Sunday, May 4, 2008

Jim Leyland Knows Baseball

Twins 4, Tigers 1
Twins 7, Tigers 6


Ha! How satisfying to watch the Tigers bullpen get battered around a couple of times this weekend, after they'd been so good for 2 weeks. And how satisfying to see the Twins 'pen do their job, allowing just 1 R in 11 IP. The wheel keeps turning, and this weekend the Twins were on top.

The pitching staff faced considerable adversity this weekend. What a job by Brian Bass, earning his first Major League win with 4 terrific innings of relief after Scott Baker tweaked his groin. Again. He may have just won himself the opportunity to spot-start against Boston next weekend. Boof Bonser hung in there after a nightmare first inning in which the Tigers managed to find holes on good pitches, strike out on good pitches and reach anyway, run the bases. 45 pitches in the first, yet Boof still managed to complete 6 IP, allowing no further damage. (Amazingly, Brian Duensing of the Red Wings also gave up 6 runs in the first inning then pitched into the 6th, and he was facing the Tigers' AAA team. What are the chances?)

Joe Mauer carried the team all weekend, reaching at least twice in every game. His double off Kenny Rogers in the 4th on Sunday broke up the perfect game, and he came around to score a run. His single in the 7th was the difference in the game. I love it - but when are the homers coming?

As unlucky as the Twins were in the 1st inning, they got plenty of breaks themselves in the winning rally, starting with Carlos Guillen's fielding error on what should have been the 3rd out. Gomez chopped an IF hit, and after Harris' ground-rule double (the only bad break of the inning), Mauer's single bounced just out of reach of 3 fielders. 4 runs they had no business scoring - I love it!

The Wisdom of Jim Leyland

Jim Leyland wisely criticized his offense for allowing Bonser to stay in the game so long, calling attention to how the 5-pitch 2nd inning Bonser had let him off the hook. Sounds like something I would say.

Where he's gone wrong this season is in his use of Justin Verlander, who is so far showing splits reminiscent of Boof's 2007: he's dynamite for 5-6 IP, then goes out to start one more inning even though he's over 90 pitches and gets walloped.

Opening Day: 2 ER in 6 IP, faces 2 batters in the 7th, both score. 3.00 ERA becomes 6.00.
April 12th: 1 ER in 7.1 IP, then BB, HBP, single load the bases. At this point, he's at 102 pitches. He stays in for 3 more batters (including lefty AJ Pierzynski) and ends up giving up 6 ER in 7.2 IP. 1.23 ERA becomes 7.05.
April 27th: 2 ER in 5 IP, tagged for 4 ER in the 6th. 3.60 ERA becomes 9.54.
Saturday: 2 ER in 6 IP, he comes out for the 7th even though he's at 99 pitches. His old buddy Craig Monroe follows a 4-pitch walk to Delmon Young (that should have told Leyland something right there) with a 2-run HR. 3.00 ERA becomes 5.14.

His WHIP is excellent, then all of a sudden there are walks, hit batters, extra-base hits. And there's Leyland leaving him in there for 2 or 3 more hitters. If Verlander were playing for Gardy, I bet his ERA would be in the 4.00s instead of the 6.00s.

Leyland has been quoted as saying there will be a drastic shakeup to the Tigers lineup. Carlos Guillen has made 3 errors in 6 games at 3B, not a huge step up from Cabrera's 5 E in 14 games there. Meanwhile, Brandon Inge, an excellent defensive 3B, sits on the bench. The Jacque Jones/Marcus Thames platoon is the one consistently weak spot in their lineup.

If I were Leyland, I'd consider this: put Gary Sheffield in LF, make Cabrera the DH, bring Guillen back to 1B, and reinstate Inge as the regular 3B. I doubt Sheffield could be as much of a liability in left as Cabrera/Guillen have been at third. And I doubt Inge could be any more disappointing a hitter than Thames/Jones have been. He at least can get on base (14 BB in 101 PA vs. 12 BB in 135 PA for Thames/Jones). If the Tigers had solid defense with a legit on-base threat in the #9 spot, they might start to reach their potential.

Span vs. Gomez

Gomez had 2 ABs on Sunday with men in scoring position: with Punto on 3rd and one out in the 5th, he hit the ball straight up, and Punto was stranded. With runners at the corners and 2 out in the 7th, he hit the ball straight down, and legged it out for an RBI infield hit, extending the rally. I hope he learns something from that. His recent hot streak has improved his line to .271/.297/.374, a .671 OPS through 26 games. He's 13/14 stealing bases and has scored 17 R.

Span picked up his first XBH since spring training today. He has reached in every game he's started for Rochester this season. He's hitting .279/.404/.302, a .706 OPS through 11 games. He's 8/10 stealing bases and has scored 9 R.

No comments: