Friday, June 08, 2012

Tigers woes continue...

It was the start of the Interleague Play stretch for the Tigers.  First stop, Cincinnati, where they hadn't played in a few years.  The Tigers had just come off a win against Indians, and their bats seemed to be waking up a bit.  All expectations going into the series was a Tigers sweep.

Unfortunately, that isn't going to happen.

Digging themselves into a 4-0 hole, the Tigers found themselves in a familiar place.  They weren't hitting, and their pitching wasn't working.  Porcello continued his struggles giving up a 3-run HR to Votto.  He would only last 5 innings.

They started to perk up a bit.  Young hit a HR, they manufactured runs.  Before I knew it, it was 5-4.  Below had come in and was pitching a nice game.  Unfortunately he was the victum of a run as well, as the Reds took the Tigers to the 10th inning.

That's when it all fell apart.  Phil Coke came in and gave up a long shot to the corner.  Matt Young mishandled it, and the Reds had a guy on third.  After that, they used a suicide bunt to win the game.  It was a position the Tigers shouldn't have been in to begin with.

The LOB stat is one that Tigers fans are getting to know rather well.  There are many games when they rack up double digits.  In case you're not familiar with it, its Left On Base.  The single stat that gauges how many runners they leave on base at the end of each inning.  The Tigers are masters at it.

Leaving runners on base is a product of the bottom half of the lineup being filled with bad hitting.  Young, Peralta, Avila, all guys who hit last year.  This year, very little production.

But that's not their only issue.

Pitching has been very inconsistent.  Scherzer and Porcello have been wildly up and down.  Fister has bounced off and on the DL.  Verlander has started pressing and can't get a win.  The bullpen has had to come in too much, and has started to give up a lot of runs too.  Even Valverde can't barely get a save this year.

So how do they fix this?

With a new plan, a shake up, and some persistence.  They can't just approach this with a huge contract here and there.  They've had a hole at second base for the last 2 seasons.  Not hanging onto Polanco was a big mistake, but one that should have been solved a long time ago.  They bet the future of the position on Scott Sizemore, who they ended up trading when he didn't pan out.

But even that's no excuse for the condition of the team.  I fully endorsed picking up Fielder when Martinez went down, but they didn't do anything else at that point.  Replacing a .335 hitter with a .310 hitter is just plugging a hole, not upgrading the team.  Sure, looking to the future, who wouldn't want a Cabrera-Fielder-Martinez mid lineup.

But that's talk for next year.

This year they need to shake things up, and fill some holes.  Delmon Young has started to hit, but he's not good protection for Fielder.  Peralta and Boesch need to break out of their funk for good, and start hitting.  They need to find someone to play second base.  If these players can't cut it, package and trade.  Find yourself a replacement for them, fill your second base hole, and start winning games.

2012 doesn't look like the year of the Tigers.  Unfortunately, 2013 isn't either with the weak lineup.  If it takes new management, a lineup shakeup, or something else, they must act now, and not wait.  The season is nearly lost as it is.  Don't sacrifice 2013.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Keys to Michigan beating Notre Dame

There is an awful lot of hype for the first ever night game at The Big House. Here are the keys to a Michigan win.

1. Pass coverage must be there.

Too many times in the last three years have we seen wide open receivers all over the field. Michigan's safeties and corners must play their position properly, and not allowing the usual 30-50 yard bombs.

2. Contain their QBs.

Rees is starting, but Crist is still there. If they shut down Rees, they must be ready to shut down Crist. Last year they were a bit lucky when Crist went down for most of the game. When he came back, they could have lost the game had there been more time.

3. Not just Denard.

We need to continue to see other guys run the ball well. You can only cry wolf so many times, and everyone knows Denard is going to run. Yes, he's good enough to overcome that. But with a team still trying to build and mesh, they need more options.

4. Kicking must improve.

Field Goal kicking in particular has been a tough act for Michigan for as long as I can remember. Its time for rid themselves of this burden, and kick the ball thru the uprights. Losing 3-9 points per game can kill them in a tough battle.

My prediction: Michigan 31, Notre Dame 21.

