Monday, August 03, 2009

Monday Morning Manager

My weekly take on the Tigers, also known simply and affectionately as "MMM."

Week of 7/27-8/2: 2-4

This week: 8/3-6: BAL; 8/7-9: MIN

Goat of the Week

I'm getting a little tired of writing this, though maybe not as tired as you are of reading it.

The offense is killing the Tigers.

Two games after busting out in Texas, the Tigers again squandered a wonderful pitching performance, this time from Rick Porcello, the baby-faced rookie.

They wasted some scoring opportunities and carried just a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning in Cleveland on Saturday night. Porcello went eight innings and allowed just four hits and the one run.

Sure enough, Fernando Rodney blew his first save of the season, and the Tigers ended up having to win in extra innings.

But Rodney had no margin for error, just like the starters don't.

I've said it on podcasts and I've written it here: every Tigers starter has to pitch the game of his life just to give his team a chance to win, and even then it's often not good enough.

So on Saturday night, the Tigers needed a two-out single from Ryan Raburn in the 12th inning to go ahead because: a) they stranded runners on base in every inning from the eighth on; and b) Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen failed to deliver with runners on first and second and nobody out just prior to Raburn's at-bat.

Cabrera is falling into a frustrating pattern of padding his batting average while not coming through with very many clutch hits. He's over .330, but has just 58 RBI, which isn't all that impressive.

Saturday night was a perfect example; Cabrera got three hits, but when you really needed him to come through, he gets "frozen" on a 1-2 breaking ball and gets punched out.

Then Guillen comes along, swings at the first pitch, and pops up.

Of course, Cleveland's Grady Sizemore nullified that with a first-pitch pop-up to end the game with a runner on third base.

So once again, the Tigers' offense, collectively, wears the Goat label for another week.

Dishonorable mention: Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, for not securing another bat at the non-waiver trade deadline.

Hero of the Week

This is a dark horse, but how about Brandon Lyon lately? And when I say lately, I mean for most of the past three months.

Lyon, who lost the closer's designation in spring training and started woefully slow after Opening Day, has been terrific as a long/set-up man.

He gave the Tigers three terrific innings on Friday night, but we all know how he was rewarded for that.

Lyon doesn't strike out people all that much, but he doesn't walk too many, either. He's allowed just one earned run in his last ten appearances, striking out 12 and walking just three in 12.1 innings over that span.

So here's some props, some overdue props, for a guy who's flown under the radar, but who now becomes more important in the wake of the Joel Zumaya/DL news.

Honorable mention: Raburn, for the clutch hit in the 12th inning on Saturday night.

Quick scouting reports: Orioles and Twins

The Orioles come to town for four games this week, and the Tigers need to capitalize.

The O's have, once again, sunk to last place in the rugged AL East as their rebuilding project moves along as if it was being done by contractors who keep getting paid with rubber checks.

The Phenom, aka catcher Matt Wieters, has had mixed results in his much-ballyhooed MLB debut.

Wieters, in 153 AB, is hitting .275, but with just three home runs and 13 RBI.

The Men Who Would Be Tigers---Aubrey Huff and Luke Scott---are still Orioles and producing on occasion. Huff is at .253/12/64 and Scott is at .275/18/53.

The real troublemaker is OF Nick Markakis, who's second on the team in hitting at .297, and is the O's RBI leader, with 73.

Second baseman Brian Roberts has 20 stolen bases.

The pitching hero has been 24-year-old righty Brad Bergesen, who the Tigers should see on Tuesday.

For a 44-60 team, Bergesen is 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA and just 32 walks in 123 innings.

The closer was lefty George Sherrill, who was 20-for-23 in save opps, but he was dealt to the Dodgers at the deadline. That role in Baltimore may fall to righty Danys Baez.

Funny how playing the Twins in Detroit don't give me a nervous tick, when in fact they are tough for the Tigers no matter the venue.

But not playing them in that damn Metrodome makes the medicine go down smoother nonetheless.

As usual, the offense boils down to The Big Three: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer. And don't forget Tiger Killer Joe Crede.

And you might be able to add SS Orlando Cabrera to that list.

Cabrera, acquired from Oakland at the deadline, is a solid .280 hitter who is a major upgrade over Nick Punto at shortstop.

Speaking of Tigers killers, look out for closer Joe Nathan, who is always lights out against Detroit.

The Twins, I fear, still have one of their patented late-season runs in them.

Under the microscope

Last week MMM put Porcello under the scope, and he responded, big time, in Cleveland on Saturday night.

Time to see if that same magic can work on Miguel Cabrera.

Cabrera hasn't, at all this season, truly put the Tigers on his back and carried them, like the big-time superstars do. Sometimes you have to quit making excuses, i.e. no one is hitting behind him, etc., and just face the facts: he needs to produce more.

Cabrera is too good a talent to have just 58 RBI on August 3.

The Tigers need to go on a run, and they'd have a much better shot at doing that if Cabrera can load the team onto his broad shoulders and carry them for a couple of weeks.

His .332 average is misleading, because the clutch hits have been too few and too far between.

Miggy is squarely under the MMM scope this week.

Bottom line:
The reason the Tigers win a few then lose a few, bust out offensively then go back into slumber, is because their wildly inconsistent offense is torpedoing their chances at going on a hot streak.

The Tigers haven't really gone off yet---one of those 12-out-of-15 things that can create some distance between first and second place. And they won't, unless they start scoring some runs more consistently and more prolifically.

That's all for this week's MMM. Join me every Monday!

P.S. Also join me and Big Al from The Wayne Fontes Experience every Monday night as we co-host "The Knee Jerks" on Blog Talk Radio. The Tigers are a weekly topic. We go live at 11 p.m. ET, and every episode can be downloaded for your listening convenience!



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