Friday, April 29, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: 2nd & 3rd Round Thoughts

What to do, what to do? If you’re Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, the answer is, well, just about anything you want. Currently the Pats have 5 picks tonight. I say currently because it is all but assured that this will change. In Round 2 they have #’s 1 (33 overall), 24 (56), and 28 (60). In Round 3, its #’s 10 (74) and 28 (92). Talk about options. The first round went just about perfectly to leave their first pick, #33, with maximum value. The early run on QB’s last night left on two top signal callers (Dalton & Mallett) with a number of QB needy teams who will need to move up if they want to grab one. Teams potentially looking to trade up for a QB – Cincy, Cleveland, Arizona, San Fran, Washington and Oakland. With QB needy Buffalo sitting at #34, this is ideal for the Pats. Apparently Cincy even tried to trade up to #32 with Green Bay to take Dalton last night. There are also several highly rated players (Bowers, Reed) still available for one reason or another, that New England could either select, or find other trade partners for. Of the 5 picks tonight, I would guess that four players are chosen, with one pick being moved into next year.
While last night may have left many fans disappointed, it addressed one major area of need – Offensive Tackle. Tonight’s selections should address the remaining positions – OLB, DE, RB and OG. I was planning on putting together a list of players I thought the Pats would select until I came across ESPN’s Mike Reiss’s 2nd Round Mock Draft. He hit the three players I was targeting for the Patriots to select:
#33 - Jabaal Sheard (OLB, Pitt): I covered him earlier this week and still think he’s the right fit for an OLB in the Pats 3-4. He has the ability to move to DE in sub-packages. While Reiss is projecting him at #33, I foresee a trade with one of the QB needy teams mentioned above looking to leap-frog Buffalo and Cincy to grab Dalton. My best guess is Arizona (6th pick of 2nd round) or Washington (9th).
#56 - Allen Bailey (DE, Miami): Also covered here this week. Earlier than I projected, but since the depth at DE is gone, it’s the right idea to take him here.
#60 - Mikel Leshoure (RB, Illinois): Reiss, Kiper and McShay all project the Pats taking Leshoure here, and while I agree; that probably means it won’t happen. He’s a better fit for the Pats than Ingram, given his superior pass blocking ability (meaning he can play all 3 downs), is a one-cut type runner that the Pats love (like Benny) and bigger than Ingram.
Here are some thoughts on other names of note that are options tonight:
Da’Quan Bowers (DE, Clemson)– Bowers was initially projected to go in the top 10, but a recent knee injury has scared teams away from him. Somewhat reminds me of Sergio Kindle last year. He’s an immensely talented player, and someone will take the injury risk for his tremendous upside early in Round 2. I don’t see that team being the Patriots. Shocking I know. But Bowers (6’3”, 280lbs) is a bit small to play DE in the Pats 3-4, and doesn’t project well at OLB. Plus knee injuries are something they tend to shy away from. Tempting, but I don’t see it.
Brooks Reed (DE/OLB, Arizona) – Reed was discussed here earlier this week, and is now in the range where he could be worth the pick. Mel Kiper Jr. now has the Pats taking him with #33, but the more I read about him, the less I’m sold. Jerry Thornton’s take (linked yesterday) sums it up pretty well.
Akeem Ayers (OLB, UCLA) – Also covered here earlier this week, but I still think he’s too small.
Justin Houston – Most likely pick if they don’t go with Sheard.

Dream scenario trade that is based off of absolutely nothing and probably extremely unrealistic, but I figured it would be fun to try:
New England to Washington:
#33 overall pick (1st pick, Round 2)
#74 overall pick (10th pick, Round 3)
#125 overall pick (28th pick, Round 4)
Washington to New England:
#41 overall pick (9th pick, Round 2)
#49 overall pick (17th pick, Round 2)
Washington gets Dalton and picks up 3rd and 4th round picks for this year (of which they have none). New England picks up and extra 2nd Round pick, giving them 4 for this year. The Pats use #41 and still get Sheard, the player they want. After that, they use two of the other picks on the players mentioned above, and trade another into a 2012 1st Round pick, giving them three 2012 1st Round picks. Like I said, unrealistic, but man would that be sweet.
All I know is that it should be an awfully exciting night from a Patriots perspective. The only problem is that Roger Goodell decided it would be a good idea to have the draft on a Friday night. Apparently he doesn’t go out. But I do; so hopefully there is a more dedicated writer out there than I so I can catch up on all of Belichick’s moves in the morning.

2011 NFL Draft: 1st Round Reaction

For Patriots fans, last nights’ draft went as they always do. Most enter with great expectations, hoping for sexy names at flashy positions. This year, with two first round picks, expectations were even more inflated than normal. A top-tier pass rusher? Heisman winner Mark Ingram? Needless to say, the first round ended in typical Patriots fashion. To the dismay of many, there was no Clay Matthews 2.0, no big names, and the Patriots even traded away the pick that was used to select the highly coveted Ingram. What we are left with – a mountain of a left tackle to protect Brady’s blind side; an extra 1st round pick for next year, and an army of frustrated fans who will never learn. After the Solder pick was announced, the texts began to fly in – “What the hell???”, “Are you f’in kidding?”, “Who?”, etc.. Apparently my friends don’t read Sexy Boston Sports frequently enough. After trying to justify the pick, one of my friends sent the following: “You are the biggest Patriots apologist on Earth”. While that may be true, it is hard to argue with the selection of a monster of a LT to add to and Offensive Line in desperate need of a youth movement. In regards to Ingram, he is just not the type of player the Pats will select. They only choose player in the first round who they will get maximum production out of. Talented as he may be, Ingram lacks the pass protection abilities to play on 3rd downs, and the team cannot justify the expensive cap figure that a first round RB commands. I have no doubt that Ingram will be a solid Pro, but this team has always run the ball very effectively without big name backs; and they will continue to in the future thanks to the big guys up front like Solder.
The only disappointing aspect of the night for me came after the trade with New Orleans. Once I heard the details of the trade (#28 for #56 and a 2012 #1 – an absolutely awesome deal) - and looked at the remaining players on the board; I was ecstatic. Only 5 picks until the Pats were back on the clock, and both Mo Wilkerson and Cameron Heyward were still on the board. Could we possibly get either of the two best DE’s for our system at #33 overall. Mind you, both of these guys were projected to go in the Top 20. A top tier tackle at #17, one of the best DE’s, plus the haul from the New Orleans trade? Too good to be true. Then the Jets and Steelers had to go be their typical D-bag selves and mess everything up. This left a bit of a sour taste after an otherwise exciting night. That said, there is still plenty of talent available, and tonight will tell the story of the 2011 Draft for the Patriots. Check back later for predictions on Rounds 2 & 3.
A few random thoughts from Round 1 worth mentioning:
- I absolutely LOVED the boo’s Goodell was greeted with last night. Go away Roger.
- Cam Newton is not and will never be a franchise QB. I have no idea why Carolina would take him there. Why guarantee a guy $50+ million who MIGHT be good? Give a sure thing like Patrick Peterson or Von Miller any day.
- By far the most shocking moment of the night to me was the Falcons trading up to select Julio Jones. No that they did it, but how much they gave up. 2011 1st, 2nd & 4th round picks plus 2012 1st and 4th? Cleveland couldn’t have said yes fast enough. GM Thomas Dimitroff started with the Patriots, and that is about as un-Patriot like a move as you could make. Especially for a guy who’s first 3 minutes of highlights ESPN showed were him dropping wide-open passes (he’ll be nasty, but still). I guess they must have been blown away by the results from his new Under Armour Shirt.
- How about the two newly formed scariest young DL combos in a long time: Houston DE’s Mario Williams and JJ Watt and Detroit DT’s Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Wow.

Celtics-Heat: The Moment We've Been Waiting For

When trying to come up with a gimmick to discuss this vaunted playoff matchup, I decided to dust off my MBA that has been collecting cobwebs for almost 2 full years now and go with a “SWOT” analysis of the Miami Heat. For those of you who didn’t waste 2 years chasing a piece of paper only to end up a glorified secretary at a bankruptcy law firm, “SWOT” stands for Strenghts, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Strengths are what the team is good at; weaknesses are what the team is not good at; opportunities are areas where the team can attack its opponent (the Celtics); threats are areas where the opponent could exploit the team. Essentially, it’s a way to say that the Heat are good at this and bad at that and the Celtics are good at this and bad at that, while allowing me to find some use, any use, for my “advanced” degree besides as a dinner napkin. Oh, and don't worry, this will not be stat heavy at all, I evaluate basketball way more on what I see than by the numbers. I am sorry to say it will be a LONG post so maybe print it out and take it to the bathroom with you after lunch.

Athleticism: Just look at this video of Lebron James’ blocks and this video of Dwyane Wade. While Paul Pierce and Ray Allen do as well as anyone guarding these two (although on Wade it’s really a team effort), their “Where were you when JFK was shot” athleticism makes absolutely anything possible on both ends of the floor. When Rajon Rondo gets a 15 foot head start on the break he has to be wary of Lebron unleashing the fury from behind. When Kevin Garnett looks to fire a pass to a cutting Paul Pierce he has to think twice about Wade lurking in the passing lane. When Wade and Lebron get out on the break together the Celtics might as well start thinking about their next offensive play (unless Jermaine O’Neal is around to give them another forearm shiver). And even when one of the Celtics’ wing players have done his job sliding his feet and staying square with Wade or Lebron, if they get within 10 feet of the hoop there’s still a huge possibility for an explosion and a facial and two points on the board.

Team defense: As I mentioned before, this is a very athletic team with a penchant for the spectacular. This does not stop with just Lebron and Wade as Chris Bosh is remembering that he is athletic and 6’11’’ and can block shots and Joel Anthony provides a nice interior presence on defense. Mario Chalmers off the bench also gives the Heat a decent option defending at the point guard position. This team does not have the disciplined rotation style defense that the Celtics employ, but their freakish young legs allow them to compensate for some fundamental mistakes. They will be in the passing lanes, closing out on three point shots (which means running at the three point shooters while they are shooting, taking away an open look), converging on players driving towards the hoop, trapping non-ball handlers like Glenn Davis, Jeff Green and Allen, blocking shots on double teams and of course, taking away seemingly wide open fast breaks.

Passing: So if it feels like this whole “Strengths” section could have just had four words under it (Lebron James Dwyane Wade) it’s because that is pretty much their strength. This team has 2 of the best 5 basketball players on the planet and they both do everything well but shoot 3 pointers. Passing is another one of their amazing talents. Wade has averaged as high as 7.5 assists per game over a season and, before the current incarnation of the Heat, regularly was the main ball handler and distributor (and shooter and rebounder and defender). James came into the league his rookie year and actually lined up at point guard for half the season. Bill Simmons used to say that James was set to become the New Magic because of his great court vision and the ability to make any pass. His lack of good teammates over the years stunted his ascension to New Magic-dom, but when these 3 idiots joined up this year there was talk of him averaging a triple-double, and it wasn’t that outrageous.

Rebounding: Again, it’s the Lebron and Dwyane show. Two of the best rebounders at their position, they use their strength and athleticism to crash the boards with a vengeance. The impressive thing about the tandem, is that one of them can charge in for a defensive rebound while the other gets out on the break and they can throw a perfect outlet pass for the finish. The rest of the team isn’t particularly strong in this area, but Bosh can be solid when motivated and Anthony will collect his share of offensive boards when teams play off of him to check Wade and James.

Players not named Wade, James, Bosh: The problems that were expected before the season started have actually proven to be worse than expected. Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller were expected to be at least average players to make a strong crunch time lineup but Haslem has been out most of the season and won’t play in this series and Miller has been largely ineffective. The center position looked bad coming into the season (despite the 5 year deal they handed out to Joel Anthony, which is why we are headed to a lockout) and it has not gotten any better. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a sieve on defense and Anthony does not need to be covered on offense, allowing teams to help on Wade and James. The point guard position was looked at as a position where a guy could come in and just shoot the corner 3, but the revolving door of Mario Chalmers, Carlos Arroyo and Mike Bibby have rarely been able to handle even that much. Worse, the addition of Bibby has proven disastrous on defense as he wouldn’t be able to cover a nine year old girl giving a piggy back ride to Big Baby.

Offense: This is not a good offensive team. The incredible abilities of Wade and James and the steadiness of Bosh mask a team that has no playbook to speak of and has a clear alpha dog struggle that still has not worked itself out. If the two freaks do not get out on a fast break, the offense grinds to a halt. The offense follows the basic premise that you give the ball to James or Wade on the wing, send the other one to the opposite side, and let the ball handler do his work. Occasionally there will be a pick with Bosh or a post up for Bosh, but this is about the extent of the playbook.

