Monday, January 23, 2012
Sunday, January 22, 2012
The nerves are really starting to set in for me. I can't even imagine what's going though the player's minds.
Last week I was really hoping if we advanced we would get to play the 49ers and not the Saints because of our regular season matchups between the two teams. After watching the Niners offense come alive with some Eli-esque 4th quarter magic, it has me a little scared. Especially when you look at the fact Frank Gore carried the ball just 13 times and still closed in on 100 yards. I don't know if Alex Smith can throw 40+ times again and be successful, but I do know that a little bit of confidence goes a long way.
The only thing that keeps me from being terrified going into this game is the 49ers lack of receivers. I am as big of a Michael Crabtree fan as there is (bought his jersey before he even signed an NFL contract), but he has a tendency to go missing for weeks at a time. He caught a TD last week, but overall had a poor effort with just 25 yards and lead all Niners receivers with those 25 yards and 4 catches.
The only guy to look out for is Vernon Davis who is a man on a mission these playoffs. Granted it was one game, but I don't think he has ever played with such emotion in his life. He only went for 4 and 40 in the last matchup, but burnt Greg Jones for a 31 yard touchdown, luckily Jones rarely sees the field because Davis is a huge size miss match with him. If the Giants are able to stuff the run early on I would really consider doubling Davis or have the safeties cheat in Davis direction to give the linebackers some help over the top with him. Speaking of the running game...
Last time neither team had their top guy. Gore started the game, but got hurt after gaining nothing on 6 carries. Kendall Hunter was pretty effective replacing him, the Niners just didn't give him the ball enough. The Giants on the other hand were completely without Ahmad Bradshaw and handed the wall to D.J. Ware 9 times as a result. Brandon Jacobs was meh, but overall the Giants wound up with 93 yards and in my opinion the lose of Bradshaw was a huge factor. Kendall Hunter is a beast so the Niners didn't really lose much in my opinion with Gore out, but there is a substantial difference between Bradshaw and Ware. With the Giants improving run game in recent days with a healthy backfield 100 yards should easily be in the conversation for today's game.
Overall last game against the Niners the Giants amounted over 400 yards and that was with an inferior offense to what they have right now. The coaches didn't trust Victor Cruz as much back then and he came up huge for the Giants at the end of the season. I see Cruz as a good matchup play against the Niners and see him torching them at least once, which is why I took him for my Gridiron Challenge team over Hakeen Nicks.
To sum up how I see this matchup:
QB's: Giants > Niners by a considerable margin. I said confidence goes a long way, but I have one of those gut feelings that Smith will stink it up this week because people are expecting at least decent results as where last week the talk was could he even put up 20 against an inferior Saints defense.
RB's: Giants < Niners. Gore is the best of all four RBs and Gore and Hunter are the better duo of running backs. If you wanna go this far Alex Smith is also a ten times better runner than Eli.
WR's: Giants > Niners. Not even a contest. Next.
TE's: Giants < Niners. As I said Vernon Davis is my number one fear, even more so than the defense.
D-Line: Giants = Niners. I think the Niners have the better starting group, but no one can compete with the Giants depth in the D-Line.
LB's: Giants < Niners. I would prefer to have Patrick Willis on the field by himself over three linebackers for the Giants. He had a monster game last time and the Giants will NEED to stop him to win.
DB's: Giants = Niners. Niners defenders can make the plays, but are susceptible to getting beat deep and the Giants' guys are underrated. They are finally playing in the playoffs as I expected them to play all season long.
Special Teams: Giants < Niners. Not even a close one. Niners have the better punter, kicker, and return man. They are dangerous in this regard.
HC: Giants < Niners. I'm a Coughlin fan, but Jim Harbough is the man. Really inspiring and smart coach.
Number one key to the game: Jason Pierre-Paul was shutout last game versus the Niners. He must have a huge game getting to the quarterback and stopping the run for the Giants D to be successful. He is so good that I have complete faith he will show up this game despite being a sophomore in the league.
Prediction: I have the Giants over the Niners 27 - 20. Would I be a true fan if I had it any other way?
Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports that Cuban defector Gerardo Concepcion has officially declared for free agency and the Yankees are one of the five teams expressing the most interest in the 18-year-old left handed pitcher.
The 64,000 dollar question is who is Gerardo Concepcion?
There is not much out there about him so I am guessing we will find out a lot more come Thursday, but what we do know as of now is he is being described as a finesse lefty. His fastball is reportedly at 89-91 mph, which if true is actually pretty good considering his age and his 6'1", 175 lbs frame, that leaves some room for projection.
According to this article Concepcion described his best tool as control and goes on to say that he has a good curve and efficient slider. His stats as seen below don't necessarily back this claim 100%.
For someone who is supposed to have great command and a great curveball he walks a fair amount of batters and doesn't really strike out anyone. Granted he is extremely young so he does get the benefit of the doubt, but I would hope the Yankees don't commit too much if they choose to go after him. He definitely has potential winning the Rookie of the Year award in Cuba, however, I am not getting ready to jump all aboard the Concepcion bandwagon just yet.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Earlier in the podcast Matt and I briefly talked about who was going to ultimately win the Yankees No. 5 starter job. We both pretty much agreed that A.J. Burnett would win by default, but a deeper look shows that Burnett is actually poised for a nice bounce back year.
I mentioned that Burnett’s 17% HR/FB rate last year looked extremely fluky and was way off his career average. A deeper look shows that was the highest home run rate in Major League Baseball since 2007 when who else, but A.J. Burnett posted a 17.7% HR/FB. Burnett followed that year up by going 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA over 221.1 innings. The year was fueled by a much, much better 9.6% HR/9.
|(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)|
The reason I actually see him having the bounce back is because his peripherals where no different last year than normal. His 8.18 K/P and 3.92 BB/9 were a little worse than his average, but not by much. The hits allowed were also no different; the only major change was the home runs. A inch here or an inch there and things could look very different.
I am not trying to say Burnett will be a miracle and carry the Yankees, but there is every chance he performs like a No. 3 starter in the No. 5 slot. That is something that cannot be taken lightly. His FIP last year was 4.77 and his xFIP was even better at 3.86. Assuming he is healthy I don’t see why he can’t win 10+ games and throw a 190+ innings with an ERA in the low-to-mid 4’s.
There has been plenty of talk that Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire can't play together, but I'm not so sure that is really what's wrong. Those two playing together isn't what has Melo shooting 41%, nearly 5% lower than his career average, and Amar'e shooting a putrid 41%, an astonishing 12% lower than his average. There has to be something more behind this than the clashing styles of two superstars.
Quite frankly I am not sure if their hearts are in it. Melo has been dealing with injuries, which very well could account for his slight down turn this year, but Amar'e doesn't have that excuse—for once in his career. It is possible that Amar'e's ego took a hit when the Knicks brought in Melo to be 'the man' when he was carrying the Knicks to the playoffs on his own. Before last season Amar'e was all talk about the Knicks needing to bring in more help, but I think he really fell in love with being he guy in the biggest stage and hasn't adjusted as well to playing Robin.
Just a theory of mine, but it makes a ton of sense. There is no logistical reason why Melo and Amar'e couldn't perform well together.
Now here is a giant list a problems I have with the Knicks right now:
- Amar'e has to stop fouling the whole entire team by the 2nd quarter.
- Iman Shumpert's biggest problem coming out of college was his jumpshot and yet he has proceeded to settle for jumpshot after jumpshot after jumpshot. He has the athleticism and ability to drive with the best of them and needs to start doing so. He has made some clutch shots from deep, but that is not what he is supposed to do.
- Josh Harrellson has to realize he is not Dirk Nowtizki. He is chucking up 3's like it is nobody's business (56% of his field goal attempts are from behind the arc). I like Harrellson and am not going to complain too much about his production considering his draft position and what not, but with the Knicks lack of big men he has to use that body to bang down low and try and open up the outside. He has a great shot just needs to come back with how often he fires.
- I have no words for what has happened to Toney Douglas's shooting. I was a big fan of his last year and he just looks lost nowadays.
- Landry Fields has been more of the player he was towards the end of last year, but I think over the last few games he was looking more like the Fields of old.
- Tyson Chandler. He has been everything the Knicks hoped for when they signed him and has been having a terrific year. Only player worthy of being called a New York Knick right now.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
The NY Daily News is reporting that Gary Carter's brain cancer has become extremely grave.
According to the report several new tumors have shown up on his brain and that his symptoms have considerably worsened as of late.
Doctors are debating if they should continue to forgo treatment on Carter.
That being said, I am not sold on the idea his number needs to be retired.
I do not have a close connection with that '86 team and based off the numbers I have to say he doesn't deserve it. Four All-Star appearances and a World Sereis victory is extremely impressive, but his time with the Mets was so short lived that I just don't see it. There are a number of guys who deserve it over him that have yet to secure the honor, but that is a conversation for another day, and his extremely unfortunate illness should not pressure the Mets into retiring his number.
Disclaimer: I need to start off by saying when all factors are accounted for I am NOT worried about Brad Richards long term. While he isn't having a terrific season his .705 points per game are respectable and his 6 game winning goals are a team high. Not to mention it is evident he is making an effort to change his game to fit the Rangers style as he has already surpassed his hits and blocked shots totals from the past two years, including ranking 4th amongst New York Rangers forwards in blocked shots. Then there is the integral part he has played in the development of Michael Del Zotto, which is priceless. That being said, Richards simply is not playing as well as he could or should be.
It has been no secret that Richards has struggled with the transition to New York. He has been public about the fact, John Tortorella has been public about it, and his inconsistent play backs up the claim.
Fact: He is on pace to finish with the lowest assist total of his career, including a 2008-2009 season when he played in just 56 games.Now going back to the title of this article, which it is my observation of Richards's play lately.
For most of the game he seems afraid to carry the puck up the ice. I am understanding that the Rangers are a dump and chase hockey team, but much too often Richards is simply dumping the puck off to Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, or whomever is on his line all the way back in the neutral zone and they wind up carrying the puck into the zone anyway. Richards has to get back to what he does best and use his ability to posses the puck in order to get in down near the hash marks and set up his teammates.
And quiet frankly when he has tried to make passes they just have not been very good. At the first sight of pressure he has been making quick passes, putting teammates in awkward positions and setting them up for failure to either get crunched or have no where to go with the puck. His displays of indecision has also led to a high quantity of turnovers, with his 22 turnovers ranking second amongst forwards on the Rangers.
This might sound a bit whacky (especially since I think Derek Stepan has almost passed a little too often), but Richards needs to start watching Stepan and play more like he has this season. It seems like at least two or three times a game Stepan leads a rush into the offensive zone and sets up a teammate up for a perfect scoring chance. This type of play is what was expected of Richards when he signed his big contract.
Richards needs to realize playing a dump and chase game does not mean you have to dump and chase all the time. It is about picking your spots to rush and right now Stepan is capitalizing on those moments while Richards is not. I saw Richards make a nice rush at the end of the Nashville game, but the game was all but over at that point and he is not doing it consistently enough or early enough for it to be effective.
The season is still young enough for Richards to make adjustments and he has already performed clutch enough for me to believe come playoff time he will be ready to go. Still, he needs to shake this tentative/indecisive nature and get back to doing what he does best by possessing the puck and adding another dimension to the Rangers offense.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
ESPN released its schedule for Sunday Night Baseball and Mets fans should find themselves blessed that the Mets do not take the Sunday stage once.
Usually getting worse only has its negatives, but this scenario seems like a huge addition by subtraction. The fans get more Gary, Keith and Ron and don ot have to listen to the horrid ESPN crew. Granted Jon Miller and Joe Morgan are no longer there, but I'm not sure I trust the new crew anymore than them.
Unfortunately for Yankees fans they have three of these games: April 15th against the Angels, April 22nd against the Red Sox, and July 8th against the Red Sox.