Cliff Lee shuts out the Giants for ten innings, Phillies lose

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Blast living in the eastern time zone. For, because I went to bed at a reasonable hour, I missed an unreasonably good pitching matchup: Cliff Lee vs. Matt Cain, each of whom shut the other side out for nine innings. Those nine innings took only one hour and fifty-minutes, by the way.

The difference: Cliff Lee went on to do it for a tenth inning. And he needed only 102 pitches to do it. In completing the tenth inning, Lee was only the fourth guy to do it in the 21st century. Aaron Harang did it once. Mark Mulder did too. Roy Halladay did it twice, naturally. And now Lee.

But sadly it was not enough as the Giants got two more innings of shutout relief while Antonio Bastardo allowed a single, then had a base runner reach on an error and then surrendered a walkoff single to Melky Cabrera, ending the game.

I suppose one could do a half-empty, half-full thing here.  The half-empty crowd has to ask how both of these offenses struggled so mightily. Even against a couple of aces, one would hope that hitters would see more pitches than they did (each side needed only 114 pitches to get through 11 innings).  One would also have to seriously question Charlie Manuel’s decision to have Freddy Galvis bunt in the tenth inning and then send Jim Thome and John Mayberry to bat when contact was key (there was a runner on third, after all). A strikeout and a flyout ended the threat.

Since I have no vested interest in either team’s offense, however, I’m content to go with the half-full of a a pitching orgy. And, actually, that glass is overflowing, because based on the box score alone this looked awesome. I will spend a good bit of my morning watching the game on replay.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.

 

There is a Tyler glut in baseball

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It’s a slow news morning — Miguel Montero is gone and everyone else is quiet — so you should go read Tyler Kepner’s latest column over at the New York Times. It’s, appropriately, about Tylers.

There are a lot of them in baseball now, Tyler notes. No Larrys and hardly any Eddies or Bobs. This obviously tracks the prevalence of the name Tyler in the population at large and the declines in Larrys, Eddies and Bobs. It’s the kind of thing I imagine we’ve all noticed from time to time, and it’s fun to do it in baseball. For his part, Kepner tries to make an all-Tyler All-Star team. The results are sort of sad.

There are always one or two Craigs floating around baseball from time to time, but not many more than that. We got a Hall of Famer recently, so that’s pretty nice. There will likely be fewer over time, as Craig — never even a top-30 name in popularity — is now near historic lows. I’m not complaining, though. I never once had to go by “Craig C.” in class to differentiate myself from other Craigs. Our biggest problem is being called Greg. We tend to let it pass. Craigs are used to it by now.