A marriage between Tigers and destiny not too far off

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By H. Jose Bosch

Last night, the Tigers did something they’ve struggled to do in the last month of the season: beat an inferior opponent to a pulp. And this three-game winning streak has given me a little extra hop in my step.

Not so much because the Twins’ 2-1/2 game deficit is now insurmountable. But because in the last three games the Tigers’ strengths — the only way they can win down the stretch and (knock on wood) in the playoffs — were showcased in those three wins.

For the Detroit to be successful in the stretch run, they have to follow the standard advice for every wedding planner in America: Something old, something new, Something borrowed, something blue.

Something old:
The best part about last night’s win might be Carlos Guillen’s home run from the right side of the plate (the home run from the left side wasn’t too bad either.) Not that Guillen is going to be an Albert Pujols from the right side. And Detroit isn’t in dire need of pop from the right side since Miguel Cabrera has that covered.

Tigers Indians BaseballBut just the fact that Guillen’s right shoulder is healthy enough for him to actually be a switch hitter is a great sign for the Tigers. The healthier he is, the more potent Detroit’s pretty weak lineup becomes. He, like Magglio Ordonez, may not have as much pop in the bat but they’re veterans who know how to get on base. And late in the season, base runners are always at a premium.

Other Tiger vets — Brandon Inge, Placido Polanco, Fernando Rodney and Nate Robertson among others — will play a major role and all of them have been having good, not great, years. Well, maybe not Robertson, but his win Sunday was huge.

Something new:
Rick Porcello shined last night and continues making a case for American League rookie of the year. His success down the stretch, and whether or not he can hold up as his innings keep piling on, could make or break Detroit in the end. He’s essentially the 2006 Justin Verlander of this team.

Another player who could make an impact is Alex Avila. He hasn’t made much noise since he roared onto the scene in mid-August but his left-handed bat is a tactical tool for Leyland in late-game situations.

Something borrowed:
Edwin Jackson, Adam Everett and Gerald Laird are the biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s. Everett and Laird contributed to the Tigers’ offensive impotence but greatly improved their defense. Jackson has helped compensate for the lack of offense by being an awesome pitcher.

Jackson had struggled in September, but his seven-inning gem on Tuesday is a small return to form. Detroit needs his arm as much as Verlander’s. edwin_jackson

Something blue:
Yeah, nothing really works here, so I’ll use this as an excuse to talk about the bullpen, who was clutch in Sunday’s 6-2 win over the Twins. Verlander and Jackson can eat up innings in the final two weeks, but whoever pitches in slots three through five will need help. Brandon Lyon, Bobby Seay and Rodney might actually be feared relievers this October.

Just like any wedding, I just want this season to end so I can get to the free bar and celebrate. But before that happens Detroit should make sure not to trip on its way down the proverbial aisle.

This post also appears at Michigan and Trumbull.

Don’t expect the same magic from 2006: Tigers exchange

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By Dave Boucher and H. Jose Bosch

[Editor’s note: This exchange began shortly after Detroit took two out of three in Los Angeles and before the Tigers pooped themselves in Kansas City. Some of the comments have been altered to be more timely.]

HJB-Just when Tiger fans were biting their nails over Detroit’s awful road record, they took two out of three from the Angels followed by a series split with the Tampa Bay Rays. Then Detroit didn’t look back and began September with a six game winning streak. After sweeping the Rays and being swept by the Royals, the Tigers have three road series left, all within the division. Can they go over .500 on the road in September and will it be necessary to win the division?

DB-Not only will Detroit go over .500 on the road for the rest of the season, they should take almost every series they play away from Comerica. Besides the next road trip to Tampa Bay, they get the Royals, Twins, Indians and Sox. I don’t even need to address the Royals series, and the Sox have more than struggled over the last couple of weeks. The Indians are 4-12 against the Tigers for the season; that leaves the Twins. They’re the only team that has enough talent to make the chase for the division tight. That doesn’t mean they will though: they have practically the same schedule as Detroit, with less offense and even shakier pitching. The two remaining series between the teams will be the deciding factor for the A.L. Central race. Look for the Twins to make up a little ground, but to fall short as Detroit stays at the top in September.
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HJB- One trend I’ve noticed the last month of the season is that Edwin Jackson hasn’t been quite as sharp as he was through most of the year. Since the beginning of August opposing hitters are hitting .291 against him and his ERA was 4.83. Granted his record during that time was 5-3, so he’s giving the team a chance to win every time he goes out there. My next question is this: Will this be acceptable in the playoffs where runs are usually at a premium?