Game time 8 PM, ESPN. Go Blue!

Tigers are 20 over!

Just a month ago, we were all thinking "Will the Tigers hang on?". It seemed they were streak, unstable, and poised for another September fall apart. Then came GM Dave Dombrowski to the rescue.

Much like last year, the Tigers needed to make a good trade. One that would tighten up the team a bit, but not give up key pieces. Jhonny Peralta was undoubtedly one of the best trades the Tigers have made in years. They got a little bit of pop in the bat, a high average, and a solid fielding SS.

This year their needs ran a bit deeper. Mr. Illitch poured on the pressure, and demanded they win now. The Tigers responded by adding Doug Fister to the starting lineup, and Delmon Young to the lineup.

I had the pleasure of seeing Doug Fister pitch as a Mariner. He throw mostly strikes, gave up little hits, and had a shot at beating Justin Verlander. The game ended in a 4-1 loss for Fister. 3-12 with a 3.30 ERA, he came to Detroit seeking more run support. He's gotten some on some days, but not on others. Still, he's won most of his outings, giving the Tigers a reliable new pitcher.

I was completely shocked by the trade for Delmon Young. I didn't think the Twins would send such a reliable hitter to a division rival. In fact, I didn't think they'd part with him at all. I figured they were just messing around until mid-August, and would make their anual run at the division title.

I guess I was wrong.

For much of the last 3 weeks, the White Sox and Indians have been on the heals of the Tigers. They closed in the gap pretty close, and at one time the Indians took first place away from the Tigers. Those days are now long gone.

At 82-62, the Tigers are 9 1/2 games ahead of the White Sox. They have a magic number of 10 that is dropping two at a time each day. They are in complete control. The only thing left to do is keep on pace, win each series, and don't get cocky. At their current pace, they'll see Boston in the ALDS, and that won't be an easy series.

Michigan Football 2011

I didn't like what I saw at the start of the Michigan/WMU game. The defense was bad. The offense wasn't moving as well. It was a reminder that Rich Rod had dismantled the program.

That all changed pretty quickly.

They made some adjustments, and things looked better. They have work to do, but I think they're at least on the right track. Notre Dame would be a huge test in my opinion. The first night game and atmosphere will be unreal.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

High School grading logic...

Back when I was in high school, if I a had D+ or D- average on my report card, I'd be benched until I got that average up. I would have been humiliated, angry, and made to improve. Today Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn earned those marks. I say we implement the high school rules and get the team back on track.

Its been an up and down and sometimes dismal first half. I remember when Don Kelly was playing full time at 3B while Inge was on the DL. Things seemed smoother in the lineup. Instead of having a gaping hole at the bottom of the lineup, there was just one small tear. Now it seems like the Tigers get something going, and its gone in seconds.

I get the concept of letting a guy play through his slump, and I'm on board with that concept. The problem is, when do you call it a slump, and when do you call it old fashion lack of production? Raburn has spent the better part of the season trying to get out of his, and if you ask me, the way he's holding the bat, he's never going to come out of it. The same case can be made for Inge.

Inge's value has never been behind the plate. He also streaks between .210 and .225. The difference this season is that he's committing errors like their going out of style, and he's not producing HRs and RBIs. He's simply playing bad baseball.

So what would my old high school coach say if I was given a D- or D+? He'd bench me, and replace me. There would be no discussion. It would just be so. Perhaps the Tigers' management will find a replacement for the two holds before the July 31 trade deadline. I'm personally not going to hold my breath.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mid-season Awards Poll!

Imagine its November, and the World Series is over. MLB is wrapping up the awards voting, and they've just announced that Justin Verlander has won the 2011 AL Cy Young Award. If a mid-season poll has any indication of what's to come, your dream will come true.

Early voting hows Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander heading home with the Cy Young awards. Jim Leyland also faired well with 3rd place in the AL Manager of the year award. For the NL, former Tigers outfielder Kirk Gibson would take hom the top Manager prize.

Its fun sometimes to see these polls. So much baseball is left to play, but often times the story is already written. What's left is the conclusion to verify what we already knew. Our winners came out of the gate holding the trophy, and never looked back.

Justin Verlander's nick name quickly turned in 'Cy Young' in the dug out at the Allstar Game. Even Josh Beckett, a contender for the award, acknowledged him him as the best pitcher. Verlander just smiled. He was enjoying the moment, and preparing to get his teammates back to Detroit. An ace turned Concierge took care of the flight plans for his Allstar teammates.

A class act if you ask me.

So enjoy the rest of the story. Dombrowski has some work to do, and the Ace will be back on the mound Friday. The MLB awards will be something to see.

NFL vs Players Almost Over?

Its true. The NFL lockout is over thanks to a judge. The players are tired of having no deal. The owners are getting a lot of things they wanted. Brees, Brady, and Manning all say its time to seal the deal. As far as the reports say, we could see a ratified deal in less than 10 days. I'll keep you posted.

Taxing Greatness

The United States needs money. Congress can't spend it if they don't have it. So why not turn to Christian Lopez, the 23 year old cell phone salesman who handed over Jeter's 3,000th hit ball, and was rewarded with four awesome seats to all the games at Yankee Stadium this year, and a bunch of signed memorabilia. The IRS is guessing he owes something like $5,000 to $15,000. My guess is they will lean near the higher end. Why not, right?

One of the classiest moves I've seen from a fan was the selfless act of giving the ball back to Derek Jeter. He didn't ask for the ball, but Mr Lopez decided he should have it. Most people call him stupid. I applaud him. Now in another classy move, he's said he'll pay his taxes.

I sat there thinking "Someone is going to help this guy out. They're just going to wait until he gets the bill."

Apparently I was wrong....about when they'd agree to help him.

Miller High Life has vowed to pay the tax bill. "Miller High Life believes you should be rewarded for doing the right thing, not penalized," Miller High Life brand manager Brendan Noonan said in a statement. "We want to recognize Christian Lopez, and in turn everyone like him, for doing the common sense thing and help him continue to live the High Life."

A lot of class out there. It never ceases to amaze me. It never gets old.

C'mon, Dave, Let's Trade!

But please don't trade stupid. Rumors are swirling that Carlos Beltran could be on the Tigers' radar. Why? Who knows. He's an outfielder. He hits great. He's a great player. Why not? The Tigers have enough good and great Outfielders.

The real problem is the starting rotation. You have a Cy Young contender, a good pitcher, and two guys who are starting to pitch well. What about the fifth? There isn't one. Furbush is currently down in Toledo, and Coke can't start.

Aside from a huge hole in the rotation, there's Inge and Raburn. Carlos Guillen is due back this week or next, and will get a shot at 2B. Inge, tho, has turned into a fixture of bad baseball that won't go away at 3B. Why not Kelly? Who knows. Maybe they think he'll be Inge 2. Its a hole in the lineup that's killing rallies, and basic run production.

So my advice to Dave Dombrowski is not to trade for Carlos Beltran, but to instead find a replace for Inge in the infield, with someone who can hit, and a nice starter for the rotation. Do that, and you win the AL Central.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A fine Allstar Week!

Rollie Fingers almost did the unthinkable. He almost beat Jennie Fynch in a pitcher's duel during the annual Celebrity Softball Game. Just before that, watching Cano pound long ball after long ball from pitches from his Dad. He saved the HR Derby, and stuck it to every Boston fan in America. Nicely done, Robinson. It was the start of an enjoyable Allstar week.

I always enjoy watching the Allstar game. It doesn't always matter to me who does what, but with five Tigers on the roster, I anxiously awaited the start from Avila, and the fill in sports for Peralta and Cabrera. So far, nothing significant has come from them, or really any of the AL, but its still exciting to see the home town guys in the game.

I was trying to remember the last time the Tigers had so many potential Allstars on one roster. It reminded me a lot of the Pistons putting four starters in the NBA Allstar game. I'll never forget them and LeBron winning it for the East.

Its a shame Justin Verlander couldn't pitch tonight. I would have loved to see him and Avila out there together on the national stage. Still, it was nice to see him picked, and in the dugout enjoying himself. I hope he had a hot dog.

