Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The fun never ends...

It’s the beginning of July, and the Tigers are sitting in familiar territory: second-place in the American League Central. Last year at this time, the Tigers sat in second-place behind the Chicago White Sox with a 39-41 record, and even as frustrating as last year was at times, this year seems even more agitating. Victor Martinez was coming back, Dave Dombrowski locked up Anibal Sanchez solidifying the best rotation in baseball, and Torii Hunter was coming to town to not only fill the gap in right field but to also fill the two-hole in a lineup that was desperately looking for answers all of last year.

But here we are—just before the halfway point of the season—and the Tigers sit a half-game back of the Cleveland Indians. No one predicted this, nor would it have been logical to predict this. Baseball experts all over TV and radio predicted the Tigers to win the World Series, let alone win the measly AL Central.
So, amidst all this frustration and uneasiness that is the 2013 Detroit Tigers, should we as fans be worried? Are the Indians a legitimate threat to steal the division that was everything but gift wrapped for the Tigers? I say no. There are three main reasons why the Tigers are at their lowest point of the season right now, and these same three reasons are why the Tigers’ fortunes are bound to change.

The Bullpen
This one is no secret. The Tigers’ bullpen was the team’s Achilles heel heading into spring training and it’s lived up to all the hype and more. Hopefully—for the sake of our sanity—the Papa Grande experiment is over, but with Valverde accepting his option to Toledo there’s a chance we’ll see him again later this season. Regardless, he hasn’t been the only problem with the Tigers’ bullpen thus far. Albuquerque couldn’t throw the ball over the plate in his first stint in the Big Leagues this season, Bryan Villareal couldn’t throw the ball over two plates lying side-by-side, Bruce Rondon is young and still finding his way, and Octavio “don’t ask don’t tell” is, well, I couldn’t tell you where he is. He’s been hampered by elbow inflammation but don’t ask Jim Leyland when he’ll be back because he has no idea either. Did I fail to mention Phil Coke? He’s 0-5 with a 6.56 ERA.

But, even with all of this turmoil throughout the first half of the season, the bullpen will get better. Drew Smyly has proven to be a valuable lefty that can pitch in long-relief or in the late innings, and Joaquin Benoit has been the most consistent man out of the bullpen all year. Al-Al has shown better command with his fastball since he’s been recalled from Toledo and Rondon has made two impressive appearances in a row. On top of all of that, there’s no way Dombrowski doesn’t add a piece or two before the deadline. Jesse Crain sounds pretty good to me.

Victor Martinez

No one expected Victor to start the season out hot after missing an entire year due to reconstructive knee surgery, but no one thought he would struggle this late into the season (especially after his success in 2011). The struggles are bound to turn around though, and the stats back it up. Martinez only strikes out 10.9 percent of the time he stands in to bat yet his batting average on balls in play is a lousy .240. Victor is going to find more holes and gaps if he keeps his strikeout rate down and continues to put the ball in play in the second half of the season, so look for him to pick up the Tigers rather than pull them down. He could easily hit .300 from now until the end of September (he’s a career .300 hitter).

Lack of clutch hitting

The Tigers offense has been abysmal in the late innings of games, most notably extra-innings with a 2-8 record. The club sits close to last in nearly all offensive categories after the 7th inning or later. So, what evidence is there that the team will get their late inning woes figured out? There really aren’t any stats to back this one up, but do you really expect a lineup with the likes of Miggy, Prince, Jackson, Hunter, and Victor Martinez to not figure things out? These are some of the best hitters in the game, and for many of us the best hitter we’ve ever seen in Cabrera, so there’s no way the team can continue to go silent in clutch situations.
Sure, the first half of the season has been frustrating. That seems to be the norm for the Tigers in recent history. But, there’s no need to get too worked up. The amount of talent on this team won’t allow this team to lose the division, and the lack of talent in the AL Central won’t allow the Tigers to lose the division. So take a deep breath Tigers fans, it can only go up from here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The day "Super Mario" made his mark

Michigan Stadium in 2005
October 15, 2005 is the fondest memory I have of Michigan Stadium.  Michigan vs. Penn State.  Ann Arbor, Michigan. The emergence of Mario Manningham.  Michigan sat at 3-3 going into the game against the undefeated and then ranked 8th Nittany Lions.  There was no margin for error if Michigan wanted to salvage a season that started miserably.

The game was close throughout its entirety, but the real drama didn’t start until there were 53 seconds left.  Penn State had just scored to take the lead 25-21 and they were set to kick-off.  Unfortunately for them, they forgot that Steve Breaston returned kicks for Michigan.  The kick-off was straight to Breaston, and he made them pay.  After a few dynamic cut-backs, Breaston returned the kick all the way to midfield with under 50 seconds left.

From left: Jake Long (LT), Chad Henne (QB), Mike Hart (RB)
Now the game was in Chad Henne’s hands.  The true sophomore quarterback needed to silence his critics and put an end to the chatter about a “sophomore slump.”  Henne drove the Wolverines all the way to the Penn State 10 yard-line with one second left.

This was it.  The anxiety level within Michigan Stadium was the highest it had ever been.  No one could stand still.  Others turned away or covered their eyes.

Henne took the snap under center.  Mike Hart was in the backfield, but more importantly, Mario Manningham was split out right.  Henne dropped back, found a window on the right side of the field and hit Manningham on a skinny post in the south endzone of Michigan Stadium.

The celebration after the score was unbelievable.  I was holding a program before the pass was thrown, and as soon as the catch was made, the program was long gone.  Strangers were no longer strangers; they were hugging each other as if they grew up and went to preschool together.  People were running down rows high fiving anyone and everyone.

The celebration on the field was even better.  The players sprinted the length of the field to the north endzone where the students were partying harder than anyone.  Everyone believed Michigan was still Michigan: the winningest program in NCAA football history.

Any thoughts that Michigan football was beginning to fade out of the national spotlight were gone for those unforgettable minutes.  No one could take this moment from Michigan.  Or from me.

What's it like to be @KDTrey5?

KD was the NBA's leading scorer in the 2011-2012 season
Fans’ perception and thoughts of Kevin Durant are far from what I expected.  Just take a look at his Twitter page.  Obviously since Kevin Durant is a professional athlete, I figured nearly every tweet at him would involve a comment towards the way he plays the game of basketball.  Many people did tweet about his game when I took a look at his interactions, but that was simply not the case all of the time.  For simplicity, I took a look at the last 50 @KDTrey5 tweets and placed them into four categories: looks, play, clothing, and miscellaneous.

17 out of the 50 tweets directed at Kevin Durant were tweets about the way he looks and his appearance.  Who would have thought people would be tweeting about Kevin Durant’s looks; he’s a 6’11’’ skinny dude.  “@KDTrey5 is my boo <3,” is what @Itstrianamily said.  One very interesting note that I noticed while doing this analysis is that of the 13 women who tweeted within these 50 tweets, nine of them tweeted about Kevin Durant’s looks.

21 out of the 50 tweets @KDTrey5 received were targeted at his play.  Tweets directed at his play did end up being the majority, but only four more tweets were about his play rather than his looks.  Because Kevin Durant is easily a top five player in the NBA right now, I figured this number would be much higher.  “But @KDTrey5 over both Lebron and mello” is what @KayGee_OrDie said.  If the NBA was in season, I believe my thought would have been more accurate.

Kevin Durant's customized shoes
Only 3 out of 50 tweets were about Kevin Durant’s clothing.  This category was bound to be much smaller than the rest because it is so specific.  Perhaps if Durant sold as much merchandise as Michael Jordan he would have received more than 3 tweets about clothing, but the fact of the matter is that most people do not know Kevin Durant for his style.  Most of that is left to Russell Westbrook.

These tweets were either very vague or fell into completely different categories.  For example, I read two tweets that were hoping someone would come out with another Kevin Durant movie, and others talking about how bad his new movie is.  Here is an example: “The fact that Kevin Durant's movie was about as bad as "Crossover" starring Hot Sauce lol.”  Miscellaneous tweets totaled 9 out of 50.

Draw your own conclusions and think what you want, but many people are not concerned with Kevin Durant’s remarkable basketball skills.  Obviously without them, he would not be a public figure, but the fact that he is a fantastic player does not mean that is what most fans focus on when tweeting @KDTrey5.

Where is the respect?

Maria Sharapova is known as one of the best tennis players in the world
In 2007 a list of the top international athletes was compiled.  On this list was only one woman: Maria Sharapova.  I was shocked to see just one woman on this list and it’s simply a shame that this is the case.

In my opinion, Maria Sharapova is the only woman on this list because American sports are ahead of the game.  America was, and still is, a leader when it comes to women’s rights and giving women the same opportunities as men.  Much of that is due to Title IX.  When you look around at the rest of the world, how many female athletes can you actually name?  How many different sports can you name with a big name international female athlete?

Many people may look at this list and wonder what is wrong with the world, but if you are a female, be happy you live in the United States.  Venus and Serena Williams, Candice Parker, Jenny Ritter, Jenny Finch, Lolo Jones, and Maya Moore are all considered top caliber athletes in this country and they serve as great role models for both boys and girls.
Maya Moore is a star in the WNBA
There’s another massive reason why only one woman is on the list of top international athletes: women tend to be judged in different ways by men; specifically, they are judged on their looks.  When I searched “top international female athletes” on Google, the first result that came up was “top 100 hottest international female athletes.”  This right here is very telling as to why there is only one woman in the top 20 of international athletes.  If you have a conversation with a group of men about female athletes, they are not going to talk about their great abilities or the unthinkable victories they achieved.  Most men are going to always bring the focus back to how a woman looks.  This was even evident in our classroom discussion.  Throughout the discussion about women’s media coverage, I constantly heard murmurs of how hot or not a female athlete was when she was brought up.
Unfortunately for women, this aspect of conversation I do not see changing anytime soon.  Men will be men, and looks are something most of them talk about.  A lot.  Hopefully some men will begin to understand when it is appropriate to speak about these topics, though. 

Over time, the amount of women in the top international athletes list will continue to grow, but it is not going to happen overnight.  The United States is leading the way in women's athletics and the exposure female athletes receive can only go up from here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

2012 Michigan Football Preview

With the Michigan football season now only two weeks away and media day nearly a week behind us, here is my game-by-game break down of team 133's 2012 season.

Game One:  vs Alabama (Arlington, Texas - neutral site)

Michigan starts off their 2012 season with a bang as they face the defending national champions and look to build off of their first year success under Brady Hoke.  I'd like to think Michigan has a very good shot at competing and winning this game, but lack of depth has me skeptical.  Roy Roundtree will only have a maximum of one week of practice before the season opener due to his arthroscopic knee surgery and the wide receiving core is already pressing for guys to step up.  Denard Robinson has never seen a defense with the speed of Alabama, and a depleted receiving core is a serious disadvantage.  With Frank Clark likely out in this game due to legal issues, the revamped and rebuilding defensive line will depend on many players with little experience to hold down the trenches.  Will Campbell said this is the best offensive line he will have faced in his college career, so it looks like the Crimson Tide will be controlling the line of scrimmage over the course of the entire game.

Prediction: Alabama 31, Michigan 17

Game Two: vs Air Force

After a disappointing loss in week one, the Wolverines will get their first taste of victory against the Air Force Academy, but the Falcon will not go down with out a fight.  The Falcon went 7-6 last year with a loss in the Military Bowl to Toledo, but held their own against Boise State losing by only 11.  With Fitz Toussaint more than likely back in action, look for the Michigan offense to take over the game in the second half.

Prediction: Michigan 42, Air Force 17

Game Three: vs Massachusetts

UMass enters their first year as an FBS football program in 2012 and introduced Charley Molnar as their new head coach, but Molnar is in for a rude awakening when he and the Minutemen step foot into the Big House September 15th.  The team speed and strength of Michigan will be far too much for the Minutemen to contain, and this game will undoubtedly be a blowout.

Prediction: Michigan 52, UMass 10

Game Four: at Notre Dame

The instant classic of last year will be hard to top, but this year's game is going to be another tight one.  Michigan is a more talented team than the Fighting Irish, but the Wolverines have struggled tremendously on the road in recent years, and they'll find a way to keep Notre Dame in this game.  Notre Dame's downfall?  Not having a go-to quarterback.  Brian Kelly is leaving his QB competition open once again this fall camp instead of just handing the job back to Tommy Rees after he serves his one game suspension.  Michigan's defense will find an identity in this game and propel the team into Big Ten play with a victory.  Look for Denard Robinson to put himself right back into Heisman Trophy contention after this game as well.

Prediction: Michigan 28, Notre Dame 17

Game Five: at Purdue

After a good victory in South Bend and a bye week September 29th, the Wolverines will come out slow in the first half of their first Big Ten game against the Boilermakers making Michigan fans nervous going into the second half, but talent will finally take its toll in the second half.  Denard will lead an offense that is in top gear at this point in the season and blow Purdue off the field in the second half.

Prediction: Michigan 38, Purdue 20

Game Six: vs Illinois

This game won't be a ridiculous shootout like it was in 2010, it will more than likely be a little bit more once sided in Michigan's favor.  After countless disappointing years with Ron Zook, the Fighting Illini brought in Tim Beckman last December to take the program in another direction.  I wish him the best of luck, but not even luck will get him a victory at Michigan Stadium.

Prediction: Michigan 35, Illinois 14

Game Seven: vs Michigan State

This is the most anticipated game of the Big Ten season for Michigan, no disrespect to the Ohio game.  Four straight losses to Michigan State is unacceptable for a Michigan program, but Brady Hoke will snap that streak this year in a defensive struggle at the Big House.  Michigan State's defense ranked number one in the Big Ten last year and returns 8 of 11 starters to this year's defense.  Their defense will certainly be one of the tops in the country, but their offense is the big question mark.  Andrew Maxwell takes over for Kirk Cousins at quarterback with very few snaps under center.  Look for the Michigan offense to do just enough to pull out a victory in this game.

Prediction: Michigan 14, Michigan State 13

Game eight: at Nebraska

After a huge victory against MSU in the previous week, Michigan will suffer an unfortunate let-down and be handed their first loss of the Big Ten season courtesy of Nebraska.  The night game atmosphere and the impressive running game that the Cornhuskers possess will be too much for Greg Mattison and the Wolverines defense.  Look for Al Borges and the rest of the Michigan offense to put up points, but the other side of the ball will let the Wolverines down.

Prediction: Nebraska 35, Michigan 31

Game nine: at Minnesota

The Battle for the Little Brown Jug has hardly been a battle in recent years, and look for that trend to continue in Minneapolis.  The Wolverines won't thrash the Golden Gophers 58-0 this year, but this game will absolutely be another blow out.  MarQueis Gray and Max Shortell will continues to share snaps this year at quarterback, but once again Gray will receive the majority of them.  Gray can be dangerous on the ground or through the air seeing as he compiled 2,461 total yards last season, but the Michigan defense will be well tested at this point in the season and will make it a point of theirs to stop the dual threat quarterback after facing Taylor Martinez on the previous Saturday against Nebraska.

Prediction: Michigan 35, Minnesota 14

Game ten: vs Northwestern

Pat Fitzgerald always puts a well-coached and well-organized team out on the field, but the Wolverines will win this game easily at the Big House.  Were this game being played at Northwestern this game would be a different story, but it's not.  Michigan will be one step closer to playing in the Big Ten Championship game with only two games remaining.

Prediction: Michigan 38, Northwestern 17

Game eleven: vs Iowa

Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes seem to constantly be up and down, and it's hard to say what the team will look like this year.  Former star running back Marcus Coke left the program in the spring and had more carries last year than all of the current Iowa running backs combined, but the Hawkeyes do return quarterback James Vandenburg; he threw 25 touchdown passes and only 7 interceptions in 2011.  All this being said, Michigan will be too much for Ferentz and his Hawkeyes.  The running game and speed of Toussaint and Robinson will blown by the slow Iowa defense.

Prediction: Michigan 37, Iowa 20

Game twelve: at Ohio State

The most important game of them all... will not go as Wolverine fans would like.  Braxton Miller will have been in new head coach Urban Meyer's system for nearly a year, and he will be the X-factor in this game.  Miller put up impressive numbers as a freshman in his game against the Wolverines last year scoring three total touchdowns and posting 335 total yards.  With this game being played down in Columbus and Urban Meyer coaching in his first Michigan vs Ohio State football game, too many areas play to the Buckeyes' favor in this one.

Prediction: Ohio State 30, Michigan 24

Regular Season Final Record: 9-3

If Michigan manages to sneak into the Big Ten Championship with two losses in Big Ten play, you better believe Coach Hoke will have the team ready to play.  There is no doubt they will win a Big Ten Championship and head to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Miggy's making his mark

Watching the Tigers this year has been a roller coaster ride and simply unbearable at times.  Fortunately for us though, they seem to have settled in and found a level of consistency.  Consistency is the key to a 162 game season, and consistency is the reason Miguel Cabrera deserves the AL MVP over anyone else in the league (yes Rod and Mario, that includes Mike Trout).  Throughout the struggles of the first half of the season, one thing remained constant, and that was Cabrera.
Cabrera hit a 2-run walk-off home run against the Tribe August 5th

Seeing Miggy come to the plate day after day is an unbelievable spectacle.  The future Hall of Famer has such a smooth swing at the plate and somehow makes hitting a ball 450 feet look effortless.  Cabrera is once again posting phenomenal stats at the plate, as he always has as a Tiger, and his production at the plate is finally paying off; the Tigers sit atop the ALWild Card and one-game back of the White Sox for the AL Central division lead.

The way I see the AL MVP race shaping up, there really are only two legitimate contenders to win the award: Cabrera and Trout.  I know everyone keeps saying that Mike Trout should be and is the AL MVP, but I have a couple of reasons why he absolutely should not be.
Mike Trout is having a historic rookie season

First of all, if the playoffs started today, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim would not even be one of the two teams to qualify for a wild card berth.  Last time I checked, the voters consider making the playoffs a very significant part of being the most valuable player.  Actually, to be exact, the last time a player won the MVP in the American league and his team did not make the playoffs was in the year 2003 when Alex Rodriguez won his first MVP award.  Alex Rodriguez, like Mike Trout, had crazy-good numbers in his 1996 rookie campaign batting .358, with 36 home runs, and 123 RBI’s but he still managed to finish second in the MVP race.  Interestingly enough, Rodriguez’s Seattle Mariners finish second in the AL West and they missed out on postseason play.

Secondly, Mike Trout did not join the Angels’ big league squad in 2012 until April 28.  How can you consider someone the most valuable player if they haven’t played in nearly every game for their team?  Cabrera hasn’t missed a single game for the Tigers this year; that stat alone speaks for itself.  The Tigers cannot afford to take Cabrera out of their lineup, even with guys like Austin Jackson and Prince Fielder having their own MVP caliber seasons.  Cabrera is just too dangerous and too valuable in the middle of their lineup.

Enough of why Trout shouldn’t win the MVP.  Here’s why Cabrera should.  Currently Cabby is tied with Josh Hamilton for the league lead in RBI’s, he’s second in the AL in batting average with a .323 average, and he’s fourth in the league with 29 home runs.  No other player in the American League ranks in the top five of all three of the triple-crown categories.  Add 145 hits to the mix, which ranks second in the AL, and you have the most complete hitter in all of baseball.

Cabrera has committed only 9 errors at 3rd base this season
One area of the game that many “experts” expected Cabrera to hurt the Tigers was with his defense going into the 2012 season.  With the signing of Prince Fielder, Cabrera was forced to make the move back to third base.  He simply has not hurt the Tigers in the least playing third base.  In fact, Cabrera boasts a .968 fielding percentage which is second highest among qualifying American League third basemen.

Yes, there is still a month and a half left in the baseball season and many things can get in the way of Miguel Cabrera winning his first MVP award, but if he keeps doing what he’s been doing there is no stopping the big fella.  Miggy deserves to win his first MVP this year, and I’m sure this year’s award won’t be his last.

Monday, June 11, 2012


.193. That is the combined batting average of all Detroit Tigers second basemen this year.  Sure, the starting pitching has been inconsistent, the bullpen has been erratic at times, the fielding has been sub-par, and the hitting has come and gone, but if you could point to one area that has consistently plagued the Tigers this year it would be the second base position.
Polanco batted .311 during his time in Detroit
It seems like an eternity since the Tigers have had a second baseman taking the field for them on an everyday basis, but in reality it was only three seasons ago in 2009 that the Tigers called Placido Polanco their everyday second baseman.  Here's the problem, though, and Jim Leyland has said it over and over again this year: "I can only work with the players that I have."  So what can the Tigers do to resolve their second base issue?  Bring back Placido Polanco.
Currently, the Philadelphia Phillies sit dead last in the National League East, four games below .500 and eight games back of the energetic Bryce Harper-led Washington Nationals.  The Phillies have shown no signs of improvement so far this season mainly because of the injuries multiple stars on their team have sustained (Ryan Howard-achilles, Roy Halladay-shoulder, Chase Utley-knee), and also due to the competitive nature the NL East has discovered in the 2012 season; the Phillies are the only team below .500 in the division.  With timetables relatively unknown on Utley and Howard, and Halladay still needing at least six more weeks to recover from his injury, it looks as if the Phillies will continue to struggle well into July, making them sellers at the trade deadline.
Polanco, being 36 years of age and in the final year of a three-year deal, is perfect trade-bait for the Phillies and a perfect fit for the Tigers.  Although Polanco is 36, his numbers have hardly slipped.  He's batting .289 this year with only 17 strikeouts in 51 games.  Compare that to Detroit's primary number-two hitters, Andy Dirks and Brennan Boesch, who have a combined 60 strikeouts.  You know what you're going to get when Polanco steps to the plate; a professional at-bat.
Reinserting Placido Polanco as the number two hitter in the Tigers line-up would not only help set the table for Cabrera and Fielder to drive in even more runs, but the bottom of the order would benefit greatly from this move.  Dirks and Boesch could permanently hit in the bottom half of the order, stabilizing a bottom half that seems to change drastically from game-to-game.  On their days off, Leyland could bat Quintin Berry in the nine-spot to put speed on the bases for the top of the order to drive in.  The bottom of the order may not be perfect after this deal is done, but a level of consistency will be attained, and consistency is something the Tigers have lacked all year long.
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Castellanos is the #45 ranked prospect in baseball
Obviously the Phillies are not going to just hand the Tigers Placido Polanco for some cash.  He did win a gold glove last year and remains one of the most consistent hitters in all of baseball, so difficult decisions will have to be made by Dave Dombrowski.  The necessary decision that Dombrowski needs to make in order to make this deal a reality is packaging Nick Castellanos.  Yes, Nick Castellanos, Detroit's highest touted position player prospect.  Let me explain.
Nick Castellanos plays third base.  The Tigers have a pretty good third basemen by the name of Miguel Cabrera.  Placido Polanco plays third base for the Phillies.  The average age in the infield on the Phillies is 33; Castellanos is 20.  Need I say more?
The value of Castellanos to the Phillies is significantly higher than that of Polanco to the Tigers, so clearly this would not be a player for player deal.  Dombrowski needs to pick out a prospect within the Phillies organization comparable to Castellanos's value (#45 rated prospect according to Baseball America), and make the Phillies include that player in the deal.  I could give you a particular name, but truthfully the Tigers could use prospects at any position other than first base, third base, and centerfield.
So take it or leave it.  This is the beginning of my #BringBackPolly campaign.  He's the missing piece to a struggling Tigers lineup puzzle.  And honestly, who wouldn't want to take the chance to once again see Polly jumping and skipping around the bases like a little leaguer after a walk-off home run in the ALCS.  The only difference this year will be who hits it.