Friday, April 26, 2013

THE EMERGENCE OF PAUL GEORGE

Johnny J




"Oh, he's really lights out."--Kenny Smith
It must be something going around for players who have two first names. For some reason, they know how to ball: Chris Paul, Dwight HowardKevin Martin, and Paul George, just to name a few. (Taking a note down for when I have a son).  These players have established themselves as good NBA players.  But the one who suddenly just appeared out of nowhere is Paul George of the Indiana Pacers. This guy is very talented, and has made a name for himself. I would say someone to build a team around. Yes, I said it, a franchise player and at 22 years of age, he can only get better.

When was the last time you heard of an NBA player coming out of Fresno State?  I actually had to do research to get the answer; Melvin Ely, back in 2002. He was a first round pick, selected 12th overall. At age 34, he now plays in the D-league. I guess hes still developing. George is actually the fourth player to come out of Fresno State, and be selected in the first round by a team in the past 13 years. He was drafted the highest at #10.  George has made significant progress on his development, earning the Most Improved Player Award (MIP) in only his third season. George is very athletic and has great upside to his game. He can play both sides of the floor, and is quickly getting Pacers' fans to forget about Danny Granger--out for the season. When one star goes down, another one quickly rises, at least every GM hopes so.

Thus a star was born. When Granger went down, George didn't back-off from the pressure. He knew, someone had to bring the intensity every night like Granger did. In fact, he grabbed the opportunity and dunked it in. It is now his team. The only difference between George and Granger is the former is more of a complete player, he shoots, he drives, draws fouls, and plays DEFENSE people! That's Pacer basketball in a nutshell. He doesn't start fights to try and get into opponents' head like Granger did against LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2012. He's not a dirty player, but yes the Pacers play physical basketball. They're just picking on the Atlanta Hawks, making them look soft (and Atlanta preferred to match-up against Indiana as oppose to the Heat?--Ed).

"We naturally just play physical," George said. "It wasn't like, 'Hey, let's play physical, let's retaliate.' That's just how we play. That's how we approach the game. We just have to keep playing how we play."

How physical did they get?  Well they had 10 steals and 5 blocks. George accounting for four steals and one block. He plays DEFENSE people! To me, he's a better player than Granger. Him and the Pacers simply make the game harder for opponents. Just ask Atlanta, now down 0-2 in their first round playoff series.  They play physical, tough, over-powering defense. They're a #3 seed for a reason. Then, when they get their crowd behind them, its just harder to beat them at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (30-11 at home).  They were ranked first in rebounds in the regular season and second in points allowed.  I can't reiterate this enough: they play DEFENSE people!

How did George fare against the Hawks?  Well, in their first two playoff games of the series, he messed around and got a triple-double in the first game and followed that up on Wednesday with 27 points, eight rebounds, three assists, four steals and a block.  George, also made his first All-Star appearence this past season. Yeah, I would say a franchise player. It's no wonder Larry Bird won the Executive of the Year Award last season.  He knew how to build a team. Putting George around a solid point guard in George Hill and a big body in Roy Hibbert in the post. Thanks to George, they are a solid team and will be for years with George leading them. A former bulldog, that I can remember.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

WHO'S ON FIRST?

Never thought I would be writing about
Ike Davis (photo courtesy of Field of Fotos)
Felipe M

We've mentioned way, way back in the offseason about the depth at 1B entering this fantasy baseball season.  Whether you're in a 12, 14, or even a 16-team league, every club should have a somewhat, dependable player at that spot.  Well, not everyone is that lucky.

Over the weekend, I was answering a few fantasy baseball questions (like I normally do) when out of the blue, one of my associates posts this question:
"Would you trade Doug Fister or Mike Minor for Paul Konerko?  My current options at that spot are Brandon Moss, Ike Davis, and Justin Morneau (if needed)."
He went on to mention that he would be able to live with his current setup at 1B, but I couldn't help but wonder: how in the world did this happen?  Moss wasn't even listed on my list, Davis ultimately was the #19th 1B, and Morneau was a player that probably should have gone undrafted.  He later explained to me that during the draft, he had to step away from the computer for a moment, but by the time he got back, he ended up with an overabundance at 3B.  Had he not stepped away, Konerko would have been on the team and issue would have been resolved.  He would have even "settled" for Chris Davis instead of Ike, but that's the cruel game we deal with.

Of course, the answer was "no," you do not trade a front-of-the-line starter for an aging 1B.  He agreed that he would try to explore the possibility of trading one of his 3B, but was enamored with the idea of going with the current platoon system he has going so far.  Nothing wrong with a "platoon system" in fantasy baseball.  I myself have one going in CF with B.J. Upton and Desmond Jennings (and current add, Angel Pagan).  

Nevertheless, 1B is one of the more important, if not the most important, position in fantasy leagues because of the power numbers that the position can generate for a team.  I explained to him that Moss was a total fluke (of course, he didn't like that assessment) with poor plate discipline and terrible contact skills.  Ike Davis, although he has proven that he has legit power, has also proven to have a terrible approach at the plate and strikes out way too much (he hit .227 with an on-base% of .308 in 2012).  And it is unclear if Morneau will ever repeat his 2009 numbers after years of dealing with serious injuries.  

My associate countered by stating that since he's in a 5 category, head-to-head league, he's only interesting in the counting stats that accumulate in those categories only.  He really doesn't care about on-base% or how many times a guy strikes out.  Which is really weird for me because I use a lot of statistical criteria when evaluating a player and have, in the past, used this, successful, method when playing in similar leagues that my associate is currently a part of.  It was so strange to have a conversation with someone who described Moss as a ".280 [hitter] with 30+ homers and 90 RBI [and a] late bloomer who's improving in the [strikeout] category" (which all indications show that Moss is definitely not improving in that category at all).  A player like Moss who has had plate discipline issues throughout his Minor League career to suddenly becoming a .280 hitter just does not sound right, but I digress.  First rule of fantasy sports: if the method has worked, go with it!  I'll stick to my successful methods and my associate can stick to his.  It's that simple, really.  

However, that got me thinking: if my associate is struggling with 1B issues and is seriously talking himself into believing that his 3-headed monster might actually work, what is really going on with other owners having to face this same dilemma, but actually want to improve their situation and not have to settle for guys like Moss, Davis, or Morneau?  My most important rule when giving out fantasy baseball advice is to never, ever suggest to other owners to go after players that I myself would never consider having on my own team.  So to rephrase that question, what would I do if I were in that same predicament?  

