Monday, December 3, 2012

Final Poll

At least Ohio State got caught lying and cheating so we don't have to have it shoved at us for 37 days that Ohio St-Notre Dame is the national championship game when we clearly saw the 2 best teams in the country play in the Georgia Dome Saturday afternoon.  But I digress...

Notice that Ohio State has dropped this week even without playing as the team they beat that was their signature win gave up 70 to a 5-loss team that couldn't move the ball on Utah State.  Sorry Buckeyes, the 11 teams ahead of you would have been 12-0 too with that schedule (no top 20 teams) and you lie and cheat.  Now I digress...

1.  Alabama
2.  Notre Dame
3.  Georgia
4.  Florida
5.  Oregon
6.  LSU
7.  Texas A&M
8.  South Carolina
9.  Kansas St
10. Stanford
11. Oklahoma
12. Ohio St
13. Florida St
14. Oregon St
15. UCLA
16. Vanderbilt
17. Texas
18. Clemson
19. Nebraska
20. Michigan
21. Northwestern
22. Penn St
23. Mississippi St
24. Wisconsin
25. Oklahoma St

Sunday, November 25, 2012

BCS Predictions and Final Heisman Ballot

Well, the Irish squashed any further controversy over who will play for the BCS Title, but will have to wait 43 days before they can play the winner of the SEC Title Game.  K-State can win the Big 12 with a win over Texas or an Oklahoma loss at TCU.  Rutgers can clinch the Big East with a win over Louisville Thursday, but Louisville and Cincinnati are still in play if Louisville can win.  The ACC, Pac 12, and Big 10 Championship games are this week, and Florida and Oregon just about locked up at-large spots. is what we are looking at as far as potential BCS match-ups...

BCS Title Game

Notre Dame vs Alabama/Georgia

Sugar Bowl

Florida vs Oklahoma

Rose Bowl

Stanford vs Nebraska

Fiesta Bowl

Oregon vs Kansas State

Orange Bowl

Florida State vs Rutgers

Final Heisman Ballot

1.  Johnny Manziel
2.  Braxton Miller
3.  Marquise Lee
4.  Colin Klein
5.  Manti T'eo

Poll Leading up to Championship Saturday

1.   Notre Dame
2.   Alabama
3.   Georgia
4.   Florida
5.   Oregon
6.   Kansas State
7.   LSU
8.   South Carolina
9.   Ohio St
10. Texas A&M
11. Stanford
12. Oklahoma
13. Nebraska
14. UCLA
15. Florida St
16. Oregon St
17. Michigan
18. Northwestern
19. Vanderbilt
20. Texas
21. Clemson
22. Penn St
23. Mississippi St
24  Oklahoma St
25. TCU

Sunday, November 18, 2012

BCS Chaos and Heisman update

Just when you think you've got it figured out, college football happens.  The pressure of being in those top two spots coupled with a strong Stanford D/no show by K-State D has completely changed the BCS for the 2012 season.

Now, the front runners to get to Miami are Notre Dame, the lone unbeaten team, and the SEC Champion.  But, there are obstacles as always.  The Irish must get by USC and the SEC teams must get by their main rivals, which won't be easy now that the BCS pressure is on all 3 teams.

Should ND slip up, the SEC Champ could have a variety of possible opponents, including Oregon, Florida State, or Kansas State.  Too bad Ohio State lies and cheats or they'd be in prime position this year.  Would have been a big story with Meyer going up against his former employer.

Florida State is going to have issues with their case because their loss is against a team that was blown out by an 0-7 SEC team.  K-State lost at home to a likely 5-6 win team.  Oregon still has a good shot in my opinion due to the value of a possible Civil War win and a top 20 UCLA team in the PAC-12 title game (if UCLA knocks off Stanford this week.)

Heisman Ballot for 11/18

1.  Johnny Manziel - Texas A&M
2.  Marquise Lee - USC
3.  Braxton Miller - Ohio State
4.  Colin Klein - Kansas State
5.  Jonathan Franklin -UCLA

Top 25 heading into rivalry week

1.  Notre Dame
2.  Alabama
3.  Georgia
4.  Oregon
5.  Florida
6.  LSU
7.  South Carolina
8.  Ohio State
9.  Kansas State
10. Texas A&M
11. Florida State
12. Clemson
13. Oklahoma
14. Stanford
15. UCLA
16. Oregon State
17. Nebraska
18. Texas
19. Oklahoma State
20. Michigan
21. Mississippi State
22. Northwestern
23. Rutgers
24. Louisville
25. Washington

Sunday, November 4, 2012

National Title Picture

Well, the BCS Title game picture almost became more clear yesterday, but late comebacks by Alabama and Notre Dame kept the picture clouded.  Notre Dame seems to have 1 more hurdle to climb in USC, Bama has A&M/SEC title game, Oregon has Stanford/OSU/PAC-12 title game, and K-St has TCU and Texas.

The K-St season may hinge on Collin Klein's health this week. TCU is pretty good on D and has an athletic QB that could give their D problems.  I think Notre Dame is going to struggle keeping up with USC's offense, leaving the SEC champ to play Oregon if the Ducks can win out, which I think they will.

Consider this situation...

UGA wins out and meets unbeaten Bama in the Dome
K-St falls to TCU or Texas
Oregon loses to USC in PAC-12 title game
Notre Dame loses to USC

Who does the SEC winner play?  Not Oregon, a non-conference champ.  I think in this scenario there are 3 teams that could make a strong case.

1). 1-loss Conference champ K-St, especially if they lose with Klein not playing
2). Notre Dame, with several quality wins
3). Florida State, if they win out and capture the ACC and knock off the Gators

Who would get your vote?  It's K-St, regardless of the Klein situation in my opinion...

Poll for 11/4

1.   Alabama
2.   Oregon
3.   Kansas St
4.   Notre Dame
5.   Georgia
6.   Florida
7.   LSU
8.   South Carolina
9.   Ohio St
10. Florida St
11. Oregon St
12. Texas A&M
13.  Louisville
14. Clemson
15. Stanford
16. UCLA
17. Nebraska
18. Oklahoma
19. Mississippi St
20.  Texas
21.  Michigan
22.  USC
23.  Texas Tech
24.  Oklahoma St
25. TCU

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The fall of the unbeatens begins...

It happens every October.  The first BCS rankings are released, and everyone wants to know what unbeaten will be left out of the BCS Title game.   But it happens every October, upsets and crazy plays mess up everything and these teams end up playing themselves out of the race.  Saturday, our list of unbeatens went from 11 to 6, and expect that to dwindle down even more the next few weeks.

Most interesting BCS argument now is not Oregon/K-St/Notre Dame, those teams will sort themselves out soon enough.   What's really interesting to consider, though, is what happens if LSU beats Alabama in Baton Rouge next week.  That would give us a likely 1- loss SEC Champ.  Could a 12-1 Bama be left out if 2 of the Oregon/K-St/ND trio remain undefeated?  I think so.

Poll for 10/28

1.   Alabama
2.   Oregon
3.   Kansas St
4.   Notre Dame
5.   Georgia
6.   Florida
7.   LSU
8.   Ohio St
9.   Florida St
10. South Carolina
11. Louisville
12. Mississippi St
13. Clemson
14. Oregon St
15. Texas A&M
16. Oklahoma
17. Stanford
18. Texas Tech
19. UCLA
20. Nebraska
21.  Arizona
22.  USC
23.  Oklahoma St
24.  Toledo
25.  Louisiana Tech

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Oregon/Bama on collision course

Two more dominant performances by what appears to be the 2 best teams in the nation Saturday really have college football fans drooling over the chance to see these 2 strong teams go at it in January.  Both teams have some big obstacles, as USC is as talented as anyone and Florida appears to be back as a legit top 5 team.  But, after blowing out another opponent yesterday, the Ducks and Tide seem to be the the top 2.  Kansas State and Notre Dame are certainly other wild cards, but K-State has a really tough finishing schedule and Notre Dame has that talented USC team along with a really good Oklahoma team. 

We will have much more sorted out next week as Bama plays unbeaten Miss St, K-State plays a hot Texas Tech squad, Florida battles Georgia, and Notre Dame gets USC.  Should be fun...

Poll for 10/21

1.   Alabama
2.   Oregon
3.   Florida
4.   Kansas State
5.   Notre Dame
6.   LSU
7.   Oregon State
8.   Oklahoma
9.   Mississippi State
10. Ohio State
11.  Louisville
12.  Rutgers
13.  USC West
14.  USC East
15.  Georgia
16.  Texas A&M
17.  Michigan
18.  Florida State
19.  Texas Tech
20.  Clemson
21.  Ohio
22.  Stanford
23.  UCLA
24.  Nebraska
25.  TCU

Sunday, October 14, 2012

CFB thoughts...

Some thoughts as more top 5 teams go down week after week...

The Big East has a chance to play a pretty high profile game on Thanksgiving night if Rutgers and Louisville keep winning.  If those 2 are unbeaten and ranked in the top 10 heading into that game, it will really boost that league.

The Big 12 is a mess.  Kansas State looks to be a legit top 10 team but still has WVU, Baylor, TCU, Texas, and OSU to play.  Likely a 1 loss champion and another season without a BCS title game team unless K-St wins 'em all.

Speaking of K-St, Collin Klein may be your Heisman winner after the WVU-Geno Smith meltdown yesterday.  AJ McCarron will still get soe hype, Braxton Miller has been unreal, and Matt Barkley may get back in the race, but Klein has my vote today.

I watched a bit of the MSU-Iowa game yesterday and am saying goodbye to that league for the season.  Just dreadful offense, running 4 yard outs on 3rd and 12, and the result is Iowa leading the Legends Division - the same Iowa that lost to 2-4 last in the MAC Central Michigan.  See ya next year.

