Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Ezekiel Elliot and What it Means for the NFL

Another summer brings about another season Football, and also brings all the drama that comes with. Violence is in the blood DNA of Football, the sport itself is physical and demanding. So it should be no surprise violence spreads beyond the Football field and into the public eye. Recently, Ezekiel Elliot, the star running back of the Dallas Cowboys, got into some very serious trouble, after it came to light that he beat his girlfriend severely on more than one occasion. I will try to show what this incident means for the NFL, and this means for the coming NFL season.

Unlike other instances of domestic violence in the NFL, Roger Goodell and company reacted swiftly and harshly. Ezekiel got a six game suspension, more than a quarter of the season. More than Tom Brady, and way more than Ray Rice, who was punished for a similar reason. What does this mean? Well for one, it shows that the attitude of the NFL towards these cases are changing, it shows that the NFL can longer whitewash these incidents as "men being men". Good for humanity, absolutely, but is it good for the NFL, probably not. The NFL has a notorious record of arrests, domestic violence, DUI, drug use, rape, manslaughter, etc. For the NFL to take a stronger stance against all of these types incidents can sometimes mean hurting their business. NFL stars are built up as heroes, men of unconquerable will and passion for the sport. Admitting and strongly showing their condemnation for those who break the law, would wound the image of many NFL stars, including Ezekiel Elliot. During last years season, Elliot became a star, he quickly gained popularity and strong fan base, showing children and adults how to "be a man" and how to win. Now people will see him as a wife beater, a criminal, certainly less people will buy his merchandise or tune in on ESPN to see him compete. Thus the NFL loses revenue, and that is bad but ultimately necessary. I see this as a shift in how the NFL will deal with these incidents, instead of punishing players after the fact, they will seek to prevent these incidents from even happening.

Anyways I digress, Zeke being out is going to have a ripple effect on the rest of the NFL, for one the stability of the NFC East. The NFC East for a long time has been a forgotten aspect of the NFL, constantly inconsistent, and in the last five years, totally unremarkable and over hyped. This trend broke last year when the Cowboys' two rookies stunned the world of football and broke records. Meanwhile, the Giants also had a rise, as they made it to the wildcard game, something that has not happened in a few years. Furthermore, Redskins fans will be delighted to know that Josh Norman is still and elite cornerback, and Kirk Cousins is slowly starting to show his strengths. What this means is the NFC east is once again going to come down to very competitive match ups, and no clear winner is in sight. Perhaps this will be good for the NFL, competition looks good for viewers, and the NFC east is ripe with hardcore fan bases who hate the rivals.

The NFL is going to be worse off in other aspects as well. As I mentioned before, the issue of being hard on NFL players is that this policy can result in very high level players being taken out for half a season. Of course, his means the NFL will lose some revenue from loss of ticket sales. Overall, in the long run this policy of being harder on players will be bad in the short run, but perhaps good in the long run. Players will have more incentive not to break the rules, and prevent future incidents. Eventually, this will clean up the image of the NFL, maybe not now or this year, but in the next three to five years. As a result, the NFL can expect increases in customers coming out to see the NFL, instead of condemning them over controversies involving their players.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Pablo Sandoval: To Stay or Not to Stay

Steaks, nice cars, and lazily enjoying the swift summer breezes has been a part of Pablo Sandoval's game since entering Fenway Park on Tuesday November 25th, 2014. Introduced with fellow Dominican teammate, Hanley Ramirez, Sandoval was all smiles and eager to start his Red Sox car on the heels of a third San Fransisco Giants World Series in the span of five years. Heralded as a postseason hero who's bat rose to the occasion, and was a fearsome leader in the clubhouse, Sandoval was expected to lead a storied Boston Red Sox franchise to another World Series title of its own. The champagne would come crashing down, Sweet Caroline would blast from the Fenway rafters, and Red Sox players would swarm the mound, commanding the 2015 World Series as their very own. But, this never came to fruition. Ah, next year... maybe? Boston has not won a World Series title since before Sandoval's Red Sox days, back in 2013. Well, if Sandoval is meagerly a league average bat during the regular season, with unfavorable defensive ratings, what good does he present the Red Sox and their fans with? Thus far, Sandoval has acted every bit like a panda, and some would argue he is the legitimate definition of a lethargic sloth.

