Monthly Archives: March, 2014

Angels Lock Up Mike Trout — Smart Call

So it’s a little hard for many to realize that paying a guy an average of over $24 million a year is smart, but it is.  Anyone who thinks that the Angles made a mistake simply isn’t following the market for Major League Baseball players in this day and age.

The MLB’s projected revenue this year is $9 billion, and they recently signed two huge TV deals.  The Dodgers are now worth $2 billion, according to Forbes, making the purchase that the new owners made under 2 years ago of $2.15 billion look completely reasonable.

If Brian McCann just signed a deal that will pay him $17 million per year, which is in the ballpark of what LeBron James makes, then that should be all the proof anyone needs that $24 million for the best player in baseball not even in his prime is totally reasonable.

In fact, Trout probably cut himself off of a lot of money by doing this.  It’s absolutely necessary to note that this deal doesn’t kick in until 2015, which means that it doesn’t cut off his final year of team controlled salary, which is 2014.  That one year is a huge difference with this deal, because Trout will only earn about a million bucks this year, and the Angels are therefore getting a huge bargain.  The deal cuts out 3 of his free agency years, and that’s a big difference between cutting out 2 or 3 years of his free agency.  If the contract had started this year, Trout would gain a ton of money in the first year, and then only lose money based on what he could’ve had for 2 years instead of 3 after his initial 6 seasons in the bigs.

I can’t blame Trout for taking the deal for 2 reasons.  First, I can’t blame anybody for doing what they want with their own profession and money.  Second, a career can end any second for an athlete with an injury, so it’s hard to turn down a guaranteed $144.5 million when it’s put in front of you.  That being said, the Angels got a great deal here.  Impossible to deny that.

Eagles Release DeSean Jackson Because of Possible Gang Connections

A little over an hour ago, the Philadelphia Eagles released absolutely electrifying but possibly troubled wide receiver DeSean Jackson.  Jackson was due $30.5 million over the final 3 years of his deal, but none of the money was guaranteed.  But, for once, it doesn’t look like a player’s cap hit was the biggest reason for cutting him.

It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the Eagles released Jackson 35 minutes after this NJ.com article, which is a must read, was published.  The article tells us that Jackson has ties to the Crips gang in Los Angeles, where he’s from, and his name was sorta kinda associated with two murders, one in 2010 and the other in 2012.  He was also arrested for marijuana possession, tinted windows, and disturbing the peace in South Jersey after being pulled over.

It’s hard to know what to believe here.  First of all, let’s not vilify a guy for being arrested for weed, especially when, as far as we know, he wasn’t driving high.  But as for the far more serious possible ties to homicides, I’m obviously concerned like anyone should be, but I don’t think it’s as much of a worry as the Eagles want us to think.

It’s incredibly clear that the Eagles provided the information for the NJ.com story, and it’s just as certain that they planned it to coincide with when they would release Jackson.  The story kills his trade value, so there is no way they would’ve done it any earlier.  Now, it helps them explain to the public why they did it.  I’m not buying the idea that these two homicide investigations were enough to get him released on their own, because there’s a detail that the NJ.com article smartly pointed out but that the Eagles would rather not have us believe.

The December 2010 homicide, which seemed to be the bigger concern of the two based on the article, happened about 14 months before the Eagles signed Jackson to a 5 year, $48.5 million deal.  If they had been that concerned about the homicide at the time, why sign him to that deal?  In fact, Jackson’s trade value was at its highest going into the 2011 season, when Jackson held out for a few days.  Why not trade him at that point and maximize his value to the franchise if they were really that worried?

Of course, there was the second murder, but I don’t see why that would worry anyone as much, based on the facts we have.  A party had taken place at a building that one of Jackson’s family members owner.  Sure, that’s bad, but I don’t see where he’s directly implicated in anything, and there’s no evidence that we know of that he was friends with anyone involved, as there was in the first killing.

To me, it seems that Chip Kelly didn’t feel that DeSean Jackson fits his locker room overall.  Jackson’s teammates seem to love him, and maybe Kelly feels that Jackson’s overall attitude and work ethic aren’t a good influence to have.  That’s fine, and it’s also clear that his possible gang ties are a legitimate concern.  I’ll never deny that, but no one else should try to deny that the Eagles are also using these stories publicly to try to explain their decision to release such a talented receiver.

Whether the Pats would get Jackson?  They have about $8.5 million left in cap space and a ton of holes on the roster.  Unless he plays for a pittance compared to what he’s worth, there’s no chance.  But let’s hope that he signs the 1 year, $3 million deal that Randy Moss did in 2007.

Bruins Show that They’re the Best Team in the League

Thursday night, the Bruins took down the Chicago Blackhawks, who I recently stated was the best team in the Western Conference.  I still believe that, but the fact that the Bruins took them down in Boston and clearly played better is a sign that they’re the best team in the entire NHL.  Of course, one game doesn’t mean much, but it did symbolize what they B’s can do against an elite team when they’re at the top of their game.

In close situations (within a goal in the first 2 periods and tied in the third, which obviously meant none of the final period in this game), the B’s out-fenwicked the Blackhawks 21-19, and they out-corsied the Hawks 27-23.  Then, we’ll take into account the traditional stats, like, you know, goals.  They won 3-0 behind 2 quick ones in the last period, and that put the game away.

Everyone did his job, and Bergeron was the best two-way forward on the ice — better than Jonathan Toews — with his 2 goals.  Chara was Chara and Claude played him for only 21:32, or 3:15 below his season average… nicely done, Claude.  And Tuukka Rask showed why he’s the best goalie in the world.  There’s not much of a debate, frankly, at this point.  People can make nice cases for Price, Lundqvist, and maybe Quick, but the real answer is Tuukka.

The B’s now have 16 guys with at least 16 points, which is more easy to remember than it is significant, but they also have 9 guys with at least 35.  And Eriksson only has 29 because of his injuries, causing him to miss 21 games.  They’re depth is ridiculous, and their top guns are just as ridiculous.  Here are the guys/units who are at least “arguably” the best at what they do in the league: Bergeron as a two-way player and defensive forward, Chara as a defenseman, Tuukka as a goalie (again, not that arguable IMO), the best 2nd line, best 3rd line.  And both the 1st and 4th lines can easily be the best at what they do for a series or two in the playoffs, like the Merlot Line did in the Rangers series.

Expecting the Bruins to make the Finals this year is not too lofty, not when they’re that much better than every Eastern Conference team.  And wins like this over one of the West’s Best should all make us realize how lucky we are to have the Cup Favorites playing in our backyards.

Patriots Bring Back Wilfork, Everyone is Crying for Joy

Vince Wilfork and the Patriots have finally come to an agreement that will end the tough discussions that the two teams had.  Wilfork had a cap hit of $11.6 million but he was only guaranteed $3 million, and 11.6 was just too high for a 32-year-old coming off an achilles tear who weighs over 300 pounds.

Let’s say that the move clears up $4.5 million in cap space, which is a fair estimate.  Add that to the $4.0 million in space that the Pats had according to the NFLPA and good NFL capoligists, and we have about $8.5 million for more defensive line, linebacker, tight end, and possibly safety depth.  I hope they sign Ryan Wendell, who is a free agent right now, but they might have to go another route.  The Pats can probably fill most of these spots in the draft, but there could still be another signing or two.

Since we’re assuming that the Pats saved about $4.5 million and we know that cutting Vince would have meant $8.6 million, that means that Bill Belichick felt that resigning Wilfork was worth about $4.1 million in cap space to the team.  I think every single one of us agrees with that.

Looks like the Pats have struck again in the offseason of Belichick, and it’s further proof that anyone who doubts him a lot is simply wrong.

Glad to have Vince back.

Who’s the NHL’s Best of the West

Recently, in the Twitterverse, I’ve been noticing a lot of people asking who the best team in the Western Conference is.  From a Bruins perspective, people are of course wondering who the toughest team for the Bruins to face in the Finals would be.  Since I don’t believe in jinxes, I’m going to use this space to determine which would be the toughest team for the B’s to face in their hopeful 3rd Stanley Cup Finals in 4 years.

First, here are the conference, non-divisional standings through the first 6 teams (nobody outside of these 6 has any claim to be the best of the conference, even if you had a Jack Edwards level of bias for any of these teams).

St. Louis: 103 Points, 71 GP

San Jose: 101 Points, 73 GP

Anaheim: 99 Points, 71 GP

Chicago: 97 Points, 72 GP

Colorado: 94 Points, 71 GP

Los Angeles: 88 Points, 72 GP

Now, let’s look at each team’s Fenwick For Percentage with a close score (within 1 goal in the 1st and 2nd period and tied in the 3rd or OT), at 5 on 5.

Teams: (Ranking in the League, FF%)

Los Angeles: (1, 56.6%)

Chicago: (2, 55.4%)

San Jose: (3, 55.0%)

St. Louis (7, 52.6)

Anaheim: (16, 50.2%)

Colorado: (27, 47.0%)

 

Right off the bat, we can eliminate Colorado.  This won’t surprise many people, as the only ones who were really pushing the idea that the Avalanche are the best team in the West are the one who claim that it’s true because of Patrick Roy’s “intensity” or “knowledge of how to win” or something like that.  Colorado is a good team, but possession numbers like that simply aren’t good enough for anyone to even thik that they’re in the West’s cream of the crop.

The same can be said for Anaheim.  While 16th in the league isn’t exactly 27th, it’s still not good enough for them to be a serious part of the debate.  It might be enough if they had a better goalie than Jonas Hiller, who is fine, but a 91.4 SV% isn’t exactly elite.  It’s respectable, but not enough to bring a 16th ranked team to the top.

That leaves us four finalists, and each one has a legitimate claim.  LA proponents would point entirely to advanced stats, and they’d have a reason.  Well, they’d also point to having Jonathan Quick, the Conn Smythe winner 2 years ago, and a roster who does know what it takes to win, however much that intangible matters.  Marian Gaborik might be able to help with their season-long scoring drought, although that hasn’t really happened so far.  At the same time though, LA does have trouble scoring goals to the point where many fans, myself included, are wondering whether or not they are one of the few teams where shot quality does truly matter, and in a negative way.

Read this post, which I’ve linked to on this site before, but that’s because of how enlightening it can be.  The first thing that you’ll notice when reading both graphs is that I have even more reason to eliminate Anaheim from the Best in the West discussion.  The first thing that you’ll notice is that the Bruins are absolutely awesome, to the point where the author, Tyler Dellow, who is usually a proponent of the idea that shot quality isn’t that important, says that the B’s might actually be able to affect shot quality in a positive way.  When you have Zdeno Chara and defensive forwards like Patrice Bergeron, maybe that isn’t all that shocking.  It also does help affect the CF% to GF% ratio to have the best goalie in the league, but let’s get back to talking about the West.  Dellow also wonders whether or not LA does have truly bad shooting accuracy.

Let’s get back to the Kings — they clearly have a chance to be the best.  We’ll look at San Jose next.  While everyone seems to think of San Jose in terms of whether or not Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will get their first rings, the real reason that the Sharks have a slightly better chance than last year is Joe Pavelski.  Pavelski has never had more than 66 points in a season, and he’s already at 67 now.  He’s been playing at left wing with Joe Thornton while Couture and Marleau make up the C-LW 2nd line combination.  If Tomas Hertl can give them in the playoffs, they could be the team to beat.  And if anyone was to (stupidly) doubt whether or not San Jose has enough offensive firepower to win it all, just think of their first power play combination: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Dan Boyle.  So yeah, you could pick the Sharks as well.

I think St. Louis became a real possibility in the Best of the West debate with the Ryan Miller trade.  Jaroslav Halak was better than a lot of people realized, but Miller is a step up, and he will continue to benefit from playing behind the Blues’ defensemen instead of that of the Sabres.  Speaking of the Blues defensemen, their top three of Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, and Kevin Shattenkirk are downright scary.  St. Louis’ possession number aren’t that good, but they have remained an elite team while their team shooting percentage has come back down to a reasonable level, as it was very high earlier in the season.  Ultimately, I am a little concerned that St. Louis is really as good as its record.  The possession numbers aren’t quite where the top 3 teams in the West are, and I don’t know if Alex Steen will keep up his insane age-30 breakout season.

That leaves us with the Blackhawks, and they’re still my pick to win the West and be the toughest matchup for the Bruins.  The Hawks are right there with the Kings in the fancy stats, and that mc79hockey post really shows us something, in my opinion.  They’re an elite team even when Toews and Kane aren’t on the ice, which is just stupid.  Keith and Seabrook will be counted on more heavily in the playoffs, and that combo should be as huge for them as it was last year.

The Blackhawks only have two concerning questions.  One is the health of Patrick Kane.  Personally, because I don’t want the B’s to have to face harder competition, I’m rooting for the Avs to knock off the Hawks in the first round while Kane and his knee are still rusty.  The second question is the addition of Teuvo “Turbo” Teravainen.  Teravainen is a 19 year old Finnish prodigy after lighting up the World Juniors the past 2 years.  The Hawks just brought him over after his Finnish season ended, and he might fill the only huge hole in the Hawks’ lineup: 2nd line center.  Michal Handzus is simply not that good, and he is far too bad to be playing with Patrick Kane and even Kris Versteeg.  The Hawks have decided tonight to put Turbo at 3C, but, if he plays well there, don’t be shocked to see him play 2C.  With his and Kaner’s offensive skills, that makes a lethal top 6 which is complemented by an already elite bottom 6 and awesome defensive unit.   Corey Crawford might not play as well as he did in the 2013 playoffs, but he’s good enough with the team around him to do some more damage in the postseason.

All in all, if Turbo is anything close to what many are hoping, then the Blackhawks just don’t have any weak spots.  That’s why they’re the Best of the West, and that’s why they’d be the toughest competition for the Bruins for the 2nd year in a row.

Screw That Game

The B’s lost 2-1 in a shootout against the Habs… as if you were unaware.

They outshot the Frenchies 29-22 and Douglas freakin Murray played a big role for Montreal tonight.  Peter Budaj is an ok goalie against everyone but the Bruins, but he somehow goes HAM when playing the black and gold.  The Bruins owned the physical aspect of this very chippy game, meaning that they missed a great opportunity to win a really memorable game.  That would’ve been number 13, just 4 off the record, going against Chicago Thursday night.

Fuck. That sucked.  At least we’re rooting for the almost automatic number 1 seed in the East at this point.  But it’s too bad that the final score didn’t also look like this.

 

UPDATE: I didn’t realize until a few hours after this post went up that the Bruins outshot the Habs at a ridiculous clip of 20-5.  I think it’s important to note what that says about the Bruins and this game overall: They’re definitely better than the Canadiens, and last night proved it at even strength, but the B’s can shoot themselves in the foot when they let special teams mean too much against a team like Montreal.

Red Sox Give Ortiz Deserved Extension

Yesterday, the Sox signed Big Papi to a $16 million extension in 2015.  There’s a vesting option, probably for plate appearances, in 2016 and a club option in 2017.  I love this for both sides.  It’s safe to assume that Ortiz loves playing here, and retiring in Boston at this point is best for his legacy and how he’ll be remembered, assuming he cares about that stuff a little.  (Remember, it’s not out of the question that he’ll make the Hall of Fame, and then that would all but guarantee him getting his number retired here.)  Papi knows that this one last year at a high price is a good call for him, because locking up $16 million when you’ll be 39 is pretty damn hard to pass up.  And I’m sure that the vesting option and club option are at a comfortable price.

And the Red Sox get a well above average hitter for $16 million, which is not that much given that 1 WAR is now worth about $6 million and that Ortiz is expected to get above 3.  It’s somewhat risky that they’re giving it to a 39 year old a year in advance, but they also essentially control Ortiz’s rights until he retires.

Nobody will bad on either side, and nobody should.  We get this guy back:

How Good as the Bruins Win Streak Actually Been?

The easy answer to the question in the title is “If they’re won 12 in a row, obviously, it’s been really good.”  That’s fair, but hockey fans in 2014 are aware that there’s more to a game than the final score.  Shot differential, especially at 5 on 5 and when the game is either tied in the 3rd or within a goal in the first 2 periods, is usually the best way to measure a team for future performance, similar to how run differential in baseball is a better predictor than wins.  So, let’s take a look at Fenwick For Close Percentage (FF%), which measures the percentage of shots other than blocked shots taken in a game that were directed at the opponents’ net.

Over the 12 game win streak, they’ve been above 50% 8 times and over 56% 7 times.  That’s a pretty good ratio overall, especially the 56% part.  That being said, it obviously means that 4 games were below 50%, and those 4 were all well below 50%, actually.  The highest of the 4 was 44.8% against the Canadiens, although it might be worth it to cut the B’s some slack there, since those numbers will obviously be due to an absolutely horrendous 1st period in that game.  The worst was actually the game against the Avalanche 2 nights ago, which was an abysmal 39.0%.  I guess we can consider ourselves lucky that Chad Johnson stood on his head.  How unexpected does it seem that we can say that?

In fact, if you look a the percentage of B’s games that they’re under 50% in FF, then the B’s aren’t playing that much better during this win streak than they do overall.  I counted 21 games in which the Bruins were under 50% out of the 71 they’ve played this year, and that’s 29.5% of their games.  With 4 of their past 12 being lower than 50%, that’s obviously 33.3%.

There’s more where that came from.  Eight of the 21 games in which they were out-Fenwicked happened in the first 16 games.  That means that the B’s have only been out-fenwicked 13 times in the past 55 games, which is an amazingly low 23.6 of their games.

Now, there’s two ways to look at that.  The first is to say look at the overall number and realize just how good of a team the Bruins are, especially after their 16 game start.  That’s clearly the most important way to look at it, since the previous 55 games is a much better sample in any sport, especially hockey, than the past 12.

The second way to look at this, though, is to say that the B’s win streak is not quite as dominant as we believe.  The only 2 times that the Bruins have out-fenwicked a team who is also in the top 10 in FF% (The B’s are 4th) have been against the Devils (5th) and Lightning (10th).  Sure, the B’s have beaten some good teams during the streak, and I’m the driver of the “Bruins are the clear Eastern Conference favorites” bandwagon.  But this streak hasn’t been that much different from the rest of the season.

…With one exception: Goaltending.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that goaltending can undo a lot of what we’ve said about shot differential, and the Bruins’ netminders are playing out of their minds recently.  During the streak, Tuukka has played 7 games and has had a SV% of lower than .929 just once. ONCE. Chad Johnson has played 5 games, and has had a SV% of at least .909 every single time, which is more than what anyone can expect for a backup, let alone a guy making $600,000.

If and when Tuukka falters in any of the next 3 games — as he should play against the Habs, Blackhawks, and then either the Caps or Flyers Friday/Saturday, the B’s will likely lose the streak, because they’ll be facing teams that will play them well.  And it won’t come as that much of a shock, because they haven’t been playing at the behemoth level that everyone has been saying.  Don’t get me wrong, the B’s are the safest pick to win the Cup, they’re playing at an elite level… but not exactly an unbeatable one.

Jets Cut Sanchez- Too Bad

Too bad these times are over:

I’m gonna miss laughing at Mark Sanchez, and this is gonna make it harder to play the Jets-Patriots drinking game where you take a shot for each Jets turnover.

On another note, the Jets signed Michael Vick.  Vick will now probably compete with Geno Smith for the starting job.  Remember the last time that Rex Ryan had to handle a quarterback controversy… Sanchez-Tebow?  That ended well.

I don’t see this ending well. NFL players around the league seem to love Mike Vick, and, because he’ll be healthy, he’ll probably outperform Smith in training camp.  That means that there could be locker room tension if Smith still gets the starting job.  Actually, there will be locker room tension anyway, because it’s the New York Jets.

Unless there’s a clear cut #1 QB and the other guy is extremely mature, I don’t see how this helps the Jets.  I guess we’ll get to keep laughing at their pathetic franchise even without Sanchez.

Still, I’m gonna miss Mark Sanchez.

Nine in a Row, NBD

So I’m starting to feel better and better about this post. The Bruins are the cream of the crop in the East, and everyone seems to be realizing it now.  Jeremy Roenick referred to the Bruins as a “machine” in the post game highlights, and it’s pretty cool to hear that.  All 4 lines are clicking, as there’s none of them are being the weak link that we might have feared.  Chara is being Chara, and the rest of the defense is holding up, minus Matt Bartkowski, who has really struggled of late.  It might be time to sit him for a game or 2, but I still really hope that he gets the nod over both Miller and McQuaid come playoff time.

Maybe most importantly, Tuukka Rask has been an absolute beast.  He’s the world’s best goalie, with both the best SV% and Even Strength SV%.  He tore it up in the Olympics except for the Austria game, which we can look past because of his performances thereafter.  Sure, people can say that Lundqvist, Quick, Price, or maybe Bishop are slightly better.  They may even have valid arguments.  But in the end, they’re wrong.

Maybe this is the time to point out that Peter Chiarelli traded Hannu Toivenen for Carl Soderberg and Andrew Raycroft for Tuukka Rask.  Pretty sure that no team should ever again acquire a veteran goalie from Peter Chiarelli.  Just though I’d mention that.

Later today, hopefully Boychuk and Tuukka both sit against the Devils.  Hopefully Bartkowski bounces back, and hopefully the forwards stay on the pace that they’ve been on.  But we really hope that the Bruins get a double digit win streak, which would be awesome.