Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Morning Manager: Week 8

Last Week: 3-3
This Week: at Bos (5/28-31); NYY (6/1-3)

So, What Happened?

The Tigers were sweepers and sweepees last week.

They spent a horrifying three days in Cleveland to start the week, where clutch hits were as plentiful as snowballs in July. Then it was off to Minnesota to get well---or at least better---at the Twins' expense. In Minnesota, the offense came alive and even featured the most clutch hit of all---a two-run homer in the ninth ining to turn a deficit into a victory.

The starting pitching was competent, but the defense and base running wasn't, for the most part. Even the three wins in Minny were tainted by suspect displays of both.

The bottom line? A three-game winning streak (first back-to-back wins since April 18) and maybe some stroked egos heading into Boston.

The week also featured newcomer Quentin Berry, who in just five games has taken the Tigers' fan base by storm with his hitting, speed and range in center field.

Hero of the Week
MMM likes the aforementioned Berry, who was called up from Toledo midweek because Austin Jackson's painful side remained painful. Ajax was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

Berry's debut was met with great skepticism, as the Tigers were continuing to scuffle along. All we knew about him was that he was fast.

Berry is fast, or sure. But in replacing Jackson and also Don Kelly at the leadoff spot, Berry got on base with hits and walks, stole bases, and played a very impressive center field. His presence clearly sparked the Tigers in Minesota.

For someone who nobody had really heard of at the time of last week's MMM offering, Berry was a very pleasant surprise and already has folks wanting him to remain on the roster when Jackson is scheduled to return this Friday.

Sports talk radio was abuzz after Sunday's win, chatting up Berry and presenting scenarios by which he would stay on the 25-man roster when Jackson comes off the DL.

MMM was duly impressed as well; Berry started Sunday's game-winning rally with a base hit, then stole second base.

Honorable mentions: Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, for coming alive over the weekend. Cabby stroked the game-winning homer on Sunday---a monster shot to straightaway center that was vintage Cabrera. Fielder went 9-for-11 in Minnesota and quelled some of the negative talk about him.

Goat of the Week

MMM is going to indict the entire team this week, vis a vis the terrible defense that is being displayed on a daily basis.

The Tigers seem to lead MLB in the four-out inning, though MMM doesn't have any hard numbers on which to base that. Sometimes the Tigers toss in a five or even six-out inning on occasion.

The infield defense, especially, has been rotten of late. Seems the Tigers can't complete a double play to save their souls.

All this silliness is starting to come back and bite them in the you-know-where.

Wednesday night in Cleveland, Fielder turned what should have been an easy out at home plate into a badly thrown misadventure, allowing the go-ahead run to score in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Reliever Brayan Villarreal played the stooge in Minnesota, botching a sure double play by throwing the baseball to neither the second baseman or shortstop after fielding a come-backer. He also threw wildly on a pickoff attempt.

Jhonny Peralta couldn't finish a DP on Sunday when he threw high to first base after being given a perfect throw from Rick Porcello.

And those are just a few examples.

MMM thinks the Tigers ought to clean up their defense before they entertain thoughts of catching the Indians and White Sox, much less thinking about playoffs and World Series. Yes, the hitting has been suspect (left the bases loaded twice on Wednesday), but the Tigers are giving away far too many outs on defense.

For all the hand-wringing over whether Cabrera can play third base, MMM thinks we should have been more concerned about Fielder at first base, where he's been below average.

Under the Microscope
MMM is placing a non-player UtM, and that would be GM Dave Dombrowski.

Why? Because DD has a decision to make when Jackson comes off the DL on Friday.

Who gets lopped off the 25-man?

If Berry continues to be a spark plug this week in Boston, the decision will be even more important---and scrutinized; hence, UtM.

MMM would like to see Ryan Raburn released, but that doesn't really solve everything, because to leave Ramon Santiago as the starting second baseman would be ill-advised.

It just seems that there ought to be room on the roster for Berry, especially if he keeps this up.

MMM, however, believes that the likely scenario is for Danny Worth to be sent down---again. MMM wonders how many options can possibly be left with Worth.

So UtM goes Dombrowski, because the chatter has already begun re: Quentin Berry and his amazing opening week.

Upcoming: Red Sox, Yankees

How about seven games with baseball's Hatfields and the McCoys this week?

It's off to Boston for four games, then a return home to face the Yankees after the 10-game road trip.

Neither team is happy where it's at right now; the Red Sox probably more so. Boston is 23-24, same as the Tigers, and the Red Sox dropped two of three to Tampa Bay at home over the weekend. They lost Sunday eerily similar to how the Twins lost to the Tigers: on a two-run home run in the top of the ninth that turned a one-run deficit into a lead and, ultimately, a victory.

The Red Sox had another lousy start this season, their second straight, and while they've played better as of late, they are nonetheless last in what is turning out to be a very interesting AL East race.

The Yankees are in third place, looking up at Baltimore (!) and Tampa.

It's always a big event when the Yanks come to town, and in recent years Comerica Park has proven to be a House of Horrors for the Bronx Bombers.

Derek Jeter, the only Yankee player that MMM likes, is playing like the Jeter of old, and that's good for baseball. The Kalamazoo product is a treasure, and it's nice to see him rebound from a couple of non-Jeter-like years.

Jeter is hitting .342 and running as good as he has in years. The rest of the team hasn't always followed his lead, but the Yankees are 26-21 and on a five-game winning streak.

MMM believes, though, that this week is less about the high-profile competition and more about the offense continuing to come alive and the infield defense getting tighter. The Tigers aren't playing the Red Sox and the Yankees this week so much as they are still playing themselves.

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



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