His 5-year, $95 million contract looked like a bargain at the time, as he had previously slashed .279/.324/.415 with 16 HR's and 73 RBI's during the 2014 season. While those are certainly not eye-popping numbers, taking into consideration the rising demand to watch baseball, and the heat on teams to put out a team to perform, Sandoval's contract was merited, and was inline with what the future holds for increasingly skyrocketing paydays. He hit .429 in 28 at-bats for the Giants in the 2014 World Series, and held his own during the Championship Series, hitting an even .400 in 20 at-bats. Sandoval is no slouch when it comes to the spotlight in the primetime, but his assurance to perform for 162 games during the regular season is the furthest thing from a guarantee.

Sandoval has mustered together a cumulative .237/.286/.360/.646 line during his three seasons in Boston thus far, good for a 71 OPS+, or 29% below league average. His glove has steadily deteriorated over the years, as he has cost the Red Sox a total of -18 Defensive Runs Saved during his stay in Bean Town.

Consensus: the bat rates as a negative, the glove rates as a negative, and the base running certainly rates as a blackhole. What is all of this worth? According to former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington: $19 million a season. If anything, looking at Sandoval's putrid statistics, and the runs he has cost the Red Sox, he ought be paying them to just step foot onto the field.

A fan friendly favorite in San Fransisco, how can it be possible that Sandoval is a years removed from hitting a combined .294/.346/.465/.811, 123 OPS+ across seven stellar seasons? Is it the weight, is it the age, is it the Boston media and market, or is it just the sport itself? That is a very complex question that few besides Sandoval himself can answer, but the simplest answer seems to be the Sandoval has lost a step at third, has lengthened his swing, and is carrying a piano in his back pocket when barreling around the bases. A prime asset in his hey-day when he could hit .300 in his sleep, Sandoval now just hopes to scrap .250 and put up 0 +/- defense at the hot corner. That is a lot to ask for though, as many minor leaguers hope to just get the chance to get a cup of coffee with the big league team, let alone ask for a lengthy career in the majors.

Sandoval had been blessed with the ability to square up balls into the gaps, and play some gifted defense at third base, but a man of his size (5'11", 255 lbs) is better suited for wrestling in the diamond, rather than playing a lean man's sport.

Most recently, Sandoval was placed on the 10-day disabled list with an inner-ear infection, and required even further seasoning at Boston's triple-A farm club, Pawtucket. His rehab assignment nears its completion on Monday, July 17th, at which point President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski, will be tasked with either assigning Sandoval back onto the 25-man roster, or designating him for assignment, releasing his name from the 40-man roster, and exposing him to release waivers. Now, of course, no one will take his contract, but once he passes waivers, and either accepts of refuses his assignment, the Sox can 1.) release him or 2.) trade him to another team. The resulting team will presumably be on the hook for nothing but the league minimum, and Boston will stand to get nothing in the way of impact prospects as they clear themselves of Sandoval altogether.

The difficulty is projecting what exactly will occur by Monday. Will Boston cut ties and let Sandoval loose, or will the stand the test of time and give Sandoval yet another chance to make good of his spoiled opportunity in Boston thus far.

Chances are probably that Boston settles for a combination of defensive wizards Deven Marrero/Tzu-Wei Lin at the hot corner, while also exploring the possibility of a Martin Prado/Todd Frazier trade in the upcoming weeks, or the ultimate promotion of organization minor league star Rafael Devers to the big league roster.

Verdict: Boston DFA's Sandoval and looks to acquire third base help at the trade deadline. Marrero and Lin will do the job just fine temporarily, but are obviously not long term solutions at one of the most offensively important positions on the diamond. Unfortunately for Sandoval, the wheels never got going in Boston, but on the bright side for him, he did collect a pretty decent pay check. The media, fans, and personnel may detest Sandoval for his nutritional and work habits, but when the day of judgement comes, Sandoval just couldn't live up to the billing of his postseason stats, contract, or time in Boston.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

April 2017 Review of MLB

The enigma of slow starts that has puzzled many teams at the beginning of the season has curiously continued into the second month of the young 2017 MLB season. Most notably, the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants have gotten off to dreaded notes. While the baseball season is chalk full of mysterious and volatile changes throughout the year, some circumstances provide an interesting look inside the numbers and analytics as to why strong ball clubs have struggled, and weaker clubs have surged atop various divisions.

