Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tomayto Tomahto

So it's been only forever and a half.  Let's just say the winter months keep me much busier at work than in the summer.  I wasn't really looking to break out of this funk, but I can't help but wonder what will come of the Justin Upton deal that the Atlanta Braves completed with the Arizona Diamondbacks last night.

Reason being, I feel like this trade happened already.  In fact, I'm sure it did...nine years earlier.  Last night, the Braves shipped a number of prospects, including top pitching prospect Randall Delgado, and All-Star Martin Prado.

I was oddly surprised that a number of outlets called the Braves out on this deal because of letting Prado go.  Don't get me wrong, Prado is a good solid player, who would be helpful to any team if only because he can play across he infield and outfield as needed.  He gets on base at a nice clip, and has a little bit of pop which always helps.  Nonetheless, I'm surprised that so many are upset with him leaving being that he is only 29-years old, and only played in more than 140 games once (this past season).  Regardless, that wasn't the point of this, but still.

Look past Prado, and we find a nearly identical deal that took place in December 2003.  That winter, the Braves completed a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for J.D. Drew.  Ironically, Justin Upton has spent his entire career playing alongside J.D.'s younger brother, Stephen Drew.  Coincidentally, Justin Upton's young career was very similar to Drew's early career with the Cardinals.

Both young stars were very early draft picks, Upton 1st overall, Drew 5th overall (selected 2nd by the Phillies the year before, but didn't sign).  Both were rather disappointing despite flashes of prominence with their original teams.  Upton spent five and a half seasons with the Diamondbacks.  He made the All-Star game twice, and even a run at an MVP in 2011.  He numbers were very good for a couple of seasons, solid the others.  More importantly, he only reached under 140 games twice in his time in the Arizona.

Rewind to J.D. Drew who spent his first five plus seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Drew was the first NCAA player to post a 30/30 season (home runs/stolen bases).  He was selected 2nd overall by the Phillies in the 1997 draft, but didn't sign, holding out for more money.  After a year in an independent league, he was drafted 5th overall by the Cardinals in the 1998 draft.  Like Upton, expectations were very high for Drew, a five-tool player.  Unfortunately, Drew never lived up to the high expectations.  He had good seasons, but never great.  Worse, he played in 135 games twice, but never more than that.

After the 2003 season, the Cardinals dealt Drew to Braves along with Eli Marrero.  In return, the Braves sent three players back, middle reliever Ray King, a 25-year old Jason Marquis, and a top pitching prospect at the time, Adam Wainwright.  Not exactly the same return that Arizona got for Upton, but one has to acknowledge that Randall Delgado is on a similar track to Wainwright.  Both were traded at age 22 to their new team.  Delgado has made his MLB debut, much earlier than Wainwright, otherwise are on a similar track.

Wainwright has since gone on to win a World Series, and finished second and third in the Cy Young voting in 2009 and 2010.  Of course, he had to undergo Tommy John surgery in Spring Training of 2011 and missed the season.  The Cardinals obviously got a far greater return than what they were getting out of Drew previously.  The question becomes whether the Diamondbacks will see that same net positive with Delgado.

Of course Drew was not a complete disappoint after that trade.  He was a free agent after the 2004 season, and signed with the Dodgers, thus spending only one year with the Braves.  However, that one season, he was by far and away the best player on the team.  Drew played in more than 135 games for the first time in his career, and made a run at the MVP.  The Braves continued their streak of winning the NL East that season, but likely would not have been close without Drew.

Fortunately for the Braves (and unfortunately for the rest of the NL East), Upton is under contract for three seasons at a very reasonable price for the Braves.  Even better, his agent is not Scott Boras (like Drew's), and therefore Upton's success in Atlanta could lead to even better things.

This post isn't to suggest that one team made out like a bandit, or that the teams didn't address their needs.  Rather, just to point out similar transactions the Braves have made for similar players.  Unfortunately, I suspect it will lead to similar success in Atlanta.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dartmouth #1?

While most enjoy the crazy world of single-elimination college playoffs, I do not.  I've made that point many times over the past few months in posting.  I'm not a fan of the BCS by any means, but people are far too quick to dismiss it.  Meanwhile, throwing 68 basketball teams or 16 hockey teams into a single elimination system is suppose to choose the best?

This isn't a big lengthy post, but rather one more fragment of evidence showing that the NCAA playoff systems are very flawed.  The NCAA hockey season began only three to four weeks ago depending on which team you follow.  Unlike football or basketball where an undefeated team may last a few months into the season, in college hockey that isn't the case.  Of the 59 teams in Men's Division-1, there is one undefeated team remaining...after only six games.  The Dartmouth Big Green are 5-0-1 on the season, leaving them the only team unscathed from a loss.  On the flip side, the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers are the only team without a win in this young season.

That leaves 57 teams with both at least one win and one loss after less than a month of play.  Clearly Dartmouth is not the top team in the nation, albeit it good.  Yet a postseason system is used that eliminates the best teams in the nation best on one poor game.  Just worth noting that the North Dakota's, Minnesota's, Boston College's, and Notre Dame's already have losses to their names.  It's October so one loss doesn't matter.  In March, one loss to an inferior team and the whole season was for nothing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

BCS Bashfest 2012

I'm sure the annual tradition of putting down the BCS has been going on everywhere since the first set of rankings came out just over a week ago.  It's only natural that when you throw 124 teams into one list of best to worst that only a handful of them will be happy while the rest moan and groan about the results.  As a Rutgers fan, I could not be happier with this year.  Number 15 in the nation, and undefeated at 7-0 is absolutely fantastic.  We're not at the top of the BCS rankings, nor do I think we should be.  Moreover, I'm not expecting my team to be playing for a National Title, but a Big East title and BCS bowl would be great.

Nevertheless, half of the Rutgers online community I frequent is up and arms about the fact that Rutgers did not move up a single spot this week while a certain former Big East school with back to back losses has only fallen to 19th.  From there, the conversation translated into the lack of respect the Big East gets, and how a 12-0 Big East school would not be in the running for a BCS National Title Game berth, and may not even be in the running for one of the four playoff spots next year.  To me, that is nothing short of unsubstantiated paranoia.

First, let's acknowledge that a 12-0 Big East team will certainly not get the level of respect this year as a 12-0 from any other BCS conference.  That simply won't happen.  Not saying whether they should or should not, but simply put, they won't.  Of course, that is assuming a 12-0 team even exists at the end of the season (Rutgers and Louisville are the only remaining unbeatens).  That isn't a surprise really, and falls in line with history over the past decade.  However, the discrepancy is not what some may think.

While the human polls are extremely biased, largely due to the stupidity of preseason polls, the BCS does not exactly force matchups that are not there.  Some like to spew that a 2-loss SEC is more highly regarded than some undefeated teams, or other 1-loss teams.  That really isn't the case except when it comes to BCS busters (and that truly is a while other argument).

In fact, since the BCS began in 1998, only once has a BCS team been chosen for a National Championship berth over another BCS team that had a superior overall record.  Never, ever, ever, ever has an undefeated BCS team been passed over by a 1-loss BCS team.  People seem to think the SEC continues to send overrated teams each season to the National Championship.  They clearly are not overrated when they win every year (not counting the travesty of last year), but more over, they never make it over more deserving Big East, ACC, Pac-12, etc. teams.

The only time a team with an inferior record showed up in a National Championship Game was following the 2007 season when 2-loss LSU went and beat Ohio State.  However, it should be recognized that the only team aside from Ohio State that had 1-loss was Kansas.  Kansas played a far weaker schedule that season, and didn't win the Big 12 or even the Big 12 North that season.  They dodged playing he Big 12 Champion, Oklahoma that year, by losing to Missouri, and thus couldn't play in the Big 12 Championship Game.

All that being said, an undefeated Big East team was passed up recently because of the biased of the polls.  In 2009, the preseason polls didn't rank a single Big East team in the top 25.  Cincinnati ran the table at 12-0, moving up to #3 by the time of the final BCS poll.  However, the Big 12 Championship (between 12-0 Texas and Nebraska) came down to the final play of the game.  Texas won, holding onto a 13-0 record, and played in the National Championship against 13-0 Alabama.  Had a borderline call on the last play of the Big 12 Championship went the other way, Cincinnati would have played Alabama for the National Title.  To be quite honest, Cincinnati deserved to be the team left out in the dark that year.  Instead, they played 12-1 Florida (Florida's only loss came to Alabama in the SEC Championship) in the Sugar Bowl, and were promptly crushed.

The Big East has had other chances, but until they can deliver undefeated teams it is not to be.  In 2006, three teams (Rutgers, Louisville, and West Virginia) went undefeated into November.  The three of them each beat one another, and Rutgers and West Virginia both lost an additional game that month.  Louisville had been 9-0 and #3 in the nation.  A win over Rutgers would have sealed a 12-0 season for them and all but guaranteed a National Title berth.  Ironically, an undefeated Rutgers team that season may have in fact been passed over by a 1-loss SEC team that year because Rutgers began the first four weeks of their season unranked.  Sadly, we are never able to see what could have happened if they ran the table as it may have argued against the whole point here.

A year later in 2007, a 10-1 West Virginia team climbed to #2 in the nation.  People seem to forget the Big East had two teams reach #2 in 2007 (South Florida being the other in mid-October), and everyone almost certainly forgets West Virginia did it in the final week of the season with one loss.  However, an incredible choke job on their part in the final game of the year against Pittsburgh cost them a chance at the title.  In fact, they were ranked above #3 11-1 Ohio State, and the aforementioned 11-1 Kansas team.  However, the loss not only dropped them to #9, it meant they only tied for the Big East Championship (with UConn).

That was followed two years later by the Cincinnati incident I mentioned above.  It proves the point the Big East is in the running for National Championships, but they need to win out to do it.  While a 1-loss may never make it to the title game (2007 was an incredible fluky season), that is often the way it is for many BCS conferences.  One-loss Pac-12 teams have not been considered over the past few years, and last year there was an SEC rematch because Oklahoma State lost their final game of the season.  Point is, the Big East is not that far behind everyone else in that regard.  Should Rutgers or Louisville continue their run at perfection this year, and others fall out from the mix, they could easily be in the conversation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lockouts Add Up...Quick

It seems the NHL and the Players Association are coming closer to reaching an agreement that will not only allow for an NHL season, but allow for a full 82-game NHL season.  Obviously, all hockey fans want an NHL season.  However, it's especially important given that no major sports league in the nation has missed as much time in action as the NHL.  Looking at the past 40 years, here is the percentage of regular season games missed due to strikes, lockouts, etc. for each major league:
  1. NHL - 4.3% (missing 1,698 out of 39,173 possible games)
  2. MLB - 2.4% (missing 2,156 out of 89,262 possible games)
  3. NFL - 1.67% (missing 154 out of 9,192 possible games)
  4. NBA - 1.66% (missing 704 out of 42,230 possible games)
The issue is all the more troubling because all of the NHL's trouble has occurred in the last 20 years due to the lockouts in 1994 and 2004.  Ignore the first two decades from the above mentioned stats, and the percentages are as follows:
  1. NHL - 7.3%
  2. MLB - 3.0%
  3. NBA - 2.9%
  4. NFL - 0.0%
The NFL almost ruined it's recent good run last year, but instead only lost preseason time.  Clearly, the NFL knew the importance that if they wanted to remain the nation's predominant sport, they needed to be on the field.  MLB lost the latter part of it's 1994 season, and the first few weeks of 1995 to their last strke, and it took years to make up for it.  Many fans still have no returned since then.

However, the NHL seems to have no issue with rolling the dice on these situations.  While, the sport may luck out, and not lose any games after all this year (only a delayed start), if they do lose any games, it would be their third lockout resulting in such since 1994.  The last league to lose games to three different lockouts was Major League Baseball, and they were far more spread out (1972, 1981, 1994-5).

The 7.3% of games lost in the last two decades is already poor enough, but just to prove our devastating it would be if the 2012-13 season was indeed lost, here are what the new 20-year percentages would look like:
  1. NHL - 12.4%
  2. MLB - 3.0%
  3. NBA - 2.9%
  4. NFL - 0.0%
Losing 12.4% of NHL games in a 20-year stretch is akin to losing close to 3,000 games total, almost two and a half seasons worth.  Keep it up NHL, and it won't be long at all before Major League Soccer replaces you as one of the main four sports leagues in the country.

Lose One Game and Why Bother?

Here's a random factoid regarding one of the two teams remaining in contention for the American League Pennant.  Prior to 1969, there were no divisions in Major League Baseball, only the American and National Leagues, so the post-season consisted only of the World Series.  It was only with the invention of the East and West divisions in each league that the League Championship Series (ALCS/NLCS) came into existence.  It was only in 1995 (first completed season with three divisions and a wildcard) that the Division Series came into existence.

Over that time, the Detroit Tigers have reached the playoffs six times including this season.  In the three times since 1995 (2006, 11, 12), they have won their division series, meaning they have played in the ALCS, or played for a Pennant in each of those appearances.  Twice, the Tigers would win the American League Pennant, losing three times, and the sixth has obviously yet to be completed.  In the years they won (1984 and 2006), the Tigers swept their opponent in the ALCS.  Maybe by pure coincidence, the Tigers are only a game away from winning their third AL Pennant since playoff expansion began, and are on the verge of sweeping yet again as they are up 3-0 over the New York Yankees.

The Tigers are the only team to sweep an ALCS (having done it twice) since 1990 when the Oakland Athletics completed the feat.  Also, the last team to sweep the ALCS and go on to win the World Series that year was the 1984 Detroit Tigers, although the ALCS was only a best-of-five at the time.  Note that the Atlanta Braves swept the NLCS in 1995 en route to their own World Series victory.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Double Feature

Prior to tonight's playoffs games, there was one walkoff in this relatively young postseason.  It ca:me in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics, when Don Kelly of the Tigers hit a sacrifice fly to score Omar Infante, helping his team to win 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth.  It is worth noting that despite scoring a run and driving in an RBI in that game, Kelly is considered to have gone 0-for-0 in the game.  As a pinch runner in the 8th inning for Delmon Young, he scored from third on a wild pitch prior to his heroics in the 9th.

In any event, tonight, two more walkoff wins were added to the list of memorable playoff moments.  First, Raul Ibanez hit not one, but two solo home runs to help lead the New York Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles.  His first was a tying home run in the bottom of the ninth before he repeated his feat in the bottom of the twelfth to win it.  Later in the night, the A's capped off a three-run ninth inning to come from behind in not only the game, but the series (now tied 2-2) on an RBI single.

These were the 129th and 130th walkoff wins in MLB playoff history.  However, it is only the sixth time that multiple playoff walkoffs have occurred on the same day.  Here is a list of the other five:

October 11, 1986:
  • New York Mets over the Houston Astros 6-5
  • California Angels over the Boston Red Sox 4-3
October 1, 1998:
  • Atlanta Braves over the Chicago Cubs 2-1
  • Houston Astros over the San Diego Padres 5-4
  October 18, 2004:
  • Boston Red Sox over the New York Yankees 5-4
  • Houston Astros over the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0
October 5, 2007:
  • Boston Red Sox over the Los Angeles Angels 6-3
  • Cleveland Indians over the New York Yankees 2-1
 October 19, 2009:
  • Los Angels Angels over the New York Yankees 5-4
  • Philadelphia Phillies over the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-4

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blame Game Gone Wrong

This post may come with a little bit of a gag reflex, but I'm going to try to power through it anyway.  There are five current New York Yankees who have played at least three full postseasons with the Yankees (2009-2012).  Those players current sport these stat lines (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS) since 2009 in the playoffs, along with how many games they started over the period:
  1. .261/.388/.486/.875 (31 GS)
  2. .262/.316/.508/.824 (31 GS)
  3. .307/.367/.453/.819 (31 GS)
  4. .193/.295/.316/.611 (29 GS)
  5. .160/.262/.321/.583 (30 GS)
They are ordered there based on the highest to lowest OPS, and more than likely the best to worst overall.  Maybe you could make an argument that the second and third ranked ones should be swapped, but there is no question the best line is at the top, and the worst two are at the bottom.

Now let me preface this next part by pointing out how much I despise most of these players, but none more than Alex Rodriguez.  Of course, when you link actual players to these numbers, you get the following:
  1. Alex Rodriguez
  2. Robinson Cano
  3. Derek Jeter
  4. Mark Teixeira
  5. Nick Swisher
Ironically, the majority of the attention that is on the Yankees right now is focused on Alex Rodriguez's dismal series...all two games of it, and to be fair, if I only looked at 2011 (Yankees only played five games), the numbers would be very skewed against Rodriguez.  Clearly, Rodriguez is on the down slope of his steroid-induced career.  He is 36 after all, and some people seem to think it is a mystery that he isn't in the running for 40 HRs a year.  I would focus on the positive, such that he still reached base at a .353 clip this season, good for putting him in the top half of OBPs in the Yankees lineup.

I know Rodriguez commands a ridiculous $30 million a year, and therefore the focus is on him; however, people seem to forget that a guy like Teixeira makes well over $20 million a year, and Swisher commands more than $10 million despite acting like a double agent come each October.

Rodriguez is past is prime, but acting as if he is the one holding the Yankees back is starting to become laughable.  Should Rodriguez be moved in the lineup?  He certainly shouldn't be batting in the middle of the order for the Yankees.  Nonetheless, should there not be more focus on guys like Swisher who have proven year after year they can't see the ball in the postseason?