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: 4-3
This week: LAD (7/8-9); at KC (7/10-13)
So, What Happened?
Last week proved to be role reversal for Tigers opponents.
Last Monday, MMM spoke of Goofus and Gallant, characters from a children's magazine. G&G were used as examples for kids on how to behave.
MMM called the Oakland A's Gallant and the Tampa Bay Rays, Goofus.
Uh, switch that.
The Tigers cut through the A's for a three-game sweep, then let the Rays walk into Comerica Park and take three of four, making for a bittersweet 4–3 week that started with so much promise, as the Tigers won the first four and dropped the last three.
The week also showed how streaky baseball can be, and why the Tigers are kings of streakiness.
27–12. 9–20. 12–2. 0–3.
That is how the Tigers have forged their 48–37 record, which is still good enough to lead the Central Division by a relatively comfortable four games (five in the loss column) over the Kansas City Royals.
Baseball is perhaps the most maddening game to handicap. Whether it's pitching match-ups on paper that look lopsided but don't turn out to be so, "momentum" that never pans out or the usual ups and downs of a 162-game schedule, sometimes you just have to throw your arms in the air.
So the Tigers sweep the best team in the league and then let one of the worst take three of four. Go figure.
The All-Star rosters were announced on Sunday and a trio of Tigers made the cut: Miguel Cabrera (starter), Victor Martinez, and Max Scherzer. Notably absent for the first time in six years was Justin Verlander, who didn't deserve to make it.
Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello, and Ian Kinsler were all thought to have a shot, but only Porcello is still alive in extra fan voting (though Sundays' poor performance won't help his case).
MMM is pleased with the three Tigers selections, and as far as Porcello goes, the right-hander is only 25 years old. He'll have more chances, especially if this season proves to be his "breakout" year.
The week also saw the recognition of the 30-year anniversary of the 1984 World Series Championship, which was punctuated on Monday night with a walk-off "super" grand slam off the bat of Rajai Davis, of all people.
MMM hates to remind you, but there is also a Victor Martinez situation going on, physically. V-Mart missed a few games with side soreness last week, returned (and hit a home run in his first at-bat), but is out again after just two games back. He is listed as that lovely and delightful "day-to-day."
Austin Jackson has apparently returned to the leadoff spot until further notice. The results have been mixed, which shouldn't be surprising given that it's Austin Jackson we're talking about.
Hero of the Week
This was far from a no-brainer.
There were many candidates: Davis, for his walk-off heroics on Monday; Porcello for his "Maddux" shutout on Tuesday (fewer than 100 pitches); and Scherzer for his dominance of the Rays on Thursday, to name a few.
However, the Hero is J.D. Martinez for the second time in three weeks.
JD-Mart (sorry) was nine-for-25 with three homers and six RBI last week. His batting average is up to .323 and his OPS is an even 1.000 (.360/.640). J.D. has 38 RBI in 164 AB and 28 of his 53 hits have gone for extra bases (16 doubles, 12 home runs).
MMM is aware that two of Martinez's three dingers came in lopsided losses, but this nod is in appreciation for how he has come out of the gate in July after a fantastic June. We have all seen guys have great months (especially unlikely producers like J.D.) but then fall off the cliff.
Martinez, so far, is following a great month (Tigers Player of the Month in June, no less) with a strong start to the next.
Honorable mentions: see above.
Goat of the Week
Remember when Eugenio Suarez was all the rage?
In other words, it wasn't all that long ago.
Suarez, whose Tigers career started like he wanted to make folks forget Alan Trammell, is lately making people remember Danny Worth and Alex Gonzalez — fondly.
It was another tough week for the kid: 3-for-17, eight strikeouts, no extra base hits, no runs scored, no RBI.
MMM still believes that Suarez will be a nice big league player, but all the talk of him unseating Jose Iglesias as the starting shortstop is premature, to say the least.
MMM likes Suarez as a bargaining chip in a trade, perhaps as early as the 31st of this month.
Under the Microscope
MMM hates typing this (and with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel), but Victor Martinez, Tigertown turns its lonely eyes to you — ooh, ooh, ooh.
MMM didn't worry too much when V-Mart missed the A's series with his sore side, but when a star player re-injures himself, it can be one of the most chilling things fans hear.
Martinez is out again, with the same soreness in the same side. It's an injury that is felt most during a swing, which kind of stinks since V-Mart's only job (pretty much) is to swing the bat.
He is listed as day-to-day.
Manager Brad Ausmus indicated after the most recent Martinez tweak that the team will be extra cautious this time in deciding when to get V-Mart back into the lineup. That's not to say that the Tigers brought Victor back too soon last Thursday. He wouldn't have played had he not declared himself ready to the manager.
But with two tweaks of the side within the same week, MMM feels it's natural to place Victor UtM. You can make a case that the Tigers DH has been the league's MVP in the first half of the season, let alone that of the team's.
We can only wait and hope that all Martinez needs is some rest.
Upcoming: Dodgers and Royals
After a day off on Monday, the Tigers host the resurgent Los Angeles Dodgers.
Where have we seen this Dodgers act before? Just ask the San Francisco Giants.
Just as in 2013, the Giants started fast this year but have been overtaken in the NL West by a streaking Dodgers team.
In case you haven't been following what is happening out west in the National League, the Giants held a 9.5 game lead over the Dodgers as recently as in early-June. This morning, the Dodgers hold a half-game lead over the Giants, meaning the Dodgers made up 10 games in the standings in about a month.
The good news: Clayton Kershaw won't be leaving the dugout for the Dodgers. The Tigers are going to miss the red-hot lefty. But more on that in a bit.
This two-game mini-series with the Dodgers might be the only chance you'll get to see the electric Yasiel Puig for a long time, unless the Tigers and Dodgers meet in the you-know-what, you-know-when.
What can MMM say about Puig that hasn't been said? Hands down, Puig is perhaps the most exciting player in baseball, even more so than Mike Trout.
Part of Puig's appeal is his unpredictability. As talented as he is, Puig makes just enough strange decisions and makes enough easy plays look hard to add to his mystique.
But don't forget about the always-dangerous Adrian Gonzalez, who leads the Dodgers in HR (14) and RBI (56).
As for missing Kershaw, that's fine and dandy, except that Tuesday's scheduled starter, Hyun-Jin Ryu, is 9–4 with a 3.08 ERA, and 1.19 WHIP. And on Wednesday, the Tigers are slated to get a healthy dose of Zack Greinke (11–4/2.66/1.18).
Tigers probables vs. Dodgers: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer (making for two very intriguing pitching match ups).
After two games with the Dodgers, it's off to Kansas City for a four-game weekend set.
It was just a couple weeks or so ago when the Royals were 39–32 and the Tigers were 36–32 after KC won the first three of a four-game series at Comerica. The Royals were in first place!
Since then, the Tigers have gone 12–5 and the Royals are 6–10.
The Royals were swinging red-hot bats when they last visited Detroit, but since then the offense has settled back down to reality.
The Royals, for all their good traits, are still mostly an offensively challenged squad.
The Tigers seem to play the Royals better on the road than at home, but that is no surprise this season as the Tigers, in general, have played very well on the road.
Since that last series in Detroit, the Royals did add 42-year-old Raul Ibanez in what would seem to be a desperate move to generate offense. Ibanez was released by the Los Angeles Angels and the Royals almost immediately claimed him.
But Ibanez is batting .159 in 182 at-bats and is 3-for-16 since joining the Royals.
Tigers probables vs. Royals: Drew Smyly, Sanchez, Porcello, and Verlander.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!