Yankees Offseason/early 2012 preview

Hey everyone! I am very sorry for not yet posting anything since last December. A lot has happened withe Yankees  since my last post. Here’s a look at some of the off season moves and how 2012 looks for the bombers.

Since 2009 the New York Yankees have had one prospect that seemingly every team in the league wanted to get their hands on. That prospect was none other than Catcher/DH Jesus Montero who ironically was considered by some of the Yankee’s ownership as the savior of the organization. Montero who is only 22 years old has already shown that he is a monster with a bat in his hand. In only 18 games last season the Phenom had 4 HR’s ,12 RBI’s and a BAA of .328 . In most of these games he played as a DH instead of behind the plate. What the 2011 Yankees had in hitting they lacked in their pitching staff. Because of their poor pitching GM Brian Cashman felt that it was a necessity for the team to add at least 2 more arms to its starting rotation.  So on January 14th 2012 in a trade with the Seattle Mariners the Yankees parted ways with their coveted prospect in exchange for a young 23-year-old SP by the name of Michael Pineda. Pineda like Montero had been the prized possession in the Seattle farm system, standing at a towering 6’7 ” Pineda can reach speeds upwards of 99 mph on the radar gun and features a slider that breaks in hard on Left Handed batters. Along with the acquiring   of Pineda the team also sign RHP Hiroki Kuroda who spent the 2011 season in LA with the Dodgers. The 36-year-old Kuroda is a native of Japan and has been in the majors for 3 seasons. Kuroda is not a pitcher that will over power hitters like Pineda will but will instead use strategy and movement with his pitches to fool hitters. His numbers weren’t too shabby with a career ERA of 3.45 2011 was not an awful year by any means for Kuroda. With a 13-16 record and an ERA of 3.07 Hiroki should really benefit from the Yankees offense that is much stronger and more reliable than the bats in LA.

(Left) Pineda and (Right) Kuroda

With the addition of these two arms Manager Joe Giaradi will have some flexibility on how he wants to set up his rotation. Here’s how I would do it if I were in his shoes.

The Rotation:

  1. CC Sabathia LHP : He’s the ACE you’ve gotta put him as your leader
  2. Ivan Nova RHP: Still young Nova proved himself last season
  3. Michael Pineda RHP: The big acquisition,Pineda will have to show he was worth the price of Montero
  4. Hiroki Kuroda RHP: Coming over from the NL his number should dip somewhat but will feel comfortable with Yankees bats behind him
  5. Either AJ Burnett or Phil Hughes : Both Hughes and Burnett had seasons to forget in 2011. Hughes only pitched in 17 games battling with injures throughout the season while Burnett had most of the Yankees Universe asking for his departure. This will be a Spring training decision.

After the Starting rotation the Yankees have one of the stronger bullpens returning from 2011. With old reliable Mariano in the closer role along with Dave Robertson , Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain to set up and even a core group of lefty specialists like Boone Logan,Pedro Feliciano.

As for the lineup and fielding spots here’s my picks.

The Lineup:

  1. SS Derek Jeter :Still captain clutch and continuing to prove his doubters and skeptics wrong look for Jeter to at least start this season 1st in the order
  2. CF Curtis Granderson: Coming off of an MVP caliber season Granderson is a solid lock at 2nd in the order
  3. 1B Mark Texiera: solid, still one of the best in the order
  4. 2B Robinson Cano: Yes I have Cano at 4 over AROD simply because of recent history and potential, Cano will be in the MVP race in 2012
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez: Like Tex he is still one of the better players in the game with the bat but not the same in the field which is why there is a DH next to his name
  6. RF Nick Swisher: A down year in 2011 swish has a lot to prove in 2012
  7. C Russell Martin: Will start the year as the as the number 1 Catcher on the roster but the development of Austin Romine will be something watch
  8. 3B Eduardo Nunez: He earned his spot last season and will be a sight to see in 2012, the latest infielder to come from the farm system
  9. LF Brett Gardner: He will get reps at the leadoff spot but for now he is batting at the end of the order.

As for the season itself I like the Yankees to perform at high level in 2012. They have proven that they can beat the Nation to the north and should be the winners of the AL East if all goes as planned.

