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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2013 Fantasy Baseball pReview

   It's that time of year when we toss our loyalties to the wind and start picking our fantasy baseball teams, chalk full of hated players from rival teams. As the saying goes in fantasy sports, "You pick with your head, not with your heart." - ask any former or current fantasy player who has foolishly gone so homer they've destroyed any chance of winning their league, whether it be 10-team or 12-team, head-to-head or rotisserie. Here we concentrate on the 10- to 12-team head-to-head variety, specifically tailored to ESPN standard format leagues, save a few minor differences, which should prove irrelevant here. This Fantasy Baseball pReview also marks the debut of fantasy sports contributor @broyale725 (Twitter handle), a seasoned fantasy sports veteran (and some would say Guru) broyale725 will occasionally contribute to The Sports A-Phish-ionado in a section we'll call: "The Broyale Straight". Although there's no such thing as a Royal Straight, a Royal Flush doesn't sound cool. So let's go with what sounds cool.

   The format for this fantasy baseball pReview is simple: The top players at their respective positions are designated by ESPN standard format league scoring; the author offers opinions on sleepers and the rise/fall/neutrality of a player relative to 2012. The Broyale Straight will offer opinions on his best positional players, his rise/fall players, guys to stay away from, as well as guy to remember after 2012 injuries or no-shows. Trust me, @broyale725 knows his stuff - after several years at the top of a competitive 12-team ESPN standard league, he's ventured out and won several public, rotisserie, and head-to-head leagues in addition to maintaining his playoff streak in our original league. Don't tell him, but I've won many a match-up based on his advise...oh wait. If you have any questions, feel free to comment, or contact either one of us on Twitter (@Phaulkner; @broyale725). Let's get ready for some baseball folks ! (as 2 feet of snow falls across the Midwest)

Note: Opinions between @Phaulkner & @Broyale725 may differ online as they do in real life


2013 Fantasy Baseball pReview


Top Positional Players - based on points in standard format ESPN leagues (+ rise, - fall, = neutral relative to 2012) * multi-positional player

Catcher

1. Buster Posey, SF (+)................   365*
2. Victor Martinez, Det (+)..........   335*
3. Joe Mauer, Minn (N)...............   330*
4. Carlos Santana, Cle (+)...........   322*
5. Yadier Molina, St.L (=)..........    320
6. Matt Weiters, Bal (+)..............    314

Notes: Only 18 catchers are projected to score 200+ points in 2013, by far the fewest number of 200+ scorers at any position, even RP (20). In other words, catcher is NOT deep, although veterans and sleepers like Salvador Perez (KC), A.J. Perzynski (Tex), the Montero's (Arz & Sea), Mike Napoli (Bos), Willin Rosario (Col), and the incumbent Brian McCann (Atl) are all knocking at the door. Look for Martinez to excel in that Detroit lineup coming off a years rest, and look for Carlos Santana to cut loose. I expect a slight drop off for the well-traveled Posey. Multi-position eligibility for the top-4 projected catchers is a serious advantage.

The Broyale Straight: Does not mention catchers...apparently doesn't care for them.


1B

1. Albert Pujols, LAA (=)............  472*
2. Prince Fielder, Det (-)...............  437
3. Joey Votto, Cin (+)...................   405
4. Edwin Encarnacion, Tor (+).....   400*
5. Billy Butler, KC (N).................   397*
6. Adrian Gonzalez, LAD (+)......   388*
7. Mark Teixeira, NYY (-)...........   370
8. Buster Posey, SF (+).................   365
9. Paul Konerko, CHW (-)............  351*
10. Allen Craig, St.L (+)...............  350*

Notes: Very deep position with 44 players projected to score 200+ points. My sleeper is Freddie Freeman, who although at 317 projected points doesn't seem like a sleeper, is only ranked 15th preseason. This young stud will be on a recently revamped ATL line-up and I expect big things. I originally had Puljos on a slight drop-off from 2012, until LAA signed Josh Hamilton in the off-season I remembered Mike Trout. LAA is going to be dangerous, and the line-up should provide plenty of fantasy pop.

The Broyale Straight: Fielder, Votto, Pujols, Encarnacion


2B

1. Robinson Cano, NYY (-)...........   455
2. Ian Kinsler, Tex (-).....................   385
3. Dustin Pedroia, Bos (-)..............    382
4. Ben Zobrist, TB (+)...................    352*
5. Brandon Phillips, Cin (+)...........   349
6. Marco Scutaro, SF (-).................   346*
7. Aaron Hill, Arz (-)......................   338
8. David Murphy, NYM (=)...........   303
9. Jason Kipnis, Cle (+)..................   303
10. Niel Walker, Pit (+)...................   297

Notes: 23 players 200+ projected points, and huge drop-off between the top spot (Cano) and the rest of the field. The 2B (or basically infield) sleeper is Jeff Keppinger, CHW, who at 282 projected points and a guy who plays 1B, 2B, 3B, and DH is a valuable guy is deep leagues.

The Broyale Straight: Cano, Pedroia, Zobrist, Kinsler


3B

1. Miguel Cabrera, Det (=).............   501
2. Adrian Beltre, Tex (-)..................   427*
3. Evan Longoria, TB (-).................   388*
4. David Wright, NYM (-)...............   377
5. Amaris Ramirez, Mil (-)..............   370
6. Martin Prado, Arz (-)...................   367
7. Ryan Zimmerman, Was (+)..........   354
8. Pablo Sandavol, SF (+).................   352
9. Hanley Ramirez, LAD (+)............   340*
10. Michael Young, Phi (=)..............   318*

Notes: 24 players 200+ projected points, and another large drop-off between the top spots (Cabrera/Beltre) and the rest of the field. The Michael Young neutrality is based on his increased age offset by switching to the NL; although it's the NL East, the Phillies improved line-up will provide similar support as Texas did. Players like Brett Lawrie (Tor), David Freese (St.L), and Kevin Youkilis (NYY) make the 3B position potential very interesting.

The Broyale Straight: Cabrera, Beltre, Wright, Longoria


SS

1. Troy Tulowitski, Col (+)..............   406
2. Jose Reyes, Tor (+)......................   373
3. Starlin Castro, NYM (+)..............   356
4. Ben Zobrist, TB (+).....................   352*
5. Marco Scutaro, SF (-)..................   346*
6. Hanley Ramirez, LAD (+)...........   340*
7. Jimmy Rollins, Phi (-).................   337
8. J.J. Hardy, Bal (+).......................    331
9. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cle (+)...........   315
10. Elvis Andrus, Tex (+)................   306

Notes: With 24 players projected to get 200+points SS is the deepest it's been in years. In fact, in leagues where 4-6 players are kept from the previous season, a large % of these SS remain available in such leagues. Sleepers include Hardy, mentioned above, who could be in line for a monster season, in addition to Erick Aybar (LAA) and Ian Desmond (Was), both also on monster teams with deep line-ups.

The Broyale Straight: Tulowitski, Reyes, H. Ramirez, Zobrist


OF

1. Ryan Braun, Mil (-)...................   472
2. Jose Bautista, Tor (-).................   404
3. Andrew McCutchen, Pit (+).....   397
4. Matt Holliday, St.L (-)..............   386
5. Josh Hamilton, LAA (+)...........   369
6. Martin Prado, Arz (-)................   367*
7. Mike Trout, LAA (+)................   365
8. Carlos Gonzalez, Col (+)...........  363
9. Matt Kemp, LAD (+).................  363
10. Adam Jones, Bal (+)................   359
11. Ben Zobrist, TB (+).................   352*
12. Jay Bruce, Cin (+)....................   351
13. Melky Cabrera, Tor (-).............   351
14. Allen Craig, St.L (+).................  350*
15. Justin Upton, Atl (+).................  350
16. Bryce Harper, Was (+)..............   347
17. Jason Heyward, Atl (+).............   346
18. Yoenis Caspedes, Oak (+).........   342*
19. Alex Rios, CHW (=).................   339
20. Jacoby Ellsbury, Bos (+)...........   334

Notes: As usual, OF is the deepest position in fantasy baseball as it has at least three positions in most leagues and even four in some leagues. 1B is deep, but OF boasts 11 players out of the top-20 with 300+ projected points and 50 projected to get 200+! 81 total players are projected to score 200+ points, and even dividing by three to make the positional players even, OF still averages 27 players projected for 200+ points, second to 1B. In other words, don't go nuts on OFs unless it's too obvious to pass up...there will be plenty of guys left in the later rounds.

The Broyale Straight: Braun, Trout, Kemp, McCutchen, C. Gonzalez, Stanton, Bautista, Hamilton


SP

1. Justin Verlander, Det (=)................   469
2. Clayton Kershaw, LAD (=)............   436
3. Stephen Stasburg, Was (+).............   422
4. David Price, TB (+)........................   414
5. Gio Gonzalez, Was (+)...................   398
6. Yu Darvish, Tex (=)........................   396
7. Zack Grienke, LAD (-)...................   395
8. C.C. Sabathia, NYY (-)..................   392
9. Felix Hernandez, Sea (-)................   390
10. Cole Hamels, Phi (-).....................   385
11. Matt Cain, SF (+)..........................   375
12. Max Scherzer, Det (-)....................   365
13. Matt Moore, TB (+).......................   362
14. Chris Sale, CHC (+)......................   362
15. Jared Weaver, LAA (-)..................   359
16. Madison Bumgarner, SF (-)...........   358
17. Yovani Gallardo, Mil (=)...............   356
18. Mat Latos, Cin (=).........................   356
19. Cliff Lee, Phi (+)............................  356
20. Johnny Cueto, Cin (=)....................  347

Notes: 12 starting pitchers projected to score 300+ points beyond top-20; 65 starting pitchers projected to score 200+ points. Sleepers include R.A. Dickey (Tor), the only Cy Young winner I can ever think of traded the same reason he won the award...now he goes to the best line-up on paper. That either means he has a monster season or bombs...for some reason I see no middle ground. Tim Lincecum (SF) and Josh Johnson (Tor) should have great comeback seasons, and Roy Halladay should maintain - but be careful not to overpay. My personal sleeper is Matt Harvey (NYM), whose projected 9 SO/9 IP is attractive enough to take him in the later rounds. Look for Kris Medlen (ATL) to turn heads in his first full season on the starting mound as well.

The Broyale Straight: Verlander, Kershaw, Strasburg, Price, Hernandez


RP

1. Craig Kimbrel, Atl (=).......................   374
2. Aroldis Chapman, Cin (+).................   337*
3. Jon Paplebon, Phi (=).........................   293
4. Jason Motte, St.L (=).........................   292
5. John Axford, Mil (+)..........................   281
6. Addison Reed, CHW (+)....................   275
7. Greg Holland, KC (+).........................   273
8. Joel Hanrahan, Bos (+).......................   268
9. Joe Nathan, Tex (+)............................   261
10. Ernesto Frieri, LAA (+)...................   261
11. Rafeal Soriano, Was (+)...................   255

Notes: 22 projected to score 200+ points. Carig Kimbrel (ATL) is only projected to have an = season relative to 2012 because I think it's statistically improbable to top 2012, a season in which Kimbrel broke at least five pitching records, a few of which he set himself in 2011. Not since Eric Gagne has there been a RP worthy of keeping and/or selecting very high. Kimbrel's 374 projected points would make him the 12th projected starting pitcher, let alone RP. Truly amazing. My sleeper is Kenley Jansen (LAD), who rivals Craig Kimbrel in SO/9IP, and when healthy, could take - and rule - the RP spot, both on the Dodgers, and in MLB. 12 RP are projected to record 30+ saves, and another 8 are projected to record 20+ saves. In other words, 20 of the 30 MLB teams have RP projected to record 20+ saves so unless you have Craig Kimbrel, don't waste too much time fretting over RPs...especially at the rates they're replaced mid-season.

The Broyale Straight: Kimbrel, Paplebon, Motte, Soriano, Rivera

*Aroldis Chapman is scheduled to start games this season, but there are strong feelings that he will remain the closer, or be reassigned that role at some point in the season.


The Broyale Straight: The Best Values

1. Emilio Bonifacio, OF, Tor
2. Aroldis Chapman, RP, Cin
3. Brett Gardner, OF, NY
4. Martin Prado, OF, Arz
5. Melky Cabrera, OF, Tor
6. Jon Lester, SP, Bos
7. Josh Johnson, SP, Tor


The Broyale Straight: The Worst Values

1. Ryan Howard, 1B, Phi
2. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NYY
3. Brett Lawrie, 3B, Tor
4. Mark Teixeira, 1B, NYY
5. Josh Willingham, OF, Minn
6. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Mil
7. Buster Posey, C/1B, SF


The Broyale Straight: The 2013 High Risers

1. Madison Bumgarner, SP, SF
2. Gio Gonzalez, SP, Was
3. Jason Heyward, OF, Atl
4. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pit
5. Bryce Harper, OF, Was
6. Starlin Castro, SS, CHC
7. R.A. Dickey, SP, Tor
8. Yoenis Caspedes, OF, Oak


The Broyale Straight: There's No More Crying in Baseball (this season anyway)

Batters coming back from injury on the watch:

1. Victor Martinez, C/1B, Det
2. Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Bos
3. Brett Gardner, OF, NYY
4. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Bos
5. Emilio Bonifacio, OF, Tor
6. Michael Morse, OF, Sea
7. Wilson Ramos, C, Was

Pitchers coming back from injury on the watch:

1. Dan Hudson, SP, Arz
2. Michael Pineda, SP, NYY
3. Tommy Hanson, SP, LAA
4. Brandon Beachy, SP, Atl
5. Shawn Marcum, SP, NYM
6. Corey Luebke, SP, SD


The Broyale Straight: The Bounce Back Boys (injury or not)

Pitchers:

1. Roy Halladay, SP, Phi
2. Ian Kennedy, SP, Arz
3. Dan Haren, SP, Was
4. Josh Beckett, SP, LAD
5. Tommy Hanson, SP, LAA

Batters:

1. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, LAD
2. Troy Toluwitski, SS, Col
3. Justin Upton, OF, Atl


The Broyale Straight: He's Getting High on Downers

High batters (no order)

Allen Craig..........Paul Goldscmidt.........Yonder Alonso..........Anthony Rizzo..........Emilio Bonifacio..........Corey Hart..........Jon Lucroy..........AJ Pierzynski..........Alex Gordon..........Ben Zobrist..........Yoenis Caspedes..........Carlos Santana..........Austin Jackson

High pitchers (no order)

Brandon Morrow..........Kris Medlen..........Johnny Cueto..........Mat Latos..........Yu Darvish..........Max Scherzer..........James Shields..........Jason Grilli..........Brandon League*

Down batters (no order)

Shane Victorino..........Kevin Youkilis..........Hanley Ramirez..........Elvis Andrus..........Brain McCann..........Mark Teixeira..........Rafeal Furcal...........Alex Rodriguez..........Alexei Ramirez..........Alex Rios.........Rickie Weeks

Down pitchers (no order)

Tim Lincecum..........Lance Lynn..........Matt Garza..........Ubaldo Jiminez..........Bud Norris

*Could take RP role for LAD

 

The Broyale Straight: The Rookies

1. Wil Myers, OF, TB
2. Oscar Tavares, OF, St.L
3. Shelby Miller, SP, St.L
4. Dylan Bundy, SP, Bal
5. Trevor Bauer, SP, Cle


The Broyale Straight: The Sleepers

Batters:

1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, CHC
2. Norichika Aoki, OF, Mil
3. Adam Eaton, OF, Arz
4. Michael Brantley, OF, Cle

Pitchers:

1. Matt Harvey, SP, NYM
2. Jeff Samardzija, SP, CHC 
3. Brandon McCarthy, SP, Arz
4. Mike Minor, SP, Atl
5. Jarod Parker, SP, Oak


The Broyale Straight: The Spring Chickens (players excelling this spring)

Batters (no order)

Eric Hosmer.........Brian Roberts.........Jose Bautista..........Mike Moustakas..........Bryce Harper..........Nolan Arendo..........Ryan Howard..........Jemile Weeks..........Brandon Belt..........Devin Mesoraco..........Jason Heyward..........Brett Wallace..........Jedd Gyorko


Pitchers (no order)

Jamie Garcia..........Brandon McCarthy..........Alex Cobb..........Jordan Zimmerman..........Scott Kazmir..........Brett Anderson..........Marco Estrada

Players on the fall (no order)

Dan Uggla..........Rafeal Furcal (out indefinitely)..........Matt Garza (will begin season on the DL)..........Billy Hamilton



The Broyale Straight: The Match-ups to Exploit Right Out of the Box

Hitters:

1. Toronto Blue Jays: Reyes, Bautista, Encarnacion, Cabrera, Bonifacio
2. Tampa Bay Rays: Zobrist, Longoria, Jennings
3. Los Angeles Angels: Hamilton, Pujols, Trout, Trumbo, Kendrick

Pitchers:

1. Oakland Athletics: Brett Anderson
2. Philadelphia Phillies: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay
3. Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Dan Haren
4. New York Mets: Matt Harvey, Jonathan Niese
5. Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Grienke, Josh Beckett



Any questions or comments, feel free to comment here, or contact us on Twitter: @phaulkner OR @broyale725

Enjoy the season!

Phaulkner

-Trigger31.com

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The NBA All-Star Break: The "Mid" Season Review

   It's the NBA All-Star weekend, the "mid" point in the season (actually the 2/3 point) where the NBA desperately tries to woo fans with new All-Star event gimmicks, this year being the 3rd installment of the absurd waste-of-time "Shooting Stars" event where current/retired players continually heave up H-O-R-S-E-type and half-court shots one after another. Sound lame? It was. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Although the NBA's popularity doesn't seem to be waning significantly the All-Star game festivities don't seem to be the best gauge. Neither does the "Worldwide Leader in Sports". A quick click on ESPN.go.com will display the #1 sports headlines: Derek Jeter had a horrible off-season putting around his 30,000 square mansion. The poor thing. But I feel worse for the NBA. The Super Bowl marks the end of football and the beginning of February. MLB pitchers and catchers usually report to camp around mid- to late-February. So for less than one month the NBA has the sports world essentially to itself...oh wait, the NHL...whoops. That's what happens when a professional sports league strikes nearly an entire season away twice in a few years. My Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup two years ago - and I momentarily forgot the NHL existed...enough said. So, again, the NBA essentially has a month to itself - and the top story today isn't even the All-Star festivities for the mid-point of the only sports event going on that should garner interest. It's about a glimpse into the elderly Jeter's future. That's where I come in: to put things back into their natural order. I don't give a flying shit about Derek Jeter right now, but I am excited about the rest of the NBA season and the inevitably exciting playoffs. Here's my take on the season so far and the All-Star festivities that have capped off the first 50 games.

(Note: The front page on ESPN.com actually is all about the NBA All-Star break...but it sounds cooler to say the first article was about Jeter...because it was.)

Best Record

- Absolutely amazing that the San Antonio Spurs sit atop the NBA at mid-point. Coach Pop' is the Bill Belichick of the NBA, and he's done arguably his best job yet with this aging Spurs team. Anchored by ageless veterans, an ever-improving Tony Parker, NE-native bomber Luke Bonner, Danny Green, and the unknown beast Tiago Splitter, these systematic Spurs led by one of the best coaches in all of sports have a game plan in place to keep the vets rested and the young guys filling roles when necessary. Whether this translates into anything come playoff time...not so sure. The West boasts two of the other three best records, and being considerably younger (and some would argue deeper), teams like OKC (39 wins) and LA (39 wins)...the Clippers...could provide the youthful Kryptonite needed to defeat the perennially tough Spurs. However, the Spurs score (4th), they defend (9th), and they move the ball better than anyone in the NBA (1st in assists). If Russell Westbrook forgets his teammates or the Clippers can't stay healthy, the Spurs could waltz right into the NBA Finals...where they would most likely suffer a 4-0 beat-down, returned to them by the very man they embarrassed some years back as a kid. I think his name was LeBron something.

Best Team

- This one is clearly more subjective. I'm not one to necessarily correlate the best record with the best team per se, because too many factors play into it, but it would be hard to bet against the Spurs as the best team in the NBA, in addition to having the best record. But can you honestly say that the Spurs would beat OKC in a seven game series? I couldn't. What about the Heat? Tough to say. Considering Westbrook does facilitate, I think OKC is the best team in the NBA right now. Statistically, they're not. OKC scores and that's about it; same thing for Miami. In fact, Miami is so bad at rebounding it seems they wouldn't stand a chance against taller Thunder, Spurs, or Clippers teams in the Finals. Statistically we should be looking at teams like New York (10th scoring; 8th scoring defense) or Indiana (1st scoring defense; 1st rebounding). But if I told you NY was the best team you'd laugh and if I said Indiana was the best team you'd laugh harder - but statistically they're better than OKC or Miami in most relevant categories. The LA Clippers might be the best team statistically as they score (9th), defend very well (4th), move the ball around well (5th), and despite not being a monster rebounding team statistically, they have a few 7-footers. I just can't see LAC's health and experience benefiting them at crunch time. Considering OKC's depth, age, experience, and star-power I would have to argue for them as the best team in the NBA right now. A lot hangs on Westbrook's shoulders. (Runner-up: San Antonio Spurs)

Worst Team

- MICHAEL JORDAN'S Charlotte Bobcats. Happy 50th MJ, you have - by far - the worst team in the NBA right now. Fewest wins, statistically abysmal. I tried to make an argument for the Phoenix Suns, but the more Jordan opens his post-retirement mouth the easier this decision was. OHHH BURNED!!! But seriously, if Jordan was still a true competitor he would spend less time trying to convince others (himself?) that he can still play and prove to everyone he can run. As in a franchise. Take a page out of Magic's book MJ, that's the way you do it. Maybe he can still play...but trust me, no one wants to see 10.9 ppg (I get these numbers from Michael Smith's NNL show) or an "old" man trying to get back at younger guys who just dunked on him. So MJ beat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in a 1-on-1 game? That's says way more about Kidd-Gilchrist than Jordan, sorry. Get it together MJ, the legend dims with every bad draft pick (Kwame Brown) and every speech (HOF, any random interview).

Biggest surprise

- Has to be Spurs, right? At least in terms of having the best record and the 2nd best point differential - averaging 30 years old (experience). Coach Pop' never ceases to amaze...or coach. From picking up key additions to resting key players at key times (I REALLY wish SA had won that game v. Miami!) Coach Pop' continues to prepare his team for their perennial run. Besides that I'd have to go with James Harden. OKC is forced to trade James Harden due to cap reasons stemming from the new CBA, who ends up becoming a top-5 scorer. Not that Harden can't ball - he can ball big time (channeling my inner Stephen A. Smith) - but few saw him averaging over 26 ppg through 50 games. Not too much of a surprise? Teammate Jeremy Lin not living up to the giant contract...but that's not his fault.

Biggest disappointment

- Clearly it's the Lakers, right? I guess. I was actually going with the Brooklyn Nets on this one, but it's hard to argue with a 31-22 record. But that record should be more like 40-13. New arena, new city, new owners, big time players in D-Will, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace - but Brooklyn seems to have stumbled to this 31-22 record. In a relatively weak East the Nets have shown more weakness, capped by D-Will's busted ankle. My first fantasy draft pick has been killing me all season, especially after passing up on Chris Paul. Unfortunately I didn't do my homework with that injury, nor did the Nets. Counting on him to facilitate everything hasn't been working, as he's experienced career lows in many statistical categories. Without D-Will playing at his highest level the Nets don't scare many people in the East, especially not with a 0.5 point differential. So why aren't the Lakers my biggest disappointment so far? Aren't high expectations required to warrant high levels of disappointment? Who really thought the Lakers would be a top contending team? Lots of people, but never me. After the Lakers lost out on their chance to buy their 17th Championship by inexplicably obtaining Chris Paul (PG was the one position that would have cemented the Lakers), the LAL tried to duplicate their 2004 season by bringing in a couple of seriously over-hyped (Howard) and equally over-the-hill stars/veterans (Nash/Jamison). The Lakers had to land a superstar after Stern nixed the trade that reeked of a fantasy league guru pulling a trade over on the clueless noob (although I feel Stern was way out of line here). So Howard was the obvious choice...a little too obvious. It seems no one in the Lakers front office took one second to think about a Kobe/Dwight relationship. Kobe hated Shaq, the most dominant, championship-laden, force of nature of my NBA generation, but Kobe knew. He knew. This was Shaq. Dwight Howard looks like a 7-foot birthday party clown who has to be reminded he's in the middle of a professional basketball game at times. Who thought this would fly with Kobe? They're polar opposites when it comes to this game outside of numbers. The ridiculous additions of Nash and Jamison speak for themselves, as the Lakers were clearly trying to put veterans - with little to no championship experience - with the greatest player of our generation as he tries to tie Jordan's ring total. The Howard addition is about the future face of the Lakers. It's...not working. On a personal note, I was seriously disappointed about Rondo's season-ending injury...until the Celtics started playing better without him.

MVP

- LeBron James, who else? The choice is as clear as his headband-hidden receding hairline. I have one, too, LeBron, but I can't rock the headband. As someone who bleeds green, I basketball hate "King" James, but I'm not dumb. I baseball hate Derek Jeter, too, and I wouldn't count that guy out at any point of any baseball game - unless he rolls an ankle. About the only place on the basketball court I wouldn't want James is the free throw line at crunch time, but THAT'S IT. The dude balls. This recent streak of 30 ppg while shooting 60+% is just more proof. With the childish Dwaye Wade injured half the time, and absolutely NO ONE ELSE ON THE TEAM (wait, is Bosh still there?). LeBron has carried this team more times than not. OK, Bosh is definitely playing at his highest Miami Heat level, maybe career, but still, LeBron goes, the Heat are done. James snapped his aforementioned streak the other night at 6 games. He fell short of continuing the 30+ppg/60+% streak, but he did score 39 points...on 58% shooting! Are you serious, LeBron? Runner-up? I'm going to say James Harden, who has these Rockets contending for the last playoff spot in the stacked West.

Finals predictions 

Miami Heat v. OKC Thunder. 

I have the Thunder winning in 6 games IF Russell Westbrook can keep his head, despite Dwayne Wade's bullshit. Miami simply cannot rebound with OKC over a 7-game series, and Kevin Durant proved the other night that he can literally dominate when he gets hot. After seemingly going 0-for-whatever v. Miami in the 1st quarter a few nights before the All-Star break, he blew up for 40 by games end bringing a blow-out within reach. I believe another year of experience will only help the Thunder as they exact revenge for 2011-2012 Finals. Remember, James Harden wasn't there last year either.

Alternate Finals: New York Knicks v. LA Clippers

I would HATE it if LA won a title when that piece of shit Don Sterling was still alive. But imagine if he died and his late drug-addicted son, who by the way literally got away with murder, had run the team? The Clippers rise and subsequent re-fall would have been meteoric. Perhaps I would basketball hate it even more if the "There's no you in team, just me" Knicks (29th in assists despite having one of the best PGs in the NBA) won the title. That's just the Boston in me talking.

Doubtful, but possible Finals: Brooklyn Nets v. San Antonio Spurs

NBA All-Star Weekend Review

Rising Stars game - I admit, I don't pay much attention. With a furry of talented young players coming into the league (e.g. Wall, Irving, Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist) we see these guys nightly in regular games, and we see them versus already "Risen" stars. So when we see Irving knocking down shots against the NBA's elite, it's hard to watch him dominate relatively sub-par players. Especially with Shaq as a coach of one of the teams. He was preaching running and hitting a ton of jumpers - two things he NEVER did. Sorry, can't buy this. Side note: Dudes like Davis and Irving should be balling with the grown ups during All-Star weekend.

Shooting Stars - Great in theory, horrible in practice. The only thing I remember is several retired stars and a few WNBA players heaving half-court shots...and missing badly. I could only hear Reggie Miller and Kenny Smith gloat about how many they'd be knocking down shots if they were out there so many times. Take the charity away from this things and it's about as pointless as one could imagine.

Skills Challenge - Tony Parker looked old, Jeremy Lin dropped the hometown ball, Jrue Holliday was fast, Damian Lillard was faster. Not too much to report here. Holliday and Lillard were <30 seconds.

3-point Shot Contest - OK, dudes like Paul George do not belong in this competition. I'm not on any selection committee, but really? He is 10th in 3 pointers MADE, but he's not even top-40 for 3FG%. Probably why he bombed in the competition. I suppose players have to actually commit to the contest, and be healthy...so maybe George replaced Kyle Korver. But I can't figure out why Klay Thompson wasn't shooting. Regardless, it was very entertaining. My predicted winner Stephen Curry started out slow, eventually caught fire to set things off, but was no match for the likes of New England native Matt Bonner, or the eventual champion, Kyrie Irving, who surprised me and I think a few others by not only winning, but almost breaking the contest record! He hit 23 in the Final Round to oust the awkward shooting Bonner on his way to adding yet another feather to his cap. By the way, Paul George is about to take center stage during these NBA playoffs.

Dunk Contest - This got so boring at one point other NBA players started tweeting that they were submitting applications for next year's contest. That speaks volumes. Gerald Green's first (contest opening) dunk from a behind-the-back pass off the side of the backboard was monstrous. James White's two-handed free throw line dunk was sick...despite lame props. Eric Bledsoe has SERIOUS HOPS. SERIOUS HOPS. The Manimal forgot it was a contest. One guy couldn't even dunk. Jeremy Evans' dunk over Mark Eaton was kind of cool, but took WAY too long. And finally Terrance Ross stole the show by stealing one of Vince Carter's dunks from a long...time...ago. The bottom line? Some ridiculously athletic, slightly original dunking that took several tries for many, and failed to wow for a few. As I said, several players started tweeting that they had to enter next year...I'm assuming to "save" the contest. That's easy. LeBron?

There you have it, my NBA mid-season review. See you in a few months for the NBA Playoffs Review coming in May.

- The Sports A-Phish-ionado

Trigger31.com

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII p'R'eview - The Morning After

   For one half of Super Bowl XLVII it appeared clear why one of my dream jobs - sports journalist - was never realized. Thankfully, the second half almost made me look like a genius, a 21st Century NostraSeanus, making the end result a not-so-horrible wrong call. So my confidence wasn't completely shot. Probably a bad thing. Regardless, I was wrong. Not about everything, but I was wrong. On the surface, because I predicted a 49ers win, but more specifically, because I stated the final score (29-23 SF 49ers) wouldn't represent the beating the 49ers put on the Ravens. That was only the second half. Here's a recap of my calls and how right/wrong I was:

- I said the key match ups were the 49ers rush defense against the Ravens rush offense, in which the 49ers D would dominate: I was right, they did. Ray Rice was held to under 60 yards rushing, and 3.0 YPC. I also said the game would hinge on Flacco's shoulders, which also ended up being true. Unfortunately I said this sarcastically as I did not expect Flacco to actually shine in that situation. (Note: MVP should have gone to Boldin)

- I said the young pistol offense led by Kaepernick would steamroll the Raven's old defense. Well that happened...several minutes into the second half. It basically took a 34-minute brown out and an approaching bedtime for Ray Lewis for the 49ers to get rolling, but by the end, the stats were padded (over 430 yards for the 49ers offense, most by a losing team in Super Bowl history...I think). And although the Ravens defense didn't get steamrolled, they certainly didn't look like the old Ravens, save perhaps the few vicious hits, cheap hits, and after-whistle brawls. And other than two non-calls for defensive off-sides by Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, I would have thought they joined Suggs in skipping the game. But they won, plain and simple.

- I said the Ravens Special Teams would shine, specifically Jacoby Jones. That happened.

- I said the Ravens coaching staff would out-coach the 49ers staff...that sort of happened. They did win, right? Going for a fake field goal at the 9ish yard line was dumb...but the hapless 1st half 49ers couldn't take advantage. So yeah, the Ravens won, so Johnny gets the nod.

- I said Colin Kaepernick would win the MVP. This actually would have happened had it not been for 1) a botched defensive off-sides call (Ed Reed) that cost the 49ers two points, which cost them the tie at the time, which forced them to go for a TD instead of a game-tying FG when the time came, or 2) Crabtree was given at least a chance to catch that ball in the end zone, i.e. an obvious defensive holding penalty was called, or at the very least 3) the 49ers got those precious 8 or so seconds back from that lame super slow motion safety. If any of those things went the 49ers way Colin Kaepernick would most likely have scored the game-winning TD (come on, the kid was on FIRE) and ended with way more than 300+ yards passing, 60+ yards rushing and 2 TDs, which were basically the same number Flacco ended up with, too.

I also said the score would be 29-23 49ers, when it was actually 34-31 Ravens. I was 11-2 points off, respectively, which means at the end of the day I pretty much nailed my 49er predictions and missed on many of my Ravens predictions, indicating a lack of respect for the Ravens. That's been my problem for the past 13 years. 

Congrats to the Baltimore Ravens on a deity-inspired season. Of all the places this deity has to be, it chose to stick by you guys for the past five weeks. Believable story.

More predictions to come. I promise.

Peace,
Phaulkner

Trigger31.com

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII pReview

   One of the few things that rivals Phish for my recreational attention is the NFL, and whether the New England Patriots are at their rightful place as AFC Champions or not, I'm interested. In fact, I wouldn't miss it, despite our beloved New England Bradies picking the most inopportune time - for the second year in a row - to go from an offensive powerhouse to...well, offensive. Things the Patriots seldom did all season became common practice in the AFC Championship game, just as they did in Super Bowl XLVI the season before: dropped balls...again; Brady hurrying throws...again; Special Teams mistakes...again; turn-overs...again. The one Achilles heal for the regular-season 2012 Patriots - a relatively young, inexperienced defense - had played better throughout the season and developed into a bright spot, perhaps capable of providing that last piece for another ring. That bright spot dimmed as well, showing few of the improvements they had amassed all season. Once Aqib Talib went down with a leg injury our very improved secondary looked weak, and the perennially dangerous Anquan Boldin set ablaze and ruined any chance of slowing them down. Add that to an annual Bernard Pollard bombing of one of most important players limbs, or in this case, head (this time it was our RB Steven Ridley*, who after being knocked out by a helmet-to-helmet hit by Pollard fumbled the ball to the Ravens essentially sealing the game for Baltimore), and you have the AFC player in this year's Super Bowl, the 47th installment of America's supposedly most beloved game. The NFC, of much less interest to me due to my affiliations, produced an anticipated match up between the league's best defense (SF 49ers) and one the of the league's best offenses (Atlanta Falcons). The game didn't disappoint nearly as much as the AFC Championship did - even if you were a Baltimore fan it was relatively boring - as a first half Falcons run-away flipped script for the second week in a row, but this time the Falcons couldn't maintain the magic and sent the 49ers to the big game for the first time since I was a junior in High School (OK, 1995). Here are my predictions for the key match ups, the score, and the MVP:

Key match ups

49ers run defense v. Ravens run offense: 49ers

The 49ers have the best front seven in the NFC, which means they have the best front seven in all of football, and this will be trouble for the Ravens. Giving up less than 95 yards per game on the gound, the Smith Brothers From Different Mothers and the LB wrecking crew of Bowman & Willis anchor a front seven that also includes the seldom heard of, but nearly equally dangerous Ahmad Brooks and Issac Sopoaga. I don't see Ray Rice & Crew getting through this wall, inside or out, putting the game squarely on the shoulders of Joe Flacco, the self-proclaimed best QB in the NFL. Let's see.

49ers young pistol offense v. Ravens aging "destined" defense: 49ers

This one is pretty simple for me. Colin Kaepernick, despite everything I looked for, seems to have no serious flaws for a guy with 10 starts going into the Super Bowl, save perhaps over confidence. Think any pros see that as a problem? He's lightning fast, has a canon accurate arm, and seems to learn quickly from costly mistakes - all recipes for a dangerous QB. The 49ers line is beastly, and gets big beastly on special packages, which would prove problematic for two young Haloti Ngata's, let alone one aging one. Frank Gore seems revived, if he even needed reviving, after being able to take the proverbial back seat to Kaepernick as he pistol whipped the NFC into submission the past several games. Oh yeah, then there's a suddenly dangerous WR crew, which has one formally busted 1st rounder earning his pay, and a future HOFer still pulling safeties his way. Add a constant threat in Vernon Davis and it seems pointless to even talk of the Ravens defense. Doesn't that sound ridiculous? THE BALTIMORE RAVENS DEFENSE?! Weak. Weaker than any we've seen since the last time these Ravens were in the Super Bowl - 13 years ago. Ray is old, and now distracted with the news of PED use for a quick recovery to the very game he won't be able to concentrate as hard on. The rest of this crew is old, too, and give up way too many yards and have way too many miles on the tires too keep up with this young tattooed up-and-comer. This one's going to take more then prayers, pacing and crying, and prolonged butt-crack sightings. I see the Ravens huffing, puffing, and getting blown down.

Ravens Special Teams v. 49ers Special Teams: Ravens

OK, one ruined their team's chances at a previous Super Bowl and rectified that problem by replacing the culprit with a  totally unjustified former top-10 draft pick who'll most likely commit the same error if given the chance in the bright spotlight. The other only improved with the addition of Jacoby Jones. Whoops, guessing game over. One actually was trying out two kickers going INTO the NFC Championship game. The other stole a game earlier this season from the Patriots on a questionable, but long clutch kick, and has been known to do the same in similar moments. That one I'll leave to you. Either way I give the ST nod to the needy Ravens...as in they need something, BAD.

Ravens coaching staff v. 49ers coaching staff: Ravens

Wait, they're brothers? Yes, we all know. Yes, I'm just as shocked as you the NFL didn't rig this sooner, as in last year. Here's to a few more years of Harbaugh Bowls!! I think this one is pretty simple, too. John has been around the NFL longer, has a more veteran staff, and has what seems to be a maturity notch above the ol' (or should I say 'lil') brother Jim. Neither have been to a Super Bowl, but clearly the older (by one year) has more NFL experience and that's what matters. I give the slight nod to the Ravens here. At least this butt pat won't end in a fight and a media frenzy...well, at least the former shouldn't happen.

Score

I have the 49ers winning Super Bowl XLVII 29-23. I expect the 49ers to score three offensive TDs (two rushing, one passing), kick two FGs (both by Aker's...sorry, bad joke maybe), and score one safety (got Smith getting this one...I won't say which color). I expect the Ravens to be completely shut down offensively, but still managing to score points based on big plays resulting in one offensive TD (passing), one Special Teams TD (Jones), and three FGs. The score will not represent a complete domination by the 49ers.

Super Bowl XLVII MVP

This one is actually easy, too. I'm going with @kaepernick7. Sorry, Colin Kaepernick. I'm used to Twitter. Kaepernick will be MVP, as only the fourth QB in NFL history to start the Super Bowl in the same season as his fist start in the NFL, and only the second in history to also win the Super Bowl MVP (Brady - correct me if either of the other two QBs also won MVP...but doubt it). With a rushing TD and a passing TD, the kid who'll make the Baltimore defense look out of gas most of the night will steal the show, resulting in such a massive ego next season that the entire 49ers team will eventually implode on itself and cease to exist.

   
   Enjoy the game, stay safe, and if you lose take it easy - remember, it's just a game...that means absolutely everything if you're a football fan. Seriously, these games suck on the losing end. You suddenly realize the season ended. You suddenly realize your team is the same as the Cleveland Browns or the Arizona Cardinals. Reality hits that you just lost that bet. Then it dawns on you how large a percentage of the crowd is just there for the party, and how most of those people are the 99%ers, which means they're fucking rich. Then you remember you're not rich, and that the Super Bowl is on a Sunday, and you have to work in the morning. Then it occurs to you that you live on the East Coast, where the game ends at midnight, despite having started at 6:30 p.m., so you have to go to that shitty low paying work in many fewer hours than originally anticipated. Then you question why you even watch these games, why people even care about sports, or why society is set up so that there even are Super Bowls, or rich people, or work. Then there you are again in April hoping your team's chances improve so that you can relive it again 365-so-odd days later. Such is life. And when that life hands you lemons, cut them in half and shove them into the eyes of your closest enemy. Then you'll both be miserable. Problem solved.

49ers win 29-23. Go Patriots!

Peace,
Phaulkner

(Formally Trigger Treinta Uno, who lost a mental gun control battle to myself)

Trigger31.com 

(as far as the Trigger part that stays here, it's actually a college basketball reference...and if you can guess it and you DON"T know me, I'll be terrified, becasue that would be super weird)

* Benard Pollard, for those unaware, was the culprit in several season/game-ending injuries that befell our beloved New England Patriots and ultimately affected an entire season or a playoff run/game: Brady (knee, 2008), Welker (knee, 2010), Gronkowski (leg/ankle, 2011), Ridley (head, 2012)





Saturday, February 2, 2013

"The Year 2012 - in pReview" pReview

   Although I could count on one hand the number of people who have expressed disappointment in my blogging absence, I felt compelled to update the Phish blog site I have run for the past 18 months...OK, really just 6 of those months...as my Twitter followers have blown up from 29 to 60 in recent weeks, forcing me to face the embarrassment of an outdated website clearly linked to my account. Besides, being well over 100+ pages of actual 12-font text I've decided not to let my e-penned  thoughts add to the trillions of former, now most likely forgotten thoughts strewn upon the Internets black hole. In other words, I clearly felt my thoughts are worth something, and therefore reviving in even more public form than already exhibited. 
   I only attended eight Phish shows this year. Yes, that might seem like many to some, but to many not nearly enough; I agree with the latter, although that agreement didn't come as quickly as it would have in previous years, as I'm 34 now, and can only hear so many Suzy Greenberg's and the sing-alongs those "classics" incite. The reason I started a blog in the first place was to chronicle Phish tour as my crew of vets saw it, and to add some flavor to a bland supply of "Phish can do no wrong" reviews by Mr. Miner and the like. I felt  I accomplished that, and at least a few people seemed to enjoy it. I even inspired a few phriends to go out and do the same thing, although they'd never admit it (Imitation is the highest form of flattery). I promised myself that I would only pReview shows I personally went to, or at least had a close friend in attendance, willing to pay enough attention to blog about the entire experience. So clearly by the lack of any blogs since 2011-2012 MSG, it would appear I attended zero shows, and/or had no crew in attendance. Wrong on both counts - I attended eight whirlwind CA and MSG shows and my crew attended most of them - of course - but wanted nothing to do with my blog. I don't blame them, it's a pain in the ass, hence my absence, despite my attendance at the aforementioned shows, for the past year. It takes a lot to even attend many Phish shows, let alone chronicle them extensively, on the road, with MANY other things going on. So I flaked and basically abandoned my blog site. Well, like I said before, I'm back to rectify that. I will review the shows I attended (you don't care at this point, you say?...well, I'm going to anyway, especially after I saw my boy Phortin and his crew dish out some end of the year awards giving SF  a best set nod). 
   But if you recall, or should I say even ever read at all, my little bio/reasoning space within the blog site claimed that I would be blogging about Phish, science, and sports - can't say I've even broached those latter two subjects once. So that's what I plan to do. My next post will be a multi-part but concise 2012 Year in pReview (I only keep saying that to expand my brand). I will offer my opinions on the shows I attended, and the Phish year in general; a sports recap including the Red Sox fall into oblivion, the Patriots Groundhog year, my presence bringing championships to CA, and Manti Te'O acting the fool; I will also review Obama's reelection, the Republicans shooting off both feet and arms, gun control, and the final piece to me realizing what America is all about; finally I will recap the year in Faulkner - from the sudden death of my longtime graduate advisor and the collapse of my scientific career to the inspiration for my dedication to medical cannabis. Oh yeah, and I will also update relative information like photos, links, polls, and twitter handles. Stay tuned over the next week...if you care.

Peace,
Phaulkner (formally Trigger Treinta Uno, who died in a mental gun control fight with myself)

Trigger31.com (no, I'm not going so far to change the whole blog site name)