Sunday, December 4, 2011
Fiesta Bowl: Outside of Bama fans, this committee wants a LSU-Bama match up more than anyone. Why? Not only do they get OSU in their game as the Big 12 champ, but they can hype the game with a BCS title game-worthy opponent that will receive plenty of press if they are not in the game and place them against another top 5 team in Stanford.
Orange Bowl: This game is all but set, and with all the bad match ups this game has had the last few years, the Orange Bowl finally gets 2 teams that will travel and provide a high-scoring shootout that people will want to watch in Clemson and West Virginia.
Rose Bowl: Another BCS bowl that got their dream match up with Oregon and Wisconsin. Any time the Rose gets their Pac-10/Big-10 game they will be happy.
Cotton Bowl: This a pleased committee as well because it appears they might get their dream SEC team in Arkansas and will be able to pair them with a Heisman finalist and fun team to watch with RG3 and Baylor.
Gator Bowl: This bowl might get big name powerhouses Florida and Ohio State in an Urban Meyer bowl, plenty of ways to hype this game.
Sugar Bowl: They really want LSU-OSU too, as they would then get an SEC team in Alabama. The Sugar would like to pair Bama with another BCS-at large team like Kansas State.
Music City: The Music City would love to grab Vanderbilt to play in Nashville against an ACC team like Virginia or NC State.
Holiday Bowl: This has been one of the earlier bowls featuring big-name, ranked teams over the years. Not so in 2011. This game is Pac-12 #3 vs Big-12 #5, and typically there are quality teams in these slots. Look for a pair of 7-5 teams, Cal and Mizzou to be in this game.
Title Game: LSU-OSU
Rose Bowl: Oregon-Wisconsin
Fiesta Bowl: Stanford-Michigan
Sugar: Alabama-Kansas State
2. Andrew Luck - Another QB who had an amazing season, Luck isn't the winner because he had his worst game in his teams biggest game. However, the rest of his season was so good, he gets an invite and is certainly worthy of some 1st place votes.
3. Montee Ball - The nations leading rusher and leading TD man on a BCS conference champion should have more Heisman-hype than Montee has received.
4. Trent Richardson - Another outstanding player who deserves consideration and will get 1st place votes. He was the "guy" on the Tide offense in a season where they were one of the top teams, rushing for over 1500 yards with 20 TD's.
5. Tyrann Mathieu - If this years award went to the best player on the best team, Tyrann would be the winner. He makes the list by having his 3 best games (Oregon, Arkansas, UGA) in 3 of the Tigers 4 biggest games. He covers receivers like a maniac, has elite return skills, and added 6 forced fumbles and 5 fumble recoveries this season.
Hard to believe Clemson hasn't won the ACC in 20 years, but kudos to them for bouncing back from a horrendous November to take the title game. I know the Chick-Fil-A Bowl is happy that they don't have choose between a Clemson team on a huge downward slide, UVA that was blown out by VT in their last game, FSU who played in the game last year, or the local team in GT that has lost momentum. That game will be Auburn-VT now...
I also think Michigan gets in the BCS, which drops MSU to the Cap 1 and Nebraska to the Outback. The Cap 1 also takes Arkansas, with South Carolina to the Cotton, and UGA to the Outback.
Final regular season RSM Poll
2. Oklahoma St
7. South Carolina
9. Boise St
10. Kansas St
13. Michigan St
18. Virginia Tech
21. Penn St
22. Notre Dame
23. Southern Miss
Sunday, November 27, 2011
I still think that the voters will all have OSU #2 or #3 with a win over OU next week, even if VT avenges their only loss. There is a chance at OSU knocking out Bama, but when ESPN gets an agenda like Bama/LSU rematch, they usually get their way.
Before I rank 'em this week, here is my Heisman poll as of this morning and BCS projections:
1. Andrew Luck
2. Trent Richardson
3. Robert Griffin III
4. Montee Ball
5. Matt Barkley
BCS Title Game: LSU vs Oklahoma St
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs Houston
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs Louisville
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: Stanford vs Michigan
3. Oklahoma St
7. Virginia Tech
9. Boise St
10. South Carolina
12. Michigan St
15. Kansas St
21. Penn St
22. Notre Dame
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Call me crazy, but even with Alabama's .9491 average, I still think that Oklahoma State (even at .8408) can jump the Tide on December 4th. Regardless of what happens in the Iron Bowl, a majority of voters around the country are cringing at the thought of 2 SEC teams playing for the championship, as every other BCS conference is tired of the leagues dominance in the big game.
If OSU beats Oklahoma on December 3rd, when Bama is idle, I think enough voters will bump OSU up ahead of Alabama and that, along with the computers love for the Big 12, will get OSU in the BCS Title game.
Lots of game with significance this weekend, here is a quick breakdown with predictions.
Texas A&M 26 Texas 17 - TAMU has not had the season they expected, but they get some revenge in what should be a very high-emotion game.
Tulsa 41 Houston 38 - Tulsa has a really good team with the balanced attack that will match the Cougars point-for-point. The Golden Hurricane won in Houston last year, albeit w/o Case Keenum, but look for Tulsa to run for 250+ and throw for 250+ in the upset.
LSU 31 Arkansas 17 - This one is usually close, but the Hogs have struggled a bit on the road this year. LSU establishes the power run game early, and wins this one easily.
Alabama 35 Auburn 21 - The Tigers were blown out on the road against Arkansas, LSU, and UGA, but should come out stronger at home in their rivalry game. AU makes it interesting early, but Bama pulls away in the 2nd half.
Georgia Tech 31 Georgia 30 - The Jackets have been so close in this game and come up short the past 20 years, they are due to squeak out a close one at home, a place they haven't beaten UGA since 1999. UGA's defense does a good job slowing down the GT run game, but loses the turnover battle and makes 1-2 special teams mistakes.
Clemson 24 South Carolina 21 - South Carolina is small favorite at home, but Clemson was definitely looking ahead to this game last week. USC's QB issues and mounting injuries gives the Tigers a slight advantage.
Michigan 28 Ohio State 17 - Talk about being due in a rivalry game. The Buckeyes have won 9 of 10 and 7 in a row in this one...look for Big Blue to take this years contest.
Florida 17 Florida St 16 - A defensive struggle, the Gators find a way in their finale and salvage a little from a disappointing season.
Wisconsin 31 Penn St 14 - The Badgers steam-r0ll PSU en route to a re-match with Sparty. This could be a week for Montee Ball to get to NY for the Heisman ceremony much like RGIII did last week.
Stanford 35 Notre Dame 24 - Stanford gets a 2nd quality win and puts themselves in the running for a top 5 finish.
Virgina 24 Virginia Tech 21 - Mike London is incredibly high-energy and he gets his team up at home against a Hokie team that thinks they can play for it all.
Should be an entertaining week...don't forget if you are using these predictions to help place bets, that you always take the Lions over...book it tomorrow.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Boise State is a failed 2-point conversion from being a clear favorite to take on LSU. For the second time in a month, OU decided not to show up on defense. Clemson went from dark-horse to Barbaro in one half. Oregon ran into a hungry USC with a hot QB and couldn't come back from an early deficit.
So, what now? It is likely that the polls and the BCS standings will have the same top 3 today/tonight:
All three from one half of a conference? That's what you get when 3 of the top 5 in the BCS Standings go down for the 1st time in 10 years. That year was also the last time a non-conference champion played for the title (Nebraska). I know the University presidents and BCS officials really do not want 2 SEC teams in the title game, but they are running out of other options.
The only 1-loss potential conference champs from BCS conferences not named the SEC are Oklahoma State, Stanford and Virginia Tech. However, Oregon would have to lose to Oregon St for Stanford to play for their title, VT has to beat UVA and Clemson (who smoked them in Blacksburg earlier), and Oklahoma St still has to play Oklahoma.
The question is, can any of these 1-loss teams jump a 1-loss non-conference champ in Alabama. I still think maybe, depending on what happens in some of these games.
Biggest loser from Friday night? Okie St
Biggest winner from Saturday night? Okie St
The Cowboys will probably not fall out of the top 5 and have a chance at getting back in the mix by beating OU in 2 weeks.
Here is how I would rank the top 25 this morning if I had a vote (which I should):
4. Oklahoma St
7. Virginia Tech
9. Boise St
10. South Carolina
12. Michigan St
14. Kansas St
16. Penn St
22. Notre Dame
One final scenario: Oregon wins the Pac-12, OU wins the Big-12, LSU beats Arkansas, Auburn beats Alabama, UGA beats LSU, Clemson beats VT, MSU beats Wisconsin/Penn St. All of the BCS conference champions would have at least 2 losses. Would Houston or Boise St get a shot here, would LSU get in with just 1-loss, would UGA have a shot?
There is total chaos now, but it has a chance to get even more crazy...
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Oregon now has the inside track. They can win style points tonight by beating up on USC, and then will get a chance against ASU in Eugene on December 3rd to make their final case. The fact that they have a marquee name, are a conference champion, and have their only loss to the undisputed #1, they are the pick if they win out.
If Oregon loses 1 of these games, the Bedlam winner will still have a shot, although the Pokes have lost some steam. If there was ever a year for Boise to get in, this was it...
Bama will still argue that they belong, but it just isn't fair for them to make it to the game unless many things happen, beginning with Arkansas beating LSU. Why punish LSU for beating Bama and making them play another tough game in Atlanta on December 3rd, while rewarding the loser is a bye to the Title Game?
