Wednesday, December 29, 2010

So I guess it's time to talk about Matt Kemp


Seeing posts like this and this make think it's time to talk about Matt Kemp. Or more accurately, what the Dodgers need out of him to succeed next year.

Ned Coletti took the "let's make our pitching staff awesome and consistent, and hope the offense gets a little better than last year" approach, by re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and Ted Lilly, and then signing Jon Garland to contracts. They also resigned Vicente Padilla for depth as a 6th starter/reliever. Those 3, combined with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley round out a formidable, top 5 pitching staff. He didn't sign Adam Dunn, he didn't sign Carl Crawford/Jayson Werth, he didn't sign Cliff Lee, and he probably won't go after Adrian Beltre. And of all those players, Dunn was the most realistic anyway. With teams like the Cubs, Rays, Orioles, Diamondbacks, Nationals, and Braves needing First Basemen at the beginning of the off-season, and teams like the Padres joining them as transactions occur, James Loney, a consistent, good contact, slick fielding First Basemen with great numbers outside Dodger Stadium could have been very appealing. I'm not Loney's biggest fan, and it's always easier to be the Sofa/Armchair GM than it is to actually run a team, but I would have liked to see Ned go after Dunn as a LF initially, and then try and flip Loney.

Alas, that wasn't the case, and Juan Uribe, a great defender, with good power will likely man 2B for now, and SS when Rafael Furcal gets hurt, will be our biggest off-season bat signed. Is that disappointing? A little bit, but it's better than going into next year with the same team. Ideally, Ivan Dejesus Jr., a top 2B prospect, plays out of his mind in Spring Training, and wins the starting 2B job, pushing Uribe to 3B, and Casey Blake to the bench. Then, Casey plays for Loney at first whenever an opposing team starts a Lefty Pitcher, as Blake still crushes lefties, and Loney does not, to put it lightly. This is assuming the Dodgers sign an Outfielder who crushes lefties to platoon with Jay Gibbons in Left Field.

Those pieces are all important, but not central to the team. If Dunn isn't going to be the 3 or 4 hitter for the Dodgers, then Matt Kemp needs to step up. Last year was a disappointment, but only because the expectations were probably unreasonably high, and his ridiculous pace in the first 14 games, in which he hit 7 Home Runs and crushed everybody, only made it hurt more. Is he a 30HR/30SB player? Well he could be, but I wouldn't count on it. He needs to make sure his walk rate is always high, and he needs to swing less at pitches outside of the strike zone. He's going to strike out quite a bit, that's just the nature of the kind of hitter he is, and I don't think it's a bad thing if he's still a free-swinger, but if he can lay off of those sliders down and away, that will go a long way to making him better. His power won't be amazing when half of his games are played at Dodger Stadium, but he could still be a 30-35 HR guy. With Davey Lopes as the First Base Coach, he SB numbers should be better too (Davey Lopes had a noticeable impact on the Phillies running capabilities). Ideally, he will hit around .285-.300, hit 25-35HR, drive in 100+ runs, and steal 20+ bases. There would be nothing to complain about there. He's already shown that he can play very good defense in CF, and even just being above average would be good enough for every fan after last season.

Honestly, unless Ethier magically learns how to hit lefties all year (he won't), then Kemp will have to step up to be that consistent 3-Hitter who can be depended on. He's not a terrible player who doesn't try as some might tell you. He's certainly not the first rising star to stumble a bit. If he improves in a couple key areas, he will be a great player, and it's not as if he was bad last year, he just didn't live up to expectations.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

(Insert Witty Title Here)


Sadly, this picture is no longer relevant, because after he was cut by the Packers, Al Harris decided to take his talents to South Beach to play for the Miami He- er, Dolphins. He's a classy guy though, and both he and the Packers had nothing but good things to say about one another, so I hope he does well for them.

And that makes for a decent jump to the Packers defense, who, after 9 games and a bye have the best defense in the league in terms of points allowed, which are more important and useful than yards allowed, mostly because that makes the Packers look worse.

As I did with the offense, I'll quickly go through the injuries on the Packers defense, and their significance, as well as give some general comments on the Defense as well.

MLB Nick Barnett - lost for the season, great all-around player and captain of the defense
SS Morgan Burnett - lost for the season, promising rookie safety with good ball-hawk skills.
SS Derrick Martin - lost for the season, solid backup behind Burnett, not particularly spectacular.
SS Atari Bigby – started the season on the PuP list, started last year, good tackler and doesn’t make mistakes.
DE Johnny Jolly – Suspended for the year, good pass rusher and run stopper on the line.
OLB Brad Jones - lost for the season, promising pass rusher who played well last year.
CB Al Harris - started season on the PuP list, great well known corner, cut by the Packers.
LB Brady Poppinga - lost for the season, decent backup player
DE Mike Neal - lost for the season, 2nd round draft pick, great potential on the line.
DE Justin Harrell - lost for the season, this happens every year, so no big deal.
DE/DT Ryan Pickett - has been hurt on and off all season, takes up space and stops the run very well.

Clay Matthews missed a game, and Charles Woodson has played with less significant injuries all year. Of that list, the starters were Harris, Barnett, Burnett/Bigby, Jones, and Pickett. So the fact that the Packers defense has allowed the least points in the league (with a shutout on the road against the Jets, no less) has amazed me. To me, it seems that Dom Capers' system is running at maximum efficiency, and the players near-fully understand it. This means it's much like the system of Pittsburgh or New England, where players can be lost and replaced and hardly miss a step. That is a beautiful thing.

Three players have held the defense together though. First and foremost, this monster of a man:

I mean look at him, he's got biceps on top of his biceps. Clay Matthews has been the best defensive player in the NFL so far this year, both statistically and how he impacts the team. He's got 10.5 sacks through 8 games (He missed one, which the Packers lost in Overtime and there was no pass rush), and an interception for a touchdown. He's playing at an unreal level, to the point where I just look for him and his hair during each defensive snap, rather than watching the whole team (at least at first).

Charles Woodson, while not playing at a DPOY level, is still playing very well. He's not as much of a pure cover corner as he might have been (he's beginning to look like he's lost a quarter of a step), but he's still a linebacker in a defensive back's body. He still makes plays all over the field, and when you watch him blitz, he opens up the line for The Claymaker. In coverage, he still plays by committing borderline-Pass Interference each play, so he does get his occasional penalty, but it shows how he's physically there.

B.J. Raji, The Nose Tackle who has began to really play like a First Round Pick. It's hard to really watch him, as he's there to take up space and make the jobs of pass rushers like Clay easier, but the dude still has 2.5 sacks, and the pocket is often collapsed up front whenever QB's want to step up, and that's all B.J.. He's held down the line amidst all the injuries (See Everybody) and has played at a high level.

In addition, CB Tramon Williams has morphed into a true shutdown corner, and DE Cullen Jenkins has played very well on the line and is generating his own Pass Rush, even as a 3-4 Lineman. Backup MLB Desmond Bishop has a Pick-6 against Brett Favre, and 4th string SS Charles Peprah made some very key plays in the shut-out against the Jets. When the Packers have been thin on Defense, the "role players" have stepped up and performed very very well. That's what I mean when I say that the Packers' system is running at a very high efficiency.

I'll also quickly recap the Special Teams: They suck. New Punter Tim Masthay appears to be getting a little better with each game (and his Punts owned the Jets), but otherwise, it's pretty pathetic.

Overall, I'm really looking forward to the second half of the season, with great looking games against the Giants, Falcons, and Patriots.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why Yes I Am Still Here!

Well it's been way too long since I last wrote a post here. I 'd like to start by saying that basically sums up what I saw last night in the Packers - Cowboys game last night. By the end of the game, backup players like QB Matt Flynn were playing, Coach Mike McCarthy was doing everything he could to not run up the score, and they still scored in the 4th. Gotta love it when Dallas is terrible.

