Category Archives: bullpen

Jhonny Peralta walks off the bullpen.


illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Walks off to help the bullpen, anyways. Not that any particular Tiger was really, spectacularly, traumatically bad last night (just a smidgen bad; just enough to require a walk-off, you know), but the bullpen as a whole really needed a win tonight– something to take the pressure off, even if only briefly.

The Potato is out, more or less*. Benoit is in, sort of, but might not be able to pitch effectively on consecutive nights in closing situations, so there’s also Phil Coke (who had some ‘issues’ last night), and Drew Smyly, who, like Benoit, is not particularly stretched out, and… well. Jim Leyland and friends are doing everything in their power to avoid uttering the phrase “closer by committee,” but a rose by any other name etc etc.

A win like last night’s was welcomed and necessary. Of course it’s not as though the sight of Jhonny Peralta toddling happily around the basepaths with that rosy walk-off glow on his spherical face will completely erase the Bullpen Drama from the minds and increasingly neurotic hearts of Tigers fans. But it’s a nice break, and I’m sure a nicer break still for the denizens of the bullpen themselves.

Hhip hhip hhooray fhor Jhonny.

*ETA: So much for that. The internet is now saying that the Potato has been designated for assignment.

Tigers split the double header, the bullpen splits some hairs, Ryan Raburn just splits.


Raburn sez HARUMPH, photo by Samara Pearlstein

splitting the DH
I only saw bits and pieces of the games, but with the exception of the 9th inning of the second game, what I did see was mostly good. Rick Porcello was excellent in the afternoon matchup and Bondo was solid in the night game. Both seemed alert and rested and on/near the top of their respective pitching games. Neither showed any signs of DontrelleFlu or ScherzerShakiness. FredFred was living for the ground ball; Bondo was loving the K. The Tigers badly needed both starters to step up, and they both did that very thing. How unaccustomedly satisfying.

Jackson, TDamon, Magglio, Miggy, Boesch, and Santiago played in both games, although Magglio DHed in the first and TDamon DHed in the second– of all these, only Santiago was 0-for-the-day (with a walk). Laird caught Porcello, Avila caught Bondo (so G-Money will probably catch Verlander on Thursday).

Jim Leyland actually admitted that he probably let Phil Coke go too long (35 pitches, 9 batters faced). Rod Allen said, of Robinson Cano: “I didn’t realize Robbie was that thick!” While Figaro was pitching (badly) in the 9th, some dude in the stands screamed, “FERNANDO!!” It was a day filled with wonder and majesty. Yes, the Yankees won the second game. They won it, essentially, off of Coke and Figaro and Phil Hughes’ performance on their end. It could have been so much worse. Overall the team is pleased with the day, and so I shall attempt to cultivate a sense of mild satisfaction as well.

splitting hairs
Because this team is a bunch of idiot manchildren and they were stuck in the ballpark all day, during the break between games, something like half the team acquired mohawks. Yes, you read that correctly.

Of course Traitor Damon already had one, but now everyone in the bullpen does (maybe? I don’t think I saw Valverde, Bonine, or Thomas, and I don’t even know if Figaro has enough hair to cut into a mohawk. Definitely Zoom, Perry, Coke, and Ni (!!!) though.) Alex Avila also has a mohawk– more of a scalp landing strip. Bondo has one, even though it’s about a centimeter high. Asked about it after the game, he said that he just walked in and saw the other guys doing it, so he figured he’d get in on that. He also said that they were bored, and that he would keep it for a while.

Phil Coke got defensive about his mohawk, saying emphatically that he didn’t care what anyone else thought of it. It is clear that he misses the mullet and still regrets getting that haircut after being teased about it. FSND was making jokes about it being the worst mohawk on the team, but the most worrying thing about it, really, is the fact that Coke’s newly exposed scalp portions are scary-white compared to his face and rest of his head-skin. The hair itself is but an afterthought to this disturbing development.

Maybe a few of the other guys have them too, it was hard to see with the hats and whatnot. So far as I can tell, it just started as a doofy bullpen thing and expanded a little when other impressionable, peer-pressure-able, incredibly bored ballplayers wandered by and saw what was happening.

Illustration to come as soon as someone can confirm for me who does or does not have the new ‘do. At least in the bullpen.

