Friday, September 27, 2013

Geek Out Stat: Hail to the Chiefs

     Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs finished with a dismal 2-14 record and had the first pick in the most recent NFL Draft. They became the first NFL team since the 1929 Buffalo Bisons to not lead in regulation during any of their first nine games of the regular season. Then-head coach Romeo Crennel boasted a 4-15 record during his brief tenure with the Chiefs before being fired and quarterback Matt Cassel didn't pan out as Kansas City hoped.
     Funny how things can dramatically change in a year. The Chiefs hired former Eagles head coach Andy Reid to the same position and drafted offensive lineman Eric Fisher with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. They also acquired former No. 1 pick Alex Smith from San Francisco. But these moves are a small reason for why Kansas City has already surpassed their win total from last season.
     Their defense has already shown itself as one of the most fearsome. Gossamer defensive tackle Dontari Poe has ten tackles and has recorded 3.5 sacks in three games already. Veteran linebackers Tamba Hali, Akeem Jordan, and Derrick Johnson have combined totals of 43 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, and a sack. Linebacker Justin Houston has also contributed greatly, compiling 17 tackles along with an NFL-leading 7.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He has also recovered two fumbles. The secondary for the Chiefs has allowed the 5th-fewest yards per game, only yielding opposing receivers to 185 yards per game. Opponents have also made only 11 third down conversions (27.5%) against the Chiefs this year, good for second best in the NFL
     Kansas City also has a great running back in Jamaal Charles. He's running for 224 yards on 52 carries and has two touchdowns this season. This includes a solid game against the Eagles last week in which he ran for 92 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. He also had seven receptions for 80 yards in that game.
     It's safe to say that the Andy Reid era in Kansas City has gotten off to a very pleasant start. But can they topple their division rivals in the Denver Broncos, who are also undefeated? If you're looking for a worst-to-first story, this could be your team to get behind.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Update: Shivering Their Timbers

     Just over three weeks after clinching their first winning season in just over two decades, the Pittsburgh Pirates have clinched their first playoff berth in 21 years with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. Both Neil Walker and Starling Marte homered in that game, eliminating the Washington Nationals from playoff contention as they lost to St. Louis 4-3. Surprisingly, the biggest thing going in the Steel City isn't the 0-3 Steelers. It's the playoff-bound Bucs, who are in a battle with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds for the NL Central division title.
     Pittsburgh's playoff trip in 1992 didn't end so well. It ended with Atlanta's Sid Bream sliding into home as the winning run in bottom of the ninth, propelling the Braves to a Game 7 win in the NL Championship Series and a trip to the World Series. It's also been a while since the Pirates have been to the World Series. They haven't been to the Fall Classic since 1979, when they came back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Baltimore Orioles in seven games. The great Willie Stargell was named the World Series MVP, batting .400 with three home runs and seven RBIs.
     If the Pirates do make it to the World Series, they do have one thing going for them. They're 15-5 in interleague games this season. But they are 23-25 against the other NL playoff teams, including a combined 5-8 against both Atlanta and Los Angeles. Still, the postseason is a whole new season. It'll be interesting to see what happens to Pittsburgh in the last five games.
     Asked if clinching a playoff berth felt great, Manager Clint Hurdle said "Abso-bucking-lutely."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Worst Collapses in Sports History

     There's no such thing as a sure thing, especially in sports. To show what I mean by this, here are a few examples of the worst chokes in sports history.

  • Jean Van Velde's epic collapse at the 1999 British Open:
  • The New York Yankees losing the 2004 ALCS to their rival Boston Red Sox after being up 3-0:

  • Boston Bruins blow the lead in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals in just under 17 seconds:

  •  Dallas Cowboys blow a 24-point lead in the third quarter against the Detroit Lions on October 2, 2011.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Star Watch: Vladimir Tarasenko

     If you're a hardcore hockey fan, you might want to keep an eye out for a right winger named Vladimir Tarsenko of the St. Louis Blues. The 16th overall pick of the 2010 NHL Draft previously played in the KHL for Sibir Novosibirsk from 2008 to 2012, scoring 91 points (47 goals, 44 assists) in 161 games. He was traded to SKA St. Petersburg in 2012, scoring five goals and four assists in 15 regular season games. He was also plus-six in those 15 games with SKA. He also played for Russia in the World Junior Championship. He played for Russia's U-18 team in the 2008-09 , scoring eight goals and seven assists in seven games. The next year, he netted four goals and an assist in six games for Russia's U-20 team. Russia's U-20 team won gold in 2011 with Vladimir scoring four goals and seven assists during the junior tournament.
     Talent-wise, he was considered the top Russian-born talent in the 2010 NHL Draft. The Blues are excited about his goal-scoring ability with his quick hands and sudden release. His explosive acceleration allows him to create space and either score or let him use his strong playmaking ability. He's also a gritty, tenacious player who is very competitive. His time in the KHL has seasoned him into one of the more NHL-ready players in his 2010 class. He is also built sturdily at 5'11" and 202 pounds.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

NFL Highlights from Week 1

     The first week of the NFL season was widely anticipated by many people across this nation. It certainly didn't disappoint as there were record-tying performances and great comebacks. Here are some of the great highlights from the opening week in the NFL.

  • Peyton Manning throws 7 touchdowns in the Opening Game:

  • Jerome Simpson's amazing catch:

  • LeVontae David's costly penalty:

  • Houston's ridiculous comeback on Monday Night:

  • LeSean McCoy takes flight in Chip Kelly's new offense:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

NFL Preview: NFC South and NFC West

     Here is the last quarter of my NFL Preview!!! It wraps up with the NFC South and NFC West, arguably two of the toughest divisions in the NFL.

     NFC South
  1. New Orleans Saints: The Saints still boast a high-powered offense, led by the likes of Drew Brees. Brees led the NFL in both touchdowns (43) and passing yards (5,177). But this year, the team will be much better thanks to the likes of coaching staff changes. Sean Payton is back in as head coach and Rob Ryan is the new defensive coordinator for the Saints. Granted he won't fix up everything, especially considering that New Orleans has plenty of key linebackers out with injuries. But Payton should be enough of a boost to get the Saints to the playoffs (I don't know about Ryan. He could be hit or miss). The secondary has to do better as well; this unit ranked 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed (292.6 ypg) and were in the middle of the pack in the NFC in interceptions with 15.
  2. *Atlanta Falcons: The NFC South will come down to two teams: The Saints and the Falcons. So don't be surprised if one of these two teams finishes atop of the division. Atlanta retooled their running game by acquiring Steven Jackson and drafted corner Desmond Trufant (41 tackles, 2 INT in his final year with the Washington Huskies). Matt Ryan will also be thankful for Tony Gonzalez coming back; the tight end had 93 receptions, 930 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last year. Throw in receivers Roddy White (92 receptions, 1,351 receiving yards, eight touchdowns) and Julio Jones (79 receptions, 1,198 receiving yards, ten touchdowns) and you have one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL.
  3. Carolina Panthers: LB Luke Kuechly (165 tackles last season) had a great rookie season last year and is just a part of a great front seven that includes defensive ends Charles Johnson (41 tackles, 12.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles) and Greg Hardy (61 tackles, two forced fumbles, 11.0 sacks). The Panthers also realized late last year that they had some great pieces in their offensive running game with the likes of Can Newton and DeAngelo Williams. The attack will be bolstered even more once Jonathan Stewart comes back.
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs acquired Darrelle Revis in the offseason, who will improve the secondary. But this is a make-or-break year for quarterback Josh Freeman. He has legitimate targets in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, so there should be no reason for why he doesn't get the job done. The Bucs also have to share a division with Atlanta and New Orleans and those teams are loaded. One thing to watch with Tampa will be Doug Martin, who'll head the rushing attack and will be protected by a strong offensive line. The Muscle Hamster had five runs for 40+ yards last year and ran for 1,454 yards on 319 carries and 11 touchdowns.

     NFC West
  1. San Francisco 49ers: It'll be up to Colin Kaepernick to duplicate his performance from 2012 in which he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl as their quarterback. Losing Michael Crabtree (85 receptions, 1,105 receiving yards, nine touchdowns) for the season and Mario Manningham to the PUP list will be major blows to San Fran. But luckily for them, they acquired Anquan Boldin from Baltimore and still have Vernon Davis. Yes, they aren't as productive as Crabtree and Manningham. But with an outstanding offensive line, a stellar defense, and a great head coach in Jim Harbaugh, the Niners could be going back to the Super Bowl this year.
  2. *Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks are another great defensive team in the NFC West. Cliff Avril should be a nice addition to the defensive line. But on the offensive side, Percy Harvin is too much of a injury risk. But the Seahawks will rely heavily on their rushing attack, headlined by Marshawn "Skittles" Lynch. Skittles had 1,590 rushing yards on 315 carries and eleven touchdowns. The question will be if Russell Wilson can avoid the sophomore slump; he had a 62.9% completion rate with 3,118 passing yards and 26 touchdowns passing.
  3. St. Louis Rams: The Rams are the pleasant surprise of the NFC. WR Tavon Austin should be an exciting target to watch and will be a godsend for Sam Bradford. Also, Jeff Fisher proved to be a great head coach who led his team to a division record of 4-1-1 last season. Bradford will also have a retooled offensive line with the acquisition of OT Jake Long.
  4. Arizona Cardinals: The Carson Palmer-to-Larry Fitzgerald combo will be prevalent in the desert this year. But that probably won't be enough for Arizona to compete in the deep NFC West this season. 


Thursday, August 29, 2013

NFL Preview: NFC East and NFC North

     Now that I've already covered the AFC, I will take a look at what awaits for the NFC starting with the NFC East and the NFC North.

     NFC East
  1. New York Giants: In a weakened division that is pretty much up for grabs, the NFC East could come down to the Week 17 match-up between Washington and the New York Giants. Victor Cruz (86 receptions, 1,092 receiving yards, ten touchdowns) will carry a majority of the offense for the Giants along with Eli Manning (59.9% passes completed, 3,946 passing yards, 26 TDs). Also keep an eye out for RB David Wilson; he could have a breakout season this year. The G-Men must avoid falling into the usual 2nd-half swoon if they're in playoff contention by mid-November, especially with that diminished defensive line.
  2. Washington Redskins: This team will go as far as RGIII will take them. The 2nd overall pick in the 2012 draft (3,200 passing yards, 65.6% passes completed, 20 passing touchdowns) had 12 fumbles last year (9 of those were rushing), so that will be something to work on. He also has knee problems that originated in the postseason, so it'll be interesting to see how his knee holds up. One thing that RGIII can also do is run the ball; he ran the ball 120 times and gained 815 yards and scored 7 TDs. Griffin and Alfred Morris (1,613 rushing yards on 335 carries, 13 TDs) will head the rushing attack for Washington. 
  3. Dallas Cowboys: Rob Ryan is out as defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys, but the base 4-3 defense will be in. This means that Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware will move to defensive ends. However, the secondary will be tested on deep passes; the Cowboys were the only team last year without an interception on a pass of 20 yards or more. They also ranked 29th in completion percentage allowed on downfield passes of 20 yards or more with 46.2. Another interesting storyline will be how well Tony Romo will do with his new contract. In 2012, Romo completed 65.6% of his passes for 4,903 yards and 28 TDs. However, he threw 19 INTs. Will Romo breakthrough in the big moment or will he wither away? Lots of question marks with this Cowboys team.
  4. Philadelphia Eagles: The new blur offense that head coach Chip Kelly will be showcasing this season will be perfect for Michael Vick. It's a zone read offense that was popularized at the University of Oregon and is very fast-paced. The defense will be a big question mark for the Eagles, but Philadelphia should be a fun team to watch on the offensive side of the ball.
     NFC North
  1. Green Bay Packers: Will Aaron Rodgers be hurt by losing Bryan Bulaga for the year? Well, Rodgers was sacked less often with Bulaga off of the field last year. He also had more time in the pocket, had a better total QBR, and averaged more yards per attempt without Bulaga. Also, losing Bulaga for the season isn't the Packers' biggest concern; there seems to be a lack of a running game (the Pack ranked 20th in rushing yards per game last year with 106.4). There are also issues with the secondary and certain parts of the special teams.
  2. Chicago Bears: Gone is Lovie Smith as head coach of the Bears after another 2nd-half collapse last season. Also gone is Brian Urlacher, who retired after negotiations with the Bears over a new contract fell apart. So this will be a new look team in the Windy City with new coach Marc Trestman. I like the fact that the Bears finally addressed the issue concerning their offensive line by drafting offensive guard Kyle Long and signing offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod.
  3. Detroit Lions: Reggie Bush will be a great addition to the Lions, but for a completely different reason. Bush is a Larry Centers-type who had 986 rushing yards and 292 receiving yards last year with the Dolphins. In addition to giving the Lions a bit of a running game, he provides Matthew Stafford with another throwing option. The rest of the running game will be hinged upon how well the O-Line does for Detroit this year. Another question to think about is can Calvin Johnson have a season like he did last year (122 receptions, 1,964 yards, five TDs).
  4. Minnesota Vikings: Now I'm not guaranteeing that Adrian Peterson (2,097 rushing yards and 12 TDs on 348 carries) will do better than last year. But Peterson has proven to be a legitimate threat in the backfield and should have another great season. However, he will likely be the Vikings' only means of offense; Minnesota ranked 31st in passing yards per game last year with 171.9. The Vikes drafted Cordarrelle Patterson with the 29th pick and acquired Greg Jennings in the offseason. Patterson is a project and Jennings is an injury risk, so Christian Ponder will have his hands full with the passing game this year. Still, this is a team that should finish no worse than 8-8 this year with the defensive line holding down the fort. Everson Griffen (8.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) and Jared Allen (45 tackles, 12.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble) will be forces to be reckoned with.


Monday, August 26, 2013

NFL Preview: AFC South and AFC West

     Here is part two of my NFL Preview. Last week, I covered the AFC East and the AFC North. This week, I'll be looking at the AFC South and the AFC West.
     AFC South
  1. Houston Texans: Getting Ed Reed was a big move for the Texans. The defensive line was already lethal with the likes of defensive ends J.J. Watt (81 tackles, four forced fumbles, 20.5 sacks) and Antonio Smith (7.0 sacks, two forced fumbles). But now Reed will bolster the secondary on the Texans team if he manages to stay healthy. As a matter of fact, health will be a major key in determining how far Houston goes this year. Andre Johnson had two straight injury-riddled campaigns before playing all 16 games in 2012. Matt Schaub had a lisfranc injury to his right foot in 2011. Hell, Arian Foster's been dealing with back problems throughout the entire offseason. But if the Texans can stay healthy, watch out.
  2. *Indianapolis Colts: Can Andrew Luck (54.1 comp. %, 4,374 passing yards, 23 TDs, 18 INTs, 10 fumbles) improve from last year and lead Indy back to the playoffs? One positive for the Colts is that Indianapolis was 4th in the NFL in converting 1st downs with 360. However, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft will have to cut back heavily on turning the ball over. Fortunately, he'll have some help with the additions of OT Gosder Cherilus and RB Ahmad Bradshaw. Receivers Reggie Wayne (106 receptions, 1,355 receiving yards, five touchdowns) and T.Y. Hilton (50 receptions, 861 receiving yards, seven TDs) will also help Luck. Still, it will all hinge on what kind of season Luck will turn out for the Colts.
  3. Tennessee Titans: I don't know what to make of Chris Johnson (276 carries, 1,243 rushing yards, six TDs). He claims that he's coming into this season leaner and more fit. But does he still have the passion that he had in 2009 when he ran for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns? He's not the only Titan with question marks, though. Can Jake Locker (56.4 comp. %, ten TDs, eleven INTs last year) improve his accuracy? Who will step up and take pressure off of Kenny Britt being Locker's only target? This is a jekyll-and-hyde team that could be pretty good or extremely disappointing.
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars: If you're looking for a good fantasy sleeper, take WR Cecil Shorts. In spite of only having 55 receptions and 979 receiving yards in 14 games and having past concussion problems, he also had 7 TDs. If Justin Blackmon can get his act together, then Blackmon and Shorts will be a receiving tandem to be reckoned with. Jacksonville also added veteran help on their D-Line by acquiring DE Jason Babin (7.0 sacks, four forced fumbles).
     AFC West
  1. Denver Broncos: After being out for the entire 2011 season, Peyton Manning made his return... in a Denver Broncos uniform. But that was the only difference last year as the 4-time NFL MVP threw for 4,659 yards and 37 TDs. Both Demaryius Thomas (94 receptions, 1,434 receiving yards, ten TDs) and Eric Decker (85 receptions, 1,064 receiving yards, 13 TDs) benefited from having Manning as quarterback (or helped him, whatever way you want to look at it). But now, Manning has another weapon in his arsenal; former New England Patriot (also former primary target of Tom Brady) Wes Welker has joined the team. Last year with the Pats, he had 118 receptions for 1,354 receiving yards and six touchdowns. However, there is one concern for Denver. The secondary isn't getting any younger; Champ Bailey is in his 15th season and Quentin Jammer's in his 12th. Luckily, the Broncos got Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (16 career INTs in six seasons) who'll provide some depth in the battered and aging secondary. Also, keep an eye on rookie running back Montee Ball.
  2. Kansas City Chiefs: This team is my AFC pick as the "Pleasant Surprise" team. The Chiefs got a great head coach in Andy Reid and have a great running back in Jamaal Charles (285 carries, 1,509 rushing yards, five TDs). Don't forget that the Chiefs' secondary was 9th in the NFL in fewest total receiving yards allowed on defense with 3,694. But there are question marks that persist. One can Alex Smith avoid getting hurt and show that he's able to put up good stats. Another issue is there any way that the Chiefs can improve their pass rush; they ranked 27th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game with 135.7. If everything turns out for the better, then KC will surprise a lot of people.
  3. San Diego Chargers: The window of opportunity for the Chargers to reach the Super Bowl is nearly shut. San Diego has a lot of wide receivers out and that includes Malcolm Floyd (knee) and Danario Alexander (out for the entire 2013 season with a torn right ACL). Their defense should be fun to watch, though. Dwight Freeney should be a good mentor for the young players on the D-Line and said that he's excited that the Chargers "will let him do what he does". Another interesting factor to watch will be how much of an impact Manti T'eo will have as a linebacker.
  4. Oakland Raiders: A giveaway/takeaway of -7. Carson Palmer, the quarterback who led the 8th-best passing attack in the NFL last year (255.3 passing yards per game), leaving for Arizona. One of the most penalized teams in the NFL (108 penalties for 939 yards). There's a lot of things that aren't going the way of the Raiders this year. One thing that isn't bad about Oakland is the defense. Being ranked 18th in total yards allowed in 2012 (5,672 yards) might not be something to brag about, but this defense is developing. With the likes of DE Andre Carter and CB Charles Woodson providing mentorship for their respective positions, the Raiders' defense will continue to develop.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

