Friday, May 31, 2013

NHL Playoff Hockey: Nonstop Action, Crazy Fun - Part two

NHL Playoff Hockey: Nonstop Action, Crazy Fun - Part two
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (5-31-13)

[Part One - 'Now with Real Value']

The NHL now rewards a point for overtime losses, so each individual regular season game's effect on the end is so minuscule it is comical. Albeit a lockout-shortened year, in 2013 the New York Islanders lost 24 of their 48 games. In the West, Detroit also came up short in 24 of their 48 games. Both of these teams comfortably made the playoffs. In fact, Detroit was on the brink of making the Stanley Cup Finals. The Islanders and Red Wings each lost half of their respective regular season games, either in regulation or in overtime...and it really didn't mean squat.

No matter how hard guys are playing or how into it the crowd is, the ultimate test of a game is still going to be the game's worth. If you're attending a sporting event, ask yourself how much this specific win matters to the two teams. A playoff hockey win is up near the very top; a game seven victory is the pinnacle. A regular season hockey game is whatever the opposite of pinnacle is: the nadir, AKA rock bottom.

So do we congratulate the NHL for getting the more important half of their sport right or shouldn't we be striving to legitimize the other half, the longer half, the larger than 50% half?

I have to congratulate the NHL on nailing their post season. Hockey is the least popular of the major American sports and yet its post season is probably the most thrilling, for those that actually tune in. I'd argue that if the NHL could do what you're asking, increase and legitimize the regular season to any degree, the sport would sky rocket in popularity and potentially over take the other sports in time. Stay with me. I don't watch hockey, but I think hockey is awesome to watch. This is a fixable problem for the NHL.

Hockey combines the nonstop action of basketball, the difficulty in scoring of baseball and the aggressiveness and hitting of football into one. And then everyone wears skates. How awesome! I love seeing the Yankees play in person, but nothing has topped a hockey game for all around fun and excitement in the arena. Take all of that into the playoffs and the NHL has got it down. Except America only sort of cares for two reasons. First is what you mentioned about the insignificant regular season. The other reason is the absurdly poor manor in which the league has dragged its fans through multiple lockouts in recent memory. Bad management will sink a ship every single time. But we can set that aside and tackle the regular season which no one cares about. The NFL is currently immune to this, having a small number of games in total. The MLB and NBA both deal with this, however, to varying degrees of success.

What the NHL is missing are stars. Star players keep the NBA relevant throughout the regular season even when the games mean little to nothing. And star players have always driven baseball. But the NHL lacks cache and star power. Its made strides in recent years, don't get me wrong, but the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings won the last two Stanley Cups and those victories barely resonated outside the cities themselves. When the Lakers or Celtics win the title, the entire country takes notice. Same goes for the Red Sox and Dodgers. Something is missing.

I agree something is missing, but you missed what it is. A lack of stars is not the problem. Sidney Crosby is one of the most famous hockey players of the past few decades. Alex Ovechkin is a famous man; so are Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Lundqvist. Perhaps the problem is a lack of American stars; that argument I'd buy. I don't even know who the most famous American in the NHL is...

By the way, I absolutely nailed the spelling of all those names. I only looked them up afterwards to make sure they were correct and BAM, zero mistakes! That might have something to do with this problem as well; if you can't spell someone's name or pronounce it correctly, doesn't it make you less likely to talk about them?

You also are off-base about the lockouts hurting the league. That is only the case if the fans weren't that interested to begin with. Has a single person not returned to the NFL or NBA after their lockouts? Lockouts do not turn fans away if the product is still desirable. And that is a fact that has played itself out in front of our very eyes.

You did get one thing right though: the NHL hits a lot of the desirable qualities a sport should have. Unless they revamp the entire system of how many regular season games, how many teams make the playoffs, how points are awarded, etc. I don't think this problem is going away though.

I don't want to sound naive or misinformed here but, watching these past few playoff rounds, I noticed another problem that is ingrained in my mind now. Don't all hockey games look and feel the same?

Every scoring chance is either an odd-man break or a power play. I don't know enough about the sport to notice nuances of offensive game plans. And the same thing could be argued about the NBA if you replace odd-man breaks and power plays with pick and rolls and isolations. BUT STILL! The NHL has a fun product but, to the casual fan, a lot of it looks the same and gets repetitive.

Sitting in front of my television during the game sevens of the Western Conference semi-finals, a sudden realization hit me. I was enthralled not by the play but really only by the stakes. It was game seven! Winner goes to the conference finals! And the Wings-Blackhawks went to OT! Sudden death! It was exciting only because of what was at stake; I could take or leave what was actually happening on the ice...which seems like a whole other problem that could only be solved by becoming an informed, die-hard fan. No thank you.

Monday, May 27, 2013

NHL Playoff Hockey: Now with Real Value - Part one

NHL Playoff Hockey: Now with Real Value - Part one
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (5-27-13)

Admittedly, neither of us are the biggest hockey fans. I play fantasy hockey and do wondrously well for some reason. But that is about the extent of my hockey fandom. Nevertheless, the NHL Playoffs are spectacular. Everyone always says this, but that's mainly because it's true. I caught that Bruins-Maple Leafs game seven from round one...there are no words to properly describe the game. Wow!

Up three goals mid-way through the final period of game seven...still up two with two minutes remaining...Boston pulls their goalie and scores once...after the ensuing face-off, Boston pulls their goalie again and scores again within 30 seconds. After that, we knew Toronto had absolutely no shot at winning in overtime.

There have been other great games and other great series as well. So many contests go to overtime it's uncanny. So what is hockey doing to make the playoffs so much better than the regular season? Or, perhaps more importantly, what is hockey doing wrong during the regular season that makes casual observers not care a lick until playoff time? I have my theories.

The NHL playoffs make for pretty amazing drama. Unlike the NHL regular season which is significantly less interesting that college hockey, the NHL playoffs nearly top the collegiate hockey experience. I'm a Boston University alumni, so I know great college hockey. What made hockey great at BU was two fold. An enthusiastic and energized fan base that went balls crazy at every game and rivalry. We hate Boston College, would chant "BC sucks" at every game regardless of the opponent, and it was awesome. Most college sports have these things going for it, but with college hockey you get extra crazy fans in a small space. Ice rinks are often intimate, with the fans smushed against the glass at ice level.

Playoff hockey in the NHL is amazing for a different reason, however. Hockey is a tough sport and hard on a player's body. Its a close second to football for brutality and bodily injury. Yet the NFL season is sixteen games and the NHL season is much, much, much longer. If I was a professional hockey player I think I might just play at 85 to 90% some nights. Not always intentionally, but always knowing I have to save my best stuff for the playoffs. I have to be healthy, I have to have energy left in the tank. I can't go balls out on a random Tuesday unless it has playoff implications. So now its the actual playoffs. Woo! I'm kicking things into high gear, giving 120% every night because now I'm playing for a chance to win the Stanley Cup, the coolest, most awesome trophy in sports. If my team wins this trophy, I personally get to carry it around for a week and do whatever my sick and dirty mind desires with it.

How can you top this? You can't and every hockey player is doubling their efforts in the playoffs. Add to that the insanity of hockey fans and their increased enthusiasm at a playoff game, and you have an incredible game and experience night in and night out throughout the playoffs. I don't think you can hope to get this level of play into the regular season. Overtime during a regular season game is a chore. No one wants that as a player. But in the playoffs? Bring it baby, bring it!

I think you touched on the answer a bit. Obviously the crowd is more into playoff games because of the stakes. A better crowd means a more exciting contest, almost regardless of how the players are feeling. But the players are also giving a tad more in these games. How can you possibly give 100% effort on a Wednesday night in mid-January and expect to have anything left come June? It's not feasible.

But crowds wax and wane; players still try very hard during the regular season because this is their passion and they are paid professionals. The real difference between playoff hockey and regular season hockey has nothing to do with either group. The reason regular season hockey is not entertaining is because the system is designed against it's excitement. Even if said player DOES decide to give 100% effort on that Wednesdaynight in mid-January, it doesn't effect the standings to a larger degree. With the NHL now rewarding a point for overtime losses, each individual regular season game's effect on the end is so minuscule it is comical.

Friday, May 24, 2013

NBA Playoffs: The 'Unleap' & the Miami Heat - Part two

NBA Playoffs: The 'Unleap' & the Miami Heat - Part two
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (5-24-13)

[Part one - No Zzz's Please]

I loved watching Stephen Curry make the leap. It was amazing and its very, very sad to have him out of the playoffs. I'm not sure anyone on the Spurs can make their series with Memphis fun to watch, but Steph Curry would have. Oh well. On the flip side, is there anything worse than watching a player unleap. Kevin Durant took a step back this postseason. I full on believe that you often have to take a step back in order to take two or three forward, and this will be Durant's future. However, I wanted him so badly to take over in the Memphis series in the final five minutes of the game and win it for OKC. They were within five points every single game and he could not overcome Memphis' stellar defense. I wanted to watch him make another leap, but instead he stood still and when compared to Curry, seemed to have stepped back.

