4.01.2005
 
Hockey News
BREAKING STORY

The NHL and NHLPA have reached agreement on a new CBA, and in late June the League will begin a 13 game season that will be scheduled over the course of just two weeks. Then, based on the resulting standings, a league-wide shootout will be held at Madison Square Garden to determine the winner of both the '04-'05 Stanley Cup and the order of the 2005 Entry Draft.

Also.....

And this one's real: the Ice Block pointed me to this story in the St. Pete Times about a local man, Mark Rodriguez, who's suing the company that owns the Forum the Lightning play in.

"The unidentified fan threw a plastic souvenir mug from the third level, according to the suit filed by Rodriguez's attorney Scott Jeeves."

Rodriguez, his lawyer, and/or some bad April Fools joke thinks that since this incident occured during the already infamous free beer for season ticket holders game, the Forum is at fault.

Back to the Ice Block, David Singer writes:

After Rodriguez sues the Forum, he might want to go out and sue whatever television station the cup-thrower watched the night before, for inspiring him to go to the game, and maybe find out if cup-thrower has any video game consoles, because we know video games cause us to do bad things too."

Yes. Thank you.

Also.....

Here's an interesting take on the NHL's proposal to make the nets bigger: The National Lacrosse League recently made it’s nets bigger in an effort to improve their game.

"We might be up a goal a game but it hasn't had the drastic effect everybody thought it would have," said veteran NLL goalie Pat O'Toole of the Rochester Knighthawks. "The first few games, goalies struggled but as soon as they widened the nets, defensive play picked up. Teams really concentrated on defence and checking."

The effect O’Toole describes makes perfect sense.

Consider that the #2 Goal sport in the world, basketball, has nets so small they don’t need goalies. In fact, basketball has rules against 'goaltending.'

The #1 Goal sport in the world, soccer, features nets so big, they give goaltenders certain powers (use of hands) that no other player has. But still scoring in soccer is such a rare occurance that players sometimes tear off their jersey to celebrate a goal. Basketball players only do that when they're getting thrown out.

A good FG% in professional basketball is somewhere around 50%, but the average is probably closer to 40%. In soccer, they keep two stats for shots. There are regular shots and there are shots on goal. A goal scorer in soccer will probably have twice as many shots as he/she has shots on goal. And maybe 33% of his/her shots on goal result in a score. So 33% of 50% is 16.5%. If the nets in soccer are bigger, why are their players scoring a such a lesser rate than basketball players? The answer is not goaltending. A quality keeper in soccer probably saves 75% of his/her shots faced. 75% of a 50 percent shooting rate is 37.5%. 75% of a 40 percent shooting rate is 30%, still twice the difference.

Let’s then look at the design of these two sports:

  • With small nets, teams are forced to maintain a balance on offense and defense because if they give up a goal, they know they have about a 50% chance to get it back at the other end. By design, having small, unguarded nets requires the field of play to be smaller in order to encourage more scoring chances- and thus, more end to end action. Therefore, the value of a goal decreases as the frequency increases.
  • With big nets, it's natural for teams to focus much more on defense because the scoring percentage on a big, empty net is higher than it is on an empty small net. As big as the nets are in soccer, they require a goaltender to defend them. Without one, the scoring rate would approach 100%. The field of play in soccer is also made dramatically larger in order to achieve a lower frequency of scoring opportunities. Therefore, a team's key focus in soccer is to limit their opponents scoring chances. The emphasis is on defense because the value of a goal in soccer is, quite literally, nearly 100 times more than it is in basketball.

Basketball's popularity is soaring because it's a fan friendly game that's easy to watch. And that end goal is what the NHL is hoping to achieve with its efforts to improve the quality of play in their game of hockey. More fans equals more income.

In the NHL last year, the top three goal scorers' shooting percentage, respectively, was 15.5, 15.2, and 12.0%. That's about where my rough estimations of what the scoring rate in soccer is. But hockey's field size is more comparable to basketball than it is to soccer. If the NHL made their nets bigger, goal scoring would increase. But do more goals mean better hockey?

Based on the above, the game of hockey features a field size similar to basketball, and a scoring rate similar to soccer. That means it has both end to end action and memorable goal scoring; or in other words, the best of both worlds. I understand the NHL wants more money and if Excitement = Fans and Fans = Money, the question is what = Excitement?

Is it goals per game? Basketball has about 100 of those, but I don't follow the sport because at its most important times, outcomes are too arbitrary. In March, millions watch the Tournament because of its unpredicability. But only a small few during March are fans of one team the same way Red Sox fans follow their club through October or Red Wings fans in April and May. Basketball lacks the passion outside of its immediate base that Baseball, Football, and Hockey are flush with. People watch the March Tournament because of the Madness, and because of the betting. That's their personal investment: office pools. Red Sox fans are invested for life. Basketball isn't broken, it's just a niche; one I don't care for but millions do.

Hockey is broken and it's also a niche sport; one I do care for. Goals in hockey are not arbitrary. A 3-2 game means more to me than a 106-102 game. If the NHL wants excitement, it shouldn't look to increase the goals per game. Take a look at shots per game, scoring chances per game, penalties per game. That's where the excitement is. If what NLL goalie O’Toole says is accurate, if what this very rudimentary study of scoring rates is correct, and if what pure instinct tells me is true, then the long fair-weather argument in hockey of ‘making the nets bigger’ is a terrible idea.


 
Coin Flip Challenge - April

DISCLAIMER: I don't do basketball
History of the CFC: Here and here.
ARCHIVE: January - February - March


BEACH $10 WIN LOSE MONEY    COIN
BASEBALL 61 38 +156.72    44-55
BASKETBALL 128 120 -36.36    125-123
HOCKEY 1 1 -1.67    1-0


DATE LEAGUE MATCH LINE PAY BEACH W/L CFC Pick CFC W/L
04.01.05 NBA SAN at DEN o/u 194 -110 Over L Over L
04.02.05 NBA ORL at NJ o/u 188 -110 Over W Over W
- NBA LAL at SAN -8.5 -110 SAN L SAN L
- NCAA Lou vs Illn +3 -110 Lou L Illn W
- NBA MIA at NO -9.5 -110 MIA W MIA W
- NCAA MSU vs UNC o/u159 -110 Under W Under W
04.03.05 MLB BOS at NYY -1.5 -105 NYY W BOS L
04.04.05 MLB KC at DET -1.5 +110 DET W KC L
- MLB MIL at PIT o/u 7.5 -110 Under L Under L
- MLB WAS at PHI o/u 9 -110 Under L Over W
- MLB TOR at TB o/u 8.5 -110 Under W Under W
04.05.05 MLB LA at SF -.5 -170 SF W LA L
- MLB STL at HOU -.5 +105 STL W STL W
- NBA LAC at CHA -2 -110 LAC P LAC P
- NBA DEN at MEM +3 -110 DEN W DEN W
04.06.05 MLB NYM at CIN -.5 -120 NYM L CIN W
- MLB LA at SF -.5 +115 LA W SF L
- NBA CLE at IND -3.5 -110 IND W CLE L
04.07.05 NCAA(h) UND vs Minn -.5 -120 UND W UND W
04.08.05 NBA UTH at NO -4 -110 NO L NO L
- NBA CHA at MIL +7.5 -110 CHA L CHA L
- NBA MIA at MEM o/u 186 -110 Under W Under W
- MLB PHI at STL -1.5 +120 STL L STL L
- MLB CIN at HOU -.5 +150 CIN L CIN L
- MLB OAK at TB -.5 +100 TB W TB W
- MLB WAS at FLA -.5 -160 FLA W WAS L
04.09.05 MLB WAS at FLA -.5 +105 WAS W FLA L
- MLB OAK at TB -.5 +140 TB W TB W
- MLB CHI at MIN -.5 +130 CHI W CHI W
- NCAA(h) UND at DU -.5 +145 UND L UND L
04.10.05 MLB TEX at SEA -.5 -117 SEA L TEX W
- MLB OAK at TB o/u 9 +100 Under W Under W
- MLB KC at ANA -1.5 -115 ANA L KC W
- MLB CIN at HOU -.5 -140 HOU W HOU W
04.11.05 MLB PHI at FLA -.5 -125 FLA L FLA L
04.12.05 MLB SD at CHI -.5 -115 SD ppd CHI ppd
- MLB PHI at FLA -.5 -145 FLA W PHI L
- MLB PIT at MIL -.5 -115 PIT W MIL L
- MLB BAL at TB -.5 -105 BAL W BAL W
- MLB TOR at OAK -.5 +125 TOR W OAK L
- MLB DET at MIN -.5 -120 MIN W MIN W
04.13.05 MLB PHI at FLA -.5 +135 PHI L PHI L
- MLB COL at ARZ -.5 +115 COL L COL L
- MLB ANA at TEX -.5 -110 TEX W ANA L
- MLB TOR at OAK -.5 -120 OAK W OAK W
04.14.05 MLB BAL at TB -.5 +110 TB W TB W
- MLB TOR at TEX -.5 +110 TEX L TEX L
- MLB SEA at KC -.5 -105 KC L KC L
- MLB NYY at BOS -.5 -150 NYY L NYY L
- MLB CHW at CLE -.5 -110 CLE W CLE W
04.15.05 MLB NYY at BAL -.5 +125 BAL W NYY L
- MLB FLA at NYM -.5 -160 FLA L NYM W
- MLB STL at MIL -.5 +105 STL W MIL L
- MLB MIN at CLE -.5 -155 MIN W CLE L
- MLB CHC at PIT -.5 -140 CHC L PIT L
04.16.05 MLB DET at KC -.5 -135 DET W DET W
- MLB TB at BOS -.5 -200 BOS W TB L
- MLB FLA at NYM -.5 -155 NYM W NYM W
- MLB MIN at CLE -.5 +135 MIN W CLE L
04.17.05 MLB MIN at CLE -.5 -130 CLE W MIN L
- MLB TB at BOS -.5 +175 TB L BOS W
04.18.05 MLB STL at PIT -.5 -150 STL W PIT L
- MLB CHC at CIN -.5 -130 CHC L CHC L
- MLB OAK at TEX -.5 -110 TEX L TEX L
- NBA LAC at HOU +9 -110 LAC L LAC L
04.19.05 MLB ARZ at COL -.5 -110 COL W ARZ L
- MLB OAK at TEX -.5 -120 TEX W TEX W
- MLB SEA at ANA -.5 -120 ANA L ANA L
04.20.05 MLB BOS at BAL +1.5 -160 BAL L BOS L
- MLB ARZ at SF -.5 +140 ARZ W SF L
- MLB PIT at CIN -.5 +115 PIT L PIT L
- MLB CHC at STL o/u 9 -110 Under W Under W
- MLB NYM at FLA -.5 -200 FLA W FLA W
- MLB MIL at HOU o/u 7.5 -110 Under W Under W
- MLB LA at SD -.5 +105 LA W SD L
- MLB OAK at SEA o/u 8.5 -110 Under L Over W
- MLB ATL at WAS -.5 -125 ATL L WAS W
04.21.05 MLB ATL at WAS -.5 -140 ATL W ATL W
- MLB COL at PHI -.5 -200 PHI W COL L
- MLB CHC at STL -.5 -180 STL W CHC L
- MLB NYM at FLA -.5 -115 NYM W FLA L
- MLB TEX at TB -.5 +115 TB W TEX L
- MLB LA at SD -.5 -160 SD W SD W
- MLB ARZ at SF -.5 -200 SF W ARZ L
04.22.05 MLB WAS at NYM -.5 -150 NYM W NYM W
- MLB CIN at FLA o/u 8 -110 Over L Over L
- MLB TEX at NYY -.5 +160 TEX W NYY L
- MLB BAL at TOR o/u 10 -110 Over W Under L
- MLB CHW at KC o/u 8.5 -110 Over W Over W
04.23.05 MLB BAL at TOR -.5 +110 TOR L BAL W
- MLB PHI at ATL o/u 7.5 -110 Over W Under L
04.24.05 MLB TEX at NYY -.5 -250 NYY W NYY W
- MLB BAL at TOR -.5 -150 TOR L BAL W
- MLB BOS at TB -.5 -160 BOS W TB L
- NBA DEN at SAN +8.5 -110 DEN W DEN W
04.25.05 MLB MIL at STL o/u 9.5 -110 Over ppd Over ppd
- MLB CHW at OAK -.5 -135 OAK L OAK L
- MLB ARZ at LAD -.5 -160 LAD L LAD L
04.26.05 MLB HOU at PIT -.5 -130 HOU ppd PIT ppd
- MLB DET at CLE -.5 -140 CLE ppd DET ppd
- MLB BAL at BOS o/u 9.5 -110 Under L Under L
- MLB SEA at TEX -.5 -120 TEX L SEA W
- MLB CHW at OAK -.5 -120 OAK W OAK W
- MLB CHW at OAK o/u 7 -110 Under L Under L
- MLB SD at SF o/u 7 -110 Over W Over W
- MLB ARZ at LAD o/u 8.5 -110 Over L Over L
- MLB PHI at WAS -.5 +105 WAS W WAS W
- MLB PHI at WAS o/u 7.5 -110 OVER L Under W
04.27.05 MLB HOU at PIT -.5 -130 HOU L HOU L
- MLB BAL at BOS -.5 -150 BOS ppd BAL ppd
- MLB ATL at NYM -.5 -105 ATL W ATL W
- MLB ARZ at LA -.5 -140 LA L LA L
- MLB SEA at TEX -.5 -120 TEX W TEX W
04.29.05 MLB FLA at PHI -.5 -115 FLA W PHI L
- MLB STL at ATL -.5 -110 ATL L ATL L
- MLB DET at CHW -.5 -130 CWS L CWS L
- MLB ARZ at SD -.5 -160 SD W SD W
- MLB COL at LA -.5 -170 LA W COL W
04.30.05 MLB KC at CLE -1.5 +110 CLE L CLE L
- MLB CHC at HOU o/u 8.5 -110 Over W Over W
- MLB BOS at TEX o/u 11 -110 Over push Over push

3.31.2005
 
2005 Fantasy Baseball Preview - Index

Intro
Prospects
Catchers
First Basemen
Second Basemen
Third Basemen
Short Stops
Outfielders
AL Spring Notes
NL Spring Notes

3.30.2005
 
2005 Fantasy Baseball Preview - Spring Notes II

National League

  • ARIZONA: I've been lauding 3B Troy Glaus this spring and he's responded by hitting .429/.755, with 4 homers and 24 RBI. As low as he is rated, Glaus is the best bargain of 2005... Javier Vazquez's numbers this spring are in line with what I expect him to do during the regular season. The ERA is just above 4.00, but it’s good to see that he’s regained his control again; walking just 1 batter in 19.1 innings.

  • ATLANTA: Maybe I went too far earlier with the sarcasm on Andruw Jones. Maybe this is the year he fulfills his potential. With 10 homeruns this spring, that is the buzz. But other than the 10 HRs, his only other extra base hit is a lone double. There are a ton of stories out there right now about Jones. Check some out. I’m still passing... John Smoltz has thrown 14 scoreless innings this spring.

  • CHICAGO: Just like Andruw, Nomar Garciaparra is getting big press about his impressive spring. Beware of taking either too high, though. Nomar's ceiling is around the low 30s in HRs and 110 RBIs... Both Carlos Zambrano and LaTroy Hawkins have thrown well this spring. Hawkins, has gone 11.1 innings with 12 Ks, 1 BB, 12 hits, and a 1.59 ERA.

  • CINCINNATI: Joe Randa has the third base job and so far he's producing good numbers. Randa is hitting .327/.653 with 4 HRs... Austin Kearns is also swinging the bat well; 8 of his 21 hits so far have been doubles and Kearns is holding a .339 average through the end of March... The Reds' bullpen is getting better too. Danny Graves has thrown 11 scoreless innings and Ryan Wagner has pitched 13.0 innings with just 7 hits, 3 walks, and 10 strikeouts. His ERA this spring is 1.38.

  • COLORADO: Matt Holliday is having a nice spring and he will probably end up as a nice player to have in your lineup when the Rockies play at Coors. Matt hit .338 with 10 HRs in 63 home games last year. He's hit .315/.611 this March and will start the season as Colorado's left fielder. Another guy to watch is Dustan Mohr, but Holliday is probably the more talented of the two.

  • FLORIDA: Beware, Juan Pierre will not be ready to start the season with the Marlins. If he misses an extended period of time, I would expect Luis Castillo to go back to the lead-off spot... Dontrelle Willis has thrown 28 spring innings and has only walked 3 batters... Josh Beckett has started his year much better than A.J. Burnett. Beckett has gone 20.2 and has allowed just 14 hits, 2 earned runs, 5 walks. He's struck out 21. Burnett's ERA is 4.67 after 27 innings of work. He's walked 11 and struck out 19.

  • HOUSTON: One of my favorite sleepers coming into this year is Jason Lane. The Astros outfielder has hit .281/.561 so far and of his 16 hits, 3 are doubles, 2 are triples, and 3 are homeruns. Lane's also stolen 3 bases... I'm sure Roger Clemens is just experimenting with things, but his line of 9.1 innings with 20 hits and 14 runs looks ugly... Brandon Duckworth's good spring made Tim Redding tradeable to San Diego. Duckworth has thrown 20.2 innings with an ERA at 3.05.

  • LOS ANGELES: Scott Erickson doesn't even have a Yahoo profile anymore, but he sure is pitching well. In 30 innings of spring work, Scott has a 2.10 ERA and he's only walked 6 batters. His numbers in Dodger Stadium could earn him a spot on fantasy teams... On the flipside, Edwin Jackson struggled all spring and he's already been sent down. Jackson's just 21 years old, so there's plenty of time for him to learn... Given Eric Gagne's recent arm scare, Yhency Brazoban is a pitcher to draft late. He could have a season like Brad Lidge's 2004; starting the year as a dominant middle innings guy and finishing the year as a top closer. Yhency's pitched 10 innings so far and has 12 Ks with a 1.80 ERA.

  • MILWAUKEE: Lyle Overbay's .383/.550 March is encouraging after I called him out in late February as this year's Sean Casey. It's still early, but Lyle led the NL in doubles last year and if a 5-10 of those balls travel a little further this season, he'll be someone's great find... Carlos Lee is also hitting the cover off the ball. He's gone .419/.977 in 43 at bats.

  • NEW YORK: By my count, the Mets have stolen 33 bases this spring. They've attempted 8 more, giving them 41 attempts in somewhere around 22 games. They are gonna run this year and the two guys that will lead the way are Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. Reyes is 8 for 8 during the spring and he's hitting .333/.508. Beltran is 3 for 3 and he's hitting .348/.652. I still believe Beltran hits over .300 this year (explanation) and that he should be the top overall pick...Kris Benson is pitching well, but he does that every spring... Braden Looper's tough spring may have the Mets edgy about their closer situation. A trade for Urbina has been rumored all month.

  • PHILADELPHIA: I first noticed Chase Utley during a spring game last year in St. Pete. He's got surprising power and a quick bat. Last night I saw him poke two Hideo Nomo 'fastballs' over the right field fence. I think many pitchers will spend 2005 trying to sneak fastballs by Utley, and I think he'll hit 20 homeruns as a result. But I see holes in his swing, so his success may be fleeting if he doesn't adjust at the same rate as the pitchers do. Chase is .353/.647 so far, with 6 homers... Pat the bat is also having a nice month of March. A combination of a new, more gentler manager along with a healthy wrist could return Burrell to .290 and 40 homeruns. He's hit .377/.792 with 6 HRs and 20 RBI so far... The Phillies are going to need a lot of help from their starting pitching if they are going to compete against the Marlins, Mets, and Braves. Only Jon Lieber has kept his ERA under 4.00 this spring. Lidle, Myers, Wolf, and Floyd are all above 6.00.

  • PITTSBURGH: Craig Wilson has been hot, but he's going to need to keep that average up above .300 now that he's no longer catcher eligible. Currently, he's at .311/.738... Jack Wilson has yet to show that doubles power he displayed last year. 8 of his 10 hits so far have been singles... I had high hopes for Kip Wells this year, but his spring hasn't been too inspiring. In 11 innings, he's given up 14 hits, 8 runs, and 6 earned.

  • SAN DIEGO: Xavier Nady was overlooked in my 27-29 review of outfielders because he's turns 27 in November, but I should have included him based on his MLB experience. So here he is. Nady played 110 games in 2003 and hit .267 with 9 HRs and 6 SBs. Nady should start the season in center and if he continues to play everyday, he’ll likely put up Eric Byrnes type numbers. Xavier’s spring averages are .357/.679... Phil Nevin has looked solid, hitting .340, but most of his hits have been singles (13 of 14)... Jake Peavy is still going strong, he’s got a 2.13 ERA through 12.2 innings. But Woody Williams and Brian Lawrence have struggled. Both of their ERAs are over 7.00.

  • SAN FRANCISCO: Pedro Feliz will benefit from Bonds’ absence. Feliz, already eligible to play third and short, will now start in left field and bat in the middle of the Giants lineup. This spring, he’s hitting .403/.661 and has 13 RBIs... Last year, J.T. Snow finished the season on fire (.387 after the break) and he’s continued to look sharp in 2005. Snow has a .364 average in March... I would automatically upgrade any pitcher on the Giants just because they have Mike Matheny catching for them now, but take an extra look at Brett Tomko this spring. He’s given up a ton of hits (31 in 23.2 innings) but his ERA is still just 3.80. Between Tomko, Kirk Reuter, Noah Lowry, and Jerome Williams, at least one of these guys will step up to win 10-12 games with an ERA under 4.00.

  • ST. LOUIS: Pujols = Machine. His spring line: .434/.887 - 15 R - 6 HR - 19 RBI... The Cards have two new middle infielders this year and they are both hitting well this March. David Eckstein is at .404/.532 and Mark Grudzielanek is at .396/.458... I it’s possible this team as a whole will steal less bases than Carl Crawford... Matt Morris’ decline is firm. He’s pitched just 9 innings and has given up 10 hits and 6 runs... Jason Marquis has struggled to find the strike zone, walking 10 in 19.2 innings. His 6.86 ERA is surely a direct result of that as well.

  • WASHINGTON: Jose Guillen has just 5 RBI in 45 at bats. He’s sporting a .267/.556 average and does have 3 homeruns... Termell Sledge appears to have won the left field job with a solid .278/.472 spring... Vinny Castilla is 2 for 20 so far...Esteban Loiaza looks like he’ll settle in as the #2 starter. Loiaza’s line: 20.0 - 22 H - 7R - 7ER - 1 BB - 10 K... Closer Chad Cordero has also been solid. He’s got a 3.24 ERA in 8.1 innings and just one walk to go with his 9 strikeouts.

 
2005 Fantasy Baseball Preview - Spring Notes

American League

  • BALTIMORE: Jay Gibbons has been rumored to be in a few trade proposals, but Sammy Sosa's arrival in Baltimore means that Gibbons will play his more natural first base spot, or DH. As of the 28th, he's hit .417 this spring but 12 of his 15 hits have been singles... Eric Bedard is a LHP that the Orioles have looked highly upon for the last few years. He's thrown 26.2 innings so far and has walked just 4 batters compared to his 17 strikeouts and 3.71 ERA.

  • BOSTON: If anyone in the Sox outfield gets hurt this year, watch for Jay Payton to step in and produce. He's had a nice spring, slugging .656, and can take any outfield spot... Matt Mantei is healthy again, and he's giving the Sox some nice depth in their bullpen. Mantei's thrown 7.1 innings so far and has 7 K's and just 2 walks. His ERA is 3.68.

  • CHICAGO: Tadahito Iguchi has hit .310 so far this spring, but he's shown little power (just 6 doubles) and has only stolen one base... Jose Crontreras is being counted on to hold a spot in the middle of the White Sox' rotation, but so far this spring he's got an ERA over 7, and he's walked 13 in 19 innings.

  • CLEVELAND: Aaron Boone has seen a lot of at bats this spring and he's hitting .360/.540. Boone's 31 this year and he has some young Indian 3Bs lurking, but so far this season it looks like he's picking off where he left Tim Wakfield... Bob Wickman has thrown 7 innings so far and has given up only 6 hits. With Wickman closing games, the Indians' bullpen is suddenly a solid group and the Indians are suddenly a contender in the Central.

  • DETROIT: Brandon Inge is hitting .310 and slugging .603 in his 58 spring at bats so far. He's locked in at third base and he's happy there... Jeremy Bonderman's BB/K rate this spring (11/17) is a little off, but he's been close to unhittable in 24 innings; giving up just 15 hits so far.

  • KANSAS CITY: I lobbied against the chances of a Angel Berroa revival this year, but he's had a good spring and he seems to feel different this year. Berroa is hitting .413/.619 and he's stolen 5 bases... Zack Greinke and Jeremy Affeldt are both being picked in fantasy drafts, but they've struggled a little early on. The guy who's had surprisingly good numbers is former closer Mike MacDougal. He's worked more on his control and less on his fastball's top speed and Mike's enjoyed a great spring as a result. In 11 innings, he's given up only 6 hits, 1 run, 6 walks, and 12 strikeouts.

  • LA ANGELS: Dallas McPherson has gotten most of the hype, but it's Casey Kotchman who people should be taking note of. Not only is Casey ranked by Baseball America higher than Dallas, but Kotchman is healthy this spring and he's hitting .379 with 16 RBI so far. There's been little power to his at bats, but that's never been his game to begin with. Kotchman is more of a gap hitter who drives in runs and that's exactly what he's done this March. If he makes the club, Casey is going to add one more face into the already crowded Angel infield... Bartolo Colon had a very bad 2004, but he's on pace to turn that around this year. Colon's pitched 15.1 innings and has given up 15 hits, while walking 3 and striking out 12.

  • MINNESOTA: Jason Bartlett should end up the Twins' starting shortstop, thanks in part to a good spring. Bartlett's hit .400/.578 and he's scored 10 runs and stolen 3 bases... Joe Mauer started his season late, but he's hit .387/.516 in the 12 games he's played in... The Twins have a lot of questions going into this year, and two of the biggest ones are Joe Mays and Kyle Lohse. The coaching staff has given each pitchers a lot of innings this spring and so far, they have been effective. Both have thrown 22 innings so far, and their ERA's are under 4, with a BB/K ratio around 1/2.

  • NEW YORK: Joe Torre has said that Tony Womack will play second and bat ninth to start the season. At that position in the lineup, he becomes a second lead-off man and he'll get plenty of chances to make things happen on the bases. Womack's hitting .439 this spring with 7 SBs in 9 chances... Kevin Brown and Mike Mussina have been knocked around a little in March, but Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright both have posted sub-2.00 ERA's.

  • OAKLAND: The one Athletic having the best spring offensively is Eric Chavez. All that is separating him from being a top 20 fantasy pick is a higher batting average and so far this spring Chavez is hitting .419/.698. Look out... Barry Zito has struggled with his control so far (10 walks, 8 Ks) but Rich Harden has been striking out batters left and right. He's got 29 Ks in 21 innings and only 5 walks.

  • SEATTLE: Yes, Ichiro is hitting .500 in 58 at bats this spring. But Raul Ibanez is also doing well, hitting .395/.605. Jeremy Reed has also shown more extra base power than I thought he'd have. He's slugged .515 this spring to go along with a .353 average... Gil Meche is continuing this year where he left off the second half of last season. Meche has thrown 13.2 innings and has given up 11 hits, 4 walks, and has struck out 15.

  • TAMPA BAY: It's becoming less likely that Jorge Cantu is going to turn into a pumpkin, and more likely that he's going to be the Rays' everyday second baseman this year. He's hitting .355/.597 this spring. The Rays are also giving Aubrey Huff a bunch of at bats in order to help him work through more quickly his usual slow start.

  • TEXAS: Richard Hidalgo must know he's going to benefit from hitting in Arlington and in the middle of that stacked Texas lineup. Hidalgo has 4 homers in just 40 spring at bats and he's hit .300/.675... Francisco Cordero has only pitched 2 innings this spring, but he's says relievers don't need that much time to be prepared. He feels he's ready to repeat his 2004 successes.

  • TORONTO: Vernon Wells is struggling. He's had 54 spring ABs but just 8 hits to go with them. His .148/.185 spring is just dismal. Gabe Gross, meanwhile, is on fire. Gross is hitting .386/1.000 and has 8 homeruns in just 44 at bats. But it's still unsure whether or not he'll make the team... Miguel Batista is in line to be the Jays' closer and he's sporting a nice spring line of: 11.2 innings, 6 hits, 5 walks, 13 strikeouts. He may continue the surprise closer trend set by Eric Gagne and Joe Nathan from the last few seasons.


ON THE BEACH
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