Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Week One Fantasy Football Recap

(Racing fans, if you missed Speedgeek's first post since Blogathon, check it out here!)

Below is a quick recap from the first week of the 2014 fantasy football season.

Play of the Week: Matt Ryan

It's possible that Ryan was drafted as a backup in some leagues, but owners who played him against New Orleans got his career high of 448 passing yards along with three TDs and zero interceptions. Other big plays included Julius Thomas, who caught seven passes for 104 yards and three scores, and the San Francisco defense, which was projected to struggle against Dallas and instead scored a touchdown while piling up sacks and interceptions.

Upset of the Week: Robert Griffin III

Hopefully you didn't draft Griffin as your starting QB, but if you did, you're probably looking for a replacement already. Griffin was held to two rushing yards, severely affecting his fantasy value. With 267 yards, no scores, and a lost fumble, it'll be hard to have confidence in him moving forward unless the Redskins allow him to use his feet more.

Biggest Zero: Cody Latimer

When it was announced that Wes Welker would miss four games, many speculated that Cody Latimer would be the main beneficiary of Welker's missed time. Instead, he didn't see a single target in a game that saw Peyton Manning completing passes to everyone else in the stadium. Latimer is still owned in 22% of Yahoo leagues, but that could drop drastically as Welker's return nears.

Player to Grab: Justin Forsett

Forsett is currently available in 88% of Yahoo leagues, but that is going to change quickly. With Ray Rice cut from the team, the door is open for Forsett to have a big season. In week one he rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown on only 11 carries. However, Bernard Pierce will see some of the touches, and Forsett may not end up being a solid play every week. Another gutsy add would be Josh Gordon, who could actually see his full-season suspension reduced significantly very soon. If he gets it knocked down to eight games, he'd be a key receiver to take you down the stretch. He's owned in more than half of Yahoo leagues though.

Player to Trade: Percy Harvin

Harvin is great for the Seahawks, but I don't believe in his ability to maintain high fantasy value. Even in a game where he hauled in all seven of his targets and got four rushing chances, he didn't even match receivers like Mike Wallace, Reggie Wayne, Julian Edelman, or Anquan Boldin. And how long can Harvin last without getting hurt again? There are many owners out there who think highly of Harvin, and if I could get a solid RB for him right now, I would do it. I believe his numbers as a WR are replaceable.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I Sing the Formula Electric (Mostly)

It's occurred to me just today that after months and months of hearing about Formula E, the FIA's new electric formula car racing series, we are now just mere days away from the first event. Testing has taken place, the teams have (mostly) named their drivers, and as far as all the pre-event publicity goes, it sounds like things are actually going to go down in Beijing this weekend. As I tend to do with most new things, I haven't jumped onto the bandwagon with both feet (I hardly think this is going to replace F1, as I've seen in some suggest, though I could see the September through June calendar making it a de-facto latter day A1GP during the normal racing offseason months), but I am very, very curious to see how things go.

I've been spurred into writing a little something before the Beijing debut by a columnist that I usually enjoy, Peter M. De Lorenzo, who seems to have eaten a giant bowl of grumpy flakes over the weekend, or possibly a mostly silent electric car ran over his foot recently. Whatever the case, PMD not only isn't bullish about Formula E, he basically seems to be rooting for it to fail all together, which seems awfully mean spirited and unnecessary, if you ask me.

(A word of full disclosure right here: one of the major backers of the Formula E series is Renault, who is providing the powertrain for the Formula E cars, along with most of the technical support for the cars. I work for Nissan, who is a corporate allied partner with Renault. So, yes, while I suppose I probably hope that Formula E succeeding means that Nissan might sell an extra Leaf electric vehicle or two, I've yet to have a single conversation with anybody at my workplace about Formula E. I sort of suspect that 99.9% of the people at my office don't even know that it exists, and don't care about it one way or the other. Believe you me, this is coming from a standpoint of "I like racing" much, much more than a standpoint of "I hope somebody makes money". I'm certain that there are far more effective ways for a company to make money than by supporting/advertising in a burgeoning, mostly unknown racing series. I just like racing.)

A criticism that I've heard, and that PMD somewhat addresses by pointing out the billed "sustainability" of Formula E, is that this is some sort of future "replacement" for Formula 1. Oh, my. Um, no way. First of all, Formula 1 has worked on its own "sustainability" this year by introducing the hybrid-turbocharged-V6 formula for this year (which has been pretty darned effective, in my opinion, producing similar lap times to last year, at about 30-35% less fuel use...this is a whole other topic, though). If F1 is positioning itself for the future, then why would the FIA feel the need to position Formula E to "take over" at some point in the distant future? Secondly, motor/battery technology in this type of application (high power/low weight/semi-reasonable endurance) is basically in its infancy. The cars are going to be a fraction as quick as Formula 1, though to my eyeball, they don't look all THAT slow to me.

No, Formula E is going to be its own thing, not replacing any other existing thing. Really, the argument here is: "something new" or "no new thing"? I'll take the "something new", personally. It gives me something to watch in the off-season. So, what we're getting is a slew of recognizable name drivers (Bruno Senna, Nicolas Prost, Sebastien Buemi, Jarno Trulli, Nick Heidfeld, Stephane Sarrazin, Jaime Alguersuari, Sam Bird, Karun Chandhok, Oriol Servia, Nelson Piquet Jr., Lucas di Grassi, Katherine Legge, Franck Montagny, and others) for teams that many of us have already seen elsewhere (Andretti Autosport and Dragon/Virgin Racing, to name a couple), using cars of a sort that we've never really seen before, using what's more or less new technology. And they're going to be run in the middle of large cities, many of which have never had racing on their streets or even anywhere nearby (Beijing, Buenos Aires, Berlin and London, to name a few, though I suppose F1 did run near Buenos Aires years and years ago). Putting racing in these locales near large concentrations of people who have never had first-person contact with racing has the potential to not just attract new fans to Formula E, but new fans to all of motorsport. Can somebody outline for me how exactly THAT is a bad thing?

Are there downsides here? Of course. The battery capacities are not to the point where they can run a full race distance, so each driver will have to hop out of their car and hop into a totally different car around halfway. That's admittedly pretty dorky, and I do hope that the technology improves over the course of the coming seasons in order to eliminate this. And for reasons I can't quite make out, the FIA has decided to introduce the ludicrous "Fan Boost", where people can log into the Formula E website and vote for their favorite driver, who will then get a Mario Kart-esque five second boost of roughly 40 HP. That is ridiculously gimmicky, but at least a five second boost is probably only good for one pass, so the effect should be fairly small.

In the end, what we're getting here is this: a different kind of racing with some very capable drivers, in some different areas where we've never seen racing, using some technology that we've never really seen in race cars before. It's not going to replace F1 or NASCAR or anything else. It's something extra to follow, and maybe even attend, should you feel the urge (though unless you live in or near one of the site cities, I can't really imagine justifying a special trip for a one-day event). If you're half the racing junkie that I am, it's probably worth a look. It's going to be on Fox Sports 1, starting early this Saturday morning (with color commentary from retired IndyCar legend, Dario Franchitti!) at 3:30 AM Eastern, so you may want set your DVR. Will it be a great show or a fiascotastrophe? It's anybody's guess, at this point, but I'll be watching to find out.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Brewers and Matt Garza Get an Early Look at the Cubs' Future

A few months ago I posted about Matt Garza's dumb comments to Jeff Samardzija, who he essentially told to "pitch his way out of Chicago." For a minute let's put these two things aside: I hate the Brewers, and I believe pitchers will wish they were pitching in the Chicago Cubs lineup in the very near future. Instead, let's focus on the facts.

Last night, Matt Garza took the ball for the Milwaukee Brewers with a chance to get his team back into the top of the division. The Cubs, yes the very team Garza suggested Samardzija should abandon, had knocked the Brewers out of first place the night before; however, Garza sees himself as an ace and was set to face a 2014 Cubs lineup without Anthony Rizzo or Starlin Castro. This should've been an easy win over a team Garza openly disrespected despite being treated like nothing less than a star pitcher during his time there.

Of course, the Cubs prevailed and did so easily. Garza was severely outpitched by rookie Kyle Hendricks, the NL's Rookie of the Month in August. The victory completed a sweep for the Cubs, who are looking more and more like the team fans have been waiting to see, even with their two current best players out with injury. While Garza fell to 7-8 in another injury-plagued season, Hendricks moved to 6-1 and now owns an ERA (2.02) that is about half of Garza's (3.87).

Hendricks is just one of a few options the Cubs seem to have ready to replace recent higher priced pitchers like Garza, Samardzija, and others. Perhaps most importantly, he's healthy, something Garza could rarely claim during his Chicago stint.

The point here is that I believe the change is finally in sight. For now, it's fun enough to watch my Cubs sweep the Brewers right out of a September division lead. But starting in 2015, players like Garza should finally be trying to pitch their way IN to Chicago. Milwaukee can keep Garza. I'll take the kids who beat him.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Fantasy Football Player Profile: Julian Jones

Name: Julian Jones
Team: Atlanta Falcons
Position: Wide Receiver
Why you want to own him: You don't, dummy.

So you're at your auction draft this weekend. having a few beers, feeling good. You begin to think you might be a little weak at wide receiver and plan to make a splash when the next top one is on the auction block. Suddenly your buddy calls out Jones from Atlanta. J. Jones, wide receiver. Jul. Jones. You immediately start to calculate how much you're going to bid.

Don't do it!

Your crafty friend may have just attempted the ultimate of shenanigans. He's hoping that everyone in the room will begin bidding the amounts they'll spend on Falcons receiver Julio Jones, who averaged nine touchdowns and over 1,000 yards in 2011-12. The only problem is that everyone is actually bidding on JULIAN Jones, a rookie receiver out of Arkansas State.

Yes, your friend is a jerk. Julian Jones did score four touchdowns as a senior last year. Heck, he even scored seven times on only 13 catches as a junior. But he's no Julio Jones.

Don't be the guy who fell for the wrong Adrian Peterson all those times. Instead, be the guy who calls Tony Gonzalez's name. It's likely that one of your lame friends will not know that he's retired. And if you get stuck with him, you can always just say you paid a buck out of respect for the greatest tight end ever and that you knew you could sacrifice a draft pick and still win this joke of a league.

Happy bidding!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Is Jeff Samardzija pitching his way out of Chicago?

Earlier this season, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Matt Garza told Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija to pitch his way out of Chicago. Garza, who played for the Cubs the last three seasons, has also trashed the organization in a few different interviews. As a Cubs fan, I do believe Garza has a point. Looking back, I certainly wish that we had used Edwin Jackson's money to sign Garza instead (assuming that money was going to be spent, as opposed to saving it or investing further in development). His Brewers are in first place, 11.5 games ahead of the Cubs. And, yes, I also love watching Samardzija pitch and all that he brings to the team.

That being said, I would still like to see Samardzija "pitch his way out" of Chicago at some point over the next five or six weeks, because it will undoubtedly mean another great return for Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and the Cubs organization.

The haul that the Cubs got in return for trading Garza last season is rapidly making the deal work out in Chicago's favor, even with C.J. Edwards, potentially the trade's best player, sitting on the injured list for AA Tennessee. Consider the following:

  • Third baseman Mike Olt is struggling to keep his average above .150, but he does continue to lead all National League rookies in home runs and RBI, showing the potential to be a middle-of-the-order contributor. (He could be used to bolster another trade this year or in the offseason, as the Cubs have Kris Bryant completely dominating AA and seemingly nowhere to send him without hindering Christian Villanueva's progress at AAA Iowa. Having "too many third basemen" could be a great "problem" and may leave Olt as the odd man out while further adding to the return for Garza.)
  • Reliever Justin Grimm has posted a 2.77 ERA in 42 appearances for the Cubs, helping to make the club's bullpen a strength this year.
  • Neil Ramirez looks even better as he has managed to temporarily slide into the closer's role with a 1.06 ERA in 19 outings. Also, the team could decide to insert Ramirez into the rotation after dealing Jason Hammel and possibly Samardzija. (Of course, Ramirez's immediate fate may be directly tied to Hector Rondon's current injury/soreness.)
  • Finally, Edwards is likely at least a year away from reaching Chicago, but he has star potential. His minor league stats (1.81 ERA, .737 winning percentage, and 260 Ks with only 74 walks in 204 innings) are certainly impressive. He should return from injury soon and can hopefully progress to Iowa later this summer.

Seriously. This is what the Cubs managed to get for giving up two months of Matt Garza, who made just 60 starts during his time in Chicago, compared to 94 in the previous three seasons for Tampa Bay. (Adding the 13 starts with Texas at the end of last season still puts him more than 20 below what he was able to do with the Rays over the same amount of time.) Yes, when Garza was healthy enough to pitch for the Cubs, he was pretty good. But we fans do not miss his horrid fielding abilities, his terrible attitude, or his trips to the DL. (As for being just generally weird, I was totally OK with that. I liked Garza a lot when he was healthy and keeping his mouth closed.)

Honestly, right now Samardzija is better than Garza. And with an extra year of team control on his contract, Cubs fans remember the Garza deal and are hoping for a similar (if not better) return when Samardzija is traded.

Samardzija is not interested in any kind of extension, and he really wants to hit the free agent market. So why waste a great trade chip on this Cubs roster? And even if he would consider an extension right now to avoid a trade, think about the money it would take. At least, what, $18-20 million per season? So with a four- or five-year extension, how many seasons will be wasted waiting for the prospects to reach the majors and help the team compete? Even if the answer is only two (which I doubt), that's $40 million that could be saved and spent later on top talent anyway. If the team is ready to compete in 2016, spend the money then.

The current front office has been solid in almost all of its moves. The Edwin Jackson contract kills me, but that's really the only thing I can question. No one could've predicted the Kyuji Fujikawa injury, while many other free agent deals have worked out tremendously. Paul Maholm brought back prospect Arodys Vizcaino, who is now healthy and rising through the minors. Scott Feldman was flipped for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. And now Hammel is sure to demand at least a prospect or two.

Still, a Samardzija deal could be the biggest one yet. And since this team is not ready to compete yet, as a Cubs fan, I'm hoping he does "pitch his way out."

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Beers and Baseball Cards

Both were available at today's Porter Flea in Nashville. The card was courtesy of Mitchell Bat Company. The beer is from our local Jackalope Brewery. Both are awesome.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Beers and Baseball Cards 03

Mike and Brett play a game of baseball card battle with a couple of packs of 1991 Score. It was a close game, decided on the last battle. Highlights include top prospect Tom Nevers and his tiny bat in addition to a heated standoff between John Olerud and Rondell White. You'll also get a math lesson as we calculate the WHIP of two pitchers to decide on a winner.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Why the New Orleans Grand Prix is a great idea

A lot of people are questioning this decision by IndyCar thinking maybe N.O. isn't ready for this, the infrastructure
isn't there, or parking is missing etc. But this is THE one place that Mike and I can serve as experts as we are both from New Orleans and visit often, we're experts here.

So what can we tell you?

- The track is literally next door to the TPC of N.O. golf course that holds a PGA event every year; If needed I could see them sharing parking with shuttles to transport people back and forth if needed (likely won't be needed, but its an easy plan b).

- The track is also 100% flat, as is all of N.O. but it is a very nice track, all it needs is grandstands... the flatness however may actually be the reason they are asking for June. March tendas to be quite rainy/cold (don't think temperature, think 40mph winds) but if they got a week of rain the track could get completely flooded.

That being said I wish they'd get March/April race and just try that date out, I don't think conflicting with Mardi Gras seaosn is really an issue so long as they stay off the big weekend preceeding Mardi Gras.

- They definitely don't want to do anything July-October, #1 July-Aug insane heat, Aug-October is tempting the hurricane gods.

- For folks not from N.O. the city is a half century long veteran of temporary grandstands, concession stands and porta potties for Mardi Gras, thats no issue

many think Mardi Gras = Bourbon street, but actually parades take place over the course of a month almost every night in about 20 different parts of the metro area.

- The Kart track next to North course is awesome; imagine what they could do for kids using that during race weekend, its what many tarcks are missing, let the kids try their hands at racing and get them hooke

- Honestly more than anything, the #1 reason you'll want to go to this race is for the tailgating; I trust in Louisianaians to show off why they are easily the best in the world at this

- As far as people saying there's no market/they can't support it... between N.O. and Baton Rouge there are multiple drag strips that hold regular events, 2 club race tracks (plenty race culture), one of the biggest car shows in the country held at SuperDome, multiple kart tracks: the city supports many large events (Mardi Gras, month long party with 50+ parades/bals), NFL team, NBA team, Triple A baseball team, power boat racing, PGA tour event, Final Fours, Super Bowls, sugar Bowl, the city is essentially built to hold annual big events.

- Speaking to that point again, N.O. is a lot like Baltimore/Barber in terms of how this race will be received. N.O. has a "we want nice things" attitude; they will embrace the event because they want to be seen on TV, they want to be a destination, the city is known for thowing big events, some of the biggest conferences ever, there won't be issues getting it embraced as an event. Especially one they can tailgate at.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Beers and Baseball Cards 02

Mike and Brett sort through packs of 1990 Upper Deck Collector's Choice and 1992 Fleer. Bonus packs include Desert Storm and Sports Stackers. Thanks for listening!

Accompanying visuals:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Why I Am OK With Darren Sproles Leaving the New Orleans Saints

I was recently accused of "hating" Darren Sproles in the aftermath of the news that he would be released by the New Orleans Saints. Because I, a Saints fan, defended the move on social media, it somehow was translated into a situation where I did not like Sproles and did not appreciate his contributions.

Now, before I explain myself, I think it's important to note that none of this has anything to do with whether or not I "like" Sproles. In fact, I like him a lot! Am I going to miss him? Of course. Do I wish salaries were not a concern and that he could stay with the Saints in some capacity? Absolutely. Look, Sproles is a great player and he will contribute to the next team that is fortunate to have him, which I am hoping is far, far away in the AFC. (Denver Broncos… give this man a call!) So, guys, I love Darren Sproles, and I would marry him if I could. OK?

So why am I fine with his departure? Well, there are few reasons.

1. Trust

I trust this front office and all they have done. It's a hard thing to earn, but they've done it. Even in the rare 7-9 or 8-8 seasons (which are still light years better than the 3-13 teams I grew up suffering through), we can see a clear focus on the immediate future and a plan to stockpile affordable weapons around Drew Brees.

Reggie Bush was a great player. I've posted on this site in the past about how ridiculous it is to call him a "draft bust" when he contributed to a Super Bowl victory for our city. I wasn't thrilled to see him leave, but his immediate replacement, Sproles, was a great move by the execs.

Sproles replaced Bush, and someone else will replace Sproles. Maybe it's Khiry Robinson, a rookie (drafted or undrafted), or a free agent. Anything is possible, and you can't really doubt a front office that has hit home runs over and over again.

There are salary implications here, and that's what this really comes down to. No one is saying that Sproles is terrible and he needs to go. That's absurd. But with millions of dollars committed to him, we need to decide if there is a wiser way to spend.

2. Production

Now this is where I have my critics. "Sproles is amazing!" "Sproles turns one-yard catches into long touchdowns!" "Sproles is the best pass-catching running back in the league!" This is all true to some extent and at certain times, I agree.

But now, try to forget all the highlights you've seen. Those memories we have of Sproles are outstanding, obviously. We've all seen it. And you haven't seen Sproles do something in a Saints uniform that I haven't seen.

But look at last year. First of all, his rushing and receiving numbers were all down. After scoring 17 offensive touchdowns in his first two seasons (nine in 2011 and eight in 2012), he managed just four scores last season. As a running back who turned 30 years old in 2013, that isn't very surprising.

Furthermore, Sproles had been a key factor on our special teams during his first two seasons, but he struggled there as well in 2013. His 21.3 yards per kick return was the lowest of his career, and more than five yards lower than his previous average in New Orleans. Similarly, his punt return average of 6.7 yards was the lowest since his rookie season. Not helping matters is the fact that he became the fair catch master at some point along the way.

So maybe season totals don't tell the whole story. But individual games surely do, and Sproles didn't have many impressive performances last year. Playing on a playoff team that won 10 games, I count three times that Sproles matched his expectations. In game one he totaled 110 yards to help the Saints get a big win over Atlanta. His best game of the year came in game four against the Miami Dolphins, when he had 114 receiving yards and two touchdowns and the team moved to 4-0. Five games later he scored twice again on seven catches for 76 yards, this time against the Dallas Cowboys. All four touchdowns came in two games, and did not score again after November 10th, including the postseason.

And how about the postseason? Sproles totaled 60 yards in a win over Philadelphia and gained only 34 in a loss against Seattle. He ended the season failing to reach 70 total yards in eight consecutive games.

3. Replacement Possibilities

As production declined for Darren Sproles, the team started to utilize other players. Defenses began to key on tight end Jimmy Graham and also managed to mostly take away the short passing game. Consequently, running backs Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson stepped up to produce.

Robinson gained 152 yards on 33 carries in the last three games. Ingram was even more impressive, rushing for 146 yards in the two playoff games alone. The Saints were a different team down the stretch, playing Seattle much better than when Sproles caught seven passes in a 34-7 blowout a month earlier. Outlet passes to a running back obviously were not the answer to winning the NFC.

So running back production could be replaced by players currently on the roster, only running the ball instead of using screen passes. Add in a (hopefully healthy) Pierre Thomas who pulled in 77 receptions last year, and the team will still have the option to throw to a back when needed. Meanwhile, Travaris Cadet, who had only one fewer receiving score than Sproles last year, could be a huge surprise in 2014.

Those are four names currently on the roster and do not even take into account the draft, free agency, or trades.

As for his return production, I assume the team will look for a receiver to step in and fill that void, ideally replacing Lance Moore at receiver and Sproles on special teams. Again, this could come in the draft, free agency, or elsewhere.

Darren Sproles is a great player, and he will be missed. It has nothing to do with how much he will produce next year. But in the end, I am OK with this move, and I trust that the front office will replace him adequately and have this team ready to compete again.