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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Zack Greinke traded to Milwaukee

Zack Greinke was not only the best player on the Royals in 2009 but he was the best pitcher in the American League.  Last season he regressed significantly but was still good. After telling the Royals he no longer wanted to be there, nearly every team had a chance to get him.  After about a month of speculation, a winner emerged when the Milwaukee Brewers traded four players for Greinke

The breakdown is after the jump.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cliff Lee: He's baaaaack

I've refrained from adding any commentary relating to free agent signings thus far but "The Decision 2010"--wait, someone already used that? Fine. But Cliff Lee choosing Philadelphia's offer over the Yankees offer, which would have made him ridiculously filthy rich, was a bit surprising.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Conference Predictions

Yesterday I covered the major conferences so today I'll move on to the mid-majors.

Colonial Athletic Association
Conference Champ: Old Dominion
Other contenders: George Mason, Drexel, VCU, Delaware
Multiple Bids?: 40%
I'm not sure who the best team is.  I know Old Dominion has three impressive wins already (Clemson, Xavier, Richmond) and that they were very good last year.  VCU and George Mason are usually in the mix and the conference's most improved team, Drexel, will be as well.

Conference USA
Conference Champ: Memphis
Other contenders: UTEP, Central Florida, Southern Mississippi
Multiple Bids?: Yes
Apologies to Memphis for not including Conference USA with the other major conferences in yesterday's post. I just have a hard time considering this a power conference when there's only one team who is consistently worthy of a top 5 seed.  That being said, with the expansion in this year's tournament I can see possibly three teams qualifying. Jordan's kid (UCF) is fun to watch.

Horizon League
Conference Champ: Valparaiso
Other contenders: Butler, Cleveland St.
Multiple Bids?: 25%
Still a league that gets no respect even after Butler's run for the ages last year.  I'm picking Valpo on a hunch although I believe Butler is the best team.  Cleveland St. has shown they're no slouch either as they beat Butler twice in 2008-09.

Missouri Valley
Conference Champ: Wichita St.
Other contenders: Missouri St., Northern Iowa, Illinois St., Creighton
Multiple Bids?: 50/50
As usual, the MVC is a solid conference.  There are no elite teams but the top half can compete with just about anybody.  Unfortunately the best win for the conference thus far is Evansville's road victory over Butler.  Only UNI has beaten a power conference team and that was Iowa St.  Not exactly impressive resumes being built here.

Mountain West
Conference Champ: San Diego St.
Other contenders: UNLV, BYU, New Mexico
Multiple Bids?: Absolutely
Last year the MWC proved it was the best mid-major and should possibly be considered a power conference.  This year is the same story. SDSU, BYU, and UNLV should all be ranked and will likely grab a couple of top 5 seeds if they take care of business versus conference opponents as they have already notched quality wins against non-conference foes.  If New Mexico can finish fourth and sneak in a couple of wins from the top three schools they may get an at-large bid as well.

West Coast Conference
Conference Champ: St. Mary's
Other contenders: Gonzaga, Portland
Multiple Bids?: 35%
St. Mary's is my pick this year as they look to build off last year's success in the NCAA Tournament.  A lot of people may think I'm overreacting but has anyone seen Gonzaga play this year?  They've played five teams that can be considered top 50 teams and they are 0-5 in those games.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

NCAA Basketball Predictions

It's the time of year where I really get into blogging. Three cheers for college basketball!  In the next few posts I'll delve into my predictions for the upcoming season as well as some mid-major programs to be aware of.  Ok, here we go with the power conferences.

Conference Champ: Duke
Likely Tournament Teams: Maryland, Florida St., North Carolina
Need a few breaks: Virginia Tech, Miami, Clemson, Boston College
Wait til Next Year: Wake Forest, Virginia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina St.
The ACC again will send multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament but as a whole the conference is not as strong as in years past.  That won't stop #1 Duke from trying to become the first repeat champs since Florida in 2006 and 2007.

Atlantic 10
Conference Champ: Richmond
Likely Tournament Teams: Xavier, Temple
Need a few breaks: UMass, Dayton, St. Louis, Charlotte, Rhode Island, Duquense
Wait til Next Year: LaSalle, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph's, George Washington, Fordham
Richmond has the reigning conference player of the year and has already knocked off Purdue.  Xavier seems to haven taken a small step back but is still solid.  Temple could be a sleeper this season. Well, I guess I should have written this before they beat Georgetown.

Big 12
Conference Champ: Kansas
Likely Tournament Teams: Baylor, Texas, Missouri, Kansas St., Texas A&M
Need a few breaks: Iowa St., Oklahoma St.
Wait til Next Year: Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas Tech
The Big 12 can arguably be called the deepest conference in the land. Personally, I feel the Big Ten is better but only time will tell which is really the case.  Kansas St. may be the most overrated team in the country but Baylor and Texas A&M are very strong.  Kansas, as usual, is my favorite to win the conference.

Big East
Conference Champ: Pittsburgh
Likely Tournament Teams: Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Villanova, Georgetown
Need a few breaks: Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Providence, St. John's, Marquette
Wait til Next Year: DePaul, Rutgers, South Florida
I honestly have no idea who will win this conference. I'm impressed by Pitt's back to back wins over Maryland and Texas so they're my pick.  The Big East as usual has several good teams but some pretty bad teams. I think DePaul will win more than two conference games this year but I doubt they win five.  Depending on how the year shakes out, I could see a couple of teams in the "Need a few Breaks" category qualify for the Big Dance. Thanks for 68, selection committee.

Big Ten
Conference Champ: Michigan St.
Likely Tournament Teams: Illinois, Ohio St., Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota
Need a few breaks: Northwestern
Wait til Next Year: Indiana, Penn St., Michigan, Iowa
Unlike years past, the bottom of this conference is not filled with pushovers.  That was often the biggest criticism that prevented the Big Ten from being included in the "Best League" talk. With Iowa substantially improved and Indiana inching toward decency, those days are over.  Michigan St. is playing a brutal schedule early and not faring well--which is typical.  The two teams I'm still watching are Purdue and Northwestern. I'm not sure how either team will do this year.  The rest I'm confident I've pegged in the right spot.

Pac 10
Conference Champ: Washington
Likely Tournament Teams: Washington St., UCLA, Arizona
Need a few breaks: Cal, Stanford, Arizona St.
Wait til Next Year: Oregon St., Oregon, USC (ineligible)
The Pac 10 is a weird conference.  Last year the first place and eighth place team were separated by only two games with just four to go!  I don't expect that to happen again this season. Washington has most of their team returning and has already scored over 100 points four times. Today's game against Texas A&M will say a lot.

Conference Champ: Kentucky
Likely Tournament Teams: Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Need a few breaks: Mississippi, Georgia, Mississippi St., LSU, Arkansas, Alabama
Wait til Next Year: Auburn, South Carolina
The fact that five teams are bunched in the "Need a few breaks" category should tell you how I feel about the SEC this season. They stink.  The SEC West's best team is Mississippi and I'm not even sure they're a tournament team. Kentucky has a ton of young guys, a staple under Calipari, but I don't think this is a Final Four or even an Elite 8 team.

Tomorrow I'll preview the other conferences that have legitimate tournament teams.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Not the BCS - Nov 28

Good morning football fans, college and pro alike. The Bears record is good, but are they really that good? Today is a big test against the new "Human Hilight Film", Mike Vick.

Meanwhile, there were a few almost upsets over the weekend in college football, but most of the teams who were favored in the polls found a way to win.

Since it's getting down to crunch time and I've been inconsistent (as usual) on keeping you all updated, I will lay out my ESPN-style projections for this week's BCS moves.

1. Oregon - They were down at the half against Arizona, but then their lethal offense woke up and dominated the 'Cats 34-10 in the 2nd half. No change here, and only the Civil War can stop them from a National Title shot now.

2. Auburn - I think most people were on board with the Alabama upset, especially after jumping out to a 24-0 lead in the first half. However, Cam Newton settled in and continued his Heisman campaign to bring the Tigers back to a 28-27 lead over the Tide. It wasn't over until Bama's QB McElroy was concussed on a 4th quarter drive that looked promising at the time. Can the Tigers re-beat South Carolina? It's always harder to get the 2nd win.

3. TCU - This game wasn't supposed to be close, and it wasn't. The only real drama came when TCU's starting QB went down in the 2nd quarter with an elbow injury. His backup passed for 54 yds and 1 TD, and ran for another 30 yds and a TD. The Frogs cruised from there, and locked up the #3 spot in the BCS because the old #4 Boise State Broncos lost to Nevada due to some terrible place kicking. If either #1 or 2 falls next week, TCU could live a dream come true.

4. Stanford - This could be a coin flip for spots 4 & 5 in the BCS. Stanford has had the edge for a few weeks, and there's no reason to drop them, so I think they stay ahead of the Badgers for #4. The Cardinal rolled Oregon State to a 38-0 shutout which isn't promising for the Beavers hopes next week against #1 Oregon. In all likelihood, the Cardinal goes on to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.

5. Wisconsin - This team looked a bit rough at times during the start of the 2010 season. The loss to Mich State early in conference play might have been a blessing in disguise as the Badgers went on to win 7 straight and saw all the Big Ten teams ahead of them lose later in the season (including the #1 Buckeyes at their own hands). This means the 3-way tie in the Big Ten will likely end with Wisconsin going to face Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

6. Ohio State - Beat Michigan for the 7th straight time. Beat them easily. Denard "Shoelaces" Robinson had under 200 yards of total offense and didn't score. The polls worked themselves out correctly here as Ohio State has a good football team, but the one team that bested them (Wisconsin) remains 1 spot ahead in the polls. The Buckeyes are almost assured an at-large BCS game due to their ranking and the teams ahead.

7. Michigan State - 3 Big Ten teams in a row validates the parity in the Conference this year. Its gonna be pretty frustrating for the Spartans to play in the Capital One Bowl while sitting in the Top 10...and possibly even the Top 5 with a few games remaining. They'll still draw a solid Alabama or LSU, but they were so close to BCS glory this year.

8. Arkansas - Ryan Mallet was impressive again as the Razorbacks won the Battle for the Golden Boot over LSU. The Tigers had found a way to eke out victory after victory this year, and they even had a shot to sneak into the BCS Title game without even winning their conference. Alas, just when I thought they might be legit, the Hogs ran and passed their way over Les Miles and the Bayou Bengals. Can anyone tell me how he got the nickname "Mad Hatter"?

9. Oklahoma - Sooners won the Battle of Bedlam shootout to basically cement themselves in the Big XII Championship game next week against my 'Skers. The South half of the conference ended in a 3-way tie, much like the Big Ten. In face, the Big XII South has ended tied once before with Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech about 2 or 3 years ago. Like most other conferences, the "winner" is the team ranked highest in BCS. Since the Sooners just knocked off the Cowboys, they'll obviously jump them. And since A&M was so far behind and didn't look outstanding in their victory over rival Texas, they won't challenge for this spot. It seems fitting that as Nebraska leaves the Big XII (formerly Big 8), it should end versus the biggest rival the school has ever faced in the Oklahoma Sooners. Certainly the Sooners also have the Red River Shootout with Texas, but for the Cornhuskers, there is no bigger test.

10. LSU - Maybe the Tigers deserve this spot, and maybe they don't. Based on last week's polls, it's either put LSU or Boise here for their loss, or jump Missouri 4 spots to #10, and I do not believe Missouri is a #10. In fact, Missouri shouldn't be ahead of Nebraska in the current poll since the Huskers beat them, and our less-than-stellar backup QBs played more than half the game. In any case, the SEC is always strong, so might as well give them one more team in the Top 10.

11. Missouri
12. Nebraska
13. Boise State
14. Virginia Tech
15. Texas A&M
16. Oklahoma State
17. Nevada
18. South Carolina
19. Alabama
20. Florida State

BCS Bowl Projections
National Championship - Glendale, AZ - Jan. 10
Oregon vs. Auburn
(no more upsets)

Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA - Jan. 1
Stanford vs. Wisconsin
(both are done and this is obvious)

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Glendale, AZ - Jan. 1
Nebraska (please?) vs. West Virginia (assuming S. Florida beats Conn.)

Discover Orange Bowl - Miami, FL - Jan. 3
Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas

Allstate Sugar Bowl - New Orleans, LA - Jan. 4
TCU vs. Ohio State

The rules for selecting the at-large teams are not so easy to understand, but I know that the Rose Bowl gets 1st pick since they lose Oregon to the National Championship. Due to tradition, they will gladly take Stanford to keep it Pac-10 v. Big Ten. The Sugar Bowl gets the 2nd pick since they lose Auburn. I am guessing they'll take TCU. This leaves Fiesta, Orange, and Sugar with open slots. For 2011, Sugar gets the first pick of remaining at-larges and automatics. I don't think they want West Virginia (or Connecticut), so they'll probably take Ohio State or Arkansas. Orange gets the next pick and will again likely take the remaining team from Ohio State and Arkansas. That leaves the final open slot to go to the automatic qualifier from the Big East. Make sense? Hope so, cuz I'm not even sure.

Good luck, and go Skers!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Not the BCS - Nov 14

...and we're back.

As the Husker game approached last night, there was a lot of reason to be excited. Auburn was in a fight with Georgia, and Penn State had jumped out to an early lead on Ohio State. Either upset would surely move my beloved Skers up a spot in the polls.

Alas, the upsets didn't hold and there is little movement in my version of the BCS. Feast your eyes....

1. Oregon - Really wish Cal had something for them in the 4th quarter. All the Golden Bears needed was a FG to steal the victory, but it wasn't to be. Now the Ducks get a bye week before facing Arizona (please, upset, please) and then finish with the Civil War rivalry game at Oregon State.
2. Auburn - Their win was maybe a little more impressive than Oregon's, but with all the controversy around Cam Newton, I imagine this whole season will eventually get wiped off the map, including a potential Championship and Heisman Trophy (a la Reggie Bush). Maybe locking up the SEC West will make them a little lazy facing Alabama in 2 weeks.
3. Boise State - Jumps back ahead of TCU in my mind after the Horned Frogs struggled this week. This probably won't happen in the real BCS, but all the Broncos on the blue field can do is keep winning and hope for help from the polls I mean.
4. TCU - Another team that started Saturday a little sloppy but managed to get it together by halftime. Then San Diego State came storming back in the 2nd half, outscoring TCU 21-6 and almost pulling off a major upset and comeback victory. TCU had a comfortable margin on Boise in the BCS and will probably stay #3.
5. LSU - Played UL-Monroe or Lafayette or something. Don't get me wrong, the Huskers play these kind of teams too, but we do it at the beginning of the year as a warm-up. Frustrating to see SEC teams doing it this late in the season (like Auburn last week) and basically taking it as a 'bye' week to get ready for the last few games. I had hopes for Mississippi to give LSU a run next week, but the Rebs looked terrible against Tennessee yesterday. Only Arkansas can wreck LSU's BCS hopes now.
6. Wisconsin - 83 points against Indiana is a lot...especially on the road. I had Nebraska here previously, but 2 underwhelming victories the past 2 weeks are cause to give the Badgers the spot. They still have 2 tough Big Ten opponents left with the hilight reel Michigan and this week's upset special Northwestern. There's still hope for Husker fans.
7. Nebraska - As mentioned, we haven't been impressive the last 2 weeks. A botched fake PAT against Iowa State and some stout defense against Kansas keep us with 1 loss and in the top 10. I double Nebraska will get back to 7 unless there are some other surprise drops. Perhaps the team I've got below us will dip enough to make a difference. TAMU next week could be trouble.
8. Stanford - Looked sloppy against Arizona State and didn't put it away until 5 minutes left in the game. They were 6 in the real BCS, and look for them to drop a spot after that performance. I doubt they'll fall 2 to 8th as I have them, but I've had them here previously, so I don't feel bad.
9. Alabama - Looked good against Mississippi State. They get that pseudo-bye week against Georgia State next week in preparation for Auburn. I guess I'm suddenly okay with this type of scheduling so hopefully Bama brings it against the Tigers. The Tide is still fighting for an at-large BCS spot, but need help in the form of Arkansas beating LSU if they're gonna get it.
10. Ohio State - After giving up 2 quick scores to Penn State, it looked like the Buckeyes were in trouble, but then the defense turned it on, and they rolled the Fighting JoPa's the  rest of the way. They still have to battle the recently embarassed Iowa Hawkeyes and then finish up with the used-to-be-a-rivarly Michigan Wolverines. Buckeyes have owned Michigan for a few years now, so Iowa is the only real challenge left. The Buckeyes are also trying to get one of the BCS at-large bids, but could vault into the Rose Bowl if Wisconsin gets upset.

In my mind, the BCS Games will likely play out as follows:

TCU v. Oregon

Alabama v. Boise State

Virginia Tech v. Pittsburgh

Nebraska v. Auburn

Stanford v. Wisconsin

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Not the BCS - Nov 6

The games that will affect my Top 10 are all over for the week. Though Nebraska looked like doo doo in the win, they still won. That wasn't the case for a few others in the last Top 10, so that's good.

I haven't done this every week, but I'm still watching college football every week, and I feel pretty good about my current Top 10.

Here we go...

