Thursday, December 18, 2014

NFL Power Rankings and Predictions: Week 16

Despite the tough loss to the Bills, the Packers move into the #1 spot in the power rankings. The Seahawks did pick up the win but were far from dominant. That lackluster game dropped the Seahawks out of the top spot. Remember, the power rankings are based only on yardage differential and the opponents played and when you played them. Here are the power rankings as we head into Week 16:

TeamPower NumberRank

The power ranking predictions are now 102-102-3 on the season after a 7-7-2 week. You can't get any more mediocre than that. Let's see what the power ranking predictions say for Week 16

TitansJagsJags by 11Jags -3.5
EaglesRedskinsSkins by 9Skins +8.5
ChargersNinersNiners by 17Niners -1
BillsRaidersBills by 10Bills -6
PatriotsJetsPats by 8Jets +10.5
GiantsRamsRams by 5Giants +5
VikingsDolphinsVikings by 7Vikings +6.5
RavensTexansTexans by 9Texans +6.5
LionsBearsLions by 12Lions -9.5
BrownsPanthersPanthers by 23Panthers -3.5
FalconsSaintsFalcons by 8Falcons +6.5
PackersBucsPackers by 11Bucs +11
ChiefsSteelersSteelers by 16Steelers -3.5
ColtsCowboysCowboys by 4Cowboys -3
SeahawksCardinalsSeahawks by 8Cardinals +9
BroncosBengalsBengals by 12Bengals +3.5

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

MLB General Manager Simulation: Jon Lester Negotiations

Through the power of Out of the Park Baseball, I am the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox for the 2014 season trying to repeat as World Champions and avoid what really happened to the Red Sox this past season.

The first issue of course is Jon Lester in the last year of his contract. The goal is to keep him but it won't be easy. I didn't insult him with a $70 million offer, instead his agent came to me with this offer:

I did not meet his demand. 9 years? No thanks. Trading him is not an option because unlike the real 2014 Red Sox, these Red Sox sit in first place.

The differences in this Red Sox team and the real one is the production from key guys who struggled in real life. Will Middlebrooks looks like a legit star in the making. Then there is Grady Sizemore, Sizemore struggled with his comeback with the Sox but in the world of OOTP he was named to the All Star team. He has forced himself into the starting lineup and has excelled.

Speaking of the outfield, my favorite Gamecock, Jackie Bradley is also producing at the plate. The outfield is a crowded one, before the season began Rusney Castillo was a free agent and I won the bidding war. I signed Castillo to a back loaded contract and he has split the first half of the season between Pawtucket and Boston. Injuries to Shane Victorino have cleared a spot in the outfield. Here is Castillo's contract. Let's hope he is for real:

Koji Uehara and Sizemore were the only Red Sox named to the All Star team. There were definitely some snubs.

The starting pitching hasn't been great but they have all stayed healthy and have been eating innings. The issue in the second half could be the lack of depth of pitching if there are injuries.

Jake Peavy has been really good and he is also a free agent at the end of the season. Clay Buchholz, just like in real life, continues to have issues.

Mike Napoli got off to a horrible start but has been hot lately. His average is not great but his power numbers are looking great. David Ortiz continues to produce and Xander Bogaerts appears to be ready for stardom.

The Sox lead in the division is not huge and either is the gap between them and the wild card. The Sox are going to need to have the pitching stay healthy and I plan on looking to make a deal before the deadline for another pitcher. We will see. Stay tuned.

NFL Betting Trends: Week 15

Week 15 was split right down the middle as the underdogs went 7-7-2 against the spread. The Colts/Texans and Seahawks/Niners game both pushed. Out of 221 graded games the underdogs have covered 110 times. Not exactly the year of the underdog.

NFL Betting TrendsRecord
Week 15 Underdogs Record ATS7 - 7 - 2
Underdogs Overall Record ATS110 - 107 - 4
Last Week8 - 6 - 1
Week 15 Underdogs Straight Up4 - 12
Underdogs Straight Up Overall70 - 150 - 1
Last Week5 - 10

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Weekly Rant: Lester and the Red Sox, Muschamp and the Gamecocks

It was a tough week to be a Red Sox fan and Gamecocks fan as neither of them got their man. Where do both go from here? Let's get to the Weekly Rant:

Losing Lester

The Red Sox screwed up. I was happy that the Red Sox did not win the bidding war with the Cubs when it came to Jon Lester. The contract just got way too crazy. I understand why the Cubs did it and I agree with the Sox for not matching their final offer. However, the Sox screwed this up last spring. Lester could have easily signed for about $110 million and that deal would have made perfect sense for the Sox. Instead they offered him $70 million. The Red Sox then made a $140 million offer this past week, which wasn't nearly as sweet as the Cubs deal. I don't blame Jon Lester at all. Good for him and good for Theo Epstein and the Cubs.

Ben Cherington and Larry Lucchino both basically admitted the Sox screwed this up. This is not surprising from Ben but for Larry I was shocked. This is the same guy who shot his mouth off last spring about how the Red Sox philosophy is basically better than the Yankees because they don't give out long term, lavish contracts. Larry needs to shut up. I hate the Yankees too, but his words come back to bite him way too often.

Replacing Lester

The Sox missed out on Jeff Samardzija because they were busy trying to sign Jon Lester who they didn't think was worth more than $70 million this past spring. Did I mention the Sox screwed up? Anyway, the Sox did get a three headed monster in the form of Wade Miley, Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson. Together, the three will make in salary what Jon Lester will make in a year. That is great value.

These guys are all inning eating starting pitchers who get ground balls. The Sox desperately need this considering all they did have for the rotation was Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelley, both of whom are not what you would call inning eaters.

Justin Masterson was hurt most of last season but his four previous seasons he averaged just under 199 innings pitched a season.

Rick Porcello has been in the majors for six years and has averaged just under 179 innings pitched each season. He was 25 years old last season and threw 204 innings.

Wade Miley has pitched three full big league seasons and is averaging just a tick under 200 innings pitched a season.

Where is the Ace?

Justin Masterson and Wade Miley both started on Opening Day for their respective teams last season. Are they really aces though and does it really matter? Ben Cherington was quoted as saying "Once Opening Day is gone the whole No. 1 starter thing is kind of overrated" He is right to a certain degree. Those of us who remember the Pedro Martinez led pitching staffs can remember how awful things were those other four days. A rotation without a true ace can get you into the postseason. It is all about depth and having lots of quality arms. However, who is going to be the guy who leads you to a World Championship once you get there? A dominant ace is really needed when you get to October.

What are the Sox options? There is James Shields, even though he struggled this past October, he does have the #1 type of makeup in him. There is also Cole Hamels. Here is my issues with Hamels, in order to get him the Sox are going to have to give up at least two really good prospects and then the Sox will owe him around $110 million. That is the same price we could have had Lester back in the spring and would not need to give up prospects. Have I mentioned that the Sox screwed this up?

War Damn Eagle

Will Muschamp is the new defensive coordinator for the Auburn Tigers. The national media predicted this for a while now. There were reports that Muschamp was coming to South Carolina. Let's get a few things straight, Muschamp and the Gamecocks were in talks. Was there an actual "offer"? I think we are getting into semantics. Tanner has gone on record saying there was no offer and Muschamp said in his press conference that Auburn was the only team to make him an offer. How would it make South Carolina look or Lorenzo Ward look if Muschamp did reveal that the Gamecocks were talking to him? It was a class move by Muschamp, another reason why I like him.

Muschamp wanted to bring several of his coaches with him. There is also a strong indication he wanted a guarantee of the Head Coaching job once Spurrier retired. Obviously, this is not something the Gamecocks wanted to do. Tanner went on record saying he is not a fan of the Head Coach In-Waiting scenario.

Defending Ward

I believe that Lorenzo Ward is a very good defensive coordinator. Would I rather have Muschamp? Yes. However, I am not in favor of firing him and I think Spurrier has handled this well. I do believe there will be changes to the coaching staff after the bowl game. They are needed, but if you are holding your breath for Ward to be fired, it is not going to happen and it shouldn't.

Spurrier's Loose Lips

Steve Spurrier's statement that he would probably coach for 2-3 more years has not gone over well with recruits. Is anyone shocked? As I have said many times before, this is the big elephant in the room. We have a 70 year old coach and now he is talking about the end of his career. This is why I wanted Muschamp on staff as the DC and the Head Coach In-Waiting. We need to have a transition plan in place. It is only going to make it tougher to recruit and tougher to stay relevant which will make it tougher to find a coach to replace Spurrier when he does retire. This is a very critical time for the football program. I have confidence that Ray Tanner and Spurrier will make the best decisions over the next few years to put the football program in the best possible situation. It will not be easy though.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

NFL Power Rankings and Predictions: Week 15

The Seahawks separated themselves by a wide margin in the power rankings this week with another dominating performance. The Broncos took a tumble as they struggled with the Bills. Remember, the power rankings are based only on yardage differential and opponents played. Here are the power rankings as we head into Week 15:

TeamPower NumberRank

The power ranking predictions went 8-7-1 last week to bring the season overall record to 95-95-1. That is some major mediocrity. Here are the power ranking predictions for Week 15:

CardinalsRamsRams by 18Rams -4.5
PackersBillsBills by 11Bills +6
DolphinsPatriotsPats by 28Pats -7.5
RedskinsGiantsGiants by 16Giants -7
SteelersFalconsSteelers by 6Steelers -2.5
RaidersChiefsChiefs by 1Raiders +10
TexansColtsColts by 15Colts -7
JagsRavensRavens by 18Ravens -14
BucsPanthersPanthers by 11Panthers -3.5
BengalsBrownsBengals by 1Bengals +1.5
JetsTitansJets by 3Jets -2
BroncosChargersBroncos by 6Broncos -4.5
VikingsLionsLions by 21Lions -8
NinersSeahawksSeahawks by 36Seahawks -10
CowboysEaglesEagles by 12Eagles -3.5
SaintsBearsBears by 3Bears +3

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

1975 Boston Red Sox Simulation: Red Sox Limp into June

We are through May with our 1975 Boston Red Sox Replay using Action PC Baseball. It is not pretty. The Red Sox went 10-15 in May including losing their last seven games of the month. They sit at 18-23 and 9 games back of the New York Yankees.

By comparison, the real 1975 Red Sox were 23-18 at this point in the season and were in first place with a 2.5 game lead. Not only are the simulated Sox playing worse than their real life counterpart, but the teams around them are playing much better. The Yankees are off to a 29-16 start in this simulation.

The Red Sox are just not scoring runs. Bob Montgomery is still tied with the team lead in homeruns with 4. The offense has been anemic and performing well below the real numbers. The good news is that the numbers should correct themselves but will it be too late?

Fred Lynn has been the lone bright spot as he continues to put up MVP numbers. Carlton Fisk has yet to play a game and his return should provide an offensive boost.

Around the rest of baseball the story is Mike Schmidt. Schmidt is putting up monster numbers as we enter June.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

NFL Betting Trends: Week 14

The underdogs had another winning week as they slowly make a comeback. It wasn't a slam dunk week for the underdogs like I thought it might be. The underdogs went 8-6-1.

The Jets pushed against the Vikings as they were getting six points. The Cardinals/Chiefs was a pick 'em game as of last Thursday so while there were 16 games played in Week 14, only 15 of them could be tabulated as underdog vs favorite.

Here are the NFL betting trends as we head into Week 15 of the season:

NFL Betting TrendsRecord
Week 14 Underdogs Record ATS8 - 6 - 1
Underdogs Overall Record ATS103 - 100 - 2
Last Week8 - 8
Week 14 Underdogs Straight Up5 - 10
Underdogs Straight Up Overall66 - 138 - 1
Last Week6 - 10

Box Score Stories: The Clemens and Canseco Effect

20 years ago today the Boston Red Sox acquired Jose Canseco from the Texas Rangers for Otis Nixon and Luis Ortiz. The Red Sox would go on to win the AL East the following season. 1995, was also the last time I would go to Fenway Park with my father.

My father took me to Fenway Park for the first time in 1988, ironically to see the Red Sox take on Jose Canseco and the Oakland A's. We would head to Fenway in 1995 while I was home from college.

We would take in a four game weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles in mid August. The Red Sox were riding a seven game win streak and had a 6.5 game lead in the AL East when we arrived. I was excited that I would get to see Roger Clemens pitch on Saturday but I was not real excited to see Jose Canseco.

Roger Clemens was my boyhood hero. He could do no wrong in my eyes. Jose Canseco was the guy I saw in Fenway in 1988, the guy I helped heckle with the steroid chant along with thousands of other fans in Fenway. He was the opposite of Clemens in my mind. He was a jerk while Clemens was the bright light of baseball. Ironically, they seem like the same guy now. Sadly, they were the same guy back then.

The Red Sox would win on Thursday 11-1 as Canseco would go 3-3 with a homerun.(BoxScore) Hmmm, this Canseco guy was growing on me. He sure did bring excitement when he walked up to the plate.

The Red Sox would win the next night 5-4 in 12 innings on a walk off double by Lee Tinsley. My father and I instantly started calling him "Lee Buck", an ode to Lee Trevino. Canseco would go 3-5.(Box Score) The big lug was starting to grow on me.

The next night was the main event, Roger Clemens vs Mike Mussina. Hall of Famer vs Hall of Famer, only Clemens will probably never make it in and Mussina, who deserves to be in, is not getting the votes and it doesn't look real good for him in the near future.

I have seen Clemens pitch on every one of our trips to Fenway, that takes some luck. This would be the last time I would ever see Clemens pitch in person. He didn't disappoint. The Red Sox would win 7-0. Clemens would pitch seven shutout innings and strike out nine. Canseco? He would go 2-5. (Box Score)

Canseco was now 8-13 in the series. I was officially a Jose Canseco fan. Morals be damned! He suddenly seemed like a good guy now. Weird how that happens.

My father woke up early Sunday morning to get a newspaper and coffee and while he was out he saw a street vendor selling Jose Canseco shirts. He picked one up for me. When he returned to the hotel with it, I was excited. I was definitely going to be wearing it to the series finale.It makes me puke to think about it now,

The series finale took a back seat to news that Mickey Mantle had passed away that morning. The flag in Fenway Park was lowered and there was a moment of silence. It was pretty cool to be in Fenway Park that day. The Red Sox were honoring a rival from the past, an icon. I might have made the comment, "they better do the same damn thing in Yankee Stadium when Ted Williams dies", which of course the Yankees did.

The game? Well, the Red Sox would win 3-2. (Box Score) They would sweep the four game series, extend their winning streak to 11 games and their lead in the AL East was now 9 games. It was the final nail in the Yankees coffin. Rumor is that I may have even said "Mickey is dead and so are the Yanks", I can't confirm nor deny this. Canseco? Oh yeah, he hit a three run homer in the first inning to account for all the Red Sox runs. What a guy! Whatever happened to him?

The Latest on Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks

The rumors continue to fly about Muschamp and his future. We are pretty sure both Auburn and Texas A&M have offered him real good money to become their defensive coordinator. The national media seems to think that he will likely end up at Auburn. What about the Gamecocks?

Last week, a story broke that Muschamp and the Gamecocks had a deal in place. You can read that article here. An hour after that story broke, Spurrier denied reports that Muschamp had been hired. Spurrier was asked again yesterday and did not give any information nor did he really refute any of the speculation.

Many discount the "done deal" story as false, but is it? I find it hard to believe that someone would just make that up. It is possible the source of the article wasn't 100% accurate. It does appear that the Gamecocks are going hard after Muschamp. Here is the latest:

A Board of Trustee at the University of South Carolina has apparently stated that Will Muschamp does want to come to South Carolina. He also wants to bring some of his coaches from his Florida Gators staff. If you notice, none of his staff from Florida have made any moves as of yet. Of course, Jeremy Foley has reportedly asked new coach Jim McElwain to keep much of Muschamp's staff intact.

Muschamp is also believed to want the Head Coach in Waiting title. I imagine this would only work for both Spurrier and Muschamp if Spurrier really has a clear timeline of when he is going to retire and has shared that with Tanner and Muschamp.

Ray Tanner is also said to be heavily involved in these discussions, more so than Spurrier. It comes down to how many coaches Spurrier will have to let go in order to accommodate Muschamp. There is also a feeling that Spurrier would like to keep Lorenzo Ward because of his recruiting ability.

Spurrier has yet to make any changes to the coaching staff. His response has been that all of his coaches are under contract for next year. Spurrier is also quick to say that he is not sure if any of his coaches will get job offers elsewhere for next season.

Spurrier is not somebody who likes to fire coaches. The way he usually does it is to find jobs in other programs when he wants to move/fire coaches. Spurrier's response to his coaches getting other jobs, is his way of saying some changes will be made. Nothing will happen until after the bowl game and until after they work out the details with Muschamp. It is certainly not a done deal but as I stated last week in this post, the Gamecocks have something to offer Muschamp that other schools do not, a path to be a head coach of an SEC school again. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Weekly Rant: College Football Playoff, Gamecock Basketball and the Incredible Roger Staubach

It is a weekly rant time. It was a busy week of sports. Here we go:

Correct teams, Flawed System

The committee did a great job. They got the right four teams and Ohio State deserves to be in the playoffs. Trust me, I hate Ohio State, if I feel like they are deserving then you know they belong.

My issue is with the process. TCU drops from #3 to #6 in five days after beating Iowa State by about 200 points? That makes no sense. The system put the committee in an impossible spot. This is why they should only meet the last weekend of the regular season and release their final rankings and playoff spots one time. The NCAA basketball tournament committee doesn't meet every week and release their top 68 tourney teams every Tuesday, neither should the football playoff committee.

Life at Colonial Life Arena

A huge weekend for Gamecock hoops. The men destroyed an undefeated Oklahoma State team 75-49. Oklahoma State came into the game 7-0 on the season but have yet to play a good team. They lost their best player off of last year's team thanks to the NBA draft. How good are they? I have no idea. I do know they were favored by 2 and lost by 26. Impressive win by the Gamecocks.

We saw glimpses of this promise at the end last year when Ty Johnson was healthy. Throw in the emergence of Duane Notice and now the Gamecocks have three legit scoring threats. Teams can no longer look to just shut down Sindarious Thornwell without consequences. They still have issues down low but this is a team that can make some noise once the SEC season begins. North Florida, who the Gamecocks crushed earlier this year, beat Purdue this past weekend. Another good sign if you are trying to gauge this Carolina team.  The Gamecocks are off until next Friday when they host Clemson. Clemson just knocked off Arkansas.

The Lady Gamecocks have been cruising and sit as the #1 team in the country. Yesterday they had their first challenge of the young season and went on the road and beat #9 Duke on a put back in the final seconds. Huge win!

Baseball in Columbia

Spirit Communications Park will be the name of the new baseball park in Columbia. The pictures look great and it has been long overdue. The capital city of the state of South Carolina should not have been without professional baseball for this long.

It still irks me how we lost the Bombers, who became the Greenville Drive and who became the Red Sox Single A affiliate in a ballpark that looks like Fenway Park. It still stings.

Captain Comeback

I love sports documentaries and the NFL Network's A Football Life series in incredible. My favorite up to this point is the two part special done on Bill Belichick. That is until I saw the brand new one on Roger Staubach. Ironically, Belichick has ties with Staubach and is in the documentary. It is an incredible show and it makes you appreciate one of the most underrated quarterbacks of all time and one of the most underrated human beings that our country has ever known. It is a must see.

Laughing with Jalen

I stumbled upon these hilarious videos starring Jalen Rose. The series is called Story Time with Jalen Rose and reminds me of the Charlie Murphy skits on the old Dave Chappelle Show.  There are seven different videos. My favorite is the story of how Jalen Rose stole the television that belonged to Patrick Ewing.

Yell at me on twitter @thepeskypole6