Thursday, January 29, 2009
From the moment I stepped into the first meeting prior to the beginning of our Fall Season at school, I was somewhat shocked. The players were enormous. I was tiny compared to the lot of them. The ones who were shorter and weighed less than I did were jacked. I am not saying that steroids were rampant throughout my college career, but there were a solid number of players that were juicing. The number was certainly in double figures. One of our first conference trips my freshman year was a double header vs. a pretty dam good team. Said team was ranked in the country, and later would earn a spot in the Division 3 World Series that year(they lost to Marietta in that tournament). Watching them take batting practice was no different than going to Jacobs Field in the mid to late 90s. Balls were flying out of their stadium, launched into orbit. These kids were a different breed.
After getting off the bus that night, a few of my freshman friends and I were eating dinner, discussing steroids. They were easily accessible. The testing by the school and the NCAA was not so sophisticated that it wasn't beatable. In fact, the only drawback to it seemed to be that they were pretty damn expensive in my opinion. What triggered this conversation? The fact that it was so commonplace among these athletes. I distinctly remember thinking 'damn if I ever really want to see the field, how can I not do it.'
Now the purpose of this article is not to shed light on the rampant steroid use going on in small college athletics, in fact it is very far from it. Thankfully, I did not choose to inject myself(even after my coach called me naturally weak, and redshirting my freshman season), and I had a pretty successful career, and ultimately played professionally overseas. After the 2005 season I read Jose Canseco's tell most-of-it-all memoirs, his fine piece of literature, the book Juiced!. My first impressions of this book was that it was hilarious. Basically a 280 page commercial for steroids, I couldn't get enough of it. My take aways were as follows: if you use steroids in moderation they are perfectly good for you, if Canseco did not take steroids he would not have won the MVP award and therefore would not have landed a $3 million contract, and the player that finished in second place in the voting was rewarded with a $500k contract.
In CC Sabathia money, $2.5 million is a little bit more than chump change. Obviously, the player making $500k was not hurting, but if you gave him 6x that amount, I think he would be ecstatic. Canseco claims that is what steroids did for him. Taking a look at the cycle (no pun intended), the best player in the league roids up. A few others follow him. The players that still want to be All Stars need to keep up. The fringe players, trying to stay in the show feel the need to juice in order to stay in the league, and essentially feed their families (I am not too sure the other skills that Guillermo Mota possesses aside from throwing baseballs, but I am fairly confident he is not going to earn as much money selling insurance as he is striking guys out). This is all going on WHILE NOT TESTING AT ALL FOR THE STUFF. Baseball players are notorious for cheating. And by the way if your not cheating, your not trying, and its only cheating if you get caught. Corking bats, scuffing balls, crisco, bardol, vagisil...
This is why, and I may take some flack for this, I do not hold taking steroids in the supposed 'steroid era' against any of the players. If you are sitting at your desk job, and all of a sudden guys were banging out TPS report after TPS report, while you were still trying to find the cover for your first one, you may have a sense of insecurity regarding your future employment. Then the guy that just got promoted comes to and says 'man, I couldn't have gotten that extra 40k without this cocaine to keep me awake and moving, you gotta try it...' An extra 40k, or the possibility of being unemployed... the majority of people would not kid themselves into thinking that wouldn't at least consider it, and eventually perhaps dabble in it, if the circumstances got so dire.
I am not condoning killing your body, and judging by the boobs that now adorn some of former teammates' former chests, steroids take their toll. But I do not fault guys for keeping up. There is no doubt in my mind that over 85% of players from this era were on some sort of 'performance enhancing drugs.' Shit happens. Guys make mistakes.
Now, forgive me, but I may start to whine. I woke up this morning pumped because I knew I didn't have to go to work. I read a little bit of my latest book, "Boys will be Boys," and then flipped on ESPN, where the latest on Barry Bonds using something other than the clean and the clear have been found in his 6 year old urine. Pardon me, but I don't give a shit. I don't need 20 minutes of my day devoted to Bonds anymore. He is not entertaining anymore. He is known to be a former user of steroids. Can we move on? If he committed perjury so be it, go to jail and that is it. Too much money is being spent on this. Too much time is being wasted on this. Mark McGwire's brother is coming out and selling him out? That's real respectable dude. He is your brother, I don't care if he is estranged, if he wants to talk about what happened in the past, he will when he is good and ready. It is not your responsibility. Kirk Radomski told us that David Justice and Glenallen Hill received steroids from him. Damn. Two former Indians. Maybe those steroids helped Justice be able to perform his patented check swing. Or maybe... just maybe Justice was juicing when he hit that fateful homerun off Jim Poole in game six. That motherfucker !... oh wait, the cork was in Albert Belle's bicep right? and Jim Thome was a scrawny third baseman then too? and with those guys we wouldn't have been in the series to begin with? ohhh yeaaaa. Basically the Mitchell Report has turned Kirk Radomski, former batboy, and Brian McNamee, former Clemens lackey, into rich men in the media limelight.
