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Written by Matt Snyder | 23 April 2012

Austin_Jackson_2No one was satisfied with Austin Jackson’s .317 on-base percentage from 2011. That wasn’t going to cut it from the player charged with setting the table for sluggers like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Prince Fielder. The obvious flaw in his game was the strikeout rate which ballooned from an already high 25.2% in his rookie year to 27.3% in last year’s sophomore campaign. The prevailing thought was that reducing the whiff rate would increase the number of balls he put in play which would, in turn, allow him to use his speed to get on base with more regularity.

His offseason work with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon has been well documented. The big change was the elimination of the high leg kick. It was said that the new approach to hitting would help him reduce his strikeout totals as it would give him a better ‘two strike approach’, but I’m not really sure that’s been the case as of yet (or, at least, that’s not the whole story).

Jackson’s K-rate is currently the lowest it’s ever been, but the 23.6% mark isn’t all that much lower than his 26% career rate. But the real story behind Austin’s early season success can be found elsewhere.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 17 April 2012

justin-verlanderYou can still hear Peter Gammons after Grady Little failed to lift Pedro Martinez before the eighth inning of Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS.

“Why not just use your bullpen?”

Pedro Martinez and the Boston Red Sox had a 5-2 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. Martinez was due to face New York’s 2-3-4 hitters for the fourth time that game. Martinez was able to induce a pop fly to Nick Johnson to begin the inning, but four batters later, after a single and three doubles, the lead had evaporated. The Sox would lose the game, and the chance to break the curse of the Bambino on Aaron Boone’s solo home run in the 11th inning.

Obviously one game in April is not Game Seven of the ALCS, and the Kansas City Royals are not the 2003 Yankees, but this anecdote should always serve as a warning to managers who insist on keeping their starter on the mound late in a game*.

*Not that one anecdote should ever cause us to conclude anything. It’s just an anecdote, no more, no less.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 13 April 2012

DrewSmylyI knew it would be fun to surf around the headlines after Drew Smyly’s first major league start yesterday. His final line of 4 IP, 4 K, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 1 HR, 1 ER was sure to cause a divide amongst writers and fans.

If you look at the final ERA line, 2.25, then you’ve got to be pleased with what he did. We even have James Schmehl of MLive saying that Smyly impressed, and that he “passed with flying colors”. But his peripheral numbers don’t support that statement.

I much more agreed with the Detroit News’ headline today which read “Tigers’ sturdy bullpen bails out Drew Smyly”. Don’t get me wrong, I think we saw some good things from Smyly in his first outing, namely four strikeouts in four innings, but he was fortunate to exit the game with only the lone run scoring against him. Not necessarily fortunate in a BABIP sense, that was a reasonable .273 for the game, but fortunate from a sequencing perspective.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 08 April 2012

MiLB_LogoIndianapolis 8, Toledo 7 -- AAA

Quintin Berry and Eric Patterson each reached base four times as the Mud Hens erupted for seven runs. Brad Eldred homered twice and Ryan Strieby doubled twice in the effort as well.

On the pitching side of things, Drew Smyly got touched up in 1.2 innings of work. He walked two and allowed three runs while only striking out one before being lifted for Brooks Brown. Austin Wood had trouble out of the bullpen as well. He allowed two runs in one inning and didn't record a strikeout. Fu-Te Ni also allowed a run in two innings of work.

Erie 12, Altoona 1 -- AA

The SeaWolves only got one home run -- off the bat of Jordan Lennerton -- but they still broke out for 12 runs. Rob Brantly and Corey Jones each doubled twice, and Rawley Bishop and Jamie Johnson each also came away with a pair of hits.

Jared Wesson got the start for Erie and went five innings and only allowed the single run. He struck out three. Ryan Robowski and Robbie Weinhardt each provided two scoreless innings in relief.

Lakeland 5, Tampa 2 -- A+

The Flying Tigers also joined the offensive onslaught. Tyler Collins recorded three hits, and Nick Castellanos, Avisail Garcia, and Dixon Machado each recorded two. Only James McCann failed to reach base.

Starting pitcher Brian Flynn went 6.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and only four hits allowed (no walks). Zach Samuels recorded the save with a perfect ninth inning.

