Monday Morning Manager: A Weekly Take on the Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 5-1
This Week: at KC (6/10-12); at MIN (6/14-16)
So, What Happened?
A week ago Sunday, MMM was gabbing on a weekly podcast he co-hosts, and the subject was the Tigers and their inconsistency. They were coming off a 2-5 week.
"Who knows?" MMM said, "Maybe they'll go out and have a great week this week. That's how they roll."
That's exactly what they did.
A series win over the Tampa Bay Rays followed by a weekend sweep of the Cleveland Indians made for a neat 5-1 week and a season-high 5.5-game lead in the Central Division.
It also made the Tigers a dazzling 22-10 at Comerica Park, where the past several years have been very friendly for the Motor City Bengals.
Now, if the boys can just do something about that 13-16 road record.
They'll have a chance this week; six games at Kansas City and Minnesota await them.
It was another week of outstanding starting pitching, and even raw rookies are getting into the act. Lefty Jose Alvarez drove up from Toledo on Sunday, twirled six innings of three-hit ball in an emergency start (Anibal Sanchez had tightness in his shoulder/back) and drove back to Toledo, before the Indians knew what hit them.
It was a week where Don Kelly smashed a key three-run homer—also on Sunday, which gave Alvarez the victory in his MLB debut.
Unfortunately, it was also a week that saw shortstop Jhonny Peralta get implicated in a PED mess. But let's not let that ruin things, OK? Jhonny was last week's Hero of the Week in this space, and MMM takes no responsibility for any jinx.
MMM hates to dwell on this, but the Tigers have been prone to follow up good weeks with bad weeks, and with six games on the road (and that aforementioned below-.500 away mark) staring them in the face, don't be surprised if next week's update isn't so rosy.
Take the weekly MMM poll! This week's question: What should the Tigers do with Alex Avila?
Hero of the Week
Since he probably won't get another chance this season to be the HotW, MMM is naming the rookie Alvarez.
Alvarez returned to Toledo immediately after Sunday's game, and we may not see him in a Tigers uniform again this season, unless he is one of the September call-ups.
But oh, was he special on Sunday!
MMM is of the belief that when rookie pitchers are called up to make emergency starts, things seem to go one of two ways: Either the kid gets knocked around and his day is short, or he baffles the other team. No in between.
With Alvarez, he baffled the Indians.
The southpaw was cruising, actually working on a no-hitter in the fifth inning (two outs), when old friend Ryan Raburn drilled a solo home run over the left field wall to tie the game, 1-1.
Alvarez then got out of a two-out jam in the sixth with runners on first and second when he induced the dangerous Mark Reynolds to ground into a force out.
Said manager Jim Leyland after the game, "You certainly had to like his demeanor and his mound presence. I thought it was terrific. He didn't appear to be overwhelmed by anything. We kind of noticed that in spring training -- this kid was pretty calm."
Honorable mention: Kelly, whose homer gave the kid Alvarez the victory on Sunday; Prince Fielder, who is quietly raising his BA to .290-ish; and Max Scherzer, who lifted his record to 8-0 by winning the rubber match in the Rays series.
Goat of the Week
In a 5-1 week, goats are hard to come by.
This might be low hanging fruit, but MMM is naming closer Jose Valverde.
Last week, MMM placed Papa Grande Under the Microscope because of some shaky outings, and things didn't get a whole lot better since then.
On Friday night, Valverde surrendered two more homers, albeit both solo shots that didn't affect the outcome of the 7-5 win. That makes four dingers given up in 15.2 innings. MMM is getting a queasy feeling about Valverde's fastball, which is getting hit hard. The man doesn't get any ground-ball outs, it seems.
Valverede was also shaky in Saturday's game, in which he got the save, but not before some dicey moments. He has a 4.02 ERA, which, granted, is only based on those 15.2 innings. But the elevated ERA is mainly because of the four-baggers, which can be deadly. Just ask Joaquin Benoit, who had that strange stretch last season where every hit he gave up, it seemed, was a home run.
Under the Microscope
MMM won't put Valverde UtM for the second week in a row, though Lord knows he would be justified in doing so.
Frankly, it's time to return catcher Alex Avila under the scope. Things aren't getting any better.
How much longer can the Tigers deal with Avila's sub-.180 batting average and weak outs? Avila did get a sacrifice fly on Sunday, but let's face it—his bat has been a wet, limp noodle all season. The only hits he seems to get are the occasional home runs.
To be honest, if Avila wasn't so good at handling pitchers and didn't have that 2011 All-Star season on his resume, he might be in Toledo right now. He might still find himself there.
MMM realizes that it's unrealistic to have all nine hitters humming all season long when it comes to the batting order, but a sub-.180 BA at the catcher position is unacceptable.
MMM is placing Avila UtM mainly because MMM is intrigued by how the Tigers will handle Avila's season-long slump—and how long they will wait before they take action.
Upcoming: Royals, Twins
The Tigers ought to be careful this week. It's full of traps.
First off, all six games are on the road, and we all know the struggles the Tigers have away from Comerica Park.
Second, the first team up is the Kansas City Royals, which is a team that is due to start playing better, and who seem to give the Tigers fits when you least expect it.
Third, the Twins await after the Royals, and they are streaky. If the Tigers catch the Twins on a hot streak, look out.
Fourth, as MMM mentioned above, the Tigers are coming off a 5-1 week (all at home), and their trend is to balance those out with tough weeks.
This is a great chance for the Tigers to open more ground between themselves and the Indians, who are playing in Texas at the beginning of the week.
But MMM just doesn't trust these Kansas City and Minnesota trips.
Plus, MMM cringes whenever KC's Billy Butler comes to the plate. Surely Butler must have a career batting average of .774 against Detroit.
Tigers starters (Royals): Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander.
Tigers starters (Twins): Rick Porcello, Anibal Sanchez (MMM hopes), Fister.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!
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