Now for the way things can really get messy...although not likely, lets say UGA beats unbeaten LSU in Atlanta. Now, the SEC champion is out of the mix, who can sneak in?
How about Clemson? If Clemson routs South Carolina and then routs VT in the ACCCG, they would have a lot of momentum if things shake down on December 3rd. Lets say OU beats OSU, UGA beats LSU, and Oregon loses to ASU.
Would Clemson have enough star power in the minds of the voters to move ahead of the SEC teams? Oklahoma St, Oregon, Stanford, VT, Boise, and Arkansas would all be out of the mix because if a non-conference champion gets to the Title Game in this scenario, it would be one of the SEC teams.
Want an even more crazy shake up? Try and rank your teams in this sceario: Auburn beats Alabama, Arkansas beats LSU, UGA beats LSU, Oklahoma St beats OU, ASU beats Oregon, South Carolina beats Clemson, Clemson beats VT, and Tulsa beats Houston.
1. Oklahoma St
4. Boise St
Imagine that debate...non-conference champions Arkansas, Stanford, and Boise all with the chance to be back in the top 4. I actually hope this happens and Bobby Petrino lobbies on TV for Arkansas to get in, only to see Luck and company get the nod...
Monday, November 14, 2011
1) LSU vs Oklahoma St - the current #1 vs #2 control their own destiny and have passed all their road tests (only Iowa St and Ole Miss remain) but OSU does not have the Championship game hurdle that LSU does. Alas, both will be favored to win out and play for it and even if LSU loses to Arkansas, this will still be the match-up as long as LSU beats UGA. Bama will pass LSU in the BCS standings, but LSU won't fall more than 5 spots behind Bama and won't fall past Arkansas, giving the tie-break to LSU as it would revert back to the LSU-Bama result.
2) LSU vs Oregon - With Oregon sitting at #4 right now, they can win out and have the best argument to get a re-match with LSU over Bama. Oregon has 2 home games with USC and OSU before the Pac-12 Championship game, which should be in Eugene, likely against ASU.
3) Oklahoma St vs Oregon - If LSU loses to UGA and Oklahoma St wins out, look for Oregon to get a shot as the Pac-12 champions. Even if Bama is ahead of Oregon going in to Championship weekend, an Oregon win will have the humans voting Oregon ahead of Bama before the final poll, just like they did in 2007 when they voted for conference champions ahead of non-conference champions.
Remember, history has shown us that you can throw out all previous polls when it comes time to vote for the final poll that influences the BCS Title game. Those voters who think conference champs should be in the game will bump an Oregon over Bama, even if they had Bama 3 and Oregon 4 for 3 straight weeks.
Oregon has a good argument over Bama here...We both have 1-loss and it was to LSU, we are conference champs, and LSU beat you at your house...
4) LSU vs Oklahoma - If OU wins Bedlam and Oregon loses to ASU, the momentum of winning on the road against the #2 team in the nation will jump OU over OSU, Oregon, and Bama into the #2 spot.
5) Oregon vs Oklahoma - If UGA beats LSU and OU wins Bedlam, look for conference champions Oregon and OU to play for it.
Ok Alabama fans, how have you been left out as a 1-loss SEC team with the brand name like you have in scenarios 3 and 5? Well, here is the scenario where you get in as I believe that a 1-loss conference champion from the Big-12 and Pac-12 will get in over a non-conference champion from the SEC, even if it is Bama...
LSU loses to Arkansas and Georgia, Oregon loses to ASU, then...
Bama vs Bedlam winner - In this scenario, there would be a few more teams that would be holding press conferences the night of December 3rd to plead their case, (i.e. Arkansas, Clemson/VT winner, Houston, Stanford, Bedlam loser)
Bama getting in as a non-conference champion makes sense here as they would have a much stronger case than an unbeaten C-USA champ, 1-loss ACC champ, 1-loss non-conference champ from the Big 12/Pac 12.
Can a 2-loss team get in? The best bet would be UGA, as they would be riding an 11-game win streak and a win over #1...For that to happen...
UGA vs Bedlam winner - Oregon loses to ASU, Bama loses to Auburn, you could make a case for 2-loss UGA over ACC winner, Bedlam loser, LSU, Stanford, and Houston...
Best team not mentioned? I still say Wisconsin, who dominated MSU in their stadium only to lose on a freak hail mary, then had a hangover against OSU the next week. They could easily be in this mix if things bounced their way a little more...
Prop bet of the weekend...who keeps the score closer?? Ole Miss at home vs LSU or Georgia Southern playing in Tuscaloosa??
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Oklahoma State is the favorite here, and with no championship game, just has road games against Texas Tech and Iowa State before bedlam. Oklahoma still might be favored on the road, even without Ryan Broyles, but this game will be the biggest in the series history. K-State almost made this race a big-time mess late last night...
Clemson controls its destiny in the Atlantic division, just having to beat Wake at home and win at NC State. The Coastal has a big match-up this Thursday, where the winner will have an inside track at winning the division.
Sleeper: Wake Forest
Now for the real mess...Michigan State leads the Leaders division, but they look far from safe up top after struggling against Minnesota yesterday. With road trips to Iowa and Northwestern still on the schedule, they control their destiny, but if they slip up, Michigan/Nebraska/Iowa can all jump up and take the division.
The Legends division has Penn State on top at 5-0, but still has to play OSU/Wisconsin/Nebraska. The Nittany Lions need to win 2 of 3 to clinch, but if they lose 2 or more, Ohio State and Wisconsin move back into the mix.
Favorite: Michigan State
Sleeper: Ohio State
The Stanford-Oregon winner will take the North Division, and be favored in the championship game, but who will they face? USC/ASU/UCLA are all tied at 4-2 right now, but USC is not eligible for the division title. ASU has the easier schedule, with Wazzu, Cal, and Arizona (2 at home) while UCLA has road trips to Utah and USC and hosts Colorado. Needless to say, the UCLA upset of ASU yesterday has thrown another wrench in the title chase.
LSU has the inside track, but must win at home against Arkansas. The Hogs have struggles on the road this year, but this game always seems to be close. In the East, UGA has home games against Auburn and Kentucky that can win them their side, but if they lose one, USC can win the East by beating Florida at home.
As usual, we have no idea who will represent the Big East in the BCS at this point. Cincy has the lead at 3-0, and L'Ville has been a surprise and sits in . If Cincy can win 3 of their last 4, they will be in, but even with 2 of 4, they can still win the conference.
Southern Miss has their last true test next week at home vs UCF, and should have no problems on their way to winning the East. The West will be won the day after Thanksgiving, when Houston and Case Keenum travel to Tulsa to take on GJ Kinne and a very good 6-3 Tulsa team (losses are to Boise, Oklahoma, Ok St)
The MAC is a complete mess at this point after NIU's win at Toledo Tuesday night. The East may come down to Ohio-Miami (OH) on 11/22, but Temple and Bowling Green still have a fighters chance. The West is now NIU's to lose, and if they win at BG next week, they should win their side.
Favorite: Northern Illinois
This one is the easiest...whoever wins the TCU @ Boise game next week wins the league.
Favorite: Boise State
Just when you think you have this conference figured out, something happens...The Arkansas St-L-Lafayette winner next week will be the favorite, but it is hard to bet against Western Kentucky right now. The Hilltoppers are 5-1 now, winning 5 in a row including 2 OT games and their last second FG yesterday to beat FIU 10-9.
Favorite: Arkansas St
Sleeper: Western Kentucky
Another conference that is wide-open, even without unbeaten Nevada sitting on top at 3-0. Even Utah State at 1-2, still has a shot at winning the league. Tons of big games are left before any true prediction can be made.
Sleeper: Louisiana Tech
As for the big game last night, LSU winning puts them in a great position to reach the national title game. The fact that this game was so well-played and went to OT gives Bama more of an argument to get a re-match if the cards fall right. Oregon is also in good shape, because if they win out and Oklahoma State loses, they will be in the same boat at Bama with 1 loss to LSU, but they will be a conference champion...
RSM Poll for 11/6
3. Oklahoma St
5. Boise State
9. Michigan St
10. Penn St
12. Kansas St
13. Virginia Tech
15. South Carolina
22. Georgia Tech
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Assuming the LSU-Bama winner wins the SECCG, their opponent will be one of the following:
1) Oklahoma State if they win out (Oklahoma still left, No Big 12 CG this year)
2) If OK St loses, Stanford would be in if they win out (Oregon/ASU in CG)
That is it for the undefeated teams, except Boise...Would Boise get a shot if OSU/Stanford both lose and they are the only other undefeated team? Would LSU-Boise be a game that would get you excited to watch?
So, our controversy will be through the roof if OSU and Stanford win out and the arguments begin for who gets the SEC Champion, or which 1 loss team should move past Boise.
Here are the candidates to possibly move past Boise into the Title Game.
1) The LSU-Bama loser - We've heard all sorts of debate about whether a team that didn't win its division should play for the title. In fact, just 4 seasons ago, Les Miles was very adamant about his stance that a non-conference champion should not be considered. It will be interesting what his comments will be if they lose at Bama and end up in this situation.
2) Oregon - Duck fans will likely support a re-match with LSU if they are the SEC Champion, but will have a tougher argument if Bama wins the game next week.
