Posted on: May 8, 2009 12:30 pm

What a Bunch of Head Cases

I'm sick and tired of hearing about it.  The excuses.  The explanations.  The debate about the Hall of Fame.  I hate hearing every day, it seems, about PEDs, steroids, and HGH by athletes across the board in both amateur and professional sports.  But, this issue is here to stay.  As more digging and reporting is made, we all need to prepare for once-hallowed names being bandied about as part of the "Steroid Generation" of athletes.

The current fiasco about Manny Ramirez centers on the substance he used "for health issues".  Apparently, this is widely taken for testosterone production, especially in recovering from sterioid use.  Alright, so the guy got caught.  The question most are trying to answer is, Why?  Why does a talented, gifted athlete have a need to get to the next level, when he or she is on the top already?

Immortality.  They don't ever want to come down off the top tier of the ladder.  As age creeps up, sometimes the physical stamina and skills slow or even have the bottom drop out.  That is scary for someone always regarded at the top of his selected profession.  That, to me, is a factor in the decision to do or take whatever is available at the time to keep the edge for one more game, one more series, one more season.  Maybe that's why Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire could be impelled to sacrifice what they accomplished in the past for one more glorious run.

Being naive.  Some athletes reportedly don't want to know what their athletic trainers and advocates are recommending as part of their regimen.  Do you blame them?  Having the question posed, 'Did you knowingly take a performance enhancing substance', who in their right mind would want to say yes.  Well, I suppose they could lie about it.  Ask Roger Clemens how that route ends up for you.

Inferiority complex.  Some have been belittled from youth on up that they would never be good enough.  Never good enough in the eyes of their parents, their coach, their team, their sport, or their country.  That is a lot of pressure.  Some just can't handle that, so feel inclined to speed up their skill and power level artificially.  What if they are already regarded at an elite level in their sport?  It doesn't matter if you always have the need to be better, faster, stronger and more capable than where you currently are.  There is always that inner drive to go one more mile, get a little faster, be a little better.

It doesn't matter to me what the reports or the soundbites during interviews reveal for the reason, the thought-process or the excuses given for using these substances.  Cutting to the chase, the individuals have issues.  Deep, personal issues that drive them to do this.  Until that is addressed effectively for each person involved, this will continue to be the norm in sports.  That's how I see it, anyway.
Posted on: May 8, 2009 11:38 am

Strength Amidst Weakness - Part II

The Tigers have made some significant roster movements in the past 24 hours.  They are hoping to find renewed strength in all of the weaknesses with their pitching rotation.  Right now, it seems that their latest baffling dilemma is their woeful lack of hitting.  That will be addressed in a later blog.  First off, let's examine the current developments regarding some pitchers that I have rated as a minus thus far this season.

It's Time to Find Out

Manager Jim Leyland commented Thursday this week on the current status of left handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis.  He stated:

"He can't benefit any (more) from pitching" in the minors.

In two starts with AAA Toledo, Willis struck out eight and walked six.  His latest outing saw him pitch 7-2/3 innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits.  His fastball was clocked between 89-93 MPH.  His breaking ball and changeup were good.  Leyland was quoted as stating that Willis' pitches are "pretty much around the plate all the time."  By the way, he threw 118 pitches in that outing, losing the game 2-1.

"The basic report was they think it's time", the manager said.  He added:  "It's time to find out.  I think that's good.  We'll find out...It's a huge thing for us.  I hope he's really good, because a real good left-hander in the rotation would be very good for us.  I'm certainly optimistic.  Regardless, I think it's definitely time to find out."

Finding out just how far D-Train has come, and if he can still be successful at the Major League level becomes a reality next week.  It was announced yesterday that Dontrelle Willis will join the team in Cleveland, and be activated to make his first start of the season for Detroit on May 13th against the Minnesota Twins.  His last victory came on September 25, 2007 for the Florida Marlins

The minor league pitching coordinator for the Tigers, Jon Matlack observed that Willis has done "a lot of encouraging things."

What are the expectations for this pitcher, trying to find his way back to the major leagues and "find himself" again?  Leyland, in no uncertain terms, expects Willis to pitch and win games.  We expects him to do well and contribute as a Major League Baseball starting pitcher, and feels he has a good chance to do so.

Willis' agent, Matt Sosnick commented on how his client is managing the challenges that has kept him down in the minors thus far.

"He's pretty confident that - whatever the issue was - he is back and his stuff is good enough to have success in the big leagues."  He further stated:  "He has been convinced that he was having a hard time relaxing when it came to pitch, and it got progressively worse.  Now he's figured out a way to relax his mind. 

"He's done absolutely everything he could to get back.  The Tigers have surrounded him with a great group of people.  They've done as much as a team could do to get a return on their investment.  We have every expectation that he's going to be successful."

I hope so.  The team can use any positive contribution he can add to their starting rotation.  At the very least, perhaps an evaluation can provide the answer as to what exactly is the future for Willis.  Does he become a member of the rotation, or do the Tigers cut their losses with him and let him go?  I honestly don't know at this point.  Asking me that last week, and I would have leaned toward Willis never appearing on the mound for the parent club ever again.  Now, it is time, about time, to finally find out.  I hope that we like what we see.

The Roster in Flux - Again

To accomodate the addition of Dontrelle Willis to the active roster, a player must be deactivated from the roster.  At this time, that remains to be seen who gets the cut.  Not only that, but to make room on the starting rotation, one of their starters will be moved to the bullpen.  The candidate is Zach Miner.  It is not because the team lacks confidence in Miner.  To the contrary, manager Jim Leyland is very high on him. 

"Zach is a tremendous swingman - a very valuable Major League pitcher", the manager quipped.

Zach Miner is willing to do whatever it takes to contribute in a positive way to the club's success, regardless of his current role.  A class act.  On the year, he has pitched 20 total innings, with a record of 2-1.  He needs to cut down the number of pitches thrown, averaging 18.1 per inning.  He has recorded 13 strikeouts compared to 11 walks, with an ERA of 4.50.

On A Positive Note

Manager Jim Leyland is just not lacking for interesting sound bites.  This one caught my ear, for sure.  He suggested that right-handed pitcher Jeremy Bonderman could soon be given a rehab assignment.  He has been on the  15-day disabled list since March 30, recovering from thoracic outlet compression syndrome surgery. 

"It looks like we're moving toward a point where (Bonderman) will be assigned somewhere, unless there are some surprising setbacks." 

The skipper was encouraged that Bonderman threw six painless innings in extended spring training this week on Wednesday.  His fastball was averaging between 89-91 MPH.  It is amazing to me to see what he is accomplishing with such undergoing such a serious, extensive procedure.  It will take time for the muscles to regain strength and "relearn" his pitching repetition.

All in all, it appears that progress is being made.  We all see that with the rotation and bullpen that has been functioning up until this point.  Hopefully Leyland will not sacrifice the synergy and the cohesiveness the team has developed through adversity; a team seemingly made up of a rag tag assemblege of players held together with duct tape and baling twine.  If Willis contributes well, then I'm sure space will be found for him.  Send Robertson down, if that what has to happen.  Getting some return on the $29M investment in Willis would be good, only if it does not sacrifice what the Tigers currently have. 

It is time to find out what they have.  It is good that it is early enough in the season to tinker a bit, kind of like Sparky Anderson, playing the part of a mad scientist.  Mixing up what you have, and seeing what you get.  I hope for a successful, progressive year for this rebounding team.

Posted on: May 7, 2009 3:02 pm

Tigers' Update - Strength Amidst Weakness

Welcome to the first posting as a CBS-designated blogger for the Detroit Tigers.  These will cover all things related to the boys of summer that don the olde English "D" on their uniforms.  History of the team, milestones, tidbits and factoids to help you win a trivia contest, personal anectodotes and memories of games played, and of course the state and trends of the current version of the team calling Comerica Park in Detroit their home field.

This initial piece will look at the current state of the Tigers.  Before the season started in April, who would have projected Detroit to be where they are in the standings?  They are holding down second position in the American League Central division at 14-12 (.538) on the season, 2 games behind the leading Kansas City Royals.  Overall, they have the fifth-best record in the American League, with 14 total teams.  Personally, I felt that they would finish the 2009 season 5-10 games of the .500 mark, either under or over.  Well, that is essentially where they are, so that is no surprise.  What does come as a revelation to me is how they got here.

The Weaknesses - The Stats Don't Lie

It comes as no shock that Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson, Joel Zumaya and Justin Verlander were all, at best, rehabilitation projects in progress, with no certainty as to how much they would individually contribute to the success of the pitching staff.  Bonderman was a hopeful during Spring Training.  Given the severity of the shoulder surgery he underwent, the time needed to just get him on the mound with the parent club and compete at a minimual level was, and remains, a huge unknown.  His conditioning and rehabbing will continue on at the snail's pace thus far manifest this year.  Early in the year, with no certain timetable for him to return to Comerica Park.  Rating for the year, a minus for the team.

Dontrelle Willis and his mystery of a diagnosis leaves him in triple-A Toledo, pitching for the Mud Hens.  His last couple of outings have been solid.  He is still throwing a lot of pitches, so that is a concern.  We all know the huge leap it can be for a borderliine major league starting pitcher from AAA to the major league competition.  For many who excel and even dominate the minor league hitters, they just cannot sustain any success once facing the lineups that the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins will field against the Tigers during the course of the long regular season.  That is seemingly where the Tigers are with Willis.  It seems like a long-shot from those that cover the Mud Hens, that Willis may actually be done with pitching at the Major League level.  We will see how the season plays out.  Another minus for contributing to the Tigers this year.

Nate Robertson, even with his fat contract that now looks like a boat anchor for the Tigers, is continuing the track record of pitching that he established last year.  You know the reputation.  He has a four-run lead, gets a batter out, and then gives up a series of walks, hits and homeruns to blow the lead, leaving the Tigers trying to catch the other team late in the game.  Frustrating as all get out, he is consistent, for whatever that is worth.  This year he has a 1-0 record.  Not bad, seemingly from first glance.  He has pitched 10 innings this season, with an ERA of 6.3.  He has fanned seven, and walked six.  His pitch count is of concern, averaging just under 17 pitches per inning pitched, with a WHIP of 1.60.  Not a rebound year for him yet.  Not a minus, but not a plus rating either.  At best, a neutral "this is exactly what we thought would happen" contribution from Nate.

When I hear the call go out for Brandon Lyon to come in during a game, I get the same uneasy pit in my stomach as with aforementioned pitcher Nate Robertson.  An offseason gamble type of an acquisition, the roll of the dice has not been in the favor for the Tigers' bullpen.  With an ERA of 5.11, WHIP of 1.54, with seven walks and four total strikeouts, this guy is nothing more than a minus for the team.  He averages 5.71 walks issued per nine innings pitched, and just just over 16 pitches per inning thrown.

The Strengths - Pleasant Surprises & Hidden Gems

Joel Zumaya, with that more than prolonged healing time for his arm injury, now is establishing himself with the Tigers.  He pitched a bit for the Mud Hens, and after some solid outings, received the call to come on up.  He has pitched 5 full innings thus far, earning one victory against zero losses.  He has struck out two, and not given up a base on balls yet.  His ERA is 0.00, with a WHIP of 0.80.  It is way too early to expect him to end the season with these same percentages after pitching over 80 innings, but we can dream about it, can't we?  The start he is having is good.  Lock-down right now, even touching 100-MPH on the generous radar guns at the park.  He can't stand the Yankees, and shut them down in a recent outing against them, after they roughed up rookie pitcher Rick Porcello for six runs in a single inning, on their way to a 10-run inning the end of April.  The confidence and bravado he brings every night to the clubhouse and to the mound is what they need right now.  He is on the plus side for the bullpen, averaging 11.2 pitches per inning.

