Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Battle: LA

In the land of the Hollywood Hills, five-star hotels, high-end boutiques, and trendy nightclubs, one of the most recognizable institutions has filed for bankruptcy: the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Frank McCourt has now successfully run one of the most famed franchises in sports to the ground. The saddest part is, Major League Baseball should have and could have prevented it all from happening...seven years ago. Bud Selig, a former owner, allowed McCourt to buy the Dodgers with money that he did not have. Traditionally, potential owners need to have 60% of the price of a franchise available in cash. McCourt? He had 10%. MLB allowed McCourt, a real estate mogul in Boston, to buy the Dodgers when his only revenue stream came from an extremely volatile market. I'm not a business analyst by any means, but that does not sound like a stable ownership group. It is this same backwards thinking in the MLB front office that will not allow Marc Cuban to own a baseball team, which is the biggest shame of all. Cuban would make any franchise he buys relevant TOMORROW. Instead, Bud Selig will get someone from his good-ole-boys club to own a team, and continue baseball's slide into obscurity.

Boston Red Sox fans should be breathing a sigh of relief today because McCourt was in the running to buy the fabled franchise, but could not come up with enough cash. Go figure.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

To Trade or Not to Trade: Pitchers Edition

Previously I previewed the hitters trade market. Now, it's the pitchers turn.

  1. Zack Greinke, SP MIL: I'm sure that 4.77 ERA has you questioning his injury and his ability to maintain his Cy Young success of 2009, but almost every other statistic is on pace for him to have a career year. His nearly 12k/9 inning is unheard of for him and his walks are significantly down, which has lowered is season WHIP to 1.16. He has the chance to be scary good down the stretch for a team that will contend for the NL central championship.
  2. Chris Carpenter, SP STL: Yes, I am telling you to go out and get a starting pitcher that has only one more win than you or me. Yes, I am telling you to take a guy who has a 4.47 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. Why? Because in the last month, Chris Carpenter has been pitching closer to his career standards of a 3.75 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, and even though he has not recorded a win, he will record many with those numbers. Buy while he is still low.
  3. Roy Oswalt, SP PHI: Oswalt has been a second half pitcher for most of his career, and I am willing to bet that this year will be no different. Philadelphia is way too good for him to not get at least 8 more wins this season, possibly 10. Considering that he only has 4 now, this would be the time to grab him. Don't expect huge strikeout numbers anymore, though.
  4. Joakim Soria, RP KC: If you need saves, Soria has regained his closer role in Kansas City, and should keep it the rest of the year. He struggled early this season, but has appeared to have turned his season around. Another manager may view him as risky, so take a stab at getting him now.
  5. Madison Bumgarner, SP SF: If you are in a league that counts losses, this one might backfire, but Bumgarner is too good and in too good of a ballpark to only have three wins. He won't take too much to get and you can count on him to perform well in AT&T Park in San Francisco. He could be one hell of a "throw in" if you're trying to snag someone else too.
  6. Ricky Nolasco, SP FLA: Sabermetrically speaking, Nolasco has been extremely unlucky with a BABIP hovering around .387 all year. That is just hard to maintain through an entire season. He's struggling right now, but should bounce back like the rest of the Marlins under new coach Jack McKeon.
  7. John Danks, SP CHW: Danks had a miserable start this year, but has pitched well of late, going at least 7 innings and earning the victory in all three decisions. He will never be a high strikeout guy, but could be a solid pitcher in the other four standard fantasy baseball categories. Once again, a guy you can definitely buy low on or possibly pick up off the waiver wire.
  8. Matt Latos, SP SD: Like Bumgarner, the ballpark Latos plays in is too kind to pitchers to allow Latos to be this bad for much longer. His strikeout rate is still good and he will make the necessary adjustments to lower that ERA. He may not get a ton of wins, but he should be solid in the other categories, and wins are impossible to predict anyway.
  9. Brandon Morrow, SP TOR: Morrow has been quite the conundrum ever since his days in Seattle. One thing that remains constant is that he strikes guys out. Another example of a guy that you may not have to give a lot of for, but may get a whole lot in return. If he harnesses 75% of his talent, he will be an effective pitcher in this game.
  10. Max Scherzer, SP DET: His wins and strikeouts are elite so far, but his ERA and WHIP are woeful. I bet that he stops walking everyone soon and lowers the latter two numbers, along with losing a few strikeouts to groundouts, but overall he could end up as a top 20 pitcher at the end of the year.


  1. Anibal Sanchez, SP FLA: He has been unbelievable this year. He's actually living up to his "cannibal" nickname this year by eating up almost every batter he faces. However, he traditionally has cooled off in the second halves of seasons, and this year appears to be no different. Plus, you could probably get a more reliable starter who may be struggling right now, but will end up giving you the numbers that Sanchez has gotten you so far, but will not continue to get.
  2. Michael Pineida, SP SEA: The ONLY reason why he is on this list is because Seattle has hinted that Pineida will be on a 160 innings pitched limit. Make no mistake about it, Pineida is the real deal, but not for all of this year. See if another owner does not know about this innings cap.
  3. Josh Tomlin, SP CLE: I tried to warn everyone about this in an earlier article, but Tomlin has already started to bite the dust, and the time to get any value out of Tomlin may have past, but try to get whatever you can now for him.
  4. Justin Masterson, SP CLE: Although he has not dropped off as drastically as his teammate Josh Tomlin, Masterson will eventually tail off. He has never pitched as many innings as he is going to pitch this season and he will tire. Get as much as you can for him now before you can't get anything.
  5. Jordan Zimmerman, SP WAS: See #2.
  6. Josh Collmenter, SP/RP, ARZ: Collmenter has been a great story this year, but it will not last. I own him in every league I'm in and am, subsequently, trying to trade him in every league I am in. I'll let you know what I got for him, if anything at all. Arizona's ballpark is not kind to pitchers so unload Collmenter if you can.
  7. James Shields, SP TB: Remember when Shields led the American League in losses? I do, it was last year. He may have learned something from last year, but not as much as his 2.5 ERA decrease from last year. Expect a regression after the all-star break, but get the most you can from him now. It may look bad now, but it will pay off when you win the league and win the cash!
  8. Francisco Liriano, SP MIN: He is a player that I file under the "someone else's problem" department. The only consistent aspect of Liriano's game is his inconsistency. Trade him to someone else and let them deal with the headache of whether or not to start him.
  9. Erik Bedard, SP SEA: A great comeback story, but he is too injury prone and he will not keep up his current strikeout rate. Also, unless he gets traded near the deadline, he will likely miss out on his maximum win potential playing for a Seattle team that was only able to support last year's Cy Young award winner to 12 wins.
  10. Ryan Vogelsong, SP SF: Unfortunately, Vogelsong will wake up and realize that he is still Ryan Vogelsong and come back to earth. Some people think that he is this year's Colby Lewis, but Vogelsong is not striking out nearly as many guys as Lewis did last year. The pixie dust will soon ware off, so try to get some value out of him now in the trade market.
One final disclaimer: pay attention to who is rumored to be traded near the deadline. If someone, lets say Joakim Soria, is rumored to be traded to, lets say, the Yankees, then you need to bail on him as soon as you can because Soria will not close in New York as long as Mariano Rivera is still there. Additionally, see who is next in line to get saves just in case the #1 closer gets traded. For example, if Craig Kimbrel in Atlanta is traded (he won't be), then Johnny Venters will close and you MUST be active on the waiver wire. If you're in an auction league, that would be the time to use that money you saved up. HAPPY HUNTING!!

To Trade or Not to Trade

Here are the top ten hittters (in no order) that could put your struggling team back into contention and the top ten guys who are at their highest trade value and should be traded. DISCLAIMER: This list does not take into account keeper values. This is only for yearly leagues. There will be another articles for teams who may not be in contention this year and need to look ahead to next year in keeper leagues.

  1. Albert Pujols, 1b STL: I know this seems obvious but now is the time to get a superstar for the price of a hot dog. If you're on the fringe of the playoffs in head-to-head leagues or if you're a few points back in rotisserie leagues, this should be priority number one.
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2b BOS: After a slow start, it looks like the Laser Show has come to play hitting .380 in the past ten days. The weather isn't the only thing getting warmer in June.
  3. Carl Crawford, OF BOS: Another Red Sox slow starter who was recovering nicely heading into June, but the now DL-ed speedster could be a guy who another owner has given up on this year. Don't make that same mistake.
  4. Dan Uggla, 2b ATL: He can't be any worse. If you're struggling for power, this could be a cheap place to get it at a premium
  5. Chase Utley, 2b PHI: Looks like Utley is finally getting healthy after recording multiple hits in four straight and in five of his last nine games played. Unfortunately, Utley owners may have already taken notice that he is close to being back.
  6. B.J. Upton, OF TB: Don't lose faith in Upton's talents. He has 19 stolen bases already and nothing else that is too spectacular. While you'll probably never see him with a .330 average, he can still provide a good power/speed combo. Definitely worth taking a flyer out on him.
  7. Hanley Ramirez, SS FLA: Another player who can not look any worse. Newly appointed manager Jack McKeon may be old, but he gets the most out of his players, and Ramirez will be no exception. El Nino has already been benched for being late to a team meeting. If Ramirez can get his head screwed on straight, he will show his top 5 overall value in the second half of the season.
  8. Nelson Cruz, OF TEX: Yes, there is a huge injury risk here, but the power/speed combo is worth the risk. Throw in the bandbox of a ballpark and Cruz can be wreaking havoc on opposing pitchers in no time.
  9. Evan Longoria, 3b TB: If an owner is getting frustrated with Longoria's .230 average, see if he's willing to give up on him for some streaking young players. The stats you will get from the talent-deprived position of 3b will propel you over the top.
  10. Colby Rasmus, OF STL: With Albert Pujols out, someone has to help Matt Holliday carry the load, and Rasmus could be that guy. It shouldn't take too much to get Rasmus and he could pay high dividends with power and speed.
  1. Eric Hosmer, 1b KC: Hosmer may be the real deal, but pitchers will make the adjustments to him faster than he can adjust to the pitchers, and he is approaching his second time through the American League. Expect to see some regression, so trade now while you still can.
  2. Paul Konerko, 1b CHW: Every year Konerko starts out hot and cools off in the second half (or when there's any pressure on him). Especially at a deep position like 1b, see if you can trade him for an upgrade at a more premium position like 3b.
  3. Jhonny Peralta, SS CLE: Cleveland has been a great story this year, but the other shoe is going to drop soon, and so will their postseason hopes this season. But hey, at least LeBron lost, right?
  4. Michael Morse, 1b/OF WAS: If Morse still had his catcher eligibility then he would not be here, but he can not keep up his current pace and there are many better options at both positions he is eligible.
  5. Melky Cabrera, OF KC: If he was really this good, then the Yankees would not have let him go. How do I know this? Because the Yankees have been the most responsible with their money. There was a study done revealing that the Yankees have paid the least amount of money per win in the past decade. GM Brian Cashman isn't so stupid now, is he?
  6. Adam Lind, DH/1b TOR: Lind is showing the promise of two years ago, but he can not keep up his current power and average numbers. If you need RBI don't trade him, but if you have the right offer for stats that you need, trade him.
  7. J.J. Hardy, SS BAL: What a comeback story for Hardy, but the AL east is a terrible division to be in if you are not on the Yankees or the Red Sox. Hardy will not finish the year with a batting average above .290 and has never had any exceptional power numbers to speak of.
  8. Matt Joyce, OF TB: See #7.
  9. Chase Headley, 3b SD: Headley has always had the potential to do what he is doing, but Petco Park is death to hitters. Just ask Adrian Gonzalez how he likes the confines of his new home, Fenway Park.
  10. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF BOS: Boston and Ellsbury have to be over the moon with his performance so far, but he has to come down at least a little bit. If you need stolen bases, keep him, but otherwise you can get a whole lot for him, and possibly at premium positions.
The top ten pitchers to trade and trade for will be up soon.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

