Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Detroit Sports Thankful List

Going with a Thanksgiving theme this Wednesday, there is a lot to be thankful for in Life. My daughter was born this year, she's healthy, joyful, and better than I had any right to expect. My wife & I both have jobs. I love my wife - we have our differences from time to time, but we are always able to work them out. This is a sports blog first & foremost, but sometimes we need perspective. The Lions just crapped out in 2 consecutive games, the Pistons flat out STINK, but this doesn't matter in the Grand Scheme of Things. I know it's cliche and we all know this, but it's important to lay it out there from time to time.

Ok, now for a slightly less personal, more sports-related take on the Thanksgiving theme: guys I'm thankful for on each of Detroit's 4 major sports teams.

The Lions: SUH!!!!

I'm especially thankful for Ndamukong Suh. I thought DeAndre Levy would be the revelation this year on defense, and while he's been good I've really grown to appreciate Suh. The highlight above is from the 1 win in the Lions' last 7 games last year, but it's indicative of what Suh does.

Check this piece which shows him doing the same vs. New England, only Brady gets rid of the ball IMMEDIATELY and avoids the sack. It's a shame, really.

The Lions: Joique Stick!

The Lions run game has been pretty anemic, but this is mainly due to injuries on the line and poor playcalling (Lombardi telegraphs his run plays like no one else). Joique has been able to overcome that to some extent by running his ass off and lowering the BOOM. The lick he put on Cortland Finnegan (couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, really) was LEGENDARY, and hopefully will live on in GIF-dom for ages to come. It's even better in super slo-mo, btw.

The Lions: The Golden Child

Calvin Johnson has been injured and his game has taken several steps back. Golden Tate has filled in nicely with a career year of over 1,000 yds receiving. He's small but super fast, has good hands, and he's a solid deep threat as well as probably the best guy in the league to target on a bubble screen.

The Tigers: Miggy!

This one is a bit obvious, I'll admit, but look at that GIF overlay. 6 homers hit from 6 different pitch locations, all outside of the strike zone. What do you do? He had a down year last year, meaning he merely hit .313/.371/.524 with 25 HR, well below his career averages of .320/.396/.564 with 32.5 HR... I mean, come on, the guy is ridiculous. A "down year" for Miggy means he didn't contend for a triple crown. Last year he put up an OPS better than all but 5 guys in baseball, and played a decent 1B.

The Tigers: Victor Martinez

One of the 5 guys with a better OPS than Cabrera (actually, the TOP guy) was the Professional Hitter, Victor Martinez. V-Mart had a career high in batting average, OBP, SLG, and HR. I actually had mixed feelings about the Tigers re-signing him because he locks up the DH spot and they REALLY need help in the field, but honestly there is no guy in Detroit's lineup that is more dependable. Never gives an at bat away (which Cabrera does from time to time), rarely strikes out and hits pretty well with 2 strikes... The only way he could be better is if he had cat-like reflexes with the glove at the hot corner or something.

The Tigers: The Other Martinez

This is what JD Martinez did in 2014. A LOT. 13 of his 23 HR were hit in innings 7-9, 8 of them in the 9th. This was a player who was released by the Astros in March and signed by the Tigers 2 days later when Andy Dirks was injured and it became clear they needed help in the OF. Julio Daniel Martinez started out as a platoon LF until it became clear he needed to stay in the lineup, anchoring the #5 spot in the potent heart of the Tigers' lineup.

The Pistons: Drummond

The Pistons are bad right now (3-11 after last night's loss to MIL) and Drummond is having his worst season yet, but he can be straight up nasty when he wants to be. REALLY. Stan Van Gundy has been running more offense through Drummond's Post Game In Progress, which has been a frustrating process, but when he does what he does best... It goes down like it did in the 1st quarter last night.

The Pistons: SVG

He hasn't turned this team around (yet), but there are several things he's done that I like. The main thing I like about him is the candid honesty. In a pre-game interview last night, he took a lot of the blame for the offensive failures, saying he may have stunted offensive growth by relying on a couple different plays instead of moving the ball around. The offense DID look a lot better, although they lost. He's not exactly a Coach of the Year candidate right now, but I like that he's open to new ideas and flexible. Compare a Stan Van Gundy presser with Jim Caldwell's post-game interviews. Night & day.

Aaaaannnnd... that's it for the Pistons right now. They stink.

The Wings: Nyquist

That is a wicked move. Gustav Nyquist is leading the team in goals scored and tied for 7th in the NHL. He converts a pretty high shot percentage (18.5%, 2nd on the team after Datsyuk) and he's fun to watch. For a while I've wondered who will take the torch from Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. After that hot streak Nyquist had last year and what he's done so far this year, the smart money is on him.

The Wings: Pavel Datsyuk

It was hard to pick which goal to show. I ended up picking one from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year. It's pretty wicked, stealing the puck & working over 3 Bruin defenders, beating Tuukka Rask like a dum. Classic Datsyuk. There were MANY to choose from. Like, a LOT. He isn't exactly a shrinking violet either. Unfortunately, he's only appeared in 10 out of 21 games due to some nagging injuries, but in those 10 games he's scored 5 goals and dished 6 assists. 11 points in 10 games... That's a pretty crazy pace. I love me some Pavel Datsyuk, hoping he can stay healthy this year, but even if he only plays 40 games, I'm greatful. I mean, the guy has his own adjective!


This Thanksgiving Day game vs. Chicago SHOULD be just what the doctor ordered. Detroit still has the #1 defense through week 12, Chicago is 23rd. Detroit's offense ranks 24th in DVOA, Chicago's is 14th. Neither team is rocking the world with their special teams (coming in at 32nd & 31st respectively), and in Detroit's case that's due to some historically shaky FG kicking. Add in the home crowd and the Lions should walk away with this one. SHOULD.

Here are a couple of trends to be concerned about if you're a Lions fan: 1) No touchdowns in the last 2 games, and 2) No sacks and only 9 QB hits in the last 2 games. The offense needs to get back to scoring TDs. Out of 11 games played the Lions have scored more than 1 offensive TD in quarters 1-3 TWICE - the Giants game and the Jets game. They need to start putting up some points, and they need to hit Cutler early and often. Barring any setbacks Nick Fairley should return in the next couple of weeks, but the Lions should be able to make do.