Offensive rebounding: As tt has been a problem from day 1 for the Celtics, the Heat will be able to collect a lot of offensive rebounds against one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. With the rotating defense of the Celtics, they tend to lose players and not box them out. Wade and James are definitely two players you don’t want to lose when a loose ball is prancing about. In addition, Anthony will be a guy that the team does not cover and as we saw in the final meeting between these two teams if the Celtics do not rotate back to him when the shot goes up, he could easily get 4-5 offensive rebounds a game that lead to easy points.

Attacking the hoop: If Shaq comes back, and that is a Shaq-sized if, this point will be moot. However, in his absence the Celtics have serious size problems. When Jermaine and KG are both in the game, the team has a strong interior presence and with the strong on the ball defense against James and Wade, they should be able to keep them out of the paint. Unfortunately, when either one of Jermaine and KG takes a seat (let alone both), the inside becomes wide open. It’s crazy to think that size would be an issue against a team with no size like the Heat, but Wade and James are so good at getting to the basket that it is really necessary to have a guy that will make them think twice about barreling in there (oh god do I miss you Perk).

Protecting the hoop: Again, a team with no size like the Heat should not be able to protect the hoop, and when Ilgauskas and Bibby are both in the game they probably won’t be able to. However, when Anthony comes in and James or Wade switches to “guarding” Rondo (playing 10 feet away from him and roaming the paint) it gets really hard to get good looks at the hoop. Add in the facts that Pierce will be exhausted chasing Lebron around, Big Baby gets 70% of his shots at the rim blocked, and Rondo has a (well deserved) fear of Lebron and the lay up line that this team had against the Knicks will be a distant memory.

Playoff Rondo: I mentioned that Rondo has a fear of Lebron and there will be times when the Heat are able to play one of the freaks as a free safety against him. But there will also be stretches of the game where Mike “Alby” Bibby sidles up to our little water bug and all hell breaks loose for the Heat. I don’t think I can stress this enough: “Alby” Bibby is a terrible defender. What scares me the most about this matchup is that Erik Spoelstra will realize this sometime in the middle of the first quarter of Game 1 and will put Wade or James on Rondo for the rest of the series. Of course the problem then becomes either Pierce posting him up every time down or Allen running him through a dizzying array of screens. Also, I’m not so sure the free safety defense will work against Playoff Rondo who looks for and makes his 15 foot jump shots with regularity. As it has been all season, as Rondo goes so goes the Celtics.

Help defense: Nobody, save for maybe the Tom Thibodeau coached Bulls, plays better help defense than the Celtics. Pierce and Allen do an admirable job guarding James and Wade, but there will undoubtedly be times when the Heat tandem blows past the Celtics duo. Luckily, KG, Jermaine, Big Baby and Jeff Green all are able to recognize this and rotate into the middle to either force a pass or a tough shot or, especially in the cases of Big Baby and Jermaine, draw a charge and get the two into early foul trouble. Also in the Celtics favor, if the rotating big men force a pass to another Heat player, the man who got beat off the dribble will be able to fall into the defensive rotation and cover one of the Heat players standing on the perimeter. This is huge because while the Heat do have some good perimeter shooters in Bibby, Miller, Chalmers, Ilgauskas and James Jones, every one of them needs to be wide open to shoot a successful jumper. As long as the Celtics continue to close out on the shooters, the Heat penetration will not create as much havoc as usual.

Depth: After the Knicks series when the Celtics built up double digit leads in every first quarter only to see 3 of the 4 of them evaporate when the bench came in, it may seem confusing to list the Celtics depth as a threat to the Heat. However, depth can mean so much more than going 9 deep. The Celtics have depth on defense that I have already touched on. Everyone on the team buys into the style the Celtics play and there are very few weak spots. The Celtics have depth on offense because they can score in a variety of ways, have a solid playbook and have a coach who knows how to call plays coming out of a time out. And, when compared to the Heat, the Celtics do have a deep bench. Glenn Davis, Jeff Green and Delonte West are solid NBA players. As much grief as I have given to Davis and Green, they can still be strong contributors in this series and just cannot be as bad as they were against the Knicks. If they all play with a little more aggression and their typical solid defense, the Heat could be in big trouble when one or two of their Big 3 go out and its bench vs. bench.

Pressure: Typically I do not put much stock in mysterious forces like pressure (or the stock market or gravity or PMS), but James and Bosh have yet to show they can consistently handle high pressure situations. As the higher seed with home court advantage (and a shitty one at that) and the preseason expectations, all the pressure is on the Heat in this series. If those idiots down there expect to win 7 or 8 or 9 titles together, they are going to have to get started this year. The Celtics proved that you could bring 3 superstars together and win immediately so now all eyes are on this team to see if they can live up to the massive expectations they set for themselves. I think this will ultimately be their undoing through missed foul shots late in a close game that will allow the Celtics to steal a game they should have lost. I’m going with the depth and Rondo of the Celtics over 2 of the 5 best players in the league on the Heat.

Celtics in 6.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hastily Put Together Last Minute Draft Thoughts

I wanted to put together previews for all positions, but just didn’t have enough time so here are some quick thoughts for tonight:
- First and foremost be ready for the Pats to trade. A lot. Just read this. There is a negative percent chance that they’ll make both picks in their assigned spots. I expect the Pats to only make one pick tonight, moving the other one either into a combo of picks in the later rounds, next years draft, or most likely – both. When a player you’re hoping for starts to fall down the draft and the Pats are about to be on the clock – don’t get excited and think they’ll pick him. They won’t. They’ll trade back. Be like a Buddhist Monk, just wait and wait and wait some more.
- Whenever the Patriots make a pick tonight, it will be a Defensive Player. If they somehow make two, the other will be an offensive lineman.
- I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the Pats possibly taking Ingram or Locker. That’s just silly. C’mon people. Ingram wasn’t even the best RB on his own team last year, and why would they waste a pick on a guy who (hopefully) wouldn’t play for 5+ years in Locker. Also, Lockers’ biggest knock is accuracy – only the 2nd most important trait the Pats look for in their QB’s.
- The “We Want Football!!” chants Goodell came out to were awesome. I hope he gets booed all night.
- The earlier the run on QB’s the better. It only gives more value to the picks that Belichick will inevitably be trading.
- Read the following links for position projections. They’re done by Jerry Thornton of Barstool Sports, and he does an excellent job. He highlights many of the players I planned on talking about, and his intro in the “Guards” preview is spot on:
- If the Pats were to pick in their two spots (which won’t happen), I would say OT Nate Solder at #17 and DE Cameron Heyward at #28.
- Don’t get frustrated. Remember that you are watching one of the all time greats at working the draft. Enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Preview: Outside Linebackers

