Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The biggest issue regarding Jim Harbaugh becoming Michigan's next football coach

We've seen this one before...
Remember Tom Izzo, and his courting with the Cleveland Cavaliers? Dan Gilbert's devotion to Michigan State, alma mater, is unquestioned, but what didn't he do to try to get Izzo to coach his NBA team?
So why would anybody think it will be any different when it comes to Stephen Ross, as prominent a Michigan alum as there is, and the owner of the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins are a disappointing 7-7, just the 11th seed in the AFC and very unlikely to make the playoffs. In three years, Joe Philbin, Miami's head coach, is 22-24. It's unlikely he will be back next season.
These are the factors that likely would make the Dolphins more appealing to Harbaugh than Michigan:
- The Dolphins possess one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL in Ryan Tannehill, and a solid defense. It is not a major rebuilding job like at Michigan. The Dolphins are capable of winning now.
- The NFL pays more. Harbaugh would likely make more than $8 million per year as the Dolphins' coach. Only Alabama's Nick Saban at $7.1 million makes more than $5.6 million among current college coaches.
- For all the waxing poetic about how Harbaugh is a "Michigan man," he is also an NFL man. He's played or coached in the NFL two decades. It's clearly his comfort zone.
- The NFL is all about coaching. The recruiting game is out of equation.
It's an interesting situation with Ross. Nobody has ever donated more money to Michigan. The business school is named after him.
But it would be naïve to believe he wouldn't take Harbaugh as the head coach of the Dolphins because of his alma mater.

My column. New faces, but same problems for the Tigers: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141213/pat-caputo-new-names-but-same-problems-for-detroit-tigers

My column. Ugly win by Lions paints a beautiful picture: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141214/pat-caputo-ugly-win-by-detroit-lions-paints-a-beautiful-picture

Sunday, December 14, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions' 16-14 victory over the Vikings Sunday

Thoughts halftime Vikings, Lions


- Minnesota's Norv Turner has always been a better offensive coordinator than head coach. Obviously, the Vikings' OC had an excellent game plan for the Lions' vaunted defense. But even given how well Turner prepared QB Teddy Bridgewater, those turnovers were inevitable in this environment against a defense like the Lions. I think Bridgewater has a higher upside than most people, and he is improving by leaps and bounds, but he remains inconsistent. Rare is the rookie QB who is not.
- If Lions' safety Glover Quin doesn't get a spot in the Pro Bowl this season, it was be travesty of the highest order. He continues to make big plays. None, however, may prove to be more significant than his interception. This game was in danger of getting away from the Lions before the big play by Quin.
- Loved the formation with Golden Tate in the backfield, but for the most part, the Lions' offense has staggered.
- The Vikings are daring the Lions to run the ball. It's that simple. And the Lions' passing game won't open until they make the Vikings pay for their game plan by gashing them with runs.

My column. New names, but same problems for the Tigers: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141213/pat-caputo-new-names-but-same-problems-for-detroit-tigers

Thoughts after first quarter Vikings, Lions

- Disappointing start, obviously, for the Lions. For a team that needs this game so desperately, they have played with anything but a sense of urgency. Minnesota's offensive front is whipping the Lions defensive front so far. The Lions' defense is making Matt Asiata look like Marshawn Lynch.
- The Lions' offense looks completely out of sync. The Vikings are daring the Lions to run the ball, but they haven't effectively until this point. The idea of short passes and getting yards after the catch hasn't been working. The Vikings have been sure with their tackling. Minnesota has an excellent secondary. Safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Xavier Rhodes are especially good players. Still, this isn't like the some sort of safe Matthew Stafford and the Lions shouldn't be able to crack, especially at home.
- This is a game the Lions' defense needs to force turnovers. Vikings' QB Teddy Bridgewater has done a much better job of taking care of the ball since the first meeting between the two teams, but he is still hesitant with the ball after making his initial read because of inexperience. The Lions' safeties have fed off such situations this season.
- The Packers loss at Buffalo today isn't that surprising. It was on the road, against a winning team with a stout defense and after the Packers played on Monday night. But it was how the Packers lost, that is surprising. The Bills defense just stymied the Packers, and Aaron Rodgers played a terrible game. The Packers are not a particularly good road team, but I do think they will win at Tampa Bay next week. Of course, none that might matter if the Lions don't get their act together today.


