2013 World Series Preview

SportsDojo4_Rev2_Rev1You may have noticed that I am not writing as much anymore. I rarely do Daily Dojos and most of my writings come from the Dojo Sparring, a very casual article (until I unleash the fury about how the Red Sox have been lucky the whole ALCS). Anyway, this is mostly because as school rolled around most of my time has been taken up by my Bucknell work. I have to do it because if I didn’t graduate (or better yet, graduate with a good GPA), I would be written out of my parent’s will. With the time that I have leftover after school obligations, I have been working on rankings for the 2014 MLB season. I realize it is early, but there are 30 teams and around 30 players on each team, or in each team’s farm system, that should be known to get a full grasp of the significant pieces of the 2014 player pool. It takes time to do 900 projections and boil them down into understandable rankings that can be used for the average fantasy baseball league. The rankings will be constantly changing from now until February as more information is released about the players and most importantly, playing time and batting order position. These rankings, along with a lot of other great information, strategies and ideas, will be released sometime in February. While doing these rankings, I will be releasing some early player outlooks for one hitter and pitcher for each team that I think will be the most interesting. I will do a hitter from each team and then a pitcher from each team, leading up to the release of The Sports Dojo’s 2014 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide (presented by Greg Danchik). Now, I will stop writing about how I don’t write and give you a 2013 World Series preview.

World Series Trophy (Photo Cred: Charlie Riedel/AP)

World Series Trophy (Photo Cred: Charlie Riedel/AP)

The World Series might be the most improper way of determining a champion. Teams compete for 162 games, but must win 3 straight series in order to become champion. The consistent teams, the Athletics for example, are not built for this type of champion determination. They are rarely on a hot or cold streak, but are always well above the average. That’s how a team like the 2007 Rockies made it to the World Series. One crazy hot streak at the right time put them through to the World Series. The reason they lost the series is they had to wait for the Red Sox to put away the Indians in 7 games. If you get baseball players off their rhythm, there’s no telling how long it will take to get it back because baseball is a game of timing and consistency. If you fail to have those things, and you will fail to win games.

The playoffs also require a lot of luck. Fortunately for the Red Sox, luck was on their side in the ALCS. No one was “clutch”, as clutch doesn’t truly exist. It’s a word used by the talking heads on stations like ESPN to create heroes and stories that they can rerun all day and night for weeks. The most “clutch” player on the Red Sox would be David Ortiz. Little known fact… Ortiz, over his career, IS BETTER IN THE REGULAR SEASON! Not by much but he is. His regular season and postseason slash lines are .287/.381/.549 and .272/.383/.516 (AVG/OBP/SLG).

Now that my clutch rant is over, just a basic stat that everyone can understand is that two swings (the two grand slams) accounted for 8 out of 19 runs the Red Sox scored in the ALCS. To see more on my rant about how the Red Sox sucked ass, check out the final exchange I send to Joe in last week’s Dojo Sparring (link at the top).

Anyway, that was a little rant that needed to be thrown out there. My point about the introduction is that this year, despite all of those things, the two best teams ended up in the World Series. The Cardinals and Red Sox both had home field advantage en route to a pennant and had the best regular season records of their respective leagues. I’ll give a breakdown of their starting pitching, bullpens, and position players to try a determine the best team and who will win the World Series.

Starting Pitching- Advantage Cardinals

Michael Wacha (Photo Cred: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Michael Wacha (Photo Cred: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals’ ability to scout and produce pitchers is masterful. Every starter that will pitch for the Cardinals will be a former Cardinals’ pitching prospect. Their two best relievers right now, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, are both Cardinals’ products as well. These guys are not like Orioles pitching prospects, no sir. I mean the Orioles’ pitchers are mostly former O’s prospects… but they ain’t good! The Cardinals staff is filthy. Adam Wainwright, homegrown, is an absolute stud muffin. He is a Cy Young award candidate, and deservingly so. He is top in the league in IP, 3rd in K’s, 3rd in FIP, and 2nd in BB/9. He has been dominate this year and he is back to his pre-Tommy John form. This is not Wainwright’s first rodeo either. He was the closer in the Cardinals’ 2006 World Series championship team. Michael Wacha will be the Game 2 starter for the Cardinals. The NLCS MVP has been ridiculous this year, especially in the postseason, posting 0.43 ERA in 21 innings and racking up 22 strikeouts while he is at it. He has no sign of slowing down, but you never know how the pressure of a World Series will get to a rookie, a rookie from the 2012 MLB Draft no less. Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly are the starters for the Cardinals once the series heads back to St. Louis. Lynn and Kelly both have had their ups and downs this year, but have been good enough to get the Cardinals this far in the postseason. Oh, and even if one of their starters falter, Shelby Miller waits in long relief to save the day. The former top prospect was dominant in stretches of the year, but was a liability at various points. He could easily come in as a replacement when a starter fails to have success early in a game, and continue to let in runs. However, his fastball/curveball combo (two pitches that are considered, by scouts, to be a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale) should allow him to be dominant in a relief role until the Cardinals’ true bullpen can step in (I say true bullpen because Miller was a starter most of the year).

For the Sox pitchers, they have 2 homegrown starters and 2 that were acquired from other teams, but not developed through their farm system. Quite frankly, the Red Sox starting pitchers are fascinating to me. There are 3 Red Sox starters that have struggled in recent years or have failed to play because of injuries. This year, ALL 3 decide to turn it around (except Bucholtz couldn’t resist the DL). The 2013 FIPs of Jon Lester (3.56/4.11), John Lackey (3.86/4.71), and Clay Buchholz (2.78/4.07) are all lower than their career FIPs (If that doesn’t signify how everything has gone right for the Red Sox, it gets crazier with their position players). Jake Peavy is the exception. His FIP is higher than it has been over the course of his career, but that is because all of the injuries he has acquired throughout his career have severely hampered his pitching abilities as compared to his abilities when he was a Padre. Peavy has also been the pitcher that has be least successful in giving the Red Sox a chance to win, costing them a game in the ALCS. I think that for the AL East, the Red Sox’ pitchers have been very good, but are not at the level of the Cardinals starters.

Projected Starting Pitchers by Game

  1. Adam Wainwright vs Jon Lester
  2. Michael Wacha vs John Lacky
  3. Clay Bucholtz vs Lance Lynn/Joe Kelly
  4. Jake Peavy vs Joe Kelly/Lance Lynn

Bullpen- Push

They are both just unbelievable.

Koji Uehara at Tropicana Field (Photo Cred: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Koji Uehara at Tropicana Field (Photo Cred: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

For the Red Sox, the main pieces of the bullpen are older players having career years. Koji Uehara, former Oriole great, has had one of the best seasons a reliever could have. He had a microscopic ERA at 1.09 while racking up 101 strikeouts and giving up 9 walks. He was also able to do this while pitching 7.2 more innings than in any of his previous seasons. Needless to say, Uehara will shut down the Cards in the 9th and give the Sox a victory if they have the lead. However, the key to the Red Sox bullpen has to be Craig Breslow. A pitcher that has given up 3 hits in 7 IP in the first postseason action of his career. He is a lefty pitcher that is better at getting righties out than lefties. Righties have a .205 batting average this season against Breslow, while lefties have a .253 batting average. This could be inflated by the fact that Breslow would have been brought on to face really good lefties and would stay in the game to face poor righties. I don’t know, I don’t have the time to figure that out for sure. Anyway… If this is a true indication of Breslow’s ability to get righties out, I cannot wait to see him pitch against Allen Craig. Craig is coming back from a foot injury (more on this later) and is going to give the Cardinals a much needed righty that can take on left handed pitching. I hope we get to see Craig’s 2013 .340 wOBA go up against Breslow. Either way, Breslow teaming up with Junichi Tazawa to get to the 9th inning will be key for the Red Sox. A bullpen that put up a 3.08 ERA in the second half will have to do even better than that to beat the Cardinals. If they can dominate like they did in the ALCS, the Sox will be in good hands once John Farrell walks out to the mound the first time.

