Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Message is also clear Lions' front office is on thin ice

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Impossible to ignore the Lions' past when this is their present

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Lions, Vikings

- So Reggie Bush made a play. So he has gone for 1,500 yards from scrimmage this season. So he is a standup guy who plays hard. So what? The bottom line is his fumbles killed the Lions this season. It's like with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Time will show their statistics for this season to be impressive. They are both standup guys who play hard. At the moments that decided the issue this season, they didn't get it done, though. Bottom line.
- If the Lions' had remained in the playoff race or reached the postseason, it was only a matter of time until David Akers being their kicker would have hurt them. The Lions did make a lot of solid personnel decisions during the off season. Replacing Jason Hanson at kicker with David Akers wasn't one of them.
- If there was ever a team that needs a fullback for short-yardage situations, it is the Lions.

Thoughts halftime Lions, Vikings

- Can you imagine what this game would be like if Adrian Peterson were healthy? I think his impact would be more important than if Calvin Johnson were playing for the Lions given the I-75 eyes of Detroit's defense.
- I know the Vikings have won their last three games at home. It only points to how the Lions dropped the ball by losing three of their last four home games to Tampa Bay, Baltimore and the New York Giants. Two of those teams are well below .500. Even bad teams win at home in the NFL, and the Lions did not with a division title and a home playoff game on the line.
- Most of the veteran cornerbacks the Lions have picked up off the NFL's scrap heap down through the years have contributed very little. Rashean Mathis has been an exception. He has had a pretty good season.
- Seems like a no-brainer for the Lions to try to get the ball in the hands of Jeremy Ross. Yet, they just don't do it on plays from scrimmage. Amazing.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Vikings

- There was a lot of speculation before this game, with every possible scenario reported about how it is going to transpire for the Lions' coaching staff (which seems to be on the way out) and the front office (which seems to be safe). It's the nature of the NFL these days. Problem with "inside and unnamed" sources for reporters is they often have agendas, which are often driven by something as simple as not liking this person or that. But there are virtually no repercussions for loose reporting for the national NFL guys.  They hear it, they go with it. It's literally reported today and forgotten tomorrow, even if wrong. That speculation is all over the place speaks volumes from the standpoint of the uncertainty of how it will shake out. I do know this: There has been plenty of time for the Fords to evaluate the situation by this point. They should have their minds made up by now. What happens today should be moot.
- The Lions' offense is awful at this point. Compared to the first half of the season to now is stunning. And it's only accelerated in that regard today with Calvin Johnson out.
- Horrible open field tackling effort by the Lions' defense on Cordarrelle Patterson's long TD run. The Lions defense hasn't surrendered to the moment to the degree of the offense, but it did on that play.

My thoughts on Michigan's 31-14 loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Michigan, Kansas State

- Terms like "outstanding" are being thrown around a bit too much about Shane Morris tonight, at least so far. For one thing, Michigan's defense has been more of hindrance to Morris than Kansas State's when you think about it. But Morris has definitely done enough that Brady Hoke should open up the QB spot for competition this spring. He has shown better pocket presence than Devin Gardner, very good arm strength and accuracy.
- Wonder what Bo Schembechler would have thought of Jibreel Black taunting K-State QB Jake Waters after a big hit. The Wolverines were down 21-6 at the time. It was ridiculous. Michigan prides itself on not being certain things when it is, in realty, certain things. I'm surprised that aspect has seeped into its football program. Not exactly senior leadership.
- Most impressive pass of the night from Morris was a canon shot to Devin Funchess on third and long during the third quarter, but Funchess dropped the ball.
- There is so much obsession with a lefty QB because of the changes it causes to an offense, but has anybody thought that it may provide a change of pace which, in theory, should cause defenses problems.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Thoughts halftime Michigan, Kansas State

- Instead of an anointment of Shane Morris as Michigan's QB this has been an indictment of the Wolverines' defense. Whatever the coaching staff is teaching the secondary about defending the ball when it is in the air is not working. Regardless of how the QB situation plays out, the Wolverines won't start winning until the secondary gets better. It was a bigger problem this season than the offensive line. The bowl game has been no different.
- The Big 12 is notorious for high-scoring shootouts. Kansas State has been there many times. This is a relatively new concept for Michigan, and it just doesn't wear well given the program's tradition. In fact, it looks awful.
- A prediction: Freshman TE Jake Butt will draw a lot of interest from the NFL some day. I think he is the Wolverines' most underrated player.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Michigan, Kansas State

-  Michigan's defense remains an obvious problem. Doesn't look like it causes much of a problem for the Kansas State offense. KSU's TD drives were just too easy. It's embarrassing, honestly. It's already taken the luster off the Shane Morris debut.
- In fairness to Devin Gardner, why didn't Al Borges, Michigan's offensive coordinator, open up the playbook like this before the Ohio State game? Yeah. The screen pass does work. Kansas State will adjust to it and it won't be long before we will see how Morris does spinning it down the field. Oh yeah, a reverse is an effective play, even if it doesn't net a lot of yardage. Running one once in a while keeps defenses from totally selling out at the point of attack. It's a lesson the Lions' forgot this season, as well.
- Justice Hayes was a 4-star recruit, Makes you wonder why it took Michigan's coaching staff so long to turn to him. I know a lot of people have lamented about the Wolverines' lack of experience in the middle of the offensive line, but they have nothing but 4-star talent at running back and offensive line. It kind of sums up the total picture of Michigan football, doesn't it?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

On the Max Bullough suspension

Max Bullough, literally the heart of Michigan State's vaunted defense as its middle linebacker, has been suspended for the Rose Bowl.
Bullough is a 3.5 student, and an exceptionally smart and instinctive player with underrated athleticism. It wouldn't surprise me if he stars in the NFL. He wasn't, but probably should have been,  a first-team All-American this season.
Stanford, the Spartans' opposition in the Rose Bowl, runs a power, run-first offense. This is a game MSU needs Bullough more than ever, and he won't be there.
That is the one side of the issue which has been widely commented upon. Here's the flipside:
It has not been reported what Bullough did. So we can't make any real determination until then whether the punishment fits the transgression.
But I'm not so sure it is the worst thing in the world as it it appears on the surface.
Max Bullough: Suspension shocking
Michigan State's Mark Dantonio has proven to be an outstanding coach, but the one area I felt he fell short was the handling of a couple incidents in the past.
I thought was too lenient with past players such as Glenn Winston and Chris L. Rucker.
State's program goes beyond this year. The Rose Bowl is a huge game, but not worth compromising principle.
Michigan State is an institution of academic higher learning. It's football program should not be bigger than the school, nor should any one player be bigger than the football program. Even Max Bullough on the cusp of the Rose Bowl.
These are tough calls for coaches. I've seen them legitimately struggle with these type of decisions many times in the past. They are damned if they do, and damned if they don't, and it isn't because of competitive balance. They feel responsible for the player, and don't want to abandon them just because they did something wrong, which they can often learn from. Yet, they need to maintain rules and discipline within their programs and the university they are representing.
We know little about what Bullough did, but his suspension isn't necessarily a bad thing.
There are lines that can't be crossed. Not moving the line to accommodate a player often contains ramifications that are painful in the short term, but necessary for the long run.

Why Shane Morris might be the next Connor Cook

Monday, December 23, 2013

Handwriting on the wall for Jim Schwartz

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Giants, Lions

- The Giants have a lot of flaws, but they have been OK at protecting Eli Manning this season. It made the safety by Nick Fairley an especially good accomplishment. And it was timely. Perhaps the Lions can finally wake up from their slumber in time to save their season with Pittsburgh giving the Packers all they can handle at Lambeau Field.
- The touchdown drive to start the second half was needed, but the Lions offense is still floundering. It was good to see offensive coordinator Scott Linehan wised up and got the ball in the hands of Jeremy Ross. It's obvious he is a big, fast receiver with playmaking skills.
- I don't care how much football has changed, there comes a time when you need some sort of jumbo package to get a yard or two. It's amazing the Lions never do that, especially considering in goal line situations opposing defenses often crowd two cornerbacks on Calvin Johnson at the line of scrimmage.
- I have never understood the concept of six-yard curl or sitdown routes (not passes thrown to a receiver in stride) at six yards when 10 is needed for a first down. It's a basic fundamental of the game the Lions forgot on third and 10 on their second drive of the half.

