Tuesday, December 15, 2009

MLB Offseason Thoughts- Dec. 15

Well the MLB offseason saw it's first rash of big moves come this week with the trading of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. While fans try to figure out who got the best of these deals, I'll rationalize some of the moves made since the end of the World Series.

Seattle: (Adding Cliff Lee through a trade and signing Chone Figgins leaves me to believe Seattle has improved the most so far in this offeseason. Figgins will take over 3rd base as Adrian Beltre searches for his next contract somewhere else. This is a great move as it will allow the Mariners to bat Ichiro then Figgins at the top of the order. That's a dangerous, high average, speed driven top of the lineup and could spell trouble for opposing teams if these two keep hitting the way they've hit throughout their careers. Cliff Lee will join Felix Hernandez at the top of the rotation, giving Seattle (in a pitcher's park nonetheless) a chance to really take this division over. They lose Beltre and Bedard to free agency but replace them with 2 better players.)

Boston: (To no one's suprise, the Red Sox threw some money around at a guy who could be the ace of many staffs in the league. Instead, he'll fit right in behind Beckett and Lester. Think about how much money the Red Sox have spent on pitching in the past 5 years? Think about giving Dice-K his big deal and 50 mil negotiating fee as well. This remains the team with the best chance of dethroning the Yankees even if they didn't show up in the playoffs. They also added Marco Scutaro and Jeremy Hermida with a chance they could add Mike Cameron too.)

NY Yankees: (They did what they do best. Mortage part of their future crop of talent for Major League talent. Trading Coke and Kennedy to get Granderson was a good move but Curtis is going to have some big shoes to live up to. He's going to need to hit better than he did last year in the new bandbox park. His HR's should improve and he'll probably hit 1st or 2nd in the lineup I'd imagine. They also got Andy Pettitte back for another year. The Yanks are not done and will make more big moves.)

Baltimore: (Had to comment on them because this is my team and the one I follow on a day to day basis. Added Armando Garbino from Minnesota off waivers to a bullpen that needs some young arms. Garbino made some starts down the stretch for the Twins but he'll be lucky to make this team in my opinion. He has no chance of starting. Swapped Chris Ray for Kevin Millwood. Texas went out and gave some money to Rich Harden to replace Millwood, though. The O's will only pay Millwood $9 million for one year. I hate giving up on a guy like Ray who has closing experience and has done it well. One of the O's needs is Closer so this is interesting to trade away a guy who could've closed games for you in 2010. Millwood is a veteran coming off his best year in awhile. Grant it, he was in Texas for the past few years but his numbers don't impress much. 200+ innings, a 4 ERA and an improved K/9 rate would be nice & is expected from him this season. The O's have also dabbled in talks with Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban defector with a lightning arm. His arm is one of a kind and he needs to be signed immediately! The Red Sox and Yankees are hot on his trail as well so this move needs to be made to not only improve our team but hurt Boston & New York.)

Philadelphia: (Added Roy Halladay while giving up Cliff Lee makes no sense to some. But I believe Halladay is ready to bust out on the scene this season while finally playing for a contender. He's been a sort of hidden gem for Toronto but now he'll get his due as the best pitcher in baseball. Gave up some great prospects but they believe Hamels & Halladay at the top of their rotation can carry them to yet another World Series. Replace Pedro Feliz with Placido Polanco. If Polanco can return to being a real threat at the plate, the NL's best lineup just got that much better.)

