- The Season's Over -

TWIETB Notes: Checking in With Preseason Predictions for Four Forgotten Veterans

May 27, 2010

Adrian Beltre 2010 All-Star

Adrian Beltre Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By: Andrew Thell

Back in late May I picked out four former MLB stars who were looking to regain some of their lost luster and made a case for why they just might do so. The four players in question were former sluggers Adrian Beltre and Vladimir Guerrero and erstwhile aces Ben Sheets and Francisco Liriano. So far those gentlemen are doing pretty well on the whole. Let’s take a peek under the hood.

Ben Sheets is always an injury concern, but the move to the Oakland Coliseum, a spacious park with some of the most generous foul territory in baseball, and his natural talent gave reason for optimism. The results so far have not been good – a 5.04 ERA, 1.57 WHIP and .278 BAA aren’t paying the bills. However, a closer look at the game log reveals that Sheets gave up a combined 17 runs, 19 hits and 5 HRs in back-to-back starts on the road against AL East offensive powerhouses Tampa Bay and Toronto. Pitchers don’t get to take starts back, but if a fantasy owner would have benched him in those extremely unfavorable matchups he’d have gotten a 2.65 ERA out of Sheets to date.

Perhaps more appropriately given the initial reason for the optimism, Sheets has thus far put up a 2.50 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 2.14 BAA with 32 Ks in 36 IPs at home. Sheets has been a disappointment, but that’s a split worth exploiting if you have the roster space. He’s likely a free agent in your league, and while he’s been a bust overall to this point, Sheets is still worth spot starting in juicy matchups at home.

The other pitcher, Francisco Liriano, is coming off a strong 7-inning, 7-strikeout, 2-run performance against the Yankees and has a much more friendly overall line on the season. After a dominant winter ball and spring training, there was optimism Liriano had finally regained the pre-Tommy John surgery form of 2006. Nine starts into the season the Twins’ 26-year-old has a 3.17 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 59/19 K/BB ratio in 59.2 innings pitched. Not too shabby. As a Twins fan I can tell you that Liriano passes the eye test as well. He still gets flustered and loses his focus, but I haven’t seen Frankie hit 95-97 on the gun with his fastball or induce so many strikeouts looking with the slider and change since that 2006 campaign. It doesn’t look like luck, either. Liriano’s .339 BABIP is slightly above his career .314 mark and his 3.36 xFIP is only a hair above his current ERA. The force of nature we saw in 2006 may never return, but the 2.87 BB/9, 48.8 GB%, 75.8 LOB% and 8.90 K/9 make Liriano only a bit worse and still an upper-echelon starter. Health is a concern, but if you own Liriano it’s probably time to play the matchups and just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Looking under the hood of Vlad Guerrero and Adrian Beltre, after the jump …

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No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 27, 2010 at 8:44pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

TWIETB Notes: Jay Bruce and Travis Snider Slugging, Tommy Hanson Dealing

May 17, 2010

Travis Snider Slugging

Travis Snider Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Andrew Thell

- After am abysmal start to the season post-hype extraordinaire candidate Jay Bruce has quietly turned his season around in short order. Things bottomed out in late April when Bruce went 0-for-3 on the 24th to bring his line down to .180/.261/.377. Speculation of a demotion to the minors was in the air, but that was the last day Bruce would have an OPS below .700. Bruce busted out with 3 hits (2 doubles) the next day and closed out the last five games of April with 10 hits against just 2 Ks. One of the truly elite hitting prospects of the last five years there’s hope Bruce can continue to build on the turnaround – but he’s going to need to figure out left-handed pitching at some point if he’s ever going to make good on all that promise in the long run.

The splits leave a lot to be desired, with Bruce raking against righties to the tune of .299/.382/.583 but still doing a Nick Punto impersonation against southpaws with a .205/.311/.348 line. While Reds fans desperately hope their promising youngster can close that gap, fantasy owners can work with it. Most leagues have enough bench space to platoon one or two guys, and if you make Jay Bruce one of them you’re getting a star-caliber player two out of every three days.

- Speaking of elite prospects making good, Toronto’s Travis Snider was as hot as nearly any player in baseball prior to spraining his wrist over the weekend. The top power prospect in the minors a year ago, Snider had turned a dismal .155/.277/.338 April into a spectacular .378/.404/.711 May with 3 HRs and 10 RBIs through 12 games. Expectations need to be tempered for the 22-year-old, but make no mistake: Snider can be a fantasy asset this season. The notoriously conservative PECOTA pegged him for 21 HRs, Baseball Forecaster projected 23 HRs and Bill James, showing his characteristic optimism, expected a generous 26 HRs, 82 runs and 90 RBIs. The Toronto offense is better than anybody expected it to be, so if those numbers hold value in your fantasy league Snider is well worth stashing on the DL – the wrist injury doesn’t sound serious at this point.

- The Travis Snider injury stung a bit, but it was nowhere near the swift kick to the sac that was Andre Ethier’s freak broken finger in batting practice on Saturday. It doesn’t sound like anything serious, Ethier might even be able to avoid a DL stint if he can play through the pain, but it could not have come at a worse time. The Dodgers were rocking as a whole, but Ethier in particular had been on the tear of a lifetime. The Los Angeles right fielder‘s May looks like this so far: 12 games, .490 average, .537 OBP, .980 SLG (!), 1.517 OPS (!), 5 HRs, 13 runs and 19 RBIs. Overall, Ethier is leading the league in batting average, slugging, OPS and RBIs. He’s carrying fantasy squads right now, mine included, so let’s hope this dinged finger doesn’t sap any of that power he was flashing.

Checking in with two young stud pitchers, after the jump …

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No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 17, 2010 at 9:57pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

NBA All-Defensive Teams: Where Outright Stupidity Often Rules

May 7, 2010

LeBron James eyes Kobe BryantBy Zachariah Blott

The NBA All-Defensive teams were announced on Wednesday; as expected, we saw some big names on the First Team who have no business being named at all, and there was the annual exclusion of some obvious selections any half-knowledgeable fan would make.

The First Team was comprised of Dwight Howard, Gerald Wallace, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Rajon Rondo. The Second Team was made up of Tim Duncan, Anderson Varejao, Josh Smith, Thabo Sefolosha, and Dwyane Wade. The coaches, who vote for the All-Defensive Teams, never disappoint when it comes to picking stars who they’re supposed to pick, basically big-name players who get grandfathered in just like MLB’s Gold Glove winners.

There is a reason that a) NBA coaches are constantly fired and usually have very little influence over a team’s success in hindsight, and b) the Cavaliers and Lakers signed defensive specialists on the wing to start next to James and Bryant. Kobe and LeBron have no place on these teams, and plenty of less well-known defenders (i.e. guys who don’t compile lots of blocks and steals, ESPN’s idea of the end-all-be-all for measuring the defensive worth of a player) never seem to get their due.

Issues With The First Team

Just so no one gets the wrong idea, I do not think Bryant and James are bad defenders. In fact, both have shown the tenacity to lock down their man in one-on-one situations when they absolutely have to. The problem is, they’re seldom in these situations. Both of their clubs hire defensive artists to do the tough work for 90% of the games that matter.

Ron Artest is the leauge’s premier wing defender, displaying the size, strength, belligerent attitude, and determination to wreck any opposing player’s night. During the six games in the First Round, Kevin Durant was tested by Artest and pestered into shooting an abysmal 35% from the field and only 29% from three. His shooting percentage topped 46%, the league average, for only one game during the series, and that was a 6-for-12 performance that yielded only 22 points. There’s a reason Artest is asked to make life hard for the NBA’s top scorer and Kobe guarded Thabo Sefolosha for four games and Russell Westrook, who has no outside shot and can be backed off of (why 3 of Westbrook’s 5 trifectas came with the Mamba on him), for two contests.

Not only is Bryant clearly not the best wing defender on LA, Lamar Odom is second to Artest in terms of defensive versatility and competence on the Lakers. He gets a lot of tough assignments down the stretch of games because he’s able to handle just about any player in any spot on the floor. Consequently, some of the more advanced defensive numbers rank Odom very highly. His Defensive Rating was fourth in the league (100.4) and his Defensive Win Shares were sixth (4.9), both well ahead of Kobe, who ranked fourth and third on the team in these categories.

In LeBron’s case, he leans on Anthony Parker to do most of the heavy defensive lifting on perimeter scorers for the majority of the game. There’s a reason Cleveland picked up the 6-6 shooting guard to displace Delonte West, a much better offensive option, from the starting lineup. Between Parker taking the tough assignments and the presence of veteran 7-footers and the splendid Anderson Varejao in the paint, James regularly gets lost in the mix, sagging off some harmless opponent, waiting to poach poor passes that his teammates’ pressure created.

As with Bryant, it’s hard to argue that James ranks higher than third on his own team in terms of defensive impact. Parker was hired to do the work so James doesn’t have to, and Varejao brings the grit and Red Bull energy to his multi-faceted post defense, doing such a good job that he was named to the Second-Team and finished in the top-10 of Defensive Player of the Year voting while coming off the bench.

Mr. Blott picks his NBA All-Defensive team, after the jump …

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1 CommentPosted by ETB Contributor on May. 7, 2010 at 1:54pm in ETB Articles, MLB

Wolfie Takes a Trip Into the Dugout

May 7, 2010

Baseball mascots: all they want to do is entertain us with their zany antics. They don the oversized, uncomfortable costumes in the dead heat of the summer months and trot around stadiums across the country performing their oversized hearts out with the sole intention of lightening the spirits of child and working man alike. Their only payment is the smile on a child’s face and the roar of the crowd (well, that and a paycheck, but let’s not sully their craft with cold economics).

So why do we want to see them suffer? Why do we hate them so? Well, they’re kind of obnoxious. Kind of really obnoxious. And they look stupid. And they can be real jerks, too. And, in my experience, their playful distractions and pranks are often less-than-welcome. I mean, seriously guy, get out of my face with your plush butty dance. I’m trying to watch a game here. My team is getting their collective asses handed to them and I’m not exactly in the mood to play along with your game of keep away with my favorite hat. It’s cute, I get it, but you have no idea how close you are to spilling down those steps …

Anyways, here’s some footage of a mascot taking a nasty spill and maybe getting seriously injured.


No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 7, 2010 at 5:37am in Miscellaneous, MLB

TWIETB Notes: Prince Fielder Slumping, Kelly Johnson Having a Coming Out Party

May 6, 2010

Prince Fielder Strikes Out

Prince Fielder Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Andrew Thell

- Prince Fielder’s fantasy owners and Milwaukee Brewers fans alike are in a tizzy over the bulky first baseman’s sluggish start, but it’s being a bit overblown. Don’t get me wrong, when a 25-year-old coming off a 46-home-run season and with a .543 career slugging percentage ends the first month of the season slugging .360 with just 2 homers it’s incredibly disappointing.

Slow starts are always a cause for concern. The fear here isn’t that he’ll have a bad season, just bad by his considerable standards. Is it possible this year Fielder hits .270 with 32 HRs? Sure, but I don’t see that happening. He’s too talented, and we’ve seen this before. Although players like Mark Teixeira and Adam LaRoche have much more well-publicized poor April splits young Mr. Fielder is no stranger to coming slowly out of the gates. In 2009 he hit just 3 blasts in April, in 2008 he belted just 4. For his career Prince has a modest .470 SLG in the month of April, by far his worst month. It might not be the 50+ HR season some were hoping for, but I think Tons of Fun will be just fine. And yes, the references to his weight might be kind of tired, but have you seem him lately? I love Fielder, but the guy is huge. You’re a professional athlete man, get it together.

- So Kelly Johnson, eh? Did not see that coming. I drafted him in my friendly fantasy league because I thought the dude has some talent, he was undervalued after one rough season, his new ballpark is great for lefty hitters, I thought the lineup surrounding him in Arizona could only do good things for his bottom line and I waited far too long to grab MI talent in a league with 3 MI slots. So I was what you might call optimistic, though that was somewhat precipitated by desperation. I thought there was 20-23 HR, 10-15 SB upside here, and I was admittedly being very generous with my own guy. Never in my most desperately optimistic dreams did I imagine Johnson would smack 9 home runs in April.

There’s absolutely no reason to think he can keep this up, but there’s also no reason to think Johnson can’t have a career year either. He’s entrenched himself atop the potent Diamondbacks lineup, so he should see pitches, get plenty of opportunity to run and cross the plate with frequency. The home-run pace has slowed in May, but Johnson has stolen 2 bags and if he can just stay active on the bases and average 3-4 HRs per month from here on out – what I initially pegged him to do – we’re looking at 25+ HRs, 10+ SBs and 90 runs. Not bad for your late-round gamble. I don’t see this as a sell-high opportunity as much as a chance to cash in on a career year. Besides, it’s not like your league mates are likely to pay full freight on Johnson’s current numbers – they likely hate the man at this point.

- The Minnesota Twins roster is as well-constructed and balanced as it’s been in nearly 20 years. Outside of third base they have the chance to have productive hitters in every spot in the order, which means nobody has to press to produce offense. It’s resulted in a team on-base percentage of .363, which is second only to the Yankees of New York. The man at the center of it all is Justin Morneau, who leads all of baseball with an absurd .483 OBP. His 24 walks tie Yanks first baseman Nick Johnson for most in baseball, but Morneau is getting a bit more production out of his at-bats – 20 runs, 6 HRs, 19 RBIs and a tidy 1.129 OPS. With so much support behind him in the lineup and quality table-setters like Denard Span, Orlando Hudson and some guy named Joe Mauer in front this has the makings of a huge year if Morneau’s balky back can hold up.

Checking in with the San Francisco Giants starters and Milton Bradley, after the jump …

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No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on May. 6, 2010 at 9:29pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Musings on MLB’s Opening Day 2010

April 6, 2010

By: Andrew Thell

Neftali Feliz- Bang, bang, bang, bang – vamanos vamanos – and we’re off on the 2010 MLB season. We saw quite a debut for some of the game’s stars from Kevin Youkilis, Roy Halladay, Dan Haren, Johan Santana and … Garrett Jones? Jones went 2-4 with a walk, 3 runs, 3 RBIs and 2 home runs. It’s a perfect example of why, despite the enthusiasm for Opening Day that has been building for months, we can’t get too excited about anything until we have a larger sample size. While it’s true that Jones hit 21 HRs with a tasty .293/.372/.567 line in 82 games to close out the 2009 season, the Pirates outfielder is not a guy we should expect to keep it up. Jones’ hot start is shades of Chris Shelton. We’re talking about a guy who never proved he was an elite hitter in 10 minor league seasons. 10. Jones played way over his head in 2009, and even at that unsustainable level he only managed a .208/.243/.455 split against lefties. He has platoon written all over him, and even if he stays in the role I would be surprised to see Jones surpass a .265 batting average or 25 home runs.

Neftali Feliz photo credit: Icon SMI

- The big story of the day, outside of Albert Pujols’ obvious dominance, has to be the debut of all-world prospect Jason Heyward. The kid did hit a 3-run homer to right field in his first professional at-bat. Later in the 8th inning he took a pitch back up the middle for an RBI single. Not too shabby. More important than the results from one game is how the kid looked at the plate – like a pro. He has a great approach, calm with a quiet bat, he keeps his hands back and stays on the ball, showed great bat speed and brings all kinds of swagger. Of course, anybody who drafted Heyward saw that too – it’s not like you’ll be able to trade nickels on the dime for him, but it’s exciting to see such a polished young hitter go to work on what promises to be a fantastic career.

- I’m not a fan of Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston and his terrible opening-day lineup didn’t do much to win me over. Gaston had Jose Bautista, a 29-year-old who sports a career .329 OBP, in the leadoff spot, with Travis Buck (career .235/.298/.407) in the sixth spot and put Travis Snider down in the nine hole. “Players write out the lineup – they really do – in the way that they play,” Gaston said heading into the game. Well, when you’re dealing with a young kid like Snider and you have no expectations of competing perhaps that shouldn’t be the case. Snider was one of the elite power prospects, and an elite prospect in general, heading into last season and despite a modest .241/.328/.419 showing in 77 games in 2009 he remains a potential franchise cornerstone. Putting him down at the bottom of the lineup where he won’t be hitting with guys on base and see pitches to hit may not be the best thing for his development – it might be a self-fulfilling demotion. If I’m a Blue Jays fan I’d much rather see my prized young hitter put in a chance to succeed, see pitches and build his confidence.

- Speaking of mishandling prospects, the Rangers announced that young flamethrower Neftali Feliz will be their 8th-inning setup man this season. While that’s exciting news for owners in holds leagues or those hoping he can vulture saves if/when Frank Francisco gets hurt I don’t think it’s what’s best for his development. Seeing spot duty one inning at a time is not what this kid needs, he’s their ace of the future and he’s not going to learn to pitch that way. I think they should work Feliz into a long-relief role where he can stretch out his arm, learn to pitch through multiple innings and manage his stuff. The old Earl Weaver method has worked in recent years for studs like Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana and I think Feliz has the talent to be in that class if he can stay healthy and learn to pitch (admittedly two big ifs) instead of just throw.

- On a more positive note, Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum gave plenty of reason for optimism in his return from Tommy John surgery. Marcum gave up 3 runs in 7 innings, but all the scoring came on a 3-run Nelson Cruz homer in the 7th that was about a foot outside of the zone – Cruz just powered a good pitch out of the park. I cautioned earlier about trying to take early-season results to the bank, but Marcum was stellar in 2008 before going down: 3.39 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .222 BAA, 123 Ks in 151.1 innings. In 2007 he had a very promising year, and Marcum looked like a player was legitimately breaking out in 2008 and with a guy his age there’s no reason he can’t fully recover from the Tommy John procedure. I’m buying where I can.

Gleaning more from MLB Opening Day after the jump …

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2 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Apr. 6, 2010 at 1:01am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

A Handful of Former MLB Stars Are Looking to Regain Some of Their Lost Luster

March 25, 2010

By: Andrew Thell

Vladimir Guerrero is Back in BlueVladimir Guerrero, DH,
Texas Rangers:
Since breaking onto the scene in 1998 with the Montreal Expos, Vladimir Guerrero has consistently been one of the most entertaining players to watch in all of baseball. With a batting style and gate somewhere between that of Frankenstein and Fred Sanford (significantly exacerbated by nagging back injuries), a sap-encrusted 2 x 4 for a bat and the freakish ability to hit anything (hard) within two feet of the strike zone there’s nobody like him. Unfortunately, age and health have been catching up with the slugger the last three years and the Angels let him walk this offseason after a pectoral strain in addition to a bad back and calf finally sapped Guererro of his characteristic raw power in 2009.

After breaking out with 38 home runs in 1998 and averaging over 36 per for the next nine seasons, all while finishing with an OPS between .934-1.074, Vlady hit just 27 out of the park in 2007 and 2008 before dropping all the way down to a meager 15 in 2009 as the injuries have begun to take their toll. His OPS has gone from .950 in 2007 to .886 in 2008 to .794 last year. His .334 OBP and .460 SLG in 2009 marking the lowest totals of his career, and most think the 35-year-old is done.

Vladimir Guerrero photo credit: Icon SMI

I don’t think he has many years left in the tank either, but there’s a chance Vlad has one or two more decent seasons left in him. He’s reportedly in the best shape in years, having shed some of the pounds that slowed him down and led to chronic injuries in recent seasons, and will be able to focus on DHing duties. And like several others on this list, Guerrero should find his new home ballpark in Arlington more than accommodating after signing a one-year, $5 million contract with Texas in early January. Rangers Ballpark, where Guerrero boasts a massive .394/.471/.705 career line, has been one of the most generous to hitters in recent years and Vlad will be in the middle of one of the most explosive young groups in baseball.

He’s never going to be the elite masher we watched in the mid-2000s again, but here’s hoping Vlad has at least one last hurrah left in him – when he’s even moderately healthy, he’s still a treat to watch.

Ben Sheets, SP, Oakland Athletics: It seems like a long time ago that Ben Sheets was considered one of the elite pitching talents in baseball. He’s been synonymous with “injury prone” over the course of his career, pitching just one full season in his past five and missing all of 2009 with a torn flexor tendon, but when healthy Sheets has also been known for stuff good enough rank among MLB’s best starters. In 2004, his last full season, Sheets put down a dominant line: 2.70 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 264 Ks in 237 innings including 5 complete games. He was one of the brightest pitching starts in the league coming off that season, but it’s been all downhill since. An All Star as recently as 2008 (yet another injury-shortened campaign), Sheets is flying almost completely under the radar heading into 2010 – but there are a few reasons for optimism.

Sheets signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Oakland Athletics back in January and it would be hard to imagine a better landing spot for the former ace outside of San Diego or Seattle (where he’ll also get to pitch a few games). A spacious park with some of the most generous foul territory in baseball, Sheets should find pitching in Oakland Coliseum a major boost to his stats if he can stay on the mound. In addition, he’ll be backed up by Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis in what should be one of the best defensive outfields in baseball. It’s always a big “if” when it comes to Sheets, but if he can stay healthy the 31-year-old could make a return to dominance – at least, until Billy Beane trades him in mid-July.

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Boston Red Sox: The last time Adrian Beltre was faced with the prospect of free agency he made the most of his opportunity. A decent 15-25 home run threat posting OPS in the low .700s who was best know for his defense heading into the season, Beltre went off in 2004 to the tune of 48 home runs and a .334/.388/.629 line, good for a 1.017 (!) OPS. Whatever you assign that aberrant production to, it will go down as one of the most anomalous walk-year performances in professional sports history. Since signing a five-year, $64 million contract with the Mariners in 2005 Beltre hasn’t topped 26 HRs and only eclipsed an .800 OPS once (.802 in 2007), bottoming out with just 8 HRs and a .683 OPS last season.

That didn’t stop the Red Sox from signing Beltre this January to a more modest pact worth $9 million over one year with a $5 million option for 2011. As statistically savvy as any team in baseball, perhaps we should be asking why. First, the Red Sox have put a new emphasis on defense of late and Beltre still plays a great third base and is an iron man (though, as he proved last season, he lacks brass balls). Second, Beltre wasn’t nearly as tame at the plate on the road as he was in Safeco Field – one of the most pitcher-friendly environments in baseball. On the road he’s hit around .280 while slugging nearly .500. In a full season playing at home in Fenway Park and regularly on the road at the likes of Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards, and now surrounded by one of the league’s best lineups, Beltre could surprise a lot of people with his production this season.

Francisco Liriano, SP, Minnesota Twins: For one magical stretch in the 2006 season Francisco Liriano was the best pitcher in baseball – and with his electric fastball and slider many thought he had the potential to surpass staff-mate Johan Santana as the Minnesota Twins ace. Just three years later, Liriano is struggling to earn the fifth starter spot for the Twins after losing the entire 2007 and most of the 2008 season to Tommy John surgery and then looking like a pitcher whose stuff never recovered and whose confidence was shot in 2009.

Liriano will likely never be that dominant kid we saw back in 2006, but he has a chance to be a very useful pitcher again in 2010 – be it as the Twins 5th starter or their new closer replacement for Joe Nathan, who is slated to undergo a Tommy John procedure of his own. In the final game of the Dominican Winter League championship this January, Liriano allowed just one hit and struck out 10 over five innings to cap a stellar winter campaign in which he fanned batters at will and looked as close to 2006 form as we’ve seen in the interim.

Obviously, that’s winter ball, but most encouraging was the fact that he was regularly hitting 95 MPH on his fastball and was again showing great break on his once-dominant slider. Liriano has carried the success over to Spring Training and there’s a chance he can be the pitcher everybody was hoping for going into last season. If healthy and able to maintain his confidence (neither a given), Minnesota will just need to decide if that will be for 180-200 innings as a starter or 60-70 innings closing out games.

Now go and do likewise, gents. And remember: Mitch and Murray paid good money for these leads.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Mar. 25, 2010 at 1:01am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

The Five Major League Baseball Prospects Poised to Have the Biggest Impact in 2010

March 17, 2010

By: Andrew Thell

1) Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves:

Jason Heyward, MLBs Top ProspectStephen Strasburg, below, gets more hype, but Atlanta’s right fielder of the future is poised to make the biggest impact this season. The Braves missed out on overpaying for Johnny Damon this winter, which means Heyward will get an opportunity to be the Braves starting right fielder on Opening Day. Heyward has been making the most of that chance, going 10-for-22 and reaching safely in all 10 games in which he’s played this spring and playing solid defense while just about locking up the job.

Heyward is a big man, but he’s not just a masher – he has all the tools to excel at the plate, in the field and on the bases. Standing at 6-4, 220 lbs. and born in 1989, Heyward already has the plate approach of a veteran, above-average speed and a cannon arm. Heyward is listed as Baseball America’s No.1 prospect and comes in second on Baseball Prospectus‘ list heading into the season. He’s the complete package and ready to make a big splash before his 21st birthday.

Jason Heyward photo credit: Icon SMI

2) Neftali Feliz, RP, Texas Rangers:

Feliz got his MLB debut last season pitching out of the bullpen for Texas and looked stellar doing it. The Rangers prized prospect made 20 appearances and struck out 39 hitters while allowing 8 walks in just 31 innings en route to a jaw-dropping 1.74 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and .124 BAA. Those numbers don’t lie either, as Feliz throws a fastball in the 96-100 MPH range that simply leaps out of his hand and also features a curve and changeup that should develop as plus pitches.

He will eventually be featured in Texas’ starting rotation, but with a lackluster spring it looks like Feliz will spend another season in a long-relief role in the Rangers bullpen before making the move to the rotation for 2011. Even so, fantasy leaguers should take note – he’s not in the same class as Strasburg in the long run, but there may not be another pitcher in baseball who can give you the per-inning upside Feliz offers.

3) Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals:

The No. 1 overall pick last year, Strasburg is the most electric young pitcher in baseball and the most hyped draft pick in recent memory. He features a 94-97 MPH fastball that tops out at 101, a giant power curve and a changeup with excellent command (195 Ks to just 19 BBs as a senior at San Diego State). His stuff is so impressive and MLB-ready that there was speculation he could see time with the Nationals late last year, but Washington wisely didn’t push their prized prospect. The speculation was on once again heading into camp in 2010, and the youngster poured fuel on the fire by starting the spring with five scoreless innings while regularly hitting in the high 90s on the radar gun and blowing by professional hitters.

Once again, though, the Nationals will prudently exercise caution and have the phenom start the season in the minors to get his arm ready for pitching on an MLB schedule (and will, conveniently, likely delay his service time in the process). We can expect to see the top pitching prospect in baseball make his debut this season, and it’ll be fun to watch with that 97-101 MPH fastball of his, but the fact that he’ll likely be in the minors the first few months bumps him down to third here.

4) Brian Matusz, SP, Baltimore Orioles:

The first pitcher taken in 2008, Matusz had already reached the bigs by the end of his first full season and has been impressive this spring, striking out 10 batters over four innings in his first two starts (though also giving up four runs) before holding a largely-intact Phillies lineup to three hits and one run in five innings in his third turn. He’s polished for his age, featuring four strong pitches: a low-90s fastball, sharp curve, decent slider and great changeup – all of which he can throw for strikes. The Orioles should slot Matusz into the back end of their starting rotation from day one and he is capable of producing a respectable line from the get-go, though that park and the fact that he pitches in the AL East should severely limit expectations.

5) Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland Indians:

After an offseason surgery on his right hand the Indians’ top prospect will start the 2010 season at Triple-A Columbus, but he’s fully healed and should be mashing for the big league club before long. Santana isn’t the best catcher prospect in baseball, that honor goes to the Yankees’ Jesus Montero (even if he’s unlikely to stick behind the plate), but he is the most likely to make an impact this season at the always talent-starved position.

While he’s unlikely to ever be a great catcher, unlike Montero, Santana does have a plus arm and the tools to stay at the position. However, it’s his offense fantasy owners are concerned about – and the kid doesn’t disappoint at the plate. The 2008 California League MVP and 2009 Eastern League MVP posted a .943 OPS, 23 home runs and a league-leading 90 walks last season. After a few solid weeks at Triple-A we could see a call-up for Santana, and that kind of plate approach should play well at the Major League level out of the box; 15-20 HRs with a solid .370 OBP isn’t out of reach.

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Mar. 17, 2010 at 1:01am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

ETB’s Logo Report Cards, NBA Logo Trends and Logos in Other Sports

October 23, 2009

Denver Nuggets Classic Logo

By: Zachariah Blott

I know it’s a bit belated, but I wanted to put together a few lists that show some logo trends in the NBA over time and some great logos in other sports. Enjoy!

Again, all of these logos are found at Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net.

See Also:
NBA Logo Report Cards, Pt. 1
NBA Logo Report Cards, Pt. 2
NBA Logo Report Cards, Pt. 3

NBA Logo Trends

Trends From the 1940′s Into the 1970′s

Early logos tended to use ridiculous cartoons of the mascot playing the sport.

Ft. Wayne Pistons LogoAtlanta Hawks 1969/70

Denver Nuggets, 1976-1981

Ft. Wayne Pistons, 1948-1957

Houston Rockets, 1971/72

Milwaukee Bucks, 1968-1993

New York Knicks, 1946-1964

Philadelphia Warriors, 1951-1962

Trends From the 1970′s

Teams used super simple shapes and colors, akin to construction paper cut-outs. Apparently they had time machines back then and consulted with the South Park creators to see what they would have done in middle school.

1974/75 All Star Game in Phoenix

Buffalo Braves, 1971-1978

Golden State Warriors, 1972-1975

Indiana Pacers Classic LogoIndiana Pacers, 1976-1990

Kansas City Kings, 1975-1985

New Jersey Nets, 1978-1990

New Orleans Jazz, 1974-1979

Philadelphia 76ers, 1963-1977

Phoenix Suns, 1968-1992

San Diego Clippers, 1978-1982

Washington Bullets, 1974-1987

More logo trends and awards from around sports, after the jump …

Read the rest of this article »

2 CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on Oct. 23, 2009 at 3:02am in Miscellaneous, MLB, NBA, NFL

George Brett Comes Back from Las Vegas with One Less Pair of Pants

October 1, 2009

Professional baseball players, in general, are pigs. They dip. They spit. They have a fascination with adjusting their genitals. They have massive guts and ’90s-style goatees. And, at least in the case of Hall of Famer George Brett, they shit their pants with some degree of regularity.

Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, this one’s worth watching in its entirety. Thanks to ETB reader Judd for the find.

2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Oct. 1, 2009 at 10:24am in MLB

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