Category Archives: Uncategorized

2014 MLB Season Preview

MY DESK, Md. — The 2014 MLB season kicked off this past week with a two-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia….wait what?! Yeah Major League Baseball thought it was a good idea to start the season before the traditional Opening Day that was March 31st this year. Despite this, I am looking forward to this season more so than last ones because of the chance that my South Jersey-repping Mike Trout finally wins an MVP Award. Without further ado, here’s a quick primer on what this season will entail:

Best Pure Batting Lineups on Paper

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers — RF Yasiel Puig, LF Carl Crawford, SS Hanley Ramirez, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, CF Andre Ethier, 3B Juan Uribe, C A.J. Ellis, 2B Dee Gordon
  2. New York Yankees — CF Jacoby Ellsbury, SS Derek Jeter, RF Carlos Beltran, 1B Mark Teixeira, C Brian McCann, DH Alfonso Soriano, 2B Brian Roberts, 3B Kelly Johnson, LF Ichiro Suzuki
  3. St. Louis Cardinals — 3B Matt Carpenter, 2B Kolten Wong, LF Matt Holliday, RF Allen Craig, C Yadier Molina, 1B Matt Adams, SS Jhonny Peralta, CF Peter Bourjos
  4. Detroit Tigers — 2B Ian Kinsler, RF Torii Hunter, 1B Miguel Cabrera, DH Victor Martinez, CF Austin Jackson, C Alex Avila, 3B Nick Castellenos, SS Alex Gonzalez, LF Don Kelly
  5. Los Angeles Angels — RF Kole Calhoun, CF Mike Trout, 1B Albert Pujols, LF Josh Hamilton, 3B David Freese, DH Raul Ibanez, 2B Howie Kendrick, C Chris Iannetta, SS Erick Aybar
  6. Boston Red Sox — CF Grady Sizemore, RF Shane Victorino, 2B Dustin Pedroia, DH David Ortiz, 1B Mike Napoli, LF Daniel Nava, SS Xander Bogaerts, C A.J. Pierzynski, 3B Will Middlebrooks

Best Pure Pitching Rotations on Paper

  1. Detroit Tigers — Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly
  2. St. Louis Cardinals — Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly
  3. Washington Nationals — Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Tanner Roark
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers — Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, Paul Maholm
  5. Tampa Bay Rays — David Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi
  6. Boston Red Sox — Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubrant

Biggest Offseason Moves

  1. St. Louis Cardinals add Jhonny Peralta and Peter Bourjos
  2. Texas Rangers swap Ian Kinsler with Prince Fielder with Detroit Tigers
  3. Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka signs with New York Yankees
  4. Washington Nationals sign Doug Fister
  5. Yankees sign Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann
  6. Robinson Cano signs with Seattle Mariners

My Playoff Picks

  • AL East: Tampa Bay Rays
  • AL West: Oakland Athletics
  • AL Central: Detroit Tigers
  • AL Wild Cards: New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox
  • AL Champion: Tigers over Red Sox
  • NL East: Washington Nationals
  • NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
  • NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
  • NL Wild Cards: Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants
  • NL Champion: Dodgers over Cardinals
  • World Series: Tigers over Dodgers

Postseason Awards Predictions

  • AL MVP: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
  • AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
  • AL Rookie of the Year: Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees
  • NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

Highest-Paid Players This Season 

  1. Zack Greinke, SP, Dodgers — $28 million
  2. Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies — $25 million
  3. Cliff Lee, SP, Phillies — $25 million
  4. Robinson Cano, 2B, Mariners — $24 million
  5. Prince Fielder, 1B, Rangers — $24 million
  6. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies — $23.5 million
  7. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees — $23.125 million
  8. C.C. Sabathia, SP, Yankees — $23 million
  9. Joe Mauer, 1B, Twins — $23 million
  10. Albert Pujols, 1B, Angels — $23 million
  11. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners — $22,857,142
  12. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers — $22 million
  13. Masahiro Tanaka, SP, Yankees — 22 million
  14. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers — $21,857,142
  15. Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers — 21.25 million
  16. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Yankees — $21,142,857
  17. Carl Crawford, OF, Dodgers — $21,107,142
  18. Matt Cain, SP, Giants — $20,833,333
  19. Jayson Werth, RF, Nationals — $20,571,428
  20. David Wright, 3B, Mets — $20 million
  21. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers — $20 million

