Tag Archive: MLB

Austin Jackson delivers the game-winning hit in the ninth inning on Thursday against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park. Jackson went 3 for 5 with a triple, run and RBI. (AP photo)

Much of the hype and hoopla surrounded Prince Fielder and the Tigers other two big stars in Thursday’s season opener at Comerica Park.

After all Fielder, the $219 million offseason acquisition and son of former Tigers masher Cecil Fielder was making his debut in a town where he spent a good portion of his childhood.

And reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander was back on the mound looking in midseason form.

And Miguel Cabrera was playing his first game at third base since the 2008 season, making his move across the diamond to accommodate Fielder’s arrival. (And he did make an error)

In the end the day belonged to Austin Jackson, the Tigers much maligned leadoff hitter who has been constantly criticized for his numerous strikeouts over his first two professional seasons. It also didn’t help that he took over center field for Curtis Granderson, who put together an MVP-caliber season for the Yankees last year.

After spending the offseason working on his hitting approach (Jackson got rid of his leg kick and shortened his stride to the ball), the center fielder came through with an impressive start to the season. Jackson went 3 for 5 and delivered the game-winning single down the third base line in the ninth inning to score pinch runner Danny Worth and lift the Tigers to a 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox.

It was the first career walk-off hit for Jackson, who bailed out the Tigers after closer Jose Valverde blew his first save since the 2010 season by giving up two runs in the ninth.

Austin Jackson (right) drove in Danny Worth (29) for the winning run in the ninth inning in Detroit's 3-2 win over the Red Sox on Thursday. (Getty Images)

Jackson used all parts of the field with his hits, singling the first pitch he saw from Boston starter Jon Lester into center field to start the game. He tripled to right field to lead off the eighth inning before scoring on Fielder’s sac fly to put the Tigers ahead 2-0. Then with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth he tucked the winning hit just down the third-base line.

Besides using all fields, Jackson didn’t strike out and displayed a good approach when he had two strikes on him. That is worth noting since Jackson has struck out 351 times over his first two seasons in the majors and his strikeout-rate of 27.1 percent was the fifth worst among qualified hitters in 2011. In the third inning, Jackson got down in the count 0-2 before working it full. After seeing a ball, Jackson fouled off a pitch before getting two straight balls. Jackson ended up flying out to center field. In the fifth he was ahead in the count 3-0 before Lester worked it full. He then flied out right.

While it was just one game, the Jackson performance was an encouraging sign for the Tigers to see. The outing resembled some of the many strong performances from his rookie year, where Jackson’s batting average was above .300 for a vast majority of the season and he finished runner-up in the voting for AL rookie of the year.

Him being a table setter for the four power hitters behind him (Brennan Boesch, Cabrera, Fielder and Delmon Young) will make the Tigers offense that much better. And it could be one of the big keys in helping the Tigers accomplish their goal of bringing a World Series title back to Motown.

And more performances like Thursday’s will make fans forget about that guy that patrolled center field in Comerica Park before him.


So long Polanco

Detroit Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco heads back to the dugout after pre-game warmups during a game in August. Polanco signed a three-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. (Brian Calloway photo)

The Placido Polanco era in Detroit officially came to a halt when the Tigers decided not to offer him salary arbitration on Tuesday and with him inking a three-year with the Philadelphia Phillies today.

In my opinion, it was a smart move by the Tigers to part ways with him. With so many bad contracts (I.e. Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson, Magglio Ordonez, etc.) on the team, there is no way they could risk Polanco accepting arbitration or really afford to give him a three-year $18 million deal like the Phillies did. Polanco is also 34, and we’ve all seen how some others on the Tigers have started to perform now that they are approaching the end of their careers (Ordonez, Carlos Guillen).

And if the Tigers feel that Scott Sizemore is in fact ready, why not save money at that position. Especially with rumors swirling that Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson could be on the move to save money, having Sizemore as the second baseman makes sense instead of paying to keep Polanco.

While the Tigers had to make the move to part ways with Polanco, I’m still a little sad to see him go. He was a valuable performer for the Tigers and one of the better moves Dave Dombrowski has made during his tenure as Detroit’s general manager.

Detroit acquired Polanco in 2005 from the Phillies in a deal in which the Tigers sent relief pitcher Ugueth Urbina to Philadelphia. Polanco was strong for four-plus seasons with the Tigers and even won a Gold Glove in 2007 and 2009. He also was the MVP during the ALCS and helped the Tigers reach the World Series in 2006. He seemed to be the ultimate professional and was probably one of the best clutch hitters the Tigers had.

