A deeper look at Armando Galarraga

With Dontrelle Willis missing at least a couple starts while being on the 15-day disabled list, the Tigers have announced that they will call up Armando Galarraga to take his place in the rotation. As for Dontrelle Willis, hopefully the time off will allow him to not only heal but provide him with a chance to work on his control. The injury doesn’t sound serious enough that they believe it’ll take the full 15 days to recover allowing him some time to work on much needed improvements:

“We know he’s going to miss at least a start, and we don’t want to take any chances,” club president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “Hopefully, in 15 days, he’ll be ready.”

We can only hope he returns in full health and with all control issues figured out as the team needs it. For now Detroit will be filling his rotation Armando Galarraga who will be making only his second major league start. The Tigers acquired Galarraga from the Texas Rangers this past February, sending Michael Hernandez to Texas. A small trade that looks good now since Galarraga will be helping the big league club this year, Hernandez would not have been. At the time Dombrowski was positive on Armando as well:

“Galarraga is a quality prospect with a quality arm,” Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a statement. “His acquisition adds depth to our roster, and he is a pitcher we feel will be able to help our club in the future.”

Thing is, Armando Galarraga isn’t exactly what I’d term a prospect any longer, and if so certainly not a top prospect. He started off with the Montreal Expos organization in 1998 as a nondrafted free agent. He did rather well when not injured and injuries continued to be his major issue through even the last few years. He gets a large number of strikeouts, something that followed him to the few innings he pitched in the major leagues but also something that makes him a bit more suited for the bullpen. Additionally, his splits don’t show a major difference between right handed batters and left handed batters but, unfortunately, aren’t great for either as well.

PECOTA (subscription) is far from positive on Armando and the same goes for Chone and ZiPS projections systems which put his projected ERA at 6.25 and 5.65 respectivly. I was surprised to see him selected to fill the rotation instead of other pitchers who Leyland has liked in the past such as Virgil Vasquez, but both have done very well in Toledo thus far.

Tigers will need him to pitch deep since we know that there isn’t the bullpen to continuously fill an entire nine innings.

Posted in Detroit Tigers, Pitching, Roster, Tigers Farm System | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Willis injury will further strain Tiger pitching

Jason GrilliFriday night was a great win for the Tigers, it was also a much needed win for the team. With starter Dontrelle Willis pulled from the game with a hyperextended right knee after 14 pitches, the game outcome looked very much in jeopardy and there wasn’t even an out yet.

Looking back in the crystal ball, having Willis pulled from the game was probably for the best, at least for this particular game. I’d never wish an injury on someone to be pulled from the game but Willis was not pitching well and struggling to find the strike zone even before the injury. The injury, however, might make the win not worth it.

Detroit is not in a good position to handle an extended outage from any of the starters. Billfer from the Detroit Tigers Weblog has outlined some of the possible replacements if it comes to that. Another option was Macay McBride, who the Tigers acquired in a trade for Wil Ledezma last year, was recently lost for the season due to surgery to repair torn ligaments in his elbow. McBride was part of the Tiger bullpen last year but was being moved to a starting role with the Toledo MudHens, likely to handle situations such as the current one.

The bullpen, consisting of Aquilino Lopez, Jason Grilli, Denny Bautista and Todd Jones, pitched the entire game and pitched very well. But with the struggles as of late, the last thing the team wanted was to have them cover a full nine innings. Which makes it all the better that they performed well as not to rely on further bullpen arms.

Posted in 2008 Game Summaries, Detroit Tigers, Pitching, Roster | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Tigers love the base on balls, drop two of three to Boston

Tonight’s battle of the bullpens had a very clear winner: Boston. Detroit’s bullpen, beginning with Zach Miner, was absolutely unable to constantly throw strikes which ended with a total of 10 walks allowed on the night and 12 runs. This was a tough one to watch as Detroit batters battled back to stay in the ball game on a number of occasions only to be letdown by the ‘pen.

While the large number of walks allowed was glaringly obvious tonight, the problem isn’t a new one this year. Going into tonight Detroit pitchers lead the American League with a WHIP (Walks Hits per Inning Pitched) of 1.59, the bullpen had a WHIP of 1.65.

