By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
It’s Tuesday, so two topics will be tackled by our writers; the ever-evolving performance evaluation of Mike Pelfrey and the series loss to the Athletics.
What have Holly and Kurt noticed? What has stood out on both topics? Did they share their answers (you should know by now)? Nope, they are seeing them at the same time you are. So let’s get into it.
1. Is Mike Pelfrey as bad as many fans seem to believe?
Pelfrey has pitched in exactly 10 games so far and while he’s thrown a couple of stinkers, he’s more often been a victim of poor timing, team performance and management.
His job coming into the team was to eat innings, which he hasn’t done – averaging between 5 and 6 innings and his WHIP stands at 1.77. Neither good stats, however it’s conceivable that his WHIP could be lower if he wasn’t left in too long and if the bullpen had done its job.
Pelfrey has had one really bad game – his first, but he’s incrementally gotten better as time has gone on. To be fair, his next three games became losses in part because his teammates gave him a grand total of one whopping run.
His next 5 games were no decisions in which the Tigers won 3 out of the 5. In this case, he did his job by keeping the team in the game and in fact, there were a couple of games which should have put some “W”s on his card, but the team couldn’t hold the lead they were given. In two of those games, he only gave up 2 runs each. In his last 4 games, the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead.
In Sunday’s game, he was charged with the loss despite not giving up an entire earned run. If his team had hit, if the bullpen had done their job and if the manager had made more timely decisions, 9 of those games each had a greater than 50% chance of earning him a win.
Fans are enamored by stats and numbers and money. And the latter is probably what bothers them the most. If Mike Pelfrey had been brought over from the Twins on a 1-year, incentive-laden deal, they would be more forgiving.
I think most were in agreement that they could have done much better in their search for a 4th or 5th starter. Mistake #1 was making Pelfrey that acquisition. Mistake #2 was handing a 2-year contract to a guy you have a hunch about. No number crunching. No sabermetrics. A hunch based on years since his Tommy John Surgery.
He has not pitched poorly of late, the Tigers just need to be more aware of his ceiling; and unfortunately after the 5th inning, it’s warning time. But fans overall, aren’t happy because the Tigers committed so much on a guy who hasn’t turned a single head over the years and this season has yet to win a game.
2. What theme or factor was most often seen in the series loss to Oakland?
What stood out to me was the lack of focus by everyone, from the top to the bottom. A series that had 2 managers who didn’t appear to be seeing what everyone else was. One who claimed he didn’t see the plate controversy, one who didn’t see his relievers getting shelled and a coach who repeatedly sent runners to their doom.
In the field, a couple muffed plays by 2 outfielders. In the infield, an error by the most dependable second baseman and a play or two that could have been handled better by the SS.
At the plate, hitters unable to get runners in, not just from 2nd base, but from 3rd base multiple times and more than once with no one out. A series that saw a 4 for 22 RISP and 18 left on base that resulted in a whopping 6 runs for the entire series. And their most consistent hitter who just stood there after striking out and invoked a seldom-seen rule that nullified a runner at the plate.
Speaking of which, baserunning took a significant turn for the worse with multiple runners out at home plate, several extra base attempts gone wrong and a pickoff thrown in for good measure.
No one appeared to be fully in the moment, let alone playing as a team, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the Tigers lost a series to a last-place team.
Every team in the league will go into the city of a last place team and emerge having lost a series they should have won.
But it’s how you lose games that tell the story, not necessarily the result itself. The series was littered with poor defense. It was littered with a number of people left on base. And a game allowed to snow ball when the decision to remove a pitcher was far too late.
When you lose a series to a last place team, you are normally not outplayed. Actually, you do a fair amount of beating yourself. And the Tigers, outside of Game 1, made major contributions to the losing effort.
These are the kind of series that trouble you as you try to stay in a race and remind you of a team who can’t get out of their own way. It’s always a key detractor for a team hovering around the .500 mark; 1 step forward, 2 steps back.