What about Bobby Seay?  He has a 2.16 ERA in 8.1 innings of relief, striking out four and walking two.  His WHIP is .96, second only to Zoom-Zoom Zumaya, over 8.1 innings of relief.  Fernando Rodney has impressed me with his performance to date.  With a 4.50 ERA, he has struck out seven and walked only one.  He is throwing 13.6 pitches per inning, with a WHIP of 1.10, over 10 total innings pitched.  Both get a plus rating from me for the year, bolstering a maligned bullpen roster.

Off-season pickup Edwin Jackson has become one of the more stable parts of the starting rotation.  He has pitched 38 innings, striking out a total of 28 and walking ten this season.  His ERA of 3.08 and WHIP of 1.11 is strong, averaging less than 3 walks issued per nine innings hurled.  His pitch count is about 16 per inning pitched.  If he can cut that down a bit, it will save him come late in the season.  He could be the difference maker deep into September.

Justin Verlander started out slow, with many wondering if he would ever find dominance over a string of starts.  Well, it may have started.  He is still paying for early season struggles with a 5.66 ERA, giving up three homeruns over 35 total innings pitched.  Yet, his 45 strikeouts against 12 walks is a pretty solid stat line.  He averages 3.09 walks per nine innings, and is currently at 17.71 pitches per inning average.  He is coming on strong of late, and should be able to do much better as his control is seemingly back.

Two gems on this roster are starting pitcher Rick Porcello and reliever Ryan Perry.  Just rookies, in their first season, they are going through their ups and downs, taking the fans and team along with them.  Look at their stats and judge for youself as to whether they belong in the Major League at this point of time.  Porcello is at 2-3, with an ERA of 4.71, coming way down after his last outing, which was a scoreless performance over seven full innings.  He has given up six homeruns, walked nine and struck out 15.  His WHIP is 1.29, averaging only 2.83 walks over nine innings.  His pitch average per inning is 14.72.  Ryan Perry has an ERA of 3.48, with ten walks to nine strike outs over ten innings pitched in relief.  His WHIP is 1.65, and averages 8.71 walks per nine innings.  His pitch count is 19.94 per inning.  Struggling?  Yes.  Potential to be solid with some conditioning, certainly.  It remains to be seen whether his game-time experience will be at the major or minor league level.

Overall, I  would put the Tigers' starting rotation and bullpen ahead of where it was last year, and ahead of projections for this point of the season.  Because of their surprising turn-around in pitching over last year, they find themselves over .500 on this day, May 7, 2009. 

UP NEXT :  Tigers' Offense Holding Back the Pitching

Posted on: May 1, 2009 1:48 pm

Get This - "I Can't Stand the Yankees, Man"

How do you feel about the New York Yankees?  How do you really feel?  It seems that for most baseball fans (the abbreviated form of the word "fanatics") it is on one of only two sides of the issue.  They either love 'em, or really loathe just the mention of 'em.  That makes me think of the collegiate world of basketball and the Duke Blue Devils.  Love or hate.  Very few, if any, fans of the game are on that narrow strip of middle ground, somewhere between the two. 

As seen on the CBS boards, most loyal posters, myself incuded, hide our real identities behind a manufactured screen name.  Anonymity brings it's benefits.  For one, you can rant and rave, scream and shout, and express how you really feel about the other team and it's players.  Why not?  That shelter behind a name other than your birth name, and keeping all other contact information private, makes it real easy to let it all out.......within the guidelines of the boards, of course.  As for the players earning a salary on our favorite teams, providing soundbites revealing deep-seated feelings about "the other guys" can be relayed worldwide within minutes.  Not only that, those words find their way posted to "those guys' " lockers, providing some fuel and fodder the next time you square off with them on the opposite side of the diamond.  They may end up eating those words, being shoved down their throat by "those guys" the next time around.

