Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Special Performance By A Special Pitcher

I was watching a game the other night. The Reds were playing the Cleveland Indians. Homer Bailey, the top prospect for the Reds, was pitching. It was his major league debut. He had a 3-2 lead, and there were runners in scoring position. He was just trying to get through the inning to get the required five in for his first major league victory. The crowd in Cincinnati rose to its feet and gave him a running, thunderous and standing ovation. It was enough to spark Bailey, who had been laboring. He struck out David Dellucci, a pretty good left-handed hitter, to end the inning. He did so with a 93 mph fastball. Yet, next to Justin Verlander, the kid looked like a soft tosser.
Don’t get me wrong. Bailey has a chance to be a pretty good pitcher. But still, I can’t help but think how fortunate the Tigers are they took Justin Verlander instead of Bailey with the second overall pick in 2004 draft. It’s my understanding it came down to those two in the Tigers’ draft room.
Verlander closed his no-hitter Tuesday against the Brewers by hitting triple digits on the radar gun. It was an incredible performance. His slider was even more devastating. It was yet another sign of just how special Verlander truly is while standing 60 feet, six inches from home plate.
Last year, it was evident when the Tigers played the Cubs in Wrigley Field, Verlander has a special feel for pitching. He began one hitter by throwing three straight changeups. Two were strikes, one was a ball. His fourth pitch was a 100 mph fastball to punch out the hitter, who had no chance. While he does throw that hard, Verlander can be just effective at 95 mph or 96 mph. He spots his pitches well and knows instinctively how to setup hitters. He doesn’t flinch under pressure. Remember how he pitched out of the first-inning jam in Game 2 of the ALDS vs. Yankees last year? Statistically anyway, Alex Rodriguez will likely go down in history as the greatest player of all time. He had no chance on the 100 mph fastball Verlander buzzed on the corner at his knees to strike him out, ending the threat. No Justin Verlander, no pennant last year. Taking him second overall, was the single most important draft choice in franchise history.
There are a lot of great young pitchers in the game. None is better than Verlander. His ERA this season is 2.79. The last two seasons, he is 24-11. Those are Cy Young Award- type numbers. Even though Bailey was a high school kid, I talked to some scouts who thought he was more refined that Verlander, who was just 21-18 during his college career. He wasn’t supposed to be that polished. Greg Smith, the scouting director at the time, insisted the Tigers select Verlander. Can you imagine if they didn’t? Even if they had selected a prospect as good as Homer Bailey?

Random thoughts

- Obviously, I don’t think much of Neifi Perez’s skills. But that was a great play he made Tuesday night to save Verlander’s no-hitter. He won a Gold Glove early in his career with Colorado. That play was indication as to why. It was brilliant.

- Verlander’s no hitter just might catapult the Tigers into a streak they haven’t really had this season. With Andrew Miller up with the big club and throwing well and the offense rolling, don’t be surprised if the Tigers take off. They seem to have survived their early difficulties. Now it is time for them to thrive.

- Where are all the Magglio Ordonez bashers? I talked to dozens of them last season. Still think the guy can’t play? Still want Brent Clevlen up just so he can be Mags’ personal late-inning defensive replacement? That was a nice play he made on that sinking line drive Tuesday, huh? Ordonez is having an MVP-caliber season so far. He was pretty good last year, too - better than many gave him credit for.

- Bottom line: It’s just time for the Lions to get rid of Shaun Rogers. There comes a point where a troubled player wears out his welcome in a specific town. That point has come for Rogers. What I can’t figure out is where the bad attitude has come from. When I was still on the Lions’ beat during his first two years in the league, he wasn’t like that. He prepared like a winning player. Now that’s the last thing he does - or is. Again, though, the question begs to be asked: Is it the environment or the player? People are naive to think it’s changed just because Rod Marinelli is the coach. It won’t change until Matt Millen is gone.

25 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a special game last night - I listened to the first two innings on your flagship station, and the descriptions of his performance alone drew me to the TV, where I enjoyed the best 2 hours of baseball since October of last year. We have a great group of announcers, both radio and TV by the way.