Other interesting moves:
-Bobby Abreu returns to the Angels (good move for the both sides)
-Pedro Feliz goes to Houston (doesn't matter, Houston won't contend)
-White Sox have traded for Juan Pierre & Mark Teahen (two good role players). They also signed JJ Putz.
-Brewers trade JJ Hardy to Minnesota for Carlos Gomez (two very frustrating fantasy players, Gomez will take over for Cameron and is better suited to play in the National League....Hardy is overrated but could find some success for the Twins). Brewers also threw a lot of money to Randy Wolf for some reason. This could be a move we look back on in the next year or two as a big mistake.
-D-Backs got Edwin Jackson in the Granderson deal (Could thrive in the NL but will pitch half of his games in a hitter's park. He will be in a division with many pitcher's parks. Look for Jackson to have a big year with Webb & Haren at the top of that rotation.)
-Brad Penny signs with St. Louis (He'll be fine in St. Louis but I really don't have much faith in him staying healthy anymore.)
-Tigers got a haul back for Granderson. Daniel Schlereth & Max Scherzer both have great young, power arms to add to the Tigers staff/bullpen.
-Billy Wagner signs with Atlanta to become their closer. Wagner knows the division and made the right move signing with an NL team. This ends the Gonzalez/Soriano closer carousel.
-The A's got Jake Fox (a great hitter from the Cubs) while getting rid of their biggest piece from the Matt Holliday deal (Brett Wallace). They also added Michael Taylor, a minor league OF from Philly who put up big numbers. I really like what Billy Beane's doing in Oakland. He's added a lot of talent through trades in the past 2 years while the A's have struggled. They will be back this year I have to believe but the Mariners & Rangers have also gotten better. The Angels lose Figgins & Lackey, leaving me to believe this will be a wide open race next year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Everything You Need to Know About the Last 3 Weeks of the NFL Season (NFC)

Here's my synopsis of what to expect and what's ahead for the NFC contenders. This conference was much easier to do because there were a lot less contenders for the final playoff spots than the AFC.

NFC West: (It all comes down to 1 game....for Arizona. A win in San Francisco tomorrow clinches their 2nd straight NFC West crown and locks up a 1st round home game. The Cards come in at 8-4 while the Niners are 5-7. With the next 2 games against Detroit & St. Louis, Arizona will find a way to win this division if they don't do it on MNF. The Cards have an intriguing final game at home against Green Bay. Why is this so intriguing? There is a chance of these two teams playing in Week 17 then returning to the desert to play a Wild Card Playoff game. We'll get to Green Bay in a little bit but there in a good position to get the #5 seed. For Arizona, they need to keep winning. They need to finish above the NFC East winner (Philly?) and get the #3 seed. There will be a big difference between playing Green Bay or whoever comes out as the #6 seed (Dallas/NYG/Atlanta/SF?). If the Cardinals can somehow catch Minnesota, they would have the tiebreaker for a higher seed. This is unlikely but something to keep in mind if Arizona wins on Monday. They should have no problems with Det and STL, leaving them at 11-4 hypothetically. The Niners are 5-7 and need to win Monday to keep hope alive. The kicker is that the Niners have Philly, Detroit & St. Louis left. A win Monday gets them to 6 wins with 2 more easy ones vs Det & Stl. That leaves a huge Week 15 game in Philly for both teams. The Niners key games are the next two weeks but if they can get to 7-7, they WILL finish 9-7. That may not be enough to get in but right now it puts them in the conversation. I say they lose Monday and Week 15 and will finish 7-9. Seattle fell to 5-8 Sunday and will be watching from home. St. Louis may be the worst team in football with only 1 win and little offense in most of their games. They are my favorite to get the #1 pick.)

NFC South: (New Orleans has a lot to play for the next 3 weeks as well as the 16-0 potential. They need to hold off Minnesota (which can be done by going 2-1 down the stretch). The Saints play Dallas (HUGE game), Tampa Bay & Carolina. Lock them in as the NFC's #1 seed. Atlanta sits at 6-7 with 3 sneaky yet very winnable games remaining. They play NY Jets, Buffalo & Tampa Bay. Their 5-6 conference record doesn't help and neither does their head to head losses to NYG & Dallas, who just happen to be their main rivals for the last playoff spot. Atlanta has to get to 9-7 but that won't be enough if Dallas wins one more game. The Falcons hopes are all but done due to the tiebreakers they will lose in most scenerios. Carolina sits at an ugly 5-8 with no Jake Delhomme and no 1st round pick in 2010. Good luck with that. Tampa Bay has 1 win and won't win another one. It could come down to tiebreakers to determine whether they or St. Louis drafts first.)

