Monday, April 20, 2015

My thoughts on the Tigers 2-1 win over the Yankees Monday

Thoughts after 6 innings Yankees, Tigers Monday

- James MaCann throwing out Jacoby Ellsbury and Jose Iglesias making the in-the-hole play on Brett Gardner were emblematic of why the Tigers are so much better this season. They have shown power and starting pitching, but the biggest improvement is defensively. Neither player was with the club last year. The play by Iglesias was one of the best I can ever remember a shortstop making on such a fast runner hitting from the left side.
- The home run by Mark Teixeria off Alfredo Simon I thought was a mistake pitch. Not the location. It was low and on the outside part of the strike zone. But it was a flat pitch. And why not throw him fastballs? Seems like Teixeria doesn't hit the hard stuff like he used to.
- C.C. Sabathia has become the classic pitcher. He is making a lot out of reduced stuff. The double play ball is killing the Tigers tonight.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

My thoughts and column on the Tigers rout of the White Sox Sunday

My column. How off-season moves by Dave Dombrowski have spurred hot start by the Tigers:

Thoughts after 5 innings White Sox, Tigers Sunday

Yoenis Cespedes has the type of talent that could win an MVP Award some day. His home runs in recent days have been absolutely incredible. He has speed, a great arm and a real good idea at the plate. He's at the point in his career where experience and his prime should merge. Today might be a sign of things to come in 2015.
- It's amazing how routine Jose Iglesias made Tyler Flowers' slow grounder in the hole look during the fifth inning. Last year, when Iglesias was out, that play was an adventure for Tigers' shortstops.
- Watching Rick Porcello struggle today in the early innings vs. Baltimore for the Red Sox, and Shane Greene sail through the White Sox order so easily, it's not a stretch to suggest the Tigers didn't lose anything by replacing Porcello in their rotation with Greene. Opposing hitters just haven't been getting good swings against Greene. It's a sign he has excellent "stuff." His command has been pretty good, too. Certainly, considering Porcello got an $82 million contract with the Red Sox, the price is right.
- With all the Tigers' right-handed thunder, I don't envision relatively soft-tossing left-handers like Jose Quintana faring well against them. Quintana appeared completely overmatched today. What a beating.

My column. The Red Wings have a lot of issues heading into Game 3 vs. Tampa Bay, but Petr Mrazek is not among them:

Saturday, April 18, 2015

My thoughts and column on Red Wings' 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay Sunday in Stanley Cup playoffs

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Detroit Lions, NFL Draft, need for a running back and what they should do

By far the best running back in this NFL Draft, and the top talent at the position in several years, is Todd Gurley from Georgia. The comparisons to Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson are not an exaggeration.
But his knee injury (ACL), suffered late last season, should keep the Lions from drafting him. They need a fast running back after finishing near the bottom of the NFL in rushing last year, even with defenses loading up to stop their passing attack, and displaying light boxes up front literally daring the Lions to run the ball.
But Gurley's progress is unknown, and will still largely be even after a scheduled evaluation by teams this week in Indianapolis (he wasn't examined at the combine).
La'el Collins
This is known: Gurley is going to be, at best, limited for the off season program and likely training camp. His impact, which could be extreme, is likely to come down the road. The Lions need to win now. They can't afford to wait, and even if Gurley is there at 23rd overall, it doesn't make sense to take him. Ideally, the Lions get a third-wheel for a three-back system with Joique Bell and Theo Riddick.

Duke Johnson
An ideal back to combat what defenses are doing against the Lions appears to be Duke Johnson from Miami. He has good breakaway speed. He ran a 4.51 40 at the combine. He isn't a top inside runner, but the Lions have Bell to do that. Johnson's initial burst is what separates him. They need a back more threatening in space than Bell and Riddick to gash the creases that are naturally wide with the five- and six-man fronts they see. Johnson is the best fit for the Lions in that regard in a what is a deep draft for running backs. What the Lions don't necessarily need to do is stretch for a classic three-down running back.
In the first round, the best way for the Lions to fill their needs and aid their running attack would be to draft LSU offensive lineman La'el Collins. Not only does he project as a long-term starter with a good upside, but he is advanced enough to start immediately at right tackle or inside at guard.
I wrote after the Senior Bowl that I felt Collins was the ideal fit for the Lions in the first-round. I still do with the draft just a little more than two weeks away.