Poll for 10/14

1.   Alabama
2.   Oregon
3.   Florida
4.   Notre Dame
5.   Kansas St
6.   LSU
7.   South Carolina
8.   Ohio St
9.   Oregon St
10.  Oklahoma
11.  Missississi St
12.  Georgia
13.  Texas Tech
14.  Louisville
15.  Rutgers
16.  USC
17.  Florida St
18.  Texas A&M
19.  Clemson
20.  Stanford
21.  Cincinnati
22.  West Virginia
23.  Michigan
24.  TCU
25.  Northwestern

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Braves back in postseason

I guess that's what you call it - the postseason...although the losers of the WC play-in game certainly won't feel like postseason teams.  But, it's nice to be in that game and not shaking our heads at another failed regular season.

The WC play-in game is interesting considering you get to set your roster just as you would for a series, even though there's just one game.  So, the Braves for instance, could keep Boscan, Constanza, Baker, and Overbay along with their core guys because there's no need to keep more than 7-8 pitchers for the game.  I'd keep my regular relievers plus 1 starter just in case it goes extras.

As for the starters, it appears Medlen will get the start, which I think is the right move.  Win, and you've got Hudson-Minor for your home games and Maholm-Medlen-Hudson for games 3-5.

Anything can happen in a 1 game scenario, but the Cards are certainly a strong playoff club,  I would guess either Wainwright or Lohse pitches the WC play-in game, but what makes them a scary opponent in the postseason is the possibility of facing Wainwright-Lohse-Lynn-Carpenter in a long series.  Brave post-season foe Carlos Beltran is always a tough out, and we all saw David Freese and Allen Craig hit well in big games last season.

However, the guy that scares me the most is Yadier Molina. He is an outstanding hitter and always seems to come up big for that team when they need him.

I think it's an advantage for the Braves that St Louis hasn't seen Medlen since May 28th and that was as a reliever.  I like the Braves post-season chances, I just hope we get to see them in a traditional post season series.  

I want Friday, October 5th to be a springboard to a Braves run, not a final farewell to one of the greatest Atlanta athletes of all-time.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Things we learned Saturday

Thoughts on the first Saturday I was able to sit and watch games all day...

1). Clemson still has the same issues on D - couldn't stop the run, couldn't defend the pass, couldn't  get off the field on 3rd down.  FSU is good, but to be considered elite, you have to get stops in big games and can't give up 50.

2). Bill Snyder is still getting it done at age 72 - After Snyder left after the 2005 season, Ron Prince went 17-20 and the Wildcat faithful called on Coach Snyder to get them back to their winning ways of 95-03.  Sure enough, the Cats look strong again with solid defense and great QB play.

3). Rutgers has an excellent shot at making some noise this year - after surviving their toughest stretch of the season undefeated (@ USF, @ ARK), the Scarlet Knights come home for dates with UConn and Syracuse.  After that, they get Temple, Kent St, and Army.  Look for Rutgers to be 9-0 and in the top 10 heading into Thanksgiving week.

4). Who will the Big-10 representative be in the Rose Bowl this year?  Ohio State is the lone unbeaten but is not bowl eligible this year.  My guess?  Purdue.  The Boilers played ND better than either Michigan school and other Leaders division teams Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana have not looked good early on.  Let's go with Purdue over Nebraska in the Big 10 Title game.

5) The Oregon D really may be the best in the Chip Kelly era.  Now, Arizona wasn't a top 35 opponent, but they have been strong on O and have some good skill players.  Their upcoming games with Stanford and their trip to LA later in the year should be interesting.

6). Can Dooley survive October?  The Vols were sky-high 8 days ago and even through 2 quarters against Florida.  However, the Vols issues on D and inability to run the ball are very glaring now and yesterday's game against Akron (a team UCF beat by 40) was a 1 TD game with 10 minutes left in the 4th.  So, at 3-1, will Derek Dooley still have his job on November 1st if they lose their October games (@UGA, @ Miss St, vs Bama, @ South Carolina)?  I say yes, as long as they compete and he will have a chance to win out and get to a bowl to buy him another year.  A 20+ point loss to say UGA and Bama may get him on the outs.

7). Not many top-tier games next week, but October 6th gives us Florida-LSU, UGA-USC, Texas-WVU, and Nebraska-OSU.  We will have some teams fall off the Title Game chase after these games are played.

RSM poll 9/23

1.   Alabama
2.   Oregon
3.   Florida St
4.   Georgia
5.   LSU
6.   Notre Dame
7.   Kansas St
8.   South Carolina
9.   Florida
10. Stanford
11. West Virginia
12. Texas
13. Clemson
14. USC
15. TCU
16. Ohio St
17. Oregon St
18. Mississippi St
19. Oklahoma
20. Rutgers
21. Purdue
22. Iowa St
23. Cincinnati
24. Louisville
25. Michigan St

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lots of CFB stuff to get to...

I have a lot of college football thoughts after week 3, including a few teams that appear to be back to elite status.  USC was mixed in with Bama and LSU this offseason, assuming they were all of a sudden back where they were under Pete Carroll.  Well, having elite, NFL quality skill players doesn't cover up problems on D and the O-line - just ask 2008 Georgia.

The PAC-12 is off to a good start, even if they may not get a team in the title game again.  Oregon St, Arizona, Stanford, Oregon, and even UCLA are off to perfect starts.  Arizona State looks better with Todd Graham and Cal put forth a great effort against Ohio St yesterday.  It's not all good, though,mas Utah fell to Utah St and Colorado was down 55-0 to Fresno in the 1st half.

So, if the Bama-LSU winner is in the title game as most people expect, who are some of the candidates to face them?  In order right now...

1)  Texas/Oklahoma winner - both teams have loads of talent and there is no championship game to get through.  West Virginia has started strong, but I don't think they have the depth to hang with these 2.

2) Florida St - the Noles look very stout and if they beat Clemson next week, they may move to #1 on this list

3). Oregon - They have to go to USC, but they've won there before.  USC could get some help and beat the Ducks twice and squeak in as a 1-loss team.

4). Notre Dame - can the Irish do it?  If they run the table with their schedule, they are in.

5). Bama/LSU loser - it's happened before!

RSM poll week 3

1). Alabama
2). LSU
3). Oregon
4). Florida St
5). Georgia
6)  Stanford
7). Oklahoma
8). South Carolina
9). Notre Dame
10) Florida
11) Ohio St
12) Clemson
13) Texas
14) USC
15) Mississippi St
16) West Virginia
17) Kansas St
18). Arizona
19). TCU
20). UCLA
21). Rutgers
22). Michigan
23). Baylor
24) Cincinnati
25). Northwestern

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Philly's fall from grace

As we've seen since the 2012 playoffs, the Phillies core we knew as champions in 2008 and added more pitching through the years, is in heaps of trouble.  The organization admitted this much earlier this week by trading away Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.  When the Phils added Oswalt to the Halladay-Hamels-Lee trio, it appeared they were the team to beat in the majors for the foreseeable future.

Now, sitting in last place with a bunch of 30-somethings under crazy contracts, where do they go from here?  Their best prospects from last year, Cosart/Singleton/Ramirez are all tearing it up for different Houston minor league clubs right now.  Dominic Brown doesn't look like he is the prospect Philly hoped for a year or two ago, and the addition of catching prospect Tommy Joseph was nice, but the Phillies best player in 2012 has been catcher Carlos Ruiz.

Just how much does this team owe to 7 of their core players right now?

Rollins - 2013 (11M) 2014 (11M)
Papelbon - 2013 (13M) 2014 (13M) 2015 (13M) 2016 (13M option)
Hamels - 2013 (19.5M) 2014 (22.5M) 2015 (22.5M) 2016 (22.5M) 2017 (22.5M) 2018 (22.5M) 2019 (24M)
Utley - 2013 (15M)
Howard - 2013 (20M) 2014 (25M) 2015 (25M) 2016 (25M) 2017 (23M option)
Halladay - 2013 (20M) 2014 (20M option)
Lee - 2013 (25M) 2014 (25M) 2015 (25M) 2016 (27.5M option)

Not counting options, that's 123.5 million for 2013 already on the books.  Now, Philadelphia sells out every game and ownership has money to spend, but that can't be good for a core that is currently in last place.  There aren't prospects galore waiting to come up for depth and to fill other roles, and payroll can go upwards of 175M+, but that is still not much room to work.

Also not including options, for those wondering, that's 408 million owed through 2018, with Hamels being the only player signed for that season...

One reason for the lack of prospects besides using plenty to acquire Halladay/Pence/etc?  How about only 1 of their 1st round picks since 2002 are currently on the Phillies big league roster, 2007 19th overall pick Joe Savery is a rookie LH relief pitcher. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Braves make deal...

Well, what we all expected to happen did late Monday night, as Wren dealt for a RH OF and a starting pitcher.  Good news in this deal is that Teheran/Delgado/Minor/Gilmartin/Graham were not involved,  but Arodys Vizcaino was a pretty heavy price to pay for a 3-4 starter and bench player.

However, Wren had to make a deal.  No way with last September's collapse and little offseason changes was he going to simply make just another Paul Janish tweak.  He had to do something significant, and the price was steep for quality players this year.

Before we dive into why this move made more sense than others, I'll give a quick breakdown on why I like this move.

Maholm has been a consistent 3-4 quality starter for 6+ years, even if his W-L looks bad - he's played on some pretty bad teams.  He is a flyball pitcher who fits very nicely into Turner Field, where he has a 1.62 career ERA.  Maholm is also 4-0 vs the NL East this year...

The Braves hold a team option for Maholm for '13 at 6.5 million which gives the team more flexibility with their starters, which will include still unproven young prospects and a recovering Beachy.

Reed Johnson is a utility outfielder the Braves have coveted for some time.  In simple terms, he's a better, more versatile, more athletic Matt Diaz.  Johnson can give Prado or Bourn days off, while hitting 1st or 2nd in the order.  Not likely a guy the team will re-sign, but the type of player you want in October.

As for the cost, Chapman is viewed as a back end bullpen guy, so not much in terms of prospect value there went to Chicago.  The value is in Vizcaino, who the Braves received from NYY in the Melky trade.   He is one of the big 4 pitching prospects that were untouchable last summer, where any of the 4 could have netted the Braves the bat they needed, like Beltran.