The Texas Rangers (11-15), best known for their propensity to score runs at an accelerated and drastically above-average pace, have struggled in the offensive department thus far. As a team, Texas is hitting .219 through their first twenty-six games of the year, and a good deal of their starting tandem on the diamond have contributed negative offensive WAR's early on. Roughned Odor (2B), Mike Napoli (DH), and Jonathan Lucroy (C), all key cogs to a violent and muscular have seen unexpected drop-offs in performance, while former top prospect shortstop-turned-firstbasemen Jurickson Profar was optioned to the minors after yet another offensively inferior start to the year. Pitching depth has provided an area of strength for Texas as their lineup is sifting through the early season kinks. Ranked second in quality starts (16) and tenth in earned run average (3.95) as a staff, Texas boosts one of the better rotations at the moment in the MLB. While pitching is undeniably and obviously important, it's a two way road in conjunction with hitting, and if the hitting doesn't pick up, it wouldn't be surprising to see Texas fall deeper and deeper into the last cellar of the AL West.

Everyones second favorite pick for the World Series title in 2017, the Boston Red Sox (13-12) have completed underwhelmed. Seen as one of the most complete and sound rosters in the MLB to begin the year, injuries and poor performances have slowly drained the team of its momentum heading into the new year. Off-season acquisition Tyler Thornburg (RHP) was stymied by Boston's request of his workout routine, and thus suffered dead-arm to start the year, and has been on the 10-day disabled list. Former bullpen ace acquisition Carson Smith, a year removed from Tommy John Surgery, has suffered multiple setbacks in his attempt to see an MLB mound again. Free-agent galore disappoint Pablo Sandoval has unsurprisingly hit the ground running slow, and was forced to the disabled list early on. Ace left-hander David Price also suffered a major elbow injury, which has kept him out of game action up to this point in the season. This doesn't even include the teams horrific offensive numbers, which range from being 26th worst in scoring in the MLB (95 runs scored) to registering the least homeruns (15) hit in the entire MLB. Rick Porcello has regressed, Drew Pomeranz has been the mediocre bust he's been, and Steven Wright was pushed to the DL as well. For a team that had World Series aspirations to start out the year, even though it is certainly early, Dombrowski's bet to sell the future to win now could certainly come back to haunt him.

Baseballs best pitching oriented team, the New York Mets (11-13), has stumbled comically thus far in the season, losing various members of the starting rotation to unforeseeable injuries. Noah Syndergaard hit the DL with a partially torn lat, which should sideline him up to two months, after refusing to undergo an MRI until it really mattered, ten to one says the injury could've been staged off if Syndergaard has undergone the MRI originally. Lefthander Steven Matz has been out the entire season thus far, and Yoenis Cespedes tweaked another injury of his and has consequently been put on the disabled list. It's as good a guess as any when David Wright will be manning thirdbase for the metropolitans, but similar to the Red Sox, injuries have decimated this roster early in the season, causing unsuspected below-average all around performances for this gifted ball club. Matt Harvey and Robert Gsellman will be relied upon to soak up more innings and deliver solid performances, will fans alike wish to see Jose Reyes attempt to replicate his 2011 batting title-esque production at the hot corner. Mets manager, Terry Collins, can only do so much, and dole out only so many different faced lineups, but his club may be trending down the route of playoff-hopeful club just hoping to get by without finishing in last place.

