Tigers trade Fiers to A’s, for real this time

By Blake Froling

It’s officially official this time.

A week after a deadline deal with the Oakland Athletics fell through, the Detroit Tigers sent pitcher Mike Fiers to the A’s for cash considerations or two players to be named later, according to the team.

In his first season with the Tigers, Fiers is 7-6 with a 3.48 ERA and 87 strikeouts over 119 innings pitched. He’s been at the top of his game lately, posting a 2.10 ERA over his last six starts.

Fiers, 33, exited his last start against the Cincinnati Reds after two innings when he was struck on the shin by a line drive. X-rays were negative and he isn’t expected to miss any time.

Baseball-Reference has his wins above replacement at 3.1, tops on the team, while Fangraphs has Fiers much lower at 1.2, which is fourth among Tigers starting pitchers. Based on which site you trust more, Fiers is either a quality middle of the rotation starter or a veteran that will eat some innings without too much damage.

The Tigers signed Fiers in the offseason to a one-year, $6 million dollar deal after he spent two and a half seasons with the Houston Astros, where he owned a 4.59 ERA.

Oakland is one of the hottest teams in baseball right now after winning six games in a row. They’re 2.5 games ahead of the Seattle Mariners for the second AL Wild Card spot and could use additional pitching depth behind Sean Manaea and Trevor Cahill. As for Fiers, he doesn’t have to go very far since the Tigers are in Anaheim right now.

Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

http://espnup.com/index.php/2018/08/06/tigers-trade-fiers-to-as-for-real-this-time/

Tigers trade Leonys Martin to Indians

By Blake Froling

The Tigers traded outfielder Leonys Martin and minor league pitcher Kyle Dowdy to the Cleveland Indians for shortstop Willi Castro.

This move helps fortify one of the Tigers’ weakest positions in a farm system that’s loaded with pitchers but light on middle infielders. Castro, 21, is the Indians’ No. 8 ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He’s a switch-hitter currently batting .245 with five home runs and an OPS of .653 in Double-A Akron.

Martin is in the middle of one of his best seasons as a major leaguer, posting career-highs in OPS (.731) and slugging percentage (.409). His wins above replacement is also the highest since 2014 according to baseball-reference. There were concerns that the Tigers might not be able to move Martin at the deadline because of a recent stint on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.

What’s most appealing about Martin though is his fielding. He leads the American League in outfield assists with nine and is fourth among AL outfielders in ultimate zone rating according to Fangraphs.

Dowdy, the other player the Tigers are shipping to Cleveland, is a 25-year-old pitcher who’s spent time in both Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this season, posting a 4.74 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 95 innings.

Photo: Duane Burleson/Getty Images

http://espnup.com/index.php/2018/07/31/tigers-trade-leonys-martin-to-indians/

Wildcats, Huskies voted near bottom of GLIAC football coaches poll

By Blake Froling

Football season is almost upon us, which means it’s officially preseason polls season. Northern Michigan University and Michigan Tech might not like what they see from the GLIAC coaches poll released today.

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The Wildcats were picked to finish seventh in the conference after a disappointing 1-9 campaign in 2017. They return GLIAC Offensive Back of the Year Jake Mayon, who rushed for 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Quarterback Ryan Johnson also returns after starting as a freshman, he threw for 1,581 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions..

The defense is what will ultimately decide if the Wildcats can rise above seventh in the conference. The unit finished seventh in the conference in points allowed, last in yards allowed and tied for seventh in sacks.

Michigan Tech was picked to finish eighth in the conference after going 3-6 in 2017. The offense was anemic at times as the Huskies finished ninth in scoring.

The GLIAC will have just nine football teams this season after Tiffin University moved to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.

Photo: @GLIACsports Twitter

http://espnup.com/index.php/2018/07/31/wildcats-huskies-voted-near-bottom-of-gliac-football-coaches-poll/

Brewers acquire reliever Soria from White Sox

By Blake Froling

The Milwaukee Brewers traded for Chicago White Sox reliever Joakim Soria this afternoon, according to both teams.

Soria, 34, is off to a strong start as the Sox closer with a 2.56 ERA in 38 2/3 innings with 49 strikeouts and 16 saves. He’ll join an already stingy Brewers bullpen that sports the third-best ERA in the National League.

In exchange for Soria and cash considerations, the White Sox received left-hander Kodi Medeiros and right-hander Wilber Perez. Medieros, 22, is currently in double-A with an ERA of 3.14 and Perez, 20, is in the Dominican Summer League with a 2.41 ERA.

According to general manager David Stearns, this might not be the last move Milwaukee makes.

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With starting pitcher Brent Suter on the shelf with Tommy John surgery and Zach Davies and Jimmy Nelson on the DL, starting pitching would be the next logical target for Milwaukee. They’re currently 2.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and one game ahead in the wild card standings.

Photo by Allen Kee / ESPN Images

Beilein signs rollover contract extension

Link to original article HERE

By Blake Froling

The University of Michigan just locked up the best coach in program history for a very long time.

John Beilein signed a new rollover extension today that runs through the 2022-23 seasons, according to the university. With the rollover, the contract will automatically be extended every year until Beilein or the university decide not to exercise the option. Essentially, Beilein has a lifetime contract.

“I am grateful for the opportunity the University of Michigan has given to me over the past 11 years,” said Beilein in a statement. “Kathleen and I love Ann Arbor, our University, our fans and the state of Michigan. We will continue to work very hard in the future to have our basketball team reflect the greatness of this University. I thank Mark Schlissel and Warde Manuel for their faith and commitment to our coaching staff and basketball program. The future of men’s basketball is bright and I am excited to be a part of it.”

Beilein, 65, recently flirted with the idea of leaving Ann Arbor for the Detroit Pistons, but ultimately pulled his name out of consideration when the news went public.

“I am thrilled to ensure John’s leadership of our basketball program today and into the future,” said Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel. “I am very pleased with our shared dialog throughout the process, and I am extremely happy that one of the game’s great coaches is representing the University of Michigan.”

The Wolverines are fresh off their second National Championship appearance in the last six seasons and have the No. 16 ranked recruiting class according to ESPN. Michigan also returns Charles Matthews, who was the team’s second-leading scorer last season. Beilein is the winningest coach in program history.

Photo: Mark J. Terrill/AP

Ziggy Ansah will play on franchise tag in 2018

Original link HERE

By Blake Froling

Detroit Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah will not be getting a long-term deal before the deadline today at 4 p.m. ET, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Ansah will play the 2018 season on the franchise tag, which will pay him a guaranteed $17.1 million.

Ansah, 29, finished last season with 12 sacks but was still plagued by inconsistency. He had three sacks against the Giants in Week 2, then went the next 10 games with a total of three sacks, then racked up six sacks in the final two games of the season against the Bengals and Packers.

Injuries have also been a major concern during Ansah’s career. He missed almost all of training camp and preseason last year with knee and back injuries and they persisted throughout the regular season. In 2016, Ansah was limited by a high ankle sprain for the majority of the season and only recorded two sacks.

2015 was Ansah’s best season by far, his third year in the league. He generated 14.5 sacks and earned second team All-Pro honors and a trip to the Pro Bowl.

The Lions aren’t sure if Ansah can stay healthy enough over the course of a long-term contract to warrant extending him. Ansah believes he’s one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL and deserves to be paid like one. That’s why a deal couldn’t be done. Ansah and the team cannot negotiate a new deal until after the season ends once they pass the 4 p.m. deadline.

The Lions also have to look at their cap situation as a whole when evaluating the offer they might make to Ansah. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has a $26.5 million cap hit and the team invested heavily in the offensive line last offseason. Wide receiver Golden Tate is due for a contract extension as well, and he’s been one of the most productive wideouts in the NFL since he signed with the Lions in 2014.

If Ansah can stay healthy and be a consistent force on the edge, then the Lions will be happy to pay him top dollar. But he has to prove it first.

