Monday, September 11, 2006

Have Panic Button, Will Hit It

It does not matter what I say to the typical Tigers fan today. I can point out the Tigers still maintain a two-game lead in the American League Central, and that the Twins would love to be in that position. I can point out how the Tigers schedule down the stretch plays in their favor. I can point out that, with the puzzling exception of Jeremy Bonderman, the Tigers pitching has generally been solid. I can point out that Jim Leyland is a terrific manager, who has been through just about any crisis a manager will encounter. None of it matters because the typical Tigers fan has already hit the panic button a hundred times over the weekend. Friday night, they were giddy when the Tigers held a five-game lead. Sunday night, they were desperate after the lead shrunk to two. Do I still think the Tigers will win the division? Yes. The worm can turn quickly during a pennant race. As quickly as the worm turned on the Tigers this weekend, it can turn on the Twins this week. The Tigers should find playing at home and the pitching of the Rangers and the Orioles to be a little more to their liking. The Twins schedule is more difficult. Oakland has been hotter than any team in baseball lately. The Indians in Cleveland are no pushover. This week sets up well for the Tigers. So does the final nine games, six against Kansas City - including the final three at home. Is it disappointing the Tigers have let a 10-game lead slide away like this? Absolutely. But they have not lost anything. Not yet anyway. And I am not sure they ultimately will.

Random Thoughts

- After seeing Michigan State struggle so against Idaho and Eastern Michigan, I do not see how the Spartans can beat Pittsburgh on the road this week. Pitt is not that good, but the Spartans defense just allows too many big plays.

- Can there be a greater example of how valuable it is to have a veteran, star quarterback than Ohio State's victory over Texas Saturday night? Those two teams are actually pretty even except at one position - QB. Troy Smith was that much better than Colt McCoy - and so subsequently were the Buckeyes than the Longhorns.

- Watch out alert: The Baltimore Ravens and Steve McNair are the perfect match. Beating Tampa Bay like that on the road could be a sign of things to come for the Ravens with McNair under center. He is a vastly underrated player.

26 Comments:

Anonymous Nick P said...

Pat,
HELP ME PAT! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD HELP ME!
the lions lost the freakin game and i'm still drinking the koolaid. Please talk some since into me before i go online and start buying lions superbowl futures.

tigs - i'm trying pat, i really am, i just keep looking at my 36x48 tigers schedule on my office wall, and i see Tex, Bal, CWS, KC, Tor, KC, and I know this is about as good a schedule as we can hope for. But i'm still worried. it's very strange, the things i was worried about just haven't happened, verlander has stayed strong, rogers hasn't fallen apart, but we cant seem to get it together. The offense is rough right now, I believe now more than ever that this lineup cannot win in the playoffs, but for this year, i'm happy just to get there.

9:17 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Nick P,
LOL on the Lions. That game played out like dozens of others and yet I feel the same way you do about it - I thought they looked better. And it was a terribly boring game in a way. As for the Tigers, I think this is part of what makes a pennant race so great. You are either really high or really low after each game. Lately, with the lows far outnumbering the highs, it's almost gotten to the point where Southeastern Michigan is going to get a collective ulcer. My suggestion: Hang on and enjoy the ride. I remember in 1987, when I was on the Tigers beat, they were 3.5 games down with eight to go and won it. Even if Minnesota catches them, it isn't necessarily over.
Caputo

9:42 AM 
Anonymous Nick P said...

Just another quick thought on the tigs from what i was talking with a friend about this morning.

Nate Robertson - dude, that sucks.

Seroiusly, the guy has 3.84 era and 12 losses, thats just rough.

9:51 AM 
Anonymous CB said...

Hi Pat,

I haven't hit the panic button yet, but my finger is on it. Having watched other collapses before such as the 95 Angels, I know it is very much a possibility that this club will not make the playoffs. My biggest fear right now is that they have offered no signs of hope lately. When they do play a good ball game, they play 2 bad ones after it. They have been one of the worst teams in baseball over the last month, and over the last 50 games, they have played right around.500 ball. No one is carrying this team right now, especially the players you expect to step up. Right now, my thoughts are even if they do make the playoffs, they are limping in so badly that they will be gone in the first round. I hate to be all "gloom and doon", but I am losing hope fast. When you see your team get a chance to make the playoffs, you hate to see them squander it. I know the future is bright, but the future also has a lot of question marks.......Pudge, Maggs, Guillen, etc.....

10:48 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

CB,
Can't argue with any of those points. I know the Tigers not making the playoffs is possible. You're right on with every point. My point is there are still two sides to this issue. You presented the downside, I presented the upside in my blog. Virtually everyone I have run into since Sunday's loss thinks not making the playoffs is probable. I still think the Tigers getting in is likely. I talked to a fan at a coffee shop this morning who said, "It's too bad they're not in the playoffs" as if it was fact already. Doing the Tigers postgame show Saturday, it was incredible how angry people are at this team. Jim Leyland is suddenly a horrible manager. Leyland and his players, in my opinion, deserve better.
Caputo

11:21 AM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

Book - best blog posting in a while.

I don't think it is time to panic as of yet with the tigers. They are still in first place. You are right it hasn't been the pitching (with the exception of Bonderman). THe loss of polanco and now the Dimitri issue has put the tigers in limbo a bit. For the life of me I don't care if Infante makes 10 errors he should be in there over perez. So what he is 0 - 12 against santana. You think perez would be much better. The tigers have some easy games a head, but it won't be easy as KC has been putting the lumber to some good ball clubs down the stretch playing teams tough. I think you really have to look at Pudge and Ordonez at the moment.

As far as the Spartans lets talk them come Basketball time. However, st that stanton is a stud. Justn ot impressed with John L. Smith.

As far as yesterday. Awesome action. Awesome. Lions O excluded. Brett Favre is done in GB. If Sunday's performance is the playbook we were waiting to open up then we are in for a long year. I loved the defense. Never saw it coming and I was very impressed. How about the Saints. Boy I bet the Texans are kicking themselves extremely hard for not taking Bush.

The WOlverines I think will get smoked next week. Yeah they won against Central and vanderbelt. However if they were top 10 they should have beaten those schools like 45 or 56 to 7 or something along them lines like the real good schools do.

Ohio State is for real. I can see now why they got that number 1 anking. as a Fan of college football I am loving watching them play. They play a good school in Texas second week, kick there buts. Have to admire what Treshel is doing.

12:02 PM 
Blogger I rule said...

I've got my finger poised at the button will try to remain optimistic. If ever there was an opportunity to right the ship this is it -- 5 games at home against Texas and Baltimore with two days off the same week. They should take 4 out of 5. 3 wins and they're still on the respirator. 2 or less, and I'm bailing.

Minnesota has things considerably tougher -- 3 at home against Oakland followed by a 10 game road trip. They are still under .500 away from the Metrodome. I'm starting to see why Guillen calls them pirhannas. After watching them quickly dispatch 2 run leads twice against Ledezma, you knew the Tigers were going to mail it in. What happened to Leyland's 27 outs mantra. These cats looked like they've been de-clawed if they haven't built a sizeable lead after the first few innings.

12:08 PM 
Anonymous MG said...

MG said...

The panic button has been hit because, regardless of schedule the Tigers can't hit. First of all did anyone remember the last series Texas came in here for?? The Tigs received a butt kickin!!!

KC is at least doing something the Tigers are not...hitting...

The bats are silent and without scoring runs, its very difficult to overcome mistakes. When you score 0-1-2 every game and are constantly trailing, every failure is magnified. My question is what hitters will step up...Pudge, Mags, Casey, Inge...feeling more confident yet??? Baseball, like any, is a momentum sport...we need to play more than 1 good game to generate some.