The Cardinals have a different type of make-up. Unlike the Red Sox, the key pieces to the Cardinals’ bullpen are all young guns. The 3 main cogs are Trevor Rosenthal (A.K.A. Adam Wainwright 2.0 – 23), Carlos Martinez (22), and Kevin Siegrist (24). Siegrist is a lefty that brings some heat, but their main lefty specialist is Randy Choate. All 3 of these relievers could easily be stretched out for next year. These three relievers have given up only 3 runs throughout the whole postseason. The best of these relievers is Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal has become the Cardinals’ closer after the implosion of Edward Mujica over the course of the season. However, Mike Matheny recognizes that Rosenthal is his best reliever. He will use him in tie games for more than 1 inning if needed. To be 22 and have the trust of a manager to pitch in high leverage situations in the postseason, you have to be great. Rosenthal is great and will be the next great Cardinals’ starter. Cardinals have had 2 postseason games where only 22 (and younger)-year olds pitched. Expect another one of those this series if Wacha keeps up his dominance. Much like John Farrell, Mike Matheny knows that he will be putting the fate of the game into good hands when he comes out to the mound.

Position Players-  Push (Offense – Advantage Red Sox/Defense – Advantage Cardinals)

Boston Red Sox starting lineup in Game 1 of the 2013 ALCS (Photo Cred: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Boston Red Sox starting lineup in Game 1 of the 2013 ALCS (Photo Cred: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

To add onto the narrative of EVERYTHING has gone right for the Red Sox, most of their hitters increased their WAR from 2012 to 2013. These players include Jacoby Ellsbury (1.4 to 5.8),  Dustin Pedroia (4.4 to 5.4), David Ortiz (2.9 to 3.8), Shane Victorino (2.9 to 5.6), Mike Napoli (2.0 to 3.9), and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (1.9 to 3.6).Since these games will have a DH in Games 1,2,6,7, the lineups could be constantly changing, especially for the Red Sox. The Red Sox are built with a full time DH, David Ortiz, so they will have a normal lineup at home, but will have to move things around on the road. Will Napoli catch? Does Napoli go to the bench (plenty of scenarios where this is useful)? The Red Sox had the dominant offensive force that finished top 2 in BA, OBP, and SLG. However, their line up has gone cold in the postseason. To pull from last week’s Dojo Sparring…

Now the Red Sox… they have no excuse except they have been dominated. When I made my “The Red Sox have been horrendous this series” claim, they had a stellar batting average of… .133! That’s super duper if you’re a pitcher! Except, the Red Sox are all top notch hitters, not a lineup of pitchers. Now with Game 4, they were able to raise that to .186. Still below the Mendoza line (.200, for those who did not know). Now get this, the Red Sox have a BB/K of .21 this postseason. In other words, they have 53 strikeouts to 11 walks. That’s not good. They can’t get on base or put the ball in play to even get sacrifices. Those 53 strikeouts in 140 plate appearances give them a K% of 38%! That means about 3.42 batters strike out every time the Tigers pitchers go through the lineup!

Obviously, the Red Sox went cold in the ALCS. I realize this is a small sample size, but if this continues, they will not succeed against the Cardinals. The Cardinals have more depth in their lineup than the Tigers and will score more runs. Their bullpen won’t give the Red Sox a chance to win each game like the Tigers’ bullpen did.

When the series shifts to St. Louis, the Red Sox lineup will take some turns. David Ortiz will play first base; John Farrell already announced this. The question is who plays catcher? I would say Napoli would be the better choice, but will his poor defense screw the Red Sox? I mean Ortiz is no defensive wizard at first base so maybe the Sox have given up on those spots defensively and will try to out slug the Cardinals. I would say this is their best bet, but they need to realize that they will probably give up a run or 2 because of the defensive weaknesses.

The Red Sox also have plenty of speed. They had a SB% (SB/{SB+CS}) of 87% this season. However, they will be running against the active leader in catcher CS%, Yadier Molina (45%). I think that the Red Sox will still run (if they are on base), but not as well as they have been this season. Molina is a difference maker on offense and defense and would have been NL MVP had he not hit the DL this year.

For the Cardinals lineup, they get to go to Boston with an advantage over most NL teams. They have enough bench bats to have a AL-quality DH. Allen Craig comes back for that role, specifically. Recovering from a mid-foot sprain, Craig will DH for the games in Boston. It gives the Cardinals the ability to put all of their best offensive weapons into their lineup. Craig had a slash line of .315/.373/.457, much better than your average player (.252/.316/.394). He also gives the Cardinals a righty in the lineup that they will need to have success against Boston’s best lefties (Lester and Breslow). Craig’s bat gives the Cardinals the DH they need to compete with Boston’s offense. I tweeted at Jonah Keri on Sunday.

 

Obviously, the Sox didn’t listen to my suggestion. I understand this though. It goes back to my beginning points about how baseball is a game of timing and consistency (see… it all comes full circle). Lester is on schedule to pitch Game 1 and Allen Craig’s timing will be off because it will be his first game since September 4th. Keeping Lester’s timing on schedule and taking advantage of Craig’s timing adjustment is the best decision for the Red Sox.

Carlos Beltran is a postseason monster. I know I said there is no such thing as a clutch player. I have no explanation for Beltran’s postseason slash line of .337/.449/.724  except sample size. It is only about 1/3rd the amount of at bats a player will get during a full season. I am sure over the next 400 at bats it would regress towards his career averages, but we will never be able to see that because he is so old. Who knows how he will perform. If you put a gun to my head, I would say he dominates his first (and only) World Series.

The Cardinals don’t lose much going back home because that is how they have functioned all year. Their defense will be much better than the Red Sox in St. Louis even with Matt Adams at first base.

Final Thoughts and Series Prediction

Overall, I think there is way too much information about each of these teams to digest at once. I can’t give everyone’s slashline and stats on these teams. I picked some key stats and threw them out there. It’s too much to go through to get the best possible prediction. However, I think all of this information I have gathered can be boiled to a good prediction. Lets realize that a World Series is a short series to determine a baseball champion. It creates a high amount of variability in the prediction because the season averages won’t determine the champion. Red Sox could win in 4-7 and so could the Cardinals. There is no definite answer.

Also, Vegas has the Red Sox as the favorites to win the World Series. Remember, Vegas bookmakers’ job is not to pick the correct outcome. It is to put a line out that gives equal betting on both sides, so the sportsbook always wins. This is why the Patriots were like 12 point favorites during the Week 2 clash against the Jets. The public LOVES the Patriots, and the bookmakers knew that they could place a huge line and get close to even betting. I suspect a similar thing is happening here. I think the public knows the Red Sox best (Thank You ESPN) and will bet more on the Sox. I would say the smart money is on St. Louis. I think the Red Sox advantage on offense may not exist anymore if their cold streak continues, but the Cardinals’ pitching advantage will shine bright throughout the series.

