Friday, October 29, 2010

Frameshmania Week 8 Preview!

In a 17-week season, we're like sorta halfway through with the season already!  And worse than that, since the fantasy season is only 13 weeks long, we're more than halfway done!  That makes me sad.  You know the deal by now.

6-1 Sabotage the League 
5-2 Salt Lake City Big Tymers 
4-3 J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets

4-2-1 Gym Tan Laundry
2-4-1 Delco's Side-arm Stud
2-5 Ease it In, Don't Forsett 
2-5 CodyRansom's Crew
2-5 Hometown Mamas

Sidearm Stud and Ease it In continue to freefall, each losing at least their last three games.  The bottom of the standings are getting crowded, while the cream is rising to the top.  And by "the cream" I mean this guy *gestures to himself*.

This past week was an emotional rollercoaster, as I thought I was going to win big thanks to Michael Turner finally showing up with a 26-point day and double-digit performances from four other players on Sunday.  With a ten-point lead, Tony Romo, and Ahmad Bradshaw against Hakeem Nicks going into the Monday Night game, I figured that at least a 20-point victory was in store.  Well, Nicks scored twice in the first half and Romo got injured (and will be out for the year for fantasy purposes), so I had to sweat out the remainder of the game, but eventually came out of it with a 101-97 victory.

This week begins the second round of matchups with teams, so I'm back to playing my mom.  She beat up on me really badly the last couple years, but this year she's having trouble starting the right guys, and Drew Brees, her usual stalwart, has been underperforming.  She has a whopping SEVEN out of sixteen players on bye right now, so she will really have to work the waiver wire to fill her roster.  Fortunately for her, most of the guys on bye are of the backup WR/TE/DEF/K variety.

Last week's roster:

QB1 Tony Romo
RB1 Michael Turner
RB7 Ahmad Bradshaw
RB3 Jamaal Charles
WR2 Greg Jennings
WR6 Brandon Lloyd
TE2 Zach Miller

D/ST Chiefs
K Mason Crosby

WR5 Malcom Floyd
WR7 Pierre Garcon
TE4 Owen Daniels
RB2 Cedric Benson
WR1 Andre Johnson
WR4 Mike Wallace
RB6 Arian Foster
Bye week players this week:
Turner, Bradshaw

Roster Moves:
Dropped Chiefs D for Rams D
Dropped Floyd for Ryan Fitzpatrick
Dropped Romo for Michael Vick
Dropped Crosby for Dan Carpenter (he's the Dolphins kicker)

With Romo out, I knew my top priority was to scour the free agency pool for possible fill-ins.  Ryan Fitzpatrick perfectly fits the bill, having been the NUMBER ONE fantasy quarterback for the last four weeks.  Since I don't expect him to keep that up, I also picked up Michael Vick, who was dropped after getting hurt several weeks ago.  I figure that after his bye week this week he will be back to close-to-full health and will be a solid weekly start for me in relieft.  The Rams play the worst-against-fantasy-defenses Panthers this week, and I believe this will be the third or fourth time I'm playing a team against this offense this year.  Matt Moore is back for the Panthers, and he looked good enough last week that I'm a little concerned, but aside from the fluky Lions game the Rams D has actually been pretty good.  Crosby's got a bye in a couple weeks and is playing the Jets, so I figured I'd make the switch at kicker now just to keep things fresh.

 Lineup changes:
Fitzpatrick (v. Chiefs) in for Romo (injury)Johnson (v. Colts) in for Lloyd (v. 49ers)

Carpenter (v. Bengals) in for Crosby (v. Jets)
Foster (v. Colts) in for Bradshaw (BYE)
Benson (v. Dolphins) in for Turner (BYE)
Garcon (v. Texans) in for Jennings (v. Jets)
Rams D (v. Panthers) in for Chiefs D (v. Bills)

Foster and Johnson were on byes last week and have been solid for me, so they're automatic starts.  Not to mention, Foster got 41 points for me the last time he played the Colts.  Fitzpatrick has a reasonable matchup and Vick's on a bye, so...  Benson is getting a lot of touches, at least.  He really isn't very good, but the Bengals seem to be committed to him to some degree.  With injuries to Dallas Clark and Austin Collie and a matchup against the worst pass defense in the league, Garcon seems like a great start, although I'm a little worried that he appeared on the injury report this week.  Not only that, Darelle Revis says he's 100% healthy after the bye, and surely Jennings will draw his attention this week.  The Bills, despite not winning a game, actually have been putting up points (thanks to Fitzpatrick), so I don't want to risk the Chiefs this week. 

With my mom having so many players on a bye, I have a pretty good shot at taking this one down, provided I get what I expect from my big names.  Let's take a look at this week's matchup (at least as much as I can guess):

Fitzpatrick (v. Chiefs) vs. Drew Brees (v. Steelers) -- Fitzpatrick +2
Benson (v. Dolphins) vs. Steven Jackson (v. Panthers) -- Jackson +5
Foster (v. Colts) vs. Thomas Jones (v. Bills) -- Jones +4
Charles (v. Bills) vs. Bye week fill-in (v. opponent) -- Charles +3
Johnson (v. Colts) vs. Brandon Marshall (v. Bengals) -- Marshall +4
Garcon (v. Texans) vs. S. Holmes/M. Williams (v. GB/ARI) -- Garcon +5
Miller (v. Seahawks) vs. Bye week fill-in (v. opponent) -- Miller +4
Rams D (v. Panthers) vs. Titans D (v. Chargers) -- Push
Carpenter (v. Bengals) vs. Bye week fill-in (v. opponent)-- push

Verdict: I win by a hair (one point), which is surprising since she has so many people out.  I think this whole matchup is going to hinge on the Texans/Colts and Bills/Chiefs games, since I have five players in those two games alone.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

2010 Philadelphia Phillies Post-Mortem

With the big-market-less World Series kicking off this evening, I figured now would be the best time to give a bit of a look back at the Phillies season which ended so unfortunately this past Saturday (with me in attendance, no less...).   First, have some statistics as food for thought (as I munch on some ideas myself).

