Thursday, March 31, 2011

MLB Predictions

PLAY BALL! Sorry, I'm just a little excited. I think I speak for all of us here that Opening Day should be a holiday. Baseball is our favorite sport so I thought I'd give my predictions for the year. Tell us how you think this season ends up as well. -Collin

AL East

Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

AL Central

Minnesota Twins
Detroit Tigers
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals
Cleveland Indians

AL West

Texas Rangers
Oakland A's
Los Angeles Angels
Seattle Mariners

AL Cy Young: Jon Lester
AL MVP: Robinson Cano
AL Rookie of the Year: Michael Pineda

NL East

Atlanta Braves
Philadelphia Phillies
Florida Marlins
Washington Nationals
New York Mets

NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers
Cincinnati Reds
St Louis Cardinals
Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs
Houston Astros

NL West

Colorado Rockies
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
Arizona Diamonbacks

NL Cy Young: Zack Greinke
NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki
NL Rookie of the Year: Freddie Freeman

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Maddening March"

Quick, tell me what VCU stands for. What is their mascot? Where is Butler located? I am willing to guess that you were unable to answer all three of those without hesitation and Google. The national media tells us that this is the beauty of the NCAA tournament, that every team has a chance to win the Championship. No year has epitomized that notion quite like this year's NCAA tournament.
Butler (8 seed) and VCU (11) have reached the Final Four by defeating the likes of Kansas, Florida, Pittsburgh, and Florida State...OK, well, the first three were upsets. No one, expert or amateur, predicted VCU to escape the first round, much less make the Final Four. (This is the part where we recall what Dick Vitale had to say about VCU making the tourney.) As great as the stories have been, does the public really want to see Butler of VCU crowned champion?
March Madness is great for the casual observer. Cinderella stories are essentially what drives the NCAA tournament but are they really good for the sport? Sure, it is an entertaining story but ratings show that people would rather view two "powerhouses" instead of two mid conference teams. Veiwership is the ultimate reason for the tournament field being as large as it is. More viewers equals more revenue. You understand.
I find March Madness frustrating. It tears me in two between the fan who wants to see strictly entertaining games and the fan who wants to watch the sport be played at its best by its best. The concept of a playoff in NCAA football is entertaining and the case is strong for one. My hesitation lies in its ability to stay exclusive. If, and only if, the officials can gurantee to limit a football playoff to the top 6 or 8 teams would I sign off. Remember, viewership is the goal of all this; not Championships. The more teams brought into the field the more people watch your program. You understand.
So as America sits back this weekend to watch Cinderella prolong midnight, ask yourself if the idea of Butler or VCU calling themselves the best team in the nation sits well with you as a fan of sport.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

NBA Most Underrated

It is a common topic within any sports community, who is the most "underrated" player. What qualifies a player as underrated? Salary? All-Star votes? Followers on Twitter? Whatever the logic one chooses, every list, without fail, stirs some type of debate. It is one of the many beauties of athletics.
Top Underrated NBA players is compiled on a wide range of sources. As I am currently reading Jonah Keri"s The Extra 2%, my mind is forcing itself to look beyond the traditional statistics. Thus, along with personal perception and traditional stat lines (i.e PPG/RPG/APG), I will also be incorporating Hollinger's saber-metric system ratings. (No Big Baby, you will not be in this list I don't  care how much you try and say you deserve it.)

That attachment to her shoulder is
Nets forward Kris Humphries.
10. Kris Humphries PF-Nets- I should probably show you his 10.2 rebounds per game or the fact that he his shooting 53% from the field. Maybe, mentioning his 17.86 PER (Player Efficiency Rating) would convince you. What if I told you this guy landed a Kardashian? Now you understand why he is underrated.

9. Danny Granger SF-Pacers- Scoring 20 points a game is enough to justify the offense running through him even though he is only pulling 2 rebounds  per game. Leading the Pacers to playoff contention, even after a coaching change, seems to go unnoticed.

8. Dwight Howard C- Magic- That is correct. 23 PPG, 14.3 RPG and a PER of 26.27 (2nd in the NBA) and he still does not get the respect that he deserves. He is officiated differently than any other superstar. His supporting cast is dependent on the "three" ball far too much to be considered a legitimate threat in the playoffs. Yet, he continues to dominate the NBA and lead his team to contention every year.

7. Luol Deng SF-Bulls- Derrick Rose is the flavor of the month and deservedly so. However, without Deng the Bulls would lose not only 17 points a game but also their top perimeter defender. According to Hollinger, if Deng were not on the Bulls, they could expect a 7 win/loss differential. According to a report by the Chicago Tribune, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Deng is an "All League defender, he guards everybody."  Pretty substantial for a guy we never hear about.

6. Nene C-Nuggets- He has no stat line that stands out to you. He only brings in 7 rebounds a game, little offensive production but he is always around. Watch the Nuggets and you cannot help but notice Nene. He is the Gruden of the NBA, nothing great but for some reason he is all over my television.

5. Monta Ellis SG-Warriors- Electric comes to mind. So does Allen Iverson but we will instead focus on electric. Bringing 24 points into every game along with almost 6 assists, Ellis finds himself overshadowed by Steph Curry and the obscurity that is due to the Warriors being forever irrelevant.

