Category: Sports

2018 World Series Preview: Dodgers vs. Red Sox

As I sat down to do my analysis, I really thought I was going to see more of a discrepancy between these two teams. The Red Sox won 108 games; the Dodgers needed an extra game to get to 92, in a supposed ‘weaker’ division, and in the ‘junior varsity’ National League. The Red Sox cruised through the season, having won more than 67% of their games up to this point; the Dodgers were nine games out of first place on May 8th, and 10 games under .500 on May 19th. In addition to the extra win necessary to get into the Division Series, they were taken to seven games by a good, but not great, Milwaukee Brewers team. The Red Sox, on the other hand, dismantled the Houston Astros, last year’s World Champions, by taking the final three games of the series in the Astros’ home park. So through that lens, the Red Sox should be a huge favorite. It says here, however, that these two teams are VERY evenly matched – and whoever wins this series better be packing some scary costumes because they will need the full seven games to hoist the trophy on Halloween night in 2018.

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Let’s start with the ManagersAlex Cora and Dave Roberts.
Cora, 43 years old, and Roberts, 46, are part of the player-friendly, analytics-driven, bullpen-heavy wave of managers that are extensions of an influential front office. Riding under the guidance of veteran bench coaches – in the case of Cora, Ron Roenicke; for Roberts, it’s Bob Geren – they provide a heavy dose of reaffirmation, high fives, and support that tend to endear themselves to players. Neither manager is hesitant to rely on bullpen arms, and both are avid utilizers of their bench. Though the payrolls are extensive, each manager has a deft touch and capability of getting maximum production from both minimum and maximum talent. Roberts was questioned thoroughly in 2018 by Dodger fans, but his resume reads extremely accomplished: Manager of the Year as a ‘rookie,’ followed by back-to-back World Series appearances. Cora replaced the 93-win John Farrell, and improved on that first place total by 15 games.
AdvantageEVEN. Roberts has the in-game World Series experience, but that did not go perfectly and some key decisions (Yu Darvish) were rightfully second-guessed. Cora, remember, was bench coach for AJ Hinch during the Astros World Series run last year. 
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Starting Rotation:
Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello
Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler, Rich Hill
This is another fun one. Sale is one of the two most feared pitchers in baseball, a Randy Johnson 2.0 that is all knees, elbows, and wicked sliders that follow high-90’s heat. Kershaw, known for a decade as The Best Pitcher on the Planet, is considered more of a lower-tier Ace now, though he is (once again) pitching for his legacy. He is also the Modern Era record holder for lowest career ERA, so that looms significantly. Price and Ryu are not superficially similar, but their playoff versions are counterpoints. Price is a Cy Young pitcher that, until his Game 5 ALCS gem vs. the Astros, was the Worst Postseason Pitcher of All-Time. Ryu, who was exempted from military service due to his performance in a Gold Medal game in the Summer Olympics, is the definition of a big game pitcher – or he was, until the Game 6 implosion in the NLCS against the Brewers. Eovaldi and Buehler are, perhaps, the most exciting of this bunch as each is a young fireballer set on building off of a foundational year. Eovaldi has shown flashes of being unhittable, and Buehler reminds of Justin Verlander. Pretty heady stuff on that matchup. Then you have the two Ricks. Well, Rick & Rich. Each is crafty, took a while to get their career in order, and performed well enough to merit accolades; for Porcello, that was a Cy Young; for Hill, it was a nice contract. Each is very hittable and will have a short leash.
Advantage: Dodgers. This would be even were it not for Sale’s subpar health over the last two months of the season, culminating in a belly button infection during the ALCS. Though not quite mirror images, these rotations are very similar 1-4.
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Closer:
Craig Kimbrel 
Kenley Jansen
Okay, this is getting ridiculous. Simply put, these are the two best closers in baseball over the last half decade. Kimbrel has saved 91% of his career opportunities; Jansen clocks in at 90%. Jansen’s career ERA is 2.20. Kimbrel’s is a microscopic 1.91. Kimbrel’s K/BB ratio is a hefty 4.23. Kenley’s is an unthinkable 5.76. What about WHIP, you ask? Kimbrel’s is 0.92; Kenley 0.88. So yeah, good luck against either of these fellas. The difference will be their recent body of work. Kenley struggled (by his standards) to a workmanlike 3.01 ERA in 2018, whereas Kimbrel’s was a career-high 2.74. Kenley, however, has been back at his best lately, cranking his cutter up to 96 mph in the final game of the NLCS, and he has yet to be scored upon in his six playoff appearances. Kimbrel, however, sits at an unsightly 7.71 ERA, with scare after scare versus both the Yankees and Astros. That said, he has yet to blow a save in the playoffs so once again, the
Advantage: is EVEN. Both of these guys are too good, and will likely close any ballgame once the ball is in their hands.
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Bullpen:
Joe Kelly, Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes, Eduardo Rodriguez, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman 
Pedro Baez, Ryan Madson, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, Caleb Ferguson, Dylan Floro, Scott Alexander/Alex Wood 
Both of these bullpens were maligned heading into the postseason. The Dodgers did not have a ‘bridge’ to Kenley Jansen, as they had recently moved Maeda out of the rotation to become the presumptive eighth-inning pitcher. . .except when Roberts would use his matchups. That meant, any one of Flora, Ferguson, Baez, Madson would, at any time, be brought in to face whoever the numbers dictated. But a funny thing happened after Pedro Baez was sent down to the minor leagues; he came back as one of the most effective relievers in Major League Baseball, allowing only one earned run over his last 24 appearances. This gave the Dodgers a bonafide set-up man, and a reliable power arm to complement the one-off approach Roberts generally uses. The Red Sox counter with a duo to fill the role, as Barnes and Brasier have each outpunched their regular season statistics, allowing only one run in a combined 13 1/3 innings. Kelly and Hembree have been equally reliable, with a 1.69 and 0.00 ERA as well. Not to be outdone, Floro, Ferguson, and Madson have only allowed one earned run in 14 combined innings. The difference here is that the matchups favor Roberts; he simply has more left-handers in the ‘pen, and in games that will be this close, the bullpen gates will be swinging open wildly, and Roberts will use that to his advantage.
Advantage: Dodgers – they figured out the roles at the right time and their depth and matchups prove will key in this series. 

 Red Sox postseason bullpen stats:

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Dodgers postseason bullpen stats:

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Catching:
Christian Vasquez, Sandy Leon 
Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal
This position is essentially a black hole of offense for both teams. Christian Vasquez gets the bulk of playing time for the Red Sox, but is hitting .227 in the postseason, an improvement on his regular season .207. Leon is a good defensive catcher but has yet to collect a hit in the playoffs. On the Dodgers’ side, Grandal, for the second consecutive season, lost his starting job to Austin Barnes in October, and has played himself into contention for Worst Player in MLB Postseason History, after his glove inexplicably turned to cement in the NLCS. Barnes has a great approach and is a good defensive catcher, but has not been able to capture his 2017 hitting prowess, and is hitting .111 in the playoffs in 2018.
Advantage: Red Sox. The weakest position also happens to be one of the most important, and though nobody stands out here amongst the four players, it might be an unsung hero from this grouping that changes the complexion of the series. Though not impressive by any means, the Sox have the better backstops here.
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Lineup:
Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Steve Pearce, Eduardo Nunez, Ian Kinsler, Christian Vasquez, Jackie Bradley Jr. 
Chris Taylor, David Freese, Justin Turner, Manny Machado, Cody Bellinger, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Brian Dozier, Kiké Hernandez, Austin Barnes
These lineups are subject to change based on handedness of the opposing pitcher as well as the whims, intuition, and analysis of their respective team’s front offices. This is my projection, however, for Game 1 lineups and both are fierce. Though the Dodgers sport only a .691 OPS as a group in their 11 games, the designated hitter plays directly into their hands, as their depth is significant and will play well in the American League ballpark. The Dodgers feature nine players that hit 20 or more home runs during the regular season, and finished with the sixth most home runs all-time in a single season, 235. The Red Sox counter with eight players with ten or more home runs, and come in with a .745 collective OPS in the postseason, and are averaging a little more than six runs per game. The Dodgers are, if anything, too reliant on the long ball and have only averaged four runs in their 11 playoff games in 2018. The Green Monster will be inviting to the homer-happy, as the 310′ distance is shorter than most high school fields. The right field line is only 302′, so do not expect the Dodgers to shorten their swings; they rarely do. The top half of the Red Sox lineup is filled with not just good hitters but professional hitters, as Betts is expected to be the American League MVP, only because Martinez did not complete his run at the Triple Crown; otherwise he would have won the award. The back half of their lineup is not as deep as the Dodgers’, though they are not strikeout-happy either, averaging only seven per game as a team. The Dodgers average ten per game; a typical byproduct of swinging for the fences
Advantage: Red Sox because – how do you pitch to these first four guys?
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Bench:
Mitch Moreland, Rafael Devers, Brock Holt, Leon
Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, Grandal
Some great depth here on both sides. As the Dodgers are expected to go with one additional bullpen arm, they’ll likely have one less bat, though all three of these players will likely start against right-handers. The Red Sox are no stranger to matchups either, as they have started Moreland, Devers, and Holt against right-handers as well. Moreland and Holt have a 1.101 and 1.145 OPS in the postseason, and Devers sits at .909. Muncy was at .973 for the regular season, but is at .736 in the postseason – along with 18 K’s in 33 at-bats. Pederson comes off of a 2017 World Series with three home runs, but is at a .741 OPS thus far in October 2018.
Advantage: Even. Though the numbers in these particular instances seem to favor the Red Sox, this is only a snapshot of the bigger picture. Roberts’ willingness – and the Dodgers’ ability – to mix and match positionally give them a unique advantage on the field, if not on the stat sheet. Bellinger, Muncy, Taylor, Hernandez, Barnes, and Freese are all proficient at multiple positions and can be used accordingly. Keep this in mind for the inevitable extra inning contest(s) that will arise in this Series. 