3) Oklahoma - OU will win the Big 12 title if they win out and knock off OSU. If a 1 loss team has a shot at getting in, the Sooners would have quite a bit of momentum coming off a road win against the possible #2 team in the country.
Lots of computer numbers to run and human poll factors to consider, but if we have a 1-loss team, look for the debate to be through the roof this year. Coaches lobbying for human votes and trying to get to the #2 spot...
As for some of the other teams from yesterday...
Speaking of BCS games, no conference is as wide open as the Big East. Cincy is currently the leader, but could still finish last. The only team that is really out of it is USF, and they beat Notre Dame. I'd pick a winner here, but I have no clue.
You have to give Auburn credit this year, they have a bye week before UGA on 11/12, and if they win are looking at an 8-4 season. With the schedule they faced and the starters they lost, that would be an incredible season, especially considering most experts picked them to win 5 or 6 games.
Also in the SEC, some credit to South Carolina as well. Since getting torched by the UGA offense in Week 2, the Gamecock defense has given up 34 total points in their next 5 SEC games. While the Spurrier offense has been horrendous, the D has kept them in the SEC East race.
Penn State moved to 8-1 with their only loss being to Bama, but look for PSU to struggle to get to 9 wins. They get Nebraska at home next week, then travel to OSU and Wisconsin to close out the schedule.
In that Big 10 Leaders division, look for OSU to beat IU and Purdue the next 2 weeks, setting up that showdown with PSU. That game will play a big role in who wins that division as 5-0 PSU currently has a nice lead over 2-2 Wisconsin and OSU.
A pretty cool story is going on in the Sun-Belt in case you are watching, and I'm guessing you aren't. Western Kentucky joined the conference in 2008 after being an FCS and Independent FBS team and really struggled. They went 0-fer in the Sun Belt in 08 and 09, finally picking up 2 conference wins last year. The Hilltoppers went 2-10 in 2008 (both wins over FCS teams), 0-12 in 2009, and 2-10 in 2010. The 2011 edition of WKU started off 0-4, including a 4 touchdown blowout loss to FCS Indiana State.
But since losing a close game to 1st place Arkansas St on 10/1, the Hilltoppers are on a 4 game win streak, including 2 OT wins and 3 road wins. While they will probably get trounced by 40+ by LSU in a few weeks, if they can win 2 more conference games it could be bowl time for Western Kentucky.
RSM Top 25 for 10/30
3. Oklahoma St
5. Boise St
10. South Carolina
11. Kansas St
13. Michigan St
14. Virginia Tech
16. Penn State
20. Arizona St
24. Georgia Tech
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Looking back now at the awful September the Braves had, moving forward there are going to be several big decisions to be made by Frank Wren. Sure, the JJ/Hanson injuries set the team back a bit, but St Louis didn't have Wainwright all year. This offense needs some stability with another bat as it appeared to be too easy for Fredi to juggle the lineup from day to day.
Wren has said that Heyward and Lowe are not guaranteed their jobs, but neither should Prado. I want no part of Jose Reyes, but if the money is there, I would be interested in Prince Fielder (Freeman to RF?). The guy I would look to deal is Beachy...Go with Huddy/Hanson/JJ/Minor/Teheran to start, knowing Delgado/Medlen will have to make plenty of starts with injury concerns for JJ/Hanson and inning limits for Minor/Teheran.
I think Heyward needs to go back to RF to start next season. He is too promising of a talent to demote him to a 4th outfielder at age 22 and I believe he will improve. The guy I would move, as you may have figured out above, is Beachy. He should have good value on the trade market and Wren would be dealing from the team's strength. Maybe a corner outfielder that is an OPS guy? I'd call our trading pals in KC and see what it would take to get Alex Gordon.
College football notes:
What is the deal with Texas A&M? Another week, another 17+ point lead at halftime vanishes. The Aggies were a pre-season top 10 pick by most, now they may struggle to get to 8 wins.
Apparently Bob Griffin is human...The Heisman front-runner threw a late pick that led to a Baylor loss, hurting his Heisman hopes, but adding 5 TD passes to his season stats.
South Carolina's SEC East hopes took a big hit with their slip up at home against Auburn yesterday. After hosting Kentucky next week, the Cocks have 3 straight road tests that will determine their fate this season (MSU, UT, Ark). They need to win at least 2 to stay in the race.
What about Clemson? The high-powered offense was held to 23 on the road, but the D stepped up and got the Tigers to 5-0. Now, 3 weeks against the horrid likes of BC, MD, and UNC before the next test, in Atlanta vs GT.
Speaking of the Jackets, they should be unbeaten as well for the 10/29 game against Clemson as they have MD (crushed by Temple at home), UVA (squeaked by Idaho in OT yesterday), and the U (it's all about them) before the showdown in Atlanta.
The RSM pre-season top 3 teams have all passed their initial tests with flying colors as Oklahoma took out FSU on the road, Bama crushed Florida again, and Wisconsin beat down Nebraska in Madison...Look out for 11/5 in Tuscaloosa when LSU comes in town.
Top 25 for 10/2
5. Boise St
6. Oklahoma St
16. Florida St
18. Texas A&M
19. Kansas St
20. Georgia Tech
21. South Carolina
22. Virginia Tech
23. Arizona St
24. Texas Tech
25. Michigan St
Sunday, September 25, 2011
1) Notre Dame just isn't very good. They had some momentum after finishing strong in 2010 and winning a New Years Day Bowl game, but they have a lot of issues. Pitt's D had given up 25 ppg against Buffalo, Maine, and Iowa and the Irish could only manage 15 (8 of them were late in the 4th quarter). The schedule isn't as tough as it has been in the past, so they could still win 8-9, but they are not a BCS team this year.
2) Oregon State may not win a game this year. Losing at home to UCLA in a game they never led, the rest of the Pac-12 schedule has no gimmies, including at Wazzu. If the Beavers don't win that one, or win their other non-conference game against BYU, it could be a goose egg in 2010.
3) Clemson is really good on offense. Not since the Rich-Rod days has Clemson had this much fire-power on O, and I give a lot of credit to hiring Chad Morris and giving him free reign to run his offense. Their season will be defined by how they play on the road against VT, GT, and USC.
4) If the Heisman Trophy goes to the best player on the best team, Trent Richardson, Landry Jones, Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore will battle it out like most people expected. But if the award goes to the most outstanding collegiate player, right now Robert Griffin III is winning in a runaway. The freakiest of freak-athletes, Griffin is 70-82 for 962, 13 TD's and 0 INTs along with 167 rushing yards and another score. The schedule heats up in a couple weeks with OK St and A&M, but if you haven't seen Bob Griffin yet, make plans.
5) Speaking of Okie St, they finally have a legit defense to go along with their NFL talent on offense. After another comeback win over A&M yesterday, it is possible they are favored in every game on their schedule until their trip to Norman on December 3rd. That could be quite a match-up of rivals for what could be the final Big 12 game ever.
6) The place to be next Saturday is Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI. The Badgers get their 1st true test at home against Nebraska and can gain some real momentum nationally as a contender if they put up a number against the blackshirts.
7) As much hype as LSU has gotten (and rightfully so) about their defense, the best defense in the country was on display yesterday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. The Tide have 10+ NFL players they run out on defense and you just simply can not run on them. When Arkansas was forced to pass on every down, Bama just rolls out 4-5 stud DB's in their nickel/dime packages and covers everybody. Can't wait to see them play in the Swamp next weekend.
Top 25 for the last Saturday in September:
5. Boise St
6. Oklahoma St
9. Virginia Tech
11. South Carolina
16. Texas A&M
18. South Florida
21. Georgia Tech
22. Florida St
25. Arizona St
Sunday, September 11, 2011
The 1998 Braves had Maddux, Glavine, Millwood, Neagle, and Smoltz along with big-boppers in Chipper, Galarraga, Lopez, Klesko, and Andruw before losing in 6 in the NLCS. The 2003 team was 92-54 on their way to 101 wins and lost in the NLDS.
The Giants last year showed us that if you can get to the Philly bullpen and limit big innings, they are beatable. The Braves recipe should be to get to the 6th-7th innings while holding the Philly offense to less than 4 runs and try and win the bullpen battle.
And for the record, if JJ and Hanson are unavailable for the playoffs, I would break up the sinker-ballers and go with a rotation of Hudson, Beachy, and Lowe.
Season starts today, so lets get the NFL predictions going:
Eagles over Cardinals, Saints over Cowboys
Packers over Saints
Falcons over Eagles
Packers over Falcons
Ravens over Jets
Steelers over Texans
Chargers over Ravens
Steelers over Pats
Chargers over Steelers
Chargers over Packers
As for the college game...
Two weeks of games in, and I will go ahead and put in my poll for the week. The ND-Michigan finish was unreal last night, glad I tuned in...
5. Florida State
8. Boise State
10. Texas A&M
11. Oklahoma State
12. Virginia Tech
13. Arizona State
14. South Carolina
16. South Florida
21. Michigan State
23. Ohio State
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
There are currently 73 NL players that have enough plate appearances per game (3.1) to qualify for the batting title. Some players of note and where they rank...
Dan Uggla - you guessed it, #73
Jayson Werth - #72
Alex Gonzalez - #68
Players rumored to be of interest to the offensively challenged Braves....