The night when McGwire hit number 62 was magical. It still is magical. I was 15 years old and still have the VHS I recorded of this night. The guy that was pushing him throughout the summer was playing against him that night. That rarely happens. McGwire and Sosa were on a level playing field that summer. Chances are the majority of pitchers who gave up those jacks were having their performances enhanced in some way as well. All the time, energy, and money devoted to this is stupid in my opinion. Hannah Storm just told me Greg Anderson's mother in law's house was raided in connection with Bonds. Please comment and tell me if you care.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Yesterday, Tajh Boyd made me realize just how ridiculous the college football and basketball recruiting processes are. Boyd, a five-star, consensus top 5 high school quarterback, committed to Clemson. Which would have been fine, had Boyd not called the Ohio State coaching staff to commit, yesterday morning. Not only that, but apparently Boyd was speaking with the coaching staff of Oregon telling them the same sort of thing. This, of course, was after Tajh initially committed to West Virginia, and then to Tennessee.
While I respect Boyd's final decision, I cannot condone how he handled his recruiting. It's one thing for a player to keep his options open, to visit a number of schools and to express his honest interest in each one. It's another to flat out lie to several programs, impacting not only the program itself but other high school players whose offers may have been affected by your actions. For example, OSU offered QB Austin Boucher a scholarship last night, after he had committed to Miami of Ohio earlier in the week, even though Boucher has expressed interest in OSU for awhile now. Boucher was most likely told that with Boyd presumably committing to OSU, the Buckeyes had no place for him. Now OSU is forced to go back to Boucher and say, you know what, we want you after all. And Boucher, who will be playing with his brother at Miami if he remains there, has to decide if he's willing to pull a "Boyd" break his own commitment, and be satisfied being the Buckeyes' second choice. I wouldn't blame him for telling OSU to shove it. Don't tell me you don't want to go to prom with me because you're going with head football player, only to come back to me later in the day to see if I'm still interested because he's now going with your sister.
The reaction of the Boyd situation by posters on the OSU message boards is comical. Prior to his commitment, Boyd was the second-coming, this year's Terrelle Pryor, and the next in a great line of quarterbacks at Ohio State. After his announcement, Boyd became a headcase, immature, and someone else's problem, as the boards began to melt down. Again, I'm not above the emotion exhibited by countless other Buckeyes' fans. I consistently refreshed my browser, hoping to get news of Boyd's decision before he went public. I even stayed late at work to listen to him announce. And I felt the pit in my stomach when he said he would be spending the next part of his life at Clemson. However, to be that affected by the decision of a 17 year-old or 18 year-old kid, well it's rather ridiculous.
The Boyd saga made me think back to Pryor's own recruitment last year. The love he showed Michigan, WVU and Oregon at various times. The contradictory statements he made, the colors he donned. The fact that he didn't commit until after National Signing Day because he was still "unsure."But in the end, when chose Pryor OSU, all the wavering was forgotten because he became our guy. Had he ended up at Michigan though, many of the same people who currently praise him, most likely would be trashing him as "stupid" and heaping on many of the same criticisms currently being heaped on Boyd.
I guess the point that I'm trying to make, as that as grown men and women, we shouldn't allow our emotions to be controlled by the fickle desires of high school kids. The whole recruiting network is built on experts attempting to figure out what a 17 year-old or 18 year-old kid is going to do, when that kid probably hasn't even decided who he's going to take out on a date that weekend. Many of these kids are being told for the first time in their lives how special they are, with exuberant promises being made. With all the attention, who can blame some of these individuals from falling in love with a number of schools, or being unsure of where they'll end up? And usually, our opinion of a kid is colored by our scarlet and grey glasses - if he chooses another program over OSU, there has to be something wrong with him.
Each athlete ends up making the decision which he believes to be the best for himself. In the end, we should rejoice and support the kids who commit to OSU, while respecting those who make other decisions. And we should not allow the Tahj Boyd's of the world to control our lives. At least that's the decision I'm making for myself. Read the rest of this article
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
To ease Wedgie’s burden, I’ve decided to aide in constructing the perfect Indians’ lineup for the upcoming season. In fact, I’ll construct two different versions – one for when the Indians are facing a right-handed pitcher and one for when they face a lefty. Earlier this week, Biff made reference to the fact that the Indians' lineup reminds him of an empty hot dog bun, lacking the expected "meat" in the middle. And although I’m a vegetarian, I’ll even attempt to address Ol’ Biff’s concerns, devising the most efficient lineup the Indians have seen this side of Moneyball, and answering his query of "where's the beef?" So Wedgie, sit back, relax and read this, I’ll handle all the heavy lifting.
In constructing the perfect lineup, I’m going to focus on several factors. First, on-base percentage or OBP. OBP is figured by taking (H + BB + HBP), divided by (AB + BB + HBP + SF). The average major league baseball player has an OBP of .340. Why use OBP instead of the standard batting average statistic, you may ask? Well, batting average, though an obvious indication of a batter’s value, fails to tell the complete story. To really simplify matters, assume player X has 10 plate appearances, gets one hit, makes an out 4 times, and walks the remaining 5 appearances. Even though player X is hitting right at the Mendoza line (.200) he has still reached base an amazing 60% of the time or has an OBP of .600. OBP takes into account the ability of a player to reach base in any manner, and therefore reflects the greater chances that an individual player will either a) move another runner ahead or b) be in a position to score, even if he failed to get a hit.
