Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 3-3
This Week: (4/30/5/2: BAL; 5/4-5/6: at KC)

Only 24 Tigers games have been played and I think it's readily obvious: the AL Central race will be a thrilling, wonderful ride that is sure to go down to the last weekend -- maybe even the final game of the season. Perhaps the final pitch.

What makes it extra special is that this isn't a two-team race, or even a three-team struggle. Four teams, I believe -- everyone except Kansas City -- have a shot at the title and/or the Wild Card. And don't be surprised if the winner wins 90 games, tops (although I predicted before the season that the Tigers would win 95+ games; perhaps I dipped my ladle into some of the Lions Kool-Aid that was nearby). All the clubs will beat up on one another, although with all the combinations, there's sure to be one pairing that appears to be one-sided; that's just baseball. Remember how the Tigers had a devil of a time with Chicago last season? But guess who was sitting home, watching the playoffs on TV?

Some youngsters are hitting speed bumps in 2007. Last week it was Joel Zumaya's turn. He needed that 1 1/3 innings scoreless outing Sunday the way a corn dog needs mustard. Zumaya said some stirring things after blowing Friday's game, using phrases like "I have no clue" when referring to the location of his fastball. So it was good to see him hurl some shutout pitching, though he did walk two more batters.

And Gary Sheffield is throwing the dirt off himself and rising from the shallow grave that was his April.

But what's up with Sean Casey? ONE, count it, ONE run-batted-in in 70+ April AB? That's only one more than me, and I didn't even suit up. It's a statistical oddity that I presume will correct itself. I doubt he's ever had a one-RBI April -- or any month, for that matter.

I still say things are OK, because the club has yet to click "on" when it comes to hitting as a team. Brandon Inge went 3-for-3, including a walk-off HR yesterday, and still is hitting an unsightly .145. When you go 3-for-3 and your average is still lower than your playing weight -- especially early on when you don't have many AB, then you know you've been struggling.

The Tigers need to keep beating up on the Royals (they play them in KC this weekend). It's always nice to see them on the schedule.



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