Wednesday, May 02, 2007

That's The Red Wings We So Fondly Remember

It is turning out all the fears about the Red Wings were unfounded. It is turning out this, instead, is one of those teams that somehow, some way finds its way. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but their Game 4 Western Conference semifinal victory Wednesday night in San Jose is the type championship-caliber teams pull off. Scoring in the final minute to send it to overtime. Getting the overtime goal. Winning on the road when it wasn’t really expected.. Instead of being done like dinner, the Red Wings are cooking. They have taken back home ice advantage. A win Saturday at Joe Louis Arena and they are in the driver’s seat. A couple things: Robert Lang has been the subject of much discussion this season. His production has been down. There has been talk about how he can’t keep pace with the new NHL. At times he has looked slow, but he still has that knack around the net and he has scored two huge, turning point goals on the road for the Wings this playoff - one in Calgary and the one that tied the game Wednesday. Maybe it isn’t such a foregone conclusion he won’t be back next season, eh? Also, Valtteri Filppula is an excellent player. He deserves more ice time, and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was wise to put him out there late in the game when he set up Lang’s goal. Most of all, I like the mental toughness the Red Wings have developed. It had been missing in recent seasons. It is good that it has returned. I just have a feeling this is going to be a seven-game series. I also have a feeling the Red Wings are going to find a way to win it. Twice they have come back from two-goal deficits with their proverbial backs against the wall to beat the Sharks, who are formidable. That has to pay off in the end.

Random Thoughts

- His batting average is terrific. It does seem like he comes through in the clutch as much as any player on the Tigers. But Placido Polanco has just five extra base hits - including only one home run - this season. In know he is a good player. That’s not my point. I just wonder how valuable a player can be without power. Seems to me, that power rules the game. That a player needs to hit at least 15 or so home runs in a season to make a high batting average really mean a lot. It’s why I thought George Brett was so much better than Rod Carew. And why I hesitated before I put Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs on my Hall of Fame ballot (I did put them on, but I thought about not doing so on the first one). Polanco had but 45 RBIs last season, yet I am constantly hearing about how "there is nobody I’d rather have up there with runners in scoring position" when he comes to the plate. We complain about hitters who strike out too much. But those with power still have more value than slap hitters. Just one opinion.

- You can always tell when a team is clueless by the way they overreact to a hit batter. The classic example: The Orioles.

- The Mavericks’ rally Tuesday night was the turning point in their series with Warriors. When Dallas wins that series - and the Mavs will - the Warriors will rue the 6-point lead they blew late in Game 5, and spend years wondering about what could have been. It is kind of fun, though, watching that knucklehead Mark Cuban squirm about it.

- Jamie Who? The Tigers biggest surprise so far has been Bobby Seay.


Anonymous Andrew Winkle said...

Pat the Book,

First, let me state that without Polanco the Tigers are not a .500 team. Someone need only look back to last year and see the record with Placido in the line up and when he was on the IR list. The old baseball axiom that you have to be strong up the middle of the field is never more aptly demonstrated than with our current Tigers.

Second, what always gets lost in the myriad of baseball stats is RUNS scored. The first thing anybody learns when they step on a diamond is that the team that scores the most runs wins. So who is touching the plate? I know Granderson does his fair amount, when he's not striking out. Checking the Tiger batting stats I read Polanco is fourth on the team with Sheffield leading the Tigers. I know Sheffield walks a lot but with his first month struggles at the plate, I'm guessing he's been on base frequently from FC's where Polanco is forced at second.

While power is an integral part of any successful baseball team, I'm not convinced that this attribute is more requisite for a team's success than the ability to get a hit with two outs and runners in scoring position. Otherwise, Rob Deer might be the best Tiger ever.

But anyone who ever saw Cecil Fielder bat in Tiger Stadium live can remember the electric atmosphere that permeated the stands when he came to bat. Maybe even the press box. No steriods needed for Cecil to hit 50 homers in an MLB season.

10:00 AM 
Anonymous Joe E. said...

Chicks dig the long ball and apparently so does The Book. You are way undervaluing the contributions of a slap hitter. A high average hitter excels at putting the ball in play, moving runners over, getting on base for the power guys, extending innings. Slap hitters usually bat one or two in the order, not your RBI spots, so don't focus on the number of steaks. It's like this okay, late innings tie game, a runner has to be moved over to third, who do you want up? Inge? Polanco? Ichiro?

1:34 PM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

I don't know if I agree Book. I mean if you were talking Pujols to Polanco or even tejada to polonco. There is no question who'd you want. At the same time I think you need a guy like Polonco. Everytime he comes up and needs to be clutch he delivers. I think he is the ideal lead off guy the Tigers want. What is lacking in my mind is the bottom part of the lineup and a guy to put behind Polonco in the 2 whole. The guy that concerns me the most on this team is Inge. His consistancy is just way to far and in between.

