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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spring Football Recap - MLB Power Rankings - Two Hall of Fame inductees target Tiger

MLB Power Rankings According to si.com 1 Last Week: 1 Texas Rangers WAR Winning Percentage: .722; Current Winning Percentage: .643; WAR Wins: 20; Current Wins: 18 Elvis Andrus is making his case for best shortstop in the American League, combining great plate discipline, terrific defense and improving on base skills during the first portion of the season. The Rangers have battled some injury issues to their No. 3 and 4 hitters, Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre, but have not missed a beat offensively as they have the second highest slugging percentage in baseball and the highest on-base percentage in the AL. 2 Last Week: 2 St. Louis Cardinals WAR Winning Percentage: .722; Current Winning Percentage: .607; WAR Wins: 20; Current Wins: 17 Only six National League starters have a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Lance Lynn's 4.29 mark and his 1.60 ERA is fifth among all NL pitchers, though his .198 batting average against on balls in play suggests his ERA will rise. His transition to starter has been a huge lift to the Cardinals rotation, which has received poor results from Adam Wainwright and are missing last year's post-season hero Chris Carpenter. 3 Last Week: 4 Atlanta Braves WAR Winning Percentage: .613; Current Winning Percentage: .621; WAR Wins: 18; Current Wins: 18 Chipper Jones, at age 40, has been the best hitter on a team that is leading the majors in runs scored. On Saturday night, he became just the second Brave to have five RBIs in a game while 40 or older. The other? Babe Ruth, with the Boston Braves. The only two position players, including bench members, with a wRC+ under 100 are the shortstops, Tyler Pastornicky (86) and Jack Wilson (-30). Their pitching has struggled, with their starters posting a 4.70 ERA, but their offense has more than made up for their pitching issues. 4 Last Week: 10 Washington Nationals WAR Winning Percentage: .601; Current Winning Percentage: .643; WAR Wins: 17; Current Wins: 18 No team has pitched better than the Nationals this year, which is the biggest reason that they are currently leading the NL East. The Nationals have four starters with an ERA under 2.30, and Edwin Jackson, the only one who has an ERA higher than that, owns an FIP of 2.80. The offense has not been at the level Washington would like, mostly due to injuries to Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Morse, and now Jayson Werth, who was finally starting to live up to the $126 million contract he signed after the 2010 season before breaking his wrist on Sunday night. 5 Last Week: 5 Los Angeles Dodgers WAR Winning Percentage: .601; Current Winning Percentage: .643; WAR Wins: 17; Current Wins: 18 Left-handed Dodger starters are a combined 9-0 and Clayton Kershaw, last year's NL Cy Young award winner, has the highest ERA of the trio at 2.63. Their ERAs will likely rise as the season continues, but their overall team defense should help them keep low marks. In terms of Ultimate Zone Rating, the Dodgers have been the best defensive team in baseball. 6 Last Week: 3 New York Yankees WAR Winning Percentage: .576; Current Winning Percentage: .536; WAR Wins: 16; Current Wins: 15 The Yankees have just one starting pitcher with an FIP under 4.00, and the league average FIP is 4.07. They need better starting pitching, especially with closer Mariano Rivera out for the year. The Yankees are set up well to be able to handle Rivera's loss in the bullpen, as David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Cory Wade have all pitched very well, but the starters will need to pitch better to limit the innings their relief pitchers are forced to throw. Currently, Yankee relief pitchers have thrown the fourth-most innings in the AL at 93 1/3. 7 Last Week: 8 Arizona Diamondbacks WAR Winning Percentage: .568; Current Winning Percentage: .483; WAR Wins: 16; Current Wins: 14 The D-backs are one game below .500 in terms of actual winning percentage, but they have played better than their record states. With men in scoring position, the Diamondbacks pitching staff has the second highest strikeout-to-walk ratio in the NL, but they have allowed the fifth-highest batting average against on balls in play in those situations. If they keep pitching as they have with men in scoring position, they'll allow fewer runs than they have been. 8 Last Week: 6 Tampa Bay Rays WAR Winning Percentage: .548; Current Winning Percentage: .655; WAR Wins: 16; Current Wins: 19 The Rays' offense has been extremely potent throughout the majority of their lineup. Eight of the nine regulars have a wRC+ above 100, with Sean Rodriguez being the laggard of the group. With Evan Longoria injured, the offensive performance of the rest of their lineup becomes even more vital. On the pitching front, Matt Moore has seriously underwhelmed to start the year, with an ERA and FIP both above 5.00. 