Outside Linebackers
The Patriots need a pass rusher. I could toss out a whole bunch of stats from the past few years, I could quote hundreds of analysts discussing the topic, or point out examples from specific games last year; but why bother. The Patriots need a pass rusher, it’s as simple as that.
Position need:
Very high
6’2” – 6’4”, 255-270lbs., freakishly athletic. Way too fast and agile for their size; these guys need to do it all rush the passer, drop into coverage, set the edge in the run game. Versatility is essential for an OLB in the Pats system. OLB’s must be able to do everything mentioned above when in the Base 3-4, and be capable of playing Rush DE when the defense switches to sub-packages in passing situations. Given how pass happy the NFL has become, the Patriots spent nearly as much time in sub-packages last year as they did in their base D. Look for someone who has experience dropping into underneath zone coverage at the college level.
Draft Depth:
Lots of quality pass rushing DE’s, but most are better fit for the 4-3 and don’t have the versatility required for the Pats system. Most of the players that fit the prototype are rated as 2nd-3rd round players.
Guys likely to be gone:
Von Miller (A&M), Robert Quinn (UNC)
Fits but not the pick:
Brooks Reed (Arizona)- 6’2”, 263lbs. A guy with a non-stop motor and the work ethic that fits the Pats mold. A team captain, and has a huge passion for the game. Noted as one of the better pass rushers in the draft, but struggles some at setting the edge against the run. The fact that he was once a teammate of Gronk is almost enough to sell me on him. Seems to lack the agility to play in space at OLB. Also, projections have him going in the mid/late first round, whereas his skills seem to be more in line with a 2nd round player. I would love to see him end up on the team, just not in the first round.
Justin Houston (UGA)- 6’3”, 270lbs. I’ve seen a few people project Houston to the Pats, and it’s easy to believe given Belichick’s affinity for SEC defenders. Another top notch pass rusher who struggles against the run. Projected late first rounder with 2nd round value.

Akeem Ayers (UCLA)- 6’2”, 254lbs. A bit small, but still an effective run defender, proving capable of setting the edge. Has plenty of experience in pass coverage and does well, but is not an elite pass rusher. Also, has a less physical style than the Pats typically look for on D. Was a Team Captain.
Mid-round Options:
There are a lot, so I will just list a few that I wouldn’t be surprised to see end up in a Patriots uniform should they wait to select one:
Greg Romeus (PITT)
Ricky Elmore (Arizona)
Cliff Matthews (S. Car)
Sam Acho (TEX)Jeremy Beal (OU)
The pick:
Jabaal Sheard (PITT)- 6’3”, 265lbs. A team captain that fits the prototype size requirements that the Pats look for. Noted as one of the top pass rushers in the draft; relying on relentlessness, strong hands and a wide array of moves. Not a great run defended, but does an adequate job of sealing off blockers and setting the edge, which is key to run defense in a 3-4 scheme. Noted as having excellent instinct and play recognition skills. Has proved effective at dropping into zone coverage, and seems to be the all around player the Pats will be looking for. Look for Sheard to be picked with one of the two 2nd round picks. Also, saved an old lady from a burning building when he was in high school so he’s got that going for him; which is nice.

Breaking Down Walls: A Pitcher's Won-Loss Record

Former 21 Game Winner, Russ Ortiz
Part of what I would like to do on this site is to educate people on how to understand the game of baseball a little better. I would expect most of you even reading these posts know quite a bit about the game already, or can at least get through a nine inning game and know what just happened, and this is certainly not meant to belittle anyone's intelligence. What I would like to do is arm people with a better understanding of some newer ways of thinking about the game so they can both interpret what they have just watched and then discuss it with other fans. I think a good place to start is to look at some preconceived notions and statistics that have been around forever that can be slightly misleading or even flat out wrong. With some simple examples of why these concepts are outdated it will be easier to explain some newer ways of thinking. First, I would like to start with the stat with more holes in it than the plot of Ocean's 12:

Pitcher's Won-Loss Record

This one is so easy we have to look no further back than April 7 and April 8 to show exactly why this stat means nothing. Time, once again, for my favorite game, Player A vs. Player B:

Player A: 7 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 9 SO, 0 ER

Player B: 5 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 2 SO, 6 ER

Before I tell you who the player is and what effect each game had on their Won-Loss record, I want every one to take a minute and think about who pitched the better game...It's ok I'll wait...I'm just gonna run and grab a Snapple...Ok, time's up. Did everybody say Player A pitched the better game? Good.

Well Player A is Jon Lester, who took a No Decision in a 1-0 loss to the Indians. Player B is John Lackey who took a 9-6 Win over the Yankees.

But that's just one game. Most stats can look kind of goofy after just one game. The best pitchers always finish with really good records at the end of the year right?

Player A: 29 Starts, 176.1 IP, 146 SO, 58 BB, 2.52 SO/BB, 25 HR, 83 R, 4.19 ERA (2% better than league average)

Player B: 34 Starts, 249.2 IP, 232 SO, 70 BB, 3.31 SO/BB, 17 HR, 80 R, 2.27 ERA (74% better than league average)

I am also going to give you their run support numbers:

Player A: 6.8 Runs per game (most in the AL)

Player B: 3.1 Runs per game (second least in the AL)

Ok, you have less time to think about which pitcher was better last year because I expect you are getting the point. Player B is clearly the better pitcher.

Player A is Yankees Starter Phil Hughes from 2010. He finished with a record of 18-8. Player B is Mariners Starter Felix Hernandez. He finished with a record of 13-12. Interestingly, 3 of the top 4 in Run Support were Yankees and the bottom 4 were all Mariners. As you can tell from that statement, the Yankees had the best offense in the AL and the Mariners had an historically bad offense last year (why is it “an historically” and not “a historically”? I am not British. I use a hard “H” when I say “Historically”. The English language, man, she is weird.) Of course, the Baseball Writers Association of America actually got it right last year and awarded Hernandez with the Cy Young despite his mediocre record. I give those guys a lot of crap but they are making baby steps towards understanding what makes a good baseball player. As you can see from this comparison, pitching is at most half of what decides the outcome of the game, and when you factor in defense and modern relief pitching, starting pitching probably decides about 25% of the outcome of a game. So why do pitchers who throw the first 5 innings (or those who appear in one inning at the right time as a reliever) get credited for winning the whole game?

In case you think, as most stat heads do, that one season is not enough data to prove a point, I will do one last Player A vs. Player B using career totals.

Player A: 685 Starts, 4970 IP, 3701 SO, 1322 BB, 2.80 SO/BB, 430 HR, 2029 R, 60 Shutouts, 3.31 ERA (18% better than league average)

Player B: 527 Starts, 3824 IP, 2478 SO, 1390 BB, 1.78 SO/BB, 389 HR, 1815 R, 28 Shutouts, 3.90 ERA (5% better than league average)

Ok from this one, I hope you see that Player A is better, and not  just because of his ERA. The guy walked fewer batters in over 1,000 more innings, had a SO/BB ratio a full point higher, had 32 more shut outs and has the 5th most strikeouts of all time. Player A is Bert Blyleven and he had a career record of 287-250. Player B is Jack Morris and he had a career record of 254-186. Now, this is another one that the BBWAA got right as Blyleven was finally elected to the Hall of Fame this year  after 12 years on the ballot and Morris is still sitting there. But it took a hell of a lot of convincing to get the guy with the 5th most strikeouts ever, probably the most important skill a pitcher can have, into the HOF. The chief reason was the mediocre record, while the reason Morris still stands a chance to get in despite his mediocre ERA is because “he knew how to win and pitched to the score.”

Hopefully I’ve showed you that individual Won-Loss records have very little meaning. Too much happens in every game that is out of a pitcher’s control that we should not credit him with the full outcome of the game. So the next time someone says, “Bro, the Sawx should totally sign that friggin guy, he was an 18 game winnah last yee-ah!”, I suggest you ask him about his strikeout to walk ratio, his home runs allowed, his run support, or even just his ERA. All are better indicators of talent and potential for future success than the highly convoluted, meaningless Won-Loss record.

Update: For those who think that Won-Loss records are simple, here is the Official MLB rules for determining the pitcher of record:

10.17 Winning And Losing Pitcher
(a) The official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher that pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, unless
(1) such pitcher is a starting pitcher and Rule 10.17(b) applies; or
(2) Rule 10.17(c) applies.
Rule 10.17(a) Comment: Whenever the score is tied, the game becomes a new contest insofar as the winning pitcher is concerned. Once the opposing team assumes the lead, all pitchers who have pitched up to that point and have been replaced are excluded from being credited with the victory. If the pitcher against whose pitching the opposing team gained the lead continues to pitch until his team regains the lead, which it holds to the finish of the game, that pitcher shall be the winning pitcher.
(b) If the pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, is a starting pitcher who has not completed
(1) five innings of a game that lasts six or more innings on defense, or
(2) four innings of a game that lasts five innings on defense, then the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the relief pitcher, if there is only one relief pitcher, or the relief pitcher who, in the official scorer’s judgment was the most effective, if there is more than one relief pitcher.
Rule 10.17(b) Comment: It is the intent of Rule 10.17(b) that a relief pitcher pitch at least one complete inning or pitch when a crucial out is made, within the context of the game (including the score), in order to be credited as the winning pitcher. If the first relief pitcher pitches effectively, the official scorer should not presumptively credit that pitcher with the win, because the rule requires that the win be credited to the pitcher who was the most effective, and a subsequent relief pitcher may have been most effective. The official scorer, in determining which relief pitcher was the most effective, should consider the number of runs, earned runs and base runners given up by each relief pitcher and the context of the game at the time of each relief pitcher’s appearance. If two or more relief pitchers were similarly effective, the official scorer should give the presumption to the earlier pitcher as the winning pitcher.
(c) The official scorer shall not credit as the winning pitcher a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when at least one succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain its lead. In such a case, the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the succeeding relief pitcher who was most effective, in the judgment of the official scorer.
Rule 10.17(c) Comment: The official scorer generally should, but is not required to, consider the appearance of a relief pitcher to be ineffective and brief if such relief pitcher pitches less than one inning and allows two or more earned runs to score (even if such runs are charged to a previous pitcher). Rule 10.17(b) Comment provides guidance on choosing the winning pitcher from among several succeeding relief pitchers.
(d) A losing pitcher is a pitcher who is responsible for the run that gives the winning team a lead that the winning team does not relinquish.
Rule 10.17(d) Comment: Whenever the score is tied, the game becomes a new contest insofar as the losing pitcher is concerned.
(e) A league may designate a non-championship game (for example, the Major League All-Star Game) for which Rules 10.17(a)(1) and 10.17(b) do not apply. In such games, the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher that pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, unless such pitcher is knocked out after the winning team has attained a commanding lead and the official scorer concludes that a subsequent pitcher is entitled to credit as the winning pitcher.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Ends

