Offense a problem for these Tigers

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The Tigers possess MLB’s first Triple Crown winner in 45 years in Miguel Cabrera and a second premium bat in Prince Fielder, but the offense as a whole is really quite average. And even average seems kind given its performance so far against the A’s in the ALDS.

Shut out in Tuesday’s loss, the Tigers have totaled eight runs in three games while amassing a 2-1 series lead over the A’s. That’s overselling it, though. Three of those runs were the direct result of errors. In three games, the Tigers haven’t had a single hit that knocked in a baserunner. They did get Alex Avila’s solo homer in Game 1. The rest of the runs have scored on Oakland’s miscues, groundouts and Don Kelly’s Game 2-winning sac fly.

But the Tigers weren’t so great offensively during the regular season, either. Particularly not late in the year. They were tied for seventh in the AL in runs during the second half. Their 339 runs scored put them right about at the midpoint between the top-ranked A’s (394 runs) and the Indians and Mariners (282) at the bottom. For the full year, they were sixth in runs scored.

And that’s because while Cabrera, Fielder and Austin Jackson were great, the bottom half of the lineup was dreadful. Going by OPS, Tigers No. 5 hitters ranked 13th in the AL and their No. 6 hitters were dead last.

With the A’s throwing right-handers in both Games 4 and 5 now, Delmon Young could well be key for Detroit. Fielder did his best to come up big for the Tigers tonight, only to be robbed of a homer by Coco Crisp and a double by Yoenis Cespedes. Now that the A’s are going back to right-handers after starting lefties the last two games, it’s going to make tons of sense to pitch around Fielder in big situations and go after Young in the five-hole. The slumping Young hasn’t come through with a hit in an RBI situation in 11 games, and he’s delivered one homer in a month. He’s lucky he’s still in the lineup at all, much less in such prime real estate behind Cabrera and Fielder.

Of course, Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander could make Detroit’s offensive problem moot by hurling a shutout one of the next two days. Those two are certainly capable. That said, the Tigers’ offense is quite obviously overrated, and it figures to catch up with them soon if it hasn’t already.

Theo Epstein named The World’s Greatest Leader

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Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.

For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.

So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?

The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.

Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.

But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.

 

 

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.