Monday, April 29, 2013

4/29: Sweeps, Steph Curry, etc.

Greetings! It's been a while since I've checked in so let's go...
  • The NBA Playoffs had one of those rare (and spectacular) quadruple-headers yesterday. In the early game, the Celtics staved off elimination with a 97-90 overtime victory. Carmelo Anthony "won" the game for Boston by being insanely inefficient, shooting 10 for 35 from the field and committing 7 turnovers (versus 2 assists). Boston was led by 29 points from Paul Pierce (in 50 minutes!) and 26 from Jeff Green. This series is still over, but it was good to see Boston battle, even after blowing a massive lead in the 2nd half. 
  • The middle games of the day were both series-ending, sweep-causing blowouts. Miami got a 30/8/7 from Lebron and knocked off Milwaukee 88-77. Dwyane Wade sat out the game as an injury precaution, but it didn't matter, and Milwaukee (once again) had no answer for the Heat. Ho-hum. Next, the Spurs blitzed the Lakers 103-82 in a game headlined by Dwight Howard's ejection and San Antonio's dominance. You can read my full thoughts here (as I covered the game for, but it was an epic beatdown against the short-handed Lakers.
  • In the late game, Steph Curry stole the stage. The young Warriors point guard shot 10-for-16 from the field, 6-for-11 from three-point distance (including some insane shots), and scored 31 points to lead Golden State to a 115-101 win. Curry was absolutely masterful, but he did have some help, as Jarrett Jack shot 8-for-9 and scored 21 points to go along with 9 assists as he let Curry play off the ball. With GSW up 3-1 in the series, it isn't "over", but they'll have a home close-out game in Game 6 and they are now a big favorite. 
  • The Braves were swept by the Tigers after a brutal, 8-3 loss in the rain last night. Austin Jackson and Miggy Cabrera each bashed 3-run bombs in the game, and the bats couldn't fully solve Doug Fister. No time to panic as the Braves come home for 4 with Washington, but it certainly wasn't a fun series.
  • Tim Tebow was released this morning by the New York Jets. Are we supposed to be surprised by this? As soon as they drafted Geno Smith, the writing was on the wall, but I personally hope Tebow lands somewhere where he can serve a purpose. I believe he's an NFL player. 
What to watch for on Monday...
  • 7:00 - NBA - Bulls @ Nets (Game 5, TNT) - Chicago looks to close out Brooklyn on the road, but I think the Nets will rise up here and hold serve. 
  • 7:00 - MLB - Nationals @ Braves (ESPN) - Strasburg vs. Teheran - It's a wild sports night in Atlanta, as the Nationals come to town and Strasburg is on the hill. National TV, also. 
  • 7:30 - NBA - Pacers @ Hawks (Game 4, NBATV) - Atlanta looks to stay in the series here. It'll be very interesting to see if they can defend at the same level as they did in Game 3. 
  • 9:30 - NBA - Thunder @ Rockets (Game 4, TNT) - Game 2 of the Russell Westbrook-less era for Oklahoma City. Houston will compete in a big way here and it wouldn't be surprising at all for the series to head back to OKC. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

4/25: Draft and More...

Greetings! Let's go...
  • The 2013 NFL Draft kicks off tonight with round one on tap. With no clear #1 pick this year and a huge absence of skill players in the top early half of the first round, it's going to be a very interesting one. In addition, the Falcons have a long, long wait until pick #30, and I'd certainly go with a defensive end or cornerback if I was them. At any rate, should be fun. For my full Falcons thoughts (here) and coverage of the local talent (here), check out
  • NBA Check! The Hawks got their doors blown off for the second consecutive game... I'm not sure I even want to get deeper into that one, but the Pacers are simply much, much better. Oklahoma City got 29 points a piece from Russ Westbrook and Kevin Durant in holding on for a 105-102 win over Houston to take a 2-0 lead. James Harden was also impressive (36 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 17-20 FT), but with his outside shot not falling, it wasn't enough. Finally, the Spurs looked fantastic in dispatching of the Lakers 102-91. Tony Parker (28 points, 7 assists) was the best player on the court, and Manu Ginobili looks to be primed for a big role coming up. 
  • Marc Gasol was named the NBA's defensive player of the year yesterday. That was my pick as well, so I appreciated the choice, but it was also nice to see Lebron (who came in 2nd) get recognized on that end. 
What to watch for on Thursday...
  • 7:00 - NBA - Heat @ Bucks (TNT) - The death march for Milwaukee continues.
  • 8:00 - 2013 NFL Draft (ESPN and NFL Network) - Full Round one coverage on either network. It will take forever, but it's always entertaining and you can watch Mel Kiper's hair for hours. 
  • 8:30 - NBA - Nets @ Bulls (NBATV) - Is it just me, or would you rather watch Bulls/Nets than Heat/Bucks? Anyway, this is a huge game for Brooklyn, who can't afford to fall behind 2-1. 
  • 9:30 - NBA - Clippers @ Grizzlies (TNT) - I think this is the best of all the first-round series, but that talk ends quickly if Memphis goes down 3-0. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Posts everywhere!

In lieu of a full post today (sorry), I'm going to link to my productivity from the last few days... take a look!

  • My glance at the Hawks Game One loss to Indiana, examining the absence of Al Horford, the foul disparity, and the rebounding advantage. (This one should be up this more at Soaring Down South)
  • An official NBA awards ballot (click here) and a quick breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons schedule release (here) over at
  • And finally, a bunch of content from the front page including an Al Michaels DUI (here), a walk-off home run from Mark Trumbo (here), and a full-length breakdown of the Rockets/Thunder Game 1 (here).
There you have it! Take a look and help me out!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Weekend Viewing Guide (4/20 - 4/21)

Greetings! In the absence of regular blog work this weekend (due to travel), here's an extended look at "what to watch for" for Saturday/Sunday. Enjoy!


  • 3:00 - NBA - Celtics @ Knicks (ABC) - The playoffs begin! It would be huge for Boston to grab control with a Game One upset here, and the eyes of the league will be on this one. 
  • 3:00 - MLB - Nationals @ Mets (FOX) - Gonzalez vs. Hefner - The last time out for Gio Gonzalez involved him getting beaten and battered by the Braves, but this Mets lineup isn't exactly comparable. 
  • 5:30 - NBA - Warriors @ Nuggets (ESPN) - Combined points... Over/under 240? I might take the over. 
  • 7:05 - MLB - Braves @ Pirates (SportSouth) - Maholm vs. McDonald - Paul Maholm has a 0.00 ERA entering this game and that's reason enough to tune in. 
  • 8:00 - NBA - Bulls @ Nets (ESPN) - Not exactly the most riveting series, but at least they'll avoid NBA-TV anytime the Hawks and Pacers are on. 
  • 10:30 - NBA - Grizzlies @ Clippers (ESPN) - I couldn't be more excited for this one. A diehard NBA fan's dream because these teams are going to full-on battle each other. 
  • 1:00 - NBA - Hawks @ Pacers (TNT) - This series has to win the award for "least appealing nationally", but I'm all-in (obviously) and the Hawks really need to steal game one to have a chance in the series. 
  • 1:35 - MLB - Braves @ Pirates (FSS) - Medlen vs. Sanchez - Jonathan Sanchez is a punching bag. It's pretty simple. With that said, he does have elite strikeout stuff when he's on, so that's a bit of a threat. Medlen should have no issue mowing down the Pirates lineup, however. 
  • 1:35 - MLB - Dodgers @ Orioles (TBS) - Billingsley vs. Arrieta - National TV baseball on a Sunday afternoon!
  • 3:30 - NBA - Lakers @ Spurs (ABC) - A lot of people are picking the Lakers. Those people are insane. Spurs in 5. 
  • 7:00 - NBA - Bucks @ Heat (TNT) - No one is picking the Bucks. Everyone is right. 
  • 8:00 - MLB - Cardinals @ Phillies (ESPN) - Westbrook vs. Kendrick - Not the best pitching match-up, but this is an entertaining battle usually.
  • 9:30 - NBA - Rockets @ Thunder (TNT) - It's the James Harden Bowl! OKC is better just about everywhere, so it'll fall on Harden to explode (i.e. averaging 35-40 a night) for Houston to have a chance. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

4/17: Summerall, Smart, etc.

  • RIP Pat Summeral. The long-time NFL broadcaster and former NFL player passed away yesterday at age 82. Anyone from my generation remembers him exclusively for his work with John Madden, both on TV and for the Madden video game franchise, but Summerall's unique disposition is legendary, and you can always pick out his voice. RIP. 
  • The Braves have won 10 straight games after a 5-homer explosion last night against the Royals in a 6-3 victory. Juan Francisco hit two home runs in the early innings to keep the game tied at 2-2, and then the bats exploded in the bottom of the 8th, as Atlanta tallied four runs including three solo shots from Heyward, Justin Upton, and Uggla. Kris Medlen was solid again (7 IP, 2 runs, 1 ER, 5 Ks) and the bullpen slammed the door. This team is rolling. 
  • Multiple sources are reporting that Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart will return for his sophomore season in college. This is pretty shocking, honestly, because Smart is a consensus top-5 pick with nothing to really gain as far as draft stock by returning. I'm seeing a lot of references to guys like Jared Sullinger and Cody Zeller, but the difference here is that Smart is already a no-brainer top-5 guy and those guys weren't. Anyway, it's good for college hoops to have upper-echelon talent, and Smart certainly does. 
  • Tracy McGrady is... a Spur!? In a very interesting move, San Antonio signed McGrady yesterday out of China to take the roster spot previously occupied by Stephen Jackson. I don't know what T-Mac has left, but he looked good in spurts for Atlanta last year, and he can still pass and score.
  • The Hawks completely no-showed against Toronto last night (losing 113-96) and that opens the door wide open for Chicago to take the #5 seed and force Atlanta to play Indiana in the first round. Eesh. I'll have more detail on this as we go, but I'm not pleased.
What to watch for on Wednesday...
  • 12:10 - MLB - Royals @ Braves (FSS) - W. Davis vs. M. Minor - Mike Minor takes to the hill to try to extend this insane, 10-game winning streak. This is another game where ATL has the pitching edge, but weird things tend to happen in 12:10 first pitches. 
  • 7:00 - MLB - Phillies @ Reds (ESPN2) - J. Lannan vs. M. Leake - You think ESPN is thrilled about this pitching match-up? (lol) At any rate, both teams are 6-7 and could use a win. 
  • 8:00 - NBA - Jazz @ Grizzlies (ESPN) - It's the final night of the NBA regular season and all 30 teams are in action. Utah needs to win here and get a Lakers loss to Houston, so they are behind the 8-ball, but anything is possible. 
  • 8:00 - NBA - Hawks @ Knicks (SportSouth) - Atlanta needs to win here and get a Chicago home loss to Washington to get the 5th seed. Translation? Say hello to the #6 seed and Indiana. 
  • 10:30 - NBA - Rockets @ Lakers (ESPN) - The aforementioned Lakers simply need to win and they're in. Without Kobe, it won't be easy, but the Howard/Gasol duo has looked better in recent days, and they'll need to lean on it. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

4/16: Boston, etc.

