Sunday, July 31, 2005

Detroit Tigers prospect Brent Clevlen (and others)

From with John Sickels (formerly the ESPN Minor League guru):

Brent Clevlen, OF, Detroit Tigers
Lakeland outfielder Brent Clevlen went 2-for-6 Thursday, with a double and a home run and four RBI. This raised his numbers to .297/.374/.487 on the year, including 21 doubles, 14 homers, 42 walks, and 90 strikeouts in 374 at-bats. A second-round pick in 2002 out of high school in Texas, Clevlen was a favorite of mine until a very poor 2004 season for Lakeland. He returned to the Florida State League this spring and has turned things around, with substantial improvements in all offensive categories. His walk rate is up considerably, as he's returned to the good plate discipline he showed earlier in his career, learning to lay off the pitches on the outer half of the zone that were a problem for him last season. As a league-repeater, Clevlen will have to show he can carry this progress forward to the next level, but he is still just 21 years old. If he had gone to the University of Texas instead of signing with the Tigers, he would probably have been something like a second round pick this past June. The question now is, should he be promoted to Double-A for August, or does leaving him in A-ball for the rest of the year make more sense?

Sounds like he is back on track towards being a very good corner OF prospect. Hopefully he can continue his success in Erie next year.

Some news with other prospects:

  • Joel Zumaya (20) went 6 innings allowing no runs, 2 walks, and getting 12 strikeouts for AAA Toledo in his most recent start. He got knocked around in his first start for Toledo, but has been solid since. His 12 K performance in 6 innings is just silly. He'll be fun to watch develop as he keeps blowing people away with the fastball pushing 100 and the developing offspeed pitches.
  • Kevin Whelan (22) is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 4 saves in 12 innings with 19 Ks and 6 BBs and only 2 hits allowed (unfornately 1 was a HR). Too many walks, but the former Texas A&M closer and 2005 4th round draft pick is racking up big K numbers down at Oneonta in the rookie league.
  • Clete Thomas (21) continued his hot start at Oneonta with some solid play at West Michigan thus far. Through 17 games, he has a .311/.411/.410 batting line and 4 SBs in 5 attempts (he's now 13/14 overall this year as a pro). He also has more BBs than Ks (as he did at Oneonta as he continues to display excellent discipline at the plate for this 6th round pick in 2005.
  • Jeff Frazier (22) is bouncing back from a slow start this year with a .278/.347/.413 batting line on the year at West Michigan. He's a former 3rd round pick in 2004 from Rutgers who had a good summer at Oneonta last year. Still a pretty good OF prospect with a solid bat. Needs to develop more power to be an elite prospect.
  • Brent Dlugach (22) is having a solid year as a SS at West Michigan with a .294/.332/.414 hitting line. He's a big kid for a shortstop at 6'4" and 200 lbs and was a 6th round pick in 2004 from Memphis. Did not play well at Oneonta last year, but has bounced back with a solid year thus far at West Michigan.
  • PJ Finigan (22) is off to a nice start at West Michigan. The 7th round pick in 2005 has a 1.72 ERA in 15.2 innings with 4 walks and 16 strikeouts. Great numbers in very limited action thus far.
  • Jair Jurrgens (19) is having a very nice year at West Michigan considering his age. He was signed as a free agent out of Curacao (home of Andruw Jones) in 2003 at the age of 17. He had nice seasons in 2003 and 2004 in the Gulf Coast rookie league before struggling in Oneonta last year. This year, though, he's 7-5 with a 3.23 ERA in 108.2 innings and 30 walks and 85 strikeouts. Not quite what Joel Zumaya did in West Michigan at the age of 18 two years ago, but not bad nonetheless. I had never even heard of this kid, but with those numbers at that age at that level he's got some big upside.
  • Josh Rainwater (20) has a 3.56 ERA in 65.2 innings with 15 walks and 59 strikeouts at West Michigan. Not bad for the former 2003 4th round draft pick.
  • Dallas Trahern (19) has a 3.10 ERA in 130.2 innings with 39 walks and 57 strikeouts. He is performing quite well for his age at West Michigan, but the K/9 inning ratio of 3.9 is disturbingly low. Not sure how he fits as a prospect, but he's at least worth keeping an eye on.
  • Chris Robinson (21) the 3rd round pick at catcher in 2005 is slowly turning around his numbers the plate at West Michigan. He's now at a .203/.261/.297 hitting line through 17 games. He's got good defensive skills and the Tigs organization is probably weaker at catcher than any other so it would really be nice if his bat would come around. His ratio of 5 walks to 17 strikeouts is definitely not good at this point.
  • Nate Bumstead (23) has a 2.50 ERA in 122.1 innings with 39 walks and 87 strikeouts at Lakeland. Good numbers, but he's a touch on the older side for the Florida State League.
  • Jordan Tata (23) has a 2.50 ERA in 118.2 innings with 32 walks and 100 strikeouts at Lakeland. Similar to Bumstead in regards to age. We'll see how they do at Erie next year.
  • Eulogio de la Cruz (21) has a 3.39 ERA in 71.2 innings with 27 walks and 78 strikeouts at Lakeland. He's the right age and has good K/BB and K/IP numbers. He's a decent prospect right now.
  • Justin Verlander (22) has a 0.30 ERA in 29.2 innings at Erie with 5 walks and 31 strikeouts. Has had minor struggles in his 2 starts at Detroit, but has blown away all the A and AA competition he has faced thus far. His stuff is the definition of unhittable in the minors. Hopefully he can continue to develop because he is one of the 5 best pitching prospects in all of baseball.
This is just a partial list of some prospects that are having good years in the Tigers system. I'll list some more like Curtis Granderson at another time. And as a refresher here is the hierarchy of minor league teams along with the age a player should be playing well there to be considered a prospect:

Toledo (25 and under) AAA, Erie (22-24) AA, Lakeland (21 and under) high A, West Michigan (21 and under or recent draft pick) low A, Oneonta (20 and under or recent draft pick) short season, GCL Tigers (19 and under) rookie league. Older players can flourish in a league, but it usually means they are somewhat behind their peers on the development curve. For example, a 22 year old SS tearing up the NY-Penn League for Oneonta isn't much of a big deal. A 22 year old SS tearing up the International League for Toledo would be one of the best prospects in the game.

Are you ready for some football?

Inspired by this post at MGoBlog, here's some audio clips of Bob Ufer from

Yep, I'm ready for a little Michigan football about now.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

All time best college football programs

I'd consider this article worthy of many cookies for the author. In my opinion, any ranking of all time college football programs that does not have Michigan and Notre Dame at the top is simply flawed. So I'll say his ranking is pretty good. This article goes way beyond my fleeting thoughts on the issue, though, and breaks down the 10 best programs in CFB history.

My favorite part is where he points out how Notre Dame's grip on the "best program of all time" argument is fading fast. Charlie Weis better start living up to the unrealistic expectations of Notre Dame fans from the start.

Jack Johnson goes #3 overall to Carolina

Johnson slipped one spot down from the #2 spot he was expected to go at to Anaheim. The Mighty Ducks passed him up and Carolina immediately scooped him up at #3. I guess it's good news for me as I'll get a chance to watch him play for the Hurricanes, however I hope it's after a few years in Ann Arbor.

edit: Carolina News 14 is reporting Jack Johnson is now undecided if he will attend Michigan. I'm hoping he was just being kind to the local fans, but this news is concerning.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Handicapping the Heisman race

The Heisman trophy. One of the most storied individual awards in all of sports. But what does it mean? Who deserves to win it? The best player? The most valuable player? The best player on the best team?

In my opinion, it should go to the best player in the country. From what I've seen, it goes to the best player in the country who is also on a very good team. It's not right, but that's the way it is. Here's a look at some of the top contenders in the country off the top of my head. If I forgot somebody, just let me know as it may have just been a blind oversight. These aren't in any particular order.

Matt Leinart - USC QB and reigning Heisman winner. He is the face of the best team in the country and is coming off a monster season and a national title. He also gets all his surrounding skill players back so expect big things again this year. If USC goes undefeated again he will be tough to beat. What could go wrong? OC guru Norm Chow is long gone and the USC offense might not have the same playcalling magic they've had the last few years. Either that or the voters could just decide they don't want a repeat winner.

Reggie Bush - USC TB/KR extraordinaire and Heisman finalist last year. If USC goes undefeated and Leinart doesn't win the Heisman, this guy is probably next in line. He is electric in the open field and really fun to watch with the ball in his hands. One of the few players in the country that is a threat to score every time they get the ball. He will definitely have at least a few "Heisman moments" on national TV this year. What could go wrong? Well, he splits time at TB with LenDale White who will eat up a lot of rushing yardage and TDs. He also is second fiddle to guys like Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett for receptions. He might be the best player on the USC team because of his versatility, but he might not put up dominant numbers.

Adrian Peterson - Oklahoma TB and Heisman finalist last year. He put up monster numbers last year as a true freshman and is looking for even more as a sophomore. Oklahoma once again figures to have a great team and he is the focal point of their offense with Jason White off to whatever it is weak armed, bad kneed, former great college QBs do these days. What could go wrong? Well, Jason White is gone as is Mark Clayton and possibly their other top WR (Bradley?) so the defenses will really be ganging up on Peterson. He might be a better player this year, but his numbers will likely suffer a hit as teams make stopping him their first priority.

Vince Young - Texas QB. It's been a while since the Longhorns beat the Sooners, but they've got a chance this year. Let's not forget they also have an early season game at Ohio State. I would be shocked if they beat the Buckeyes and Sooners, but if they do the Heisman is Young's for the losing. Personally, I don't think he is a great QB. He's a great runner, but below average throwing the ball. His Heisman-rep right now is probably 80% due to the Rose Bowl where he lit up a Michigan D that had been torched by mobile QBs all year long. Seeing as how he played similar to Troy Smith and Drew Stanton against Michigan in that game, I cannot see how he rates any better than they do. That said, my opinion isn't the most prevalant right now. And if Texas runs the table this year I cannot see anybody else winning the Heisman. What could go wrong? Well, Texas is going to be an underdog to Ohio State and Oklahoma. Unless they pull of shockers and win both, his candidacy is likely over.

From here it drops off a bit to longer shots....

