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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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Know your James Mungro Memorial Award nominee: Rafael Dolis; Is he the most JMMA of them all?

(Photo: Tom Hagerty)

(Photo: Tom Hagerty)

At the beginning of this week, Rafael Dolis was the most James Mungro of all of us.

He came to training camp as a non-roster invitee and put up solid numbers but slid quietly through camp and this competition. The James Mungro Memorial Awardo presented by (sponsor pending) could be awarded in a matter of days. Dolis is one of three remaining candidates (if you missed it, Omar Duran was ousted from major league camp and the contest.), yet we know nothing about him.

His combination of remaining anonymous and staying dominant so long is everything you ask for in a candidate.

Unfortunately for him, just pointing out this fact no longer makes him so anonymous. The rest of this post isn’t going to help either.

JMMA winners need a unique trait. Dolis has two: a 98 mph fastball and absolutely no control. Dolis is the Dominican Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn of his generation.

His fastball propelled him to being named the Cubs’ No. 7 prospect in 2011 and to reach the majors the next year. His lack of control caused him to post a 6.39 ERA. The highlight (or lowlight) of his stint? Probably this walk-off hit by pitch. 

His fastball caused him to put up 5.0 perfect innings for the Cubs the next year. His lack of control ensured he wouldn’t get back to Wrigley field again. The Cubs released him after the 2013 season.

Dolis signed a minor league deal with the Giants for 2014, but pitched in just four games for the Giants’ Triple-A team. He lasted 4.1 innings, walked three batters and struck out four. That’s a 6.23 walks-per-nine-innings rate. Oh, he also posted a 16.62 ERA. The Giants cut him near the end of May.

What Dolis did between then and when he appeared in Lakeland is a mystery, but when he showed up, he was ready.

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Breaking down the Red Wings’ seventh segment: One aspect shows why Detroit’s playoff run might be a short one

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On February 6, the Red Wings were coming off a 3-0 win over the Avalanche the previous night. They were 8-2-0 in their last 10 games and sat second in the Atlantic Division, two points behind the NHL-leading Lightning with two games in hand.

In the month and a half that followed, Detroit posted a barely playoff-worthy 5-3-2 record in its next 10 games then went 4-6-0 in the 10 after that.

They now sit stuck at third in the Atlantic Division with 89 points, eight behind second-place Tampa Bay and 10 behind NHL leading Montreal. With 11 games remaining the Red Wings’ only motivation is to make sure Boston — five points behind — doesn’t pass them and force the Red Wings into a wildcard spot.

The stats for the seventh segment, their worst of the season:

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

The power play still continues to dominant, but it’s becoming impossible for the unit to hide the poor play in other areas. After going -1 in goal differential last segment they went -7 in this one. Five-on-five play went from -4 to -6. Opposing teams scored three more power play goals against the Red Wings.

This could be the first sign that the Red Wings are set for an early-round playoff exit. Tampa Bay and Montreal are in the top half of the league in penalty killing (11th and 7th, respectively).  The power play can’t be the main engine driving the Red Wings’ playoff run. They need to be a good five-on-five team, and right now, they’re not.

There is one exception to this gloom, though. Here are the top 5 Red Wings this segment in terms of Adjusted GRM:

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James Mungro Memorial Award: The final four is set

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(UPDATE: Omar Duran was sent to minor league camp earlier this week. So he won’t pitch again. He’s cut too.)

Four men don’t know how close they are to internet immortality. They don’t know that to win it, they’ll have to beat out the same people they sit with in the clubhouse and the bench, the same people that make their lives easier.

With two weeks remaining we’re down to a final four in the chase for the James Mungro Memorial Award presented by (sponsor pending)

Last week we cut the obvious stragglers based on performance. This week those boarding the bus to Cut City all have at least one fatal flaw that deems them unfit to win the JMMA:

Tim Melville, P — Low-usage and not good enough. Melville entered the spring as a non-roster invitee. The Tigers used him as one, pitching him in three games up this point. Melville was good in short time — 2.25 ERA — but not spitting the fire required for a non-roster invitee to make an organization change his plans.

Kyle Ryan, P — Not the right fit for the JMMA. Ryan was always in an odd position. His common name made him sound familiar and his six games with Detroit last year made him too much of a known commodity. But he started this spring throwing up zeroes. I kept him in the competition out of respect. Ryan’s shutout streak ended this week. He allowed three runs in one inning on March 18 against the Pirates. His ERA jumped to 3.86. He’s now too well known and not good enough for the JMMA.

Aaron Westlake, 1B — Not good enough. Westlake almost boarded the bus to Cut City last week, but survived because of his strong slugging percentage. A week later, his OPS is less than Xavier Avery’s and his slugging percentage is almost the same: .379 t0 .368. Avery is more fun than Westlake and better at baseball. If Westlake can’t beat out Avery he won’t stand a chance against the pitchers

Three pitchers and one position player remain in the competition.

They are:

Xavier Avery, OF

Rafael Dolis, P

Omar Duran, P

Angel Nesbitt, P

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Playing the Mock Draft game: The where is easy; it’s the who that’s difficult

(Photo: Steve Schar)

(Photo: Steve Schar)

In the primer to this year’s Mock Draft Game we discovered that this year was extremely similar to last year: no knows what the hell the Lions will do.

But we’re past the combine and through most of free agency. The draft lingers. It’s just 43 days away.

Ndamukong Suh is gone. Nick Fairley is gone. The Lions’ needs are obvious. The draft experts should have a handle on who the Lions are looking at by now, right?

Here’s who our 15 draft experts have the Lions selecting with the 23rd overall pick:

(Note: This year we’re swapping SI’s Doug Farrar for SI’s Chris Burke and NFL.com’s Matt Smith for NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein. Burke is just more on top of it this year than Farrar and Smith is no longer doing mock drafts for NFL.com so we’re going with Zierlein, who is billed as a draft expert.) 

1. Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State (4 out of 15) 

Experts picking Goldman: Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager, SB Nation’s Dan Kader, NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

2-T. Cameron Erving, C, Florida State (2 out of 15) 

Experts picking Erving: ESPN’s Todd McShay, Rotoworld’s Josh Norris

2-T. Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (2 out of 15)

Experts picking Flowers: CBS Sports’ Rob Rang, CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler

2-T. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (2 out of 15) 

Experts picking Gordon: USA TODAY’s Nate Davis, Optimum Scouting’s Eric Galko

5-T. Arik Armstead, DT, Oregon (1 out of 15) 

Experts picking: Armstead: Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller

5-T. T.J. Clemmings, G/T, Pittsburgh (1 out of 15)

Experts picking Clemmings: SI’s Chris Burke

5-T. D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida (1 out of 15) 

Experts picking Humphries: NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah

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