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Off Day Skipper: Second-Guessing Games 17-24

A dossier of Jim Leyland's questionable decisions throughout the 2012 season with adjudication. This feature will focus on Games 17-24.

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If you're a Tigers fan who LOVES to second guess Tigers manager Jim Leyland, then you stumbled across the right place. Overall, I'm a big fan of Leyland, but this feature will serve its purpose in breaking down every questionable managerial decision our chain smoking skipper makes in every game leading up to a Tigers' off day (or some random day in the middle of a lengthy stretch). I won't catch everything or won't think some things are a big deal, or I may even mention a Leyland move as questionable when it wasn't at all, so if you have something to add, hit up the comments.

Pre-judgment smoke:

The Tigers are 2-6 in their last eight games, which can only mean that Jim Leyland is on the chopping block. Dammit, Jim! Why is your batting average so low?

Let's get weird.

Game 17 vs. Mariners (7-4 L)

Why is Brandon Inge ever in the game?

It was Inge's last hurrah and he went 1-for-2 with a double (that probably should've been caught) against the left-handed Jason Vargas. Inge was pinch hit for in the seventh to sarcastic cheers and he would never play again for the Tigers. Jim Leyland's last usage of him was a success!

Game 18 vs. Mariners (9-1 L)

You mean Jim Leyland played a 9-1 loss just fine? That can't be right, so let's go back and nitpick why Adam Wilk was ever allowed to have a cup of coffee with this team and Duane Below wasn't the obvious choice as Doug Fister's temporary replacement. Wilk gave up eight hits in two-plus innings and would make the trip back to Toledo after the game. Below would throw two scoreless, meaningless innings late in the game, which might beg the question -- why didn't Below relieve Wilk immediately? Because Leyland didn't want to go back-to-back lefties and didn't want Below showing up Wilk, making the decision to use Wilk as Fister's replacement appear even worse in hindsight? Hmm.

Game 19 vs. Mariners (5-4 L)

With the Mariners carrying brooms and frustrations boiling, Jim Leyland leaves plenty to question in this one, of course:

Andy Dirks leading off...

Everyone needs an off day every now and then and this was the day for Austin Jackson, who had played the team's first 18 games. Dirks, who was DH'ing and actually rocks an OBP above .300, was really the only choice, unless you believe tossing conventional wisdom aside and leading off Alex Avila, quite possibly the slowest player on the team, is a good idea.

Okay, but Don Kelly batting sixth?

We already know that Jim Leyland has to be Don Kelly's biological father and/or Kelly has fully nude pics of Jim Leyland he's threatening to release to Deadspin, but Kelly (.211 hitter at the time) should probably never hit ahead of Jhonny Peralta (albeit not much better at the time), right? Leyland likes to get cute, though, alternating hitters lefty-righty-lefty-righty, etc., and that's probably his reasoning behind this. Of course, Kelly went 2-4 and Peralta was 1-3. Oops, doubters.

Rick Porcello pulled too late

In a 4-4 game, Rick Porcello trotted out for the seventh inning after an eight pitch sixth. This was right. In the seventh, Porcello got the first two outs, but on the second out he had to battle back from a 2-0 count.

Porcello proceeded to issue a two-out walk to the sub-Mendoza, nine-hole hitting Brendan Ryan. Porcello was now at 106 pitches and about to face the top of the M's lineup for the fourth time. Last I checked, Porcello isn't spelled V-e-r-l-a-n-d-e-r, so he should have been pulled immediately, preferably for Phil Coke to turn switch-hitting Chone Figgins around.

Nope.

Porcello was left in -- after a coaching visit even bought Coke some time to warm up -- and Figgins doubled in the game-winning run. It was at this point that Coke was finally called upon. But it was too late.

Bunting Ryan Raburn in bottom half of seventh

Jhonny Peralta had just singled, representing the game-tying run after Leyland arguably gave the Royals a run by leaving Porcello in too long in the top half. You have soft first-half hitting Raburn coming up to the plate against a righty, whom he normally doesn't hit as well. The Tigers will likely need two hits to score Peralta -- maybe the sub-Mendoza hitting Raburn gets a hit, maybe he doesn't and Peralta stays at first and the Tigers still need two hits. Leyland obviously didn't think Raburn would get a hit or at least didn't want to take the chance and see a potential Alex Avila single go wasted. So he asked Raburn to sacrifice himself -- who, for what it's worth, is 0-11 in the 7th inning this season and 1-15 in late & close games.

Raburn did his job, but unfortunately, Avila walked and then Dirks nor Brennan Boesch could come up with a hit. I don't care what some people say, there's a place for sacrifice bunting in baseball and this was probably exhibit A of when it's okay. It just didn't work out here.

It may have paid off if he had pinch hit for Dirks or Boesch, though...

