Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Morning Manager: Week 25

Last Week: 5-2
This Week:  at Min (9/23-25); at Mia (9/27-29)

So, What Happened?

The Tigers had a good week, but the Cleveland Indians played the Houston Astros, so the celebration in clinching the AL Central will have to come on the road, as the Tigers couldn't quite wrap things up before the final home stand of the year was complete.

The Tigers took five of seven games during the week, but the Indians swept the hapless Astros, four straight, from Thursday thru Sunday, thus not contributing to the whittling away of the Tigers' magic number, which this morning sits at two.

MMM can't write another word without mentioning Saturday's historic come-from-behind win, when the Tigers scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game before winning it in the 12th.

The comeback marked the first time in some 66 years (against the Washington Senators) that the Tigers scored six runs in the ninth inning to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

The improbable win fittingly came on the night that the Tigers surpassed three million in attendance for the third straight year. But how many folks stuck around for the ninth inning heroics on Saturday?

MMM believes that, after spending money on tickets, parking, refreshments, etc., why on Earth not get your money's worth? Stay for the whole game! MMM thinks the only thing worse than spending all that money is to spend all that money and not see the biggest comeback at home in 66 years! Is avoiding some traffic worth it?

Victor Martinez caught another game as the Tigers tinker with getting his bat in the lineup should the team make the World Series and thus play three games in a National League park.

Jhonny Peralta worked out in left field last week in the Instructional League. He is eligible to play in this weekend's series in Miami to close out the season, after serving his 50-game suspension related to his involvement with the Biogenesis lab.

MMM wouldn't be surprised to see JP in left field in Game 1 of the ALDS, if the opposition throws a lefty.

Jose Iglesias is officially the team's starting shortstop, despite being hit on the hand with a pitch last week. The hand isn't broken, and it's just a matter of Jose dealing with the soreness.

Hero of the Week
Well, look who's back to being a .300 hitter.

Victor Martinez is hitting .303, with 81 RBI, as the season's final week is upon us. That is truly amazing.

V-Mart missed an entire season, then got off to a rocky start, his BA in the .230s as recently as mid-June.

What followed was one of the greatest individual comebacks in recent history.

Martinez started smoking the ball, and in the second half of the season his BA is actually higher than Miguel Cabrera's.

V-Mart was 10-for-24 last week with a homer and six RBI. He is positively on fire.

MMM is giving him the honors not only for what he did last week, but for how the week lifted him above .300 for the first time all season.

Honorable mentions: Prince Fielder (10 hits last week); Torii Hunter (nine hits); and Max Scherzer (20th victory on Friday night).

Goat of the Week
It got lost in the shuffle of a 5-2 week, but Austin Jackson scuffled.

A-Jax went 6-for-33 with eight strikeouts and scored just two runs. In a week where the Tigers offense did pretty good, the leadoff hitter didn't. But it shows the depth of the offense that it could survive a bad week from the leadoff guy and still win five games.

For all of his mechanics adjustments (losing the leg kick, etc), Jackson still strikes out far too often for a leadoff hitter (125 Ks in 528 AB). He has but eight stolen bases. Even on a team that isn't known for its small ball, this is a very low number for someone who bats first and has Jackson's speed.

MMM isn't angry with Jackson, but someone has to be the Goat, even in a good week, team-wise.

Under the Microscope
It's difficult not to place the aforementioned Jhonny Peralta under the scope.

Peralta's eligibility to return to the active roster begs all sorts of questions.

Will he be on the playoff roster? If so, who's the odd man out? Will he play left field, or start at shortstop and be replaced in the late innings by Iglesias? If he plays left field, will he still be lifted for defensive purposes in the late stages of close games? How is his timing at the plate? Can he return to form after just three tune-up games in Miami?

MMM is sure there are more questions related to Peralta.

The Tigers don't need distractions heading into the playoffs, but due to circumstances, Peralta provides one.

Upcoming: Twins, Marlins
After all the heartache the Minnesota Twins have put the Tigers through over the years, starting with the 1987 ALCS and more recently in 2006 and 2009, wouldn't it be nice if the Tigers could clinch the AL Central on the Twins' home field?

Even a lack of a swimming pool at Target Field shouldn't matter!

The Indians play the White Sox this week before ending the season against the Twins. It should be noted that the Indians have beaten the White Sox like a drum all year, so the Tigers' best bet to clinch in Minnesota is to win two games at Target Field.

The question in Minnesota is, will Ron Gardenhire still be the manager in 2014?

No manager in Twins history, save Tom Kelly, has done more winning and done more for the franchise than Gardenhire. But as we saw in Philadelphia (Charlie Manuel), all good things must end. It would be a shame if Gardenhire is let go after this season, but it may happen.

Tigers starters: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer.

The Miami Marlins are dreadful. Their new ballpark is like a library every night. The team lacks star power. And that's why they are closing in on 100 losses (they have 99).

The Marlins do have old friend Placido Polanco playing third base. But the 37-year-old is batting just .254 and is a shell of his former self.

The Tigers should thank the Marlins, however. After all, if it wasn't for Miami being in fire sale mode last year, the Tigers wouldn't have Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante on their roster.

MMM thinks the division will be wrapped up before the Tigers plane lands in Miami on Thursday, so the only intrigue should be related to Jhonny Peralta, and how the Tigers might set their rotation for the playoffs, as well as which team they will play in the ALDS.

Tigers starters: Rick Porcello, Sanchez, Verlander.

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



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