My weekly take on the Tigers, also known simply and affectionately as “MMM.”
Week of 8/3-9: 5-2
This week: 8/10-13: at Bos; 8/14-16: KC
Goat of the Week
When a team has a 5-2 week, including winning a weekend series from a fellow division contender, it’s difficult to hang the MMM Goat label on anyone without looking like you’re nitpicking.
But that’s part of what we do at MMM: we nitpick!
So, tag, Gerald Laird–you’re it!
The auspicious debut of rookie backup catcher Alex Avila has underscored just how little the Tigers are getting from Laird offensively.
It’s terrific that Laird throws out a high percentage of would-be base stealers. It’s wonderful how he handles the pitching staff. But he’s got to be able to give the Tigers more than a BA in the .220s with almost no inclination to getting a clutch hit.
Avila arrived on Thursday and got a couple hits and an RBI. Then, the next night, the left-handed hitting Avila had two more hits, including his first big league home run, and drove in four runs.
Then Laird returned to behind the dish for Saturday and Sunday’s games and did his usual punch-less thing at the plate.
Catcher isn’t shortstop—you expect some offense from that position.
Laird started the season on fire—he was hitting well over .300 in the first few weeks—but has been slumbering for the most part since May.
The Tigers certainly didn’t acquire Laird for his offense. He went into the 2009 season with a .255 career BA. But even .255 would be nice right about now, wouldn’t it?
This might be a trend with Laird. In 2006, he hit .296. In 2007, he hit .224. Last season, his BA was .276. So maybe he just doesn’t do as well in odd-numbered years.
Hero of the Week
Several to choose from, again because of the 5-2 week.
But the choice here is Miguel Cabrera, who looks to be ready to act like a big time superstar and start delivering in bunches.
Miggy is heating up. The home runs are starting to come more frequently. The RBIs are coming when you need them.
Sunday, he blasted a breaking ball into the left field seats. But it wasn’t just that he did it. His body language spoke volumes.
The FSD isolated replay showed Cabrera from head to toe. He swung, and tossed the bat aside in a mixture of both triumph and disdain. He knew the ball was gone. Then, in the dugout afterward, Cabrera was seen with “that look” on his face—the look of a bona fide power hitter who’s “feeling it.”
We’ll see if this is all much ado about nothing.
Honorable mention: Placido Polanco, who’s starting to look like, well, Placido Polanco—with some big hits and pesky at-bats.
Quick scouting reports: Red Sox and Royals
The Tigers are going to be visiting a Red Sox team that is not only superior to them, but who will be in a foul mood after being swept in New York.
This could be disastrous for the Tigers, who MMM doesn’t feel is in the same league with the Red Sox or Yankees or Angels. But at least the Tigers start the series with Edwin Jackson on the mound, so maybe they can get off to a good start.
The Red Sox might soon find themselves focusing on keeping hold of the Wild Card lead rather than chasing the Yankees, who look like the Yankees of old.
The Bosox lineup is loaded, and they can make mincemeat of you in Fenway Park. It’ll take all the Tigers have to even win a single game in this series.
Oh, and David Ortiz has been heating up after an atrocious start.
No need to spend any more space here going over the rest of the Red Sox hitters. I’m sure you’ve heard of them.
The rotation is decent, with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and the venerable Tim Wakefield as the top three starters.
The closer, of course, is Jonathan Papelbon.
The Tigers must show that they can play with the elite AL teams—something they have failed to do all season.
As for the Royals?
They’re in their familiar position—last place, with an anemic offense that makes the Tigers’ lineup look like Murderers’ Row.
Early in the season, it was the Royals’ pitching that was keeping them afloat. But no longer. Even trusty Zack Greinke became untrustworthy for a short while.
Greinke’s back on track, and he’s by far the best pitcher on the staff, with a 2.43 ERA.
The rest of the rotation is Brian Bannister and Gil Meche (who returns from the disabled list on Thursday) and pray for rain.
The closer is Joakim Soria, who’s 18-for-20 in save situations, and who has two saves in which he pitched for two innings instead of the customary one.
Under the microscope
Here’s what was written in last week’s MMM about “Under the microscope”:
“Last week MMM put Porcello under the scope, and he responded, big time, in Cleveland on Saturday night.
Time to see if that same magic can work on Miguel Cabrera.
Cabrera hasn’t, at all this season, truly put the Tigers on his back and carried them, like the big-time superstars do. Sometimes you have to quit making excuses, i.e. no one is hitting behind him, etc., and just face the facts: he needs to produce more.
Cabrera is too good a talent to have just 58 RBI on August 3.
The Tigers need to go on a run, and they’d have a much better shot at doing that if Cabrera can load the team onto his broad shoulders and carry them for a couple of weeks.”
Well, look who’s this week’s MMM Hero?
The microscope is hot; first Porcello, now Cabrera.
So who will be the next recipient of the scope’s new-found magic?
Let’s go with starter Armando Galarraga.
Galarraga teases you. He lets you think he’s about to return to his 2008 form, or somewhere near it, then he has a bad outing.
I still don’t like the idea of trusting rookie Rick Porcello with too much down the stretch, which means that Galarraga becomes even more important.
The top three of Justin Verlander, Jarrod Washburn, and Edwin Jackson are as good as it gets in the AL, but sometimes playoff spots are won or lost at the back end of the rotation. It’s like playoff hockey; often times, the teams that get production from the third and fourth line guys are the ones who advance deep into the post-season.
Let’s put Galarraga under the scope and see what happens. His next start is slated for Wednesday in Boston.
Bottom line: Last week was big for the Tigers. They had a seven-game home stand and went 5-2, reaffirming their status as a tough team to play at Comerica Park. More importantly, they’re keeping some daylight between them and the White Sox and Twins.
It’s time to keep your eyes on the loss column, by the way.
The Tigers are four ahead of the White Sox, and six ahead of the Twins in that column.
Why is that so important?
Losses are just that—lost opportunities. You can’t “make up” losses—at least not without needing other teams to beat the team(s) you’re chasing. Being down in the win column isn’t as tragic, because that usually means you have games in hand and can “make them up” by winning them.
Not so with losses.
So the first thing you should look at isn’t the GB column. It’s how far ahead of their competitors the Tigers are in the loss column.
Oh, and the Tigers’ Magic Number to clinch the division is 49, in case you were wondering.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. Join me every Monday!
P.S. Also join me and Big Al from The Wayne Fontes Experience every Monday night as we co-host “The Knee Jerks” on Blog Talk Radio. The Tigers are a weekly topic. We go live at 11 p.m. ET, and every episode can be downloaded for your listening convenience!