Chris Leak - Florida QB. Former mega-recruit has been progressing nicely in Gainesville. He had a good year as a true freshman and followed that up with a very good year as a sophomore. Now Urban Meyer is in town and people are expecting the same numbers Alex Smith put up last year for Utah. Should they? Perhaps. Leak is a very good passer and pretty athletic. Not a speedster, but he can make plays with his feet. I'll admit I'm not quite as up on the Gators chances of running the table this year, but expect Leak to make a little Heisman noise if they win some games. What could go wrong? Meyer might be a great coach, but it is still a new offense to learn and mistakes are bound to happen.

Drew Tate - Iowa QB. Last year the Hawkeyes had a rash of injuries to tailbacks and the offense was left up to Tate. He was more than up to the challenge and was named first team all conference in the Big Ten and capped his season with a miracle finish against LSU. Iowa should have an improved ground game this year to provide him a little more help. What could go wrong? Well, Iowa has games at OSU and Purdue along with a home date with Michigan. Unless Iowa goes 10-1 or better, Tate probably has no chance at the Heisman. But if they are in the national title hunt, he's almost a lock to be a Heisman finalist.

Chad Henne - Michigan QB. He's coming off one of the finest true freshman QB seasons in the history of college football including a Rose Bowl record tying 4 TD passes. Throw in more returning skill position talent around him than any other school in the country not named USC and he is poised for a monster year for the Wolverines. What could go wrong? Did I mention that Biletnikoff winner and security blanket supreme Braylon Edwards is off to the NFL along with Center and Rimington winner David Baas? It's conceivable that Henne could falter without Edwards to bail him out on occasion. It should be noted, however, that I prefer to base talent on who is returning instead of who isn't. And Michigan will line up all-conference caliber players almost across the board on offense. The schedule is favorable, but a road date with Iowa looms as very difficult.

Mike Hart - Michigan TB. I feel obligated to list Hart even though he won't win it. The guy ran for over 1400 yards in the last 10 games once he was named starter. If it wasn't for Adrian Peterson, it would have been the finest true freshman season by a TB that I have ever witnessed. Fortunately for Michigan and unfortunately for Mike Hart's Heisman chances, Kevin Grady and Max Martin will be eating up a bunch of his carries. That's what happens when you've got talent around you. Hart won't be getting 27 carries a game any longer, probably closer to 20. And with only 20 carries a game it will be hard for him to put up the mega-numbers a TB needs to win the Heisman. Don't get me wrong, he'll still crack a 1000 yards and possibly be first team all conference. But he won't be pushing 1500+ yards.

Laurence Maroney - Minnesota TB. If Mike Hart is going to suffer because of new found competition, Laurence Maroney is the opposite. Now that Marion Barber III has moved on, Maroney will see a ton of carries. And he's got the speed to break a bunch of long runs. 2000 yards and 15+ TDs is not out of the question this year for Maroney. Heck, anything less than 1500 is probably a disappointment. What could go wrong? Well, Minnesota still is not a good football team and will not be anywhere near the top 10 of a poll. He'll need to statistically destroy the competition to have a prayer in the Heisman race and I doubt that will happen.

I know I'm forgetting some guys from the ACC, SEC, Big 12, and Pac Ten. Leave comments or I'll edit this as I think of more.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Jack Johnson: The Man, the Myth, the Legend has a nice article on future Wolverine and likely #2 overall pick in the NHL draft Jack Johnson. He is going to be very good at Michigan and I'm hoping he sticks around for more than just 1 year. Defenseman that are very strong on both ends of the ice are rare. To me, his skills at 6'1" and over 200 lbs sound like a slightly smaller version of Rob Blake. All-american as a true freshman might be a bit much to ask, but all-CCHA is probably within reach.

Barry Alvarez stepping down

Barry Alvarez has announced he's stepping down as head coach at Wisconsin after this season, to be replaced by DC Bret Bielema. I sure hope most people realize just how great of a job he did at Wisconsin. To say they were a cellar dwellar when he arrived is an understatement. The Don Morton era for the Badgers was pretty sad. But Alvarez churned out winning seasons and bowl games and 3 Rose Bowl titles. He's one of the best coaches in the Big Ten and he will be hard for Bielema to replace. Hats off to Coach Alvarez for a fine career as head coach!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Expectations for Michigan basketball

There is a nice free article on the Wolverine about Tommy Amaker and expectations for the upcoming basketball season. This begs the question: what are realistic expectations for the team this year?

Well, here's my thoughts. These predictions all assume near total health of the team. Last year I learned exactly what injuries can do to a squad as Lester Abram, Daniel Horton, Chris Hunter, and Graham Brown combined to miss over 60 games due to injury.

  • 10+ wins in Big Ten regular season play
  • 21+ wins overall heading into the Big Ten tournament
  • an 8 or better seed in the NCAA tournament
  • convincing victories over lesser foes at home
  • a tough road win or two against a ranked foe
Last year sucked big time. Amaker had lead Michigan from 11 wins to 17 wins to 23 wins including the NIT crown. The momentum was there for the team to have a great season. And then Lester Abram went down for the year with a shoulder injury. And then Chris Hunter started having injury problems. And then Daniel Horton hurt his knee. And then Graham Brown got hurt. And then Daniel Horton got suspended. And then Brent Petway got hurt. Well, you get the picture. Injuries suck. Watching 2 walkons on the court at almost all times was not fun.

