NFL Draft: What the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles need

April 28, 2016 Leave a comment

2016nfldraftlogoThe NFL Draft gets underway in about an hour, and let me just say I can’t wait. Not because I’m such a draftnik, but because the deluge of pre-draft talk that dominates sports talk at this time of year is often nothing more than meaningless blather.

Everyone wants to make predictions about what each team is going to do in the first round, whom they are going to select. The sources behind the predictions provide a level of certainty that makes it seem like what the reporters are hearing is a done deal.

Then something happens on draft night no one expected, reducing the source’s scoop to scrap.

Case in point, recent reports surrounding what the New York Giants will do at No. 10 overall. Yesterday, sources told Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News there is a “strong chance” the Giants will draft a linebacker at that spot. Specifically, Georgia’s Leonard Floyd.

Great. The Giants undoubtedly need a linebacker. Welcome, Leonard!

Then, from a different New York Daily News reporter this morning:

Based on these reports, the Giants will probably choose a defensive back in Round 1.

If reporters from the same news outlet in the team’s backyard can’t get on the same page, why should we put stock into any of the rumors we hear during draft season? Let’s just get on with the show already.

Oh. I guess I’ve buried the lede six feet under here, but the real point of this post is to get you to read something I wrote Wednesday for the Redskins team site Breaking Burgundy. The article has very little to do with the Redskins. Rather, it’s my last-minute assumptions of what positions and players the three other teams in the NFC East will  be targeting over the next three days. There’s no actual reporting I’m swearing by. Just a lot of educated guesses.

And if you are interested in knowing what the Redskins might do during the draft, click literally any other link on Breaking Burgundy.

Enjoy the NFL Draft, if that’s your thing. If Ezekiel Elliot’s wardrobe is any clue, it should be an interesting show.

The latest shortstop “renaissance” is just beginning

April 25, 2016 2 comments

640x450_jeter_si_p1kyp2kaLast night, ESPN Red Sox writer Scott Lauber posted a stellar article on shortstops Xander Bogaerts and Carlos Correa. It sort of reads like two short features in one as you get background about each player. But before that, Lauber points out how Bogaerts and Correa are part of a group including Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Addison Russell and Trevor Story that hearkens back to a time when the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada were all young and ruling during the late-90s and early 2000s.

Lauber does say that this current class of burgeoning shortstop stars is “absurdly deep.” However, it may be deeper than he and many casual baseball fans realize.

MLB.com and Baseball America each included 13 shortstops among their preseason top 50 prospects lists. Baseball Prospectus had 12. MLB.com placed 11 shortstops inside its top 30 alone. One of those players, Seager, the No. 1 player on all of those lists, is already a major force in the Dodgers’ lineup and showing why so many picked him to take home Rookie of the Year. I made that same call and still feel very comfortable about it, no matter how much Story doth protest early on.

However, for 2016 purposes and beyond, we’re waiting on Trea Turner, J.P. Crawford, Dansby Swanson, Orlando Arcia, Brendan Rodgers, Raul Mondesi, Franklin Barreto, Alex Bregman, Tim Anderson, Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo and Ozhaino Albies. And those are the most common names in only the top 50. That’s the tip of the iceberg of minor league talent. For instance, Story was nowhere to be found on either Baseball America’s or Baseball Prospectus’ preseason top 100. He was ranked 8th and 10th by each organization, respectively, just among Rockies prospects. And look what he’s done so far.

Obviously, not all of those players will pan out as expected. The picture at the top is a good example. In 1997, those five shirtless guys — from left: Alex Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Renteria, Rey Ordonez and Derek Jeter — were seen, according to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, as members of “The best crop of young shortstops to come along in 56 years.” They were “the most multi-talented group ever … redefining the position and putting a fresh face on the game.”

Two were clearly great. Renteria had an accomplished, long career. And the remaining 40 percent of that quintet played baseball too.

Secondly, not all of these current prospects will remain at shortstop if they reach the majors. Bregman is a shortstop on the Astros. I mean, he is for now. If he remains in Houston, he sure as hell won’t be remaining at short.

But while Bogaerts, Correa and others are on the scene and making their presence known at the 6, they are the first wave in a sense. The pipeline of difference-making shortstops didn’t empty with the promotions of Seager and Story. The pipeline appears to be absolutely stocked and this “renaissance,” as the editor of Lauber’s story put in the title, will probably last a long time.

Sunday was all about crazy comebacks in baseball

April 24, 2016 Leave a comment
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Movie, good. Baseball, better.

I saw “The Jungle Book” today. Very entertaining. Even with so many of today’s movies being overwhelmed by computer graphics, the CGI in this movie is outstanding. If there is a criticism, it’s that, other than the wolf pack and a couple others in the forest, there seems to be only one of each animal. One panther. One tiger. One snake. One bear. Forget about the one human boy among the wild; someone needs to investigate what befell so many of the species in this ecosystem.

