Monday, October 15, 2012

Burning Questions: ALCS Game 2

Note: During the playoffs, Monday Morning Manager will be answering Burning Questions. The morning after every Tigers playoff game, come back here for MMM's answers to the questions that many  of you have about the previous night's game. Today's BQ addresses Game 2 of the ALCS.

This is a nice question to ask about the other team for a change: Where are the Yankees bats?
It's not that they don't have bats---it's that those bats have as many holes in them as a whiffle ball. The number of swings and misses so far by the Bronx Bummers is staggering. Tigers pitchers are all but toying with the Yankees lineup, and MMM never figured he'd see that---at that cute little Yankee Stadium, no less. But the fences could have been 200 feet away; it really wouldn't have mattered.

Still, MMM doesn't trust that this offensive ineptitude is going to continue. Sooner or later the Yankees are going to bust loose. Maybe even against Justin Verlander in Game 3.

You're not serious. They might perk up against JV?
Why not? Baseball, as Joe Garagiola famously titled a book, is a funny game. Things don't always follow script, or precedent. All MMM is saying is, you never know what can happen. Maybe getting away from New York will help the Yanks. The played in a library over the weekend (with the exception of the ninth inning of Game 1). Comerica Park will be crazy, and that can help feed the visitors, too.

Maybe this is what you're talking about. Hiroki Kuroda was pitching on three days rest for the first time in his career, yet he was perfect through five innings yesterday. How did you see the duel between Kuroda and Anibal Sanchez?
Well, they were both terrific, obviously, but three days rest is still three days rest and eventually it will catch up to you if you're not used to it. No offense to Quintin Berry, but he's not usually a guy who drills balls over center fielders' heads, as he did to energize the rally in the seventh which produced the game's first run. MMM thinks Kuroda was beginning to lose some zip at that point, which wasn't very many pitches into his start, given how he cruised through the first six innings.

Once again the other team makes the defensive gaffe that everyone is talking about. This time it was Robby Cano, who dropped the ball on a sure-fire double play, scoring the first run from third base. Thoughts?
Stunning. Cano is Mr. Reliable, Mr. Smoothe, Mr. Calm, Cool and Collected. But for whatever reason, he chose to go overhand instead of sidearm, even though he had plenty of time to make his relay throw. The result was a case of butterfingers that proved huge. He makes that play and Kuroda wiggles out of a first-and-third, no outs jam. Devastating for the Yankees.

Speaking of defense, what has gotten into Ozzie Smith, er, Jhonny Peralta?
What did MMM say about baseball being a funny game and going against script? Sorry to answer your question with a question, but how else can you describe this? (Yes, that was another question. Sorry). Peralta has been nothing short of amazing in this series. He literally kept the Tigers in the game by himself in the early going of Game 1, and his bare-handed throw and cut down of Russell Martin in the sixth inning made Jhonny look like the most sure-handed shortstop in baseball.

MMM has been on Peralta's case at times this year, even about his defense. But Jhonny is quieting his critics, one by one.

OK, have to ask. The controversial play in which Omar Infante was called safe after over-running second base in the eighth inning, when replays clearly showed that he was out. Is Yankees manager Joe Girardi right---do we need replay in MLB for plays other than home runs?
You can take Girardi's bleatings with a grain of salt if you'd like, but he has a point. Why not try to get it right? MMM likes the NFL model of a limited number of challenges. Of course, which plays can be challenged would need to be determined. The trouble is, the nature of baseball is that, if a call gets reversed, it could create an additional set of problems, i.e. where to place other base runners, etc.

Clearly, umpire Jeff Nelson blew the call. He admitted it. Girardi made a good point when he said that, in the time it took for him to run onto the field, argue and get ejected, the umpires could have been looking at the play on video---and getting it right. MMM appreciates the "human element" of the game, but if it's good enough for the NFL, a multi-billion dollar corporation in of itself, then it's good enough for MLB.

Still, the Yankees never scored. So while it was a bad call, MMM has never seen a team win a game scoring less than one run.

Phil Coke got the final outs but don't call him the closer, according to Jim Leyland. Can closer-by-committee work, given Jose Valverde's demons?
MMM has a resounding answer for you: YES! MMM doesn't buy into the theory that games MUST be closed by ONE man, no matter what. In fact, MMM even favors the idea of having multiple pitchers in your bullpen who can be entrusted with the final few outs, as a general ideology. MMM would be thrilled if a big league team ever had the outside-the-box thinking to try that for a season. Granted, it might have to be a team that doesn't have a quote-unquote closer readily identified, but it would still be grand fun to see a team go against convention in this area.

So we don't see Papa Grande anymore in this postseason in a save situation?
MMM wouldn't be shocked, but he would be surprised. Jim Leyland's loyalty/stubbornness is why there wouldn't be a shock factor, but given the stakes here, surprised would definitely be the feeling if Valverde was summoned to close a tight ballgame.

Then when does he pitch?
MMM would blend him into the rotation of guys who normally pitch the sixth or seventh inning, but not necessarily in a close game. In other words, pick your spots with him carefully, and try to bring him in when there is some wiggle room for error.

Wiggle room? Sounds like a four-run lead in the ninth inning.
No one likes a smart aleck.

Verlander in Game 3. Yankees bats have gone AWOL. But it's not a lock for the Tigers?
There are no locks in the playoffs. No sure things. No mailing it in. That's what makes baseball a great game. But MMM wouldn't switch roles with the Yankees right now, that's for sure. They are Derek Jeter-less, and they looked like zombies without him. But again, no sure things.

Come back here Wednesday for BQ after ALCS Game 3!!

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