Record:  97-65 (last year -- 93-69)
Runs scored: 772 (last year -- 820)
Batting average: .260 (last year -- .258)
ERA: 3.67 (last year -- 4.16)
Games missed by players in opening-day lineup: 239 (last year -- 111)

That last statistic really tells the story of the Phillies' regular season.  For the first couple weeks of the season, the Phils were thrashing teams (despite Rollins first getting injured in that time period), scoring 7.7 runs per game in their first ten games.  Sadly, that first few games would be the only few that the team's starting lineup would play together for quite some time.  Joe Blanton, Brad Lidge, and JC Romero started the year on the DL, but other than that, the team was remarkably healthy.  Oh, wait, they weren't?  Just a quick look at the disabled list stints this year:

  • Chase Utley: July 29th-August 17th
  • Ryan Howard: August 3rd-August 21st
  • Placido Polanco: June 26th-July 17th (with a couple missed games due to injury here and there)
  • Shane Victorino: July 28th-August 12th
  • Chad Durbin: June 25th-July 16th
  • Ryan Madson: May 1st-July 8th
  • JA Happ: April 22nd-July 7th
  • Carlos Ruiz: June 19th-July 9th
  • Jimmy Rollins: Multiple stops on DL between April 14th and June 22nd
With the immortal Wilson Valdez, aka Oil-Soaked Volleyball, starting more than half of the team's games at one position or another, the team struggled to a 13-13 record in June and 15-13 in July, while much of the core was hurt.  

However, the team's fortunes changed when GM Ruben Amaro Jr. traded last year's Rookie of the Year candidate JA Happ and a couple minor leaguers to the struggling Astros for their ace, Roy Oswalt.  Despite a 6-12 record at the time, his ERA was in the low 3's, and Amaro was clearly eyeing a big move to make up for his trading of Cliff Lee in the offseason to make room for Roy Halladay.  Oswalt struggled in his first start with the team (he had just gotten off the plane from Houston several hours prior), but did not lose a game for the rest of the season, posting a 1.74 ERA.

The lineup, however, struggled mightily for stretches, the worst of which being a five-game losing streak against the Red Sox and Mets in which the team scored runs just once.  Raul Ibanez started off as terribly as he finished last year, but managed to get back on track towards the end of the year to finish with a more respectable .275 batting average, despite seeing his home runs drop 18 and his OPS drop over a hundred points.  Ryan Howard played in 17 fewer games this year, yes, but he hit 14 fewer home runs and got 33 fewer RBI's, indicating that his play was sub-par as well.  Chase Utley saw his OPS drop by 70 points.  Jayson Werth was wildly inconsistent, going crazy-hot in April/May and then going weeks without a home run, and repeating the cycle.  He also saw a drop-off in his power and run production.

The final stretch of the season was the best part of the season for Philly fans, and it was all about pitching as the team prepared for another playoff run.  The new trio of Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels (known as "H2O") went 13-1 in September with a 2.13 ERA, putting the Phillies at the front of the discussion for the National League's representative in the World Series.  Losing just seven games in September and early October to finish the season, they earned the best record in the majors and were a very popular pick to win the World Series for the second time in three years.

And it started well.  Roy Halladay threw just the second no-hitter in playoff history to start off the series against the Reds that most pundits thought that the Phillies would win handily.  The lineup (and some costly errors, let's not understate that) bailed out Oswalt in game 2 for a late win, and Cole Hamels sent the Little Red Machine home with a five-hit shutout in game 3.  However, there was an under-reported issue with the Phillies' bats, as only 7 of the 13 runs scored in the series were earned, and none of the Reds' starters are exactly aces.

Regardless, the Phillies moved on to the NLCS and faced the San Francisco Giants, the only team in the playoffs that could go starter-for-starter with the Phillies.  Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, and Matt Cain actually posted a better ERA in September than H2O, and the team allowed more than 3 runs just three times in September.  The big concern with the Giants was their potential inability to score enough runs to beat the Phillies' similarly formidable rotation and potent lineup.  
Unfortunately for the Phillies, the "potent" description was a little too apt, indicating that while the players were capable of putting runs on the scoreboard, the results were not there.  The team hit just .216 (.178 with runners in scoring position) in the series, and in the clinching game left 11 men on base, a stat you just can't let happen if you're contending for a championship.  

Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz, who hit .296 and .341 respectively in last year's playoffs, hit just .212 and .192 in these playoffs.  Howard and Ibanez did not record a single RBI between them, and the team hit just 4 home runs in 9 playoff games (they hit 166 in 162 games during the regular season, and that was with guys on the shelf).  The pitching staff did their job (with the minor exception of Oswalt, who never really brought his dominant stuff outside of the first two innings of the NLCS game 6 loss), and what used to be this team's strength was its undoing this season.  

Not to mention that Phillies pitching couldn't keep Freddy Sanchez, Andres Torres, or Cody Ross off the bases.  Well, Ross wasn't usually on the bases long, as he hit three home runs in the first two games of the series.  The Giants' situational lefty, Javier Lopez, shut down the key lefties in the heart of the order, and closer Brian Wilson was scary good.  Or just scary.  Probably the latter causing the former.  

Anyway, we didn't deserve to win the NLCS because we didn't hit for crap, especially when it counted. The worst part is that this team was probably, on paper at least, the best of the last four years in which we won the NL East.  Much of the roster, in particular the starting rotation, will be back next year for another run, and maybe another year after that if Oswalt's 2012 option is picked up.  However, the issue of Jayson Werth's free agency and the age of most of the key players on the team (here's looking at you, Raul) will loom over the team until they come up with a plan for the future beyond 2011.  With Howard (at an egregious price, mind you) and Utley locked up for several years and Halladay and Hamels here for a little while as well, the team should be able to contend for about the next five years, but the window of opportunity for another championship is closing in 2012 at the latest.  Ruben Amaro has worked some wonders to try to get this team into the best position to win as possible, and now he needs to get his magic fingers working on keeping it that way, ideally through building back up the farm system after clearing it out for all those starting pitchers.

Early thoughts on next season?  With the pitching staff and most of the lineup intact and (god-willing) fewer injuries, we should be able to cruise to a playoff berth yet again.  However, young teams like the Padres and Reds worry me, as well as the possible dreaded rematch with those Giants.  Having said that, I still think that there is no reason why the Phillies don't win 90 games yet again and make it to the NLCS for the fourth straight year.