But this year? Darn near everybody is back. Throw in the return of all previously injured players and 3 incoming freshmen and things are looking good. I'm certain this will be the most fun Michigan basketball season in quite some time.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Nate Robertson

Billfer explains Nate Robertson's tale of 2 seasons better than I ever could. His greatly improved K rate and K/BB ratio are indicative of much better pitching of late. Hopefully it continues in Seattle tonight.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The development of QBs at Michigan

Here's how some previous Michigan quarterbacks have developed during their stay in Ann Arbor as measured by some key statistics. I'm only using seasons where they started the majority of games. For instance, Brian Griese started quite a bit in 1995, then lost the job to Dreisbach in 1996 before regaining it in 1997.

John Navarre

soph: 53.8% comp, 2435 yds, 19 TDs, 13 INTs, 6.3 yds/attempt
junior: 55.4% comp, 2905 yds, 21 TDs, 7 INTs, 6.5 yds/attempt
senior: 59.2% comp, 3331 yds, 24 TDs, 10 INTs, 7.3 yds/attempt

Tom Brady

junior: 61.1% comp, 2636 yds, 15 TDs, 12 INTs, 7.5 yds/attempt
senior: 62.8% comp, 2586 yds, 20 TDs, 6 INTs, 7.6 yds/attempt

Brian Griese

sophomore: 53.4% comp, 1577 yds, 13 TDs, 10 INTs, 6.6 yds/attempt
senior: 62.9% comp, 2293 yds, 17 TDs, 6 INTs, 7.5 yds/attempt

And here is what Chad Henne did last year...

freshman: 60.2% comp, 2743 yards, 25 TDs, 12 INTs, 6.9 yds/attempt

There is a pattern here and I'm liking it. In fact, to find a Michigan QB that did not make solid improvements in every season you have to go back to Todd Collins who didn't have as good a year in 1994 as a senior compared to his 1993 season.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Sean Douglass for President

This 26 year old journeyman is finally looking like a big league pitcher. He's thrown 2 scoreless innings against Minnesota so far today to lower his ERA to 2.16 in his 5th start. He's going to have to work his way out of the rotation, because he looks set in the rotation for next year.

In other news, Curtis Granderson was 2/4 with a triple in his 2005 debut for the Tigs last night. I hope he stays for a while because he's already a better all around OFer than Nook Logan or Rondell White.

Magglio Ordonez got a single in the 2nd inning to extend his hitting streak to 15 games.

UPDATE: Douglass goes 7 strong allowing only 1 run for the win and Curtis Granderson knocked in the winning run with a solo HR in the bottom of the 7th. 2-1 Tigs and on to the nightcap with Justin Verlander making his 2nd MLB start.

In other news, I'm going to have to make use of iBlog for Cookies football database. This could really be fun (check the link at the right for iBlog).

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Pudge's days off

Apparently some fans and media are continuing to question Trammell for giving Pudge days off. From this article in the Free Press, "God forbid I've got to rest Pudge sometimes," Trammell said. "He's a 33-year-old catcher who's caught a lot of games. He's a tough guy, but neither of his hands are 100 percent after having injuries to them earlier this season. Pudge is on a pace to play 130-140 games, which is kind of what we projected."

For those of you criticizing Trammell on this, here is something to chew on. Pudge has played in 81 games so far this year. That puts him at 4th most in the majors amongst catchers. The only catchers with more are Jason Kendall (86), Paul LoDuca (84), and Victor Martinez (83). Furthermore, Tram played Pudge in 135 games last year, which was the 2nd most he's played since the 1999 season.

Is there any reason to think he rests him too much? I know I can't find any evidence of it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Curtis Granderson

Curtis is on fire right now, and Bryan Smith of The Baseball Analysts pegs him as the 43rd best prospect in all of baseball. I'm guessing he gets a callup by September at the latest and is a permanent fixture in the Tig's lineup from the start of next season on.

Still needs to cut down on the Ks, but otherwise he is an excellent prospect.

A brief lesson in logic

These last 2 posts at iBlog for Cookies definitely deserve some cookies as a brief lesson in how to gather data and construct an argument. Just a guess, but I think he's had some experience critically evaluating journal articles.

Either way, I've got to agree with his points. There are valid criticisms of Lloyd Carr. But just digging up stats to try to prove your point isn't the best way of convincing the unconvinced.

Clete Thomas

Clete got a promotion to West Michigan after his torrid start at Oneonta and has just kept on hitting. Through 7 games, he has a .304 batting average, .500 on base percentage, and a .348 slugging percentage.

In a combined 25 games at Oneonta and West Michigan, he has had 114 plate appearances and has reached base 55 times (34 hits+21 walks). He's also 10/11 in stolen base attempts and has drawn 21 walks to only 14 strikeouts. His power is a little lacking thus far, with only 1 HR, 1 triple, and 6 doubles.

Hopefully his power can improve, because he is looking great in all other aspects at the plate right now and has a rep as a pretty good fielder from college.

Monday, July 18, 2005

AJ Burnett

File this under complete speculation, but I think there is a good chance AJ Burnett ends up in Detroit this offseason. The Tigs are going to be willing to add some salary. Dave Dombrowski loves power arms and actually traded for Burnett when he was in Florida.

