Sunday, July 10, 2011

Beckham should apologize to Bears for insensitive remarks

1. My boy Gordon Beckham got into some hot water this past week after writing "Getz is Gay, GB" in the dirt near 2nd base. Apparently, this enraged the gay community which is hard for me to understand. The former White Sox is hitting .259 with 21 RBI and is 9th in steals in the AL. I think it would have been much more insulting to gays everywhere had Beckham written "Dunn is gay" given that Dunn is hitting .160 with 117 strike outs. Worse yet, what if Getz would have written "Beckham is Gay" which would have equated the homosexual community with his anemic .306 OBP and .360 SLG. Gordon took the first step by apologizing to gays everywhere, just like his daddy Ozzie did two years ago. What the South Side Slayer needs to do next is apologize is apologize to his neighbors. I suggest that Gordon call a press conference and apologize to the most prominent gay organization in the city, the Chicago Bears. I can only imagine how their feelings have been hurt through this terrible ordeal and an olive branch would go a long way to mending their fractured feelings.

2. The Tigers have won six of their last seven and are in first place at the All Star break. This is major cause for celebration and a sure predictor of a deep playoff run! If the past five years is any indicator, oh wait . . .

Tigers standing at the All Star Break since 2006:

2006 1st Place Up 2 games
2007 1st place Up 1 game
2008 3rd place Down 4 games
2009 1st place Up 3.5 games
2010 1st place Up 1/2 game
2011 1st place Up 1/2 game

OK, so the Tigers have been in 1st place on July 10th in five of the last six years and have won exactly zero division titles during that span. If I were a betting man, and I am, I would put money on the Twins finishing this season with yet another division title (before losing to the Yankees in the first round).

3. Sleep deprived and feeling the effects of a wine hangover, I needed a reason to skip a Sunday workout. Like a gift from the Euro Gods, USA/Brazil happened to kick off at 11AM which I hoped to sleep through until the Tigers game started at 2PM. I got much more. Like 99% of Americans, I know squat about soccer. I don't understand their yellow and red cards, offsides, free kicks and generally didn't understand how long they were supposed to be playing. But, this game was ridiculous. Most soccer games suck because they finish 1-0 and you have to wait 40 minutes for a shot on goal. This one had a goal in the first 1:00 for the USA, the first time I hollered "Hell yeah, eat it Brazil!!". Without a clue, I was shocked and enraged at what was clearly terrible officiating. I came to loathe the dumpy, anal retentive official who played the role of the East German olympic diving judge for most of the game. In a game I thought was over three times (mainly because I have no idea how regulation and OT work in soccer), the good girls scored a goal at least 15 minutes after I thought the final buzzer (or gun or bell) should have sounded. I looked at my boy Frank and said "Beers?" to which he replied "Hell yes!". There was even a shoot-out which is really the only reason most Americans would leave soccer on without changing over to World's Strongest Man re-runs. Until today, the only good thing soccer had ever provided this country was a Top 5 "Jerseys Off" moment when Brandy Chastain went skins after jacking up the Chinese goalie in 1999. These girls were some serious beefcake athletes, going 10 versus 11 for most of the game and saying things like "we refused to lose" after the game. Goalie Hope Solo is pretty sure that she's hot. After every save, we got a close up of her best Zoolander "Blue Steel" pose.

Possibly, I was so excited because I thought I was actually watching a championship game but turns out this was only a quarterfinal. Given that the next game is Wednesday at 11AM and I have a job, I probably won't watch soccer again until 2015 but this should tide me over.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Brad Penny's attempt at no-hitter ends in 1st inning

1. After "Pork Chop" Penny mowed down Yunel Escobar to lead off the first inning, you could cut the tension with a knife at the Rogers Centre. With the crowd on it's feet and the world watching, Corey Patterson somehow found a way to calm his nerves long enough to just make enough contact to send a ball off the wall in center field. Just like that, Penny's bid for a second straight no-hitter had been spoiled. Like the seasoned veteran that he is, Pork Chop sucked it up and gave the Tigers another strong quality start with 7 2/3 innings and a pitch count that finished at 94. Pork Chop has been a pleasant surprise this year, especially of late. He has given up six earned runs in his last 27 innings pitched (2.00 ERA) and like the other white meat, has proven to be a nice compliment to a strong stable of starters.

