Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Morning Manager

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

Week of 8/24-30: 4-2

This week: 8/31: TB; 9/1-3: CLE; 9/4-6: at TB

Goat of the Week

Time to go into nitpick mode.

The week was four up, two down for the Tigers, against two contenders, so how many Goats can there be? Of course, at MMM, we only need one.

Putting Aubrey Huff under the microscope last week didn't have the magical effect it's had for others this season. He's still scuffling along.

Huff, acquired a couple weeks ago from Baltimore, hasn't done much of anything since joining the Tigers. These things typically go one of two ways: the newly-acquired player with hardly any pennant race experience comes in and provides an instant spark; or the pressure of possibly being the missing piece to the puzzle weighs heavily on the new guy.

With Huff, it appears to be the latter.

However, there might be a sign of life. Huff had a hard-hit double into right-center field in the seventh inning of Sunday's game, and while the Tigers stranded him, maybe that's a good sign. It was the hardest ball Huff has hit as a Tiger.

Ian Casselberry, from, said on a podcast I was on yesterday hosted by Joe Dexter that he feels Huff is one big hit away from bursting out and going on a tear.

We'll see. But in a week deemed successful from a team standpoint, Aubrey Huff contributed very little to it. Hence the Goat label.

Dishonorable mention: Righty starter Edwin Jackson, who's only gone into the seventh inning once in his past six starts. Yes, this is really nitpicking, but there you have it. MMM isn't always interested in justice---it needs word count!

Hero of the Week

How about some love for Fernando Rodney?

For someone who didn't even have a true role on the team in spring training (set-up man? "disaster" closer?), Rodney has been, in a word, magnificent.

Only one blown save opportunity all year. The vaunted changeup working on most nights. The walks-to-innings pitched ratio down considerably.

Rodney saved three of the Tigers' four wins last week, and he's pretty much money in the bank anymore.

Sunday's game was prime for major disappointment. The Tigers scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth, on Placido Polanco's dramatic, two-out home run, and had taken a 4-3 lead on a day where the bats were once again limp noodles. It was a game that, had the Tigers blown it in the ninth, would have been devastating.

But Rodney did his thing, taking care of the Rays in the ninth, and the Tigers had themselves the closest thing to a walk-off win: a lead-changing bottom of eighth, followed by a shutout top of the ninth.

Honorable mention: Normally light-hitting Gerald Laird and Adam Everett, who had back-to-back two-run doubles in a five-run fourth inning to spark the Tigers on Friday night.

Quick scouting reports: Indians and Rays

At first blush, the Tigers should take care of the Indians, right?

Not so fast, Delaware Mud Breath!

The Tribe, despite waving the white flag at the trade deadline and preparing for the future, have been playing pretty good baseball as of late. In fact, since July 22, they've won more games than the Tigers.

The Indians are on a 21-14 roll, during which time the Tigers have gone 20-17.

Yet the Tribe doesn't have Victor Martinez. Doesn't have Ryan Garko. Doesn't have Cliff Lee. And still doesn't have a "normal" Grady Sizemore.

Sizemore is having a disappointing season, a la that other great AL center fielder, Curtis Granderson.

The numbers: .247 BA, 18 HR, 62 RBI, 91 K.

Here's another telling one: 13-for-21 in stolen bases in 2009, compared to 38-for-43 in 2008.

Not very Sizemore-ish, is it?

He's down in doubles, too---though up in triples.

Yet the Indians are playing well, so this three-game set in Detroit may not be the slam-dunk people think.

The Tigers will quickly re-acquaint themselves with the Rays on Friday in Tampa, just four days after completing a four-game series in Detroit.

MMM gave you the Rays scouting report last week
, so let's just say that it will be interesting to see how the Tigers fare in Florida, after finally getting the road monkey off their backs by virtue of winning their series at the Angels last week.

Under the microscope

This week, MMM doesn't put a player under the scope, but rather, an entire position.

What will happen of left field for the Tigers?

The other two OF positions seem set: Granderson in center; Magglio Ordonez, warts and all, in right.

But who will play left field the most down the stretch and, the baseball gods willing, in the playoffs?

Marcus Thames? Herculean strength, but not much else.

Ryan Raburn? Maybe the most athletic of anyone, and with some pop, but is he more of a utility player?

Carlos Guillen? How healthy IS he, anyway?

Aubrey Huff? A clang-clang glove perhaps best suited for DH duty.

Clete Thomas? More of a RF, but he's played some LF, too.


Manager Jim Leyland has some decisions to make. So let's put LF under the scope this week and see who gets the bulk of the playing time out there.

Bottom line:
Last week showed MMM that the Tigers might, indeed, have what it takes to fend off the chasers in the Central Division. Taking four of six from the Angels and Tampa is encouraging.

The Tigers are close to putting this division race to bed. They're maybe one five or six-game winning streak away from pounding some nails into the coffins of the Twins and White Sox.

BUT...the Tigers don't go on long winning streaks. They win a few, lose a couple, etc. Why? Because their hitting isn't formidable enough to bash its way to wins for a week or so.

The division is there for the taking, obviously. But the Twins aren't to be trusted, so beware.

Tigers' magic number to clinch the division: 29

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!


Friday, August 28, 2009

Before Smoltz-for-Alexander, Tigers Struck Gold With Fryman

He was a tobacco farmer, really. And how many of them play big league baseball?

But Woodie Fryman might have been thinking that his days of a full-time purveyor of tobacco were drawing near, as he languished as the black sheep of the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation in the summer of 1972.