Ryan Ludwick - #62
Carlos Beltran - #22
Hunter Pence - #9
Colby Rasmus - #57
Martin Prado - #41 (Down from #7 in 2010)
Freddie Freeman #28
Brian McCann - #10
Michael Morse - #6
Daniel Murphy - #5
Just some interesting numbers to look at as the trade deadline approaches and teams assess where they are as a club. Losing your only player near the top 10 in McCann for 3+ weeks may cause the Braves to accelerate their pursuit of a bat.
It is unfortunate that the Braves can't go hard after a corner outfielder that could be under team control for more than the rest of 2011, but they won't push Chipper out of 3rd, so Prado and Heyward are pretty much penciled into those spots for the rest of the season (barring injury).
The OPS stat gives a further indication of overall offensive production, so lets look at some other guys and where they rank here...
McCann - #13
Freeman - #22
Chipper - #33
Uggla - #62
Gonzalez - #72
So, back to the trade deadline, it appears the Braves ideally would like to acquire a center fielder that hits right handed (or switch) that won't cost them Teheran/Minor/Vizcaino/Delgado.
I think that is the right stance for Beltran, but Hunter Pence's name has started to resurface as someone that can be had for the right price. I wrote on May 9th that Pence would significantly improve this ball club, and I feel even more strongly about that stance now.
Lets take a quick look at the obvious reasons to make the deal:
1) Pence (.308-11-62) would immediately be the Braves 1st or 2nd best hitter in a lineup that needs offense.
2) He can run and play multiple outfield positions (more on this in a bit)
3) His acquisition will give the team some needed momentum after the McCann injury
4) The team has the prospects to give up with so many young pitching studs (Hanson, Beachy, Medlen, Jurrjens, Minor, Teheran, Vizcaino, Delgado)
5) Chipper is likely to retire after this season and there will be money available to retain Pence long-term (and he is under team control for 2012).
Reasons not to make the deal:
1) The asking price may be too high (which may be the case) - I definitely feel that Teheran won't be a part of the deal, but would a package of Minor/Delgado do the job?
2) Concerns that Pence isn't a center fielder
Ok, here are my thoughts on #2...Hunter has played only 95 of his career 673 games in center field, but he has done fairly well there. He can run and cover ground, and his statistics show that he can play the position.
Pence's Run total per year numbers (total number of runs above or below average a player is worth over 1200 innings) in center is -1. In right field, that number drops to -3. In comparison, Nate McLouth has a career Rtot/yr of -7 and Jordan Schafer is -17 in just about the same number of career games at the position as Pence. Andruw Jones, the best defensive center fielder of this generation, has a career Rtot/yr of 18 in CF.
So, assuming Pence is right around 0, which is an average center fielder, his value to the team with his bat should be a higher number of runs per game than anyone on the current roster
Again, if a package centered around Minor/Delgado is enough, the Braves would add a true star that plays the game the right way. I would then use this order for now:
Then, when B-Mac returns:
The one issue with Pence being somewhat available, though, is that the Braves may not get into the talks, but the Phillies might. This tweet scared me quite a bit...
Speaking of good lineups...
Getting Beltran would make Philly pretty much untouchable in the NL too (assuming they aren't there already).
So, lets hope for the following things to happen come Monday morning:
1) Wren pulls the trigger on deals for one of the 2,324 right handed relievers on the market and gets a significant RH OF bat
2) The Phillies don't do either of these
Friday, July 22, 2011
The Carlos Beltran sweepstakes is on the forefront of most trade deadline conversations, and rightfully so. He has had quite a resurgence this year and is the best outfield bat available for a reasonable price, and the Mets are likely to reap the rewards. By paying some or all of the 6 million still owed to Carlos and not limiting themselves to teams outside their division, they should drive the price to acquire Beltran up pretty high.
Teams like the Braves and Phillies don't have dollars to take on the 6 million, but would likely be willing to give up better prospects in a deal. The Mets seem to think so in regards to the Braves, as they had scouts carefully watching Mike Minor last night.
I don't think in the end that Frank Wren will give up what it will take to get Beltran and settle for a lesser RH bat (Gomes, Ludwick, etc) and also pick up another reliever to help O'Flaherty and Every Day Jonny get to Kimbrel. If Carlos goes to the Phillies, I hope they have to give up Dominic Brown, their top OF prospect.
My guess? Beltran goes to the Giants...Brian Sabean sees a window where he has elite pitching and another excellent chance to make a run in the post-season. After losing Buster Posey, this team needs another bat, and Beltran would be a solid fit in their lineup. They have already show a willingness to make deals by acquiring Jeff Keppinger earlier this week.
Some interesting Adam Dunn quotes yesterday, as he hinted that he has thought about retirement during his dreadful season in Chicago. Guys like Carl Crawford and Dan Uggla have struggled with their new clubs, but no where near like Big Adam, who has gone in the tank.
At age 31, Dunn is currently hitting .158-9-36 while striking out 124 times in 339 at bats. He has always been a high strikeout guy, but this pace is more than ever and he is down in his career average (.245) by 87 points and won't get near his consistently solid home run numbers. Since 2004, Dunn's HR numbers have been 46, 40, 40, 40, 40, 38, 38. Amazing he could have this type of drop off while still playing in his prime.
Today is July 22, about a month and a half since the MLB Draft, and just 1 1st round pick has signed. The deadline idea was a good one, but August 15th is too late. Don't worry about when classes start at universities and consider that these guys need to be training with their teams and playing in games. Move the date to July 15th and there is still plenty of time to get draft picks into Rookie League games and get their careers started. Instead, agents have players working out on their own while the agents sit on their hands until August 14th.
It looks like a very competitive AL Cy Young race will come down to the wire with Justin Verlander and Jared Weaver not letting up at all. Guys like CC Sabathia (14-5, 2.62) and James Shields (9-8, 2.53 7 CG's) have a chance, but there are some serious studs right now in both the AL and NL.
Finally, with the AL/NL Eastern Divisions looking like they will produce the Wild Card and the Giants and Rangers separating themselves in the West, the AL/NL Central Divisions look like they will give us the best pennant races come September. Here are the top teams in each league that are still in contention and the player I would look to acquire to put each team in the best chance to compete for the Division title.
Pittsburgh - Carlos Beltran - The Pirates have excellent pitching with Karstens, Morton Maholm, Correia, and Hanrahan, but could really use an OF bat in the middle of their order with McCutchen and Walker.
Milwaukee - Michael Bourn - The Brewers lost Carlos Gomez yesterday to a wrist injury, and could use an upgrade from Nyjer Morgan in CF. The bullpen looks solid with the K-Rod trade and Gallardo and Greinke are front line starters that are complemented well by Marcum and Wolf.
St Louis - Mike Adams - The Cardinals lead the NL in runs scored and have solid starting pitching, so bullpen help is the main need here. Salas has been good finishing games so bringing in one of the top 8th inning guys in the league without messing with too much bullpen chemistry is the move for the Cards.
Cincinnati - Ubaldo Jimenez - The Reds should be buyers, as they have a strong team with the 3rd best run differential in the NL (+28, behind ATL/PHI). I would have put Jose Reyes here, as the Cincy lineup has been pretty bad as of late, but the Phillips/Votto/Bruce murderers row along with guys like Stubbs and Rolen will heat up and give more offense. Jimenez gives the Reds a solid 1-2 punch with Johnny Cueto at the top of their rotation. Leake and Arroyo have been OK, but they really need some better starts from them along with a strong finish from either Homer Bailey or Edinson Volquez.
Detroit - Wandy Rodriguez - The Tigers can swing the bats, but only Baltimore and Kansas City have given up more runs in the AL. Verlander is as good as it gets at the top of the rotation, but the guys after him like Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have been very inconsistent. Detroit doesn't have a left-handed starter, and Rodriguez has been very good this season (6-6, 3.67) pitching in a hitter-friendly ballpark on a bad team.
Cleveland - Aaron Harang - The surprising Indians have been at or near the top of the division all season despite a very young and inexperienced club. Young starting pitchers Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco, and Josh Tomlin have had excellent seasons, but Harang will provide an innings-eater veteran that will help solidify their staff.
White Sox - Heath Bell - The White Sox have struggled finding a reliable closer since Bobby Jenks career went south, and getting Bell would immediately give them one of the games best. Only 5 games back with John Danks set to come of the DL soon, the White Sox could also use a hitter, and could use Edwin Jackson as bait to get some offensive help.
The trade deadline should be wild this year, keep checking back for updates as the Braves should be in some deep discussions the next 9 days...
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
After several months of research, there are definitely some teams I like and don't like in 2011. This list does not rank how good I think the teams are in order, but how I think they will end up based on conference, schedule, and other factors.
A weekly top 25 poll will begin the Sunday after the 1st full Saturday of games, but until then, here is the RSM Top 25.
1. Alabama (13-0) - There is a lot of pressure on AJ McCarron as a sophomore, but they are still good enough to win the SEC and go undefeated. There are no road games against top 15 teams (Penn St, UF, Miss, Miss St, AU) and the Tide will lock up a spot in the National Title game by defeating South Carolina in the GA Dome
2. Wisconsin (13-0) - As you can see, I really like the Badgers this year. The mass exodus at OSU, along with a favorable schedule give Wisconsin a great shot to go undefeated. Camp Randall is one of the toughest places to play in the country, and Wisconsin doesn't have a true road game until 10/22. That will give new QB Russell Wilson time to get acclimated with the squad and handle back-to-back road games against Michigan St and Ohio St. The biggest obstacles are the aforementioned road games and a home date versus new Big 10 team Nebraska.
3. Oklahoma (11-1) - Like the SEC, the Big 12 has several excellent teams in 2011, but it will be very difficult to go undefeated. Throw in the Sooners road game against FSU, and there are a lot of tough teams on their schedule (Mizzou, @Ok St, A&M, Texas, @KSU). They will slip up once, which will be one too many to get them to the BCS Title Game.
4. Florida St (12-1) - The Seminoles build off a strong Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over South Carolina with an ACC Title and top 5 finish. While EJ Manuel is a new starter at QB, he has experience and may be the best QB in the entire conference. The defense only has 3 new starters, but Tank Carradine may their best defender outside of Greg Reid.
5. Arkansas (10-2) - The Razorbacks get into the top 5 by winning at LSU over Thanksgiving despite not winning the SEC West. Tyler Wilson showed he is an elite passer in limited time last season, and the schedule finally sets up for Bobby Petrino.
6. Arizona St (11-2) - Another surprise team for 2011 that jumps into the top 10 after defeating Oregon in the 1st Pac-12 Title game. This team has a ton of guys back from last year, losing only 17 letter winners. They avoid Stanford from the North, and played a lot of really good teams close in 2010 (L @ Wisconsin 20-19, L vs Oregon 42-31, L @ USC 34-33). Brock Osweiler (6'8) is one of the biggest QB's in the country and was arguably the Sun Devils best QB in 2010.
7. Virginia Tech (11-2) - Although they lost to FSU in the ACCCG, the Hokies will be on the national scene for most of 2011. They have a very favorable schedule and do not play any big name out of conference opponents for the 1st time in many years (BSU, Bama, Nebraska, LSU, etc). That will give new QB Logan Thomas time to get rolling and give VT another strong season.
8. Oregon (11-2) - The Ducks will keep momentum from 2010 by defeating LSU in Dallas, but after losing at Stanford and to ASU in the Pac-12 CG, a BCS at-large bowl will be their best case scenario.
9. South Carolina (10-3) - The SEC East Champion Gamecocks will again fall in the GA Dome, but it will be another successful season for Steve Spurrier. The defense is still very talented, and play-makers Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery will provide plenty of scores.
10. Texas A&M (10-2) - Coach Mike Sherman had the Aggies playing very well at the end of 2010, despite a 17 point bowl loss to LSU. The entire offense is back, led by possible All-American RB Cyrus Gray. The defense also returns a lot, although the loss of Von Miller will hurt. Biggest hurdles will be 9/24 vs OSU, 10/1 vs Arkansas, 10/29 vs Mizzou, and 11/5 @OU,
11. Notre Dame (10-2) - Year 2 under Brian Kelly could see the Irish back in a BCS Bowl game. The schedule eases up a bit, but is still quite rigorous. Road games against Michigan, MSU, Purdue, and Stanford along with home games against USF, Navy, USAFA, and USC will determine how far ND can go. After winning their final 4 games of 2010 and Michael Floyd coming back with a veteran QB, look for the Irish to move back into the spotlight.
12. Nebraska (10-3) - The newcomers to the Big-12 won't be able to get past Wisconsin, but should escape most of their other games unscathed. Returning Taylor Martinez, Jared Crick, and Alfonzo Dennard will give the Huskers enough fire-power to make a Big splash in Year 1 in their new conference.
13. Stanford (9-3) - A lot of offensive and defensive losses will prevent the 2012 #1 pick Andrew Luck from getting Stanford in the National Title hunt. A 1st year head coach and some tough games against Oregon, ND, USC, and @Arizona will be a tough hurdle for this Cardinal team.
14. Oklahoma St (9-3) - A high-powered offense will make OSU fun to watch but some key personnel losses along with a tough schedule (@A&M, @Texas, @Mizzou, OU) will keep this Cowboy team from reaching 10+ wins like the 2010 version.
15. UGA (9-3) - If, and a big if, UGA can escape their 1st two games (BSU, USC), the schedule sets up nicely as the avoid LSU, ARK, and BAMA from the West. They have the top QB in the SEC and some needed energy around the program, which should lead to the 3 game turn-around from 2010.
16. Pitt (9-3) - The Big East champs will face another competitive Big East as USF, UConn, and WVU will all be pretty good. Pitt gets the nod with an excellent front 7 and returning starter at QB, which will help notch home wins against USF and UConn.
17. Boise St (10-2) - Boise will lose a tough game against UGA to start the season, along with another out of a tough group of match-ups (@Toledo, Nevada, USAFA, @Fresno, TCU) but keep the winning tradition going in year 1 in the MWC.
18. LSU (8-4) - A tough schedule and still offensively-challenged LSU team will lose its opener (Oregon) and finale (Arkansas) along with 11/5 at Alabama. I also don't think they escape the @MSU, @WVU, UK, UF, @UT, AU stretch without at least 1 more loss. This is a very talented team with a lot of returners, but the schedule doesn't work out nearly as well as it did in 2010.
19. Northwestern (9-3) - Although they stumbled down the stretch in 2010, the Wildcats have a ton of experience and favorable schedule in 2011. If they can go 3-2 on the road, the home schedule sets up nicely as this looks like a 9 win team with Dan Persa coming back at QB.
20. Texas (8-4) - Texas should bounce back nicely after a 5-7 2010, and 2nd year starter Garrett Gilbert will help lead the way. While they are still a bit behind OU, 2011 for the Longhorns will mean a return back to the national scene.
21. Air Force (10-2) - A lot of returners for a team that finished '10 with 4 straight wins and their only losses were by 2 @SDSU, by 5 vs Utah, by 3 to Oklahoma, and a bad blowout loss to Rose Bowl champ TCU. Road trips to ND and Boise will be tough, but USAFA gets revenge on TCU and gets to 10 wins.
22. Michigan St (8-4) - The Spartans have an elite QB in Kirk Cousins and some very good players on D, but look for them to be in the middle of the pack in the new Big-10 due to a brutal schedule that includes road games against ND,OSU, Nebraska, Iowa, and Northwestern.
23. USC - (8-4) - Matt Barkley is an elite QB, but this program still has a way to go to get back to being a 10 win team each year. Road trips to ASU, ND, and Oregon don't help make the schedule any easier either.
24. Southern Miss - (11-1) - The Golden Eagles only lost 18 letter winners from 2010 and have a very favorable schedule. It would not be surprising to see them survive their 6 road tests and get to 12-0.
25. Kansas St (8-4) - Newcomers Justin Tuggle, Bryce Brown, and Arthur Brown are very talented players that will help a veteran KSU squad become nationally significant again.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
One note I came across yesterday that I thought was interesting and on topic as our 4th annual top Braves prospects list is released is the career of Jose Capellan. He was the consensus top Braves prospect in 2004-2005 after going 14-4 with a 2.34 ERA and a ton of strikeouts in A/AA/AAA. He was later dealt to Milwaukee for Dan Kolb and after Kolb's breakdown, it looked like the Brewers got a steal.
Since then, however, Jose hasn't nearly lived up to the hype. He was decent in AAA in 08, going 4-1 with a 4.05, but 09 produced a 2-10 record with a 7+ ERA and a ticket out of the minor leagues. He was last seen in 2010 playing for Hanwha of the Korean league, where he went 0-11 with a 9.15 ERA in 13 starts. Those numbers will end your career in a hurry.
On to our Braves prospects list...This list has produced 3 current everyday players for the team the last 3 years (Schafer, Heyward, Freeman) and the new #1 moves up from the 2 hole last year and looks to be everything Jose Capellan should have been.
This list includes Braves players that have not received a big league call up yet or just been up for a very limited time (why you won't see Mike Minor but will see Randall Delgado). Prospects from the 2011 draft are also considered.
2011 Braves Top Prospects
1. Julio Teheran - (#2 in '10) - Julio has dominated AAA this year, going 9-1 with a 1.74 ERA. He has impressed in 2 big league starts as well and is just about untouchable for other clubs. Will be up with the big club for good in a month or two and then in the rotation starting in 2012.
2. Randall Delgado (#5 in '10) - Serving as the ace of the Mississippi Braves staff, Delgado has had great success in AA this year. Outside of a bad outing in late May, he has been very consistent all season. He also got some experience on the big league club earlier this year, and has a ton of potential having just turned 21.
3. Aroyds Vizcaino (#4 in '10) - Vizcaino was recently moved up to the AA Mississippi team with Delgado, and has done so with impressive results. In his 7 AA starts, Aroyds has pitched 5+ innings with 5+ K's in each start, collecting a 4.12 era and 14 walks to 46 K's in 43 innings.
4. Edward Salcedo - (NR in '10) - Salcedo was a big-time signee from the Domincan Republic a few years ago, and has now figured out in 2011. After struggling in his 1st 77 minor league games in '10 (.225-3-27), the 19 year old 3rd baseman has taken off in Rome (.267-9-40). He is still a few years away, but after Chipper retires the Braves will only need a stop-gap for a year or 2 at 3rd until young Edward is ready.
5. Christian Bethancourt (#6 in '10) - The Braves top catching prospect was just promoted to Advanced A ball in Lynchburg after hitting (.303-4-33) in Rome this year. Christian won't be 20 for another 4 months and this youngster has all the looks of a future major league starter.