Except when, you know, ESPN and other sports networks cover it non-stop. I mean, of the 30 minutes they spent giving their initial reactions to the game, they spent only 5 (at most) talking about the Packers, and they spent the rest talking about what would happen to Wade Phillips. As it turns out, he got fired. Then, when it flipped to Chris Berman and Tom Jackson, they spent 15 minutes talking about Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings. I'd just like to make one point. Dallas has a record of 1-7. Minnesota has a record of 3-5. Both of those teams have played half a seasons worth of football, and combined, their record is 4-12. Why in the world is ESPN spending ridiculous amounts of time talking about two teams with a combined record that was worse than the record of the Buffalo Bills last year? Sure, Dallas is "America's Team", and Brett Favre is, well, Brett Favre, but still. As they love to say so much, C'mon Man!

More importantly though, as the Packers go into their bye week, I'm going to assess their Offense and Defense, and talk about other important things.

So for this post, I'll talk about their offense. There is a video on youtube.com showing an guy playing Madden, and he scored a touchdown on a 90+ yard pass to Greg Jennings, who broke his leg as soon as he caught the ball. The video is filled with words that shouldn't be repeated, so I won't link it here, but needless to say, it's quite funny, and a decent comparison to the Packer's season so far. They have been hit with injuries everywhere (As I like to call it, New York Mets/Boston Red Sox-itus), but still stand at 6-3. Aaron Rodgers has not been the unstoppable force everyone thought he would be, but he certainly hasn't thrown any of the three losses away. Let me list the injuries though, and what they mean to the team:

RB Ryan Grant - 1200 yard runner last year, lost for the season in the first game of the year.
TE Jermichael Finley - Star Tight End in the making, who likely would have been among the best this year had he not been hurt.
WR Donald Driver - Consistent stud who acts as a security blanket for A-Rod.
TE Andrew Quarless - Rookie TE who was drafted because of a similar skill-set to Finley. He performed well in the two games he started.
RT Mark Tauscher - Solid RT, but loss didn't hurt that much because of strong play of Rookie Bryan Bulaga.

I'm pretty sure TE Donald Lee got hurt at some point too (so let's not make fun of GM Ted Thompson for carrying 4 TE's now). Suffice to say, there have been quite a lot of injuries to significant play makers. I think Grant's injury actually hurts the most, because he kept Defenses honest. Finley's injury hurts a lot too. In light of these injuries, the offense has been a lot more pass-happy, but in this new Passing-League, it's not the end of the world. Should Greg Jennings get injured though (knock on wood), all could be lost. The offense still has performed well, but it has become more of a short passing game, in which the ball is slowly moved down the field, with the occasional deep shot down the field. The Packers do have enough talent to make this work, and once Quarless gets back, they will have multiple weapons. And as much as Grants injury does hurt, his backup, RB Brandon Jackson is an average runner, but he is great in pass protection and the screen game. FB/RB John Kuhn isn't particularly good, but it's really fun to shout his name loud and fast, and I love how the fans yell "KUUUUUUUUUUUUHN" every time he runs.

Bottom line, should A-Rod throw anything like he did against Dallas, the Packers will be in every game they play.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Newsflash: The Rangers Are Better Than the Yankees

Here is the stark reality of this year's ALCS: the Texas Rangers are no joke.

The Rangers' victory over the Yankees, just like their victory over the Rays before them, was no Cinderella story, no David slaying Goliath, no little engine that could. They didn't do it because they had more heart. They didn't do it because they were gutsy. They didn't do it because they slowed the game down, took it one pitch at a time, or let the game come to them.

The Texas Rangers beat the New York Yankees because they are a better team. They have better pitching, better hitting, and better defense. So they won.

The names on the jerseys- both front and back- are the only reasons anyone would say otherwise. The New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers. The team of Ruth, Mantle, and DiMaggio. The team with all the money, not to mention the most World Series championships of all time. And now, if the Yankees were to put names on the back of their jerseys, you'd see Jeter, Teixeira, Rodriguez, Sabathia, Pettitte, Rivera, Posada, Cano. These are some of the most feared players in postseason baseball today, either because of sheer skill, postseason experience, or both.

But the Texas Rangers? A team that was auctioned in the middle of the season? As for the backs of the jerseys, Lee, Hamilton, Guerrero, Cruz, Young, Wilson, Lewis, Feliz, and Molina? The first two inspire fear, to be sure, and the rest are mostly good ballplayers. But they aren't the Yankees.

Or so it was thought. But in the course of six games, the Yankees looked thoroughly overmatched. One good inning in game 1 got them a W, and some impressive damage control in game 5 got them another. Otherwise it was all Rangers, all the time.

The thing is, we should not be all that surprised. Glance down the stat lines of the Rangers current roster and look not only at the downright ridiculous numbers of Josh Hamilton (by far a better, more complete hitter than any player on the Yankees), but check out the lines of Vlad Guerrero, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, and even David Murphy, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, and Mitch Moreland. Add in role players like Julio Borbon and Jeff Francoeur, and you end up with an incredibly complete lineup. For example, sure Borbon hit for a low average, but he runs incredibly well. Sure Francoeur should never face a right-handed major league pitcher, but he eats up lefties. Sure Moreland only hit .255, but even as a rookie his OBP was over a hundred points higher at .364.

You can do the same with pitching. Again, Colby Lewis, C. J. Wilson, Tommy Hunter, Darren Oliver, Darren O'Day, and Neftali Feliz are not names that scare you. But one look at the numbers shows that they probably should a little more than they do.

This last off-season I remember hearing an interview with Mike Scioscia in which Scioscia said that he thinks the AL West is the toughest division in baseball. You scoff at first, but Scioscia trotted out the stat that over the last 5 years to that point, the AL West fared better as a whole against every other division than any of the others- the AL East included. After watching the Rangers manhandle the Rays and Yankees, it is hard to disagree. The Rangers are the cream of the American League crop. And considering that other than Cliff Lee (who could re-sign, but probably won't), the core is staying together, the Rangers should be able to make a name for themselves.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Playoff Predictions: 2010 Style.

Well because I was laughably bad with my season predictions, I'm going to give playoff predictions instead.

ALDS:
Rays vs. Rangers: Rays win in 4 Games.
Twins vs. Yankees: Twins in 5 Games.

ALCS: Rays vs. Twins: Rays in 5 Games.

NLDS:
Phillies vs. Reds: Phillies in 3 Games.
Giants vs. Braves: Giants in 4 Games.

NLCS: Phillies vs. Giants: Phillies in 4 Games.

World Series: Phillies vs. Rays: Rays in 7 Games.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Don Mattingly Manages Dodgers, Matthew not sure what to think.

I think that face sums up my initial reaction to the Dodgers declaring Don Mattingly the manager of the 2011 (and beyond) team. Why was that my initial reaction? Well, mostly because Mattingly has zero (zip, zilch, nada) managing experience, and he comes from the same family tree as Joe Torre, who has made many, many, many perplexing moves this year. While Torre was great for the 2008-2009 Dodgers, he was almost as lethal for the 2010 Dodgers as the core failing after the All-Star Break.

So it was with a bad taste in my mouth that I heard Mattingly was going to be hired, because he's essentially a new version of Joe Torre, minus the championship rings and managing experience.

So who else did I initially think the Dodgers should have hired? Well, AAA Manager Tim Wallach would have been a good place to start. He's a Dodger, through-and-through, he's got experience managing, and he knows the pros and cons of all the Dodgers in AAA better than anyone else. I'm not really interested in Dusty Baker managing (not with his talent of destroying the arms of young pitchers), there's no way Joe Girardi comes to L.A., and Tony La Russa is likely staying in St. Louis. So that basically leaves Mattingly and Wallach. I know Mattingly has been groomed to be the successor of Joe Torre, but did Wallach even get an interview? A chance to show that he's worth keeping around? If he did, fine. But if he didn't, shame on Ned Colletti.

