I realize I haven't been writing much about the Tigers this season but as always there is a rational explanation for this. Nearly six months ago I was kidnapped and tortured by a man with a striking resemblance to Dick Dastardly as an evil replicant of myself (Did I just expose myself as a nerdy Blade Runner fan......Jesus) was released in an attempt to ruin my life of romancing supermodels, fighting crime at night, winning Formula 1 championships, partying across the Atlantic with Pharrell and Jay-Z in my own personal G5 and, when I wasn't busy with all of the above, writing the best god damn sports blog in the city of Detroit. I won't bore you people with the details of my miraculous escape other than it involved stealth, grappling hooks and a maxim gun but I will express my displeasure that you readers didn't realize something was amiss when "I" wrote a post about Avril Lavigne. Then again, I can't think of a time when you guys aren't disappointing me, like when you readers gave me "coupons" to rake the leaves and your baseball mitt for my birthday when all I asked for was bourbon and a son who wasn't gay. Christ. Wait, wait, wait......Wait. None of this stuff ever happened. The only thing I've done the last month is take summer classes, eat individually sold Hot Pockets and Nerd Ropes from the gas station, watch reruns of Wacky Races and Batman: The Animated Series, have flashbacks to my dad's 45th birthday party and search in vain for a reason to live, all of which seem to explain how I dreamed up the above scenario. Anyways...I figured it was time to give a trimester report on the Tigers as, according to my abacus, they have now played slightly more than a third of their games. I also hope that trimester is the correct term and applicable to things other than pregnancy because I couldn't think of a more appropriate term unless it's "triaderly" but I don't think that's even a word. 'Nuff bullshittin' though and on to the report.
Justin Verlander: When the season began I was concerned about Verlander. He was struggling on the mound, riding an old motorcycle he had just purchased, coming home smelling like cigarettes, listening to "Twisted Sister" really loud and hanging out with that smart mouth Johnny Strabler boy. Seriously though beyond being a concerned parent I really thought Verlander was going to have a sophomore slump based on his early spring struggles and the heavy workload he experienced in his first big-league season. Turns out I was completely wrong regarding Verlander and his youthful rebellion as he has established his standing as an ace of the staff and one of the premier pitchers in the American League. In his twelve starts this season Verlander has allowed three runs or less in eleven of them, and if you throw out his one bad outing against Cleveland he would be third in the A.L. with a 2.44 ERA. In his latest start against Texas, Verlander was absolutely brilliant, carving up the Rangers lineup with three pitches (fastball, knuckle curve and changeup) that ranged from unhittable to completely unfair. Normally I don't like to laugh at people with Down's Syndrome but I couldn't help giggling at the way Sammy Sosa looked after his two punchouts following Verlander curveballs. At the pace he's on I think Verlander is going to be an annual Cy Young contender within the next year or two or, who knows, maybe as early as this season, (I'm just trying not to jinx anything).
Jeremy Bonderman: On most teams Verlander would be the clear-cut No.1 and most exciting young pitcher on the staff. In Detroit however Verlander has to vie for that title alongside Jeremy Bonderman. Before the season began many people, including yours handsomely, predicted Bonderman would vault into the upper echelons of the A.L. pitching elite, a place where pitchers wear powdered wigs, drink 1775 Sherry, and discuss Salieri or in Bonderman's case kittens (I'm sorry I can't get past making jokes that Bonderman has the understanding of a 6 year old, I know it's not true). Despite missing a couple of starts with a blister, Bonderman has continued to fulfill his promise, rocking faces to the tune of a 3.63 ERA and unleashing one of the most devastating sliders in the game today. Bonderman's only downfall this season has been a struggle getting out of the first inning without getting touched up. He's got a double digit ERA in the first frame but settles down afterward to putting up zeroes across the board. There must be a way to correct this by tricking him into thinking the game starts in the second inning and......wait everyone's already made this observation. Hmm..you didn't really come here expecting a modicum of originality did you?
