Monthly Archives: August 2011

It’s Game Week!

Camp Randall; Madison, WI, Sept. 2007

It’s game week. I’ll be at Camp Randall this Thursday for the kickoff of the season. These are some of the things I’m most pumped to find out about the 2011 season:

1. How will Russell Wilson look in the Badger offense? Will his speed threat lead to dynamite play-action game? Can he be as efficient as Scott Tolzien this season? How often will he run? Which receiver will be his favorite target?

2. How will the defense, specifically the defensive line, look without J.J. Watt? Most people are saying the UW D-line is very deep, but which lineman will step up? Will Louis Nzegwu finally turn into a legit pass rusher? Nzegwu was pretty unspectacular last season, and that was when J.J. Watt was constantly drawing double teams on the other side of the line.

3. Can Chris Borland and Mike Taylor stay on the field this season. Both are very talented line backers, but they’ve had their share of injuries. The Badgers don’t have a deep stable at LB, and would have a hard time replacing either in the lineup (along with Kevin Claxton, the third starting LB).

4. How will the receiving corp be? Can Nick Toon stay healthy? Who behind Toon and Abbrederis will see significant playing time? Doe, Duckworth, Frederick, Garner (if he gets healthy)?

5. How dominant will the new three headed monster at running back be (Montee Ball, James White, Melvin Gordon)? The word out of camp is the Ball and White both look improved from last season and that Gordon is a beast that can’t be kept of the field. With Ball and White improved, and the addition of Gordon and Wilson to the team, can the running game actual be better in 2011?

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Revisiting My Preseason MLB Predictions

Before the season started, I posted my predictions for the 2011 MLB season on my tumblr page. Now that its almost Septembter, I want to take a look and see just how awful my preseason predictions look now. (Original picks in italics.)

NL Central

1 Cincinnati Reds

2 Milwaukee Brewers

3 St. Louis Cardinals

4 Chicago Cubs

5 Houston Astros

6 Pittsburgh Pirates

Uh, I don’t think the Reds are going to win the division…

The Brewers have used an extreme hot streak since the all-star break to pull 10.5 games ahead the pack in the NL Central. The Reds have had a very disappointing season, they currently sit 13 games behind the Brewers and are only one game over .500. I regret not picking the Astros last, they’re currently 13 games worse than the 5th place Cubs.

Re-Do Pick: Brewers

NL East

1 Philadelphia Phillies

 2 Atlanta Braves

3 Florida Marlins

4 New York Mets

5 Washington Nationals

The top two teams in this division were easy to pick. The Phillies have used their epic rotation (but who expected Vance Worley, not Roy Oswalt, to be the 4th ace?) to pull six games ahead of the Braves. The Braves have a comfortable wild card lead, and they should, barring an embarrassing Sept. swoon, be joining the Phillies in the playoffs.

Re-Do Pick: Sticking with the Phillies; Braves for the WC

NL West

1 Colorado Rockies

2 San Francisco Giants

3 Los Angeles Dodgers

4 San Diego Padres

5 Arizona Diamondbacks

Yeah, I really screwed up on this one… The D-Backs have a four game lead over the Giants, and a 11 game lead over the Rockies.

Re-Do Pick: D-Backs

NL Awards

NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki, COL

Tulo is having a great season (28 HRs, .377 OBP, .397 wOBA, 6.4 WAR) but his team’s place in the standings most likely means TuLo has a very small chance of winning MVP, or even cracking the top five.

The Brewers’ success probably means the award will be given to either Ryan Braun (25 HRs, .406 OBP, .438 wOBA, 6.1 WAR) or Prince Fielder (29 HRs, .409 OBP, .399 wOBA, 4.1 WAR), but if the D-Backs hold on for the NL West crown, Justin Upton (25 HRs, .371 OBP, .392 wOBA, 6.1 WAR) may have a chance at the honor.

Matt Kemp (31 HRs, .390 OBP, .414 wOBA, 6.4 WAR) and Joey Votto (26 HRs, .440 OBP, .425 wOBA, 6.6 WAR) are also strong candidates on sub-par teams.

Re-Do Ballot:

1 Ryan Braun, MIL

2. Justin Upton, ARZ

3. Matt Kemp, LAD

4. Joey Votto, CIN

5. Prince Fielder, MIL

NL Cy Young: Josh Johnson, FLA

It was silly to pick against Roy Halladay (2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 2.12 FIP, 8.64 K/9), the guy should come into every season as the Cy favorite. Johnson was great, maybe on a path to win the Cy, until he was shut down due to injury. Cliff Lee (2.71 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 2.71 FIP, 9.24 K/9) and Clayton Kershaw (2.51 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 2.51 FIP, 9.82 K/9) join Halladay as the top 3 pitchers in the NL to date.

