Monday, September 09, 2013

Monday Morning Manager: Week 23

Last Week: 2-4
This Week:  at CWS (9/9-11); KC (9/13-15)

So, What Happened?

MMM apologizes for no update last week. It was Labor Day and Mrs. MMM had some family time planned!

Now, on to Week 23's update...

It was a tough one for the Bengals. Two series losses, and what was once a very comfy 8.5 game lead in the division is now down to 5.5, thanks to those never-say-die Cleveland Indians, who were winning four in a row while the Tigers struggled against Boston and Kansas City. But the magic number for clinching is 15, so MMM urges against "panic in Detroit," as David Bowie once sang.

The Tigers have been brutal in Boston in recent years, so last week's 1-2 showing in Fenway Park was hardly a shocker, even though Detroit won the first game. In fact, FSD said that the Tigers have never won a series in Boston since Jim Leyland took over as manager in 2006. That's eight years of futility.

Then it was on to KC and another series loss but MMM is picking the Tigers to make the World Series.

MMM knows what you're all thinking, and some of it likely can't be printed here on a family blog.

The logic is this: the Tigers should steam roll to the World Series, as long as they don't have to play the Royals in the playoffs!


The Royals, who are 31-17 since the All-Star break, improved to 9-7 against the Tigers this season, doing what the Royals do: playing small ball. Except for Eric Hosmer, re-born after last year's sophomore year debacle. Hosmer played, as FSD's Rod Allen said, "big boy baseball." Hosmer, whose rebirth this year started not long after George Brett's brief stint as hitting coach began, thrashed the Tigers with extra base hits and homers all weekend.

In other news of the week, Andy Dirks and Omar Infante each had five hits in the Tigers' 16-2 win over the Royals on Friday. The Tigers as a team had 26 hits in the game, but then the bats slumbered the next two days. The 14-run win came on the heels of an ugly 16-run loss (20-4) to the Red Sox last Wednesday.

Justin Verlander continues to perplex, as he gave up a two-run homer to Salvador Perez on Saturday that was the difference maker.

Hot prospect Nick Castellanos got his first MLB hit, an infield single on Saturday. But MMM wants to know how that could be, since Nick was about to be called out on the bang-bang play, except that Hosmer couldn't hang on to the baseball. Shouldn't that be an error?


Hero of the Week
Omar Infante did something quite spectacular on Friday night.

He had five hits and six RBI (he came a whisker away from seven), which is Miguel Cabrera territory---except that not even Cabrera has done that. Infante's bid for a grand slam came inches away from happening. It took a video review to confirm that it was a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double.

Infante's season is another (*cough* V-Mart *cough*) that is getting lost in the Cabrera shuffle. But Omar's play has been nothing short of terrific all season. MMM wonders what this division  race would be like had Infante not missed over a month after being spiked by Colby Rasmus in Toronto in early July.

Infante's range defensively has saved more than a few runs, as well.

Last week Infante was 9-for-22 and lifted his BA to .325. He is a free agent after the season, and MMM scoffs at those who suggest that the Tigers might be interested in fellow free agent Robinson Cano this winter.

Why go after Cano when Infante is about the same age and would come much cheaper? Cano is a marvelous player, but MMM doesn't see where he is a distinct upgrade over Infante defensively.

Honorable mentions: Dirks, who is perking up at just the right time; Austin Jackson (10 hits last week); and Doug Fister (scoreless outing in Boston last Monday).

Goat of the Week
This space is a tough love thing for MMM. It is largely based on numbers, not at all on any ax MMM has to grind. Let's face it: GotW is a "what have you done for me lately" thing.

So it is with that disclaimer that MMM names Torii Hunter as last week's Goat.

Hunter had a 4-for-24 snoozer, and generally didn't do anything to really help the cause last week.

His BA, which has been healthily over .300 for most of the season, flew below that mark for the first time in forever, it seems (.298).

Hunter is 38, so naturally MMM wonders if the age factor, combined with the timing of this slump (late in the year), are merely coincidence or if they feed off each other.

Regardless, Torii is cited. Sorry. Nothing personal, Mr. Big Smile.

Under the Microscope
OK, back to Mr. Hunter.

MMM doesn't want to come off like Chicken Little here, but Hunter hasn't slumped this badly all season, and now in September, he's in a 6-for-37 valley.

It's the timing of the slump, plus Hunter's age, that makes MMM think it's time to put Torii UtM.

Now, Hunter is a veteran and he knows how these things go. He has been in slumps before. And Hunter has never played in a World Series, so there is added motivation. MMM thinks Torii will figure things out, but it is a little disconcerting, which is why UtM is a category here.

The concern is also from a pure baseball sense. The Tigers offense doesn't hum along if the no. 2 hitter is scuffling.

Let's hope this is just a rough 10-game stretch for Hunter, and nothing more.

Upcoming: White Sox, Royals
Max Scherzer's 20th win still beckons.

Mad Max makes a third try at number 20 when he goes up against Chris Sale and the White Sox on Monday.

But this game is bigger than whether Scherzer will win his 20th victory.

Again, not panic time, but a win to start the White Sox series would be lovely, coming off a 2-4 week and with the Indians starting to think that miracles can happen.

The Tribe has shaved three games off the Tigers lead since a week ago Saturday. That's not a good trend for the Tigers.

That, plus the White Sox are sinking further and further in the Central Division's abyss. One-hundred losses is now back in play, thanks to their current 1-9 stretch. The Tigers must beat up on the Pale Hose this week.

Tigers starters: Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Anibal Sanchez.

After the White Sox, the Tigers return home to entertain those darn Royals.

Does MMM really need to say anything more about the Royals series this weekend?

With any luck, the Tigers can whittle their magic number to below double digits. That would set up a potential division-clinching win during next week's home stand.

Tigers starters against the Royals: Verlander, Fister, Scherzer.

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


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