  • On a somber day in the United States, it's tough to talk about sports, but because that's what we do here, that's what I'm going to do. Prayers for everyone in the Boston area after a big-time tragedy, and I hope more details come to light in what was a senseless act. I'm 100% on board with them cancelling games, including the Boston/Indiana game scheduled for tonight, and that's a great move. 
  • To sports... Nerlens Noel has declared for the NBA Draft. The craziest part about this is that Noel tore his ACL midway through the season and yet no one thought he was coming back to school. He could be the #1 overall pick (still) and if he came back, looked slowed by the knee, and struggled, he would've fallen. If I was Charlotte or Sacramento and had nothing to play for next year, I'd take Noel, stash him, and bottom out again. 
  • NBA Round-up - Chicago got a huge win in the standings with a 102-84 decision over Orlando. They were led by 22 points from Carlos Boozer, but the big story is that the win takes them to 44-37, just a half-game behind Atlanta, and with Chicago owning the tiebreaker, all they need is one Hawks loss in the final two games. Oklahoma City clinched the #1 seed in the West after a 104-95 win over Sacramento. With the way that the Spurs have struggled, it was pretty likely that OKC would put it away, but it's official. And finally, Utah went on the road and kept their playoff hopes alive with a 96-80 win in Minnesota. Al Jefferson continued to play out of his mind in this one, and all eyes move to LA, where Utah needs the Lakers to drop their final game. 
  • MLB Round-up - Boston got a 3-2 win to complete a 3-game sweep over the Rays on Patriots Day. Without commenting on everything else in Boston, it was a big win for the Sox and they got 7 quality innings (2 hits, 1 ER, 10 K) from Ryan Dempster. Cincinnati snapped a 5-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Phillies. Brandon Phillips had the clinching 2-run single in the bottom of the 8th and Aroldis slammed the door (hard) in the 9th. Finally, Oakland got a 11-2 victory over the hapless Astros to extend their AL-best record to 10-4. Tommy Milone is devastatingly good at home. 
What to watch for on Tuesday...
  • 7:10 - MLB - Royals @ Braves (FSS) - Guthrie vs. Medlen - Inter-league! Of course, there is Inter-League every day this season (lol), but this is the first look for Atlanta in a short, 2-game series with KC. 
  • 8:00 - NBA - Raptors @ Hawks (TNT) - This was originally going to be Boston/Indiana, and I'm sure TNT is thrilled to see Toronto on their slate. At any rate, the game does mean something, as the Hawks need a win to try to hold on to the #5 seed in the East. 
  • 10:30 - NBA - Blazers @ Clippers (TNT) - The Clips have to win out to guarantee home-court advantage, and I doubt Portland will stand in the way. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

4/15: Masters/Braves

  • What a week at The Masters. The climactic finish between Adam Scott (who drained the putt of his life on the 72nd hole) and Angel Cabrera (who stuck one of the best iron shots of the week on the 72nd hole) was awesome. Each guy had similar length putts on the 2nd playoff hole, and while Cabrera lipped out, Scott's effort was true, and the young Aussie snuck away with the win. It was high drama, and an example of why people (myself included) love the action at Augusta. 
  • The Braves swept the Nationals. Yes, the Braves swept the Nationals. Three straight sweeps. 11-1 record. And they've done it without much help from Heyward (who actually had a big 2B yesterday, but is still hitting .103), Freeman (injury), or Uggla (.317 slugging). The pitching has been incredible, led by Paul Maholm, who threw 7.2 shutout innings yesterday, keeping his ERA at 0.00 through 20.1 innings this season. Staggering. 
Back in full-length tomorrow... 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Masters Sunday.

Please forgive my lack of content. It's been a whirlwind!

First, the Braves are SCORCHING hot right now, and with an opportunity to sweep Washington (on the road, no less) this afternoon, things are looking good.

Aside from that, however, the focus of the country is on Augusta, Georgia and the final round of The Masters. Tiger is in the hunt despite the "controversial" 2-shit penalty (that shouldn't have been controversial at all because the penalty was assessed correctly and he took it) and there is a logjam close behind the leaders, Angel Cabrera and Brandt Snedeker. There aren't many things better than Sunday in Augusta, so enjoy.

Back in full tomorrow!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Cue Up the Piano

Every year on a Thursday in April, the piano begins in earnest. Not familiar with the reference? Well, it's simply speaking to the unmistakable piano background that accompanies coverage of The Masters on CBS. As a music nerd, maybe I'm out of touch and take this into higher esteem than most, but the combination of the visually stunning scenes of Augusta National Golf Club and the sweet sounds of that piano get me ready for the biggest golf tournament in the world. Let's get it going!
  • First things first, let me recommend downloading The Masters App, and making full use of Both are powered by the same system, and they stream live video of a "featured group", live video of the famous Amen Corner, and the most up-to-date leaderboard out there. A must-use.
  • If you can get to an HD television, do it. In my opinion, there is nothing better to watch in HD than The Masters. I repeat. Nothing. Golf is a great HD sport anyway, but when you throw in the perfection of Augusta, it's out of this world. 
  • Jim Nantz is great. Nobody seems to understand how flawless Nantz is, and because he's not a raucous personality, I feel like he slips through the cracks. For the media nerds (aka me), it's always an exhibition on how to do your job, and I enjoy it.
  • Tianlang Guan. You probably have no idea who that is, but he is a 14-year-old 8th grader from China who is playing in the tournament this week. 14! What a story that is, and he's teeing it up with Ben Crenshaw in his 40th Masters appearance. Awesome stuff.
  • The pick? I'm taking Tiger. For all of the nonsense, he's back to being the best golfer in the world, and if you are really asked to give a 1-man prediction, there's not a better answer than Woods. We are long past the day where Tiger vs. The Field was a discussion, but with a gun to your head, don't you want Tiger over any other individual player?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Not Ready.

I'd be lying if I said I was ready to talk about it. 

Congratulations to the 2013 National Champion Louisville Cardinals. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

4/8: Title Game Preview, etc.

Greetings! Let's get to it...

  • The LA Clippers have won their first Pacific Division championship... in history. In fitting fashion, the Clips knocked off the Lakers 109-95 yesterday to grab the division title, and they were led by 24/12's from Chris Paul (assists) and Blake Griffin (boards). Obviously, division titles don't mean a whole lot in the NBA, but when you haven't won a single one in decades? It's a story. 
  • Elsewhere in the Association, the Knicks won their 12th consecutive game with a 125-120 road win over Oklahoma City. New York is unconscious at the moment, and they are led by Carmelo Anthony who went for 36 more points (on 29 shots lol) yesterday, to bring his 4-game total to 167 points (41.8 per game). Insanity. I still don't believe in the Knicks as a legit threat to Miami, but if they shoot/score at this rate, they are scary. 
  • The Atlanta Braves hit a snag on Sunday, as starting 1B Freddie Freeman was tabbed to the DL with a strained oblique. This seems pretty standard on paper, but the amount of coverage to Freeman's reaction is pretty startling. Apparently (as reported by Mark Bowman), Freeman was extremely unhappy to be placed on the DL and voiced his displeasure. I'm personally okay with this because it shows the kind of fight he's got, and I don't think he'd cross a line of defiance with it either. Nonetheless, Atlanta will be without one of their premium left-handed bats, and we'll see a lot of Chris Johnson and Juan Francisco at the corners over the next two weeks. 
  • MLB Round-up! The Braves got 5-1 victory over Chicago on Sunday afternoon to move to an NL-best 5-1 on the season. Tim Hudson threw 6.2 innings of 1-run ball, and Ramiro Pena had a huge, bases-loaded double in the 6th inning to blow things open. Will Middlebrooks launched 3 home runs in Boston's 13-0 drubbing of Toronto yesterday, and hit a 4th ball to the warning track in the process. 3-HR games are pretty rare, especially these days, so big-ups to him. Yu Darvish and Jered Weaver each departed early from their face-off last night with small injuries. Darvish left after 5 innings with a blister, and Weaver strained his left (non-pitching elbow) in the 6th. Neither guy was particularly good in the Rangers' 7-3 win, but it's important that both guys are on the mound going forward for their respective AL contenders. 
What to watch for on Monday...
  • 7:00 - MLB - Braves @ Marlins (SportSouth) - Paul Maholm vs. Kevin Slowey - I'm all-in on Maholm this year, and I think he lights up that weak Miami lineup here. 
  • 7:00 - MLB - Mets @ Phillies (ESPN) - Matt Harvey vs. Roy Halladay - Harvey is electric, but the story will be how Halladay throws. He was awful all Spring and in his first start, and the clock is ticking. 
And a special section for this... 
  • National Championship Game - Louisville vs. Michigan (CBS, 9:23 PM) - My Michigan Wolverines are playing for the National Title, and they're doing so in the city that I call home. On paper, Louisville looks like a juggernaut, but the Wolverines actually match-up remarkably well with the #1-seed Cardinals. Remember the vaunted VCU press that Michigan destroyed? I wouldn't say that it is the same system/personnel, but Michigan is equipped with multiple quality ball-handlers to avoid pressure, and shooters to make Louisville pay for over-pressing. On the interior, Mitch McGary is playing out of his mind, and he'll face off with Gorgui Dieng in a must-see spot. I think the key for Michigan is keeping Siva and Smith out of the paint, as well as getting a net-positive from guys like Robinson III and Stauskas. Trey Burke will certainly need to be better than he's been for the entirety of the tournament (sans the 2nd-half against Kansas, where he was outrageous), and it's going to be a fun one. One final note? Jalen Rose has taken to the air in begging Chris Webber to make an appearance with the Fab Five, and I'd pay money to see it. Come on, Chris.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Final Four!

In the absence of a full-on blog post (I'm traveling for the weekend), I will say a few words in reference to tonight's Final Four double-header.

  • Louisville vs. Wichita State (6:09, CBS) - Louisville is a big-time favorite here, and for good reason. They are ultra-talented, play at a break-neck pace, and generally wear the opponent out. Throw in the fact that they have the extra "push" behind Kevin Ware and the injury circus, and you have a mini-juggernaut. With that said, Wichita State is uber-disciplined, play a style that can neutralize Louisville's tempo (potentially), and they're going to rebound here. I think they hang around for 30-35 minutes, and go down by a single-digit margin.
  • Michigan vs. Syracuse (8:49, CBS) - This is not a good match-up for Beilin, Burke, McGary and the Wolverines. Syracuse's zone is incredibly long, and the style of offense that Michigan has been deploying won't work without some serious tweaks. It's important for UM to make threes, and I think it'd be wise to stick Glenn Robinson III and/or Mitch McGary in the high post to get into the teeth of the zone, but we'll see how Beilein uses that. On the other end, Syracuse is a hit-or-miss offensive team, but if they have it going behind Triche and Michael Carter-Williams, look out. My brain tells my Syracuse, my heart tells me Michigan. We'll see.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

4/3: Yu!, etc.

