Dojo Sparring 7/8 – 7/14

Joe to Greg

Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander

Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander

With the All Star break looming, it seems like the first half of the season has lived up to our expectations. I feel like we’re obligated to talk about the All-Star selections for each league. Your Orioles sent four, three of which are representing a solid core for the starters. The Tigers on the other hand showcase some of the power their lineup has to offer sending Miguel Cabrera (Starter), Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, and Jhonny Peralta (Reserves). That does not include their aces, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. What are your thoughts on the makeup of both teams? Also what are your predictions for the Home Run Derby and winner of the All-Star game?

Greg to Joe

I definitely think there could have been some interesting things done with the rosters if the lineups were not selected by the fans. Here are my AL and NL starting lineups:


1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF

2. Mike Trout LF

3. Miguel Cabrera DH

4. Chris Davis 1B

5. Jose Bautista RF

6. Robinson Cano 2B

7. Evan Longoria 3B (if not healthy, Adrian Beltre)

8. Joe Mauer C

9. Manny Machado SS (SS is weak in the AL with Hardy winning that vote. Machado could play good defense and have great offensive production and help turn over the line up)

SP: Yu Darvish (My First Half AL Cy Young)


1. Andrew McCutchen LF

2. Carlos Gomez CF

3. Joey Votto 1B

4. Giancarlo Stanton RF

5. Paul Goldschmidt DH

6. David Wright 3B

7. Troy Tulowitzki SS (since injured, I would put Ian Desmond here with Andrelton Simmons as the defensive replacement)

8. Yadier Molina C

9. Matt Carpenter 2B

SP: Matt Harvey (My First Half NL Cy Young and its at Citi Field)

I think these lineups would lead to a game that would be one to remember. Unfortunately, these are not the lineups. I do think that the AL will win. It is a stacked team and should be able to take a lead and hold it with the great relievers in the ‘pen. I think Mariano Rivera gets a save in his final All Star game, and it just so happens to be in New York.

Home Run Derby quick prediction: Yoenis Cespedes over Bryce Harper in the final round

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard

In basketball, there have been some big moves made. Dwight Howard made his decision to go to Houston, as I predicted. I think he and The Bearded One (my new nickname for James Harden) will make a tremendous 1-2 punch. I know the Rockets have looked at all of the advanced statistics and determined that this combo would one of the best in the league. I trust advanced stats; I think they are very useful in baseball and are growing in the basketball community. I am excited to see that team. I do think it will be the best video game team because you can just chuck up 3’s with Harden, and if he misses, Howard will just get the board. It’s too bad that Josh Smith went to Detroit… He would have been a great third in a Houston Big 3.

What’d you think of the Howard deal and how do you think the All Star game will shape up?

Since the NFL season is fast approaching, who do you think the NFC playoffs teams will be? We can do AFC next week because I think we will be debating more about that since we both have horses in that race.

Joe to Greg

Like you’ve noted, the All-Star game is full of star studded lineups. I give the edge to the AL because of their bats and raw power. By no means will it be a blowout, but the AL has that ability to put up a big inning very quickly. Shifting gears a little, I don’t know what to think of the Dwight Howard trade. There are a lot of “What ifs” in this case but one of the most interesting questions that was brought up throughout the Howard sweepstakes was who handled their decision better, Howard or LeBron? While I thought that LeBron’s decision was madly over hyped, after seeing the ways rumors fluttered the headlines everyday leading up to Howard’s decision, I’m obliged to side with LeBron’s tactic to come out with a formal decision at a set time. Although I hope Howard doesn’t pull one of these out of his hat.

Howard’s decision was masked by sources saying, “He’s still 50-50 between Houston and LA” and people questioning his motives. In terms of handling the free agency situation, Howard could have done better, and Houston is an interesting choice as well. As soon as I heard Houston was Howard’s new home, I thought it was a great fit for him. After letting things soak in for the past couple days I’ve changed my mind a little. I don’t question Kevin McHale‘s coaching ability or the structure of the current Rockets’ roster but the Rockets play similar to how the Lakers play. Howard didn’t embrace Mike D’Antoni‘s pick-and-roll system in Los Angeles but the Rockets system is based off of the same ideas. James Harden gets the ball and a pick and he makes plays; something quite similar to Kobe in LA. I think something that played into Howard’s decision was the fan’s lack of appreciation for him, which in turn shied him away from the spotlight. He needs to feel wanted and that’s something LA never really displayed. In the end, Houston is the best team and fit because it gives him a place where the team’s future had a lot of potential before his arrival and their chances only got better since. Houston has the same feel that Orlando provided for Howard earlier in his career so I think this decision is the best for Howard, regardless of the X’s and O’s.