6. Carlos Perez - (NR in '10) - Another 19 year old in Rome, Carlos has had a pretty good season so far in Rome (4-7, 5.17). He has shown a great deal of potential and is thought of very highly by the Braves front office.
7. Tyler Pastornicky (NR in '10) - Pastornicky was acquired along with Alex Gonzalez in the Escobar/JoJo Reyes deal last summer. He is still a few years away, but helped bring needed athleticism to the organization. Tyler is in Mississippi now and has a (.298-6-36) line for the year with 19 SB's.
8. Matt Lipka (#10 in '10) - Matt is leading off and playing short in Rome, and while not hitting for power, he is been steady in the field and shown off his speed. He is currently (.233-0-23) with 16 SB's on the year.
9. Adam Milligan (#8 in '10) - Adam has rebounded really well after an injury-plagued 2010 season. Playing in Lynchburg, the left handed hitting outfielder has 32 XBHs in 60 games, including 11 HR's. His .286 average is solid, but he needs to up his walks and cut down on strikeouts.
10. Zeke Spruill (#9 in '10) - Zeke is 6-7 with a 3.19 ERA in 17 starts so far in Lynchburg. In his last 10 starts, Spruill has 2 CG's and 4 other starts going at least 7 innings. He has excellent command and projects as a solid starter in the big leagues.
Bret Oberholtzer and JJ Hoover are also solid prospects that the organization really likes and are having solid seasons. The strategy of bringing in some speed and athleticism to the organization last year has worked with Lipka and Todd Cunningham (All-Star) having strong seasons and bringing in Pastornicky has been a nice addition.
The Braves are viewed around the league as having one of the best farm systems around. A lot of fans want to use some of these prospects to acquire another bat, but the team is a little handcuffed financially with a maxed-out payroll. I think the recent emergence of Uggla, the play of Schafer, and return of Prado will keep Frank Wren from making any big moves.
However, this off-season, with Minor/Teheran ready for the rotation and Lowe/Hudson/Jurrjens/Hanson/Medlen/Beachy under team control or contract, things could get interesting. Throw in some needed payroll flexibility with the likely retirement of Chipper, and Atlanta may be a huge player in the Hot Stove come December...
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Most baseball fans do not understand the role of a manager in baseball. They believe that anyone that knows baseball at all could write the names of the Yankees on a lineup card and let CC Sabathia go throw every 5th day and win 90+ games easily. In fact, managing professional baseball players over the course of 9 months is a lot of work. The decision to move Dan Uggla down in the order, moving McLouth around, and most other day-to-day decisions a big-league manager makes is discussed in great depth.
Managers must consider player personalities, egos, and other situations that may come out of each and every lineup move and pitching change throughout the season. Getting Eric Hinske enough at-bats to remain content, George Sherrill enough innings, and keeping Brooks Conrad fresh are all difficult things to deal with.
Which brings us to Kimbrel and Venters...We know from last year that Venters is an elite set-up man. The franchise believes that Kimbrel is the closer of the future and he was given the first shot at the job this year. Taking that job from Kimbrel could cause major issues to a bullpen that has been arguably the best in the major leagues so far this season.
First, conventional wisdom says that if Venters became the closer, then Kimbrel could then work as the 8th inning guy. But what about his psyche after being demoted? Kimbrel is a young power pitcher that relies on challenging hitters and having a dominant mound presence. What if he loses that when moved to a 7th or 8th inning role?
Second, we don't know how Venters would react to becoming a full-time closer for the first time. Plenty of guys have been lights-out as set up men and then flopped when given the closers role. On the other hand, many young closers have bombed out after being moved out of the closers role. Switching the 2 right now may seem easy, but what if it doesn't work and you want to switch back?
Plus, it is not as if Kimbrel has been terrible this year. He ranks 2nd in the league in WAR and is 18/23 in save situations with 47 K's in 31 innings. That projects to 45+ saves for the season, and even if his blown saves are near the top of the league, that's a pretty good season for a 23 year old rookie.
This Braves team has issues, but they are not related to pitching. Getting Heyward and McLouth back and getting Dan Uggla going are definitely much more pressing issues. That being said, they are sitting at 34-28 with the 3rd best run-differential in the league.
With 30 games left until the All-Star break, this team is in pretty good shape right now. They will always be in games with their pitching (especially when Moylan, Beachy, and Medlen return) and they get series with last place clubs Baltimore, Houston, and San Diego.
Get healthy, keep pitching, and let Fredi manage his club as he sees fit, and this is still a 90+ win playoff team...
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Biggest surprises in Round 1 in my eyes were Cory Spangenberg from Indian River State CC at #10. A solid bat and pretty versatile, but not the type of talent you want in the top 10. Also, the Mets taking Brandon Nimmo at #13 was a bit of a surprise as he wasn't viewed by most as a top 25 prospect.
The Braves also had a surprising pick at #28 in FSU LHP Sean Gilmartin, likely due to Robert Stephenson being taken by the Reds the pick before. I was hoping for Mikie Mahtook, who had dropped when a few unlikely pitchers jumped into the 1st round. Hopefully, Gilmartin will work out like Mike Minor, a pick I questioned as well.
That same draft was when the curious decision by Matt Purke was made after he was the 14th pick by Texas. Purke turned down 4 million to go to TCU and struggled this year with velocity and injuries, and was drafted by Washington in the 3rd round. He will likely be looking for a multi-million dollar contract, even at pick 96, or head back to TCU for another year and hope to get his stock back up if the money isn't there.
After a huge run on GA high school players in the 1st round the past few years, the only one taken in the 1st round this year was the final pick of the round, Kevin Matthews. Again, a bit of a surprise as Larry Greene or Dwight Smith were thought to be the 1st GA HS players on most boards. But, Matthews is a big lefty with a 90+ fastball, and will probably never make it to UVA now.
An interesting article today by Tom Verducci talks about some of the great draft classes of all-time, with 2005 coming in #1. A more recent class, though, has a chance to get into the top 5 in the next few years, the draft class of 2009.
That class already has had 4 starting pitchers make their debut and show signs of becoming a front line starter (Strasburg, Minor, Alex White, and Mike Leake). Drew Storen and Aaron Crow are dominant relievers, while #6 pick Zach Wheeler is rapidly moving through the Giants system. As for hitters, Dustin Ackley will be at the top of the Mariners batting order soon and Mike Trout, arguably the top prospect in the game was the 25th pick in '09.
Andrew Oliver and DJ LeMahieu have also made their big-league debuts as 2nd round picks, and many other HS players (Donovan Tate, Jacob Turner, and Tyler Maztek) all have been as advertised in the minors.
One final note that was a bit odd was all the college players the Braves took. After taking so many High Schoolers with their 1st few picks over the years (Chipper, Freeman, Heyward, McCann, etc), Atlanta took a college player with their 1st 11 picks this year...
Thursday, June 2, 2011
I have a problem with Bill Russell being mentioned as #1 by some people because you can't just look at the 9 championships. He is certainly a top 5 guy as he was the best defensive center of all-time and owned the glass, but not #1. Having the greatest GM/Coach of all-time, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Sam Jones, and others around him along with there just being 8 franchises competing for a ring keeps him out of the top spot.
Some guys need rings to solidify their place in history. Kobe Bryant desperately needed to win a title without Shaq because he hadn't done it as "the man." There were at least a dozen players that would have won titles with the dominant Shaq from 00-02. LeBron needs one, but the number of titles doesn't mean you were a greater player than someone with a few less. However, I think you do need at least 1 to get into the discussion of greatest of all-time (see Dirk right now).
5. Hakeem Olajuwon - Hakeem has 2 rings (Finals MVP in both) and is top 10 all-time in points and just outside the top 10 in rebounds. He is considered the blocks leader, but blocks were not a calculated stat until the mid-70's. Olajuwon edged out George Mikan for the 5th spot due to his level of competition at the center position in the late 40's-mid 50's even though Mikan's 5 titles trump Hakeem's 2.
4. Shaquille O'Neal - Shaq gets on the list at #4 after winning 4 titles (3 MVP's) and finishing 5th all time in scoring. He is also 12th in rebounds and his run from 93-03 was the most dominant 10 year stretch anyone produced since the Russell/Wilt era.
3. Bill Russell - The greatest defensive center of all-time, Russell was a mammoth on the boards with over 20,000 career. Russell won 9 rings and was the force in the paint that the Celtics of the early to mid 50's lacked. He is 2nd all-time in rebounds and a 5 time MVP.
2. Kareem Abdul Jabbar - Kareem won 6 titles (2 MVP's) and 6 MVP awards en route to becoming the league's all-time leading scorer. He also is 3rd on the all-time list in rebounds and blocks.
1. Wilt Chamberlain - Wilt only won 2 titles, but that was mostly because he went up against Russell and his All-NBA teammates throughout his career. Swap Wilt with Russell and he wins at least a dozen championships. He was both a defensive presence, dominant offensive force, and all-around freak athlete. He is the NBA all-time leader in rebounds, 4 time MVP, 4th in points, and once led the league in assists just because naysayers said he didn't pass enough.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Jed Bradley – The Georgia Tech left-hander has been spectacular this season and has incredible stuff. He has had a great season as a starter for the Jackets, posting a 2.63 ERA and 83 K’s in just 77 innings. Should be in a big-league rotation by 2014.
Mikey Mahtook – I am really high on Mahtook and think he is worthy of a top-5 pick. Most mock drafts have him going in the mid-to-late 1st round, but I am not sure what the hesitation is on him. He is a 5 tool outfielder that can hit for power and really run. His is a big league everyday player in 2013.
Bubba Starling – Bubba is a 6’5 freak-athlete that will use his football scholarship to Nebraska as leverage for a huge signing bonus. He is a center fielder with a 95 MPH arm that has great raw power and a polished swing. Once he focuses on baseball full-time, he will become a mega-prospect. Estimated arrival for Bubba is 2015.
Taylor Jungmann – Taylor has been just about un-hittable this year for the Longhorns. In his 12 starts, he has 11 wins, no losses, and 3 shutouts. He has only allowed 73 base runners in 95+ innings while recording 90 strikeouts. A 6’6 lanky right-hander, Jungmann has the build and arm to be a #1-#2 MLB starting pitcher with an ETA of 2014.
Andrew Susac – Another player I really like, Susac could be a big league catcher with few offensive skills than he currently possesses. Susac is excellent behind the plate and also leads OSU with a .359 average and a .487 OBP.
Gerritt Cole – A likely #1-#2 pick, I am very leery of Cole in this draft. The UCLA right-hander has unreal stuff, it just hasn’t produced unreal results. Cole is 5-5 for the Bruins and has had some impressive outings. But at the same time, he has had some shaky outings and has given up 6 HR’s and as many base runners as innings pitched this season. Could be a big-leaguer but not only do I not think he is a top 15 prospect, I don’t think he is the best pitching prospect on his team (Trevor Bauer).
Anthony Rendon – Rendon, another likely #1-#2 pick, is also not worthy of that high of a selection. Rendon is certainly a good prospect and has hit .327-4-29 with most teams pitching around him (66 walks in 49 games), but I want an Evan Longoria type third-basemen with a top 1-2 pick. Rendon looks like a potential future big-leaguer, but not one worthy of a 8 million + signing bonus and the top pick.
Jackie Bradley, Jr – Bradley is an interesting prospect because his stock was so high last season when USC won the national title. He was an integral part of that team and has all 5 tools. The knock on Jackie, though, is that he does not have an elite tool. Not a future MLB player in my opinion, but has enough skills to be worth a pick at some point.
Matt Purke – The tale of Purke’s draft hold-out from 2 years ago was chronicled in this blog entry. The decision to turn down 3+ million from the Rangers as the 14th pick was questioned then, and even more so now. A consensus top 3 pick after last season, when he was dominant in leading TCU to the CWS, Purke has struggled with injuries, command, and velocity all season. After going 16-0 with 142 K’s as a freshman, Purke has just 8 starts in 2011 and now has a sore shoulder. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Purke has dropped from a top 3 pick to a late-1st rounder, and I don’t think his risk is even worth a pick until after the 1st round.
Anthony Meo – Meo currently sports a 2.41 ERA in 12 starts for Coastal Carolina, but his velocity has been a question mark all season. At one point considered an elite prospect as a mind-90’s starter, Meo has been 89-91 at times this year and not quite as dominant like a 1st round college pitcher should be. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but the lack of consistent command has me questioning his future as a MLB player.
But, I think there is a stat that most are overlooking…Josh shot 13-29 in Games 5/6, which isn’t terrible. Al did struggle, shooting 8-23 and missing many open looks. The rebounding margin was in the Bulls favor for these 2 games, but only 72-68. D-Rose shot 50% (19-38) and played well, but that was expected.
Atlanta needed to score to beat Chicago, and they failed to do so. Part of it was Josh Smith’s shot selection, part was Horford’s poor shooting, but most of all it was the inability to knock down long-range jumpers. Chicago plays really good defense from 15 feet in, but the Hawks were able to get many good looks from 3 point range. They just couldn’t make any of them…
Here is the 3 point shot breakdown for the series.
Game 1 (ATL win) - 7/13 (53.8%)
Game 2 (ATL loss) – 3/13 (23.1%)
Game 3 (ATL loss) – 1/6 (16.7%)
Game 4 (ATL win) – 4/11 (36.4%)
Game 5 (ATL loss) – 1/12 (8.3%)
Game 6 (ATL loss) – 1/11 (9.1%)
So, for the series, in the 2 Hawks wins they were 11/24 from 3 (45.8%). In the 4 losses, the team shot 6/42 (14.2%).
Although unlikely, just to give some perspective on these numbers, if the Hawks had made the same percentage of 3’s in the 4 losses as they did in their 2 wins, that would equal to 13 more made 3 pointers, or 39 points. They lost Games 5/6 by a combined 32 points…
Monday, May 9, 2011
Let's break the team down so far:
Clearly the strength of the team, the rotation has been as advertised. Further, young arms Mike Minor and Julio Teheran are about big league ready in AAA, as is veteran Rodrigo Lopez. This depth certainly gives Frank Wren some flexibility in June and July if he chooses to make any upgrades. The numbers through 5/8...
Jurrjens - 4-0 1.50
Hanson - 4-3 2.63
Hudson - 4-2 2.86
Lowe - 3-3 3.32
Beachy - 1-1 2.98
Jonny Venters is pretty much un-hittable out of the pen and Craig Kimbrel looks like he will be extremely solid as the closer. The bullpen misses Pete Moylan right now, but Eric O'Flaherty has been lights out. The rest of the pen, veterans Linebrink/Sherrill, and the young arms have been better than expected.
There are too many All-Stars (Prado, Jones, McCann, Heyward, Uggla) in this lineup for the slow start to last too long. The recent wave of offense was inevitable with the Braves bats. Even McLouth got in on the action and Freddie Freeman has looked the part at 1st.
Chipper looks good, McCann/Prado/Heyward will all be fine, and Uggla will end up around .250/260 with his 30+ HR's.
The defense has been extremely solid, with Dan Uggla being better than expected and Alex Gonzalez going bonkers. McLouth has been solid in center and Prado's transition to left has been flawless.
So, what can they do to improve?
Let's speculate for a minute on what the team can do to improve. It looks like the top teams from last year will be in the hunt all season (SF, Col, Philly, Cincy, StL) and Florida has been on a torrid pace since early April. If Frank Wren chooses to upgrade around the trade deadline, where should he look?
1) Bullpen - while the bullpen is above average, you can always use another strong arm to shorten games in September and October. One of the likely available bullpen arms this summer is SD's Heath Bell. One of the top closers in the game, Bell's addition would turn the Braves pen into the games best.
2) Center Field - I know McLouth has been hot lately and is currently in the top 25 in the NL in average and OBP, but I say this is a spot to upgrade as there are options and Nate's stock is finally back up a bit. The name here for the upgrade that I think if Wren chooses to make a move is Hunter Pence. The Astros will be looking to acquire young talent, and Pence is their best trading piece. The Bravos would have the money with Chipper's likely retirement to sign him to an extension and solidify the lineup for many years. A McLouth/Minor package with maybe a lower level prospect or 2 may do the trick.
Pence would also give the team another top of the order bat and allow Freddie Gonzalez to move Heyward down in the order as he wanted to do in Spring Training. Pence is currently hitting .297/4/27 and his 27 RBI are 3rd in the NL.
How about this lineup?
Pretty dang good. But, either way, I like this teams chances to get in the playoffs, as well as advance pretty far...
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
First, think for a second if the Knicks had the same post-season as the Hawks so far. You wouldn't be able to find a sports channel where an analyst wasn't discussing their NBA title chances.
The Hawks are winning games the way good teams win playoff games: Strong, physical play inside and clutch jump shooting. As long as Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford are knocking down shots, the Hawks have a shot in this series. The issues the team has, such as perimeter defense without Hinrich, poor shot selection, and more miserable performances from Marvin Williams (these 2010 numbers are still par for Marvin), but the way last night unfolded was perfect.
Jeff Teague did what he had to do at point guard, knocking down runners and a jumper or two. Josh Smith is still having trouble with shot selection, and his attacking the basket could be the key to Game 2, as Joe and Jamal will certainly get more attention.
So, how did the team flip the switch like they did after their poor finish? Simple. Since the Hawks get no attention around the country, no one considered that this team on April 2nd was 4 games out of 4th and 5 games up on 6th place in the standings and knew where they stood for the playoffs. Smith, Johnson, and company played minutes in the 20's (when not taking the entire game off) and they played the final 6 games getting themselves in shape for the playoffs.
Remember, this is a veteran team now that has played over 30 playoff games since 2008 together. They know what it takes to win in the playoffs, have experienced the bad losses, and are currently stepping their game up at the right time.
I definitely feel better about the Hawks chances in this series now, but I still think they will struggle in the long run without Hinrich. However, Game 2 is now a pressure-off game for Atlanta, and another shooting performance by Joe/Jamal could put the team in a position to reach a place the franchise has never been, the Eastern Conference Finals...
