Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers 8-6 victory over Tampa Bay Tuesday

My column. Why Brad Ausmus has been more a victim than the cause for the Tigers' struggles:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thoughts after 7 1-2 innings Tigers, Rays Tuesday

- There is obvious dissatisfaction with closer Tigers' closer Joe Nathan, but Joba Chamberlain has been at least as big an issue lately. We'll see what he has tonight. Big inning upcoming.
- For all the angst about the Tigers' off-season moves, it's difficult to argue J.D, Martinez wasn't a find. On a team lacking power, he has provided it. He's been OK defensively. So he wasn't able to keep up his incredible pace from the start of the year. So what? The Tigers would be in a lot worse shape with him, that's for sure. Huge home run tonight.
- I thought that was gutsy outing by Max Scherzer tonight.
- When was the last time Ian Kinsler had a big hit for the Tigers? It's difficult to remember. They have been few and far between lately.

Thoughts after 5 innings Tigers, Rays Tuesday

A very important part of this game is Max Scherzer holding it together after a rough first couple innings. He's gotten much better at that aspect than earlier in his career when he was incredibly up and down. Scherzer has always had great "stuff," but the difference the last couple years has been poise. It's like his talent, experience and being in his prime have blended together perfectly.
- I haven't been happy with replay lately. It's been taken too long to decide calls. But the top of the fifth inning tonight was a classic example of how it is supposed to work.
- A big hit by Miguel Cabrera. It was a promising sign he scolded a 96 mph fastball. It's something he hasn't been doing lately.
- The reaction of the replay being overturned to the Tigers' advantage drew a loud ovation at Tampa Bay. Can hear it now how they are getting better support on the road than at home. Personally, I think it is time the Tigers' get over that part of it. Nothing worse than an overly sensitive baseball team.

My column. Why Brad Ausmus is more victim than the cause of the Tigers' struggles:

Monday, August 18, 2014

The 6 degrees of the Doug Fister trade - and how it keeps hurting the Detroit Tigers

Dec. 2, 2013, a day that is hanging over the Tigers and general manager Dave Dombrowski like the cloud that burst above Warren last week. It was the day they traded starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals. The aftermath of the trade has already started to rain heavily, and there is growing fear in this town a deluge is about to ensue.
The Tigers are 39-44 since beginning this season 27-12. If the postseason started right now, they wouldn't be a part of it. These are 6 reasons the Doug Fister trade has hurt the Tigers so badly:

1. Considering the Tigers gave up a big portion of their offensive firepower in an earlier trade, particularly from the left side, when they traded Prince Fielder, the Tigers needed to get an offensive player of note if trading Fister. Instead they inexplicably picked up utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi. He was trade in spring training, was picked up by Baltimore and has a minus 0.5 WAR in just 20 MLB games this season. It's almost impossible to be that bad with such a small sample size. Oh, he was minus player with Washington over a larger sample size. Instead of a better, cheaper version of Ramon Santiago, Lombardozzi makes Santiago look like Tony Phillips in comparison.

2. The Tigers' long standing issues in the bullpen have been obvious. They did get left-handed reliever Ian Krol in return in the deal. Krol has only added to the problem. His WHIP in MLB this year is nearly 1.6, and he has essentially been half-as-effective as 4-A lefty Blaine Hardy.

Especially in the big picture, the Tigers miss Fister
3. The Tigers raved about left-handed starting pitching prospect Robbie Ray at the time of the trade, and he is a good prospect with emphasis on "good." He has a chance to be a solid MLB starter someday (with emphasis on "someday"), but he is not a Top 100 prospect and the chances of Ray not being a top-end MLB pitcher are at least as likely as it happening. And so far, he's been badly overmatched at the MLB level (a WHIP of nearly 1.7). And it wasn't like Ray has dominated in Triple-A (his ERA was 3.72). Granted, Ray has been much younger than the average age at the level of his competition along the line in the minor leagues, but he has never dominated at any level. His career minor league ERA is 4.17.
4. If Fister had remained with the Tigers, there wouldn't have been the need to make a trade for David Price. That would mean the Tigers would still have Austin Jackson in center field and Drew Smyly in the bullpen. Instead, the Tigers outfield defense has completely deteriorated to three-statue status (The Golden Globe in left, The Emmy in center and The Oscar in right) without Jackson in center.
5. Anybody who suggests Fister equals David Price because his statistics are so good this season is naïve.Price ranks among the top handful of pitchers in MLB. Fister is an ideal No.3 or 4 starter. But isn't that just what the Tigers needed? And it's not like Fister has not pitched well in the postseason. He has, actually better than Price in that regard, and will be a lot easier to resign after 2015 when both are free agents.
6. There is this element that if something isn't broke, don't fix it. And if you do rob from a strength, like the Tigers did with starting pitching when they traded Fister, there better be a weaknesses that was greaten enhanced. That simply didn't happen when the Tigers traded Doug Fister and didn't get more in return. It's unfair to suggest it has been the Tigers only problem this season, but not to suggest it has been, by far, the biggest reason the Tigers
 find themselves in their current predicament.

My column: Why Brad Ausmus is more victim than cause of Tigers' current struggles:

My column. Ken Holland and the Red Wings need to start living up to their sterling reputation:

My column. It looks like the Lions have finally gotten it right offensively:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Looks like the Detroit Lions have finally gotten it right offensively

Friday, August 15, 2014

Thoughts halftime Lions, Raiders Friday

Lions coach Jim Caldwell
- I didn't think Nate Freese had a 55-yard field goal in him. Evidently, I was wrong.
- Wow. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley was out there with the Lions' second-team defense late in the second quarter of the second preseason game. There is, obviously, a big message being sent to him by Lions' head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff. It's something they don't even have to talk about. The action is speaking much louder than any words could. They stuck with what they did during practice this week. Wasn't sure they would.
- Running back George Winn might make the Lions based on special teams. Nice plays tonight.
- I don't know how long the NFL is going to keep emphasizing ticky tack holding calls defensively down the field, but if it continues like this in the regular season, two things will happen. One, is the Lions' passing attack, a strength, should be nearly unstoppable, and their secondary, their weakness, will suffer mightily, as well. And two, NFL games are going to take forever and frustrate fans. I've watched a number of preseason games this year, and it's been like this all over the league. Honestly, it's ridiculous and is making a mockery of the game. You have to let 'em play. Hopefully, this won't be quite the same issue during the regular season.
- Rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy looks good tonight. He's made his presence felt both rushing the passer and dropping into coverage. He seems as versatile as advertised.
- It would be good to see wide receiver Ryan Broyles get snaps with the first-team offense next week vs. Jacksonville. He's earned it with his performance in the first two preseason games.  

My thoughts after first quarter Lions, Raiders Friday

- Nate Freese missing the extra point isn't going to cost him the job, unless it is a pattern that continues. Lets put it this way, his margin for error has gone down. Thing is, would another optin at kicker be in the Lions' camp. I'm not sure how much confidence the Lions have in Giorgio Tavecchio, the competition for Freese.
- Matthew Stafford looks sharp tonight. The offense has a good, fast tempo. The big reason: Stafford has been accurate with his throws.
Golden Tate
- How about Charles Woodson still playing? Amazing. What a sure-thing Hall of Fame player he is going to be. He is going to be 38 in October.
- Kevin Ogletree is the Lions' most underrated receiver. He is a smooth route runner. I would expect him to be the Lions' third wide receiver after Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
- Eric Ebron has to stay on his feet when catching the ball in space. That was one of the big ideas in drafting him, yards after the catch. He looked a little too uncomfortable on his first quarter reception. The Lions need him to settle down and just play. The talent is there.
- It's hard to find any fault with the Lions defense so far  tonight. Not sure if it is because they are so good or the Raiders' defense so bad.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers' 8-4 victory over the Pirates Wednesday

Thoughts after 7-plus innings Pirates, Tigers Wednesday

- It's about time the Tigers' hitters did something. Big hit by Victor Martinez. Everybody dwells on Miguel Cabrera, but the Tigers need a lot more than they have been getting from VMart lately.
Alex Avila
- I thought Buck Farmer did well, but so did Blaine Hardy. For a so-called "4-A" pitcher he has been much better than that for the Tigers so far. Nice hold tonight.
- Alex Avila continues to wake up at the plate. It is one of the few bright spots for the Tigers offensively in recent game. His home run tonight seemed to turn the course of the game.
- If there is concern about Farmer it is his breaking ball. He hung quite a few tonight and got away with it. That's not going to happen most of the time at the MLB level.

Thoughts after 2 innings Pirates, Tigers Wednesday

Why is Don Kelly on this team? I did ask Dave Dombrowski that at the trade deadline. He said Brad Ausmus, like Jim Leyland, appreciates his versatility and wants him on the team. But versatility isn't worth that much without offensive production. I think the Tigers need much better offensively at the end of the bench. That double play ball hit by Kelly in the second was a rally killer.
Buck Farmer
- Buck Farmer's numbers were misleading at Class A West Michigan from the standpoint he was year older than the average player in the league, and more experienced because of his college background. He was also limited to five innings per start. But he also did well in two starts at Double-A Erie, where he was younger than the average player at that level. What I like about the move is so-called "stuff" is what it is, regardless of level. Farmer has pretty good "staff." The issue is command, and not just walks, but location within the zone. It hasn't been that good. We'll see how he does second time around the Pirates' order.
- Pirates center fielder Starling Marte with another example of why diving for a baseball isn't, usually, the right thing to do. Nick Castellanos has no complaints about. The result was a triple.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers' 4-2 loss to the Pirates Tuesday

Thoughts after 6 innings Tigers, Pirates Tuesday

- Robbie Ray was fine tonight. Three runs in the first five innings. He missed some bats (five k's). He just walked one. Not a great start - too many extra base hits - but not a bad one, either. He is better using a slider than the awful curveball he displayed during his first stint in the major leagues. It wasn't his fault manager Brad Ausmus made the mistake of keeping Ray in to start the fifth. It wasn't like the Pirates had a slew of left-handed hitters slated to come up.
- The good news for the Tigers is often-slumping catcher Alex Avila has been hitting much better lately. He has had a few key hits on this road trip. The bad news, those have been about half the key hits the Tigers have had on this road trip. They are not going to win often if that is the case.
- The Tigers' bullpen is awful collectively at holding base runners, but Al Alburquerque takes it to an entirely higher. Stealing second base in the sixth was like stealing candy from a baby for the Pirates' speedy Starling Marte.
- The Tigers lack of lack of range was painfully evident on the double by Ike Davis in the sixth inning. That should have been single.