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Monday Morning Manager: A Weekly Take on the Detroit Tigers

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Monday Morning Manager: A Weekly Take on the Detroit Tigers
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Last Week: 4-3

This Week: MIN (7/2-5); KC (7/6-8)

So, What Happened?

The Tigers ground through the rest of their 10-game road trip by stumbling in Texas then righting themselves in Tampa. The trip, which included a stop in Pittsburgh, ended with a 5-5 record, which is pretty much what the team deserved.

Sometimes the best thing about a long three city road trip is just surviving it with minimal damage to the W/L record and the place in the standings. Based on that criteria, the Tigers did OK.

They left for Pittsburgh one game below .500 and a handful of games out of first place. They return home from St. Petersburg one game below .500 and a handful of games (3) out of first place.

They survived.

It was a week that, if the Tigers opponents were prize fighters, you’d say started with some slug fests and ended with some finesse.

The Tigers went toe-to-toe with the Rangers and tried to out slug the two-time defending AL champs, with minimal success (they lost two of three). Then, in Florida, the Tigers found a very different opponent in the Rays, who like to use rope-a-dope and out box you.

Take the weekly MMM poll! This week's question: Is this the week that will determine the Tigers' ultimate direction in 2012?

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The Tigers won three convincing decisions out of four in Tampa to make it a 4-3 week.

The week even contained some cool nostalgia, as the Tigers wore 1979-era road unis on Saturday.

It was also revealed that minor league hitting instructor Toby Harrah would stay with the Tigers the rest of the season to help hitting coach Lloyd McClendon.

Talk among yourselves.

 

Hero of the Week

MMM feels sorry for pitchers, because it’s hard for them to achieve HotW status, unless they pitch in multiple games. And for starting hurlers, that’s sometimes just not possible.

Rick Porcello got two starts last week and made them both count.

In fact, it was the 23-year-old Porcello, not Justin Verlander, who was the “go to” guy on the staff last week.

Porcello pitched Monday in Texas and was very good. Then he pitched in Tampa/St. Pete on Saturday and was even better: seven shutout innings, just 87 pitches.

Two great starts, two wins for Ricky—and in a week when Verlander stumbled in his lone start, the Tigers needed them even more.

MMM is also squeamish about heaping too much praise on Porcello, because while fellow starter Max Scherzer’s inconsistency goes from start to start, Ricky’s sometimes goes from batter to batter, inning to inning.

Even three straight strong starts by Porcello isn’t enough to make MMM think that No. 48 has figured things out for good.

But they ARE good enough to get him named as last week’s Hero.

Honorable mention: Austin Jackson, whose presence at the top of the Tigers’ lineup is more crucial now than at any other time in his brief career in Detroit. Since his return from the disabled list, Jackson has been brilliant, his plate discipline, approach and confidence are all soaring now.

MMM thinks that Jackson is a player who has clearly benefited from adjustments made over the winter with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon.

But funny how the McClendon haters aren’t about to give the coach any credit with AJ.

 

Goat of the Week

MMM is wondering what is wrong with Doug Fister.

The Tigers’ anointed No. 2 starter was destroyed in Texas on Wednesday night, surrendering eight earnies and totally not giving the Tigers a chance to win the series with the Rangers, though the game did end in 13-9 madness.

Fister’s ERA is nearly 4.00 and MMM is wondering if he’s totally healthy. And if he IS healthy, MMM demands to know what happened to the 2011 Fister.

What happened, likely, is what has happened to guys like Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta, Delmon Young et al.

That would be the unsettling notion that each of the above had career-type years last season and what we’re seeing in 2012 is more representative of what those guys have to offer.

MMM wonders the same about Fister.

This is not to infer that MMM thinks Fister isn’t still a good starting pitcher. But what he did for the Tigers after coming over from Seattle last year is looking more and more like an anomaly.

In other words, the “real” Doug Fister is probably somewhere between the 2011 Detroit version and what we’re seeing right now.

Regardless, Fister is this week’s Goat, for throwing a start away in the rubber game of an important series.

 

Under the Microscope

MMM just knows that the Lloyd McClendon haters are having a field day, already, with the Toby Harrah news.

Harrah, the Tigers’ minor league hitting instructor, has been quietly with the big club for a couple weeks, ostensibly to assist McClendon in trying to awaken the Tigers’ hunt and peck offense.

Last week the Tigers officially announced that Harrah will remain with the Tigers for the rest of the season.

McClendon was asked if he welcomes Harrah’s help and of course Lloyd said yes.

What else was he supposed to say?

The Harrah-McClendon arrangement isn’t totally peculiar. A few teams this season are going with two hitting coaches. But that won’t stop the speculation and, for some people, the wishful thinking.

MMM, for what it’s worth, thinks there isn’t anything sinister in Harrah’s presence. MMM believes it to be just what the Tigers say it is—an extra pair of eyes to help McClendon. And this isn’t the first time Harrah has been summoned for help, though it will be for the longest stretch that he’s ever done in Detroit, with the exception of when he was the team’s hitting coach in 1998.

But if the Tigers offense continues to perk up as it has for the past 10-15 games, then MMM doesn’t think we’ll hear too much about Harrah-Mac, unless it’s in a positive way.

 

Upcoming: Twins, Royals

MMM, not one for hyperbole (quiet), has a bold statement to make.

This week just might be the most crucial, and most likely to define the season for the 2012 Tigers.

Why?

They have seven straight home games—where they haven’t played as well as they have in recent years—against the two teams below them in the division. It’s leading up to the All-Star break. It’s the first real chance to bob above .500 and stay there, in quite some time. And it’s an excellent opportunity to make the White Sox and Indians less comfortable.

That’s all.

So for that reason, MMM believes the Tigers stand on the precipice ($20 word) of a week that could truly turn their season in the right direction.

So no scouting reports this week of the opponents. No fawning over the other teams’ stars.

Just this: MMM expects no less than a 5-2 week and an All-Star break record of 44-42. Then, let the chips fall where they may.

That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!

You can read more Greg Eno at www.GregEno.com !!

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