Sunday, March 31, 2013

BUCKET BRACKETS 103: Best Defense Ever?

Johnny J

The Syracuse Orange were the first team to punch their ticket to the Final Four next weekend in Atlanta by beating Marquette 55-39. The Golden Eagles defeated the Orange back in February 74 -71, but Saturday was all Syracuse. The 2-3 zone swarmed all over Marquette  as they coughed up the ball 13 times. Both teams shot poorly from the field: Syracuse just 38% and Marquette a measly 23%. They shot 12%from behind the arc going 3-25.

"They cover ground really good. You've got to get the ball in the middle, you've got to play inside out, you've got to get to the free-throw line and wear them down with the 3-pointer when you can,"said Marquette's junior guard, Vander Blue. "They're really good at what they do in that zone." Blue went 3-15 from the floor.

Syracuse makes their fourth Final Four appearance, the last time was in 2003, when they won the National Champion. Led by a guy you may know, by the name of Carmelo Anthony. So what's better than having Anthony's jersey retired this year? Wait, wait--what's better than saying good bye to the Big East Conference and saying hello to the Atlantic Coast Conference? I'l tell you what; it's bringing home a Championship trophy and switching conferences at the same time. Hello ACC! Welcome the University of Syracuse, 2013 Champions!

"You want to go out with a win," said junior forward C.J. Fair.

Barack Obama was in attendance as well as Washington Redskins quarterback, Robert Griffin III. I guess Obama had to see the team that beat his team up-close in person (he had Indiana winning it all).  Not a bad way to leave the nation's capital, brushing off your shoulders.

Syracuse played an up and down season all year long. The first part of the season they went 18-1.  They looked like a dominant Big East team that couldn't be slowed down. They finally did in the second half, going 5-7 against teams in the Big East. They played so bad down the stretch, that they had to open the Big East tournament against Seton Hall. Usually a good team in the conference gets a first round bye to let the weaker teams battle it out. Yes, Syracuse was considered a weak team late in the season. They overcame adversity by making it past three teams to reach the Big East Championship. They lost it by 17 to Louisville.

I have no idea how you lose 7 out of 12 games and still be a ranked team. Syracuse were ranked 19th at the end of the season, which helped them secure a four seed in the NCAA Tournament. Somebody must have known something I didn't because they turned it on after that loss to Louisville, winning three straight to reach the Final Four.

The Orange are making more rounds than the Blue Man Group!

Also reaching the Final Four is Wichita St.  A team that has reached the Final Four for the first time since 1956. Since my bracket is totally ruined, I wouldn't mind seeing Syracuse and Louisville in the Championship game. A rematch and a farewell gift. The battle of the Big East for one last time! With Louisville all ready punching their ticket to the Final Four, that scenario is one step closer to becoming a reality.

More NCAA content is available here

Saturday, March 30, 2013

MARDI GRAS MADNESS: The Evil Empire

Felipe M

We continue on our reviews for our fantasy baseball league, Mardi Gras Madness.  Please take some time to read the St Bernard Giants outlook.  

The next team is the newest owner in our league, but by no means is he a rookie to fantasy baseball.  Let's take a look at how our resident Yankee fan fared in his first draft in this league. 

CENTRAL DIVISION--The Evil Empire (from Illinois by way of New York)


BATTING LINEUP

Like: Strong left side of the infield with Ryan Zimmerman and Troy Tulowitzki.  As mentioned before, I truly believe that Tulo is the best SS in baseball, but there are injury concerns with him.  In the last 3 seasons, he’s only played in 64% of the Rockies’ games and has not played in over 150 games since 2009.  Carlos Gonzalez is on the squad as well as he’ll be showing off his power/speed combo. 

Dislike: Nelson Cruz, even though he has enough power to be a relevant fantasy player, is just too impatient for my taste.  He’s projected to post an on-base% of .326.  As an owner who had Carlos Beltran on his fantasy team last year, seeing him run out of gas late in 2012 was a tremendous letdown.  He did play in 150 games, but at 36 years-old, will he be able to get through a full season in 2013?  Adam Jones’ value comes from his counting stats, but eventually, the poor approach at the plate and the relatively low on-base% will catch up to him and screw his fantasy owners.  And even though Dan Uggla was picked in round five (virtual 12th round) of the draft, Uggla’s fall from the top of the 2B list should be alarming.

Look Out For: Manny Machado as his year can go either way: he will either flourish this season with the Orioles or his impatience will catch up to him and they will be forced to send him back to the Minors.  


2013 Hitting Projections
Player
Team
Pos
BB/K
AB/K
AB/HR
OBP
SLG
OPS
SB
Nelson Cruz
Texas
RF
0.35
4.30
21.07
0.326
0.484
0.809
10
Dan Uggla
Atlanta
2B
0.51
3.55
22.01
0.344
0.425
0.769
3
Adam Jones
Baltimore
CF
0.26
5.06
21.69
0.338
0.494
0.831
13
Manny Machado
Baltimore
3B
0.33
4.96
28.24
0.301
0.429
0.730
9










Bench: The Empire had a very interesting bench as the “homer” in him had him pick up a few Yankee players. Backing up Tulo will be Derek Jeter.  Currently, free-swinging, Adam LaRoche is starting at 1B, but most likely taking his place will be Mark TeixeiraKevin Youkilis is a good piece to have on your team because he qualifies at 1B/3B and can also be placed on the DH spot.  Victor Martinez was accidentally picked as a catcher, but he will only qualify at DH this season (until he plays 5 games at the backstop), but the team was able to acquire Matt Wieters after the draft in a trade.  Both are good options at catcher.  Even V-Mart makes for a great DH.  

PITCHING

Like: Johnny Cueto and James Shields are both top 25 pitchers.  Jeff Samardzija fell into our 3rd Tier list because of his BB/9, but when he has his control working, he can be pretty dominant.  Derek Holland can be useful on the right team and this club is right for him as a middle of the rotation starter.  Ryan Vogelsong is the last member of a solid 6-man rotation. 

Dislike: I’m still skeptical about R.A. Dickey.  I’ve explained before about distrusting kucklers, but his projections were good enough to place him ahead of teammate Shields on my top 25 list.  Clearly, this owner did not read my analysis on Justin Masterson.  

2013 Pitching Projections
Player
Team
K/BB
K/9
BB/9
H/9
WHIP
HR/9
Justin Masterson
Cleveland
2.09
6.85
3.27
9.26
1.39
0.73
Ryan Vogelsong
San Francisco
2.28
7.56
3.32
8.52
1.32
0.77
Jeff Samardzija
Cubs
2.33
8.82
3.78
7.98
1.31
1.02
Derek Holland
Texas
2.73
7.66
2.81
8.51
1.26
1.07
Brandon League
Los Angeles
2.13
6.75
3.18
8.34
1.28
0.53
Chris Perez
Cleveland
2.70
8.84
3.27
7.04
1.15
0.82














Bullpen: One of my favorite closers to pick on, Chris Perez is on the ballclub.  Bad enough that he can be a bit loose with his words and actions, but sometimes he goes through these stretches where he loses control and command of his pitches.  Brandon League has so many people rooting against him as they await for Kenley Jansen to take over in Los Angeles.  League’s stuff and projections also make him a questionable choice at closer. 

PREDICTION: Pretty good team despite the fact that it is being run by a new owner.  Starting pitching and offense might be good enough to keep this team in playoff contention, but they also have plenty of hitters that are susceptible to prolonged slumps.  In a fantasy points’ league like this one where you lose points for strikeouts, it can prove to be difference between making the playoffs and watching other teams playing for the championship.  


MARDI GRAS MADNESS: St Bernard Giants

Felipe M

I continue to review our league's fantasy baseball teams.  To read our preview on the Beer Belly Mashers, click here


The following team is one of the more successful clubs in our league's history as he dominated with a juiced-up Barry Bonds early on and continued to succeed after he retired and "Fat Albert" took charge of the team.  

