By: Jeff Riger
I knew it right away!
After the Tigers lost to the Mariners early Tuesday morning, I instantly knew what the callers on our station would be saying; FIRE JIM LEYLAND! Of course I very seldom am right about anything, however I nailed this one as sure enough, as soon as we opened the phone lines and people filled them, there was anger about the longtime Tiger skipper and him apparently letting a 2-0 lead slip away in the bottom of the 9th inning. As if he actually had any control over it?
It was so predictable, actually it always is! Every time the Tigers lose for whatever reason, it is always Leyland’s fault, always!
So below I have decided to tell you why exactly Detroit’s 3-2 loss to Seattle was not caused by Leyland.
Here were the most common gripes with “Jimmy” after the game; I will provide answers after the questions.
Q: How could Leyland take out Doug Fister after just throwing 73 pitches, especially considering how dominant he seemed to be?
A: We got this question quite a bit and I believe the answer is easy. Fister has been out of the game for at least the last month and Monday night was his first start since his injury. Sure he was dominating and made quick work of many Mariner batters but we all know how fickle injuries can be and Leyland made the correct move to not test it. Think about it! As mad as you are that Fister was taken out, how much more infuriated would you be if Leyland left him in and he re-injured himself?
I can answer that question as well…
People would go crazy!
Leyland is damned if he did and damned if he didn’t!
It made perfect sense to take Fister out of the game at that point. He felt good about his performance, his injury and he got out of the game healthy plus he gave Detroit a great chance to win the game. It was a win- win at that point!
People can say all they want that Leyland was at fault for the loss because he pulled Fister, I just can’t agree, at all! In fact even if Leyland let Fister pitch another inning and, let’s just say he was as good as Phil Coke was in the 8th inning which was flawless, the problem came in the 9th inning. Why risk it? Fister was not going to pitch a complete game in his first game back, if he did then I would demand answers from Leyland, not the other way around.
Q: Phil Coke was dominant in the 8th inning, why not let him pitch the 9th?
A: This one is easy in my mind; let’s see if I can convince you of the same? Coke was great in the 8th inning, he retired Seattle’s 8th, 9th and 1st hitter without breaking a sweat and he only threw 8 pitches. Sure, one might think it might be a good move to leave him in for the 9th, especially when Joakim Benoit and Jose Valverde were not available. However, Coke did his job, he pitched a flawless 8th and how many times has he pitched more than one inning? The answer is not recently!
I also think you have to look at who was due up in the 9tt inning? Seattle had their 2nd, 3rd and 4th hitters coming up, 2 righties and a lefty. Why would Leyland leave a left handed pitcher in against that combination of hitters when he has a guy in Octovio Dotel who has closed as recently as last season and is a right handed pitcher? It must also be said that the one lefty that was due up in the 9th was Ichiro Suzuki, who coming into Monday’s game was 1 for 11 against Dotel. You would figure that Dotel would retire the righties and then continue to have success with the lefty Ichiro.
Would Coke have been able to close out the game successfully? Maybe!
However odds were that Dotel stood a much better chance and any manager in the country would make the same decision if given the same scenario.
Q: Why didn’t Leyland yank Dotel after he walked Brendan Ryan and Ichiro?
A: This is a legitimate question, and I believe I have a legitimate answer.
It was pretty obvious that Dotel struggled and had probably his worst save chance maybe ever. However after the two walks, the wild pitch and the passed ball, Jesus Montero was due up, a batter that hits over .460 against left handed pitchers. Duane Below, warming up in the bullpen was a lefty and also a guy that has little to no closing experience in his career. Leyland must have thought that Dotel, being a righty would have more success against Montero than Below because of the reasons above. It didn’t work out, obviously! But, I can see where the skipper was coming from.
There is also the question about if Below was ready to even come in the game? Throughout the course of the last 3 innings, Below was warming up in the pen, but was he loose enough to come in after the two walks? I cannot answer that question!
Detroit also had right handed Luke Putkonen warming in the pen the same time that Below was. Putkonen has even less experience then Below, so again I would trust a wild Dotel than an inexperienced Putkonen or left handed Below against Montero.
So do my answers make sense? Are you buying this? If nothing else, I hope that maybe it gives some form of insight as to what Leyland might have been thinking at the time.
The one thing I do know, is that with as much criticism as Leyland and Dotel will take today, fans will probably miss the true reason Detroit lost on Monday night; THE HITTING OR LACK THEREOF ONCE AGAIN!