While we are only a month into the season, much has transpired thus far and caused a stir amongst the baseball community. Demands will be made from media outlets and fan bases to improve their respective ball clubs, but the trade deadline will ultimately show which direction each club perceives they are headed. It is moments like these that build historic and fine resumes for team front office personnel that can finesse their team out of the deep hole they have dug themselves thus far. It will be interesting to see if division leaders can cling onto their leads, or if cellar-dwellers will crawl out of their cave and into the summer light to compete with teams. The month of May looks to bring even more surprising and unraveling news to the sport that never sleeps.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MLB Fantasy Rankings 2017: Thirdbase

Undeniably the deepest position in all of baseball, the talent is tantalizing and to drool for; third base is a fantasy baseball drafters heavenly palace where the talent and shiny stats just keep coming. It's not just gritty, old veterans that are still somehow managing to post middling to impressive offensive numbers, while holding their own at the hot corner, but a fiery bunch of premier young talent that is bursting onto the scene for years to come. The list is headlined by the first three players that will be playing the 2017 season at 26 years old or younger, which just speaks to the relative flow of youth that is taking the MLB by storm, and encourages many to strap in for the long run, pay for an MLB.com seasonal subscription, and get a front row seat to watch baseballs boppers pound pitches relentlessly over the outfield fences. It's funny to an extent just how good third base is, and how the position alone can put your fantasy team on its back, as most if not all of these players are legitimate middle-of-the-order power threats that have few to no holes in their game. There is so much depth to the position that even if you are playing in a twelve man league or deeper, missing out on the top-ten third base options isn't the end of the world, as folks like Todd Frazier, Jake Lamb, and Jung Ho Kang. Now, of course, these guys aren't top flight fantasy studs, but they provide stability and a decent trade record, as opposed to going out on a limb and drafting a less heralded option, or unknown quantity. But, the bigger question is which of these franchise cornerstones will be both the both the best and most available option come draft day for your lineup.

These rankings are solely based off of offensive capability and track record, and no consideration is given for defensive prowess or spectacular plays on the field.

1. Manny Machado BAL
2016 Stats: .294/.343/.533, 37 HR, 96 RBI, 105 R, 0 SB
2017 Projections: .288/.340/.544, 44 HR, 105 RBI, 108 R, 2 SB
A sure bet to be part of the historic 2018 free agent class, Machado has not disappointed thus far, and putting offensively superior stats than what he has done already will be hard to do. Nonetheless, playing in the confines of friendly Camden Yards, and surrounded by Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop, and Adam Jones in the lineup, and still only 24 years old this season, Machado is set for stardom. The fact that he will be a free agent at such a young and ripe age, like his counterpart Bryce Harper, screams for him to fetch one of the most impressive contracts in MLB history yet, but not so fast, this is all based off the fact that he will be able to continue his power production and exceptional defense at third base. His payday will come, but the real question is whether or not you should draft him in the top five picks? He'll get upwards of 700 plate appearances, and should be on pace to clear the 40 homerun plateau sooner rather than later; take him while he's still available, he's a force to be reckoned with.

2. Nolan Arenado COL
2016 Stats: .294/.362/.570, 41 HR, 133 RBI, 116 R, 2 SB
2017 Projections: .301/.375/.601, 48 HR, 135 RBI, 109 R, 1 SB
Another awesome pick at the hot corner, Arenado came up in the Rockies organization as a glove first player that could hold his own with the bat, but since the tables have turned. Arenado has gone from perennial gold glover at third to perennial all-star and silver slugger at the position for his dedication and hard work to perfect his art at the plate. Considering he has put up back-to-back 40+ homerun seasons, with 130+ RBI's in a star studded lineup, Arenado is ready to grip it and rip it in regards to piling up the extra base hits and RBI totals. Playing at Coors Field for half his games certainly doesn't hurt his chances, but it definitely inflates his stats, but as long as he's a Rockie, you shouldn't have to worry about a drop off in production, baring an injury. Goes hand-in-hand with Machado for potentially the best third basemen in the game, and has been producing some of the most consistent and tantalizing production at the hot corner.

3. Kris Bryant CHC
2016 Stats: .292/.385/.554, 39 HR, 102 RBI, 121 R, 8 SB
2017 Projections: .270/.369/.521, 35 HR, 99 RBI, 108 R, 6 SB
A lot of people would undoubtedly put Bryant as one of the best players in baseball, let alone the best at third base, so this may come as a surprise to some. Bryant ranks third on the list of top third-basemen due to the fact that he doesn't have as established of a track record as Machado and Arenado do. Yes, both of those two are still very young and just broke into the league a few years ago, but Bryant has major strikeout issues to go along with a very long swing plane that may limit his ability currently to high for a .300 or higher average. But, he has prodigious power, a solid lineup around him, and the windy city can sometimes play to his advantage. Bryant won't always have Zobrist, Russell, and Rizzo around him, but for the time being he anchors a very good lineup and should look for a repeat of his 2016 MVP campaign.

4. Josh Donaldson TOR
2016 Stats: .284/.404/.549, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 122 R, 7 SB, 152 OPS+
2017 Projections: .278/.387/.565, 42 HR, 97 RBI, 100 R, 4 SB
You know third base is deep when former American League MVP Josh Donaldson is sitting at fourth on the list. Still sitting right in the midst of his prime at 31 years old, and coming off back-to-back 35+ homerun seasons where he has also registered OBP's north of .370, Donaldson is an all around fantasy contributor. He won't have big bat Edwin Encarnacion around him anymore, but Jose Bautista is being welcomed back, as well as a full year of Devon Travis and a better offensive effort from Russell Martin can help Donaldson both knock in runs, and score runs. The power is there, as he finished with a .265 isolated power, which is elite compared to league average, and Donaldson even sprinkles in a few steals for good measure, and can be trusted for 155+ games when healthy.

5. Adrian Beltre TEX
2016 Stats: .300/.358/.521, 32 HR, 104 RBI, 89 R, 1 SB
2017 Projections: .297/.351/.495, 24 HR, 108 RBI, 90 R, 1 SB
There is no doubting Beltre still swings a mean stick, but the real question here is when to sell high on the 19 year veteran. He'll be playing the 2017 season at 38 years old, and has logged a lot of mileage at this point, but still fields and hits far better than the league average third basemen. Surrounded by Nomar Mazara, Jurickson Profar, Jonathan Lucroy, and Roughned Odor, Beltre has the supporting cast to knock in runs and lead a fearsome squad of hitters that could potentially be one of the best lineups in the league in 2017. If Beltre continues his trend of excellent production, there's no reason he shouldn't be able to clear .300 and hit 20 or more homeruns, but the knack for getting base hits frequently, especially in the doubles department is where Beltre is most fearsome.

6. Matt Carpenter STL
2016 Stats: .271/.380/.505, 21 HR, 68 RBI, 81 R, 0 SB
2017 Projections: .283/.391/.510, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 103 R, 1 SB
Now playing one of the physically least demanding positions on the demand, one can hypothesize that Carpenter will be able to focus on hitting more this season. Carpenter has always been a pure and excellent bat-to ball contact hitter, with great plate coverage, but fantasy owners have enjoyed his power surge the past two seasons, which is just icing on cake for someone who gets on base at least 37% of the time and can rake to the tune of hitting 50+ doubles in a full season. He's eligible at multiple positions, which definitely works to fantasy owners advantage, but if put at the top of the Cardinals lineup, he should be able to reign in close to 100 runs scored.

7. Anthony Rendon WAS
2016 Stats: .270/.348/.450, 20 HR, 85 RBI, 91 R, 12 SB
2017 Projections: .262/.342/.462, 23 HR, 87 RBI, 98 R, 8 SB
Rendon doesn't put up eye popping numbers, but can be consistent and owners have a general understanding of what they are getting from him. Excels in the stolen base category as opposed to most third basemen on the list, and can use his speed to his advantage by stretching out doubles and scoring from first on smart basing running decisions when need be. It doesn't hurt that he's backed by Bryce Harper and has Adam Eaton in the lineup as well, making for an interesting fantasy forecast this season. Just starting to reach his prime, could possibly see a spike in the power department.

8. Evan Longoria TBR
2016 Stats: .273/.318/.521, 36 HR, 98 RBI, 81 R, 0 SB
2017 Projections: .280/.329/.509, 33 HR, 102 RBI, 77 R, 2 SB
Still only 31 years old, and the model of consistency, Longoria will provide some impressive power when putting together one of his better seasons. Owns a .490 slugging percentage, and has averaged 31 homeruns per every 162 game season, but on the flip side Longoria does play at Tropicana Field, and is surrounded by a league average offense. Could certainly fight to be one of the better third basemen in the upcoming season, with as well as people know him and his trend of production, Longoria could present a low key dark horse steal for excellent production.

