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Friday, September 4, 2015

Rookie Running Back Breakdown

The 2015 NFL draft class is considered to be one of the better ones in recent memory when looking strictly at the running back position. There were two guys taking in the first round, but others should be able to emerge as well. People playing in weekly fantasy football leagues might be hesitant at first to go with rookies, but they will start to show what they're capable of by the middle of the season. As of right now, here are the top three options to consider.

Melvin Gordon

At Wisconsin, he was a workhorse his entire career. Now, he is going to step in as the featured running back for the San Diego Chargers right away. He has the ability to make big plays, but he is also somebody who can be very dependable getting a lot of touches. The touchdown total will be average, but 1200 yards or so should be expected out of him in his rookie year.

Todd Gurley

How healthy is Gurley? That seems to be the big question before the season. St. Louis is optimistic that he will be able to play quite a bit this year, and that is good news for anyone thinking about drafting him in weekly fantasy sports leagues. He has the most pure talent out of all the rookies, but coming off a major knee surgery is scary. His ability to find the end zone could make him very valuable by the end of the season. For now, it might be best to wait and see.

TJ Yeldon

Since Jacksonville needs him more than Atlanta needs Tevin Coleman, Yeldon gets the edge for the third choice. He had a very productive career at Alabama, some wonder just how good he can be in the NFL. He had some fumbling issues in college, and he is hoping the adjustments have been made. Jacksonville does not really have the best offensive line, so that could work against him as well. Despite all the negatives, people need to remember that he could still easily get 1000 yards on the ground and 5-8 touchdowns.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Expectations for Kenneth Faried

One of the breakout stars this summer for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup was Kenneth Faried.  The forward for the Denver Nuggets was considered somewhat of a longshot to make the team at the beginning of camp, but he turned into one of their best players.  That performance came at a perfect time for him, as he was due for a new contract in the NBA.  After getting a five year deal worth $60 million, new expectations will be surrounding him.

Throughout his basketball career, Faried has been the overachieving underdog.  He was lightly recruited out of high school, ending up at Morehead State. Despite putting up huge numbers there, he slipped into the end of the 1st round in the NBA Draft.   Even in the NBA he has largely been undervalued because his fantasy basketball numbers are not out of this world.  What makes him valuable is his ability to do the little things and play at full speed 100% of the time.

Denver was crushed by injuries last year, and they finished well out of the playoffs.  Faried performed pretty well in fantasy basketball, but now he will be asked to take on a bigger load on offense.  He has been working on his shooting to stretch the floor a little, and it is getting better and better.

Now that he is making well over $10 million a year, it is time for him to take on a bigger leadership role.  He isn't really considered a star just yet, but he has the potential to be that type of player for Denver.  That Nuggets have always had trouble being fast, athletic running team to use the thin air to their advantage.  In that sense, Faried is the perfect fit.  He seems to be more than happy to stay in Denver, but now people will be expecting more out of the gold medalist.

-Vince Martin

Sunday, February 9, 2014

2014 MLB Team Preview: Chicago White Sox

Last season was one most Sox fans would like to forget.  The team finished dead last in the American League in runs scored and only led the rebuilding Marlins in all of baseball.  This was the major factor in the team losing 99 games and why many fans found the idea of watching the team far too painful a chore to endure.  Why did this team fall so far so fast when just the season before they won 85 games and nearly made the playoffs? It's simple, really: age and injuries.

The Sox made almost no moves going into last season meaning they were banking on the same roster from 2012 to win in 2013.  Obviously that didn't happen. At age 37 the good times finally stopped rolling for Paul Konerko who managed a sorry .244/.313/.355 with just 12 home runs.  Adam Dunn improved but then again, how could he not.  Catcher was a mess with Tyler Flowers disappointing and Alexei Ramirez's power dropped for the third straight year. Gavin Floyd got injured and only pitched five games.  With the team sinking fast in summer Alex Rios, Matt Thornton, and Jake Peavy were all unloaded for prospects. Still the team was locked into many contracts for another season making 2014 seemingly destined to be another horrible year.  But then general manager Rick Hahn went to work.

