2008 Rotation > 2007 Rotation

Monday, March 31, 2008

Here's a newsflash to all the Yankee haters out there that have been killing the Yankees rotation this season and saying that it will be the downfall of there season, the Yankees rotation is better this year than last.

Same Assets Different Year

Here are the constants of the Yankees rotation, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettite and Chien-Ming Wang. If you make the case that Mike Mussina blows I can understand that. He does blow. But he did last season as well. Why is it any different this year? Pettitte had an ERA around 4, no reason to expect worse this season. And Wang had an ERA of 3.70, really no reason to think he will be much different this season either.

2007 Scraps and Steroid Users

People will point to the loss of Roger Clemens and say that is the major difference between the 2007 Yanks and the 2008 Yanks but really is it that big of a loss? Last season Clemens finished with only 6 wins. 6 Wins, that's not much. His era of 4.18 was good but not extraordinary. And he didn't even average 6 innings and appearance. He was a needed addition last year but is not need last year.

Now onto the big difference between 2007 and 2008. The Yankees pitched a lot of guys that completely sucked in 2007. Kei Igawa started 12 games and finished with an era over 6. Tyler Clippard started 6 games and also finished with an era over 6. Good ole 4 in a row Chase Wright started two games with an era over 7. Matt De Salvo started 6 games and of course had an ERA over 6. Sean Henn started a game. Darrell Rasner started 6 games. Hell even Carl Pavano started 2 games. That is a hell of a lot of starts by players that suck. Should you expect the Yankees to get all of those starts in 2008 from Minor League players? I certainly don't think that's a fair assumption.

Put it this way, at the start of the 2007 season Kei Igawa and Carl Pavano were in the starting rotation.

2008 Replacements

So onto the big question marks as skeptics would call them. Philip Hughes got 13 starts last season in those 13 starts he finished with a 4.46 era. That spread out over 30 starts is much better than the garbage I just mentioned above but in reality the expectations for Hughes should be much better. After coming back from his hamstring injury in August Hughes struggled mightily. His August era ended at a miserable 6.40 over 6 starts. However, in September Hughes was able to turn it around and finished September 3-0 over 5 starts with a 2.73 ERA. Now am I saying Hughes will have an ERA around 3? No that's not a fair assumption, but I think it is a fair assumption to say that he will be just as good as Clemens was last year if not better given the fact he is younger will start more games and will pitch more innings than Clemens.

So if the conservative assumption that Hughes will be a similar pitcher to Clemens this season than the big difference between 2007 and 2008 is Ian Kennedy compared to the scraps. Kennedy hasn't been out of college for very long but in the 2007 season Kennedy managed to pitch at all 4 levels. In A ball he went 6-1 with an era of 1.29. In AA ball he went 5-1 with a 2.59 era. In AAA ball he went 1-1 with a 2.08 era and finally in MLB he 1-0 with a 1.89 era in three starts. Notice a trend there? No era above 2.60 at any level. Of course I'm not going to say his era is going to be below three, but why shouldn't I assume his era will be in the low 4s given his success rate last season. And at the very least even the biggest Yankee hater has to admit that Kennedy will be better this season than the Igawas and Chase Wrights of the world.

And this is all assuming that at no point in time Joba joins the rotation and that he stays in the 8th inning role. I'm pretty sure he would be a better starter than Carl Pavano as well.

Conclusion

So please when you want to bring out your Yankee haterade and say that the Yanks will not make the playoffs, which is certainly a possibility, please bring up some more valid points. Like for instance there is no way that Arod and Posada will put up the same numbers this year as last. Or do a comparative analysis of the Yankees rotation to the other contenders, don't just flat out say the Yankees rotation is bad because quite simply it's better than last years. And I'm pretty sure the 2007 Yankees made the post season.

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2008 American League Award Show Predictions

MVP - Miguel Cabrera, He already has a home run. Congrats to me for waiting until after the first pitch to put this in. But regardless he'll have a monster season and has as good a chance as any to come home with the MVP award at seasons end. His bonus is that people really give an added benefit of the doubt to new team additions when it comes to MVP award, because they make the team "different" from the previous year.

Cy Young - Erik Bedard, 2 for 2 on the chalk Cy Young picks. And guess what both will be right... Maybe.

Coach of the Year - John McClaren, The Mariners aren't much of a sleeper if you talk to an ESPN personality but amongst the teams I have making the playoffs they will be the most surprising. And thus their manager will be most likely to win the Coach of the Year.

Rookie of the Year - Clay Bucholz, A spot in the starting rotation for amongst the best teams in baseball will certainly give Bucholz a big advantage over the competition. If he could post around 12 wins with an ERA around 4 he should take home the award. The Yankees certainly will hope that Kennedy rather than Bucholz takes home this award.

Comeback Player of the Year - Richie Sexson, And the moronic pick of the season comes in this category. But really Sexson just hit over .200 last season. Say the Mariners win the division and he returns to his typical 30+ homers and .260 average. That's a pretty solid comeback right?

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2008 National League Award Show Predictions

Just a reminder that I did absolutely miserable with these predictions last year. But alas we shall predict err make an educated guess at these things.

MVP - Aramis Ramirez, Why? Fuck if I know. I just wanted to be out there. And wanted to pick someone on a team that I think will do good. Ramirez is surrounded by great hitters and if he stays healthy could hit 40 homers and hit .310 with 120 rbis. Sure there's no speed and his glove isn't the greatest but if he puts up great numbers and the Cubs win the division, he'll have a chance. Plus, last year one of my keepers Rollins won, so perhaps

Cy Young - Johan Santana, Way to go out a limb on this one. But come on his team has a solid offense and he'll end up with about 240 strikeouts and an era at worse in the low 3s. He's a safe bet here and much like mike chalktastic bracket sometimes you just have to go with the common senser.

