Monthly Archives: March 2012

Final spring training update- Tigers vs. Braves, again

With nothing planned on the day and the Tigers playing at Disney, husband and I decided to take in one last game before the team heads north.  And, because y’all seem to love pictures (hi, Google Image search hits!) and the suspense of whether or not Inge will be on the roster is giving me tics, this is going to be mainly a picture post.  I’m figuring you guys are okay with that.  Also, honestly, there’s not a whole lot to say at this point in the spring, especially after Verlander goes out and pitches exactly like Verlander and the game gets called in the 7th due to torrential downpour and thunder.  A few quick bullets:

– Verlander did, indeed, pitch like Verlander, and I don’t think he’d hit his pitch count yet when the game ended in the 7th.  With the exception of a ball that was hit to the center field wall, none of the Braves hit anything particularly hard off him.  Hooray!

– Every game I catch, Avila looks like he’s having so much fun.  I’m glad he’s adjusted so smoothly to being a daily, All-Star catcher.  Prince seems like he’s having an equally good time.  When I got to the park, the two of them were cracking each other up and chattering away while stretching.

– Jackson got on base, stole second immediately, and came into score later.  It was nice to see this work out exactly as we want it to on paper before my very eyes.  Please keep doing this, Austin!

–  Thomas absolutely killed a ball over the deep right field wall.  It was a thing of beauty, and probably didn’t hurt his chances of making the roster.  This whole Dirks/Worth/Thomas/Inge madness is going right down to the wire, folks.

–  Balester came up to sign autographs and people started yelling “Mister Fister!” trying to get his attention.  “I’m not Fister” he sighed diplomatically.  And, really, now that I look at them, Balester is pretty much a scruffy Fister.

Jackson, Avila, Fielder

Jackson, Fielder, and Avila joke around while stretching.

Brennan Boesch

Brennan Boesch looks imposing.

Dave Dombrowski observes batting practice.

Cabrera

Miguel and friend both jump for a ball.

Benoit, Coke, and Balester

Benoit, Coke, and Balester half-heartedly stretch during batting practice.

Avila, Raburn, Worth, and Peralta

Peralta, Raburn, Worth, and Avila watch Cabrera during batting practice.

Avila, Peralta, Raburn, Worth

Peralta, Raburn, Worth, and Avila admire a Cabrera practice home run.

Verlander

Ladies and gentlemen, The Man.

Cabrera and Fielder

Cabrera and Fielder, a blossoming bromance.

Jackson, Fielder, and Cabrera

Fielder hangs out with Jackson and Boesch. He seems to be fitting right in.

Cabrera and Fielder mess around between innings.

Cabrera and Fielder. Run, Fielder, run!

Cabrera and Uggla were very touchy and friendly over at second. Right here, Cabrera was giving him crap about something.

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Ryan Raburn hates me: the search for a second baseman

For over two weeks, I’ve been intending to write a post about the second baseman situation.  My goal was to compose something intelligent sounding and objective with a lot of statistics, possibly in some sweet tables.  For those weeks, it became increasingly apparent that I was avoiding this post, especially taking into account the fact that I didn’t even have to work for one of those weeks.  Over said work-free week, I went to four spring training games and got a ridiculously painful sunburn instead.  I mean, it wasn’t like I was avoiding thinking about baseball.  I was just avoiding thinking about the drama unfolding at second base and Ryan Raburn’s personal crusade to make me miserable.

To be fair, Brandon Inge has been equally intent on making me tear my hair out, but as his has been a more . . . passive approach, I blame Ryan.

See, the whole reason I planned this post was to force myself to look at the situation objectively, because Brandon Inge has a way of making me incapable of objectivity.  Believe me, being a Tigers fan and loving Brandon Inge isn’t exactly an easy choice.  While I’m not alone in this, the faction that hates Inge does so with a passion that borders on irrational.  Let us consider last season, when reading the comments on any internet article about the team would lead you to believe that every loss was the direct result of Inge’s very presence on the team.  This leads the Inge defender to start overcompensating in their rebuttals, making them also seem completely deranged.  And when Inge goes through stretches like last season, you begin to wonder if he’s doing this to you on purpose, just to make you look stupid in front of the haters.