Vizcaino is currently recovering from TJ, but should be ready to go close to the beginning of the '13 season, and will still be 22.  The reason I'm ok with Viz being part of the deal is that it became apparent as he progressed through the Braves minor league system that he was a future reliever. To is point, he hasn't had  command of a 3rd pitch.  He can be a very good reliever, even a potential closer, but it's much easier to give up a reliever than a potential front-line starter, like Teheran/Delgado/Minor.

As for those that wanted a higher quality starter...they just weren't available for a reasonable price.  Dempster for Delgado was iffy at best, as it gave the Braves a solid #2, but a guy that was signing in LA in a few months.  Teams were listening on aces like Lee, Johnson, Shields, and Hernandez, but it wasn't in the Braves best interests to engage in too much of those talks.  Shields, Hernandez, and Johnson are all under control through 2013 with reasonable salaries, but 1.5 years of them is not worth 2 of the Teheran/Delgado/Minor trio.  Lee would be solid as well, but is 33 and owed 90+ million until 2016.  That would tie up at least 25% of the teams payroll and guys like Freeman, McCann, Heyward, Prado, Kimbrel, and Hanson are up for extensions soon.

Essentially, the deal makes sense for both sides.  Wren had to do something, and getting a veteran #3 starter and RH OF were exactly what was needed.  The Cubs get a potential power arm prospect that may not be ready for a while, but they aren't ready to win anytime soon anyway.  

As of July 31, the Braves are in the playoffs as 1 of the 2 WC teams.  Hopefully, this move gives the team some momentum and they can win their 1st division title since 2005.  Or, even better, win a post-season series for the 1st time since 2001...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Evaluating Frank Wren...

With the trade deadline approaching and the Dempster-to-the-Braves saga lingering on, I felt it was time to take a look at Frank Wren and see what has worked and what hasn't since he took over in October 2007.  This will be somewhat similar to the John Schuerholz "Best and Worst" entry that was more of a recap of his tenure. 

Before we begin, it should be noted that - contrary to popular belief, Wren was not the GM of the Braves when the Teixeira for multiple future All-Stars trade went down.  Wren took over in October of 2007, so this is his 5th full season as GM.  Chronologically, here are his notable transactions year-by-year with my input.

2008 season

Draft - Had a good draft, despite 1st pick Brett DeVall being a colossal disappointment and out of baseball after 2+ years.   Wren took future All-Star Craig Kimbrel in the 3rd round, by far the best pick of the 08 draft.  Second round pick Tyler Stovall has also struggled, but Wren's 2nd pick in that round was Zeke Spruill, who has progressed nicely through the system.  The other pick in the 08 draft that has played in the big leagues is JJ Hoover, who has 17 relief appearances for the Reds after being sent to Cincinnati before the 2012 season for Juan Francisco.

Other picks in the top 10 rounds Paul Clemens and Bret Oberholtzer were the key prospects in the Michael Bourn deal and; also noteworthy, future 6th overall pick in 11 Anthony Rendon was an 18th round pick out of HS by the Braves in 2008

Grade - B+

Pre-Season -

1)  Traded Edgar Renteria to the Tigers for Gorkys Hernandez and Jair Jurrjens
2) Traded Jose Ascanio to the Cubs for Omar Infante and Will Ohman
3) Signed Tom Glavine
4)  Traded Joey Devine to the A's for Mark Kotsay

The Renteria trade was a success as Yunel Escobar was ready for the position, Hernandez was a key portion of the Nate McLouth trade, and Jurrjens went on to be an All-Star, although he has struggled as of late.  Glavine made 13 relatively ineffective starts (although I was a fan of bringing him back) and Kotsay did as well as could be expected.  Ohman had an excellent season and Infante was an All-Star.

Grade - A

2008 In-Season

The 2008 Braves season was pretty much a debacle as the team went 72-90 and was out of contention early in the season.  Wren basically made 2 transactions of note during the season - 1)  He flipped Teixeira to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek and 2)  He signed undrafted free agent Brandon Beachy.

The Teixeira trade was inevitable and Big Tex didn't have a lot of value as he was due to become a free agent after the season and was commanding big bucks via Scott Boras.  Beachy developed into a front-line starter and was on pace to be an All-Star in 2012 before season ending surgery.

Grade - A

2009 Season

Draft - Interestingly enough, the only 2 players to appear in an MLB game from the Braves 2009 draft class are 1st pick Mike Minor and last pick (50th) Josh Edgin (picked by Mets in 10).  Minor has settled into the Braves rotation and shown some promise after terrorizing the minor leagues for 2+ seasons.  No other pick has moved the radar as a prospect...

Grade - C+


1)  Selected Eric O'Flaherty off waivers from Seattle
2)  Signed David Ross as backup catcher
3)  Signed Derek Lowe
4)  Signed Kenshin Kawakami
5)  Traded Jon Glimore/Tyler Flowers/Brett Lillbridge to the White Sox for Boone Logan/Javiez Vazquez

Again...some really good (O'Flaherty/Ross) and some really bad (Lowe/Kawakami).  Obviously, the 1st 2 on the list have worked out as well as could be expected and more, but #3/4 are what make this off-season a disaster.  Wren certainly had to upgrade the rotation after 2008, but over-paid for a 36 year old (4/60 million) and took a huge financial gamble on an unknown Japanese right-hander (3/23 million). 

Starting pitching was a priority, but rather than overpay for Lowe and Kawakami, Wren should have either explored more trade options or signed another cheaper solutions like Eric Bedard/Jon Garland/Randy Wolf/Carl Pavano and used the dollars to upgrade elsewhere.

Vazquez did, however, bolster the rotation by having one of his best seasons and Logan turned in to a solid MLB left handed reliever.  Gilmore never panned out and Lillbridge/Flowers are in the big leagues but are back ups.

Grade - C

2009 In-Season

1)  Acquired Nate Mclouth for Gorkys Hernandez/Jeff Locke/Charlie Morton
2)  Traded Jeff Francoeur to the Mets for Ryan Church
3)  Traded Casey Kotchman to the Red Sox for Adam LaRoche

While the McLouth experiment was a failure, the trade seemed like a home run when it was made.  Problem was, Nate was just a glimpse of his former All-Star self as a Pirate and struggled through his tenure as a Brave.  Morton was having a pretty good 2011/12 before going down to Tommy John surgery, and Locke and Hernandez never progressed after the deal.  The Francoeur deal was a wash, but Frenchy had to be moved with all he was dealing with in Atlanta.  LaRoche, a notorious slow-starter, was acquired with hopes he would have a big 2nd half.  While LaRoche played well(.325/12/40 in 57 games), the Braves still finished 3rd in the NL East at 86-76.

Jurrjens was good again, Lowe won 15 games, Vazquez was lights out...McCann was outstanding, Prado emerged, 1st base was better than expected, Escobar had a good year...problem was, the OF just didn't produce.  Francoeur/McLouth/Anderson/Diaz/Church just didn't produce anywhere near the level of production needed from a playoff team.  This was probably a playoff team if they acquired Matt Holliday, but Wren had his hands tied with payroll and reduced prospects/young talent from the Teixeira trade.
Grade - B

2010 Season

Draft - The Braves made it known prior to the 2010 draft that they wanted more athletic position players to fill up their system.  Well, they certainly did that and drafted several players with potential in the early rounds.  First round pick Matt Lipka has show an ability to play SS and CF, and was hitting the ball pretty well and stealing some bases in Lynchburg before an injury last month.  Second round pick Todd Cunningham was an All-Star this year and 3rd round pick Andrelton Simmons made the big league club on June 1st.  The Braves 6th round pick Joey Terdoslavich and 23rd round pick Evan Gattis are also considered top 10 prospects in the organization.

Grade - B+

2010 Pre-Season

1)  Signed Billy Wagner
2)  Traded Rafael Soriano for Jesse Chavez
3)  Traded Boone Logan/Javier Vazquez to the Yankees for Mike Dunn/Aroyds Vizcaino/Melky Cabrera
4)  Signed Cristhian Martinez
5)  Signed Takashi Saito

Wagner was outstanding in his lone year as the Braves closer, and when Saito was healthy, he was good as a set up guy.  The Soriano-Chavez trade was a disaster, but it was partly salary-driven.  Martinez has been solid in the pen the last couple seasons, but the big move before 2010 was the Vazquez trade.  Wren did a good job at moving him while his value was high, and received a needed outfielder (even if he did blow-up after leaving ATL), a solid LH reliever, and a future elite prospect.  Vizcaino made the Braves MLB club last year and was scheduled to be a big part of the bullpen in 2012 before season-ending surgery.

Grade - A -

2010 In-Season

1)  Traded Yunel Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes to Toronto for Tim Collins/Alex Gonzalez/Tyler Pastornicky
2)  Traded Gregor Blanco/Jesse Chavez/Tim Collins to KC for Rick Ankiel/Kyle Fansworth
3)  Traded Jeffrey Lorick/Tyrelle Harris/Robinson Lopez to the Cubs for Derrek Lee

Some pretty solid moves that gave the Braves their lone playoff season under Wren.  Gonzalez was excellent defensively but dropped dramatically from his Toronto hitting pace after being acquired.  Pastornicky has contributed at the big league level as Escobar has been OK but not spectacular in Toronto.  Ankiel has the biggest hit in Braves history since Brian McCann's post-season home run off Roger Clemens in the 05 LDS.  Lee hit .287/3/24 in 39 games but hit just .125 with 2 singles and 0 RBI in the post-season.  None of the prospects sent to Chicago are remotely close to sniffing prospect status.

Grade - B+

2011 Season

Draft - Too early to give a real grade on the 2011 draft, but 3 of the top 4 picks (Gilmartin, Graham, Ahmed) have shown promise in their 1+ seasons in the minors.

Grade - TBD

2011 Pre-Season

1)  Trade Omar Infante/Mike Dunn to Florida for Dan Uggla
2)  Signed George Sherrill
3)  Signed Eric Hinske
4)  Traded Kyle Cofield for Scott Linebrink

With Hanson/Jurrjens/Hudson/Beachy appearing to solidify the rotation, the 2011 off-season goals were to acquire a RH power hitter and bolster the bullpen.   Sherrill and Linebrink were decent and ate up some innings, and Hinske had a really good season off the bench.  However, the big move was getting Uggla.

