September 2012

Gardenhire on Cabrera: “He should be the MVP”

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire cautions his remarks by noting he has seen a lot more of Miguel Cabrera than he has of Mike Trout. And the stats note that Cabrera has hit better against the Twins this year than he has against nearly any other team in the league.

That said, Gardenhire makes a point in his support of Cabrera: The Triple Crown still means something.

“I haven’t seen Trout out there since the first of the season,” Gardenhire said. “I know he’s had a heck of a year and people are saying this and that about him. I’m just tipping my hat to Cabrera. He’s the best player in this league. He should be the MVP. If we were to stop right now, there’s no doubt in my mind. Going for a Triple Crown, that’s an MVP season. He has his team in a playoff hunt. Whether they get there or not can’t solely depend upon him, but he’s the reason they’re in it right now. And that’s an MVP. He’s the best player in our league.”

The Triple Crown, he argued, trumps the sabermetric statistics.

“All I’m going to tell you is if you’re going for a Triple Crown and you’ve got his numbers, you can saber all you want to. Those numbers blow your brain,” Gardenhire said. “And I know Trout’s do too, that’s pretty good numbers. A couple of other guys have decent numbers. But look at Cabrera’s numbers. That’s ridiculous. That’d right up there with some of the best players in baseball. It doesn’t make much sense to me to be arguing about this, to tell you the truth.”

Scherzer throws, expects to start on Sunday

The Tigers, manager Jim Leyland in particular, are staying cautious about Max Scherzer’s status for Sunday against the Twins. After a throwing session off flat ground in the Comerica Park outfield on Friday, though, Scherzer sounded fairly confident he’ll be able to go.

He’ll have one more throwing session Saturday, when he’ll throw all his pitches to make sure there’s no discomfort, before Leyland makes his final decision. The way he felt Friday, though, Scherzer isn’t expecting problems.

“I’m expecting I should be able to make the start, seeing how my arm is responded to the treatment and the medicine,” Scherzer said. “I’m getting the inflammation out. This wasn’t a structural damage thing. This was just inflammation. After talking to doctors and realizing there’s no structural damage, I don’t have any fears or anything about hurting my arm any further. For me right now, it feels like the inflammation’s out, so my arm feels good.”

Friday’s throwing session lasted about five minutes. Scherzer tried to duplicate his delivery to make sure he didn’t feel anything around the deltoid area where he had problems last time out. It wasn’t a long session, but it was enough to leave him encouraged.

Leyland said he will not do anything to risk Scherzer’s arm.

“I’ll have to be totally convinced by our medical team,” he said.

To that point, Leyland said he’ll have Drew Smyly on hold for the next couple days until they know whether they’ll need him to start Sunday. Smyly threw Thursday afternoon, entering with a bases-loaded situation in the ninth inning, but it basically amounted to a mound session like he would normally do before a start. He’ll throw a little bit before the games this weekend, but nothing extensive.

Friday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Twins

Quintin Berry and Alex Avila return to the Tigers lineup — Avila for the first time since last Sunday, Berry for the first time since Tuesday.

The Twins, meanwhile, load up on left-handed hitters against Rick Porcello, several of whom (especially Denard Span and Ben Revere) have had some success off him.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Quintin Berry, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Andy Dirks, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Omar Infante, 2B

P: Rick Porcello

TWINS

  1. Denard Span, CF (11-for-29 against Porcello)
  2. Ben Revere, RF (7-for-19 off Porcello)
  3. Joe Mauer, C
  4. Josh Willingham, LF (5-for-8 off Porcello)
  5. Justin Morneau, 1B
  6. Ryan Doumit, DH
  7. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
  8. Jamey Carroll, 2B (6-for-17 off Porcello)
  9. Pedro Florimon, SS

P: Sam Deduno

Thursday’s lineup: Tigers vs. Athletics

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, cf
  2. Omar Infante, 2b
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3b
  4. Prince Fielder, 1b
  5. Delmon Young, dh
  6. Jhonny Peralta, ss
  7. Avisail Garcia, rf
  8. Andy Dirks, lf
  9. Gerald Laird, c

P: Anibal Sanchez

ATHLETICS

  1. Stephen Drew, SS
  2. Josh Reddick, CF
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, DH
  4. Brandon Moss, RF
  5. Chris Carter, 1B
  6. Seth Smith, LF
  7. Josh Donaldson, 3B
  8. George Kottaras, C
  9. Cliff Pennington, 2B