Greetings! My apologies for the absence on Tuesday morning as it's been a crazy few days. The Braves are 1-0 and everything is lovely. Let's get to it.
  • Our first MLB Round-up of the season (!) leads with Yu Darvish. The Texas fire-baller went 8 and 2/3 innings with a perfect game before surrendering a ground-ball hit through the middle (by Marwin Gonzalez) that broke things up. Darvish was insanely good throughout, getting 27 swing-and-misses and striking out 14 Astros, but he was one pitch away. At any rate, he was tremendous. Elsewhere, the Blue Jays got off to a slow start behind RA Dickey as they lost 4-1 to the Indians. Dickey pitched well for the most part, but a 2-run homer by Asdrubal Cabrera proved to be huge. Baltimore used a 5-run explosion against Tampa Bay reliever Jake McGee to grab a 7-4 win. David Price was on the hill for Tampa and he allowed only 2 runs, but McGee's blow-up cost Tampa the win as Baltimore got a 3-run homer from Chris Davis to blow things open. Finally, Madison Bumgarner tossed 8 shutout innings of 2-hit ball in route to a 3-0 win over the Dodgers. He's a stud. 
  • Two crazy NCAA hoops stories. First, Rutgers head coach Mike Rice was shown on video throwing balls at players and yelling slurs in a wild display. Nothing ever "shocks" me as far as outrageous behavior, but this is certainly across the line, and they'll be some action forthcoming. Then, Ed Rush, a former NBA official and current Pac-12 referee chief, has been accused of offering $5,000 or a trip to Cancun to the referee who gave a technical to Arizona's Sean Miller during the conference tournament. This is a "he said, she said", but if it's true, he should be immediately be fired, whether he was kidding or not. Insane. 
  • In the NBA, Carmelo Anthony dropped 50 points on the Wade-less/Lebron-Less Heat in a 102-90 win for New York. Melo scored the 50 on just 26 field goal attempts, as he managed to knock down 7 of 10 triples, as well as 7-8 from the line on the night. Really impressive display by him even without the opposition of LBJ, as he drew an assignment from Shane Battier for much of the night, and it didn't phase him. John Wall led the Wizards to a 90-86 win over Chicago, as Wall went for 27 points, 8 boards, and 9 assists. Wall has been ridiculous for much of the 2nd half, as it looks like may be making the leap to elite status. Finally, the Lakers got a crucial, 20-point victory over Dallas, 101-81. Kobe Bryant went for a 23/11/11 triple-double in the win and Dwight Howard had 24 points and 11 rebounds. s
  • Carson Palmer is an Arizona Cardinal. The Cards snatched him up for the price of a 7th-rounder, and despite his decline, that's a coup for Arizona as he's a certain upgrade from the Skelton/Kolb/Lindley mess last year. As for Oakland, I've given up trying to figure that out, but they may be going with Terrelle Pryor. Yep, you read that right. 
  • The NFC Champions got even scarier, as the Niners signed Nnamdi Asomugha to a 1-year deal. Just a couple of years ago, he was considered a "1-A" to Darrelle Revis for the best corner in the league, and they got him for nothing. Steal. 
What to watch for on Wednesday...
  • 2:00 - MLB - Kansas City @ Chicago White Sox (WGN) - Ervin Santana vs. Jake Peavy - Nothing quite like some WGN baseball at 2:00 on a Wednesday. Peavy was tremendous last year, and we'll see whether he can replicate that in 2013. 
  • 7:00 - MLB - Philadelphia @ Atlanta (FSS) - Roy Halladay vs. Paul Maholm - I am all-in on Maholm this year, and Halladay was an absolute mess in Spring Training. 
  • 7:00 - NBA - New York @ Atlanta (ESPN) - It's an All-Atlanta 7 o'clock window! National TV for the Hawks is a rarity, and at least they get NYK coming off the back-to-back. 
  • 10:00 - NBA - Memphis @ Portland (NBATV) - Tough spot for Memphis, as no one likes to play in the Rose Garden, but the highlight is return of John Hollinger. Bike lanes!
  • 10:00 - MLB - San Francisco vs. LA Dodgers (ESPN2) - Tim Lincecum vs. Josh Beckett - Speaking of absolute messes, Tim Lincecum was an abject disaster last year, and they need him to bounce back in a big way, while Josh Beckett was better after a change of scenery last season and looks to keep it going. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

4/1: Opening Day! etc.

Greetings! As the MLB journey begins for 28 of the 30 teams, it's time to remind everyone that "Hope Springs Eternal" in baseball, and that's why it's fantastic. At any rate, let's take a look at what happened on Sunday before we get into Monday's preview.
  • The Final Four is Set! Michigan dominated Florida from the opening bell and cruised to a 73-53 win to earn a trip to Atlanta. With my bias aside (and for the record, I'm writing this while jumping up and down), it was a wildly impressive performance by the Wolverines, as they shut down a quality Florida offense (41% FG, 20% 3's) while getting big-time outputs from Nik Stauskas (22 points, 6-6 3-PT) and Mitch McGary (11 points, 9 board, 5 steals in 25 minutes). It was another example of what this team looks like when they are "on", and they're a real threat to the actual "favorite". Speaking of favorites, #1 overall seed Louisville pulled away from Duke late and cruised to a 22-point victory. Though the day was "highlighted" by a gruesome injury to Louisville's Kevin Ware (which I won't link to, but will instead pray for), the Cardinals played big-time basketball in the second half. Louisville shot a blistering 53% from the field, won the rebounding battle 35-26, and generated 10 live-ball turnovers to pulse their fast break. What a performance. 
  • There was live baseball last night! The Houston Astros "shocked" Texas with an 8-2 victory in the season opener. Matt Harrison allowed 6 runs (5 earned) over 5.2 innings for the Rangers, and Derek Lowe surrendered a 3-run homer to former teammate Rick Ankiel in the 6th inning to bust it open. Erik Bedard snatched the rare 10-out save for Houston, as he finished what Bud Norris started with 3.1 innings of 1-hit ball for the win. It's always great when baseball gets it going, and I can't wait for Monday's slate. 
  • Speaking of baseball, there is another contract to discuss. Elvis Andrus and the Texas Rangers are reportedly close to an 8-year, $120 million contract. I honestly don't understand this one at all (if it's true) as the Rangers have the #1 prospect in baseball in Jurickson Profar... and he's a shortstop. Even if we set that aside, Andrus' production (esp. with the bat) doesn't match a contract this size in my opinion, but there is an argument for him, as he's #3 in baseball among shortstops in WAR for the past two seasons and there's value there at a premium position. 
What to watch for on Monday...
  • 1:00 - MLB - Red Sox @ Yankees (ESPN) - Jon Lester vs. CC Sabathia - The battle for 3rd place in the AL East!!! (lol) The most talked-about rivalry in baseball starts the season just as it should. 
  • 4:00 - MLB - Giants @ Dodgers (ESPN) - Matt Cain vs. Clayton Kershaw - Another big-time rivalry, and this one features one of the best 5 pitchers in baseball in Kershaw against another elite guy in Cain. Awesome. 
  • 7:00 - MLB - Philles @ Braves (ESPN) - Cole Hamels vs. Tim Hudson - I can't explain how excited I am for Braves baseball, and it's fitting that Huddy is taking the hill. He's been overlooked through the entire off-season, but he's still uber-solid and I love him. 
  • 7:30 - NBA - Cavs @ Hawks (SportSouth) - Traffic will be immense in downtown Atlanta, as the Hawks tip off 30 minutes after the Braves sell-out. Enjoy. 
  • 8:00 - NBA - Spurs @ Grizzlies (NBATV) - San Antonio comes off of that inexplicable loss to Miami, and they get the joy of facing Memphis on the road. 
  • 10:00 - MLB - Cardinals @ D-Backs (ESPN2) - Adam Wainwright vs. Ian Kennedy - Looking forward to seeing how Wainwright looks, and the new, grinding D-Backs line-up will be a test. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hail To The Victors!

We interrupt this normally bias-free space for this.

The Maize and Blue are headed to the Final Four.

Go Blue. Beat the Orangemen.

2013 MLB Preview: Standings, Awards, & Playoffs

Greetings! After going through the gauntlet of all 30 teams (whew), it's time to take a look at the standings, awards, and playoff predictions. Let's go!


AL East
  1. Toronto (91-71)
  2. Tampa Bay (89-73)
  3. Boston (85-77)
  4. New York Yankees (84-78)
  5. Baltimore (76-86)
AL Central
  1. Detroit (95-67)
  2. Chicago White Sox (81-81)
  3. Cleveland (79-83)
  4. Kansas City (74-88)
  5. Minnesota (65-97)
AL West
  1. LA Angels (96-66)
  2. Texas (92-70)
  3. Seattle (81-81)
  4. Oakland (80-82)
  5. Houston (48-114)
NL East
  1. Washington (99-63)
  2. Atlanta (96-66)
  3. Philadelphia (82-80)
  4. New York Mets (79-83)
  5. Miami (63-99)
NL Central
  1. Cincinnati (92-70)
  2. St. Louis (87-75)
  3. Milwaukee (80-82)
  4. Pittsburgh (74-88)
  5. Chicago Cubs (71-91)
NL West
  1. LA Dodgers (90-72)
  2. San Francisco (84-78)
  3. Arizona (82-80)
  4. San Diego (69-93)
  5. Colorado (66-96)
  • NL Rookie of the Year - Jedd Gyorko (2B), San Diego - He's got the job and I think he'll hit for a high-average in 500+ AB's. In a weak class, that gets it done. 
  • AL Rookie of the Year - Aaron Hicks (OF), Minnesota - He'll still 30 bases and he's got the job from day one. Voters love counting stats!
  • NL Cy Young - Stephen Strasburg, Washington - 200 innings of 10+ K/9 and an ERA around 2.50 on the best team in baseball (so he'll get "wins") give him the nod. 
  • AL Cy Young - Yu Darvish, Texas - He's going to strike out 240-250 guys. Mark that down.
  • NL MVP - Joey Votto, Cincinnati (2nd year in a row!) - Votto stays healthy, hits .340-.360, and hits 35 homers for good measure. 
  • AL MVP - Mike Trout, LA Angels - I'm betting on a lack of regression for Trout coupled with a more informed votership that accounts for defense and base-running this year. 8-9 WAR, 45 steals, 20 homers and a high OBP. 
  • NL Fantasy Pick (High-end) - Adrian Gonzalez - I think the power comes back (30-35 HR) and the average stays above .300. 
  • AL Fantasy Pick (High-end) - Austin Jackson - I think he goes 15 HR/25 steals with a .300-ish average and about 115 runs. 
  • NL Fantasy Pick (Deep Sleeper) - Paul Maholm - I'm in love with Maholm. This is a very deep sleeper, but his ERA is going to be in the low-to-mid 3.00's over 190 innings on a team with good offense.
  • AL Fantasy Pick (Deep Sleeper) - Jesus Montero - 25 homers from the catcher spot. 
  • AL Wild-Card Play-in Game - Texas over Tampa Bay
  • NL Wild-Card Play-in Game - Atlanta (deep breaths, everyone) over St. Louis
  • AL Divisional Round - LA Angels over Toronto, Detroit over Texas
  • NL Divisional Round - Washington over LA Dodgers, Atlanta over Cincinnati
  • ALCS - Detroit over LA Angels in 7
  • NLCS - Washington over Atlanta in 6
  • World Series - Washington over Detroit in 6
Enjoy it, everyone!

3/31: Madness, Baseball!, etc.