Thoughts halftime Giants, Lions

- No defending the indefensible. Horrible interception by Matthew Stafford. I never thought about writing this a month ago, but Stafford's confidence does not appear good. He seems hesitant. Jim Schwartz might have to change QBs in the second half to not only win this game, but to save his job.The last drive was disturbing, especially the interception.
- It is always something for the Lions, isn't it? An amazing fumble by Reggie Bush. Why? Becasue it is impossible to understand why it happened. It had the makings of a nice scoring drive. Instead, zippo, and the Giants getting the ball with pretty good field position. I'd say turn more to Joique Bell, but he has had the same fumbling issue
- Great play call by the Giants on the throwback screen for 13 yards and first down. It was a classic example about to use a defense's aggressiveness against it, and the timing was perfect. The Lions offense has been void of such misdirection plays lately. When was the last time they ran a reverse, for example. It used to be a staple of the offense. How about getting Jeremy Ross more involved in the offense. He seems pretty threatening.
- Only the Lions manage to get a holding penalty on a screen pass.
- Lots of love for Rochester Hills Stoney Creek's Eric Fisher, but the NFL's first overall draft pick from CMU isn't listed among Mel Kiper's Top 50 rookies and Ziggy Ansah leads NFL rookies in sacks.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Giants, Lions

- The staple for the Giants under Tom Coughlin has always been the run first, setting up the pass. They just do not have the type of running attack to be able to pull that off right now. So, while the Lions have a depleted secondary today without starting cornerbacks Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis, they should be able to throttle the Giants' offense.
- I don't know whether it was poorly run pattern, a case of bad timing or just a bad throw, but it was costly when Matthew Stafford and Kris Durham didn't hook up on the Lions' first drive. Durham was wide open and Stafford spun into into the Ford Field like he was Andre Ware back in the day or something. Eli Manning did return the favor by missing Hakim Hicks for what would have been a TD pass later in the quarter. It does seem like the battle of premier-caliber QBs, each former first overall NFL Draft choices, who are struggling mightily.
- The opposition never seems to miss a field goal at Ford Field.

Stafford, Megatron more responsible for Lions' collapse than Schwartz

By any standard, Morris and Trammell belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Lions have dropped the ball - literally and figuratively

Monday, December 16, 2013

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Ravens, Lions

- The Ravens are controlling the tempo of this game, like a basketball team that wants to play a half-court game against a fast-breaking team.
- Tell me everybody in this town wasn't holding their breath when David Akers lined up to kick a 40-yard field goal. He made this one. And, man, he just drilled the ensuing kickoff out of the end zone while in for Sam Martin. Will Akers make if it comes down to a field goal under even more pressure. I'll tell you this, Ravens' kicker Justin Tucker looks like money in the bank. He has been very solid on all his four attempts tonight.
- The Lions are making too many mistakes again. They are fortunate, the Ravens don't have more firepower to make them pay. Very poor pass by Matthew Stafford on the INT.
- The Lions are playing this game relatively close to the vest, perhaps because of their turnover issues. Stafford, when he was given a free play, did cut loose on his throw to Calvin Johnson, resulting in the Lions' biggest play of the night.
- Megatron has played much better this half, which was expected, right?

