Posted on: September 22, 2010 1:15 pm
 

Swisher

While Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano rightfully deserves to be among the candidates mentioned for AL MVP for his stellar production amidst the subpar and inconsistent seasons from Derek Jeter , Jorge Posada , Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira , the contributions of Nick Swisher cannot be overlooked.

Swisher started the Yankees' scoring on Monday night with a solo home run in the first inning -- his 27th of the year -- and added a single later as New York beat the Rays 8-3 to extend its AL East lead back to 2 1/2 games.

Swisher is now batting .290 with a .362 OBP and .516 slugging percentage; the average and slugging are second on the team, trailing only Cano. Swisher has been steady and versatile, hitting effectively from several spots in the lineup -- primarily second but also fifth, sixth and eighth -- while seeing 4.03 pitches per plate appearance, third on the team and No. 19 in the AL.

The rightfielder has also proven himself immune to home/road splits. In 2009, he was the one Yankee to hit better on the road (21 HRs, .945 OPS) than at home (8 HRs, .776 OPS) while in 2010 he entered Tuesday's game with near identical splits. In 69 games and 66 starts at home, he was hitting .287/.360/.496 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs; in 69 games and 66 starts on the road he is hitting .291/.365/.528 with 13 home runs and 41 RBIs.

And the Rays have yet to figure Swisher out. He has been particularly dangerous against Tampa Bay, batting .354 with a .415 OBP and five home runs in 13 games.


Category: MLB
Posted on: August 20, 2010 4:36 pm
 

Beckett Done?

In the beginning of April, Josh Beckett inked a four-year, $65 million extension with the Red Sox that will keep him in town through 2014.

What were the Red Sox supposed to get in return for that financial outlay? Well, while his sublime season of 2007 looks to be the exception rather than the norm, Beckett had settled in as a solid No. 2 starter in the ultra-competitive AL East Division -- and the BoSox expected that trend to continue.

That extension isn't looking so hot at the moment as Beckett was burned for at least six runs for the third straight start Thursday against the Angels . That pushed his ERA to 6.67 on the season in 12 starts, erasing all the positive momentum he had gained in his first three starts since coming off the disabled list for a lower back strain.

However, pitching coach John Farrell refused to bite on Beckett's ineffectiveness, telling the Boston Globe that he sees some things to be pleased with.

"His fastball was down in the zone," Farrell said. "He threw some curveballs that he was able to finish some hitters off with. I think that’s been one of the more encouraging signs, is that in the six starts that he’s had since coming back, his curveball has shown more consistency, more of a true weapon. [I] thought he was down in the zone for the most part with his fastball, except for the sixth inning.

“I think it’s going to be key for [Beckett] to recognize there were a lot more positives than maybe the linescore indicates."

Beckett's fastball clearly hasn't been up to snuff and is being battered around like never before in his career. As a result, Beckett is using his heater the least amount he has in his career. He's hurling it 57.3 percent of the time which is significantly off his 65.3 percent mark. To make up for the loss in fastball effectiveness, the righty has significantly boosted his cut-fastball, which he began to throw marginally when joining Boston in 2005. Since then, however, the cutter has morphed into a trusted part of his arsenal, just behind his curveball in usage.

Does that mean Beckett should abandon his fastball? Absolutely not. His fastball is his calling card and what has pushed him to his streaks of dominance in the past. As Farrell alludes to, Beckett has had trouble locating his fastball, which is the prime culprit in fastball ineffectiveness. A grand slam to Hideki Matsui that blew the game open was on a fastball middle-in, not down and away.

For the Red Sox to have any hope of making up their seemingly-constant 6 1/2 game deficit, Beckett's got to pitch better. The rotation can be one of the best in the game, but it's also tenuous. The only constant is Jon Lester , while John Lackey hasn't impressed in his first season wearing red socks and Daisuke Matsuzaka cannot be trusted.

Clay Buchholz has the lowest ERA in the majors, but while he's been strong, has also been lucky with a 4.22 xFIP and luck can turn on a dime. That may be just what Beckett needs, as his 4.09 xFIP shows that while he's been hit hard, he's also been unlucky. Buchholz may hope the dime stays away from him, but Beckett might want to go through his pockets.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 13, 2010 3:32 pm
 

The AL East

OK, let's take the word easily and remove the AL West from the equation. DO you think that there is any other division in baseball that any of the top four teams in AL East would not be leading? The simple fact is they beat the heck out of each other and, therefore, when playing teams from other divisions don't play their "A" game. That is reserved for the games within the rivalries. Teams in other divisions align their rotations to face these four because they know it is their only chance to defeat them.

Simply put, when the Rangers play the Yankees , Rays , Red Sox and Blue Jays they put their best players on the field and play as if it were the playoffs. Most of baseball does that. They also play to a packed house at home (not something they always do) and the intensity level of the fans is at fever pitch every pitch. The Yankees cleanup hitter didn't even show up because his wife had a baby two days pior. The intensity is reserved for the playoffs (unless you happen to play for the third and fourth team in the mix and are fighting for your playoff lives).

As an example, the Red Sox and Yankees are about as heated a rivalry as you will find in any sport. They played four games last weekend. MANY empty seats were visible (although paid for many didn't feel it was worth the trip to see a regular season matchup).There wasn't an empty seat at The Ballpark in Arlington (well maybe one).

Despite playing to packed houses on the road and feeling the intesity of the opposing fans fervor all of these teams play to winning records outside the division. That is why it is clear that these teams are the creme de la creme of baseball.



Posted on: March 24, 2010 3:19 pm
 

Relegation: An Idea I Have Had For Years.

With the introduction of the term “Floating Alignment,” Major League Baseball has a new buzz word to keep fans and critics alike speculating about the progression of America’s Pastime.  

 

These proposed changes include giving certain small-market or underachieving teams the opportunity to move to divisions where they could become more competitive, or, at the very least, have a chance to play the Yankees and the Red Sox multiple times a year.  Such moves would be in an effort to generate a higher revenue strain for teams like the Royals and the Indians, to name a few.

 

In fairness to Commissioner Bud Selig , this proposal, while still in its infancy, is trying to make an effort to level the playing field in terms of revenue.  Selig wants smaller-market teams to be able to contend financially with the big-market teams, which he in turn believes will lead to increased competitiveness throughout the league.  I fear that Selig has grossly underestimated the greed of some of his fellow owners.

 

Here’s a novel idea, to promote a higher competitive level in Major League Baseball, the commissioner should actually endorse competition, rather than appeal to the wallets of Baseball’s owners.

 

My proposal is to implement relegation in Major League Baseball.

 

The term relegation is synonymous with soccer, a sport that doesn’t have much visibility in the American sports landscape.  But a closer look across the pond, at Britain’s Barclays Premier League, the most established and recognized football league in the world, could benefit baseball.

 

Much like baseball’s minor-league system, the English Premier League has several different tiers that teams traverse annually, based on performance. For the teams at the bottom of the Premier League, the final few games of the season is a battle for their livelihoods, a chance to win and stay in the best league in the world, or lose, and fall to a lower league.  

 

Who benefits from such a system?  It’s the fans.  The fans are beneficiaries of such high stakes.  At the end of every Premiere League, all eyes are not on the teams that are the best, but on the teams that are most desperate.

 

Imagine a four-game series in September between the Nationals and the Pirates, that is more meaningful than a Dodgers-Giants division battle.  Imagine a baseball world where the small-market teams who can’t contend with the big boys are thrown into the spotlight, as they play for a chance to stay in Major League Baseball.  Imagine a Baseball world where a grueling 162-game season actually meant something to more than 8 teams.

 

Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, who now hold the major sports record for consecutive losing seasons at 17, would be accountable in a baseball world where relegation exists.  Owners who unload talented players as soon as they become too expensive would be penalized in the form of seeing their team drop to Triple-A.  Relegation would force owners to stop sitting on their laurels, and cause them to field competitive teams year in and year out.  The consequence of not doing so, would mean losing lucrative TV and advertisement deals that only a Major League Baseball team can generate.  

 

Such relegation battles would also generate fan excitement and involvement.  Baseball would have sellout crowds in September at Kauffman Stadium, not because the Yankees are in town, but because the Royals are in a fight for their Major League Baseball lives.  Relegation battles would become prime-time TV, because of high fan interest.

 

Relegation may seem radical or foreign, but allowing teams to move divisions each year so they can entertain the Yankees a few more times a season is no better.  At the end of the day, this is just one idea to help ease baseball’s financial trouble, as well as raise the competitiveness around the league.  This idea, much like Floating Alignment, is still in its infancy, but it could create real solutions that help Major League Baseball progress, and strengthen its success.



Category: MLB
Tags: Royals, Yankees
 
Posted on: February 26, 2010 12:31 am
 

Northern Iowa

Northern Iowa is a joke. they are going to be one and doen in the tournament. How a team with four losses to teams outside the top50 in RPI and only 1 win against a team with an RPI of better than 50 gets ranked is beyond me. This loss to Evansville should finally put to bed any chance that they had to play as a upper 32 seed. (8 or better).