Re-Do Ballot:

1. Roy Halladay, PHI

2. Clayton Kershaw, LAD

3. Cliff Lee, PHI

4. Tim Lincecum, SF (2.46 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 2.87 FIP, 9.5o K/9)

5. Cole Hamels, PHI (2.62 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 2.65 FIP, 8.11 K/9)

NL Rookie of the Year: Brandon Belt, SF

Belt hasn’t gotten the playing time that he deserves or that was expected of him before the season. For some reason, Aubrey Huff has continued to stay in the lineup despite his lackluster season. Craig Kimbrel has been just outstanding as the Braves closer. He’s Carlos Marmol with control, scary stuff.

Re-Do Ballot:

1. Craig Kimbrel, ATL

2. Freddie Freeman, ATL (18 HRs, .354 OBP, .356 wOBA, 1.5 WAR)

3. Vance Worley, PHI (2.65 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 3.15 FIP, 7.60 K/9)

AL Central

1 Chicago White Sox

2 Minnesota Twins

3 Detroit Tigers

4 Kansas City Royals

5 Cleveland Indians

The White Sox probably would be leading this division if it weren’t for their two high-paid, low production busts (Adam Dunn and Alex Rios). Instead, the Tigers have pulled to a comfortable six game lead. The Indians aren’t going to finish last, but they’ve basically been playing like a last place team since they started out 30-15 (15 games under. 500 since).

Re-Do Pick: Tigers

AL East

1 Boston Red Sox

2 New York Yankees

3 Toronto Blue Jays

4 Tampa Bay Rays

5 Baltimore Orioles

Both the Sox and Yanks will make the playoffs, it’s just a matter of who wins the division and who wins the WC. Still, who ever wins the division will hold a big advantage heading into the playoffs. The division winner will have home field in the first round, likely against the Tigers, while the WC winner will not have home field, and will likely play the Rangers (who knocked the Yanks out in the ALCS last season). Also, if the Sox and Yanks were to meet in the ALCS, the division winner would have homefield.

Re-Do Pick: Sticking with the Red Sox for the division, Yanks for the WC

AL West

1 Texas Rangers

2 Los Angeles Angels

3 Oakland A’s

4 Seattle Mariners

I expected the Rangers to run away with this division, but the Angels have been much stronger than I expected. I still think the Rangers will hold on and win the division, but the Angels, led by their rotation’s big three (Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana), will push this race to the end of the season. It might be the only pennant race worth watching as the season wears on.

Re-Do Pick: Rangers

AL Awards

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez, BOS

Gonzalez (23 HRs, .406 OBP, .410 wOBA, 5.8 WAR) might still be the favorite to win AL MVP, but he’s probably not even the most deserving on his team. Jacoby Ellsbury ( 23 HRs, .369 OBP, .391 wOBA, 7.4 WAR) and Dustin Pedroia (17 HRs, .398 OBP, .385 wOBA, 7.2 WAR) both have higher WAR values this season.

Jose Bautista (37 HRs, . 452 OBP, .455 wOBA, 7.8 WAR) should win the award, but because his team is in 4th place in the best division in baseball, he might be unfairly punished.

Curtis Granderson’s (38 HRs, .376 OBP, .414 wOBA, 6.8 WAR) pinstripes and high home run and RBI (yes, people still highly value the misleading stat…) totals could earn him the MVP. If the Yankees win the AL East, the media will likely tab “The Grandy Man” AL MVP.

Re-Do Ballot:

1. Jose Bautista, TOR

2. Curtis Granderson, NYY

3. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS

4. Dustin Pedroia, BOS

5. Adrian Gonzalez, BOS

AL Cy Young: C.C. Sabathia, NYY

Sabathia (2.99 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 2.81 FIP, 8.39 K/9) has had a great season, but he’s behind Justin Verlander (2.38 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 2.85 FIP, 9.10 K/9) and Jared Weaver (2.28 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 2.98 FIP, 7.51 K/9) in the AL Cy Young race at this point.

Verlander is the favorite at this point, and he’s even getting some MVP buzz. Verlander is going to win a lot of games, he already has 20, and the media is still transfixed by that mostly useless stat.