Thoughts halftime Ravens, Lions

- The last 2 1-2 minutes of the half were brutal for the Lions. There is still a lot of football left to be played in this game, but the Lions should be ahead, not trailing 9-7 in a slow-paced affair that favors the Ravens.
- You can sense the poise of the Ravens and their championship pedigree. They're a flawed team, especially offensively, but the moment isn't too big for them. They have displayed excellent poise. I'd really be surprised if they beat themselves. Conversely, the costly Louis Delmas helmet-to-helmet hit has been typical of the Lions the last few years. It's like they never learn.
- Good defensive stand for the Lions, holding the Ravens to field goals twice near the end of the first half. I didn't think the pass interference call was a good one, leading to the first FG. Both players have equal right for the ball when it is in the air like that. It was one of those no harm, there-should-have-been-no-call type of things.
- There is still a lot left in Nate Burleson's tank. He's made some nice plays tonight. He's much more sure-handed than the Lions' other receivers.
- I hate to state the obvious here, but the Ravens are clearly a plodding an limited team offensively. They are still solid defensively, though. I don't think the Ravens can outman the Lions, but there is definitely a possibility the Ravens can win this game if the Lions go into their mistake mode. And the dropped passes by Calvin Johnson have been very costly. Conversely, so was it a costly missed throw when Matthew Stafford had Johnson open for an apparent first down on third and long midway through the second quarter. Yes, avoiding the big mistake is very important. But those ones that don't involve turnovers can be costly and add up, too.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Ravens, Lions

- The Ravens have the third-best run defense in the NFL. It's surprising the Lions have been able to run as effectively as they have so far tonight. But there is a reason for it. The Ravens have been putting fewer players than usual at the line of scrimmage, daring the Lions to run, and defending the deep pass. The Lions have taken full advantage of it so far. If the Ravens change this tactic, and they probably will at some point, look for the Lions to go over the top with a deep throw.
- That was a terrible drop by Calvin Johnson. He is a great player, but it's undeniable he has dropped more passes this season than anticipated, or he should, especially based on his sterling reputation. Thing is, he is more than capable of making up for it. We all know that.
- It is as electric an environment as I can remember for a Lions home game, at least dating back to the Silverdome days. I'd put it right up with the Bears' game on Monday Night Football a couple years ago. But you could also feel the pressure in this building at the start. The Lions' scoring drive alleviated a lot of that pressure. Matt Elam, the Ravens'  rookie safety, evidently isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. That was a foolish penalty on the late hit on Detroit QB Matthew Stafford.
- The Ravens seem to have gotten their legs underneath them offensively. Their current drive has been impressive.

Panic about the Lions? Why I don't think there should be

I fully under the skepticism about the Lions. They've lost three out of four games. The Ravens, who visit Ford Field tonight for Monday Night Football, are the defending Super Bowl champions, have been a playoff team forever and are playing their best football of the season.
It looked like the Bears and the Packers would lose Sunday. They both rallied from bad starts and won.
I still, however, feel like the Lions are in pretty good shape to win the NFC North. The Ravens are 1-5 on the road and haven't played a road game in an indoor stadium since early in the 2012 season - and they were beaten by four touchdowns at Houston.
Ray Rice is a terrific running back, but the Ravens offensive line isn't that good. Rice is averaging three yards a carry, his backup Bernard Pierce, 2.7 yards per attempt. Joe Flacco has been sacked 41 times and thrown nearly as many interceptions (17) as touchdown passes (18). The Ravens' defense is still stout against the run and not exactly a sieve against the pass. It ranks fifth in the NFL. But the Lions do have the weapons to counteract it
The keys are very obvious for the Lions here: Getting the lead early is particularly important in this game. The Ravens' offense is not built to be one-dimensional in any way, shape or form, especially within the screaming madness of Ford Field tonight. The second is taking care of the ball. Flacco has been every bit as loose with the ball this season as Lions' quarterback Matthew Stafford. Avoid special teams breakdowns. The Ravens traditionally have had very good special teams. Yeah. David Akers with the game on the line is a concern. Don't let it get to that point, would be my advice to the Lions.
I see the Lions winning this game, and I understand what the reaction will be should they lose. But the schedule still sets up for them to make a playoff run if they were to lose because they own the tiebreaker over the Bears, and the Packers and Bears play each other the last game of the season.
But the wiggle room would be all gone - the Bears could win out and capture the division. If the Lions win tonight, they will be in the driver's seat, especially now that the walls seem to have completely collapsed around the Giants, who will visit Ford Field Sunday (Green Bay hosts Pittsburgh, Chicago is at Philly on Sunday Night Football this week).

