Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Friday, February 26, 2016

Evolution of Strategy

     It's late February, and that can only mean one thing: Spring training's beginning. That also means something: the Red Sox are now favored to win a wide open AL East after spending way too much money on one or multiple players during the offseason. After slowly becoming more and more like the Yankees since their World Series victory in 2004 by treating free agency like a monkey throwing whatever he can get his hands on at a dartboard, they need to face the reality. And that reality is the fact that their strategy doesn't work.
     In 2015 the Sox underperformed, going 78-84 after signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez the previous winter for a combined $183 million. I hate to sound like a jerk here, but the moves made no sense. They already had a shortstop in Xander Bogaerts, and Sandoval couldn't play anywhere but third, so they had to move Hanley to left field; we all know how that worked out. Two years earlier, in 2013, they won the World Series. The previous offseason, the only moves they made were smaller, but filled a specific need: aquiring Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Stephen Drew, Shane Victorino Koji Uehara. The two years before, they missed the playoffs, despite having signed Carl Crawford and traded for Adrian Gonzalez. My point is, the Red Sox have proven that they know how to win, and it's the opposite of what they've been doing lately.
     Compare the Red Sox to the Giants. Being in San Francisco, you can't call the Giants "small market", but they're run like one. Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Duffy, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are all home-grown talent. The players they didn't draft all have relatively small contracts and filled a hole on the team, like Hunter Pence or Tim Hudson. And that strategy's worked for them, winning three World Series this decade.
     In fact, the Red Sox are one of the few teams who have stuck with the strategy of handing out big contracts as their primary manner of business. Look at the most recent World Series winners. The Royals, aforementioned Giants and Red Sox and Cardinals were all built from the ground up.
     Even the Yankees, once considered the epitome of big spending have slowly begun to ease up on the contracts. Since 2010, they've only signed four guys to contracts longer than four years, a C.C. Sabathia extension in 2012, a seven year deal to Jacoby Ellsbury, seven years for Masahiro Tanaka and a five year contract to Mr. God's Gift to Baseball Brian McCann all in the offseason of 2014. In the past two years, they've been gradually getting younger. Dellin Betances has done terrifically since his rookie season in 2014, and Rob Refsnyder and Greg Bird both made their debuts in 2015. By 2018, New York will only have three undesirable contracts on the books. They'll be getting more fiscally responsible, younger and reliant on their farm system, much like the rest of the league.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Twins Sign Carlos Quentin and Other Things

     Some of you may love the middle of February. I do not. There's after the Super Bowl, absolutely nothing happens. We still have around a week before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, all the offseason moves are over, nothing is happening in the NBA or NHL, it's just a dead time of the year. So, with nothing substantial to write about I'm just going to offer up my thoughts on some issues for this column.
Twins sign Carlos Quentin
I guess I understand this move, there's nothing wrong with it, but I just seems odd. Quentin's a 31-year-old outfielder who hasn't played in more than 131 games in a season in his career, which he did in 2010. He was productive with the Padres when healthy the last few years, but still, there's already a bit of a logjam in the outfield between Buxton, Sano, Rosario and possibly Max Kepler it's a strange move right now.
A's trade for Khris Davis
Here's another move that left me cold. It made sense for the Brewers to trade Davis. They're rebuilding and he probably won't amount to much more than a one dimensional power hitting first baseman. That said, there's a market for one dimensional power hitting first basemen that the A's aren't in. They're nowhere near contending and it makes no sense for them to acquire a player who will make them only slightly better if that's their only move.
Twins rotation this year
The three in for sure are Santana, Gibson, and Hughes. That leaves two spots up for grabs between Milone, Nolasco, Duffy, May and possibly even Berrios. Personally I'd like to see Duffy. He did very well at the end of last year, posting an ERA of 3.10 in 58 innings. Unlike most players who have hot stretches to end the year, advanced stats back him up. He struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings with a FIP of 3.24. For the last spot I'm hoping for the guy who's name is not Ricky Nolasco. There's no hope for him, the Twins should just stick him in the bullpen and ride out the last two years on his contract.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Super Bowl 50 Preview

Cam Newton vs. Peyton Manning
I love how Manning was completely written off up until week 17 and is now proving everyone wrong. I really want to pick him right here. Unfortunately, there's no question. Newton's the MVP and best quarterback on the planet right now.
Edge: Panthers
Running backs
Jonathan Stewart vs. C.J. Anderson
Neither of these teams boast superstar running backs. That said, this one is particularly close either. Stewart has over 200 more rushing yards overall and 30 per game than his Denver counterpart, not to mention five more years of experience.
Edge: Panthers
Wide Receivers
Carolina has an underrated group of wideouts, particularly Ted Ginn, who has really stepped up recently in the passing and special teams game. But nobody in their corps can compete with Denver's two-headed monster of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. The pair combined for 181 receptions and 2439 yards last year. 
Edge: Broncos
Tight End
Greg Olsen vs. Vernon Davis
There wouldn't have been any question about this two years ago, when Davis had one of the best seasons of his career, grabbing 52 catches for 850 yards. But since then his production has slipped, most notably after coming to Denver earlier this year from San Francisco. In six games he's only had 18 receptions for 194 yards and no touchdowns. Meanwhile, Olsen's flourished this year, becoming one of Cam Newton's favorite targets. The Miami product set a career high in yards with 1104.
Edge: Panthers
Offensive Line
Easy one to say here Panthers have one of the top offensive lines in the league.
Edge: Panthers
Defensive Line
Both of these lines were ranked in the top five of the NFL. You can't go wrong either way.
While the Panthers have the best overall LB in Luke Keuchley, the Broncos combination of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware give them the edge.
Edge: Broncos
Josh Norman leads a Panthers secondary that led the NFL with 24 interceptions last year. Much like the linebackers, the Broncos don't have an individual player who can compete with Norman, their unit is a bit more balanced, featuring T.J. Ward and Aquib Talib among others.
Edge: Broncos
Joe Webb
The former Vikings quarterback/receiver is on the Panthers' roster. He is not on the Broncos' roster.
Edge: Panthers
Stats point to the Panthers, but the roll Manning and the Broncos have been on is too weird for me to pick against them. They have too much karma going for them right now, I'll say Broncos 27, Panthers 20.