Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Time for the Big Ten to put up or shut up

Monday, July 30, 2012

Here's the type of player who would help the Tigers the last two months of the season

Here's a player who would help the Tigers the final two months of the season: Reed Johnson.
He is not a star. He is not a big name. He is a right-handed hitting outfielder who is having a respectable season for a team that is clearly among baseball's sellers, the Chicago Cubs. His OPS against left-handed pitching is over .900. Although he is a 35, he is still a pretty good athlete in a corner outfield spot, who has actually played a lot of center field the last two years.
The White Sox have been very aggressive in competing against the Tigers in the AL Central. They have picked up a third baseman (Kevin Youkilis), a versatile relief pitcher (Brett Myers) and a left-handed starting pitcher (Francisco Liriano).
The White Sox are a much better club now than at the beginning of the season. They aren't going away. Also, the idea of getting in as a wild card isn't that appealing anymore. Yes. There is an extra spot, but any wild card spot is just for a Game 163.
The Tigers have made their big move, getting Omar Infante to fill the hole at second base, and Anibal Sanchez to plug the vacancy in the starting pitching rotation. Theoretically, the Tigers don't have a lot of holes. You can debate the merits of the often-slumping duo of Jhonny Peralta and Delmon Young, but they will be in their positions the rest of the season, and did perform well down the stretch last season. The Tigers need a right-handed hitting outfielder (Young has to stay at DH because he is such a liability in the field), but strangely the Tigers have been beating left-handed starters anyway (two of the best in baseball, the Angels' C.J. Wilson and White Sox Chris Sale on the last homestand), and winning against the only left-hander they saw (Toronto's Brett Cecil) on what has been a shaky road trip so far. The Tigers can mix and match with Andy Dirks, Quintin Berry and Brennan Boesch in the two outfield spots with left-handed hitters against right-handed pitchers. It's not such a good lineup when there is a left-hander in there and Ryan Raburn is in left and Boesch in right. I know Boesch had huge, clutch hits off Wilson and Sale on the homestand, and his career numbers against lefties is pretty good, but he will hit anybody when he is hot. His bat has cooled lately (He struck out three times Sunday).
The Tigers have seven games remaining with the White Sox., who have three left-handed starters currently in their rotation (Sale, Jose Quintana and Liriano - and there is an outside chance John Danks will be back in late August).
The Tigers are living on borrowed time with their corner outfield situation against left-handed pitching. It doesn't necessarily need to be a blockbuster move (they paid next to nothing for Young last season, who was 10th in AL MVP voting in 2010), but they need to find a Reed Johnson type. Another option would be calling up Nick Castellanos, who is hammering left-handed pitching at Double ERA (1.083 OPS). But they can call up Castellanos in September anyway - and there is certainly wiggle room at the end of the roster to make a deal.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why Detroit Tigers road to AL Central title much more difficult this year than last season

After Waterford Kettering, Michigan State and playing in the NFL, Jim Miller still making his football mark

Friday, July 27, 2012

There is much to like - and not to like - about the Olympics

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's simple what the Detroit Tigers should do when Andy Dirks returns from the DL

Don Kelly would be the odd man out and designated to the minor leagues for assignment. The idea of sending Quintin Berry to Triple-A because he has options remaining is absurd. Berry has earned his spot on the active roster, and to play his way out of the starting lineup. Kelly has some speed, but Berry is much faster and has exhibited a knack to steal bases. He is a better outfielder than Kelly. He'd be a better bench player. While Kelly can play third base, when is that going to be needed? Miguel Cabrera plays there every day. If something happens with Cabrera, the Tigers have several options at third base. Ryan Raburn is a right-handed hitter - a need - and as poorly as he has hit this season, there would be a team that would pick him up if he asked for his release (My best guess is Raburn would clear waivers). Raburn, with a change of scenery, could break loose. It's unlikely Kelly would be picked up by another organization and placed in the major leagues. His best choice would be to accept the assignment and wait to return to Detroit in September. You would have three left-handed hitting outfielders for the two corner spots - Dirks, Berry and Brennan Boesch. In an extended sample size, it's apparent Berry struggles to catch up to really good fastballs. He does, however, do well against right-handed pitchers who don't throw particularly hard. Dirks catches up with a good fastball a little better. Neither is a guaranteed long-term major league player. Boesch has a better shot at being a long-range regular and posted some huge numbers the last month. But he is the ultimate all or nothing hitter. He goes cold, it's feasible Dirks and Berry could be in the lineup at the same time. It would present the Tigers with their best defensive outfield. And there is no rule Delmon Young has to DH. against right-handed pitching. He's cooled off lately.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Ryan Raburn, Cole Hamels contract, Quintin Berry, Detroit Tigers

- It's been made clear the Tigers will play Omar Infante only at second base (he has played 101 major league games in the outfield, including 21 as recently as 2010) and use Ryan Raburn in left field against right-handed pitching. I see the more preferable option against left-handed pitching as Infante in left, Ramon Santiago at second and Raburn out of the lineup. There seems to be this wait for Raburn to break loose this season by manager Jim Leyland, but it is unlikely. Also, it's impossible to justify a platoon spot in the lineup for somebody hitting .171 (just .163 vs. left-handers) with no virtually production otherwise, especially when he is a subpar defender. This isn't meant to pile on. I hate that aspect of it, actually, but the situation is painfully apparent. The Tigers don't see a left-handed starter until Sunday in Toronto.

- The question everybody in Detroit is asking right now: If Cole Hamels is worth $144 million for six years, then how much will Justin Verlander be worth after his contract runs out following the 2014 season. The answer: Prince Fielder money, but for a couple less years. Yeah. a cool $30 million-plus per year. But clubs are more willing to pay that kind of money these days because of the increase in local television revenue. Baseball is not programming that is DVR'd and commercials rolled through. It has made it advertising gold.

- Quintin Berry's overall production has begun to wane, but his contribution to the Tigers has been more significant recently because of timing. The timing of the ninth-inning catch vs. the White Sox on Friday, a very good overall game vs. the Angels last week, the two clutch hits that should have won a game in Baltimore, the two-run home run Sunday in a 6-4 win over the White Sox, an important walk last night after he fell behind 0-2 in the count and Miguel Cabrera followed up with a home run. And 15-of-15 stealing bases is very impressive. Before this, I thought Berry's production was a bit hollow for all the raves people were giving him. Lately, there hasn't been as much production, but it's carried more bearing on whether the Tigers actually win.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Detroit Tigers trading Jacob Turner for Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez worth risk

My column: http://bit.ly/MkWs3b

Why NCAA sanctions for Penn State didn't go far enough

While I salute the NCAA for doing something of substance when they usually exhibit little backbone, I don't think they went far enough in cracking down on Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
This is essentially just a harsher version of what the NCAA did to USC a few years ago. It's the loss of the scholarships and bowl bans that will hurt most - a $60 million fine is relatively small considering Penn State's Endowment is nearly $2 billion.
I'm not criticizing anybody from the media for this. They were just doing their jobs, and I will give my thoughts on this, too, I'm sure at some point, but it did give me a sick feeling hearing people commentate about how the sanctions will hinder Penn State's football program moving forward. Will they be able to stay near the top, like USC, which has come back strongly because Lane Kiffin has managed the reduction of scholarships well? I don't care about any of that at the base level. Penn State was harboring a pedophile in Jerry Sandusky. The Freech report made it clear Joe Paterno was very much a part of a relatively extensive coverup. Although different people are in charge, the system that caused the problem is still in place.
In my opinion, football needs to be taken away from Penn State for a couple years, then brought back with a completely different branding and structure. As is, it's business as usual, but with fewer scholarships and ominous cloud hanging over Beaver Stadium - even on a sunny day.
This was different than programs seeking a competitive advantage by breaking the rules. This was harboring criminal activity of the most egregious kind to protect a college football machine and somebody in the coaching fraternity, by a coach who was clearly given too much power because of his iconic status, and an administration that went along quietly.
I also believe Penn State should be thrown out of the Big Ten. If a school isn't dismissed from the conference for this, what will it ever be dismissed for?
As much as I love the highly competitive nature of college football and basketball, there must be a realization that universities exist to educate people first. Football and basketball programs are only part of the college experience - expendable parts. If they become essential, the institutional abuse exhibited at Penn State will only manifest somewhere else.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Should the Detroit Lions release cornerback Aaron Berry after latest arrest? Well, it's complicated

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Good News? Detroit Tigers are in first. Bad News? Chicago White Sox actively improving with trades

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On Shea Weber, the Detroit Red Wings, the NHL and what players are worth the money