What I will also say about 2012 is that like in 2007 the team will showcase and feature young talented arms. Back in 07 it was Joba Chamberlain , Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy that showcased their talents for the Yankee Universe, now guys like RHP Dellin Batances,RHP D.J. Mitchell and C Austin Romine will showcase their talents and cor=tribute to not only;y this team but also for teams to come in the future.

BCS Bowl Picks

NOTE: (This post was meant to be published on December 29th but due to problems with posting I was unable to get it up until today enjoy !)

Hey everyone ! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!! I apologize for not posting anything in ages but like all of you I have been busy. Anyway the BCS games are here and I as you can imagine am all pumped up not only cause Virginia Tech found their way into the Sugar Bowl with Michigan but also for the rest of the games. From the Orange Bowl, Clemson vs West Virginia to the Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma State vs Stanford nearly every BCS game has the potential to be an instant classic! In addition to the 4 BCS Bowls there is also a game I am calling the “Snub Bowl”… aka the Cotton Bowl featuring Kansas State and Arkansas, two teams that could easily compete with any of the 8 teams in BCS Bowls.

We’ll pick the games in order of when they will be played so it’ll start with the “Grand Daddy of them all” the Rose Bowl with Wisconsin taking on Oregon.

Rose Bowl:Oregon vs Wisconsin, January 2nd 2012 @ 5pm:

The ultimate contrast in styles. You get a classic Big 10 power vs PAC 12 speed matchup. For Wisconsin it’s going to be all about running the ball down Oregon’s throat. They should be able to this against Oregon’s 45th ranked rush defense allowing 137 ypg on the ground. For Oregon its going to be their quickness and athleticism on offense. But more specifically the Ducks will have to capitalize on early opportunities, moving the ball shouldn’t be a problem with their 5th ranked offense that moves for an average of 515 ypg. I believe this game will be high scoring but will go to an overall better Wisconsin team. WISCONSIN

Fiesta Bowl:Stanford vs Oklahoma State,Janurary 2nd 2012 @ 8:30 pm :

The 3rd and 4th ranked teams in the BCS Standings. Oklahoma State was 6 points away from playing LSU in the National Championship game. However they will settle for the tough challenge of facing the highly regarded Stanford Cardinal and their QB Andrew Luck. I expect Stanford to win simply because of the weakness of Oklahoma State’s defense. With that said the Cowboys brilliant tandem of QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon will be tested like never before with a tough and experienced Cardinal defense. So the pick from me is the Cardinal in Andrew Luck’s final collegiate game. STANFORD

Sugar Bowl: Virginia Tech vs Michigan,January 3rd 2012 @ 8:30 pm:

On Selection Sunday for the BCS bowls I like many members of Hokie Nation was glued to the message boards on TSL (Techsideline.com) for the latest news. Once wind off the Sugar Bowl came out I felt two things.. 1. Holy crap is this really happening? 2. YES a BCS Bowl ! But what the “Experts” on ESPN are saying about VT not being worthy or deserving let me ask you What the Hell has Michigan done ??? They lost to a weak Iowa team and a decent/ above average Michigan State. Sure they beat Nebraska but the Hokies only lost to one team all season. As a VT fan I am loving the role of the Underdog simply because in recent years Tech has been listed as the favorite and been embarrassed. This year I believe Tech will rain on the Wolverines parade in what will likely be RB David Wilson and CB Jayron Hosley’s last game in the Maroon and Orange Tech will triumph in the national spotlight. VIRGINIA TECH

Orange Bowl: Clemson vs West Virginia,January 4th 2012 @ 8:30 pm:

The classic ACC vs Big “Least” matchup. Clemson started and finished the year strong but had a few crucial mishaps in the middle portion of the season. West Virginia on the other hand is the best of the losers that currently make up the Big East.  The Mountaineers had a tough matchup with LSU early in the year and went on to fall 2 more times over the coarse of the season. I like Clemson big time in this matchup even though WVU is 7th in passing yards per game (341.8 yards) I feel that the Tigers rushing attack and speed will just dominate the weak Mountaineers. CLEMSON

Cotton Bowl:Kansas State vs Arkansas,January 6th 2012 @ 8 pm:

Two teams that should be in the BCS will square off in the legendary Cotton Bowl. Both schools will bring busloads of people to nearby Cowboys Stadium in Dallas making for a very loud and hectic environment. The game will come down to the 3rd phase… not offense nor defense but each team special units. And the clear advantage in that category goes in the way of the Razorbacks with WR Joe Adams returning punts for the Hogs look for him to get his 4th Return for a TD.It also helps that Arkansas lost to the two titans playing for the crystal ball (Bama and LSU). ARKANSAS

BCS National Championship Game: Alabama vs LSU, January 9th 2012 @ 8:30 pm:

The epic and highly anticipated rematch of the game many referred to as the “Game of the Century”, Bama and LSY finally meet again. What people took away from this amazing battle the 1st time around was that Defense does indeed win games and championships. Both LSU and Alabama are ranked either 1st or 2nd in nearly every defensive category in the country. This stalemate between defenses and the shutting down of the opposing offense the game came down to the special teams units of the 1st and 2nd ranked teams. The advantage fell in the favor of the Bayou Bengals who went on the win the game after kicking woes from the Tide. I expect a very similar game the 2nd time around but I do see one difference… A TD will be scored maybe not by the offense but perhaps by one of the incredible punt returners. Between the Tigers’ Tyrann “Honeybadger” Mathieu and the Tide’s Marquis Maze don’t be surprised if you see multiple TD’s in the return game by either team. Now for the moment of truth; and THE PICK is LSU! LSU

2011 College Football Awards

Before I get started with this post I would like to take the time to address to things. 1. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the recent shooting at Virginia Tech. and 2. I have nothing to say about Tech’s awful loss to Clemson but I can say that for the 1st time ever a team has won by losing.

The annual college football awards settle all the arguments… Whose the best QB? RB? WR? DB? LB? OL/DL? and outstanding player? These answers will be addressed tonight when the college football universe declares its best at each individual position.Today we’re gonna run through the many awards and give our predictions. Let’s start with the Bednarik Award

Chuck Bednarik Award (Best defensive player): There are 3 finalists for the award: Tyrann Mathieu,LSU; Donta’ Hightower,Bama; Devon Still,Penn State. In other words there is only 1 Finalist for the award…. THE HONEY BADGER. Mathieu has not only been the best defensive player in the country but also is in the race for the Heisman Trophy ! Honey Badger should win by a landslide.

Biletnikoff Award (Best WR): Comes down to 3 awesome play makers who will all be major impacts in the pros. You’ve got Justin Blackmon from Ok. State, Ryan Broyles from Oklahoma and Robert Woods from USC. Look at it this way… Broyles is hurt so he is out for me, Woods plays for USC who is under serious NCAA probation and they are not able to be ranked knocking him out leaving only 1 superstar, Justin Blackmon. If he doesn’t declare for the draft (Highly unlikely) will be Heisman frontrunner in 2012.

Davey O’Brien Award (Best QB): Like the Biletnikoff it features 3 absolute monsters. Andrew Luck out of Stanford, Case Keenum from Houston and my personal favorite RG III, Robert Griffin III from Baylor. All 3 are straight up gunslingers that want to throw until their arms fall off. This will come down to numbers not all time (Keenum would win 18,312 career passing yards) but this season. The stats are Completion %,TD’s and passer rating. All of the numbers point to Griffin. Sure Luck is going to be the number 1 overall pick in the draft and people love him but Griffin had better numbers and won. Also he showed up in the tight situations that Luck failed in.

RG III

Doak Walker Award (Best RB) Again 3 finalists but all 3 bring very different styles to the table. There’s power with Wisconsin’s big back Monte Ball who has rushed for an astounding 32 TD’s this season with over 1,700 yards gained. On the lopsided theres

Hokies and Wahoos playing for more than bragging rights

With 8 seconds left on the game clock in Doak Campbell Stadium Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins lined up for a 43 yard field goal attempt that would give the Seminoles a victory over the Cavaliers of UVA. For only the 4th time all year Hopkins missed the kick wide right. The impact of this missed field goal could be felt not only in the Sunshine State but also in the great state of Virginia 625 miles away in Blacksburg. The impact can be characterized as both one of joy and one of fear. Joy because it means that the annual game between VT and UVA will have bigger implications than in recent years. Fear because of what can happen to the Hokies season with a loss to UVA, something that hasn’t happened in 2,550 days (That’s 7 years ! )

