Jean Segura, disciplined aggressor

The Tigers outscored the Mariners 20-19 this week but lost two of three, and all you get is this crummy article on Seattle’s new shortstop. My latest post at Banished to the Pen takes a quick look at the ways in which Jean Segura is building on his 2016 breakout.

The full post is available here.

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Catching Fire: Checking in on Justin Upton

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Everyone knows Justin Upton has had a tough go of things during his first season in Detroit, and it’s reasonable to expect that there would be an adjustment period associated with his move to the American League– new pitchers, new parks– after spending his first nine seasons in the National League.

When we last checked in on Upton, in late June, things finally seemed to be heading in the right direction:

Especially exciting for Detroit was that two of [the Tigers’ home runs in a win against the Mariners] came off the bat of Justin Upton, who finally appears to be heating up for his new team after suffering one of the worst offensive stretches of his career.

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Upton has not continued in that direction, however; in fact, I seem to have caught him precisely at his peak. Here’s an updated version that same graph from the June post, above:

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That earlier snapshot of Upton’s offensive production was through June 20, the date highlighted on this graph. Since then, Upton’s offense is declining again, and this graph (for reasons unknown to me) doesn’t even include the team’s two most-recent games, in which he went 0-7, striking out four times and grounding into two double plays.

jupmonthlysplitAug

At the moment, this season is the only full one of Upton’s career in which he has performed as a below-average batter, and, as the above all indicate, he’s been particularly bad of late. (Like, 6-wRC+-for-the-month-of-August bad.)

After the Mariners (coincidentally, the same team against which Upton appeared to break out back in June) completed a frustrating series sweep of the Tigers in Seattle early this morning, critics corralled their critical criticisms in Upton’s direction. Detroit hitting coach Wally Joyner came to Upton’s defense, however:

He’s a good player. He wasn’t sitting on the corner when they gave him the contract. He’s earned it. There’s a reason for that. Remember it. Nothing’s changed. He’s just a little bit unlucky right now.

He’s not OK with it and I’m glad he’s not OK with it. He’s working hard and he’ll be fine. He’s unlucky. He’s not playing like [crap].

Is Joyner right? Has Upton, of late, merely been unlucky?   Continue reading

Catching Fire: Night of a thousand feet of home runs

If not winning, the Detroit Tigers certainly have been doing a lot of home-run hitting over the last week or so, and, after some extra-inning disappointments during that stretch, they finally put it all together last night for an overtime win last night in a home series opener against the Seattle Mariners. That game featured three Tigers homers, each of which gave the team the lead. Especially exciting for Detroit was that two of them came off the bat of Justin Upton, who finally appears to be heating up for his new team after suffering one of the worst offensive stretches of his career.

jupwrc20gmavg

Upton’s first of the night was a dead-center bomb in the seventh that gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead, and his second, which clinched the game in walk-off fashion in the twelfth, landed beyond the bullpen in left. There likely is no one happier about this apparent return to power than Upton himself, and, especially with J.D. Martinez out with an elbow injury, it couldn’t be more timely for the team.

Upton’s homers last night inspired celebration, but Miguel Cabrera’s, which gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead in the first inning, inspired awe. I’ve never seen a Comerica Park home run hit where Cabrera hit his last night. No one has.

Have a look:   Continue reading

Flying Tigers: The State of Baseball in Detroit

The Detroit Tigers, once unequivocal favorites to run away with the AL Central, today find themselves clinging to a wild-card spot. And today is a good day. A if-the-season-ended-today-the-Tigers-would-make-the-playoffsish day. Not all days are those days these days.

Even with a 7-3 record over the last ten games (you’re glad I didn’t write this post ten games ago), Detroit has a losing record so far in the second half of the season (23-24, -4 run differential). While the offense, unaddressed before the trade deadlines, continues to be a problem, injuries to Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, and Joakim Soria effectively negated any defensive gains resulting from the team’s only two late-season trades.

The group of “rational Tigers fans” beat back even the slightest hint of worry with blanket appeals to the greatness of the historically great members of this Tigers team. “Don’t read too deeply into the struggles you’re seeing because this team has MIGUEL CABRERA, who can’t possibly lose” or whatever. It’s important to vent, though. And to be honest (and, you know, rational). Cabrera can barely walk right now. Yes, he’s leading the sport in doubles this season, but that’s because his power has evaporated (i.e., he’ll probably finish the year with half as many homers as he hit last year and, at very best, the third-worst HR season of his career). His injuries mean that Victor Martinez has to spend more time playing first base. At age thirty five, Victor’s having a breakout power year, but he has no knees, which makes it tough for him to defend first. J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler’s bats have cooled off after hot starts. None of the various replacement-level players filling time at short can hit, and there’s a noticeable problem with catching the ball to tag out base stealers.

