Monday Morning Manager is a series that Greg Eno has been writing since 2009 on his personal blogs. It's a look back at the previous Tigers week and a look ahead at the current week. This season, he brings the series, featuring his alter ego "MMM", to Bless You Boys, every Monday morning.
Last Week: 6-0
This week: at Cle (5/19-21); TEX (5/22-25)
So, What Happened?
Hurricane Tiger blew through the Atlantic Coast, demolishing Baltimore and Boston in its path. The first undefeated week of the season was the result. The hurricane grew in strength as the week rolled on; the defending world champs were no match for the Tigers, who outscored the Red Sox, 13-3, over the weekend.
As if the Tigers weren't good enough already, they got starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez back from the DL after his nasty blister healed. Surprisingly, rookie lefty Robbie Ray stays on the 25-man roster and heading out is reliever Justin Miller, as the Tigers plan on starting Ray in Rick Porcello's spot. Porcello is being pushed back a couple of days due to some stiffness in his side.
Miguel Cabrera also gained strength as Hurricane Tiger picked up steam throughout the week. In the blink of an eye, it seems, Cabrera has lifted his BA from the low-.200s to well over .300. RBIs are piling up like snowdrifts in a Michigan winter. The effortless, classic swatting of the baseball to right field is back.
It all adds up to an 11-game road winning streak and a 27-12 overall record, by far the best in MLB, and the only thing this is bad for is the business of bitching on sports talk radio and trolling on the Web.
Hero of the Week
Heading into the 2014 season, MMM thought that after well over 100 big league starts, we pretty much knew what Rick Porcello was all about---a 4.50 ERA, one bad inning per start, etc.
Porcello, the oldest 25-year-old baseball player in the world, has, in his sixth MLB season, found another gear.
Porcello is 7-1 after a 2-0 week that saw him surrender just two runs in 14 innings. He vexed the Baltimore Orioles last Monday (6 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 ER). Then, in Boston on Saturday, Porcello was even better (8 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 ER).
For the season, Porcello has a fine ERA of 2.91, a marvelous WHIP (walks plus hits/innings pitched) of 1.01, and he has walked just seven hitters in 52.2 innings.
Could a 20-win season be in the offing? If you bet that in Las Vegas before the season, you could retire on such a wager, given the long odds of that happening.
For turning in a rare two-win week for a starting pitcher, and for doing it with such style, Porcello is last week's Hero.
Honorable mentions: Cabrera (11-for-24, 2 HR, 10 RBI, including a stunning, ninth-inning three-run bomb in Baltimore to beat the O's on Tuesday); Ian Kinsler (9 hits, including four in Boston on Sunday); Joba Chamberlain (3 scoreless appearances, two holds in high leverage situations).
Goat of the Week
MMM knows what you're thinking. How can there be a Goat in a 6-0 week?
The answer is, there can't be. Not this time, anyway.
MMM would be nitpicking to the extreme to find a Goat in a week of perfection.
Bookmark this URL. This may be the only time all year that MMM fails to designate a Goat. Because while there are sure to be more undefeated weeks this season, MMM certainly doesn't guarantee that he won't nitpick in the future.
Under the Microscope
Last week's Microscope guy, manager Brad Ausmus, didn't have to do much last week other than watch his hurricane topple Baltimore and Boston.
But it still keeps MMM's UtM streak alive. That's four in a row now and counting of guys whose scope status has resulted in good weeks.
Sadly, this week's choice won't even set foot on the diamond, so maybe the streak ends by default.
MMM is a little nervous about Porcello's painful side, which is bumping his next start back a couple of days.
The scope status is because Porcello is authoring a career year, and maybe a defining one as well. So MMM doesn't want anything to derail it.
So while placing Porcello UtM may seem premature, MMM says, "Better safe than sorry."
MMM is constantly amazed at how often trendy, pre-season picks go awry.
Take the Cleveland Indians. Please.
MMM knew that the Indians finishing one game behind the Tigers last season was an aberration, but the trendy folks ran with it, and many declared the Tribe to be the Tigers' toughest rival in the AL Central.
If the Indians are the toughest rival, then MMM says, Bring it on!
Nick Swisher (.196) is a mess. Carlos Santana, trying to learn to play third base, is a bigger mess (.152). Jason Kipnis, the Tribe's best player, is on the DL. The DH, Jason Giambi, is 100 years old.
Michael Brantley has been the only consistent player on the Indians roster. The closer, John Axford, is another mess. He was essentially fired last week and the Indians are going to use closer by committee.
The Indians just got their you-know-whats handed to them, at home, by the Oakland A's over the weekend. They are miles behind the Tigers. The Tribe's starting pitching is a train wreck.
Some trendy pick, indeed.
The Texas Rangers come to town for four games, but will our old pal, Prince Fielder, be with them?
Fielder has the mother of all stiff necks, and his consecutive games played streak ended at 547 on Saturday. The Rangers are trying to treat it without anything drastic, like surgery or a stay on the DL. Fielder is listed as out for at least the next couple of days.
Not that the Rangers are missing much. Fielder has three homers and 16 RBI and is batting .247.
The Rangers are 21-23 and losing ground fast to the soaring, first-place Athletics.
Of course, Texas still has starter Yu Darvish, who is one of those pitchers who could throw a no-hitter or flirt with one in any given start. Darvish only has five decisions (3-2) in eight starts, but he's firing at a 2.32 ERA clip and he strikes out 10.77 per nine innings.
The trouble is, no Rangers starter other than Darvish has an ERA below 4.15.
Tigers probables vs. Rangers: Ray, Sanchez, Smyly, Verlander.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!