Let's say that I'm stuck with a sub-par 1B, we'll call him Stinky McStinkerson (you guys out there can call him, Adam Dunn).  I guess the first thing I would do is search the waiver wire for a more suitable replacement.  The following players are owned by less than 75% of CBS leagues:

  • Yonder Alonso--62%
  • Yuniesky Betancourt--35%
  • Matt Adams--36%
  • Chris Johnson--64%
  • Garrett Jones--32%
  • James Loney--7%
  • Brandon Moss--66%
  • Stinky--70%
  • Adam Lind--20%
  • Mitch Moreland--16%
  • Corey Hart--59%

First off, if I see that Alonso is available, I'm not even hesitating.  I'm swooping in, adding him to my lineup, and declaring my 1B problems solved.  We've been hyping up Alonso since February and he should be owned in more leagues.  He is currently posting an OPS of .988--at home!  Looks like those new dimensions at Petco Park are paying off for Alonso.  Albeit, his overall numbers don't look very impressive at all, but the fact that he's hitting a lot better at home is a step in the right direction.  He also has a reputation of having a great approach at the plate and raw, developing power.  He should be owned in more leagues.

And just to cover my ground at the position, I'm picking up Hart and stash him deep in my bench or my "injured reserve" spot and play the waiting game with him.  He's worth the wait because he is a proven commodity.

But wait a minute: didn't Brandon Moss have better numbers than Hart in 2012, considering that Moss had less at bats to work with?  Yes, from an efficiency standpoint, Moss' numbers looked better when you consider that Hart nearly doubled up Moss in at bats last season.  However, the 2012 numbers prove how much of a fluke Moss is.  Both players had similar BB:K and Hart had a slightly better contact rate than Moss, but clearly, both players have poor discipline.  Despite all of that, Hart was lucky enough to hit .271 considering his "hacking" approach (probably assisted by a BABIP of .318).  However, I'm just supposed to sit here and believe that Moss was able to hit .291 despite striking out as much as Hart?  His BABIP was .359!  Again, fluke!  However, I will concede that all other 2012 numbers (including Secondary Average, IsoPower, and Total Average) do favor Moss (although, League OPS which is "The OPS a league average (non-pitcher) would have had in the same park(s)," favored Hart).  Nevertheless, the .359 BABIP proves how lucky Moss was in being able to hit .291 last season.  Size is another factor in play as Hart is your prototypical slugger standing at 6'6", 237 lbs.  We've seen guys like Michael Morse use their size to their advantage to generate plenty of natural power despite the lack of plate discipline.  Moss, on the other hand, is 6'0", 210 lbs.  His Minor League power numbers show inconsistencies.  One year, he would post impressive homerun totals and slugging%, but other years, he would suddenly disappear in the power deaprtment, posting mediocre numbers.  It makes me question his ability to continue to provide consistent power production in the long-term knowing that he all ready lacks size, but also has a history of lacking power in some seasons.  Players like Moss are susceptible to long stretches of slumps.  Hart, ironically enough, is the more steady choice.

Assuming that Alonso and Hart are unavailable, I guess I would consider picking up Moss as a short-term solution, cutting bait as soon as his hot streak ends.      

Highly-touted prospect, Matt Adams would also be a good choice, but again, short-term solution as playing time is an issue because of the depth the St. Louis Cardinals have and the lack of flexibility that Adams offers on defense as he can only play 1B.

The versatile Chris Johnson (qualifies at both corner infield spots) has been hitting the ball in the last week or so as his contact rate is higher than usual and his current BABIP is a whopping .468!  Based on his history of terrible plate discipline, Johnson is clearly on a hot streak and just like Moss, he is only a short-term solution to your 1B problems.  He should be cut as soon as he starts to slump because it might be a long one.  

Betancourt is an odd option at this spot, but has created buzz as he hit 2 homeruns and drove in 7 RBI in the last week of play.  He also possesses a horrid plate approach, but has a history of good contact rate on his side.  However, because of his impatient approach (despite, ironically enough, posting a career walk percentage so far of 5.6%), he only has an on-base% of .278 and is only hitting .245.  I'll pass, thanks.

Same thing with Garrett Jones.  Although the power has always been there, he's always lacked consistency.  This season, he looks to be finally showing some signs of it, but again, it's just a fluke as his impatient approach is being masked by a slight increase in his contact rate and a BABIP of .350.  His on-base% should be a lot lower than .346 based on his League On-Base Percentage of .316.  

James Loney is having a surprising start to his season so far.  Always known for his discipline, good contact skills, and defense, he's lacked the power that is required of the position throughout his career.  Well, this season he's slugging .488.  He's only hit one homerun, but for what it's worth, he on pace to hit for more than 45 doubles.  Well, despite the reputation of possessing good discipline, his walk percentage of 10.4% is the highest he's posted since 2009.  He's also striking out more than usual as he's trying to lift the ball into the air with more frequency than what we're used to seeing.  His BABIP is a high .343 as well.  It should be interesting to see if Loney can sustain this kind of hitting prowess when his BABIP drops to more normal levels, but based on his past plate discipline, I would rather take a chance on Loney than on some of the other, all-or-nothing hitters we have listed heretofore.  

The most interesting statistical line comes from Adam Lind.  Lind has a a reputation for being an all-or-nothing hitter, posting one, good, solid season back in 2009.  Currently, Lind is struggling to find playing time as he's been mired in a long slump that also includes a power outage (only has 3 total extra base-hits this year).  Despite his struggles, he's still posting an on-base% of .370.  Lind has walked 9 times and has only struck three times.  That's amazing considering the kind of player Lind is.  Who knows if Lind can turn his career around, but at least he's trying to improve one aspect of his game.  

By now, we all know that Moreland is a power-hitter that's had plate discipline and strikeout issues in the Majors, despite the fact that he's shown an amazing plate approach in the Minors.  Well, he's posting a respectable BB/K of .50, has displayed good homerun power (despite the low slugging% and OPS), and despite showing good contact skills this season, his BABIP is at a devastating .140.  His Slash Line should be a lot higher than they currently are based on the League Average metrics.  So if you believe in buying low with the hopes that Moreland will snap out of his current slump and provide excellent production for the rest of the season, he would look to be the perfect candidate to provide such a scenario.  

So there you have it.  A desperate owner's look at the 1B position.  The pickings are slim and you have to be very creative in choosing a player that best fits your needs.  Do you go short-term and select a player that is on fire?  Do you risk going with a less exciting pick in the hopes that a certain player snaps out of a slump and rewards your patience by providing good numbers for the rest of the year?  Or do you go safe by selecting a player with past reputation, pedigree, and/or offers good plate discipline?  If it's me doing the picking, I would go with the latter.  But that's just simply the way I do things; my method if you will.

More MLB content is available here.   

Monday, April 22, 2013

THE WESTERN CONFERENCE: Enough Said!

Johnny J

The Western Conference dominance over the Eastern Conference, has been around for some time now. Its not that the west plays a different type of basketball, but its more of a team effort. Compared to the East, teams like the New York Knicks and Miami Heat focus on a superstar.  If you took away the superstar from each team, would they still be Conference title contenders, let alone NBA Title contenders? Out west, teams like Memphis, Golden State and Denver would still find away to win games minus their leading sorer. Truth be told, the West may have more superstars than the East as the latter has won the last three All-Star games. They also won five out of the last eight NBA Finals. That's what I call Conference dominance!

 The East is full of depleted stars this season, due to injuries: Derrick Rose, Danny Granger, Rajon Rondo and Amar'e Stoudemire have all missed a significant amount of games this year because of injury. Who has the best chance of reaching the finals? Obviously its easier to win in the East because of teams missing their stars. So for a team like the Knicks, now is the time to turn that frown upside-down. This could be their year.  The only team in their way--the Miami Heat. The Knicks have beaten them three times this season; once without Carmelo Anthony. Now just make it stick in the playoffs. I see only two teams being able to make the Finals in the East: New York and Miami.

If you look at the eight teams in the playoffs for the West, I would say six of them can make the finals. The only two who I believe won't are the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors.

  • Houston, we have a problem: James Harden has to go back to OKC and show them why he should have gotten paid. Who's worth more to a team: Harden or Russell Westbrook?  (Russell Westbrook--Ed). My answer is Harden.  He led the league in  free throw attempts with 792. Kevin Durant attempted 750. Imagine having them on the same team. Oh wait , that happened! Now Harden has to take his one man band into Chesapeake Arena, where the Thunder have only lost seven games all year. 
  • "Warriors come out and play": This isn't the 1979 classic, but more of the 21st century video game. All I can say is this is going to be a series that doesn't believe in defense. These teams can definitely put up points. Denver lead the league with 106.1 PPG and Golden State came in seventh with 101.2 PPG. Stephen Curry vs Ty Lawson: a 2013 classic!


Matter of fact, if you take the eight seed Rockets and put them in the East, they would be a five seed. If you take the fifth seed Grizzlies and put the in the east, they would be a two seed. So is the West harder than the East?  Yes!  It's because they don't rely on one person; they rely on the team. Six of the the top teams who lead the league in assists are out West. Carmelo Anthony's team ranked 30th in assists. Big difference between ball sharing and ball hogging. It just seems to work for the Knicks. The West also plays at a faster tempo. Its more of a full-court, fast-break style of play. It's all about possession efficiency and pace.  Matter of fact, there is a formula that measures team pace: Team Possessions + Opponent Possessions / 2 X [Team Minutes Played / 5]

Basically, the more possessions you have, the more points a team can put up. The Rockets lead the league with 98.6, followed by the Nuggets with 97.8. Then you have the Warriors, Lakers, and Spurs in the order of four, five, and six. That's how the West dominates. Its simple mathematics. The West plays at a faster pace, while the East is mostly half-court play. Whoever comes out the East will still have to worry about slowing down their Western opponent.  It's that simple!  Easier said than done.

More NBA content is available here

Friday, April 19, 2013

BRAGGIN' RIGHTS: 2013 Fantasy Basketball Champion

Different fantasy sport, same team name; same result.

Felipe M

With the NBA Playoffs looming, now would be the time for me to give myself some kudos.  As I explained before, I am part of a highly competitive fantasy basketball keeper league and my team, Baraka Obama, was having a banner year and was coming off a trade that helped me acquire Monta Ellis.  With that move, I solidified my backcourt, but I was still thin at the frontcourt.  Even worse, I had to give up Pau Gasol to make this deal.  I was looking forward to inserting him into the lineup after battling foot issues that cost him a huge chunk of the season.  I would easily had slid him into my starting lineup and help out my frontcourt.  Alas, even with Ellis on board, my squad was still a mess.  

Very late in the season, it's hard to find any reliable and productive players on the waiver wire.  However, there was this one player that I have been keeping tabs on for the entire season.  

We first made a big deal about the firing of Scott Skiles and how that would improve the overall production from their suddenly deep frontcourt.  Not listed was Tobias Harris, but I made it my priority to keep an eye on this guy for the rest of the season.  This was back in early January, but I had this hunch that based on his ability and the scouting report that I acknowledged back on his draft day, I was just simply gravitated towards him and it was imperative to take special notice and follow him for the rest of the year.  

Harris finally busted out to have his most productive week of the season back on February 23, 2013.  It was a good showing by the former Milwaukee Bucks' player.  Considering that the game was his debut with his new team, the Orlando Magic.  Solid effort, but not good enough to warrant a roster move.  Finally, on February 27, 2013, he exploded for 23 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and two steals in 31 minutes of play.  It was unbelievable that no one else had picked him up.  I immediately dropped Michael Kidd-Gilchrist that night in order to make room for Harris and he performed beyond my wildest imagination.  

With a solid frontcourt intact, my squad was finally ready to be legit contenders for the championship.  Not only that, but the move elevated the play of Omer Asik and most notably, Spencer Hawes.  I don't know what it is, might be a mere coincidence, but sometimes, when you make certain decisions on your fantasy team, it somehow affects the rest of the squad.  We're talking in indirect, intangible terms here, but for those that are serious about their fantasy sports, sometimes outside factors, beyond your control, get together and elevates the entire team to a higher level.  Of course, the converse also holds true as a string of back luck will definitely cripple your squad.

At any rate, I was able to win the Bryant Division (yes, named after Kobe, the most hated player in my little world).  Unfortunately, I was forced to face the hottest team in the last 10 games or so, the Nut Sac Lootmonkeys (the "Sac" stands for Sacramento.  The squad is run by our resident, disgruntled Kings' fan, Josh C). 

You're talking about a team that was not only winning, but with their high scoring, they were humiliating opponents every single week.  They were definitely an immovable force in the 2nd half of the season.  They were led by the following players:

  • Goran Dragic
  • Brandon Jennings
  • Ty Lawson
  • John Wall
  • Gordon Hayward
  • Andre Iguodala
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Paul Pierce
  • Marc Gasol
  • Al Jefferson
And they still had injured players Kevin Garnett, Andre Drummond, and Kenneth Faried on the bench.  This team was very deep!

I went with my thin lineup of the following players:

  • DeMar Derozan
  • Monta Ellis
  • Jeremy Lin
  • Dwyane Wade
  • Tim Duncan
  • Kevin Durant
  • Tobias Harris
  • David Lee
  • Omer Asik
  • Spencer Hawes
Even with Lootmonkeys' injuries, my team just didn't look very formidable compared to his.  I gave myself an optimistic 45% chance of winning this game.  Sure enough, the 'Monkeys scored 350+ points.  Unfortunately for them, I ended up scorign 365 points!  Who would have thought that Duncan, very late in the season, would continue to get enough minutes to produce big time numbers?  And there's Harris with the surprising 44.5 points.  Wade and Ellis combined for 83 big points.  Special note is Hawes accumulated 37.5 points.  Real proud of him and the improvements he made as the season progressed.




On to the Championship Game and once again, I was stuck having to face my divisional foe and longtime nemesis, Eyebrows the Net (or as I like to call him, Tim C from KC).  After beating him in our first match-up, he went on to win the next two contests.  His team, although not as strong as the Lootmonkeys, was picking up steam as they entered the playoffs.  They defeated the best team in the league, in terms of win-loss record, Young Blood, to get to the championship game.  Final score: 346-322.

For the Championship Game and the 4th and final game between us, the Net went with the following lineup:

  • Stephen Curry
  • Damian Lillard
  • Isaiah Thomas
  • Russell Westbrook
  • Nicolas Batum
  • Luol Deng
  • Zach Randolph
  • Tirstan Thompson
  • Anthony Davis
  • Greg Monroe
I went with the same lineup that got me into the Championship Game, despite the fact that D-Wade was reported to miss a few games because of an ankle injury.  He would later go on to miss the entire week and post a big, whopping ZERO POINTS!  I was devastated by his absence. I even conceded the match-up to my opponent on that Saturday.  How can my team win short-handed?

What I didn't realize was that the Net was dealing with an injury of their own.  Batum had only posted 15 points as he was dealing with a shoulder problem (eventually would end his season).  With a whole slate of weekend games to go, my situation was not very favorable as I was holding onto a small lead going into the weekend.  However, despite D-Wade's absence, we prevailed!




49 points from my favorite player, Kevin Durant, 41 from Harris, 42 from Lee, Hawes and Asik combined for 60 points at center and even Jeremy Lin showed up with 40.5 to add to Ellis' 44.  

Truly a satisfying season.  I worked hard in my draft preparation during the offseason, went outside my comfort zone and made a whopping FOUR TRADES (I usually am lucky enough to perform one trade per year, let alone four), and kept my eyes glued to the waiver wire.  After years of many losing seasons and seasons where my team was knocked out of the first round of the playoffs, we finally made it over the top, defeated a couple of great teams and now we scream from the mountaintop as champions!

Can't wait for these NBA Playoffs to start all ready, but as we close out another season in our Big Ballers' keeper league season, as always, I'm looking forward for another exciting season in 2013-'14.

We leave you with our review of Tobias Harris' after he was selected by the Bucks:

"Tobias Harris out of Tennessee was selected by Milwaukee. Described as a "versatile" perimeter player with a "high basketball IQ," this player has a reputation for his hard work and for being a gym rat. On the downside, Harris was one of the few players in this draft whose lack of athleticism was a major concern."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

HIRED ARMS: The Dynamite Mine

Felipe M

We've discussed pitchers to keep tabs on the waiver wire because despite their struggles, their offseason projections or abilities are worth a second look.  

We've also looked at the pitchers that have seen a big increase in ownership in the last week or so and try to decipher if they're early success is based on luck or true capabilities.  

The following list are pitchers that are owned in less than 30% of CBS fantasy baseball leagues.  We explained that a lot of these pitchers may not be worth picking up on your team, but are worth a longer look as their cheap price may turn into a big value.  Sometimes looking for treasure requires a lot of digging.  The following list of pitchers may prove to be real diamonds in the rough:

Jose Quintana--Chicago White Sox--31% today; 25% yesterday:  We've been suggesting to keep an eye on Quintana since the spring.  Well, now would be the time to get on the bandwagon.  As much as I wanted to hate on him for being a finesse pitcher in 2012, his Minor League numbers and spring training performance persuaded me to give him another chance.  Despite a disastrous 1st start against the Seattle Mariners, he bounced back at Cleveland, allowing only 1 hit and striking out 7 batters.  So far, he's accrued 10 K's in 11 innings pitched and has a WHIP of 1.00.  It's early, but now would be the time to roll the dice on the lefty.

Miguel Gonzalez--Baltimore Orioles--30%: After winning his first start of the season, he struggled mightily with control against the New York Yankees.  He proved to be a flyball pitcher with some concern with the long ball, but his track record in the Minors shows that he has good control and can post decent strikeout totals.  His numbers look terrible so far in 2013, but based on his 2012 campaign, he's definitely worth scouting some more.

Jorge de la Rosa and Juan Nicasio--Colorado Rockies--25% and 14%, respectively: Both pitchers have pitched 16 innings each, but one pitcher has pitched well, but is only 1-1; the other pitcher is 2-0, but has not been impressive so far this season.  A look back at our Rockies' pitching preview will show that I had higher hopes for Nicasio, but soured on de la Rosa.  Well, the complete opposite has occurred as de la Rosa has pitched fairly well, especially in his last two starts, sporting a 7.2 K/9 and a WHIP of 1.16.  It feels like 2011 again!  

On the other hand, Nicasio has been inconsistent, but has done enough to be 2-0 so far this season.  He has been laboring with control and command issues, but even more discouraging is his his low 9 strikeouts.  However, his projection numbers and potential to post high strikeout totals make him work monitoring.  Furthermore, Nicasio has not gotten into a rhythm after 3 starts as he's been pitching every 6 or 7 days, heretofore.  I still would like to see how he performs with a more ideal routine for starting pitchers. 

Wily Peralta--Milwaukee Brewers--24%: Peralta received a lot of hype coming into this season as he was a highly touted prospect (Brewers' #1 prospect per Baseball Prospectus) who pitched pretty well in 2012.  Despite the high praise, he still was coming off a 2012 season full of control and command problems.  Those problems have followed him this year as well.  However, he's worth monitoring because of his pedigree and potential to rack up the K's.  

Eric Stults--San Diego Padres--18%: I was not a fan of a single pitcher for the Padres entering this season, but Stults has pitched well so far this season.  A 5:1 K:BB ratio, he still has a high WHIP of 1.44 due to the 20 base-hits he's allowed in his 3 pitching starts.  He is a flyball pitcher and has given up 2 homeruns all ready, but his Minor League numbers show that he's capable of posting good strikeout numbers.  Again, if it wasn't for the high WHIP, his ownership rate would be a lot higher than 18%, but that might change drastically if he's able to best Barry Zito and the Giants in his next start on Sunday.

Zach McAllister--Cleveland Indians--19%: Another pitcher who I was down on earlier this spring, McAllister has done very well in his 2 starts this season.  He has yet to give up a walk and has only given up 3 earned runs.  The strikeout rate is low, but is pretty much on par with his Minor League numbers.  But he has pitched well enough to be 2-0, having to face Matt Moore in his first start and getting the best of Chris Sale in his second start. He is a flyball pitcher, but has yet to give up a homerun, but judging by the low strikeouts, he has solidified his reputation as a pitch-to-contact hurler.  His next two starts are scheduled against Jon Lester and Chris Sale so you may want to hold off on McAllister.  But if you believe he can continue to sustain this much control, by all means.  

Carlos Marmol--Chicago Cubs--30%: I have been hating on Marmol for the last couple of seasons or so, but has pitched better since being demoted from the closer's spot.  In his last 4 innings, he has yet to give up a run.  He is still struggling with control and has allowed two hits in that same time span, but that's a lot better than what we saw in the first week of the season.  The overall numbers are still bad, but there is a glimmer of hope that he may start turning his season around soon.  

Like I mentioned before, these pitchers are not guaranteed to turn their seasons around, but based on past performances and how a lot of owners have ignored them at this juncture of the season, these guys are the ultimate sleepers and their progress should be monitored.  

More MLB content is available here

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

HIRED ARMS: Like a Phoenix Ignition

Felipe M

We previously talked about struggling pitchers that are worth monitoring as they may still turn their seasons around. 

We now take a look at the pitchers that have skyrocketed up the waiver wire charts.  The following pitchers are owned in less than 50% of CBS fantasy baseball leagues and all saw at least a 5% increase in ownership in the last week.

Besides evaluating these pitchers, we try to figure out if their recent hype is warranted or overblown.

Patrick Corbin--Arizona Diamondbacks--42%: Corbin was a pitcher I was excited about in the spring as he pitched marvelously, en route to securing the final rotation spot in Arizona.  He's pitched well enough to win and has yet to give up a homerun, but his 1.25 WHIP and his six strikeouts in 12 innings pitched makes me think that his 2-0 win-loss record is more fluke than skill.  Corbin is more of a groundball pitcher, telling me he needs a lot of contact from opposing hitters (and a lot of luck) to be an effective pitcher.  However, his groundout-to-flyout ratio is only 1.3 so far.  His H/9 of 8.25 shows that he's been more lucky than good this season.  Good short-term pitcher to have while he's hot, but I would cut bait at the first sign of struggle.  Then again, I wouldn't have him on my team to begin with.  

Andrew Bailey--Boston Red Sox--41%: So apparently, Boston needs a new closer.  Current closer Joel Hanrahan is on the DL and Bailey should be the team's primary closer in his absence.  He did blow a save on Monday, but has pitched pretty well this season, posting a K/9 of 15.28.  Bailey has accumulated 81 saves in his career, so he has the experience.  Go pick him up now!

Carlos Villanueva--Chicago Cubs--32%: We've mentioned before how Villanueva can be a sneaky pitcher to slot into your rotation.  Well, he's pitched well enough to be 2-0 this season, but lack of run support has been his doom.  The strikeouts aren't as high as I'd like, but all other stats are tantalizing owners to pick him up immediately.  The downside to him is that his role with the Cubs seems to be temporary and he is a flyball pitcher that struggled with keeping the ball in the park last season.  However, he's pitched well enough to warrant a roster spot on fantasy teams and is worth keeping around until the Cubs say otherwise.

Nick Tepesch--Texas Rangers--27%: He's had mixed results in his two starts this season, but has been a pleasant surprise in terms of K/BB.  Unfortunately, he's been tagged with a base-hit per inning, thus far.  However, the silver lining is that his groundout/flyout ratio is near 4:1.  As long as he can induce plenty of groundballs, doesn't hurt himself with walks, and continues to keep up his strikeout rate, he should be fine.  

Chris Capuano--Los Angeles Dodgers--26%: Summoned from the bullpen to take over for Zack Greinke, who is out with a collarbone injury, Capuano is not a bad selection if you're in desperate need for a starting pitcher.  He had a decent 2012 and has pitched pretty well in relief this season.  Last year, he had a K/BB of 3/1.  Age, a short leash (Ted Lilly waits in the bullpen in the event that Capuano struggles), and limited work are the negatives, but in the interim, he's a solid choice to add to your roster.  

Bartolo Colon--Oakland A's--19%: He's pitched pretty well since coming back from PED suspension.  He hasn't been dominant, but has definitely relied on veteran moxie.  Strikeout totals are low and he's giving up a lot of base-hits, but has yet to allow a walk and that kind of control is always a major advantage.  He's recorded more flyouts than groundouts and playing in Oakland, he can afford to have hitters put the ball in the air, although he's already given up two homeruns this season.  Colon is not my first choice to plug into my pitching staff, but as a last resort option, you could do a lot worse.  However, age and a tough, upcoming schedule--is scheduled to pitch against Budd Norris and Jon Lester--would make me not want to pick him up.

John Lannan--Philadelphia Phillies--11%: As mentioned before, I'm the biggest "Lannan-hater" out there.  He is the epitome of a pitcher I refuse to have on my team.  However, to his credit, he's pitched well enough to win both of his starts this season as he's only given up one walk and has only allowed 8 hits, but has been a victim of poor run-support.  The low strikeouts is typical of Lannan, but his finesse style has been on full display early on as he holds a 3:1, groundout:flyout ratio.  The negative on Lannan: he's John Lannan.  His 2013 start just reeks of fluky luck and it seems that he's performance is a product of an easy schedule (facing the Royals in his first start and then the Marlins in his second start).  His next couple of starts should prove to be a bit more challenging as he'll pitch against the Reds and against the Pirates with A.J. Burnett scheduled to make the start opposite Lannan. 

So that's a quick look at a few pitchers that have filled the fantasy baseball world with a lot of buzz recently.  A lot of these guys are short-term solutions, but sometimes going with the hot hand is the best choice.  

More MLB content is available here.  

HIRED ARMS: Don't Lose Touch

Felipe M

With two weeks all ready wrapped up in the 2013 MLB season, we take a look at possible options to fill out your pitching rotation from the waiver wire.  By now, all the hottest pitchers should have been picked up by now, but baseball is a cyclical game and what's hot today, may be cold tomorrow and vice-versa.  So the following is the ultimate "buy-low" list of pitchers.

The criteria: we will only look at pitchers that are owned in less than 50% of CBS fantasy baseball leagues.  We're not advocating that you go pick up these pitchers immediately, but may be worth a look if you're in dire needs for arms or just to scout for a future date.

Bobby Parnell--New York Mets--54% owned: I know I said less than 50%, but Parnell is worth special mention.  He had a great spring and he really hasn't pitched terribly this year.  His issue is that he only has one save, but it's not his fault as the Mets have been winning their games in deciding fashion.  But I don't believe the Mets can continue to win in this way as I believe Parnell will have to be utilize more as this team just looks like a squad that will have to claw and fight their way through a lot of one-run victories.  He has yet to give up a walk and that alone should pique your interest.

Mike Fiers and Felix Doubront--43% and 46% respectively: The main issue with both of these pitchers is that both of their teams are in no need of using a 5th starter for the time being.  And although Fiers did not look very good in his first start, Doubront actually pitched a decent game in his lone start this season.  Both of these pitchers were projected to have decent years and are worth monitoring as soon as their respective teams put them back in regular rotation.

Dillon Gee--Mets--37%: We've mentioned Gee's struggles before, but I'm still confident that he'll be able to bounce back and eventually help your starting rotation.  

Chris Tillman--Baltimore Orioles--32%: Tillman has struggled with control and command, but he's still worth monitoring because of his 2012 season.  He's also struck out one batter per inning so far.  

J.A. Happ and Ubaldo Jimenez--47%: Both pitchers have registered a strike out per inning and both have struggled with control.  The difference between the two is that Happ has found ways to earn wins, while Jimenez has given up a base-hit per inning.  Happ seems to be in the better situation, but even Jimenez, with a little bit of luck, can turn his season around and is worth keeping tabs on.

Edwin Jackson--Chicago Cubs--50%: We've mentioned how unpredictable, but lights out Jackson can be.  Unfortunately, he's been struggling with control and command issues, but has a K/9 of 11.04.  As the weather warms up, I can't help but be optimistic about Jackson's season turning around.

Wade Davis--K.C. Roayals--31%: We've been waiting for Davis to live up to the hype bestowed on him back in his Tampa days.  Nothing about his current counting stats show any signs of hope, but his reputation alone gives him another chance of redemption for this season.

Not an impressive list of pitchers, but when you're digging through the rubble, you try to look at the bright side of things.  The common theme for these pitchers is that they're all known commodities and they've all had, at the very least, minor success in their recent past.  

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Monday, April 15, 2013

NEW YORK HYPE

Johnny J

New York is one of biggest markets in the world for professional athletes. So it's no wonder  New York draws the best athletes from around the globe. It's the place everyone wants to be. Its like playing on the biggest stage of all sports stadiums. The bright lights mixed in with the night scene. It's a major attraction. Well about 11 sports teams call this east coast state home. With it being the biggest stage to play on, fans of these teams expect to win. If they don't get what they want, then athletes will hear it. Not just from fans, but from the media. They will eat you alive when you don't win. It can be a difficult place to call home for sports players. However if you are helping this city win, it could be a good place to call home.

Some super athletes cannot
be booed, however.
The Big Apple, has plenty to be happy about:  the New York Rangers and Islanders would be in the playoffs if they started today; The New York Mets are three games over .500 (and probably the most exciting young pitcher, Matt Harvey--Ed); Alex Rodriguez still hasn't suited up yet, but the Yankees are the Yankees; the New York Jets finally brought in a quarterback to give Mark Sanchez competition; the Brooklyn Nets have made their first playoff appearance since 2007--back when Jason Kidd was running the point.

But the number one team sports fans should be happy about is the New York Knicks have established a team that can compete with the Miami Heat. The Knicks have accomplished a lot under Mike Woodson's first full season as shot-caller. They have secured the number two seed in the Eastern Conference, their first since the 93-94 season. They won the Atlantic Division for the first time since '94. They won over 50 games for the first time since 1999-2000, as well as winning thirteen games in the row that was snapped last Thursday against the Chicago Bulls. It was the third longest winning streak in franchise history.

They've done all this without their crippled $100 million dollar man, whom has missed 51 games this season and is expected to miss the final two games of the regular season. There is word Amar'e Stoudemire won't even be ready for the first round of the playoffs, which start next Sunday. All I can say is, Gotham isn't a place I see him playing in next season. Oh, but I do thank you for helping Carmelo Anthony come over, which then helped J.R. "Swish" Smith make his decision to defend Gotham together. If my cap had Night Thrasher on it, that would be Stoudemire; someone that likes to go around giving people karate chops. No special moves. Read up on Night Thrasher.

Spike Lee has the Knicks;
Stan Lee has these heroes.
Knicks' fans have desperately waited for a championship, since winning it 40 years ago. This year could be the year that Spike Lee gets his money's worth, sitting courtside.  That guy doesn't miss too many Knicks' games--he may not miss any practices!  I saw him sitting courtside when they beat the Heat in Miami a couple of weeks ago. He may even have his own locker. Watch Spike glorify the Knicks.

People talked about the Knicks having an ancient team with four players being over the age of 35, but I see it as leadership in the locker room. Yes, three of them are hurt, but I still would like to hear their voices in the locker room, mentoring and encouraging the team. They will be ready for the playoffs as Mike Woodson announced yesterday.  Now with a super-team to take down the infamous villains known as the Heat, I look forward to watching The King get his crown knocked off. There are superheroes all over the city, but only the New York Knicks can call Gotham home!

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All photos courtesy of Johnny J. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

BUCKET BRACKETS 104: A Second Wind

Johnny J

I consider all teams in March Madness to be tough. Regardless of records or seeding, it's a reason why certain teams are chosen to go: whether its winning their conference, having good wins against some tough teams, or are there to make a statement, i.e. certain players from smaller schools willing to show other programs why they should have been recruited by them. For instance, the "Fab Five;" five African-American high school All-Americans that attended Michigan in the early 90's. They made a statement by being good players whom resented elite schools. According to Jalen Rose, now an NBA on ESPN analyst, his resentment was because of schools not recruiting kids whom didn't have a two-parent home. They had a different swagger. They wore baggy clothes and rocked a hip hop look. Yet they made it to the championship games in 1992 and 1993, losing to Duke and North Carolina. Their statement was that they could compete with any school in the country and they wanted to prove it. They had a second wind.

Other schools are there because they had the talent around them to help get them there. Just because a school is projected to win it all, doesn't mean its going to happen. Just ask Indiana, whom lost three times this year ranked as number one. That's why the games are played. So how does a good school who is projected to win it keep there composure? Motivation is one way; revenge is another.  Both can be used to make a statement (recurring theme I keep talking about).  But it has to be something that inspires an individual, maybe family, school, scouts, or a lost one.



Like Loyola Marymount, when they lost a teammate during the season. Hank Gathers collapsed during a game and later died in 1990. The team was placed in the tournament that year as an 11th seed. The Cinderella team made it to the Elite Eight. Even though they didn't go all the way, they found a second wind in finding a reason to win for their teammate.  If they needed that extra push, that incident gave it to them.

This year, Louisville received their second wind when Kevin Ware broke his leg in the Elite Eight game against Duke. The Cardinals turned a close game into a 22-point defeat of the Blue Devils. What helped sparked that run was the magic words, from there lost brother:
"Win the game, win the game"
Indeed, the Cardinals did win the game. As I sat and watched them hold his jersey up after that victory, I already knew they were going to win the whole thing. I wasn't a Louisville fan, but just seeing Ware on ESPN talking about how this team was like his family and how close they were, I quickly started rooting for them. Just seeing him trying to hold his tears back in the interview made me a believer. He was incredibly grateful for all of the support everyone was giving him.

Then when he traveled with the team to Atlanta, to support his teammates, told me this guy has become an unbelievable inspiration. He just broke his leg and suddenly he's on crutches asking if he can be with his team. I don't play for the team, but it made me want to go out there and suit up for him.

In the semifinal game against Whichita St., Louisville's best player was struggling. The team was down by twelve in the first half and then they received a second wind from Luke Hancock, (no not Will Smith in a tight, superhero suit) but a bench player who came in and hit three treys in a row. Louisville closed the gap from twelve to one heading into halftime.

"I just thought we needed something," said Hancock, whose 100-percent mark from 3 is, of course, a title-game record. "I tried to do whatever I could to help the team. I usually take a back seat to Russ [Smith] and Peyton [Siva], which I'm fine with since they are such great players. I just hit a few shots." Hancock, went 5-5 from behind the arc. He was also named, Most Outstanding Player, in the Final Four.

His brothers showed how much they thought about him.  I can just see it in their faces as they competed. Ware was the last player on the team to cut down the net. Everyone needs inspiration and Louisville found theirs.

And now they're Champions!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

LINE DRIVES: v1.0

Suddenly, San Diego has a launching pad for hitters.
(photo courtesy of Felipe M)
Felipe M

I'll be sharing my random thoughts on the MLB games from April 9, 2013.

SO MUCH FOR A PITCHERS' PARK

The Houston Astros beat the Seattle Mariners 16-9 at Safeco Field.  The San Diego Padres won at Petco Park, scoring 9 runs.  We have been waiting in anticipation to see how the changes in dimensions at these two parks would alter offensive production.  Right away, we're seeing changes.

Taking a look back at 2012, only three times did we see teams put up nine or more runs, in one game, last year at Safeco (roughly once every 27 games).  The most runs that one team had accumulated in one game was on October 3, 2012 when the Mariners blanked the Angels, 12-0 (against Jered Weaver, no less).  The most combined runs at Safeco last season occurred on April 17, 2012 when the Mariners and Indians scored 17 total runs.  27 runs were scored between the Astros and Mariners last night.  

Petco was better last year: seven was the number of times teams had scored 9 or more runs in one game last year.  The highs came on September 16, 2012 when the Padres scored a season high at home of 12 runs and they and the Rockies accumulated 23 runs total in that game.  However, only their first game in 2013 and the Padres have all ready scored 9 runs in one game.  

One game does not make a full MLB season, but it's safe to say that after Tuesday's match-ups, both ballparks, in terms of offense, are off to a good start.  

ASTRO WOES

Speaking of the Astros, the 16 runs were the most they have scored since they scored 18 runs in August of 2010.  The Astros defeated the Cardinals, 18-4 in St. Louis.  In that game, none of the Astros hit a homerun in, but they did hit 4 doubles and 1 triple.  SS Angel Sanchez tallied 6 RBI.  This year, the Astros are 0-6 when scoring fewer than 3 runs.  They have all ready failed to score more than 3 runs in 75% of their games.  Bad sign.

METS AT PHILLIES

The Phillies' struggles in the starting rotation have been well-documented as Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay have not pitched up to par early this season.  Thankfully, they have Cliff Lee who pitched a great game against the Mets last night.  It also helped that the Phillies' bats came alive after being shutdown by pitching phenom, Matt Harvey on Monday.  

Unfortunately, it all came at the expense of Mets' pitcher Dillon Gee who had command issues all night.  So far this year, Gee has pitched 9 and a 1/3 innings and has the following stats after 2 starts: 5.8 K/9; 2.9 BB/9 AND HR/9; 12.6 H/9; 1.71 WHIP.  All of this while inducing  more groundouts than flyouts.  We've mentioned how well Gee pitched last season before being shut down for the year because of injury.  But that's the thing about pitchers like Gee.  He has potential to rack up the strikeouts, but deep down, he is a pitch-to-contact pitcher.  When pitchers like Gee don't have their best stuff and can't fight through it, they'll have nights like these.  Should be very interesting how he bounces back in his next start.  

NOW WE CAN START THE SEASON

Washington Nationals' 1B Adam LaRoche had zero hits.  Now he has two hits after his team beat the White Sox last night.  Both of his hits are homeruns.  Talk about an "all-or-nothing" approach.  LaRoche has always had a reputation for being a slow starter for his teams so it's not surprising that's he's off to the slowest of starts this year as well.  But he is struggling so bad that in the game where he hit 2 homers, he also struck out twice.  A deeper look shows that LaRoche, this season has been swinging for more strikes than in years past.  Of the 57% of pitches that are called for strikes, 24% have been of the swing-and-miss variety--his career average is 17%.  Only 12% of those pitches are actually called strikes because of foul balls--he averages 27%.  

So his timing, clearly, is not there yet, but getting back to his all-or-nothing approach, he's hit a lot more flyballs than groundballs so far this season so when he does make contact, he's looking to drive the ball into the air, but only 17% of his contact have been line drives (career line-drive% of 20%).  Because of this approach, he's suffering the worst Balls-in-Play% of his career (only 56% compared to a career 64%) and of those flyballs, 20% are not leaving the infield.  That's a lot of pop outs.  Will have to keep tabs on this guy and reconvene next week for an update.  

PICK YOUR POISON

If you can only have one closer on your team, who would it be: Carlos Marmol  or John Axford?

Outside of strikeouts, Marmol has struggled mightily with control and looks like he's pitching batting practice when he comes out of the bullpen.  Hitters have posted an OPS of 1.490.  Yikes!  It also doesn't help that Marmol is a flyball pitcher who can't produce outs via the flyout (most of his outs this season have come by way of groundouts).  His line-drive% against is 29% and it doesn't help that 27% of the strikes that he throws are put into play (above career average).  Obviously, hitters aren't being fooled or deceived by his pitches as Marmol only has a 13% in swinging-strike%.  And he gets ahead of the hitters more times than not.  55% of the time he throws a first-pitch strike.  32% of hitters see themselves down 0-2 in the count (much higher than his 2012 rate).  But as mentioned before, it's like he's pitching batting practice out there as these hitters, so far, are hungry when they see him out there--Marmol's contact percentage is a high, 80%!

And then there's Axford: he has a line-drive% against of 53%, OPS against of 1.828, a whopping 41% of his strikes are put in play (about twice his career average).  His contact% is much lower than Marmol's however and has a higher swinging-strikes% than Marmol (22%).    Only 19% of hitters see themselves at an 0-2 count.  However, he puts himself at a disadvantage by giving hitters a 3-0 count, 14% of the time (well above his norm).  

So of the two, who has a better chance to rebound?  The numbers are absolutely horrendous and I was trying to look for positives and couldn't find much.  If I have to pick one that is most likely to improve as the season progresses, it's probably Marmol.  At least he's getting ahead of the count more often than Axford.  Maybe it's a sign.  Or maybe it's not.  

And on that sour note...