9. Kyle Seager SEA
2016 Stats: .278/.359/.499, 30 HR, 99 RBI, 89 R, 3 SB
2017 Projections: .269/.355/.511, 34 HR, 98 RBI, 94 R, 6 SB
Finally put together his most impressive season yet, smashing 30 homeruns and just missing 100 RBI's in a lineup anchored by Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano. Optimistically, Seager could continue his trend of getting better and better and look to boost his fantasy value with some more power, which if done so, would push him into the next tier, especially with his .260-.270 average. Not the first selection off the board obviously, but can provide good production in stretches.

10. Jose Ramirez CLE
2016 Stats: .312/.363/.462, 11 HR, 76 RBI, 84 R, 22 SB
2017 Projections: .298/.357/.426, 12 HR, 72 RBI, 108 R, 32 SB
Offers the best blend of speed and base running instincts in the top ten on this list, and also plays in a very good and much improved lineup. With Encarnacion, and if Michael Brantley ever decides to cut it out with the injury setbacks, Ramirez's stats could be boosted by those two players abilities to drive in runs consistently. Plays all infield positions, so Ramirez can be deployed at other positions where his bat probably profiles better, but wouldn't be a bad fallback option if you miss on all top tier options at third. If he doesn't hit well though, and falls below .260, he could revert to a significantly below league average option, but displayed good skills at the dish next year, and should look to build off his most successful campaign yet.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Superbowl Underway!

Ah Yes, another year of great football, and another year of amazing playoffs.
Or so Roger Goodell would like us to think, with NFL ratings down amidst Coli Kaepernick kneeling, and perhaps a very boring sequence of playoff games. To be real, there were only two close games, Packers v Cowboys and Steelers v Chiefs. As for Chiefs game it was more of a painfully slow game where field goals won the day, and a holding call that made it all the more disappointing. Nevertheless we kept watching and kept seeing blowouts, even in the championship games, which should never happen!
So now we have our contenders to the Superbowl, Patriots and Tom Brady looking for a fifth Superbowl and Matt Ryan and Co. looking for a first. However, I'll explain why the odds are against them.

First, let us look at a bad omen for Matt Ryan. In the last 20 years, all the times an NFL MVP made it to the big game, they lost, all seven of em. Including Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Kurt Warner....
The NFL MVP if anything is a very bad omen for the Falcons. I know it's not concrete fact, but more of a superstition but looking at the history it stacks up to evidence.

Moreover, We have for the 6th time in Superbowl history of a #1 scoring offense versus a #1 scoring defense, in the Falcons and Patriots respectively. The records are as follows, the number one scoring defense has only won once in 6 games, meaning the #1 defense won 5 out of 1 times. If I were a gambling man I would bet on the defense here. This fact is made even more interesting by the fact Superbowl 48 and 50 were decided by defenses, not offenses.

As for the game itself I would be surprised if it was a blowout, although it has happened before not more than three years ago.
Here is where this game becomes interesting, the Patriots have the number two best scoring offense, not surprising with Lagarette Blount and Tom Brady tearing up the field. Edelman and Hogan dominate any secondary with speed and agility. Gronk is out but Bennett is the next best thing, and they've done great still.

I think the game will be a shootout between two great quarterbacks, but I don't see the Falcons defense coming in clutch, being so new and inexperienced. The Falcons secondary is one half rookies and one half second year pros, with a few veterans in the linebacker core and defensive line. Considering Brady feasted on the Texans and Steelers defense this will be be easier albeit slightly.

The difference maker in this game is of course defense, the Patriots have the dominant defense. We should expect Butler and McCourty to make plays in the deep field, and Hightower and Ninkovich sacking Ryan aplenty. Something Seattle and Greenbay failed to do was pressure Ryan, and they paid the price. I expect the Patriots will just get more stops in on the Falcons, which will mean more possession for Patriots and more points.

Finally, Brady is 2-0 versus bird-themed teams, and 4-0 against the Falcons. He is also 2-0 against Matt Ryan, which tells me the Pats have the Falcons figured out.

I'm not saying the Patriots are guaranteed to win, I am just saying if the history and stats are anything to go by, the Patriots will get number 5. Of course football is a momentum sport and things can change quickly.