MLB Restructure, Not Realignment

Major League Baseball has opened up its sometimes crotchety old mind to reforming itself via realignment. Unfortunately, 30 teams do not split into two even conferences so the purists would be up-in-arms about the fact that there would be inter-league play everyday. I praise the progressive minds that leaked this information to the press so that the court of public opinion will provide leverage against the old-timers who run this already antiquated league. This is what my two conferences would look like (top four, five, or six from each conference make the playoffs):

American Conference:
  1. New York Yankees
  2. New York Mets
  3. Boston Red Sox
  4. Philadelphia Phillies
  5. Baltimore Orioles
  6. Washington Nationals
  7. Toronto Blue Jays
  8. Forlida Marlins
  9. Atlanta Braves
  10. Pittsburgh Pirates
  11. Cleveland Indians
  12. Detroit Lions
  13. Cincinnati Reds
  14. Milwaukee Brewers
National Conference

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Chicago White Sox
  3. Minnesota Twins
  4. St. Louis Cardinals
  5. Houston Astros
  6. Texas Rangers
  7. San Francisco Giants
  8. Los Angeles Dodgers
  9. Oakland A's
  10. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim via California
  11. San Diego Padres
  12. Colorado Rockies
  13. Arizona Diamondbacks
  14. Seattle Mariners
You probably noticed that these conferences are split east and west, but what you may not have noticed is that two teams are missing. Upon first glance, Dick Vitale and his 10 friends noticed that their devil-ish Rays are not on the list. This is because the Tampa Bay experiment has failed. That ballpark is grotesque and serves as a second home venue to Boston and New York fans. The team is a AAAA minor league team that struck lightning in a bottle to compete the last few years. Kansas City was also on the chopping block. The Royals haven't been competitive in two decades and the waterfall at their ballpark has run its course. It is unfortunate that their superior farm systems and scouting departments will have to move elsewhere, but it will make the game better by making every team better.

In addition to contracting two teams, I would also try to make the financial playing field more level by instituting a hard salary cap/minimum AND/OR sharing local TV revenues. In this economy, winning is everything for sports franchises because fans do not have as much discretionary income to spend on overpriced parking, food, and tickets. If everyone team has a similar payroll or TV revenue stream, then they have no one but themselves to blame for having a bad season. In the case of shared TV revenue, the commissioner's office should create a "compliance" division that makes sure that teams are using 100% of shared revenue towards baseball activities such as payroll or stadium renovations. The biggest crime of the current revenue sharing program is that there are "welfare teams" who appear to have zero contention of making the playoffs and pocket a percentage of the money given to them by the teams that are trying to win. Baseball needs to eliminate the stigma attached to its game that the same six teams are in contention every year. I know that the same teams haven't won the world series every year, but parody is not the first word that comes to mind when Major League Baseball is brought up in conversation and that needs to be addressed. Now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

DaShonte Riley Follows Rob Murphy Home

Syracuse University basketball took two body blows in the last month when assistant coach Rob Murphy and 7-foot center DaShonte Riley departed for Eastern Michigan University. This will also be the last time that either of those two names get mentioned again, for they have relegated themselves to college basketball obscurity. For Murphy, he had put in his 7 years as an assistant to Jim Boeheim and wanted to take a head coaching job in his native Detroit. For the rehabbing Riley, he will have to sit out this upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules. This will mean two consecutive years without playing competitive basketball (he injured his knee last year and did not play).

As for the impact this will have on Syracuse Orange basketball, Riley and Murphy's departure puts more pressure on the big-man incumbents Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita. For Melo, he has to survive his court date for a driving incident earlier this year. If Billy Edelin, Gerry McNamara, and Eric Devendorf were given multiple chances by the Syracuse court system, then Melo will get the same. Additionally, newcomer Rakeem Christmas will have to provide Rick Jackson-esque defense on the back line of the Syracuse zone.

Overall, the two departures don't hurt initially, but if there are injuries sustained throughout the 2011-2012 fight, the body blows may add up to a knockout of the SU basketball season.

Fun with Numbers: Boston Bruins are the Champs Edition

My "backed by the strength of aluminum" prediction of the Boston Bruins winning last night came to fruition. Yes, my own horn is tooting, but that's for a completely different reason. Last night, on my Facebook, I stated that Boston is the new Titletown, USA (which ESPN is regurgitating incessantly) because it has won all four major sports championships in 7 years, shattering the previous record of a 21-year span. Toot, toot. Anyway, here are some fun numbers and records dedicated to the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.

  • Tim Thomas "The Blank Engine" is the oldest Conn Smythe Trophy winner at age 37.
  • ...He also faced the most shots in a single postseason (849).
  • ...And had the most saves in a single postseason (798).
  • ...And allowed the fewest goals in a seven game series (8). To put that in perspective, Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo allowed the same amount in one game!!!
  • ...And had the lowest Goals Against Average (min. 5 games) at 1.15.
  • ...And the highest save percentage (min. 5 games) at .967.
  • ...And was the second goalie to have two game 7 shutouts in a single postseason (Patrick Roy in 2002).
  • ...And is the second American-born player to win the Conn Smythe
  • Boston was the first team to never trail by more than one goal.
  • Brad Marchand was the first rookie to score multiple goals (2) in a Stanley Cup finals game 7.
  • First time that a pair of teammates (Marchand and Bergeron) scored multiple goals in a Stanley Cup finals game 7.
  • Mark Recchi is the only player on the Bruins who was alive when the Bruins last won the Stanley Cup.
  • Boston is the first team to beat a Canada-based team in Canada in a game 7.
Records aside, this was a fantastic season and the NHL has many reasons to be proud. Congratulations to the Bruins and the city of Boston, the NEW TITLETOWN, USA.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fun with Game 7 Numbers

The two most exciting words in sports: Game Seven. The NHL and Lord Stanley's Cup take center stage tonight on what will be the grandest stage hockey has had in the 21st century. Ratings for this year's final are the highest since 1999, especially in Boston. After the Red Sox, Bruins television ratings have been the highest, even outdrawing the Celtics in the NBA finals last year. If the NHL stock was on Mad Money, it would be a triple buy.

The Numbers:
  • There have been 15 Stanley Cup Game Sevens
  • The home team has won 12 of those 15 games (VAN +1)
  • Vancouver has lost its only game 7 in 1994 to the Rangers (BOS +1)
  • Tim Thomas has all but wrapped up the Conn Smythe Trophy for the Stanley Cup playoff's Most Valuable Player.
  • The team that possesses the Conn Smythe Trophy Winner is 14-1 in game sevens (BOS +1)
  • Vancouver is without at least two of its top six defencemen (Dan Hamhuis - injury and Aaron Rome - Suspension) and possibly a third with Alex Edler's game seven status still a mystery. (VAN -2.5)
  • Boston will be without its offensive MVP Nathan Horton despite Horton Traveling with the team. (BOS -1.5)
  • ...However Vancouver's spark plug, Mayson Raymond, received a compression fracture on his spine on an awkward, unpunished hit by Johnny Boychuk. The "Win one for Mason" campaign is on! (VAN +0.5)
Totals = Vancouver -1 Boston +0.5

What this means: Due to the low totals of both teams, game seven will not be game with end-to-end, odd-man-rush after odd-man-rush extravaganza, and the Bruins will benefit the most from that style because the game will be played mostly five-on-five, and no team is better than Boston at five-on-five hockey.

Prediction: BOSTON 2 VANCOUVER 1 with Boston adding an empty netter to make the FINAL SCORE BOSTON 3 VANCOUVER 1

I apologize to Boston fans in advance for raising their hopes because my predictions are backed by the strength of aluminum foil.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Selling Sabermetrics in Fantasy Baseball

Baseball is a stat-nerds dream come true. It is the only sport where a player of Gary Sheffield can be part of an "elite" club that Lou Gehrig can not be. If you're wondering what club that is, it is the 500 home-run club. Gary Sheffield has 509 and Lou Gehrig only has 493. As of the 21st century, there were statistic mavericks who were finding the statistical anomalies in the drivel that is MLB history. These mavericks are known as sabersticians. These new-school stat guys are revolutionizing the way that baseball teams look at players, and this is recently trickling down to fantasy baseball in a simplified fashion.

For example, when fantasy baseball people talk about a premium position, like 3b this year, that is an oversimplified sabermetric. Oakland A's GM Billy Beane was willing to trade away all of his elite starting pitching that he couldn't afford to sign to big-money contracts for talent at other positions they valued more highly, like 3b, and for draft picks where he could draft more financially feasible players. Sabermetrically, this is considered VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). In layman's terms, the difference between an elite 3b and second-tier 3b is significantly higher than the difference between an elite SP and second-tier SP. In fantasy football, the difference between an elite running back and a second-tier running back is significantly more than the difference between a top-tier and second-tier quarterback.

Delving further into sabermetrics are stats like OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging %), BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play), WARP (Wins Above Replacement for Pitchers), and many many more. For the sake of fantasy baseball purposes, OPS, BABIP, and DIPS can make a huge difference between players with a similar VORP. For example, Jose Bautsita leads MLB in OPS and has 3b eligibility. Where is the next 3b? Kevin Youkilis ranked at number 23. That is a H.U.G.E. VORP. To put that value into perspective, you will find a lower VORP between the top two catchers (Alex Avila #15 and Victor Martinez #28).

In a vacuum, that makes Jose Bautista look like someone who should have been the consensus #1 overall pick, but he wasn't, and more sabermetrics are the reason why. This is where BABIP comes into play. In 2009, Bautista's batting average was .235, but his BABIP was .275. What this meant was that Bautista struck out too much, but showed that when he put the ball in play (HR NOT included), he got hits. Someone on Toronto's coaching staff interpreted this and taught Bautista that he had the talent to hit closer to .300 if he used more patience at the plate. In 2010, Bautista blew up with 50+ HR. This caused his batting average and BABIP to flip-flop, which is expected considering that his 53 HR do not count towards his hit total in BABIP. In 2011, Bautista has an absurd of .324. This is a huge red flag, and should be used as an indicator that Bautista's .338 batting average WILL NOT LAST. If you own Bautista and have a good backup 3b, see if you can get an elite player like Ryan Braun, Albert Pujols, or Tim Lincecum. Sure you might lower your HR total, but you will raise every other category.

Confused yet? Now the pitching non-standardized WARP. There are a myriad of complex formulas to calculate this, but the concept is similar to VORP in that it determines individual value in a team sport. Pitchers with a high WARP are ALWAYS good. Would it surprise you to hear that Roy Halladay has the highest WARP? Probably not, but Josh Beckett is #2. What this means is that Beckett has a very high value and should not be traded lightly.

This is just scratching the surface of sabermetrics. Every aspect of baseball can be quantified with sabermetrics, which is why many sabersticians thought that it was a joke that Derek Jeter won the Gold Glove at shortstop last year. Sabersticians would argue (correctly) that Derek Jeter isn't the best shortstop on his own team (Alex Rodriguez). If you would like to learn more about sabermetrics, I recommend buying a few books and a calculator.

Spinning the New York Knicks Forward

The New York Knicks are one of the most overrated teams in the NBA. Yes, they made the first the playoffs for the first time since Allen Houston (overrated as well), but where are they now considering the salary cap may go down? Can the Knicks make moves this offseason to get better like they did last season? Without Donnie Walsh's leadership, I'm not sure if the Knicks have the intelligence necessary to make good moves. Rumor has it that Isaiah Thomas may get another shot at managing the Knicks. He shouldn't be allowed in Madison Square Garden after what he previously did to the Knicks. How's Renaldo Balkman doing? Since every Knicks fan loves to overvalue the franchise, this is how the Knicks could get better in a perfect world that doesn't exist.

This is the Fantasyland Blueprint for the Knicks to Win a Championship (cue laugh track now)
1. They must acquire Dwight Howard. How do they do this? By offering a package centered around Amar'e Stoudemire and pray that the Magic like Stoudemire more than the Lakers' Andrew Bynum.
2. They must sign an elite point guard. The names Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook come to mind, with Paul being the preferred player. Both players will become free agents in 2012 so the Knicks' only chance to land one of them is if they actually reach free agency. New York will have to hope that A) it has enough cap space to sign a "max contract" guy and B) that those guys aren't involved in sign-and-trades before next summer.
3. Pay attention to defense. In a shocking development, not a single Knicks player received a single vote to the NBA all-defensive team. How is this possible? Because the Knicks gave up 105.73 points per game (3rd worst in NBA) and were forced to outscore their opponents. The Knicks had the third most wins when their opponents scored more than 100 points. Opposing teams shot 47.2% against the Knicks (5th worst in the NBA) and out rebounded the Knicks by an average of 3.57 rebounds per game (3rd worst). Swiss cheese defense would be overstating the Knicks defense last year.

Prediction: The Knicks will attempt to make a splash this offseason fall flat on their faces. New York will still score a ton of points and will win 42-47 games and be a first round walkover for one of the elite eastern conference teams.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Is Luongo Soft?

In game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo really let his team down by giving up some terrible goals leading to him being replaced by Massachusetts native Corey Schneider. The bigger tragedy for Vancouver fans is that the Canucks were playing exceptionally well and then when the first bad goal went in for Boston, it snowballed and turned into 4 within four minutes and fourteen seconds. This raises the question, "is Roberto Luongo soft?" The answer, we'll find out.

Can you name the goaltender who was in net for team Canada when they brought home the gold medal in 2010? Roberto Luongo. Where was that Olympics held? Vancouver. Luongo has proven that he can win the big game on the big stage. The weight of Canada was on his shoulders, but he also had one of the best assembled teams in Olympic history. History is going to repeat itself when Luongo backstops another heavy favorite in a 'championship or bust' situation in his team's own backyard. There is more pressure on the favorite, especially at home. The fans in attendance will all get more nervous if the game remains close late, and that nervous energy is contagious. It will be up to Luongo to either deal with it or crumble underneath it. If this was 'Night at the Apollo,' the hook would be around Luongo waiting for him to make one mistake and, if he does make one, will yank him off stage right, and hard. This is what Luongo signed up for when he forced his way out of Florida and to Vancouver. We will find out if he is up for the challenge.

Fun with Stanley Cup Game 6 Numbers

Close your eyes Boston fans. I'm picking the Bruins to win tonight's game 6 and here's why:

1. Home teams are 16-2 in the finals since 2009
2. The Bruins are 9-3 at home this year in the playoffs
3. The Canucks are 5-5 on the road in this year's playoffs'
4. The home team hasn't lost yet in this year's finals

What this means is that Vancouver will probably win because I picked Boston. Have fun and tune into NBC tonight (monday) at 8pm! I can guarantee you that it will be jovial and boisterous.

Spinning the runner-up Heat Forward

Next on my offseason preview is NBA finals runner-up Miami Heat. The most hated team in the NBA will have all sorts of rumors surrounding it, including trading member(s) of the big three (James, Wade, and Bosh). What happens to the Heat hinges on the new collective bargaining agreement. If there is a hard salary cap that is lower than last year's salary cap, the Heat are in a lot of trouble and will need to trade away key pieces just to stay under the salary cap. Assuming that the salary cap stays close to what it is now, this is what the Heat are looking at.

Miami Heat Free-Agents:

Mario Chalmers

Mike Bibby
Erick Dampier
Eddie House (player option)
Juwan Howard
Zydrunas Ilgauskas (player option)
James Jones (player option)
Jamaal Magloire

It is a safe assumption that anyone with a player option for next year on the Heat will exercise it because A) they did nothing to enhance their value and B) they won't have a better chance to win anywhere else so House, Ilgauskas, and Jones will return or, in Ilgauskas' case, will retire.

Mario Chalmers is the most interesting free-agent on Miami's roster because he has talent, but is he willing to sacrifice the salary potential on the free-agent market to play with three of the best players in the NBA? Chalmers had a few bright spots in this year's NBA playoffs and could make easily make more of an impact and salary elsewhere. Miami has the luxury of seeing what other teams are offering Chalmers and choosing whether it wants to match another team's offer.
Potential Destinations: Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers
Potential Replacements: J.J. Barea, Aaron Brooks

Mike Bibby played for three teams last year (Hawks, Wizards, and Heat) and was ineffective for all three. It is pretty impressive that his talent has completely disappeared. There is some minor talk that Bibby will retire, but it will be very difficult for him to find a team next year where he will have any impact. Bibby is more of a name than anything else and I anticipate him playing in another country next year or taking a minor bench role.

Erick Dampier, Jamaal Magloire, and Juwan Howard tried to compile a championship by taking up a lot of space on the bench. They will also have a difficult time finding a team next year and may end up retiring.

Miami Heat Free-Agent Targets: J.J. Barea, Greg Oden, Aaron Brooks, Yao Ming.

Spinning the champion Mavericks forward

The NBA offseason is upon us! Lets take a look at the champion Mavericks offseason free agents and possible replacements.

Dallas Maverics 2011 free agents:
J.J. Barea
Caron Butler
Brian Cardinal
Tyson Chandler
DeShawn Stevenson
Peja Stojakovic

This is quite a list for Dallas. First on the list is J.J. Barea who made himself a lot of money this postseason. Dallas also has Rodrigue Beaubois under contract who is a similar player to Barea and the Mavericks have high hopes for Beaubois. Depending on the price Barea is seeking and if 38 year-old Jason Kidd returns, Barea could be a cap casualty for the Mavericks and playing in another city next season (the Lakers and Heat got a good look at Barea and need youth and quickness at the PG position).
Possible Destinations: Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat.
Possible replacement: Rodrigue Beaubois (already under contract with Dallas) or Aaron Brooks (restricted free-agent)

Caron Butler is the most interesting free-agent on Dallas' roster. When Butler was healthy this season, Dallas rolled past everybody, but Dallas also won a championship without him playing a minute in the playoffs. Butler is one of those guys who did not help himself financially going into what could be a very restricted free-agency period financially in the NBA. Mark Cuban is known to spend a lot of money and I believe that he will go over the cap to retain Caron Butler on the hopes that he returns from his injury.
Possible Destinations: Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets
Possible Replacement: Jeff Green (restricted free-agent), Ray Allen (player option), Tayshaun Prince (unrestricted free-agent), Shannon Brown (player option)

Brian Cardinal and Peja Stojakovic will only be on the Mavericks next year if they play for the veteran minimum. No need to list replacements or destinations because they are insignificant.

Tyson Chandler is a strong character guy and allows Dirk to relax a little bit defensively. He is a classic "glue guy" and needs to be retained.
Possible Destination: Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Memphis Grizzlies
Possible Replacements: Marc Gasol (restricted free-agent), Greg Oden (restricted free-agent), Yao Ming (unrestricted free-agent likely to retire)

DeShawn Stevenson rounds out this rather hefty list and has some vaule, especially defensively. Unfortunately for Stevenson, there are a number of free-agents that are just like him so he can not expect a large payday.
Possible Destination: Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks
Possible Replacements: Shannon Brown (unrestricted free-agent), Shane Battier (unrestricted free-agent), Andrei Kirilenko (unrestricted free-agent), and Tayshaun Prince (unrestricted free-agent).

...Now the real NBA tension begins.

First, congrats to Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks for disposing the Miami Heat in six games. Now, the most exciting part of the NBA occurs...labor talks. If you thought that the finals had drama, just wait until the billionaires of the NBA tell the millionaires of the NBA that the millionaires are leaching money from the billionaires. Yikes.

There is a very strong possibility that the NBA will not have a full season (if at all) this coming October. If you thought that the NFL has labor issues, the NBA labor talks will get ugly and may result in that awful C-word. Contraction. Unlike the NFL, the NBA is not making $9 billion annually. In fact, one of the main disagreements between commissioner David Stern and players union leader Billy Hunter is how much money the league is losing per year. Stern argues that the league is losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year and will not operate under the current financial structure. Hunter argues that the league is not losing as much money as publicized by Stern. If the NFL's offseason teaches us anything, it's that owners and players will not budge on their positions regarding money until the 11th hour. Additionally, the owners have no problem delaying a season to see how the players handle not receiving their paychecks. Unless the players or the owners cave on all financial demands, the NBA season will be delayed or cancelled.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Time to Deal is Now!

Dear Fellow Fantasy Baseball Players:

Do not wait until the trade deadline is a week away to start making trades in Fantasy Baseball. The time to make trades is: All the Time. Remember, no trade is too minor, so if someone is asking to trade his third 2nd basemen for your 5th outfielder, take it seriously. There is a very common strategy out there where owners will make a slew of minor trades to acquire the building blocks to make their big trades. Also, never accept the first offer someone gives you, it's probably too good to be true. Finally, check the injury reports, don't trade for Joba Chamberlain today.

