Sunday, April 29, 2012

Life Hates Me

I was at the cabin all weekend winning at pulltabs and now work is kicking my ass so I got nothing right now.  I'll put up a post either tomorrow or the next day.  As an apology here's a picture that made me laugh.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's Going to be a Long Summer

There's a reason, outside of my debilitating illness, why I haven't been posting as much this baseball season as usual and it's pretty simple - this pitching staff sucks to the point where, even if the offense has a monster game, they still have a pretty damn good shot of losing.  It's gotten to the point where when Liam Hendriks didn't allow a run in the first inning tonight it actually sparked a conversation between me and Luxembourg (Luxembourg is my imaginary pet goat who wears a top hat and monocle and is quite fond of British slang."  I was all like, "whoa, I can't believe the Twins got out of the first without giving up a run" and Lux was all like, "Well old bean, I'm pretty sure this tosser is a bit of a dab hand at knobbin up the easy-peasy, so I wouldn't exactly be gobsmacked when he cocks up this one."  and I was like, "damn straight, goat."

Anyway, my imaginary limey goat is not really the point, the point is how freaking bad this team's pitching staff is.  I mean you got a bunch of soft-tossing noodle-arms and and the one guy who can actually bring the good stuff is more terrified of throwing the ball over the plate than that one guy from Teen Wolf who pees himself when he dad wolf gets up in his face.  I mean seriously, look at these average fastball speeds:  Blackburn - 90.3mph, Marquis - 88.7mph, Hendriks - 90.1mph, Pavano - 86.3mph.  What.  The.  Frunk?  Doesn't it almost have to be intentional to assemble this murderer's row of girly throwers? 

And no, you don't necessarily have to throw hard to have success and I get that, Jered Weaver and Dan Haren don't throw hard but are a couple of the best in the league, and teams like the Giants and D-Backs have success despite not having many burners on staff, but you still have to people to throw your fastball effectively.  According to fangraphs the Twins' fastballs collectively had been 18 runs worse than average this year - second worst in the majors behind Kansas City.  And they also rank in the bottom half of the league in every other pitch, including change-up which I thought was like the one thing they were supposed to be able to do.  I'm going to go ahead and say that's not good.

And even when the starting pitcher manages not to stick his own dick up his ass there's always the bullpen to put the ball on the Tee.  The team has all of three quality starts so far - one by Hendriks and two by Pavano.  In those three, the Twins lost after Glen Perkins got more hammered than your mom at a frat party, they lost because they couldn't hit (at all) against Shields, and they actually beat the Yankees.  Ok that was less dramatic than I thought but the bullpen still really sucks.

What's really sweet is Fangraphs gives every player a value in WAR (which stands for Wins above Replacement which means how many wins a player is worth over a random AAA player) and if you were to look at the Twins bullpen right now, Brian Duensing and Alex Burnett are the only two who have been better than a AAA dude this year, and we know Burnett sucks in real life and there's zero chance that stays accurate.  In fact, on the entire team it's just those two and Pavano and Blackburn who rank above 0 and all four of them just barely make the cut.  Honestly what this all means is is you could give me a list of all AAA pitchers in the majors with the best prospects crossed off, and I could spread it out on the floor and let Luxembourg just start pooping, and take the first 12 names he pooped on and make them my pitching staff and they'd probably end up just as good, if not a little better, than the Twins collection of ball hurlers. 

Read that shit again.  A random collection of AAA pitchers, picked out by Mrs. WWWWWW picking out names that sound hot, are probably as good or better than the Twins' pitching staff.  There are positives I'd love to dwell on - Mauer, Morneau, and Span look like they're back, Willingham has been unstoppable, and that's the whole list but it's something, but I can't get passed this pitching staff.  Do you realize I just wrote like four paragraphs on how bad their pitching is without doing anything other than barely mentioning Liriano, who is the poster boy for sucktastic disappointmentitude?  Seriously this entire stupid season is stupid and I hope there's a strike or something or at least an earthquake. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I'm Dying

I've been deathly ill for the last two days, thus the lack of postings.  I'm starting to think I might be turning a corner.  If that's the case I'll have something up tomorrow night.  In other words, if there's no post tomorrow I'm either dead or in the hospital.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday Wonderings

Finally managed a little time to get some thoughts down on paper or whatever you want to call it cybernerd, so I better get to typing before it's too late.  Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but work has really been kicking the ever-loving shit out of me the last two weeks.  Hopefully things will calm down after this weekend

-  The biggest news is that Trevor Mbakwe is officially back.

Obviously this is huge as he was the team's best player a year ago before going down to injury, and with Sampson (thankfully) gone he gives the team another inside presence besides Elliott Elliason and takes a lot of pressure off of Mo Walker's return (what's up with him anyway?).  Hopefully Mbakwe (and Walker) will be back at full strength for the season, which gives the team three capable big men along with Rodney Williams who can clearly play the four when need be.  Rodney is also the biggest driver of how far this team can go.  Mbakwe's return will push him back out to the perimeter for stretches, and with him thriving this year more in the post than on the wing how what will that do to his development?

If Williams can develop a reliable jumper (how many years have we been saying this) and keeps the confidence he gained this season in going to the rim this team can be a monster.  I feel confident in saying Andre Hollins is a rising star, and him, Mbakwe, and the good Williams give this team three legitimate threats to dominate a game at any one time, whether for stretches or in total.  Add in the late season improvement of Elliason, Austin Hollins, and Joe Coleman and the Gophers should by all rights be a top 4 Big 10 team with Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan.  Even without Mbakwe back they could have reached those heights with continued improvement, so expectations are high this year.

Of course, there's also the possibility that Williams still can't shoot and falls back into his old disappearing routine when Mbakwe is on the post.  I'd like to think any player capable of putting together the stretch of games Rodney did to finish out the year is incapable of completely regressing back to a full year ago's form, but I'm certainly not going to completely rule it out.  I have to say, without exaggeration, this looks to me like it could be the best Gopher team we've seen since Clem was framed and railroaded out of town.  I'm very interested to see how they break my heart into a million pieces this year.

-  Looking like Morneau is back, eh?  This Twins team keeps showing me just enough to keep me interested, which I guess I can't complain about since last year I was checked out by like June.  And yeah, maybe it's sad that locking up a guaranteed split is enough to get us all tingly in our nether parts and yeah, Matt Capps continues to be the worst pitcher in history (but at least he mixed in a couple non-fastballs this time), and yeah, there's no way this team can win without some kind of major shocker or something coming from the starting pitching, but you know what, I'm entertained so far.  No, I still can't tell you anything about the bullpen guys beyond Capps and Duensing, but I do at least know now that they have some guy named Burton, and that's a victory for the good guys.

-  If you've been reading this blog too long and have been keeping track of all the times I've been right (which shouldn't be too hard) you may remember this piece I posted on Zack Greinke back in May of 2010.  Greinke was coming off his historically awesome 2009 year and had gotten off to a slow start and, thanks to digging into some advanced metrics it was clear to me he wasn't the same pitcher and I traded him immediately in our fantasy league, which turned out to be the right move because he was basically a slightly above average pitcher in 2010.  Since I'm a genius, I will briefly look at Tim Lincecum since he's sucked this year and figure out if this is real or a mirage (I promise I'll be brief, this is a random thoughts post after all, not a Tim Lincecum post)

Red flag #1 is he stopped throwing his slider, I assume for arm health reasons but I tried to look it up and after 1 link that didn't say anything meaningful I was bored.  It's not always bad to give up a pitch if it's not working, but that slider was Timmy's second best pitch behind his change-up last year (although to be fair it's been mediocre through his career).  This can be fixed simply by throwing the slider again (he threw it 15% of the time last season), which I read he was going to start doing again.

Red flag #2 is an alarming drop in fastball velocity, from 92.3mph to 90.3mph.  This has resulted in fewer missed bats, particularly in the strike zone (batters make contact 93% of the time on balls in the zone this year compared to 84% last year).  This is resulting in a lot of line drives (29% compared to 19% in his career) and a greater number of fly balls going out of the park (17% of flyballs have been HRs this year compared to 8% in his career).

Unlike Greinke, however, I think Lincecum will be just fine.  Despite the above he's actually increased his strikeout rate while decreasing his walk rate, always a positive move for a pitcher.  He's also suffering from line drive rates and HR/flyball rates that would be historically bad, along with a BABIP of over .400 which would be the highest ever and is unsustainable.  Basically, unlike Greinke who had just faded a bit, you either believe Lincecum will right the ship and be just fine or you believe he's fallen off a cliff and is done.  I believe the former, and actually I think I'm going to go try to trade for him right now, brb.

-  Here are my thoughts on the NHL playoffs so far:

-  I find it interesting that although I like cheeseburgers, I find the very thought of cheeseburger pizza disgusting, while at the same time I love tacos and absolutely adore taco pizza.  Man I'm whacky. 

-  Finally, happy birthday to WonderbabyTM, four years old today and an awesome kid who loves gymnastics, baseball, The Legend of Zelda, and a whole bunch of girlie crap.  Hard to believe that when I started this blog I didn't even have a kid yet.  Wow, I've been doing this for a long time.  You'd think I would have gotten better at it at some point.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Week in Review - 4/16/2011

Feels like I haven't done one of these in a while, but in honor of baseball really getting going I figure I probably should.  But since I also didn't get started on this until 8pm on Sunday night, let's cut the chit-chat and just get down to business.  This isn't some romantic vacation on an island in some kind of awesome sweetwith rose petals and a jacuzzi with Luther Van Dross playing in the background, sweetheart.  


1.  Josh Willingham.  There are actually more positive Twins' things I could report on that I would have expected given that the team is 2-7 right now, but the #1 is clearly Willingham (let's not call him Willie, ok, it's super more annoying than any of the other -y nicknames) smacking the ball all over everywhere.  He leads the AL in home runs with four and has a hit in every single game this year and he's not getting lucky either - he's crushing the ball.  He leads the AL in OBP, slugging, and OPS.  It's at the point now where he hasn't hit a homer in the last three games and I'm wondering what's wrong.  With his bat humming, Denard Span with three multi-hit games already, and Liam Hendriks looking surprisingly feisty there are some decent signs of life here.  None of it will matter if Mauer and Morneau don't start hitting, the bullpen continues to refuse to get anybody out, and the starting pitching is mostly awful, but I'm looking for anything to latch on to here.  Plus, as a point in his favor, Mrs. W has quite the raging lady boner for Mr. Willingham, so that's a point in his favor.

2.  Matt Kemp.  So much for all that "slumping the year after a contract year" nonsense.  He had a career year last year, batting .324 and coming one home run shy of notching a 40-40 year and then signed a nice fat 8-year deal that is suddenly looking like it might be a bargain for LA.  Kemp currently leads the majors in batting average (.487), OBP (.523), slugging (1.023), OPS (1.548), home runs (6), RBI (16), runs (13), and hits (19).  He has one fewer home run than Justin Morneau has hits, with Mauer having just two more.  I don't know if he's back with Aaliyah or not back with Aaliyah or dating Bobby Brown or whatever, but it's doesn't really matter - I think Matt Kemp is officially the best player in baseball, other than Clete Thomas of course.

3.  Barry Zito.  What' more unexpected than Zito's complete game shutout in his first start this year?  How about him following that up with another quality start and now sits with a 1.13 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP.  The change?  He's abandoned his 84mph fastball, throwing only about a third of the time compared to over 50% most of his career, and starting throwing a slider with regularity.  Because he still has an 84mph fastball I doubt he can keep this up, particularly once players figure out that slider, but a starting rotation of Lincecum-Cain (1-hitter this week)-Bumgarner-Vogelsong-Zito would damn hard to touch.  If, you know, Lincecum didn't completely suck now - more on that later.

4. UCLA Bruins.  So I guess all the "UCLA won't be able to recruit anymore after that story on Howland/Reeves Nelson" is just so much bullshit, because they certainly didn't have any trouble this signing period.  The Bruins grabbed Shabazz Muhammad, the #1 recruit in the country according to Rivals and #2 according to ESPN, who now joins Kyle Anderson (#3/#5) and Jordan Adams (#62/#41) in giving UCLA ESPN's #3 class in the country, which would be #2 if Nerlens Noel had picked anywhere other than Kentucky.  Even more interesting, big man Tony Parker (#27/#26) is still out there and won't make his decision known until Friday, but it's thought to be down to UCLA (Tony's choice) or Georgia (Mom's choice) with Duke, Ohio State, and Kansas still officially in the mix.  If Parker picks UCLA the Bruins likely become the #1 class in the country and vault back into a national power.  So nice try Reeves, but you can't bring down a juggernaut.  Unless you're in a snow speeder and you use your tow cable, but even then you probably lose your co-pilot.  Poor Dak.  My favorite part of the story though is that Muhammad's sister, Asia, is a pro on the women's tennis tour.  She's ranked #386 on the tour with career earnings of $80k, yet she has a shoe deal with Adidas.  Adidas, who sponsors UCLA hoops.  Funny world, eh?

5.  Chip Armelin.  He wasn't awesome nor did he suck this week, but I need a spot to write about him so I'm sticking him here, seeing as how he's transferring and everything.  I've always liked Chip and thought his instant offense off the bench was important, as well as the fact that out of everybody on the team he seemed to be the only one who had confidence in his own offensive game and was willing to look for his own shot (although Coleman and Dre Hollins got there in the end).  In a normal offseason I would be really bummed about losing him, but if the choice is Armelin or Mbakwe you go Mbakwe every single time.  The reality was with Mbakwe back and Rodney not doing anything stupid you had a scholarship problem and somebody was going to have to leave.  There were 3 choices who wouldn't majorly kill the team - Armelin, Ahanmisi, and Ingram.  Because Ingram was going to be a senior and it's likely not many D-I schools would take Ahanmisi (or Ingram for that matter) I had always anticipated Armelin would be gone, and it sucks but was inevitable.  I wish him nothing but luck, and I fully expect him to end up averaging 15+ per game for somebody.  Seems like in these cases the player always ends up back in his home state and there's no shortage of schools in Louisiana.  So whoever - La Tech, Tulane, or even somewhere else like Texas or Arkansas or somewhere in that vicinity (my prediction) they're getting a good one.  I'll definitely miss that crazy ass lefty jumper no matter how much or little space he had to get it off, and there was nobody who was less shy about taking a heat check.  Godspeed, Chipper.  Godspeed.