When the NHL's hard salary cap was put in place after the mother of all professional sports labor stoppages, the gravy train was supposed to be shortened for players.
That hasn't been true. You had $98 million contracts signed by Ryan Suter and Zach Parise this summer....and it goes right on down the list to the Red Wings, who just signed Kyle Quincey to a two-year  $7.75 million deal even though his play was, to be kind, subpar after the team dealt for him near the trade deadline last season.
While it is an inflated market for the majority of players, there are a precious few worth the money. One of them is Shea Weber. The length of the contract he was offered by Philadelphia, which is the loophole in the salary cap, is ridiculous, but he is worth the $100 million - and reported $56 million for the first five years of the deal. There is a high probability Weber is a Hall of Fame player and will play on a Stanley Cup winner at some point of his career. It's rare a player of his caliber does not, and he is just moving to the point he is the best defenseman of this generation now that Nicklas Lidstrom has retired and Zdeno Chara aged. Weber will play next season at 27. He is built like Clay Matthews, skates better than most defensemen 40 pounds lighter and four inches shorter, shoots the puck like a cannon and doesn't hesitate to beat somebody up. In other words, he is hockey's version of gold.
The Flyers must solve their longstanding goaltending issues, but fitting in Weber with Claude Giroux, who I thought was the best all-around forward in the league last year and deserved the Hart Trophy over Evgeni Malkin, would put the Flyers ahead of anybody else in the Eastern Conference. But I do expect the Predators to match and retain Weber. How can they not and claim to be a viable NHL entity?
Why weren't the Red Wings involved here? They were - in a trade attempt, which was unlikely to transpire given the Red Wings and Predators are intense division rivals. The Red Wings have money, but their theory  with restricted free agents is teams are essentially bidding against themselves - because the other team can always match. We'll see if the theory holds if the Predators don't match Weber's contract. He is one of the players in the league worth that kind of money and four first-round draft picks (if Kyle Quincey is worth one first-round draft choice, than Weber is surely worth four).
In addition to Weber, there are few NHL players worth that kind of money. One other is Steven Stamkos, who is 22 and has four years remaining on his current contract. He is by far the best pure goal scorer in hockey now that Alexander Ovechkin has nose-dived, and Sidney Crosby had concussion issues. Malkin is up there, but while the list of solid playmakers and all-around forwards is long, the one with true snipers is short. Same with elite defensemen. The next on the list after Weber is Alex Pietrangelo of the Blues, who like Stamkos is far from restricted free agency. He is very skilled and has size, but isn't as menacing a force physically as Weber.
The Red Wings are going after Rick Nash, but so is everybody else with cash and cap space It's intriguing because it's been awhile since Nash has lived up to his lofty reputation - which he deserves in many ways. But it can't be easy be in the midst of the perpetual malaise in Columbus.
I wonder how much that has tarnished him? We'll only know if he escapes Columbus.

To dream the improbable dream - Michigan, Michigan State and this year's national college football championship

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Jacob Turner and the Detroit Tigers starting pitching

