Tag Archives: Domonic Brown

Evaluating My MLB Predictions at the All-Star Break

Every year on the night before Opening Day I scribble down a bunch of baseball predictions for the upcoming season and post them on social media.

It has been a thing for much of the past decade, akin to a kid writing out his Christmas list every winter except this is a collection of what I think will happen, not necessarily what I want to happen.

For a decent amount of them, I pour over numbers and data. There’s also a few where I just shoot from the hip and try to have a little fun. Unfortunately though, I usually forget about a lot of the more detailed ones once October rolls around. This year I told myself that I wasn’t going to let that happen, and in order to help prevent it, I figured I’d take a look at how things are holding up halfway through the season.

Some are almost spot on, and others are embarrassingly bad, but unlike pond scum hack Mike Freeman, I will hold myself accountable when I get something wrong.

Let’s dive into it starting with the division standings and team records:

*Current record in bold and parentheses next to prediction 

NL East

Nationals (97-65) (51-42)

Braves (86-76) (52-43)

Phillies (76-86) (42-53)

Mets (74-88) (45-50)

Marlins (68-94) (44-50)

Overall, nothing jumps out as awful here. The Nationals would have to play .700 baseball to hit 97 wins, so that probably won’t happen, and the Marlins would really have to go south to only win 68 but no glaring errors here.

NL Central

Cardinals (95-67) (52-44)

Reds (90-72) (51-44)

Pirates (85-77) (49-46)

Brewers (78-84) (53-43)

Cubs (64-98) (40-54)

The big mistake here is obviously the Brewers. Despite a recent tailspin, it would still be quite a shock for them to finish under .500 at this point. Still plausible that the standings finish in the order I predicted though.

NL West

Dodgers (96-66) (54-43)

Giants (88-74) (52-43)

Diamondbacks (83-79) (40-56)

Padres (81-81) (41-54)

Rockies (71-91) (40-55)

The NL West seems really hit or miss for me. Dodgers, Giants, and Rockies predictions all have a chance to be pretty close. It would take a lot for the Diamondbacks and Padres to reach .500.

For real though, the Phillies might be brutal, but I’m not sure how people in San Diego do it.

Padres

AL East

Red Sox (95-67) (43-52)

Rays (94-68) (44-53)

Yankees (87-75) (47-47)

Orioles (86-76) (52-42)

Blue Jays (69-93) (49-47)

Let’s just take this and throw it in the trash, kk? I still wouldn’t be shocked if the Red Sox or Rays make a run in the second half, but this was kinda bad. Okay, really bad.

AL Central

Tigers (92-70) (53-38)

Royals (86-76) (48-46)

Indians (84-78) (47-47)

White Sox (70-92) (45-51)

Twins (62-100) (44-50)

The Twins will certainly eclipse 62 wins, but overall this looks pretty good. For the time being, I have the division order completely correct.

AL West

Rangers (90-72) (38-57)

A’s (89-73) (59-36)

Angels (86-76) (57-37)

Mariners (75-87) (51-44)

Astros (61-101) (40-56)

Yeesh. Perhaps I was a little too high on the Rangers, but I don’t think anyone anticipated them having the worst record in baseball heading into the All-Star break. The Mariners are on the way toward making me look stupid, and I welcome that because getting to watch Felix Hernandez in October for the first time ever would be awesome.

More predictions below:

NL Playoff Teams: Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers, Reds, Giants 

If the playoffs started today, the Nationals, Dodgers, and Giants would all be in with the Cardinals and Reds knocking on the door. I have a chance to hit all five there, so things could be worse.

AL Playoff Teams: Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Rays, A’s

The American League is obviously less accurate. I’ll hold out hope that either the Red Sox or Rays make a run to get me three teams from that group.

World Series: Dodgers over Red Sox in six games 

With a playoff rotation of Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu, the Dodgers certainly look capable of coming out of the National League. Red Sox, as already mentioned, are another story.

AL Cy Young: David Price

This is going to King Felix in all likelihood, but Price is 11th in the AL in WAR, 11th in FIP, and has the sixth best strikeout rate per nine innings in all of baseball. He may not win, but he’ll get some votes.

