Archive for November, 2009

Tuesday: 11.24.2009

They Called in the Bullpen

My editor from OwnersEdge.com emailed me asking if I could help out with the Detroit Tigers blog in the Fanball Sports Network, so obviously I jumped at the opportunity to help out. The original writer over there was apparently in an accident and is out of commission so I’ll be in for a little while. Check out my first post here.

Now, that won’t curtail production here. I have tomorrow off and should be able to finish the third basemen and hopefully get started on the shortstops before the holidays. You may notice there was no NFL whatsoever yesterday. This wasn’t entirely accidental. It’s really going to be more of a “when I have time” then a bankable feature. I put baseball material first so now with helping out at the Tigers site and my rankings here, football heads to the backburner. I apologize to those who enjoy that piece, but it isn’t my main passion–baseball will always be #1.

Thursday: 11.19.2009

NFL: Week 10 – Dallas vs. Green Bay

I know I scrapped part 2 of the Week 10 Review, but I couldn’t let my thoughts on the Cowboys go by the wayside…

Dallas 7 at Green Bay 17
And this is why I hate Dallas. You just can’t trust these clowns. As soon as you start to believe in them, they lay an egg in a game they absolutely should win. Now Green Bay isn’t a tomato can, but they aren’t that great either. They had just lost to Tampa Bay for crying out loud. Speaking of idiotic gameplans regarding running backs, what exactly is Dallas doing? I know I sound like a broken record each week, but how do Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice combine for 11 carries??? It was 3-0 through three quarters so you can’t say that Green Bay put the game out of hand. Tony Romo had a paltry 6.4 yards per attempt through the air so you can’t say the passing game was to effective to go away from. So how on earth does a trio of dominant backs come away from a game with 11 combined carries? Oh and I don’t want to hear that it is because they were facing a tough run defense. They were, but the 11 carries went for four a pop. You can’t just not (sorry for the double negative) try because you’re worried they will stop it. This is why Dallas can’t be taken seriously as a contender.

Hats off to Green Bay for manning up and saving their season. Charles Woodson was a man possessed as he went for nine tackles (two for loss), two forced fumbles, a sack and a pass deflection. He was all over the place and deserves the game ball for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers was sacked four times, which he’s used to by now, but Dallas relegated to his worst game of year judging by YPA as he went for just 5.3 and the 189 yards his second-lowest total behind the opening week 184 vs. Chicago. Now at 5-4, they are right in the thick of the wildcard race as they sit tied with Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York.

Statistically Speaking
Despite that awful offensive line, Ryan Grant is 9th in the league in yards with 700. His four touchdowns are fewest amongst those in the top 10 aside from Steven Jackson’s two, but his yardage total is a real feat behind that porous line.

Tony Romo has been sacked nine times in the past two games giving him 22 on the season. It pales in comparison to the 41 Rodgers has sustained, but it is the 6th-highest total in the league. Also from Dallas, all seven of DeMarcus Ware’s sacks have come in four of past five weeks. He was shutout through four and now he is tied for 8th in the league and on pace for 12.

Green Bay – 3rd downs: 7-15 (47%), TOP: 35:58, Sacks: 5
Dallas – 3rd downs: 3-12 (25%), TOP: 24:02, Sacks: 4

Up Next
Washington at Dallas, San Francisco at Green Bay

Thursday: 11.19.2009

2010 Mock Draft: Round 2

I promised part 2 of the NFL Week 10 Review and catcher rankings today, but I’m a big fat liar. I feel like the page on an NFL week is turned on Wednesday so I passed on part 2. With the revamp of the review, it shouldn’t be 9,000 words every week and it will be easy to digest in one sitting on Monday mornings. As for the catcher rankings, I also threw another changeup. First off, I’m going to start at third base and head around the diamond backwards, but I’m not quite done yet, so please be patient.

In the interim, I’d like to continue sharing the picks and analysis of a great mock draft I’m currently involved in at the BaseballHQ.com (subscription required, but well worth it) forums. I’ve been lurking over there for some time so I knew I was going to be involved in a real battle when I started up the mock draft. It has been a really interesting draft so far (through 4 1/2 rounds thus far) as the 13 of us draft a standard roster for a 5×5 league that uses OBP instead of AVG while keeping everything else the usual. The round 1 analysis in case you missed it yesterday can be found here.

2.1 Troy Tulowitzki, SS COL
Lots of options here, but I decided on Tulo because 1) he could repeat or even improve, 2) he’s a shortstop, and 3) I didn’t have enough time to talk myself out of it.

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Miguel Cabrera, 1B

My thoughts: This is a great pick at a frighteningly scarce position. Tulow’s 2008 was essentially lost to injury so you have to look at his 2007 season to determine how this 2009 fits in. When you look at the two, his 2009 isn’t a surprise at all. He’s showing legitimate growth for a budding superstar and he’s still just 25. The speed (20 SB after seven in ’07) might not stick, but he’s still a four-category ace even if fades back below double-digits.

2.2 Matt Holliday, OF FA
I’m running out of my house to go to work, but I wanted to get this in. Yes, two OF spots. But he’s the best of the last of the high OBP/big slugging types and there won’t be any when my turn comes around again.

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Carl Crawford

My thoughts: I’m a firm believer in building a great outfield (more on that soon), so I love pairing Holliday’s power with Crawford’s speed. And the great thing is that each offers something (Holliday 14 SB, Crawford 15 HR) in the other’s strength. Two very good picks to address all five categories early on.

2.3 Jose Reyes, SS NYM
I’m going out on a limb here. I believe he’ll recuperate 100% for 2010 and if so, he’d be a 1st round pick. Course I could wind up with substantial amounts of egg on my face too.

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Ryan Howard

My thoughts: A more extreme set of complementary players, but if Reyes is healthy enough to notch 50+ SBs, it’s a great combo. There is definitely some risk here, but he isn’t getting back to this draft in the late 3rd round so if he believes in a recovery, he has to take him here.

2.4 Evan Longoria 3B
Happy he lasted this long.

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Tim Lincecum

My thoughts: I’d have like at least some analysis behind this pick, but it’s clear this drafter was concerned that Longoria might not make it to pick 17, so he’s happy to pair him with Lincecum. Third base is rough this year so getting a stud is important.

2.5 Mark Reynolds 3B
I need to power/speed combo and willing to take the OBP hit.

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Joe Mauer

My thoughts: See what I mean re: 3B? Taking Reynolds here is really nice because Mauer makes up for any potential hit in OBP. That said, Reynolds does take some walks and I could see him drawing even more in 2010 if he tears the league as he did in 2009.

2.6 Ian Kinsler 2B Texas Rangers
Proven 30/30 talent in the middle of the 2nd rd? A 24% hit rate last year stunted his obp to .323 even though he went 31/31 with 86 rbis and 101 runs. Even a 28% hit rate should jump that obp up to 340 or .350 and with Prince Fielder anchoring that category I’m not to worried. This guy definently has a chance for a 35/35 season and could end up returning top 5 numbers in 2010.

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Prince Fielder

My thoughts: There is a distinct reason that a 30-30 2B lasts this long: injuries. Kinsler just can’t get through a season. He lasted his longest yet in 2009, but still missed 18 games. Imagine what he can do if ever puts everything together: 2008’s batting average with 2009’s power and speed for 650 ABs. It could be an all-time fantasy baseball season.

2.7 – Grady Sizemore, OF – Cleveland
Here at pick 20, he’s probably 3-5 picks sooner than anyone was looking, but I don’t pick again until 32 so if I want him, I have to get him now. Last year was a washout, without question, but I’m not ready to drop him off the map because of it. His down category, AVG, is erased and turned into a strength with an OBP league as he draws a great deal of walks.

I like a nice bounceback season of .380-112-31-94-27

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Matt Kemp

My thoughts: Thrilled to get two all-around outfielders with my first two picks.

2.8 Jacoby Ellsbury, OF – Red Sox
Needless to say I am taking him for the speed (50 or more steals the last 2 years). He doesn’t hurt you in OBP and should score a ton of runs. I think there are will still be a number of good run producers left when I make my next pick.

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Mark Teixeira

My thoughts: Ellsbury was a consideration for me when I took Sizemore. He’s not an empty base stealer. He can set you up to win that category, but also score a ton of runs and offer a good AVG and useful OBP depending on your league. He definitely earns you enough in SBs to take the virtual zero in the power categories.

2.9 – Joey Votto 1B – Cincinnati
I am sure some will regard this pick as a reach, but the elite OBP here helps balance the possibility of a mediocre OBP from my first-rounder Ryan Braun, and while the 25 HR are rather modest, the 166 PX indicates excellent power skills, so growth in production appears likely as he approaches his prime.

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Ryan Braun

My thoughts: This was the point where I truly realized I had entered a shark tank. I love this pick and don’t see it as a reach at all, especially in an OBP league as the drafter notes. He’s got a run of .400-100-30-100 seasons coming up, starting in 2010.

2.10 – Adrian Gonzalez 1B San Diego.
Power, OBP, age 27, ascending Px trend = [an easy pick]

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Alex Rodriguez

My thoughts: This team’s power and OBP after two picks is insane. Gonzalez gets a healthy boost in OBP leagues because his 119 walks in 2009 weren’t a fluke.

2.11 David Wright 3B NYM
Previous 4 years: 381 to 415 OBA, 26-33 HR, 15-34 SBs – rated #16 after Tulo and Longoria.
Given Wright his consistent power prior to this season, it is almost certain to improve in 2010. I was expecting to have to take another (more) risky player here (Reyes or Sizemore), but couldn’t pass up DW.

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Chase Utley

My thoughts: I still have Wright in my first round so you know I like this pick in the late second round.

2.12 Adam Dunn 1B/OF WAS
A very healthy consistent player, he’s awesome in OBP leagues. Just 30 this season, there’s no reason to expect him to deviate much from his 3 year average of roughly 90 R, 40 HR, 100RBI and a .380+ OBP. The dual-position elegibility is nice, too. I’m going to slot him in at OF for now, but that could change.

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Hanley Ramirez

My thoughts: 100+ walks for six straight seasons and seven of eight make him an OBP-league treasure. Oh and five of six seasons with 40+ home runs helps, too. He fell two short last year, but .398-38-105 is still a studly offering.

2.13 Kevin Youkilis 1B/3B BOS
Safe Tier One player. OBP machine. The 3B eligibility put him over the top for me compared to other players I was considering.

Previous Picks:
Rd 1 – Albert Pujols

My thoughts: Position scarcity, upgrade with league format including OBP – seems like a great pick to me.

I’ll probably have round 3 up over the weekend.

Also, check out the interview I did with Jesse Spector of the NY Daily News found here. I’ve become friends with Jesse via Twitter and it was an honor to be a part of the series.

Wednesday: 11.18.2009

2010 Mock Draft: Round 1

As I’ve mentioned before, the baseball season never really ends for me. Sure the playoffs are over, but that just means it is time to put both eyes on 2010. With that in mind, I started a mock draft over at the BaseballHQ.com forums (membership required) with 12 other members. It’s a slow mock at the forum that uses the standard 5×5 categories except eliminating AVG and replacing it with OBP. One thing I asked of the participants was their mindset behind the picks. Mock drafts are great tools on their own, but they are even better when you can see where someone is coming from with their picks, especially if it’s a pick you don’t necessarily agree with. I will share the first round with you now. I’m picking 7th in this draft.

1.01 Albert Pujols 1B, STL
I feel the first pick is a no-brainer heading into next season. As HQ readers know, it’s all about reliability in the early rounds. Pujols is not only the most highly skilled player in the MLB player pool, but he’s also the most reliable one. In reference to Ron’s Portfolio 3 Plan, this is a Tier 1 skill set if there ever was one. From a skills perspective, Pujols is money in the bank for a CT% around 90%, a PX around 160, and a BB% around 15%. From a results perspective, this truly unique skill set should once again translate into a Roto line of roughly 0.330 / 40 / 120 / 10 / 120. Enjoy Albert Pujols, HQ readers; we’re unlikely to ever see a better hitter in our lives.

My thoughts: Duh.

1.02 Hanley Ramirez SS, FLA
Big surprise, huh? There are actually a few warning signs here: While many expected the SB to decline as it did, PX also fell from 148 to 130 (145 1st half and 116 in 2nd half). And the BA boost was largely driven by a high h% (38%) as XBA shows (.289).

Still, that drop-off was meager in comparison to how the other top SS performed in 2009. He’s likely to be the best at a scarce position and contribute to all 5 categories (2 years in a row with a bb% >=10%), so he’s my pick.

My thoughts: Again, duh. Pujols and Ramirez are my easy 1-2. If someone wanted to make a case for a few other players after Pujols, I would listen, but I stand by Ramirez as my choice.

1.3 Utley, Chase (2B) PHI
What hip injury/surgery?? Solid 5-cat producer. Great line-up, great stadium.The number of MI, esp. 2B (Cano, Hill, Alexei, Phillips, Rollins and Polonco further down the scale) who’s roto value is driven (at least partially) by batting average who also have low BB% is noteworthy, so a some-what position scarcity pick,esp. in an OBP league. Also there should be alot of top tier 1B and OF there at the end of the 2nd round. And it is too early for a catcher.

Hopefully Mr. November carries on next year.

My thoughts: These first three played out exactly how I ranked the top three. I think Utley is underrated to a degree, amongst his other superstar brethren. There is more power at 2B than I think most realize, but only Utley has a track record of excelling in all five categories.

1.4 Rodriguez, Alex (3B) NYY
Certainty is at a premium for such an early pick and ARod’s return from significant surgery was above expectations. Slipping in many drafts in 09, he made those who ignored him, pay.

In an OBP league, he’s golden — from August til the end of the season, he soared and showed no signs of fatigue, displaying both power and speed in symbiosis with a great eye, on a consistent basis. In a year where there are doubts about his heir apparent, David Wright, ARod’s like fine wine — Wright’s slippage into a weak-hitting basestealer profile, enhances ARod’s value at the top.

Since ARod was able to post solid numbers in a year where all odds were stacked against him (enhanced media scrutiny, scandal, PEDs, major surgery), there is no reason to doubt that ARod will provide his usual output over the course of 2010.

My thoughts: This is the first pick that diverts from my top 12. That doesn’t make it wrong, of course. For one, my top 12 assumes a standard 5×5 league with batting average. And for two, I think things really jumble up 4-10 with little difference between the seven players within that range. I had Matt Kemp there, but I think A-Rod is a fine pick. A-Rod has had an OBP below .392 once since 2000 and it was .375!

1.05 Ryan Braun OF, MLW
Braun provides strong power/speed combination, is in a good lineup, is still young, and though his relatively low walk rate results in OBP fluctuation, his strong XBA indicates that he is likely to be solid in that category, which may be his weakest.

My thoughts: Back on track with top 12 as I had Braun fifth. How ridiculous has this guy been in his first three seasons? He seems to be getting better, which is absurd given how amazing he was during his rookie season. Another stud that does it in all five categories.

1.06 Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees
This pick is contrary to the position scarcity or difficult category (speed) approach. However, it seemed to me that the best first round choices left were outfielders and first baseman. I chose Teixeria based on his his consistent high performance for the last 5 years. During this time he has excelled in 4 of our 5 categories and has been extremely reliable which I think is essential for a 1st round pick.

I also like the fact that he is the #3 hitter in the Yankee lineup which should result in numerous opportunities to produce runs.

My thoughts: Big Teix has recently crept into my top 12 with Justin Morneau having some uncertainty surrounding him in 2010. Imagine how scary Teixeira’s season will be if he ever starts off hot and then has his usual torrid summer.

1.07 – Matt Kemp, OF – Los Angeles Dodgers
A budding superstar that contributes massively to four of the five categories we’re using. He’s better in batting average leagues, but he’s hardly a liability with his .350ish OBP. It’s not out of bounds to see him as a 40-40 candidate going forward. That would be the 99th percentile of his potential, but it exists. For now, I’d happily take 30-30 with improved plate discipline taking the OBP up above .360.

My thoughts: Well my thoughts are up there already since this was my pick. I love Kemp. As I mentioned earlier, Kemp is #4 in my top 12, but like I said that is for AVG leagues. I wouldn’t have taken Kemp fourth in this OBP league, but I was pleased to get him at #7.

1.08 – Prince Fielder, 1B – Milwakee Brewers
Compare these 2 5X5(w/obp)

Player A .441 / 47 / 124 / 16 / 135
Player B .409 / 46 / 103 / 2 / 141

Player A is Pujols and Player B is Prince Fielder. IMO Pujols at #1 is a no-brainer but at #8 a guy with the skill set of Prince Fielder is absolutely impossible to pass up. Also given the fact that he has hit 50 homers in 2007 and he’s entering his prime years as he doesn’t turn 26 until May. A 16% bb rate, a .080 eye and a 190 PX are hard to ignore.

My thoughts: I think Fielder has two or three more 50-home run seasons in his career, which is quite a feat when you consider the league leader had 47 in 2009. He just set a career-high in walks, and by extension OBP, with 110. I don’t necessarily understand the comparison w/Pujols here, but it was a good pick.

1.09 – Joe Mauer C- Minnesota Twins
Mauer is 26 and is heading into his prime hitting years. I believe he new found power is for real (28 HR in 2009). With this league using OBP over Avg it does’t hurt his value as Mauer lead MLB in OBP at .444. I believe that gap between Mauer and the #2 C is larger then any other #1 vs. #2 at any position. I am targeting him with this slot in a very similar league, so I appreciate all comments

My thoughts: I’m in the small, but growing camp that likes Mauer as a first rounder next year. There are reasons for caution in drafting him too high, but I think the power holds for the most part (around 25 home runs) while his OBP is game-changing. Despite all the talk about how Mauer is “injury-prone”, he’s managed 521 or better at-bats in three of the last four season. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a perfect range for a catcher. I’ll take another 520 out of Mauer in 2010 with a late first round pick.

