Thursday, April 19, 2012

One Week Until the Draft .... and Jim Leyland is an Evil Wizard

"Tell me, friend, when did Saruman the Wise abandon reason for madness?"

Those are the words of Gandalf the Grey to his wizard-mentor in the Fellowship of the Ring. Those are also the words that perfectly describe Jim Leyland's managerial style.

Last night, Leyland trotted out a lineup that included Gerald Laird (lifetime .243 hitter, .207 with Detroit in 2010), Ryan Raburn (lifetime .264 hitter, currently 3 for 37 this year, hit .197 last year in April and May), and Brandon Freakin Inge (lifetime .234 hitter, career-worst .197 last year with a .265 OBP which was the worst of anyone in baseball with 200 at-bats, and currently 1 for 10 this year after going 1 for 9 in AAA). That's three of the worst hitters in baseball, all in the same lineup. And what's worse, Raburn was hitting SIXTH, ahead of All Star Jhonny Peralta who batted .299 last year and .317 this year.

From now on, Jim Leyland is Saruman, and that's all there is to it.

12 games into the season, Detroit is 9-3, already with a commanding lead in the AL Central. It's a foregone realization that Detroit will win their putrid division, barring injuries to Verlander and/or Cabrera. But the scary thing is, we could easily be 3-9.

With these inexplicable lineups and the extremely shaky bullpen, there's no reason to think Detroit can continue to win games by scores of 3 to 2, or continue to hit 3-run homers in the 9th inning, or continue to load the bases with 1 out in the 8th and then induce a double play. The fact is, we've gotten lucky. A lot.

With the exception of the 10-0 beatdown of Boston, Detroit had a good chance to lose in their other 11 games. Valverde and Schlereth have both looked terrible, Inge/Raburn picked up where they left off, hitting a combined 4 for 47 (.085 average), and quality young players who can draw walks, steal bases, and play exceptional defense (such as Clete Thomas, Danny Worth, and Ramon Santiago) have either been cut, demoted, or benched, in favor of old, slow, defensive liabilities who can't hit. Worth is literally better than Inge at all five baseball tools - hitting for average, hitting for power, baserunning, fielding, and throwing the ball. In fact, he's twice the player Inge is. And yet, for no reasonable reason, Inge made the roster, and Worth did not.

It's such an old, tired act.

I'm sick of it already, and we've got 150 games left this year.

The good news is, Detroit has the best pitcher in baseball, the best hitter in baseball, and Prince Fielder, who is pretty good too. So despite Leyland's efforts to play minor league softball, the trio of JV, Miggy & Biggy is going to carry Detroit to 80+ wins.

Then we'll see if Saruman's madness continues into the playoffs.

Switching gears, the NFL Draft is a week from today.

(Wait, what, the hockey playoffs are going on? Right ... okay, here's my analysis: Yokvelof Krarninzakov is really skilled, but Miroslaviconz Flarrcofinmov is better, so go Canada.)

So the Draft is a week from today, and the landscape has totally shifted since my Mock a few weeks ago. Luck, Griffin and Kalil are still the top 3 picks, but Cleveland seems to have steered away from Ryan Tannehill with the 4th pick and is mulling Richardson or Claiborne, leaving the other player likely headed to Tampa at 5.

Justin Blackmon seems to have cemented himself as the likely Rams' pick at 6, and it all goes fuzzy from there.

Here are some updates.

-DT and CB are the most loaded and most volatile positions this year. Dontari Poe was the consensus top DT a month ago, but he seems to have fallen behind Cox and maybe Brockers, while Stephon Gilmore seems to have leapfrogged Kirkpatrick and Jenkins (two Alabaman potheads) as the best CB on the board after Claiborne.

-Pass rushers and receivers are all over the place. WRs like Floyd, Hill,Wright and Jeffrey have projected ranges of being picked anywhere from 7 to 27 to 47. Floyd should be safe in the top 20, but Hill and Wright are wildcards that could go anywhere. Almost every team is looking to improve at receiver, but only a few teams are desperate.

No one is really sure if Ingram or Coples is the best pass rusher, with Upshaw and Mercilus not far behind. Then there's Shea McClellin from Boise State and Chandler Jones from Syracuse, who seem to be rising in the final weeks, and might jump into the top 25 or even top 20. Nick Perry and Andre Branch might be slipping into the 30s.

-A few outliers are Ryan Tannehill, the third quarterback to be taken, who could go anywhere from 4th to 8th to 22nd, and safety Mark Barron, who is regularly mocked at 14, 15 or 16, but could go sooner or hopefully could fall to Detroit at 23.

-The class of offensive lineman isn't very strong after Kalil. The elite guards (Glenn and DeCastro) seem to be better prospects than the top tackles (Martin, Reiff, Adams), but all five of those guys should go in the mid-to-late first round. Reiff and DeCastro seem to be the top players at their positions, but probably aren't top 8 material. Center Peter Konz from Wisconsin is also a solid late first rounder.

-That pretty much covers the first round, aside from a couple inside linebackers (Keuchly and Hightower) and a tight end (Fleener). The running backs after Richardson are nothing special, and will make high-risk 1st round picks but decent 2nd round picks.

So instead of laboriously going team by team, let's fly through the Mock and then look at Detroit's options.

1. QB Luck, Colts
2. QB Griffin, Redskins
3. OT Kalil, Vikings
4. Cleveland trades to Jags for #7 and a 2nd rounder next year, Jags take WR Blackmon, Rams panic
5. CB Claiborne, Bucs
6. DT Cox, Rams
7. RB Richardson, Browns
8. DE Ingram instead of QB Tannehil, Dolphins,
9. MLB Kuechly, Panthers
10. WR Floyd, Bills
11. OT Reiff, Chief
12. OG DeCastro, Seahawks
13. OG Glenn, Cardinals
14. DT Poe, Cowboys
15. SS Barron, Eagles
16. Jets trade to Packers for #28 and a 3rd rounder plus next years 2nd rounder, Pack take CB Gilmore
17. CB Kirkpatrick, Bengals
18. OLB Upshaw, Chargers
19. DE Coples, Bears
20. DE McClellin, Titans
21. CB Dennard, Bengals
22. QB Tannehill, Browns
23. Detroit Lions on the clock.

MLB Donta Hightower

-Jonathan Martin, Stanford
-Mike Adams, Ohio State

-Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

-Chandler Jones, Syracuse
-Whiteney Mercilus, Illinois
-Nick Perry, USC
-Vinny Curry, Marshall

-Peter Konz, Wisconsin

Lots of good players available who do NOT fit a need whatsoever:
WRs Kendall Wright, Stephen Hill
RBs David Wilson, Doug Martin
DTs Jerel Worthy, Devon Still, Michael Brockers

So who do the Lions take?

First, I think that if Barron, DeCastro, Glenn, Kirkpatrick, Gilmore or Upshaw falls to Detroit, any of those guys will be strongly considered. I also think if an elite prospect who is not a position of need, such as Poe or Richardson, fell to 23, Detroit would take them too.

But in this scenario, I think Detroit sticks to its BPA guns, and take the best player on the board. Donta Hightower.

As for the Lions 2nd round pick, I truly expect it to be another running back, but I'll be happy if they go offensive line or secondary.

Go Lions.

1 comment:

  1. Ps. I forgot to mention, there is a 50% chance that the Lions' season is over before it starts. Calvin Johnson has been voted all the way to the finals for the Madden 13 cover. If he gets the cover, kiss this season goodbye, and probably the next 2 decades of Lions football as we try to rebuild from the epic collapse that will undoubtedly ensue.
    In other words, please vote for Cam Newton.