Thursday, July 21, 2011

When The Tigers Broke Free

Today, for the first time in years, Brandon Inge will not be a member of the Detroit Tigers. Some fans are upset that their favorite player may have seen his last at-bats in a Tiger uniform; others are rejoicing in a move that should have been made two years ago when Placido Polanco left for Philadelphia. Polanco was recently voted the third base starter for the National League. Inge was batting .177 and had the worst slugging percentage in all of baseball for batters that qualify.

I said at the time, and still believe, that letting Polanco go was the worst move Dombrowski has made as Detroit's general manager. He's been a better defender than Inge for the better part of three years now and was the key to Detroit's offense in the two slot. Gone are the days where the top of our lineup is able to move runners over in order to put guys like Cabrera and Martinez in position to drive them home and Polanco's absence is the biggest reason for that. Instead, our third baseman has been an absolute hole in the lineup, striking out at a high rate and providing zero production in any offensive facet. Detroit has struggled to find a two-hitter all season and continues to shuffle various players into the spot with marginal results at best.

Inge is being replaced by Wilson Betemit, who is a marginal player that has made his rounds. His batting average is pushed by a high BABIP but his walk rate and power output are both lower than his career averages indicate so the two might balance out. Regardless, despite his defensive shortcomings, he is a massive improvement over Inge. At this point, Don Kelly was already a superior player. That's when you know a move needs to be made.

Many think Inge will be back, and I am one of them. As has been the case with him, however, it won't be the right move when it happens.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Buying in on the pitching market

I decided to change things up because the college football offseason is arguably in its slowest period and there are many other sites that have covered what's necessary in the middle of July.

Today's question is simple: What should the Tigers do at the trading deadline? With only a couple weeks remaining, decisions will have to be made on whether or not to make a couple moves that put the team in position to take the division. The following are my opinions:

Positions of need (in order): Starting pitching, left field, third base

Expendables: Any prospect not named Turner or Castellanos, Rick Porcello, Dirks, Wells, Alburquerque

Given who I feel should be expendable, I will not cover the possibility of Ubaldo Jimenez in a Tigers uniform because he would likely take Turner and Castellanos, among others.

Team stats that matter:

ERA: 4.26 (26th in the majors)
BAA: .261 (25th)
OBPA (On-base against): .331 (tied for 25th)
WHIP: 1.38 (26th)

These numbers are actually pretty eye popping when you consider Verlander's dominance this season. In short, the rest of the rotation has stunk and something either needs to change or they need help. Let's look at some options:

Wandy Rodriguez

Stats that matter:

ERA/FIP: 3.67/3.92 (would be 2nd and 3rd in the rotation respectively)
BAA: .265
WAR: 1.1

Houston's GM Ed Wade is currently asking too much for Rodriguez (or Hunter Pence for that matter) considering he's currently overpaid and will be until 2013 when he's raking in $13 million. Don't get me wrong, Rodriguez is a solid pitcher who would likely slide into our two spot. He's also a competent southpaw, something the rotation sorely lacks. He's 32 years old though and would likely become an albatross contract in 2012 and 2013 when he starts to age. I don't think the risk meets the potential reward here. We'd likely have to give up an uncomfortable amount and Wandy has been relatively inconsistent throughout his career. Not something we're really looking for in order to make a playoff run.

Hiroki Kuroda

Stats that matter:

ERA/FIP: 3.12/3.67
BAA: .245
WAR: 1.5

To me, Kuroda is the best option for Detroit. He's having a solid year and is in the last year of his contract. The Dodgers are in financial ruin and are likely desperate to unload guys like Kuroda, so the price might not be too high. I've always admired Kuroda's statistical output because he does a good job of keeping himself out of trouble. He's always had a very low walk rate and strikes out a fair amount of batters. However, there's one huge stumbling block: the full no-trade clause that was included in his 2011 contract. Almost all reports on Kuroda claim he's not interested in moving east. You'd think any competitor would welcome the chance to pitch for a prospective contender, but it's also possible he's content in Los Angeles. Of any option that has been discussed for the Tigers, I feel like Kuroda would provide the most for the team. He'd be a stable option that could be counted on. However, he's also a long shot.

Jeremy Guthrie

Stats that matter:

ERA/FIP: 4.45/4.25
BAA: .266
WAR: 1.1

Baltimore will likely finish last in the AL East, and as usual will likely be selling. Guthrie seems like a prime candidate to be moved. He's young enough at 32 to be enticing to a contender but too old to really fit into Baltimore's long term plans. He's been relatively average this season, but is reliable and would provide another Brad Penny-type pitcher into the rotation. That's a good thing. He wouldn't cost a ton either. Guthrie is perhaps the most viable option for Detroit because he won't hurt our farm system through subtraction and could be a contributor down the stretch. He'd also likely approve a deal to pitch for the Tigers. I'm meh on him in general, but given the context of Detroit's situation he's potentially valuable.

Derek Lowe

Stats that matter:

FIP/ERA: 4.37/3.44
BAA: .262
WAR: 2.0

Detroit was once tied to Lowe when he became a free agent a couple years ago. Thankfully they didn't fork the 15-per that it took Atlanta to get him because he hasn't even approached living up to that contract. That being said, he's actually pitched pretty well this year and his ERA is in line to improve as the season continues. What doesn't make any sense to me is why Atlanta would trade him. He's making too much money and is at the back end of his career; what kind of player would they expect to get in return for him? Not to mention they are in line to run away with the NL Wild Card, and Lowe would be a valuable asset given his playoff experience. I don't see them moving him unless they really think Mike Minor (or maybe even Julio Teheran?) could perform at an equal level. If his contract wasn't so awful, I'd be a fan of this move because of his ties to Detroit. I don't foresee this one happening either.

Lesson of the story:

The market for starting pitching is thin as it usually tends to be. Detroit has the pieces to make a deal, but when the market is so thin, teams can afford to raise their asking prices and I'm not sure it's in their interest to get into a bidding war for pitchers who are wholly marginal. I feel like Guthrie is the most feasible out of those listed. Would he be the next Jarrod Washburn? No, but I'm not sure he would make the difference in the Central race either. If they can swing a deal for Kuroda, they should, but it's incredibly unlikely.

I'll post on the third base market in the next couple days.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ryan Van Bergen Q&A Notes

These are the direct quotes from my interview with Ryan Van Bergen, published yesterday in the Muskegon Chronicle. A lot of quotes I obtained were not used in the article, so I thought some might be interested to hear what else he had to say:

*Image courtesy of

How have you maintained a sense of focus during your career while being part of an almost constant transition (maybe bring up family)?

Committed to the program, not the coaching staff necessarily. With the transition, trying to produce the same Michigan team he grew up watching. Values it highly and is doing his best to upkeep the traditions of the past.

Do you feel like your growth as a player has been stunted by playing for three different DCs in four years?

I had some minor setbacks due to technique mainly. Personal success in basic things like working hard and doing the right things. Regardless of circumstances.

Being a senior on a relatively young team, what kind of lessons on leadership has Coach Hoke provided for you (Mike/Troy) thus far?

Lead by example. Be vocal and hoo-rah kind of guy. More effective to set an example and by doing things correctly. Not his legacy, he wants the seniors to be the people who lead this team. Holding yourself accountable.

What has Greg Mattison (Montgomery) brought out in your game that you may not have possessed before?

Allows me to be more aggressive and encourages him to do so. Attack. Fundamentals and technique. Force your will upon the opponent, don't react to what they're doing.

Has the team mentality changed under a more defensive minded coaching staff? Biggest difference from years past?

It's more of a balance than before. Adjust to who we play week to week is not the mentality anymore. FORCING YOUR WILL. Physical and toughness. Stick to what we do best.

Has beating Michigan State become as important a goal for this team as beating Ohio State?

Not as emphasized as Ohio State, but losing three years in a row brings it to your attention. Close games. Huge hole in my career.

What are your personal goals this season? (Team goals being obvious)

Best leader I can be. However that falls into place.....senior class wants to be the class that gets us back into contention for the Big Ten Championship.

Hoke is killing the recruiting trail....what is it about his personality and message that has all these young players not only coming on board, but speeding up their decisions to join the team (RJS, Richardson)?

They like his down to earth and genuine guy. He's honest. We can make you great, you won't play right away. Sheer honesty. Shoot you straight regardless.

How's Denard with the new system???!

Denard is an amazing player and leader of this team. Organizes the 7 on 7s. Had conversations with him and he feels the same way about the program that Ryan does. Just as good as last year if not bigger.

Thoughts on Ohio State situation:

Beating OSU is huge no matter what, but would you have rather beaten them with Pryor (assuming he's gone) and Tressel?

Beating Ohio is beating Ohio. Always be a big game. No less significant.

How does it feel to have lost to a team that you know now was bending the rules to bring in high profile recruits?

Not personally. Can understand why other people would feel that way. Doesn't really care who they brought in, just wants to win. They beat us in football. Extenuating. No bad feelings and is hungry.

Pryor in a Michigan uniform: Your thoughts when he committed, and now?

It was a good decision for him at the time. He's going to have to deal with those decisions he made in his career. No ill will towards him personally. Might have never gotten Denard otherwise.

What he wants: Our guys to have our hard work and dedication pay off in the win column. We have bonded and been through a ton of adversity. No reason we shouldn't be productive. Could be a 10 or 11 win team and contend for the Big Ten Championship. Repeated that sentence.

You mentioned playing a brand of football like you grew up watching....who were some of the players you grew up watching that you want to emulate, D-lineman or not?

Some of the guys that i grew up watching were guys like Glen Steele and Rob Renes. I really like watching the way Steele played the game. I also remember one key thing that sold me on U of M was when Woodson placed the rose in his mouth. Everyone has seen the picture, but I saw it live and that made my mind up that Michigan was where I wanted to play. I had posters in my room and over my weight bench that said Michigan for motivation.

*Note - I asked him about the helmet stickers and unless he was messing around claimed he had no idea that Michigan ever wore helmet stickers. No idea what to get out of that.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hoke's First True Test Awaits

So far, Brady Hoke is winning. He's out-recruiting the rest of the Midwest and is in good position to pluck two of Ohio State's top recruits. This has helped him to unite a disjointed fan base who's spirit is higher than it has been for quite some time. Combine the aforementioned recruiting streak with Ohio State's much publicized transgressions and there is a true belief that the Big Ten is Michigan's to gain in the next few seasons.

The belief may come to fruition on the field, and the fans would obviously be satisfied with that. However, what will the price be to accomplish this? I say this in light of the situation with Darryl Stonum, who was recently charged with a second DUI and whose status with the team is in limbo. A lot of fans are calling for his dismissal, but based on the initial response by the coaching staff, it does look like he's going to get a second (third?) chance.

To me, this begs the question of where the line is drawn as far as disciplinary measures are concerned. If anything, Michigan fans have learned that stretching the rules can help you win on the field. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has developed a reputation as one of college football's most lenient coaches in regards to discipline, and as a result the Spartans are enjoying their best success in quite some time. Ohio State has won seven straight Big Ten Championships on the backs of players who for all intents and purposes were breaking multiple rules.

Look at it this way: Michigan State is known for drug-addicted NFL busts Tony Mandarich and Charles Rogers along with jailbird Plaxico Burress. Ohio State is known for guys like Maurice Clarett, David Boston and Troy Smith.

Michigan is known for Tom Brady. They are known for Steve Hutchinson and Charles Woodson. LaMarr Woodley. Players who not only continue to excel, but do it without making negative news off the field.

This is why Stonum needs to go.

There's always the concern that abandoning a kid who obviously has alcohol issues will do nothing but harm him in the future. Kicking him off of the football team does not mean you are abandoning him. Instead, it reinforces the idea that you can continue to break the rules while facing little to no discipline. Suspending him still allows him to keep his scholarship and to work out with his teammates. More importantly, it sets a bad initial example for players coming into the program. There is plenty of talk with Hoke regarding accountability and doing the right things on and off the field. He would be best served to use Stonum as an example of what will happen when you break the rules. Semantics aside, allowing Stonum to continue to be a member of the team will only tarnish the school's mostly sterling reputation when it comes to disciplinary measures.

*Photo courtesy of the Michigan Daily

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bo's Ghost Haunts Michigan

It is often said that great empires fall because they will stubbornly hang onto dying traditions until they have completely faded away. So as the warriors of the old guard mysteriously reappear, one can't help but wonder if Michigan is holding itself hostage with the hire of Brady Hoke. There's a clear tendency within the Michigan community to feel some sort of misguided commitment to something that doesn't really exist anymore. Jim Brandstatter once said that Bo Schembechler "never compromises his principles". Yet today we transition from a coach who stuck with what he believed in to another that a jilted fan base will hope and pray becomes a carbon copy of a ghost from the past.

I shouldn't have to clarify that I am not trying to demean the Michigan tradition, but I will. I am not trying to demean the Michigan tradition. It's been a part of my life since I can remember. I have all the pictures and books and posters. I know all the players. I know all the stories and how the program came to be what it is today. When we hired Rich Rodriguez, I expected Michigan to open up its arms and welcome him into that tradition until he became an integral part of it. Instead, he immediately became a target before he was even given a chance. A target of the media, former players and sadly enough the man who he replaced. Rodriguez tried his best; just ask Brock Mealer. It was never good enough. If given proper support, I would have fully expected Rodriguez to succeed. Instead, he became a solitary scapegoat of a three year period that will likely be looked upon as the worst in Michigan Football history.

And that leaves us with Hoke. He's ironically the most unproven candidate to take the head coaching position since Schembechler. It's also ironic that he's probably the most important hire since Bo also. If he succeeds, which is certainly plausible, everybody will be happy because winning cures everything. The problem is that he has to succeed, and at a high level. By hiring Hoke, the program has officially become a prisoner of its own ways. If Hoke fails, it will become difficult to hire a satisfactory replacement without overpaying for them; especially if they have no ties to the program. It's become clear to the MSM that factions exist within the program and after seeing what Rodriguez went through it would be hard to convince established outside coaches to come to Ann Arbor.

So today when Brady Hoke is introduced as the 19th head coach in Michigan history, there will be plenty of talk about how this is a return to normal. A true Michigan Man has come back. Instead of looking at is as a return, I'll see this as the day Michigan Football successfully isolated its community and traditions to all but those who have roots in its origin.


Does Dave Brandon think we're stupid?: To say that Hoke was "Plan A" is demeaning to even the casual Michigan fan and I expect this comment to get bashed from all directions. Logic begs Brandon the following question: If he was your first choice, and he clearly wanted to come here, why waste all the time? There's a clear fallacy at play; if Hoke was his first choice, why all the Miles drama? It's clear the "no offer" comments are a weak attempt at a save face. Contrary to Brandon's belief, we're reeling on the recruiting trails and at the very least, could have avoided some of the issues that plague this class if a hire had been made sooner.

Also, why the comments about paying top dollar for a head coach and then turn around and hire a guy making less than $1 million? Again, it's not about fans needing to drop 5 million per on a coach, but there's no way Hoke will be paid nearly that much. Dave Brandon's comments following the RR firing have been inconsistent and could easily be interpreted as insulting to the fans. If this was his gameplan all along, it was a flawed one.

F5 day Liveblog

Friday, January 7, 2011

Les Miles Liveblog