Archive for ‘Game Recaps’

Thursday: 04.12.2012

Josh Johnson Thru Two Starts

Josh Johnson labored a bit through his Opening Day start last Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals allowing three runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out four.  He threw mostly fastballs (74% of his 91 pitches) while his velocity continued its downward trend sitting at 92.7 MPH (95 in ’09; 94.9 in ’10; 93.8 in ’11), though he did max out at 95.4 MPH.  Was it rust as he returns from injury or is something amiss?  Johnson excited fantasy players with his Spring Training numbers that included a 2.42 ERA and 24 strikeouts against 10 walks in 22 innings of work.  At the same time, he did allow 21 hits.

I don’t put much stock into Spring Training numbers at all.  There are some instances where they matter a bit.  If a pitcher is returning from injury, I’m checking to make sure he is getting his allotted work in without incident.  I don’t even really care if he is getting knocked around, but if they say Johan Santana is supposed to go four innings or X-amount of pitches today, I want to see that fulfilled.  The other instance is in a job battle.  It doesn’t matter if marginal player X hit .904/.998/1.964 in his 20-something at-bats as that’s not at all indicative of his future performance, but it matters that he excelled if that is securing him a job for at least the near future.

Johnson was getting in his allotted work which was encouraging, but I didn’t change his ranking based on the numbers we saw.  I don’t know who the 24 Ks came against nor do I know if the 21 hits were tons of line drives or bloops and bleeders.  After seeing what can only be classified as a mediocre outing in last Wednesday’s opener, I looked forward to seeing Johnson face off against Roy Halladay Wednesday night in Philly for their second starts of the year.  Here are my observations from the outing:

  • 40 of his 80 pitches were fastballs (50%); down from his first start when he threw 74% heaters
  • His fastball averaged 92.4 MPH; down slightly from the 92.7 MPH mark in his first start
  • He threw almost only fastballs & changeups (68 of 80 pitches; 85%)
  • He only threw breaking balls 14% of the time and didn’t even throw a curveball until the 3rd
  • He threw just 6 sliders and 6 curveballs
  • He struggled to get ahead of batters going just 9-for-21 in first pitch strikes
  • That no doubt contributed to his struggles Wednesday including 11 H allowed & just 1 K
  • For his career, Johnson has a 7.4 K/BB after 0-1 counts; just 1.2 K/BB after 1-0 counts
  • For his career, Johnson allows a .220 AVG & .558 OPS after 0-1; .245 AVG & .739 OPS after 1-0
  • He failed to put away batters w/just the 1 K despite 9 batters (of 23) facing counts w/2 strikes
  • For his career, Johnson has struck out 43% of the batters who are faced w/2 strikes during a PA

This clearly wasn’t Johnson’s best outing.  The fact that it came near the beginning of the season tends to give it more weight in the eyes of some since it is 50% of his entire sample so far.  That is always dangerous for obvious reasons.  Adding it all up, he has two starts that aren’t exactly Josh Johnson-esque and given his injury history, it does raise the antennae a bit.  Right now the velocity is down and he isn’t getting the swing-throughs (just 1 on Wednesday) we’re used to seeing.  The lack of breaking pitches thrown could be an indication that he is being timid with his breaking stuff in an effort to avoid getting hurt again.  In the previous four years, he threw sliders more than a quarter of the time so he needs it to be successful.

For now, you can only stay the course with Johnson unless a full value trade comes along which is unlikely in most leagues.  I look forward to his upcoming starts to see how (if?) he progresses back toward the Johnson we are used to seeing.  I will post another update before the month is out.  He faces the Cubs at home, Nationals on the road and Diamondbacks at home in his next three starts.

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.

Thursday: 08.13.2009

Boxscore Blast 8/12/09

A daily look around the majors…

A.J. Burnett was lucky to yield just three runs in his six innings of work after allowing 12 base runners. This was due in large part to Toronto’s 1-for-8 performance with runners in scoring position. Burnett struck out seven and escaped with a no-decision as the game ended up going 11.

Robinson Cano has been overshadowed in that deep and explosive Yankee offense, but he had two more hits in five at-bats on Wednesday afternoon and actually dropped his 7-day average from .467 to .452. Regardless, the point is that he is on fire right now and has been almost all season. He is on pace for a career-high 26 home runs and needs just three to break his previous high of 19.