But that’s all I did Sunday. Otherwise, I relaxed and watched some baseball. However, it’s difficult to relax when you are on the edge of your seat, and that’s where a handful of games put me. There were some wholeheartedly “good” games — Mets-Braves, Cardinals-Padres and Marlins-Giants were all tense late — but four games specifically turned this lazy Sunday into a crazy one.

Let’s start chronologically and with perhaps the wildest game of the bunch: Twins-Nationals. Stephen Strasburg was the story for the first seven innings. But in the eighth, he challenged Brian Dozier with one too many fastballs, and Dozier sent Strasburg’s 114th and final pitch way out for a three-run homer that gave Minnesota a 4-1 lead.

The Nats got two runs back in the bottom of the eighth. Then in the ninth, Dusty Baker made a brilliant managerial move: He sent Bryce Harper to the plate. What a strategy.

Harper had been given the day off, but in a one-run game, it was time for him to get involved.

Harper took a couple of hacks that made it known he wants to hit this ball into the Atlantic. I’m not sure why Kevin Jepsen gave him the chance — so what if you walk Bryce Harper? Throw it out of the zone, for goodness sake — but his low fastball wasn’t low enough. Unless you’re a Twins fan, click here to feel all the chills.

Read more…

The Yankees left runners on base in every way imaginable Friday

April 15, 2016 Leave a comment

The Yankees’ loss on Friday night was an especially frustrating one for the home fans, which saw the local nine go 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and leave 12 runners on base. 

But it’s how they left those runners on base that is kind of neat. It doesn’t take away the sting of a loss for a fan, but it’s April 15; what’s the use of getting all glum with 153 games remaining anyway? Now is not the time for fear. That comes later.

Anyway, here is how the Yankees stranded their baserunners. Stay with me …

First inning: Carlos Beltran left on first, Mark Teixeira left on second.

Second inning: Chase Headley left on second.

Third inning: Brian McCann left on first.

Fourth inning: Dustin Ackley left on third, Starlin Castro left on second. 

Fifth inning: Brett Gardner left on third, Teixeira left on first.

Sixth inning: Didi Gregorius left on third, Headley left on second, Gardner left on first.

Ninth inning: Gardner left on third.

The Yankees lost this game, 7-1. But stranding Gardner on third — and only him specifically on third — to end the game was significant in that it filled out the Yankees’ stranded baserunners bingo card. They left runners on base in every way possible. Moreover, each combination occurred only once. The Yankees left the bases empty in the seventh and eighth innings.

I don’t know how often this happens, but I want to know. I really, really want to know. You have no idea.

I’m still asking around. I will update this post if I receive a response. I’m sure you are all awaiting the answer as eagerly as I am.

Top Story: Is it time to sell high on the Rockies’ rookie shortstop?

April 11, 2016 Leave a comment

596115It’s not going to get better than this.

Trevor Story is on pace for 189 home runs this season. He is not going to hit 189 home runs this season. Nor is he going to score 189 runs, drive in 312, compile a .333 average or OPS 1.468. In that way, all fantasy owners who decide to trade Story following his historic first week in the bigs would be selling high.

But should they sell high? Because of that first week, Story is a safe bet to surpass 25 home runs. No shortstop has done that since Story’s idol, Troy Tulowitzki, knocked out 30 in 2011. Playing half of his games in Colorado’s thin air will help that cause. He should be a decent source of runs and continue to see pitches to hit as long as he is batting in front of Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado. Story even has the legs to steal double-digit bases. 

The clear negatives are that Story will swing and miss a lot, and he probably won’t finish with a batting average above .275. But hey, a lot of valuable players pile up the Ks and don’t have a sparkling average. It’s the price you pay for Story’s all-or-nothing approach (he has just two hits that aren’t home runs), and shortstops with his ability with the stick and on the basepaths aren’t in plentiful supply.

But just take a look at whom Story is fetching in recent trades in Yahoo fantasy leagues. 

On April 8, the day of Story’s multi-homer game versus San Diego, he was dealt straight up for the likes of Kris Bryant and Matt Harvey. The following day, Story was in one-for-one deals with Tulowitzki twice and Bryant. He was traded for Marcus Stroman, Jose Fernandez and Adam Jones each on April 10. Today, he’s been swapped straight up for Carlos Correa, Justin Upton and Felix Hernandez, to name a few.

In some notable two-for-one trades, Story was packaged with Roberto Osuna for each Miguel Cabrera and Nolan Arenado. Story and Justin Turner brought back Prince Fielder in one league. Story and Mark Trumbo brought back Nelson Cruz in another. He was traded along with Yoan Moncada (must have been a dynasty league) for Dallas Keuchel. Or how about Story and Billy Hamilton for Chris Sale?

