The Best QB in the History of the NFL is Playing Right Now (And it’s not who you think it is)

R-E-L-A-X; those five letters may have turned around the Green Bay Packers season following a 19-7 week 3 loss to the Detroit Lions. The Packers sat at 1-2 carrying big losses on their back; one to the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks with whom they would likely be fighting for the number one seed and the other to their division rivals the Detroit Lions with whom they would likely be fighting for the division crown. Despite the slow start to the season Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers knew there was no cause for panic or concern, and why should there be? After all the Green Bay Packers have under center a man who is not only the best QB in the game, but a man who is head and shoulders above anyone else at the position.

Aaron Rodgers had a slow start to his career but not for any fault of his own; in the 2005 NFL draft with Rodgers on the board San Fran decided to take Alex Smith with the first overall pick. This decision led to Aaron Rodgers drifting back and being passed on by 22 teams (how many of those would love to have that pick back?) before finally being selected as the eventual successor to Hall of Famer Brett Favre in Green Bay. With Favre still deciding if he would retire, or if he would not retire, or if he would play, or if he would not play, or maybe he would retire, Rodgers was left on the bench to start his career. In his rookie season Rodgers appeared in only 3 games throwing a grand total of 16 passes in relief of Favre and in his only extended action of his career he threw his first career interception. It would take Rodgers two full years before he would throw his first career touchdown but it would prove to be the first of many.

Prior to the 2008 season the Packers choose to make the difficult decision to move on from the greatest quarterback the franchise has ever known and take a chance on the youngster they drafted 3 years earlier; it proved to be the right decision. Rodgers came out in 2008 and threw for over 4,000 yards with 28 TD to a modest 13 INT and a strong QB rating of 93.8. To this point those numbers still stand as Rodgers career high in INT and career low in QB rating with the only season he threw fewer TD’s being his injury plagued 2013 playing in only 9 games. Rodgers was the perfect quarterback to take over for a legend in Green Bay, he provided the team the same grit, talent, and winning ways as his predecessor but he also brought with him another skill, on that would set him apart and build his own legacy. Favre, as good as he was, had one flaw in his game; the old gunslinger loved to sling the rock but wasn’t always the best at protecting it. In 19 years as a starter in the NFL Brett Favre threw a phenomenal 508 TDs but complimented them with 336 INTs. In those 19 years he led the league in INTs 3 times, threw over 20 INTs 6 times, and had single digit INTs only once (as a Viking 2 years after leaving the Packers). Aaron Rodgers since taking over the starting job in Green bay has thrown 225 TDs to only 56 INT, a ratio almost 4 times better than Brett Favre. In addition to this Rodgers has added 20 rushing TDs in his 7 years as the starter in Green Bay; Favre had a total of 14 rushing Touchdowns in 20 years in the NFL, 19 of those years as a starter.

So clearly the Packers made the right call in 2008 as they moved on from the legend who brought the title back to title town but that’s an easy call right? Favre was pushing 40 and if they didn’t turn the game over to Rodgers they risked losing the future of their franchise just so they could hang onto another year or two with Brett. The question that remains is; how does Rodgers stack up against the best of his generation? Where does he fit in the infamous “Elite” discussion debating the merits of guys named Brady, Manning, and Brees? Well for me it’s a simple answer… right now in the NFL he is the best, he’s number 1 and it isn’t even close.

Protecting the Football

Rodgers has thrown as many as 45 TDs in a season and he’s thrown over 30 in 4 of his 7 years as a starter. While this number is impressive what’s more impressive is that Rodgers can be this productive while still protecting the football throwing only 56 interceptions since 2008. In this same time period only 4 quarterbacks have thrown over 200 TDs, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Philip Rivers. Of these quarterbacks Rodgers has the second most touchdowns at 226 behind only Peyton Manning’s impressive 262 but comparing these QBs by interceptions Rodgers is significantly below the field with his 56 INTs compared to 81 from Manning, 97 from Rivers, and 112 from Brees. His TD:INT ratio of just over 4:1 isn’t even in the same stratosphere with these guys the closest being manning’s 3.23 TD per INT. While Tom Brady’s numbers are close he misses the cut slightly with 195 TDs despite missing the entire 2008 season, but even Brady’s 195 TDs to 57 INT can’t compare to Rodgers. Since 2008 Brady, one of the best at protecting the football, has thrown one more interception than Rodgers in 6 less total starts and his TD:INT ratio of 3.42 TD per INT is still significantly lower.

Aaron Rodgers hasn’t thrown an interception at home since December 2, 2012, a streak that’s stretched over two full seasons and nearly 500 pass attempts, while throwing an impressive 36 touchdowns. Despite how impressive this streak is it’s not the only impressive stretch that Rodgers has going. AR has single digit TD totals in each of the past 4 seasons; looking back to the group of “elite” QBs with 200 or more TD’s since 2008 none of them have had even 4 single digit INT seasons in their career, let alone 4 consecutive. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees each have had 1 while Phillip Rivers has had 2. Tom Brady who fell just short of the 200 TD benchmark (but I’m sure we can all agree is elite) has had a total of 4 single digit INT seasons scattered through his career but never two in a row. The only starting QB in the NFL who even rivals Rodgers interception rates is his 2005 draft mate Alex Smith who has thrown only 45 INTs since 2008. Smith is a notorious game manager who plays conservative, makes smart decisions, and avoids turnovers. That mentality limits mistakes but will never allow him to reach Rodgers productivity as Smith has thrown only 103 TD’s since 2008, less than half the production of AR.

Quick Release/Quick Decisions

In addition to his ability to protect the football Aaron Rodgers has one of the quickest releases in the NFL. He has a unique ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly to avoid a blitz or beat coverage and make plays down the field. According to a breakdown performed by Pro Football Focus Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL in highest percentage of drop backs which end in 2 seconds or less. Not only is the speed at which he gets rid of the ball impressive but also take into consideration his efficiency on these passes. On drop backs of 2 seconds or less Rodgers leads the NFL with an 87.4% accuracy percentage and maintains a stellar 114 QB rating. Not only does Aaron get the ball out quick but he reads the defense, makes quick decisions, and gets the ball out on time and in the right location. Rodgers’ ability to make quick decisions and his quick release along with his ability to be productive while protecting the football makes him the best pure passer in the NFL.
While Rodgers does get the ball out quicker or as quickly as any other quarterback in the NFL he is certainly not afraid to test defenses down the field. Over the course of the 2014 season Rodgers completed a total of 59 passes 20 or more yards down the field and a total of 15 passes 40 or more yards down field. Those 15 passes of 40+ yards tie Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck for the most in the NFL ahead of Manning’s 11, Brees’ 10, Rivers’ 9, and Brady’s 8. On plays of 20+ Yards down field Rodgers was 4th behind only Luck, Manning, and Matt Ryan with his 59 still greater than Rivers’ 57, Brees’52 and Brady’s 44. Rodgers quick decisions and quick release help him get the ball out of his hands but it’s not quick and cheap dump offs. Rodgers is dissecting and exploiting defenses on a weekly basis and efficiently getting the ball down the field.