Basically, this series comes down to this… Can the Boston starters contain the Cardinals’ bats? If not, can the Red Sox bats go back to mid-season form and score runs off the Cardinals’ starters?  I think the answers to both of these questions is no. The Cardinals will be your World Series Champion.

Finally, for the part you are waiting for…

The Way Too Specific Prediction That’s Way Too Likely To Be Wrong

Cardinals take both games in Boston. Their starting pitching advantage will shine and hold the Red Sox scoring down. Series shifts to St. Louis. Cardinals take a 3-0 lead and prepare for a sweep. Lester comes in and pitches Game 4 and takes advantage of no Allen Craig in the lineup. 3-1 Cardinals going into Game 5. To surprise of every viewer in America, Lacky outduels Wainwright in Game 5. The game goes to the 9th at 1-0 because of a Jacoby Ellsbury triple and Pedroia sac fly. Koji comes in. Kolten Wong pinch hits for Pete Kozma in the 8 hole. He draws a walk. Everyone remember Kirk Gibson

Allen Craig pinch hits for Trevor Rosenthal and hits his first 2013 Postseason home run. It wins the Cardinals the series in 5. They celebrate in front of a top 5 baseball fan base in America. Carlos Beltan is your 2013 World Series MVP.

Greg Danchik

Dojo Sparring – Week 6

Joe to Greg

Another week’s worth of games means another week’s worth of discussion. You and I both predicted that Adrian Peterson would come out on fire after the tragic events of his son but that never came to fruition. Denver actually got a little competition from Jacksonville and another undefeated team went down. Don’t forget that the NLCS and ALCS are going on as well. I’ll be honest, following the Patriots last-second touchdown over the Saints, I couldn’t go through another emotional roller coaster with the Red Sox in Game 2, Sunday Night. They went down 5-1 and after Max Scherzer recorded his 13th strikeout, I figured it was over. But then Scherzer didn’t come to the mound for the 8th inning and the rest is history.

Any big thoughts from the weekend’s games? And also any thoughts on the MLB Postseason thus far.

Greg to Joe

The baseball postseason has been something else. It seems like it is a normal for at least one starter per night to take a no-hitter into the 6th. It has been crazy. The Red Sox game was unreal. I was with Heather at home and we heard David Ortiz crush that ball. We looked up and saw Torii Hunter BARELY missed that ball. Had Torii caught that? The Red Sox might have been looking at a 3-0 deficit assuming Verlander pitches as well as he did in Game 5 of the ALDS. Then again, the Red Sox have been down 3-0 before and won a series so who knows. That will be a great series.

In the NLCS, the key is Hanley Ramirez. He is an absolute stud. He has finally returned to the hitter that made him the runner-up for MVP in 2009. He is a member of the 30-30 club, and he, not Yasiel Puig, was the key to the Dodgers turnaround. The Dodgers are 41-45, including postseason, when Hanley doesn’t start. If he is able to withstand the pain from a fractured rib and start the rest of the series, this series is going to 7 games.

In football, I didn’t watch a lot of the games because I was traveling a lot on Sunday. I know that the Ravens lost a very close game. The Patriots game stunned me. I saw the Saints take a 4 point lead and then we shut off the TV for dinner. I went on my phone to see the same score go final, but it hadn’t. I couldn’t believe it. Also, fantasy football is a crazy game. Random studs and duds each week, but we both got the call right about Terrance Williams. Played well with his touchdown grab.

Baseball thoughts or any interesting happenings in the NFL this week?

Joe to Greg

(msn.foxsports.com)

(msn.foxsports.com)

I didn’t even mention how close Hunter was to that ball. BARELY is an understatement. If the Sox had lost that game I would’ve called off any hope for a World Series this year. You aren’t winning 4 out of 5 games against the Tiger’s pitching staff when you’re in an 0-2 hole.

Between the two series; ALCS and NLCS, I think that the NLCS has a higher chance of going seven games. I agree that Hanley is the key and I’m expecting Kershaw to come back with a vengeance and earn a W with his expected slated start in Game 6 in St. Louis.

We both got some nice production out of Terrance Williams and I’m looking for that to continue as the Cowboys travel to Philadelphia this week for a divisional game. Some things to keep in mind for the Williams’ doubters: Miles Austin continues to drown himself in leg injuries which is evidence by his 0 receptions for 0 yards last week. Combine his ineffectiveness with the annual DeMarco Murray injury, there is a chance that Williams will see an increase in production. Murray injured his knee in Sunday nights game against the Redskins and is considered questionable for Philly as of 10/15. My baseball thoughts are more of a wait-and-see approach. As big of a supporter as I am for Boston, I enjoy watching great games more than anything and both series have had their fair share of excitement. I’m just looking for memorable moments so thank you, David Ortiz and thank you, Max Scherzer for your performances.

A quick note also, we are matched up against each other this week in ESPN. I’m already predicting a loss for myself because Drew Brees is on his bye but you never know till it’s over. I think our matchup could be a potential playoff matchup when that time comes around. I like both of our teams in this league, I feel I’m lacking a solid RB group though. My most consistent RB has been Danny Woodhead and I’ve only have him for three weeks.

I have a couple of things to bring up for the new week. One being the return of Peyton Manning to Indianapolis. There are multiple reasons I’m interested in this game. 1) I’m looking forward to just the general reception of Manning coming back to Lucas Oil Stadium. 2) How Andrew Luck will fair coming off a below-average performance Monday night against the San Diego Chargers. 3) The first REAL test for the Broncos Offense (Baltimore: 17th*, New York: 24th, Oakland: 13th, Philadelphia: 32nd, Dallas: 30th, and Jacksonville: 22nd). That is the rankings of yards allowed per game for each respective team’s defense. Clearly the Broncos haven’t met much resistance. I marked Baltimore with * because it was the first game of the season. It would be a much different game if the two teams were to play again now; although I believe the Broncos would still prevail. I also like the Pittsburgh-Baltimore rivalry game this week. I always love watching arguably one of the best rivalries in football in action.

Any thoughts on the NFL for Week 7?

Greg to Joe

The Red Sox have been horrendous. Lets be honest. And they STILL are up 2-1. I can’t explain that. The truly only explanation is that’s how baseball is.

The Cardinals are a win away from being in the World Series and rightfully so. They are the best run organization in baseball. Period. They have so much talent at the major league level and they have the farm system to keep up the level of Major League level excellence. I just can’t wait to watch the Cardinals dominate baseball for the years to come.

I don’t think that Terrance Williams is going to be the biggest beneficiary from the DeMarco Murray injury. That has to be Joseph Randle. The Cowboys face defenses that are sub-par against the run and could easily dominate those teams on the ground. Brian Waters has made all the difference for the offensive line. Randle with benefit, assuming Murray is even out.

I can’t make a good lineup in the ESPN league so don’t even worry about it.

