December 10, 2013
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Following are the one hundred most recent articles for the category Tigers .
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10/28/2013: Marquis Grissom: Mr. October Jr.by Frank Jackson
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10/24/2013: Player-A-Day: Michael Wachaby Brad Johnson
10/23/2013: Earn money watching baseballby Dave Studeman
10/23/2013: Player-A-Day: Jose Iglesiasby Brad Johnson
10/23/2013: 20th anniversary: The Joe Carter gameby Chris Jaffe
10/23/2013: Giants take a risk with Lincecum’s two-year dealby Matt Filippi
10/23/2013: BOB: Nolan Ryan retires…for nowby Brian Borawski
10/22/2013: Where does David Price fit?by Jeff Moore
10/22/2013: Survey says?!?!?by Greg Simons
10/22/2013: ALCS post-mortem: The Fielder playby Shane Tourtellotte
10/21/2013: The best rivalries of 2013by Chris Jaffe
10/21/2013: World Series workhorsesby Frank Jackson
10/20/2013: WPS recap: ALCS, 10/19/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/19/2013: WPS Recap: NLCS, 10/18/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
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October 22, 2013
ALCS post-mortem: The Fielder playIt was the top of the sixth inning in Game Six of the American League Championship Series, and the Detroit Tigers were in a very good position. Victor Martinez had just driven in two runners to put his team up 2-1. He and Prince Fielder were on the corners, and nobody was out. Detroit had a chance for a blowout inning to break the game open, and excellent prospects of at least one more run across to widen its lead. Win Expectancy, depending on your source, hovered somewhere between 79 and 80 percent. Beyond that hovered Justin Verlander, ready to take the ball should Detroit tie the series and force a deciding Game Seven.
Then Jhonny Peralta hit a ground ball, and it all came undone.
You're probably familiar with the play by now, but if you aren't or want a refresher, you can check the replay and follow my summary. The grounder went to Dustin Pedroia at second, who moved into the basepath intending to tag Martinez. Martinez held up, trying to avoid the tag long enough for Fielder to score and Peralta to get to first—but Fielder had stopped midway between third and home. Pedroia caught Martinez as he tried to dodge around on the infield grass, then threw to Jarrod Saltalamacchia at the plate. He ran down Fielder, who barely moved back toward third until the catcher got close, then made a dive that left him several feet short of the bag. Saltalamacchia tumbled over Fielder, making the tag for the double play.
It was a disaster play for the Tigers, though possibly not an absolute one given the four runs Boston would score in the seventh to snatch away the game. Despite Peralta alertly taking second on the rundown, Detroit got nothing more out of the inning. Fielder's base-running brain-lock seems inexplicable: of all the players in baseball, he is probably the last one you want hanging between bases, asking for a rundown.
Obviously he should have done something different. But what, and how much would it have helped?
I decided to take an analytical look at the question, using The Hardball Times' own Win Probability Inquirer. The WPI, in case you haven't used it yourself, can take a combination of bases, outs, inning, score, and run environment, and calculate the Win Probability for that state, as well as the change between that state and another one. I ran some Fielder-related scenarios through the algorithm.
To start, let's orient you with what did happen. The WPI says that before the rundown play, the Tigers had a 79.65 percent chance to win the game. After the double play, that had dropped to 64.61 percent, a drop of 15.02 percentage points. That's a big drop for a single play happening in the middle innings. (This assumes a run environment at Fenway Park of 4.5 runs per team per game. It was 4.56 during the regular season, and the WPI works in half-run increments.)
Fielder could have made two different choices: go all-out for home, or stay at third. We'll look at the aggressive play first.
The worst-case scenario there is that Pedroia still makes the play on Martinez, then throws home to cut Fielder down at the plate, while Peralta has to hold at first. This would drop Detroit's Win Expectancy by 16.28 percentage points. Should he get Martinez but Fielder beats the throw, putting the Tigers up 3-1 with one out, the WE drop is just 1.23 points. Pedroia's play would have to succeed at least 91.6 percent of the time to produce a better play for Boston than what did happen. Watch how long Martinez keeps away from Pedroia, and it won't seem that likely he could pull it off.