I'm not sure how, but I think he's more likely to be pitching in Detroit next year than anywhere else.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Movin' On Up

Joel Zumaya and Justin Verlander are moving up and out of Erie. Zumaya has gotten the promotion to Toledo and will start Sunday for the Mud Hens. Verlander is still technically on Erie, but is the favorite to get promoted back to Detroit next weekend to start one of the games in a double header against the Twins.

I'll go out on a bit of a limb and guess that neither ever starts another game for Erie.

Friday, July 15, 2005

This just in: Tiger is good

Tiger Woods is apparently a pretty good golfer. And St. Andrews is apparently custom built for him to dominate the rest of the world. Check out the 6 competitive rounds he has now played (2000 and 2005) in chronological order: 67, 66, 67, 69, 66, 67

Not bad, eh? He won by 8 shots last time with a record 19 under par. Now through 2 rounds he has the exact same score as in 2000 and a 4 shot lead over Colin Montgomerie. Here's guessing he chalks up another major and goes 4-4 winning majors in the last appearance of Jack Nicklaus.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Drew Rosenhaus can bite me

If I hear or read one more thing about Brett Favre needing to stay out of Javon Walker's business I'm going to puke. Javon Walker is not renegotiating a deal in the last year of his contract. He's not renegotiating heading into his last year. He's attempting to renegotiate a deal with 2 years left on it. How many WRs in the last 10 years have renegoiated large deals with 2+ years left on their contracts? Answer: very, very, very few. Rosenhaus and TO aside, I can't even remember the last time it happened.

Drew Rosenhaus is slime. If Javon Walker is going to cry about how little he is getting paid, he could at least factor in the portion of his big signing bonus he took up front that would prorate to this season.

Drop dead Drew.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

How the Tigers draft picks have fared thus far

Cameron Maybin (1st round), Jeff Larish (5th round), Paul Coleman (9th round), and Ben Petralli (15th round) are the highest picks yet to ink contracts. But as for those that have signed:

Chris Robinson (3rd round - catcher): Started at Oneonta, putting up a .154/.200/.154 batting line in 4 games. Then moved up to West Michigan where he has a .138/.219/.270 hitting line in 7 games. Slow start at the plate so far.

Kevin Whelan (4th round - RHP): Started at Oneonta and has put up a 1-1 record with a 3.86 ERA in 7.0 innings, with 11 Ks to 4 walks and 2 hits allowed. Gotta like the K/IP ratio so far.

Clete Thomas (6th round - OF): Started at Oneonta and hit .386/.488/.529 in 18 games, earning a promotion to West Michigan.

PJ Finigan (7th round - RHP): Started at West Michigan and has a 0-0 record with a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched, with 9 Ks and 2 walks and 10 hits allowed. Pretty good start with a great K/BB ratio.

Brendan Wise (8th round - RHP): Started with the GCL Tigers and has a 0-2 record with a 4.70 ERA in 7.2 innings with 3 Ks, 5 BBs, and 6 hits allowed

Kevin Ardoin (10th round - RHP): Started at West Michigan and has a 3-0 record with a 3.86 ERA in 14.2 innings with 16 Ks and 9 walks and 9 hits allowed. Too many walks, but a lot of Ks.

Anthony Claggett (11th round - RHP): Started at Oneonta and has a 0-0 record with a 0.00 ERA in 7.0 innings with 6 Ks, 3 BBs, and 7 hits allowed.

Matt Joyce (12th round - RF): Started at Oneonta and has hit .241/.323/.278 in 14 games.

Louis Ott (13th round - SS): Started with the GCL TIgers and has hit .219/.342/.250 in 10 games.

Casper Wells (14th round - RF): Started with the GCL Tigers and has hit .255/.417/.617 in 14 games.

Others of note:

Michael Holliman (16th round - SS): Started at Oneonta and has a .284/.375/.463 line in 18 games.

Augustin Guzman (19th round - SS): Started at GCL Tigers and has a .294/.435/.412 line in 6 games.

Schuyler Williamson (26th round - C): Started at Oneonta and has a .429/.500/.571 line in 8 games.

Loren Fraser (33rd round - RHP): Started at Oneonta and has a 2-0 record with a 1.42 ERA in 12.2 innings pitched with 13 Ks, 1 BB, and 11 hits allowed.

Jeffrey Hahn (35th round - RHP): Started at Oneonta and has a 2-0 record with a 0.00 ERA in 7.1 innings with 6 Ks, 1 BB, and 6 hits allowed.

For reference purposes, the Tigers minor league teams are as follows:
Toledo (AAA)
Erie (AA)
Lakeland (advanced A)
West Michigan (low A)
Oneonta (short season league)
Gulf Coast League Tigers (rookie league)

I'm quite pleased with the hot start by Clete Thomas as he could develop into a nice all around outfielder within a year or two. I hope Larish and Maybin sign relatively soon as they are both outstanding prospects at positions of need in the organization.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Rebirth of Michigan Basketball

Just a quick note about Michigan basketball: this year should be fun to watch. Last year they were supposed to be good and make a run to the NCAA tourney coming off their NIT win the year before. But then the injuries struck. Lester Abram missed 28 games, Graham Brown missed 9 games, Chris Hunter missed 8 games. Throw in Daniel Horton's 19 games missed due to injury/suspension and they had a total of 64 games missed by those 4 main contributors on a team that didn' thave a lot of depth.

But they gutted it out and survived. And now?