1.10 Tim Lincecum, SP – San Francisco
Well I def would have taken Mauer and I’m now looking at some players that all have some type of ?. I hate doing this but I’ll take Tim Lincecum. My reason for this is there are a handful of bats available that I tossed around here and I believe at least one of them will still be available when the choice gets back to me. I’m unsure if Tim will be and honestly believe it really isn’t a reach here.

My thoughts: I don’t take pitchers in the first round, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It’s just my preference to avoid them. Lincecum is the best of the bunch so if you’re going to take one, you might as well grab the best.

1.11 Ryan Howard, 1B PHI
A lot of good choices and fairly equal at this stage of the draft. Locking up a solid HR/RBI contributor seems like a “good idea”. he’s consistent and that lineup around looks solid for another year or two.

My thoughts: He’s a tremendous power producer, but I’d like to see get back to the .425, .392 OBP-levels he had 2006 and 2007 if I’m taking him over a handful of others still on the board.

1.12 Carl Crawford, OF TB
With an “elbow” pick, it’s important not only to see what is available, but see what’s around the corner. I see good HR/RBI guys to be had… but not many rock solid speed options. This is the one.

My thoughts: I love Crawford in 2010. I have him 6th in my top 12. He bounced back from the only down season of his career and I expect more excellence in 2010.

1.13 Miguel Cabrera, 1B DET
The best run-producing option left; one year in the next five, he is going to approach a 10-win season.

My thoughts: I’m not sure how Cabrera lasted this long, but it’s a great pick at 13. I assume the drafter means Wins Above Replacement when he speaks of a 10-win season.

Tuesday: 11.17.2009

NFL: Week 10 – Shoot Me in the Face Edition

Part 2 was eaten alive and I’ve yet to re-create the entire thing. I hope to have it up tomorrow morning as I’m a bit too tired to stay up and re-finish it tonight.

For next week, it will again have some tweaks. Since my favorite part is coming up with the statistical tidbits, that will be the meat of the piece. There is no real need for me to generally recount each game. I didn’t see every one of them anyway, so instead I’ll focus on what I think I do best: stats. I will still include some comments here and there, but I don’t want to force commentary on a KC-Oakland game any more than you don’t want to read it. This trimming of the fat will also help with the turn around time. If it’s not 8,000 words, it’ll be easier to put into one part. Or at least if it’s two parts, it won’t be two MASSIVE parts.

Look for part 2 tomorrow as well as a top 24 catchers for 2010 list.

Monday: 11.16.2009

NFL: Week 10 Review (Part 1-The Early Games)

Week 10 had a lot of close games in score, but that didn’t necessarily make them interesting or meaningful. The two that were billed as the best, Cincy at Pittsburgh and New England at Indy, both lived up to their hype. I’ll look at the first one in part 1 and the epic Sunday night battle in part 2 tomorrow.

Chicago 6 at San Francisco 10
The millions of fans without the NFL Network (thanks, Time Warner) weren’t terribly upset to be without on Thursday night, especially those who root for the Bears. The savior, Jay Cutler, threw five interceptions including one as time ran out giving the 49ers the 10-6 victory. Matt Forte continued his struggles on the ground with 41 yards on 20 carries (2.1/attempt), but he did contribute positively with eight catches for 120 yards. Cutler did end up with 307 passing yards, but it is hardly impressive when done on 52 attempts and it comes with the five picks. At 4-4 heading into the game, this would’ve been a key win for the Bears as they hope to notch a playoff berth, but I just can’t see this team emerging as a playoff contender. Their offensive line is bad, their coaching is bad and they desperately miss Brian Urlacher. Maybe next year, Bears fans.

If running backs had win-loss records, Frank Gore would get a win for Thursday for sure. He rushed for 104 yards on 25 carries (4.2/attempt) and his second quarter touchdown stood up as the difference in the game. The defense also played well, of course, but I can’t see the team’s ceiling being very high going forward with Alex Smith at quarterback. He peaked in his first two quarters of the year when he led that near-comeback in Houston three weeks ago. It has been all downhill since with Thursday’s effort the worst yet from a yardage standpoint (118). This team is definitely moving in the right direction with some excellent pieces in place, but they will need much better quarterback play to be legitimate playoff contenders. With their defense and Gore combined with the horribly erratic play of Arizona, they could sneak into the playoffs with a late run this year, but I like them much better in 2010 and beyond. Here is my obligatory Michael Crabtree mention of the week (maybe I can get a sponsor for this): despite what he did to my Longhorns last year and his stupid, worthless holdout to start the season, I have to say that I really like what I have seen from him so far. He has yet to have a real big game, but I think this guy is going to be a star.

Statistically Speaking

Jay Cutler now has 17 interceptions on the season which is just one fewer than his 18 from all of last season. I’m not going to be one of those idiots that suggests the Bears shouldn’t have traded for him based on nine games, but he is trying to do too much to compensate for his horrible line and the lack of running game to support him.

Speaking of Crabtree, he could very well end up as San Francisco’s best wide receiver by yardage despite missing the team’s first five games. Tight end Vernon Davis will almost certainly lead the team in receiving yards, but Crabtree has 215 receiving yards trailing Josh Morgan (300) by just 85 yards. He only needs to outgain Morgan by 12 yards per game the rest of the season. As he gets more reps under his belt, that isn’t out of the realm of possibilities at all.

San Francisco – 3rd downs: 6-14 (43%), TOP: 31:33, Sacks: 0
Chicago – 3rd downs: 8-17 (47%), TOP: 28:27, Sacks: 2

Up Next

Philadelphia at Chicago, San Francisco at Green Bay

Buffalo 17 at Tennessee 41
Coming off of a 59-0 demolition at the hands of the New England Patriots, things couldn’t get much worse for the Titans. They were 0-6 and seemingly getting worse. Heading into the bye, it was time to seriously assess their situation and make some changes. What they had going simply wasn’t working. Kerry Collins out, Vince Young in. Young has been very effective going 44-for-62 (71%) for 507 yards (8.2/attempt) with two TDs and one interception. Young has also apparently been Chris Johnson’s spinach. The Titans have now reeled off three straight wins during which Johnson has rushed for 495 yards on 75 carries (6.6/carry) with six touchdowns. He also has 14 catches for 136 in the same span. The Titans are now just 2 games back of second place in their division and will be no more than two games back of a wildcard spot (if San Diego wins and moves to 6-3). I’m not sure they have a real shot at the playoffs, but who would’ve thought that there would even be a legitimate scenario for them to make it after the first six weeks?