2. Yes, Verlander was exceptional on Saturday. For an entire game, he pitched. In most games, you can almost sense that Verlander is using the same strategy he employed in high school in college when no one had the talent to catch up to his fastball or the hands to hit his curve ball. I am sure this is where he learned to work at a ridiculous pace. When you can mow down each batter with the efficiency of a McDonald's drive through window, what's the point of taking your time to focus on pitch location? He could always simply reach back and ramp up his high 90's fastball to get out of trouble. He's added two more deadly pitches and is one of maybe five MLB pitchers with four above average pitches. The problem is that all are above average because of their incredible movement and velocity. The more trouble JV gets into, the more velocity dials up. Which is why he leads the league in innings thrown but never finishes a game. Even after this phenomenal outing, he sounded disappointed that "he didn't have a lot of strikeouts tonight". Strikeouts are exciting and incredibly useful with men on base but generally, they burn too many pitches. JV threw 73 pitches in the first three innings against the Yankees and announcers were cooing over his stamina when he tossed 130 pitches through six innings. The only number that mattered was six innings. Too often, JV is gone with too much of the game left in question which was fine when we had Zumaya, Rodney and Jones to finish games. This year, the Tigers have the worst performing bullpen in MLB statistically which means leaving in the 5th or 6th is playing with fire (JV had left after six innings in three of his last four starts). If the Tigers are going to contend, they'll need Verlander to slow down and pitch to contact early in games. When you have a nasty slider, change piece and curve ball, 93 MPH is more than enough when located. 101 MPH is just another ball when thrown two inches off the plate.

3. Brandon Inge still sucks at baseball. Leyland's grizzled warrior is batting .209 and has six hits in his last eleven games. That's one hit every two games for those without a calculator handy. He's stranded more men in 2011 than the SS Indianapolis. "What about his stellar defense Mazeroski?" Great point, I forgot to mention his five errors, which would be tops in the the majors if not for the sure handed Kevin Kouzmanoff from Oakland. If you are a fantasy fan, you would know that Brandon is the 30th rated 3B in baseball and is owned by 1.5% of players (most likely the same dumb asses that vote for Inge for player of the game every night in spite of his three strike out performance). It's time the Tigers do what fantasy owners did long ago - cut losses and accept that this is the best Inge has to offer and continuing to start him daily may cost them a division title.

4. Who the hell do the Indians think they are? They lead the league in wins(22) and run differential(+48) and are top 5 in most hitting, pitching and fielding categories. In 2010, they finished 26th in runs scored, 24th in ERA and 26th in errors committed. I continue to wait for their first big losing streak and it just isn't happening. When an unexpected team starts hot, it normally out performs in one of those three categories but a team this hot across the board is here to stay all year. The rest of the league will need to get used to Cleveland contending and listening to that damn rally drum beating endlessly throughout all of their home games.

5. It should not come as a surprise that the Tigers are scoring more with AJ starting to heat up. Sunday was his second straight game with three hits and his two-run blast in the 7th was the finishing blow on a close game today. Jackson is hitting .368 in his last ten games and has only struck out twice in his last four games. Obviously, a lead off batter consistently on base puts opposing pitchers in the dangersou position of facing Cabrera from the stretch.

6. Why do managers pitch to elite hitters with men in scoring position and first base open? Each team might have 1-2 players with the skill level to hit your starter's best pitch, even if it is located correctly. So, don't pitch to them. In the 3rd inning Sunday, Penny faced Bautista with a man on 2nd and 1st base open with oen out. Bautista is leading the league in average, extra base hits, slugging percentage, on base percentage and before Sunday was 2nd in home runs. Basically, he is the most dangerous stick in the league. Brilliantly, Leyland decides to pitch to him in a tie ball game with first base open. On a 3-2 pitch, Bautista took 1st place in the one statistic he wasn't leading by depositing a weak Pork Chop fastball deep into the left field bleachers. The next two batters grounded out. How many times has Leyland seen this back fire on opposing managers who decide to pitch to Cabrera with first base open? The same applies to football when coaches continue to punt to Devin Hester. Ask Bo Schembechler how well that strategy worked against Notre Dame when "Rocket" was returning kicks. Drop the ego and play the percentages Leyland.

