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.

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?

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.