Only Albert Pujols had more NL seasons of 30+ HR and 100+ RBI than Uggla, and his right-handed production was expected to break up the Jones-McCann part of the batting order.  However, Uggla struggled mightily in the 1st half, although his hot 2nd half almost netted the Braves a post-season birth.  2012 has been a debacle as well, with Uggla struggling to put the ball in play.  Still a good trade, but Uggla has not performed up to his big contract at all...

Grade - B

2011 In-Season

1)  Traded Juan Abreu/Jordan Schafer/Bret Oberholtzer/Paul Clemens to Houston for Michael Bourn
2)  Traded for Matt Diaz
3)  Traded for Jack Wilson

Big move here was for Bourn, and while he was good, the team still collapsed in October.  Diaz helped the team against lefties and Wilson played good defense, but the collapse is what will be remembered.  Schafer has not shown much improvement and the 3 other pitchers in the deal have 6-8 ERA's in Houston's minor league system

Grade - B+

2012 Season

Draft - Again, too early to call but 1st round pick Lucas Sims has already been promoted and 2nd round pick Alex Wood is off to a really good start at Class A Rome.

Grade - TBD

2012 Pre-Season

1)  Traded Derek Lowe to Cleveland for Chris Jones
2)  Traded JJ Hoover to Cincinnati for Juan Francisco

The Lowe move had to be made, even if he got off to a fast start.  Francisco gave the team depth behind Chipper, although Hoover has been pretty good in the Cincy bullpen.  Most positions seemed to be locked up, although the bullpen took a hit with the Vizcaino injury. 

Grade - B

2012 In-Season

1)  Signed Ben Sheets
2)  Traded Todd Redmond to Cincinnati for Paul Janish

Ok, here is where Frank can make his mark as Braves GM.  The Sheets move so far has been a grand slam and Janish is just what the team needed until Andrelton gets healthy.  Now, if the Dempster deal goes through, I think this team is the NL East champions.  If it doesn't, Wren needs to do something to upgrade the rotation.  Medlen is set as a reliever and with O'Flaherty and Kimbrel, the team appears set.

The offense could use some pop, but that needs to come from Dan Uggla, no space to acquire anything but depth there.  The upgrade needed is in the starting rotation as youngsters Delgado/Minor/Teheran have really struggled with consistency.  An arm like Dempster could more than off-set the loss of Beachy.

Grade - TBD

Another big off-season looms as well, as Chipper comes off the books with retirement opening some salary room, McCann is entering his final year, an option on Hudson will be considered, and Bourn is a free agent.  Also, are these young arms ready for spots in the rotation?

But for now, lets worry about 2012.  There is still a post-season birth and potential WS ring out there for the taking, and what better year to make a run that Chip's last?

Wren has been a solid B overall, with the Lowe/Kawakami moves keeping him from being an A, lets make a move and win it all in 2012, and I'll be the 1st to call his tenure an A+...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Baseball thoughts at midway point

Reds minor league prospect Billy Hamilton has 104 stolen bases in 82 games and will threaten Vince Coleman's minor league record of 145. Only guy in MLB to top 100 steals 4+ times? You guessed it, Billy Hamilton in the 1880's.

If Oakland could score runs, they'd be a threat for the postseason in the AL. They lead the league in ERA at 3.38 but also are last in the league in runs scored. It's so bad, their only productive regular that could qualify for the batting title is Josh Reddick, who is hitting .268. Regulars like Kurt Suzuki, Cliff Penningtom, and Jemile Weeks are hitting under .235. Any chance they move some young arms and make a run at a hitter?

On May 6th, the Pirates lost to the Reds 5-0 as they gave Andrew McCutchen a day off. The team at that point was 12-16 and had the 3rd worst record in the NL. The Bucs are 36-21 since and have soared into 1 st place in the NL Central. Not coincidentally, McCutchen has gone off since that day off as well. In 56 games since May 6th, Andrew is hitting .390/18/53 and is the front runner for league MVP at the break.

The Braves need to cough up a couple prospects and get Zach Greinke to try and make a strong run at the NL. The Nats are still real young and have arms already about to reach the most innings they've ever thrown and the Bucs/Mets/Reds/Cards/Dodgers/Giants aren't scary. McCann has started to come around, and if Uggla hits post-ASB like he did last year, a front line starter could be just what this team needs. Let's head into October with Greinke/Hudson/Hanson with Medlen/O'Flaherty/Kimbrel at the end and see what happens. If Wren doesn't make a big move I'll be upset, as Chip certainly deserves a legit shot at the WS in his final season.

Another deal that is hot on the rumor mill is Cole Hamels to the Rangers. That would make Texas the clear favorite for the WS, as they could run out a lineup that's scored more runs than any other team and have Hamels/Darvish/Harrison/Oswalt. Wow.

Mid-season predictions...

Giants over Nationals
Braves over Reds

Yankees over Tigers
Rangers over Angels

Giants over Braves
Rangers over Yankees

Rangers over Giants

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Top 10 Braves Prospects

Welcome to the 5th annual edition of the top 10 Braves prospects, an annual summer blog that looks at current minor league players for the Braves and ranks them based on potential and success so far in 2012.  Side note for the 2012 edition is that Aroyds Vizcaino will not be included, as he was a lock for the big league bullpen before the season and even though he is not with the team now and recovering from Tommy John surgery, he won't be on the list.  Here is your 2012 edition, with players 2011 ranking in parentheses.

1)  Julio Teheran (1)- Even with his recent struggles and questions about attitude, Julio still tops the list and is currently boasting a 6-5 record and a 4.92 ERA at AAA Gwinnett.  Teheran still has the stuff and make up to be a front line starter as early as 2013.

2)  Christian Bethancourt (5) - Up 3 places from last year is catching phenom Christian Bethancourt.  His defensive skills have been wow-ing scouts for years, and he is close to becoming the next big thing in the big leagues.  Bethancourt boasts a sub 1.8 pop time to 2nd base and has an elite arm to go along with elite quickness, the likes most haven't seen since early 90's Ivan Rodriguez.  His offense still has room to grow, but he projects quite well there as well, he is currently hitting .254 with just 4 extra base hits in 52 games in Mississippi.

3)  Edward Salcedo (4) - Playing in Advanced-A Lynchburg, the 21 year old third baseman is hitting .273-9-38 as he is likely the long-term 3B replacement for Chipper Jones.  Salcedo still needs some time, at least 1 full season above Advanced-A before he gets a shot, but look for his in the Atlanta lineup in 2014 if he continues to progress.

4)  Sean Gilmartin (NR) - Gilmartin was the Braves 1st round pick in the 2011 draft out of FSU, and he has been extremely effective at AA Mississippi.  Through 17 starts in 2012, Sean is 5-6 with a 3.42 ERA and he is getting better each time out.  Seven of his last 10 outings have been 6+ innings with 3 or fewer runs allowed, topped off with a complete game 4 hitter his last time out.  A lefty that knows how to pitch, Gilmartin has a chance at cracking the big league rotation in 2014.

5)  JR Graham (NR) - Graham, another 2011 draft pick, was a 4th rounder out of Santa Clara.  Pitching at Lynchburg, Graham is currently 8-1 with a 2.76 ERA and is showing tremendous ability to throw strikes and get people out.  Look for this righty to continue to improve with a possibility of moving to the bullpen in order to make the MLB club.

6)  Evan Gattis (NR) - The fact that Gattis is playing pro ball, let alone on a list like this is quite remarkable.  If you don't know his story, click here to read all about it.   Gattis, a catcher, hasn't played in over 6 weeks with an injury, but was hitting .336-13-43 in just 37 minor league games before getting hurt.  He is still improving as a receiver, but his power is what makes him such an intriguing prospect. 

7)  Joey Terdoslavich (NR) - Terdo had a rough start to 2011, hitting .180-4-20 in 53 games at AAA Gwinnett before his demotion.  Clearly, the 23 year old switch hitting corner infielder has a ton of talent, but wasn't quite AAA ready yet.  Joey has rebounded nicely in AA, hitting .287 with 12 extra base hits in 28 games and still projects as an excellent prospect.

8)  Lucas Sims (NR) - Sims, the Braves top pick last month, has gotten off to a quick start in the GCL, striking out 10 in his 1st 7 innings, while giving up only 2 hits.  He has a power fastball and good command, but it will be a while before you see him anywhere near Atlanta.

9)  Matt Lipka (8) - Matt has moved to CF where he can use his speed a little more, and his bat is coming around nicely as well.  Matt was hitting .271-2-13 with 12 SB's hitting leadoff for Lynchburg, before being sidelined with an injury a few weeks ago.

10)  Todd Cunningham (NR) - I am very pleased to put Todd on this list in 2012, as I first met Todd when he was still a collegiate player at Jacksonville State.  Following his career since being the Braves 2nd round pick in 2010, he is really putting things together this year in Lynchburg, making the All-Star team and leading the league in hitting for most of the season.  Todd is currently hitting .307 with 15 doubles and 31 RBI in 74 games and providing the organization with the type of athlete and character they hope to develop each draft.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Atlanta teams talking trade...

The Braves and Hawks, according to reports, have been in deep talks with many different teams as they try to accomplish 2 different things.  The Braves are looking for a veteran arm to put into their top 3, along with Hudson/Hanson, and put Jurrjens and Minor/Delgado/Teheran as the #5 starter.  Although one of the young guys would likely be the piece moved to acquire this veteran arm. 

I would be fine with a deal centered around Delgado and a 2 top offensive prospects like Salcedo/Drury/Terdoslavich for Zach Greinke, but not for Dempster/Vargas/Garza as long as Greinke is signed to an extension when the trade is made.  Payroll is available for a starter as Chipper comes off the payroll and Greinke is the age and has the stuff of a guy I'd be comfortable locking up to a 5/85 type contract.  The team can't move Bethancourt as the McCann issue becomes more iffy.  Brian is a heck of a player and is having a tough season, but I still don't think his market value will be a good investment for the club, especially with a top prospect in the minors. 

The other option is to move Medlen into the rotation, but I still believe he will be a key 7th/8th inning guy down the stretch, especially if Venters can't work out his erratic outings.  The key to making a big move here though is you get the right guy (Greinke) and lock him up long-term.  As we all know, the Teixeira deal has a lot of fans scared at pulling the trigger on a deal like this as Andrus/Feliz/Harrison have all made All-Star teams and Salty came dang close this year...

The Hawks on the other hand aren't interested in dealing players for the purpose of getting better, but clearing future payroll obligations to help re-build the team.  New GM Danny Ferry seems to have the mindset that he will build the team and he needs to shed some players in order to have the financial flexibility to do so.  The speculated Joe Johnson deal, which would net Atlanta Petro/J.Williams/Farmar/Morrow would likely decrease the teams expected win total for 12/13, but give them just Teague/Horford/Jenkins and Marvin's player option as their obligations for 13/14.  That would give Ferry 35+ million to work with to re-sign Josh and explore other free agents. 

However, this is all based on moving Joe and his awful contract.  What makes the contract bad wasn't year 1 or 2, or even this year or next.  It's 13/14 and 14/15 when he will be making 23-25 million per year in his mid-30's with bad knees.  If they can get out of these years, they have to do it.

But know that the only way Brooklyn does this deal is if they believe they can use the "Big 3" model and acquire Dwight/Joe along with bringing back Deron Williams.  The Hawks can't get Marshon Brooks, as it is reported they do, because he is part of the Lopez/Brooks/1sts that are going to Orlando for Dwight.  If Brooklyn believes they can get Deron/Dwight, they will gladly take on Joe for their 3rd star and take their chances the next few years with those 3 guys and veterans/ring chasers.

That would give you this team for the 12/13 Hawks

Williams/Free Agent

Not sure what is going on with Hinrich, but this could be the team...likely a 41-41 team, in my opinion...

Friday, June 1, 2012

How good/bad is Jason Heyward?

Comments on yesterday's blog sparked many thoughts, so an analysis of how good or bad Jason Heyward is will be performed along with some case studies to see if things may get back on the right track sooner rather than later.

First, what earned Heyward the hype of the #1 prospect in all of baseball in 2009 had a lot to do with his OPS ability.  He is above average but not great in the categories of defense, throwing arm, and hitting for power.  What impressed scouts was his knowledge of the strike zone, ability to hit to all fields, and overall abilities as a hitter.  In 240 career minor league games and 882 at bats, Heyward posted a line of .317/29/125/.897.  So less than 30 HRs in about a season and a half of big league ball, but that .897 is a top 20 MLB mark year in and year out.  The progression of that OPS number to the major league level earned Heyard his accolades.

Then, in 2010, Heyward goes out from Day 1 and impresses, going .277/18/72/.849 and everyone agrees that the sky is the limit for good ole Jason.  Well, those numbers dipped in an injury plagued 2011 with a line of .227/14/42/.708 and to .233/6/23/.739 so far in 2012.  An OPS in the high 800's represents a season like Mike Stanton/Justin Upton in 2011, one in the low 700's is more like Kelly Johnson - not what you want out of your right fielder.

There have been several reasons for Heyward's demise, one of which was brought up by Rob in yesterday's blog about having a "sophomore slump."  Those do exist in the big leagues, mostly due to advanced scouting reports and pitchers gaining a better understanding on how to pitch you.  There has also been some mental issues which are expected with someone who hasn't experienced failure in this game to the level Heyward did in 2011 and this year.  Also, there have been nagging injuries and, what I think has led to his drop in production, an increased number of bad strikeouts.

In Heyward's minor league career, he struck out 13.7% of the time he came to the plate and walked 10.4% of the time.  In his rookie season, the strikeout percentage jumped to 20.5% but the walk percentage went up as well to 14.6%.  A lot of strikeouts, but also quite a bit of walks.

Last year, the strikeout number was about the same at 20.4%, but the walk percentage dropped to 11.1%.  This year, the strikeout percentage has gone up again to 25.3% and the walk percentage has remained the same at 11.1%.

So, while Heyward is still striking out a lot, his walks are down from his impressive rookie campaign.   A lot of those at bats where in the minor leagues and in his rookie season were walks have turned into Jason waving at balls out of the strike zone for K's. 

And while his OPS numbers would be increased north of .750 if this walk rate had stayed the same, the fact that the strikeouts continue to go up raises a huge concern.  If Heyward isn't a .300 hitter or a 30 HR guy, he can't be a huge strikeout guy. 

I still think a healthy Heyward will be productive, as Beez pointed out, he is still 22 and could be playing his 1st year of A ball out of college. 

Lets take a quick look at some other young outfielders and how they have progressed their 1st few years when compared to Heyward.

Jeff Francoeur

2005 - .300/14/45/.884
2006 - .260/29/103/.742
2007 - .293/19/105/.782
2008 - .239/11/71/.653
2009 - .280/15/76/.732
2010 - .249/13/65/.683
2011 - .285/20/87/.805

Started hot, cooled down a bit, went ice cold, but now is productive again.

BJ Upton

2007 - .300/24/82/.894
2008 - .273/9/67/.783
2009 - .241/11/65/.686
2010 - .237/18/62//745
2011 - .243/23/81/.759

Also up and down, but has remained (outside of 09) a solid OPS guy despite his low averages the last 3 years.

Ben Grieve

1998 - .288/18/89/.844
1999 - .265/28/86/.840
2000 - .279/27/104/.845
2001 - 264/11/72/.760
2002 - .251/19/64/.781
Entered 2003 at age 26 and played 201 more career games before retiring

Some fast starts, hiccups, and in some cases it comes back and in others it just putters along or goes in the tank completely.  Having the expectation of being the #1 rated prospect had fans looking for another Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, or Albert Pujols.  Fact is, there aren't many players like that out there, and being a top prospect doesn't guarantee anything, just ask Andy Marte.  

I see Heyward getting better at hitting lefties and gaining more confidence at the plate the remainder of this season.  I think in his prime he is a .275/25/100/.850 guy and his development will require patience from the fan base. 

Remember, he is only 22.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

MLB Draft Monday

I know most people don't follow the MLB Draft too much, being that there are so many collegiate and high school players in the player pool and they are not the easiest to see actually play, but it is always an intriguing event, more so now that each team has a dollar limit to spend.

The consensus #1 pick is GA's own Bryan Buxton out of Appling County High School.  He is viewed as the essential MLB draft guy - tall, cannon for an arm, hits for power/average, runs like the wind.  He is being drafted as an outfielder, with lots of comparisons to the Upton brothers. 

There is a big difference in some franchises philosophies, with some preferring collegiate players over high school "projects," but in my opinion, you need to draft more on results than projections, for example Tim Beckham over Buster Posey.

Buxton may be the next Justin Upton, but how accurate have the scouts been on the past few HS outfielders taken at the top of the draft?

2011 - #5 Bubba Starling (too early to tell, hasn't appeared in Minor League game)
2010 - #15 Jake Skole - .253/14/100 in 800 career AB's, just got to Advanced A Ball
2009 - #3 Donovan Tate - .248/48 RBI/33 SB in 98 career games, all in low A Ball
2008 - #14 Aaron Hicks - .263/27/170 in 400 career games, in AA
2007 - #14 Jason Heyward - Runner up ROY, every day RF for Braves
2006 - #14 Travis Snider - 28 career HR's for Blue Jays, viewed still as good prospect
2005 - #1 Justin Upton - Exactly what scouts see in Buxton, elite level major leaguer
2004 - #21 Greg Golson - In AAA, career .260 minor league hitter
2003 - #1 Delmon Young - Career .286 hitter with 74 HR's in big leagues
2002 - #2 BJ Upton - Everyday CF on top-tier team

Certainly some really good players here, but also some guys that haven't panned out.   Lots of scouts really like Buxton, I see him more of a Dexter Fowler than Justin Upton.

If I am picking #1, these are the guys I would consider...

Mark Appel RHP Stanford - 6'5 starting pitcher that throws 96-98 with good mechanics.  He isn't quite as big a prospect as Justin Verlander, but has the size, stuff, and make-up to warrant the #1 pick. Would also be quite a story for the Cardinal to have Andrew Luck, Appel, and Nnemkadi Ogwumike all go #1 in 3 different drafts.

Mike Zunino C Florida - Power hitting catcher that is an above average receiver/thrower and captain of #1 team in Division 1.  Projects as a 5-6 hitter and run producer that is certainly All-Star calibur.

Michael Wacha - RHP Texas A&M - Future front-line starter that pounds the strike zone with 3 really good pitches, the best of which is his change-up.  Can run the fastball up to 96 when needed, and spots his pitches really well.

As for last years draft, several names have gotten off to pretty good starts in 2012, most notably RHP Dylan Bundy, who since your last update here has been promoted to Advanced A, which may produce less X-Box like results for Dylan.  He finally gave up a run in 1st start, but still holds a 0.51 ERA in 10 professional starts.

The 3 collegiate pitchers taken ahead of Bundy, Danny Hultzen/Gerrit Cole/Trevor Bauer all have gotten off to fast starts, with Hultzen (1.59 ERA in 10 starts) and Bauer (1.74 ERA in 9 starts) putting up the best numbers.

Lots of HS players are still in extended spring training, but some of you may remember CF Jackie Bradley, Jr from USC, who dropped to pick #40 after an injury-filled 2011 in Columbia.  Well, Jackie is leading the Carolina league in hitting at .358 and is showing why he was a projected top 10 pick before his injuries pushed him down draft boards.

Braves 1st rounder Sean Gilmartin has been very steady at Mississippi (AA), putting up several quality starts.  Utah 1B CJ Cron has also been hot, hitting .286/7/38 in advanced A, giving him career minor league totals already through 86 games of .295/20/79.

Some local names to look for in Round 1 Monday after Buxton include Georgia Southern teammates Victor Roache and Chris Beck, Brookwood HS RHP Lucas Sims, UGA LHP Alex Wood, and possibly Parkview 1B Matt Olsen...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wednesday Musings...

A few observations/stats/musings as we pass the mid-point of May...

It's ridiculous that Derek Lowe leads the AL in wins and ERA after this much of the season...He has gone 6 innings or more and given up less than 3 runs in 6 of his 8 starts, something he couldn't do in any of his September starts last year for the Braves, who finished 1 game out of the post-season.  He also is coming off his 4th career shutout, after not even throwing a single complete game in 101 starts as a Brave.

Michael Bourn is getting a lot of national press for his hot start, and the fact that he is a free agent seems to come up each time.  He doesn't rely solely on his speed, but that is a big part of his game.   The being said, he is on the wrong side of 30 and will lose a bit of that weapon as his next contract ends.  With so many bad contracts in baseball right now, I don't think anyone will thrown 6/100+ at him like he and his agent think, but if I am the Braves, he is certainly worth a 5/75 deal - a deal the team can afford with likely contracts coming off their payroll in Jones, Hudson, and Jurrjens.

It looks like for the 2nd time in 5 years, the top pick in the MLB Draft will be a prep player from Georgia.  Bryan Buxton from Appling County has skyrocketed up draft boards since last summer, and looks to be the guy to go #1.  Hopefully, he has more success than 2008 #1 Tim Beckham, who is currently serving a 50 game suspension for drug use.

Someone sent me this story today about Saints fans and their quest to purchase a billboard in downtown Atlanta featuring the words "Who Dat" so Falcon fans will, "feel our presence every single time they approach their ridiculous circus tent of a stadium during the second quarter on Sundays."  I actually hope this happens...the idea that Saint fans are so obsessed with the Falcons that they would take their disposable income in hopes that any Falcon fan will do anything but laugh at it is fantastic.  Sure, we will take your tens-of-thousands of dollars, your city is certainly in great shape and doesn't need any extra dollars for anything.  We are also trying to build a new stadium and every dollar will indeed count.  Thanks guys you and your tainted Super Bowl always come through.

It appears the Orioles found a gem last year in Oklahoma HS pitcher Dylan Bundy.  Bringing him along slowly (he didn't pitch past the 3rd in his 1st 3 starts), Bundy has absolutely dominated Single A lineups.  His stats through 7 starts:

25 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 36 K

Bundy was the Gatorade national HS Player of the year, so he was highly sought after, but that kind of start is a little ridiculous.

Amazing how the SA Spurs still fly under the radar in the's just a shame that they are in a small market so companies like ESPN think that no one cares and would rather hear about Rajon Rondo's haircut than the Spurs current 15 game winning streak.  Their last loss was over a month ago, and they did it again last night by blowing out the Clippers.  The Duncan/Ginobili/Parker threesome is healthy and productive, they are getting great minutes from Danny Green, Gary Neal, and Kawhi Leonard, and Pop is pulling all the right strings again.  How they are not getting more pub as title contenders is mind-boggling...

It appears that the Tebow-to-NY media fest will be just as bad as we all expected.  In just under 2 months since the trade, we have seen the following headlines of stories:

Darrelle Revis raves about Tim Tebow

Tebow is the right play for Jets

Rex Ryan thrilled with QB situation

Tim Tebow adjusting to N.Y. (Includes info on how he changed his dogs name from Bronco to Bronx)

Jets QBs coach praises Tim Tebow

Jets coach Rex Ryan impressed by Tim Tebow


Goodness, and this has been the off-season...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The freakish Josh Hamilton

We have seen quite a start to the baseball season, for the 1st time ever we have had a perfect game and a 4 HR game in the same season.  Oh yea, we also threw in a no-hitter already as well as a Scott Hairston cycle...quite the run of feats.  Not to mention Matt Kemp's torrid start or Carlos Beltran returning from the dead...but it's our 4 HR guy Hamilton that I want to look at more closely as he appears to have a legit shot at a triple crown for several reasons.

1)  Has fast guys that get on base hitting in front of him, Kinsler/Andrus
2)  Has veteran power guys hitting behind him to protect him, Beltre/Cruz/Young
3)  The team protects his health by giving him ample rest (will probably play in 145~ games)
4)   Is a freak

Coming into Sunday, his line for the year was .402/18/41, that is a 30 point lead in AVG, 7 HR lead, and 12 more RBI than another AL player.  Wow.

The run of seasons without a triple crown winner has moved to 45 this year, but the likelihood of us seeing another winner has been increasing.  The 70's saw Rod Carew, Bill Matlock, Pete Rose, and other singles/doubles hitters win batting titles.  Dick Allen made a run in 72 when he won HR and RBI titles but finished 10 points behind Carew for the 3rd leg.  Home Run leaders in the 70's were guys that didn't hit for much average, like Mike Schmidt, Johnny Bench, Jim Rice, and Reggie Jackson.

The 80's were even tougher to make a run at the triple crown as Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn won 9 of the 20 batting titles, with Willie McGee, Carney Lansford, Willie Wilson and other non-power hitters took up the others.  No one made a serious run in the 80's as again sub-.300 hitters like Reggie Jackson, Dale Murphy, Andre Dawson, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Tony Armas were the HR champions.

The 90's though, saw a young slugger in 1992 named Gary Sheffield really look like a threat.  Sheffield jumped out to a lead in all 3 categories over the summer of 92, and just couldn't hold on to the HR and RBI leads while finishing .330/33/100.  Fred McGriff's 35 HR's won the title that year and Sheffield finished 9 RBI behind Darren Daulton for the RBI title.

Again in 1997, we saw the thin air in Colorado produce another threat with Larry Walker.  Walker's MVP season produced a league-leading 49 HR's, but his .366 average was .06 behind Tony Gwynn and 130 RBI were 10 behind teammate Andres Galarraga.  Walker did go on to win 3 of the next 4 batting titles, but was no where near the HR crown as these seasons were the Sosa/McGwire HR-fest.

The rest of the 2000's saw each category get a sneaky winner, and the trivia fans out there can have some fun with this one...2003 AL batting champ, 2004 AL HR champ, and the 2003 NL RBI champ were all off the radar winners...answers below.

Now for the reasoning on why we are getting closer and closer to seeing another winner.  Take a look at the names of the guys that have won batting titles the last 10 years.


Earlier in the 2000's it looked like guys like Todd Helton and Ichiro may go on runs like Boggs and Gwynn, but it was been big power guys that have taken home batting titles.

Pujols led the league in all 3 categories over the span of 2 seasons, Bonds couldn't rack enough at bats with all his intentional walks to get HR's and RBI in 04, and Cabrera and Ramirez won batting titles when there was a top 20 all-time HR season (A-Rod, Batista).

It would sure be good for the game if Hamilton takes these leads past the All-Star break to give the league a story that can attract some marginal fans.  We aren't going to see another 30 game winner and the .400 hitter hasn't been challenged in 30+ years outside of Gwynn's .394 in the strike year (94) and George Brett in 1980.

The league also has the Josh Hamilton story in their favor too, as Hamilton's road to this point is well documented.  He is probably one of the top 3 most talented players to come through the game since I've been alive.  I like to describe his talent this way...Coming out of HS in North Carolina, he was the top pick in the 1999 draft.  However, that draft featured a guy that almost every other year would have been the top pick...think about it, Josh Beckett was everything a MLB scout wants.  Tall, powerful pitcher, with a 99+ fastball...Tampa didn't even flinch, "We'll, take Hamilton."

On Hamilton's player card, he is currently on pace for a .402/86/195 season.  I don't think we will see anything near that, but I would certainly give him a fighting chance to achieve what we haven't seen since 1967...

Trivia Answers

03 AL Batting title - Bill Mueller
03 NL RBI title - Preston Wilson
04 AL HR title - Adrian Beltre

Friday, May 11, 2012

Another early exit fo the Hawks...

I think this blog has an annual May entry, as the Hawks bowed out early in the NBA Playoffs for the 5th straight year.  For those that don't know, the Hawks history in the playoffs is not impressive to say the least.  This year isn't unlike the others, but before we dive in to what happened and what now, I want to get this out there...not giving excuses, but I am 100% sure that the following things are true:

1)  If Paul Pierce made the same move against Joe Johnson that Joe made against him at the end of Game 6, there would have been a foul called.
2)  If Rondo/Pierce/Garnett/Allen had been fouled the way Al was at the end of Game 6, a flagrant foul would have been called.
3)  If the Celtics had lost Game 6 in Atlanta to lose the series and had a player fouled clearly before an in-bounds pass, we would have had multiple experts telling us the Celtics were screwed and it would have been a topic on PTI, Around the horn, etc, and Bill Simmons would have written a column on how bad the officiating was in the series, specifically Game 6.

But I was a disappointing series loss, but the problem is traced to Game 2 when the Hawks lost at home to a Boston team that was without Allen/Rondo, and had a double-digit 3rd quarter lead.  This team looks outstanding at time, and completely no-shows others.  I want to think that this core can do better, but it just doesn't seem likely.  That being said...

The only thing management can do for the betterment of the franchise is keep this core intact.  Breaking up this team, i.e. trading Josh Smith, will make this team much worse.  Believe me, if I thought the Hawks could get multiple players/picks/etc for Smith, I would be for it, but they simply won't get equal value in a trade.

If ASG and Sund think the team needs to trade Smith to improve the team and appease the fan base, the move would go against everything the front office has said the past few years, which is that this core can advance past Round 2.  If they break up the team, they will likely go the route of the franchise 15 years ago when Pete Babcock caved in and got rid of Mookie/Smith/Deke and others in order to get younger and more athletic (bringing in Isaiah Rider)....

Truthfully, the way to win titles in the NBA is to get an All-Timer (Kobe, LeBron, Dirk, Duncan) and surround him with solid pieces and hope other stars choose to join him.  The easiest way to get one of these guys is to have a Top 5 draft pick, which would likely be coming the Hawks way if they blow up the current core.

The likely scenario:  Management renews Larry Drew for another year or two, Sund keeps some of the veterans, brings in some new veterans, adds a 1st round pick, and ASG sells the city on seeing what this team can do when healthy.

The scary scenario:  Management panics and trades key pieces for less than equal value and this is a 35 win team next year.