NFC North: (Minnesota is in a quite a tough predicament right now as they most likely won't catch New Orleans for the #1 seed yet probably is safe for the #2 seed and a 1st round bye. They have Carolina, Chicago & NY Giants left.....so 13 wins and the #2 seed looks good as they will likely rest old man Favre in Week 17. Green Bay is on a hot streak, ending the week at 9-4 & in a good place at the #5 seed. The Packers play Pittsburgh, Seattle & Arizona still so they could drop a couple of games. That may leave them as the #6 seed if they finish 10-6 but I see 2 more wins & a #5 seed date. Chicago is out at 5-8....with a long offseason of questions coming for Jay Cutler. True that they missed Brian Urlacher but Cutler is the league leader in INT's and failed time & again to come up with game winning drives throughout the season. Detroit has 2 wins with only slim hope to get to 3 wins. A top 5 draft pick will help Detroit as they can get a stud defensive player to anchor their line.)

NFC East: (The only interesting division race remaining in the NFC is here. Philly is 9-4, Dallas 8-5, NY Giants 7-6. While this would seem to indicate that Philly is in a good spot, they do have to finish the job. San Francisco, Denver & Dallas remain for the Eagles who could be in trouble by dropping that last game to Dallas. That would give Dallas the head to head tiebreaker and the potential division title if they finish with the same record. Unfortunately for Dallas, they have New Orleans this week followed by a trip to Washington. If Dallas can split these games and get to 9 wins, a wild card berth is a possibility or even a division title if Philly loses their next two. The Giants are playing for the wild card at this point after losing the head to head tiebreaker to Philly. NYG has Washington, Carolina & Minnesota left. With the chance of the Vikings starters not playing much in Week 17, the Giants have to feel that 10-6 is a possibility. That may not win the division but they do own the head to head tiebreaker with Dallas so all they'd have to do is finish with the same record. This is a likely outcome in my mind, giving Philly the division & NYG the #6 seed. Washington has 4 wins and is an incredible disapointment in my opinion. I predicted a 9 win season for them in August. They had the chance to win a few games but lost close games to bad teams early in the season, dooming them to mediocrity.)

Everything You Need to Know About the Last 3 Weeks of the NFL Season (AFC)

Well we've made it through 14 weeks almost (MNF game still left) and it's been a doozy of a season. 2 teams at 13-0, looking for the Lombardi and history. Former powers struggling (Pats, Steelers, etc.) although we shouldn't be too surprised because this is a league of quick turnover in the contenders. My 2 Super Bowl predicted teams (Bal and GB) have seen their share of problems but both seem to be on their way to playoffs. We've seen in the past few years that it's a crapshoot once you get into the "tournament". Here' s a quick synopsis of each AFC team (through my eyes of course) and how I see them coming down the stretch and into January:

AFC East: (Amidst the rumors of Randy Moss "quitting" on the field at times in the past month, I can't see the Pats not winning this division. They currently have a 1 game lead on NYJ and Miami with games against Buffalo, Jacksonville and Houston remaining. They'll win at least 2 of them to get to 10-6. They have gone from a favorite to a darkhorse in the suddenly thin AFC. Most of the conference will finish right around .500 (7-9 to 9-7) and that screams obvious parody. The Jets have an interesting finishing kick with Atlanta, Indianapolis & Cincinnati to close out the year. 3 teams with something to prove and play for equals no playoffs for NYJ. Miami also plays 3 contenders (Tennessee, Houston & Pittsburgh). There's no reason to believe that the Dolphins can win out so I'd say 9-7 is their best bet at this point. Buffalo has played a little better of late but is getting nothing from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Marshawn Lynch isn't even starting anymore either and this team has major rebuild job written on it. So I'll put NE in the playoffs while the other 3 dream of next September.

AFC North: (It's down to two teams for the division title. One Bengals win or One Ravens Loss will give Cincinnati it's 2nd playoff game in the decade. That shouldn't be a problem but one has to glance at the Ravens schedule and wonder if they can win out? Chicago, Pittsburgh & Oakland remain for the Ravens, leaving a chance for them to remarkably finish 10-6. The Bengals do need to watch though as San Diego, Kansas City & NY Jets are all possible problems. If SD beats Cincy next week, the Chargers will clinch the #2 seed in the AFC in all likelihood. Cincinnati gets at least 1 more win and wins this division but will be in a battle for the #3 seed with New England. Baltimore wins out and gets to 10-6, grabbing a wild card in the process. If the Ravens can get Ed Reed back sooner rather than later, who wants to play this team in the playoffs? Pittsburgh needs to win out to get to 9-7 and join the group that will likely finish the year at that record. They get Green Bay, Baltimore & Miami to finish, leading me to believe .500 is the best they can do. Cleveland is fighting for a Top-5 pick and have no playoff aspirations.

