Bullet Recap: Indians 7, Tigers 2

The Tigers lost again on Wednesday, which is not a surprise. They struck out 17 times as a team in a 7-2 road loss to the Cleveland Indians.

  • The way Cleveland scored their third run is, perhaps, a perfect microcosm of this team. With a runner at second and two out, Cleveland’s Mike Freeman tried to bunt for a hit to bring in what was a huge third run, with the Indians up just 2-1 at that point. It worked, mostly because the Tigers are a fundamentally inept baseball team. The first baseman, Brandon Dixon, charged in to field the bunt. The pitcher, Nick Ramirez, didn’t seem to expect to have to cover first until it was too late to beat Freeman to the bag. Dixon spent that time staring at Ramirez instead of second baseman Gordon Beckham, who was on his way to cover the bag. Dixon didn’t notice until it was too late, Freeman won the race and Cleveland scored the third run. Combining a lack of talent with a lack of fundamentals leads to plays like that.
  • Joe Jimenez has nothing to get hitters out, is not a Major League pitcher at this point, and is rapidly hurtling toward Bruce Rondon future-closer-that-never-was territory.
  • Mike Clevinger is actually good. Combining his stuff tonight with this lineup and its approach was just going to end in tears.
  • Nicholas Castellanos was the only Tiger with more than one hit — two, in fact, one a home run. He still seems unlikely to command much in the trade market given his defensive limitations, but he could help someone, and he’s not hurting himself right now.
  • Spencer Turnbull was solid. The efficiency problems linger, but he got quicker outs — and a bit of luck with a line drive double play. I’m not sure he’ll ever be a reliable pitcher on a good team, but he’s definitely a Major Leaguer with something to work with.

The Tigers are on pace to lose 110 games. They will play again Thursday night in the series finale in Cleveland, with Matthew Boyd on the mound.

Game 77: Daniel Norris drives me insane

Notes from the baseball wilderness, Vol. 77:

Daniel Norris is a mere 24 years old. It is far, far too soon to write him off and anyone who does so should be roundly ignored and ostracized and targeted with all sorts of truly offensive name-calling like “ninny” and “loser” and “silly doo-doo head” and things of that nature. But at some point, the young left-hander needs to take a step forward.

For pitching prospects who fail, it is rarely a failure of stuff. It’s not talent — every big leaguer has talent, yes, even you, Francisco Rodriguez — but rather learning how to use it. Guys who have gone through their entire minor league career tossing 99 MPH past guys get to the Majors and quickly discover that, yes, these hitters can square up a 99 MPH fastball if it doesn’t move enough or is poorly located. The challenge for a gifted young pitcher isn’t their stuff — it’s harnessing it and learning how to consistently get hitters out with it.

That is where Norris is. He made 13 starts last year, struck out over a batter an inning, kept his walks down, and looked like he’d figured something out. On Wednesday night, he made his 15th start of the season. His strikeouts are down, his walks are up, and he’s worse across the board.

Why? Who knows. You can clearly see the talent when he pitches, he’ll go through good stretches, and then you have outings like this one, where every time he got behind in a count, he seemed to resort to a meaty fastball that was hit halfway to Windsor.

Like for the Tigers, the 2017 season looks like it might be a lost cause for Norris. That may actually work out better in the long-term — with no pressure to lift the team out of their current malaise, he can work on learning to pitch at this level and finding the consistency he will need to become the reliable starter he still can be.

Morning Rewind: The Narrative, The Narrative

Michael Fulmer was solid yet again, giving the Tigers a quality start—eight for eight in that regard so far—and helped his team shake off a tough loss on Tuesday. Say what you want about the quality start as a valuable pitcher metric, but it at least suggests Fulmer can go deep into games and give his team a chance, which is exactly what he did. A day after Matthew Boyd got knocked around to the tune of seven runs, the Tigers needed a starter to go deep and protect a tired ‘pen. Fulmer gave them that, and much more.

Tyler Collins was a big story on Tuesday, as his hitless streak hit 30 at bats. It was a different story last night though, as the beleaguered Tigers outfielder busted out of his slump with two homeruns, including a three-run shot that gave the Tigers a lead Fulmer and the bullpen didn’t relinquish. These were no cheapies either; Collins sent his first homer to right center and his second one into the visitors’ bullpen. He also added a double off a lefty reliever too, to cap a 3-for-4 night. Collins had 10 total bases in this game; he had only 30 total bases coming into the game.

The Tigers’ bullpen also came through a day after some of their members stumbled. After Fulmer finished his seven frames, the ever-reliable Alex Wilson came on and made quick work of the Orioles, dispatching big bats in Mark Trumbo, Jonathan School, and Welington Castillo with ease.