NL Cy Young: Madison Bumgarner

The popular thing here is to pick Kershaw or Adam Wainwright, and Kershaw will win it, but I decided to go a different route back in March. Bumgarner’s been good enough to make the All-Star game, so I’ll take that.

AL MVP: Mike Trout

Speaking of boring/safe predictions…I don’t think much else needs to be said here. Trout is going to win this time, and with the way the Angels are playing, none of the voters will be able to use them missing the playoffs as reason to vote for someone else.

NL MVP: Joey Votto

This was a shaky pick made worse by an injury plagued season for Votto. Oops.

AL Rookie of the Year: Xander Bogaerts

An awful June and July eliminated any chance of this. It’s Jose Abreu’s or Mashairo Tanaka’s (if he’s back by September) award to win.

NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton

This was a bit of an easy pick but for good reason. After a slow start, Hamilton has been everything I expected. Anyone who can swipe multiple bases off Yadier Molina in a single game deserves a medal.

First Manager to be Fired: John Gibbons

Turns out the Blue Jays are better than I expected. Despite a recent 2-8 stretch, Gibbons is likely safe so long as they’re in contention.

Ryan Braun bounces back and finishes in the Top five of NL MVP Voting

Braun’s battled injuries to put together a good first half, but this probably won’t end up happening.

Miguel Cabrera leads the league with 40 home runs

With only 14 on the season, Cabrera won’t get to 40 and certainly won’t lead the league. Hai Jose Abreu and Nelson Cruz.

Adam Wainwright leads league with 19 wins

This looks pretty good. Wainwright is currently tied for the league lead with 12, and one of the other pitchers with 12 is Tanaka who will be out at least six weeks.

Last but not least, the Phillies predictions:

The Phillies finish with a record of 76-86

In order to finish with this exact record, the Phillies would need to go 34-33 in the second half. Not likely but definitely not impossible.

Ben Revere will hit his first career home run on June 24th 

I was 28 days late, but he did hit a home run which is more than some would have realistically expected.

Dom Brown hits .271 with 30 HR’s and 90 RBI’s 

Go ahead and LOL. This is bad. It would take a monster second half for him to even sniff the same area code of that predicted average and home run totals. I know the negative 1.2 WAR is ugly as all hell, but the splits at least show that he’s been better lately at the plate. Hopefully that’s a sign of a bounce back second half.

Brown Splits

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez never throws a meaningful pitch for the Phillies

Accurate so far. I don’t hate on Ruben Amaro Jr. as much as a majority of the fanbase does, but this was a bad move, very bad.

Marlon Byrd, career high 26 home runs

With 18 already, this looks on its way to being accurate. The 26th likely won’t happen in a Phillies uniform though.

On July 26, Cliff Lee throws eight shutout innings and receives a standing ovation at Citizens Bank Park. Three days later, he is traded to the Rangers at the trade deadline.

In a weird/completely lucky coincidence, Lee is scheduled to pitch this exact game. The trade obviously won’t be to the Rangers who are out of the race though. This is going to be a hot topic for the next couple of weeks leading up to the deadline.

My take: Keep Cliff, move him in December. He’s only scheduled to make two starts before the deadline. I fully expect him to come back strong, but I have a feeling teams are going to try to shortchange the Phillies citing questions about Lee’s health. Amaro already messed this up in 2009, and the repercussions would be much worse this time. Show him off for two months and wait for teams to come calling in the winter.

That’s all, folks. Obviously there’s a mix of good, bad, and average here, so I look forward to seeing where things are at in another three months.

If you have any thoughts or predictions of your own, please share in the comments.

Advertisements

Mike Freeman’s 2013 Eagles Training Camp Preview is HiLOLarious to Go Back and Read

If you have ever read this blog previously or actually met me in-person before, then you know that I have a really good memory.

Sometimes it’s a blessing; other times it’s a curse, but I don’t forget things, so naturally, I remembered last Sunday that it was the one-year anniversary of me being blocked on Twitter by then CBS Sports and now Bleacher Report NFL columnist hack Mike Freeman.