1. Oregon - Played a harder team than Auburn, and haven't really been challenged other than Arizon State at the start of the season.
2. Auburn - Don't really care about the possible recruiting violations...I'm sure many others are doing it. But, the SEC is a bit weaker than usual this year, it seems.
3. TCU - Dominated Utah today, and Utah had some respect coming in to the game. Not much respected for the Utes anymore. Watch for them to drop 10+ spots tomorrow.
4. Boise State - Sadly, even I cannot justify keeping them in the Top 3. Power conference will always get the nod, and TCU looks ridiculously good.
5. LSU - I kinda hate putting the Tigers this high. Les Miles almost botched a few games this year with bad clock management, but they still have only 1 loss.
6. Nebraska - Sorry, this may be too high for some of you, but when we have everyone healthy, we look much more like the team that beat the snot out of Missouri.
7. Wisconsin - Struggled early against Purdue before turning it on. Probably the best team in the Big Ten because they beat Ohio State.
8. Stanford - Your only loss is to the #1 Ducks...good enough for me. Also, a solid victory today vs. another tough Pac-10 opponent.
9. Alabama - Still a tough team. If all goes well, they beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl to keep the slim Husker shot at a title alive.
10. Ohio State - Bye week this week means not much to judge, but again, only 1 loss looks good at this point in the season.

I'll try to do this again next week so there aren't gaps in the rankings.

Monday, October 11, 2010

How to fix the Braves (and my heart)

I came here to put up a blog post, hoping to try and renew interest in the site and I see that Taege beat me by a whole day. Good work!

Ok, by now I'm sure everyone's seen the epic collapse the Braves had in Game 3 of the NLDS.  I envy all of you in that you could at least turn the channel.  I was in right field in the middle deck about 30 feet away from the foul poul (on the fair side).  In fact, replay shows I was the first person to stand up on Hinske's dramatic 8th inning homerun. 
Even if the Braves are to recover and advance to the NLCS it's no secret the team went all-in for Bobby.  When the year ends the Braves will have several holes in the lineup and one in the dugout. 

Here's a look at what's returning:
Starter: Brian McCann L/R $6.5 million
Backup: David Ross  R/R $1.625 million
The catchers are set and really to go along with the NLs best you get the best backup in the league.  Really, Ross should actually play more.
1b: Freddie Freeman L/L ~$0.400 million
2b: Martin Prado R/R arbitration eligible. Expect about $1.25 million
3b: Chipper Jones B/R  $13 million
SS: Alex Gonzalez R/R (option will likely be picked up) $2.5 million
I'm not a huge fan of the infield but if Chipper is back next year then it will be fine.  The biggest issue with the infield this season is that injuries caused the team to be stretched too thin.  Infante is a great utility player and will do a fine job filling in when Prado and Chipper need days off.
RF: Jason Heyward L/L ~$0.400 million
As you can see the outfield is a mess. Heyward's good but he can't cover that much ground. Maybe they can clone him?
Omar Infante UT B/R $2.5 million - Two words: All Star
Nate McLouth CF L/L $6.5 million - Another player who had a horrible year. He's probably lost his starting job permanently but he'd make a nifty bench guy for a year.
Matt Diaz OF  R/R- only after renegotiating his contract. He's due for a raise in arbitration but no way that happens. He'll probably settle for something around $2 million.

Free Agents: Rick Ankiel, Brooks Conrad (~$.4M), Troy Glaus(~$2M), Eric Hinske($1M), Derrek Lee
Declining Arbitration: Melky Cabrera

Starting Pitching
1. Tim Hudson R $9 million
2. Tommy Hanson R ~$0.500 million
3. Derek Lowe R $15 million
4. Jair Jurrjens R arbitration eligible. I'm guessing ~$3.75 million
5. Mike Minor L ~$0.4 million
Kenshin Kawakami R $6.67 million
Stephen Marek $0.4 million
Michael Dunn L $0.5 million
Brandon Beachy R $0.5 million
Peter Moylan R arb. eligible ~$2.5 million
Johnny Venters L $0.5 million
Closer: Craig Kimbrel R $0.4 million

Free agents: Kyle Farnsworth, Takashi Saito ($3.2M), Billy Wagner ($7M)
Decline Arb: Eric O'Flaherty, Scott Proctor

Money spent: $77 million
Available Somewhere between $8-15 million
Here's what I'd do if I was in Frank Wren's shoes:
1. Sign Carl Crawford. Just do it. The Braves biggest need is a good defensive center fielder. It's likely he'll require 5 years at $15 per but I think he's worth it.
2. Trade for a left fielder. Packaging Mike Minor with Nate McLouth for a LF would probably allow the Braves to get someone like Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier from the Dodgers.

I know this is just a pipe dream but by doing this the Braves would shore up their outfield defense, add speed and power to a team that has neither, and really lose nothing at the major league level.  The only left to do is to find another infielder who can play a mean shortstop.  Adam Everett would be sweet and would likely only cost about $600,000.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Not the BCS - Week 1

What up SportsTemps blog followers?!

It's been 6 months since ANY blog posts. Yes, I gave up on NASCAR blogging almost as quickly as I started it, but the real surprise is that Anderson hasn't found the time or need in so long.

So here's my Top 10 for NCAA Football. Last year I did a top 25 each week, but that became a bit complicated to justify. Trying to simplify my life and this post....

1. Oregon - They beat legitimate Stanford a few weeks back...Ohio State hasn't beaten anyone other than a shaky Miami.
2. Ohio State - see above
3. Boise State - Giving them some respect that is long overdue. If I'm not mistaken, QB Kellen Moore has only 1 INT on the season (and about 15 TDs).
4. TCU - Similar story to Boise State. Kind of curious to see if the upset bug hits Oregon and Ohio State, could we actually have a BCS title with 2 non-majors?!
5. Nebraska - Not if the Big Red can help it. I'm a fan, but I'm still not 100% sold on this team yet. Our QB runs like Nebraska QBs of past, and the defense is strong, but something still feels off.
6. Oklahoma - The remaining schedule doesn't look too bad at this point. Could be a Big XII Championship game vs. Nebraska to decide which team plays for BCS glory.
7. Auburn - Tigers have had a few scares, including this week's road victory over Kentucky. They do have the victory over the recently amazing South Carolina Gamecocks.
8. South Carolina - Only Auburn has beaten them, and Spurrier is looking to take his 2nd SEC team to a BCS game...possibly a 2nd NCAA Championship.
9. Alabama - Let's face it. They are still a quality football team. Conference play in the SEC often favors the home team, and if this week's game was in 'Bama and not South Carolina, they may still be #1.
10. LSU - Nobody is impressed with the other Tigers of the SEC, but they are still undefeated, so they deserve this spot...for now.

See you next week!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2010 NFL Draft Rd 1

For the last couple of seasons I've joined the madness and created my own mock draft.  It's fun but it also gets old looking and hearing about everyone else's mocks. Gladly we'll all know the results for the entire draft in just a few days.

