Category Archives: fielding

defense saves some cat butts in Anaheim

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Excuse me, I meant to say ‘defense saves some cat butts in Los Angeles of Anaheimly California Westernland’. Ever so sorry. How utterly insensitive of me.

There was some quality Cat offense in this one. Granderson and Polanco both tripled, Granderson and Cabrera both homered, Cabrera and Magglio both doubled (do you see a theme here?). Every single starter got a hit, with the exception of Alex Avila, who at least got on base with a walk. Miggy was 3-for-5 and is now batting .344/.408/.579.

There was some OK Cat pitching in this one. Washburn was eh, Miner would have been OK if he didn’t walk so many guys, Fernando had to make it Interesting in the ninth.

But where the Tigers really got lucky (or really played well, if you want to be nice) was on defense.

The bases were loaded in the seventh inning, two outs, 5-3 Tigers. A base hit would have probably tied the game. Zach Miner threw a wildish pitch to Alex Avila that bounced away from the plate. Bobby Abreu, who was on third, broke for home. Avila managed to throw the ball back, Miner was covering home, Abreu was out. Disaster narrowly averted!

There were two on in the eighth, same score, two outs again. Miner had just left, Bobby Seay had come in. The ball was hit aaaaallllll the way out to the wall. Clete Thomas ran backwards after it, leapt up, and made the catch. Another disaster narrowly averted!

Two men on, same score, bottom of the ninth. Men on first and second with nobody out (thanks, Fernando). Torii Hunter flew out to center. The deadly Vlad Guerrero lined out to second. Juan Rivera hit a slow, awkward ball to second, which Polanco fielded cleanly, coming way in, and threw to first as he was falling off sideways. Rivera was out, game over, Tigers win.

Weird? Maybe a little. Decidedly un-Tiger-like? Very much so.

Oh, and Rod and Mario definitely mentioned the new Inge tattoos tonight. They were very prominent, as his batting stance puts the undersides of his forearms front and center, so every shot of Inge at the plate featured those monstrosities. Both Rod and Mario agreed that they were the opposite of subtle.

Ryan Perry also apparently shaved his head. I wasn’t really paying attention when this came up, so if they mentioned a reason, I didn’t hear it. Let’s pretend that he had lice, shall we?

Roar of the Tigers midseason report card 2009

photo by Samara Pearlstein

Aw yeah it’s that time again, time to grade the team RotT-style. Verlander had a good game on Sunday, Clete and Inge went crazy with their bats, this should put you in the mood for the gloriousness that is to follow.

PITCHERS

Jeremy Bonderman

Grade: n/a

Reason: deceased (zombie)

Freddy Dolsi

Grade: B

Reason: small sample size

Luke French

Grade: B+

Reason: OK so he also has a small sample size, bite me, I am grading him up based on his most recent start.

Arrrrrrrmando Galarrrrrrraga

Grade: C

Reason: Struggly struggles. There have been times where he looked like he was bouncing back to form, but there have also been plenty of times where he looked like he wouldn’t survive to see the light of another day with his own two eyeballs.

Edwin Jackson

Grade: A+

Reason: 1.06 WHIP, ’nuff said. Actually that’s not enough said. EDWIN JACKSON HAS HAD AN AMAZING FIRST HALF OF THROWING THE BASEBALL. How’s that for enough?

Brandon Lyon

Grade: B

Reason: I give him this grade mostly because of his cat-name, which, yea, has been as a boon unto us bloggers, and because I kind of want to pet his hair.

Zach Miner

Grade: C

Reason: He has not been that good. We didn’t really expect him to be that good, though.

Fu-Te Ni

Grade: B

Reason: Smaaaallll saaaammmplllle siiiiiiiize. But he says Ni!

Ryan Perry

Grade: C-

Reason: Toledo will do that to you.

FredFred

Grade: A-

Reason: Probably a little generous, but he has managed to amass 8 wins before he is even old enough to legally purchase a handgun or down a fifth of vodka. Respect, yo.

Nate Robertson

Grade: n/a

Reason: deceased (evil malformed stunted twin growing in elbow)

Fernando Rodney

Grade: D+

Reason: I can’t actually fail Fernando, he still has not yet blown a save. But I think we all know what the stress of watching him pitch has done to my already-fragile little mind, OK, that is plenty of reason to dock him several gradepoints.