Detroit Tigers 73 78 38 1.59
Chicago White Sox 70 76 33 1.56
Texas Rangers 69 75 30 1.52
Cleveland Indians 77.1 78 34 1.45
Seattle Mariners 85.2 82 40 1.43
Boston Red Sox 78 64 41 1.35
Los Angeles Angels 89 88 29 1.31
Toronto Blue Jays 70 67 25 1.31
Tampa Bay Rays 78 75 26 1.29
Oakland Athletics 82 75 31 1.29
New York Yankees 79 75 27 1.29
Baltimore Orioles 71 58 28 1.21
Minnesota Twins 80 85 11 1.20
Kansas City Royals 72 60 21 1.13

This will get worse after tonights game. While I have no doubt that Tiger hitters will perform up to expectations, it might not matter unless Detroit pitchers can turn around their own issues. When Bostons’ bullpen ran into trouble in the seventh inning they were able to bring in Hideki Okajima to shut down Detroit. When Bostons’ bullpen began bleeding in the eighth inning they were able bring out Jonathan Papelbon stop it. Detroit has no such go-to bullpen pitcher that can be depended upon and this needs to change.

The bullpen must be more than Bobby Seay who can be depended on to get a K against a lefty when needed but not for more than an inning of work. The team cannot wait until the return of either Fernando Rodney or Joel Zumaya, both of whom are making progress.

Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez has a lot of work ahead of him to figure out how some guys who were good Triple-A pitchers, such as Yorman Bazardo, can’t buy an out in the bigs.

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Tigers get good news on Francisco Cruceta

Jason Beck is reporting that Francisco Cruceta has been cleared to travel to the US after missing out on all of Spring Training due to issues gathering a visa. Now he’s off to Lakeland to get warmed up and hopefully be able to provide some value to the team:

He’ll report to Lakeland, where he’ll pick up his throwing and prepare himself for games. Once he reports there, the Tigers have 30 days to evaluate him, after which they’ll have to decide whether to add him to their 25-man roster or outright him, since he’s out of minor-league options.

Cruceta had a good year with the Triple-A Oklahoma RedHawks, a farm team for Texas Rangers. He pitched 65 innings striking out 70 and walking 40 with a 1.19 WHIP. A pitcher who can come in and get a strikeout when needed would truly help this bullpen. Maybe he could replace Jason Grilli in the ‘pen

Posted in Detroit Tigers, Pitching, Roster, Tigers Farm System | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Tigers 2004 Draft Picks: Where are they now?

I did not feel like writing about another miserable game today, so instead I took a look back at some past prospects to see where they are now. Below are the top 3 picks for Detroit in the 2004 draft. As you’ll see, there is quite a bit of hit and miss but one key pick up in this draft.

1) Justin Verlander – I’m sure I don’t have to introduce Justin to everyone. He moved quickly through the Tiger minor league ranks pitching in high-A and double-A ball in 2005 with an impressive 0.90 WHIP. From there, Justin made the Tigers roster as the fifth starter out of Spring Training in 2006.

Signed for a bonus of $3.12M with a total possible payout of $5.6M, Detroit has already gotten an outstanding return.

2) Eric Beattie – A right-handed pitcher out of Tampa, Beattie was signed in the second round and handed a signing bonus of $800,000. Highly touted and carrying an arsenal of a low-90′s fastball and slider he struggled to find control and walked batters at an astounding rate. Beattie

Beattie never made it out of rookie ball for Detroit before being released in March 2007. He was subsequently signed as a minor league free agent by Boston and pitched low-A and A ball. Under Boston’s control, Beattie continued to walk batters allowing a total of 57 in just 29.2 innings pitched. He was released by Boston in October 2007.

3) Jeff Frazier - A right-handed outfielder, Frazier started in the outfield for West Michigan in 2005 before moving onto Lakeland in 2006. He walked very little and didn’t show power in either league and regressed quite a bit in the move to Lakeland. He was traded to Seattle in February 2007 for Yorman Bazardo, who is now with the big league club.

Jeff improved with Seattle playing in high-A and double-A ball and even showed a little bit of power when he was with the High Desert Mavericks. He is now back in the Detroit farm system after being acquired from Seattle for ‘future considerations’. He’s gotten off to a strong start with the Erie Seawolves so far this season.

Posted in Detroit Tigers, Tigers Farm System | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Rough night for Justin Verlander and Detroit

Verlander's bad dayWow, that game was very embarrassing for Tiger batters, pitchers and everyone who took the field. If it weren’t for Joe Crede‘s inability to throw to first base the Tigers might have been shut out, on national tv (ESPN) no less.

Spanning back through 2006, Detroit has been horrible when playing in front of the entire nation, that is if you don’t take the playoffs into count. There isn’t a reason for this but tonight would have been a wonderful night for the teams bats to slug out a few runs. Buerhle was also a good pitcher for it as well but Detroit made him look like Cy Young.