Davon Morgan and friends celebrate 2010 Cup win

Last years game as seen in the photo above was played in Blacksburg and won by the Hokies 37 – 7. Even though the Hokies have dominated the rivalry a lot has changed since the last time these two met. In the off season UVA and coach Mike London dominated the state of Virginia in recruiting. Taking recruits like CB Demetrious Nicholson , RB Clifton Richardson and WR Dominique Terrell from the tidewater/ Virginia Beach region of the state that the Hokies have been controlling for years. Nicholson has been the most productive of the group with 50 tackles and 2 interceptions coming into Saturdays game. This early production is only a sign of whats to come of the Hoos 2011 recruiting class.

Nicholson is one of many players thriving in Mike London’s defensive scheme that is ranked 28th in the nation for points allowed per game(20.1). Led by junior LB Steve Greer, who has 94 tackles on the season, the Cavs have used speed and athletisim to mess with the opposing QB especially in the red zone. Another bright spot for UVA has been the play of QB Mike Rocco and RB Perry Jones who have each provided sparks when their team needs them most. Look for Jones to have a tough day going against a Hokies defense that has allowed and average of 3

Perry Jones

.3 yards per carry this season. UVA will have a shot to upset their hated rivals and win more than just the Commonwealth Cup.

For the Hokies to avoid the upset and the embarrassment that the Cavs are planning to give them they must do 3 things perfectly.

  1. Don’t go for the big hit just make the tackle: The Hokies have struggled with wrapping up ball carriers this season and it has lead to big runs and plays. Fortunately this only happens a few times over the course of a game but it usually results in a score for the opposition.
  2. The O-LINE must buy some time for Logan Thomas: In Tech’s Thursday night win over UNC Logan Thomas was outside of the pocket more than he was inside of it, Sure he works well on edge and utilizes his feet but he would benefit greatly with a few extra seconds to make a clear decision on where to throw the ball. A sloppy game by the big boys up front would be fatal to Techs chances.
  3. Don’t be complacent: So many times when a team is ranked highly and predicted to win by many experts they become happy or content with what they have and don’t strive for more. It’s what knocked my own High School team out of the playoffs this year and its what can certainly destroy any hopes that the Hokies have of an ACC Championship and a BCS Bowl appearance.

The Hokies should win this game with the play of David Wilson and Logan Thomas in recent weeks. Sure UVA’ s defense has been pretty good and they have a lot of momentum building to the game but they have yet to see a QB of Thomas’ size, speed and athleticism. Tech will have to play perfect and score early silencing the Wahoowaa in Charlottesville and crushing any hopes that they have of an upset.

My prediction is that the Hokies will win over UVA for the 8th straight year but it will be very very close and could come down to the final minutes of the game. Techs special teams will give them the slight edge and the leg of Kicker Cody Jounell will show the country that the Hokies do belong (something that Oregon, Oklahoma State and Alabama failed to do).

In addition to predicting this game I also have some picks on the other rivalry games of week 13

Arkansas will beat LSU on their home field.

Auburn will beat Alabama in Auburn in what will be the best Iron Bowl to date.

Oklahoma State will beat Oklahoma in Bedlam

If my 1st two picks are right look for the Hokies to move into the top 3 with a realistic shot at a BCS Championship game berth. But for any of that to happen Tech must 1st take care of UVA and maintain control of the Commonwealth Cup.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and enjoy your football weekend !

 

Joe Pa out, Cardinal vs Ducks and Logan Thomas is the BIG man on Campus

There is so much to talk about in the college football universe. Between the firing of the legendary Joe Paterno to this weeks monster matchup in the PAC 12 this week, 4 Stanford vs 7 Oregon and even the Hokies win on Thursday night and the career nights of RB David Wilson and QB Logan Thomas. We’ll start with the hot button topic of Joe Pa’s exit at Penn State.