Greetings! First of all, we've wrapped up the 30-team baseball preview (check the right scroll bar for all of them) as baseball approaches, and I'd invite you to take a look. There's just one more day of hoops before the Final Four (in my hometown of Atlanta) is set. We will take a look at what went down on Saturday, as well as glance ahead to Sunday's slate.
  • #9-seed Wichita State is headed to the Final Four. The Shockers stunned Ohio State with a 70-66 victory led by swarming defense for the entire game, and ultra-balanced scoring. WSU held the Buckeyes to just 31% shooting on the night (including 20% from 3-point land), shutting down Deshaun Thomas (8-20 FG) and Aaron Craft (2-12 FG) for the duration, and generally locking them up. They simply just made more plays throughout, and nothing was more indicative than when the Buckeyes climbed all the way back into the game before falling short by failing to grab a defensive rebound on a huge late possession. It's on to Atlanta for Wichita, where they'll be a big-time underdog against either Duke or Louisville. 
  • In the early game, Syracuse absolutely dominated Marquette. The 'Cuse held Marquette to the lowest Elite 8 point total in the shot clock era, allowing only 39 points and holding the Golden Eagles to 12-53 from the field (22.6%) and 3-24 from three (12.5%). The Orangemen used that vaunted 2-3 zone to stifle Marquette, who simply didn't have the explosion to get into the teeth of the defense or the shooters to spread them out in a sufficient way. Syracuse actually wasn't particularly good offensively (38% FG), but it almost doesn't matter when you defend like that. 
In non-tourney news...
  • MLB Contract Madness! Justin Verlander is reportedly going to ink the largest pitcher deal in baseball history, signing for 7 years and $180 million with the Tigers. It's really tough to gauge the market these days, but I wouldn't give any pitcher $180 million over that sort of length. That said, Verlander has been basically the best pitcher in baseball for a half-decade, and if there was ever a guy, it's him. In the National League, Buster Posey will be a San Francisco Giant for quite a long time, as he signed a 9-year, $167 million contract yesterday. Posey is the best catcher in the league without question at this stage, but this contract is insane to me. Considering that a) he already has an injury history, b) catchers age very, very quickly, and c) they didn't need to lock him up yet, this one is one they'll probably regret. If he can replicate his 2012 numbers? It's a steal, but good luck with that. 
  • UCLA has hired Steve Alford to replace Ben Howland as their head coach. Alford was stolen away from New Mexico, where he turned that program into a year-in-year-out power, and he is also famous for his player exploits at Indiana under Bobby Knight. I like this move a lot because he's a high-profile name who will run a high-tempo system and be able to recruit California. In addition, he'll bring his top-prospect son with him, and will take over a talented roster. Thumbs up. 
  • Kevin Kolb is a Buffalo Bill. The former Eagles and Cardinals QB inked a 2-year, $13 million deal with the Bills to theoretically compete for the starting job. I personally think the job has to be his for this type of money, but Tarvaris Jackson is still around. I'm not a big fan of Kolb, but they gave him another receiver to go along with Spiller and Stevie Johnson, it could be okay. 
  • Johan Santana, of New York Mets fame, will miss the season with yet another shoulder issue. This move devastates me as a Santana owner in the NFBC (lol), but it's a big issue for the Mets as well, as they turn to Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, and the oft-injured Shaun Marcum to form the top-3 of their rotation along with young flame-thrower Matt Harvey. Good luck. 
What to watch for on Sunday...
  • 2:20 - NCAAB - #4 Michigan vs. #3 Florida (CBS) - With a trip to the Final Four on the line, I'm torn. I'm obviously rooting for Michigan, but me and Ken Pomeroy are out on the limb with Florida this year (lol). This should be a good one, and no result would surprise me. 
  • 5:05 - NCAAB - #1 Louisville vs. #2 Duke (CBS) - This is easily the highest-profile game of th entire NCAA tournament so far. The Cardinals are the overall #1 seed and they're facing the #1 "public" team in Duke. I picked Duke and I'm standing by it. 
  • 7:00 - NBA - Heat @ Spurs (NBATV) - This would've been a much bigger deal if Miami had the streak going, but that doesn't mean it's not an awesome NBA game. 
  • 8:00 - MLB - Rangers @ Astros (ESPN) - Real, live baseball that counts! Yu Darvish takes the mound for Texas, and since he's my AL Cy Young pick, I'd say that I'm excited to see what he looks like. Houston is abysmal, but it's real baseball and I'm in. 
Happy Easter! And stay tuned for my final "wrap-up" MLB Preview post. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Madness! Friday Wrap/Saturday Preview

Greetings! Still on the road, so this will be via iPhone once again. Bear with me. Let's go!

- Trey Burke and Mitch McGary took things over for Michigan, and the Wolverines came from behind by double-digits to force overtime, and subsequently got a ticket to the Elite 8. McGary was the best player on the court, scoring 25 points and grabbing 14 rebounds (against the best defensive center in the country, no less) to add even more people to his bandwagon. He kept them alive late in the second half... until the bomb happened. Trey Burke hit a 30-foot (not exaggerating) three to tie the game with 4 seconds left, and in the overtime, opened the period with back-to-back long jumpers to key the game-ending run. What a game. What a win.

- Louisville only beat Oregon by 8 points, but that game was never in doubt and it felt more like a 15-20 point blowout. Russ Smith went for 31 points and the Cards shot 54% as a team on the night. Another dominant win from the overall #1 seed.

- Duke and Michigan State was the most focused-on game of the day coming in, but Duke pushed away late and got a 10-point (71-61) victory. Seth Curry went crazy with 29 points (including 6-9 from three) and Rasheed Sulaimon added 16 for the Blue Devils. This sets the stage for an epic Duke/Louisville regional final on Sunday, and the world will be watching.

- In the late game, Florida dispatched of the FGCU story with a comfortable 62-50 win. The Eagles from the Gulf Coast did push to a 9-point lead in the 1st half, but for the final 30 minutes or so, Florida dominated, and sent them home in a heap. The scary thing for the Gators? They shot only 39% from the field on this night, but they forced 20 turnovers, and used that to key their big runs.

What to watch for on Saturday...

4:30 - #4 Syracuse vs. #3 Marquette (CBS) - An all-Big East Regional Final as these two rivals square off. Marquette won their first meeting by 3 points, but Syracuse has the more talented roster by a decent margin. It'll probably come down to how Buzz Williams solves that incredibly long Syracuse zone, and Marquette needs to make shots to win. With a gun to my head, I'd take Syracuse because they're more talented, but this is going to be tight.

7:05 - #9 Wichita State vs. #2 Ohio State (CBS) - The Shockers are in the Elite 8. Ohio State is certainly the better team led by Craft and Thomas, but WSU isn't going to roll over, and this will be competitive. I think the Buckeyes win the game, but not without some more late-game heroics. Enjoy!

2013 MLB Preview #1: Washington Nationals

Greetings! Somebody has to take pole position....

Projected Starters - Wilson Ramos (C), Adam LaRoche (1B), Danny Espinosa (2B), Ian Desmond (SS), Ryan Zimmerman (3B), Jayson Werth (LF), Denard Span (CF), Bryce Harper (RF)

For a 99-win team, this lineup doesn't scream awesome, but it is pretty darn good. Bryce Harper arrived in a big way in 2012, and the 20-year-old (who played last year at 19, btw) had an OPS of .817 with 22 homers, 18 steals, and 98 runs in just 597 plate appearances. Thanks frankly ridiculous, and if Mike Trout didn't exist, Harper would've gotten even more pub. I won't make the leap to say that he'll be a top-10/elite player this year, but it's reasonable to expect a small bump, and he's a 5-6-win player for me in year two. If I asked the general baseball public who led the Nats in WAR last year, Harper would've been the default answer, but the actual answer is Ian Desmond. The shortstop hit .292/.335/.511 with 25 homers and 21 steals, which is absolutely ridiculous from an above-average defensive guy at that position, and he's a legit star if he can replicate that. All indications are that the batting average was a bit lucky (career high .332 BABIP), but if he hits .275 with 18 and 18, that's pretty awesome from shortstop. Zimmerman and LaRoche have some injury concerns, but both guys are 25-30 home run locks at the corners if they get the at-bats, and there's safety in that. In the rest of the outfield, Denard Span was brought in from Minnesota, and I've always loved him. He's an awesome defender with a good OBP (career .357), good speed, and enough doubles power to be useful. Jayson Werth is easily the highest paid player on the team (lol), but for all of the negative publicity around that contract (and it was awful), Werth is still a good baseball player. He's a bad defensive center-fielder (which killed his WAR last year), but he's moving to a corner where he's fine-or-better and I think he's good for 20-ish homers and a .350 OBP. If he's your biggest concern, you're loaded. Espinosa provides some nice pop and positional flexibility from 2nd-base, and Ramos (or backup Kurt Suzuki) should be average behind the plate with some upside.

Projected - Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren, Ross Detwiler

This is kind of a crazy top-four. Strasburg is the best young pitcher in all of baseball, and if he simply maintains his 2012 level (3.16 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 11.13 K/9) over 190-200 innings instead of 160, he's a top-5 pitcher in 2013 who could lead the NL in strikeouts. I could throw superlatives as Strasburg all day, but he's elite. After that, Zimmerman and Gonzalez were tremendous in 2012 and there's no reason to think that won't continue. Zimmerman isn't a high-strikeout guy (7.04 K/9) but he's got elite control, and posted a 2.94 ERA over 195 innings in 2012. Gonzalez won 20 games (which doesn't matter), but more importantly, he struck out 200+ guys and had a sub-3.00 ERA and FIP over 199 innings. There's some concern over a potential PED suspension for Gonzalez after the Miami scandal, but if he's there, he's a great pitcher. Dan Haren arrives from LA with little pressure and if he's your 4th starter, it's an embarrassment of riches. Haren had the worst year of his career in 2012, but he was unquestionably hurt and still managed to throw 176 innings of league-average baseball. I think he returns to an ERA in the 3.50-3.60 range over 200 innings, and that's awesome for a 4th guy. Detwiler rounds things out in the 5th spot, and he's the prototypical 5th guy. Zero strikeout potential (less than 6 per 9), but he did finish 2012 with a 3.40 ERA, and they'd take anything below a 4.00. It's a monster rotation.

Projected - Rafael Soriano (closer), Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen, Henry Rodriguez, Zach Duke, Ryan Mattheus

This is a monster late-inning combination. Soriano was brought in from NY to take the closer spot, and he's always good when healthy. He saved 42 games with a 2.26 ERA and 9.18 K/9 last season for the Yankees, and he's got a career ERA of 2.78 over 502 innings. They hung on to Drew Storen (the former "closer" of the future") and Tyler Clippard to set Soriano up, and while Clippard is more of a multi-inning guy, both pitchers are top-notch in that role and should produce sub-3.00 ERA's with good stuff. Stammen and Duke are both very good middle guys, and this is a deep, talented bullpen.


Because of the pitching depth (and I'm all-in on Dan Haren) and a deep, talented, high-upside lineup combined with a good bullpen, I think Washington is the best team in the league on paper. There isn't a weak spot in their game, and while the other contenders have "weaker"/unsettled areas (Braves' starting pitching, Detroit's defense, LA's starting pitching), Washington is rock solid. Throw in the upside of Strasburg throwing 200 innings or a full-on breakout from Harper, and things get crazy. They could go 100+ wins if everything goes well, but I'll stop just short and project 99-63. What a team.


99-63, 1st in NL East

2013 MLB Preview #2: Los Angeles Angels

Greetings! Trout, Pujols, Hamilton... and what else do you need?