There were a few take aways:

  • Carlos Guillen continues to be a shining part of the lineup. He continues to work every single at-bat and hasn’t been giving up constant easy outs like say… Magglio.
  • Guillen appears to still be uncomfortable at first base. It’s not only with the error in today’s game due to dropping an easy catch, he has played over too far and gone after balls that were really for the second baseman.
  • Third-base Coach Gene Lamont, who is normally very conservative, should never have waved Santiago to third base. It was an obvious very bad call and ended in a ridiculously unnecessary out.
  • Magglio has swung at the first pitch in nearly all of his at-bats and it feels like he is trying to make something happen.
  • Yorman Bazardo was quite a disappointment. In some of the previous games I was hoping they would go with him instead of Miner or Jason Grilli. Oh well.

I don’t leave games early too often but I did tonight. It was cold and there just wasn’t a good game out on the field. Listening to the game on the ride home made me feel good about my decision.

Below are a few pictures from today’s matchup.

Continue reading

Posted in 2008 Game Summaries, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Pitching | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Breaking down D-Train’s first start

Dontrelle WIllis & Miguel CabreraThe first outing in the Detroit uniform for Dontrelle Willis was far from what many had hoped but he likely got off very easy as the damage could have been far worse. It is true that Dontrelle has been regressing drastically in most stats within a pitchers control since his 2005 campaign and had a Spring Training that could only be described as horrendous. Given that, yesterday’s game only proved that he has failed to find his control. A combination of a nice fly-ball friendly Comerica Park, some good defense and impatient opposing batters masked what could otherwise have been a major drubbing.

The optimist would say he threw a one hitter and that a bit of wildness can help a pitcher throw batters off. This is something not even D-Train himself seems to believe:

“I was terrible and that’s pretty much it,” said Willis, obtained from Florida along with Miguel Cabrera in a six-player deal. “But you still have to battle and try and keep your team in the game.”

Outside of the 7 walks allowed (3 of which went to Nick Swisher) over just 5 innings pitched there are a number of other worrisome stats that, while possibly helping Willis during this outing, won’t last for future starts. In yesterday’s start, Willis threw a total of 89 pitches with only 46 of them being for a stike. That means that an astounding 48% of his pitches were balls, this against a team that is not the most patient in the league.

Where some combination of luck, a large park and good defense helped out was with balls that were hit into play. Looking at stats such as BABIP and what happened with balls put into play shows a drastic difference between Willis’s one start and those of the rest of the starters. Below is a breakdown of each Tiger’s first start of the season:

Dontrelle Willis 5 8 1 8 .066
Justin Verlander 10 7 0 0 .216
Jeremy Bonderman 14 9 2 0 .262
Kenny Rogers 11 5 3 0 .279
Nate Robertson 5 7 5 0 .397

One might think that Willis is a fly-ball pitcher from these stats, but he has historically not been such a pitcher as his lifetime GF/FB average is 1.34. Willis coaxed a large number of infield fly balls, which are easily handled, as well as outfield fly balls. The White Sox were struggling to get a good hit and these stats show that but they weren’t giving anything to hit. In reality, against a more patient lineup there should have been a much larger number of walks and a much worse score.

D-Train needs to get his control fixed and quickly.

Posted in 2008 Game Summaries, Detroit Tigers, Pitching | 1 Comment

Francis Beltran joins Tigers big league club

According to the Free Press, RHP Francis Beltran has joined the big league club and Ryan Raburn was sent down to Toledo to make room. This is due to a negative outcome from Fernando Rodney’s latest bullpen session:

Leyland said that when Rodney had his latest bullpen session Friday at the team’s spring-training base in Florida, he had stop to throwing because of pain in his shoulder. Leyland said the news on Rodney “isn’t good at all.”

This, obviously, puts a timely return by Rodney even more in doubt and raises questions of whether he will return at all. Fernando faced shoulder issues through the entire 2007 season which caused major struggles for the first few months. These lingering problems don’t seem to be subsiding so we shouldn’t be surprised if surgery is in his future.

Beltran saw limited action during Spring Training making appearances in 10 games in which he allowed 13 hits and 7 walks with only 5 strikeouts. His ERA was 1.42 but those peripheral stats are not impressive. Beltran has had a long career in the minor leagues after being signed by the Cubs in 1996 but has only seen 61.3 innings in the major leagues. We should keep our expectations low here with the purpose being to allow more rest for the other bullpen pitchers.

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Tigers on National TV & Fundraising Gift

Tiger Fundraising Gift
A couple weeks ago during the a Tigers spring training game against the Indians, FSN Detroit held an auction to raise money for the Detroit Tigers Foundation. There were three auction packages that went for thousands of dollars, but for a $50 dollar donation they would send you a bunch of items:

  • Game-worn Tigers cap.
  • FSN Detroit T-Shirt and pen set.
  • Autographed FSN Rod Allen and Mario Impemba photo.
  • Tigers player photo cards.
  • Comerica Park pencil.
  • Tigers Pride pin.
  • Game Program from inaugural game at Comerica Park.
  • Ticket holder and limited edition pin from inaugural game at Comerica Park.
  • 2005 All Star Game luggage tag and beaded necklace.
  • Tigers sticker, wristband and rally towel.
  • Magglio Ordonez, Joel Zumaya, Curtis Granderson and Carlos Guillen player magnets.

