Browsing Posts published in March, 2014

The New York Mets kicked off their 2014 season Monday afternoon at Citi Field. The Mets drew a crowd in excess of 43,000 people. Many Met fans used ScoreBig to purchase tickets to attend the game. ScoreBig offers fans a very unique ticket buying experience. In short, here are some quick ScoreBig facts that make it the best ticket buying option:

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Less than 72 hours remain in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes. I’ve written a scouting report, valuation study, and just some general thoughts.  Overall, I think a six-year, $120 million deal is pretty reasonable. However, two of baseball’s richest teams, the Yankees and Dodgers, as well as new regimes in Arizona and Chicago have also shelled out nine figure offers. When the competition is this fierce, someone is going to pay a premium. Tanaka’s agent, Casey Close, has done an excellent job keeping negotiations quiet, so we don’t know where each team stands.

When we compare Tanaka to the entire free agent pitching market, it’s not even close–and Close knows that. Based on age alone, Tanaka is three years younger than the next pitcher (Phil Hughes). Skill-wise, an argument can be made that Tanaka has the best ‘stuff’ among free agent pitchers. This article will show us why we shouldn’t be shocked when Tanaka signs a deal in excess of $140 million.

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Yesterday, we heard rumblings that the Yankees were ‘considering a run‘ at free agent shortstop, Stephen Drew. Drew, who turns 31-years-old in March, was the starting shortstop for the Boston Red Sox. In 124 games, Drew hit 13 HRs, drove in 67 runs, and put up a .253/.333/.443 slash. Defensively, Drew finished second among American League shortstops with a .984 fielding percentage. Drew finished the year with a 3.4 WAR, sixth best among shortstops. After making $9.5 million last season, Drew turned down Boston’s qualifying offer of one-year, $14.1 million, in hopes of securing a multi-year deal. Despite grading out as one of the better shortstops, Drew is having a tough time find suitors. Could the lack of demand for Drew create a market inefficiency that the Yankees can exploit?

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Lost in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes, the A-Rod fiasco, and the optimistic Jacoby Ellsbury signing, the Yankees signed a future Hall of Famer to anchor the middle of their order. No one is talking about switch hitter Carlos Beltran, who quietly signed a three-year, $45 million in December. Among position players, Beltran is 90th in career WAR (64.1). Three solid seasons in the Bronx will vault him in the Top 50 ahead of future HOFer, Craig Biggio (68.1) and 2014 HOFer Frank Thomas (72.1). In 16 seasons, Beltran has 2,228 hits, 358 HRs, 308 SBs and boasts a .283/.359/.496 slash. To put his numbers in perspective, A-Rod is the only other active player with 300 HRs and 300 SBs.

As he enters his Age 37 season, Beltran’s days of double digit stolen bases are finished. However, Beltran’s power has not subsided. Beltran has clubbed at least 22 HRs over his last three seasons and hit at least .296 in two of those seasons. When we factor in Fangraph’s park factors, via Fangraphs, there’s an even bigger reason for optimism. Take a look at Table 1.

Table 1: Park Factors (Busch Stadium vs Yankee Stadium)

Season Team 1B as L 1B as R 2B as L 2B as R 3B as L 3B as R HR as L HR as R
2013 Yankees 101 99 98 97 103 86 114 106
2013 Cardinals 101 99 94 100 97 91 94 90

Higher ratings indicate a more hitter friendly park and when we consider home runs, Beltran gets a giant boost by playing half of his games at Yankee Stadium. For lefties, Yankee Stadium is the second most power hitter friendly park (Coors Field is first) while Busch Stadium ranks in the Bottom 10. For righties, Yankee Stadium is the seventh most friendly while Busch Stadium is in the Bottom 3. Beltran took 71 percent of his at-bats left-handed last season and hit 17 of his 24 homers from the left side.  Add in the luxury of the DH and Beltran should be a safe bet for 70-75 games at Yankee Stadium. Therefore, as long as he continues to receive 600+ plate appearances, Beltran should see a spike in home runs. 

In addition to a boost in park factors, Beltran will likely hit third and have more RBI opportunities than he did in St. Louis. Beltran hit second in St. Louis’ order and had the luxury of second baseman, Matt Carpenter (.396 on-base percentage) hitting in front of him. With the Yankees, Beltran will have Ellsbury (.355 OBP) and Derek Jeter (.362 OBP) hitting in front of him. Add in Brett Gardner (.352 OBP) when the line-up turns over and Beltran, who hit .374 with runners in scoring position last year, will have ample opportunities to drive in runs. Beltran should see a steady dose of fastballs with Alfonso Soriano and Brian McCann hitting behind him as well.

Defensively, Beltran will grade out as below average, but when you factor in two plus defenders in LF (Gardner) and CF (Ellsbury), it’ll off-set Beltran’s shortcomings. In addition, Beltran will like see a third of his at-bats as a DH and the Yankees can insert Ichiro Suzuki into RF during late game situations. His glove won’t kill the Yankees, but he was ultimately brought in for his offense. 

Based on these factors, I think Beltran has 30 HR, 100 RBI, .290+ batting average upside over 145 games. After reviewing some third-party projections, I think analysts are down on Beltran due the stigma surround his age (37) and ‘injury proneness’ (knee injuries in 2009 and 2010).  Table 2 has their projections and my projection:

Table 2: Beltran Projections

Season Site G PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG
2011-13 Avg 146 606 26 80 88 6 0.288 0.357 0.504
2014 Steamer 122 530 21 68 73 4 0.277 0.343 0.473
2014 Oliver 143 600 23 75 86 3 0.279 0.341 0.471
2014 Fans (23) 129 562 24 76 81 4 0.283 0.345 0.484
2014 NYSOS 145 603 30 85 100 5 0.290 0.355 0.520

Overall, I’m surprised how down Steamer and Oliver are on their projections. Beltran has some major things (home park, lineup, situational advantages) working in his favor. While ‘trying hard’ and ‘determination’ are things that go overlooked, Beltran has always wanted to be a Yankee. Before signing with the Mets in 2005, Beltran was very open about joining the Yankees. At the time, the Yankees had a declining Bernie Williams manning center field and opted for a cheaper Johnny Damon (four-years, $52 million) instead of a more expensive Beltran (seven-years, $119 million). Beltran, who hails from Puerto Rico, grew up idolizing Puerto Rican star, Bernie Williams. Just from listening to his press conference, Beltran is ecstatic about donning pinstripes. 

While most Yankee fans are excited about Tanaka, McCann, and Ellsbury, expect Beltran to relish in a ‘secondary role’. Keep forgetting about him until April before watching him rake all summer long. 

The Brooklyn Nets (37-32) are currently ranked fifth in the Eastern Conference with only 11 games to go. The Nets are only one game behind the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors for third and fourth place, but will need to fend off the upstart Charlotte Bobcats (34-37) who are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference. 

The Nets had their four-game winning streak snapped on Monday. The Nets blew a 22-point second half and lost 109-104 to the New Orleans Hornets. Despite the loss, the Nets posted an impressive 107-104 overtime win in Dallas on Sunday. The Nets shot 51 percent from the field during their four-game winning streak before shooting just 37 percent in their loss to New Orleans. The Nets were a staggering 10-for-40 from three-point range. 

Brooklyn has defeated Charlotte in nine of their last ten meetings. Charlotte’s lone victory occurred in November at home. Alike Brooklyn, Charlotte is coming off a poor shooting performance. Charlotte dropped a 100-89 home decision to Houston on Monday night. Charlotte made just four of their 21 3-pointers. Their 12 assists were also a season low. Kemba Walker scored 22 points in the loss. Walker has scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games.

This is a must win game for both teams and the odds makers expect a very tight contest. Current NBA odds state that this game is essentially a Pick’em. However, I disagree with the line makers on this one. Kemba Walker is starting to play really well and Brooklyn is a paltry 14-21 on the road. The Nets do not have an answer for Al Jefferson inside and I expect a big game from him. Take the home team at a discount for your NBA picks.

My Pick: Charlotte Bobcats -PK

The New York Knicks made headlines earlier this week by hiring Phil Jackson as their President of Basketball Operations. The 68-year-old Jackson will collect a staggering $60 million over the next five seasons to fix the Knicks. That’s big money for an older yet very successful basketball mind.  Ever since they began negotiating with Jackson, the Knicks have played much better.

The 27-40 Knicks, winners of six straight, will host the struggling 50-17 Indiana Pacers. The Pacers have been sluggish on offense and have failed to cover ten of their last eleven games. The Knicks, on the other hand, are 5-1 against the spread over their last six. The Knicks are currently ninth in the Eastern Conference and sit 4.5 games behind Atlanta for the final playoff spot, so expect this team to play with a great sense of urgency. There are only 15 games to go, so every win matters. Especially when Atlanta has won five straight games. 

The Knicks will get center Tyson Chandler back on Wednesday night. Chandler is a welcome addition for an opponent that loves to push opponents around inside. Amare has played with a sense of urgency and JR Smith is taking better shots. Maybe Jackson already has a winning influence on this team.

Current NBA odds have the Knicks slotted a small 2.5 point home underdog. The Knicks have been playing well while the Pacers have been struggling. Back the Knicks in your NBA picks for this evening.

Pick: NY Knicks +2.5

The New York Knicks (25-40) will go for their fifth straight win as they head north to face the Boston Celtics (22-42). The Knicks currently sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference and just 3 1/2 games out of the final playoff slot. During their five game winning streak, the Knicks have scored 114 points per game while shooting 41 percent from three-point range. The Knicks took care of business by handling the hapless Philadelphia 76ers, 123-110. Guard Tim Hardaway led the way with 28 points. 

New York has defeated Minnesota, Utah, Cleveland, and Philadelphia during their winning streak which shows they’re winning the games they need to win. After facing the Celtics, the Knicks will host the Bucks at home on Saturday. Getting two wins is critical.

Last night, the Celtics dropped a 94-83 decision in Indiana to the Pacers. Jared Sullinger led the way with 17 points and nine rebounds. Kris Humphries chipped in with 15 points and nine rebounds. Indiana is known for their tough defense and that defense was on full display. Indiana held Boston to just 35 percent from the field, which included a 19 percent mark from three-point range. 

Boston has defended the three-point very well, allowing opponents to make just 19 percent of their shots. The Knicks made 50 percent of their three-pointers in their most recent meeting on January 28th. The Knicks won 114-88.

Current NBA odds peg New York as a 4.5 point road favorite. New York has agreed to terms with Phil Jackson to become their president of basketball operations, so the distractions are running rampant. I don’t like betting again home dogs and I won’t buck this trend in this spot. Take Boston and the points at home for your NBA pick. 

CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, and Ivan Nova will comprise 80% of the Yankee rotation. The Yankees are holding an open competition for the final spot. RHPs Michael Pienda, Adam Warren, and David Phelps will compete with LHP Vidal Nuno for the last spot. Each pitcher brings some positives and negatives to the Yankee rotation. Today, we’ll walk through each option to see what they bring to the rotation.

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I haven’t written about Derek Jeter’s impending retirement. Jeter, who is the master of calculated moves, announced his retirement, following the 2014 season, on Facebook about three weeks ago. Jeter’s announcement came just days after A-Rod dropped his federal appeal against MLB. After breaking his ankle during the 2012 ALCS, Jeter missed nearly the entire 2013 season. When he did play, Jeter looked old, slow, and feeble. Jeter’s bat speed has clearly declined and he’s having issues getting around on mid-90s fastballs. In the field, Jeter has no problem fielding groundballs hit to him, but his range is compromised. Yankee fans are so used to seeing a young, youthful Jeter manning shortstop and I can’t help, but think Yankee fans are going to be very disappointed with Jeter this season. Mariano Rivera dominated on his farewell tour. Can Jeter match that dominance in his last season? I wouldn’t bet on it.

I usually discount Spring Training stats, but when players who missed a lot of games in the previous season play, I take notice. Brewers’ outfielder Ryan Braun is hitting an absurd .825 so far. Jeter? 0-for-9 with six groundouts, which isn’t a good sign. During 2012 and 2013, Jeter posted his highest ground ball rates (63% and 71%, respectively) of his career. Jeter’s fly ball rate continued to plummet to career low of nine percent in limited action last season. These stats further illustrate Jeter’s decline and inability to drive the ball like he used to. If Jeter continues to drag his high ground ball rate into the regular season, can the Yankees still afford to slot him second in the batting order?

If Jeter struggles through April, Joe Girardi may have some tough decisions to make. For now, it’s appropriate to assume Jeter will hit second behind Jacoby Ellsbury and in front of Carlos Beltran. Fans are so used to seeing Jeter set the table for the power hitters and if he can’t get the job done anymore, will he accept a demotion down the order? Will the fans accept a demotion? Will ownership worry about the backlash of such a move? Remember, Jeter is the last remaining ‘Dynasty Yankee’ and one of the ten best players ever to don a Yankee uniform. It’s not an easy situation and the Yankees will likely lose, either in the media/with the fans or on the scoreboard.

It’s hard to see a player who can still play retire. No one wanted to see Mariano Rivera go because he was still one of the top closers in the game. Leaving emotion out of the equation, Jeter isn’t a top player anymore and hasn’t been one since 2009. Some fans completely wrote Jeter off last season because the team wasn’t missing his production. The team did miss his leadership ability, but Jeter is no longer cranking out 200 hits per season.  

It’s always hard to see an iconic player retire, but some Yankee fans are losing sight of the big picture. The Yankees didn’t make the playoffs last season and the Boston Red Sox are the reigning world champs. Yankee ownership spent nearly a half billion dollars on new players. Focus should be on winning the AL East, AL Pennant, and then the World Series. Anything less is failure. Derek Jeter will be showered with gifts and attention from opposing teams, but I hope Yankee fans don’t lose their edge this season. I think most fans lost sight of the big picture during the Rivera hoopla last season. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.

The 2014 season is a critical one for the future. The Yankees have a lot of new stars that must assimilate to the challenges of playing in New York. Derek Jeter should receive the attention and accolades he deserves, but that shouldn’t make fans complacent. Remember what the ultimate goal is… 

 

The New York Knicks (21-40) have lost eight straight games and continue to tumble down the Eastern Conference standings. Entering Wednesday’s tilt, the Knicks are 6.5 games out of the final playoff spot. The Minnesota Timberwolves (30-29) are riding a wave of momentum, winning seven of their last eight games. The Timberwolves just completed a 4-1 road trip including an impressive 132-128 victory in Denver. Minnesota’s recent surge has put launched it into a four-team race for the last three playoff spots. Minnesota has four straight home games against Eastern Conference foes that are a combined 59-games below .500. 

Over his last seven games, power forward Kevin Love has been scorching hot from the field. Love is averaging 33 points per game while shooting 47 percent from 3-point range. Love has absolutely dominated the Knicks, averaging 33 points and 21 rebounds over his last four meetings. Love had 34 and 15 in the team’s first meeting at Madison Square Garden earlier this season. The Knicks have given up 112 points during their seven game losing streak which is the worst mark in the NBA. 

Current NBA odds slot Minnesota as a 9-point home favorite. The Knicks are a paltry 7-37 when they allow 93 points or more. Minnesota has only been held under 93 points in four of their 27 home games. Individually, Anthony has won eight straight games, when healthy, when playing in Minnesota. 

Pick: Minnesota -9. The Knicks are reeling big time while Minnesota has been rolling. Minnesota’s offense put on an absolute show in their 132-128 victory over the Nuggets. The Knicks have given up 113 points per game and should get absolutely shredded by Minnesota. Back the T-Wolves in this showdown.