My weekly take on the Tigers, also known simply and affectionately as “MMM.”
Week of 7/6-7/12: 4-2
This week: 7/13-7/16: All-Star Break; 7/17-19: at NYY
Goat of the Week
The Tigers did what they were supposed to do this week—take four of six from the lowly Royals and Indians at Comerica Park. So this week at MMM we don’t really hand out a Goat label, per se, but we do raise a concern—because that’s what we do here!
Fernando Rodney was inserted in a non-save situation on Friday night and promptly decided to make it into one—even though MLB rules say that’s impossible.
Rodney and non-save situations are like oil and water.
His ERA in such scenarios, as the good folks at FSD displayed on our TV screens, was a ghastly 7.71 entering Friday’s contest, compared to under 1.00 in save situations.
Opponents hit about .280 against Rodney when there’s not a save at stake, compared to below .200 otherwise. The walks and strikeouts are similarly skewed.
On Friday, Rodney entered the game with a four-run lead. An error and a walk made things interesting, and Rodney was shaky until the final out.
So what gives?
It might just be a statistical fluke, but the numbers are so out of whack that it might go beyond that.
His concentration might waver. He’s not as locked in. Something.
It’s not just Rodney, though. Many closers run into the same trouble when there isn’t a save on the table.
Maybe the real goat is manager Jim Leyland, for continuing to put Rodney into games where there’s not a save involved. Fernando’s not doing anything for the skipper’s smoking habit in those circumstances, that’s for sure.
Hero of the Week
There were more than a few of them this week.
Justin Verlander, for giving the Tigers’ bullpen a break on Sunday with a solid performance after a few dicey ones.
Freshly-added All-Star Brandon Inge, for his statement game on Sunday: two home runs with the big game looming, along with the home run derby, in which he’ll participate.
But how about Clete Thomas, eh?
Thomas, recently adorned the Tigers’ right fielder against right-handed pitchers in a platoon operation with Magglio Ordonez, went bonkers on Sunday in a game that the Tigers needed to complete their 4-2 week.
Thomas tripled in the Tigers’ first run, then slugged a three-run homer in his next at-bat, giving Verlander all the breathing room he really needed. Not finished, Thomas added a single, leaving him a double shy of a cycle.
It was a terrific way of validating, at least for the time being, Leyland’s decision to give Thomas the bulk of the at-bats in right field.
Quick scouting report: Yankees
Seems as though the New York Yankees have themselves a billion-dollar band box in the Bronx.
Baseballs have been flying out of the new Yankee Stadium—to the tune of about 3.3 per game.
I’ll save you some research for comparison; that’s a LOT.
But what that number doesn’t tell you is how many of the dingers hit are of the solo variety, as compared to with men on base.
I’m fine with a starting pitcher who surrenders a home run now and then—even more than now and then—as long as most of them are solo shots.
It’s the relief pitcher who serves up gopher balls that ought to get the hair on the back of your neck to stand up—for those are almost always with ducks on the pond.
The Yanks took two of three from the Tigers in Detroit back in May, but there was something very significant about the Detroit victory.
It was Verlander’s first gem in a string of them, as JV was on his way to being named pitcher of the month for May. Verlander will have another shot at the Yankees this weekend—or is it vice-versa?
The Yankees have a high-octane offense, no doubt helped by playing in their new, cozy ballpark.
Johnny Damon, for example, has 16 home runs in the leadoff spot.
The pitching has been a mini-mess, and the Yanks’ being in second place has more to do with them slugging their way to wins than anything else.
Every time the Tigers play members of the “old” AL East, like New York, Boston, etc., I’m reminded how much fun it was to play them more than just six times a year.
The Tigers were in the East when MLB realigned in the mid-1990s, but got shifted to the Central when the Milwaukee Brewers were moved to the National League in 1998. The newly-formed Tampa Bay Devil Rays took the Tigers’ place in the East.
It’s kind of like how the Red Wings rarely play Original Sixers like the Rangers, Bruins, Canadiens and Maple Leafs anymore.
Under the microscope
Only three games this week due to the All-Star break, so we’ll simply say this about the dreaded microscope in this edition: we’re eager, at MMM, to see how the Tigers do in New York in their first visit to new Yankee Stadium.
But next week, we’ll have a dandy for you under the microscope—supported by stats and facts and everything! I can hardly wait to start banging on the keyboard next Monday.
Bottom line: Last week, MMM beseeched the Tigers to go at least 4-2 with the bottom-feeding Royals and Indians coming to town. Mission accomplished, and the Tigers are comfortably nestled in first place at the break.
Moreover, the Tigers kept their home-winning formula active and working, which is key because of the lopsided schedule the rest of the way; 41 of the remaining 75 games will be played at Comerica Park.
The team had a good first half, despite some warts. I predicted 90 wins before the season, and right now that’s looking good. Inge is turning into one of the best stories in baseball this year. Verlander and Edwin Jackson have given the Tigers a 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation that few could have imagined.
But they still need some more offense. There are 18 days until the July 31 interleague trade deadline.
Stay tuned to this station for further instructions.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. Join me every Monday!