This upcoming week is Steelers’ week. That is honestly the only thing I care about. I only want to Ravens to go into Pittsburgh and dominate the Steelers. I doubt this happens, but it is honestly the only game I care about. The Luck-Manning game should be fun to watch. I think that we will get another one next year because the Colts and Broncos  will win their divisions easily. I think Peyton gets the better of Luck this time around. If Luck can find a way to lead the Colts to victory with a monster game, his shot at winning MVP just went up. Manning can start off as hot as he wants; if he can’t finish, he won’t win MVP.

My bold prediction for this week has to be New England loses this weekend unless Gronk finally comes back. And even then, I still think the Jets handle the Patriots at home.

Bold predictions for this week, and you still have a Sox World Series title even though they can’t hit in this ALCS? I still feel good about the Cards even after the loss today.

Joe to Greg

I wouldn’t go as far as to say they have been horrendous. They rightfully lost Game 1 and stole Game 2 with the help of Scherzer being pulled an inning too soon and Big Papi’s heroics. They edged out a 1-0 win in Game 3, and straight up lost in Game 4 last night because Jake Peavy just didn’t have his stuff. The first three games were all decided by one run each so sure their bats are cold, but they still managed 12 hits last night to. Just a side note on last nights game…Dustin Pedroia talked after the game about a botched grounder he could’ve turned into a double play but ended up becoming a fielder’s choice. At the time the Tigers had just scored one run, if Pedroia turns two on that play, there was already an out in the inning and they get out relatively unscathed. Instead of one run, it turned into five…I’d say that makes a big difference in the game. Detroit has dominated the pitching as expected and Boston’s lineup can’t produce runs other than Big Papi. No need to be concerned on my end, it’s a best of three now.

I don’t have many bold predictions for the week, I think now I’m expecting both the ALCS and the NLCS to go to seven games. I really hope the Ravens can win but I feel like regardless of their records, each year the Ravens and Steelers play two tough hard-nosed games. Best of luck.

Greg to Joe

Joe… I understand you a Red Sox fan, but when I made my claim, they were up 2 games to 1 and have been the worse team over the course of the series. Game 4 was decided by that Pedroia error, but the Tigers added more runs later so I still they they would have won. However, there should have been no outs on that fielder’s choice anyway because Stephen Drew was not even in the same area code as 2nd base when he got the out there.

Now onto their batting and how the Tigers have dominated them, but the Red Sox have not done so to Detroit, but the Sox have still managed to keep this series tied. Lets look at some season averages. The Red Sox had a .44 BB/K, 20.5% K%, and .271 batting average (2nd in the MLB). The Tigers had a .49 BB/K, 16.4% K%, and .283 batting average (highest in the MLB). That batting average for Detroit is much high than what I would expect from them now because Miguel Cabrera is hurt and that batting average has about 130 games from Johnny Peralta at SS and 50 from Jose Iglesias. With Iglesias in the lineup, that batting average drops. I would expect them to have a lower batting average than they did in the regular season, but the Red Sox should be similar if they weren’t being dominated. Detroit, this series, has a .41 BB/K, 20.1 K%, and a .242 batting average. I would say that the Red Sox pitchers have done well, but I think a small dip in the numbers is expected because of the colder weather, and the reasons I stated above. Now the Red Sox… they have no excuse except they have been dominated. When I made my “The Red Sox have been horrendous this series” claim, they had a stellar batting average of… .133! That’s super duper if you’re a pitcher! Except, the Red Sox are all top notch hitters, not a lineup of pitchers. Now with Game 4, they were able to raise that to .186. Still below the Mendoza line (.200, for those who did not know). Now get this, the Red Sox have a BB/K of .21 this postseason. In other words, they have 53 strikeouts to 11 walks. That’s not good. They can’t get on base or put the ball in play to even get sacrifices. Those 53 strikeouts in 140 plate appearances give them a K% of 38%! That means about 3.42 batters strike out every time the Tigers pitchers go through the lineup! If you say those stats aren’t horrendous, that’s a your judgement call, but to me, they are. In Game 2, they got lucky to have all their offensive production come at the same time so Ortiz was up with 3 men on base instead of 1 or 2. Scherzer was laboring, he needed to be taken out, but I think Leyland mismanaged the relievers. That’s how they got their lucky Game 2 victory. Game 3 was just 1 of their 4 hits went out of the park and the Tigers 6 hits were just too scattered to put together a run.

I will give the Red Sox this… Their relievers, led by former Oriole great Koji Uehara, have been great (13.1 IP, 10 K, 9 H, 8 BB, and 0 ER) and pitchers good enough, but their offense has 110% been horrendous, in my opinion.

Greg Danchik and Joe Meola

Dojo Sparring – Week 5

Greg to Joe

The Broncos and Cowboys play a historic game, Tom Brady‘s passing touchdown streak comes to a halt in the pouring rain, and we have baseball games every day. It was a pretty awesome weekend in my opinion. I also want to point out that the Braves were ousted in the 1st round of the playoffs, just saying that I predicted it would be worse, but there would be no way they got past the Dodgers or whoever they faced in the NLDS.

Anyway, I hope your fantasy teams ended up doing well last week. I went undefeated on the week even though Grant had Tony Romo in the Yahoo league. The funny thing is, he would have won this week had he not backed out of our trade. Unfortunate for him.
So I’ve got a couple questions… Are the Dolphins AND Jets serious contenders for the AFC East crown against the Patriots? Are you afraid of Yankee-esque collapse from the Red Sox after the Jose Lobaton walk-off? Should the Tigers find a way to make Miguel Cabrera the DH, resign Johnny Peralta and make him the 3rd basemen and trade Victor Martinez for a reliever? I only have this question after he had an error in Game 3 yesterday.

Joe to Greg

I’ve had a brief hiatus from writing my “Game of the Week” Column. So as a note to myself and others, expect one this week regarding the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints. I loved this weekend in sports but I’m excited to answer your questions so lets jump right into it:

Are the Dolphins AND Jets serious contenders? I don’t believe both are serious because right now I’m leaning towards the Dolphins (Wins: @Cleveland, @Indy, Falcons). Just to compare, the Jets (Buccaneers, Bills, @Falcons). I think the win @Indy stands out and looks better after Indy handed Seattle its first lost this past week. Although watching last Geno Smith last night was somewhat impressive. I had a feeling that when he got the ball back with under two minutes that he was going to get into field goal range at least and look what happened. I think the AFC and NFC East essentially flip flopped this year. Usually we’re accustomed to at least two teams in the AFC East below .500 (Buffalo, Miami, NY Jets) with the Pats in the lead. As opposed to the NFC East waiting until the last week of the regular season to decide who wins. Maybe flip flopped isn’t the right word but they’re definitely against the norm this season.
I am not afraid of any collapse for the Red Sox. Mainly because I was expecting them to lose from something late in the game. I was a fan of Buchholz holding his own and not “being the reason” the Sox lose the game. I was surprised but not alarmed at Koji Uehara giving up the walk off blast. Don’t forget that the two outs that he gotten came on at most 5 pitches total (can’t remember exactly but he had two outs with 3 pitches before the last at-bat). He is after all human but Jake Peavy has a huge game to pitch tonight, lets say on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being totally scared of a collapse…you’ve successfully made me talk myself into a 6 or 7. Before this question I was at a happy 3.
The Tiger’s dilemma is interesting. I think to protect Cabrera you put him at DH. Depending on how long the Tigers remain in the playoffs and how big of a factor Jhonny Peralta plays in that I think determines if they resign him. Eventually Victor Martinez will find himself out of the Tigers’ lineup so I think they don’t have any harm against finding another pitcher for the bullpen.
I have some rephrased questions for you as well…
-Do the Ravens, Bengals, or Browns win the AFC North (all teams currently at 3-2)? Does the AFC North send more than one team to the playoffs? (My quick thoughts, you have Denver, New England, Indy, (AFC North Winner)…factor in KC is 5-0. You have one more spot…but its only week 5 so who the heck knows)
-Which series has surprised you the most so far, if any, in the playoffs? If none, which team impressed you the most so far?
-I feel obligated to ask, when do you see the Broncos losing their first game?