Bobby Seay

Grade: A

Reason: He has been quietly going about his business, doing pretty damn well without making much of a fuss, or having much of a fuss made over him. He’s pitching significantly better against lefties, as he ought to do. He’s got a WHIP of 1.00 and an ERA of 2.89. I am surprised and gratified.

Justin Verlander

Grade: A-

Reason: He has more wins than Edwin Jackson, but mostly because he gets more support. He doesn’t get to strike that minus from his score until he stops being so bloody stinkin’ inefficient. I am picking nits, but this is a peeve of mine, I take it personally.

Dontrelle

Grade: n/a

Reason: deceased (zombie)

Zoom

Grade: C

Reason: Maybe if he would stop being so catdamned in love with his own velocity and started being just a little bit in love with mixing pitches and learning control, you know, maybe that would get him out of the Cs.

Grading continues under the ‘read more’ link!

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Tigers on the defensive (but that's a good thing)

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

I am not going to talk about the two interleague games the Tigers lost. I did not see them, therefore they did not exist. You may believe otherwise, but we are not here to cater to your personal belief system. Instead we will talk about stuff from the rest of the Texas series and that first (only) game of interleague and a little bit about the Memorial Day KC game, but before we get into all that we must discuss the game announced by Mario Impemba and John Keating.

The game where the fans could Facebook or Tweet in, and get their questions answered on the air. In the middle of the game.

Look, you insufferable goatlickers, I get it. I know what Twitter is. I know how it works. I am not confused by the phenomenon; I grok the Tweeting concept. I am a part of the demographic that is supposed to be all about the Tweeting. I. Just. Don’t. Care. I don’t want 5,000 inane updates on the bland minutiae of someone else’s life, I don’t want to see you stop in the middle of living life like a normal person so you can text a frelling tweet to your account from your catdamned iPhone, I don’t give an aphid’s sphincter who you’re ‘following’ these days, and I most especially

DO NOT WANT TWITTER IN THE MIDDLE OF MY CATDAMNED BASEBALL GAME.

I don’t want the space usually occupied by announcer banter (something that flies naturally between Rod and Mario, and drops like a crow stricken with bird flu when Mario has Keating in the booth) filled instead with the announcers’ infuriatingly mild reaction to a viewer asking a vacuous question like, “Why does pitch count matter?” via tweet. This doesn’t make me think FSN is cool and hip and down with technology, it makes me HATE EVERYTHING, AS HARD AS POSSIBLE. It is difficult for me to type these words because I keep balling my hands up into little fists of rage just remembering this game. Aaaahhhuurrrrgggh.

So, yeah. I just wanted to get that out of the way. Let us move on to happier things, mainly, as the image up top may suggest, the fact that the Tigers can play defense now. Seriously! I know there are many jokes on this website, but this is not a joke, it is a thing that has actually been happening, in real life.

The Tigers had some amazing defense over the course of this latest little winning streak. Some of it was more or less expected: it’s fun to see Curtis Granderson make a crazy leaping circus catch, of course, but it isn’t surprising, because Curtis Granderson is perfect. Excellent Brandon Inge plays are in the same family, because we are all very familiar with his athleticism/scrappiness/range/sure-handedness/third-baseyness/etc by now, and while we (I) will still make happy dolphin noises when he pulls off a particularly spectacular play, it is what we on some level already expect of him.

But some of this is still new. For example, shortstop. Adam Everett is small and kind of awkward-looking, yes, but we used to spend our Shortstop Contemplation Time worrying about which of Carlos Guillen’s bodyparts would implode next, or if this would finally be the day where Edgar Renteria burst into hysterical tears in the middle of a game. Not that long ago we were cringing in horror whenever we realized Neifi!!! was on the field. Now we watch Adam Everett play competent baseball! Times have changed, and we have found that it is good, or at least markedly less horrific.