Pedroia would have a couple other choices himself. He could forget the elusive Martinez and throw home to nail Fielder, or he could pivot and start a very probable double play. The play at home would drop Detroit's WE by 9.48 points; the double play, by 4.25 points. (This hints that Boston should have been playing in, but that is a much more complex question, one I'll dodge.) Assuming the DP comes off all the time, and that runners don't take extra bases on any rundown that occurs this time, Pedroia would have to throw Fielder out at least 63.7 percent of the time to make coming home the better play. It's pretty obvious from the video that that's the better option.
Pedroia could instead go for the best of both worlds: tag Martinez, then throw to get Fielder coming home. To be better than taking an automatic 4-6-3 double play, this would have to work at least 20.1 percent of the time. Martinez used up vital time dodging Pedroia, around a second and a half. (Time index 0:34 on the video link above.) Fielder got a good distance down the line before holding up while Martinez and Pedroia were still dancing. Had he kept going, he probably scores. At best it's close at home, with the distinct chance that Fielder could jar the ball loose while knocking Saltalamacchia into his own dugout.
No matter what happens as Fielder is coming home, Detroit stands to lose Win Expectancy barring some unlikely defensive misplay. Should Fielder just have hugged third base?
No. Fielder staying at third while Pedroia starts the double play lowers Detroit's WE by 14.50 points, while if Pedroia can only get the force it falls an even six points. Boston would have to turn the two just 40.9 percent of the time to reach break-even against Fielder getting thrown out at home. That DP should easily be 90 percent sure or more, so it's a bigger error for Fielder to stay where he is.
In fact, staying at third for the DP is almost as bad as what he did halting halfway down the line, by 14.5 lost points to 15.02. The reason for this is that, with two outs, a runner on third (Fielder) is not much more valuable than a runner on second (Peralta). Both players come home on very many base hits, and there's no opportunity for a sacrifice fly. According to the Expected Runs Matrix for 2013 at Baseball Prospectus, second with two outs has a Run Expectancy of 0.3054, third with two outs 0.3527. (That is actually a historically wide margin between the two, despite the current low run environment.)
I broke down a play in last year's World Series where Prince Fielder was sent first-to-home rather unwisely on a no-out double. Perhaps Fielder learned the wrong lesson, because in this situation he should have gone aggressively for the plate. Taking off the double play was a greater benefit to his Tigers than getting tagged out was a loss.
If he was heeding the advice of third-base coach Tom Brookens, it would mark the second time in a big postseason spot that coaching misled him, after Gene Lamont sent him against the Giants. Lamont's mistake wasn't critical in what ended up a sweep by San Francisco. Brookens, if he was telling Fielder what to do, made a much more important blunder, but we'll likely never know if that was the case.
The more probable scenario is, it was Prince Fielder's goof, one big enough to draw tittering comparisons to his own weight. He didn't goof on the biggest stage, but he helped insure that his team wouldn't reach that biggest stage this year. With a subpar regular season and a downright weak playoff stretch, Fielder didn't need to give Tigers fans added reasons to start regretting the $200 million-plus contract that brought him to Detroit. But he did.
If that's too depressing a note on which to end this, I can do better. Boston executed when given an opportunity. Do that often enough, and you'll find yourself taking a champagne shower on live television.
Posted by: Shane Tourtellotte
October 05, 2013
WPS recap: LDS, 10/4/2013As busy a day of October baseball as we can have. Opening ceremonies will be cut short so we can move straight to the game action.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Pirates 0 1 2 0 2 0 1 1 0 7 Cardinals 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 (Series tied 1-1) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Pirates 7 31 28 3 14 5 3 1 0 Cardinals 13 4 5 5 8 8 7 1 1 WPS Base: 143.6 Best Plays: 36.6 Last Play: 0.1 Grand Total: 180.3
These aren't just getting boring as baseball games. These are getting boring as examples of what makes a boring baseball game. One team gets ahead early, and never lets the other one get close again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The most interesting thing about this game may have been the wind. It was fooling fielders all day. Deceptively mild-mannered fly balls suddenly took off like Superman and leaped tall fences in a single bound, or sometimes without bounding at all. The final insult was the infield pop that somehow carried past David Freese, letting Marlon Byrd take two bases on his hustle. (He'd score on two productive outs.)
The vaunted St. Louis performance with runners in scoring position deserted the Cardinals today. Pittsburgh shut them down, zero for five. The bigger part of the story was that the Pirates allowed them so few RISP opportunities.