In the ninth, Justin Wilson—by his own admission, without his best stuff—came on for the save. Wilson struggled a little with his command, giving up a leadoff single to Trey Mancini and walking the pinch hitter Joey Rickard, but he also struck out J.J. Hardy, got Adam Jones to fly out, and ended the game with a questionable check swing strike call on Manny Machado. (After the game, Wilson said he wasn’t sure if Machado went on the called third strike, but felt he’d gone earlier in the at bat on a check swing that went against the Tigers. So it evens up!) Wilson also had some thoughts about his blown save the night before, which essentially boiled down to tipping his cap to Trumbo for the homerun. Wilson missed his location on the pitch Trumbo hit out, but most hitters, he felt, wouldn’t have even swung at that pitch. Trumbo is just so strong, he was able to hit it out of the park on a line.

With Minnesota showing some signs that their fairy dust might be rubbing off, and the prohibitive AL Central favorites struggling, the Tigers have a prime opportunity to grab hold of the division. They just need to take advantage. But can they? Tune in later tonight for the exciting conclusion.

Morning Rewind: Suck It, 2016

The Good: Last year the Tigers got their fourth win over Cleveland on September 28th. This year it only took them until May 2nd to notch win number four over the Tribe. The Tigers have now gone 4-1 against Cleveland; they took 2 of 3 from their arch rivals in Cleveland earlier in April.

Also Good? The…the bullpen! The Tigers’ beleaguered ‘pen has put up 9 consecutive scoreless innings over their last 3 games. And it hasn’t just been Justin and Alex Wilson carrying the load either. K-Rod’s gotten into the action, though his save last night was a little hairy, as well as Blaine Hardy and—get this!—Anibal Sanchez. Everything’s clicking right now. *knocks on wood*

Also Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer after coming off the 10-day DL. So, yeah. That was a pretty Good thing as well. Cabrera did leave the game in the eighth when his groin tightened due to the cold, but it doesn’t seem serious.

The Bad: Justin Verlander walked 4 so I guess that was bad (though he was good, overall). His location was much better against Cleveland tonight than in his previous start against them. He also got them to chase pitches high in the strikezone that they weren’t chasing in his April 14th start in Cleveland.

The Ugly:

Bullet Points Are For Lazy People:
• Alex Avila got another start against a righty, although the Tigers have no plans to go to a platoon to get Avila more playing time. James McCann, while he is scuffling mightily, is still the primary catcher. Could Avila perhaps change Ausmus’ mind if he continues to hit?
• K-Rod got the first two batters of the ninth fairly easily, before giving up an opposite field double to Yan Gomes and a walk to Carlos Santana. With the ever-dangerous Francisco Lindor representing the tying run, the wily veteran got Cleveland’s star shortstop to pop up to end the game.
• Justin Wilson just continues to mow down the opposition. After a blip against the White Sox the other day, Wilson was back to his old tricks against Cleveland. The hard-throwing lefty struck out two, allowing a hit and a walk. He’s sporting a 14.66 K/9 (!!!) for the season.
• Speaking of relievers with big fastballs… Believeland’s Cody Allen has an 18.00 K/9 over 10 innings. He’s struck out HALF OF THE 40 BATTERS HE’S FACED, WTF.
• Although Tyler Collins went 0-for-4 he continued to have good swings. He seems like a different player now. Read all about it here.
• Andrew Romine went 1-for-2 with an RBI and a walk. He scored Alex Avila in the second with a double off Corey Kluber. Romine continues to provide some value off the bench as he spelled José Iglesias (who came in to play short when Cabrera exited and Romine took over at first).
• About Cy Kluber: Cleveland’s ace was not himself from the get-go and came out of the game in the third, having thrown only 55 pitches. Turns out he was dealing with a stiff back that was exacerbated by the cold weather.

Morning Recap: As the Starters Go, So Go the Tigers

The Good: Pretty much everything? Daniel Norris turned in a strong start, holding the Indians to just 1 run over 6 IP, and the offense jumped all over Trevor Bauer, getting 7 runs off the right hander. After Norris departed, Alex Wilson and Anibal Sanchez finished the game off, helping the Tigers notch a 7-1 win over Cleveland.

The Tigers have gotten at least 6 innings from their starters in 5 of their last 7 games (the exceptions being Daniel Norris’ start against Seattle Wednesday and Jordan Zimmermann’s outing against Chicago on Sunday).

The Bad: Norris fought his control at times, and gave up 4 walks. He was able to harness it later in the game, however, and was able to wriggle out of a few jams as well. I like when I have to reach to find bad things to talk about in game recaps.

The Ugly: Honestly… Nothing. This was a pretty good effort from the Tigers, from top to bottom. Dave Clark better keep bringing out the lineup card.