Left-handed hitters vs. a lefty pitcher. It seems like classic PH spots and Leyland failed to on both. Austin Jackson was on the bench -- I know, resting -- and I imagine he could/should have been available in case of emergency, like when you're about to be swept by the Mariners. Hell, the notorious B-I-N-G-E was still on the bench, too, and we all know Leyland's had no problem DH'ing him against lefties. Maybe the decision to release Inge after the game had already been made and releasing him after a game-tying or winning hit is not going to go over well with the cougars downriver, so he was glued to the bench either way. Still, I don't know why Jackson couldn't have seen an at bat here.

Okay, Raburn bunting in seventh was fine, but Peralta bunting in the ninth?

Don Kelly had just singled, Billy Zane was warming up, and Peralta, who singled in the seventh, was coming up to face M's closer Brandon League. Peralta is 3-8 with a double in his career against League and you have first half doldrum Raburn and slumping Avila (4 for his last 27) coming up after him. This is where you probably don't sacrifice, but maybe Leyland wanted to avoid a double play... After Raburn's single to third forced Kelly to remain at second, Avila hit into a game-ending tailor-made double play.

Game 20 vs. Yankees (7-6 L)

Don Kelly batting fifth, oh my!*

Kelly in the fifth spot of the lineup, sadly, wasn't the most horrible thing to happen to the Tigers before a pitch was thrown in the Yankees series. I'm sure Jim Leyland wasn't expecting his normal No. 5 hitter to get schmammered and then arrested 16 hours before first pitch on charges of second degree harassment that includes an element of hate crime. The last time Leyland had too much chocolate milk the night before a game, he hit Kelly sixth and Kelly rewarded him with a 2-4 effort. Exigent circumstances make this a "whatever, it's fine," move.

Game 21 vs. Yankees (7-5 W)

*now that Leyland's had a little time to think about things, he puts Dirks -- who needed time to heal -- at the No. 5 spot. He also homered in the first.

Ramon Santiago squaring to sac bunt while Tigers are up 6-1 in the 7th?

He was 0-3, couldn't even get the bunt down and then grounded into a double play. Ramon Santiago was just having a bad hair day.

Jose Valverde in the ninth

He hadn't pitched in six days, seeing as the Tigers were in the midst of a losing streak, so that's why he was called upon in a 7-2 game. Unfortunately, he made things interesting by giving up three runs and allowing the tying run to the plate. Why Valverde was throwing in a non-save situation quickly turned into a curiosity as to how long Leyland would stick with him before he cost the Tigers the game. It appeared Leyland was ready to ride him until he completely blew the game, because Valverde threw over 30 pitches before getting the final, very scary out.

Game 22 vs. Yankees (6-2 L)

Why don't you just give them the trophy...

What's with the lineup Leyland tossed out there against CC Sabathia? No Dirks, no Avila, no Peralta. No Dirks because, well, I'm not quite sure. No Avila because he was 4 for his last 30 and is just 1 for his last 11 with seven strikeouts vs. Sabathia. Plus, Gerald Laird hits Sabathia well. Peralta is a 1-17 against Sabathia in his career. So Leyland went with a righty heavy lineup sans Peralta. It didn't work. The Tigers lost.

Game 23 vs. Royals (9-3 W)

Why not push starters back?

Due to Monday's game being postponed, Leyland had an opportunity to push his starters back a day, giving them an extra day to rest and have his best pitchers go in the weekend White Sox series. Leyland decided to stick with Porcello and Verlander in the KC series, though, and keep Below in the bullpen. Now, the Tigers have Smyly, Scherzer and Porcello going against the White Sox rather than Verlander, Smyly and Scherzer. It's probably a little early to worry about setting up better pitching match ups against the better opponents and, with Thursday being an off day, I'm sure Leyland didn't want to give Verlander too many extra days off and get him out of wack. Ultimately, I'm okay with Leyland's decision, but I think it's fair to ask. Also, Porcello pitched great in a win and now the Tigers won't need a "fifth" starter until Fister returns, so it all worked out.

Santiago attempting to bunt Avila/Peralta over in third inning

You're up 5-0 and one of the slower, if not the slowest, runners on the team is on second. Just let Santiago hit here. As it turned out, Avila was forced out at third, so the Tigers were left right where they started with fewer outs to work with. The Tigers wound up getting three runs, but it's possible this inning could have been even bigger.

Game 24 vs. Royals (3-2 L)

JV takes the mound in the eighth ...

He was at 101 pitches of a 2-2 game with a well-rested bullpen. Verlander allowed a single to start the inning, but then he struck out the side. Okay, that's why.

Laird pinch runs in ninth for Avila

This is how slow Avila is...

Hamstrung Dirks pinch hits for Brad Eldred?

Strategically, probably the right call (righty-lefty), but it would have been cool to see what the power-hitting Eldred could have done in a potential walk off situation, especially since Dirks was nursing a tight hamstring.

Did I miss something? Did I fart? If you have anything to add, leave your thoughts in the comments.