All-Division Teams

AL East

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Yankees
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox
  3. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
  4. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox
  5. Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles
  6. Carlos Beltran, RF, Yankees
  7. Jose Bautista, LF, Blue Jays
  8. Brian McCann, C, Yankees
  9. Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays
  • Starting Rotation: David Price, CC Sabathia, Jon Lester, Masahiro Tanaka, R.A. Dickey
  • Bullpen: Grant Balfour, Koji Uehara, Edward Mujica, Sergio Santos, Joel Peralta
  • Bench: Mark Teixeira, Manny Machado, Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz, Wil Myers

AL Central

  1. Michael Bourn, CF, Indians
  2. Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers
  4. Joe Mauer, DH, Twins
  5. Torii Hunter, RF, Tigers
  6. Alex Gordon, LF, Royals
  7. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals
  8. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians
  9. Alex Avila, C, Tigers
  • Starting Rotation: Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, James Shields, Justin Masterson
  • Bullpen: Glen Perkins, Wade Davis, Joe Nathan, Joba Chamberlain, John Axford
  • Bench: Billy Butler, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Josh Willingham, Alejandro De Aza

AL West

  1. Shin-Soo Choo, CF, Rangers
  2. Mike Trout, LF, Angels
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B, Mariners
  4. Albert Pujols, DH, Angels
  5. Prince Fielder, 1B, Rangers
  6. Yeonis Cespedes, RF, Athletics
  7. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers
  8. John Jaso, C, Athletics
  9. Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers
  • Starting Rotation: Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, Yu Darvish, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir
  • Bullpen: Fernando Rodney, Joakim Soria, Alexi Ogando, Ernesto Frieri, Jim Johnson
  • Bench: David Freese, Josh Donaldson, Josh Hamilton, Alex Rios, Jose Altuve

NL East

  1. Bryce Harper, CF, Nationals
  2. Jason Heyward, LF, Braves
  3. Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins
  5. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
  6. David Wright, 3B, Mets
  7. Curtis Granderson, DH, Mets
  8. Carlos Ruiz, C, Phillies
  9. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves
  • Starting Rotation: Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg, Jose Fernandez, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister
  • Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Jose Valverde, Jonathan Papelbon, Drew Storen, Rafael Soriano
  • Bench: Justin Upton, Ryan Zimmerman, Chris Johnson, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond

NL Central

  1. Matt Carpenter, 3B, Cardinals
  2. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates
  4. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
  5. Ryan Braun, RF, Brewers
  6. Matt Holliday, LF, Cardinals
  7. Pedro Alvarez, DH, Pirates
  8. Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals
  9. Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs
  • Starting Rotation: Adam Wainwright, Francisco Liriano, Johnny Cueto, Michael Wacha, Yovani Gallardo
  • Bullpen: Jose Veras, Francisco Rodriguez, Jason Grilli, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez
  • Bench: Jay Bruce, Carlos Gomez, Allen Craig, Billy Hamilton, Starling Marte

NL West

  1. Yasiel Puig, RF, Dodgers
  2. Carlos Gonzalez, CF, Rockies
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
  4. Adrian Gonzalez, DH, Dodgers
  5. Hanley Ramirez, 3B, Dodgers
  6. Buster Posey, C, Giants
  7. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies
  8. Mark Trumbo, LF, Diamondbacks
  9. Aaron Hill, 2B, Diamondbacks
  • Starting Rotation: Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Wade Miley, Hyun-Jin Ryu
  • Bullpen: LaTroy Hawkins, Huston Street, Kenley Jansen, Sergio Romo, Addison Reed
  • Bench: Hunter Pence, Miguel Montero, Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval, Martin Prado