DB-No, Jackson is definitely going to need to reacquaint himself with control if the Tigers want to advance into the playoffs. After the abysmal series against the Royals though, it brings up two new questions for me: When we need to go to the bullpen in the sixth inning, who do we turn to? Zach Minor obviously can’t handle the pressure, and the rest of the relief has shown problems as well. Do we drop one of the starters into the pen once the playoffs begin. Along those lines, what teams in the playoffs do you see Detroit succeeding against, and which present problems? Other than the Yankees, of
course…

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HJB-All the Tigers need in the postseason pitching wise is Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, Jarrod Washburn and Rick Porcello in that order. Leyland might even get crazy and just rotate three pitchers. Personally, I think that’s Detroit’s best chance at winning in the post season. As for opponent, Detroit really doesn’t match up well with anyone on paper. They’ll probably play the Yankees and what can I say: on paper, Detroit is screwed. New York has a stronger lineup and a stronger pitching staff. Now, in 2006 the Yankees were heavily favored and still lost. But this Tiger team is much worse than the 2006 team. That team was really good but had a terrible second half of the year. This team is just mediocre.

What do you think Dave?

DB-I think you’re exactly right with the Tigers rotation. The pitching staff is key to any team advancing in the playoffs, but Detroit needs absolutely stellar performances from their aces to contend. I would even consider moving Porcello to the bullpen and working with a three man rotation. That way you could bring the rookie or Nate Robertson in as great relief after getting six or seven innings from your best hurlers.

We really, really need some offense as well. I think the pitchers will come out and play, but if guys like Inge, Cabrera and Magglio don’t swing the bat, they have absolutely no chance. When it comes down to it, I would love to see these guys belting balls into the bleachers as the D-Town cats proceed to the series. But it just won’t happen. They need the perfect storm of production from every on the team to succeed, and they still might not be able to make it by the Yankees. The sad and sorry truth: the Bronx Bombers may just be too good.

Fernando Rodney: Bad For Your Health, Good for the Tigers

That's the same look on my face whenever Rodney walks a batter

By:  H. Jose Bosch

For three years prior to this season, the Detroit Tigers relied upon closer  Todd Jones. Well, if by relied upon you also mean suffered through. His performances were so vomit-inducing; he even earned the moniker “The Roller Coaster.” And if he hadn’t looked like any of the fat slobs who play in a softball beer league (a.k.a. any of us), we probably would’ve been angrier with him.

 

Todd Jones is a nice jolly guy, a baseball Santa Claus if you will, and we dealt with it. At least we thought we were dealing with it. In reality he was getting the job done much more often than not.

 

Is that camouflage or a minor league uniform?

Is that camouflage or a minor league uniform?

 

From 2006-2008 he saved 86-percent of his games. The American League average over that time was roughly 67-percent. The gold standard, Mariano Rivera, saved games at a 93-percent clip.

 

So, despite the stomach-turning, we were pretty lucky to have Jones around. Now we’re Jones-less but there is still plenty of drama thanks to Fernando Rodney.

 

Rodney is in his first season as a full-time closer. As of now, you can’t ask him to be any better: 19-for-19 in save opportunities. But man he makes it interesting and at times, nerve wracking. As pleased as I am with his ability to close the game out, even if it takes a few batters, I still have the same doubts I did when Jones took the hill. My biggest question: can any team win a championship with such an up-and-down closer?

 

The Yankees’ dynasties in the late 90’s and early 00’s showed us the benefit of a lockdown closer (Rivera). The Angels had K-Rod, the Marlins had Ugueth Urbina. Boston had Keith Foulke and Jonathan Papelbon. Chicago relied on Bobby Jenks while the Phillies could call on Brad Lidge. I would love to have a Mariano Rivera but I’d also love to be dating Marissa Miller. We can’t have everything.

 

braun-and-marissa

 

All of the above teams had closers people regard as the best in the league. All of them have World Series Championships. Of course it’s not a sure thing. The 2006 Cardinals didn’t need a strong closer in that series and Byung-Hyun Kim was anything but clutch for the Diamondbacks in 2001. But that’s two series out of the last ten where the winner didn’t have a great closer.

I’m done with my statistical analysis/breakdown. Even if history is not on the Tigers side, I’m going to make up for all the Todd Jones bashing I have been guilty of for three years.

 

I’m going to appreciate a good thing the Tigers have going. I can only watch one game at a time.  Watching the opposing team execute a two-out walk or a lead-off hit in the ninth inning of a one-run game can be tough to put into perspective. But when Rodney & company finally get three outs and the Tigers win, I should be thankful.

 

Rodney will go out and get the job done, even if it kills us all. I’m just going to enjoy it. The more games he has to save, means the more games Detroit is winning.