It's a "What have you done for me lately?" business, pro sports is. Often, it's lately, as in...oh, yesterday. And Fryman hadn't done much good for the Phillies for a whole bunch of yesterdays as August '72 approached.

If you're sick of hearing about how the Tigers traded prospect John Smoltz for the aging, sourpuss Doyle Alexander in 1987, and of how Doyle was lights out helping the Tigers to the divisional title, then you've come to the right place.

For before there was Smoltz-for-Alexander, there was cash-for-Fryman.

Woodrow Thompson Fryman, the tobacco farmer from Ewing, Kentucky without whom the Tigers may not have won the 1972 East Division.

Fryman was 32 in August '72, which isn't ancient but can look it when you're 4-10 and pitching for a team that would go on to lose 97 games, as those Phillies did.

Besides, the Tigers weren't full of spring chickens themselves. They were a (clear throat) veteran team, to put it politely. Not old---experienced, thank you.

The core of the 1968 World Champion team was still there, but everyone was four years older, naturally, and precious few prospects were being produced by the farm system.

GM Jim Campbell was making it a habit---often out of necessity---of plucking players from the 30+ year-old scrap heap and fitting them with Old English Ds, both to put a Band-Aid on a wound that would have to be attended to later, and to give his manager, Billy Martin, the horses needed to win a division that was tantalizingly close and ripe for the taking.

Campbell supplied Martin with the lefty-swinging catcher Duke Sims, rescued from the Dodgers (also in August '72), who hit .313 for the Tigers down the stretch. At the end of the month, Campbell brought Frank Howard in from the cold (actually, from the heat of Texas), wallowing with a horrible Texas Rangers team.

The year prior, Campbell acquired veterans like 2B Tony Taylor, lefty reliever Ron Perranoski, and righthander Dean Chance.

All this mainly because the Tigers' farm system wasn't churning out very many big league-caliber players. Martin was the first to notice, and called the front office out about it, which eventually hastened Billy's firing in 1973.

So here comes Woodie Fryman, purchased from the Phillies on August 2, 1972.

Fryman as a nearly-40 year-old pitcher for the Expos

Fryman pitched two games in relief without allowing a run, including 6-1/3 shutout innings in Cleveland a few days after joining the Tigers.

Then Fryman started his first game as a Tiger on August 9, in Yankee Stadium. He threw a six-hit shutout at the Yanks, who were among the four-headed monster trying to win the East Division---along with the Tigers, Red Sox, and Orioles.

Fryman started four days later against the Indians at Tiger Stadium and pitched another complete game, allowing just two runs.

Four days after that, Fryman shut down the Twins, allowing two runs in yet another complete game victory.

Fryman had pitched a tad over 35 innings as a Tiger and allowed just four runs, for an ERA of 1.02.

Woodie Fryman was a throwback. His windup recalled those of pitchers decades before him: after getting the sign from the catcher, Fryman would lean forward, swing both arms behind him, raise them above his head as they met, the ball just now hitting the mitt, and then complete the motion, which included hiding the ball along his waist until the last moment before firing it toward home plate.

Fryman and his throwback windup and left arm suddenly were carrying the Tigers, in a nip-and-tuck race that would leave the Orioles and Yankees behind in the final turn and leave just the Tigers and the Red Sox in a furious run down the final straightaway.

Fryman would pitch every fourth day and give the Tigers nothing but excellence. Only once in 14 starts did he surrender more than four runs. His ERA as a Tiger was a miniscule 2.06. His record was 10-3.

Without Woodie Fryman, the Tigers would have been left in the lurch. With him, the Tigers had enough to win the East by a nose over Boston.

In the ALCS, Fryman got roughed up in Oakland in Game 2, but then gave the Tigers eight strong innings in the decisive Game 5, four days later. The A's squeaked out a 2-1 victory, breaking Tigers fans' hearts all over Michigan.

Fryman wasn't anywhere close to being done, it turns out, when the Tigers came calling in 1972. He'd pitch until 1983, as a 43-year-old. He wasn't all that eager, apparently, to turn to tobacco farming full time. But his days as a starter pretty much ended, and with a bang, with the Tigers in 1972-73.

The Tigers didn't make the playoffs again until 1987. Fryman's heroics in '72 were talked about frequently around Detroit, until Doyle Alexander came along.

Not too many folks talk about ole Woodie Fryman around these parts anymore.

What has he done for us lately, right?


Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Morning Manager

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

Week of 8/17-23: 3-3

This week: 8/24-26: at LAA; 8/28-30: TB (plus 8/31)

Goat of the Week

A leadoff home run on Sunday wasn't enough to save Curtis Granderson from the wrath of MMM.

Grandy is last week's Goat, because he was a leadoff hitter who was unable to put the ball in play, much less get a hit.

Granderson struck out ad nauseam last week, and it got so bad that manager Jim Leyland benched him for a couple games.

But this Goat tag is almost as much for the kind of overall season Curtis is having as it is for just his bad week.

The season is 3/4 done, and Granderson has yet to bring his batting average up or re-discover his gap-hitting skills. He's just not the same---ironically making the All-Star team in 2009 after a couple years where he deserved it more yet didn't make it.

Granderson simply is not the offensive weapon that he's been for the Tigers in the past, and it's hurting the team. For all of the Tigers' offensive woes---and there are plenty---Grandy's lack of spark in the leadoff spot is among the top of the list when it comes to what's keeping the Tigers' offense from breaking out.

