i did another guest turn on AOL's Sportsbloggers Live yesterday, discussing the pinetar thing with bill ferris of Detroit Tigers Weblog. our basic conclusion: whatever . . . . . the clip runs about 10 minutes and can be heard here. pinetargate remains quite the hot issue; there's an "overflow thread" in this diary to carry on the discussion.
one other housekeeping item: dren, my t-shirt vendor, tells me that about 20 of the special-order red VEB t-shirts remain on the shelves, unclaimed. if you requested one last month but haven't dropped by the VEB store yet to order it -- or even if you didn't lodge a prior request, but would like one o' them shirts -- click here to get that transaction underway.
rip-snortin discussion over in this diary about whether or not to send juan encarnacion to the bench. that very thing happened to him last time he appeared in the playoffs, in 2003; after starting all 4 games in the 1st round and going 2 for 15, he ceded increasing chunks of his playing time to miguel cabrera, then a 20-year-old rookie. by the world series, encarnacion was relegated primarily to bench duty -- this despite having driven home 94 runs in the regular season. he got just 2 starts and 11 at-bats in the whole series, which ran 6 games.
encarnacion got off to a decent start in this postseason; went 4 for 14 (.286) in the nlds and had a big hit in the clincher, taking a pitch the opposite way for a triple that drove in the eventual winning run. i took a quick look at his recent playoff at-bats and found this: over the last 3 games (ie, back through game 7 of the nlcs) encarnacion has seen 44 pitches and swung at 27 of them. that's a whole lotta hacking -- nearly 2 of ev'y 3 pitches. the free swinging has led to the results you'd expect -- just one ball out of the infield in his last 12 plate appearances, a weak fly ball to right field. there's an obvious adjustment to make: start taking more breaking pitches, duh. if it starts out at the knees, let it go, assume it's going to break down out of the zone, and hope to get the call. encarnacion clearly was pursuing that type of strategy in the nlds; in those 4 games he took 14 called strikes and swung at 24 pitches -- fewer than two hacks for every called strike. but in the 9 games since, juan has taken only 12 called strikes while swinging at 58 pitches, a 5 to 1 ratio. since he regressed into swing-at-ev'ything mode, he's gone 4 for 29.
a one-game benching didn't do scott rolen any harm; he was 1 for 14 when he sat out game 2 of the nlcs and has hit in all 7 games since, batting .345 (9 for 26) and slugging .538. with detroit starting 3 left-handed pitchers in the last 5 games of this series, it's imperative to get encarnacion going -- and/or preston wilson, for that matter (he's 5 for 29 this postseason). but it only makes sense to bench one of them tonight, because against a southpaw there's only one viable sub on the roster -- taguchi. j-rod and duncan are not realistic options against lhp, and spiezio -- though a great clutch player -- has hit just .200 this postseason with a .686 ops. he also has a longstanding weakness vs left-handed pitchers; he started in game 2 and didn't hit it out of the infield in 3 trips vs gum-thumb rogers. factor in his shaky defense, and speeze is just not an improvement. tonight'd be as good a time as any to get taguchi back in there, but i'd have him relieve wilson, who's been at least as bad as en'cion.
unfortunately, they're stuck with either him or wilson against the left-hander tonight. whichever one it is, tony should just drop him to 6th or 7th and order; if it's en'cion, order him to stop hacking at every damn pitch -- maybe he'd finally force somebody to throw him a fastball. if juan plays tonight and continues to look bad, then la russa can sit him down in game 4; the tigers will have a right-hander (bonderman) on the mound, making duncan and j-rod viable options in right-field.