4. Kevin Martin SG- Rockets- Top 20 in both PER and EWA (estimated wins over replacement) as well as 23 points a game and somehow he continues to go unmentioned by most media outlets. Sure, winning will alleviate some of this issue but the man has game regardless of wins and losses.

3. Kevin Love PF/C- Timberwolves- How does a guy whose historic double-double streak made nightly highlights make the underrated list? Did you know that besides his 20 points and 15 rebounds per game he has an estimated win/loss differential of 16.5. Here is a little perspective. Kobe Bryant has a 15.9, Nash has 11.7 and Dirk has 13.7. Those three have 4 regular season MVPs.

2. Russell Westbrook PG- Thunder- He barely made the All Star team, and when you mention Thunder, Kevin Durant instantly enters one's mind (for good reason). However, on any other team Westbrook would be the face of the team. Derrick Rose is considered by most to be the runaway MVP. Rose and Westbrook are 1 and 2 in scoring by PGs. As far as PER, APG, RPG and Steal per game; Westbrook leads Rose.

1. Zach Randolph PF-Grizzlies- Is this the same guy who was traded by numerous teams because of character issues and work ethic? On a team with Rudy Gay (if I ever write an "Overrated" list I believe I have a lead candidate), OJ Mayo, and Mark Gasol, Randolph is the catalyst. Averaging 20 PPG as well as 12.3 RPG, Randolph has carried the Grizzlies to playoff contention in the Western Conference and you never even heard about it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fantasy Draft Diary

20 dollars. It's all it cost for me to play fantasy baseball with my guys. 20 dollars. It's a number I prefer not to remind my wife of until after the season has begun. (Newlyweds. You either understand or will one day). At this moment, post 12 AM, I am about to start a baseball draft and I have decided to journal it for you all to read and enjoy as I am sure you will.
This is the view during my offline
draft.  Now you know why
 Im doing this online. 

One team name in this lobby is "Honey Nut Ichiros". This was a horrible idea already. 
I would prefer to get a middle round pick and load heavy on infield with pitching being the deepest position of them all. 

Round 1 Pick 1: Albert Pujols 1B
What joy! I have the 1st pick of the draft. This is the worst. Albert Pujols is the obvious choice.
All around the greatest player in baseball. 
Tulowitzki just went 4th overall. Yep. Longoria goes undrafted in the 1st. These are things that I dont understand.
Round 2 Pick 20: Kevin Youkilis 1B/3B
I am hoping Kevin Youkilis will drop my way. Judging by the way these guys pick I should have no problem.... and I was right. 
Round 3 Pick 21: Jon Lester P
What? A pitcher? I like Lester alot. Great numbers and his offense should have no run support issues. 
Round 4 Pick 40: Dan Uggla 2B
Looking to go infield again. Outfield is deep with solid players. Infield is shallow. Kiddie pool shallow. Buster Posey just got drafted at pick 35. I dont understand sometimes. I get Dan Uggla. Uggla has great power from a MI spot as well as a very solid lineup surrounding him in Atlanta.
Round 5 Pick 41: Jose Bautista 3B/RF
This goes against everything I believe in. He has had one great year which would normally cause me to stay away from him. However, he is like the Jersey Shore. Out of nowhere crazy success, great highlights, with the very real chance that it is all fake. 
Round 6 Pick 60: Derek Jeter SS
Guy on the message board just asked me if I would take him to dinner. Collin Douglas should be expecting a call soon. Also, BJ Upton just got drafter. Trying not to tear up. I am more than happy with Jeter here. Look for him to have a better year than last that is for sure. 
Round 7 Pick 61: Andre Eithier OF
Round 8 Pick 80: David Price P
The Price was Right!!! His average draft position is 69th in ESPN leagues. I got him at 80. Solid strikeouts with a high "win" potential. He is also a Ray. 
Round 9 Pick 81: Delmon Young OF
Please read Jose Bautista and then apply here. 
Round 10 Pick 100: Casey McGehee 3B
He will be my UTIL as of right now but at this point in the draft, 100 RBIs, 20+ HRs and a .280 avgerage are too good to pass up. 
Round 11 Pick 101: Stephen Drew SS
Upside is solid. Downside is he is related to JD Drew. 
Round 12 Pick 120: Tim Hudson P
Message Board stalker just asked me for a "pic". I havent responded to him one time. This could be Chris Hansen from MSNBC. 
Round 13 Pick 121: Aubrey Huff 1B/OF
A funny thing happened after pick 121. I fell asleep. Something about drafting in a room that literally took 2 minutes per pick and the time was post midnight. I had a few on my player queue but this should be fun to see who the computer drafted. 
Round 14 Pick 140: John Danks P
Round 15 Pick 141: JJ Putz RP
I am not upset with Putz. I need a closer and he is in line for a lot of saves with the Diamondbacks. Danks however? I would have preferred Texas hurler Colby Lewis but whatevs. Its what I get for being the nerd who fell asleep first at the sleepover. 
Round  16 Pick 160: Jeremy Hellickson P
Round 17 Pick 161: Brandon Morrow P
This is the worst news I have heard since hearing about Steve Austin and his run in with a sting ray. 
Round 18 Pick 180: Mike Napoli C
Round 19 Pick 181: Jason Bay OF
This is the worst news I have heard since hearing I drafter Jeremy Hellickson and Brandon Morrow with consecutive picks. Auto pick is the worst invention ever. "Screw you over pick" would be the more appropriate name. (Insert "ZING" here)
Round 20 Pick 200: Ricky Romero P
Round 21 Pick 201: Alcides Escobar SS
Compared to my previous four picks, I am no completely disappointed. I would never ever draft this many pitchers when I already had Price, Lester and Hudson. 
Round 22 Pick 220: Ike Davis 1B
Round 23 Pick 221: Chris Coghlan OF
Let me offer some perspective. Davis was drafted before Mitch Moreland, James Loney, David Freese and Scott Rolen. Other than Rolen, I would have preferred the other three before Davis but that is what you get with the "Screw you over pick". 
Round 24 Pick 240: Jim Thome DH
Round 25 Pick 241: Travis Wood SP
Did you notice it too? Thome plays DH. You know what that means? He can only fill one spot on my starting lineup. Too bad for him he will not being doing so. 

