We all know what they say about excuses – but between coaching Little League, catching up on yardwork, playing rec-league softball, and trying to run a business, I haven’t sat down to watch an entire Tigers game in over 3 weeks. Finding qualified topics to blog about in 2-inning snapshots, enlightening commentary from Jim Price, and Lynn Henning columns is a challenge; finding the time to compose compounds the dilemma. I have taken to jotting notes down in an effort to deliver some meaningful observations to readers – so here in free-flow form and no particular order is a Byrne’s-eye review of the past week. Feel free to agree or disagree in the Comments section.
-Brayan Pena is looking like a tremendous acquisition as backup catcher. I was surprised when I found out Pena is a career .248 hitter – it seemed like he always found a way to get on base when he played in KC – and by glancing at his defensive numbers expected him to be decent behind the dish. Pena has seized each opportunity to start by knocking out some huge hits, and his switch-hitting ability gives the team flexibility. Not uncomfortable at all with him taking some playing time away from the struggling Alex Avila (googling “struggling Alex Avila” yields over 13 million returns, by the way).
-Do you just feel better seeing Tom Brookens in the 3rd base box rather than Gene Lamont? It is difficult to quantify, and he has made a mistake or two out there, but the Tigers seem like a much better base-running team this year. It is interesting to speculate on Brookens candidacy to replace the Marlboro Man in the dugout when he decides to hang up his spikes. It is also fun to recall Tommy’s five-inning stint behind the dish in an extra-inning victory over the Rangers. I read somewhere that Lance Parrish brought the catcher’s mask to his locker – with a cold six-pack balanced inside – after the game. Classic story and a classic Tiger.
-Rick Porcello is the best number-5 starter in baseball, and half the teams in the league would be ecstatic to slot him in as a number 3. His Bonderman-esque tendency to allow runs in an inning immediately after the offense scores for him is maddening, but the team’s record is .500 in the games he’s pitched, which really is all you can ask from the back of the rotation. Kudos to Dave Dombrowski for resisting the urge to fire-sale him this spring in search of the elusive “closer”.
-Max Scherzer and Doug Fister get incredible movement on their pitches, and consistently induce weak contact. Remarkably, they command the strike zone well with their dipping and darting deliveries. Scherzer is frequently the victim of nubbers and squibbers that turn into hits because batters are fooled so completely – I have a feeling that will cost him a no-hitter someday.
-Austin Jackson approach had regressed before his trip to the DL – swinging at balls and taking strikes. Hopefully it was a partial product of his injury. AJax has always been a high BAbip guy – .367 for his career – so it could be argued that his .336 mark this season is due to go up when he returns, even though the league average is around .300. Andy Dirks is a capable fill-in, but the lineup needs Jackson setting the table to fire on all cylinders (apologies for the brutal mixing of metaphors there ).
-Verlander will be fine, VMart will continue to improve, and Miggy, well, there just aren’t enough adjectives.
-It is too early to call it a pivotal game, but it would be nice to find a way to salvage a split today. The Rangers right now are the best team in the AL, and I am pretty sure that the Tribe is not going away. We need the Iron Fister to tie up Texas tonight!