Dishonorable mention: Rookie reliever Ryan Perry, whose job it was to keep the Tigers close on Sunday, the score 5-4 Oakland in the 8th inning. But Perry followed up a good outing with a horrid one---surrendering a three-run homer and a solo shot as the A's extended their lead to an insurmountable 9-4, in a game the Tigers needed to win their first road series since June.

Hero of the Week

Clete Thomas reluctantly gets the nod here.

MMM isn't crazy about making Clete a Hero, but he did drive in the game-winning run on Thursday afternoon, as the Tigers completed an impressive comeback to capture the series against the Mariners.

Then Thomas followed that up with a two-out single Friday night in the sixth inning, driving in what turned out to be the game-winning run.

But Clete is striking out too much, something that Leyland acknowledged over the weekend. Thomas is miscast as a No. 3 hitter, but it's not like anyone else is really standing out, either.

Honorable mention: Ryan Raburn, who clubbed two "no doubt" solo homers on Friday night, each to put the Tigers ahead.

Quick scouting reports: Angels and Rays

Both the first-place Tigers and the second-place White Sox have tall orders this week. Might be a chance for the third-place Twins to claw back into the AL Central race.

While the Tigers are visiting the Angels and hosting the Rays, and the White Sox are traveling to the Yankees and Red Sox, the Twins will play host to the Orioles and Rangers.

We'll see.

The Angels, after a slow start, have reclaimed their designation as the cream of the crop in the AL West.

Vladimir Guerrero is back and badder than ever.

Guerrero, who's only played in 64 games this season because of injury, is hitting .356 with seven homers in August.

But the Angels have plenty of other thumpers.

Eight players---count 'em, eight---have batting averages of .300 or higher.

Switch-hitting 1B Kendry Morales might be having the best overall year, though.

Morales has 27 HR, 83 RBI, and is hitting .301.

Monday night's series opener ought to be a dandy, because each team's ace is going to be on the mound.

It's Justin Verlander vs. Jered Weaver, and that's quite a way to start a series.

Verlander is 13-7, Weaver is 13-4. Both are hard-throwing right-handers who pound the strike zone. And both have a nasty streak in them.

The Angels' closer is lefty Brian Fuentes, who came over as a free agent from Colorado after Frankie Rodriguez fled to the Mets. Fuentes is 35-for-40 in save opps this season, but he's surrendered five homers in 41.2 innings, so he can give up the occasional longball.

The Tigers are 3-3 vs. LA this season---1-2 on the road and 2-1 in Detroit.

The Rays and the Tigers are, just now, getting around to starting their season series against each other. Tampa visits for four games in a "wrap-around" series that concludes on Monday, then the Tigers will venture to Florida to play the Rays over Labor Day Weekend.

So what about these Rays, the defending AL Champs?

Our old friend, Carlos Pena, continues his feast-or-famine style of hitting.

Pena has a monstrous 34 home runs, 84 RBI, but is hitting just .220 and has struck out a whopping 148 times. Typical Pena.

SS Jason Bartlett is hitting .340, and 3B Evan Longoria is showing no signs of a Sophomore Jinx; he's got 24 homers and a .273 BA.

In fact, the entire Rays infield is full of offensive might; 2B Ben Zobrist has 22 HRs and a .288 BA.

A surprising spark has been generated by veteran catcher Gregg Zaun, picked up from Baltimore a couple weeks ago. Zaun already has a grand slam, and is providing the team with much-needed catching depth.

The pitchers are still led by those two young guns that terrorized the league last year: James Shields and Matt Garza. But newcomer Jeff Niemann, 26, has 11 wins and a 3.71 ERA.

The closing situation has been murky, but lefty J.P. Howell is coming around, having converted nine of his last ten save opportunities after a rocky start. The Rays began the season with veteran Troy Percival closing, but despite going 6-for-6, Percival's back wasn't right and he had to shut himself down. A couple weeks ago, Percival informed the Rays that he was, in essence, retiring---again.

But this time, Troy's done for good---unlike when he "retired" from the Tigers in 2006.

The Rays have the misfortune of playing in the AL East. They overcame that hurdle last season, but the Yankees and Red Sox have outpaced them all season this year. Still, the Rays aren't chopped liver---not by a long shot.

Under the microscope

Aubrey Huff---welcome to Detroit! You're a Tiger less than two weeks and you're already under MMM's microscope!

And why not?

Huff was brought over from Baltimore to give the Tigers that much-needed lefty bat, and to try to inject the listless offense with something special.

It's early, but Aubrey hasn't done much of anything.

The theory was also that Miguel Cabrera needed a respected bat hitting behind him, although Miggy has put up big numbers with Tom, Dick and Harry batting behind him. But Huff has been mostly invisible in a Tigers uniform so far.

When you bring someone in this late in the season, he's supposed to be a missing ingredient and the pressure is often greater on those kinds of guys than the ones you pick up at the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

We'll see how the veteran Huff, who's never really been in a pennant race before, handles the scenario.

Bottom line:
Where does Leyland keep all that smoke and all those mirrors?

He's had his ragtag team with the popgun offense in first place for forever it seems, all while everyone keeps waiting for the other cleat to fall.

This is a crucial week, and how many more times will MMM declare THAT this season? Probably pretty often.

This is the stretch run, folks; please put your trays in the upright position and make sure your seat belts are buckled.

Games at the Angels and home against the Rays are good barometers, and also great challenges for the Tigers and their teeter-tottering on top of the Central Division.

Pay attention to the White Sox at the Yankees and Red Sox, but also keep a third eye on the Twins, who can never be trusted.

Tigers' magic number to clinch the division: 37

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!