Lions...yeah got to be impressed by how the Defense flew around ,but just like every other season when the game deciding drive was on the line they folded (see Carolina). Plus remember this, Jeff Backus and Roy Williams are 2 of their highest paid players on offense, they're still monster underachiever's in a big way...Did Roy play yesterday...or did he play like he does 80% of the time...no consistency or max effort, he needs to watch the tape of Furrey, you need to run your patterns hard every time if you expect the ball. Backus...do I need to even explain...just another example of mismanaged talent evaluation, should we be surprised??? another Millen waste of cash!!!

Sorry if I see the glass half full, I am a realistic, not a pessimist. I have learned to trust my eyes not my heart.

12:20 PM 
Blogger ThinkingMan said...

Pat,

I wouldn't say that I've hit the panic button. But the simple truth is, the Tigers must play better baseball to get into the playoffs.

The Tigers have 18 games remaining while the Twins have 20 and the White Sox 19. I think it's going to take 96 or 97 wins to take the division. The Tigers must go 10-8 to get to 96, the Twins 13-7 and the White Sox 14-5.

So, from a mathematical standpoint, the Tigers still have a large advantage. But, lets face it, they haven't played .500 baseball for quite awhile now.

I think this week is absolutely critical. The Tigers have 5 games, and I think they need to take 4 of them. If they can do that, I think they'll pick up a game on the Twins.

Bottom line? I believe the Tigers will make the playoffs, but as the Wildcard team. I think the Twins are going to overtake them. I hope I'm wrong.

12:49 PM 
Blogger I rule said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:35 PM 
Anonymous Rob said...

The Tigers have played poorly, but the Twin and ChiSox haven't been dominant during this rough patch. We've stunk for a month and still maintain the division lead. (and sizeable Wild Card lead) Look at the pitching they've gone through in the last month: Cle-Min-Chi-Bos-(Tex)-Chi-Cle-NY-LA-Sea-Min. We ran into the top of those rotations. Throw in Nathan, Jenks, Papelbon, Rivera and K-Rod and any team would struggle. I don't remember '87 because I was only 7, but this is the best time I've had as a sports fan in my life.

I'm a Bonderman supporter, but they need to rest him for a start? He's got too much talent and experience to pitch this poorly.

2:53 PM 
Anonymous garold said...

Pat,

I'm not so sure that the fans are ready to mash the panic button, as much as it appears that the Tigers already have. The hitting just keep getting worse, and you can see nearly all of them pressing with a certain amount of doubt in their eyes, with the exception of Omar, Pudge and Maggs. Infante needs to be playing everyday to stay consistant, and Leyland has to quit forcing Perez into the lineup; Ramon Santiago is even playing more inspired ball, and needs to be spelling Inge at this point! (it is both ironic and pathetic, that Neifi Perez musters their only RBI yesterday, after they were in quicksand up to their nostrils)

I can find a few things to criticize Jim Leyland on, such as inserting Inge into the lead-off spot, when he hasn't been hitting a lick, and also, refusing to yank a pitcher, when it's so obvious that disaster is imminent. One of his strengths is suppose to be when to pull the plug, but I just don't see it. Omar has been hitting well; why not insert him into the lead-off spot, when you're going to try something different to spark the offense? Casey, Thames, and Inge have been stinking the place up... a little more Shelton, Gomez, Clevlen, and Santiago might do wonders for their confidence, while stirring some hunger in the regulars.

I know losing Polanco was going to be a big blow, but this is just ridiculous. These guys look like they're just mailing it in.

Yesterday's game was due vs. Santana, but the Tigers are making the Boof Bonzers' of the world look like Cy Young candidates! Their pitching has been good enough, but you have to wonder whether Bonderman is going to be suited for starting in the playoffs; Rogers, Verlander and Robertson are looking the best with the season winding down. With 18 games to go, the Tigers desperately need a 2-game winning streak for a change. All those arms in the bullpen are getting rusty, and it's showing... Leyland needs to show a little bit of Capt. Hook in him before it's too late, as runs are getting harder to manufacture.