How do things look with a month, twenty-four games, to go? Continue reading

Flying Tigers: Trade Deadline Explosion

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In developments that can only be described as shocking, the Tigers executed a last-minute trade for pitcher David Price, sending Austin Jackson to Seattle and Drew Smyly to Tampa. (Seattle also sent Nick Franklin to Tampa.) The trade was finalized while Detroit was in the middle of a game both Smyly and Jackson had started, and Jackson had to be pulled off the field when the deal was done.  Continue reading

Preseason BP Nuggets

bpro-oscarAs mentioned, this is my first season reading the Baseball Prospectus annual, and as those around me this spring have noticed, it’s full of numbers. Numbers are okay, but without analysis or interpretation, it can be a bit like reading the backs of a bunch of really comprehensive baseball cards (that also happen to include some sophisticated projections for the season ahead). There’s nothing wrong with numbers, but they don’t tend to make for very exciting reading on a site like this. Instead of asking you to widen your eyes along with me at the number of home runs Chris Davis is projected to hit this year (thirty, down from his Triple-Crown-repeat-spoiling fifty-three in 2013), I’ve tried to extract a few nuggets of information from the weeds of the raw data that will make watching baseball this season just a little bit more enjoyable.      Continue reading

King in the North(west)

6a00d8341c562353ef017d42439c3e970c-500wiIn my quest to bring you more columns on teams you could not care less about, I am starting a semi-regular column on the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have been my favorite team since I got into baseball, largely due to a fondness for Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball on SNES. I still maintain that it is one of the best games of all time, although it is obviously not on the level of Game of Thrones or my personal favorite game of all time, Mass Effect 2. This column was really also just an excuse to make another Game of Thrones pun, which I’m super good at. Like yesterday I posted this recipe for direwolf shaped scones on Facebook and called it Game of Scones. How great is that?

Anyway, the Mariners just wrapped up a series against AD’s second favorite team, the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers won 2 out of 3, although all three games were fairly competitive with Wednesday’s game going to 14 innings.  The one win the Mariners got was against Justin Verlander. Go figure.  Although there is a fairly large talent gap between the two teams (a 150+ million dollar payroll can do that), the Mariners have had a lot of success against the Tigers in recent years so this was kind of a disappointing result for Seattle. Still, you can never be too disappointed beating Verlander and I was doubly happy because he is on one of my fantasy teams and he turned in a solid start despite losing the game. Woof, this is reading like a Live Journal post, huh? Or at least what I imagine a Live Journal post would read like.

Coming into the season I thought that the Mariners could be a surprise team a la the 2012 Orioles or Athletics given the acquisition of some offensive firepower in Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales. This of course assumed that their young core of Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero would make a leap, which has not happened yet. The Mariners have also been bit by the injury bug, having several regular players go on the disabled list. Things could still turn around, and the fact that Seattle gets a good number of games against the Houston Astros could be the difference if they want to snag a wild card over an AL Central or East team. Still, their league worst offense over the past several seasons must make strides, and that is no given.

A Mariners post wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the King in the North(west), Felix Hernandez. Felix is off to a stellar start to the 2013 season, and continues to prove that he is one of the top pitchers in the major league. Is another Cy Young in his future? If I could see into the future I would tell you, but I can’t, so I won’t.

That’s it for my first Mariners column. I don’t blame you for skipping over it, because I doubt it interests you very much. But if you read through the whole thing, here is a stellar gif of Khal Drogo as a reward. Who do you guys think would win in a fight between Khal Drogo and the Mountain? Let me know in the comments.

A Song of Bryce and Fire

imagesAD has been writing about his new favorite team lately in the popular column Upton Abbey.  Since I can’t allow him to praise the Barves unchecked, I will now write a semi-regular-ish column on their division rivals, the Washington Nationals.  So now you get three columns on teams you (probably) don’t care about.  But you should read all of them so you can get some culture and have something to talk about with your co-workers at the ol’ water cooler.

This past weekend saw a series between the scorching hot Bravos and the hot-but-not-scorching-hot Washington Nationals.  The series did not go so well for Washington, as they got swept and only looked competitive in the first game.  I attended the Saturday game with noted blog subject Bad Jeremy, who is almost as big of a Braves fan as AD.  The game was a 3-1 Braves victory that saw the Nats do very little in the way of making offense and the Braves do slightly more.  Evan Gattis carried the Braves, hitting a two run homer that caused Bad Jeremy to get out of his seat and flex at all the Nats fans in the surrounding area.

The highlight of the game was, as always, the Presidents’ Race.  George Washington jumped out to a big lead early on with Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson trailing behind.  Newcomer William Howard Taft was nowhere to be found, and everyone in attendance wondered where he was.  The answer to that question was soon revealed, as Taft emerged from the right field bullpen to join with Teddy in beating up George Washington.  Apparently there was some beef between Presidents 26 and 27 and President 1.  Who knew?  Jefferson and Lincoln continued past, neck and neck, until Jefferson went into his kick and won what was one of the more exciting Presidents’ Races in recent memory.

Despite being swept by the Barves, the Nats have looked good early on and seem like they are more than capable of making it to their second postseason in franchise history this year.  They have some great young arms in Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzales, not to mention the bats of Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth.  This weekend’s series could very well be a preview of the 2013 NLCS (where the winner will go on to get swept by the Seattle Mariners in the World Series).  Stay tuned for more of A Song of Bryce and Fire, and also for a Mariners column with the working title of King in the North(west).  Baseball, huh?  How about it?

ALDLAND Podcast

Hello ALDLANDers!  Lots to talk about today, including Felix Hernandez’s historic performance for the Seattle Mariners, which saw him notch the 23rd* perfect game in major league history.  Also on the table are discussion of pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, and the antics in the Red Sox clubhouse, not to mention our recap of the Olympics.  So join AD and me for a half hour of discussion and good times.

*You know why this asterisk is here.

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

ALDLAND Podcast

Hello ALDLAND listeners.  It’s kind of a dead season for sports other than baseball, so Chris and I are continuing to bring some more pop culture discussion into the show.  Hear us talk about one of our favorite shows, Metalocalypse, in addition to discussing the big trades made in the baseball world this week.  There is even conjecture about how Bad Jeremy feels about the Braves’ acquisition of Ryan Dempster.  Are you interested now?  Of course you are.  You love Bad Jeremy!

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Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here: