Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Braun is Destined for DH


It's the start of the real new year and an end to the darkest week in all of sports. Thank God I can stop watching NBA basketball...pitchers and catchers are here!

Ok, enough glee. Time to ponder the latest Rob Neyer column. (If you've been in a cave like tracker, you might not know that RN is now over at something called SBNation). Rob is looking at players of the coming decade by position. Today it's left field. Personally I think Braun is a slam dunk top three because 1. the position is pretty soft right now 2. Braun has a fantastic bat 3. left field is not hard, it's just not

Neyer thinks otherwise, discounting his bat completely (at least in terms of off-setting his defense):

And finally Ryan Braun, our youngest outstanding left fielder, just three months younger than Gardner. We know that Braun can hit with almost anyone – they don’t call him “the Hebrew Hammer” for nothing – but there is one little problem: He’s not much of a fielder. And considering that 1) Braun’s now been a gardener for three full seasons, and 2) players actually peak as fielders in their early- or mid-20s, it doesn’t seem likely that his defense will improve over the next few years.

Which leaves him and his employers in a bit of a quandary. Because if Braun gets much worse in left field, he’s unplayable out there. And he’s going to get worse. Which is why I’m crossing him off the list, too. For some goodly chunk of this decade, Braun will be either a left fielder with diminished value, or a first baseman (or a DH).

For the moment, I think we’re down to just two very talented men, Josh Hamilton and Carl Crawford.

Now I agree that Braun's negatives diminish his value. That's why they are negatives. But do they do so at such a drastic rate that he is unplayable in the field? Is he destined to get worse and worse as time goes on as Rob claims?

I think the clear answer to the second question is no. The reason your average player peaks defensively in their 20's is because they have been playing the position their entire lives and their natural athleticism is at a peak, boosting that experience. Braun has been in left for three years, giving him roughly an 18 year disadvantage to the "average defensive peak." He showed signs of improvement from 2009 to 2010, if you put much stock in fg's fielding metric. I don't think he will ever be a league average fielder, and I would love for him to slot into 1B (if only because good left fielders are cheaper) but claiming he is definitely, without a doubt, no chance otherwise going to get worse and worse seems kind of dumb.

To the first point...really? Braun has been able to register 4+ WAR seasons in each of his three in left field. His "most valuable" season, 2009 WAR 4.9, was also his worst defensively. Yes his defense hurts him significantly, but so much so that he is nearly unplayable? Sorry, but give me a break.

I would personally put Braun behind the two he ends up with, but I certainly wouldn't remove him from the discussion altogether.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

If I Was A Locked Out NFL Player...

Consider the following, almost certainly true things:

1. Many people (especially in Packer country and to a lesser extent, Bear country) will basically watch football no matter what. In Wisconsin, even the XFL did great.

2. There are open college stadiums everywhere on Sundays.

3. There are network TV stations that do not have NFL deals and would probably be more than happy to show football.

If I were an intrepid, locked out NFL player, I would create a small regional 7-7 flag football league. I would organize the teams as franchises with each participating player taking an equal share. I'd sign an open-ended TV deal with ABC or a bigger cable channel, maybe with a 3 week guaranty with a renewable 1-week option after that. Teams would split the gate and concessions. GB could play in Camp Randall or Miller Park. Chicago could play at Northwestern or Illinois. Detroit could play in Ann Arbor. I'd call it the Lockout Cup.

I would attempt to organize it in tournament form along the lines of the world cup, first with round robin group play followed by a knockout round. And if the labor dispute happened to settle in the meantime I'd preserve the Lockout Cup season in tact in case it ever happens again. This would feed ESPN speculation when a lockout was pending about "the return of the lockout cup" complete with updates about where each franchise stands.

Flag Football has low overhead. It has a lower injury risk than does real football. ESPN would take care of most of their marketing for them (as would Twitter and Facebook), and the NFL has already bestowed the players with valuable brand names. Remember when the Cleveland Indians sold out a spontaneous game in Miller Park? You don't think 40,000 would show up to see the Packers play the Bears?

I suspect that people would show up and tune in. They would get to see their favorite NFL-ers with no helmets, close up, and probably at lower prices. Some would do so just to show solidarity with the players. I'd instruct all participants to be as friendly as possible and to sign autographs as much as possible.

Would big names participate? I believe they would given the proper circumstances, and this idea would not require all of them, just enough of them. This would not just be a way to keep making money, it would also serve several other important functions, namely:

1. Showing the owners that the players can, in fact, survive without them.

2. Showing any anti-trust court that cares that a competitor to the NFL could theoretically exist if it were allowed to.

3. Keeping their skills sharp and their brands current.

4. Swinging leverage completely to the players' side, possibly forever.

5. Fox/CBS/NBC would be apoplectic at paying the owners lockout insurance while ABS is showing live real games.

Is this possible? Probably not. Owners are owners for a reason. But it would only take a few intrepid players and agents to get the ball rolling. Booking stadiums is, in the grand scheme of things, not that hard. Arranging travel is not that hard. Getting a TV network to cover football is not that hard. Creating media buzz via the internet when many of players already have thousands upon thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers is not that hard. Overhead is low.

The only thing this takes is hard work.

Owners have have used replacement players before. Why shouldn't the players try out a replacement organization?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Revisiting My Thoughts On Rodgers' First Game

Thanks to a spam comment on an old post from 9/9/2008 (the day after Rodgers first start) I was able to read what I wrote about both Aaron and Coach McCarthy's play-calling approach with the new guy at the helm. I think a lot of it still holds true and while my enthusiasm was tempered, it needn't have been. Looking

It's tough to glean any real undeniable truths from last night. One thing is certain though, Aaron Rodgers is a capable quarterback. He didn't prove last night that he is an All Pro, but he certainly proved he can play adequately ever
y game, and gave Packer fans a reason to be excited for the season. He threw excellent balls, played under control, flashed some wheels and intelligence on when to use them (haha, Tavaris Jackson). Rodgers also displayed a very strong arm and some fantastic accuracy (that TD toss and a couple of those slants were A+ throws).

Looking at his line from that game (18-22 178 yards 1 TD; 8 carries 35 yards 1 TD) we can see a few things. First, tremendous accuracy. He only had five incomplete balls and if I recall correctly one was a dropped catchable ball on a swing route to Korey Hall. Second is his athleticism. No sacks, 8 scrambles, 35 yards. Not bad at all.

Another point that has held true throughout these past two years is the playcalling of Mike McCarthy when the Packers go up big (we had a 17-6 lead going into the 4th). Now I'm not going to complain too much about the playcalling because he did try and keep his foot on the throat of Pittsburgh in the biggest game of his coaching career, but this could have been written during numerous games this season:

My biggest worry after last night is that Mike McCarthy reigned in the offense once Green Bay took the lead. Starting with that concession field goal at the end of the half (not one shot at the end zone?) it seemed like McCarthy closed the play book. It showed a lack of confidence in Rodgers that I really don't understand.

I hope the Super Bowl gives Mike a bit more confidence going into next year in terms of aggressiveness when up big. Lastly, how correct was this assessment? Now

On the other side of the ball, Minnesota is a very, very good football team, w
ith a Tarvaris Jackson sized albatross around its neck. Hopefully, they stick with him as long as they have Peterson, because if they decide to get even a non-terrible QB, they will be a force.

It was true in 2008 and will be true again in 2012. Unless they get a McNabb or someone similar, the Vikings are doomed to battle Chicago for North dregs next season.

Sometimes it is fun to reflect. For instance, all of the above was brilliant (now obvious) analysis. Additionally I picked the Packers to win the Super Bowl this year. Sometimes it is not so fun, like remembering that I picked Green Bay to bear Cincinnati in said Super Bowl.

I have been a staunch defender of both Aaron Rodgers and Ted Thompson since day 1. When Rodgers was drafted I was sitting in The Harp downtown (Sunday funday) and ran into the street shouting with joy as I stripped off my shirt and threw it into the air. It wasn't just the booze. I was thrilled at the timing of drafting a successor, I was more than impressed with Rodgers athleticism and accuracy (lacking arm strength, but he was wiry so I was confident he could build it) and he had a poise and intelligence that was lacking in the J.P. Lohsmans and Cade McNown's of the world. I knew he would be special. I'm glad that the unbridled enthusiasm I showed that drunken morning has paid off.

Give the DPOY award to a guy the Packers humiliated, give the Executive of the Year award to a guy who build a team that Green Bay destroyed and give the MVP to a guy who can't win a big game without the assistance of an A/V team. These Packers were built with a purpose, a methodical and meticulous attention to every detail (except ST) that will not be matched for years.

Sure it is no longer going out on a limb to say this team is special but God damn it, this team is special. Fuck humility, lets revel in the talent and excitement of the current Green Bay Packers. They won't be good forever but I think they'll be good for a hell of a long time.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Things about this Super Bowl that made me happy.

Aside from the raw emotion of the game itself, I enjoyed this game on a personal level. Anyone who reads this knows I have strong opinions on a few things:

1. Most free agent signings aren’t worth it.
2. Trading players is sometimes OK, but most trades that random people throw out there are just stupid. (I’m still glad we did not acquire Marshawn Lynch)
3. You build through the draft.
4. Running is overrated.
5. Picking Aaron was a smart move.
6. Ditching Favre was a smart move.

I’m not going to sit here and say that I’ve never questioned Ted Thompson. I have sometimes questioned Ted Thompson about specific moves, however his overall philosophy on how to build a team was and is brilliant. This Super Bowl will strike a blow against sports stupidity everywhere. Any time any rube throws out a “we never spend money” or “trade for Randy Moss” or “sign whoever to a huge contract”, the 2010 Green Bay Packers are now the immediate rebuttal. In addition,

Ben Roethlisberger is great because he “wins Super Bowls”? Nope.

You need to run to win? Nope.

Aaron Rodgers can’t win a big game? (Always a stupid thing to say.) Nope.

Super Bowl “experience” matters? Nope.

I’m sure there are more.

This Super Bowl was an amazing accomplishment. The Packers ran an absolute gauntlet of top NFL teams, almost exclusively on the road to get where they are right now. They had more significant injuries than anyone else. They had an absolutely brutal schedule. After the loss at New England they had to beat the New York Giants at home (9th overall in DVOA), the Bears at home (16th in DVOA, but always play the Packers well), Philadelphia in Philly (5th overall in DVOA), Atlanta in Atlanta (8th overall in DVOA), Chicago again, this time in Chicago, and then Pitt on a neutral field (2nd overall in DVOA). Winning all of those games is nothing short of amazing. Doing so with their depleted roster is more impressive still.

Thank you to:

Ted Thompson for assembling such an amazing team,

Mike McCarthy for coaching his best games of the year when it counted the most,

Brian Bulaga and Chad Clifton for holding up well against one of the NFL’s best front sevens,

Ryan Pickett, Cullen Jenkins, Howard Green, and B.J. Raji for keeping up the pressure despite being held on virtually every play, and especially to Green for causing that interception,

Clay Matthews for being his usual beastly self,

Jarrett Bush for his key interception,

Pat Lee for doing all that he could in a tough situation,

A.J. Hawk for delivering several big hits,

Brett Swain for his special teams pursuit,

Tim Masthay for being the best punter the team has had since Hentrich,

Jordy Nelson for making up for every drop, usually in short order,

Andrew Quarless for getting yourself open in the end zone, even if Aaron didn’t see you,

James Starks for making the most out of his carries, as several were actually of great importance,

To the interior line for getting good push up the middle for almost the entire game,

To Brandon Jackson for his always stellar pass-blocking and clutch, 14 yard reception,

To James Jones who despite the drop that everyone remembers, had a quiet 5 catches for 50 yards,

To everyone in the banged up secondary and every backup LB for stepping up,

To Sam Shields for giving it a go after what I’m fairly sure was a shoulder dislocation,

To Charles Woodson for being a great player, a great leader, and a great teacher. You could still see his influence on the field even after he left.

To Nick Collins who tackled as surely as Charles, and played a brilliant centerfield,

To Donald Driver, who gave it all physically when he could, and gave it all emotionally when he could not,

And finally to the 4 players who I think had a case to be MVP,

To Aaron Rodgers for putting up another virtuoso performance at the quarterback position. If not for a few dropped passes this performance may have rivaled the Atlanta game, and given the level of defense he was facing, it may have anyway. I don’t think he threw a bad ball all game as even his incompletions seemed to be thrown with purpose. To not even present the threat of a run against a team like the Steelers and to still repeatedly torch them is nothing short of amazing.

To Greg Jennings for always managing to work himself open despite always facing the team’s best corner plus safety help. For precise route-running near the end zone and in small spaces, and for dragging that toe. Jennings bailed them out of bad situations time after time this season. He is adept as both a deep threat and a possession guy, and everything in-between. On Sunday he caught a 31 yard deep ball, and managed to hold onto a touchdown despite being lit up by Troy Polamalu. Not a lot of guys can do both.

To Desmond Bishop who was an absolute beast all game whether he was playing at the line, in coverage, or scooping up a key fumble. He was all over the field all day, leading the LBs in tackles (6 solo, 8 total), and making several key stops.

And finally, to Tramon Williams, who has developed into one of the NFL’s top corners over the last year. He made several key stops including on the final 4th down of the game. When he lost Woodson and Shields he didn’t panic or try to do too much, he just continued to, very quietly, eliminate whoever he was defending from the game. On the last play of the game that happened to be Mike Wallace, and Ben Roethlisberger made the mistake, as so many QBs have on the last play of the game this year, of trying to go to Tramon’s man. As always, this resulted in failure for the QB.

Thank you to the entire organization for an amazing season.

After big wins, championships, etc., one of the things I enjoy most is reading every article, listening to every radio show, and watching every recap of the game. It makes me happy all over again every time I do it. This one is going to make me happy for a long time.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Bowl

I have no idea how tomorrow will go. None. But regardless, this season has been a fantastic surprise, and I for one plan on enjoying it, win or lose.

Thursday, February 3, 2011