November 26, 2012

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Jack Taylor goes off – Jack Taylor, a Division III guard playing for Grinnell College scored an NCAA record 138 points in a game. He surpassed Bevo Francis’ mark of 113 set in 1954 in doing so. Taylor’s performance awed NBA All-Stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and LBJ even said he was interested in getting a tape from the game. Sure, Taylor hoisted up 71 three-pointers and made only 27 (good for a modest 38% if you don’t have an abacus handy), but overall, he made nearly half his shots, going 52-108. That’s quite a few attempts, but the mere fact that Taylor could have thrown up that many in the course of a game without getting too tired, still makes it a worthy accomplishment.

How many wins will Belichick get to with Brady at the helm?

Bill Belichick wins No. 200New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made news when the Patriots crushed the Jets 49-19 on Thanksgiving night. Lost a bit in the headlines of the 30-point rout is that Belichick won his 200th game. Belichick became only the eighth coach in NFL history with that many wins and as long as Tom Brady’s still around playing pitch and catch with wideouts (Brady, by the way, threw for 323 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions), he’s probably got plenty more in the tank if he wants to keep going.

Maryland and Rutgers are Big 10 bound – The ACC and Big East got a bit weaker with Maryland and Rutgers officially announcing they will head to the Big 10 (aka B1G) this week. Both football programs have been up and down, but each brings something valuable to their new conference. Maryland brings the DC market along with a successful basketball program while Rutgers adds the heavily desired New York/New Jersey market. The ACC is already on the move, reportedly interested in Big East teams Connecticut and Louisville to replace the Terrapins as of last week, which begs the question – with Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Pitt, and Syracuse already in the fold, doesn’t the new ACC look a lot like the old Big East?

Michael Finley wants to return – Michael Finley, a former NBA All-Star, is hoping to return to the league, according to ESPN. Finley was planning to work as an executive in the NBA, but after playing in pickup games over the summer, is hoping some team will give him a look. At 39, he’s young enough that a return could be possible, but his production shrunk considerably over the last season of his career. Finley only averaged 15 minutes a game playing in 45 games for the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics, scoring about four points a game. He could be a quality reserve late in the year for a playoff team in need of some depth, but don’t look for him to be a significant contributor.

Melky Cabrera signs with Blue JaysMelky Cabrera inked a two-year $16 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in one of the first big off-season splashes. Cabrera’s signing is significant because it comes on the heels of a 50-game suspension for testosterone. Last season, he was leading the National League in batting average before the suspension and he removed himself of consideration after the positive test result. The question will be, of course, if Cabrera can repeat his stellar 2012 season. He was a career .284 hitter and before last year, had only hit greater than .300 once when he batted .305 in 2011. Because of the dramatic improvement, there will be plenty of questions surrounding him in 2013 – none greater, perhaps, than from Blue Jays’ fans who will question his signing if he gets off to a slow start.

NHL cancels more games – The National Hockey League made a minor splash when it announced games through the middle of December (including January’s All-Star game) would be canceled due to the continuation of the lockout. There’s still a chance for a season, but the key thing of note is that the two sides don’t even appear to be all that close to a reconciliation. There’s still time for the players and owners to come to an agreement in time for a partial season, but it’s not looking good right now.

November 16, 2012

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5 Ways Torii Hunter Helps The Tigers

By: Tyler Vespa

When Dave Dombrowski and Mike Illitch went out and got Prince Fielder, the expectations for the Tigers were nothing less than winning a World Series Championship. They were picked to win the AL Central by 8 to 10 games. They ended up winning the division by just 3 games. Now, with the signing of former Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, is it fair to say the Tigers will win the division by 16 to 20 games? Probably not; But anything less than a second straight trip to the World Series will be considered a blunder.

Will the World Series return to Comerica Park in 2013?

With that, here are 5 things the signing of Torii Hunter does for the Tigers:

1. Better Hitting

In the outfield, the majority of the Tigers’ hitting came from Austin Jackson. Right field was a weakness all season, where the batting average was just .235.

2. More Experience

Brennan Boesch has only played 2 seasons in the majors, while Andy Dirks was a rookie last season. The Tigers can now ease them into the majors as a platoon while letting Hunter mentor them for the next two season.

3. Number 2 Man

Hunter will cement the number 2 spot in the batting order. He will be more consistent than Quintin Berry and Omar Infante. Another consistent hitter ahead of the Tigers’ 3-4 hitter will only make Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder harder to handle.

4. Better Defense

Hunter was a Gold Glove outfielder in 2009. Couple that with the inconsistent play of corner outfielders last season, and Hunter will easily improve Detroit’s defense. There is a lot of ground to cover at Comerica Park, and the combination of Hunter and Jackson will give the Tigers’ pitchers an advantage at home.

5. Leadership

With all the ups and downs last season, hopefully somebody like Hunter can bring some guidance to make the team more consistent night in and night out.

The addition of Torii Hunter was a great move. The Tigers were not consistent in the regular season and as a result, they had to make a late rally to catch the White Sox. This addition should fix that issue and make the Tigers a more dominant force. My early-early prediction is that the Tigers will win the division by 7 games, and make it back to the World Series.

October 24, 2012

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World Series 2012 Preview

By: Matt Bowen

With the World Series set to get underway in a matter of hours, Fathead is here to breakdown the series between the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants and inform fans of just what to expect.

First and foremost, MLB diehards are in for a treat as two iconic teams square off for the first time in the World Series. This matchup seems quite fitting for fans of all ages as history will write itself over the next week.

After winning the Triple Crown, will Miguel Cabrera add a World Series Championship to his list of accomplishments this season?

Secondly, it is well known that the winning side of the MLB All Star Game gets home-field advantage and this year the National League has the honors. As you may remember, Tigers ace Justin Verlander started the 2012 MLB All Star Game for the American League and was roughed up by the National League’s best, notably the members of the Giants. Don’t expect that to happen in Game 1 when Verlander takes the hill in San Francisco. To put it simple, he’s a Jedi with the ball in his hand—in the All Star Game he was a young Luke Skywalker before he learned how to harness the force. Judging by his display during the Tigers playoff run, he’s reverted back to being Yoda.

Starting Pitching: Advantage Detroit

This is not a surprise, but the fact that the Giants Matt Cain had to pitch Game 7 of the NLCS puts them at a disadvantage. They’ll send veteran Barry Zito, who has become unpredictable, to the mound for Game 1.

A most exciting matchup to watch is to see if the Giants’ Buster Posey and Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera can go blow-for-blow throughout the series. Cabrera did the merely unthinkable during the regular season when he took in the Triple Crown, but Posey was the only player in baseball to have a better batting average than Cabrera this season. It will be imperative for both players to produce because without them, their team could be doomed.

Which Star Has a Better Series: Stalemate

Both these guys are too good to be shut down and will reach base early and often.

The playoffs aren’t as much about the stars as it is the unsung heroes.  Every year a small-time role player emerges to look like the Incredible Hulk and power his team to the World Series.

Who will it be this year?

Only time will tell, but history has told us that it’s bound to expect the unexpected. The Tigers have Delmon Young, who is postseason gold while the Giants have guys like youngster Brandon Belt and outfielder Angel Pagan who could be the hero.

These guys are why we watch. They represent the dream in millions of children and give hope to everyone that anything is possible with grit and determination.

So, who has the ultimate advantage?

Well, the Tigers steam rolled the New York Yankees in the ALCS while the Giants simply refuse to lose. They seem to be channeling the magic that occurred in 2010 when they won the World Series. One thing is for sure, fans have a doozy on their hands. We couldn’t ask for much more.