WEST DIVISION--St Bernard Giants (fighting out of Louisiana)


BATTING LINEUP

Like: Albert Pujols: that is all.  But he won’t have to carry this team on his own as he has a nice supporting cast this season: Miguel Montero, Brandon Phillips, Marco Scutaro, Alex Gordon, Jose Bautista, and Matt Holliday should be able to reach their projections this season.  

Dislike: I’m just nit-picking at this point, but Michael Young as a starting 3B just seems out-of-place because he’s not the prototypical power-hitter at the position, but I really don’t have a problem with it.  This is as close to a negative I could find on this team.

Look Out For: This is a team full of established veterans so if I have to choose one player to keep an eye on, it will be Kyle Seager as many publications marveled at his potential for 2013.  Seager finished 2012 on a strong note and it will be interesting to see if he can keep up the pace or if his successful September was just a fluke.

Bench: Paul Konerko is just overkill on a team that really didn’t need a big bat like his.  The team needed another starting pitcher so I’m dubious at this pick.  Considering they have Pujols at 1B and Holliday at DH, plus David Ortiz on the DL, when exactly is Konerko going to be used on this squad?  I also like the possible platoon system at CF with Michael Bourn and Alejandro De Aza.  De Aza has a bit more pop, while Bourn was born to run.  It should be interesting to see which of the two will be more productive in our points league this year.  


2013 Hitting Projections
Player
Team
Pos
BB/K
AB/K
AB/HR
OBP
SLG
OPS
SB
Michael Young
Philadelphia
1B/3B
0.49
7.74
57.50
0.336
0.411
0.746
4
Kyle Seager
Seattle
3B
0.40
5.31
35.18
0.324
0.417
0.741
11
Alejandro De Aza
White Sox
CF
0.44
4.95
55.31
0.345
0.415
0.760
26
Michael Bourn
Cleveland
CF
0.44
4.36
108.24
0.337
0.369
0.706
45










PITCHING

Like: Matt Cain proved last season why he should be considered one of the game’s elite starting pitchers.  And we just explained how good Adam Wainwright is.  Unheralded, Dillon Gee is also on the team.  The club is also waiting for Phil Hughes to come back from injury. They even found a way to sign finesse pitcher, Kyle Lohse.

Dislike: I have yet to read a positive review on the progress of Tim Lincecum in the spring as control, command, and drop in velocity have plagued the former Cy Young winner this spring.  However, he can still rack up the strikeouts and that alone is enough to believe in him.  Nevertheless, this team is depending too much on him to emerge as the team’s 3rd best starter.  He’s definitely in the right place, but a guy that’s plagued with so many issues is not the way you want to build your top-half of your pitching staff. 



Bullpen: John Axford is looking for a bounce back season and I was surprised to find plenty of publications explaining his struggles last from 2012, but seeing him blow games last season is too fresh on my mind to even consider selecting him for this season.  As much as I have rage for Grant Balfour, it seems that he always finds a way of losing the closers’ spot one way or another, but this might be the year he can be the closer for a full year.  And I've used Steve Cishek as a benchmark to compare other mediocre closers before.  

Look Out For: It will be interesting to see if Vance Worley can overcome elbow issues and a bad spring to be the ace that the Twins are looking for.  He was recently named the team’s Opening Day starter.


2013 Pitching Projections
Player
Team
K/BB
K/9
BB/9
H/9
WHIP
HR/9
John Axford
Milwaukee
2.73
11.57
4.24
7.84
1.34
0.90
Steve Cishek
Miami
2.17
8.46
3.90
7.52
1.27
0.67
Grant Balfour
Oakland
2.83
10.45
3.70
6.75
1.16
0.64
Vance Worley
Minnesota
2.84
8.28
2.92
8.46
1.26
0.89
Dillon Gee
Mets
2.18
7.11
3.26
8.53
1.31
0.89











PREDICTION: This team has plenty of hitting to make them a threat for the playoffs, but the pitching is missing something as they're depending on breakout years from a few guys.  Cain and Wainwright can definitely carry a staff throughout the year, but eventually, somebody is going to have to step up and if Lincecum continues to struggle, I just don't see who else can emerge as the #3 starter.  Axford and Cishek, at any point, can be replaced as their team's closers.