Monthly Archives: December 2013

‘…today, I Don’t Want To.’ Pennyworth, Alfred TDK 2008

Calvin Johnson doesn’t catch as many passes as I think his reputation would dictate.

I wrote that on November 24th after Johnson had a catch near the end zone late in the Tampa loss swiped away from him. Read the post for more in depth thoughts, and the laughable Rice comparisons.

Unfortunately, and I sincerely mean that because of my adoration for Calvin on and off the field, the template in which many people view Johnson may have been altered by last night’s nationally televised game of dropsy’s.

Eh, probably not. Most Calvin admirers, and again he deserves them all, will just chalk up Johnson’s four (3 critical ones including the 2 pt conversion) to a bad game, or will tap into their memory banks and recall that Calvin sure does sit out a lot of practices, and he may or may not have recently had his knee drained of fluid. I’ll concede that those two things unequicovally could have led to what I often politely rebuke Megatron for; Calvin Johnson doesn’t catch as many passes as I think his reputation would dictate.

I don’t root for the Lions. However, there’s a couple of players on that team I do root for, and Calvin Johnson is certainly one of them. So please do believe me when I offer great disappointment in the fact that Johnson proved my season-long surmise correct during the lofty platform of Monday Night Football.  Calvin Johnson doesn’t catch as many passes as I think his reputation would dictate.

Lots of receivers drop balls. Lots of talented and reknowned receivers drop passes. But none of them, at this point in the NFL’s context, have the seemingly inexorable reputation that the exalted Megatron carries with him.

Because I don’t want to be a labeled a loud mouthed, contrarian-just-to-be, I relish being right because of the strenuous efforts I put in to support my opinions. I probably mention actually bring it up TOO frequently for the modesty and humility I claim that also characterizes my personality. I feel a bit pained that I was right, in light of last night’s events, which probably cost the Lions their season, and though it was about time, Jim Schwartz his job.

If you come here often, and I hope you do, you know we use a lot of comic references, especially Batman and Transformers. It’s time for another. One that earnestly describes my feelings about Calvin’s shortcomings in the 18-16 loss to the Ravens.

Here.

But, 1:55ish here too.

‘…today, I don’t want to.’ Pennyworth, Alfred TDK 2008.

Hashing out the tweets:

– Aside from of a couple that Bush bounced on his own, the Lions made ZERO adjustments to stop from running into the teeth of the Ravens defense. 3 and 4 yards is tolerable run after run, but it was clear Baltimore wasn’t going to give up a 35 yarder through the middle. The Ravens faced a similar problem early on, and countered with a pitch out wide that at least showed the threat of that play for later on. Didn’t really need it.

– It looked like Stafford had turned the corner in his career, and his early in the year he looked like an efficient, mostly mistake free and keen quarterback. Woops. If you mention Shaun Hill’s name this week, don’t let anyone commit you because you’re not crazy. In the first 8 games Stafford through 6 INTs. He’s got 11 in the 2nd half with 2 games to play.

*On a tangent, Stafford’s final pick last night cost a guy a lot of money in my fantasy league. He’d gone up 92-91 with the Fauria score, but the pick dropped him into a tie, and lost the tiebreaker because the other guy had Dan Bailey’s 27 points.*

If I’m playing with the QB math correctly, Stafford’s second half rating is 71.8. If we only tallied his last 6 games, that number would drop him in between Chad Henne and Brandon Weeden. This blundering second half leads me to…

– WHEN Schwartz is fired, either after the Vikings game, or if they miraculously make the playoffs then get annihilated by SF, Car, or NO, the prime candidate to replace Schwartz needs to be an offensive minded coach. Before Mayhew and a Ford can even begin to ask the first interview question, that candidate should be interrupting them with, ‘I’M GOING TO FIX 9.’ Any coach should have an eye towards engendering more discipline, but there’s WAY too much invested in Stafford for him NOT to be the team’s best player.

Here’s my way too early prediction for the Lions next head coach. He’s a Michigan (State) guy, and he’s spent the last two years learning from the game’s most meticulous student and preparer, Peyton Manning. Adam Gase, the Broncos OC. Unless you’re going to convince Manning himself to do it! My backup name, AT THIS POINT, is Saints’ OC Pete Carmichael. The Lions next HC needs to be a QB guru a la Marc Trestman or Bruce Arians.

– The Lions defense did a fine job not letting the receivers get deep on them, but the pressure was never enough to rattle Flacco, who shimmied around the pocket quite adeptly all night. The defense hit Flacco five times, and sacked him once but didn’t force a single turnover. The Lions were one of just two opponents in the Ravens last 7 games not to cause Flacco to fail into a turnover. Ugh.

– Here’s a wild attempt at human psychology to explain some of the exasperating penalties called against the Lions the last two weeks. Recall how Schwartz, multiple times, has said, and to paraphrase, ‘Yeaaaaaa, budddddy, I’m OK with how our guys play (relating to the discipline questions and incessant flags).’ Well, refs are human beings and if that sentiment passed by officials in someway, perhaps subconsciously they all conspired to say ‘you want flags Jim? You got em.’

Through my jest, I’m quite serious. If Schwartz isn’t going to lambaste his team for penalties, then refs aren’t going to hesitate on close calls to chuck laundry at the feet of Lions players. Jim, you sought to live in interesting times, and you got em.

– Credit to Matt Elam and the Ravens defense signing the check his rookie mouth wrote. They beat the siht out of Calvin last night. When Johnson DID haul something in, he got smashed. Frequently.

So much for the league getting a year of not-so-Raven defense as they recalibrate that unit. Elam is real, Jimmy Smith has emerged as their, or A, top corner. More often than not there’s still Ngata, Dumveril isn’t finished yet either. Nor is Suggs. And out of Jaguar-imposed obscurity, Daryl Smith is one of the league’s best linebackers. That was an impressive and imposing defense.

From Robert Klemko at SI’s MMQB.

Johnson was so open on the first of those drops, Baltimore’s defensive backs might as well have been among those great lubed and sad masses watching from the stands.

But did their jaws drop, too, when Johnson dropped the footballs? Not exactly.

“If you watch film on him, you’ll see that he’ll drop the ball,” said Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb. “He’s sure-handed, but he drops a couple. I was still surprised that he dropped them on us, in this game.”

See, I was right. #sorryimsorry.

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Ranking The Lions Performances.

I was thinking through the Lions schedule, and I stumbled onto an almost annual mystery of ‘who’d they beat’ or the statement that ‘they haven’t beaten anyone.’

Based on present and future context – how the opponent played at the time AND how they improved or regressed – regardless of outcome I want to rank the Lions quality of performance in their 13 games thus far. 

1. Lions (4-3) vs. Cowboys (4-3), win 31-30. Unstoppable Calvin, savvy Stafford, into the bye was momentum and confidence. 

2. Lions (0-0) vs. Vikings (0-0), win 34-24. One big run by AD, then it’s balanced offense and stifling defense. 

3. Lions (3-1) at Packers (1-2), loss 22-9. On the road, w/o Calvin, and having not won at Lambeau since Barry, Rodgers didn’t carve them up and Detroit hung in. 

4. Lions (3-2) at Browns (3-2), win 31-17. On the road after GB loss with 17 fourth quarter points and see that Durham CAN contribute (8 catches 83 yards).

5. Lions (4-2) vs. Bengals (4-2), loss 27-24. A Green vs. Calvin showcase before the Bengals lost their best defensive player, Geno Atkins, and a last second 54 yard FG by Mike Nugent grabs a win for Cincy. 

6. Lions (1-0) at Cardinals (0-1), loss 25-21. As I suspected, the Cardinals, now at a modest 9-5, were better than most expected to be. Stout defense, better QB play than last year, and an overlooked, but exceptional head coach. 

7. Lions (2-1) vs. Bears (3-0), win 40-32. Lions pick Cutler 3 times, and Reggie Bush shows that his talents are for real and mesh perfectly with the Lions offense. 

8. Lions (1-1) at Redskins (0-2), win 27-20. Decades old monkey off the back, but the Washington defense was as porous as it’d shown the prior weeks, and throughout the rest of the year. 

9. Lions (6-5) vs. Packers (5-5-1), win 40-10. Can’t rank this too high. Losses to the Steelers and Bucs preceding it and you’ve got a fanbase on the fence of confidence, with lots of ‘noise’ and doubt leading up to the game. Vegas nailed this one, as Lions were huge favorites. 

10. Lions (7-5) at Eagles (7-5), loss 34-20. The holes in the 2nd half for McCoy were enormous and the angles to tackle him were putrid. Still, this is probably still more competitive if not for a freak snow storm. Thew weather assuages many of my judgments that could come from this game. Other than maybe, when it snows Jeremy Ross is Devin Hester. 

11. Lions (5-3) at Bears (5-3), win 21-19. Thank you Marc Trestman for sticking with an injured Jay Cutler too long. 

12. Lions (6-3) at Steelers (3-6), loss 37-27. Off a bye, which they entered on a high, on the road to a Steeler team steadying the ship. Questionable coaching didn’t help matters with the fake FG run. EDIT. Off the game AFTER the bye

13. Lions (6-4) vs. Buccaneers (2-8), loss 24-21. Let down type loss to the Steelers the week prior, back home against an improving and less tumult filled Bucs team and a cadre of crushing mistakes. 

Don’t Block The Plate.

Runners will no longer be able to steamroll catchers in hopes of jarring the ball loose so that they can score A run. Yep, I know that letter is capitalized, and we’re gonna come back to that. I promise it isn’t one of my unintended typos.

If the MLBPA approves the measure, the anti-collision rule will be instituted next year. If they do not, MLB can make it a decree without the Player’s Association the following year.

Runners must slide or evade.

Catcher’s can’t block the plate. They mean that this time.

Save me the ‘WUSSIFICATION’ idiocy, on that grounds that it wasn’t until 1970, 50 years after the beaning death of Ray Chapman, that baseball began to strictly enforce the rule of mandatory helmets. In ’56 and ’58, for the NL & AL respectively, the leagues mandated use of batting helmets. Though obviously it was mostly ignored. The last player not to wear a helmet was just 34 seasons ago. In my lifetime, some moron decided to face 90+ mph pitches without protective headgear. Idiot. Read the batting helmet Wiki for more.

From Chapman’s Wiki‘The sound of the ball smashing into Chapman’s skull was so loud that Mays thought it had hit the end of Chapman’s bat, so he fielded the ball and threw to first base. I’m sure nearly 100 years ago some baboon called Chapman a pu**y and told him to get his ass up.

Progress towards improved health, in all walks of life seemingly, and rightly, always wins out.

To be clear, even if this rule hadn’t been instituted I would’ve instructed my catcher to make sure he doesn’t absorb one of those Ray Lewis-type blows. Practice fielding balls and taking throws in front of the plate to make swipe tags. I’d make one exception though. Don’t give up the run in October, or in an early fall game that could cost you October baseball.

Think about it. It’s one run.

If my math is correct, 20,250 runs were scored during the 2013 MLB season. And you want your catcher to try to prevent A run, not even two months into the season as Buster Posey attempted to do on May 25th, 2011? You’re a G0d damned fool.

Sure, it was a 12th inning game, and Scott Cousins’ Urlacher impression won the game for the Marlins. But it was May. San Francisco was 27-20 at that point. If the World Champion Giants had finished at that pace they would’ve won 91 games. Instead they finished in 2nd place with 86 wins. 8 games behind Arizona and 3 games short of St. Louis for the wild card. If Posey had remained healthy that year, perhaps the Giants would’ve pulled off a feat that few have; three straight World Series. Instead, Posey can break bread with Mike Gundy.

It’s just one run, in a season of hundreds of them scored and allowed. Your home plate valor might preserve a win, but at what cost? What’s that idiom about valor? Not THATone, I like this one, It is good to be brave, but it is also good to be careful.; If you are careful, you will not get into situations that require you to be brave.

Let’s try to further analyze the impact of losing one’s catcher. WARNING. We’re stepping into sabermetrics, so depart if you must. My point above was proven with enough clarity. This next step will just be a more meticulous, Holmes-ian investigation of catchers + numbers.

Sabermetric Godfather Bill James developed a very simple, yet advanced statistic. Runs created. Duh. Yep, it endeavors to do exactly what you’d think. How many runs did Player X create for him team?

ESPN.com tracks RC like this: [(H + BB + HBP – CS – GIDP) times (Total bases + .26[BB – IBB + HBP] + .52[SH + SF + SB])] divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SH+ SF)

Please note that defense isn’t factored into that daunting and nightmarish SAT math riddle.

Got it?

2013’s leaders in RC went like this: Santana (puhhlease, he’s a DH, 1B. FT C’s only please.), Posey, Molina, Lucroy, Castro, Saltalamacchia. The list goes on here.

If you’re still with me, Posey created 86.5 runs for the Giants last year. For a little context, that number provided the reigning NL MVP with a offensive WAR of 4.85. Good for 18th best in MLB. If you choose to ignore that link, Cabrera unsurprisingly was 2nd at 8.99, and Longoria was just ahead of Posey at 4.87.

Still here? Is this making sense; are you seeing the value of a player? Do you still want him ready to embrace an impact that only an NFL player wearing a number in the 50s would deliver?

Thanks to a steel trap like mind, and a modest social life, I know far too much about baseball. I had no fucking clue who Hector Sanchez and Guillermo Quiroz were. If you told me they were illegal immigrants who’d trepassed American borders. I’d believe you. If you told me they were the studio hosts for futbol broadcasts on Univision, I’d believe you.

Quiroz and Sanchez (Hispanic law firm?!?) were actually backup catchers for the Giants in 2013.

Posey created 86.5 runs for the 76 win Giants in 2013. He contributed plenty, but his pitching staff was quite horrific. The Giants didn’t finish 16 games back of the Dodgers because of lack of contributions from their MVP catcher.

In February of 2012, Posey’s manager, Bruce Bochy, told his recovering catcher not to block the plate any longer. “I’ve already talked to Buster about this. There are ways to make the tag without putting yourself in jeopardy,” Bochy said, according to USA Today. “I don’t want him to block the plate right now.”

Parroting Lt. Daniel Kaffee, what if Posey had said ‘the old man’s wrong’?

BOOM, there goes Posey in a June 2013 game and he’s out for an extended period time.

A chunk of those 86.5 runs evaporate in the aftermath of Posey’s rediscovered, foolish courage.

Hector Sanchez created 13.8 runs in a 129 at bats last year. Quiroz created 4.7 runs in 86 at bats. Their combined offensive WAR was .3. POINT THREE.

Let’s pretend Sanchez had the same 520 at bats that Posey did. The extrapolation would show 520/129 = 4.03 x 13.8, for a total of 55.6 runs created for the Giants.

Good thing Posey stopped blocking the plate.

Remember, that doesn’t even account for Posey, or any other catcher’s defensive prowess, as opposed to their back up. You know that a quality defensive catcher can weaken an opponents running game and sometime masterfully manage a pitching staff. Included in the latter is the emerging recognition of the art of pitch framing. Jose Molina is the best in the game at the practice. What he does defensively – pitch framing isn’t even measured by WAR – more than makes up for this pathetic .594 OPS. His WAR by the way in 2013 was POINT ONE. The innovational Joe Maddon would engage io no debate about Molina’s WAR, nor would the hurlers that throw to him.

While you swing from a tree, screaming about WUSSIFICATION, I’m going enjoy the production of my starting catcher, healthier all seasong long than he would be if he misguidedly tried to save A run (Again, at a meaningless point in the season. And yes, I know that’s subjective. But it’s like porn; you’ll know it when you see it!).

The Fister Trade, Not Surprising.

Dave Dombrowski, lacking the respect to consult me, traded one of the steadiest and most reliable starting pitchers in baseball for a not-so-goodutility guy (there ARE good ones) and two young pitchers who weren’t ever going to wrest away starts from Strasburg, Zimmermann and Gonzalez. 

Read that again.

Wait, let me say I’m not stunned by this at all. There could not have been much market value difference between Fister and Porcello. Porcello could still bloom into Fister with a a sneaky deadlier fastball, or he might have peaked, while I don’t have to be Bill James to predict Fister’s numbers for the next many years. 

Teams pay dearly for starters. The A’s just gave Scott Kazmir $22 million over 2 years. Fister, still with two years of arbitration to go, was slated to make half annually of what Kazmir gets this year.

On a day they settled money with Leyland’s adoptive nephew, Don Kelly, the Tigers upgraded over Ramon Santiago, and received nothing with proven Major League value in return. 

OK. 

Before the return was announced I suspected Adam LaRoche was going to be in the Tiger DH/1B rotation. Washington could then get Anthony Rendon to third and get Ryan Zimmerman and his progressing Sax-ian disease over to first. Didn’t happen. 

You don’t have to be in a cape and cowl and be the World’s Greatest Detective to figure out that something’s up. More SHOULD be on the way, and Dombrowski alluded to just that in his 945pm press conference last night.

Acquired starter Robbie Ray reminds of long time Tiger prospect Casey Crosby. Gets his share of strikeouts, but puts a ton on base. He’s labeled with mid to back end of the rotation stuff. 

We can hope lefty Ian Krol turns into what was expected of Phil Coke. More than just a LOOGY. 8.1 K/9 in 274 minor league innings with a WHIP just over 1.1. Krol is fastball at 93, with a curve and a change mixed in. As a 22 year old he threw 32 games and 27.1 innings for Washington last year with no thing requiring obvious praise. Hopefully his nearly 4 to 1 K/BB minor league ratio eventually emerges for the Tigers bullpen. 

Twitter got very testy that this was a salary dump by the Tigers. Dombrowski reiterated Detroit will still be a high payroll team, which didn’t pull my eyebrown down to normal levels.

It’s hard to retract trust in DD, but my worry is that the salary relief from Fielder and Fister could go in any of these directions, none I’d be pleased with.

A. Extension for Scherzer

B. Extension for Cabrera

C. Extension for both. I’ll be on the roof. 

D. They sign a free agent whose name fans have bandied around. Choo or Ellsbury specifically. You can find me plunging OFF the roof. Those contracts would be ludricous. Though you can talk me in 60/4 for Granderson, even if I give up a first round pick. There ARE other rounds in the draft. Make them count. 

E. Something else that has me bowing at the temple of Dave. 

There’s one destination for that saved money I would spend it on though. Rick Porcello’s got two more years of arbitration and then he’ll be a free agent. If last year’s positive gains were the beginning of his emergence, and remember that his defense will be much improved, I think I’m OK with buying out his arb and some free agent years. 

Porcello will make 6ish this year in arb, then 7 or more next year. Do that math, and factor in the deal for Kazmir, and consider Ricky Nolasco getting 49/4. I think I might give Porcello that deal right this second, with a very reachable option for a fifth year, that would put another 15 on the deal, totaling 64 over 5. Down the road that should be  bronzed Lincoln’s for a quality mid-rotation starter STILL under 30. 

The Porcello theory may be a pipe dream for me though because of other sentiments from Dombrowski. The crafty executive mentioned Ray profiling as a 1-3 rotation starter. You don’t have to remind me YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH PITCHING, but Verlander and Sanchez are around for a while, Smyly should be as well, does this mean they won’t even consider a Porcello extension? Recall who the Tigers target every year in the draft, BIG right handed starters. They have three of them in their 2014 prospects list. Jonathon Crawford, Endrys Briceno, and Jake Thompson. 

There’s more to come so no need at all to judge this trade now. We’ll wait to the ensuing moves occur before I find the ladder leading to the roof. 

#hashing out the tweets…

– I’ll miss Fister. With Greg Maddux being my all time favorite pitcher, I enjoyed watching Fister work like Maddux. Quickly and with exceptional movement on what should be very straight pitches. Downright dominance at times with not much over 90.

– Elementary math says the Tigers have the same bullpen questions as they did when the season ended; possibly more. The proven Smyly goes to the rotation, and Krol is no sure replacement. 

– The Nationals traded a pitcher to the A’s last week who I sought in a potential deal. Fernando Abad. I also (think I) would’ve preferred the malleable Tanner Roark also over who the Tigers received. Anthony Rendon wasn’t going to happen.