Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Morning Manager: Week 4

Last Week: 4-1
This Week:  MIN (4/29-5/1); at Hou (5/2-5)

So, What Happened?

It was a good "bounce back" week for the boys.

They limped home from their west coast trip, dragging a four-game losing streak behind them. The bats were colder than the weather they were returning to in Michigan. They still didn't have a closer.

Then all heck broke loose.

It all started on Tuesday, when news broke that the Tigers were bringing Jose Valverde back to be the closer. On the same day, the Tigers announced they were promoting reliever Bruce Rondon from Toledo. Brilliant timing, in MMM's opinion. All the talk was about Papa Grande, and Rondon just kind of slipped under the radar.

That night's game was rained out, but Valverde saved Wednesday's game---a game in which he couldn't grip his splitter due to the extreme cold. Valverde also saved Saturday's game with no drama.

Meanwhile, Rondon got into Thursday's game, and was a little shaky. But all the buzz was still about Valverde at that point.

Then the Tigers swept the suddenly inept Atlanta Braves out of town. The Braves all-or-nothing hitters whiffed so much over the weekend (39 Ks), MMM felt the breeze outside his Madison Heights home.

So it was a 4-1 week, to get back to three games over .500. Not bad!

Hero of the Week
Lots to choose from, but MMM would be totally remiss if he didn't go with Anibal Sanchez. 

How could MMM ignore Sanchez's record-setting performance on Friday? Sanchez set a new franchise record (for a nine-inning game) with 17 strikeouts, and it was just as dominant as it looks when you're reading it.

The Braves struggled to even make contact on Friday, let alone put any rallies together. Sanchez was brilliant, using the entire strike zone and getting a lot of swings and misses at balls outside the zone. His curve ball was especially nasty.

It was a great scene when Sanchez walked off the mound after the eighth inning, having screwed Dan Uggla into the ground on a breaking ball. Sanchez doffed his cap, much to the delight of the CoPa faithful. Then he got a big hug from manager Jim Leyland, because managers love it when their starting pitcher strikes out 17 and allows no runs and no walks.

MMM forgot that not only did Sanchez once throw a no-hitter, but he has four ONE-HITTERS to his credit.

Honorable mention: Miguel Cabrera, who just keeps popping out RBIs like a Pez dispenser, and Valverde, who added an impressive ninth inning against the Braves on Sunday night to his perfect three-performance week.

Goat of the Week
What would a week be without a "moment" from the bullpen?

The Tigers only had one last week, but it was a doozy.

They blew the Thursday game against the Royals, surrendering five runs in the 10th inning, capped by Alex Gordon's grand slam. MMM is tagging the Goat label on Phil Coke, not Darrin Downs, who served up the salami. Coke reverted to his old ways with this line on Thursday: 1.1 IP, 4 ER, 4 BB, 1 H, 1 K. Broooo-tuhl.

Under the Microscope
MMM thought this was the year that Alex Avila was finally going to be injury-free and, as a result, be back to his productive ways of 2011.

It's not happening.

Avila doesn't play against lefties, which is fine. But he's not hitting righties, and he again looks like a broken down, clue-free hitter---and it's not even May yet.

MMM is deeply concerned that Al-Av's total lack of production (.169, 2 HR, 2 RBI) from the no. 8 spot in the order will become very conspicuous sooner or later. Certainly it's bad enough now to place Avila squarely UtM.

BTW, Victor Martinez appeared in this space last week, and V-Mart "responded" with a solid week at the plate. Here's hoping!

Upcoming: Twins, Astros
Are the Twins relevant again? The record seems to say so.

The Twinkies are 11-10, having taken two straight from the Texas Rangers. Lefty starter Scott Diamond is back, after missing the first week or so of the season. The Twins still have a pretty scary middle of the order, with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham---although those guys aren't really tearing the cover off the ball right now.

It's actually been pitching that has lifted the Twins, believe it or not---particularly their stingy bullpen. This is a team whose starting rotation was a complete mess as they broke camp, but the bullpen is making up for it. One starter who is impressing is Kevin Correia, who is 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA. He pitched Sunday, though, so the Tigers will miss him this week.

Tigers starters: Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Sanchez.

Ah, the Houston Astros. The poor, poor Houston Astros.

MMM would like to feel sorry for them, but not until after the Tigers invade Houston for four games this weekend.

Some predicted before the season that the Astros, if things didn't go so well, might challenge the 1962 Mets or 2003 Tigers for ineptitude.

Those folks might be right.

The Astros got a four-game brooming at the hands of the Red Sox in Boston over the weekend, and the erstwhile Colt .45s (MMM is showing his age) sit at 7-18, which is on pace for about 45 or 46 wins.

How bad is it in Houston?

The Astros have two regulars batting over .260. Their RBI leader has 12. Three of their starting pitchers have an ERA of about 8.00. One of them, Philip Humber, has an opponent batting average of .343.

Yes, this will be a tough year in Houston, despite their snazzy new uniforms, which MMM loves for their return to a clean, old school look.

It's not the uniforms, it's the guys wearing them.

The Tigers should take three of four from these bums, but that's why they play the games! Look at the past three weekends: Oakland was hot, the Tigers cooled them off; the Angels were cold, the Tigers heated them up; the Braves were hot, the Tigers cooled them off.

Now, the Astros are cold.

Forget MMM said anything, after all.

Tigers starters: Rick Porcello (nice bounce back start on Saturday against Atlanta), Doug Fister (4-0), Scherzer and Verlander.

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



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