Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Morning Manager 2011, Edition 21

Last week: 4-2
This week: at TB (8/22-25); at Min (8/26-28)

So, What Happened?

Last Monday, MMM said the Tigers had a do-over---another chance to create separation between themselves and the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, after failing to do so the week prior.

Mission accomplished---given the mulligan.

The week began with the Tigers nursing a 2.5 game lead over the Tribe, and it ended with that lead stretched to 4.5 games. The White Sox are five games behind.

The reason for all this increased separation, of course, was the fun weekend the Tigers had at the expense of the Indians at Comerica Park. The three-game sweep of the Indians began with two convincing victories followed by a nailbiter that should have been convincing but wasn't.

MMM is still replaying Awesome Jackson's game-ending rocket to home plate to seal the Tigers' victory on Sunday afternoon, which completed your garden variety 8-2 double play.

Hero of the Week

MMM thinks that, because of Justin Verlander's dominance, other players have been getting the short shrift when it comes to HotW.

Not this week.

MMM would like to honor catcher Alex Avila with the HotW designation.

This is overdue, and is largely because of Avila's catching streak, which by today's standards is Cal Ripken-like.

Avila has started 17 straight games at catcher for the Tigers, which is unheard of in the 21st century. Granted, none of them have been doubleheaders, but the streak---borne out of necessity thanks to Victor Martinez's trick knee---is nonetheless very impressive.

What's more, Al-Av has been pounding the ball throughout the month of August, and continues to grind out at-bats and see a lot of pitches every time he steps into the batter's box.

Avila has been almost indestructible behind the plate, turning into a human pin cushion what with all the foul tips and errant pitches he has to smother. Witness the aforementioned DP on Sunday, when Jackson's throw only works if Avila stands his ground and hangs onto the ball throughout the impending collision.

MMM believes the Tigers have found their backstop for the next 10 years.

Honorable mentions: Verlander (natch), Phil Coke and Martinez, who were all clutch last week in their own ways. MMM would also like to give HM to GM Dave Dombrowski, for acquiring Twins OF Delmon Young for a bag of baseballs last Monday---a trade that wasn't on anyone's radar, and one that has the Indians fans beside themselves, according to some comments posted on, which is like MLive.

Goat of the Week

Ricky Porcello made two starts last week, and in neither was he impressive. Nor was he in the start before those.

Handed a 7-0 lead on Sunday, in a start in which he was cruising, Porcello gave up a seemingly harmless solo home run to Carlos Santana in the fourth inning. Then all hell broke loose.

Porcello promptly let the Tribe back into the game, surrendering four runs in the Indians' five-run frame.

Porcello fell behind batters, couldn't locate low and the result was some Cleveland batting practice before manager Jim Leyland brought the hook after 3.2 innings.

On Monday against the Twins, Porcello couldn't get his sinker ball to sink and the result was similar to Sunday's, except the Tigers lost.

After an undefeated July, Porcello has looked lost in August. And the Tigers need all hands (or, more appropriately, arms) on deck for the stretch run. MMM thinks that Porcello had better get his act together, and quick.

Here's where pitching coach Jeff Jones gets to show us why he's better than Rick Knapp.

Under the Microscope

MMM is tempted to place Porcello UtM because of the previous category, but then there would be no reason to work a Brandon Inge reference into this week's analysis.

He's baaaaaaack!

Yes, Inge, the much-maligned, DFA'd third baseman is back with the big club after about a month in Toledo. Hollywood producers would have been proud of what happened on Saturday night in Inge's first at-bat after being recalled.

SMACK! Inge hit his second homer of the year and he later delivered a run-scoring double to finish with three RBI in the Tigers' 10-1 win.

MMM is putting Inge UtM because Leyland says he'll use Inge against lefties. But how long before Inge slowly but surely works himself back into the role of full-time 3B?

Inge and Wilson Betemit---acquired from Kansas City in a trade that seemingly ended Inge's Tigers career---both on the same team? You gotta love baseball and its pockets of irony and romance.

Oh, by the way---last week's UtM player, Will Rhymes, was sent back to Toledo to make room for Delmon Young the very day that MMM appeared in this space last week.

But Inge has nothing to worry about in that area; he's not going anywhere---except toward the top of the depth chart, MMM thinks.

Upcoming: Rays, Twins

This could be a bad week.

MMM doesn't mean to ruin your week before it gets started, but just know that the Tampa Bay Rays are hot and still have wild card aspirations. And know that the Minnesota Twins would love nothing more than to spoil the Tigers' divisional lead in the Twins' own ballpark.

As Leyland said in his post-game comments on Sunday (broadcast by FSD), the Tigers are going to be facing one of the league's best starting rotations down in Tampa.

Of course, the Rays will see Verlander on Monday, which is no walk in the park, either.

The Tigers should be thrilled with a split in Tampa, especially considering the Indians will be simultaneously hosting the lowly Seattle Mariners for three games. Yet another reason to root for Casper Wells and Charlie Furbush!

The Twins will be waiting this weekend, which makes this a real land mine week for the Tigers. If they can navigate through it while absorbing as little damage as possible, like their lead remaining no less than 2-3 games, then it's a successful week in MMM's book.

MMM also suggests the Tigers intentionally walk Jim Thome every time they face him this weekend.

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



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