NFL Preview: AFC East and AFC North

     The NFL regular season is coming up quickly, so get your beer and reserve Sunday as a day exclusively for you and your buddies. That also means that the NFL previews and predictions are coming as well. Let's start off with two divisions in the AFC, which includes the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.

     AFC East:
  1. New England Patriots: The Patriots have had a eventful offseason, which includes signing ESPN's eye candy Tim Tebow, Wes Welker defecting to the Denver Broncos, Rob Gronkowski having back surgery, and the arrest of former tight end Aaron Hernandez for murder. In fact, Tom Brady suffered a scare when he hurt his knee during practice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on August 14. But keep an eye on rookie receiver Kendrell Thompkins, who has looked great this preseason and has shown some chemistry with Brady.
  2. *Miami Dolphins: The Fins gave their quarterback Ryan Tannehill a new toy by getting wide receiver Mike Wallace from the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is good news for Miami especially considering that their main divisional competition, New England, was ranked 29th in passing yards allowed per game last year. Wallace and Brian Hartline will be a sleeper receiving tandem in the NFL this year. But losing Dustin Keller for the season to a knee injury does hurt. OLB and 1st-round draft pick Dion Jordan will join DE Cameron Wake on the pass rush.
  3. Buffalo Bills: C.J. Spiller has the makings to become the next Barry Sanders: An elusive back who can gain lots of yards in spite of not having much of an offensive line. In fact, he might do better than the 1,244 yards and six touchdowns he had last year. But that will be the only reason for Bills fans to get excited aside from the special teams since there's not much else going on. 
  4. New York Jets: There's a lot of talk about Rex Ryan being on the hot seat, so don't be surprised if Mr. Foot Fetish gets canned next offseason. Also, don't be surprised if the Jets do something about Mark Sanchez in case he continues to disappoint. Darrelle Revis will be missed, but the Jets will have a deep secondary with Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson. The Jets' secondary allowed the 2nd-fewest yards in the NFL last year with 189.8 YPG in spite of only getting eleven interceptions.
     AFC North
  1. Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton has quietly led the Bengals to two straight playoff appearances, throwing for 3,669 yards and 27 TDs. This included three 300-yard passing games in his first six starts of last season. WR A.J. Green (97 receptions, 1,350 yards receiving, 11 TDs), TE Jermaine Gresham (64 receptions, 737 receiving yards, five TDs), and RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (278 carries, 1,094 rushing yards, six TDs) are also keys to the Bengals' offense. Signing James Harrison to bolster a defense that's already stingy helps.
  2. Baltimore Ravens: The defending Super Bowl champs will look A LOT different compared to last season. Ray Lewis and Rolando McClain retired. Ed Reed signed with the Houston Texans. Anquan Boldin was traded to the 49ers. But in return, they refueled by getting defensive ends Elvis Dumervil and Marcus Spears along with signing Joe Flacco to a new six-year deal worth $120.6 million. Flacco (3,817 passing yards, 22 TDs, ten INTs last year) has shown that he can be an elite QB, having a career completion rate of 60.5%. He also tied Joe Montana's postseason record for most touchdown passes without an interception with 11 last year. He also has a playoff record of 9-4.
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers: In spite of the Steelers being the best in total defense last season (4,413 yards allowed), their defense have garnered only 35 takeaways in the last two seasons combined. Their defense is also getting older and Ben Roethlisberger will miss having Mike Wallace to throw to. Roethlisberger must also stay healthy; Pittsburgh was 6-3and scoring 23 points a game before Big Ben went down with a rib injury and 2-5 with an average of 18.4 points per game after it. Draft pick Le'Veon Bell being out with a mid-foot sprain doesn't help either.
  4. Cleveland Browns: Watch for Trent Richardson to have a big season; he had 950 rushing yards on 267 carries and 11 TDs. The Browns are also taking baby steps forward with their linebackers, signing Paul Kruger and drafting Barkevious Mingo. Notably absent from the Browns' roster is return man and highlight reel Josh Cribbs, who has signed with the Oakland Raiders.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Watch This: Saving Face (Literally)

     Alex Rodriguez was beaned on Sunday by a pitch from Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster. A-Rod retaliated by hitting a home run. So what does this have to do with what I'm about to show you? To be honest, not much. But the following clip will show what kind of ninja-like instincts a pitcher can have. Take for example, Daniel Norris of the Lansing Lugnuts.
     On August 15th, Norris made an amazing catch in a game against the West Michigan Whitecaps. It was off of a line drive that nearly took Norris's head off.

     This video might be 14 seconds, but it could be some of the most amazing 14 seconds of your life.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

College Football Games to Watch This Year

     College football is almost here and that means that for many sports fans, Saturdays are going to be spent on the sofa. There's nothing like sitting at home with your buddies watching a college football game and having a beer. So what games should you be marking on your calenders aside from the Ohio State/Michigan games and Oklahoma/Texas games? Here's a laundry list of games to keep an eye on for every week:

  • North Carolina vs. South Carolina, August 29th: Battle of the Cackalackys.
  • Clemson vs. Georgia, August 31st: This game is being played at the Georgia Dome. Good primetime game to watch.
  • LSU vs. TCU, August 31st: This is the annual Cowboys Classic game. Also a primetime matchup.
  • Florida State vs. Pittsburgh, September 2nd 
  • Texas vs. Brigham Young, September 7th
  • Houston vs. Temple, September 7th: The premiere of the American Athletic Conference divisional play kicks off with the Cougars and the Owls. Houston had the 11th-most passing yards in NCAA FBS Football with 328.4 yards per game, while the Owls will miss Montel Harris.
  • Notre Dame vs. Michigan, September 7th: Both schools will go into this season without the likes of Manti T'eo and Denard Robinson. Still is always a good game to watch; the last four games between these two have been decided by a touchdown or less.
  • Air Force vs. Boise State, September 13th
  • Alabama vs. Texas A&M, September 14th: Johnny Football will miss the presence of Luke Joeckel as he takes on the stingy defense of the Crimson Tide.
  • Arizona State vs. Stanford, September 21st
  • Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech, September 26th
  • Wisconsin vs. Ohio State, September 28th: Should be a low scoring game. Urban Meyer has really brought along some talented linebackers to the Horseshoe in his first couple of years at Ohio State. The Buckeyes should also have a better D-Line with the likes of juniors Joel Hale and Michael Bennet taking over the inside.
  • Nevada vs. San Diego State, October 4th
  • West Virginia vs. Baylor, October 5th 
  • Arizona vs. USC, October 10th 
  • Rutgers vs. Louisville, October 10th
  • Michigan vs. Penn State, October 12th: Penn State rebounded nicely from the Sandusky scandal last year and could be the spoiler in the Big Ten.
  • Miami (FL) vs. North Carolina, October 17th
  • UCLA vs. Stanford, October 19th: The Bruins could play spoiler to the Cardinal's chances of getting to the BCS.
  • Nebraska vs. Minnesota, October 26th
  • Louisiana-Monroe vs. Troy, October 31st
  • Georgia vs. Florida, November 2nd
  • Oregon vs. Stanford, November 7th: This game could determine who could possibly be going to the Pac-12 Championship game. The Cardinal allowed the 11th-fewest points in the FBS last year, allowing only 17.2 per game. Meanwhile, Oregon will miss Kenjon Barner, who spearheaded the 2nd-best offense in the FBS (49.6 points per game) and the 3rd-best rushing attack (315.2 yards per game). QB Marcus Mariota will be the key to the Ducks offense, though.
  • LSU vs. Alabama, November 9th: Always a big game. Whoever can make the most off of turnovers will win this game.
  • Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh, November 9th
  • Ball State vs. Northern Illinois, November 13th
  • Oklahoma State vs. Texas, November 16th
  • Michigan State vs. Northwestern, November 23rd
  • Oklahoma vs. Kansas State, November 23rd
  • Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State, November 28th
  • Oregon State vs. Oregon, November 29th: The Civil War battle.
  • Louisville vs. Cincinnati, December 5th: In their last game in their only season in the American Athletic Conference, Terry Bridgewater and the Cardinals will have a tough road test on this day.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Geek Out Stat: Shivering Their Timbers

     For 20 straight years, the Pittsburgh Pirates have had a losing season. For a score of years, the Bucs have gone through what has seemed like an eternal rebuilding process. For two decades, Pittsburgh has gone through failed prospects like Bryan Bullington and Zach Duke. But the best team is baseball currently is none other than the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates. Yes, those Pittsburgh Pirates. The same Pirates who've endured twenty years of losing and mediocrity. They're not only on pace to break that trend this year, but they also appear to make their first postseason appearance since 1992 barring a complete collapse. So what has been the cause of the Pirates' good fortune and will Pittsburgh raise the World Series Champion flag in place of the Jolly Roger at the end of the postseason?
     It's a travesty that the Pirates' home park, PNC Park, hasn't hosted a single postseason game. It's often lauded and revered as being one of the nicest and most well-kept ballparks in the MLB. But this year will most likely be different with the current Pirates team thanks to the leadership of manager Clint Hurdle. His managerial record with the Pirates is 221-217 in three years, but he did finish 6th for the 2011 Manager of the Year award. In the past three years, Pittsburgh has managed to start off hot, often being in the playoff race by midseason. However, they've faded the previous two seasons below .500. However, it appears that the third time will be the charm thanks to outstanding pitching that will hold up come October.
     The Bucs lead the majors in team ERA (3.07) and opponents' batting average (.229). Jeff Locke (9-3, 2.47 ERA), Francisco Liriano (12-4, 106 SO, 2.02 ERA, 1.15 WHIP), and A.J. Burnett (2.73 ERA, 141 SO, 1.20 WHIP, .223 Opp. BA) have all been phenomenal starters for the Pirates, making for what is the best starting pitcher ERA in baseball (3.22). Here's an interesting statistic to accompany those numbers: Pittsburgh is 22nd in quality starts with 56. How is this the case? Look no further than the bullpen, which has been anchored by closer Jason Grilli, who has an ERA of 2.34, 30 saves, and 66 SO in 42.1 IP. The former Tiger might be currently out with a forearm injury, but he has been crucial for the Bucs' bullpen and should be returning soon. Other great arms in the pen for Pittsburgh have been Mark Melancon (26 holds, 0.83 ERA, 0.79 WHIP), Justin Wilson (10 holds, 2.14 ERA, 1.07 WHIP), and Tony Watson (15 holds, 3.21 ERA, 0.96 WHIP).
      It's strange how I've gone this far into the post just to mention how great Andrew McCutchen has been for the Bucs, which is a testament to how much better this Pittsburgh team is than years past. McCutchen is batting .313 with 16 HR, 65 RBI, and 24 stolen bases this season. He also has an OPS of .898, has only struck out 70 times this year, and has an offensive WAR of 5.3. Other productive members of the Pirates' lineup have been Starling Marte (10 HR, 30 RBI, 33 SB, 9 triples), Pedro Alvarez (27 HR, 74 RBI), and Russell Martin (10 HR, 42 RBI).
     It'll be fun watching this young Bucs' team compete in October. There's something to be said about how good pitching will win you titles and that could certainly be the case for Pittsburgh. Raise the Jolly Roger!!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why Las Vegas Isn't Ready for a Sports Team

     Capital of Second Chances. The Entertainment Capital of the World. The Marriage Capital of the World. The Gambling Capital of the World. Sin City. These are some of the names that most people would associate with the city that has a metropolitan population of 1,951,269. But one of the names that Las Vegas also garners is "The Major City Without a Professional Sports Team". Why is this the case? The reason is not just because of the gambling culture and adult entertainment.
     It's obvious that the concerns about illegal sports betting dampers the chances of a professional sports team in Las Vegas. However, that isn't the main reason for why there's an absence of a team in the area. The competition for the entertainment dollar in Las Vegas is congested. According to the American Gaming Association, the Vegas Strip generated the most annual casino revenue in 2012 at $6.207 billion. That's twice the revenue of the second-best casino market in the U.S., Atlantic City. A Vegas sports team will not only be competing with businesses in the Las Vegas Strip, but will also have to compete with the big names that are at the Strip. Shows like the Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil, and Celine Dion are a few of the big names that perform on the Strip.
     Another issue with having a sports team in Vegas is the television market. Las Vegas is the 42nd-largest TV market in the United States. This ranks behind the likes of Hartford/New Haven (#30), Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville/Anderson (#36), West Palm Beach/Ft. Pierce (#38), Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo/Battle Creek (#39), Birmingham (#40), and Harrisburg/Lancaster/Lebanon/York (#41), all of which don't have professional sports teams like Vegas. Of course, there are markets like Buffalo (#51) and New Orleans (#53) that have multiple sports teams and have a smaller market than Vegas. But those are only two of the six markets have a sports team if you consider Green Bay to be separate from Milwaukee.
     One other problem that Las Vegas has is the lack of a suitable venue. The Thomas & Mack Center, which has hosted the 2007 NBA All-Star Game and is the main venue for WWE events in Las Vegas, is thirty years old. The MGM Grand Garden Arena (Built in 1993) isn't much younger, not to mention the fact that it's located right in the MGM Grand Las Vegas. Building a new arena is no easy task, either. The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, the region's powerhouse marketing organization, has been sidelined from proposing a new NBA/NHL arena because of the corporate competition that the arena issue presents. Even Palms owner George Maloof has stated that they can't build an arena in Vegas without taxpayer assistance. He also added that the state's financial crisis proves that now isn't the best time to build one.
     Overall, the problem with Las Vegas having a professional sports team doesn't just stem from the gambling culture. There's also the competition for the entertainment dollar, the television market, and a lack of a suitable venue. It might seem odd that Sin City doesn't have a local team to look for. But Las Vegans are hoping that that thought will be wiped away in the near future.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Thoughts On the Trade Deadline

     The trade deadline has come and gone and I must say, I am a bit disappointed . There weren't as many moves made as there usually is during the trade deadline and the trades that did go down were only minor trades. I mean, I'm sure that Ian Kennedy going to the Padres won't do much for San Diego and the biggest trade of the whole thing didn't even happen on the day of the trade deadline. was a three-team deal that sent starting pitcher Jake Peavy to the Red Sox. No offense to Peavy or the Red Sox, but Peavy's 32 years old and although they are stacked at the shortstop position (They traded SS Jose Iglesias to the Tigers in the 3-team deal), Peavy does have an ERA of 4.28. Compared to last year, which saw Ryan Dempster get traded to the Rangers, Shane Victorino go to the Dodgers, and Hunter Pence going to the Giants, this hasn't had as many deals going down. No one wanted to take Cliff Lee and his massive contract. No one was willing to take a shot with Michael Young or Chase Utley. As a matter of fact, you could say that the Phillies are the biggest story of this trade deadline because they didn't do anything. Like many other teams, the Phillies weren't willing to give up certain prospects in proposed deals.
     Overall, this was one of the more disappointing trade deadlines to date. Instead of being a special day that was a lighter version of the NFL draft, it just came off as another day. Hopefully, next year won't disappoint and there will be more fireworks.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Trade Deadline Needs

     With the MLB Trade Deadline just around the corner, an array of contending teams are looking to make trades to fill voids for the playoffs. Here's a look at the various needs that certain teams will need in order to experience October baseball.

