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Breaking down the Red Wings’ sixth segment: Niklas Kronwall’s finest hour

(Photo: Bridget Samuels)

(Photo: Bridget Samuels)

It took 61 games but the Red Wings are finally back to last-season form.

Two shootout losses and two shutout losses pushed Detroit to a 5-3-2 record over the past 10 games, earning the team for 12 points.

The Red Wingers garnered 12 points per segment consistently throughout all of last year and barely made the playoffs. This year they have a cushion, but this segment reminding us of last year’s injury-riddled season isn’t a good sign.

Most of their splits were similar to last year:

2013-14 Avg Seg 1 Seg 2 Seg 3 Seg 4 Seg 5 Seg 6
GF 27.1 29 30 32 24 35 27
GA 27.6 22 27 25 22 26 28
5-on-5 GF 19.1 19 17 19 11 18 15
5-on-5 GA 18.4 15 18 16 11 13 19
PPG 6.1 5 12 10 10 9 8
OPP PPG 5.9 3 5 6 5 11 6

(*The splits don’t add up to the total because I didn’t include empty-net goals, short-handed goals, 6-on-5 goals, etc. on the chart.)

The Red Wings were out scored both overall and 5-on-5. Their power play continues to be good, but is regressing back to the mean. In the past five segments Detroit has scored 12, 10, 10, 9 and 8 power play goals respectively.

Poor five-on-five play mixed with a power play that is coming down from it’s astronomical high isn’t a winning combination.

There was some good news individually, though. Here were the top five Red Wings last segment based on Adjusted GRM. 

(A note before the numbers: Unadjusted GRM numbers favor forwards and punish defensemen. With a year plus of data we somewhat overcome that by making adjustments based on position. I averaged all the GRM totals from every segment ever recorded — including this one — separately for forwards and defensemen, and subtracted that number from a player’s score depending on his position. The average GRM for a forward was 0.741. For a defensemen it was -0.846. So a forward who posted a 0.00 GRM will have an Adjusted GRM of -0.741, while a defenseman with a 0.00 total GRM has an Adjusted GRM of +0.846.)

Top 5 

1. Niklas Kronwall, 2.43

2. Pavel Datsyuk, 2.07

3. Tomas Tatar, 1.75

4. Jakub Kindl, 1.27

5. Darren Helm, 1.13

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Know your James Mungro Memorial Award nominee: Alex Wilson, the forgotten man

Alex Wilson

(Photo: Keith Allison)

 

If this was four years ago, Alex Wilson wouldn’t stand a chance of surviving in JMMA chase.

For one, he wasn’t a member of the Tigers. But even if he was, he’d was too good to be considered.

In 2011, Wilson, now 28, was ranked the No. 11 prospect in the Red Sox system by Baseball America. The publication said he had both the best fastball and best slider in the Red Sox system. According to this fine gentlemen, who sounds like a caricature of a Bawwston guy, he was the franchise’s minor league pitcher of the year that year as well.

He made it to Triple-A in the same season, and stayed there for most of the next three, posting average numbers. In 2013 he made his MLB debut. Last year he pitched in 18 games for the Red Sox and posted a 1.91 ERA.

On it’s surface, that’s too good for this competition, even now. But something happened to Wilson after 2011. People forgot about him.

He went from the No. 11 prospect to No. 18 to No. 29. The Red Sox thought so little of him they threw him in the Cespedes-for-Porcello trade this winter like he was spare change.

Cespedes earned all the talk after the trade (and rightfully so). Wilson slid quietly into what should’ve been a guaranteed bullpen spot. Instead he came to spring training with a chance to secure the final spot for a right-handed reliever. Think about the Tigers’ bullpen last season. Now a pitcher arrives with a career 3.38 ERA. That guy isn’t a lock to make the team?  No respect.

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Know your James Mungro Memorial Award nominee: Kyle Ryan, who is playing for keeps

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Kyle Ryan entered the chase for the James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending) as an underdog, but the more he reveals himself, the more his chances keep increasing.

Ryan isn’t an ideal candidate. He’s a tall skinny pitcher in a world lousy with them. His background is bland: 12th-round pick of the Tigers, worked his way through the system one step at a time. He might be too good: he pitched six games in the majors last year, including one start, and posted a 2.61 ERA. His name get some points for being two first name but overall it’s bland.

Yet, Ryan survives in this competition. Why? He’s kind of the odd man out this year in the Tigers’ bullpen. Last season’s impressive performance didn’t earn him much goodwill, at least at the outset of spring training. The Tigers have him competing with prospect Buck Farmer for one of the final bullpen spots and they just signed Joba Chamberlain back.

That sets up a situation where Ryan has chance to make the team but isn’t a favorite. He’s a minor underdog story. He’s going to have scorch some spring training batters boxes to get to the bigs.

If the one video on YouTube of him is any indication, he’s ready to do so. This is a Q&A with Ryan when he was with the Class A Whitecaps. There’s not much else on the internet about him, so these answers are the only insight we have into his psyche.

Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would three items would you bring?

Ryan: “It would have to be a bow and arrow, a fire starter and a knife.”

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Know your James Mungro Memorial Award nominee: Angel Nesbitt (plus the competition’s first eliminiation)

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This year’s version of the James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending) chase is less than a week old, but it already has a controversy.

Today we were supposed to learn about Daniel Fields, the local-boy outfielder who couldn’t hit or stay healthy last year. We’re not. Fields is the first player cut from this year’s competition.

He was a strong candidate: good enough and young enough that if he found his stroke the Tigers would be willing to call him up this year.

But that was also part of the problem. His repulsive season turned him from a high prospect into a never-was. When ESPN’s Keith Law ranked the Tigers’ farm system the worst in baseball, he mentioned Fields as the No. 2 prospect in the system. That by itself wasn’t enough for him to take a one-way trip to cut city though. Fields isn’t list among the top 20 by MLB.com or the top 10 by Baseball America.