Jabari Parker agrees to deal with Bulls

Original link HERE

By Blake Froling

Former Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker has agreed to a two-year, $40 million deal with the Chicago Bulls, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Bucks officially rescinded Parker’s qualifying offer today, making him an unrestricted free agent.

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Parker averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 31 games last season with Milwaukee after recovering from his second ACL injury. In four seasons with the Bucks, Parker missed 143 games due to injury. A native of Chicago, Parker was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Wojnarowski also reported that the second year of the deal is a team option, mitigating the risk for the Bulls.

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Nick Ward is coming back to MSU. Here’s what he needs to work on

By Blake Froling

Michigan State center Nick Ward announced ahead of Wednesday’s deadline that he will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to school for his junior season. He might not have wanted to, but it was the right decision.

“It was a great opportunity for me to go through the process and I’m grateful for the feedback I received from NBA teams,” Ward said in a release.  “It is my dream to play in the NBA and I’ve learned a lot through my workouts and interviews that will help me when I am ready to make that next step. ”

It’s great that players like Ward are afforded the opportunity to hear from NBA teams about their draft stock and areas of their game they need to improve in without losing NCAA eligibility. In Ward’s case, it could have saved him from making a horrible decision.

“After talking to several different teams there were many positives from both his workouts and his interviews,” Tom Izzo said in a statement, “but each team gave him some suggestions for things to work on this summer as he strives to reach his full potential.  We’re very excited to have Nick back and look forward to him helping to lead our team in the successful ways he has since coming to Michigan State.”

Ward’s Michigan State tenure has been both exciting and frustrating, for himself and fans. He’s shown the ability to manhandle most defenders on the low block in one-on-one situations and has established himself as one of the most efficient scorers in the country with a 64.8 percent shooting clip. Ward’s average of 26 points per 40 minutes led the team by a wide margin.

But he struggled to stay on floor because of foul trouble, conditioning and boneheaded mistakes. Ward averaged 18.9 minutes per contest, fewer than five other Spartans, including the wildly inconsistent Matt McQuaid. There are a few things he needs to work on this summer and during next season to have a shot at an NBA career.

Ward lacks the foot speed to cover big men who could space the floor. This sequence where he “tried” to guard Moe Wagner might be the perfect example of that.

Versatility is key in the Association these days, especially for bigs who constantly have to switch onto guards in pick-and-roll situations. If a player like Wagner can make Ward look silly on defense, what would happen if he had to switch onto someone like James Harden? HIDE THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN!

It appears as though “Big Puddin'” has slimmed down since the Spartans’ season ended in March to help with those agility problems. In this workout video posted on May 22, you can see he’s got a bit more quickness in his step.

Granted, it’s just a workout video that’s specifically made to show off his skill set with no opposition, so take it with a grain of salt. But Ward knows this is one of his key weaknesses and appears to be working on it. He even flashes a mid-range jumper in the video, which has been totally nonexistent for Ward in his two seasons. Again, big grain of salt, but still nice to see.

If you’re looking for an NBA comparison to Ward, Izzo has repeatedly mentioned a former Spartan Zach Randolph. If that’s the mold Ward stays in, he has no shot at a decent NBA career.

In this more spread out and fast-paced NBA, the Randolph mold is quickly dying. Ward should look at how a player like Boston’s Aron Baynes has adapted by slowly adding a mid-range and now 3-point shot to his arsenal.

Is he a dominant offensive force now? No, but it allows the Celtics to pair Baynes with another big and not clog the lane. Ward could fit into that mold if he develops a shot and becomes a more willing passer, but don’t expect to see this in the upcoming season. A few years down the road, and with NBA coaching, this could be a real possibility.

Another glaring issue for Ward to fix is his handling of double teams in the post. He was atrocious at seeing the floor and finding the open man once a second defender covered him. This won’t likely be an issue in the NBA because no one will double him, but the Spartans certainly need to see him be more effective in those situations. Whenever the double came, he would either force up a wild post shot or throw the ball away. Teams knew this and took advantage of it repeatedly.