9 Last Week: 14 Baltimore Orioles WAR Winning Percentage: .540; Current Winning Percentage: .679; WAR Wins: 15; Current Wins: 19 The Orioles are the third AL East team on the list, with 41 home runs, the second-highest total in baseball behind the Yankees, being the biggest driver behind their success. Baltimore is also second to the Yankees in isolated power, which is the difference between a team's slugging percentage and batting average. The starting pitchers have been solid as well, with ex-Rockie Jason Hammel having a career resurgence in Baltimore, posting a 2.09 ERA, 2.52 FIP and 1.3 WAR along with a 4-1 record in his first six starts in the American League. 10 Last Week: 17 Houston Astros WAR Winning Percentage: .536; Current Winning Percentage: .464; WAR Wins: 15; Current Wins: 13 The Astros are a sub-.500 team, but only three NL teams have performed better offensively according to wRC+. Middle infielders Jed Lowrie and Jose Altuve have been their best position players, combining for 3 WAR between them. Pitching has been an issue, with Wandy Rodriguez being the only starting pitcher with a WAR above 0.3. 11 Last Week: 7 San Francisco Giants WAR Winning Percentage: .526; Current Winning Percentage: .500; WAR Wins: 15; Current Wins: 14 After breaking out in Kansas City with a .305/.339/.470 line last year, Melky Cabrera has continued to mash in San Francisco with a current line of .313/.370/.443. The Giants have run into an injury bug, with Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affeldt hitting the disabled list along with position players Pablo Sandoval, Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez. Along with the injury issues, the Giants are struggling to get first baseman Brandon Belt plate appearances, which they should probably change in order to keep scoring runs with much of their offense sidelined. 12 Last Week: 12 Chicago White Sox WAR Winning Percentage: .519; Current Winning Percentage: .464; WAR Wins: 15; Current Wins: 13 Adam Dunn said before the season that he intended to win the Comeback Player of the Year award, and he is certainly a leading candidate to this point in the season. After homering on Sunday, Dunn has homered in four of the past five games and has eight for the season, along with a .372 on base percentage and a .590 slugging percentage. In 2011, Dunn hit just 11 home runs and had a .292 OBP and .277 SLG. Dunn may be rivaled for the award by his teammate Jake Peavy, who owns a 1.99 ERA over his first six starts after posting a 4.92 mark in 111 2/3 innings last season. 13 Last Week: 11 Philadelphia Phillies WAR Winning Percentage: .513; Current Winning Percentage: .483; WAR Wins: 15; Current Wins: 14 The second best starter for the Phillies in terms of FIP so far this year? Joe Blanton. He has not struck out many batters, but his 2.1 percent walk rate is best in the big leagues. Roy Halladay had a poor outing against Atlanta after being spotted six runs, which has forced his ERA to 3.40, but that should come down as the season moves forward. One thing to worry about with Halladay, however, is his low strikeout total. His current strikeout rate is 16.8 percent, and he hasn't finished a season below 20 percent since 2007. 14 Last Week: 18 Colorado Rockies WAR Winning Percentage: .506; Current Winning Percentage: .444; WAR Wins: 14; Current Wins: 12 The Rockies are third in the NL in runs scored but last in the NL in runs allowed. The lineup is deep and powerful, but the rotation has serious trouble pitching deep into games. Colorado's starters have thrown the least amount of innings in the NL, which has forced its relievers to pitch the most innings of any bullpen in the league. Hitting that well and pitching that poorly will leave you in the middle of the pack, which is pretty much where the Rockies sit. 15 Last Week: 9 Kansas City Royals WAR Winning Percentage: .498; Current Winning Percentage: .333; WAR Wins: 13; Current Wins: 9 The Royals have essentially been O.K. in every facet of the game, while not being great or terrible in any along the way. Their wRC+ is 3 percent above average while their pitching is 2 percent worse than average according to FIP. Those factors show the Royals' record does not accurately portray their performance to date, and after sitting at seventh in these rankings two weeks ago, their winning percentage and WAR winning percentage are getting closer together. 