In addition to looking at the OBP statistic, I’m also going to focus on a how a player hits in varying spots in the lineup. My goal is to find a spot in lineup in which each player hits higher than the average .340 OBP. Essentially, I’m going to try to maximize the efficiency of each player, hopefully resulting in the most productive lineup possible for the Tribe. And again, I’m going to try to do this for when the Indians face both a right-handed pitcher or for when they face a lefty. It may sound complicated and number intensive, but I promise it will be easier to follow than it seems. Let’s get started.
First, I'll present to you the lineups I would use on an almost daily basis. Then, I'll explain my seleictions by examining the overall numbers of each player.
Against a RHP:
1) Grady Sizemore, CF
2) Shin-Soo Choo, RF/LF
3) Travis Hafner, DH
4) Jhonny Peralta, SS
5) Victor Martinez, C
6) Ryan Garko, 1B
7) Ben Francisco, LF/RF
8) Mark DeRosa, 3B
9) Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
Against a LHP:
1) Grady Sizemore, CF
2) Shin-Soo Choo, RF/LF
3) Ryan Garko, 1B/DH
4) Jhonny Peralta, SS
5) Victor Martinez, 1B/DH/C
6) Kelly Shoppach, C/DH
7) Ben Francisco, LF/RF
8) Mark DeRosa 3B
9) Asdrubal Cabrera 2B
Below, I provide a comprehensive justification for why I put a specific player where I put them in the lineup, focusing mainly on their OBP and their comfort hitting in a certain spot in the order.
Grady Sizemore: (Bats: left-handed)
- Against RHP: 2141 PA (“Plate Appearances”), .298 AVG, .389 OBP
- Against LHP: 968 PA, .238 AVG, .328 OBP
There has been talk about moving Grady out of the lead off spot further down the lineup to take advantage of his power numbers, but the fact remains the Indians really don’t have a viable alternative to hit at the top of the order other than Grady (or possibly Michael Brantley, who I’ll discuss briefly below). Grady has only had 41 PA in the 3rd slot of the lineup, where most people want him hitting if not at the top of the order. Despite the fact that Grady's power numbers may suggest placing him near the middle of the order, necessity dictates that he remains batting first. Plus, Grady has indicated that he likes leading off the game and it since it obviously seems to be working, whom am I to mess with success?
The one downfall Grady has a lead off hitter is the rate at which he strikes out. For his career, he has struck out 604 times in 3109 PA, or about an average of one strikeout per every 5 PA. That’s a pretty high rate for a lead off hitter. And if we really want to nitpick, Grady’s numbers against LHP are rather mediocre. But, given the lack of alternatives and the fact that Grady is the Indians’ most popular player, expect to see him leading almost every game this season regardless of who's on the mound for the opposing team.
Shin-Soo Choo: (Bats: left-handed)
- Against RHP: 474 PA, .300 BA, .390 OBP, 14 HR
- Against LHP: 116 PA, .257 BA, .322 OBP, 3 HR
- 81 PA, .343 AVG, .420 OBP, 5 HR
- 285 PA, .278 AVG, .363 OBP, 6 HR
- 84 PA, .416 AVG, .452 OBP, 4 HR
- 51 PA, .220 AVG, .353 OBP
- 75 PA, .180 AVG, .333 OBP
Choo’s lineup numbers show that he would be a productive 3rd, 5th, or 6th hitter. However, because his OBP is so high, placing him second in the lineup makes some sense, despite his lack of experience hitting there. While the numbers seem to say that Choo should hit 6th, with his ability to get on base close to 40% of his plate appearances, I'd prefer to see Victor, Hafner and Peralta hitting behind Choo, rather than Asdrubal or Ben Francisco. Because of that, I think Choo might be an ideal second hitter in the Tribe's newly constructed lineup.
Ben Francisco: (Bats: right-handed)
- Against RHP: 423 PA, .266 BA, .323 OBP, 13 HR
- Against LHP: 142 PA, .270 BA, .345 OBP, 5 HR
- 79 PA, .261 AVG, .354 OBP, 2 HR
- 304 PA, .257 AVG, .322 OBP, 11 HR
- 20 PA, .389 AVG, .421 OBP, 1 HR
- 21 PA, .333 AVG, .429 OBP, 1 HR
David Dellucci: (Bats: left-handed)
- Against RHP: 2827 PA, .266 BA, .350 OBP, 96 HR
- Against LHP: 365 PA, .194 BA, .258 OBP, 5 HR
- 492 PA, .302 AVG, .370 OBP, 21 HR
- 543 PA, .268 AVG, .350 OBP, 16 HR
Analysis: Dellucci should NEVER, EVER, EVER play against a left-handed pitcher. Dellucci is the very definition of a platoon player. What's sad is that the Indians have so much money tied up in what amounts to half a player. With the talent of minor league outfielders that the Indians have, it seems apparent that the team would be better served cutting bait with the Looch, as even one mediocre whole player is better than one mediocre half player. However, knowing how the Tribe operates, Dellucci will get his fair share at-bats until it becomes apparent (or well after it becomes apparent) that he cannot get the job done anymore. If, and this is a big if, Wedge ever feels the maddening compulsion to insert Dellucci into the starting lineup, he should hit him 2nd against a right-handed pitcher only. NO EXCEPTIONS.
Michael Brantley: (Bats: left-handed)
And who might be that minor league candidate to take Dellucci's spot on the major league roster? My choice is Michael Brantley. Now, I realize Brantley has never played beyond Double A. But look at the numbers he put up for Class AA Huntsville last year, before being traded to the Indians, .319 AVG, with 80 runs, 17 doubles, two triples, four homers and 40 RBI in 106 games. He also stole 28 bases in 36 attempts and had 50 walks against only 27 strikeouts. What I like best about Brantley however, is his career .399 OBP, which not only would have been best on the Tribe last year, but fourth in the entire American League. And, Baseball America rated Brantley as having the best strike zone judgment and the best base running skills in the Southern League last season.
What makes Brantley so attractive is both his ability to get on base and the he brings some speed to this team (something which it greatly lacks). In fact, Brantley appears to be an almost prototypical lead off hitter. His emergence could potentially allow the Indians to begin to slot Grady further down the lineup. Or, Brantley could be a more than adequate second hitter in the lineup.
Still not convinced? Look at this information from the http://www.indiansprospectinsider.com comparing Brantley to a former Cleveland Indian lead off hitter, near and dear to our hearts:
Brantley's Minor League Career (Age 18-21):
- 383 games, 1392 AB, 53 2B, 7 3B, 6 HR, 199 BB, 142 K, 104 SB, .311/.399/.372/.771
- 363 games, 1423 AB, 46 2B, 24 3B, 6 HR, 159 BB, 266 K, 168 SB, .300/.370/.379/.749
Kelly Shoppach: (Bats: right-handed)
- Against RHP: 528 PA, .238 BA, .306 OBP, 19 HR
- Against LHP: 188 PA, .293 BA, .373 OBP, 12 HR
- 94 PA, .316 AVG, .426 OBP, 9 HR
- 128 PA, .254 AVG, .325 OBP, 5 HR
- 189 PA, .198 AVG, .257 OBP, 6 HR
- 216 PA, .283 AVG, .325 OBP, 9 HR
Obviously, our starting pitcher also impacts Shoppach’s appearance in the lineup. There are going to be days when he's catching Cliff Lee and he faces a right-handed pitcher. But, when the matchups allow for it, Shoppach should be on the bench against right-handed opposition. When Shoppach does play, slotting him in the 6th spot appears to be the Indians’ best bet, as his OBP was far over .400 and he averaged a home run per every 10 PA hitting in that spot. Before we hand Shoppach and everyday spot in the lineup, he really needs to improve against righties. Otherwise, if Shoppach gets exposed more this season, the Indians may have missed an opportune time to trade him when his value was at its highest. Especially with the team's surplus of minor league catching talent.
Victor Martinez: (Bats: both)
- Against RHP (as a LH hitter): 1989 PA, .303 BA, .368 OBP, 63 HR
- Against LHP (as a RH hitter): 1019 PA, .289 BA, .373 OBP, 25 HR
- 484 PA, .260 AVG, .347 OBP, 9 HR
- 1595 PA, .301 AVG, .369 OBP, 55 HR
- 680 PA, .319 AVG, .388 OBP, 17 HR
Asdrubal Cabrera: (Bats: both)
- Against RHP (as a LH hitter): 451 PA, .241 BA, .333 OBP, 5 HR
- Against LHP: (as a RH hitter) 150 PA, .346 BA, .403 OBP, 4 HR
- 191 PA, .259 AVG, .324 OBP
- 19 PA, .353 AVG, .421 OBP
- 329 PA, .293 AVG, .379 OBP
Mark DeRosa: (Bats: right-handed)
- Against RHP: 2113 PA, .270 BA, .337 OBP, 44 HR
- Against LHP: 867 PA, .302 BA, .373 OBP, 25 HR
- 400 PA, .281 AVG, .334 OBP, 9 HR
- 396 PA, .288 AVG, .357 OBP, 10 HR
- 783 PA, .289 AVG, .371 OBP, 19 HR
- 521 PA, .259 AVG, .342 OBP, 13 HR
- 458 PA, .283 AVG, .340 OBP, 8 HR
Jhonny Peralta: (Bats: right-handed)
- Against RHP: 2024 PA, .267 BA, .331 OBP, 53 HR
- Against LHP: 787 PA, .271 BA, .345 OBP, 32 HR
Jhonny has hit in a number of spots, and in fact has 200 PA in the 3rd thru 9th spots. His best numbers are in the following spots:
- 640 PA, .255 AVG, .340 OBP, 22 HR
- 378 PA, .300 AVG, .360 OBP, 12 HR
- 518 PA, .292 AVG, .356 OBP, 14 HR
Jamey Carroll: (Bats: right-handed)
- Against RHP: 1498 PA, .267 BA, .348 OBP, 6 HR
- Against LHP: 659 PA, .286 BA, .358 OBP, 4 HR
- 575 PA, .264 AVG, .339 OBP, 4HR
- 995 PA, .264 AVG, .342 OBP, 2HR
- 286 PA, .293 AVG, .375 OBP, 1 HR
- 142 PA, .325 AVG, .407 OBP, 2 HR
Ryan Garko: (Bats: right-handed)
- Against RHP: 962 PA, .271 BA, .339 OBP, 30 HR
- Against LHP: 352 PA, .315 BA, .392 OBP, 12 HR
- 327 PA, .280 AVG, .358 OBP, 9 HR
- 327 PA, .251 AVG, .327 OBP, 13 HR
- 147 PA, .297 AVG, .359 OBP, 10 HR
- 115 PA, .300 AVG, .374 OBP, 4 HR
Analysis: Given Garko's up and down season last year, I was surprised to see that his numbers, while better left-handed pitching, were surprisingly decent. In fact, had I seen just the numbers, I would have probably switched Garko's and Shoppach's numbers, just based on the results of last season. And even despite the inconsistent season Garko had put forth last year, he still drove in 90 runs.
The Garko/Hafner/Shoppach/Martinez collection for three positions (1B, DH, and C) is going to require some creative balancing from Wedge. Especially, since both Garko and Shoppach hit left-handed pitching better than right-handed pitching. When we look at Hafner's numbers in a minute, we'll see that he's actually better facing right-handed pitching. The Indians might be best served batting Garko near the middle of the order against lefties, and then using him to fill in every once and awhile against righties, assuming Hafner is at full strength. If not, Garko becomes an everyday player.
Travis Hafner: (Bats: left-handed)
- Against RHP: 2004 PA, .290 BA, .395 OBP, 111 HR
- Against LHP: 1003 PA, .267 BA, .382 OBP, 36 HR
- 1165 PA, .273 AVG, .392 OBP, 55 HR
- 918 PA, .294 AVG, .405 OBP, 54 HR
- 392 PA, .283 AVG, .385 OBP, 11 HR
- 287 PA, .313 AVG, .392 OBP, 17 HR
I'm hoping Hafner was pressing and trying to overcompensate for his injury by swinging at pitches he normally would have laid off of. I'm sure as he began to feel the pressure, Pronk wanted to crush any possible pitch to show that he was still healthy. After spending an extended period recuperating, it will be Hafner's walk totals, not his power totals, which indicate if he's back to "normal."
Balancing out the impressive OBP that Hafner has shown in the past, while the sudden decline last year and his injury, initially, I might play Hafner solely against right-handed pitchers. Especially because the majority of Hafner's power comes against righties. If Hafner shows he's healthy, moving him back into an everyday role as a DH may be warranted. Again, his role will be shaped in part by how Garko, Shoppach and Martinez are hitting.
Andy Marte: (Bats: right-handed)
- Against RHP: 399 PA, .195 BA, .239 OBP, 6 HR
- Against LHP: 162 PA, .252 BA, .329 OBP, 3 HR
- 163 PA, .227 AVG, .266 OBP, 0 HR
- 266 PA, .205 AVG, .265 OBP, 6 HR
Josh Barfield: (Bats: right-handed)
- Against RHP: 788 PA, .259 BA, .288 OBP, 7 HR
- Against LHP: 267 PA, .268 BA, .308 OBP, 9 HR
- 552 PA, .277 AVG, .309 OBP, 8 HR
- 552 PA, .233 AVG, .258 OBP, 2 HR
44 BB in 1055 PA or about 4 walks out of every 100 PA. Until Barfield can consistently get on base, he's value to the Indians is extremely limited. And with an option remaining, a poor spring may actually keep Marte on the roster.
Luis Valbuena: (Bats: left-handed)
Given the poor choice between Marte and Barfield for the final infield bench spot, Valbuena, acquired in the F-Gut trade, might be find his way onto the major league roster by the end of spring training. His numbers in his minor career include a. 270 BA and a .346 OBP. Given the choice between Valbuena, Marte, and Barfield, the Indians may want to explore bringing in a cheap veteran for the last infield bench spot, if one can be had at a reasonable price. Perhaps a Ray Durham or Mark Grudzielanek, both of who are still available.
Given the number crunching I did above, the lineups I have constructed serve to maximize the OBP numbers and AVG of the team, given the prior history of all the players. While by no means ideal, making minor adjustments like moving Choo up in the order and benching Shoppach against right-handed pitchers will help to make this Indians' team even more productive than last season's squad. While Biff complains that this team lacks the "meat," I believe this team has the ability to play successful station to station baseball, consistently putting runners on the base paths and creating scoring opportunities. I encourage you, Eric Wedge, to consider using both my lineups and to maybe grow out a fu manchu for the upcoming season. (Photos courtesy of Lori Griffin and are subject to copyright.) Read the rest of this article
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Another big win tonight on the west coast trip. The Cavs finished off 4 games in 5 nights out west, this time with a 102-97 victory at a Boozer-less Utah.
Mo Williams is outdoing himself as LeBron's sidekick. He had 25 points tonight, including 5-11 from deep. Even with such big numbers, this game was all LeBron's. Despite repeated smack, crackles, and pops to his head, the King narrowly missed a triple double. He came up 1 assist short with 33, 14, and 9. And even though he only had single digits in assists tonight, his passing was what made his night spectacular.
If there was a passing version of the game HORSE, LeBron could have beaten anyone with his passing display this evening. He dazzled with an assortment of behind the back, pick and roll bullets, and perfect bounce passes in between multiple defenders.
We've seen passing performances like this several times this season. And its got nothing to do with LeBron being any better. It's all about the players around him. The guys on this roster know exactly where to be on the floor, have good enough hands to handle the passes (I'm talking to you Drew Gooden), and the ability to finish. The talent around him this season truly makes LeBron shine higher than we have ever seen.
With this talent, the Cavs just completed a very successful four games in five nights west coast trip with 3 wins. Victories over Portland, Golden State, and Utah have quieted much of the concern over the thrashing the Cavs received at the L.A. Lakers.
Most importantly, we survived the trip and still maintain the eastern conference lead in the loss column. The number 1 seed in the east is going to be pivotal this year, not just for the home court advantage, but also to avoid Boston or Orlando in the conference semis.
Here's to you, Cleveland Cavalier fan. Enjoy this one.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009
Without further ado, I present The Bottom Dwellers:
Monday, January 19, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Despite the obvious problems that Delonte's absence will create, there are many unintended benefits of his injury, that Cavs' fans should focus upon in the coming month.
1)Delonte's Injury Deepens the Bench in the Long-term
With Delonte out, Sasha Pavlovic gets the opportunity to start. We all know Mike Brown's infatuation with Sasha, because Mike loves him some "big guards." With Sasha starting, the Cavs can finally evaluate if he is anything more than a roster filler. Given the opportunity to play greater minutes in the past, Sasha has shown flashes of potential, especially when previously thrust into a starting role. And, in his start against New Orleans Friday, Sasha flourished, scoring 19 points and hitting all four of his three point attempts.
In my opinion, Sasha is most effective when he's driving to the basket and creating his own shot, and at his least impressive when's hovering around outside and firing up threes. With Lebron, it's very easy for a player like Sasha to become passive. If Sasha plays aggressively, gets to the foul line (Terry Pluto points out today that since Dec. 1, Pavlovic has played 340 minutes and is 3-of-6 at the foulline) and plays adequate defense, he then becomes another player that Mike Brown can trust and work into the rotation after Delonte returns.
Alternatively, if the Cavs are going to make a move before the trade deadline (February 19th), playing Sasha for extended minutes is a way to increase his value in any potential deals. Sasha remains one of the most tradable assets the Cavs have at the moment, besides their expiring deals. If Sasha produces in his starting role, at 25, he is young enough that teams maybe willing to part with older, more proven, and expensive talent in a deal for him - based solely on his potential. And as Sasha is currently one of the last players coming off the Cavs' bench, losing him would not necessarily be a blow if the Cavs's rotation, and would actually strengthen the rotation as the player the Cavs received in return would most likely be making much greater contributions to the team than those lost by trading Sasha.
In addition to Delonte's absence opening up an increased role for Sasha, it also creates more minutes for both Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson. At different times during the season so far, both Wally and Boobie have seen their shots falter, be it because of injuries or limited playing time. Though both have been improved as of late, taking some of Delonte's minutes will allow both player's to get more comfortable with their shot and allow them to get rolling again. I'm a big believer that the more a player has contributed during the regular season, the greater the chance he will be able to contribute in a big moment during the playoffs. And while it's unlikely that Wally could increase his trade value substantially by performing well in any increased playing time, as the most attractive asset Szczerbiak provides in any deal is his expiring contact, it certainly couldn't hurt his marketability.
2) Delonte's Injury Forces the Cavs to Not Get Complacent
The NBA season is long. Too long, probably. And let's face it, all games are not in fact equal to one another. Despite what coaches and players say, a match up against the Boston Celtics is going to be treated much differently by a team than a match up against the Indiana Pacers on the second night of a back-to-back series. It's just how things work.
The whole goal of the NBA season is to make the playoffs, which the Cavs have basically already assured themselves of doing. If the Cavs were so inclined, they could coast the rest of the season, playing .500 basketball, and still end up with the 4th or 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. Obviously, the Cavs aren't going to stop trying, but they will, at points during the remainder of the season, lose their focus as all teams are inclined to do.
Losing Delonte can help refocus the Cavs on the importance of every single game. When a key player goes down, it puts pressure on the rest of the team to step up. Players become aware that they cannot afford to take a mental night off if they want to win because they are a man short. Adversity can actually serve to strengthen the Cavs, as players have to find new ways to work together to pull off victories. The team unity developed in overcoming an obstacle such as Delonte's injury can actually help the Cavs in achieving their ultimate goal of becoming the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Being able to survive the minor hurdles of Z's and Delonte's absences could potentially allow this team to develop the mindset that nothing can slow them down, and be which pushes this team over the top in the end.
Delonte's absence also prevents Mike Brown from becoming complacent. Already we have seen Mike Brown establishing new, creative game plans, such as playing Lebron at the center position, or essentially running out five guards, as he did against New Orleans. These are potential rotations and combinations which Brown may have been reluctant to attempt with the full Cavs' arsenal at his disposal. Come playoff time, having already once inserted Lebron into the center role with success, Coach Brown maybe more willing to do so when the situation presents itself in a crucial moment.
Finally, Delonte's injury may be the catalyst that causes Danny Ferry to pull the trigger on a deal which he otherwise would not have made. Obviously, this could either be a positive or negative thing, and most likely if Danny Ferry is on the fence for a deal, it's probably a deal he should not be making anyways. Independent of that consideration, Delonte's injury allows Danny Ferry to truly access the depth of this current team. If, in an expanded role, Wally's shot consistently deserts him, Ferry discovers soon rather than later that a move needs to be made. If Sasha continues to show that he cannot play solid defense consistently, Danny might be less inclined to hold on to him, waiting for things to click. West's injury allows for game evaluations of players who will be counted to contribute in the long run. If a glaring weakness appears, Ferry will be able to correct the problem before it's too late.
3) Delonte's Injury allows the Cavs to keep Delonte Fresher in the Long Run
Again, the NBA season is long. Players break down, injuries occur. Every team suffers its share of nicks and bruises along the way. I'd much rather a playoff team like the Cavs reach these roadblocks earlier in the year, rather than a month before the playoffs. Now, I'm not naive. I know that the Cavs are just as likely to suffer another in May as any other team. However, with Delonte missing a month of the season, he might actually be better off because of it when he returns.
Rather than slowly getting beat up, playing day after day, Delonte now has a full month to recuperate from the first half of the season. Delonte is starting consistently for the first time in his career, averaging 33.3 minutes a game, well over his 28.5 minutes per game career average. Last season, there were only 19 total games where Delonte played more than 30 minutes, most of them after he was traded to the Cavs. He's already play 30+ minutes in 30 games this season for the Cavs.I want Delonte playing at full strength in the playoffs. Like Z, a rest in the middle of the season makes this possibility more likely to occur.
As well as getting the opportunity to heal a little bit, having Delonte on the sidelines during the game may provide of the added benefit of making him a better player in the long run. Observing and coaching from the sidelines may allow Delonte to see things he otherwise might not have been aware of while on the court. Learning and interacting with the other coaches during the game, or even coaching his teammates during the game, may allow for him to be a stronger floor general when he returns. A prime example a player embracing this sort of role during an injury would be Eric Snow. I haven't seen Snow on the sidelines during many of the Cavs' games this season, but the possibility of him working with Delonte during Delonte's recovery would seem to be a logical avenue to explore.
The effect of Delonte's injury on the Cavs is not nearly as grim as one might have initially thought. While the Cavs may struggle to maintain the level of play they showed prior to Delonte getting hurt, that's to be expected when losing a team's starters. The key to this situation is how the Cavs respond. Strength is borne through tribulations. Read the rest of this article
* I just caught the Lebron commercial where he's doing it all for the Browns. Typically I don't read anything into this, but it was nice to see Lebron rocking another Cleveland team's gear... Even if he is getting paid millions to advertise this or that.
* Has there ever been a more underappreciated player than Donovan McNabb? The guy has been to 5 conference championship games. That is ridiculous. And he gets shit on all the time (I will say that I have ragged him to my Eagle fan friends for throwing up on the field). Give the guy some props though.
* I don't typically like to copy and paste other works in this column, but this excerpt from Baseball America excited me tremendously...
Adam Miller, rhp, Indians: While pitching may be down in the Dominican, it wasn’t when Miller was on the mound apparently.
The oft-injured righthander, the top pitching prospect in the Indians’ chain the past four seasons and again this year, sizzled with a fastball that an NL scout said roamed in the 96-98 mph range.
"I mean, he was carving these guys up," the scout said. "A nasty slider, too. Attacked hitters. Threw strikes. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be something to reckon with down the road."
Miller strained his elbow in 2005 and has suffered elbow and finger injuries in 2007, then missed most of 2008. But he was 3-1, 4.34 in 29 innings in the Dominican. Even better, the separation in his strikeout-to-walk ratio ought to be music to the Indians’ ears — 27 to 6, suggesting his command came back in a hurry despite missing so much time. He also held batters to a .268 average and yielded only one home run.