Miguel Cabrera is also more fun to watch nowadays, and I’m not (just) talking about his plate appearances. Putting Inge back at third full-time was a good move for the Tigers’ defense, obviously, but putting Cabrera at first full-time has turned out to be almost as smart. I mean, we are talking about a metamorphosis that we have been able to see happen right in front of our fannish little faces. Gross squidgy caterpillar to delicate-winged butterfly! Ugly duckling to graceful if invasive swan! Miggy went from someone who was always unintentionally stepping into the paths of oncoming runners to someone who can do a near-full split to keep a toe on the base, who can lunge surprisingly fast in any direction, who turns difficult plays with confidence.

His instincts are quite good now (for example, he can now tag the bag and throw home to get a lead runner without blinking). When you stop to think about it, it is remarkable, not that his instincts are good, but that he has managed to develop Real Actual First Baseman Instincts at all. A stirring testimony to the powers of dedication, hard work, and classical behavioral conditioning in professional athletes indeed.

Add to all this the guys that Gerald Laird has thrown out lately; the balls that Josh Anderson has run down and caught; the way that Polanco, though struggling offensively, can still make a difficult play look easy; and Verlander’s still-startlingly-sharp pick-off throws…. you know what that amounts to?

It amounts to a team that is wicked freakin’ fun to watch.

I suppose that it may on some level seem a little obvious, fundamentals, blah blah, but when you compare the way the team is playing the field right now with the way they were playing the field, say, at this time last season, I think it should be obvious how much good defense impacts my ability to watch a baseball game without making me want to throw forks at the TV. And that doesn’t even get into how much it helps the Tigers, y’know, actually win games

insert bad joke about sloppy baseball here


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Sigh. I don’t even have the heart to crack a properly uncomfortable joke about this one.

I hate errors, I really do. Not that I think Chris Lambert would have been A-OK without the errors in this one; he was falling apart pretty hard in the third, and back-to-back homers to start the inning had nothing to do with the fielding behind him. But giving up six runs in your first big league start is rough enough without only two of them being earned. That’s rough on a whole other level, because now the poor guy is feeling cruddy about his pitching ability AND will be spending a while wondering, ‘Aw, but… what if?…’

It’s also not that I think we would have won this game if it wasn’t for the errors. I mean: Cliff Lee, you guys, seriously, I feel like we should be saying THE Cliff Lee. Versus Chris Lambert, who was so nervous that his legs were shaking on the bench between innings when FSN zoomed in on him. Poor kid. You kinda just wanted to go up there and give him a great big hug and tell him it would all be OK, the season was over long before today anyways.

I’m actually not sure that a blogger hugging him would have been much comfort (probably more like, ‘Auugh!! Blogger! It touches me with fingers it uses to MAKE WORDS ON THE INTERNET!’), but still, y’know, he inspired those kinds of feelings. In short, this was not a game that was leaning in our favor anyways.

The errors just made it so much worse. They added untold amounts of anguish to poor Lambert’s sufferings on the mound, and they made it hard for a fan to watch the game. It’s one thing to watch Cliff Lee strike your guys out; it’s another thing entirely to watch a two-out ball squirt past your outfielder, thus prolonging an inning that should have been over AND bringing in another run that never should have scored. The former is merely par for the course when it comes to annoying baseball. The latter is the kind of thing that makes you really understand the need for those foam bricks they sell specifically for throwing at your TV.

The four runs scored off of Aquilino Lopez were also not too much fun, but he was in there after only 2.2 innings, and it’s hard to blame the bullpen when excessive demands are placed upon it.

The best moment of the game, by FAR, was a simple foul ball that popped up and back, towards the Racist Logo dugout. Inge tossed aside his mask and chased after it, leaning over the rail hopefully. The ball bounced harmlessly on the dugout floor and I think back into the crowd. Inge kind of looked around for a second, saw a spare ball sitting on the back side of the dugout wall, scooped it up with his glove and held it aloft, pretty much completely deadpan.

The umpires, of course, did not buy it for a second, but it was a hilarious attempt. Eric Wedge in particular seemed to be beside himself with mirth.

So that was the highlight: our catcher being his usual ridiculous self on a pointless foul ball. Hooray team. I’ll also note that Inge’s hair looks like it’s growing back in nicely, and I hope he learned his lesson and NEVER LETS FREDDY DOLSI ‘CUT’ HIS HAIR AGAIN.

