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An MLB, NBA and occasional NFL sports blog slightly biased toward Detroit Tigers, Seattle Seahawks and opposed to David Stern after the Sonics situation. • http://knowhitter.com/ Follow me on twitter @knowhitter272

Detroit Tigers: Adept at Acquiring Rival Talent

Acquiring a player to strengthen your team is one thing, but when you weaken a rival in the process it’s a different kind of plus. On the other hand, if a rival team moved on from a player and you bring that player in from a different team, all it does is show your rivals what could have been—all the while making your team better.

Dave Dombrowski and the Detroit Tigers are exceptionally good at this.

Maybe the team’s brass thinks a player with extensive experience within the division will be a boost in terms of helping the Tigers win. Or maybe it’s just a huge coincidence, but Detroit has become a landing spot for former-division rivals.

An ever-present checklist item during Dombrowski’s tenure in Detroit, at least after he acquired Miguel Cabrera, has been to surround the former Marlin with sufficient protection and fire power. Cabrera has generally had an elite hitter placed near him in the middle of the order. Magglio Ordonez (who was acquired from a rival team, Chicago) was the first while the likes of Victor Martinez (another former rival) and Prince Fielder have followed. Because of the middle-of-the-order stability, Dombrowski has combed the market in search of hitters to fill out the rest of the order—or, in other terms, to add more fire power and length. Jhonny Peralta was one of those hitters, Delmon Young was another and Torii Hunter was another still. The underlying theme with all three is that they had experience in the AL Central. And in the case of Peralta and Young, both were directly acquired from rivals.

In Hunter’s case, as in Martinez’, the player was acquired after a stint away from the AL Central. The former Twin, Hunter, was signed via free agency after a stint in Anaheim while Martinez made a stop in Boston before also heading to Motown in free agency.

It isn’t just hitters; the Tigers have picked up relievers with extensive AL Central experience. Three of Brad Ausmus top options out the bullpen, Joakim Soria, Blaine Hardy and closer Joe Nathan, have been employed by rival teams. Soria and Hardy (although he never made the Major League roster) are former Royals while Joe Nathan made his name as Minnesota’s closer.

It may be coincidental, or purposeful, but the Tigers have a knack for acquiring rival team’s talent. Who needs advanced scouting when you can scout a player by seeing them play against your team 15-20 times a year?

SEA!!! HAWKS!!!

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MLB August Trades Part Two: Losers and Incompletes

In continuation of yesterday’s piece on the winners of the August trading period in Major League Baseball, here’s a look at the teams who didn’t fare as well.

It’s hard to judge teams too harshly on August trades. Most teams acquire rental players or players who likely will be cut in the offseason. In that sense, it’s hard call teams winners and losers. In reality, most big names, or even players who will have a significant impact on whatever team acquires them, aren’t dealt in August. The point is, take all this with a grain of salt.

Losers/Incompletes

Some “losers” of the August trade period sometimes aren’t teams who acquired a player, but teams who don’t acquire anyone. Here are some of those teams.

Toronto Blue Jays

At one point in June Toronto had a six game lead in the American League East. As of the beginning of the week they find themselves 10 games back of first place in the division and five back in the wild card race. A monumental tailspin like this would prompt the team’s brass to go out and get help right? Nope. Toronto only acquired John Mayberry Jr. from Philadelphia in August. What’s worse is that the team didn’t do much in June or July either. Danny Valencia was the team’s lone acquisition. The Blue Jays didn’t do anything to stop the slide, thus here they sit.

Arizona Diamondbacks/Colorado Rockies

Both teams are clearly out of the NL West race and baring a drastic offseason turnaround, neither look like contenders for next year. Because of that, its mystifying that the team held on to some of the players that it did. Colorado should have sold high Justin Morneau while they had the chance, now they are likely condemned to a similar situation to the one they have with Michael Cuddyer where they’re stuck with an aging player. In a similar fashion, Arizona could have moved players like reliever Oliver Perez, second baseman Aaron Hill or one of the team’s many shortstops. Neither team moved as many players as they could. Had they traded players away, their outlook would have been considerably brighter for the future. But, with most of the players staying put, the two teams will likely be consigned to poor seasons until they blow their respective teams up and start over.

Who do you think were the biggest losers? To see part one, the winners, click here.

MLB August Trades Part One: Winners

Baseball’s biggest trade deadline is July 31st. Up until that date players can be moved without passing through waivers. After the 31st, players must be subjected to waivers if they are to be dealt. In the waiver process, the team with the worst record in the same league gets first crack at the player. After that it is passed to the next worst team in the league. If no team from the same league claims a player, he is put through the same process in the opposite league starting with the worst team from a record standpoint.

If a player is claimed, the team that put him on waivers can either work out a trade, simply let the claiming team assume is salary, or pull the player off waivers and keep him on the team. The caveat with the last statement is that once a player is pulled back, they can’t be dealt.

Most August trades generally have minimal impact. Most are salary dumps or simply teams shedding excess players for little-to-no return. Here are the winners (if you can call them that). Check back tomorrow for the losers (again, if you can call them that) and teams who could have done more.

Winners:

Los Angeles Dodgers

When healthy the Dodgers will have a glut of starting pitchers—and then maybe another glut on top of that. But the rub is that most of them aren’t healthy. Chad Billingsley hasn’t pitched yet while Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm are likely out for the year. In addition to those three, the team also has a healthy Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren. With no suitable options for the fifth spot in the rotation, LA acquired Phillies’ pitcher Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) and Kevin Correia from the Twins. Neither has been Orel Hershiser, but both have filled a need. Both are rental players and likely won’t be in Dodger blue next season, but they’ve helped Los Angeles maintain the lead in the NL West.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs acquired former top prospect Jacob Turner for two Class A pitchers. Chicago is in the midst of hoarding as much young talent as they can. Whether it’s to feature the youngsters on their next contending team, or to flip some of them for an established star to help the team improve, every piece helps. The fact that Theo Epstein acquired a player once regarded as an elite prospect, and still could realize that potential, for two A-ball pitchers is a massive coup.

Oakland A’s

Billy Beane made headlines for trading Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester. Despite the fact that the team acquired Jonny Gomes in addition to Lester, Oakland’s offense has struggled without the Cuban slugger. Adding Adam Dunn for a relatively low price will greatly improve the Athletics’ suddenly dwindling playoff chances. His tendency to hit for a low batting average isn’t the best trait to have, but the former Cincinnati Reds slugger walks a lot, which will be appreciated greatly in Oakland.  Batting average and walks aside, Dunn’s tremendous power will help the A’s recover from losing Cespedes.

Check back tomorrow for August’s losers and teams who could have done more.  Did I miss any team? Who do you think was a big winner?

Euro 2016: Why the Serbian National Team is a Dark Horse

The Serbian national football team hasn’t qualified for the European Championships since 2000 when they reached the quarter-finals. 2016 could be different. Qualifying has yet to officially begin, but the Serbs have been handed a manageable group—Portugal, Denmark, Armenia and Albania are their rivals in qualification. This won’t be a cake walk by any stretch; Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal is one of the top 20 teams in the world, Denmark is a solid squad and Armenia just missed qualifying for the playoff to get into Brazil 2014. Still, with the talent Serbia has, you would favor them to advance.

Coach Dick Advocaat’s selection pool features players plying their trade in numerous top leagues. With Serbs employed at club teams in Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal and France among others, there’s certainly talent. However, Advocaat’s strongest contingent comes from the Serbian internationals playing in England’s top flight. With players at top clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City, the team has a strong nucleus. The team is especially strong in midfield and defense, two reasons why they could do serious damage in 2016.

Sitting in front of veteran shot-stopper and onetime Wigan keeper Vladimir Stojkovic is a defense that could arguably be one of the finest in Europe. The two most-capped players on the back line are Chelsea stalwart Branislav Ivanovic and Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov. These two will man the wide positions while the center back options give Advocaat a plethora of potential selections. At the coach’s disposal is Borussia Dortmund star Neven Subotic, Serie A veteran Dusan Basta, Kolorav’s club teammate Mastija Nastasic and Lyon defenseman Milan Bisevac. A theoretical back line of Ivanovic, Kolarov, Subotic and Nastasic arguably provides more stability and quality than the defenses of European big boys Spain and England.

