Saturday, October 28, 2006

Burning Questions: World Series Game 5

World Series Game 5
Burning Questions

What, ultimately, did the Tigers in?

Too many mistakes and not enough offense to overcome them. And that's nothing that you won't hear, read, or see anywhere else. It's pretty simple, really. The Cardinals took advantage of just about every Tigers miscue, and that was poison.

Where was Granderson, Polanco, Ordonez, etc?

Good question, isn't it? I severely underestimated the effect the week-long layoff between the ALCS and the World Series would have on the team. I should have known better. Hitting is about timing and being in a rhythm, and each of those guys you named had both going well in the first two rounds. Then they had to sit around for a week in cold weather. You can add Pudge Rodriguez to that list, too, by the way.

So, it was Sean Casey vs. the Cardinals?

Basically. And that wasn't nearly enough, in the end. Casey's performance was all the more remarkable, considering he was the least healthy of all the Tigers going into the Series.

OK, what about all the freaking throwing errors by Tigers pitchers?

It's amazing to me, that pitchers, who make a living throwing a ball sixty feet, six inches at a target at speeds of over 90 mph, suddenly morph into sissy girls when they have to throw to a base. It's not just the Tigers' hurlers. Throughout any given season you'll see the same nonsense: pitchers who just aren't comfortable throwing to any base. They tend to short arm it, or lob the ball ridiculously high. It's almost funny -- except when it happens to your team in the World Series.

Did the pressure of the World Series overwhelm the Tigers?

Well, just about nobody on their roster had played in any postseason games, period, before this season, so you can make a case for that. We tend to forget that Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman are 23, and Joel Zumaya is 21, and on and on. I must admit they looked like they wilted under the bright lights. But this experience will be invaluable to them as their careers go on. To be that young and have played in a World Series is huge.

Is it too soon to look ahead?

Never. The Tigers need a beast of a bat in the middle of the lineup. Everyone else in their division has one, and the White Sox have several. The Tigers don't have that monster who strikes fear into opponents -- a guy who can deliver a homerun at any moment. Think of how intimidating Jim Thome is, or Travis Hafner, or Justin Morneau, especially in late-inning situations when a homerun would be awesome.

The Tigers need that, and they either need Curtis Granderson to improve his OBP and lower his strikeouts, or else consider a different leadoff hitter -- preferrably a guy who's a threat to bunt and/or steal occasionally. I was fooled on Granderson. I thought he was supposed to be this fleet-footed guy who could create havoc. But he's basically a free-swinging power hitter at the top of the lineup, who has better than average speed. Although, until the World Series, he cut down on his strikeouts dramatically in the postseason. Granderson struck out 174 times and only stole eight bases in the regular season, with a low walk total. Does that sound like a prototypical leadoff hitter to you?

Before we say goodbye to Burning Questions for the year, who among today's Tigers have probably played their last game in the Old English D?

Wow, I guess I'd have to say Matt Stairs is a possibility, of course. But beyond him, I don't know that fringe guys like Alexis Gomez or Neifi Perez are safe. But that's still not going out on a limb. I think you're fishing for a surprise choice, so I'll give you two: Marcus Thames and Fernando Rodney. If either of those guys were moved, I wouldn't choke on my waffles.


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