Re-Do Ballot:

1. Justin Verlander, DET

2. Jered Weaver, LAA

3. C.C. Sabathia, NYY

4. Dan Haren, LAA (3.19 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 2.93 FIP, 7.35 K/9)

5. James Shields, TB (2.96 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 3.36 FIP, 10 CG, 4 SOs)

AL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson, TB

Hellickson has had a solid rookie season (3.01 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 4.16 FIP, 6.15 K/9) for the Rays. But he has competition from Seattle’s Michael Pineda (3.71 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 3.41 FIP, 9.18 K/9) and Anaheim’s Mark Trumbo (23 HRs, .294 OBP, .312 wOBA, 2.0 WAR) and Jordan Walden (2.70 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 2.39 FIP, 9.90 K/9)

Re-Do Ballot:

1. Michael Pineda, SEA

2. Jeremy Hellickson, TB

3. Mark Trumbo, LAA

4. Jordan Walden, LAA

PLAYOFFS

NLDS

Phillies over Giants

Rockies over Reds

Re-Do Picks:

Braves over Brewers

Phillies over D-Backs

ALDS

Rangers over Yankees

Red Sox over White Sox

Re-Do Picks:

Yankees over Rangers

Red Sox over Tigers

NLCS

Phillies over Rockies

Phillies over Braves

ALCS

Rangers over Red Sox

Red Sox over Yankees

World Series

Phillies over Rangers

Phillies over Red Sox

I believe that that if Cole Hamels comes back strong off his DL stint and the Phillies rotation as a whole stays healthy, Philadelphia will be extremely hard to knock off in the playoffs. At this point, I can’t pick anybody else but the Phillies and their rotation of aces to win the 2011 World Series.

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Glenbard North Runs Overs Oak Park

Oak Park’s Brennan Van Spankeren attempts to sack Glenbard QB Brian Murphy. Photo taken by Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media.

Glenbard North took advantage of a deep running game to defeat Oak Park 40-20 in Carol Stream Friday.

The Panthers started the scoring as senior quarterback Brian Murphy connected with wide receiver Solomon Oquendo on a 37-yard touchdown pass, putting the Panthers up 6-0 late in the first quarter.

On the team’s next drive, senior running back Phil Jackson got the Panthers to the 3-yard line with a 67-yard run. Jackson then gave the Panthers a 12-0 lead on the ensuing play with a three-yard touchdown run up the middle. Jackson finished the game with 11 carries for 109 yards and one touchdown.

Backup running back Mario Rodriguez scored three touchdowns for the Panthers. Rodriguez returned a punt 52 yards for a score in the second quarter, putting the Panthers up 19-0. Rodriguez later added second-half touchdown runs of 9 and 7 yards.

Murphy ended the first half scoring for the Panthers with a 33-yard touchdown run on an option keeper. The Panthers led the Huskies 26-0 at halftime.

“It all starts with the line, they did really good tonight. They exceeded their expectations,” said Jackson. “Then we’ve got out three running backs, me, Justin [Jackson] and Mario. I think we should be pretty good this season.”

Even though his team had a 26-0 halftime lead, Panthers head coach Ryan Wilkens thought his team played better in the second half.

“In the second half I thought we did a better job moving the ball the way we would like to. They shut us down a little bit in the first half, the second half we came out and played a little bit better,” said Wilkens.

Oak Park quarterback John Phelan bounced back from a forgettable first half (1-8 for 20 yards) with a touchdown scoring drive to start the second half. Phalen ended the drive when he hit a wide open Ryan Nelson for a 54 yard touchdown.

The Huskies got second half touchdowns on an 80-yard fumble recovery from cornerback Kenneth Cheatham and a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dain Mrozek to wide receiver Jamal Baggett.

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times. It appears on their prep sports website, yourseason.com

Scoring Plays:

FIRST QUARTER

[2:37] GN Solomon Oqunedo 37 yard pass from Brian Murphy (PAT blocked) – 6-0 GN

SECOND QUARTER

[11:13] GN Phil Jackson 3 yard run (2-point conversion failed) – 12-0 GN

[9:29] GN Mario Rodriguez 52 yard punt return (PAT good) – 19-0 GN

[1:09] GN Brian Murphy 33 yard run (PAT good) – 26-0 GN

THIRD QUARTER

[9:34] OPRF Ryan Nelson 54 yard pass from John Phelan (PAT good) – 26-7 GN

[5:14] GN Mario Rodriguez 9 yard run (PAT good) – 33-7 GN

FOURTH QUARTER

[11:06] OPRF Kenneth Cheatham 80 yard fumble recovery (PAT good) – 33-14 GN

[7:48] GN Marion Rodriguez 7 yard run (PAT good) – 40-14 GN

[2:00] OPRF Jamal Baggett 29 yard pass from Dain Mrozek (PAT no good) 40-20 GN

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8-1 Photo – Babe Ruth Knocked Out

Babe Ruth after being knocked unconscious from running into a wall on July 5, 1924. This gem comes from the Library of Congress.

I’ve been on a baseball stat kick lately, so of course I took another look at Babe Ruth’s baseball-reference page. Just insane. You can’t even compile a .800 slugging percentage or 1.300 OPS in a video game season. Ruth did it multiple times in the DEAD BALL ERA.

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