Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Morning Manager: Week 23

Last Week: 1-5
This Week:  at CWS (9/10-13); at CLE (9/14-16)

So, What Happened?

If the Tigers have mastered anything this season, it's the one-run loss on the road. They are very good at it.

So good, in fact, that the Tigers haven't come away as one-run victors on the road since late-June.

The one-run loss was the bane of the Tigers in Kansas City (three-game sweep) a couple weeks ago, and it "jumped up and got them" again (as George Kell would say about the double play ball) over the weekend in Los Angeles (another three-game sweep).

Two one-run losses at home against the Indians combined with the Lost Weekend in LA to make the Tigers 1-5 last week---not exactly what you want to see in a so-called pennant race.

MMM was aghast when the Indians, losers of 29 of 35 games, limped into Detroit and came away with a series win.

MMM wasn't any happier with the sweep in LA, but at least the Angels are hotter than a firecracker, and they have something called good players.

The AL Central "race" is looking like a three-legged one you see at a company picnic. Both the White Sox and the Tigers are stumbling, getting back up, and falling down again. It is, frankly, sort of a joke.

Chicago's lead, now at two games, has been hovering between one and three games ever since the All-Star break, it seems.

The White Sox dropped two of three to those pesky Royals over the weekend in Chicago. If Kansas City (who swept Chicago in KC before doing the same to Detroit) played the rest of the league like it plays the White Sox and Tigers, the Royals would be in the playoffs.

MMM also winced as Mike Trout went head-to-head with Miguel Cabrera as arguably the top two MVP candidates and came out as the clear winner over the weekend, both at the bat and with the glove.

But MMM was more upset with the team losses than any individual stuff, and he's getting tired of being a soothsayer for bad things. The most recent? Last week's assertion that MMM was "scared to death of the Cleveland Indians."

The Tigers bats over the past couple of weeks have been more quiet than a bank on a Sunday. Things don't look good right now, even with four games in Chicago this week with which to make up ground.

Hero of the Week
After knocking on the Hero door for a couple weeks, MMM is opening it for Max Scherzer.

MMM has dubbed Scherzer "Maddening Max" for the right-hander's inconsistency, but since the All-Star break, Scherzer has been 1-A to Justin Verlander's 1 when it comes to Tigers aces.

Scherzer, who set a franchise record with the most consecutive starts with 8+ strikeouts, was brilliant Friday night in LA, but the Tigers could only send him to the showers with a 2-2 tie after eight innings. The Angels walked off with a win in the ninth.

No fault of Max's, who has been battling Verlander for the MLB strikeout lead in recent weeks.

Scherzer is dominating big league hitters these days, and his 15 wins lead the team. He has an outside shot at 20 victories, if the rotation holds true.

Honorable mention: Rick Porcello, another pitcher who isn't getting any run support.

Goat of the Week
MMM wants to know who the real Alex Avila is.

Is the catcher the 2011 guy who grinded out at-bats and flashed opposite field power and looked like one of the best backstops in the league? Or is he the 2012 version, who is constantly overpowered by mid-90s fastballs and who has seemingly regressed as a hitter?

MMM is so disgusted with Avila that he wants the Tigers to consider a replacement for 2013.

Not gonna happen, and frankly, it probably shouldn't. All players have down years, and young ones like Avila ought to have the chance to atone for his before they are discarded. Besides, Avila's trade value will probably never be as low as it is now, so this wouldn't be the best time to deal him.

But MMM gets so frustrated with Al-Av that he Tweeted a couple nights ago that he wants Avila "out of Detroit."

Last week was typical 2012 Avila: 3-for-14, five Ks. Meh.

What concerns MMM is how tardy Avila is on the fastball. That, combined with his confusion about the strike zone, makes him a very easy hitter to get out. Who would have thought that Alex's walk-off homer against Boston on opening weekend would be the lone highlight of his season?

Stats CAN lie, by the way. According to Baseball-Reference, Avila in 2012 is hitting .273 with two outs and RISP, and is at .295 in "late and close" games.

Doesn't seem like it, does it? Maybe because in the 105 at-bats that comprise the above situations, Avila has 33 strikeouts.

Dishonorable mention: Cabrera, for getting tossed out of Saturday's game in the fourth inning.

Under the Microscope
Let's see, with four games in Chicago this week, MMM should probably put the entire team UtM, eh?

But that would be cheating, and not as much fun, so slide Justin Verlander UtM.

Yep, JV.

Verlander's ERA is creeping closer to 3.00, which for pitchers who are human is pretty good. But for someone of JV's talents, it's almost reprehensible.

Fresh in the memory are recent starts in KC and LA which didn't turn out so good (to say the least).

Verlander has especially faltered on the road in the second half, and his next start is Thursday in Chicago.

Scherzer has 15 wins and is looking unhittable, but let's face it: if the Tigers are going to win the division, they need all hands on deck, and Verlander is still a pretty damn valuable hand.

So, yeah, UtM.

Upcoming: White Sox, Indians
Just as MMM said he was scared of the Indians, he's that much unafraid of the White Sox. That's how crazy and mixed up this season has been.

The Tigers are 10-4 against Chicago this year, for whatever reason. Actually, that reason is pitching; the Tigers pitch well against the White Sox, for the most part.

But the last six of those wins over the White Sox have come in Detroit, and the Tigers are 30-38 on the road.

Yet MMM says, "Bring on the White Sox!!" Hey, what the hell do the Tigers have to lose? Chicago is the only team they seem to be able to beat lately.

As for the Indians, MMM was amused at loudmouth closer Chris Perez's recent remarks criticizing ownership for not spending enough money. This is the same Perez who crowed after a sweep over the Tigers in May that the Indians were a better "team," while the Tigers were just individual stars.

So which is it, Chris?

He's a bozo, but the Indians aren't when they play Detroit. The Tribe is 9-6 against the Tigers this season.

The Tigers have 16 of their final 23 games against the Indians, Royals and Twins. How Detroit fares in those 16 games will likely have a huge bearing on whether they win the division. If the 2012 track record holds true, don't waste any money on bottles of champagne.

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



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