Coach of the Year - Lou Piniella, Again the Cubs have a big season and the awards will flow to them based on their clubs mystique. A lot of teams have high expectations and the coach of the year typically goes to a team in the playoffs so with no real under the radar teams Sweet Lou has as good a chance as any.

Rookie of the Year - Kosuke Fukudome, The NL rookies aren't very good this season and most of the impact guys got sent down so we shall go with another Cub in Fukudome. This is a tough call considering he will probably have the best numbers given his experience, yet there is a big time anti-Japanese import bias when it comes to rookie of the year voting.

Comeback Player of the Year - Nick Johnson, I think he should get bonus points for just how bad he blew out his knee two summers ago. Plus he's already got an rbi, so this is probably a pretty safe bet.

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Tournament Wastes of Oxygen

I've been slacking on getting these out, but here's a waste edition based on the tournament only.

1. Bruce Pearl - Apparently Bruce Pearl is target #1 for Indiana. I guess they didn't watch his undisciplined team play in the Sweet 16. The Vols looked like a schoolyard team for the vast majority of the game, throwing balls out of bounds, offering no help defense, gunning up covered three, and driving recklessly to the basket. The Vols played like a team that had no coach.

2. Duke - The Dukies were just 1 point away from making history and joining the past #2 seeds to be eliminated in the first round. Regardless it didn't take the Blue Devils much longer to exit the tournament as everyones favorite team to hate got slugged by an ok West Virginia team.

3. Pool Braggers - I'm not talking about anyone who is necessarily leading your bracket, I am talking about if someone like me or Clark Kellogg bragged about picking the correct final four. You didn't do anything special, congrats you picked like a robot and it just so happened that this year the robot worked out for you. Good for you, no one cares.

4. Hansbrough Strokers - From the announcers, to the experts, to the refs everyone on TV seems to like stroking Hansbrough's cock. It really is unbearable. I get it, he's a great college basketball player, but he isn't exactly the second coming of anybody. He isn't all that great at all. Everything he does is godly. And the god damn refs seem to think he never fouls on any play. Even if he cross checks his man, no foul. Annoying.

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Chances Are Good That The Chalk Robot is Better Than You


Before the tournament started I filled out a bunch of brackets on ESPN.com. One of which I filled out as a test to see how a mindless bracket would work out, a bracket involving one single thought and one decision maker. If the team has a lower seed than they win. Thus the 1 seed makes the final four, the 2 seed makes the elite 8, the 3 and 4 seeds make the sweet 16, etc. Well after two weeks, this is my best bracket and chances are good that its better than your bracket as well.

As of the end of the elite 8, after all #1 seeds made history, the 100% Chalk Bracket currently sits at the 96th percentile of all brackets. After 4 rounds the bracket has only gotten 16 games wrong, eight in the first round, five in the second, and three in the sweet 16. Would this bracket win your pool? In a massive pool of thousands, most likely not. In the Deadspin pool of 3472 it sits in 85th place, so chances are someone will finish above the picks. But in a pool with 50 or so participants this bracket, the lamest of all, would most likely still give you the opportunity to run home with the cash while your bracket likely has already been thrown in the fireplace for kindling.

In the end this has truly been the tournament of the favorite. Sure Davidson made a huge run and there were some exciting #12 and #13 upsets in week one, but that has been it. In the entire South Regional there was one single upset, Michigan St. over Pittsburgh. Not exactly a big time upset. In the East Regional only 2, Arkansas over Indiana and Louisville over Tennessee. Again, not really prime upsets. In the West and Midwest regional the #12 and #13 seeds both pulled off upsets, but than the #12 seed sealed the trip to the Sweet 16 in both. At the end of the day only 11 games were won by the lower seed. That's a 49-11 record for the favorite. Not much madness in that.

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2008 MLB Playoff Predictions

Friday, March 28, 2008

Updated Playoff Predictions as of October 1st

Honestly I don't feel like writing right now but want to get out my predictions before the weekend. So here.

Overall Record Predictions

American League


TeamWinsLossesWin %
1Detroit96660.5925926
2Boston94680.5802469
3N.Y. Yankees93690.5740741
4Cleveland91710.5617284
5Seattle91710.5617284
6L.A. Angels90720.5555556
7Toronto82800.5061728
8Chi. White Sox80820.4938272
9Tampa Bay79830.4876543
10Minnesota73890.4506173
11Kansas City71910.4382716
12Texas70920.4320988
13Oakland68940.4197531
14Baltimore591030.3641975

National League


TeamWinsLossesWin %
1N.Y. Mets94680.5802469
2Chi. Cubs90720.5555556
3Arizona89730.5493827
4Philadelphia89730.5493827
5Milwaukee89730.5493827
6Colorado88740.5432099
7L.A. Dodgers88740.5432099
8Atlanta87750.537037
9San Diego85770.5246914
10St. Louis76860.4691358
11Houston77850.4753086
12Florida75870.462963
13Cincinnati74880.4567901
14Pittsburgh67950.4135802
15Washington66960.4074074
16San Francisco591030.3641975

Playoff Predictions

NL Playin Game: Phillies over Brewers

NL WildCard: Mets over DBacks, Phillies over Cubs
AL WildCard: Yankees over Tigers, Red Sox over Mariners

NLCS: Mets over Phillies
ALCS: Red Sox over Yanks

World Series: Mets over Red Sox

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Friday Video Blowout

Everyone needs something to keep them occupied on Friday afternoons so the Friday Video Blowout was born. Spend your next few minutes, laughing, crying of laughter, pissing your self, whatever, but mostly wasting your companies time.

Videos In Order Courtesy of Fanhouse, Mirtle, Real Clear Sports, Kurtenblog, AA, Who Ate All the Pies, Fanhouse 2, AA * 2, Everybody


Way to make it uncomfortable dick.


That's loserific.


Umm ok Chuck.


