Saturday, June 30, 2012
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Why logic dictates Michigan should play Michigan State, not Ohio State, in its regular season finale
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson, the Detroit Tigers and "the trade" three years later
Granderson was a third-round draft pick of the Tigers. He was just entering the prime years of his career. Although his batting average dropped in 2009, he still hit 30 home runs and made the American League All Star team. And they just handed him over to the Yankees...
The Tigers could only hope the main player they were getting back in the trade, the one replacing Granderson in center field, Austin Jackson, a minor league prospect at the time, would some day turn into a player remotely the caliber of Granderson.
Some fans agreed with me, but many fans loved the trade, not because of the players the Tigers were getting in return, whom they seemed to know little about, but just because they wanted Granderson run out of town. If it wasn't because he couldn't hit left-handers, it was because he suddenly wasn't a good center fielder and a poor leadoff hitter. If it wasn't because of those two issues, he was too active in the community and didn't work hard enough on his game.
It was ridiculous, even the part about not hitting left-handers from the standpoint, if you understand Granderson's background, it's that he always ends up turning a weakness into a strength. When the Tigers drafted him, he was a college batting champ, who was too considered too slow to be anything but a corner outfielder, and his power was supposed limited. He proved the scouts wrong on both fronts, and emphatically.
There was also the reason why the Tigers were trading him. They collapsed on the field, blowing the division to the Twins in '09. And the economy was in full meltdown. They unloaded Granderson and Placido Polanco to trim $10 million off their payroll for the 2010 season to fit in under a reduced budget. Then, later in the off season, on the whim of owner Mike Ilitch, they signed Johnny Damon to a one-year, $8 million contract anyway. It was ridiculous.
After one struggling, injury-plagued season, Granderson has become an MVP-caliber player with the Yankees. He hit 41 home runs last season. He will likely hit that many again this season, although his other numbers are flagging a bit in comparison.
But I stopped screaming at the top of my lungs about the deal long ago. Austin Jackson is a very good player, who showing signs he may be a great one.
He has adjusted the leg kick to his swing, and it's given him much better timing. He has gained strength and subsequently power. He is driving the ball, has better speed than Granderson, and is a better outfielder, although I do still feel Granderson is underrated in this regard (most Sabermetrics fielding stats regarding range are well-intentioned, but decidedly flawed).
The Tigers are four games above .500 with Jackson in the lineup this season, six games below .500 when he's been out. He hasn't been caught stealing. He has 30 RBI in 46 games as a leadoff hitter for a club with little zip at the bottom of its order is outstanding. His on base percentage is over .400. And although I don't necessarily believe Jackson will maintain that pace all season, but I doubt he will not fade that much, either.
Best of all, is the way Jackson grinded through a tough start last season, and made the adjustment to his swing. Major League pitchers like hitters with a high leg kick. They feel much more confident they can disrupt their timing. It's not an easy adjustment to stop for hitters. To many, it's only way they were able to generate power as young players when they lacked strength. But Jackson nonetheless made it, and has actually gained power.
Jackson has a similar modus operandi to Granderson in that regard. They are different type players, but the work ethic is the same.
Jackson has a .963 OPS. Granderson's is .872. They both should be teammates some day soon.
July 10 on the American League squad at the All Star Game.
Regardless of off-season moves, key for Detroit Red Wings lies with players already there
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Detroit Lions Ndamukong Suh overrated? Here's what I think about it...
I understand his point statistically. Considering the impact he displayed as a rookie in 2010, Suh made shockingly few plays in 2011. Not only were his sacks down from 10 to four, his other numbers dropped precipitously. He went from 66 tackles to 36. Suh had a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and a touchdown as a rookie. He did none of those things his second year. He also missed two games because of an avoidable NFL suspension (and the second half of a close game against Green Bay after he was ejected for his infamous stomping incident). Suh tied for 333rd in tackles and 90th in sacks in the NFL last season - hardly the numbers of the Top 100 player he is reputed to be, even for a defensive tackle, a position where it not easy to rack up impressive stats.
