Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ultimately, Detroit Red Wings were more thrilling than disappointing

My column:
Jimmy Howard and Red Wings made a terrific run

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Is the Detroit Tigers' Big Four really a Big 5?

It's difficult to dispute the Tigers have the best starting pitching rotation in baseball. Justin Verlander is arguably the best starter of his generation. Max Scherzer is an enormous and emerging talent. Doug Fister has been a wonder since the Tigers' traded for him in 2011, developing a tremendous breaking ball and a swing-back fastball, which has become his trademark. Anibal Sanchez, apparently, has developed the consistency he had been lacking with the Marlins. And then there is Rick Porcello. He was brilliant Tuesday night vs. the Pirates. Was it a sign he is coming of age after a disappointing start this season?
Porcello has been an enigma. He has accomplished a lot already in his career considering he is just 24. He already has 50 victories. His career ERA (4.61) and WHIP 1.407) are high, though. Porcello should, theoretically, be better.
Rick Porcello: Logic dictates best is yet to come
He has one of the best two-seam (sinking) fastballs in baseball and can effectively change the eye level of hitters with a 95 mph four-seam (straight) fastball. He has the makings of a good breaking ball, too, and has displayed solid competitive character in big games for the Tigers. But there have been too many poor outings considering his talent combined with experience level.
Yet, it's difficult to come to any conclusions given his age. Verlander came into the major leagues and excelled from his first full season. It was more of a struggle for Scherzer, Fister and Sanchez. At 22, Sanchez was 10-3 as a rookie with a low ERA, but struggled the next couple years. At 24, he was 2-5 with a 5.57 ERA for the Marlins. His overall career record at that point was 14-9 with a 3.85 ERA and a WHIP over 1.3. At 24, Scherzer was 9-15 with a 3.85 ERA - all with Arizona in the National League where there is no DH. His ERA has been exactly the same - 3.85 - in the AL.
His WHIP was over 1.3 at 24.
Fister had yet to advance past Double-A in the minor leagues. At age 24, he was 6-14 with a 5.43 ERA and a WHIP of nearly 1.5 at Double-A West Tennessee in the Southern League.
There has been a lot of preaching of patience regarding Porcello. Such a sentiment, based on the rest of the Tigers' starting pitching rotation, is well founded.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and what to expect in Game 7

Monday, May 27, 2013

Detroit Red Wings only have themselves to blame for letting Blackhawks back in

My column:
Even Jimmy Howard couldn't save Red Wings in Game 6

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Detroit Red Wings get expected dose of reality from Blackhawks

My column:
Toews, Howard: Game 6 Monday should be epic

Detroit Lions, NFL Draft, Martin Mayhew, Jim Schwartz - what it reveals

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Detroit Red Wings prove to Blackhawks, again, why they are legitimate Stanley Cup contender

Myths about Justin Verlander and his recent struggles

Justin Verlander: Odds strong he'll figure it out
MYTH - Verlander has never been through this before: This is not an unusually bad start for Verlander. Even in his best season, 2011, when he was the American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner, he was 4-3 with a 3.42 ERA after 11 starts. This season, he is a 5-4 with a 3.66 ERA after 10 starts.
MYTHVerlander is not healthy and is hiding an injury: Look, a pitcher can come up with a bum arm at any time and without warning. But ailing pitchers don't hit 97 mph on the radar gun several times, strikeout nine hitters in five innings against a team which had won 18 of its previous 23 games and they don't come out of an hour-long rain delay snapping off knee-bending curveballs and 94 mph fastballs routinely like Verlander did Wednesday night at Cleveland.
MYTH - Verlander is not the Tigers' ace: Max Scherzer has a 3.61 ERA. It was at 5.73 last year at this time. Doug Fister has a 3.62 ERA. Anibal Sanchez has a very good ERA, but does anybody honestly think he is the Tigers' ace?
It's highly, highly probable Verlander will turn it around, and sooner instead of later.

Why Detroit Red Wings playoff run is hardly a coincidence

My column:

Young Red Wings have come together in a hurry

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Michigan, MSU hold key to Detroit's bowl success

I have always maintained that when given a choice, Michigan and Michigan State should play in the Little Caesars Bowl at Ford Field. It'd be great for the local economy. It would go from lukewarm media coverage to intense media coverage locally. Obviously, ticket sales would grow.
However, in truth, both have avoided the bowl like the plaque. There is a stigma attached to it.
It's when one of the teams is 4-4 late in the season, "The only place they are going to go is the Motor City Bowl (former name)...."
Bowls in Detroit: Empty seats say a lot:
I can see hell freezing over before Michigan plays a bowl game in Detroit. George Perles, a member of the board of trustees at MSU, and the Spartans' former coach with distinction, runs the bowl. Yet, the Spartans understand they can't win by playing in his bowl. Michigan fans would be insufferable in their mocking of it.
Subsequently, the bowl battle cry of MSU fans everywhere when their team is roughly .500 is, "Anywhere warm."
Detroit in December hardly qualifies.
That's why I am curious the Lions reportedly want to add a bowl game for Ford Field. It will only truly work if they get a big-name program from the Big Ten (Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State would also do). Not Northwestern or Purdue (who have played in the Little Caesars Bowl).
I respect Mid-American Conference football. It is a vastly underrated entity, but honestly it is under the radar. An outdoor game at Comerica Park (a possibility raised for the Little Caesars Bowl should it be kicked out of Ford Field for another bowl) would be a difficult sell in this area. So would two college bowl games in Detroit when one already seems be at the bottom of the food chain, despite solid sponsorship from Little Caesars.

Detroit Red Wings, momentum arm-in-arm in dismantling of Blackhawks

My column:
Drew Miller, Jimmy Howard and Red Wings rolling

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why are the Detroit Tigers suddenly losing? Two reasons

Verlander: Figuring  it out
- They are missing Austin Jackson. He not only keys the top of their batting order, but is the Tigers' best defender at a premier position, center field. Last season in May and early June, Jackson went on the disabled list, as well. The Tigers were 8-13 in the games he missed. In 2012 overall, the Tigers were 80-57 when Jackson played. When he didn't, they were 8-17. This season, the Tigers are 3-5 since Jackson went on the DL with a hamstring pull. Two of those victories were at home against lowly Houston.
- The Tigers' starting pitching, their great strength, was awful over the weekend. Facing a strong lineup in a hitter-friendly ball park, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister didn't pitch well at all. We'll see how Max Scherzer, who is 5-0, but with an ERA pushing four, does in a pressure start against a streaking team, the Indians, on the road Tuesday. Verlander gets his shot at turning it around in a pressure start Wednesday vs. AL Central leading Tribe. Verlander has not pitched well at Progressive Field in Cleveland. His career numbers there: 7-10, 5.38 ERA, 1.339 WHIP. Should be interesting.

Replay of live chat Monday on Red Wings-Blackhawks, Tigers issues, Calvin Johnson and Lions. We do this every Monday live at 1 p.m. You participation in the chat is welcome:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Detroit Red Wings prove crest on sweater can mean everything

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Red Wings show why they are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders

Friday, May 17, 2013

Questions Red Wings must answer in Game 2 vs Blackhawks

Thursday, May 16, 2013

No disasters, but Detroit Tigers still have their issues

Sparky Anderson's 40-game mark legacy will live in infamy in Detroit sports lore. I kind of laugh about it having been around him daily the last 10 years he was the Tigers' manager. That's because it was no more than a deflector away from the way the Tigers performed during the opening weeks of a given season.
Austin Jackson: Missed
When the 40-game mark would actually arrive, Sparky would then go into how you'd know more about his team at the All Star break. At the All Star break, then it would be you really wouldn't know much until Sept. 1. On Sept. 1, it would be, "That's why they play 162 games...and 162 games don't lie."
Still, the Tigers, 22-16, will reach the 40-game mark this weekend during a road trip to Texas. Unlike most years, it isn't a question whether the Tigers will be a contender this season. Barring the totally unforeseen, they will be in contention.
But there are still issues. Here a few of them.
- Top clubs go on the road and beat other top clubs. So this road trip to Texas this weekend will be a litmus test for the Tigers. They didn't pass one recently at Washington. The Rangers have revamped their club after last year's collapse and are formidable. They sure aren't the Astros, the club the Tigers have been beating up on. This could be a preview of a postseason series. How, starting with tonight's classic Justin Verlander-Yu Darvish pitching matchup, will the Tigers respond?
- I see no issues with the Tigers' lineup, although they will miss Austin Jackson until he comes back. There had been some questions about a right-handed outfielder to platoon with Andy Dirks, but Matt Tuiasosopo has been a tremendous find for the Tigers. He has sound fundamental hitting mechanics and a live bat.
- The Tigers starting rotation is the best in baseball, but their bullpen is shaky. Jose Valverde's last outing was better. We should know more about him after trips to Texas and Cleveland. Al Alburquerque has been a huge disappointment.
- Jim Leyland is a tremendous manager. If the Tigers win a World Series on his watch, he will end up in the Hall of Fame. But he starting to get into his "Everybody has to play" mode. It can be a bit much. And Don Kelly pinch hitting for Tuiasosopo when he was 3-for-3? Those type of things don't help the Tigers.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

If the Detroit Red Wings don't play better, Blackhawks will sweep them

Red Wings-Blackhawks - A prediction and my thoughts

Big Ten finally getting it right for Michigan, MSU, everybody

My column:
Michigan/Ohio State will be legit again as season finale

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

It'd be naive to believe Detroit Tigers don't still have issues at closer

Maybe it's because the Tigers appear to be such a good club overall. Or perhaps it's because their competition in the A.L. Central is underwhelming.
But the Tigers have a glaring weakness. It's at closer. What will they eventually do?
Tigers living on borrowed time with Valverde at closer
Jose Valverde is a stop-gap measure at this point. I don't believe that based on one blown save, but rather the way he has been throwing overall. His fastball doesn't have much movement, it's thrown at a perfectly hittable speed for major league hitters and his command is suspect. And his split-finger pitch, his money offering, has been tumbling to the plate rather than appearing as a fastball and dropping off  a table. It's a non-factor, and why Valverde rarely throws the pitch. The good part: Valverde is a savvy veteran with tremendous competitive character. But that is only going to carry him so far before the cracks in his armor catch up.
Tiger fans seem to already to have had their fill of Bruce Rondon because of the hype, but he is far from done. He has yet to give up a run at Toledo. A trade remains a likely option for a closer, though, but it's impossible to target which reliever at this early stage of the season. The best trading piece the Tigers have to offer, young hitter Nick Castellanos, is struggling at Toledo with a .237 batting average and a .675 OPS.
The only thing that is certain is the Tigers are living on borrowed time at closer and eventually will have to do something to rectify the situation.

Replay of our live chat today. Got into Red Wings-Blackhawks, Titus Young situation and Oakland/Detroit rivalry now that both are in the Horizon League:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Different time, same results for resilient Detroit Red Wings

Thursday, May 09, 2013

On Oakland University joining the Horizon League

I viewed the Summit League as NCAA Division I's version of plankton. It's definitely at the bottom of the food chain. As long as Oakland University was in that conference, it's cache as a legitimate Division I college athletic program was going to be limited. Joining the Horizon League makes the ceiling higher, and the fit is much better geographically. That's across the board - in all sports.
Greg Kampe, Oakland University: Moving on up
But men's basketball is the ruler, and it's ridiculous Oakland and Detroit haven't played in several years because of a scheduling dispute. Oakland felt the Titans owed it a game in Oakland's gym, and did have a point, but Detroit has, to its own detriment, looked down upon Oakland. It was silly. The local media attention when the two schools play will only be beneficial to Detroit. It's a natural rivalry - a city school vs. a suburban school, a private university vs. a public one. I see both universities and athletic programs as local gems.
They could also, perhaps, get together to help bring the Horizon League tournament to The Palace, and work together toward the common goal of getting the Final Four back to Detroit and Ford Field. Both schools seem to have a great relationship with the NCAA, Detroit from hosting the Final Four in 2009 at Ford Field, and Oakland by hosting NCAA tournament rounds at The Palace, including in 2013.

Red Wings inconsistency is maddening

Can't compete sign does not fit Detroit

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Key factors in Game 5 tonight for Detroit Red Wings vs. Anaheim Ducks

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Detroit Red Wings show relentless hockey is back in town

My column:
Brunner: Goal ended a terrific playoff game

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Own mistakes, not a bad call, why Red Wings trail Ducks

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Detroit Lions will be different in '13, but are they better?

Friday, May 03, 2013

Red Wings forgotten two turn Anaheim series on its ear

Thursday, May 02, 2013

On the Detroit Tigers bullpen...

No spot in baseball is more a wild card than bullpen closer. Former Tiger Jason Grilli, now 36, is leading the major leagues in saves with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As recently as 2011, he was hanging on in baseball by a thread in the minors with the Philadelphia Phillies' organization (he was released that July and signed the next day with Pirates). For most of his major league career, Grilli's role hasn't been much different than it was with the 2006 Tigers - a mop up with a big-time arm. Eleven of Grilli's 16 major league saves came within the first month of this season.
Yet, it doesn't always work that way. Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel is arguably the best closer in baseball. He was the classic top prospect, who hit his projected high ceiling. The background of closers has a wider variety than other positions.

Ortega: So far, more impressive than Rondon
In Detroit, we've mostly focused on Bruce Rondon as the Tigers' closer. He's a massive man with a big-time fastball and a decent track record as a minor league closer. He is just 22.
But while all the focus has been on Rondon, perhaps 24-year-old Jose Ortega is coming pn. Unlike Rondon, Ortega is a shorter, slightly-build right-hander. He doesn't have a track record as a minor league closer. But he got off to an excellent start at Triple-A Toledo (14 scoreless innings, just 12 base runners, more than a K per inning). He only got one save for Toledo, but he was sure impressive Wednesday for the Tigers vs. Minnesota.
Could Ortega, who throws in the high 90s, close?
Currently, Jose Valverde is the Tigers' closer. His results since returning from a short exile following a playoff meldown have been good. What hasn't been as impressive is the way Valverde is actually pitching. His command hasn't been particularly sharp. nor has he displayed much in the way of an off-speed pitch.
Time will tell how this will shake out. Al Alburquerque still has command issues, but has shown better ability to bounce back quickly outing-to-outing. He could be another option. He is throwing hard and his slider is a brilliant pitch.
What it all does is buy the Tigers' time to sort out the situation. There are viable options to sort through other than Rondon until a decision whether to deal or not will have to be made near the trade deadline.
As for Rondon, no harm, no foul. He wasn't up long enough that the Tigers burned up a minor league option. He did get some major league experience. There is still time for him to sort out his issues at Toledo.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Red Wings better wake up or Stanley Cup run will be short