P: Tommy Milone

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Athletics

Alex Avila and Quintin Berry weren’t likely to start against A’s left-hander Brett Anderson anyway, so just because they’re not in the lineup doesn’t necessarily mean they’re unavailable. That said, as long as they’re not starting, it wouldn’t be a surprise if both of them sit the next couple days until the Tigers face a right-handed pitcher again.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  7. Avisail Garcia, RF
  8. Andy Dirks, LF
  9. Gerald Laird, C

P: Justin Verlander

ATHLETICS

  1. Stephen Drew, SS
  2. Seth Smith, DH
  3. Josh Reddick, RF
  4. Yoenis Cespedes, CF
  5. Brandon Moss, LF
  6. Josh Donaldson, 3B
  7. Daric Barton, 1B
  8. Derek Norris, C
  9. Cliff Pennington, 2B

P: Brett Anderson

Miguel Cabrera and the Triple Crown race

Would an AL Triple Crown win Miguel Cabrera AL MVP honors?

You’d like to think so, but maybe the question is moot.

An MVP award goes out every year. Nobody has accomplished the batting Triple Crown in 45 years. The Triple Crown is an honor in itself.

The way Miguel Cabrera is hitting these days, it’s starting to look realistically within reach.

With three hits, two homers and six RBIs Monday against Oakland, Cabrera took new ground in all three offensive categories. His .333 batting average now stands six points above Trout, who went 0-for-3 with two walks Tuesday night against Texas. At the same time, Cabrera broke out from a tie for the RBI lead to go up by six over Josh Hamilton. Cabrera’s two homers, meanwhile, halved his deficit to two behind Hamilton.

Meanwhile, Cabrera’s OPS crept over the 1.000 mark for the first time since mid-April. He’s the only Major League hitter over that mark now. He’s 50 points over Trout for the AL lead.

Cabrera has nine more games at home in Comerica Park, where he’s batting .349 with a 1.139 OPS and 26 home runs. He’ll finish out the season at Target Field and Kauffman Stadium, two places where the Park Factor numbers rank more hitter-friendly than Comerica Park.

Bottom line: He can do this. And if he does, it won’t be in a weak year for offense.

The only Major League hitter since 1954 to finish with a .330 batting average, 200 hits, 40 homers and 140 RBIs is Todd Helton in 2000, and he did it playing his home games at Coors Field before the humidor made things more fair for pitchers there. Cabrera has a chance to do it at a place that ranks just barely above average among Park Factors for offense.

If Cabrera wins the HR title, he’ll need 43 homers. Add that to the above criteria, and he’d be the first to reach those marks in a season since Al Rosen in 1953.

If he hits 44 homers with the above criteria, he’d be in territory not seen since Hank Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio in 1937.

You’d like to think that would win him an AL MVP honors, but you don’t know. But the numbers that get him there would be more historic than the award itself.

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at A’s

Alex Avila is not in the starting lineup. Gerald Laird gets the start behind the plate. No update yet on Avila’s status.

UPDATE: Avila is “not medically cleared to play,” according to Jim Leyland. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand had no update as of this afternoon. He’s supposed to be tested today to determine his status for Wednesday.

Meanwhile, after the buzz surrounding Brennan Boesch’s ill-fated start over Andy Dirks on Monday, he’s out of the lineup tonight. Quintin Berry starts in left and bats second. Andy Dirks moves over to right and bats sixth, where Boesch normally would be batting.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Quintin Berry, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Andy Dirks, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Omar Infante, 2B
  9. Gerald Laird, C

P: Max Scherzer

ATHLETICS

  1. Coco Crisp, CF
  2. Seth Smith, LF
  3. Josh Reddick, RF
  4. Yoenis Cespedes, DH
  5. Brandon Moss, 1B
  6. Stephen Drew, SS
  7. Josh Donaldson, 3B
  8. George Kottaras, C
  9. Cliff Pennington, 2B

P: A.J. Griffin

Verlander will be featured on E:60

DVR alert: Around the same time Max Scherzer will be throwing his first pitches against the A’s tonight at Comerica Park, Justin Verlander will be featured in this week’s episode of ESPN’s newsmagazine, E:60. The piece profiles Verlander’s background growing up as a high-energy kid who had to learn how to focus and how it impacted him to grow up to be who he is today. It also looks at his newfound fame and his love of sports cars.

The show airs at 7 p.m. Verlander is expected to be the second piece, after New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. If you miss it, you might be able to find it on re-airings later in the week.