Most of my recollection of the late Jim Campbell, who was the Tigers' team president when I started as a sports writer,  is of a crusty, old guy who yelled at me a lot about the things I wrote.
I learned a lot more about the actual game from his general manager, Bill Lajoie, that's for sure.
But the one thing Campbell said that has proven very true was about starting pitching.
He said for every 10 starting pitching prospects in the minor leagues, who look like they have a real shot of making it, you might you get one who becomes a long-term fixture in the major leagues as an actual starter.
I don't know if the 10-percent theory holds true to the exact number or not, but the point is a good one. Look at all the starting pitching prospects the Tigers have had down through the years. How many have actually made it as long-range starting pitchers?
Even when the Tigers developed Jack Morris and Dan Petry to lead their rotation for the 1984 World Series-winning team, they went through pitchers like Mike Chris, Bruce Robbins, Pat Underwood, Steve Baker, Dave Rucker, Howard Bailey - the list just goes on.
The Tigers do have some young starters now, but Justin Verlander was the second overall pick in the draft, Max Scherzer was the 11th overall pick (although traded for) and Rick Porcello would have likely been in the Top 5 of his draft class were it not for potential signability issues.
Sometimes none of the potential starters make it. Remember Mike Drumright, Willis Roberts, Seth Gresinger and Matt Drews were supposed to comprise a dream rotation for the Tigers some day? What a nightmare that turned out to be. For every John Smoltz or Jair Jurrjens, there seem to be nine versions of Andrew Miller.
So the odds are probably against Jacob Turner, even as the 9th overall pick in the draft, making it big. But I don't believe his career ended, or it necessarily means he won't be a solid major league starter, just because he was pounded by the Angels Tuesday night.
There is a classic knee-jerk reaction to an outing like that. I don't believe it will hurt his trade value as much as people think. If his velocity were down, that would be different. Most teams looking to deal right now are thinking future. Scouts won't be dismissing Turner because of that outing. It's mostly about his health, which had been in question. He did pitch reasonably well in his other major league start this season, and had been pitching very in the minors. It's not a case of the Tigers rushing him. He should have been ready for that start. He just didn't get it done. There is an adjustment he clearly must make, and that is the willingness to pitch inside. Everything was on the outer half or over the middle of the plate. The Angels were just diving after those pitches. He doesn't have to hit or flip hitters, but jam them. That is something that can be learned from that outing.
Turner's outing also points out the need for the Tigers to get a starting pitcher. Doug Fister has pitched well lately, but tonight is a big test to see if he is able to maintain his consistency after injury issues. Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer have had good moments, but too many bad ones. Both have ERAs and WHIPs that are higher than the American League average. Given their talent and experience level, it's disconcerting.
The Tigers do have starting pitching prospects other Turner. Drew Smyly has done well at times. Casey Crosby has a chance. There are scouts who are going to give positive reports about Andrew Oliver because of his arm strength for a left-hander. But if the Tigers want to win now, expecting starting pitching help from their minor league system isn't the way to go. Rather, it would dealing that young pitching for proven veterans.
It's not without risk. There is no guarantee the veteran will seal the postseason bid or help when there (could be another Fister or it could be another Jarrod Washburn). You can get burned down that road if the 10 percent ball turns up, and chunk of gold emerges as a major league starter.
But for the Tigers, it'd be well worth the risk.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Right message, right time, right place from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford

Monday, July 16, 2012

On Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde

It's one of the most infamous Tiger traditions: Closers never, ever, make it easy.
At least since Willie Hernandez was nearly perfect in 1984.  Mike Henneman, Todd Jones, Fernando Rodney (yeah, now he is great) - and now Jose Valverde.
It's amazing, too, because the Tigers have tried so hard to solidify the position, even with first-round draft picks such as Rick Greene, Matt Anderson (first overall) and Ryan Perry over the years.
Maybe it is just the nature of the position. You don't hear much about closers when they are doing well. They get an inordinate amount of criticism when they blow saves (Jones, for example, was terrific in the postseason in 2006, which is never discussed). Jose Valverde is the latest in the line of Tiger closers who falls into this category. He has blown four of 20 save opportunities this season. Some the opportunities he has closed out have fallen into the "too close for comfort" category. His statistics overall are not good, but could it be this town was just spoiled by Valverde going 49-of-49 in save situations last season? He was amazingly clutch in the postseason, especially in the rain in New York with that Yankee arsenal of a lineup staring back at him.
I have to admit, I had a classic knee-jerk reaction to Valverde Saturday when he blew a save situation in extra innings at Baltimore, so much so I went on Twitter and tweeted it might be good to see how setup man Joaquin Benoit would do in save situations. Sure enough, the Tigers took the lead again. Sure enough, Benoit was shelled. He has blown two of the three opportunities he has had to save games this season. I couldn't have been more wrong. Frankly, I should have known better.
It is Valverde or bust. I've thought at times that perhaps the Tigers biggest target near the tradie deadline should be a closer, somebody as insurance for closer, who could provide as a starter if needed. I've written in this blog that the Astros' Brett Myers is the perfect target because he can start and close, but he has had some rough outings in this first season closing, too. Compared to the primary competition in the AL Central, Valverde doesn't look bad. Chris Perez, the closer for the Indians, was lit up like a firecracker in some of his outings in recent weeks. The White Sox closer, Addison Reed, has six blown saves in 19 opportunities. He is very young (23) and inexperienced (just six minor league saves).
Valverde has a proven track record. There is no indication he is not healthy. I take back my Tweet from this weekend, and I'd just keep handing him the ball - and hold on....

Lake Orion, Indianwood, Oakland County, Michigan, golf - all winners from U.S. Senior Open

Saturday, July 14, 2012

U.S. Senior Open at Lake Orion's Indianwood proof you can turn back time

Friday, July 13, 2012

And so they will have football as usual at Penn State? That just isn't right

Penn State has long been known for having no logo on its iconic white football helmets. Now, even if it is left blank, people will only see the likeness of Jerry Sandusky on one side and Joe Paterno the other.
A dramatic overstatement? I don't believe so.
The university and its biggest long-time symbol, football, has been shamed that much.
Penn State had a pretty good team last year. After the Sandusky scandal was revealed, the Nittany Lions played in some thrilling games. But the aura surrounding those events was hollow.
So is the argument that if Penn State football were to be shutdown for a few years, or even given the so-called death penalty, either by the NCAA or by the governing forces in its state, there would be many people hurt by it.

Not really. Penn State's players would mostly be welcome at other schools. You could honor the scholarships they have - if they wanted to stay without football provided.
College athletics, especially football and, at times, basketball, has too often run amok. According to the administrative structure, Paterno and the football program reported to superiors. In reality, however, they reported to no one.
That false structure let to the coverup of repeated crimes by a pedephile for many years. The reasons have been speculated upon. It could have been to avoid bad publicity. Or Paterno might have been protecting a long-time friend.
The biggest reason they covered it up, probably, is simply because they thought they could get away with it. Who in that state was going to step forward and challenge something as big as Joe Paterno and Penn State football?
So celebrating a Top 15 recruiting class, and just going back to football with different people, yet the same system, is feeding similar food to the culture that created this monster in the first place.
Penn State needs to take a step back from business as usual about college football before it moves forward.
They should not be playing football at that university right now.

Detroit a great baseball town? The Tigers will decide that by what they do on the field

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Commerce Township's Tom Gieselman's golf journey brings him close to home for this week's U.S. Senior Open

My column and video story on Tom Gieselman of Comerence Township, who qualified for the tournament this week at Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Lake Orion: http://bit.ly/NNnbWu

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On the Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander and the All Star Game

Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball, and he has, without question, been recognized as such.
Being the first pitcher in nearly two decades to be named Most Valuable Player spoke volumes in that regard. He has gotten his share of commercial endorsements since. Seems like he is pretty good friends with Kate Upton. Doesn't get any more big-time than that, eh?
But Verlander hasn't been his best on the biggest stage.
The All Star Game is nothing more than a gloried exhibition game. I realize that. But it is literally the only thing going in the sports world during a four-day period in the middle of summer. While the game is lacking genuine importance (despite the ridiculous, contrived "Bud Selig Rule" that dictates the winning league gets home field advantage in the World Series), the stage couldn't be bigger. The fact Verlander was hammered for five runs Tuesday did mean something from that stand point.
Of more importance in actuality, but also on the so-called "big stage," is that in eight postseason starts,  Verlander is 3-3 with a 5.57 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) - all well-above his career norms.
Ultimately, this could mean little, and while Verlander will deservedly get a lot of slack in this town - especially about the All Star Game - there will be whispers nationally he is overrated despite his 100 mph fastball and undeniably spectacular numbers overall.
That's because when most people nationally have seen Verlander pitch, he hasn't been anywhere near at his best.

2008 or 2011? The Tigers split the difference in the first half of 2012. My column on where the Tigers stand at the All Star Break: http://bit.ly/OxCYrQ

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why the demise of the Detroit Red Wings has likely been greatly exaggerated

Lake Orion's Indianwood will be the real star of the U.S. Senior Open

Monday, July 09, 2012

Why the landscape has changed for the Detroit Tigers as the trade deadline approaches

The Tigers, despite riding a 5-game winning streak, remain a flawed team. They will likely make some moves before the trade deadline. Is it going to be just trading for veteran players, or do they rely on some of the talent that has been rapidly emerging in the minor league system?
The biggest decision might involve Nick Castellanos, who has had a brilliant season. The idea Castellanos should automatically be kept in the minor leagues is a false one. Good progress for him this season would have been to hit .300 at high-A Lakeland as one of the youngest players in the Florida State League and move to Double-A Erie after the All-Star break, and hit in the high .200s. Instead, he batted over .400 during an extended stint at Lakeland, earned an early promotion to Double-A and, after a relatively slow start, is hitting .300 for Erie.

He is a third baseman, a major issue with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the corners in Detroit, but there is a reason he is starting to take fly balls in the outfield lately. The Tigers could turn to this kid if there is another lumber slumber when they start seeing stronger pitching on a consistent basis later this month.
And before you get into the "he's too young and inexperienced" mode, consider Castellanos is six months younger than Mike Trout and six months older than Bryce Harper, the two youngsters, who have ridden into the major leagues on a storm that has carried their respective teams into contention. Harper has gotten more publicity, and is very gifted, but Trout is the type of extraordinary 5-tool player hasn't hasn't seen for eons. The top players arrive in the major leagues at a young age.
Castellanos is not a 5-tool talent. His position is hitter, but there are signs he is an exceptional hitter. That's been especially true against left-handed pitching, which he totally raked. It's where his value would currently lie.
Trading him would not make sense. What could happen is easing him in against left-handed pitching at the major league level. The potential downside: How would it hinder his development not playing every day? The Angels went through it last season when they put Trout in the major leagues. He started out very poorly, but closed better. He began this season in the minor leagues, returned when the Angels were in a bad slump and has emerged as not only as the top AL Rookie of the Year candidate, but could get some MVP votes.
It would be a disaster to play Castellanos at second base. There is far too much nuance at that spot to throw him into the fire, not to mention risk of injury turning a double play, but honestly, would he be worse in left field than Delmon Young?
The Tigers starting pitching has been better lately. Doug Fister and Drew Smyly pitched well in their recent starts. But if they revert back to their previous form, or there are injuries, do the Tigers really need to trade for a starter? Jacob Turner appears like he might be ready for the major leagues on a consistent basis now.
Also, Bruce Rondon has moved up to Erie and has eight saves in nine appearances, hasn't given up a run and is touching 100 mph on the radar gun. Where are the Tigers going to find that in a trade?
A couple weeks ago, I thought a bat or a pitcher is what the Tigers needed. Now it's middle infield help. Danny Worth is still there at Toledo,but  underwhelming. I the Tigers release Ryan Raburn, they need a serviceable middle infielder to replace him.
With the rapid development of Castellanos, Turner and Rondon, it's changed the terrain of where the Tigers could be going in the next few weeks in regard to trade.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Thoughts about the Detroit Tigers lineup for tonight's game against the Kansas City Royals

Tonight's Tigers lineup is, to say the least, interesting.
Ryan Raburn is at second base, which is sure to infuriate many Tigers fans, who have just had enough of his lack of production offensively, which is understandable. It's not only the batting average, but Raburn has just 10 RBI in 168 at bats mostly in spots in the order where he should be driving in more runs. Also, while he hit well immediately after returning from Triple-A Toledo, he is again marred in an extended slump.
But he has had success against Jonathan Sanchez, the lefty starting for the Royals today. He is 1-3 with a home run and two walks in five plate appearances against him. Conversely, switch-hitting Ramon Santiago, is hitting .118 against a left-handers this season. He is at third base tonight, and Delmon Young in left field. Miguel Cabrera is at DH. The Tigers have struggled defensively, but this is even more of a recipe for disaster than usual in the field. Santiago has only played 37 innings covering 14 appearances at third base in his major league career. Last season, he didn't make an error in 12 innings there. He played just five games at third base as minor leaguer.
Sanchez will provide a good test for Quintin Berry, a left-handed hitter, in the second spot today. Although, he has struggled mightily overall, Sanchez has still done well against left-handed hitters this season (.229 batting average against). Brennan Boesch, the odd man out of the lineup tonight, is 0-for-5 with two strikeouts against Sanchez. Even though Boesch's career numbers have been better against left-handers as a left-handed hitter overall than vs. right-handers, that has not been the case this season. The left-handed hitting Berry is hitting .219 with a .242 on base percentage against left-handed pitching in 33 plate appearances.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

My thoughts on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signing with the Minnesota Wild, not the Detroit Red Wings