Listening to post-game interviews rarely gives me much more than the feeling that the sentiments are well-guarded, the comments scripted, and the "company line" being followed.  Either that, or the editorial "no comment" followed quickly by a tangent leading to some ambiguous meanderings about the field conditions or the bus ride over to the ballpark.  Managers probably cringe when something is said by his player that can be taken either out of context and sounding ridiculously hateful, or used as motivation for the opposing club.  That's why I really liked what came out of a couple of interviews with Detroit Tiger's relief pitcher Joel Zumaya.

While completing his rehab assignment with the triple-A Toledo Mudhens last week, he was quoted as saying "I'm ready to face those Yankees."  Alright.  Some fiestiness and self-assuredness coming from a pitcher that was lock-down effective and fearless for a 95% chance at closing out a game regularly when?  In 2006?  However, it sounds like his confidence level and bravado, which really never have taken a large dip throughout the past two tumultuous seasons, is now being caught up to by some solid performances and consistency once again.  We'll see as he makes regular appearances for the Tigers.  This past Wednesday night he was called on in relief during two innings of the game where the Yankees tore into young starter Rick Porcello for six runs in the fourth inning of a once tight game.  In those two innings, Zoom-Zoom Zumaya gave up one solitary hit to the visitors from NYC, and his fastball touched "100" on the radar gun.  Lock-down, shut-down pitching, no more runs scored.  In a loss by the home team.

"I think (Leyland) wanted me to show the Yankees I still have a little gas", stated Zumaya.

"The ball was coming pretty good out of my hand.  You know, I can't stand the Yankees, man.  I'm going to go right after them.  But that's just part of this game.  I like to go after guys."

Right on, Joel!  Tell it like you feel it.  But be sure to back up those words on the field.  Else, you will sound like an unbelievable gum-flapper like Rasheed Wallace of the Pistons.  I think for this outing, he did just that.  Nice work out there against your nemesis.  In being asked what he did not like about the Yankees, he added a bit more to the soundbites.

"There are little things about them I can't stand.  They're just the Yankees."

Yes, I have to agree with Zumaya's feelings about the Yankees.  I don't like 'em either.  Why not?  It's the aura, the reputation, they have built up over the decades.  Is it jealousy over the dominance they have held for so long over so many teams, and the grand success they have had in garnering almost countless World Championship pennants?  Not really.  I believe my pet peeves have been fed by the media.  While living in New York City for over 10 years, I read the New York Post and Daily News every day.  Looking at the back cover, with the headlines about the Yankees, I just rolled my eyes.  They were haled as God's gift to mankind on Monday.  Tuesday, after Monday nights' close loss on an error, they were touted as the Worst Team of the Century.  New York media.  Love 'em or hate 'em, they know how to sell papers.  In attending many games in the Bronx and Queens, and watching the teams, my team of choice was the New York Mets.  I grew up and went to school in Michigan, so have deep down connections with the Detroit Tigers.  While in New York, I did what New Yorkers do.  Cheer wildly for one of the home teams, while in the open.  Of course, when the Tigers visited Yankee Stadium, I donned the olde English "D" and heckled every Yankee hitter.  To the point of being mobbed and threatened to get tossed on my * * * by the fans.

Passion is good in the game.  For the 2009 Tigers, I just hope that they can back up any feelings they have, and statements made, with some superb play on the field.  If Zumaya can continue to go after guys, pounding the strike zone with that 100 MPH heat, so much the better.

Posted on: April 30, 2009 2:18 pm

Learning Curves

For any rookie playing in his first full season at the Major League level, there are several learning curves.  When that rookie is a 20-year old pitcher two years out of high school, with a single season of professional ball at the class-A level under his belt, the pitching mound becomes a classroom for each appearance in the big leagues.  Such has been exactly the case for right-handed pitcher Rick Porcello of the Detroit Tigers.