Randy Ruiz, who I mentioned in yesterday’s Blast, hit another home run as he does his best to keep Travis Snider in the minors until September.

Ricky Romero was alright on Wednesday allowing three runs in six innings, but he has definitely hit the rookie wall with a 4.96 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in eight starts dating back to July 6th. This is why I always recommend selling high on rookie arms in non-keeper leagues. I couldn’t trade Rick Porcello quickly enough in the leagues where I had him. Yes, there are exceptions, but as a rule rookies will have a down period spanning 7 to 10 starts and perhaps more if they were doing it with smoke and mirrors. The league makes their adjustments and it is up to the rookie to adjust back.

Mark Ellis had an interesting line Wednesday going 1-for-1 with an RBI and a walk. He didn’t come out early or anything, but he did have a sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly which accounted for his other two at-bats. Definitely different, but not as weird as Bobby Abreu’s line on May 10th against Kansas City: 0-0-0-0. Abreu walked four times that day.

Aubrey Huff was one of biggest surprises in 2008 with his best season since 2004. Anyone betting on another 32 home run season was setting themselves up for failure, but Huff is pacing for a pretty solid season again despite the 50-point dip in batting average and drop in power. He could end the season with 20 home runs and 100 RBIs, which is definitely valuable especially since Huff still went late in most leagues as many realized last year wasn’t sustainable for the 32-year old.

Think Minnesota is regretting their trade with Tampa Bay much these days? Jason Bartlett has emerged as an all around shortstop with a career year at the dish while Matt Garza has been great in both of his seasons with the Rays. Delmon Young, however, sucks. I’m on record in multiple outlets saying he won’t suck forever, but to this point he definitely has. Brendan Harris, the other part going back to Minnesota, has been a complete non-factor as well. Back to Bartlett though, he went 4-for-5 on Wednesday raising his average to .343 and keeping himself right in thick of the AL batting title race. He’s hit .300 before (.309 in 2006) and had a solid .286 last year, but this year has been off the charts.

After a 2-for-3 outing today that including three RBIs and his 9th stolen base of the season, Los Angeles Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick is now hitting .273 which on its own isn’t particularly exciting, especially for Kendrick. But when you look and realize that he’s hitting .373 since the All-Star Break, it’s clear that Kendrick is as hot as his teammates. In fact of the first seven hitters in Wednesday’s lineup, Kendrick’s .273 average is lowest by 24 points behind Mike Napoli’s .297. Vladimir Guerrero is at .299 and the other four (Chone Figgins, Erick Aybar, Bobby Abreu and Kendry Morales) are between .303 and .310.

Is Carlos Pena’s .216 average palatable when stacked against his 31 home runs? I did an article this preseason about batting average anchors and showed that their negative impact is often overblown, but that was with guys hitting .240 – .250 in a full season. Pena is on pace for 563 at-bats so that disgusting .216 average is a killer. On a regular team hitting about .280, a full season Pena’s batting average will take that team down to .275. His power impact will be dependent on the league, but it likely isn’t enough to counterbalance the average hit. If he holds pace and goes 44 HR/110 RBI then the combination impact of the HR and RBI will likely mask the average, but unfortunately the average is so awful this year that it’s basically a zero-sum game with Pena.

I realize it was against Cleveland, but Tommy Hunter was dazzling yet again on Wednesday. He went 7 and 2/3rds shutout innings allowing six hits while striking out five and walking nobody. He is now toting a 2.26 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in nine starts. However, I am here to let you know that it’s being done with a lot of smoke and a few mirrors so I would tread VERY cautiously here. He has a 5.6 K/9 rate and 1.8 K:BB rate portending future trouble. He qualifies as a rookie after just 11 innings last year so my previous comment from earlier holds true: sell high on rookies!

Has there been a better starting pitcher than Josh Beckett since June 20th? He has started 10 times since then and posted a 7-1 record with a 1.88 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. That translates to a 6.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio! There has been so much talk about Roy Halladay’s dominance, Edwin Jackson’s emergence and Zack Greinke’s minute ERA that Beckett somehow gets lost in the shuffle despite the fact that he’s leading all of baseball in wins with 14. The latest outing came against the Tigers on Wednesday as he went seven strong allowing two runs on three hits and one walk while striking out six.