Now that Paulie's almost done, Abreu is the new face of the Sox.
With Konerko apparently washed up and now an unsigned free agent, and knowing that Adam Dunn a) can't play first worth a flip and b) is now a bad baseball player, the Sox went loco and signed 26 year old Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu to a six year deal worth $68 million.  The Southsiders are not shy about signing Cuban defectors as there are currently two on the team in Alexei Ramirez and Dayan "the Tank" Viciedo.  No one can be sure what to expect from Abreu but the Sox trust their scouts and believe in the translated statistics created by former Baseball Prospectus writer Clay Davenport. A month later the Sox re-signed Konerko to a one year deal to act as a bench player and platoon partner with Dunn.

In a seemingly minor move, Felipe Paulino was signed to an already seemingly full rotation.  I say seemingly because this signing allowed Hahn to make what could be the best move of his young GM career.  It was painfully obvious at the onset of the off-season that the Angels wanted to improve their rotation.  It was also obvious the Diamondbacks have a man-crush on Mark Trumbo.  After weeks of negotiating neither team had come to an agreement on how to help each other.  Enter Rick Hahn and his magic wand.  By sending fourth starter and Hector Santiago - who was a nice project for the team but perhaps coming off a career year - to the Angels, the Sox acquired a young, former highly regarded prospect in center fielder Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks.  Is he a superstar? Heck no, but he stands to be an improvement and offers something almost no other Sox player has: potential. And to get this for a fourth starter who would now have to fight for a spot in the team's rotation is just a phenomenal piece of work.  Most critics agreed.

Hahn was not done. Smelling blood, Hahn called Arizona again.  Knowing that the acquisition of Trumbo meant someone was going to be crowded out of a job, Hahn offered his closer Addison Reed for top 100 prospect third baseman Matt Davidson.  It's entirely too early to say who will win this trade. Some evaluators believe Reed will be an elite closer one day and some evaluators aren't sold on Davidson being an every day third baseman.  But this is the type of risk the Sox need to be taking.  What's the point of having an upper echelon closer if you're only winning 75 games?  The front office rightly viewed Reed as a luxury and flipped him for something that could possibly grow into an asset.

The late season and winter moves do not make the White Sox contenders.  There are still too many holes on the roster for that to happen.  Instead what has happened is the team went from being abysmal and trying to come up with a rebuilding plan to actually being ahead of the curve on the rebuild.  Take a look at last season's lineup (ages in parenthesis) in comparison to this year's projected lineup:

2013 Pos  2014 Pos
Alejandro de Aza (29) CF Adam Eaton (25) CF
Alexei Ramirez (31) SS Alexei Ramirez (32) SS
Alex Rios (32) RF Avisail Garcia (23) RF
Paul Konerko (37) 1B Jose Abreu (26) 1B
Adam Dunn (33) DH Adam Dunn (34) DH
Gordon Beckham (26) 2B Gordon Beckham (27) 2B
Dayan Viciedo (24) LF Dayan Viciedo (25) LF
Jeff Keppinger (33) 3B Matt Davidson (23) 3B
Tyler Flowers (27) C Josh Phegley (25) C
Average age 30.2 Average age 26.7

As you can see the 2013 lineup featured five players on the wrong side of 30 whereas the future lineup has just one - Adam Dunn who coincidentally is in the final year of his deal.  The White Sox went from being one of the older teams with very little upside to an intriguing group of players whose best years should be ahead of them.  What makes this even more exciting is that Garcia, Abreu, Davidson, and Eaton will all be cost and team controlled for the next five to six seasons so even if there is a flame out or two it's not going to hurt the team's flexibility financially.

I'm not trying to say the White Sox will win a World Series with this group of players.  I don't even see them cracking .500 this year.  But with several young players in the lineup and one of the best pitchers in all of baseball (Sale) only 25 himself, there is reason to be optimistic on the Southside. That's a lot better than what fans were saying last July.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

 Warning: this is a lengthy post.

Last year I wrote a post detailing the Hall of Fame credentials of each candidate on the ballot using a system I devised called Hall of Fame Score (HOFSc).  I thought it worked well but I wasn't finished tweaking.  I messed around with the formula some more during the summer until I came up with something I think works better.  The main difference is now performance relative to the league has more weight than just WAR.

Craig Biggio was the odds on favorite to be elected last season but he only garnered 68% of the votes (75% is necessary) and therefore was not elected.  Now the ballot is gaining several other players who many feel are deserving of enshrinement including Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Curt Schilling.  These players plus the carryovers from last season make for one heck of a dilemma for voters.  If multiple players are not elected this time around it's conceivable in the near future there will be up to twenty players who are legitimate candidates.  Until the voters come to a consensus on how to treat the players who dabbled in PEDs (or those who are speculated to have done so) or until the Baseball Writers Association allows more than ten players to be selected on a ballot, we're going to have quite a mess on our hands.

Here's what the ballot looks like this time with their respective HOFSc:

Catchers - Avg/Median HOFSc = 74.00/75.15
Paul LoDuca (24.6): LoDuca had one really nice season with the Dodgers in 2001 where he batted .320/.374/.543.  He never matched those lofty numbers again but managed to stick around for another decade as a decent hitting catcher.

Mike Piazza (92.40): It's a bit of a shame Piazza didn't get in last season because now the ballot is filled with other great candidates. I think he'll get in next year but not this year.  My scoring system puts him fourth among catchers so there's no excuse for shutting him out for too long.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Trumbo Trade Helps Solidify The Los Angeles Angels As Contenders

The Los Angeles Angels have spent the last few seasons trying to buy a World Series title on the free agent market. Bringing in All-Stars like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and CJ Wilson have not yielded results so far, and a lot of that has to do with the team not being balanced enough. They were able to solidify their pitching staff a bit more this week, as they traded Mike Trumbo in a three-team deal with the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks that yielded Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs.

Losing Trumbo’s fantasybaseball value, especially from a power perspective, will obviously sting a little bit. However, the Angels are counting on bounce back seasons from Pujols and Hamilton, so that shouldn’t be a huge loss. After all, scoring runs is not the problem in Anaheim. Their issue has been reliable pitching after Jered Weaver, Wilson and Garrett Richards.

The pair of left-handers they picked up in this trade are young, talented and under team control at affordable salaries for a while. That is exactly what the doctor ordered for a team that has freely spent a lot of money in recent years. Santiago didn’t have the best season for the White Sox in 2013, but he will get more support with the Angels. Skaggs is the big prize here, as the Diamondbacks give up their top prospect from a year ago.

Even though Skaggs struggled in 2013 at AAA and the majors, his value is still pretty high. The Angels will more than likely give him a spot in the rotation right away, so he should have plenty of confidence going into the 2014 season.

Winning the American League West is without question the main goal for the Angels this upcoming season. If the pitching staff can hold up, they might finally be able to live up to the lofty expectations they have had these last few seasons. If both pitchers work out, this could be one of the biggest offseason moves for the franchise.

Monday, December 9, 2013

2013-14 Conference Predictions

Holiday tournaments are finished and opportunities for non-conference quality wins are waning.  That means whether we realize it or not, the NCAA Tournament is already taking shape.  A lot of teams changed conferences causing a dramatic reshuffling of the college basketball landscape.  The Big East split into two conferences - the Big East and the American Athletic Conference.  The Big Ten will add two teams next year while the ACC loses Maryland but gains Louisville.  All of this likely means we're in for a unique year in college basketball.  Here's a look at what each of the major conferences looks like so far.

Media's conference champ: Duke
My prediction: North Carolina
Likely Tournament Teams: North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Virginia
Can Jabari Parker lead Duke to a Final Four?
First he'll need to get his team to the top of the ACC.
Need a few breaks: Florida State, Clemson, Notre Dame
Wait 'til Next Year: Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech
The conference got off to a pretty rough start this season but earned a tie in the BigTen/ACC Challenge.  North Carolina has a couple of baffling losses (Belmont, UAB) but also beat Louisville and Michigan State giving me confidence they'll emerge as the conference's best team at the end of the year.  Duke, Syracuse, and Pitt all look strong in their own rights while Virginia is well positioned despite their loss at Green Bay.

Monday, December 2, 2013

2013 Big Ten/ACC Challenge

For the first time in the now fourteen years of the event, every Big Ten team will be participating in the challenge. Before this year someone was always left out but thanks to the expansion of the ACC every team from the land of the good will get a chance to do their part in proving which conference reigns supreme in basketball this season. This may prove to be more challenging than usual because the ACC has elected to keep the three bottom dwellers from last season (Clemson, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech) out of the event while allowing newcomers Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse to participate. The ACC won the first eight challenges and the Big Ten won the next four before the two conferences tied last season.  Here's a look at what's on tap this time around:

Indiana @ Syracuse (Tuesday 7:15pm, ESPN)
This is an intriguing matchup. IU faces off against the team that upset them in last season's NCAA tournament.  Syracuse continues to employ a tough zone defense where they encourage three point attempts while driving to the hoop is difficult. This does not play into Indiana's strengths as so far they are struggling with the outside shot.  Where Indiana does excel is getting to the free throw line. It will be interesting to see if IU is able to continue this trend as high volume free throw shooting teams are often neutralized when facing zone defenses.  Syracuse has been surprisingly efficient on offense despite shooting poorly from the line so far. There's just too much riding on Yogi Ferrell's shoulders in this one though the Hoosiers should have an advantage in the post.
The Pick: Syracuse 77-68.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Early Observations

We've played about four weeks of college basketball thus far and the world is already abuzz about how incredible these freshmen are, that Kentucky's already a disappointment, and that maybe the Big Ten is the best conference again this year. The new rules are being enforced causing several teams to struggle while other have found a way to exploit them.  It's still early but here are a few of my observations as the first holiday tournaments get going.