Early Development

He grew up in New Jersey, where most rooted for either the New York Yankees or the New York Mets.  Porcello was a Mets fan.  He graduated from the Seton Hall Preparatory School in West Orange, New Jersey.  A highlight in his high school pitching career came on May 12, 2007 against Newark Academy.  He hurled a perfect game.  He skipped playing college baseball for North Carolina to jump right into Major League Baseball.  Now that would be a learning curve.

Selected by Detroit as their first round draft pick in 2007, he has quickly moved up to the parent club.  A lot of talent, seemingly limitless potential, a controlled disposition and approach to the game, and a willingness to learn, all point to great possibilites for this young man.  He spent 2008 with advanced Class-A team Lakeland Flying Tigers.  He made 24 starts, pitching a total of 125 innings, and tallied an 8-6 record.  His cumulative ERA was 2.66 and a WHIP of 1.192.  He recorded 72 strikeouts and 33 walks.  He yielded 51 runs, 37 being earned runs, on 116 hits and seven homeruns.  His "ace in the hole" pitch is a fastball sinker.  While in the Florida State League he needed to add an effective second pitch to his arsenal.  He was developing his curveball.  Yes, literally another learning curve.

Continuing the Process

So how has the huge leap from single-A to the Major League level gone thus far for the rookie right-hander?  His first major league start came on April 9th in Toronto, with the Blue Jays winning the game.  His second start was in Seattle against the Mariners on April 19th, with Porcello earning his first career victory for the Tigers.  The Kansas City Royals were next up on April 24th.  That game went down as a loss.  Last night, April 29th, saw him atop the pitching mound for his fourth overall start, and first at Comerica Park.  The challenge was to face a New York Yankees squad at .500 for the season, trying to get their pitching rotation stable.  Even so, every opposing team and pitcher needs to respect what the Yankees could potentially do to you.  Coming off a huge eruption for 10 runs in the seventh inning the previous day in Detroit, New York was ready for the inexperienced kid on the mound.  Salivating at the chance to see what he had, and to figure him out.  Watching game film of a new rookie pitcher and reading scouting reports is one thing.  Actually facinig him is another.  Advantage Porcello.  For the first time through the line up, anyway.  A curve in learning that the Yankees now faced.  Who would prevail?

The Yankees' lineup posed a challenge for the young right-handed hurler developing a "go-to" second pitch this year.  The lone right-handed hitter in the lineup was the leadoff man, Derek Jeter.  Porcello, able to effectively get that fastball to sink, got Jeter to ground out in the opening at-bat.  Hitters nos. two through nine all were hitting as left-handers last night, featuring three natural lefties and five switch hitters.  Johnny Damon, hitting in the second slot, reached safely on an in-field single.  Mark Teixeira grounded out, followed by the dangerous Hideki Matsui reaching first with a walk.  Robinson Cano ended the inning with a ground out.  Five hitters, three outs, and no runs scored in the first frame.  The sinker sank, leading to three ground outs.  On to the second inning.

Jorge Posada drew a walk to lead it off.  The second free pass issued by Porcello, and only in the second inning.  In his previous three starts combined, he walked three hitters over 18 innings of play.  The next three hitters went down in order; Nick Swisher, Melky Cabrera and Ramiro Pena.  Whew.  Through the Yankees batting order, laden with potential power, in two innings, giving up zero runs.  Porcello learning the ropes against the Yankees, and the Yankees closely watching the pitcher first-hand.  In an impressive eight-pitch third inning, Rick Porcello was able to retire the top of the batting order in 1-2-3 fashion.  At this point, Porcello was settling down nicely, with his nemesis Joba Chamberlain still having control problems on the mound.  Now comes the litmus test.  Inning four.

In his second at-bat, Hideki Matsui is walked.  Three walks issued in the game at this point.  Cano lines out for the first out of the inning.  Posada enters the batters' box next, and receives all fast balls, ending up in a single.  Porcello now faces Nick Swisher, with the count reaching three balls and 2 strikes.  On the full count pitch, Porcello  attempts his secondary pitch, a curve ball.  It came in high and outside, floating up there more like an off-speed pitch.  Bam!  Out goes the ball.  A three-run homerun.  Cabrera singles, Pena singles, Jeter is out (again) on a fielder's choice for the second out.  Up comes Damon, belting a double, scoring another run.  Out goes young Porcello.  The Yankees were the quicker on the learning curve on this night than Rick Porcello.  As Jim Leyland said after the game regarding his rookie pitcher, "It's a matter of learning."  For this first meeting, advantage goes to the New York Yankees.  Patience will be needed, by both pitcher and management, as this youngster matures.

Progress To Date

For his career to date, Rick Porcello's statistics are as follows.  He has started four games, pitching 21.2 innings with an accumulated 6.23 ERA.  (Last night did not help, being charged with six earned runs.)  He has surrendered 16 runs, 15 being earned, on 25 hits, including six homeruns.  He has struck out 12 and walked six.  A learning process, to be sure.

Against the Yankees last night, he faced 20 batters in 3.2 innings of work.  Of his 75 pitches, he threw 43 for strikes.  He needs to throw more first pitch strikes to batters, giving him an advantage.  Interesting, though, is that Joba Chamberlain threw 50 strikes out of a total pitch count of 88.  Percentage-wise, Porcello was better in throwing strikes last night.  (.573 - .568)

More work to be done.  More to learn, that's obvious.  He has the tools, the demeanor, and the support to continue an upward march in his learning curve.  As a rookie, he has drawn comparisons to a young Josh Beckett.  Rick Porcello will continue to be viewed as a contributor to the Detroit Tigers' pitching staff, with a lot of their future depending on how quickly and steadily he continues to learn.

Posted on: April 29, 2009 5:21 pm

Rare Feats Remembered in 4/28/09 Game

The New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers made history in the game on April 28th.  A gem of a pitchers' duel after six full innings of play.  Phil Hughes made his debut start of the season for the Yankees, not yielding a run through his six innings pitched.  He gave up two hits, issued two walks, and struck out six batters.  He threw 58 strikes of 99 total pitches.  Edwin Jackson, pitching for the Tigers, also pitched six scoreless innings.  On a total of 117 pitches, 76 which were strikes, he struck out four, issued one walk and yielded four hits.
On to the seventh inning, when a 90-year old MLB record was broken.

On May 15, 1919 Cincinnati exploded for 10 runs in the 13th inning against Brooklyn, breaking up a scoreless game.  Last night's 10 runs scored by the Yankees in the seventh inning to break up a scoreless game was the first time a team had broken up a scoreless matchup from the seventh inning on with a 10 run surge since that fateful date in 1919.  A rare feat, if you like to keep stats of that sort.  New York went on to win the game 11-0.  Here's another fact for the record book from last night's game.

The last time the Detroit Tigers yielded 10 runs in a single frame was on September 9, 2004.  The Kansas City Royals put 11 runners across home plate in one inning, eventually beating the life out of the Tigers 26-5.  That game featured another rare feat, leading to the nickname "Mr. Infinty" given to Tiger pitcher Lino Urdaneta.  That fateful day he faced all of six batters.  He gave up five hits and one base on balls, six earned runs with a total of six runs scored off of him.  All of that with no outs being recorded.  Until that took place, his ERA would be infinite.  To say the least, this outing was bad.  Bad enough to cost him a pitching job with the Tigers. 