Friday, August 21, 2009

Lyon Unsung Hero Of Tigers' First-Place Run

Brandon Lyon was supposed to anchor the Tigers' bullpen. Only, he was supposed to do it in the ninth inning.

The ninth inning isn't his---the plan went awry---but he made a two-for-one trade: surrendering the ninth for the seventh and eighth.

But he has, indeed, been an anchor nonetheless.

Lyon, signed in the off-season after four years in Arizona, was brought in to be the Tigers' closer. It seemed plain to the experts and blabbering bloggers (like me) that the plan called for Lyon to supplant Fernando Rodney, the helter-skelter reliever who became the top fireman following Todd Jones' retirement.

Rodney was wild. Rodney was inconsistent. Rodney was a thrill ride in the ninth inning.

Lyon was more experienced. Lyon was coming off a solid year. Lyon was excited to go to, in his mind, a contender. He was ready to grab the closer's role and give it a choke hold.

That worked for about two weeks of spring training.

Funny things happen in pro sports when the talking and writing gives way to the actual playing of the games.

Neither Lyon nor Rodney performed in spring training as advertised.

The roles were reversed; Lyon was erratic and unreliable, and Rodney was the calming influence in save situations.

Go figure.

After the Tigers ventured north to start the season, not much changed. Lyon had lost the closer's job in Florida, but was still deemed to be an important part of the bullpen, especially with Joel Zumaya's health in question and a rookie (Ryan Perry) on board.

Yet Lyon started the regular season much as he finished the Grapefruit version: fooling no one, and getting hit hard.

He didn't endear himself to his new fans in Detroit. They turned on him quickly.

"Todd Jones Lite" was one way of describing him: a guy who didn't strike out anyone (like Jonesy) but who didn't get anyone out, either (unlike Jonesy, for the most part).

Meanwhile, Rodney grew more and more comfortable as the team closer, allaying fears fans and observers had about him.

Lyon's entrance into games was met with disdain, worry, and eye-rolling---sometimes all at once.

That seems ages ago.

It says here that Brandon Lyon is one of the Tigers' Unsung Heroes.

Lyon's job is much like that of an umpire's or referee's. If all goes well, you hear nothing. But make a couple of mistakes, and...

Lyon has commandeered the eighth and ninth innings for the Tigers, even more so since they lost Zumaya yet again to injury.

The stat called a "hold", if it was a woman, would register on the sexy scale just above Margaret Thatcher. But it's the only one that can be truly attached to the guy who comes in, often during pivotal situations, and is charged with wriggling out of jams. The outs he gets usually are no less tough and important than the ones the closer waltzes in and gets in the ninth inning.

Lyon has been terrific for about three months. He gave the Tigers four remarkable innings in Minnesota in an extra inning game, as an example. But most of his stints have come and gone with little fanfare.

Rodney, for his part, has proven that the closer's role he earned in spring training is his and his alone. Lyon's work as a set-up man hasn't been wasted by any shenanigans in the ninth inning.

Others in the pen have chipped in, who were question marks for various reasons.

Southpaw Bobby Seay, who had a devil of a time with lefty sticks in 2008, is back to his old self.

Perry has had a decent rookie year, interrupted by some brief time in Toledo.

Fu-Te Ni has brought another trusty left-handed arm to the party.

And Lyon, who overcame an understatedly rocky start to seize control in the seventh and eighth innings.

He's still that "pitch to contact" guy---baseball code for lack of a consistent strikeout pitch---but the difference is that those moments of contact aren't as square or as catastrophic as they were from February to May.

Lyon has settled down and is pitching again---using good location, change of speeds, and good old-fashioned experience to get hitters out. He's re-learning the American League, where he hasn't pitched since 2003, with the Red Sox.

It's not as glorifying as what Fernando Rodney does, but without it, the Tigers would be in a heap.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Morning Manager

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

Week of 8/10-16: 3-4

This week: 8/18-20: SEA; 8/21-23: at Oak

Goat of the Week

The umpiring crew in Boston.

MMM didn't think the Tigers would win more than one game in Fenway Park during the four-game set last week, but they just might have, had Tuesday night's beanball debacle not occured.

It all started Monday, when Miguel Cabrera and Brandon Inge were hit, along with Kevin Youkilis of Boston. On Tuesday, Cabrera was hit again, in the first inning, by Red Sox starter Junichi Tazawa. Tigers starter Rick Porcello brushed back Victor Martinez, who took exception, in the bottom of the first. FSD cameras caught Martinez mouthing very clearly, "What are you doing?" to the Tigers' rookie.

You know what happened next.

Porcello plunked Youkilis in the bottom of the second, and the Red Sox third baseman charged the rookie, triggering a bench-clearing brawl.

Without any warnings handed out, the umpires ejected Youkilis AND Porcello. Youkilis, for certain, should have been kicked out, but to eject Porcello without a warning to both dugouts about all the brushbacks and HBPs, was highly questionable. Tigers manager Jim Leyland had a fit; to the umpires' credit, they let him go off and didn't eject him. Sometimes the boys in blue will do that---let a manager blow off some serious steam---when a highly controversial decision is rendered.

The Tigers were leading 3-0 at the time.

Chris Lambert replaced Porcello and before you could say, "Uh-oh," he surrendered a game-tying, three-run homer.

Now, it's impossible to declare without some fear of being wrong that had Porcello stayed in, that three-run dinger by Jason Bay wouldn't have occurred. But the Tigers were off to a good start, had a three-run lead for one of their better starting pitchers, and it might have been their night.

We'll never know for sure.

But the decision to run Porcello out of the game turned out very poorly for the Tigers, who lost the contest, 7-5.

Dishonorable mention: The Tigers' up-and-down offense (again), which went 0-for-16 with RISP in Sunday's loss to the Royals, when just one key hit likely would have given the team a three-game sweep.

Hero of the Week

Justin Verlander, without question.

JV has been MMM's hero several times, and usually it's for the same reason: bailing the Tigers out when they need to stop some bleeding.

Verlander was up to the task yet again last Thursday, when he blew the Red Sox away so the Tigers could avoid a four-game sweep in Boston.

On his 123rd and final pitch, to Bay, JV hit 100 mph and struck Bay out swinging.

Verlander pitched eight shutout innings, in a rough ballpark for pitchers, in a game the Tigers absolutely had to win. He's turning into an MLB-wide ace before our very eyes, folks.

Twenty wins seem within JV's grasp. He has 13 now and is showing no sign of wilting in the dog days of the season.

Verlander, by, far, leads the AL in strikeouts, averaging well over 10 Ks per nine innings.

"That's a horse," Leyland said after Thursday's game.

No kidding. And the Tigers keep saddling him up, asking him to lead them to safer ground.

Honorable mention: Brandon Inge, for ending Friday night's game with a bang---a walk-off home run in the ninth for a 1-0 victory. Especially nice, considering how hurt and ineffective Inge has been since the All-Star break.

Quick scouting reports: Mariners and A's

A strange scheduling quirk this week means the Tigers will play a home game Thursday afternoon then have to shuttle themselves out to Oakland to play the A's the next night.

The quirk is that the Tigers' day off this week is Monday, not Thursday. Time was that West Coast trips were rarely preceded by a game day. But the Tigers have just completed a stretch of games in 17 straight days, which explains Monday's day off.

The Seattle Mariners are hanging tough in the AL West, though they remain long shots to unseat the LA Angels.

As usual, the offense is keyed by RF Ichiro Suzuki.

Ichiro is hitting .360, which we've come to expect---that's how good he is. This is a career .333 hitter who's likely Hall of Fame-bound. Sometime soon Ichiro will collect his 2,000th hit, and there's no reason to think he won't surpass 3,000 for his career.

In each of his eight seasons, Ichiro has banged out at least 200 hits, which is mind-boggling. He has 175 this year, so that streak looks like it will be extended to nine straight years.

Oh, and how's this for his run-scoring totals, by season?

Year One: 127
Year Two: 111
Year Three: 111
Year Four: 101
Year Five: 111
Year Six: 110
Year Seven: 111
Year Eight: 103

Amazingly consistent.

Ichiro hits. Ichiro runs. Ichiro can steal bases. Ichiro can bunt his way on. Ichiro can catch the ball. Ichiro can throw the ball.

Yeah, Hall of Famer---one of those first ballot guys.

If you like power with frequent breezes, big 1B Russell Branyan is your man. Branyan has 27 homers---but also 130 strikeouts.

On the mound, ex-Tiger Luke French---traded for Jarrod Washburn---is 1-1 in three Mariners starts, with a 4.41 ERA. According to the rotation schedule, the lefty should start Thursday's game in Detroit.

But the real star is righty Felix Hernandez, who'll start Tuesday's game. Hernandez is 12-4, with a 2.74 ERA. He's 2-0 against the Tigers this year, with a 2.77 ERA.

In Oakland, the Athletics waved the white flag at the trade deadline and are looking ahead to 2010.

The lineup is mediocre, with only DH Jack Cust a serious home run threat. Only one batter, CF Rajai Davis, is hitting .300---and Davis is at exactly .300. But Davis, through July and August, is hitting 36-for-95 (.379).

Their best pitcher, statistically, is on the DL (Dallas Braden). The rest of the rotation is struggling, and their bullpen is a shambles.

The closer is Andrew Bailey, who's actually been pretty good---converting 15-of-16 save opportunities since June 1.

But Bailey only has 21 opportunities, period, and that's saying a lot about the A's, who sit in dead last in the West.

Under the microscope

I don't like Clete Thomas's defense.

He's butchered too many plays for my liking, and if he's going to be the left-handed-hitting guy in RF---which he appears to be as the platooning with Magglio Ordonez continues more often than not---then he has to be better with the glove.

Maggs is no Gold Glover, either, but Thomas's mitt right now is cast iron.

To be fair, some of his missteps have been due to over-aggressiveness. But still, he's cost the Tigers and with the team playing so many low-scoring, tight ballgames, an ill-timed miscue could easily cost them a game.

Let's put Clete under the scope and see if he stops stumbling in RF.

Reminds me of a funny story.

Slugger Dave Kingman, never known for his defense, was having his glove's laces fixed one day, and the TV cameras caught it in the dugout.

The announcer---and I wish I could remember who it was---said, "They should call a welder, not an equipment guy."

Bottom line: Once again, Verlander had to stop the bleeding. And once again, he responded.

That scenario has been happening too much for a team in first place.

Sunday's game of tiddly-wink offense, following a ten-run outburst on Saturday, has also been too typical.

How many wins have the Tigers left on the field because they couldn't drive in a freaking run or two?

They should be making a mockery of this divisional race, with the White Sox just two games above .500.

Even the Twins, five games below .500, are still in the hunt, though longshots.

This Seattle at home/Oakland on the road week can be tricky for the Tigers. The Mariners have played the Tigers tough all season, and the West Coast is unpredictable.

The Tigers remain three games ahead of the White Sox in the all-important loss column, which is the column to watch more than any other.

But I like how Miggy Cabrera has woken up and is starting to play more like the Albert Pujols-like superstar he has the potential to be. And Carlos Guillen has shown me something since returning from injury sabbatical.

But more guys have to get in on the fun, offensively.

Going 0-for-16 with RISP is atrocious, and brings back ghoulish memories of 1-for-26 in Yankee Stadium last month.

Tigers' magic number to clinch the division: 43

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!


Friday, August 14, 2009

Van Slyke Uncredited When It Comes To Granderson's Outfield Play

The eyes were quite alive, twinkling even. That little kid look you see in grown men, particularly when they put a baseball glove on their hock.

Something happens to the adult male when he slips a mitt on.

The twinkling-eyed man was checking out the glove breaking-in talents of his young pupil. He had one area of concern: some of the laces were too long. It brought up a funny story.

The pupil was Curtis Granderson. The cut-up telling the story was Andy Van Slyke.

It was a quiet moment, over three years ago, before the Tigers were to take on the (then) defending world champion Chicago White Sox.

Granderson, who was fresh off beating out a kid named Nook Logan for the Tigers' center field job, was being gracious to a locker invader who was striking up some chit chat when Van Slyke joined us.

"I had long laces, too," Van Slyke said. Then he proceeded to tell a story of how those long laces turned on him one night in Pittsburgh. Seems Van Slyke went for a shoestring catch and caught his spikes on the offending laces of his glove, yanking the mitt off his hand and causing him to tumble all over the Three Rivers Stadium turf.

It was impossible not to laugh.

Van Slyke was who I came to see, anyway. I wanted to know what in the world he was doing, coaching first base for the Detroit Tigers. Oh, and what he thought of the team's outfielders, not the least of whom was this kid Granderson.

We ended up in the coaches' locker room, which is nothing more than a glorified walk-in closet. It was something you'd expect from old, creaky Tiger Stadium. Not from supposedly state-of-the-art Comerica Park, built with the pizza dough of Mike Ilitch.

Van Slyke had this piece of clay named Curtis Granderson and I wanted to know what he planned on doing with it.

And, you could do worse than to talk outfielding with Andy Van Slyke, who only happened to be one of the finest of his time, or anyone's time. He was a funny, wise-cracking soul, but no clown.

First, there's the matter of who Van Slyke learned his trade from.

"Bill Virdon taught me," AVS told me.

Ahh. Say no more.

But, for the kiddies out there, I'll say a little bit.

Virdon, who played for the Pirates in the 1950s and early-1960s, was an exemplary center fielder. He got lost in the shadows of contemporaries like Willie Mays and Duke Snider and even Jackie Jensen when it came to glove work. Heck, Virdon got lost in the shadows of his own teammate. Some dude named Roberto Clemente.

But Virdon was a terrific outfielder, and he remained close to the Pirates organization after he retired. He managed the team, and functioned as both a coach and a spring training instructor.

Van Slyke, clowning with Miguel Cabrera, had fun as a player, but also worked very hard at his craft

On that day in April 2006, when AVS and I talked about Granderson and other outfielders on the team, Van Slyke spoke with parental overtones.

"I watch my kids play a lot of baseball," he said, referring to his own children, "and I think I'm more nervous watching my outfielders play than watching my kids play, because I have a lot of time invested in their (Tigers outfielders') success."

Granderson, Van Slyke said at the time, had tons of potential to become a better outfielder.

And Curtis has.

I've been down on Granderson a lot this year, because his bat has been limp for most of the season, except for the occasional home run. Infrequent have been the doubles and triples that Grandy was known to slap around the ballpark. The batting average doesn't cause one to seek out pen and paper in order to write home about it. It's not even been worthy of a quick e-mail.

But the glove hasn't abandoned him, and that's saying something, for often times players let their offensive struggles affect their defense.

As much confidence as I may have lost in Granderson's bat, I've lost none in his mitt---long laces and all.

Van Slyke's in his fourth year now of working with the Tigers outfielders, and it shows. Not only with Granderson, who has become very comfortable in the vastness of Comerica Park's outfield, but with others--even someone like Marcus Thames.

Thames will never be an upper echelon outfielder, but he gets good jumps on fly balls and can make the occasional circus catch.

I hope Van Slyke's next project is Clete Thomas, because Clete has committed acts of butchery this season that have cost the Tigers.

Van Slyke said it all involves hard work.

"Even after I started winning Gold Gloves in Pittsburgh, I felt I could be better," he imparted to me. "I thought, 'You know what? I need to continue to win Gold Gloves.'"

The Tigers' defense was a weakness last season, during their 74-88 debacle. Now, it takes center stage again, but this time as a crutch for the beleaguered offense.

Pitching and defense. The time-proven recipe for success. The Tigers seem to have both of those ingredients in full, undiluted force.

"We work on things," Grandy told me way back when about Van Slyke and himself, long before we started expecting playoff appearances from the Tigers. "Angles, positioning. Stuff like that."

Not sure which is better: Van Slyke The Teacher, or Granderson The Listener.

Something's working, though.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Morning Manager

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

Week of 8/3-9: 5-2

This week: 8/10-13: at Bos; 8/14-16: KC

Goat of the Week

When a team has a 5-2 week, including winning a weekend series from a fellow division contender, it's difficult to hang the MMM Goat label on anyone without looking like you're nitpicking.

But that's part of what we do at MMM: we nitpick!

So, tag, Gerald Laird--you're it!

