Monday, April 29, 2013

Baseball Fun Facts

     I've comprised a list of some fun MLB facts going into the first few weeks of the season. Here are some fact nuggets for you to chew on!!

  • The Oakland A's are winless when scoring fewer than 4 runs this year.
  • Bryce Harper (1.7 WAR) has a higher WAR than Mike Trout (0.6 WAR). So does Miguel Cabrera (1.0 WAR).
  • Braves left fielder Justin Upton leads the majors in home runs with 12. He has more home runs than the entire Miami Marlins squad. However, he only has 18 RBIs so far.
  • The Texas Rangers are 16-9... due to their pitching. They have the lowest ERA in the MLB (2.92) and WHIP (1.15). The team that's second in ERA? Their 2011 World Series opponent St. Louis (3.04). Last year's World Series teams San Francisco (3.64) and Detroit (3.74) are 13th and 14th in ERA, respectively.
  • In spite of being in first place in the NL West at 15-10, the Arizona Diamondbacks have blown the most saves in the majors (8 blown saves). Their team save percentage (47%) is only higher than the Los Angeles Angels (43%).
  • Chicago is nicknamed the "City of Broad Shoulders" and rightfully so. The Cubs and the White Sox are tied for last in the majors in run support average at 0.30 RS. The two Windy City clubs also take the fewest walks in the majors, for they are tied for last with only 50 BB.
  • The Tigers might often be berated for having a bad defense on paper, but they've committed the fewest errors in the majors with six. The team that's committed the most? Washington, who has made 21 errors. Boy, that Ryan Zimmerman knows how to field (He already has 4 errors)...
  • The National League knows a thing or two about making sacrifices. The top ten in sacrifice hits consists entirely of National League teams with St. Louis and San Francisco at the top with 16 SH.
  • Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells leads all AL outfielders in WAR with a 1.5 WAR. Yes, THAT Vernon Wells.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Heat Wave

     The Miami Heat have had one of the most impressive seasons to date. They finished with the best record in the NBA at 66-16, clinched home court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs, and had a jaw-dropping 27-game winning streak to boot. It already seems like the defending champions are ready to take the NBA by storm once again. Can anybody take down LeBron James and company this season?
     Looking at the NBA Eastern Conference, the Heat don't have much standing in their way. Their first-round opponent, the Milwaukee Bucks, finished the season 38-44 and are 20th in the NBA in points allowed per game (100.4 ppg). There's not much else in terms of competition for Miami, too. The Boston Celtics lost Ray Allen last offseason (ironically enough, he went to the Heat) and are an aging team. The Chicago Bulls don't even know when their star point guard Derrick Rose is going to return and he gives Chicago the best chance to upend the Heat. The Atlanta Hawks are great at distributing the ball around, but aren't an outstanding rebound team. The Brooklyn Nets don't have enough bench depth to keep up with the Heat. So what about the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers?
     Well, the good news for both of these teams is that the Knicks and Pacers are a combined 5-2 this season against Miami. The bad news is that these two teams will likely have to face other in the conference quarterfinals. So who wins here? The Knicks have a lot of scoring, especially with Carmelo Anthony averaging 28.7 points per game this season. As a team, New York averages 100 points a game. However, they are a weak rebounding team that heavily relies on the three-ball to score. Fortunately for the Knicks, they were tied for fourth in 3-point shooting percentage at .376, but they ranked 18th in field goal percentage at .448. The Pacers, on the other hand, may not score a lot. But they'll make sure that you won't score many points, either. They allowed the second-fewest points in the NBA this season (90.7 ppg allowed) and also topped the NBA in rebounds per game at 45.9 rpg. That's why Indiana's the biggest threat to the Miami Heat. If they can get Roy Hibbert involved as much as possible if they play the Heat, the Pacers could give Miami a run for their money.
     Which brings me to my next point. Just because nobody can beat the Heat doesn't mean that the Heat are perfect. Miami was dead last in team rebounds per game with 38.6 rpg. Yes, they might be able to score points in bunches. But they have to be on key every time they take a shot or else they'll give opponents a chance to make a run. They also ranked 16th in free throw percentage with a .754 free throw percentage, so opponents will likely take a chance on getting the Heat to the foul line as much as possible.
     There isn't much competition out west, either. San Antonio's getting older, Oklahoma City doesn't have James Harden anymore, Memphis doesn't score enough points in spite of having the best defense in the NBA, and the Nuggets can't defend and make a free throw. Stopping the Heat from repeating looks to be unlikely barring a freak injury, but teams should gear up and prepare for the Heat in the next few years. It'll be interesting to see who steps up to the plate, but it's apparent that there's a "Heat Wave" going through the NBA right now.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Geek Out Stat: Tomahawk Chopped

