Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Morning Manager: Week 19

Last Week: 3-4
This Week: at Min (8/13-15; BAL 8/17-19)

So, What Happened?

*Sigh* MMM had such high hopes for last week. It started so promising.

Two wins over the vaunted New York Yankees to kick things off, and in the third game, another huge come-from-behind win looked to be in the offing. That failed, and another promising rally in the fourth game was snuffed out as well.

Then it was off to Texas and that series got off to a flying start as well before the ninth inning became unkind to the Tigers once again in game two. Game three? More on that later.

So a 2-0 start turned into a 3-4 week, and with the games increasing in importance, that kind of penthouse-to-outhouse week isn't welcome.

By the end of the week, the bullpen seemed in shambles and Brayan Villarreal revealed that his elbow is "tired." Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit are imploding nightly. MMM is concerned!

Miggy Cabrera continues to be really good at playing baseball, which is the only thing keeping the Tigers afloat, it seems. Even a Justin Verlander start isn't the automatic win it used to be.

Hero of the Week
Does MMM dare to pick the same Hero two weeks in a row?

Of course he does!

MMM again tabs Miguel Cabrera, who was 8-for-26 with two bombs and seven ribbies last week, as he continues to keep the team propped up on his broad shoulders.

MMM is underwhelmed, however, by Cabrera's minimal range at third base, which seems to be getting smaller as the season goes on, maybe due to his bad left ankle. But he does, as he says in the commercial playing on FSD Detroit, "Like to hit."

It just seems to MMM that if a hit needs to be gotten, if a run needs to be driven in, Cabrera is the Man. Prince Fielder is no slouch, either, but Cabrera batting third is so nice to see.

Honorable mention: Andy Dirks, who is keeping his BA around .340 even after his long layoff due to his Achilles injury.

Goat of the Week
Joaquin Benoit is throwing beach balls to the dish and it's making MMM get sweaty palms---and a splitting headache.

Benoit, the Tigers' set-up man, is setting them up, alright---setting them up for opposing hitters, who are taking him deep more than a batting practice pitcher.

Benoit has surrendered 10 homers in his last 15 innings, which is a streak that MMM wonders is unmatched in MLB history.

He also has a fetish for giving up back-to-back bombs, and it's costing the team some games. Benoit struck again on Thursday afternoon, when he turned a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 deficit with two pitches to Mark Teixeira and new Tigers killer Eric Chavez.

Benoit's sudden (well, not so sudden; this has been going on since the All-Star break) penchant for throwing home runs is a killer, and it is, sadly, just a symptom of the team's bullpen woes, which are growing every week in seriousness.

There's Benoit and a shaky Phil Coke and a sometimes shaky Jose Valverde and an imploding Villarreal and it's just not looking too rosey out there.

Under the Microscope
MMM hates to say "I told you so," especially when it doesn't mean good things for the Tigers, but here's an excerpt from MMM Week 14:

"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."


Looks like MMM was right to put Villarreal UtM, because in his last three appearances he has looked lost.

Now we find out why, perhaps. Call it Daniel Schlereth Syndrome.

Villarreal told Tigers officials that his elbow feels "tired." There are going to be tests on it soon.


GM Dave Dombrowski might have to scour the waiver wires again to see if he can bring in a veteran arm for the bullpen, which suddenly looks a mess.

So this week's UtM is the bullpen in general, and Dombrowski specifically, as MMM wonders if DD will find another arm. Those kinds of deals can often be the difference between making the playoffs or not. They're not sexy trades, but many championship teams have brought in veteran bullpen guys for the stretch run, and it has often worked.

Upcoming: Twins, Orioles
The Tigers have found Target Field in Minnesota much more to their liking than that damn Metrodome.

The Tigers' record in Minnesota lately is pretty good, and they swept the Twins there in May. They'll need more of the same this week, to recover from their current 1-4 streak, which began after beating the Yanks twice to start last week.

The rotation in Minny: Anibal Sanchez (who was rocked Wednesday against the Yankees), Doug Fister, Max Scherzer.

After an off day, the Baltimore Orioles, still in the playoff race, visit Comerica Park, where the Tigers are 15-3 lately.

The Tigers won 2-of-3 in Baltimore in the first series after the All-Star break. The game they lost was because Benoit (surprise!) gave up two homers in the same inning to serve up a walk-off loss.

The Orioles have switched back to the cartoon-style bird on their cap, and while their lids now smack of the days of Rick Dempsey and Kiko Garcia and John Lowenstein, today's Orioles are a young, talented squad that can hit. Their pitching may be suspect, but the Tigers' bullpen stinks so it's a push.

The Orioles series kicks off a nine-game home stand. The first-place White Sox don't seem to be in the folding mood, so it's important to keep protecting CoPa.

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



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