My suggestion:  Scenario 1 without renewing Larry Drew.  Lets bring in someone that has won before and would have the players respect.  Flip Saunders was just fired for not being able to win with an awful Wizards roster, but is just a few years removed from 3 straight conference finals series. 

There is a time to blow up a roster, but with the contracts this team has and the current trade market, now is not it for the Hawks.  The Falcons sold me on "Hey, it will be better with the same players if we get better coaches", it's time for the ASG to prepare the same pitch.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April Musings...

A month's worth of stuff to discuss, I've got some quick musings on the Falcons/Hawks/Braves before tomorrows blog on the "Atlanta Sports Fan." 

The draft is shaping up and the Birds did just what they needed to...shore up the secondary and bulk up with size and toughness on the OL.  The team clearly needed some new bodies on the OL after the 24-2 debacle, and the additions of Konz (immediate starter) and Holmes will definitely help.   Here is how I see the OL shaping up...


That is how they will probably start going into the pre-season, with the hopes that Manuwai, Holmes, Baker, and maybe some other guys step up in the competition for playing time.   Samuel gives the secondary a great nickel back that can make plays.  On offense, the team needs to find a way to effectively run the ball against good teams and get the ball to their big-play WRs.  Overall, I like the off-season, much better than using all cap space on Mario Williams...

The Hawks have a difficult 1st round match-up, but with Rose banged up at least they avoid the Heat until a possible Conference Final showdown.  I think they can win the series, but not having Al and possibly not have ZaZa really hurts.  I do, however, like what Sund did with the bench this year after not bringing Jamal back.  They have a good mix of veterans, which has been good in a season where practice time has been limited.

NBA Playoff Predictions

Heat over Knicks
Bulls over 76ers
Hawks over Celtics
Pacers over Magic

Thunder over Mavs
Spurs over Jazz
Grizzlies over Clippers
Nuggets over Lakers

Heat over Pacers
Hawks over Bulls

Thunder over Nuggets
Grizzlies over Spurs

Heat over Thunder

The Braves are off to a terrific start, as most of the things they needed to start off strong have happened.  Chipper has played well and often, Heyward started strong, and the starters - especially Beachy & Minor have been spectacular.  If they hold up, I think they have pretty reliable veterans in Uggla, McCann, and Bourn and I think Freeman has shown he is a legit middle of the order hitter.  The bullpen is really good and I like this team...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Random Musings...

Some thoughts as the NCAA tournament is wrapping up and baseball is about to begin...

Looks like all of our Cinderella's are gone in the tournament, as the heavyweights took care of business on Thursday and Friday. Take a look at the teams and coaches that survived to Elite 8 weekend...

1) Florida vs Louisville - Both coaches with National championships in the last 15 years
2) Ohio State vs Syracuse - National champion coach against one with 3 Elite 8 appearances and a national runner-up
3) Baylor vs Kentucky - Coach with 3 Final Fours and numerous Elite 8's against an an upstart coach making his 2nd elite 8 appearance in 3 years
4) Kansas vs UNC - 2 more coaches with titles battling it out on Sunday in a super-heavyweight match-up of programs and coaches

Prediction: Same one I had at the start of the tourney, Kentucky over Ohio State

I know folks have read tons of Chipper stuff the past few days, but I came across a few numbers that were rather significant. Needless to say, I think he should go in the HOF in 2017...

Chip's OPS (on base + slugging), which is considered the best stat for overall offensive production, puts him #31 all-time. Guys who he is just ahead of on the all-time list?

Hank Aaron
Frank Robinson
Ken Griffey
Mike Schmidt
Gary Sheffield
Willie McCovey
Eddie Mathews
Harmon Killebrew

In 11 of his 17 seasons, he walked more than he struck out and never had a 100+ K season. It's a shame he missed that 1994 season with a torn ACL, he would have probably hit 20+ home runs and had an outside shot at 500 this year...

Speaking of baseball, I don't know what Fredi G (who the more I read is absolutely on the hot seat in April/May) wants to do with the lineup. If it were up to me, Chip would have to slide down this year to break up all the lefty sticks that need to be in the top of the order.

Bourn - CF
Prado - LF
McCann - C
Uggla - 2B
Freeman - 1B
Jones - 3B
Heyward - RF
Pastornicky - SS

As for the pitching staff, I think they have the right idea with Medlen as he can go 2-4 innings a couple times a week to help preserve O'Ventral. I think the team is hoping Medlen's 2012 numbers are something like - 7-3, 8 saves, 3.00 ERA, 110 IP

The rotation is the key as Fredi has to figure out how to keep all his strong arms happy and healthy. To start the season, it should look something like:


When Hudson returns, I am not sure what will happen. I think Frank Wren hopes Jurrjens starts strong and he can move him for some offensive help. If not, he will likely be on the DL and Hudson will slide into his spot.

As for predictions, here is what I see...

NL East - Atlanta (Philly is getting old and banged up, not buying Miami/Wash yet)
NL Central - Cincy (Milwaukee lost a bit too much but has best pitching, Latos helps rotation)
NL West - Arizona (Solid lineup and starting pitching wins weak division)
WC - Philly/Miami battle out to the last week

AL East - Yankees (Sox continue to struggle with injuries)
AL Central - Tigers (Easiest pick on the board)
AL West - Rangers (Darvish is legit and Hamilton playing for contract)
WC - Angels

Fantasy stuff - If you pick in the top 4 in the 1st round you have to go Cabrera, Kemp, Braun, or Pujols...after that, there is some risk. I'm not comfortable taking Cano, Verlander, Upton, Bautista, or Ellsbury in the 1st, but as long as he doesn't get his urine checked, Mike Stanton looks the part of a 1st rounder.

I've got some NFL draft thoughts that should be up here in the next few days so keep checking in here for some draft nuggets...

Friday, February 24, 2012

NCAA Tournament bids...

With March coming next week, it is time to see what teams are "in" the tourney, and who is on the "bubble." More importantly for the bubble teams, who do you need to root for in the conference tournaments that start next week?

Teams that have secured a spot as of now, with their always-important RPI in parentheses:

SEC - Kentucky (4), Florida (17), Vanderbilt (26)
ACC - UNC (5), Duke (3), Florida St (18), Virginia (37)
Big 10 - Michigan St (2), Ohio St (7), Michigan (10), Indiana (19), Wisconsin (22)
Big East - Syracuse (1), Marquette (8), Georgetown (15), Louisville (21), Notre Dame (33)
Big 12 - Baylor (9), Kansas (6), Missouri (13), Kansas St (41)
Missouri Valley - Creighton (28), Wichita St (11)
Mountain West - UNLV (12), SDSU (30), New Mexico (29)
WCC - Gonzaga (20), St Mary's (34)
Pac 12 - California (32)
Conf-USA - Southern Miss (16), Memphis (27)
A-10 - Temple (14), St Louis (23)
Ohio Valley - Murray St (39)

Add to the list 19 other conferences that will get Auto-Bids, and assuming one of the teams from each of the conferences listed wins the conference tournament, we have 15 bids left.

Your bubble teams:

UConn - (24, 17-10) - Under .500 in the Big East right now, the Huskies have work to do...They are 3-7 their last 10 and host Syracuse Saturday night. They have some good wins over Florida St, Harvard, WVU, Seton Hall, and Notre Dame, but can lock up a spot with a win over the Orange. Lose, and the need to win their final 2 Big East games and at least 1 in the Big East Tournament. Prediction: In

Colorado St (25, 17-9) - Only on the list due to the RPI number, the Rams just picked up their signature win this week against New Mexico. Lots of losses to high ranked RPI teams have helped their number. Prediction: Out

Seton Hall (31, 19-9) - After a 6 game losing streak, the Pirates have rebounded nicely and are in position to grab a bid. Win at home against Rutgers Saturday and then on the road against Depaul next week and their 10-8 conference record looks pretty good. Prediction: In

Alabama (38, 17-9) - They fought through their suspensions and still have a pretty good shot at a bid. Early season wins over Wichita, VCU, and Purdue will help along with some quality wins against Oklahoma St and Maryland. Prediction: In

Middle Tennessee St (40, 23-4) - The Blue Raiders don't really have any wins to speak of, but beating Belmont and Ole Miss isn't bad. Prediction: Must win conference tourney

Iowa St (43, 20-8) - The Mayor's squad has been hot as of late but has a tough finish to the conference schedule. The Kansas win looks great, but they can't lose all of their final 3 games at Kansas St, at Missouri, or at home vs Baylor. Prediction: In

West Virginia (44, 17-11) - WVU is your classic bubble team...They are 3-6 their last nine, play in a big-time conference, have some good wins mixed in, but don't really know their fate yet. If they can beat Marquette this weekend at home and follow it up with a home win against Depaul and can win at USF, they have an excellent shot. Slip up and they will need a deep run in the Big East tournament to get in. Prediction: In

BYU (46, 21-6) - Their best wins are Gonzaga, Oregon, and Nevada, and they got swept by St Mary's. The Baylor and Wisconsin losses aren't bad, but getting one of those would have put them "in" by now. Prediction: Must get to conference title game

Northwestern (47, 16-11) One team I really hope gets in is Northwestern, as they have never gotten in...The Cats don't really have a bad loss, and that Michigan State win looks better each week. But, I still think they need to win either at home against Ohio St or at Iowa (which has shown is a very tough place to win lately) to get on the right side of the bubble. Prediction: In

Miami (49, 16-10) - Miami has the Duke win, and that is why they are on the bubble. Their 5-game stretch in December where they lost to Ole Miss, Purdue, Memphis, and West Virginia really hurt. Any one of those wins would really help their case right now, especially after losing their last game to Maryland. I think Miami needs to get to 20 wins, either by winning out (FSU, at NCSU, vs BC) or making a conference tourney run. Prediction: Out

Purdue (50, 18-10) - What Purdue has going for them is that they have a lot of wins over other bubble teams (Miami, NW x2, Illinois x2, Iowa x2). They have lost most of their big games against the top of the Big 10, but do have a quality win over Temple. They need to win at Indiana or at Michigan to really put themselves into a good spot. Prediction: In

Oregon (51, 19-8) - The Ducks have played 8 teams that have or are going to be mentioned here and are 1-7 in those games. The lack of quality wins and the lack of good teams in the Pac-12 will make it tough on Oregon. They need to win their last 3 (@OSU, Col, Utah) and probably get to the conference championship game. Prediction: Out

Washington (52, 19-8)- Washington split with Oregon, and is in basically the same position as the Ducks. The Huskies are hot, winning 8 of their last 9, but they squandered their big chances in December. They need to win their final 3 games (@UCLA, @WSU, @USC) and make a conference tourney run to get in. Prediction: In

Xavier (53, 17-10) - Xavier is a tough team to gauge due to their early-season shenanigans. They were on a real run early in the year with consecutive wins over Vanderbilt, Purdue, Butler, and Cincinnati. Since then, they were knocked off several times after a few key players were suspended, and have turned out to be a pretty good team in a better A-10. They really need to win at Saint Louis next week to help their resume, but a run in the conference tourney can help as well. Prediction: In

Texas (55, 17-11) - Good wins against Temple, Iowa State, and Kansas State, but they have lost most of their other big games. They need to win at Texas Tech and beat Oklahoma before we put them in. Prediction: In

Arizona (67, 19-9) - The Cats are usually a lot higher on the RPI list with their record, but their only win of note is at Cal. Another Pac-12 team that needs to win out and make a conference tourney run. Prediction: In

Mississippi State (60, 19-9) - Even with their recent stumbles, MSU has a good shot at an at-large bid if they finish strong. Early in the season, they beat Arizona, WVU, and TAMU. Their Vanderbilt win is solid, but they need to get going quickly as they have lost 4 straight. Win at least 2 of 3 and get a couple in their conference tourney, and I think MSU has a shot. Prediction: In

NC State - (62, 18-10) - Six conference wins, none against teams with a .500 record or better in the ACC. Only win against team mentioned here was early in the year against Texas. Prediction: Out

Cincinnati (82, 19-8) - The Bearcats have a pretty tough stretch to end the season (@USF, vs Marq, @Nova), but at 10-5 in the conference, they can really lock up a bid by ending the season strongly. They have wins against 5 of the top Big East teams and have moved into the final spot of the bracket by beating Louisville this week. Prediction: In

All teams on this list need to make sure they are rooting for Creighton/Wichita in the Valley, MTSU in the Sun Belt, Long Beach State in the Big West, Iona in the MAAC, and Oral Roberts in the Summit, just to be safe...

Selection Sunday Predictions 2 weeks early...

1. Kentucky, Syracuse, UNC, Ohio State
2. Michigan St, Kansas, Missouri, Duke
3. Marquette, Michigan, Georgetown, Florida St
4. Louisville, Florida, Wichita St, UNLV
5. Baylor, Wisconsin, Murray St, Temple
6. Indiana, Creighton, Southern Miss, Vanderbilt
7. New Mexico, Notre Dame, Gonzaga, Virginia
8. Alabama, San Diego St, Kansas St, St Mary's
9. Cal, St. Louis, Harvard, Iowa St
10. WVU, Memphis, Xavier, UConn
11. Purdue, Texas, Seton Hall, BYU
12. Long Beach St, Harvard, Arizona, Cincy/Washington
13. Miss St/NW, Iona, Oral Roberts, MTSU
14. Davidson, VCU, Belmont, Nevada
15. Akron, Valpo, UNCA, Weber St
16. LIU, UTA, Savannah St/Bucknell, MVSU/Vermont

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Top 15 Atlanta Hawks

It has been a long time since our last post, but with hoops in full swing now, the blog entries will be coming. Thanks to loyal reader Beezbo for the topic for was tough narrowing down this list, as you I considered players for the Hawks since their move to Atlanta, but focused only on their time in Atlanta. Walt Bellamy just missed the cut, as he only played a few seasons in Atlanta in his 30's, and Jason Terry was a late scratch due to the awful teams he was forced to be a part of...but I digress...

15) Tree Rollins - Rollins, the Hawks 1st round pick (14th) in 1977, played his first 11 seasons in Atlanta. Never a big scorer, Rollins was a solid presence in the paint, bringing down an average of between 6.0 and 9.4 rebounds per game in each season as a Hawk. Rollins best skill, though, was shot blocking, as he racked up almost 2300 blocks in his Hawk career. He led the league in 82-83 with 343 blocks (4.3 bpg) and was in the NBA's top 5 in blocks per game 8 out of 11 seasons.

14) Al Horford -Horford has had a tremendous start to his Hawk career, even though his 5th season was cut short by injury. Al has started all but 4 games he has appeared in during his career, is a 2-time All-Star, and has finished in the top 10 in rebounding twice. Al's drive, scoring, rebounding, defensive, and passing abilities have him in position to move up this list quickly throughout the next few years.

13) Eddie Johnson - Johnson had a terrific career as a Hawk after being selected in the 3rd round of the 1977 draft out of Auburn. He averaged over 15 points a game and 5 assists a game from 77-85, was a 2-time All-Star (80-81), and twice was named to the 2nd team All-NBA defensive team.

12) John Drew - Drew was an 8 year Atlanta Hawk from 74-82 and was a scoring machine from day 1. After being the Hawks 2nd round pick in 74 out of Gardner-Webb, Drew was a 1st team All-NBA rookie after averaging 18.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. He went on to average over 21 points per game 5 times, finishing in the top 10 in the NBA twice.

11) Doc Rivers - The Hawks took Doc in the 2nd Round in 1983, and he immediately became a starter and top contributor for all 8 seasons he spent in Atlanta. His best years were 85-88, as he led the team to 29 playoff games in that stretch, while averaging a double-double in playoff games. Doc averaged a double-double in 86-87 with 12.8 points and 10 assists per game. He was a member of the 1988 All-Star team and had 3 seasons as a Hawk in the top 10 in the league in steals, and 2 seasons in the top 10 in assists.

10) Josh Smith - Smith is a stat sheet filler that has been a key player during the current Hawk stretch of solid playoff teams. In his 8th season, Smith has been a part of 41 playoff games, averaging 15.5 ppg and 8 rebounds per game, slightly above his career averages. He has finished in the top 3 in the NBA in blocks 4 times, the top 10 in steals once, and was a member of the 2nd team All-NBA defensive squad in 09-10. He currently is on pace for his 6th straight season averaging over 15 points per game and over 7 rebounds per game.

9) Mookie Blaylock - Mookie's 7 seasons as the Hawks point guard saw the team reach the playoffs each season. He was a key part of several really good Hawk teams, including the 96-97 team that was one of the top 3 teams in the NBA but ran into the Bulls in Round 2. In his Atlanta career, Mookie was an All-Star in 1994, finished in the top 6 in steals all 7 seasons, was top 3 in 3-pointers made 3 times, and finished top 10 in assists 3 times.

8) Steve Smith - Smith only spent 4 1/2 years in Atlanta, but he was the go-to guy and leader on some of the franchises best teams. He led the team in scoring each season he was a Hawk, peaking with a 20.1 ppg average in 96-97 and 97-98. He hit several game-winning shots and was an All-Star in 1998.

7) Pete Maravich - Pistol Pete played his first 4 seasons in the NBA in Atlanta, and he put on a show. After being the Hawks 1st round pick (3rd overall) in 1970, Pete averaged 23.2 points per game as a rookie. After a slight dip in production in his second season, Pete exploded in the 72-73 and 73-74 seasons, putting up 27 points and 6 assists per game. He was also a 24+ point and 5+ assist per game guy for the Hawks in the playoffs. As a Hawk, Maravich was a 2-time All-Star, finished in the top 10 in scoring 3 times, and was 7th in the league in assists in 72-73.

6) Joe Johnson - True Hawk fans will always love Joe because he came to Atlanta when no other player of his caliber would. He has been a 20+ point scorer since signing as a FA from Phoenix in 2005, and has averaged around 5 assists per game as well. He has made 5 All-Star teams as a Hawk, named All-NBA 3rd team, and finished in the top 10 in 3-pointers made twice.

5) Kevin Willis - Willis played in the league a long time, and his most successful seasons were in Atlanta. Kevin had many big-time seasons in the mid-to-late 80's and early 90's as a Hawk, highlighted by a 18.3/15.5 season in 91-92. He was an All-Star in 92 and was 3rd team All-NBA, finished top 5 in rebounds 3 times, and even came back in 04-05 to contribute some to current Hawk team when they were younger.

4) Dan Roundfield - Roundfield had a tremendous career as a Hawk from 78-84, making 3 All-Star teams and helping the team get to the playoffs 5 times. He averaged 15+ points and 10+ rebounds in each season in Atlanta, peaking at 19.0 and 11.4 in 82-83. Consistently at the top of the NBA leaders in rebounds and blocks, Roundfield earned 1st team All-Defensive team honors 3 times as a Hawk and was 2nd team twice. Roundfield also was rewarded for his 79-80 season with 2nd team All-NBA honors.

3) Dikembe Mutombo - Most of the reason for the success of the mid-to-late 90's team was that they finally signed a dominate center to defend and rebound in Mutombo. Deke averaged a double-double every season as a Hawk, highlighted by a 11.4 ppg and 14.0 rpg season in 99-00. He made 4 All-Star games as a Hawk, was NBA defensive POY twice, led the league in rebounds 3 times, and led the league in blocks twice.

2) Lou Hudson - Sweet Lou spend 11 years as a Hawk, with the last 9 being after the franchise moved to Atlanta. Hudson scored between 22-25 points per game every season in Atlanta, while collecting just under 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game. He was a 6-time All-Star, 2nd team All-NBA in 69-70, top 6 points 3 times, and top 8 in FG's made 4 times.

1) Dominique Wilkins - 'Nique is clearly the top Atlanta Hawk of all-time as he did it all while in Atlanta from 82-93. Wilkins was a scoring champion, slam dunk champion, 7-time All-NBA, 8 time All-Star, and one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. Dominique consistently was an MVP candidate and top scorer in the league, and was recent inductee to the NBA Hall of Fame.