Friday, December 31, 2010

The Heckler's Bowl Preview Special (Part 7 of 7)

Here we are folks. I am down to the last B.C.S. Bowl Game: The National Championship Game between #2 Oregon and #1 Auburn. Hope you had as much fun reading these previews as I did writing them.

B.C.S. National Championship Game (Glendale, Arizona) - January 10, 2011
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#1 Auburn Tigers v. #2 Oregon Ducks



#1 Auburn Tigers (13-0, 8-0 S.E.C.)
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Average Points per game: 42.7 (7th out of 120 Division I-A teams)
Average Points Allowed: 24.5 (54)
Home record: 8-0
Away record: 5-0
Total Yards (offense): 497.7 (7)
Last 6 (W-L): 6-0
Record v. top 25: 5-0 (W: #12 South Carolina-Week 4, #12 Arkansas-Week 7, #6 L.S.U.-Week 8, #11 Alabama-Week 11, #19 South Carolina-Week 13*)
*S.E.C. Championship Game

#2 Oregon Ducks (12-0, 9-0 Pac-10)
----------------------------------------------------
Average Points per game: 49.3 (1)
Average Points Allowed: 18.4 (13)
Home record: 6-0
Away record: 6-0
Total Yards (offense): 537.2(2)
Last 6 (W-L): 6-0
Record v. top 25: 3-0 (W: #9 Stanford-Week 5, #24 U.S.C.-Week 8, #21 Arizona-Week 11)

BREAKDOWN:

#1 Auburn is trying to win their second National Title in their history. #2 Oregon is trying to win their first National Title in their history. Auburn is trying to prove to the Nation that they are deserving of this game. Oregon is trying to prove to the Nation that the Pacific 10 (soon to be Pacific 12) is more than the U.S.C. Trojans. #1 Auburn comes into the Title game having faced the "tougher" schedule. They come from the Nations (arguably) toughest conference, the S.E.C. They have gone undefeated (for the second time in the last 6 years) in that conference to earn a berth into the B.C.S. National Title game. They are trying to exorcise the demons of 2004-05 when they were shut out of the Title Game even though they went undefeated in the conference. Cam Newton, the Heisman award winning quarterback of the Tigers, will also be trying to let his play do the talking in this game. The Tigers may also be trying to convince themselves that they are truly champions. They have had to come back in 8 of their 13 wins (4 of those comebacks had to come from double digits down.). They have also played 3 emotional games already against Arkansas, Alabama and South Carolina (all Bowl teams). The month off may affect the Tigers more than the Ducks. Speaking of the Ducks, #1 Oregon is coming into the National Title Game with some different chips on their shoulders. They are trying to prove that the Pac-10 has more legit teams than the U.S.C. Trojans. The Ducks are also trying to show the Nation that the Heisman candidacy of LaMicheal James was no joke. They want to show the rest of the Nation that the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest have good football teams as well; that football is more than just the Southeast and Texas. #2 Oregon has had to hear about it all year: "They don't play a tough enough schedule", "They win more than 8 games in the S.E.C.", "Cam Newton and the Tigers are just too big for them.", "They might be able to hang with the Tigers for a half but eventually Auburn is going to pull away from them.", "The Pac-10 doesn't stand a chance against the best of the S.E.C.". Oregon has had their share of emotional games this year as well. California played a game against Oregon that would be labeled as a game of tense emotions. They had to overcome their emotions during the last week of the season against the in state rivals, Oregon State. The U.S.C. and Stanford games had their share of emotions. For Oregon it is more of playing with, a chip on their shoulder for most of the year. "Yeah, well let's wait until they face someone good. Then I will pass judgment on what kind of team they will be." Well there is only one more game left and only one more team left, after January 10 we will see exactly what kind of team both Auburn and Oregon are.

PREDICTION:

1st half: #1 Auburn 20 #2 Oregon 24
2nd half: #1 Auburn 24 #2 Oregon 24

Final Score: #1 Auburn 44 #2 Oregon 48

ANALYSIS:

The month off will hurt but, it will hurt the defenses more than the offenses. The month off will allow both, #1 Auburn and #2 Oregon to develop some new plays; plays that the other team does not have any video on. The first half will go back and forth. Cam Newton (2,589yds 67.1% 28TDs 6INTs; 242 carries 1,409yds 5.8 avg. 20 TDs) is going to show the Nation what we already know. He is big and quick with the ball. Newton and his receivers will shock the Ducks in the first half and throw the ball around the field a bit. Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery, and Emory Blake (114 recs 1,961yds 18TDs) are going to be used more than half been during the regular season. Auburn is going to surprised the Ducks at the start of the game and come out in more 4 receiver sets; so that they can spread out the speedy Oregon defense just in case Newton has the room to run up the middle. The Ducks too will come out and utilize their other weapons a bit more than they did in the regular season. Darron Thomas (2,518yds 60.7% 28TDs 7INTs; 86 carries 488yds 5.7avg. 5 TDs) is going to get to showcase his talents on the Biggest Stage of his career. Thomas and Jeff Maehl (68 recs 943yds 12TDs) are going to show the Auburn defense that the Ducks can do more than just run the ball. In a high scoring first half #2 Oregon is going to go into the break up 4. As the second half starts both teams will come out and do what they do best: run the ball down the the throat of the defense. Cam Newton will put the Tigers on his shoulders as he has done all year and lead the Tigers on 4 different scoring drives in the second half but in the end LaMicheal James and the #2 Oregon Ducks will keep pace and win by the 4 point margin taken in at halftime. #2 Oregon will bring the National Championship trophy back home to Eugene for the first time in their history. #1 Auburn 44 #2 Oregon 48

-The Heckler

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Heckler's Bowl Preview Special (Part 6 of 7)

Sorry for the one day delay on this posting. Today I will be going over the Rose Bowl. The "Granddaddy of Them ALL!", as they say in the Bowl world. The National Championship Preview will be up by Friday (12/31) afternoon.

The Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Ca.) - January 1, 2011
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#5 Wisconsin Badgers v. #3 T.C.U. Horned Frogs


#5 Wisconsin Badgers (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten)
-------------------------------------------------------------
Average Points per game: 43.3 (tied for 4th out of 120 Division I-A teams)
Average Points Allowed: 20.5 (29)
Home record: 7-0
Away record: 4-1 (Lost to #24 Michigan St.)
Total Yards (offense): 450.2 (170)
Last 6 (W-L): 6-0
Record v. top 25: 2-1 (W: #1 Ohio State-Week 7, #15 Iowa-Week 8; L: #24 Michigan St.-Week 5)

#3 T.C.U. Horned Frogs (12-0, 8-0 MWC)
------------------------------------------------------------
Average Points per game: 43.3 (tied for 4th)
Average Points Allowed: 11.4 (1)
Home record: 7-0
Away record: 5-0
Total Yards (offense): 491.5 (9)
Last 6 (W-L): 6-0
Record v. top 25: 2-0 (W: #24 Oregon St.-Week 1, #5 Utah-Week 10)

BREAKDOWN:


Bret Bielema leads the number 5 ranked Wisconsin Badgers into the Rose Bowl for the first time in 11 years. The Badgers have been on fire since losing their opening conference game to then #24 Michigan St. Looking back on the Badgers season one has to wonder what could have been. Had Wisconsin come out to play from the opening half in that week 5 match-up the Badgers may have had a case to go and play in the National Championship Game. Since that game Wisconsin has been putting up video game like numbers: 41, 31, 31, 34, 83, 48, 70. If the Badgers had gone undefeated as well the Nation may have had some real hard decisions to make when it came down to final B.C.S. Standings time. Like I said, Wisconsin is on a roll but the T.C.U Horned Frogs have been on that roll since last year. Other than a 17-10 loss to then fellow undefeated Boise St in last years Fiesta Bowl, the #3 Horned Frogs haven't missed a beat. Over the last 2 years this Gary Patterson led team has been known for 2 things: playing tough defense and being a scary match-up. Win or lose (mostly winning) they do it with fight and tenacity. Last year the B.C.S. put T.C.U. up against Boise St. The Nation didn't learn anything about either one of those two teams, other than that they are both good and the time for a playoff may be nearing sooner than we all thought. This year the B.C.S. couldn't keep T.C.U. away from the big conference schools. Now that they are here, can the Horned Frogs show the Nation that they are just as deserving as a Auburn, or a Oregon, at a shot at a National Title (Like Boise St did against Oklahoma, or like Utah did against Alabama)? Or will Wisconsin run all over them and show the Nation how weak a non-qualifying school really is compared to the big boys (like Georgia did against Colt Brennen and Hawai'i)?