     Many baseball analysts, journalists, and experts alike picked the Washington Nationals as a favorite to win the 2013 World Series just before the MLB season started. You have a loaded rotation featuring phenom Stephen Strasburg and newcomer Dan Haren, a dangerous lineup featuring another phenom in Bryce Harper, and supposedly a solid rotation with the addition of Rafael Soriano. The Nationals haven't disappointed, starting off the season at 7-4. But here's the thing: they're not in 1st place in the NL East.
     That honor belongs to the Atlanta Braves, who are off to a 10-1 start this season and currently hold the best record in baseball. As a matter of fact, Hot-Lanta went to the nation's capital for a tough three-game series this weekend against the Nationals and won that series. This included a 6-4 comeback victory on Friday in ten innings in which the Braves were down 4-0 going into the 7th inning. What's more is that they're currently on an eight-game winning streak in spite of their newcomer and center fielder B.J. Upton (.105, one home run, two RBIs), right fielder Jason Heyward (.086, one home run, three RBIs), and second baseman Dan Uggla (.189, two home runs, three RBIs) struggling early on. This is also in spite of catcher Brian McCann (shoulder), first baseman Freddie Freeman (strained right oblique), starting pitcher Brandon Beachy (elbow), and set-up man Jonny Venters (elbow) all being out. This is in spite of Braves legend and clubhouse leader Chipper Jones retiring at the end of last season. That's the scary part.
     So who has been carrying the Braves? Believe it or not, Atlanta's been off to this blazing-hot start thanks to a former janitor. Yes, you're reading that right. A former janitor from Dallas in catcher Evan Gattis, or as Braves fans like to call him, "El Oso Blanco" (The White Bear). Gattis is currently batting .333 with four home runs and eight RBIs, including a 1 for 3 outing against Washington yesterday which included a two-run homer off of Strasburg. He's replacing the injured Brian McCann, whose career numbers consist of a batting average of .279, 156 HR, and 604 RBIs. He won the Silver Slugger award five times (2006, 2008-2011) and is a former All-Star Game MVP (2010), so it'll be interesting to see what manager Fredi Gonzalez does with the catcher position when McCann comes back.
     "El Oso Blanco" hasn't been carrying the lineup on his white bear back alone, though. Left fielder Justin Upton has lived up to expectations as an acquisition for the Braves, leading the team in the following categories*:
  • Batting Average: .349
  • Hits: 15
  • Home Runs: 6
  • RBIs: 10
  • OBP: .396
  • Total Bases: 37
  • Doubles: 4
  • Slugging Percentage: .860
  • Runs: 10
     Shortstop Ramiro Pena (one home run, six RBIs) has also contributed greatly along with third baseman Juan Francisco (one home run, five RBIs). In fact, Freddie Freeman was batting .412 with a home run and seven RBIs before he got hurt.
     But the lineup hasn't been the sole contributor to Atlanta's early success. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the team with the best team ERA so far this season, the Atlanta Braves. With a team ERA of 2.08, a WHIP of 1.10, and opponents batting .212, the Braves have effectively mowed down opposing batters. Both starting pitcher Paul Maholm, closer Craig Kimbrel, and relievers Cory Gearrin, Anthony Varvaro, and Luis Avilan all have yet to give up a run. But let's focus on Maholm and the rotation first. Maholm (2-0, 9.24 K/9, 0.87 WHIP), along with Tim Hudson (2-0, 2.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP), Mike Minor (2-0, 0.69 ERA, 0.85 WHIP), and Kris Medlen (1-1, 1.50 ERA) have all been terrific. In fact, Hudson outdueled Strasburg yesterday, going 7.0 IP and only allowing four hits and a walk in an Atlanta victory.
     Unlike the Nationals bullpen, which has exposed a weakness for Washington by ranking dead last in the majors in ERA with 6.34**, the Braves' bullpen is for real. Even without Venters, Kimbrel and set-up man Eric O'Flaherty have combined for eight strikeouts, five walks, and four hits. Three of those hits come from O'Flaherty. As a whole, Atlanta's bullpen ranks the best in team ERA at 1.44 and are holding opponents to a mere .198 batting average. The Braves' bullpen has also combined to give up the fewest runs in the league so far with only five runs/earned runs allowed as a whole.
     Atlanta had a pretty easy start to their season. They took two of three from the Phillies in the opening series and swept two mediocre teams in the Cubs and Marlins. But for the Braves to come into Washington this weekend and win that series from a strong division rival has been a loud statement made by the Braves. What's more is that they get to take on the AL Central for interleague play and the only tough series will be a three-game set at Detroit in two weeks. Granted, they'll play the Nats more along with teams like San Francisco and Cincinnati. But the Braves have put themselves in a comfortable position to take control of the NL East.
     I will admit that before the season started, I had picked the Nationals to win more than just the NL East. Because I believed that there wasn't a single glaring weakness on Washington's team, I had picked the Nats to win the NL pennant and lose to the Tigers in the World Series. I did pick the Braves to make the playoffs and win the wild-card game and we've only played at most eleven games so far. But now it seems like I might have to tweak my predictions to best suit the tomahawk chopping that's going on throughout the country. Sorry, but it looks like Natitude might be on the chopping block this year.

* (Based on the qualifications for the batting title, which is 3.1 plate appearances per game)
** (Going into Saturday's game)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Funny (and Interesting) GIFS/Animated Images in Sports

     A little while ago, I did a blog post called "Funny (and Interesting) Pics in Sports". Today I'm going to attempt something a little different. This time, it'll involve some animation. With that being said, here goes nothing (This might slow your computer down temporarily, just to warn you)!!!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

NFL Draft Needs

     The NFL Draft is only a few weeks away, which means another great way for teams to fill certain needs. I'll be looking at a few teams and the specific areas that they'll need to fill through the draft.

  • Chicago Bears: Normally, when an athlete has a history of injuries, you'd point a finger mainly at the athlete's health. But this isn't the case for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. He suffered a concussion in a week ten loss against Houston and was knocked out of the 2011 season with a broken thumb. Signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod is a nice addition for Chicago, but they should go after either offensive tackle D.J. Fluker (Alabama) or Justin Pugh (Syracuse) with the 20th pick to ensure that Cutler gets some better protection this time around.
  • Denver Broncos: In last year's Divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, Ravens WR Torrey Smith torched Broncos CB Champ Bailey for three receptions, 98 yards, and two touchdowns in Baltimore's 38-35 win in two overtimes. While Denver did sign Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to boost the secondary, the playoff game against the Ravens showed how Bailey has regressed in terms of physical ability. Throw in the fact that most of the secondary aside from Rodgers-Cromartie and Bailey is inexperienced and you'll see an apparent lack of depth in the secondary. Getting Dee Milliner (Alabama) is out of the question barring a dramatic trade, but Desmond Trufant (Washington) and Bildi Wreh-Wilson (Connecticut) are great alternative options. A running back would also be nice for Denver.
  • Detroit Lions: The Lions lost one of their top tacklers from last year in Justin Durant (103 tackles, 0.5 sacks) to free agency, so they'll need to look for some help at the linebacker position. No, Manti Te'o is not a good option for the Lions at the No. 5 pick. But Dion Jordan (Oregon) is. Jordan had five sacks and 44 tackles in his last year with the Ducks. The Lions could also continue building their defensive line and draft defensive tackles Star Lotulelei (Utah), Sharrif Floyd (Florida), or defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (BYU) if they wanted to. They could even go after Milliner if he's still available. Lots of options for Detroit.
  • New York Jets: Gang Green ranked 30th in passing yards last season and Mark Sanchez faced a lot of scrutiny from more than just the New York media for his lackadaisical play. Geno Smith (West Virginia) will likely be off the board, but one of his targets could still be around. The Jets could go after wide receivers Tavon Austin (West Virginia), Keenan Allen (California), Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee; 4.48 40-yard dash time), or tight end Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame). They could also get a cornerback in the case of Darrelle Revis getting traded.
  • Tennessee Titans: They lost tight end Jared Cook to the St. Louis Rams and have a lot of unrestricted free agents that they need to sign. A majority of these free agents are on defense, more specifically on the D-Line and the linebacker position. Sen'Derrick Marks (41 tackles, one forced fumble, 1.5 sacks) is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars and linebacker Will Witherspoon (47 tackles, one forced fumble, one sack, one interception) remains unsigned. The Titans have plenty of choices to pick with the tenth pick, but they'll need to make a trade later in the first round and it's uncertain whether or not they have the pieces necessary to make a draft-day trade.