  • Daniel Horton is back and ready to prove something in his final year in Ann Arbor.
  • Graham Brown and Chris Hunter are back to full strength.
  • Lester Abram is back to full strength and ready to roll as the best player on the team.

Did I forget to mention that they only lost JC Mathis to graduation? Or what about incoming freshmen Jerret Smith, Kendric Price, and Jevohn Shepherd? Suddenly a program that has struggled to run intrasquad scrimmages is overloaded with scholarship talent and depth. This Michigan fan is really going to enjoy watching Tommy Amaker lead the Wolverines back to the NCAA tournament this year. Maybe they'll even make some noise once they get there. At least it's once again within the realm of possibility.

Ah, the wonders of Field Turf

Doesn't it seem like eons ago that Michigan Stadium was plagued with potholes every Autumn? It was terribly frustrating to watch some of the most skilled players in the country slip and slide and have hunks of turf the size of a melon go flying about every time they tried to cut. But before 2003, the Athletic Department ponied up for some Field Turf. And I gotta say that stuff is just awesome. The players can make great cuts without fear of losing their footing, and without the inherent injury risks of AstroTurf.

I never thought I'd be so pleased with a playing surface, but it has made a world of difference. Michigan Stadium recently had a field that was the laughingstock of the Big Ten, but now it is perhaps as fine as any stadium in the country. But now we get to watch cuts like this...

Monday, July 11, 2005

Bobby Abreu

1 word: DAMN

That guy just put on the most amazing display I've ever seen in the Home Run Derby. From having attended many games at Comerica, I can vouch that those shots he hit up over the Pepsi signs are a long, long, long ways from home plate. Hell, he hit one to left center that reached the old fence that Juan Gonzalez was afraid of and he hit one to dead center. Those aren't cheapies.

Interesting tidbits from the NBA

1) How on earth did the Wizards allow Larry Hughes to leave for Cleveland? Everyone assumed Washington made him a priority and would pony up the dollars, making his name but an afterthought in the loaded 2 guard market featuring Ray Allen, Michael Redd, and Joe Johnson amongst others. The Wizards were coming off their first playoff appearance and series win in quite some time, but this has to kill the momentum of their franchise.

2) Milwaukee picking up Bobby Simmons, the NBA's most improved player this year for the Clippers. Considering they just drafted Andrew Bogut, reinked Michael Redd, and had TJ Ford cleared to play I'd say it's a pretty good offseason for the Bucks. With a starting lineup of TJ Ford, Michael Redd, Bobby Simmons, Joe Smith, and Andrew Bogut they might actually make a little noise in the talented Central Division next year.

Heck, look at the Central Division. They've got the Pistons who return all the key players from the Eastern Conference champ team. Then there is the up and coming Bulls who made some noise last year. Throw in the Pacers who should be improved with a hopefully full season out of Ron Artest. Then you've got LeBron and the Cavs who just signed the aforementioned Larry Hughes and a Milwaukee team that might be the most improved in the league. Milwaukee was the only team of the 5 that finished below .500 last year, so I think it is safe to say it should be the best division in basketball.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Bonderman and the Cy Young vote

Jeremy Bonderman's record is at 11-5 heading into the All Star break with a 3.99 ERA and 93 Ks. He is tied for 3rd in the AL in wins, 6th in strikeouts, and 24th in ERA (though #10 is only 3.58). It stands to reason that if he has a good second half, he will get some mention in the Cy Young race and could likely finish in the top 5 of the vote.

Here's a list of all players aged 22 and younger to finish in the top 5 of the Cy Young voting in either league since 1980:

2004: Francisco Rodriguez, age 22, 4th(t) in AL vote

2003: Mark Prior, age 22, 3rd in NL vote

1987: Dwight Gooden, age 22, 5th (t) in NL vote

1985: Bret Saberhagen, age 21, 1st in AL vote

1985: Dwight Gooden, age 20, 1st in NL vote

1984: Dwight Gooden, age 19, 2nd in NL vote

1982: Fernando Valenzuela, age 21, 3rd(t) in NL vote

1981: Fernando Valenzuela, age 20, 1st in NL vote

Not bad company to keep should Bonderman have a big 2nd half.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Joel Zumaya: Kid K

Unhittable. That's one way to describe Joel Zumaya's pitches when he is on. In case you didn't know, Zumaya is the "other" elite Tiger pitching prospect in Erie right now. Of course you've probably heard of Justin Verlander as he recently made his big league debut. Well, Zumaya is the 2nd youngest pitcher in the Eastern League this year at 20 years old. But you wouldn't know it by watching him pitch. And you can watch him pitch in the Minor League Futures All Star game at Comerica Park during the All Star break this upcoming week. Here's a writeup by on this future star.

Let's take a look at his stats on the season:

8-3, 2.77 ERA, 107.1 IP, 71 Hs, 52 BBs, 143 Ks

That translates to a K/9 IP rate of 11.99, a K/BB ratio of 2.75, a BB/9 IP rate of 4.36, and a WHIP of 1.15.

A couple things jump out here. First of all, his K rate is simply amazing for such a young kid in AA. Players a few years older than he is swing and miss quite frequently when he toes the rubber. The next thing that jumps out is his BB rate. It's not good. His lack of control is more than a teeny bit concerning for somebody with so much ability. But it is improving. To be major league ready, though, he probably needs to get it down in the range of 3 BBs/9 IP.