While it was a disappointing season, I don't think it would exactly stun anyone if Suh were to adjust to the mistakes he made his second season, and the way he was schemed against by opposing offenses, and had a big year in 2012
He is incredibly strong, and extremely athletic for his size. I see last season as the growing pains of a player who will likely mature into a truly great NFL player for years to come. I don't think that makes him overrated, just a bit off track and about to get back on.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Why I won't vote for Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds for the Baseball Hall of Fame
Who should we vote in now that the truly greatest stars of a generation have been implicated for cheating. The two best position players I have ever seen are Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. The best pitcher I've ever seen is Roger Clemens.
I read "Game of Shadows" and followed the Bonds situation closely for a long time. You'd be naive not to be believe his career numbers - not to mention his head literally and figuratively - were not greatly inflated by performance enhancing drugs
Clemens wanted to prove himself innocent of the charges made by his long time trainer that he injected him with performance enhancing drugs. So there was a Federal court case, which like the Bonds' case (he was convicted of one count) was a waste of taxpayer money. Clemens was acquitted of lying to Congress.But I still don't feel Clemens is any different than Bonds on this front. I don't believe either has come clean about it.
A-Rod tested positive before it involved suspension and made it sound like a one-time mistake or something. I don't believe that, either.
Bonds and Clemens are on the Hall of Fame ballot this coming year. I think I'd be remiss in upholding the tradition of the game if I voted for them. I believe that when I was a baseball writer, covering the game on a daily basis for 13 years right in the middle of the steroids era, I was remiss in not pointing out the great fallacy of the game at the time, and not working harder as a reporter to prove it.
It wasn't like people were parading around the clubhouse with needles in the hands, but there was this "wink-wink" mentally from players and front office personal when a player's performance either spiked or dropped suddenly. It was about whether a player started or stopped using PEDs.
It took leaked grand jury testimony and two highly skilled investigative reporters in San Francisco nearly going to jail to crack the performance enhancing drug issue in baseball. They lived up to the tradition of my profession. Sports writers covering baseball at time - myself included - did not.
I feel like I let down the tradition of the game down back then.
And I'm not going to do that again by voting these players into the Hall of Fame, at least initially. I'll try to keep an open mind. Issues are fluid. It's foolish, I feel, to draw a line in the sand and never move off a stance, if evidence changes. I'd be interested to hear what baseball fans think about this. Ultimately, it's your game. There is a comment box below.
How come we will know much more about the Detroit Tigers very soon
Monday, June 18, 2012
The "Q" Train: Why if the Detroit Tigers were to ride Quintin Berry every day, it would lead them nowhere
But in truth, Berry has played a minimum role in the Tigers' recent 10-game flurry, which has seen them win seven times to move within three games of the lead in the decidedly mediocre American League Central (only in this division, it seems, can a club make up make three games so quickly with such a modest "surge." Actually, the Tigers let the three losses get away late in those games; they should have a 10-game winning streak going and be tied for the division lead).
In the seven victories, Berry hasn't exactly been a run producer. He has one RBI and three runs scored. Even in the Tigers' victory Sunday, he scored one run, and didn't knock in any. He had been hitting .182 in the two weeks leading up to Sunday.
In truth, the biggest reason is the Tigers have been able to turn it around is the return of Austin Jackson, who replaced Berry in the Tigers' starting lineup.
The idea Berry is "fresh and new, a youthful infusion of energy into the Tigers lineup" is laughable. He is older than both Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch.
When Boesch had a 4-for-5 night, hitting a home run, driving in two runs and scoring two at Wrigley Field recently, there wasn't the start of "Boeschemania." Young isn't having a very good season offensively based on his career numbers, but he was 10th in AL MVP voting as recently as 2010 and did hit three home runs and have an OPS of 1.170 in a tight, five-game ALDS victory over the Yankees last fall. There is a track record there.
The criticism of manager Jim Leyland not playing Berry more is foolish. He is picking his spots where Berry can have an impact. Leyland rode Berry while he was hot, sat him when he cooled down and put him out there on Sunday against a right-hander with an ERA pushing seven and a WHIP over 1.8, Jeremy Gutherie.