7. In 2010, Gerald "Lard" hit five home runs and drove in 25 runs while hitting a very Ingle-like .207, ahead of only the might Lou Marson in Cleveland. Through 35 games in 2011, his replacement is hitting .292 with 23 runs batted in and six home runs. The catcher slot was not unlike the pitcher slot on a National League team - we were celebrating to simply get on base. "EverReady" Alex Avila, has been powering up the lineup all year and you can make a strong argument for AA as the Tiger MVP through April. Time and again, he has come up with clutch extra base hits and shown a great eye and willigness to take what opposing pitchers give him. Alex has easily been the most productive catch in baseball in 2011, leading in slugging percentage(.573), OPS (.909), RBI(23), hits(28), doubles(7) and has tossed in two stolen bases for good measure. Defensively, only Kurt Suzuki has caught more runners stealing and Alex has had more than a little to do with the success of our starting rotation as he gets to know the staff with more starts. If Avila keeps this torrid pace, he will deserve a spot on the AL All Star team and would start if not for the overwhelming advantage that Martin will have in New York.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tigers pounce on birds

1. After going 1-10 early this year, this was an encouraging night from Alex Avila. After Bergeson got up 0-2 twice, Energizer (AA) worked the count full then 2-2 before smacking a double off scoreboard and deep home run, accounting for four RBI in his first two at bats. In the 8th inning, he added a two-out base knock that brought in Raburn for his fifth RBI of the game. Already, he has three more clutch hits than Gerald Lard had in 2010. Somewhere, Lard is eating a gallon of Rum Raisin ice cream and crying.

2. JV looks like he came to camp in shape this year which is a first. After three years of terrible April performances (7-11, 5.02 ERA), JV has been popping from his first spring training start. He is firing strikes and leaning heavy on fastball with deuce and off-speed just as change of pace. Shortly after Tigers went up 4-0, JV immediately gave two back in the bottom of the frame . . . irritating. Looks like he still knows how to open the door after a Tiger rally. What I want to see from JV is better control - he needs to consistently make it to the 7th and 8th every fifth day. Tonight, he went 8 innings with 108 pitches which is impressive and rests the bullpen.

3. Tigers were patient tonight - five three-ball counts before the third inning ended. They looked patient and somewhat prepared with a plan to work deep into counts which is a departure from Leyland teams of the past five years. Well, except for Brennan who still loves the first shitty pitch he sees.

4. Watching game on Baltimore feed and hard not to be excited for the Orioles with Showalter. Reminds me a little of when we first got Leland and I will still excited about his crusty old ass. We sucked for so long that just having some attitude was good enough. Wonder how long the honeymoon will last in Baltimore when they consistently get out spent by the Sox and Yankees and continue to finish in 3rd or 4th place like always.

5. Cabrera is so pure. Pitchers would probably rather face him with 2-0 count rather than 0-2. In the 4th inning, journeyman reliever Rupe got out to a quick 0-2 count and starting sweating. Cabrera played with him like a tiger batting at a goat. Most hitters shorten up and hope to slap an opposite field single. Cabrera tightened the gloves and took a batting cage swing at a lame ass slider, then stood and watched it for an uncomfortable pause as the ball landed in the straight-away center field bleachers. In the 9th inning, Cabrera laced a ground ball so hard that it stuck in the webbing of the third baseman's glove. He made an amazing play but couldn't get the ball out to make a throw. It was scored correctly as a hit.

6. Inge struck out three times tonight representing 75% of Tiger punch outs. Seriously Inge, you are such a warrior. Those feeble swings at sliders in the dirt showed a lot of heart. In related news, top prospect Nick Castellanos got his first start for Western Michigan. Give him one week in A ball and bring him up to the show. Let Inge go to war for some other team in need of a shitty #8 hitter with true grit.

6. Yes, this is my first post in eight months as baby threw off my blogging schedule. To all my 22 loyal followers, I will try to redeem myself with more shitty reporting of the best franchise in sports. For those interested, I dropped another $1,000 on the Tigers to win more than the Vegas line which was 84 wins this year. Seems like another lock coming my way which will be used to pay for more Tiger gear for my son.