They are the best team in New York.


Hmm Patrick's son is badass.


Where were the Cheese Doodles?


John is the man.


Hmm dunks are fun.


Typical Dukie scum.


People like Bogut.

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EXCLUSIVE: The Tennessee Vols Playbook

This is a first, I have gotten access and found a few of Bruce Pearl's most secretive plays. He used these a lot last night so they may be out, but still to have them on paper is a thing of beauty.

Defense

Uncontested Lay Up Play

The Vols ran this play to perfection often last night. First the man guarding the ball has to get burnt. In fact sometimes you don't even need some one guarding the ball. Then next step is for every other defender to not get in the way of the ball handler. This could either be done by simply not moving, or waving half assedly at the ball, or you could even pretend to not see the ball handler. The final step is to watch the player hopefully make a wide open dunk or layup. Typically this play works 95% of the time.


The Easy Pass for a Layup

Another one of Bruce Pearl's ingenious plays. The way this works is that first the man covering the ball has to get burnt. It's a consistent theme in Pearl's plays but an essential one. The next step is for the man closest to the basket to shift off of his man for some help defense. The final step involves the rest of the defense remaining stationary and staring at the wide open man who eventually receives the pass for a wide open layup. There are other variations of this play which include not paying attention to your man on a back door screen and not fully stepping over for help defense but enough to leave your man wide open. Both are equally as effect as the original play.

Offense

The Reckless Drive to the Hoop

This play was run a lot in the 2nd half. It's pretty simple, bring the ball up the court. The first person who gets the ball past half court drives directly into the lane and throws up a wild shot. The key to this play is spacing. The Vols must make sure that on the reckless drive to the hoop that atleast 3 of the Vols if not all 4 other players are behind the 3 point line to make sure they do not get the offensive rebound. If run to perfection the play also calls for driving directly at their center who can force the shot to be even more awkward. This play also runs best if on a consistent basis. If run 4 or 5 straight possession than 60% of the time it works all the time.

The Three With a Hand in Your Face

Another terrific play is the wild three with a hand in your face. Open threes are for pussies. The three with someone covering you is essential. Now there are a few important pieces that make this play work. First all other Vols should not be in any position to gather an offensive rebound. All three opponent big men must be in perfect box out position. If run to perfection the three with a hand in your face will come from an athlete that is taller and more athletic than the shooter and preferably a high jumper. This gives the defender ample chance to block the shot which insures 100% effectiveness of the play.

I apologize for not being able to get all of Tennessee's excellent plays. I could only get my hands on four of them, but they certainly show the genius of Bruce Pearl.

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2008 MLB Preview: AL East

And to the AL East, the division that truly matters. This year might be the deepest that the division has been in years. Obviously the Sox and Yanks haven't left, but the Blue Jays should be dangerous again this year, and even Devil Rays have potential. One could put together a good argument that this division is actually better than the AL Central and will be the best division in baseball at years end. Oh the Orioles are gonna suck though.

1. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox currently lead the league in losses, but I think it's safe to say they should be able to recover. The question that may haunt Theo and the Sox is if they end up with an Asian hangover. The two opening months for the Sox are essential. If they get off to a typical Red Sox start than there is no doubt that they should make a run to the postseason. However, if they come back from Japan and get off to the horrendous start that other teams in the past have they may end up finding it difficult to fight through an improved division and past the Yanks, Indians and Tigers.

Key Player: Josh Beckett, The Key player for the Red Sox is pretty simple, it's Josh Beckett. He's arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He certainly is the best postseason pitcher in baseball. Any injury to him will leave the Red Sox scrambling to rely on Dice-K Version 2.0, and the youngsters.

Player to Eye: Jon Lester, Lester didn't pitch overly well during his first outing but the potential is there. The only issue is getting him to get ahead in the count. When Lester gets ahead of hitters he is dominant, when he isn't ahead of hitters than he's plain old average. If either Lester or Bucholz can emerge this season as a premium starter the Sox will again be in great shape come October.

Record Prediction:94-68

2. New York Yankees

The 2008 version of the Yankees seem to be at the biggest risk of not making the playoffs in a long time. They have a boatload of pitching question marks. They need Hughes and Kennedy to emerge. They need Mussina not to suck. They need Mo not to become mortal. But in the end is this rotation worse or better than last year? I say better. Anyway I think they still make the postseason. Call me a homer or disagree with me if you want.

Key Player: Phil Hughes, You really could pick out any pitcher in the Yankees starting rotation as their key player but to me its Hughes. He's the top of the line prospect. He's the man they refused to trade to get Johan Santana, he's the one with the pressure and he's the one that must emerge this season as a #3 or better starter. If Hughes fails than the pressure is squarely put on either Kennedy or the Ancient Moose to pick up the slack. And I don't see that happening.

Player to Eye: Kyle Farnsworth, I know this is a very very odd pick especially from a Farny hater but he's going to get innings this year. Important innings. For some reason Joe Girardi has faith in the Farny and if at any point Joba moves into the rotation than the Farny regains the 8th inning job. And that could be scary.

Record Prediction: 93 - 69


3. Toronto Blue Jays

The problems with the Blue Jays is a consistent one. They play in the American League East and every season the Red Sox and Yankees come in with larger payrolls and better overall teams. It really sucks for them but it's true. The biggest difference from the Blue Jays and the two top teams is their margin for error. If Roy or AJ goes down they're screwed. If Wells or Rios has a bad year, they're screwed. Where as the Yanks and Sox can rebound from a few key losses to still post 90+ wins.

Key Player: Vernon Wells, Vernon Wells needs to show up this season for the Blue Jays. He's basically the most inconsistent player in baseball. One year he's amongst the top five players in the American league, the next he's in the lower half of outfielders in the league. The Blue Jays don't have enough talent to overcome a bad season from Vernon Wells.

