Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Morning Manager: Week 11

Last Week: 4-2
This Week: STL (6/19-21); at Pit (6/22-24)

So, What Happened?

Is that actually a winning record MMM sees next to "Last Week"?


The Tigers won a couple series last week, and that makes three in a row, to go with the one they racked up in Cincinnati a week ago Sunday.

As usual, the Tigers are cleaning up on the National League; they're 8-4 so far in interleague play.

As vintage "Saturday Night Live" character Chico Consuelo might say, "Interleague play be berry berry good to me."

Or, should MMM say, Berry Berry good---as in Quintin Berry?

The player that FSD analyst Rod Allen started calling "Q" after about a week in a Tigers uni, Berry got the nod on Sunday afternoon as the starting left fielder, batting in that revolving door no. 2 spot.

So what did he do in response?

How about 5-for-5 (all well struck singles), a stolen base, an induced balk, and a run scored?

Naturally, Twitter and sports talk radio is now buzzing with Berry Mania, something that MMM alter ego Greg Eno cautioned against, in a piece written before Berry's Sunday outburst.

MMM understands all this, however misguided it might be, and it is dealt with if you continue reading.

But Berry aside, the Tigers finally are starting to look like the team that was unanimously picked to win the AL Central.

Austin Jackson returns and the Tigers go 6-2. Coinkydink?

MMM thinks not.

Hero of the Week
This is a tough one, and for a change, it's tough because there are several worthy candidates; not tough because of a dearth of possibilities.

MMM could go with Prince Fielder, who continues to drive in men in scoring position. He could go with Miguel Cabrera, who hasn't been shabby, either. Or how about the aforementioned Berry?

Ah, but Austin Jackson, International Man of Baseball, gets the nod.

Jackson came back from the disabled list a week ago Saturday in Cincinnati and since then, the Tigers have won six of eight and there is absolutely a connection between the two.

Jackson is drawing walks, for one. He's laying off the high fastball out of the strike zone. He's swinging with confidence, and doesn't the Tigers offense simply look better with him included in it, anchoring that leadoff spot?

Jackson is looking more like a pure 21st century leadoff hitter everyday; the fast guy with some home run power who can draw walks. Kind of like a Rickey Henderson Lite.

Honorable mention: Fielder, whose two-out hits with RISP are looking very Victor Martinez-esque. Fielder pounded those kind of hits out all week, in Chicago against the Cubs and at home vs. the Rockies.

Goat of the Week

Who says life in this space every week is fair?

Who says that just because a guy had been going good, one bad game shouldn't make him eligible for MMM's GotW?

Sorry, Papa Grande.

Jose Valverde was practically a one-man wrecking crew on Friday night, when his laughable play of a bunt in the 10th inning led to an unsightly eight-run rally by the Rockies, thus denying the Tigers a chance at a must-needed sweep.

Valverde's lollipop toss to Fielder---who frankly should have caught it, regardless---put runners on first and third with none out, instead of a runner at second and one out.

Was that alone an eight run mistake? No, but Valverde compounded his error by surrendering hit after hit, until he was mercifully yanked by manager Jim Leyland in favor of Luis Marte.

The outing didn't hurt Valverde's ERA all that much; of the six runs charged to him, only one was earned.

MMM is Goating Valverde because now we'll never know if the Tigers could have snagged Friday's game  and pulled off a sweep that would make them 33-33 this morning instead of 32-34---and two games behind the first place Chicago White Sox, instead of three.

Forget that Valverde was working on a streak of four straight 1-2-3 inning outings---he's still MMM's Goat of the Week.

Under the Microscope
Let Quintin Berry Mania commence.

It was already out there, in light of Berry's initial performances while filling in for the injured Jackson.

After Sunday's 5-for-5, the campaigning for Berry as an everyday player will be ratcheted up just like the presidential one that's going on right now.

Berry is the Flavor of the Month. And he's UtM because with Andy Dirks remaining out with a bad Achilles tendon, skipper Leyland has to almost go out of his way to not write Berry's name on the starting lineup scorecard.

Not that he'd admit it.

After Sunday's win, 97.1 The Ticket's Jeff Riger tried to intimate to Leyland that Berry's play must be making it tough for the manager to keep Quintin out of the lineup. The scene was played out on FSD's "Tigers Live" coverage after the game.

"No, not really," Leyland said. "Not really. We'll have the best lineup out there."

Leyland went out of his way to repeat the edict a few moments later, almost as if he was disdainful of Riger's attempted inference.

MMM's take? That Leyland was, indirectly, trying to deflect the Berry Mania by saying, boldly, "I don't give a rat's behind if Quintin Berry just went 5-for-5---that doesn't change his status on the team."

We'll see.

Upcoming: Cardinals, Pirates

Tony LaRussa won't be managing against his friend Leyland, but the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals invade CoPa Tuesday-Thursday.

The Cards, of course, lost Albert Pujols to free agency, but they also gained Carlos Beltran, and Beltran is having a wicked year.

In fact, the Cardinals as a team rank first in the NL in team batting average, partially led by Beltran with his 19-48-.306 and .983 OPS. No less than six Cards have BAs of .300 or better.

Then it's off to Pittsburgh for a return engagement with the surprising Pirates; the Tigers took two of three from the Bucs in Detroit last month.

Conversely from the Cardinals, the Pirates rank 29th in MLB in team BA with a paltry .228 mark. They have scored just 222 runs in 65 games---a 3.4 average per game.

But oh, the Pirates can pitch.

The Bucs rank seventh in MLB with a 3.51 ERA. But the rotation is kind of Jekyll and Hyde.

What does MMM mean?

James McDonald and AJ Burnett have ERAs of 2.32 and 3.52, respectively. However, Erik Bedard and Kevin Correia have ERAs of 4.36 and 4.43.

Still, not bad overall.

Last week MMM said it was time for the Tigers to get on a roll, given that the opponents were the sad sack Cubs and Rockies. The team went 4-2, though that included a gift-wrapped win for the Cubbies on Tuesday, and an implosion at home on Friday.

Otherwise, a 6-0 week may have been in the offing.

See how greedy MMM can get after a rare winning week?

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



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