Andrew Miller: I know he's only made two starts but he's rejoined the rotation to replace Nate Robertson who went on the DL with a "tired arm", whatever the hell that means. The Free Press intimated that if Miller performs well in his next couple of starts he could be staying in the rotation permanently. This bit of information made me literally orgasmic, (sorry about that detail I just thought it was important). Most people in my position would probably be excited about finishing law school, establishing a career, getting married and starting a family but those people probably aren't morbidly depressed. That's why of all the potential things that could occur in my life over the next ten years I think I'm most excited about the prospect of the Tigers rolling out a rotation that contains some combination of Verlander, Bonderman and Miller at the top and dominating the Central Division into my early thirties.
Nate Robertson: Nate went on the DL last Wednesday after giving up six runs and failing to record an out in his start a week ago. This was the latest in the string of bad outings for Robertson and according to the dailies has apparently left his role and future with the team a little murky especially if Miller excels in Robertson's absence. I hope this isn't the case as I've come a long way in my relationship with Nate. I went from being openly hostile to his mere presence two years ago, to enjoying watching him blossom into one of the most consistent left-handed starters in the A.L. over the course of last season and the first few weeks of this year. Now after a month of struggling and reverting back to his 2005 form Robertson might be unceremoniously dumped (really though is anyone ever ceremoniously dumped, because I would prefer this, it would make the whole process easier and less painful then being dumped via MySpace or text messages, which if anyone says happened to me is a complete fabrication...it was through facebook) out of the rotation. I really hope Robertson can turn things around and become a useful member of the pitching staff this season, and if he isn't I guess they will have to throw him into the tumbrel and lead him to the guillotine, or trade him for bullpen help......whatever.
Mike Maroth: I've been sitting here for ten minutes trying to think of something new to write about Maroth but I can't. I'm tapped. He's just not that interesting and always does the things that Mike Maroth does. So if you are really interested in my thoughts on Maroth just search for him at the top of the page. I guarantee it will be more fun than getting high and watching Season 2 of the Venture Bros.........not really.
Chad Durbin: Durbin was thrust into the rotation at the beginning of the season when Rogers went down with a shoulder injury and after appearing completely overwhelmed in his first few starts Durbin has settled down into being a competent fifth starter capable of holding down the fort long enough for reinforcements to arrive. In fact Durbin has pitched well enough to create a bit of intrigue not seen since the National Assembly during the French Revolution, about who should lose their spot in the rotation when "The Gambler" returns from the DL in the next 2-3 weeks. Durbin is still the most likely candidate to lose his spot but I assume the list now includes both Robertson and Maroth. It will be interesting to see what the Tigers do with this sudden surplus of starters once the trade deadline rolls around towards the end of July and see if that can't trade their piddling back of the rotation crap to a postseason pretender desperate for starting pitching help and if that's the case.....Go Mariners.
Todd Jones: Jones always pitches well enough to deceive people into believing he is a competent closer. He'll put together a few weeks of decent outings and people will say, "You know, Jones gets a lot of heat but if you look at his numbers he's not that bad. He makes things interesting but in the end he gets the job done and that's all that matters when you're a closer." These people smile contently when Jones enters the game, thinking they know something everyone else doesn't and watch as Jones just explodes right in front of them. Completely self destructs, and leaves his fans standing there stunned and covered in the blood and guts of another Jones blown save. Exhibit No. 4,515 in the case of Tigers Fans v. Todd Jones was the Cleveland game on June 1, 2007 in which Jones gave up seven hits and five runs in one inning to lose a game against the division leaders and our biggest rivals this season. I mean look at his k/bb ratio, it's 11/11 and that's completely unacceptable for a closer or a Little Leaguer. I could go on but I'm getting all worked up about it and I'm not going to let Jones ruin my life during times when he's not pitching.
Jason Grilli: A few months ago I compiled a list of my least favorite Tigers of All-Time and could only come up with four players whom mustered the requisite amount of antipathy required to make the cut. Well I think I've found No. 5 and he's quickly working his way up the list. A few appearances ago he entered the game with an ERA of 6.66 and I couldn't think of a more appropriate number to associate Grilli with. There are times when Grilli looks to be an adequate 12th man out of the staff and then there are times when he looks like he would be one of the first cuts from a JV high school team. He throws in the mid-90's which is excellent velocity for a reliever but it has to be the straightest 94 MPH fastball in the history of baseball. I've seen more movement from balls coming out of a pitching machine at the local putt-putt golf course. My friend Bill was always an adamant supporter of Grilli, which led to many 4 A.M. arguments over the phone while looking at baseball-reference.com and put a serious strain on our relationship. However yesterday he capitulated on this matter after Grilli faced four Mets without recording an out, by sending me a text message that read "I can't believe I ever defended this guy." which is possibly the most important surrender in the U.S. since Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House.
Fernando Rodney: Rodney has been an enigma this season. He's allowed a run in each of his last four appearances and seen his ERA balloon into Grilli territory. However his statistics outside of ERA are excellent. He's got a 23/9 K/BB ratio a low BAA and nearly a strikeout an inning although he's given up four bombs in 24 innings which is a little disconcerting. I have this nagging feeling that Rodney is injured and is trying to keep it quiet. I really hope that's not the case and Rodney regresses back to the mean.
Tim Byrdak: When Byrdak was called up I panicked and thought the Tigers had reverted back to the 2003 team and that the past 18 months had been only fantasy because Byrdak and his career ERA over 7.00 would have fit in perfect on that squad. However Byrdak has been a revelation and appears to be the consistent lefty out of the pen to replace Jamie Walker, something Bobby Seay and Wil Ledezma weren't able to accomplish. Byrdak is also another example of why my son might mysteriously hurt his arm when he's young and be forced to become left handed. And if any nosy doctor tries to insinuate child abuse, well be warned, because I've been working on my throat punching.
Wilfredo Ledezma: I've been stumping in favor of Fredo for the past few years but my patience is wearing thin. I thought he had the potential to turn into a solid starter (o.k. I compared him to Pedro Martinez and I'm legally obligated to remind you of my stupidity every time I mention Ledezma, who knew the legislature had the time to pass such mundane laws?) or a dominant reliever but I don't think either will happen. He's also worked his way into Leyland's doghouse which is pretty remarkable given how shitty the bullpen has been over the past several weeks. His control this season has been atrocious with 23 walks in only 30 innings, which is the same number he had all of last season in twice as many innings. I really don't want to resort to the cliche Fredo/Godfather/"You broke my heart" jokes at some point this season and have Bill Simmons cronies come kick my ass on the street for joke-stealing but I may have to.
Bobby Seay: To me Seay is the most anonymous Tiger on the team. He's appeared in nineteen games this season, including two that I attended, and I don't remember ever seeing him. I don't even know what he looks like or if he even exists or is just a figment of my imagination. If anyone can vouch for Seay's existence by presenting me with his head on a pike and corresponding dental records I would be greatly relieved. You guys are the best.
Joel Zumaya: Early this season I purchased a Zumaya T-shirt jersey to wear to future games and more formal gatherings like weddings and Quinceaneras. Of course Zumaya struggled slightly to regain his dominant form of last season and then while warming up in the bullpen in Kansas City he ruptured a tendon in his middle finger that is going to put him out a minimum of 12 weeks. I guess what I'm trying to assert is that I'm completely responsible for Zumaya's injury this season and subsequent collapse of the Tigers bullpen. Sorry. Leyland recently appeared on the radio and suggested that Zumaya may be out for the season before immediately backtracking after fans became apoplectic and throwing themselves out of windows like the stock market had crashed again. However, I believe Leyland was telling the truth and Zumaya won't return this season and of course that has me concerned. The Tigers have been linked to about every reliever on the market including Eric Gagne, that Chinaman on the Rangers Hong-Chong Ching-Chang (Jesus Christ, I'm sorry about that, this is the last time I let my Grandpa edit these posts. I meant Akinori Otsuka.), and uh.....other relievers.....I'm sure, I should have researched this more. My point is I think the Tigers are going to make a significant move to upgrade their pen and replace what Zumaya gave them on a consistent basis last season, and it's going to happen soon.