But back to Mattingly. Like I said, initially, I was not too pleased. Torre has made some downright strange moves with his roster, and his inability to manage a bullpen is quite well known by now. But is Mattingly the same as Torre? Hopefully not, and I don't think it's fair to brand him as Torre 2.0 if he hasn't made it clear that he is. Also, people really need to get over his "two trips to the mound fiasco" or whatever that was. I really couldn't care less, and honestly didn't think much of it after about 2 days.

So as the title says, I'm not sure what to think of Mattingly. And that's probably good, because he's never managed, and his managing style is unknown. I'd like it if he wasn't Torre 2.0, or at least didn't have the obsession with veteran grit and strange bullpen usage that Torre had/has. But if has to be, Wallach better be the bench coach, ready and waiting to seize the job should Mattingly prove to be completely (yes completely, if he makes a few mistakes, that's fine. Managers do that) incapable of managing. Hopefully it won't come to that though.

When the season ends, I will give my assessment of the Dodger season, i.e., what went wrong, and what needs to be (realistically) changed. For now, I wish Mattingly the best of luck in the Arizona Fall League, and as 2011 Dodger manager.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Matthew's 2010-2011 NFL Season Picks.

Only one more day until the NFL, and to celebrate, I will offer my picks for everything important! Starting with Division Winners, and then all the way to Super Bowl Champs, as well as the important awards.

NFC West: San Francisco 49'ers
NFC South: New Orleans Saints
NFC East: Dallas Cowboys
NFC North: Green Bay Packers
Wild Cards: Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants
First Round Byes: Saints and Packers
NFC Championship Game: Packers defeat Saints

AFC West: San Diego Chargers
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts
AFC East: New England Patriots
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens
Wild Cards: Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers
First Round Byes: Ravens and Colts
AFC Championship Game: Ravens defeat Colts

Super Bowl: Packers defeat Ravens

MVP: Peyton Manning
Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers
Defensive Player of the Year: Troy Polamalu
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Jahvid Best
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ndamukong Suh

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Projecting the season for the Green Bay Packers

Alright, pre-season is finally over, so I'm going to give the week-by-week prediction of each game on the Packer's schedule for this year. Now I'm not going to give the scores, because expecting teams to have all the same players throughout the year is foolish, but I think it is possible to judge the general strength of each team throughout the year. Unless they get New York Met/Boston Red Sox-itus (i.e., injuries everywhere).









Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles: Win
Buffalo Bills @ Green Bay: Win
Packers @ Chicago Bears: Win
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay: Win
Packers @ Washington Redskins: Win
Miami Dolphins @ Green Bay: Win
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay: Win
Packers @ New York Jest: Loss
Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay: Win
Bye: Win
Packers @ Minnesota Vikings: Loss
Packers @ Atlanta Falcons: Win
San Francisco 49'ers @ Green Bay: Win
Packers @ Detroit Lions: Win
Packers @ New England Patriots: Loss
New York Giants @ Green Bay: Loss
Chicago Bears @ Green Bay: Win

Final Record: 12-4

I think that one upset happens to every team, which is why I see the Giants winning, plus I like the Giants quite a bit. Should someone ask: "So why do they beat the Cowboys and lose the Giants?" I'd say it's because the Packers beat the Cowboys last year at Lambeau, and while the score was 17-7, the Cowboys were shut out until they scored in garbage time. Plus I think the media will make a big deal about it, causing Tony Romo to choke, something he's very good at. As for the Jest, I don't think the Packers will go into the bye week undefeated, and I don't really want them too either. The Jets are a team on the rise (although I think they're overrated), and it could very likely be one of those games where everything goes wrong. Lastly, the Patriots and the Packers will probably have a shootout, and no matter what I think of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady is one of the most clutch QB's to ever play the game. It's not hard to be on the losing end of a game-winning 2 minute drill, especially with how easy the NFL has made it for Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers.

As for the playoffs, I think the Packers will make it to the NFC Championship Game, but I'm hesitant to call them a Super Bowl team. They will have the best offense in the NFL, and that alone should get them there. I think a 12-4 record also means a First Round Bye, because the NFC divisions are all very top heavy (expect for the NFC West, which is a huge joke), and being top heavy means that good teams beat up on each other. Looking at it that way, 12-4 is probably good enough for a First Round Bye for the Packers and Saints.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Next Mark Prior

Future All-Star game starter. Future Cy Young Winner. Future Hall-of-Famer.

Future Mark Prior?

Such is the all-too possible scenario of one Stephen Strasburg. The news comes out today that the savior of the Nationals (and possibly the universe the way people have talked about him) has a torn ligament in his pitching arm, needs Tommy John surgery to fix it, and will likely be out for 12-18 months. Maybe the Nats can get Bryce Harper pitching again.

You had to wonder as soon as Strasburg flashed the triple digit fastball at the major league level: can any man's arm sustain throwing that hard as a starting pitcher? "But his delivery is so effortless- the ball just jumps out of his hand." That's what we all said- myself included. Apparently it only looked effortless. Apparently the massive torque on that long right arm was more than it could handle.

It is not all gloom and doom for the future of Strasburg. There are those who have come back from Tommy John surgery to have phenomenal major league careers, most notably Chris Carpenter, who is 31-9 with a 2.55 ERA since he had his. The surgery's purpose, after all, is to be an arm/career saver. But one now has to wonder if it is more likely that Strasburg, if not the next Mark Prior, is the next Kerry Wood: a future good closer.

Wood is actually a good comparison because most folks said the same things about him that they did about Strasburg, despite the different body type. Triple digit fastball. Ridiculous slider. Mechanics and control well beyond his years. Strasburg had 14 K's in his major league debut. Wood matched Roger Clemens' still-MLB-record 20 K's in one game his rookie year. But Wood learned quickly what Strasburg is now facing: perhaps the arm cannot sustain the skill. Inigo Montoya with a dull blade.

And it all brings up this point: for all the wonder and awe that Strasburg came up with, there is simply no guarantee that anyone, pitcher or hitter, will match the potential. In a mere moment we have gone from discussing whether or not he should have been on the all-star team (almost exclusively because of how exciting he is) to waiting for at least a year to see if he'll come out on the other side with a starter's arm.

In spring training this year some of Strasburg's teammates took to calling him "Jesus" because of how much hype surrounded him. The namesake pulled off a pretty impressive resurrection. We'll have to wait and see if Stephen Strasburg follow suit.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Darelle Revis needs to get over himself.


Just to remind every Jest fan who the Defensive Player of the Year was.

Anyway. Anyone who's been following football this summer/preseason (Yes I love football and have no life, get over it) has probably heard that Darelle Revis, the best cornerback in the league, did not a contract massive enough for his ego, and wants a new one. He reportedly turned down a 10 year, $120 Million contract, because he wants to be paid like the best CB in the league (that being Nnamdi Asomugha of the Raiders, who (surprise surprise) was overpaid by Al Davis). Asomugha earns $16 Million per year, so that's how much Revis wants. Makes sense right? Well here are some of the issues.

1. This isn't baseball. In a salary capped NFL, teams can't just spend as much money as they want. Just because Al Davis overpaid Asomugha, doesn't mean the Jest can afford to do the same with Revis. I mean seriously, turning down $120 Million dollars by saying it's not enough is just foolish. Also, Revis needs to remember that there is a possibility of a lockout next year meaning, no football. How does a football player get a job playing football if there is no football to play? I don't know. But getting paid $12 Million to sit on your butt waiting for the Owners and NFLPA to work something out sounds fine by me.

2. There's no guarantee that Revis plays like the best CB in the league for however long his contract runs. Sure, he probably deserves a raise from the 1 Million he's earning now, I'll give him that, but one good year does not make you a proven player, just look at Matt Forte. Now I know what you're thinking. Probably something like "But Matthew, he shut down all the best receivers of EVERY team he played, like Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, Randy Moss (Twice), Reggie Wayne, etc. Doesn't that make him proven?" And to that I say, no. Because he did not shut down every receiver he played every time he played them, so he's not proven. Unless you count staring at the back of Ted Ginn Jr.'s Jersey really hard (twice) as shutting down. Then I guess he shut him down. If he's excellent against every receiver he plays against again, pay the man his money. Just not a mega-contract.

