I eventually did, despite my geographic inclination towards the Red Sox. I still don’t have anything near the kind of encyclopedic baseball knowledge that he (and my brother) possess, but I think I’m coming close in obsession. And that’s a wonderful thing, don’t you think? Of course you think so; you’re READING A BASEBALL BLOG, you are probably just as obsessed.

The blogging was my own responsibility, but the fact that I’m a Tigers fan can rest squarely on the shoulders of my dad. So it is, in a way, my dad’s fault that this blog exists and so you, in a way, have him to thank/curse for that.

Be careful raising baseball fans, moms and dads and grandparents. They just might grow up to write baseball blogs and post photos of you on the Magical Internets. Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!

pug marks, June 10-11

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Excellent game. Miller was shaky early, but it looks like Glavine was shakier overall. How many 22 year old kids get to say that they went up against Tom freakin’ Glavine, and outdueled him? Granted, 4 runs in 5.1 innings isn’t too great, but it’s loads better than 9 runs in 4.1 innings, which is what Glavine managed. Big pat on the back for Miller. He earned every swing of that offense explosion today.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that some TV station somewhere is a bunch of jerks (I think I need to blame FOX for this one, right?), I didn’t get to actually SEE the game. Since I therefore don’t have much more to say about it, today’s a good time for some more pug marks.

pug mark 1
Brandon Inge should break his toe more often.

Since his return from the injury (which he is playing through), Inge has been 6-for-17 with a home run, a double, and 5 RBI, all for a line of .353/.450/.588. For comparison, in the 5 games before his injury, he was 3-for-17 with 1 double, no home runs, and no RBI.

Either Brandon Inge is a secret masochist and the pain is helping him hit, or the pain meds are making him feel just fiiiine and groovy up there at the plate.

pug mark 2

It’s coming up on that time of the year again. Yes, All Star voting time. Now, the world is used to seeing the All Star game smothered in an excess of Yankee bile, but usually the Yankees involved have SOME claim to the position. This year, however, we are seeing a crime perpetrated right before our very eyes.

Placido Polanco, who is superior to Robinson Cano in pretty much every way, is trailing him in the All Star voting standings, due only to the fact that Cano is swaddled in pinstripes. Quo Vadimus, a Detroit blog, has a Campaign for Righteousness, telling people to go to the polls and vote for Polanco.

A vote for Placido Polanco is a vote for freedom!! JOIN US IN OUR GLORIOUS CRUSADE. Unlike religious crusades, you can happily engage in this one, secure in the knowledge that you are ACTUALLY, PROVABLY IN THE RIGHT.

pug mark 3
The plans to demolish Tiger Stadium have been OKed. Nominally OKed. This is Detroit, after all, and we all know how efficient Detroit is when it comes to getting things done. Especially when it comes to buildings.

Big Al wants the city to just get on with it already. I agree with him that I think the place is beyond ‘saving’ at this rather late date. I am a bit more nostalgic for it than him, though. This probably has something to do with my constant exposure to Fenway Park.

pug mark 4
Kenny Rogers had a promising rehab start. Woo. Miller’s start today may have worked out alright in the end, but I wouldn’t like to rely on the offense that heavily again, you know? I’d be happy to get Kenny back sooner rather than later. Uh. Obviously.

Curiously enough, one of the only triple-Aers to get any hits off of Rogers in 3.2 innings was former Pirate and briefly former Toledo Mudhen Tike Redman.

pug mark 5
Is there anything worse than losing a no-hitter with two outs in the 9th? And having that one hit account for the one run that means you lose the game? I would say no.

Alas for me and all Michigan fans, because that’s what happened to Zach Putnam and the Wolverines yesterday. The link is to my write-up of it over at my other blog; it was traumatizing enough that I’m not keen to get into it a second time over here. Sniffle, sob, etc. We knock off the #1 team in the country, Vanderbilt, and then get stuck with last year’s national champions. Someone up there really wants us to suffer.

