Yesterday afternoon, the Tigers had just come back to tie the Twins at 3 in the eighth, and had runners on the corners with one out and Prince Fielder coming up. Ron Gardenhire brought in lefty Tyler Robertson to face him.
Robertson's second pitch was a slider that floated more than it broke and stayed above the belt, and this is the violent crime Fielder commited upon it:
That put the Tigers up 6-3. Fielder, as you can see above, enjoyed the moment. His immediate reaction to the blast caused Kevin Goldstein to remark: "Nobody knows when they hit a home run better than Prince Fielder."
Darren "Doogie" Wolfson, a local Twin Cities sports media personality (and a good one), had a different take:
The #MNTwins should hit Prince next time they see Detroit. Showed up Robertson way too much with the pose.
— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) July 5, 2012
Now, without repeating too much of (but while 100% endorsing) what Jason said here last week about the Aroldis Chapman somersaults, or what TCM said here about how intentionally throwing at batters is just never okay, I find I have something to say about this. I think there's a fine line out there, with "appropriate celebration of athletic success" on one side and "poor sportsmanship" on the other. I don't think what Prince did was anywhere close to that line.
Consider the context. They'd dropped two of three to the Twins, and sat below .500 and in third place in the very weak AL Central, and had (the Tigers, and Prince personally) been taking a lot of abuse from fans. The Tigers' offense had already stirred up the crowd with a run on two hits and a walk to that point in the inning. Fielder's blast was the most exciting single moment Tigers fans have had for a while now, and is the kind of event upon which people might come to look, if the Tigers are knocking on the door of the World Series fifteen weeks or so from now, as the one single moment that turned the whole damned season around.
Now consider what Prince does. As soon as ball hits bat, he (and everyone else) knew it was out. In celebration, he kind of flips his bat away and admires the ball's flight for just a moment. This is all over in a second or two. After that, he points to his own dugout in celebration (you see it in one of the replays above), but then puts his head down and runs at a pretty decent clip (Larry hasn't been by to update his Tater Trot Tracker just yet). Then there are some high fives at the end, as you might expect, and that's the end of that.
So it's all about that 1.5 seconds at the beginning. That's it! I suspect that, with the amount of focus and adrenaline required to hit major league pitching, I'd be inclined to have an instant reaction more or less like that one every time I hit a ball anything close to that hard. If it happened in the situation Prince's did, I might just do cartwheels around the bases.
And I just can't fathom branding that sort of behavior as a negative. Players are entertainers, and the crowd was obviously entertained, so Fielder was doing his job. I tend to think this sort of counterreaction is generally just sour grapes -- what fans really should be mad at is Robertson for throwing the pitch, or Gardenhire for using Robertson, or the hitters and baserunners for managing just three runs on fifteen hits -- but those are "our" guys, so we get mad at the jerk in the other uniform for acting all happy in our misery, like the jerky jerkface he is.
It's just a bit silly. As I said, there's a fine line -- it might mean something different if the homer had put the Tigers up 16-1, or if he'd pointed at Robertson. And nobody likes to see a linebacker do a happy dance after a sack with his team down 42-7. That's just nothing like what actually happened here.
He did a big -- potentially very big -- thing, and in the exact moment that it happened, Prince Fielder was really, understandably, happy about it. So for that, we're going to advocate endangering his career? C'mon.
Here's your daily recap:
Pitcher of the Night: Jeff Karstens, 8 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 8 K, 0 R
Karstens went on the DL on April 17, and didn't come off until June 25. That first start was brutal (7 runs in 5 innings), but he followed that up with seven strong innings in a win over the Cardinals (4 H, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 R) on June 30, and followed that up with the above, taking a 2-0 lead over the Astros into the ninth for Joel Hanrahan to (somewhat shakily) close out.
The excellent James McDonald aside, the Pirates' rotation has been very shaky; they're getting it done basically with Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, McDonald and a brilliant bullpen. Karstens was actually pretty solid for the Pirates in 162 innings last year (3.38 ERA, 4.00 xFIP), and if he can do that or better, that'll go a long way toward making us all take the Pirates seriously, eventually.
