Monday, August 8, 2016

2011 National League Rookie of the Year

In the American League, four rookies established themselves as the true contenders for the Rookie of the Year award. In the National League, however, there was a virtual All-Star team’s worth of rookie players making serious contributions for their team. If you gave a franchise the following pieces:

– The starting rotation of Vance Worley, Cory Luebke, Josh Collmenter and Brandon Beachy,

– Craig Kimbrel, Fernando Salas and Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen

– An infield of C – Wilson Ramos, 1B – Freddy Freeman, 2B – Danny Espinosa and 3B – Daniel Descalso

That franchise might not be in the postseason this year, but they wouldn’t be a cellar team either, and they’d have a bright future ahead of them. To put it simply, there were a lot of RoY candidates in the NL in 2011.

For the American League, I imposed the qualification limits of 140 innings pitched or 400 plate appearances to be eligible for the Rookie of the Year award. It kills me to do this, but I am already abandoning those rules so that I can include Worley (who was 11-3 this season) and Kimbrel (who was one of the best closers in the NL this year) in the discussion.

A quick rundown of the true contenders would have to include Worley and Kimbrel of course. In addition to those two, Freddy Freeman is in the discussion with his rookie-leading OPS and HR total. Danny Espinosa tied Freeman in the HR department and led rookies in WAR. Wilson Ramos played the toughest defensive position on the field, played it well, produced the third most RC/27 and was second in WAR, so he is also in the discussion. Josh Collmenter had the best WHIP among rookie pitchers, the lowest ERA of any pitcher with 140+ IP and the most Quality Starts of any rookie while helping a surprising Arizona team make the postseason. And finally Brandon Beachy was one of the most dominant rookie pitchers in baseball this season, leading rookies in both Ks and K/9 at an astounding rate of 10.74.

So a case can be made for seven different players for this award, and none of them would be totally wrong. But in sports, somebody gets to win and somebody has to lose. So without further ado, here are my top three for the National League Rookie of the Year award for 2011:

3) Brandon Beachy – Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves’ starting pitcher was probably the most dominant rookie pitcher this season. For the year, he averaged an astounding 10.74 K/9, easily leading all rookie starters (the second best for pitchers with 120+ innings was Cory Luebke’s 9.92). Not only did he lead rookie pitchers in K/9, but he also put together a fantastic 3.67 K/BB ratio, also pacing the rookie class. Also working in Beachy’s favor were his second-best DIPS and second place ranking among rookie pitchers in WAR. Though he didn’t pitch the most innings, accrue the most wins, or hold the lowest ERA or WHIP, Brandon Beachy was a dominant starting pitcher this season and was, in my estimation, the third best rookie in 2011.

2) Vance Worley – Philadelphia Phillies

So I had to edit the rules of inclusion in my rookie of the year ballot to get his name into the mix, but it was well worth it. The Phillies rotation was touted as one of the best ever when they put Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt in a lineup together. But early in the season, Oswalt got hurt and the Phillies struggled to find an adequate fourth or fifth starter; or at least people were afraid they might. But the best rotation ever got better when the Phillies called rookie Vance Worley up to the majors to pitch in the starting rotation on a regular basis. For the season, he compiled an NL-rookie-leading 11-3 record with a 3.01 ERA. For more advanced statistics, Worley was second among rookie starters in both WAR (behind only Beachy) and WPA (behind only Collmenter). Some people will look at his ERC, DIPS, and WHIP and say he is a pitcher scheduled for regression, but they forget that the main goal of a pitcher is to prevent runs and give his team a chance to win games. Worley was the best starter at that this season, and filled big shoes in the high-pressure Phillies rotation. Those facts are the reasons that Vance Worley finds himself second on this Rookie of the Year ballot.

1) Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves

The lasting image of Kimbrel for many Atlanta Braves fans will be him collapsing in September and giving the St. Louis Cardinals an opportunity to steal away a postseason spot that the Braves seemed to have locked up in August, and that is unfortunate. Over the entire season, Kimbrel was an extremely valuable part of the Atlanta Braves team and was a big part of the reason that they ended the season with the fifth best record in the NL. His 2.10 ERA easily was the best of NL rookie pitchers, starters or relievers, and his 3.2 WAR was second only to Danny Espinosa for all NL rookies. It takes a lot of faith for a manager to name a player a full time closer, and Kimbrel was the only rookie to earn this position for the entire season. Kimbrel’s 46 saves were more than twice as many as the second best rookie pitcher this season, and actually gave him more saves than all other NL rookie pitchers combined (42). Finally, among pitchers with at least 70 IP, Kimbrel ranked second in WPA, behind only Collmenter. The position of closer is difficult to evaluate; obviously saves are not a definitive measure of a player’s impact, and relief pitchers carry a different standard than starters for success, but for an award like Rookie of the Year, comparisons must be attempted. Kimbrel was a key part of a talented team this year and was one of the best closers in the NL, regardless of experience. I believe he had a bigger and better impact on his team this season than any other rookie in the NL, and that is why he gets the number one spot on this list.

The NL RoY was an extremely tough race to figure out. There were a number of exceptional candidates in the league, including four pitchers who played prominent roles in the postseason race and several hitters who are already near the best at their position. It was an extremely talented year for first year players, and this race was very close, but at the end of the season, Craig Kimbrel was the player who distinguished himself the most and should win the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year award.


2011 NL Pitching Stats – Fangraphs

2011 NL Batting Stats – Fangraphs

2011 NL Pitching Stats – ESPN

2011 NL Batting Stats – ESPN

Tags:2011 National League Rookie of the Year

2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament Brackets - March Madness Bracket Predictions and Tips

The 2011 NCAA basketball tournament is just a little over a week away and the various college basketball conference tournaments are underway all across the country. The NCAA tournament seeding committee has a tough job in formulating the brackets this year, especially given the field has been expanded to 68 with an initial First Four mini-tourney for 2011.

2011 March Madness Preview

It’s that time of the year again. And I’m not just talking about Spring Fever or even Mardi Gras or Carnival. I’m talking March Madness. The Big Dance. Where everybody in almost every town in the U.S. who can scrape up a ticket is baring their chests and painting their face to support their local college basketball team, and those that can’t are calling in sick to work so they can spend the day glued to the television screen in vicarious enjoyment.

And, of course, then there are your brackets. Those wonderfully optimistic, always lovingly filled out, but inevitably scratched-out and lined-through brackets that all college basketball fans sweat over before the NCAA tournament every year. How to fill your brackets out and which teams to fill them in with are the topics of discussion below.

Likely No. 1 Seeds

Ohio State and Kansas are virtual locks for No. 1 seeds regardless of what happens in the conference tourneys. After that things are wide open, with BYU and Pittsburgh probably being the top contenders for the other No. 1 seeds after this weekend’s games.

Likely No. 2 Seeds

There are at least seven or eight teams in contention for No. 2 seeds at this point. The leading contenders are San Diego State, Texas, Notre Dame, Purdue, and Duke, but you can also throw in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Syracuse as longer shot possibilities.

Likely No. 3 and No. 4 Seeds

At least a dozen teams are possibilities here in the middle rungs of the bracket. Realistic third and fourth seeds include Florida, Louisville, Kentucky, Georgetown, Connecticut and Arizona. Other teams to consider include Vanderbilt, Villanova and Utah State.

The Rest of the Pack

You have to figure the rest of the current NCAA Top 25 will show up in the 5th or 6th seeds so throw Missouri, Texas A&M, Xavier, and George Mason into the mix. Kansas State, West Virginia and Washington are also all locks to show up somewhere in the top 8 seeds.

Bubble Teams

Michigan beat Michigan State yesterday to bolster their not unrealistic hopes for an at-large bid. Colorado also helped their chances as a bubble team with a big win over Nebraska, as did Clemson with their win over Virginia Tech. Maryland also has to be considered a bubble team now with their upset loss to Virginia on Saturday. Boston College’s victory over Wake Forest on Sunday probably also punched the Eagles ticket to the Big Dance.

Bracket Picking Strategies

Take some chances. Pick a live dog and ride that team for several games (if not all the way!). There are ALWAYS quite a few upsets in the Big Dance. That’s why they call it March Madness! Furthermore, history shows that picking the No. 1 seeds all the way to the semifinals gives you no better chance than picking the No. 2 seeds and only a fractionally better chance than picking all the No. 3 seeds to make it all the way through.

Consider some type of systematic variation of you are going to fill out multiple brackets. If you see four teams as having a real shot at winning it all, then set up four different brackets each with a different one of the four on top. Or if you really like one team to win it all, but have half a dozen or more possibilities for who they might meet in the finals, then consider some type of shotgun approach with a different one of the possibilities meeting your top team in the finals in each bracket.

2011 NCAA Tournament Predictions

2011 March Madness Prediction – The Texas Longhorns win it all getting revenge over Pittsburgh in the finals (after beating Kansas for the second time this season in the Final Four). I also expect Notre Dame and Ohio State to make deep runs in the tourney this year.

For more on the 2010-2011 college basketball season and the upcoming NCAA tournament see:

2011 Tournament Preview and Bracket Picks

2011 NCAA BracketMania – How to Pick a Winning NCAA Tournament Bracket

2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament Preview

Fan reaction: Texas Longhorns finish season at 25-6, 13-3 in Big 12

Tags:2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament Brackets - March Madness Bracket Predictions and Tips

2011 NFC East Game-By-Game Schedule Predictions for the Dallas Cowboys: Postseason Foundation

The 2010 season was one to forget for the Dallas Cowboys. They entered into it confidently — Tony Romo had apparently purged the playoff monkey that had been living on his back for the past 3 years by defeating the Eagles in the NFC Wildcard; Wade Phillips seemed to have the best grasp on his team since their 2007 season, and the organization had stolen the supposed “best receiver in the draft” late in the first round.

With all the optimism, it seemed like fate — Super Bowl XLV was scheduled in Jerry Jones’ new stadium, a 21st century football coliseum fit for a dynasty. Everything was in place: The Cowboys seemed to have a one-way ticket to the Super Bowl, with an explosive passing attack, an extremely deep running game, and a ferocious defense led by former NFC Defensive Play of the Year DeMarcus Ware. America’s Team was back, and, better than ever.

The optimism did not last long. Dallas plummeted to a 1-7 record for the first half of the season. Wade Phillips’ career with the Cowboys would thankfully come to an end. Tony Romo would be sidelined for the remainder of the season due to injury, and the running game would go south. The season got better during the post-Wade era, with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett taking over head coaching duties, and the Cowboys finished 6-10 and were forced to watch the Super Bowl from their homes.

However, I see the Cowboys entering the 2011 season rested and renewed, prepared for an all-out assault on the NFC East. I think they’re going to do all right.

I’m using as reference FB Schedules’ “2011 Dallas Cowboys Football Schedule.”

The Dallas Cowboys against the NFC East:

It’s no secret that the NFC East is probably the NFL’s most competitive division, not to mention the most successful. Among the Redskins, Cowboys, and Giants, there are 11 Super Bowl titles. No other division has that kind of championship success.

However, most of those Super Bowls are from long ago, so let’s forget about that. Let’s focus on the fact that three of the four starting quarterbacks in the division are Pro Bowlers, and the one who is not (Eli Manning of the Giants) is a Super Bowl MVP. If Dallas hopes to do better this season, they need to come out of their division struggles as a winner. That is exactly what I predict them to do; I believe they will sweep Washington and split with Philly and New York, coming out 4-2 in the division.

I believe that the foundation to going anywhere for the Cowboys starts with the NFC East. In modern-day times, the Eagles or the Giants could rob them of the chance to play in the postseason. I do not think that is in the cards for 2011.


FB Schedules Website, “2011 Dallas Cowboys Football Schedule”

Tags:2011 NFC East Game-By-Game Schedule Predictions for the Dallas Cowboys: Postseason Foundation

2011 NFL Kick-off Preview

As I sit here in my comfortable abode on an all too crappy netbook typing this post out while blaring Tool, my mind is busy contemplating the rigorous ahead of us (NFL fans). The parity in the NFL makes predicting a difficult task, but I do know one thing for sure; this is going to be one hell of a season. Don’t believe me? Well, why don’t you just take a look at the season’s first game between the Packers and Saints? I don’t need to tell you how great these two teams are, and just how great these two teams will be in February. Oh wait…this is the NFL, where crazy happens.

The Eagles, Falcons, Saints, and Packers are the NFC’s undisputed Big Four heading into the season. They have very little questions surrounding their teams, and these are the guys who you put your sports’ dignity on the line when you make your predictions. But with a full season looming ahead, injuries, poor execution, and the usual unexpected twists and turns that happen during 16 weeks of football will make the guessing game an even more difficult affair. For now, I’ll just stick to one game and break down how I think things will end up between the Packersand Saints.

Last year, I did an opening day preview that also involved theSaints, but they were playing against a different marquee franchise; the Vikings. My preview was right on, but the Vikings’ season was far from a planned occurance. They were one of the biggest disappointments in football, and they gave rise to the surprise Bears. I don’t think either of these two teams will have an epic collapse, but the important thing is that this is definitely the game to be watching.

Everybody raves about the Saints offense, and that’s definitely for good reason. Drew Brees is unquestionably one of the elite quarterbacks in the game right now, and he has seven legitimate receiving threats to help him out. Jon Stinchcomb was a huge liability at right tackle, and Zach Strief should be an upgrade over him. Strief is relatively unknown, and he is an underrated player who you should become familiar with soon.

As far as the other parts of the line, Jerome Bushrod is a poor left tackle who was one of the two reasons- Stinchcomb was the other- why Brees had more picks than he should have last season. The man was constantly on the run because of pressure from the outside, but the interior remained calm thanks to one of the top guard tandems in the National Football League. The veteran Olin Kreutz replaces Jonathan Goodwin at center, and there really won’t be a noticeable upgrade or downgrade at the position.

Defensively, I don’t think the Packers line is going to win their battle against the Saints O-Line. Clay Matthews should be able to get some pressure on Brees, but I think the Saints interior should be able to get the better of the Packers D-Line. There isn’t a huge disparity between both lines, but I like the Saints just a little bit better.

While the Saints have a plethora of receiving weapons, the Packers have enough talent in their secondary to mitigate their opposition’s passing attack. Great passing offenses always beat great secondaries, but I honestly don’t expect this to be a game where Brees completely rips the Pack apart. What should worry Saints fans the most is if Matthews forces Brees to make bad throws downfield that can get sucked in by Nick Collins, Tramon Williams, or Charles Woodson. And heck, Sam Shields isn’t a guy you want to mess with either.

People talk too much about Gregg Williams’s complex blitz schemes, and they don’t realize that the Saints just don’t have much of a pass rush at all. Roman Harper and Cameron Jordanare their only two legit QB threats who are healthy, and Harper is a safety who won’t blitz all the time. I pointed out his ability to force quarterbacks to make mistakes in last year’s preview against the Vikings, and a Harper hit on Favre caused a key interception for the Saints. And really, that’s all the Saints want when they blitz; they want to make the opposition give them a gift (so to speak).

However, Aaron Rodgers doesn’t waiver under pressure. It’s yet another reason why I believe that the-guy-who-needs-a-way-bette r-nickname-than-A-Rod is the best quarterback- nay- best player in the game today.

While I do think that the Saints secondary is a tad overrated, they’re still pretty good at the back with guys like Jabari Greerand Malcolm Jenkins. However, I do think that Rodgers will rip these guys apart because there are way too many weapons to cover.

These are two great teams and picking a winner between the two of them is a daunting task, but it has to be done otherwise this whole post is pretty pointless. Aren’t you glad I didn’t say “moot”? Man I hate that word, and it also reminds me of Fred Smoot. If you actually know who that is, then I think you need to stop being like me and get a life.

Anyway, I see the Packers taking this game in a relatively close game. I still think the Packers are the best team in the NFL, and that has a lot to do with the fact that they have Aaron Rodgers leading this bunch. My final prediction is 30 Packers 21 Saints with Aaron Rodgers being the game MVP.

Other Week Predictions

Titans over Jaguars
Texans over Colts
Bengals over Browns
Chiefs over Bills
Steelers over Ravens
Falcons over Bears
Eagles over Rams
Lions over Bucs
Panthers over Cardinals
Seahawks over 49ers
Giants over Redskins
Chargers over Vikings
Cowboys over Jets
Patriots over Dolphins
Broncos over Raiders

Tags:2011 NFL Kick-off Preview

2011 NFL Free Agency: Shaun Rogers Pros and Cons

Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers was cut from the Cleveland Browns after 3 seasons. His 2008 season remains his best with the team. Rogers was clearly the defense’s top player at times, but he fell out of favor with new head coach Pat Shurmur.

Here are some of the pros and cons to signing Shaun Rogers. All stats are courtesy of and

#1. 3-4 Nose Tackle and 4-3 System

Rogers has spent the past 3 seasons primarily playing as a 3-4 nose tackle. With nearly half of the teams in the league running a 3-4 system at least part-time, Rogers’ experience will be valued. Rogers also played defensive end for most of the 2010 season after Ahtyba Rubin took over the nose tackle position.

Prior to his time in Cleveland, Rogers lined up at multiple spots in the Detroit Lions’ defensive scheme for 7 seasons. His position versatility may make teams overlook some of Rogers’ red flags in an attempt to add a quality defensive lineman.

#2. Size and Strength
Rogers is listed at 6’4″ and 350 pounds, but has weighed as much as 390 pounds in some seasons. He has elite strength in his lower body and biceps, but is sloppy around the midsection. Rogers’ weight leads to conditioning problems, particularly late in the season.

However Rogers is surprisingly and unusually quick for such a large player. Despite playing as a 3-4 nose tackle, Rogers collected 76 tackles and 4.5 sacks in his 1st season in Cleveland. His numbers have declined since that 2008 season, but it could be argued that the Browns’ lack of quality defensive players hindered Rogers. Signing with a team that has more talented defensive players could allow Rogers to put up elite numbers again.

#3. Special Teams
Rogers is a league leader in blocked kicks on special teams for a career. He’s blocked 10 field goal attempts and 1 PAT. He has the strength to anchor the middle of the formation, but the agility and jumping ability to elevate and get his hand on a kick.

#1. Injuries

Rogers has had several injuries during his career, including a recent leg injury. The leg injury is of significant concern as Rogers’ weight makes it difficult to rehabilitate on a quick schedule.

Previous injuries have included a broken leg and recurring knee problems.

#2. Character Concerns
Rogers has dealt with multiple problems off the field. He attempted to carry a loaded gun onto a flight in April of 2010, claiming that he had forgotten it. Law enforcement reported that the gun was cocked and had a bullet in the chamber when it was discovered.

Rogers has also been suspended for 4 games after taking a banned substance.

Throughout Shaun Rogers’ career, he’s been labeled a rare talent but underwhelming. He could have been a star defensive tackle, but instead has settled for being occasionally great. It’s almost as though he doesn’t have the passion for the sport that some other players have.

At this point in his career, I think Rogers would be most successful in a veteran locker room and playing in a defensive system where he doesn’t have to be too active. Expecting Rogers to penetrate a gap and chase down a quarterback for 40 to 50 plays a game is a poor idea. He should be a part of a rotation instead of being relied upon as a full-time defensive tackle.

I would guess that Rogers is most likely to sign with the Dallas Cowboys or Kansas City Chiefs. Signing with Dallas would reunite him with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Kansas City has his former head coach, Romeo Crennel. The Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins also have a need for a nose tackle.

Sources Shaun Rogers Player Page. February 11th, 2011. Shaun Rogers Career Stats. February 11th, 2011.

Tags:2011 NFL Free Agency: Shaun Rogers Pros and Cons

2011 NFL Week 11 Point Spreads and Picks; Tim Tebow Vs. Rex Ryan Thursday

We still haven’t a clue what to do about the tattered fantasy football landscape, but did you see our 12-4 outing picking games in Week 10? 2011 Current “Point Spread Picks” Season Record: 85-61. Feel free to follow us now while the iron is hot.