The offensive line is banged up and Riley Reiff will likely miss the Thanksgiving Day game, and Larry Warford is still out. The line HAS to be better, on both sides of the ball, but mainly better on offense. This will be difficult without the regular starting RG, LT and a dinged-up RT. I'd like to see a variety of screens, bubble screens, short passes, and misdirection plays to mitigate the weaknesses of the O line. Lombardi called like 4 bubble screens to Tate vs. Miami, I don't think I've seen that play called since then.

The Lions SHOULD win, as I keep saying, but there's no telling with this team. A loss all but eliminates them from the playoffs, assuming another loss looming in Green Bay, week 17. The Lions are having a good season, but they need 11 wins to make the playoffs. Save me a turkey leg!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

STAFFORD! probably needs to go...

Stafford had what I would consider his worst game of the season vs. the Pats. I didn't really address this yesterday because I wanted to dedicate a full post to the enigma that is Matt Stafford. Here's ESPN analyst Kevin Seifert breaking down the numbers:

The main thing was his inaccuracy. He had the 4 drops, 3 of which could have been touchdowns. He didn't have the greatest protection. But a 39.1% completion rate is his worst EVER. Worst than the blizzard in Philly last year. Worse than any game in the 8 game losing streak in 2012. Worse than any game his rookie year. The last time the Lions made the playoffs, Stafford had his best season ever. He was coming off nearly an entire season missed due to injury, and he was pretty banged up his rookie year. Well, he came out looking like a stud. Check those 2011 numbers:

He threw for over 5,000 yards, 7.6 yards per attempt, 41 TDs, 16 picks, 3 fumbles, a QBR of 64.4 and a passer rating of 97.2. This was Stafford's first full season as a Lion, and this is what we thought he was. The last 2 years he was pretty mediocre (don't want no mediocre). This year he's just as bad, maybe worse. He's on pace to throw for 4,280 yards, a career low for a full season. His passer rating and completion % are consistent with a QB in the bottom quarter of the league, and his QBR puts him in the bottom 3rd.

Sunday wasn't the worst game of his career, but it was pretty bad. Added to all the over-throws and under-throws, Stafford made probably the worst play of the game early in the 4th. The score was 27-9, with 11:36 to go. Gruesome, but not insurmountable. The Lions were facing a 4th & 10 from the NE 25 and Caldwell decided to go for it. Stafford was unable to find an open receiver, but he saw daylight and decided to scramble for the first. With a defender looming just past the first-down marker, Stafford made a "business decision". He slid. The rules for the QB slide are the ball gets marked from the spot the ball is when the QB starts his slide. He KNOWS he has to get to the 15, which is an easy yardline to spot, but all Stafford could see was Patrick Chung waiting for him. The ball was correctly spotted a full yard short. Lame.

People have made a lot of Stafford's "late-game heroics", which somehow excuses his "rest-of-game sucking". Sliding a yard short of the first-down marker on 4th & 11 has to go on the resume too. He was all over the place on Sunday. He couldn't get into the end zone, although that wasn't entirely his fault. And when the team needed him to step up, he went into the fetal position. Is it time to start looking for other options?

Let's look at some numbers: averaging $17.7M/yr, Stafford is the 9th-highest paid QB in the NFL. Keep in mind, guys like Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, RG3, etc. are on their rookie scale which is something that kicked in AFTER Detroit drafted Stafford and Suh. Still, below him are guys like Philip Rivers at $15.3M, Ben Roethlisberger at $14.7M, and Tom Brady at $14.1M. That's INSANE. What makes it worse is the fact that there are backups in this league making a quarter (or less) of what Stafford does who are as good or better (Vick, Stanton, Sanchize, Shaun Hill, etc.). Suh is the best player on the team and will walk for nothing if he doesn't get paid. Calvin Johnson is deteriorating, but he's still pretty good. Stafford is mediocre, but he's getting paid like a top 10 QB.

Stafford is locked up until after the 2017 season, so if the Lions want to switch things up at QB, they'll need to swing a deal. This rarely happens with QBs. The most recent example I can think of was Jay Cutler in 2009, the year Stafford was drafted incidentally. Cutler was about to turn 26, having completed his 3rd year of pro football, and had posted 3 straight years of middle-of-the-road numbers (passer rating 88.5, 88.1 & 86.0). He had a big arm, but also had a reputation as a bit of a whiner and a coach killer. He was traded with the Bronco's 5th round pick for Chicago's 2009 1st- & 3rd-rounders as well as their 2010 1st-rounder.

I'd take that in a heartbeat for Stafford, only that's not what we're getting. Stafford is a year older than Cutler was, and he's got an extra 2-3 years of experience over Cutler. His numbers are worse (career 82.8 passer rating) and he has less promise than Cutler did. Then there's his bloated salary to think about. Detroit isn't getting two 1st-rounders and a 3rd rounder for Stafford.

To paraphrase Chi McBride in Draft Day, who's the most desperate? 
In the AFC, the Bills, Jets, Texans, and Titans are all in a bad way with their QBs. The Bills & Jets are both trying to bring along younger QBs, both of whom have been benched for their backups. In the NFC, Washington, the Bucs, the Cards to some extent, and the Rams are also experiencing QB troubles. There are 2 pretty good QBs in the draft this year, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Winston will drop because he's a total head case, but if both guys go early, the Lions might be able to swing a 1st & a 3rd-type deal with one of the above-named desperate teams. They may have to settle for a 1st & 3rd in the 2016 draft or something, but a team like the Titans might go for that.

Also, Matt Flynn, Mark Sanchez, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Colt McCoy, and Austin Davis are all free agents in 2015. I would take any of those guys over Stafford right now. McCoy only had 2 good games this year, but they were GOOD. Mallett had 1 good game, 1 bad game before tearing his pec, but he'd come at a much cheaper price to do basically what Stafford is doing right now. Sanchez has thrown a lot of picks, but he's also been better than Stafford. Hoyer's might not be as good as Stafford, but he's not much worse and he'll cost about $10M less. Out of all these guys, I like Austin Davis the best. Suppose the Lions could deal Stafford for a 1st & 3rd in 2015 or 2016 and then pick up Davis in free agency...


Alright, out of fantasy land and into reality. The 2 biggest reasons the Lions' offense stink, other than Stafford, is the offensive line and the offensive coordinator. The line has been banged up all year, and even when healthy they've under performed from last year. This has never been a good run blocking group, but they were pretty good in pass protection last year. This year they are leading the league in sacks allowed.

Joe Lombardi came in as a first-year OC, formerly a QB coach with the Saints. The hope was that he would bring that New Orleans scheme to Detroit and improve Stafford's footwork in the pocket to be more like Drew Brees. Well, the scheme might mirror the Saints, but the play calling leaves much to be desired. I'd noticed a lot of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate on the sideline, but I hadn't realized he did it on almost every running play. Tate has been Detroit's best WR this year, but he only is on the field 85% of the time with the offense. He's 6th in yards, 24th in offensive snap %. Additionally, is there a better way to telegraph I'm RUNNING to a defense than to take your top 2 WR off the field?

The Lions could stand to upgrade their RB position. Joique Bell is a serviceable back, but he's not going to light the world on fire. But I blame the lack of success in the running game on Lombardi first, offensive line 2nd. The lack of success in the passing game should go O Line 1st, Lombardi 2nd. This offense is unbelievably disappointing.

Interesting point about coaching/drops from Gregg Easterbrook:
Watching the New England staff out-coach the Detroit staff was like watching Itzhak Perlman teach a novice how to hold a violin. Last week at Indianapolis, the Patriots huddled up and mostly ran a heavy package of two tight ends and a fullback. That's the film Detroit looked at during the week. Sunday, New England used a no-huddle hurry-up with four or five wide. The game was a 1 p.m. start in late November, which means declining winter sun may be in a receiver's eyes. From about Veterans Day on, the coach who leaves nothing to chance sends someone to the field the day before the game to chart the sun, as perceived from the field, as it declines during the hours of the contest. Sunday, in the second quarter, a Detroit receiver was sent deep where, looking back, the sun was blinding: drop. New England passes went to shaded areas of the field.
He also called out Lions HC Jim Caldwell for some... less than aggressive... decisions in a segment where he highlights pointless punts and fearful fieldgoals:
Buck-Buck-Brawkkkkkk: Trailing 7-3 in the second quarter at New England, Detroit faced fourth-and-goal on the Patriots 2, and took the field goal. New England entered the contest as the league's second highest-scoring team -- touchdowns, not field goals, defeat high-scoring teams. To prove it was no fluke, trailing 14-6 in the second quarter, Detroit punted on fourth-and-3 from the New England 39. By playing it "safe," Detroit went on to lose 34-9.
These things are the difference between coaches that win big games & coaches that watch the other team win big games. Caldwell hasn't shown he can coach up to the moment.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lions on the verge of collapse, Tigers' FA options start to thin out

I'm going to write as little as possible about the Lions' loss yesterday. I didn't expect them to upset the Pats, but I expected them to show up. I was on the road for the 1st half and listened to the game on 97.1 The Ticket. I made a conscious decision not to watch the game after a pathetic 1st half performance, and that was probably for the best.

I know the Pats are probably the best team in football, and the Cardinals are probably in the top 5 or so, but you HAVE to show up in those games. I'd argue that despite giving up a bunch of yards & points, the defense at least showed up. The offense, outside of Golden Tate, didn't. One phrase I kept hearing from the radio team (Dan Miller & Jim Brandstatter) is "that's a play he SHOULD have made". Catches were dropped, blocks missed, tackles missed, interceptions dropped, assignments blown. It's not as glaring as the 2nd half collapse last year, but this is a different team than the one that started 7-2.

One culprit in particular is Eric Ebron. The rep on him prior to the draft was he was a matchup nightmare, only he had bad hands. At least the bad hands part has been true. He had 7 targets yesterday, 2 catches. That is a TERRIBLE conversion rate. For the year, Ebron has caught .516% of his targets. I looked at the top 30 TEs in the league by yardage, and they averaged a .668% catch rate. If Ebron had made the list he'd rank 2nd from the bottom. Pettigrew, the blocking TE with hands of stone, catches at a .643% rate. That's below average, but much better than Ebron. This brings up the point - WHY DID WE DRAFT EBRON???

At the time I was a hard-line "the Lions NEED to take a defensive player" guy. There were apparent holes at CB, S and OLB. Well, the defense has surprised. They aren't the #1 defense, both by the eye test & by stats (now #3 in yds/gm & BARELY #1 in pts/gm), but they're pretty good. But that offense (what offense)? The guy Mike Valenti (of 97.1 The Ticket) was high on was Odell Beckham Jr, the WR out of LSU. Valenti wasn't high on the Golden Tate signing (wrong about that one) and thought the Lions needed another WR (they do - Fuller/Ross have been underwhelming as the 3rd option). Beckham Jr was injured & didn't play until week 5, breaking out for 156 yards in his 4th game as a pro (Ebron has less yards than that on the season). Then last night, this happened:

That is one of the top 3 catches of all time. How this catch is made without some kind of mutant molecular-bonding ability is beyond me. Not even Stickum would have been enough to make this catch.  I look at this catch (he was interferred with, by the way) and think about Detroit's inability to get in the end zone for the last 2 weeks. In this game there were 3 drops that took points off the board, Fauria, Fuller & Ross. Golden Tate has the surest hands on the team, but who else is getting it done for them right now? Look at Ebron vs. ODB Jr, and imagine how much better the offense could have been:

ODB Jr has a similarly inaccurate QB (Eli's completion rate is 62.3%, Stafford's is 58.8%) but catches more passes due to his superior hands and blazing speed to get open. I'll get into what's wrong with Matt Stafford some other day, but for now I'll be keeping track of Odell Beckham Jr's career vs. Ebron's as a What Might Have Been situation.

A few notes on coaching:
  • For the second straight week, Caldwell is catching some flack for taking a conservative approach and kicking on 4th & short (kicked a FG on 4th & goal from the 2, punted on 4th & 3 from the NE 39, attempted a FG on 4th & 10 from the NE 35 with 40 sec left in the half & down 17-6). Many coaches probably would have done the same thing, but that doesn't make it right. Here's how Caldwell justified it:
    “You have to take each situation the way it bears out,” Caldwell said. “You’ve got to take the points (early). I think that’s a nonstory. Second half, obviously, we ended up going for it a couple times. One time we kicked a field (goal) ’cause we were fourth-and-14. I think that’s pretty obvious. And the other times we felt we better go for it because we were running out of time, possessions, you may not get it back. So, conservative, I wouldn’t say that.”

    First of all, 99% of the conservative coaches don't think they're conservative. Secondly, "taking the points early" is conservative, while going for it on 4th down when you might not get the ball back ISN'T aggressive. 
  • Teryl Austin has gotten a lot of credit for what the Lions' defense has done this year, and rightly so. However, his scheme has shown some chinks in the last couple of weeks. The coverage was AWFUL in the 1st quarter vs. Arizona and basically all game vs. New England. Safety James Ihedigbo actually said these words: "We thought they would actually try to run the ball." What team were they preparing for? The Pats are the #6 passing offense, #15 rushing. They've gone over 100 yards only 4 times all year. I know they ran all over the Colts, but that's what they do to the Colts. Teryl Austin failed to plan properly and then failed to adjust, letting the receivers get a free release off the line. I know Belichick is good, but he must have done some kind of Jedi mind trick on Austin (This isn't the offense you're planning for... My receivers can go about their business... Move along, move along)

The top 2 hitting FAs (after Victor Martinez) are probably off the board, both going to Boston. Hanley Ramirez got a 4 year, $88M deal with a vesting $22M 5th year option. That's a LOT for a 30 year-old player with health issues, a sub-average glove, and coming off a down year. Boston is paying through the nose for Hanley, and I'm not exactly sure where they play him. Xander Bogaerts is a pretty good defensive SS and has a developing bat. Hanley could move to 3rd base, except it looks like Boston will sign Pablo Sandoval, who is a pretty good hitter & defensive 3B. The Sandoval deal isn't done yet, but it's close.

Detroit needs better defense at 3B, but wasn't in the running for either of these guys, although with Hanley going for $22M/yr I can see why (Sandoval may get up to $20M/yr). Castellanos is a butcher in the field, and his bat wasn't enough to make up for it last year. He may improve, but at this point I doubt he can improve much. Chase Headley, a mediocre bat and a GREAT glove at 3B, is still available and could be had at a more reasonable cost. More likely, Dombrowski will stick with Castellanos at 3rd and hope his defense improves.

The Tigers need another OF and another good bat. The two best guys to fill that role via free agency are Melky Cabrera and Nick Markakis. It's estimated that they would draw something in the $11M-$14M/yr range, which is very doable. There was a murmur earlier on in free agency that the Tigers had interest in Melky Cabrera, but I've heard nothing on it since then. Dombrowski plays it close to the vest. Yasmany Tomas is also out there, although no reports have the Tigers in the running.

Speaking of which, Dombrowski recently was quoted as saying he's satisfied with the bullpen - for now. I hope that's code for "I'm going to trade Nathan for minor league depth and sign 2 guys". I'm not really happy about Dombrowski apparently being satisfied with the same 1-2 punch he had last year coming out of the 'pen, and I'm not happy about the Tigers going into 2015 with their CF being a platoon situation. I wish they had done more to address their defense too. I'm hoping Dombrowski has a big move planned soon, because this has been a pretty lame off-season so far.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lions/Pats Preview & some Pistons Blow It UP fake trades

Last week the Lions were facing a backup QB with a sub-50 completion percentage and managed to get out-scored, never reaching the end zone. I predicted that the offense would find itself vs. AZ and put up 27 points. Whoops. This offense may never find itself. Caldwell has tried to put a positive spin on it (the offense has moved the ball successfully for short periods of time!), but the reality is that for some reason, it sucks.

The main problem is with the offensive line. Several times on 3rd and short they were unable to get the push to gain the yard they needed vs. Arizona. Some of that is playcalling, but a lot is on the O line too. Stafford hasn't had much time to throw. Some of that is on his inability to move outside the pocket to avoid a sack & extend a play, but it's also on the O line. The way things have gone (and with Warford looking like he'll miss at least another week), this isn't likely to improve anytime soon.

Sunday's matchup is against the hottest team in the NFL, New England, and they have the #2 scoring offense in football. Their defense has improved week by week, and they are currently riding a 6-game winning streak. The winning streak isn't hollow either, with wins over Cincinatti, Denver and Indianapolis. The average margin of victory in this streak is 19.1 points... Basically, the Patriots are the biggest monster on the Lions' schedule this season. After last Sunday's 6 point performance and playing in Foxboro, nobody is picking Detroit to beat New England.

Yep, that's a 7 point line favoring New England. Were I a betting man, I might take NE and the points. Things favoring the Pats - the #5 offensive line on the run & #6 on the pass, Brady & Gronk, Revis Island, and Jonas Gray. They're on a huge roll and look unbeatable right now.

Things favoring the Lions - still the #1 defense (3rd vs the pass, 1st vs the run), and this offense has to come around sometime, right? RIGHT??? Also favoring the Lions, the Pats are on a huge roll, look unbeatable, and everyone is picking them. Wait, what? Yeah, I kinda think being the underdogs here helps them a little. Not much, but I like it better than when everyone was picking Detroit over the Cardinals.

I'm not real optimistic about this one, to tell the truth. Detroit doesn't look for real yet. The offense doesn't scare anybody, and the defense had some lapses in the last game. I expect Detroit to hold New England to something in the low 20's, but Detroit's offense will struggle to move the ball unless Joique Bell & Reggie Bush can tear up the Pats' bad run D. Call it 13-24, Pats.


The Pistons keep losing, which is frustrating but understandable. They're still poorly constructed, and the 2 players SVG brought in to balance out the offense have yet to dress for a game. Their only wins have come over the Knicks, the Bucks, and OKC (missing nearly all their regular starters). They're shooting .413% on the season, above only Philadelphia (who are actively tanking). At this point, SVG has 3 options: ride it out and hope he can craft this team into a winner, try and trade his way into a winner, or blow it up with no sacred cows (like Drummond or... ok, Drummond is the only sacred cow). I still think this team can be traded into a winner (by winner I mean "make the playoffs as a low-to-mid-level seed"), but during an online conversation, I investigated how the team might be improved by a couple major trades.

Trade #1: Jennings & Drummond to OKC for Serge Ibaka

Drummond cannot coexist with either Josh Smith OR Greg Monroe. Greg Monroe can barely coexist with Smith, at least offensively. Ibaka would fit best with Monroe, providing some mid-range offense and rim protection. Jennings helps the VERY injured OKC out at the PG spot and probably eventually gets bought out, while Drummond finds a home as the athletic, floor running C OKC has been looking for.

