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Royals 2013

Wait, did I just see the Royals on ESPN? I have caught myself thinking this more already than any other season in recent years.  Dayton Moore and the Royals have finally gone all in for this 2013 season.  With a huge trade for James Shields, the Royals were finally able to go from being one of the worst starting rotations in the history of the MLB to one of the better rotations in the AL.  To go with a better rotation, they Royals have offensive threats that could contribute to a rare winning season.

The biggest X-factor this season is health. The Royals have invested so much this season, so if James Shields or Salvador Perez gets injured, fans can kiss this season goodbye. Concerning health, the major statistic I see is which starter pitches the most innings. Last year, the starters went just six innings too often.  Though the bullpen was dominant, the relievers were typically worn out.  The Royals trade for Shields has given Kansas City a workhorse. It has also given the Royals and Ned Yost options for their rotation and bullpen.

james-shields

The starting rotation is bound to be better this year than last, but by how much? As I said earlier, the inning the starters consume will show the specific talents the Royals have in the bullpen. Right now, here is how I see the starting rotation shaping out:

2012 Statistics

1. James Shields: 15-10, 3.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 223 Ks, 58 Walks in 227.2 Innings

2. Ervin Santana: 9-13, 5.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 133 Ks, 61 Walks in 178 Innings

3. Jeremy Guthrie: 8-12, 4.76 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 101 Ks, 50 Walks in 181.2 Innings

4. Wade Davis: 3-0, 2.43 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 87 Ks, 29 Walks in 70.1 Innings

5. Luis Mendoza: 8-10, 4.23 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 106 Ks, 59 Walks in 166 Innings

 Remember when I said they Royals will have options this season?  Well, what should the Royals do with Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen?  I have always been a huge believer that the best way to motivate and get the best out of players is through pure competition.  I hope Ned Yost has made it clear that no one’s starting spot is a lock. Mendoza has been pitching extremely well so far this offseason and spring training. While this does not matter too much, it does show that he is coming in ready to compete for a job.  This season, the Royals will have something they have not had since they traded away Zack Greinke.  The Royals will once again have a pitcher with whom they will expect a win no matter what in James Shields.  “Big Game James” actually thrives off of pitching in games against the best teams and will get his opportunity in the Royals opener against Chicago White Sox.  Plus, Shields will bring playoff experience to the staff.

The Royals’ bullpen has been the strongest part of the team because of young prospects coming in and producing immediately.  Greg Holland and Aaron Crow are the “Leaders of the Relievers”.  Both can come in with confidence that they will get the team out of any jam.  The 5 players below are current locks on having a spot in the rotation due to how they have fared in the majors so far.  Holland will close and Crow will be the set-up man just like last year. With Luke Hochevar being put in the bullpen, the relievers are starting to form a complete group.

 Greg Holland: 7-4, 16 Saves, 2.96 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 91 Ks, 34 Walks in 67 Innings

Kelvin Herrera: 4-3, 2.35 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 77 Ks, 21 Walks in 84.1 Innings

Tim Collins: 5-4, 3.36 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 93 Ks, 34 Walks in 69.2 Innings

Aaron Crow: 3-1, 3.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 65 Ks, 22 Walks in 64.2 Innings

Louis Coleman: 0-0, 3.71 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 65 Ks, 26 Walks in 51 Innings

 Nate Adcock, Will Smith and Everett Teaford are all fighting for one spot in the bullpen and it will most likely be this way the entire season. Will Smith did a better job than most expected last year as a starter but did not perform at a high enough rate to retain his role in the rotation.

The Royals will not intimidate opposing pitching staffs with their power, but will with their ability to run the bases, hit for contact and situational hitting.  The biggest difference from last year to this year’s offensive attack is having Salvador Perez healthy.  Along with Perez, look for Alex Gordon and Billy Butler to carry the load for this lineup For the most part, Gordon and Butler have been consistent.  I expect Butler to finally jump into the thirty home run club and be the sole member from the Royals.  Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas could both take major strides this year as well. Hosmer should benefit immensely from playing with the USA team because he gets to see how the best players prepare themselves on a daily basis.  I do not expect Perez to hit in the .300’s but around .280 mark.  Though the Royals may lack strength in power, they more than make up for it in their athletic youth.