I have no relief pitching. I am going to have to make some trades or hope to grab a future closer in free agency. My corner infield spots are solid with Pujols, Youkilis, Casey McGehee. Outfield looks decent. I hate this team. I am trying to convince myself to write something else so people do not read this draft and laugh at me. Would you believe me that my wife drafted this team based on how funny she found their names to be? 
What do you think my teams strengths and weaknesses are? 

From Big East to Small East

After sending eleven teams to the Tournament, the Big East remains represented in the Sweet Sixteen, but only by two teams. Were the bids deserved? Or is this a matter of East Coast Bias, with the media vaunting the teams? Or could this only be the nature of the Tournament, where one game decides everything and going cold means going home?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2011 NCAA Brackets

Every time a sport season begins, fans claim it to be "the best time of the year". That statement never seems more appropriate than when you get your NCAA college basketball bracket in your hand and begin to choose your winners. The 2010-2011 NCAABB season has been one of parity. No elite team has emerged as a clear cut favorite to "win it all". One week the Dukies looked like the team to beat, the next week Ohio St. stepped up to the front of the pack. The point is, no one has a handle on who will win the Championship. So as tip-off takes place Thursday, sit back and enjoy the idea of finally completing the perfect bracket. At least until after the first game.

Check out our picks:

Top Ten First Basemen

1. Albert Pujols- There's no other option here. Not only is he the best 1B but he's far and away the best player in baseball. He hits way above a .300 average, 35 plus home runs, and he'll steal you a dozen or so bases. Also he's a two time gold glove winner. He's the complete package.

2. Joey Votto- He's your reigning NL MVP for a reason folks. He had a higher OPS, AVG, and SLG Pct than Pujols with just 5 fewer homeruns and the same amount of steals. He's only 27 and could be a stud in this league for years to come.

3. Miguel Cabrera- So maybe he has a tiny problem with alcohol. Nothing a little rehab won't fix. Anyways he's another 1B who's going to hit for power and average. He's almost 35 and .300 in the bank. If he stays off of grandpa's cough medicine then we could be looking at another monster year from Miggy.

4. Mark Teixeira- Another guy who has huge power at the 1B position. He's had 30 home runs and 100 rbis for seven seasons in a row. If he comes back healthy then you can expect that number to increase to 8.

5. Prince Fielder- His numbers in 2010 were down from his incredible 2009 season, but I expect that Fielder will bounce back. Sure, it may have something to do with it being a contract year because let's face it, money talks. You can look for another 40 home run season from the Prince.

6. Adrian Gonzalez- I'm starting to notice that there's a trend at 1B. Here's your 6th guy in a row who has, or has the ability, to hit for 35 homeruns and a .300 average. If you aren't familiar with baseball then you have no clue how deadly of a combination that is. The fact that Adrian moved to a much better lineup in Boston means that his production should only keep going up.

7. Ryan Howard- The former MVP used to be the clear cut number two on this list, but his production took a big drop in 2010. He still hit 31 homers last year, which isn't a bad number at all, until you consider he hit 45 the year before, and 58 back in 2006. Hopefully Howard can bounce back after last year's disappointment.

8. Justin Morneau- I'm listing Justin at 8 with lots of optimism that he recovers from his injury. Morneau missed significant amounts of time last season with a concussion and post-concussion syndrome, but if he comes back healthy, then he has the potential to be a top 5 1B in the league.

9. Kendy Morales- Another guy who is extremely productive when healthy. I expect him to stay healthy and perform at a high level all year. As long as he doesn't go to crazy after a grand slam again...

10. Billy Butler- The local kid from here in Jacksonville, FL is only 24 and has all the potential to be a great star. He has incredible plate discipline and will almost guarantee you a high batting average. He hit 45 and 51 doubles the past two years. Imagine if half of those doubles start going over the fence next season.

NFL = Chain Gang

As you may or may not have heard, according to Yahoo! sports, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson was quoted as having said playing in the NFL is like "modern day slavery". Slavery? Really? Do you agree with Petersons perspective? When you hear him say that what is your reaction?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No High School Sports?

Economic times are tough. Households have had to adjust their spending to the changes in their personal wealth. Apparently school boards are facing the same situations. Duval county, Jacksonville Florida, have been informed that there is no money in the upcoming budget for high school athletics. No sports. What are your thoughts?

Top Ten Shortstops for 2011

Advanced metrics, fantasy value and my eyes were consulted in the preparation for the list.

10. Jimmy Rollins - Phi - Age hurts; Rollins has frequented the DL the last few years, but that doesn't mask his waning skills. We knew that age would lessen the steals, but drops in average and power came unexpectedly.

9. Starlin Castro - ChC - Starlin delivered a great rookie season, something Cub fans could take home in 2010. A stellar bat and decent baserunning will keep him atop their order, but Chicago sacrifices defense with Castro; Cub fans were treated to "E6" twenty-seven times last year, and Castro wasn't called up until May 7.

8. Elvis Andrus - Tex - The kid ignited the offense at the start of last season, and then he hit a wall about two months into it, stumbling for the rest of the season. Elvis lost confidence (a phrase never before uttered) once batteries decyphered his stealing habits; he lost his bat and even the leadoff spot for a bit. His defense is terrific, but the team needs a spark atop their offense. Andrus has the skills, but he's still too young to put up a better year than those ahead of him.

7. Rafael Furcal - LAD - Without injuries last year, Furcal was on pace to shatter expectations. But the injuries and the poor play upon his return forced us to remember his age and the prior three seasons. If you told me that Furcal would play 150 games this year, he'd be #4 or higher on the list; he has power, cunning on the basepaths and a great bat.

6. Derek Jeter - NYY - The Captain and the Bombers sailed through precarious waters this off-season. The Yanks, who overpay everyone, decided not to draw the line at Jeter--a good decision. I don't like to talk good about Jeter, but the dude cares. The Cashman ordeal spiked the Captain's competitive juices (yuck), and if he comes out of the gate fast, we'll see something closer to 2009 than 2010. But he'll still be a statue on the left-side of the infield next to his best friend.

5. Stephen Drew - Ari - You're thinking, "Who?" I'll tell you: it's J.D.'s brother! He's in a great park, and his numbers show it. Drew was super-hyped coming up but underrated now. Also, Drew gives plus defense. The Diamondbacks will have him in a different spot in the lineup this year, but he's seasoned enough to handle that just fine.

4. Alexei Ramirez - ChW - When Alexei came on the scene a couple of years ago, I thought, "Who is this guy?" and "He can hold his bat in front of his body, and I can't see him." And then the toothpick had more Grand Slam's than hits that season. He was one-half of the tandem that notched the most Double-Plays (sure, Danks and Buehrle provide a ton of opportunities) last season too. He finished strong, and that will carry on into 2011.

3. Jose Reyes - NYM - Last season, Reyes handled everything his capricious manager threw at him, including hitting from the three-hole with a smile on his face and this team-oriented phrase: "I'll do whatever he thinks will make us better." Reyes' excitement illuminates the game. He's just good for baseball, but he's a Met. On his skills, the ninth-year player will never steal 78 bags again (2007), but he still has speed and power and defense. He missed most of 2009, and like a pitcher, Reyes needed a year to get re-acclimated--because the injury afflicted his top skill. Reyes will be terrific this year, even though I don't want that.

2. Hanley Ramirez - Fla - The guy has been elite for years now, but he plays in front of 500 people at home games. From a constant power progression, his numbers regressed last year offensively, and the defense just wasn't there. As a good friend pointed out to my saying his defense was metrically terrible last year, "He just doesn't care." And I agree, my friends. Hanley missed games last year for disrespecting his manager. I understand no one goes to the games down there, but Miguel Cabrera did just fine. Get drunk or get great, Hanley. Great players desire to win utterly. His OBP and AVG were the worst since his rookie season, and he grounded into the most double-plays of his career. Hanley should've been A-Rod 2.0, and he still has a chance. For all the bad one can say of Alex Rodriguez, all of us know he wants to be great--yeah, in his arrogance, but he still wants it. Hanley doesn't. He's Lebron James, and the diamond-studded pendant sporting his batting-title-winning average is the Heat's theatrical, embarrassingly hubristic "Welcome-To-Miami" coming out party last offseason.

1. Troy Tulowitzki - Col - He's younger and ranks higher defensively than #2. Sure, Tulo has missed a ton of time through his big-league years, but only one of the injuries appeared to linger (hamstring). After a broken wrist that took thirty games from him, Tulo produced numbers that warranted an MVP candidacy. He's only been unlucky in health; the law of averages will sustain him for an amazing season this year.

Reference Points:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Oh My Goodell

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell persists as the face of his league, as he has since being elected. In his first impression, Goodell proved to be a disciplinarian (opposing 1980's Al Davis, 1990's Jerry Jones and 2000's Cincinnati Bengals), who suspended and met with troublesome players and refused stars their assumed place above the law. He came in and made things better, and then we all yelled at him for being concerned with player safety when he cracked down on big hits this past season. Sure, he seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth, or worse, the owners' puppet, when he proposes an 18-game schedule. But his good in the past and the ostensibly genuine cutting of his own salary pulls Goodell's image the other way. Do you think Goodell has been a good commissioner? Do David Stern or Bud Selig run things better for their respective sports?

A.L. East 2011

Here is what you can expect to read. I will tell you some key off season moves made by each team, projected starting lineup, starting rotation, and projected wins/losses. Also, I am stealing my boy Collin's format of predicting a divisional MVP and CY Young. (That guy, Collin, is a genius.) With that laid out, let us get to the preview.

Boston Red Sox (2010 89-73):
Key Additions: Carl Crawford (OF), Adrian Gonzalez (1B), Dan Wheeler (RP), Bobby Jenks (RP).
Key Losses: Adrian Beltre (3B), Victor Martinez (C/1B), Mike Lowell (3B)

Projected Lineup:
1. Dustin Pedroia - 2nd Base
2. Carl Crawford - Left Field
3. Adrian Gonzalez - 1st Base
4. Kevin Youkilis - 3rd Base
5. David Ortiz - DH
6. J.D. Drew - Right Field
7. Jason Varitek - Catcher
8. Marco Scutaro - Shortstop
9. Jacoby Ellsbury - Center Field

Projected Rotation:
1. Jon Lester
2. Josh Beckett
3. John Lackey
4. Clay Buchholz
5. Daisuke Matsuzaka

Did you read that lineup correctly? Jacoby Ellsbury will be hitting 9th with a career .344 OBP. Not too bad from the 9th spot in the order. Welcome, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. (As a Rays fan I try to act as though Crawford signing with a division rival doesn't bother me but there is a solid chance that I change the channel every time he steps up to the plate.) A. Gone is going to wreak havoc on the American League. Quick, tell me who he was protected by in the Padres lineup? Exactly.
The "achilles heel" for the Sox will be their starting pitching. Sure, the names appease the eye. My God, it's Josh freaking Beckett. Remember that game he had against the Yanks..... when he was a Marlin! Check this out, Beckett's VORP last season was -9.7. His injuries are well documented. The Sox will go as Becket goes.

Projected Record: 90-72

Toronto Blue Jays (2010 85-77):
Key Additions: Rajai Davis (OF), Juan Rivera (OF), Jon Rauch (RP), Frank Francisco (RP)
Key Losses: Vernon Wells (OF), Scott Downs (RP), Shawn Marcum (SP)

Projected Lineup:
1. Rajai Davis - Center Field
2. Yunel Escobar - Shortstop
3. Jose Bautista - 3rd Base
4. Adam Lind - 1st Base
5. Aaron Hill - 2nd Base
6. Travis Snider - Left Field
7. Edwin Encarnacion - DH
8. Juan Rivera - Right Field
9. J.P. Arencibia - Catcher
Projected Rotation:
1. Ricky Romero
2. Brandon Morrow
3. Brett Cecil
4. Kyle Drabek
5. Jesse Litsch

If the AL East was the Jersey Shore cast, the Blue Jays would be Snooki. They seem to trick just enough people into thinking they are worth the ride but when you wake up beside them you realize you were either drunk or desperate for a change. No? Anyways, you probably had a hard time finding a reason to believe in the Blue Jays for 2011. Same here. Two potential bright-spots ; Ricky Romero is a dominant starting pitcher with one of the best change-ups in the game and Jose Bautista has discovered a way to trick the MLB drug tests and hits 70 HRs.

Projected Record: 76-86

Baltimore Orioles (2010 66-96)
Key Additions: Vladimir Guerrero (OF/DH), Derrick Lee (1B), Mark Reynolds (3B)
Key Losses: Ty Wiggington (3B/1B), Kevin Millwood (SP)

Projected Lineup:
1. Brian Roberts- 2nd Base
2. Nick Markakis- Right Field
3. Derrick Lee- 1st Base
4. Vladimir Guerrero- DH
5. Mark Reynolds- 3rd Base
6. Luke Scott- Left Field
7. Adam Jones- Center Field
8. Matt Weiters- Catcher
9. J.J. Hardy- Shortstop
Projected Rotation:
1. Jeremy Guthrie
2. Brian Matusz
3. Justin Duchscherer
4. Brad Bergesen
5. Jake Arrieta
Showalter, Showalter, and Showalter. I am referring to Buck Showalter, manager of the Orioles. When he was hired at the end of the 2010 season, the Orioles culture instantly began to change. They finished 20-13 under Showalter. Add that manager to the key free agent acquisitions and the Orioles are on their way up the ladder. Two players that will determine if the Orioles can be playoff contenders or bust; Matt Weiters and Justin Duchscherer. Remember that guy Collin I referenced earlier? He loves prospects. Weiters was no exception. Ask Collin if he feels the same way entering 2011. I guess no. The other player, Justin Duchjhgggfherer, has the "stuff" to be a top pitcher but has the "injuries" to prevent him from making any meaningful contributions. He is like Bob Sanders but hasn't seen Manning naked (We at Salute Your Sports can not confirm this to be true or not. Purely speculative. But still...)

Projected Record: 80-82

Tampa Bay Rays (2010 96-66):
Your 2011 Rays...?
Key Additions: Manny Ramirez (OF), Johnny Damon (OF), Kyle Farnsworth (RP)
Key Losses: Carl Crawford (OF), Carlos Pena (1B/DH), Matt Garza (SP), Jason Bartlett (SS), Rafael Soriano (RP), Grant Balfour (RP), Dan Wheeler (RP), Randy Choate (RP), Joaquin Benoit (RP)

Projected Lineup:
1. John Jaso- Catcher
2. Johnny Damon- Left Field
3. Ben Zobrist- 2nd Base
4. Evan Longoria- 3rd Base
5. Manny Ramirez- DH
6. Matt Joyce- Right Field
7. Dan Johnson- 1st Base
8. B.J. Upton- Center Field
9. Reid Brignac- Shortstop
Projected Rotation:
1. David Price
2. James Shields
3. Jeff Niemann
4. Wade Davis
5. Jeremy Hellickson
Please, tell me you laughed when you looked over their Key Losses. The Rays had more turnovers than a Favre led team. Heeyyyooo! Even after all the losses, inability to compete financially with the Sox and Yanks, and lack of fan support, the Rays have fielded a highly competitive team. Evan Longoria is the best 3rd baseman in the game. David Price is coming off a career season and has supposedly developed even more command of his off speed pitches. Here are two players to use as barometers for the Rays 2011 season; B.J.Upton is one of the most gifted athletes in the league. With the loss of Crawford, Upton will see his stolen base numbers increase IF he gets on base more often and strikes out less. Also, he signed a pair of cleats for me so you know he is legit. The other player is Jake McGee. He is a RP that is looking to fill in the closer role for the Rays left by Soriano. To McGee I say, "Good luck".

Projected Record: 89-73

New York Yankees (2010 95-67)
Key Additions: Russell Martin (C), Rafael Soriano (RP), Andruw Jones (OF), Freddy Garcia (SP), Bartolo Colon (SP), Mark Prior (SP)
Key Losses: Kerry Wood (RP), Javier Vazquez (SP), Lance Berkman (1B)

Projected Lineup:
1. Derek Jeter- Shortstop
2. Curtis Granderson- Center Field
3. Mark Teixeira- 1st Base
4. Alex Rodriguez- 3rd Base
5. Robinson Cano- 2nd Base
6. Nick Swisher- Right Field
7. Jorge Posada- DH
8. Russell Martin- Catcher
9. Brett Gardner- Left Fielder
Projected Rotation:
1. CC Sabathia
2. Phil Hughes
3. A.J. Burnett
4. Ivan Nova
5. Sergio Mitre
Question: Was Bartolo signed to be the clubhouse manager? There is no chance he plays right? Mark Prior is alive? The Yankees free agent signings look more like the MLB retiree list. Not to mention they botched the whole resigning of Jeter. I was secretly dreaming for Jeter to just leave and sign with the Rays but dreams are called dreams for a reason. Their lineup has the best hitter in the division. That guy is Robby Cano don't ya' know. His swing is the prettiest in the game. He plays a position that keeps his legs rested for offense. Look for his numbers to increase even more from last season. Here is my issue with the Yanks, they have horrible starting pitching. Horrendous. CC is going to be CC. It is the other four that I have issues with. It is why I find the Yankees unable to make the playoffs in 2011.

Projected Record: 85-77

AL East MVP:
1. Robinson Cano
2. Evan Longoria
3. Adrian Gonzalez

AL East Cy Young:
1. Jon Lester
2. David Price
3. Ricky Romero

AL East Standings:
1. Boston Red Sox
2. Tampa Bay Rays (WC)
3. New York Yankees
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Top Ten Center Fielders

Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds... are just some of the names surrounding the Center Field position from the past. 2011 does not offer the same. In a game that for years featured men whose arms were bigger than their thighs and could hit a ball farther than any outfielder could dare track down, the position of center field suffered more than any. Based on athleticism, deer like quickness, an innate ability to track down line drives to both sides, a rocket laser arm and raw speed, Center Fielders are a special breed. Oh yeah, they need to be able to hit the ball too. (I know what you're saying. "Ryan, isn't your favorite player BJ Upton? Does he hit?" to which I would respond, "Hey man, he signed a pair of cleats for me so yeah.") With all that said let's take a look at the top ten Center Fielders in baseball heading into the 2011 season.

1. Andrew McCutchen- Pittsburgh Pirates- How is this possible? Arguably the worst run sports organization and they stumble onto this guy. An OBP of .365, a SLG of .459 and 40 steals potential, make McCutchen stand out on what is a horrible team. Oh and he is 24. Can we say "trade deadline"?

2. Shane Victorino- Philadelphia Phillies- "The Flyin' Hawaiian", or as I like to call him, "Shane Victorino", is as consistent as any center fielder in the game. He brings a UZR (defensive rating system) of 11.4 to the park every day as well as a .342 OBP. Why is that important? He plays in a offensive friendly park so his ability to cover the ground keeps runs from scoring and he gets on base in front of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and "Mr. Subway" Ryan Howard.

3. Colby Rasmus- St. Louis Cardinals- Rasmus appears to be a corner outfielder in the making. Average defense (-6.5 UZR) with good power and run production. The biggest question with Rasmus is will he stay healthy as well as why does LaRussa not like him?

4. Matt Kemp- L.A. Dodgers- It seems like just last year Kemp was considered a top two outfielder. Not center fielder but outfielder. He has all the talent to be a 40/40 guy but instead settles for 20/20 and poor plate discipline. Speaking of poor plate discipline, is he still with Rhianna?

5. Jacoby Ellsbury- Boston Red Sox- 2010 was a thorn in the side for Ellsbury. He played 18 games due to a rib injury. 2011 will remind us of why Ellsbury is considered one of the best base thieves as well as defenders. Plus, he gets to set the table for the best lineup in baseball ("in baseball" was needed because the best lineup award goes to NBC on Thursday nights. Community, Parks and Rec., The Office, 30 Rock, and Outsourced. OK, even the Big Red Machine had a pitcher hitting at the end.) He could hit blindfolded and find a way to score 90 runs.

6. Alex Rios- Chicago White Sox- Are you happy Mr. President? Maybe now you will stop testing me about how good he is. Rios has all the skills. My reservation is that I am just not sure he replicates 2010 (21 HRs, 88RBIs, 34 SB). Actually, I know he wont. Boom. Prediction made,

7. Curtis Granderson- New York Yankees- I remember when my dad and I watched him play and father said to me, "This guy is worth at least a hundred grand er so son." I'm drunk.

8. BJ Upton- Tampa Bay Rays- See the end of #7. Seriously though, he signed some cleats for me. Also, he is the most frustrating player to watch. He can run, throw and catch. If he could stop striking out, get on base, and hit, I believe he would be better. Boom. Prediction made.

9. Michael Bourn- Houston Astros- No power at all (career .346 SLG), no run production (38 RBIs in 2010), but he plays defense like old school Willie Mays. His lineup is almost as bad as McCutchen's.

10. Chris Young- Arizona Diamondbacks- Please go read BJ Upton. Young is so similar it is scary. Very scary. Extremely scary. You understand.

So there are my top ten Center Fielders heading into 2011. I would like to apologize to all Juan Pierre lovers but whenever you can be made fun of by Steve Urkel, you have no place in a legitimate top ten list.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

NL East Division Preview

Atlanta Braves- They gave the Phillies a run for their money last year, but just couldn't quite win the division. I don't see that changing this year. I do however think they have another legitimate chance at winning the wild card race. The Braves keep most of the same guys in the lineup, plus a big addition of Dan Uggla for some much needed power in the middle of the lineup. The keys to a good season for them have to include a monster sophomore year from Jason Heyward, a bounce back year from the former All-Star Nate McLouth, and a healthy year from the face of their franchise Chipper Jones. Rotation wise, they still are going to throw their two veterans at the beginning in Lowe and Hudson, while rounding out with Jurrjens, Hanson, and the rookie Mike Minor. Their rotation could be excellent, and will need to be to compete with the Phillies this year.

Florida Marlins- New manager means new start, are what the Marlins are hoping for, but I'm not sure how much things are going to change in Miami this year. The problem for the Marlins is that they are banking on too much young talent this year. Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison, and Chris Coghlan are starting in the outfield this year, and their ages respectively are 21,23,25. This could be a great thing for the future, but may prove to hurt them this year. Another young player is starting SS Hanley Ramirez, but he's a stud so they don't have to worry about any lack of production from him. The real key for the Marlins this year is their rotation. Josh Johnson had an excellent year last year, but has lots of injury concerns around him this year. Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad, and the newly acquired Javier Vasquez will all have to step up their games this year if the Marlins want to be competitive in the East.

New York Mets- This is our third team so far, and our third team with a new manager. I'm starting to notice a trend here. Anyways, the Mets are also relying on some young talent in their lineup this year with 1B Ike Davis, 2B Daniel Murphy, and the rookie catcher Jim Thole all projected to start this year. David Wright is coming off of another monster season, and is hoping to duplicate some of those numbers. A big key for the Mets is health. They desperately need Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran to stay healthy and stay productive. Pitching-wise they are going to have to rely on a bunch of guys that no one has ever heard of, until/if Johan Santana recovers from his September surgery.

Philadelphia Phillies- The reigning NL East champs are looking to repeat, and frankly, I don't see how they don't. The lineup stays basically the same with Utley, Howard, Victorino, and Rollins being the major bats. Their hoping that rookie Dominic Brown will recover from his recent hand injury and will also be a contributor in that lineup. But enough about the bats, let's get to what everyone is talking about when they talk about the Phillies, the starting rotation. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are now in the same rotation. Let's just take that information in for a second… ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? Also there are some guys named Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt throwing up there in Philly. As a lifelong Braves fan, I had the privilege of growing up watching Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, and Avery, but this could be the best starting rotation that any of us will ever witness.

Washington Nationals- Stephen Strasburg is injured…

That's not a sufficient enough preview?? Oh, well… um…

No I'm kidding. The Nationals went all in on the Jayson Werth sweepstakes this offseason and it paid off as they ended up signing him. Combine him with Ryan Zimmerman and that's a pretty deadly 3-4 spot combo. Drew Storen could end up being one of the top closers in the game for years to come, but other than that there's not a whole lot to look at pitching wise, unless Jordan Zimmerman bounces back from his injury.

