Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Six Pack


Boston is taking this offseason seriously it seems. After already going out and getting Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to shore up the offense, now they've made some moves to take care of the bullpen. Righthanders Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks will join flamethrower Daniel Bard and closer Jonathan Papelbon in what has to now be one of the most powerful bullpens in the majors. In Jenks they get an established reliever with experience as a closer. Jenks has saved 173 games since making his debut in 2005. Although his 2010 season was subpar by his standards (4.44 ERA, 27 Saves), he still managed to strike out better than a batter an inning, and only blew 4 saves all year. In Wheeler, the Sox get a durable setup man who also has a pair of double digit save seasons. Wheeler has pitched in at least 64 games in each of the last six seasons and had at least 16 holds in 5 of those. So now Boston has all kinds of options for the latter stages of games. Look out American League!


Milwaukee's making some noise on their own during this offseason. Having already picked up Shaun Marcum from Toronto, the Brewers pulled off a blockbuster trade with Kansas City landing ace Zack Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt for outfielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar, and pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress. While Greinke was only 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA in 2010, he was absolutely lights out in 2009 going 16-8 for the hapless Royals with a 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts in 229 1/3 innings. In Betancourt, they get an established shortstop who started hitting for power last season. While with the Royals in 2010, Betancourt set career highs in home runs (16) and runs batted in (78).

To get Greinke, the Brewers parted with a batch of prospects starting with 24 year old shortstop Alcides Escobar. Escobar played his first full season in the majors in 2010 where he hit .235 with 10 triples and 10 steals. 24 year old centerfielder Lorenzo Cain made his major league debut for the Brewers last season hitting .306 in 43 games with 11 doubles and 7 steals. Prior to joining the big league club, Cain hit .317 in 84 minor league games between AA Huntsville and AAA Nashville. 23 year old Righthander Jeremy Jeffress was a first round pick back in 2006 and also made his major league debut in 2010. In 10 games he was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA over 10 innings. Splitting time between 3 minor league clubs before his callup, Jeffress posted a 2.23 ERA over 24 games and struck out 43 hitters in just 32 1/3 innings. He does come with some baggage though having twice been suspended under baseball's drug policy. Finally, there's Odorizzi who might be the best prize in this deal for the Royals. One of Milwaukee's top pitching prospects, the 20 year old went 7-3 in 23 games (20 starts) for Class A Kane County of the Midwest League in 2010. He struck out 135 in 120 2/3 innings and allowed opposing hitters to hit just .220 against him. Odorizzi was a first round pick for the Brewers in 2008.


The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have not lost a game in the month of December. The Magic have been reeling losing 6 of 7 with their only win in that stretch coming against the lowly Los Angeles Clippers. Prior to Saturday's loss against the 76ers though, the Magic went out and did something drastic by almost completely overhauling their team. On their way out are Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus, and on their way in are Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark. On some levels, I understand what they did, but on others, I have to admit, this move doesn't make a lot of sense to me. There is no doubt that they gain firepower in this move. Gilbert Arenas has always been a scorer, but he's only played 68 games over the past 4 seasons. That said, he's still averaging 17.3 points a game this year. Jason Richardson was averaging 19.3 points a game for Phoenix this year and has hit on 42% of his 3-point attempts this year. Hedo Turkoglu had his 5 best NBA seasons as a member of the Magic before leaving after the 2008 season and while he has only averaged 9.5 points a game for Phoenix this year, he's still a versatile scorer who can do it from both inside and out. Earl Clark doesn't really add firepower, but with the loss of Gortat, he does bring size. The 6'10" Clark has played only 9 games this season. So offensively, the Magic add some nice pieces.

Now as for the players they let go, Vince Carter was in the midst of his worst NBA season (15.1 ppg, 2.9 apg - both career lows), so his leaving town makes sense. Similarly, Rashard Lewis has struggled this season averaging just 12.2 points a game, his lowest average since the 1999-2000 season with Seattle, so shipping him out makes some sense as well. Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus are the parts of this deal I have a tough time figuring out. In Gortat they lose their primary backup to Dwight Howard. Who fills that role now? Malik Allen? Rookie Daniel Orton? Clark? I don't like this move. Similarly, in giving up Pietrus they essentially lose their best perimeter defender. Who steps up into that role? They say defense wins championships, and we've seen teams that just go out and try and score as many points as possible have struggled against better quality teams. So we'll see how this works out, but I don't see this move putting the Magic back into the conversation with the Heat and Celtics for best in the East.


The Boston Celtics have won 13 in a row despite suffering through a rash of injuries and playing their last two games without point guard Rajon Rondo. At 22-4 they carry a 7 game lead in the Atlantic Division and they play Philly at home on Wednesday before a showdown with new-look Orlando on Saturday. The Miami Heat meanwhile have won 12 in a row of their own as they continue to make 9-8 a distant memory. They barely escaped against the Wizards on Saturday pulling out a 1 point win in the final seconds and things aren't going to get easier as Dallas comes to play tomorrow night. In their first meeting (the infamous Lebron-Spoelstra shoulder bump game) the Mavs won 106-95. This was actually the last time Miami lost. Miami may even have Mike Miller available for this one.


Tim Tebow made his first NFL start today against the Oakland Raiders, but despite a pair of touchdowns and turnover-free football from the rookie, the Raiders were still too much for the Broncos winning 39-23. Still, fans saw what Tebow can do as he showed he's more than just a great college quarterback. Tebow blew through the entire Raider defense for a 40 yard touchdown on a quarterback draw (behind some nice blocking from Correll Buckhalter) and also threw a 33 yard touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd. For the game Tebow finished 8/16 for 138 yards and touchdown through the air, and also picked up 78 yards on 8 carries. By contrast, the rest of the Broncos combined to run for 28 yards on 25 carries. I don't know that he'll ever live up to the expectations set forth by his being a first round pick, but it appears he's not a total bust. Denver plays Houston and San Diego in their remaining two games.


The New York Giants led the Philadelphia Eagles 31-10 with under 8 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. Then in the final 8 minutes, the Eagles scored 4 Touchdowns, the last of which on a punt return by DeSean Jackson as time expired. Just an absolutely ridiculous finish and a potentially devastating loss for the Giants as the Eagles take control of their own destiny in the NFC East with 2 games to play. How'd it all go down?

It looks even worse when you find out that Giants punter Matt Dodge was supposed to punt the ball out of bounds. 14 seconds left in the game, how do you let the most dangerous return man in the league get a shot and running that kick back? It will be interesting to see how New York responds to this one when they travel to Green Bay next week.

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