Monday Morning Manager: A Weekly Take on the Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 3-3
This Week: BAL (6/17-19); BOS (6/20-23)
So, What Happened?
MMM would like to ask: do you see the glass as half full or half empty?
If you do the latter, then you are likely still grumbling over a 3-3 week that could very easily have been 4-2. If you do the former, then you're fine with a .500 road trip.
MMM doesn't believe in crying over spilled milk. In a 162-game season, there are going to be plenty of games you win that you maybe shouldn't, and vice-versa. You'll drive yourself crazy if you play the "we should be 4-2 instead of 3-3" thing.
Still, MMM empathizes with those still reeling over Jose Valverde's malfeasance last Wednesday.
Papa Grande's stunning (even for him) blown save on Wednesday in Kansas City–surrendering a two-out, two-run, game-tying homer to Lorenzo Cain on an 0-2 pitch–which eventually led to a 10th inning walk-off loss, sent Tiger Town into a tizzy. MMM thought Twitter was going to crash.
The blown save robbed Justin Verlander, who pitched magnificently, of a victory. But more importantly, it seemed to really deflate the Tigers. MMM didn't like the body language after the Cain homer, and the feeble at-bats in the top of the 10th reinforced the thinking that the team had given up on that game, having had their heart ripped out yet again.
The rest of the week was pretty good–a series win in Minnesota and more well-pitched games by the starters. There was a bit of a concern, when Anibal Sanchez, who had skipped a turn due to shoulder stiffness, was a shell of himself on Saturday. His velocity was barely 90 on his fastball, and he was wild. He didn't make it through the fourth inning.
Torii Hunter slammed his 300th career homer on Sunday, and there was much irony. Hunter's first career home run came in Detroit, as a member of the Twins. His 300th came in Minnesota as a member of the Tigers. MMM loves that kind of stuff. Very cool.
Oh, and Austin Jackson returned from his lengthy absence due to his hamstring issues.
Hero of the Week
Take the weekly MMM poll! This week's question: Would you be willing to surrender Nick Castellanos in a trade for a proven closer?
Hold on to your Tiger hats. MMM is about to name Don Kelly as HotW.
How about this for a two-week HotW run at MMM: rookie pitcher Jose Alvarez and 24th man Don Kelly?
MMM thinks you'd have made a bundle on that, had you bet it in Las Vegas–not that Vegas will touch an MMM line.
So why Don Kelly?
Kelly went 4-for-7 last week in limited playing time (Kelly's playing time is always limited). He again played well defensively, and each of his four hits seemed to come at the right time. Kelly only had one RBI, but he kept innings going and he wasn't a feeble, easy out (*cough* Alex Avila *cough*).
Besides, how can you not like a guy who plays the game with a perpetual "Aw, shucks" grin on his face?
Kelly's good week is actually a trend. His BA is up to .227, which may not seem like much, but for a while it was in the low .100s. He is 7-for-18 in his past 10 games.
MMM says to the Kelly haters: shove it up your sanitary hose!
Honorable mentions: Jackson, who gathered four hits over the weekend in his return from injury; Doug Fister, who brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning on Sunday; and Ricky Porcello for his fine start on Friday night.
Goat of the Week
MMM is considering just rotating Alex Avila and Valverde in this space, week to week.
Actually, last week's goat was Valverde, so MMM is eschewing the rotation and naming Pape Grande the goat two weeks in a row.
Why not? Wednesday's blown save was brutal. The 0-2 pitch to Cain was like a batting practice pitch, and gave MMM ghoulish thoughts of the ninth inning of Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS in New York.
Losses like Wednesday's, if you have too many of them, can ruin clubhouse harmony.
MMM also thinks that if Valverde is GotW, then GM Dave Dombrowski is the assistant goat.
It is DD, after all, who puts the roster together. And it is DD who took owner Mike Ilitch's star-studded, expensive roster and put its faith in the hands of a rookie closer. When that didn't pan out in spring training, the Tigers were stuck. They ended up re-signing Valverde, who no one else in the MLB touched with a 10-foot pole. Now, here we are.
Under the Microscope
It's never good when a starting pitcher is under the scope. It's even worse when it's due to something physical.
But MMM sadly places Anibal Sanchez under the scope because of his curious shoulder.
MMM was very disturbed when Sanchez couldn't top 90 mph on the radar gun Saturday in Minnesota. It was Sanchez's first start since skipping one due to "tightness" in his shoulder.
Even scarier, Sanchez says he feels fine physically, i.e. he feels no pain. Yet he dropped about four mph on his fastball. Very strange.
Even manager Jim Leyland concedes that he's "concerned" about Sanchez, he and the very expensive off-season contract.
As of this writing, the Tigers haven't said whether Sanchez will be skipped this week (he is scheduled to start Thursday against Boston), but MMM wouldn't be surprised if a trip to the DL awaits the right-hander.
NOW it's baseball season!
With all due respect to the Indians, Royals and Twins, this week is what it's all about.
Seven games against two beasts of the East–the Orioles and Red Sox–at Comerica Park. The kids are out of school. Please place your trays in the upright position and make sure your seatbelt is fastened!
THIS is baseball at CoPa!
The Orioles and the Red Sox are two teams that can pitch, can hit and can beat the stuffing out of you if you're not going to bring your "A" game. That they are playing the Tigers in Detroit, where visitors have a tough time winning, won't bother these teams. Baltimore is 20-15 away from Camden Yards, while the Red Sox are 21-15 on the road.
The Orioles are led, offensively, by 1B Chris Davis, who is the O's version of Miguel Cabrera.
Davis is .335/23/60 and has on OPS of 1.111. He is 27 years old and could be a scary guy for a long time. But, unlike Cabrera, Davis strikes out a lot–about once every 3.5 at-bats.
3B Manny Machado (.327) is also dangerous, as are young veterans like Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis.
Starter Jason Hammel (he starts Tuesday) has won seven games, but his ERA is north of 5.00. Chris Tillman is the O's other seven-game winner (3.61 ERA).
Tigers starters: Max Scherzer (trying to go 10-0), Justin Verlander, Porcello.
The Red Sox (42-29, first place in the AL East) come into town for, as George Kell would say, "a big four-game weekend series."
Boston got off to a jackrabbit start in April, cooled a bit in May, but are back to playing good baseball again. They hold a 1.5-game lead over the second place Orioles.
Big Papi, David Ortiz, has 14 homers and is showing no signs of age catching up to him. Dustin Pedroia is batting .319 and is still arguably the Red Sox's heart and soul.
The Red Sox average over five runs scored per game and their batting order is filled with outs that you have to earn.
Boston has their own 9-0 pitcher–Clay Buchholz, whose ERA is 1.71. But Buchholz has a neck injury, hasn't pitched since June 8 and could be headed for the 15-day DL. So he may not face the Tigers this weekend.
The Red Sox starting rotation, after Buchholz, is spotty, but has veterans John Lackey, Ryan Dempster and Jon Lester in it. These are professional pitchers who don't panic.
No closer issues in Boston, where Andrew Bailey (eight saves, 2.95 ERA) is doing just fine.
These are not your 2012, dysfunctional Red Sox. Mainly because they are not being managed by Bobby Valentine.
Tigers starters: Sanchez (maybe), Fister, Scherzer, Verlander.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!
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