Monday, October 01, 2012

Monday Morning Manager: Week 26

Last Week: 6-1
This Week:  at KC (10/1-3)

So, What Happened?

It took about 156 games, but the cream has finally risen to the top in the AL Central.

Everyone knew the Tigers were the best team in the division, as pocked as it is. Everyone knew they had more talent than the other teams. Everyone knew they had better starting pitching. Everyone knew they had the best player in the game and arguably the best pitcher, too.

That's why the Tigers were the unanimous choice of the major media prognosticators to win the Central, way back in February.

And it looks like everyone is going to be right.

It hasn't always been pretty. It's been an emotional roller coaster. The blabbermouths with cell phones who call in to sports talk radio have had the manager, hitting coach and GM fired many times over.  They ran Brandon Inge out of town and have worked on several others---unsuccessfully, thus far.

Yet here the Tigers sit, on the verge of doing something never before done by the franchise since divisional play began in 1969: win two straight division titles.

It's how you finish, right?

The Tigers swept four games from the Royals in Detroit, and took 2 of 3 from the Twins in Minnesota. Meanwhile, the White Sox continued to free fall against Cleveland and Tampa Bay as the scheduling gods helped the Tigers.

The magic number is 1. Just one more Tigers win or White Sox loss, and the Central goes to Detroit.

This is like Muhammad Ali needing a 15th round KO to beat Chuck Wepner. But, MMM will take it.

MMM will be glued to the TV tonight, hoping for champagne to flow in the locker room in Kansas City.

Hero of the Week
Normally, MMM reserves this award to someone who was invaluable to the cause during the previous week.

This week's recipient didn't even get the victory in his brilliant start, but that's irrelevant.

Doug Fister set a new American League record, and that's good enough for MMM to make him HotW.

Fister, as you all know, struck out nine straight Royals batters last Thursday, Sadly, he tired rapidly and a 4-0 lead became perilous. Eventually, KC tied the game in the ninth, and the Tigers walked off with a win in the next half inning. So Fister got one of the most obnoxious no decisions in history.

The nine straight Ks was one off the MLB mark set by Tom Seaver, who struck out 19 San Diego Padres in 1970. Seaver set down the final 10 Padres on strikes that day (April 22, 1970). The Padres were a second-year expansion team that year.

Fister's outing was classic Fister: late movement on the fastball, total command, working quickly, etc.

He may not have gotten the victory, but a performance like that is HotW material.

Honorable mentions: Miguel Cabrera, for continuing his assault on the Triple Crown and for his huge three-run homer in Saturday's game; Prince Fielder, who won Sunday's game with a two-run homer in the eighth inning; and Anibal Sanchez, who had two outstanding starts last week.

Goat of the Week
MMM is going outside the box and calling out the sabermetrics folks---particularly the ones who want to crap all over Cabrera's Triple Crown bid.

It's one thing to present why you think newer stats like OPS and WAR are other, viable ways to gauge a player's value. It's quite another to pooh-pooh the Triple Crown and be arrogant in doing so---giving the impression that we're all dunderheads and simpletons.

MMM was particularly incensed by an article written by's Brian Kenny, which was headlined "The Triple Crown is Nonsense." That alone should make your blood boil.

Kenny argued for the Angels' Mike Trout as league MVP, defecating on Cabrera's historic season. What he failed to mention was that Trout's numbers have gone south since August 1, while Cabrera is performing when the chips are down. That, and the Tigers are going to make the playoffs and the Angels likely aren't.

MMM's thing is, if you want to prop up different ways of analyzing numbers, go right ahead. But don't treat those of us who think the Triple Crown is pretty cool like we're a bunch of neanderthals.

Under the Microscope
What to do about Max Scherzer?

Scherzer, the flame-throwing righty whose pitch counts multiply faster than bunnies, has a dead arm. He is set to start on Wednesday (season finale), after his last start was skipped. Two starts prior to that, Max only lasted two innings.

MMM doesn't want Scherzer to start on Wednesday, even if (God forbid) the Tigers need to win the game to clinch the division. And MMM doesn't want Max on the ALDS roster, either. And maybe not even any post-season roster beyond that.

Why? Because MMM doesn't feel it's worth it to risk Scherzer's long-term health, especially when the rotation goes three-deep with Justin Verlander, Fister and Sanchez.

Regardless, Scherzer is UtM because he's a crucial piece to the puzzle, this year and beyond.

Upcoming: Royals
You know you're near the end of the season (or at the All-Star break) when only one team name appears in this section.

The Tigers achieved the rare four-game sweep last week, and to show you how rare it was, the Royals have been in existence since 1969 and that was the first time the Tigers have swept them in a four-game series.

The mission is quite simple. The White Sox literally have no margin for error. The Tigers could lose all three games in KC (as they did in late August) and still win the division. All it takes is one measly Chicago loss in Cleveland.

In 2006, the Tigers celebrated a post-season berth on Kauffman Stadium's infield grass. Will history repeat, six years later?

Tigers starters: Rick Porcello, Fister, Scherzer (or Drew Smyly).

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



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