Trade #2: Pistons get Stoudemire from NYK & Greek Freak from MIL, Bucks get Smith & Drummond from DET, and the Knicks get Sanders from MIL and Jennings from DET


This one is a doozy. The Knicks get some PG help (JR Smith is leading the team in assists!), and some interior defense with Sanders. Milwaukee gets an upgrade & hopefully future star at C with Drummond, and maintains some of that interior D with Smith. Detroit takes on Stoudemire's expiring and loses some defense while slightly upgrading the offense, and they get a solid swingman of the future in Greek Freak (I'm not going to try to pronounce that unless he actually comes to Detroit).

Trade #3: J-Smoove & Singler to SAC for Derrick Williams, Jason Thompson & Ben McLemore

This trade is built on the concept of netting some risk/reward players in exchange for Josh Smith's contract. The Kings wanted Smith over the summer to pair with Boogie (why, I don't know), but for whatever reason, they couldn't get a trade worked out. It costs Detroit Singler to get rid of J-Smoove, but in return they get a semi-busted #2 overall pick from 2011 (Williams), a washed out 2008 #12 overall pick (Thompson), and a 2013 #7 overall pick performing below expectations (McLemore).

The worst case scenario of this last trade is Detroit acquires 2 bench players and an average rotation player in exchange for dumping Smith and a below average starter in Singler. The best case is 1 or 2 of the 3 guys Detroit gets in this trade pan out (my money's on McLemore), and they finally have a viable perimeter scorer. KCP might do it too, but I always liked McLemore (currently shooting .443/.408/.867).

I couldn't work out a trade for Monroe on the Trade Machine, either because he's got a trade exemption due to accepting his QO or because he isn't eligible yet. Anybody got a better one? Post it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Architecture for a World Series Team

The Tigers appear to be nearing the last gasps of their championship window, which is leaving the station (if I could mix a metaphor or 3). This is a crucial offseason if they ever want to make this version of the team a contender ("this version" being the Verlander-Cabrera Micro-Dynasty). So far they've re-signed DH Victor Martinez and RP Joel Hanrahan, exercised options on C Alex Avila and RP Joakim Soria, and traded for CF Anthony Gose. Scherzer may or may not be gone, but Torii Hunter is DEFINITELY gone. So the 2015 is a little more solidified, with some holes to fill. But can the 2015 team be a CHAMPIONSHIP team? What needs to change for that to happen?

There are many ways to build a good ball club, but World Series teams have some very distinct similarities. I looked at the last 3 years of WS participating teams to see what trends I could spot on how these teams were constructed. A couple addendums - first off, if I were really dedicated to this (and didn't have a full-time job), I would've probably gone back more than 3 years. 10 years at least. Secondly, the Giants won 2 of the last 3 titles, so they probably skew the numbers a bit. Keep all of that in mind when looking at these numbers.

A few notes about methods before we get into it: I looked at WAR (wins above replacement) for every position (including DH, or in the NL whichever bench player had the most ABs), the defensive rating for the 8 position players and 1 bench/platoon player, and the OPS (on base % + slugging %) for each spot in the batting order. I wanted to list the batting order with OWAR (offensive wins above replacement), but I couldn't find a website that put OWAR with the batting order & was too lazy to cobble that together. OPS, while imperfect, will have to do. Some variance is due to manager philosophy (do you hit your best hitter 3rd or 4th, do you want a weak-hitting, bat-control guy as your 2nd hitter, etc.), and some is due to the fact that half of these teams are NL teams who bat the pitcher 9th at least 3 times a game. Onward:
Four trends we can spot right off:
1. C, SP1 and CF are easily the top 3 players on World Series teams. LF is 4th and then SP2 is 5th. Nobody's really bad, but then it's a WS team. You don't generally find bad starters on a WS team.
2. Middle defense is IMPORTANT. The top 2 defensive players on World Series teams are the catcher and shortstop. Centerfield is right behind, and then 2nd base. Every other position averages average or sub-average defense, with 1B being typically the worst defender. Interesting.

3. The pitching staff on these teams follows an obvious trajectory. A really good ace, pretty good at #2 & #3, and then just above average at #4 & #5. The closer isn't always the top pitcher in the bullpen but he's at least 2nd-best. Often the setup guy is actually the better pitcher but doesn't handle the closer role.
4. The batting order has a gentle curve until the #9 guy. The first 4 hitters are almost always the best, peaking at #3 or #4 depending on the manager's philosophy. After #4 it slopes downward, and then plummets at #9. Some of this is due to the NL batting the pitcher 9th, but less than you would think (2014 Royal's #9 guy - .584 OPS, 2012 Tigers' #9 guy - .603. 2013 Red Sox were an offensive juggernaut, so their #9 hitter's .703 OPS was terrible for them)


How does that structure compare to the 2014 Tigers? Well, their best players fit in at SP2, 1B, 2B and DH. They had good middle defense at C and 2B, average middle defense at SS, and bad middle D at CF (don't blame the Austin Jackson trade, A-Jax was nearly as bad as Rajai Davis in CF). Also, WS winners don't have TERRIBLE defenders (the losers might, and in the case of the 2012 Tigers, they had several). They might have a couple sub-average defenders, but no one with a defensive rating lower than -8 or so. The 2014 Tigers had TERRIBLE defenders at 3 positions (RF, 3B & CF), poor defense LF (despite Cabrera's low def. rating at 1B he's above average for that position), and at SS, a position where they needed A+ defense, they got a B-. If you averaged out the WAR for Detroit's starters, they'd be about a full point higher than the average starter on a WS team. If you did the same for the bullpen, Detroit's average RP would be half a point lower than the average RP on a WS team.

Lastly, the batting order. The 1 & 2 hitters were ok, not ideal. The 3, 4 & 5 hitters were spectacular. The #9 hitter was about what you would expect from an AL team, but the problem was that the 6, 7 & 8 hitters were about that good as well. Instead of a gentle slope, the Tigers' offense flatlined on the back half.

