Monday Morning Manager
Last Week: 4-2
This Week: (6/12-14: MIL; 6/15-17: at Phi)
The Tigers are averaging an obscene 8.65 runs in the month of June -- and that includes Friday night's shutout at the hands of the Mets. And by the looks of things, they'll need to keep that pace up -- unless the bullpen trades its gas can in for a fire hydrant.
I like Jason Grilli. I like him as a person, and I like him as a reliever. When he's reliable, Grilli can be the everyman in the bullpen. He can pitch long relief, as he did in Texas when Nate Robertson couldn't get an out in the first inning last week. He can be a sort of set-up man. He can get crucial outs in the late innings.
But Grilli hasn't been reliable. He's taken a couple steps forward, then slipped back -- and this has gone on all season. He went back into "gas can mode" yesterday, facing three batters and not getting an out, enabling the Mets to creep closer. The Tigers pitching, from 1 thru 12, has been riddled with injury and under performing. The team ERA is 4.61, and that's largely because the bullpen's figure is well above 5.00.
Manager Jim Leyland is frustrated.
"It's hard when you don't know what you're going to get," Leyland told reporters after yesterday's 15-7 win over the Mets.
Poll every one of the 30 MLB managers, and I'd be surprised if it wasn't unanimous: a manager prefers to outpitch his opponents, not outslug them. The 8-7, 15-7, 3 1/2-hour game isn't a big league manager's cup of tea -- mainly because the bats can't always be relied on to bail out the arms. Leyland acknowledged as much in his postgame comments. He said if the Tigers keep relying on their impressive offense exclusively, "we'll be nowhere to be found" at the end of the season.
The Tigers, this morning, have an offense that is averaging a shade over six runs per game. It's not inconceivable that they could score over 1,000 runs this season (a 6.2 avg), but as awesome as that is, let it be said once again: pitching will determine the AL Central race, not hitting.
So it's kind of ironic and maybe even fitting that the team's most reliable reliever is a dude that few had even heard of when the club frolicked in the Florida sun last March.
Tim Byrdak is fast becoming a lefthanded Joel Zumaya -- not in terms of pitch velocity (although he can bring it), but in how he comes in and absolutely slams the door shut on most opponent rallies. He's one of the few earning his fireman's hat in the pen currently. It's gotten to the point where I root for Leyland to call Byrdak's name, and feel genuinely secure when he enters the ballgame. Feelings I once had for the injured Zoom Zoom Zumaya.
Kenny Rogers looks close to returning -- and the impact of that news can't be overstated (though all of us will try). Insert a healthy, productive Rogers into the rotation, and all of a sudden the bullpen's load decreases instantly.
WHYGJG friend Scott Warheit is trying to rally his fellow bloggers -- and the fans -- into helping Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco leapfrog past the Yankees' Robinson Cano in All-Star voting. Polanco still trails Cano by about 9,000 votes in his bid to be the AL's starting second sacker.
In response, I've started a "Go to the Polls for Placido!" voting campaign @ my blog (http://swarheit.blogspot.com/2007/06/go-to-polls-for-placido-all-star.html) and I was hoping that if we were able to spread the word through our various blogs, encouraging people to vote, either on-line or at Comerica Park, we can get Tigers fans behind the campaign.
I have also added a thread publicizing the campaign at website Digg.com (for those unfamiliar, people post stories on Digg and as visitors and readers "Digg" the story, it becomes more popular, and is more prominently displayed on the site) so you can encourage your visitors to visit Digg to help hype up the story as well. That address is http://digg.com/baseball/Help_Elect_Placido_Polanco_to_the_Major_League_Baseball_All_Star_Game/
Consider the word spread, Scott!
Labels: Monday Morning Manager