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Friday, February 27, 2009

Dawkins a Bronco?

If Joe Banner and his lackies let Brian Dawkins leave I will need a very long time to recover from the utter diappointment. Dawkins was the longest standing Eagle and he deserves to retire one, even though it may not be the greatest business decision. The Eagles are 48 million under the cap, 48 million. Give the greatest Eagle the opportunity to fly in midnight green until he is ready to hang it up. Joe Banner is a horrible, horrible blight on the city of Philadelphia.

Eagles 4:00 Free Agent Update

The Eagles are reported to have invited Arizona Cardinals' DE Antonio Smith. The 27 year old out of OK State had 3.5 sacks last year and a monstrous post-season and is looking for a sure payday. I'm not sure that he is so much better than Juqua Parker-Thomas but he would fit into Jim Johnson's rotation nicely. He has several teams interested in him so he might not even make it to the Novacare Complex.

Other news indicate that Brian Dawkins, yes, that Brian Dawkins may be visiting the Denver Broncos. This may just be an effort to see how much he is worth on the open market. However, if the Eagles lose Brian Dawkins, there would be no possible way for Andy Reid and Joe Banner to get out of Philly fast enough.

Future Ex-Eagles Looking For Homes

Possibly the best news in free agency that I've heard so far is that the Atlanta Falcons are taking a good look at L.J. Smith. I think that's awesome. What better way to assist in ruining a potentially great quarterback in Matt Ryan, than to give him a player with no heart, questionable hands, and the ability to become invisible in the middle of a football field? As of 2:23, I still haven't heard whether or not Buckhalter is a Bronco. I like the guy and the player and think that would be a good fit for him, as long as he gets more playing time than he got here. I read a rumor that Denver was also looking at J.J. Arrington, but I think they'll lean towards Buck.

On another note...does anybody think that the Eagles will sign Stacy Andrews as insurance that Shawn will want to come back and play next to his brother? I think so.

Report: Tackle Stacy Andrews to "Visit" Eagles

Stacy Andrews, the brother of Philadelphia Offensive Lineman Shawn Andres will be visiting the Philadelphia Eagles and as long as he passes a physical may be signed to a contract. Stacy, a five year vet of the Cincinnati Bengals will be expected to be the replacement for Jon Runyan. Andrews underwent reconstructive knee surgery last month, but the 27 year old out of Mississippi should be ready by the time camp opens.
If it happens, this may be a good signing for the Eagles as Andrews was listed as one of the better available tackles on the market. He should be a suitable for he fan favorite Runyan, but the knee surgury should be a concern. The Birds better make sure that due dilligence is served. The team doesn't need another problem with an Andrews brother.

Eagles and Free Agency: The 11th Hour

Nearly 12 hours into free agency and not one little peep from the Eagles. They have the third most cap money in the league and they haven’t even signed their own guys yet. Brian Dawkins, Tre Thomas, and Jon Runyan have received no offers from Philadelphia and it looks as if the team is once again undervaluing its veteran players, particularly the Pro-Bowler Dawkins.

Now I don’t expect them to go out and spend 100 million dollars like the Redskins did this morning but c’mon! The Birds aren’t even listed in the rumor mill, aside from the reports that Correll Buckhalter is in Denver and may sign there (Good for him). When are they at least going to indicate who they are expressing interest in, or are they waiting for the right time to make a big announcement. The day that Javon Kearse signed back in 2004, they were trying to hold off on the announcement in case the T.O. trade went through. Nothing like that is going to happen today, but hopefully they will not wait until the market is set before they start improving the team.

So, as it stands, 12 hours in and nothing to show for it. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Eagles Offer Tenders to Three

The Eagles have offered one year tenders to reciever Hank Baskett, guard Nick Cole, and linebacker Tank Daniels.
Baskett is the only one of the three that I think the Eagles can let go and not miss anything. Although he had career highs in reception and yards, Jason Avant is totally capable of doing what Hank does. Baskett does have height, which is a luxury for a receiver, however, beyond that there is nothing particulary special. But, with all that being said, he is still so much better than Greg Lewis.

Nick Cole took over for an injured Max Jean-Gilles who took over for an AWOL Shawn Andrews and played well the last four games of the season through the playoffs. He adds need depth on a line that got very shallow towards the end of the year and may be needed in case Andrews does not come back.

Daniels was picked up after the Giants cut him and became a good special teams player. I am not surprised so much that the Eagles offered him a tender as that they haven't cut Omar Gaither. The Eagles have so many young linebackers that someone will have to go at some point and I expect Daniels to find more time on the field in the 2009 season.

Is There An Un-Must Win For Temple?

Tonight the Temple Owls continue their quest to become more than just a bubble team. Winners of five in a row the Owls face the LaSalle Explorers in a matchup that means much more to Temple's chances of getting into the big dance than LaSalle's chances of getting into the A-10 tournament. LaSalle 14-12 (5-7 in the A-10) are on a two game slide and roll into the Liacouras Center to face a team trying to win the conference, or at least a bye in the tourney. The Owls are 9-3 in conference games, tied with Rhode Island, 1/2 game behind Xavier, and 1/2 ahead of Dayton. A win tonight will go a long way in the standings and hopefully get Fran Dunphy and crew revved up enough to go into Dayton on Saturday and pull off an upset. Dionte Christmas should also be able to score 20 points for the first time since facing URI on January 28th, as the NBA prospect will be called upon to lead the team as it approaches post-season play. There is not, and make no mistake about their tournament chances, a game that Temple can afford to lose, including Dayton, if they want to dance for the second straight year.

Breaking Down the NL East: Catchers

I should call Brian McCann Carl Lewis because he is the run away winner of the top catcher ranking in the National League East and possibly the best catcher in the NL altogether. While there may be some other able bodied backstops in the division, none have the offensive ability as McCann and none play such a large part in their lineup. A couple of these guys have been part-time players or really 2nd year guys with very little to show for their abilities overall. The group as a whole is rather underwhelming so it was not difficult to rank McCann….

First (Score 1.125): The Atlanta Braves catcher led in every evaluated category but one (slugging with RISP and two outs), and there he came in second. For the past couple of years he has been the best catcher in the division not even really getting any competition from guys like LoDuca, even when he was a bigger name. McCann has shown that he can hit for power and for a decent average solidifying himself alongside Chipper Jones as one of the main offensive threats on his team. This year he’ll go for .301/22/91 and surpass Chip as the big guy in the lineup.

Second (2.5): Who? Yes the guys name is Jesus, but can Flores be the savior of a lowly Nationals team? Last year he saw somewhat regular playing time and was able to put up decent number, .256/8/56 in 90 games. Over 162, he may post pretty respectable numbers especially when compared to the other offensively anemic catchers in the division, aside from McCann of course. He may also become one of the more vital bats in Washington’s lineup, but everyone will have to wait and see for sure. For 2009, I see a slight drop in power, but a better average: .262/6/41 for a guy who will find a secure spot on a team for the next few years.

Third (3.125): Another thorn in my side as somehow Brian Schneider of the New York Mets edges into third place. Consistently mediocre over the past couple of years Schneider is the prototypical plug and play player. He’s not a great offensive threat, nor does he have unbelievable defense, but he is reliable enough to keep his job in baseball. He has found a home in New York for the time being, but if anyone needs a catcher, Schneider’s name is going to come up in a trade rumor. He’s a good enough player to have on the roster however I don’t think he’s the answer to anyone’s catching dreams. This year will be much of the same for the Met backstop. .253/9/41 is what it will be in 2009.

Fourth (3.25): You wouldn’t know that Carlos Ruiz is required to start for the Phillies if you lived outside of the city of Philadelphia. He is possibly the best defensive catcher of this group, throwing out approximately a third of all base runners and handles all of the pitchers very, very well and that’s why he plays. He has no offense but came through when needed during the playoffs last year. As long as he hits a little bit above his weight, he will keep his job, well at least until the team gets a good look at Lou Marson. Ruiz is being projected at .224/4/36 as he sits in the eighth spot in the lineup. I would probably hit the pitcher ahead of him though.

Fifth (4.875): The Florida Marlin’s John Baker was a 27 year old rookie last year and performed admirably for a team who tried to beat expectations but found itself where it deserved to be, out of contention. He batted .299 with a .392 OBP in 61 games and although there are no guarantees that he can continue that on a full time basis, he has been around long enough that there should be much of a drop off. Next year he may be ranked second, but for the time being, I’m comfortable leaving him in fifth until he gets a full season under his belt. He should hit around .261/7/48 and if he does that he may find himself an honest to goodness big league baseball player.

No Splash for the Eagles in Free Agency

Less than a month ago, the NFL season ended and I thought that the Eagles were in a good position to be a player in Free Agency. Not a huge money spender, but a player nonetheless. Now, a lot of the hot commodities have been franchised leaving really, second tier players, outside of Albert Haynesworth. Now, with less than twelve hours to go, the Eagles are trying to lock up Tra Thomas and Brian Dawkins, because once they hit they hit the open market, there's no telling what can happen. Thomas is one of the few good left tackles available and he is actually a little excited about the possibility of teams bidding for his services. Dawkins is a different story though, as I would doubt that he would sign anywhere else without at least getting an offer from the Birds. As for Jon Runyan, their other starting tackle, there is no word that a contract is being offered, which would leave me to believe that either they are expecting Shawn Andrews to come back, or that they will be looking for someone of adequate skill. Good luck with that. In any case, Houshmandzadeh is still out there, and that may end up being the only real chase the Eagles find themselves in but for how long, Joe Banner only knows.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Breaking Down the NL East: Shortstops

After going through the third basemen, I didn’t realize that the shortstop position would provide an even tighter race for the top spot in the ranks. But lo and behold, with Jimmy Rollins, Jose Reyes, and Hanley Ramirez in the same division, who could expect anything less? More dynamic that the Utley/Uggla combination or the pair of Wright & Jones, these three guys play such a catalytic role in their team’s success that to remove one from the lineup could hinder the possibility of a victory. So who came in first?

First (Score 1.875): Oh no! Of all the things that could happen, Jose Reyes wins a tie break with Hanley Ramirez. But it’s a good tie break dealing with the fact that Reyes has hit much better in the clutch over the past three years. Everything else is a near wash. Jose, in my opinion one of the most over rated player has hit .312 and slugged .598 for the Mets. I haven’t looked to see what his stats were in September during the great chokes of the 21st century, but ability to get on base and then steal them puts him in first. Yuck! In any case I expect him to hit around his three year averages at .294/15/66 as New York once again misses the playoffs.

Second (1.875): Forida’s Hanley Ramirez is considered by many, including myself, to be the best shortstop in the National League and with good reason. He has averaged 26 home runs over the past three years to go along with a .308 batting average and an ever increasing on base percentage. On a real team with some real stars batting behind him and you might find him putting up some really unreal numbers. Unfortunately for Hanley, he’ll have to get traded for that to happen. I see him hitting .306 with 33 home runs and 70 RBI for a pedestrian Marlins team in 2009.

Third (2.25): Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies had an unmatched 2007, but seemed to see his offensive prowess fall back in 2008. What he may do is anyone’s guess but as long as he remains healthy, he should hit more than 20 dingers and drive in 70 runs. I have him projected at .280/14/65 and that should be fine as long as the team wins. He has to get his OBP up and keep his mouth shut and he will continue to be a fan favorite in Philadelphia.

Fourth (4.25): There’s this guy, Yunel Escobar down in Atlanta who I’d swear I’ve never heard of in my entire life, despite the fact that he hit .288 with 10 round-trippers and 60 RBIs last year. Now that I have heard of him, he doesn’t seem half bad. He doesn’t seem half good either, but on a Braves team consisting of half good and not half bad players, he’ll fit right in. I initially had him projected as a relative poor hitter particularly since he didn’t play in 2006, but I expect him to hit .307 have 12 home runs and 65 RBI in 2009. Not so shabby for a guy named Yunel.

Fifth (4.75): The National’s Christian Guzman, a 2008 All-Star, is a good hitting shortstop with no power. He reminds me of the prototypical guy from the 1980, something out of the Ozzie Smith mold, just lacking crazy defensive skills. Whether he can maintain himself a good enough player to make the All-Star team again, even as the National’s lone representative, only means that the team is falling deeper and deeper into the shadowy cellar in the NL East. His 2009 projections of .312/6/39 will certainly not wow anyone, but then again does anyone on that team?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Breaking Down the NL East: Third Basemen

The NL East has arguably the best set of their basemen in the League, including its AL counterpart. It consists of two solid All-Star caliber players, a defensive whiz, one up and coming guy, and a no-namer. One is a borderline hall-of-famer. Another, should he keep on keepin’ on, has the potential to be enshrined as well. But this blog post isn’t about who may or may not be hall of fame material, no, this is about the NL East third basemen and where they rank in the division. So here goes.

First (Score 1.75): A winner of a tie break because of his overall performance at the position, New York’s David Wright is possibly the most offensive third baseman since, well, the guys that’s number two on this list. Averaging nearly 30 home runs and 116 RBI, he is a machine at the plate who makes an overrated Jose Reyes valuable as a run scorer. A really good hitter overall, he maintains a .300 average and a decent OBP. He has also been a done well in the clutch hitting .306 and slugging .510 with runners in scoring position. This year I project him to do much of the same, .306/33/122, as he continues to carve out an outstanding career.

Second (1.75): Chipper Jones, whether a left fielder or a third baseman, has to carry a team even despite any contributions from Brian McCann. Hopefully for Atlanta and Chipper, the Braves’ pitching will surprise the world and become the reincarnates of the early 90’s teams. Unlikely as it is, the Braves’ best shot at winning the division will Chipper and his ability to pound the baseball. If he manages to flirt with .400 late into the season, and stay healthy, the rest of the lineup will have plenty of opportunities to not be a detriment. While I don’t expect Chipper to hit .380, .350 is not out of the realm of possibility. I also expect him to maintain a nice output power, hitting around 23 dingers and driving in at least 80 RBI. It all depends on the rest of that lineup.

Third (2.875): Philadelphia Phillie, Pedro Feliz has had a steadily decreasing offensive output the last three years. That being said, he is probably the best defensive third baseman on the list and why his job is extremely secure in Philly as long as he can come back from his back problem. It’s almost a shame that his back can’t be blamed for an abhorrent on base percentage (.291 over the past three years). But despite that, onlookers need to understand that Pedro doesn’t need to be money at the plate. He’ll be batting seventh behind guys that will take care of all of the offense, as long as he covers the hot corner.

Fourth (3.625): A couple of years ago, I would have thought that the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman would be pushing David Wright for the top spot on this list, but after a completely lackluster 2008 he will have to come out like gangbusters and totally annihilate opposing pitchers. Still considered by many to be a rising star in the league, he needs to prove that he can do it with RISP, particularly with two outs as he hasn’t hit better than .217 over the last two years. If he can come back to form, barring any lingering affects from a 2008 injury, I’m proposing that he will hit .280/16/75 this year, which may be low since he now has Adam Dunn behind him in the lineup.

Fifth (5.95): I would say that Don McPherson is going to be a horrible third baseman starting for a horrible Florida Marlins team, but that would be horribly premature and shortsighted. For years this team had young players come through for them and this guy might just be ready to break out. Who knows? He’s played a total of 128 games in his career and what better place to play and get experience than in front of 37 fans? Much like Andersen Hernandez, the second baseman of the Nationals, McPherson just doesn’t have the track record to warrant anything but fifth place on this list. I would be surprised if he hit anything more than the minimum to keep him in the show. He goes for .227/4/31 in my book.

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An Extension to Donovan McNabb

I must give number five a little credit here as he has taken a further step away from the Eagles administration. His proclamation that he is going to forgo talks of a contract extension until he sees whether or not the Birds will improve the team may be what the team needs in order to pick up the first big time offensive weapon since T.O.'s departure. This may come back and bite him in the end, but if D.Mac feels that this is a risk worth taking, so do I. Anquan Bouldin will be available, if the Eagles want to trade for him. The same goes for Tony Gonzalez. TJ Houshmandzadeh is a free agent looking for a payday, and the Eagles can sign him if they want to pay him. Outside of that, I'm not sure what Joe Banner and crew can do, other than let Donovan go and truly begin rebuilding the team around Kevin Kolb.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Breaking Down the NL East Second Basemen

The gap between 2nd basemen from top to bottom is wider than the Pacific Ocean. At the top you have two of the best second basemen in the league and at the bottom you have guys with names unrecognizable even by their own families. But for whatever reason, there they are. Whether some of these guys will still be there at the all-star break remains to be seen. One in particular, Andersen Hernandez for the Nationals, proved to be interesting to project and rank, mostly because the guy hasn’t had half a season worth of service. I’ve figured something objective out, so we’ll see how it works in the future for rookies and such. Below are the National League East Second Basemen in order of rank.

First (Score 2.125): Chase Utley, in Philadelphia, is coming into the season far healthier than he ended last season due to a torn labrum in his hip, and even though he may miss the starting lineup on Opening Day, he will be a force to reckon with upon his return to daily play. The All-Star has been preparing and undergoing extra rehab to regain top form and there is nothing to indicate that this will last past the second week of the season. If he is healthy, look out. He had a monstrous first half last year and it was obvious he wasn’t getting the same play out of his body once the injury occurred so opposing pitchers need to keep in mind: A healthy Utley makes him the most dangerous hitter in a scary lineup.I project Chase to .298/31/104, but I would expect his batting average to be around .310. His power numbers are pretty close to his averages healthy or not.

Second (2.75): I have heard Florida’s Dan Uggla called the poor man’s Utley and I think that’s a bit unfair. Despite a down year in 2007 Uggs has had a good three year stretch and could easily have been considered the best 2nd baseman had it not been for Utley. He also had the unfortunate incident at the All-Star game last year when his defensive ability completely melted down, but that aside, he does hit for good power, not so much for average. Uggla’s numbers are not that far off from Utley either and expect the Marlin to hit around 32 home runs, 91 RBIs, and hit for about .257 in 2009.

Third (3.75): This is the point where the NL East’s second basemen are mediocre at absolute best, and that begins with the Met’s Luis Castillo. Once a prime contact slap-hitter, Castillo has gone from a once promising hitter that could smack the ball to all fields to a one base wonder. Never being big on power, his style of hitting would have been fine for a team like New York who has Beltran, Wright, and Delgado to knock the ball out. Unfortunately for the Mets, Castillo has seen his RBI total drop from 49 to 28 over the past three years. They better have someone one the horizon ‘cause it’s not looking any better this year. Expect Castillo to hit only .253/3/30 this year, and I would say that is at best.

Fourth (4.375): Kelly Johnson should probably be ranked third, but it doesn’t really matter. He is going to fill in the second hole along the right side with Casey Kotchman for the Atlanta Braves in what may end up being one of the most offensively anemic infields in the league. The last two years for Johnson however have been pretty productive totaling 28 home runs and 137 RBI with a steady batting average. I can’t see him getting more than his 14 or so runs a year, not in an offense that will struggle to score runs. In fact, Johnson’s clutch numbers were bad last year as he hit only .220 with RISP with 2 outs. I’ll project him at .275/11/50 this year as he now becomes one of the offensive leaders on the Braves, by default of course.

Fifth (5.15): Originally I had no one able to score higher than a five in my calculations, but then I realized that there were going to be starters that have had little or no playing time, so I came to the conclusion that my system may not bode particularly well for rookies. But then what system does? The Nationals’ Andersen Hernandez would have outscored Chase Utley had I not factored in that Anderson had only played 63 games in his career. And while he may not be the slugger that the top two guys are he can easily finish ahead of Castillo should he be a decent enough player not to be sent back down to the minors. In any case, base on what I have read and the stats I have seen, the guys is a good contact hitter, but I expect him to bat no higher than eighth. My initial projections do not have him hitting a home run, reaching 20 RBIs, but hitting .343, however I think that .292/0/36, would be more realistic.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Breaking Down the NL East: First Baseman

With the start of Spring Training, the gears that will become the 2009 baseball season begin to grind away. Before to long, Opening Day will be upon us and our dreams as fans will either start to take shape or become a nightmare, eroding our faith in our team and all that is good in our lives. So as a public service, I will address each position in the National League Eastern Division, one at a time in order to provide a relatively informative, if slightly biased opinion, on who has the best opportunity to succeed. To accomplish this, I have graded each starting player on each team based on several key stats and have deduced 2009 projections for BA/HR/RBI that should be spot on, if not way off. The players are listed in order of rank. The statistics used to determine rank are batting average, home runs, RBI, and OBP, compared to the Clutch hitting data of the Average and Slugging with RISP and RISP/2outs. This data was then placed into an equation that I made up off the top of my head. These are the NL East First Basemen

First (1.5 score): Ryan Howard of the Phillies last year saw a good drop in his batting average and that was due for the most part, to a dismal first half despite hitting 28 home runs and knocking in 84 RBIs. Everyone like to focus on his strikeouts, however, strikeouts do not represent the lack of offensive production. Even though he only batted .251 and struck out 199 times, I would gladly take the 48/146 that he provided any day of the week. More importantly he hit .352/11/32 (BA/HR/RBI) in September/October, when you really need your star to step up. He led the 2008 Phillies team into the playoffs, as he should. Howard is projected to hit around what he did last year and his home run and RBI totals are not too far off from the average of his last 3 years. I expect him to see .252/48/144 in 2010, unfortunately for opposing pitchers, his clutch hitting is only going to get better.

Second (2.5): Carlos Delgado in New York had a better 2008 than 2007. That being said, as Carlos goes so does the Mets. He has not been with runners in scoring position until there are two outs. The difference being more than 100 points (.530 vs. .639). He is still a legitimate threat in that Mets lineup, and as long as he remains healthy and they guys in front of him can get on base, then he should be as productive as he was last year as the Mets will/should be happy to stay in second place behind Philadelphia. Look for Carlos’s to hit .269/36/110 this year, not bad numbers for a guy on the downside of his career. We’ll have to wait and see if his teammate will do their jobs, and perhaps, just perhaps, the Mets will force the Phils to look over their shoulder.

Third (3.0): Jorge Cantu has had a roller coaster career changing teams, changing positions. This year he looks to settle in as the Marlin’s first baseman with the trading of Mike Jacobs to Kansas City. Now with a place, both city and position, to call home, Cantu can focus on his game. Last year he hit .277/29/95 for a young team where at 27, Jorge will be one of the elder statesmen. This year should only be better. He has shown that with an adequate numbers of at bats and with his health in good shape, his numbers will start to solidify to show an above average player. .273/27/85 is where he’ll be at season’s end. That RBI total should be higher but with Hanley Ramirez being the only real established hitter ahead of him, he’ll have to take advantage of every RBI chance he can.

Fourth (3.0): Casey Kotchman loses the tie break with Cantu by way of power and slugging. He is a good young player to came to the Braves via the Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim and has established himself as a good hitting first baseman. He’s not the kind of power hitter Howard and Delgado are, but he has hit 11 and 14 in the last two years respectively, so some pop is there. I see him more in the Mark Grace mold though where he has a decent batting average and he doesn’t hurt an overall lineup that includes Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. Whether any of these guys will drive in 100 runs in 2010 is a big question mark, while Kotchman should be good for around 80 RBI. His projection figures out to be .282/15/79 as the Braves will have troubles keeping pace with Philadelphia and New York, especially when it comes to producing runs.

Fifth (5.0): Nick Johnson is a tough guy to rate, mainly because he hasn’t played the last couple of years. Now, with the National’s addition of Adam Dunn, it’s unclear whether Johnson will have any significant time this year either. Assuming he does play first base, and the Nationals play Dunn in left field, Nick Johnson has a long way to go to get back to the .290/23/77 he hit way back in 2006. Dunn would probably be rated 3rd in the division, essentially due to his power, while his batting average would be what is holding him back from getting any higher than three. But enough on Adam Dunn, I have listed Nick Johnson because he is a first baseman first (and because I did the math before the Dunn signing) and his projections are horrible .121/3/11 but may be more accurate since he may not see the field once again.

The analysis: I would happily post the excel spreadsheet I used to come up with my rankings/projections but it just wouldn’t come out right so I will try my best to explain it in such a way that is coherent and understandable by the general public. First, I weighted the last three years and used multiplying factors of .6 (for 2008), .25, and .15 for a total of 1.00. I then added up the sums of each stat (BA, HR, RBI, Avg-RISP, Slg-RISP, Avg-RISP 2 outs, and Slg-RISP 2 outs) and then divided by each players three year average in that statistic. I then took that number and multiplied it again against the sum and whammo, I got the projections for this year based on the last three. In most cases, it’s not to far off of the 3 year average but it does reflect an increase in some areas for some players. Okay, from there I ranked them one thru five and took the average of the regular stats (BA, HR, and RBI) versus the clutch stats and got the overall score. I wish there was a way to post it but that is the way it goes. We’ll see how it works out at the other positions and particularly with the pitchers, and hopefully, I’ll get it all done by Opening Day.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Philadelphia Eagles: Free Agency Vs. The Draft Final Part

One consistent thing that the Philadelphia Eagles have done during the off season is try to upgrade their O and D lines. Their offensive line needs to get a bit younger, however their defensive line is in pretty good shape. Now does that mean that they are going to stand pat? No. For the most part they need a solid defensive end opposite Trent Cole, someone who can command a double team, opening up Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson in the middle or require chipping tight end from time to time. They still might be hurting a bit from the Javon Kearse experiment, but I think it is safe to say that Juqua Parker is not the answer to optimizing the pass rush.

In 2007 they drafted Victor Abiamiri in the second round hoping that he was going to tie down the one defensive spot. He was hurt his rookie year and was part of the rotation Jim Johnson employs but has not stood out to me like a stud DE. In 2008, the Eagles drafted Bryan Smith in the 3rd round, a guy who didn’t see the field at all during his rookie campaign. What the Birds have on their hands at the moment is a logjam of average players at one position. What they need to do is dump two or three of them and get a legitimate monster.

Monsters don’t grow on trees, in real life or in the fairy tales of fantasy football. Julius Peppers in Carolina would certainly qualify and could possibly sign with another team. The Panthers want to throw the franchise tag on Peppers but they also want to keep their OT Jordan Gross as well. If they are able to sign Gross, they’ll throw the tag on Peppers. Otherwise, Carolina is in a pickle with Peppers. Other than Julius, there are a bunch of guys with a similar skill level like the Cowboys’ Chris Canty and Igor Olshansky from San Diego who has a great name but is not so much better than what the Eagles have that I would break the bank for him. The one thing that Canty and Igor have going for themselves that might look favorable by the Birds is that they are relatively young. The detriment is that neither of them particularly stand out.

There are a couple of prospects in this year’s draft that could fall to the Eagles in the first round. Aaron Maybin out of Penn State is not likely to be one of them, however there is an off chance that Texas’ Brian Orakpo could be there at 21. Will the Eagles select him if he is still on the board? Who knows for sure? My bet is that they will still look to take an offensive tackle first. That being said, if a player that they rated highly is there for the taking, they’ll take him. Tyson Jackson from LSU and Paul Kruger from Utah may be available in the 2nd round that they are more likely to be picked by Philly then, unless Andy Reid is comfortable with who he has on the roster, which is possible as well.

Tackle, tight end, safety, an offensive weapon, and a defensive end, those are what the Eagles need, in my humble and somewhat informed opinion, in that order. How each area is addressed will depend on how much stock the Eagles put on that position and how much they are willing to pay for talent. In some cases they are willing to pay top dollar. Other evidence would show that they feel that role players fit the system better in some spots. Regardless of which direction they go, action must be taken. To sit back and let the market decide which free agent they go after is putting a nail in their own coffin. They have been the market-setter before and they need to do so again. To their advantage they also have two first round picks that will enable them to move up and select one of the best in the draft, or fill two spots with players that can make an impact their rookie seasons. All should be told by the end of April, when the house of cards will be constructed, only to potentially collapse when glaring holes in the team are revealed in week one of the regular season only to become blog fodder for the remainder of the year.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Philadelphia Eagles: Free Agency Vs. The Draft Part 4

For the past ten years, it has been argued whether the Eagles would have won a championship or more had Donovan McNabb and the offense had they more weapons to work with. More recently this has been used by McNabb apologists as his legacy is being called into question, but regardless, it is a valid question. Since the Andy Reid era began, you can count the offensive “skilled” players drafted in the first round on one hand. There is Donovan, and then there is Freddie Mitchell. Todd Pinkston, Reggie Brown, and DeSean Jackson were all second rounders. Westbrook was drafted in third round and Correll Buckhalter in the fourth. Their focus in the first round has really been the O and D lines.

Wide receiver has always been an intriguing position for Eagles fans, most of who know that the group they have had has been slightly below average at best. Philly has gone out on a limb and picked up T.O. via a trade a few years back and went to the Super Bowl, since that time, Kevin Curtis has been the only guy they’ve brought in that has made an impact. Some would argue that the short time Donte Stallworth was in town would qualify, and maybe he would if he stuck around for another year. This year, I would doubt that the Eagles would go after a wideout like T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who would command more money than Joe Banner would want to part with. Instead I would expect them to go after a role player like Pittsburgh’s Nate Washington, if they go the free agency route at all. Philadelphia will select one receiver in this draft, probably in the middle rounds, whether that person even makes the team though, is questionable. As long as Greg (G.Lew) Lewis isn’t back, it’s and upgrade. Since one Rutgers alum will be leaving (L.J. Smith), Kenny Britt would look nice running fade routes where his fellow Scarlett Knight seemed to disappear.

Running back would be pretty much the same story. Unfortunately, Buckhalter will probably not be back, especially if he knows he can get more playing time elsewhere. That leaves Westbrook and bust Lorenzo Booker. I’ve seen mock drafts having the Eagles select a running back in the first round, but I can’t imagine that happening. They’ll pick up someone in the third or fourth round. Chris Wells would be great for the Birds but Andre Brown out of NC State is more likely to occur. There are no decent prospects for signing a free agent for the Eagles since Jacobs franchised and both Sproles and Derrick Ward will be looking, again, to make more money than the Eagles will want to spend.

The Eagles do have other priorities other than running back and receiver, I’ll acknowledge. It is just a shame that the flashes of razzle-dazzle come just seldom enough, fans aren’t sure the team is capable of putting on a show. DeSean Jackson, who doesn’t exactly fit “Andy Reid’s type of player mold,” has that potential and talent, so we’ll have to see if he can build on a fine rookie season. B.West seems like he is just out of that stage of his career. Whether the Eagles will use one of their top picks to try to get some of that sparkle back remains to be seen. However, I would not expect them to make too much of a splash in regards to skilled players, either in free agency or the draft.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Be Careful Temple

Temple cannot afford to squander a 10 point lead late in the game and even hope to sniff NCAA consideration. This years A-10 looks a bit tougher than it did last year so if Xavier doesn't win the whole thing, including the conference tournament in March, someone else Dayton. Last year, Temple got hot at just the right time and was able to win the A-10 crown. This year is a different story. Right now, at 14-9, they're not really on the bubble. They need to keep winning and get their win total up. They do have wins against Tennessee and and upsurgent Penn State that will help them when they haven't had those wins in the past. With seven games left, if they can pull out six wins (accounting for a loss against Dayton), a 20-10 record may get them enough on the bubble for the big dance that they slip in as an 11th seed. Not that they'll do much in the tourney, but Dionte and company need to do something that will put Temple Basketball back on a consistent track to the NCAAs.

The Philadelphia Eagles: Free Agency Vs. The Draft Part Three

Back in 2003, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted L.J. Smith out of Rutgers to replace Chad Lewis, one of Donovan McNabb’s favorite targets early in his career. Since that day, Philadelphia fans have been waiting for his breakout year. It hasn’t come thus far, and it probably won’t come as a member of the Eagles if it does at all. Last year, the Birds slapped the franchise tag on Smith, giving him a one year salary of 4.5 million, mainly because they didn’t have any better options. Tony Gonzalez was rumored to be available, just like he is now, but I don’t believe the Eagles had any serious interest in the All-Pro Chief. By the end of 2008, Brent Celek, a 2nd year player out of Cincinnati proved he could find the crease, get open on pass plays, and hold onto the ball, something with which Smith was just to inconsistent.

I fully expect the Eagles to play the Celek card for next year and let L.J. go find himself a new home. Brent is not a game breaker by any means, nor can he block as well as the team would like, but he is serviceable enough to be a productive member of the offense as could be seen during the course of last season. Matt Schobel, third on the depth chart is a take him or leave him player, but I would rather hold on to him if the Eagles are going to pick up someone through the draft and no one through free agency. Otherwise, guys like Schobel are a dime-a-dozen and can be replaced rather easily. The best Tight End in free agency is Owen Daniels from the Texans, but he is a restricted FA and the Texans will probably resign him. The next guy on the list is the Titan’s Bo Scaife, who is a nice player, but for the money, I’ll stick with Celek.
Oklahoma State tight end, Brandon Pettigrew, appears to be the stud in this year’s draft.

Whether he is or not, no one can tell. Kyle Brady was a big time prospect at one point too and he was a touch under average. Regardless, I don’t think he will be available when the Eagles pick at 21, and I don’t thing there is any way they would trade up for him. In fact, I’m not sold on the idea that they would take him anyway, even if he did fall to their spot. After Pettigrew, the next batch of guys is a rung down the ladder. I do think they will be able to pick up someone like Jared Cook in the second round. Cook has good ball skills, but like Celek, can’t block. Pettigrew is by far the best blocker of all the top tight ends available in the draft this year, most of the other potential draftees being considered as below average blockers. But again, I must reiterate, it would be nothing of a surprise if he ends up in Philly next year.

When the Eagles selected L.J. Smith, they passed up a guy named Jason Witten, and since then Smith has found himself the 4th best tight end in the NFC East. The Eagles at one time identified that position as important enough to spend a high draft pick on it, and I think they need to have that priority again. Brent Celek can catch the ball, but you cannot have him on the line to run block. For that you need a guy like Brandon Pettigrew and that type of player is hard to come by. However, if he happens to find a home at the Linc, it would be a nice addition to the squad.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Iguodala an All-Star?

Now don't get me wrong, I like Andre Iguodala, but he is not nor will he ever be an All-Star.
In an article in the Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia 76ers coach Tony DiLeo told Iggy that this All-Star break would be his last, and that he is on his way to All-Star status. While Andre has decent numbers (17.8 ppg, 6.1 rebounds, 5.3 asts), he does not have the star quality required to be voted in by the fans, in fact he wasn't even in the top ten in votes at his position. Additionally, he is not even the best player on his own team, let alone one of the best in the league. DiLeo would have been more accurate saying that Thaddeus Young would be an All-Star than Iguodala.
Andre is a good role player, but he cannot carry a team. That's not saying that All-Stars must do so, but a star in the NBA must be able to lift a team on his shoulders and dominate in some respect. Although he is still young and talented, he is not that guy. He, at best is a poor man's Scottie Pippen, but without a killer shot. He is almost a dime-a-dozen type of player that teams need to defend, but do not need to fear. That's alright. He doesn't need to be a superhero for his team....or an All-Star for that matter, mainly because he's not.

The Philadelphia Eagles Free Agency Vs. The Draft Part 2

After addressing the offensive line and the two aging tackles that may or may not be with the team come the opening of training camp, safety is the next position the Eagles need to address. Despite the Pro-Bowl season of Brian Dawkins last year, it is easy to see that he is on the relative downside of his career. He can no longer be left in coverage by himself with any real sense of security, not that his immediate replacement Quintin Demps can either. Pass coverage is not really the strong point of the Eagles safties in general, aside from perhaps Q. Mikell. They need to be near the line as part of Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson’s scheme, and that creates a one-dimensionality that limits the scheme overall, dictating who the blitzers can be.

This seems to me to be a need that will be addressed through the draft. The last time they signed a safety out of free agency was, I think, Blaine Bishop. Yeremiah Bell is the best guy on the market that plays the same position as B.Dawk, but he is not better. I figure this much, the Eagles will give #20 the contract that will allow him to end his career as one of the most decorated and celebrated Eagles. They will use a high draft pick to select his replacement and will slowly integrate the rookie into the system so that he will be fully ready to take over for a Philadelphia legend. Forget about Demps, Sean Considine, J.R. Reed and the rest of the rabble. They will get fresh young blood to take over for the “old” man.

Now the question becomes, who are they selecting in the Draft and when? If, and I mean if, they trade up in the first round, they’ll be taking a tackle, not a safety. That would leave them to pick over the second tier of guys like Patrick Chung of Oregon or William Moore of Mizzou. I like the prospect of Moore, who was, and maybe still is, a first rounder by most accounts. A step lower and you might find Michael Hamlin from Clemson. Hey! Brian Dawkins went to Clemson. Hmmm. The Eagles must figure what they are going to do in the first round, particularly now that there is speculation that one of their two picks may go in a trade for Anquan Bouldin, but they cannot let the safety position slide. They can’t afford to go with a sixth round pick and expect him to be able to fill in with the capacity of skill required for the spot.

Whatever the case, safety was slightly exposed, not slightly….sorry, glaringly exposed during the NFC Championship. They need a guy who can do a good job in coverage to help the other DBs so that guys like Larry Fitzgerald or T.O. remained as contained as possible. If the guy they pick up can hit like a truck, well, that’s great too. But for now, let’s get a player who is intelligent enough to pick up the system so that when Dawkins decides his time has come, he can leave his spot to someone who is competent, confident, and able to continue the journey started by the great ones before him.

Brett Favre is a Muttonhead

Can the guy be relied upon to make a decision and stick with it? Not really, but Brett Favre at least didn't string the New York Jets along before letting them know that he's not coming back; well not for the Jets anyway. It's a shame, it puts the team in a situation where they need a QB for next year. They can get that through the draft, but will that guy really be any better the Kellen Clemens. The other guys they have on the roster, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge do not have starter-potential. That leaves free agency or trade, neither of which will give the Jets a franchise player, unless they trade for Matt Cassel in which bidding for his services will be expensive since signing him is automatically giving up your No. 1 pick to a division rival. In any case, the state of the team Brett is leaving is not better than when he left and it is arguable that he is abandoning a team that put all of their eggs in his baskett. Pity, but on the flip side, the Jets really should have seen it coming.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Philadelphia Eagles: Free Agency Vs. The Draft, Part 1

What positions do the Eagles need to focus on as the off-season kicks off officially with the NFL combine followed up by the opening of free agency? Well, that depends on where you stand. Running back, wide receiver, tight end, safety, defensive line, fullback, offensive line are all areas that need to be addressed. That in no small part will happen during the NFL Draft in April, but it could also happen when players become available at the end of the month. Who will they target, well that depends too. In the past, the Birds have valued some areas more than others, hence the fact they have had one Pro-Bowl receiver (T.O) during Andy’s tenure.

Offensive Tackle should be a major concern for the Philadelphia Eagles. Their two starters, Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan are without a doubt getting up there in age and there are no guarantees that either one will be back in green next year. On top of that, their back ups leave too much to be desired. Winston Justice was something of a revolving door when he played in 2007 and has done nothing to prove he was worth trading up for in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft. Shawn Andrews was supposed to be the heir apparent to Jon Runyan and has become a dominating guard in the meantime. His desire to play the game has now been called into question over an iffy back problem. At this point I would hope the Eagles are not relying on this guy coming back, and if they are, not at the tackle position. That essentially leaves two open bookend spots.

In free agency there is not much they can go with. Jordan Gross, a potential free agent of the Carolina Panthers could be a route the Eagles might turn. They signed Runyan as their first big free agent signing from Tennessee all those years back so it is not out of the question if they push hard after Gross. Otherwise, there are not that many better options than Thomas and Runyan. Free Agency’s only other decent offers would be Vernon Carney of Miami, Cincinnati’s Stacy Andrews, and the Steeler’s Max Starks, and one or two of these guys will probably re-sign with their current team. I would say with some sense of confidence that if the Eagles do not get the top guy on the market, they will try to re-sign both Thomas and Runyan and move to picking up a top notch player with one of their two first round picks.

This years draft seems to have a few tackles with first round potential. Unless the Eagles move up, I think the top couple of players will be off the board when the Birds’ first pick at 21 is on the clock. Michael Oher from Mississipi is a possibility but it is really too early to tell who might still be there. If there is a player the Eagles really like and really want, I would expect them to move up. They have a history in doing so. Just a few years ago, they moved up and took Andrews, so instead of having to pay two first rounders, they’ll slide up 6 or so spots and get their guy.
When the free agency flurry begins, the Eagles are almost certain to be players, and I would imagine if Jordan Gross is available, he’ll get a call from Philly. Either way, the Eagles will hopefully not set themselves up to having to play Winston Justice and in turn a back up QB when McNabb gets killed. They are too smart to let that happen unless they out-think their own genius. But if Gross isn’t available, Philly fans will have to wait until April to see which direction the franchise will move.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Philadelphia Phillies Are Brilliant

It would appear that the chastity belts have been removed from the purse strings of the Phillies ownership. For years the mentality of being a second-rate team in a small market has weighed down the thinking that paying for players with a higher quality of potential and talent can lead to a championship. And what do you know? This past off season has been one of the most productive the Phillies have ever had. They resigned every player that was arbitration eligible. The one big piece of the World Series team who was eligible for free agency, Pat Burrell, was allow to leave but was replaced by a player who could be just as effective as a hitter, and probably a bit better in the field. Otherwise, the likes of Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, and ace Cole Hamels will help lead the Phils back to the post season.

Now in recent events, the Phillies have made their most brilliant move to date. They have locked up Ryan Howard, perhaps the most prolific power hitter (Albert Pujols noted) in the past decade. What he has done in his short career is unparalleled by any Phillie. Signing Howard to a three year, 54 million dollar contract was the best thing they could do for both sides. I have previously written about what has gone on between the two parties and while I am not shocked that they got a deal done, I am a bit surprised that it seems that Ryan shortchanged himself on the back end of the deal. The contract calls for 15 million dollars this year, 19 next year, and 20 the third year, which by then could be a real bargain if he continues the way he has. It also forgoes the next few years of arbitration which only created an environment of contention and allows Ryan to focus on getting prepared for the upcoming season. A happy Howard is a vital piece to repeating last year's performance, especially with the prospect of Chase Utley missing the beginning of the season

Now it seems that the team is in place for a run at defending its championship. With the only real questions being the fifth starter and J.C. Romero's temporary replacement, Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel should not only be set up this year, but perhaps the next three, just as long as they are able to find the pitching they need. They have Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer for one more year. After that they'll need to replace one or both. It could be through the promotion of JA Happ or Carlos Carrasco, both of whom are vying for the 5th starter spot this year, and we shall see how they work out in spring training. The Phils also have some trade bait to dangle if need be. Jason Donald performed well on the Olympic squad as well as the Arizona Fall League and could even make the big league roster if Utley isn't ready for opening day. But for the time being, instead of getting to far ahead of ourselves, let's focus on this year.

This year the Phillies division got a little better, through the Mets addition of K-Rod and the Braves picking up Derek Lowe. That being said, there is still no reason the Phillies should finish anywhere but in first place. The Mets gained nobody that can instill any heart into a ballclub that has collapsed in September the past two years and Atlanta's lineup couldn't be picked out by the players' own mothers. From the lead-off man, down to the last guy off the bench, Philly's offense remains unmatched in the National League East. Pitching is a bit more comparable from team to team, but the Phillies are in a position to where they can outscore their opponents when they need to, taking some of the pressure off the starters and allowing them to go after the hitters as they see fit. So if there are any doubters/haters out there that Philadelphia will be position to grab the pennant again come to grips with it now ‘cause it's gonna happen.

Oh yeah, to all those A-Rod fans. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!