It's too easy to point to Millen for blame. That rings a little hollow now. They need to catch lightning in a bottle with someone. They need a special player, a catalyst, something that will light a spark. They just seem to tread water. The Tigers have these special moments like last night; when was the Lions last special moment in a good way? I can remember a lot of collapses, but not many gems.

7:42 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Anonymous,
I agree with you about the announcers both on radio and TV. I enjoy listening to them all. It was memorable, that's for sure. They did great last night. I don't think blaming Millen rings hollow, just true. There's pall hanging over that organization ever since he joined it. Just because he has been there a long time and Ford hasn't done anything about it doesn't make pointing out his foibles trite. They are very real. To me, Rogers is just the latest proof.
Caputo

11:08 AM 
Blogger Klinch said...

How do you think the Padres are doing right now? They had the first pick in the 2004 draft and passed on Verlander. They drafted some infielder who they are trying to convert to a pitcher. Jake Peavy and Justin Verlander sounds like a decent 1-2 combo, don't you think?

Props to the Book
Klinch (MSU J School Grad 1991)

11:51 AM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

The game was not on Windsor Cable - unless you cough up the big bucks for the MLB package.

So like every night, I was sitting in the back yard listening to the ball game - and it started to get special as early as the 4th.

Dickerson and Price painted that game so beautifully for me, I could see the wicked slider, and imagined the Infante - Polanco - Casey double-play. When I saw the replay it was exactly how I imagined it.

But the most amazing thing was how they conveyed the importance of the moment - what was really happening - without saying it.
".. and the boxes all have zeros for Millwaukee!"

They never even came close to crossing the jinx line.

That was great.

And Leyland as a leader? Just replay his post game interview to see how much he loves these guys.

And now the pendulum starts to swing back to our way again. What a perfect time for Kenny to come back. What a perfect thing for Andrew Miller to witness and be inspired by.

Here we goy boys. Hang on because it gets real fun now!!

12:55 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
I feel for you on the TV thing over there in Canada, but there is something about baseball on the radio that is special. In a way, as weird as it might be, it was almost better for you. I do believe the Tigers are about to take off.
Caputo

2:17 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Klinch,
Great points. Matt Bush has been nothing but trouble for the Padres. He has been involved in off-field stuff and been hurt or performed poorly. He might not even play at all in the major leagues, which is rare for a first overall pick. And the Padres don't just have Peavy at the top of their rotation, they also have Chris Young. They would have the best staff in baseball if they added Verlander because their bullpen is solid. Thanks for the compliment. I appreciate (especially from a fellow MSU j-school grad).
Caputo

2:22 PM 
Anonymous denise said...

"JUSTIN - CREDIBLE"!! What a performance. I listened to DD & Jim up to the bottom of the 8th when Dan gave the line score and i went in and watched the 9th. Ditto on anonymous Pat, we have a great group of announcers in the Tiger's booth and i loved the way they just let it play out. JUSTIN - CREDIBLE!!

2:37 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Denise,
Couldn't have said it any better myself. It was probably one of the top dozen performances in Tigers' history.
Caputo

3:35 PM 
Anonymous Danny said...

Oh what a night! Man last night was the best.

I was looking for Verlander to do well, but in the 1st three innings you could see what he was doing. The breaking ball (and all his pitches) made them look silly. I was yelling and jumping out of the chair in the 1st inning when he rung guys up. It just got better. He has really learned how to pitch with his monster stuff.

I was watching the game and Mario and Rod did a great job as usual. DD and Jim Price are terrific on the radio. I listened to Ernie for 30 years or so and there is something about the game on the radio that is special. The current four are all terrific.

Is Leyland psychic or something having Perez at short? Not sure anyone else makes the play. When its right its right!

Fred Brill may be right about the pendulum.

This game is etched.

Cheers,
Danny

3:54 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Danny,
I know this is going to sound corny, but there are times when I just can't believe what a great concept baseball is and how much I truly love it. Tuesday was just another reminder why.
Caputo

4:09 PM 
Anonymous lennyw1971 said...

