Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Morning Manager: Week 3

Last Week: 2-4
This Week:  KC (4/23-25); ATL (4/26-28)

So, What Happened?

How did everything go sideways so quickly?

The Tigers were cruising along, on a four-game winning streak, hitting the tar out of the baseball. They survived a harrowing 14-inning game in Seattle, that ended with catcher Brayan Pena driving in the go-ahead run and getting his clock cleaned by Justin Smoak at home plate to end the game. The team was 9-5. Life was good.

And then...

Four losses later, the Tigers are back at .500, their vaunted offense has gone AWOL, and batting averages are sinking like stones.

The bats started to go silent, it turns out, in that 14-inning game, which the Tigers won 2-1. After that followed a couple shutouts and a game in which the Tigers scored once, before scoring a whopping three runs in Sunday's 13-inning loss to the Angels.

Hero of the Week
Frankly, MMM doesn't have much to offer here. Al Alburquerque was lights out in LA/Anaheim on Sunday in the eighth and ninth innings. So there's that.

But after some heavy thinking, MMM is going with Brayan Pena, the backup catcher. Now, when your backup catcher is HotW, that's either very good or very bad. The Tigers were 2-4 last week, so MMM guesses it must be the latter.

Pena, as mentioned, was the hitting and fielding hero on Wednesday, making it worth the while for Tigers fans who stayed up past 2 a.m. to see the finish.

Then, Pena, by luck, had to catch 13 innings on Sunday. That's three games' worth of catching, crammed into two.

MMM feels that the bench guys need some love every so often.

Honorable mentions: Alburquerque, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer, who went toe-to-toe with Felix Hernandez on Wednesday, matching him K for K.

Goat of the Week
Yes, Ricky Porcello may have been the victim of some craziness in that nine-run first inning on Saturday, but MMM is concerned that his spring training success was an aberration.

Porcello is the clear No. 5 starter, so MMM doesn't want to expect too much. But Saturday's start aside, is it too much to ask the Tigers' resident heartthrob to actually pitch into the sixth inning every now and again?

Porcello didn't do a worn bullpen any favors on Saturday, after making his first relief appearance of his career a week ago Sunday in Oakland.

Under the Microscope
MMM has been mulling this over but didn't want to jump the gun. But what is the deal with Victor Martinez's bat speed?

V-Mart is running late on fastballs these days. Now, it could just be the rust from missing an entire season, but he had a bunch of at-bats in Florida and the season is 18 games old. Shouldn't we be seeing some improvement by now?

MMM doesn't want to sound like a Nervous Nelly, but Martinez is going squarely UtM. Victor is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.

Upcoming: Royals, Braves
It's back home for our Bengals after the 4-5 trip out west.

First up: the Kansas City Royals, who are in their 28th year of rebuilding following their 1985 World Series win.

MMM has always been impressed with some of the young talent in Kansas City, and this might be the year where the Royals are the team that challenges the Tigers all summer. As usual, it will come down to pitching, especially since the Royals lineup is still a little thin with the lumber.

The Tigers are looking up at both the Royals AND the Minnesota Twins in the standings, but it's early. Still, MMM advises you to beware of the boys in Royal Blue---at least until the All-Star Break. After that, all bets are off.

Tigers starters: Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez.

Then it's the Atlanta Braves at CoPa, and what a start for the Native Americans.

The Braves are 13-5 and included in that was a weekend destruction of the Washington Nationals---in Washington.

Justin Upton has 9 homers, though just 13 RBI. Our old friend, catcher Gerald Laird, is batting .300, albeit in 20 at-bats.

3B Chris Johnson is batting over .400, including 8-for-14 in the Braves' sweep of the Nats a week ago.

But beware of records: the Angels were 4-10 before the Tigers hit town. And, on the other hand, the A's were 8-2 and on an eight-game winning streak before the Tigers took two of three.

Tigers starters: Fister, Porcello (presumably) and Scherzer.

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



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