Quick NFC predictions for the playoffs:

1. Green Bay Packers (Rodgers, Manning, Brady in no order for top QB)

2. San Francisco 49ers (Look for another competitive 49ers team this year)

3. Atlanta Falcons (The Falcons will not be the last undefeated team like they were in 2012, they better look behind them, their division is quietly growing stronger)

4. Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson wins games)

5. Washington Redskins (September 9th can’t come faster [Home vs Philly, 7:00 pm ESPN], will RGIII be ready?)

6. New Orleans Saints (Saints finish the season with Panthers, Rams, Panthers, Bucs, I’m hoping Brees can make a late push)


7. Chicago Bears (I like seeing Jay Cutler struggle)

8. Philadelphia Eagles (Nice try Chip Kelly)

Just for fun, who do you think will have the better transition as a college coach turned professional coach? Chip Kelly going from Oregon to the Eagles or Brad Stevens going from Butler to the Celtics? Also your NFC predictions?

Greg to Joe

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James

Oh, Howard did a much worse job of making a decision than LeBron. Howard was a whiney baby and couldn’t make up his mind, and he dragged it out over two years. LeBron made it one summer and one decision that no one in Cleveland liked. Yet, for some odd reason, LeBron is a evil human being and that everyone hates when Howard did the same things except much worse than LeBron did. It’s because LeBron James is the most talented basketball player to ever live. Yeah, I said it. His physical gifts make him so unique on a basketball court; he can do ANYTHING. So everything he does is magnified. And back to the Cleveland comment, those fans are gonna be kicking themselves if he decides he doesn’t want to come back to Cleveland even though their future is looking much brighter than Miami’s (when looking at each team without LeBron). Especially, if he says the reasoning is all the hatred he received from them when he left.  I realize that I am changing topics again, but Howard and Houston should work out well. I’m excited to see it.

For the coaches… Chip Kelly will have a better transition. He is so innovative and I think he’ll be great, but that team has no talent. He better hope they finish as the bottom 1 or 2 teams so he can get Teddy Bridgewater to run his offense and if he isn’t available at 2, he should take Jadeveon Clowney. Stevens will fair well from the beginning I think. He has a 6 year contract so I think they are going to stick with him for awhile. I just wonder if they are going to tank this year to try and get a ping pong ball. If the Celtics tank and get a top 5 pick, they’ll be back in the thick of things quickly.

Now NFC playoff picture… First comment on yours… Eagles are a bottom 5 team in the league. BEST CASE SCENARIO for this year… 7-9 and they won’t sniff the playoffs.

1. Seahawks (Wilson is great and that team is so dominant around him)

2. Saints (Sean Payton and Drew Brees come back with a BANG)

3. Packers (Aaron Rodgers is a stud and he has a running game this year!)

4. Redskins (Team was banged up last year and still won the division, and that division is really bad… will be close with Giants I think)

5. 49ers (They’ll have the second best record in the NFC, but won’t win their own division)

6. Rams (Jeff Fisher‘s second season, sleeper team. They will be able to go on a big winning streak at the end finishing off against Seattle because they’ll be resting their starters after locking down the 1 seed)

Just missed…

Bears, Lions, and Giants

Jadeveon Clowney's hit in the 2013 Outback Bowl

Jadeveon Clowney’s hit in the 2013 Outback Bowl

So I wanna hear what you have to say about the coaches. I realize you have a SLIGHT bias with Stevens coaching the Bawston Celtics. And who do you think will finish in the bottom of the NFL this year? Who will get to draft Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 NFL Draft?

Joe to Greg

I threw the Eagles up high just for the fun of it, I predict they’ll have a losing record but I think they end the season having a good feel for the following season. I’d watch out for Chip Kelly’s second year but who knows, maybe he’ll surprise us all. The Brad Stevens acquisition to the Celtics is interesting but I like the move. It is clear that the Celtics are in a “rebuilding” mode and I think Stevens is one of the perfect people to enter this situation. The Celtics will be competitive but they are going to endure a tough year ahead. I’m predicting they’ll wind up getting a top 10 draft pick in next years stacked class. This upcoming draft class is going to be one of the best we’ve seen in the past 20 years. Its going to be a deep draft with multiple future franchise players (Andrew Wiggins for example). I see Kelly having the better first season because some of his core players are still there, whereas Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were shipped to Brooklyn, making it a tougher roster for Stevens to manage and work with.

In no particular order I’d group these teams in the bottom of the league for the upcoming season…

-Oakland Raiders (My pick for #1 in the draft next year)

-Cleveland Browns (Trent Richardson will be a nice ray of sunshine on another cloudy season)

-New York Jets (Mark. Sanchez.)

-Jacksonville Jaguars (They’re a confusing bad team because they play in such a weak division but they don’t have a reliable quarterback, also my #2 pick for the draft)

-Buffalo Bills (Going to be tough to compete with a rebuilt Dolphins team and established Pats team)

-Philadelphia Eagles (Although I projected them high in the NFC Playoff picture, still too many questions until Week 1 rolls around, so to be safe, they have a spot on this list)

Your thoughts on the NFL’s bottom tier teams for next year’s draft? Also, does the arrival of Andrew Bynum help attract LeBron James back to Cleveland next summer?

Greg to Joe

My bottom teams are similar. The Raiders are tied for worst team with the Jets. They literally have no talent. It is unbelievable how they are able to do that. I think the only reason that the Browns will be low is because they are in one of the best divisions in football. I actually think they are pretty good and Chud (former Panthers O-cordinator) could really turn that team around. That was one of my favorite head coaching hirings this off-season. Eagles are gonna be bad, but I talked about that before. I do think the Bills will be bad, but the Dolphins won’t be good. The Patriots (and their fans) have nothing to worry about. My two other bottom feeders would be the Jaguars and Titans. The Jaguars have no quarterback and no talent in all honesty. The Titans are pretty bad too. If Jake Locker is not the solution at quarterback, they definitely do not have an answer on their current roster. Also, their defense gave up the most points out of ALL defenses last year. It just does not look good for them.

Read one of my Daily Dojo’s from last week for my response on that Cleveland and LeBron question. Lemme know if you wanna take the bet.


Dojo Sparring 6/23 – 6/30

Greg to Joe

So is the greatest thing that has ever been invented. I will have to give you my information for that since I have your Netflix info. I’m just sitting here in Lewisburg, PA with standard cable and and I am watching the Orioles play the Indians. It is the greatest thing in the world. I love it. And I’m pumped that I get to go to the Orioles game against the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball. It’s gonna be awesome and Camden Yards is a great stadium.

Chris Davis

Chris Davis

In the game, I just saw Chris Davis CRUSH another home run. This is nothing unusual, but it got me thinking… is he the first half AL MVP? I would say that he is 100% in the conversation. It is basically Miguel Cabrera, Davis and Mike Trout. Davis is second in batting average with .331, behind Cabrera by .039 points, and has 7 more homers than Cabrera, 28. As I am writing this, it is subject to change after I send this, Davis trails Cabrera by 5 RBI’s. He has the pedigree for this. In the minors, he had a homer every 15 AB’s or so. That’s about 1 every 5 games, assuming he gets 3 AB’s a game. He just could not put it together in his first couple years in the majors. He had a .251 batting average with only 44 homers in his first four years in the majors. The Rangers dealt him for a reliever in 2011. It has worked out well for the Orioles as Koji Uehara, the reliever who got them Davis, is with your Red Sox now.

So, I think I am going to go with Davis because he is basically as good as Cabrera and he plays a really nice first base. Davis is my AL First Half MVP. I also have some really bold predictions, First Half Cy Young awards and the NL First Half MVP. But I want to hear what you have to say first. What are your answers to all those questions? Bold predictions, First Half Cy Young awards and First Half MVP’s

Joe to Greg

I’d have to agree with you in terms of the AL MVP leaders. I say as of right now, Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera, and Mike Trout are your front runners. I think two other guys are worth mentioning and both come out of the AL East; Evan Longoria and David Ortiz. Longoria is batting over .300 for the season and is a big reason why the Tampa Bay Rays haven’t fallen out of the playoff race just yet. (Quick side note. The AL East yet again is producing a crazy race between all five teams, seeing as they’re all just separated by 6.5 games, the smallest margin in the MLB). David Ortiz is an honorable mention because the guy is 37 years old and he’s leading the Red Sox in Home Runs, RBI’s, OPS, and Batting Average. Keeping that type of production up is difficult at an older age.