Projected Standings

1. Phillies

2. Braves

3. Marlins

4. Mets

5. Nationals

NL East Awards

MVP- Hanley Ramirez

Cy Young- Cliff Lee

Rookie of the Year-Dominic Brown

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Sure, the extension has been giving but do you really think an agreement is reached this week? Who, owners or players, do you side with on this issue?

Monday, March 7, 2011

The NCAA's Opposing Postseasons

NCAA Football uses "Every Game Counts" as their motto; and it's true unless you're talking about Boise State or TCU,for whom no game counts. But NCAA Basketball produces a season in which most games don't impact anything. Is it worth a hefty dose of unwatchable basketball to have the compelling Conference Tournaments and NCAA Tournament? Or does NCAAF have a better overall construction? Is March Madness the most exciting annual sporting event?

Chat with David Price

Coming off the best season in Tampa Bay Rays history, David Price heads into 2011 not looking back but looking forward. David was nice enough to take some time and share with us his thoughts on playing with Manny, pitching to Pujols, and living life in general.

SYS: You're on a desert island and can have three items. What are they and why?
DP: Astro...cause I love him! Cell phone so I can talk to my family and friends and tweet my fans back! Then probably my xbox....but I guess I’ll have to steal a t.v. since I didn’t bring one with me. haha

SYS: You're well documented as saying the Braves were your favorite team growing up, who then was your least favorite?
DP: Anyone who was beating the Braves...haha I liked them all just the Braves the most.

SYS:After a game you can grab a drink with 3 guys from the league. Who are they?
DP: Matt Garza, haha then whoever else...Garza is enough entertainment.

SYS: You recently said on Twitter (@davidprice14) that you learned a "knucklesplitchange", is this your version of the "Gyro" ball and do you throw it left or right handed?
DP: haha I was just messin around on twitter....not a real pitch.

SYS: You are very active on Twitter. What is the funniest comment a person as made to you on Twitter?
DP: haha not really sure....I’ve seen some pretty funny pictures.

SYS: Albert Pujols is up with men on 2nd and 3rd leaving 1st base open and two outs. What does David Price do?
DP: Walk him like any sane pitcher would.

SYS: What was the main difference for you between '09 and '10?
DP: Confidence.

SYS: A lot of changes for the Rays roster headed into spring training this season, ( loss of Crawford, Soriano, Bartlett, Pena, BeƱot, Garza). How did you react to all the moves?
DP: Its part of the business, nothing I can do but continue on with what I’m doing.

SYS: Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon are now teammates of yours, what was your first thought when you heard this?
DP: Sickwitit (sick with it)

SYS: Who has the best sense of humor on the roster?
DP: Evan Longoria.

SYS: Best practical joke played since you've been on the Rays?
DP: Troy Percival plastered his face on my car in 2008 spring training.

SYS: How does Joe Maddons managerial style impact you and your way of doing things, if at all?
DP: It doesn’t impact me at all.

SYS: Toughest hitter you ever faced?
DP: Joe Mauer (Catcher for Minnesota Twins)

SYS: What was the greatest sports moment of your life? Professional or not.
DP: Pitching in the 2008 world series!

SYS: Do you feel more responsibility/pressure to lead the team entering your third full season?
DP: No everything still feels pretty much the same.

SYS: What are your expectations for the 2011 Rays?
DP:Win the World Series!!

SYS:Kobe Bryant or LeBron James?
DP: Lebron

SYS: Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds?
DP: Hank

SYS: Call of Duty or Madden?
DP: COD (Call of Duty)

SYS: Pepsi or Coke?
DP: Coke

SYS: Glass half empty or half full?
DP: Half full

We want to thank David Price for taking the time to answer a few questions. Price and the Rays look to repeat as AL East Champions in 2011.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

In the 11th Hour

The world is less than 48 hours away from understanding what an NFL Lockout will look like. At Midnight on March 4th, the owners will lockout the current players and prospective players. We have been force fed information on how it will impact the players and owners but how will an NFL lockout impact you? Some fans have been quoted as saying they will not follow the sport if they spend one day under a lockout. Others could care less as long as football eventually returns. Where do you fall on the subject?

Makeshift Community

The most important factor in fan-hood is the emotional connection that captures us: a generational love affair with a team, or an obsession since one's youth; a heart-rending documentary or piece on an athlete's storied life; perhaps nothing works better for us than a superstar who seems similar to us, just a good, spirited guy or working man (old-Favre or Aaron Rodgers) glinting in the tangle of "overpaid" and apparently unrelatable athletes.
Whatever makes us, we watch because we care. And we argue because we care. Sports generates an emotional fervor within us, and this kindled care propels us into a community, one not unlike the "religious" one. Not to diminish anyone's beliefs, but where else do you find an army of zealots, but in sports and religious debates (and every two or four years in the briefly romantic political chatter)? But unlike the informing adage (about not talking religion or politics), sports lends itself to argument and discussion because it isn't as serious, we think--which is arbitrary, because the things that take our time become important, become serious.
And the serious thing about sports is this community it incites and services and ultimately sustains. Whether you are invested in the record numbers and history from baseball, in the excitement and culture of superstars from basketball or in Tom Brady's hair, you care. And that's a good thing.