The auspicious debut of rookie backup catcher Alex Avila has underscored just how little the Tigers are getting from Laird offensively.

It's terrific that Laird throws out a high percentage of would-be base stealers. It's wonderful how he handles the pitching staff. But he's got to be able to give the Tigers more than a BA in the .220s with almost no inclination to getting a clutch hit.

Avila arrived on Thursday and got a couple hits and an RBI. Then, the next night, the left-handed hitting Avila had two more hits, including his first big league home run, and drove in four runs.

Then Laird returned to behind the dish for Saturday and Sunday's games and did his usual punch-less thing at the plate.

Catcher isn't shortstop---you expect some offense from that position.

Laird started the season on fire---he was hitting well over .300 in the first few weeks---but has been slumbering for the most part since May.

The Tigers certainly didn't acquire Laird for his offense. He went into the 2009 season with a .255 career BA. But even .255 would be nice right about now, wouldn't it?

This might be a trend with Laird. In 2006, he hit .296. In 2007, he hit .224. Last season, his BA was .276. So maybe he just doesn't do as well in odd-numbered years.

Hero of the Week

Several to choose from, again because of the 5-2 week.

But the choice here is Miguel Cabrera, who looks to be ready to act like a big time superstar and start delivering in bunches.

Miggy is heating up. The home runs are starting to come more frequently. The RBIs are coming when you need them.

Sunday, he blasted a breaking ball into the left field seats. But it wasn't just that he did it. His body language spoke volumes.

The FSD isolated replay showed Cabrera from head to toe. He swung, and tossed the bat aside in a mixture of both triumph and disdain. He knew the ball was gone. Then, in the dugout afterward, Cabrera was seen with "that look" on his face---the look of a bona fide power hitter who's "feeling it."

We'll see if this is all much ado about nothing.

Honorable mention: Placido Polanco, who's starting to look like, well, Placido Polanco---with some big hits and pesky at-bats.

Quick scouting reports: Red Sox and Royals

The Tigers are going to be visiting a Red Sox team that is not only superior to them, but who will be in a foul mood after being swept in New York.


This could be disastrous for the Tigers, who MMM doesn't feel is in the same league with the Red Sox or Yankees or Angels. But at least the Tigers start the series with Edwin Jackson on the mound, so maybe they can get off to a good start.

The Red Sox might soon find themselves focusing on keeping hold of the Wild Card lead rather than chasing the Yankees, who look like the Yankees of old.

The Bosox lineup is loaded, and they can make mincemeat of you in Fenway Park. It'll take all the Tigers have to even win a single game in this series.

Oh, and David Ortiz has been heating up after an atrocious start.

No need to spend any more space here going over the rest of the Red Sox hitters. I'm sure you've heard of them.

The rotation is decent, with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and the venerable Tim Wakefield as the top three starters.

The closer, of course, is Jonathan Papelbon.

The Tigers must show that they can play with the elite AL teams---something they have failed to do all season.

As for the Royals?

They're in their familiar position---last place, with an anemic offense that makes the Tigers' lineup look like Murderers' Row.

Early in the season, it was the Royals' pitching that was keeping them afloat. But no longer. Even trusty Zack Greinke became untrustworthy for a short while.

Greinke's back on track, and he's by far the best pitcher on the staff, with a 2.43 ERA.

The rest of the rotation is Brian Bannister and Gil Meche (who returns from the disabled list on Thursday) and pray for rain.

The closer is Joakim Soria, who's 18-for-20 in save situations, and who has two saves in which he pitched for two innings instead of the customary one.

Under the microscope

Here's what was written in last week's MMM about "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."

Well, look who's this week's MMM Hero?

The microscope is hot; first Porcello, now Cabrera.

So who will be the next recipient of the scope's new-found magic?

Let's go with starter Armando Galarraga.

Galarraga teases you. He lets you think he's about to return to his 2008 form, or somewhere near it, then he has a bad outing.

I still don't like the idea of trusting rookie Rick Porcello with too much down the stretch, which means that Galarraga becomes even more important.

The top three of Justin Verlander, Jarrod Washburn, and Edwin Jackson are as good as it gets in the AL, but sometimes playoff spots are won or lost at the back end of the rotation. It's like playoff hockey; often times, the teams that get production from the third and fourth line guys are the ones who advance deep into the post-season.

Let's put Galarraga under the scope and see what happens. His next start is slated for Wednesday in Boston.

Bottom line:
Last week was big for the Tigers. They had a seven-game home stand and went 5-2, reaffirming their status as a tough team to play at Comerica Park. More importantly, they're keeping some daylight between them and the White Sox and Twins.

It's time to keep your eyes on the loss column, by the way.

The Tigers are four ahead of the White Sox, and six ahead of the Twins in that column.

Why is that so important?

Losses are just that---lost opportunities. You can't "make up" losses---at least not without needing other teams to beat the team(s) you're chasing. Being down in the win column isn't as tragic, because that usually means you have games in hand and can "make them up" by winning them.

Not so with losses.

So the first thing you should look at isn't the GB column. It's how far ahead of their competitors the Tigers are in the loss column.

Oh, and the Tigers' Magic Number to clinch the division is 49, in case you were wondering.

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!


Friday, August 07, 2009

"Hondo" Couldn't Play For Tigers In '72 ALCS, But He Didn't Care

The cheers were led in the clubhouse by a hulk of a man with champagne stinging his eyes, a 36-year-old slugger so giddy from being rescued from last place that he didn't care that he wasn't eligible to play in the upcoming playoffs.

