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Would a first-round playoff loss signify the end of a run for the Red Wings?

(Nicole Yeary)

(Nicole Yeary)

Last year the Red Wings had an excuse. They were injured all year. Success became keeping the playoff streak alive. Everyone knew the Bruins were bigger and better. Fans’ hope for a series win rested solely on reputation: the Red Wings tend to win playoff series. Losing to Boston brought no surprise.

The year before, the Red Wings won a playoff series, then lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Well they choked it away. Up 3-1 in the series, Detroit let Chicago force a Game 7, and then allowed a Brent Seabrook overtime goal to win it. Detroit had a Cup run in them, they just didn’t receive the bounce they needed.

This Red Wings teams rests in-between those two. They aren’t bad enough to leave fans facing the choice between logic and hope, but they aren’t good enough to be considered Cup contenders. The Red Wings can win, but they’ll probably lose. That makes this year is closer to 2012. The No. 5 seed Red Wings lost to the No. 4 Predators in the first round. Mike Babcock sat after Detroit’s 2-1, series-clinching loss in Game 6 and said casually, “To me, five games, that’s not close.” He talked about needed to make a big change in the offseason. People wondered if it was finally the end for the Red Wings as a perennial playoff contender.

The Lightning performed better throughout the year. They didn’t collapse in the second half. They’re better offensively and just as good as Detroit defensively. They have better goaltending. Detroit has no answer for Steven Stamkos. Honestly, this one might not be close.

If it isn’t, the Red Wings foundation could crumble. Mike Babcock could bolt and reappear in Toronto as Ruler of Everything. Jimmy Howard might become damaged beyond repair. Petr Mrazek could go from being the next Jimmy Howard to being, well, the next Jimmy Howard.

The run will finally be over. Babcock’s era will end in disappointment, the Jimmy Howard era will without a Stanley Cup and the questions will turn to how long Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk can last. And just to kick fans while their down, it’ll be a Steve Yzerman team that destroyed the Red Wings run.

Then again, the Red Wings could win. Datsyuk and Zetterberg could prove that playoff experience means something, Detroit’s power play could return to it’s unsustainable form, and the Lightning could do the same thing they did last year. The Jimmy Howard era might still be over in Detroit, but the Red Wings run would continue.

One series, a pendulum swing one way or another depending on the result. This is probably an overreaction. I get that. Two counter points: 1.) Isn’t that what sports are for? 2) What if it’s not?

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Breaking down the Red Wings’ eighth segment: Detroit showing signs of improvement at right time

 (Adam Glanzman)

(Adam Glanzman)

Red Wings fans have panicked for the last two and a half months. They had their reasons. Detroit went from fighting for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs to fighting to get into the playoffs, and all those battles came just months after the Red Wings were one of the top three teams in the league.

The playoffs are here now. Detroit is in. But wide-eyed hope morphed into closed-eyed wincing. The Red Wings haven’t been good for three months. In their last 11 games of the season they posted a 4-4-3 record, good for 11 points. That’s the same pace they were on last year when inched into the playoffs and then lost in the first round.

But look past the record and there’s a fllicker of light. The Red Wings might be out of their second-half woes. Here’s a look at the numbers:

2013-14 Avg Seg 1 Seg 2 Seg 3 Seg 4 Seg 5 Seg 6 Seg 7 Seg 8
GF 27.1 29 30 32 24 35 27 24 30
GA 27.6 22 27 25 22 26 28 31 30
5-on-5 GF 19.1 19 17 19 11 18 15 11 21
5-on-5 GA 18.4 15 18 16 11 13 19 17 17
PPG 6.1 5 12 10 10 9 8 8 6
OPP PPG 5.9 3 5 6 5 11 6 9 9

(*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.)

Their goal differential isn’t negative and their five-on-five goal differential is positive for the first time in three segments.

Detroit spent the middle part of the year as a good team masking itself as a great team due to an unsustainable rate of power play goals. The power play calmed down. The Red Wings showed themselves as the team they always were. But now, with a positive even strength goal differential, Detroit showed right before the playoffs that they might be a little better than above average.

There’s still hope.

Here were the top five Red Wings in terms of Adjusted GRM this segment:

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How the Detroit Tigers were made: A look at how each player on the roster was acquired

(Photo: Jason Mrachina)

(Photo: Jason Mrachina)

On Monday 25 players found themselves wearing the Old English D, standing shoulder to shoulder on the foul line as the national anthem played at Comerica Park.

They came from Virginia and Venezuela, Tennessee and Cuba.

How did this collection of human beings find themselves together?

Some arrived via trade, others came through free agency. Still others were drafted or signed out of their home countries.

Most roster spots opened relatively recently, but others find themselves on the Tigers roster due to a series of events almost 20 years in the making.

Last year Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh introduced the MLB transaction tree, which tracks a player’s roster spot lineage back through a series of trades and/or compensatory or supplemental draft picks to find the original draft pick or free agent signing that caused it all.

I’ve constructed transaction trees for each player on the Tigers’ 25-man roster (and one player on the disabled list).

Click each picture to get a larger version. Players in red are dead branches on the tree and, if applicable, weren’t included in subsequent trades. Direct links begin with earliest descendant by date.

Starters (Furthest back his roster spot goes): 

David Price (2005)

Matt Joyce -> Edwin Jackson -> Austin Jackson -> David Price

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Justin Verlander (2004)

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Anibal Sanchez (2009)

Jacob Turner -> Anibal Sanchez

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Shane Greene (1997)

Fernando Rodney -> Chance Ruffin -> Doug Fister -> Robbie Ray -> Shane Greene

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Alfredo Simon (2008)

Eugenio Suarez -> Alfredo Simon

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Relievers (Furthest back his roster spot goes): 

Joe Nathan (2012)

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Joakim Soria (2012)

Jake Thompson -> Joakim Soria

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Bruce Rondon (disabled list) (2007 )

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Al Alburquerque (2010)

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Joba Chamberlain (2013)

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Tom Gorzelanny (2015)

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Angel Nesbitt (2009)

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Ian Krol (1997)

Fernando Rodney -> Chance Ruffin -> Doug Fister -> Ian Krol

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It’s opening day: Where you can find the James Mungro Memorial Award winners

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A week and a half ago we found our next James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending) winner in Angel Nesbitt. Last week we  examined the end for Chris Bootcheck. 

Now, baseball is upon us and we have three active JMMA winners in different places.

Nesbitt made history. Three days ago he got the called to go into the office. As he describes it, he didn’t think anything of it.

“Hey Nessy, congrats, you made the team.”

Nesbitt is the first ever JMMA winner to make an opening day roster.

Since then he’s doing what we would all do in that situation. Instagramming newspapers with him and Miguel Cabrera, pictures with his major league teammates, and his opening day name plate.

Nesbitt doesn’t pretend not be excited so he can look cool. He is doing what most people would do in that situation: freak out. I MADE THE TEAM DO YOU REALIZE I MADE THE TEAM? I DID IT WOOOO!

I’m just glad he has an Instagram to share it with us. This year’s JMMA went to the right person.

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What the hell happened to Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard?

Howard

Not too long ago Jimmy Howard was an All Star. Through December he had a 0.921 save percentage. His goals against average hovered in the low twos. He was on pace for his best season in two years.

Now, with six games to go in the regular season, Howard watched from the bench as Petr Mrazek stole a point from the Senators on Tuesday and took another step towards solidfying himself — and not Howard — as the Red Wings’ playoff goalie.

What the hell happened?

If you listen to Jimmy Howard the answer is nothing.

From MLive: “Howard said his issues aren’t mental and he hasn’t lost confidence. He also said he’s fine physically and that his time off due to injury is no excuse for his inconsistency.”

He has a point. Howard and Mrazek’s overall numbers on the season are similar.

(Note: All stats courtesy of War on Ice. Here’s a definition of adjusted save percentage.) 

SV% Adj Sv% 5-on-5 Sv% 5-on-5 Adj Sv%
Petr Mrazek 91.46 92.1 92.72 93.29
Jimmy Howard 91.09 91.52 92.1 92.6

There’s less than a percentage difference in every category. Things don’t start to separate until you break it down by month. It all goes south in January, when Howard injures his groin.

Here’s a graph by month of Howard and Mrazek’s adjusted save percentage by month. Mrazek didn’t play in a game for the Red Wings in October.

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Howard rebounded from the injury in February, bringing his adjusted save percentage up to 91.09, before having it drop below the 90 percent threshold again.

But Howard’s 5-on-5 save percentage actually improved from February to March, bringing it withing half a percent of his pre-January numbers.

Note: War-on-Ice didn’t list Howard’s adjusted 5-on-5 save percentage for January. I’m guessing he didn’t play in enough games. His regular save percentage that month was 89.6 percent. 

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Howard hasn’t just been worse in all aspects. If that was the case his 5-on-5 numbers would’ve mirrored his overall save percentage and fallen. No, Howard’s struggle comes in one particular aspect: the penalty kill.

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An update on former James Mungro Memorial Award winner Chris Bootcheck: It’s finally the end

Toledo Mud Hens

Goodbye friend.

On Friday, Angel Nesbitt became the fourth baseball winner of the James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending).

A few minutes after that was official he accepted my request to follow his private Instagram account. His reign off to a roaring start. But before he goes any further, it”s time to take a step back. Nesbitt should let the past be his guide. He should look to former James Mungro Memorial Award winners, especially the OG of the competition (outside of the original James Mungro, of course): Chris Bootcheck. 

I kept waiting for the Twitter announcement, for Chris Bootcheck in his @RHPBOOTCHECK way to announce he was a late addition to spring training for the Twins or the Rockies or the Pirates. It never came. A trip to the Dominican Republic winter league didn’t ignite interest. Now with opening day just a week away, this appears to be the end for Bootcheck.  He hasn’t signed with any team, and at this point, why would somebody give a chance to 36-year-old when you can take a random 23-year-old and hope he pans out?

For the first time since he was probably around eight years old, Bootcheck won’t spend the majority of his year playing baseball.

It’s a sad reality for the guy who made this stupid idea fun. If it wasn’t for Bootcheck’s dominance in the first competition, if he didn’t continue his dominance in Triple-A Toledo, if we never made him the leading vote getter for the Triple-A All-Star game and if he didn’t respond to his Twitter messages and take thinly veiled shots at me, I never would’ve had the fun I did with the competition.

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James Mungro Memorial Award update: The time has come to pick a winner; Is it Angel Nesbitt or Xavier Avery?

James Mungro

After two surprise and swift eliminations, we’ve reached the conclusion of this year’s chase for the James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending).

Two competitors remain: outfielder Xavier Avery and pitcher Angel Nesbitt.

Both have performed admirably and avoided the pitfuls — money, strippers, drugs, cars — that come with being a contender for the JMMA.

The only way to settle this is to go back through our Sacred Seven rules, one by one.

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

Check and check.

2. He must have at least an outside chance of making the team. 

Both players are still in camp. At this point that signifies both are close to making the team, if not on opening day than as a call up. But Avery is competing for a reserve outfielder spot. Nesbitt is competing for a spot in the bullpen. The latter position is a bigger mess. Nesbitt might not only make the team, but play a bigger part in its success or failure.

It’s always more fun to have a guy make the team and contribute. Advantage: Nesbitt.

3. He has to be good.

They both started strong, but this category has turned into a rout. As MLB pitchers ramped up their innings and teams cut their stragglers Avery’s offensive production dropped. Like off a cliff.

Nesbitt remains solid but not dominant. Their stats so far this spring:

ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG WHIP
Angel Nesbitt 3.00 9 9.0 8 3 3 0 4 8 0.229 1.33
G AB R H HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
Xavier Avery 16 24 1 6 0 1 2 10 0.250 0.308 0.292

Advantage: Nesbitt.

4. He can’t be a big-time prospect.

Nesbitt came into the spring as the Tigers’ No. 15 prospect according to MLB.com. If I had discovered DetroitTigers.com’s new policy of separating spring training invitees in a new tab from the outset, Nesbitt probably wouldn’t have qualified for the competition at the beginning.

I could have retroactively booted Nesbitt from the competition, but the fact that the Tigers have literally the worst farm system in Major League Baseball kept him around and he capitalized. Sometimes you need a break.

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