Five Surprising Teams

  1. UMass - I had no expectations for the Minutemen entering the season and
    Who can stop this guy?
    I considered them an NIT team at best.  They've only played two home games out of six (the other four were on neutral courts) yet have an unblemished record.  Their wins have come over BC, LSU, Youngstown State, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Clemson.  The last two got my attention. Color me impressed.
  2. Pittsburgh - Pitt's best win thus far is a 21 point shellacking over Stanford on a neutral site.  And that's my point; this team is 6-0 and their closest win was 19 points. Things are looking good.
  3. Dayton - They lost to Baylor by one last night but are 5-1 on the season with an impressive win over Gonzaga on Monday.  I thought they might be the second best team in the A-10 prior to the season and now I feel more confident in that pick.  They have a few more challenging games on the docket before the regular season begins. Keep this team in mind in March.
  4. Nebraska - They're just 4-2 so far with losses to Dayton and UAB.  Still, the style of play has been effective and they're forcing opponents to shoot tough shots while defending the rim better than maybe anyone else. Offensively they're not turning the ball over and are hitting 37% of their threes. I'm not sure this can last but the team is better than I expected.
  5. Wichita State - Everyone should know the Shockers by now. I'm not surprised they're MVC favorites but I am surprised at how well they're playing. This team lost three seniors from last year and I'm not aware of any impact freshmen on the roster.  Last night's thirteen point win over BYU was a statement win.  They've also got dates with St. Louis, Tennessee, and Alabama that warrant our attention. Gregg Marshall is one heck of a coach.
Five Disappointing Teams
  1. Georgetown - What. the. #%&*?  Georgetown was many people's pick to win the new Big East. So far they're not inspiring anyone. A loss to Oregon is not a big deal, but Northeastern?  Sure, they beat VCU but are we sure VCU is as good as the pollsters say?  This team fouls too much and until they fix that they'll find themselves letting teams they should be putting away hanging around for far too long.
  2. Kansas State - Okay Illinois fans, maybe you were right.  Year two in the Bruce Weber era is not off to a good start and I'm dubious this ship is going to be righted.  Their best win is over Oral Roberts and have lost to No. Colorado, Charlotte, and Georgetown.  Let's see what happens on December 5th when they face Ole Miss. That might make or break their season.
  3. North Carolina State - How do you lose to North Carolina Central at home? This team also lost by double digits to Cincinnati and doesn't have a quality win so far.  They get Northwestern at home in the Big10/ACC Challenge.  Since we already know Northwestern's a bottom tier Big Ten team, seeing how they fare in that game should be a good measuring stick. 
  4. Virginia Tech - Lost at home to South Carolina Upstate, lost on a neutral site to Michigan State by 19, and lost in a pseudo-road game to Seton Hall.  The defense just hasn't been up to snuff and makes me think the ACC's bottom half is going to drag the entire conference RPI down.
  5. Marquette - How do you only score 35 at home? Granted, Ohio State is a tough defense but 35 at home? Inexcusable.  Losing at Arizona State by two is a tough luck loss and not one to dwell on. This team is talented but that home loss still has me shaking my head.
The five best players so far are...
  1. Jabari Parker - Duke: Parker has been incredible. He's hit over 60% of his threes, is getting to the line, and he's doing this in about 30 minutes a game.  Some say he reminds them of Grant Hill - I'm inclined to think he's more like Antoine Walker - but right now he looks like the first overall pick in the NBA draft.
  2. Marcus Smart - Oklahoma State: Did we all see what he did against Memphis last week? Who can guard him in college? He's 6'4" and built sort of like LeBron.  He's quick enough to get by his man into the lane and he's improved his jump shot enough to where he doesn't have to drive on most plays. This is why he's averaging 21 points a game so far.
  3. Doug McDermott - Creighton: Mr. Efficiency himself. Dougie fresh is hitting 79% on his freebies, 57% on his twos, and 50% of his threes.  The man may never be a great professional player but he reminds me so much of Wally Szczerbiak in that he can literally hit any shot.
  4. Jahii Carson - Arizona State: Carson is 5'10" yet most of his shots are layups.  He's so quick that he can get by anybody.  The sophomore is also hitting 56% of his three pointers and is averaging over 5 assists a game.  He even put up 40 points against UNLV. Wowzah.
  5. Tim Frazier - Penn State: Is it possible Frazier's a better shooter than he was pre-injury? The early returns have me thinking yes.  His per game averages thus far are 16 points, 7 assists, plus four rebounds and two steals.  He's really really good.
And finally, the best five teams to date are:
  1. Oklahoma State - Marcus Smart is really good and he's got some good wingmen. 
  2. Michigan State - I really like this team and think they're the class of the Big Ten but I'm not sure how much better they can get.
  3. Arizona - They haven't played anyone significant yet but I'm impressed with what I've seen.  Don't forget about their super freshman Aaron Gordon either.
  4. Kansas - The win over Duke was impressive but I don't think this team's hit their groove yet. It's going to be quite a battle for the top in the Big 12.
  5. Pitt - I've already talked about these guys.  The new ACC is going to be interesting to say the least.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

2013-2014 Men's Big Ten Basketball Preview

Now that I've previewed all twelve teams it's prediction time.  Below I've listed my best guess at the conference standings as well as the awards. In April we can all
Gary Harris & Adreian Payne may be the two
best players in the entire BIG conference.
look back and see how wrong I am.


Michigan St. 14 4
Wisconsin 13 5
Ohio St. 12 6
Michigan 12 6
Purdue 11 7
Iowa 10 6
Indiana 9 9
Illinois 7 11
Penn St. 6 12
Minnesota 5 13
Northwestern 4 14
Nebraska 4 14

All Big Ten First Team
G Aaron Craft - Ohio State
G Gary Harris - Michigan State
G Nik Stauskas - Michigan
F Adreian Payne - Michigan State
F Sam Dekker - Wisconsin

All Big Ten Second Team
G Tim Frazier - Penn State
G Josh Gasser - Wisconsin
G Andre Hollins - Minnesota
F Glenn Robinson III - Michigan
C AJ Hammons - Purdue

Big Ten Freshmen Team
G Derrick Walton, Jr. - Michigan
G Tai Webster - Nebraska
F Zak Irvine - Michigan
F Kendall Stephens - Purdue
C Noah Vonleh - Indiana

BIG Tournament Champ: Michigan State
Defensive player of the Year: Aaron Craft
Big Ten Player of the Year: Adreian Payne

Saturday, November 16, 2013

2013-14 Men's Big Ten Basketball Preview: P & W

Today we preview the last three teams in the Big Ten.  There might be a couple of surprises so read on!

