Archive for the ‘Detroit Tigers’ Category

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Person A: It’s 5:30 PM anywhere in North America, and the caller on the sports talk radio station has an opinion: the front office of his favorite team is a collection of imbeciles. They’re idiots. The players they acquired are useless. The talent they let go is irreplaceable. Morons. Every single one of them.

Why? No reason is given. It’s sports talk radio, and there isn’t time for reasoning and analysis. It’s about sound bytes, and the most recent caller provided a nice little blue collar rant with which the rest of the commuters listening will identify and enjoy.

Person B: A couple hours later, an unappreciated underachiever gets home from his unchallenging office job. Within minutes of arriving at the house, the transaction tracker on a mobile sports app gets checked, a website is visited, players are compared and the exact same conclusion is had: the general manager is an idiot who has made a series of terrible mistakes with his roster construction.

Why? Well, it’s plain to see with a statistical breakdown and a cost/benefit comparison that accounts for a declining skill set based on the history of similar players and current projections.

Who is the bigger idiot: Person A or Person B?

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Being a baseball manager is a hell of a job. Not many other occupations in the world allow for more credit when things go well or so much blame when things go poorly.

The Detroit Tigers were eliminated from the 2013 MLB playoffs on Saturday night and the postmortems are well under way. No matter how good a team looks over the long haul, the immediate shortcomings are very front of mind. Where did it go wrong? Most folks don’t need to look any further than the manager.

As far as managers go, Jim Leyland was a good one. Or, more accurately, he was a successful one. Teams with Jim Leyland as their skipper won a whole lot of games over his 22 seasons (1769 wins in total). He claimed a World Series crown with the Florida Marlins in 1997.

But those 1769 wins are counterbalanced by 1728 losses. That lone World Series victory came amid countless playoff appearances (including six different division titles) and just two other pennants.

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MLB: ALCS-Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers

The Tigers scored seven runs last night so any and all concerns over their offense are officially waylaid, right? Right. Thanks for reading, enjoy the game!

If only it were that simple. Wednesday night, Jim Leyland pushes the right buttons, shuffling his batting order to great effect. A skeptic might point to the Red Sox defensive gaffs as a major offensive catalyst for Detroit’s output on this night.

An even more skeptical mind might credit Red Sox manager John Farrell with the Tigers offensive resurgence, citing Farrell’s decision to hand the ball to Jake Peavy in Game Four of the ACLS. Peavy was very much not good in this start, struggling to throw anything in the strike zone, going as far as walking the slumping eighth place hitter Austin Jackson on four pitches with the bases loaded. Only one out of every three Peavy pitches ended up in the strike zone, yet he still managed to give up seven runs on five hits and three walks.

The Tigers banged out nine total hits and drew five walks, though Prince Fielder failed to contribute to either ledger. Fielder has three hits this series and only one extra base hit this postseason. Rather than a brief statistical blip, this is part and parcel for a down year for the suddenly power-strapped slugger.

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MLB: ALCS-Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers

No, not the beards. Well sort of the beard. The complexion of Game Three of the ALCS is, in a nutshell, modern baseball. Mike Napoli represents both sides of the modern baseball dynamic with his performance tonight. One home run (game winning) and two strikeouts – two of Justin Verlander‘s 11 Ks on the night.

Verlander and John Lackey might not be part of the new vanguard of power pitchers, but they are two guys who helped usher it in. Verlander is the prototype power pitcher – he throws in the upper 90s with multiple secondary offerings, many of which touch 90 mph on their own.

John Lackey is the other kind of model for young pitchers. He might not light triple digits like Justin Verlander but he induced 16 swinging strikes out of 97 pitches tonight. He was a dominant starter for long enough that somebody gave him a gigantic pile of money for his trouble (and his ability to throw 200 innings while coaxing swinging strikes by the boatload.) That kind of monetary incentive is a great way to funnel talented young ball players toward the mound, the fruits of which baseball is currently enjoying.

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Texas Rangers v Detroit Tigers - Game Five

Jim Leyland is a great quote. It’s a great baseball man, if we’re being honest. He’s just plain great. A salty old dog and surely the greatest granddad in the game today. Before Game Five in Oakland, Leyland was asked about his bullpen options in the deciding game. His quote remains priceless:

Leyland jokes but an element of truth lives in his jocular tone. The Tigers bullpen is no picnic for their manager, an odd collection of former starters and players who seem better than they actually are. The Tigers bullpen ranked in the bottom third in ERA, walk rate and strand rate.

As a group, they managed a league-low 102 “shut downs”, Fangraphs’ WPA-based counting stat credited every time a reliever increases his team’s odds of winning by 6% or more. This counting stat doesn’t allow for much nuance and the incredible, dominant starting rotation has a big hand in this matter. The Tigers bullpen registered the fewest innings pitched of any relief corps in baseball.

The Tigers playoff bullpen is slightly more robust, as Rick Porcello joined their ranks after a strong season as the fifth starter. But the fact of the matter remains – Jim Leyland has reason to be nervous when he strides out to the mound to make a pitching change. Is there a chance, should his starter falter, Leyland can still make some chicken salad and get a win with his bullpen?

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MLB: NLCS-Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals

You’ll never believe it but, even in the playoffs, striking out batters is a great way for a pitcher to help his team win. Anibal Sanchez of the Detroit Tigers pitched really well Saturday night and Max Scherzer also pitched well Sunday night. Combined they struck out 25 batters in 13 innings.

Scherzer might have pitched better but Sanchez got a lot of attention for leaving the game without allowing a hit, a desirable outcome for a starting pitcher. The Tigers staff as a whole held the Red Sox to just one measly base hit while striking out 17 as a staff. That’s good!

Comparing the two starts, it’s a little odd that Sanchez allowed six base runners while Scherzer only let four reach safely. Six walks seems like a lot for a “dominant start”. In the minds of some, this diminishes his outing a little. Hey, if taking pride in a strange fun allergy is your thing, go nuts – tear down as many no-hitters or near no-hitters as you can. Nobody forces you to enjoy them, let your beige accountant flag fly.

The Tigers dominated the Red Sox batters both nights, but the Sox ability to work counts and draw walks gave them chances to score on Saturday, loading the bases in the sixth inning against the AL’s ERA leader. It was in those brief moments of hope for the Sox that we saw the true value of the strikeout – a pitcher’s ultimate equalizer.

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MLB: ALCS-Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is a smart, analytics-driven guy who once made a glib comment that he, at this point, probably wishes he kept to himself. In a New York Times profile of Morey and the way he runs his Rockets, author Michael Lewis quotes the Northwestern grad uttering a now-infamous credo* for stat nerds the world over – “Someone created the box score, and he should be shot.”

* – it’s a very mild form of infamy, meaningful only to management-worshiping shut-ins and aspirant bean counters. Basically anyone in khakis.

As a basketball talent evaluator trying to build a winning team, Morey tosses off this line as it relates to the tyranny of real-time counting stats as a tool to quantify a given player’s contribution to the greater good of winning. A familiar refrain for analytics wonks from every walk of life. The baseball box score is a simplistic creation that, more often than not, completely omits the most crucial details of a game.

The Detroit Tigers did not just lose Game Two of the ALCS – they blew the game in the most dramatic fashion possible. Their starter cruised, dominating Red Sox bats for the second straight night – until a revolving door of relievers loaded the bases for David Ortiz, one of the most revered sluggers of his era.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland calls on his closer Joaquin Benoit to stop the Red Sox rally in its tracks. Get Ortiz out and then clean up the ninth inning and the Tigers are homeward bound with a 2-0 series lead.

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