Further up the pitch in the midfield are a diverse group of Serbs that provide dynamic play and defensive support. Whatever tactical formation is used, you can bet that Chelsea man Nemanja Matic will be sitting in front of the back four, providing key passing and making timely tackles. In addition to him, Advocaat can deploy a number of quality players in the central and wide areas of midfield. These includes recent Liverpool signing and lightning-quick Lazar Markovic, Southampton’s newest goal-creating threat Dusan Tadic, Roma attacker Adem Ljajic and Benfica owned Filip Duricic.

Serbia’s depth and quality is nowhere near that of Belgium, another recent dark horse from Europe, but they are similar in talent to Switzerland, a team that pushed Argentina to the brink in the World Cup. The Serbs won’t win Euro 2016, and at this point they haven’t qualified, but if they get there, they’ll make some noise.

Kingdome Crossover- Seattle Seahawks: Walter Jones, Cortez Kennedy & Steve Largent Raise the 12th Man Flag

Check it out gang! Kingdome posted another video on YouTube.

Here’s Seahawks’ Hall of Famers Walter Jones, Cortez Kennedy and Steve Largent raising the 12th Man Flag before the opening game of the 2014 NFL Season at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Enjoy!

(And don’t forget to subscribe!)

 

You can see the original article on Kingdome here.

Detroit Tigers: Kyle Lobstein an Unlikely Steadying Presence

Kyle Lobstein has been the most reliable pitcher in the Detroit Tigers’ rotation in the last few weeks.

The man who Brad Ausmus referred to as “Lobber” has been consistent for the Detroit Tigers at a time when they are in dire need of reliability. Starting pitching was once the Tigers’ calling card. And I guess it still is, but right now they’re going through some struggles. Not only is the team trailing the Royals this late in the season (they entered today two games back of Kansas City) their starting pitching hasn’t been as effective. Cy Young winners Max Scherzer and David Price have compiled a few uncharacteristically pedestrian/awful starts as of late while Rick Porcello is having what can be described as a small speed bump in an otherwise superb breakout year. Other pitching woes include Justin Verlander having a down year (compared to his absurdly high standards). In addition, Anibal Sanchez is dealing with an injury that could keep him out for the rest of the year. Sanchez’ replacements, the two headed monster that is Buck Farmer and Robbie Ray, were dreadful in spot starts.

Because of this, Ausmus and the Tigers have turned to “Lobber.”

Lobstein has only thrown two starts, but with the rest of the rotation on a roller coaster in terms of results, those two starts seem like so much more. The former Rays’ prospect hasn’t officially recorded a win, but Detroit has won both of his starts (incidentally, Phil Coke won both of those games). Lobstein isn’t just keeping the Tigers in games; he’s pitching well and giving them a chance to win those games. The former second round pick has succeeded where others have failed in stabilizing a contending team’s rotation as a rookie.

The Tigers’ haven’t had much success in bringing starting pitching up from the minors in recent memory, but with Lobstein it seems they’ve found a keeper.

Kingdome of Seattle Sports on YouTube and the Seahawks Super Bowl Championship Banner Ceremony

Knowhitter’s sister site Kingdome is on YouTube. Check out Kingdome’s first video—a recording of the Seahawks’ 2013 Championship banner unveiling ceremony right before the opening game of the 2014 NFL season at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Don’t forget to subscribe. To see the YouTube channel in its entirety click here. To see a similar piece on Kingdome, click here.

Defending Antonio Conte’s Omission of Mario Balotelli

Newly-minted Italian national team coach Antonio Conte made headlines when he selected his first official squad for a friendly against the Netherlands and the Azzurri’s first Euro 2016 qualifying match against Norway. Those headlines were made based on who he did, and more importantly didn’t, call up. Or in other words, Conte made headlines for not calling up Mario Balotelli.

The coach insists that he is not sending a message with the omission, and it shouldn’t be looked at as such. First off, no player is entitled to a call up every time around. Yes, Balotelli is clearly the most talented striker at Conte’s disposal, but that alone doesn’t merit a call up. It should also be remembered that the last international matches for Italy were at the World Cup—a competition where the Italians struggled. There were few Italian bright spots in Brazil and the former AC Milan striker wasn’t one of them.

Based on Brazil, the only Azzurri members who would have been locks for inclusion in these two games would have been Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo, Lazio’s Antonio Candreva, Torino defender Matteo Darmian and PSG duo Salvatore Sirigu and Marco Verratti. Balotelli obviously is not one of those players.

The newest Liverpool signing is mercurial. In fact, if you look the word “mercurial” in the dictionary, you probably get a picture of Mario Balotelli. Not only that, he picks up his fair share of cards. Among those cards included were two yellows compiled in Brazil including one in Italy’s final game. Because the Italians didn’t progress in the tournament, their star striker will have to sit out the next competitive game on the international calendar. That game is the first Euro qualifier against Norway.

Most will point to the fact of Claudio Marchisio’s inclusion in the team as one of the key reasons why Conte is sending a message by leaving out Balotelli. Marchisio picked up a red card in the Italy/Uruguay game, and like Balotelli will miss the Norway match through suspension. However, this is Conte’s first camp in charge of the Azzurri. He will be implementing his system, his style of play and things of that nature. Not only does Marchisio understand Conte and his tactics from their time together at Juve, he also provides leadership and experience in the midfield. Conte has also been forced to call up a relatively inexperienced group due to injuries. Usual call ups Pirlo, Riccardo Montolivo and Thiago Motta are all out with injuries. Because of this, the likes of Marco Parolo, Alessandro Florenzi and Andrea Poli all been brought in. All have fewer than six caps.

As odd as it sounds, leaving out Balotelli may let Conte evaluate his options in a more comprehensive manner. If Balotelli is in the team, he’s starting. Leaving him at home gives Conte the chance to experiment with and give more minutes to the likes of Mattia Destro, Ciro Immobile, Simone Zaza and Stephan El Shaarawy up front. Doing so will be crucial as all four are under the age of 24 and will play vital roles for the Azzurri leading up to Euro 2016 and Russia 2018.

Antonio Conte’s decision to leave Mario Balotelli off his first Italy roster didn’t sit well with some fans. However, when you consider Balotelli’s mercurial play, suspension and other factors, it makes sense why Liverpool’s newest player was left off the Azzurri team.

Detroit Tigers: The Statistical Ridiculousness of Miguel Cabrera’s “Down Year”

Miguel Cabrera is having a down year. That much is true. He may not win a fourth consecutive batting title, he may not win a third straight MVP and he may not win another triple crown. But, despite the sub-par season (by his extremely high standards) he may just be showing his brilliance as a hitter. Why? Because when most hitters have down years, they look awful—comparatively and in general. Miguel Cabrera’s down year includes a .304 batting average. He’s that good.

A typical season for the Tigers’ slugger has generally consisted of gaudy numbers and some kind of hardware. Whether it is an MVP award, a triple crown, an American League pennant, Cabrera has won them all.

His biggest accomplishment may be this season—his “down” season. Here’s just a small snippet of his stats this year. I remind you, this is his “down” season.

  • His .304 line is a far cry from the his batting averages over the last five years (.348, .330, .344, .328 and .324) but only eight players in the American League have a higher clip.
  • Leads the AL in doubles with 42. Only Johnathan Lucroy of the Brewers has more in Major League Baseball.
  • Has driven in 94 runs. Also a far cry considering Miggy’s RBI output the last two years (137 and 139 respectively), but only four players have more. Three of those four players would be home run mashers Mike Stanton, Jose Abreu and David Ortiz. In other words, players who get a lot of their RBIs from the long ball. Cabrera only has 19 homers this year, further showing his ability as a complete hitter (as if he needs to show that).
  • Despite his lower numbers, Cabrera still has scored only six less runs than Angels’ wunderkind Mike Trout. I should also point out that Trout is a threat on the base paths and has speed—Cabrera doesn’t check either of those boxes.
  • Also has a top-ten ranking in the AL in Slugging Percentage (ninth, .501) and OPS (eighth, .868).
  • Ranks eight in the AL in hits with 156. Players with fewer hits include Trout, Dustin Pedroia and Jose Abreu.
  • Top ten rankings in total bases (tied for sixth, 257) and runs created (seventh, 92).
  • Only Trout and Jose Abreu have more extra base hits in the American League.
  • Only seven players have reached base more times than Cabrera (206 times) in the AL.
  • Drives in the runs any way he can—leads the AL in sacrifice flies with 10.
  • Still strikes fear into opposing pitchers, he has ten intentional walks on the year. It may not be as high a number as teammate Victor Martinez’ 23, but it still shows the danger Miggy presents to pitchers.

They may not be the leaderboard leading numbers the world is used to from Cabrera, but for a “down year” they’re pretty fantastic.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.