Thursday Night games continue this week with a match up of ineffable media darlings. Tim Tebow has captured everyone’s interest despite being an entirely average football player. Rex Ryan is a walking soundbite, upon whose every word we hang, though I wouldn’t trust him to guide me out of a burning trash bag. They, well, the Denver Broncos and New York Jets, face off Thursday. We will discuss the game and spread, but we’re truly hoping for a tie.

Thursday, November 17, 2011
New York Jets v Denver Broncos +5.5
Of his 2 for 8, 69-yard passing day some are saying Tebow did enough to win. It’s a little like saying a Pomeranian is a dog. While the statement is factually correct*, do you want to get attached to anything so awful?
Pick: New York Jets -5.5

Sunday, November 20
Tennessee Titans v Atlanta Falcons -6.5
Has Chris Johnson truly shown up for the 2011 season? Are the Atlanta Falcons capable of repeating that 4th down overtime blunder? In the face of uncertainty, you have to ask yourself which seems more likely. The Falcons have a reasonable run defense, and no team could do that again in overtime.
Pick: Atlanta -6.5

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens -7.5
The Ravens defense is set to make an example out of someone. The Cincinnati Bengals, perhaps without the services of A.J. Green, are ideal candidates.
Pick: Baltimore -7.5

Jacksonville Jaguars v Cleveland Browns +1.5
To cover this spread Cleveland will have to win, tie or only lose by one. We don’t like their chances of doing any of these, and are certainly not going to bet on it.
Pick: Jacksonville -1.5

Carolina Panthers v Detroit Lions -7.5
With a healthy Calvin Johnson the Lions score 50 points against the tragic Panther’s D. No matter who is on the field, Cam Newton gets 43 points for Carolina, and they cover.
Pick: Carolina +7.5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Green Bay Packers -14.5
Two teams headed in opposite directions. Yes, the Super Bowl Champion Packers are getting better. If that does not scare you, you are a Packer fan, we are jealous, and we hate you.
Pick: Green Bay -14.5

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins -2.5
Do two wins over the Chiefs and Redskins truly warrant 2.5-point favoritism? It does when your opponent has forgotten how to score and play defense.
Pick: Miami -2.5

Oakland Raiders v Minnesota Vikings +1.5
Carson Palmer throws three interceptions every week he is not facing the San Diego Chargers.
Pick: Minnesota +1.5

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins +7.5
It is difficult to justify a 7-point road favorite unless it’s the Green Bay Packers. However, the Redskins have not scored double digit points since Week 7, and that was in a double digit loss.
Pick: Dallas -7.5

Seattle Seahawks v St. Louis Rams -2.5
The Rams survive a game in Cleveland and are now giving points? Okay, they handled the Saints in St. Louis, but seeing as they could not beat the Browns by 2.5-points, we feel this spread is too high.
Pick: Seattle +2.5

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers -9.5
Every running back in this game is questionable. Neither quarterback is exceptional. The ‘9ers have something like a ten game lead in the NFC Awful, and don’t really need to beat anyone by ten points. Yes, they can start resting people in Week 11.
Pick: Arizona +9.5

San Diego Chargers v Chicago Bears -3.5
Did we miss something? Is San Diego not embroiled in an anemic losing streak? Did the Bears not beat the Eagles, and just humiliate the Detroit Lions? The Chargers aren’t covering, any more than winning, and Jay Cutler is doing a lot less sucking. This spread makes so little sense, it’s maddening.
Pick: Chicago -Our Reputation

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants -4.5
Philadelphia destroys Dallas, then loses to Arizona. The Giants are similarly all over the ability-map, but have not lost to anyone as poor as the Cardinals. Got a lot of chalk picks this week, and wish we could justify taking these points, but aren’t sure Vick is even playing.
Pick: New York -4.5

Monday, November 21
Kansas City Chiefs v New England Patriots -14.5
Tom Brady and any defense will beat the team bearing the Chief uniforms by thirty points. If you crave more in depth analysis, you are over thinking this one.
Pick: New England -14.5

*we would like to thank ESPN: Fantasy Focus Football Podcast for the entertainment, and extend credit for the phrase, “factually correct.”

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Did you notice the 85-61 record?

Tags:2011 NFL Week 11 Point Spreads and Picks; Tim Tebow Vs. Rex Ryan Thursday

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