It’s the same old story with Buffalo. Despite average 5.0 yards per carry with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, the two combined for a whopping 17 carries. Good thing they fired their offensive coordinator just before the season started. He might have used his best assets and you definitely can’t have that. And you can’t blame the team being down on the lack of running because it was tied through three quarters. It got out of hand in the fourth quarter with two pick sixes. Dick Jauron can’t be long for this job.

Statistically Speaking

Chris Johnson has rushed for 1,091 yards this season which is the most through 10 weeks since 2005 when Shaun Alexander had 1,114. Alexander went on to rush 1880 on 370 carries that year. He was never the same after that. Johnson is on pace 1939 on 302 carries. Keeping that pace would give him 51 more carries than his rookie season.

Jairus Byrd did it again!! He only got one interception on Sunday snapping his streak of three games with two interceptions, but it was his 5th game with a pick. His eight interceptions already rank 4th-best among in a season for a rookie since the merger. Everson Walls’ 11 back in 1981 stand alone as the record.

Tennessee – 3rd downs: 11-17 (65%), TOP: 31:20, Sacks: 2
Buffalo – 3rd downs: 5-14 (36%), TOP: 28:40, Sacks: 0

Up Next

Buffalo at Jacksonville, Tennessee at Houston

New Orleans 28 at St. Louis 23
This Saints team sure likes to make things interesting, don’t they? After steamrolling the Giants by 21 in week six, their average margin of victory was 19.4 and they looked unstoppable. They have been tested in every game since as their average margin of victory has dipped to 8.8 per game. That said, they have yet to lose. They have won big, they have won close. They have won with a potent air attack; they have won by dominating the ground. They have reached or topped 45 four times and they have held two opponents to 10 or fewer points. There might not be a more diverse resume in the league. They were without their MVP today (Darren Sharper) and it showed as they allowed the Rams to run 71 plays for 434 yards. This team won’t go undefeated, but that doesn’t matter because this isn’t college football. They are still an elite team in the league with a 4-game stranglehold on their division. They could be best served by a little valley in late November/early December only to turn around and get hot again in their final three vs. Dallas, Tampa Bay and Carolina heading into the playoffs.

I don’t know Steve Spagnuolo one bit, but what I gather from his persona we are exposed via the media is a guy that doesn’t buy into moral victories meaning he is as pissed at the five point loss as he would have been by a 20 point loss. Positives included Steven Jackson’s third straight game over 130 yards (131 on 26 carries, 5.0/carry), Brandon Gibson, part of the return package for Will Witherspoon from the Eagles, had seven catches for 93 yards and Donnie Avery caught four balls for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Also, the defense forced three turnovers and they were driving for the win as the clock expired, but in the end they still lost their eighth game of the season. Like so many of these awful teams this year, they desperately need a real quarterback and until that happens they will struggle to be anything than a bottom-feeder in this league.

Statistically Speaking

In his last four games, Drew Brees has six touchdowns against seven interceptions after posting a 13:2 ratio in the first five games. He needs to get back to his early season level before the New England Patriots make their way to New Orleans on November 30th or their undefeated record will be out the window in a hurry.

With nine catches for 45 yards added to his 131 yards on the ground, Steven Jackson accounted for 176 of the Rams 439 offensive yards (40%). As their only real offensive weapon, you know defenses have to be keying on Jackson which makes his performance that much more impressive.

New Orleans – 3rd downs: 6-10 (60%), TOP: 27:58, Sacks: 2
St. Louis – 3rd downs: 5-13 (38%), TOP: 31:02, Sacks: 1

Up Next

New Orleans at Tampa Bay, Arizona at St. Louis

Tampa Bay 23 at Miami 25
Tampa Bay joins their bottom-feeding brethren in the quest to add an “s” in front of the adjective usually used to describe to them: crappy. Like the Rams, they fell just short. In the end, penalties held the Bucs back as they were dinged nine times for 77 yards. Josh Freeman used Kellen Winslow almost exclusively en route a 16-for-28 for 196 yards performance with a touchdown and interception. Winslow accounted for 102 of the yards on seven catches. Freeman was also the most effective runner for the Bucs grabbing 36 yards on seven carries while Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward could only muster 86 yards on 24 carries (3.6/carry). This team actually impressed me because I thought for sure they would get crushed a week after their first win of the season. They were 19-6 at halftime, but battled back by outscoring Miami 17-6 in the second half.

Miami’s running attack is decidedly better than Tampa Bay’s and that of many teams to be honest. Ricky Williams (20 for 102, 5.1/carry) and Ronnie Brown (12 for 82, 6.8/carry) continued their excellent seasons combining for 184 yards on 32 carries (5.6/carry) with Brown finding the end zone for one of Miami’s two touchdowns. At 4-5, this team has the faintest glimmer of hope for the playoffs which is dimmed further by their inconsistent play from week to week. Chad Henne is still learning on the job and doesn’t have any real weapons in the receiving game to help him. And the defense should be better than it is, too. They don’t play 60 minutes which has led to losses by 4, 10, 10 and 12 points. The 12-point loss was against New Orleans when they were up 24-10 at half. The final was 46-34.

Statistically Speaking

The Dolphins are on pace to become the sixth team since 2004 with two 900+ yard rushers. Two of the previous five had both guys top 1,000, but Ricky Williams would need to up his pace a fair bit to reach that mark. He is currently on pace for 912 yards while his cohort Ronnie Brown is on pace for 1,132. Maybe Brown can share a few of those yards so both can reach 1,000. Brandon Jacobs (1,089) and Derrick Ward (1,025) were the last pair to hit the mark and they did so just last season.

Among the three 1-8 team (St. Louis & Detroit), the Bucs have “best” point differential at -99. Yep, that’s my stat for Tampa Bay. That’s the best I’ve got, folks. I’m sorry if any of you are Bucs fans. I’m a Lions fan, but at least we have Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith. Tampa Bay has NOTHING going for them.

