- Now I'm no English major, but I do enjoy using proper grammar as much as the next guy. When someone asks me how I am, I always say "I'm doing well," as opposed to "I'm doing good." That's just a given. But I draw the line at certain points.
- When referring to the Miami Heat, it is clearly grammatically correct to say, "The Heat is going on a road trip." HOWEVER, we all know that sounds ridiculously stupid. Of course the noun 'heat' is singular and the verb should be 'is' but 'The Heat' is referring to a group of people, a team if you will. They are going on a road trip. The Heat are going on a road trip. The sentence refers to the team of players. Anytime someone says the 'correct' version, they sound like a moron, therefore, can we all agree to take a pass on proper grammar when it comes to this?
- Also, my last grammar soapbox, I swear, (at least for this month) pertains to runs batted in. The baseball stat is, itself, already plural, runs batted in. Therefore, technically, the abbreviation should be RBI. Player X had three RBI in the game. But come on! That sounds almost as dumb as the Heat example. RBIs is incorrectly double-plural (if that's even a thing) but we all know it sounds better. Player X had three RBIs in the game. Good. Anyone disagree with this?
- There are times to be grammatically correct and sports, apparently, not be that time.
- Isn't there an age where people stop asking you what you're going to be for Halloween? I'm not going to be anything. I'm not 8.
- Reese's peanut butter cups are not the best candy and stop telling me otherwise. They're not even in the top 10.
- Charleston Chews, Twix, Snickers, Micky Way, Dots, Skittles, Mars Bar, 3 Musketeers, 100 Grand, Starburst, and that's just off the top of my head.
- In "swept under the rug October news," Purdue basketball star Robbie Hummel re-tore his ACL. It's sad really. They were a title contender, top three team in the nation with him back and healthy. Of course, he can return next season on an injury redshirt, but teammates JaJaun Johnson and E'Twaun Moore cannot. They are both seniors.
- This lone injury drops Purdue from a probable top three rank in the nation to barely a top 25 team in my mind.
- This reminds me of the old adage, 'you can't lose your job due to injury.' Well, that simply is not the case. It only remains true if you are better than any possible replacement. If you're not clearly better, look forward to earning your spot back. Just ask Kevin Kolb and Mike Vick.
- Daniel Tosh has become "the" funny guy of 2010. His television show Tosh.O is cleverly rude, and that's what people like nowadays. However, I'm going to take credit for being on this bandwagon before the rest of you chumps. I saw Daniel Tosh live, doing stand-up, a number of years ago, and I was on board. He is a funny guy. Why does it take a structured television platform for people to ever notice?
- Jim Gaffigan is also really funny. He doesn't have his own show, but he shouldn't need one. Take notice people!
- For people like me who don't know/remember history, the 1992 Olympics were around the same time Yugoslavia was at civil war. Therefore, their Olympic basketball team was divided and one of the halves, Croatia, ended up playing the famous US Dream Team in the finals. They got smoked. Imagine if Yugoslavia was whole though. That group of players had already won the previous world title.
- The 1992 Olympic basketball gold medal game between the USA Dream Team and the complete Yugoslavia team might have been historically good.
- Add it to the list of sports What-Ifs.
- The NFL had a newsworthy month. First, they get thrown in the news in reference to this NCAA problem of players and agents. People want the NFL to punish college players who take money. That's probably the dumbest argument I have ever heard. Why would the NFL care? Why would they lessen their product, hurt the talent level of their teams because a kid does something against a different body's rulebook? It's not against NFL rules for an athlete to take money while he's in school. They shouldn't care in the least.
- The bigger October NFL story was pertaining to 'player safety.' I think it pertained to player safety. It at least was to make the NFL look good in regards to player safety. But whatever the reasons and reasoning was, the NFL wants to crack down on big hits and head injuries to its players. My favorite idea that people came up with was to go back to the leather helmets. This may seem silly at first, but the reason players are so careless hitting with their heads is because helmets are too good. They have no fear of getting hurt. If they had a worse helmet on, they would never lead with their head.
- It is radical and would never happen, but definitely a fun idea to consider.
- If Mythbusters and Snapple Facts somehow combined forces, would that be the most powerful news and entertainment source in the world?
- At least second, behind Jon Stewart, right?
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Peter King, long-time Sports Illustrated writer, has a column titled Monday Morning Quarterback or MMQB. This is speculative hearsay as I have never read it. But that is the rumor. Similarly, Gregg Easterbrook, short-time ESPN.com author, has a column titled Tuesday Morning Quarterback or TMQ. This is factual, as I have seen the links to it, but have never read it. Supposedly TMQ is an homage to MMQB where, in both, the author summarizes the goings-on of the previous NFL week of games. Well, in the Sports Pinata, each week I will be writing a post about the previous slab of games, call it an homage to an homage as I am copying the idea, but as I have never read either man's work, don't know if I will be copying ideas. Let's hope not. On to week seven.
Well, is it time to panic? The NFL decided player safety was a concern. Hits had become too big. Hell, players had become too big. They started a crack down, threatening fines and suspensions for vicious hits, even ones that don't necessarily receive penalties in-game. Defenses for week seven would have to be careful. And they were. The proof is in the numbers. Week seven games were host to a LOT of points.
10 teams scored 30 or more points, including Oakland, who put up an embarrassing 59 against Denver. No one scored in single digits. The average point total of all the week seven games was over 52.6. That's over 26 points per team per game for the entire week of match-ups. A lot of points were scored.
Whether this is directly related to defensive players being cautious and a step slow is to be determined, but the evidence should start to pile up. Roger Goodell may have done a little more than he realized with this hard-hitting threat, and maybe it's exactly what he wanted: an even higher scoring league where offenses go wild week after week.
Besides IDPs and team defenses, Goodell sure is shining fondly on fantasy players, as many guys went off. 19 different players scored 20+ fantasy points. There was a match-up in one of my leagues this week where the losing team put up 168 points. Yes, you read that correctly. The final tally was 176 to 168.
But, of course, not everyone went crazy. As always, there were plenty of stars who sucked in week seven.
Quarterback - Tony Romo. I usually shy away from throwing a player on the 'stars who sucked' lineup when they leave because of injury. However, Romo was bad even before he got taken out with a broken clavicle. The Giants dominated everything about that game except the turnover battle. Romo threw for just 39 yards. He managed to scrape together one touchdown throw, but only because the Cowboys started back to back drives inside the redzone and he was bound to get one in there. If Tony is out 8-10 weeks, he probably won't show up on this team again. So, there's that positive.