So how has he done in his last few starts? Awesome would be how I would describe it.

In his last 11 starts, he has put up a 6-0 record in 72.1 IP with a 1.24 ERA, a K rate of 11.82, a BB rate of 3.36, and a WHIP of 0.97.

In just his last 5 starts, he's 4-0 with a 0.84 ERA in 32.0 IP, a K rate of 10.13, a BB rate of 2.81, and a WHIP of 0.86.

What does this all mean? If he can continue to improve his control, he has the potential to be flat out dominant in the majors. Despite the poor BB rate, his WHIP is very good because he gives up so few hits. He is very young for the level he is pitching at and he is blowing everybody away. I look for him to start next season in Toledo and be in Detroit perhaps no later than 2007 at age 22.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Dave Lewis out....Mike Babcock in?

Dave Lewis out as coach of the Red Wings isn't a big surprise. Detroit really did not live up to expectations in the playoffs in his 2 seasons as head coach. But Mike Babcock? Can't say this move excites me much. As I recall, he preached a pretty tight defensive system that wasn't a lot of fun to watch. Given that the NHL might make some rule changes to encourage offensive play I do not know if he is the best choice for the job.

Guess we will have to wait and see, but I was a little surprised.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Magglio Ordonez update

Last week I mentioned that Magglio Ordonez would have a chance to put up some huge RBI numbers once he got back. Well, though 6 games he has 7 RBI and a .261/.320/.652 (BA/OBP/SLG) hitting line.

Not a bad start for a guy that missed 2 and a half months. Watch for that batting average and on base percentage to climb upwards as he gets his timing back, though there is no way he can keep up that slugging percentage.

Michigan's defense: The DL

Michigan's D is facing some question marks this year, but defensive line is definitely not one of them.

Where do I start? How about talent. There's lots of it. (for the sake of this discussion, we will assume Michigan runs a 4-3)

The DEs: LaMarr Woodley, Tim Jamison, Jeremy Van Alstyne, possibly some help from Pierre Woods. Woodley is a stud. He racked up 16 TFLs and 4 sacks last year and just looks dominant to me. He is way too quick for OTs to block and he's got plenty of strength to get the job done. I think he will have a monster year. Jamison and Van Alstyne on the other side both have good speed, though I'm not sure either has proven to be able to hold up against a rushing attack. There will definitely be some pressure on the QB from the ends, though.

The DTs: Gabe Watson and Pat Massey are the 2 main cogs on the inside. Watson is a mammoth 330+ lb force in the middle. He needs to work on his conditioning so he can dominate on every play and not just every so often. But he will dominate interior linemen. Massey is talented and has great height at 6'8" so he can tip some passes. Needs to work on playing low so that he doesn't get pushed out of the way on runs right at him.

The biggest improvements in the unit might be with the addition of new coach Steve Stripling. He's made a big impression already and many observers think he will help their talented group make some huge strides this year. If they can indeed step up their performance, it will greatly help the young secondary by not placing so much pressure on them. All in all, it is perhaps the most talented group in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country. Woodley and Watson are both potential first team All Americans this year and it would not surprise me to see them appearing on some pre-season All American teams.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The best athletic departments in the country

So Michigan finished 4th in the Director's Cup this year, which is the all sports award that Stanford wins every year. I was wondering how various programs stacked up since the 1993/94 season (which is all the data offered on the NACDA website) so I looked at some of the big name schools that seemed to do well recently. I think I covered the best programs, though LSU, Cal, and Washington could've been included towards the bottom of the list.

Anyways, here's how they stack up by average rank since 1993/94, with each season's rank included as well.

Stanford - 1.08: 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1
UCLA - 3.42: 3, 3, 2, 3, 4, 5, 2, 2, 5, 6, 3, 3
Florida - 4.92: 4, 5, 3, 5, 2, 4, 7, 7, 3, 7, 6, 6
Michigan - 5.50: 9, 7, 5, 11(t), 5, 6, 3, 4, 6, 4, 2, 4
UNC - 6.50: 1, 2, 6, 2, 2(t), 17(t), 5, 15, 4, 8, 7, 9
Texas - 8.17: 7, 10, 4, 7, 15(t), 11, 9, 19, 2, 2, 10, 2
Arizona - 8.83: 6, 4, 7, 6, 6, 9, 8, 5, 9, 16, 12, 18
Georgia - 11.09: 21, 14, 11, 28, 7, 2, 12, 3, 8, 15, 5, 7
USC - 11.17: 8, 6, 10, 8(t), 10(t), 9(t), 16, 8, 15(t), 13(t), 21, 10
PSU - 11.33: 5, 8, 9, 20, 15(t), 3, 4, 10, 24, 5, 13, 20
ASU - 12.58: 10, 12, 21, 13, 12, 12(t), 11, 9, 15(t), 10, 17, 11
Ohio State - 12.92: 23, 16, 17, 8(t), 23, 15, 14, 6, 14, 3, 4, 12
Tennessee - 16.17: 13, 11, 13, 17, 19(t), 17(t), 20, 21, 12, 27, 14, 8
Notre Dame - 18.00: 11, 30, 12, 14, 31(t), 25(t), 21, 11, 13, 13(t), 19, 16
Duke - 21.50: 26, 21, 39, 23, 28, 7, 24, 16, 30, 21, 18, 5

It should be noted that of these 15 powerhouse athletic departments, only 6 have failed to win a national title in men's basketball or football over those 12 years (Stanford, Texas, Georgia, Penn State, Arizona State, and Notre Dame) and 2 of those had football teams finish #2 in both polls (Notre Dame 1993, Penn State 1994).