AFC West: (San Diego is at 10 wins with Denver two games back. The Chargers should win the division and have a chance to get a bye with a win vs Cincy next week. No one wants to play them right now having won 8 in a row. Phillip Rivers is playing as well as any other QB in the league and they will be a force in January. They also hold the secret kryptonite to a perfect Colts season. Denver is in a good spot at 8 wins, sitting in 5th in the AFC by itself. Since I don't see any 6 or 7 win team other than Baltimore with a realistic shot at 10 wins, a 2-1 finish would propel the Broncos to the playoffs. Luckily, Denver has Oakland, Philly and KC left.....so 10 wins is a probablilty. They'll end up as the #6 seed in my scenerio though as they tie the Ravens at 10-6 as the 2 wild cards.....with the Ravens having the tiebreaker due to a head to head victory. Kansas City and Oakland are integral parts of the 2010 NFL Draft order.....as they both have to play Cleveland still. Just kidding.....but don't be surprised to see Cleveland win a few games to end this season and Kansas City move up the draft board.

AFC South: (Indianapolis has what it takes to go 16-0. Will they play out the string? This affects playoff wannabes Jacksonville and NY Jets in the next few weeks. Either way, Indianapolis will be the #1 seed in the AFC and could be looking at the Patriots in the Divisional Playoff Round. The other 3 "pretenders" will play meanigful games only because the AFC is so even this year. Jacksonville is 7-6 with Houston and Tennessee at 6-7. All 3 would need to win out to have any chance...with Jacksonville in much better shape as they can get to 10 wins. 9 wins may not even be enough and without looking at the head to heads, I can tell you that Houston and Tennessee are in trouble when it comes to conference record (another tiebreaker). The Jaguars have Indy and New England the next 2 weeks. That should just about put the final nails in their chances with a finale in Cleveland. If Jacksonville can beat either Indy or NE, they could finish 9-7 and have a chance to get in that way. Houston has St. Louis, Miami and New England to finish while Tennessee has Miami, San Diego (short week at home) & Seattle left. I'd say the Titans have a better chance to win out, given the schedule and the way their playing right now. Does 9-7 get them in? Not in my scenerio but as I outlined, we could see a few teams tied at 9-7 at the end of the year...with it all coming down to the fun NFL Tiebreakers.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Week 14 NFL Picks

Here are my NFL picks for Week 14. On the season I am 98-96 on the season after Thursday.

Steelers -9.5 (LOSS)
Saints -9.5 (Tough road game at a desperate ATL but I see NO 34, ATL 20)
Packers -3.5 (Coming off MNF could be a let down game; GB 31, Chi 14)
Colts -7.5 (Broncos never beat the Colts.....IND 38, Den 20)
Chiefs -0.5 (Ugly ballgame, don't watch if you can avoid....KC 20, Buf 17)
Jets -3.5 (Ugly, low scoring game with Clemens and Freeman at QB....NYJ 17, TB 10)
Dolphins +2.5 (Big game in AFC picture....Dolphs are a bit better; Mia 23, Jac 14)
Ravens -13.5 (I'm not too comfortable with this one....but we'll say Bal 28, Det 10)
Seahawks +6.5 (Back and forth game comes down to final minutes.....Hou 23, Sea 20)
Bengals +6.5 (Two good defenses...give me the points.....Min 27, Cin 23)
Panthers +13.5 (Pats don't lose at home.......NE 31, Car 19)
Titans -12.5 (Rout city USA tomorrow......Ten 34, Stl 7)
Redskins -1.5 (Rugged game, over 60 combined carries.......Was 17, Oak 14)
Chargers +3.5 (SD is the ultimate sleeper as well as GB to make SB....SD 37, Dal 20)
Eagles +0.5 (Huge game in NFC East.......Eagles win late.......Phi 23, Nyg 17)
Cards -3.5 (Arizona races to 2nd straight NFC West title.....AZ 27, SF 20)