Tondar's Daily Rant

Prepare yourself for the writings of Tondar the Destroyer, Baron of Atlanta, Rightful Heir to the Throne of Spain, from whom all babies come. As his will be blogged, so let it be done.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

HEY TIGER TOWN, WHA HAPPENED?

Seth reflects on the Tigers getting their first win after starting 0-7...

Baseball, more than any other sport, really allows statistics to do its thing, since it takes place over such a large sample. That also means you're going to get huge outliers.

The strange thing is, when you're in an outlier, it can feed itself. Winning teams are never as good as they look, and losing teams are never as bad as they look, but you don't remember that when you're in it. Those streaks mean the extremes get overrepresented over a season.

Right now, our top hitters are not hitting. That will change. I don't think Magglio and Cabrera will hit under .200 all year, do you? Sheffield gets off to slow starts -- that's nothing new. I've never seen so many guys start so cold. But if you recall, last year a lot of these guys started cold, too, and Magglio ended up winning the batting title. The difference was we were getting better pitching, and finding ways to score enough. This year, the starters are basically doing what you can expect from them, but they leave with two men on in the 6th inning, and EVERY TIME, the bullpen lets those runs score.

I went to Dontrelle's first game (Game 5) and saw this struggle in a microcosm. Willis was walking guys, but he was also pitching a no-hitter. This is a pure sign of "I don't trust the defense." Well, he had reason. Guillen needs more work at 1st base than we realized. Cabrera, well, he's been just fine, except he's not Inge. As for Inge -- G-d love the guy he's doing the best he can, but you can't step in and play defense like Granderson. In fact, nobody can, because only Torrii Hunter and Willie Mays know how to play centerfield like Granderson, especially in quirky ballparks like Comerica and Fenway.

The bullpen, though, is a REAL concern. We knew it was shaky going in, but I thought I'd see better from Grilli, who pitched well in '06 when nobody but me and Leyland were looking, but lets the pressure get to him Baaaaad. What was he doing shaking off Pudge's calls in Game 1 vs. the Bosox? What? Does he have another pitch besides a fastball? What was the disagreement on fastball outside? He was waiting as long as he could between pitches, which said to me that he didn't trust his stuff. I was willing to let him work through it, but I think that's not going to happen. He's ruined. Grilli's gotta go. But who else is back there? None of these guys are consistent, and if you look at the 2006 team, the secret winner of that team was the bullpen was OUTSTANDING.

Polanco looked really twisted up at first, but I saw in Game 7 that Leyland's advice was getting through, and I think he's now turning the corner.

Putting Pudge in the leadoff spot was criticized on the radio this morning, but I think it was brilliant (and wrote Sean Belegian to tell him so). Funny: last time the Tigers had a bad losing streak, in 2005, I pulled a Billy Martin and had my editor pick the names out of a hat to make the lineup. Here's what we came up with:

1. Magglio Ordonez, RF
2. Ivan Rodriguez, C
3. Brandon Inge, 3B
4. Craig Monroe, LF
5. Carlos Guillen, SS
6. Nook Logan, CF
7. Rondell White, DH
8. Placido Polanco, 2B
9. Chris Shelton, 1B


I wrote at the time, however, that I would switch that around and have Pudge bat first. This is because I think he pushes when there's runners on base, and this leads to groundball outs. But when the bases are empty, when he's patient, he gets a lot of extra-base hits. How many times in the last few years has he driven in two runs? Now think how many times he led off an inning with a double? He's also a very savvy baserunner. Well, the object of your leadoff man is to get on base, get into scoring position, and score. Pudge may not do that the Ricky Henderson way, but his method is effective enough in the absence of a real table-setter like Granderson.

And who else will you give it to? You don't want to change up what Inge is doing. And the leadoff spot was not good for Renteria, whose bat showed up last night as soon as he was moved back to the back end of the lineup. Polanco, well, the way he's been hitting he's not a leadoff guy by any stretch, and when he wakes up again, you know he's one of the best RBI guys out there. And Jacque Jones, apparently, needed more than a change of scenery, since he looks just like his crummy Cubs days right now.

I think the hitting will come around. But the bullpen, well, when you have guys who you thought were mediocre, and they're playing bad, well, that's within the +/-. In other words, they may just be bad.

The starters, though, are fine. They're pushing in late innings because they don't trust the bullpen, and half of the runs they've allowed have been after they left the game. Is there any rotation in the league you'd rather have than Verlander/Rogers/Bonderman/Robertson/Willis? Didn't think so.

Tonight gets harder again, though. Wakefield is going against Nate, and you know how Wake's knuckleball can flutter in the cold. I hope the meaty guys get to him early and get Robertson some run support, because as much as I like Bulldog, no lefty can last forever against the right-handed monsters in Boston.

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