Projected Starters - Chris Iannetta (C), Albert Pujols (1B), Howard Kendrick (2B), Erick Aybar (SS), Alberto Callaspo (3B), Mike Trout (LF), Peter Bourjos (CF), Josh Hamilton (RF), Mark Trumbo (DH)

This offense is going to be tremendous if everything goes right. Mike Trout was the best player in baseball last year (yes, he should've been the AL MVP), sporting a crazy 10.0 WAR, a .326/.399/.564 slash line, 30 homers, and 49 steals in 639 plate appearances. Read that line again. Did I mention that he's an absolutely elite defender, too? There will probably be some power/batting average regression, but even if he hits .295 with 20 homers, he's a top-5 player in baseball because of his legs and defense. Albert Pujols is the best right-handed hitter that I've ever seen, and while he's aging a bit, he still responded with a .285/.343/.516 season with 30 homes last year despite a terrible April/Early May. He is no longer the best player in baseball, but I think he's "safe" for 30-35 homers with a high OBP and above-average defense at 1st base. Josh Hamilton was violently overpaid (IMO), but the guy can flat-out play and if he's your 3rd-best hitter, it's almost comical. In 2012, he hit 43 homers, reached 100+ runs, he upped his walk-rate to over 9%, and he's moving to an outfield corner, which helps his defensive output. There's certainly some risk with Hamilton, but in the early stages of the contract (i.e. 2013), I think I'd project 35-40 homers with a .280-.290 average and .340-.350 OBP, and that's obviously valuable. After the big three, there's a drop-off, but there are still quality guys in the majority of spots. Kendrick and Aybar form a wildly underrate middle-infield tandem, and while neither guy is a star, they're both well-rounded and valuable. Kendrick is a lock for .280-.295 average with decent power (10-12 homers) and quality defense, while Aybar can really run and play defense at short with a non-zero bat. Trumbo is the wild-card for me, as he hit 32 homers last year and ended with an OBP (.317) that won't kill you. The issue with that is that the OBP/batting average peripherals indicate that it may not be repeatable, and while the power is certainly legit, it's tough to play it out if he can't reach a .300 OBP (like he failed to do in 2011). Peter Bourjos is one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball, and he's back with a chance to play every day in CF. For reference, he was 7th in the entire MLB in UZR last season... and he did so in under 200 plate appearances! The guy is ridiculous on defense, and if he can even approach his 2011 numbers at the plate (.327 OBP, 12 homers, 22 steals), he's a 3-4 win player. Callaspo is a glove guy at 3rd base, but he does have back-to-back 2.5+ WAR seasons and he posted a .366 OBP in 2011. Catcher is the big "weakness", as Iannetta is the default starter, but even with his issues, they could do worse. There is some pop there, but it'll come with a low batting average and there are questions about his defense. On the bright side, he's got a career 13.6% walk rate (which is excellent) and he'll get on-base at a decent clip.

Projected - Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas, Joe Blanton

Weaver has been one of the top-10 pitchers for about three years, and he's a monster. With that said, his strikeout rate (K/9) plummeted to 6.77 last season, and as a result, his peripherals suggest that his 2.81 ERA was pretty lucky. Even on the downside, though, Weaver is a big-time pitcher and a #1 starter you feel good about. CJ Wilson was a different pitcher in each half of the year last year. Before the All-Star break, he posted a 2.43 ERA in 111 innings, but after the break, he was reportedly injured and finished with 91 innings and a 5.54 ERA. I think Wilson is more like the first-half guy, and if I had to predict a stat line, I'd say 200 innings of an ERA between 3.35 and 3.55 and 180 strikeouts. He's solid. The rest of the rotation is kind of "meh", but the key is unquestionably Tommy Hanson. The former Brave was an uber-prospect (top-5 in baseball) and he arrived with 2 great seasons in Atlanta (both with a sub-3.40 ERA) before the wheels came off a bit. He's got a history of shoulder issues that saw his velocity slip and, as a result, this led to a performance drop. I think he's an asset for LA, but it's unclear whether he's the 4.50-ish ERA guy he was last year or whether he can regain the form prior to that. That's something to watch. Vargas is an innings eater (back to back 200 IP seasons) who won't impress (ERA around 4), but he's absolutely fine as a back-end guy. Blanton has been pretty unlucky in recent years by the peripherals, but he's certainly not any better than a 4.00+ ERA guy, and LA acquired him simply to give them some innings of league-average production.

Projected - Ryan Madson/Ernesto Frieri (closer), Sean Burnett, Scott Downs, Kevin Jepsen, Jerome Williams, Garrett Richards

There is a closer battle going on for the Angels, but they really can't lose. Ernesto Frieri was electric last season, striking out over thirteen guys per 9 in 54 innings and posting a 2.32 ERA. He wasn't given the job, however, as LA inked Ryan Madson coming off of elbow surgery. As of the moment, Frieri is the guy simply because Madson hasn't returned fully yet, but if they hand him the job (and he's healthy), Madson will be good. He was last seen as a 32-save guy for Philly in 2012, but the more impressive thing is that he has 5 straight years with an ERA of 3.26 or below, and he's good for about a strikeout per inning as a reliever. Either way, they'll be fine as long as one of them is healthy. After that, Jepsen and Downs were both very good last year, and Burnett arrives from Washington after being an awesome set-up man for the Nats last season. Williams and Richards will be used as long men (as both are really starting pitchers), and this is a deep 'pen.


As you can by the fact that they are #2 in my rankings, I'm all-in on Los Angeles. I think they have the best offense in the American League (even better than Detroit), and I'm really high on the bullpen once everything comes together. If Hamilton gets injured and Trout regresses significantly, this projection will obviously look high, but I don't think that both of those will happen, and this my favorite American League roster for 2013. In a playoff series, I'd probably take Detroit for their better starting pitching, but over the long haul, I like the offense and bullpen of LA, and they get the nod.


96-66, 1st in AL West

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sweet 16: Thursday Wrap/Friday Preview

Greetings! I'm still on the road so forgive the shorter post as I'm operating via iPhone. Lets go!

- Down goes Indiana! The #1 seed Hoosiers went down in a heap to #4 seed Syracuse last night by a 61-50 margin. Michael Carter-Williams had his "breakout" game, scoring 24 points and grabbing 6 rebounds but it was the Syracuse zone defense that smothered Indiana. Tyler Zeller was woefully bad for the Hoosiers (3-10 FG) and they had no answers. Really impressive performance by the Cuse.

- The other upset of the night was #3 Marquette knocking off #2 Miami. The Golden Eagles got 30 bench points and led throughout the game in denying Miami their elite 8 appearance. I wasn't shocked by the result (I picked Marquette) but they ease of victory was pretty jarring and the fighting Buzz Williams' were impressive.

- In the other two games, Ohio State knocked down a game-winning three to break a tie with 2 seconds remaining to advance. The Buckeyes led by a significant margin in the 2nd half before letting go a bit but LaQuinton Ross had a huge half including the game winner and they escaped. Later, Wichita State took La Salle to the woodshed, winning by 14 but looking like they were 20 points better than their offensively-challenged opponent.

What to watch for on Friday...

7:15 - #12 Oregon vs. #1 Louisville (CBS) - Louisville is explosive but I think Oregon can hang. They've been really impressive in the tournament and their guards won't be spooked by the endless Louisville pressure. I'd certainly pick the Cards but it'll be closer than you'd think.

7:37 - #4 Michigan vs #1 Kansas (TBS) - I'm not even being a homer when I say that I believe Michigan is the better team here. It'll come down to making shots (namely threes) and whether Burke and company can do anything in the paint with Withey looming. I don't trust Bill Self's guards at all, and because of that, I'm taking Michigan.

9:45 - #2 Duke vs #3 Michigan State (CBS) - Game of the day. Tom Izzo and Coach K. Two experienced teams, and this is gonna be fun. I have no conviction either way, but ill take Duke with a gun to my head because of Ryan Kelly. Awesome game.

9:57 - #15 FGCU vs #3 Florida (TBS) - I think the dream ends here in a big way for FGCU. Florida is very, very good and they have 4 days to prep for the fury from FGCU. Florida by 17.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sweet 16 Thursday Preview!

Greetings everyone! Due to some unexpected travel, I'm writing this via my trusty iPhone from the road so bare with me. Lets take a look at tonight's March Madness action (in chronological order).

7:15 - #3 Marquette vs. #2 Miami (CBS) - This is certainly not a flashy game, but it's quality. Miami lost their leading rebounder due to a knee injury, but are still the favorite here. I kinda like Marquette and they'll grind all day to make this game close.

7:45 - #6 Arizona vs. #2 Ohio State (TBS) - Arizona is one of the most underrated teams in the tourney and I expect a close game here. With that said, I can't go against Aaron Craft and company, and they have the clearest path of any team to the Final Four.

9:45 - #4 Syracuse vs. #1 Indiana (CBS) - This is probably the best game of the day. Indiana is certainly the better team, but Syracuse doesn't have a massive talent disadvantage. The 2-3 zone should keep the Hoosiers to a half court game and that would favor the Orange. If Syracuse makes threes, I think they win the game.

10:15 - #13 La Salle vs. #9 Wichita State (TBS) - Obviously this is the least discussed game of the four, but that doesn't mean it won't be entertaining. I thought Wichita State was violently underseeded as a #9 and they would've been a team I picked to make a run if they have the Gonzaga matchup in round 2 (where they made 7 straight threes to finish the game, not that I'm bitter). I like the Shockers to knock off a worn out La Salle team.

Enjoy the slate!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2013 MLB Preview #3: Atlanta Braves

Greetings! This is kinda high, eh?

Projected Starters - Brian McCann (injured)/Gerald Laird/Evan Gattis (C), Freddie Freeman (1B), Dan Uggla (2B), Andrelton Simmons (SS), Juan Francisco/Chris Johnson (3B), Justin Upton (LF), BJ Upton (CF), Jason Heyward (RF)

This is going to get long (as I'm going in straight positional order), so I'll warn you now.

The catcher situation is up in the air a bit with the injury to Brian McCann. He's expected back sometime in late April/Early May, but McCann is coming off the worst season of his career, where he failed to reach a .700 OPS and hit .230. I firmly believe he bounces back to the .260-.280 range with a .350 OBP and 20 homers (pro-rated to probably 16 with the missed time) and I'm not worried about him. Behind him, Gerald Laird was inked to be a consistent veteran, but he has a career .662 OPS in 2400+ AB's and he's certainly a pure back-up with no upside. Evan Gattis garnered all kinds of buzz in spring with a big-time power breakout, and he'll make the team as the back-up until McCann returns. He's got 70 power (on the 80 scale), but it's unclear whether a) he can field, or b) he can Major-league pitching right now.

At first base, Freddie Freeman will play most of the 2013 season at just 23 years old, and that is kind of crazy. With two full seasons as the Atlanta starter, he has a career slash line of .269/.340/.449 and an average of 22 homers per season. There is a significant debate about his glove, but it's not up for discussion that he can't move (lol), but that he does possess nice skills around the bag at 1st. If we assign him average defense, and his bat falls in line with most projections (.280 average, 25-ish homers), that's a 3-4 win player, and for the money he's making, you can't beat it. I'm not sure there is 30+ homer upside, but with the exception of his eyesight issues last year, he made strides with the bat, and I like him.

Dan Uggla returns at 2nd base, and the contract is still looming. He managed to be worth 3.5 WAR last season (thanks to a bump in fielding metrics that absolutely no one can justify), but Uggla's power was sapped to just 19 homers and he hit just .220 on the year. On the bright side, Uggla walked at an absurdly high 14.9% rate, which lifted his OBP to a very acceptable .348. He's one of the worst defensive second basemen in the league, and that's not changing, but if he can return to hitting 30 homers, he's still a valuable player. Projections vary wildly for Uggla, but with a gun to my head, I think I would go .240/.340/.450 with 27 homers and a WAR around 3.0.

Andrelton Simmons is considered to be either the best or 2nd-best (behind Brendan Ryan) defensive shortstop in baseball (also see this article proclaiming as the best defender at any position). He's 23 years old. This fact combined with a great contact rate make his floor pretty high, and I'm very excited about having him in the lineup to cover up the multiple defensive sins from 2nd base and 3rd base. Whether his bat will play at a high level is up for debate, but he a career K-rate of under 10% in the minors, and that rose to just 11.5% in a small sample size in the majors last season. It looks like he may lead-off (which I disagree with) and I would project a .270-.280 average with 6-8 homers and somewhere around 20 steals from him offensively. With the lineup behind him, that probably equals 80-90 runs and when you add in his defense, we could be looking at a guy in his first full season posting a 4.0 WAR.

Third base is a bit of an enigma for 2013 in Atlanta. Chipper Jones has been penciled in for nearly 2 decades, and for the first time, he's nowhere near the picture. Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson are expected to start the season in some sort of platoon, and if you think Juan Francisco was bad at 3rd base, you haven't seen anything like the work of Chris Johnson. I'm actually pretty high on Francisco, as his power is incredibly legit, and his defense, while below-average, isn't a disaster thanks to a big arm. In 298 MLB at-bats against right-handers, he has an OPS over .800, and with that being the more prolific side of the platoon in baseball, that's a good sign. With 400+ at-bats, I think Francisco could easily hit 20 homers, and if he's deployed correctly (not always a given), I like him. On the Johnson side, he is probably the worst fielder at 3rd base in all of baseball, posting a -33.8 UZR in the last 3+ seasons, and he's an unmitigated disaster over there. If you don't believe me, give it a couple of weeks and you'll see it. With the bat, however, he could be an asset. He's got a career OPS over .750 with some decent pop, and along with Reed Johnson, they will be the strongest right-handed pinch-hitting options. The weird thing about Johnson is a reverse platoon split that messes things up a bit. Johnson's career OPS is over .100 points lower against lefties than righties, but even with that, there should be no scenario where he starts against a right-handed pitcher given Francisco's better defense. Eventually, I think "fat Juan" could steal the full-time job on more of an 80/20 basis than a straight platoon, but if Johnson hits lefties, he'll stay involved.

In the outfield, the Braves are elite at all three positions, and in my opinion, possess the best outfield in all of baseball (challenged only by the Angels, and only if Trout and Hamilton both repeat last season). Justin Upton was acquired from Arizona in the Martin Prado trade, and he's a big-time prize. He showed his tremendous upside with a 6.4 WAR season in 2011 where he hit 31 homers, scored 105 runs, stole 21 bases, and posted an OPS of .898 for Arizona. Then, in 2012, his stock dropped a little bit with a rocky season headlined by some managerial confrontations (rumored), but the skills remain, and even in a "down" year, Upton posted a 2.5 WAR. I firmly believe that his baseline for this season is in the neighborhood of his career numbers (.278/.357/.475) and if he can produce that (or better, obviously) with above-average defense, it's like stealing. In center, Justin's brother BJ Upton was inked to a 5-year, $75 million contract to replace Michael Bourn. BJ is a fascinating player, who basically has been two completely different guys at times during his career. In his first two full seasons in the big leagues, BJ Upton put up OBP's of .386 and .383 respectively with 33 combined home runs (an average of 16.5 per season). Then, in the next four seasons in Tampa Bay, his OBP's were .313, .322, .331, and .298 while his power shifted upward. Which Upton are we getting? I really have no idea, but the good thing is that it almost doesn't matter. Even with the dreadful .298 OBP last season, Upton managed to generate 3.3 WAR thanks to good defense in center field, 28 home runs, and 31 steals, and with the move to a more "neutral" ballpark in Atlanta coupled with a better lineup around him, it's a good bet that his across-the-board numbers will uptick a bit. I would project a .255/.345/.440 slash line with 24 homers and 30 steals, and that is tremendously valuable. Finally, the team's franchise player, Jason Heyward, resides in right field for his fourth full season. Defensively, Heyward is probably the best right fielder in the entire league and one of the best defenders in all of baseball. In 2012, he was 2nd in all of baseball at every position in UZR (+21.5) and he won the NL gold glove in right field. In addition to his tremendous glove, Heyward slugged .479 to go along with a .335 OBP and hit 27 homers while stealing 21 bases in his "breakout" campaign, and when you put it all together, he was worth 6.6 WAR last season at age 22/23. He's an absolute monster, and if anything, I would expect a small bump in his slash line across the board. The steals may be a little high, but there is more power and OBP potential there, and Heyward is a star already.

On the rest of the bench (outside of Gattis/Laird and the Francisco/Johnson duo who we already covered), the Braves are going with Reed Johnson, Ramiro Pena, and Jordan Schafer. Johnson is a normal 4th outfielder type, but he does mash lefties (career .828 OPS vs. LHP) and can defend as well. He was the only "lock" of this group, and I like him as an option that the Braves hopefully won't need unless to pinch hit. Pena beat out Tyler Pastornicky for the infield utility job, and he's a complete glove-only guy. Need evidence? He has a .552 career OPS (!) over 338 big-league plate appearances, and he barely even hit in the minors with zero power. I would've liked to have seen Pastornicky win the job because of his bat upside (although limited, still a big upgrade on Pena), but he'll get full-time AB's in Gwinnett until Paul Janish returns. When Janish returns, he's the best defender of the three, and I think Fredi/Wren will have him up pretty quickly. The final spot belongs to Jordan Schafer, who the Braves brought back as a minor-league contract, as the 5th-outfielder. I don't know that I would've gone this route, but he is out of options and if the Braves think he has any future, the move was to keep him up. Schafer has a lifetime .301 slugging percentage (less than his .305 OBP somehow) has flashed exactly no power in the majors. He was an elite prospect at one point, so I guess I can see the urgency to hang on to him, but unless he's significantly better, he's the worst position player on the roster by a pretty wide margin.

Projected - Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Paul Maholm, Julio Teheran/Brandon Beachy (injured)

I think I'm higher on the Braves' rotation than most people, but the biggest question mark is the lack of a dominant #1 starter.

Tim Hudson is the "opening day starter" (which means nothing), and the most trusted guy of the five-man group. Huddy's ERA has gone the wrong way over the past 3 seasons (from 2.83 to 3.22 to 3.62), but the more alarming trend there is a decrease in his ground-ball rate. With that said, he's still getting enough ground balls to offset his pedestrian K-rate (5.13 per 9), and I think he's safe for an ERA in the mid-3.00's with a WHIP around 1.20. Kris Medlen had one of the most insane stretches of pitching that I can ever remember in the second half of 2012, as he threw 95.1 innings after the All-Star break and they resulted in an ERA of 0.94 with a walk rate of just 1.32 per 9 and a K-Rate of 8.97 per 9 innings. Those stats are obviously unsustainable, but I do think that Medlen has the tools to be an upper-echelon starting pitcher. His FIP and xFIP were both under 3.00 over last year, and I think it's reasonable to project 180-190 innings with an ERA in the high-2.00's/low-3.00's with some built-in regression downside. With Mike Minor, it was a tale of two halves in 2012, as he was largely dreadful in the first half, finishing 92 innings with a 5.97 ERA, but he was utterly fantastic after the break, throwing 87 innings of 2.16 ERA baseball. The truth is somewhere in the middle (obviously), but if Minor can keep his walk rate and home run rate down (as he did in the second half), he's a very, very good pitcher. In the fourth spot, Paul Maholm is a guy no one ever talks about, but he's so solid. Maholm has back to back seasons with a sub-3.70 ERA and all he did in 2012 was up his K-rate to a much better 6.67 per 9 and lower his walk-rate to a career-low 2.52. At worst, he's a guy who will post an ERA in the low-4.00's with 190 innings, but at best, it could be an ERA between 3.50 and 3.70 and that's very good for a 4th spot. The fifth spot is very, very interesting. It looks as if Julio Teheran has parlayed an incredible spring (sub-1.00 ERA and an MLB leading # of strikeouts) into the 5th spot, and there's no surprise there. The issue for Teheran is just how bad he was in 2012, when he sported an ERA north of 5.00 in AAA, and struggled to a 6.66 K/9 rate. His skills are much, much better than that, but it's tough to rely on spring as a pure indicator of success, and there's significant downside to Teheran. At the same token, there's significant upside with his really good pedigree, and his good minor-league numbers prior to 2012. Anyone making a prediction on Teheran is throwing darts, but if you made me, I would say 160 innings of an ERA around 4.20 and a K/9 between 7.00 and 7.50. As a wild card, Brandon Beachy is set to return to action (scheduled, at least) mid-summer, and people seem to have forgotten just how good he was pre-injury. Beachy's ERA was 2.00 in 13 starts in 2012 (3.49 FIP, but still), and he's got a career K/9 of 9.54 in the major leagues. You never want to assume health/command/stuff after TJ surgery, but he's certainly a factor down the line.

Projected - Craig Kimbrel (closer), Jonny Venters, Eric O'Flaherty, Jordan Walden, Cristhian Martinez, Luis Avilan, Cory Gearrin/Anthony Varvaro

Craig Kimbrel just completed the greatest season by a closer in baseball history. Don't believe me? Check out these final 2012 numbers. 1.01 ERA, 0.78 FIP, 0.88 xFIP, 116 strikeouts in 62.2 innings (for a K/9 of 16.66!!!), 42 saves in 45 chances, and a 3.6 WAR from a closer. That's insanity. There's probably a slight regression coming because, well, there just has to be, but he's never had a FIP higher than 1.53 in 3 seasons, so there's reason to assume that the video game numbers will continue. The primary set-up role will be filled in some fashion by Venters, O'Flaherty, and newcomer Jordan Walden. O'Flaherty actually outperformed Venters last year, but his stuff isn't quite as electric, and I'd project Venters for the best overall season of the three (something like a 11.00 K/9 with an ERA in the low-2.00's). Walden is a wild card of sorts, and he came over from the Angels in the trade for Tommy Hanson. He sports a career K-rate of nearly 11 per 9, a career ERA of 3.10 and a career FIP of 2.80 so he's an uber-talented guy, but he fell out of favor in LA after blowing 10 saves in 2011. I don't care (at all) about that, and if he's healthy, he's a dominant right-handed arm. After that, I absolutely love Cristhian Martinez, and he's the long reliever of record. As a multi-inning reliever, he's got a career ERA in the mid-3.00's, and he bumped his K/9 up to 7.94 last year. Not many teams have a valuable guy like that in a swing role, and he is extremely valuable. Fredi Gonzalez and company round out the bullpen with a LOOGY in Luis Avilan and a ROOGY in Cory Gearrin, and each guy should do his job effectively. One thing to watch is Fredi's insistence on using Gearrin against lefties at times,  and he's an absolute grease fire (opposing LH have a 1.077 OPS against him in his career. Yes, over a thousand) against them.


This is the most talented Atlanta Braves roster in years, and I'm obviously high on the Braves as my #3 team in Major League Baseball. There are certainly some spots to be skeptical of (top-end starting pitching, 3rd base), but Atlanta possesses the best outfield and the best bullpen in all of baseball, and when you combine that with an above-average rotation, things are very, very interesting. Unfortunately for Braves fans (myself included), the Nationals are a bit of a juggernaut, and with this projection, I have Atlanta participating in the Wild Card play-in game for the second straight season. We'll deal with that when it comes, but for now, this could be a special Braves team.


96-66, 2nd in NL East

3/27: Quick Hits!

Greetings! Today will be short, as I'm posting a 2,500+ word Braves preview mid-day. Let's go!

  • I normally would never lead with US Soccer, but it seems to be a massive story that they tied with Mexico at Azteca last night. I have no analysis (whatsoever), but it's good for all involved if the national team is good, and I'm not anti-soccer. U-S-A.
  • NBA Roundup - The Knicks got 32 bench points from JR Smith (on 24 shots lol) to key a 100-85 road win over the KG-less Celtics. Boston turned the ball over 19 times in the game (to just 8 for NY) and that was the key in the game. Also, NYK won despite 10-30 shooting from Carmelo, and that's impressive in itself. And in the late game, Dallas squeaked out a 109-102 OT win over the Clippers to pull even with Utah for 9th in the West, just one game behind LA for the 8th spot. Dirk had a "Dirk" game with 33 points and 9 rebounds, while the Mavs had five additional guys in double-figures. CP3 was awesome for LA (33 points on 12-15 FG), but Blake Griffin disappeared and they stalled late. 
  • We have our first major NCAA tournament injury. Miami's Reggie Johnson had knee surgery and will miss this weekend, starting with the Marquette game in the Sweet 16. The 6'10 Johnson was Miami's leading rebounder, and it weakens their depth inside. Great for my bracket as I had Marquette already...
What to watch for on Wednesday...
  • 1:00 - MLB - Phillies @ Tigers (ESPN) - The days are numbered in Spring Training, and that's a good thing. 
  • 7:00 - NBA - Hawks @ Raptors (SportSouth) - Toronto is awful, but the Hawks completely no-showed for 3 quarters in Indy, so anything is possible. 
  • 8:00 - NBA - Heat @ Bulls (ESPN) - One of the tougher tests during the Heat's ridiculous winning streak, and if the Bulls can score (at all), they'll compete. 
  • 10:30 - NBA - Nets @ Blazers (ESPN) - Portland is the favorite here because it's at home, and the Williams/Lillard match-up is a good one. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2013 MLB Preview #4: Detroit Tigers

Greetings! It's Miggy time...

Projected Starters - Alex Avila (C), Prince Fielder (1B), Omar Infante (2B), Jhonny Peralta (SS), Miguel Cabrera (3B), Andy Dirks/Brennan Boesch (LF), Austin Jackson (CF), Torii Hunter (RF), Victor Martinez (DH)

There are very few (if any) safer bets than Miguel Cabrera and Price Fielder. Cabrera is the best hitter on the planet, winning the AL Triple Crown last season (even if RBI's are meaningless) with a .330/.393/.606 slash line with 205 hits, 44 home runs, and 109 runs scored. He's 35-40 homers with a .320-.340 average in the bank, and his career lows in batting average (.292) and home runs (26) would represent big-time production. The only question with Miggy is his defense, but he wasn't quite as bad as I thought he'd be at 3rd base (still bad) last year. Fielder has played in 157+ games in 7 straight seasons (which is insane, btw) and has two separate 45+ homer seasons on his resume. He's given a bit of his power back in favor of batting average (and walks) in recent years, but last year he finished with 30 homers and a .412 OBP, which makes him elite. The "big two" are flanked by three more solid, second-tier guys in Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, and Victor Martinez. Jackson is one of my favorites, as a big-time defensive player with 20-homer power and 20-steal upside, plus a good OBP (.377 last year). They also added Hunter in the off-season, and while he probably won't replicate his 2012 (.313/.365/.451), he'll play great defense in right and provide a solid, mid-order bat. Martinez is the big question mark because of health, but he's not playing catcher anymore (at least not regularly at all), and he has a career .303 average with 25-homer potential from the DH spot. The rest of the lineup isn't terribly impressive, but there are no gaping holes, either. Avila had a down year in 2012, but was tremendous in 2011 and if he can split the difference, he's got value, while Peralta and Infante range from average to slightly-below-average, which is fine given what is around them. The Tigers offense has a very high floor, as Cabrera and Fielder are almost sure-things, and there's great safety in that.

Projected - Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello

This is where Detroit made the leap last year, and they added even more help for 2013. Verlander is one of the top-5 pitchers in the league, and he's a 6-7 win player nearly every season. He's thrown 225+ innings in 4 straight years, never finishing with an ERA over 3.50 (with sub-3.00 each of the last 2 seasons) and he'll challenge for the league lead in K's. I greatly enjoy the work of Doug Fister, who has a sub-3.50 ERA in the AL each of the last 2 seasons, and while he doesn't strike anyone out (6.08 K/9 career), he's incredibly solid, and that ballpark plays well for him. Scherzer is the enigma in the rotation, but he also possesses the upside of a Cy Young candidate. With a ridiculously great 2nd half to last year (2.69 ERA, 1.15 WHIP), Scherzer vaulted into a different level, and he struck out over 11 batters per 9 innings as a starter last year, which is truly insane. He's never been the most consistent guy, but if he's right, he's a top-20 type of pitcher. Anibal Sanchez was brought in mid-season, and he's a very solid pitcher as well. I expect an ERA between 3.50 and 3.80 with a K-rate around 8 per 9, and 190 innings. That's a great 3rd/4th starter in the AL. Porcello is a former uber-prospect who has reportedly been outstanding in Spring, but he's never done it with any real success (career 4.55 ERA) at the MLB level. However, he did produce a 3.91 FIP last season, and if he can match that up with an ERA around 4.00, that's above-average for the 5th spot.

Projected - Bruce Rondon (closer), Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Al Alburquerque, Brayan Villareal

Here's the big issue! Bruce Rondon was anointed the closer before throwing a single MLB pitch, and he's struggled a bit in spring. He's a guy with huge strikeout potential (and a 100-MPH fastball), but he has no idea where the ball is going, and that's an issue. Behind him, they have a bunch of solid set-up men, but none of them has succeeded in the 9th inning and Jim Leyland is an old-school guy. Phil Coke is a big-time LOOGY, Benoit is a huge K/9 per guy, and Alburquerque has a career 1.59 ERA but he can't stay on the mound. The closer spot is the focus, but if Rondon is decent-ish, they'll be fine.


If the Tigers had a settled bullpen situation, I'd have them as the best team in the American League. With their big bats and a deep, talented rotation, they are set up for a 100-win season, and if Rondon emerges as even a solid closer, they'll win more than 95 games in that terrible division. You have to build in some skepticism at the back-end, and because of that, they land here with a comfortable division-winning record.


95-67, 1st in AL Central

2013 MLB Preview #5: Texas Rangers

Greetings! This one's for you, Nicholas...

Projected Starters - AJ Pierzynski (C), Mitch Moreland (1B), Ian Kinsler (2B), Elvis Andrus (SS), Adrian Beltre (3B), David Murphy/Craig Gentry (LF), Leonys Martin/Craig Gentry (CF), Nelson Cruz (RF), Lance Berkman (DH)

Even without Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, the Texas offense is very, very good. They have legitimate stars at 2nd base and 3rd base with Kinsler and Beltre, above-average players at catcher, shortstop, and right field, and some quality outfield options, as well as Berkman and Moreland. For my money, Adrian Beltre has been the best 3B in the majors over the past three seasons, posting a WAR between 5.5 and 7.0 each year with great defense, high batting average, and 30-35 homer power. Kinsler had a "down" season in 2012, but that sort of year still ended up with 19 homers and 21 steals from the offense-deprived 2nd-base position, and he's very capable of the 7.5-WAR season he posted in 2011 (32 homers, 30 steals, .832 OPS). Andrus, the former Braves' prospect, is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, and while he has no power (at all), he's got a career .342 OBP with 30-40 steals in the bank. Nelson Cruz is one of the bigger question marks for the 2013 season for Texas, and while he is a near-lock for 20-30 homers from right field, his defense has suffered in a big way the last couple of years, and his .319 OBP last year isn't stellar. I think he's league-average at worst, but they could really use the 30-homer power from him. Berkman was a sneaky pick-up that I really liked, and he's the full-time DH as long as he's healthy. Berkman hit 30+ homers in 2011, but simply can't play the field effectively anymore (maybe some 1B if needed, but blah) and he's cast well here. Pierzynski was brought in behind the plate coming off of his best season ever (at 36 years old!) when he hit 27 homers for the White Sox in 520 AB's. That type of production would be an ultra-luxury, but he's really durable (500 PA's for 7 straight years) and provides a quality option. Murphy, Gentry, and Martin will combine to fill the other two outfield spots, and Murphy is a favorite of mine. He's got a career OPS of over .900 against righties, and if they platoon him well, good luck to the opposition. One wild card to note is the presence of uber-prospect Jurickson Profar. Profar is the best position player prospect in all of baseball, but he's a shortstop blocked by Andrus (and Kinsler at 2nd), and it'll be interesting to see if they can get him any at-bats.

Projected - Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Nick Tepesch/Robbie Ross/Colby Lewis (injured)

I'm all-in on Yu Darvish. All. In. He hit the ground running in his "rookie" season last year, striking out over 200 hitters in 191 innings (10.4 K/9 as a starter!) and posting a FIP of 3.29. He had some big-time control issues, but in the second-half of the season, he lowered his BB/9 rate to 3.65, and all indications in the Spring are showing improved control. I think he's a top-10 pitcher in all of baseball, and he's poised to challenge for the MLB lead in K's while throwing 200+ quality innings. Matt Harrison led the team in ERA last season with a 3.29 ERA, and while that's probably a bit lucky (4.09 FIP), he's a really, really consistent option. He doesn't possess any strikeout potential (5.69 K/9 in 2012), but he strands runners and doesn't walk anyone. I like him. Holland has made a name for himself as a clown, doing impressions (that are hilarious) and generally acting crazy, but he's also a good pitcher. His numbers took a step back in innings (down to 175) and ERA (4.67 up from 3.95 in 2011), but most projection systems have him throwing around 190 innings with an ERA around 4.00 and that's valuable in the AL. Ogando is where the rotation really swings. He came out of the bullpen full-time in 2012 and had a great season, finishing with a 3.27 ERA and a K/9 of exactly 9.00, but in 2011, he threw 169 innings (29 starts) and faired very well. It's unknown how many innings he can pitch, but if his stuff can play in a long-inning role, he's a real asset. The 5th spot is wide open after the broken forearm of Martin Perez, and it looks to be a competition between Ross and Tepesch until Colby Lewis returns. I'm on the Ross bandwagon after he was awesome last season (2.22 ERA), and he has the inside track.

Projected - Joe Nathan (closer), Neftali Feliz* (injured), Joakim Soria, Jason Frasor, Tanner Scheppers, Josh Lindblom, Michael Kirkman, Wilmer Font, Cory Burns

No one seems to be high on Joe Nathan, but I don't understand why other than his age (38). He has 35+ saves in 7 of the last 8 seasons, and since his return from injury, he's been lights-out again with a K/9 of 10.91 last season and a 2.80 ERA. I think he's ultra-safe and an elite closer. Behind him, Texas brought in Joakim Soria (the former KC closer) as a set-up option, but he's going to be out for a while after rehabbing a TJ surgery. Frasor has closer experience in Toronto, but he's nothing more than average, and the rest of the guys are question marks. Keep an eye on Neftali Feliz as well, as the former top prospect and elite closer should return from injury some time during the year, and most leanings are toward him ending up in the 'pen, at least in the short term.


I'm always a sucker for Texas, but that offense impresses me. The loss of Hamilton will be felt, but with the platoons they can put together coupled with me being high on both Moreland and Berkman, I still feel that they'll score enough runs to compete in a big way. The rotation needs to be league-average, and I believe that they will be with the help of a breakout year from Darvish. I think 90+ wins isn't a stretch at all, and they'll be on LA's heels all season.


92-70, 2nd in AL West

2013 MLB Preview #6: Cincinnati Reds

Greetings! Paging Aroldis...

Projected Starters - Ryan Hanigan/Devin Mesoraco/Miguel Olivo (C), Joey Votto (1B), Brandon Phillips (2B), Zack Cozart (SS), Todd Frazier (3B), Ryan Ludwick/Chris Heisey (LF), Shin-soo Choo (CF), Jay Bruce (RF)

Joey Votto is one of the best players in baseball, and for my money, one of the top-two "pure" hitters (along with Miggy Cabrera) in the game. Last year, he walked at a higher percentage (19.8%) than he struck out at (17.9%), and with a career .316/.415/.553 slash line, it's pretty comical. The only "question" with Votto is his true power ceiling, but he did hit 37 homers in a season recently, and I think he's good for 30 this year. Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips return to support Votto in the lineup, and both guys are solid-to-great. Bruce  had a down year in the batting average department last year (.252), but he's hit 30 homers in two straight seasons, and his power is legit. Phillips, now in his 30's, doesn't have the same "wow" upside that he used to have, but he's safe for .280/15 HR/15 SB and that's great at second base, especially when considering that he's a big-time defender at the position. The biggest question (for me) about the Reds is going to be outfield defense. Shin-Soo Choo is a guy that I've always loved in Cleveland (career .289/.381/.465 hitter with speed), but he was brought in to play center field exclusively, and it's widely considered to be a disastrous experiment. Choo was an awful defender by the metrics last season in a corner spot, so putting him in Center is bold. He's going to hit, but that may end badly. In left field, they locked up Ryan Ludwick over the winter, and he's coming off of a 26-homer season in 2012. The issue with Ludwick is whether he'll be able to get on base, but if he maintains that level, he's above-average in LF. I frankly have no idea what Cincy is doing at catcher, as Devin Mesoraco is the top prospect (but they seem to not trust him), they brought in Miguel Olivo (for reasons unknown), and Ryan Hanigan is a great defender, but has no power in his bat. Seem easy enough? Oh, we haven't mentioned Todd Frazier, who came in 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting last year when he slugged nearly .500, and he gets the full-time reins at 3rd with Scott Rolen gone. A really nice lineup.

Projected - Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake

The headlines at the moment are centering around the fact that they've moved Aroldis Chapman back to closer. They went and spent money on Jonathan Broxton (we'll get to him) in the off-season and announced that Chapman was a starter, but in the past few days, they've moved him back. As a starter? He's probably capped to 160-170 innings, and while he'll strikeout a million guys, his stuff won't play in exactly the same fashion. As a closer? He's a top-2 guy along with Kimbrel, and he'll strikeout 14 guys per 9 innings. If he can start effectively, they should do it because of shear value, but if there are concerns, they can leave him in the 'pen and they've chosen to. At the top of the rotation, Johnny Cueto is coming off of a tremendous year. He threw 217 innings of 2.78 ERA (4.8 WAR) and he's now been electric for two solid years to lead that rotation. Latos came over from San Diego last year and pitched very well in his first season, posting a 3.48 over 200+ innings. He's a very nice #2 guy and they're safe in the top spots. Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake form the rest of the rotation, and each has warts. Bailey is the best of the three and he looked to turn the corner a bit last year with a sub-4.00 ERA. Arroyo is safe to eat a ton of innings (190 or more in 8 straight seasons), but his ERA could be 3.70 or 5.70. Leake is interesting, and as a former first-round pick, the stuff is nice, but there is debate about where his ceiling is. He doesn't strike anyone out, which limits upside, but he's safely in the rotation now that Chapman has been moved.

Projected - Aroldis Chapman (closer), Jonathan Broxton, Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo, Nick Masset, Logan Ondrusek, Sam LeCure, Alfredo Simon

As I mentioned above, the closer situation could have looked a lot different with Chapman unavailable, but for now, let's operate as if he's the closer. He's a no-doubt top-2 guy with Kimbrel and pencil him in for 100 strikeouts and 40 saves. Broxton had the job previously, and while everyone remembers the big, hard-throwing, high-strikout guy from LA, he's kind of reinvented himself. He's still big (lol), but the K-Rate has gone from double-digits in LA to just 6.98 last season. He's still fully capable of getting saves if Chapman gets moved back, but he's not the dominant-type guy that you may think. Marshall is one of the best set-up men in the game, with three straight seasons of a 9.40 K/9 or higher and a sub-3.00 ERA. Frankly, he's a much better pitcher than Broxton, and it's inexplicable why they wouldn't have considered him for the closer spot pre-Aroldis. The rest of the 'pen is solid, and I really like both Masset and Ondrusek.


Coming off of a 95-win season, I think the Reds could be even better. Votto should get more than the 475 PA's he got last season, Choo is an upgrade from Drew Stubbs and company, and the rotation should be about the same as last year. I really, really like this team, and there isn't a defined weakness outside of defense in CF. They are the favorite in the Central.


92-70, 1st in NL Central

3/26: Tiger, Heat, etc.


  • Tiger Woods is the #1 golfer in the world... again. Tiger held on to win a weather-lengthened Bay Hill Invitational on Monday (by 2 shots), and with the win, he vaulted back to the top of the World Golf Rankings. I believe it's clear that he's "back", as long as you're willing to remember that the year 2000 Tiger is never coming back, because that guy was a mutant. Anyway, I'm an unabashed Tiger fan, and it's nice to see him back and going, especially with the putter.
  • The Miami Heat have won 27 straight NBA games. That is obviously insane, although the most recent win (a 108-94 road win in Orlando) wasn't terribly impressive since Orlando is a bad basketball team. Even with that, however, Lebron cruised to a 24-9-11 and the Heat shot a combined 15-28 from 3-point land to pretty much blow Orlando off of the map in the second half. Ho-hum. 
  • Tubby Smith is out at the head coach at Minnesota. I really don't understand this one, and it's back-to-back days with coaches I like being fired. This one hurts more because I honestly feel like he did a pretty solid job at Minnesota, getting them to round 2 of the tournament, and parlaying a mid-tier Big 10 job into some decent success. It seems like he always gets the short end. 
  • Elsewhere in the NBA, Denver's 15-game winning streak came to a screeching halt with a 110-86 blowout loss to the Hornets on Monday night. The Nuggets shot just 38% from the field, and got uncharacteristically killed (45-32) on the glass. Anybody can beat anybody on one night in the NBA.
What to watch for on Tuesday...
  • 1:00 - MLB - Cardinals @ Mets (ESPN) - Less than a week until the season starts...
  • 7:00 - NBA - Knicks @ Celtics (TNT) - No KG in this one for Boston, so that gives the Knicks a much better chance at a road win. 
  • 7:30 - NCAAB (NIT) - Alabama vs. Maryland (ESPN) - NIT Quarterfinals! On the bright side, both of these teams are tourney-level, so it'll be watchable.
  • 9:30 - NBA - Clippers @ Mavericks (TNT) - Did you know that Dallas is only one game in the loss column behind the Lakers for the 8th spot?

Monday, March 25, 2013

2013 MLB Preview #7: Toronto Blue Jays

Greetings! This is me buying in big-time...

Projected Starters - JP Arencibia (C), Edwin Encarnacion (1B), Emilio Bonafacio/Maicer Izturis (2B), Jose Reyes (SS), Brett Lawrie (3B), Melky Cabrera (LF), Colby Rasmus (CF), Jose Bautista (RF), Adam Lind (DH)

Honestly, I don't see a real weakness in this lineup. They could get 80 home runs combined from Encarnacion and Bautista, as each guy has gone for 40+ homers recently (2012 for E-5, and 2010/2011 for Bautista) and they provide the central power in the lineup. There's admittedly some concern over the track record for Encarnacion and the health of Bautista, but I think it's safe to project 65-70 total homers from them, and that's big-time. Jose Reyes is my pick for best shortstop in the league (because Tulo can't stay on the field), and he comes over from Miami after a great 2012 season. Reyes played 160 games to shed his "injury" tag, and he stole 40 bases while providing a little pop (11 HR) and good defense at shortstop. If he stays healthy, he's a 4-5 win player and that's incredibly valuable. Brett Lawrie and Melky Cabrera combine to give this team a huge upside. Lawrie is a former elite prospect who arrived like gangbusters in 2011, but had an injury-plagued, disappointing 2012 season (.273/.324/.405 with 11 homers and 13 steals). It's a great sign, however, that his "bad" year still provided 2.9 WAR, and if he hits to his capability, he could be an elite 3rd baseman as early as this season. Melky is Melky, and while I hate him forever (signed, Braves fan), he's hit the cover off of the ball for two solid seasons. Before his PED suspension last year, he was hitting .342 with an OPS over .900, and if he can replicate anywhere near that level, he's a huge luxury. Lind and Arencibia provide big-time power with batting average risk, but neither is a negative contributor as long as the batting average stays above .230. Finally, keep an eye on the 2nd base situation, as Bonifacio arrives from Miami coming off of a season where he stole 30 bases in only 274 PA's, but Izturis is the better defender at second base. If Bonifacio gets 450-500 AB's, he could still 50 bases, and with him and Reyes running wild, that could be entertaining.

Projected - RA Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, Ricky Romero

Remember when the Blue Jays couldn't even find starters last season? They were killed by injuries in the rotation all year, and they responded by acquiring three big-time pitchers during the winter. RA Dickey was acquired coming off of the best season of his career, where he threw 233 innings with a 2.72 ERA. Frankly, he was an absolute stud last season, and while there are some inherent concerns with a late-maturing knuckleballer, if he's even the guy he was in 2011 (3.28 ERA over 208 innings), they would take that and run. Josh Johnson has some of the best stuff in the majors but he seems to be injured all the time. That said, he did throw 191 innings (31 starts) last year in Miami, and all reports are that he's 100% healthy in Toronto. Buehrle will eat innings in a big way, and he has thrown 200+ innings in an amazing twelve consecutive seasons. His other numbers won't wow anyone (career 3.82 ERA and 5.11 K/9), but that's a marked upgrade from last season's instability. Brandon Morrow led the team in WAR last year (2.4) despite injury causing him to throw only 124 innings. He's one of the biggest strikeout starting pitchers in all of baseball, and if he puts it together, he could be a top-25 starter in the league. He's far from safe, but as a #3-4 starter, there's big-time upside. Finally, Ricky Romero bottomed out last season (5.77 ERA in 181 innings), but he's back as the 5th starter (instead of the #1 guy last year) and there's no pressure. Prior to last season, he had back-to-back years with a 3.75 ERA or below, and there's a track record of success. I like him, and I think he returns to that level.

Projected - Casey Janssen (closer), Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver, Esmil Rogers, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar

The closer situation in Toronto is theoretically up in the air. Casey Janssen is the reported incumbent (and the better pitcher), but he's trying to get healthy before opening day. He posted a 1.2 WAR last season (very good for a reliever) and if he stays healthy, I think he saves 35 games. Sergio Santos is his challenger, and he's got a great arm, but he's still raw after not pitching until later in his career, and he's hurt as well. Darren Oliver was awesome last season, but he's 42 years old and that's a question. The rest of the pen is "fine", but nothing more.


After their semi-dismal 73-89 record last season, it seems like a drastic jump to give them 91 wins and the AL East title, but there are a few things at work. First, I firmly believe that both New York and Baltimore are taking a step back (see their previews for the details), and secondly, this team was decimated by injuries and got a massive overhaul/upgrade in talent with the acquisitions of Dickey, Johnson, Buehrle, Reyes, and Cabrera. They are far from a "lock", but on paper, I think they're the best team in the AL East.


91-71, 1st in AL East