West Michigan 5, Dayton 4 (11 innings)

West Michigan finally got in the win column in their third attempt. Dean Green homered, and Aaron Westlake and Brandon Loy both doubled, but the hit king of the evening was catcher Patrick Leyland, son of Tigers' manager Jim Leyland, who made his Midwest League debut with a 3-4 effort, driving in one run.

Kyle Ryan gave up four runs (three earned) in six innings of work, but Jade Todd (1 IP), Nicholas Avila (2 IP), and Tyler White (2 IP) didn't allow any runs to score in relief.

Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew. no comments

Written by Matt Snyder | 08 April 2012

DougFisterI'll be honest that I was a little bit disappointed with Detroit's three run effort on opening day --  I wanted to see the offense get going more than that -- but they didn't let us down in game two. The Tigers scored ten runs on twelve hits, six of which were for extra bases.

The highlight of the afternoon was the home runs. First it was Miguel Cabrera in the first inning with a blas that also scored Austin Jackson, then Prince Fieler and Alex Avila each went the opposite way for homers in the fourth inning. And then there was the feat that we all hope to see many times this year: Cabrera and Fielder going back-to-back in the fifth.

But altough the Dynamic Duo will get most of the attention (and they deserve it) the offense wasn't all about them. Austin Jackson got on base three times with a double and two walks. He'll be the catalyst this season if he can get on base with frequency (and through two games his OBP is .600). Delmon Young and Andy Dirks also chipped in a pair of singles each.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 07 April 2012

ValverdeBlownSave

We all knew the streak would eventually end. Jose Valverde, the All-Star closer who was a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities a season ago blew his first chance of the season on Thursday.

I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the Tigers picking up the $9 million team option on Valverde’s contract for this season (I’m a big believer that you don’t pay for saves), so watching the Somewhat Smaller Potato labor on the hill while Justin Verlander’s lead evaporated got under my skin a little bit. I got over my annoyance as soon as Austin Jackson’s ground ball skipped through the infield but, upon reflection, I really shouldn’t have been all that annoyed in the first place.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 07 April 2012

MiLB_LogoToledo 5, Indianapolis 1 -- AAA

The Mud Hens only managed five hits, but they also drew eight walks en route to putting up five runs on the board. Audy Ciriaco homered and Omir Santos doubled for the cause. Matt Young used a pair of walks to reach base three times.

Adam Wilk got the opening day start for the Hens. He went five scoreless innings with six strikeouts while allowing only one hit and one walk. Brayan Villarreal was the first pitcher in relief -- he gave Toledo two scoreless innings and three strikeouts (no walks).

Altoona 4, Erie 2 -- AA

The SeaWolves fall to 0-2 as they managed to scratch out only two runs. Michael Rockett was the only multi-hit player; he had a triple and a single. Jamie Johnson drew a pair of walks and scored a run.

Zack Segovia was the starting pitcher for Erie, but he didn't last through five innings after allowing nine hits and three earned runs. Kelvin De La Cruz pitched an inning and a third and struck out three.

Lakeland 4, Tampa 2 -- A+

The Lakeland offense was lead by third baseman Nick Castellanos who ended the night with two doubles and two walks in five plate appearances. Tyler Collins also chipped in three hits, including a double.

Kevin Eichhorn had a nice outing on the mound. He threw six innings with four strikeouts, six hits, one walk, and only one unearned run. Bruce Rondon blew the save in relief (1 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 2 SO, 0 BB, 0 HR), but the offense picked him up and he ended up recording a Valverdian win.

Dayton 3, West Michigan 2 -- A

The Whitecaps could only push across two runs (their first two of the season) in the loss to Dayton. Danry Vasquez reached base in each of his four plate appearances with three singles and a walk. Curt Casali blasted a solo home run in the losing effort.

Thomas Collier went four strong innings in a starting effort. He struck out six, walked on, and only allowed a single (unearned) run to score. Tim Kelley and Michael Torrealba combined for four innings and five strikeouts in relief before Daniel Bennett blew the save and recorded the loss.

Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter
@snyder_matthew. no comments