Raburn splits
Not voluntarily, of course. But Ryan Raburn was sent packing to Toledo early Wednesday. Between the double header situation and the Dontrelle sickness situation (he’s now saying he thinks it is/was a bad sinus infection), more pitching was badly needed in Detroit, and Figaro needed a spot on the roster. Raburn hadn’t made much of a case for himself with his bat; although he is hitting better than Adam Everett and both catchers, that doesn’t say much, and Brennan Boesch had made him look like a feebly flailing weakling in comparison to Boesch’s (almost certainly unsustainable) bulging might.

Still, you have to feel kind of bad. He’d made the Opening Day roster for the first time in his career. With uncertainty in the outfield and at second, the Tigers made all this noise about Bench Player Versatility, and Raburn must have thought he had finally found a way to stick. Now this. Harsh.

I’m not sure how long Figaro will stay up. The extra arm will definitely be needed through the weekend, but beyond that… who knows? It might depend on Dontrelle’s health or Scherzer’s continued efforts to figure out this mysterious ‘American League’ thing once and for all. Then again it might just depend on how irritable Jim Leyland has gotten from tobacco deprivation at any particular time. We– and Raburn– can only wait and see.

the bullpen amazes, Traitor Damon spits upon his old compatriots


photo by Samara Pearlstein

Dontrelle needs to stop being such a sicky kitty. I feel like we just had a start where he was scratched because of illness… in fact I think it was against the Rangers, because I remember saying something about the Rangers being the epicenter of all food poisoning in MLB this year and they had PROBABLY poisoned Dontrelle. Obviously this was bad but since it was also a measure of how much they feared him and his wily pitching ways, it was also kind of good, you know?

So far as I know there have not been any outbreaks of food poisoning on the Yankees, though. This doesn’t put them in the clear, of course; they simply may have poisoned Dontrelle in more subtle ways. A tasteless emetic powder slipped into his dinner… a sack of tree pollen emptied into his bedroom vents at night… Dontrelle wakes up the next morning sniffly of nose and queasy of stomach, he thinks it’s just flu-like symptoms, he never even suspects. Not like with the Rangers. The Rangers just give you some of their tainted chicken. Don’t ever eat chicken prepared by the Rangers.

Anyways, the point is that today was Dontrelle’s start, but Dontrelle was unable to make it and pitching duties devolved to the bullpen.

Brad Thomas got the ‘start’; he gave up two runs in three innings, throwing 68 pitches (Verlander-esque). Then came Eddie Knuckles Bonine, who allowed a whole bunch of baserunners (including two that were inherited by Zoom) but somehow got out of trouble without giving up any runs. He also got the technical Win. Joel Zumaya came in and gave up two runs, although one was a runner that Coke inherited and let score. Phil Coke came in for a couple of outs. Ryan Perry threw a few pitches. Papa Grande closed it out with a 1-2-3 save.

It was neither tidy nor efficient, but it WAS enough (barely) for a win. Against the Yankees. The Yankees, who were on a streak of a billion wins in a row or whatever, who kept winning despite the fact that their entire team is falling apart at the bodily seams, which is absolute proof of the fact that they operate on black magick and evil. Let’s be honest, nothing else could explain their performance thus far, and since Curtis Granderson is on the DL there is nobody in that clubhouse willing to stand up against these stygian horrors. The Detroit bullpen is brave.

Also brave: Brennan Boesch, who braved the wrath of the Yankees to hit the heck outta the baseball, right in their Yankee faces. He went 2-for-3 with one walk, zero Ks, and 3 RBI. One of those hits was a triple. Boone Logan was all, “Dude, what is a Brennan Boesch?” and then Boesch hit that triple and Logan was all, “Oh. I see.” Then he hung his head in shame, shame, shame.

As for Traitor Damon, he hit a solo shot off of Sergio Mitre. He was DHing today, so the Yankees were forced to look at the thing he does well (hitting) while being denied the opponent-pleasure of watching him do the thing he does so very poorly (fielding). Crafty Tigers. So dedicated to the noble idea of causing Yankees the greatest pain possible.

That solo homer turned out to be huge, as the game ended up being a 5-4 Tigers win. Traitor Damon did not just spit in the faces of his former teammates, he stomped on their toes with cleats and farted in their gloves and THEN he spit on them. I was so torn by this development. On the one paw, anything that annoys the Yankees is a good thing. On the other paw, it’s TD. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Whatever. A win is a win, especially against the Yanks. We’ll take ’em.

in which the Tigers replace the bullpen with a litterbox

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

True story: I am so sick right now that I was asleep before the Tuesday night ballgame even started. Pretty sure that has not happened since I was suffering from Italian jet lag. So I did not actually see any of this game.