Player to Eye: Dustin McGowan, King sideburns is actually a pretty good pitcher. Who knew? Last year he improved his ERA to 4.06 from the pitiful 7.24 level it was at in 2006. Could another significant improvement happen this season? Is there a possibility that McGowan matches Roy and AJ and gives the Blue Jays three top of the line starters? Sure why not.

Record Prediction:82-80

4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Hey looky here the Devil Rays may actually not completely suck this year. They have some good hitters in Upton, Crawford, and Pena as well as having three young solid starters in Kazmir, Shields and Garza. Hell they could potentially go .500 this season.

Key Player: Scott Kazmir, Kazmir will not start on opening day due to lingering injuries which immediately should make all Devil Rays fans highly worried. Kazmir never has been the image of perfect health. If he goes down then they can kiss .500 goodbye.

Player to Eye: Matt Garza, The man they got for Delmon Young in a straight prospect flip will be key for the Devil Rays success. Garza had a solid spring which comes after posting a 3.69 era in 15 starts last season. Garza seems like a candidate to capatilize on his potential this season and perhaps gives the Devil Rays 3 quality arms.

Record Prediction:79-83

5. Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles summed up in a word for 2008 are awful. They have absolutely horrible pitching. They'll start Jeremy Guthrie on opening day. Guthrie was good last year but he certainly isn't a team ace. It won't help the Orioles at all to play the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays 19 times a piece. It's going to be a very very rough year for everybody in the DC area.

Key Player: Nick Markakis, Really the only young all star caliber player on the Orioles right now. Markakis should ascend to about 30HRs and 20 SBs this season while hitting around .300. He's basically amongst the best youngsters in the game but will be completely hindered by playing on such a miserable team.

Player to Eye: Adam "Not Pacman" Jones, When your traded for a person who easily could turn out to be this years Cy Young, there is a lot of pressure. Thankfully for Not Pacman, he will be playing for a miserable team completely under the radar. But it will still be interesting to watch to see how he emerges as a player now that he should receive every day at bats.

Record Prediction: 75-87

*Note: These Record Predictions actually do add up perfectly this year. Thanks excel. I have the AL winning 6 more interleague games than the NL.

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2008 MLB Preview: NL East

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The NL East was certainly a lot more interesting in late September than it looked all season long. The Mets with the addition of Johan have once again risen to the favorite of the division.

1. New York Mets

Trading for Johan Santana give the Mets the piece they have been missing the past two seasons. An absolute stud at the top of their rotation. But was it a year too late? Will the age and injuries to the Carlos's, Alou, etc. hinder what should be the National League favorite.

Key Player: Pedro Martinez, The key player for the Mets this season is definitely Pedro. If Pedro can stay healthy for the entire season than the Mets have 4 dynamic starters with the potential of 5 if El Duque can ever be healthy. If Pedro comes down with an injury than are they really head and shoulders better than they were last season? Maybe not.

Player to Eye: John Maine, I've never been a big believer of John Maine but maybe I'm worng. Last season Maine had a solid season and this spring he's been terrific. If Maine continues to pitch like he has this spring he will once again reach the 15 win mark and likely pass it with ease.

Record Prediction: 94 - 68

2. Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies made a tremendous come back last season and then fell to the bible thumping streaking Rockies. Once again this year the Phillies come with a severely loaded offense and a very shallow starting rotation.

Key Player: Brett Myers, Last year it didn't make much sense to me when the Phillies thrust Brett Myers into the closer role. Well it worked out. He pitched well and the Phillies won the division and Myers liked the job. So naturally the Phillies threw him back in the rotation. Now we shall see if Myers blows up in his first month like he did last year, or reemerges as a front line starter.

Player to Eye: Brad Lidge, Brad Lidge will open the season on the 15 Day DL which isn't very surprising. If this trend continues than the Phillies will have to once again rely on grandpa Tom Gordon and that won't exactly be good news for their roster. Now that they've moved Myers back into the rotation, they need someone, preferably Lidge to solidify the closer role.

Record Prediction:89 - 73, WildCard

3. Atlanta Braves

Apparently the Braves are now the sheik pick to win the NL East. I'm just not seeing it. Their rotation has 3 ancient pitcher with injury risks. Smoltz is already on the DL, Hampton is bound to go on the DL, and Glavine got rocked at the end of the year last year. Their lineup will be really good, but is the offense better than last year?

Key Player: John Smoltz, An ace starting the season on the DL is never a good thing. Now when your ace is a 40 year old pitcher you're going to have to worry a lot. If Smoltz breaks down this season the Braves are left with no one that scary at the top of their rotation.

Player to Eye: Mike Hampton, Hey Mike Hampton is back (for now). Remember him? He used to be really good before he decided he didn't like the education system in the New York area so he moved his family out to Colorado. They didn't quite workout for him. But hey right now he's actually healthy and pitching well. How are those Georgia school systems by the way, cause the ones in Connecticut sure do suck?

Record Prediction: 87 -75

4. Florida Marlins

The Marlins went the rout of fire sale in the off season and for good reason. A team that has an attendence of a high school team shouldn't shell out 150 million dollars on one play. In the deal they did get rid of their two biggest faces but received talent that could once again lead them to the promise land in the future. For 2008 however these Marlins will be bad.

Key Player: Hanley Ramirez, Considering he is the lone star left on the Marlins it's obvious that Hanley Ramirez is the Marlins key player. One could argue that he is the best shortstop in major league baseball right now and if he was in a major market many more would probably make the case. It will be interesting to track what effect if any the absence of Miguel Cabrera will have on Hanley.

Player to Eye: Andrew Miller, The big lefty was one of the two jewels received in the Cabrera trade. Now Miller should get a full seasons worth of work and we shall see if he truly is an elite MLB pitcher.