Running Back - Rashard Mendenhall and DeAngelo Williams. Mendenhall had been great this season, entrenching himself in "I am a first round fantasy pick for the rest of my career" territory. One bad week won't change that. DeAngelo Williams, on the other hand, may never be drafted this highly again. He has been plain mediocre all year. Add to that a foot injury and Williams may be benchable if you have alternatives. Jonathan Stewart hasn't been much better this season, so there is no immediate threat of Williams losing his job, but it seems like no one in Carolina is going to produce much this season.
Wide Receiver - Miles Austin and Larry Fitzgerald. Miles, this is becoming a trend. Adding another poor week (38 total yards) to an already up and down season, Austin is making owners question his top wide receiver billing. In the game last night, Austin had a couple huge drops too, including a dropped touchdown early on in the game. The receiver from Monday night who may be challenging Andre Johnson for best in the league next season is not Miles Austin right now, it's Hakeem Nicks. Larry Fitzgerald is not in that conversation anymore just because of his teammates. An injury mid-game to Max Hall forced Derek Anderson back in and Larry cannot produce much with that at quarterback. He is still being targeted a lot, so there is no reason to worry from that front. But unless a QB takes charge in Arizona, I'd expect more of the same the rest of the season for Fitzgerald.
Tight End - Brent Celek. Damn you Brent Celek. I had Dustin Keller on one of my fantasy teams. I dropped him this week because of the Jets' bye and the fact that no tight end is worth keeping through their bye unless his name is Antonio. But I was expecting, not big things, but at least little things from Celek. Another week with Kevin Kolb under center would start to show the Celek production everyone expected. Nope. He gained less than 10 yards for a zero in leagues that don't count fractional points. Now with Vick likely starting Philadelphia's next game, Celek is not worth owning anymore.
D/ST - Saints. After last year, the Saints were a team that thrived on turnovers and got them consistently. This year, it hasn't been there. The defense on Sunday was only charged with allowing 18 points even though the Browns finished with 30, but they also forced no turnovers and totaled one measly sack. It was a tough week for fantasy defenses all around, with some netting negative points, but a highly owned Saints team getting one point is just as bad.
Kicker - This is the last week the 'stars who sucked' lineup features a kicker. The fact is, as I have made abundantly clear, there are no star fantasy kickers. It's stupid to even argue otherwise. It's fitting at least, because ultimate fantasy star Nate Kaeding missed week seven with an injury and will probably miss at least one more game. Can the Chargers ever replace him?? Well, yes. Kris Brown came in and scored 8 fantasy points, a point and a half more than Kaeding has averaged this season. So good bye fantasy star kickers and good riddance.
This has been week seven's NFL homage to an homage.
(Same image used as previous NFL Homage posts)
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Peter King, long-time Sports Illustrated writer, has a column titled Monday Morning Quarterback or MMQB. This is speculative hearsay as I have never read it. But that is the rumor. Similarly, Gregg Easterbrook, short-time ESPN.com author, has a column titled Tuesday Morning Quarterback or TMQ. This is factual, as I have seen the links to it, but have never read it. Supposedly TMQ is an homage to MMQB where, in both, the author summarizes the goings-on of the previous NFL week of games. Well, in the Sports Pinata, each week I will be writing a post about the previous slab of games, call it an homage to an homage as I am copying the idea, but as I have never read either man's work, don't know if I will be copying ideas. Let's hope not. On to week six.
Yeah the Cowboys' season is over, the Vikings saved their season, Jets got really lucky, Colts are coming back, blah, blah, blah. The real week six news came out of Green Bay. The one and only Greg Jennings actually showed up! For the first time all year, Jennings had a good game, including a long touchdown that accounted for more yards alone than any single game total of his from the first five weeks. It seems all I have to do is threaten to rename the 'stars who sucked' lineup after a player, and they come through. A week ago it was Ray Rice avoiding such embarrassment; this week it was Jennings.
On the football side of things, the picture is starting to become clear. It seems like the Steelers, Ravens and Jets are the cream of the crop. The Patriots, Giants, Eagles, Saints and Colts are in the next tier. Then a bunch of teams reside, looking great one week and terrible the next (see: Falcons, Atlanta). In fact, that second tier is not standing on very solid ground themselves. Each and every one of those teams has looked bad at least one out of these first six weeks.
The team to not underestimate is the Kansas City Chiefs. I am, of course, highly bias in this point, yet it remains true nonetheless. Starting 3-2 is exactly where they would have hoped to be whether the Chargers were sucking or not. The rest of the division playing terribly only helps their cause. I said before the Chiefs had their bye week that losing the next two games wouldn't hurt all that much, just based on their remaining 11 games. The fact that they outplayed the Colts and then had a big fourth quarter lead against the Texans should only make them more confident. Even though they lost both those games, it is clear they are good enough to compete. Bring up their remaining schedule. There is no way they win less than nine games on the season, none. And going 10-6 or 11-5 seems reasonable. With the way the Chargers are playing, nine might even be good enough to take the AFC West.
The surprising thing about the Chargers' terrible season is they have not had a single player make the 'stars who sucked' lineup all year (kickers don't count), until week six that is.
Quarterback - Mark Sanchez. The top QB's all played well this week, even Matt Schaub. I would have given this undesired distinction to Brett Favre, except his team won the game and he didn't throw any interceptions. He wasn't really that bad, just wasn't very good either. Mark Sanchez, even though his team won as well, finally had a bad game and threw his first interception of the season. It appeared as though he might be sneaking his way into the top tier of quarterbacks, but finishing with under 200 yards passing and two picks is not a way to cement your place. For now, I am going to have to throw Mark back into that group of "game managers." Yeah, I know it's painful.
Running Back - Michael Tuner and Maurice Jones-Drew. Turner has been average all year. He only has one rushing touchdown but a nice yardage total. Week six marked yet another game with no scores, but his 45 yards rushing weren't enough to overshadow it this week. If the Falcons want to get into that second tier group of teams, they need Turner to start getting into the endzone (and he needs Matt Ryan to stop being terrible). As for Jones-Drew, we've seen him before. Yet another week making the 'stars who sucked' roster and not because he has been particularly bad, just consistently disappointing. He was a unanimous top five pick in fantasy. That type of pick should guarantee solid production and Drew has been below that week after week. He has only had one game this season that would warrant where he was drafted.