With three other games to cover, I won't burn many more bits on this one. It does put Pittsburgh squarely back in the series, which puts the legions of Pirates fans squarely into the action for Game Three on Sunday. From what we heard from them in the Wild Card knockout game last Tuesday, that should be worth our attention.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Rays 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 Red Sox 0 0 0 5 3 0 0 4 X 12 (Red Sox lead series 1-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Rays 5 15 5 24 5 2 1 4 0 Red Sox 12 11 6 76 14 0 0 0 X WPS Base: 181.1 Best Plays: 38.7 Last Play: 0.0 Grand Total: 219.8
This game had some actual juice, at least for an inning, because it had something the previous six in this series did not: a lead change. A bizarre lead change, but a thorough one that turned the spigot of excitement right back off by the next inning. I will get to the original inning in a bit.
Once again, we see how deceptive early impressions can be. Jon Lester strikes out the side to open the game—he actually struck out his first four batters—but gave up a home run in the second, and another in the fourth, to pop the bubble of invincibility. His counterpart Matt Moore didn't allow a hit through three, sparking that idle hope in the bosoms of myriad baseball fans. And then the fourth inning happened to him.
The Tampa Bay Rays are known these days as a smart team, smart in the front office, in the dugout, and on the field. But their defense in the fourth inning wound up two steps behind on every big play. Wil Myers let David Ortiz's deep fly ball drop for a ground-rule double. With the score tied, they let Jonny Gomes score from second on Stephen Drew's dribbler to first base. Then Sean Rodriguez overran Will Middlebrooks' ball hitting off the Green Monster and had it ricochet behind him, letting Drew score. Then catcher Jose Lobaton's dropped third strike kept the inning alive long enough for a fifth Boston run.
It was almost like midnight had struck, and they had turned back into the Devil Rays. It was also time for the big trend of the playoffs to resume, as Fenway fans began the derisive chant of Myyyyy-errrrrs! What hath Pirates fans wrought!
There was immediate suspicion that the Boston bullpen had coached Myers off the fly ball that he had lined up, then pulled away to watch bounce over the fence. Myers said otherwise: "I saw Des [Desmond Jennings] out of the corner of my eye and backed off. It was totally my fault." I'll take him at his word, that he's not covering by obeying the unwritten baseball rule that you don't talk about your opponents disobeying the unwritten rules (it makes you look whiny).
Then there's that other unwritten rule: Don't show up the other team by stealing in the late innings with a big lead. Jacoby Ellsbury did that in the eighth, his Red Sox up 8-2, on the way to piling on four more runs. That's something else the Rays may just have to shrug off.
But if David Ortiz takes a heater off his elbow tomorrow, we may have seen a reason or two why today.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Dodgers 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 Braves 0 1 0 1 0 0 2 0 X 4 (Series tied 1-1) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Dodgers 22 13 14 15 7 27 43 29 40 Braves 5 25 5 31 5 4 30 3 X WPS Base: 317.1 Best Plays: 49.9 Last Play: 7.5 Grand Total: 374.5
Yes! Finally! Thank you! It may not have been a great game, but it was a good game. It stayed close all the way through the middle innings; when one team finally leaped out to a multi-run lead, the other came back immediately to close the gap; even scoreless innings had enough action to hold a spectator's interest. The highest Win Percentage Added play of the game, in fact, was the double play that got Atlanta out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh.
The pivotal play that most may remember is Atlanta substitute catcher Gerald Laird throwing out pinch-runner Dee Gordon on a ninth-inning steal attempt that quelled an L.A. rally. The play was awfully close: Shortstop Andrelton Simmons had his glove on Gordon's back as the ball was arriving, but it came off about the time the ball went into the glove. To my eyes, he had the ball and contact; to others, it wasn't clear-cut at all. That one could be picked over for a long time, depending on whether the Dodgers wish they had this game back.
After the Myyyyy-errrrrs! affair in Boston, it was good to hear a brief positive chant in Atlanta. Freddie Freeman, being talked up by the announcers as an MVP candidate, got a nice Fred-die! from the hometown folks early in the game, though it wasn't repeated, as Mr. Myers' chant was.
Craig Kimbrel came on for a four-out save, his first ever in the postseason, which gives me a chance to make an observation about him. In his three-plus seasons with the Braves, Kimbrel has recorded 139 regular-season saves, with 50 this year. If he stays healthy, there is every reason to believe he will have over 40 next year and put his career total past 180.
