Autopsy Report: Detroit Tigers

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I prefer to think of this as an autopsy and not a eulogy, because an autopsy deals specifically with the cause of death. A eulogy, in contrast, takes in the deceased’s whole life and tries to draw some lessons from it. I don’t think anyone can draw any intelligent conclusions about the Tigers’ entire 2012 season based on these past four games, no matter how important they were. Four games is pure randomness and the Tigers performance in them is no more relevant to their legacy than a random fall off a cliff during a vacation to the Grand Canyon is to the life of a Nobel Prize winner.

So, what happened to the Tigers?  In a nutshell: everything:

  • The Giants were the better team: Before anyone casts this World Series as a Detroit failure, they had better first note that it was a Giants triumph. While they flew under the radar for so much of the year, the Giants won six more games than the Tigers in a tougher division. The Giants were and remained a well-balanced team throughout 2012, and history shows us that well-balanced teams do awfully well in the postseason where runs are harder to come by and defense matters more. They didn’t have a pitcher as good as Justin Verlander or a hitter as good as Miguel Cabrera, but there were few if any holes on the roster, and when a couple of potential weak links — like Barry Zito — came up big in the playoffs, it transformed a good team into a team that was great at the right time.  But, the Giants aside …
  • No one hit. Omar Infante and Delmon Young each got five hits, and each reached base via a walk or a HBT (Infante’s HBP, sadly, broke his hand). The rest of the lineup was deadsville. Prince Fielder was 1 for 14 with four strikeouts. Jhonny Peralta was 1 for 15. Miguel Cabrera hit a homer last night, but was 3 for 13 overall. Austin Jackson had three hits in four games. Quintin Berry had none. It was a top-heavy, all-or-nothing offense in 2012 for Detroit, and they picked a bad week for the nothing.
  • The layoff:  While the Tigers worked out every day in between the end of the ALCS and the beginning of the World Series, several Tigers said that not playing any real games during that time was disruptive to their rhythm and their mojo. It’s impossible to measure such things, but it’s not a stretch to say that layoffs lead to cold bats.
  • Verlander was mortal: It was only one game, but the only time the Tigers were blown away in this series was in Game 1 when Justin Verlander came out with poor command of has his fastball and Pablo Sandoval feasted on him for a couple of home runs. It’s harder to measure mood and momentum than in it is to measure rust, but it was probably somewhat dispiriting for the Tigers when their ace was popped in the nose right out of the gate.
  • The cookie just crumbled: luck should not have a major place in a serious empirical analysis, but a four-game series sort of defies serious, empirical analysis. The Giants got the bounces. Literally, at times: off the third base bag in Game 1 to set up a big inning, off Doug Fister’s head in Game 2 to give Gregor Blanco a single. Multiple hard-hit balls by the Tigers throughout the series that just always seemed to be right at a Giants defender.

A whole year can disappear pretty quickly in the postseason. The Reds and Cardinals were good teams that saw their good seasons end only one game away from advancing. The Braves and Rangers were good teams that had good seasons erased after just one game total. The Tigers, like the Yankees before them, saw a good season erased in four short games.  That’s how playoff baseball goes.

So, if you’re wondering what should be listed as the cause of death on the autopsy report, how about this: October.

Report: Blue Jays and Royals making progress on a Francisco Liriano trade

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Jon Morosi reports that the Blue Jays and Royals are making progress on a trade involving starter Francisco Liriano. Morosi notes that other teams are still involved with the Jays on Liriano as well.

Liriano, 33, has struggled mightily this season. He carries a 5.99 ERA with a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 76 2/3 innings. By most metrics, this is one of the worst seasons of the lefty’s career.

The Royals acquired a trio of pitchers earlier this week from the Padres: Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter, and Trevor Cahill. Adding Liriano would bolster the team’s rotation depth but might not do much beyond that.

Despite a sluggish start to the season, the Royals went 17-9 in June and are 14-8 in July to put themselves right back in the thick of things in the AL Central. They’re just one and a half games behind the first-place Indians, which explains their aggressiveness leading up to Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline.

The Marlins are open to trading starter Dan Straily

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the Miami Marlins are “now open to trading” starter Dan Straily.

Straily is controllable through 2020 and is a solid mid-to-back rotation starter, so you’d think the Marlins would want to hang on to him, but given that all of the starting pitching available right now comes with a high price tag, the Marlins could probably get a lot in return if they were to deal him.

Straily has a 3.84 ERA and a 107/33 K/BB ratio in 117 1/3 innings this season.