Monday, July 09, 2012

Monday Morning Manager: Week 14

Last Week: 5-2
This Week: All-Star Break (7/9-12; at Bal 7/13-15)

So, What Happened?

To quote last week's MMM: "MMM expects no less than a 5-2 week and an All-Star break record of 44-42. Then, let the chips fall where they may."

OK, so let's watch those chips fall!

MMM is feeling pretty good about himself after kinda, sorta being a soothsayer as the Tigers got that 5-2 record, albeit the hard way: two losses followed by five straight wins.

MMM called it a defining week, and by those standards, the second half looks promising. The 5-thru-9 hitters (especially Delmon "ground out 6-3" Young) are heating up, and it's no coincidence that as they have, the Tigers offense has come alive.

Well, one guy still is cold as ice, and we'll discuss him later (though I'm sure you can guess who it is).

Teams that go into the All-Star break on a winning streak have a certain amount of frustration. When you're on a losing streak or a hot streak, the idea of not playing can be good or bad. Good if you're losing (get away from it for a bit), bad if you're winning (you can't wait to get to the ballpark when you're winning). The Tigers probably hate to put everything on pause right now, but the schedule maker says you have no choice.

The Twins and the Royals are the two teams beneath the Tigers in the standings, and our boys treated them as such, though the week got off to an ominous start.

If nothing else, MMM thinks Tigers fans should enjoy the next four days, knowing their team is showing signs of being reanimated.

Hero of the Week

MMM has looked cross-eyed at Delmon Young for most of the season, getting weary of the ground outs to shortstop and the first-swing fly outs. But Young has caught fire, drilling home runs in each of the last four games, and the rest of the hitters behind him seem to be catching whatever Young has.

MMM has said time and again: the Tigers' uneven first half has mainly had everything to do with the lack of 2011-like production from the guys hitting after Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

Young is definitely one of those guys whose 2012 has not been what was expected---in a bad way.

But with Delmon heating up, and guys like Jhonny Peralta showing signs of life (heck, even Ramon Santiago is hot!), MMM thinks we could be heading for a rock-and-sock 'em second half battle with the White Sox and Indians.

So Young is the HotW, if for no other reason than his timing. His hot streak going into the break is something to feel good about for a few days, for sure.

Honorable mention: Fielder, whose near .300 BA is now being augmented by fearsome power. And he's hitting more than just solo homers, to boot.

Goat of the Week

OK, this is the All-Star break. Ryan Raburn, take off your suit and reveal that Superman outfit underneath. Like, right now.

Raburn is on the verge of being booed out of Detroit, like Brandon Inge was.

It's not like he doesn't deserve it, and it's not like Raburn hasn't been given enough chances to redeem himself.

The BA still hovers around his weight, and if there's anyone in MLB who gets called out on strikes more than RR, then MMM wants documented proof.

And Raburn isn't making up for his lack of hitting with fielding prowess. Not by a long shot.

Seems like wherever Jim Leyland plays him---and why Leyland IS playing him and NOT batting him ninth when he does, is the $64,000 question---the baseball finds Raburn in the field. You just can't hide his glove.

MMM is reminded of a clever line from years ago, when TV cameras caught poor fielding Dave Kingman re-lacing his glove.

"They ought to send for a welder," the announcer said.

Raburn, on the one hand, is hardly a key player. But this is the time when he supposedly catches fire, so let's see it---or else.

Under the Microscope

This is a dark horse, outside-the-box UtM this week.

Relief pitcher Brayan Villarreal.

And it's not so much an UtM for just this week as it is for the second half of the season.

Villarreal is this year's Al Alburquerque: high strikeout guy who blows people away with a slider. Seemingly unhittable at times.

But AA had a second half in 2011 that was pocked with inconsistency then an unfortunate incident in Baltimore, when he was hit in the head by a baseball during batting practice, giving him a concussion from which he never recovered.

MMM is watching Villarreal to see if he continues to make hitters look silly out of the bullpen in the sixth and seventh innings, over the season's crucial second half.

So consider this MMM's mid-season UtM for 2012, Part II.
Upcoming: All-Star break, Orioles

Leyland said something interesting in his post-game comments on Sunday, as spoken to FSD.

The skipper said that the All-Star break can end up NOT being a break for players, depending on how they handle it.

His reasoning? Lots of travel, lots of arrangements to see family and friends, lots of personal stuff to attend to.

"If you don't handle it right, it's not much of a break and you come back just as tired as you were before you left."

MMM thought that was an interesting take on something we all assumed was 3-4 days of rest.

So the maybe-rested Tigers will invade Baltimore, whose Orioles switched back to the cartoon bird on their caps and have had a pretty solid first half.

But the Yankees have been the Yankees and have taken control of the AL East, at least for now.

The Orioles, though, are right there for a wild card spot, and they haven't had October baseball in Baltimore since the late-1990s.

Adam Jones has been the man for Baltimore, having a breakout year (20/44/.289/.864 OPS).

And catcher Matt Wieters is finally living up to his potential more than he ever has. The closer is All-Star Jim Johnson (26 saves, 1.21 ERA).

MMM hopes the Tigers aren't looking past the O's to next week, which features seven home games against the Angels (4) and White Sox (3).

The All-Star break has a funny way of cooling off and heating up teams. Which will it be in the AL Central? Stay tuned.

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



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