Hitter of the Night: J.P. Arencibia, 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI
The homers were his 12th and 13th, but at .226/.264/.432 (84 wRC+), that's all he can do. Travis D'Arnaud is batting .333 with a .975 OPS in triple-A, but recently tore his PCL, giving Arencibia about six more weeks of wearing a Jays uniform and putting up occasional highlights like this one.
Defensive Play of the Night: his defense has been the subject of a lot of sabermetric scrutiny this year, w/r/t the extreme shifts and his +31 Total Zone fielding runs, but this right here is a pretty nifty barehanded play by Brett Lawrie.
Trade Bait of the Night: Matt Garza blew up against the Braves: 5 runs in 4 IP, thanks to 3 walks and 3 homers (but he did strike out 6). I'm pretty sure Liriano could do that, and he'd cost less in prospects. And he's left-handed!
This Time it Counts of the Night: David Freese, along with the more understandable Yu Darvish, won the All-Star Final Vote. I'm a friend to all third basemen everywhere, and Freese is a fine player, but with just a 118 OPS+ and between 1 and 1.5 wins above replacement depending on where you look, Freese was probably the least deserving of the four remaining Final Vote candidates in the NL, whether you look at this season alone or this season plus last year's regular season (when Freese played just 97 games); Michael Bourn, Bryce Harper and Aaron Hill have all pretty clearly had better 2012s. Freese is also the fourth third baseman added to the NL roster, and the most out of place of the lot. I assume this was a huge Cardinals-fan push, and that he got a bit of extra name recognition among non-Cards fans for his World Series MVP.
Skip Schumaker Copycat of the Night: The Cardinals are at it again with nontraditional second basemen, playing large, slow corner infielder Matt Carpenter at that position for the first time in his professional career. As I write this, the game is through five innings, and Carpenter has not had a fielding chance (but does have a hit and a walk).
Injuries of Note:
Luke Hochevar left his start in the fifth with an ankle injury, but it doesn't sound serious.
Dan Haren was placed on the DL for the first time in his career after a back injury on Wednesday.
Yesterday, I briefly mentioned two thumb injuries, and both were worse than hoped: Dustin Pedroia went on the DL, and Dee Gordon needs surgery and will be out 6-8 weeks.
Mike Stanton has been having some knee troubles, as you may have heard. Doesn't seem too serious, but I'm expecting Bryce Harper to be named his replacement on the All-Star roster approximately any second now.
Astros: Matt Dominguez, 0-2, K
A long-time Marlins prospect who came over just yesterday in the Carlos Lee trade, this was Dominguez's 2012 debut after a cup of coffee in 2011. The rap on him for a long time was that he was a great-glove 3B who might not hit in the majors, and, well, he hasn't hit yet. He was pulled in the 8th for a pinch hitter, similarly disappointing former prospect Jordan Schafer.
Pirates: Joel Hanrahan, 1 IP, 2 BB
As mentioned above, Hanrahan made the Pirates sweat a little in closing out Karstens' gem and picking up his 22nd save. That pushed his BB/9 for the year to very close to 5.0; his ERA is down to 2.45, his FIP up to 4.65. The walk rate and FIP are both twice what they were last season.
Cubs: Geovany Soto, 1-3, HR, R, RBI
The homer was just his sixth and lifted his season line all the way to .167/.252/.341. Looking like a much worse trade target than Garza at this point, but catcher is thin enough that "hit really well two years ago" is a non-ridiculous selling point.
Braves: Jason Heyward, 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI, K
The hype was such that people would really only be satisfied with a lefty Hank Aaron, but really -- he's a 22-year-old now hitting .273/.342/.502 (132 wRC+), and has 14 homers and 11 steals in 14 tries. You could be legitimately concerned about the walk rate (14.6% in 2010 to 11.2% last season to 8.9% this), but there's also a lot to be excited about.
Giants: Matt Cain, 6 IP, 6 H, BB, 4 K, 2 HR, 3 R
Sowing discomfort where there's probably no cause for any: at the end of his perfect game, Cain had a 2.18 ERA, a 9.1 K/9 and a 0.66 HR/9. In four starts since: 4.37, 8.0 and 1.8.
Nationals: Ian Desmond, 2-3, HR, BB, SB, R, RBI
Why is nobody talking about this guy? The homer was his 15th, and he's put up a 119 wRC+ with no worse than passable defense at short. Glad he got named to the All-Star team.