Freeman 4

That will all be explained later for anyone who doesn’t know the story, but this memory recall led to me re-reading Freeman’s Eagles training camp preview from last summer, and holy shit, is it embarrassingly bad.

Here’s the full thing, but we’re going to go through it a few paragraphs at a time to examine just how awful this truly was.

If the Eagles can find a decent quarterback (and that’s a big if), and if they can keep that quarterback healthy (if it’s Mike Vick, that’s a huge if), and if Chip Kelly’s offense can work (gigantic if) then the player who could have a monster year is wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

There continues to be talk that Jackson has a chip on his shoulder and this offseason he’s worked as hard as ever. Jackson is still an intimidating weapon and if there’s a miracle, and Kelly can reproduce a reasonable facsimile of his college offense, Jackson could be the one to benefit the most.

Man, you sure love the word “if,” Mike. Overall though, this started off not terrible. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that DeSean Jackson had a chip on his shoulder after missing five games due to injury in 2012, but he was correct about that. It gets better, I promise.

Key changes

For the first time since 1999, Andy Reid will not be coaching the Eagles. Think about that for a moment. This is a landmark year for the organization and it is also potentially a chaotic one. Chip Kelly is the coach now and he promises a more up-tempo style of offense. But many a college coach has promised to transform the NFL with their college-y ideas and many have failed. See: Spurrier, Steve, among others.

Ah, a Steve Spurrier reference. That’s about as lazy as you can get right there, Mike. At least drop Dennis Erickson’s name or something, makes you sound slightly less unoriginal.

Kelly does inherit a team with talent. The cupboard, despite Philadelphia’s dismal record last year, is not bare. LeSean McCoy missed four games last year but still had 1,213 total yards and five scores. What Kelly will have to do is patch an offensive line that was constantly injured last season. The quarterback situation is a mess. It’s basically an open competition that Mike Vick will likely win but even if he does, Vick doesn’t stay healthy. Fourth-round pick Matt Barkley will see playing time, maybe a significant amount.

The Matt Barkley line is the easy target, but more of that will be coming later, so let’s focus on the offensive line sentence. Can you name the starting offensive line, Mike? If you could, you would know that it was set going into camp last summer. Were there injuries in 2012? Yes, but “patch” is a pretty poor verb to describe a unit comprised of four previous starters (one of which was a five-time Pro Bowler) plus the fourth overall selection in the draft.

The most interesting thing to watch will be Kelly. He wants to run 80 to 100 plays a game, which will never consistently happen. For the past 30 years, the average number of offensive NFL plays has been in the 60s. The Patriots last season once ran 92. That was considered Haley’s comet territory. To run that many plays weekly is impossible and would lead to Kelly’s offense being physically battered. There wouldn’t be enough players to finish a season.

Alright, 80-100 plays might not be doable, but the Eagles ran 70+ plays four times and aside from Vick whose injury history predates even Kelly’s time at Oregon not once did an offensive starter miss a game due to injury.

Position battles

The quarterback spot. That’s the biggest. There are players on the Eagles who believe that Kelly will do everything in his power to name Barkley the starter.

LOLWUT. Your #sources were pulling a fast one on you here, buddy. Barkley took third-team reps just about all minicamp, and you would have known this had you done even a hint of research.

New schemes

For all of its alleged fast pace and openness, Kelly will utilize two (and sometimes three) tight ends to shore up a shaky offensive line. It’s yet another attempt by a team to duplicate the Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez tight end tandem that was the best in football until injuries and homicide charges destroyed it.

All indications are that the team will switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Philadelphia wants to do on defense what the Eagles will try on offense — keep the game up-tempo and the team in attack mode.

All indications = Chip Kelly prefers a 3-4 base defense, and defensive coordinator Billy Davis has ran it throughout his career. Also, two mentions of a shaky offensive line doesn’t make your false claim any more true.

Bubble watch

Tight end Clay Harbor spent time this offseason practicing at outside linebacker. Jason Avant, a wide receiver, practiced several times in the secondary. When the new coach puts a player at a different position, well, that does not bode well for the future of those players.

