Browsing Posts published by Matthew Vereb

Jacoby Ellsbury received many ‘boos’ during his Boston homecoming as a member of the New York Yankees. The speedy lefty went for 2-for-5 with a double, triple, and two RBIs during a 9-3 Yankee romp over the Sox. Ellsbury’s triple in the Top of the 1st set the tone for the rest of the game. The 12-8 Yankees will look to pick up their second victory over their rival Wednesday night at Fenway Park. RHP Michael Pineda will take the ball and look to build upon his impressive performances thus far. Pineda (2-1, 1.00 ERA) threw six scoreless innings in his last start, a win against the lowly Chicago Cubs. Pineda has already faced the Red Sox and won. Pineda struck out seven en route to a 4-1 victory over the Champs at Yankee Stadium. Pitching in Fenway Park figures to be a big challenge for the burly righty. Pineda made his only start in Fenway as a member of the Seattle Mariners. The Red Sox tagged him for seven runs in 4 1/3 innings. Pineda is hoping for a better outing this time. During his last start, Pineda appeared to have some sort of substance on his hand. We’ll see if it happens again tonight and if the Red Sox do indeed to say something to the umpires.

Pineda will face off against RHP John Lackey (2-2, 5.25 ERA). Lacky has given up twelve runs over his last two starts including a 7-4 shellacking at the hands of the Yankees. Lackey carries an unsightly 6.26 ERA in nine starts against the Bombers since 2010. 

The Red Sox are supposed to get lead off man, Shane Victorino back soon. The speedy switch hitter has not played due to injuries. 

Current MLB odds have the Red Sox installed as slight money line favorites (-123). However, I love to ride hot streaks in baseball and the Yankee bats have been on fire lately. They hit Lackey very well and I expect that to continue. This is one of the rare occurence when we can get the Yankees as a road dog. Take them tonight in Fenway.

Pick: NY Yankees +117

 

The San Antonio Spurs utilized a late 10-0 run to squeak by the Dallas Mavericks, 90-85. Tim Duncan led the way with 27 points and seven rebounds while Tony Parker chipped in with 21 points and six assists. Manu Ginobili, the third member of San Antonio’s ‘Big 3′, went for 17 points off the bench. While each of the Spurs top players got their points, Dallas’ top player, Dirk Nowitzki, struggled. Nowitzki only registered 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Monta Ellis and Devin Harris combined for 30 points in the loss, but Dallas will need a lot more from Dirk if they want to keep pace with the Spurs. 

The most impressive stat from Game 1 was Dallas’ 3-point defense. Dallas held San Antonio to just 3-of-17 shooting from 3-point range. Danny Green, Patty Mills, and Marco Bellinelli went o-for-7 from deep. The Spurs will need their sharp shooters to knock down shots in Game 2. 

The Spurs were able to get to the charity stripe 22 times compared to just 13 times from Dallas. Dallas won the turnover battle 10-8. They’ll need to keep limiting turnovers and transition points in Game 2. 

Some of the best sportsbooks have the Spurs installed as 8.5 point favorites. The Spurs failed to cover the eight point spread in Game 1, so I fully expect them to bounce back with a huge effort in Game 2. The Spurs shot over 35% from three during the regular season, so I’m expecting a huge bounce back performance. Lay the points and roll with the Spurs in Game 2

Pick: Spurs -8.5

The Brooklyn Nets finished sixth in the Eastern Conference and will face the upstart three seed Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. The Raptors haven’t made the playoffs in years and the Nets will look to rebound after last year’s first round exit against the Bulls. The match-ups alone are interesting. The Nets boast one of the NBA’s oldest rosters, but that old roster, which is led by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Joe Johnson, has logged over 17,000 playoff minutes. The Raptors have one of the NBA’s most explosive back courts in point guard Kyle Lowry and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. Can the Nets slow down this dynamic duo?

Both teams have gone on impressive runs which makes this a very captivating playoff series. Since trading small forward Rudy Gay in December, the Raptors have gone 41-22, which is the best record in the Eastern Conference during that span. During this stretch, the Raptors rank 10th in turnover percentage, demonstrating a very diplomatic approach to offense. Center Jonas Valanciunas, who emerged late in the season by averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds, will be a critical player. The Nets have the second worst rebound percentage in the NBA, so Valancuinas will have opportunities around the rim. This Toronto team has a lot of talent, but lacks playoff experience. Can they come together?

On the flip side, the Brooklyn has the second best record in the East since January 1st (34-17). A season ending injury to center Brook Lopez forced Brooklyn into more a ‘small ball approach’ with Pierce playing the power forward position. Brooklyn boasts may grizzled veterans that have championship experience, but backup point guard Shaun Livingston may be their most important player. The 6’7″ Livingston perfectly fits Brooklyn’s small ball approach and his size will be critical to slowing down DeRozan. The Nets average three fewer points with Livingston on the court.

Current NBA odds have Toronto slotted as a 2-point favorite. Toronto opened as a 2.5 point favorite, but were quickly bet down to 2 points. I’m expecting an emotional, spirited opening game from the Raptors. I think Brooklyn will win this series, but Toronto will take Game 1. Lay the points and take the Raptors.

Pick: Toronto -2

The 2014 FIFA World Cup will not be an easy one for the United States soccer team. The U.S. has been placed into the ‘Group of Death’ with two power houses (Germany and Portugal) and the team that defeated them during the 2010 World Cup (Ghana). The U.S. will bring some veteran leadership in the form of Everton goalie, Tim Howard. Forward Jozy Alitdore of Sunderland will attempt to lead the offensive charge. The U.S. thrives in the counter attack, keying on its midfielders to help push offensive chances. The counter attack may run into a few speed bumps against Germany and Portugal. Both teams rely on strong midfielder play to limit chances and help power the offensive attack. After the jump, I’ll preview each U.S. opponent and present some official picks.

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Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 2.57 ERA) will make him Yankee Stadium debut on Wednesday night against the Baltimore Orioles. Tanaka gave up three runs and six hits over seven innings during MLB debut in Toronto last weekend. Tanaka struck out eight and did not issue a walk. 65 of his 97 pitches were strikes. He’ll look to build on that success against a hot hitting Baltimore club. The Orioles scored 14 runs on 20 hits during Tuesday’s 14-5 beat down of the Bombers. Each of Baltimore starters, except catcher Matt Wieters, had multiple hits. The Yankees will look to deliver a beat down of their own to Baltimore RHP Miguel Gonzalez. Gonzalez was shelled for seven earned runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings last Friday in Detroit. The Yankees touched Gonzalez up for seven runs last August at Yankee Stadium. Outfielder Alfonso Soriano has two home runs in five career at bats against Gonzalez.

Current MLB odds have the Yankees listed as a whopping -180 home favorite. The Yankees and Orioles have split the first two games of this three game series. Many people will opt to side with the Yankees and Tanaka in an emotional home debut. However, I’m siding with Baltimore. Hitting in contagious and tends to carry over from day-to-day. I’m getting a good price on Baltimore after a 14 run onslaught. The Yankee bullpen is spent and the closer situation is unsettled. I expect Tanaka to pitch well, but I don’t trust the Yankee bullpen.

Pick: Baltimore Orioles +165

Masahiro Tanaka will make his major league debut Friday night against the Toronto Blue Jays. He’ll look to guide his team after a disappointing road trip to start the season. The New York Yankees (1-2) dropped two of three in Houston against the Astros while the Blue Jays split four games in Tampa Bay against the Rays. The Yankees have high hopes for their $175 million man and a strong start on Friday night will be a great start. Tanaka was flat out dominant last season in Japan, posting a 24-0 record with a sparkling 1.27 ERA. Tanaka was the center piece of the off-season, but his contract didn’t stop the Yankees from improving their offense. The Yankees committed $85 million to catcher Brian McCann and over $150 million for center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury. The Yankee offense as a whole struggled in Houston, but hopefully a stop in Toronto’s hitter friendly park will help.

Tanaka will face off against RHP Dustin McGowan. Due to various injuries, McGowan will be making his first start since September 2011. McGowan missed the entire 2012 season due to foot injuries and exclusively pitched out the bullpen last season. McGowan’s strong spring earned him a rotation spot over LHP JA Happ. 

The Yankees went 13-5 against the Blue Jays last season, but went just 4-5 at the Rogre Centre. 

Pick: Current MLB Odds have the Yankees listed as a modest road favorite (-128). I’m fully expecting Tanaka to come out ready to pitch and start his MLB career on a high note. The Yankee offense is ready to get on the map and I’m fully expecting them to take advantage of McGowan.

Pick: New York Yankees -128

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.