Keep the encouragement up, Book! I still believe they can win the Central, but find it harder to say they will with the lack of heart by many of the regulars, who have formerly made the Tigers the best team in baseball this season.

3:57 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Maddog52,
I love the NFL. Every Sunday is an adventure. I really liked the Sunday night game between the Colts and Giants - although they did lay the Manning thing on a little too thick. I have a bad feeling about the Spartans this season. There just does not seem to be much spark there. I think this week's game is even more of a litmus test in a way than the Notre Dame game will be.
Caputo

4:57 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

I Rule,
I agree a thousand percent with you about this week. The opportunity is there for the Tigers. They better take advantage of it. I don't particularly like their chances in Chicago next week.
Caputo

4:59 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

MG,
They took Roy Williams right out of that game with double coverage. The lack of another receiving threat is a real problem for the Lions. And how ironic is that considering they have taken three receivers in the first round - all within the first 10 overall picks -in recent drafts. That would be laughable if it weren't so sad.
Caputo

5:02 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Thinkingman,
Obviously making the playoffs as a wildcard is better than not making it at all. But the Tigers would be so much better off winning the division, their fans have to hope the scenario you presented doesn't transpire.
Caputo

5:04 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Rob,
That's an interesting thought on Bonderman. I know he wouldn't like it, but it might be wise to back him off a day or two. The Tigers have enough depth to maybe do that. On the other hand, it might be good to give him his next start. He'll have an extra two days because off anyway (if they stay on schedule) and the Orioles at Comerica might cure his problems.
Caputo

5:08 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Garold,
Leyland has tried some strange lineups, but it is in a search to jumpstart his slumping offense. Fact is, they miss Polanco. He was both their best leadoff man and two-hole hitter.
Caputo

5:10 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. C. Kriswal predicts: Kriswal predicts because he is usually wrong. Tigers have 17 games left in Sept.-- They will win 5 and lose 12! Kriswel hopes he is wrong and it's the other way around. Bonderman? See ball hit ball. Is Palanco getting any closer to returning? Vinny.

7:38 PM 
Blogger dt said...

I'm curious, Pat, as to where exactly the Spartans "struggled" on Saturday. That game was never, EVER in doubt, unless you'd like to count yourself among the lunatic fringe that thought the game was actually close at 24-17.

Look, there has been very little in the first two games to indicate that MSU is back as a national power! But I, for one, like the approach they are taking this year. Instead of coming out of the chute like gangbusters (see last year), they are managing expectations and preparing for the entire season. They have not shown off anything on either offense or defense yet this year, because they haven't had to ! They knew they could win the first two games by simply playing basic football. Last year - the OSU game notwithstanding - it could be argued that they peaked in week 4 at Notre Dame.

As for Pittsburgh, I think you are forgetting two important factors - the fact that they play in the Big East and are coached by Dave Wannstedt. I would be shocked if the Spartans win by anything less than two touchdowns this week.

10:22 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

DT,
Maybe I am a little goofy, but the thought did cross my mind, albeit briefly, that the Spartans were a in a little trouble. I did see them lose to Central Michigan twice when I was covering the team. MSU fans must feel a little uneasy about the way Idaho's suspect offense controlled the line of scrimmage, and the way the Spartans' defense fell for EMU's gimmick plays. Pitt will be a telling game one way or another.
Caputo

11:54 AM 
Blogger garold said...

Pat,

The Yankees have taken over a slight lead over the Tigers for best AL record, but provided we still take the Central, and maintain our lead over Oakland, Detroit would still host the A's. What's your opinion on who will make the Tigers' 11-man pitching staff, and who the first 3 starters should be?