On the NL side, Yadier Molina, Paul Goldschmidt, and Joey Votto are my favorites so far. Molina is out dueling Buster Posey as the best catcher in baseball right now. Posting a .355 average to go along with only 28 strikeouts in nearly 273 at-bats. To put that in perspective, Chris Carter of the Houston Astros has 107 strikeouts in 252 at-bats. Paul Goldschmidt might be one of my favorite players to watch. He’s tied for 3rd in home runs (19) and leading the NL in RBI’s (66). There’s no question he deserves to be apart of the conversation. Joey Votto is leading the Cincinnati Reds offense. Currently rocking a .325 batting average with a .963 OPS, ranked 4th among NL batters (Goldschmidt is 5th with .959). Votto may lack some of the numbers other candidates have but make no mistake about it, he knows how to hit and get on base.

Through the first half, these are my picks:

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera

NL MVP: Yadier Molina

What are your thoughts on NL MVP and the Cy Young Race?

Greg to Joe

I’m not so sure Ortiz is really a factor in the AL MVP race because it is basically impossible for a DH to win MVP. And Longo is big for the Rays, I agree with that. I put a little bit of AL East stuff in today’s Daily Dojo actually.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina

The NL MVP race is very interesting. I think Molina is so good and is definitely the best catcher in baseball. He has the offensive numbers as you said, but his defensive ability is AMAZING. I wrote about how the Cardinals pitchers that get called up and miraculously pitch well. I think that is because of Molina. He is just a pitchers dream. He makes his entire pitching staff indescribably better.

With all of that said, I think Goldy deserves NL MVP. He is carrying that team and he is absolutely dominate at the plate. They lead their division in a really tight race.

With Cy Young awards, its pretty tough. I think the AL comes down to Max Scherzer, Yu Darvish, Chris Sale and Hisashi Iwakuma. First of all, I do not think Iwakuma is legit. I believe he blows up in the second half even though he is in that huge park in Seattle, Safeco Field. So, it comes down to the other three. I think Sale will slow down to. He pitched 192.0 innings in 2012 and that is a 121 innings increase from 2011. His arm may fatigue and slow down. For me, its down the Darvish and Scherzer. If we go by what has happened so far this year, it is probably Darvish. He leads Scherzer by 21 strikeouts with 143. And his ERA is 2.95 to Scherzer’s 3.05. Now, I think Scherzer will win the AL Cy Young in the long run. He has the lowest Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP) than any of the pitchers I listed above with a 2.55. I can explain the FIP calculation later if you want to know what it is exactly. This is a good indicator of where the ERA is going to go as the season rolls on. It is also a better indicator of pitching quality. Also, his FIP is the only one that is lower than his ERA out of those 4 pitchers. So his ERA should drop, and the others should rise. For me, its Darvish now, but Scherzer at the end of the season for AL Cy Young.

In the NL, I think it is going to be Adam Wainwright now and in the future. He is so good and finally back to form after his Tommy John surgery in 2011. And he has been better than ever. Yes, Matt Harvey has been amazing and he has 15 more strikeouts than Wainwright with a better ERA at 2.05. However, they have FIP’s that are only a point from each other. Harvey has a 2.01 and Wainwright at 2.02. So actually, you know what? I am changing my First Half NL Cy Young to Matt Harvey. I do think Wainwright will end up winning it because Harvey will probably get shut down at some point. The Mets are not competing. They will not win this year, and why should they have Harvey pitching until the end of September when you could save the mileage on his arm? I also think that he will get lit up a couple times for no particular reason and no stats to back me up. Wainwright, when I watch him, is so good. I just cannot not pick against him. Therefore, Wainwright for Cy Young at the end of the year.

First Half NL MVP – Paul Goldschmidt

First Half AL Cy Young – Yu Darvish — Actual Cy Young (end of year prediction) – Max Scherzer

First Half NL Cy Young – Matt Harvey —  Actual Cy Young (end of year prediction) – Adam Wainwright

Cy Young thoughts? and any BOLD predictions for the rest of the MLB season?

Joe to Greg

By no means is Ortiz going to win MVP, but he’ll get the lower votes when voting comes around. I think it is tough to call an AL Cy Young. Without a doubt Yu Darvish and Max Scherzer are the top two candidates. Felix Hernandez is definitely in the conversation and I think just as deserving as Iwakuma. If you compare the two player’s stats through June 26th, their stats are basically identical. Just for fun, what team do you think has the best 1-2 pitching combo in the MLB? I think Hernandez/Iwakuma are at least top three right now.

  • Hernandez – 17 GS, 116.2 IP, 106 Hits, 123 strikeouts, 8-4, 3.4 WAR, 1.10 WHIP, 2.70 ERA
  • Iwakuma – 16 GS, 107.1 IP, 78 Hits, 96 Strikeouts, 7-3, 3.8 WAR, 0.89 WHIP, 2.26 ERA

Unfortunately, my main man Clay Bucholtz likes to play hurt. He came out of the gates hot and is still undefeated on the year and has the lowest ERA in the MLB, but he’s missed a couple of starts which I think will cost him a shot at picking up some hardware this year.

Adam Wainwright and Matt Harvey

Adam Wainwright and Matt Harvey

In the NL, I agree with Adam Wainwright as a top pick.You have to appreciate a guy bouncing back from Tommy John surgery and producing the way he is. As impressive as Wainwright has been, how can you not love Harvey? The guy is an animal on the mound and he’s only a rookie but being a rookie has its issues. I believe the Mets will look to shut him down a couple weeks early depending on the playoff races and with St. Louis primed for a playoff run, Wainwright is going to have to continue to produce. I give the edge to Wainwright in the long run. I don’t think people can sleep on Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks either, seeing as he has yet to suffer a loss on the year. With the Diamondbacks looking like a threat to make the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how much they depend on Corbin to produce seeing that he’s also a rookie. Corbin’s name will be thrown around a little but I don’t think he has the credentials to compete with Harvey, Wainwright, or Clayton Kershaw. I feel we have the same thoughts for these awards with maybe one exception.

First Half AL Cy Young – Yu Darvish — Actual Cy Young (end of year prediction) – Felix Hernandez (IF he continues to pitch heavy innings + keep his ERA low + earn some W’s)

First Half NL Cy Young – Matt Harvey —  Actual Cy Young (end of year prediction) – Adam Wainwright

Bold Predictions:

I truly feel like the AL representative for the World Series comes from the AL East and from what it looks like, the top two offensive teams in the MLB right now are gearing up for what will be an interesting AL playoffs. That would be your Baltimore Orioles and my Boston Red Sox. Sox-O’s in the ALCS, and my bold prediction, the Pittsburgh Pirates make it to the NLCS, where they play the Cardinals. By the way, if the Cardinals were to win the World Series, can we start to tag them as a dynasty? They win, add that to the 2006 and 2011 trophies and you’re looking at a team that’s been consistently competitive for almost a decade now. Who knows.

Have any bold predictions for the second half of the year?

Greg to Joe

Felix Hernandez is really interesting. I think that is pretty bold. He is going to need more wins. I know voters thinks wins are a good indicator of pitcher performance even though they really aren’t. The AL Cy Young Award race should be interesting. And I am glad you agree with me in the NL. I think the pitching dominance in baseball makes the Cy Young award race so much more interesting.

I think that the Cardinals can get a dynasty tag. They also have the best farm system in baseball. They are going to be good for a LOOOOOOOOOOOONG time with Oscar Taveras as their lead man. It is incredible how well that organization is built from top to bottom.

Bold Predictions:

  • I think Manny Machado breaks the single season doubles record. I have been watching the Orioles a lot recently. He is just so good. He really is in the echelon of Trout and Harper. If/when he moves back to shortstop, I think he becomes more valuable than both of them. That could be my Orioles bias kicking in, but I really think he is the real deal.
  • Miguel Cabrera does not end up leading any of the Triple Crown categories at the end of the season.
  • Chris Davis hits 55 home runs this year, but only 33 next year (I realize this is kind of long term).
  • NL (L)East only sends the Braves to the playoffs and they will finish at .500 or worse. They will also be swept in the NLDS.
  • NL Central sends three teams to the playoffs. The Pirates win the 1 game Wild Card against the Reds with Cliff Lee pitching a shutout and Giancarlo Stanton mashing the game winning home run. The Pirates end up winning the NL Pennant and beat my Orioles in Game 6 of the World Series because of a Chase Utley baserunning error that kills a rally in the 8th inning.

Yes, I realize these are very BOLD

Joe to Greg

I don’t think your predictions are bold, they’re borderline crazy. Although I’m a sucker for you placing the Pirates in the World Series because come on, how can you hate the pirates? To wrap up our first half discussion lets play the question game.

  • Which team looks the most complete in the AL/NL?
  • Which division looks the strongest in the AL/NL?
  • Which manager deserves the most credit so far this season?
  • What player/team surprised you the most through the first half?

You already answered my last question, which was, what is your World Series pick through the first half, so I’m guessing you’re taking Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Baltimore Orioles – Pirates win in 6?

Greg to Joe

The Pirates WILL win the World Series if they deal the farm and get Lee and Stanton. They have the farm system. I just don’t know if the front office will make the deal. The Orioles have a shot, but they need another starting pitcher that won’t get hurt. It should be an interesting playoffs.

To answer your questions, the most complete teams are the Tigers and Cardinals. They have it all. The Tigers only problem is they cannot field, but that is about it. The Cardinals have everything including a great farm system to get a possible upgrade if they think they need it.

Strongest Divisions – AL East and NL Central. Both of them could send three teams to the playoffs. I will be doing half-season division reviews in the upcoming weeks leading up to the All Star break. So you’ll see how I view every division. Check out today’s Daily Dojo for the preview of the NL East, or NL Least if you prefer that.

John Farrell

John Farrell

Manager – John Farrell. I expected the Red Sox to be in the basement for the next three years. He has really helped a turnaround in that franchise.

Team/Player- Red Sox, see above sentence. The player that has shocked me the most has to be Jean Segura and/or Yasiel Puig. Segura just had no pedigree for power and I am surprised by his 11 homers. He has always had speed through the minors, but the power is just a shocker. Puig has been amazing so far. I think he is an absolute man-child. He is a stud, but I do not know if this will ever be matched by him ever again. This could be his peak. I say this just because he has been so good. A lot of people said that about Trout and Trout proved them wrong. Trout will be better than him in the long run I believe, but I could easily be wrong. I have a man crush on Trout.

And my predictions will be right if those trades happen. The one that I am most confident about is the Braves finish.

Answer your own questions. I am interested in your responses.

Joe to Greg

Most Complete Team – I’d say the Cardinals pitching and overall performance so far makes them look good. Also, as long as Scherzer keeps dealing, the Tigers look very threatening so we agree on this one.

Strongest Divisions – AL East for just how close of a race it is, again, this year and showcasing quality teams in the Orioles, Yanks, Sox, Rays, and the Blue Jays, who are finally getting their act together. I would say the NL Central because the NL East has been lacking a little with both the Nationals and the Phillies underperforming during the beginning of the season.

Manager – I think I have to give the nod to John Farrell because even though I also had faith in the Red Sox after a miserable season last year, I didn’t expect this big of a turnaround. Hats off for John Farrell so far.

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig

Team/Player – This is more of a combo pick between the Blue Jays poor play and the Red Sox quick resurgence. The Jays spent the money to get big names and haven’t really clicked yet, it will be interesting to see if they can make a run to close out the season and sneak into the playoffs. I’d be careful. Player — I’d say Puig for his overall LeBron-like style. I’m not talking about this potential legacy, but how from the moment he stepped onto the field, Puig began dominating games just as LeBron starting scoring and leading a team to the playoffs from the moment he entered the league. It really is fascinating to watch someone so young and inexperienced play with boiling confidence and composure. I agree Trout has the better career as well.

Greg Danchik and Joe Meola

Dojo Sparring- 6/17-6/21

Greg to Joe

Game 6 of the NBA Finals was easily the best NBA game I have ever watched, but I have not watched a lot of NBA basketball before this year. I just thought LeBron took off in the 4th quarter and Twitter BLEW UP over the lost headband.

LeBron James with and without the headband

LeBron James with and without the headband

Then, after his ridiculous turnover, everyone was calling for LeBron’s head. He was easily the main reason the Heat do not lose that game. I don’t really think you can question it. The Spurs did, however, blow the last ten seconds of the game by not calling a timeout. My only reasoning for that is that Parker tore his hammy or hurt it significantly more. Popovich is too smart to not call a timeout there. What were your thoughts, and how do you think Game 7 goes?

Quick fantasy note, how do you think your team is looking the rest of the way? We made a good deal, I think, of Dom Brown and Tom Wilhelmsen for James Shields and Norichika Aoki. Do you think your team has a good chance to win this thing? I really think my team is by far the best if Tulo and Harper aren’t hurt the rest of the way. But there is a long way to go and we are playing each other this week by the way.

Domonic Brown

Domonic Brown

Joe to Greg

The Heat live and die by the play of LeBron, there’s no doubting that. My problem with the Heat’s strategy was too many consecutive iso’s for James. More than five times Lebron was guarded by Kawhi Leonard and Mario Chalmers, being guarded by Tony Parker, would come set a pick and cause a switch that resulted in Parker guarding James one-on-one. In the NBA, its all about matchups but James didn’t take advantage of the smaller Parker, or maybe he took advantage of him but not as much as he could. The reason the Spurs lost this game falls back on the blown timeout call with ten seconds left in OT with Parker on the bench and also FREE THROWS. Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Leonard all went to the charity stripe with under three minutes to play. Each of them went 1 for 2 on their free throws, essentially giving up 3 free points that could have sealed the deal. I think Parker was pulled from the game because of the hammy issues and also because Popovich didn’t like when Parker had to switch and defend James. The other HUGE play was as the time ran down, I believe it was James who took the shot to tie the game, misses it, Chris Bosh comes up with the biggest play he’s made in a Heat uniform and grabs the rebound, who dishes it to Ray Allen and the rest is history. My question is, why isn’t Tim Duncan on the floor? You trust Boris Diaw in the last ten seconds of the game to guard Bosh when Duncan finished with 30 points and 17 rebounds? I think the momentum carries the Heat to Game 7 win. My heart says the Heat win but my pick is the Spurs 95, Heat 91. Your prediction?

On the flip side, I really like my fantasy team. I think one of the biggest factors in a successful fantasy team is balance across the board, but more specifically balance between power hitters (such as Prince Fielder/Nelson Cruz for me and Robinson Cano/Tulo for you) and your strong role players (someone like a Daniel Nava/Carlos Gomez for me and Omar Infante/Norichika Aoki for you). Also balance between your starting pitchers and closers. Too many starters may result in higher ERA and WHIP, too many closers and you don’t have enough wins and K’s. Since you and I have been 1-2 in our division the whole way, I think whoever wins the league comes from our division, between either your team, my team, or Grant’s team.

Greg to Joe

You’re right, the Spurs were ONE rebound or ONE free throw from an NBA Title. Duncan not being in at the end of the 4th quarter was a bit confusing too. I have no explanation for that. I really don’t understand the no timeout and then no Parker, in the last 10 seconds, on offense at least. I really think the only explanation for this is a hurt hamstring. I really do not see any other reason. Pop is honestly way too smart for that. I can’t question Pop, he is a genius and if he does something, he definitely has a reason for it. Much smarter basketball mind than both of us. With regards to Miami’s offense revolving around LeBron, its just how the team is designed. The team is not designed to beat a top NBA team without a LeBron scoring 30 points and getting 10 boards and 10 assists. And yes, LeBron missed the game tying shot, but he willed his team back into the game after being down 10 points going into the 4th quarter.

For Game 7, I wrote this yesterday… Game 6 winner will be the NBA champion. So, I’m sticking to it.

Jay Pharoah impression of Stephen A. Smith

Jay Pharoah impression of Stephen A. Smith

There is NO WAY (Stephen A. Smith voice) the Heat lose this game. LeBron finally had a good quarter and he is going to carry that into a MONSTER game 7. I’m talking 40 points, 15 assists and at least 10 boards. I also think Parker is done. He might have a good 1st half in Game 7, but he won’t be able to have a good 2nd half. His hamstring is bothering him too much; he has not had 2 good halves in a game since Game 1. Heat will be repeat champions with a 98-89 win. And I think when everyone looks back at this series, people will think Game 6 decided the series and that’s the game everyone remembers.

So I think you’re wrong about the ERA and WHIP thing. I agree that with too many closers, you don’t win K’s for the week. But closers, and relievers in general, can DESTROY an ERA. If they give up 5 runs in 2 innings pitched for the week, you get tattooed with a 22.50 ERA from them for the week. Also, this is why I think our league format is dumb. Head to Head leagues for fantasy baseball is the dumbest thing in fantasy sports. I can’t say that enough. EXAMPLE: Say you had Mike Trout and Stephen Strasburg last year. They carry your team all year. Then come playoff time, Trout cools down, and Strasburg is shut down. ALL OF THEIR STATS FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR JUST GO OUT THE WINDOW!!!! 140 or so games… GONE! Next year, it should be a roto league. Count stats from all year and be ranked based on those stats. Baseball and football are totally different sports. Baseball is a marathon and football is a sprint. Baseball should count stats for all year and football can be week to week because it is such a matchup league and that’s part of fantasy football, exploiting the matchups.