Bold Prediction: Tigers in 6

This team seems so focused on the prize. They may not have had the best regular season, but it’s not about who’s the best during the regular season, it’s who gets hot at the right time. The Giants have a stellar ball club and a winner in place for years to come, but having played the maximum amount of games and the emotions that come with it mean that the tank is running on fumes right now.

World Series MVP: Prince Fielder

The slugger, who was brought to Detroit to win championships, will revel in playing in his first World Series. He’ll go 9-for-21 with three homers, eight RBI and three walks.

October 1, 2012

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2012 MLB Postseason Awards: American League

By: Anson Whaley

With the MLB season ending this week, here are my thoughts on who should win awards in the American League. We’ll take a look at the National League next week.

Could Justin Verlander win back-to-back Cy Young awards?

Most Valuable Player – Miguel Cabrera

There will be plenty of support for the Los Angeles AngelsMike Trout. Trout leads the league in runs and stolen bases, and should be a unanimous choice for the Rookie of the Year award. But when it comes to the best in the league, he falls significantly short of the Detroit TigersMiguel Cabrera. Heading into the season’s final week, Cabrera is having a historic year and contending for the Triple Crown. He currently leads the American League in home runs (43), runs batted in (136) and batting average (.325), and if he can hang on for the elusive Triple Crown, he’ll be the first position player to achieve the feat since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967.

And when it comes to the team aspect, barring a significant collapse, Cabrera’s division-leading Tigers should get into the postseason. The Angels have a shot at getting there, too, but with a few teams ahead of them in the Wild Card standings, it will be an uphill battle.

In addition to his strong offensive season, Trout is also an incredible defensive talent and may even win a Gold Glove. But that’s not enough to top Cabrera who’s simply having a rare year.

Cy Young – David Price

This one could come down to the wire and promises to be a close vote. The main contenders should be the Tampa Bay RaysDavid Price and the Tigers’ Justin Verlander (although Rays’ closer Fernando Rodney will have a shot at it, too). The two starters are neck and neck when it comes to statistics. Heading into this week, Price leads Verlander in wins (20-17) and ERA (.256 to .264), while Verlander has the edge in strikeouts (239 to 205). The Tigers are likely headed to the playoffs while the Rays will probably be left on the outside. I’ll give the nod to Price for the lead in wins and ERA over Verlander, but I’d have no problem if the vote went the other way.

Another candidate for the award is the aforementioned Rodney, who has a microscopic ERA of 0.62, 46 saves, only 15 walks, and 72 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings. There is precedent here suggesting he could win the award as his numbers are eerily comparable to those of Dennis Eckersley, who won the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player award in 1992. Personally, though, I can’t justify naming a closer as the league’s top hurler when he’s pitched only about 1/3 of the amount of innings as starting pitchers have.

Rookie of the Year – Mike Trout

With Trout having a chance at the Most Valuable Player award, there’s little doubt he’ll win this award. He’s having such a dominant season that it would even be an outrage if he weren’t the unanimous selection. And in all honesty, it’s not even fair to mention other candidates in the same breath as him. Ready for this? Trout leads all rookies (both American League and National League) in runs, hits, home runs, runs batted in, batting average, walks, stolen bases, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.

Game. Over.

Manager of the Year – Buck Showalter

A few candidates such as the Oakland Athletics’ Bob Melvin or even the Rays’ Joe Maddon could get the nod here, but my vote goes to the Orioles‘ Showalter. He’s done an incredible job of taking a team that hasn’t had much success in recent memory and getting them into the playoffs. Showalter’s accomplishment is even more noteworthy when you consider he’s in the difficult AL East battling the Yankees and Rays who each have about 90 wins. The O’s have done it all with few stars and even if they can’t hang on to the division in the final week, Showalter has done an admirable job of turning a perennial laughingstock into a winner. Baltimore hasn’t had a winning season since 1997 and Showalter’s turned things around quickly, leading the Orioles to a 90-win year in only his second full season with the club.