My column. New face, but same problems for the Tigers: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141213/pat-caputo-new-names-but-same-problems-for-detroit-tigers

Thursday, December 11, 2014

So this is the cost of winning now for the Detroit Tigers

If your read the earlier posting on this blog (see below) you know the reasons why I like the Tigers reportedly dealing Rick Porcello to the Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes Thursday. They needed to balance out their club. Cespedes, even though he is older, has a higher ceiling as an every day player than Porcello as a starting pitcher, unless somehow Porcello can change his "pitch-to-contact" ways. As is, Porcello's ceiling is as a No.3 or No. 4 starter. Both are the same place in their contract (eligible for free agency after this season).
The Tigers would have liked to re-sign Max Scherzer, and it still could happen if the market doesn't open up the way his agent Scott Boras might anticipate. But Boras waits to the very end with his clients. The Tigers had to move so they don't get left holding the bag come later in the winter. So you had the earlier deal with the Yankees for starting pitcher Shane Greene, and this one with Cincinnati for pitcher Alfredo Simon Thursday.
The Tigers overpaid for Simon, who is eligible for free agency after this season. Eugenio Suarez was pushed to MLB sooner than ideal, and is still a mid-range prospect. Jonathan Crawford is a very solid prospect. He could come back to haunt the Tigers.
Simon was brilliant the first half of last season, but very mediocre the second half. His value to the Tigers may come out of the bullpen. He was good there in 2012 and excellent there in 2013 before entering the rotation in 2014 and taking off, well, at least for a half a season. He has a power arm that actually plays out better as a reliever. So it's not as if the Tigers are blocked from re-signing Scherzer because they have Simon. He is insurance for the rotation, but he can also work from the bullpen, which might actually be preferred.
My column. Reggie Bush, the right of free expression and the wrong place: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141210/pat-caputo-reggie-bush-the-right-of-free-expression-and-it-happening-at-the-wrong-place

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

It's not a coincidence the Red Wings are playing better because so is Pavel Datsyuk

When Pavel Datsyuk is healthy, it's splitting hairs to find flaws in his game. There is nothing he doesn't do well. And there are two things he does better than any player I have ever seen, stick handle and take the puck off opposing forward.
But he hasn't ever been a big goal scorer. His high is 32 goals in 2009. He has scored more than  27 goals in a season since, nor even gotten to 20 since 2011.
So what Datsyuk is doing early this season is raising eyebrows. He has 12 goals in 17 games, including seven in the last seven. His shooting percentage is 26.7, the best among all NHL players with double digits in goals and double what it was last season when he was injury plagued. Also, he has 22 points in 17 games.
Without question, Datsyuk resurgence at age 36 has been a major factor in the Red Wings' resurgence overall.

My column. Quality free agents could Lions over the top: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141209/pat-caputo-impact-free-agent-signings-could-put-detroit-lions-over-the-top

My column. On the travesty of Ohio State in the CFP, and why MSU must carry Big Ten football's tattered banner: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141208/pat-caputo-why-msu-vs-baylor-as-much-as-ohio-state-vs-alabama-carrying-tattered-big-ten-football-banner
 