Something scarey could be in the works though. Miguel Cabrera has reportedly left the game with an injury. Now, we know that if even one little thing feels weird, these guys will stop playing. Look at Jared Weaver. He felt something weird, he bowed out early.

That's the nature of pro sports when you have millions of dollars at stake. Its not only the salaries, its the potential loss of team income if they don't make the playoffs. The Tigers are one of those teams built for a post season run. I can't imagine the Illitches will be pleased if their expensive payroll doesn't gather a couple or more post season games.

One thing I am hoping for is to see Valverde get a chance to save the AL. Its not because of his pitching, I can see that any day. Its because he has a new dance rehearsed! I'll admit it. I'm a fan of Papa Grande's antics!

No matter how this turns out, I'll still look at this night like all the other July ASGs. It was a good two nights of baseball. I can't wait until next season!

Kenny Joins the USA!

Congratulations to Ken Holland, GM of the Red Wings, for becoming an official U.S. Citizen! He spent 8-10 years working on it. He's brought a lot to us here in Detroit, and we're glad to finally have him as one of our own!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Congratulations, Mr. Peralta!

I don't know why, but I was overly excited when I heard the news that Jhonny Peralta would be the Tigers' 5th Allstar. Peralta is hitting .313 with 14 HRs and 50 RBIs this season at SS. He also appeared to lettting the world know that he should have been there as a starter in the first place with an incredible throw to first base in last night's 6-4 win over the Royals.

Its a tale of popularity, solidity, and a history of winning. Winning on a personal level, and the biggest stage in the world. Derek Jeter is a perenial Allstar, well deserved, and his yearly play almost always warrants the pick. But this year I couldn't help but think that part of the voting process had let down true MLB enthusiasts everywhere.

I don't want you think that I'm writing an anti Jeter piece. I'm not. I love Jeter. He's a Michigan native. A great ball player. I remember sitting in Yankee stadium watching him play, and thinking "Wow, I'm watching one of the great Yankees of history!"

So what's the deal?

It drives me completely crazy how the reserves are picked. Yes, I think the coaches and players should decide. Yes, I think the coaches try to get it right. Yes, I think the coaches have jaded views of things, and make the wrong decisions most of the time.

James Shields should be starting the Allstar game, not Josh Beckett. I'm starting to doub that even Justin Verlander would have been the starter if he had been eligible. Perhaps its time for the fans to start voting on Pitchers. I don't know, maybe that would just make things worse.

But back to the Peralta matter. Asdrubal Cabrera is a deserving Allstar SS. But let's face it, he should not have been picked over Peralta. Peralta has been better in the field, and behind the plate. He's an intregal part of a fragile lineup, and he keeps his pieces moving on a nightly basis.

Still even with all the flaws in the process, I am happy with the AL roster, now. Through some help from aging, rotations, and other factors, the roster is in good shape. I'm still not convinced the NL isn't the better league this year, but I think the pieces are in place for a competitive game.

And as far as the bad rotation luck for Verlander, I'm sure he'll be sitting there rooting on his teammates. When is the last time five Tigers made the team? This is a summer to remember for them.

Back to Winning!

Three wins in a row, and the chance for the Tigers to take all 4 games in the series is a great way to launch themselves into the Allstar break. The Royals were the nemesis the Tigers weren't happy to face for the last couple seasons, but they seem to have sent away all those guys that make them tough.

Carlos Guillen returns next week. That could plug up a much needed hole at 2B, and shore up another weak spot in the lineup. Maybe Don Kelly will start playing 3B again, and Leyland will finally bench Inge. Its probably a long shot, but we have to have hope.

Game 3 tonight against KC, 7:10 PM. Furbush vs Hochevar. I'm looking forward to Furbush building on his first start.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Jurrjens wouldn't be an allstar?

I don't agree at all with this, but its worth reading.

Drew Sharp: Jair Jurrjens wouldn't be an All-Star with Tigers

Jurrjens was a rising star with Detroit. He continued his path in Atlanta, and now he's finally broken out. The NL hitters aren't softer than the AL hitters anymore.