Defensive End
The date was September 6th, 2009- the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I was sitting at a diner in Hyannis with a group of friends recounting ridiculous stories of the past weekend (people falling off docks and into the harbor for a late night swim, girls kicking through glass doors to get into the hotel, etc) when my phone rang. It was Papa O. I assumed it was the standard call to make sure I was still alive after a weekend adventure with the idiots I call my friends. Nope.
“Did you hear the Pats traded Seymour” he asked. Whaaaaaaa? I shared the news with the table and started getting chewed out as if I was the one who traded him. So much for don’t shoot the messenger. How could they trade Big Rich? One of the unquestioned leaders of the team; a 5 time Pro Bowl selection (and 3x 1st team All-Pro); was gone? You know it’s bad when even the girls at the table are upset that a Defensive End was traded. I can’t even think of the male equivalent to that – being upset over what dress Jessica Biel wore to the Oscars? Outraged at which golddigger got voted off of The Bachelor? I don’t know, think of something funny and laugh. Anyways-
After finding out the details – a 2011 first round pick (from the Raiders!! #1 overall???), and the unlikelihood that Rich was going to re-sign – I felt a lot better about the trade. But since that day, there has been a MASSIVE (6’6”, 310lb.) hole at RDE. Gerard Warren and co. played well last year, but there is an obvious need evidenced by the fact that NT Vince Wilfork was forced to move to DE against certain opponents. And now Warren is a Free Agent. Our other Warren –Ty - is coming off of hip surgery and has seen a decrease in production the past few years. Jarvis Green was forced to leave via Free Agency to make sure there were enough letters for BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ jersey. While there is good depth along the D-line, it’s time to find a top-tier anchor so Vince can stay at nose and the linebackers can roam free.
Position need: Moderate
Prototype: A behemoth (6’3”-6’6”, 290+ pounds) who can take on double teams and effectively two-gap when in the Base 3-4. Ideal player can move inside to DT (both for 3 and 4 man lines) on passing downs and pressure QB from inside/collapse the pocket.
Draft Depth: Analysts are raving about the depth of DE’s in this years class, but keep in mind that many of those players are in the 250-280lb range. Players of this size would play OLB in the Pats base 3-4 and will be covered later. I don’t see much depth for the above prototype. Belichick will either be selecting a DE with one of the two 1st round picks, or wait for developmental prospect in the mid-late rounds.
Guys likely to be gone: It’s unlikely that Belichick will trade up in the first round, so don’t get your hopes up for these guys who should be gone before #17- J.J. Watt (Wisc), Cam Jordan (Cal)
Fit but not the pick: Mo Wilkerson (Temple)- The 6’4”, 315lb. beast has the ideal physical make-up the Pats target and is very athletic for his size. Team Captain in 2010. Has experience playing both DE and DT. Excellent run defender and can effectively rush the passer from both DL spots. However, there are concerns about his work ethic in the weight room.
I was ready to pencil Wilkerson in as my pick until I started reading pre-Combine reports. He was projected as a late 3rd-early 4th round pick. The Pats never seem to go for these “fast-risers”, and judging by most mock drafts, they’d have to take him at #17, which seems a bit rich for a player with some developing ahead of him.
Mid-round Option: Allen Bailey (It’s all about The U)- A 6’3”, 285lbs. physical freak. He grew up on an island off the coast of Georgia, with a population of 80 people. I know that isn’t football related, but what the hell? He also once killed an alligator with a shovel- badass, sign him up.
Belichick was at Miami’s Pro Day and most likely spent time reviewing film with him. He was a Team Captain and scouts rave about his work ethic. Played both DE and DT in college, and is stout against the run. Has less than average instincts, evidenced by slow play diagnosis. Lacks great hand technique. If Belichick passes on taking a DE early, look for Bailey in the late 3rd round.
The pick: Cameron Heyward (THE Ohio State University)- 6’4”, 295lbs.. Sound run defender, with the size and strength to take on double teams and anchor on the outside. Good, not great pass rusher but relentless worker and can play DE or DT. Great instincts/play recognition. Read the following Scouts’ Inc. description for Heyward under “Intangibles” and tell me if it sounds familiar:
Humble leader that deflects praise to teammates. A pace-setter both on game day and during practices. Was awarded Jack Stephenson Award (outstanding defensive lineman) by coaches in 2009 and team's outstanding first-year player on defense in 2007. Father is former NFL RB Craig 'Ironhead' Heyward.”
Sounds like a Patriot to me.

Back to the future with Phil Plantier

This year I would like to honor the old dudes. So often we all get caught up in the future. Baseball America and Mel Kiper Jr. (in football) have turned minor leaguers and draft picks into house hold names because of the great hope of the unknown. How can we be disappointed in a player if he has never played a game right? In doing this, I think sometimes we tend to forget about some of our former heroes that graced the diamond. The guys who had entertaining careers, but had fatal flaws that ushered them out of town and out of mind. I think sometimes we (and I am a huge culprit of this) are too quick to want to push the old guard out to pasture and let the new prospect shine with his promise. So in order to keep the memories of our elders eternal, I am going to try to write profiles about former Red Sox players from my youth to pay homage to some really good players and maybe paint the picture of how a young X Mark got so crazed over baseball from watching these guys that he actually tattooed one of their numbers on his chest. So let’s hop in the Delorean, crank it up to 88 and head back to 1990 to visit my former favorite player, Phil Plantier

Phil Plantier was drafted as an infielder (he would later move to the outfield) in the 11th round by the Red Sox in 1987 out of Poway (NH) High School. As a 19 year old in his first full season assignment in the Florida State League, he struggled a little bit (.666 OPS) but showed good patience (51 BB in just 399 PA) for a teenager. The next year he took a small step back in league (Carolina League) but made a massive jump in performance. In 528 PA, he hit 27 HR and had a triple slash line of .302/.405/.546, but also started to show the contact issues that  would later doom him with 122 SO. In 1990, at just 21 years old, the Red Sox aggressively promoted him two levels to AAA Pawtucket where his power went from great to prolific, slugging 33 HR in just 507 PA good for an OPS of .906. His average took a little tumble that year and his strike outs increased, but the power and still good patience (62 BB) were enough to earn a call-up to The Show in August. While he didn’t do much in just 14 games that year, Phil Plantier was a Major Leaguer at just 21 years old.

The early 90’s were a transition time for the Red Sox outfield. By this time, Mike Greenwell had ascended to the starting left field position and appeared poised to keep the run of great Red Sox left fielders intact (Williams-Yaz-Rice). Ellis Burks burst onto the scene as a 22 year old in 1987 and gave the team its first really good center fielder since Freddie Lynn got away. The only position that was left unsettled in 1991 was right field. In 1990, with Jim Rice now retired, the Sox shifted Dwight Evans to DH full time. Evans, who was actually a better player than Jim Rice and should be in the Hall of Fame, was possibly the best defensive right fielder of all time and had been with the team since 1972. To replace him in the field in 1990, the Sox traded closer Lee Smith to the Cardinals for Tom Brunansky. Brunansky had a solid year in 1990, but in 1991 he slumped to a .692 OPS, paving the way for Plantier to be called up for good.

In 1991, still just 22 years old, Plantier opened the season in Pawtucket again, but he could not be contained. In 84 games he hit 16 HR, walked 65 times (against 64 SO) and put up a line of .305/.438/.557! With Brunansky struggling, the Red Sox had no choice but to call up the phenom with the prolific power. He played in 11 games with the big club in June and struggled, collecting 4 singles in 18 plate appearances. He was sent down for more seasoning, but returned in August on a mission. In 46 August PA, Plantier hit .412/.565/.794 with 6 Extra Base Hits (XBH) and 11 walks. He followed it up by playing in 29 games in September and October and logging a 1.000 OPS. For the season, he finished with a 1.034 OPS and 11 HR. In just 53 games, Plantier built up enough good will to finish 8th in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. More impressively, according to several sources on the Internet (though I cannot find the original source), Bill James predicted that Plantier was the player most likely to lead the Major Leagues in HR in the 90s (of course he did not, that honor went to Mark McGwire).

The future looked bright for Plantier after his rookie season. I am assuming this is the year I officially fell in love with him and adopted him as my own (can a 7 year old adopt a 22 year old?). With that crouched stance, a beautiful lefty swing, good patience, and tremendous power, it was easy to envision him becoming the next Red Sox super star. 

In 1992, Plantier made his first Opening Day roster (here is the lineup for the day) as the starting right fielder, batting 5th behind Greenwell and Burks. In his first at bat, Plantier launched a solo shot off Yankees starter Scott Sanderson to deep center and it appeared that the phenom was no fluke. Unfortunately, this would be the high point of my favorite player’s season. He would not homer again until June 6. His average after the first week would never be higher than .252 (keep in mind that players were still largely evaluated on their averages back then) and his slugging never even reached .400. He was still getting on base at a reasonable clip (44 walks in 399 PA), but he was striking out a lot (84 SO). In August, he was sent down to AAA to regain his swing and dominated the competition yet again with a 1.300 OPS in 12 games. He was called back up in the middle of September and had a decent finish to the year, but the shadow of doubt had spread over the Red Sox front office. While he was just 23 years old, they seemed to be questioning whether or not Plantier’s power would translate to the Majors, or would his strike out issues doom him to AAAA status for the rest of his career.

Unfortunately for me and Phil, the Red Sox decided to not bother finding out what they had. On December 9, 1992, the Red Sox traded Plantier to the San Diego Padres for Jose Melendez, a 26 year old relief pitcher with pretty good numbers, but a reliever nonetheless (Melendez would go on to pitch in just 19 games for the Sox over 2 years and never again see a Major League game). What was once supposed to be one of the team’s foundation players and my absolute favorite, was now being traded away for a spare part. It was my first real experience with heart break (well maybe second, I think it was a year before when my parents took away our cable package and I could no longer watch Nickelodeon). This was a guy I had spent over an eighth of my life watching and without warning he was gone. Since it was before the internet and I no longer had cable to see him on ESPN, Plantier was essentially dead to me. Sure I could see his name in the morning box scores, but that is really no way for a 9 year old to follow his favorite player. I knew I had to move on, but it was just so hard.

The Red Sox right field position would remain unsettled for the next 7 years, featuring such immortals as Brunansky, Carlos Quintana, Billy Hatcher, Troy O’Leary and Darren Bragg until 25 year old Trot Nixon finally claimed the position in 1999. Plantier had a great first year for the Padres in 1993, finishing 7th in the league in HR with 34 and 9th in RBI with 100, but his star would quickly fade. In 1994 he would slump to a .220 average and would be traded to his third team, the Houston Astros, in a blockbuster deal involving Derek Bell, Doug Brocail and Ricky Gutierrez (among others) going to Houston for Ken Caminiti, Andujar Cedeno, Steve Finley and others coming back to San Diego. After 3 more years and 2 more teams, Plantier was out of Major League Baseball in 1997 at the age of 28. He would finish his career with 91 HR, falling 314 HR short of McGwire for the most HR of the 90s. While he never became the superstar that Baseball America, Bill James and I thought he would be, for one summer he captured the heart and mind of at least one impressionable 7 year old, forever cementing that little boy as a baseball junkie. Thank you for those 2 months Phil, and I hope you are doing well wherever you are.

I actually found Plantier writing for a site called Diamond Mind Baseball League. You can find his articles here and he has posted as recently as October 2010. If for some reason you ever read this Phil, I would love to do an interview with you, just email me at

