Monday, July 04, 2011

Monday Morning Manager 2011, Edition 14

Last week: 3-4
This week: at LAA (7/4-6); at KC (7/7-10)

So, What Happened?

Hurricane Mets blew through Comerica Park on Tuesday and Wednesday, after the Tigers disposed of the Toronto Blue Jays in a makeup game on Monday. The Mets brought sizzling bats to Detroit and they got even sizzlinger (a new word that MMM just made up), as the Kings of Queens torched Tigers pitching for 30 runs and 38 hits in the first two games of the series.

Naturally, it took Justin Verlander to end that nonsense on Thursday.

Then the Tigers welcomed the San Francisco Giants and were good hosts, dropping two of three to the NL West leaders and defending world champs.

The week was capped by the surprising (mostly) firing of pitching coach Rick Knapp, offered as the first sacrificial lamb in this season of urgency.

All that, and the Tigers are still 45-40 and only one-half game out of first place.

Hero of the Week

Dom't worry, MMM isn't going to pick Verlander for the third week in a row---though you could make yet another case for JV, in light of the way he muted the Mets on Thursday.

This week, MMM likes catcher Alex Avila.

Avila, thanks to the fans' support, was elected to start the All-Star game. But beyond that, Avila continues to drive runners in from third base with less than two outs, throw out potential base stealers, and give one quality at bat after the other. He also blocked the plate perfectly twice last week.

But there wasn't a particular crowning moment for Avila last week. MMM is choosing him as a reward for his consistent play, and to pile on to his All-Star honors.

Honorable mention goes to Brennan Boesch, who had another solid week as he continues to adjust nicely this season, after AL pitchers figured him out in the second half of 2010. MMM thought Boesch to be at a crossroads heading into 2011, and so far he appears to have chosen the correct path.

MMM also wants to acknowledge frequent punching bag Ryan Raburn, whose diving catch in left field in the eighth inning on Sunday saved the Tigers' lead.

Goat of the Week

MMM isn't sure if GotW should go to Phil Coke as the fifth starter or the Tigers, for thinking that Phil Coke should be the fifth starter.

So let's forget that quandary and make things easier and go with Max Scherzer, whose fine won/loss record doesn't tell the story of his cockeyed season.

On Saturday, Scherzer never gave his teammates a chance in the rain-soaked, 15-2 loss to the Giants. This continues a disturbing trend in which Max's explosive stuff blows up in his face.

Unbelievably, it was just two months ago when people dared to suggest that Scherzer, not Verlander, was the Tigers' real ace.


MMM is also putting the rest of the starting rotation---aside from JV, of course---on notice. If the starting pitching doesn't improve, Tigers fans won't only have to worry about the Indians---they'll have the White Sox and maybe even the Twins to contend with, literally.

Under the Microscope

MMM hates to pick on children, but it's hard not to place rookie lefty Charlie Furbush UtM as he makes his first big league start tonight in Anaheim.

Furbush replaces Coke in the rotation, a move that manager Jim Leyland says is not temporary. At least, Coke being removed from the rotation isn't temporary; whether Furbush replaces him for good remains to be seen.

In retrospect, maybe MMM should have had Knapp UtM last week, eh?

Upcoming: Angels and Royals

Interleague play, thank goodness, is over and done with. The Tigers went a very uncharacteristic 7-11 against teams from the senior circuit this season, after pretty much dominating in IL play under Leyland.

The week starts with a trio of games in Anaheim against the Angels, with the featured attraction being a Verlander-Dan Haren matchup on Tuesday. The Angels have a pretty weak offense, but if there's a pitching staff that can cure that, it's the Tigers'.

The Angels are 44-41 and are battling the Texas Rangers for first place in the AL West, a division that makes the Central look like, well, the East.

Then it's off to beautiful Kansas City to face a Royals team that has once again tumbled into the Central basement, despite a decent start. But that was back in April; you know, when Osama bin Laden was still roaming the Earth.

The Royals can't pitch. Thus, they can't win. The Tigers have them for four games this weekend, but be aware, because for whatever reason, the Royals have given the Tigers fits in recent years. It all started with that three-game sweep the Royals laid on the Tigers in Detroit on the final weekend of the 2006 season, when all the Bengals needed was one lousy win to secure the divisional title.

MMM expects no less than a 4-3 week heading into the All-Star break.

Oh, and Happy Independence Day! The team that's in first place on July 4 supposedly is the odds-on favorite to be there at the end of the season. After tonight, the Tigers could be that team.

That's all for this week's MMM! See you next week!



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