Wide Receiver - Miles Austin and Hakeem Nicks. Over and over again yesterday, Mike Golic was calling Miles Austin an idiot. On Mike and Mike in the Morning, they discussed the Cowboys' penalty situation and the leapfrog move Austin pulled off on Sunday. It was pretty dumb, and he deserved to be called an idiot, repeatedly. The part that bothers me though, was the lack of production. Austin was an idiot AND he didn't show up. He ended with 12 yards receiving. If you're going to be an idiot, at least put together a nice game. Hakeem Nicks was not an idiot, at least there was no evidence to prove it. However, he too did not show up, and week six was supposed to be his coming out party. Everyone thought he had made 'the leap.' Nicks, starting with this game against the Lions, had become a must-start receiver, and a top five guy. Beginning on Sunday, Nicks could just be penciled in. Well, rather than live up to that, he actually managed to produce less than Miles Austin. In leagues that do not award fractions of points, Nicks ended with a zero. I guess it was too soon to anoint him.
Tight End - Antonio Gates. I hate to do this, especially after last week. I made such a big deal about how Gates is now the only tight end in the entire league that can be trusted. And there were plenty of guys who didn't do squat this week, like always. But Gates is supposed to produce, every single time. The reason I hate putting him in the lineup is because he got hurt on Sunday. But aren't injuries part of it? In fact, getting hurt mid-game, as opposed to mid-week, actually hurts a fantasy owner more, because there is no chance to replace the player. So Antonio, I thought I would never have to do this, but you are the starting tight end on the 'stars who sucked' lineup.
D/ST - Chargers. This choice is clear this week. The Chargers, rather than take a leap to where we all expected them to be this season, instead allowed Sam Bradford to take the leap into "Wow, Bradford is already this good?" territory. It was a crushing game. They weren't terrible, but there were no turnovers forced and losing to the Rams when you have last place staring you in the face is not what Chargers fans were looking for.
Kicker - Nate Kaeding. We could all see that coming. Kaeding wasn't awful, just very, very ordinary. He ended with two extra points and one field goal: five fantasy points. Meanwhile, Dan Carpenter, owned in fewer than 10% of all Yahoo leagues, was the high scorer on the day, finishing with a dozen points, including three deep field goals. I reserve the right to, once again, remind readers that there were people who spent more than $1 on Nate Kaeding in drafts, if you can believe it.
We are halfway through some fantasy regular seasons, and approaching mid-season in most others. If you are under .500, pull the trigger on some trades to hopefully make a move. The easiest trade to make is dealing for one of the players on these lineups. Trading for a star who sucked, taking advantage of a disgruntled owner, and getting a supposed star in the process, is the easiest way to make strides in the standings. You are one week late on trading for Greg Jennings now, but go ahead and propose something for Maurice Jones-Drew because, who knows. Maybe his owner is fed up.
This has been week six's NFL homage to an homage.
(Same image used as previous NFL Homage posts)
Monday, October 18, 2010
Tonight is game three of the 2010 ALCS. The Texas Rangers lost game one in devastating fashion, blowing a 5-0 lead. But thanks to game two starter Colby Lewis, they were able to tie the series at a game a piece heading to New York. The Rangers are in great shape now, even splitting the first two at home, with their best pitcher starting game three and the Yankees' worst pitcher starting game four. It has set up nicely for Texas, but that is not the whole story here. The better story is about the man on the mound for that crucial second game.
Colby Lewis was not spectacular on Saturday night. He did not complete six innings and walked three men. But he struck out six and only allowed two earned runs. And most importantly, he got the victory. Colby Lewis is an American League Championship Series game winning pitcher. That sentence might not sound like much except when you discover that prior to this season, Lewis had not been on a major league roster since 2007.
The start of his major league career was, to be kind, shaky. His first stint in Texas lasted from 2002 through 2004. He started only 33 total games. His most memorable season was 2003 and that had nothing to do with him pitching well. The "memorable" tag stems from the fact that Lewis finished the year 10-9, above .500, yet accumulated an ungodly 7.30 ERA and 1.83 WHIP. It is actually hard to imagine someone winning 10 games while pitching that poorly. Needless to say, 2003 was his last year starting regularly for a while. After a 2004 injury sidelined him, he didn't get back on a major league roster until 2006, this time for the Detroit Tigers.
After just a cup of coffee with the Tigers in '06, Colby Lewis moved again, to the Oakland A's for the 2007 season. Oftentimes a pitcher bounces around because he is a bit overrated, but shows potential that other teams covet. This wasn't exactly the case with Lewis. He was bouncing around because he couldn't earn himself a home.
2007 in Oakland saw Lewis pitch mostly out of the bullpen, and not well. Another bad year meant Lewis was off the A's and out of the Major Leagues following the 2007 season. No one wanted him, even for a minor league contract. Because of this, for the 2008 season, Lewis signed in Japan, with the Hiroshima Carp. I guess he simply needed a (drastic and dramatic) change of scenery. 2008 was far and away Colby's best professional season. He finished the year second in the Central League in wins, second in ERA, and first in strikeouts.
2009 would mark Lewis' second year starting in Japan and the season ended up being his second consecutive strikeout title. Two very impressive years in a professional league, even if it was not in America, was enough to give Lewis a shot at returning to the majors. The Texas Rangers signed him to a 2-year contract prior to the 2010 season.
Perhaps in Japan he was able to work on mechanics. Or perhaps he had a pitching coach that spoke to him somehow. Or maybe he just needed the threat of never getting back to the majors. Either way, 2010 actually saw Colby Lewis pitch well.
He finished this year with a pedestrian 12-13 record yet, unlike his 2003 campaign, pitched much better than his record might indicate. Posting an ERA of 3.72 and a very nice 1.18 WHIP, Colby Lewis was actually someone the Rangers counted on and trusted throughout the entire season. He pitched over 200 innings and ended with a fantastic 196 strikeouts. If not for a bad August, his end-of-year totals would look even better.
But it wasn't even about having a nice stat sheet come October. Colby Lewis had made it all the way back, and with the team he started with. From a few pitiful seasons with the Rangers in the early part of the 2000s to the minor leagues, all the way to Japan, and back to Texas, starting playoff games, Colby Lewis' baseball journey sounds like something out of a bad sports movie, rather than a real-life tale of triumph.
Just for the record, he has now pitched 10.2 post-season innings, allowing just two earned runs, while striking out 11. And he is 1-0. Not bad for a guy who was a Hiroshima Carp a year ago.
(Image taken from dallasnews.com)
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Boy, isn't everything just falling perfectly for the Boise State Broncos (and the TCU Horned Frogs)?
