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Sunday, July 31, 2005
Saturday, July 30, 2005
The White Sox took care of Baltimore 7-2 earlier tonight, dropping the O's to 4th place in the AL East. Baltimore is 4-11 since the All-Star break. I've been rooting for the O's to keep the pressure on Boston and New York, but at this point the division race is looking like another Red Sox-Yankees duel. That is, if the Yankees are up to the challenge. Maybe Steinbrenner can shift the focus of his R&D department from cloning Derek Jeter to finding some way to combine Shawn Chacon and Al Leiter into something that doesn't suck.
For some reason--maybe they were bored--the Orioles dealt Larry Bigbie to Colorado for Eric Byrnes. Poor Eric Byrnes has already been traded once this season, but at least he's getting upgraded to a better team this time around.
Frank Thomas has had another season-ending ankle injury and Minnesota has lost Torii Hunter for at least a month. Hunter's loss is bad news for my fantasy baseball team and even worse news for the Twinkies, who lost ground to both Chicago and Oakland tonight.
One last note: Baseball Prospectus is offering a free preview of its premium content until August 3rd. Go check it out.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
"Outback Bowl, that's about it."
In yet another story about Steve Spurrier, ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski talks about the hoopla that will surround this year's SEC Football Media Day.
A couple of paragraphs near the end help redeem the article:
He gave me a tour of the new football facility attached to one end of the concrete stadium. He showed me the football-only weight room, the sprint track, the state-of-the-art film rooms. But there was an awkward silence when he stopped at the sparse trophy case, which featured hardware from a 2001 Outback Bowl victory.
Do you think the Old Ball Coach looks at that trophy case and has second thoughts?
BlogPoll Roundtable IV
The good people over at Blue-Gray Sky are hosting this edition of the BlogPoll Roundtable.
1) Who are your rival(s)?
NC State's main rival is, of course, North Carolina, although I should mention that I am a huge fan of several persons who don the light blue; namely, John Bunting and the eleven members of the UNC "defense." I like how we tend to find unique ways to lose to the Tarheels every so often.
There is a lot of bad blood between NC State and Maryland that those of you from outside of the ACC region may not be aware of. Here's a quick rundown of the State/UMd series since 2000:
2000: Maryland 35, NCSU 28 (2OT).
2001: Maryland 23, NCSU 19. Terps score go-ahead TD with :41 left. The win sealed an Orange Bowl berth for Maryland, and their fans wasted no time pelting NCSU's field with oranges.
2002: Maryland 24, NCSU 21. Terps kick game-winning field goal with under a minute to play. Pack were up 21-7 in the third quarter. I made the mistake of going to College Park for this game and I wouldn't recommend the trip. Your living room is probably louder than Byrd Stadium, anyway.
2003: Maryland 26, NCSU 24. Wolfpack has the ball late and can run out the clock, but TA McLendon fumbles. Terps recover, kick game-winning field goal with :23 left (are you sensing a pattern?). This game pretty much scarred me for life.
2004: NCSU 13, Maryland 3. I couldn't bear to watch this annual heartbreaker anymore (can you blame me?), so, you know, I didn't. And naturally NC State won. But by all accounts it was one of the ugliest games of the year.
As you can imagine, those close games haven't made for positive relations between the fan bases. After Philip Rivers was drafted in 2004, fans from Maryland's Scout.com message board went over to the Scout.com Chargers message board just to inform the San Diego fans how terrible Rivers would be. A quality bunch, those Terps.
2) Size up your chances in your rival games this year.
I always like NC State's chances against Bunting's Tarheels. The Heels will be breaking in a new quarterback. Carolina's defense may be improved but won't be anything special.
The weakest part of NC State's defense will probably be the secondary, and there is no reason to believe the Heels will be able to exploit that. I also expect points to come a little more easily for NC State now that QB Jay Davis has a year of experience behind him.
I'm not foolish enough to believe this matchup will be a walk in the park, but NC State should win.
3) If you could start up a new rivalry with another team, who would it be?
Syracuse. NC State played a home-and-home with the Orange(men) in the late '90s (NCSU won both games), and I wasn't very impressed with the Syracuse fan base. Mostly I'd just like to stick it to 'em on a yearly basis.
4) Overall, what do you think the best rivalry in college football is?
In a previous Roundtable, I mentioned that the rivalry game I would most like to attend is the Iron Bowl, so I'm gonna have to go with that here. There is bitterness in any rivalry, but I imagine it's almost palpable down in Alabama.
5) Lastly, game trophies. What are the best and worst rivalry trophies out there?
Best: The Big Ten has a plethora of odd trophies. My favorite is Paul Bunyan's Axe, which goes to the winner of the Minnesota/Wisconsin game.
Worst: The winner of the annual Iowa State/Missouri (yeah, huge game) show down gets the Telephone Trophy. Just look at this stupid thing:
At least the winner of this game can call someone who cares.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Shouldn't we be losing?
Last month, I examined the records of AL Central teams in games they "should lose." That is, games in which they score three or fewer runs. Below is an update. The first column lists each team's record in "should lose" games through the date of my previous post, the second column lists the updated records of each team through July 25th, the third column lists the updated winning percentage of each team in these games, and the final column is just tossed in for the hell of it.
[* -- you might notice the discrepancy between this record and the one listed in last month's post. I didn't take the Twins game of 6/22 into account in my original post since it was in progress at the time.]
The White Sox have fallen back to the pack a little bit, but that was inevitable. It's still amazing to me that they were able to win at a .450 clip in those "should lose" games for a good portion of the season. The Twins have managed a 3-3 record since June 22nd, giving them a +3 game advantage over the White Sox over that span. But that has made absolutely zero difference in the Central standings; in fact, Minnesota has only lost more ground since late June.
And whereas the White Sox continue to roll against the Central, the others continue to struggle against their division rivals.
One last note: the Twins were shut out in New York tonight, so you can add another "L" to their record. The other four Central teams still have games in progress. The ChiSox and Royals are tied 1-1 in the 6th (this is not the Lima Time I know and love), and it's likely we're seeing another "should lose" game for one of them--if not both.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Bears 14, Chiefs 6
Sunday, July 24, 2005
One last reprieve.
After surviving a tense ninth inning and beating the Red Sox 6-4, the White Sox are heading to Kansas City. The Royals have been fabulously friendly this season, allowing Chicago to sweep all three series between the two.
Another good series against KC is important for the Sox considering how many tough games lie ahead in August. But the Twins are just 5-5 in their last ten games, and they haven't shown any signs that they're ready to make a run. And hopefully they never will.
AJ Burnett didn't hurt his trade value today, going 7 and 1/3 innings and allowing one run against San Francisco. There is one week left before the deadline, and now that the Orioles are supposedly out of the picture, the White Sox are one of the frontrunners for Burnett's services. I wonder, though, if the Sox will go through with acquiring Burnett if it means they must also take Mike Lowell and his contract.
I wouldn't be against picking up Lowell if he weren't being paid so much; he may not be an upgrade over Joe Crede the way he's hitting right now, but eventually he'll start putting up numbers closer to his career averages (might have to wait until next season for that to occur...), and that will make him a nice upgrade over Diamond Joe.
White Sox GM Ken Williams has indicated that he doesn't want to pick up Burnett just to rent him, so if Chicago can get to the point where they're reasonably sure they can extend Burnett's contract, that could go a long way in getting a deal done. Williams recognizes that the price for acquiring Burnett is too steep just for a rental, and that's reassuring.
Over in the National League, it looks like no one is particularly interested in winning the West. The Padres are 3-7 over their last ten, and they're just a single game over .500. The Diamondbacks are 2.5 games back even though they have no business being that close to first place. The Dodgers continue to disappoint, and their hot start to the season is a distant memory.
No team is sliding faster than the Nationals, who, remarkably, are still 11 games over .500 despite allowing twenty more runs than they've scored on the season. Washington won 11 of 12 one-run games between May 29th and July. Since then, they're 4-7 in one-run games, including an 0-4 mark after the break.
After getting swept by the Nats in early June, the Athletics have gone 30-9. Normally I would be rooting for the A's, but circumstances being what they are, I'm hoping (probably in vain) that they miss the playoffs. That would be a nightmare matchup for the White Sox.
Begrudgingly, I will pull for the Twinkies to edge the A's for the Wild Card spot. But I won't pull for the Yankees. A man has to have limits.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Now it gets scary.
The shedule is looking unfriendly for the next month-and-a-half:
vs. Boston (4 games) -- 2-2, 11.5 game lead
at KC (3) -- 1-2, 11 game lead
at Ballimer (4) -- 4-0, 15 game lead
vs Toronto (3) -- 1-2, 14 game lead
vs Seattle (3) -- 2-1, 13 game lead
at NYY (3) -- 2-1, 12.5 game lead
at Boston (3) -- 0-2, 12.5 game lead
vs Twinkies (3) -- 0-3, 11 game lead
vs NYY (3) -- 1-2, 8.5 game lead (ruh roh)
at Twinkies (3) -- 2-1, 8 game lead
Aggregate Record: 15-16
Change in Div Lead: -3.5 games
Thank goodness for that 11-game lead over Minnesota. If the Central is going to get tight, it's going to happen in August. I know better at this point than to be overly concerned by the schedule, and it seems that every time I begin to lose faith, the White Sox do something to pick me back up (right here I'd like to knock on a piece of wood the size of the greater Chicagoland area, but I'll have to settle for my desk).
Edit 7-24-05: I'm going to track how the Sox do during this span as well as monitor their lead in the division.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
That's okay; ain't nobody saw this comin'.
In an article titled "Why Sox?", which I can't access (but really, really wish I could) because I don't have a premium account at BPro (and you probably don't either, but I'm tossing the link in anyway), Joe Sheehan takes a look at why the White Sox have drastically out-performed his pre-season prediction (you totally don't need a premium subscription to read this link).
Sure, his pre-season prediction looks bad now, but if the White Sox lose fifty straight, he's back in business.
When I saw that article on Baseball Prospectus's front page today, this image came to mind immediately:
"Won't someone think of the pythagorean?"
To borrow from The Simpsons one more time...
[Our scene shifts to the south side of Chicago where two Baseball Prospectus writers are taking in a White Sox game with Sox GM Ken Williams]
Joe Sheehan: This isn't bad.
Ken Williams: Isn't bad? Tell me one thing mankind has ever done that's any better?
Jay Jaffe: The Renaissance?
Ken Williams: This is better.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Baptism by Pessimism
I'm not from Chicago. In fact, I've only been there once (to see a White Sox game, naturally).
But I can still completely relate to this.
It's called the art of un-panicking. It's a body language and mind-set embraced by a couple of million people who want to pull out those black 1993 White Sox caps, but are afraid to because they don't want to be getting dressed for their own funeral.
Friday, July 15, 2005
Nothing to see here.
SI's 2005 preview
There is still plenty of talent in Raleigh. If the pieces fall into place and the defense continues to excel, N.C. State could be back on the escalator to the top of the ACC.
I was having a nice, coachspeak-free summer until today. Thanks, SI.
McLendon may be gone, but the stable is still full. Reggie Davis, a bruising junior, emerged from the spring atop the depth chart. He rushed for 227 yards on 46 attempts as a sophomore, including an 11-carry, 72-yard effort in a loss to North Carolina.
I expect State to go with the RB-by-committee approach, which is fine since I don't play fantasy college football. Davis is pretty good, but I think the faster RBs on the roster will end up getting more of the carries.
Tight end T.J. Williams led the team with 382 receiving yards.
Seriously, how sad is this? Only two receivers averaged more than 30 yards per game; Williams was one, Richard Washington was the other (Washington only played in 8 games, and it's safe to say he'd have led the team with about 500 yards had he played in all 11 games). Last season was just an unbelievable waste.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
It's aboot time.
I hate to sound un-disapproving of this whole thing, but I am gonna be there on opening night.
BlogPoll Roundtable III
The BlogPoll roundtable rolls on, and Straight Bangin' is kind enough to host the action. Below are the roundtable questions, followed by my answers.
Which unheralded player on your team will be the hardest to replace? Which seemingly inconsequential player could make the biggest impact?
Most difficult to replace: linebacker Pat Thomas. Not a great player by any means, but a guy who started for several years, was reliable from week-to-week both from a health standpoint and a performance standpoint, and who was one of the team's leaders. Replacing his experience won't be easy.
Tight end TJ Williams certainly isn't inconsequential to Wolfpack fans, but what with Heath Miller being in the same conference, TJ hasn't garnered any outside notice. TJ has been solidly unspectacular to this point in his career, and has about 800 career receiving yards. Williams isn't exceptionally fast, but he has good hands, and Jay Davis often ignores receivers who are 15+ yards past the line of scrimmage, meaning he'll be looking to Williams a lot.
Which regular-season game that won’t feature your team would you pay the most money to see this season? Why? Which rivalry game would you most like to attend?
It's tempting to pick a game involving Southern Cal or Louisville, because I think those teams are a lot of fun to watch, but as much as I like watching these two teams do their thing, the matchups on their schedules aren't very compelling.
I would love to catch the Michigan/Iowa game in person. I find this game a lot more intriguing than the other huge Big Ten game (tOSU/Michigan), mostly because I think the former could end up being more nationally significant than the latter. Drew Tate is a lot of fun to watch, and Iowa's Kinnick Stadium strikes me (from what I've seen) as having a great atmosphere.
As far as rivalry games go, it's the Iron Bowl for me, and it is not close. It's hard to imagine anything like Auburn/Alabama.
If your team were a rapper, who would it be and why?
I tend to prefer other things, but I'm going to give it my best shot. I figure I've absorbed enough rap after four years of college.
NC State is LL Cool J: they're producing lower-quality material than they used to, but at least they look good doing it.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Mandel: A Seminole slide?
I've touched on this subject a few times this summer (including in the post below this one). SI.com's Stewart Mandel has posted some thoughts similar to mine. Heeyah eees zee link.
Mandel responding to a reader question:
Adam, you're not going to like this, but I have this sneaking suspicion the 'Noles are on the verge of a Penn State-like crisis. No, nothing like the 3-9 or 4-7 type debacles the Nittany Lions have experienced -- we all know there's too much talent in Tallahassee for that -- but the kind of humbling season that will leave FSU with the same, ultra-touchy conundrum the folks in Happy Valley have been dealing with the past couple of years: How do you tell a living legend like Bobby Bowden that his ship has sailed?
With an opener against Miami -- whom the 'Noles have lost to six straight times -- and a trip to deceivingly tough Boston College two weeks later, it's not unrealistic to picture FSU starting (gasp!) 0-2 in the ACC. And with potentially tough road games against Virginia, Clemson and Florida later in the season, the 'Noles could very easily finish 7-4, or even 6-5 overall. Such a season would be a far cry from some of the sub-.500 debacles Penn State fans have experienced, but it's safe to say most FSU faithful would be all the more distraught. And while it's entirely possible that a 5-3 conference record might still be good enough to win the ACC's Atlantic Division, chances are someone -- be it N.C. State, Maryland, BC or Clemson -- is due to have a breakout season.
This is an assessment I agree with completely, and would obviously be a best-case situation for everyone in that division not named FSU. If the Noles do start the conference slate 0-2, 5-3 will very likely be good enough to win the division. Unless Maryland, BC or NC State--as Mandel mentions--has a breakout year. But with last year's ineptitudes still fresh in my mind, it's hard to imagine either State or UMD breaking out and cruising to a division title. And BC will be breaking in a new quarterback this year. More likely, we'll have a huge [fracas] involving most of the teams in the division as they all attempt to claim the division one incomplete pass at a time.
Monday, July 11, 2005
We gonna have us some fun in the Atlantic Division.
FoxSports/CFN posted this Maryland preview today.
So it all comes down to one thing: quarterback.
Hey, that sounds familiar. The Terps's 2004 was indeed very similar to NC State's 2004 in several ways: anemic offense led by bad QBs, lots of giveaways, 5-6 record.
And the two teams played each other in 2004. On television.
The preview on Statham's 2004:
Joel Statham went through some mega-growing pains as a not-ready-yet sophomore.
"Mega-growing pains" is, well, putting it as nicely as possible. CFN says Maryland's key game is their first conference home game--against Clemson. I'm gonna go on record right now and say the Terps hand Tammy and Co. a three-touchdown loss. You may be skeptical about the ability of Maryland's offense to score three touchdowns in one sixty-minute span, and that skepticism is legitimate. So let's say they, oh, I don't know, block two punts and a field goal.
The schedule isn't easy for Maryland, but I expect the Terps (like the Wolfpack) to be back in the post-season in 2005.
With rejuvenated teams in College Park and Raleigh (and a strong newcomer from Chestnut Hill), the Atlantic Division could be miiiiiiiighty interesting. Especially when FSU inevitably loses to Miami early in September.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
The Oakland A's are 7-2 against the White Sox this season...I hope they don't offer any tips to the Twinkies for the second half.
Today's game was very entertaining, if not particularly well played. It was a close and back-and-forth game, which makes me uncomfortable under normal circumstances and even moreso when the bad guys are from Oakland.
Dan Haren had one of his worst starts in a while, and Sox starter Freddy Garcia allowed one run in each of the first four innings.
The A's scored three runs off of Superstar Reliever Neal Cotts in the seventh and got one more off Hermanson in the ninth, the latter proving to be the difference between extra innings and a loss. The White Sox of course battled back, but even they didn't have enough to overcome the Oakland mojo.
In the latter portions of the game especially, I was not pleased with the inconsistency displayed by the home plate umpire. All in all, a weekend I'm ready to forget. But there haven't been too many of those in the first half, and the White Sox go to the break up 9 games on Minnesooota, doncha know.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
I think I saw this awards show on UPN last week.
So a few days ago, a coworker of mine discovered that one of the selections in our building's vending machine--the "Big Texas Cinnamon Roll"--boasts of some sort of award on its wrapper.
Sure enough, this mighty cinnamon roll ("Big Texas"? How long did it take 'em to come up with that one?) was named "Pastry of the Year" by Automatic Merchandiser's viewers' choice awards. No. Kidding.
Pastry competition gets fierce
Yes, folks, the Mrs. Freshley's Jumbo Honey Bun dynasty is over.
And if you're wondering, "is the Big Texas Cinnamon Roll worth the hype?" I regretfully admit that I haven't tried one. It's really not that big. Now that it's a major award winner, though, it might be worth my $0.75.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Just not Chad, okay, Lou?
Lou Piniella has totally had it:
After watching the Devil Rays lose for the 10th time after blowing a lead in the eighth inning, manager Lou Piniella said he plans to have a reliever start Wednesday, then turn to Casey Fossum, who is scheduled to start. Piniella insisted he's not joking.
And now good people like Chad Orvella are hopeless bystanders to Lou's whims.
[Edit 8:30PM -- Lou got cold feet, went with Fossum to begin the game. Bummer.]
[Edit 9:45PM -- It's a bummer for the D-Rays as well. Seven runs scored against Fossum, including a three-run shot by Big Frank.]
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Case against Schmidt? What case?
The White Sox, along with several others, have shown interest in San Francisco's Jason Schmidt. Rumor that the Sox were close to landing Schmidt sparked this monster over at White Sox Interactive, and there has been some resistance to acquiring Schmidt, most of which I don't get.
Certainly, I understand the fear of giving up good prospects for a guy who has struggled, but calling Schmidt an addition to the end of the rotation or comparing him to Jose Contreras (both of which are done by posters on that WSI thread) is utterly ludicrous. Put Schmidt on the White Sox's staff, and he's at worst the second best starter in the rotation. And there's no debating his stuff.
ERA+ = lgERA / ERA (you can find this on Schmidt's player page linked above)
BABIP = batting avg on balls in play (typically around .300 or thereabouts)
DIPS = ERA independent of the defense behind a pitcher
There are several reasons to think Schmidt will have a better second half no matter what team he's playing for. His BABIP for 2005 immediately caught my eye, and while there are no guarantees in this department, that .333 average does mean that Schmidt has been unlucky. There is a large difference between his ERA and his DIPS ERA, pointing again to some unluckiness.
His K/9 in 2005--still a very solid 8.7--doesn't throw up any red flags for me. Detractors worry about his health, but if his velocity is down, he's still striking plenty of guys out. More bothersome is his walk rate this year (over 4.5 BB/9 IP).
Here's another point: San Francisco ranks 22nd in the majors with a defensive efficiency ratio (DER) of .686. So the defense behind Schmidt hasn't been very good (*cough* note DIPS again *cough*). Furthermore, the SF defense has been even worse when Schmidt pitches. As you can see here, the Giants have had a DER of .675 in Jason Schmidt starts. And if that were their team average, they'd be 27th (out of 30) in the majors in DER.
If Schmidt moved to Chicago, he'd be coming to the team with the best DER in the major leagues (though moving to a hitter's park in the process).
Also important to consider is track record. Schmidt has been excellent over the last three years, and his to-date 2005 performance looks terribly out of character. So he's either got a legitimate health issue...or (more likely, in my opinion) he's in for a big second half.
Bottom line: if the price is right, the White Sox should and will acquire Jason Schmidt.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Right Size, Wrong Shape
It's so hard to figure out why people can't stand Hawk Harrelson.
As the White Sox turn a double play against Oakland:
[grounder comes to Konerko]: "Okay, take your time."
[throw arrives at Ozuna covering 2nd]: "Now, turn it!"
Later, men on first and second, no outs, ball grounded right to Mark Buehrle:
[Buehrle begins to turn toward 2nd base]: "Take your time, Mark!"
[Buehrle fires ball into outfield]: various sounds of horror, dismay and aghastment
Usually Hawk's obvious biases aren't something I think about during a game, but when he's at his worst, the thought "wow, that must have been eye-gouge-outingly annoying for fans of the other team" will often pop into my head.
Why is this conduct allowed? Oh, right--because the only people watching White Sox telecasts are White Sox fans, and we don't care.
[* -- It's times like these when I often wonder how close Hawk comes to just letting loose with a long string of profanity. We think we are seeing Harrelson at his most uninhibited, but we may in fact be seeing Hawk Harrelson exhibiting every ounce of his self-restraint.]
[I may or may not have made up a couple of words over the course of this post.]
Friday, July 01, 2005
2005 ACC/Big Televen Challenge Matchups Announced
Finally we have the answer to the question that's been gnawing at everyone all summer: who's Clemson playing?!
I give you the horrors of expansion:
Virginia Tech at Ohio State
Wisconsin at Wake Forest
Purdue at Florida State
Clemson at Penn State
Illinois at North Carolina
Miami at Michigan
Georgia Tech at Michigan State
Minnesota at Maryland
Northwestern at Virginia
Duke at Indiana
NC State at Iowa
You can file the VPI/tOSU and Miami/Michigan games under the "Too Bad This Isn't Football" category (and, conversely, the Duke/IU game under the "Thank God It Isn't Football!" category). I was going to make a Gerry DiNardo joke right here, but just remembered I can't because Indiana canned him. Jerks.
Clemson at Penn State? Do we have to?
The Challenge is really lacking in intriguing matchups this year, save for the obligatory national championship game re-match. Wisconsin/Wake should be interesting, and NC State/Iowa features some serious honky tonk action. I can dig it.
For the record, I'm takin' the ACC by a 7-4 margin (winners being Wake, FSU, Clemson, UNC, Maryland, Duke, UVA).