Miller is expected to be used in a relief role in 2009, though he did make five starts for Aguilas this winter.
That is from their Dominican Winter League notebook, where pitching has been treated like low income housing this year. The possibilities are endless with Miller. Can he be a flamethrower in the rotation? Can he set up for, and possibly take over for Wood? Hopefully he stays healthy and we will be able to see.
*As a rabid baseball fan, there is nothing better than the brand new MLB channel. They debuted on New Years, during the offseason, presumably to work out all the glitches and everything. Right now the programming is kinda crappy, playing games from the 05 and 07 World Series', a bunch of hot stove reports, and some Prime 9's in which they do a top 9 countdown of stuff. Nothing spectacular, but they did a very nice piece on the 1995 season, the year after the strike. That year holds a special place in every Indians fan's heart as the Tribe was nothing short of spectacular. While watching the highlights, and lowlights, from the World Series last year I started to ponder(and this may just be sour grapes)... how wide were the corners of the plate in the National League that year? It seemed like every pitch Maddux and Glavine threw were a solid 4-8 inches off the plate yet they were getting strike calls. Its ashame Questech hadn't been invented yet.
* It was nice to see the Buckeyes beat Michigan yet again, this time in basketball, on Michigan's home court, while they were celebrating something that happened 2 decades ago. Like BJ Mullens articulated so nicely "It feels good to know they had a parade and we won.”
*Pitchers and Catchers report in 25 days. That should coincide with the Cavs getting healthy, and possibly adding another piece for the stretch run. It's nice to think about that stuff while your cleaning off your car again after another awesome snowstorm.Read the rest of this article
Friday, January 16, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Here is the statement which Hartline released to the media:
"I am thrilled to declare my eligibility for the National Football League draft.
"Everyone involved within The Ohio State University football program has done a tremendous job for me. I want to thank all of them, particularly Coach Tressel, for helping me to succeed as both a student and an athlete during my time here.
"I would especially like to thank the media and the fans of Ohio for being great to me and to my family throughout my career.
"I have had an outstanding experience at OSU and am thankful for the support I continue to receive. I now look forward to testing myself against the top competitors in the National Football League."While it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Hartline was going to leave, and valid justifications exist for his decision, as a Buckeye fan it's easy to be selfish and wish that he would have returned for his remaining year. However, considering all the factors, leaving is probably the best option for Hartline at this point.
Make no bones about it, I don't think Hartline gets drafted on the first day. I'm sure a number of Buckeyes' fans out there are making arguments about how Hartline could come back, put up impressive numbers and move into day one of the draft. But honestly, I just don't see that happening. Look at Hartline's statistics over the past two seasons:
- 2007: 52 Receptions, 694 Yards, 13.3 YPC, 6 TDs
- 2008: 21 Receptions, 479 Yards, 21.8, 4 TDs
Hartline is getting married this spring. He's close with a number of the graduating Seniors on the team. He hasn't really exhibited any of the leadership qualities that makes me think that we're losing a valuable captain off next year's team. He will be remembered as a solid, but rather average OSU receiver. As a Buckeye fan, we need to wish him the best as he moves towards the draft and hope that he has another career to fall back upon we he gets cut in training camp.
On the other hand, Coleman's decision to return is a reassuring one for the Buckeyes and their fans. Here is the statement which he released today :
"After a lot of thought and study, I have decided to remain at Ohio State for the 2009 season to complete my degree and my college football career.
"I am extremely blessed to be in the position where these opportunities are possible, and I'm very grateful for the support of my family, my teammates and the Ohio State community.
"My decision to come back is a lot about helping this team. I feel we can do anything next year. We have a lot of great leaders coming back and an excellent group of underclass talent. For me personally, my family and I felt this was the best decision for me, to make my career at Ohio State even better than it has already been.
"I have a lot to prove to myself and a lot of things I want to accomplish. With one more year here, I can attain all those goals."Unlike Hartline, Coleman has the potential to increase his draft stock in the coming season. According to Plain Dealer Buckeye expert Doug Lesmerises, Coleman has a chance to improve his play into a first round pick next year. And while the Buckeyes have young depth at the wide receiver position, they lack such depth in their secondary. With the departure of both James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins, the Buckeyes are going to need a vocal leader on the defensive side of the ball. Coleman not only seems capable of filling that role, he seems to embrace it. And as a third-year starter, he can set the tone for the younger players. Coleman had 4 Ints this season, and I would look for more big plays to come next year.
On a final note, yesterday 5-Star DE Corey Adams chose ASU over OSU for his college career. I can't fault Corey's decision as he decided to stay close to home and attend college with his high school teammates and girlfriend. I'm sure the weather came into play as well. His decision just goes to show how impressive Tressel is as a recruiter when he can talk players into playing at OSU. Unless born a Buckeye's fan or from the area (Beanie or Teddy Ginn and all the Glenville kids for example) - a school like Florida or USC has to be much more desirable to a stud high school kid (in terms of weather and "scenery"). Kudos to Tressel for continuing to bring in the talent.(Images from Buckeye Banter
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