And at the end of the 2014 season when he does that, he will still be younger than Mariano Rivera was when he got his first major-league save. At 652 lifetime saves, Mariano is the king, but it may be that the heir is already among us. A lot of things have to go right for Kimbrel, but it would be tough to get off to a better start on the long chase.
Game 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 F Tigers 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 A's 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 (Detroit leads series 1-0) WPS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Tigers 38 2 4 5 4 6 2 9 3 A's 4 16 8 4 4 10 33 26 17 WPS Base: 195.8 Best Plays: 39.3 Last Play: 3.9 Grand Total: 239.0
And we go right back to the old pattern, with a moderate variation near the end. If you watched the Dodgers and Braves to the final pitch, took a quick bathroom break, then tuned into the Tigers and A's, you missed the Detroit offense. They jumped on Bartolo Colon early, then fizzled out as though exhausted by the effort. Oakland closed the gap in the seventh on Yoenis Cespedes' home run, so the last few innings were less of a WPS drought. The damage was done, though, and could have been undone only by a stirring comeback. The A's didn't have that in them.
Max Scherzer broke the recent pattern of pitchers dominating in the first inning, then coming unwound soon after. He compiled nine strikeouts through five innings, 11 for all seven that he pitched, and was one-hitting the A's after six. Colon did settle down after the first, holding Detroit scoreless the next five innings, so he completely reversed the pattern.
An idle thought crossed my mind as I watched Colon face Prince Fielder: Is this the greatest combined weight of pitcher and batter ever to face each other in the majors? Probably not. I think CC Sabathia has the edge in mass on Colon, or at least did at one time. CC, though, looks big and solid, but Bartolo is just sloppy fat.
There was a weak "MVP!" chant for Josh Donaldson when he first came to bat. Given the presence of Cabrera on the same field, the weakness can be understood.
Miguel Cabrera is obviously hurting. A ball he hit in the eighth inning went off Donaldson's glove at third. For most batters, this would have meant reaching on an error, but Donaldson calmly tracked down the ball, threw to first, and still got Cabrera by a couple of steps. If his hitting is as badly affected—and the announcers watching his plate technique believed so—he may actually be an impediment to the Tigers right now.
Jhonny Peralta, back from his Biogenesis suspension, pinch-hit in the ninth inning. The Oakland fans gave him a lusty round of boos. The same Oakland fans whose starting pitcher that night had been one-time suspended PED user Bartolo Colon. I reserve further comment.
So it took four games today, but we finally got a pretty good one. One hopes it won't take another quadruple-header to produce a fun one, but if we need it, we've got it. Pittsburgh and Atlanta evened up their series today, meaning all four series will be playing on Monday. So we get to do this again in three days!
Sleep? What's that? You can sleep in November.
Posted by: Shane Tourtellotte
November 14, 2012
How baseball failed Phil CokePhil Coke played a major role in Detroit's rise to the World Series in 2012: Tigers manager Jim Leyland turned to him as the closer over the unstable Jose Valverde. However, his career in the big leagues almost never happened. According to Jonah Keri's column in Grantland, Coke was heading down pink slip lane:
Coke made his short-season debut in 2003 in the Gulf Coast League, returned the next season, and ran into the first of his bouts with elbow trouble. He finally got a clean shot at starting the next year … and was terrible, posting a 5.42 ERA, giving up 122 hits, and striking out just 68 batters in 103 innings in Class A at Charleston of the South Atlantic League. He wasn't throwing hard enough, wasn't hitting his spots, and above all else, was trying too hard, letting his wrestler's mentality affect his emotions and his pitching.
Coke's velocity was too poor to get advanced hitters out, and the lack of velocity made him nibble instead of challenging guys, which tends to reduce your velocity, which means you have to hit your spots... it's a never-ending cycle that leads to being released rather quickly. (Read Dirk Hayhurst's books for evidence of the same phenomenon: the mental adjustment from level to level is huge.)
Coke had to turn to outside help for assistance—finding an alternative trainer who dared to think outside the box:
His career at a crossroads, Coke sought the help of a training guru named Adrian Crook. Crook's teaching was grounded in Shaolin kung fu. For Crook, the goal of Shaolin was to develop flexibility, balance, and core strength as the pillars for training athletes in any sport. By becoming more flexible, Crook believed athletes could recover from even the most intense workouts and dramatically lower their injury risk. In training baseball pitchers, the focus would be on dissecting every element of throwing mechanics, right down to what the fingers and the wrists do. Crook's pitcher pupils would use weighted balls to exercise each part of the arm and hand, via what he called "ridiculously high reps." Coke loved these ideas and was eager to start training with Crook immediately.