1.  Matt Capps.  Thanks to Snacks for point this out to me, but when Cappsy tried like to hell to blow that save on Thursday against the Angels (you know, when the Angels went single-single-single to start the inning but came up one inning short) do you realize out of 23 pitches he threw 21 of them were fastballs?  And, as we know, this isn't Jonathan Papelbon or Aroldis Chapman throwing smoke, it's Matt effing Capps and his 92 mph noodle-arm heater.  He's always been over-reliant on that mediocre fastball, but most years he's thrown it around 75% of the time and this year he's at 83%, which isn't good considering he's about 2mph slower than he was in his "glory" days with the Pirates.  The best part?  As his fastball has gotten slower his change-up has gotten faster and there is now just a 5mph gap between the two (where it should be about 10).  The worst part?  I can't think of a single reliever on the Twins' roster I'd trust more than Capps, because for all p=Twins, trust=null.  Ha ha, nerd talk.

2.  Yeonis Cespedes.  If you pay too much attention to stuff like this, you remember people talking about the A's could/should start Cespedes in the minors because the level of competition in his Cuban league was more like double A here and also because Oakland sucks and weren't going to be competing for anything except next year's number 1 pick.  Well the A's said fuck that noise and threw him into the starting lineup where he started out with a bang, hitting 3 homers in his first four games.  Since then he's gone 3-20 and struck out eight times (and has now struck out in every game but one with 6 multi-K games).  Now, he can still crush (of his seven hits, five of them are for extra-bases) and he has a good eye for the zone (4 walks this year - not great but not bad) so he'll probably end up being a solid player, and that's all I can say because I haven't even come close to watching Oakland this year, except for when I almost got up for those games in Japan but then didn't.

3.  Tim Lincecum.  I think it's like super possible Wiley Wiggins (aka Mitch Kramer) finally did the thing where he kills the real Tim Lincecum and then takes over his body and his life and bangs his wife and spends his money and smokes his dope and all, and I say that because maybe the most unhittable pitcher in baseball over the last several seasons has now gotten lit up by Arizona and Colorado and now has the highest ERA in the majors (12.91) and a sky high WHIP (2.22), which sounds more Wiley Wiggins-y than Lincecum-y.  Plus I also say that because if I was Wiley Wiggins that's exactly what I would do.

4. Charlotte Bobcats.  I have no idea how I didn't know this already, but Charlotte is like, historically bad.  They have seven wins this year.  Seven!  And they won their first game of the year, so they've won six since December.  They're currently in the midst of a 16-game losing streak, and it's not even their first 16-game losing streak this year.  Their most recent loss came on Sunday, 94-82 to the Celtics in a game where Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett all sat out, leaving both Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley to score 22 points.  They haven't scored 100 or more in a non-OT game since March 17th, allowing their opponents to reach 100+ twelve times.  D.J. White starts for them.  Byron Mullens gets serious run.  This could pretty much go on forever.  They're like, the Minnesota Twins of the NBA.

5.  Justin Smoak.  Sigh.  Come on dude, you're killing me.  I've always had a crush on Smoak, as evidenced by the six entries (now 7) on this blog that have his name as a label despite him having a pretty non-descript career thus far and not being a Twin nor being in their division, but seriously dude WTF?  He's awful.  He's just awful.  In four partial seasons he's never hit better than .239, and yes batting average isn't the end-all-be-all but he's also never OBP'd better than .323 or slugged better than .407, so he can't hit for power or average and doesn't walk - basically the opposite of his minor league career.  This year might be the worst, as so far he's hitting at Puntonian levels with an average under .200, an OBP under .250, and a slugging percentage under .300 - for reals.  Ouch.  He's still young and he might end up ok, but at this point I dropped in our fantasy league for Daniel Murphy.  Daniel effing Murphy.  Or maybe David.  The one who plays for the Mets.  Gross.

One other thing is that the wife and I rewatched Malibu Shark Attack this weekend and it reminded me how much fun it is/was to watch crappy shark movies and blog about them, and I haven't done that in forever.  So I'm going to try to do it soon.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

American League Preview

Now that the constant threat of legal action has died down (go to this post and scroll down to the comments) and my big presentation at work went off without a hitch today (which had me working 12+ hours both the last two days, which would be why I haven't put up any posts) I have decided to buck up, toughen up, and get through it and give you people the American League preview you so richly deserve - mostly because I said I'd have it up something like a week ago. 

Now yes, there have been some games played and you could say I am cheating, but I swear to you I already have the teams written down in order and I promise I won't change it.  You'll just have to believe me, but I'm telling the truth or I'm not a Schilling's uncle.


1. NEW YORK YANKEES.  This team is getting older than dirt, or is already older than dirt with Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano the only starters under 30 and nobody under 28, but I think they have one more run in them, particularly with a revamped pitching staff.  Of course, the Michael Pineda thing is a bit troubling since he was so freaking good last year and I'm all confused about how bad he could have been this Spring to fall out of the rotation, but even if somehow the probably best rookie pitcher of our generation is out of commission or goes all Joe Charboneau just adding Kuroda and Hughes to that rotation is a major upgrade.  Of course, any or all of Jeter, A-Rod, Rivera, or Ibanez could suddenly be done, Granderson and the whole bullpen are probably due to regress, and Texeira has been trending downward.  They could conceivably fall off a cliff this year, but I don't think that happens until next season.

2.  TAMPA RAYS.  Wade Davis didn't make the Rays rotation, and would be the unquestioned ace of the Twins.  Alex Cobb didn't make the roster, and he'd be considered a future ace for the Twins.  So yeah, pitching-pitching-pitching.  It's the way to win, but the Rays do it better than anybody else and can also acquire a lot of great young talent in the lineup.  Add to that a front office who recognizes the team's needs and knows how to go and get what they need on the cheap and that's how Tampa can contend in the AL East despite a minuscule payroll (for the division).  Need some left-handed power?  Sign Carlos Pena (1 yr/$7M).  Looking for a utility infielder with a specific skill (crushing lefties)?  Sign Jeff Keppinger (1 yr/$1.5M and a far, far, far better signing than Jayme Carroll).  Luke Scott, Jose Molina, Fernando Rodney, and even Kyle Farnsworth fit that same type of mold.  I don't want to just go ahead and give out virtual HJs here, but the Rays ability to both find, draft, and develop talent along with their free agent acumen should be what every GM studies. 

3.  BOSTON RED SOX.  There are a million reasons to not believe in the Red Sox this year, and none of them have to do with friend chicken or beer which is the stupidest, media-drivenest story since the supposed Moon Landing (YOU CAN SEE THE FLAG WAVE IN THE BREEZE PEOPLE!).  You can look at the rotation where starter #3 is talented but injury-plauged Clay Buchholz, #4 is a converted middle reliever (Daniel Bard), and #5 is some dude nobody's ever heard of.  Or you can look at the bullpen, where Alfredo Aceves, a jack of all trades type, is being pushed into closing.  Or you can take a look at the lineup and see mediocrity in an awful lot of spots (Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney, Mike Aviles, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia) and really, this Sox team just isn't very good, and might finish as low as fourth.  My favorite part is how they traded both their starting shortstop (Marco Scutaro) and back-up and up-and-comer (Jed Lowrie) to get a middle of the road prospect and a middle reliever and are now stuck with Aviles until Jose Iglesias is ready, which may never happen because he can't hit (.235 with a grand total of 10 extra-base hits at AAA last year).  And thank god.  The Red Sox can go back to sucking in a hurry please, I'm sick of the bandwagon douche-tards.

4.  TORONTO BLUE JAYS.  In any other division I'd be calling the BJs (ha ha BJ) my sleeper team and singing their praises, but the AL East just isn't fair, no matter what the Jays do.  They have two guys who could jump up into Cy Young territory and it wouldn't shock me in Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow, a future young stud pitcher in Kyle Drabek, the biggest home run hitter in the game today in Jose Bautista, and a lot of good young talent around him (Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia, Yunel Escobar) with some reclamation cases in Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind who, if they get it turned around, could decide this thing.  I love this team.  If they can find a good trade for Adam Snider (say, an SP or a decent reliever, maybe a 2b or lf) they could jump up and finish in third.  Seriously it's totally not fair to be in this division.  It's like Hitler or something.

5.  BALTIMORE ORIOLES.  I can't decide if I think the Orioles are finally moving down the right path or if they're perpetually effed, because right as Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, and Robert Andino are starting to come into their own and mesh with J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds to give the O's a good offense their pitching consists of mediocre prospects, failed prospects, mediocre journeymen, and a bullpen full of castoffs.  Plus their current 1B, Chris Davis, is one of the only players around who can match Mark Reynolds (the O's 3B) when it comes to striking out only he comes without all the hitting and stuff.  Same shitty fielding though.


1.  DETROIT TIGERS.  Do you remember there ever being a more prohibitive favorite in any division ever?  I'm sure it's happened, but I can't recall anything off the top of my head.  That lineup is absolutely loaded and they have Justin Verlander and that's all you need in the central.  I like how people are all like "their defense is terrible" and "after Verlander there are too many questions in the rotation" and "no way Valverde can go 49-49 again."  None of that even matters.  As long as Valverde is competent and the rest of the rotation approaches average this team will win 90 games, which is all it will take in the central this year.  If they want to contend for the World Series they'll need to do more than that and somebody like Fister or Scherzer will need to take a nice little leap forward, but they can sleepwalk to the central crown.

2.  CLEVELAND INDIANS.  Their contending status took a bit of a hit when Grady Sizemore hit the 60-day DL (SHOCKER!), and struggling prospect Matt LaPorta and promising prospect Lonnie Chisenhall were both sent to the minors, but both will be back soon since they're both crushing AAA pitching so far and you'd have to be an idiot to depend on Sizemore, so I think they'll be just fine.  Outside of SP Justin Masterson, SS Asdrubel Cabrera, and C Carlos Santana it's really a pretty mediocre team unless Ubaldo gets back to his unhittable form which is pretty unlikely at this point, but luckily for them the AL Central is still the NFC West of the baseballers so they look good for second, and being something like 10 games out of that second wild card spot.

3.  KANSAS CITY ROYALS.  Not yet.  Not quite yet.  The pitching is quite there yet to keep pace with the hitters, because pretty much the hitting has arrived.  Gordon-Cain-Moustakas-Hosmer-Butler are all the future and are all primed to have big years.  On the pitching side, the Sanchez trade was the right move, Hochevar needs (and gets) another shot, and Duffy, Mendoza, Collins, and Crow are the future, I just don't know if they're the present.  The loss of Soria is a killer, not necessarily because of his closing ability, but because he'd be a huge chip for them to trade in order to acquire a top line starter because that's what they need and either Collins or Crow could close with little issue, particularly Collins because I think, and I could be remembering wrong, that Crow could/should be a starter down the line.  Things are progressing in Kansas City.  They need to break .500 this year and then improve the starting pitching for next year and they could make a playoff run.  Anything less and this whole rebuilding process was a waste of time and I'll burn my KC hat.

4.  MINNESOTA TWINS.  If Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau get back to normal it's conceivable the Twins could get up to second here, but there is a zero percent chance they can possibly win the division with that pitching staff, especially with Moon Shot Scott out for the year.  I don't know what's more embarrassing, trotting out a rotation of Liriano-Pavano-Marquis-Blackburn-Swarzak, or hoping/waiting/expecting, for the 25th year in a row, that Francisco Liriano is going to become an ace.  Did you know his career ERA+ is 100, meaning in his career based on ERA he's been completely average?  And that includes that insane 2006, which gives you an idea of how awful he's been since then.  FUN FACT:  Since 2009, seventeen pitchers have given up at least 215 hits in a year in a season in which they struck out less than 115 batters as well - three of them (Nick Blackburn, Jason Marquis, and Carl Pavano).  They also have 2 of the last 3 league leaders in hits allowed (Blackburn 2009, Pavano 2011).  All this AND Matt Capps as your closer?  We're truly blessed.

5.  CHICAGO WHITE SOX.  Trainwreck city and I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.  They have the shitty contracts (Adam Dunn - 3 yrs, $44 million left, Alex Rios 3 yrs, $35 mill left, John Danks - 5 yrs, $65 million and signed this offseason for some strange reason), the broken farm system (ranked 30 out of 30 by Keith Law and he says "they aren't particularly close to 29"), a mid-tier pick + only one supplemental pick in the upcoming draft, and their best player is 36 years old, and their "young" up and coming infield is made up of three guys who each hit worse than the league average last year.  Their only decent asset which might net them any prospects is Jake Peavy, but he's only got one year left on his deal and he's making $22 million in that year.  He's going to have to pitch almost exactly like the Peavy of old to get any interest, and I still don't know if anybody would be willing to pay that kind of money plus give up decent prospects.  Basically they have no young future stars, no contract flexibility, and no way to add prospects.  Freaking awesome.  I love it.


1.  LOS ANGELES ANGELS.  Have you looked at this pitching staff?  Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and C.J. Wilson?  Their #4 is Ervin Santana, whose ERA last year was 3.38 which, by the by, is better than any Twins' pitcher has had since 2007 and if you don't count Johan Santana it's better than any Twins' pitcher since Joe Mays in 2001.  And he's there #4.  Oh, and in case you missed it they also signed Albert Pujols, the best hitter of this generation.  It's a bit of a negative that their three best hitters all play the same position, their infield is full of mediocrity, and two of their starting outfielders are overpaid and semi-washed up, but would you look at that pitching?  I'd look again but I'm already spent.

2.  TEXAS RANGERS.  Well they lost C.J. Wilson and that's a negative, and overall there are a lot of questions with the pitching.  Can Neftali Feliz transition into a starter's role after being a shutdown closer?  Why would a contending team even consider installing Joe Nathan as their closer?  What happened to Alexi Ogando at the end of last year?  What really happened at the Alamo?  Will Yu Darvish be more Hideo Nomo (when he was good) or more Hideki Irabu?  Can a team with Derek Holland and Colby Lewis at the top of the rotation win anything?  I don't know, but what I do know is that just writing a bunch of questions without answering them is really lazy writing, and I don't want to do that, so their lineup is really good.

3.  SEATTLE MARINERS.  I want this team to be good so bad.  I love Dustin Ackley more than I love my kids, and I might love Justin Smoak more than him.  I loved Michael Pineda but can learn to love Jesus Montero now that he's over here, and that gives them three solid hitter prospects, and they still have King Felix at the front of that rotation and you could easily argue he's the best pitcher in the league.  It's a good base, but there are lots of other issues here, particularly owing Chone Figgins $26 million over the last three years and having basically nothing left in the rotation behind Felix after trading Pineda and Doug Fister last season.  If Seattle is really smart, they trade away Ichiro (contract up after this season) and Felix (2 years after this one) and acquire prospects, although perhaps getting rid of Ichiro isn't a smart decision from an attendance/money perspective.  I dunno.  But they aren't in good shape now and they should probably do something about it.  Like me and the treadmill.

4.  OAKLAND ATHLETICS.  At some point you gotta make a move, right?  I'm starting to wonder if Oakland hasn't become some kind of prospect turnover factory where they do nothing but acquire and develop prospects and then trade them away when they begin to develop for more young people.  It's like some kind of kiddie labor ring - like Nike or Apple - but without the massive prophets.  The good news is they have a top 10 minor leagues system after shipping off Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey and very little in the way of contract obligations with only something like $28 million committed next year, $12 million the next year, and just one player signed for 2015 (Yeonis Cespedes) so if they ever do get that move to San Jose approved and it does increase revenue as much as they're saying they'll have the flexibility somehow become a major player and oh yeah now I see what the plan is, but it's not really a a winning plan for right now.  I really hope they end up with that stadium or whatever.

NL WEST:  Arizona
NL CENTRAL: Cincinnati
NL EAST:  Philadelphia
NL Wildcards:  Miami, Milwaukee

AL WEST:  Los Angeles
AL CENTRAL:  Detroit
AL EAST:  New York
AL Wildcards:  Tampa, Texas

NL Pennant:  Arizona over Philly
AL Pennant:  Detroit over Tampa
Series:  Detroit over Arizona

NL MVP: Justin Upton, Arizona
NL Cy Young:  Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles (if they don't shutdown Strasburg for innings he wins this)
NL rookie of the year:  Zack Cozart, Cincinnati

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
AL Cy Young:  Justin Verlander, Detroit
AL Rookie of the Year:  Matt Moore, Tampa

Monday, April 9, 2012

AL Preview coming I swear

Unfortunately due to the constant threat of legal action hanging over my head (read the comments under this post) I haven't quite been able to finish my AL Preview yet and some people are getting restless and/or just like to bitch about stuff.  Anyway, it'll be up tomorrow so chillax brah.

Twins off to a Great Start

Well that was pretty embarrassing.  In fact, it was so embarrassing that let's just go ahead and list all the cool things that happened and then maybe we can decide which is the worst.

1.  Getting swept by a team that has finished last in their division for four straight years, hasn't had a winning season since 1997, hasn't broken 70 wins since 2005, and once again has an over/under win total in Vegas of sub-70 by a combined score of 15-5.  Actually I'm pretty sure this is the most embarrassing part, but there are all kinds of embarrassing parts that make up this part, so let's keep going.

2.   Getting two hit through 7 innings by Jake Arrieta, who is at least a semi-prospect and the best pitcher the Twins' faced in the series.  Still, Arrieta is in his third year and has yet to post an ERA under 4.60 or a WHIP under 1.46 in a season, and using game score as a metric he has never pitched a game that scored 75 or higher (for reference, there were 354 such games last year alone).  Well, he never had, that is, until opening day against Minnesota where his 7ip-2h-2bb-4k masterpiece scored exactly 75.  So yes, that means Arrieta best game of his career was this last one.  Great.

3.  Getting shutout for 7+ innings by Tommy Hunter, a failed prospect who is already on his second team in just his fifth year.  He's only been good enough once to make more than 20 starts in a season and ended up in long relief with Texas before being traded to Baltimore for a set-up man.  The Twins finally scored, but because the rally started with an error both runs they scored were unearned.  This wasn't Hunter's best game, game score-wise, but it was just the third time in his career he pitched at least 7 innings without giving up an earned run.

4.  Getting no hit for 7 innings by Jason Hammel, a journeyman who is on his third team in his 7th year and spent two years as a reliever and has as career ERA of 5.  My calculation of his game score puts him at 78, one less K worse than his career best of 79.  Considering he allowed zero hits over the first seven innings, I think we can consider this the best start of his career, meaning two of the three starters the Twins faced put up a career best day, while the third guy was merely put up one of his best starts.  That, my friends, is a pretty shitty indicator for how this season is likely to go from here.

5.  Collectively the Twins scored one earned run (and 3 total) and tallied 10 hits against those three starters in 22 innings while striking out 12 times.  Yes, that's more Ks than hits and one run per game against three pitchers who all have a career ERA over 4.40.  The Twins overall are batting .163 (28th in MLB), with an OBP of 238 (30th) and a SLG of .228 (30th).  Their five runs and 15 hits also rank dead last. Pitching ranks 26th in ERA and 24th in opponents' batting average, dead last in strikeouts, and the Twins are one of only four teams who haven't had a quality start yet.

6.  The Twins are paying $23 million this year to a player who hit 1-for-10 and whose only hit was a weak infield groundball that managed to be hit in a perfect spot for an infield hit.  Two of their "biggest" free agent acquisitions (Jayme Carroll and Ryan Doumit) hit a combined 0-for-18.  The team managed just three extra base hits (2 for Morneau, 1 for Willingham) and were out-homered 5-to-1.  Yeah that was a whole bunch at once but I'm getting frustrated.

Getting swept, and convincingly swept, by a terrible team while getting completely shutdown by three sub-par pitchers.  Is it possible to open a season any worse?  At least there are only 159 games to go.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

2012 MLB Preview - National League

 Well what a fantastic end to the college basketball season.  Who wouldn't be rooting for Kentucky?  The plucky underdog who does things the right way with a no nonsense coach who won't stand for shenanigans and teaches the fundamentals.  Just awesome shit right there.  So as sad as it makes me, it's time to move on to super awesome baseball which starts tomorrow, and I for one have a giant boner.

I love baseball.  I love everything about it and I can't wait for it to start.  I have a stupid amount of money down on baseball future bets and I can't get enough of  baseball betting here, specifically a ton of team OVER/UNDER Wins. I'll be pointing those out, along with some player props where appropriate.  Or not appropriate.   Just follow me and you'll be ok.

Going with the National League today and we'll have the AL up in the next day or so.  And by we I mean me, of course, because I'm some kind of god damn nation of one here.  I should have my own flag.  And probably like, a constitution.  Somewhere in the Bill of Rights I'm going to put something about boobs, but I'm not sure what because I didn't go to law school.  I'll get back to you.  Anyway, here:


1. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES.  Roy Halladay-Cliff Lee-Cole Hamels.  That shit ain't fair.  And pitcher #4 is Vance Worley, who finished third in the NL rookie of the year balloting last year.  Yeah, there are a million questions about the offense - will Chase Utley ever play again, will Ryan Howard be able to hit after achilles surgery, is Placido Polanco toast - but how can you possibly bet against that pitching, particularly with Jonathan Papelbon cleaning up shop in the ninth.  Yeah, Papelbon is a spaz and an asstard and pretty much a douche in every way but the dude can pitch one inning as well as anybody.  He might save 60.  Yet I'm laying off his OVER/UNDER 37 line because I think he'll probably get over it but I'd rather bet on Jacoby fucking Welkerbury or Charles Manson than bet on Dickboner.