Well, the package arrived today and was well worth it. The money went to the Tiny Tigers, a t-ball club of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan. The game-worn cap we got says ’31′ under it so I’m assuming it belonged to Zach Miner though I’m partial to the Game Program from the inaugural game played at Comerica Park. I wasn’t at the game yet it’s strangely nice to have the memento. My wife is a fan of the Rod & Mario signed pictures.

The Tigers play two games on national television this weekend. They will play on FOX tomorrow at 3:55pm and then on ESPN Sunday at 8:05pm. These will be the first games that I will get to watch for the Tigers on TV and unfortunately it will be Joe Buck (FOX) and Joe Morgan (ESPN) announcing. Ugh. Only a few years ago I would be complaining about the lack of national exposure and now I’d rather watch the game on FSN Detroit.

I will be in attendance at the Sunday evening game to watch Justin Verlander’s second start. I’ll hopefully post some pictures afterward.

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Robertson takes the mound looking for Tigers first win

Nate Robertson on the moundThis season hasn’t started out quite as I had imagined but we’ve only played 1.85% of the games. I’ve had to pretty much keep my radio off on the way into and home from work since talk radio has been rife with second guessing many off-season moves that just days ago were being applauded. After the second loss the Detroit Free Press ran an article that had the following in the title: “don’t panic just yet, but modest concern is OK“. No, even modest concern is not OK just quite yet.

Brandon Inge has been spectacular to start off the year and looked unlike the Inge of 2007. He’s shown great plate discipline through the first couple games, as well as back in Spring Training, and continued to show that he can play nearly any position in the field competently. He’s earned multiple walks and shown power out of the gate, yet Miguel Cabrera is better. This first three-game sweep by the Royals has brought the Inge-supporters out in droves, but nothing has really changed. If anything, Brandon is helping find himself a starting spot elsewhere which can only benefit Detroit later in the season when particular needs are more apparent.

If there is anything to be concerned about it is the one thing that can really hold this team back; injuries. The season has started with many key players out (Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, Curtis Granderson) and now Gary Sheffield is appearing to have as serious problem. There have been some mixed messages in what has been in the crowd, but as Blake points out, it does not sound good. Miguel Cabrera will take Shef’s place in DH today.

Today Nate Robertson will look to carry his successful Spring Training starts into the regular season. For the Chicago White Sox, Jose Contreras will take the mound. If there is any pitcher that the Tiger bats should come alive against, it is Jose. Detroit took him for 26 hits and 4 walks in 18 IP over the 2007 season and slugged .587. He was just bad in ’07 and didn’t look as if he had straightened out at all this past spring.

Game time is 1:05 PM @ Comerica Park.

Posted in 2007 Game Previews, Batting, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers | 2 Comments

Tigers projected pitching matchups for early April

Tigers are starting off the season with a number of divisional match ups against Kansas City and Chicago. These are all games that the team must win because the schedule gets much more difficult going into May and June. Below are a look at the projected starting pitchers through next weekend assuming starting lineups stay consistent. Boston is the most in question with Beckett still out but likely to start on Sunday which would put him not in the Tigers path.

Date Tiger Pitcher Opp. Team Opp. Pitcher       Date Tiger Pitcher Opp. Team Opp. Pitcher
April 2nd Kenny Rogers KCR Brian Bannister   April 8th Kenny Rogers BOS Daisuke Matsuzaka
April 3rd Jeremy Bonderman KCR Zach Greinke   April 9th Jeremy Bonderman BOS Jon Lester
April 4th Nate Robertson CWS Jose Contreras   April 10th Nate Robertson BOS Tim Wakefield
April 5th Dontrelle Willis CWS Gavin Floyd   April 11th Dontrelle Willis CWS Gavin Floyd
April 6th Justin Verlander CWS Mark Buhrle   April 12th Justin Verlander CWS Mark Buhrle
April 7th No Game   April 13th Kenny Rogers CWS Javier Vazquez

The White Sox rotation is probably the most vulnerable and the Tigers hit Boston’s Tim Wakefield last year in the one game they saw him. I’ve heard the story of the season being a marathon and not a sprint, but it’d be real nice to put Cleveland a few games behind from the start.

Posted in 2008 Game Previews, Detroit Tigers | 3 Comments