Unfortunately, this year we're left to not watch the World Series this year, just like everybody else.  Yes, that's a knock on the participants.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Week 7, Phillies gone to heaven

We'll talk about baseball in a couple days, when I can handle it.  **Sigh**

In the meantime, we're getting into the meat of the NFL season, at which point we really get an idea of who's a contender, who's a pretender, who's a sleeping giant, and who's a disappointment.  Since I just rattled off those categories, I think that it may be appropriate to try to put teams in those categories based on this past week's performances, and the season as a whole thus far.


Seattle Seahawks -- Just 5-11 last year, but a new fired-up coach, depth (if not excellence) at the skill positions, and improved health defensively have given the 'Hawks a jolt as they sit essentially 2 games up on the Cardinals, thanks to their 22-10 win against Arizona yesterday.  Matt Hasselbeck has a few good young targets to throw to (and Mike Williams), and their rush defense is second in the league.  Now, let's not go too far here; the NFC West is the most god-awful division I've ever seen.  Everyone thought the 49ers would run away with this division, and they're 1-6.  The Cardinals' quarterbacks went 12-for-33 for 132 yards and no touchdowns against a Seattle defense that was bottom-ten in the league in pass defense.  The Rams are playing better, but they're still the Rams.  I'm not saying they are threats to make a run in the playoffs, but making it there?  Heck, their halfway to 8 wins, which should be enough to lock down the division.

Kansas City Chiefs -- Now this team had the NUMBER FIVE OVERALL PICK this year, and had won ten games in their last THREE SEASONS.  But all of those top draft picks have to work out eventually, right?  Well, the Chiefs defense has finally put some of those talented picks (Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Eric Berry...) into a position to make plays.  On top of that, they have the best running game in the league!  I don't think it's that much of a coincidence that Thomas Jones comes from the best running game in the league last year and helps the Chiefs get their ground game rolling as well.  I guess he's not done (attn: fantasy draft gurus).  Not only that, but they have a few young, talented playmakers in Dexter McCluster, Jamaal Charles, and DWAYNE BOWE that are making Matt Cassel look good, despite the fact that Bill Belichick clearly had some voodoo going when Cassel led the Patriots to an 11-5 record two years ago.  The Chargers and Broncos are clearly quite flawed after both suffered embarrassing losses this week, and the Raiders are not good enough defensively to keep up with teams.  They've played tough against contenders in the Colts and Texans, and I think they could surprise some people if Cassel can get it together consistently.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Yes, they're 4 and 2 after a late win against the also-better-than-we-thought Rams.  Yes, they're getting much improved play out of the quarterback and have a top-10 pass defense.  But it's not hard to have a top-ten pass defense when you face Jake Delhomme, Matt Moore, Charlie Batch, Carson Palmer, and Sam Bradford in five out of your first six games.  Not to mention that they're 31st against the run, and will face in the next six weeks the Beanie Wells/Tim Hightower tandem without a passing game to take touches away, Michael Turner twice, Williams and Stewart in Carolina, Frank Gore, and Ray Rice.  If they can't run the ball or stop the run, I'm not seeing much from this team in the second half.  I think they'll stick around for a little and maybe put up 8-8, but in that division they won't sniff the playoffs.  The Saints are hurting in the backfield and the Falcons showed yesterday that they can bludgeon people.

Tennessee Titans -- I know, I know, they just beat the Eagles (badly) without their starting quarterback. Chris Johnson, yeah, I know.  But when Vince Young is in the lineup, they just don't have a passing game, and if teams line up to stuff Johnson, it appears that (this year, at least) they can contain him.  The pass defense had allowed an average of over 370 yards in the three weeks prior to the Eagles game, and they haven't played the Colts or Texans yet.  Yes, the Colts are having a down year, but Peyton Manning is the best regular-season quarterback we may have ever seen.  This is not a team built for shootouts, and the latter part of their season is going to be full of them.  Again, I think that they will win 8, maybe 9 games, but a playoff berth doesn't look likely from where I'm standing.

Sleeping Giants

New Orleans Saints -- I mentioned them earlier as a team beset by injury, and that's my argument here.  Last year, they were a top-5 passing and rushing offense, and that underrated run game kept them balanced and allowed Brees to have so many open receivers.  With Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush ailing for longer than expected, Brees has had to try to will the team to victory, and twice has cost the team victories by throwing interceptions that get returned for touchdowns.  The Saints' pass defense which was so opportunistic last year has forced half the turnovers it had last year, despite allowing under 200 yards per game.  This team is a couple big plays (and missed field goals) away from being undefeated, and they have only 3 or 4 tough games left in the schedule.  I think they get it together and get healthy, and at least make a wild card spot behind the Falcons.  At that point, with that offense, they could easily make another magical playoff run.

San Diego Chargers -- This team has the number one offense AND defense (yardage-wise) in the league, and yet is 2-5.  Not only that, but they have four losses against teams who were in the bottom ten of the league last year.  Of course, the Vincent Jackson/Marcus McNeill holdouts and Tomlinson departure are hurting something, but the offense seems fine.  The Chargers win their game yesterday if they don't lose two fumbles on plays where Chargers players fail to understand the rules of the game.  Both of their top receivers are out with injury, and their first-round pick at running back is just getting back into the swing of things.  Their team is playing too well overall for them to fall apart like this.  Not to mention, THE CHARGERS DO THIS ALL THE TIME!  They started 2-3 last year and finished 13-3, started 3-5 in '08 and finished 8-8 (making the playoffs), and started 3-3 in '07 and finished 11-5.  Chill, people.


Dallas Cowboys -- Disappointment with a capital D.  For Dallas.  And "Don't even think about playing the Super Bowl in your own stadium." They get a chance to redeem themselves against the division-leading Giants tonight to get to within a game and a half of the lead, but this is a team that has all the talent in the world (especially offensively), a top-10 defense in terms of yards allowed, and a Pro-Bowl Jessica-Simpson-less quarterback.  Oh, wait.  Tony Romo's NOT Troy Aikman or Roger Staubach?  They don't WANT to run the ball with what was one of the top backfields in the league just last year?  They get called for excessive celebration and get burned for it MORE THAN ONCE???  This team, like the rest of the NFC East, has some serious trouble on the offensive line and in general discipline.  They are one of the top-five most penalized teams in the league, and seem to just not want to do the things that one would think would help win them games.  Romo, Wade Phillips, and co. just don't have the psychological "stuff" to win big games.  They just don't.

Cincinnati Bengals -- What happened?  This team, mostly the same as it was last year but with an improved receiving core, swept the very-competitive NFC North last year en route to a division title.  Unfortunately, they got trounced by the Jets in Week 17 and the Wild Card round, and haven't been the same since.   They ran the ball and played solid D last year, and are 19th rushing and 20th defensively this year.  Yes, they're throwing it a bunch and TO and Ochocinco are happy, but Carson Palmer does not look like anything close to an elite quarterback right now, and despite all the yards they keep LOSING.  Maybe you should give Benson and Bernard Scott the rock a little more?  The defense has allowed the Patriots and Falcons to absolutely trounce them, and Palmer has thrown away games to the Browns and Buccaneers.  Their division (and schedule in general) is too tough for them to fall behind like this, and once they lose a couple more games we'll hear the rumblings from Batman and Robin.  The weird part is that no one really could have seen this coming.

Oh, and congratulations to Kenny Britt and Darren McFadden for frustrating fantasy owners everywhere.  Great job there, sport.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Frameshmania Week 7 Preview!

Now that the Phillies are out of the playoffs, I can focus all of my energies on fantasy football!  That can't be good.  Here's the league standings through six weeks:

5-1 Sabotage the League 
4-2 Salt Lake City Big Tymers 
4-2 J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets
3-2-1 Gym Tan Laundry2-3-1 Delco's Side-arm Stud
2-4 Ease it In, Don't Forsett 
1-4 CodyRansom's Crew
1-5 Hometown Mamas

Sabotage the League and Hometown Mamas finally ended their respective streaks, removing any zeroes from their records.  I have won 3 games in a row, and am poised to seize a tie for first place after a win this week.  On the other end of the spectrum, Ease it In has fallen off the pace, losing 4 straight after starting 2-0.

Last week I rode the coattails of Tony Romo's compulsion to throw the ball all over the lot and the Texans' big comeback, netting 2/3 of my points from just Romo, Arian Foster, and Andre Johnson.  While Malcom Floyd got injured and Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace had big days sitting on my bench, Kyle's running backs failed to show up in tough matchups and he was sent home 97-70.

This week I face off against my friend Steve (CodyRansom's Crew), who has had a disappointing season thanks to underachieving draft picks Larry Fitzgerald, Shonn Greene, Ryan Grant, and Brett Favre.   This is his first year in the league, so hopefully he can pick it back up so he'll keep coming back for more.  Just not this week.  Obviously.

Last week's roster:

QB1 Tony Romo
RB1 Michael Turner
RB7 Ahmad Bradshaw
RB6 Arian Foster
WR5 Malcom Floyd
WR1 Andre Johnson
TE2 Zach Miller
D/ST Bears
K Mason Crosby

WR2 Greg Jennings
D/ST Giants
TE3 Visanthe Shiancoe
RB2 Cedric Benson
WR6 Brandon Lloyd
WR4 Mike Wallace
RB3 Jamaal Charles

Bye week players this week:
A. Johnson, Foster
Roster Moves:
Dropped Giants D for Pierre Garcon
Dropped Shiancoe for Owen Daniels
Dropped Bears D for Chiefs D
The Giants and Bears defenses did mediocre last week and have tougher matchups this week, so I let them go.  Immediately after finding out that Dallas Clark was out for the year and Austin Collie was out for a couple weeks, I picked up Garcon even though the Colts are on a bye this week and I don't really need him.  Shiancoe has done nothing since Randy Moss came to town, so I picked up yet another piece of my boy Matt Schaub's offense, Owen Daniels.  Again, he's on bye this week, but he's been coming back from injury and looked good last week.  The Chiefs face the Jags this week, who are starting a quarterback that was not on the team last week.  I like their chances of stepping up big.

Lineup changes:
Charles (v. Jaguars) in for Foster (BYE)
Jennings (v. Vikings) in for Johnson (BYE)
Brandon Lloyd (v. Raiders) in for Floyd (Injury)
Foster and Johnson were on byes, and I liked Charles' matchup enough to start him over Benson this week.  Floyd is hurt, so really there isn't much of a thought process here.

Steve has caught me with two of my most valuable players on bye, so he better hope he can capitalize.  Thankfully I've got a good amount of depth to back up my Texans.  Let's take a look at this week's matchup:

Romo (v. Giants) vs. Matt Ryan (v. Bengals) -- Romo +3
Turner (v. Bengals) vs. Adrian Peterson (v. Packers) -- Push
Bradshaw (v. Cowboys) vs. Marshawn Lynch (v. Cardinals) -- Push
Charles (v. Jaguars) vs. Hakeem Nicks (v. Cowboys) -- Charles +3
Jennings (v. Vikings) vs. Larry Fitzgerald (v. Seahawks) -- Fitzgerald +4
Lloyd (v. Raiders) vs. Michael Crabtree (v. Panthers) -- Lloyd +2
Miller (v. Broncos) vs. Vernon Davis (v. Panthers) -- Davis +4
Chiefs D (v. Jaguars) vs. Eagles D (v. Titans) -- Chiefs +4
Crosby (v. Vikings) vs. Matt Prater (v. Raiders)-- push

Verdict: I win by 4, but I don't feel confident in any prediction for this week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Taking stock of the League Championship Series


I don't exactly have my finger on the pulse of New York and Philadelphia media and public opinion, but I'm sure that there's plenty of the above sentiments to go around in both metropoles (metropolises?  metropoli?  metropolis'?).  The Yankees face elimination from the playoffs this afternoon, down 3 games to 1 against the previously-winless-in-a-postseason-series Texas Rangers, and the Phillies' bats have gone silent as they went down 2 games to 1 against the Giants last night. 

History buffs and stat-happy reporters are ecstatic, as:
  • The greatest franchise in the history of sport, with 213 postseason victories coming into these playoffs, is on the verge of losing to a team that had ONE.
  • On the first night of the playoffs, we saw a one-run, ten-strikeout performance by one of the best postseason pitchers in decades-- and then a no-hitter from the guy that replaced him.
  • We've seen two games (CG, 0 ER, 2 H, 14 K; 8 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 13 K) that are in such elite company that they may in fact have been more impressive than the second no-hitter in playoff history
  • The Phillies-Giants series boasts opposing rotations that are as strong and deep as any we've seen in years; both of which had sub-2.00 ERA's in September
  • Josh Hamilton and Ron Washington, both admitted drug abusers in their past, are a game away from a World Series berth, when just a short time ago their careers (and perhaps lives) were in jeopardy
  • Cody Ross-- Cody Ross-- has three home runs and seven RBI's in three games in the NLCS, the same numbers he put up in 73 at-bats as a Giant this regular season
  • Cliff Lee owns the Yankees.  Literally.  We will have an interesting scenario on our hands when he attempts to sign himself to a contract this winter.  Just imagine how the Indians will feel when they face the Yankees in a series in May, and go against TWO former Cy Young award winners, Sabathia and Lee, who won the awards WHILE ON THE INDIANS.
Down 3-1, the Yankees throw out CC Sabathia against CJ Wilson, a rematch of game 1 of the series (in which the Rangers' bullpen blew what should have been the start of a sweep).  I can see the pressure of a clinching game getting to Wilson, especially in Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees playing with their backs to the wall and taking Game 5. 

However, no matter how you slice it, the Yankees aren't winning this series.  Cliff Lee. Game 7.  Game over.  There's nothing more to analyze.  Lee is 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his postseason career, and that includes three games against the vaunted Yankees.

The Phillies try to get back into the NLCS tonight in Game 4, needing a strong performance by Big Joe Blanton against Madison Bumgarner.  Yes, I did say need, because winning three straight against Lincecum, Sanchez, and Cain (with the Lincecum game in San Fran) is a fool's errand.  This is the season for the Phils.  Having said that, I still think that it was a good call by Charlie Manuel to stick with Blanton, because we're going to need top pitching performances to beat the Giants' pitchers, and a three-days-rest Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels worries me.
Blanton has been really good this year-- for three innings a game.  His ERA in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th innings is 3.21, 2.57, and 2.25, respectively.  Unfortunately, his ERA in the 1st, 5th, and 6th innings is 6.43, 4.61, and 6.94, respectively.  Let's not talk about the later innings.  If Blanton can get through the first inning unscathed, I think that his experience will help him do well enough to win tonight's game, if the Phillies' lineup can get anything done.
In order to get anything done, the Phils will have to go through Madison Bumgarner, the seemingly-homoerotically-named young lefthander who, say what you want, posted a 3.00 ERA in 18 starts this season.  The Phillies have always had issues with both lefties and guys they have not seen before, and this kid appears to have good enough stuff to do the job.  The Phillies will have to get production from the top of the order, getting men on base and making the kid (note: he's less than six months older than me) uncomfortable by wreaking havoc on the basepaths.  SPOILER ALERT: We have not done a great job manufacturing runs in the last few years.  Gotta get on that.  That being said, I think that the situation may get the better of Bumgarner, and if the Phillies' big bats can take advantage of a couple mistakes, they could come out of the first go through each rotation 2-2, and you have to like their chances of taking 2 out of 3 with H2O going.

My prediction?  Foggedaboudit.  Check my pre-postseason predictions.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Week 6, Pickup Sticks

I think that the word of the year for the NFL has to be "parity."  The two Super Bowl participants, the Colts and Saints, came into the week looking quite, well, not super.  Trendy playoff contenders in Dallas, Minnesota, San Diego, Green Bay, and San Francisco are a combined 9-19 through six weeks, while of the teams who had top-5 picks in this year's draft (the Rams, Lions, Bucs, Redskins, and Chiefs), four of them have records at .500 or better.

At least this week we got a little bit of clarity about a couple of the top teams in the league.
The Saints did recover from a lackluster past couple weeks with a blowout win over the upstart Bucs, potentially re-inserting themselves as the top team in the NFC South after the Falcons lost to the Eagles (who, once again, are looking at a quarterback controversy after Kevin Kolb lit up the Falcons secondary this afternoon).
The Jets and Patriots won again, despite Mark Sanchez finally turning the ball over (he had no turnovers this season going into the game, left with two INTs) and the Patriots losing Randy Moss to a trade.  The Pats' win was especially impressive, since most people were considering the Ravens to be a top AFC contender (and probably still consider them in that light).
The Steelers got Ben Roethlisberger back from suspension, and now "they are who we thought they were" (credit to Dennis Green).  Going 3-1 against teams who were a combined 14-5 through 5 weeks without their quarterback?  With all the PARITY that's going around this year, I don't see how they aren't the team to beat this year.

Interesting individual performances:

DWAYNE BOWE EXISTS!! Finally, he validates his spot on my fantasy teams.

Kevin Kolb is, in fact, an NFL quarterback.  He puts up a 23-29, 326, 3 TD, 1 INT line that reminds me of the kind of performances he put up in his two starts last year, when we thought he was the future of the franchise.

Greg Jennings had 101 yards and 2 touchdowns on 9 catches in his last four games combined.  He had 133 yards and a touchdown on 6 catches today.  AND he was on my fantasy bench.  Sigh.

David Akers missed not one, not two, not four, but THREE field goals against the Falcons.  Fortunately for his health, the game was never really in question.

Tim Tebow has arrived!  He had six carries for 23 yards and his first NFL touchdown against the Jets.  OH MY GOD TIM TEBOW IS SENT FROM ABOVE.  HE SHOULD LIKE TOTALLY REPLACE KYLE ORTON, HE COMPLETED ONLY 41 PERCENT OF HIS PASSES TODAY.

This isn't really an individual performance, but did I hear that the Giants have knocked four quarterbacks out of the game this season?  Matt Moore (briefly), Jay Cutler, Todd Collins, and Shaun Hill.  Color me impressed.

And now, it's Phillies time.  Gotta get back into this series, and definitely gotta see something from Roy Oswalt tonight.  Get psyched.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Frameshmania Week 6 Preview!

In this topsy-turvy NFL season, the only thing that's constant is that fantasy football dominates my weekends.  Here's the Frameshmania standings after Week 5:

5-0 Sabotage the League
3-1-1 Gym Tan Laundry
3-2 Salt Lake City Big Tymers
3-2 J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets
2-2-1 Delco's Side-arm Stud
2-3 Ease it In, Don't Forsett
1-4 CodyRansom's Crew
0-5 Hometown Mamas

Sabotage the League and Hometown Mamas continue to move in opposite directions, despite living in the same house.  Must not be anything in the water.  Ease it In, after a strong and surprising start, has dropped three straight contests, but perhaps gets a bit of a break by playing the winless Mamas.  The big matchup of the week is GTL versus JETS, as both teams need a win to keep up with the top team.

This past week I had a monster of a team, putting up 122 points on the back of Malcom Floyd (who I played accidentally), Tony Romo, and the Bears defense.  Unfortunately, my opponent (Ease it In) failed to check his lineup going into the week, so he had three players out with injury (Vick, Pierre Thomas, McFadden) and two out with byes (Welker and Steelers D), and thus my big game was wasted when I only needed 50 points to win.

This week I face another of my brother's friends, Kyle (Delco's Sidearm Stud).  Just like last year, his team has been very average, with not much interesting to report about trends in his performance.

Last week's roster:

QB1 Tony Romo
RB1 Michael Turner
RB2 Cedric Benson
RB6 Arian Foster
WR5 Malcom Floyd
WR2 Greg Jennings
TE2 Zach Miller
D/ST Bears
K Mason Crosby

WR1 Andre Johnson
WR3 Dwayne Bowe
TE3 Visanthe Shiancoe
RB7 Ahmad Bradshaw
WR6 Brandon Lloyd
WR4 Mike Wallace
RB3 Jamaal Charles

Bye week players this week:

Roster Moves:
Dropped Bowe for Giants D

Dwayne Bowe is the bane of my fantasy existence.   I drafted him in all three of my leagues this year, and I don't think he will make it past next week on two of my rosters.  The Giants play the Lions this week (possibly without Calvin Johnson), but I'm still debating whether to play them or the Bears D.  Regardless, I wanted to protect myself against Kyle picking them up, and it gives me options.

Lineup changes:
Johnson (v. Chiefs) in for Jennings (v. Dolphins)
Bradshaw (v. Lions) in for Benson (BYE)

Andre Johnson played OK last week, and even though I knew he was going to play and I THOUGHT I had put him in my lineup, I apparently didn't save the transaction and Floyd ended up going off.  This week, I'm putting my faith back in my top receiver, and giving Jennings a rest on the bench after three straight games with 2 catches and under 40 yards.  Benson is on a bye, and Bradshaw is facing the Lions.  Need I say more?

I'm not sure what to make of this week's matchup, because it looks close just by looking at the players, but ESPN seems to think that I'm going to win big.  That worries me.  Let's take a look at the matchup:

Romo (v. Vikings) vs. Ben Roethlisberger (v. Browns) -- Push
Turner (v. Eagles) vs. Maurice Jones-Drew (v. Titans) -- Turner +3
Bradshaw (v. Lions) vs. Ronnie Brown (v. Packers) -- Bradshaw +5
Foster (v. Chiefs) vs. Ryan Mathews (v. Rams) -- Foster +4
Johnson (v. Chiefs) vs. Hines Ward (v. Browns) -- Push
Floyd (v. Rams) vs. Eddie Royal (v. Jets) -- Floyd +3
Miller (v. 49ers) vs. Dustin Keller (v. Broncos) -- Push
Bears D (v. Seahawks) vs. Chargers D (v. Rams) -- Push
Crosby (v. Dolphins) vs. Garret Hartley (v. Bucs)-- push

Verdict: I win by 15, mostly because his running backs face tougher matchups.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Week 5: You hip to the jive?

Despite my football fandom taking a backseat to baseball fandom (and with good reason-- H2O <3), I in no way will be shirking on my NFL duties.  Especially when my fantasy teams are really hitting their stride.  Here's a glimpse at the wild (really) week that was:

Going into the season, or even into this week, if you saw the following games on the docket, how many upsets would you be predicting:

Going into the season, you probably would pick NONE of those upsets.  Going into this week, MAYBE you pick the Titans or Redskins, but you're definitely not picking 3 of 5.  Eliminator pools probably dropped like flies here, and the Colts gave us quite a scare.

Speaking of the Colts, how 'bout those top quarterbacks (at least in fantasy)?  Brees, Rodgers, Manning (the good kind), and Schaub average 253 yards (respectable, but not impressive), 0.75 TD, and 1.5 INT.  On the other hand, KYLE ORTON has thrown for at least 295 yards in every game this year.  This is the same Kyle Orton that got beaten out by Rex Grossman for the Bears quarterback job because he didn't make enough plays.  Oops!

How about these little surprises!

-The Chiefs are 3-1, with their only loss being in a low-scoring, close game with the Colts!  Under the not-surprising banner, though, is that Dwayne Bowe has 152 yards and a touchdown through the first 4 games.  He hurts me inside.  Miles Austin and Malcom Floyd both did better THIS WEEK.  I have Bowe in all three of my fantasy leagues, and I think I may have to let him go in two of them.

-After Kurt Warner retired, I don't think ANYONE picked a team other than the 49ers to win the NFC West.  Through 5 weeks, the Rams are two games up on them.  The Rams.  With a rookie quarterback.

- I know they had fallen off in the last couple years, especially defensively, but the Chargers are pitiful.  Going into the season, I think that most people would have guaranteed at least a 5-1 start for the Bolts against the likes of the Chiefs, Jaguars, Seahawks, Cardinals, Raiders, and Rams.  They're 2-3 through the first five, with close losses in away games and blowout wins in home games.  Peculiar indeed...  The teams that they have played through the first five (excluding next week's matchup with the Rams) were a combined 31-49 last year, and that includes a Kurt Warner-led Cardinals team that certainly doesn't have that kind of offensive firepower anymore.

-Brett Favre has a controversy that has nothing to do with him retiring.  If it turns out that he actually did do the sexual-harassment-type stuff that has been suggested, it could pretty much kill any respect that the public has for him, which he lost a lot of over the last few seasons.

Oh, and the Phillies are in the NLCS.  Again.  Eat that, Mets fans.  And Marlins fans.  And Nationals fans.  And Cardinals fans.  And Brewers fans.  And Astros fans.  And Pirates fans.  And Rockies fans.  And Dodgers fans.  And Padres fans.  And Diamondbacks fans.  And Cubs fans.  And soon-to-be Braves fans.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Frameshmania Week 5 Preview!

The prospects for my team are looking up going into the bye weeks, especially since I was able to win my game last week without my starting QB.  Here's the standings after Week 4:

4-0 Sabotage the League
2-1-1 Gym Tan Laundry
2-1-1 Delco's Side-arm Stud
2-2 Salt Lake City Big Tymers 2-2 Ease it In, Don't Forsett
2-2 J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets
1-3 CodyRansom's Crew
0-4 Hometown Mamas

Yes, that's right, Sidearm Stud and Gym Tan Laundry (very buff team names, by the way) tied at 100 this past week.  GTL was up by 14 with Randy Moss against Tom Brady and Ronnie Brown.  Well, Moss threw up a donut, and despite Brady having a sub-par game, the lack of catches for Moss was really the reason for the tie.  Now Moss is on the Vikings, and I'm not really sure what that does for his value going forward.

This past week I got big-time performances from my replacement quarterback Kyle Orton (who I did end up swapping for Cutler-- great call there) and fantasy MVP Arian Foster (despite missing the first 20 minutes of the game due to disciplinary issues), beating the J-E-T-S 103-74 and moving back to .500.

This week I get my brother's friend Rich (Ease it In, Don't Forsett).  He started off strong, but injuries to Michael Vick, Pierre Thomas, and Darren McFadden may hurt him.  Hopefully the fact that byes aren't hitting me this week can propel me to victory.

Last week's roster:

QB2 Kyle Orton
RB1 Michael Turner
RB2 Cedric Benson
RB6 Arian Foster
WR5 Malcom Floyd
WR2 Greg Jennings
TE2 Zach Miller
D/ST Saints
K Mason Crosby

WR1 Andre Johnson
QB1 Tony Romo
TE3 Visanthe Shiancoe
RB7 Ahmad Bradshaw
WR3 Dwayne Bowe
WR4 Mike Wallace
RB3 Jamaal Charles

Bye week players this week:

Roster Moves:
Dropped Orton for Brandon Lloyd
Dropped Saints D for Bears D

Orton did his job very well last week, but now it's time for my starter to kick it into high gear.  Orton will still possibly be helping me out though, if Lloyd can keep up the pace that he's been playing at.  The Saints underperformed against the woeful Panthers, but I'm gonna get back up on that horse and go with Carolina's opponent this week, the much-better-defensively Bears.

Lineup changes:
Bears D (v. Panthers) in for Saints D (v. Cardinals)
Johnson (v. Giants) in for Floyd (v. Raiders)
Romo (v. Titans) in for Orton (v. Ravens)

Romo comes back in as my starter, and faces a Titans defensive backfield that has allowed an average of 360 yards through the air the last two weeks.  I'm going back to the Panthers well, especially since Steve Smith is likely to be out.  I also liked the prospects of putting in the Panthers (Bears without Cutler) or Saints again (new rookie starter).  Andre Johnson is still hobbling, but after sitting out last week I have to like his chances of suiting up.  I won't be attached to my computer this weekend, though, so I'm not sure how much I trust his ability to get through the game, and I may not be able to replace him if it's a game-time decision.

Finally, a matchup that looks good on paper.  But since I thought I was going to get routed last week, maybe this is a bad sign.  Let's take a look at the matchup:

Romo (v. Titans) vs. Matt Schaub (v. Giants) -- Romo +3
Turner (v. Browns) vs. Matt Forte (v. Panthers) -- Push
Benson (v. Bucs) vs. Pierre Thomas (v. Cardinals) -- Push
Foster (v. Giants) vs. Mike Tolbert (v. Raiders) (my guess) -- Foster +5
Johnson (v. Giants) vs. Miles Austin (v. Titans) -- Austin +5
Jennings (v. Redskins) vs. Austin Collie (v. Chiefs) -- Jennings +3
Miller (v. Chargers) vs. Dallas Clark (v. Chiefs) -- Clark +4
Bears D (v. Panthers) vs. Plug-in DEF(Steelers on bye) -- Bears +2
Crosby (v. Redskins) vs. Nate Kaeding (v. Raiders)-- push

Verdict: I win by 4, this time taking advantage of my opponent's byes and injuries.  It's sometimes better to be lucky than good...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thank God for the Phillies

I don't consider myself to be a lucky person.  However, I was mad lucky this past evening.  Like only 46000+ other people, I was in attendance for Roy Halladay's no-hitter against the Reds in Game 1 of the NLDS last night.  My uncle somehow managed to get six tickets (4 and 2, separate rows), albeit at most ten rows from the top behind home plate, but it's the playoffs, I'll sit on the roof.  OK, maybe not the roof.  It was raining.  We don't like that.

After Halladay recorded his first out, my cousin Andrew turned to me and asked if anybody had ever pitched a perfect game in the playoffs.  I thought it might have been a little presumptuous to be discussing a perfect game with one out in the first, but I took the suggestion as a joke because, come on, games like that don't jump to mind until about the fifth inning.  I did actually know that Don Larsen threw a perfect game in the World Series a while ago, but I was not at the time aware that that was the only no-hitter in postseason.  I was also looking to see what Halladay could show in the postseason, what with no career playoff starts and Cliff Lee's 10-strikeout performance earlier in the day setting a standard for his replacement in Philly.

The great thing about Phillies fans, especially in playoff games, is that everything that goes well turns into a riot in the stands.  The Utley sac fly in the first garnered a rousing ovation, and the building was rocking when Halladay's blooper dropped in front of the Reds' left fielder.  By the sixth inning, people were starting to look around them and see if anyone else's stomach was starting to churn.  Or maybe it was just the crab fries.

My cousins, while totally not-subtle, did a great job of keeping up with proper baseball superstition by not saying the words "no-hitter."  Like when my over-concerned cousin Melanie tried to get us to agree to start walking toward the exit an inning or so early so we could skip traffic, and I pleaded with her to wait until the end of the 8th inning to make any decisions on that front, Andrew chimed in, "Oh, I know what you're talking about!"  Yes, you do.  Check the scoreboard, playa.

Best part about playoff games: EVERY PITCH in the last three innings is life-or-death.  Every strike evokes a roar, every ball evokes boos.  People were going nuts.  My cousins even wanted the Phillies to just go down in order in the ninth so that we could pay more attention to the gem that Halladay was throwing.  Fortunately, I guess, they obliged.

Well as you know, Halladay completed the no-hitter, with the whole stadium (and I mean the whole stadium: nobody had left) freaking out.  I managed to "record" the last out on my phone, but you can't really see the play.  It's basically just useful as a gauge of the crowd reaction before (noise), during (silence), and after (bedlam) the last play of the game.  My cousins tried to record it as well, but one only recorded the post-out celebration, and the other didn't have the camera pointed at the field while the last out was being recorded.  Oh well.  Memories, baby.

That has to be the best game I've ever been to.  Has to.  Only 2 out of over 2000 playoff starts have resulted in a no-hitter.  Ever.  And I was there.  Here's how I would stack up my Phillies game experiences:

1. Halladay no-hitter, Game 1 2010 NLCS
2. 2008 World Series Game 3:  Long rain delay, walkoff infield single, craziness
3. 7/24/2010, Diamond Club seats (second row behind home plate):  We beat up Ubaldo Jimenez, and I was on TV!
4. 4/27/2003: Kevin Millwood throws a no-hitter as I watch on the TV in the concourse so we can bolt out of there.  Didn't make that mistake again.
5. 8/6/2009:  Cliff Lee's home debut in Philadelphia, sat in the first row behind the Phillies bullpen.  I even got a ball after the last out of an inning was recorded!

Since 4 out of 5 of these games were attended solely as a result of me having fortunate relatives, I would just like to give mad ups to my Uncle David for being who he is, and to their entire family for considering me important enough that I get invited to all of these games.  Sometimes, just being a fan does have its benefits.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What a Long, Strange Trip it's Been

So, if you're a football fan, you have likely been informed that the Patriots traded Randy Moss to the Vikings for a third-round pick in this year's draft.  At face value, that seems a bit of a steal for the Vikings, considering Moss has had at least 1000 yards and 11 touchdowns each of the last three years.  Oh, and there was that 23-touchdown season somewhere in there, and the next year Tom Brady was out for 97% of the season.  Although, on the other side of the coin, the Patriots got him from the Raiders for a 4th round pick in 2007.  In net transactions, the Patriots got 3 and a quarter years of top-5 receiver performance and all they had to give up was moving up in the draft.  Oh, Bill Belichick...

But this all begs the question:  Why, if Moss has been so excellent for the last few years and will probably be the second most productive receiver of all time, is he only commanding 3rd and 4th round picks?

In short, I have no idea.  But you be the judge: here's his career in a nutshell.

1998: Moss was an absurdly talented wideout coming from a small school in Marshall who, despite having 3500 yards and 54 touchdowns in just two seasons (including bowl games), fell to the 21st pick in the draft because of concerns about his maturity as a result of being involved in various legal troubles as a teen.  The most notable of teams that passed on him for these reasons was the Dallas Cowboys, who was Moss' favorite team and coveted him as well.
Moss (according to an NFL Network Top 10 episode) had the greatest rookie season of all time, racking up 1300 yards and 17 touchdowns for what was, at the time, the greatest scoring offense ever.  This included a game against the Cowboys where he caught 3 passes for 163 yards, all for touchdowns.  A little bit of motivation, maybe? 

2005: (questionably) traded to the Raiders, of all teams, for a linebacker and first and seventh round picks.  The first rounder turned out to be Troy Williamson.  If half of you haven't heard of him, that should tell you something.  He slumped through two seasons with the Raiders, bringing about questions about how much he had left in the tank.

2007: Moss is traded to the Patriots for a 4th round pick, despite interest from the Packers (and particularly Brett Favre-- more on that later).  The Patriots go through the whole SpyGate fiasco, and through all that the Patriots decide to "stick it to the man" and put up the biggest aerial extravaganza we've ever seen, setting a new scoring record and individual records for touchdown passes (50 for Brady) and receiving touchdowns (23 for Moss).  The highlight of that year, in my opinion, has to be the Sunday night game against the Bills in which he answered Terrell Owens' 4 touchdown performance earlier in the day with 4 touchdowns of his own: in the first half.

2010: Moss feels as if the Patriots are not giving him the respect he deserves for his performance over his tenure in New England (and who could argue with the numbers), and asks for a trade.  He gets no catches in Week 4 against the Dolphins, and two days later gets traded to the Sidney-Rice-less Minnesota Vikings, quarterbacked by none other than Brett Favre, the guy that wanted him three years ago.  Just imagine what Moss and Favre would have done in 2007, when Moss was playing out of his mind and Favre had one of his best years, getting the Packers to the NFC championship.  Oh, and Moss is back on the Vikings, that too.

Life comes full circle, doesn't it?

Oh, and now that Moss is in Minnesota again, check out the next 4 games for the Vikings:
v. Jets-- Favre returns to play the Jets, who he un-retired to play with in 2008.
v. Cowboys-- Big-ticket teams playing each other, and there's that whole Randy Moss thing.
v. Packers-- Favre v. Packers, always a big game
v. Patriots-- wait, I thought Randy Moss was on the Patriots!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

If I were athletic/had great hair...

I was feeling creative today, so I thought I would do a little Photoshopping, as is my hobby.  I was just wondering what life would be like if I were a professional athlete.

If I could leap tall buildings in a single bound or was faster than a speeding bullet, I might look like this:

If I didn't get a haircut or shave for the next few months, I might end up like this:

If I worked out more often (and got a little more sun), I might end up like this:

And if I, you know, had voluminous curly hair.... or talent.... I might look more like this:

Instead, I look a little more like this:

Oh well.  Can't win 'em all.