Red Sox 2018 Postseason Batting:

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Dodgers 2018 Postseason Batting:
Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 10.41.27 PM.png

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Running/Defense:
The Dodgers have stolen 13 bags this postseason; the Red Sox have swiped five. Though the element of speed should not be a defining aspect of the World Series, look no further than Dave Roberts to understand what one well-swiped bag can do for a team. The Dodgers have the advantage here. Defensively, both teams play clean baseball and were each ranked in the top ten during the regular season.
Advantage: Dodgers, but slight.

 

And this wouldn’t be a preview if I did not mention the Stadiums, yet another element of similarity between these great organizations. Dodger Stadium was built in 1962, and is the consummate ballpark; a picturesque, symmetric field surrounded by palm trees and nestled in mountains, with nary a bad sightline in the park. Fenway Park, completed in 1912, is an urban stadium with nooks & crannies, columns that block vision, and standing room only attendance in areas. Along with its history, the charm is undeniable, as watching a game in these confines is both intimate and awe-inspiring.
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Prediction: This series will, as all postseasons do, come down to pitching. The Dodgers have more of it and they have better matchups. A fully healthy Chris Sale could turn this series for the Red Sox, but as it stands, the Dodgers have shown that they can hit anybody, even if they are capable of striking out incessantly in concurrence. Price may have solved his postseason woes, but he is is still a question mark heading into the highest stakes he has ever faced, and the fact remains that the Red Sox do not have a quality left-hander out of the pen, meaning Roberts can lean heavier on his right-handed lineup to provide the bulk of the offense. This bodes well for the Dodgers.
Dodgers in 7.
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2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Projections

I love Hall of Fame speculation. Good piece here from Deadspin, which owes much of the speculation to inimitable Ryan Thibbs at the BBHOF Tracker. And nobody asked me, but here are my comments:

Jeff Bagwell 93.3% – good. deserves it. .297, MVP, ROY, 449 hr, 1529 rbi, 202 sb
but here are his comps (more later):
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Tim Raines 90.4% – easy. 
 
Ivan Rodriguez 85.2% – easy BUT .296, 311hr, 1332rbi. one MVP and no other finishes better than 10th.   and for all of this talk about what a stalwart defensively he was, how ironic is this – ‘advanced’ defensive metrics, which obviously didn’t exist to this extent in his day, have him slightly better than average defensively. can’t have it both ways. hmm. here are his career Offensive WAR & Defensive WAR (Tex/Det two line items)
 
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don’t get me wrong. He’s an HoFer. I just don’t think, including steroid allegations, he’s a first-ballot guy.  Not if Piazza wasn’t.
 
Vladimir Guerrero 77.0% my absolutely doggity dog doggggggg but i had to do a fair deep-dive into the numbers. not sure he gets in this year after seeing this vote total, and i had to know why. here’s why:
 
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great comps, right? right. but, but. . .there’s todd helton. and andres galarraga. and well, i’m the first guy to say Beltran isn’t an HoFer. . .but still – if he’s putting up colorado numbers outside of colorado, isn’t that case closed? oh, is it? well – here’s a SUPER interesting black mark for me:
Black Ink Batting – 6 (358), Average HOFer ≈ 27

“Black ink” are times leading the league. in anything. Six times, Vlad? Hmm. What were those career numbers? 

.318, 449hr, 1496rbi, 181sb (with 94 cs!!!). great player. GREAT player. but i can live with him not being a first-ballot guy.
 
Barry Bonds 71.1% – love this. should be in. no conversation necessary.
 
Roger Clemens 71.1% – see above, though pre-emptive footnote in my schilling argument below. 
 
Trevor Hoffman 71.1% – ugh. fine. WHIP was 1.05 and averaged 9.4 Ks/9. Saves total of 601 is pretty hard to marginalize. I mean, I’m the first guy to say ‘anybody can close for a year or two’ (Keith Foulke, Jeff Shaw, we’re looking at you) but seriously 30 saves/year for 20 years extrapolated here is amazing. fine. you happy?!?!?! still, for me 1089 career innings is pretty wispy. 
 
Edgar Martinez 68.9% – stop tormenting me, man! why do people love this guy’s candidacy so much????!?!? look, for me it’s not even the whole ‘he was a DH and you can’t hold it against him’ thing. it’s that .312 and 2247 hits are not that impressive. that’s a swell career. but you know where that ranks on the all-time hits list? 170th. i know because i made a google doc about it. he’s right between Bert Campaneris and John Olerud. I mean, definitely some legit guys on this list but, um. Not Hall of Famers, all.
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Mike Mussina 63.0% I’m all in on this guy now. He’s getting in. 270 wins is massive.  Don’t love the 3.68 ERA but 1.19 WHIP in that era is just fine for me.  Never won a Cy but 9 top-10 finishes is great. go get ’em, Moose.
 
Curt Schilling 53.3% He’s being ‘punished’ for what he’s saying, and  i’m the first guy to ‘hate’ on that kind of hatred, heh. that said, similar to Clemens (above), the ‘off-the-field’ will be forgiven. he’s getting in.  Especially after Moose gets in. Better ERA (3.46), superior 1.13 WHIP, 3 second place finishes and well, the bloody sock. His comps are underwhelming, but this doesn’t take into account postseason:
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but guess what? when he was good, he was great:
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and outside of players discussed in the Deadspin article, here’s the live Tracker:
Jeff Kent 11.1% speaking of punished, this guy and Sheffield are the two guys that are unfairly maligned due to perceived difficulty, personality-wise. they’re both winners, so there’s one irony. secondly, i mean look at this: .290, 377hr, 1518rbi. first all-time in dingers for 2b, 3rd all time in RBI – behind a couple guys named Hornsby and Lajoie. Cmon, folks. shut up and mark the ballot.
 
Fred McGriff, 12.6%  Bagwell is a shoo-in, right?
Here are Crime Dog’s numbers: 
Career: 493 HR (28th), .284 BA, 1550 RBI (46th)
Now let’s review Bagwell’s:
Career: 449 HR (38th), .297 BA, 1529 RBI (52nd),
Now guess who played in the steroid era and has been speculated to have roided?
interesting. 
 
Manny Ramirez, 31.1% – I get it. More personality backlash. I’ll lay off this year since it’s still early, but if he doesn’t get a Bonds/Clemens-like bump, something is wrong. Maybe it’s a bit much for people to stomach that he was literally busted BUT:
.312, 547hr, 1831rbi, .996 (!) OPS, 8 consecutive top-ten MVP finishes. oh yeah, those comps:
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Gary Sheffield, 11.1% these are his numbers with all-time ranks:
Career: 509 HR (26th), .292 BA, 1676 RBI (28th)
253 sb to boot
and THESE comps, literally all HoFers:
Inline image 8
 
Sammy Sosa, 11.1% 609 hr is sweet, but to me – not an HoFer. I just can’t do it. nothing much additional to his game – .273 and a somewhat surprisingly low .878 OPS with six consecutive top-ten MVP. i mean i won’t cry if he gets in as long as McGwire gets in but
 
Larry Walker, 25.9% cool player, good player but .313, 383hr, 1311rbi just needs to be more impressive with more than half a career in Colorado.
Looks like we’re set to have a great crop of HoFers for the next few years. Regardless, always great to speculate toward year-end. Happy New Year to all, here’s to a great 2017 and beyond.

Insane Bolt

Usain Bolt. He continues to amaze, but to me – the fact that he outright dominates his competition is what sets him apart. Check out the 4×100 final in the 2016 Rio Olumpics.
Literal neck and neck and neck and neck and neck until Bolt gets the baton and. . .well, g’night to everybody else
In a seven-second span he creates daylight where there previously was none. Screencap at the 28.2 mark (top pic) showing everybody getting their final leg batons at basically the same time:
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Then, 7 seconds later, against the fastest competition in the WORLD:

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Amazing. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this guy. One of the greatest athletes ever, certainly. Wow.

Midseason MVP

National League

I have one large and personal stipulation for the MVP award in the NL:

I have higher standards for Clayton Kershaw MVP than any other candidate. It’s patently unfair, but this is my ‘that’s baseball.’ Until the guy wins, and wins consistently, on a nationally televised basis, I can’t fully endorse his success. Don’t get me wrong – this run he’s been on for a half-decade? It’s likely unparalleled.
And my pops texts me about once per month to reiterate something like this:
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So I love and appreciate what he’s doing; I just think he needs to overshadow the rest of the league to get my MVP ‘vote.’ So what he’s doing this year is amazing, but it’s typical Kershaw – and unless they win the division, I can’t support the candidacy. Yet. Even with a 11-2 record on a mediocre team and a 1.79 ERA, 145 K in 121 innings.
Regarding Kris Bryant – those are some numbers for sure(.278, 21 bombs, 57 RBI). But that entire offense is solid – Rizzo, Zobrist, Fowler are having good years – and the pitching is what’s really carrying the team. He’s a great candidate, and that game last night didn’t hurt, so let’s see this one flesh out while we review the other candidates.
Daniel Murphy is one step away from being a Curt Schilling-caliber PoS, but he’s finally manifesting those early career Don Mattingly comps, and .350 is a gaudy number, especially for a team that is disappointing overall offensively despite high expectations.
Marcell Ozuna (.320, 16 dingers) deserves outside consideration as well for leading the Marlins offense in the wake of Stanton’s (Sherman Oaks, Notre Dame HS) first half slump, but unless they overtake the Nats he’s not going to merit a top three finish. Kudos to Mattingly though on that managing job. Wow.
Jose Fernandez (10 wins, 2.28, 0.99 WHIP, 138 K’s in 94 innings) and Jake Arrieta (12 wins, 2.10, 1.02 WHIP) are both second-tier candidates, but I can’t vote for either in good faith if I won’t vote for Kershaw.
Matt “this guy really, really irks me” Carpenter is leading the league in OPS (.989) and if that club does some special things, he’ll nab a few votes.
Brandon Belt (.301, 10 jacks, 38 RBI) and Madison Bumgarner (1.02 WHIP) will both receive some votes. And here we go again how damn good is Bruce Bochy, wow.
American League
Jose Altuve pops out for me. I love the way he plays the game, I love his spirit and what that does to his ballclub. And his numbers are sensational – we’re looking at a Hall of Fame career here, and at .348 with 13 bombs in the first half of his age 26 season, he’s only getting better. The Astros will likely win this division, and I’ll likely ‘vote’ for the sparkplug.
Big Papi is playing phenomenally, OPS 1.108. Definitely gets a look, but in that lineup I’m hard-pressed to single out one major bat.
Manny Machado could take the award if the Orioles hold on – .328 with 18 bombs and a .993 OPS. But they won’t win the division; that pitching is too thin and Manny will have to wait; he’ll have plenty of chances.
Ian Desmond, who has a great story with the offseason shunning forcing a position change just to essentially stay on a big league roster, is putting up great numbers in Texas – and playing a mean outfield. Great story of redemption and I hope somebody gives him a long-termer after the season. .321 14 bombs and 13 steals.

Francisco Lindor is turning all kinds of heads in Cleveland, and as a Gold Glove caliber shortstop with .314 avg and 10 dingers & 12 steals, he deserves consideration for another Francona-led division leader.
Chris Sale and his 13 wins are eye-popping, but his ERA is half a run higher than Steven Wright (!!!) and Marco Estrada (!!!, Sylmar HS) has the same WHIP. He’s doing nice things, but not MVP nice. Not with this team in a freefall.

NBA All-Star Weekend

I had the proverbial foot out the door on this NBA All-Star Weekend, anticipating more flash than substance. . .

three point contest – AWESOME. A 27 from Klay, including EIGHT IN A ROW to pull the title away from Steph? Holy moly. And this after a three-way tie to get into the qualifying round with 20? 20 used to win rounds!!!
Dunk contest – I could not have had lower expectations. That last one that even registered was Blake Griffin, and the previous contest to ‘matter’ was Vince Carter in 2000. That’s 16 years ago. I saw the texts coming in from various sources and decided to check in. LaVine? Amazing. Gordon? Spectacular. Literal unprecedented dunks – Gordon went under BOTH legs?!?!?!  LaVine did a windmill from the free throw line!?!??! And both guys hit the dunks on their first shot!?!!??!?! – with an amazing page. Unbelievable. I don’t think this can be replicated for years but:
a) best one-on-one since Jordan vs. Dominique. Seriously.
b) I don’t think you have 10 dunks stronger than the top 10 from Saturday in ANY contest. Ever.
Game itself – sure, no defense. . .but the west almost drops 200 points?!?!?! Cmon 196!!!! I don’t give a heck, that is amazing. They shot 80 3’s. EIGHTY. Really fun just to see the chase, here.
What a weekend for the NBA. Wow. ‘Fantastic,’ if you will.
Honestly, and I am NOT a Zach LaVine fan (despite UCLA), but man he can soar – not just leap, but SOAR – and Gordon. . .Gordon honestly had the best singular performance since Vince. Look at this

to recap: he jumped OVER the mascot AND went under BOTH legs. reminder = when Isaiah Rider went under ONE leg, it was mindblowing. Wow.
secondly,I’m not a HUGE fan of gimmick dunks – but the timing, smoothness and execution on this are amazing. Great, great dunk. WOW. again.
lastly, and unbelievably, and probably the MOST amazing technical dunk of the night was Aaron Gordon’s final dunk, which only scored a 47. He went tomahawk AND between the legs in the SAME dunk. Judges, admittedly, did not have the benefit of instant reply so they didnt get to score it accordingly. But it was astounding
and just to recap Zach LaVine:
yep. kid can soar.
here’s a full recap on that
Oh – and for the record, a dunk by Andre Drummond which featured Steve Nash doing a behind the back soccer/fútbol kick to set up the dunk didn’t even make the top 8.

Decidedly non-SABRmetric MLB Observations

The 90-game mark is usually where I feel contented enough to start making assessments of the MLB season. The true halfway point (81 games) is a tad bit premature (and it’s pre-All Star Game, symbolically), so I tack on another week and assess. Without further adieu, here’s a relative stream-of-consciousness view at the non-SABR leaderboard (thank you, MLB.com).
Offense
National League
Top half of batting average leaders look normal, then
Yunel Escobar .337?!??
Nori Aoki
Joe Panik
DJ LeMahieu
Gerardo Parra
Matt Duffy (!!!)
Jhonny Peralta (!!!!!!!!)
AJ Pollock
also: only 12 guys over .300. That’s nuts.
Interesting to note the BOTTOM six hitters in the league, in reverse order (qualifiers):
Ian Desmond
Jimmy Rollins
Billy Hamilton
Ryan Howard
Joc Pedersen
Pedro Alvarez
This group would form a good fantasy team core pre-season.
I mean, I should have admitted this previously but I guess Todd Frazier’s power is legit? Has 26 doubles to go with those 25 bombs.
Nolan Arenado is a literal superstar in the making, if he’s not already.
Said it before will say it again – Paul Goldschmidt is one of the best players in the game. We know about the Triple Crown chase but 16 steals. . .wow!
Anthony Rizzo just chugging along again, while still really good ballplayer at only 25 and the veteran of that squad – .294 with 16 bombs.
Glad to see Ryan Braun’s power is still somewhat real – 16 dingers.
Has to be said: Bryce Harper is putting up a really nice year. Realllly nice.
Joey Votto ‘quietly’ putting up a votto year .289 16 dingers
Andrew Mccutchen is going to end up with Mccutchen numbers despite his ‘slow’ start.
Ready for a shock? 6/7/8 in OBP (and also in your batting order jk): Posey Aoko Panik.
Kris Bryant, good work kid.
Oh, I guess the Stanton beaning didn’t affect him much.
Freddie Freeman’s numbers may be ‘off’ by his standards, but 10th in the league in OPS in that lineup is a testament to his hitting ability.
Also gotta love posey 31 k’s only! 311 abs, 85 games. Again, Aoki and Panik clocking in top 5 in ‘least k’s’ of all qualified players.
 Nick Markakis .289 avg, .726 ops. not bad. ZERO dingers. z-e-r-o. wow
Billy Hamilton 45 steals is one thing – 6 CS is very impressive. By comparison – noted thief Dee Gordon has 33 swipes and 12 cs.
Charlie Blackmon is third – 24 bags!!!
Even with the swirling trade talk, Justin Upton might drop a 30-30 on you this year – 15/17 right now
American League
JD Martinez – man that guy is just donging his way through baseball now =,
Oldies Albert Pujols & Mark Teixeira 26 and 23 wow.
Legit boppers over in this league, though:
Mike Trout
Josh Donaldson
Nelson Cruz
My man Brian Dozier just going all Jeff Kent on people
Manny Machado
Jose Bautista
Chris Davis
Hanley Ramirez
A-Rod
Edwin Encarnacion
and of course Luis Valbuena, funny guy, mocking the non-SABR people (sure he’s only hitting .207 but look at his OPS!)
Is Miguel Cabrera a nut or what, .350 again you kidding me? in this era?
Jason Kipnis man that guy is legitimately good I guess?
I did NOT think Lorenzo Cain could match last year but he’s surpassed it .321 18 steals 3 cs
I kept hearing Julio Iglesias Iglesias Iglesias, mostly because Jim Bowden LOVES him but kid is solid – .321 , huh?
Billy Burns always shocks me, mostly because his game and name sound black but he’s white – but I guess he’s good too, huh? .304 and a handful of walk-offs (incidentally, did you know Dennis Eckersley coined the phrase, walk-off?)
Xander Bogaerts finally matching expectations with .309 and 44 RBI.
Brett Gardner surprising non-yankee fans everywhere – in my mind is a super dark dark dark horse for mvp.
AL only 11 batters over .300!
Mr. Dustin Pedroia again just playing baseball and being solid.
Mike Moustakas at .301!!! For sure ‘most improved’ which of course baseball doesn’t have.
Alcides Escobar at .296, which makes this escobar season with all the escobar success stories
Jose Altuve has 26 bags – but no triples.
And speaking of triples, Kevin Kiermaier has 9, which proves my theory that triples, you need some speed but more heart & hustle.
Chris Carter with a paltry 115 k’s, joining a list of FIVE hitters over 100 through 90 games in the AL only. (I neglected to mention the NL ‘only’ has three – led by Joc Pedersen’s gleaming 112.)
A-rod 9th in ops, that’s awesome
Pujols 38 k’s in 332 abs that’s pretty nice – whats crazy is only 29 bases on balls.
Ian Desmond, specifically, has a .248 obp. Just worsting Rollins .262
Mike Zunino, however, has them both “beat” with a .219. In 260 ABs he sports a .158 batting average. & 104 k’s. How are you still in the bigs, kid?
Pitching
National League
Gerrit Cole is having just an outstanding season, wow. 13 wins 2.30 ERA.
SEVEN pitchers have a sub-1.00 whip: Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Jacob DeGrom, Jason Hammel, Johny Cueto, Mr. Clayton Kershaw, Jake Arrieta
I mean, Greinke’s numbers aren’t even real, right? 1.30 era? Max Scherzer’s whip is lower, but along with a certain ‘other’ Dodger, this may be reminiscent of the Maddux/Pedro/Randy era? Maybe?
I’d like to point out the other Dodger,  Clayton Kershaw, has 174 k’s. In 131 innings.
Fransisco Liriano is flying under the radar with his 1.03 whip and .192 batting average against.
Padres pitching is deceptively woeful: Ian Kennedy and James sShields have given up the 4th and 5th highest amount of bombs in the league, and Andrew Cashner has a 4.10 era. Meanwhile, “Iron Mike” Tyson Ross is ‘leading the league’ with 57 bases on balls in 117 innings. here’s that entire season that greg maddux walked 20.
Matt Garza’s done, right? 1.55 whip, 5.55 era?
The Cardinals are wowing everybody with their record, but are they doing it at the expense of their bullpen? three of the top four in appearances are cardinals, and rosenthal has already appeared in 42 as well.
American League
I still can’t believe Dallas Keuchel. He doesnt seem special to me, but his numbers say otherwise.
Sonny Gray – Ace.
Chris Sale – Ace. How does anybody hit this guy?
Chris Archer – very close, but not quite.
King Felix – of course.
Wei-Yin Chen is EIGHTH in the league in whip (1.09), directly ahead of Corey Kluber and David Price.
Sale, incidentally – 163 k’s in 125 innings
Archer 153 in 128. Maybe that ‘not quite’ should be amended?
Nate Eovaldi? probably not in this conversation. The league is hitting .308 (!!!) against him; that’s Mike Piazza’s career batting average.
I mean I guess I must mention Chris Young, .202 baa and 1.04 whip.
Phil Hughes is back. yeah that one. 23 dingers allowed in 19 starts.
Also, there’s one ‘perfect’ closer this year (minimum 20 opps). Can you guess who? Yep, K-Rod. 21 of 21.

Dodgers Winter Meetings 2014: This Is What I Think

I have no isolated insight, no secret sources, no magic metrics on the Dodgers flurry of activity under the Andrew Friedman/Farhan Zaidi/Josh Byrnes regime. What I do have is an objective fan’s outlook about both the Chavez Ravine management team and the club that will perform there this coming summer (and autumn).

I first want to address Matt Kemp, as he is the largest name involved in these transactions. For me, I’ve enjoyed his talent but have not consistently praised him as some (many) have. With effortless speed & power, we saw what Kemp could do – nearly a 40/40 season in ’11 when he finished second in MVP to Ryan Braun (Granada Hills HS). We saw the precociousness after the ferociousness, literally moping upon his move to left field. He was disinterested at times, downtrodden at others, and along with Andre Ethier, formed a really needy core.

Especially for really good players. Both of these guys needed to play, but they also needed to be loved. Ethier was nearly despised by some fans, though that chapter will be closed come January or February, when Friedman engineers that deal. In fact, I think both Ethier and Crawford are going to be moved prior to the first pitch of 2015, with management taking a wrecking ball to The Team That Ned Built. But I digress. . .We know Kemp is an undeniable talent, and in fact – I think he will play well in San Diego. The relaxed environ, the spacious field for him to gallop in Center and Right, the Man status; this will all play well to his soul, and he’ll perform. Plus, .280/25/90 on the Padres is performing, so good for him.

And good for the Dodgers. I don’t think the overhaul is so much due to lack of capable ballplayers on Colletti’s roster; I think the entire club ethos needed to change.

Letting Hanley walk, and I LOVED Hanley, was a must. He was the most exciting hitter I’d seen at Dodger Stadium since another Ramirez (99 on his jersey), and has a laserbeam line drive ability (I’m talking absolute screamers, check out his 2013 homer in San Diego, coincidentally) that I’d only seen previously with Gary Sheffield. But he had to go. He needs to have the option to DH, and the Dodgers needed to look for a real shortstop. That bat is irreplaceable, but he commanded too many years; 120 games played would soon be his highwater mark, and the Dodgers don’t need that albatross.

One deal that went nearly unnoticed is the acquisition of Joel Peralta. A professional; unspectacular and easily overlooked, Peralta is more a signal than anything – the bullpen is not a place to invest outside the organization. You can make prudent acquisitions, guys that will calm the ship, eat innings & understand their roles, but as evidenced by the Royals, Giants and Cardinals, you need to build your bullpen from within. Develop guys as starters in the minor leagues and let them hit their preordained innings mark through a variety of roles. But honing in on the pen – especially during formative years – is the most productive way to build pitchers and a safety net.

The Cardinals, in my mind, pioneered this with Adam Wainwright (he was their closer during the ’06 pennant run), converted Rosenthal to perma-pen status, but have brought up the youngsters this way. It’s smart, and it needs to be stated – the bullpen is for guys that aren’t good enough to be starters; they are inherently worse than the guy they’re replacing. Or at least that’s how it was, and why so many bullpens implode. But if you use it as a platform for your best arms, you’re making the bullpen a strength. It makes a ton of sense, and that, along with LaRussa’s inning specialization, will make the biggest impact on the makeup of ballclubs in the last half century.

In short, the Dodgers simply had too many old, crappy arms on the books (Wilson, League, Perez), which weren’t allowing the maligned Scott Elbert, the injured Chris Withrow, and the overlooked Paco Rodriguez to slide into natural roles that could have enhanced the team. I think that Peralta and Friedman acquisition Juan Nicasio will provide a stopgap for the pen while they’ll look to build in 2016 and beyond from the inside, which was luckily left fruitful by Logan White.

And speaking of stopgaps – Jimmy Rollins. What a dude. At least in the 00’s. He still seems like a good guy, a leader type, but is older than the guy the Dodgers let walk. Now, we’re talking a different iteration of player, as Rollins game is/was predicated on quickness & speed with a burst of pop instead of all brawn with a flash of speed. Rollins has been slightly above average for the past four years, yet is remarkably consistent. In today’s game, you don’t need your shortstop to light up the scoreboard, and Rollins’ .260, 14 hr, 55 RB, 29 steals will suffice until Corey Seager snatches the position.Seager, Julio Urias, Joc Pederson. That’s the future right there and Friedman, et al, understand that. The ability to make so many maneuvers (10 trades in 25 days at one point) and upgrade without dealing the three kids is a major coup for this team. I really think the underlying statement that was made is the following:

we have a huge budget and aren’t afraid to use it, but we realize that the future is built on the backs of SABR-minded individuals that also understand that baseball is, and always will be, based on the eyeball test. 

Which brings me to Dee Gordon. Talk about a likable ballplayer; always smiling, always improving, a genuine good person on and off the field. Dodger fans loved his improvement this year, after teetering on the precipice of being a 4A player. “He was an All-Star,” they’d say. Shoot, I said it too. He was exciting. Sixty four stolen bases this year! But the dude couldn’t hit, and I worry that he’d end up being a .262 guy with no pop, and – well, there’s a reason Pat Listach didn’t have a long career. I wish him well in Miami, but most of all I thank him for turning into Andrew Heaney (who’s going to be damn good, ps, and really made me crack up on Twitter), who was flipped for Howie Kendrick.I’ve always likened Howie Kendrick to Kirby Puckett, my favorite player growing up. Free swinging, joyous dudes that came out of junior colleges to light up the big leagues with their smiles & their sticks. Kendrick, of course, isn’t the hitter Puckett was but he can swing it. Especially for a second baseman – and in my mind, the jump offensively from Gordon to Kendrick offsets the perceived drop from Ramirez to Rollins on the other side of the second base bag. Kendrick has a decent glove, and with only one year left on his contract leaves the Dodgers with options heading into 2016, the first real year of the new regime.

Lastly, the Dodgers aren’t done. I don’t know if that means David Price, Cole Hamels, Jordan Zimmermann, James Shields or all of the above (just kidding, I think?). I do think that Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw are untouchable, and Adrian Gonzalez, Kenley Jansen & AJ Ellis aren’t going anywhere.

Anything else is up for discussion.

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photo via fansided/lasportshub