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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.