My column. A case for the Red Wings stunning Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup playoffs:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My thoughts on the Tigers and their pitching in a 1-0 victory over Pittsburgh Wednesday

Thoughts after 6 innings Tigers, Pirates Wednesday

- Rajai Davis has surprising power, especially against left-handed pitching. His home run came off a change up away. Not that many batters are going to hit pitch out.
- Alfredo Simon has an average MLB fastball. His breaking ball is his out pitch. Because he is tall (6-foot-6), the 12/6 break he has consistently features makes his breaking ball even more effective because of the increased tilt. It makes it difficult for hitters to lift the ball against him. Last year, 13 of the 22 home runs he allowed were in the small ball park in Cincinnati.
- That was a nice play by Nick Castellanos in the sixth inning. Perhaps he is making progress defensively. His range is still limited, but not nearly to the same degree as last year.

My column. The case for the Red Wings stunning Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup playoffs:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My thoughts on Shane Greene and the Tigers 2-0 victory Pittsburgh Tuesday night

Thoughts after 6 1-2 innings Tigers, Pirates Tuesday

- It took the Tigers longer than you'd expect to break through against Pirates' starter A.J. Burnett. The two-out hit by Rajai Davis was huge. I think it was a good decision by manager  Tigers' Brad Ausmus to not over-react there and pinch hit either Anthony Gose or Victor Martinez for Davis. It was a good piece of hitting by Davis to lay off Burnett's breaking ball and a high fastball that was close before delivering the hit.
- It continues to be obvious just how important the return of Jose Iglesias is to the Tigers. It's weird, but he seems like a more settled and consistent player than he was before forced to sit out the entire '14 season because of injury. Watching Iglesias and Ian Kinsler turn a routine double play is like watching some sort of baseball arm form.
- Shane Greene does have the ability to miss bats, but what is really impressive is how it doesn't seem like hitters get quality swings against him. It's a lot of weak grounders. The Tigers improved defense should help him. In fact, it has tonight. That was nice play by J.D. Martinez in the sixth.
- This could be the Tigers' bullpen first real test this season. We'll see if it passes.

My column. Tigers, Royals and how opposites clash in American League Central:

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

My thoughts and column on the Tigers' 11-0 victory over Minnesota Wednesday

Thoughts after 4 innings Twins, Tigers Wednesday

- Anibal Sanchez has been terrific through the first part of the game, just like last season. The test will be how he does the third time through the Twins' order. Last season, it was a huge problem. He averaged less than six innings per start in '14 because his ERA rose to 5.14 in the sixth inning and 11.57 in the seventh. We'll see today if he has improved in that area. It's imperative the Tigers' starters pitch deep into games to shorten the use of their decidedly underwhelming bullpen.
- I don't what the situation was for Ian Kinsler at Texas, but whatever they were, those issues have not been a problem for the Tigers. He has played excellent baseball since the day he arrived, and he continued the pattern he started last year this season. His clutch single essentially broke this game open during in the third inning. He had another clutch RBI hit in the fourth.
- You could just tell how hesitant Twins' starter Ricky Nolasco was to throw his fastball against the heart of the Tigers' order. The Tigers took full advantage of the situation as Nolasco was rendered to throwing mostly sloppy curveballs.
- If there is any lingering effect from Jose Iglesias leg injuries from last year, it is not noticeable. He is running well. It was evident on his double, when he legged out an infield single and scored from first base on a triple by Anthony Gose.
Anibal Sanchez