Two of the three hits against Beckett were solo home runs by Carlos Guillen and Marcus Thames. That is literally the only good thing for the Tigers in Wednesday’s game. For the record, Guillen had the third hit, too. The Tigers lineup is Miguel Cabrera-less and they look like the Red Sox did this past weekend against the Yankees.

Mike Lowell & Jason Bay stayed hot and each hit their third home runs of the series. Lowell shouldn’t even be playing except the helmet throwing pansy, Kevin Youkilis, was ejected last night after getting his ass handed to him by Rick Porcello and then suspended for five games starting on Wednesday.

Francisco Liriano allowed a first inning home run to Willie Bloomquist and had two options: immediately walk off the field to the clubhouse and cry himself to sleep or man up and lock the Royals down for the rest of the game. He chose the latter and ended up going seven innings allowing just the Bloomquist home run and two other hits while striking out eight and walk just one. But it was an inferior opponent and his first dominant start in over a month so I wouldn’t get too excited by the outing.

Every Twins starter except Nick Punto had a hit against the Royals. Joe Crede had three and everyone else had just the one.

I formally apologize to any Felix Hernandez owners out there. He’s my ace in my AL Only league and that staff is imploding so it is not surprising that I would finally get a great outing only to have it turn into a no-decision. King Felix threw seven shutout innings allowing six hits, striking out 10 and walking four. His ERA is down to 2.72 on the season. The M’s won a 1-0 thriller in 14 on a Ken Griffey Jr. base hit down the right field line that scored Adrian Beltre.

Speaking of Beltre, he went 3-for-6 on Wednesday raising his average to .390 since returning from injury. He hasn’t really done anything besides that with 0 HR or RBIs, but it’s definitely nice that he’s contributing something upon his return.

After three straight abysmal starts following his perfect game, Mark Buehrle desperately needed his brilliant outing from Wednesday. He went eight shutout innings putting seven men on and striking out three.

I guess you could make a case that Oliver Perez didn’t totally suck in his outing on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks in which he went five-plus innings allowing just one run on six hits and SIX WALKS (!) while striking out seven en route to a no decision. Notice I said didn’t TOTALLY suck. The one run allowed and seven Ks kept it from total suckage.

Gary Sheffield started his first game since August 4th (he pinch hit on Monday and Tuesday) and went 2-for-3 with a run scored.

Here’s a familiar headline: Jon Garland had another solid outing wasted into a no decision. Since June 19th, Garland has allowed more than three earned runs twice in 11 starts and has a 2-4 record to show for it. In that time period, he has lowered his ERA from 5.45 to 4.28.

The Dodgers needed a ninth inning run off of Tim Lincecum to force their league-high 16th extra inning game (tied with Toronto). They ended up losing on a Juan Uribe walk off shot, but they put together a valiant effort considering they were using Jeff Weaver against baseball’s best pitcher.

After a 2-for-5 game, Freddy Sanchez is up to a .324 average since being traded to the Giants. He is a great #2 hitter and if Eugenio Velez is going to keep hitting well in front of him then Pablo Sandoval and Bengie Molina will bat a lot with runners on. This team doesn’t need a ton of offense to be formidable with that dominant staff.

By the way, the aforementioned Lincecum actually lowered his strikeout rate despite fanning seven in eight and two-thirds innings. That’s what happens when you are toting around a 10.9 K/9 rate. The two runs he allowed did manage to drop his ERA a tick from 2.20 to 2.19. He has to be perfect to heavily impact his stats these days, that’s when you know you’re the best.

Welcome back to Atlanta, Adam LaRoche! In his second tour of duty with the Braves, LaRoche is pounding the ball out of the gate. After two home runs on Wednesday, he is up to .371 in 35 at-bats with three homers and seven RBIs. He also had his 7th walk since rejoining the team pushing his on-base percentage up to .488.

Is Martin Prado developing into a keeper in deeper NL Only leagues? Probably not, but he is definitely an unsung hero of the 2009 season that will be on a lot of winning teams as a $1 player. He hit his 8th home run and 24th double on Wednesday pushing his average up to .313 on the season. He hit .320 in 228 at-bats last year so the average looks legitimate, but he doesn’t offer enough anywhere else to merit keeping even as a triple-eligible infielder with a salary almost guaranteed to be below $5 unless he was a waiver pick up that has a set price of $10 like a lot of leagues do.

Adam Dunn knocked two singles in four trips raising his average to .281 on the season. Who would have thought that Washington would be the place that Dunn would get on a career-high pace in batting average and RBIs?? He is also set to keep his 40+ HRs streak intact needing just 10 more. I’ve always been a huge Dunn fan so I love seeing him contribute positively in batting average while delivering his usually awesome power production.

Hunter Pence didn’t appreciate me talking about his lack of RBIs yesterday so he went out and hits two home runs and drove in six. A pair of 3-run homers is always a nice way to jumpstart your numbers back on track. That said, he will need a hot 7-10 stretch to get on a pace that reaches last year’s total of 83.

It has got to be infuriating to own Ricky Nolasco this year. He had an awful start to the season posting a 9.07 ERA in his first nine starts through May. That earned him a quick two week sojourn to AAA. Upon his return on June 7th, Nolasco was the pitcher we saw dominate for the second half of last year posting a 1.91 ERA in five June starts. He stayed relatively strong in July aside from one hiccup, but still managed to shave .75 off of his ERA. He now down from 9.07 to 5.24 entering August. He started the month swimmingly with a pair of seven outings allowing one and two runs respectively before just getting obliterated on Wednesday by the Astros. He allowed 10 runs in 3.3 innings on eight hits and two walks once again tanking his ERA from 4.86 to 5.44. I don’t understand he can be alternately so great and so awful.

I still don’t think Carlos Lee gets enough run as an elite level player. He is about as bankable of a player as there is having delivered 100+ RBIs in five of six seasons, the sixth of which was a 99 RBI performance. After three RBIs on Wednesday, he is on pace to reach 104 in 2009.

The return of Pedro Martinez was nothing special as he went five innings allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out five. He pitched with a lead from the outset and the Phillies were up 12-1 by the 4th inning. Because of his name, he’s probably been picked up by somebody in your league, but even if not I would take a wait-&-see approach and let him pitch another start or two under his belt.

Jimmy Rollins
stayed absurdly with a 2-for-4, 3 RBI effort on Wednesday. I covered Rollins’ emergence since the All-Star Break yesterday, but another huge day allowed him to squeeze into the column again today. Can he threepeat?

Raul Ibanez doesn’t get talked about as much anymore as he has cooled a bit since his unconscious first two months posting an average in the .250s in June, July and nearly midway through August. He hit his first home run since July 26th, his 27th of the season. He was on such a torrid pace early in the season that even with the drought, he is still set to reach 43 by season’s end.

It hasn’t been very pleasant season for Jeff Samardzija thus far and his debut in a starting role didn’t help matters much. He came into the game with a 6.29 ERA and left with a 7.81 after getting torched for seven runs in 3+ innings of work. The 24 year old swingman is taking his lumps the second time through the league after a solid 28 innings of work out of the bullpen in 2008.

Shane Victorino got the two hard parts of a cycle, a triple and a home run, but the biggest headline of his night was when some worthless piece of crap idiot dumped beer on him during a play. I could punch out a 2,000-word tirade on how pathetically stupid this person is, but this isn’t the space for that. It’s just absurd, though. Buying a ticket isn’t a license to be a scumbag idiot.

Adrian Gonzalez
stayed hot with another 2-for-5 outing, but he actually lowered his August batting average to .406. He only has 1 HR this month, but he has raised his average 13 points to .264.

Will Venable had a pair of RBIs on Wednesday giving him 12 for the month. He has been insane this month adding 4 home runs, a .351 average and 1.132 OPS with the RBIs. If he’s available in your league, you might want to ride out the hot streak for as long as it will go.

Perhaps I can just get a cut-&-paste paragraph about Matt Holliday ready on standby. This guy is insane. He had another three hits last night as he does his best to replicate Manny Ramirez’s explosion upon being traded last year. He is a hit away from .500 with the Cardinals going 34-for-70 (.486) with a jaw-dropping 1.319 OPS to match.

Is it me or does it feel like Chris Carpenter has quietly put together a dominant season? He notched his 12th win of the season on Wednesday going seven strong allowing two runs on eight hits while striking out 10 and walking nobody. His ERA is down to 2.27 trailing only Tim Lincecum in all of baseball. Yet it seems only Lincecum, Matt Cain and Dan Haren have been widely discussed in the NL Cy Young picture. Lincecum is the clear front runner, but Carpenter is #2 for me.