Knowing that Edwin Jackson was starting, however, I was mostly optimistic. After waking up, and blowing my nose a thousand times, and attempting to comfort myself by thinking that there is really almost no way at all for this to be swine flu, I hopped onto the internet and had a look at the boxscore, whereupon I made a sort of weak, shocked acgk noise.

WHAT. BULLPEN. NO.

Ten runs in a single inning? Fourteen batters came to the plate? The Lesser Molina hit a grand freakin’ slam?

Yes, apparently Josh Anderson had some sort of fielding error that prolonged Ryan Perry’s suffering, but ten runs? That is a group bullpen effort. Also, that is DISGUSTING.

Normally the fact that Nick Swisher, evil Buckeye, hit a home run off of a Tiger would rate its own rant, but in this game it was just the period at the end of the historically bad sentence. Apparently this was the first time a 0-0 game had been broken up by a double-digit inning in the 7th or later since 1919. So when I say ‘historically bad’, I REALLY mean historically bad.

Poor Edwin Jackson. By all accounts he had a good start.

Tonight Joba Chamberlain goes up against Little Ricky. The pressure will be on Porcello to go deep in the game, since the bullpen is a mess right now, physically and, one would assume, psychologically. Also, if the bats would like to regain a little of their fire, that would be acceptable as well.

What about this Putz fellow?

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

We finally have a developing market! Closers for the win! Let loose the celebratory doves and so on.

K-Rod has gone to the Mets, and Kerry Wood looks like he’ll be getting into bed with the Racist Logos.

The Tigers have not signed a closer yet, but as we all are sadly, painfully aware, the bullpen is an area of DESPERATE NEED for these cats, and the Tigers have accordingly had their paws in discussions about Brian Fuentes, Joe Beimel, possibly Chad Cordero, and JJ Putz. The Putz talks have been pretty active, thus: this post.

As with Jack Wilson, let’s go through and look at this with the clarifying power of bold font.

–What does JJ Putz have to offer us?

–What would JJ Putz cost?

–Is JJ Putz worth that cost? and if not, why not?

–Isn’t ‘putz’ an actual word?

What does JJ Putz have to offer us?

Putz is a power pitcher. He mostly throws a fastball in the 95 mph range (he throws it anywhere from 78-67% of the time, according to Fangraphs), mixing in a mid-80s splitter and a slider with similar velocity, which would probably strain his arm if he was starting but is fine for a closer. He’ll be 32 years old in 2009.

Here comes some boring stuff!

In 2008 Putz posted an ERA of 3.88 and a WHIP of 1.60. He threw 10.88 K/9 and had a 2.00 K/BB ratio. Just for comparison, look at what Jonathan Papelbon, a dude we can probably all agree is an elite closer, did last year: 2.34 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 10.00 K/9, 9.63 K/BB. Pretty big difference, right?

Thing is, Putz’s ’08 numbers were very atypical. I know that an ERA of 3.88 seems kind of great because we’ve gotten horribly used to whatever bloated numbers Fernando’s going to put up, but in 2006 Putz had a 2.30 ERA, and in 2007 his ERA was 1.38. His WHIPs in those two years were 0.92 and 0.70. His K/9s were 11.95 and 10.30, and his K/BBs were 8.00 and 6.31. Those are numbers that easily rival Papelbon’s.

The problem, of course, was injury. Two different injuries, to be exact: in early April Putz landed on the DL with inflammation of the cartilage around his ribs, and he hit the 15-day DL again in June with a hyperextended elbow (which was then aggravated in rehab through a comedy-of-errors-esque miscommunication with the team).

His K/9 numbers have been fairly consistent, so even in his down year he was throwing strikes. His K/BB ratio was way outta whack in 2008, though, meaning that Putz was walking many more batters than he usually did. Putz was DL’d on April 2, so by the time he came back he had effectively lost most of April and was playing pitching rhythm catch-up for much of the first half. His timing was all shot to cat poo. It’s even possible that this contributed to the elbow injury that came later; it’s certain that it was a major factor in his unusually high walk rate.

IN SHORT: When healthy, Putz is one of the elite closers in the AL. When in the midst of an injury-dinged season, he walks a lot of dudes and is still not really worse than, say, Fernando Rodney.

Putz is also a Michigan native who grew up in Trenton and went on to become a MICHIGAN WOLVERINE. So at least one tiny part of my brain loves him unconditionally. I feel it’s only fair to mention that.

What would JJ Putz cost?

This is all pure rumor, of course, but the names Jeff Larish and Matt Joyce are being tossed around quite a bit. The most bruited-about seem to be a ‘Jeff Larish plus unnamed pitching prospect X’ rumor, a ‘Matt Joyce plus unnamed pitching prospect X’ rumor, and a ‘Jeff Larish plus Matt Joyce plus maybe unnamed pitching prospect X’ rumor. I would sincerely, SINCERELY hope that that last rumor is unrealistic crazypants.

Putz is set to make $5.5 million in ’09, with either a $9.1 million club option for 2010 or a $1 million buyout. (sauce) There is basically no way in hell that the Mariners would throw in any money, so if you were even tempted to think along those lines, get that nonsense out of your brain. Set in the context of all the money the Tigers did NOT spend on their new catcher or shortstop, though, this is almost a non-issue.

Is JJ Putz worth that cost? and if not, why not?

This really depends on which particular ‘cost’ we’re talking about. Is JJ Putz worth Jeff Larish plus unnamed pitching prospect X plus the at least $6.5 million he’d be owed? I would say YES. Easily.

He had a, for him, very down year. He had injuries. The cartilage inflammation thing skeeves me out a bit because it, like most inflammation injuries, is a repetitive stress injury, and by their very nature those injuries tend to recur. The particular cartilaginous bits we’re talking about with Putz are the ones where the ribs articulate with the breastbone in the center of the chest; a pitcher could get inflammation here either because of back motion (pulling his arm far back near the top part of his delivery) or front motion (pulling his arm sharply across his body as part of his followthrough).

So, yeah, it’s a delivery issue, and I don’t like that, especially for power pitchers (hello, Rich Harden; hello, Kyle Farnsworth).

Buuuuuuuuut, this was not an issue with the arm itself– not the shoulder, not the elbow, not the bicep. It was also not an oblique strain. While there’s potential for recurrence, there is a lot LESS potential for recurrence than most other pitching injuries in the same injury class (i.e. repetitive stress-induced inflammation). The hyperextended elbow I am willing to treat more like a freak injury, especially if his wonky timing from the rib thing contributed to it.

The point is that, although an injury risk is definite and present, he’s still easily worth Larish + pitching prospect + the money, given the seriousness of the Tigers’ need.

If the trade involves Matt Joyce, however, I am much, MUCH less sure that it’s a good deal for the Tigers. Larish has power, but he is 26 years old and his ‘natural’ position is first base– insofar as he has a position, because despite the training the Tigers have tried to give him at third, he is still probably most and best of all a DH. Joyce, on the other paw, has power, is 24 years old, and plays outfield.

Joyce is a LOT more valuable than Larish, and I’m not just saying that because of the kitten and his burgeoning superheroic tendencies. Powerhouse seafarin’ blog USS Mariner agrees and goes into a little more depth.

A JJ Putz who had not suffered from those injuries is probably well worth a package including Joyce, especially to a team whose current closing situation hinges upon Fernando Rodney staying healthy (not especially likely) and pitching well (not especially likely), and/or Joel Zumaya getting and staying healthy (not especially likely) and having matured somewhat (I’m not holding my breath). But the injuries are canon, so just say no to moving Matt Joyce.

Isn’t ‘putz’ an actual word?

Yes it is. According to my Dictionary Widget, it is “a stupid or worthless person”, or vulgar slang for, uh, male anatomy. However, I think putz-the-noun is usually pronounced with the same kind of very short U as the U in the word “butts”, as in “of all third baseman butts, Brandon Inge’s is the finest.”

JJ Putz’s name is pronounced with a slightly longer U, like the one in “puts”, as in “it puts the lotion on its skin”. I have heard lazy sportscasters pronouncing Putz with a wicked long U, like it rhymes with “flutes”, but this is apparently incorrect. And now you know… the rest of the story.

Fernando takes the closing reins, much to our potential horror.


photo by Samara Pearlstein

Holy cats, even when we win we find ourselves assaulted by ridiculous difficulties. Difficulties such as THE ENTIRE BULLPEN. Let’s sum it up, in the not-necessarily chronological order in which I remember things:

1. Todd Jones has had a difficult and traumatic July, with his three blown saves all coming in recent times. Despite the fact that he has not actually blown more saves than, say, Jonathan Papelbon, Jonesy’s blown saves look so much worse because his overall numbers are uniformly scrod vomit. It is hard to understand how a professional baseball player at the closer position can have a 1.54 WHIP and be more or less successful, but that’s Rollercoaster Jones for ya: his career average WHIP is around 1.41, and he still manages to average about 22 saves per season, with only around 5 blown saves each year.

I know that the save is a kind of useless and certainly often arbitrary stat, but that’s still freakin’ weird.

2. Simultaneously because of and in spite of all that, the Rollercoaster has now been ousted from his closer role in the bullpen and that role has been (temporarily?) given to FERNANDO RODNEY.

3. (twenty seconds of uninterrupted shrill screaming)

4. Fernando has a better WHIP than Jonesy does. He’s more of a strikeout pitcher than Jonesy is. Opposing batters are OPSing slightly worse against him than they do against Jonesy.

5. Fernando has a history of psyching himself out; maybe the worst quality a closer could have that’s not a concrete pitching attribute. Fernando has a worse ERA than Jonesy, although to be fair this is partly a relic of his epically bad numbers coming off the DL and ERA is a ween of a stat anyways. Fernando has a history of repetitive muscle injury. Fernando has a beard that would make ancient Egyptian pharaohs huff in jealousy.

6. Freddy Dolsi has so far managed to avoid the DL, but was temporarily ‘unavailable’ due to ‘shoulder fatigue’, perhaps because, ever since he has come up, Leyland has used him ‘all the time’. He now claims he’s feeling better but this nebulous ‘shoulder fatigue’ will probably ‘recur’ if he continues to be ‘overused’ because that’s what ‘shoulder fatigue’ does.

7. Zoom had to leave the game today with ‘right triceps tightness’. That’s the back of your arm, like the opposite side of your biceps. Obviously it’s good that this isn’t his shoulder, and it could very well just be a cramp, twinge, whatever. It is still not great and I will nervously hope like heck that it’s not any kind of inflammation/tendonitis/SNEAKY ARM-OBLIQUES.

This is just so very much not what we needed right now. The Fernando-to-closer move smacks of irrational panic to me, and while I am aesthetically all in favor of irrational panic, I prefer to see it treated hilariously in blogs and on message boards and among fans, not among people ACTUALLY IN CHARGE OF THE TEAM. The Dolsi and Zoom pitching-stress-type injuries are just the sour icing on the Boo Yah, Fate Hates You and Your Bullpen! cake.

Tomorrow we pop on over to the no-longer-Jake to take on The Racist Logo. Gametime at 7:05 pm EDT. Kenny vs. misspelled avian. Go Tigers!

Nate Robertson is amazing; Tigers win by being less insane than the other team


photo by Samara Pearlstein

To best sum up this game I will have to start this post with a quick onomatopoeic-esque, er, summary:

mmmmNate
Yunieskaarrrrgggghhh!!
crack! dink! RAAAAAAAABURN!!!
woo. woo woo woo mmmmNate!
woooooo.
auuugh.
zoomzoomzoom!
whiff. whiff. grrrrrrrr.
ummmmmBurke? hee!
*Jonesy hyperventilation noises*
PHEW!
yay!

Just like reliving the whole thing, eh?

What a friggin’ game. I don’t know what I would have done if we had lost, but I assume vomit would have figured heavily into it. It would have been no fun at all to lose 3 out of 4 to the worst team in the AL, of course, but what REALLY would have sucked would have been seeing Nate Robertson’s outing wasted.

Nate, in case you’re new or something, has been one of our least-good starters this season. We’re talkin’ a 5+ ERA, a WHIP over 1.50, with opposing batters hitting better than .300 against him. Before today he was averaging a little under 6 innings per start, which meant lots and lots of lovely opportunities for the bullpen to choke to death on their own rosin bags. Basically the only thing he had not done was kill himself with walks (32 walks vs. 71 Ks).

But today? TODAY Nate pitched NINE WHOLE INNINGS, giving up only FOUR HITS and ONE SINGLE RUN. He issued two walks, both to Adrian Beltre, but BOTH were intentional, because Beltre was not the least tiniest bit protected by the presence of Richie ‘lol .215 average’ Sexson in the lineup behind him. Do you realize what this is? This is not a quality start. This is a WICKED AMAZING BEYOND MERE ‘QUALITY’ START.

Aquilino Lopez got the official win, but if there was any justice in baseball win stats (as we all know, there is not), this would have been Nate’s win. I cannot remember when I last saw Nate looking this good. Heck, I’m having a world of trouble trying to remember the last time this season I saw ANY Tigers pitcher look this EFFICIENT! Nate threw 100 pitches on the dot to get through 9 innings. Ho-leeeeee cats! A hundred pitches powers Verlander through four innings these days!

Amazing Nate was followed by two solid innings from Zoom (who, worryingly, still appears to have no idea whatsoever where his offspeed pitches are going once he releases them), two solid innings from Freddy Dolsi, one good inning from the aforementioned Aquilino, and one fairly lucky inning from the Rollercoaster (why didn’t the Mariners bunt? not that I’m complaining…). This was a veritable Pitching Unicorn of a game for the Tigers: an efficient starter who goes the distance, and more-than-competent bullpen pitching. This combination is so rare as to be considered near extinction in Detroit. It’s on the Audubon watch list, at the least.

And yes, your math is correct. Nine innings from Nate, six from the bullpen, for a total of FIFTEEN freakin’ innings.
Of course (of course) a game with unreal pitching had to be a game with pathetic offense. It is the Tiger way! Ryan Raburn avoids the coprolite list because he hit a homer in the 5th, and Pudge gets a grudging pass for going 4-for-7, even if all four hits were singles, but everyone else should hang their heads in shame. SHAME. The bases were loaded and left that way TWICE, which is simply disgusting.

Both teams combined for fewer hits than there were innings played (14 vs. 15), just to give you an idea of the amazingness of the pitching or the foulness of the hitting, depending on your outlook.

So how did the Tigers pull this one out, with an offense more pathetic than ARod’s love life? They were simply LESS CRAZY than the Mariners. A fifteen inning game is going to tax the pitching staffs of most teams, sure, and the Tigers were damn lucky to use as few guys as they did (thanks to Nate, and to Zoom and Dolsi). The weird thing is not that the Mariners, whose starter only managed a Verlanderian five innings, were scrambling for arms late in the game. It’s not even THAT weird that in the top of the fifteenth they turned to Jamie Burke, a backup catcher who had never pitched in the majors before (at least catchers usually have strong arms). Well, OK, it was pretty funny, but you know.

What is weird is that THEY STILL HAD GUYS SITTING IN THEIR BULLPEN WHEN THEY BROUGHT IN BURKE. One of the guys was RA Dickey, who is a knuckleballer and presumably has a knuckleballer’s famously rubbery arm, but who had still thrown 105 pitches the previous day. One was Brandon Morrow, who had pitched in like a billion games right before this one. The other guy was Arthur Rhodes. Why go to THE BACKUP CATCHER when you still have a reliever sitting out there?

Rhodes told [manager Jim] Riggleman before the game that he had slept on his pitching arm and wasn’t feeling good, saying that if he got up to warm up he needed to go in.

Rhodes warmed up in the sixth inning, but never entered the game.
Bellingham Herald.com

Oh boy. Slept on his pitching arm? Somebody get that man a body pillow!

So the Mariners, being made of crazy, went with Burke, who gave up a double to the crippled Miguel Cabrera, threw an insanely wild pitch over The River Thames’ head that moved pinch runner Hollimon to third, then gave up a sac fly to The River to put the Tigers up by the glorious score of 2-1. Rollercoaster Jones came in for the bottom of the fifteenth, and that was that.

The stupid weird thing is that Burke didn’t even look that bad. Aside from a few poorly placed pitches that floated high or outside on him (and really, Zoom didn’t look any better when throwing anything but the fastball), he made a good show of it. I mean, think about it. He only gave up one hit, to a pretty good hitter; the one run he allowed was kind of freakish, meaning he didn’t get beaten by the long ball; and he didn’t walk anyone. Sure his velocity was junky, but I’ll take those results over some of the cat poop we’ve gotten from Fernando this season.

He also had a good sense of humor about the whole thing, which obviously endears him to RotT.

“That was a slider,” he [Burke] said to a chorus of laughter. “The ball was slippery. I almost didn’t want to throw it, but the one I threw before it to Thames I felt pretty good about throwing it, because I threw a good one, and I thought I could come back with it. But, obviously, I didn’t come back with it.”

When Thames lifted a deep sacrifice fly to left, Holliman tagged up from third for what would prove to be the winning run. Burke then retired Ivan Rodriguez and Edgar Renteria in order, even getting Rodriguez to swing and miss once.

“I thought he could have had a couple more strike calls [from the umpire] on top of that,” Clement said. “That was pretty fun to be a part of.”

And while Burke’s performance had the crowd buzzing and brought plenty of laughs — he even got a fist bump after the game in the clubhouse from pitcher Felix Hernandez — it also contributed to a loss.

“We can have fun with it,” Burke said. “Still, I’m going to take it as I lost, but that’s just the competitiveness I have. … I don’t want to lose. But it is kind of a funny thing also.”
Jesse Baumgartner/MLB.com article

Wacky, wacky game. But hey, a win is a win and cat knows we badly needed one today just to tread water in the AL Central. I’ll take it.

The only other ‘exciting’ Tigers news is that Carlos Guillen is our single All Star representative. Whatever. I am completely underwhelmed by the All Star game this year, maybe because its arbitrariness is showing. The players voted Jason Varitek in? Really? Jason Varitek, whose OBP is worse than PUDGE’S right now? (And that’s really saying something, because Pudge’s OBP sucks rat testicles.) I don’t know. All Star game malaise. Ho hum.

Tomorrow is an offday, then we’re back home against Cleveland on Tuesday at 7 pm EDT. It was supposed to be Verlander/Sabathia, but apparently Captain Cheeseburger is a Brewer now, so I’m not sure who the Indians will throw at us. It should of course be infinitely exciting to see Verlander struggle to throw fewer than 30 pitches per inning once again, so we still have things to look forward to regardless of which Racist Logo is pitching.

Also, Edgar Renteria needs to be destroyed, for the good of the Nation.

Go Tigers!

seriously beaten out of Boston

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Maybe the best thing that can be said about that game is that although it was a horrific loss, it was the kind of horrific loss we expected, i.e. the bats were good, there were a couple bases stolen off of a knuckleballer/non-Mirabellian catcher, and the pitching imploded. In that sense it’s at least easier to take than some of our previous losses, where EVERYTHING went wrong and EVERYBODY stunk and nobody had any idea what was the matter, or even which way was up and where their tail attached.

Nate threw way too many pitches. WAY too many: 107 in 5.1 innings. I was kind of shocked when I woke up this morning and went to look at the box score again, because apparently Nate only allowed 2 walks. It sure FELT like a lot more during the game, maybe because he was laboring with practically every batter… which, yes, is something the Red Sox are likely to do to any pitcher, that’s the Red Sox way, but OUR STARTERS CAN’T KEEP DOING THIS. Tim Wakefield threw 108 pitches in 5 innings, but you have to remember that Wake a) is a knuckleballer, and thus has an arm made of the finest caoutchouc, and b) has a semi-viable bullpen behind him.

What does Nate have behind him? A scruffy group of cats who give up walks like sour, sour candy and scream like frightened tropical birds when faced with, say, Kevin Youkilis.

We knew this was going to be a problem. We thought, back in those heady, optimistic days, that it was a problem we could minimize by way of our power offense and hopefully solid rotation. The offense finally (cross your paws) looks like it’s coming around a little. The starters? It’s not enough for them to keep games within reach for 5 or maybe even 6 innings. They have to go deep into games. They just HAVE to.

Sure, Francisco Cruceta finally got his visa approved, and apparently we’ve signed Casey Fossum (????!), but even when/if these guys come up, they aren’t going to be The Answer. The bullpen is still going to be extremely shaky. At this point I don’t think we would be OK even if Zoom or Rodney or both were suddenly, miraculously healthy; they can’t pitch every game, and their supporting cast would still be pretty much awful.

Getting a win in that sad, empty column was nice. Two would be even nicer. I sure hope Dontrelle feels like pitching a complete game tonight.

Bye bye Byrdak, but why?

photo by Samara Pearlstein

So, Tim Byrdak’s been released.

I don’t know. I understand the basic rationale here: he looked pretty good last year, yes, but he hasn’t exactly had stellar numbers throughout his career, and his performance this spring (what was it, an ERA over 13.00?) was looking an awful lot like a regression to those numbers. And what’s done is done. It’s not like second-guessing this move is going to get him back on the roster.

But this is a blog. Second-guessing is what we do here!

It’s impossible to not notice the fact that 2007, the first season he’s pitched his way to a sub-4 ERA, was also the first season he threw 40+ innings in the majors. Now, obviously this is a chicken/egg kind of problem: a guy who pitches well is going to be given more innings to pitch, the more innings he pitches the less his stats will suffer from small sample size horrors and he’ll look better (assuming he’s a moderately competent and healthy pitcher in the first place), so he’ll get more innings to pitch, and so on.

You get a guy who’s borderline so far as the team is concerned and he hits the pitching chicken/egg wall. If he has one or two good outings, he gets more and more outings and everyone pats themselves on the back and feels clever. If he has one or two bad outings, nobody wants to put him in the game, so those bad outings sit and fester in his stats and he doesn’t get any chances to redeem himself by adding more innings and tidying up the bell curve.

The question here is simple. What IS this particular pitcher’s bell curve? If you give him more innings, will he actually settle down and those occasional awful outings will be just bad-luck flukes that everyone gets? Or are those few bad outings actually indicative of a bad pitcher? (Of course you can switch this around and have a bad pitcher who throws a few good innings and gets lots and lots and lots of rope to hang himself with too.)

Since he first popped up to the majors with the Royals (briefly) in 1998, Byrdak has had 4 stops, minor and major and what I think is independent league, where he pitched 40+ innings. His average ERA for those stops? 3.45. His average WHIP is 1.43, and his average BB/K ratio is 0.53. Not SPECTACULAR– he’s not going to be a premier closer any time soon– but definitely not awful either. Definitely serviceable for a middle relief-type. And yes, of course you have to look at the fact that independent league ball and AAA are very different from facing big league batters, but the one year where Byrdak has had lots of innings against big league batters, he did just fine. The year where he threw his second-most innings in the majors (2005, 26.7 innings), he ALSO did OK: an ERA of 4.05, a WHIP of 1.80.

I mean, yeah, he was awful in 2006, when he had a 12.86 ERA in the majors; even assuming we all agree on the inherent shadiness of ERA as a measure of pitchers, I think we can also all agree that a good pitcher does not put up a 12.86 ERA. But, kids and kittens, Byrdak only pitched 7 innings in ’06. He only pitched 13.1 innings that entire SEASON, major and minor league! (I assume he was hurt?) Of course he was going to look miserable.

I’m not trying to say that releasing Tim Byrdak is the WORST MOVE THE TIGERS HAVE EVER MADE EVARRRRRR OMG NOOEEEZZ DEATH AND DESTRUCTION ETC. I’m just saying that it’s kind of puzzling to me, more especially because almost all spring we’ve been hearing from Leyland that Byrdak’s a lock, Byrdak’s going to be a part of the bullpen, so on and so forth. And I thought, OK, the Tigs see that maybe he’s having a rough spring, but they understand everything I just went into in this post, so they’re willing to give him a shot and see if it works out. Now, all of a sudden: BAM! Unconditional release! In yo face!

AND he’s a lefty. I just don’t know, guys. I know that we need the roster space, but… you almost have to believe that the Tigers have some move planned for the bullpen now. It’s just damn weird otherwise.

making sure the bullpen horse is well and truly beaten into a dead, dead, dead pulp

photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Fernando Rodney is on the DL, with a set return time of who the hell knows. We basically already knew this; at least we knew that Fernando was not going to be a useful part of the bullpen when the season started, and that’s pretty much the same thing.

He appears to have persistent tendonitis without visible structural damage. As we’ve gone over a billion times before, this is really more a symptom than a cause. He has inflammation in his shoulder tendons. With lots and lots and lots of rest and ice and anti-inflammatory medication, maybe he can get his shoulder feeling OK again, but you know what? Tendonitis without a specific cause is an unholy terror, because it keeps coming back. After a point there’s little you can do to prevent it, aside from greatly reducing the behaviors that cause it. In Fernando’s case, that may be pitching (or at least pitching in the particularly zestful way that he does).

I’m not saying we need to toll the death knell for his career yet or anything like that. I’m sure the Tigers docs have a very lovely and aggressive anti-tendonitis plan in place for every pitcher on the team. This has been a very stubborn pain for Fernando, though. I’m just saying.

Anyways. Bondo’s been working on that changeup again. Check it:

“I’m getting to where I am comfortable with it,” Bonderman said after the Washington Nationals beat Detroit 9-1 on Tuesday. “In previous springs, I was trying to find a grip. Now, I have a changeup and I believe in it.”

Detroit Free Press article

Yeah, OK. I’ll believe in it when I see it have success in the first inning of a regular season game.

On a completely unrelated note, apparently Miss America is going to sing the national anthem for the first game of the season for the Tigers. I have seen this reported EVERYWHERE. This news is so utterly thrilling to me that I really can’t understand why we don’t have even MORE coverage of it. I mean, Miss America! The national anthem! Baseball! America! Miss America singing the national anthem! I’m so incredibly excited by this that I havzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…..