Paterno and Sandusky

For 46 years Joe Paterno has not only been the face of Penn State football but also one of the great figureheads in college football. He is up there with Bear Bryant ,Bobby Bowden, and Woody Hayes on the Mount Rushmore of College Football coaches. He has 409 wins overall as head coach and has built  a  prestigious program out of nothing. But it has all been overshadowed by one bad decision that he made or one that he didn’t make when he knew of longtime assistant coach and defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s behaviors and horrific actions with little boys no older than 10 years of age. I won’t go into detail with the story because it seems to be changing every minute and it is also known by everyone. But the real question with the whole mess lies with the board of trustees’ (Who were appointed by Paterno) decision to relieve Joe Pa of his duties is justified. There are two ways to look at it… He did do the right thing according top the law by reporting it to his superior but morally he failed miserably and is now paying the price for it, granted that Paterno was close to retirement anyways being 84 years old and having to coach from the press box over looking the field of play. This incident will have an impact on the athletics of Penn State and the university as a whole this whole event deeply saddens everyone. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this horrific event.

On a happier not we now move to the monster game tonight in the PAC 12 between the only 2 teams of relevance in the conference, the Stanford Cardinal and the Oregon Ducks. These two teams are complete opposites of each other in the way they play the game, the types of players that they recruit and in their mentalities. The Ducks are a fast paced team that runs the spread offense. Everything from their erratic style to their endless number of uniform combinations makes them an exciting team to watch especially with QB Darron Thomas and RB LaMichael James in the backfield. The team in the opposite side , Stanford is based on power and traditional football. The star power of QB Andrew Luck (who will be a future 1st overall selection in the NFL draft either this year or next) and the use of big physical TE ‘s  like Coby Fleener who measures up at 6’6 244lbs has 8 TD’s this season. This game will be close (tonight on ABC @  8pm eastern time) but like Lee Corso I think that Stanford’s experience and leadership will payoff and get them a home victory over the Ducks.

Fear the Tree

 

And now for the Hokie topic of the post… Coming into the season people of Hokie natoin didn’t know what to expect from 1st year starting QB Logan Thomas. Would he live up to his 5 star recruit hype ? or would he be a total bust and be forced back to a TE or WR role ? The answer has been yes to the 1st statement has Thomas has passed all tests (with the exception of Clemson) with flying colors. throwing for over 2000 yards and having a QB rating of 140.3 Thomas is showing why I made suck a big deal about him back when I used to do “Hokie Updates” in 2008 (https://mattburrill.wordpress.com/2008/11/09/hokie-update/). Lets look at Thomas from a defense players perspective. He stands at 6’6 weighs 260 lbs and runs a 4.6 40 ?!?! Impossible is usually the explanation when these stats or attributes get put together but not for Thomas who is only in his Sophomore year giving him up to 2 more years as a Hokie! His size and speed has made him a running threat an automatic go to guy in 3rd or 4th and short situations. To back it up Logan has rushed for 335 yards (3.4 yard average) and scored 8 times by using his legs this season .The other reason for Thomas’ success is the other guys around especially RB David Wilson who like Thomas had a career night in Atlanta.  Wilson who got virtually no carries a season ago splitting time with now NFL players Ryan Williams and Darren Evans has shown that he belongs here. Rushing for 1360 yards so far (175 on Thursday). David Wilson is getting some Heisman Trophy looks as maybe a 3rd or 4th candidate, his chances will depend on the Hokies success moving into critical matchups with ACC opponents UNC and UVA to end the season. The Hokies will next play on Thursday Night Football this week on ESPN @ 8 pm in the Hell Hole they call Lane Stadium.

I have found highlights of Tech’s Triumph over the Yellow Jackets courtesy of thePhreakofVT on youtube… enjoy !

 

 

The never ending trend of conference expansion

Back in the early days of college football everything was simple. Students formed clubs that eventually became teams formed by students in the same class (such as “Bloody Monday” at Harvard, a game between the Sophomore and Freshman classes). This trend also hit the university of Dartmouth and continued spreading throughout the Northeast region of the country. Meanwhile similar games were being played in the south in places like Auburn, Georgia and Virginia.

As the game developed around the country schools got tired of playing against themselves and decided to expand their horizons and start playing against other schools with football teams in the region/area. The 1st ever game between two schools took place in the state of New Jersey on November 6th 1869 when Rutgers and Princeton Universities. The two schools located just 37. 1 miles away from each other developed a series and became rivals. The following year Columbia University joined the series which prompted Yale University and Stevens Institute of Technology to form a league or  an early type of conference.

