Peralta impresses with defensive range
Tigers shortstop ranks second in AL in fielding percentage
DETROIT -- The Tigers re-signed Jhonny Peralta last offseason with realistic expectations at shortstop: He'll make the plays on the ground balls he gets to. On Tuesday, he got to more balls than many might have expected.
For someone who came into the season with tempered expectations in the field, Peralta had his own highlight reel on a rainy Tuesday night at Comerica Park. His plays included a drive into the hole and an off-balance throw to rob Mitch Moreland of a single in the sixth inning, though replays suggested Moreland might have been safe.
Peralta arguably matched that in the seventh, when he dove to his left to snare a scorched ground ball up the middle from Ian Kinsler and fired to first for the first out. He didn't get the call in the ninth inning, but his play in the hole could've been the game-ending out.
Peralta's .985 fielding percentage ranks second to J.J. Hardy among American League shortstops, though his more specialized stats rank lower. He entered Wednesday with a 4.20 Range Factor, or putouts plus assists per nine outings -- ninth among AL shortstops with enough playing time to qualify. His .879 Zone Rating placed him 10th. In both categories, however, he ranked higher than Indians All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera.
Penny has propensity for pitching in daylight
DETROIT -- Once again on Thursday, Brad Penny will have his alarm set early to wake him up for an afternoon on the mound, where he'll take on the Rangers under the bright sunshine. No stadium lights necessary.
It's becoming a regular routine for Penny, these early wake-up calls and sunny afternoons. So far, he's had more of them this season than any other starter in the Majors. Depending on how the Tigers rotation falls the rest of the season, it could become a modern record.
Thursday will be Penny's 15th day game in his 22nd start of the season, and his fifth straight afternoon start. He hasn't pitched in a night game since July 1 against the Giants.
It isn't anything conscious on the part of manager Jim Leyland, nor is it any preference on the part of Penny. Between getaway days, a summer abundance of FOX Saturday baseball, the rotation order and the occasional move to slot Justin Verlander to pitch on his normal rest, Penny just keeps falling on that point of the schedule.
It's a bizarre quirk, and it's frequent enough to get scary. According to STATS, no other pitcher in baseball had more than 11 day-game starts entering Wednesday -- not even anyone on the Cubs, who play more home day games than any club in the Majors. Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster had the next-highest total with 11.
Once Penny throws his first pitch Thursday, he'll have a share of the highest total of day-game starts by a Tigers pitcher since 1974. Rick Porcello started 15 day games last year, as did Mike Maroth in 2005. Any more, and the records go back to the early 1970s, during the days of the four-man rotation.
More modern record territory potential lies ahead for Penny depending on how the Tigers rotation plays out from here. Just two American League starters have finished with more than 17 day-game starts since 1975. Oakland's Jimmy Haynes had 18 in 1998, and Mike Moore did the same for the A's in '92.
If manager Jim Leyland were to use his five-man rotation in order the rest of the way, not skipping anyone, Penny would be in line for four more day games, giving him 19 on the year. It would be the highest total for an AL starter since Pat Dobson in 1974.
Given the shifts Leyland would likely make to pit Verlander against division opponents, such as with Cleveland next week, Penny isn't likely to stay in complete order the rest of the way. But it demonstrates the quirkiness of the schedule for him.
Penny is 6-5 with a 5.19 ERA in the day, compared with 1-3 with a 4.24 ERA at night. Those afternoon numbers, however, are influenced by his two highest run totals -- seven runs over 3 1/3 innings last Thursday against the Angels and eight runs over 4 1/3 innings in his season debut against the Yankees on April 2.
Strikeouts, BABIP main issues with Jackson
DETROIT -- One year ago, Austin Jackson was a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating season for the Tigers.
He hit .293 and finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. He led the AL with 170 strikeouts, but his defense in center field was spectacular.
This season hasn't quite been the same. Jackson is hitting just .246 and the strikeouts are still an issue -- he's on pace for 178. However, the defense has still been spot-on.
The biggest issue with Jackson has been those strikeouts. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said it seemed like every time Jackson put the ball in play last season, he got a hit. Not quite, but he owned a .396 average on balls put in play.
This season, that average is down to .343. But Leyland doesn't seem too worried about Jackson, whom he has often referred to as the "catalyst" of the offense.
Last season, Jackson hit .268 on fly balls. That's down to .199 this year.
"Jackson was working underneath the ball last night," Leyland said. "He hit early BP yesterday, and during the game he was working underneath the ball too much. I just let things unfold because that's the way they work."
Jackson may be having a bit of a sophomore slump, but Leyland is not, as he often says, expecting an underclassman to play like a senior in just his second Major League season.
"That's just the way it plays sometimes," Leyland said.
Peralta, Verlander win local media awards
DETROIT -- Jhonny Peralta and Justin Verlander were selected as the Tigers' Player and Pitcher of the Month, respectively, for July, as voted by local media members.
Peralta was a unanimous selection for top position player, with his offense standing out far above anyone else on the team. He hit .325 (27-for-83) in July with five doubles, three home runs and 15 RBIs in 24 games.
Verlander won the pitching award once again after capturing the June honor. His July numbers weren't quite as stingy, but they weren't far off. Beyond his 4-2 record in six starts was a 1.99 ERA along with 48 strikeouts over 45 1/3 innings.
Also receiving Pitcher of the Month votes was Rick Porcello, whose 5-0 record and 3.06 July ERA also earned him votes for American League Pitcher of the Month.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Chris Vannini is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.