Last Week: 6-1
This Week: WAS (7/30-31); CWS (8/2-4)
So, What Happened?
First, Monday Morning Manager would like to say that it's great to be back after a week off, and he appreciates the readers who are sticking around and who have stuck around for the past several years! Thank you all!
Now, on to this week's update...
In 1906, the Chicago White Sox were known affectionately as the "Hitless Wonders" because they managed to win a World Series without much of an offense.
MMM has a nickname for the 2013 White Sox: The Hitless Blunders.
The Tigers took 3-of-4 from the White Sox last week in Chicago, as the South Siders, who are themselves offensively challenged, played some pretty ugly baseball.
The three wins were by scores of 7-3, 6-2, 6-2, and while that looks like a tennis mismatch, it was indeed a baseball massacre. The Tigers handled the White Sox with such ease, it's hard to fathom that Chicago took two of three from the Bengals the week prior.
MMM is salivating at all the games still remaining with the ChiSox.
Justin Verlander faltered in the finale on Thursday afternoon. MMM has noticed that this wasn't the first time this season that JV has had a chance to pitch the Tigers to a sweep and has failed mightily. The 10-8 Verlander is again making Tigers fans wring their hands after a few starts where it looked like he was figuring things out.
Then came the Phillies, and MMM almost feels sorry for their fans. The Phils came to town riding a five-game losing streak, and they left with that streak intact at eight games.
Sunday's sixth inning, when the Tigers scored eight unearned runs on just two hits, may have been the ugliest display of baseball by a big league team that MMM has ever seen—and he's old enough to remember some pretty bad Tigers teams (i.e. 1975, 1989, 1996 and 2001-03).
MMM doesn't know how Phillies manager Charlie Manuel didn't blow his brains out watching his team soil the field during that sixth inning, which included poor throws, bad decisions, dropped fly balls, wild pitches and a grand slam. The half-inning took about 30 minutes to complete, and the Tigers were well on their way to a three-game sweep in which they outscored Philly 25-4.
Miguel Cabrera, who missed four games last week with a sore hip flexor, was tossed out of Sunday's game in the third inning by a cranky Chad Fairchild, who leads all umpires in ejections this season with eight. The ejection, after Cabrera mumbled and grumbled after two questionable strikes with the bases loaded, stunned everyone, including MMM. Let's hope MLB takes a look at this incident (Fairchild has to submit a report, as all umpires do following ejections) and counsels Fairchild, because that ejection was off the charts.
Hero of the Week
Technically, Victor Martinez is MMM's Hero for the second straight week (no update last week).
V-Mart went 10-of-28 with eight RBI, lifting his BA to .270. Another .300 season is suddenly back in play, which would be incredible given Victor's slow-as-molasses start.
Martinez's hot July runs parallel to the team's. The Tigers are 16-8 in July, and it's no coincidence that this runs concurrent with Martinez catching fire. There is definitely a cause and effect here.
Now, with V-Mart patching the lineup, the Tigers can hurt you from 1-6 in the batting order (.300 hitter Jhonny Peralta typically hits behind Martinez). Notice how there hasn't been as much talk about the Tigers being unable to put teams away offensively? Martinez is a big part of that non-discussion.
Honorable mentions: Doug Fister (shutdown start Friday); Max Scherzer (ditto on Monday and Saturday); Cabrera (if only for swatting a home run on his first swing on Saturday after missing four games).
Goat of the Week
MMM is tempted to name umpire Fairchild here, and so he will.
Look, it was a 6-1 week, so to find a goat would be nitpicking (not that MMM hasn't been known to do that!). So it's a great time to pounce on Fairchild and call him out for a ridiculous example of an umpire being power hungry.
I called strike one, and he began to argue balls and strikes. I warned him to stop, but after the second pitch, he began to argue balls and strikes again — and was removed from the game. What exactly he said will be in our report.
Cabrera could be seen mouthing "That's horrible" on TV replays, which matches what the slugger told FSD after the game. Miggy said that the umpire took that to mean "You called me horrible," and tossed Cabrera out.
MMM has had the opportunity to talk to two big league umpires about ejections in the past (the late Durwood Merrill and Dave Pallone) and they both told MMM that you can have some wiggle room as long as you don't personalize things.
In other words, it should be OK to say "THAT's horrible," but if you say, "YOU'RE horrible," then you can hit the showers.
MMM is eager to see if there's any fallout from this incident.
Under the Microscope
MMM is a little nervous about Austin Jackson.
A-Jax is batting .271, which isn't "horrible" (ha ha), but MMM sees Jackson as a .300 hitter who is underachieving. Jackson was hot just after coming off the disabled list a few weeks ago, but has settled back into a .250-type hitter since the All-Star break.
This week's UtM is a soft one, granted, MMM isn't overly concerned about Jackson, but the center fielder goes under the scope just the same.
Upcoming: Nationals, White Sox
If you like good pitching matchups on paper, you'll love this mini two-game series with Washington at Comerica Park.
The Nats will send Stephen Strasburg (who the Tigers have never faced) and Gio Gonzalez to the mound on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. The Tigers will counter with Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander.
The Nationals, as you probably know, are among baseball's biggest disappointments in 2013. They continue to muddle along below .500 and are fading from the NL playoff picture. They beat up on the Mets over the weekend, but Washington is still not where they thought they'd be at this point.
The issue has been a lack of consistent hitting.
Only one National is batting over .300 (Jayson Werth, .305). The starting pitching has been a strength (both Strasburg and Gonzalez have an ERA below 3.00, and Jordan Zimmermann is at 3.19), and closer Rafael Soriano has been solid, despite an awful outing last week against the Pirates (0.1 IP, 2 H, 4 ER).
The Nationals have struggled at the plate, and they have wasted some good pitching performances. Sounds like the Tigers of May and June.
Tigers starters: Sanchez, Verlander.
After Washington's brief appearance (and a second day off in the week), those lovable White Sox return to Comerica Park.
What more can you say about the White Sox? They pretty much only score by hitting home runs. Their defense is leaky, when last year it was pretty damn good. The starting pitching after Chris Sale is suspect. They deserve to be in last place.
The Tigers need to keep beating up on these Hitless Blunders.
Tigers starters: Fister, Scherzer, Rick Porcello.
That's all for this week's MMM. See you next week!
Note: as MMM was writing this, the Tigers acquired Houston Astros closer Jose Veras for minor league OF prospect Danry Vasquez and a player to be named.