  1. St. Louis - Sam Bradford QB - Oklahoma - His college career was great. His pro day was great. The only real concern here is his shoulder but his added bulk should reduce the likelihood of the injury reoccurring. Quarterback is the most important position on the field and with the release of Marc Bulger there's an opening.
  2. Detroit -  Ndmamukong Suh DT - Nebraska - The Lions go for best talent available which works out because they need a makeover on the defensive line.  Recent rumors have been speculating they could go tackle here but that's not going to happen.
  3. Tampa Bay - Gerald McCoy DT - Oklahoma - Possibly the worst team in the league last year, Tampa needs everything. McCoy would be the undisputed number one tackle in most draft's and some believe he is the best in this draft. Once selected he'll remind fans of Warren Sapp.
  4. Washington - Russell Okung OT - Oklahoma St. - Mike Shanahan wants to win now and he proved that was his intention by trading for QB Donovan McNabb.  Okung is the pick to help shore up the weakest link on the offense.  
  5. Kansas City - Brian Bulaga OT - Iowa - Kansas City likely wants to trade out of this spot but with such a deep draft I'm doubtful one occurs.  Eric Berry is the best player available at this point but the Chiefs are desperate for help on the offensive line. Bulaga is a safe pick and can start from day one.
  6. Seattle - Trent Williams OT - Oklahoma - There are many who believe Williams is an elite talent but can he play left tackle (ask Sam Bradford how that worked out)?  Seattle will attempt to find out as Walter Jones is going to retire.
  7. Cleveland - Eric Berry S - Tennessee - Cleveland fans should be ecstatic.  With this selection Cleveland will have nearly completed the overhaul of their secondary this offeseason. Berry reminds many of Ed Reed and we all know how good he is.
  8. Oakland - Mike Iupati OG - Idaho - Al Davis has his own agenda.  If Iupati is really #1 on their board look for the Raiders to try and trade back to #15 or so.  I don't like projecting trades so Iupati's the pick at #8.
  9. Buffalo - Anthony Davis OT - Rutgers - I don't think Buffalo takes Jimmy Clausen because they are dead set on taking the best OT available.  Davis has huge upside but also has some character issues. Buffalo's dealt with those before.
  10. Jacksonville - Jimmy Clausen QB - Notre Dame - Yes, Jacksonville has been saying all along they need a pass rush but they also need a franchise QB. David Garrard is nice and all but he's not a top 5 QB.
  11. Denver - Rolando McClain ILB - Alabama - Denver needs pieces for their 3-4 defense linebacker was clearly an issue last season. McClain is a tackling machine who excels in a 3-4.
  12. Miami - Derrick Morgan OLB - Georgia Tech - A week ago this pick was Dez Bryant but the Brandon Marshall trade temporarily alleviates that need.  Instead look for Parcells to stick to his gut and draft defense with the first pick.  Miami needs OLB to replace the departed Joey Porter and Jayson Taylor.  There will be a transition period since Morgan was a DE in college but in a couple of years he'll be a good one.
  13. San Francisco - Joe Haden CB - Florida - SF's secondary was pretty bad last year. Nate Clements has apparently lost a step and a move to FS is possible. Joe Haden is clearly the best corner in the draft.
  14. Seattle - CJ Spiller RB - Clemson - Seattle's second draft pick is a doozy.  Think Chris Johnson is good? Spiller is a similar runner with similar speed but will also make a huge impact on special teams. 
  15. NY Giants - Earl Thomas S - Texas - The Giants really wanted a LB here but McClain is the only one worth a first round pick. Instead they go with the second best safety prospect. Thomas provides insurance for Kenny Phillips but also is a very good cover guy.
  16. Tennessee - Jason Pierre-Paul DE - South Florida - JPP is an athletic freak but only played one year of DI ball making him a project for NFL coaching.  I'm not a believer but scouts love him and the Titans need more pass rush.
  17. San Francisco - Maurkice Pouncey C - The 49ers have several key pieces in place as they look to get back to the playoffs.  Their interior line, though, is severely lacking.  Pouncey may be the best interior lineman in the draft so the pick fits.
  18. Pittsburgh - Kyle Wilson CB - Boise St. - Pittsburgh missed the playoffs last season in large part to their poor passing defense. Wilson is a sound tackler and good defender who - with the return of Polamalu - will help solve this issue.
  19. Atlanta - Sean Weatherspoon OLB - Missouri - The Falcons linebackers are both aging and devoid of playmakers. Weatherspoon fits the scheme and will make big plays. Makes sense to me.
  20. Houston - Dan Williams DT - Tennessee - Williams can also play NT in a 3-4 but Houston has been looking for help on their defensive line.  This huge space eater will help the run defense and can also help collapse the pocket when Peyton Manning comes to town.
  21. Cincinnati - Jermaine Gresham TE - Oklahoma - This pick makes a lot of sense and at the same time I have a hard time seeing it happening.  Cincinnati almost never uses the tight end as a receiving option but the Bengals really struggled passing the ball last season. Gresham is a lot like Antonio Gates so I think the Bengals will find a way to incorporate him into the offense.
  22. New England - Jerry Hughes OLB - TCU - Hughes super quick off the line allowing him to excel in getting to the quarterback. The Pats biggest weakness last year was the pass rush. 
  23. Green Bay - Bruce Campbell OT - Maryland - The latest draft buzz has the Packers selecting a running back here but they can find a good one in round two.  Instead I think they'll address the tackle position so Aaron Rodgers isn't running for his life on half of his snaps.
  24. Philadelphia - Brandon Graham DE - Michigan - The Eagles look to add depth to their pass rush though the secondary is still an issue. Graham is valued as a top 15 pick for many but I can't picture him playing OLB for a 3-4 defense. The Eagles run a 4-3 so he'll fit in nicely.
  25. Baltimore - Jared Odrick DT - Penn St. - Baltimore's entire defense is getting up there in age so getting some premium talent in the draft seems important.  Odrick could start for many teams from the get go but he'll get to intern behind Trevor Pryce for a year or so.
  26. Arizona - Sergio Kindle OLB - Texas - Arizona will look to improve their pass rush also as they already lost an OLB during free agency.  Kindle showed in college he can get to the quarterback though there may be a transition period as he learns how to drop into coverage.
  27. Dallas - Dez Bryant WR - Oklahoma St. - Bryant is far and away the best WR in this draft.  Miami and Denver seemed like possible destinations but the Dolphins recently acquired Brandon Marshall and I have the Broncos taking Rolando McClain in this mock.  Several character issues don't help Bryant's case any.  Jerry Jones doesn't care about that so he'll happily take Bryant to replace the oh-so-popular Roy Williams.
  28. San Diego - Ryan Mathews RB - Fresno St. - Tomlinson is gone and I'm not sure the Chargers believe Darren Sproles can be a featured back.  Plus, he's a free agent at the end of the season. Mathews is tough and would be a good compliment to Sproles in San Diego's offense.
  29. NY Jets - Taylor Mays S - USC - Rex Ryan wants tough guys and Mays is just that. Sure he has his limitations in coverage but he's a big hitter and has cornerback speed.
  30. Minnesota - Kareem Jackson CB - Alabama - Minnesota lacks depth in the secondary and last year their performance was nothing to brag about. Jackson is a solid cover guy who fits well in the Cover-2 scheme.
  31. Indianapolis - Rodger Saffold OT - Indiana - Several mocks have the Colts going with Saffold here and I agree.  Manning is a great player but even he needs a running game to be effective. Last year's line didn't allow that to happen which may be why the Colts weren't champions. Saffold is the fourth or fifth best tackle prospect so the Colts will snag him here instead of waiting a round to grab another.
  32. New Orleans - Brian Price DT - UCLA - The Saints go best player available here and get a nice talent at DT.  Playing in the NFC South means going against several good running backs. Price is a good fit for a team needing help in this area.
I fully expect to miss 75% of my picks but this is my best guess.

Monday, April 12, 2010

NL Statues

With the official opening of the Twins new stadium in Minneapolis today, ESPN did their diligence in talking about all the neat features that will help to make it unique.  Along the way they showed a statue of Rod Carew (in his batting stance) outside and mentioned why he was deserving of such an honor.  This got me thinking about each team's statues and how they choose not only the player but the pose. Too often it seems the player is just standing with a bat. Why not depict the player in a way that causes fans to reminisce about the old days? Below I've done my best attempt to determine two statues for each team and the pose they should be framed in.  Click on the link for each player to view my ideas.

Craig Biggio - Took the term "scrappy" to a whole new level. Biggio spent his entire career with Houston playing C, 2b, and CF.  Is the all-time leader in most hit by pitches while also collecting more than 3000 base hits.
Jeff Bagwell - One of the great power hitters of his era but was also a sound base runner and good defender. Also had perhaps the most unique batting stance of anyone not named Craig Counsell.

Hank Aaron - The all time home run king for thirty years also ranks third all time in hits.  The perfect pose is him hitting his 715th career homer.
Warren Spahn - The winningest lefty ever was famous for his high leg kick.

Robin Yount - Here is his current statue. I think the standard t-ball pose is better because it portrays who Yount was: a quiet, modest player who showed up to work everyday. Won an MVP at two different positions and collected over 3000 hits while spending his entire career in Milwaukee.
Rollie Fingers - A lot of people may claim Paul Molitor should go here. Generally I agree--BUT Molitor is now most remembered for his brief stints with Toronto and Minnesota at the end of his career. I choose Fingers who won an MVP in Milwaukee in the early '80's and along with Yount can really rock a mustache.

Rogers Hornsby - A real difficult guy to get along with, Hornsby hit over .400 three times with power. His spot is in jeopardy as long as that Pujols guy stays in town.
Ozzie Smith - The Wizard is in my opinion the greatest defensive player of all time. Good to see the poeple in St. Louis got it right.

Ernie Banks - Few people realize how good he was early in his career. Won two MVPs and hit 512 career home runs.
Sammy Sosa - Yeah, it's easy to make fun of him. But remember how beloved he was while he was hitting 60 home runs?  The Sammy hop and his sprint to right field were his trademarks.

Randy Johnson & Curt Schilling - These two flamethrowers not only finished 1-2 in the N.L. Cy Young voting but shared World Series MVP honors.

Jackie Robinson - Seriously, how could it not be Jackie? While his legacy will live forever and he was a great player, I think this statue needs to be an action shot which is why I chose his steal of home in the 1955 World Series.
Sandy Koufax - I wanted to put Roy Campanella here but more people idolized Koufax.  In this image you can see his knee graze the ground as he throws his trademark curveball.

Willie Mays - The "Say Hey Kid" hit 660 home runs in his career but may be best remembered for his catch in the 1954 World Series. Often referred to as the greatest catch of all time, that was really only half the play as he then spun and threw without looking to second to get a double play.
Barry Bonds - His performance from 1999-2001 is just ridiculous.  Also went 40-40 once, won MVP Awards, and is the all time home run king.

Jeff Conine - The only player to win both World Series with the Marlins. Also was the 1995 All-Star game MVP.
Hanley Ramirez - Ramirez is unquestionably the greatest Marlin ever. Too bad his teams are unquestionably mediocre.

Dwight Gooden - Even his drug and alcohol problems don't cloud the memory of 1985 when 20 year old Doc had one of the greatest seasons ever. He had a moment of brilliance late in his career with the Yankees when he threw a no-hitter. Everyone always rooted for him to succeed.
Mike Piazza - For all the knocks he took about his game, it's hard to argue against him being considered the greatest hitting catcher of all time.  He had a unique batting stance but unlike the link I've posted, I think the Mets would prefer he wear a Met uniform in his statue.

Tim Raines - The greatest base stealer of all time (quantity + efficiency) is also the greatest Expo of all time. He should be in Cooperstown but that's a whole other entry.  Definitely should be depicted burning up the basepaths.
Gary Carter - One of the ten greatest catchers of all time, Carter was a blend of both power and defense. He is one of two players enshrined wearing an Expo cap (the other is Andre Dawson).

Tony Gwynn - Won eight batting titles and played his entire career in San Diego. 
Trevor Hoffman - The all-time saves leader was never overpowering but managed to guile his way past hitters with an incredible changeup.  His statue would be sure to feature his famous grip.

Mike Schmidt - Hit 548 home runs, won ten gold gloves, and is the greatest third baseman of all time. His statue is perfect the way it is.
Steve Carlton - Tough not to go with Grover Cleveland Alexander here but Carlton is someone who has a greater legend.  Won four Cy Youngs and in 1972 won 27 games for a Phillies team that only won 59.

Honus Wagner - Wagner is one of the three greatest players ever. An excellent shortstop, baserunner, and hitter, he really took it to Ty Cobb when they faced each other in the 1909 World Series.
Bill Mazeroski - No, he's not the second greatest Pirate ever. But there might not be a greater aura surrounding any former Pirate.  His homer to end the 1960 World Series remains one of the great moments in baseball history.  He might be the greatest defensive second baseman of all time and his pivot on the double play was revolutionary.

Pete Rose - Charlie Hustle is the all-time hit king. Just because he's not eligible for the Hall of Fame doesn't mean he doesn't deserve a statue.
Johnny Bench - He might be the greatest defensive catcher of all time and is arguably the greatest all around catcher.  Won two MVPs for the Big Red Machine.

Larry Walker - Walker won three batting titles in Colorado as well as the 1996 N.L. MVP Award.
Troy Tulowitzki - This might be a stretch as Dante Bichette and Andres Galarraga are both going to be remembered as Rockie greats.  Tulowitzki is just getting started and with his outstanding defense and 30 HR power he'll be around for a long time.

Later this week I'll do the American League.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

MLB Prospect Watch: Catcher

Last season the upper minors were full of potential stars that were nearly ready to take the next step and make their mark in the majors. Andrew McCutcheon is now the headliner of that group though other Colby Rasmus and Dexter Fowler found themselves starting for playoff teams. 

So which position is due to see the next large influx of talent? It's got to be catcher.  When one sees Jason Kendall getting starts everyday in Kansas City and read that Brad Ausmus is miraculously still employed, it's easy to wonder where all the catching talent has been for the past decade.  Well, it's coming.

Carlos Santana - This switch hitting catcher is Cleveland's number one prospect and a top five prospect in all of baseball. He looks like he will develop into being a middle of the order hitter with good power and patience (much like Victor Martinez but better).  His defense, though not bad, could still use some fine tuning which is why Cleveland assigned him to AAA to begin the season.
Prediction for permanent call-up: He'll likely be up by September and will be the starter from there on out.

Buster Posey - I don't know what the Giants are thinking. Posey will never have the power that Santana possesses but his on-base skills are especially unique for a catcher.  He would not be miscast as a top of the lineup hitter and if he were allowed to start on the big league club this season instead of Benji Molina, he'd be one of San Francisco's three best hitters. Alas, Brian Sabean says he needs to work on his "game calling" which most people agree is either overrated or is something he should learn in the majors with the pitchers he'll be working with for years to come.
Prediction for permanent call-up: June 2010

Jesus Montero - Perhaps the only player in all the minor leagues who can claim to have bigger power than Montero is Florida's Michael Stanton.  His on-base skills also appear to be very good meaning he will be an offensive force once called up to the big leagues. The knock on Montero is his defense. He has no range and some scouts have said he needs to work on his throwing though he does have a strong arm.  These things are exacerbated by the fact that he's big-very big- for a catcher (6'4" 225lbs) which leads many scouts to believe he'll be a first baseman or DH.  Jorge Posada won't block him though as he's nearing the end of his career and his defense might actually be worse than Montero's at this point.
Prediction for permanent call-up: This is a tricky one with Teixeira entrenched at first for the next seven years and Posada not ready to hang 'em up yet. I think he'll at least split time at catcher and DH on Opening day of 2011.

Wilson Ramos - Ramos has the unfortunate circumstance of being blocked by not only the best catcher in baseball but likely on of the greatest of all time. He's got a cannon arm and a minor league career line of .293/.342/.434.  A player with these skills is an asset to any team who doesn't have Joe Mauer. Ramos should continue his steady ascent through the minors as long  as he's able to stay healthy. Minnesota assigned him to AAA Rochester to begin the season.
Prediction for permanent call-up: Expect the Twins to trade Ramos at some point before the 2011 season. Where he lands will provide a better idea of when he will be called up.

Tyler Flowers: Flowers is another big catcher whose size once caused scouts to believe he had no future behind the plate.  That changed last year as he proved he was more than capable of blocking the plate although he only threw out 29% of attempted base stealers.  He could be a poor man's version of Montero with not quite as much power but still possessing a good eye at the plate. The White Sox probably think he's ready but want him to start every day justifying their decision to send him to AAA Charlotte to start the season.  Though he'll never be an MVP candidate, he could make a few all-star teams and hit 20-25 home runs each year.  That's quite a projection for someone who's considered the fifth best catching prospect.
Prediction for permanent call-up: Opening day 2011 as the White Sox starting catcher.

Hank Conger - Conger is another switch hitting catcher who has displayed good power in the minors.  It also appears that he is making great improvements in pitch recognition as he more than doubled his walk rate in his promotion to AA last year.  His defense, however, may be his limiting factor. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus implied that it's bad enough to prevent him from ever becoming a starter. He's also "blessed" with Benji Molina speed.
Prediction for permanent call-up: This depends with what the Angels want to do with their two-headed monster of Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli.  He will be ready in 2011 to stay in the bigs.

Jason Castro - Castro is another player whose defensive liabilities have many scouts questioning whether or not he'll be able to stay behind the plate. Keith Law believes he has the skills to stay where he is.  His offense is solid but he has no spectacular facet to his game. Of all the players on this list he has the lowest ceiling but after Santana and Montero is also the most likely to be a consistent major leaguer.
Prediction for permanent call-up: Houston has no excuse for keeping him in the minors in 2011. Expect a September cup of coffee and a permanent job starting Opening Day 2011.

This is an impressive list of talent that should be starting to break through as soon as this summer.  Also consider the fact that Brian McCann (26), Jesus Flores (25), Kurt Suzuki (26), and Matt Wieters (24) are still not yet into the prime of their careers and it's easy to see why this position could be loaded for a long time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

2010 MLB predictions

Despite my best efforts, I was unable to complete a team capsule for each team prior to the start of the season.  I'll continue to do team capsules when I have time although they will be abbreviated versions now that the season is upon us.  Instead of waiting until mid May for my predictions, I'll give them now.

Division winners:
AL East - Yankees
AL Central - Twins
AL West - Rangers
Wild Card - Rays

NL East - Phillies
NL Central - Cardinals
NL West - Rockies
Wild Card - Braves

World Series - Yankees over Rockies

AL MVP - Mark Teixeira.  Runners up: Evan Longoria, Grady Sizemore, Joe Mauer, Alex Rodriguez
NL MVP - Albert Pujols. Runners up: Chase Utley, Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Matt Holliday

AL Cy Young - Felix Hernandez. Runners up: CC Sabathia, Jon Lester, Justin Verlander
NL Cy Young - Roy Halladay. Runners up: Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren, Johan Santana

AL Top Rookies - Brian Matusz, Scott Sizemore, Carlos Santana
NL Top Rookies - Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, Alcides Escobar

AL Breakout Player - Adam Jones
NL Breakout Player - Colby Rasmus

AL Breakout Pitcher - Gavin Floyd or Rick Porcello
NL Breakout Pitcher - Mat Latos

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2010 Florida Marlins team preview

2009 Record: 87-75   .537

Run Differential: +6

Widely considered to be one of the worst teams in baseball entering the season, Florida gave everyone a great big #@$ burger to eat. No, they didn't make the playoffs but they were very close.  Hanley Ramirez continued to add to his legend by winning the batting title, rookie Chris Coughlan surprised everyone by winning Rookie of the Year award, and Josh Johnson proved he is one of the league's best pitchers.  Realistically this team should not have had post season aspirations but Fredi Gonzalez some how skippered this team to exceeding all projections. I say somehow because any team that bats a guy like Bonifacion leadoff should be punished (ask Dusty Baker how his Willy Taveras/Corey Patterson experiments have fared).  Perhaps the real surprise here is how a team with such a low payroll can continue to exceed these expectations. 

