Wednesday, February 27, 2013

NBA LESSONS: v2.3

Dan P

  • TWO’S A COMPANY, THREE’S A—WHOOPS, WRONG TV SHOW: What to do with Milwaukee’s now overcrowded backcourt.
The Milwaukee Bucks, to their credit were the talk of the NBA trade deadline and not only were they the closest to landing veteran forward Josh Smith, but they did pull off a trade for coveted guard J.J. Redick.  Much to my chagrin, they accomplished this without giving up a draft pick and also stole little-known center, Gustavo Ayon: a player who has excelled in small minutes with the New Orleans Hornets and Orlando Magic, previously.  The addition of Redick will bring reliable 3-point shooting and, surprisingly, some size at the guard position as the existing backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are both speedy, yet smaller than Redick. 

One cannot even begin to comprehend how much of an improvement Redick is at 3-point shooting than Monta Ellis.  The aforementioned, speedy guard is shooting a capricious 22.7% (42 of 185) from downtown and, yes, that’s not a misprint.  It doesn’t take a math genius to know that Ellis averages worse than 1 for 4 from 3-point land, in every game this season.  No wonder Scott Skiles lost his marbles and wanted out of Milwaukee!  Brandon Jennings, who also shoots a meager 40% from the field, like Ellis, at least connects from downtown at a clip of 37% which is slightly above league average.  Don’t get me wrong, I find Monta Ellis intriguing but he strikes me as the guy that everyone wants on their team but isn’t sure how he fits into a system that isn’t built solely around him (Tyreke Evans fits that description too). 

Here’s the last 5 years of Bucks’ regular season record:  

Bucks Regular Season Records
YEAR
W
 L
PCT
2012-13
26
 28
.481
*2011-12
31
 35
.470
2010-11
35
 47
.427
2009-10
46
 36
.561
2008-09
34
 48
.415

Other than the almost .500 finish in a shortened-season last year, they have only topped 40 wins once in the last five years and counting this year’s as well, if their record holds at the same rate.  Somehow, Coach Jim Boylan will have to balance his three guards to maximize their potential, keep Redick’s minutes up (he was averaging 30 in Orlando), and find out which two guards the Bucks’ brass will have to keep for next year.  Redick and Jennings current contracts will end after this year and Monta has one more year going into 2014.  One strategy would be to ultimately decide that Jennings and Redick are the future and make a more balanced combination than any of the two with Ellis (Kind of like Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry?—Ed).  I tend to like this idea because there seems to be redundancy skill wise between Ellis and Jennings and furthermore, Monta’s expiring contract in 2014 of $11 million is very attractive to any team who can afford it.  Only time will tell but I can hardly see a future where the Bucks keep all three.      

  • THE DISASTER OTHERWISE KNOWN AS ANDREW BYNUM
For as bad as Dwight Howard has looked this year, the L.A. Lakers still crushed that deal.  Ok fine, he’s been “bad” Dwight Howard compared to Dwight Howard “standards” (still averages 16.5pts/12reb/2.5blks).  But at least we still have something to compare against his more dominant years and we can still find reason to argue where he will play next year.  The operative word is where, not if or when

Andrew Bynum, on the other hand, is a mystery as to when he will play this year or if teams think he’s worth the trouble anymore.  His best, on-the-court skill these days is finding those ridiculous suits for 7-foot centers and, of course, growing an immaculate afro.  Seriously, do a quick search on this topic.  





Let’s look at the raw numbers: Andrew Bynum was a Laker for 7 years and played in 392 out of 554 possible games to a tune of just under 71%.  Add in his 0/54 this season with the Philadelphia 76ers and this yields  392/608, or 64% of all possible games he could have participated.  That is some seriously scary stuff for a guy who doesn’t turn 26 until October 27th of this year.  I just don't see Bynum playing in that many games this year and if I were his agent, I would advise against him playing.  The worst thing Bynum could do is either come back too early and re-injure his knees or come back and not be all that productive trying to re- acclimate himself in a hostile, environment that is the Philadelphia, sports scene.  Might as well keep teams dreaming of what he can be when he's healthy and move on from a tainted situation.  


  • AMAZING RECORD; ALOOF RECEPTION: The San Antonio Spurs
I was recently asked a question that has come up repeatedly over the years: why do the San Antonio Spurs get so little attention and why are they considered "boring"?  

At first I resisted the offer to resort to that question because every true basketball junkie knows about this team and has become accustomed to.  The Spurs are great, they have been great for a long time, and they have one of the most underrated coaches ever in Gregg Popovich.  They have won enough recent titles so I don't feel obligated to feel sorry for them.  So I put it to the side and left it alone trying to concentrate on All-Star weekend.  

Upon resuming the regular season I wanted to take a glance at the standings and see the general landscape of how the playoff schedule might shake out.  And that's when it happened and I began to track the next week or so.  The Spurs as of February 26th are sitting at 45-13.  How is this possible?  Even for Spurs’ standards, that’s quite an impressive record for their aging “Big Three.”  So it must be the defense, right?  Well, yes, they are the 9th stingiest defense in the league giving up 95.8 points per game.  However, they’re really doing it on the offensive end as well, producing 104.3 points per game the (4th) best in the league!  The Spurs (+8.4) trail only the Thunder (+9.1) in point differential and, yes, that means they are ahead of the vaunted Miami Heat (+7.1).  

It is simply incredible given Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker are 36, 35, and 30 years-old, respectively.  There's one shining rank statistically that may shed some light: the Spurs rank #1 in assists in the NBA at 25 per game (Tony Parker is the engine and Pop knows it!-Ed).  


So let’s take a look at the Spurs 5-man units and see what their best lineups are:

Top Five-Man Floor Units
#
Unit
Min
Off
Def
+/-
W
L
Win%
1
 Parker-Green-Leonard-Splitter-Duncan
222.8 
1.08 
0.85 
+104  
15  
2  
88.2
2
 Parker-Green-Leonard-Diaw-Duncan
139.8 
1.10 
0.98 
+32  
9  
7  
56.2
3
 Parker-Green-Leonard-Diaw-Splitter
121.5 
1.14 
0.99 
+32  
6  
5  
54.5
4
 Parker-Neal-Green-Blair-Duncan
105.0 
1.01 
1.07 
-13  
4  
6  
40.0

What we can see in the top-three, 5-man units is the Spurs really have their main rotation rounded out and that on paper, the types of players they put out on the floor seem to set up a really nice amount of spacing.  For the record, I stopped after four units since these are the only four units that have play at least 100 minutes together.  Parker creates, Danny Green hangs out at the wings, Kawhi Leonard roams looking to set picks and rebound, Duncan has his butt on the blocks, and Tiago Splitter can play high and low for screens and post ups.  It's a really nice fit and even when they sit either Duncan or Splitter, they have Boris Diaw who has always been a big body who can pass and facilitate on offense.  One thing that seems impossible is that Manu Ginobli isn't on any of these lists, but at 23 minutes per game, he seems to really be playing the super 6th man so probably not surprising.  

So are the Spurs boring?  Well that's just a matter of opinion, but to me it's just great basketball. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2012 MLB PROSPECT REVIEW: Top 5

Bryce Harper had a heck of a 2012 season.



Felipe M

5. Trevor Bauer--SP--Cleveland Indians
  • 2012 Outlook: "Compared to Tim Lincecum.  Best of the D'backs' prospects."
  • 2012 Accomplishments: #3 in Pacific Coast League and the league's best pitcher.
  • Conclusion: Aside from a 4.2 BB/9, Bauer absolutely dominated in the Minors in 2012.  He did pitch for the Big League club, but was playing hurt in his time with the D'backs.  Unfortunately for Arizona, conflict between the young pitcher and the entire organization forced the D'backs to ship him to Cleveland for a bushel of balls, a 2-year supply of hot dogs, and a high volume of the freshest Lake Erie water.  People are going to get fired in Arizona because of this trade.  However, management wanted to get rid of this promising prospect, but the real "snake bite" come from the fact that they really didn't get fair value for this player and that's very unfortunate.  At least they were able to get solid players in the Justin Upton deal.  Currently, Bauer is competing for the #5 spot in the Indians' rotation.  
4. Julio Teheran--SP--Atlanta Braves
  • 2012 Outlook: "Compared to Pedro Martinez; best of the Braves' pitching prospects."
  • 2012 Accomplishments: #1 Prospect in Braves' organization and possesses Best Changeup in the system; #4 Prospect in International League. 
  • Conclusion: Struggled mightily in the Minors last season, but many pundits are blaming the organization for trying to change his delivery.  Reports out of spring training are that Teheran has returned to his old delivery and is pitching with extreme confidence.  He is currently competing for a rotation spot. 
3. Jesus Montero--C--Seattle Mariners
A young Jesus Montero readying himself with that lumber.
  • 2012 Outlook: "Will mainly DH for the Mariners.  Can hit for power and average."
  • 2012 Accomplishments: Played 135 games for the Mariners in 2012, but only 56 games at catcher.
  • Conclusion: One of the many players that were linked to the recent BioGenesis scandal adds to Montero's problems, mainly his defensive duties at the catching position and how will he exactly bounce back from a disastrous 2012 (.260/.298/.389 BB:K .29).  His last season at Triple-A shows what Montero is capable of: .289/.351/.493/.843 BB:K .43.  That potential has management salivating at things to come and opted to hand him the keys to the #1 catching spot as they got rid of any potential competition that might get in his way this season. 
2. Bryce Harper--OF--Washington Nationals
  • 2012 Outlook: "At 19, he's the best prospect in baseball.  Will get called up in 2012."
  • 2012 Accomplishments: NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR and All-Star
  • Conclusion: Now 20, Harper is slated to start in LF for the Nationals.  What's very impressive about Harper is that not only did he succeed as a teengager in his first season in the Majors, but that he showed no indication that he was ready for the Big Leagues in the Minors.  He struggled in Double and Triple-A posting mediocre batting average, low on-base%, and displaying absolutely no power.  His patience at the plate did improve so there might have been hope for him in that aspect.  He put on more weight to endure a full season in the Majors and, obviously, to hit for more power and improve on his .817 OPS from last season.
It might be the worst ballpark,
but it will be home to a lot of
young, promising players.
1. Matt Moore--SP--Tampa Rays
  • 2012 Outlook: "Might be better than Stephen Strasburg."
  • 2012 Accomplishments: Pitched 177.1 innings for the Rays. 
  • Conclusion: After dominating and destroying everything in his path in Double and Triple-A, Moore's 2012 was sort of ordinary: WHIP 1.35; H/9 8.0; HR/9 0.9; BB/9 4.1; K/9 8.9.  He did find his rhythm in the 2nd half of the season so that's a good sign; that and his high strikeout rate.  Moore is very likely to break camp as the Rays' #3 starter.  

 More MLB content is available here

The rest of the prospects can be found here.

All pictures courtesy of Mike McCann's Field of Fotos.  


CATCH!: 2013 Early Pre-Rankings--3B

Will Longoria stay healthy this season?
(photo courtesy of Mike McCann's Field of Fotos)


Felipe M




TOP TIER

1. Miguel Cabrera: MVP, Triple-Crown Winner: what more can be said?
2. Adrian Beltre: He will be 34 this year.  He can still rake, however. Should be good for another 30/100 season.
3. David Wright: Mr. Met is a solid player to have at this position.  He can even steal 15+ bases.  The difference between him and Beltre is that the latter has slightly better contact skills.
4. Evan Longoria: So young and full of talent.  If only he could stay healthy.  If he does stay healthy, you can expect a 30/100 season, .300 average, and a .935 OPS.
5. Ryan Zimmerman: Just like Longoria, Zimmerman is starting to get a reputation of being injury-proned.  However, when healthy, he can provide plenty of power and just enough contact on the ball to help with the batting average.

SECOND TIER

6. Aramis Ramirez: At 35, we know what we're getting in Ramirez.  He also has a reputation for being a slow-starter and/or a player who seems to produce the most when the pressure is off of him.  He can be very productive, nonetheless.
7. Chase Headley: Last year, around this time, many projected Headly to hit 10 homeruns,   SLG% .392, and an OPS of .742.  He ended up with 30 homers, SLG% .498, and produce an OPS of .875.  I don't think he'll go on that power surge again, but Petco is supposed to move in their fences.  He is also good for 15 stolen bases.  20/90 and .820 OPS is more realistic.
8. Brett Lawrie: A lot of publications have Lawrie in this slot, but be forewarned: he's still undergoing development.  A lot of the hype comes from his untapped potential and 20/20 projections, but he still is undisciplined at the plate and had a groundball rate of 51% in 2012.   He does provide solid contact skills, but needs to provide more power. 
9. Hanley Ramirez: We've mentioned how much of a headache Hanley can be on our SS list.  Depending on what you need, he can still be a 25/25 player, but provides relatively low on-base% and OPS.
10. Pablo Sandoval: The World Series MVP will be on high demand in most drafts this year.  However, there are some concerns with this "Panda": injuries, playing for the Giants and their massive ballpark, and his weight.  Despite those concerns, Sandoval is only 26 and ready to enter his prime years and has the ability to hist 25+ homers and provide massive OPS.  
11. Martin Prado: Probably the "safest" player on the list: he's versatile, garners lots of at bats, and has great patience at the plate, and superior contact skills.  He won't provide much power, but he does have on-base skills and can still be a 15/15 player.

THIRD TIER

The rest of the field:
Keep an eye on:

Monday, February 25, 2013

CATCH!: 2013 Early Pre-Rankings--SS

There's no doubting his ability, but can Tulo stay healthy for a full season?
(photo courtesy of Mike McCann's Field of Fotos)



Felipe M




GREEN=Currently on my keeper team. 

TOP TIER

1. Troy Tulowitzki: His ability is never in question; it's his health that seems to be a problem.  Projected OPS alone puts him way ahead of everybody else at the position.
2. Ben Zobrist: Just like in our 2B list, Zobrist's projections and position versatility are too good to pass up and ignore for 2013.
3. Jose Reyes: New team, new league; it will be interesting to see how Reyes responds to a totally new environment.  High contact rate, respectable on-base%, and stolen bases, presumably, will streamline very well. 
4. Starlin Castro: I'm really not sold on Castro, but his career numbers at this stage of his career seem to be comparable to some pretty good, Hall of Famers when they were Castro's age (22).  However, he needs to improve on his plate discipline and petty, in-game distractions on defense, but youth is definitely on his side.
5. Hanley Ramirez: What a miserable year it must have been to be a Hanley owner. He can still be a 20-20 player and he's projected to improve his plate discipline, but it's hard for me to take a risk on a guy who might be more of a headache than he's worth.

SECOND TIER

6. Ian Desmond: Came on strong late in 2012 as he was more aggressive at the plate.  Nevertheless, I find it hard to imagine him repeating Slash Lines of .292/.335/.511 with a terrible batting approach.  However, he's still projected to be a 20/20 player.
7. Jimmy Rollins: J-Roll is approaching that time in a player's career where diminished skills are too hard to overcome.  An impressive contact rate was his saving grace as it helped him hit 23 HRs and garner 30 stolen bases, but a paltry OPS of .743 is not going to cut it.  He needs to turn that contact rate into a higher batting average to help out Roto owners, but his projected low OPS for 2013 might hurt head2head owners.
8. Elvis Andrus: Decent contact rate and patience at the plate is how Andrus generates his most important attribute in fantasy: the ability to steal bases.  That combination also helps with batting average.
9. Erick Aybar: Never thought I would see the day that Aybar would make a top 10 in anything, but here we are.  Aybar has proven to be somewhat of a tough out and that's basically how he gets on base. Might hit 10 homeruns and is good for 25 stolen bases and his ability to make contact with the ball will help with batting average.
10. Asdrubal Cabrera: If "defensive wizardry" was aggregated in fantasy leagues, Cabrera's stock would be rising on this list.  However, it's an offensive-minded game. He brings 15/15 potential and a respectable on-base%. He does strikeout a lot so if you're in a head2head league that takes away points for that stat, you might want to look elsewhere for a more stable alternative.
11. Alcides Escobar: A recurring theme with shortstops, Escobar comes with a decent contact rate.  However, unlike the last few players listed, Escobar is very impatient at the plate.  Escobar comes with 30 steals potential and that's why he's on a lot of publications' top 15 list, but I, personally, would look elsewhere to fill out the position.
12. Marco Scutaro: There's that man again!  We explained Scutaro's 2013 outlook in our 2B projections.  Basically, impressive contact rate and patience, but advanced age is a factor.
13. Derek Jeter: Speaking of age: Jeter should be ready to go for 2013, barring more grotesque injuries.  Just like Scutaro, Jeter is an age risk (39). Good contact rate, impressive on-base numbers, and ability to hit for a high average make him an attractive choice in fantasy, but power has been pretty much sapped out of him and stolen bases are declining.  He's still a 10/10 player.  