2.  MIAMI MARLINS.  Well the Marlins haven't been relevant in a while, so it looks like it's time for the semi-regular open up your wallets and spend like crazy time the Marlins are known for.  I know this time it's because of the move to Miami and the new stadium and the new uniforms and all that jazz rather than a random whim, but it's still crazy how this happens all the time.  Will Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell be enough to put them over the top?  No, don't be stupid, but they could be a Wild Card team if everything breaks right.  You know, if Josh Johnson is actually healthy, Carlos Zambrano is sane, Mike Stanton is as much of a stud as I think he is, and Logan Morrison takes that next step.  Plus Reyes and Hanley staying healthy and stuff.  Too many ifs here to play that 85 wins number either way, but this is going to be a very interesting team.

3.  WASHINGTON NATIONALS.  Pretty much this year's happy fun sleeper squad because of the return of the immortal Stephen Strasburg (OVER 11.5 WINS = lock), the emergence of Michael Morse, and a trade for Gio Gonzalez.  What?  That's the whole reason we're hearing so much National buzz?  It's because of all the hoopla over this dink Bryce Harper,  isn't it?  Yeah, I know we're all Brian Harper fans because of what he did for the Twins and we should be loyal to his son and all, but between the douchy behavior (just do a google search, there are 16,000 results for Bryce Harper douchebag) and the national handies he gets every five minutes from the media I'm done with him. 

4.  ATLANTA BRAVES.  There's a lot of reasons for optimism in Atlanta following a pretty monumental collapse at the end of last season.  Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, the last two NL Rookie-of-the-Year runner ups, are only 22 as is brand new starting shortstop Tyler Pastornicky and Atlanta is just loaded with young arms in the minors.  The only problem is that in a division where almost everyone is improving the Braves are built for the future and not the present.  Look at that rotation - Tim Hudson is older than your mom and coming off back surgery, Tommy Hanson is coming off shoulder surgery, and Jair Jurrjens was unable to finish out yet another season with knee problems.  Not to mention Chipper Jones is still considered an important piece to their puzzle.  So yeah, I'm gonna hit that under 86.5 wins, and I'm gonna hit it hard.  Like it was your mom.

5.  NEW YORK METS.  Jesus this team is a mess.  The only good things on this entire roster are 1b Ike Davis, assuming he returns from injury and can hit again, and David Wright who needs to be traded for some prospects or something but knowing the Mets they'll screw it up.  I guess you could put the hopeful return of Johan Santana from injury, but even if he's 80% of what he used to be his best use is as a trade piece because this team isn't going anywhere and might battle the Astros for worst team in the NL.  Although it won't be much of a battle because no matter how bad the Mets are they can't be worse than Houston.  Oh, and nice Jason Bay signing.  Although as Twins' fans we probably shouldn't joke too much because we could be looking at the future of Joe Mauer and the Twins.  Oh crap.


1.  CINCINNATI REDS.  Love this team, and the OVER 86.5 wins is one of the first bets I made when the numbers were released.  Their rotation is so good they were able to trade Travis Wood, who most teams would covet like a homeless dude covets his weird ass tin cup he won't let anyone see, for one of the best relievers in the game in Sean Marshall.  They also have an awesome trio in Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Joey Votto and a also bring in plenty of youth with elite prospects Zack Cozart (SS) and Devin Mesoraco (C) getting a chance to start this year.  Drew Stubbs and his 205 Ks with only 15 HRs pisses me off and the whole Ryan Madson out for the year thing is a kick in the nuts (especially since they just signed Alfredo Simon) but something tells me if Marshall doesn't work out you just go ahead and hand that ball to Aroldis Chapman and his 100mph fastball and 93mph slider and everything will workout just fine.

2.  MILWAUKEE BREWERS.  I wanted to pick them lower than this because I hate everything that's from Wisconsin including cheaters like Ryan Braun, but even without Fielder this should be a pretty good team.  Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Roid-guy, Aramis Ramirez, and Clay Mathews form a pretty solid offense, and their top-3 in the rotation is still stellar with Greinke-Gallardo-Marcum.  Throw-in John Axford's sweet stache and K-Rod still setting up for him and they're in pretty decent shape.  If Taylor Green can become a starter at short and someone in the bullpen gives them the confidence to trade K-Rod for some help they could be all wildcardy.  Plus it wouldn't hurt to just go ahead and play Carlos Gomez already.  I mean jeez, enough with the racism, am I right?

3.  ST. LOUIS CARDINALS.  I took the over on their wins at 84.5, but it doesn't mean I'm exactly sold on them because their two best offensive players (Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman) are as fragile as a lamp of some slutty ladies leg.  And I don't necessarily mean healthwise, just they both always seem to be about 1% away from falling off a cliff into shitty old person land.  It hasn't happened yet, but part of me kind of has this feeling that Pujols was the duct tape that held those two together - we shall see.  In any case they have enough starting pitching to make them relevant no matter what so that's good, and if Carlos Beltran is healthy and David Freese is actually good they'll fly past that 84.5 and this prediction.  Also nice job paying Yadier Molina all the money you refused to give Pujols.  Nice priorities.  Yeah this one time Christina Aguilera wanted to sleep with me but I couldn't because I had to get an oil change that day.

4.  PITTSBURGH PIRATES.  I really wanted to pick them higher (and took them OVER 73.5 wins) but holy mother have you seen this rotation?  I guess it was obvious when Erik Bedard was announced as the opening day pitcher, but looking at it all at once is like whoa - Bedard, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, and Brad Lincoln?  I mean, I'm not going to say this often but I'd rather have the Twins' pitching staff.  Barely.  I kind of like what they're doing with their hitters - Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker are studs while Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, and Pedro Alvarez have promise but the pitching is like Buzz's girlfriend - woof. 

5.  CHICAGO CUBS.  Year one of the Theo ERA and it's not going to be pretty, even if it's not his fault because mostly the talent level here is poop and there's more bad contracts than there are concussions in the Twins' clubhouse.  Looking at their squad the only guys who you'd build a team with are Starlin Castro and Travis Wood, although you can't 100% give up on Geovany Soto or Ian Stewart just yet.  Still, it's clear they have a plan, shedding Carlos Zambrano and acquiring stud prospect Anthony Rizzo from San Diego.  Right now they've filled the roster with fill-in types who are at least cheap (David DeJesus, Chris Volstad, Paul Maholm) but it's going to be a long road - at least until they can figure out how to get rid of Soriano's chlamydia of a contract.

6.  HOUSTON ASTROS.  Easiest call of the year, because the Astros are rebuilding this year except they're doing it with a shitty farm system so that's probably not good.  Let me save you some time - here are the players you know on the Astros:  Brett Myers, Carlos Lee.  If you're a big baseball nerd (or a degenerate gambler) you might also know Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Bud Norris, Jack Cust (hi Bear) and Jed Lowrie.  That's it though.  That's the whole list.  Also nobody, not even sportsbooks, pay attention to Houston because last year they kept offering props on Chris Johnson for over a week after he'd been sent down to the minors and they offered props for 3-4 days on Michael Bourn as an Astro after he'd been traded to Atlanta.  No, you have a gambling problem.


1.  ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS.  I'll admit this is the division I know the least about due to it being all Pacific Time Zoney and National League-ish, but I don't see any way the D-Backs don't run away with this (which is why I'm on the OVER 86 wins).  Actually I guess I can see how they don't run away with it because their rotation is made up of two guys who were traded for Edwin Jackson (Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson whose middle name is Claiborne lol), a prospect who may have lost it (Trevor Cahill), one of the worst starters to always have a job (Joe Saunders), and a guy with a weird as hell delivery that could Hideo Nomo on him at any moment (Josh Collmenter).  Still they have a really good lineup and bullpen and they have Justin Upton who is who you should be praying to your precious baby jesus that Aaron Hicks one day becomes.  Stupid jesus will probably give us like, Felix Pie.  Such a dick.

2.  LOS ANGELES DODGERS.  Things are looking up after people with money bought this team so they at least have a prayer of bringing in some talent if they need to make a push, but what I really love about this team is that they're probably the best NBA Jam type team in the league, and I mean the entire MLB.  Really, if you had to go one hitter and one pitcher can you do better than Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp?  The only other team who is even in contention is the Tigers with Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, but the Dodgers are clearly the class of the NL.  Which is great because in case you missed it MLB is going to a 2-on-2 format this year.

3.  SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS.  How can I pick a team with a Lincecum/Cain/Bumgarner/Vogelsong start to the rotation third when I love pitching, you ask?  Well mostly because Aubrey Huff is still involved.  I don't know, I guess they should probably finish in 2nd but I just have a bad feeling here.  Lincecum is going to apparently shelve his slider (which was more effective than his fastball last year) and I'm just bored with Sandoval even though as I look him up it appears he was actually really god damn amazing last year.  Whatever.  I'm not interested in your stats nerd boy.  Baseball isn't played by computers so you can take your numbers and shove them up your ass while you sit there in your boxers in your mom's basement and cry yourself to sleep with your commodore 64 and World of Warcraft.  I know baseball.  I watch baseball.  And Sandoval is too fat.  FACT.

4.  COLORADO ROCKIES.  How can I pick a squad with Troy Tulowitzki - the white Cal Ripken - fourth?  I know, it's rough,, but do you remember the part of the words where I talked about the Pirates' rotation?  Well if that was Jaws 3 the Rockies' are bringing you Jaws 4 because they went ahead and traded for Jeremy god damn Guthrie and immediately made him the opening day starter which is more stupider than your face.  And then they gave Jamie Moyer a job which is cute and all but come on.  Unless Drew Pomeranz is all kinds of ready already this is going to be a brutal pitching team.  Rockies under 81.5 is total money because this is not a winning team.  If that's not enough for you, they signed Michael Cuddyer and still start decrepit Todd Helton who has trouble hitting it out of his backyard when he plays wiffleball with his kids who are probably in special ed. WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED?

5.  SAN DIEGO PADRES.  There are three teams that seem like they always need help (Padres, Royals, Pirates) which is actually not 100% true because the Padres have done stuff like win the division twice since 2005 and won 90 games just two years ago, but they see like they always need help.  And I bring that up because it's clear the Royals have a plan and it seems like the Pirates might have a plan, but I don't know what the Padres are doing.  If I look I can see a small few good players/rays of light - Yonder Alonso, Chase Headley (maybe), and Cory Luebke.  That's it.  Everyone else is either a Carlos Quentin/Orlando Hudson or a Dustin Moseley/Will Venable.  You know what I mean.

And there we are.  So we got the D-Backs, Phillies, and Reds with the Marlins and Cardinals as Wild Cards (yeah I know I picked the Brewers over the Cards, just swap 'em.  I'm not going to do everything for you, a-hole).  Let's give the pennant to the Reds.  AL preview coming whenever I write it.  Shooting for Thursday/Friday.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Big 10 - A quick look at next year

Before packing up my Gopher things and moving on the baseball and the Twins I figured it might not hurt to take a look at what each Big 10 team has coming in and going out for next season, just to see where the Gophers may stand at this early point.  I did this last year as well and enjoyed it, although you definitely shouldn't look it up to see what predictions I made and just take my word for it that I was super, super accurate.  Trust me.

Naturally I'm going to have to make a ton of assumptions with who goes/stays, but in most cases I think we can probably make a pretty good guess.  So without further ado, in alphabetical order:  Note, all recruiting rankings are from ESPN instead of Rivals because Rivals' website is being a dick.  And I don't know what ESPN's "score" represents really but the higher number the better.

Illinois Fighting Illini:
Deletes:  PG Sam Maniscalco, SG Crandall Head, Coach Bruce Weber
Adds:  PG Michael Orris (#22 PG, score = 89), Coach John Groce. 

The biggest question for Illinois in terms of talent is if they're going to lose anybody else.  Meyers Leonard could go pro (he's projected as a late lottery pick) and anytime you fire your coach you run the risk of losing players to transfer, although based on the reports towards the end of Weber's time there I get the feeling nobody is too broken up that he's gone.  Still, if they lose someone like Brandon Paul or D.J. Richardson that's a pretty big hit.  Basically if nobody else leaves this will basically be the same team as last year, but with a much better coach is Groce.  Not sure if that's good or bad news, but I have a feeling Groce is the kind of coach who is going to turn this program around in a hurry (NOTE:  I just read that Leonard is indeed going pro, so Illinois is pretty much screwed since they don't have another center).

Indiana Hoosiers:
Deletes:  G Verdell Jones, F Tom Pritchard, G Daniel Moore
Adds:  PG Kevin Ferrell (#3 PG, 96), SF Jeremy Hollowell (#10 SF, 95), PF Hanner Perea (#15 PF, 93), SG Ron Patterson (#25 SG, 91), C Peter Jurkin (#26 C, 89)

Even though Cody Zeller could jump to the NBA and be a lottery pick this year by all accounts thus far he's planning on staying in Bloomington, and that's great news for Indiana because Crean brings in another great class (ranked 9th overall by ESPN and 2nd in the B10) and the players who are leaving aren't going to be missed.  With a lineup next year of Ferrell, Hulls, Oladipo, Watford, and Zeller the Hoosiers may have the best starting five in the conference next season.  Amazing to see a well regarded coach take over a program at one it's lowest points and turn it around so quickly.  I have no idea what that must be like to watch.

Iowa Hawkeyes:
Deletes:  SG Matt Gatens, PG Bryce Cartwright, F Andrew Brommer,
Adds:  C Adam Woodbury (#12 C, 94), PG Mike Gesell (#15 PG, 92), SG Patrick Ingram (#55 SG, 88), C Kyle Meyer (#40 C, 87), PG Anthony Clemmons (#71 PG, 82)

The loss of Gatens certainly hurts seeing as he's been there leading scorer and rock for four years, but Cartwright was erratic at best and Brommer's contributions were minimal last year, so net-for-net Iowa should be better next year.  The emergence of Devyn Marble last year, along with Aaron White, gives them a couple solid scorers to go with a solid front court that should only get better with Woodbury arriving, who should be one of the league's top freshmen next season.  Unless Gesell can come right in and start or Josh Oglesby spends the entire summer dribbling every where with his left-hand, ball-handling is going to be a problem next year.  Just like your mom.

Michigan Wolverines:
Deletes:  G Stu Douglass, G Zack Novak, F Evan Smotrycz,
Adds:  PF Mitch McGary (#5 PF, 96), SF Glenn Robinson (#6 SF, 96), SF Nick Stauskas (#22 SF, 92)

Losing just those three dorks wouldn't be so bad, although Smotrycz hurts just because he is transferring and they were counting on him and he can give them some size they don't necessarily have otherwise, but both starting guards, Tim Hardaway and Trey Burke, are said to be 50/50 to enter the NBA Draft.  Losing one would be rough, losing two (along with Novak and Douglass) would live the back court shredded because Carlton Brundidge, a very well regarded freshman point guard, is also transferring.  And Despite all that it doesn't really matter because they have a ridiculous recruiting class coming in.  McGary had his pick of any school (seriously, he had offers from Duke, UNC, and Kentucky) and is ESPN's #22 recruit in the country (with Robinson right behind him at #27) and he's #3 overall on Rivals Top 150.  I have no idea why this kid is going to Michigan, but I bet it rhymes with Grutty Sloopies. 

Michigan State Spartans:
Deletes:  PF Draymond Green, SG Austin Thornton, SG Brandon Wood
Adds:  SG Gary Harris (#1 SG, 97), PF Kenny Kaminski (#16 PF, 92), Matt Costello (#17 PF, 92), SF Denzel Valentine (#27 SF, 92)

As good as Michigan's (and Indiana's) recruiting classes are for next season, Michigan State's is even better with four players in ESPN's Top 100, highlighted by SG Gary Harris who they rank as #11 (and #1 at his position).  It's going to be hard as hell for these guys to replace Draymond who has basically been a coach on the floor for four years and they don't really have anybody who can easily just jump into that lead dog role.  Well, actually I think Branden Dawson would have been all setup for a monster year if he didn't blow his knee out, so his health is probably the #1 factor in if Michigan State will be a title contender or just a Big 10 title contender.  I really hate these asshole programs who just reload again and again and again.

Minnesota Gophers:
Deletes:  C Ralph Sampson
Adds:  SG Wally Ellenson (#35 SG, 90), PF Charles Buggs (prep school)

Of course, the biggest news and news you could kind of call an addition is Trevor Mbakwe getting clearance for another year of eligibility.  Assuming he takes it the Gophers' fortunes swing dramatically.  Another possibility is the transfer of Trent Lockett.  Both these players also take the Gophers over the scholarship limit, so something's going to have to give.  But they'd best figure out a way to make room for Lockett if he's interested because this is a truly uninspiring recruiting class - although I do think Buggs has serious diamond-in-the-rough potential.

Nebraska Cornhuskers:
Deletes: SG Toney McCray, PG Brandon Richardson, SG Bo Spencer, SG Caleb Walker, Coach Doc Sadler
Adds:  SF Shavon Fields (#116 SF, 82), PG Benny Parker (#142 PG, 74), PF Fahro Alihodzic (juco), Coach Tim Miles

Tim Miles has had success at NDSU and Colorado State and I have no doubt he'll bring Nebraska if not to respectability at least on the way towards it, but it isn't going to happen this year.  The Huskers bring in probably the worst recruiting class in the conference and need to replace four of their top six players, and one of those two top returners missed the entire second half of the season with an injury that he may or may not be able to recover from.  Yeah, it's going to be quite ugly next season for Nebraska.  

Northwestern Wildcats:
Deletes:  PF John Shurna, C Luka Mirkovich, PF Davide Curletti
Adds:  PF Nikola Cerina (transfer from TCU), SF Kale Abrahamson (#46 SF, 89), C Alex Olah (#37 C, 88), SF Sanjay Lumpkin (#116 SF, 82)

Losing Shurna, of course, is a killer and I think the window of opportunity for Northwestern to get their first NCAA bid has now closed.  Actually I guess you can't say that as long as Drew Crawford is around because he's a pretty special player, but they couldn't get it done with a nucleus of 3 (Crawford, Shurna, and Michael Thompson) and they couldn't do it with two, so I really guess I can't see them doing it with just Crawford.  Especially because Luka Mirkovich is now gone and everyone knows he was the heart, soul, and most of the talent on that team.  I do have high hopes for Nikola Cerina and Alex Olah, however, if only because they kind of sound Mirkovich-y.

Ohio State Buckeyes:
Deletes:  SG William Buford, PF Jared Sullinger
Adds:  None

Normally if you saw a team losing two guys of Sullinger and Buford's caliber with nobody on tap to come in you'd be expecting a down year.  We're talking about the machine that Ohio State basketball has become though, and the entire team is basically made out of Top 100 type guys, so even those dudes you've never heard of would probably be starters on teams like the Gophers and they'll be just fine next year.   Not to mention that a nucleus of Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, and Lenzelle Smith is pretty freaking solid.  I'd worry about their size with nobody coming in to replace Sullinger (who killed his draft position by the way and is going to be huge NBA bust), but again, even the guys at the end of the bench would be starters at most schools.  Weep not for the Buckeyes.

Penn State Nittany Lions:
Deletes:  SG Cammeron Woodyard
Adds:  PF Brandon Taylor (#63 PF, 87), SF Akosa Maduegbunam (#116 SF, 82)

I like Tim Frazier a lot.  There's something amazing to me about a guy who can't shoot who still puts up 18+ per game and has no viable teammates but notches over six assists per game.  Frazier is great, but he really needs some help and I don't know where he's going to get it.  The current roster is pretty much a whole bunch of mediocre mediocrity.  Hopefully this Taylor character can be good and give them a second option.  I dunno. 

Purdue Boilermakers:
Deletes:  PF Robbie Hummell, PG Lewis Jackson, SG Ryne Smith, SF Kelsey Barlow
Adds:  C A.J. Hammons (#18 C, 92), PG Ronnie Johnson (#14 PG, 92), SG Raphael Davis (#14 SG, 92), PF Jay Simpson (#33 PF, 89)

For the second straight year the Boilers get smashed by graduation as the entire starting lineup from two years ago is now gone.  The whole LewJack graduation is a soul killer, just because it's really kind of a blast to watch someone who is 5-9 but whose range is about 8 feet, yet is so quick it doesn't matter how much you lay-off or how much space you give him because he's still going to go right by you.  And now that's gone.  So sad.  Plus, with Ronnie Johnson joining Terone and Anthony they now have three guys named Johnson.  That's unnatural.

Wisconsin Badgers:
Deletes:  PG Jordan Taylor, F Rob Wilson
Adds:  SF Sam Dekker (#5 SF, 96), SG Zak Showalter (not ranked)

Leave it to Wisconsin to make things interesting and impossible to figured, like usual.  Normally there's also a clear cut "next up" kind of guy with the Badgers, or there's always a guy who is going to be the guy and everybody knows it.  Not this year, because the returnees are all complimentary type guys.  Then you can go ahead and completely throw out what you know because for one of the few times I can remember, Wisconsin actually has an elite recruit coming in with this Dekker kid, so who knows maybe he becomes "the guy."  I don't know.  I've pretty much given up on trying to figure out Wisconsin.  All I know is they'll be better than I expect and will probably a Sweet 16 team.  God I hate them so much.

So here is your very, very early prediction for next year's Big Ten standings:

1.  Ohio State
2.  Michigan
3.  Indiana
4.  Michigan State
5.  Minnesota
6.  Purdue
7.  Illinois
8.  Wisconsin
9.  Iowa
10.  Penn State
11.  Northwestern
12.  Nebraska

So there you go.  Two things:

1.  It's time for baseball.  I expect I'll have a MLB preview up in the next day or so.  You know you love it.
2.  Fuck Kentucky.