Penn State Nittany Lions
Head Coach: Patrick Chambers
Last Season: 10-21 (2-16), last in Big Ten
Graduated: G Nick Colella
Transfered: F Jermaine Marshall, F Jon Graham
Left Early: F Sasa Borovnjak
New Faces: Graham Woodward, Geno Thorpe, John Johnson (transfer)
2013 recap: There was some optimism in State College entering the season and things were looking good after a mild upset victory over Providence in November.  Unfortunately in the following game star point guard Tim Frazier suffered an achilles injury causing him to miss the rest of the season.  Without their star player, the Penn State team fell into complete disarray and began the BIG season 0-14 before finally getting a victory against Michigan.  When the season ended the second best player on the team, Jermaine Marshall, elected to transfer potentially setting back some
May people have forgotten Tim Frazier is
one of the 10 best players in the conference.
progress the team made during the year.
The Starters:

Pos Players Height Wt Year
PG Tim Frazier 6'1" 170 Sr.
G DJ Newbill 6'4" 205 Jr
F Brandon Taylor 6'7" 235 So.
F Donovon Jack 6'9" 210 So.
F Ross Travis 6'6" 225 Jr.

Point guard Tim Frazier can do it all.  He's one of the best passers in the nation, knows how to get to the rim, and as a result he gets to the line.  It's not uncommon for him to also lead the team in rebounding. If he's back to form Penn State will be blessed with possibly the league's best player.  DJ Newbill was forced to grow up quite a bit in Frazier's absence.  He became more assertive shooting and learned how to facilitate the offense at the same time.  Look for him to combine with Frazier to give the Nittany Lions one of the conference's best backcourts.  Brandon Taylor is a solid rebounder but more of a role player on offense which works out perfectly for a team whose guards will take the majority of the shots.  If Taylor can establish himself as a decent low post player to compliment his mid-range jumper he could find himself more involved as the season goes along.  Donovan Jack is the "big man" on this team.  Like Taylor, he showed potential as a freshman last year and looks to be an important component for this team's success.  He'll be forced to guard the other big men in the conference and while that may seem daunting he appears to be a solid defensive player.  Ross Travis is the energetic glue guy every team needs. Last season he averaged 7 points and 7 rebounds and coach Chambers has even said he's capable of guarding all five positions.
The Bench:

G Allen Roberts 6'3" 214 Sr.
F Alan Wisniewski 6'9" 230 Sr.
G Graham Woodward 6'0" 170 Fr.
G Geno Thorpe 6'3" 180 Fr.
F Julian Moore 6'10" 215 Fr.
G John Johnson 6'3" 185 Jr.
F Payton Banks 6'6" 220 Fr.

The bench will likely be pretty short at least until John Johnson is eligible to participate in January.  Guard Allen Roberts is a transfer from Miami (OH) who's experience should enable him to be a quality backup immediately.  In MAC play he proved adept at drawing fouls and was a decent defender.  Geno Thorpe and Graham Woodward are two freshmen who will also get minutes.  Though not ranked in the Rivals top 150, the team seems excited to have them in their midst nonetheless.  Alan Wisniewski will be counted on to provide quality minutes when one of the starting forwards sits.  Freshmen Julian Moore and Payton Banks aren't expected to contribute much but the team could desperately use something out of them.
2014 Outlook: With Tim Frazier back, Penn State is definitely improved from how they finished last season.  The loss of Jermaine Marshall hurts as well as having two potential impact players unavailable to the team due to transfer rules.  The non conference schedule is manageable and should give the team opportunity to sort out a rotation early. Only getting Michigan and Wisconsin once each helps their chances and as a result I expect a bit of a surprise season from the Nittany Lions.
Projection: 9th in Big Ten, NIT invite