Marlins: Mark Buehrle, 7.2 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 8 K, 0 R
Buehrle had had but one pair of games you could add up to more than 8 strikeouts until June 24, but since then, in three starts totaling 21.2 innings, he's fanned 22.
Brewers: Rickie Weeks, 0-3, 2 K
.193/.312/.323, 81 wRC+. Sub-replacement. A deserving All-Star one year ago. Baseball, she is a cold and faithless mistress.
Twins: Darin Mastroianni, 3-4, 3 SB, CS
Mastroianni looked like he was in the process of adding an insurance run all by his lonesome in the above-discussed game, singling off Dotel to lead off the top of the eighth, then stealing second and third, his second swipe of third in the game. Then Ron Gardenhire called a really puzzling suicide squeeze, Octavio Dotel did the thing smart veterans do and buried the pitch well out of buntable range, and Mastroianni was stuck with a caught-stealing-of-home.
Tigers: Rick Porcello, 3 IP, 12 H, BB, 0 K, 3 R
Porcello might be the most hittable pitcher in baseball right now. It took a lot of luck and a lot of the Twins running into outs to keep him at a 9.00 ERA for this game.
Rangers: Matt Harrison, 8 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 2 R
That's usually good for a win when you pitch for Texas. The lone blemish was a go-ahead Youkilis home run in the sixth...
White Sox: Jose Quintana, 8 IP, 2 H, BB, 8 K, 1 R
Which is one more blemish than this guy had. Certainly the best game of the rookie's career, especially considering the opponent.
Rays: Luke Scott, 0-3
Scott is at an age (34) where marginal-to-begin-with hitting talents often burn out quickly, and he appears to have burned out more than a year ago. Wouldn't mind his disappearing sometime soon.
Indians: Shin-Soo Choo, 2-3, HR, BB, R, RBI, CS
He's doing it very quietly, but he's very much Back: .295/.384/.487 (144 wRC+), 9 HR, 9/11 SB.
Royals: Alex Gordon, 2-5, R, RBI, BB, K
Hey, speaking of corner outfielders who seem kind of miscast as leadoff hitters who are quietly having big years: Gordon's rebounded from a slow start to put up a 112 wRC+, and with what most metrics see as great defense, looks like a 5-6 win player for the second year in a row.
Blue Jays: Colby Rasmus, 2-4, 2B, BB
This is the "this guy's good again" section of our program. .262/.326/.492 (118 wRC+) for Tony's little boy.
Phillies: Jimmy Rollins, 3-3, 2B, 3B, 2 BB, R, 2 RBI
Again: Back. After a horrid start, he put up a .303/.357/.580 June and is now at 99 wRC+ on the season.
Mets: David Wright, 3-5, HR, R, 4 RBI
Back and Then Some! He'll almost definitely be my first-half NL MVP when I get around to doing one of those deals.
Rockies: Tyler Colvin, 1-4, HR, R, 2 RBI, K
Was Colvin ever good enough to be Back? He's been hot and is now at .301/.330/.608 (136 wRC+), with 11 homers in 188 PA.
Cardinals: Lance Lynn, 6 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 7 K, 0 R
Back! From three terrible starts, anyway. I'm confused as to how he threw 101 pitches in those six innings though.
Dodgers: Kenley Jansen, 1 IP, 3 K
Saves (this one Jansen's 15th) don't impress me, but 11-pitch, three-strikeout ninths do.
Diamondbacks: Wade Miley, 6 IP, 4 R; 0-2
Came in with a 2.87 ERA and .345 batting average. Left with more of the first and less of the second.
Orioles: Matt Wieters, 2-5, HR, R, 4 RBI, K
Huge three-run homer in the fourth, but fouled out to catcher representing the tying run in the ninth.
Angels: Mike Trout, 2-2, BB, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 Sac Flies, 3 SB
Reds: Mat Latos, 7 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 8 K, 0 R
Latos dominated his former mates. His bullpen, less so.
Padres: Edinson Volquez, 7 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 10 K, 1 R
Roughly as good as the guy he was traded for, in a more Edinson-Volquezy way.
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