My weekly take on the Tigers.
Week of 4/20-26: 3-3
This week: 4/27-29: NYY; 5/1-3: CLE
Goat of the Week
Justin Verlander was last week’s goat, and it’s a tough call, because for long stretches of time he pitches pretty well. He just seems to be victimized by one bad inning per start–where he labors and throws a lot of pitches–which kills his outing.
Going up against the Angels last week, JV threw 104 pitches in just five innings, and it was only because of the Tigers’ big bats that they were able to overcome his performance and get the win.
But nine hits and seven runs, all earned, in five innings isn’t what a supposed ace surrenders.
Verlander is a rhythm pitcher. He works quickly–or at least likes to–and when he gets going, he’s awfully tough. But he’s only managed to pitch 21 innings in his four starts, and has thrown 389 pitches in those 21 innings. Too much work.
Hero of the Week
Brandon Inge continues to play terrific baseball. His power jag still hasn’t abated, and he’s making like a vacuum at third base.
One of the traits of the great defensive player is his ability to make hard plays look easy.
Inge does that, consistently. Take note of how many times you see a ball rocket off someone’s bat toward third base–short hop, bad hop, good hop–and how he effortlessly makes the play.
Not only is his power up, but his strikeout frequency is down from the past. His new batting stance is paying off right now, big time.
Inge is one of those Tigers who I’d like to see play his entire career in Detroit. A Tiger for life. He loves it here, loves to be back at third base, and his confidence is soaring.
Oh, what a boost it would be for the team if Inge’s bat has a better year than expected.
Quick scouting reports: Yankees and Indians
This week the Tigers entertain two teams who are underachieving.
The Yankees have pitching problems. And injuries. And they’re showing their age, which I suspected might happen soon, if not this year then the year after.
The new Yankee Stadium hasn’t been all that kind to them, and neither has the road of late. The Yankees come to town fresh off a sweep at the hands of the rival Red Sox in Boston.
But they’re still talented, and they could still put it together at any moment.
Same thing with the Indians, pretty much.
Cliff Lee, who lost all of three games last season, already has lost three in 2009. The ERAs of Indians pitchers look like stock market prices–as long as you’re not talking about The Big Three.
The Indians were my pre-season pick to win the Central in a tight race. It could still happen. As I thought, the division is tight as a drum. No one is off to a blazing start, which means that the Tribe and their 7-12 record are only 3-1/2 games out of first place.
The Indians are similar to the Yankees. They aren’t pitching, have an inconsistent offense (feast or famine), and are scuffling like a team far below their capabilities.
But the Tigers seem to bring out the best in the Indians, so this weekend’s series, as usual, will be no cakewalk.
Under the microscope
Joel “Zoom Zoom” Zumaya is back, and it’s only natural to put him under the microscope at MMM.
Zumaya made his 2009 debut Saturday night, pitching the ninth inning in what the NBA would call “garbage time.” He pitched a scoreless frame, though he did give up two hits.
Manager Jim Leyland said afterward–and Zumaya concurred–that simply throwing the cheese isn’t going to get it done anymore.
“98, 99 miles per hour–that doesn’t intimidate hitters,” Leyland said.
Leyland wants more movement and different locations on the fastball, and he and Zumaya agree that the breaking ball needs to find the strike zone. That didn’t really happen Saturday, and the Royals were able to sit on the heat, which led to the two hits.
Until Zumaya shows that he, a) is healthy; and b) can throw his breaking ball for strikes, he’ll continue to be under the scope at MMM.