NHL Playoff Preview 2015: Round One

Posted in Canucks-related with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2015 by dejesus54

Phuck Philly

The Flyers will be watching from home. So will the Kings (won the Stanley Cup a year ago), Bruins (won the Presidents’ Trophy a year ago), and Colorado (won the Central with 112 points, and we can ignore the 46.9% Corsi For 5v5 Close because it’s so 2013-2014. On the other hand, the Jets, Canucks (despite, not because of, Ryan Miller), Islanders, Predators, and Flames (whose 46.2% CF 5v5 Close is even worse than Colorado’s was a year ago–though better than Colorado’s in 2014-2015) are all still alive. Welcome to the 2015 NHL playoffs.

My picks (part goaltending, part possession, part flip a caribou):

Western Conference

Anaheim/Winnipeg: The Ducks only outscored their opponents by 10 goals, worse than any Western playoff team and one non-playoff team (the Kings), but won the West thanks to a 33-1-7 record in one goal games. Ondrej Pavelec, ranked 28th among 30 active goalies in career save percentage (minimum 200 GP), will be the Jets starter and may be the best goalie in the series, with John Gibson (groin and/or upper body injury) and Frederik Andersen (.906 post-All Star break) question marks. Winnipeg in 6

St. Louis/Minnesota: Devan Dubnyk career: .914 in 231 games. Brian Elliott career: .912 in 281 games. Throw out some bad Oilers and Senators teams and we probably have two .920 goalies, one of whom has a longer track record (unless Jake Allen is the Blues’ Game 1 starter). A tough matchup, but I’ll take the depth of the Blues up front a.k.a. the Tarasenko factor. St. Louis in 6

Nashville/Chicago: Tossup (Chicago 54% CF 5v5% Close, Nashville 53.5%) plus Patrick Kane equals Blackhawks. Chicago in 6

Vancouver/Calgary: As I wrote in October: I also think Vancouver will have a goaltending controversy at some point this season (my money’s on Lack, though the Miller signing doesn’t bother me), and that Canucks-Flames games will continue to be eventful. Of course, I also wrote Despite Mark Giordano and some decent low-cost moves like Mason Raymond (offset by some horrible ones like Deryk Engelland), the Flames won’t only finish last in the Pacific but could be the worst team in the NHL. I was probably underrating Johnny Hockey. Calgary in 7

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers/Pittsburgh: Ehrhoff to wonder whether a healthy Penguins team would have managed Letang around the top spot in the East long enough Dupuis in a better matchup than the defending Eastern Conference champions. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, even with much better possession numbers (53.8% CF 5v5 Close vs. 49.8%), it won’t Maatta as long as King Henrik (.922, 2.24 in 92 career playoff games) is in net. Rangers in 7

Montreal/Ottawa: Carey Price (.919, 2.44, 34 shutouts in 435 career games, Vezina and Hart Trophies pending) vs. a 27-year old rookie with a .905 career save percentage in the AHL. It’s not that simple, but Montreal in 7.

Tampa Bay/Detroit: Ben Bishop career: .918, 2.37, 170 games. Petr Mrazek career: .920, 2.23, 40 games. Ben Bishop AHL: .913, 2.59, 175 games. Petr Mrazek AHL: .916, 2.33, 42 games. Bishop has the larger sample size in both cases–but Bishop also had to play 175 AHL games; Mrazek hasn’t and probably won’t. Mrazek has no NHL playoff experience, but thanks to a hand injury last January, neither does Bishop. (Mrazek does, however, have significant single-season AHL playoff experience.) Based on NHL track record, Bishop is the better goalie, and the other numbers (Fenwick Close, shooting percentage) tend to favor the Lightning, but the potential of Mrazek along with the usual Red Wing suspects of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and now Tatar and Nyquist make me reluctant to count out Detroit (unlike October, of course, when I wrote: 23 years in the playoffs have to end at some point, and I think the odds are even it’s this year). Detroit in 6

New York Islanders/Washington: Despite ranking 23rd in SV% (.914), Jaroslav Halak now holds the Islanders’ single-season record for wins (38), breaking a record formerly held by Billy Smith, Rick DiPietro, and Chris “when was he an Islander?” Osgood, although if Halak’s season was overrated, so was Billy Smith. Halak has been a tremendous career playoff goalie (.923, 2.42 in 23 games), but he hasn’t played a playoff game since 2012, while his opponent Braden Holtby has been even better (.931, 2.04 in 21 games) and led the league in total minutes, games (73), and saves this past season. The difference between Holtby and Halak is enough to say Washington in 6.

Phils in 2025: MLB Preview 2015

Posted in 2015 Phillies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2015 by dejesus54

SantaMonica

I was hoping not to write an MLB preview this season because no AL team is projected to win more than 87 games this year, because I’m always wrong (my World Series picks since 2012: Brewers, Marlins, Blue Jays, Cardinals), and because the Phils will suck. More importantly, I haven’t had regular TV since April 2014 so unless I’m watching Cliff Lee get injured at Citizens Bank Park (Phils 4-7 when I bothered to show up in 2014), I will have to take the word of some random internet writer that Cliff Lee is actually injured (or, conversely, that Cliff Lee is still alive even though we do not see him every fifth day).

But writer friend Rob in Iowa has picks—lots of picks—so I guess it’s my turn. (Rob’s picks will follow my own.)

AL East
Boston 93-69
Baltimore 87-75
Tampa Bay 86-76
Toronto 84-78
New York 81-81

The Red Sox have too much offense and not enough pitching (maybe) and it’s March. I wouldn’t be that worried about them, especially since this division is competitive without being scary, now that the Blue Jays won’t have Marcus Stroman (torn ACL) and are planning to DH Dioner Navarro, who can’t hit (career OPS of .689, OPS+ of 85). Tampa Bay probably has the best rotation (Cobb-Archer-Smyly-Moore-Odorizzi-Colome) when healthy, which they aren’t (though Moore will be back by June or July); on the other hand, James Loney is still their cleanup hitter. The Yankees won’t be awful—Beltran, Soriano, Stephen Drew, and Brendan Ryan were all worth negative wins last season, so replacing them with no one would automatically improve the team—and acquiring Eovaldi and Gregorius were both good moves. The Orioles may not outperform their numbers and win the division again, but won’t be awful either with Showalter as manager and better seasons from Manny Machado and Chris Davis, who can legally take Adderall again, just like Roger Maris when he hit 61.

Rob’s picks:
1. Toronto (95-67): Donaldson’s the gin; Martin the garnish – that leads to the laurel. It’ll be a cake walk. Would love to be a sportswriter for these guys: “Pompey erupted last night ….” (Or the more factually correct: “Pompey and the Jays were buried last night (perhaps for an eternity) as the Yanks erupted for ….”)
[My own take: In the event of an all-out brawl during an intense late-season Yankees-Blue Jays matchup, Gregorius could erupt, burying Pompey.]
2. Red Sox (82-80): Ortiz should play 1st. That way you’ve got massive grizzlies on both corners who might bend the diamond and raise the pitcher’s mound. Advantage Boston.
3. Orioles (75-87): can’t replace 40 dingers and 108 ribs unless Davis opts for Dr. Jekyll rather than 14’s Mr. Hyde.
4. Rays (72-90): can’t at-bat Longoria every inning – staff worn out by the ’break.’
5. Yankees (70-92): been heading toward the Mets for years. They have arrived.

AL Central
Cleveland 93-69
Detroit 92-70 (wild card)
Kansas City 82-80
Chicago 80-82
Minnesota 77-85

I was ready to pick the Indians in 2015 by the time the 2014 World Series was over—even before Max Scherzer moved to the NL and Kansas City decided to pay Edinson Volquez as much to pitch for them in 2015 as the Padres will be paying James Shields, and to replace a declining Billy Butler with an older, more declining, Cuban version of Billy Butler, and to complement their outstanding outfield defense with someone whose only non-negative defensive value over the past five seasons (according to dWAR) was 0 in 2012—so I would need a compelling argument not to pick them now. A shaky defense, an unreliable bench and bullpen, regression from Carlos Carrasco, and “Cleveland” are compelling arguments, plus Detroit brought back a rotation whose top three are Price-Verlander-Sanchez and an offense with the usual suspects (Cabrera-Martinez-Kinsler-plus Cespedes); the Tigers are top-heavy, but have been top-heavy winning the Central the past four years with even worse bullpens than they have now. On the other hand, they could completely collapse. The White Sox could have the deepest rotation (Sale when healthy-Samardzija-Quintana-Danks-possibly Carlos Rodon but if not Hector Noesi who was halfway decent with Chicago) but are still a below average offense. The Twins signed Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana and when I see they have Kennys Vargas as their projected DH, I think “Kendrys Morales” but Vargas is probably not terrible and much cheaper.

Rob’s picks:
1. White Sox (92-70): (in) Samardzija, (out) Belisario = road to the final four. Flowers blooming would really help.
2. Indians (90-72): They got Chisenhall, the best manager and… Trevor Bauer comes of age. New logo needed asap.
3. Royals (84-78): Rios helps. Sir Hock-e-var returns. And… if Medlen returns to form…, but by September, Yost has driven everybody crazy.
4. Tigers (80-82): No team more deserving of a title. Baseball can be fickle. Victor gone yet again. Sometimes it sucks.
5. Twins (72-90): Hunter’s not the answer. Maybe Molitor’s a new start.

AL West
Oakland 88-74
Seattle 87-75 (wins wild card playoff with Baltimore)
Los Angeles 86-76
Texas 77-85
Houston 66-96

I guess Oakland had a plan after all. Or maybe not; I might have picked Texas to win the West or at least a wild card if Darvish were healthy (I doubt we will see him in 2015, and the rotation, lacking Cole Hamels for the moment as well as Martín Perez, is suspect, although the offense should be much better). Seattle is the favorite and might have the fewest obvious weaknesses other than “expecting Fernando Rodney and Nelson Cruz to be good again,” but the A’s are deeper and have the better manager and more upside (including Marcus Semien, whom Joe Sheehan argues has been hurt by the gap between the MiLB and MLB strike zone) and probably won’t be the same A’s by July. Los Angeles won 98 games and won’t again; expect Pujols and Josh Hamilton, whose status on the Angels’ website is listed as “Timetable uncertain (shoulder; disciplinary issue),” to be worse, though Andrew Heaney (ZIPS projection of 10-8, 3.84) will help. The Astros should be improved, but I expect more regression than improvement, beginning with Jose Altuve (.341 in 2014) and Dallas Keuchel (3.21 xFIP, 146 Ks in 2014).

Rob’s picks:
1. Mariners (86-76): Cruz sure has come a long way from botching that Freese fly in right.
2. Oakland (84-78): They were sailing along in ’ 14 … then Billy blew the dynamic. He should have traded himself. But then again – Semien, Lawrie, Zobrist, and I like Ike just might work.
3. Astros (75-87): Valbuena’s a solid addition. Aretha blasting from the locker room R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – just a little bit. Should Hinch want to return to the front office, Gardenhire would be a great hire for these newbies.
4. Angels (70-92): Trout’s league leading shameful 184 K’s – most valuable and least valuable at the same time.
5. Rangers (65-97): Best prospect is 3B Joey Gallo. Bit of gallows humor there.

NL East
Washington 94-68
Miami 85-77
New York 80-82
Atlanta 79-83
Philadelphia 64-98

Once again, the Nationals could be the only winning team in the division, as on paper they may be better than last season’s team (rotation of Strasburg-Zimmermann-Scherzer-Fister-Gonzalez, with Tanner Roark as a long reliever and spot starter) and the Marlins’ improvement is overrated (despite 64 steals and a .289 average, ex-Dodger leadoff hitter Dee Gordon walked only 31 times for an OPS+ of 101—Jimmy Rollins (!) had 64 walks in as many at-bats last year). The Mets could break out, if Harvey is healthy and Syndergaard joins the rotation eventually; on the other hand, it’s the Mets; Colon and Cuddyer could break down and Granderson is pretty much Nick Swisher at this point. The Braves won’t be terrible because pitching counts (Eric Stults, the new fifth starter, would have made a good innings-eater for the Phils) but offensively, other than Freddie Freeman (138 OPS+ in 2014), this team, in the words of their centerfielder’s new namesake band, is doomed (no one else OPS+’d over 100 in 2014 except Nick Markakis at 107). I would have hated the Francoeur signing even a year ago, but he and Aaron Harang and Jerome Williams and Grady Sizemore are worth more to the Phils in potential trade value this summer than a few months of playing time for prospects who aren’t ready or don’t exist would be, so Vive la France! (On the other hand: Odubel Herrera.)

Rob’s picks:
1. Nationals (90-72): would help if McLouth has a banner year. Werth is a worry.
2. Marlins (90-72): Michael Morse blasts his way past expectations.
3. Braves (84-78): Upton won’t – but Markakis has to contribute – big time.
4. Mets (60-102): the mishmash continues – forever I guess. Does Seaver have a son? Two?
5. Phillies (60-102): they just don’t have a plan. Is that Francoeur in right? Really??

NL Central
St. Louis 88-74
Pittsburgh 88-74 (whoever doesn’t win this division is the wild card—I’m punting)
Chicago 86-76
Cincinnati 80-82
Milwaukee 74-88

I was tempted to pick the Cubs for a wild card, but St. Louis and Pittsburgh are both better teams. The Cardinals were a true 84-win team last season that won 90, but added Jason Heyward, a full season of Lackey, and a potentially healthier Molina and Wacha and only really lost Shelby Miller. The Pirates might be worse without Russell Martin, but Martin’s offense would have dropped off anyway and Cervelli, Sanchez, and Stewart can all frame pitches. The Cubs won 73 games last season; even as a true 77 or 78 win team, realistically they would need 10 more wins this year to make the playoffs. I would be less worried about the new Cubs (Lester, Fowler, rookies Soler/Baez/Bryant, manager Joe Maddon) than about regression from the old Cubs (Kyle Hendricks had a 2.46 ERA but a 3.92 xFIP and only 5 strikeouts per 9). The Reds could actually contend—Joey Votto in only 272 plate appearances last season walked 47 times for an OPS+ of 127 and played all 162 games in 2013, Johnny Cueto is a Cy Young candidate in a world without Kershaw, and Aroldis Chapman struck out 17.7 per 9 last season—but there’s no depth and their projected leadoff hitter has a small sample size career OBP of .297. The Brewers were 20-7 last April and 53-43 at the All-Star Break before finishing the year 29-37 and missing the playoffs. The rotation minus Gallardo is still decent, led by Matt Garza (I guess, unless it’s led by Kyle Lohse), and Jonathan Lucroy’s career year wasn’t wildly out of line with his prior numbers, but odds are even this is another typical Brewers season: sub-.500 and ultimately meaningless.

Rob’s picks:
1. Brewers (85-77): they’ve got a new guy in the bull pen named David Goforth… and Weeks is gone. That’s good enough for me.
2. Cubs (82-80): (in) Lester (out) Samardzija = zero advantage … and whatever happened to Junior Lake? Castro trade might help. So many new faces. So many question marks.
3. Pirates (80-82): Loss of Snider and Martin has the tide ebbing. Can’t sail.
4. Cardinals (75-87): Given the competition they still might contend. Look for a tired second half.
5. Reds (75-87): When does the regression turn? Not with Byrd.

Padre

NL West
Los Angeles 96-66
San Diego 88-74 (wild card)
San Francisco 84-78
Colorado 74-88
Arizona 62-100

The Dodgers could beat themselves, and plenty of other things, including other teams, could beat them too, but they look like the best team in baseball to me, other than the manager part. Conversely, I don’t hate the Matt Kemp trade for the Padres as much as some do, but it won’t necessarily hurt them this season, and given their other acquisitions (Upton, Shields, Myers, Norris, the expected 10 starts from Brandon Morrow), San Diego should be a playoff team. It’s an odd-numbered year; the Giants don’t have quite enough and will be missing Hunter Pence until May, though the dropoff from last season (88-74) isn’t that dramatic. The Rockies (66-96 last season) were a true 72 or 73 win team last season with bad statistical luck on top of the usual bad injury luck; they won’t be dramatically better (Kyle Kendrick is in the rotation) but with Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, Arenado, and Morneau, they should be better than the Phillies and Diamondbacks, who despite Paul Goldschmidt (career .292/.381/.523, 145 OPS+) and the potential of Yasmany Tomas could be expansion-team bad (fifth-worst team OBP, third-worst team ERA+, and second-worst Wins Above Average by Position (-11.6) in 2014), and that was before moving Wade Miley. Dave Stewart is the new Ruben Amaro. But at least they’ll still hustle.

Rob’s picks:
1. Diamondbacks 88-74: cause every year needs a big surprise. Trumbo/Goldschmidt/Tomas = 100 dingers.
2. Padres 82-80: They bought a whole new team. Might work. Big chance for Myers. Might help if Maybin and Quentin actually stay healthy (LOL).
3. Giants 82-80: Every other year – plus Pence is now the go-to guy in a run shy offense.
4. Dodgers 80-82: be great to see Barney @ 2B. team wise: so much talent; so much unhappiness. Has anyone ever seen Greinke smile?
5. Rockies 75-87: Love these guys. Tulo, Weiss, Morneau. Recall last April’s rampage? But then somebody gets hurt, then they go on the road, … then so it goes.

AL wild card: Detroit over Seattle
ALDS: Boston over Detroit, Cleveland over Oakland
ALCS: Cleveland over Boston

NL wild card: San Diego over Pittsburgh (Big Game James?)
NLDS: San Diego over Washington, Los Angeles over St. Louis
NLCS: Los Angeles over San Diego

World Series: Los Angeles over Cleveland

Rob’s picks:
AL playoffs: Toronto / Chicago / Cleveland / Oakland / Seattle
AL pennant contenders: Toronto vs Cleveland

NL playoffs: Washington / Miami / Milwaukee / Atlanta / Arizona
NL pennant contenders: Washington vs Miami

Final 4 is where I call a halt. The playoffs are like tossing darts. They could go anywhere – but if forced… I say the Blue jays are the best bet to raise the flag …

Let’s play 2,430–

The Ballad of Hideki Irabu

Posted in random non-de Jesus related on January 23, 2015 by dejesus54

Hideki Irabu

I should have stayed in San Diego
No one hates in San Diego
You can hear Tom Waits in San Diego
I never saw the morning till I stayed up all night

New York’s a sad and lonely town
when Velvet Elvis no longer comes around
No one bothers to boo when you take the mound
till moments seemed years, torture and solitude
Prometheus Unbound

Sometimes I feel like a fatherless son
& the men I know scare the shit out of me
I want to become what I cannot not hate
I know why Kurt Cobain sang “beat me out of me”

At a bar in Osaka I contemplate time
wondering when I left West LA
or maybe I’m nowhere, nowhere like home
I’m a lonely frog, I ain’t got a home

& Ryujin the dragon god hangs on the wall
someone to watch over me
Someday my luck will change for the better
Someday these demons will leave

I was banished to Montréal like the Spaceman Bill Lee
Told Texas Sayonara like Sparky Lyle
Made a comeback with Kochi but it all went wrong
Owned an udon joint far from the Miracle Mile

Now the lights are out & I’m all alone
with these weeping willows & this hanging tree
Sapporo, ramen, & these beckoning ghosts
Angels & Indians on satellite TV

Hideki Irabu career (MLB): 34-35, 5.15, 514 IP, 175 BB, 405 K, 4 CG, 2 ShO, 16 SV, 89 ERA+
Hideki Irabu career (Japan): 72-69, 3.55, 1286 IP, 558 BB, 1282 K, 43 CG, 3 ShO, 11 SV

Also worth reading:

“Pitching from behind: The sad road of Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu” by Robert Whiting

“Irabu spent final days lost, without purpose” by Robert Whiting

“Attitude, lifestyle contributed to Irabu’s demise” by Robert Whiting

“Irabu’s impact on MLB-NPB relations profound” by Robert Whiting

Hideki Irabu card courtesy of http://japanesebaseballcards.blogspot.com/2011/07/rip-hideki-irabu.html.

Epaminondas and Ned Yost

Posted in random non-de Jesus related on January 2, 2015 by dejesus54

One day Epaminondas visited his aunt, who gave him cake to bring home to his mother.

He held it tightly in his hands as he walked home. When he reached home with nothing but crumbs, his mother scolded him, telling him the proper way to carry cake is to wrap it in leaves and wear it in his hat.

The next time Epaminondas visited his aunt, she gave him a pound of butter to bring home to his mother.

He wrapped the butter in leaves and wore it in his hat as he walked home under the hot summer sun. When he reached home covered in melted butter, his mother scolded him, telling him the proper way to carry butter is to wrap in leaves, cool it in water, and carry it home in his hands as quickly as he can.

The next time Epaminondas visited his aunt, she gave him a puppy to bring home to his mother.

He wrapped the puppy in leaves, cooled it in water, and carried it home in his hands as quickly as he could. When he reached home with a wet dog, his mother scolded him, telling him the proper way to carry a puppy is to tie one end of a string gently around its neck and lead it home with the other end.

The next time Epaminondas visited his aunt, she gave him a loaf of bread to bring home to his mother.

He tied one end of a string around the loaf of bread and took the other end in his hand, dragging it home in the dirt. When he reached home with a dust-covered loaf of bread, his mother scolded him.

This is why Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland will combine to pitch 40 percent of the 2015 Royals’ regular season innings, requiring season-ending Tommy John surgeries by mid-June, and Ned Yost will be fired by July.

Jimmy Rollins traded to the Dodgers so he can stop bothering my cat

Posted in 2015 Phillies with tags , on December 11, 2014 by dejesus54

Louie & Jimmy Rollins

Vote for Zemgus

Posted in Canucks-related on December 5, 2014 by dejesus54

Have you voted for Zemgus yet?

NHL2014

Charles Barkley’s neighborhood

Posted in random non-de Jesus related with tags , on December 4, 2014 by dejesus54

“We have to be really careful with the cops, man, because if it wasn’t for the cops we’d be living in the Wild Wild West in our neighborhoods.”
–Charles Barkley, defending Ferguson, MO law enforcement and denouncing “scumbag” looters

This is Charles Barkley’s neighborhood.

Barkley

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