  • Detroit Tigers: Although Joaquin Benoit is 10 for 10 in save opportunities this season, he seems better suited as an 8th inning set-up man. Luke Gregorson of the San Diego Padres and Glen Perkins of the Minnesota Twins are possibilities if they don't get or go after Jonathan Papelbon.
  • Atlanta Braves: They lost Tim Hudson for the season to an ankle injury, so they could need a starting pitcher. Bud Norris of the Houston Astros will be a cheap pick-up, but Jake Peavy of the White Sox and Ervin Santana of the Kansas City Royals could also be available. Getting a right-handed bat could also help Atlanta immensely.
  • Boston Red Sox: Losing Clay Buchholz (9-0, 10 quality starts) really hurts the Red Sox rotation, so don't be surprised if Boston acquires Cliff Lee. Peavy's another possibility and Papelbon could make a return to Beantown.
  • Pittsburgh Pirates: The Bucs are 26th in baseball in runs scored and could use someone like Justin Morneau of the Twins. Nate Schierholtz of the Chicago Cubs is another possibility as is Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies. They could also shop for a temporary closer with Jason Grilli out with an arm strain. 
  • Oakland Athletics: The A's don't really need much, but getting a right-handed bat like Alex Rios of the Chicago White Sox won't hurt. There's also a chance that the A's could get Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets.
  • Arizona Diamondbacks: With the red-hot Dodgers in first place in the NL West, the D-Backs are suddenly in danger of falling out of contention. They need a reliever, so Jesse Crain of the White Sox is a possibility. They also need a starting pitcher, so they should be looking at Kyle Lohse of the Milwaukee Brewers and Ervin Santana.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Best Team Logos Ever

     During this offseason, the Dallas Stars unveiled their new logo. Out went the gold and in came the silver as the main logo consists of a silver star with a "D" in the center outlined by a black border and a green border.

     If you thought their primary logo looked sweet, check out the alternative logos:

     It got me thinking of some of the best logos in all of sports. Some of these you might agree with and some of them you might not. So here's the list (Thank you to for the info on these):

  • Baltimore Orioles Cartoon Bird II (2012-Present): 
      A more symmetrical version of the original Cartoon Bird that existed from 1966 to 1989, the new Orioles logo might've been a good luck charm for the team; Baltimore made the postseason for the first time in fifteen years.

  • Boston Patriots/New England Patriots Hiking Patriot (1965-1992):

    This logo was an more no-nonsense upgrade over the previous logo in which the Patriot's face was more cartoonish.

  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish Leprachaun (1973-Present):

     You've all seen this one and some of you are big fans of it. But one of their alternate logos, which lasted from 1963 to 1983, had a much more Gaelic look than this logo.

  • Hartford Whalers Whale Tail (1979-1997):

     Before they relocated to North Carolina, the Hartford Whalers were one of the more popular teams amongst true NHL fans. Cool logo, great hockey location, and the "Brass Bonanza" were all reasons to get behind the Whalers.

  • Atlanta Braves Native American (1967-1989):

     This logo has been synonymous with Braves baseball for almost half a century. Now an alternate logo, this is the logo that the great Hank Aaron donned for the majority of his career.

  • Chicago Bulls Raging Bull (1967-Present):

      The only logo on this list to haven't been altered for almost fifty years and one of the few logos to be the sole primary logo for a team, the Bull has withstood the test of time. Michael Jordan and company made this logo famous during the 1990's.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Power of Brotherhood

     On Tuesday, the Carolina Hurricanes signed right winger Jared Staal to a one-year, two-way deal. The two-way part is Staal making $550,000 on the NHL level or $60,000 at the minor league level this season. He spent most of last season in the minors before making his NHL debut on April 25. So why is this news significant?
     Well, it's because of the fact that Jared Staal isn't the only Staal playing for the Carolina Hurricanes. He'll get to play alongside his brothers Eric and Jordan. Eric Staal is the team captain of the Canes while Jordan Staal is a forward. Jared is the youngest of four Staal brothers and his April 25th debut marked the fourth time in league history that three brothers played for the same team during the same season.
     So does the strategy of literal kinship on a team actually work? Well, Eric Staal did have 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists) in a lockout-shortened season last year. That was good enough for sixth in the league. He also averaged 1.10 points per game last year in an average time on ice of 21 minutes, which was good for Carolina. On the other hand, his brother Jordan didn't fare as well. He amassed only 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) last year while having a plus/minus rating of -18. He averaged almost as much ice time as his brother Eric, having been on the ice for an average of 20:06. Considering that Jared Staal hasn't seen much ice time in his career, you can say that the glass is half full for the brotherly experiment. But at least they aren't the Upton brothers of the Atlanta Braves.
     Both B.J. and Justin Upton were signed by the Atlanta Braves this offseason in hopes of boosting the lineup that would be without a retiring Chipper Jones for the first time in almost two decades. The Braves are currently in first place in the NL East, holding a six-game lead over the Nats (largest in baseball). This is in spite of the Upton brothers, who have underachieved for most of the season for Atlanta. Justin Upton did get off to a hot start, batting .298 with 12 home runs and 19 RBIs for the month of April. But he has cooled off since then, batting .255 with 16 home runs and 45 RBIs. His brother hasn't been too successful, either. B.J. Upton is currently batting .177 with eight home runs and twenty RBIs. In fact, the brothers have combined for a whopping 202 strikeouts this season.
     Other examples of brotherly companionship on the same team includes Cal and Billy Ripken (Both played together for the Baltimore Orioles from 1987 to 1992) and Phil and Joe Niekro (Both pitched together for the Atlanta Braves from 1973 to 1974 and both reunited with the New York Yankees in 1985). There's more out there, but these are a few of the examples of brothers playing on the same team. Remember, two (or more) heads are better than one!!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Great Home Run Derby Performances and Moments

     Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics put on a show in last night's Home Run Derby. He jacked 32 homers en route to his victory over the likes of Bryce Harper, Prince Fielder, and Chris Davis. In honor of Yoenis's stellar performance, here are some other great Home Run Derby performances and memorable moments to watch:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Midseason Report: The AL West

     AL West: The Los Angeles Angels were expected to be on top of this division this year. However, they've started off slow and have been under .500 for most, if not all, of the first half. But now, the Halos seemed to have turned things around and are slowly climbing up in the division. Meanwhile, the Oakland A's and the Texas Rangers have been duking it out for the top spot in the division. What will happen in the AL West during the second half of the season?