For purposes of not sounding redundant and annoying, for the duration of this article, anytime Boise St. is mentioned, an additional TCU mention is implied. Take one to mean both. The reason is TCU is in essentially the same position as Boise, except they would need Boise to lose to Nevada, and no one else in the country would be rooting for America's favorite heavily-favored underdog to go down like that.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece briefly touching on how daunting a task it would be for Boise St. to have a chance in the title game. Not only would they need to go undefeated, but they would need everyone above them AND everyone closely behind them to lose. We saw evidence of that necessity after week four when Boise put up a ridiculous 59-0 victory and was hopped by Oregon in the human polls. Well, the chips are falling, and it seems as though Chris Petersen is the one dropping them. The problem for the rest of the nation is he's more accurate than a Plinko contestant.
The first horse down was Texas. With both Oklahoma and Nebraska coming up, two top 10 opponents, Texas would have been primed to move into the top three, if only they hadn't lost the dreaded "looking ahead" game to UCLA. That dropped them from title contention, whether they beat Oklahoma the next week or not. Texas was out of Boise's picture.
In comes Florida, creeping up to number seven in the nation with a date at Alabama. A win would have assuredly bumped them ahead of the Broncos, yet they lost, badly. Urban Meyer's club took the news worse than expected, because they then lost twice more after that. It is the first time any Urban Meyer team has ever lost three games in a row. The first two was all Boise needed to check Florida off.
Two Pac-10 teams were making top 10 waves at the same time. Stanford was ranked 9th in the AP with a trip to Oregon. Much like Florida, a win on the road against a top five opponent would have most certainly had them jumping Chris Petersen's club. But, again like Florida, they lost, badly. The Pac-10 still had hope in the form of an Arizona club with a number of tough opponents left to bulk up their computer rankings. Unfortunately, they couldn't get past unranked Oregon State. There were two more teams for Boise to check off its list.
We know what happened after that. Number one Alabama went down. This was a dream come true, and could not have been timed any better with the BCS rankings coming out the following week, Boise would almost be guaranteed a top two computer ranking right out of the gate.
But the good news wasn't over. Just yesterday, a day before the first BCS rankings of the year are released, number one falls again, this time Ohio State. But there's more! Also falling from the ranks of the unbeatens was number five Nebraska. Two more title contenders fall and Boise could not be happier.
So here we stand, half way through the college football season. Boise St. is 6-0 with six wins remaining. I say six wins because that part of the equation is implied. For Boise to reach the National Championship, they must win out, obviously. But that was always the easy part. The rest of the picture is unfolding so nicely, Broncos fans must think it is meant to be.
Oregon still remains ahead of Boise St. in both the human polls, yet Boise doesn't need to end the season number one overall, just in the top two. So we are fine with that. The teams behind Boise with blood lust and title hopes are slim. Auburn, LSU, and Oklahoma are the only remaining foes in the way of an unprecedented title run.
Yet Chris Petersen lucked out again, if you can believe it. Next week, Auburn plays LSU. One will lose. There is no getting around that. In my opinion, Auburn is the better team. But it doesn't really matter which one pulls out the victory, Both also still have Alabama on their schedule. The problem is if either wins out they will pass Boise St. faster than you realizing the Idaho turf is supposed to be that color and it's not your television contrast. But still, the optimist points out, between the two SEC clubs, there is only one to worry about. We will find out which one it is next week.
Oklahoma wraps up the list. They have a couple more ranked opponents on their schedule but are going to be favored to win each game. The Sooners are the team Boise St. fans must worry the most about. Even though this is not one of Bob Stoops' better clubs, they will still pass Boise over with an undefeated campaign.
Some of you may bring up MSU. Michigan State is highly ranked and still undefeated, yet with only one more ranked opponent on their schedule and no match-up against Ohio State, they won't have enough to hop an also-undefeated Broncos team. They don't make the list.
So there you have it. A few weeks back, it looked more than daunting. It looked unimaginable. Boise State making the championship game was so unlikely I passed it off as a pipe dream. Yet here we are. Two number ones have gone down. A handful of other top ten teams fell as well. With six games remaining, only three teams stand in the way of a Non-BCS conference team breaking into the BCS' crown club. I guess that is what America will be rooting for: an Oregon, Oklahoma loss or for the Auburn - LSU winner to fall at the hands of Alabama. Then we will have our favorite underdog in the limelight...
...but wouldn't an Oregon - Auburn title game be awesome to watch?
(Image taken from replayphotos.com)
Friday, October 15, 2010
For the uninitiated, this has little to do with animal abuse, in fact nothing to do with it. Punting cats (categories) is a controversial fantasy sports technique rarely used to perfection. The idea is to dismiss or ignore one entire category in favor of bulking up on the others. In baseball, the category most widely punted, and easiest to ignore, is saves. Just don't draft any top closers, or any closers at all. The theory behind this is that a lot of closers are bad. The only category they help in is the aforementioned saves. Rather than collect saves, owners might rather employ middle relievers with great ERAs, WHIPS, and K/9 numbers and forgo saves.
The theory makes sense, depending on your league scoring. In head to head scoring leagues, punting a category is a good way to go. There is no season tally that matters. All that matters is your score for each week, so aiding three cats while dumping one is mathematically feasible, assuming it works. In rotisserie scoring leagues, however, punting a cat is very, very risky. Finishing last in one category puts you at a huge disadvantage when considering season ending tallies.
Well, I have my fantasy basketball auction draft this weekend. In basketball, the most obvious 'puntable cat' occurs by drafting Dwight Howard. He is a beast on the boards and collects more blocks than you'll know what to do with. He scores a ton and puts up a fantastic field goal percentage. Howard is everything you want out of your center spot. Well, not everything. You see, Dwight Howard is the most cancerous free throw shooter in the league. This is not because he always ends with the worst percentage, because he doesn't. But his combination of poor percentage and tremendously large amount of attempts is a sure sign you will finish last in that category if he assumes a starting role on your roster. Even helping the cause by drafting a free throw shooting savant like Steve Nash will not necessarily lift you from the gutter.
Now you see the dilemma.
Do you draft Dwight Howard in a rotisserie league, almost assuring yourself of finishing near the top in everything he's good at, yet guaranteeing a last place finish in one category? My obvious answer is no. Don't draft him. Don't bother. Draft a couple cheaper big men who will hopefully cover the counting stats yet won't kill you in free throw percentage.
But perhaps a more interesting situation of punting a cat is in regards to turnovers. Not every league uses turnovers as a category, yet lots do. The problem here stems from the widely used technique in fantasy basketball of drafting tons of point guard types. These are not necessarily point guards, but players who accumulate point guard stats: three pointers, assists, steals, free throw percentage. Drafting all point guard types and power forward types usually covers every stat you would need to target and sets a team up nicely. However, when drafting all point guard types, an unavoidable consequence is inheriting lots of turnovers. Even the very best Chris Pauls and Rajon Rondos commit a lot of turnovers. This is just the way it is. Point guards have the ball in their hands all the time. Just by percentages alone, they are most likely to commit a turnover, whereas centers often commit very few. They don't have the opportunities.
Of course you can try to draft the forwards who rarely turn the ball over, a Channing Frye or Anderson Varejao. But to draft point guards who have low turnover numbers is a daunting task. The other key element to this is the unpredictability of the stat itself. There is really no way to know, looking at on overall roster, which team will finish first or last in turnovers. It is somewhat random. So do you bank on that, or do you avoid point guard types and try to make up ground elsewhere?
In this instance, and frankly this is the only time in fantasy sports I would advise it, I would punt the cat, technically speaking. (I am never one to punt saves in fantasy baseball. It is too easy of a category to excel in. Why throw away the points?) In my auction draft, I plan on bidding on point guard types until the cows come home. And, no, I don't know what that saying means or where it comes from. Perhaps I will glance at the turnover numbers when considering my power forward types, but overall, I will draft like it is not a category at all. Why screw myself up by thinking Mike Bibby is somehow better than Russell Westbrook?
If you start considering turnovers, you start avoiding players who accumulate lots of points, just on the chance you win the turnover battle. We know Dwight Howard will be near the league lead in blocks and rebounds. We also know he will be terrible at free throw shooting. However, with turnovers, we don't really KNOW how good or bad a season someone will have. I am going to punt the cat and draft my point guard types. Feel free to do the opposite though, and draft a bunch of small forwards who are careful with the ball. In fact, do this and join my league because while you may finish first in turnovers, I'll be way ahead of you in everything else.
(Image taken from motherjones.com)
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Peter King, long-time Sports Illustrated writer, has a column titled Monday Morning Quarterback or MMQB. This is speculative hearsay as I have never read it. But that is the rumor. Similarly, Gregg Easterbrook, short-time ESPN.com author, has a column titled Tuesday Morning Quarterback or TMQ. This is factual, as I have seen the links to it, but have never read it. Supposedly TMQ is an homage to MMQB where, in both, the author summarizes the goings-on of the previous NFL week of games. Well, in the Sports Pinata, each week I will be writing a post about the previous slab of games, call it an homage to an homage as I am copying the idea, but as I have never read either man's work, don't know if I will be copying ideas. Let's hope not. On to week five.
That sound you heard was a huge sigh of relief. No, not from the '72 Dolphins. The sigh came from Ray Rice owners. After four sub par games to start the season, Rice finally put together a performance to warrant his high selection. Ray Rice ended the Broncos game with 133 yards and two touchdowns. It's a good thing too, because I was one week away from renaming the 'stars who sucked' lineup after Rice himself.
A couple other players who have been members of the lineup a number of times were not as lucky as Rice and were not able to shed their starting role. Making the team once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, three times is getting near trend territory.
Quarterback - Matt Schaub. Guess who? Matt Schaub, the next "it" quarterback for a team with a plethora of weapons on offense, has only had one good week all year in an overtime win over the Redskins. Other than that, he has been flat out bad and week five was no exception. Ending with under 200 yards passing, no touchdowns, and one interception may qualify as Schaub's worst game in an already pitiful year. Good thing for Arian Foster or this Texans team would be last in their division. This team does not have an easy schedule the rest of the way. Let's just say I'm getting worried about Matt. I'm not totally worried yet, but I am getting there.
Running Back - DeAngelo Williams and Arian Foster. Oddly enough, Foster also makes the team this week. Even though he has had a great year up to this point, week five against the Giants was a struggle for the entire Texans roster. Foster ended with just two fantasy points. It's hard to win when both your quarterback and running back struggle to produce. As for DeAngelo Williams, 2010 has been a bit of a disappointment. His team is awful, the worst in the conference. His quarterback situation is awful. His team's receiving corp is empty with Steve Smith hurt. In other words, this was supposed to be Williams' team to carry and he hasn't really done so. Only 59 yards from scrimmage isn't going to cut it when the Panthers need him to go wild to have a chance to win.
Wide Receiver - Anquan Boldin and Greg Jennings. One man's success oftentimes means another's failure. Ray Rice had his best game of the year this week, meaning the passing game wasn't needed as much. Consequently, Boldin ended with just one catch for eight yards. The Broncos were able to take him away and still got trounced. I don't see many more weeks like this for Boldin in the future. But boy do I for Greg Jennings! We missed you last week. Jennings took a week off from the 'stars who sucked' lineup but now is back claiming his old roster spot. Jennings is having one of the worst years for any star receiver on such a powerful offense. He has yet to have a 100 yard receiving game. In fact, other than week one where he gained 82 yards, Jennings' game high is 36 yards! Thirty-six. Luckily he has three touchdown catches out of his putrid 14 total catches on the year or his fantasy total would be near the bottom of all qualifiers.
Tight End - Dallas Clark. What Clark's inclusion on this team signifies is more than him having one bad week. What it signals is the domination of Antonio Gates. He is the only tight end that can be trusted for week in and week out production. Clark had a bad game, ending with just 2 fantasy points, but Tony Gonzalez and Dustin Keller also had bad games, Jermichael Finely got hurt, and really no one can be counted on to put points on the board besides Gates. On the year, Gates has over 30 more fantasy points than any other tight end in the league, and we've only played six games. Unless Gates makes this lineup one week, there is not a single other name that would surprise me anymore, Dallas Clark included.
D/ST - Cowboys. Coming off a bye, with the NFC East completely up for grabs, this Dallas team had a chance to get back into the thick of things. Instead, they host Tennessee and give up 34 points and don't force a single turnover at home. It is impossible to say this team is out of it with the Giants, Eagles and Redskins having no identity yet, but for a Super Bowl contender, Dallas' defensive performance coming out of the bye week is not something that should breed too much confidence.
Kicker - Ryan Longwell. Two points on two PATs. That's what he scored. We get it. Kickers are completely unpredictable. From now on, just to rub it in even further, I am going to include a barely owned kicker who outperformed all the "top guys." Jason Hanson, owned in less than 10% of all leagues, scored 14 fantasy points on five PATs and three field goals for a team that had previously been winless. Go figure.
I wish I could say the league is finally taking shape after five weeks are in the books, but with a few exceptions, I still have no idea who is good and who's not. Is there even a good team in the entire NFC? The Bears, Falcons, and Bucs are the only teams with less than two losses. Meanwhile, the entire AFC South is 3-2 and Kansas City is two losses ahead of the rest of the AFC West. I'll have to wait another week or two to update my power rankings with any kind of certainty. As for the fantasy landscape, if your team is 0-5 right now, start trading for keepers. If you don't play in a keeper league, go join a new league.
This has been week five's NFL homage to an homage.
(Same image used as previous NFL Homage posts)
Monday, October 11, 2010
There are currently 42 players in the NFL that went to the University of Southern California. Obviously, to make the NFL, each player must be a talented, extraordinary individual, except for those who were coached by Pete Carroll that is.
First, I have to hand it to Pete. He is coaching what was perhaps the worst team in the NFL. They can't beat anyone on the road, but the Seattle Seahawks are a good home team. And that is a nice start for a head coach of a "bad" team. Okay, that wraps up the section where Pete Carroll gets congratulated. The last good thing I'll say about him is that he is quite a hustler, a master of the long con. That may be a backhanded compliment, but you can take it or leave it Pete.
Think about how good all of Pete Carroll's USC teams were. He coached the Trojans from 2001 through 2009 and in that time they won "two" national championships (Reggie Bush); they made the title game one more time and took the loss; they won the Pac-10 conference and finished in the AP top four for seven consecutive years; they had "three" Heisman Trophy winners (Reggie Bush), etc. etc. The winning was unparalleled. USC during the first decade of this century was peerless. We all thought the reason was Pete. Everyone assumed Carroll was the ultimate recruiter, but also one of the top coaches in the country year in and year out. Each USC team had too much talent and was too polished for anyone else to compete. This would be shown in how many of Carroll's players make and succeed in the NFL. But let's take another look at that list of USC alums. This is where the USC long con reveals itself.
Every school puts players in the NFL that are not stars. This is an unavoidable fact. No matter how good a player is, not everyone can be a star in the league. You have players like Darnell Bing, Rey Maualuga, Mike Patterson, Terrell Thomas, and others who were all very good in college but were not expected to be more than starters in the pros. Yet let's go back through and examine everyone that was supposed to be a star at the next level.
Starting with quarterback, the case against Carroll begins rather quickly. He duped us all. Carson Palmer, the first Heisman winner under Carroll, was a solid pro. He made a couple Pro Bowls even. But to say Palmer is a star quarterback would be a mistake. In fact he has been so bad in 2010 already that that discussion has long since subsided.
Matt Cassel never started a game at USC. He was a backup. Yet, for some reason, people believed he could cut it in the NFL. Perhaps people were falling for the Pete Carroll con again. After having a solid season for New England and cashing in, Cassel has been flat out bad in Kansas City as the full time starter. That team has talent and the weak link might be at quarterback if anyone would ever admit it.
Matt Leinart was the second Heisman winning quarterback during the long con, and another first round draft pick. He was supposed to carry the Arizona Cardinals. We know what happened with that. He hasn't had a single respectable season his entire career. He is JP Losman without the arm strength yet we all expected the world of him coming out of USC.
Here is the sneaky fact that helps confirm Pete's con: Mark Sanchez. Remember when Sanchez was leaving early for the draft? Pete told him it was a bad idea. He needed another year in school. In reality, it was Pete who needed him another year in school. Sanchez has turned a corner this year in the NFL and is playing very well. Carroll knew he would succeed within a year or two from entering, but wanted him to stay in school. When Sanchez ignored Carroll's advice and left anyway, Pete decided to leave too.
But it isn't just quarterbacks under Pete Carroll that disappoint. What about the running backs? Reggie Bush was one of the greatest college players ever. His "Heisman" proves that. He was the second overall pick when he came out. In the NFL, he is nothing more than a third down, scat back. His career will be lucky to have the length and success of Chester Taylor. Yet coming out of USC, who would have expected anything less than the Hall of Fame?
LenDale White probably speaks for himself. He was too fat, too slow and not good enough to make a roster this season. The one, important thing I'll point out is that he was cut by the Seattle Seahawks. Not even Pete Carroll wanted him. No wait, I should rephrase that. Of course Pete Carroll didn't want him! Pete knew the impostors USC alums are.
It may be too early to throw Joe McKnight on this list, but I'm going to anyway. The Jets drafted him expecting him to replace star return man Leon Washington. Let's just say it hasn't happened yet.
Continuing with the skill position theme, we cannot forget about Fred Davis, Mike Williams, and Damian Williams, who turned heads in college but don't even force defensive shifts in the NFL. The only Trojan pass catcher who has had any type of success is Steve Smith. He had a great year in 2009 for the Giants. Let's hope it wasn't another Carson Palmer-type one-year wonder.
But I am not going to allow Pete Carroll to hustle me just on the surface. We have to go deeper and examine linemen as well. Linemen are the most overlooked positions in football, where success is so easily gained with a great line, and so impossible to reach with a bad one. Here is a quick list of linemen, both offensive and defensive, who were great at USC: Sam Baker, Shaun Cody, Sedrick Ellis, Everson Griffen, Winston Justice, Deuce Lutui, Mike Patterson, and Frostee Rucker. All stars at USC and none of them are anything more than serviceable NFL players. In the trenches, where games are won and lost, is where Pete Carroll did the most damage. I can't even name a single USC lineman who is an NFL star.
Here is the crux of the long con. It may be that Pete Carroll actually tricked us into thinking he was a good recruiter, when he was actually "just" a good coach. Think about it. If he was simply recruiting the best players, they would be some of the best players at the next level as well, just based on talent, strength and speed. But there are so few good USC pros that it must be more than that. Carroll must have done a good job coaching these players in college to be able to win as much as he did.
Yet if you're going to believe that, then Carroll duped you again. The long con wasn't about being a good coach. It was about being a bad coach. You see, he obviously recruited talent. The evidence is in the recruiting class rankings, the top 100 high school players, etc. It wasn't Pete ranking these players and telling us how good they were. It was other people telling us how good Pete's players were going to be. So he had the talent, and really, talent wins out in NCAA football. Where Pete really gets us is in his ability to coach so many players down.
All these guys, with tremendous talent and ability, fail in the NFL. It must be because they weren't made ready to succeed. Pete Carroll didn't want to prepare any of these guys for the pros. It wouldn't help him. It would ruin the foundation of the con. Instead, he was able to use their vast skills to win at the college level, and made sure no other coaches benefited in the future. Brilliant. Evil and devious, yes, but brilliant.
Of course, there are always some guys who are too good to ruin. In Pete's case, he was not a bad enough defensive coach. He was too competent to ruin Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Keith Rivers, Lofa Tatupu, or Troy Polamalu. On his way out though, his last year at USC, Carroll was able to leave one lasting reminder of his con in the defensive backfield. Safety Taylor Mays was going be a star of stars until his last year under Carroll. He then tested slow at the combine and dropped dramatically in the draft. When it was the Seattle Seahawks' turn to draft, they chose a safety out of a big-time college program. It was Earl Thomas out of Texas. Pete knew to avoid Taylor Mays. Even if Polamula and those other defensive players got through Pete's system, he was going to get one of them. Taylor Mays would be an NFL disappointment.