As time went on  football expanded to the west to the University of Michigan in 1879. What started in Ann Arbor quickly spread to places like Chicago (Chicago University and Northwestern University) and Minnesota (Minnesota University). These for schools along with Illinois , Wisconsin and Purdue formed the earliest conference, the “Western Conference”  in 1896 . The conference lasted 3 years before it accepted Iowa and Indiana changing its name to the Big 9 and later the Big 10 once Ohio State joined in 1912.  After a few changes like the swapping of Chicago University and Michigan State in 1949 and the addition of Penn State in 1990 the BIG 10 looked like it was done expanding until last season when they added Nebraska.

My reasoning for going into that much detail over the Big 10 is that all of the teams are in reasonable distance from each other. This not only makes it easier for the fans but also easier for the teams and it helps develop the great rivalries of today. Look at Michigan vs Ohio State for example … The states border each other which provides an automatic rivalry and with conference play it guarantees that they will always play each other every year. Here’s a look at an updated map of how conferences break down by region.

FBS Wiki Map

As you can see the colors are keys for the conference the particular school is affiliated with. For those who can’t see well here are the color codes for the conferences… ACC , Big 10 , Big 12 ,Big East , Pac 12 ,SEC , Independents, Mountain West, WAC , MAC , C-USA and Sun Belt.

Now for some more analysis… In the past weeks the talks of more conference expansion in the FBS Universe have really picked up. From the ACC to the SEC to even the idea that the BIG 12 may be coming to an end. We’ll start with the most recent report of an expansion to the Atlantic Coastal Conference and the likely acceptance of Pittsburgh and Syracuse …

Can anyone tell me where Syracuse and Pittsburgh are located ? If you said ACC Country or near other ACC schools you couldn’t have been more incorrect. Sure they’re both on the east coast but still they geographically belong where they are in the Big East conference. This wouldn’t be the 1st conference expansion move that the ACC would screw up. Back in July of 2005 the brilliant scholars who head the ACC committee/ board accepted an application from a team that wanted to join their conference. This team is located just 752 MILES away from the HQ in Greensboro, NC. That team is none other than Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass. The school qualifies for the ACC by level of competition, Academics and school size but is not in ACC Country. Although it does open up the ACC to the New England market I don’t think that the fans in the Northeast wanna see Virginia Tech play UNC or any team below or near the Mason Dixon line for that matter. I know that there are plenty of arguments for the ACC to accept Pitt and Syracuse, I mean as a fan of  an ACC team like the Hokies that lives in a Syracuse market (NY) I should be loving this move but as a fan of College Football as a whole and a writer I don’t like where this whole expansion thing is headed. Which leads me to my next point the possibility of losing the BIG 12.  

ACC Map

 
The BIG 12 conference had been a major power in College Football for as long as I can remember. With teams like Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. But now all 4 of those powerhouse teams may be jumping on board with the other teams who are swapping conferences. The conference has already lost 2 teams (Colorado to PAC 12 and Nebraska to BIG 10) and may be losing up to 5 or 6 more teams depending on upcoming meetings. This could mean the addition of smaller level teams like Houston,SMU , UTEP or even Tulsa. This whole thing in a way has a whole ironic twist to it ; Because the BIG 12, the conference that may be destroyed as a result of conference expansion was actually built by the falling of two major conferences in the southwest and midwest regions that it is currently made up of. All of the BIG 12’s current members either belonged to the BIG 8 conference (Oklahoma, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Kansas State) and the Southwest Conference (Texas,Baylor,Texas A&M and Texas Tech). So I guess it is true that what comes around does come around.
 
Overall as you can tell I am not the biggest supporter of Conference Expansion. I firmly believe that conferences , leagues and divisions should be based on the region/location of the school. Look at the names of conferences…  PAC 12 (Pacific Athletic Conference), ACC (Atlantic Coastal Conference), BIG East (Eastern Conference). It is that reason and that reason only that I am opposed to teams joining and forming super conferences. Now that you’ve heard my side I wanna hear yours so comment and tell me if I’m right or wrong and vote in the poll provided.