Record Prediction: 75-87

5. Washington Nationals

The Nationals apparently have modeled themselves in the mold of the Texas Rangers. Minus the really good hitting. They have no pitcher to write home about. Their best pitcher two seasons ago, John Patterson, was cut this past week. So who is their opening day starter? Odalis Perez. Woo. This team just like last years team will rock out in the basement.

Key Player: Ryan Zimmerman, Zimmerman is now entering his 3rd full season with the Nationals and I bet he's pumped up that he no longer has to play in RFK. Will his numbers balloon a lot this year? Probably not. But maybe he'll challenge to be the lone Nationals representative in the all star game.

Player to Eye: Lastings Milledge, What they gave up for Lastings Milledge was a complete steal. As in they give up absolutely nothing for a player who could turn into Mike Cameron. Aka low batting average but 20+ HR/SB.

Record Prediction: 66 - 96

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2008 MLB Preview: AL Central

Last year the AL Central was arguably the best division in baseball, this year it should get a run for its money from the AL East, but they certainly have two teams to match any other division in MLB.

1. Detroit Tigers

Apparently Detroit is becoming a big market team. After a a World Series trip the Tigers missed out on the postseason due in part to some key injuries. So what does a big market team do in the offseason? They reload. They trade their best prospects (Maybin, Miller, Jurjjens) to restock with All Stars (Cabrera, Willis, Renteria). Now the Tigers have arguably the best lineup in baseball.

Key Player: Jeremy Bonderman, The Tigers really need someone to emerge as their #2 starter behind Verlander. Last season Bonderman appeared to be on the verge of a breakout season. On July 13th Bonderman moved his record to 10-1 and his ERA to 3.50, after that it was kaboom to the point where he finished the season 11-9 with a 5.01 era before being shelved. The Tigers really need Bonderman to be the 2007 pre all star break Bonderman.

Player to Eye: Miguel Cabrera, In his first season in the American League a lot will be expected from Miguel Cabrera, yet the Tigers plan on batting him in the 5 hole. Really it will be interesting to see just how much of a boost Cabrera's numbers will get now that he's hitting in the middle of one of the best lineups in baseball.

Record Prediction: 96 - 66

2. Cleveland Indians

The Indians just missed out on the World Series last year after CC Sabathia completely ran out of gas in the playoffs. This year they will most likely once again be amongst the elite American League teams challenging for a birth to the World Series.

Key Player: Travis Hafner, Last year the Indians won the division due to the strengths of their two aces at the top of the rotation. One thing lost in the shuffle was how ineffective Pronk was for the majority of the season. After the Tigers beefed up their lineup with two big bats in the offseason the Indians need Pronk back and raking in order to

Player to Eye: Joe Borowski, Borowski somehow despite being not good ended up with a ridiculous amount of saves last season. This year once again despite having better pitcher in the bullpen the Indians will turn the ball over in the 9th to Borowski. Will he be able put up a similar showing this season or will he force the Indians to replace him by getting rocked on a more consistent basis.

Record Prediction:91-71

3. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox should again be looking up at the standings for the entirety of the season. They decided to part ways with Jon Garland in the offseason which might not have been the greatest idea. Either way the White Sox don't have the pitching depth or the studs at the top to give a serious run at the division title.

Key Player: Paul Konerko, Last season was an unacceptable one for Konerko. His average fell from a career high of .313 in 2006 to .259 in 2007 which was amongst his career lows. The WHite Sox certainly won't have a stellar rotation this season and will be very reliant on Konerko as well as others to boost their run production back to an elite level.

Player to Eye: Nick Swisher, So Nick Swisher the past few seasons has been a masher for the Oakland A's floating between the corner outfield and first base. Now potentially Swisher could be the leadoff hitting center fielder for the White Sox? Does this make any sense to anybody? I can't wait to see this guy track down his first regular season gapper.

Record Prediction:80-82

4. Minnesota Twins

The Twins traded away the best pitcher in baseball and their #1 pitching prospect and also lost their clubhouse leader. So they're going to suck right? Well probably, but there is a chance if that they could actually contend for the division title. They just need the rest of their pitching prospects to light it up, the JM cornerstones to have their best seasons and some of their hitting prospects to emerge as big time players. Sure it's a lot to ask but they do have potential.

Key Player: Francisco Liriano, When you trade away the best pitcher in baseball it's pretty hard to replace him, but the Twins actually have a chance. If Liriano can regain his 2006 form when he was actually a better pitcher than Santana. A return to that form is mostly unlikely but in order for the Twins to make a run at the division they need to unlikely to happen.

Player to Eye: Delmon Young, He's always been deemed a little bit of a loose cannon, but now in Minnesota outside of the radar Delmon Young could blossom into a premier player. This season young comes in at the tender age of 22 with a full season under his belt where he hit .286 he should have a breakout season.

Record Prediction:73-89

5. Kansas City Royals

If this was the NFL or the NBA the Royals would be right there in the race to get that first pick. Too bad there are no Michael Beasley's waiting as saviors at the end of the tunnel. The good news for the Royals is they have some young talent with Gordon, Teahan and Butler waiting in the wings. The problem, they still have no pitching and they're one of the best divisions in baseball.

Key Player: Alex Gordon, Again the Royals are going to be bad this season so once again the only thing that should really matter to fans in KC is the future. And Alex Gordon is supposed to be the future of the franchise.

Player to Eye: Billy Butler, Now that Sweeney is finally gone Billy Butler can get full time PT all season long. Expect him to hit around .300 and morph into another solid career DH.

Record Prediction:71-91

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Great Moments in Hoops Flat Top History

In honor of Brandon Jennings busting out a money hairstyle, I bring you great moments in Flat Top / Hi-Top Fade History. Sure my memory could probably use a refresher when it comes to finding the best of the best, but here's essentially the best of what I remember. So feel free to email away any additions.