As much as buy low, sell high is stressed, people often d0 the opposite because they are prone to panic. Over the past few days of tracking Story’s trade market, Tulowitzki and Bryant appeared to be the hitters most commonly involved in trades with the rookie. That’s not a shock since Tulowitzki and Bryant have combined for a .176 average and one home run. People are bailing on players they drafted in the first few rounds just a couple of weeks ago for a fresh rookie riding an unsustainable hot streak. They are panicking.

Should you sell high on Trevor Story? A definitive answer is difficult — barring a complete cratering, he’s got a good shot of finishing as a top-5 or top-6 shortstop — but you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t at least try. Explore what’s possible, especially while all of your league’s owners are engaged. That won’t always be the case.

Like they say in fantasy, if you’re not trading, you’re not trying. Seeing the return in some of these deals, Story’s owners should bring forth a high asking price and see if they can take advantage of an owner who’s nervous because his early-round stud is slow out of the gate. You might get your wish. And yes, I’d take either Kris Bryant or Troy Tulowitzki for Story.

But why stop there? Story was traded along with Craig Kimbrel for Giancarlo Stanton. He was traded with Dellin Betances for Josh Donaldson. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Recapping some of baseball’s weird, wild (and slightly testy) opening week

April 11, 2016 Leave a comment

The 2016 MLB season is eight days old, and take a gander at just some of the crazy things that have happened so far:

— The player of the week was Trevor Story, a rookie barely included inside Baseball America’s or Baseball Prospectus’ preseason top 10 rankings of Rockies prospects who leads the world in home runs. I’m not sure which is the greater: the number of rookie, team, league and start-of-season records Story set this past week or the number of “Story” puns used by headline writers across the nation.

— Two games ended due to a violation by a runner coming into second base. One incident had everything to do with the new “Chase Utley rule.” One incident had nothing to do with Chase Utley and everything to do with a previously unenforced rule.

— Those replay reviews led to some understandably upset ballplayers and managers. But it seemed like an inordinate number of people were feeling crusty during the opening week. John Gibbons, in response to the Blue Jays’ loss following Jose Bautista’s interference, suggested that his team would wear dresses for their next game. Mariners manager Scott Servais and Rangers manager Jeff Banister exchanged some heated words. Thom Brennaman didn’t hide his disdain for Odubel Herrera’s home plate routine. If people are this ornery in April, what are we going to have when the summer heat starts aggravating everyone?

— The Dodgers didn’t allow a run in their season-opening series against the Padres. In a related story, the Padres didn’t score a run in their season-opening series against the Dodgers. It was the first three-game shutout series to begin a season since 1963.  The Dodgers then allowed 12 runs in their next game, and the Padres scored 29 run in their next two games.

— It was a big week for pitchers hitting homers, because chicks dig the long ball. Madison Bumgarner homered off of Clayton Kershaw for the second time in his career. Kenta Maeda sent one deep in his first MLB game. And none of Trevor Story’s seven home runs traveled as far as this 440-foot shot from Jake Arrieta.

— More fun with pitchers batting: Francisco Liriano picked up the season’s first RBI.

Read more…

Dodgers see scoreless innings pitched streak end, suffer massive mean regression

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There was a large general question surrounding the Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting rotation coming into the season: What happens after Clayton Kershaw?

The former MVP did his thing on Monday, throwing seven shutout innings. Then what happened after Kershaw looked pretty similar. Scott Kazmir, six shutout innings. Kenta Maeda, six shutout innings. The bullpen didn’t budge either.

The Padres’ inept offense had something to do with that. If they get shut out in Colorado on Friday, someone needs to start mentioning the word “relegation.”

Alex Wood carried the Dodgers’ streak to the fifth inning in San Francisco on Thursday before the Giants touched him up for three runs.

By the end, the pitching staff had strung together 31.1 frames of scoreless ball to open the year. Impressive. How much so? That number falls just two outs shy of tying the record for longest scoreless streak to begin a season, 32. That was accomplished by the 1963 Cardinals, the only other club in MLB history to open a season with three straight shutouts.

For the sake of numbers fun, the Dodgers’ scoreless streak dating back to the end of last season concluded at 34 regular season innings. That’s sixth-most in franchise history. The Dodgers have had a pair of 39-inning scoreless streaks, one of which, in 1966, took place as L.A. was piecing together four consecutive shutouts.

But the Giants didn’t stop after their three runs in the fifth. They scored four more times the following inning and added five runs in the eighth, thanks in large part to a Hunter Pence grand slam.

Thus, the Dodgers’ pitching staff, which entered Thursday riding atop history, closed the day ranked tied for 14th in runs allowed. It took only four innings for that immaculate ERA to go all the way up to a much more modest 3.09. The White Sox, in as many innings of work, have a team ERA of 2.57.

Still, the Dodgers and their fans will take one bad outing every four days if they can repeatedly get what Kershaw, Kazmir and Maeda provided in front of Thursday’s game.

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