Monday, April 27, 2009

Yankees-Tigers Series Preview

Yankees and Tigers series preview for Baseball Digest

Yankees-Tigers Series Preview

The Detroit Tigers are only three years removed from winning the American League pennant. But you wouldn’t know that if you looked at how they played last season. The drop off actually began two years ago when the Tigers finished with seven less wins than their Wild Card season of ‘06, leaving them eight games behind the first place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. Many pundits had predicted a repeat of the prior year’s success.

At least the Tigers were in the race in ‘07. Manager Jim Leyland and his team would like to completely forget about last season, but they can’t. Leyland’s job is on the line after a miserable 74-88 record and a last place finish in the AL Central in 2008. It shouldn’t have been that way. After all, the team added one of the best hitters in the game in Miguel Cabrera and one of it’s brightest young pitchers, Dontrelle Willis. While Cabrera put up his usual big numbers (37 HR, 127 RBI), not much else went right for the Tigers last season.

Things started badly right off the bat when up and coming star center fielder Curtis Granderson broke his hand during spring training and missed three weeks. The injury continued to bother him all season.

Former Rookie of the Year Justin Verlander seemed to suffer from a junior jinx. He lost miles per hour on his fastball and command of his pitches. After going 35-15 his first two seasons,Verlander slumped to an 11-17 record with an ERA that was more than a point higher (4.84) than his career average.

Jeremy Bonderman seemed to bounce back from his miserable second half in ‘07, but was shut down after his June 1 start, and underwent season ending thoracic surgery.

Dontrelle Willis was, in a word, awful. In eight appearances, seven of which were starts, Willis allowed 25 runs and walked 35 batters in just 24 innings.

The bullpen struggled all year. Joel Zumaya was hurt again, Fernando Rodney was inconsistent and closer Todd Jones was starting to pitch like a 50 year old, which was was a problem since he was only 40. Jones wasn’t the only one showing his age though. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez, outfielder Gary Sheffield, and starter Kenny Rogers were all in decline.

So far, this season has been a mixed bag for the Tigers. After a 3-5 start, Detroit has won 7 of 10 entering Monday night’s game with the Yankees, and are in first place in the AL Central. Verlander is still struggling to return to his 2006-7 form. Willis has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and is working his way back to the majors in the minor leagues. Jones and Rogers have retired. Bonderman is still recovering from his surgery. Zumaya had just returned from another stint on the DL, and Rodney is trying his hand at closer.

But on the up side, Granderson is healthy and off to a great start, starter Armando Galarraga has been a big boost to the rotation, and New Jersey product Rick Porcello has caused a stir with his fast track to the majors. And Jim Leyland? He’s the same very good manager, win or lose.

Pitching Probables for Yankees-Tigers Series

Monday: CC Sabathia (1-1, 4.81) vs. Justin Verlander (0-2, 9.00)
Tuesday: Phil Hughes (0-0, 0.00) vs. Edwin Jackson (1-1, 2.77)
Wednesday: Joba Chamberlain (0-0, 3.94) vs. Rick Porcello (1-2, 4.50)

Hughes makes his return from Scranton to the bigs due to the injury to Chien-Ming Wang. The Yankees top pitching prospect was 3-0, 1.86 with 19 strikeouts in 19.1 innings pitched. Hughes has walked just three batters and limited opponents to a .233 batting average.

Johnny Damon is in Monday’s starting lineup after being relegated to bench duty on Sunday. Damon collided with the Green Monster on Saturday, and like the Yankees, lost.

After a hot start, Nick Swisher is just 7-39 (.179) over his last 10 games. He has just 2 RBI over that period and has struck out 13 times.

No comments:

Post a Comment