It’s looking more and more like the Detroit Tigers are this year’s MLB team of destiny. The team that is just three years removed from a 119 loss season and finished this year by winning just six of its final 24 road games is only two wins away from going to the World Series.
… and manager Jim Leyland has to be credited with much of the success.
Two points from last night’s 8-5 victory over the A’s are worth mentioning. First and most importantly from this game was the surprise start of Alexis Gomez at DH. A spot player for most of the year, Gomez had hit .272 with a homer and six RBIs in just 103 at bats. Gomez responded by going two-for-four with a homer and four runs batted in.
Secondly has to be the confidence he shows in his young pitching and the calming effect he has in his infrequent trips to the mound. Probable AL ROY Jason Verlander was in and out of trouble for most of his start yet Leyland allowed him to throw 106 pitches in his five and a third innings of work to pick up his first post season victory.
In a stat that you could only hear on an ESPN ALCS broadcast we learned last night that Oakland batters were 0-9 following a Leyland visit to the mound.
Leyland’s success in Detroit is not really all that surprising as it’s followed his MO from his other managerial stops. Leyland is player friendly, a solid fundamentals guy, and blessed with an uncanny ability to evaluate his talent but let’s not forget one thing – he’s always had players.
In Pittsburg, Leyland’s outfield consisted of a healthy Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke, and an emerging Barry Bonds. Leyland had had the team for four years before making the playoffs and went south after Bonds departed for San Francisco.
Leyland’s 1997 World Championship Marlin team consisted of Bonilla, Moises Alou, Gary Sheffield, and Edgar Renteria. His let ‘em play attitude was tailor made for this veteran outfit which was unfortunately dismantled that winter in the first Marlin sell off.
The genius in accepting the Tiger job was Leyland’s astute sizing up of Motown’s young pitching. Robertson, Bonderman, and Verlander were masterfully brought along by Pudge Rodriguez and veteran Kenny Rodgers was brought in to mentor.
The old baseball adage goes that a good manager if worth five games. The 2005 Tigers won 71 games. On August 10th, the Tigers were 78-38 and on pace to win 106. They wound up 95-67 an improvement of 24 games. Inge, Monroe. Shelton, Guillen, Rodriguez, and Ordonez were all on both teams to provide a solid core nucleus. They still needed someone to come in and push all the right buttons.
Dennis Macklin is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at http://www.procappers.com/Dennis_Macklin.htm