Fab Five Flat Top


Yesterday CWebb retired so of course the Fab Five is going to be on my mind. And no one quite rocked a flat top in the NCAA Finals quite like Juwan Howard.

Back to Back Flat Tops


I certainly hate Duke, but the Hill boys always rocked out a solid flat top during their dominant days at Duke.

Flat Top Dream Team



Why were they the dream team? The flat top of course. Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mulling, and the Admiral all rocked out flat tops. That's a high powered flat top squad.

Other Members of the All Flat Top Team


Kendell Gill always rocked out a solid flat top.


Detlef Schrempf adds to the contigent of white flat tops.


White guys really do look miserable in a flat top. Kind of like Eric Montross's basketball skills.


Dee Brown rocked out the Hi-Top fade blindfolded while wearing Pumps.


Back in his Prime Greg Anthony Rocked out the Hi-Top Fade with the Runnin Rebs.

I Will Crush You Flat Top



So what if Drago didn't play Basketball in Rocky, in the true story Drago was a punishing Communist Power Forward that lead the Ruskies over the US of A.


Please let me know some of the great Flat Tops / Hi-Top Fades I foolishly missed.

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Please Tell Me Flat Tops Are Back In

Last night I left ESPN on after the C's game and found out by accident that the McDonald's All America game was on. I left it on for a bit and really there was only one thing of note. Arizona PG recruit Brandon Jennings has an enormous Kid N' Play like Flat Top. It was phenomenal and I pray that Flat Tops / Hi-Top Fades are coming back in style.


FLAT TOPS HELP IMPROVE THE JORDAN POSE
(Do Not Actually Improve Dunking Ability)



YOU CAN CARRY THE BALL WITH A FLAT TOP
(Ref's Are Blinded by the Hair)



FLAT TOPS GIVE YOU WINGS
(Red Bull Not Included)




Check out GREAT MOMENTS IN HOOPS FLAT TOP HISTORY

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UNC You Are Now the Lone ACC Warrior

The ACC is often regarded as the #1 basketball conference in the country and this year the RPI rankings reflected that. Yet, the ACC mysteriously only received 4 invitations to the Big Dance. Well after a week and a half it's pretty evident that the ACC might have been a touch overrated this season. Why? Because after a week and a half there's only one team left and the conference has a combined 9-7 record.

NCAA Tourney ELIMINATED (2-3)

Clemson 0-1: Dumped in the first round to the last at large team in the dance is pretty poor. Especially when a win would have lined the Tigers up against Siena.

Duke 1-1: Barely avoided historic levels of ineptitude when they won by 1 over Belmont. Than pretty much got thumped by WVU.

Miami 1-1: Knocked off St. Mary's woooo in the first round and then closed the gap but lost to Texas in the second round. No real shame in a 7 seed losing to a 2.

NIT ELIMINATED (3-3)

Florida St. 0-1: Florida St. got dumped at home against Akron in the first round of the NIT. Piss Poor.

Maryland 1-1: Maryland won a road game against not so good Minnesota before getting dumped by Syracuse.

VaTech 2-1: The Hokies pummeled two opponents at home prior to losing to Ole Miss a game before MSG.

CBI ELIMINATED (2-1)

UVA 2-1: UVA was the last ACC team to make a tournament and the only ACC invited to the historic CBI. There they dumped instate rivals Richmond and ODU at home to make the last 4. Then they were dumped at home by Bradley.

UNC IS THE LONE SURVIVOR (2-0)

The #1 team in the country is now the last remaining ACC team. And it's not like their path has been very difficult thus far. Sure they've pummeled their opponents, but they are playing virtually at home and one of the teams they defeated was Mount St. Mary's woo. Sure UNC will probably run away with the NCAA Championship at the end of the season, but the ACC has proven itself to be an overrated conference in 07-08 and not the powerhouse everyone proclaims.

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Max Intentionally Pissed of Mariotti

It's been a very long time since Max Kellerman quit Around the Horn to move onto his unsuccessful show IMax, but today he said something on his radio show on 1050 ESPN Radio that I found humurous. Basically when Bob Ryan was on the show, which wasn't that often, he would just agree with all of the arguments Ryan presented and intentionally placed him in the finals to piss off the other contestants. He said he would usually pit Ryan against Woody and have Ryan win, just so he could annoy the other guys.

I bet Jay Mariotti went home daily crying like a little girl. "Max doesn't like me, wah wah. Why doesn't he like me?"

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CBI Bracketology: A Tourney Not Meant for Picks


Reseeding is stupid. Let me explain why...

My original tournament bracket had Bradley vs. Virginia in the finals of the CBI tournament and UVA taking it home. Well come semifinals time the CBI decides that it wants to recede teams based on some criteria that nobody knows (aka I don't care to find out) and they decided to throw my bracket for a loop and make Bradley and UVA face each other in the semifinals. So do you repick at this point? Do you leave the bracket as is? I have no idea, plus I'm lazy so I left the bracket as is. Well Bradley beat UVA, so now my champion is obviously wrong, but do I get credit for Bradley in the finals. I had them there, but I had them losing to UVA. Who knows. If you can't even do a March Madness bracket with it than why should anyone care about shit teams facing each other?

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NIT Bracketology: The Day My Bracket Died


I obviously wasn't going to get the UMass trip to MSG given I had them losing to FSU long ago, but still going into last night I had 1 of 2 'Final Four' teams. And then the bracket came to an abrupt halt. VaTech had to choke on some large dong at home against Ole Miss. Sure Ole Miss has a better record, but I figured home court, playing in a better conference, plus the ability to almost beat the best team in the country would give them the ability to proclaim themselves the 66th best team in the country. Nope they got pounded in the last few minutes and my bracket was shattered. And then of course to put salt in the wounds Ohio State has to do basically the same thing to Dayton and pull away in the second half. Stupid NIT.

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2008 MLB Preview: NL Central

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

An odd division in which the Cubs are the odds on favorite because of their cash. The Cardinals and Astros seemingly have garnered a bunch of roster holes while the Brewers need their pitching to stay healthy and their youth to lead them over the hump they couldn't quite get to last year.

1. Chicago Cubs

Another year another failure for the 2007 Cubs. This year after the addition of Fuku and the possible return of Kerry Wood to the pitching staff the Cubs will once again be amongst the National League favorites.

Key Player: Carlos Zambrano, Big Z guaranteed a Cy Young award last year. That didn't quite pan out. This year I haven't heard much from Big Z which is probably a good thing. Shut up, go on the mound every 5th day and dominate. Your team needs it.

Player to Eye: Kosuke Fukudome, I always have fun watching Japanese imports because they are such a crap shoot. They could turn into Ichiro and become superstars or Matsui and become a good player or Kazuo 'Anal Fissures' Matsui and become a bust for a few seasons. Really you have no idea what the transition is going to be.

Record Prediction: 90-72

2. Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers were the story of the NL Central for much of the season last year and then they quickly plummeted from grace. This season they will look for their youth (Prince, JJ, Sunglasses at Night, Weeks, Braun) to carry their offense while they hope that their rotation can stay solid and healthy. But with Capuano out for the year, Yovani already on the DL, and brittle Ben Sheets as your ace, is that a good thing to rely on?

Key Player: Ben Sheets, Ben Sheets is by far the most important person on the Brewers. The guy has ace stuff but can never stay healthy. Sheets has not pitched a full season since 2004 and now is as vital as any. With the injuries already seen in the Brewers rotation a trip to the DL for Sheets will devastate the Brewers season.

Player to Eye: Rickie Weeks, Rickie Weeks has been amongst the biggest teases of prospects in the league.

Record Prediction: 89-73

3. Houston Astros

The Astros were an ill advised division winner pick for me last year. This year no chance. The Astros have a solid lineup but after Roy Oswalt have no pitching I would remotely trust.

Key Player: Roy Oswalt, Over the past few seasons Oswalt has been in a slow but steady decline. With a team that has question marks in their starting rotation from 2-5 they really need Oswalt to return back to the form that made him amongst the top pitchers in MLB.

Player to Eye: Hunter Pence, If you don;t know the name Hunter Pence by now then you should start reading up. The 2007 rookie hit .322 with 17 HR in 456 at bats. In 2008 Pence will be a force surrounding himself with Berkman and Carlos Lee.

Record Prediction: 78 - 84

4. St. Louis Cardinals

It feels like ages ago that the Cardinals won the World Series but in reality it was only 2 seasons ago. This year the Cardinals could be in rough shape. Outside of Adam Wainwright who is not really a true ace the Cardinals have a ton of starting pitching question marks. They additionally have some holes to fill in the outfield. It could be a rough year in St. Louis.

Key Player: Albert Pujols, Pujols had an 'off' year last year which still put him amongst the best players in baseball. This year he comes into the year already with an injury. Will it effect him at all? It hasn't in the spring. But if he ever goes down the Cardinals are going to be miserable.

Player to Eye: Rick Ankiel, Rick is now the everyday centerfielder. Who saw that coming last year at this point. I've even seen some ridiculous predictions of him being a 40 HR contender. One things for certain he will be the biggest story in St. Louis all year.

Record Prediction: 75-87

5. Cincinnati Reds

Another season where the Reds have an outside chance to make an impact in the division yet another season where they probably do not have anywhere near enough pitching to do so.

Key Player: Bronson Arroyo, Arroyo came back to earth in 2007 after his superb 2006 year. Once again he will be the Reds #2 starter and they desperately need him to pitch well for the entirety of the season and not just flashes here and there.

Player to Eye: Johnny Cueto & Edison Volquez, Two young Dominicans thrust into the Reds opening day rotation, both have potential to become solid starters. Both could also completely shit the bed. The Red really could use one or both to pitch well for the entire season.

Record Prediction: 74-88

6. Pittsburgh Pirates

Perhaps the Pirates should just be renamed the Basement Dwellers. Every year they seem to just suck. This season shouldn't be much different with their lineup not providing much to be enthused about and their pitching being just middle of the pack.

Key Player: Jason Bay, Jason Bay really shat the bed last season. I have no idea what happened to him last year but he certainly wasn't the force he has been in the past. If the Pirates don't want to finish in the basement than they need their best player not to suck.

Player to Eye: Ian Snell, Snell is a pitcher completely under the radar because he throws for the Basement Dwellars. Last year Snell threw over 200 innings had over 170 strikeouts and had a 3.76 era. Yet I bet you would have no idea if you weren't a fantasy freak or a Pirates fan.

Record Prediction: 67-95

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My Childhood Officially Ends Today

I'm 25 so I'm not exactly a child anymore anyway, but today marks the end of my sports adolescence. If you ask me the question of whom was your favorite baseball player or football player as a kid chances are you would get a different answer depending on the day. But if you asked me who was your favorite basketball player or favorite athlete in general, the answer is simple and immediate. The answer is Chris Webber.

As a kid I was always infatuated with the NCAA tournament. I used to watch all the games, fill out all the brackets and tape them on my door. Year by year the brackets would add up and that's what my door was covered in. NCAA brackets. Thus it didn't take much for me to become a fan of the Fab Five. Was there ever a better show? A better story than five freshmen dominating a team and taking them all the way to the finals? I was 9 when they made their first final four run and it was over, I was marked a Michigan fan for life and a CWebb follower. The next season I watched as many Michigan games as I could and was devastated when CWebb made the mindless mistake of calling a timeout he didn't have.

When he announced his intentions to enter the draft I was initially disappointed at the fact that the Fab Five was no more but I was pumped that my favorite player had a chance to be the #1 pick. Then on draft day I thought he might be paired with Shaq, what a combo that could have been, but instead the Magic and Warriors made a flip flop sending CWebb to the West Coast. That off season was the biggest card collecting season. I ventured off in a quest to get as many CWebb rookie cards as possible. And one day I hit the jackpot. I got a card that you sent back to the card company and got a pack which included all of the lottery picks. I will never be happier seeing a piece of shiny cardboard than I was when I opened up the mail and saw my shiny CWebb card with him in a Warriors cap.

The rest of his career I constantly rooted for 2 teams. The Celtics and whatever team CWebb played for. The first season I was pumped after Webber helped lead the Warriors back to the playoffs and won the rookie of the year. The next season I was surprised when he was dealt to the Bullets but intrigued by the matching up of him and Juwan Howard. That never really panned out, but I got a sweet CWebb bullets jersey out of the deal. Next the Bullets stupidly traded Webber to the Kings. I thought man that blows the Kings are horrible but alas I was wrong. Webber, Divac, Peja, Bibby, Christie, J-Will, etc. all of those that played while Webber was there created one of the most exciting teams in NBA history. I was extremely pissed when the Lakers pulled off a 7 game series win helped by a stupid Horry triple at the buzzer earlier in the series. That was the closest Webber would ever get to a championship. One failed team rebound attempt turned perfect outlet pass to Big Shot Bob.

After that Webber's career was down hill. Soon after he would blow out his knee attempting to jump in the playoffs and then the deadly word 'Microfracture' was uttered. He no longer had the athleticism which made him great he no longer could be the #1 player or even a premier #2 player. His trip to the 76ers with AI was a complete bust due to his inability to get off the floor. His trip to Detroit put him as a complete roll player. And his trip to Golden St. was merely a last hope that he could still play. But he couldn't.

Chris Webber's career is a career of almosts and not quites. He almost won two NCAA Titles. He almost knocked off the Lakers which would have surely given him his first NBA Title. He almost had a career to get him into the Hall of Fame but the injuries and lack of playoff success will surely keep him out. But with all these not quites there is one thing for certain, Chris Webber was, is and will always be my favorite athlete. And today I am saddened that I will never watch him play again and that the biggest sports link to my childhood is calling it a career.

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2008 MLB Preview: AL West

Tha AL West unlike the NL West is a two horse race. The Angels have been consistently in the running for a long time now while the Mariners are a team which should once again make a serious run at the division title.

1. Seattle Mariners

The Mariners could still use an additional bat but the addition of Erik Bedard gives them 2 of the best pitchers in the American League and gives them amongst the best rotations in the American League.

Key Player: Richie Sexson, The Mariners are a team devoid of a major threat in the heart of their lineup right now. They have good bats around but no one that makes their opponents shake in their boots. Richie 'Mendoza Line' Sexson has been that bat at points of his career. Even in his previous .260 averages would be acceptable but the .205 garbage he spit out last year would once again cripple their season.

Player to Eye: Erik Bedard, the big acquisition from the offseason is now finally on a team with the potential to make the post season. Last year before Bedard was shut down one could have argued that he should have been the Cy Young award winner. This season the Mariners will desperately need Bedard to repeat his 2007 performance but this time stay healthy the entire season.

Record Prediction: 91-71

2. LAA Angels

The Angels came into spring training as easily the AL West team to beat. They may still be the team to beat in the West but they certainly are a team marred with a lot of injuries. Currently their staff consists of injuries to front line starters Kelvim Escobar as well as Jon Lackey and key 8th inning man Scot Shields. If these guys don't get back to 100% it could end up being a very very disappointing season for the Los Angeles California West Coast City Angels.

Key Player: John Lackey, When your #1 goes down in spring training it is a very very bad thing. When you're #1 and #2 go down than you are really hurting. The Angels need John Lackey to come back so that they can match the King Felix and Bedard 1,2 punch in Seattle. If Lackey bounce back and forth on the DL than the Angels will not make the playoffs.

Player to Eye: Howie Kendrick, Kendrick has always been a free swinging big time prospect for the Angels but for the past two seasons he has either been platooned or injury riddled. This season Kendrick will get all the hacks his heart can desire and in his first full season he could potentially contend for the batting crown.

Record Prediction: 90 - 72

3. Texas Rangers

The Rangers if anything are consistent. Once again they've put together one of the worst rotations in major league baseball. A rotation that consists of 2007 ERAs all about 4.5 and most way higher. The slight difference with the 2008 Rangers as opposed to past Rangers teams is that their offense might be worse.

Key Player: Kevin Millwood, I guess I'll go with Millwood considering he is the 'ACE' of their staff. Really they just need two pitchers to be good this season. Any two. And I don't mean really good, cause they don't have the talent for that, I mean like era around 4 good. That way the Rangers won't have to score 9 runs a game if they want to be over .500.

Player to Eye: Josh Hamilton, The former #1 pick had his reemergence last year and as a reward was sent to Texas to play in another favorable hitters spot. Currently Hamilton is seen destroying the baseball during Spring training and many are calling for a 30 HR season. If he can do it than at least there will be something fun to watch in Texas.

Record Prediction: 70-92

4. Oakland A's

The A's come into 2008 having trading away both their best pitcher and their best hitter, not exactly the best scenario for a successful season.

Key Player: Rich Harden, Every year Harden is pretty much the key to this team. He has amongst the best stuff of any pitcher in major league baseball yet the man can absolutely never stay healthy. If the A's want to win any games this season they need their starting pitching to be much better than average and they need Harden to help lead the way.

Player to Eye: Justin Duchscherer, The setup man turned closer during Huston Street's many injuries is now turned into a starter. He hasn't started a game since 2003 and is much older than you would think as he turned 30 in November. Once again the A's need pitching this year and will need Duchscherer to pan out as a solid bottom of the rotation guy.

Record Prediction: 68-94

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