More At 11:
• Daniel Norris has given up just 1 run to the Indians in two starts, spanning 12 IP. He’s struck out 13 batters in that time (but given up 8 walks). The command is something he still needs to work on, but you could say he’s been effectively wild against the Tigers’ biggest competition.
• For whatever reason, Bauer can’t handle the Tigers. Prior to Monday’s game, Bauer’s all-time ERA against the Tigers was 7.24. This covers 54.2 IP. Bauer’s big problem against Detroit is keeping them off the basepaths; he’s given up 74 hits and allowed 25 walks. Bauer’s also hit 8 Tigers batters, the most of any team he’s faced.
• So, how about Sanchez? Anibal pitched two scoreless innings for the Tigers, and he didn’t do it by getting lucking and barely ekeing by. Anibal got 14 swings/7 whiffs, collecting 3 strikeouts in his 2 innings. An eagle-eyed GHF follower noted that it seemed Anibal had ditched his arm slot adjustment. Though Jim Price noticed his fastball—which touched 93mph—didn’t have much life at the plate, it got the most swings and misses for him on the evening. Could Anibal just have needed time to adjust to a new role? The jury’s still out; we’ll have to see more from Anibal before drawing any conclusions.
• Tyler Collins continues to hit on the homestand, He drilled a 3-run homer to give the Tigers a 5-0 lead in the second inning off Bauer. Collins has a .304/.360/.435 triple slash for the season, and over the last two weeks: .286/.375/.457. He just seems to be putting together solid at bats every time he digs in against opposing pitchers. When J.D. Martinez is ready to come off the DL, who goes down and who stays should not be a difficult decision. As long as he keeps hitting, Collins should stay.
• Since the MudHens were off on Monday, JaCoby Jones came back to Detroit and took batting practice to stay sharp. He’ll return to Toledo to resume his rehab assignment today. JaCoby should get a couple more games, at least, before he’s ready to be activated.
• Miguel Cabrera is going to be activated off the DL today and will be in the lineup! Yay!
• The Tigers got their third win of the season over Cleveland. Last year, they didn’t get their third win over Cleveland until September 27th. One more win over the Indians and the Tigers will match their 2016 total. Wow.

Morning Recap: Tigers Full of Zimm and Vigor

The Good: Jordan Zimmermann actually had an encouraging start after a whole lot of meh. The big righty went only 5+ innings and gave up 3 runs, but his fastball had life and his slider and changeup were swing and miss pitches. One troubling sign in previous Zimmermann starts was how flat and lifeless his repertoire looked. The main reason Zimmermann was unable to go 6 was an elevated pitch count. After making a fix following a video session, Zimmermann showed signs of who Tigers fans thought they were getting in 2016 before groin, shoulder, and neck injuries derailed much of the season.

The Bad: Actually, everything went pretty well Sunday. The bullpen gave the Tigers 4 (!!!!!!) scoreless innings, and K-Rod capped it off with a 1-2-3 9th. Okay maybe this belongs in the Good section too.

Maybe the only Bad to come out of Sunday’s getaway day matinee was that JZimm couldn’t go 6, and so Ausmus had to use four relievers (although he avoided having to use Justin Wilson in back to back games).

Anyway, I’m sure an intrepid reader with eagle-eyes will come up with something for the Bad section.

The Ugly:

Sorry, José.

In Other News:
• JaCoby Jones continues his rehab in Toledo. And his mom is posting pics of his new batting helmet/faceshield on twitter. Jones has gone 2-for-10 so far through 3 games on his rehab stint.
• Bruce Rondon has allowed 1 run in 4.2 IP in Toledo; he’s also struck out 5. Oh yeah, and he’s walked 4.
• The Tigers called up Chad Bell, a left-handed starter, from Toledo and sent Joe Jimenez back. The Tigers’ next opponent, the Cleveland Indians, are hitting at a .218 clip off lefties so far this season. Through 21.2 IP for Bell: 1.25 ERA, 18 H, 3 ER, 7 BB, 25 Ks.
• John Hicks and Jim Adduci have combined to go 19-for-46 as injury fill-ins. Both will likely end up back in Toledo soon, but have more than done their jobs offensively.
• Christin Stewart has reached in 7 straight with Double-A Erie.
• J.D. Martinez went 3-for-9 in an extended spring training game the other day. He was given an at bat in every inning.
• Miguel Cabrera appears set to come off the DL on Tuesday.

Morning Rewind: You Win a Few, You Lose a Few

The Good: Our blog’s namesake, Michael Fulmer, dealt with a similar issue to Matt Boyd the other day, namely a rapidly mounting pitch count in the early innings. However, also like Boyd, Fulmer was able to right the ship and get his pitch count in order to give the Tigers a quality start, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks, with 3 strikeouts, over 6 innings. We can debate the importance of the “quality start” until the cows come home, but Fulmer more often than not gives the Tigers a chance, and he did just enough today. The Tigers’ young righthander felt his stuff was there, but lack of command ultimately “killed” him.

The Bad: Justin Wilson, I guess? He gave up a homerun and another add-on run, but, like. He’s been literally untouchable until this point. Brad probably got slammed by someone somewhere for using him in that inning and situation, because this is Detroit and we love second-guessing our managers/coaches, but Wilson was the correct choice for a tied game in the 10th. It just didn’t work out. More often than not, it will.

The Ugly: I fell asleep during the sixth inning and only woke up in the ninth when Victor homered because Dan Dickerson started screaming. It was just one of those games.

Things of Note:
• Blaine Hardy gave up a homerun to José Abreu, the Sox first baseman’s second bomb of the game and just the second homer of the season for him. Hardy and McCann think Abreu might have snuck a peek at the signs, via McCosky.
• Shane Greene pitched 1.1 IP and did okay. After coming in and promptly drilling Todd Frazier, Greene struck out Avisaíl García to end the eighth. He came back out and pitched a scoreless ninth—around a minor two-out jam—before giving way to the aforementioned Justin Wilson. Greene seems to have better command of the strikezone in his last couple outings, and this is perhaps something to build on.

The Tigers are going to need Greene to regain some semblance of strike throwing if they are to have a chance at even mediocrity. The bullpen is just too thin to carry 4 guys who can’t throw strikes in addition to the Wilsons and K-Rod.
• I admit I cringed every time a ball went Nicholas Castellanos’ way, but he was fine.
• José Iglesias trying and failing to bunt for a base hit in the ninth with two outs, after failing to do so in the same at bat, on the previous pitch no less, was…curious. He certainly didn’t catch the Sox by surprise.
• As far as I know, nobody made any egregious defensive misplays!
• The Tigers’ last few starts have helped reset/rest an overworked, struggling bullpen. Fulmer went 6 on Saturday, while Boyd and Verlander went 7. It seems minor, but the rotation going deeper into games can go a long way.
• Don’t look now, but Buck Farmer is mowing down Triple-A competition with the Toledo MudHens. Fans have bandied his name about as a possible replacement for Anibal Sanchez, and his numbers do look good. Drew VerHagen has also stood out for the MudHens as he works his way back from a few injury plagued seasons. Both could get consideration if the Tigers reach the end of the line with Anibal.

Morning Rewind: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: Matt Boyd. Shaky early, Boyd settled in and gave the Tigers a strong performance. The southpaw went 7, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, while racking up 5 punch outs. In fact, Boyd probably should have just given up 2 runs, but a mental mistake by Jim Adduci put a runner on base that eventually came around to score. Boyd has been solid in all but one of his starts so far this season.

The Bad: The Tigers offense couldn’t solve their old friend, Mike Pelfrey, after a promising start to the game. The Tigers scored two early runs off Big Pelf and were threatening for more, but an inning ending double play snuffed out the threat. The Tigers didn’t muster much more off Pelfrey after that, though he only went 4.2 IP due to a rapidly mounting pitch count.

The Ugly: Nicholas Castellanos’ defensive deficit was on full display last night. While Castellanos usually makes the plays he can get to—the big knock on him, according to most defensive metrics, has always been his range—Castellanos booted three balls, including two in the eighth inning that helped the White Sox to the 7-3 win. It was particularly disheartening to see a player who seemed to be making strides on the infield have such a lousy game defensively. Castellanos, for his part, stood up to the media after the game and answered every question. This is just the kind of ugly night you have to put behind you, if you’re Castellanos, and hope it doesn’t repeat itself. If anyone can do it, it’s probably him.

Also ugly was Joe Jimenez’s rocky ninth inning. The young flamethrower struggled to start off the frame, allowing a couple add-on runs in the form of a 2 run homer to Tim Anderson. Jimenez relied heavily on his fastball early, which the Sox hitters were teeing off on, but eventually began mixing in his slider and changeup. (All three hits Jimenez allowed were off the fastball.) In fact, Joe threw 10 straight fastballs before finally going to his changeup. He was much more effective after he began mixing in his offspeed/breaking stuff.

It’s just another bump on the road for a promising prospect who still has much to learn as far as being a big leaguer is concerned. There’s also a very good reason the Tigers have moved him relatively slowly through the system and haven’t thrown him directly into the fire yet. Though Joe is as big league ready as any Tigers prospect, he also might benefit from going back to Toledo to work on refining and polishing his command and consistency (as well as regaining some confidence).