All that is not meant as a knock on Berry. He was a great minor league free agent signing for the Tigers, and did a terrific job bridging the time Jackson was out. He is a tremendous story. Fans are rooting like crazy for him in this town, and they should. He certainly earned his spot on the club.
But Quintin Berry is, at best, a role player, and a relatively small piece of a much bigger puzzle.If the Tigers are forced to ride him - if Young, Boesch, Dirks, Ryan Raburn don't come through - they will be on the train to nowhere.
In truth, the Detroit Lions can't offensive enough
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Detroit Tigers remain in contention - despite themselves
Friday, June 15, 2012
Things that were noticeable at the Detroit Lions mini camp
All that said, he does look much improved. I don't recall Berry specifically at mini camp last year, but do from training camp. It's like two different players. He is much bigger and looks faster. Certainly he is moving with more certainty. Rookie Bill Bentley, the Lions' third round draft choice, looked good, too. Jacob Lacey, who played for the Colts last season, is a smaller corner. He looks more like a classic nickel or dime back.
- With Cliff Avril not there because of a contract dispute, and Kyle Vanden Bosch held out for precautionary reasons because of neck surgery, Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson ran at first-team defensive end. I think they are both underrated players. Even though it was a seventh-round pick, I didn't think the Lions did well initially when they selected Young. He was an older player, who had some injury issues in college, and the Lions have literally wasted so many late-round picks down through the years. But I was wrong. Young looks like a player. If Jackson stays on the field, he will make plays. It will be interesting to see if the Lions defensive line can increase its production. The talent is certainly there, not only inside as is so often pointed out, but outside.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
On the increasing value of Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson
After years of chaos, the Detroit Lions finally have a program in place
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Umpires no excuse for Detroit Tigers loss to Chicago Cubs Tuesday
But here's the bottom line: Both those throws by Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta were terrible. They were easy plays turned into nightmares. It wasn't so much the Tigers got a tough break because of missed umpire calls as Peralta's unnecessarily turned them into close plays. He makes a good throw on either play, and it's not even an issue. The Tigers would have probably won the game because they had rallied against a club carrying a 20-40 record. Instead, it was arguably their most disappointing loss of the season. Any momentum they had gained from winning three of their previous four games was gone in an instant.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Why the Detroit Red Wings should say "thanks, but no thanks" to Tomas Holmstrom returning next season
But it's difficult to imagine why the Red Wings would want to bring him back next season. He is going to be 40 when the playoffs start. He played only 11 minutes per game last year, even less during the playoffs. He has never been a brilliant skater, but it was particularly noticeable how he struggled to keep pace last year. On the good side, he was second on the team in power play goals with 10, but he was minus 9, his second straight minus season. Holmstrom had one even-strength goal all season, and wasn't, frankly, the answer for the Red Wings' power play, which was surprisingly awful last season.
Holmstrom wants to play again, but he is more willing than able at this stage of his career. If you're take sentiment out of the equation (which, granted is difficult given all Holmstrom has been as a player and person) and are honest about it, the wise move by the Red Wings would be to quietly talk Holmstrom into retirement.
Why, despite their many foibles, the Detroit Tigers should still win the AL Central
Monday, June 11, 2012
Many thoughts about the Detroit Tigers after their three-game series at Cincinnati
With the second overall pick, they selected Justin Verlander. The Tigers had strongly been considering Homer Bailey, a high school right-hander from Texas, who pitched against the Tigers Sunday night for the Reds. Bailey is 26, has a 29-27 career record and never posted an ERA below 4.43 for a full season (he is at 4.35 this season). His career WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is above 1.4. Phillip Humber, now with the White Sox, was taken third overall that year by the Mets out of Rice University. His perfect game this season was just one of 13 major league victories he has so far. Bailey, who had the option of pitching in college, dropped to seventh overall that year. The best other pitcher taken in the that draft by far was Jered Weaver 12th overall by the Angels. Verlander wasn't a no-brainer at the time. He had a 21-18 career record at Old Dominion. There was much debate about taking Bailey. The Tigers scouting director at the time, Greg Smith, won out on that debate. Greg Smith, now an assistant general manager with the Pirates, was also the force behind the Tigers taking Curtis Granderson in the third round in 2002. He turned out to be far better player than the Tigers first two picks that season, third baseman Scott Moore (who was drafted the pick after Prince Fielder by Milwaukee) and outfielder Brent Clevlen, who did have his 15 minutes of fame with the 2006 Tigers.
- Austin Jackson's return to the lineup can't emphasized enough. His home run was an important hit when it looked like the game might be slipping away from the Tigers early. His two-run double later was the key hit of the game. No Austin Jackson Sunday, no Tigers victory. Period. Quintin Berry can't come close to providing the Tigers what Jackson does offensively or defensively.
- Left-handed hitting Brennan Boesch's key pinch hit single off extremely hard-throwing left-hander Aroldis Chapman shouldn't be that much of a surprise. His career batting average is .308 against left-handers and .249 vs. right-handers. His career OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) vs. left-handers is .795 compared to .723 vs, right-handers. This season, he is hitting .270 vs. left-handers and .228 vs. right-handers
- There are a lot of reasons the Tigers won Sunday night. None was bigger than the bullpen. Brayan Villarreal has stopped being this wild card entry in the bullpen poker game and provided much needed consistency. Joaquin Benoit got a huge strikeout. Jose Valverde has quietly simmered down and started to provide the Tigers with quality late-inning pitching.
- The worst umpire in the history of baseball might be Angel Hernandez. His inconsistent strike zone is an embarrassment to the game. It's amazing they would put him behind the plate during a nationally televised game like that.
Replay of my live video chat today @theoaklandpress.com. Got into whether Tigers will win AL Central and if Lebron "hatred" is legit. We do this every Monday around 12:30. Check it out:
Video streaming by Ustream
Will Jim Leyland make or break the Detroit Tigers
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Why the Chicago Bears should be on the Detroit Lions radar above all other NFL teams
Friday, June 08, 2012
Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland tries to ride out the perfect storm of baseball destruction
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
The many reasons to abhor interleague baseball
The stark, but real, possibility of the Detroit Tigers as sellers at the trade deadline
If they remain considerably behind in the American League Central race in mid-July, should they be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?
They do have two excellent pieces of trade bait to replenish a farm system that has been depleted by trading prospects for veteran players down through the years, and getting higher, low-round draft picks because of free agent signings.
Jhonny Peralta and Delmon Young are on the final year of their contracts. Both are eligible for free agency after this season. They would be the consummate rent a players for the stretch run and the postseason for contending teams. In fact, that's how the Tigers actually acquired them both, a year apart.
The Tigers' troubles become more alarming by the day. I thought a couple weeks ago it was a given they would snap out of it. It remains viable, but I'm not so sure at this point.
A lot of it is due to injuries. Alex Avila and Austin Jackson, the Tigers' two best defensive players, who man premium positions defensively (catcher, center field), are on the disabled list. Their No.2 starter Doug Fister is on the DL for a second time. He doesn't have a victory this season. Outfielder Andy Dirks was playing well for the Tigers. He is on the DL, too.
When will these players return? If so, how effective will they be after extended time out? Also, how will the Tigers do record-wise in the meantime? It's one thing to tread water - and then strike. It's another to merely drown. The Tigers are drowning lately.
A lot of it is due to just bad baseball. The Tigers and the basic fundamentals don't get along. The list of issues in this regard is endless, but it reached a showing at The Theater of the Absurd Tuesday during a 5-1 loss to Cleveland. Tiger hitters kept getting ahead 2-0 in the count against the notoriously wild Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez - and getting themselves out anyway.
The injury to Avila is particularly hurtful because backup catcher Gerald Laird has a similar injury and is iffy, and the Tigers' top trading piece at the deadline among prospects - maybe their only really good one - is Double-A catcher Rob Brantly. He is not ready for the major leagues, despite.311 batting average, three home runs, 24 RBI and.820 OPS numbers at Erie. A catcher, James McCann, was the Tigers' first pick in the draft in 2011, and is doing reasonably well at high-A Lakeland, making Brantly a trade possibility if the Tigers are buyers at deadline. But the Tigers may need Brantly to catch in the major leagues soon.
