Monday, July 08, 2013

Monday Morning Manager: Week 14

Last Week: 5-2
This Week:  at Cle (7/8); CWS (7/9-11); TEX (7/12-14)

So, What Happened?

Remember just a week ago, when the Tigers' lead in the Central Division had evaporated, and the 11-game road trip had gotten off to a 1-3 start, and it looked like your world was collapsing around you?

That was SO last week.

Since then, the Tigers went on a five-game winning streak, assured themselves of a winning record on the road trip, and re-established their might in the division.

Not bad.

Max Scherzer went to 13-0, Miggy Cabrera continues to be a hitting machine, and Torii Hunter flirted with a cycle. Justin Verlander might be back on track. Victor Martinez is hitting. Omar Infante is sitting.

SIX Tigers (there might be a seventh, if Joaquin Benoit wins the fan vote) made the All-Star team, which was announced over the weekend.

What a week it was!

Hero of the Week
Usually when a guy is going for the cycle, the last hit he needs is the hardest one---the triple.

But Torii Hunter needed only a single in Saturday's game to achieve the rare feat.

Hunter didn't get it---he grounded out in his final at-bat---but that doesn't change the week that he had, which was outstanding.

Maybe he got stoked by being hit by a pitch in Toronto, which really ticked him off. MMM doesn't ever remember Hunter getting that enraged on the field.

Regardless, Hunter went 12-for-27 for the week, scored five runs, smacked two homers and had 11 RBI.

That's a Cabrera-like week.

Hunter looked every bit the All-Star he was named, functioning as the perfect No. 2 hitter behind Austin Jackson and ahead of Miggy.

Cabrera had awesome numbers as well last week---frankly, maybe better ones than Hunter---but we all know what Miggy does for the Tigers. The team's success is more tied to the supporting players like Hunter. Cabrera can't win the division by himself.

Honorable mentions: Cabrera; Verlander, Martinez, Rick Porcello (fine outing Friday).

Goat of the Week
What is going on with Douglas Fister?

Fister seems to be the weak link in the Tigers' rotation of late.

For the second straight start, Fister allowed six runs, in Sunday's loss in Cleveland. Granted, the Tigers came back with a fury to tie the game 6-6 after falling behind 6-1, but still...

Fister admits that something is wrong.

"It’s obviously something that needs to be addressed,” Fister said. “I’ll sit down with Jeff (the pitching coach, Jeff Jones) and get his opinions. I’ll look at video.”

Fister needs to get it fixed, because with the Tigers' offense being consistently inconsistent, they need all hands on deck when it comes to their starting pitchers.

Under the Microscope
Will the 2012 Andy Dirks please stand up?

Dirks, the Tigers scuffling left fielder, continues to be mired in the .240s and showing no real signs of breaking out. He had an OK week last weekm closing 5-for-13 in Cleveland, but Dirks has just six homers, and MMM was expecting much more; Dirks should be a 15-20 home run guy.

MMM is placing Dirks UtM because the Tigers need more offense from their left fielder.

The situation bears observing because the trade deadline is about three weeks away. Might the Tigers deal for a veteran hitter to play LF?

It's not terribly likely, because Dirks is cheaper and he is still young. The Tigers certainly believe he can return to his 2012 form (.322 BA, .370 OBP). Currently he's at .249/.313.

Still, MMM is putting Dirks under the scope because it's not early anymore; Dirks has 265 at-bats this season.

Upcoming: Indians, White Sox, Rangers
The Tigers, even if they lose Monday in Cleveland, are assured of a winning road trip. They sit at 6-4 right now.

But to win Monday would be huge; it would give the Tigers a 3.5-game lead over the Tribe, as opposed to 1.5 if the Indians win.

Scherzer goes for 14-0, and what a way to get it, if he does---by ending a road trip with a 7-4 record and a 3.5-game lead in the division.

After the game in Cleveland, MMM would like to re-introduce you to that team that plays on the South Side of Chicago.

Yes, the White Sox really do exist. They're not a rumor.

It's easy to forget the Chisox. First, the Tigers have yet to play them this season in a weird scheduling quirk. Second, the Sox are buried in last place. They are on pace to lose well over 90 games.

But they really do exist. Which is more than MMM can say about their offense.

The White Sox struggle mightily to score runs. If they don't hit home runs, they usually don't score at all. It's a mess that might cost second-year manager Robin Ventura his job; stay tuned.

Tigers starters: Verlander, Porcello, Anibal Sanchez (who pitched well in his first start on Saturday, after spending time on the DL).

The Texas Rangers are in a dogfight in the AL West.

The Rangers are one-half game behind the first-place Oakland A's and playing solid baseball. The Rangers took three of four from the Tigers in Texas earlier this season.

As usual, the Rangers will come to town loaded with big bats, strong pitching---especially their bullpen---and exceptional defense. And they still carry the stigma in Detroit of being the team that ousted the Tigers from the playoffs in 2011.

Tigers starters: Fister, Scherzer, Verlander.

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



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