Monday Morning Manager: A Weekly Take on the Detroit Tigers

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Monday Morning Manager: A Weekly Take on the Detroit Tigers
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Last Week: 3-3

This Week: TOR (8/21-23; LAA 8/24-26)

So, What Happened?

Never has the above question been so apt.

MMM is still trying to figure out what happened, especially over the weekend, when a series against the Baltimore Orioles turned from promising to regretful and, perhaps, damaging.

MMM is also wondering what they’re putting in the baseballs these days. Baltimore’s Chris Davis seemingly flicked his bat at a Ricky Porecllo pitch in the seventh inning Saturday night and the ball flew into the Tigers bullpen—an opposite field, three-run shot that broke a scoreless tie and sucked the life out of Comerica Park.

But nothing was more stunning, or staggering, than Sunday’s loss.

A 5-0 first inning lead under sunny skies and with Doug Fister on the mound led every Tigers fan to believe that it was going to be a frollicking, happy-go-lucky day at the yard. A series win and a possible half-game deficit in the division looked imminent.

How many times does a pitcher give up five runs in the first inning and even stay in the game for five innings, let alone qualify for and get the win?

That’s exactly how Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen picked up a victory on Sunday. If a bloop single looks like a line drive in next day’s box score, then Chen’s win must look like a gem this morning in agate type.

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MMM wonders, Why Win Chen? Or, rather, HOW Win Chen?

Chen win because the Tigers put together one bad at-bat after the other. Maybe they thought Chen would roll over. Maybe they thought everything would come easy after the first inning.

The only thing that came easy after the first inning was Chen and the O’s drum-tight bullpen’s ability to get Tigers hitters to pop up and ground into double plays.

A loss in Minnesota started the week, before the Tigers rebounded with a mini three-game winning streak leading up to the grisly weekend games against Baltimore, a team that leads Detroit by two games in the Wild Card race.

The Tigers missed a great chance in the division race because the White Sox were swept by the Royals over the weekend, though Detroit did pick up a game and trail by just 1.5 games.

 

Hero of the Week

Forgive MMM but he is choosing Miguel Cabrera for an unprecedented third week in a row.

It’s like going to a favored restaurant and saying you’re going to order something different, but you end up choosing your favorite dish yet again.

MMM had that feeling as he perused the menu before choosing the Hero.

How can you go against Miggy, who went 10-for-21 with a couple of big flies and six ribbies? You can nitpick and say he didn’t do much on Saturday and Sunday in two close games, but that would be, well, nitpicking.

MMM wanted to choose Prince Fielder, whose two homers—including a tie-breaking, two-run moonshot in the eighth inning—on Friday led directly to victory. But a .476 BA for the week (Cabby’s) was too hard to overcome. Again, Prince finishes a close second in the HotW race. He was 6-for-20 last week.

The problem with MMM tabbing Cabrera three weeks in a row is that it means no one else (save Fielder) is really having big weeks lately. Believe MMM when he says he would love to have Cabrera’s streak end next Monday!

 

Goat of the Week

Before the season, MMM showed his brilliance by actually suggesting that the Tigers insert Brennan Boesch into the lead-off spot, usurping Austin Jackson, who was coming off a disappointing 2011 season.

Even MMM gets it wrong sometimes.

But he isn’t getting it wrong this morning, because Boesch is, without question, the GotW.

BB was hitless for the week and looked like a hitless player. Let’s just say he wasn’t robbed, wasn’t the victim of bad luck. He was just…bad.

MMM had high hopes for Boesch. MMM envisioned Boesch being a gap-to-gap hitter whose swing and game was perfectly suited for Comerica Park’s expansive outfield. Not a power hitter, per se, but a guy who would hit 15-20 home runs and 30-40 doubles, if he played every day. Maybe even 5-10 triples.

Not happening this season.

Boesch has turned into a weak-hitting lefty swinger who rolls over the baseball, driving the ball into the ground, usually in the form of a 4-3 on your scorecard. His hits seem to be only occurring if his grounders bleed into the outfield.

He is overpowered by mid-90s fastballs and has a swing that is so long, if it were a book it’d be War and Peace.

Boesch is confounding. What’s worse, he’s part of the Tigers’ problem on offense, not any part of the solution.

 

Under the Microscope

Anibal Sanchez was acquired from Miami in late-July to solidify the no. 5 spot in the rotation. He wasn’t expected to be Doyle Alexander, 1987 vintage, or Doug Fister 2011. All Sanchez was expected to do was to provide veteran presence so the Tigers wouldn’t have to rely on a rookie like Drew Smyly or Jacob Turner every fifth day in a division race.

Instead, Sanchez has, so far, thrown gas on the fire that is the fifth rotation spot.

Sanchez’s next start was bumped from Sunday to this Wednesday, an indicator of his struggles. In four Tigers starts, his ERA is well over 7.00.

MMM doesn’t believe that the Tigers’ chances of winning the division rest on how Sanchez performs. The team has bigger issues, frankly, than Sanchez. But Anibal is UtM because if he continues to pitch poorly, Jim Leyland will be left scrambling. And with 41 games remaining, scrambling is the last thing a manager wants to do when it comes to his starting rotation.

 

Upcoming: Blue Jays, Angels

The Tigers’ nine-game home stand continues and concludes this week as the Toronto Blue Jays and LA Angels visit.

The Blue Jays are a funny team. You don’t really know what you’re going to be facing each day you play them. They have the talent to make you look bad, but they can also look awful themselves.

Hey, sound familiar, Tigers fans?

When talking Blue Jays, two names pretty much stick out: 1B/3B Edwin Encarnacion and left-handed pitcher Ricky Romero.

Encarnacion leads the team in BA (.289), HR (31) and RBI (82). He’s the Jays’ Triple Crown guy.

Romero leads the team in wins (8) and in strikeouts (104). He starts in the series opener on Tuesday as the Tigers continue to see lefty starters in streaks.

Romero’s ERA is a high 5.47, but that is good enough for second among the starters, which tells a lot about why Toronto is in last place in the AL East.

Tigers starters against Toronto: Max Scherzer, Sanchez, Justin Verlander.

The Angels were losers of three of four games in Detroit a week after the All-Star break, and they are a desperate team right now. Their season of high hopes is in danger of crashing, thanks in part to the surprising Oakland A’s. Even rookie sensation Mike Trout has been showing signs of fatigue, though he rebounded with a five-hit weekend against Tampa.

The Angels always scare MMM, no matter how they’re playing at the time. It’s a team that can beat you in a lot of different ways, and they keep the pressure on from innings 1-9 with their speed and manager Mike Scioscia’s aggressive style.

Tigers starters: Porcello, Fister, Scherzer.

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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