THIRD TIER

The rest of the field: 
  • Danny Espinosa (if he were more patient at the plate, he would definitely be a higher ranked middle infielder).
  • J.J. Hardy
  • Alexei Ramirez
  • Andrelton Simmons
  • Everth Cabrera
  • Jed Lowrie (talk about your deep sleepers)
Keep an eye on:

CATCH!: 2013 Early Pre-Rankings--2B

Its Cano and then everybody else.
(photo courtesy of Mike McCann's Field of Fotos)



Felipe M



GREEN=Currently on my keeper team.

TOP TIER

1. Robinson Cano: NEXT!
2. Ben Zobrist: One of the most underrated players in baseball, it's time to recognize Zobrist for what he is: a versatile player with great big league hitting prowess.
3. Dustin Pedroia: "Laser Show" can put up numbers as well and name recognition will have picked very early in a lot of drafts.
4. Ian Kinsler: A down year in 2012, but Kinsler still possesses the skill set to bounce back in a big way.  Probably not a 30-30 player, but he's still a high contact, potential OPS .800 type of player.
5. Brandon Phillips: Never a fan of Phillips, but it's hard to ignore 15-15 potential along with a decent contact rate. 

SECOND TIER

6. Aaron Hill: Every time I count out Hill, he always comes back to have himself a big year.  Might be hard to foresee him produce another OPS of .882, but just like Phillips, he's a potential 15-15 guy with a solid contact rate. The difference is that Phillips is more reliable than Hill.
7. Neil Walker: A very underrated, highly neglected player for the Pirates, Walker provides decent pop and better on-base% than Phillips and Hill.  Strikes out too much, but still provides adequate contact skills.
8. Jason Kipnis: Probably has the most untapped potential out of the 2B listed thus far.  Can probably expect major improvements in his skill-set, but there are other players that are more proven than Kipnis.  Has decent pop and can be a nuisance for opposing pitchers/catchers on the basepaths.
9. Jose Altuve:  The diminutive 2B can be a pesky hitter and a nuisance on the basepaths, but outside of a high batting average and maybe 30 stolen bases, Altuve offers very little of anything else. 
10. Howard Kendrick: Just like many homegrown Angels, I'm not enamored with Kendrick's game, but I admit that he does indeed bring something to to the table: a high batting average and the potential to be a 15-15 hitter. 
11. Rickie Weeks: The only reason to gamble on Weeks is for his power numbers.  However, a high strikeout rate and a terrible batting approach might offset his power and promising on-base%. However, 20 HRs and 15 stolen bases can be hard to ignore when you're trying to decide on the backend list of 2B.
12. Marco Scutaro: What a weird season Scutaro had in 2012: he was a disappointment in Colorado, but was able to find his hitting groove in pitcher-friendly San Francisco. What a weird game this is. Caution: Scutaro is 37 years-old and will probably not continue to be on the hitting tear that he was with the Giants in late 2012.  However, armed with an extremely high contact rate and a persistent discipline at the plate, Scutaro can still hit for .290+ and produce a respectable on-base%.
13. Chase Utley: Normally, I would have Utley ahead of Scutaro and a lot of other guys, but health issues have hindered him from his usual spot in elite status and has relegated him to the back of the line at the position. When healthy, he still torch the ball, but you will be need to handcuff him to a more healthy alternative.

THIRD TIER

The rest of the field: 
  • Danny Espinosa (keep an eye on him.  Might provide enough pop to warrant a roster spot)
  • Daniel Murphy
  • Omar Infante
  • Dan Uggla (how the mighty have fallen)
  • Jeff Keppinger
  • Kelly Johnson
  • Dustin Ackley (when he was coming up, he was supposed to be the heir apparent to Chase Utley. I'm still holding out hope for that prophecy to come to fruition).
Keep an eye on: