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: 3–4
This week: CWS (July 29–31); COL (Aug. 1–3)
So, What Happened?
The Tigers started the week by taking two of three from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the desert, and then if it felt like they were swept by the Angels of Los Angeles, you're excused. The Tigers did win a game in LA, but the Halos won the second, third and fourth games of the series, ruining the weekend.
The big news came off the field, when the Tigers officially announced on Thursday that they had acquired reliever Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers for much needed help for the back end of the bullpen.
The cost for Soria, the Rangers' closer, was two young, right-handed arms — Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel.
MMM is aligned with the move, because while the Tigers bullpen, before the trade, might be just good enough to win a weak Central Division over the course of 162 games, it isn't up to the task of winning a playoff series without a wing and a prayer.
Soria got into his first game as a Tiger on Saturday night, and it was a little rough, partly thanks to yet another error by Torii Hunter in right field. But at least the first one is under the belt.
As for the week of baseball on the field, the Tigers bats died down and ran out of steam as the week went on, as if they were battery operated and were badly in need of recharging.
Hero of the Week
MMM is slightly bending the rules here.
Austin Jackson, who went 11-for-32, is the Hero, but MMM is using some of A-Jax's work from the first four games after the All-Star break as part of the portfolio.
That's because Jackson recently had a streak of seven straight multiple-hit games snapped, and that streak started on July 19. In fact, if you go back to July 9–24, Jackson had multiple hits in 11 of 13 games.
Hence his Hero status.
There is much irony in Jackson's hot streak, which has lifted his BA to .271, the highest it's been since May 18.
Jackson got going pretty much when manager Brad Ausmus re-inserted the center fielder into the lead-off spot in the batting order.
MMM cries irony because it was the removal of Jackson from lead-off in last year's playoffs that relaxed Austin and perked up his hitting.
Yet here we are in 2014, and Jackson, whose spot in the order shuffled around like a deck of cards in a casino for the first three months of the season, was scuffling along in the .230s with an OBA in the low .300s prior to the move. Then Ausmus moves Jackson back to lead-off and that started an avalanche of hits. Go figure!
Jackson is finishing a scorching July, with a slash line of .355/.390/.538/.928.
Honorable mentions: Miguel Cabrera (nine hits, two homers, six RBI); Rick Porcello (14 IP, three earned runs); Drew Smyly (11 strikeouts in 5.2 innings on Friday).
Goat of the Week
MMM understands that to criticize Alex Avila on this website is tantamount to calling some peoples' kids ugly, but it is difficult to ignore the catcher's performance last week.
Avila had one hit — one — all week, in 18 at-bats (including 10 strikeouts), dropping his BA from .235 to .217.
MMM doesn't want to hear about how well Avila handles pitchers or his ability to block balls in the dirt. The catcher had one hit all week. Enough said. And he still can't hit lefties.
Under the Microscope
Mr. Soria, welcome to the pressure cooker that is the Tigers bullpen.
All eyes will be on the new guy, and already there are doomsayers — such as the BYB commenter who is worried that Soria has never played for a winning team.
But that is just an example of the scrutiny that comes with being a quote-unquote key acquisition for a team with a World Series-or-bust mentality.
Soria's Tigers debut, as MMM pointed out earlier, was rocky. He even walked a guy. But the first one is often the worst one, so we'll see.
Soria's addition to the roster also puts the whole bullpen, in effect, under the scope, because it will be interesting to see how Ausmus slots Soria in, with Joe Nathan declared by GM Dave Dombrowski as still the closer, and Joba Chamberlain all comfy and cozy in the eighth inning.
MMM looks at the six games this week and is trying not to snicker.
But MMM also knows that when you start playing the games on paper only, your expectations can get too high.
So even though the Chicago White Sox and Colorado Rockies don't appear to be, on the surface, quality competition, there is a caveat.
That caveat is that the Tigers record at home is a very pedestrian 26–25. And the Tigers are usually good for 50-plus wins at home every year.
The home schedule has been pocked with teams storming into Comerica Park, swatting the baseball all over the place, and leaving as decisive series winners. But those teams then go back into hibernation, making their performance at CoPa all the more frustrating.
So MMM says, beware of the Chisox and Rockies. Really.
The White Sox are one of those Central teams that can't seem to get out of their own way, which pretty much describes every team in the division — including the Tigers, at times.
Chicago is 51–55 and their trend of good hitting, bad pitching and suspect defense continues unabated.
The White Sox are 24th in the big leagues in ERA (4.11) and 27th in team WHIP (1.38). Opponents are hitting .255 against Pale Hose pitching, a mark which is 20th best in MLB.
Only seven teams in the big leagues have scored more runs than the White Sox, which tells you something about a team that is four games under .500 despite that kind of offensive production.
Tigers probables vs. White Sox: Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Smyly.
The Rockies are a mess.
Colorado is 43–61, including a miserable road record of 16–33. A bad season got more embarrassing over the weekend, when the Rockies had a giveaway of Troy Tulowitzki jerseys and misspelled the longtime Rockies shortstop's last name, leaving out the second "t."
Speaking of Tulo, he's doing his thing once again, batting a robust .340, but a recent thigh injury has landed him on the 15-day DL, retroactive to July 19. So the Tigers won't have to worry about him this weekend.
Old nemesis Justin Morneau, in his first year with the Rockies, leads the team with 60 RBI. Right fielder Charlie Blackmon has 115 hits and is batting .302 with a .348 OBA.
But as usual, the Rockies' Achilles heel is their pitching.
The team ERA is an unsightly 4.96 with an overall WHIP of 1.46. Suffice it to say that opponents' base paths have seen more traffic than I-696 during rush hour.
MMM won't bother to give you the laundry list of pitching offenders. When your best starter has an ERA of 4.19 (Jorge De La Rosa), there really isn't much more to say.
The Rockies closer is LaTroy Hawkins (17 saves), who MMM thinks may have spent some of his early years pitching to Willie Mays. OK, MMM is kidding — but not that much; Hawkins is 41 years old.
In short, this is a great opportunity for the Tigers to get off the schneid at home and create even more separation between themselves and the second place team du jour, the Kansas City Royals, who are treading water at five games back.
Tigers probables vs. Rockies: Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Sanchez.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!