CASTILLO: In a Blass of His Own

by Roger Castillo (@rogcast81)

By kw111786 on Flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Justin Verlander is in a rut.

In the past seven days, Verlander (10-8) has gone 11.2 innings, surrendered 19 hits and given up 12 earned runs. The rest of the starting rotation in the other five games has pitched a combined 33 innings, surrendering 24 hits and giving up just four earned runs.

Clearly, something is wrong.

After Thursday’s 7-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox where Verlander gave up all seven earned runs in just six innings, he said this:”Today, as funny as it sounds, was a step in the right direction. I thought my stuff was the best it’s been all year. It was just a little erratic.

I’ll openly admit I’m am not a pitching coach, baseball scout or doctor. I don’t know what is exactly wrong with Verlander nor am I going to make the obvious Kate Upton joke  that has been popular after the two split up; which is, she dumped him thus the problems began.

Verlander’s Career is still young, and he still has gas left in the tank. Tigers invested in him long term and he will be around. No matter what. It’s obvious Verlander has to work out whatever it is. While he does, the Tigers have dealt with it and have seen this before.

Dontrelle Willis, the other piece of Miguel Cabrera trade from the Marlins in 2008 also struggled to throw strikes once he wore the old english D. It was apparent towards the end of 2007, when he was pitching with the Marlins. Willis was 5-17 in 35 starts and had a WHIP of 1.59. He never returned to his 2005 form where he won 22 games and had a ERA of 2.63 and made an All-Star appearance and was a runner up for the Cy Young in the NL. Willis’ post-Tiger career is now with the Long Island Ducks with the Atlantic League in Independent League baseball.  A great piece, Ducks in a Row, written by Howard Megdal chronicles Willis so far in the league.

Where am I going with this?

Willis suffered from Steve Blass disease.  Blass was the the runner up MVP behind teammate Roberto Clemente in the 1971 World Series, and from 1969 to 1972, he won 60 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Blass then ran into trouble in 1973. It was almost like he forgot how to throw the ball over the plate.  His ERA climbed to 9.85 in the 1973 season. He walked 84 batters in 88 23 innings, and struck out only 27 batters, laboring through the 1973 season; his -4.0 WAR that year still stands as the worst single-season WAR for a pitcher since 1901.

Blass tried meditation. He tried therapy, but nothing worked. And by 1975, Blass was out of baseball.

Willis isn’t the only other pitcher to suffer through the disease either. Rick Ankiel, Mark Wohlers, Ricky Romero and Chuck Knoblauch have been afflicted with it.

Look, this could be a simple bad few starts. But for a guy who has six All-Star appearances a MVP,  Cy Young award and a Rookie of the Year under his belt just over nine seasons, it is a cause for some concern. Verlander has a .635 winning percentage and has won 134 games already.

Verlander will either figure it out or he won’t, and there isn’t much the Tigers can do in the meantime. At the moment, Detroit does not have much in their farm system in terms of starters they can bring up while Verlander misses starts in hopes to find a cure.  The recent return of both Jeremy Bonderman and Jair Jurrjens are not gong to be answers unless it was 2007 or 2008.

For now, Tigers fans will have to see this play out, and hope the diagnosis is negative. All while Justin Verlander finds himself and regains his form.

PODCAST: Tigers SRD (July 17, 2013)

In this episode of the Tigers SRD, Ben and Roger talk about the All-Star game, Miggy not giving enough due and a look around the league.

Tigers SRD – July 17, 2013

CASTILLO: Summer Piston Activity

by Roger Castillo (@rogcast81)

The NBA Summer League in Orlando ended on July 12 with the Pistons losing the Miami Heat 90-85. This was the first chance to to see what the Pistons first round pick (eight overall) Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could bring to the table. It was also a chance to see what most fans wanted to see as the first round pick, Trey Burke, a pick later. Let’s take a snap shot and guess who had the better summer league so far.

Pope

Burke

(source NBA.com)

It might come as a surprise, but the first one belongs to Pope. He went 7-31 from behind the arc while Burke went a horrible 1-19.  I know, this is just the summer league and fans should wait until November to draw any type of conclusion. However these stats mean something, Pope can score, which was an attractive feature that Pistons General Manager Joe Dumars coveted.

Bringing the band back together:

In a move that was once rumor during the NBA Draft came to fruition last week when the Pistons brought back Rasheed Wallace as a assistant coach to Maurice Cheeks’ staff. While he was in Portland, Wallace was coached by Cheeks and now will be tasked with helping the big men continue developing their game. I think he will help bring fans back to the Palace as well.  You might ask ” how will a assistant coach do that?”  Well with quotes like this, it’s easy to see why.

“When I was playing, I had that passion and fire, cussing everybody out, but I had the opportunity to change that being out on the floor. But now that I’m coach, I can still have my passion, but I just have to tone it down. I can’t make the difference now. I can talk junk, but I can’t back it up,” Wallace said.

Another old familiar face the Pistons brought back from the 2004 championship team is Chauncey Billups.  Andre Drummond did a classy thing and gave him his number one back, while Drummond will now wear the number 0.

This move has some pros and cons to it. It helps the Pistons backcourt with a veteran point guard that could mentor Brandon Knight.  The con is can he stay healthy enough to even make a impact?  Since leaving the Knicks in 2011 where in his last season there, he played just 21 games, he played a total of  42 games for the LA Clippers in two seasons.  The Pistons have now Billups, Knight, Bynum, Pope, Siva and Stuckey on the roster at guard so it’s easy to expect that one or two of those guards should be on the move.

The biggest move however, came with the signing of Josh Smith at 4 years and $54 million. Simply put: I like the move. It instantly gives the Pistons one of the most formidable front courts in the NBA. Does it make them a instant contender? No, because we have to see what version of Josh Smith the Pistons get. He can go inside or outside. Playing in Atlanta may of soured him a bit as the fan base is really fickle, so perhaps a change of scenery will help Smith find his old self. Either way, it was a bold move by the Pistons. For once, I am glad it was not just a way to waste salary cap space. He can be an impact and with the right guard combo, and he can be a good interior presence or on a kick out down low. He can even go out to the perimeter and knock down a few shots.

Last but not least, Luigi Datome ( oh, the Super Mario Bros references will fly) was signed to be a backup small forward from the Italian League where he won the 2012 MVP with Virtus Roma. He is 6-foot-9 220 pounds, and he can shoot from long range. This was a different move by Joe Dumars.  A lot of teams like Milwaukee, Houston and Boston were interested in Datome so it will interesting to see how the Pistons can utilize him. With this move, I hope the Pistons wave bye bye to Charlie Villanueva and his expiring deal and add an additional piece to solidify this team as a playoff contender.

PODCAST: Tigers SRD (July 10, 2013)

In this episode of the Tigers SRD, Roger and Ben talk about the Tigers who made the All-Star game, random NL pitcher who is doing well and the past weekend series with the Indians. Thanks to Sportstime Ohio for the audio clip.

Tigers SRD (July 10, 2013)

PODCAST: Pistons SRD (July 7, 2013)

In the latest edition of Pistons SRD, Ben and Roger talk about the Pistons Draft, Trey Burke, NBA free agency and Brad Stevens becoming the Boston Celtic’s new head coach.

Pistons SRD (07-07-13)