Monday, April 17, 2006


Welcome to the Monday Morning Manager -- my weekly look at the Tigers.

Last week: 2-4
This week: vs. CLE (4/17); at Oak (4/18-20); at Sea (4/21-23)

If there's such a thing as "big wins" in April, the Tigers got them -- despite going 2-4 for the week.

Friday's win over Cleveland was "big" because it snapped a four-game losing streak, and it was against a team the Tigers had better learn how to beat if they are to be anything more than pretenders in the AL Central. And Sunday's 1-0 victory was more than small because: a) The team doesn't usually win those kinds of games, and b) It meant two out of three (so far) against the Tribe, perhaps showing that Friday's win was more than just something to stop the bleeding. In other words, maybe the Tigers have put the losing behind them -- at least for now.

First baseman Chris Shelton, according to FSN analyst Rod Allen, is "locked in."

"I haven't seen anyone be this locked in for two weeks," Allen blared into his microphone yesterday. "Two weeks! What Shelton's been able to do is ridiculous."

Indeed. Shelton continues to hit well over .400, despite being collared Sunday (0-4). He shares the ML lead in homers with eight, and leads in RBIs with 16. He's not locked in; he's welded, cemented, and fused.

I worry a little about pitcher Jeremy Bonderman, however. He's 1-2 with a 6.23, and the buzz is that he's trying to get by with just two pitches, and not working his changeup into the mix enough. It's far too early to be terribly concerned, but I sometimes get these nightmare images of Bondy becoming the pitching version of Carlos Pena: All potential and little production.

On the other hand, reliever Joel "Zoom" Zumaya continues to impress. He got out of an eighth-inning jam yesterday (1st and 2nd, one out) with two strikeouts, and the way he got them should make every Tigers fan drool. First he dropped a NASTY curve ball in on a lefthanded hitter for called strike three, then got the next batter, a righty, swinging on a 98 mph fastball. End of jam. End of inning. End of the Indians, for all intents and purposes.

The Tigers are still relying too much on the longball to score runs, however. I know that's not manager Jim Leyland's first preference as far as producing offense, but it's working for now. However, I'd feel better if the team played some "smallball" and moved runners around, and kept the factory open (my term for "manufacturing runs"). Yesterday's win notwithstanding, the Tigers blew a chance to get some insurance when they had runners on the corners with one out in the eighth. They failed to score -- mainly because nobody hit a homerun, apparently.

This week it's out west to Oakland and Seattle, after one more game today with the Indians. It's good to get a West Coast trip out of the way early. Again, it'll be another barometer to gauge the Tigers' progress and status.

It's never too early to make judgements for us bloggers, you know.


Blogger Ozz said...

It was nice that the Tigers were able to split with Cleveland after being swept by Chicago. Unfortunately the homestand didn't come to a pleasant end since they got smoked by the Tribe today. Yikes! By now, I'm guessing a lot of fans have heard about how Leyland went off on them afterwards. It'll be interesting to see how they rebound from that.

It might be a bit early to worry about Bondo, but there's no escaping the fact that he was rushed to the bigs. Had he been allowed to develop a little more in the minors, he might have been able to work on that change more. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and also pointless since it changes nothing.

On the other hand, Zoom is thriving so far! You never know how these decisions are going to work out.

1:24 AM  

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