Monday, December 08, 2014

On the idea of the Tigers trading Rick Porcello to Boston for Yoenis Cespedes

It's the trade rumbling of the off-season so far: Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
Based purely on baseball value would I do it if I were the Tigers? Absolutely. It was pretty clear how valuable Cespedes was to the Athletics last season in comparison to a starting pitcher as their season collapsed after trading him to Boston. And that starting pitcher, Jon Lester, is better than Porcello.
Rick Porcello: A lot of hits, not many K's
My view on Porcello has changed in large degree because the game has changed. While he's relatively young (he won't turn 26 until two days after Christmas), has won a lot of games in the major leagues and has excellent competitive character, I don't see Porcello becoming a genuine No. 1 or No.2 starter in this era because he doesn't miss enough bats.
We've been raised with the idea of pitching to contact. Even at youth games, you will hear, "Let your fielders do it." Ah, but the notion of pitching to contact is not ideal. It puts the margin of error and probability into the equation. While striking out hitters may drive up pitch counts, it does lead to more consistency. It's impossible to get a seeing-eye single when a hitter K's.
Porcello is an interesting case. He was drafted because of his big-time arm strength, and a fastball that did run into the upper 90s at Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey, but in order to make MLB sooner, he developed a two-seam (sinking) fastball that has become his bread and butter offering. Too often, when he gets into trouble, he hasn't been able to put hitters away with a strikeout. He will have long streaks of tremendous pitching, but it eventually it becomes his undoing. It limits his upside. Porcello still has a 95 mph four-seam fastball, and has been at his best when he uses it to change the eye-level of hitters and get strikeouts. But it hasn't been that often. He allows a lot of hits per inning, but doesn't strikeout that many. His defensive independent pitching numbers are those of No.3 starter, not of a one or two. It's also why his ERA is high.
I know, people say the same thing about Doug Fister, and they are very similar scenarios except for the age factor. Fister actually did better in Washington than Detroit last year, despite pitching more to contact and rising fielding independent statistics. Why? He had much better defense behind him. Also, he was still a three starter for the Nationals. Not a 1 or 2.
I didn't have an issue with the Tigers trading Fister given their starting pitching depth and holes elsewhere. The problem was getting virtually nothing back in return.
Yoenis Cespedes: Worth a long-term deal?
Velocity is up among pitchers since 2000 (some say as much as two miles per hour), perhaps because they are being taught better fundamentals at an early age, and arms being better taken care of. You just don't see as many funky pitching motions as you used to. Hence, there are more pitchers throwing harder than ever in the pool. If you look at the bullpens of Baltimore and Kansas City in the playoffs, that was certainly the case. Combined with free swinging hitters, there are more pitches not put in play than ever. It's changed the game away from "pitch to contact" to "make them swing and miss and improve the odds."
It's driven down the value of a pitch-to-contact pitcher like Porcello from the standpoint of giving him a huge, multi-year contract, which would have been a no-brainer a few years ago.
Cespedes is not without his flaws, but he is plus defensively as a corner outfielder, has power and those lamenting about his career .263 batting average should note it is above the MLB average of last year, which was just .251. As a rookie he did have a sky-high OPS. He would help the Tigers.
The chances of this trade happening are very minimal, though. Clubs looking to move good pitchers or players a year before free agency aren't seeking to deal them for players with the same issue. The Tigers like Porcello, but at what cost? The Red Sox like Cespedes, but at what cost? Dealing for one year, rental players makes little sense. The idea is to get players with several years under club control in return for such premium talent.

My column. Why MSU vs. Baylor, as much as Ohio State vs. Alabama, carrying Big Ten's tattered football banner: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141208/pat-caputo-why-msu-vs-baylor-as-much-as-ohio-state-vs-alabama-carrying-tattered-big-ten-football-banner

My column. Sunday's win over Tampa Bay a sign there will be a different ending for the Lions in '14: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141207/pat-caputo-win-over-tampa-bay-tangible-sign-final-scene-could-be-very-different-for-detroit-lions-in-14


My thoughts and column on Lions' 34-17 victory over Tampa Bay

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Thoughts after 3 quarters Bucs, Lions

- The impact of the Lions' defensive line is starting to show. Josh McCown is being hit a lot after releasing the ball. The Lions will have to be careful not to get roughing the passer penalties. Suh and Ziggy Ansah could have easily drawn ones in the third quarter.
- Matthew Stafford has been efficient today. He hasn't tried to do too much. And he doesn't have to. The deep throws to Calvin Johnson have had a big impact on this game (each thrown over 60 yards in the air). The Bucs secondary is playing unusually deep even for a Tampa Bay 2 team. The Lions are hitting the underneath stuff now. He is 57 of 75 (76 percent) for 668 yards and four TDs and no interceptions last two games.
- Thanksgiving vs. Chicago and today we are seeing why Calvin Johnson is, well, Megatron. He's been terrific.
- Sometimes overlooked is Stafford's field awareness. Like tossing that botched snap out of bounds. There was not going to be any grounding on the play because he was out of the pocket.


Thoughts halftime Bucs Lions

This isn't necessarily fancy, but the Lions are doing what they need to do in order to beat the Bucs. The first thing is taking care of the ball. The second is taking it away. It's been pretty methodical so far, just what the doctor ordered, so to speak. The facemask penalty on Jason Jones was costly, though. It doesn't feel like the Lions have lost control of the game, however, despite the late TD by the Bucs.
- The Bucs are a classic example of how important quarterback play is in the NFL Josh McCown got a lot of cache for how he played for the Bears last season when Jay Cutler, and Lovie Smith obviously liked him from the time he was there. Personally, I think Mike Glennon is much more threatening. Obviously, the Bucs will be looking to take a QB in the upcoming NFL Draft. Just wonder who will be at the head of the list, and whether they would even consider Jameis Winston, while weighing his enormous talent against his excess baggage.
- I have long thought DeAndre Levy is the most underrated player on the Lions, and perhaps this town. But it might be Glover Quin. Having two quality safeties has made all the difference in the world for the Lions. James Ihedigbo is a way better player than I thought when the Lions signed him.
- Ndamukomg Suh's tackle with just a little more than two minutes left in the half was his first since there were four minutes left in the New England game. He negated it with a roughing the passer penalty on the next play.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Bucs, Lions