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Alex Gordon (LF): .294/.368/.455, 14 HR’s, 72 RBI, 93 Runs in 161 Games

Alcides Escobar (SS): .293/.331/.390, 5 HR’s, 52 RBI, 68 Runs, 35 SB’s in 155 Games

Eric Hosmer (1B): .232/.304/.359, 14 HR’s, 60 RBI, 65 Runs, 16 SB’s in 152 Games

Billy Butler (DH): .313/.373/.510, 29 HR’s, 107 RBI, 72 Runs in 161 Games

Mike Moustakas (3B): .242/.296/.412, 20 HR’s, 73 RBI, 69 Runs in 149 Games

Salvador Perez (C): .301/.328/.471, 11 HR’s, 39 RBI, 38 Runs in 76 Games

Jeff Francoeur (RF): .235/.287/.387, 16 HR’s, 49 RBI, 58 Runs in 148 Games

Lorenzo Cain (CF): .266/.316/.419, 7 HR’s, 31 RBI, 27 Runs, 10 SB’s in 61 Games

Chris Getz (2B): .275/.312/.360, 17 RBI, 22 Runs, 9 SB’s in 64 Games

Come September, I expect the Royals to finish at 79-83.  Lorenzo Cain’s health will be crucial as this team aims to achieve a winning record.  With major injuries to any of the starting lineup, the Royals winning chances diminish because they do not have the depth to plug another player in without a great drop off.  Furthermore, the Royals do not have the pieces or money to make trades to improve the roster in the middle of the season.  The Royals are all in this year and pitching will tell the story for the Blue Crew.

Spencer Montgomery

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Future betting tips on the top MLB teams

Future betting means gambling on sporting events several months in advance of them taking place, and is a very popular way of betting on major sporting events like the new season – as the early odds for the teams are released well in advance by the sports betting sites. Already the odds, and thus the favourites for both the American and National Leagues and the World Series have been made available – establishing teams like the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Nationals amongst the favourites at this stage.

However a lot can change once the action gets underway, which is why the single most important tip for those considering MLB futures betting to consider, is that it is better to wait until further into the season before placing a bet. This is because, if one of the top teams performs as expected, their odds will not really change much, but if they don’t, you will avoid losing money betting on a pre-season favourite that doesn’t live up to expectations. After all, there are many factors – including injuries to key players –that can cause this to happen. This is why another major tip to remember is that you need to research form and injury records for key players before making a futures bet on the MLB.

It is not as if there aren’t other ways of mixing betting and a love of the MLB, while you are waiting – as a game like the baseball slot Hot Shot offers great entertainment and betting. Hot Shot, which is available at online casino sites like LuckyNugget  is a nine pay line, five reel, non-progressive slot, which has reels designed to look like baseball caps, pitchers, catchers mitts, and baseball snacks like fries and popcorn. It also has a backdrop of a baseball field and the sound effects – including crowd noise (murmurs which rise to a roar when you get a winning reel with the gold cup scatter symbol) – and a baseball bat hitting a ball, when you get a winning reel without the scatter, really add to the appeal of the game.

Is It That Bad?

When Steve Nash signed with the Los Angeles Lakers on July 11th of last year, Kobe Bryant finally received the true point guard he needed.  After Dwight Howard signed in early August, the Lakers had a roster that seemed to guarantee a Finals appearance.  They would once again run the NBA.  Today, the Clippers have taken over Los Angeles, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the title as the best team in the NBA, and the Los Angeles Lakers have fallen to a 17-24 record.

Metta World Peace believed this Laker team had a serious opportunity to finish with a 73-9 record, never done before in the NBA.  However, that dream was shattered on December 4 against the Houston Rockets, their tenth loss of the season.  Kobe Bryant even said, “Obviously this isn’t working.”  The situation has left many fans of the game scratching their heads, with such a high caliber team, why are the Lakers losing?

Image from Chicago Tribune
Image from Chicago Tribune

The team is fifth overall in the NBA in points per game, scoring an average of 102.6.  They are third in rebounds per game with 45.6.  However, the Lakers turn the ball over an average of 15.4 times per game.  A more notable aspect of the game that the Lakers seem to be struggling with is free throws.  The team shoots an average of 69.4 percent from the line, which is second worst in the NBA.  There have been many instances this season in which missed free throws have cost the Lakers a shot at victory late in games.

Given the offensive struggles, you couldn’t think it could get much worse.  Then you look at the team’s defense.  They are giving up 101.4 points per game, and sport a 1.4 assist to turnover ratio.  With so much size down low, and debatably the fastest backcourt in the division, one still wonders, why aren’t they getting it done?

After 41 games, the answer is simple: the Lakers are not motivated to win.  Their lack of effort on both sides of the ball have cost them numerous games this season.  Those games could come back to haunt the Lakers as they continue to fight for a playoff spot.

Drew Agnello

The Race for the MVP

Over the course of this year’s NBA season, certain players across the league have impressed the world night in and night out.  Since the start of the season back in November, four players have established themselves as the best in the league.  Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and LeBron James have been the most consistent, dominate players this year, and here is why each athlete should be considered for the MVP award at the end of the season.

Carmelo Anthony predicted everything.  When he was traded to the New York Knicks almost three years ago, Anthony thought that the first two years would be rough, but the third would be their year.  It would be the year he led the Knicks to an NBA Championship.  As of now, Anthony is fulfilling his prophecy.  Melo is averaging 29 points per game and has New York at a 23-11 record.  More importantly, without Carmelo Anthony’s offensive production, the New York Knicks would not be where they are right now.  He is, with no doubt, a legitimate contender for the MVP award this season.

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Chris Paul has to have his name mentioned in the MVP race.  CP3 averages about 19 points a game and almost 10 assists a game.  Along with those impressive numbers comes his momentum making ability.  His beautiful lobs to Blake Griffin and company are what essentially control any crowd’s mood.  The most significant part of where Paul’s play is has put the Los Angeles Clippers is first in the Western Conference with a 27-8 record.  If Chris Paul was not in L.A., this Clippers team would be like the ones from 2010 and earlier: unbelievably awful.  When MVP voting time comes around, voters need to look at Chris Paul’s impact on the Los Angeles Clippers.

Chris_Paul_Clippers_1st_Game

The Durantula is doing it again this season.  One difference this year is the ferocity Kevin Durant is playing with.  There is just a different style to the way Durant plays with that was not seen in his previous years.  This year K.D. received his first ejection.  It is not like that is a good thing, but in some eyes, it is a sign Kevin Durant is hungry for an NBA Championship.  He has won the scoring title the last three years, and right now he puts up about 27 a game.  However, there is a concern for his MVP status because his numbers in nearly every category are now from last season.  Durant has the Oklahoma City Thunder at a 26 and 8 record.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat
Of course, there is the Sportsman of the Year LeBron James.  Believe it or not, the Miami Heat would be more than likely fighting for a playoff spot if it was not for James.  LeBron leads Miami in points, rebounds and assists, putting up 26.4, 7.2 and 6.9 respectively.  His team sits atop the Eastern Conference with a 23 and 10 record.  Dating back to last season, LeBron has scored 20 or more points in 54 straight games.  The three time MVP is certainly playing like he is the front-runner for number four.

These four athletes were teammates over the summer at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.  Each are great friends with one another off the court and can be seen together at dinners.  On the court, all four can not stand one another.  They fight hard until the final buzzer for the win, and you should expect the four to fight hard for both the NBA Championship and the MVP.

Drew Agnello

What a Roll

I wanted Notre Dame to win the National Championship.  I am a fan of the Irish and I honestly thought this was their year—the year Notre Dame would finish undefeated and win the National Championship.  But the team from Tuscaloosa, absolutely crushed the dream I have visioned for so long.  For all Irish fans, the drought continues and we will have to wait at least another year for Championship.  I will quit beating around the bush, though.  The Alabama Crimson Tide was undoubtedly the best team in college football this year, and should be for the upcoming years.