  1. Oakland Athletics: Oakland hasn't lost a step from last year's surprising AL West division title, sitting on top of the AL West once again. But this time, the bats are making noise as well. The A's are 8th in runs scored with 423 runs this year. They are also 3rd in the majors against left-handed pitching in runs scored with 135. All of this run scoring is thanks to third baseman Josh Donaldson (.310, 15 HR, 58 RBI), who has been a huge contribution. Donaldson, first baseman Brandon Moss (16 HR), and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (15 HR) have been Oakland's primary mashers in 2013. Throw in a surprising starter in ageless wonder Bartolo Colon (12-3, 2.69 ERA, 15 BB) and an elite closer in Grant Balfour (24 saves, 1.72 ERA) and you have an Athletics team that could make it to the Fall Classic. Must Fix: As good as the A's have been in scoring runs this season, their ability to create base hits has been a problem. The reason for why Oakland's 8th in MLB in runs scored is mainly due to a combination of taking a lot of walks and timely hitting. Their pinch-hit batting average is a mere .123, good for last in baseball (Their team BA is .246, good for 20th). They'll need some hitters that can come into late-game situations and provide some key hits.
  2. Texas Rangers: The Rangers have proven that they do not miss Josh Hamilton one bit. Nelson Cruz is still in Arlington and he's got 115 hits, 22 home runs, and 68 RBIs. Also providing offense for the Rangers is third baseman Adrian Beltre (.314, 20 HR, 53 RBI, 53 runs), Ian Kinsler (.290, 9 HR, 36 RBI), and rookie Leonys Martin (.291, 5 triples, 18 SB). There's even some good news for Nolan Ryan's squad concerning team ace and AL strikeout leader Yu Darvish. Tests on Darvish's trapezius muscle came back normal, meaning that Darvish will be back in the minimum 15 days from the 15-day disabled list. Must Fix: Texas is fortunate to have dodged a bullet with Darvish, because they already have enough players on the disabled list. Players like Lance Berkman (hip) and Alexi Ogando (shoulder) are missing from this Rangers' roster. Texas needs to stay healthy and get their injured players back as soon as possible.
  3. Los Angeles Angels: In spite of a slow start from star acquisition Josh Hamilton (.204 BA in the month of April) and from the entire Angels team (27-38 in their first 65 games), the Halos are now hovering around .500. Albert Pujols (15 HR, 57 RBI), young phenom Mike Trout (.323 BA, .402 OBP, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 21 SB, 117 hits), second baseman Howie Kendrick (.305, 11 HR, 40 RBI), and designated hitter Mark Trumbo (20 HR, 56 RBI) have all kept the Angels' season alive. In fact, it isn't far-fetched to say that Trout is a legitimate MVP candidate once again in 2013. Must Fix: Ironically, Josh Hamilton hasn't been the main reason for the Halos' early woes. They were without Jered Weaver for a couple of months with left elbow issues and opponents are batting .274 against their starting pitchers. If they want to make a challenge for the AL West crown or even a wild-card spot, their starters need to strike out more batters and give up less hits.
  4. Seattle Mariners: The All-Star pitching duo of Felix Hernandez (9-4, 2.69 ERA, 136 SO, 1.11 WHIP) and Hisashi Iwakuma (7-4, 2.97 ERA, 106 SO, 0.92 WHIP) has been must-see MLB for the Puget Sound. They also have one of the best farm systems in baseball with guys like Danny Hultzen throwing well in Triple-A. There have also been a pleasant surprise from an older Mariner; Raul Ibanez has 24 home runs and 54 RBIs this year. 16 of those were hit at Safeco Field, which isn't really known to be a home-run park. Must Fix: The only way that Seattle can compete with the rest of the AL West is if they can find a batter that can adjust to Safeco's cavernous dimensions. Kyle Seager (.290, 15 HR, 44 RBI) and offseason acquisition Kendrys Morales (.281, 14 HR, 54 RBI) have provided the lineup with some spark. However, the rest of the bats need to find a way to create runs in a pitcher's park.
  5. Houston Astros: Expected to be the AL West cellar dwellers, the Astros have lived up to their billing with a record of 33-59. This is a young team that needs a few years to develop in order to compete in the MLB. Luckily, they have a number one pick in Mark Appel that they will look forward to seeing in the near future along with plenty of other great prospects. Once players like Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart come up, this will be a fun team to watch. Must Fix: There's nothing that Houston can really do right now. They'll just need to wait out the season and probably next season in order to give their current guys some experience under their belts.
Revised Predictions

     AL East Champions: Baltimore Orioles: If Chris Davis continues mashing home runs and the rest of the lineup keeps up its offensive production, then Baltimore will take a ride to the top of the AL East.
     AL Central Champions: Detroit Tigers: There's a small chance that Cleveland will win the Central. With Victor Martinez heating up, Max Scherzer blowing through batters, and Miguel Cabrera tearing the league up, the Tigers should come out on top.
     AL West Champions: Texas Rangers: It's going to be a dog fight for the AL West this time around, but Texas should win the AL West crown this time. Don't be surprised if Oakland wins back-to-back AL West titles, however.
     AL Wild-Cards: Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics: Both teams will have stiff competition coming down the stretch. But they have enough pieces to clinch the final playoff spots.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Midseason Report: AL Central

     What seemed like it was the Tigers' division to lose on paper has turned into a two, maybe three, team race in the AL Central. The Cleveland Indians have gotten off to a hot start and are giving the Tigers a good run for their money thanks to the likes of new manager Terry Francona, Jason Kipnis, and Carlos Santana. Can the Indians keep up and possibly overtake Detroit or will they suffer from their annual second-half swoon?

  1. Detroit Tigers: Detroit is the talk of the MLB community with the likes of third baseman Miguel Cabrera and starting pitcher Max Scherzer. The reigning MVP and last year's Triple Crown winner hasn't lost a step, hitting .363 with 29 home runs and 92 RBIs. As for Scherzer, he's 13-0 this season with an ERA of 3.06, a WHIP of 0.95, and 146 strikeouts. What's more is that this is a down-year for Justin Verlander (9-6, 3.71 ERA, 122 SO). Must Fix: The Tigers have had closer issues for the majority of the 1st half. Jose Valverde (5.59 ERA, 9 for 12 in save opportunities) has been mundane this year and Bruce Rondon doesn't appear to be ready assume the closer's role yet. Fortunately, Joaquin Benoit (1.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7 saves) seems to be the solution for the Tigers currently.
  2. Cleveland Indians: Surprise!!! Cleveland's 47-43 right now and is sitting in 2nd place in the AL Central. Why? Because of second baseman Kipnis (.293, 13 HR, 54 RBI, 20 SB), left fielder Michael Brantley (.283, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 9 SB), and catcher Santana (11 HR, 40 RBI). Fun fact: The Tribe is tied with Boston for 3rd in the majors in stolen bases with 70 swiped bags. Must Fix: Someone not named Justin Masterson (10-7, 3.69 ERA, 134 SO) needs to step up in the rotation. As a matter of fact, Cleveland pitching in general (4.41 team ERA) needs to improve. The Indians have walked the most batters in the majors this season with 327 walks. 
  3. Kansas City Royals: Getting James Shields from the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason has appeared to have paid off for the Royals at the moment. His record might be 4-6, but he has an ERA of 3.12 and has struck out 112 batters. He's also holding opponents to a .246 batting average this year. Kansas City has also gotten help from its pitching. Shields hasn't been the only pitcher that has been great for the Royals. Ervin Santana (94 SO, 1.05 WHIP, 2.90 ERA) has been a great help for Kansas City. They also have a great bullpen (2.94 ERA, .226 BA for opp.) and a great closer in Greg Holland. He's saved 22 games for Kansas City this year and has an ERA of 1.80 and a WHIP of 0.91. Must Fix: In spite of the fact that they're sending two players from their lineup to the All-Star Game (left fielder Alex Gordon and catcher Salvador Perez), their lineup ranks 22nd in baseball in runs scored this year with 353. Granted, they have three guys with 40+ RBIs (Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Billy Butler) and four guys hitting above .280 (Perez, Hosmer, Gordon, and David Lough). But they have a team OPS of .693 and a team slugging percentage of .381.
  4. Minnesota Twins: Good news for Twins fans: Minnesota's farm system is touted as being one of the best in baseball by many baseball scouts and executives. Meanwhile, catcher Joe Mauer (.311 BA, .392 OBP, 104 hits) has been Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau (7 HR, 51 RBI) is showing signs of life after suffering a concussion a few years back. Minnesota also has a valuable trading piece in closer Glen Perkins. In 32 2/3 IP in 2013, Perkins has struck out 45 batters while only walking seven batters and saving 20 games. He also has an ERA of 1.93. Must Fix: It'll take some time for the prospects in the farm system to develop, so the Twins will have to work with what they got. But you can guarantee that Minnesota is excited about its future.
  5. Chicago White Sox: Chris Sale has picked up where he left off from last year. He has a 2.78 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 123 strikeouts this year. Jose Quintana has also been productive for the rotation with a 3.67 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP this season. Their bullpen has also been terrific; Addison Reed has 22 saves and 42 strikeouts in 39 IP and Jesse Crain (0.74 ERA, 19 holds) was named an All-Star before shoulder problems sidelined him. Must Fix: In spite of Sale's outstanding statistics, he has a record of 5-8. This is due to the fact that White Sox pitchers have one of the lowest run support averages in the majors (0.13 RS per start). As a matter of fact, Chicago's South Side ballclub ranks 29th in runs scored with 325 runs scored and 28th in on-base percentage with a team OBP of .299. Another issue for Chicago has been injuries. Losing Paul Konerko to a strained lower back hurts this club immensely.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Midseason Report: The American League East

     Now that I've looked at the National League, I'm going to get in depth on how the American League has fared so far and what's to come division by division.