With little roster turnover what should the expectations be for this squad in 2010?

Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 Oakland Athletics team preview

2009 Record: 75-87   .463

Run Differential: -2

Everyone knew the A's were in full rebuilding mode after trading away rotation stalwarts Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, and Rich Harden in 2008. So when Billy Beane pulled the trigger to acquire Matt Holliday in the last year of his contract the baseball world was in shock.  Beane sent Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Smith, and Huston Street to Colorado in exchange for the Rockies top player.  Holliday was to be the missing piece for offense as the A's attempted to reclaim their position atop the American League West.  But like most bold moves this one failed.   Injuries and an inept offense were the main culprit but it clearly wasn't the pitching staff's fault.  Players who lost significant time due to injury were: Justin Duchscherer, Joey Devine, Eric Chavez, Mark Ellis, and Jason Giambi.  Key offensive contributors Jack Cust and Giambi proved they are now similar players--each incapable of playing defense--who can no longer be counted on to hit for average and whose power is inconsistent at best.  Matt Holliday got off to an awful start not helping matters.  By the time he got going it was too late and he was flipped to St. Louis for hot prospect Brett Wallace.  The good was found in the young pitching. Rookie Brett Anderson struck out 150 batters in 175 innings while posting a 4.06 ERA, delighting not only A's fans but also management.  After closer Joey Devine blew out his elbow in April, the closer's job was up for grabs.  Another rookie, Andrew Bailey, eventually won the job and American League Rookie of the Year honors.  The bullpen as a whole turned out to be very good giving Oakland a young, cheap, reliable portion of their squad to rely upon in 2010.
So, after last season's failure to develop into a contender, Beane would admit the team's not ready and continue the rebuilding process, right?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

2010 Arizona Diamondbacks team preview

2009 Record: 70-92   .432

Run Differential: -62

Arizona just missed the playoffs in 2008 and hoped as their young players continued to gain experience and mature that 2009 would bring the playoffs to the desert.  What the team didn't expect was a rash of injuries to some of their better players.  Once Brandon Webb went down the rotation scrambled for arms.  No one stepped up and the team really fell apart.  Conor Jackson was felled with Valley Fever and later pneumonia.  Not all was lost though.  After struggling so badly in April the team considered demoting him, Justin Upton exploded and put up a .900 OPS resulting in his name being on several MVP ballots.  Mark Reynolds also had a career year that included 44 home runs and shattered his single season strikeout record.  As well as Upton and Reynolds played last year was how disappointing Chris Young was. Long expected to be a star, Young lost his starting job.  Now the team is concerned he'll never pan out.  Rookie Gerardo Parra showed he was read for the show after receiving extended playing time and Miguel Montero finally lived upon his promise.  Clearly it was a season defined with highs and lows.

With several young players and a solid rotation there's still hops this team can compete for a playoff spot.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 Seattle Mariners team preview

2009 Record: 85-77   .525

Run Differential: -52

When Seattle looked to fill it's GM vacancy after the 2008 season they went outside the box.  What followed was a flurry of moves as the roster was completely reshaped in Jack Zduriencik image.  Jack Z may be even more statistically advanced than A's GM Billy Beane and it showed as he went after the best defensive players at each position.  Trading for outfielder Franklin Gutierrez and signing Endy Chavez were the big moves made before the season.  Gutierrez had a season that Willie Mays would be proud of as he saved 25 runs more than the average center fielder.  During the season Jack Wilson, Ryan Langerhans, and Jack Hannahan were all acquired as the team cornered the market on elite defensive talent.  The best news, however, was from the performance of Felix Hernandez.  King Felix struck out 217 batters in 238 innings and posted a 2.49 ERA which earned him a second place finish in the Cy Young voting.  Ichiro got 200 hits again and Russell Branyan had a career year. Unfortunately the rest of the offense tanked and prevented this team from ever being taken seriously as a playoff contender.

The roster continued to take shape over the winter but the same questions remain.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2010 San Francisco Giants team preview

2009 Record: 88-74   .543

Run Differential: +46

Going into 2009 San Francisco knew if they were going to make the playoffs they would have to be led by their pitching staff.  The staff didn't disappoint as Tim Lincecum won his second Cy Young Award and Matt Cain had his best season to date.  Jonathan Sanchez, plagued by inconsistency during his young career, even threw a no-hitter.  The most pleasant surprise was provided in the form of Barry Zito who reverted to his form in Oakland in the second half of the season. As the pitching staff paved the way the offense flopped.  Only Pablo Sandoval played well enough to give the team hope for the future as his .330/.387/.556 line was enough to make him an All Star in his first full season.  Edgar Renteria was brought in to stabilize the infield but hit only .250 with no power raising concerns that he might be done.  Fred Lewis failed to repeat his surprising 2008 and everyone else that got serious playing time stunk, too.  If it wasn't for their NL leading defense the Giants would have finished a distant fourth in the division as opposed to a couple of games out of the Wild Card.

Unfortunately 2010 looks more like a repeat of 2009 than a new chapter.

Monday, March 22, 2010

2010 NCAA Tournament: First weekend recap

Best games:

  1. Murray St. 66, Vanderbilt 65: This game was close throughout but a shot at the buzzer showed everyone what March Madness is all about.
  2. Wake Forest 81, Texas 80 (OT) - What makes a game great? Overtime: check.  Furious comeback: check.  Buzzer beater: check.  Basically Texas collapsed in the extra session but it still made for edge of the seat entertainment.
  3. Michigan St. 85, Maryland 83 - Four lead changes in the final minute without a single timeout taken? WOW!  How did Delvon Roe know to duck under that pass?
  4. BYU 99, Florida 92 (2OT) - Double overtime? No further explanation necessary.
  5. Purdue 65, Texas A&M 63 (OT) - An eleven point defecit erased in the second half to force OT.  If you like low scoring defensive games then this was right down your alley.  Purdue's man with the blue tongue scored the winning basket with under five seconds remaining.

Biggest upsets:
  1. Northern Iowa over Kansas: Did Kansas read any scouting reports?  I think not.  Either way, they dug themselves a hole and not even their full-court press could save them in the end. Ali Farokhmanesh's name will live forever in Cedar Falls.
  2. Ohio over Georgetown: A team that wasn't even supposed to win their Mid-Major conference tournament annihilates a good Big East squad? Don't say you weren't warned.
  3. Cornell over Wisconsin: It's not the end result that's so surprising but the means they went about it. Kentucky has their work cut out for them.
Best players:
  1. Evan Turner, Ohio St.: Nearly posted a quadruple double versus Georgia Tech (24-9-9 and 9 turnovers).
  2. John Wall, Kentucky: Has proven to be as good as the media said he was all year.
  3. Omar Samhan, Saint Mary's: One of the nation's best big men has finally gotten some national attention. His game against Villanova was just dominant (32 points on 13-16 shooting) including a block to seal the game.
Best teams:
  1. Kentucky: Made Wake Forest look like a team from the Colonial.
  2. Syracuse: Arinze Onuaku or no, this team looks as good as they have all season. 
  3. Duke: A lot of people questioned them getting a #1 seed.  A win over Purdue should put that to rest.
Underdog with the best chance to win this weekend:
  1. Northern Iowa: Knocking off the best team in the country got everyone's attention.  Now they get to play Michigan St. who's missing their best player.  Do you think Basketball Prospectus feels vindicated for listing the Panthers 17th in their championship rankings in February?
  2. Washington: For most of the season the Huskies were underperforming.  Isn't this the same team that lost in a close battle for a chance to make the Sweet 16 last season?  Until the Pac-10 Tournament the answer was no.  Now it's a resounding yes.  West Virginia could be in trouble.
  3. Saint Mary's: Baylor big man Ekpe Udoh will have his hands full with the Sand Man.  The Gaels are are facing that doesn't defend the three especially well so it's possible.

2010 Baltimore Orioles team preivew

2009 Record: 64-98   .395

Run Differential: -135

Baltimore hasn't made the playoffs since Jeffrey Maier gave Derek Jeter a home run on what would have been a flyout.  Not unlike Pittsburgh, fans have grown weary of waiting for the next playoff appearance.  Contrary to public perception, the team hasn't even been a big spender in recent offseasons.  It seems apparent that owner Peter Angelos finally realized that big spending doesn't always equal success but good drafting does.  While several players on this team are getting up there in age, the new core of players is moving into place.  Outfielders Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Nolan Reimold are young players firmly entrenched as starters.  Markakis and Jones have already made an All-Star team and last year's #1 prospect Matt Wieters is ready to make his impact felt this season.  Angelos has even opened up his pocketbook to keep his favorite players in town as evidenced by the long term deals signed last season by Brian Roberts and Markakis.  What made last season so brutal though, was the pitching.  When Brad Bergensen is the best hurler on the staff, you're giving up a lot of runs. But with the recent emphasis on better drafting, hope is on the horizon.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

2010 Detroit Tigers team preview

2009 Record: 87-77   .528

Run Differential: +53

Last year I predicted Detroit to win the AL Central Division and advance to the playoffs.  I was right--sort of. Losing in the 163rd game cost them the division crown and a chance to scare teams with their formidable top of the rotation. The fact that the Tigers made it that close surprised many.  How could a team finish ten games over .500 despite the nagging injuries and awful back of the rotation?  Great defense was the main root.  The Tigers defense up the middle was sensational and the top of their rotation really was that good.  Justin Verlander established himself as the best pitcher in the American League while Edwin Jackson finally capitalized on his full potential.  Curtis Granderson continued to be a fine player defensively and set a career high in home runs with 30.  Unfortunately, not making the playoffs cost this team a lot of revenue.  Buried behind huge contracts to Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, and Magglio Ordonez motivated the team make separate trades involving their most popular player and a starting pitcher bubbling with potential.