And so, I took to Baseball Reference and pulled some numbers on Inge, Raburn, and Santiago in an attempt to understand why Inge’s spectacular play at second base this spring doesn’t seem to be enough to compensate for his terrible hitting, even if it was okay enough every other year, and especially given the defense we’re sacrificing overall this season.  The Raburn haters have been out in full-force, too, remember, and neither he or Santiago have been a daily player at any point in their career.  Keep that in mind when we talk about career numbers below.

Inge, career:

AVG: .235
OPS: .692
OBP: .305
SLG: .388
WAR: 17.9 (2010- 2.4)
Fielding %: .976

And here are Inge’s best years:

AVG: .287 (2004)
OPS: .793 (2004)
OBP: .340 (2004)
SLG: .453 (2004)

Raburn, career:

AVG: .269
OPS: .779
OBP: .323
SLG: .456
WAR: 4.3 (2011- .8)
Fielding %: .958

Raburn’s best years:

AVG: .304 (2007)
OPS: .891 (2009)
OBP: .359 (2009)
SLG: .533 (2009)

And Santiago’s career:

AVG: .249
OPS: .658
OBP: .316
SLG: .342
WAR: 4.8 (2011- 1.3)
Fielding %: .978

Finally, Santiago’s best years:

AVG: .284 (2007)
OPS: .870 (2008)
OBP: .417 (2005) (only 8 games)
SLG: .460 (2008)

I bolded the best career number in each category, and . . . yeah.  This definitely works out in Raburn’s favor.  If you could guarantee that Inge would be at his best, you’re starting to get somewhere, but he still gets nudged out in many categories.  Santiago is solid, but the problem I found with a lot of his numbers was small sample size.  He just hasn’t had a lot of consistent playing time over the years.

This, of course, segues nicely into my current woes.  Raburn is having a monster spring.  When you pair that with his career numbers thus far, the choice actually looks pretty easy.  The trick is going to be getting Raburn to carry that into the Spring and not save all his hitting for August yet again.  Memories are short, and while Raburn looks like a sure thing now, how soon we forget that the same people calling for Inge’s head last May were also booing Raburn when he stepped to the plate.  I refuse to talk about intangibles because they make me twitchy, but all three of them seem like fantastic guys and I would hate to lose any of them from my clubhouse.

My feelings on the matter?  Raburn will be our opening second baseman, and to be honest, I think that was how it was going to be from the day Inge asked to try out at second.  The more people talk about Cabrera’s transition to third, the more it comes out that Cabrera was working with the coaches to start transitioning to the position even before Prince was signed.  Inge was allowed to try out at second because that’s the least they could do for someone who has been with the team for that long and they didn’t have anything better to do with him.  Raburn will start at second, Santiago will bounce between short and second as per usual, and Inge will play second or third base depending on the day and depending on the pitcher (against left handers).  Also, I firmly believe Inge will not finish the year with the Tigers.  He’s not ready to be a bench player and he’s shown that he can play multiple positions well.  Plus, the Tigers have said that they’re done with him without really saying it.  And, finally, he’ll be gone this season because I bought an Inge jersey this summer.  That pretty much sealed it, right there.

Spring training update- Tigers vs. Cardinals

It was St. Patrick’s day, and you know what that meant . . .

Green uniforms

Green for everyone!

Yes, it was that day every spring when both teams wear nearly identical green uniforms for no particular reason, thus confusing the heck out of the more casual fans in our section.  It also meant the bat boy was dressed as a leprechaun and other shenanigans.   I’m not even kidding about the bat boy.  I wish to God I was.

Miguel St. Patrick's

Miguel Cabrera as a leprechaun. You're welcome, folks.

Prince stealing

Prince Fielder stole second base! I can't even make that up, it is so ridiculous.

 

Grounds crew

The grounds crew always does the YMCA in the 5th. They do NOT always do it in green wigs, however.

Cabrera with grounds crew

Miguel Cabrera is amused by the grounds crew.