Miami – 3rd downs: 5-14 (36%), TOP: 31:14, Sacks: 3
Tampa Bay – 3rd downs: 4-13 (31%), TOP: 28:46, Sacks: 0

Up Next

New Orleans at Tampa Bay, Miami at Carolina

Detroit 10 at Minnesota 27
For the second time this season, the Lions defense hung in against the Vikings, but their offense just failed to put points on the board despite running 76 plays. Yes, Brett Favre had 344 yards passing and Adrian Peterson rushed for 133 yards, but Minnesota only had 10 points at half and 17 through three quarters. A pair of Peterson turnovers helped Detroit hang around, but Matthew Stafford and company just couldn’t capitalize. Stafford was brutalized throughout the afternoon as he was sacked three times and hit 12 times in all. He threw the ball 51 times for just 224 yards (4.4/attempt – yikes!), but he didn’t turn the ball over which is an improvement. Between two horrible weeks and two weeks not playing, Calvin Johnson had his first real game in over a month. He caught eight passes for 84 yards finally giving his fantasy owners something to cheer about. Kevin Smith rushed well in his 12 carries, but I’m not sure why he only got 12 carries.

The usual suspects had another great week in Minnesota. As I mentioned, Favre threw for 344 completing 20-for-29 while Peterson rushed for another 133 including two touchdowns. Favre’s shiny new go to toy, Sidney Rice, had another career best afternoon this time racking up 201 yards on just seven catches. Percy Harvin only had three catches for 53 yards while being relegated to just one kickoff return. I’m honestly not sure why Minnesota hasn’t been my #1 team in the Awards section each week. Top flight defense: check, elite rushing attack: check, superb quarterback play: check, explosive weapons for said quarterback to utilize: check. What exactly doesn’t this team have going for them? Yes their secondary is banged up, but as Tennessee showed last year, you don’t need the best personnel back their if you’re getting pressure up front, which the Vikings do extremely well. I think there will be a changing of the guard at both the #1 and #2 spots for my rankings this week.

Statistically Speaking

The Lions haven’t won a game in Minnesota since 1997 and this loss was their 17th straight road loss. The team is 1-24 in their last 25 games.

Adrian Peterson has fumbled four times this year and lost all of them, matching his fumbles lost total from a year ago. Three of the fumbles have come against the Lions. The Lions haven’t been able to punish Peterson for those fumbles, but playoff caliber teams will. If there is another chink in this team’s armor, it would be Peterson’s propensity to put the ball on the turf.

Minnesota – 3rd downs: 3-11 (27%), TOP: 30:23, Sacks: 3
Detroit – 3rd downs: 6-17 (35%), TOP: 29:37, Sacks: 1

Up Next

Cleveland at Detroit, Seattle at Minnesota

Jacksonville 24 at New York Jets 22
One of the less heralded games coming into week 10 was this one between Jacksonville and New York which essentially decided who had the last glimmer of playoff hope. Trust me, it’s a very faint glimmer, almost invisible. It was a back-n-forth game, but the Jags prevailed with a Josh Scobee field goal as time ran out. Maurice Jones-Drew continued his domination with 145 totals yard, but more on that later. The Jags, at 5-4, are now over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2007 season.

I still can’t help but laugh at gaga everyone was over the Jets after three weeks this year. Yes they were playing well, but they were still trotting out a rookie quarterback and we were only through 19% of the season. The Jets are 1-5 since with a win over Oakland, which barely counts. Mark Sanchez had five touchdowns and two interceptions in the first three games; he has five more touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the six games since. It was clear that the injury to Kris Jenkins was going to be huge as soon as it happened and it’s played out that way perhaps even more than predicted. The Jets could lose as many as five more games (at New England, vs. Carolina, vs. Atlanta, at Indy and vs. Cincy) while trips to Buffalo and Tampa Bay won’t be easy, either.

Statistically Speaking

After accumulating just 18 carries in two games back in weeks 4 and 5, Maurice Jones-Drew has blown up for 530 rushing yards on 94 carries (5.6/carry) with seven touchdowns in the subsequent four games. They Jags are 3-1 in that stretch and the other was a loss to Tennessee in which MJD got just eight carries. He managed 177 yards, but it’s ridiculous that he got so few carries.

Braylon Edwards had a key fumble today, but he did managed 79 yards on three catches giving him 271 yards on 16 catches since joining the Jets. As Roy Williams showed last year with the Cowboys, it’s not easy to change football teams midseason making Edwards’s solid production a legitimate accomplishment. He and Sanchez should be a very nice hookup for the next few seasons.

Jacksonville – 3rd downs: 7-13 (54%), TOP: 31:07, Sacks: 0
New York – 3rd downs: 7-13 (54%), TOP: 28:53, Sacks: 2

Up Next

Buffalo at Jacksonville, New York at New England

Cincinnati 18 at Pittsburgh 12
Billed as the game of the afternoon, this AFC North battle lived up to its hype as the Bengals stunned the Steelers and got the season sweep on the reigning Super Bowl Champions. It was a field goal fest with just one touchdown (and a special teams one at that) being scored all game. The Bengals defense really stepped up to stifle both the running and passing attacks of Pittsburgh. Cedric Benson left the game early with a hip injury leaving the Bengals short-handed and making their win that much more impressive. I’m not sure who was still doubting Cincinnati coming into today (or why they would be), but this game has to have eliminated all doubters. They grabbed season sweeps of both Pittsburgh and Baltimore making them a mortal lock for the division title. Bernard Scott was the star of the game with his 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a defensive tug-o-war that was exciting throughout despite the lack of offensive fireworks.

Few teams were riding as high as Pittsburgh coming into this week. They have looked excellent for the five weeks and especially the last two games against Minnesota and Denver. Rashard Mendenhall was locked down for the first time since becoming the full time starter as he managed just 36 yards on 13 carries (2.8/carry). Ben Roethlisberger had his worst game of the season going 20-for-40 for 174 yards (4.4/attempt) without a touchdown along with one interception. Hopefully this will curb the absolutely ludicrous “best QB in the league” talk that has been floated around a bit here and there. He is a very good quarterback and his career is turning out better than anyone would have guessed, but there is no way he is better than Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Drew Brees and Philip Rivers are probably better, too while a case can be made for Aaron Rodgers and yes, Brett Favre. Big Ben is definitely top 10, but not even close to #1.