For the sake of fairness, I’ll acknowledge that neither player is still on the Eagles roster, but Jason Avant played 841 snaps at wide receiver and zero in the secondary during the 2013 season.

Unheard-of-guy to watch

Isaac Sopoaga was a crucial free-agent pickup because he’s a ferocious run stopper.

Isaac Sopoaga was such a ferocious run stopper that he and his 10 total tackles scared the Eagles away. They traded him eight games into the season, inserted rookie Bennie Logan as the starting defensive tackle and watched him record 21 total tackles and two sacks as the defense surrendered 21.4 points per game during a 7-1 stretch compared to 26.4 in the first half.

Biggest concerns

Where to begin? Can Vick stay healthy? Can the offensive line? Can DeSean Jackson?

Most of all, will Kelly’s schemes hold up?

 

No. Yes. Yes. Yes. Let’s move on to the best part now.

Something to prove

This is for certain: Around the league, few coaches think Kelly will succeed. Coaches are a highly cynical bunch. They think the daily rigors of the sport will beat Kelly’s schemes into oblivion and he’ll be chased back to college. It will be up to Kelly to prove them wrong.

So sneaky, Mike. Thought you could slip a cliché ‘this ain’t #college’ reference in at the end hoping no one would see it.

Upon first reading this a year ago, I was left with some questions. Which coaches? If you really did talk to coaches, wouldn’t one have fed you some anonymous quote to use? I didn’t expect to find that out, but curious, I decided to ask Freeman something else.

Freeman 5

He “answered.”

Freeman 6

Well Mike, that really doesn’t tell me anything. I tried again.

Freeman 7

I responded once more.

Freeman 8

Unfortunately, he never got it.

Freeman 9

Likely receiving some way less cordial reactions than the one I thought I provided, he followed up with this:

Freeman 1

Freeman 2

Please tell me which of these categories I fit into, Mike. Do I like the Eagles? Yeah. Was I high on Chip Kelly as a hire? Yeah, but if you come with some loosely sourced claim like that, you better be able to back it up and not act like an arrogant prick, especially when Bill Belichick, the best and one of the most influential NFL coaches of this generation, had picked Kelly’s brain and was on record that he would succeed.

A classic win-win situation for the columnist. If Kelly goes 5-11 last season and his offense averages 17 points a game, Freeman can high-five himself and say ‘I told you so.’ If Kelly succeeds like he did, there’s the ‘I never believed that. One or two coaches just mentioned it to me in passing’ way out.

More troubling, this is a perfect example of the ‘you need me more than I need you’ attitude that plagues part of sports media into falsely thinking readers and commenters aren’t important. He can question all he wants, but don’t you dare try to question him.

People who write about sports make mistakes all the time, myself included. I said Domonic Brown would hit 30 home runs this season. He’s lucky if he reaches 15.

When I covered Penn State football for Onward State, I wrote a piece essentially saying that former defensive coordinator John Butler would be a head coach within five years. While I still wouldn’t be shocked if that happened, he wasn’t as successful as I expected in his first — and only — season running Penn State’s defense. There are a few people who dislike both me and Butler who likely love that I wrote that article and talked him up as much as I did.

It’s one of the beautiful things about sports that despite all of the information and data readily available, we can still get stuff so wrong.

The thing is though, Freeman didn’t simply get predictions wrong. Had he wrote something like ‘Trent Cole will record less than five sacks and struggle transitioning to linebacker in a 3-4 defense after playing defensive end in a 4-3 for eight seasons,’ I could let him off the hook, but these aren’t incorrect prognostications. It’s a bunch of half-assed, uninformed, logical fallacies that could be thrown together in 15 minutes and does nothing to inform readers.

The worst part is should Freeman ever come across this, he’ll treat it as ‘Punk TwentySomething Takes Shot at Established Writer,’ and the exact same type of lazy journalism will be produced again and again.

Deep breath. We’re done, right? Nope. But Drew, that was the end of the article. What else could there possibly be to say here?

