Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tigers Series Wrapup

First off, the Tigers were very impressive this weekend and deserve a lot of credit.  Cabrera and Fielder are the best R/L handed hitter combo since Manny/Papi in their primes.  They are going to be a nightmare all season long.  The key to their lineup, however, was Austin Jackson at the top IMO.  Very tough team.  In last year’s opening series, as we all remember, the team that eventually represented the American League in the World Series swept the Red Sox.  The way the Tigers looked this weekend, that may happen again.

Second, the Sox showed resiliency and explosiveness offensively today.  Gonzalez and Pedroia are swinging well and we got contributions up and down the lineup.  I don’t think anybody doubts that the Sox are going to be among the league leaders in runs scored again this season.

Now obviously the pitching staff is in shambles.  The focus is on the bullpen, but if we could get a starter to go 6 or 7 strong innings, there wouldn't be so much pressure on the bullpen in the first place.  Beckett was abysmal and Buchholz was not much better.  I feel like it is last September all over again.  More than anything, their downfall last Sept. was due to a lack of pitching depth and their inability to find starters who could get through 6 innings.  The Bailey injury and subsequent Aceves/Melancon meltdowns have gotten the most discussion, but I feel like the most important issue facing this team is finding some quality starts.

I'm looking forward to seeing Doubront and Bard starting games 4 and 5.  There will be a ton of pressure on Bard.  If his first start stinks then even those who are in the "give him a month as a starter" camp will be hard-pressed to keep from changing to the "make Bard the closer" camp.  Lost in all the discussion about whether or not Bard should be moved back to the bullpen is his potential as a starter.  His poor pitching lines in spring training (while he was learning what it is to prepare for a game as the starter and not in the bullpen) has overshadowed the fact that he has a dynamite arm and a couple of suitable off-speed pitches.  I wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up being their second or third best starter by the end of the year if he isn’t yanked back and forth from the ‘pen to the rotation and back to the ‘pen (how’d that work out for you Joba/Yankees?).

Speaking of the closer - Aceves and Melancon melted down (again), but today was the only loss that can be put squarely on their shoulders (or a combination of Buchholz/Aceves/Melancon’s shoulders) - Thursday was the Verlander show.   That said, neither has shown that they have the stuff to get hitters out when it matters most.  Yes, it has been two appearances a piece against a team, as noted above, who can absolutely rake.  But I think it is becoming clear that we are not going to have a closer this year with the stuff of Papelbon or Bailey. 

So who gets the next save opportunity? My guess is Franklin Morales.  Bobby V has already shown that he will not have the patience to stick with a lineup or a player who is not performing.  Two games in he benched Youk.  After getting shut out he changed the batting order around the next day.  Tito used to stick with his guys in the same roles and same spots for months without producing – I think it’s fair to say Bobby V will not.  Morales has pitched 2 and 2/3 innings with 3 K’s and only one hit given up.  So far, he has been brought in to face a lefty, Fielder, but his career stats show that he is not any better against lefties than he is against righties (more about this in my upcoming column breaking down the entire bullpen).  And while Morales did throw a wild pitch today and only threw 3 first pitch strikes to his 7 batters (indicating he hasn’t exactly solved his control issues), he is the only pitcher to show he can come into pressure situations and get outs.  Plus, if Aceves or Melancon get the next save chance and blow it again, they may never recover the confidence of their manager, teammates, or fanbase.

As we close the door on a disappointing series to open the season, let’s all remember the good news: the Yankees are also 0-3.  There should be just as much panic and just as many questions in the Bronx after this weekend as there are in the Nation.  Now let’s go get some victories in Toronto!

1 comment:

  1. Great column Brandon! I agree with all your points including the impressive Tigers, the Sox offense, the lack of quality starting pitching and Bard as closer/starter. Morales certainly looks like a candidate for closer as well as Padilla, but those guys may not be available until Tuesday and there is no off day until Thursday so who knows it may be Bowden or Atchison as the closer tomorrow (hopefully that means we are up by 5+ runs).

    I look forward to the breakdown of the bullpen as they are certainly the lightning rod story early in the season. Unfortunately it's not going to get any easier in Toronto they have a very good offensive team as well with Lawrie, Bautista and others.

    On a different note can we blame today's loss on Don Orsillo? He had a classic all time jinx in the bottom of the 11th after Melancon got the first out he said something like, and I'm paraphrasing, "With Aceves struggling the Sox appear to be looking for a closer and it looks like Melancon may be the guy. As soon as he said that I immediately had visions of a disaster which soon came to fruition.