PREDICTION:

1st half: #5 Wisconsin 10 #3 T.C.U. 10
2nd half: #5 Wisconsin 7 #3 T.C.U. 10

Final Score: #5 Wisconsin 17 #3 T.C.U. 20

ANALYSIS:


The Rose Bowl is going to be a battle of 2 defenses. This is going to be a heavyweight slug fest between the Badgers and the Horned Frogs. If there is going to be any Bowl Game that is going to be worth the ticket of admission and live up to to expectations it will be the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin is going to come out and try and impose their will on the Horned Frogs defense. The Badger's 3 headed running attack of: James White (1,029yds 7.0 avg. 14TDs), John Clay (936yds 5.3 avg. 13TDs), and Montee Ball (864yds 6.1 avg. 17TDs) will see plenty of action in the first half of play. The Badgers will run the ball effectively enough to move down the field on the Horned Frogs and score some points. Linebacker Tanner Brock and Safety Colin Jones will be leading the #1 ranked defense in total yards allowed all over the field trying to stop the running attack of the Badgers. The first half will go back and forth with the Badgers taking the first quarter only to have the Horned Frogs take the second quarter. In the second half both defenses will stiffen up. The Badgers will find it increasingly difficult to run the ball. They will call upon their Unitas Awarding winning quarterback Scott Tolzien (2,300yds 74.3% 16TDs 6INTs) to throw the ball around the yard a bit to loosen up the Horned Frog defense. Unfortunately for the Badgers the defense will have bracket coverage around Lance Kendricks (32 rec 627yds 5TDs), Nick Toon (33 rec 413yds 3TDs) and Jared Abbrederis (19 rec 273yds 3TDs). Tozien will be running for his life in the second half as defensive end Wayne Daniels (6.5 sacks) the Horned Frogs defense come after him. Andy Dalton (2,638yds 66.2% 26TDs 6INTs; 407yds 5.3 avg. 5TDs) will do what he does best on January 1, 2011. He will calmly lead his #3 Horned Frogs into the Rose Bowl and take what the Badger defense gives him. He will run and throw the ball like he has his entire career. Jeremy Kerley (50 rec 517yds 10TDs) will be doing the catching as Dalton pitches the ball around the field. Ed Wesley (1,065yds 6.6 avg. 11TDs) and Matthew Tucker (694yds 4.8 avg. 7TDs) will pace the passing attack by taking the rock when the Horned Frogs decide to run the ball. When the dust settles and the clouds clear, on the field, at the Rose Bowl the #3 T.C.U. Horned Frogs will have shown #5 Wisconsin and the Nation that they are for real, and that they do deserve to be on the Big Stage with everyone else. #3 T.C.U. may also be setting themselves up for a date in the National Championship Game next year as they head to the Big East, which is an automatic qualifying conference in the B.C.S.

-The Heckler

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Heckler's Bowl Preview Special (Part 5 of 7)

Today I will be going over the Orange Bowl. The Rose Bowl Preview is coming next Tuesday (12/28). The B.C.S. National Championship Game Preview is coming on that following Thursday (12/30).

Orange Bowl (Miami, Florida) - January 3, 2011
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#4 Stanford Cardinal v. #13 Virginia Tech Hokies



#4 Stanford Cardinal (11-1, 8-1 Pac-10)
----------------------------------------------------------
Average Points per game: 40.3 (8th out of 120 Division I-A teams)
Average Points Allowed: 17.8 (11)
Home record: 6-0
Away record: 5-1 (Lost to #4 Oregon)
Total Yards (offense): 467.3 (14)
Last 6 (W-L): 6-0
Record v. top 25: 1-1 (W: #15 Arizona-Week 9; L: #4 Oregon-Week 5)

#13 Virginia Tech Hokies (11-2, 8-0 ACC Coastal)
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Average Points per game: 35.5 (19)
Average Points Allowed: 19.1 (16)
Home record: 7-2 (Lost to #3 Boise St.* and James Madison**)
Away record: 4-0
Total Yards (offense): 411.1 (37)
Last 6 (W-L): 6-0
Record v. top 25: 3-1 (W: #23 North Carolina St.-Week 5, #24 Miami (Fl.)-Week 11, #21 Florida St.-Week 13; L: #3 Boise St.-Week 1)
*neutral site game
**Division I-AA

BREAKDOWN:

Jim Harbaugh has turned around the once 1-11 Cardinal in a short 3 year span. This last year the #4 Cardinal have established a school record for wins with 11. They are appearing in a major Bowl game. They have utilized the second best player in college football (according to the awards circuit) Andrew Luck and his golden arm. They had a 31-24 halftime lead against then #4 Oregon in week 5 of the season and then got shut out in the second half; losing 52-31. This is the part of the breakdown that I usually talk about potential unrealized for these teams, but Stanford exceeded their own expectations this year. They weren't better than the Ducks and that was evident in the way they weren't prepared in the second half of that game. They weren't ready for the moment. The only thing that is a mystery to me is why T.C.U. got invited to the Rose Bowl instead of the Cardinal. The opponent looking across the field at the Cardinal is to everyone's surprise, the Virginia Tech Hokies. The #13 Hokies have traveled the road less traveled this year. They fell off the map almost entirely after just two weeks of the season. They started off losing to the #3 Boise State in week 1, 33-30. That loss was looked at with a shrug. It was more a test passed for the Broncos than a crippling loss for the Hokies; then in week 2 the Nation raised their collective eyebrows when Virginia Tech fell to 0-2 by losing to Division I-AA James Madison. Their season looked to be done before it even got started. Then it happened, the Hokies started winning and winning and winning. The Nation looked up in the end and the Hokies had won 11 in a row after they dispatched of then #21 Florida State to win the A.C.C. Championship. Now they sit in the Orange Bowl. The Hokies are 1-1 in the Orange Bowl. This is the game Virgina Tech was slotted to play from the beginning of the season. The match-up between #4 Stanford and #13 Virginia Tech is the one that holds the least "I could have been somewhere else" element to it. This is going to be a good old fashion slug-fest between two schools looking for respect. Pure and simple this is the 2nd best respect game (the winner is going to have the leg up in the preseason polls next year) of this Bowl Season.

PREDICTION:

1st Half: #4 Stanford 23 #13 Virginia Tech 14
2nd Half: #4 Stanford 24 #13 Virginia Tech 14

Final Score: #4 Stanford 47 #13 Virgina Tech 28

ANALYSIS:

The Orange Bowl is going to be close for the first quarter. After that quarter expires this one is going to be a blowout. #4 Stanford has too much offensive weapons for Virginia Tech to stop. Andrew Luck is going to heighten his NFL draft stock in this game. Luck and Doug Baldwin (Luck's favorite target: 56 rec, 824 yds, 9TDs) are going to stretch the Hokies defense early and often. The mixture of the running game centered around Stepfan Taylor (1,023 yds, 4.9 yards/carry, 15 TDs) along with the passing attack is going to be too much for the Hokies defense to stop. Their only hope is going to be for their offense to keep up with the Cardinal. Tyrod Taylor and Darren Evans will not be enough of an attack to keep up with the Cardinal. The option/pass attack of #13 Virgina Tech will not be good enough to fool the Cardinal, who have already had to deal with the Oregon offense this year (which is a far better version of the spread than the Hokies could possibly put out there). Taylor will try to keep it close, since he is a superior athlete but in the end the better team will win, and that is the #4 Stanford Cardinal. The Hokies have had a great run after starting the season 0-2 but their run comes to an end in Miami.

-The Heckler

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Heckler's Bowl Preview Special (Part 4 of 7)

Today I will be taking a look at the Sugar Bowl. Orange Bowl Preview coming up on Thursday (12/23).

Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, Louisiana) - January 4, 2011
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#6 Ohio State Buckeyes v. #8 Arkansas Razorbacks



#6 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten)
----------------------------------------------------------------
Average Points per game: 39.4 (11th out of 120 Division I-A teams)
Average Points Allowed: 13.3 (3)
Home record: 8-0
Away record: 3-1 (Lost to #18 Wisconsin)
Total Yards (offense): 448.8 (18)
Last 6 (W-L): 5-1
Record v. top 25: 2-1 (W: #12 Miami-Week 2, #20 Iowa-Week 11; L: #18 Wisconsin-Week 7)

#8 Arkansas Razorbacks (10-2, 6-2 S.E.C.)
----------------------------------------------------------------
Average Points per game: 37.3 (16)
Average Points Allowed: 22.8 (44)
Home record: 5-1 (Lost to #1 Alabama)
Away record: 5-1 (Lost to #7 Auburn)
Total Yards (offense):
Last 6 (W-L): 6-0
Record v. top 25: 3-2 (W: #19 South Carolina-Week 9, #21 Mississippi St.-Week 11, #5 L.S.U.-Week 12; L: #1 Alabama-Week 4, #7 Auburn-Week 6)

BREAKDOWN:

#6 Ohio State comes into the Sugar Bowl looking over their shoulders at #5 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. They know that that could have been them. They look at #1 Auburn and #2 Oregon in the B.C.S. National Championship Game and sigh. They know that one of those teams could have been them. #6 Ohio State comes into their 6th B.C.S. Bowl Game. They have a record of 2 wins and 3 losses in B.C.S. Bowl Games, but the numbers are deceptive. It doesn't show the average fan how bad the Buckeyes have been against the Southeastern Conference in those Bowl Games. To breakdown their record the Buckeyes are 2-0 against non S.E.C. teams and 0-3 against the teams from the S.E.C. The Buckeyes are looking to forget the "what could have been" of this season. They are also looking to get the monkey off their back against the Southeastern Conference in a Bowl Game (0-9 all-time against the S.E.C. during the Tressel era). Coming into the Sugar Bowl as the Buckeye's opponent is the #8 University of Arkansas Razorbacks. The Razorbacks look at weeks 4 and 6 as where their season went bad. During their week 4 match-up with then #1 Alabama they had a 17-7 halftime lead; they went on to lose 24-20. During the week 6 match-up against then #7 Auburn they went into the 4th quarter trailing 35-37; Auburn outscored them 28-8 in the 4th and Arkansas lost again. They ended their season by winning their last 6 and making it to the Sugar Bowl but it was a almost not for them. They had to beat Mississippi St in double overtime in week 11. Then they had to upset then #5 L.S.U. in week 12 to get the bid to the Sugar Bowl. Arkansas is making their first ever B.C.S. Bowl Game. They are looking to continue the success that the S.E.C. enjoys in these games. This should be a high powered offensive affair.

PREDICTION:

1st Half: #6 Ohio State 13 #8 Arkansas 17
2nd Half: #6 Ohio State 10 #8 Arkansas 17

Final Score: #6 Ohio State 23 #8 Arkansas 34

ANALYSIS:

The Buckeyes and the Razorbacks are going to come out on point. Both teams will bring their chips on their shoulders this game. Both teams will come out ready to beat the other one down. Terrelle Pryor and Dan Herron will try and control the tempo of the game with their ground attack. The Razorback defense will not grasp how to stop the Buckeyes during the first half of the game. Thankfully for them though the Razorback offense will be just too good for the Buckeye defense for the first half. Ryan Mallet and his core of Wide Receivers (led by D.J. Williams) will being throwing the rock all over the field against an over-matched Buckeye secondary. The game will be 13-17 at the half with the Razorbacks hanging on to a slim lead. The Buckeyes are going to go into the half with a bit of confidence thinking that their streak against the Southeastern Conference is close to coming to an end. Then the second half will start. The Razorback defense will make the small changes they will need to stop the running attack of Dan Herron; with that Terrelle will become a solitary weapon for the Buckeyes and that won't be enough. Pryor will do well enough to raise his stock in the draft but the hero of this day will be Mallet and Knile Davis. Mallet will use his strong arm to establish the Razorback lead and then they will feed the ball to Knile Davis and the second half will belong to the Razorbacks too. Final Score is going to be 34-23 Razorbacks win. The Buckeyes will once again not be good enough to beat a team from the Southeastern Conference and once again the S.E.C. will have a B.C.S. Bowl winner.

-The Heckler

Saturday, December 18, 2010

BCS Bowl Predictions by Ross

Since I like to continually display my ineptitude at predicting things, here's who I think will win the BCS games and why. Make sure to take this advice to Vegas if you are ready to lose all of your money. If gambling were legal....

Rose Bowl:
Wisconsin 31
TCU 17

Wisconsin has played a much tougher schedule, and has put up points against much better defenses.

Fiesta Bowl
Oklahoma 24
UConn 10

Maybe the biggest mismatch of the BCS bowls

Orange Bowl
Stanford 27
VA Tech 23

VA tech rebounded nicely after their two opening losses, but I think Luck and the Cardinal are too much.

Sugar Bowl
Ohio State 23
Arkansas 34

More proof that the BIG-10 is overrated. Arkansas only lost to Alabama and Auburn, two teams that spent large portions of the season ranked #1

BCS National Championship
Auburn 33
Oregon 31

This one is too close to call. I think the SEC and PAC-10 are head and shoulders above the rest of the country. The SEC might be better at the top (Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Arkansas), but the PAC-10 has more teams in the RPI top 50. Cam Newton is the best player and plays the most important position, that's enough for me.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Giants discussing trades

Jerry Crasnick reports (via twitter) that the Giants and Cubs are discussing an Aaron Rowand for Kosuke Fukudome swap. Although it appears the swap of bad contracts is a long shot, the Giants are serious about trading an outfielder, and Nate Schierholtz name has been mentioned as someone who could be dealt. Rowand and Fukudome both have some trade protection in their contracts, so player approval would be needed for that deal to go down.

I personally would much rather have Fukudome that Rowand, simply for his OBP and his slight upgrade in speed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Heckler's Bowl Preview Special (Part 3 of 7)

Today I will start into the B.C.S. Bowl Games. First will be the Fiesta Bowl. On Monday I will go over the Sugar Bowl (#6 Ohio State v. #8 Arkansas).

Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Arizona)- January 1, 2011
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Connecticut Huskies v. #7 Oklahoma Sooners



Connecticut Huskies (8-4, 5-2 Big East)
----------------------------------------------------------
Average Points per game: 26.9 (62nd out of 120 Division I-A teams)
Average Points Allowed: 19.8 (23)
Home record: 6-0
Away record: 2-4 (Lost to Michigan, Temple, Rutgers, and Louisville)
Total Yards (offense): 325.0 (96)
Last 6 (W-L): 5-1
Record v. top 25: N/A (Did not play a top 25 team during the season)

#7 Oklahoma Sooners (11-2, 6-2 Big XII)
----------------------------------------------------------
Average Points per game: 36.7 (17)
Average Points Allowed: 21.9 (35)
Home record: 7-0
Away record: 4-2 (Lost to #11 Missouri and Texas A&M)
Total Yards (offense): 478.1 (13)
Last 6 (W-L): 5-1
Record v. top 25: 4-1 (W: #17 Florida St.-Week 2, #21 Texas-Week 5, #9 Oklahoma St.-Week 12, #13 Nebraska-Week 13; L: #11 Missouri-Week 7)

BREAKDOWN:

The #7 Oklahoma Sooners are back to familiar grounds. They have been to the Fiesta Bowl twice in the previous 3 years. This is the Sooner Nation's third trip to Arizona in the last 4 years and they hope that this time it will be a more fun affair. Although when they look at their opponent they may fear that they are suffering from deja vu because the Connecticut Huskies are another smaller school with little, to no, Bowl tradition. The Sooners are tired of being the major conference school that the little schools get to step on, on their way to B.C.S. credibility. Bob Stoops may have the attention of his players this time around, but the Sooners are in the Fiesta Bowl because they couldn't handle their business during their week 7 match-up against then #11 Missouri (the Sooners had just taken the #1 spot in the B.C.S. earlier that week.). Once again the Sooners were seen as the school that just couldn't put everything together (they then went on the road two weeks later and got trounced by Texas A&M 33-16), the school that didn't show up for the important games. They are the softest 10 win team in the nation year in and year out. It is hard to argue that point if you look at the raw numbers of the last 7 years (2003 was the last time they won a B.C.S. Bowl Game [Rose Bowl]). They have lost 5 straight B.C.S. Bowl Games during that span (2 of those games were National Championship Game appearances). Connecticut on the other end of the spectrum is just arriving on the scene. They have been in Division I-A for only 13 years, and for them the number 13 is not an unlucky number. They have been to a Bowl Game for the last 5 years. This is their first ever B.C.S. Bowl appearance and they did it by winning the Big East and obtaining their automatic bid. The Huskies haven't played a top 25 team during the season. They also have the added scrutiny of the Nation. They have to show the Nation that they belong on the big stage. They have a chip on their shoulder that has been there for the last 13 years. They rely on a hard nosed running attack and a stingy defense. This has the makings of being another disappointment for the Sooner Nation. Bob Stoops better hope that the bitter feelings associated with the past 2 failings at the Fiesta Bowl are enough to get through another B.C.S. Bowl Game; this time with a win.

PREDICTION:

1st Half: UConn 17 #7 Okla. 10
2nd Half: UConn 10 #7 Okla. 24


Final Score: UConn 27 #7 Okla. 34

ANALYSIS:

#7 Oklahoma is going to come into the Fiesta Bowl sluggish and flat. Landry Jones is going to be harassed by the stingy Connecticut defense all over the field during the first half. The under estimated Huskies are going to take advantage of the lack of respect that the Sooners are going to show them at the start of the game. The first half of the game will be a coming out party for the Huskies running back Jordan Todman (1,575 yards, 14 TDs, 143.1 yards/game [2nd in the Nation], Big East Player of the Year). The Huskies will lead the #7 Sooners when the first half comes to a close. The Nation will think that the Sooners are once again going to go down to another small school. When the second half begins the Sooners will start to run some screens and shorter passes against the Huskies rush and stingy defense and they will utilize DeMarco Murray more in the second half to open up the defense a little more. The Huskies will be forced to bring up their safeties to help with the run and middle screens which will let Landry Jones and Ryan Broyles start to tear apart the Huskies secondary. The Connecticut Huskies will manage to score 10 more points and Todman will manage to rush for around his average but the Sooners will exorcise the demons of Fiesta Bowl's past in the second half of the 2011 Fiesta Bowl with a win over the Connecticut Huskies. With the win Bob Stoops will stay at Oklahoma (and spurn those other schools that have open positions) for another run at the National Championship in the 2011-2012 season. The Huskies will take this experience and grow from here. This will not be the last B.C.S. Bowl Game for the Connecticut Huskies.

-The Heckler

Giants Projected Lineup and Rotation

Assuming that Renteria comes back to the Giants (and reports are he's leaning that way), other than some arbitration decisions, Brian Sabean may be done for the 2011 offseason. Here's what I expect to be the Giants 2011 opening day roster:

1. Andres Torres CF
2. Freddy Sanchez 2B
3. Aubrey Huff 1B
4. Buster Posey C
5. Cody Ross RF
6. Miguel Tejada SS
7. Pat Burrell LF
8. Pablo Sandoval 3B

Bench: Nate Schierholtz, Travis Ishikawa, Mike Fontenot, Edgar Renteria, Mark DeRosa
Brandon Belt might make the decision more difficult with a good showing in the Spring.

Not sure how the order of the rotation will play out, we do know that Bruce Bochy likes to split up the righties and lefties
but Tim Lincecum is going to be the #1, followed in some order by Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito.

Brian Wilson will still be bringing his bearded act in for saves, with Sergio Romo, and Javier Lopez setting him up.
Jeremy Affeldt, Ramon Ramirez, Santiago Casilla will also be back. Dan Runzler also figures to factor into the mix.
The Giants have also been rumored to be in the market for Andrew Miller.

Guillermo Mota and Chris Ray appear to be moving on as free agents.

Dodgers, A's signings

The Dodgers have signed Matt Guerrier for 3 years for $12MM over the life of the deal. The signing was first reported by Erik Boland on his twitter. Ken Rosenthal tweeted the terms of the deal.

The Dodgers also signed Dioner Navarro who was non tendered by the Rays after being an All-Star in 2008, but hitting just .212/.263/.306 in 552 plate appearances since. The deal was reported by the AP and is for 1 year and $1MM.

And in one of the happiest moments for a Giants fan since the world series ended: Eugenio Velez is a Dodger!

The Athletics agreed to terms with Hideki Matsui to a one year $4.25MM deal as reported by The Chronicle's Susan Slusser on her blog, and ESPN's Buster Olney reported the terms on twitter.

Rich Harden has agreed to a major league deal with the A's for one year worth $1.5MM plus incentives (again reported by Susan Slusser) with terms announced by Jon Heyman at SI.com

The A's have also come to terms with Brandon McCarthy on a one year deal worth $1MM with up to $1.6MM in incentives. Susan Slusser announced the signing, and ESPN.com reporter Jerry Crasnick reported the terms.

The A's also avoided arbitration with Joey Devine, announcing that they had agreed to a one year deal.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cliff Lee Signs with Phillies

So Cliff Lee spurned the Yankees and the Rangers, taking fewer years (5 with an option for a 6th) and less money ($120MM) to go back to a team that already told him he wasn't as valuable as the minor league prospects they could trade him for. Apparently Lee was "crushed" when he was traded from Philly to Seattle, because he had envisioned himself playing the rest of his career for the Phils.

Andrew Baggarly captured my thoughts perfectly with his tweet.

I for one don't really see what all the fuss is about with Cliff Lee. He'll turn 33 next August, and be 37 when the deal is up (38 if the 6th year option vests) and he's getting paid to be a #1 starter (no matter where he lands in the rotation) on a team that already has 2 (possibly 3) of them, and while he has been a very good pitcher, he pitched to the tune of a 3.98 ERA for the Rangers during the regular season last year playing against the anemic offenses in the AL West down the stretch run. He pitched very well vs Tampa Bay and the Yankees in the ALDS and ALCS, but got beat twice by the Giants in the World Series, going 0-2 with a 6.94 ERA and getting out pitched twice by Tim Lincecum. The Giants were able to get to Lee by being very aggressive (as opposed to the Yanks and Rays who try to wait pitchers out) and I'm willing to bet that more than one team took notice of how well that strategy worked.

Cliff Lee had a rocky start to his career, being somewhere between average and bad from 2002-2007 before he won the CY award in 2008 (He was even sent down to the minors in 2007). Lee's transformation came when he cut his walk rate down to 1.4/9 IP in 2008. His K/9 rate has been steady around 7 for his entire career, meaning that he didn't learn new stuff, become more deceptive or start throwing harder, he simply started walking fewer batters. His BAA has been fairly consistent throughout his career with a best of .240 in 2010 and a worst of .284 in 2007 (.260 career) also meaning that he isn't getting harder to hit, just harder to reach base against, possibly because hitters were waiting for free passes and finding themselves behind in the count much more often.

So what exactly am I trying to say? Well.. lets let some numbers talk.
Let's call this first pitcher "Z"
Year Age W L W-L% ERA GS IP H ER ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 Awards
2000 22 7 4 .636 2.72 14 92.2 64 28 173 1.176 6.2 0.6 4.4 7.6 RoY-6
2001 23 17 8 .680 3.49 35 214.1 184 83 125 1.232 7.7 0.8 3.4 8.6 MVP-21
2002 24 23 5 .821 2.75 35 229.1 182 70 158 1.134 7.1 0.9 3.1 7.1 AS,CYA-1,MVP-13
2003 25 14 12 .538 3.30 35 231.2 186 85 135 1.183 7.2 0.7 3.4 5.7 AS
2004 26 11 11 .500 4.48 34 213.0 216 106 102 1.394 9.1 1.2 3.4 6.9
2005 27 14 13 .519 3.86 35 228.1 185 98 113 1.200 7.3 1.0 3.5 6.7
2006 28 16 10 .615 3.83 34 221.0 211 94 116 1.403 8.6 1.1 4.0 6.1 AS
AL (7 yrs) 102 63 .618 3.55 222 1430.1 1228 564 125 1.250 7.7 0.9 3.5 6.9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/14/2010.

And here are the numbers for Cliff Lee:

Year Age W L ERA IP H ER ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 Awards
2002 23 0 1 1.74 10.1 6 2 260 1.355 5.2 0.0 7.0 5.2
2003 24 3 3 3.61 52.1 41 21 122 1.166 7.1 1.2 3.4 7.6
2004 25 14 8 5.43 179.0 188 108 80 1.503 9.5 1.5 4.1 8.1
2005 26 18 5 3.79 202.0 194 85 111 1.218 8.6 1.0 2.3 6.4 CYA-4
2006 27 14 11 4.40 200.2 224 98 102 1.405 10.0 1.3 2.6 5.8
2007 28 5 8 6.29 97.1 112 68 72 1.521 10.4 1.6 3.3 6.1
2008 29 22 3 2.54 223.1 214 63 168 1.110 8.6 0.5 1.4 6.9 AS,CYA-1,MVP-12
2009 30 14 13 3.22 231.2 245 83 131 1.243 9.5 0.7 1.7 7.0
2009 30 7 9 3.14 152.0 165 53 135 1.303 9.8 0.6 2.0 6.3
2009 30 7 4 3.39 79.2 80 30 124 1.130 9.0 0.8 1.1 8.4
2010 31 12 9 3.18 212.1 195 75 130 1.003 8.3 0.7 0.8 7.8 AS,CYA-7
2010 31 8 3 2.34 103.2 92 27 168 0.945 8.0 0.4 0.5 7.7
2010 31 4 6 3.98 108.2 103 48 109 1.058 8.5 0.9 1.0 8.0
9 Seasons 102 61 3.85 1409.0 1419 603 112 1.256 9.1 1.0 2.2 6.9
162 Game Avg. 16 9 3.85 218 219 93 112 1.256 9.1 1.0 2.2 6.9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/14/2010.

Any guesses on who "Z" is? Well, its Barry Zito's statistics before signing his mega-deal with the Giants (where he has been almost worthless since). Zito had more wins, a better winning %, a lower ERA, a lower WHIP, and a lower BAA than Mr. Lee. And Lee is supposedly the second coming? Really? Remember all the so called experts telling us how Zito wasn't as good as people thought he was, and that his numbers told a different story than the public perception did. Well, isn't that the case with Cliff Lee also? I'm not saying that Lee is going to wet himself every time he takes the mound like Zito has seemed to do recently, but I am saying that he is not one of the very elite pitchers in the game. He never was and never will be.

One could argue that his true value lies in his postseason performances, I would counter that he doesn't own a ring and he was out-pitched by Tim Lincecum while facing a much weaker lineup than Lincecum was. (Also remember that Zito outdueled Johan in the Metrodome in the 2006 ALDS). Even if he is a tremendous postseason pitcher, paying someone that amount of money for such a limited sample size is completely ridiculous. Matt Cain threw 21 IP and gave up 0 ER in the 2010 postseason and you don't hear anyone on ESPN waiting in line to kiss his butt.

If we compare Cliff Lee before his CY to the wildly inconsistent Jonathan Sanchez (Lee won his CY at 29 and Sanchez will turn 28 next year), Sanchez actually has a better BAA and ERA (.233 to .268 and 4.26 to 4.63). Also, Sanchez is coming of a career best year in which he lead the league in BAA so there may be an even bigger discrepancy between the two (before age 29) after the 2011 season.

I'm not saying that Cliff Lee sucks, or that he will revert back to old form, but he does not have a long time proven track record, and he'll be 38 when this deal runs out. Pitchers do tend to age a bit better than hitters do, but even so, 38 is old for a MLB player no matter how you look at it. It seems general mangers and the general public are both under the same spell, that Cliff Lee deserves to be paid like an ace.