Book, your dead on... I've never seen a 102mph seed with 2-seem movement as the 108th pitch of the night. It's amazing how a sports feat can galvanize a region for a short period of time. It helps that Verlander seems genuine and media savvy. It also doesn't hurt to have a hot babe jump into your arms after you achieve greatness.

I'm no Neifi Perez fan either. I feel bad for Omar Infante... smooth, valued utility man with an oncoming bat to match. I hope he doesn't get frustrated and begin brooding. Is there something personal between Leyland and Infante as to why he can't get a fair chance?

Even though this stripper's story sounds fishy, I do think that the string has run out for Shaun Rogers in Detroit. He's truly infected by the losing culture here, and I think that a move to a contender would do this talented player a bit of good. Don't be surprised if this strip club story goes by the wayside... we've heard this type of tale spun by this kind of person before.

Pat... I enjoy your blogs and the show. Salt-of-the-earth people are hard to find... that's why you should be a mainstay here for years to come. Congrats and continued success!

8:17 PM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

Book,

I tell you what I am still in shock. I've seen verlander pitch 2 times prior to his most recent start. THis game was unreal. I couldn't tell he was going to throw a no-hitter, but like I told my kid and wife. I was like this is going to be one hell of a night. Cause his stuff was just wicked. He had easy outs. I couldn't believe myself so befor last call I ordered two extra 190 octanes for myself. After the game I just wanted to sit in the stands for a while. I will be honest if I don't get to another game this year (which is unlikely) I would be satisfied. I had my baseball fill. I mean when will you get to see a performance like that Live.

It will be interesting to see how they respond afterwards. I mean it is usually performances that set great teams on a surge. It did with the 84 Tigers. We remember hat happened after Morris pitched his.

As far as Rogers. You know what I am not going to even give Big Pervert or what ever his name is any time. I like what i am hearing about Calvin Johnson. IF you read all the coloumns and sports writiers across the country this guy is a true stud. I am really looking forward to see if it is true. Thought it won't matter cause the D won't be able to stop anybody.

8:52 PM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

OK Book just a quick hit here. WHen the hell is the Tigers going to send Rodney down to AAA. The guy just doesn't have it this year. The Tigers are trying to do something. They can't afford to keep watching ROdney and Grilli come in and take a crap on the mound. Dombrowski has to be brewing up something. Heck if we have the arms down in the minors bring some up and lets see what they got. It can't hurt. If not why not trade for a guy.

9:42 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Lennyw1971,
Yeah. There really isn't much Verlander doesn't have going for him. He has handled his success well. I saw the police report on the Rogers situation. It didn't seem unreal. Something happened there. I just wonder what. He also put himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. That alone doesn't make him guilty, but players are warned about those type of things all the time. You'd think they would. Thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it. I enjoy the back and forth of this blog. It's interesting and fun. A lot of good posts.
Caputo

11:09 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Maddog52,
It's pretty obvious Rodney can't be trusted with a one-run lead as a setup man in the 8th. Is it his fault or is it Leyland's for putting him in there again? What are the options? There don't seem to be many good ones. Jones pitching two innings isn't one of them, either. Remember how that turned out. I'd like to see them try de la cruz. He has closed in the past and throws pretty hard. I know this - he couldn't do worse. Shaun Rogers' problems are mounting. I just don't see where he is going to turn it around.
Caputo

11:14 PM 
Anonymous Chief said...

Commander Book,
I think if Dombrowski had a quick fix move, he'd make it. At this point, he's going to stand pat and wait for more bodies to come back and make his move in late July.

11:48 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Chief,
It is getting closer to the time when they will start trying to make deals. I do believe they will try to find a setup man.
Caputo

2:55 AM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

I tell you what book. Other then the bull pen blowing it all the time. The thing that makes the Tigers seasons great is that we don't have to give two craps about the lions. I really don't care about Shaun Rogers. To me it is another Millen Blunder. We need some corners and we could of dealt him for something this offseason. Millen/Ford don't care about this team, City, or franchise so why should we care about them.