Our Roundtable discussion Sunday on FOX 2 SportsWorks on the Lionshttp://www.myfoxdetroit.com" title="Fox 2 News Headlines">Fox 2 News Headlines

Tigers have added balance

My column: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20131215/caputo-tigers-have-added-balance

Our FOX 2 roundtable discussion Sunday night on the Red Wings after their loss to Tampa Bayhttp://www.myfoxdetroit.com" title="Fox 2 News Headlines">Fox 2 News Headlines

Good day for Oakland despite loss to MSU

My column: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20131214/caputo-good-day-for-oakland-despite-loss-to-msu

Our FOX 2 Roundtable discussion on the Pistons Sunday night

http://www.myfoxdetroit.com" title="Fox 2 News Headlines">Fox 2 News Headlines

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Jim Schwartz at crossroad as Lions' head coach

Monday, December 09, 2013

Tigers done wheeling and dealing? Doubt it

Gone from the Tigers is much of their nucleus from the past two seasons. Prince Fielder and Doug Fister have been traded. Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta and Joaquin Benoit will not be back as free agents. The Tigers added a new second baseman in Ian Kinlser and closer in Joe Nathan. along with a couple of bit parts from Washington in the Fister trade (situational left Ian Krol and utilityman Steve Lombardozzi).
Are they better? Could be.
It still depends on what the Tigers do the remainder of the off season.

Dombrowski: More needs to be done
Despite general manager Dave Dombrowski's contention the Tigers likely won't make another big-money free agent signing, we've heard that before, and the Tigers still signed outfielder Johnny Damon and Fielder late in the process. It's not Dombrowski telling fibs, but he market does change, especially for those players not signed after this week's winter meetings.
Bruce Rondon is capable of being the Tigers' setup man. He did make significant progress last season. He was a completely different pitcher after being sent to the minor leagues. His WHIP was below 1.2, and he stuck out more than a hitter per inning has last 20 apperances when his ERA was 2.29.
Rondon throws 100 mph consistently and is menacing presence on the mound. The Tigers' put way to much on him too early by anointing his as closer last off season, but not now.
Bullpen depth is key. The Tigers must add more. They got away with their backend of their bullpen being below average last season because their starting staff is so effective and avoided long-term injury. They need to cover their tracks better in that area this winter. Given Dombrowski is calculated and usually quite astute, my guess is they will.
Another factor is contract negotiations with arbitration-eligible players such as Austin Jackson, Alex Avila and Rick Porcello. Each is due a big raise, and there should long-term negotiations with all three to try to sign them so their contracts go beyond their free agency years (it would be after 2015 for each). If those negotiations don't go well, or even before they are to go arbitration, a trade very much could come into play for all three.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

How the Lions lost at Philly alarming, disturbing, inexcusable, indefensible

My thoughts on the Lions' 34-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Lions, Eagles

- Both quarterbacks have adjusted much better to the weather conditions and are throwing the ball better. Nick Foles looked like a different QB altogether on the Eagles' scoring drive. Matthew Stafford has started to make his classic throws, despite the snow. Neither team has been able to rush the passer. The QBs might very well decide this game when it seemed unlikely earlier.
- It took a Lions' awhile to find a quality returner after Stefan Logan lost it, but Jeremy Ross has been getting it done. He's come close to breaking a couple returns in recent weeks. It's not a surprise he broke one sooner instead of later. But today? Under these conditions? It could have come at a better time.
- The biggest factor in this game by far is the play of the Lions' defensive line. After couple subpar games in a row, they have played impressive the last two games under entirely different circumstances vs. the Packers and Eagles. Linebackers Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy have played extraordinarily well, too.

Thoughts halftime Lions, Eagles

- I can't help but wonder if Jason Hanson were still the Lions' kicker instead of David Akers whether Jim Schwartz would have gone for a field goal in the scoring zone rather than for the first down on fourth down. Or gone for the two-point conversion rather than kicking the extra point. The bottom line is all that counts. It worked like a charm, didn't it? It's almost like the Lions' are up by two scores.
- Spread offenses are great until there are poor weather conditions. Football is still essentially about blocking and tackling and ball security. There is no question the spread option has its place, even at the highest levels of the NFL. But spreads are vulnerable under less-than-ideal conditions.
- The idea the Lions are a so-called dome team and can't play effectively if there are poor weather conditions seems preposterous at this point. The Lions, at least so far, have displayed a competitive character they traditionally have been lacking.
- In October, when its 55 degrees, sunny and there is that special fall crispness in the air, I wish Ford Field didn't have a roof. In late November, December and beyond, I'm convinced it is a good thing. I'm sure a lot of Lions' fans are waxing poetic about the conditions this game is being played in, but that's because the Lions are winning. If they were losing, many of those same fans would be ticked and claiming it is unfair.
- Terrific play by Chris Houston on the interception. It wasn't so much the pick, but the return. It was the key for setting up Detroit's touchdown. He was questionable for today's game. The Lions' are fortunate Houston is playing.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Eagles

- What a great pass from Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson under the worst conditions possible.
- People who have been clamoring for an outdoor Super Bowl, this is just what you might get in New Jersey in February. It may have been fun for us to play in as kids, cushioning tackles, but it is not a fair test of football. It's skewed this game today.
- Obviously, a key player today will be Joique Bell. He is the Lions' mudder. The fumble was unfortunate, but running him up the middle will give the Lions their best chance.
- The snow will stop falling at some point, likely. Any team ahead at that point will have a huge edge.
- You can throw the ball in this weather, but it's short passes. Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew will have to make plays.
- The Lions look a lot better than the Eagles so far. The Eagles' offense has been terrible.
- The Lions have better offensive and defensive lines than Philly. The weather plays into their hands that way,
- Wonder why type of kicker David Akers is in the snow. Could be the biggest factor of all today.

Driver's seat doesn't necessarily mean a smooth ride for the Lions

2013 version of MSU Spartans definiton of special

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Ohio State, MSU

- Here's stating the obvious: Michigan State hasn't seen a QB remotely as good as Braxton Miller this season. At this point, he has made the Spartans' vaunted defense look very ordinary. We'll see if that trend continues in the final quarter. It appears as if it probably will, but that was a huge stop to end the third quarter.
- Whether MSU wins or loses this game, you can't help but admire the way Spartans are approaching it. Lets face it, there are times when they are simply overwhelmed by Ohio State. The Spartans do play hard. They are going for it. They are putting forth their maximum effort. Loved the way Mark Dantonio went for it late in third quarter on fourth down. Why not? Play to win rather than not lose. Great stuff.
- This game isn't over. The Spartans did stop the bleeding with three points and a solid defensive stop.

Thoughts halftime Ohio State, MSU

The Spartans have played an excellent game so far. I'm sure a lot of MSU fans are feeling a little uneasy because of the long drives by the Buckeyes, but Braxton Miller is going to do those type of things. What's the saying? You can't stop him; You can only hope to contain him. Michigan State has contained him. State is still leading 17-10. It's not as bad as it seems. It's actually good.
- The Spartans didn't just sit back and let the Buckeyes self-destruct. They took it to Ohio State. I loved the play calls for the deep passes. It's classic football. And it kicked OSU when it was down.
- Can Urban Meyer look any more uptight on the sidelines? His team is taking on his demeanor at times tonight.
- It's unbelievable how Michigan State's defense does close on ball carriers in the open field. Even on Ohio State's scoring drives, you could see it. Miller would have scored on his long run against any other defense. Cory Brown would have scored on an earlier catch-and-run.
- Miller is a terrific player and not a bad thrower, but I think Connor Cook is the better passer. It's water under the bridge now, but you have to wonder why MSU's coaching staff didn't see it earlier.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Ohio State, MSU

-The tempo of this game is definitively favoring the Spartans. It's kind of ugly. A little boring. But that's what MSU wants. If it's a shootout, Ohio State wins. But this is like a basketball team with one team making it halfcourt game when the other wants to run. Good job by the Spartans so far.
- Ohio State has talent on defense, but you can see a lack of discipline. There was no excuse for the pass interference penalty by cornerback Doran Grant other than it was a dumb play. Same for Ryan Shazier's lighting up Jeremy Langford on a pass route in the open field, although Langford should have been flagged for retaliating, and was fortunate he wasn't. The first MSU drive wasn't especially productive, but it did take the wind out of the Buckeyes sails.
- If anybody looks uptight in this game, it is the Buckeyes. A dropped pass for a big play. Two penalties for a first down. A botched snap out of shotgun formation. The gunner taking a shot at the returnman on a punt.The Spartans have been overwhelming, but they have been mistake free.
- Neither one of these teams is build to play from behind. If State were to score touchdown to make it 10-0 in the second quarter, the Buckeyes could find it really tough.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Tigers couldn't have done better than Joe Nathan as closer

Joe Nathan doesn't have a proven track record in the postseason. It's the one thing missing on his resume. To me, surprisingly because I usually feel the opposite about such things, it is an item that makes him appealing as the Tigers' closer.
Like his former teammate with the Minnesota Twins, Torii Hunter, he will be very motivated in 2014.
Nathan, who reached an agreement with the Tigers on a two-year free agent contact Tuesday, is the consummate pro, easily the best option to become Detroit's closer among the available candidates.
Nathan had a WHIP of .897 last season. That's outstanding. He struck out more than a hitter per inning and consistently hit 95 mph with his fastball. He has excellent command of the ball and a knack with off-speed pitches  He has pitched in pressure situations for years thrived, on top teams with Minnesota and Texas, thrived during the regular season.
Brian Wilson was a maybe because of Tommy John surgery in the recent past. Grant Balfour was, perhaps, a one-year wonder and he has an excitable demeanor and makeup which can come unglued.
Nathan is the real deal with what appears like is still plenty left in the tank.

Monday, December 02, 2013

It's impossible to see how the Tigers are a better team after tradiing Doug Fister

Unless there is more to it than meets the eye, it's difficult to defend the Tigers' trade Monday night of Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals.
Steve Lombardozzi is not a regular player. He is not even an effective backup. He is, at best, an upgrade from Ramon Santiago, a switch hitter with some versatility and little thunder in his bat. His career OPS is .639. His WAR last season was minus 0.4 and is minus 0.2 for his career, which means there is strong statistical evidence he is less than a 4-A player, let alone a major league benchie, joining Don Kelly, who signed a one-year contract Monday in the less-than-4A category. Lombardozzi walked just eight times in 317 plate appearances last season.
Doug Fister: A certainty traded for three unproven players
Ian Krol should help the Tigers as a situational left-hander, but he's just OK. Robbie Ray will give the Tigers some flexibility when it comes to make in-season trades. He had a really good High-A, Double-A combo season at a young age. He threw harder than in the past when he was projected as a back-of-the-rotation starter. He could be in the big leagues this season. But the road is littered with such pitchers, who never panned out after that type of minor league season.
Fister is a quality, proven No.3 MLB starter. They don't grow on trees. If this is about money, he was the one arbitration plus the Tigers' should have considered keeping. He didn't flinch in his time with Tigers. I didn't think that the Tigers trading for him was a good idea. I  couldn't have been more wrong, I vastly overrated a prospect the Tigers traded to Seattle to acquire him, Francisco Martinez, and I greatly underrated Fister, the consummate pro and competitor.
People clamoring for the Tigers to have traded Rick Porcello instead are missing the point. Porcello has a much higher ceiling. He still younger than when Fister made his MLB debut, yet has more MLB service time. However, that higher ceiling figures to have netted the Tigers more in return.
There's a bottom line here. The Tigers are shooting to win a World Series next season. I know Fister would have played his part, and played it well. I don't know about these three players. Do you?
Perhaps the Tigers will use the money freed in this deal (about $5 million) toward signing a free agent to fill one of their holes (they are glaring in left field and at closer). Perhaps, the money will just go for the raises due to arbitration-eligible players Porcello, Austin Jackson and Alex Avila.
Whatever, the Fister trade was shocker to the system.

Our live chat Monday about Michigan, MSU and Lions

Hoke's shot in the dark better than no shot at all for Michigan

Thoughts on the Lions' heading into December 7-5 on FOX 2 RoundTable

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