Preseason All-Star Teams

American League

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Yankees
  2. Mike Trout, LF, Angels
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B, Mariners
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers
  5. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox
  6. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
  7. Jose Bautista, RF, Blue Jays
  8. Brian McCann, C, Yankees
  9. Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays
  • Starting Pitchers: Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, David Price, Chris Sale, Jered Weaver
  • Bullpen: Koji Uehara, Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Edward Mujica, Joakim Soria

National League

  1. Yasiel Puig, LF, Dodgers
  2. Matt Carpenter, 3B, Cardinals
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins
  5. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Dodgers
  6. Paul Goldschmidt, DH, Diamondbacks
  7. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
  8. Buster Posey, C, Giants
  9. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds
  • Starting Rotation: Clayton Kershaw, Jose Fernandez, Stephen Strasburg, Cliff Lee, Adam Wainwright
  • Bullpen: Trevor Rosenthal, Craig Kimbrel, Jason Grilli, Sergio Romo, Huston Street

All-MLB Team

  1. Mike Trout, LF, Angels
  2. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Dodgers
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers
  4. David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox
  5. Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Marlins
  6. Robinson Cano, 2B, Mariners
  7. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays
  8. Buster Posey, Giants
  9. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates
  • Starting Rotation: Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Jose Fernandez, Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez
  • Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Koji Uehara, Trevor Rosenthal,

 

Advertisements

A One, a Two and a……Seven and Eight?!

MY COUCH, Md. — Yep, we’re down to the final four teams in this upset-filled, intensity-laden 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Some call it the Final Four, but would you? The only team I predicted to be contending this late in March is Florida and practically everyone and my mother picked them. (But, actually, my mother did pick Florida to win the whole thing). Either way, we’re a week away from the real Final Four in Arlington, Texas at Jerry World with all its massive video board and glory.

Since there were two No. 8-seeds in the 1985 Final Four, Kentucky is only the fourth such team to reach the final weekend of the tournament. Villanova ended up winning that national title 29 years ago, while the next-closest (2011 Butler) lost in the championship game. Meanwhile, No. 7 seed Connecticut is the first such seed to reach the Final Four since Georgetown in 1984. As for top-seeded Florida, it’s not as uncommon considering a 1-seed has reached the Final Four in 32 of the 35 years since seeding was introduced in 1979. Wisconsin is pretty much in the same boat.

Now that we’re on the subject of cool facts, here’s some interesting conference/seed/team tidbits that I found:

  • To get to the Final Four, Kentucky beat a previously undefeated team (Wichita State), the previous year’s national champ (Louisville) and the previous year’s national runner-up (Michigan). This feat has never been done before in the history of the tournament, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
  • That No. 8-seed Villanova team is the lowest seeded team to ever win the national title. Kentucky could match that feat this year.
  • This is the first Final Four for Bo Ryan, Wisconsin’s head coach of 14 years, despite a .728 winning percentage, three Big Ten regular season titles, and three Division III championships at Wisconsin-Platteville.
  • UConn head coach Kevin Ollie will coach in his first Final Four in only his second year on the job – the second to do so in NCAA tournament history.
  • Connecticut and Florida will face each other for the second time this season. The Huskies won the first matchup back on Dec. 2, 65-64, thanks to a Shabazz Napier buzzer-beater. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the last four teams to beat a team in the regular season and then face them in the Final Four have all won the rematch too.
  • This will be Kentucky’s third Final Four appearance in four years. Apparently Coach Cal’s “One-and-Done” philosophy works.

I’ve compiled some fast facts about each Final Four team below. Florida-UConn and Wisconsin-Kentucky should make for some exciting matchups – all for the chance to meet in the championship game on Monday.