As far as Rodney. I wouldn't mind seeing us check out some of the talent we have down south. Like Cruz who you mentioned. When Kenny comes back. The guy (i know people aren't a fan of this) that I think would be awesome in the pen. Is Robertson. He's a guy that has a high motor like Zumya. Man I really think he could give you a good quality inning or two out of the pen. Heck that is all he gives us in his starts (at least recently:). I just don't think you take Durbin out yet until he proves he can't do the job. He's earned it in my mind. Maroth has show flashes, but heck I'd send him to the bull pen as well and keep Miller. That is just me.

11:20 AM 
Anonymous Danny said...

You’re the man, Pat. If you say you “believe they will try to find a setup man.”, I am hopeful.

We must stop the bleeding in close games. (I didn’t even get anxious watching Rodney last night because I accepted the loss beforehand when he came in.) We knew he would find a way to blow it. His stuff seems ok, but they seem to sit on the fastball or the change. Why doesn’t he don’t throw some kind of breaking ball? Also he also seems weirdly unfocused on the mound.

Cheers,
Danny

11:51 AM 
Anonymous Brian in GP said...

Pat, has there ever been a team like the Tigers with this much major league ready pitching? 7 starters that could be on any other staff in the league, bondo verlander rogers maroth roberston miller durbin. then, you look and see the bullpen with ledezma grilli miner even ramon colon, that could be the #5 starters on a lot of teams. when you also consider the fact of who Dombrowski has drafted, i think it makes the value of a miner or a roberston greater than it really is. a team would rather deal with the Tigers that just seem to have this wealth of pitching, and i think that reputation can and will help the tigers in a trade this year. DD should be able to trade for the exact piece he needs for this team to succeed.

12:19 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Maddog52,
Most people would think you're crazy for the Robertson as a setup guy. I am not. I like the idea based on his ability and makeup. What I don't know is how he'd handle it. It would be viewed as a demotion to him. Setup men make less money than starters and he is getting to the point of his career where he is going to start making some money because he is arbitration eligible and can see free agency. It would be tough sell for him. But of those starters that might be knocked out of the rotation, he'd be the best fit - if healthy. And the latter is a concern right now.
Caputo

12:41 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Danny,
You're right. Rodney is just not the answer right now. I do believe they will try to make a trade. Cordero is obvious, but the Nationals GM Jim Bowdin has tried to hold up teams in the past at the deadline - and gotten nothing done. It will be interesting to see if that changes. Gagne and Oskuna (sp ?) from the Rangers are other real possibilities. The Astros have said they won't trade Lidge. The Tigers do have some decent prospects they can afford to move if it is the right guy.
Caputo

12:45 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Brian in GP,
Miner doesn't have much value because scouts see him as a marginal major league pitcher. Ledezma has the most trade value, but he is also of value to them. Robertson's value is reduced because he makes some decent money and isn't throwing well right now. In order to make a deal, they will have to part with some of their pitching in the minor leagues. Like I have said before, they still have enough to do it for the proper guy.

12:48 PM 
Anonymous Marty said...

You are right about Millen. As much as everyone says that they like him as a person, his actions show that he is a very poor leader. He says that he will retain Johnny Morton, then releases him within days. He openly talks about his own players to the media behind their backs. He released good aging players who were leaders on the team like James Jones, without anyone to replace them. He has shown no integrity throughout his carreer with the Lions, and even if they win this year he doesn't deserve to be running the organization. He doesn't know how to treat his employees with any degree of proper respect, and that is what will keep him as a poor GM until he changes. Players will never play for an organization that treats them the way he allows this organization to treat its players, the same as workers never work hard for companies that treat them poorly.

12:48 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Marty,
Every point you made about Millen is true. Not only is he a poor decision maker, but he is a horrible leader. The Lions front office, top to bottom, is the worst I have ever seen in sports. It had issues before Millen, but not to the degree it has since.
Caputo

3:07 PM 

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