Greg to Joe

Love the Red Sox answer. The reason I think it is possible is Koji Uhehara had a historic season for a reliever, and gave up a home run to Jose Loboton… JOSE LOBOTON! Obviously, it was just one at bat, but could it get into his head? Maybe. The Patriots thing is interesting to me. I think they have a shot to stumble if when Gronk comes back, the offense isn’t on the same page for a couple games. We’ll see.

So AFC North is going to have two playoff teams, and the AFC West will too. The division champ will be the team with the best intradivision record. The Ravens are already 1-0, Bengals 1-1, and Browns 1-1. I think the Browns aren’t serious contenders for the playoffs, but they could finish .500. I think it comes down to this… If the Ravens and Bengals split, can the Ravens beat the Browns in Cleveland? I think the answer to that is yes. Therefore, I am think the Bengals and Ravens have the same record, but the Ravens go 5-1 in the division and the Bengals go 4-2 costing them a home playoff game.
The most interesting series so far has been the Pirates-Cardinals series. The Pirates had a chance to finish the series off in Pittsburgh, but couldn’t score 2 runs off the three 22 year olds that the Cardinals pitched (Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and Trevor Rosenthal). Game 5 comes down to Gerrit Cole‘s composure. If he can stay calm, he has the pure stuff to lead the Pirates to victory. If he gets rattled, series is all but over as the Pirates just don’t have the fire power to comeback against Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals. Back to the 22 year olds… the Cardinals are going to be scary good for a LONG time… LONG time .They are so talented and have a DEEP farm system. I would say they could win 2-3 out of the next 5 World Series.
Broncos are going undefeated until the Super Bowl. 2007 Patriots style.
How did your fantasy teams do this past week? Domination or eek out some close victories? You got any changes in baseball predictions after these first couple of series have almost come to completion.

Joe to Greg

Well luckily I didn’t have to stay scared for long. The Red Sox showed their toughness last night after facing 9 different pitchers. My fantasy team in ESPN won again, making me 5-0 and feeling good. Speaking of which I just offered you a trade but in Yahoo, my miserable 2-3 season continues. I lost again after pulling the team back to .500 so I guess we’ll see where that takes me. I like the way that the Cardinals are playing and I’m expecting them to pull of the Game 5 win against the Pirates. The Tigers and A’s series is intense after the questionable home run call on a potential run-saving catch by the A’s Josh Reddick. Going into Game 5 I’m happy mainly because they are playing while the Red Sox rest and their starting rotation remains unblemished. With Verlander starting Game 5, who knows what other pitchers could pitch in that game a la Tampa Bay last night.

Any big headlines to look for with the upcoming Week 6 games?
Lets just say I’m happy a Gronk return seems likely…

Greg to Joe

I doubt we get a trade done in that ESPN league. I’m not going to make a trade where I give up the two best players in a 4 player deal. I’ll look into a counter offer, but I doubt anything comes of it. Just ain’t happening. Red Sox were able to get that series win and will host whoever wins tomorrow night’s pitching duel of Sonny Gray and Justin Verlander. In my playoff predictions piece, I have Verlander getting roughed up in Game 5, and I think that is what happens. Look for the Athletics to go into Boston, and try to steal home field advantage in Game 1 of the ALCS.

The biggest headline for Week 6 has to be Gronk coming back. I don’t know about his effectiveness, especially against the Saints, but we will see. I also think that game is the most interesting. I think the Saints will take the Patriots to town and dominate, but Vegas has the Patriots as the favorites. Not so sure why, but I want to watch every minute of that game. Also, I think the Packers game is a huge test for the Ravens. If the defense can slow down that offense, it will finally prove that they are back. Daryl Smith is 10x better than Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe last year. It is incredible, and it is so fun to watch. I know you have written the Game of the Week, but besides that game. What games do you have your eyes on?

Joe to Greg

I know Frank Gore isn’t better than Matt Forte but he’s definitely a better option than James Jones in my opinion. I’d take San Fran’s number #1 RB over one of three different WRs the Packers have, but that’s just my opinion. Jones is great but I feel like he’s more prone to a slow or unproductive day. Both are great players to have anyways, since they both have totaled somewhere between 60-65 fantasy points each in ESPN PPR leagues. Regardless I just like proposing trades and seeing where they go, you’re probably the fourth person I proposed something to this week. I think it’s interesting to see how people think of trades compared to my own thoughts.

I’ll take Jon Lester at home over any potential A’s or Tigers starter not named Max Scherzer. So hopefully they get the series started on the right foot. I agree that the Saints can take the Patriots to town. I picked the Patriots to win, of course, but the Saints are marching into New England with a very versatile offense so it’ll be entertaining to watch. Expect some texts during that game. Also I agree that it’s weird the Pats are the favorites, I just can’t wrap my head around it. Maybe because they’re at home? Maybe people overhype Tom Brady at home? The other game I have my eyes on is the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys. I’m interested in how the Cowboys respond after a near perfect game last week against the Broncos. A couple of different ESPN commentators discussed how after that late interception from Romo, more people were feeling bad for him instead of mocking and jeering him. I think the perception of him is changing a bit and this game has a big impact on the future of this season. On the flip side you have the Redskins and RGIII. Coming in with a 1-3 record, they need to get back into the division contention and if the Cowboys do win, they pull back to .500 at 3-3 and potentially gain sole possession of first place.
Greg Danchik & Joe Meola

Sports Dojo MLB Awards

Dojo AL MVP- Mike Trout over Miguel Cabrera

As the year was going on, I got caught up in the Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis hype. They both had a shot at the Triple Crown at one point, but Davis took off with the homers and Cabrera got hurt and started to have a severe drop in production. Mike Trout, slow and steady, kept putting up another unbelievable offensive season.

I am taking Trout’s slow and steady greatness for this selection. Lets remember how old Trout is…

Trout has also done something during his first two seasons that is outrageous. In the past 50… FIFTY years there have only been 13 seasons where a player has had a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) above 10, according to Fangraphs. There are 3 people that have done it more than once: Barry Bonds, Willie Mays and Mike Trout. Cabrera has never done it, and his career high WAR of 7.6 came this year. Mike Trout is just on another level.

Mike Trout

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B HR RBI SB CS BB BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 21 157 716 589 109 190 39 27 97 33 7 110 .323 .432 .557 .988 328

Miguel Cabrera

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B HR RBI SB CS BB BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 30 148 652 555 103 193 26 44 137 3 0 90 .348 .442 .636 1.078 353

Mike Trout has more doubles, steals, walks and runs than Cabrera. He also has a ridiculous slugging percentage for someone who has 33 steals. Since 2003, only 5 players have had as high or higher slugging percentage and as many or more steals as Trout in 2013: Alfonso Soriano (2006), Hanley Ramirez (2007), Ryan Braun (2011), Matt Kemp (2011), and Mike Trout (2012). Anything look similar about these seasons? Well, besides Soriano, every player on that list either won or finished second in MVP voting in their respective league. Soriano’s numbers were ridiculous that year because he went 40-40. He wasn’t close to winning MVP because his team was awful and he had a poor batting average (.277) for an MVP without 50 homers.