In the end, whether you want to call Pete Carroll a mad-man, an evil genius or a conman, you'd be right. He turned many promising youngsters into professional failures all for the glory and success of his master plan. I don't know how successful he'll be coaching the Seahawks, but his other times coaching in the NFL with the Jets and Patriots were not very successful. I guess coaching down doesn't work when there is no next level to screw over.
(Image taken from sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Peter King, long-time Sports Illustrated writer, has a column titled Monday Morning Quarterback or MMQB. This is speculative hearsay as I have never read it. But that is the rumor. Similarly, Gregg Easterbrook, short-time ESPN.com author, has a column titled Tuesday Morning Quarterback or TMQ. This is factual, as I have seen the links to it, but have never read it. Supposedly TMQ is an homage to MMQB where, in both, the author summarizes the goings-on of the previous NFL week of games. Well, in the Sports Pinata, each week I will be writing a post about the previous slab of games, call it an homage to an homage as I am copying the idea, but as I have never read either man's work, don't know if I will be copying ideas. Let's hope not. On to week four.
And then there was one. This has, by now, been beaten to death by surprised analysts and other broadcasters during slow points, but the Kansas City Chiefs, the Sports Pinata's sleeper pick, are the last unbeaten team in the NFL. The gloating will continue each week until they collapse and get passed by the Chargers as the Broncos made famous just two years ago.
Speaking of the Broncos, Kyle Orton already has over 1,400 yards passing. Some quick math tells us he is on pace to absolutely shatter Dan Marino's season yardage record of 5,084. No one expects this pace to keep up, especially with a receiving core made up of mostly slot receivers and people passed on by other franchises. And yet, what a fun story it is. Their top offensive threat was supposed to be second year back Knowshon Moreno, but he's missed most of the season because of injury. He has just 39 carries. Who knows how long Orton can keep this pace up but another fun wrinkle is to bring this up to any Bears fans you know.
The other big quarterback story line after week four is, yet again, in Philadelphia. Michael Vick got hurt mid-game, screwing over fantasy owners all over the country. There is nothing worse than your starting fantasy quarterback getting hurt in the middle of a game and not returning. It's impossible to recover from. Of course, this was also the situation that allowed Vick to get the job in the first place, when Kolb got hurt mid-game of week one. Now the question is, first, is Vick healthy enough to play? He has already been deemed out for week five, but is considered 'day-to-day' after that. And what if Kolb plays really well? It seems unlikely based on what he has shown thus far, but he had high expectations coming into the season. What if Andy Reid is dealt the same QB conundrum in week six, but in reverse? Wouldn't that be something? It will all depend on how well Kevin Kolb plays in this second chance he was given.
The Eagles are also a part of the biggest NFL story going right now: the lack of any clear favorite in the NFC. The Eagles are tied for first place in their division at 2-2 with both the Giants and Redskins. No team looks good out west. The Bears still share a division lead with the Packers and have a head-to-head victory to hang their hats on. The two best NFC teams might be the Falcons and Saints except neither one is showing it. The Saints have yet to play an impressive game all season.
It appears as though the Jets, Ravens and Steelers have somewhat separated themselves from the pack in the AFC as title contenders. All three have strong defenses and capable offenses. Then there are the offensive powerhouses with questions in New England and Houston. Non-believers in the Chiefs will point to those five teams as the cream of the crop in the conference, and perhaps the top five in the whole league as well. Which NFC team is a sure thing right now? I don't see one. If only Ryan Grant didn't get hurt...
Speaking of Brandon Jackson and fantasy flops, here is this week's lineup of 'stars who sucked.'
Quarterback - Jay Cutler. It wasn't even that he got hurt and missed the second half. Because that also happened to Vick and are we even sure Cutler was physically hurt or did he just hurt his pride? The numbers were purely awful. He threw for 42 yards and 1 interception. He also fumbled 3 times and was sacked 9 times. Nine. In one half of play. I watched that whole game and a lot of the sacks were Cutler's fault too. He was not comfortable at any point in that game. Now quarterbacks are routinely the highest scoring fantasy players. People win weeks and bank much of their scoring on quarterback performance. Well, Cutler actually scored negative points in week four. For anyone that would be terrible. For a quarterback, that is the epitome of a star who sucked.
Running Back - Chris Johnson and Ray Rice. Running back is turning into as flaky a position as wide receiver. Each week there are star players turning out bad performances. Both Johnson and Rice have made the lineup before. For Rice, this is three straight weeks of underwhelming. For Johnson perhaps it was a case of his team getting caught in a shoot out with the Broncos. Although, a ton of points weren't scored and Vince Young did not throw for a lot of yards. So let's just chalk this up to a down week. For Rice though, fantasy owners should be worried. He was pronounced healthy prior to the game yet only carried the ball eight times for 20 yards. Another week or two of this type of production and Ray Rice will firmly be placed on the yearly bust list.
Wide Receiver - Randy Moss and Marques Colston. Moss is a no-brainer here. He was held without a catch for the first time since 2006. Maybe the defense was taking him away, leading to Brady's first half struggles. Or maybe he just didn't bring his best effort this week. Marques Colston, on the other hand, seems to be reflecting a theme in the Saints' offense. They have yet to put a tremendous, 2009-level offensive game together. Colston ended with three fantasy points and the Saints have scored 25 points or less every game this season. The lack of a running game is really hurting them. Who would have thought the loss of Reggie Bush, not their feature back, could wreck this much havoc? Then, of course, Pierre Thomas also goes down and we realize how well New Orleans actually ran the ball last season and how they can't seem to this time around.
Tight End - Tony Gonzalez. My thoughts on fantasy tight ends are well documented. There are only two or three reliable ones. That's it. After that, the rest are crap shoots week to week. You never know if they'll show up. The truth is in the numbers this week. Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finely, Dustin Keller, Chris Cooley, and Brent Celek, five of the top ten tight ends in the league, all ended with fewer than 40 yards receiving in week four yet all caught a touchdown, saving their putrid week. Keller actually caught two touchdowns. Now you can argue touchdowns are a result of being a good redzone target. Tony Gonzalez ended with more receiving yards than any of these other guys, 41, but didn't catch that touchdown. Or, you can argue that touchdowns are very random and Gonzo got the short straw this week. Either way, I sure wish I owned Antonio Gates.
D/ST - Bengals. The Ravens finally get off the list after forcing a turnover for once. The Bengals, on the other hand, are welcomed to the 'stars who sucked' lineup. If they were going to be as good a defense as they were last year, the time to prove it would be against the in-state 'rival' Browns. Instead, they give up a handful of points, only record one sack and one turnover netting roughly 3 fantasy points. If they cannot be relied upon to produce against the Browns, it might be a good time to give up on this team for fantasy purposes. And probably for real-life purposes as well.
Kicker - Mason Crosby. The top owned kicker for the week on a powerful offensive team is going against a winless opponent. Guess what? The Packers score a good amount. Guess what though? Mason Crosby doesn't. Four extra points after four touchdowns does not help a fantasy kicker. It sure is hard to predict which kickers will score well each week. I sense a theme.
With bye weeks under way and continuing in week five, it is all the more important to get stars in there that you can trust to have a good outing. Yet as we've discovered, it is much easier said than done. Anyone who tells you fantasy football is not 75% luck is either a liar or delusional.
This has been week four's NFL homage to an homage.
(Same image used as previous NFL Homage posts)
Monday, October 4, 2010
The 2010 MLB season zigged and zagged through different story lines from April all the way through October. The season started out as the year of the pitcher, with no-hitter after no-hitter being chucked and perfect games thrown in. The second half, however, was about the chases for the triple crown, as four players, one from the AL and three from the NL, flirted with notching the first crown in over 40 years. And the regular season culminated with the possibility of a double playoff resulting in game 163 and 164 to determine the NL West and NL Wild Card champions. Of course the reality was a little less exciting as the standings fell smoothly, yet the intrigue remained.
To tell us what will happen in the playoffs we must look back and figure out what happened during the season to get us to this point. My favorite way of doing this is to look at the numbers. Statistics often lie, as the saying goes, yet they always spin an exciting tale.
We had one team that ended the year with 46 more home runs than any other team. They also had the only player to notch 50 home runs, and he hit a dozen more than any other player in the league. This team, the Toronto Bluejays and their player Jose Bautista, missed the playoffs of course, because pitching wins.
The top pitching team in either league was the San Francisco Giants. Carried by their un-hittable September rotation, the Giants passed the Padres to lead the league in ERA. Good thing they did too, otherwise this whole conversation wouldn't make sense as the top pitching team would have also missed the playoffs along with the Bluejays. I told you stats lie.
Well, let's get to the individual awards. This is where the picture really starts to take shape. The AL MVP favorite is Josh Hamilton. He missed almost the entire month of September. Uh, hmm. The AL Cy Young favorite, Felix Hernandez, was on the worst team in the American League and finished a single game over .500. Ehhhh. Well maybe post season awards don't tell the whole story either. Forget this. Who cares about "telling the whole story" anyway? Let's get to the fun stuff.
Three pitchers won at least 20 games in 2010 after no one winning 20 last year. Cliff Lee was not one of those 20 game winners and yet he finished with the second best strikeout/walk ratio in major league history. Felix Hernandez, as I mentioned, is the favorite to win the AL Cy Young even though he won only 13 games. Or, at least he was the favorite a couple days ago, and hasn't pitched since. However, he no longer has the "pitching triple crown" by leading the league in innings, ERA, and strikeouts, as Jered Weaver finished a single K ahead of Hernandez. Since so much of the argument for Felix winning was based on the numbers, it would be funny to see a single K be the difference.
One of the NL players up for league MVP, Albert Pujols, actually had what could be considered his worst season in years. Pujols' batting average of .312 was the worst of his career. His OBP ended as the lowest it has been since he was 22 years old. And his slugging percentage fell below .600 for the only the third time in his 10 year career. Okay, I can't see your face but I have a feeling you aren't buying the down year for Pujols. Yet everything I just listed in completely true. Well someone that everyone agrees had a down year in 2010 is Alex Rodriguez.
A-rod, as I call him, finished the year batting .270: the lowest mark of any full season he has played. He also posted his lowest OPS since he's been of legal drinking age. Yet Rodriguez, at age 34, hit 30 home runs and drove in 100+ RBIs for the 13th consecutive season. Babe Ruth only had 12 such seasons in his career, let alone consecutively.
Another player making history in 2010 was Mark Reynolds. Reynolds struck out over 200 times for the third straight season. Not only has he led the league in such futility all three seasons, but Reynolds is the only player EVER to strike out 200 times in one year, and he's done it three straight.
Meanwhile, Ichiro struck out fewer than 90 times for the 10th straight season. He also collected over 200 hits for the 10th straight season. In addition, he stole more than 25 bases and hit at least 20 doubles for the 10th straight year all while batting over .300 for the 10th consecutive season. Oh, also, he's only been in the league for 10 years.
Even with all that speed, Ichiro has never led the league in triples. However, as we know, speed and the ability to steal bases does not transfer to hitting triples and vice versa. Logan Morrison hit seven triples and did not steal a single base. In fact, he only attempted a steal once all year. Gerardo Parra ended with six triples and also only attempted one steal all year; he happened to be safe in his attempt though. There were two players who ended 2010 with more triples than steals yet hit at least 10 triples. Dexter Fowler hit 14 triples while only stealing 13 bags. Stephen Drew hit 12 triples and finished with 10 steals. The only conclusion I can draw is that these individuals are terrible base runners and have little confidence to even attempt many steals. With Fowler it is probably too early to tell but this seems to check out with Drew. He has played five seasons and four of those resulted in him finishing with more triples than steals. 2010 was actually his career high in steals, with the 10.
So what have we learned from all the stats to help us know whose going to win come playoff time? Well, nothing really. We know that the Yankees have a suspect rotation but so do the Rays. Meanwhile, the Twins never beat the Yankees in the playoffs, no matter how exciting and overwhelming their regular season was. And Texas has little to no playoff experience. The AL has no clear favorite. If there was a gun to my head and I had to choose one team to make the World Series, I'd probably pee myself because that seems like a nerve racking situation.
As for the NL, the Phillies are the clear favorite. They have the best rotation and they have the best offense. The only team with a chance to beat them is the Giants with their pitching staff. San Francisco's offense is putrid but trotting out Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and Zito in a series is enough to squash any momentum. It still seems foolish to pick against the Phillies though. This team was the favorite coming into the season and is the favorite at the end.
2010 will be a World Series rematch pitting the Phillies against that very same AL East opponent they faced in 2009...or 2008. It'll be one of those. Or maybe the Reds will face the Twins and the TV ratings will be the lowest ever for a World Series. Game One! Arroyo vs. Pavano! Let's Play Ball!
(Image taken from dailyphiladelphian.com)