Monday, May 2, 2011
Ok, here we go with Round 2 again. This makes 3 years in a row and the 15th time since moving to Atlanta that the Hawks have advanced past the 1st round. As most of you know, and if you don't it was detailed here, the franchise is 0-14 in this cursed round. A quick refresher of the years and results since 1971:
2010 – Swept in 4 games by Orlando
2009 – Swept in 4 games by Cleveland
1999 – Swept in 4 games by New York
1997 – Lost in 5 games to Chicago
1996 – Lost in 5 games to Orlando
1994 – Lost in 6 games to Indiana
1988 – Lost in 7 games to Boston
1987 – Lost in 5 games to Detroit
1986 – Lost in 5 games to Boston
1980 – Lost in 5 games to Philadelphia
1979 – Lost in 7 games to Washington
1973 – Lost in 6 games to Boston
1972 – Lost in 6 games to Boston
1971 – Lost in 5 games to New YorkThe last time the Hawks won a game in the 2nd round was Game 2 in 1997 at Chicago, just a few weeks before my high school graduation (I'm 32). Steve Smith poured in 27, Mookie had 26, and Deke grabbed 15 boards as the Hawks won in Chicago (the only home playoff loss that championship season).
So, the losing streak sits at 15 in Round 2 since that win in Chicago, which is where the team tips off Game 1 tonight. Do they break the streak and compete in the series against the #1 seed with the league MVP (as they did in 97) or will they fold like they did in 99, 09, and 10?
I actually felt pretty good about their chances to complete if Kirk Hinrich was available. He has been a pest for Derrick Rose this year and is another guy that can knock down a jumper, something you need to do against a Tom Thibodeau defense.
Keys to the series...Hopefully, Boozer is banged up enough that he won't be a huge factor and Al Horford dominates as he did in the March 2nd game against Chicago, when he went for 31/16. Joe and Josh need to show up each night and contribute close to their season averages. Finally, Teague will be forced into action, so good decision making and getting the team going in transition will be key.
So, my prediction for this series is the Hawks get the Round 2 cob-webs dusted off and get 2 games, but fall at home in Game 6 as the Bulls win 4 games to 2.
Thoughts on the series?
Friday, April 29, 2011
Thomas Dimitroff gave up a lot to move up, but I trust his judgment that Julio may be the piece that puts the team in the Super Bowl. His strength, speed, and size are not seen often in the NFL and I compare him to a little bigger version of Sidney Rice.
So, what did the Falcons give up and why were they able to give up so much? The swap of 1st rounders this year, 2nd/4th this year, and 1st/4th next year is a lot, but again, trust in TD.
The reason the team could afford to make this move was that they have drafted so well the past few years. The 2007 draft produced Jason Snelling (7th round), Stephen Nicholas (4th), Justin Blaylock (2nd), and Jamal Anderson (1st) that all have been and will continue to be big contributors.
In 2008, the Falcons picked a bunch of future starters with Matt Ryan and Sam Baker (1st), Curtis Lofton (2nd), Harry Douglas (3rd), Thomas DeCoud (3rd), and Kroy Biermann (5th).
The 2009 draft brought in William Moore (2nd), Chris Owens (3rd), Lawrence Sidbury (4th), and Vance Walker (7th). Last years draft produced Sean Weatherspoon (1st), Corey Peters (2nd), Mike Johnson (3rd), Joe Hawley (4th), Dominique Franks (5th), and Shann Schillinger (7th).
When you have that many draftees make your roster as starters, special teams contributors, and back-ups, you can build a team of young and talented players and gain the flexibility that the Falcons exercised last night.
Now, lets get Julio on the field and healthy for September. And hope he turns out better than the last time the Falcons traded up in the 1st round for a WR, in 2004 for Michael Jenkins.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
1) Carolina - QB Cameron Newton, Auburn - The Panthers think Cam is the franchise QB they need and will take the risk and pick the AU QB.
2) Denver - LB Von Miller, Texas A&M - John Elway seems sold on Miller as his pick at #2. Von should be an elite player and has shot up draft boards the past few months.
3) Buffalo - DE Marcel Dareus, Alabama - Dareus is an absolute monster and played in a 3-4 in college, which should make him an instant starter for the Bills.
4) Cincinnati - WR AJ Green, Georgia - With WR being such a glaring need for the Bengals, their QB situation is put aside and the top WR in the draft becomes an easy pick.
5) Arizona - CB Patrick Peterson, LSU - Peterson is at the top of a lot of team's draft boards, so a trade here may occur. Teams like Houston that need lots of help at corner may give up a bunch of picks in 2011/2012 to grab a cover corner and return man as good as Peterson.
6) Cleveland - DE Robert Quinn, UNC - Although the brain tumor and lack of playing time are concerns, the Browns won't pass on an elite pass rusher like Quinn. There is a chance Julio Jones goes here, as Cleveland needs big-time help at WR, but I think they end up going with RQ.
7) San Francisco - CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska - It appears the 49ers want to go defense with this pick, and they are in desperate need of a corner with Nate Clements getting older and having a large contract. Another spot, like #3, where Blaine Gabbert could go.
8) Tennessee - DT Nick Fairley, Auburn - Fairley has top 3 talent, and some teams question his work ethic and the fact that he played just one year in big time college football. But the upside, talent, and strength of Fairley coupled with the ability to reunite with his position coach from AU, Tracy Rocker (hired by Tennessee earlier this year) will be enough to allow another team in need of a QB to pass on Gabbert.
9) Dallas - OT Tyron Smith, USC - The Cowboys decide that shoring up their OL with the top OT prospect is more important than addressing their need at DE. They could certainly go Quinn here if he drops, and JJ Watt is another guy that would fit well in Big D.
10) Washington - WR Julio Jones, Alabama - The Skins need a big-time WR threat, and Jones showed at the combine that he is a rare combination of size, speed, and strength.
11) Houston - DE/OLB Aldon Smith, Missouri - The Titans hope Prince Amukamara falls to them, and may trade up for him or Peterson if they feel they must address their need at corner in the draft. But, if the price is too high (which it usually is) Smith is the likely selection.
12) Minnesota - QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri - If Gabbert goes to Buffalo/SF/Tennessee and is off the board, I don't think the Vikes take Locker. After giving away their 3rd round pick in the Randy Moss trade, look for Minnesota to trade down for a QB and try to get that 3rd rounder back. Gabbert falling in their lap is definitely best case scenario.
13) Detroit - OT Anthony Costanzo, BC - Detroit is in desperate need of a corner, but the top 2 will certainly be gone by 13. The Lions could look to move up, or reach and take Brandon Harris out of Miami. The RSM pick here is Costanzo as the front office has stated that protecting Matt Stafford is one of their off-season priorities.
14) St Louis - DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue - With Julio Jones off the board, Steve Spagnuolo does what he likes to do, load up on pass rushers. JJ Watt is also a possibility here as well as DT Corey Liegut from Illinois.
15) Miami - RB Mark Ingram, Alabama - The Dolphins really need to make their offense more exciting, and the best RB on the board Ingram is the pick here. Several mocks have Mike Pouncey here, but I think if Miami ends up with him, they trade down.
16) Jacksonville - DE JJ Watt, Wisconsin - Another team with a QB need that will not reach for any of the 2nd tier of QB's. Watt is a great value here and will ease the blow of wanted man Ryan Kerrigan not beaning available.
17) New England - DE/DT Cameron Jordan, Cal - This could be a spot for a team that is in need of a QB to trade up for one of the 2nd tier of QB's (Dalton, Mallett, Locker, Ponder). New England has a history of trading down, but if they stay at 17, Jordan offers the pass rushing and versatility that the Patriots covet.
18) San Diego - DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple - There's a chance that AJ Smith addresses the Chargers need at OT and takes Gabe Carimi, but Wilkerson is the best pass rusher on the board and fills another glaring need.
19) NY Giants - G Mike Pouncey, Florida - The G-Men go with Pouncey to fill a need on their offensive line. They could also go Carimi, but Pouncey is the best lineman available at this point.
20) Tampa Bay - DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa - The Bucs have made no secret that they want a DE with this pick. If they can't trade up, look for one of the top tier guys, look for Clayborn to be the pick.
21) Kansas City - OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin - Easy pick for KC as they really need at OT. Nate Solder from Colorado could also be the pick, but shoring up the OL is a prime off-season priority.
22) Indianapolis - OT Nate Solder, Colorado - Another team in need of an OT, the Colts and Chiefs hope these 2 OT's are available at 21/22.
23) Philadelphia - CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado - Another prime spot for a trade-up for a QB, as Philly would like to move down out of #23. The Eagles do need a CB and will not likely pass on Smith if he is available at 23 and they can't move down.
24) New Orleans - DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State - Heyward gives the Saints more depth on their DL and should make an immediate impact.
25) Seattle - QB Jake Locker, Washington - The Seahawks don't pass on the talented local star and get their QB of the future.
26) Buffalo - QB Christian Ponder, Florida St - The Ravens trade out of #26 as teams now want to trade up for their QB's now that Locker is off the board.
27) Atlanta - DE Brooks Reed, Arizona - The Falcons take the explosive pass rushing DE in hopes he develops into a sack machine in Atlanta.
28) New England - LB/DE Akeem Ayers, UCLA - The hybrid DE/LB from UCLA is a perfect fit for the Pats.
29) Cincinnati - QB Andy Dalton, TCU - The Bengals have to get a QB with the Carson Palmer debacle going on, and Dalton is their man as the Bears trade down and pick up multiple picks.
30) NY Jets - DT Corey Liuget, Illinois - The Jets take the best player available with Liuget and get another big body to throw into their DL rotation.
31) Pittsburgh - CB Brandon Harris, Miami - The Steelers address their need at CB by taking the 3rd best CB available in Harris.
32) Detroit - CB Ras-I Dowling, Virginia - Detroit takes the leap and addresses their CB problem after GB looks to trade down when all their DE targets are off the board.