Their only "quality" win was against Siena. That tells you a lot. More than you need to know, in fact. They would be DePaul in the Big East at best. They are the poster child for why teams like Gonazaga, Butler and other mid-majors should almost never get ranked higher than 20. They just don't beat anyone worth talking about.

And don't even get me started on St. Marry's.....
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 12, 2010 2:24 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2010 2:36 pm
 

Peyton's Fateful Throw

I have just finished breaking down the game tape of the Super Bowl. Here is what I saw on the drive leading up to Peyton's pick six.

Let's go back to the first drive the Colts had in the second half. In the first half the Saints defense was all but conceding the run. As if they were saying to Manning, "you are not going to beat us". On the first drive in the third quarter they switched it up. They moved one extra linebacker closer to the line and shut Addai down for most of the second half.

On that first drive Manning adjusted and threw and threw an threw some more. The end reult was a touchdown.

The next drive the Saints added another wrinkle. They began to use the extra linebacker to blitz. This resulted in Manning making more short throws and not being able to get off his primary reads or go downfield.

Finally, in the fourth quarter, after the Saints took the lead they added a blitzing defensive back out of the same defensive formation.

On the three down sequence that resulted in the pick six the first play was a "hot" read to Reggie Wayne for 5 yards. he was tackled immediately by Porter. Porter now knew where Manning was going to go with the ball on a hot route if the blitz came from the defenses left. On the next play Manning barely got the ball away before being hit. Most people don't remember this because there was an injury time-out. Manning'g clock in his head had to speed up on the next play. The play was 3rd down and 5 perfect for the in cut to Wayne. This time Thomas knew it was coming. The Saints dialed up the same blitz as they had on first down. Porter played off Wayne just enough so that when Manning began his throwing motion Porter got a running start at the ball, ran around Wayne and the rest is history.

First, off props to Greg Williams for noticing the hot read on that blitz and calling it again. Second, props to Porter for playing possum on the play. Third props to both of them for taking the time during the injury time out to prepare the trap for Manning.

The "anointed one" was outcoached on that play which for all intents and purposes ended the Super Bowl.




Posted on: February 12, 2010 2:22 pm
 

Peyton's Fateful Throw

I have just finished breaking down the game tape of the Super Bowl. Here is what I saw on the drive leading up to Peyton's pick six.

Let's go back to the first drive the Colts had in the second half. In the first half the Saints defense was all but conceding the run. As if they were saying to Manning, "you are not going to beat us". On the first drive in the third quarter they switched it up. They moved one extra linebacker closer to the line and shut Addai down for most of the second half.

On that first drive Manning adjusted and threw and threw an threw some more. The end reult was a touchdown.

The next drive the Saints added another wrinkle. They began to use the extra linebacker to blitz. This resulted in Manning making more short throws and not being able to get off his primary reads or go downfield.

Finally, in the fourth quarter, after the Saints took the lead the added a blitzing defensive back out of the same defensive formation.

On the three down sequence that resulted in the pick six the first play was a "hot" read to Reggie Wayne for 5 yards. he was tackled immediately by Porter. Porter now knew where Manning was going to go with the ball on a hot route if the blitz came from the defenses left. On the next play Manning barely go the ball away before being hit. Most people don't remember this because there was an injury time-out. Manning'g clock in his head had to speed up on the next play. The play was 3rd down and 5 perfect for the in cut to Wayne. This time Thomas knew it was coming. The Saints dialed up the same blitz as they had on first down. Porter played off Wayne just enough so that when Manning began his throwing motion Porter got a running start at the ball, ran around Wayne and the rest is history.

First, off props to Greg Williams for noticing the hot read on that blitz and calling it again. Second, props to Porter for playing possum on the play. Third props to both of them for taking the tim during the injury time out to prepare the trap for Manning.

The "anointed one" was outcoached on that play which for all intents and purposes ended the Super Bowl.


Posted on: February 7, 2010 5:17 pm
 

The BEAST

Can someone please explain to me why the teams in Big East always get penalized for playing in the deepest and toughest conference in the country? Seriously folks, could Butler or Gonazaga compete with Seton Hall? Barely. Forget about Northern Iowa. They would compete with DePaul and Rutgers for the bottem end of the conference.

I think the Big East should pull a BCS and have only their own tounament to determine the National Championship (sic).

Anything less than 8 teams from the BEAST making the tourney is an insult to any basketball fans intelligence.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Big East
 
 
 
 
 
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