One other thing I laugh at is how the Jest think they can win or even sustain a respectable defense without him too. He allowed them to blitz like maniacs because he could lock down one side of the field. If I were a player on the Jest, I'd hate the man. I'd probably be writing an angry blog post like this. If I were a Jest fan, I'd be even angrier. The dude just comes off as ridiculously selfish. Definitely not deserving of a ludicrous, Yankee-esque contract.

Now if he were to just leave the Jest and take his talents to Green Bay, Wisconsin....

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Some Thoughts on Fantasy Football: Three I like, Three I don't: QB

It's been a while since the last post here (and my brother needs to get off his lazy butt and contribute a bit, before this turns into "Stranded Brother who Likes Sports") and my main league's fantasy football draft is coming up. So even though it's probably bad strategy to give away some players I'll probably reach on and some I won't, I'm going to do it anyway. I'm just going to share 3 players at each position I like relative to where they're being picked in drafts, and 3 I don't. I'm only going to talk about the three main positions, those being Quarterback, Running Back, and Wide Receiver, and I'm going to do this in three separate blog posts.

QB:
1. Joe Flacco - Who doesn't like this guy? He's finally got more than one decent receiver around him (he's got Boldin, Mason, and Stallworth, if you consider the last one decent, which I do.), his running game is excellent at both running and catching passes, and his O-Line is among the best in the league. Flacco is being drafted as a great backup (kind of like Matt Schaub last year), when he will perform like a starter.
2. Matthew Stafford - Yeah, he plays on the Lions, and yeah, he's probably gonna get sacked quite a bit. But his offense is much better this season compared to last, and he's (hopefully) learned his system. Calvin is Calvin, Burleson will ideally take some of the pressure of Calvin, and there's also 2 great pass catching Tight Ends in Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. His teammates love him for his grit in the Detroit - Cleveland Shootout, and assuming he holds up, he should be solid.
3. Matt Moore - Yeah, I know the Panthers are going to run a lot, and there's also that Jimmy Clausen guy on that team, but when you're a coach on a contract year, you need wins. Moore went 4-1 as a starter last year, beating teams such as the Giants and Vikings. He takes great care of the Football, and won't lose a game. I had him at the end of last year, and he was fantastic, a big reason why I finished 2nd (I play in a 2QB league, my other starter was Schaub). He's better for his team, and his coach knows it.

1. Peyton Manning - How in God's name do I justify not liking Peyton Manning? Simple. Assuming his team is performing Peyton-esque down the stretch, he's sitting in your fantasy playoff weeks. In addition, there's QBs going after him with slightly worse stats such as Brady, Romo, and Schaub. Not worth reaching for when he'll ditch you when you need him most.
2. Kevin Kolb - I don't draft a guy as if he's a proven starter when he's not. There's plenty of upside, but I'm not comfortable drafting him as a starter because he hasn't proven himself yet. People like to point to last year's 2 starts, when the Saints Defense owned him, and he owned the Chief's Defense. Owning the Chiefs defense is nothing special, and does not a guaranteed fantasy starter make
3. Jay Cutler - No, this isn't just my inner Packers Fan speaking. I just don't think Mike Martz can make a difference at all with this guy. He's just not careful enough with the ball. In a Martz offense, which specializes in putting huge numbers with lots of Interceptions and lots of Sacks, Cutler could very easily be sacked 40 times, and throw 35 picks. Plus, he doesn't have anyone great to throw to. Johnny Knox is fast, and Devin Aromashodu can catch. Not exactly Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce there.

Writing a post like this makes me feel a bit sorry for the guys who do this on ESPN regularly. It's much tougher than it sounds, at least if you want to give any decent reasoning behind it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Some Thoughts on Fantasy Football: Identifying This Year's Matt Forte

Well I'm really angry right now after watching my beloved Dodgers flounder around like a bunch of idiots against the Padres, so I think I'm gonna write about Football instead. But there's nothing really to talk about in the real game, so I'll talk about Fantasy instead.

Fantasy Football is pretty awesome, and I recommend that anyone even slightly serious about watching or understanding Football and it's players give Fantasy Football a shot, because it encourages you to learn more about the game through competition. I always liked Football, but never cared about it as much as I do now until my very good friend Jonathon let me play Fantasy Football with him in 6th grade. Since then, I have played every year and I don't think I'll be stopping anytime soon.

I'm going to try (note, try) to offer a few of my ideas and draft strategies for any readers who are interested, because above all other things, Fantasy Football is about understanding the value of players, and minimizing the reaches in drafts. Are a lot of drafters making a run at Tight Ends, and you're stuck with an average TE and a great WR on the board? Take the WR, maximize your value.

With that in mind, I'm going to attempt to find this year's "Matt Forte", as in, the player who goes Top 5, but winds up not coming close to that value. I'm going to look at the Top 5 Running Backs based on Yahoo!'s Ratings. But really, I only care about the Top 4. Those are Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Ray Rice. My "Matt Forte" of this group is absolutely going to surprise you, so take a deep breath now.

Chris Johnson is this year's "Matt Forte". Now before you send me hundreds of angry emails verbally abusing me, at least hear me out. I realize he was the Offensive Player of the Year, and that he broke Marshall Faulk's record for single season all-purpose yards last year. I also know that he is stupidly fast, and is the best player on his team. Now you know what else I know though? I know that he got 408 touches from scrimmage last year. I know that that is an incredibly high amount, and that RB's don't play nearly as well the year following lots of touches, just look at Michael Turner last year. Sure, Chris Johnson avoided the "Curse of 370", but he did not avoid the "Curse of 400". I'm concerned that there's no way Johnson can put out the kind of numbers he did last year after getting so many touches. Also, his team went 8-8, even with all of Johnson's yards. If I'm Tennessee's Offensive Coordinator, I'm looking at ways to get Vince Young and the Passing Game more involved, because the NFL is a passing league after all. Now I don't see Johnson getting hurt, he's just too elusive, I just see a massive decline in production for him, in both yards and touchdowns. For him, that works out to be about 1500 Total Yards (Rushing and Receiving) and about 11 scores. That puts him in Ryan Grant territory. Are you going to spend your No.1 Overall Pick on Ryan Grant? That prospect scares many people away (even though Ryan Grant had a good season last year). I just don't think CJ2K can put together a No.1 Overall type season. And that makes him this year's "Matt Forte".

As for the other three guys, here's my rationale behind them not regressing. I'll start with Adrian Peterson. Peterson last year had about 1800 total yards, but he had 18 Rushing TD's. Now All-Day is probably not going to repeat with 18 TD's, and his receiving Yards might drop a tad, but let's pretend that either Brett Favre doesn't come back, or he does and doesn't have a career year. If the Vikings can score roughly the same amount of points as last year, and Brett doesn't score as many, then who does? Probably Peterson. Peterson will probably have more Rushing yards then he did last year, so losing a couple scores doesn't hurt him too much. Bottom Line: Peterson has been a Top 5 Player since he got to the NFL, and I'm not betting against him now.

Maurice Jones-Drew is the epitome of steady. He will get you about 1700 Total Yards, 17 scores, and a few returns, because he's the only runner in Jacksonville, and he's a tough, durable runner. His numbers increased from last year to this year, and I think that his numbers either rise a little bit more, or they stay steady. With a Top 5 pick, steady is good. If someone in your league took him No. 1 Overall, there's no reason to mock him/her. I'm not just saying that because that's what I did last year, I truly believe that if you have a Top 5 pick, picking a safe player who you can guarantee great numbers from is a great pick.