Somewhere in all this, a baseball game actually happened. Adam Wilk pitching.

Believe it or not, there was actually some pretty good baseball happening somewhere in all the Guiness-fueled insanity.  On top of stealing second, Prince went 3-for-3 and hit a triple.  A TRIPLE.  Quoth Leyland: “To see Prince Fielder leg one out, I got a kick out of it. I don’t expect to see many more of those. But in all seriousness, he’s much more athletic than I thought him to be”.  Awesome.

Adam Wilk struggled early and gave up a 2 run homer to Holliday, which, okay, that’s going to happen.  David Freese made it 3 and it was looking like we were in for a long day yet again.  That’s when the insanity started.  10 unanswered runs from our bats.  Cabrera, Fielder, and Young hit back-to-back-to-back twice in two separate innings and generally created havoc for the whole game.  Holaday caught the whole game and even got a hit!  We didn’t commit any errors (…until this afternoon. Seriously, boys?)!  Jackson didn’t strike out!  Again, standard spring training disclaimers apply, but we haven’t had a game with less than 7 hits all spring and are outscoring opponents nearly 2-to-1.  I think that’s cause for at least a bit of rejoicing.

It hasn’t just been the bats, though, which brings me to the pitching showdown we witnessed.  Wilk was definitely struggling a bit, but the story of the day was always going to be Oliver vs. Smyly, so that almost felt like an afterthought.  Oliver went two innings, gave up one hit, and walked none.  Smyly went out for the final four innings, didn’t give up a hit, but walked two.  Until yesterday, I was pretty heavily on Team Oliver, but now I’m buckling a bit.  He’s been around a bit longer but has a history of inconsistency with control.  Smyly is barely out of A ball but looks like he has a year with the big club already under his belt.  So . . .  I don’t know.  I think I’m still on Team Oliver because I’m wary of pulling him up too quickly, but I wouldn’t be upset if it goes to Smyly.  He’s clearly earning it.

Some other pretty cool, non-holiday related things were going on before the game, of which I have pictures:

Dirks with kids

Andy Dirks signing for kids.

We spotted Andy Dirks signing autographs for a little league team down on the field before the game started.

Martinez

Look who it is! Victor!

Then who should we spy by the clubhouse but Victor Martinez on crutches!

Al and Victor

Two of the wounded compare notes- Al Alburquerque and Victor Martinez.

Alburquerque was also hanging around and came over to chat with V-Mart, possibly comparing battle scars.  Victor was holding Alburquerque’s arm and squeezing it for some reason.

Little League

Baseball at its most adorable.

After  a few minutes, the little league players and their group came over to the clubhouse.  A few players came over to sign for them and I was trying to figure out if they were from Venezuela or the Dominican when one of the little players broke from the group and my husband and I immediately put two and two together.

Victor Jose

Yep. That's Victor Jose Martinez, greeting his friends.

Victor Jose started greeting the other adults with all the confidence in the world, like he owned the place and they were his personal friends.  Which they probably are.  I freaking love that kid.  He was working the crowd far before he made it over to his dad.  When V-Mart comes back for good and we still have Prince’s boys wandering around, the clubhouse is likely to implode from all the adorable.

Stay tuned for that second base post I keep promising but keep putting off writing.  My intention is to make it objective but that’s proving difficult.  It also becomes more difficult every time Ryan Raburn goes out there and drills one over the fence.  Sigh.

Spring training update- Tigers vs. Orioles

For full disclosure, I was also at the Nationals game on Tuesday night, but a) have very few pictures from that and b) really don’t feel like talking about the unmitigated disaster that was Strieby at first base or how Below struggled through his outing.  As Lynn Henning pointed out to me on Twitter, however, it was a lovely evening at the ballpark!  So there’s that, anyway.

Instead, let’s talk a little bit about this afternoon!  I woke up this morning talking myself out of going to the game, but when my husband pointed out that Verlander was pitching, I lost my resolve and bought a bleacher ticket at the gate.

Game notes:

– Hi, Wilson Betemit!

– So, THAT Verlander showed up today.  They actually had the radar going in the park today and he stayed right around 93-94 mph.  Oh, is that all?  Gave up a lead-off homer, which . . . yeah.  That happens.  Moving on.  I was in sporadic conversation (or near constant) with the sweet young boy from Tennessee for the first 3 innings and wasn’t counting strikeouts but definitely saw a lot of them.  I was surprised when Verlander was pulled before the last out of the 4th inning so I pulled up At Bat to check for a pitch count and thought for sure their score keepers had made a mistake.  8 K’s?  Seriously?  In 3.2?  But, yes, that was indeed correct information.  No wonder he hit his pitch limit so quickly.  Holy God, JV, save some for April.

– Pitching in general was impressive, which was nice to see after the last few games of shaky outings.  Balester looked strong again, Valverde came out and promptly struck out the side with ease, Benoit was Benoit, and Stohr did a nice job closing things out.  Well done, boys!  Only 2 walks between you!

– Unfortunately, this also held true for the Baltimore starter Matusz, who struck out 6 of his own and induced 5 incredibly anemic ground ball outs.  It was impressive to watch him mow through the lineup we put in front of him.

– The only iffy moment was a throw from JV to Fielder on a pick-off.  My section thought the error would go to JV for basically throwing it into the dirt but it was instead given to Fielder for not picking it out of said dirt.  Anyhow, moral of the story, I hope the pitchers are taking extra practice throwing to first, what with a new first baseman and all.

– Danny Worth had a great day, with two hits and a stolen base!  And Laird, again, with the two RBI’s!  Patterson tripled, Raburn continued to fuel my inner conflict with a beautiful double . . . Really, the A lineup wasn’t able to put much together, which allowed us to once again showcase just how much depth and flexibility we have on this team.

– Jackson struck out twice.  Yep.

– Cabrera made a fairly sweet play at third.  Nice backhanded grab followed by a throw to first.  Excellent reaction time, but it honestly didn’t require him to move much, and that’s where most of my concerns come in with him playing at third.  His reaction time is good, but watching him try to get to a ball quickly is about what you would expect.  It isn’t quite lumbering, but it definitely makes you miss Inge.

Verlander is king

Justin Verlander, doing what he does best.

Betemit

Wilson Betemit the Oriole.

Verlander

One more of Verlander, just because.

Swing

Whoosh!

Mound visit

Verlander leaves the game after striking out 8 but throwing too many pitches doing it.

Prince

Prince Fielder in the box.

Valverde

Jose Valverde sets awesomely.

Valverde

Stay awesome, Big Potato!

Stay tuned this weekend as husband and I catch the Saturday game against the Cardinals.  Expect crap pictures because we have crap seats.  Hooray!

Spring training update- Tigers vs. Mets

I have Spring Break this week, which means bonus baseball!  I headed down to Lakeland this afternoon to catch the Mets against the Tigers.  After yesterday’s cancelled game, this proved to be a parade of pitching prospects and did not disappoint in that regard.  It DID disappoint in that it was the third tie game in a row, but, Spring Training, doesn’t count, whatever.  A few notes from today:

– Smyly’s line looked good and people seemed pleased with his start, but I need to point out that watching him pitch felt like watching Penny.  His pace was so. so. slow.  I don’t know if this is normal for him or if he was being extra careful because he knows he’s competing for a spot, but it was tiring to watch.

– Jackson had good contact, for which my section cheered heartily.  Inge also had good contact, also earning cheers from us.  Cabrera was Cabrera.  I don’t get to see him hit in person often but am always so impressed with his swing.  Everything people say it is and more.  Avila had two beautiful hits and Laird, LAIRD, hitting a double!  Amazement!  Really, overall, the hitting was what it has been all spring.  Nice stuff.

– Turner needs time, which I think all of us know and saying so is kind of beating a dead horse.  He got beat up pretty badly.  I don’t worry about them rushing him through the system after seeing what else we have out there, but I still feel the need to plead with people to give him time to develop.

– Avila had two beautiful throws to Inge at second but didn’t get the call on either of them.

– I feel like Balester has kind of been lost since we’re so focused on who our fifth starter will be, but I’ve been impressed with him so far.

– Speaking of fifth starters, I think I’m officially casting my vote for Oliver.  Yes, he was pitching against mostly second string today, but he looked great doing it and his control has improved significantly.  No walks in four innings!  Two broken bats!  Hooray!

This has nothing to do with the game, but I’m sure you’ve all heard that Pauley was released.  I could hear the Tigers faithfully collectively saying “No, really?” in a sarcastic tone at hearing this.

You all want pictures, right?  Here you go:

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Inge and Leyland have a laugh

If you missed it, and I don’t blame you if you did because I’m probably the only insane person listening to pointless baseball games on the radio, Dan and Jim gave us a wonderful little story during today’s game broadcast.

Apparently, while the media was assembled in Leyland’s office for questions before the game, Inge came into his office and showed Leyland something his friend had sent him on his phone.  He was laughing, Leyland started laughing after he showed him, then Inge finally let the assembled crowd in on the joke.  It was a picture of Leyland and Cabrera laughing together with the caption “I just told Inge that he has a shot at playing second”.

Awwwwww.  And how great it is that Inge seems to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing, enough so that he can laugh about it with Leyland.  I’m working on a separate post about the second base fiasco, but I will mention how great it was to see Inge smack one out of the park (against the wind) right after Leyland repeated the whole “must hit or else” thing to the media.

Castellanos, Inge, and Cabrera

"Don't take it personally, Brandon. They told this kid he'd play third some day, and look how that turned out."

Pitching status = awesome*

Porcello, Pauley, and Below

Oh, Pauley.

*This will be explained momentarily, though some of you may already know where I’m going with this.

Well, I was going to wax poetic about our beautiful, perfect spring record, but then PAULEY happened.  Whatever.  I’m using all caps for his name from now on, because that is the magnitude of my frustration with him.  The other reason is, of course, the errors.  Come on, guys.  This is why Kenny was in camp.  This is a known issue, you work on it, and this STILL happens.  First, Scherzer blows a pickoff, then Balester (who I generally like) ALSO lobs one into the outfield on a pickoff.  The infielders have also made their share of errors this week, and I’m not talking about the babies. I’m talking about guys who know better.

All that aside, though, the pitching.  I know that there have been a grand total of 7 games, and those games are spring training games, so small sample size, non-roster invitees, blah blah, but wow.  In 7 games, we have scored 45 runs, while the opposition has scored 15.  Almost half of those were scored against us TODAY.  Granted, we also scored 18 in one game due to freakish wind situations, but the wind works both ways and the Braves scored 3 runs in that game.  The four known starters all have ERA’s of zero with minimal control issues (…Scherzer).  But Pauley.  I’m harder on Pauley than some of the younger guys who have struggled because a) he has pitched in the majors and b) he was terrible last year.  He’s had three outings in a week with 4 walks and 8 hits.  Today, he didn’t even make it through an inning.  I believe the word for that is “guh”.

I mean, the hitting has definitely been pretty great, too, but I felt the need to highlight the pitching due to the number of games where the opposing team scored 3 or fewer runs.  Love.  This.

My husband and I listened to the soothing, familiar tones of Dan and Jim on WXYT today in our respective offices.  I missed the first part of the game, but got a text from my husband that Santos and Kelly had apparently had a nasty collision on an infield pop-up.  Santos took a while to get up, which led to a visit from Leyland and a trainer.  My husband reported that Dan or Jim said of Santos, “He might have taken a knee from Don Kelly in a bad spot”.  Heeeeee!  Later, someone hit a liner off the Phillies’ pitcher, which led to Dan and Jim adorably going on about him being hit in the “backside”, how much padding was there, giggling at themselves, then finally flat-out saying that he was hit in the “butt”.  Man, have I missed Dan and Jim.

Remember before when I said I was impressed by the hitting from the minor league and nonroster guys during batting practice?  Keep an eye on Patterson, Head, Berry, and still Strieby.  I keep being impressed by them in multiple ways.

Also, I think the panic about Miggy can cease.  It was only a week, people, and he’s obviously just fine now.