Thursday, March 27, 2008

Don't Let the Door Hit You

Justin Boren, junior G/C to be, has left the Michigan football team. Jeremy Ciulla and Alex Mitchell are also offensive linemen that have left the team since Lloyd Carr retired and Rich Rodriguez was hired.

Apparently, Justin has his reasons.

"Michigan football was a family, built on mutual respect and support for each other from Coach Carr on down. We knew it took the entire family, a team effort, and we all worked together. I have great trouble accepting that those family values have eroded in just a few months. That same helmet, that I was raised on and proudly claimed for the last two years, now brings a completely different emotion to me, one that interferes with practicing and playing my best and mentally preparing for what is required.

Two weeks ago, Justin was complaining about how hard it was adapting to the new offense...

The toughest thing, Boren said, is getting comfortable with the lightning-quick pace of the no-huddle attack relied upon by Rodriguez and offensive coordinator Calvin Magee.

"You've gotta be in damn good shape," he said. "This no-huddle is hard."

All this reminds me of a few tidbits from John U. Bacon's book

The player interviews were nothing compared to the shock they got once we started working January. The rap on these guys around the league was that they were soft. And man, that's a terrible thing to hear. You can call one of my teams slow, short and weak with terrible coaching--but don't ever tell me my team is soft. We were going to fix that, too. As soon as I arrived, we set up a rather--shall we say--demanding off-season regimen...

We lost a few players during the winter workouts, but not many. I'm sure they figured we couldn't possibly run as much during spring ball--and they were right. In spring ball, we focused on hitting--every day, every session, full pads--and that's when guys really started dropping. In the middle of one of these sessions, when guys were dropping ten pounds of sweat blocking and tackling, you could see some of them look longingly at that damn track. It suddenly seemed like an oasis. Things got so hard that I had to put up that famous sing, "THOSE WHO STAY WILL BE CHAMPIONS." If you toughed it out, you'd be rewarded. I gave my word. Well, not everyone stayed, of course. We probably lost twenty or thirty guys. Some of them came to my office to quite face-to-face, and some just disappeared, never to be seen again.

I was prepared for some attrition. I can honestly say we did not lose a guy who really could have helped us. I didn't lose any sleep over anyone who quit that spring.

Does any of that sound a little similar to what Rich Rodriguez had to say about Boren leaving?

"Justin Boren has decided not to play," Rodriguez said. "I don't know if we'll have any more (attrition), but we're forging ahead with guys that play for Michigan."
Seems to me that Rich Rodriguez is working the team harder than they've ever been worked before and some players aren't up to it. Best of luck to them wherever they go, but the team will be much stronger for it in the end.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Justin Verlander

There has been a lot said about the Tigers offense in 2008 and how many runs they might score. Some say 1000 is not out of the question, I say they are on crack. 900 isn't out of the question, though, and they should definitely have one of the 3 or 4 highest scoring teams in the majors. But what about the pitching? Let's start with the brightest of the Tigers pitching stars.

You know the name, you know the game: Justin Verlander

He just turned 25 a few weeks ago, yet his career list of accomplishments is already growing to be quite impressive.
  • 2nd overall pick out of Old Dominion in the 2004 draft
  • 2006 American League rookie of the year
  • 2007 American All Star
  • 7th place in the 2006 American League Cy Young voting
  • 5th place in the 2007 American League Cy Young voting
  • Highest W/L percentage in the American League in 2007
  • First Detroit Tiger to pitch a no hitter since 1984
  • Started 2 games in the 2006 World Series
But beyond just the anecdotes and traditional stats, Verlander has been putting together quite the meteoric rise up the MLB pitching heirarchy. Consider his improvements from 2005 (spot callup starts) to 2006 (rookie season) to 2007 (full blown ace):

Wins and Losses
2005: 0-2
2006: 17-9
2007: 18-6

2005: 7.15
2006: 3.63
2007: 3.66

Batting Average Allowed
2005: .313
2006: .266
2007: .233

On Base Percentage Allowed
2005: .389
2006: .328
2007: .309

Slugging Percentage Allowed
2005: .479
2006: .414
2007: .358

Strikeouts per 9 IP
2005: 5.56
2006: 6.00
2007: 8.17

Strikeout to Walk Ratio
2005: 1.40
2006: 2.07
2007: 2.73

Home Runs per 9 IP
2005: 0.77
2006: 1.02
2007: 0.89

What's not to love about this kid's career trajectory? He is consistently improving his numbers across the board showing better control and more strikeouts and allowing fewer baserunners and fewer hard hit balls. He just turned 25 and has superstardom ahead of him. Considering the offensive support he is likely to garner this year, he must be considered amongst the favorites to win the Cy Young in 2008.

A guess at some not out of the question numbers for Justin Verlander in 2008:

32 starts, 210 innings, 22-6, 3.11 ERA, 230 strikeouts, 70 walks

Heck, 23 or 24 wins isn't out of the question for this kid with a high scoring offense backing him up, especially with his skyrocketing strikeout rate. Did you know that from June 1st on last year, his K rate jumped from 6.62 to 8.96? Yep, he started out slowly but then posted a number of big K games.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Slow start to 2008

So it's been a slow start to 2008 for blogging. Guess I've been too busy (minor understatement). But spring is here and spring training is under way. Detroit made a splash this offseason by acquiring Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins, a move which instantly put them as one of the World Series favorites this year. Everybody knows Miguel Cabrera is a great hitter, but just how great? Consider this...

  • he doesn't turn 25 until April, having already played 4.5 seasons in the majors
  • 4 straight seasons of 100+ RBI
  • 3 seasons of 100+ runs scored
  • 3 straight .300+ batting average seasons
  • 3 seasons of 30+ home runs
  • 4 straight All Star game appearances
  • 3 straight seasons in the top 10 in intentional walks
Of Cabrera's 10 most similar hitters through age 24 according to Baseball-Reference, 9 are either in the Hall of Fame (Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Joe Medwick, Al Kaline, and Mickey Mantle) or soon to be (Ken Griffey Jr, Andruw Jones, Vladimir Guerrero).

And he's just now starting to get serious about playing baseball? Watch out American League.

Over the last three seasons, from age 22-24, Cabrera put up a batting line of .327/.405/.564 which is out of this world for somebody so young. For comparison, Albert Pujols hit .334/.416/.628 at the same age in a better hitters park and he's one of the all time greats at that age.

He's that good and he's that young. The sky is the limit for this kid and he's easily the best young hitter the Tigers have had since I've been alive and probably since most fans today have been alive. Hopefully they can lock him up for the long term.