     AL East: The AL East has lived up to its billing as being one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Anyone can win this division and everyone has a shot at the postseason. There's a good possibility that this division will claim both wild cards by the end of the regular season.

  1. Boston Red Sox: Under new manager John Farrell, the Red Sox have the best record in the AL. They have scored the most runs in baseball (458) thanks to the likes of David Ortiz (.313, 17 HR, 61 RBI, .399 OBP), second baseman Dustin Pedroia (.321, 111 hits, 50 RBI, .401 OBP, 13 SB), Mike Napoli, (10 HR, 55 RBI), Jacoby Ellsbury (.301, 107 hits, 36 SB), Daniel Nava (.294, 10 HR, 50 RBI), and rookie Jose Iglesias (.395, 1 HR, 12 RBI, .446 OBP in 152 ABs). In the rotation, Clay Buchholz has been outstanding (9-0, 1.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 81 SO), but is on the 15-day DL with neck problems. Must Fix: Losing Buchholz hurts the Red Sox immensely. John Lackey (6-6, 2.80 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) has been the best starter on the staff this year aside from Buchholz. Jon Lester (8-4, 4.41 ERA) hasn't pitched as well as his record indicates and Ryan Dempster (5-8, 49 BB, 100 SO, 4.04 ERA) has the most walks on the team (and the most strikeouts on the team). There's no timetable for Buchholz to return, so Boston needs Lester and Dempster to turn it around. They could also use a closer.
  2. Baltimore Orioles: First baseman Chris "Crush" Davis has made a solid case for AL MVP so far. He's hit .320 with 33 home runs, 85 RBIs, and an 1.106 OPS. Third baseman Manny Machado (.312, 119 hits, 42 RBIs, 39 doubles), center fielder Adam Jones (.289, 16 HR, 61 RBI, 9 SB), and second baseman J.J. Hardy (15 HR, 46 RBI) have also fueled the second-best offense in the MLB. Must Fix: Baltimore has had a below-average rotation throughout the season. But they just acquired Scott Feldman from the Cubs, which is a nice addition. But they'll need more help than that if they're to become a legitimate World Series contender.
  3. Tampa Bay Rays: Tampa Bay is 49-40, but not because of its pitching. First baseman James Loney (.317, 9 HR, 43 RBI) has been impressive and third baseman Evan Longoria (.289, 17 HR, 49 RBI) has been Evan Longoria. Starting pitcher Matt Moore has been quite as impressive, if not more. He started the season 8-0 with an ERA of 2.18. Must Fix: Moore might've been impressive to start off the season, but he's gone 3-3 in his last six starts. He went 2-3 with an ERA of 8.39 throughout the month of June. Last year's Cy Young winner David Price has been an utter disappointment the entire season. He's 3-4 with an ERA of 4.18, but that was due to triceps issues. The Tampa rotation needs to return to form in order to become a legitimate contender in the AL.
  4. New York Yankees: Projected by many to fall off the map, the Yankees are fortunate to be at 45-39. Robinson Cano (.293, 20 HR, 58 RBI) is to thank for keeping the Bronx Bombers afloat along with the second-best fielding in baseball (34 errors, .989 fielding percentage). But still, New York has been hampered by injuries to the likes of Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and even Derek Jeter. To make matters worse, the whole A-Rod drama is swirling above the team's head like a massive dark cloud. Must Fix: The Yankees must stay healthy. Teixeira is out for the rest of the season, so that doesn't help. But the Yankees must keep themselves from suffering any injuries that'll set them back. They must also resolve the A-Rod controversy.
  5. Toronto Blue Jays: Predicted to be a World Series team by plenty of analysts, the Blue Jays have been an enigma. Jose Bautista (20 HR, 52 RBI) has turned it up and first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (23 HR, 68 RBI) has provided a lot of pop. The Jays (2.93 ERA) also have the 3rd best bullpen in the majors. Must Fix: Toronto's rotation has the third highest ERA in baseball (5.02), which has been a reason for why the Jays started off so slow. Pitchers like Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey need to pick up the slack.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Midseason Report: The National League

     This year has made for some intriguing baseball. There have been plenty of fun storylines to go around in baseball and this year plans on being one of the best seasons in history. We've already reached the midway point of the 2013 season, so it's time to take a look at how each team has done so far and what's to come. Let's start off with the National League.