His .285 average this season was his worst in a full season as a Tiger and he struck out a career high 46 times this year. On the flip side he drove in a career high 72 runs this season. I will miss Polanco for what he provided the Tigers but I think its time  to see what Sizemore can offer.

From seeing Sizemore play several times this summer in Toledo, I think he can be a good offensive player. The defense remains to be seen but I think he will do all right and I hope the move pans out. Last season between stints at Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, Sizemore hit .308 with 39 doubles, five triples and 17 homers and 21 stolen bases in 25 attempts. He had 95 strikeouts.

Sizemore hit .308 at Toledo in 71 games and had the 22 doubles. He was one of the Tigers delegates to the Arizona Fall League and hit .368 in six games before going down with an injury. According to a Detroit Free Press report today his fracture left ankle is getting better and he could be off crutches soon.

Porcello has been great

Detroit Tigers rookie Rick Porcello prepares to fire a pitch during an interleague contest against the Chicago Cubs in June.

Detroit Tigers rookie Rick Porcello prepares to fire a pitch during an interleague contest against the Chicago Cubs in June.

Rick Porcello has had an excellent rookie season for the Detroit Tigers. He leads all American League (and MLB) rookie pitchers with 13 victories after outdueling Toronto rookie Ricky Romero and helping the Tigers earn a badly needed victory on Sunday. Detroit ended a five-game slide with their win over the Blue Jays.

His contributions have been invaluable this season and without him, the Tigers likely wouldn’t be leading the AL Central and in position to make the playoffs this late in the year. Porcello has made the kind of impact that Justin Verlander made for the Tigers in 2006 during his rookie season. Verlander was a valuable arm that helped the Tigers get the AL Wild Card and reach the World Series that year.

Looking around the Tigers rotation this season, Porcello has been one of three reliable arms. The other two spots in the rotation haven’t been great which is why Porcello has meant so much.  Armando Galarraga hasn’t been great, Dontrelle Willis couldn’t find the strike zone again when he had his opportunity. Luke French was decent before being traded to Seattle, but his replacement Jarrod Washburn hasn’t been great at all since being acquired by the Tigers in that deal.

Detroit rookie Rick Porcello is 13-8 with a 4.21 ERA in 27 starts this season for the Tigers. He leads all MLB rookie pitchers in victories. (Associated Press)

Detroit rookie Rick Porcello is 13-8 with a 4.21 ERA in 27 starts this season for the Tigers. He leads all MLB rookie pitchers in victories. (Associated Press)

All of that just highlights Porcello’s value. Other than a couple of bad starts in July, and a couple of short/rough outings against Boston and the New York Yankees earlier in the season, the rookie has been great.

Will all of his success equate to him being like Verlander and earning Rookie of the Year honors in the AL? That seems very iffy. Looking at numbers, Tampa Bay’s Jeff Niemann has the better figures. Romero’s numbers are very similar to Porcello, but there also have been some great rookie hitters in Texas’ Elvis Andrus and Chicago’s Gordon Beckham.

Here are the numbers of who I believe  are the leading candidates for AL Rookie of the Year

PORCELLO –  13-8, 4.21 ERA,  78 Ks, 45 BBs in 147 2/3 IP, 151 hits allowed

NIEMANN –  12-5, 3.57 ERA, 106 Ks, 50 BBs in 161 1/3 IP, 157 hits allowed

ROMERO – 12-8 , 4.22 ERA, 119 Ks, 68 BBs in 153 2/3 IP, 164 hits allowed

ANDRUS – .277 batting avg, 26 SBs, 33 RBIs, 14 2Bs, 8 3Bs, 6 HRs

BECKHAM – .279 batting avg., 53 RBIs, 25 2Bs, 1 3B, 11 HRs

There have been other solid rookies like Chicago’s Chris Getz, Baltimore’s Nolan Reimold and Tampa Bay’s David Price, but I think Porcello has probably been the most important to his team. Niemann has been valuable as well as Tampa Bay has been in the hunt for the wild card but is fading and Andrus has been up for Texas all year and has them still in contention for the postseason. Romero and Toronto aren’t going to the postseason, while Beckham and the Chi Sox still could theoretically catch the Tigers too.

It will be interesting to see who gets the nod in the AL for this award and my guess would probably be Niemann or Andrus get this award. But Porcello’s value to his team has been just as important if not more despite him not having the stats.