It isn't the end of the world

As the Tigers slide away from .500, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1) This team lost 119 games in 2003. We're less than 2 full seasons removed from one of the worst teams in the modern history of baseball. Remaking them into a contender won't happen overnight, especially without a salary cap. They went from 43 wins to 72 wins last year and will likely end up with somewhere around 77-80 wins this year which is an improvement.

2) The organization has greatly improved their level of talent the past 2 years. They have some actual prospects now. Heck, you can watch Justin Verlander start tonight against the Tribe as he aims to end the losing streak in his MLB debut. The young pitchers in particular are spectacular and should continue to improve for years to come.

3) Mike Illitch has shown a willingness to spend $$$$ to make them competitive and he has said he will continue to do so. Throw in a GM that actually knows what he is doing and it's a safe bet that they will improve every offseason. I'd look for at least 1-2 acquisitions this offseason with annual salaries of at least $15 million combined. Guys like Jason Johnson and Rondell White and Dmitri Young don't have a long term future with the Tigers, so they'll probably look to add another SP, a big bat in the OF, and perhaps some bullpen help.

The last time the Tigs future was this bright was a LONG time ago, probably the 1980s. For die hards, wins can't come fast enough, but try to be patient because the wait will definitely be worth it.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Brandon Inge, defensive wizard?

According to Peter Gammons, in a survey of 50 GMs, scouts, executives, and managers, Brandon Inge was listed as the 5th best defensive infielder in the majors. Scott Rolen was the only thirdbaseman that rated higher.

Now I know he has a ton of potential at D with his quick feet and cannon arm, but he's not there yet. He has been charged with 13 errors on the season. That only rates him ahead of David Wright and Troy Glaus in the majors. Though his fielding percentage of .950 does rank ahead of 6 other third sackers in the majors. The interesting stat is that his range factor (putouts+assists/innings played) is far and away #1 in the majors at his position which means he gets to a lot of balls.

What does this all mean? I think it means that professional talent evaluators know that Inge has fabulous defensive potential. I don't think they realize that he isn't there yet. Hopefully he can cut down on the errors, because he might have some gold gloves in the future.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Magglio Ordonez: RBI machine

Magglio Ordonez has a pretty good chance to lead the majors in RBI here on out, so long as he's hitting cleanup with Inge/Polanco/Guillen in front of him.

Check out these OBPs entering tonight:

Inge - .382
Polanco - .384 (.400 in Detroit)
Guillen - .395

Is there any team in the league that can match that trio hitting 1/2/3 in terms of getting on base? I'm not sure. I do know Maggs got an RBI double tonight's game (still in progress) to go with his 2 run HR tonight. So for those keeping track, that's 3 RBI in 1.5 games so far.

Michigan's offense: The OL

The big uglies. They are going to miss Rimington co-winner David Baas. He's off to San Francisco to block for Alex Smith as the 49ers attempt to revamp their offense. But they do return virtually everyone else of consequence on the line.

At tackle, Adam Stenavich and Jake Long are the returning starters. Stenavich has had an up and down career at Michigan, but I think he is due for a solid senior campaign at LT. He isn't an overpowering run blocker and doesn't have the quickest feet, but he can be one of the better tackles around when he's on his game. Jake Long at RT is a beast. A very powerful run blocker that is learning how to improve his pass blocking technique. If he puts it together this year (as I think he will), watch out. I predict he'll be one of the top 10 tackles in the country this year and All Big Ten. Mike Kolodziej is a nice option to have at backup.

At guard and center, Reuben Riley and Matt Lentz are the returning starters (both guards), but Leo Henige also saw action along with Mark Bihl. I'm not sure exactly how the interior lineup is gong to play out. Adam Kraus will also be in the mix to earn a starting spot.

Overall, I think the line will be very good. Losing Baas is a blow, but there is just a ton of experience and talent all around. The skill players will get the headlines, but these guys will be paving the way to the endzone all year long.

Jeremy Bonderman gets the hat trick

Bonderman's win over Randy Johnson and the Yankees gives him 3 victories over Cy Young winners in his career: Johnson, Barry Zito, and Pat Hentgen. He also moved to 10-5 on the season and is the first Tiger pitcher to have 10 wins before the break since Bill Gullickson in 1991. I don't even know where to track down the last Tiger to get 11 or 12. He should get 2 more starts before the break, going Tuesday at Cleveland and Sunday at Tampa Bay.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Justin Verlander called up

Apparently he's going to start the second game of a double header with the Indians on Monday. I was hoping they'd leave him at AA to dominate for a few more starts before giving him a taste of MLB life later this year.

Hopefully he won't get shelled and have his confidence destroyed. I'd say 5+ innings and 4 or fewer runs could be considered a solid debut for a pitcher with a total of 14 innings above A ball. Cleveland doesn't have a great offense, so he could have a shot at a quality start.