I agree with you in regards to the Stanley Cup. I think the NHL Playoffs every year pretty much prove that the Regular Season really doesn't say anything about your team. Just ask the Red Wings.

I think the Warriors baring any suspensions will put away the Mavericks even if it goes to game 7. I am not saying they are better then the Mavs as the Mavs should win. I just think they have the Mavs number this year.

3:06 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Andrew Winkle,
Good point about Polanco on the DL, but like I said, I understand he is a good player. And any team is going to miss a solid starter. But what if Ian Kinsler were the Tigers second baseman. He probably won't hit for as high of average, but he will hit some bombs, drive in more runs, that type of thing. He'd have more value than Polanco.

7:32 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Joe e,
I am not saying slap hitters don't have value, but I like guys who can drive the ball better. That is what made Lou Whitaker such an effective leadoff man - he could drive the ball. That is what made Trammell so good at No. 2. He had some pop. Granderson hitting for power in the leadoff spot keyed the Tigers in the ALDS last year.

7:36 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Polanco is good in the clutch, but not to the degree his growing reputation suggests. If he were, he'd have more RBI. The one thing about the Warriors is they do matchup very well with the Mavs. That's why you might be right.

7:38 PM 
Anonymous Nick P said...

Uh oh Book.
Look out AL Central, Sheffy found his swing. With Mags launching balls all over the park, if Sheff really has come around, dear god look out. This team will be more fun to watch than last year.
I don't think I've appreciated our pitching depth until watching the yankees this year. You have an all star at every position, but they are last in the league. It'll be interesting to see what this team does the rest of the year.
We always hear about the big spending teams ruining the game, so it just makes it that much better to see the Brewers this year. Hopefully they can keep it together, with the weak NL Central, maybe they can.

6:56 AM 
Blogger maddog52 said...

I agree with you on Polonco. That is why I think he be best served as the lead off guy. Primarily cause he does get on base. He's a dream for guys like Sheffield and Ordonez because he gives them a chance to do what they are suppose to do. But like you said it would even be better if Polonco could learn to hit the gaps more or even use the lines for doubles. Cause base hits are good, they don't do a whole lot with a guy on first or sometimes even on second. know what i am saying.

8:10 AM 
Anonymous Joe E. said...

Go Wings! That was an unexpected win last night. San Jose is better off not getting a two goal lead. The Sharks lose all aggressiveness when they have the lead. They don't forecheck hard, they are content just to chip it out of their zone, all this leads to more shots for the Wings. Credit the Wings for taking advantage of this.

Here is the thing about Lang, he doesn't move his feet. Watch him. He glides to the puck, glides when he has it, and takes too long to shoot. What is frustrasting is the fact that he can be very effective if he just moves his feet. This is why guys like Filppula, Cleary, Draper, are effective, they skate hard to the puck, through the puck, and with the puck. Hopefully Lang's goal will give him a little more jump.

Hasek should get a lot of credit for keeping the Wings in last night's game. He gave them a chance to win which is all you can ask for from your goalie.

9:23 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Nick P,
Sheffield looked great Wednesday. I was at the game and his home run was a bomb. It was on a real bad pitch. As impressively, he had a couple hits on good offerings from the pitcher. He went the other way for an RBI. You're right. It would help the Tigers immensely if he gets warmed up. They have survived his slump nicely.

9:45 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Hitting him leadoff does make sense, but when they have tried it, it hasn't worked out that well for some reason. Same with third in the order. He just seems to fit best at second.

9:47 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Joe e,
I agree about Lang not moving his feet. That is why it looks like he floats. But he is very strong with the puck while cycling and he has good hands. He is a bit slow on the trigger, but that is good in a way. Goal scorers aren't afraid to hold onto the puck for that extra fraction of a second. Guys who struggle around the net are too quick sometimes when the have room. It's a sign of panic.

9:50 AM 
Blogger Moondogg said...

One big reason for Polanco's low RBI total, Pat. It's tough to drive in runs when nobody is getting on base. Check out the combined averages of the 7-8-9 "hitters" in the Tigers lineup. Plus, Polanco has been such a stabilizing factor at second base. If Placido Polanco didn't show up big-time in April, the Tigers would have been in serious trouble!

5:08 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

That is a valid point. But still. 45 RBI? 14 RBI?

1:31 AM 
Anonymous Chief said...

Hey libro,

Casey is awful. I think either Marcus Thames or Big Red should get 1B atbats.


10:33 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

I have to admit I am surprised by it. I have always liked Casey as a hitter. He has hit with some power in the past and always been around .300. He has been a good situational hitter and he did hit the heck out of the ball during the World Series after producing some runs late in the season. But he has looked awful. Now it's been my understanding he's been sick (some kind of cold or flu), but come on. He just hasn't looked good.

5:17 PM 

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