Of course, the last stat I threw out there reminds you that Trout may have had a worse season, but he didn’t. He had 3 less homers, but 12 more doubles. The power was still there, but some balls didn’t quite make it over the fence. The biggest improvement was in his strikeout rate and OBP. First, he did have similar strikeout totals this year, but remember he didn’t play a month last year. His strikeout percentage (K/PA) dropped 2.8%, while his walk percentage (BB/PA) rose 4.9%. This led to a .033 point jump in OBP. The more you are on base, the more you can help your team. Trout did more this year to help his team, but his team was just worse than last year.

Mike Trout sliding into 2nd base (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Mike Trout sliding into 2nd base (Photo Cred: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

I am praising Trout’s OBP and how valuable it is, and I haven’t mentioned how Cabrera’s OBP is actually .010 points higher than Trout’s. Obviously, it is a better OBP. However, would you rather have a guy who could cause an out because he is on the bases or a guy who can create runs with his speed? Cabrera’s OBP is better, but Trout’s is more valuable because he can get into better scoring position for his teammates and force errors with his speed. “But Greg, Cabrera hit 17 more home runs than Trout!” Trout was the league leader in runs. The scoreboard counts runs not home runs. Home runs are just another way to produce runs.

To finish off why I’m right, Trout plays a much more difficult position and plays better defense than Cabrera. Trout has to cover a tremendous amount of ground in the outfield, while Cabrera isn’t very good at covering his small area around 3rd base. Cabrera managed to cost his team 9 more runs on defense than Trout from an easier defensive position.

Case Closed.

For this year, like I did in my 2012 AL MVP piece, I will say who I think the writers will vote for.

Baseball Writer’s Vote- 1. Miguel Cabrera 2. Chris Davis (53 home runs will give him enough votes to finish 2nd) 3. Mike Trout

Dojo NL MVP- Paul Goldschmidt over Andrew McCutchen

Every award is tough to pick this year, except NL and AL Rookie of the Year, but this award was one of the toughest for me. I know that the voters will probably pick Andrew McCutchen over Paul Goldschmidt because of the Pirates triumphant return to the playoffs, and McCutchen was their best player all year. However, I would argue that the Diamondbacks would not have finished with a .500 record without Goldschmidt, and his defense and batting statistics are mostly better than McCutchen’s.

 Paul Goldschmidt

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 25 160 710 602 103 182 36 36 125 15 7 99 145 .302 .401 .551 .952 332

Andrew McCutchen

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 26 157 674 583 97 185 38 21 84 27 10 78 101 .317 .404 .508 .911 296
Paul Goldschmidt after a walkoff home run against the Miami Marlins (Photo Cred: Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

Paul Goldschmidt after a walkoff home run against the Miami Marlins (Photo Cred: Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

When you take a closer look at the statistics, you will see how Goldschmidt outperformed McCutchen in so many ways. Goldschmidt had more homers and RBI’s than McCutchen and actually led the NL in those categories. Goldy only had an OBP .003 points lower than McCutchen’s, but his slugging was .043 points better. This gave Goldschmidt the NL leading OPS of .952 and McCutchen an OPS of .911. Goldy clearly put up the better numbers at the plate.

You say, “Now Greg, McCutchen was so much better on the bases with 12 more steals.” I would argue that Goldschmidt was just as effective on the base paths and that his effectiveness is more valuable than McCutchen’s. McCutchen stole 27 bases on 37 attempts so he was successful at stealing a base 73% of the time, and Goldy going 15 on 22 was 68%. They are nearly as effective on the bases and Goldschmidt steals much more than the average first baseman. Since 2000, there have only been 15 other occasions where a first basemen has had 15 or more. While outfielder’s over that span have had over 27 steals 141 times. 15 steals from a first basemen is more valuable than the 27 from an outfielder.

To just finish off how I believe Goldschmidt has been the best player, and thus, the MVP in the NL, his defense saved 13 runs above the average first baseman, and McCutchen only saved 7 runs above the average outfielder. Better defense for his position, better hitting, and more value on the basepaths… Goldschmidt>McCutchen

Baseball Writers vote – 1. McCutchen 2. Goldschmidt 3. Clayton Kershaw

Dojo AL Cy Young- Max Scherzer over Chris Sale/Felix Hernandez

I feel like I am going to say the same thing over and over again, so I’ll just say every big award (MVP and Cy Young) were tough. The AL Cy Young had about 5 guys who could win the award and it feels like that happens every year. I am not going to talk about Yu Darvish (too many walks and not enough innings) and Anibal Sanchez (not enough innings) because I have them as 4 and 5, respectively. As you can see, I am going to be picking at small things to decide this award and I am not going to count the W-L record. If I did, Scherzer would win in a landslide, like I think he will in the actual MVP voting.

Name Team W L GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP WAR
Max Scherzer Tigers 21 3 32 214.1 10.08 2.35 0.76 0.259 74.40% 36.30% 7.60% 2.9 2.74 6.4
Chris Sale White Sox 11 14 30 214.1 9.49 1.93 0.97 0.289 77.00% 46.60% 12.50% 3.07 3.17 5.1
Felix Hernandez Mariners 12 10 31 204.1 9.51 2.03 0.66 0.314 75.10% 51.40% 10.00% 3.04 2.61 6

Powered by Greg Danchik’s Awesome Excel Skills and Fangraphs

Max Scherzer (Photo Cred: Chris O’Meara/AP)

Max Scherzer (Photo Cred: Chris O’Meara/AP)

Everyone will point to Max Scherzer‘s W-L record, but he did more than that. He averaged over a strikeout an inning en route to having the second best strikeout total in the AL. Batters had an average below .200 against him over the whole year. He averaged less than a runner on base per inning with a WHIP of .970. Tack that on to having a Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP) below 3 runs. You’ve got yourself a dominant pitcher with a lot of wins. A wins leader, not because his team’s offense was really good, but because he gave his team the chance to win every time out.

Chris Sale narrowly misses on the Cy Young because well, Scherzer was really really good, but also for a few other reasons. Sale also struck out over a batter an inning, but he didn’t do it at the level that Scherzer did. He had a FIP of 3.17, which was much higher than Scherzer’s, relatively speaking. He gave up home runs at a higher rate, which would indicate his stuff isn’t as good.

Felix Hernandez (Photo Cred: Elaine Thompson/AP)

Felix Hernandez (Photo Cred: Elaine Thompson/AP)

Now for King Felix. Felix was dominate for a bad team, much like Sale was. Hernandez actually had a better FIP than Scherzer at 2.61, but it is not a huge difference. The thing that locked it up for me was his HR/FB rate. Felix Hernandez pitches in a park that gave up the 10th least amount of home runs, and Scherzer pitched in a park that let up the 13th most home runs. Yet on 10% of his fly balls, Hernandez gave up a home run (23rd highest in the AL). Like Sale, I would say that this is an indication of how good his stuff is, however it still wasn’t as good as Scherzer’s.