No, the death blow as this feature story on him before spring training even started

With Fields is gone, possibly to never be seen again, we move on to our next candidate. A delightful young man named Angel Nesbitt.

Nesbitt, 24, has two strengths: his fastball and his name.

His fastball can hit 98 mph at times. That type of stuff makes him the biggest prospect remaining in the competition, ranking No. 15 in the Tigers organization according to MLB.com. Nesbitt is already on the 40-man roster, so if he can develop an off-speed pitch or two he could find a spot in the bullpen next to former JMMA winner Blaine Hardy. But if he gets there this season it’ll probably be late in the year. The highest level he’s pitched at is Double-A, although he did some Hardy-like assassinating in the half season his pitched there: 2.23 ERA, 10 strikeouts per nine innings to four walks per nine (he’ll need to lower the latter number) and 1.082 WHIP.

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Know your James Mungro Memorial Award nominee: Wynton Bernard

Wynton Bernard

The low number of contestants and long period of evaluation time in the baseball version of the James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending) allows a closeness that the football version doesn’t have.

Over the next few weeks, each participant will get his own profile post — unless he gets cut. Today we start off with the man first in alphabetical order and, right now, first in the competition: Wynton Bernard.

Bernard went to Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego. The lasting legacy of those high school days is YouTube videos of him crossing over and then dunking on some white kids in basketball. In terms of baseball, he was lightly recruited. How do I know this? He ended going from San Diego to upstate New York to play for Niagara University.

The Padres drafted him in the 35th-round in 2012 and were done with him a year later. No other team called, so Bernard starting going to open tryouts. He first went to the Dodgers. They didn’t sign him. Then he spent either $500 or $650, depending on who you ask, to fly to Lakeland, Fla. to try out for the Tigers. Detroit signed him and stuck the 24-year-old at Class-A West Michigan. He posted a .323/.394/.442 line and won the league MVP award.

Caveat: his performance came while playing against kids who were, on average, a year and a half younger than him. I prefer to look at this as a positive. The winner of the James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending) should inflict maximum amounts of pain on those younger and weaker.

Not everybody feels this way. If you want to believe one Baseball Prospectus guy, Bernard is a “fringy hitter” with below-average power, average fielding and slightly above average base running.

The Tigers addedBernard to the 40-man roster at the end of last year, likely to prevent him from becoming a free agent, and he remains on the 40-man heading into spring training. Tigers assistant GM Al Avila said the Tigers consider him a major-league prospect and hope he can turn into a “Rajai Davis-type player.”

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It’s finally that time: Let the 2015 James Mungro Memorial Award competition begin

Jose Alvarez

One year ago yesterday, we began a chase that introduced us to a skinny man with wispy facial hair named Blaine Hardy.

Over the next month we fell in love with this man as he ripped the James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending) away from the other competitors. He then went on an unprecedented run, pillaging Triple-A, getting called up to the majors and not only contributing, but leaving the burnt remains of his opponents strung all along American League ballparks.

Today Hardy’s reign of joyous terror ends. Pitchers and catchers report to Lakeland on Friday. A new class awaits. The James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending) is back up for grabs.

The award’s full history is listed in the James Mungro Memorial Award tab above, but here’s a quick reminder of the Sacred Seven rules we go by in finding our next JMMA winner:

1.) The award has to go to someone I’ve never heard of.

2.) He has to have at least an outside chance of making the team.

3.) He can’t be a big-time prospect. Anybody that’s on a list of top 10 or top 20 prospects is eliminated. Although, the Tigers’ farm system is so bad this year that those near the bottom of the list could be eligible. It depends on the ruling of our imaginary judging panel.

4.) He has to put up big numbers.

5.) His name must be catchy.

6.) He should have a distinct characteristic.

7.) No feature stories can be written about him during the first half of spring training.

Any player that fits those seven requirements is unknown enough, good enough, and lovable enough to win the James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending). As in the past, if no player can fulfill all seven requirements, the player who fits the most will take home the award.

This year’s class consists of Six players. Three others just missed the cut. They were:

Buck Farmer – A fantastic name, but he’s too good of a prospect.

Tom Gorzelanny – Would’ve been the runaway Chris Bootcheck Award winner for the oldest person in the competition, but he was just good enough during his prime that I remember his name.

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Petr Mrazek might actually be even better than the Red Wings think

Mrazek

(Photo: Bridget Samuels)

Sooner rather than later Petr Mrazek is going to make that two-and-a-half hour drive along I-96 from Detroit to Grand Rapids. When he does, it’ll likely be a lot calmer drive than the one he took the other way.

There will be no nerves, no moments of self doubt. Mrazek’s teammates, coach and GM all had high praise for him based on his 9-2 record during his 11 straight starts and his play general. The thinking is Mrazek will only go to Grand Rapids because he’s the only one who can go without clearing waivers. The Red Wing can keep depth at an injury-filled position.

But how much praise does he deserve?

Mrazek’s record is nice, but his .909 save percentage in 20 games this season ranks tied for 28th among qualified goalies. His 2.55 goals against average is 24th. Jimmy Howard has a .919 save percentage (15th in the NHL) and 2.14 goals against average (4th).

Do Mrazek’s inferior stats mean he just got lucky in keeping the Red Wings’ snowball rolling downhill? Nope.

The Red Wings play about the same no matter who is in goal. The total numbers of shot attempts they allow per game are almost identical (35.2 for Mrazek, 35.3 for Howard) and Detroit has allowed one and a half more shots on goal per game with Mrazek in goal than Howard (28.7 for Mrazek, 27.2 for Howard).

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