I know that you are excited if you own such waiver-wire standouts as Josh Collmenter, Alexi Ogando, and Matt Joyce, but it is time to trade them now. Look for an owner who owns struggling star players such as Dan Uggla, Kevin Youkilis, or Dustin Pedroia and offer one or two of your overachievers in a trade and see if he or she will bite. This is what is classically called as sell high/buy low. It is very common every year that a young player will go on a hot streak when he arrives in the big leagues, but when the rest of the league "gets a book on him" (layman term: adjusts), that player will regress. Conversely, veteran players commonly get better as the season progresses (especially those coming off of injuries from previous seasons), and are worth grabbing for such a low price. If I asked you today 'who will hit 15 home runs first from now until the end of the season, Matt Joyce or Kevin Youkilis?' the answer would commonly come back Kevin Youkilis. Yes, Matt Joyce's stats are significantly better up until this point, but try to take advantage of his hot start and turn it into a more reliable players hot finish.

If you need help evaluating trades please post comments here, Facebook, or Twitter @SportsByGotti. I will give you statistical basis on all transactions. Can't wait to hear back!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fun with 4th Quarter Numbers.

LeBron James has totaled 11 points in the 4th quarter in this year's NBA finals. To put that in perspective, J.J. Barea and Jason Kidd both have 11 points as well in the same time frame. Dirk Novitzki? He has 52. Jason Terry with LeBron guarding him much of the 4th quarter? 26. Boston Celtics fans must be wondering how the LeBron they saw made every shot from everywhere at anytime. Chicago Bulls fans should be wondering why Derek Rose could not score on LeBron in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia 76ers fans are wondering if another A.I. will be traded away from their team (rumors show that the Clippers are interested in swapping Chris Kaman for Andre Iguodala). What everyone is wondering is, 'why?'

Fatigue. LeBron James has to chase Jason Terry all over the floor and, after 40+ minutes of that, is tired. James' high school basketball coach Keith Dambrot said, "If (James) doesn't have the legs, he will pass the ball." LeBron James is simply exhausted and does not get enough rest in the second halves of games. Coach Erik Spoelstra needs to take the decision out of LeBron's hands and take him out for 3-4 minutes during the second half. I'm no expert, but I know I saw Dirk Nowitzki sit out 3-4 minutes spanning from 2 minutes left in the third quarter and into the first minute of the fourth quarter (with the exception of 15 seconds for one offensive possession at the end of the third quarter). If LeBron doesn't have the legs to be both offensively and defensively late in the fourth quarter, get him some rest.

As I mentioned earlier, we could be witnessing the greatest statistical comeback in sports history. Statistically, since the NBA finals has gone to a 2-3-2 format in 1985, Dallas has gone from a 0% chance of winning to a 73.1% chance. Turning the tables does not even begin to describe what has happened in this year's finals. It's a good thing that these finals could have a lasting effect because there may not be one next year. Stay tuned for labor talks that will make the NFL labor talks seem like a grade-school playground tantrum.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why DeShawn, Why?

DeShawn Stevenson is going to wake a sleeping lion in LeBron James in tonight's game 5 of the NBA finals. Stevenson said that LeBron "Checked Out" during game 4 and later backtracked by saying that he didn't mean anything negative towards LeBron. Yeah right.

Why would you give a superstar who MIGHT be doubting himself any motivation. LeBron is used to ignoring the media's criticism, but I'm sure that he does not take too kindly to opposing players criticism. Especially from a scrub like Stevenson. Stevenson has more tattoos than points scored and he has yet to stop Dwayne Wade in any game. The last person who should be criticizing LeBron is DeShawn Stevenson.

PREDICTION: LeBron James realizes the gravity of the moment and goes off for 30 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stanley Cup Game 4 Prediction

So many storylines for tonight's game 4 between Vancouver and Boston in Boston. First, there's the 'must win' title attached to the game for Boston, who can not afford to go down 3-1 heading back to Vancouver for what could be an elimination game. I have said previously that Vancouver will win this series in five games so I do not believe that Boston can avoid this fate but here are my keys to the game and what it would take for each team to win.

Boston will win if: They play the game at their speed. The Bruins are a microcosm of the Northeast because they are a grinding team. End-to-end play exchanging odd-man rushes is not a situation Boston can excel in. Additionally, goaltender Tim Thomas MUST be the best player on the ice at all times. He can not allow any Roberto Luongo-like goals. Goals will be at a premium tonight and the referees will be very strict tonight after all of the fisticuffs in games 1-3. Boston must make game 4 a chip-and-chase game for both teams and not let Vancouver use its superior speed.

Vancouver will win if: They get an early lead. The Canucks must let Boston know that they will not be pushed around and that the 8-1 embarrassment is a thing of the past. Previously in these playoffs, Vancouver almost let a 3-0 series lead slip away to Chicago, and that started with a 7-2 loss. The Canucks can not let that kind of momentum swing happen again. Boston is better than Chicago and, with Nathan Horton out, has something and someone to play for. Vancouver has let the door slip open just a tad, but an early goal will slam that door shut.

My Prediction: Vancouver 4 - Boston 2 leading to what will be a formality in the series-clinching game 5.

Fun with NBA Finals Numbers

What if I told you that the Miami Heat will make history in the NBA finals win or lose?

Of course, if they win, it would be the first time a team has won a championship after replacing four of its starting five on opening night. After winning game three of this year's NBA finals, the Heat have no choice but to make history.

Since the creation of the current 2-3-2 finals format in 1985, the series has been tied 1-1 eleven times. All eleven times, the winner of game three has won the finals. That team, this year, is the Miami Heat. However, in that same time period, when the series is tied 2-2 as it is now, the winner of game five has gone on to win 19 out of 26 times (73.1%). If Dallas should win game five and go on to win the series (big if, I know), it would be the greatest comeback statistically, ever. Stay tuned to what could be a historically significant moment in NBA history.

Can the Bruins do it Again?

