Monday Morning Manager: The amazing V-Mart, Coke still stinks, hooray for Houston!

Ed Zurga

Thank God it's Monday, because that means MMM starts your week!

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: 5-0

This week: HOU (5/5-8); MIN (5/9-11)

So, What Happened?

Another week, five more games for the Tigers. At this rate, the Tigers are guaranteed on playing in October!

But seriously, folks, any undeafeated week is a good one, and the Tigers are creating that NFL word---separation---from their Central Division opponents.

The lead this morning is 4.5 games over second-place Minnesota, but more important is the games played.

Let's use a hockey analogy.

The pucksters like to talk a lot about "games in hand." If this was the NHL, the Tigers, with their 17 wins, would have 34 points. The Twins, with 14 wins, would have 28 points.

But here's the rub. The Tigers have played three fewer games than Minnesota. In hockey, if you had a six-point lead over a team with three games in hand, you'd be pretty darned happy, eh?

The Tigers have just nine losses. Every team in the Central has at least 15. The Cleveland Indians, supposed divisional contenders, have a whopping 18 losses already---twice the Tigers' amount.

Yes, it's early, but this kind of disparity in losses, partly due to the Tigers playing fewer games than anyone but partly because they're clearly the best team in the Central, isn't a chasm to be taken lightly.

The week also saw the signing of veteran reliever Joel Hanrahan (he'll join the Tigers in about six weeks as his Tommy Johned arm continues to rehab) and the news of the much-anticipated MLB debut of lefty starter Robbie Ray, the centerpiece of the Doug Fister trade last winter. Ray will start Tuesday against Houston.

Oh, and Phil Coke---like Generalissimo Francisco Franco---is still dead.

Hero of the Week

MMM finds it hard to believe that fans were wringing their hands over who was going to "protect" Miguel Cabrera in the lineup after the trade of Prince Fielder to Texas.

Ha!

Victor Martinez couldn't provide more protection unless he was one of Detroit's Finest.

He's certainly one of the Detroit Tigers' Finest.

V-Mart gets HotW with good reason: 9-for-18 with four intentional walks over the weekend in Kansas City. Victor also scored four runs and had five RBI in the Tigers' 5-0 week.

His BA is up to .326 and he has three---THREE---strikeouts in 95 at-bats.

Who is he, Joe Sewell?

Martinez is showing why you don't have to have a pure slugger to help out your annual MVP candidate.

Besides, have you looked at Prince's numbers lately?

Victor just goes out there, grinds out at-bats, and slaps extra-base hits all over the ballpark. He is the perfect hitter to bat behind Cabrera.

Honorable mentions: Bryan Holaday (gutsy bunt in the ninth inning to win a game in Chicago); Justin Verlander (two wins, and took a no-hitter into the sixth on Sunday in Kansas City); Miguel Cabrera (9-for-22); Torii Hunter (8-for-23; HR, 7 RBI).

Goat of the Week

MMM knows what you're thinking.

How can you have a Goat in an undefeated week?

As long as Phil Coke is on the team, there will always be a way.

Cokey blew a shutout on Saturday, entering the game against the Royals in the ninth inning with the Tigers leading, 9-0.

Fifteen minutes later, Coke gave up two runs on three hits (lefties again feasted on him) and his season ERA ballooned to 9.39.

Yes, there isn't much difference between winning 9-0 and 9-2, but the inning was the latest "Why is Coke still on the team?" moment. MMM thinks the situation with Coke is turning Brandon Inge-like, and you know how that ended.

MMM doesn't know what manager Brad Ausmus is to do. You can't get a much lower leverage situation than a 9-0 lead in the ninth inning.

Under the Microscope

OK, for two weeks in a row, MMM's Microscope guy has responded, big time.

Two weeks ago it was Cabrera. Last week, Drew Smyly was placed under the scope and the lefty pitched a brilliant game in Kansas City on Saturday.

MMM is on a roll.

This week, MMM succumbs to low-hanging fruit and places rookie Robbie Ray UtM for his scheduled start on Tuesday. It's easy and obvious, but sometimes that's the way to go.

In a week that sees seven home games against the lowly Astros and the Jekyll and Hyde Twins, Ray's first big league start has to be among the week's biggest stories.

Let's face it, the 22-year-old Ray is the reason that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski pulled the trigger on the Fister-to-Washington trade.

Ray's numbers in AAA Toledo have been very good (3-2, 1.53 ERA in 29.1 IP with 21 K and 5 BB). So this isn't a call-up to somehow shove Ray down our throats. The Tigers are in legitimate need of a starter with Anibal Sanchez on the 15-day DL.

The beauty of Ray's debut should be that the Tigers have one of the deepest rotations in baseball, so the rookie ought not to feel like the weight of the world is on his shoulders.

Of course, MMM knows there will be overreaction to whatever Ray does on Tuesday, good or bad. That comes with the territory.

Still, expectations shouldn't be too high on Tuesday. Just enjoy Ray's start and what happens, happens.

Upcoming: Astros and Twins

The Houston Astros are the guys who you send limos to the airport to pick up and make sure they make it to their hotel safely.

It's never a bad time to play the Astros.

If you're struggling, they are a sight for sore eyes.

If you're winning, they are a sight for sore eyes.

Houston is 10-20 and the Astros are already buried in last place in the AL West, four games behind the fourth-place Seattle Mariners.

So whacked out is the Astros rotation that MMM heard radio announcer Dan Dickerson say that Houston's pitching probables for the series in Detroit listed four TBAs.

How does that even happen?

If you're looking for a reason to watch Houston, 2B Jose Altuve might be worth a look-see.

Altuve is batting .290 and is 11-for-12 in stolen base attempts. He is 24 years old and already is marvelously consistent.

So there's one.

Tigers probables vs. Astros: Max Scherzer, Ray, Rick Porcello, Smyly.

The Twins come to town for a weekend series and with Minnesota, the question is which team will show up on a daily basis.

Of course, the Twins' inconsistency can mainly be tied to their pitching, which is of questionable big league quality when it comes to the starting rotation.

But even with familiar Twins hitters of the past like Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer out of the mix, the Minnesota bats can still strike fear into pitching staffs. They just don't do it 24/7.

Brian Dozier has eight homers, but only 12 RBI. That's not easy to do, my friends.

On the other hand, Trevor Plouffe has 20 RBI but just one home run.

Early surprise Chris Colabello has cooled off, as expected, but the outfielder still has 27 RBI.

The Twins are among the easiest team to strike out. They whiffed a whopping 259 times in their first 28 games. MMM will save you the math; that's an average of 9.3 Ks per game.

Tigers probables vs. Twins: Verlander, Scherzer, TBA (could be Sanchez if he's healthy after his DL stay).

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

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