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: 1–3
This week: at Arz (7/21-23); at LAA (7/24-27)
So, What Happened?
First, MMM would like to make an announcement. This will be an abbreviated edition because, due to the short week where only four games were played, MMM feels there isn't enough data to go on to hand out Hero and Goat Awards. There will, however, be Under the Microscope.
Second, MMM was as wrong as the day is long. Last week, seeing the Cleveland Indians on the schedule at Comerica Park, predictions of a Tribe butt-whipping were made, i.e. the Tigers would feast on the Indians for four games. Uh, not exactly.
MMM admits that he was one of those complaining on Twitter, suggesting on Saturday night, as the Tigers were dropping a day/night doubleheader, that someone politely inform the team that the All-Star break was over with and that it was OK to play baseball again.
While they're at it, might as well tell Joe Nathan that the gag is over and he's free to return to his 2013 form.
But for those who eyed the Ambassador Bridge with creative ideas on Saturday night, MMM offers some perspective.
Despite the 1–3 post-All-Star Game getaway, the Boys are still firmly ensconced in first place, 5½ games ahead of the Indians and seven ahead in the loss column. So there.
The week saw rumors swirl that the Tigers are interested in Texas' Joakim Soria and San Diego's Joaquin Benoit for bullpen depth and experience. The interleague, non-waiver trading deadline looms July 31.
From Minneapolis, where the Midsummer Classic was played, came reports that Miguel Cabrera told USA Today that his off-season surgery was still bothering him, but those reports were immediately followed by a Miggy denial. So who knows?
Under the Microscope
Here we go again with this Nathan feller.
MMM is annoyed that every time it looks like the Tigers closer is turning the corner, Nathan rams into a wall, face first.
In the latest valley in a season filled with them and a few peaks, Nathan surrendered a bomb off the bat of Carlos Santana in the ninth inning of Saturday's nightcap. The bases-loaded double came within inches of clearing the right-center field wall for a grand slam. As it was, the blast snapped a 2–2 tie and the Indians won, 5–2.
Prior to the big blow, Nathan gave up a double, a walk, a wild pitch and then was ordered to intentionally walk Michael Brantley with first base open.
The trouble with that strategy? Santana came into the game with a career BA of .414 with the bases juiced.
So on a 2–1 pitch, Santana pounced on a Nathan fastball and before all three runs plated, the aisles were filled with fans making for the exits, booing along the way.
Why walk Brantley, you may ask, with Santana's bases-loaded success?
MMM actually doesn't hate the decision. Brantley is having a career year and Santana, despite the bases loaded thing, isn't. MMM would rather have a .200 hitter beat you than one of the other team's superstars.
Regardless, questions remain about Nathan's viability. And they might hang on all season, at this rate. MMM is placing Joe UtM because the trading deadline is nigh and let's face it, the dude will be on everyone's lips all week and leading up to July 31.
Let's face it. If Kirk Gibson didn't manage the Arizona Diamondbacks, would we even know if they were still in the big leagues?
Gibby and bench coach Alan Trammell have been powerless to keep the D-backs from a free fall in the NL West this season.
Things started out bad for Arizona in April and they have gotten no better.
The Diamondbacks can't win at home, have a train wreck of a starting rotation and boast just one dangerous hitter.
Although, that one dangerous hitter is Paul Goldschmidt, and he's a big-un.
"Goldy" is a 26-year-old first baseman who leads the National League in RBI with 65, to go with his 18 home runs and .404 OBA. His OPS is a sizzling .968.
The bad news, for Arizona, is that Goldschmidt isn't getting much help.
In fact, Goldy leads the D-backs in all of the five major hitting categories: BA (.311); OBA (.404); HR (18); RBI (65); and hits (114).
Things are so askew with Arizona's offense that 31-year-old catcher Miguel Montero is second on the team with 11 HR and 55 RBI.
Don't get MMM started on the D-backs rotation, which is among the worst in all of MLB.
There is right-hander Josh Collmenter, whose eight wins, 3.64 ERA and 1.24 WHIP are respectable. Never mind, though, because Collmenter pitched on Sunday so the Tigers will miss him.
Instead, the Tigers will see the likes of Mike Bolsinger (5.50 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 1–6), lefty Vidal Nuno (acquired from the Yankees in the Brandon McCarthy trade; 5.10 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, but a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings pitched with Arizona) and Chase Anderson, whose slash line is 3.64/1.40/.270 (ERA/WHIP/OPPBA). Not entirely impressive.
But you know how these things go. When there appear to be mismatches on paper, the Tigers don't always live up to their overdog status.
Tigers probables vs. Diamondbacks: Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez.
The Arizona series is a warm-up act for the four-game showdown with one of the teams the Tigers are trying to catch in a home field advantage way in the AL, the Los Angeles Angels.
The Angels just acquired Huston Street from the Padres to shore up their closer situation, and the Oakland A's once imposing divisional lead has basically been whittled down to nothing as the Angels have been playing good baseball for two solid months now.
You know what any series with the Angels means: the great Miggy vs. Mike Trout Debate gets kicked into high gear.
MMM concedes that Trout (another who leads his team in everything: 23 HR; 74 RBI; .313 BA; .400 OBA; 113 hits; 1.012 OPS) is certainly having an MVP-type year and this might be the season where he breaks Cabrera's two-year stranglehold.
The Angels, unlike the Tigers, are defending their home turf (34-16 at home) and overall the team seems to have the Boys' number as of late (Detroit is 5-11 vs. LA in games played over the past three seasons).
This could be a critical series because it's four games, meaning that one team could gain two games on the other (or, heaven forbid, four). MMM doesn't put much stock in three-game series because unless there's a sweep, one team is only picking up a game on the other.
Tigers probables vs. Angels: Max Scherzer, Drew Smyly, Verlander, Porcello.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!