Ray Rice is new to being Top 5. He went, well, much later than that last year in most drafts, and he broke out in a large, Chris Johnson circa 2008 kind of way. He logged over 2000 total yards last year, but he didn't score very much, with only 8 scores. That was mostly a product of Willis McGahee and his 14 scores. Rice's yards are likely to drop a bit considering the Ravens now have a Pass Offense that is worth using (Anquan Boldin is the main reason for this), but I think Rice doesn't lose too many receiving yards, and he probably gains a couple more scores. He doesn't have the highest ceiling, but this is his second real year in the NFL, and he's on a good offense with a good coaching staff. I trust Ray Rice to play like a Top 5 Player.

So there you have it, my controversial point of view on why Chris Johnson will not be Top 5 material in next year's Fantasy Football Season. Go ahead and rip my thoughts apart in the comments if you wish.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

We're Halfway There...

...and just like I predicted, the NL West is a 4 team race. Admittedly, I didn't expect the Padres to be relevant in anything but Adrian Gonzales trade rumors, but they're sitting in 1st place with a half of a season to go. Here's what I make of the second best division in baseball, by each team:

San Diego Padres:
I, like every other person who calls themselves a watcher of baseball, am surprised that the Padres have done this well so far. I didn't think they would be pathetically bad per se, I just didn't think they could sustain themselves in this division. Well, like every good baseball analyst (if I can call myself that), I am refusing to learn my lesson. The Padres will not win this division, nor do I think they win the Wild Card. No matter how good their pitching had been (and it's been best in the league-good), their hitting is still a good 3 bats short of being good enough to win a division like the NL West. A-Gone is a superstar hitter, one who I think has MVP potential if he were in a more favorable, Ryan Howard-esque situation. Chase Headley at 3rd Base is respectable, but not dangerous. But everyone else is just, meh. This is a AAA lineup, and it's a wonder Gonzales isn't walked more. The main thing is though, I just think their pitching has overachieved. I don't think they can sustain the amazing numbers they've put up, and if the pitching can't hold the opposing team to less than 3 runs, it's near game-over for the Padres.

Los Angeles Dodgers:
After a bad April, a terrific May, a 14-13 June, and a strong ending in July, the Dodgers are sitting 2 games behind the Padres, and tied with the Rockies. The hitting is one of the best in the league, and if you account for the Coors Field factor, possibly the best in the division. They still boast the best outfield in Baseball (and that's with Manny as the worst one too), and James Loney has turned into an RBI machine. Rafael Furcal is having a Jose Reyes-esque effect on the lineup, except that he's showing he can just pick up a bat and glove and win a game on his own too. The 2nd Base triple platoon of Blake Dewitt, Jamey Carroll, and Ronnie Belliard has been solid, as has the 3rd Baseman Casey "The Beard" Blake (although it wouldn't hurt if The Beard could hit a little more). The pitching has been volatile, but has gotten the job done. Clayton Kershaw is pitching like an Ace, Vicente Padilla is pitching like an opening day starter since his return from the DL. Hiroki Kuroda and Chad Billingsley have filled in the other two spots well enough. Bills in particular has shown up when he's been needed, which is great to see. He really seems to have his confidence back. Elymania is likely over, but when a 5th starter ever becomes really important, please let me know. The bullpen has 3 excellent arms in Belisario, Kuo, and Broxton (He of the Broxtonian Democracy as I've begun to call it), and a bunch of other guys who only pitch when the Dodgers are getting blown out or are blowing another team out. The Bullpen is a place to watch. This team should win the division though, I think they're too talented not to. The only impediment I see is that they have the toughest 2nd half schedule in baseball based on winning percentage.

The Colorado Rockies:
I'm really not sure what to make of the Rockies at this point. They seem similar to the Dodgers in that their batters are carrying the team. Ubaldo Jimenez has been flat out Jaw-dropping, although he has struggled lately, but the rest of the rotation is just a bunch of other guys. Their hitting has been amazing though, especially Carlos Gonzales. They are typically a second half team though, so they are a team to watch out for. The back end of their bullpen is very good, but like the Dodgers, the middle relief has been suspect. At the moment, they are tied with the Dodgers, so anything's possible. If the Dodgers can't win the division, I think it's because of these guys.

The San Francisco Giants:
Boy, talk about overrated. There were people who picked this team to win the division rather easily. Tim Lincecum has been merely great, rather than his usual amazing, Matt Cain, although he has good numbers, can't seem to ever get a win. Jonathan Sanchez has been quite good, and Barry Zito is starting to look less like an overpaid pitcher. Their hitting is still awful though. Aubrey Huff has been a pleasant surprise for the Giants, but Pablo Sandoval has been pretty bad. Pat Burell is back in the NL, so I guess he could be serviceable. Buster Posey will eventually be a good hitting catcher, but it won't happen this year. Brian Wilson is a great closer, one that no team or fan could complain about, but getting to him seems to be difficult for this team. This team needs another bat, probably a Middle Infielder or an Outfielder, but even then, I wouldn't trust them to be any higher than they are now. I wouldn't say they are over or underachieving either, I just don't think they're that strong of a team.

Arizona Diamondbacks:
This team though, has UNDERACHIEVERS written all over them. I'm actually pretty angry, because this team, on paper, has a lot of talent. The Starting Pitching hasn't been bad, especially when you factor in where they pitch. The hitting hasn't been bad either, even though Justin Upton sure took his sweet time to start hitting. Sure, they are going to set the Team Strikeout Record this year, or at least they probably will, but is anyone really surprised by that? I mean, Mark Reynolds could probably set that record on his own. I do realize they have had the worst bullpen in the league, but they still should have done better than this. I actually feel bad for former manager A.J. Hinch, as it seems that his players gave up on him pretty fast. I liked Hinch, and I hope he has success finding another job quickly, because he isn't that bad. Joe Torre or Bobby Cox wouldn't do much better with that Bullpen.

I apologize for the Wall-of-text-ness of that post, but I really wanted to elaborate. Again, I think the Padres are due for a minor fall, but in the NL West, that'll lead to a 3rd Place finish behind the Rockies and Dodgers. Now, if they (or even the Giants) trade for a big bat, such as Adam Dunn or even David Dejesus, the landscape changes rather quickly.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lebron Watch 2010, Pt. 3 - It's Finally Over!

Well that's how good Kobe looks right now compared to Lebron, he makes the color spectrum radiate from a Basketball. I don't particularly like the Lakers or Kobe, and I think every Lakers fan who can't admit that Kobe milked his free-agency way back when, but is angry at Lebron for making his 1 hour special about his choice is in idiot. Regardless though, thank your deity (or whatever) that it's over. I didn't even mind "The Descision" so much as I hated the constant 24/7 coverage by everyone, sports news or not. I actually feel bad for Lebron, because he's getting unprecedented and unnecessary amounts of hate for this.

In the end though that was worse than Favrewatch. Yes, Lebron-a-thon was worse than Favrewatch!!!

But I need to go over a couple things though. Let me preface my thoughts by saying that I consider myself a Basketball outsider. I don't really enjoy the sport (at least not at the NBA level), people who talk to me often know that I often call it a "Non-contact Contact sport". I also hate Refs, but that's for another blog. I don't have a team that I follow, I don't really understand the intricacies of the sport, at least not like I do with Football, Baseball, and even Soccer now.

1. Lebron doesn't owe C(leave)land anything:
Andrew touched on this, but I'd like to make my own point that may or may not coincide with what he said. Lebron doesn't owe Cleaveland anything, he made the team relevant again. Almost as importantly, he gave the Anti-Laker bandwagon a team to cheer for. Yes I realize he was born in Akron, and that he's the local kid, but Lebron's goal is to win. In fact, I think he is less selfish to go to Miami and take less money than to stay with Cleaveland. He is taking less money because Miami can't pay him as much, and because he's gonna have to take a cut if he wants to be able to field a decent team. The point is though, the owner is far more "classless" than Lebron if he's calling the kid (Yes, Kid! Lebron is freakin' 25 years old!) out for leaving. That owner should know better than anyone else that the NBA is a business, and Lebron is seaking the best oppurtunity.

2. Cleavland Fans will be able to cope with this:
Take it from a Packer fan who had to watch the greatest Packer of all time (See: Favre, Brett) leave his team for his freaking rival! Cavs fans will get over this. Especially because you still have a decent team, and because there are so many games in Basketball, there is a real chance you beat him this year. I don't know that feeling yet, but I can guess that it's a great feeling.

3. The Heat are now the team to beat:
I'm not going to bet against Pat Riley finding some cheap role players to fill out this roster. And I'm also not betting against him to convince 3 rich Basketball players with a very real chance to create a true dynasty to take a pay cut in order to get these role players. And let's be honest here, they have 2 Top 5-7 players, and Chris Bosh is probably Top 15. And he's the number 3 player on this roster. Get a Big Center and a Point Guard who can distribute the ball, and you've got yourself a team. You still have to draw up a defensive scheme that can feasibly cover Lebron and Dwayne Wade at the same time.

4. Chemistry will not be an issue:
I don't believe Lebron and Dwayne Wade are both short-sighted enough to ball-hog for very long. And again, Pat Riley will shut them up if he needs to. One of them won't mind being the leader of that team, and I'm betting on Wade because it's already Wade County, whereas if they had went to Cleveland, Lebron would have taken the spotlight because it's his court, or whatever. But seriously, Lebron and D-Wade will figure out a way to make sure that chemistry isn't an issue, because simply, winning is too important for them not to.

Well that's all I got for now. More rants to come when I think of them I'm sure. At least Basketball can (finally) fade back into obscurity instead of pretending it's more important or fun to watch than Baseball.

Lebron Watch 2010, Pt. 2 - Lebron Doesn't Owe Anything to Cleveland

Sports has a strange, even creepy hold on the emotional lives of fans. Every time a professional sports team wins or loses a championship and a city riots in response, we are reminded that thousands of people can only be classified as "adults" because of their age.

And now, as I read the emails from Cleveland fans in Bill Simmons' column today, more adults remind of that same truth.

Remember this, fans: your value in the eyes of professional sports teams at every level of the organization is exclusively found in your wallet. Even Dan Gilbert's raging anti-Lebron open letter, for all its talk of loyalty, can only be seen as a plea to get fans to the Lebron-less arena next year. The Cavs need some way to attract fans other than Mo Williams and Antwan Jamison if they want to keep making money. So it was in Gilbert's best interest to reach out to the ire of a city full of people whose hearts are too tied to their failing sports teams and say, "We'll show him..." The subtext is obvious: "...and you can watch us show him by buying your season tickets to watch your hometown sub-.500 Cleveland Cavaliers."

Oh, I have my sports loyalties. I am a Dodger fan and I probably always will be. But if a homegrown talent ups and plays somewhere else, I will not for one second think, "How could you turn your back on Los Angeles?"

Because here is the reality: Lebron did not choose where to be born. He did not choose where to be drafted. He did not choose which players he could play with for the last 7 years (debatable, I know, but you get my point). So he doesn't owe Cleveland anything. It isn't like Cleveland had to stick with him through thick and thin. Allen Iverson went to watch him play in high school because he was already that good. No one ever doubted his abilities, so he didn't need a city's loyalty. He was going to have the loyalty of the fans in whatever city he played in. It just so happens that he was born in the city where he ended up playing.

The Cleveland Cavaliers had no right to keep Lebron James. Lebron James had no moral obligation to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Time to grow up folks: athletes want to win and businessmen want to make money. That's what pro sports are about.

The real problem in all of this is not with Lebron signing somewhere else. The real problem, as I mentioned yesterday, is that he went out of his way to grab an hour of prime time t.v. to do it. The right move, the non-totally-self-aggrandizing move, would have been to do what, well, every other free agent in the history of professional sports has done: go to a meeting with the general manager and your agent, sign the paper, then hold a press conference afterward. For all of the foolishness of the fans, Lebron has come off as needlessly egotistical and classless. All to promote his brand- as if that needed any more promotion.

The good that could come out of this would be for adult fans to take the lesson to heart that their heroes are in it to make money and win, not to play for fans. Realize that you are a source of income for a business and boosting for an ego. Then go and reasonably enjoy superior athleticism. Because that is all there is to being a fan.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lebron Watch 2010, Pt. 1 - Andrew's Pre-Anouncement Thoughts and Predictions

Let's just go for a numbered list. That's how this whole thing works best for me:

1. It's Miami. I just get the feeling that everybody who has been saying as much for all this time is right. I get the feeling that he, Bosh, and D-Wade have been planning it for awhile. I get the feeling, in fact, that it was barely even a decision.

2.
I remember being a kid baseball fanatic and thinking at some point, "If I was a great major league free agent, I would just get all my other free agent friends together and say, 'Hey guys, let's all take a little less money and go to the same team.'" The logic was simple for me: either way you end up with insane amounts of money, and by all joining the same team you practically guarantee yourself championships. Of course, I had never heard of "collusion" at that point, but I wonder if any high-ups would even care considering how much money a superteam would bring to a professional sport.

And really, that would still be a great idea in baseball. But not in basketball- not when there is a salary cap. The fact is, a Bosh/Wade/LBJ Heat team would be good, but they wouldn't be great. As good as those 3 are, you just could not win a championship with 9 minimum salary guys. Now imagine if one of the Big 3 gets hurt. If Lebron goes to the Heat, I'm still picking the Lakers, especially if they get better role players this off-season (and it looks like they will).

And by the way, has anybody besides Bill Simmons noticed that Chris Bosh is not actually that great?

3.
It's true what everyone is saying: if he doesn't pick the Cavs, Lebron is raising a gigantic middle finger to the city of Cleveland...for an hour. Imagine if after the discovery of his insane sexual deviance, Tiger Woods didn't go to sex rehab or have a big public apology. Imagine that instead of all that, he said, "See ya Elin" and became the star of the next season of "The Bachelor". That's something like what Lebron will be doing to Cleveland.

4. He should pick the Bulls. Adding LBJ would make them the best team top to bottom in basketball, and most likely that would remain the case for years. Further, the conversation would definitely change from "Kobe or MJ?" to "Lebron or MJ?" just because of the Chicago connection. He would not have to take a pay cut to play there. Plus, I could go see him play whenever my wife and I visit my in-laws in the winter.

See, the Bulls definitely make the most sense.

5. More than anything else, I just hate that this one-hour special is even happening. I hate how self-centered is. I hate how obviously it is a money grab. I hate how long I have had to and will continue to have to hear about this. Sorry for being vindictive, but it all makes me hope that it's a bust for him.

6. Wait a minute. I just changed my mind: actually, now that I think about it, I think he'll pick the Clippers.

Nah, just kidding. I was going to start faking a bunch of reasons why that would honestly make the most sense for him, but I've never been good at keeping a straight face. Not even in writing.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tim Howard and Ryan Miller: The reason the US is ever relevant in World Wide Sports

You see that? That's a picture of Ryan Miller or Tim Howard walking his dog. I can't really tell the difference.

I'll be the first to admit, I didn't watch much of the U.S.'s hockey adventures in Vancouver 6 months ago, but I did watch every U.S. game in the World Cup. Now I know what you're thinking, it's probably something along the lines of "but Matthew, the Goalkeepers of each team gave up goals, and not just one or two!", and I'm thinking something along the lines of "Dude, just watch them, they stop almost everything!" Tim Howard got loads of respect from every sport's show/article I watched/read. And Ryan Miller got loads of respect from some shows during the Olympics, but he got plenty as well when the Sabres were in the playoffs this past year. Considering how inept our offenses were in the Olympics and World Cup, it's a wonder we actually won as much as we did in each one. Look no further than the U.S. vs. Algeria game, Tim Howard stopped everything that came his way (and admittedly, the Algerian Goalkeeper did an excellent job as well).

The point of all this is to say, the U.S. needs to get some more offense in their international sports, because we won't have brick-walls like Ryan Miller and Tim Howard forever.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

FIFA's Letter to Landon Donovan

Dear Mr. Donovan,

Thank you for saving us from having to explain how our referees stole 2 games from you and the U.S. World Cup team, keeping you from moving on to the Round of 16. It would have been especially crappy since it would be so easy to introduce instant replay to soccer (off-sides calls on disallowed goals only). Anyway, that would've been super awkward for us.

Sincerely,

FIFA

Sunday, May 30, 2010

LeBron's Destination

I may or may not weigh in on where I think King James ends up. But in the mean time, you should probably consult The Onion's opinion.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Early Season is over, time to look at trends.

It's already been almost two months in the baseball season this year, so most anomalies have gone away, and now teams are beginning to play on the field like they "should" be playing on paper. So here are a few interesting things I've noticed:

Chad Billingsley is dominating - Of course I'll start off with the Dodgers. Everyone panicked right away when Bills had a couple bad starts at home and Cincinnati. Now he's got zero critics, and is looking very much like the pitcher with a career 3.56 ERA. He's strung together a few quality starts in a row, and has even pitched into the 7th inning twice in a row, something he hadn't done since the Summer of last year.

The Giants Offense sucks - You know what you have when your team Batting Average is .257 and you've only scored 175 Runs? A crappy offense. Everybody knows that the Giant's Pitching is awesome, but when your offense is 14th in the National League, with teams like San Diego and Washington above you, your doing that offense thing wrong.

The Nationals are Good(!) - At the time of this post, they are 23-22, and only look to get better as the year goes on. They'll likely get Jason Marquis back from the DL, along with Chien-Ming-Wang (pitchers who, on paper, should improve the team, although Wang is a question mark), Matt Capps has been amazing, and there's also this Strasburg kid you might have heard about.

The Tigers are Great - Call this blogger surprised, because I thought the Tigers would finish third in the AL Central and a good distance behind the Twins and White Sox. Their hitting has not missed Curtis Granderson (yet), with Austin Jackson and Magglio Ordonez being big reasons for that. Their pitching has also been solid, even with Porcello struggling so far. They'll have to get better to take down the Twins, but they might just be able to with some luck.

The Red Sox Offense is still Good - No, it's not going to hit Over 9000 Home Runs per year anymore, but anyone who thinks the Red Sox have a bad offense needs to learn a bit more about Baseball. Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are very very good, Victor Martinez is one of the best hitting Catchers not named Mauer, and Adrian Beltre is looking like he's going to be a Middle of the Order threat. Big Papi even stopped sucking, surprisingly enough. But with their pitching, this offense is more than adequate.

Andre Ethier was walked to get to Manny Ramirez, more than once - Read that out loud. I shouldn't have to say much more.

The Braves Offense is Good - This is mostly a Mea Culpa on my part, as I was sure that the Braves Offense was going to be around 10th-11th in the National League, around the Cubs and Mets and just above the Giants. They've proven to be like the Red Sox Offense - good enough for their pitching. But some batters even have some pop, like that Heyward guy you might have heard of.

The Angels and Mariners are struggling - These are the two teams that were most often picked to win the AL West, and they are 3rd and 4th in that division respectively. Now, I can't just write each team off yet (after all, I picked the M's to win the AL West myself), but each team is looking pretty bad right now. The Angels pitching has been inconsistent, to say the least, while the M's hitting has been downright dreadful.

So there you go. Some of those things are easy to spot, even for the casual fan, but some of those are much more difficult, or, are hidden under all the NHL and NBA playoff talk on Sports Shows and websites. If you've noticed anything else below, or think for some strange reason that I'm wrong, leave a comment below.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Which Ace, Exactly, Did You Want the Dodgers to Get?

I hear and read stuff like this all the time these days: the Dodgers desperately need an ace. Their failure to do so was their white flag before the season even started, indicating that, as Petros Papadakis has recently been fond of saying, the Dodgers as an organization are rotting from the top down.

Really?

Well, yes, really. The Dodgers would love to have a true, bona fide ace. They need someone who they can count on to shut opposing hitters down one out of every five games now, and one every three in the playoffs. Yes, yes, they need an ace.

So why haven't the gone out and signed, uh, well...signed...Jarrod Washburn? Or maybe they could go pick up...um...Pedro Martinez? Well, I guess Washburn and Pedro don't really qualify as aces, so why don't they go trade someone for an ace? You know, make a deal like the Phillies did and get an ace that someone is willing to give up...like...uhh...

Gosh, know what I just remembered? It's May. And no one seems to willing to give up an ace in May.

This is the thing about the "the Dodgers need an ace" mentality: for all of the calls for Ned Coletti to go get an ace, nobody seems to have a great idea of one they should get. Which means the discussion turns into, "Well they should've gotten Lackey or Halladay or Cliff Lee". Go back and click the link I first gave- it is exactly that way.

But fine, let's play that game. How about Lackey? Were the Dodgers really going to pay him more money for as many or more years as the Red Sox? I sure hope not. I hope they never even thought about doing that. John Lackey is good, but he isn't worth that much.

Halladay? Wouldn't leave the east coast and had a full no trade. Coletti said the other day he talked to the Blue Jays around 25 times to try to work something out. If Halladay doesn't want to come to California and if the Dodgers are prospects are mostly in A and AA, then what can you do?

Lee? Again, Coletti insists that he made a strong play for Cliff Lee, but that the Phillies first, then the Mariners had better prospects. And you know what? I believe him. You know why? Because look at the prospects that got moved in those deals: they are better, or at least closer to the Major Leagues, than the Dodgers' prospects.

Where does that leave us? Right back where we started: with the wish that the Dodgers had an ace. Coletti also says that he has made a lot of early calls this year on pitching but that, of course, no one wants to deal yet. And once again, there is not reason to think he is lying.

So what the Dodgers need to do now is stop playing bad defense, shore up a bullpen that has been inexplicably shaky, and get Kershaw and Billingsley pitching more consistently. The offense could be a little more consistent, but which MLB offense couldn't? The last couple weeks have seen some of this start to happen: the defense and bullpen have been noticeably better, and even Kershaw, after getting shelled by the Brewers on Tuesday, dominated the Rockies yesterday and handed Ubaldo Jimenez his first loss of the year.

Getting an ace would be great, yes. So if the Dodgers can play a solid month and a half and start lining up as buyers at the trade deadline, maybe they can find themselves one. That is what Dodger fans should be hoping for now.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Grades, Warnings, and other topics of Importance

Alright, I promise this will be the last football post for a while. Not that it's very difficult to not write when nothing will happen until preseason, but let's pretend I'm putting effort into this. I'd like to share my Top 5 Drafts, as well as a grade on the Packer's Draft.

Top 5 Drafts (Trades included):

Detroit Lions: Seriously, they did absolutely nothing wrong, except maybe reach on Best, but it was a big need. Matthew Stafford is surrounded by new weapons Nate Burleson (who should also make Calvin Johnson a bit better) and Tony Scheffler. Also, there's this guy named Suh, maybe you've heard of him?

Seattle Seahawks: Sorry bro, they're number 2. Similar to the Lions, they drafted very well, maybe even a little better, I just think they didn't do enough with their trades (Charlie Whitehurst?)

Oakland Raiders: You heard me! I'm even keeping them on the same scale as everyone else! They made no mistakes with their first two picks (Rolando McLain and Lamarr Houston make their middle much scarier) and got the right projects in the later rounds (such as Bruce Campbell, who everyone thought was going to go 8th Overall to them). Also, they got a Quarterback (gasp!) for their 4th round pick in Jason Campbell. Props to Al Davis on that one.

Baltimore Ravens: Preferred First Round Choice snagged right before you? No Problem! We'll just trade down and get 2 First-Round-Caliber players instead! Excellent job as always by Ozzie Newsome. Getting Sergio Kindle (who I wanted the Packers to take 23rd Overall) and Terrence Cody was outstanding for the Ravens, and Anquan Boldin was traded for as well. This team looks pretty scary on paper.

New York Jets: They didn't need to improve a whole lot, so they went for depth, and they replaced the Old with the Young. Getting Kyle Wilson at 29th Overall was a huge steal, and where on most teams he'd be a No.2 CB, he's a No.3 on the Jets. Vladimir Ducasse was a great pick as a Guard in the Second Round, and he's the replacement for Alan Faneca, who believe it or not, was not only released, but also the worst member of that line. Ducasse can run block (who would've guessed?) really well, and is a great pick for that team. Also, getting Santonio Holmes makes that offense look really good.

My grade for the Packers Draft: B
Getting Bryan Bulaga at 23 was a huge steal, probably the biggest ones of the draft. The 2 DE's picked are not sexy picks, but they're smart picks by Ted Thompson, same with the Safety Morgan Burnett. RB James Starks is a solid pick and will do his job as a backup RB. They got an LT project which isn't bad, but it's a bit unnecessary after landing Bulaga. TE Andrew Quarless is potentially another Jermichael Finley, although probably more like a replacement for Donald Lee. Solid No.2 TE option. Notice a theme here? The Packers landed Bulaga, who they needed badly, and then filled out the Roster with depth. Smart, not sexy. I was pretty angry at the lack of OLB or CB drafted, but then I realized there are 4 CB's returning from injury, and that Brad Jones did well, and has always been a project. Projects that do a good job generally do a better job with some experience under their belts.

Thought this was worth mentioning also. Yahoo! is reporting that the Raiders are seriously considering cutting JaMarcus (Jawalrus?) Russell. If they do that, then Al Davis has done three good things for his team in one offseason, and get this: nothing bad! I wonder if the Mayans had that on their calender....

Yeah, that's all I got. Because I'm done talking about Football until something important happens, (generally not until the Pre-season, if then) I think I must leave you with one thing: 18-1

Monday, April 19, 2010

No Blog Post in Two Weeks? Not if I have anything to do with it!

Well readers, I'm sorry it's been 2 weeks since the last post, let me see if I can try and fix that by writing a post about Baseba-nah just kidding, Football. The Dodgers are .500, and will continue to do better as they had last week, I'll save the deep analysis for Andrew.

But most seem to forget that the NFL Draft is this Thursday-Friday-Saturday. And after that, it's all offseason, so I'll have nothing else to write about anyway (except of course when I grade the Packer's draft). But I am going to break down what I think the Pack need to do in 3 days to get them closer to the Super Bowl next year.

So without further ado, the draft priorities for next year:

Outside LineBacker: No, not an OT as I assume most would guess, I hate to admit it, but with Chad Clifton locked up for the next couple of years, I'd rather not see Ted Thompson reach for an OT such as Bruce Campbell. If Charles Brown falls down to Pick No. 23 (which is seeming like less and less of a possibility as the draft gets closer), and there are no solid OLB prospects available (it sucks to have to be the pick right after New England, because they have similar needs as the Packers), then pull the trigger on Brown. Otherwise, don't reach. As for why OLB is important, I would ask all readers of this post to imagine another Clay Matthews III on the other side of the field. It would not only make the Packer's Defense that much more beastly, but Clay would do even better, and who knows what kind of wacky blitzes Dom Capers could draw up with two highly talented OLB's. An effective pass rush from Matthews and someone like Sergio Kindle or Jerry Hughes would make the secondary look much better. The one thing that Brett Favre, Big Ben, and Kurt Warner all had when they shredded the Packer's Pass Defense was time to sit in the pocket. Think about when the Giants made the Patriots go 18-1, they didn't necessarily have great corners, but they had Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora go nuts against the Pat's line. The Packers will need something similar to stop elite passers, not just great corners. That's why I think OLB has to the biggest priority if they want to win playoff games, because the playoffs will have elite QB's like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, and the Pack absolutely can not afford to give those kinds of Passers time.

Offensive (Left) Tackle: Though not as important as OLB, the Pack should look to lock up a long-term Left Tackle of the future (since it looks like T.J. Lang can do a more than adequate job at Right Tackle) by drafting Charles Brown or Anthony Davis, should one of those fall to them. Or, if Ted Thompson is serious about locking up the LT position, he should consider trading up to snag Bryan Bulaga or Trent Williams. As bad as the Packer's Offensive Line was last year, it can be attributed to the lack of continuity and poor play at LT before Clifton arrived. In the season's last 8 weeks, the Packer's line was average, which was all Aaron Rodgers really needed it to be. However, getting a long-term project like Anthony Davis could work if he's willing to shut up and sit on the bench because Clifton is the starter. With no viable back up at LT, it really should be a priority, but again, someone who has the athletic ability but lacks the mental ability but could be great when he puts it all together, like an Anthony Davis, should be considered here. The Packers really do need someone who can protect Aaron Rodgers' blind side.

Corner Back: Yeah, the pass defense against elite passers was horrid last year. The lack of pressure on the QB's can't be the excuse forever. But the Packers deserve a bit of slack, as injuries demolished the Secondary. When the guy who's usually No. 6 on the Depth Chart has to play as the No. 3 on a regular basis, you know things just can't end well. That being said, I never want to see Jarret Bush play CB for the Packers again. Charles Woodson was the Defensive Player of the Year last year and really stepped for the Packers. Tramon Williams played well as the Nickel Corner-turned No. 2 and I was overall pleased with his performance. Al Harris probably won't be healthy until part-way through the season, and even then, he should probably be the Nickel Corner. Pat Lee and Will Blackmon will get the job done as No's 4 and 5 respectively when they're healthy. Overall, this group is solid, but could use another quality corner. Every team could. That is why if someone like, say, Kyle Wilson falls the Packers, they should really consider picking him. At best, he's the new No. 2 Corner as a Rookie, at worst, he's the No. 4. Charles Woodson and Al Harris are getting older, and the depth is needed. I'd probably wait until Round 2 to grab a CB if I was Ted Thompson, but again, if someone like Kyle Wilson falls to the Packers, you have to consider drafting him.

Running Back: As readers will come to find out when it's really Football season and I write more posts on the Packers, I really like Ryan Grant, and think that he's an excellent RB for what the Packers want to do. However, he's an average Pass Blocker, an average Receiver out of the Backfield, and not a great 3rd Down back, and I am not comfortable trusting Brandon Jackson to get anything done at all. So I say we draft someone beastly like Toby Gerhart as a 3rd Down RB and a Pass Blocker. Otherwise, wait until later to grab someone who can fill that role.

Safety: The Packers are really lacking in Safety Depth compared to other areas not already mentioned above. Free Safety Nick Collins is a Top 5 Ball-hawking Safety, but Strong Safety Atari Bighby is serviceable at best, and Backups Derrick Martin and Josh Bell are not exactly what I'd call "scary". That being said, I'd say that the Packers should use maybe a 5th Round Pick on a Safety who can simply get the job done, because that's all that's really needed out of an SS anyway.

Defensive End: DE's are not typically thought of as important in a 3-4 Scheme like the one that the Packers run. As long as they can take up space and make room for the Linebackers to get into the backfield and make plays. Well, Johnny Jolly was a pleasant surprise as a late round pick last year, but considering that he was really only average and now in legal trouble means that someone has to replace him and do a good job for the OLB behind him, whether it's Brad Jones or a Draft Pick. B.J. Raji could and should do a very good job in this role, but there is no depth behind him, so I hope that Ted Thompson grabs a late round player who serves as depth for the line.

And there you have it, those are the areas that I believe the Packers need to concentrate on during the draft. I trust that no matter what happens, Ted Thompson will do a good job. I only hope that he doesn't trade down for more picks. That would not be a wise move in this blogger's opinion.