Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 MLB preview: NL Central

by Steve

If you missed it here is the NL East preview, now on to the Central division.

Milwaukee Brewers

JJ Hardy for Carlos Gomez? Where do I sign up. Yunieski Betancourt was a failure in Seattle but may he just needs a change of scenery ( already a second change after it also failed in KC). Gomez is still young and a potential stud in CF although he has only showed flashes. If he fails they did scoop up Nyjer Morgan as a solid back up plan. Ricky Weeks just got paid after a solid season and may slip but Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are studs in their prime. A couple of meh players like Mark Kotsay and Casey McGehee are a decent mix too.

The major question mark with this team will be the pitching staff. After the block buster Zack Greinke trade the staff seemed solid. But with Greinke starting the season on the DL along with Manny Parra who knows. Both should be ready by May at the latest but they were desperate enough to trade for Sergio Mitre. Does 34 year old Randy Wolf have anything left? Don't expect much out of Shaun Marcum either. The one bright spot however will be Yovani Gallardo. I see him finally getting some national attention and lift this staff on his shoulders when needed.

prediction 90-72

Cincinnati Reds

This team is out to prove last year wasn't a freak anomaly. Too bad it sort of was a freak anomaly. 91 wins and a solid five wins better than anyone else in the division was nearly stunning in 2010. They did it with a great mix of youth ie Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Drew Stubbs and veteran leadership ie Brandon Phillips, Orlando Cabrera and Scott Rolen. They all return except Cabrera with Paul Janish (who?) replacing him. The question is whether the youth will grow up and take the reigns of leadership for this team.

Bronson Arroyo is still with the squad but he won't replicate a fantastic 2010 season. The Aaron Harang experiment is finally over which forces the team to rely on unreliable potential studs in Johnny Cueto and Edison Volquez. This staff needs someone else to step up if those two can't stay healthy and effective for a whole season (which they have yet to do). Is that man Homer Bailey (doubt it) or noob Travis Wood (maybe) ?

prediction 88-74

Chicago Cubs

Is this team just biding its time until the Albert Pooj sweepstakes starts in November? Marlon Byrd had a sick season and killed my credibility last year (although I had the Reds as my sleeper) I'll admit it but who does this team have that strikes fear in anyone? Carlos Pena might have a couple good seasons especially since he is "downgrading" to the National League but he isn't a superstar. Is Cubbie nation going to pin their hopes on young gun Starlin Castro? Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano aren't dead yet but they are degrading faster than the wild life in the Pacific Ocean.

This team more than anything needs big Z to figure it out. I like the Matt Garza move and he has the whole NL switch on his side too but what else does Chicago have? Randy Wells is a four at best and Ryan Dempster might be a two on some teams. And who the hell is Mike Quade?

prediction 78-84

St Louis Cardinals
Don't let anyone fool you, the Albert Pooj sit. will hang around this teams neck all season like a positive HIV test. The nail in the coffin was the injury to Adam Wainwright. They are so desperate for pitchers they just traded for a guy (Jake Westbrook) who is on his third team already this offseason AND he is penciled in as the #2 guy. Who knows maybe Jaime Garcia will surprise and turn into a stud. Also hold your breathe for CF Colby Rasmus to take a step building on a good 2010 and for people to figure out who 3B David Freese is.

prediction 77-85

Houston Astros
This team is brutal. They have a god awful pitching staff headed by (gulp) Brett Myers? I have run out of desire to make fun of Wandy Rodriguez. Pin your hopes on the great outfield Lee, Bourn, Pence and the centerpiece to the Roy Oswalt trade J.A. (James Anthony) Happ.

Prediction 70-92

Pittsburgh Pirates
Is Neal Harrington fired yet? Oh and Jim Negrych got traded to the Marlins after he was demoted to AA and didn't want to report. Alright one roster take, don't get used to your brand new Andrew McClutchen jersey he'll probably be playing for the Mets or Yankees etc by spring 2014.

prediction 58-104, a one game improvement over last year!

Monday, March 28, 2011

2011 MLB preview: NL East

by Steve

Holy smokes baseball season starts in like no time. Here is the annual preview starting with my favorite division the National League East

Philadelphia Phillies
The out and out class of the division. The four armed monster that is Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt almost certainly guarantees a fourth straight division title.

Then again 2B Chase Utley has a bum stick, SS J-ro is 32 and coming off a terrible year, Ryan Howard is 31 and has consistently lower power numbers the last five years, 3B Placido Polanco is at least 35 and LF Raul Ibanez is 38. They're getting old. They will be relying more and more heavily on pitching as the offense continues to decrease. Good thing they play in that sand box that is Citizens Bank Ballpark.

prediction 95-67

Florida Marlins
This team is still pinching pennies while simultaneously reloading with solid young talent. I am a huge Larry Beinfest fan even with the tight budget but he needs to starting winning ball games, especially with the new ballpark opening next year. Han-ram is a 100% stud, 1B Gaby Sanchez needs to build on a solid rookie season, Infante at 2B brings veteran experience and little else. Little known 3B Donnie Murphy is meh at best and should be platooning with Emilio Bonifacio if he can ever figure it out.

Who is Edwin Rodriguez? Does he have the managerial acumen to make a wildcard run? The pitching staff has a lot of question marks behind stud ace Josh Johnson, Javier Vazquez is shoe horning himself into the starting rotation if he can keep young buck Alex Sanabia at bay. Anibal Sanchez finally took a step last year and just needs to prove he is legit, Ricky Nolasco has averaged 185 innings the last three years but isn't distinguished and Chris Volstad may be his clone plus added height. Don't sleep on the final year of the "Florida" Marlins though because this team can play.

predictions 87-75

Atlanta Braves
Chipper Jones still exists? Bad news for Mets fans. Don't sleep on young stud Freddie Freeman, he may be the next Jason Heyward starting at 1B right out of the gate in 2011. 2B Dan Uggla was an underrated pick up for the Bravos this past offseason. He has no defense and strikes out a ton but he can hit for power and average. Having Alex Gonzalez to his right picking up the slack defensively doesn't hurt either.

Their outfield with Martin Prado, Nate McLouth and Heyward may be set in stone for years but don't expect Prado to get much better if not decline a bit this season. B-McC behind the dish may be the best in the game; but he has his hands full with a rotation of young guns like Jurrjens, Beachy and Hanson and wily vets Hudson and Derek Lowe. Freddi Gonzalez could be a really good manager but don't discount Bobby Cox' genius. That wealth of knowledge vanishing is almost certain to hurt this team at times in '11.

prediction 87-75

Washington Nationals
That Jason Werth contract was an albatross. This team can not spend their way out of the cellar of the NL East(the Wilpon law suit is already doing that). The great hope Stephen Strasburg in all likelihood is out for all of 2011. Furthermore the next big thing Bryce Harper probably won't see the bigs until September at best. And there isn't much else but a bunch of fill-ins, has beens and whoooo???s.

Ok ok we do know Pudge behind the dish, Zimmerman is beyond solid at 3B, Rick Ankiel has had success (with Pooj batting near him), some may know Adam LaRoche as "one of the LaRoches" and of course the golden boy Werth. But quick who is Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa or Mike Morse (who I some how knew used to play for SEA)? The pitching staff is worse. And this team is going to win more games than the Mets? Ouuuuch.

prediction 70-92

New York Mets
Full disclosure they are my squad. Flushing NY is burning folks. The ownership problem is going to hang over this team all season. David Wright even admitted it would be a distraction, "Any time you're talking about something other than baseball, it's somewhat of a distraction," oof.

The aging ace Johan Santana won't be around until June at the earliest, Jason Bay is good but paid to be great and will never be, Angel Pagan has usurped Carlos Beltran as the starting CF (which is more of a testament to Beltran's diminishing skill than Pagan's emergence) I have no idea who Brad Emaus is. Jose Reyes needs to get back to '08 form ASAP or go down as a 3 year flash in the pan. On the positive Josh Thole may be a really good catcher for the next 5-7 years

Taking a flyer on Chris Capuano and Chris Young may be win win. True Caps has had two Tommy John's and Young lost his labrum but both were cheap and have had success in the National League. Jon Neise had a nice season last year and is still only 25 but is a #3 at best. Will Ike Davis avoid a sophomore slump? Can D-Wright shutoff the distractions and build on a solid '10 bounce back campaign? Who will k-rod beat up in the club house this year? Hopefully retread manager Terry Colllins has these answers or it will get real ugly real quick @ Citi.

prediction 69-93

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Buffalo Sabres TCOB

by Steve

Whoa, the Buffalo Sabres had two easily winnable games AT HOME going down the stretch to solidify a playoff berth and they won both games, decisively? What has happened to this team?

Is it the near amazing turn around of shrimp forward Nathan Gerbe? Ryan Millsie Miller only allowing nine goals in his last six games including two shut outs? Rookie Tyler Ennis consistently scoring since at least the middle of February? No, I think incredibly it has mostly to do with the new regime change and in particular Terry Pegula the new owner.

That pains me to say because an owner shouldn't really have that much of an influence on a team but it appears to be the case. The fan boy owner takes over mid way through the season and the team plays harder and with more passion and ability than they have basically since 7/1/07? That seems odd and nearly impossible but rooted in fact. They're 12-3-3 since he took over and are now contending not only for the 7th seed but possibly the 6th.

Throw away the last three minutes of the Nashville game and there has been almost nothing to complain about since the Pegula era started. Jeez even Darc made a great trade at the deadline. When was the last time that happened, 2003? At this point it is nearly impossibly to be a pessimistic contrarian Sabres fan.

I will say this though. If the Sabres lose in the first round of the playoffs in less than seven games this season will be a failure. I don't care if they magically get the 6 seed and run into a hot Penguins team with Sidney Crosby returning just in time for the playoffs. This team is playing as good as anyone else in the league since the calender switched over. We all love to throw out the record and when we do that expectations should be higher.

Although, if the season turns out to be a failure it doesn't mean the future will be bleak or tainted with a quick exit from the post season. The offseason may be just as exciting especially if the fan boy owner does in deed throw around mad jack the likes of which Buffalo sports fan has never seen. But the final seven or so games and the postseason should be a referendum on not only most of the players but specifically the coach. Why he would have a life time contract is beyond me. This team needs to carry the momentum into the post season.

So bring oh Philly, Washington, Boston or Pittsburgh, none of those teams are indomitable and won't be big favorites even with home ice.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Buffalo Bills to host Nick Fairley

Per PFT:

The only top-ten clubs not hosting Fairley are the Cowboys and Cardinals. So that means he’s heading to Carolina, Denver, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, San Francisco, Tennessee, and Washington.
He’s not nearly as valued by teams that run 3-4 defenses. Fairley is 6-foot-3 and somewhere between 291 and 297 pounds, and is not “scheme versatile.”

For instance, a 4-3 team in search of a pass-rushing “three-technique” defensive tackle might grade Fairley as a top-five player in the draft. A 3-4 team, however, could have him in the teens or 20s.

Combine one-year wonder concerns with Fairley’s lack of appeal to a large number of NFL teams, and he becomes a realistic candidate for a slight slide down the draft board on April 28.

Funny how his agent denies that his stock is falling too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What the Bills should do with the 3rd over pick

by Steve

No one cares about the NFL and the players association court proceedings, the Sabres are a fringe sport and aren't daily fodder and there is almost no news about the NFL draft and free agency because of a lack of a CBA. The result is a dearth of posts lately. Well, lets explore what the Bills should do as of today with the third overall pick in the 2011 draft. (these things are very fluid and can change daily)

The obvious just to rehash quickly:
  • Drafting a defensive back that high is out of the question (Peterson)
  • Selecting a wide receiver right now at #3 is out of the question (Green)
  • The Bills play a hybrid 3/4 4/3 so any DL probably would fit
  • Every player (save for Da'Quan Bowers) is the best ever after their pro day so take most reports with a grain of salt.
Based on that criteria basically it is between Nick Fairley, Bowers, Marcell Darius, Von Miller, Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton. The best part about the third overall pick is four of those six will still be on the board. The worst part, two of those six will be gone when the Bills select.

Evidently Blaine Gabbert, a spread only QB in college "turned heads" at his pro day and Carolina may be targeting him. Or the Panthers are posturing or lying or they'll draft a freaking running back. They don't have a lot of money tied up in Jim Clausen and could conceivably take a QB #1. That would then mean the Bills are stuck with (possibly) the second best QB in the draft Meaning they would not have their pick of the litter so to speak and would be forced to take the other guy. Oh yea, the Vikings might be looking to move up to take a QB too.

The idea of taking a quarterback at #3 won't be the worst thing in the world. It wouldn't be the best either. Neither of the top two prospects are sure fire ballas, they almost certainly wouldn't play opening day and thus wouldn't help the Bills in 2011. Also FWIW Don Banks on Wednesday predicted the Bills would take a QB.

Out of the other four guys previously mentioned, Marcell Darius is my #1 pick if he is there at three. Nick Fairley was a 100% beast/monster during the National Championship game but he measured much smaller than originally reported and may be sliding. Von Miller is too small and not worthy of a pick that high. He is a middle linebacker at best in the NFL although he did have a sick senior bowl. The last guy, Bowers, seems to have injury questions surrounding him and may not be an ideal fit in a 3/4 (although yes it is a "hybrid").

Bottom line, Darius is the pick the pick. However if the QB OBD has rated higher than the other guy is available that would be acceptable too. If all else fails look to trade out and acquire additional picks. Boom outta here

Monday, March 14, 2011

Von Miller to meet with Bills Wed & Thur


Sources said Von Miller will meet with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday and Thursday, as well as hold a two-day visit with the Cleveland Browns on April 11-12. Miller is widely considered this year's top linebacker prospect.

Miller is also part of the NFLPA's lawsuit against the league that includes high-profile players Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. There is some speculation about whether Miller could be blackballed by owners and teams, which would hurt his draft stock. But that doesn't appear to be the case, as Buffalo (No. 3 overall) and Cleveland (No. 6) both hold top picks in the first round.

Miller wowed scouts at the NFL combine with his athleticism and recently ran a blazing 4.49 40-yard dash during his pro day at Texas A&M. The senior recorded 68 tackles, 11 sacks and an interception for the Aggies last season.

While V-Mills appears to be shooting up draft boards after the combine and Senior Bowl he still seems like a tweener to me. Is he an inside linebacker, can he play the edge in our "hybrid" 3-4 defense, is he a game changer? 6'3 246 doesn't seem all that big (Aaron Maybin is 6'4 250 by comparison). While picking CB Patrick Peterson @3 would be much worse, Miller doesn't excite me that high in this draft.

The Bills front seven needs to be address if they don't love Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert (his pro day is Thursday 3/17). While drafting V-Mills would address the situation, it would not be the ideal selection. It is basically a lock that Newton will be gone top three so that would then mean that Marcell Darius or Nick Fairley are still on the board. True Fairley measured much smaller at the combine and that could be hurting his stock, but if you have any doubts about his ability to make an impact go rewatch the BCS Championship.

Overall Von Miller isn't a deal breaker although he would be more ideal a bit further back in the draft. Then again I am of the opinion that it is extremely difficult to move back in the draft unless you are willing to take lesser value to move out. I say who cares, take a little less to move somewhere between 6-9, get mocked by the talking heads but pick up another much needed selection perhaps on day two. Two birds one stone baby.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Are the Buffalo Sabres good?

by Steve

Holy smokes this will easily be the most positive Sabres post I have ever had. I am even willingly to go as far as to give Darc credit! While we all know a 2nd round pick is nearly useless the trade for Brad Boyes appears to be a near genius call. He has three goals in six games and averaging a point a game. There isn't even much negative to say about Ryan Millsie Miller my whipping boy. Jeez

They aren't in the playoffs yet, they are scared to play at home and everyone is being creepily happy about the improvements to the locker room but I won't hate. This team has done a near complete 360 not only since Terry Pegula took over but since the All Star break and the new calendar year.

Players that were recently called out in this space, namely Gerbe, Sekera and McCormick are playing much better. The Code-man may actually be a legit NHL player and Sekera is earning himself a solid contract come the summer.

I'm not yet ready to give Lindy Ruff much credit although he appears to be pulling all the right strings. In particular the benching of Sekera for a bit and playing Butler over my boy Weber. Now all Ruff needs to do is figure out how to win at home and this team will solidify the seventh seed in the playoffs.

I don't know if this is bizaro world where Regier, Ruff, the fan boy owner and the Sabres over all are getting near universal praise from me but I'm starting to like it. Hopefully this isn't the death knell.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sabres on a war path

by Steve

Back from Philly and boy did I spend more money than I thought. The Sabres won shockingly, there were quiet a few Sabres fans, we lost our friend the one night and Philadelphia is a pretty sweet city. We weren't the only ones tailgating, their fans for the most part weren't assholes and cheesesteaks are worth the hype.

I put the odds that the Sabres won this game at about 15%. I am a curse on the road and the Flyers are really good. When the Sabres were down 2-0 in the first I put that at 0%. Needless to say this victory and the win again today against Minnesota were a complete shock. Two games in 26 hours and they got all four points? If only the Sabres could play all their games on the road.

A couple questions:
  • Why does Ryan Miller play so many games if Enroth is just as effective?
  • Why would any team pay their goalie more than a couple million dollars at most?
  • Does this team officially have the injury bug?
  • What's Derek Roy's trade value?
  • Remember when Regier said Connolly was a top center in this league ?
  • Why would we ever bench Mike Weber?
  • Who would you rather play Boston Philly or Washington?
Oh well, they are in 8th place two out of seventh with three games in hand. They have two more against Carolina and have a game in hand on them. Philly is scary and can score but Boston proved they can own us in the playoffs while Washington has the best player in the league. It is going to be an interesting next 6 weeks. I'm predicting the seventh seed and a dance with the capitals.