Frank Howard---Hondo, The Capital Punisher---towered, literally, over his Tigers teammates and his 6-foot-7 frame was, briefly, a monument to what the team was celebrating.

The 1972 AL East race was similar to the one the 2009 Tigers are engaged in now: a bunch of teams who weren't doing anything to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

The Tigers, Red Sox, Yankees, and Orioles entered September within two games of each other. The Orioles were in first place, but they were wobbly. They had fine pitching, though.

Sound familiar?

The Tigers, it was determined, needed some more offense. Their pitching was fine, too.

Getting maybe even more familiar?

There was a slugger available from a last-place team---a man who'd tasted some success early in his career with the Dodgers, but who'd experienced mostly losing with the Washington Senators. Now, Howard was with the Texas Rangers, who moved from Washington, but who were still losers.

The Rangers were a full nine games out of fifth place in the AL West when they sold Howard, mostly a first baseman after years as an outfielder, to the Tigers late on August 31.

MLB rules stipulated---they still do---that a player be with his new team before midnight on the 31st in order to be eligible for the post-season.

Howard didn't make it. He reported to the Tigers on September 1.

But he was so happy to go from purgatory to a pennant race that it didn't seem to bother him.

"I'll be the biggest cheerleader," he said, and his words had literal meaning, too. Howard was 6-foot-7 and weighed well over 250 pounds.

Manager Billy Martin used Howard fairly regularly down the stretch as first the Yankees, then the Orioles faded from view.

That left the Tigers and the Red Sox.

Howard's biggest day was on September 13, when he went 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBI as the Tigers beat the O's, 6-5, to leapfrog past Baltimore and into second place.

The 1972 season had been shortened because of a players' strike in spring training which shaved games off the April schedule. It was determined that those games would simply be forgotten, and that meant teams would, by the end of the year, end up playing varying amounts of games.

That imbalance would play a huge role in the '72 AL East race.

The Red Sox came to Detroit for a showdown series during the season's final weekend. The Bosox were a half-game ahead of the Tigers, having played one less game than Detroit.

The Tigers won Game 1 behind a 15-strikeout performance by Mickey Lolich. Now the Tigers were in first place by that tiny half game.

The next night, the Red Sox scored a run in the first inning, and that 1-0 lead held up until the sixth. Jim Northrup singled home Norm Cash to tie it.

In the seventh, Al Kaline singled home Dick McAuliffe, who had doubled with one out. Then Kaline eventually scored a couple batters later, thanks to a Red Sox error. The Tigers led, 3-1 as the Tiger Stadium crowd of over 50,000 roared.

Frank Howard as a hulking Senator

Lefty Woodie Fryman, another terrific late-season acquisition, pitched into the eighth inning before being relieved by Chuck Seelbach.

Seelbach pitched a perfect inning-and-a-third, earning his 14th save. Fryman's record since being acquired from the Phillies moved to 10-3.

The Tigers had clinched the division with the win, because they were one-and-a-half games ahead of the Red Sox with one game to play.

Boston won the season finale, making their record 85-70 against the Tigers' 86-70.

Think the Red Sox would have liked the opportunity to play a 156th game against someone who they should have played had the strike not occurred?

MLB's decision bit the Red Sox in the heinie. Why baseball didn't announce sometime in September that if such a situation occur at the end of the year, a game would be made up---perhaps by drawing a team out of the hat and pitting the Red Sox against it, so they'd play the same number of games as the Tigers, well, we can only imagine.

But the Tigers took it, happily.

Howard was, indeed, the Tigers' biggest cheerleader as they went up against the Oakland A's in the best-of-five ALCS.

Oakland won Games 1 and 2 in California, then flew to Detroit hoping to sweep the Tigers.

But the Tigers battled back, winning Games 3 and 4, before succumbing in a 2-1 heartbreaker in Game 5 at Tiger Stadium.

Reggie Jackson, who slid home with the A's first run in Game 5, tore up his hamstring and missed the '72 World Series, which Oakland captured over Cincinnati. Ironically, Jackson's replacement in that decisive ALCS game, George Hendrick, ended up scoring the winning run.

As for Frank Howard, he stuck with the Tigers for the 1973 season before retiring.

On my birthday in '73---the start of a yearly tradition where we went to a Tigers game every August 6 (the Tigers' schedule always seemed to cooperate that way)---Howard clubbed a thrilling, two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning to tie the game against the Yankees on NBC's "Monday Night Baseball." The Tigers won in extra innings. That win put them in first place, but they weren't able to hold it. The Tigers fired Martin later that month.

Howard hit 12 homers in 227 AB with the '73 Tigers as their right-handed hitting DH, platooning with the lefty-swinging Gates Brown. The new DH rule was made for guys like the aging Howard and the defensively-challenged Brown.

The '72 divisional race was the last hurrah for the core of Tigers who won the 1968 World Series. Sticking too long with those players, the bottom fell out in 1974 and a painful rebuilding process began.

Let's hope history doesn't repeat in that manner, eh, with the 2006 core?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

"This Week in Detroit Tigers Baseball" No. 6 is Ready For Download

The latest episode of "This Week in Detroit Tigers Baseball", a terrific podcast put together by Joe Dexter of Motor City Bengals, is ready for download.

The panel was yours truly, Big Al from The Wayne Fontes Experience and my co-host on "The Knee Jerks", and Sean Heyboer of Trumbull and Michigan.

Also on the show is former Tigers pitcher Mike Maroth, who Joe interviews in a separate segment.

You can download the show HERE.

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!