The sentence that stuck out for me was the "ridiculously high reps" quote. Modern baseball pitchers are taught that "you’ve only got so many bullets in your arm." (Former Blue Jays' GM JP Riccardi)
As Peter Brand (yes, I know who it's supposed to be) from Moneyball says, "baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions." Questions like: "How many pitches has he thrown? How far did he throw his long toss? Did he touch weighted baseballs in the offseason? How much does he bench?"
Overuse isn't the problem; undertraining the arm is the real issue. Coke's velocity went from 87-88 mph to 94-95 mph after he exposed his arm to "overuse" through "ridiculously high reps" and he's been extremely durable, going to the DL only for a bone bruise on his foot.
Baseball definitely needs to preserve the arms of its most valuable assets—cost-controlled studly pitchers—but wrapping them in plastic and curtailing their throwing programs isn't the way. Think of it this way: Throwing a baseball is the only activity where we tell people to do less of it to get better at it.
It's not overuse. It's undertraining. Asking your best pitchers to step up in the highest leverage situations without adequately preparing them is the best way to abuse their arms.
Posted by: Kyle Boddy
October 23, 2012
A few playoff nuggets
— How have the Tigers and Giants fared against each other in previous postseason encounters? Actually, they've never faced one another in the playoffs. Heading into the League Championship Series, this was the only one of the four potential World Series match-ups that never had happened before.
The Yankees and (New York and San Francisco) Giants have met seven times (1921, '22, '23, '36, '37, '51, '62), with the Bronx Bombers holding a 5-2 advantage. The Cardinals and Yankees have faced off five times (1926, '28, '42, 43, '64), with St. Louis winning three titles. The Cardinals and Tigers have squared off three times (1934, '68, 2006), with the Cards emerging victorious twice.
— Could we be watching both Most Valuable Players in this year's Fall Classic? Buster Posey seems to be the favorite in the National League, while Miguel Cabrera has a strong shot in the American League if those nerdy stats geeks focus just on the numbers.
You know, the Triple Crown, which contains one category (home runs) of obvious value, another (batting average) that is worthwhile in limited situations, and a third (RBI) that has as much to do with the guys hitting in front of a player as with that player's actually ability.
— The Giants are the second team in history to win three do-or-die games twice is a single postseason, joining the 1985 Royals. Kansas City came back from 3-1 deficits against Toronto in the ALCS and St. Louis in the World Series. As we just witnessed, San Francisco overcame a 2-0 hole in this year's best-of-five NLDS against Cincinnati and rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS.
— In its four League Championship Series wins, San Francisco outscored St. Louis, 27-2. The Cardinals and Yankees combined to score eight runs in their eight LCS losses, with New York looking like a relative powerhouse by plating six runners.
— The Redbirds are the first team to lose four playoff series after having a three-games-to-one lead. They also were the first, and still only, team to lose in three such scenarios. In addition to this season and the '85 World Series mentioned above, St. Louis dropped the 1968 championship to Detroit and the '96 NLCS to Atlanta.
— Boston is the only team to overcome a 3-1 series deficit three times, including the remarkable comeback from a 3-0 hole versus New York in the 2004 ALCS. The Red Sox also rallied against the Angels in the '86 American League Championship Series and the Indians in the 2007 ALCS.
The Royals the Pirates have achieved this feat twice each. KC's triumphs were mentioned above, while Pittsburgh defeated the Washington Senators in the 1925 World Series and Baltimore in the '79 Fall Classic.
Posted by: Greg Simons
May 31, 2012
Magglio Ordonez career highlightsThe news broke earlier this week. Longtime White Sox and Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez decided to call it a career. He suffered an ankle injury in last year’s postseason and had gone unsigned by any team since then, so it makes sense that he’s decided to retire.
Now that his career is officially over, it makes sense to look back at his career. Below is a list of his career highlights. They are his personal bests and worsts, the most memorable and greatest contests he appeared in, his milestone moments, and various other oddities and notable moments he was on hand for.
Here it is, in chronological order.
Click for more...
Posted by: Chris Jaffe
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