NL East: Dubbed as being one of the weakest divisions in baseball during the season, the NL East has been a one-team show consisting of just the Atlanta Braves. Pitching is also the name of the game in this division. At the current rate, it seems to likely stay that way even if Bryce Harper returns for the Nationals.
  1. Atlanta Braves: The Braves started off the season 12-1 thanks to Justin Upton. They've maintained their stranglehold on the NL East thanks to their bullpen, which has the best ERA in the MLB at 2.70, and their rotation, which has the 4th-best ERA in baseball at 3.42. Fun fact for you: no Braves pitcher has thrown a complete game this year. Anyways, this division is Atlanta's to lose if their pitching holds up. Also, good news for Braves fans: "El Oso Blanco" Evan Gattis is eligible to return to the lineup on July 3rd. Must Fix: The Bravos' lineup must cut back on the strikeouts. Only Houston (749 SO to Atlanta's 716) has whiffed more at the plate than the Braves. The Upton brothers have combined for a whopping 177 SO this season.
  2. Washington Nationals: The Nats mainly have Jordan Zimmermann (11-3, 2.28 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) to thank for keeping them above .500 at this point and their playoff hopes aren't looking all that bright. The club is 29th in runs scored with 282 runs this year. Even when Bryce Harper returns, he can't be the only bat carrying the lineup. Must Fix: The Nats have Jayson Werth back and are getting Harper back very soon, so their lineup needs to start producing. Otherwise, Washington's playoff hopes will hit a wall.
  3. Philadelphia Phillies: Left fielder Domonic Brown (.866 OPS, 21 HR, 57 RBI) has been a pleasant surprise for the Phils this year and second baseman Chase Utley (.284, 11 HR, 30 RBI) has bounced back. In the rotation, ace Cliff Lee (9-2, 2.59 ERA, 115 SO, 0.97 WHIP) has been solid along with Kyle Kendrick (7-4, 3.46 ERA). If Cole Hamels (2-11, 4.58 ERA) can turn it around, then this club could make some noise. Must Fix: Philly's bullpen ranks 29th in ERA at 4.56 and is 28th in opponent's BA at .268. Jonathan Papelbon (15 saves, 2.05 ERA, 27 SO in 30.2 IP, 0.88 WHIP) has been as good as advertised, but the set-up men have been lackluster. If the Phillies are in contention by late July, they should look into trading for some arms in the bullpen, namely White Sox RP Jesse Crain (0.74 ERA, 19 holds, 46 SO in 36.2 IP).
  4. New York Mets: Behind the stellar young arm of Matt Harvey (7-1, 2.00 ERA, 132 SO, 0.85 WHIP), the Mets have become very optimistic about their future. On the hitting side, Third baseman David Wright (.304, 12 HR, 41 RBI, 14 SB) has been stellar. Must Fix: New York needs to not only build a rotation around Harvey, but build a lineup around Wright. The Mets are dead last in team BA at .230 and 28th in OBP at .296. The Mets also need to get their bullpen fixed.
  5. Miami Marlins: One positive note for the Fins is that they're 7-3 in their last ten games. Jose Fernandez (4-4, 2.98 ERA, 84 SO) has been a nice surprise for Miami with his slider and Jacob Turner (1.76 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 27 SO) has looked solid in his six starts this season. But knowing how this franchise is run, these players will be on the trading block in the future. Must Fix: Everything else. Oh, and Giancarlo Stanton turning it around helps as well.
NL Central: What appeared to be a two-team race between St. Louis and Cincinnati before the season began has turned out to be one of the toughest divisions in baseball. The best record in baseball at 50-34 belongs to the Pittsburgh Pirates (!!!!), while the Reds and Cardinals have not disappointed. With the way that the other two divisions in the NL are playing right now, the NL Central could very well take both wild card spots in the National League.
  1. Pittsburgh Pirates: Ladies and gentlemen, the team with the best record in baseball right now. No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. The Pittsburgh Pirates are number one in the MLB right now. Their rotation has thrown twelve shutouts this year while holding opponents to a .232 BA, tops in baseball. They also currently have one of the better closers in the game in Jason Grilli (27 saves, 1.72 ERA, 59 SO in 36.2 IP, 0.85 WHIP) right now. They also have base-stealing threats in Andrew McCutchen (16 SB) and Starling Marte (22 SB). Must Fix: While the Pirates do have a couple of bag swipers, their offensive production is their weak spot. The Bucs are 5th in the MLB in strikeouts at 674 and McCutchen (.293, 9 HR, 41 RBI) and Marte (.287, 26 RBI) are the only bats in the lineup that are batting above .280. This could be a problem for Pittsburgh if their pitching collapses in the second half.
  2. St. Louis Cardinals: The Cards boast the best rotation in the majors with the likes of Adam Wainwright (11-5, 2.22 ERA, 114 SO, 0.99 WHIP), Shelby Miller (8-6, 2.79 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 101 SO), and Lance Lynn (10-2, 3.52 ERA, 98 SO, 1.16 WHIP). The St. Louis lineup has been just as impressive; the Cardinals have four players (Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig, and Matt Carpenter) hitting above .300 right now. They're even outstanding fielders, committing only 31 errors this season. Must Fix: There really isn't much to fix for St. Louis aside from some bullpen help.
  3. Cincinnati Reds: Hitting for a good average doesn't really matter to a good majority of this lineup. First baseman Joey Votto (.326, 14 HR, 38 RBI) is the only Red hitting above .300, yet second baseman Brandon Phillips (.268, 11 HR, 61 RBI), right fielder Jay Bruce (.278, 18 HR, 56 RBI), and center fielder Shin-Soo Choo (.268, 12 HR, 28 RBI, .418 OBP) have all been productive for the Reds' lineup. Keep in mind that the Reds are tied for 3rd in the majors in BB with 291 walks. Cincinnati also has the 3rd-best ERA for starting pitching in the majors at 3.34 while having 506 IP. That's all thanks to the one-two punch of Mat Latos (7-2, 3.03 ERA, 103 SO) and Mike Leake (7-3, 2.52 ERA). Must Fix: The Reds are batting .199 from the catcher position this year with only 5 HR and 29 RBI. There aren't many catchers on the trade market, but the best fit would have to be Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy (.268, 8 HR, 42 RBI). 
  4. Milwaukee Brewers: Losing Ryan Braun to a thumb injury hurts and it's shown in the last four to five games for the Brew Crew. They're 8th in baseball in batting average at .260, yet they're 21st in runs scored with 316 runs. Braun's presence in the lineup is greatly missed. Must Fix: Again, this lineup isn't the same without Braun in it, especially with runners in scoring position and two outs. The Brewers have only scored 76 runs in this situation, ahead of just Seattle (66 runs).
  5. Chicago Cubs: Things are looking up for Cubs fans as their pitching not only has the eighth-best WHIP in baseball (1.24), but also the fifth-best opponent's BA (.243). Travis Wood (2.85 ERA, 1.00 WHIP), Jeff Samardzija (3.34 ERA, 123 SO), and Scott Feldman (7-6, 3.46 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) have all made Theo Epstein look like the genius that he is. Must Fix: They've already fixed their Carlos Marmol problem, who has accounted for three of the Cubs' 16 blown saves this season. Just save the lead when it matters the most.
NL West: This division has been the most topsy-turvy division in baseball this season. San Francisco and Los Angeles have fallen to the bottom of the division while Colorado and San Diego are in 2nd and 3rd place respectively. Somebody's going to win this division, but it looks like a down year for the NL West.
  1. Arizona Diamondbacks: The D-Backs are in first place thanks to the likes of Paul Goldschmidt. The first baseman is having an MVP-caliber season batting .306 while hitting 19 home runs and 67 RBIs. What's more impressive is that the team has gone 85 games without being shutout. Arizona's also a great fielding team, having only committed 36 errors on the season with a .988 fielding percentage. Must Fix: Arizona's 4.17 starter ERA is actually very deceiving. Patrick Corbin (9-0, 2.22 ERA, 85 SO, 1.00 WHIP) has been the Diamondbacks' best starter hands down. Philadelphia's Cliff Lee might be a bit of a reach, but Houston's Bud Norris (3.35 ERA, 71 SO) is a good option as is Milwaukee's Kyle Lohse.
  2. San Diego Padres: Shortstop Everth Cabrera (.305, 31 SB, .382 OBP) has been a great catalyst for this surprising ballclub. He has a good chance of making it to Citi Field for the All-Star Game in a few weeks. The Padres (69 SB) have the most stolen bases in baseball as a result of Cabrera. Their bullpen also has some great arms with the likes of Luke Gregorson (2.60 ERA, 12 holds, 1.01 WHIP) and Dale Thayer (3.44 ERA, 14 holds, 0.98 WHIP). Must Fix: This is a young ballclub that just needs time to develop. They won't make the postseason this year, but they'll be a contender in a few years. They have one of the best farm systems in baseball right now, so they have a bright future ahead of them.
  3. Colorado Rockies: Colorado has also been a pleasant surprise thanks to the likes of left fielder Carlos Gonzalez (.296, 22 HR, 60 RBI, 15 SB) and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (.347, 16 HR, 51 RBI, .413 OBP). Right fielder Michael Cuddyer also has a 27-game hitting streak for the 6th-best offense in baseball. As a matter of fact, this team's fifth in the majors in stolen bases with 62. Must Fix: They need Tulowitzki to come back from his rib injury and return to the same form that he's had for much of the season. They could sneak into the playoffs as long as Tulowitzki continues to produce for the Rockies.
  4. San Francisco Giants: The defending champs have underwhelmed this season, sitting three games under .500 and going 2-8 in their last ten games. Catcher and reigning MVP Buster Posey (.322, 12 HR, 48 RBI) has been good as advertised, but the rotation hasn't. Madison Bumgarner (8-5, 3.08 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 107 SO) has been the best pitcher on this staff this year, but Matt Cain (5-4, 4.29 ERA, 101 SO, 1.07 WHIP) is starting to come around. Must Fix: This team won the 2012 World Series on the backs of Cain, Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 7.19 ERA, 40 SO in 2013), and Barry Zito (4-6, 4.53 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 59 SO this year). What's more is that former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum (10-15, 5.18 ERA, -2.0 WAR last year) had a terrible season in 2012 and this year is no different. Lincecum's 4-8 with a 4.64 ERA and a WAR of -1.0. Vogelsong's been out with an injured pinky and Zito and Cain have underperformed. In short, the staff must find their groove.
  5. Los Angeles Dodgers: Yasiel Puig (.436, 7 HR, 16 RBI, .467 OBP in 101 AB) is this year's Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw (2.08 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 118 SO) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-3, 2.83 ERA, 87 SO) have been one of the best one-two combos in baseball. So why are the Dodgers in last place? They've been hampered by injuries to the likes of Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, and Ted Lilly. They've also been unable to score runs, for they're 28th in the MLB in runs scored with 288. Must Fix: Los Angeles needs to avoid any more injuries and they need to get healthy as soon as possible. Considering that the rest of the NL West is down, the Dodgers just might be within shouting distance of 1st place by the All-Star Break..
Revised Predictions

  • NL East Champ: Atlanta Braves. Unless Washington (Or Philly) finds some offense and catch fire or the Braves collapse, then this division is Atlanta's to lose.
  • NL Central Champ: St. Louis Cardinals. Perhaps the most complete team in the National League.
  • NL West Champ: Los Angeles Dodgers. Many ifs, however. If Puig keeps tearing up the league, if Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier return to his All-Star forms, and if Hanley Ramirez continues his offensive production (to name a few), then the Dodgers will make a run. This division is currently up for grabs, so it could also be Arizona, San Francisco, or even Colorado.
  • NL Wild Cards: Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds are balanced and the Pirates are here to stay thanks to their pitching.