Thursday, October 11, 2012

Burning Questions: ALDS Game 4

(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 4 of the ALDS)

Again I ask, where was the Tigers offense?
Sensing a trend, too? Well, no one is getting on base in front of Miguel Cabrera, which is why Miggy has zero, zilch, nada RBI after four games. Hits aren't being strung together. The big inning has gone AWOL. These things happen, of course, but they're happening at the worst time of the year.

So it's the offense, not Jose Valverde's ninth inning implosion, that's to blame?
Clearly Papa Grande isn't off the hook, but the Tigers have wasted two good starts in Oakland, both of which should have lifted the team into the ALCS. The Tigers went down too meekly for MMM's liking in the later innings. They did tack on an additional run in the eighth inning, but it still didn't feel like enough. Then Valverde entered the game and obviously three runs weren't enough.

Speaking of Valverde, none of the four hits he gave up were cheapies. When a closer gets hit that hard, what's up?
Closers are typically two-pitch guys. Sometimes they have a third, but for the most part they are fastball and pitch B guys. Valverde kept his pitches up. His split finger didn't split. There was little to no movement on his fastball. The A's teed off on them.

How did the A's win 94 games with a team BA of .238, in this day and age?
So glad you asked that question. Game 4 was case in point. They hang around, cobble together five or six hits, but several of them will be for extra bases. Then they steal the game in the late innings. It's a recipe that isn't likely to carry over into next season, however. The A's have walked off 15 times this season, which is crazy. You can't do that two years in a row. Baseball is a great game, but it's also humbling. In fact, and this may sound like sour grapes, but MMM doesn't think Oakland will even be a .500 team next year.

Is the Oakland defense a factor?
Well, they ARE filled with athletic guys who can catch the ball, aren't they? Coco Crisp's blunder in Game 2 aside, the A's have been going out and getting it. Stephen Drew has been annoying, gobbling up everything at shortstop, covering more of the infield than a tarp. They are crisp and together in the field. So yeah, it's a factor, in the sense that they aren't allowing runners on base who don't belong there. The base hit by Josh Reddick that started the A's rally was a ground ball that Omar Infante should have been able to get. MMM thinks Cliff Pennington would have made that play.

Should Jim Leyland have stuck with Al Alburquerque into the eighth inning after his quick disposal of the A's in the seventh?
Tough call. Al-Al hasn't really been a two-inning guy much this season, and Joaquin Benoit isn't used to coming into games in the middle of an inning. Had Alburquerque scuffled in the eighth, what would Leyland have done? Brought in Benoit anyway? MMM would have done what Leyland did---and not just because it ended up working out, as Benoit slithered out of the eighth with no damage.

Does Leyland dare use Valverde in Game 5 if a save situation presents itself? 
You bet he will. It will blow Twitter up, but you can bet the farm that Valverde gets the call. MMM feels everyone's pain, but you don't switch closers for the first time all season in Game 5 of the ALDS. If Valverde doesn't get it done two nights in a row, he's toast in Detroit anyway. People won't have to worry about him anymore.

Do the Tigers need Justin Verlander to pitch a complete game?
If the A's are smart, they will try to drive JV's pitch count up. Yes, easier said than done, but it is doable, if you have the patience. No way do the A's want to see JV on the mound in the ninth inning. That is likely a bad sign for them. But if Verlander's pitch count exceeds 130, you should get him out of there, unless the game is in the ninth inning. Then, you roll the dice with your horse.

So, feel good with JV on the hill?
Well, yeah, but it's not like the Tigers had chopped liver on the mound in Games 3 and 4, either. Max Scherzer was terrific last night. The A's had three hits after seven innings. But they won the game anyway. Verlander won't matter if the Tigers bats don't come alive. The Tigers need to win this Game 6-1, instead of trying to sneak out with a one or two-run victory. The A's have magic pixie dust sprinkled on them this season.

Come back here Friday for BQ after Game 5!!



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