He earned Free Agent status just days later, on October 15, 2004, being released by Detroit.  In June the following year, the New York Mets signed him, only to release him in October of 2006.  He was re-signed by the Mets as a free agent in December, 2 months later.  On May 4, 2007 Lino was recalled to the parent club to replace Chan Ho Park.  He made two appearances.  On May 6th, he recorded two outs versus Arizona.  The next day he gave up one run on one hit, recording one out against the San Francisco Giants.  Now his "Mr. Infinity" moniker would no longer apply.  On May 16, 2007 he was suspended for 50 games by the Major League by testing positive for performing-enhancing substances.  As of May of this year, he was still in the Mets' system.  His career totals look like this.  He appeared in three games, with a total of one inning pitched.  He gave up seven hits, seven earned runs, one walk and zero strikeouts.  A 63.0 ERA is what he has for his career.

Posted on: April 28, 2009 10:57 am

Not Afraid of the Yankees

It seems that the New York Yankees are no longer instilling a chilling fear into opposing teams.  In years past, looking forward on the calendar and seeing the Yankees coming up on the schedule, opposing pitchers would tremble and maybe even resort to the "tortoise-shell" position...waiting to be shell-shocked by the big bats in the line up.  Not so much any more.

Though very early in the 2009 season, the Yankees are in the middle of the pack, posting a 9-10 record, a .474 winning clip.  That puts them 3rd in their division of 5 teams, behind the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.  Of the 13 teams in the American League, 6 have better records than New York.  They are all knotted up with the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers with the identical record of 9-10 thus far.

Just for comparison, take the Detroit Tigers head-to-head with the Yanks.  Detroit won last night 4-2.  This is the first of a total of six regular season matchups between the two.  In 2008, these two teams faced each other in six regular season games.  Detroit won the season series 4-2.  In 2007, the Tigers and Yankees broke even during eight games, each taking four.  In 2006 the Yankees had a winning record of 2-5 versus the Tigers for the regular season.  New York took the first game in the post season, and got swept out of the playoffs as Detroit took the final three games.

Right now the Tigers are on top of the American League Central division of five teams at 11-8, a .579 winning percentage.  That puts them with the fourth best record in the American League.  Again, still early in the season.  Yet, with all of their woes all last year, and so many question about their starting rotation and bullpen, the Tigers are ahead of expectations.  That's good.  Bring on the Yankees for the next two games.  We're not afraid of them this year.
Category: MLB
Posted on: April 27, 2009 3:45 pm

The End of a Dynasty?

Today Mike Freeman has an article on CBS regarding the demise and end of a dynasty.  The San Antonio Spurs.  They have been solid for a long time.  I wondered how they compare to my hometown favorites, the Detroit Pistons.  Here is how these two teams stack up for the last ten years.  Both teams' post season success seem to be ending in heap this season, with the Pistons already being broomed out of the playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

For the Spurs, their record for the 1999-2000 regular season up through this year was a total of 820 games played, going 576-244.  That is a healthy .702 winning percentage.  Counting back from the current season, their win total for each of the ten years is 54, 56, 58, 63, 59, 57, 60, 58, 58 and 53.  The last time they were under .500 for a regular season was in 1996-97 when their record was 20-62.

The Detroit Pistons record for the same period was a total of 820 games played, with a record of 497-323.  That puts their winning percentage at .606.  For each of the last ten seasons, going back starting with this year, their win totals have been 39, 59, 53, 64, 54, 54, 50, 50, 32 and 42.  This season's total wins was below .500, with the previous time being under this mark was in 2000-01 with a total of 32 victories.

While most of the national writers and sports gurus consider this San Antonio Spurs team a dynasty, they do not consider the Detroit Pistons on the same elite plateau.  Very good to elite, but not quite a dynasty.  Both teams have lost the dominance they have had over other teams in recent seasons.  It looks as though that the Pistons have more work to do in rebuilding a truly dominant team at this point of time.  Is this the bottom for the Spurs and the Pistons, with next season an improvement for both, or more of the same in the terms of slipping downwards?  It will be an interesting off season period for both teams. 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or