Statistically Speaking

The Bengals swept the season series from the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time since 1998. That’s incredible. This has all of the makings of a special season. Teams could be fighting to be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks in the summer of 2010.

A couple of TD facts about Pittsburgh: this was the seventh straight game that they have allowed a return TD. Seventh! Also, though they are often associated with defense, this Pittsburgh offense holds their own week in and week out. In fact, Sunday was the first time since week 11 of last year (11-10 W vs. SD) that the offense was held touchdown-less.

Cincinnati – 3rd downs: 4-14 (29%), TOP: 29:08, Sacks: 4
Pittsburgh – 3rd downs: 3-15 (20%), TOP: 30:52, Sacks: 2

Up Next

Cincinnati at Oakland, Pittsburgh at Kansas City

Denver 17 at Washington 27
It’s easy to say in hindsight, but my cashed ticket on Washington will back up that I thought this was an easy one to call. The sky falling around the Broncos and they had to travel east to face a massively underachieving team, but still one with plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Throw in an injury to Kyle Orton, who had been having a great game, and you have a recipe for a third straight loss. Knowshon Moreno got back on track with 97 yards on 18 carries (5.4/carry) while Brandon Marshall had his second big game in a row, but it wasn’t enough. Chris Simms, in for Orton, struggled mightily going 3-for-13 for 13 yards (1.0/attempt!) with an interception. The Broncos essentially didn’t play offense in the second half which of course resulted in no points.

Meanwhile, Ladell Betts looked better than Clinton Portis had in almost any game before Sunday as he rushed for 114 yards on 26 carries (4.4/carry) and a huge second half touchdown that gave the Skins the lead for good. More importantly, the Skins offense was turnover-free on the afternoon. Defensively, their ends, Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter, made life hell for the Denver tackles. The two each notched a sack and a half while combining for five tackles for loss (Orakpo 3, Carter 2), 13 tackles in all (Carter 7, Orakpo 6) and six QB hits (Carter 4, Orakpo 2). The Skins played well enough to beat the Broncos with Orton, but his absence certainly made overcoming the three point halftime deficit much easier.

Statistically Speaking

Washington’s 27 points served as their highest total of the season and the first time they topped 17. In their previous two wins, they had scored 9 and 16, respectively.

Rookie running back Knowshon Moreno is on pace for 924 yards this season. That is solid for a first year player splitting carries, but he is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. His timeshare mate, Correll Buckhalter, is averaging 5.5/carry but has just 66 carries to Moreno’s 132. The team’s 4.2/carry average is the worst for the franchise since 2001 (3.9), Terrell Davis’s final season. From 2002-2008, they averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

Washington – 3rd downs: 8-16 (50%), TOP: 35:43, Sacks: 3
Denver – 3rd downs: 5-12 (42%), TOP: 24:17, Sacks: 3

Up Next

San Diego at Denver, Washington at Dallas

Atlanta 19 at Carolina 28
This is another one that will look like hindsight when I pump my chest, but I love Carolina in this game (You’ll have to trust that I’m not bragging with my back-patting on these past two games. If I opened my betting logs for public view, you would know that I have NOTHING to be bragging about. I have my weeks though). What made me like the Panthers was how well they played against New Orleans despite the loss and the big win against the Cardinals two weeks ago. Plus, playing at home in a divisional game is always nice, especially when there isn’t a massive talent disparity. Jake Delhomme is awful, which always makes betting on the Panthers a risky proposition, but I really like their two-headed monster at running back. And DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart did not let me down. They combined for 174 yards on 30 carries (5.8/carry) while Stewart incensed fantasy owners worldwide by stealing both rushing touchdowns leaving Williams empty-handed. Didn’t he learn about sharing in kindergarten? Speaking of touchdowns, Steve Smith found the end zone two times making his otherwise pedestrian four catch/34 yard showing more palatable. After averaging 88 catches for 1,288 yards the past four seasons, Smith is on pace for 68 and 910 this season.

Not much went right for Atlanta on Sunday. Michael Turner was off to a remarkable start with 111 yards on nine carries (12.3/carry) but went down with an injury early in the 2nd quarter and did not return. It’s being called a high ankle sprain preliminarily, but we will know more as the week progresses. It’s about the last thing the Falcons can afford as Matt Ryan hits a rough patch and Turner was positively on fire (317 yards in the two games prior to Sunday’s as well as a 7-game TD streak). Despite Ryan’s struggles, the defense has been holding the Falcons back the past month. They have allowed 37, 35 and 28 points in three of their last four games. The other was against Washington, who scored 17-which is high for the Skins. The run defense has been the Achilles heel as their 130.3 yards allowed/game is the most amongst teams with a winning record and ranked 26th in the league. No one seems interested in stepping up to get the two wildcard spots in the NFC, so Atlanta remains in the thick of the race, but without defensive improvements it won’t matter when Turner comes back for them.

Statistically Speaking

I talked earlier about Miami’s great backfield as both of their backs head towards 900+ yards, but Carolina’s is even better despite the fact that Stewart is pacing just short of the 900-yard mark. He’s on track for 828 while Williams is pacing toward 1,529 which would set another career high. Their 2,357-yard pace tops Miami’s 2,044 pace.

Tony Gonzalez was supposed to be a huge addition for the Falcons this past offseason giving Matt Ryan a second elite target to take pressure off of Roddy White. He has yet to reach 90 yards in any one game and he is on pace for 891 yards which would be his lowest yardage total since 2002.

Carolina – 3rd downs: 7-13 (54%), TOP: 28:09, Sacks: 0
Atlanta – 3rd downs: 6-14 (43%), TOP: 31:51, Sacks: 0

Up Next

Atlanta at New York Giants, Miami at Carolina

Tomorrow: the late afternoon games, plus the Sunday & Monday night games. Also, the Not So Secret Sauce Standing, Key Stat Correlation Win Totals, Awards, Playoff Predictions and College Prospects.