Certain aspects of the game really stood out to me.  The Alabama defense seemed to control the Notre Dame offense.  The Alabama offense seemed to control the Notre Dame defense.  A.J. McCarron was red hot in the pocket.  He completed 20 of his 28 attempted passes for 264 yards along with four touchdowns.  Alabama’s run game was also impressive.  Eddie Lacy was similar to a truck in the game.  He broke tackles and literally tossed defenders to account for 140 rushing yards and a touchdown.  Freshman T.J. Yeldon also contributed to the rushing, tacking on 108 yards and a touchdown.  One of the most impressive stats of the night was Alabama’s time of possession, controlling the ball for just over 33 minutes.  Notre Dame simply had no answer to anything Alabama put their way.

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Personally, I think Alabama could beat a few NFL teams.  The way they manhandled Notre Dame is mind-boggling to me.  Going into the game, I predicted a low scoring 13 to 10 win for the Irish.  Leaving the game, I will never try to predict a score again.  Alabama’s 42 to 14 win made me think, “Is this the greatest college football dynasty ever?”  I believe they are, but that does not matter.  There are enough stats to prove that they are.  Their 15 National Championships puts them among the most of all time.  This 2012-2013 team is stacked with future NFL players.  However, their one loss this year puts a blemish on their “Best Team of All Time” status.  I do believe they did not lose that game to Texas A&M, but to Johnny Manziel.  That, also, does not matter and I can save that for another argument.  Alabama’s play in the National Championship made the game one of the largest blowouts in BCS Championship history.

Another question popped in my head when I realized Alabama had the game won after the first quarter: “Is Nick Saban going to be better than Bear Bryant?”  To that, I also say yes.  In the last four years, Nick Saban has brought three National Championships to Alabama, giving himself four all time.  Bryant’s six championships poured into Alabama over a span of 24 years.  If you do the math, that is once every four years.  Nick Saban has three in four years.  At this rate, Saban could easily surpass Bryant within 12 years.  Enough with the math now.  Nick Saban is now one of the best college football coaches of all time.

Notre Dame is still my team.  I am devastated by this embarrassing loss that my team suffered.  I weep for Manti Te’o, who worked so hard to get to the title game, where he was a non-factor.  But I smile for Alabama.  I am happy to witness one of the greatest dynasties in the history of college football.  And the best part is, the dynasty has just begun.  For the time being, Roll Tide.

Drew Agnello

Too Close for Comfort?

The Kansas Jayhawks’ 69 to 62 win over the Temple Owls was a battle to say the least.  KU’s home win streak rose to 30 as the Jayhawks had to come back towards the end in order to emerge as victors.  After such a dominating performance at Ohio State two weeks ago, one would think the Jayhawks would handle an unranked Temple team at home very easily.  That was not the case Sunday, but Kansas was fortunate to still come out on top.

KU’s offensive play was somewhat disappointing. The Jayhawks had a field goal percentage of 46 along with 36 three point percentage.  Then again, we were used to the Jayhawks shooting an average 56 percent from the field going into the game.  The most disappointing stat for KU was 14 turnovers.  However, Kansas made shots when they needed to.  Ben McLemore, who could not get much going, had a quiet 13 points, but some very audible dunks.  KU was able to hang on late with a dagger of a three hit by Travis Releford with 37 seconds left in the game.  However, the true stand-out, and biggest surprise, of the game was Kevin Young.  Young’s 16 points and 10 rebounds was the key to the Jayhawks’ win.

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Defensively, Kansas was lights out.  The Jayhawks held Temple to a field goal percentage of just 30.  Jeff Withey had 9 of Kansas’ 12 blocks and also had 11 rebounds.  Kansas seemed to force Temple into some wild shots, and that was big from a defensive standpoint. While KU lacked a great number of forced turnovers, this was mostly because of the pace Temple runs.  Kansas needs to make some defensive adjustments in order to force more steals against any sort of offense.  In the end, the Jayhawks’ defense ceased to amaze and simply beat out the Owls.

The game was closer than many would have wanted, but some credit has to be give to Temple.  The Owls can keep road games close, and have beaten top ten teams like they did to Syracuse earlier in the year.  Temple is a good team who could have one this game.  At Kansas, it is near  impossible to win, especially when the Jayhawks are competing for a top spot in the country.  Temple simply had no response to the perseverance shown by Kansas late in the game.  KU had too much to lose and their execution towards the end won the game.

Drew Agnello