Monday, April 25, 2011

Week 3 observations

  • As Happy Gilmore might say (in the as yet unreleased sequel Happy Gilmore 2: Happy Takes the Hill), “somebody learned how to pitch”. Since my last observations, the Red Sox are 5-1 and the starting pitchers have given up a total of 4 runs over those six games. To put that in perspective, in the first 2 turns through the rotation, every pitcher but Josh Beckett gave up at least 4 runs in one start. Since the first game of the Toronto series, the staff ERA has held constant or gone down in every game thanks to a 0.88 Starters ERA over that span (granted the staff ERA was at 6.79 at the time, but now is down to 4.50).
    Rk Gtm Date Opp Rslt ERA
    12 12 Apr 15 TOR L,6-7 6.79
    13 13 Apr 16 TOR W,4-1 6.32
    14 14 Apr 17 TOR W,8-1 5.92
    15 15 Apr 18 TOR W,9-1 5.58
    16 16 Apr 19 OAK L,0-5 5.58
    17 17 Apr 20 OAK W,5-3 5.42
    18 18 Apr 21 LAA W,4-2 5.16
    19 19 Apr 22 LAA W,4-3 4.99
    20 20 Apr 23 LAA W,5-0 4.73
    21 21 Apr 24 LAA W,7-0 4.50
    Provided by View Original Table
    Generated 4/25/2011.
    Maybe it was the weak bats of the AL West (Anaheim and Oakland both rank in the bottom half of the league in runs scored and OBP), but for the most part, all the Red Sox starters looked strong last week, starting with the much-needed-or-else-Red-Sox-Nation-would-mumify-him-in-82.5-million-one-dollar-bills turn around from...
  • John Lackey. With Sloth the only pitcher to get 2 starts between my weekly observations, the Red Sox could have lost the little bit of momentum they had built up at the end of week 2 with their first winning streak of the season. While Sloth took the loss in his first start of the week (6 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 ER), thus ending the win streak, he looked much more like the slightly above average starter that the team pays $15+ million to and a lot less like the 75 year old man that threw to Josh Hamilton when he hit a million home runs (approximately) in the Yankee Stadium derby a couple years ago. Then after the Sox reeled off 4 wins in a row, Sloth decides to come out and pitch like the guy who drew the Game 1 start for the Angels in their first World Series appearance as a rookie (8 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 0 ER). With this mountain of a man now back on the straight and narrow, all we need is another guy who is straight and very narrow to get back on track…
  • Clay Buchholz. Fire Marshall Bill has been pretty bad this year. I’ve discussed his out of the ordinary home run problems, which aren’t so bad yet if you remove his first start fluke, but the more concerning trend is his strike out to walk ratio. The last 2 years, Fire Marshall Bill has had a pretty low 6.5 strikeouts per nine and a sort of high 3.5 walks per nine, for a strike out to walk ratio around 1.85 (league average last year was 6.8, 3.2 and 2.11, respectively). This year his SO/9 is 4.4 and BB/9 is 6.2. So much for Cy Buchholz. A lot of people expected a regression from his sparkling 2.33 ERA because of the below average SO/BB ratio, but not to this level. While I think he’s still got the best stuff on the team, he’s returning to Deer in the Headlights Buchholz (wow 3 nicknames in one paragraph) from 2008-09 that would wet his pants, dry heave and sob uncontrollably every time he put a batter on first. He needs to learn to trust his stuff and take a cue from fellow nibbler…
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka. Another awesome start from Dice K (8 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 9 K, 0 ER). In his last 2 starts he has allowed 2 hits and 0 ER. The 3 walks were a little high, but when coupled with 9 Ks and 1 hit, we are looking at probably the second best start by any Sox pitcher this season (behind Beckett’s Yankees demolition). I don’t really know what is happening here and I definitely am not expecting it to continue, but he is throwing his fastball much better than I have seen in quite a while and using a good mix of pitches to get hitters out. His walk rate is currently the lowest it’s been since his rookie season and if he can keep that up maybe the city of Boston won’t take to the streets with pitch forks and torches in order to run him out of town. Maybe Curt Young is to thank for finally getting through to him, or maybe it is, as the Boston media wants you to think, due to the healing powers of…
  • Jason Varitek. The Captain was brought back for his 14th season with the Red Sox to serve as a mentor for Jarrod Saltalamacchia (spelled that right without even looking it up!) and be one of the better hitting back up catchers. To this point he has failed on the latter duty, with just 2 hits in 27 at bats, but his former role has morphed from “mentor” to “caddy”. Varitek has started 8 games this year, which includes 3 Josh Beckett starts and 3 Dice K starts. Each pitcher had a rough start to the season, but has seemingly found their way in the last 2 or 3 starts with Varitek behind the dish. Red Sox pitchers have a 2.07 ERA while throwing to Varitek and just a 6.14 ERA while throwing to Salty. Does this mean Tek is the superior game caller and should be catching even more? Or is this just the vagaries of small sample sizes from early season results? Later this week I will look more in depth at personal catchers (as it appears Varitek will now be for Beckett and maybe Dice K) and in doing so will examine the effect of catchers on pitchers’ performance. My guess is that whoever catches this week, we will still see some great results against the likes of…
  • The Baltimore Orioles. The darlings of the first week of the season after starting 6-1 have plummeted back down to the sad and lonely basement of the AL East at 8-12. Their pitchers have given up the second most runs per game in the AL and their young starters besides Zach Britton have been bad. Their offense, which was supposed to be much improved this year with the import of veterans Vladimir Guerrerro, Mark Reynolds and Derek Lee, currently features only two players with an above average OPS (Matt Wieters and Brian Roberts). Whatever good juju that Buck Showalter brought with him at the end of last season has vanished faster than a Bugle Boys t-shirt at Mike Leake’s nearest Macy’s. Come mid-season I would expect to see a massive fire sale from this team of guys like Guerrero, Reynolds, Lee, J.J. Hardy and Jeremy Guthrie and it may be time to give up on Nick Markakis and Roberts and try to build around the young starters and Matt Wieters. At least they have the pieces to trade off for a rebuild, which is more than I can say for the Red Sox other opponents this week…
  • The Seattle Mariners. They have given up just slightly fewer runs per game than the Orioles, but they also have the defending AL Cy Young (Felix Hernandez) and the front runner for AL Rookie of the Year (Michael Pineda). They are just barely staying out of the basement in runs scored thanks to a strong start by Justin Smoak and Ichiro doing Ichiro things, but their offense is complete garbage once again. There are a couple nice pieces in the minors (the team ranked in the middle of the pack on most prospect rankings this year), but they have very little to trade away unless they decide it is time to send Ichiro packing. Chone Figgins has been an epic bust and has a big contract. Milton Bradley makes Ron Artest look like a Jonas brother on horse tranquilizers. Erik Bedard is striking guys out but also giving up home runs like Way Back Jon Wasdin. It just doesn’t seem like this team is well positioned for a quick turn-around. I’d be shocked if the Sox didn’t go at least 4-2 this week…
  • Small (basket)ball: Due to family obligations, I wasn’t able to watch much of either Game 3 or Game 4 in the Celtics-Knicks series, so I will not be doing a full write up of the end of the series. But I will provide a couple quick hits before giving a full preview of what will probably be a Celtics-Heat Conference Semis battle for the ages…What can you say about Playoff Rondo that hasn’t been said already? For all his flaws, Rondo will go down as one of the greatest post season performers of all time. He does stuff that we have never seen and will never see again. If the Celtics are to have any shot at 18, it will come down to Rondo, and though I had my doubts before the playoffs started, I am starting to believe the little guy could do it…What a fun game last Friday night. A great teammate shootout by Paul Pierce and Ray Allen (combined for 70 points!) and some strong defense and rebounding from KG and JO. No starter had a plus/minus lower than +23. I always say that I don’t really think playoff experience means anything, but I do think the playoffs can bring more out of certain players and I think we have 4 of them on our team…Unfortunately, the playoffs have had the opposite effect on the bench. I’ve already written enough about my doubts of Glen Davis and Jeff Green, but this is getting out of hand. These guys cannot keep giving away the leads that the starters build up if we expect to get through to the finals. If they were struggling against other team’s starters I would understand, but to do it against the scrubs of the Knicks? Thankfully Doc will have a week to figure out what to do with these guys. Please do not sign them long term Danny…4 wins down and 12 more to go before we hang number 18. It was a fun series win, but in the immortal words of our injured starting center, Shaquille O’Neal, “We’re focusing on the whole pie, not a slice. A slice is good, but it’s not good enough to get you fat. We’re trying to get fat.