Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy TWolves Opener

Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams will make their NBA debuts tonight for the Timberwolves, so I'm going to repost a Ricky Rubio article I wrote in the past. If you haven't really looked into Rubio's European career, I recommend reading it because some of Rubio's accolades are quite impressive.

Ricky Rubio: The Legend

And for the record, I still think Rubio will become a bigger star than Mauer here, although that doesn't seem so far fetched at this point.

Also, if you want to read a good season preview, I recommend Ball Don't Lie's preview on Yahoo, which can be found here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tim Tebow:
Quarterback, Winner, Not Jesus Christ

First, and foremost, I'm a big Tim Tebow fan. He doesn't have the best throwing mechanics and at times his passes look like my sister is quarterbacking the Broncos, but I like him because he's an extremely rare human being. In a world in which our favorite athletes eventually let us down, Tim Tebow doesn't appear to be like all the rest.

I grew up loving Kevin Garnett, but as I get older and learn more about the kind of teammate and person Garnett was to certain people, it's clear he wasn't this amazing person as some people in the media wanted to portray him while he was here. Sure, KG was fantastic in the community, talked about how much he wanted to stay in Minnesota for his career, and he was one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA, so I'm glad he was a Timberwolf. However, sucker punching Rick Rickert during a summer scrimmage because Rickert was playing better is inexcusable and disgusting. Also, having such a poor relationship with Wally Szczerbiak that the team decided to make that ill-fated trade that brought both Mark Blount AND Ricky Davis to the Timberwolves. When you hear about these things as an adult, you understand that these athletes you once looked up to are just regular people as well. But as a kid, you are crushed. You look up to these players like they are superheroes of some kind, but the fact is a lot of the stars we fall in love with are nothing more than spoiled brats who use their athletic abilities to get whatever they want. (See Roethlisberger, Ben and Woods, Tiger)

Tim Tebow is young. So there's definitely still a possibility that over the next decade or more, Tebow will do something that lets down a lot of his fans. But if I had to bet on any one player staying out of trouble, doing the right things, and being a good teammate, Tim Tebow would be atop the list. I like Tebow because he's a great person and a good athlete. I'm glad the Broncos are 7-1 with Tebow leading the way.

What bothers me is when religion is brought into the discussion. I believe in God. I pray. That certainly doesn't qualify me to understand the workings of God, but I feel fairly safe saying most people who believe in God would agree that God doesn't care if the Denver Broncos win or not. There are children starving all across the world, people getting diagnosed with cancer at record rates, and I'm supposed to believe that the Almighty is working through Tim Tebow? A football player? That is ridiculous. I understand Tebow is a great kid and he's extremely religious, and that's great. If he wants to believe God is talking to him, fine. It's his life, his legacy, and if he has no problem being remembered as the religious quarterback, then neither do I.

But again, anyone that believes God is working through Tim Tebow baffles me. I would have a real issue praying to God every night if I believed He cared more about Tim Tebow and the Broncos beating the Chicago Bears than he does about clearly more important issues.

Now, as I write that, I understand we all have different beliefs in what God can and can't do. Tim Tebow clearly has a different understanding of the things the Lord will do than I do. I'm not saying Tebow's wrong, because when it comes to faith there is no right or wrong answer. But I feel pretty safe saying God isn't a Broncos fan, and he sure as hell doesn't care if Tim Tebow wins or not.

So, it's my opinion that the Broncos are not 7-1 because God wants them to win, but rather because they are playing much better over the last eight games than their first five. Seems reasonable, right? Let's take a look:

To me, football stats don't need to be as complicated as baseball. Total yards and turnovers are generally a good guide to see how the game went. Kyle Orton started 5 games, although he was pulled at halftime of the 5th game. For clarity sake, I counted Orton as playing 4.5 games and Tebow as 8.5.  Here are the Broncos' numbers per game with Orton under center:

Record: 1-4
Opponent's Winning Pct*: .615
Points Scored: 20.2
Points Allowed: 29.8
Passing Yards: 207
Rushing Yards: 91
Turnovers: 2.7
Passing Yards Allowed: 268
Rushing Yards Allowed: 114
Takeaways: 1.3

*Opponent's Winning Pct is based on every team's current record, as of Dec 15, not what their record was when they played the Broncos.

And here are those same statistics in the games Tebow's started:

Record: 7-1
Opponent's Winning Pct: .453
Points Scored: 20.9
Points Allowed: 19.8
Passing Yards: 137
Rushing Yards: 191
Turnovers: 1.1
Passing Yards Allowed: 214
Rushing Yards Allowed: 129
Takeaways: 1.3

A few things jump out right away. Of course the records are much different, as Tebow has brought the Broncos into first place in their division. What really surprised me was the winning percentage of the opponents the Broncos have played while Tebow's been under center.

With Orton, the Broncos did indeed go 1-4, but aside from getting blown out by the Packers the Broncos were in every other game down the stretch. Fourth quarter comebacks have long been considered a skill by those who work inside of football, while others who like to use stats have always wondered if it was indeed a skill or just a matter of circumstance. If you've always believed that some people are clutch and some people aren't, plain and simple, then the Broncos season would seem to support that argument. Tim Tebow continues to win incredibly close games, while Kyle Orton had a knack for losing incredibly close games. But it's important to remember that at least for this season, Orton's comeback attempts were against better teams. That doesn't mean Tebow would have failed, because we've learned not to doubt the kid, but it does make a difference.

Looking further into the stats, it's clear that the Broncos defense is not "influenced" by Tim Tebow. They aren't playing a lot better with Tebow leading the offense; the only defensive statistic that is considerably improved since Tebow took over is points allowed per game. With Orton, the Broncos were allowing more than 29 points per game. With Tebow, it's fallen 10 points to under 20. Some would say that's because the defense is "playing harder" for Tebow. I disagree. The defense is playing about as well as they were at the beginning of the season, getting the same amount of takeaways and allowing a similar amount of total yards, but the major difference is the Broncos rushing attack. Opponents simply aren't getting as many possessions, or short fields off turnovers, like they were with Orton in the game. Another reason is that the opponents haven't been as good, so naturally they won't score as many points as better teams.

While the Denver offense doesn't throw the ball well with Tebow, the fact is they weren't throwing the ball all that well with Kyle Orton playing either. The Broncos have sacrificed 80 yards per game in the passing game by switching to Tebow, but their offense has gained 100 yards rushing. For a team that was already among the league's worst in passing yards per game, it made a lot of sense to switch to Tebow and at least try to lead the league in rushing. The Broncos offense is extremely old-school, but it's working in large part because the team has consistently been running over teams.

I can't explain Tebow's fourth quarter comebacks. Logic would dictate that it can't keep happening; he can't always come through in the 4th quarter of a close game, right? I think it's a combination of Tebow's abilities and determination, but I also think the Broncos have been greatly helped by a weak schedule. Simply put, it's a lot easier to lead a game winning drive against the 4-9 Miami Dolphins than it is the Baltimore Ravens in January.

The Broncos made a colossal mistake letting Kyle Orton start the season as the starter, especially after the team was an abysmal 2-10 last season when he started. Despite all the "experts" saying Orton looked better in training camp, the fact was we had years of data to suggest Kyle Orton wasn't going to win football games for the Broncos. Nobody could have predicted Tebow would lead them to this many wins, and there's at least a chance the team would still be 8-5 even if Tebow started from day one, but to not give him the starting job after what Kyle Orton had done last season was wrong at the time and looks even sillier today.

Tebow has a big task this week. If he can lead the Broncos to a win against the New England Patriots, more and more critics will disappear. To this point the Broncos have a lot of thrilling wins, but they haven't beaten a true contender yet. Getting shellacked by both the Packers and Lions, arguably the two best teams they've played all year, isn't a good sign for the playoffs. But if they can defeat the Patriots, they'll have to be considered a Super Bowl contender.

Tebow might not be Jesus Christ, and God might not care if the Broncos win or lose, but I think even those two would enjoy watching Tim Tebow on Super Bowl Sunday. I know us mortals would love it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Vikings Are Going to Move to Los Angeles

I know, I know. For months, maybe even years, the rumors have been out there. When the lease on the Metrodome expired after the 2011-2012 season (Janaury 1, 2012, to be exact) the Vikings were going to move to LA. But every time someone has mentioned this, chances are you've simply rolled your eyes and ignored it. It's always been seen as a leverage play, something the Vikings ownership could use to get maximum state funding from for a new stadium. Nobody ever really believed that the Vikings would truly move to Los Angeles. As I write this, I think the sentiment among most Minnesotans is that there's no way the Vikings will leave, and they'll get a new stadium deal at the last minute.

I'm not among the majority. My thoughts are much more cynical. Now, it's worth mentioning I'm not a cynical person by nature; heck, I predicted the Twins to win the World Series when they were swept by the Yankees two years ago, I predicted the Vikings to go to the Super Bowl the year after they lost in the NFC Championship--clearly, I was letting my bias toward my favorite teams cloud my opinions of them. That's not a sign of a cynic. However, I've thought ever since Zygi Wilf bought the Vikings, he's been scheming to get the team to Los Angeles. Why? It's simple. Money. He'll get a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium in one of the biggest markets in the country. The Vikings are currently near the bottom of franchise value among NFL teams, and there's no doubt that moving to LA into a sparkling new stadium would turn the Vikings into one of the most valued franchises in all of sports.

Does that seem far-fetched? Maybe to some, but not to me. Zygi Wilf grew up in New York, as a Giants fan. He made his money out east. Prior to buying the Vikings, Wilf had no ties to Minnesota, and no real reason to feel inclined to stay. Of course, Wilf spent money and reenergized the fan base with a couple winning seasons, but even that played into the big picture. By getting some elite level players, like Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson, they ensured themselves that they would have two legitimate superstars on their roster in their primes for the 2012 season. Coincidentally enough, the 2012 season is the first season the Vikings could play somewhere other than Minnesota. Hmmm.

Now, simply acquiring Jared Allen as a 26-year-old and drafting Adrian Peterson are hardly signs that Zygi Wilf has been scheming to move our favorite team to Los Angeles. No, it's what the team continues to do behind the scenes in this stadium issue that has me convinced Zygi Wilf is doing everything he can to make sure a stadium deal does not get done. That seems far-fetched, right? It shouldn't. The Seattle Supersonics were purchased by Clay Bennett, and emails that have come out in the last few years have proven that Bennett had planned to move the team to Oklahoma City from the get go, even though he continued to tell Seattle he was trying to build a new stadium for them to stay. He proposed such outrageous stadium deals that the city had no choice but to reject the offers, and when the Sonics were finally able to move, they did. To Oklahoma City.

Why couldn't that have been Wilf's plan? Or why couldn't it have become Zygi's plan after a few years of owning the Vikings? Let's look at what the team is trying to get for a stadium, and how their mixed signals are creating the kinds of problems Wilf wants.

The Vikings continue to back the proposal offered by Arden Hills. The Wilfs continue to say that they prefer this proposal to the other proposals located in Minneapolis because the Arden Hills location would provide a better "fan experience" than the others. That's ridiculous. These fans have sold out the God-awful Metrodome for 14 consecutive seasons and counting, they will be happy with any new stadium. How easy it is to tailgate shouldn't even be considered when picking a location. That is ridiculous, and there's no way the Wilfs are that stupid. They have a plan.

The Wilf's also understand that the Arden Hills site is the most expensive of the four proposed sites, expected to cost slightly more than $1.1 billion. The cheapest is a renovation on the current Metrodome, which would cost about $900MM. The Wilf's continue to say they will offer $425MM to the construction of a stadium on the Arden Hills site, but considerably less for a stadium that gets built in Minneapolis. The Vikings continue to push the notion that the Wilf's are offering the most private money ever in the building of a new stadium; which is true. But what they fail to mention is that the stadium cost is so great that the Vikings are also asking for more money from the state of Minnesota than any other professional sports team in history. Think about that for a minute. As much as the Vikings want you to think Wilf is offering to pay $425MM, Wilf understands it's almost impossible for the state to come up with over $600MM to fund a stadium.

Even with the state's surprise surplus, the city of Minneapolis is willing to pay $300MM. So that would require Zygi Wilf and the NFL to pledge about $600MM, just to get the Metrodome renovation plan, which is one Wilf doesn't like anyways. Wilf is willing to $425MM of a $1.1B plan he allegedly loves; there's no way he'd pay $600MM of a $900MM plan he hates. The city of Minneapolis could also raise another $300MM or so from a sales tax, which would mean Wilf would only need to pay about $300M. That is significantly less than the $425MM they've pledged to Arden Hills.

But I don't think Wilf would be willing to pledge even that much. He wants the Arden Hills plan to be the choice because he knows that Arden Hills is going to have a lot more difficult time implementing a sales tax than Minneapolis. That's a massive amount of money. Arden Hills had planned to implement a half-cent local sales tax to raise $350MM, which would have meant they'd need about $400MM from the state. At that point, the stadium planned seemed possible. However, the sales tax was vetoed by Governor Dayton, and has no real chance of ever getting passed. That would require the state to come up with an extra $350MM, something they simply won't do. So look for the state to continue to back the Minneapolis proposals, but look for Zygi Wilf and company to continue to say they won't propose nearly as much money for those proposals.

Unless the city of Minneapolis, the NFL and the tax-payers literally give Zygi Wilf and the Vikings a free stadium in Minneapolis, one in which Wilf doesn't need to pledge a single dollar, the Vikings will move. Financially the team is better off in the LA market, and they will undoubtedly move from the league's worst stadium to one of the league's best by 2014. They'd likely play 2012 in the Rose Bowl or the LA Coliseum, but they'd move into the soon to be built state-of-the-art stadium.

When the Vikings announce in early February of 2012 that they have reached an agreement with the city of Los Angeles and the NFL to move to LA effective immediately, just remember I warned you guys. The Los Angeles Vikings. Yet another Minnesota team hijacked by LA, with a nickname that makes no sense. And, when they move, the NFL will be dead to me.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Vikings Should Trade Adrian Peterson

The Minnesota Vikings, an abysmal 2-10 this season, are clearly several years away from competing in a suddenly stacked NFC North. The best way to find starters at new positions is with draft picks; if the team can succeed on most of their draft picks over the next two years, they might be ready to contend again. A lot will depend on the development of Christian Ponder, and whomever they select with their first round pick this season.

But to me, one thing is clear: You don't need to have a good running back to win in this league. Having a good running back doesn't even guarantee a winning season; several great running backs are playing for terrible teams. Other than Adrian Peterson, runners like Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew and LeSean McCoy all play for teams that are no threats to make the playoffs this season.

So I think the Vikings should think seriously about trading Adrian Peterson. The cap ramifications are probably pretty bad, but the team is rebuilding and they could afford to have some dead money on the cap during next season. There's no doubt he's the best running back in the league; he's truly an elite player at a position that lacks them. He makes plays that other running backs simply aren't capable of; however, AP clearly can't carry the team on his own. He's a tremendous asset if the rest of the offense is good as well, but a great running back can only do so much to effect the outcome of a game.

If the team was able to get multiple young players and multiple draft picks from a team, they'd need to pounce on it in my opinion. I'm not sure if a team would be willing to give up the farm for a running back after the Herschel Walker trade fiasco, or even the Ricky Williams draft day trade in which Mike Ditka traded the New Orleans Saints entire draft and a first round pick the next season to move up and draft the University of Texas star.

Now, Peterson is loved here, and rightfully so. He stays out of trouble, he doesn't throw his teammates under the bus, other players respect him, and he's a good guy in the community. He's the best player on the team and one of the league's top 10 players overall, so the team would undoubtedly need to be blown away to justify trading such a popular star.

Are there any teams that would be willing to give up a lot of talent to acquire someone like Adrian Peterson? I'm not sure. Let's take a look, by division: (I ruled out the NFC North, because there's no way they'd trade him in the division, even if the Packers make a lot of sense.)

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys - Jerry Jones loves to make blockbuster moves, and he may be tempted to try to acquire the star. However, DeMarco Murray has looked great over the last two months, and I'm sure Jerry Jones still thinks highly of Felix Jones, so I think we could rule Dallas out. No reverse Herschel trade, sorry Vikes fans. Dallas is a No.

New York Giants - Eli Manning, Adrian Peterson and that ridiculously good core of receivers they have? They'd be fun to play with in Madden, but in all honesty I can't imagine the Giants giving up what they'd need to, because their offense is and always will be focused around Eli Manning's arm. Peterson would be a luxury, and they just wouldn't have any reason to give up a ransom for him. The Giants are a No.

Philadelphia Eagles - LeSean McCoy is one of the best running backs in the league. Not happening. Philadelphia is a No.

Washington Redskins - The Redskins love to make big moves, or owner Daniel Snyder used to at least, so they'd at least be a darkhorse in any Adrian Peterson sweepstakes. And while Mike Shanahan has a reputation for using several running backs during the season (because he does), he's shown what he can do with extremely talented running backs. Terrell Davis ran for over 2,000 yards in Shanahan's offense, and I think everyone would agree Adrian Peterson is more talented than Davis ever was. Washington is a possibility.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons - They showed during last April when they moved up for Julio Jones that they are willing to give up assets to acquire someone they want. However, Michael Turner is a very good running back, so the Falcons are a No.

Carolina Panthers - Carolina has plenty of needs to fill themselves, and their offense will always be based around Cam Newton. AP wouldn't make sense for them, especially with the money they just gave to DeAngelo Williams. Carolina is a No.

New Orleans Saints - The Saints are apparently low-balling Drew Brees in contract negotiations, so while the Saints might be willing to trade in their three-headed running back committee for a true star in AP, I can't imagine their ownership signing off on a deal that pays Peterson the kind of money he's owed on his extension. New Orleans is a No.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The Bucs have Blount who's a good, cheap, young running back, and fits their core better than Peterson would. However, after a poor season, and with plenty of money to spend, the Bucs might just be willing to acquire a major star like Peterson to help improve their offense and hopefully improve Josh Freeman's numbers next season. Tampa Bay is a possibility.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals - Beanie Wells has had a solid season, but he's generally inconsistent and adding a player like AP would obviously be a major upgrade. Kevin Kolb hasn't looked great this season, but in theory any decent quarterback would look great playing with both Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald. However, the Cardinals would probably be weary about spending almost $45MM on 3 offensive players. I'm going to say Arizona is a No.

San Francisco 49ers - Frank Gore just signed an extension, he's having a good season, and the team is going to be the number 2 seed in the NFC this season. They'll pass. The 49ers are a No.

Seattle Seahawks - The Seahawks offense has been terrible at times this season so you would think if they could acquire AP, they'd be excited to get some offensive talent. However, Marshawn Lynch has had some great games this season, and while his inconsistency gets frustrating I just can't imagine Seattle wanting Peterson enough while they have Lynch. The Seahawks are a No.

St. Louis Rams - They've been awful all season, which means they have a lot of holes to fill. They also have Steven Jackson. The Rams are definitely a No.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills - Fred Jackson was having a monster season for the Bills, but he's 31-years-old and just broke his leg. They have CJ Spiller who they drafted in the top half of the first round just two years ago, and he played well last week as the feature back. I don't think they'd be too interested in acquiring AP. The Bills are a No.

Miami Dolphins - Reggie Bush is having his best season to date, and even though that "best season" still only has him on pace to rush for 889 yards, the Dolphins also just used a second round pick on Daniel Thomas. Miami is a No.

New England Patriots - The Patriots have a plethora of future draft picks thanks to trades with other teams, a decent assortment of young talent, and a fairly big hole at running back. The Patriots clearly can win without a running game, but they are the kind of team that could really benefit from the addition of AP from a Super Bowl contender perspective. The Patriots are definitely a possibility.

New York Jets - Any time a big-name player is available and he fills a potential need for the Jets, they have to be considered. I think Rex Ryan would do everything possible to acquire Peterson, because despite Shonn Greene's solid game last week he's clearly nothing more than an average running back. The Jets would be able to hide Mark Sanchez much easier if they could get back to a dominating running attack. The Jets are a possibility.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens - Ray Rice fits their offense better, and he's damn good. The Ravens are a No.

Cincinnati Bengals - With a young core being put into place, built around Andy Dalton and AJ Green, adding a veteran like Peterson would make sense. Cedric Benson is nowhere close to the type of player Peterson is, so the Bengals could be a possibility.

Cleveland Browns - They're afraid to pay Peyton Hillis after the season he had last year. Hillis clearly isn't as good as AP, but the point is if they're afraid to pay a running back after having a great season, I'm not sure they'd be able to justify trading major assets and paying him that kind of money. The Browns are a No.

Pittsburgh Steelers - No.

AFC South

Houston Texans - Arian Foster is a stud. No need for Peterson. The Texans are a No.

Indianapolis Colts - The Colts have needs in a lot of places, and considering they'll likely use their number 1 pick on a position that isn't a "need" if Manning stays healthy, they can't afford to trade a ton of players and picks for one player. The Colts are a No.

Jacksonville Jaguars - New owner, they'll have a new coach, so it's hard to know for sure if they'd be interested. But MJD leads the league in yards, or is close to the lead, so there's simply no need for Peterson. The team needs a lot, but running back is not a need. The Jaguars are a No.

Tennessee Titans - They just gave Chris Johnson a massive contract extension, and he's finally playing well again. The Titans are a No.

AFC West

Denver Broncos - If the Broncos are serious about making this read-option offense working, acquiring Adrian Peterson would be a big step in the right direction. Tebow is a fantastic running quarterback, and as good as the Broncos rushing attack has been over the last several weeks, upgrading from Willis McGahee to AP would be huge. Denver is a possibility.

Kansas City Chiefs - Jamaal Charles is coming off major surgery and is definitely a question mark, but he was among the league's best running backs before his injury and there's little reason to believe the Chiefs don't think he'll come back and play well. The Chiefs are a No.

Oakland Raiders - They love to make big splashes, or at least they did while Al Davis was alive, but they have Darren McFadden. No.

San Diego Chargers - AJ Smith, the Chargers GM, is a total douchebag. So No.
So who does that leave as possible trade partners? Here:

Washington Redskins
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Cincinnati Bengals
Denver Broncos

Now, I realize it's ridiculously silly to try to predict trades, but this whole idea of the Vikings actually trading AP is silly on it's own, so just go with it. Here's what I think the Vikings would need from each team for it to make sense for them to trade their best player.

Washington Redskins Get: RB Adrian Peterson

Minnesota Vikings Get: RB Roy Helu, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, Washington's 2012 1st and 2nd round picks, Washington's 2013 2nd and 3rd round picks

Washington would be giving up a lot of talent, and the Vikings would be foolish to pass on this kind of offer. But I think it would take something like this to pry AP from the Vikings anyways.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Get: RB Adrian Peterson

Minnesota Vikings Get: RB LeGarrette Blount, CB Aqib Talib, Bucs 2012 1st round pick, Bucs 2013 3rd round pick
Talib and Blount are extremely talented players but both come with baggage, which is why the Vikings would still need two solid draft picks to make this deal feasible. The Bucs have enough young talent that this is a trade they could make fairly easily if they wanted too, though.

New England Patriots Get: RB Adrian Peterson

Minnesota Vikings Get: RT Nate Solder, CB Ras-I Dowling, New England's 2012 1st round pick, New Orleans' 2012 1st round pick and Oakland's 2012 2nd round pick

The Patriots haven't drafted all that well in recent years, and while giving up three high draft picks isn't usually the way they operate, it would make sense to fill such a glaring hole. The Patriots would still have a boatload of draft picks, and while Solder and Dowling are young with a lot of potential, neither is a sure thing to be a star in the league. But the potential would be too much for the Vikings to pass on.

The Jets just don't match up well with the Vikings. They lack an upcoming young star, and their draft picks will be mid-to-late in each round so the value just isn't there.

Cincinnati Bengals Get: RB Adrian Peterson

Minnesota Vikings Get: RT Andre Smith, SS Taylor Mays, MLB Rey Maualuga, Cincinnati's 2012 1st round pick and Oakland's 2012 1st round pick

The Bengals would give up three young players who were all once highly regarded, although none look to be future stars. Maualuga is a good linebacker, and Smith has improved to be at least solid, so they are good players, just not as good as once expected. Mays has barely seen the field. The Bengals may be willing to make their move now, with Dalton and AJ Green giving them a lot of hope.

Denver Broncos Get: RB Adrian Peterson

Minnesota Vikings Get: MLB Joe Mays, WR Eric Decker, FS Rahim Moore, Denver's 2012 1st round pick, Denver's 2013 3rd round pick

Pretty big ransom to pay for AP, with Decker showing a lot of potential this season. But Mays, while a good player, is certainly replaceable. Moore isn't starting yet and there's a chance the Broncos think they made a mistake, but he had a lot of potential coming out of college. Mays, Decker and Moore could give the Vikings three solid starters, and they could hope to hit a home run with one of the two draft picks to make the trade a good one.

Would you be willing to trade AP for any of those packages this off-season? I love Peterson, probably more than most fans, but I'd rather watch a winning team consistently than a fantastic running back. In a perfect world this team would just win with Peterson, but with so many holes to fill, that no longer seems possible.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Unsurprisingly, Voters Screw Up AL MVP

Earlier today it was announced that Justin Verlander, the American League Cy Young Award winner, also was voted the American League MVP. There's no arguing Verlander had a fantastic season, and he was a major reason the Detroit Tigers were able to make the playoffs this past season.

Unfortunately, Verlander winning the MVP award is a mistake. He went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA, posted a 0.92 WHIP, and struck out one batter per inning. He was fantastic, and certainly deserving of winning the American League Cy Young award unanimously, which he did.

I have a real issue with people saying that the MVP award needs to go to someone who was at least in the playoff hunt down the stretch. It absolutely makes for a great story when the star player on a contending team carries his team in September and helps take them into the playoffs. And because the people who vote on the MVP award write about these kinds of things for the entire month leading up to when they vote, they are undoubtedly and likely unknowingly oftentimes voting for that player.

Baseball is a team sport. One player can help a team, but he can't turn a team around on his own like they can in basketball. Putting a great player on a good team will definitely take that team to the next level, but if you put Albert Pujols on the Houston Astros last year, they still would have finished under .500. Had you switched Justin Verlander with J.A. Happ in the Astros rotation, the Astros would have won about 7 more games. Happ was the Astros worst starter last season, so that's the best improvement the team could've made with Verlander. Verlander posted a WAR of 7.0, while Happ's was 0.3. Verlander was clearly leaps and bounds better, but it's incredibly difficult for someone who only plays about 1/5 of the team's games to be more valuable than an offensive player who plays basically every day.

Giving Verlander the award because "Detroit wouldn't have made the playoffs without him" is also flawed logic. It's ridiculous to judge a player based on his teammates when those players have virtually no say in who they get to play with. Sure, free agency allows players to technically choose their team, but it's a business first and these players need to take the contract that makes the most sense for them and their families, not what team will give them the best chance to win. As a fan you may not agree with that line of thinking, but when it comes to their livelihood it's unfair to criticize a player for playing with a bad team. Even if you don't agree with me that players should take the best offer in free agency, the Tigers ABSOLUTELY would have made the playoffs without Verlander.

Detroit finished 95-67, 15 games ahead of second place Cleveland. Justin Verlander's WAR was 7.0. Unless the Tigers replaced Verlander with someone who's WAR was -8.0 (impossible) they would have made the playoffs. If you don't like WAR or other advanced statistics, here's an even simpler, albeit not entirely correct, explanation:

If the Tigers had switched Justin Verlander's 24 wins with ANY pitcher who won 10 games in 34 starts, they still would have won the division. Verlander was fantastic, but he was not the most valuable player in the American League. Getting the MVP vote wrong has become kind of a tradition among the baseball writers, so it's not surprising they did it again.

Personally, I think Jose Bautista deserved the award. Yes, I understand he played for an 81-81 Blue Jays team. But he hit a ridiculous .302/.447/.608 with 43 home runs in 149 games. The average American League player hit .258/.323/.408 in 2011. Bautista's on base percentage was higher than the average American League player's slugging percentage. He was leaps and bounds better than pretty much every American League hitter other than Miguel Cabrera. His WAR of 8.3 is very good, but it's worth noting that Jacoby Ellsbury's WAR was 9.4. Ellsbury's offensive numbers weren't nearly as impressive, but he played great defensively in center field and still had a great offensive year, so his value is perceived to be higher than Bautista's according to FanGraphs.

Baseball Reference, which also has their own WAR statistic, rated Bautista as 8.5 wins above replacement, while Ellsbury's WAR was 7.2. Baseball Reference did have Verlander's value as 8.6 wins above replacement, which is slightly better than Bautista. However, because both WAR stats are important and slightly different, it makes more sense to average the two out and see who has the highest. Bautista would be 8.4 wins above replacement, Ellsbury would be 8.3 and Verlander would be 7.8. So yes, according to WAR, it was close enough that voting for Verlander isn't a huge mistake or even a big deal.

However, it's frustrating because when you compare Verlander's season to Clayton Kershaw's, Verlander wasn't so much better that he deserves to win the AL MVP while Kershaw likely won't even get a vote. Verlander had a better season, both with advanced statistics and more conventional, old-school statistics. However, Kershaw's 21-5 record with a 2.28 ERA is impressive. I've seen it mentioned a few places that Kershaw would have won 25 games had he played for Verlander's Tigers, but that's just not true. Verlander got an average of 5.56 runs from his offense when he started, and Kershaw was basically exactly the same, posting a run support average of 5.52. Verlander was better, and had they been in the same league Verlander would have been more deserving of the Cy Young than Kershaw.

But Kershaw was still great, and had the Dodgers been in contention down the stretch there's a chance the writers would have felt Kershaw was a legitimate MVP candidate. It's ridiculous that the voters have no problem giving Verlander the MVP award when the Tigers STILL WOULD HAVE made the playoffs if they replaced him with a replacement level player, yet they likely won't even consider Kershaw* because his team finished 81-81 instead of winning their division.

*The NL MVP award will come out tomorrow (Tuesday), so I guess there's a chance the voters will prove me wrong, but I'd be shocked if Kershaw finishes higher than 10th, if he gets on the ballot at all. Also, the writers who vote for the AL MVP aren't the same writers who will vote for the NL MVP, so it's unfair to categorize them altogether, but I'm doing it anyways.

Since 2006, the AL MVP award has been wrongly chosen three out of six years. Justin Morneau won the award in 2006 despite both Derek Jeter and Joe Mauer being more valuable. A-Rod deservingly won it in 2007. In 2008, Dustin Pedroia won it despite his teammate Kevin Youkilis being more valuable. In 2009, Joe Mauer rightfully won the MVP award, when he had arguably the greatest all-around season by a catcher in baseball history. Last season, in 2010, Josh Hamilton was deserving of the award, and he won it. With Verlander's selection this season I would say they've now been wrong over 50% of the time over the last seven years, which is frustrating. Not to mention that when Pedro Martinez didn't win the MVP award in 1999, it should have become an unwritten rule that no pitcher would win it unless he was equally as dominant. Pedro got screwed by writers refusing to put a pitcher on the ballot, despite the rules clearly stating that pitchers NEED to be considered by the voters. It was a shame at the time, and it's a shame today because as good as Verlander's 2011 season was, it still wasn't all that close to the dominant 1999 Pedro season (which was in the middle of the greatest offensive boom in baseball history) yet Verlander will take home the AL MVP award that Pedro deserved over a decade ago.

Wait a minute, though, you might say. Just because the writers screwed up Pedro's MVP voting in 1999 doesn't mean every pitcher should get screwed because of it. I agree. Had Verlander been leaps and bounds more valuable than any offensive player, like Pedro was in 1999, I would have had no problem with him winning the award. Unfortunately, Verlander's 2011 season is more comparable statistically to Johan Santana's 2006 season than Pedro's 1999 season, and Santana finished 7th in the AL MVP voting. In case you were wondering, the AL MVP that year, Justin Morneau, hit .321/.375/.559 as a first baseman. The average offensive AL player in 2006 hit .275/.339/.447. That means Morneau had a worse season in 2006 than Jose Bautista did this year, and the average offensive AL player hit better in 2006 than in 2011. Bautista was leaps and bounds better than Morneau, while Santana and Verlander's seasons were comparable. Morneau won the award because the Twins made the playoffs; Bautista wasn't even considered because he didn't have the benefit of playing with Johan Santana and Joe Mauer.

Maybe one day I'll get a vote, and then someone can criticize who I voted for. But until then, I'll gladly be the guy that complains about an MVP award voting process a lot of people just don't care about.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NFL Picks: Week 10

Last week was busier than expected and I never got around to even making my NFL Picks, which is a good thing based on my record against the spread this year. (Thankfully it's all been hypothetical...) We'll just say week 9 was my bye week. Also, I would've taken San Diego over Oakland, so I'm already 0-1.

Overall: 47-59-9
Last Week: Bye Week

As always, home team in Bold.

Pittsburgh (-4) over Cincinnati
Kansas City (-3) over Denver
Jacksonville (-3) over Indianapolis
Buffalo (+5.5) over Dallas
Tampa Bay (+3.5) over Houston
Tennessee (+3.5) over Carolina
Washington (+4) over Miami
Atlanta (Even) over New Orleans
Cleveland (-2.5) over St. Louis
Arizona (+14) over Philadelphia
Baltimore (-7) over Seattle
Detroit (+3) over Chicago
New York Giants (+3.5) over San Francisco
New England (+1.5) over New York Jets
Minnesota (+13) over Green Bay

Friday, November 11, 2011

Twins Sign Jamey Carroll

The Twins have reportedly signed former Dodgers infielder Jamey Carroll to a 2-year, $7MM deal to be their everyday shortstop presumably for the next two seasons.

Terry Ryan took over the GM reigns from Bill Smith last week... so it's only fitting that his first move back in the GM chair is to sign an aging veteran infielder. While Ryan excelled in his first stint making major moves (trading AJ Pierzysnki, for example) he consistently struggled to bring in average to above average players to put around the Twins stars. Tony Batista and Livan Hernandez were two signings that looked awful at the time and even worse in hindsight; so the fact that the Twins targeted a 37-year-old infielder isn't that surprising.

Carroll isn't in the same class as Batista and Hernandez, mainly because he can still contribute. He hit .290/.357/.349 last season while playing 3B, SS, 2B and some outfield. The Twins reportedly will use Carroll as their everyday shortstop, though, and last season American League shortstops hit .266/.321/.386, which is basically the exact same offensive production Carroll gave the Dodgers.

Over his last four seasons, Carroll has hit .284/.362/.343, so at least offensively his production has been incredibly consistent. Now, he's 37-years-old and will be 38 before the season begins, so it's not out of the question his production falls off a cliff and he's a liability for the Twins over the length of the contract.

Defensively, Carroll has a reputation as a very good defender. Carroll has spent the majority of his time playing shortstop for the Dodgers, although the sample sizes are still not quite where you'd like them to be to get a good understanding of his defense from UZR/150. In 2010, Carroll's defense ranked as 4 runs above average over 150 games, but in 2011 it declined considerably to 6.2 runs BELOW average over 150 games. He played about the same innings each season, and the first assumption is that Carroll as a 37-year-old simply couldn't get to the same kinds of balls that 36-year-old Carroll could get to. That seems the most likely, in my opinion, but it's worth noting that UZR isn't a perfect defensive metric and players can fluctuate from year to year, so there's a chance Carroll could return to being an above average defender. If Carroll was 28 instead of 38, I would bet that he'd bounce back defensively, but his age is a serious concern.

Ultimately, the Carroll signing is an upgrade over what the team currently had, but I don't think it was the best choice. Signing anyone for two seasons when he will be 38 and 39 is almost never a good idea, unless it's Mariano Rivera, and even if Carroll's offensive numbers remain consistent, he's really only a net positive for the team if his defense returns to be at least average.

I still would have preferred Ramon Santiago, the utility man from Detroit, because his defense at shortstop is considerably better. His offense has actually been slightly better than Carrol's over the last four years (.266/.335/.374) although it's so close that offensively it really doesn't matter. As I've mentioned before, Santiago's defense at shortstop consistently rates as fantastic; in 2010, he played more innings at shortstop than Carroll and produced a UZR/150 of 16.4. That is ridiculously high. Brendan Ryan, widely considered the league's best defensive shortstop, played twice as many innings as Santiago did at shortstop in 2010, and posted a UZR/150 of 12.1. That led the league. Santiago only played about 125 innings at shortstop in 2011, so the sample size is definitely small, but he again posted a very good 10.4 UZR/150. He's also only 32-years-old, so a sharp decline in production is less likely than it is for Carroll.

Carroll has a shot to be a solid every day player, and his consistently good on base percentage will be an asset hitting second, but with almost no power and at least a chance of poor defense, I'm not a fan of the signing. Santiago will ultimately sign for less money and possibly less years, and he should outproduce Carroll, so it's frustrating to see the team consistently target the wrong players. Carroll isn't nearly the kind of mistake Batista or Hernandez were, but I think in two years we'll look at the signing and consider it a mistake. I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chasing Our Dreams

From the time we are little, most of us are told by our parents or someone close to us that we "can be anything we want to be." Of course, as we grow up, we realize that isn't true. I certainly never dreamed of becoming a singer, but even if I had wanted to, the truth is Helen Keller probably held a tune better than I can. There are definitely limitations to our childhood dreams; and that's to be expected, because if we all got to live our childhood dreams I have a feeling there'd be a lot of game-winning home runs in game 7 of the World Series. As we grow up, we may realize some of our dreams are unattainable because of factors beyond our control. However, the beauty in growing up is that we learn who we are on a daily basis. Sure, as a 17-year-old or 20-year-old or 25-year-old you may realize you aren't going to be the World Series hero, but you may also realize what it is that you really love to do. Most of us get over our childhood dreams because the fact is we are never going to achieve them; we replace them with slightly more realistic dreams. I say "most of us" because for David Freese, he came as close as possible I would think to living out his childhood dream.

By now, I have little doubt that you know David Freese, down to his final strike, hit the game-tying double in game 6 of the World Series, with his team down two runs in the 9th inning. Then he came up again in the 11th inning and hit a walk-off home run to center field, ending arguably the most dramatic World Series game in baseball history. Freese added a big game-tying double again in the 1st inning of game 7, the Cardinals won game 7 by the score of 6-2, and David Freese won the World Series MVP.

You probably also know that Freese grew up a Cardinals fan, because it was mentioned over and over during the World Series and even more after his MVP performance. He hit .533 with 23 home runs as a senior in high school, was considered the best shortstop in the state, and had an offer to play baseball at Missouri. But he felt burned out, and he surprisingly decided to quit. He walked away from baseball at 18 years old because he was sick of it. He still attended the University of Missouri for his freshman year, but when he returned home for the summer he realized just how much he missed baseball.

Freese enrolled at St. Louis Community College-Meramec for his sophomore year so he could play baseball again. That year he was a second-team All-American among JUCO schools, hitting .396. He then went on to play two years at South Alabama, where he hit .373/.443/.525 as a junior and then an even better .414/.503/.661 as a senior. He was a 9th round pick by the San Diego Padres in 2006, and was traded to his hometown Cardinals in 2008 in the deal that sent Jim Edmonds to San Diego.

Since the trade, Freese has spent parts of three seasons with the Cardinals. He's basically had a season's worth of at-bats over those three years, and he's hit a solid .298/.350/.441 in just over 600 at-bats. Freese's game 6 heroics will be shown every time there's a World Series game 6, just like Joe Carter and Kirby Puckett. However, what makes the situation so remarkable is that Freese almost gave it all away because he was sick of it. He almost gave up on his dream, for no real reason. And if he had, none of us would have been able to enjoy game 6 nearly as much as we did. Because for one night, we were all living our childhood dreams vicariously through David Freese. It wasn't game 7, but it was damn close.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What To Do With Michael Cuddyer

After a 99-loss season despite a $115MM payroll, it's clear this is a huge off-season for our Minnesota Twins. Injuries played a big part in the awfulness, and a healthy Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in 2012 would help the team improve a great deal. However, there are still a lot of issues that need to be filled. In case you missed it, I posted a two-part off-season outlook that offers a blueprint for the off-season. In the event that you don't want to read that entire piece, I suggested that the team let Michael Cuddyer leave as a free agent after offering him arbitration, therefore getting two high draft picks for him.

Now, let's see if the Twins would indeed be wise to let Cuddyer leave, per my suggestion. Last season, Cuddyer hit .284/.346/.459, which was good for an OPS of .805. He also added 20 home runs. He also made the all-star team, but that was more because the Twins had nobody else to send than anything. Certainly not on the level of a Ron Coomer type selection, though, because Cuddyer was playing at a fairly high level.

Anyways, while Cuddyer split time between RF and 1B in 2011, his value to the Twins and other teams in 2012 projects as a RF, so I will compare his 2011 numbers only to right fielders. That's important, because Cuddyer's value will come from being able to outplay the average right fielder, since he will be making far more money than an average player.

Cuddyer's .284/.346/.459 line was better than the league average of .267/.337/.431 among right fielders. His OPS of .805 was about 5% higher than the league average of .768. Meanwhile, Cuddyer's defense, which has ranked among the league's worst in recent years, rated exactly average. His UZR/150 rating was 0.1, which means his defense in RF saved one tenth of a run over 150 games. He was nearly 21 runs below that in 2010, so a regression seems likely, but if he continues to hit and defend like he did in 2011, there's no arguing Cuddyer is clearly above average.

However, the question again becomes if the team can find similar production (.284/.346/.459) from the RF position without spending $10MM per season over the next few seasons. Not to beat a dead horse, but in my off-season outlook I suggested that the Twins use a platoon of Chris Parmelee and Juan Rivera, because Rivera has always mashed left-handed pitching and not only did Parmelee earn a roster spot by hitting .355/.443/.592 in 21 games in September, but he's posted solid on-base percentages in the high minors and he should also benefit from avoiding left-handed pitching by being used in a platoon.

Now, would Rivera and Parmelee really have a chance to outperform Michael Cuddyer? Rivera, for his career, has hit .289/.335/.495 against left-handed pitching, and he basically matched those numbers in 2011 by hitting .289/.349/.456 again against lefties. If we just assume Cuddyer matches his 2011 season (and as a soon to be 33-year-old that seems generous) than Rivera's .289/.349/.456 line against lefties is exactly on par with Cuddyer's .286/.346/.459 overall line. Cuddyer should get $10MM/year. Rivera likely will sign for less than $1.5MM. Now, of course, Rivera is only half of the platoon, so to at least match Cuddyer's offensive production they'd need Parmelee to post similar numbers against right-handed pitching.

It's beyond unlikely that Parmelee will hit .355/.443/.592 for an entire season, even against mostly right-handed pitching, but a .280/.360/.430 line isn't out of the question. That's not quite as productive as Cuddyer (it's about 2% worse, OPS wise) and Parmelee's defense is likely going to be about as suspect as Cuddyer's was for years, but without the cannon arm. Now, it is worth mentioning that Rivera's defense rates as well above-average, and he would have value as a late-inning replacement defensively in games he didn't start against right handed pitching. Rivera's defensive value against left-handed pitching (when he starts) likely is worth more than the offense will lose from Cuddyer to Parmelee against right-handed pitching.

Parmelee and Rivera would cost the Twins about $2MM for the 2012 season, and Cuddyer signing elsewhere would also give the Twins two more draft picks. The production is likely going to be very similar between a platoon and Cuddyer, so for 1/5 of the cost it should be a no-brainer. Add in that the team could potentially add two very good prospects to a sneaky-good farm system and it really shouldn't even be a decision anymore. Cuddyer has been a model citizen, an entertaining and oftentimes very good player, and he seems to genuinely appreciate being a Twin. But it's important to remember that it is indeed a business first, and the fact is other teams will be able and more willing to offer Michael Cuddyer more money than the Twins should pay. If he signs with the Nationals, the Twins would get the highest possible compensation pick (#16 overall) available. Seems unlikely, but if he's going to leave, that's the number one choice for us Twins fans.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

NFL Picks: Week 8

Last Week: 5-7-1
Overall: 41-53-8

The Herman Cain special:

Tennessee (-9) over Indianapolis
Houston (-9) over Jacksonville
San Francisco (-9) over Cleveland

I'm calling these games the "Herman Cain 9-9-9 I don't know what the hell is going to happen" games, because the spreads seem ridiculously high in all 3. But I'm going with the favorites. Tennessee is fresh off a 34-point walloping against a Texans team that hadn't been all that impressive up to that point. The Colts are fresh off a 55-point walloping against a very good Saints team, but still, 55 points? 

I'm taking Tennessee because the Colts suck. It's that simple. But what's happened to Chris Johnson this season has been incredibly surprising. Nobody expected his holdout to make a huge difference in his performance, and while there's a chance the holdout is what's hurting him, it's much more likely the missed off-season workouts due to the lockout have hurt him more. He's running poorly. My theory? Remember that show that used to be on the Disney channel, years ago, called "The Jersey?" The main characters could put on an old jersey and be that player for a game, a play, etc. I'm convinced some kid found a jersey like that and he's been Chris Johnson for every game this season. How else could you explain a 2.9 average? DeMarco Murray ran for 253 yards last week. Chris Johnson has ran for 268 yards ALL SEASON. But I'm taking the Titans, because, yes, the Colts are that bad.

I don't think Houston is as good as their 41-7 drubbing of the Titans last week, but I also don't think the Jaguars deserve a whole lot of credit for the way the Ravens played last week. Andre Johnson still won't play this week, but even without him I think Arian Foster and company will have plenty of fire power to cover a nine point spread. I can't believe I'm taking Alex Smith -9, but when he's playing a Browns offense that has looked bad, thanks in part because of below average play from Colt McCoy, a blowout is certainly possible for the 5-1 49ers.

The "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes:

Carolina (-3.5) over Minnesota
New Orleans (-13.5) over St. Louis
New York Giants (-9.5) over Miami
Arizona (+12.5) over Baltimore

The Vikings, Rams, Dolphins and Cardinals all remain viable candidates for the number one overall pick. Of course, the previously mentioned Indianapolis Colts arguably hold the poll position as this point in the season, but all four of these teams will have a chance this week to show they, too, can be incredibly bad for a whole season.

Cam Newton should shred an injured, suspended and porous Vikings pass defense at home. Drew Brees and company should cruise past the Rams without issue, especially if the Cowboys were able to beat the Rams so easily last week. The Dolphins players may not like the "Suck for Luck" talk, but I fully expect them to prove again this week that Andrew Luck is really the only player that can turn them around quickly. I think Arizona will get a surprisingly good game from Kevin Kolb, and while I'm not going to go as far as to predict an upset, I do think the Cardinals will keep the game close enough late to help me cover.

"They gave all that money to who? What idiots...we were for doubting them."
Buffalo (-5.5) over Washington
San Diego (-3.5) over Kansas City

The Chiefs traded a second round pick in the 2009 draft for Matt Cassel, and then gave him a six-year, $63MM extension. Cassel was coming off an 11-5 season with the Patriots, a QB rating just under 90, almost 4,000 yards passing and 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. In his first season in Kansas City Cassel looked like a terrible acquisition, completing just 55% of his passes, throwing the same number of interceptions as touchdowns (16) and posting a QB rating of 69.9.  However, last season Cassel was great, throwing 27 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions while completing an improved 58% of his passes. His completion percentage this season is at 63.5%, and although his QB rating is just above 80, he's been very good in 3 of the last 4 games. I think he'll play average this week but Philip Rivers will finally have a monster game and lead the Chargers to victory.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was a seventh round pick by the Rams in 2005. A lot has been made of his intelligence, because he went to Harvard, but my favorite story is that he scored a 48 on his wonderlic test at the NFL combine before he was drafted, and he completed the test in 9 minutes. NINE minutes. Ridiculous. After a few seasons with St. Louis and the Bengals the Bills signed Fitzpatrick prior to the 2009 season. After posting a 69.7 QB rating in 10 games in 2009, nobody expected too much from him in the future. Then Trent Edwards was benched early in the 2010 season, and since then Fitzpatrick has played well. He posted a QB rating of 81.8 last year in 13 games, and while that's hardly spectacular, it's at least average. He's been much better this season, though, as his QB rating is a stellar 95.7 through 6 games. Cassel is starting to prove that he was worth the money the Chiefs spent; hopefully for the Bills they'll get similar production from Fitzpatrick over the next few seasons. I fully expect him to continue to play well, but maybe not as well as he has thus far.

The Delmon Youngs of Week 8:

Detroit (-3) over Denver
Philadelphia (-3.5) over Dallas

These teams have all received a lot of media hype over the last 7 weeks, but continue to under perform despite their "potential" just like Delmon Young.

Other than Denver, all of these teams are not only hoping to make the playoffs, but to make some noise once they get there. The Lions have lost back-to-back games after starting 5-0, and if they go into Denver and lose to Tim Tebow and the Broncos, the hype machine surrounding Detroit might start to quiet down. This a huge game for them to show they are for real. As far as the Eagles, this is probably their last chance to prove that they are in fact a contender, because if they lose to Dallas and fall to 2-5 they might as well just accept the fact that this isn't their year. The Cowboys could potentially bounce back from a loss this week, but a win could potentially eliminate a divisional foe. It's a big game.

The AFC Championship Preview:

New England (-3) over Pittsburgh

I'd be very surprised if it's not these two teams playing in the AFC Championship game in January. Look for Brady and the Pats to win a shootout with Roethlisberger and the Steelers this time.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Examining World Series Game 6's

As I was watching some of the pre-game World Series coverage on ESPN, Karl Ravech said "You don't get a lot of game 6's." As if game 6 was a rare occurrence in the World Series. My first thought was that Ravech had to be wrong; I would bet at least half of World Series have had a game 6 in the history of baseball.

The first World Series was held in 1903, but that was a best of 9 series. The next World Series was held in 1905, and from 1905 through 1918 the World Series was a best of 7 series. Between 1905-1918, 6 of the series went to at least 6 games. Then, in 1919, baseball decided to go back to a best of 9 series like they had used in the first World Series, in an attempt to generate more interest and more revenue. After three seasons of this the powers that be deemed a 7 game series more appropriate, and that's the format that's been used since. There was no World Series played in the strike-shortened 1994 season. Here's the official numbers on the World Series' that have gone to game 6 in history:

1905-1918: 6/14 series had a game 6
1922-2010: 52/88 series had a game 6

That means that among 102 World Series that were of the best-of-seven format, 58 of them have gone to at least 6 games. That's a remarkable 57% of the series, and it's happened over 100 years, so it's difficult to say it's a random fluke. Karl Ravech's comment that "You don't get a lot of game 6's" was clearly wrong. I like Ravech and don't mean to criticize him, but it shows that the way analysts and announcers try to hype games up is more important than what is actually said. By making game 6's seem rare, it makes the situation seem bigger. Ravech isn't trying to purposely mislead the viewer; if anything he's trying to mislead himself because he's so invested in the game itself. He may not care who wins, but he's spent days and nights covering baseball for the past 7 months, so this game is huge to him.

What's more surprising is recent history. Maybe that's what misled Ravech into thinking that we don't see a lot of game 6's; from 2004-2010 there's been just one World Series that went to six games, and that was in 2009 when the Yankees beat the Phillies in 6. It's almost certain that this is just an example of a small-sample size creating a fluke in the data, but it's interesting nonetheless. So despite the experts best efforts to prove that game 6 was indeed a "big sports moment" and something that doesn't happen all that often, the fact is you're going to see a game 6 two out of every four years on average, so if Rangers-Cardinals isn't your cup of tea, you can probably just wait until next year and watch two different teams in a game 6. You have about a 57% chance.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

2012 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

The Suck for Luck campaign remains open in more than a few cities, but Miami and Indianapolis seem to be in a race for it. With almost half the season over, here's my second mock draft. The draft order is based on current records; if teams have the same record I just used my judgement on who I think is worse. Explanations for top 10.

1. Indianapolis Colts 0-7 -  Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

This would be a no brainer, even if Manning does come back from his possibly career ending neck injury. Luck could sit behind Manning for a year or two or three and the Colts would be fine. Luck might not like that idea, though, and despite a friendly relationship with Manning I could easily see a situation in which Luck decides to go back to school AGAIN, unless the Colts agree beforehand to trade the pick or Manning is injured. He's not going to want to sit on the bench for another three years, no matter who he'd be backing up. Things could get very interesting this off-season.

2. Miami Dolphins 0-6 - Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Regardless of what pick the Dolphins end up with, they'll almost certainly be drafting the best quarterback available. Jones seems to get knocked for having a somewhat long release, but he his arm strength is well above average and his accuracy is elite. Jones isn't quite on the level Luck is, but that doesn't mean Jones won't be special.

3. St. Louis Rams 0-6 - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

Blackmon is clearly the best receiver in the draft, and experts have said he's a better prospect coming out of Oklahoma State than Dez Bryant was. I'm not sure if that's because Bryant missed basically a full year or because Blackmon is truly special, but he's looked great thus far in the college season. The Rams have looked terrible offensively almost all season, and even with their recent trade for Brandon Lloyd and a Blackmon-Lloyd combination could help the Rams turn things around in a hurry with Sam Bradford throwing the football.

4. Minnesota Vikings 1-6 - Matt Kalil, OT, USC

While Vikings fans would undoubtedly rather see the team get someone like Blackmon to improve the receiving core but in reality getting Kalil would be a perfect scenario for this team. After releasing an average Bryant McKinnie and replacing him with a below average Charlie Johnson the team clearly needs to upgrade it's left tackle position, and there's a decent chance moving Johnson back inside to right guard could really improve the offensive lines play. With Ponder, Harvin and Peterson, an improved offensive line could give the Vikings a solid offensive core to build around.

5. Arizona Cardinals 1-5 - Jonathon Martin, OT, Stanford

It's no secret that Levi Brown has been struggling for the Cardinals. While Kevin Kolb has looked shaky and some fans may want to see a possible franchise QB drafted, there's almost no way the Cardinals give up on Kolb just one season after giving up what they did. Martin is a safe bet to be a very good pro, at least, and there's a chance that Kolb could thrive behind an improved offensive line.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-5 - Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

Blaine Gabbert hasn't really shown a whole lot of improvement yet, but he's clearly going to get every chance to succeed over the next few years. A good start to Gabbert working out for the Jaguars would be to draft a number one receiver he can throw the ball too. The Jaguars receiving core is among the worst in football, and they could really use a big play threat to at least keep the defense honest. Jeffery could be that player.

7. Carolina Panthers 2-5 - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Cam Newton has played better than almost anyone expected this early in his career. He appears well on his way to becoming a superstar in the near future, and if the Panthers can correctly build a team around him they could be a really good team for a long time. The Panthers defense has been terrible this season, and while Quinton Coples would be tempting here to improve the team's pass rush, Claiborne fills a more glaring need and is still an elite prospect.

8. Seattle Seahawks 2-4 - Matt Barkley, QB, USC

When your quarterbacks consist of Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst and Josh Portis (who?) it's clear you need to draft a franchise QB. Barkley has the experience in a pro-style offense, although that didn't help Jimmy Clausen nearly as much as people thought it would. Barkley has a lot of tools and if nothing else will give a Seahawks fan base a reason to be excited. After blowing the third overall pick in 2009 on Aaron Curry, who they traded to Oakland for a late round draft pick last week, the Seahawks really can't afford to miss on another top 10 pick, especially at the quarterback position. But this is a pick they need to make.

9. Denver Broncos 2-4 - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Obviously people like to point to the DeAngelo Williams-Jonathon Stewart combination that John Fox coached in Carolina as proof that Fox loves to pound the ball. Richardson is a big, bruising running back with big play potential, and while the Broncos still have Willis McGahee playing well, a McGahee-Richardson duo would make sense for a year or two. Unless Knowshon Moreno shines over the next few weeks while McGahee is hurt, there's really no way the Broncos will bring him next year.

10. Philadelphia Eagles 2-4 - Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

The Eagles have struggled with mental mistakes and turnovers all season, but it's not a big secret that their offensive line hasn't played very well. Michael Vick is getting hit often, and if the team does continue to play as poorly as they have through the first half of the season, it will be a no-brainer to pick an offensive lineman with this high of a pick. Reiff has been outstanding this year for Iowa and there's at least a chance that he could become the best lineman in the draft.

11. Kansas City Chiefs 3-3 - Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
12. Cleveland Browns 3-3 - Luke Kuelchy, ILB, Boston College
13. Tennessee Titans 3-3 - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
14. Washington Redskins 3-3 - Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
15. Dallas Cowboys 3-3 - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
16. Cleveland Browns (Via Atlanta Falcons 4-3) - Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-3 - Janoris Jenkins, CB, Northern Alabama
18. Chicago Bears 4-3 - David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
19. Cincinnati Bengals (Via Oakland Raiders 4-3) - Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma
20. Houston Texans 4-3 - Cordy Glenn, OT/OG, Georgia
21. New York Jets 4-3 - Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
22. Cincinnati Bengals 4-2 - Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M
23. Buffalo Bills 4-2 - Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
24. Baltimore Ravens 4-2 - Alfonzo Denard, CB, Nebraska
25. New York Giants 4-2 - Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
26. San Diego Chargers 4-2 - Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
27. Detroit Lions 5-2 - Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
28. New England Patriots (Via New Orleans Saints 5-2) - Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
29. Pittsburgh Steelers 5-2 - Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska
30. San Francisco 49ers 5-1 - Kelechi Osemele, OT/G, Iowa State
31. New England Patriots 5-1 - Mark Barron, FS, Alabama
32. Green Bay Packers 7-0 - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

Feel free to sound off in the comments.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bernard Berrian Experiment Comes to an End

Flashback to March 2008. Randy Moss and Bernard Berrian were considered the top two wide receivers available in free agency. Moss was going to be 31 years old, but coming off a season in which he caught 23 touchdowns, breaking Jerry Rice's record.* Moss' season totals (98 receptions, 1,498 yards, 23 TDs) were fantastic, and he looked capable of being at the top of his game for at least another two seasons, if not more. Of course, there were the whispers that Moss would be a problem in other places, wouldn't work hard if the team wasn't good, and for those reasons the Patriots were always assumed to be the favorites to re-sign Moss. They did, for 3 years and $27MM on March 3.

*Rice had 22 touchdowns in 12 games during the strike shortened 1987 season. That's insane.

Unfortunately for Vikings fans, the Vikings chose to target Bernard Berrian over Randy Moss. Berrian was 27 at the time, three years younger than Moss, which meant a long-term commitment made more sense strictly from an age perspective. In 2007, Berrian caught 71 passes for 951 yards and 5 touchdowns. Solid numbers, certainly, but in his first three seasons combined Berrian had caught just 79 passes total. The Vikings rewarded Berrian's great 2007 season by giving him a six-year $42MM contract on March 1. Yes, they chose to pay $7MM a year for a receiver that didn't eclipse 1,000 yards receiving in any of his first four seasons WITH RANDY MOSS STILL A FREE AGENT. Sure, the Bears quarterbacks were pretty bad, but great receivers tend to get 1,000 yards regardless of who's throwing them the football.

Berrian ultimately made $23MM over his first three seasons in Minnesota, and while he did have a career high 964 yards receiving in 2008, he produced basically nothing over the last three seasons. After renegotiating his contract this year down to just $1.9MM, that means the Vikings paid Berrian $24.9MM for slightly over three seasons. Making matters worse, Berrian's struggles early last season led the Vikings to trade a third-round pick (which became Ryan Mallett) to New England for none other than... Randy Moss. The Vikings paid Moss about $2MM for 3 weeks of play before waiving him.

The Patriots paid Moss about $20MM for just over 2 years of production from him. The Vikings paid Moss and Berrian a combined $27MM for about 3.5 years of production. The Patriots paid just under $10MM a year, but in 36 games Moss produced 161 catches, 2,413 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Vikings paid a little over $7.5MM a year, but got a combined 151 catches, 2,079 yards and 13 touchdowns in 55 games.

Strictly from a cost-effective standpoint, it gets worse. The Patriots got 4.5 catches, 67 yards and 1.33 touchdowns per game, while paying $1.8MM for that production. The Vikings got 2.7 catches, 37.8 yards and 0.2 touchdowns per game while paying about $500K per game for that. Of course, the Vikings also gave up a third round pick. That could have become a cheap, key core player for the future if drafted correctly, even if the team wouldn't have used the pick to select Ryan Mallett like the Patriots did.

That means by signing Bernard Berrian over Randy Moss in 2008 not only did they choose the less effective player, they also sacrificed a future draft pick to try to make up for the mistake, only to waive him four games later. Poor decision making can prove costly, and it's a shame that the Vikings didn't choose the more productive player in 2008. They would have saved everyone a lot of trouble, especially themselves.

Friday, October 21, 2011

NFL Picks: Week 7

Sorry for the lack of updates this week, should get back to a more normal schedule next week. Picks, without comment, for this week:

Overall: 36-46-7
Last Week: 5-6-2

Home team in Bold

Chicago (-1) over Tampa Bay
Washington (+2.5) over Carolina
San Diego (-2) over New York Jets
Cleveland (-3) over Seattle
Houston (+3) over Tennessee
Denver (+1.5) over Miami
Detroit (-3.5) over Atlanta
Oakland (-5) over Kansas City
Pittsburgh (-4) over Arizona
St Louis (+13) over Dallas
Green Bay (-9) over Minnesota
New Orleans (-14) over Indianapolis
Baltimore (-7.5) over Jacksonville

Saturday, October 15, 2011

NFL Picks: Week 6

Last Week: 7-5-1
Overall: 31-40-5

Picks for this week: Home team in Bold

Green Bay (-14) over St. Louis
Jacksonville (+12.5) over Pittsburgh
Washington (+3) over Philadelphia
San Francisco (+4) over Detroit
Carolina (+3.5) over Atlanta
Indianapolis (+6.5) over Cincinnati
New York Giants (-3) over Buffalo
Houston (+7) over Baltimore
Oakland (-7) over Cleveland
Dallas (+6) over New England
New Orleans (-6) over Tampa Bay
Minnesota (+3) over Chicago
New York Jets (-7) over Miami

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reviewing my Fantasy Baseball Predictions

Back in March, before the season began, I wrote an article for So Much Sports with 25 predictions for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. Let's see how I did:

1. Manny Ramirez will hit at least 30 home runs.
Whoops. He probably would have hit the 30 home runs had he not been caught, but what a fool he is.
Prediction: Wrong
2. Derek Jeter will be worse in 2011 than he was in 2010.
Jeter hit .270/.340/.370 in 2010, while the league as a whole hit .260/.327/.407. He hit .297/.355/.388 this year, while the league as a whole hit .258/.323/.408. So yeah, Jeter made me look silly.
Prediction: Wrong
3. Josh Beckett will post an ERA over 6 in April.
Beckett went 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA in April. Oh for three so far.
Prediction: Wrong
4. Josh Beckett will finish with 15+ wins and a sub 4 ERA.
He finished 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA.
Prediction: Half-Right
5. BJ Upton will not ‘figure it all out.’
BJ hit .243/.331/.449, which is solid for a center fielder but certainly not the level most expected from him at this point in his career.
Prediction: Right
6. Justin Upton will.
.289/.369/.529 with 31 home runs and 21 steals as a 23-year old? I think it's safe to say the younger Upton "figured it out" this year.
Prediction: Right
7. Jason Heyward and Buster Posey will prove last year wasn’t a fluke in a big way.
Heyward in 2010: .277/.393/.456
Heyward in 2011: .227/.319/.389
Posey in 2010: .305/.357/.505 in 108 games.
Posey in 2011: .284/.368/.389 in 45 games prior to his injury.
Prediction: Wrong and Wrong
8. Jose Reyes will steal 40+ bases, but be disappointing in general.
Reyes hit .337/.384/.493, won the NL batting title and stole 39 bases. I was wrong in every aspect.
Prediction: Wrong and Wrong
9. Chase Utley will finish with less than 100 at-bats this season.
He got almost 400. Oops.
Prediction: Wrong
10. Justin Morneau will finish with over 500 at-bats.
Injuries plagued him yet again and he got just under 300 at-bats. At this point, it's not even a sure thing Morneau will have another 500 at-bats in his career.
Prediction: Wrong
11. Joe Mauer will hit 20+ home runs.
He hit 3. He got boo'ed. I should get boo'ed.
Prediction: Wrong
12. Colby Rasmus, Gordon Beckham, Starlin Castro and Madison Bumgarner will all exceed expectations.
Rasmus got traded and saw his OPS drop more than 150 points from 2010. 
Beckham hit .230/.296/.337. 
Castro hit .307/.341/.432 as a 21-year-old. 
Madison Bumgarner went 13-13 with a 3.21 ERA.
Prediction: Wrong, Wrong, Right, Right
13. Rickie Weeks will again get injured and miss at least a month.
Weeks hurt his ankle in late July and played in just 118 games this year.
Prediction: Right
14. Grady Sizemore will be a top 20 fantasy outfielder by the end of the season.
He played in just 71 games and hit .224/.285/.422. Way off.
Prediction: Wrong
15. Ichiro will win the batting title.
Age looks like it's starting to catch up to him. He hit just .272 this year, the first time he's failed to hit .300 since coming to the states.
Prediction: Wrong
16. Adam Dunn will lead all of baseball in home runs.
Prediction: Laughably Wrong
17. Nyjer Morgan will lead all of baseball in steals.
He stole 13 bases. Michael Bourn led baseball with 61.
Prediction: Wrong
18. Roy Oswalt will lead all of baseball in wins.
Oswalt went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA. Justin Verlander won 24 games.
Prediction: Wrong
19. Jonathon Papelbon will lead all of baseball in saves.
Paps finished with 31 saves, while Tigers closer Jose Valverde led the league with 49.
Prediction: Wrong
20. Carlos Pena will hit over .250 with 30+ home runs.
He hit .225 with 28 home runs.
Prediction: Wrong and Wrong
21. Jose Bautista will hit half as many home runs as last year.
I thought he'd hit 27. He hit 43.
Prediction: Wrong
22. Carlos Santana will be a top 3 fantasy catcher at this time next season.
Santana ranks #1 on the early 2012 rankings on ESPN.
Prediction: Right
23. Miguel Cabrera will narrowly miss out on the Triple Crown.
He hit .344 and won the AL batting title but he finished just 10th in home runs and 6th in RBI, so he didn't "narrowly" miss it.
Prediction: Wrong
24. Mike Stanton will hit 40 home runs.
He hit 34.
Prediction: Wrong
25. Matt Wieters being called “Mauer with Power” will look even more ridiculous at the end of the season than it does now.
He hit 22 home runs, so there is definitely power, but his overall line of .262/.328/.450 while good is not quite the level people expected. This prediction was kind of vague and generally a bad one to make; there's not really any way to gauge if it was right or wrong.
Prediction: Dumb
I admit these predictions were more "bold" predictions than things I expected to happen, but I felt all were possible. I only got 6 predictions correct, but I did manage to finish second in my fantasy league this year. I'll take it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Some Thoughts on the NBA Lockout, ESPN's TQR, Rick Reilly and LeBron James

I've had quite a few things in the sports world lately that I've wanted to write about on here... but I can't seem to turn any of them into long enough posts to make them all individual posts. Solution? One post, with a bunch of random sports thoughts. Here goes:

  •  The NBA Lockout is a mess. While the players certainly aren't to blame, the owners do in fact have almost all of the leverage. The owners obviously were able to become NBA owners because they had other, more successful businesses that made them even more money. From a strictly monetary standpoint, NBA players are at a major disadvantage because while most make some money from endorsements it's nowhere close to the salary they get for one year of playing. So, while the players' are offering to take less money than they got in the last deal (the players are willing to go from earning 57% of the pie to 53%) the owners really have no reason to cave until they get the 50-50 split they apparently crave. Also, a memo to NBA players: Tweeting "Stand United" and "Let Us Play" is not going to have an effect AT ALL, so please stop filling my timeline with it. Thanks.

  • ESPN made a huge deal about their new quarterback stat they developed this off-season, called "Total Quarterback Rating." In theory it seemed to be at least a decent idea, but when ESPN continued to shove it down all of our throats I was annoyed and had little interest in actually taking it seriously. Now that Tim Tebow's second half this past week rated higher than Aaron Rodgers game, it's clear the "new stat" is a complete joke. Tebow completed 4 of 10 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown, and he ran six times for 38 yards and a touchdown. Rodgers was 26-39 with 396 yards and two touchdowns. Neither player turned the ball over. Seriously, what would you rather get from your quarterback? 395 total yards and 2 touchdowns, or 117 yards and 2 touchdowns? That's what I thought. 

  • Rick Reilly is among the worst sportswriters in the country. Sure, he's won numerous awards, has his own column on ESPN's website, gets some cameo appearances on Sportscenter, and he used to have his own back page column for Sports Illustrated. Sadly, this is not a case of Reilly deserving all of these accolades. Sure, he was great for a while at SI, and his back page column was often times the first thing I would read while sitting in the waiting room at my orthodontist years ago. But he's no longer worthy of even being read. After Monday Night's Lions-Bears game, in which Bears quarterback Jay Cutler got absolutely no protection, Reilly for some reason brought up a "Justin Bieber prom date" while discussing Cutler's protection issues. There's no reason someone on ESPN, let alone someone who's as old as Reilly is, should be trying to make pop culture references. He's not funny anymore, his writing has gradually gotten worse somehow (and he usually writes about things that have been written about by everyone else a few weeks earlier, like his article on Andrew Luck), and his appearances on TV make me want to punch him in the face. I can't be the only one.

  • Lastly, people need to stop talking about LeBron James possibly playing in the NFL. First, despite LeBron's athletic gifts, he hasn't played football since high school and would certainly take more than a few weeks to learn an NFL playbook. Setting that aside, there's no way any team would be willing to give LeBron more than a minimum contract, and there's no way LeBron James is risking his $100MM+ remaining on his current NBA contract to play for $300K in the NFL for a few months. None of it makes sense, and the fact that ESPN is trying to make it a story is embarrassing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why the Twins Won't Regret Trading Delmon Young

Since the Major League Baseball playoffs began it seems, the talking heads on TBS and ESPN and MLB Network and whatever other channels show highlights these days have been raving about what a great acquisition Delmon Young has been. It's amazing how a good showing over a 5-game series can have more of an impact on these talking-heads opinions than, say, I don't know, five full season's worth of at-bats?

First, let's look at these "expert" claims that Young was a great acquisition. After hitting .266/.305/.357 (.662 OPS) in 84 games with the Twins this season, it was clear that the team had no reason to bring Young back next season. For comparison's sake, Nick Punto is a career .249/.325/.327 hitter, which is a .652 OPS. Getting that kind of production from a slick-fielding middle infielder would still be slightly below average; getting it from a defensive liability in a corner OF position is a net negative for the team.

Now, after the trade, Young hit .278/.298/.458 for Detroit in 40 games. That's an improved .756 OPS, and it actually was above average in a down year for offense. The average American League left-fielder hit .251/.311/.393 this past season, which is an OPS of just .704. Young was just under 8% better than the league average outfielder after the trade. So, yes, I suppose the acquisition was a solid move for the short-term. That said, his defense in left field went from ranking slightly above average at the time of the trade (3.5 UZR/150) to below average by the end year (-3.7 UZR/150) means his defense was atrocious in Detroit, which makes his above average offense less valuable. Young's combined line between Minnesota and Detroit was .268/.302/.393, which means he was still below-average offensively over the full season, and his defense also rated below average. So what does all that mean?

It means that despite Young's big home runs in the American League Division Series, he's not a good bet long-term. He's not even a good bet for next season, which is why I'm glad he's doing well in the playoffs. That should result in Detroit spending far more money than they should on Delmon, and hopefully they try to lock him up long-term. Young's making $7MM this season and has one more year of arbitration, so while the Twins would have released him to avoid paying the money, Detroit pretty clearly will not. They could go to arbitration with Young, basically giving him a 1-year deal while they see what they have, which would probably cost them about $10MM. If they want to lock him up long-term, it'd probably still cost about $10MM a year, just for a 4 or 5 year period instead of 1. The long-term deal would be ideal for us Twins fans, because of Young's track record.

Everyone loves to talk about how "young" (no pun intended) Delmon is, and as far as "time on earth" is concerned, yes, Young is "young." But as far as Major League experience is concerned, Delmon is a seasoned veteran. He has basically six full seasons to his name, and despite being a #1 overall pick and having loads of raw power, Young's plate discipline remains among the league's worst. His career .288/.321/.428 line in almost 3,000 at bats is a great baseline for what can be expected of Young in the future. Once a player has that many at bats, it's very rare to see them break-out and have a monster season, at least since they cracked down on the use of steroids. Young hasn't gradually improved each season, so expecting him to outperform his numbers from 2011 by a large margin is silly. Sure, there's a chance Young could match his performance during the last 40 games of the season, as his OPS in Detroit wasn't that much higher than his career mark. Regardless, at this point, Young is basically who he's been for the last 6+ seasons. A free-swinging defensive liability with some pop.

Young's defense has also been poor over the course of his career, as his average UZR/150 for his career in LF is -14.0. That means if he plays 150 games next year, and hits .288/.321/.428 with a -14.0 UZR/150, he'll likely be about 2 runs below average if the offensive drought from left fielder across the league continues. If the league average left-fielder improves next season, Young would be even less valuable.

The Twins may not have gotten two future major league players when they traded Young, and it might be difficult as Twins fans to see Young thriving against the Yankees after struggling against them as a Twin, but the fact remains Bill Smith and company deserve a lot of credit for cutting bait on Young when they could, getting some value back, and even better, they sent his average offense and below average defense to a division rival. Even if Cole Nelson and Lester Olivares become nothing more than organizational depth, this Delmon trade may be the best move Bill Smith makes during his entire tenure as GM. For once, addition by subtraction is actually true.


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