With the bevvy of 3-point shooters Michigan State had on the floor around Ward, opposing teams should have never been able to double team him. If he had better floor vision, Ward could have eaten defenses alive with kick-outs to open shooters. Instead, the ball usually went inside but never came back out if Ward was in the game.

With Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges now out of the picture, Ward is now fully entrenched as the leading big man on this Michigan State team. There should be no more excuses for a lack of playing time. Rising sophomore Xavier Tillman showed some nice flashes towards the end of last season and incoming freshmen Marcus Bingham and Gabe Brown will fight for minutes, but right now this is Ward’s frontcourt to lose.

The 2018-19 season will likely be Ward’s last in a Spartan uniform, and he has a list of things to improve on between now and next June’s draft. If he does some or all of the things listed above, he will be one of the most dominant big men in the country and his NBA draft stock will rise exponentially.

Tigers season preview: Let the tanking begin!

By Blake Froling

READ THE ORIGINAL VERSION HERE

March 27 — Let’s start this by stating the obvious: the Tigers are going to stink. Unfortunately, that’s not a hot take. It’s a fact.

General Manager Al Avila spent the second half of last summer remodeling an aging and expensive team and actually did a decent job, as far as we can tell so far. The farm system is not barren anymore, and some might say it’s in the upper half of baseball in terms of talent depth.

But we’re not here to talk about the 2021 Detroit Tigers, we’re here to preview the 2018 Detroit Tigers.

It’s not going to be pretty, but what you see on the field this year is necessary to making sure the club returns to its former glory. As for when exactly that will happen is anyone’s guess.

ESPN writer Sam Miller described the Tigers’ upcoming seasonperfectly:

Everything the Tigers…do this year will be sad, the product ugly, the philosophy underneath it uncomfortably crass. Lots of things will happen that will nudge up their chances of being good in 2020 or 2021, but the rewards are so far off — not even “wait ’til next year” — and uncertain that it’ll be hard to be emotionally moved by them.

He’s referencing tanking in the first sentence. Yes, the Tigers will be tanking. Is it morally responsible to intentionally field a noncompetitive team in order to get a better draft slot? If it’s within the rules and you have a plan, yes. The Tigers appear to have a plan at least. The Marlins, who Miller was also referring to in that quote, do not.

Be glad you don’t root for the Marlins.

 Bright spot at the hot corner

Yes, believe it or not, there are a few bright spots on this Tigers team. One of them is Jeimer Candelario.

The rookie third baseman came to Detroit from the Chicago Cubs via the Justin Wilson/Alex Avila trade. Candelario hasn’t even played a full season in a Tigers uniform and I’m already confident Detroit won the trade.

Here are Avila’s stats in Detroit and Chicago last season:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/share.fcgi?id=Lgen4&output=iframeJustin Wilson’s splits were even worse:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/share.fcgi?id=RBCQi&output=iframe

Tigers fans got a brief glimpse at Candelario last season once he was called up from Triple-A Toledo and he didn’t disappoint, hitting .330 with three home runs in 94 at-bats. Candelario has already proven to be a far superior fielding third baseman than Nick Castellanos, who will be manning right field this season.

Some baseball pundits have even projected Candelario to be a possible AL Rookie of the Year candidate. The 24-year-old doesn’t even have to be that good to give Tigers fans hope. If he maintains a batting average above .280 and has a decent glove, that would be a win.

Candelario is projected to hit second in the batting order.

Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera are healthy — for now

The two sluggers both slogged through horrible seasons at the plate in 2017, largely due to various maladies, but now it appears the aging stars are finally healthy again.

Cabrera injured his back at the World Baseball Classic back in March and never fully recovered. His numbers reflected the pain he was fighting through all season, posting career-lows in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.

Spring training numbers are not always a great indicator of regular season success, but Cabrera says he feels healthy and the numbers reflect it. In the grand scheme of things, Cabrera’s performance this year won’t add very many wins because of the lack of talent around him, but could help in a possible trade scenario, however unlikely that may be.

Martinez had heart problems at the end of last season and dealt with other injuries that kept him out of 55 games, the most he’s missed in a season since 2008 (not including 2012, when he missed the entire regular season due to a knee injury). When Martinez was in the lineup, he was devoid of any pop his bat, and don’t even get me started about his baserunning.

The best-case scenario for the Tigers would be for Martinez to rediscover some of the power he lost in 2017 and turn into a viable trade chip at the deadline. Worst-case would be if he posts similar numbers to last season and becomes a liability in the batting order.

Manager Ron Gardenhire will also have to decide if it’s worth keeping Martinez in the lineup if (when) the team is out of contention. Those at-bats would be better used by a younger player who might have a future with the team.

The tanking starts early this year

Jordan Zimmermann is starting on Opening Day.

Yes, that same Jordan Zimmermann who posted a 6.08 ERA last season. While this is largely a ceremonial title, it’s embarrassing that the Tigers have to trot out this guy on the only day Comerica Park won’t be half empty.

I do appreciate how Gardenhire wants to get the tanking started as soon as possible. This is a great first step in that regard.

All reports indicate that Zimmermann is again fully healthy and feeling confident, looking better blah blah blah. Insert all the spring training propaganda you want, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Zimmermann has been one of the worst free agent signings in franchise history, and he’d have to have one of his best seasons of his career to erase that.

As for the rest of the rotation

I am excited to see what new pitching coach Chris Bosio can do with the rotation. Bosio has earned a reputation as one of the best pitching coaches in the MLB thanks to the success Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks had under his tutelage. . He was with the Chicago Cubs when they won the World Series, so he has a pedigree of success.

Several Tigers pitchers have mentioned how he’s already helped them in the short time he’s been with the team. Maybe I’m falling for the spring training propaganda, but he’s got my hopes up.

As for the rest of the starting rotation, there is one bright spot and four or five question marks.

Michael Fulmer is healthy after undergoing season-ending elbow surgery last season. He should be poised to reclaim his spot atop the rotation and provide Tigers fans relief every fifth day. He also could be the most valuable trade chip Al Avila can dangle in front of other teams in July.

Francisco Liriano was brought in solely to be traded, that much is obvious. He had a fantastic spring and if he pitches well in the first few months of the season, he’ll surely have a one-way ticket to a contending team. That should be plenty of motivation.

Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris have been perennial breakout candidates ever since coming to Detroit. Both were up and down last season, both in performance and professional level, as both spent time in the minors.

Both had ERAs above 5 but both are dripping with potential. If one or both have decent years, the Tigers could have a fighting chance to not be the worst team in baseball.

Mike Fiers was brought in from the Houston Astros to be a veteran presence on the staff, but he’ll start the season on the DL and his spot in the rotation is far from safe, especially if Norris and Boyd get off to fast starts.

About that bullpen…

It’s going to be a disaster once again. Shane Greene will be the closer until he’s inevitably traded. After that, I honestly have no idea who will step up. All eyes will be on young flamethrower Joe Jimenez, who had a disappointing brief stint in the majors last season.

If the team accidentally gets a lead in the 7th inning, the bullpen will aid the tanking effort by promptly blowing said lead. Call it tanking insurance.

Bottom Line

You know what to expect this season with the Tigers. A whole lot of losing. Knowing this before the season should make it somewhat more tolerable. At least there’s a method to the losing, unlike back in the dark days before 2006.

Instead of focusing on wins and losses, focus on individual performances. There will be plenty of new faces you won’t recognize, but that’s OK! They could turn into the group that brings the Tigers back to relevancy. Or they could be shipped out in July, who knows.

It might be more worthwhile to check in on the Toledo Mud Hens if you’re bored on a summer evening instead of a Tigers game.

Predictions:

Record: 70-92, 5th in AL Central, not the worst in the MLB!

All-Stars: Nick Castellanos, Michael Fulmer

Trade candidates: everyone

 

The Jump: What it takes to go from high school basketball to college

So you think you’re a pretty good high school basketball player, huh? Good enough to play at the next level, right? Well you better listen up, because the transition isn’t a layup.

Ishpeming girls coach Ryan Reichel starred at the high school level for Westwood and went on to Northern Michigan University, where he said he was anything but a star. That switch from being the best player on the team to being a role player can be difficult for many kids to handle, and it sometimes derails careers.

“You gotta go in with the mindset saying ‘I’m gonna do whatever it takes to be a player for this program,'” said Reichel, “and if that means I’m just gonna play defense or I’m just gonna be a passer, you better enjoy that role. If you don’t you won’t get on the floor and your experience won’t be as enjoyable as mine was at the end of my career.”

Many players say they love basketball. But do you really love basketball? Would you dedicate every second of your life to basketball? Many people wouldn’t. If you’re not a part of that group, don’t bother trying to play at the next level. Negaunee coach Brandon Sager, who is No. 14 on the NMU all-time scoring list by the way, said you have to love the grind in order to succeed in college.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand the effort that has to go in every single day,” said Sager. “It’s a grind, but you really have to make that commitment to do it. It has to be your number one priority, and I think a lot of…high school players in general don’t really realize it. It’s committing to making yourself as good as you can be whether it be your body, your skill set, even the mental part of the game.”

A typical day for a college athlete looks much different than a typical day for a normal college student. Gwinn coach Ben Olsen played a year of college ball and gave an example of exactly what a player has to commit to.

Tell me if this sounds like your idea of fun:

“Six a.m. you’re up lifting, working out, then you have classes somewhere between 8 o’clock and 2 o’clock. Then you try to eat together as a team, then you have practice or film and then you have practice after that. You’re going from basically six in the morning until six, seven, eight at night. If you’re not fully committed and don’t truly love the game of basketball and being around it almost all the time, it really turns into a full-time job.”

I don’t see any time carved out for afternoon naps or Netflix binge sessions, so there’s no way I’d ever make it as a college basketball player.

Still want that lifestyle? Great. Keep reading.

Notice a trend here? We haven’t really mentioned any kind of basketball skills required, or what the perfect height is, or which summer camps you should go to. That’s all secondary in the eyes of most college coaches. Jim Finkbeiner, the Gwinn boys coach, said scouts usually ask him about a player’s personality first and what kind of teammate he is.

“They want to know what kind of person this player is,” said Finkbeiner. “Is he easy to get along with? How does he interact with other players? Even bigger is what kind of student is he? If you want to succeed at the next level, it’s going to take more than just your basketball skills to get there. These people are looking for good kids and that means in more than just on the basketball floor.”

Having a good personality is nice, being a good teammate is nice, but what happens when an opposing player dunks on you? Or what about when you turn the ball over five times in a half? Are you going to get mad? Are you going to make another dumb play?

“They (college coaches) want to see how you handle tough situations,” said Marquette boys coach Brad Nelson. “If you’re gonna get down if something goes wrong, it’s just going to compound the problem. That’s something that college coaches at that level, they don’t want to deal with having to fix that. They can take skill sets and work with that and make kids better and integrate them into the system, but if the kid doesn’t have it mentally, it makes it pretty hard to do things at that level.”

So after all that, all the time spent in the summer, the 6 a.m. workouts, let’s say you made the team. You have a decent spot as a role player. The hard part is over, right? Wrong, says Negaunee boys coach Dan Waterman. That’s actually just the beginning. The next challenge is keeping your spot.

“A college coach’s job is to recruit your replacement,” said Waterman. “So you can never be satisfied with how you’re playing at the time, or what your role is on the team. College coaches are hired and fired on their win-loss record…so they’re always trying to bring in the best players and they’re always trying to recruit someone better than you.”

There you have it, the blueprint to becoming a successful college basketball player. Still think you have what it takes?