But this year, I might be able to take advantage of our league format. My team will make the playoffs regardless and come playoff time, I think Harper and Tulo will be back to form and it should help carry me through the postseason. I really think it is going to come down to us 3. Thats about it. Sorry Chris…

Joe to Greg

It pains me to say that my gut says the Heat win Game 7 even though I really really really really don’t want them to. Talk about some legacy’s at stake for this game now:

Scenario 1: Spurs win…Tim Duncan goes 5-0 in NBA Finals series and 2-0 versus LeBron, for some bragging rights. He wins 3 championships in 3… 3 different decades, which is one of the biggest achievements you can hope for as a professional athlete. Duncan gets a bump into the conversation of top five players EVER with his 5th ring and easily regarded as either the number 1 or 2 power-forward to ever play the game. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili each get their 4th ring, essentially locking up Hall of Fame honors for them. The flip side, Lebron drops to 1-3 in NBA Finals series (Losing 1 with Cleveland and 2 with Miami). The Heat Big 3 are going to receive loads of criticism for their performance. Mainly Wade for pulling a Houdini and showing up every other game and Bosh for doing “Bosh-like things”.

Chris Bosh & Dinosaur

Chris Bosh & Dinosaur

Scenario 2: Heat win…Tim Duncan still has an incredible resume, but this one will be remembered as the one that got away from him. Ginobili regardless of winning a title probably retires since he isn’t the same Manu anymore. James grabs his 2nd ring, Wade his 3rd, and Bosh his 2nd. The LeBron train keeps on chugging as more people question whether or not the Heat can be stopped even though after every Heat loss, the media act as though the Heat have hit rock bottom.

Lets put it this way, If the Heat win, then the media goes crazy covering them and their success. If the Spurs win, then the media goes crazy covering the Heat as James, Bosh, and Wade enter the final years of their contracts for the upcoming season. Meaning that next summer, we will have another “Decision” to worry about.

I’m siding with you on the baseball aspect in terms of the proper format to use. While its hard for me to comment on the varying styles of the format, I can see flaws using Head-to-Head. The case with any fantasy team, whether that be baseball, football, basketball, or hockey, is whose team is hot come playoff time and whose team has less injuries. Two prime examples, Sidney Crosby getting hurt and missing the last 13 games of the regular season ended up costing someone’s team a chance to advance to the championship. The other example is football, when Adrian Peterson, who always performs well, started going off towards the tail end of the season, the person who had him on their team rode his performances straight to a championship. Baseball is very interesting though because of what you mentioned about Strasburg. When a pitcher of his caliber gets shut down, it hurts your team more than you think. In your opinion is it more detrimental to your team to have a pitcher get shut down/hurt or a batter shut down/hurt?

Greg to Joe

I can’t wait for the summer of 2014 for the next LeBron decision. I hope he goes back to Cleveland, but I am not so sure he does. I also think legacy talk is ridiculous. Championships are won by teams. If people are measuring players about the amount of championships they win, they are basically saying that basketball is an individual’s sport. And you can tell, if your watching these NBA Finals, it is clearly a team sport. The better team wins the game. LeBron carried his team, but if Bosh doesn’t get that rebound and Allen doesn’t hit that three, LeBron’s effort does not matter.

It depends on the make-up of your team for the most part when it comes to players getting hurt at the end of the year on your fantasy team. If all things being equal, I would say pitcher if we are talking top 5 pitcher, but otherwise hitter. With a top pitcher, like Clayton Kershaw, you are almost guaranteed to win 3 categories (ERA, WHIP, & K’s) in a two start week. You are pretty much always given at least one win as well. So if you lose a two start week in the postseason, you’re done. You cannot make that up, unless you stream starters insanely well in his place. Otherwise, a hitter hurts more because they play everyday and it costs valuable counting stats (RBI’s, runs, home runs, stolen bases).

Joe to Greg

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James

For the fun of it, I say LeBron joins Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Alonzo Gee, and their #1 pick this year (side note: It must SUCK to be a Charlotte Bobcats fan since they missed out on the #1 pick in back to back years). D-Wade and Bosh stay with the Heat. Other noticeable free agents for the summer of 2014: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, Rudy Gay, Paul George, Zach Randolph, and John Wall. I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to be in for a treat next summer. One of these names won’t be with their team come the 2014-2015 season.

I think losing an ace on your fantasy staff hurts you in the long run because pitchers are harder to come by once the draft goes by. Especially in a 10 team league, you really have find the diamond in the rough among the free agents. Like any fantasy team, you have to draft well in the later rounds; luckily for me, I picked R.A. Dickey extremely late last year and I think that was a good pick to say the least. On a week-to-week basis, missing a hitter, like you missing Bryce Harper, hurts you because of his power and his ability to get on base.

Greg quick Bobcats response:

Maybe it’s a good thing because they will suck again and get the # 1 pick next year and get to draft Andrew Wiggins (the next NBA superstar).

Greg Danchik & Joe Meola