Are you worried at all about Miami? I keep hearing how Indiana matches up the best with them of any team in the league. That they can really push Miami and make things interesting. I'm doubtful, but more importantly, do not want to imagine a world without Lebron in the NBA Finals.

Unleaping is a hilarious concept. Kudos. I'm not sure it is fair to Durant though to categorize what happened as him unleaping. First of all, his numbers in the Memphis series were crazy good: 28.8 points per game, 10.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists. His percentages were below what we've come to expect from him but that goes with the territory of being your team's entire offense and the focus of double, triple and quintuple teams. And I don't buy the clutch argument either; no one is 100% clutch all the time. KD has already proven he can take and make big shots in big games. The only thing this series did to Durant's legacy is it proved he is not LeBron James. Congratulations but we all already knew this. This dispelled that he was close to the King's level but we already knew they were not equals.

The interesting hypothetical to test would have been how far LeBron could have carried OKC if the two switched teams. I think the Thunder then make the NBA Finals, but that is not because Durant unlept. He just doesn't have that all-around ceiling James does. Forget the other facets of the game; just defensively, LeBron is light years better.

Which brings us to Miami. Am I worried about the Heat? Well, I don't think they'll sweep Indiana. I'm worried they may lose twice. How's that? Depending on Dwyane Wade's health, Miami will either win in five or in six. I think there lies your only worry. Then the story becomes about how banged up Miami is. They slogged through the Chicago series, taking a beating. Indiana will be no different...and frankly could be worse. Where does that leave them heading into the Finals? A match-up with Memphis there could be rough. Is there a tougher trio of teams to face back to back to back than Chicago, Indiana and Memphis? It'd be unbelievable. And I still think Miami would win, but they'd feel it in June. We may be in store for a number of off-season surgeries by Heat players.

On the other hand, if San Antonio wiggles through to the Finals, which is entirely possible (the Western Conference Finals seems like a toss-up to me), I think that makes Miami's time of things a bit smoother. At that point, they may make it through the entire playoffs losing fewer than four times.

I know Kevin Durant is not Lebron James, but at the very least he is aspiring to reach that level of greatness. Beyond that, what I saw from Durant was a dip in attitude. He had swagger before, fed off of Russell Westbrook's insanity and was a practical guarantee to nail a jump shot or free throw. In the Memphis series he looked like he'd been slapped in the face by a dude. A skinny white guy slapped him and he was dumbstruck, still playing great but without his edge and slightly rattled. This does not have to be a trend, and I'm guessing it won't be, but as of right now Kevin Durant looks way more like a Tracy McGrady than a Dwyane Wade. Time is on his side and we're all pulling for you Kevin. Keep climbing up that hill.

Now Lebron James is standing on top of the hill and I'm not worried one bit about him and the Miami Heat. They can win the title with or without Dwyane Wade and you know he's giving them everything he's got no matter if its 50% or 80%. They may lose one or two games to the Pacers, but its irrelevant considering the amount of days off between playoff rounds. What matters most is that the Western Conference Finals is going seven games. Its unwatchable basketball between two grueling opponents who punch and kick one another mercilessly. Advantage Miami. No matter if the Spurs or Grizzlies prevail, although its leaning towards San Antonio right now, both teams will be physically and mentally drained. Neither plays at a speed anywhere near what Lebron and the Heat bring night in and night out. They will get run off the floor.

My unscientific breakdown of the two potential NBA Finals match ups as I see it:

Heat vs. Grizzlies:
- Great Defense vs. Great Defense = Even
- Great Offense vs. Consistent Offense = Advantage Miami
- Fast vs. Slow = Advantage Miami
- Jump shooting team that pounds it to the hole vs. Post up and rebound = Advantage Miami
(Miami in five)

Heat vs. Spurs:
- Great Defense vs. Great Defense = Even
- Great Offense vs. Consistent Offense = Advantage Miami
- Fast vs. Average Pace = Advantage Miami
- Jump shooting team that pounds it to the hole vs. All time great finesse team that's old = Even
(Miami in six)

That was a cheap shot at McGrady right there. He should be cherished and don't you forget it! He is on the Spurs right now. Are people aware of this fact or has it slipped under the radar? Tracy McGrady has now, officially, made it out of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. He also might make the NBA Finals.

A two-time NBA scoring champion with a career average of more than 19 points per game and who scores over 23 points per game for his playoff career is not a shabby "bad news" situation for Durant. In fact, McGrady's playoff averages are aligned pretty well with how Durant performed in that Memphis series: unstoppable but inefficient. Durant should be so lucky to be Tracy McGrady on his worst day. Tough destiny for T-Mac though, being KD's worst case scenario.

Even though you nailed your Kevin Durant analysis, your finals outlook is wrong. Miami would rather play San Antonio. No matter how the beginning of the Western Conference Finals has played out, Memphis' inside presence is much more fearsome than San Antonio's. No one on Miami can handle Gasol and Zach Randolph for quarters at a time. This could get the Heat in foul trouble or force them to play some actual centers and power forwards in this series, getting them out of their comfort zone. Miami versus Memphis would definitely go six, or even seven games. The Spurs, on the other hand, would get swallowed up. They're prideful so they wouldn't get swept, but Miami would beat them in five.

Monday, May 20, 2013

NBA Playoffs: No Zzz's Please - Part one

NBA Playoffs: No Zzz's Please - Part one
By Dan Salem and Todd Salem (5-20-13)

So its come down to this and I couldn't be less excited. The NBA playoffs are considered the real season, the second season, the good stuff if you will. Since almost half the league, sixteen teams, makes it we get the best competing against one another. And I'd agree that the best teams were in it this year, but that is NOT saying much.

Round one match ups fell on their faces. The Clippers, Celtics and Lakers, three interesting teams who are fun to watch, all bit the dirt. Only the Celtics made a peep against the Knicks. A peep. Round two pitted the most deserving teams against one another, to be sure. But defense is boring as hell. Memphis and Indiana are great and all, but slow basketball is boring basketball. We can even include San Antonio in that grouping, leaving one of the four match ups as not slow and boring. Yet the Miami Heat were in that final match up, and being better than everyone, absolutely destroyed the Bulls after getting woken up in game one from their "We are the best and you all know it" daze. Zzzzzzzz.

Finally round three, the conference finals! Oh nuts, Memphis made it so we are guaranteed one slow as hell series of games. I respect the hell out of their team, their defensive prowess and their ability to win despite never having done so. Yet can we all agree they make an awful television product? To make matters worse, the second best television product, the Golden State Warriors, were eliminated by the Spurs who aren't exactly a fast team either. I had the pleasure of seeing Golden State in person the first week of the regular season against the Clippers and damn are they fun to watch.They can shoot the lights out of any arena and the 2013 playoffs have now lost something without them in it. Spurs vs. Memphis is like asking to giraffes to fight. Eventually one will knock the other over, but who knows how long it will take.

In the east we have Miami against the Pacers. It would have been fun for the Knicks to keep playing since if nothing else, they are interesting. But it doesn't matter. It was a near certainty before the regular season began that the Heat would be back in the NBA Finals and low and behold, here they are on the brink of doing just that. They will win, possibly sweep, but definitely win. Thank you Lebron James. You are always fun to watch.

I think you may be confusing popular teams with exciting teams. You've fallen into the television ratings hole that pedestrian NBA fans often do. First of all, the Celtics were not fun to watch. They were awful offensively, even with Rondo playing. I agree Indiana and Memphis are slogging, defensive black holes but San Antonio cannot be grouped in with them. They shoot a ton of threes, play fast-paced and share the basketball with a wonder only replicated in Miami. The Spurs series with the Warriors was one of the more exciting playoff rounds we've had in a while, especially before Stephen Curry tweaked his ankle.

By the way, what's more exciting than witnessing a player make "the leap"? Watching Curry become unstoppable offensively by being the most effective three point shooter in some time (in history?!?) was amazing. He set the league's all-time record for made threes in a year during the regular season while shooting a remarkable percentage; he somehow then managed to step his game up another notch during the playoffs by taking nearly 10 threes per contest, making a large chunk of them and striking pure fear into the hearts of anyone he is playing. There may not be a more terrifying player for your favorite team to face other than Curry and LeBron. It is remarkable that he did not even make the All-Star team this year.

But I digress. These NBA Playoffs are giving us what we want/expect every year from the NBA Playoffs: few, if any upsets and the very best teams playing for the title. Sure Oklahoma City should have been one of the final four, but injuries play a part and they fell victim. Otherwise, who is more deserving of making the conference finals than Miami, Indiana, Memphis and San Antonio? The NBA gets it right nearly every season. And some people enjoy watching great defense!

I am not one of those people who enjoy watching great defense, but if San Antonio and Miami make the finals I will be elated. This would pit the old guard vs. the new, old dynasty vs. current. And the Spurs hall of famers would be playing one last time in the finals. At least I think it would be their last, as it seems every season for the last four they have managed to be great and ignore father time entirely.

I loved watching Steph Curry make the leap, but is there anything worse than watching a player unleap like Kevin Durant did?

Friday, May 17, 2013

"Come on, Seriously?" - What ha... happened? (May - Part Two)

"Come on, Seriously?" - What ha... happened? (May - Part Two)
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (5-17-13)

[Part One - "Not in my House"]

We scour the internet for a crazy sports photo and someone must try to explain it. Seesaw Sports asks what ha... happened? Monday: Opening statement. Friday: Rebuttal.

Real photos. Real results. But what in the heck happened?

I present to you the following:

Photo: Oh no. That's not what I think it is, is it?

Title: "Come on, seriously?"

Description: This is low, even for this exercise.

W..Wh..WHY? Why did this happen!?

The bad memories and horrendous nature of the event seem to have left you almost speechless. Arguably the best (or second best) pitcher in the history of the Boston Red Sox organization brutally assaults a historic member of our beloved New York Yankees, Don Zimmer, and all you can say is why. Zimmer was a staple of the Yankees dynasty from 1996 to 2003 and deserved better than this. But why this happened is simple.

Did you know, Don Zimmer was the manager of the Boston Red Sox from 1976 to 1980? He was manager for the infamous "Boston Massacre" which saw the Yankees eviscerate a fourteen game lead in the division to ultimately win the crown from the Red Sox on Bucky Dent's famous home run! Jump forward to 2003, his final year in the Bronx, when Pedro Martinez decided to exact revenge. The former Red Sox manager had jumped ship to join the arch rivals and now the franchise's premier pitcher had an opportunity to taste the sweet, sweet juice of bloody revenge.

Needless to say, this was not a fair fight and Zimmer never recovered. His embarrassment was so extraordinary that he was forced to leave the team and join the Tamba Bay Rays. The Rays! Pedro did what every thirty to fifty year old American wishes they could do, embarrass the elderly. He death gripped an old man by his shiny bald head and hurled him mercilessly to the dirt. Come on, seriously!

The Red Sox needed blood, needed revenge for the "Boston Massacre" all those years ago and Pedro Martinez got it. He struck quick, struck hard and the New York Yankees would never be the same.

That's what happened.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Not in my House" - What ha... happened? (May - Part One)

"Not in my House" - What ha... happened? (May - Part One)
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (5-13-13)

We scour the internet for a crazy sports photo and someone must try to explain it. Seesaw Sports asks what ha... happened? Monday: Opening statement. Friday: Rebuttal.

Real photos. Real results. But what in the heck happened?

I present to you the following:

Photo: Batter is angry. Batter wants to fight using his bat. Oh no!

Title: "Not in my House"

Description: There are two solid descriptions here. The first racially charged version that has nothing to do with sports: "You have the right to remain silent..." These kind men are arresting the volatile individual with the bat. Let's move on.

Keeping sports in mind, we have our second description. An outraged batter is being restrained by both the catcher AND the umpire. They are teaming up, what gives? Usually the catcher is the first to throw down and the umpire has to hold him back. But no. Something insane must be happening for them to join forces against the man with the bat. But what exactly took place?

What ha... happened?

Your ridiculously racist reaction is not that far off. However, the double-team restraint was not taking place because of the batter's skin color. It was occurring because of the batter's name and personality. This appears to be a photo of outfielder Jose Guillen. Mr. Guillen has....a track record of misbehaving.

In 2004 he was suspended for two weeks for inappropriate conduct.

In 2008 he was suspended for the first fifteen days of the season; the suspension was later rescinded, probably out of fear.

Later in 2008 he was involved in a confrontation with a fan. He had to be restrained by teammates.

Guillen was a member of eleven different franchises; he also was famously known for carrying a gun or a rocket in the outfield. This may have been in reference to his strong throwing arm but cannot be confirmed.

So really, it appears as though Paul Lo Duca and the umpire gang up to hold back Guillen in this photo just to be safe. You can never be sure what Jose will do. If I had to guess, I would say this happened before any pitches were even thrown. As soon as Guillen stepped onto the field, the two must have rushed him. They would have been silly not to.

Friday, May 10, 2013

MLB April stats mean NOTHING - Part two

MLB April stats mean NOTHING - Part two
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (5-10-13)

[Part one - MLB one month Over Reaction]

As to the crazy yet real stats you through out there, I'm going to tell you if any of them will still be true at the All Star break and season's end. This should be fun!

- The Oakland A's and the Colorado Rockies scored the most runs in the AL and NL respectively
This is an obvious NO for both teams.

- Pittsburgh was in first place in the NL Central
I like them as a wildcard team, but not as division champs.

-Toronto was in last place in the AL East
I'm really surprised they aren't at least a .500 ball club, but last place seems right to me.

- The Rockies had the most April wins in the entire National League
Did you make this one up? I can't see this lasting even to Memorial Day.

- John Buck was on pace for 54 home runs and 150 RBI
I almost went to add him to my fantasy team, but then I realized it was John Buck.

- The following players had an OPS over 1.000: Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gomez, Wilin Rosario
This just means they aren't playing much, right? I should probably drop Rosario now from my fantasy roster..... Yeah no way, he's a stud.

- Jake Westbrook leads all starters in ERA with a mark of 0.98
Who? Is he available?

- Clay Bucholz and Jon Lester combined to go 9-0 after going 20-22 last year
No wonder the Red Sox are in first place. Not going to continue.

- Jason Grilli, the Pirates' closer, leads the league in saves and is a perfect 10 for 10 in chances
Who? Is he available? I now want him badly on my team.

It seems counterproductive for you to react to ANY of the stats I listed for the month of April. Didn't I explain pretty clearly how things that happen in April are pointless? Hah. None of those things will continue; some have already begun to swing around in just a week and a half of May!

The dirty, little secret about baseball statistics though is that you can pick a sample size of thirty days from pretty much any point in the season and create a list that long or longer about idiotic things that make no sense. It is the problem with a small sample size. There is not enough time for a true outcome to be unearthed. Too much is based on luck in that short a time frame. The reason April stands out as "the pointless month" is because stats are easier to read starting from zero. That is really the only reason. It is harder to find someone's terrible July compared to the rest of the league because you have to sift through their stats prior to the beginning of July, or even make a point of keeping track before the trend even develops. April is way easier.

With that said, I love statistics. You can twist them and contort them to make any point your heart desires. Sports writers are really just cutting through all the numbers out there and cherry-picking ones that prove what they want to say. If someone is down on the Angels, they may bring up how many games back they are or how many games below .500 they are or how they only have an 9.1% chance of making the playoffs (according to ESPN's playoff odds).

But someone could just as easily bring up how they've only played one home series so far against a team who didn't make the playoffs last year, which was April 12-14 against Houston, and they won 2 out of 3 there. They are currently playing without their ace pitcher, without their closer and without their starting center fielder who was batting .313 when he went down and had one of the better Aprils of anyone on the roster. Also...hmm, well everything else with this team is bad. Josh Hamilton is so bad he's been below replacement-level for over thirty games now. So okay, statistics can't be manipulated to prove ANYTHING but the fact remains.

Let's tweak the question though. From this day forward, Anaheim wins more games than the Dodgers.

Tweaking the question just makes it so your answer can be right, while the REAL question is what the fans really care about. Playoffs baby, playoffs. The Dodgers are in. The Angels are out.

As for stats, I enjoy the numbers behind the game of baseball, but could ultimately care less about my team's percent chance of making the playoffs at this point in the season. I don't care about their ERA or their OBP either. There are only two stats that matter to me as a baseball fan. Team wins and team batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP). Two stats, no more, no less.

I love following my team's wins because you can get a real feel for the energy and swagger of your ball club. Especially looking back at April, is your team clicking, starting to gel as a group, or are they much maligned like the aforementioned Dodgers and Angels. Even if your team is teetering at .500 you can be happy about a three or four game win streak. It shows the team has a chance to make a splash this season. Of course, the opposite is even more true. Any sort of long losing streak at this point in the year is rather damning. Lose two or three and you're like everyone else. But ratchet up a few six or seven game losing streaks and its a hole that only one or two teams in history have climbed out of by September.

April wins and loses have minimal importance as long as you aren't nine games back like the Angels. They can definitely recover, but they'll never be a great team this season. That we know for a fact after one month. As for the rest of the league, five games up or down in your division is neither a mountain or a mole hill. Its just a month sample size like you mentioned. Let's talk again on July 1st.

My other favorite stat is team batting average with RISP. As Yankees fans our team usually hits a lot of home runs, but I can always tell if our team is up for a deep postseason run based on that stat. Take last season for example, the Yankees stunk with RISP. They couldn't hit anyone home unless it was with a long ball. In the postseason, when power numbers drop and small ball gains importance, I knew this stat would haunt them. The team did not get the simple hits when it mattered, with runners on base, and you can't win a championship like that. Rarely can a team power hit their way past a lousy average with RISP. I'm keeping a close eye on this stat as we approach June. Things do look up this season for the Yankees, who added a lot of productive players to the lineup, guys who get the hit and get the man home to score. This season is nothing like last season and I'm loving it!

Monday, May 6, 2013

MLB one month Over Reaction - Part one

MLB one month Over Reaction - Part one
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (5-6-13)

The first month of the baseball season is notoriously poor at being an indicator for the rest of the season, but May on the other hand is not. I think you know where this is headed... April flubs and shaky studs!

We've had some surprise success and failure this past month, but in my opinion none has been more surprising than the Dodgers and Angels who find themselves five and half and nine games out of the division lead respectively. On paper they are chock full of studs, but neither has really started clicking yet. They had some injuries, sure, but so have our Yankees and they are looking mighty fine. My spider sense tells me that only one of the two will be a contender after a month of futility. Who do you got?

Give me your flubs and shaky studs for April and perchance reflect on the the ramifications or utter uselessness of trying to look at April as a barometer for the MLB season.

April is notoriously pointless. There is no way around this. From the beginning of the season, I thought the Dodgers were being overvalued. They have a ton of holes. The Angels, on the other hand, I was pretty sure would be good. With just that simple judgement and knowing April is pointless, I would have to go with the Angels being the LA playoff team if I was picking one.

If people need proof of April being utterly irrelevant, here are the following stats, which are completely true; everything listed below was 100% accurate as of the final day of the month of April.

- The Oakland A's and the Colorado Rockies scored the most runs in the AL and NL respectively.

- Pittsburgh was in first place in the NL Central even though their run differential is way worse than both St. Louis and Cincinnati.

- Toronto was in last place in the AL East and the aforementioned Angels can claim only one more win than Houston.

- The Rockies had the most April wins in the entire National League. Let that one sink in for a minute.

If league standings and team results being bogus isn't enough for you, I have April player stats as well!

- John Buck was on pace for 54 home runs and 150 RBI. Seriously, John Buck.

- The following players had an OPS over 1.000: Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gomez, Wilin Rosario.

- Jake Westbrook leads all starters in ERA with a mark of 0.98.

- Clay Bucholz and Jon Lester combined to go 9-0 after going 20-22 last year.

- Jason Grilli, the Pirates' closer, leads the league in saves and is a perfect 10 for 10 in chances.

Oh, you say those statistics are too basic and are prone to dramatic ups and downs? Well, let's use some WAR (wins above replacement) numbers then. Now WAR is not perfect, we all know, but as an overarching stat, it is pretty damn good. Here are some April WAR numbers to take with a huge, gigantic grain of salt:

- Matt Wieters has a lower WAR than the following catchers: Yan Gomes, Michael McKenry, Welington Castillo and yes, I have never heard of at least two of those three men.

- Adam LaRoche, Paul Konerko and Allen Craig have been so bad (accumulating negative WAR scores), their teams would have technically been better off if they hadn't even played. Same goes for Adrian Beltre and Asdrubal Cabrera.

- Of qualifying players, Rickie Weeks and Maicer Izturis were the two worst second basemen in all of baseball in the month of April.

- David Freese ranked 52 out of 56 qualifying third basemen in WAR. Josh Donaldson ranked 5th.

- Kevin Correia is tied for the 7th best pitcher in baseball with a WAR of 1.5.

- Matt Cain is tied for the 7th worst mark with a WAR of -0.8.

So here we are, finally in the month of May. What is real and what is not from April baseball? Well, to summarize, everything from April is a joke and nothing is real. Whoever is in first place on April 30 probably won't be on August 30. Be patient; this is baseball after all.

A week ago I would have agreed with you, putting the Angels in the playoffs over the Dodgers. Now, with one full month in the books, I'm taking the Dodgers. Two reasons for my support of the boys in blue and not our friends down in Anaheim. First, the Dodgers are five and half games back which is very doable at this point in the year. They've played poorly, but should get a big lift when their pitching arms return to the rotation. Also, this is the first full season that their batting lineup has played together, so some growing pains can be expected. I like their chances against the other NL West teams who are not scaring anyone.

The Angels on the other hand are nine games back. This makes it highly unlikely they will win the division, but does not put the wildcard out of the question. Yet Albert Pujols is going on the DL probably sooner than later. He's injured and can only gut through it for so long. Add to that the loss of their pitching ace and you have a team in a deep, deep hole.

The second reason I'm on board with the Dodgers is the competition they'll face. Like I said, no one in the NL West scares me and I give the Dodgers a real shot to capture the division crown. The Giants may hold on tight, but the Dodgers can capitalize on wins against the remaining division foes to secure a wildcard berth. The Angels, unfortunately, have their work cut of for them. Texas will win the division and the A's are no pushovers either. They played the Yankees really hard over the weekend and proved you can't overlook them. So the Angels need a wildcard spot, and they won't get one. The AL is too good once again.

Now to the crazy, yet real, stats you through out there. I'm going to tell you if any of them will still be true at the All Star break.

Friday, May 3, 2013

NFL Draft 2013: Losers, there are Always Losers - Part two

NFL Draft 2013: Losers, there are Always Losers - Part two
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (5-3-13)

[Part one - We're all winners Here]

I'm pulling out my stick and approaching with caution. Not to poke a sleeping giant, at least not too hard, but did the Patriots forget to show up at the draft? Watching them lose the weekend only made me feel better about the Jets. This could prove to be the AFC East's biggest win overall.

The New England Patriots definitely left their fans wanting more. They traded away yet another first round pick. It is hard to make news, good or bad, without selecting someone until pick number 52. Also, I feel like Bill Belichick and company have been getting a bit of a pass here recently. They have not been good at drafting, dare I say awful at it, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Perhaps last year and this year were the beginning of a change back to the early aughts, but New England has been receiving an undeserved benefit of the doubt in this regard for years now.

I don't think the rest of the AFC East outpaced them as much as you hint at though. Miami's draft was so-so; their trade up to number 3 to nab Dion Jordan was filled with questions and few answers. The Jets really disappointed me after their nice day one. If you believe in Geno Smith, you take him in round one. If you don't believe in him as a franchise quarterback, then why take him at all? In my mind, they wasted their second round selection. Whereas the Giants drafted a quarterback because his value was too good to pass up, they at least already have the position filled. The Smith pick was low on risk in round two so there was value there, but they are obviously not sold on his ability to start for them or he wouldn't have lasted until pick 39.

The other reason New England isn't looking so bad is because Buffalo is looking worse. What are the Bills doing exactly? They made a shrewd move to drop from 8 to 16 but then took a player who had no business going at 16. Buffalo's brass must have been kicking themselves when we got to day three and they saw what quarterbacks were still on the board. I like Robert Woods and think he will be a solid pro wide out; I am not sure about much else they did though. They drafted a kicker for god's sake! If EJ Manuel pans out, this will all be moot. I just didn't think he was worthy of where he was selected and the deck sure is stacked against him having early season success.

Did anyone have a worse draft than the members of the AFC East? What a coincidental shit show.

Hold on a second! Are you for real, Buffalo drafted a kicker? How did I miss this? That would've been my top headline if I ran ESPN and would go like this:  

"Buffalo Bills punish fans by drafting a kicker - In one of the coldest climates of any NFL team, where kicking is deemed foolish in general, the Bills wasted everyone's time by adding a kicker to their roster on draft day."

I'm completely on board with the AFC shit show, minus the Jets. I disagree fully with your poor analysis of where they selected Geno Smith. He was not guaranteed first round talent, had too many question marks and brought too much pressure and speculation as a first round pick. The Jets got two good years and two bad years out of their last first round quarterback and were not about to let history repeat itself. As a second rounder, Geno Smith will meet all expectations. Namely, I have none for him. I hope he is good enough to win the starting job by 2014, but the main objective of drafting him, besides taking the best player available at a position of need, was to put pressure on the current Jet quarterbacks to actually improve. Mark Sanchez is not a lost cause. He sucked last season and needed a reason to get better. Last year Mark knew he had the job, let it go to his head as everyone gave Tebow the attention, and then crumbled as the team fell apart. Now he has real incentive. The Jets were smart in creating that and here's hoping he makes something of himself.

To the actual AFC East shit showing at the draft, what happened? I mean the Patriots have been the best team in the division for a long time now, and even with poor drafts they have managed to fill their holes year after year. I'm not sure they improved at all at the draft, but they didn't have to. Buffalo always amazes me with their ability to suck. I actually like the EJ Manuel pick in general, but not at 16. I would have wanted the Jets to grab him in the early second round, so maybe that's why they nabbed him, I'm not sure. He impressed me when he made the rounds at ESPN, but why cut Ryan Fitzpatrick if you are planning to draft a rookie quarterback? I would allow the Harvard graduate to mentor the new kid, not toss him aside like a piece of trash. And did Miami attend the draft? I honestly don't know. With rumors of them signing Tim Tebow, its like the Bills, Dolphins and Jets all got together and decided to make huge fools of themselves so that the Patriots still look like a dominant team and the division is relevant.

Having said all that, none of the AFC East teams were the biggest loser. That honor belongs to the sorry folks who call themselves Chiefs fans. Most years their team is just competitive enough to not make the playoffs. But no matter, the biggest losers of the draft were by far Kansas City Chiefs fans.

The Chiefs stunk last season and the only consolation for their fans was the first pick of the draft. Wooo first pick! Oh wait, I'm sorry, but there is no skill position player worthy of that pick. You now have an extremely talented lineman to protect your crappy quarterback. Enjoy.