Last Week: 2-4
So, What Happened?
First, MMM wants to say how much he doesn't enjoy Sunday night Tigers games. In fact, the only thing MMM dislikes more than Sunday night Tigers games are Sunday night Tigers games that are delayed by rain and that go extra innings.
Even worse are Sunday night Tigers games that are delayed by rain and that go extra innings, of which the Tigers lose.
It wasn't the best of weeks for the Old English D.
The Tigers dropped both series they played, went 2-4 and lost catcher Alex Avila for several weeks due to a knee injury that Al-Av doesn't know how he suffered or when he suffered it.
There were also a couple of bullpen implosions and just enough sloppy baseball that made for a tedious, annoying week in MMM's eyes.
People are still moaning about Joba Chamberlain's weapon of self-destruction from last Wednesday in Chicago. They're also none too happy with manager Brad Ausmus for letting Joba die on the vine to the tune of six straight hits and four runs, turning a 6-3 lead into a ghoulish 7-6 loss.
The bullpen also coughed up Sunday night's interminable game against the Kansas City Royals. That, and a complete lack of clutch hitting killed the Tigers on ESPN.
After bouncing back to win the last two games of the Royals series in KC heading into the week, MMM was disappointed to see the Tigers follow those gritty wins up with uneven, gut-wrenching baseball.
Ain't this game grand?
Hero of the Week
Ian Kinsler hasn't hit a home run this season, but he's heating up in other ways.
Last week, the second baseman went 9-for-23, including a 4-for-4 game against the Royals on Friday. He also drove in four runs and drew five walks.
They're not gaudy numbers, but in a 2-4 week where clutch hitting was at a premium, Kinsler gets MMM's nod for Hero.
Kinsler's perfect bunt on Friday night, with Anthony Gose on second base in the ninth inning of a tie game, forced Royals reliever Yohan Pino to throw off balance, and the result was an errant attempt that enabled Gose to score the winning run.
Kinsler also played his customary, smooth second base throughout the week.
The good week at the plate lifted Kinsler's BA to .304 and his OBA to .380.
Honorable mentions: Lefty Kyle Lobstein, who played the part of Justin Verlander on Thursday in Chicago, i.e. stopping the bleeding with a fine performance; Victor Martinez, who had eight hits as he gamely tries to rediscover himself; and Anthony Gose, who went 7-for-17 and whose speed was the root of Friday night's game-winning rally.
Goat of the Week
MMM knows that the players determine, more often than not, who wins or loses the games.
But last week wasn't one of Brad Ausmus' best as Tigers skipper.
Let's start in Chicago last Wednesday, with the aforementioned meltdown of Joba Chamberlain that was left unchecked by Ausmus.
After retiring the first two hitters, with the Tigers leading 6-3, things began to unravel for Joba.
A bloop single was followed by a rocket to third baseman Nick Castellanos that the sophomore couldn't handle.
Switch-hitter Melky Cabrera was up next, and the splits showed a drastic difference between Melky against lefties vs. righties. His BA against lefties was under .100. Against right-handers, Cabrera was raking to the tune of .349.
MMM is certain that Ausmus has access to those kinds of basic numbers, which are out of the Sabermetrics for Dummies book.
But instead of calling for southpaw Blaine Hardy to face Cabrera, Ausmus stuck with Chamberlain.
You know the rest.
Chamberlain was then left in to give up three more hits, including the go-ahead run, before Ausmus finally brought the hook while Tigers fans screamed at their televisions.
Then there was the lack of a video challenge on the bogus hit-by-pitch on Alex Gordon that occurred leading off the tenth inning for the Royals on Sunday night. Gordon would eventually come around to score the game-winning run.
Also in Sunday's game, Ausmus removed Miggy Cabrera for a pinch-runner in the ninth inning. That runner turned out to be Hernan Perez, whose turn at the plate would come in the 10th inning. Perez hit into a 5-2-3 double play with the bases loaded.
There were plenty of Goats to go around last week, but MMM isn't going there because it's already the wee hours and MMM needs his beauty sleep.
So MMM is sticking with Ausmus, because these two examples are what should make reasonable (read: not just the Ausmus haters) fans question the manager's in-game awareness acumen.
Under the Microscope
By all rights, MMM would be justified in placing Jose Iglesias UtM for the second straight week as his groin tightened up again, enabling him to play in just one game last week.
But even though it's late and bed is beckoning MMM, this week's microscope focuses in on J.D. Martinez.
J.D. was a definite Goat candidate for his struggles last week, which included gobs of strikeouts and a dearth of hits. But what bothers MMM is that J.D. looks so confused at the plate, that it's fair to wonder whether opposing pitching coaches have figured him out.
Ausmus moved Martinez to sixth in the batting order, changing places with Yoenis Cespedes. That didn't really help.
Watch J.D. closely. This is his first extended slump as a Tiger.
Burning Questions for the Week
MMM will now open the floor.
Will the Central Division indeed come down to the Royals and Tigers? Who will win and why?
Aren't you forgetting Torii Hunter and the Minnesota Twins?
MMM isn't convinced, yet, that Paul Molitor's group is ready for prime time, but they sure are raising some eyebrows, aren't they?
But assuming your question is an accurate assessment of the division, MMM is afraid that when push comes to shove, the Royals superior bullpen will be the difference.
Witness Sunday night's game. When in a jam, the Royals relievers got the big outs. The Tigers' bullpen could not.
Yes, the Tigers walked off on Friday night, but do you really think that their bullpen can go toe-to-toe with that of Kansas City's?
OK, so what about those Twins?
It's not their time yet but tell that to Hunter and company.
Baseball has a way of ferreting out the pretenders over the course of 162 games.
But MMM has to hand it to Hunter and the boys: this week's series didn't look all that enticing a couple weeks ago.
MMM still is of the belief that the Twins' starting pitching is suspect, and that by itself may debunk Minnesota's serious chances at a shot at the post-season.
But if so much of baseball isn't who you're playing but when you're playing them, then Tigers fans ought to start tightening their tushes this week in anticipation of the Twins' arrival.
So why do the Royals have all the good, young arms in the bullpen while the Tigers...don't?
For all of the success enjoyed by GM Dave Dombrowski in Detroit, the lack of a shutdown bullpen for all these years is a big blemish on his record.
Royals manager Ned Yost can be a push button manager after the sixth inning, thanks to the embarrassment of riches in the Royals' pen. One by one they trot out wearing Royal Blue: young, powerful arms that throw changeups that are speedier than some of the Tigers' relievers' fastballs.
So to answer your question, MMM thinks that the scouts appear to be better in the Royals organization.
The Tigers visit the MLB-best Cardinals this week. Thoughts?
No matter how much things change, they stay the same. The Cardinals always find a way to put a great product on the field. They lose Pujols and LaRussa and a host of others, yet they always manage to slot someone else in and not miss a beat.
It's a story that doesn't get nearly enough attention from the media.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next Monday!