- Matthew Stafford is doing an excellent job of spreading the ball around today. Putting tight end Eric Ebron in the mix is a huge part of that equation. The middle of the field is going to be open against the Tampa 2 scheme the Bucs' deploy under Lovie Smith. The Lions need to continue taking advantage of it.
- Golden Tate is a terrific player. What a compliment he is for Calvin Johnson. Today it is particularly noticeable. The Bucs are clearly confused defensively.
- It should be 14-0 or 10-0 now right. It wasn't very creative play calling on the play going for it on fourth down in Bucs' territory. It was a long yard. The choice to run up the middle routinely wasn't the right one. The result speaks for itself.
- You can make a strong case that Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is actually a better player than Ndamukong Suh. But the one area Suh definitely holds the edge is durability. McCoy had to leave this game after the first series because of knee injury. Suh has been remarkably durable so far in his career. McCoy missed a lot of time earlier in his career because of injury.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

How Michigan learn from MSU blue print to turn around football program

Thoughts halftime MSU, Penn State


- Everybody looks at MSU's toughness as the Spartans' key element, and it's hard to argue against, but it's often overlooked that they do have many explosive athletes at skill positions. R.J. Shelton is a classic example. Great kickoff return to set the tone for this game. He makes a lot of big plays. Macgarrett Kings Jr. is a pretty good punt returner, too.
- I didn't have a problem with MSU not running out the clock to end the half. That's a loser's mentality, especially near midfield. They went for it by passing. It's what they should have done, even if it backfired with the interception. It's not like the Spartans have a bad defense and Penn State a good offense.
- Maybe Mark Dantonio and the Spartans' coaching staff is a bit late to the party playing Tony Lippett both ways. Lippett played a lot defensively early in his MSU career. He's been a 1,000-yard receiver this year, and I would imagine that's where the NFL is looking at him primarily, although there is a tendency in the league to place high value on bigger cornerbacks. At 6-3, Lippett has a similar size-speed equation as Richard Sherman, who was initially a wide receiver at Stanford.  If he were a key part of the defense playing both ways for MSU, Lippett might have helped against Oregon and Ohio State, the games MSU's secondary was scorched.
- The Spartans' offense looks a bit too sluggish for comfort in this game, but Christian Hackenberg has not developed as expected at QB. Penn State really misses former Bill O'Brien, now the head coach of the NFL's Houston Texans, on offense. They aren't nearly as in sync nor as creative under James Franklin, who hasn't been able to develop a big-play receiver.

My column. Big Thanksgiving win by Detroit Lions suggest angst about Matthew Stafford misguided: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141127/caputo-big-thanksgiving-win-for-detroit-lions-suggests-angst-about-matthew-stafford-misguided

My thoughts on Michigan and the Wolverines' 42-28 loss to Ohio State Saturday

Thoughts halftime Michigan Ohio State

A terrific first half of football by the Wolverines, at least until the last two minutes of the half. There isn't a lot of margin for error for the Wolverines. Ohio State played about as poorly as it can in the first half, and Michigan about as well as it can. And it's a tie game. While the game is far from over, at least the Wolverines have put themselves in place to have a chance to pull off a monumental upset. although it's minimal.
- That interception always happens to Devin Gardner. It has, unfortunately, defined his career at Michigan. At least he got it out of the way sooner instead of later today. But that doesn't mean it is done. Gardner is always a turnover about to happen. Even when he appears to be on a roll. Otherwise. Yes. Gardner has played well today. His mobility is giving Ohio State fits. A 15-play, 95-yard touchdown drive is extraordinarily impressive. The Wolverines are running the ball well for a change. Gardner has been especially accurate.
-  Michigan fullback Joe Kerridge has made a couple big plays today. He had a big run on a fake punt last week vs. Maryland. Where was he in the offense, other than blocking, before? Obviously, he's a pretty good player.
- Michigan's secondary is playing very well today. It's been the biggest bright spot defensively. J.T. Barrett is a special QB, though. He proved it at the end of the half on his TD run.
- Not only has Gardner being fully healthy helped the Wolverines offensively, so has the fully recovery of tight Jake Butt. Devin Funchess is having an excellent game, too. The Wolverines need to look toward him more, though.

My column. Big Thanksgiving Lions' win suggests angst about Matthew Stafford may have been misguided: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20141127/caputo-big-thanksgiving-win-for-detroit-lions-suggests-angst-about-matthew-stafford-misguided