The Boston Bruins have the opportunity to tie the Stanley Cup finals at two games a piece tonight in what will be a pivotal game 4. Teams that have trailed 3-1 in a playoff series have come back to win only 20 times in 229 chances (8.7%), according to nhl.com. Boston is already behind the eight-ball after losing the first two games. Down 0-2 in a playoff series, teams have come back 37 times in 291 chances (12.7%). One of those 37 times, however, was Boston earlier this year when they lost the first two games to Montreal. At home. Can the Bruins do it again? If they do, the Stanley Cup will make its way back to Boston for the first time since 1972.

Adding to the drama are the two controversial actions by the Vancouver Canucks. In game one, there was the infamous "bitegate" where new Dean of Discipline Brendan Shanahan decided not to suspend biter Alex Burrows of Vancouver due to "inconclusive evidence." Apparently, an eye exam is not mandatory for the Dean of Discipline position at the NHL. However, Shanahan must have had some divine intervention because he was able to see that the bang-bang play where Aaron Rome sent Nathan Horton to the hospital with a severe concussion was excessively late and unsportsmanlike enough to warrant a four-game suspension. What warranted this change of heart? Was it because someone went to the hospital? Was it because a star player was hurt? Was it because Aaron Rome isn't a star player?

Boston fans may have some vindication with Aaron Rome being out, but it still seems like the NHL has taken the easy road again instead of making difficult decisions. Instead of suspending players for actions that have never had any place in hockey (Burrows bite), the NHL suspended a player who did perform an illegal late hit, but was penalized the way other players have in the past without any further repercussions. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that the NHL is cracking down on blind side hits to the head, but follow the precedence that YOU set. If Nathan Horton did not go to the hospital, I'm convinced that Rome would not be suspended any additional games. Yes, this hit was illegal, but it was not malicious nor premeditated. I'm also sure that Aaron Rome's lame apology where he never says that what he did was wrong helped his cause. I just hope that this Stanley Cup final's legacy will be the phenomenal play and not the controversial incidents.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

German Engineering in the NBA

Dirk Nowitzki has been the toast of the NBA for everyone who does not live in Miami because he is the only force standing in the way of the "evil" LeBron James, and what a force he is. Because of Nowitzki, Germany now has yet another engineering superiority when compared to the USA. Nowitzki has created a formula that makes him an unstoppable force. According to Sports Science on ESPN, Nowitzki normally shoots the ball from just under ten feet (the distance from the floor to the rim), making his normal shot already extremely difficult to block. Additionally, when Dirk does his awkward one-legged fade aways, he creates an angle that would require someone to have his hand the better part of 11 feet off the ground (getting more impossible). To cap it all off, Dirk shields his body further by kicking his other leg forward to create even more space for him to get his shot off making his shot unblockable. And we've all seen what Dirk can do when he gets a clean shot off. In case you haven't, ask any Trailblazers, Lakers, Thunder, or Heat fan and they'll tell you. Where and how long do you think Mark Cuban's celebration will be if the Mavericks should win this final?

Canucks' Bite as Big as its Bark

Last night the Vancouver Canucks taunted and flaunted their way to a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup finals when alleged biter, Alex Burrows, scored a mere 11 seconds into overtime. Burrows' existence in game 2 is controversial following bitegate when video replays clearly showed him biting the finger of Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron. Newly appointed director of discipline Brendan Shanahan cowered away from making the strong decision to suspend Burrows. Instead, he took the rather meager position of 'the video was inconclusive.' Perhaps eye examinations should be a requirement to anyone who has to watch sporting events for a living. I don't know, I'm not a doctor. Needless to say, it is a shame that this is the main talking point to what has been an exceptional Stanley Cup finals. But hey, controversial news is better than no news, right?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Preliminary Fantasy Football Strategies

I know what you're thinking: 'Why are we talking about fantasy football when we don't know if there will be a season yet?!' Calm Down fellow football fanatics. These "secret" meetings that the mainstream media somehow knows about are a good sign of things to come. I predict that shortly after the July 4th holiday, the NFL and NFLPA will announce the new collective bargaining agreement and all will be well. With all that said, here are my preliminary strategies going into next season.

1. Do not draft any rookies early: Resist the temptation from the hype machines that will be pumping out positive stories on Julio Jones in Atlanta, Mark Ingram in New Orleans, and A.J. Green in Cincinnati.

2. ...or second year players either: Not that Ryan Matthews in San Diego or Jahvid Best in Detroit were attractive options anyway, but Sam Bradford sure as hell will be. Not only are these players hurt by the lack of OTA's, but in Bradford's case, Josh McDaniels is his new coordinator, and that offense is not a simple one. I expect there to be a severe regression in St. Louis, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

3. Running Backs will make a comeback: What happens when offenses are forced to simplify? They run the football. Look for the recently pass happy NFL to focus a little more on running backs. Especially now that there are more two running back systems, guys like Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson are few and far between.

4. ...Tight Ends, too: With simplified offenses, safety valves become very important, and tight ends often serve that purpose. Marcedes Lewis broke out last year, but this year look for guys Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss (this year I'm super serial) to break out.

5. Never Draft IDP early: This is a little obvious but it needs to be stated. Every year in every draft, someone drafts Patrick WIllis in the 10th round or earlier. Unless you play in a league that is heavy on Defensive points, it is not worth it.

6. ...but don't ignore IDP completely: Be especially vigilant on the waiver wire for IDP. Without fail, there is someone that comes out of the woodwork and scores a massive amount of points.
7. Bye Weeks are important: Be very wary of drafting a plethora of people on the same bye week. That is virtually conceding one week of the season, and few can afford to do that.

There you have it. A touchdown and an extra point of Fantasy Football strategy. Stay tuned for baseball reports.