In return the Tigers get younger, which is key for a team this reliant upon aging players but they likely cost themselves a chance at an American League Central division crown.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 Cincinnati Reds team preview

2009 Record: 78-84   .481

Run Differential: -50

Dusty Baker lived up to his reputation last year.  Guys love playing for him and it shows because Baker excels in consistently getting players to play hard and to frequently outperform their expectations.  Where Baker's failings lie are what gets him into hot water.  Last season he batted Willy Taveras in the leadoff spot until August despite the fact he was getting on base less than 30% of the time (Taveras finished with a .285 OBP and a .560 OPS).  Once Taveras was finally relieved of his starting duties, hot prospect Drew Stubbs took his place and put up a .323 OBP--although an improvement still not what the team should be looking for.  This also reveals another one of Baker's tendencies in that he will play the veterans until they're either traded or given 500 plate appearances to show they can't get the job done.  Though Drew Stubbs isn't going to be a great leadoff hitter, he is a significantly better player than Willy Taveras. But the real issue with Dusty is working his starters too hard.  Top starter Edinson Volquez was abused down the stretch last season and for what reason?  The guy was 25 years old and in his second major league season.  Dusty had him throw 121 pitches in one game and 110+ in six of his last seven.  His ERA in those games was 5.81 showing that he was obviously wearing down.  This resulted in Volquez tearing an elbow ligament and needing Tommy John surgery.  How much longer will Dusty be allowed to use his starters at his own discretion?

Some are calling the Reds as their sleeper team for 2010 but that seems a year premature.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2010 New York Mets team preview

2009 Record: 70-92   .432

Run Differential: -86

The Mets of 2007 and 2008 had historic collapses in September which cost them not only the division title but also a spot in the playoffs.  The 2009 Mets were determined not to let this happen they finished 22 games under .500 to spare the fans the suspense.  The season began with the team affected by the Bernie Madoff investment scandal.  Although owner Fred Wilpon denied reports that team finances would be affected, it was known he was a major investor.  Also, the brand new home stadium, CitiField, nearly changed names as the media demanded they forfeit their licensing agreement.  But really these two public relations hits were mild compared to what would happen over the course of the season.  The following starters spent significant time on the disabled list last season: Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana, Oliver Perez, and JJ Putz.  Things were so bad GM Omar Minaya traded for Jeff Francoeur because "he's a guy who plays everyday."  The rash of injuries was so fierce the team went from being a legitimate playoff contender to having the league's worst offense.  I think that sums it up pretty well.

It seems that 2010 is picking up where 2009 left off.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Season Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

2009 Record: 80-82   .494

Run Differential: -33

When 2008 ended the Brewers had made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.  Sure they lost in the first round but it wasn't the loss to the Phillies that hurt so bad.  It was the loss to the Yankees.  Team owner Mark Attanasio offered CC Sabathia a team record contract of over $100 million but he turned it down, instead choosing to play in New York.  What could have been a great offseason immediately caused the team to turn into turmoil.  The rotation which would have had a stout 1-2 punch became Yovanni Gallardo and four punchless guys with Brewer caps.  Rumors swirled about the club offering a contract to Henry Rowengartner but he evidently is going to stay retired as a Cub.  A revival by the ageless Trevor Hoffman was not enough to save a mediocre bullpen either.  The team had hoped to bully opponents with what appeared to be one of the league's best offenses but that too went awry.  JJ Hardy never got on track though he continued to play excellent defense.  Corey Hart continued his slide causing many to wonder if he will ever be able to revert to 2007 form.  Possibly the most crippling blow was the injury to second baseman Rickie Weeks who appeared to finally be figuring it out.  Add all this up and you get a team that finished just under .500 and well out of the playoff race.

Optimism  is not a word I've heard when discussing the Brewers in 2010, but that doesn't mean this team should be counted out.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Final Bracket Predictions: Sunday edition

Some upsets yesterday caused the bubble to change shape.  Wake Forest isn't a lock but should feel pretty good because there is some separation between themselves and the other bubble teams. If Mississippi State upsets Kentucky today there is likely only going to be one bubble spot up for grabs.  Keep your eyes on this one.

Conference Champions/Auto Bids (27):
  • Ivy: Cornell
  • America East: Vermont
  • Atlantic Sun: East Tennessee State
  • Big 12: Kansas
  • Big East: West Virginia
  • Big Sky: Montana
  • Big South: Winthrop
  • Big West: UC-Santa Barbara
  • Colonial: Old Dominion
  • Conference USA: Houston
  • Horizon: Butler
  • MAC: Ohio
  • MAAC: Siena
  • Missouri Valley: Northern Iowa
  • MEAC: Morgan State
  • Mountain West: San Diego State
  • Northeast: Robert Morris
  • Ohio Valley: Murray State
  • Pac-10: Washington
  • Patriot: Lehigh
  • Southern: Wofford
  • Southland: Sam Houston State
  • Summit: Oakland
  • Sunbelt: North Texas
  • SWAC: Arkansas-Pine Bluff
  • WAC: New Mexico State
  • WCC: Saint Mary's

Other Locks (35)
  • ACC (5): Duke, Maryland, Florida St., Clemson, Georgia Tech 
  • Atlantic 10 (3): Xavier, Temple, Richmond
  • Big 12 (6): Kansas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma St.
  • Big East (7): Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame
  • Big Ten (4): Purdue, Ohio St., Wisconsin, Michigan St.
  • Conference USA (1): UTEP
  • Mountain West (3): New Mexico, BYU, UNLV
  • Pac 10 (1): California
  • SEC (3): Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee
  • WAC (1): Utah St.
  • West Coast (1): Gonzaga
Bubble Teams In (3 teams):
  1. Wake Forest
  2. Virginia Tech
  3. Minnesota
Last Four Out:
  1. Illinois
  2. Florida
  3. Mississippi State
  4. Rhode Island

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Final Bracket Predictions: Saturday edition

Automatic Qualifiers (15)

  • Cornell (Ivy)
  • East Tennessee St. (Atlantic)
  • Montana (Big Sky)
  • Winthrop (Big South)
  • Old Dominion (Colonial)
  • Butler (Horizon)
  • Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley)
  • Siena (MAAC)
  • Robert Morris (Northeast)
  • Murray St. (Ohio Valley)
  • Lehigh (Patriot)
  • Wofford (Southern)
  • Oakland (Summit)
  • North Texas (Sun Belt)
  • Saint Mary's (West Coast)
Locks (37)
  • ACC (5): Duke, Maryland, Florida St., Clemson, Georgia Tech 
  • Atlantic 10 (3): Xavier, Temple, Richmond
  • Big 12 (7): Kansas, Kansas St., Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma St.
  • Big East (8): Syracuse, West Virginia, Villanova, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame
  • Big Ten (4): Purdue, Ohio St., Wisconsin, Michigan St.
  • Conference USA (1): UTEP
  • Mountain West (3): New Mexico, BYU, UNLV
  • Pac 10 (1): California
  • SEC (3): Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee
  • WAC (1): Utah St.
  • West Coast (1): Gonzaga
One Bid Conferences Awaiting Automatic Qualifier (7)
  • America East
  • Atlantic Sun
  • Big West
  • MAC
  • MEAC
  • Southland
  • SWAC
Bubble (6 spots left)
  • Wake Forest
  • Florida
  • San Diego St.
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington
  • Virginia Tech
  • Arizona St.
  • Mississippi St.
  • Dayton
  • Seton Hall
  • Wichita St.
  • Charlotte

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2010 Cleveland Indians team preview

2009 Record: 65-97   .401

Run Differential: -88

Cleveland fans knew it was unlikely CC Sabathia would be an Indian in 2009 and were probably sick to their stomach when he signed a $120 million contract with the Yankees.  Imagine how they felt last October when their top two former starters (Sabathia and Cliff Lee) faced each other in Game 1 of the World Series.  Such is life in Cleveland where payroll constraints now dominate roster construction in a way fans never thought possible.  What makes these two trades more sickening is that it doesn't appear as if any big time prospects were acquired for these Cy Young winners.  Aside from trading Lee, the team traded star catcher Victor Martinez and valuable utility man Mark DeRosa.  Unfortunately, the early takes on these trades are similar to those of Lee and Sabathia.  Manager Eric Wedge was also fired after consistently underperforming and mismanaging the team in critical situations.  Fausto Carmona struggled mightily and the rest of the rotation was just awful.  After just missing the World Series in 2007, Cleveland finished 2009 with the worst record in the American League.

Now Cleveland has turned the page and hopes to have the pieces necessary to begin their next mini-dynasty in the American League Central.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2010 Washington Nationals team preview

2009 Record: 59-103   .364

Run Differential: -164

2009 could not end soon enough for the Nationals and their fans.  Aside from having the worst record in the league, the team had a public relations nightmare in the front office.  Fantasy owner/GM Jim Bowden resigned after being linked to a bonus shaving scandal in Latin America and top scout Jose Rijo was fired for the same offense.  Manager Manny Acta served as the scapegoat and was fired in July after the team had managed to win 26 games in 87 tries.  Although Jim Riggleman had better luck in the second half, the team still had the worst rotation in baseball and the bullpen was constantly changing in an effort to find someone who could get three outs.  At times a  poor pitching staff can be offset by a good offense and that seemed to be the plan for the Nationals going into the season.  Unfortunately only the core players in Adam Dunn, Nick Johnson, Ryan Zimmerman, and Josh Willingham performed to their standards.  Highly regarded second year catcher Jesus Flores tore his labrum and missed nearly the entire season causing the team to suffer with Josh Bard and Wil Nieves behind the dish.  This change alone probably cost the team three or four games.  Christian Guzman, fresh off his shiny new two year extension, reverted to the Guzman of old (no power, no walks), and Elijah Dukes regressed completely.  What should have been one of the league's best offenses ended up being mediocre.

This season arrives with similar expectations as last: an above average offense and improved defense look to carry a mediocre pitching staff in the team's first quest to finish with a winning record.

Monday, March 8, 2010

2010 Houston Astros team preview

2009 Record: 74-88   .463

Run Differential: -127

Houston is a team whose demise I've been predicting for three seasons now.  With an aging roster full of overpaid former stars, a pathetic minor league system, and a meddling owner, the Astros continue to exceed my expectations.  Somehow they just missed making the playoffs in 2008, causing many media outlets and the owner to believe they were on the brink of rebounding as a contender.  Last season should have removed all optimism.  There are two culprits which have caused Houston's fall as the dominant team in the division.  First, is their inexcusable effort in past drafts.  2009 marked the first time they paid over slot recommendation for a pick in years.  In fact, this draft strategy has prevented them from signing several high draft picks.  When your highest drafted player to sign is a fifth rounder as was the case in 2008, your franchise's future as a playoff contender is greatly compromised.  The other culprit is as simple as roster construction. Perhaps owner Drayton McLane feels his hands are tied with an already high payroll but after perusing his free agent signings the last couple of seasons, there's clearly a lack of ingenuity.  When Darin Erstad and Jason Michaels are signed to play significant roles on your club, too much pressure is placed on the starters to not only perform but to play every day.  It also means Dallas Cowboy playoff games are the highlight your offseason.

2010 seems to arrive with the realization that changes need to be made for Houston to become competitive once again.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

2010 Toronto Blue Jays team preview

2009 Record: 75-87   .463

Run Differential: +27

Toronto was better last season than their record shows as they finished the season by scoring 27 more runs than they allowed.  Usually this would lead to a record of three or four games above .500 not twelve under.  Aaron Hill and Adam Lind had breakout years but even that was not enough to offset the numerous injuries that befell the team's rotation.  Still, by playing in the American League East, no one took the team seriously including the team itself.  The team's best player and arguably the best pitcher in baseball, Roy Halladay, was dangled on the trading block before being pulled back in late July.  Once the season ended, GM JP Ricciardi was fired and Halladay was shipped to Philadelphia in a three team trade signaling a major rebuild.

After the dust had settled, new GM Alex Anthopoulos came away with P Kyle Drabek and 1B Brett Wallace as prizes.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

2010 San Diego Padres team preview

2009 Record: 75-87   .463

Run Differential: -131

Before the season even began in 2009, the Padres seemed resigned to last place.  New ownership had moved in and lacked the financial resources to devote big bucks to the club right away causing Trevor Hoffman to leave via free agency and Jake Peavy to be placed on the trading block.  In fact, with numerous trade rumors swirling around their best player, it seemed they were begging someone to take him away.  Although the team exceeded many expectations and avoided last place, more roster changes were made. Scott Hairston, the team's second best hitter, was shipped to Oakland for prospects though he was re-acquired over the winter.  At the trading deadline Jake Peavy was traded to the White Sox for four pitching prospects arousing suspicions that the club was looking for quantity over quality.  Kevin Kouzmanoff was also traded to Oakland allowing Chase Headley to finally move to his natural position. New GM Jed Hoyer reportedly blew away the field in his interview which is good because he was probably the best GM candidate.  Judging by the low payroll and dearth of talent at all levels, he has his work cut out for him.

Expectations for 2010 should not be different than those of 2009. 

Ram Remodeling

Unless any future trades take place, the St. Louis roster is pretty much set to be built through the draft. The NFL free agency player shuffling is fully underway and the Rams have been pretty quiet thus far. Only backup quarterback A.J. Feeley has been brought in. Special teams player Craig Dahl was also recently given a new deal.

A quick glance at the Rams current roster reveals a ton of question marks. Many of the players listed are probably not even known by the casual football fan. I am all for having a few diamond-in-the-rough type players on the roster, but this team seems to rely on too many of these type of players to have significant roles.

The obvious conversation about the Rams regards the top pick in the draft. This team has a ton of needs. They are in need of talent at virtually every position.

I like head coach Steve Spagnuolo. I do not know however if he is best suited as a position coach or not. He has not had enough time to be fairly judged. He walked into a very difficult situation. In all honesty, with new ownership, he might not get a full chance to improve the team.

The new ownership topic definitely correlates to what player the Rams select in the first round. I have heard the ownership expects the team to win now or coaching changes will occur. Thus taking DT Ndamukong Suh makes more sense because a quarterback will take more time to develop. This situation negates the luxury that drafting a quarterback provides. Usually selecting a QB allows a coaching staff at least two or three years to develop the guy at the all-important position.

This team is quite interesting. Their roster building strategy of acquiring talent in the trenches is really what I favor. Oddly though, these players have not panned out as a whole. Some potential is still there.

On the defensive line, tackle Adam Carriker is coming into his third year as a pro. I think he can still come on strong but think he could be more of a physical specimen than an impact player. Defensive end Chris Long, their top pick from two years ago has a total of nine sacks in two years. He would definitely improve with help along the line. Veteran d ends James Hall and Leonard Little were released but I could see one returning possibly. In all actuality they simply need to be replaced by some young guys. Suh would be a great addition inside but the team has far too many needs to make him the obvious choice.

The linebacker core has a solid leader for the future. James Laurinaitis continued to do what he did at Ohio State, make a ton of tackles. He also had a couple sacks, and was involved in some turnovers which was a plus. Two outside linebackers with potential are needed. Actually some veteran linebacker additions would be helpful as well, to make a few plays and provide some leadership.

The secondary needs major changes, especially at cornerback. Simply put, they need a ton of new players back there. A few sleepers could emerge from this group but they cannot just expect these guys to all pan out.

On offense, Jason Brown got a ton of money to come in and play center. They need to build around him. The top pick from a year ago, Jason Smith, only started five games because of injury and needs to make major progress this year. Tackle Alex Barron is basically okay. The rest of the group has just a little bit of potential. John Greco could be a solid guard.

The WR core is full of average players. Donnie Avery has shown flashes but must get off press coverage better. He receives so much attention from defenses it is hard for him to make plays consistently. The other guys are sleepers at best. Keenan Burton is running out of time but could maybe get it together. Laurent Robinson is also in this category. Brooks Foster failed to make an impact as a rookie on a team that had no depth. Maybe this year he will make strides. The tight end depth chart is almost non-existent at this point. Randy McMichael and recently signed Derek Fine were both released.

The running back position became cloudy as well when Steven Jackson got himself in trouble. He is an elite talent but who knows what the future holds. A third-down back is needed as well.

The QB position needs major changes. They should really invest in a QB now, whether it be by trade or draft. The only negative will be the amount of money it will take to get one, but it must be done to compete. Feeley and Kyle Boller if he returns are short-term answers at best. Bulger is a back-up at this point. If they happen to like either Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen, I think they should go ahead and go for it. They have the chance to select the best QB available so they might as well take one. Though these two might not rate as high as other QBs in previous years.

Overall this team has more holes than maybe any team in the league. They must add tons of depth and talent to compete. Sadly this coaching staff might not have the time to do so. Hey the kicker Josh Brown is solid!