Albert Pujols hit his 38th home run. I don’t want to see him walked every at-bat, but the fact that he continues to get pitches blows my mind.

The most interesting thing on the Reds end of last night’s game was Chris Dickerson’s 3 hits… whoop-de-do!!

You can’t stop Ubaldo Jimenez, you can only hope to contain him. OK, that’s not entirely true. He’s having a very good season, but nothing off the charts. He threw eight shutout innings allowing three hits while striking out six and walking four en route to his 10th win of the season.

Carlos Gonzalez has been white-hot this month and hit his 4th home run of the season on Wednesday. He has a .448/.485/.793 line for the month with two home runs and five RBIs. He is still just 23 and was unfairly written after falling on his face during his first month after being called up in June which totaled a whopping 62 at-bats.

Troy Tulowitzki had two more hits giving him a .366 average for August. He’s been insanely hot for the last three months posting better than an 1.000 OPS in each month. This is as good an example as any to show that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Tulowitzki was hitting .226 after May; he’s up to .278 now.

Tuesday: 08.19.2008

Tigers Win!! Tigers Win!!!

After over 5 hours at the ballpark, I am beat. After threats of a rainout all day, the game went off without a hitch. We got there as soon as the gates opened and snagged a boatload of autographs! There was a huge play in the game where Chris Davis banged a double off the wall. Magglio Ordonez grabbed the ball and tossed a relay to Placido Polanco who promptly got it to Brandon Inge for the tag out at home of Gerald Laird. The best part of that play was that Inge tossed the ball to my sister on the way back to dugout. She has since given it to me.

I probably won’t post something in depth until Wednesday since we’re going to the game again tomorrow, but this picture sums up how amazing my night was:

Sunday: 04.29.2007

Wonderful Walk-Off!

The Tigers entered game three with Minnesota trying to avoid a sweep. The problem was they were about to face Johan Santana, so a sweep was all but locked up for the Twins. I guess no one told Magglio Ordonez that Santana is baseball’s best pitcher. Or if they did, he just doesn’t care. With his effort today, Ordonez has a .429 career average with four home runs and 14 runs batted in against the lefty. His 2-run homer helped the Tigers jump out to a lead, but it was Brandon Inge‘s walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth that finished off the Twins today. The homer, his fourth, can’t mask just how much Inge is struggling as his 3-for-3 performance today raised his average to .156. Chew on that for a second… 3-for-3 raised it to ONE FIFTY SIX!!!!

There is no in between with this Tigers lineup right now. They are either raking or getting raked over the coals. The OPS of the starters in today’s lineup:

I.Rodriguez – .779
P.Polanco – .860
G.Sheffield – .619
M.Ordonez – .951
C.Guillen – .908
C.Monroe – .561
M.Thames – .690
B.Inge – .462
C.Granderson – .875

Wow, some of these numbers would barely stand up as slugging percentages let alone as OPS totals. The first month is nearly in the books, so while we don’t need to pound the panic button, we might need to start making our way over to it. If I see Craig Monroe do the “swing through a pitch so hard that you end up with only one hand on the bat and do the helicopter twirl afterwards” one more time, I’m going to scream. You can’t fix everything with a home run, Craig. I am now a little worried that Inge’s newfound patient approach is something of a detriment as he seems to be taking pitches for the sake of taking them and letting some great ones go to waste. Of the three struggling the most, I’m (for obvious reasons) most confident in Sheffield getting back on track. In fact, with hits in five of his last six, he’s come from .119 to .193. Still plenty of work to be done, but I think he’s finding his stroke. He’s also sporting a remarkable .350 on-base percentage despite the early season slump.

I love avoid the sweep and beating Santana, but I’m definitely missed at the series loss to the Twins. I thought without Francisco Liriano and very suspect starters behind Santana, they wouldn’t be such a threat. Though early, they have fought through that loss as well as the loss of Brad Radke to retirement. Carlos Silva has righted himself, for now and Ramon Ortiz has the beginnings of a career-year on his hands. I’m still leary of trusting him from a fantasy standpoint because he has been so awful in recent seasons.

The win today assured the Tigers with a better than .500 record for the first month of the season and they can end at 14-11 with a win over Baltimore tomorrow. Jeremy Bonderman faces Daniel Cabrera.

Friday: 04.13.2007

Game 9: Binging on Tomo Ohka

See? There was nothing to worry about with Brandon Inge. I don’t know that anyone was legitimately worried and thinking his season was toast, but I do feel that some unnecessary hoopla surrounded his sluggish start. He is now 3 for his last 8 with a home run (his first of the season) and three runs batted in. The Tigers are now on a 3-game winning streak, an AL best and second only to, who else, the St. Louis Cardinals and their 4-game winning streak.

My least favorite thing of game nine was Curtis Granderson back to his old ways with three strikeouts. That is five strikeouts in his last nine at-bats for a total of 12 in 36 at-bats for the season. He is striking out 33% of the time already this year! One of my biggest hopes coming into the 2007 season was that Granderson would significantly cut back on a disgustingly high 174 strikeouts from 2006. In the early going, it does not look like he will make any significant cutbacks on his alarmingly high totals.

I was working during the game, so I only saw bits and pieces, but Mike Maroth‘s final line looks solid. If he gets back on track to where he was headed a year ago, that will definitely ease the loss of Kenny Rogers and the necessary usage of Chad Durbin. I’m not trying to throw Durbin under the bus after one start, but I’m also going to make sure I have tempered expectations about what he can do in Rogers’ absence.

Opening Day redux tomorrow with Jeremy Bonderman facing Roy Halladay again. Gametime is 6:07 because Canadians are weird! 😀

Friday: 04.13.2007

Games 7 & 8: Grinding Out Some Wins

It wasn’t pretty two nights ago, but it was last evening and the Tigers leave Baltimore with the series win. Brian Roberts threw away the game last night and the Tigers pounced (pun intended) on the opportunity. Tonight, Adam Loewen matched Justin Verlander nearly pitch for pitch allowing eight hits between the two of them in 12 innings of work. The regulation nine innings ended at 0-0 as the game went into 12 innings before Craig Monroe cracked a game-winning grand slam!

My Brandon Inge prediction failed last night because he didn’t play, but he did come through tonight with his first hit of the season! He’s now 1-for-25 for a .040 batting average. Inge’s struggles are only a part of the team-wide struggles at the plate as they still weren’t able to get right in Baltimore. The team was 26-for-109 (.239) scoring just nine runs in the three games. That said, it was enough to get the job done and they leave with a series victory and the AL Central lead.

Listening to ESPN’s podcast called Baseball Today with Alan Schwarz and a bevy of guests from the ESPN landscape, a few of the guys are looking for the Blue Jays to pick up the series victory (meaning they will take three of the four, no ties) this weekend. I see them as having one legitimate starter in Roy Halladay and then a bunch of mush. If the bats finally wake up, then we should grab the series despite being away from Comerica.

Thursday: 04.5.2007

Game 3: Postponed

After a wild, windy win yesterday, the Tigers will have an unscheduled off day thanks to the weather. The game will be made up on September 10th, which is funny because playing it then runs the same weather risk they encountered today. I only caught the condensed version of yesterday’s game and there was plenty to like from an offensive standpoint. There is going to be anytime you put up 10 runs, but the lineup left 31 runners stranded including eight from Brandon Inge. As a team, the total was 12.

My favorite stat from yesterday: 9 walks including three from Magglio Ordonez. Three of the walks did come against Victor Zambrano, who could find away to walk someone that swung at every pitch. It doesn’t matter, though, nine walks against eight strikeouts works for me regardless of who it comes against. Curtis Granderson had a great day with two hits including a grand slam, five RBIs, a walk and a stolen base. He did strikeout twice, but he gets pass with that kind of stat line.

I’m really getting worried about Fernando Rodney, who imploded once again allowing two runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning. I like how the bullpen shapes up to shorten the game, but it is not going to work until Rodney gets his act together.

The team heads to KC for three starting tomorrow 7:10 Central.

The best news of yesterday came when the MLB announced that they struck a deal with iNDemand to keep the MLB Extra Innings on digital cable. I was content to use especially with their premium feed coming through very nicely, but now that I have cable (I didn’t last year), I want to be able to watch games on TV.