What is their outlook for 2015? They brought in Anthony Gose to either platoon with Rajai Davis at CF (Gose facing righties, Davis the lefties) or to take over the position entirely. That should improve the CF defense significantly, if Gose's weak bat doesn't keep him off the field. Torii Hunter (Detroit's worst defensive player last year) is gone and presumably whoever they pick up will be better. If they pick up a LF and slide JD Martinez over to RF, that would improve the defense at 2 positions. Jose Iglesias should be back at SS, moving the defensive grade there back into the A to A+ range. My hope for Castellanos at 3B is to be merely bad. If Castellano plays regular, bad defense at 3B, I'll be satisfied with that. He can't be the worst at the position again, but maybe he's growing into the position. Maybe.

The lineup situation is interesting. Most likely, Ian Kinsler will lead off, but he may bat 2nd depending on who the Tigers replace Torii Hunter with. If it's a guy like Nori Aoki, he'll slide into the 2 hole. If it's a guy like Yasmani Tomas, Melky Cabrera or Nick Markakis, he'll lead off. If we assume JD Martinez wasn't a 1-year wonder, the Tigers are well-fixed in the 3-4-5 spots as they were in 2014. The 6th spot? The 6th spot.
I'm stepping into my internal monologue for a moment to work this out. Nick Castellanos batted 6th most of 2014, and barring any drastic moves on Dombrowski's part, I expect that to continue. He wasn't a particularly good #6 hitter, just good for a rookie. He should improve in year 2, hopefully becoming more patient. If the Tigers get a guy like Tomas or Markakis to play RF and Castellanos develops as a hitter, he'd be a good #2 guy and Tomas or Markakis could bat 5th or 6th. Just a thought.
At the bottom of the lineup we have Iglesias, Avila and Gose/Davis. If Davis gets the start, he should bat 7th (I don't care that he's fast and the 9th spot is like the leadoff spot, bat the better hitters higher in the order. It's not rocket science... it's not even algebra). Otherwise, it's probably Iglesias-Avila-Gose. The Tigers will likely have James McCann up to spell Avila at C and to provide a right-handed option at that position. The question is Iglesias - is he the .300 hitter he looked like with Boston in the first half of 2013, or is he the .260 hitter he looked like the reset of the season with Detroit? If he hits even .280 next year, he's a great 7th hitter and Detroit's lineup is decent shape. If he's more like .240-.250, he's basically what we had in 2014 with better defense and the Tiger's lineup looks a lot worse.

Ok, now the pitching situation - Detroit is WAY too heavy on talent at starting pitching. They don't need 3 former Cy Young winners, and they really should spend Cy Young money on 3 guys when they can spend half as much on a guy who is 75% as good. If Detroit keeps Verlander, Price, Sanchez and Porcello as their rotation, they should be in fine shape picking up a guy like Edinson Volquez or even a Colby Lewis type. I'd really like them to spend some of the money saved by not signing Scherzer on their bullpen, which was possibly the weakest part of the 2014 team (after their defense). Get Andrew Miller, Gregerson, Neshek, or even Sergio Romo to either close or setup for Soria, and let Joe Nathan go. With a bit of a bounce-back year in play for Verlander, Price, and Soria, Detroit's pitching might even be better in 2015 despite losing their best guy in Scherzer.

Dombrowski has historically over-valued starting pitching and under-valued defense. His signings (and unsignings) this offseason have shown a slight shift in philosophy about defense, but he still needs to sign a big-time OF. Will he trade Castellanos for a LF and sign Hanley Ramirez to play 3B? Will he re-sign Scherzer and trade Price for an OF and prospects? Will he make a move to improve the bullpen? This is Detroit's most interesting offseason in YEARS.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bad officiating hurt the Lions, but wasn't the reason they lost

On a day when this post could very easily get negative and complain-y, I'm going to focus on a couple positives from the Lions' loss on Sunday. First, that defense looked pretty good. Aside from a couple of blown plays and a bit of shoddy tackling, they held down the Cards. They only allowed 14 points, they got 2 interceptions. That's more than enough to win, unless your offense is completely inept. Second, Joique Bell was great. He had some nice moments against Miami (I'll never get tired of this), but this week he looked All World. 85 yards on 14 carries which is good for 6.1 yards per carry, along with 3 catches for 30 yards. AZ was one of the top run defenses, and Joique ran all over them. That was nice.
Unfortunately, Joique was the only good thing about the offense. Calvin Johnson was targeted for 15 passes, catching 5. Golden Tate was targeted for 2 passes, catching 2 (seriously? 2 targets??). Stafford completed 60% of his passes (which is mediocre to average), but the reason that number is so high is because he often settled on a dump-off pass to a RB (11 targets for Bell & Riddick combined). Stafford was facing a good defense that didn't give him much time and also covered his WRs well, but he was also inaccurate on his longer throws and made poor decisions in the pocket and on who to pass to. 3 of his 4 sacks appeared to be self-inflicted, meaning a QB with good pocket presence would have moved differently and extended the play instead of getting sacked. One of his worst passing decisions was on the 4th and 2 attempt, when he missed a difficult pass to Calvin (who was covered) instead of throwing a much easier ball to Tate (who was open).
Obviously this can't ALL be on Stafford. His 1 interception was basically a punt & I don't know what else he could've done. He was under a lot of duress (although, again, it was self-inflicted to some extent). Lombardi's playcalling hasn't been the greatest... and that's a bit of an understatement. His 3rd down calls were pretty much all bad (except a couple of screen passes that were well executed), and his run on 1st down % is pretty high...
Let me break down that last comment a little further: running on 1st down is predictable. OCs like to get a chunk of yards on 1st down to open up some options on 2nd down and 3rd down. 2nd & long is usually a passing down, 3rd & long is almost ALWAYS a passing down. This is Pop Warner-level playcalling though. An NFL OC should aspire to be unpredictable. Run when they expect you to pass, etc. Out of 19 running plays, 8 came on 1st down and 2 came on 3rd & short. Probably the worst playcall of the game was on a 3rd & inches, when Lombardi had Stafford in the shotgun and he handed off to Riddick (not a short yardage back). If he was going to run, put Stafford under center, have a FB in there and give Joique the ball.
On top of Lombardi's predictability and spotty playcalling, I though Caldwell made a couple of questionable decisions as well. There were two 4th & shorts (one of them only inches) that Caldwell decided to either punt or kick on. This offense had very few sustained drives. The first was a 4th & 1 on Arizona's 10 yard line, with 30 seconds left in the half and down 14-3. Prater kicked the FG & Detroit never got closer to the end zone. The second time was on 4th & inches on Detroit's own 45. This is just after the ill-fated Theo Riddick counter-play on 3rd down that netted 0 yards. Still, it was 4th and inches, Detroit needed a TD badly, and they were 4 inches away from extending the drive. They punted instead, and I'm sure they regretted that later.
Detroit's offense was TERRIBLE, their coaching was poor, and they committed a ton of penalties (12 called, 9 accepted for 80 yards), 1 of which negated an INT that would've prevented Arizona's first TD. That said, there were 3 bad calls by the refs that didn't help.

 1. Eric Ebron's 1st down that wasn't.
The 1st down marker was just inside the 9, Ebron caught it, leaned forward and got knocked out of bounds. The official marked the ball where Ebron's foot was, not where the ball was. Since it there was less than 2 minutes to go in the half, the booth official decided the play needed to be reviewed. On TV, Mike Perreira (who has REALLY good judgment on these things) said it looked like Ebron got the 1st down but spot calls rarely get overturned. He was right. They upheld the call on the field, despite it being most likely the wrong call. Detroit ended up kicking the FG instead of going for it, so the call probably cost Detroit 4 points.
Here's another look. Ebron's 6'4" with a foot on the 10 and he's leaning forward, which means the ball is at about the 9. Replay should've overturned this, but this officiating crew is TERRIBLE

2. Possession? Possession. Possession???
Originally it was ruled that the Arizona player batted the ball back in play to avoid the touchback. Cardinals HC Bruce Arians threw the challenge flag, stating that Justin Bethel had "possessed" the ball on the 1 yard line before tossing it back in play. He's subject to the same "complete the process" criteria that Calvin Johnson was on his complete the process TD catch in Chicago 4 years ago. If that's not a catch, Justin Bethel chucking the ball to avoid the touchback isn't "possession". Somehow Jerome Boger (who is a pretty crappy ref, btw) overturned the call and cost Detroit 49 yards of field position that they deperately needed.
3. Not again.
With time ticking down and all the timeouts used up, Detroit had forced Arizona into a 3rd and 11. Stanton threw a ball to Larry Fitzgerald over the middle that was caught but immediately cleaned up by Mohammad Seisay. When Fitzgerald's feet came down he was a yard short, and Seisay tackled him several yards back. Forward progress should have given the Cards a 4th & 1 situation. Instead, the refs gave them a generous spot. Detroit was out of timeouts, and since the play didn't happen AFTER the 2 minute warning (2 minutes was reached shortly after the play was whistled dead), the play was ineligible for booth review and Detroit, having no timeouts, was unable to challenge it.

The yellow line is the 1st down marker, on the Lions' 49. Larry Fitzgerald is clearly inside the yellow marker, and the ball is closer to the 50 than the 49 yard line. Instead, Jerome Boger marked the spot a full yard ahead of where he should have, sealing the loss for Detroit.
Don't get me wrong, Detroit lost because the offense couldn't move the ball against a good defense. Even with a short field after a pick they couldn't do it. But a loss like this is harder to take when it feels like the officials were piling on. The reversal of the downing of the punt was unbelievable. I've never seen that play called that way, and if that was correct then they've been screwing this up for years. The NFL's VP of Officiating agreed with the call on the field because OF COURSE HE DID (99% of the time, the VP will affirm the official call and give some explanation that flies in the face of common sense and history - this was NO exception). Former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Perreira had no reason to cover up for a crappy ref, and this was his take on it after the fact:

Moving on, I think we all learned a bit about the Lions this weekend. Stafford will probably never be more than what he is now - an average QB with a strong arm, and mediocre accuracy & decision making. He looked bad and my general impression was he was being lazy and doesn't know where to look, so he chucked it to Calvin most of the time. Joe Lombardi isn't a great OC yet. He's not even a good OC yet. Do I long for the days of Scott Linehan? Well, he's calling plays for Dallas right now and they're 6th in yards/game & 6th in points/game. What do you think?
The defense was pretty good, shutting down Stanton and Co after a bumpy 1st quarter. The pass coverage looked shaky early on, and the tackling was iffy, but the Lions picked Stanton off twice, one of those pick prevented a third score by Arizona. They got less pressure on Stanton than I had expected, netting 0 sacks and only 5 QB hits, but they were pretty effective against AZ's run game. Special Teams was kind of meh. Prater doinked in a 50-yarder and drilled a chip shot (they should've gone for it!), coverage was pretty good... if Ross's punt return hadn't been overturned, this would've been better.
The bottom line is, this was a winnable game and Detroit's offense came out flat. They need to stand up for these big games, or they're looking at a 1 & done playoff appearance. Green Bay is looking better every week & Detroit just stays the same. At this rate, Detroit may go 4-2 down the stretch, finish behind Green Bay in the division and settle for a Wild Card, and then see somebody like Seattle, Dallas or San Francisco in the playoffs.
The Lions face the Pats in Foxboro next, and New England is a MONSTER. They're on a 6 game winning streak during which their average margin of victory is 19.2. Detroit is SCORING less than that per game. Time to put on your big boy pants, Lions.

Friday, November 14, 2014

2014 Lions vs. 1991 Lions, also may face the 2014 Cardinals

On 97.1 The Ticket yesterday, Mike Valenti posed the idea that Sunday's game vs. Arizona is the biggest game (regular season) the Lions have played in 20 years. Obviously this is dependent on how you define a "big" regular season game, so let's go over the implications of this game.
  1. Arizona has the top record in football. In the NFC, Detroit is tied with Philly for #2, Dallas is half a game behind at 7-3, and Green Bay and Seattle are a full game back at 6-3. If Detroit wins, they take over the top spot in the NFC.
  2. Whether you believe Arizona is really the top team in the NFL or not (I don't), they are still REALLY good. They are missing Carson Palmer, but earlier in the season they had to do without him and went 3-1 with Stanton, beating NYG, SF and STL by 11, 9, & 17, and losing to DEN by 21. They still are the toughest team Detroit has played yet, even without Palmer. A win over the Cards would legitimize the Lions' record, which currently features several "lucky" wins and losses to 5-5 Buffalo and 3-6-1 Carolina
  3. Arizona has traditionally been a bad team, much like Detroit actually, but since 2001 the Cardinals' record head to head vs. the Lions is 7-3. Detroit has played a disproportionate number of games in Arizona recently (4 out of the last 5, 6 out of 10 overall) and have lost to the Cards every time they've played in AZ. This will be their 11th meeting in 13 years, and the 7th of those 11 meetings that takes place in AZ. If the Lions are going to create a culture shift & rid themselves of the SOL tag, a big win on the road over the Cards would be a sign that it's happening
The last time the Lions won a playoff game was in 1991, which was 23 years ago (for those you too lazy to do the math). That team went 12-4 in the regular season (getting HOUSED by WAS & SF in the regular season, but beat the Cowboys & Bills), had a 1st round bye, beat the Cowboys in the 2nd round, then had to face Washington in the Conference Championship and were slaughtered by 31 points. Since then the Lions have had 3 10-win seasons and 6 playoff appearances, losing in the Wild Card round every time. The biggest regular season game that year was the week 17 OT win over Buffalo (who finished 13-3). That win was over a high quality opponent and sealed a 1st round bye for Detroit. This Cards game is the biggest regular season game since then.

Reviewing the 1991 Lions, they had 1 Pro Bowler on offense (Barry), 2 on defense (Spielman & Jerry Ball), and 1 on special teams (Mel Gray). They had a middle of the road offense and a middle of the road defense. They mainly lost to good teams (WAS, SF, CHI) but they also managed to lose to the 3-13 Bucs. They also beat some pretty good teams (DAL, CHI, BUF). How does this 2014 team compare?

Golden Tate should make the Pro Bowl if he's able to relatively maintain production with CJ back in the lineup. The Miami game was an indication he can do that. Calvin would need an amazing 2nd half, but we all know he's capable of that as well. Nobody on the O Line is making the Pro Bowl, Stafford almost certainly isn't, and none of the RBs are. So call it 1.5 Pro Bowlers on offense. Suh should make it EASILY on defense, and Levy should as well. An outside case could also be made for CB Darius Slay and DE Ezequiel Ansah, but both have a similar problem: Slay doesn't have the INTs to make him stand out and Ansah doesn't have the sacks. They're both having incredible seasons, but it's unlikely either will make the Pro Bowl, so call it 2 on defense. None of the special teams guys should make it, although punter Sam Martin has a long shot. 

So far in the 2014 season, Detroit has lost to a bad team in CAR and a meh team in BUF. They've beaten a couple of good teams in GB and MIA, and if they beat a really good team in AZ this Sunday, they could very well finish with 12 wins for the first time since 1991.

So how about that game? The line BARELY favors AZ (anytime the spread favors the home team by <3, it's a good sign for the road team), and the Over/Under is pretty low at 41 (which figures with a game that features two top-5 scoring defenses... Naturally this game will be like 41-35 or something). The matchup everyone talking about is Calvin Johnson vs. Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson. Peterson is considered one of the top cover CBs in the game and is an incredible athlete. He's also one of the few that isn't giving up a ton of size vs. Calvin. Antonio Cromartie isn't too bad himself, and he'll probably see a lot of Golden Tate, although I expect to see some of the Honey Badger on Tate as well. I expect both Tate and Calvin to see their share of opportunities despite the tough matchups, but the question is whether or not Stafford will be accurate enough.

Arizona is starting Drew Stanton with Carson Palmer being out for the season, and as you can see, there is a considerable dropoff. The Cards go from a slightly better than average passer to a much less accurate passer who won't throw it down field much. He's got a couple of good targets in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown, and his line is a good pass-blocking line, but then so was Miami's line. Arizona's run game is much like Detroit's - non-existant - but they may run a lot more than usual with Stanton in the game instead of Palmer. The Cards' defense is 5th in the league going by Football Outsiders' "Weighted Defense" and Defense DVOA, while more conventional metrics like "Yards Allowed/Game" and Points Allowed/Game" have them at 15th and 5th respectively. The generate a LOT of turnovers, getting the edge over Detroit here due to an obscenely high % of fumbles recovered. Their offense has only given up 7 turnovers so far (Detroit has 12 giveaways).

Stafford is a better QB than Stanton, but he'll need to limit his turnovers. CJ & Golden Tate are probably the best 1-2 WR punch this season now that Calvin is healthy. Additionally, the Lions are getting all 3 TEs back this week for the first time since Fauria jacked up his ankle chasing after his urinating dog. This give Stafford receiving threats at all levels, better options in the red zone, and slightly better blocking. The offensive line is dinged up (Warford is out, Waddle may be as well), but fortunately Arizona isn't a team that gets a lot of pressure on the QB. The Cards have a stingy defense, but I expect the Lions to put up more than 24 points, which they haven't done since week 1. There aren't any changes on the defense since last week, so I expect a similar result. Good pressure on Stanton, and he should throw a couple picks.

Detroit has the #1 defense (I never get tired of saying this, I feel like Magic Johnson loving the sound of his own voice when ever I utter those words, verbally or in text) and are far better than any defense Arizona has faced. Keep in mind, the Cards saw the #2 defense in Denver (with Stanton as QB no less) and were held to 215 yards and 20 points. Denver beat the crap out of whoever was standing in at QB with 3 sacks and 11 hits. Detroit puts a similar level of pressure on opposing QBs, registering slightly higher in sacks and QB hits. Detroit's D is rough on QBs (33.9 QBR) and Stanton hasn't been good in the red zone (only 30% TDs in red zone appearances). Put me down for a final score of 27-17, and Stanton has a rough day.


Yesterday I went on a bit about the posibility that the Tigers bring in Melky Cabrera. Another possible option is Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas. He's got decent power and a short swing, but probably needs to learn some plate discipline (have him hang out with Victor). The down side is what he will cost. The Tigers lost the bidding war to get Rusney Castillo, who signed with Boston for 7 years at roughly $11.5M/yr. Tomas is reportedly looking for a bit more than that.

Melky Cabrera would most likely hit for a higher average, but he's older, has less power, is probably a worse defender, and he'll be more expensive. Melky turned down a $15.3M qualifying offer in the hopes of getting a 3 year, $50M deal, which would average out to $16.7M/yr. That's nearly what Detroit signed Victor for, and Victor is a much better hitter. Tim Dierkes in MLB Trade Rumors predicts Yasmany Tomas will go for 7 years, $105M. That averages out to $15M/yr, which the Tigers would most likely backload if they were to agree to such a deal. If his rumored 30-HR power is real, I would take that deal any day of the week.