Game 2, which is now a possible elimination game, is at 4 pm PST (7 EST) on, I think, ESPN2. So if you’re keen on watching it, there y’go.

pug mark 6
I was going to link one of the analytical pieces over at Tiger Tales here, but then I couldn’t decide which one to link. There’s the most recent Run Preventing Events post…. there’s a good post about Bondo (almost) leading the universe in Fielding Independent Pitching… there’s a nice little concise prospect report. Just go check Lee’s stuff out if you’re into baseball analysis and Deep Thought and all those things you’re less likely to get ’round here.

pug mark 7
If you have ever expended one tiny bit more thought on baseball mascots than they deserved, you should read my insane rant on the subject. I have very strong feelings about mascots, OK? And some of them are just… well, they deserve strong feelings. I’ll give Paws credit, though… he’s moved up some in my estimation with his new, less mothy suit this season.

pug mark 8
This is kind of hilariously recursive… I’m linking to Mack Ave. Tigers’ version of a pug marks post. LOL INTERNET. But it’s worth it, because Kurt goes into who he likes and dislikes in the bullpen before he gets to the links, and I mostly agree with him. Except I would say that instead of “sorta disliking” Fernando, I “hate and mistrust” Fernando, and I’m much higher on Ledezma than he is.

apparently the bats were all left in Detroit

Cardinals get pwned, photo by Samara Pearlstein

Good of the lads to pick them up again when they got home. It would’ve been nice if they had decided to take them along to Boston, but I guess we should be happy that they’ve got them at all.

Maybe the most heartening thing about this game was how well Andrew Miller was doing even before the offensive onslaught. It would be one thing to see a guy calm down and get into a groove after his team scores 14 runs, but Miller was going strong even before that.

His outing reminded me a LOT of Verlander when he first came up. Riding the fastball because none of his offspeed stuff was working, working with men on base and getting out of jams and generally displaying mental toughness (INTANGIBLE ALERT!!), looking all of 12 years old out there (did you SEE how fluffed-up the front of his hair got? Oh jeez, he looked like a wee baby). It’s a formula that worked out pretty well for Verlander…

Of course, FSN had to run a trivia question asking who the last Tiger to win his rookie debut was… and the answer is Andy Van Hekken, in 2002. Thanks bunches, FSN. That’s exactly what I want to be thinking of while watching Miller, possibly a Tiger Leader of the Future. I mean, where’s Andy Van Hekken now? I think he’s in the Independent Leagues. Last I saw he was with the Somerset Patriots. He was…. the Royals had him briefly, but he’s somehow back in Somerset now.

This is the Andy Van Hekken whom the Somerset Patriots thought they were signing last season. This is the Andy Van Hekken whose career minor-league statistics suggest he should be pitching in affiliated baseball. This is the Andy Van Hekken who made it to the major leagues in 2002 and can be an ace.
Courier News

So why isn’t he an ace in the major leagues? Or even tearing up the minor leagues? I haven’t a bloody clue, but whatever is afflicting him, I don’t want it getting smeared all over Andrew Miller. Thanks bunches, FSN, for putting that in my mind.

But the hitting, o! the hitting! Polanco, 3 for 4! Maggs, 3 for 4! The Mayor, 4 for 5! INSANITY!! I mean, it’s bad when a team manages to get 7 runs off of your starter. But when they proceed to then get 7 MORE runs off of the reliever immediately following the starter… you know that, in the parlance of Rod Allen, someone’s put on their hittin’ shoes today.

Now we just have to avoid the post-huge-game hangover that seems to mythically afflict bats. Break the stereotype, guys, and BREAK SOME CARDINAL SPIRIT!

(not that I’m bitter or anything)

Oh, and by the way, photos from the second Sox/Tigs game (Wakefield/Verlander) are now up for your perusal. Again, there will be a proper photo blog after I get ALL of the shots from that series up, but if you just can’t wait to experience photographic glee, dive right in.

On a side note, the photo used for this post gives you a little glimpse of how I spend my time over the summer when I’m not watching baseball: banding birds and doing illustration and graphic design work for the Massachusetts Audubon Society. We get cardinals in the banding station nets occasionally, and those buggers are MEAN, and those big beaks HURT when they get hold of you. So we have to hold onto them pretty tightly. I figure an irritable cardinal that clearly wants us all dead because it’s being restrained is appropriate for this game and this post.

Chad Durbin, sacrificial ram

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Of course I probably would have said something similar about Zach Miner when he first popped onto the roster last year, but I reckon poor Chad Durbin is just getting thrown to the wolves for a bit so that we can groom the real Next Big Tigers Pitching Prospect… that being, of course, Andrew Miller.

Durbin gave up six runs to the mighty Oriole bats (I almost, ALMOST managed to type that with a straight face… sorry Mike) in 4.2 innings. Ennnh. Not good, but not really all that unexpected. I mean, the poor guy hadn’t pitched in the Majors since 2004, which tells you something right there. It is 2007 now. That is 3 seasons. That is… well, I don’t want to be too hard on him, so we’ll just leave it at that.

Andrew Miller right now is what Justin Verlander used to be: the hot prospect that the organization wants to be somewhat tentative with, but for whom we will soon be hearing clamorous cries from the fans. Verlander came up (a little too early in my well-documented opinion, but what do I know? nothing, clearly) and pitched like a big doofy dream. Will Miller do the same? He too is awkwardly tall and thin, and he too seems to have a preternaturally serene take on big league bats.

I do think he’ll be up this year, especially if Kenny takes his sweet time recovering from his blood clot… which he should do. I wouldn’t mind seeing Ledezma for a bit, but to be honest I’m starting to give up on Ledezma just a little. He simply hasn’t showed consistency or any particular mental fortitude yet, and I think he should have by now. I still very much want him to get some innings and for that time to be exactly what he needs to finally put it together and come into his own, but I’m less sure now than ever before that he’s capable of doing this. Barring an unexpected skill up-bump from Ledezma, he too would only be another stopgap measure on the road to Andrew Miller.

And in the meantime, we offer Chad Durbin up on the bloody altar of the pitching mound, where his throat is bared to the knives of such beastly batters as Jay “People used to call me ugly and then they saw Chris Shelton” Gibbons and Kevin “I miss Manny because without him I have no sufficient outlet for my not-very-secret cuddling desire” Millar.

Offensively, we were blah again. I am not worrying. I am not worrying. I am not worrying. I am waiting for the bats to get on track, as I am so very certain that they will. I… totally… believe… this.

(It may be helpful for you to imagine me typing that with my teeth gritted and eyes valiantly squinted.)

Curtis Granderson continues to do Good Things That Make Us Love Curtis Granderson, and it was nice to see Maggs’ bat going, especially in the face of his recent defensive issues (which I still think are mostly due to the cold). We were pretty well smothered by Daniel Cabrera, though. All credit to him and his absurdly enormous self…. but the offense has been doing this against everyone of late. We’ll snap out of it. Totally will. Absolute confidence. Just a matter of waiting them out.

Don’t even get me started on Brandon Inge right now. He is… taking his sweet time. And that’s OK. I fully expect him to go on some kind of ridiculous hitting tear in July that will singlehandedly (singlebattedly?) boost us to the top of the division and reduce the Wrong Sox to a collective blubbering mass of tears. His slow start at the plate is just his way of revving up for this near-future magical production. Just you wait and see.

pug marks, Feb. 28

Andrew Miller, photo by Roger DeWitt

pug mark 1
Andrew Miller: the next Justin Verlander?


Not in a direct he-pitches-the-same way, of course. But Miller has the potential to be the next baby Tiger to burst forth from the minor leagues fully formed, armed and ready, like Athena from the forehead of Zeus, which is of course more or less what Verlander did.

The correct thing for front officey sorts to say right now is that Miller will be in the minors this season, with a late-season call-up possible, depending on how he does and on where the Tigers are come, say, September. If someone manages to make their arm into a tendon-twisty mess (we’re watching you, Zumaya), though, I and everyone else think we’ll see him sooner rather than later.

Can you imagine? Verlander and Bonderman and Zumaya… Tata and Ledezma are possibilities… Miner is a possibility…. and then maybe, JUST MAYBE Andrew Miller. The average age of our pitching staff is going to be “third trimester”, and the only reason it’s not going to be “newly acquainted sperm and egg” is because Kenny Rogers is pushing up the curve.

He also pitched in the spring training opener today and struck out 4 in two innings. Me likey.

pug mark 2
Jeremy Bonderman speaks! Does he betray a personality??

I want to get better. I want to be a guy like Roy Halladay, or a right-handed [Johan] Santana, something like that. I want that when I come into a ballpark, they’ll be ‘Oh, [shoot], Jeremy’s going to be pitching in one of those games.’ And I’m not there yet, but I’m hoping to get there.” article

Word to the wise: he didn’t actually say “shoot” up there.

I like this. I like a Bondo who has crazy things like “ambition” and who swears at reporters (although of course it must have been done in a terribly monotone voice, so we shouldn’t get TOO excited). I like a Bondo who’s working on a changeup because he has this burning desire to be something more than a 4.00-ERA pitcher. Since he’ll basically be throwing it with the same motion he uses for his fastball and he’s just messing around with the grip, this seems like a wonderfully low-risk way to possibly propel him out of mediocrity and into the sheer dominance that he’s flirted shamelessly with ever since he’s been up, the little hussy.

pug mark 3
Chris Shelton has a strained tummy.

It’s actually being described as a “mild oblique strain” which, as is usual with sports injury reports, could refer to any number of things. Nothing indicates that it’s serious but since these things do tend to linger on and haunt the sufferers for years and years and Tim Hudson is wincing in sympathy right now, so. It gets a pug mark.

I don’t know how he did it, but I like to imagine that it was a particularly violent sneeze, all Sammy Sosa-style.

pug mark 4
Neifi!!! reaffirms his status on the team.

He did this by going 0-for-3 in today’s game. To be sure that we didn’t miss the FULL IMPACT of Neifi!!!, he also committed two errors. Thank cats. I am quite sure that it would not be a real spring training if we were not treated to the full range of skills that this golden archetype of baseball mastery possesses.

I mean, thank cats he’s here in camp, you know? Who else would set such an example for all the youngsters on the field? Who else will show them how to not catch the ball??? Who else will show them how to wear their socks at the most awkward half-high level possible so as to best display their curiously skinny and possibly atrophied ankles????? THESE ARE IMPORTANT BASEBALL SKILLS, PEOPLE. THANK CATS SOMEONE IN THE FRONT OFFICE HAS RECOGNIZED THEIR IMPORT AND HAS GIVEN UNTO US THAT FINEST SPECIMEN OF BASEBALL PLAYING HUMANITY, THAT INIMITABLE NEIFI!!! PEREZ.

pug mark 5
Not a Tiger pug mark, but apparently Bobby Jenks, THE CANE TOAD, had to leave their spring training game today with shoulder tightness. He says that he has had it all spring, but it’s all good because it’s not stabbing pain or something along those lines.
To which I say, ha! And ha again! I spit upon your ailing shoulder, Cane Toad, and may its tightness never ease.

insert obligatory “Miller time” joke here

Loss, win, loss. Eh, could’ve been worse. I was really furious after that first game… I hate wasting good pitching performances, but the second game of the doubleheader ended up calming the angry tiger. And I was traveling all day today so I didn’t get/have to watch or follow any of it. So I’m feeling moderately jolly about this series.

The coolest bit, other than Craig’s home run of sheer awesome, was getting to see the debut of Andrew Miller. I fired up when Gameday told me he was coming into the game specifically to watch him pitch and see what he could do.

That curve (slider? slurve?), wow. Talk about motion. The break on that thing was sick. I mean it was breaking way up and down all big floatin’ curveball style, but it was ALSO sliding side to side something fierce. As the sharp ball to the knee of a Yankee (Guiel, maybe? they’re all so anonymous now) showed, but hey, he’s a kid and it’s his first time up, he’s allowed to overthrow and bean a guy a bit before he settles in.

When he came out one of the coaches, I think Gene Lamont, walked over to him, put his hand flat on his chest, and starting taking his pulse, the indication being that his heart must’ve been going 100 mph, what with his first big league appearance and all. It was cute.

The cameras also zoomed in on his glove at some point (it was the YES Network broadcast, alas) and I was startled to see that he’s already got his name on his glove. I thought you had to, you know, do something before they started embroidering your gloves up special. Prospects these days, man.

So yeah. Nate looked good, Ledezma looked surprisingly good. It’s too bad about Bonderman. The poor guy only seems to pitch well these days when the offense is taking a nap. Maybe the way to do it is have the offense act real lethargic early, to trick him into thinking that’s what they’re going to be doing all game. Then when he starts pitching really well, which is apparently his reaction in these situations… BAM! offense. Someone call Leyland, it’s a baseball logic breakthrough.

The Horrible New Semester Move-in is tomorrow, so I must be off to sleep and prepare for the event. But I would like to leave you with an image… an image forever etched into my brain, sadly.

Is that not the worst thing you’ve ever seen? Egads. I’m glad I’m not a Yankee fan and don’t have to look at that atrocious crime against humanity every day.