1 Florida Gators

  • Head Coach: Billy Donovan (450-168 career record, 4 Final Fours, 2 National Championships)
  • Regular season record: 36-2 (18-0 SEC) – Regular season and conf. tournament champs
  • Seed: 1 (South region)
  • Last Final Four appearance: 2007
  • Last Title: 2007
  • How they got here: Beat #16 Albany, #9 Pittsburgh, #4 UCLA and #11 Dayton
  • Projected starting five: Patric Young, Wil Yeguete, Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Michael Frazier
  • Preseason ranking: 10
  • Last season’s final ranking: 9

2 Wisconsin Badgers

  • Head Coach: Bo Ryan (704-223, No Final Fours or Championships)
  • Regular season record: 30-7 (12-6 Big Ten)
  • Seed: 2 (West)
  • Last Final Four appearance: 2000
  • Last Title: 1941
  • How they got here: Beat #15 American, #7 Oregon, #6 Baylor and #1 Arizona
  • Projected starting five: Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust, Traevon Jackson
  • Preseason ranking: 20
  • Last season’s final ranking: 22

7 Connecticut Huskies

  • Head Coach: Kevin Ollie (50-18, No Final Fours or Championships)
  • Regular season record: (30-8, 12-6 AAC) – Tournament runners-up
  • Seed: 7 (East)
  • Last Final Four appearance: 2011
  • Last Title: 2011
  • How they got here: Beat #10 Saint Joseph’s, #2 Villanova, #3 Iowa State and #4 Michigan State
  • Projected starting five: Phillip Nolan, Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey, DeAndre Daniels, Ryan Boatright
  • Preseason ranking: 18
  • Last season’s final ranking: Not Ranked

8 Kentucky Wildcats

  • Head Coach: John Calipari (552-172, 5 Final Fours and 1 National Championship
  • Regular season record: 28-10 (12-6 SEC) – Tournament runners-up
  • Seed: 8 (Midwest)
  • Last Final Four appearance: 2012
  • Last Title: 2012
  • How they got here: Beat #9 Kansas State, #1 Wichita State, #4 Louisville and #2 Michigan
  • Projected starting five: Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle, James Young, Willie Cauley-Stein
  • Preseason ranking: 1
  • Last season’s final ranking: Not Ranked

Bold Predictions

As you’ve seen thus far in the tournament, the unpredictable should be expected. No one saw Kentucky to make the run they did, having to beat three teams that were some of the strongest during the regular season. Connecticut beat two teams that had more pure talent than they in Iowa State and Michigan State. Wisconsin beat a favored Arizona team and a Baylor squad that has three eventual NBA-ers. Florida was the only team among the Final Four that did what everyone expected of them – avoid upsets and roll to the final weekend unscathed.

As much I’d like to see UConn upset Florida and beat them for the second time this season, I just don’t see it happening. First off, Scottie Wilbekin fouled out of the first meeting with three minutes left – allowing Shabazz Napier to hit numerous jumpers that the defensive-minded Wilbekin would have been all over. On the other hand, DeAndre Daniels has developed into another weapon for the Huskies as someone who can score on their own inside – something the team has lacked all season. Also, Napier and Ryan Boatright make up arguably the best backcourt in college basketball.

In the other matchup, I don’t see Kentucky losing to a worse team than the three others they’ve beaten. What Arizona didn’t have that Kentucky does is size inside to defend and disrupt Frank Kaminsky, who tore up the top-seeed Wildcats in the Elite Eight for 28 points and 11 rebounds. Kentucky has Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein (if he’s healthy, which he should be), and Dakari Johnson – all bigs with the defense and strength to defend Kaminsky successfully.

So, for my predictions:

Kentucky 75, Wisconsin 64

Florida 63, Connecticut 60

….for a rematch between Florida and Kentucky for the fourth time this season. The Gators won the first three matchups by a combined score of 214-184. However, the latest such game is the thing to look at: a 61-60 Florida win in the SEC tournament championship game on March 16. It’ll be the seniors of Florida versus the freshman of Kentucky. Should be a good one.