I don’t know, maybe that the buffoon DIDN’T MENTION NICK FOLES ONCE?!?!?!

Matt Barkley, a fourth round rookie coming off a separated shoulder taking third-team reps a month earlier in minicamp was referenced twice while Freeman pretended that Foles didn’t exist.

As surprising as Foles’ season was, it didn’t come completely out of nowhere. Foles quarterbacked the team for seven games in 2012, and while he didn’t win many contests, he did throw for six touchdown passes to only five interceptions and completed 60.8 percent of his passes as a rookie.

Perhaps more relevant, Foles and Vick split first-team reps evenly all throughout minicamp. While Vick may have been the perceived favorite, Foles pushed hard enough that Vick requested to no avail that Kelly name a starter going into training camp.

Apparently, Freeman chose to ignore all that. I guess someone eventually clued him in on who Foles was though because we got this hot garbage after Foles tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes against the Raiders.

Go screw, Mike. Go screw, and I’d leave these two clips off your resume.

Freeman Resume

It is Time for Ruben Amaro to Act Like a GM Instead of a Fan

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat:

Ruben Amaro is not as bad of a general manager as you think he is.

Sports may be a “show me/what have you done for me lately?” business, but in order to evaluate the job performance of the Phillies GM since he inherited the gig in November 2008 fairly and in a non-scorching take manner, we need to look at the big picture and remember 2009-2011.

It may feel like eons ago now, but Amaro once turned a 92-win team into a 93-win team. He then followed that up overseeing a squad that won 97 games before topping out with 102 victories in 2011.

Appreciate that number for a second while allowing the next paragraph to sink in.

Since then, no team in Major League Baseball has finished the regular season with more than 98 wins. The last National League club other than those 2011 Phillies to reach the 100-win mark goes all the way back to the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals.

During the aforementioned time frame, there was no shortage of good moves made by Amaro. Even though he was a drag on the lineup by the time his contract expired after 2011, replacing Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez proved to be the right call. The Cliff Lee trade in July 2009 was highway robbery.

By not giving into J.P. Ricciardi’s outrageous asking price for Roy Halladay, Amaro essentially got the Blue Jays GM fired at the end of the season. Two months later, he got his man anyway. Not one player moved in either of those deals has gone on to have any type of successful MLB career.

While they weren’t the slam dunk trades that Lee and Halladay were, he essentially got Ed Wade fired for the Roy Oswalt and the Hunter Pence deals too.

Trading Cliff Lee to the Mariners on the day Halladay was acquired proved to be a disaster, but Amaro had way more hits than misses during that three-year span.

Travel back to December 14, 2010 when Lee spurned the Yankees and came back to Philadelphia. I guarantee that I could go back and find a ton of tweets from everyone talking about what a great job Amaro was doing as a general manager.

I’m not going to do that because it’s a waste of everyone’s time. I’m not the baseball Twitter police, and this is a blog post, not some in-depth investigative piece, but if you can honestly tell me that you never believed Amaro was a good GM between 2009 and 2011, reach out to me. I’ll take your word for it, but I’ll also be incredibly surprised.

The problem obviously is despite the increase in regular season wins each year, the Phillies never hoisted the World Series trophy again. Those 2009, 2010, and 2011 squads were not without their flaws, but they were certainly capable of winning 11 games in October.

I often wonder how differently Amaro might be perceived had they won again. If Cole Hamels was his typical self against the Yankees, if Ryan Howard lifted the bat off his shoulder when facing Brian Wilson, if Cliff Lee — one of the greatest big-game pitchers of this generation — had just protected a 4-0 lead against the Cardinals. The trophy case would be more crowded, and Amaro would have one to call his own.

In many ways, the odds were stacked against Amaro to sustain the success of 2008. The Phillies were on top of the baseball world, and aside from the 1998-2000 Yankees and 1992-1993 Blue Jays, teams don’t repeat. Furthermore, Amaro had inherited the keys from one of the best ever in Pat Gillick.

The architect behind the aforementioned Blue Jays repeat, he always left a team better than he found it, and teams always got worse once he decided to move on. Even though he’s now 76 years old, I’m honestly surprised no struggling club has tried to lure him with a lucrative offer to work his magic one more time.

What Amaro did during his first three years was impressive, but as the final result got worse each year, a troubling theme sticks out.

Just about all of the good decisions were big-name moves. When handed a very good team, Amaro has no trouble adding another piece come late July, but when the foundation begins to leak as it did in 2012 and 2013, he doesn’t know how to fix it.

It’s kinda like a driver who knows how to operate the vehicle but is awful with directions. He can fly down I-95 no problem, but once he gets off at the exit for Center City and has to navigate downtown Philadelphia streets, he’s lost and just praying the GPS gets him to his destination.

More to the headline, he begins behaving like a nostalgic fan instead of remembering that his actual job is to make smart baseball decisions that might annoy your 2008 apologists who believe everyone is above reproach because they delivered a championship a half decade ago.

When the tables are turned and Amaro is the seller, he’s either getting fleeced with the July 2012 Hunter Pence trade to the Giants, curling up into a ball and doing nothing last summer, and last but certainly not least, doubling down on old players who are now a shell of their former selves, but Amaro remembers the good ole days and dammit, he’s not loosening his grip no matter how hard the game pulls.

Not all of these individual moves are bad ones. Chase Utley is still sabermetrically one of the best players in the game. The contract extension handed to him last July looks alright.

A lot of Phillies fans have this confirmation bias at work whenever Amaro does anything. It goes something like:

I think Ruben Amaro sucks, and I can rattle off past decisions he’s made that sucked, so I’m going to look for any reason possible to say this particular move sucks because I think Ruben Amaro sucks. 

That’s not the case. Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett — while certainly playing into the old narrative — have been very good signings.

The real issue is that Amaro has inspired no confidence that he has a any type of long-term vision and is simply trying to catch lightning in a bottle as the lid gets tighter and tighter.

A spontaneous go with the flow and let the chips fall where they may lifestyle can be fun, but when running a sports franchise, you need a blueprint.

As the crowds at Citizens Bank Park get smaller and the calls for his head get louder, it’s somewhat understandable from a human nature standpoint that Amaro doesn’t want to undergo a full rebuilding process considering his contract only runs through the 2015 season.

That reasoning is good enough in late May. No one blows it up 47 games into a season, however that won’t be good enough come late July.

Between now and then, the Phillies ownership needs to approach Amaro with a loaded yet valid question:

WHAT’S YOUR PLAN? 

If Amaro presents a realistic strategy, he should be given ownership’s blessing and promised that his job is secure through the length of his deal.

A franchise cannot be completely turned around in a year, but there will be signs to determine whether or not progress is being made when evaluating Amaro’s future.

I’m not paid a hefty salary to come up with a plan, and I haven’t really begun studying prospects that I would want back in trades, but let’s start with Cliff Lee — one of my favorite athletes of all time. If this injury is just a minor blip and Lee is back and effective, he’s the type of player who could bring you back a couple of guys that go on to be future franchise cornerstones.

Jonathan Papelbon is pitching well enough that a contending team would be willing to overlook the salary and give a decent return. Jimmy Rollins — if willing to waive his no-trade clause — is having a good enough season to fetch something back. The list goes on with similar players like this.

The one wildcard here is Utley. CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury has a solid piece on just that topic today where he advocates for pulling the trigger if the right offer comes along. Salisbury, in my opinion, is the best on the Phillies beat, and 10 months ago, I would have completely agreed with him, but now I’m not so sure. Even at age 35, Utley looks like a guy you could rebuild a team around.

Either way, the worst thing that can possibly happen in two months is a repeat of last year where Amaro sits on his hands and does nothing — Another year of prolonging the inevitable as the wheels spin but the car remains stuck in mud.

If ownership is convinced that he has no plan after speaking with him, then it’s time for them to move on rather than accepting the status quo.

Amaro has shown in the past that he can be a competent general manager.

Quite simply, it is time for Ruben Amaro to do his job, and if he won’t, it is time for the Phillies to find someone else who will.