Oh, and you guys know that instant replay is coming, right? Blah blah blah, Tigers have things to say about that, blah blah.

…[Kenny Rogers said,] “It’s part of the game. It’s the beauty of the game. I mean, mistakes are made. It’s not like anybody wants to make mistakes, especially the umpire. They’re doing the best they can, and that’s always enough. The best that they can do in the end is always enough. If it’s not [enough] for certain hierarchy or whatever, I think that’s a shame.”

“I’m against it for a lot of different reasons,” [Kenny] Rogers said, “but mainly because I think it’s just a slap in the face of umpires that have been around a long time. And they’ve done a very good job with difficult situations in all aspects. So they get calls wrong once in a while. We’ve all done things wrong once in a while. I wish we could take them back. It’s not part of the game. It’s not part of life.”

“I don’t think we have to follow the direction of other sports,” Rogers said. “I think our game is beautiful the way it is. Subtle changes here and there are OK to a degree, but I think they’ve made quite a few changes over the last 50 years.”

[Brandon Inge’s take on it:] “Me personally, I don’t like it, because I’m also about the tradition of a game. I would think that Babe Ruth and Teddy Ballgame might be rolling in their graves about stuff like this. This is why people come to the games, to see the human interaction. You have the umpire calling the game, when it’s his call, he’s doing his best.”
Jason Beck/MLB.com article

Baseball players hate change. SHOCKING, I know. But I also entreat you to examine the first paragraph I’ve pulled here, where Kenny says, “The best that they can do in the end is always enough. If it’s not [enough] for certain hierarchy or whatever, I think that’s a shame.”

First sentence: no. This is not kindergarten, Kenny. Your best effort is not always enough, especially if your best effort is, say, terrible, or demonstrably WRONG. I know that a lot of people in baseball really really REALLY want to believe in the Gold Star for Effort Theory of Baseball Management, but many very smart people have proven that this is usually a bad way to run things. Nobody is denying that a professional baseball player has a tough job, or that a professional MLB umpire has a tough job, but in this day and age you (should) no longer get a gold star for effort. You (should) get a gold star for ACTUALLY DOING WELL. This is true for players and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be true for umpires.

Second sentence: what? Seriously, what is he talking about there? A certain hierarchy? I don’t even know. I mean, is he pointing fingers at… I can’t even begin to guess. Owners? Managers? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? The military hierarchy? The patriarchy? What?

Next please examine the Brandon Inge quote that says, “This is why people come to the games, to see the human interaction.”

Do you guys really go to baseball games to see the human interaction? I mean, I can see human interaction at my local Dunkin Donuts, I don’t really need to shell out for baseball tickets to get my human interaction fix. I usually go to professional baseball games to see baseball played by people who are good at baseball. But maybe there are people out there who go specifically to see the delicate human interaction between the umpire and… the strikezone? The poignantly evocative human interaction between the umpire and the manager when the manager comes out onto the field to scream at the umpire that he’s a blind idiot who isn’t fit to hold the manager’s jockstrap?

I dunno, guys. You tell me.

Mr. Leyland, give us some sanity.

“I like it for home runs,” Leyland said on Sunday. “I think a home run should be a home run. It’s tough to see in some of these places.”

When told that the system would go into place this weekend, Leyland said, “Fine with me.”
Jason Beck/MLB.com article

Thank you.

Wednesday. There is a game. 7:05 pm EDT. Tigers vs. Racist Logos. Justin Verlander The Inefficient vs. Dr. Fausto Carmona. We’re looking to avoid the sweep. Maybe we’re also looking to see some incredible human interaction. Maybe SOME OF THE BASEBALL PLAYERS WILL TALK TO SOME OF THE OTHER BASEBALL PLAYERS. I don’t know about you guys, but gosh, I can’t wait! Go Tigers!

Craig Monroe's revenge


photo by Samara Pearlstein

Sometimes you win games. Sometimes you lose games. Sometimes games are rained out. And sometimes games are just completely freakin’ weird (also you lose).

After putting up three errors and looking like a bunch of inept fielders in their previous game, the Tigers today decided to commit ZERO errors and to make FIVE double plays. Why? Monday is ‘what am a base ball gluv?’ day, but Tuesday is ‘I eat groundballs for breakfast’ day? This has not been a good year for Tigers infield defense in general, in part, YES, don’t deny, because Brandon Inge hasn’t been at third much, and in part because Guillen and Cabrera didn’t even know where they were playing for most of the season. So five double plays, that was all kinds of encouraging to see.

The Tigers also managed to come back from a big deficit again, as they were down 6-1 after the 5th (which was pretty much entirely Nate’s fault). They scored twice in the 6th and once in the 8th. Better than a poke in the gallbladder, but not enough. At least the bullpen looked OK… and by ‘OK’ I mean ‘pretty good if you discount the ultimately harmless but still kind of terrifying 4 walks issued by Miner’.

It seems weird that the Tigers could turn so many double plays, that the Twins could leave so many guys on base, and the Tigers still managed to lose. A big factor in that was Craig Monroe, who I think takes a special kind of glee in hitting Tigers. I can understand this, but cannot condone it. Today he used his Super Ninja Powers of Nate Robertson Prior Sekkrit Knowledgez to hit a 3-run homer. As the Tigers ended up losing by two runs…. ouch. The revenge of Craig Monroe wounds deeply indeed.

Miggy did manage to get into the game as a pinch hitter, which could mean one of two things.

Optimistic: The hip flexor really WAS just a little bit stiff or sore, and he’s already fine.
Pessimistic: They’re going to try playing him through pain that’s still there, thus preventing the bloody thing from EVER healing.

I tend to favor the pessimistic version of this, but hey, only because the team has set a precedent for behavior exactly like that!

Oh, and The River Thames homered again, bringing his season total up to 16. It is only barely July. We all remember Chris Shelton, but it’s hard to not get excited about watching The River come up to bat these days.

(PS: Dear Marcus, if it ever comes out that you use(d) steroids or other PEDs, I will cry. For serious. So if you were even toying with the idea, just bear that in mind. K?)

It’s still possible to dome-raid here. We just need to win this next game, which is at 1 pm EDT…. which I don’t quite understand. That’s noon for the people where the game is being played, and doesn’t that seem AWFULLY early for a mid-week game? Why not just have it be the regular 1 pm start? It’s not going to make a difference to most people on the east coast if it’s at 1 or 2 pm, and it might make a good deal of difference to the people heading for the real live ballpark. Is there some sort of actual reasoning behind this decision?

Anyways. At 1 pm, the Bovine kid goes up against Nick Blackburn, whose name is actually Robert. Just so you know. Go Tigers!

the Spazzosaurus feasts upon Zach Miner


photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein

I know that this will sound kind of crazy, but the worst part of this game, for me, was not when Zach Miner threw away the ball that lost us the series. That was pretty bad. Some might even call it “horrific”. But the worst part of the game for me was immediately after that, as Scott Podsednik blasted around the bases, and the Wrong Sox announcers realized what was happening.

I think the Hawk was responsible here, ‘though it could very well have been the other one. As Tigers fans stared in horror, whichever announcer it was said, in tones of deep satisfaction,

“It’s amazing sometimes what a simple bunt will do.”

The both of them then went on in this vein for a while, but I didn’t get any more quotes about how awesome bunts are and how perfectly the Wrong Sox executed this play, because after that one initial line I was screaming at the TV in a demented rage.

Yes, the Wrong Sox had to put the ball in play in order for that error to happen. Yes, Scott Podsednik’s speed also made this whole thing possible. HOWEVER.

That was an error! An ERROR! On the TIGERS! That was NOT a PERFECTLY EXECUTED WRONG SOX BUNT. It was an ERRRRRRROOOOORRRRRR!!! Zach Miner threw the ball away! It’s amazing what a simple error will do! It’s amazing what can happen when the Spazzosaurus gets his knobbly little teeth into a pitcher! It is maybe amazing what a simple bunt can do, but THIS IS NOT THE SITUATION IN WHICH TO BE AMAZED BY A BUNT, because in THIS situation, the bunt was not the amazing thing!

I don’t understand how it’s possible for these announcers to have watched the same game I did. There’s rooting for the home team, there’s homer-ism, and then there’s ridiculously and willfully ignoring the actual game in order to pretend that the home team has done something it hasn’t. They were CROWING about the PERFECT GLORIOUSNESS of the bunt! Not one mention of luck! Not one mention, even, of the Tigers’ painful recent postseason track record with pitchers and errors! Nothing except for how marvelous and clever the Wrong Sox were, to lay down so archetypal a bunt!

The fact that it’s now many hours later and I’m still stewing over this should give you some idea of how happy I am that by the time the Tigers go back to Chicago, I’ll be back at school, and thus will watch the games on Detroit TV. I don’t think I could handle another go ’round with the Hawk.

*deep breath*

Poor Zach Miner. It’s so obvious what happened. When Podsednik got on base, it freaked Miner out. He knows perfectly well just how fast Pods is, and he knew perfectly well that the game was tied, the series was tied, everything was hanging on HIM. That’s enough to make anyone start to emit some spazz-energy. And, as we all know, the Spazzosaurus feeds off of spazz-energy.

So there was Zach Miner, silently freaking out on the mound, exuding spazz-energy hither and yon… what Spazzosaurus could resist such a feast? You almost can’t even blame the Spazzosaurus; after all, it’s just his nature.

That was that. The Spazzosaurus snuck up unseen, as Spazzosauri do, and started gnawing on Zach Miner. Miner, due to the fact that he was getting eaten by a giant invisible orange saurian, chucked the ball away over everyone’s heads. Scott Podsednik is fast. We lost the game. Justin Verlander shed a quiet little tear.

I know that everyone has losing streaks, and I know that it’s better to have one now than at the very end of the season. But, my goodness, it is BEYOND infuriating to lose two series in a row, both to division rivals, and not even to the BEST division rivals (who are, as we speak, being violated repeatedly by Manny Ramirez, much to my glee). It needs to STOP. We are playing the Angels next. I expect to be feasting gluttonously on lightly grilled rally monkeys by Sunday night.

the dread Tiger E, and other creatures of a loss


digillustration by Samara Pearlstein

It’s hard enough to win games when the offense is in a funk– if nothing else, it puts all kinds of pressure on the pitchers, and while our pitchers are of course the best in the universe, the most awesome in baseball and in life, heroes on the field, etc., that’s still not exactly fair. We just finished winning an entire series with minimal offense. Time to cut the pitchers some slack and allow them to be human.

Unfortunately for us, the Royals decided to cut Kenny Rogers into all kinds of slack, and the offense did not come riding up on their majestic white tigers to sweep Kenny out of danger’s way. Actually, if the offense ever gets their acts together and manages to bail out a starter’s mediocre-to-bad pitching with big bats, that’ll be the photoshop of the day. Until then, you get the sadly tiger-striped E, to remind everyone of our sins.

Because, you know, if it is hard to win when your starter struggles and your bats don’t back that up, it is even HARDER to win when you match all that with a bunch of errors, even if it only resulted in one unearned run. Non-run-producing errors still kind of drag everyone down, and if the players are already feeling kind of cruddy about being destroyed by the Royals, when they start making errors, they start feeling worse, which makes them more prone to committing errors and less prone to getting hits and it all becomes a big snowballed mess of Es and sadness.

It was just a matter of time before Kenny came back to earth. His injury was so severe, and his return so remarkably good, we may have gotten into the habit of thinking of him as some sort of superhuman pitching machine. Then you watch him get knocked around by Mark Grudzielanek and his buddies, and you realize he’s human after all (not knockin’ Grudzie, who is a pretty nice little hitter).

And of course you’ve got to give credit to Gil Meche, who gave up a homer to Sheffield (likely to happen to anyone) and let Maggs bonk in an RBI (likely to happen to anyone), so you could say that he pitched a very good game, and you would be right.

As for the fact that this loss came to the ROYALS… well, I’m not surprised. I just got done watching them dismantle the Red Sox, so you could say that I’m incredibly, horribly aware of their hot streak right now. I think it should be the sworn duty of the Detroit Tigers to kill this hot streak, which is clearly a violation of the laws of nature, by any means necessary.