NHL Playoff Picks 2016: Round Two

Posted in 2016 Other on April 29, 2016 by dejesus54

Clarke
Maybe next year, Bobby.

More goalies, more possession numbers, and some bonus cheating (I do honestly think the teams that won the two Game 1s that already happened will win the series).

Eastern Conference

Tampa Bay/New York Islanders: Tampa is the defending Eastern Conference champions and is even without Stamkos and Stralman the better overall team, but it’s close (the Islanders were the 100-point team of the two, for any traditionalists).  The Lightning are the better possession team and Bishop has the better track record, which would normally mean Tampa, but I’m relying on Greiss (.941, 1.94 with a Game 1 win) and Tavares (18.8% shooting through Game 1, which won’t last, but career 13.2% overall and 15.5% playoffs) to remain hot.  Islanders in six.

Washington/Pittsburgh: Yes, the Penguins will score more than the Flyers, but Murray-or-Fleury will probably allow more than Neuvirth.  I’m expecting one-goal games in this series, but not a full seven of them.  Ovi’s revenge will be Caps in five.

Western Conference

Dallas/St. Louis: One of these teams has a goalie who led the league in SV% (.930) this past season and has been mostly amazing for five years (.925, 2.01, 25 shutouts).  The other has Kari Lehtonon and Antti Niemi.  The Stars’ offense is good, but not that good.  Blues in five.

San Jose/Nashville: Pekka Rinne (.915) and Martin Jones (.912) were more or less even in Round 1, depending on what you think of the quality of their competition (I think the Kings were probably better than Anaheim up front, though I picked the Ducks but not the Kings to win).  The Sharks’ power play was very good in the regular season (3rd-ranked, with a league-leading 62 goals) and has been even better in the playoffs, and I think they’re the better team overall in a matchup against a Predators team without the one differencemaker (c.f. John Tavares) they would need to neutralize that.  Sharks in five.

My take on the 2016 NFL Draft

Posted in 2016 Other on April 29, 2016 by dejesus54

Endorsements and the Inexorable

Posted in Uncategorized on April 22, 2016 by dejesus54

City of Joyful Dread

17324577712.jpg
The Revolution Will Be Intersectional outside City Hall Philadelphia during a Freddie Gray rally, April 30, 2015.  Available via Flickr.

This isn’t about Rex Ryan (though I do wonder how Tom Brady feels).

It’s more about my own endorsement, which you wouldn’t think would be that difficult since my car has a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker*, among approximately 34 others**.

* A 60something black hippie walking up to me outside my car in Camden a few months ago, apparently not noticing this: “Lemme guess, I bet you’re votin’ for Bernie Sanders.”

Me: “Most likely.”

Him: “I can always tell.  If you got bumper stickers: you’re votin’ for Bernie Sanders.  If you got a gun rack: you’re votin’ for Ted Cruz.”

** This also removes me from any jury pool where I will be asked the question, “Does your car have any bumper stickers?  If so, what are they?”  Specifically…

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NHL Playoff Picks 2016: Round One

Posted in 2016 Other, Flyers-related with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2016 by dejesus54

Hedberg

Two of the five teams for which Johan Hedberg played are 2016 playoff teams (sorry, Canucks, Devils, and “Winnipeg Jets” fans).

As always, it’s mostly goaltending (with the Detroit exception, then the Chicago exception, only both Detroit and Chicago now have good goaltenders), but also possession, along with puck luck (again, flip a caribou).  As always, an American team will win (sorry).

Eastern Conference

Tampa Bay/Detroit: The Red Wings are one of two playoff teams in 2016 that was outscored (hello Flyers, only Detroit was 9 goals worse than Philadelphia).  Normally this series wouldn’t be close—the Lightning are better at scoring and better at preventing the other team from scoring—but Stamkos and Stralman are out and Hedman, Kucherov, Callahan, and Tyler Johnson are day-to-day.  On the other hand, Jonathan Drouin is healthy.  Lightning in five.

Florida/New York Islanders: The Panthers have Jagr and Luongo, and Barkov and Huberdeau and Ekblad and other non-names who should be.  The Islanders have better special teams and John Tavares.  I think the key to this series will be Thomas Greiss, and I expect he will be very good.  @68Jagr and @strombone1 rock, but Islanders in six.

Washington/Philadelphia: On paper this is a total mismatch of two teams further apart in the standings than any other matchup (24 points, two more than Dallas-Minnesota), the difference between the second best offense and third best defense on one hand, and the 24th best offense and too much Radko Gudas facepunching on the other.  I can imagine a series where Claude Giroux is the best forward on the ice and Shayne Gostisbehere is the best defenseman and Mason (I guess it’s Mason, unless it’s Neuvirth) is just good enough and the Flyers win.  But I don’t think it’s this one, though I’ll give them two home games for Mr. SniderCaps in six.

Pittsburgh/New York Rangers: The Penguins could be missing Malkin and Fleury (and Maatta and Bennett), or not, but this is still a huge possession mismatch for the Rangers, whose CorsiFor of 47.4% ranked 26th (the Penguins ranked 4th at 52.3% and were even better at 5v5).  On the other hand, the Rangers have Lundqvist and an even crazier PDO than the Pens (101.3, 3rd in the league); the two are related. They shouldn’t, but Rangers in six.

Western Conference

Dallas/Minnesota: This is the other huge mismatch—22 points’ difference and the league’s best offense vs. the 16th best—only I don’t think it is a mismatch, since the Stars’ goaltending has been terrible.  They’re the only playoff team worse than league average in goals allowed and the worst of four playoff teams below league average in save percentage at an abysmal .904, tied with the Maple Leafs and Coyotes.  Devan Dubnyk (.918, 2.33) wasn’t quite as good as he was last year but with Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi on the other end of the ice, I think he will be good enough to make up for the possession and special teams mismatches.  Call me crazy, but Wild in six.

St. Louis/Chicago: Every year I pick the Blues to win the Cup or make the finals and every year they lose to the Blackhawks in the first round, unless they’re losing to the Kings or the Wild in the first round.  I picked the Caps to beat the Blues in the finals this year.  So of course, St. Louis is playing Chicago in the first round.  The Blues have home ice, Brian Elliott (league-leading .930) will be in goal, Duncan Keith is suspended for Game One, Crawford may not be 100%, and despite Panarin-Anisimov-Kane the Blackhawks overall were outscored at 5v5.  And yet.  I want to say I’m wrong about this, but Blackhawks in six.

Anaheim/Nashville: a.k.a. the Series No One Is Watching.  This year, I don’t think they will miss much, unless they are Ducks fans.  Pekka Rinne hasn’t been very good (.908) and the Ducks led the league in goals-against (who knew?).  The Predators scored more goals (again, who knew?), but the Ducks had the league’s best power play and penalty kill.  I’ll give the fans in Nashville one, but otherwise, bring on the Battle of California, round two.  Anaheim in five.

Los Angeles/San Jose: Speaking of the Battle of California, the numbers, recent history, and two Stanley Cups (plus Vinny LeCavalier’s je ne sais quoi) suggest the Kings will win the rematch.  The Kings are still the best possession team in the league (54.9 CorsiFor)—but the Sharks are top ten.  The Kings allowed fewer goals and have the better penalty kill—but the Sharks scored more goals and have the better power play (and yes, the Kings D includes Luke Schenn and 37 year old Rob Scuderi).  The Kings have home ice—but the Sharks were an NHL-best 28-10-3 on the road.  The Sharks have to win one of these, right?  Expect the unexpected.  Sharks in four.

MLB Preview 2016: Wrapup

Posted in 2016 Other on April 6, 2016 by dejesus54

20664498523.jpg

This is not the Padilla Flotilla.

Note: Totals will not equal .500 (I swear; I’m not even trying).

NL East
Mets* 94-68
Nationals 87-75
Marlins 84-78
Phillies 69-93
Braves 68-94

NL Central
Cubs* 92-70
Pirates* 91-71
Cardinals 86-76
Reds 77-85
Brewers 74-88

NL West
Giants* 90-72
Dodgers* 88-74
Diamondbacks 81-81
Rockies 75-87
Padres 70-92

AL East
Red Sox* 93-69
Blue Jays 86-76
Yankees 81-81
Rays 80-82
Orioles 69-93

AL Central
Indians* 91-71
Royals* 88-74
Twins 83-79
Tigers 78-84
White Sox 75-87

AL West
Mariners* 90-72
Astros* 88-74
Rangers 85-77
Angels 81-81
A’s 72-90

* = projected playoff team

Wild Card games:
Pirates over Dodgers
Astros over Royals

Division Series:
Mets over Pirates
Giants over Cubs
Red Sox over Astros
Indians over Mariners

LCS:
Giants over Mets
Red Sox over Indians

World Series:
Red Sox over Giants

MVPs: Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts
Cy Youngs: Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale
Rookies of the Year: Corey Seager, Byron Buxton
Managers of the Year: Dave Roberts, Scott Servais (“Manager of the Year” = manager of the team we didn’t expect to make the playoffs yet, or the team we didn’t expect to make the playoffs again, given their youth/offseason losses/veterans in decline/tough division opponents/etc.–or, it’s Joe Maddon)

MLB Preview 2016: NL Central

Posted in 2016 Other, Uncategorized on April 5, 2016 by dejesus54

I’m writing divisional previews this year because I had way too much to write about the AL West.

NL Central
Cubs*
Pirates*
Cardinals
Reds
Brewers

* = projected playoff team

This was a tough one (which isn’t why it’s last; that was just random).  I don’t think this is The Year for the Cubs despite, you know, real cubs and other things that haven’t occurred since 1945, 1908, or ever.  The Cubs probably won’t win 100 games because no one does (except the 2015 Cardinals, who really only won 89), and the Plexiglass Principle, and an NL division that lacks the Phillies, Braves, Rockies, or Padres.  So there’s the Pirates, who are sexy because they shift and pitch-frame and have Ray Searage and oh by the way also have Andrew McCutchen (who “slumped” to .292/.401/.488 last year, with an OPS+ of 145 that was his worst since 2011?!—with a career-high 98 walks, too?!) and Gerrit Cole.  John Jaso could be this year’s Scott Hatteberg (I mean the 2002 Scott Hatteberg, though actually John Jaso is better than Scott Hatteberg).

I wanted to pick the Pirates because of all of this, both underrating the Pirates and overrating the Cubs, but then there’s this:

Cole-Liriano-Niese-Locke-Nicasio

(The Pirates website actually lists them Liriano-Cole-Niese-Locke-Nicasio because Opening Day Starter, but really, Cole’s the ace here.)

The bullpen is equally underwhelming (so that’s what happened to Kyle Lobstein).

The counterargument, of course, is this:

Arrieta-Lester-Lackey-Hammel-Hendricks

Which I think is better, but how much better, and (with all due respect to Chris Bosio) how much does Ray Searage neutralize any degree of better?

Maybe a better counterargument is this:

Volquez-Ventura-Guthrie-Duffy-Young

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals (pending Johnny Cueto).  Although see “The bullpen is equally underwhelming” above; these aren’t the Royals.

I think these teams are about even, with the Cardinals not that far back.  If there’s any deciding factor for me, it’s probably Maddon.  And though I don’t think it’s The Year for the Cubs, yet, it’s A Year, and even if it’s only Last Year again, it’s a little better just because there’s more of it, and when you’ve been used to none of it for so long, that’s not a bad thing.

MLB Preview 2016: AL Central

Posted in 2016 Other on April 4, 2016 by dejesus54

21071268468.jpg

Dayan Viciedo is a now Chunichi Dragon.

I’m writing divisional previews this year (I think) because I had way too much to write about the AL West.

AL Central
Indians*
Royals*
Twins
Tigers
White Sox

* = projected playoff team

I wrote a year ago that Cleveland would win the AL Central and in the bizarro world of Baseball Prospectus they did (~93 wins based on underlying statistics and quality of opponent, the 4th best record in baseball behind only the Blue Jays, Astros, and Dodgers).  Unfortunately, in the real world, the Indians only won 81 games despite a ridiculous amount of strikeouts from the rotation and underperformed by more wins than any other team in baseball (only the A’s and Astros were also double-digits worse than their projected third-order wins).  The Indians didn’t do much this offseason—if Mike Napoli and Marlon Byrd are upgrades, and they may be, their offense wasn’t that good to begin with—but their top three of Kluber-Carrasco-Salazar are back (Trevor Bauer is now in the bullpen), Francisco Lindor is here for a full season, Yan Gomes is healthy—as I wrote last year, the top negative indicator remains the word “Cleveland.”

Or perhaps the Royals, who brought back everyone worth bringing back from Your World Champion Kansas City Royals except for Johnny Cueto (replaced with Ian Kennedy; it’s the Royals, it’ll work), Ryan Madson (replaced with Joakim Soria; same difference), and Ben Zobrist (replaced with Alex Gordon in left, Christian Colon at second, Paulo Orlando in right, Sal Perez behind the plate …).  They won’t win 95 again, but they look like a playoff team to me.

The rest of the division, not so much.  The Twins were the opposite of Cleveland in the bizarro standings, a 73 win team that won 83 games—only the Cardinals (who won 100 rather than 89 games) overachieved by  more—but I don’t think the Twins will be terrible just because the best Twins (Sano, Buxton, Berrios, Park) are also the youngest Twins and (mostly) weren’t part of the 73 win Twins. 

As for the Tigers, if Seattle is the team no one loves except me (and Joe Sheehan, who has them winning the AL West at 89-73), Detroit is the team everyone loves except me.  Both major winter moves (Zimmermann and Upton) were good ones in isolation, the offense if everyone hits could be top five and the defense with Iglesias healthy decent, but the Tigers allowed 803 runs last season, the third most in the majors, ahead of only the Rockies and the Phillies (barely; their 4.99 RA/game was tied with Philadelphia). Zimmermann is a #2 (3.57 xFIP career), Verlander is now a #3 (xFIPs of 4.19 and 4.15 the past two seasons), Anibal Sanchez is a potential ghost (last season making 30 starts: 2012), and Mike Pelfrey and Shane Greene are Mike Pelfrey and Shane Greene.  The bullpen can expect regression from KRod, who may have fewer leads to protect than he did in Milwaukee.  This team is the 1988 Yankees at best, the 1989 Yankees at worst. 

The White Sox have Jimmy Rollins.

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