Sunday: 11.15.2009

2010 Projections Coming Out

For baseball junkies (such as myself), the season never really ends. After the regular season comes the postseason. After the postseason comes the Arizona Fall League. After the AFL comes the Hot Stove League which includes tons of player movement and all the offseason analysis and projections. That leads right in to Spring Training and then boom, we’re playing for real again!

Bill James usually has the first set of projections out with his yearly Handbook and then Fangraphs will incorporate them into their player profiles. We now have our second set out as Chone Smith has released his 2010 CHONE hitting projections found here. If I recall from last year, the CHONE system is ULTRA conservative with its projections. Almost no growth for anybody. Meanwhile, James takes a lot more chances with his numbers. All both of them really are is another data point. I wouldn’t trust either blindly, of course that’s true of any projection set even if you love the outlet that dispenses them.

The Player Profiles moving forward will now include both the James and CHONE projections along with my own. Well the hitting ones will, the pitching ones will only have James and my own as CHONE hasn’t finished his pitchers yet.

Sunday: 11.15.2009

Grant Desme at AFL Rising Stars Game

The hottest name going this fall was that of Oakland A’s prospect Grant Desme. Desme played three years of college split between San Diego State and Cal Poly. He did nothing of consequence the first two seasons hitting a whopping .280 (84-for-300) with nine home runs and 50 RBIs. You can hit .280 in the majors and make millions of dollars. Heck, even .280 in the minors will at least garner some attention if you’re the right age or below for the class you’re in. But .280 in college is utter trash. It’s like .280 in softball.

His final year of college got him drafted. He nearly doubled his power (from eight to 15 home runs in the same 195 at-bat sample), raised his average 118 points to .405 and struck out less while walking more (from 2.6 to 1.4 in K:BB rate). He was drafted in the second round (74th overall) by the A’s. He played a bit in short season that year, but then lost almost the entire 2008 season to injury after just two games. It was a combination of shoulder and wrist injuries that felled him. So basically 2009 served as the team’s first real look at their second round pick. Splitting time between A and A+, Desme had a solid season hitting .288/.365/.568 with 31 home runs, 89 RBIs and 40 stolen bases. But he was also 23 years old so he was a man amongst boys.

As I mentioned earlier, he’s now tearing up the AFL hitting .344/.438/.740 with 11 home runs and 27 RBIs. The question is where will he start 2010? Will he skip AA completely and go to AAA? For now, I would temper my expectations for Desme as all of his big time production has come in very favorable surroundings. I want to see how he performs when he isn’t in an extreme hitter’s league or when he isn’t the oldest of the bunch. In the meantime, I hope he keeps hitting home runs.

He is a quick breakdown of him swinging and missing badly at a pitch before bouncing back within the at-bat and getting a base hit.

Saturday: 11.14.2009

Chris Heisey at AFL Rising Stars Game

I didn’t know a lot about Chris Heisey when I reached Arizona a week ago. I had heard the name a bit before and knew he was something of a prospect for the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds outfield prospect I was always most interested in was Texas Longhorn Drew Stubbs. And since Heisey never turned up ahead of Stubbs on prospects lists, I assumed he wasn’t anything to write home about.

In fact, a scan of the preseason prospect lists for Cincinnati shows Heisey rated rather low, if at all:

Baseball Prospectus – unranked
Redlegs Baseball Blog – unranked (listed in the Notables)
John Sickels – 14th
Baseball-Intellect – 14th

Heisey’s biggest assets were his ability to hit for a solid average and a strong batting eye, the latter obviously helping the former. In 2008, he hit .291/.375/.447 in 515 at-bats acquired mostly in High-A with nine home runs and 32 stolen bases. He walked 60 times while striking out just 84. I guess the lack of power and the fact that at 23, he might’ve been a bit old for High-A were what kept him from drawing much attention on the prospect lists.

In 2009, he obliterated AA with a .347/.426/.572 line including 13 home runs, 13 stolen bases and even 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (34 each) in 314 at-bats. That earned him a promotion to AAA where he fell off of his AA pace, but still hit .278/.323/.465 in 271 at-bats. The power held up though as he had 27 extra-base hits (nine of which were home runs). That just about equals the pace he had in AA (33 XBH in 314 at-bats), he just had a few more doubles than home runs after the move up.

His 2009 season coupled with his hot AFL performance will likely move him up on Reds prospects lists. Not to mention the graduation of other players who were on the lists this year. I only saw him for two games so I’m not going to make sweeping judgments, but he did hit a pair of bombs when I saw him and I really like his approach at the plate. He’s been projected as a 4th outfielder in most of what I’ve read, but I think he can be an everyday big leaguer with his all-around tools.

Slow-motion look at his All Star game home run:

Friday: 11.13.2009

Dustin Richardson at AFL Rising Stars Game

Headed into the weekend, I want to start sharing the AFL videos I’ve promised more of since posting the one of Tanner Scheppers. Today, let’s look at Boston’s Dustin Richardson. Richardson is a 25 year old (turns 26 in early January) lefty with a very live arm. As is often the case with huge arms in the minors, he also struggles with his control. He was a reliever when he first got to the Red Sox organization in A-Short Season before moving to the rotation for all of 2007 and 2008. Despite a better than 9.0 K rate, he was destroyed once he left the comfort of A-ball, posting a 6.33 ERA in 22 starts at AA-Portland.

This facilitated a move to the bullpen in 2009 where he pitched 74 innings, 63 of which came at AA-Portland. With Portland, he struck out 11.4 per nine innings while walking 5.7. He held a 2.70 ERA, but his WHIP was 1.30 because of all of the walks. He got a quick stint in AAA-Pawtucket where he continued to blow batters away (13.5 K/9) and cut his walk rate down to 1.7 BB/9. Of course, a 10-inning stint tells us next to nothing so I wouldn’t put a lot stock in it. Walks have been the culprit in his 10-inning stint in the Arizona Fall League, as well. He has 14 strikeouts against seven walks resulting in a 6.52 ERA and 1.97 WHIP.

Check out his interesting delivery: