Saturday, October 31, 2009

Babe of the Week and Week 8 Picks

This week's Babe of the Week is Sophia Bush, who attended USC for three years before landing her role on One Tree Hill and since this week's big game in college is USC-Oregon, she's a perfect BOTW. Here are my NFL and College picks for Halloween weekend. As always, home team in CAPS.

Denver (+3) over BALTIMORE- I know the Broncos are due to lose, I would feel more comfortable if the Broncos were favored, plus their defense is better than the Ravens.
CHICAGO (-13) over Cleveland- The Bears burned me last week, but I always pick against Eric Mangini, the Rich Kotite of the 00's. The Bears need this and will beat the Browns easily.
BUFFALO (+3.5) over Houston- All of a sudden, the Bills have played a little better. They still are pretty bad, but I don't think Houston travels well. Since it's the Texans, pick against me here.
INDIANAPOLIS (-13.5) over San Francisco- The Niners aren't bad like the Rams last week, but this is the Colts and Peyton Manning, keep taking them until they fail you.
Miami (+3.5) over JETS- The Dolphins ran all over the Jets two weeks ago and that game had Kris Jenkins playing nose tackle. Now without him, I think the Dolphins win again.
St. Louis (+4) over DETROIT- Let's put it this way, if you actually bet on this game in any way, you have a gambling problem. It's like betting on the Pro Bowl, just get some help.
DALLAS (-9.5) over Seattle- One thing we do know, the Cowboys are still a bully team and the Seahawks coming in to Dallas constitutes a game they tend to win.
Giants (-1) over PHILADELPHIA- The undercard to Game 4 of the World Series is a benefit to the Giants. No Brian Westbrook, weak O-line and the G-Men have won their last four in Philly and I could see a tough day for McNabb and the Eagles.
SAN DIEGO (-16.5) over Oakland- I thought about taking the Raiders, but if the Chargers blow them out, then I let you down. You should stay away because the Chargers do have Norv Turner and the Raiders are the Raiders.
Jacksonville (+3) over TENNESSEE- You can't take Vince Young in his first start in over a year and give points. Yes, I'm still mad at being fooled by the Titans.
ARIZONA (-10) over Carolina- If Jake Delhomme wasn't starting, I'd think about taking the Panthers. But Jake on the road against the team that ruined his life, well...
GREEN BAY (-3) over Minnesota- Everyone thinks Favre will return to Lambeau and play like the "great" QB that he is. I think student beats teacher as the Packers protect Rodgers better.
NEW ORLEANS (-11) over Atlanta- The Falcons are a good home team, unfortunately this is at the Superdome and when the Falcons give up points, they don't stop. The worst news, the Saints are the team who will score continuously.

NFL Record: 56-46-1

BOSTON COLLEGE (-6) over Central Michigan
AUBURN (+6.5) over Mississippi
Miami (-6.5) over WAKE FOREST
California (-6.5) over ARIZONA STATE
WISCONSIN (-7) over Purdue
Georgia (+14.5) over Florida (game in Jacksonville)
South Carolina (+6) over TENNESSEE
Kansas (+6.5) over TEXAS TECH
OKLAHOMA STATE (+9) over Texas
OREGON (+3) over USC

College Record: 34-38-1

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

World Series Preview: The Turnpike Tussel

The World Series finally begins tonight and for the first time since 2001, you can say the best two teams in baseball are playing each other as the defending champ Philadelphia Phillies get ready for the many time defending payroll champ New York Yankees. Think about it, either there have been World Series that involved a less glamorous team (think '03 Marlins, '06 Cardinals) or the ALCS was the World Series that season ('04, '07). Now that we're all ready, let's breakdown the matchup.

1B: Mark Teixeria vs. Ryan Howard- This is probably the toughest matchup of all players and is seemingly a push because of Howard's power and Tex's defense. However, everyone overlooks that Howard is a better defensive first baseman than you think and I just can't ignore how hot he's been at the plate compared to Tex in these playoffs. Advantage Phillies

2B: Robinson Cano vs. Chase Utley- These two players are among the best second baseman in baseball. Utley hasn't been great in the playoffs, but he's not awful as well. Cano's in the same boat as Utley this postseason. Utley normally wins because he's a better hitter with runners on base, but the rumors of an injury are too great for me to ignore. Even

SS: Derek Jeter vs. Jimmy Rollins- If you look at the numbers, Jeter wins. However, Rollins is a clutch hitter and terrific fielder (probably the best fielding shortstop in baseball). In the big spot, both of these guys exude confidence that they will get the big hit. The one difference is that Jeter is more consistent in all situations and has played better defense this year. Advantage Yankees

3B: Alex Rodriguez vs. Pedro Feliz- The only way Feliz is even with A-Rod is that Feliz has a head, two arms and two legs. Other than that, nothing. Advantage Yankees

LF: Johnny Damon vs. Raul Ibanez- Tough matchup of aging hitters who still have a little left in the tank. Ibanez is the better fielder by default because I could run on Damon's arm. They have had similar postseasons, Damon I'd say is a little better. Ibanez also has rumors of an injury, but he's still dangerous at the plate. Even

CF: Melky Cabrera vs. Shane Victorino- Both players had terrific LCS' and can hit very well. Victorino has a slight fielding advantage and is more of an interesting cog in their offense than Cabrera is. Hey, Cabrera is a good hitter, but Victorino is much more dangerous at the plate and on the bases as well. Advantage Phillies
RF: Nick Swisher vs. Jayson Werth- Swisher has had some hitting troubles this postseason and I don't think Game 6 just magically means his slump is over. As for Werth, he's the reason you can't pitch around Ryan Howard because he's so dangerous at the plate. Add the fact he's the best outfield arm on either team and can steal a base and this is not even close. Advantage Phillies

Catcher: Jorge Posada vs. Carlos Ruiz- Ordinarily, this is an easy victory for Posada, but Chooch is a terrific catcher and a remarkably clutch hitter. I said it in the NLCS preview, but Ruiz is clearly the Pat Borders of the aughts, with his weak regular season, but strong postseason numbers. Let's also remember that Ruiz is a better fielding catcher than Posada and Jose Molina appears to be playing in a couple of games as well. Advantage Phillies

Starting pitching: It really depends on rain and if the Yankees use a three-man rotation. CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee are a complete wash and their starts could go either way. A.J. Burnett will face Pedro Martinez and anything can happen in their starts, except a complete game for Pedro. Andy Pettitte can handle Game 3, but I'm not sure about him in Game 6 on three days rest. Cole Hamels is the Phillies X-factor because if he can pitch like the ace who won all the awards last postseason, the Phillies will win. But I can't count on that. Even

Bullpen: Both bullpens have question marks. Can Ryan Madson be the setup man? Will we see continued struggles from Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes? Is Chan Ho Park the Phillies best reliever? One thing that you can't question is Mariano Rivera, while Brad Lidge is still a huge question mark, despite good play in the NL playoffs. Advantage Yankees

Bench: No DH matchup because the Phillies have none and Hideki Matsui won't play OF. The Yankees bench is better in this series as they have Eric Hinske instead of Freddy Guzman and particularly strong in Philly when Matsui comes off the bench. For the Phils, it's basically Ben Francisco and Matt Stairs as the major reserves, with a little Greg Dobbs to be sprinkled in for sure. Even.

Manager: Joe Girardi vs. Charlie Manuel- Let's just say Yankee fans get scared when Girardi walks out on the field. There is a legitimate possibility that Girardi could lose a game on his own. I have no worries about Manuel, since he knows his ball club and the world championship from last year is always a positive. Advantage Phillies

Intangibles: For the Phillies, it's the championship pedigree, which aside from the Core Four, is an advantage over the Yankees. Home-field is a big deal for the Yankees as they have lost only eight games there since the All-Star break. Even

The Phillies will win if: Lee outduels Sabathia; Hamels pitches well; the bullpen turns into a strength; Philly's offense is better than New York's; Girardi has a bad series; Burnett and/or Pettitte struggle; Howard keeps up his great play.

The Yankees will win if: Sabathia outduels Lee; the Phillies bullpen is as expected, while the Yankees' revert to 2nd half form; Yankees hit better than the Phils; A-Rod continues his hot bat; Burnett is the good Burnett.

Prediction: The Phillies have had the strongest title defense since the '01 Yanks who went to Game 7 in Arizona before the great Mariano Rivera (sorry to sound like Jon Miller here) blew his first postseason save since 1997. Just like those Yankees, I think the Phillies as well. Yankees in 7 MVP: Robinson Cano

Friday, October 23, 2009

Babe of the Week and Week 7 Picks

Welcome to Week 7 in the NFL and another week of college football. With this week's big college football game being between Mountain West foes TCU and BYU, it's best to have a TCU grad as the Babe of the Week. This is Kristin Holt Adams, former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader and currently is on the G4 network, just like last week's babe Olivia Munn was (sidebar; this is freaky that G4 of all networks have the best looking women in television). Anyway, here's the picks for Week 7 in the NFL and the eighth week of college football. Home team in CAPS:

KANSAS CITY (+5.5) over San Diego- The Chargers really aren't good, while the Chiefs don't seem like they will be satisfied with one win.
Indianapolis (-14) over ST. LOUIS- No chance for the Rams the way Peyton Manning is playing, let's move on.
Green Bay (-9) over CLEVELAND- I still don't know how the Packers will be against good teams, but they take care of business against bad ones.
PITTSBURGH (-6) over Minnesota- The Vikings are due for a bad game, especially on an awful field, plus the Steelers are due for a message sending game.
New England (-15) over Tampa Bay- The Pats will teach everyone in London a lesson on how to annihilate an opponent; Tom Brady fantasy owners rejoice (including me).
HOUSTON (-3) over San Francisco- I think the Niners will win, which means I must pick the opposite and take the Texans to win this game; I'm 0-6 picking Texans games this year.
OAKLAND (+6) over Jets- Every rational argument says the Jets need a win and the Raiders are satisfied, except when the Jets play in Oakland, common sense is thrown out.
CAROLINA (-7) over Buffalo- I hate going with Jake Delhomme here, so I'm going with DeAngelo Williams against that ghastly Bills run defense.
Chicago (Pick'em) over CINCINNATI- Antwan Odom's injury could be devastating for the Bengals defense; also I expect better games from Jay Cutler and Matt Forte.
MIAMI (+6.5) over New Orleans- The Dolphins are back and will control this game with the Wildcat, as the Saints have a letdown after last week's Giants win.
DALLAS (-4) over Atlanta- I'm loathe to pick the Cowboys, however, the bye week is a positive for a Wade Phillips team (such an oxymoron) and I'm not a believer in the Falcons yet.
GIANTS (-7) over Arizona- Everything in this game should say the Giants will lose (Cards passing game, weak Giants DB's) but the Cards just don't play well in the Northeast.
Philadelphia (-7) over WASHINGTON- It's around this time that Redskins fans want the Skins to lose, Eagles will want to avoid the troubles of their NFC East opponents and have to win.

NFL Record: 50-40

Georgia Tech (-5.5) over VIRGINIA
PITTSBURGH (-6.5) over South Florida
MIAMI-FL (-4.5) over Clemson
WASHINGTON (+10) over Oregon
Penn State (-4.5) over MICHIGAN
KANSAS (+8) over Oklahoma
MISSOURI (+13) over Texas
Iowa (+1.5) over MICHIGAN STATE
LSU (-7.5) over Auburn
BYU (+2.5) over Texas Christian (sorry Kristin)

College Record: 29-33-1

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Randomness While I Apply For Umpire School

- It's official, I honestly believe I can do a better job being an umpire than the umps in baseball. I can never be an NHL ref since I can't skate and the NBA and NFL referees actually have a harder job than people think due to the speed of each game. Baseball umpires just stand there and can just wait until a play comes to them. Consider the following missed calls this postseason: The Brandon Inge ball hitting the jersey, the C.B. Bucknor performance at first base in Game 1 of the Red Sox-Angels series, Phil Cuzzi forgetting that the foul line is fair, and lastly the unforgettable performance as a crew Tuesday night (particularly Tim McClelland) that MLB would be in worse shape if not for CC Sabathia shutting down the Angels last night.

- While I'm giving benefit to the doubt to NFL referees, the best conference in college football, the SEC, all of a sudden have the worst group of officials in sports, even with the putrid baseball umpires effort. It's not just about the LSU/Georgia celebration penalties, but last weeks Arkansas/Florida game was almost fixed in the timing of the gift calls for Florida. First a weak pass interference call, then a simply wrong personal foul penalty ensured that almighty Tim Tebow would get to keep the Gators unbeaten. Good job by the SEC though for suspending those officials for the next few weeks, hopefully it sends a message, although a strong one would be firing them.

- This week has been full of weird stories. First the balloon boy mess that if we just realized the family was on WifeSwap and the kid's name is Falcon, we would of knew it was fake and no longer waste time on this (great work by the Huffington Post here). Next, talk about "What a moment", we have the Jim Nantz divorce proceedings where Nantz now is dating a 29-year old and the biggest issue of contention is the placement of a portrait of Nantz in a warehouse because the former Mrs. didn't want it hanging in the mansion. Finally, this story about Steve Phillips cheating on his wife with a 20-year old intern, who then goes Glenn Close on his wife, is funny on so many levels, 75 % of them because of the girl he chose. Based on that decision, I'm quite certain that Steve Phillips would have made the Scott Kazmir-Victor Zambrano trade, like his successor Jim Duquette did. Yesterday seemed like the start of a war with ESPN at Deadspin, as they have now been reporting outing all of ESPN's behind the scenes trysts (since it's not public, I won't name them on the site).

- I wanted to touch on the NY Rangers who lost the other night to end a seven game winning streak as it seemed like John Tortorella had Stephen Valiquette play in net to prove a point, that the last few wins were because of Henrik Lundqvist in net, not by their good play in those games. Hopefully, the players learned something, but a couple of shoutouts since I was at the game Monday night. The first goes to Jed Ortmeyer, the former Ranger and two-time Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award winner who returned to the Garden in a Sharks uniform and scored a goal and was making hits and flying all over the ice. My best memory of Ortmeyer was his first goal after a pulmonary embolism on a penalty shot against the Bruins, another game that I was there watching from the blue seats. The other shoutout goes to Michael Del Zotto, who despite the loss, scored another goal and is playing out of his mind. He's the best power play quarterback since Leetch and he's the next superstar in New York, mark my words.

- It's a good thing I didn't write a comprehensive NFL posts since Week 1 because it saved you from a bunch of "the Giants are great" columns and it saved me from the taunts of my readers who are at best non-Giants fans and at worst those who loathe the team (i.e. Eagles fans, Cowboys fans). I still like this team and I'm not going to overreact to the loss against the Saints, but for the Giants, the important thing to do is win the NFC East and the division is weaker this season. Washington's got this boulder of a situation with Jim Zorn and the Cowboys are in the third year under Wade Phillips who now you just can't even look at without thinking "This is my coach?" As for the Eagles, they are still good, but I always have the feeling they give away more regular season games than they should because the Donovan McNabb/Andy Reid tandem does cost them 2-4 games a year.

- So much for the Sanchise talk. It's not just that everyone's off the Mark Sanchez bandwagon, it's that Mark Sanchez was driving that bandwagon fine, then thought he could drive in oncoming traffic, then hit a guardrail and tumbled into a ditch. Now, I haven't declared this statement a failure, he's a rookie, he'll have bad games. However, it's time for me to officially tell Jets fans to settle down.

- After the Dez Bryant for Heisman campaign I ran ended like Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid, I have a new player that should be in front of every voters ballot, Mark Ingram of Alabama. First of all, the Crimson Tide are the best team in the nation right now, they have done better than Florida for much of this season and Ingram has been the main reason. The key stat is that he has 568 yards rushing against Virginia Tech, Mississippi and South Carolina. If the Tide end up finishing unbeaten, there's no better Heisman candidate, especially if Colt McCoy continues to play ordinary.

- Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies for repeating as National League champs. The Yankees should have joined them in the World Series, but they allowed the Angels to send this series back to New York. Here are four names I find responsible; Joe Girardi should have taken out A.J. Burnett to start the seventh inning and in a move that isn't being discussed, he should have pulled Phil Hughes after the game-tying single to Vladimir Guerrero for Phil Coke to face Kendry Morales and turn him right-handed (sidebar, how in the world do you pinch run A-Rod, there's no argument you can make that makes it a good move. At least it didn't bite the Yanks, it could have if the Yanks tie). Burnett deserves a lion's share of blame; he was terrible in the first inning and then couldn't handle the success of a Yankee comeback (second sidebar, that's it with the Burnett/Molina experiment, now it's Jorge Posada at catcher for good). I completely disregard the 2nd-6th innings because there's no pressure for A.J. and when the pressure is back, Burnett chokes. That's why you take him out, along with the long top of the 7th.

As far as Hughes, he angered me most of all. He had no command of his fastball when facing Torii Hunter and against Guerrero, he gets a 1-2 count with a curveball in the dirt. Then, Hughes shakes off Posada and throws a fastball that Hughes misses in the zone and Guerrero ties it. Now, come on Hughes YOU DON'T THROW A 1-2 FASTBALL TO GUERRERO!!!! You don't, make Guerrero chase a pitch outside or tail him inside. It's time for Girardi to move Dave Robertson into the setup role as Rivera's bridge because both Hughes and Chamberlain haven't been to put it lightly automatics; to put it blunt, they have been terrible. Finally, Nick Swisher, he may be a good clubhouse guy, but he's awful at the plate. He should of taken some pitches from Brian Fuentes, who was brutal in that ninth inning (third sidebar; Mike Scioscia was pulling a Girardi last night, first by taking out John Lackey, then by bringing in Jeppsen to face Cano in the seventh and by taking out Jered Weaver who was dealing for Fuentes, who is so nerve-wracking. Imagine Jim Leyland managing with Fuentes as his closer, he have to save a full pack of Marlboro Reds exclusively for his save attempts). Instead Swisher, swings at the first two pitches, somehow rallys back to 3-2 then a pop-up to lose it. The Yankees are lucky to have CC Sabathia ready for Game 7, which could kill them in the World Series if he has to pitch.

- Since this is coming out Friday afternoon, let's do some housekeeping. My NFL/College picks column will be out either later tonight or tomorrow morning. I will have an NBA preview, probably Monday, if not before the Tuesday openers. Finally, I will have a World Series preview on Wednesday.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Babe of the Week and Week 6 Picks

The past two weeks have seen me just write my picks without any pictures to begin. And that's when the light bulb came on and figured that someone hot should lead the page. It's probably the smartest move I've ever made on this blog and while it isn't stripperific like the guys do at Four Habs Fans, this won't disappoint. Also, the woman I pick each week will be an alum from one of the schools playing the "game of the week". This week, since Texas and USC will have another big game and we won't find one in Notre Dame, I decided to pick Oklahoma alum Olivia Munn from G4 and soon to be in Iron Man 2. Anyway, enjoy that while I give out my NFL and College picks for this week. (Home team listed in CAPS):

Kansas City (+6) over WASHINGTON- The Chiefs should have fired Wade last week, they will fire Jim Zorn this week.
CINCINNATI (-5) over Houston- Cincy should win, but since Houston wins when I pick against them, put everything on the Texans.
PITTSBURGH (-14) over Cleveland- I'd be more worried about a late cover if the Browns didn't win with a QB completing 2 passes last week.
MINNESOTA (-3) over Baltimore- Favre's still inside and Jared Allen is the early season MVP; yes, even ahead of Peyton (remember a defensive player will be my MVP)
JACKSONVILLE (-9.5) over St. Louis- I can't stand the Jags, but the Rams are absolutely awful.
Giants (+3) over NEW ORLEANS- I understand how tough the Saints offense can be, but I won't pick against the Giants on the road, especially when they are underdogs.
TAMPA BAY (+3) over Carolina- I don't think Josh Johnson is that terrible, perhaps already better than Jake Delhomme.
GREEN BAY (-13.5) over Detroit- The Packers must win this game and won't let the Lions be frisky, get ready to win this week Aaron Rodgers owners.
Philadelphia (-14) over OAKLAND- The Eagles would cover this line if it was 24 points; Raiders have quit.
Arizona (+3) over SEATTLE- I hate going against the Seahawks at home, but the Cards need this before the Giants next week and Seattle's still banged up.
JETS (-9.5) over Buffalo- If the Jets are for real, they have to destroy the Bills, especially after the Dolphin Debacle; expect to hear Dick Enberg to say "Edwards is down" a lot.
NEW ENGLAND (-9) over Tennessee- There's no way you pick against the Pats following a loss against a winless team. And no, the Titans aren't good, so the "experts" shouldn't say different.
Chicago (+3) over ATLANTA- I think the Falcons are a little overrated and the Bears can throw the ball against them.
Denver (+3.5) over SAN DIEGO- After only five games, I already trust Josh McDaniels more than I do Norv Turner. To be fair, Rex Ryan lost that status last Monday by eating timeouts.

NFL Record: 45-31

Texas (-3.5) over Oklahoma
WISCONSIN (-2.5) over Iowa
BOSTON COLLEGE (-2.5) over N.C. State
South Carolina (+18) over ALABAMA
PENN STATE (-17) over Minnesota
California (-3.5) over UCLA
NEBRASKA (-10.5) over Texas Tech
Missouri (+7) over OKLAHOMA STATE
Virginia Tech (-3.5) over GEORGIA TECH
NOTRE DAME (+10) over USC

College Record: 24-28-1

Friday, October 16, 2009

Yankees-Angels ALCS Preview

After a wait that was longer than each team's series, the ALCS begins tonight with the Yankees and the Angels. Both teams swept their way into this series; the Yanks were expected while the Angels surprised by finally beating the Red Sox. The Yankees now try to do the same to their tormentors from Anaheim. Here's how they stack up:

Infield: I hate being forced to group together infield or outfield like I did for the Yankees and Phillies, but I can't make a case for any of the Angels infielders being better than the Yankees. Kendry Morales had a great season, but he's not in Mark Teixeria's league quite, even though their stats last series was about even. Howie Kendrick can hit for average with anyone, but Robinson Cano has the power and Kendrick is platooning with Maicer Izturis and only facing lefties (important for this series). Erick Aybar did very well against the Red Sox, starting off the rally in Game 3, but I lose all credibility if I have him even with Derek Jeter. Someone like Jimmy Rollins, yes, but not Aybar, not yet. As for third base, if the A-Rod from the Twins series shows up, there's no way Chone Figgins friskiness can match him. Advantage Yankees

LF: Juan Rivera vs. Johnny Damon- One of Jerome from Manhattan's favorite Yankee prospects finally realized his potential this season (though his 2006 was just as good). As for Damon, this space wrote of his September struggles in the Twins preview, and it continued in the Division Series. On paper, it should be Damon that's better because he's a proven playoff performer and Yankee Stadium is built for his swing; however, he needs to prove he can snap out of his slump and we haven't even referred to the fact the Angels will run on his arm throughout the series. Even

CF: Torii Hunter vs. Melky Cabrera- Here's another example of a Yankee who struggled in the Twins series in Cabrera, but at the same time, Hunter wasn't really at his best. The difference is the Game 1 home run that Hunter hit makes his series a little better. The thing to remember is Hunter was one of the top two players on this Angels team and possible MVP candidate if he was healthy all year. Advantage Angels

RF: Bobby Abreu vs. Nick Swisher- Both men are responsible for changing their teams. Swisher lightened the clubhouse with his carefree attitude, while Abreu has brought his patience at the plate and has imparted that wisdom to the Angels who have increased their OBP this season. Abreu is a better hitter than Swisher and a better fielder except if the wall gets involved. Advantage Angels

Catcher: Napoli/Mathis vs. Posada/Molina- Here we have a couple of platoons based on the first round series. Of course, we saw Posada in Game 3 show why he should be the starter each day, but if Molina gives Burnett a better chance to win, that's fine (and if Burnett starts at home, Posada would only miss a couple at bats). The Mike Napoli/Jeff Mathis platoon puzzles me a little more since Napoli is such a good hitter for a catcher, perhaps the same reasons as the Yankees platoon except it's not focused by the media in L.A. This should be even, but I give Jorge the edge for his hitting can be devastating like in Game 3. Advantage Yankees

DH: Vlad Guerrero vs. Hideki Matsui- Here's a battle between a professional hitter who's fallen a bit and a Hall of Fame hitter who's fallen off as well. Both proved they can still hit with Matsui's HR in Game 1 of last series and Guerrero's 2-run hit to win the game and series for the Angels against Boston. However, Matsui did little else against the Twins, while Guerrero was impressive against the Red Sox, plus he's the better all-time hitter. Advantage Angels

Starting Pitching: One of the Yankees biggest question marks because of the weather. If both Games 1 and 2 go on Friday and Saturday, then CC Sabathia will start Game 4 on short rest and be ready for a Game 7. That means Chad Gaudin won't start in this series. If any game (likely Saturday) is rained out, then Gaudin will have to start a game. The Angels will have Joe Saunders in Game 2 start in New York while sitting Scott Kazmir, who's done well against the Yanks, to Game 4. The rest of the starts are as follows; Burnett-erratic; Lackey-pitching for money; Weaver-trying to avoid big bro Jeff's reputation; Pettitte-perhaps his last postseason. If Gaudin pitches, Even; if Sabathia pitches three games, Advantage Yankees.

Bullpen: Another one that's too easy with Mariano Rivera prominently involved. Mo won't implode like any other closer could. While the Yanks could be worried about the pedestrian performance by Phil Hughes and aren't sure yet how Joba Chamberlain will pitch in this series or if Damaso Marte is the mole; at least they know their closer will take care of business. As for the Angels, let's just say they haven't blow a save yet. Brian Fuentes was the AL's Brad Lidge with his blown saves and again, if the most reliable arm is Darren Oliver, then you know your bullpen is bad. Advantage Yankees

Bench: Both benches are overlooked because neither one has a big bat out from there, especially with Eric Hinske not on the ALCS roster for the Yankees. New York has speed with Brett Gardner (and possible LF starter) and Freddy Guzman and defensive help from Jerry Hairston Jr. The Angels will have Reggie Willits for speed and defense and Gary Matthews Jr., who doesn't scare me at all at the plate. Even

Manager: Mike Scioscia vs. Joe Girardi- I honestly believe that the Yankees are winning despite Joe Girardi. He was a little too crazy in that Twins series with Mo pitching after the Yanks gave up the lead in Game 2 and taking out Andy Pettitte after 81 pitches. Scioscia has been referred to as the best manager in baseball and it's a sentiment that I fully back. You have a style of play to prepare for against them, the only team you really have that is like that. Against the Red Sox, I'd worry about overmanaging for Scioscia (last year's failed suicide squeeze comes to mind), but against the Yankees, I don't think that will happen and that already started with Girardi. Advantage Angels

Intangibles: The only intangible I can think of for the Yanks is the cold-weather for the Angels and the Yanks comeback ability in late innings, shared by most teams. The Angels kill them here with the history of success against the Yankees to look at and the continued inspiration from Nick Adenhart's death. This series will say how much his death plays a role in a championship. Advantage Angels

The Angels will win if: The bullpen can finish games; the starters can match/exceed the Yanks starters; Guerrero hits like an all-star; Abreu gets vengence; Girardi ruins the Yankee bullpen; A-Rod plays like A-Fraud and the lineup continues Twins series struggles.

The Yankees will win if: A-Rod plays like YEA-Rod; the lineup can hit better outside of Jeter, Posada, Rodriguez; Yanks pitchers shut down the Angels lineup; Angels starters are ordinary; Angels bullpen plays like the Angels bullpen of the regular season; Girardi makes all of the right moves.

Prediction: Yankees in 7; ALCS MVP- CC Sabathia

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Phillies-Dodgers NLCS Preview

A rematch from a year ago as the Dodgers and Phillies get ready to do battle again. The Dodgers were the surprise of the Division Series by sweeping aside the Cardinals, with the help of a misplayed fly ball that hit Matt Holliday in the groin. The Phillies essentially took care of business against the Rockies and came through in clutch situations the way this team tends to always do. Now we have the first rematch in an NLCS since 2005 Cards-Astros. Here's the matchup:

1B: Ryan Howard vs. James Loney- Both men had major roles in comeback wins during their division series. Loney reached on Holliday's error, while Howard hit the double off Huston Street in Game 4 to tie the game, not to mention his sac fly to put Philly in front in Game 3. We know the story about Ryan Howard, who can change any game with one swing, but can strikeout easily. Loney is a solid ballplayer who can hit a homer sometimes, but he's no threat like Howard is. Advantage Phillies

2B: Chase Utley vs. Ronnie Belliard- All of a sudden, Belliard has become Joe Torre's choice at second base. It doesn't matter if it's him or Orlando Hudson, Chase Utley is better. Best second baseman in the National League who hits well, plays defense and is clutch like the rest of this team. Advantage Phillies

SS: Jimmy Rollins vs. Rafael Furcal- Furcal had a tremendous series against St. Louis, hitting .500 with a couple RBI's and two runs scored. Rollins had more of a pedestrian series only hitting .263, but four of his five hits came in the 7th inning or later. Both men are table setters for their ball club and difficult to beat when they are on their games. Even

3B: Pedro Feliz vs. Casey Blake- This matchup isn't the highest profile but each player are better than their numbers indicate. The only difference I can make is that Feliz is more likely to slump than Blake. Advantage Dodgers

LF: Raul Ibanez vs. Manny Ramirez- Ibanez has had a great season for the Phillies, while Ramirez had a down year. Ibanez had the same average in his series as Manny did in his, while driving in more runs and reaching base more times. However, when Ryan Howard was on second and Jayson Werth was at the plate in a 4-4 tie in Game 4, I thought the Rockies should have walked him to face Ibanez. I would have never considered such a thing for Manny Ramirez. Nuff said. Advantage Dodgers

CF: Shane Victorino vs. Matt Kemp- Here's one of those matchups of do you want the four tool player or the player who comes up big when the situations are big. However, Kemp is capable of being just as clutch as Victorino while Victorino just can't change the facets of his game to be like Kemp. Either guy can hit for average, can play good defense and run the bases (Shane's a little better) but the power threat of Kemp is important, especially in a series which the Phillies will start a lefty as much as five times. Advantage Dodgers

RF: Jayson Werth vs. Andre Ethier- This is a very interesting battle because the Dodgers have already decided an answer for them. Ethier essentially replaced Werth (and J.D. Drew) and has lived up to that promise, while Werth has bounced back now with the Phillies and has become this decades Paul O'Neill. I had every confidence in Werth driving in Howard in Game 4 Monday night because I knew he would try to get the hit. Ethier has shown his own clutchness this season as Mr. Walkoff, ending the year with six walkoff hits. It's hard to pick either guy, so I won't. Even

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz vs. Russell Martin- Martin has had a tough season and his struggles continued into the Division Series as he hit .111. Ruiz, on the other hand, continues to be the modern-day Pat Borders; poor to average hitting in the season, and a .300 postseason hitter. To be fair, Martin has more potential and more talent than Ruiz. Unfortunately, we're not seeing it right now. Advantage Phillies

Starting Pitching: The Phillies will go as far as Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels go. Lee was brilliant in the first round, while Hamels struggled, but to be fair, his wife was about to give birth to their first-born. (I just found out his wife is Heidi from Survivor, who posed in Playboy and said this in the offseason. Wow.) The Phillies will have Pedro Martinez in Game 2, which isn't terrible since it's in warm LA and a pitchers park instead of cold rainy Philly and a bandbox. More than likely, J.A. Happ will pitch Game 4. The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 and bring back Hiroki Kuroda for Game 3, with former Phillie Vicente Padilla in between and Randy Wolf greeting the old Wolfpack in Game 4. At each teams best, the Phillies have the better starters but it will come down to who's been pitching well. Despite some struggles, I still believe the Phillies starters will come through and Hamels performance a year ago will prove helpful. Advantage Phillies

Bullpen: While the starters are a Philly strength, the relievers aren't. However, they escaped the Division Series with Brad Lidge getting a couple of saves and starting to gain some confidence. Of course, the Dodgers have the best bullpen in the National League. Jonathan Broxton just deals heat and guys like George Sherrill and even Jeff Weaver have pitched well. The only bullpen question is how will Joe Torre handle them, but I have confidence in Broxton to get the job done when he needs to. Advantage Dodgers

Bench: Both teams have great benches, the two best in baseball. The Dodgers have been using Orlando Hudson, Juan Pierre, Jim Thome, and Mark Loretta in key situations and I know Thome is due to blast one for them. The Phillies have Matt Stairs, Miguel Cairo, Greg Dobbs and Ben Francisco ready to play and Francisco was key in Game 4 with his one out catch on the Troy Tulowitzki flare. Even

Manager: Charlie Manuel vs. Joe Torre- Another too close to call matchup because both have teams in their own image. Manuel's teams mash the ball, Torre's teams calmly win baseball games. Both teams never give up in games and believe they can win each and every night. Even

Intangibles: Both teams, like I've said many times before, are comeback teams who aren't dead when you think they are. The one difference I can say though is last year is something the Phillies can harp on for this series, but this Dodger team won't fall victim to that. Even

The Phillies will win if: Lidge remains in postseason form; Hamels pitches better now that he has a son; Lee maintains his hot pace; Pedro gives them 5, 6 innings in his start(s); the lineup continues to hit; Manny struggle continue; Torre makes a major gaffe in decision-making.

The Dodgers will win if: They match or exceed the starting pitching of the Phillies like against the Cards; the Dodgers bullpen remains lights out while Lidge and Co. have blowups; Dodgers lineup hits strong and not the Phillies; Torre can make moves like he did in the 90s.

Prediction: Phillies in 6; NLCS MVP: Jayson Werth

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Week 5 Picks

Once again, I have to make my Week 5 picks in short order and as you can tell, I didn't give you any college picks. Not having college picks this week isn't a big deal and actually is smart because I just keep losing. Anyway, here are my picks this week (home team in CAPS):

Minnesota (-11) over ST. LOUIS- The Rams can't even score 11 points, might score zero against that Vikings defense.
Dallas (-7.5) over KANSAS CITY- Sorry Chiefs, but I can't back you until you win one, at least a cover.
Washington (+4.5) over CAROLINA- The Skins are bad, but you can't back Jake Delhomme and give points at the same time.
PHILLY (-15.5) over Tampa Bay- No overthinking, Eagles are much better than the Bucs.
GIANTS (-15.5) over Oakland- Even David Carr could cover this spread against the Raiders
BUFFALO (-6) over Cleveland- Isn't this a putrid set of games this weeekend?
Cincy (+8.5) over BALTIMORE- Best game of the week since Gus Johnson is announcing and the Bengals keep it close.
Pittsburgh (-11) over DETROIT- This game is sold out, we may as well call this a Steeler home game.
SAN FRAN (-2.5) over Atlanta- If it wasn't for the Greatest Hail Mary in history (since the almighty Brett Favre threw it), the Niners would be 4-0.
DENVER (-3) over New England- I love the Broncos defense and I think they can make Brady uncomfortable. The rest is ball control by the offense.
Houston (+5.5) over ARIZONA- Cards aren't that good at home, Texans a little better on the road.
SEATTLE (-1.5) over Jacksonville- Again, these games are awful this week.
Indy (-3.5) over TENNESSEE- Let's face it, the Titans aren't good and the Colts show up for primetime.
Jets (-2) over MIAMI- Almost picked the Fins, then I remember their one win is against Buffalo.

NFL Record: 37-25

College Record: 24-28-1

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Red Sox-Angels Preview

I've saved the best for last as without a doubt, this is the best of the four Division Series. Why you ask? Because the National League series' don't count and the Yankees-Twins is a mismatch on paper. On paper, this is fairly even and the history of past matchups make this series intriguing. Let's begin with the preview:

1B: Kevin Youkilis vs. Kendry Morales- The tough thing with doing position-based comparisons is that the Red Sox could have different lineups on any given day, such as Victor Martinez or Casey Kotchman (no chance) at first and Youk at third. As for this matchup, Morales has had a terrific year, among the list of players most responsible for the Angels success. As for Youkilis, he's probably the most important player on the Red Sox, mainly because his willingness to play multiple positions (something players of his statue feel are beneath them). This really should be even, but postseason experience plays a role in this matchup. Advantage Red Sox

2B: Dustin Pedroia vs. Howie Kendrick- At his best, Kendrick is as good a hitter as there is in baseball. Just ask the Yankees. If only he can play a full season, he can win a batting title. As for Pedroia, here's what I've noticed from him this year: at home, he swings to the Green Monster, however on the road he keeps that swing which usually costs him (especially at Yankee Stadium). His home/road splits reflect this (.318/10/49 at home, .273/5/26 on the road). However, Pedroia is a table setter and Kendrick is more depth in the lineup. Advantage Red Sox

SS: Alex Gonzalez vs. Erick Aybar- The trade for Gonzalez is one of the most underrated this year as he adds some stability at shortstop that the Sox haven't had since Orlando Cabrera in 2004. He also has history of being clutch in 2003 for the Marlins when he turned around the World Series with a home run off Jeff Weaver (Joe Torre's new BFF). Aybar has been the Angels most consistent hitter, leading the team with a .312 average. Also, anytime a shortstop is toward the top of a lineup, it's a positive for that team. Advantage Angels

3B: Mike Lowell vs. Chone Figgins- Lowell has been a good playoff performer for the Red Sox and is somewhat healthy for a change. He will always win this battle in terms of power as Figgins has none. However, Figgins does his damage on the basepaths with perfect hits down either line and his blazing speed. Finally, Figgins is the clear-cut better defensive player. Even

LF: Jason Bay vs. Juan Rivera- This has been a terrific season for Rivera, who's finally proving Jerome from Manhattan right. His season this year has made Rivera someone you must gameplan for. Despite the low average, Bay has had one of the best contract-year seasons of recent memory with 36 HR's and 119 RBI. Though, Rivera can mash them and drive them with a better average, I like Bay a little bit more in this one. Advantage Red Sox

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury vs. Torii Hunter- This is another battle between speed and power. Ellsbury has more of an impact on the bases seeing as he led the AL in steals. Hunter has had his share of injuries, but finally is appearing healthy for this ball club. Since Hunter's stats are similar to Lowell's, you would think I will even them. Wrong. Remember, Hunter is one of the best to play centerfield with the glove. Advantage Angels (has nothing to do with Hunter's mammoth 3-run HR tonight)

RF: J.D. Drew vs. Bobby Abreu- Drew is such a maddening player that I don't know what to expect from him. He could go .500/3/10 or he could go .150/0/1 in the series. Abreu isn't anything special, just very consistent putting up a .290 average with a .400 on-base. He's the man in the lineup that can take the pitches the way anyone on the Red Sox can. The only thing that Abreu can worry you is playing a fly ball played at the wall, while Drew is great with the glove. Advantage Angels

Catcher: Victor Martinez vs. Mike Napoli- Napoli has shown a lot of power for a catcher in his career and will probably end up DHing many games in the future. Martinez has already proven to be a versatile player playing catcher and first base regularly for the past couple years. He really has been the difference between the Red Sox being in the playoffs, plus they can put Jason Varitek on the bench. Advantage Red Sox

DH: David Ortiz vs. Vlad Guerrero- If you ask this question four years ago, you have the matchup of the playoffs. Now, both guys have fallen off from high levels, but still can hit from time to time. The difference is that good pitching always beats Ortiz, making his 28 HR's useless, while Vlad can still hit for average and hit the occasional home run. Advantage Angels

Starting Pitching: For the Red Sox, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett are their givens because Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka aren't. The series depends on the performance by both pitchers, unless Lester pitches on short rest. As for the Angels, the staff has been steady with John Lackey and Jered Weaver, but the trade for Scott Kazmir ups the ante since he has had success against the Red Sox. Advantage Angels

Bullpen: Unlike past years, the Angels bullpen is a question mark. Brian Fuentes is a downgrade from Frankie Rodriguez and the most reliable arm is Darren Oliver, I mean DARREN OLIVER. The Red Sox are much more organized with Jonathan Papelbon finishing strong and guys like Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima and yes, Billy Wagner pitching well for them. Advantage Red Sox

Bench: Both benches aren't really going to get a huge hit that often, and more or less are there to fill in spots, such as Rocco Baldelli and Gary Matthews Jr. as fourth outfielder, Maicer Izturis and Nick Green for utility infielder and Jeff Mathis and Jason Varitek as backup catcher. Even

Manager: Terry Francona vs. Mike Scioscia- Both men have won World Series. Scioscia lead the Angels with his style of play, while Francona uses the Joe Torre "keep everyone in the clubhouse calm" approach. Even though Francona has achieved plenty of success against Scioscia, this matchup in my eyes is always down the middle. Even

Intangibles: The Red Sox history of beating the Angels each time they faced one another. The Angels have been dedicating this season to Nick Adenhart in almost every way. The celebration after winning the AL West, the vigil outside the stadium that I saw during my trip to the Big A all seem like this season has a purpose that's greater than just a championship. Even

The Red Sox will win if: Based on yesterday's results; win a game that isn't started by Beckett or Lester; the bullpen must pitch as good as 2007; the lineup gets clutch hits by veterans like Ortiz, Lowell; Angels tighten up the sphincters in these close games.

The Angels will win if: They got a win against Lester so if they can get one more against Beckett/Lester. Otherwise, if Beckett is still hurt; the bullpen for Boston isn't as sharp and the Angels one plays well; the starters go deep in games; the Angels can impose their style of baseball and run on the Red Sox catchers; Red Sox veterans look old.

Prediction: It was Angels in five before Game 1 and it hasn't changed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Chip Caray Drinking Game

The putrid performance by Chip Caray yesterday in the Twins-Tigers one game playoff has led me to create the Chip Caray Drinking Game. I must disclaimer to follow at your own risk as I'm not responsible for any alcohol related incidents, though I'm sure you know the deal. This is for fun. Here are the rules:

Drink you beer when Caray says:
-hot shot
-swing and a drive
-brings up A-Rod's struggles (applies for the Yanks-Twins)
-talks about Jeter's clutchness (ditto)
-calls the Twins "scrappy" (also Yanks-Twins)
-something that's a mistake, but either team is ahead by 5 runs or more

Pound your beer when Caray says:
-something that's a clear mistake, but it's only between the 1st-6th inning
-every tenth time he says fisted
-swing and a drive and belted in the same sentence

Take a shot when Caray:
-makes a mistake in a go-ahead run situation, that doesn't end the game

Take two shots when Caray:
-makes a mistake in a game-winning play (last night's "BASEHIT" qualifies)

Drink the whole bottle if:
-Caray's mistake involves you're team (for Twins and Tigers fans only last night)

Don't forget, Chip Caray will do the NLCS this year so when that starts, the Yanks-Twins specific example will change, so by all means update this when you can, as well as filling in some omissions.

UPDATE 10:55 PM- Thanks to Craig Calcaterra for reminding me that "hot shot" needs to be included. I'll adjust this accordingly.

Twins-Yankees Preview

The N.Y. Yankees finally have an opponent in the ALDS as they will face the Minnesota Twins who beat the Detroit Tigers in a crazy game that was a great game on the field and a terrible one from the broadcast booth. Unfortunately, Chip Caray follows the Twins to Yankee Stadium in a series that will make you glad to hear Joe Buck and Tim McCarver in the ALCS. Let's preview:

Infield: Just like in the Phillies series, there an area that one team is better than the other. Now, the Twins have good infielders in Michael Cuddyer and Orlando Cabrera, but losing Justin Morneau makes this easy. Cuddyer isn't in Mark Teixeira's league where Morneau is a push, Derek Jeter has the advantage over Cabrera (though not in a romp) and Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano are enormous differences over Matt Tolbert and Nick Punto. Advantage Yankees

LF: Delmon Young vs. Johnny Damon- While the Yankees have an all-time great infield, the outfield is not as good and we start at left field. Damon has had a fine year and his swing is built for Yankee Stadium, however he has struggled in the last month and needs to bounce back. Meanwhile, Young had the exact opposite season, starting very slow, but has been hot for the past two months, getting big hits in lifting the Twins. If you ask me in July, it's advantage Yanks, but I can't ignore the fact that is seems like Young is starting to get it and realize his potential. Even

CF: Denard Span vs. Melky Cabrera- The interesting thing about both players is that they can be moved to left field for defensive purposes, not because either guy is poor, but because left field must be addressed late in games. Great bounce back year for Cabrera and he early on had a bunch of walkoff hits. Span is a very good ballplayer who can bring speed both with hitting and defense. These two really are the same player except for Span's speed and hitting, but Melky is the 8th man on the Yanks where Span is the 3rd or 4th guy on the Twins. Advantage Twins

RF: Jason Kubel vs. Nick Swisher- Swisher has been one of the catalysts in the loosening up of the mid-2000s Yankees as his personality is more like one of the Red Sox "Idiots" from the 2004 title team. Kubel has been clutch in the past month with big HR's, picking up the slack for Morneau's injury. While Swisher's role in the clubhouse is important, he hits just like Jason Giambi, has power and plate discipline, but can't hit for average. Hitting for average is overrated though as long as your on-base is good and that certainly applies for Swisher. Advantage Twins

Catcher: Joe Mauer vs. Jorge Posada/Jose Molina- The reason Molina is here is because of A.J. Burnett, otherwise he's on the bench group. While Molina turns the Yankees into a National League team, Posada can still rake if needed, though not the same degree. However, Molina controls the basepaths better than Posada can. Wait a minute, why am I spending time on this, Joe Mauer is the best player in the AL and only Pujols could be better in baseball. Advantage Twins

DH: Jose Morales vs. Hideki Matsui- This is another reason where losing Morneau hurts the Twins; before you have Cuddyer in right field and Kubel as DH. Morales just doesn't stack up when compared with Matsui, who has hit as well as he has since four years. Advantage Yankees

Starting pitching: The Yankees can pitch only three guys, the Twins need to pitch four. None of the Twins starters can dominate like CC Sabathia or even A.J. Burnett. Carl Pavano is prominently involved and is cited as a positive for the Twins. Burnett gets to use his personal catcher for his starts, so he better pitch well, since Andy Pettitte will only start one game. Advantage Yankees

Bullpen: Unlike the starters, the bullpens are much closer mainly because Joe Nathan is, if not as good as Mariano Rivera, he's at least one notch below. They also have four relievers in Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Ron Mahay and Jose Mijares who have pitched very well on the Twins. Obviously, the Yanks have Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves and David Robertson who have done well and perhaps the Yanks will see the old Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen. Even

Bench: The Twins bench has more speed than power, and is more likely to steal a base than get a big hit with guys like Alexi Casilla and Carlos "Does my run last night even out the Johan Santana trade" Gomez. The Yankees I have to say have their best bench in years with Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston Jr. and counter the speed with Brett Gardner. Advantage Yankees

Manager: Ron Gardenhire vs. Joe Girardi- Girardi to be fair has done a good job on this Yankees team, though I think he could have handled this Burnett-Posada situation better. Naturally, because I follow the Yankees all year and the Twins I barely watch, I will be picking more nits with Joe than Ron. I just watch the Twins year in and year out and they are just the same and that has to do with Gardenhire. Plus, he's managed in postseason, while Girardi is now in his first. Advantage Twins

Intangibles: The word intangibles in the dictionary has a picture of the Twins. The Yankees looseness is the best I can come up with. The Twins have the momentum of a 17-4 run that put them in the playoffs, while playing without Morneau. I said before how Morneau is a big loss; well the Twins don't realize that yet. Also, I know the Yankees have played well in the Metrodome, but right now, that place has a magic that's hard to just write off. Advantage Twins

The Twins will win if: Murphy's Law prevails for both teams. Unlike any other series, the Twins must have each of the following happen: CC continues postseason struggles; Burnett blows up in Game 2; each Yankee in the lineup goes on a slump, leading to more A-Rod in postseason talk; the Metrodome proves to be a huge home-field advantage; Mauer plays MVP-like and their hitters follow suit.

The Yankees will win if: Anything from the above doesn't happen. Let's put it this way, if the Yankees lose this series to the Twins, only the Red Sox in 2004 would be a worse loss. Almost every advantage belongs to the Yankees and they must win this series or people should be fired.

Prediction: Yankees in four

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rockies-Phillies Preview

Finishing up the NLDS is the first series to start as we have a rematch between the Phillies and Rockies from 2007. Of course, back then, both teams made incredible runs to get to the playoffs; now they both kind of coasted in, though the Rockies did have to fire Clint Hurdle to get going in June. Let's see where these two stand:

1B: Todd Helton vs. Ryan Howard- If this was the Todd Helton of ten years ago, he would win. Even now, Helton is a key hitter and can always be counted on to hit .300 for Colorado. Howard continues to follow the Albert Pujols plan of consistently good seasons, posting another 45-HR, 140-RBI season this year. Helton is more get on base, continue/start a rally, Howard is empty the bases on one swing, plus he plays good defense. Advantage Phillies

2B: Clint Barmes vs. Chase Utley- Barmes has had his moments this year, and is among the Rockies best power hitters, but Chase Utley is arguably the best second baseman in baseball. If he's not, he's certainly in the class of Robbie Cano, Aaron Hill and Dustin Pedroia. Advantage Phillies

SS: Troy Tulowitzki vs. Jimmy Rollins- Initially, I was thinking that Rollins is the advantage because he's a clutch hitter and is great defensively. However, Tulowitzki was the best player in the Rockies lineup and is reverting back to 2007-level, which for this team is always a good thing. Advantage Rockies

3B: Ian Stewart vs. Pedro Feliz- Bonus points for Stewart for having my middle and last name. As for real baseball matters, Stewart has power, but can't hit for average, while Feliz might not have the numbers of the rest of his lineup, but from time to time, he comes up with a big hit, like most of the rest of this team does. Advantage Phillies

OF: I'm grouping the OF's together because it's not really close. Raul Ibanez is much better than Seth Smith, Shane Victorino is more valuable than Dexter Fowler and maybe Brad Hawpe is as good as Jayson Werth, except he might not play a lot of this series since the Phillies can throw lefties most of the time. Advantage Phillies

Catcher: Chris Iannetta/Yorvit Torrealba vs. Carlos Ruiz- While Ruiz was huge in the World Series for the Phillies last year and you can make the case he should have been MVP, the tandem of Iannetta and Torreabla have done a terrific job in tandem and have been as strong as any catcher platoon in recent memory in which both guys bring something to the table more than just "I can catch knuckleballs" and "A.J. likes me better". Advantage Rockies

Starting pitching: The Phillies have the better upside as Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are the two best pitchers in this series. What I don't know is if Lee will go on three days rest so both can start four of the five games. Also, the third starter is a question mark and even Hamels and Lee aren't givens. Meanwhile, the Rockies have a assembled a very solid pitching staff who doesn't depend on one guy. They don't have to worry about a "Game 4 do we need to pitch so-and-so" because they know Jason Marquis can handle it. The only reason I don't give the Rockies the advantage is that Lee and Hamels can dominate. Even

Bullpen: We all know the questions with the Phillies bullpen start with closer as Brad Lidge can no longer be trusted in a late-inning situation. They have Ryan Madson and Brett Myers who I think are as good as Lidge (not saying much). Add that J.C. Romero and Scott Eyre are hurting, leaving the Phillies without a lefty reliever unless they use J.A. Happ out of the bullpen. The Rockies on the other hand have the best bullpen of any NL team led by Huston Street and Franklin Morales, both of whom can close. This matchup really isn't close. Advantage Rockies

Bench: The Phillies have been terrific in bringing in guys like Eric Bruntlett, Ben Francisco, Matt Stairs and Greg Dobbs and they always seem to do something in every game. For the Rockies, Jason Giambi has been a huge acquisition and they can get help from Ryan Spilborghs, Carlos Gonzalez and Eric Young Jr. Even

Manager: Jim Tracy vs. Charlie Manuel- You can't discount how the Rockies played under Tracy, bouncing from 12 under .500 in June to a relatively easy wild card winner. However, Manuel is the perfect manager for this ball club and you can't argue against a championship. Advantage Phillies

Intangibles: The Rockies and Philles both have a been there before quality that makes each a tough out. For the Rockies, it's a belief they will catch fire, while the Phillies have a "anyone of us will get the big hit" quality. The Rockies share the Phillies trait, but the Phillies can look at last year's title for inspiration. Even

The Rockies will win if: They play like they have since June meaning everyone contributes and starters pitch big; Philadelphia can't fix the bullpen; Lee and Hamels never come around; Howard and Utley go into slumps.

The Phillies will win if: Either Lidge regains last year's form or Madson fits the closer role like a glove; Lee and Hamels pitch like aces; they can get something out of Pedro; the lineup hits like they're supposed and Rockies lineup does the same.

Prediction: Phillies in five

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dodgers-Cardinals Preview

A long time ago, I once wrote how I get bored of baseball during the regular season. It gets too long and especially in April and May, there are other sports on the radar. However, once the calender hits October, I'm all in for baseball. It's all the things that make you hate Yankees and Red Sox games (taking pitches, making every at-bat count, leading to four hour games), only it's fair to do this and becomes a positive. For the playoffs, I will preview each and every series throughout the playoffs, beginning with the Dodgers and the Cardinals.

Both Los Angeles and St. Louis have been in first place for the majority of the season. The Dodgers led easily in the first half, while the Cardinals opened a big lead in the second half. Both were active during the trade deadlines; Cards in July, Dodgers in August. St. Louis arguably made the biggest trade when they acquired Matt Holliday from Oakland and put him behind Albert Pujols. The Dodgers added depth by trading for Jon Garland, George Sherrill, Ronnie Belliard and Jim Thome. Let's see how these teams stack up:

1B: Albert Pujols vs. James Loney- Read that matchup again, Advantage Cards

2B: Skip Schumaker vs. Orlando Hudson- Schumaker is a nice player, but Hudson is among the top-5 underrated players in all of baseball. Advantage Dodgers

SS: Brendan Ryan/Julio Lugo vs. Rafael Furcal- I wouldn't have two players here except I think Ryan and Lugo will split time. Unfortunately, Furcal can match the production of both players and the Cardinals can't play both. Advantage Dodgers

3B: Mark DeRosa vs. Casey Blake- Honestly, both guys are great to have on a team. They're gritty, clutch and succeed on good teams. Even

LF: Matt Holliday vs. Manny Ramirez- The toughest matchup of players between both teams. Manny is someone you always want in the playoffs because he doesn't feel the pressure at the plate and tends to hit well. Holliday has done it before in the postseason and will field better than Ramirez. I would go with even, but Manny has not hit well in the second half and even if he did, Holliday will match him and be a difference maker on St. Louis. Advantage Cards

CF: Colby Rasmus vs. Matt Kemp- Rasmus isn't a bad centerfielder but he's matched with Matt Kemp, who had a career season. He's slumped lately, but I rather have him because he can be dynamic. Advantage Dodgers

RF: Ryan Ludwick vs. Andre Ethier- Ethier had his big year this season, while Ludwick had his last year. They both have similar power, Ethier has shown to be more clutch while Ludwick has played better defense. Even

Catcher: Yadier Molina vs. Russell Martin- Martin had a down year this year after an All-Star appearance, while you know what you're getting from Molina. He brings you terrific defense, above-average hitting and calls a good game. Advantage Cards

Starting pitching: The Cardinals have two Cy Young candidates in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Joel Piniero won 15 games as well as the other two and is as good a threesome of starters that anyone has. The Dodgers are behind in this one as Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley just don't match them. Advantage Cards

Bullpen: Either you have a shaky Cards bullpen with an overworked Dodger one. The main difference between the two is I'm more confident that Jonathan Broxton will close out a game than I am Ryan Franklin. Rule of thumb for closers, the ones who can strike hitters out have greater success than the ones who need to be clever and can't overpower. Advantage Dodgers

Bench: Let's see, the Dodgers can trot out Juan Pierre, Mark Loretta, Jim Thome, Ronnie Belliard and Brad Ausmus and the Cards match that with Troy Glaus and Rick Ankiel. Nuff said. Advantage Dodgers

Manager: Tony La Russa vs. Joe Torre- This is the first time these two great managers have faced each other in a playoff series. It's hard to figure out an advantage between the two, except I'm not worried about La Russa making the wrong bullpen moves that we have seen from Torre for the last five years (or just overworking pitchers). Slight Advantage Cards

Intangibles: Some people think the slow second half could hurt the Dodgers, but they played a little like the '05 White Sox did as they kind of coasted into the playoffs, then turned it on losing only once. Torre can also bring up his own experience with the '00 Yankees when they lost 15 of 18 and won the World Series. Advantage Dodgers

The Dodgers will win if: Manny starts hitting like the Manny of last year; the rest of the lineup is balanced; Wolf, Kershaw and Billingsley hold their own against the Cards three starters and win at least two games; Broxton proves to be clutch as a closer; Pujols and Holliday both have series-long slumps.

The Cards will win if: Pujols and Holliday both hit very well; Carpenter and Wainwright pitch like Cy Youngs; their bullpen is a plus and Ryan Franklin can make saves; Manny continues his slump and no other Dodgers step up.

Prediction: Cards in four.Bold

Sunday, October 4, 2009

NHL Preview

It's finally here, the NHL season is ready to begin. After months of waiting through NHLPA nonsense, television distribution battles and the peak of the Balsillie/Bettman civil war, we finally drop the puck. There is a buzz to the start of this hockey season and just a pure excitement which I can't blame at all. Can Crosby and the Penguins repeat? Can OV win his first Cup? Did Marian Hossa pick the right team or are the Blackhawks destined for 12 straight Cup Finals losses? All these burning questions will be answered as the season progresses so let's begin with the preview.

The Eastern Conference seems to have a defined pecking order as you have the elite teams, the bubble and the bad ones. The Penguins, Caps, Bruins, Flyers and Hurricanes are going to make the playoffs. I think the Capitals will end up with the top seed, since the Southeast hasn't improved the way the Atlantic and Northeast have. The Flyers will win the second seed, beating out the Penguins for the division and the Bruins will be third in the East as the loss of Phil Kessel will drop their point total, but the defensive style of coach Claude Julien will keep them toward the front. It helps to have Zdeno Chara leading the team at the blue line, an eventual replacement for Marc Savard to work in unison with (Marco Sturm? Blake Wheeler? Milan Lucic?!?) and another Vezina trophy run for Tim Thomas this season. Pittsburgh and Carolina should end up 4 and 5 to close out the contenders. Pittsburgh still have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to score for them and I bet that Chris Kunitz, Bill Guerin and Jordan Staal will have bigger point totals this year. For Carolina, I don't think the mistakes from the last year after will happen to them and I expect career years from Eric Staal and Cam Ward.

You can't say the bad teams without mentioning the NY Islanders, who will be the worst team in the league after their only free agent signing consist of goaltenders (yes, goaltenders is plural). In a related story, Rick DiPietro is in the fourth year of his 15-year deal and I don't have a joke here. At least John Tavares will look forward to Taylor Hall joining him next year to form a foundation for the Islanders to succeed in the future when their playing in Hamilton or Kansas City. Tampa Bay has another high draft pick in Victor Hedman, who will patrol the blue line, Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis are still capable of scoring and Steven Stamkos is progressing into a good player. Still, the Lightning don't have the depth to contend for a playoff spot. The Thrashers are in the exact same situation as they have scoring depth but still can't keep pucks out of the net. Expect Ilya Kovalchuk to be traded at the trade deadline, remember the Bruins have the draft picks from the Phil Kessel trade with Toronto. Speaking of the Leafs, they will be better defensively and a joy to watch because of the fighting to come from longtime fave Colton Orr and others. However, truculence and playoffs don't mix, plus the Leafs don't have the secondary scoring to support Kessel once he starts.

This leaves a group of six that can either make the playoffs or miss: New Jersey, NY Rangers, Florida, Montreal, Buffalo and Ottawa. I include the Sens because they have the goaltending to possibly make the playoffs and the scoring to make up for the Heatley trade. However, I just don't trust them to make it and Pascal Leclaire must prove to be able to stay healthy. I was going to pick against the Canadiens before the Andrei Markov injury. Now that he's out for four months, there's no chance for them, which is a shame because I liked how Carey Price looked last night and could have bounced back. The Sabres will be back in the playoffs as Ryan Miller's injury (and to a lesser extent Thomas Vanek) was the only reason they missed the playoffs. As long as Scott Gomez doesn't get him again, the Sabres will end the two year drought. For the past few years, my prejudice of the Devils has led me to always say it's the end of their run of success and this year I'm not fooling around: 40 wins for Maaaaaartyyyyyy and the trap is back for the Devils (like it ever really left). So who's in between the Rangers and Panthers? Fact is, I just can't pick the Panthers to make the playoffs, though the loss of Jay Bouwmeester won't hurt them as much as you think. Marian Gaborik plays enough games to be effective for the Rangers and they make the playoffs on Henrik Lundqvist's back.

As for the top five teams, Boston won't feel the loss of Kessel until the playoffs when they have to score goals and Carolina won't be good enough defensively to knock off either the Flyers, Caps or Pens, despite Cam Ward's best efforts. I think Pittsburgh is due to for a bit a of a fall, the loss of Rob Scuderi will prove too great this year and won't make their third straight Stanley Cup Final. This leaves Philly and Washington; the addition of Chris Pronger seems to be fate for him and the Flyers, both fit better than a glove. Add that the Flyers can score from three lines (whether Mike Richards, Jeff Carter or youngsters Claude Giroux and rookie James Van Riemsdyk), the only question becomes whether Ray Emery can revert to 2007 Emery who led the Sens to the Cup Final. However, I believe in the Capitals, I believe in the tandem of Jose Theodore and Simeon Varlamov in net, I believe in Mike Green and he will score 40 goals this year, I believe Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom will score over 80 points and most importantly, I believe in Alexander Ovechkin will be motivated to even the Stanley Cup score with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

The Western Conference seems for the first time in a long time to be wide open as the Red Wings aren't as overwhelming of a favorite as years past. I do know that the Colorado Avalanche and the Phoenix Coyotes won't be any good. Both teams are too young and Phoenix has the weight of this bankruptcy and relocation that's hanging over this team. The Predators haven't improved and will miss the playoffs again and so will the Edmonton Oilers, despite having Pat Quinn as coach; they just keep getting burned by players not coming in free agency. I wish the L.A. Kings were back to being a good team and next season they will be, but this isn't next season and Ryan Smyth isn't enough to make the Kings a playoff team. I wanted to make the Minnesota Wild my surprise playoff team, I really did. They have taken off the shackles of the trap, the other Nicklas Backstrom is an elite goaltender and Martin Havlat is capable of replacing Marian Gaborik in every way (including injuries), but the West is too strong to creep through for them.

The team that will miss the playoffs who made it a year ago is the Blue Jackets. I hate to say it, since I want Columbus to succeed, but a sophomore jinx is due for Steve Mason and they need more than Rick Nash to make the playoffs. This leaves the door open for the Dallas Stars to return to the playoffs now that Brenden Morrow is back from last year's injury and the failed Sean Avery experiment is a year behind them. Most importantly, we all forgot that Marty Turco has been a top-5 goaltender in this league in the last six years and should bounce back from last year's tough season. The St. Louis Blues will return to the playoffs as well since last year's team was a year ahead of schedule, plus the return of Paul Kariya and Erik Johnson should also improve the team. I was going to have the Ducks out of the playoffs, but I can't ingore Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry for scoring, Scott Niedermayer returning for one more year and the terrific J.S. Giguere-Jonas Hiller combo in net.

The top five in the West is almost as solid as in the East with the Blackhawks, Flames, Red Wings, Sharks and Canucks. For Vancouver, it's almost only because of Roberto Luongo, though keeping the Sedins doesn't hurt. Eventually, a lack of offense will do them in and I see another second round exit, the Canucks trademark. The San Jose Sharks went all in with the Dany Heatley trade and if properly motivated, he can have a huge season, like Joe Thornton in 2006. I expect huge seasons from both Heatley and Thornton, another Vezina-type season from Evgeni Nabokov and the Sharks will still end the year with an early playoff exit. I'm down on Detroit this season and not just because they signed Todd Bertuzzi (there is a legitimate curse having him on your team since Steve Moore, like a Madden cover). The Wings have had too many losses to free agency and it probably takes a year for youngsters like Justin Abdelkader and Ville Leino to become big time players. So instead of 110 points and first in the West, Detroit get 100 and finishes in 4th.

Most everyone is picking the Chicago Blackhawks to win the West this year. The so-called experts point out the signing of Marian Hossa, the resigning a various RFA's to long-term deals and the continued emergence of Jonathan Toews and Patrick "20 Cent" Kane. What hurts the Hawks is Hossa's early season injury and the big question is if Christobal Huet can be the number one goaltender on this team. If this turns out no, the Hawks won't win. Hossa will make a difference as the season progresses and this team will be the top seed in the West, but they won't win. So who's left? The Calgary Flames.

I think the Flames did a great job in the offseason acquiring Jay Bouwmeester on an already strong blue line group with Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr. A full season with Olli Jokinen, along with Craig Conroy and Daymond Langkow looks good, in addition to adding a couple ex-Rangers in Nigel Dawes, who should thrive in a more open environment to play hockey and Freddie Sjostrom, one of my faves who will add terrific penalty killing ability. Jarome Iginla remains my favorite hockey player which all hockey players should model themselves after now that Joe Sakic is retired. He just reminds me of Mark Messier in so many ways; the toughness, the snarl when necessary, his scoring ability and his leadership of that team. He's a guy that is so good that you never want him to leave Calgary; in other words, The Franchise. The one player I haven't mentioned was Miikka Kiprusoff who has declined in net the past three seasons. If the Flames lower his workload from 75 games to about 55-60, he will have a better season and be better prepared to go through the long, arduous journey that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This is the 30th season the Flames have played in Calgary and I can't think of anything better than to see Jarome Iginla face Alexander Ovechkin in the Stanley Cup Final this June.

East: 1. Wash 2. Philly 3. Boston 4. Pitt 5. Car 6. NYR 7. Buf 8. NJ 9. Fla 10. Ott 11. Mont 12. Tor 13. Atl 14. TB 15 NYI

West: 1. Chi 2. SJ 3. Cgy 4. Det 5. Ana 6. Stl 7. Van 8. Dal 9. Minn 10. Clb 11. LA 12. Edm 13. Nash 14. Pho 15. Col

SCF: Washington over Calgary in 6.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Week 4 and College Picks

Sorry this is short with no review and no picture but here are my picks for Week 4 in the NFL and for College as well as I finish my NHL Preview and yes I know I'm late, it's not a big deal, it's a long season. As always, home team is in CAPS:

Oakland (+8.5) over HOUSTON- Texans shouldn't be favored by more than 7, even home.
Tennessee (-3) over JACKSONVILLE- Titans need this and home means nothing for Jags.
Baltimore (+2) over NEW ENGLAND- Ravens play defense, something the Falcons don't.
Cincy (-6) over CLEVELAND- I know it seems like a trap, but the Browns just aren't good.
Giants (-9) over KANSAS CITY- Arrowhead doesn't scare me, both teams on opposite levels.
CHICAGO (-10) over Detroit- The Lions got their win, the Bears need a big one.
Tampa Bay (+7.5) over WASHINGTON- The Redskins should never get more than 4, even against the Bucs.
INDY (-10) over Seattle- Seneca Wallace on the road, Seneca Wallace on the road.
NEW ORLEANS (-7) over Jets- The Jets haven't seen an offense like the Saints yet.
Buffalo (-1) over MIAMI- Both are bad, but I believe in Edwards over Henne.
SAN FRAN (-9.5) over St. Louis- Bounce back for the Niners and they improve to 3-0 in division.
DENVER (+3) over Dallas- Cowboys haven't beaten a halfway decent team yet and the Broncos coincidently are one, plus the city is riding high into Rocktober.
PITTSBURGH (-6.5) over San Diego- Steelers need this and the Chargers can't be trusted.
Green Bay (+3.5) over MINNESOTA- Rodgers steps up and keeps this game close in the first Favre homecoming.

NFL Record: 29-19

Michigan (+4) over MICHIGAN STATE
Wisconsin (+2.5) over MINNESOTA
WAKE FOREST (-2.5) over N.C. State- Lock of the week
Penn State (-7) over ILLINOIS
GEORGIA (-3.5) over LSU
Washington (+11.5) over NOTRE DAME
Arkansas (+2) over TEXAS A&M
Auburn (+2.5) over TENNESSEE
USC (-4) over CAL
MIAMI (+7) over Oklahoma

College Record: 16-25-1