~Tonight's Lineup~
Casey has been struggling mightily against right-handers, but Padilla is much more generous to left-hand hitters; he is quite tough on right-handers. Do you think Leyland might give Shelton another look tonight? Perez struggles from the leftside, so I'd expect to see Omar in there tonight. Thames hits right-handers better overall than Alexi Gomez, but has also struggled along at a .208 pace the last 30 days. I'd keep Inge in the lineup for tonight, inspite of the option of using the left-hand bat of Ramon Santiago. Who knows how Leyland will go tonight, but tough decisions are just down the road on who the reserves will be on the playoff roster. Any thoughts on tonight? The Tiger really need this one!

1:33 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Garold,
They have a lot of flexibility with their postseason roster because they have several pitchers who were on the disabled when August 31 hit. Bonderman, Verlander, Robertson, Rogers, Walker, Zumaya and Jones and Rodney are in for sure. Grilli probably is, too. Then it comes Ledezma, Miner, Maroth, Miller and decision time. It depends who is throwing best at the close of the season.
Caputo

5:28 PM 
Blogger martyc said...

Pat,

Some thoughts on Tiger hitting. First, some perspective for fans ragging on Magglio Ordonez. This is ignorant, unfair, and in plain English, ridiculous. Watch him hit. Look at his feet and legs, not his head or bat. He's obviously hurt. He's getting no rotation/pivot at all off his front foot and therefore little or no pivot at the hips. For a while, he tried to compensate by swinging harder, which, of course, put his batting average in a tailspin and didn't work. Now, he's swinging for solid contact and getting it, though of course he can't hit for the power he did on two good legs.

Further perspective. In six full seasons (more than 125 games), Ordonez hit more than 30 HR and 100 RBI four times. Also had one 29/99 year. His lifetime BA is .305. Al Kaline (another Tiger RF fans may recall) had 16 seasons of more than 125 games. Kaline never hit 30 or more HR, though he hit 29 twice and batted in over 100 three times, with a lifetime BA of .297.

Said all this just to show that Maggs knows how to hit. He hasn't "forgotten" how to pivot his front foot, hips, and torso. Clearly, he's hurt. Give the guy a break.

On a related point, in the Tiger's last 32 (10-22) games, Granderson has hit .198, Infante hit .343, and Thames hit .186. While Infante strikes out fairly often, Granderson leads the league in strikeouts. Infante also knows how to draw a walk. I remember a recent game where Infante drew two walks. They were both hard work walks, drawn on 3-2 counts after fouling off several good pitches. (Not the easy walk where the pitcher simply can't throw a strike unless it's a fastball down the middle) When's the last time another Tiger got two walks in one game? So, why bat Granderson leadoff and bury Infante at seventh or below? Doesn't it make sense to put the much hotter bat at the top of the order?

Also, when (hopefully) Polanco gets healthy, if Infante is still hitting close to the way he has been lately (over 100 points better than Thames), how about playing Infante in RF and letting Ordonez
DH and rest that bad leg some? In addition to the BA edge over Thames, it also puts a lot more speed on the bases and in the outfield than Ordonez (oe Thames) can muster. (Infante has played outfield. Don't know if he has the arm for RF. Maybe he'd have to play LF with Monroe in right.)

5:37 PM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

I agree Pat this is by far my favorite time of year as well man with the NFL and COllege football. Plus Hockey and basketball about to start. not to mention the fall classic.

That Colts/Giants affair was a good one for me. That E. Manning pick help me when my fantasy football matchup by one point haha.

Its the first week you can draw much from it. I mean if you tell me L.J. and ALexander are going to stink and Frank Gore is going to be the best back in the league by week 16 I'd think you are crazy.

Can't wait for tomorrows new blog to jump on the Hakim and Roy WIlliams issue.

9:52 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

MartyC,
I think you're right. Ordonez is playing through some nagging injuries. But I can see why some players pull a Juan Gonzalez and won't play if they are hurt. If they are not 100 percent, it hinders their performance and nobody, at least outside the locker room, seems to give them credit for fighting through it. Ordonez wants to play despite the injuries. He doesn't beg out of the lineup. That says a lot about him.
Caputo

2:25 AM 

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