Trading prized prospect Nick Castellanos would not seem smart, either, unless it insured something special, not a long shot bid.
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
It's turning out Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn weren't the Detroit Tigers problem after all
- "Most 4+ RBI games this year, MLB: Brandon Inge 5, Carlos Gonzalez 4."
- "He has 20 RBI in 17 games, and you're worried about his batting average?" (Inge is hitting .212 for Oakland).
- "And just because you can never get enough Inge: 5th 4-RBI game in 17 games for A's, had 10 in 1,408 games for Tigers."
Inge has had his moments with the A's, including an excellent series against the Tigers. Yet, he has been anything but a model of consistency for the A's. He has had four RBI in five games, and just one RBI total in 12 others for the A's.. He was 2-for-19 with no RBI in his previous five games after coming off the disabled list before Monday.
My point about Inge is: How were the Tigers going to use him? His release didn't matter, one or another. It was moot. It neither helped the team nor hurt it. It was a case of the Tigers trying to fit a square peg into a round hole after they signed Fielder and moved Cabrera to third. At Oakland, at least Inge has a shot to have a big game now and then because he is playing every day. Even with five four RBI games out of 17 with Oakland his OPS is just .763 for the A's. Counting his time with the Tigers this season, he is hitting .186.
After Inge was released by the Tigers, he was followed on the hate bandwagon by many Tiger fans by Ryan Raburn. I agreed with the Tigers moving Raburn to Toledo. He was hitting .146. That is not earning your keep after two months. But both moves didn't cure what was ailing the Tigers. They have continued to play bad baseball.
The Tigers slump wasn't about their fringe regulars. It's more about their every day players, who haven't come remotely close to their track records of the past (see the column below).
Good for Brandon Inge, but he and Ryan Raburn were not the player the who were going to make or break the Tigers this season.
This is the Oakland Press News at Noon Broadcast for Tuesday June 5. It focuses on the K2 issue in Oakland County. I have a commentary at the end about the Tigers series against Cleveland which starts tonight.
Four players who hold the key to ending the Detroit Tigers slumping ways
Monday, June 04, 2012
There is no sugar-coating how poorly the Detroit Tigers have played this season
Sunday, June 03, 2012
Why this pitcher should be trade target No.1 for the Detroit Tigers
His WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is 1.594. He has blown three of his 12 save opportunities and his command of the baseball is often dreadful.
The Tigers need insurance for Valverde, and overall depth in the bullpen. They also need a versatile pitcher, who could start as well, if needed, and if Valverde can turn it around.
The ideal pitcher would be Brett Myers of the Astros. He has been moved to closer this year, and has 12 saves in 13 oppportunties. His WHIP is 0.873. Myers had been a successful starter throughout his career before this season. He pitched for good teams (the Phillies) in clutch situations. He is 31. He has a vesting option based on relief statistics (the Astros switched them when they made him a closer). If he reaches those incentives, his contract is reportedly for $10 million next season. There is a $3 million buyout.
Michigan State's defense gives Spartans edge for winning Big Ten title over Michigan
Friday, June 01, 2012
Debunking myths about the current state of the Detroit Tigers
- This is 2008 all over again and the Tigers are doomed: No, it's not. The current Tigers have a 24-27 record after 51 games. They are five games back in the American League Central race. In 2008 after 51 games, the Tigers were 21-30 and seven games back. The 2008 Tigers didn't win their 24th game until their 56th game. They didn't win their 25th game until their 61st game, when they fell 9.5 games off the AL Central lead. Simply put, the Tigers would have to go on a nine-game losing streak to be in the same shape as the 2008 Tigers after 60 games. Conversely, the Tigers were 25-26 and six games out last year after 51 games. This was after they lost the first three games of a four-game series to the Red Sox.
This is The Oakland Press News at Noon from Friday June 1, a regular weekday feature of theoaklandpress.com. It includes a report on West Bloomfield considering an ordinance to ban K2. I have a commentary on the Tigers series with the Yankees