The late-season mystery of Omar Infante

While Jim Leyland was waiting in his office Monday morning for word on Austin Jackson, he admitted he briefly considered a different idea to fill his outfield for their critical game against the White Sox. Without Jackson, he at least thought about moving second baseman Omar Infante to left field and starting Danny Worth at second base. He soon decided against it, he said, because he didn’t think it would be fair asking Infante to play in the outfield for the first time in two years.

Given Infante’s remarks after Monday’s 5-4 loss to the White Sox, it’s fair to wonder how much confidence he has playing second right now.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Infante said. “I practice a lot during BP. I do everything — double plays, throws to first base. I don’t know what happened, because last year I played way different. When I’ve been here in Detroit, I don’t know. … I’ve been a little tight. I know the team is competing in the division. I don’t have an excuse. I have to do the little things.”

This is not an attempt to make Infante the scapegoat for the Tigers’ failure to take back the division race. Heck, it’s really not even fair to pin all the blame on him for Monday’s loss. Though it was Infante’s error that brought in the deciding run in the fifth inning, it was Prince Fielder’s decision whether to try to scoop it and make a do-or-die play for the third out or maybe sacrifice the out and make sure to stop the ball. He went with the do-or-die play and, well, you know what happened.

More than anything, it’s an acknowledgement of what has become apparent: Infante looks like a different, less certain defender over the last few weeks than the confident player who returned to his old organization from Miami in late July. It’s not as simple as the error sheet.

“I don’t know why, but I’m a little tight,” Infante said. “I’ve made a lot of errors. I don’t care if I make errors if the team does everything. If I make errors and the team wins, I feel good. But when we don’t win, I feel bad for that.”

Infante made three errors in his first eight games after the trade, but settled down after that, looking like by far the best everyday second baseman the Tigers had since they parted ways with Placido Polanco three years ago.

Then came an August 24 game against the Angels at Comerica Park, a 2-1 Tigers loss decided on a sixth-inning, two-out, two-run double from Howard Kendrick. He came to bat only after Torii Hunter executed a brilliant take-out slide on Infante at second, forcing his double-play throw to sail high and force Prince Fielder off the bag.

Infante didn’t get an error; you can’t assume the double play. Still, he beat himself up pretty bad afterwards, looking at the video and saying his throw was headed high before Hunter made impact with him.

“It’s tough,” he said. “I have to practice for the double play.”

Infante has four errors since, but more importantly, he has nine double plays, just four of them. He has three errors and five double plays in September. The low double-play totals are hurting the Tigers as much or more than the errors lately. It really hurt them over the weekend in Cleveland, including at least a couple on Sunday.

“When I go to throw to first base, that’s it, Infante said. “I think that’s it, the throw to first base when it’s a tight play.”

After Hunter flipped Infante, one of the comments from Infante was that he needed to step across the bag to get that ball from Miguel Cabrera and get out of the way of a sliding baserunner. On Monday, it looked like Infante not only stepped right into the path of Alex Rios, but stepped forward, allowing Rios to take him out with a good slide into his front leg.

None of this suggests Infante is the poster child for the Tigers’ defensive woes, even though he has looked like it lately. It doesn’t even suggest Danny Worth should be starting in his play. For every Infante error, there seems to be a acrobatic field and throw. On Monday, the stellar play up the middle followed the error.

Monday’s lineups: Tigers at White Sox

Austin Jackson is a go after missing Sunday in Cleveland with a sore left ankle. Alex Avila is available, but manager Jim Leyland decided to give him a day out of the lineup to recuperate. He could enter as a pinch-hitter or late-inning replacement.

As for the outfield, Leyland chose Brennan Boesch over Andy Dirks as his left-handed hitter to start. Because the full lineup came out late, we didn’t get a chance to ask about that. Neither Dirks nor Boesch started against Jose Quintana last week because Ryan Raburn started in left that night.

Avisail Garcia gets his first professional start in left field, something he was supposed to do Thursday before that game was rained out.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  7. Brennan Boesch, RF
  8. Avisail Garcia, LF
  9. Gerald Laird, C

P: Doug Fister

INDIANS

  1. Dewayne Wise, CF
  2. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
  3. Adam Dunn, 1B
  4. Paul Konerko, DH
  5. Alex Rios, RF
  6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  7. Dayan Viciedo, LF
  8. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  9. Gordon Beckham, 2B

P: Carlos Quintana

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