On the mound for the Tigers is Fack Youk Hall of Famer Rick Porcello, who is still the youngest player in the American League. When he wasn't throwing a charging Kevin Youkilis to the ground last year, the New Jersey native was on his way to throwing 170 innings to a 3.96 ERA.
Porcello struck out 89 batters over that span in 2009, a rate of just 4.7 per nine innings (the 10th lowest in the Majors among pitchers with 150 or more innings). He also had a relatively high HR/FB rate (14.1%) but managed to keep his ERA down with a low BABIP of .281 and by getting very stingy (and/or lucky) in high leverage situations.
This year, last two trends have totally reversed. Porcello is getting pounded when the stakes are at their highest and has allowed a .396 BABIP in his first 30 innings. Not coincidentally, despite having similar strikeout and walk rates and a lower HR/FB (9.1%) in 2010, the kid is holding a 7.50 ERA after six starts.
As we've explored in the past, Vazquez has had his own difficulties in high leverage situations and this year has been no different. Opponents have hit .333/.389/.733 off Javy in the 18 most important plate appearances (based on Leverage Index) that he's had this season - a big part of the reason that his ERA is an unseemly 9.78 after five outings. A ridiculous 22.2% of his fly balls have gone for home runs this year, nearly double his career rate, and he's managed to strand just 62.5% of baserunners, down from his overall mark of 70.7%.
Of course, batted ball statistics and strand rates aren't solely based on luck. Unlike Porcello, who has been largely consistent from this year to last, Javy has been throwing with less velocity (two miles an hour slower) and less command, walking more than three times as many batters as he did in '09. In other words, he has to improve the way he's pitching, not just wait for probability to even things out.
Vazquez was skipped last time through the rotation so that he could work on his mechanics and as he admitted, also to help him mentally. Of course, those two things are very much intertwined. Feeling uncomfortable on the mound can lead to a pitcher's motion getting out of whack, which can cause his pitches to miss their locations, which can lead to bad results, which can further drain his confidence, etc, etc, etc.
Hopefully Javy's extra side sessions and time off did him good. The break had the same intended purpose that basketball coaches have when they call time out to slow down a run by the opposing team: to stem the tide and allow the players to collect themselves. I don't know if it really works or not but every coach seems to do it.
Vazquez will have a big ballpark behind him this afternoon and he'll be a long way from the Bronx. His only decent start of the season came under similar conditions in Oakland, so today seems like as good of a time as any for Javy to finally rediscover his groove.
You can say what you want,
You can do what you do,
But sometimes some things are chosen for you,
The life that you want and the life that you’ve been given,
Are sometimes not even the life you’ve been living.
[Song Notes: Jackie Greene has toured with Phil Lesh and Friends, Bob Weir & Ratdog, Susan Tedeschi, Buddy Guy, B.B. King and played a run of shows with Gov't Mule in 2009. I first heard him play this tune at a Phil show and have been a fan ever since.
Apparently he's a big baseball fan as well and took some time last November to write about a connection that we make pretty much every day:
I’ve noticed a lot of similarities between baseball and music. Baseball is a game of failure, it’s been said. Music is kind of the same way. I figure, writing a song is a lot like hitting. They say you have to write a bunch of bad songs before you get a good one.
Seems to me, it’s like hitting. If you can write 3 good songs for every 10, you’re doing pretty damn good. It sort of works for albums too: If there are 3 hits on a 10 song record…. (hey, we even call them “hits”)…Wow!! If there are 4 hits on a 10 song record…..that’s like a Ted Williams album cycle right there!! (Who was the last recording artist to hit over .400?)
Bob Dylan’s lifetime musical batting average is probably .390. He’s like the Ty Cobb of songwriting. Some say he’s just as much of an asshole too. Go figure.]
The lineup remains the same as it would have been had they played last night. A-Rod DH's with Ramiro Pena at third. Brett Gardner moves back into the two spot, with Nick Swisher dropped to seventh.
Right now, it appears that the roster move entails Greg Golson replacing Alfredo Aceves. Golson is listed on the roster, and since it's been less than ten days since his demotion, he has to be added in place of a DL'd player. That said, I'm not sure I understand this move. The concerns entering the day were bullpen depth and left-handed DH. This addresses neither. Golson provides outfield depth that is needless with Kevin Russo still on the roster.
Juan Miranda remains in Detroit and may be activated between games. If not him, Jonathan Albaladejo is allegedly on standby in the event the bullpen is overused in the first game. That would seem to indicate that one way or the other, Golson is leaving town after the first game. He might even make to Columbus in time for the back end of Scranton's doubleheader tonight. I'm sure they could use him; the combination of the weather and the injuries for the big club is wreaking havoc on Scranton's roster. [UPDATE 1:05 PM: Girardi says Golson is staying for both games, so just disregard all that I suppose]
Austin Jackson CF
Johnny Damon DH
Magglio Ordonez RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Brennan Boesch LF
Brandon Inge 3B
Ramon Santiago 2B
Gerald Laird C
Adam Everett SS