I suppose the reaction to the Red Wings not signing free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise is predictable, but it doesn't make it any less pathetic in the sense we've known all along this is less "Hockey Town" than "Band Wagon Town."
Now, because Suter turned down a $90 million offer from Ken Holland, Holland is another Matt Millen, the team should change its name from the "Red Wings" to the "Orange Cones" because they will be just a bunch pylons from now on, and Al Sobotka shouldn't even bother to flood the ice at Joe Louis Arena this fall.
A couple, hopefully enlightening, things:
- The tea leaves were really clear that Parise was going to Minnesota. His roots are strongly entrenched there in every way. His father was a legendary star for the old North Stars, he starred in Minnesota's renown high school hockey system, he just build a house there and his future wife is from there.
- Suter, A Wisconsin kid, has a similar background in there are no ties to Detroit and his wife is from Minnesota.
- All this notion the Red Wings "can't draw the premier free agents anymore" is not true. Detroit still has it's advantages. It's still a border city to Canada, still has strong ties in Europe and many European players enjoying playing here. It still has the edge of having many top players who are from this state, and players that played college hockey in this state. The Red Wings front office and ownership still has a tremendous reputation. It's not like the perception is the Red Wings are perennial losers.
But they didn't fit here with these two particular American-born players, who played their college hockey in the WCCHA not the CCHA.
Another thing: Neither one of these players is worth $90 million. It might turn out to be the best thing that happened to the Red Wings is getting snubbed here.
Parise has been a second-team NHL All-Star - once. And he was brilliant in the 2010 Olympics, which is probably the best thing on his resume. He had two reasonably big seasons in New Jersey, but his numbers did drop last season. The Devils did get to the Stanley Cup finals unexpectedly, but it wasn't like he was a scoring machine. He had eight goals in 24 playoff games, just 15 points and was minus 8.
The perception Shea Weber and Ryan Suter were 1 and 1-A along the blueline  in Nashville is a joke. Weber is the much better player. Suter has never been either a first- or second-team NHL All Star. He didn't have a particularly good playoff season last spring. Weber was the difference vs. the Red Wings, and both disappeared against Phoenix. In 39 playoff games, Suter has one power-play goal and is minus 4.
By pointing this out, I'm not saying these two players wouldn't have helped the Red Wings. They would have - absolutely. But the cost was ridiculous, and guaranteed the Red Wings nothing.
I do feel during this last playoff season, the Red Wings displayed virtually no urgency, and it does seem like they've been resting on their laurels. As such, the severe public criticism they are receiving may ultimately be of benefit.
But because they didn't land Zach Parise or Ryan Suter doesn't mean it is the end of the hockey world as we've known it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

By the numbers: Why the Detroit Tigers are floundering

Wonder why the Tigers are floundering? Here are a few statistical reasons why:
- One win, four losses - It is the Tigers home record so far against the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals, the two worst teams in the American League Central.
- 70 - The Tigers have hit just 70 home runs this season, which ranks 11th in the American League, and is just five more than the Royals, who are last with 65 home runs. Even with Prince Fielder replacing Victor Martinez and producing more HRs, and Austin Jackson hitting with more power, the Tigers are on pace to hit considerably fewer home runs than last season when they ranked seventh in the AL with 169 home runs. Of the top nine teams in the American League in home runs, eight have .500 or better records.
 - 15.12  - Doug Fister's ERA in his last two starts. The Tigers have lost eight of the last nine games he has started in 2012.
- 4.05 team ERA, 1.34 team WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) - The major league average in those categories is 3.99 for ERA (4.03 in AL) and 1.31 for WHIP (1.31 in AL). What does it tell you? For all the angst about the Tigers lack of offensive thunder this season, their pitching has been, at best, average.

Detroit Lions, Jim Schwartz and utter absurdity

My column: http://bit.ly/N5hAsp

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Monday, July 02, 2012

My thoughts on Red Wings free agency so far

- Of the Red Wings three moves so far, the one I liked the most was signing goalie Jonas Gustavsson. He played OK for Toronto the last couple years, but there is an upside there, and he will push Jimmy Howard for the starting job. It wasn't like Howard was a sieve vs. Nashville in the opening round last spring, but he didn't come close to matching Nashville's Pekka Rinne. Howard was hurt late in the season - he was often brilliant before the injury. He did seem fine heading into the playoffs. His save percentage was under 90 percent, though, against the Predators. If the Red Wings are going to surge to the Stanley Cup title, or even make a decent run, they need better goaltending than Howard provided. Howard is on the last year of his contract. He should be motivated. It's not like Gustavsson is some aging journeyman - he is actually younger than Howard.

- I was surprised the Red Wings signed Jordan Tootoo. He is nasty little player. He doesn't score much, but sure gets into a lot of trouble on the ice. The Red Wings fans should enjoy this part of the game. He will crash the goalie (see below video)

- Mikael Samuelsson .is a right-handed shot for the Red Wings power play unit. He played the role extensively on this first trip with Detroit. He also scored key goals during a Stanley Cup run. Major knock on Samuelsson: He lacks consistency

So Andre Drummond has got talent, but can he play?