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Monday, April 8, 2013

REVIVAL TOUR 2012 REVISITED




Felipe M

In anticipation for The Revival Tour date in Chicago tomorrow, we take a fond look back at last year's date in Chicago.  

For those that don't know what The Revival Tour is, it's basically the Warped Tour of folk-punk/acoustic music.  There is no time slots for bands.  There are no headliners.  Best of all, there are no stops; once one act is finish, another one immediately follows, and there's plenty of collaborations and group songs on stage.  

The last time I went to this event was back on October, 25, 2009 at Reggie's Rock Club.  I thought I was there to see a Chuck Ragan show, but instead, was surprised to see the format that was being used.  I felt like I was part of a campfire event or a spontaneous hoedown that broke out in the middle of the city.  It was such a fun time and Chuck Ragan finally appearing solo for about 5-6 songs was the best part of the night.  He was so strong and energetic.  He definitely was the show-stopper.  But he then gave way to Jim Ward (former At the Drive-In guitarist) and he wasn't as loud or as forceful as Ragan, but his soft crooning was pretty captivating in itself as it really felt we were back in his hometown of El Paso, TX sitting beneath a dark open sky with a huge bonfire providing the only light in the darkness.  

That night, Ragan had announced that after the show, the rest of the group would make their way to the adjacent Reggie's Music Joint, which is the bar and grill wing of the concert venue and continue to play there for the rest of the night, taking requests, and having audience members sing along on the tiny stage at the bar.  Jim Ward was still playing well after 11PM and if I were to believe Ragan, they must have been jamming at the bar well past after midnight.  According to the schedule, they were due in Minnesota the next day as well so kudos to them for finding extra time to play in Chicago after their show.  Unfortunately for me, it was a Sunday and I had to go to work the next day, but that must have been pretty awesome. 

The participants in the 2009, Chicago stop of the tour were as follow:
  • Ragan
  • Ward
  • Austin Lucas
  • Bob Lucas
  • Audra Mae
  • Haywood Yards
So fast-forward to 2012 and I now know the difference between a Chuck Ragan show and The Revival Tour show and now I know what to expect.  Well, what happened next was beyond my wildest expectations:

April 9, 2012: THE REVIVAL TOUR, The Bottom Lounge, Chicago, IL

Devon, Ricardo, and I were there really early.  Too early.  We arrived little before 6:30PM, supposedly the start time of the show.  Knowing what I know about this show, I made a concerted effort to arrive early for this gig.  We must have waited for 45 minutes, standing and staring at the stage and looking at nothing but acoustic guitars, microphones and their stands, and no people.  The crowd would scream out in anticipation and then the yells would die down as we collectively waited for the show to start.

Finally, after the long wait, all the musicians that were to perform that night came out and did a couple of songs together.  The musicians at this show were:
  • Chuck Ragan (with Jon Gaunt and Joe Ginsberg)
  • Dan Andriano
  • Cory Branan
  • Austin Lucas (special guest)
  • Nathaniel Rateliff
  • Surprise guest, Tim McIlrath
There was another "surprised guest" at this show, but I don't remember his name.  He was a lanky guy who played his guitar sitting on a stool. He was the only guy  who did that throughout the show.  He played fast-paced songs with a light, soft, high-pitched voice.  Andriano seemed to have been a huge fan of his.  If I remember correctly, he would reappear later that night in support of Andriano, singing the Alkaline Trio song, "Blue Carolina" from the album Good Mourning.  I guess I'll never find out who that dude was.

Austin Lucas was fun to watch.  He was running all over the place.  When Ragan went on stage to sing "Let It Rain," Lucas bolted from backstage and grabbed a mic, barely making it on time to sing the chorus of that song.  But his solo performance was good as well, with his honest songs of introspection.  He seemed to have the most fun interacting with people that night.  

Conversely, Rateliff was putting us to sleep with his stage presence (or lack thereof), and his slow and quiet, songs to match his inconspicuous delivery.  I was falling asleep on his set.  Every song was predictable, starting off very tranquil and every song finished with a short, abrupt, yelling of lyrics.  Tried giving this guy another chance by listening to his songs online, but got the same result.  He's just a bit boring for my taste.  

From my viewpoint, McIlrath looked awkward on stage.  He performed 3-4 songs, mostly new songs from his band Rise Against.  The awkwardness came in the fact that he looked like he felt like an intruder instead of being a guest on stage.  Even when all the musicians gathered on stage to perform collectively to finish the night, McIlrath seemed like he didn't want to be there.  He had to be coaxed on stage in order for him to be a part of the final couple of numbers. Not because he was being arrogant, rather because he felt like he was receiving undeserved spotlight.  McIlrath is a cool, classy guy, but too humble to a fault. His body language seemed to have dictate that all of the other acts had been touring and performing hard for months and he might have felt that they deserved all the attention and applause.  Tim is a big name in the punk scene, especially here in Chicago, so I guess he did not want to take anything away from the other performers, but the other performers, through an unspoken bond, made sure to let Tim know he was just as important to the Tour, even if he was just there for one stop.  They made sure to include him in every group song to finish off the show.  

And that's what this Tour is all about: friendship, camaraderie, unity, peace, and harmony through music.  Lucas, like McIlrath, was there as a guest and he wholeheartedly thanked Ragan throughout the night for letting him be a part of the Tour before and echoed the sentiments of the spirit of The Revival Tour.  It was a common theme throughout the night.  Nobody best exemplified this theme better than Andriano.

Dan Andriano, I believe, was making his final stop of the tour.  He admitted on stage how bittersweet it was to be home again and finally getting to see his family, but got really emotional when he explained that he was leaving the tour as well.  He couldn't praise the tour and Ragan enough.  He also might have been a bit drunk on his solo set as well.  But his set was genuinely heartfelt as he sang every song with much emotion, knowing this was the last time he would be sharing the stage with everybody involved.  

I've mentioned before how in 2009, Ragan was the show-stopper of the Chicago tour date.  Well, that title was rightfully earned by Cory Branan.  Ragan, appropriately enough, introduced him by saying, "If you don't know who this next act is, you will definitely know him by the end of the night."  His was the most energetic, extravagant, aggressive, and animated solo performance of all that night. He was cracking jokes with the audience and he performed with much gusto.  He was a lot of fun to watch as a lot of his songs had the most upfront and overt lyrics.  To my surprise, the album versions of his songs don't carry that same energy.  But if he ever comes to town, I'd highly recommend for anyone to check him out live. 

In the past, Chuck Ragan has talked about how he would like to see the Tour continue its future excursions even without him.  Although that would be the ultimate in success if a Tour can continue on without its star founder, The Revival Tour without Ragan would just not be the same.  He is The Revival Tour!  Regardless, we look forward to another installment tomorrow night at the Chicago House of Blues

More music is available here

Check out Chuck Ragan's website.

Check out The Revival Tour website.