The Michigan Wolverines baseball team jumps to No.1

Embed from Getty Images Michigan Wolverines baseball coach Erik Bakich, insisted his team was not not a top 10 team before the season started. It could have been the baseball coach was trying to light a fire under his team. It turns out the Wolverines might be better.

The Michigan Wolverines opened the 2020 college baseball season this past weekend to the tune of a 3-1 opening. They started by defeating the team that beat them in last seasons College Baseball World Series, Vanderbilt.

Baseball America released the top 25 with the Wolverines squarely at No. 1. It is the first time in the publication’s 40 years the Michigan Wolverines have been ranked in the top spot.

After the Wolverines beat Vanderbilt 4-3, behind Matt Schmidt’s two run home run, they turned around and beat Arizona State 5-0 with a combined five-hit shutout.

It was Michigan’s most impressive weekend yet. The Wolverines left a big impression of all the schools this past weekend. Michigan opened the season ranked No. 8.

Erik Bakich is in his eighth season as the Wolverines baseball coach. His take away from the weekend was one of a confidence builder for his team. Bakich does not want his team reading anything the media puts out. He prefers to have his team focused on the next team on the Wolverines schedule.

Michigan baseball hit the big time last season and looks to be a top ten mainstay for years to come. Last season during the College World Series, Bakich was asked during the game how he wants his team to look to which he famously answered “I guess I want the team to look like the U.S.A.”

By that remark, Bakich simply meant he wanted a team of kids from all different backgrounds and color to come together to work towards a greater goal. That is how Bakich recruits and coaches.

That is why the Michigan Wolverines baseball team is nationally ranked.

Detroit Red Wings Anthony Mantha wants to be a point a game player

Embed from Getty Images Back from a seven week stint on IR (injured reserve) due to a punctured lung and the flu, Detroit Red Wings Anthony Mantha has a rather ambitious goal for the remaining seven weeks of the NHL season. The young forward has the skill set to math his goal.

For the 20-some remaining games in the Detroit Red Wings season, Anthony Mantha wants to be a point a game player. Fresh off the injury that derailed his season, Mantha is logging around 20 minutes of ice time.

At 25 years old Mantha is going to be a restricted free agent. With 5 goals in the first two games of the season, Anthony had a good start to the season. By December 21 the young forward had 12 goals and 12 assists. Until he challenged Toronto Maple Leafs defensman Jake Muzzin to a fight and punctured his lung.

In his return from injury, Anthony Mantha looks like he did to start the season.  Big strong on the puck and making life difficult for defenses around the league .The Detroit Red Wings want Mantha to know both his limits and when to and not to instigate a fight.

Mantha is an outstanding talent and player. He does more good when he is on the ice. Weather he has the puck or is making the defense play honestly, because of his skill-set.

Anthony Mantha has the ability to be a point-per-game player. If he continues to develop that part of his game he will make the young Red Wings a much better hockey team.

The Detroit Tigers hope two coach’s can get catcher Jake Rogers better results at bat

Embed from Getty Images What is the old saying? Two is better than one, that is exactly what the Detroit Tigers are hoping in the case of catcher Jake Rogers. Tigers hitting coach Joe Vavra and renowned hitting instructor Doug Latta are trying to get the top catching prospect in all of baseball to hit better.

Jake Rogers, behind the plate, behind the catching gear is the best rated defensive catcher in the minor leagues. The only thing that is keeping him from full-time catching duties with the Detroit Tigers is Rogers does not hit that well.

Jake Rogers sought the help of Doug Latta who has helped a who’s who of college, minor and major league baseball players and has had good results. So off to Ball Yard Hitting Academy in Northridge, California Rogers went this past offseason.

Meanwhile, Tigers hitting coach Joe Vavra kept in contact with Rogers and Latta. No ego’s got in the way. The focus was getting a top prospect to perform a well rounded game.

After hitting sessions Doug Latta would send video to Joe Vavra. The two coach’s would compare notes. The end goal is to greatly reduces the big leg kick and change the posture Jake Rogers used while taking at bats. The leg kicks lead to many foul balls as well as many strike outs. Too many for the Detroit Tigers liking.

With 51 strike outs in 128 plate appearances in 112 games played, last season Rogers worked many hours with then Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon. Rogers sought out advice from veteran Tigers players as well. Even talking to Detroit baseball legends Al Kaline and Willie Horton.

One problem. Jake Rogers was hearing too many voices in his head. While Rogers did say he enjoyed talking to and getting advice from multiple people, it was simply too much.

Working with Doug Latta, Rogers has changed his posture at the plate. Gone are breaking his upper body over the plate which caused a lot of swing and miss at bats.

Now Jake Rogers has a plane swing that is much more level which will allow the young catcher to swing through the strike-zone longer. The Detroit Tigers front office and Rogers teammates got a first hand look at his new swing this past week as spring training opened.

Jake Rogers was sending baseballs over the fence into the bullpen behind Joker Merchant Stadium in Lakeland Florida, long time spring training home of the Detroit Tigers.

As for Rogers he is focused on what is ahead and does not look back at last season. Time will tell. But it looks like the work of the two coach’s and Jake Rogers just may net positive results.

ESPN analyst and former Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky says the team is close

Embed from Getty Images Former Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky recently said “You’re probably two really good players away from, all right, let’s have a conversation of being one of the better teams in the conference,” I think they caught a lot of bad breaks last year, just keeping it real. So if they stay healthy, they’re two good pieces away from being in the conversation of being a good, good football team. A good, solid, you-can-win-every-game football team.”

Some Detroit Lions fans have scoffed at Orlovsky’s statement. But should they? After all, the Lions could have won every game they played last season. They led in 14 of 16 games played.

The Detroit Lions being two players away seems out of place, but not completely far-fetched, either. In the NFL, you are what your record says you are Detroit was 3-12-1, bad.

That said from a talent perspective, Detroit is better than most of the other teams picking in the top 10 of the NFL draft, and it is not a stretch to think they would have doubled their win total if quarterback Matthew Stafford not missed two months with fractured bones in his back.

The Detroit Lions do not need to make a big jump to get to the next level. The offense should see 10 of last seasons 11 starters come back. While the Lions are not great offensively, they have the potential to be at least above average offense with a healthy Stafford, wide receiver Kenny Golladay and with tight end T.J. Hockenson expected to take on a bigger role next season.

The defense is where Dan Orlovsky’s “two-players-away” theory comes in to play. The Detroit Lions need pass rush help in a BIG way. They also need a starting cornerback. They have questions at safety beyond Tracy Walker. Not too mention the linebackers lack speed.

With free agency and the draft, Detroit could possibly find the two players that can help get the team over the hump. Yes, they will get more that two players. However, they need to nail the two positions of need in order to improve next season.

Healthy going into spring training Detroit Tigers pitcher Franklin Perez is focused

Embed from Getty Images In the pitching cages, once top pitching prospect Franklin Perez fired fastballs to his catcher. Perez held back smiles as he met with a few of the Detroit Tigers beat writers. “I feel fantastic, This is one of the best moments for us as pitchers, focusing on improving our pitches instead of rehabilitating and getting back to business. It feels great to be back here.” Perez stated.

Franklin Perez was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros. Two and a half years have passed since Perez was the headline prospect the club of the big trade.

Perez has pitched just 27 innings in the Tigers’ organization, all out of Lakeland in either the Class A Advanced Florida State League or the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. That is because of injuries.

A right lat strain in Spring Training 2018 delayed Franklin’s debut in the Tigers’ organization. Later in 2018 Perez was shelved for the season with right shoulder inflammation.

Franklin Perez did not have surgery, he went with just a cortisone injection. What Perez did have was time to heal. The young pitcher worked in Lakeland with the Detroit Tigers athletic training and medical staffs. Aside from the rehab, Perez worked on nutrition, finding a diet to help with better healing.

If Franklin Perez has indeed moved past the injuries, and can pick up where he left off, the Detroit Tigers pitching prospects are even stronger, if you can believe that. All indications are Perez is ready for a rebound season.

It will be worth watching where the Tigers choose to place him after cam starts. No matter where that is Perez likely will not be there long. He is too talented.

 

As spring training opens the Detroit Tigers say it is time to win

Embed from Getty Images It has been a brutal four years. The Detroit Tigers entered a full-blow rebuild. Gone were players from the glory days and the bloated payroll that accompanied them. The 2020 Detroit Tigers now take aim with a much improved minor league system to begin the crawl to respectability.

Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila, said last week the Tigers are getting away from tearing down, and the time has come to acquire some players.

The Detroit Tigers teardown took essentially three years. The build up will take roughly as long. With several of the organizations top prospects expected to start the season at Triple-A Toledo, with the Mud Hens.

Those prospects who the Tigers believe will be the heart of their next championship level team namely, starting pitchers Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal and Alex Faedo along with third baseman Isaac Paredes, Al Avila said  “At some point during the season we can bring them up so they can get some experience. Then we can go into the (2021) spring training and it’s a whole different ballgame.”

All signs point towards after the 2020 season, the Tigers will dip into the free agent pools again. With Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann’s  $50 million contract coming off the books, as well as $20 million to other clubs as compensation as part of the Justin Verlander (Houston Astros) and Prince Fielder (Texas Rangers) trades.

Detroit Tigers owner Christopher Ilitch has been taking stock of the team’s rebuilding process and has stated when the time is right the team will spend again.

The Detroit Tigers rebuild expects to gain another large piece when the team picks first in the 2020 MLB draft. Unlike 2006 when the Tigers pulled out of a rebuild, the team promises this time to hold onto young players and not trade them for veterans. In hopes to prolong winning.

At any rate, the 2020 Detroit Tigers season will be another long season. However, it will be good for the organization as top prospects get called up for a look. As the rebuild finally has a light at the end of a very long dark tunnel.

Just how bad have the Detroit Red Wings been this season? Statistics do not lie

Embed from Getty Images The  Detroit Red Wings have been bad this season, and water is wet. The Red Wings own the NHL’s worst record. The statistics are illuminating and tell exactly why this team is where they are in the standings. In nearly every major category the Wings rank dead last 31st of 31 teams.

The Detroit The Wings are 12-38-4, with a league-low 28 points. To put things in better perspective, the Los Angeles Kings have 43 points 15 points better than Detroit.

Also for the Red Wings the team is last in the NHL with 110 goals scored, working out to again dead last with 2.04 goals per game. The Anaheim Ducks, in 30th place in the category, have scored 20 more goals than the Red Wings.

The Detroit Red Wings also sit last with 206 goals allowed, and have the worst goals against average 3.81 in the NHL. The New Jersey Devils are next with 180 goals allowed, so the Red Wings have allowed 26 more goals than the next worst defensive team in the league.

Detroit has earned the fewest points at home 8-18-2, 18 points and 4-20-2, 10 points on the road. That is simply awful. But wait there is more. The Red Wings are last with 10 regulation wins. That equates to one every 5.2 games played so far to date during the 2019-320 NHL season.

As bad as the numbers are, and they are really bad, there is some good in all this mess. The good? Steve Yzerman is the general manager. This should be the bottoming out season of a long rebuild.

When the 2020-21 NHL season kicks off the Detroit Red Wings will be in better shape. In both cap space as well as prospects pushing for roster spots. It takes time and at times rebuilds are flat out no-fun. That has been the past two seasons.

So in short, relax enjoy the rest of the games this season and prepare for a brighter future that begin to take shape this offseason.

The Detroit Lions are closer to being a good team than you think

Embed from Getty Images The Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl. The Detroit Lions secured the third pick in the 2020 NFL draft. The Chiefs look like the NFL’s next superpower. The Lions are not as far from the Chiefs as many people believe. Do not laugh.

The Kansas City Chiefs have ultra-talented Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. The Detroit Lions have Matthew Stafford who shares the same arm strength and accuracy as Mahomes. To me it is a wash if both quarterbacks are in the pocket.

The offensive line of the Chiefs has Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher and Pro Bowl right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. The Detroit Lions do not have an offensive lineman who has earned all star honors,  center Frank Ragnow seems likely to earn that honor in the near future. The Lions finished the season ranked 11th the Chiefs were 16th long the offensive line.

Wide receivers is interesting as well, for the Chiefs,  Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce,  had 1,229 yards, Tyreek Hill 860 yards, Sammy Watkins 673 yards. Detroit lead by Kenny Golladay’s 1,190 along with 11 touchdowns,  Marvin Jones 779, Danny Amendola had 779, the Detroit tight ends were a non-factor.

At running back, the Chief’s Damien Williams ran for 107 yards, (Kansas City is a pass first team) Lions running back Kerryon Johnson went for 403, Bo Scarbrough on 83 carries ran for  377 yards. The Lions running game should improve with the health of their backs.

Defensive line goes to the Chiefs. The Lions did not get the production out of the unit and will look to make upgrades this offseason.

Linebackers is interesting as well. The Lions’ linebackers struggled with injuries and inconsistency. Kansas City, linebackers did well enough to support the defensive line and secondary while not being a liability, linebackers are not a strength for either team.

Secondary is where the Chiefs shine brightest. The Lions finished last in pass defense, allowing 284.4 yards per game in the NFL.  The Chiefs ranked eighth against the pass with a 221.4 yard average.

Special teams the Chiefs in sixth place, the Lions in 10th. But coaching goes to the Chiefs in a landslide.

In six out of nine stats, the Lions are  close to or better than the Chiefs. That does not mean the Lions do not still have a lot of ground to make up if they want to approach the play of a Super Bowl champion. But when you lose a head to-head game by four points, maybe you’re not that far away after all.

 

The Detroit Tigers need Christin Stewart to hit in 2020

Embed from Getty Images There is no other plan for Detroit Tigers outfielder Christin Stewart. Miguel Cabrera under contract for the next four seasons, it seems highly likely that designated hitter will be occupied for the foreseeable future buy the long time Tigers first baseman. in 2020, Christin Stewart must hit like the Tigers believe he can.

Christin Stewart hit very well in minor leagues. Heading into last season the Tigers felt Stewart’s defense would be his biggest drawback, never dreaming it would be his hitting.

Christin Stewart had a completely forgettable rookie season with the Detroit Tigers, which really fit in with the theme of 2019 Tigers team. At 26 years old, Stewart is young and has a track record of hitting in the minors. 2020 will be a big year for Stewart as well at the Tigers who need more bats in the farm system.

In 2019, Stewart  had 416 plate appearances that was only worth 80 wRC+, and his OBP and SLG plummeted to .305 and .388. Though Christin had occasional flashes of power he hit 10 home runs his .154 ISO was not nearly the routine .200+ ISO he posted in every full season in the minors. In other words his numbers were bad.

Chrstin Stewart needs the 2020 season to be his breakout year. The Tigers minor leagues are not overflowing with other options at the moment. Stewart needs to prove he is capable of being part of the Detroit Tigers build-up part of the rebuild, now that the team finished it’s tear-down part of the rebuild.

It is just one thing the Detroit Tigers coach’s, front office and fans will be watching this season.

With a new defensive coordinator and linebacker coach how will the Detroit Lions improve

Embed from Getty Images A couple weeks ago the Detroit Lions brought in Cory Undlin from the  Philadelphia Eagles as the teams new defensive coordinator. That news was met around the NFL and in the media at large as a solid hire. Needing to fill the linebacker’s coaching position the team then hit a home run and brought in  Tyrone McKenzie.

With the two most important defensive coach’s positions filled, what is next? What does it mean for the toothless Detroit Lions defense? Can the two coach’s both widely viewed as very good at their jobs take the majority of players still on the roster and improve them?

The Detroit Lions linebackers were bad and well below average to just plain awful in pass coverage and did not provide much hope in general with their play. The one thing the unit did reasonably well was rushing the coverage on delayed blitz play calls.

In Cory Undlin, the Lions are getting a coach who understands man coverage, something Patricia loves. In Tyrone McKenzie, who comes to Detroit from the Tennessee Titans, the Lions are getting a coach who immediately got his players to provide a much bigger impact on the defense and overall improvement in their play.

The Tennessee Titans linebackers were the third best tackling linebackers in the NFL this past season. That is something that has sorely been lacking from the Lions defense for a while now.

The Lions do have a couple of linebackers who were drafted in the first and second round. Neither of them excel or are even okay at pass coverage, making that a priority in either free agency or the 2020 NFL draft.

So far, Matt Patricia has at the very least upgraded a couple defensive coach’s. He needs to leave them along and allow them to do what has made them and the players they coach successful. If that happens and the Lions bring in a coverage linebacker the defensive turn-around could be swift.