Monday Morning Manager: Week 3
This Week: SEA (4/24-26); at NYY (4/27-29)
So, What Happened?
The Tigers did what they needed to do in Kansas City and then scuffled at home against the buzzsaw that is the Texas Rangers.
The Royals and Rangers are two teams going in completely opposite directions, and the Tigers' results reflected that: a sweep in KC, and a 1-3 record against the Rangers in Detroit.
The Rangers are a bunch of mashers who put more pressure on you than a pop quiz. They hit, they run, they steal, they milk pitch counts, they pitch and they field. Other than that, they're not much of a team.
In between games of a DH on Saturday, the Tigers optioned maligned and struggling LHP Daniel Schlereth to Toledo and purchased the contract of RHP Thad Weber, who had a 0.75 ERA in 12 innings with the Mud Hens.
Schlereth needed to be put out of his (and the fans') misery, with a 10.29 ERA this season as he pitched batting practice every time out. MMM would agree, as Schlereth was last week's Goat.
On Sunday, Terry Foster of the Detroit News suggested that another player be put out of his misery as well. MMM will give you one guess who that is!
On Monday, a certain ace's pitch count became an issue (more on that in a few sentences).
Hero of the Week
In what is sure to be a constant theme, MMM is going with Justin Verlander, who has already had to play the role of Tigers' stopper---winning over the Rangers on Saturday (Game 2) in a game that felt like the "must win" variety, even though it was just April 21.
Were it not for JV, who also won on Monday in KC, the Tigers would have been swept in four games by the red-hot Rangers.
For whatever reason, Saturday's game two felt like desperation for the Tigers, who were outclassed by Texas by an aggregate score of 20-6 in the series' first two games.
Enter Verlander, who labored through six innings (115 pitches) of annoyingly patient and hard-working Rangers bats, allowing just one unearned run and doing what an ace does: shut down the opposition when it's badly needed.
On Monday, Verlander pitched a complete-game, 131-pitch epic match to notch his first win of the season.
That outing sent Tigers Nation all atwitter, literally and figuratively. The phones lit up the switchboard of talk radio like a Christmas tree with folks debating whether manager Jim Leyland was either reckless or fearless in leaving JV in for all those pitches.
The final pitch, a 100 mph strike at the knees and on the black, froze Alex Gordon with the bases loaded.
MMM, for one, loved the drama and thinks all the hand-wringing is for naught.
Honorable mention: rookie LHP Drew Smyly, who had two strong outings and survived a blistering line drive right between the numbers on the back of his jersey in Kansas City.
Goat of the Week
MMM would love to give this award to Schlereth yet again, but why speak ill of the dead?
Instead, MMM's vitriol is reserved for last week's UtM designee, Brandon Inge.
Inge, as Foster accurately wrote, seems to be letting the fans' treatment get to him. He has one hit this year (albeit a game-winning HR) and his at-bats continue to be laced with pop-ups and strikeouts. Even his supposedly reliable glove was suspect last week, committing errors and making poor decisions.
We could be seeing the first drumming out of town of a Tiger by fan treatment and pressure since Jason Grilli.
It's a perfect storm: Inge's already polarizing presence; his poor hitting; his shaky glove; and the fact that, sans Schlereth, there really isn't another Tiger who the fans are angry with.
Under the Microscope
MMM is tired of putting Inge here, so this week's UtM designee is Rick Porcello.
MMM is putting Ricky UtM because of MMM's curiosity re: how Porcello will respond to his first awful outing of the year: Saturday's one-inning, 8 ER, 10 hit debacle.
Entering Saturday, Porcello had pitched 14.2 innings and allowed just three earned runs.
His ERA jumped from below 2.00 to over 6.00 in one start.
So just when you thought Porcello might be ready to take the next step toward being a reliable starter, he craps the bed against the Rangers. Granted, Texas can mash, but MMM is worried that Saturday was more indicative of who Porcello truly is, rather than what his first two starts showed.
We'll see come Thursday, when Porcello toes the rubber against Seattle.
Upcoming: Mariners, Yankees
Just like last week, this week features a warm up act prior to the main event.
Last week it was the Royals before the Rangers; now it's the Mariners before the Yankees.
Seattle was the victim of a perfect game on Saturday by Chicago's Phil Humber. The Mariners are offensively challenged, the perfect game notwithstanding, as that can happen to anyone.
But the Mariners can pitch a little bit, and last year in an early-season series in Detroit, the Ms swept the Tigers, and they took two of three in Seattle in April, too. So they've played the Tigers tough lately.
But the Mariners' offense is pitiful; the leading hitter among regulars is batting .275 and many of the starters are below .250 with no power. Even 1B Justin Smoak, who has terrorized the Tigers recently, is scuffling at .203 with two homers.
Ahh, but then it's the Yankees, in New York.
Another early season litmus test, MMM thinks.
You can't overstate the importance of games with teams like the Yankees, who the Tigers don't play very often. This will be their only trip to New York---in the regular season.
The Yanks are off to a fine start and that includes aging SS Derek Jeter, who's hitting above .360. Curtis Granderson had a three-homer game last week and has six taters overall.
They famously came back from a 9-0 deficit on Saturday in Boston, scoring 14 runs in the seventh and eighth innings to win, 15-9.
The Yankees also remember all too well that their season ended on their home turf last year at the hands of the Tigers, with Alex Rodriguez swinging and missing in Game 5 of the ALDS.
Should be a blast in the Bronx!
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next Monday!