These are the reasons I would pick Max Scherzer for AL Cy Young. Obviously, I had to really nitpick with this award, but it led to Scherzer as my winner.

Baseball Writers – 1. Max Scherzer 2. Felix Hernandez 3. Chris Sale

Dojo NL Cy Young- Clayton Kershaw

I just didn’t really think there was anyone that compared to him. Adam Wainwright was in it before he had a couple of struggles towards the end of the year. I think Jose Fernandez would have been in the conversation had he pitched some more innings and the same is true for Matt Harvey. But they weren’t able to pitch enough innings to compete with Kershaw, so Kershaw stands alone.

Clayton Kershaw (Photo: Cred: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Clayton Kershaw (Photo: Cred: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

To start, Kershaw had an ERA of 1.83 and struck out 232 batters. Since 1984 (roughly the beginning of the Steroid Era), only 2… TWO pitchers have had an equal or lower ERA and as many or more strikeouts. One of those seasons was Dwight Gooden‘s 1985 sophomore season, and Pedro Martinez‘s dominant 2000 season (Side note: Pedro did that in the AL, where he had to deal with DH’s, not pitchers. It was also the height of the Steroid Era.).

Kershaw’s advanced stats also indicate he deserves the Cy. He was second in the NL in FIP, had a HR/FB of 5.8%, and walked 1.98 batters per 9 innings. To top it all off, Adam Wainwright was the only pitcher to top him in innings.

Kershaw is going to go down in history as one of the greats. He is going to get paid like it this offseason too.

Baseball Writer’s vote- 1. Kershaw 2. Adam Wainwright 3. Jose Fernandez

Dojo AL Rookie of the Year- Wil Myers

In the AL, there wasn’t much competition for Rookie of the Year. Manny Machado was basically a rookie, but he can’t be considered because of the at bats he accumulated in 2012. The only person that comes close is Jose Iglesias. Iglesias’s value comes 100% from his defense.

His bat was good at the beginning of the year with a .367 average, but he only had a .235 average in the second half, which is closer to the career average that is expected of him. His presence in Detroit saved them during the Johnny Peralta suspension, but Wil Myers presence in Tampa provided a much needed bat to team up with Evan Longoria.

Wil Myers

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 22 88 373 335 50 98 23 13 53 5 2 33 91 .293 .354 .478 .831 160

The Rays refused to call up Myers before June, and it almost cost them a spot in the ALDS. However, they still made it there, and Myers is a big reason for that. He homered at a pace that would have led to 24 homers over the whole season. He also had a great batting average for a rookie to add on to an OPS of .831. All of his offense helped spark a Tampa Bay run that almost led them to a division title. You will also notice that when Myers started slumping at the end of the year, the Rays fell out of contention for the AL East and the Sox pulled away.  Wil Myers is the Dojo AL Rookie of the Year, but he would have had major competition if any of the top 5 NL guys were in the AL.

(Side note- I came really close to calling the amount of Myer’s homers in my Top Prospect Tuesday. Also if Myers wants to maintain or improve his batting average and become a true star, he is going to have to raise his poor, to say the least, BB/K ratio of .36.)

Baseball Writer’s Vote- 1. Wil Myers 2. Jose Iglesias 3. Brad Miller

Dojo NL Rookie of the Year- Jose Fernandez over Yasiel Puig

If Matt Harvey was eligible, he would win, but like Machado, he isn’t. Jose Fernandez is a close second to Harvey though. Yasiel Puig presents a good case as well, but Fernandez’s domination prevails.

Puig’s case is driven by his ridiculous stats, but also by the Dodgers revival in the second half of the season. The part of the Dodger’s revival that people forget about is that Hanley Ramirez came back at the same time, and Zack Greinke started to pitch like someone getting paid $147 million should. Puig had 19 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .319 batting average in 104 games and would have easily won the Dojo AL Rookie of the Year, but he’s competing against Jose Fernandez and isn’t going to win that competition.

Jose Fernandez (Photo Cred: Scott Rovak/USA TODAY Sports)

Jose Fernandez (Photo Cred: Scott Rovak/USA TODAY Sports)

Jose Fernandez’s season is something else. Over the course of 172.2 innings, he had an ERA of 2.19, a FIP of 2.73, and 187 strikeouts, over a strikeout per inning. However, his second half was downright dominate. He had an ERA of 1.32, a FIP of 1.99, and 68 strikouts, or 11.12 K/9. He pitched for the lowly Marlins, who finished in second if the MLB was about getting the most losses. Yet, the Marlins were 18-10 in games he pitched. In other words, not including the games Fernandez pitched in, the Marlins went 44-90. The Marlins were pretty bad, but Fernandez always improved their chance of winning every time he stepped onto the field. Look for Fernandez to challenge Kershaw for Dojo NL Cy Young Awards (and NL Cy Young Awards) in the near future.

Baseball Writier’s Vote- 1. Jose Fernandez 2. Yasiel Puig 3. Julio Teheran

Dojo AL Manager of the Year- John Farrell

In an incredibly managerial season, John Farrell took a team that exchanged all of their high prices players for middle-tier players and led them to an AL East crown. I figured the Red Sox would be in the celler for a long time, but they are now competing for a World Series title. John Farrell deserves this award over anyone. The Indian’s under Terry Francona is a nice story, but they went 36-52 against teams at .500 or above. (Not that this counts in my decision, but that showed against the Rays in the AL Wild Card game).

Baseball Writer’s Vote- 1. John Farrell 2. Terry Francona 3. Joe Girardi

Dojo NL Manager of the Year- Clint Hurdle

The Pirates had their first winning season and playoff appearance in 21 years. Enough said.

Baseball Writer’s Vote – Clint Hurdle

Greg Danchik

Week 4 Spar

Joe to Greg

The first quarter of the NFL season has already gone by. During the MLB season, we broke down our awards and playoff predictions at the mid-season point. With four games under our belts, who do you think performed above/below expectations so far? We’ll leave the playoff talk for the mid-season point but do you have any favorites or maybe the “Top 2” candidates for AFC/NFC MVP and Rookie of the Year? Also any thoughts or headlines on the past weekends games.

Greg to Joe

I’m not really going to give an MVP prediction right now because it will probably look foolish by the end of the year. I mean, at this point last year, NO ONE would have said it would have come down the Adrian Peterson or Peyton Manning for MVP. I just do not think it’s reasonable to do it over a quarter of a season. A mid-season awards will be in order, but you will probably want to name a dark horse  when you make those predictions. Also, I have already pegged Andrew Luck the MVP this year, so I am going to ride that ship until it goes down. Not backing down.

I do think that the Broncos have been RIDICULOUS so far, and I was not expecting that. I tweeted this awhile ago, but they are the 2007 Patriots.

 

I mean that in every sense of the word. They will blow out everyone the whole year, make the Super Bowl and lose in a blizzard to the Saints, 49ers, or Seahawks. Peyton can’t play in the cold anymore because of his neck surgery. I do not think that is a one time thing what happened against the Ravens last year. I remember specifically at the beginning of the game that there was worry about Peyton playing in the cold because he might lose feeling in his hands because of the neck surgeries. That isn’t a one time thing. That’s forever. Broncos will not win the Super Bowl, but they will make it there with no losses. Watch.

Rookie of the Year – For offense, it will end up being Giovani Bernard or DeAndre Hopkins. The Defensive ROY will be really competitive, but Kiko Alonso is proving to be a force in the middle of the Bills D and I think he could win it.

Giants and Steelers both suck because their offensive lines suck.

Matt Schaub will be the reason the Texans don’t win the division. They should try to go all in on a QB in the draft.

Anything big you got from this week and award predictions if you wanna

Joe to Greg

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (Photo Cred: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (Photo Cred: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The Broncos remind me a lot of the Patriots from 2007. I think Peyton Manning has just as good, if not better, as Tom Brady was in 2007. It really is fun to watch, but I can’t wait for Peyton to come into New England on November 24th to play under the lights. A great Brady-Manning duel in the making. Meanwhile, I’ll sit on predictions as well. I didn’t know if you had any glaring candidates, but Luck is an interesting one to watch.

I’ve been very impressed with the Saints and Drew Brees so far. Don’t sleep on them coming out of the NFC depending on if they can clinch a higher seed than Seattle. Seattle should get the award for most inconsistently great team. They are a completely different team on the road. They have a big game coming up against the Colts in Indy so that should be an interesting game to watch.

The Texans confuse me. There’s a huge game for them coming up in San Francisco Sunday night, but I feel better about San Fran. The Texans gave up a huge lead to San Diego in Week 1 (but held on to win) and gave up a late lead against the Seahawks this past week (and lost)…They don’t have any excuses for that loss against Baltimore; Baltimore just flat out beat them, but combine that with a shaky overtime win over Tennessee and the 2-2, Texans very well could be 1-3 or even 3-1…(Quick fantasy note: In Chris’s ESPN league I traded Ben Tate and Eddie Royal for Steven Jackson and Michael Floyd…I already have a Frank Gore/Stevan Ridley/Danny Woodhead as RB’s plus a combination of Megatron/Steve Smith/Kenbrell Thompkins/Hakeem Nicks/Julian Edelman as WR’s…my logic behind this was basically Stephen Jackson coming back for Atlanta strong and putting up good numbers once he’s healthy. I didn’t mind giving away Tate or Royal because as good as Tate is playing as a backup, he’s on the Texans and Foster will continue to get looks, and Eddie Royal was more of a buy low/sell high option…any thoughts?).

While I know you wont make any predictions about the NFL. Do you have any expectations or high hopes for your fantasy teams after seeing how they’re coming together? Any thoughts for Week 5?

Greg to Joe

Fantasy football… well my team is top tier in the Yahoo league. I have finished second for the ten dollar weekly price twice, but I have won every one of my matchups. So I am top of the standings and I think I will be contending for a title in that league. With the trade I just made with Grant (was agreed upon, but never accepted in the actual league), I think I will be good to go this week as well. In ESPN, I feel like I have a really good team despite my 2-2 record. The record is coming from poor line up management. My bench is this magical place where players, who should perform poorly, play well. It’s actually quite depressing, especially the loss to Dan…

I like the trade you made, but I think I would rather have Tate than Jackson. If you think you will be able to hold up with the running backs you have now, Jackson could pay off later. I just wouldn’t be too surprised if Foster goes down, and Tate just takes off. Getting something for Royal was a great decision though. His scores were not going to be consistent all year. Actually, I doubt he scores more than 2 touchdowns the whole year. Good move to sell him.

Seahawks home crowd is referred to as the 12th man

Seahawks home crowd is referred to as the 12th man

Seattle is not good on the road, and I am not sleeping on the Saints. I honestly think the only way that the Seahawks make the Super Bowl is if they have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. I think their crowd changes the whole game. They are so loud. I am obsessed. I’ll say it. They can’t play defense without the crowd behind them. I think the Colts will push around the Seahawks like they pushed around the 49ers. I am pretty high on the Colts, but even I am surprised at how well they have played. Luck will be leading them to a division crown.

To switch gears a bit, I am watching the Wild Card playoffs game, and the Indians cannot beat a good team. Also, Alex Cobb is filthy. I have never watched him pitch before, but he is awesome. It is insane. So who do you think will win the World Series? Also, who do you think will become a household name by the end of the playoffs that isn’t now?

Joe to Greg

I think this years playoffs is the best in recent memory for starters. I love the Pirates and their momentum with that crazy crowd from the other night. That place was going nuts, and they should be given an RBI or something for that home run they caused. Poor Johnny Cueto. I’m very high on the Red Sox representing the AL for a couple of reasons. They announced their rotation to start the ALDS today (Game 1: Lester, Game 2: Lackey, Game 3: Buchholz) and I’m glad they put Buchholz in the three hole because he’s undefeated on the road. It speaks to the quality of his starts, but he didn’t play the whole season so I take some of his stats with a grain of salt. Lackey deserves a shot to pitch at home because he’s had his best year since coming to Boston, from what I’ve seen at least. I haven’t even mentioned their bullpen which is pretty close to lights out (with the exception of the Baltimore Orioles game Saturday night which I attended). Also seeing some recent news about Miguel Cabrera being hurt has me concerned for the Detroit offense. You can never turn your back on their starting pitching though. It’s scary. I expect a Boston-Detroit ALCS and in the NL I’m going with the Cardinals to knock off the Dodgers and my official pick is Boston in 6 (AL receives home field advantage). What are your thoughts on the World Series?

To answer your question about a breakout player, I like Clayton Kershaw from the Dodgers. I just love to watch him pitch, and I think he can be lights out for the Dodgers. You can obviously argue that he is a huge name in the game, but he has a huge impact on the Dodgers’ success so it should be entertaining to watch. There are a couple young guys I like but it’s so hard to judge who’s going to become that household name until the games get underway. Any good predictions for a player to watch? Any other thoughts on MLB or NFL? Or even your thoughts on the shocking news that the Philadelphia Flyers lost their first game of the season tonight!

Greg to Joe

I posted my whole playoff situation this morning. I have Cardinals over Rays in 7. Baseball is truly a game that’s a marathon and it is decided by a sprint. Like how would you feel if you won a marathon and then at the end they say, “Actually Joe… you have to beat the top 10 finishers in a 100m dash to be the true champion.” Obviously, it is because of the money, and what I am going to suggest will never actually happen, but I am going to suggest it anyway. It should be decided like the Premier League does. Make a table, and make every team play each other the same amount of times. It would show the true champion.

For your breakout player, it’s definitely hard for me to call Clayton Kershaw a breakout candidate for this year’s playoffs. He is already a Cy Young award winner (should have two), and will be getting his second (should be third) this year. He is the best pitcher in baseball and will be paid as such this offseason. It will be the biggest contract to a pitcher ever.

Wil Myers (Photo Cred: Carlos Osorio/AP)

Wil Myers (Photo Cred: Carlos Osorio/AP)

My personal breakout player will be Wil Myers. I know that I talk about him all the time, but he gives the Rays a lineup that can survive in the playoffs. I am picking them to make it to the World Series, and he is going to need to become a household name to do so. He is true old school. No batting gloves, no tape, no nothing. Just a little bit of dirt and pine tar. The former Royals’ prospect that hit 13 homers with a .293 batting average and a .357 wOBA (one of the better indicators for success at the plate). He has been slumping a little bit, but he will make himself known within the next month. And just to toot my own horn, I predicted 14 homers for Myers this year when he got called up.

Greg Danchik and Joe Meola