Escape ability/Mobility

Looking at all comparable QBs in the NFL and comparing them statistically to Aaron Rodgers can seem fair to the other “elite” quarterbacks but when we start breaking down other aspects of his game Rodgers separates from the pack. Players like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees are great passers from the pocket and from a clean pocket; they possess a great ability to set up into an opening to buy time and make big time throws down the field. The ability they lack is lateral movement inside and outside of the pocket, the ability to outrun defenders, and the ability to throw on the move. While Rodgers does not have the dynamic speed or rushing ability of players like Michael Vick, Cam Newton, or Colin Kaepernick, his ability to move within and outside of the pocket far and away exceeds the other dynamic passers in the NFL. Since coming into his starting role in 2008 Rodgers has 20 rushing touchdowns in 7 seasons. In comparison Philip Rivers has 3 total rushing TDs, Brady has 14 in his 14 seasons, Manning has a total of 18 over 17 NFL seasons, and Brees has a 13 in his 14 seasons. Aaron Rodgers the passer may be able to be compared with the likes of Manning, Brady, and Brees but the rushing ability of Rodgers rivals that of Donovan McNabb who rushed for a total of 29 TDs over 13 years in the NFL, an average of 2.23 per game compared to Rodgers average of 2.85. Unlike guys like Kaepernick, and Vick who run in an attempt to make dynamic plays with their legs, Rodgers runs with his eyes down field in an attempt to make plays with his arm, and he’s done so with precision over his 7 year career. He’s constantly looking to make plays with his arm, but when the play breaks down he’s as dangerous as anyone with his legs.

Aaron Rodgers is hands down the most dynamic player in the NFL right now, his ability to make plays inside and outside of the pocket can be matched by no other quarterback in the league. He’s able to avoid turnovers and costly mistakes despite still pressing the ball down the field and putting pressure on the defense. He can make every throw with precision from within the pocket but when the play breaks down he can escape and make plays with his arm and his legs. He also possesses the ability to release the ball quicker and more accurately than anyone in the game. The only question with AR is at 31 years old will the 3 years he sat behind Brett Favre affect his legacy? Will those three years of lost stats and lost productivity keep him from being in the same statistical categories as his colleagues? I for one don’t care if the TD totals match Manning or Favre. I don’t care if the yardage totals get anywhere near Brees or Marino. When Aaron Rodgers hangs it up he will have punched his ticket to Canton, taken his place on the Mount Rushmore of Quarterbacks, solidified himself as the greatest of his generation, and maybe… just maybe… proved to be the greatest the game has ever seen.

NFL Playoffs week 1 Sleepers

With the NFL regular season coming to a close and fantasy playoff dreams ending for so many we’re left to wonder what do with our Sundays.  Sure there are some great playoff games this weekend but I’ve come to realize that football games without fantasy matchups are like wings without beer…. like baseball without hot dogs; sure it’s good, but it’s just not the same.  For others like me there is still hope, one week fantasy leagues through sites like Fanduel and Draft Kings are an awesome way to keep the fantasy thrill going regardless of what happened to your team.  Setting a line up in these leagues can be a challenge and with a limited number of games in playoff weeks setting the perfect line up can require you to search deep into rosters to find those break out sleepers nobody else is thought of.  Finding these low priced high value picks could be the key to bringing home the glory you missed out on 2 weeks ago.  So who are the sleeper picks for this week?

Cam Newton QB Carolina Panthers:  Cam’s had a rough year this season and over the past few years he hasn’t been able to bring back the consistency of his rookie campaign when he threw for over 4,000 yards and scored 35 total touchdowns.  That being said Cam played much better down the stretch with his team’s playoff hopes on the line.  Cam has rushed for a TD in each of the past three games while rushing for 83, 63, and 51 yards respectively and has thrown the ball much better with a 3:1 TD/INT ratio over the past 4 games.  His passing numbers likely won’t be dynamic but in a game where his defense (facing Arizona with all their QB issues) will keep getting the ball back in his hands look for Cam to put up strong rushing and passing numbers.  I look for Cam to run for at least one TD this week and throw for a few more.

Johnathan Stewart RB Carolina Panthers:  Sticking with the Carolina Panthers theme Johnathan Stewart sits right now at the 7th and 8th most expensive back in Fanduel and Draft Kings leagues respectively.  At a value cost of $5,300-$6,500 Stewart has put up 19+ fantasy points in two of the last 4 weeks averaging 100.5 yards per week in that span while averaging 5.07 yards per carry.  At over $3,000 cheaper than top back Demarco Murray Stewart provides a great upside as a value pick in a game the Carolina should control from the start.

Giovani Bernard RB Cincinnati Bengals:  As the second best running back on the Bengals Bernard isn’t a sexy pick but with great PPR value in what will likely be the highest scoring game of the weekend Bernard could be a great sleeper.  While Hill has gotten the publicity in recent weeks as he passed Bernard on the depth chart Bernard has scored 11.8, 16.6, and 15.9 in Fanduel leagues over the past three weeks thanks mainly to his PPR value.  Hill will continue to get the bulk of the carries but Bernard’s work out of the backfield against a suspect Indianapolis defense combined with 7-10 carries make him a solid value pick this wek.

Steve Smith Sr. WR Baltimore Ravens:  For the most part I’m avoiding the Baltimore/Pittsburgh game for a number of reasons but mainly it’s the 40 degree temperatures, 20 MPH wind gusts, and 100% chance of rain.  All that being said I have to like Steve Smith Sr. in this game; Baltimore will rely on the running game in an attempt to neutralize the weather and keep Big Ben on the sideline but that doesn’t mean the gritty veteran Steve Smith Sr. won’t get loose a few times in the Pittsburgh secondary.  This guy is gamer who steps up in the biggest moments and the biggest games.  With Pittsburgh stacking the box to stop Justin Forsett and rolling coverage to the suddenly hot Torrey Smith look for Smith Sr. to be a PPR stud this week.  The yardage totals and yards per catch may not stand out but Smith Sr. should see plenty of targets and hopefully find the end zone.

Heath Miller TE Pittsburgh Steelers:  Big Ben has a lot of weapons in this new and improved Pittsburgh Steelers offense but with Le’Veon Bell out for the game and the weather slowing down the speed of Antonio Brown on the outside look for Heath Miller to work as a safety outlet for Ben as Ravens sack masters Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs close in.  Miller’s always been a solid performer for the Steelers but look for his role to increase if Dre Archer and Ben Tate can’t penetrate a stout Ravens Defense.  The Steelers could use a short passing game to overcome the poor field conditions which means quick screens to the receivers and short passes to Heath over the middle.  While the rest of the league jumps all over Greg Olsen as the top tight end this week you can save a few bucks against the cap with Heath.

A few long shots:  Along with the players I love there are a few long shots that can be had on the cheap that could give you a jolt as the only person in your league with them in the line-up.  Ravens WR Marlon Brown scored 7 TD’s a year ago as a rookie but went his entire sophomore campaign without finding the end zone once. Marlon is a big target at 6’5” with great hands and if playoff Joe Flacco shows up today (105 QB rating in his last 8 playoff starts dating back to 2010) Marlon could find some space in the end zone for the first time all year and Brown can be had for next to nothing in one week leagues.  As much as I hate discussing Arizona Cardinals RB Kerwynn Williams based on the goose egg he gave me in my championship that I lost by 3 points he is a guy who could give you good value production today costing only $5,200 in Fanduel and $3,800 in Draft Kings but getting 15 or more carries in 3 of the last 4 weeks.  Unfortunately for me the one week he had 2 carries for 4 yards was my championship with Andre Ellington, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Ryan Matthews all out with injuries but I’m trying hard not to hold that against him.  Continuing on the theme of guys that have absolutely screwed me in the past Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush another week removed from injury (and hopefully not getting hurt again this week) could provide strong PPR value similar to Giovani Bernard.  Bush won’t get more than 8 carries spelling Joique Bell but he could get loose out of the backfield with 6-9 catches and as we know with Reggie it only takes one electric play to make this former first round pick to become fantasy gold… assuming he can stay healthy for 60 minutes.

There we go… line up set… beer on ice… time for playoff football!

Why the 2015 Orioles WILL be the team to beat

Today is one of the most depressing days of the year, today is the day that we have the maximum amount of time possible to wait between Orioles baseball games.  The Orioles ran into a buzz saw in Kansas City this week and were unable to escape the clutches of the hottest team is professional sports.  While the outcome of the series was disappointing and the outlook seems to be grim for Orioles fans, we can now take a few moments to reflect on just how flipping good this team is…. and how bright the future looks.  There are so many reasons to be optimistic and in my opinion the Orioles WILL BE the team to beat, not only in the AL East but in all of baseball, in 2015.

Addressing the only weakness in this offense:

The 2014 Orioles can hit the long ball… we all know this, but the question many have for their offense is can they win in more ways than just this one.  At times this bunch struggled to scrape out wins in other ways, not speaking of “playing small ball” but simply stringing hits together and creating big innings by putting up crooked numbers.  The problem should be addressed in the off season but is the solution for the 2015 Orioles already in place?  I would contend that it is:

Manny Machado missed 80 games in 2014 because of injuries and a 5 game suspension mid season so the question is raised; what can the 2013 platinum glove winner add to the 2015 Orioles offense coming off of yet another knee surgery?  Well in 2013 Manny Machado was injured in a game against Tampa Bay on September 23, 2013 and returned to the Orioles roster on May 1, 2014.  The injury this season took place on August 11th, 43 days earlier which, assuming the same rehab timeline, Manny would be back to game action by March 20, 2015 allowing him significant time in spring training to get into game shape and be prepared for the 2015 season.  Why is this important you might ask?  Well check out Machado’s monthly splits from 2014.

May .220/.271/.284 OPS .556

June .260/.313/.462 OPS .774

July .333/.356/.565 OPS .921

August .378/.429/.511 OPS .940

Second half 2014 .301/.337/.458 OPS .795

Machado took some time to get into a groove in the 2014 season and understandably so.  Not only did he have to recover from major knee surgery but he missed all of spring training and simply wasn’t up to game speed until early/mid June.  From this point on Machado was the offensive powerhouse the Baltimore fan base was expecting.  Even with the slow start the young third baseman was able to improve his career OPS from previous seasons mainly because of his emerging power.  Machado had an OPS of .739 in his 2012 rookie season, .746 in 2013, and .755 in 2014.  Despite hitting only 14 home runs in 2013 (approx 1 per every 50 plate appearances) Machado hit 12 in 82 games in 2014 even with the slow start (Approx 1 per 30 plate appearances).  At 22 years old not only can we expect Machado’s power to continue to develop but his .337 second half OBP would have been 3rd among qualifying Orioles behind only Steve Pearce (.373) and Nick Markakis (.342).  His second half slugging percentage would have been 4th behind only MVP candidate Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, and Steve Pearce.

In addition to the loss of Machado much has been discussed about the loss of All-Star and gold glove catcher Matt Wieters.  Wieters started out the 2014 season having one of the best seasons of his career; however, it would be cut short after only 26 games because of Tommy John surgery.  Wieters was slashing an impressive .308/.339/.500 line with an .839 OPS before being sidelined by the injury and was averaging a home run every 22.4 plate appearances.  While this is a small sample I would argue that this increase in production is a result of changes in technique and batting approach not a hot streak during a small sample size.  Per a blog by Roch Kubatko posted on April 29th, 2014 Matt Wieters worked hard in the spring of 2014with hitting coach Jim Presley to identify issues left handed swing that caused some pretty drastic batting splits.  While Wieters is a switch hitter he’s been significantly stronger from the right side leading many to speculate that he shouldn’t be switch hitting.  In his career Wieters splits are as follows:

as RHB .280/.340/.490 with 1 HR per 22.4 PA

as LHB .248/.312/.397 with 1 HR per 33 PA

Presley worked with Matt to lower his hands in his left handed stance which has kept him from drifting open too early and it lead to some impressive numbers batting from the left side in 2015 with Wieters slashing .325/.367/.482 from the left side in 90 plate appearances.  While Wieters average took a dip batting right handed it was in an extremely small sample set of only 22 plate appearances.  Even with the lower average from the right side Wieters was still slugging .571 with a .799 OPS right handed before going on the DL.  I believe we can feel confident that Wieters with his new left handed approach will continue to improve offensively so we beg the question, how well did the Orioles do without him in the line up?

In 2014 Orioles catchers slashed .240/.287/.391 with an OPS of .678; while this is serviceable and manageable it’s a significant drop off from the production they were getting out of Matt Wieters.  Also consider that these numbers include the 24 games (Wieters was DH for 2 of his 26 games this year) that Wieters was in as catcher.  The primary catchers after Wieters left the line up were Caleb Joseph who slashed .207/.264/.354 in 82 games and Nick Hundley who slashed .233/.273/.352 in 50 games.  It also may seem that the O’s got a good amount of power production from the catcher position but these numbers are also skewed by the hot start of Matt Wieters.  O’s Catchers in 2014 hit 19 home runs and 25 doubles with Joseph hitting 9 HR and 9 2B in 82 games, Hundley hitting 5 HR and 4 2B in 50 games and Wieters showing far more potential with 5 HR and 5 2B in only 26 games.  If you are noticing that all the numbers don’t add up it’s because Steve Clevenger also caught some games for the O’s… mainly as Wieters back up when he was still in the line up.  Just like Machado, Wieters would have been 3rd on this team in OBP.

This next part get’s to be my “I told you so” moment as I posed to many the possibility of trading for Alejandro DeAza prior to the 2014 season.  The Orioles were in need of an upgrade in left field and DeAza is a plus defender with great speed and a strong bat.  DeAza’s speed and defense weren’t in question before coming to Baltimore but some questioned his bat and I’m not really sure why.  DeAza is a career .268/.340/.403 hitter at 30 years old under team control through the 2015 season.  While those numbers aren’t lighting the world on fire they are strong numbers for a guy with speed who plays excellent defense.  The O’s were able to buy low on DeAza late in the 2014 season after he started out having a down year hitting .243/.309/.354 with the White Sox but just as I expected he was rejuvenated after joining a winning team slashing .293/.341/.537 in Baltimore.  Some guys just seem to waste away on losing teams in tough situations and need that change of scenery to really get themselves going and DeAza is a guy with a track record showing he’s more than capable of an OBP in the mid to high .300’s.  In addition DeAza adds the element of speed the Orioles were lacking and while his base stealing efficiency isn’t fantastic (about 69%) his ability to leg out doubles and triples and score from anywhere on the field is a talent that can help this team moving forward.  In addition to his strong OBP DeAza’s career stat line also features 23 triples and the O’s were dead last in triples in 2014.

These players are all likely to be a significant part of the 2015 Orioles; however, the 2014 Orioles were forced to play the majority of their games without them.  Adding these bats into the line up should help improve the team that featured the leagues 17th best OBP from 2014.

Fearing the loss of Nelson Cruz

Reports this week indicate that the Baltimore Orioles plan to extend a qualifying offer of just over 15 million for 1 year to Nelson Cruz.  Cruz turned down this offer from the Texas Rangers after coming off of a PED suspension in 2013 so why would we expect him to accept from the Orioles after a career season?  I don’t think Nelson Cruz will be back in black and orange next year (unless he plays for the Giants) simply because SOMEBODY out there will pay the 2014 home run king too much money.  Nelson had a career year for the O’s and I will never deny that Nelson carried this team for stretches of the 2014 season but while this is true take a look at what Nelly did from June through August.

June .215/.282/.364 5 HR

July .211/.292/.379 4 HR

August .216/.274/.451 6 HR

So while Nelson carried this team through a tough April and May I would contend that the Orioles carried Nelly through June, July, and August while the team posted a 52-29 record despite his struggling bat.  It may seem that the team will need to replace the boom stick for the 2015 season but keep in mind the Orioles led the majors with 211 home runs or 25 more home runs than any other team.  Replacing Nelly with a hitter producing 20 home runs would still put them 5 over any other team in baseball.  Additionally the Orioles despite their home run total were 3rd in total bases and 17th in doubles.  Replacing Nelly’s 40 home runs with 20 and adding to the team OBP in the process could be a positive for this team causing them to be less reliant on the long ball to win crucial games.  We of course have already addressed the increased OBP of the 2015 Orioles.

The pitching of the future is already here

The 2014 Orioles posted one of the best pitching staffs the franchise has had in decades by posting a team ERA of 3.44 for the year.  Even more impressive may be the balance in pitching power with a 3.61 ERA from the starters and a 3.10 ERA from the bullpen.  In addition to this and much like some of the hitters on this team the pitching staff improved as the year went on posting a 2.88 ERA in the second half with starters ERA by month as follows:

April 4.74

May 4.29

June 3.47

July 3.29

August 3.55

September 2.45

Several of the key reasons why would be the emergence of stars…. yes… STARS Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, and Wei-Yin Chen (more on Kevin Gausman later).  Chris Tillman’s numbers on the season are strong and would make him an asset to any pitching staff as he posted a 3.34 ERA in 207 1/3 innings this season but do they really show how good he can be?  I would argue that don’t, Tillman struggled this year in stretch of 4 starts from May 21st through June 5th posting a 12.56 ERA over 14.1 innings and failing to get out of the second inning twice.  There was much speculation that he was hurt and trying to gut through it on the mound and his results after June 5th lead me to believe that he most certainly was.  After this date Tillman pitched 136 innings giving up 36 earned runs 114 hits and 34 walks, this works out to an ERA of 2.38 and a WHIP of 1.08.  Remember that is over 136 innings and 24 starts…. not an inaccurate sample.  In this stretch he went 20 consecutive appearances without giving up more than 3 earned runs including giving up no runs three times and giving up only one run another seven.  Tillman was brilliant this year and had he sat to rest his injury instead of trying to fight through it (and credit the guys guts for that) his numbers would not show that he was a good solid starter but instead that he is a true legitimate ACE.

Now it’s time to talk about Miguel Gonzalez and FINALLY give this guy the respect that he deserves.  Over 3 major league seasons Miggy has pitched to a career ERA of 3.45 with a WHIP of 1.296 including leading all Orioles starters with an ERA of 3.23 in 2014.  For some reason despite all this Miguel still doesn’t get the respect he deserves after being moved to the bullpen mid season and not being asked to pitch in the post season prior to the team’s 7th game.  Miguel has had to overcome a lot as the Orioles forgotten pitcher but he’s done a great job keeping himself in position to perform.  Take a look at his 2014 second half numbers:

Second half total 2.19 ERA 1.110 WHIP

July 1.82 ERA 1.079 WHIP

August 2.46 ERA 1.027 WHIP

September 1.69 ERA 1.094 WHIP

What I find even more impressive is how big this guy shows up in the biggest of games.  Over the past 3 years Miguel has made two post season starts, an important swing game on the road in Yankee Stadium for game 3 of the 2012 ALDS and an elimination game in game 4 again on the road in Kansas City in the 2014 ALCS.  How has Miggy performed in those environments?  He posted a 1.42 ERA and 1.026 WHIP giving up 1 ER over 7 innings while striking out 8 in New York and giving up 1 ER (probably should have been un-earned) over 5.2 in Kansas City.  The guy is as cool as it comes and I’d love to have the ball in his hand in any situation against any team in baseball.

Winning 16 games this year has gotten some respect for Wei-Yin Chen but certainly not to the level that he deserves.  Chen has now pitched to a 3.86 career ERA and posted a career best 3.54 ERA in the 2014 season along with a team low 1.7 BB/9.  Just like Miguel it seems that everyone in baseball is waiting for the wheels to fall off with Chen but after 3 years and 515 major league innings do we still think this is a fraud?  I would certainly say no.

Emerging Talent

How excited are we all to continue watching Kevin Gausman grow and mature as a pitcher?  The guy has electric stuff, he throws 98 with ease, is developing a nasty slider, and has not one but two of the best change ups in baseball.  Gausman started slow in 2013 posting a 5.66 ERA in 5 starts and 15 relief appearances as he struggled with fastball command but came back with a VERY strong season posting a 3.57 ERA in 20 starts.  Gausman also led the Orioles with a team low .06 HR rate despite playing in a home run friendly home park.  Command was still what kept Gausman from making the jump from being a good young pitcher to being an elite talent as he still had a high walk rate of 3.0 per 9.  As he continues to get more comfortable as a pro I would expect him to significantly cut down on this number and emerge as a top pitcher in this league.  By the way the guy got his first taste of the post season this year pitching to a 1.13 ERA and 0.75 WHIP over 8 innings allowing 4 hits, 1 run, and 2 walks.  Gausman averaged a strong 13.75 pitches per inning as he was more efficient in the playoffs getting in and out of innings.  Expect Gausman to improve upon these already strong numbers in 2015 and make 30-34 starts for the Orioles.

I’ll see your Chris Davis and raise you a Steve Pearce!  Steve Pearce came onto the scene this year after 7 years in the league playing for 4 different teams and never having been an every day player.  Through injuries and eventually the suspension of slugger Chris Davis Pearce was able to take advantage of the opportunity to play every day by leading all qualifying Orioles in AVG, OBP, slugging, and OPS while slashing .293/.373/.556 with an OPS of .930.  Steve started off to a hot start and while it seemed like he might be coming back down to earth in July manager Buck Showalter stuck with his breakout star and was rewarded as Pearce bounced back slashing .271/.317/.610 in August and .315/.464/.685 in September.  The slugger also found his power stroke this year with 21 home runs and 26 doubles in only 102 games.  While Steve certainly had a career year it didn’t come out of nowhere and his track record shows us that his success certainly is sustainable.  While Steve was never an every day players prior to the 2015 season he was able to slash a career line of .255/.335/.433 with a career OPS of .768.  I expect his success to continue and Chris Davis or no Chris Davis I would certainly say that Steve Pearce has my vote for the every day first base job in 2015.

Have we already forgotten about Dylan Bundy?  It’s hard to believe that the number 4 overall pick of the 2011 draft is still just 21 years old but Dylan Bundy has had a long road to the majors in his young career.  Coming back from Tommy John surgery this year Bundy never pitched above high A ball in 2014 and was hit around a little bit posting a 4.78 ERA in 6 starts before being shut down for the year.  Is this a concern?  NOT A CHANCE!  Bundy, as previously stated, was rehabbing and coming back from major elbow surgery and was primarily working on control while trying to rebuild fastball velocity.  I had the pleasure of watching Dylan pitch this year in Aberdeen and all I could say at this game was… WOW!  This kid has “it” and he has a great and bright future in major league baseball.  Perhaps the most fundamentally sound pitcher I’ve ever watched, slow and fluid motions releasing a high 90’s fastball with great movement, and mid 70’s curve coming from the same arm slot as the fastball and a swing and miss change up.  Expect Bundy to start next season in A or AA ball and work his way into the Orioles bullpen.  Because of the depth they have in this starting rotation the now 21 year old who will be 22 when coming into the majors in 2015 will likely be relegated to the pen and will be a dominating weapon for the stretch run.  If Bundy does not crack the starting rotation in 2015 I would expect him to be an elite pitcher in the 2016 starting rotation and a huge part of this pitching staff moving forward.

How do we retain this team

This is a good problem to have, when teams have elite talent the hardest part of continued success is answering the question… how do we keep this great team when everyone else wants our players?  Not to mention the fact that you have to PAY those players.  In 2015 Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Bud Norris, Alejandro DeAza, Tommy Hunter, Steve Pearce, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Miguel Gonzalez, and Ryan Flaherty are all in arbitration or will be entering arbitration in 2015 meaning that all of these guys will make more money next year than they did this year…. likely even Davis.  The Orioles have already increased their payroll by 26 million dollars over the past 2 years going from 81 million in 2012 to 107 million in 2014.  We have all heard the rumors… Peter Angelos is cheap and does not want to spend any money to help this team win.  He cares more about keeping money in his pocket than he cares about winning….. FALSE!  Time to give some people a history lesson and learn why, when, where, and how the Orioles spend money.  In 2008 and 2009 the Orioles had a recent low in payroll of 67 million ranking them as 23rd in baseball but prior to that where were they?

Peter Angelos took over the Orioles in 1993 and was the majority owner for some of the worst years of the franchises history.  Prior to the 2012 season the Oriole had not had a winning season of baseball since 1997, a stretch of 15 years.  So what is his historic track record of payroll?  In 1998 (5 years after Angelos took over the team) the Orioles were first in major league baseball with a league leading payroll of 71 Million.  Despite a losing season the O’s were 5th and 4th in baseball the next two years with payrolls of 72 million and 81 million.  From the 2001 season on the Orioles payroll dropped significantly as the team continued to struggle and between 2001 and 2005 they were consistently in the bottom third of the league.  Starting in the 2005 season the O’s jumped back up into the top half  in 2005, 2006, and 2007 before dropping back off in 2008.  Looking deeper at the 2005 season we see why the Orioles were so eager to spend money; they had what they believed to be a strong core of young players in Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora, Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera, and Chris Ray which they supplemented with veterans Miguel Tejada, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Javier Lopez, and Sidney Ponson.  We now know the story of how that worked out.. Bedard was a headcase, Cabrera was a bust, Ponson never performed, and PED’s would plague the legacy’s of Sosa and Palmiero.  This core never posted a winning record and again the Orioles tightened up on spending… not necessarily because they were cheap, but simply because they didn’t have players worthy of spending money on.  In this time frame both Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis received long term, big money contracts as the Orioles attempted to rebuild this once storied franchise and for years failed to do so.  Then comes Andy McPhail and eventually Dan Douquette, and the Orioles draft Matt Wieters, Dylan Bundy, Manny Machado, and Kevin Gausman.  They trade for Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, Tommy Hunter, Chris Davis, and JJ Hardy.  They sign international free agents Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez.  All the sudden the Orioles once again have a strong core capable of carrying a winner for years to come and all the sudden Peter Angelos opens up the pocket book to pay free agents Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz.  Based on the track record I would not call Angelos a frugal and cheap owner who does not care about winning.  I would call Angelos a sensible man who is willing to spend money to help his team win when he knows the team is in a place where the money can make an impact.  With that being said I’m not personally worried about the Orioles payroll and ability to retain players.  If the team wants these players back they will make the efforts to keep them in Baltimore and they will be backed by the owner to make the right moves.  Paying big money to big name players that would help a 65 win team win 74 games would not be a smart move… but plugging in the right pieces to help a division champ win a world series would be a fantastic move.

Looking forward to 2015

I’m personally looking forward to the 2015 baseball season; the Orioles will have a much improved line up with the additions of players who can help increase the struggling OBP in Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, and Alejandro DeAza.  They will continue to develop young power potential from guys like Manny Machado and Johnathan Schoop to make up for the loss of boomstick Nelly Cruz.  The pitching staff that has already reached star potential will continue to improve.  And young superstars are still flowing up and preparing to make a major impact on this team.  Just sit back and ask yourself the question…. who would want to face the 2015 Baltimore orioles?

Why did Ray Rice Fall So Far So Quick?

February 15, 2104 is a day that Ray and Janay Rice (formerly Janay Palmer) will never forget; it’s a day their lives were forever changed thanks to a public altercation at Revel Casino in Atlantic City New Jersey.  Much has been made of this altercation since the story first broke but the biggest blow to the couple came almost 7 months later when TMZ received a copy of the surveillance video inside the elevator where the altercation occurred. While the release of this video has cost Rice most of his fan and public support there are still a vocal minority speaking out on his behalf. His wife Janay has spoken out in support of her husband requesting that the media butt out of their personal lives, fans are questioning the integrity of the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL based on the timing of the video release and ensuing suspension, and some fans still stand firm in the belief that what he did just wasn’t all that wrong. Where can we find the truth in this matter? Somewhere in the middle as usual? I’m not sure in this situation. I’m not sure there is a right or a wrong and I’m not sure anything good can come from either the continued coverage of the story or the media dropping the story all together. You can’t ignore it, you can’t just hope it will go away on it’s own. Domestic violence is a major issue in this country and Ray and Janay Rice (with the help of TMZ) brought it right into the front door of every home in America. At the same time the story has become like an onion… the more layers we peal off the more it stinks. I do think it’s important to understand a few fundamental facts about the story and the ensuing fallout costing Ray Rice his job along with a boatload of money.

NFL Personal Conduct Policy

Some are wondering why the NFL has the right to punish Ray Rice despite the fact that he has already had his day in court and received a plea deal for his crimes. While it is true that the NFL does not have the right to overrule the court decisions and effect Ray’s criminal charges in any way this is not what they have done. When entering into a contract with an NFL team all players must understand and agree to the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. Any person who fails to live up to this conduct policy is subject to discipline to be determined by the league. The policy can be viewed at the following link http://nfllabor.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/personal-conduct-policy.pdf  Part of the Policy pertaining to the Ray Rice situations reads as follows:

 Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime. Discipline may be imposed in any of the following circumstances:

  • Criminal offenses including, but not limited to, those involving: the use or threat of violence; domestic violence and other forms of partner abuse

Essentially the league based on the terms of employment has the right to terminate employment based on criminal activity they feel is detrimental to the league. This is the same grounds they used to suspend Ben Roethlisburger despite the fact that he was never tried or convicted of any crime.  In this case the league and commissioner Goodell felt that Ray’s actions the night in question warranted swift and harsh action. Based on the conditions of his employment Ray opened himself up to this punishment by violating the NFL personal conduct policy. His punishment may be harsh but it is in no way double jeopardy, a violation of his rights, or anything but standard practice by a company protecting it’s brand.

Lack or Remorse or Sincere Regret

One of the most troubling pieces of this puzzle is Ray’s continued complete and total lack of remorse and awareness of the severity of the situation. This goes all the way back to the night in question when Ray can be seen on video showing no remorse or sorrow for his actions as he pushes his fiancée’s lifeless body out of the way of the opening elevator doors (in an apparent attempt to avoid her being seen by other casino customers) then lightly kicks at her attempting to wake her up, then drags her lifeless body across the floor like a rag doll. At this moment you would expect Ray to feel sorrow and pain as he just severely hurt the woman that he loves, and yet he shows no emotion beyond “oh crap I might get caught.”  While we can’t see this type of instant reaction from Ray we would certainly expect him to feel remorse after having time to reflect on his actions and see the penalties in front of him right?  He severely failed again as he was  given the opportunity to show remorse when he and Janay took the podium for a press conference on May 23, 2014. Ray began the press conference not by apologizing to his fiancé whom he knocked flat on her ass in a casino elevator but instead stating “First I would like to apologize to the Ravens Organization, fans, kids, and everyone who was affected by the situation.” Ray then continued in the typical bully/abuser mentality by turning the attention fully on himself and his recovery by adding “I won’t call myself a failure, failure is not getting knocked down. It’s not getting up.” Janay then chimed in to be sure SHE apologized for the role she played in the altercation…. if this doesn’t fit the abuser/abused relationship as perfectly as possible I don’t know what does. I have news for you Mr. Rice, you have failed… you have severely failed to understand the reality and the gravity of the situation, you have failed to understand that you and you alone are responsible for your actions, and you have failed to realize that you were wrong and you have major personal issues to work on. Until Ray Rice can acknowledge and understand his role in the situation from February 15th he will be and will remain a failure.  How can he repair the relationship he has with his wife when he has yet to acknowledge his own personal issues?

Ray Rice is a Public Figure

Ray Rice is a public figure, and he chose to be a public figure. This is why TMZ is broadcasting video of the fight he had with his fiancé, this is why every news outlet in America is covering his life, this is why the general public is involving themselves in his marriage. When Ray Rice realized his dream of being an NFL player he gave up any chance he had of being able to act out in public without creating a public outcry. While I can understand where he and Janay are coming from and why they are upset that the general public is involving themselves in their marriage they have to understand that this is a reality that goes hand in hand with the success that Ray has enjoyed. This is a part of Ray’s celebrity and it’s Ray’s celebrity that has built a fruitful and lavish life for the two of them. While this may not be “right” this is a part of their lives that they gave up when Ray chose to become a public figure.

Why Did the Video Create the Backlash?

Many people have become concerned that the backlash against Ray Rice did not take place until the second video showing what happened in the elevator was shown to the general public.  While it’s understandable that people are concerned considering we already knew the contents of the video prior to it’s release I also understand why the opinions of so many changed after the video was released.  For one it’s much easier to stomach an act when we don’t have to witness it, knowing he hit his now wife is bad enough, but it’s much worse to have actually seen the act.  Additionally prior to the video being released we still have several unanswered questions about the altercation.  Did she provoke him?  Was she attacking him?  Did he defend himself?  After seeing the video we see that while she did move toward him there were many options he could have chosen that would not have resulted in the violent hit that created this controversy.  Janay was no angel but she was not choking him, beating him, or hurling objects in his direction.  This confirms the beliefs of so many who had already turned on Ray and eliminates the excuses many others had created for him.

As for the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens had they seen the video prior to the two game suspension and the Baltimore Ravens public backing of Ray then there are no excuses.  While we can assume that they had access to that video both sides claim they in fact did not have see the video prior to September 8th and there is no proof otherwise.  According to a reliable source, ESPN’s Chris Mortinson, the NFL requested a copy of the video from law enforcement but was denied.  If the only facts we have to go on are that the NFL did not see the video and that the Baltimore Ravens did not see the video and based both their punishment and reactions on Ray’s story, that he was defending himself, then we can understand why the tone changed after the video was released.

Ray Rice Comparison to Michael Vick

The Ray Rice story has drawn a lot of comparisons to Michael Vicks crimes of 2007 and rightfully so; both men engaged in despicable, inhumane acts inflicting pain and suffering on victims who didn’t have the ability to properly defend themselves. While Vick’s crimes were violent and despicable on a completely different level than Ray’s crimes there are several parallels between the two and Ray could learn a thing or two about how to overcome this adversity by following Vick’s lead.

In 2007 Michael Vick was implicated and later arrested as a part of an interstate dog fighting ring and within hours was suspended indefinitely by the NFL (Sound familiar?). Following his plea Vick spent 21 months in a federal prison followed by two months of home monitoring. In 2008 Vick was forced to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy after an arbitrator ruled that he reimburse the Atlanta Falcons and owner Arthur Blank $19.97 million, a prorated portion of his $37 million signing bonus. At this point Vick had hit rock bottom, had his life’s work, his hopes and dreams slip away because of the horrible and despicable things he did. To me this is where Vick’s legacy is written, how he would respond, how he would learn from his mistakes, and what he would do if given a second chance?

While serving a 21 month prison sentence Michael Vick had his representatives’ reach out to the Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle who initially declined the invitation to meet with Vick. After initial attempts to communicate with Pacelle failed Vick continued to reach out to the CEO who eventually agreed to meet with Vick after considering that Vick could help reach an estimated 100K urban youths involved in dog fighting. Vick has since then become a huge part of the cause of ending dog fighting and has contributed his time, money, and voice to fighting what he was once a part of (It’s important to add at this point that according to the HSUS no money has exchanged hands between HSUS or Michael Vick at any time). Vick has since then become heavily involved in the Pets for Life program, fought to secure passage of H.R. 2492 the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, and participated in various face to face meetings, public appearances, and videos expressing his remorse and speaking out against the mistakes of his past.

What Vick did was horrible and despicable and if people out there don’t want to provide him with a second chance at football or life I completely understand that; however, I feel the Michael Vick story is a stellar example of how a young man can accept his crimes, do his time, and atone for his actions. This is the process Ray Rice needs to follow and it starts with acknowledging that he and he alone was responsible for his actions the night of February 15th. Not Janay, not the alcohol, not the media, not the NFL or the Baltimore Ravens but Ray Rice and Ray Rice alone. Ray then needs to become a loud and active voice speaking out against domestic violence and donating his time and energy to helping battered women get back on their feet. Ray’s fans and the general public need to hear him apologize to Janay without saying “we” or “us” at any time.   He needs to admit that HE made a terrible mistake that HE regrets and that HE will do everything within HIS power to make it right. At that point he will be able to start battling to win back some of the public that he lost.

Where Does Ray Go From Here

I’ve had harsh words for Ray since the first story broke back in February and I will continue to do so.  I have little patience for two things in this world; hitting women and touching children and Ray Rice crossed one of those lines…. viciously.  With all that being said I am a believer in second chances (I don’t really appreciate people killing innocent animals for sport either but you see my take on Michael Vick).  It’s time for Ray to step up to the plate and stop hiding behind the crutch of alcohol and the idea that “we both did something wrong.”  He needs to man up and admit that he was the aggressor and the one in the situation with the physical ability to do the most harm, he handled the situation horribly and needs to pay for his crimes.  Ray needs to take this opportunity to be more of a spokesperson for domestic violence than he was for bullying and he needs to spend a great deal of time and energy working to help people understand the severity and danger of this horrible and prevalent issue.  In doing this Ray will be able to learn to respect his wife on a level that he clearly does not at this point, and begin to rebuild the troubled relationship he has with the NFL and his fans.  This could resurrect his life, his relationship with his wife, and his career… with his life and relationship with his wife being far more important than anything else.

The mid season “I suck at fantasy baseball” update

OK so maybe I don’t completely suck at fantasy baseball considering I’m first of 10 in one league and 3rd of 12 in another… but my sleeper and bust picks don’t seem to have been the great advice I expected them to be, especially the busts.  Some of the busts have proven me wrong while Mr. Soriano just can’t seem to get it going this year.  Below is a breakdown of my picks and how it’s working out.

Busts

Giancarlo Stanton:  WOW… so the guy I picked to be one of my fantasy busts is leading the NL in both home runs and RBI while hitting a career high .313/.408/.590.  He has struck out 90 times but with 47 walks (15 intentional) and a .408 OBP who really cares how many times the guy strikes out?  Additionally I discussed his low stolen base numbers and his even lower net stolen base numbers yet this guy has swiped 7 bags this year and hasn’t been caught once.  The stolen base numbers aren’t blowing anyone away but just under a steal a week and without being caught means he’s helping your team at the same rate as my first round pick Hanley Ramirez with his net 6 steals (10 steals 4 caught).  The biggest concern with Stanton was durability and seems like I swung and missed on this one with the guy playing in 82 games this year while having a career season.  I will give myself partial credit as I did acknowledge that Stanton was a great player… just questioned his durability and the quality of the line up around him.

Jose Altuve:  SWING AND A MISS STRIKE TWO!  Altuve is still 5’6″ and I still think that over the course of his career that this guys ceiling is limited but he sure is doing a great job of making me regret what I said about him earlier this year.  Jose is leading the AL in batting with a .344 average, has amassed 116 hits, and has struck out a meager 23 times as we reach the middle of the season.  I also knocked Altuve for his base stealing efficiency over his career.  Coming into this season he had stolen 75 bases but he had also been caught 27 times and led the league in caught stealing in 2013.  So far this year Altuve has swiped a phenomenal 37 bases while only being caught only 3 times, he is clearly doing a better job of timing pitchers and choosing his spots to run.  Run production is still low with Altuve as he has 26 RBI and 41 runs but at this point that is nit-picking.  Overall Altuve is a top performer and perhaps the best second base option in the league…… and I had him listed as a bust in the middle to early rounds.

Carlos Gonzalez:  I GOT ONE RIGHT!  Coming into the season Yahoo ranked Carlos Gonzalez 6th overall and third among outfielders behind only Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen.  This put him ahead of Adam Jones, Carlos Gomez, and Jose Bautista yet on the season he has hit .244 with 8 homers and 12 doubles while playing in only 52 games.  At the same time Jones, Gomez, and Bautista have each hit 13, 15, and 15 homers while all hitting over .300 on the season.  Car-Go would be a phenomenal ball player if he could just stay on the field and off the DL but until then this guy will be a perennial bust.  Perhaps in 2015 he’ll be able to prove me wrong like Stanton did this year.

Sleepers

Alfonso Soriano:  Well this guy went from sleeper to bust real quick, or perhaps when I listed him as a sleeper I meant to say that he puts you to sleep… or he spends enough time on the bench to get himself some extra sleep.  Either way so far this season Soriano is hitting .228/.251/.381 which would be bad for anyone especially a guy with a career line of .271/.320/.500.  Soriano has hit 20+ homers in 10 consecutive seasons coming into 2014 but it looks like that streak is close to ending as he enters the mid point of the season with 6 dingers.  I thought a solid line up around him and a return to a full season in the AL east would give Soriano a power surge and while he won’t steal bases or hit for average like he has before I thought his power numbers would be there.  Once again… I was wrong and Soriano is now in a platoon situation with Ichiro and facing only left handed pitching.

Kyle Seager:  I really like this guy and I’m loving the fact that he is turning me into a genius for drafting him and recommending him to EVERYONE not in one of my leagues.  Seager started off the season slow but really ramped up in May and June and now enters the half way point of the season .274/.385/.483 and is on pace for 24 homers and 40 doubles on the season.  He isn’t a base stealer but when you get close to the all-star break with 12 homers, 3 triples, 20 doubles, and 55 RBI you don’t need to be.  Seager’s AVG, OBP, slugging, and OPS have all increased every year since his rookie season in 2011.  The future is bright for this young man and I’m along for the ride!

Jose Quintana:  Quintana has only 5 wins on the season at this point but we knew that playing for the White Sox he would be limited in his ability to produce W’s.  He can’t control his run support or how good the team is around him but he has done a great job of controlling what is controllable and is having another strong season.  With 104.2 innings pitched at the season’s mid point Quintana is on pace to pitch over 200 inning for the second time in his short 3 year career.  While doing this he has pitched to a very respectable 3.44 ERA and 1.280 WHIP, has a K/BB rate of 2.90 on the season, and has struck out 7.7 per 9.  Quintana (who went un-drafted in many leagues) has given up more than 3 earned runs only 3 times in 17 starts this year and has notched 13 quality starts pitching 6 innings or more in 14 of his 17 starts.  Glad to have this guy on both of my teams and he was an absolute steal in the 18th round no matter if he gets me wins or not.

So overall I was 50%, 1 for 3 predicting busts and 2 for 3 with sleepers… not sure what that really means but you can take it for what it is worth.  Listen to my advice and you have about a 50% chance of success.  That may be good or bad but it’s working out for my team so far!  A few other people I mentioned in my post are:

Miguel Gonzalez- Yuck

Chase Headley- Eww

Alejandro De Aza- Ehhh

Kendrys Morales- Jury is out

Cory Hart -Hurt again

James Loney- Solid late pick

Brandon Belt- Coming off the DL soon and was having a great year… keep an eye on him!

It’s dated… it’s racist… and it needs to change now!

I try to stay away from politically charged or controversial issues in sports and media mainly because it can become a tiring waste of effort and energy.  People who love to argue for the sake of arguing make bold statements against your views not because they disagree but simply because you stand on the opposite side of the political landscape.  That being said I have decided today that it’s about time to speak out about one of the big hot button issues currently under debate; the Washington Redskins team name.  This comes on the heels of the reports yesterday that the US Patent and Trademark Office has cancelled 6 trademarks held by the Washington Redskins stating that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans.”  According to the ruling “federal trademark law does not permit trademarks that my disparage individuals or groups or may bring them into contempt or disrepute.”  Basically you can’t trademark terms individuals or groups find offensive just because you feel it’s OK.

This case does not require the Redskins to change their name and in fact the trademark still remains in effect until the appeal is complete but this could be the first step on a long and necessary process to finally change the dated and racist name of the Washington football team.  If the ruling is upheld after appeal the Washington team would be able to retain their name; however, other organizations would be able to use the name and sell merchandise using the name and logos.  With the amount of money the team and league would lose in this process I can imagine a scenario where the NFL doesn’t step in and strong-arm Danny boy into finally changing the name.

Many people will and have already spoken out strongly against the name change mainly arguing that this is over political correctness and another example of the “wussification” of America.  I strongly disagree and urge anyone thinking this way to truly evaluate and understand the situation objectively.  The points below help gain a stronger understanding of the situation and why the team needs to change the name.

1)  Definition of “Redskin.”  The Oxford dictionary definition of “Redskin” is as simple as this issue should be and it reads as follows:  Dated or Offensive, an American Indian.  No more description is necessary as the term means nothing more than an offensive and dated term for an American Indian.  It is not a term of endearment nor is it used in a positive light, it is nothing more than a racist term used to identify someone as a Native American.

2)  History of the term.  The term “Redskin” or “Red Skin” was first known to be used primarily in Europe in the late 17th century and at the time was used to identify tribes or people who decorated their bodies with red paint or red pigments.  In the late 18th and early 19th centuries as European settlers in America began migrating west and hunting, raping, killing, and removing indigenous Americans from their land the term began to take on new meaning in this new land.  This is a process in linguistics known as “pejoration” in which a neutral word begins to take on a negative or unfavorable connotation.  The term was now being used by men who offered bounties for the scalps of Native Americans including both women and children.  One example of this is in the Phipps Proclamation of 1755 when King George of England himself even offered American colonists rewards of 50 pounds for male “Redskins” over the age of 12, 25 pounds for women over the age of 12, and 20 pounds for children under the age of 12.  The King of England offering bounties for the scalping and murder of women and children…. this is the history the Washington Redskins are embracing by holding on to their dated and racist name? Additionally in 1863 a Minnesota newspaper announced a state reward of $200 for every “Redskin sent to purgatory.”  I wonder if this proclamation also encouraged the murder and scalping of women and children?  In the mid 20th century Bruce Stapleton’s analysis of 42 historical references published between 1875 and 1930 found that the over time the term “Redskin” has been used negatively significantly more than it has been used positively.  Based on this information I can understand why people of Native American descent don’t want to be constantly reminded of this history when they turn on a football game.

3)  Other equivalent terms.  With the debate over the team name in Washington people on both sides have made arguments comparing the term “Redskin” to other sports team nicknames and other slurs we are familiar with.  We should be clear on what terms are appropriate and realistic when we draw these comparisons.  First of all there are in my opinion two terms that cannot be compared to any other slur; while I will not use them they are an N word referring primarily to those of African descent and a K word referring to Jewish people.  Because of the history of pain, torture, and torment these words bring up I believe here is more pain behind these terms and they shouldn’t be compared.  On the other side of the argument people have identified sports teams such as the Saints, Indians, Braves, Fighting Irish among others and personally I feel these arguments are just silly.  The terms listed in the previous sentence have never been used historically as racial slurs and there is no real grounds for any groups to take offense to these terms.  In fact terms such as Indian, Native American, and Brave, along with using the name of the individual tribes have long been recommended as non-offensive terms that should be used to avoid using racially insensitive terms such as Redskin, or Red Man.  True parallel terms that have at times been common in our society would be terms such as negro, chinamen, wetback, or even Jew depending on the context.  Could you imagine the outrage if we named teams the Baltimore Negros, San Francisco Chinamen, Miami Wetbacks, or New York Jews?  This term which offends many should be considered no different and just because the Native American community doesn’t have the numbers to create as loud of a voice doesn’t mean they should be ignored.

4)  Realistic grounds for offense.  As I have touched on above there is a realistic grounds for someone to be offended by the term “Redskin.”  It is completely reasonable that someone may take offense to the term and wish to not be reminded of the history behind it.  Because this is true it is not relevant in any way to point out that there are some out there who are not offended by the term.  The fact that some are not offended by the term (Or any term) does not mean that nobody should be offended by the term.  In the scenario I listed above where fictitious teams were named after equivalent racial slurs we could find some of each race or ethnicity who do not find the term offensive or care if it is used.  This doesn’t mean that those who do find the term offensive are wrong in their sensitivity to the issue nor does it mean that their opinion does not matter.  If people are offended (it does not matter what percentage) based on reasonable grounds for offense then their opinions should matter and we should be sensitive to their feelings.

This issue to me is nothing more than football again becoming bigger than life and people letting their sports affiliations cloud their judgement and keep them from making an objective assessment.  When it comes down to it the term is both dated and racist and should not be used in pop culture in any way shape or form.  As for the Washington Redskins they can’t continue to use the argument that it’s OK to be racist simply because we’ve always been racist.  At some point we need to understand that if what we are doing hurts people we should probably stop doing that thing.

The endless debate of Adam Jones and his plate discipline

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones has never been the type of player to shy away from controversy or controversial comments; he speaks his mind whenever he feels the need and doesn’t back down from when confronted about his feelings.  With this being true it’s funny that the biggest controversy coming from a guy who said he wished a fan shattered his shins when jumping on the field doesn’t involve any of his off the cuff comments.  The controversy surrounding Adam Jones these days has more to do with his aggressive approach at the plate and the perception of his inability to lay off a low and away slider.  As always if you wish to investigate any issue you need all the facts…. so here I am to provide them to you.

A hitter’s approach at the plate can change, grow, or develop for many reasons.  Many hitters will change their approach during an at bat based on the count, how they are being pitched, or how the defense is positioned.  Approach can also change based on the situation in the game, where a player sits in the line up, or what opponent they’re facing.  Along with these players there are guys in the league who view the game and their approach to the game in one way and don’t alter or adjust to anything.  They play their game and win or lose rolling with what made them who they are.  Along with guys like Brett Lowrie, and Carlos Gomez, Adam Jones is one of these players.  So how successful is Adam with this approach?  Take a look at some of the numbers below

Some career numbers for Adam Jones

First pitch of an at bat:  .391 Avg 1.052 OPS 27 Home runs (19% of his career home run total) 37 Doubles (20% of his career total).

On a 1-0 count:  .364 avg .973 OPS 12 Home Runs 18 Doubles

On 0-1 count:  .362 avg .972 OPS 20 Home Runs 27 Doubles

This gives him a total of 59 home runs and 82 doubles on the first two pitches of an at bat so 41.8% of ALL of his career home runs and 45.8% of his doubles have been hit on the first two pitches of an at bat

In addition to the career numbers in 2013 he hit 33 home runs… 8 of which were on the first pitch of an at bat and 10 of which were on the second pitch of an at bat…. 18 of 33 (54.5%) on the first 2 pitches of an at bat.  He also hit 15 of his 35 doubles on the first two pitches of an at bat, had a 1.094 OPS on the first pitch; 1.011 OPS on a 1-0 count; 1.294 on a 0-1 count. Jones is aggressive and it seems to be working for him; he jumps on pitches early and makes pitchers pay.  Yes…. once in a while he gets burned and like any power hitter he strikes out but If you ask Jones to be less aggressive you risk losing what makes him great.

So we talked about the good; what about the ugly?  If Adam is so good early in the count he must be atrocious late in the count or we wouldn’t even be having this debate right?  In his career Adam Jones with two strikes has hit .203 with a slugging percentage of .314; to put this in perspective in these same situations Miguel Cabrera in his career has hit .229 and slugged .395 and Mike Trout has hit .230 and slugged .346.  So what does all this mean and how does Adam truly compare with some of the best in the game?

Well Miguel Cabrera’s .229/.395 with 2 strikes is exactly .100 points below his career average of .329 and .172 points below his career Slugging of .567. Mike Trout’s 2 strike numbers of .230/.346 are .085 and .201 below his respective career numbers. Jones career .203 avg and .314 slugging are .076 and .145 below his career average and slugging. So he actually loses less in 2 strike counts than Cabrera and Trout; of course the overall numbers are lower because he is being compared to THE TWO GREATEST hitters in baseball but the moral of the story is… hitting with 2 strikes is really……. really….. really……. really….. really hard. So hard that the best hitters on the planet have a 22-23% success rate and AJ is just behind them at 20%.  Comparing him to players closer to his skill level Andrew McCutchen hits .203 and sluggs .335 in his career with 2 strikes. Matt Kemp hits .194 and only sluggs .311. Jose Bautista has a career .181 avg and .313 Slugging with 2 strikes.

As a team leader and franchise player Adam Jones should try to get better every day in any way that he can but this doesn’t necessarily mean that he needs to adapt and change his style of play to do more of what fans want him to do.  If Adam can lower his K rate and increase his BB rate it would make him a better player but that shouldn’t be done by driving him away from what he does that makes him great.  Without making any changes Adam Jones is a career .279 hitter coming off of back to back seasons of 30+ home runs and 30+ doubles while hitting over .280 in each of those years.  If you’re into advanced metrics (I am not) Adam’s oWAR for the past two seasons is 4.1 and 5.6, not far off from Chris Davis’ 6.7 and better than Joey Bats 2012 and 2013 numbers where he finished slightly above 3.  Solid numbers for a guy who is a leader on and off the field and contributes to the team with his bat, glove, legs, and heart.

The Orioles as a team have an issue with plate discipline; guys like JJ Hardy, Manny Machado (in 2013), Johnathan Schoop, and even Chris Davis should be working to be more selective, wait for their pitch, and if that pitch never comes take the walk and stand on first.  I personally feel asking Adam Jones to stop hacking aggressively would be like asking Brett Favre to stop throwing across his body or asking Allan Iverson to stop throwing up every shot he can get his hands on.  In theory it may be the right call but you risk taking away what makes that player special.