Monday Morning Manager: Week 21
This Week: OAK (8/26-29); CLE (8/30-9/1)
So, What Happened?
MMM isn't sure who said it first, but it has been oft repeated.
"Momentum is tomorrow's starting pitcher."
Now, that shouldn't necessarily be taken literally. MMM takes it to mean that in baseball, what a team does the day before shouldn't be counted on as a predictor of what is to come today.
Certainly not series to series.
Take last week, for example.
The Tigers struggled at home against the stinky Twins, dropping two of three. The New York Mets, meanwhile, were winning two of three from the Twins (makeup game) and the Braves.
And then came the weekend series between the Tigers and the Mets.
The Tigers manhandled the Mets, for the most part. The team that went 1-2 earlier in the week slaughtered the team that went 2-1.
Here's another example of baseball's fickleness, also involving the Mets.
In late-May, the Mets beat the Yankees four straight games. Then the Mets went to Florida to play the God awful Marlins and got swept, three straight.
Joe Garagiola was right: baseball is a funny game.
The Tigers, led by Miggy Cabrera (who else?) stormed into New York and with apologies to Kevin James, became the Kings of Queens.
It was a clean sweep of the hapless Mets, who are once again looking at a crossroads with yet another manager. Terry Collins' contract expires at the end of the season.
Victor Martinez played catcher in two of the three games, and he performed admirably. MMM can't see a scenario by which the Tigers would keep V-Mart's bat out of the lineup in a National League ballpark should they make it to the World Series. So, expect Victor behind the plate in the Fall Classic if the Tigers are in it.
It should be noted that Alex Avila continues to have headaches related to his concussion. He was lifted out of a rehab game last week because of it.
In other news, Justin Verlander continues to vex us, Max Scherzer improved to 19-1 and showed some batting skills (RBI double) and those damn Indians won't go away.
Hero of the Week
It takes quite a week these days to knock Miguel Cabrera from the HotW perch.
Victor Martinez did it, though.
MMM could have, once again, gone with Miggy here, but V-Mart impressed by pulling catcher duties in New York while continuing to hit.
For the week, Martinez was 7-for-21 and while he netted just two RBI, MMM likes that he returned to catching like a duck to water. And in those two games in which he caught, Martinez got a couple of hits and was every bit the quarterback behind the plate. And, he handled all his fielding chances flawlessly.
Austin Jackson and Miggy may have had a more dazzling week stat-wise (and Cabrera's home run on Sunday was quite the bomb), but MMM is going with Martinez for once again showing what a great pro and teammate he is.
Honorable mentions: Cabrera (enough said); Austin Jackson (12-for-28, two homers on the heels of being named the Goat last week); Scherzer (a win and an RBI double).
Goat of the Week
Justin Verlander, MMM is sorry.
But the Goat label is worn by JV, who had yet another foul outing last week against the Twins.
Ten hits, six runs in seven innings. He didn't get the loss, but it doesn't matter. It was the rubber game of a series and JV didn't get it done.
Yes, Verlander's year, overall, is one that many starters would take. But JV isn't "many starters."
Verlander says he hasn't quite figured things out yet. Well it's late August so the question begs: WILL he find it this year?
That is a question that can't be answered now, but in the meantime, Verlander is GotW.
Under the Microscope
He's not activated currently, but MMM is concerned about Alex Avila, mainly because he isn't activated currently.
Avila continues to fight his concussion-related symptoms, even as he tries to rehab down in Toledo. Despite the surprisingly good year that backup Brayan Pena is having, MMM doesn't think it's a good thing when your starting catcher's physical well-being is up in the air as September approaches.
Does this uncertainty mean the Tigers should consider starting Martinez at catcher more often?
In a word, yes.
Meanwhile, keep a close eye on any reports of Avila's progress. They could have many implications come playoff time.
Upcoming: A's, Indians
It's a big home stand this week.
First, the Oakland A's come to town for a four-game set. Then, those pesky Indians visit over the weekend.
The Tigers' magic number to seal the deal in the Central is 27. A good week could whittle that number into the teens. When that starts to happen as September rolls around, you're in good shape.
Oakland is in a dogfight with the Texas Rangers for AL West supremacy. The Tigers haven't seen the A's since April, but they are pretty much the same team: a flair for the dramatic, clutch hitting and strong bullpen arms.
USA Today recently touted Oakland's Josh Donaldson as MVP over Cabrera. MMM is not making this up.
Donaldson is batting .292 with 19 HR and 74 RBI.
USA Today uses something called an MVP tracker. It ranks players by what percentage their individual WAR is of their team’s total WAR. Then a point is deducted for each game the team trails in its division race and in the wild-card race.
Apparently the above metric places Donaldson (17.1) above Cabrera (15.8).
Talk amongst yourselves.
Tigers starters: Anibal Sanchez (quietly on Scherzer's tail for Cy Young honors), Verlander, Doug Fister, Scherzer.
MMM tips his hat to the Cleveland Indians, and especially manager Terry Francona.
After the Lake Erie Massacre a few weeks ago, when the Tigers took four straight from the Tribe in Cleveland, MMM was ready to write this season off as another second half collapse for the Indians.
But Tito got his team to regroup and the Indians are playing some pretty good baseball. They remain six games behind the Tigers, but they are far from collapsing.
MMM believes the Tigers starting pitching is the biggest separator between the two teams, but even though the Indians can't beat Detroit this season, they nonetheless have yet another shot at making noise in the division race, if they can sweep the Tigers.
But, see MMM's Joe Garagiola reference.
Tigers starters: Rick Porcello (another Tigers pitcher with a base hit over the weekend), Sanchez, Verlander.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!
Labels: Monday Morning Manager