Monday, May 14, 2012

Game vs. Chisox Microcosm of the Season Thus Far

Another winnable game for the Motor City Kittens...another hair pulling, baffling, frustrating loss.  Once again, the Tigers find themselves below .500, and once again, the flaws they have displayed so far this season reared their ugly heads and proved fatal.  Over 10 runners stranded on the base paths...check.  Lack of clutch hitting...check.  Leyland over thinking...check.  Blown lead...check.  All in one game.  Is this Groundhog Day?  Does it not feel like we are watching the same shortcomings game, after game, after game, after game?  Let's look at the latest episode of "As the Tigers Stumble."

First, let's take a look at what appears to be the team's biggest problem to date: leaving runners stranded & lack of clutch hitting.  In tonight's game the Tigers, while scoring 5 early runs, left 13 men picking their noses on the bags.  To make matters worse, 8 of those runners were in scoring position.  The team finished 3-17 with RISP.  None as bad as the 7th inning while trailing by 2 runs, 2 men on with 0 outs.  The runners did not move.  I don't mean to be mean but that is simply pathetic.  There just isn't any other way to describe this.  Sorry.

Which brings us to the latest hot-button  issue: Leyland over thinking.  This was on display when Leyland yanked Smyly after the 5th after only 69 pitches while holding on to a 1 run lead for Putkonen.  Yes, Putkonen.  What happened?  He forfeited 3 runs, and the lead, for good.  The team never recovered.  I know Smyly is young but he really was pitching fairly well.  Forget protecting his arm, his ego, etc.  In the words of Herm Edwards:  YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!!  Later in the game the skipper also pulls Dirks late who has an OBP vs LHP of 1.012 and has been on fire for Santiago who's OBP vs LHP is .268!  Maybe for speed but Jesus is he not watching the games?!  Is he trying to get fired?!  His post game interviews when asked about these blunders he will certainly display typical Leyland stubbornness and reluctance to give a coherent explanation to the media.  Is somebody lacing his Marlboros with LSD before games?  His decisions this year whether it be lineups, pitching changes, etc. beg the question. 

As stated above, the hitting was the antithesis of clutch and the Tigers should have scored at least 2-3 more runs at minimum.  However, this game was still very winnable.  I think the brunt of the blame for this latest disaster has to fall on Leyland's shoulders for his poor in-game management decisions.  They are the biggest reason the team now sits below .500, trailing the Tribe by 2 games, and only ahead of the lowly Royals by 2.5.  Everything that went wrong tonight is a microcosm of what has plagued them for the first 35 games.  The last time the Tigers had World Series expectations was the nightmarish 2008 season.  So far, the 2012 season is looking to be heading down a similar path.

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