16 Last Week: 16 Milwaukee Brewers WAR Winning Percentage: .479; Current Winning Percentage: .429; WAR Wins: 13; Current Wins: 12 Brewers catchers Jonathan Lucroy and George Kottaras are currently hitting .300/.398/.520 and have combined for the highest catcher WAR in the National League. Milwaukee has needed every bit of the hitting it has received from its catcher combo, as it has a 93 wRC+ after finishing 2011 with a 105 mark and 2010 with a 106. The Brewers have had trouble finding offensive production outside of Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and their catcher duo. Add in injuries to Carlos Gomez and Alex Gonzalez, who were hitting better than career levels, and things are looking down for Milwaukee's offense. 17 Last Week: 15 Boston Red Sox WAR Winning Percentage: .476; Current Winning Percentage: .407; WAR Wins: 13; Current Wins: 11 The bad news for the Red Sox' starters is that their ERA is 5.88. The good news is that their FIP is nearly a run lower at 4.95, signaling that they should get better results going forward. Currently, the lowest ERA of any of their five starters to make more than one start is Josh Beckett's 4.45, which is surprising considering the talent of the Red Sox rotation. Clay Buchholz has been particularly worrisome in his six starts, as he has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just 1.05 and has already allowed 10 home runs. 18 Last Week: 21 Los Angeles Angels WAR Winning Percentage: .472; Current Winning Percentage: .414; WAR Wins: 14; Current Wins: 12 Albert Pujols finally hit a home run on Sunday, ending the longest drought of his career. The Angels are already 6 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the AL West and are currently last in the division, but Pujols hitting like Pujols could change that pretty rapidly. If he hits for his career averages for the rest of the year, he will end with a .299 batting average and 30 home runs. 19 Last Week: 23 Miami Marlins WAR Winning Percentage: .469; Current Winning Percentage: .500; WAR Wins: 13; Current Wins: 14 Gaby Sanchez, Jose Reyes, Logan Morrison, Heath Bell and John Buck have all been worth negative WAR, which cannot happen if the Marlins want to compete in the NL East this season. Bell has been particularly worrisome and was demoted from the closer's role. He is currently walking over 10 batters per nine and has had serious trouble locating any of his pitches. This is just the first year of his three-year contract, which makes his struggles even more troubling for the Marlins. 20 Last Week: 26 Chicago Cubs WAR Winning Percentage: .465; Current Winning Percentage: .393; WAR Wins: 13; Current Wins: 11 Bryan LaHair is the only Cub to have more than two home runs, and as a team the Cubs have just 15, second worst in the majors. The lack of pop in the Cubs' bats coincides with a lack of on-base potential,a s they have just a .304 team OBP. Their poor offense has mitigated their great starting pitching, currently ranked sixth by WAR and backed by three sub-3.00 FIPs in Jeff Samardzija, Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza. As good as the Cub starters have been, their bullpen has been equally bad, as they currently have no stand out relievers and closer Carlos Marmol was demoted. 21 Last Week: 13 New York Mets WAR Winning Percentage: .447; Current Winning Percentage: .536; WAR Wins: 13; Current Wins: 15 I bet Mets starting pitchers are upset about the fences being moved in right now. They have allowed the second-most home runs in the NL, 12 of which have come in Citi Field. Johan Santana, who seems to be back on track, has allowed just one but the rest of the rotation has had home run issues. Aside from Santana, the lowest home run per fly ball of any rotation member is Jonathon Niese's 15.4 percent. For reference, the NL average is 9.9 percent. 22 Last Week: 20 Cincinnati Reds WAR Winning Percentage: .443; Current Winning Percentage: .519; WAR Wins: 12; Current Wins: 14 Reds starters have the second-biggest difference between their ERA and FIP, so don't expect their starter's ERA to remain at 3.64 when their FIP is 4.13. Johnny Cueto has a sparkling 1.31 ERA, but he is striking out fewer than six batters per nine innings and has had a left-on-base percentage of 90.3 percent. Homer Bailey is in a similar situation but is likely headed for even worse results, as his 3.77 ERA is backed by an FIP over 5.00. The starters have received favorable results overall, but that is not expected to continue over the entirety of the season. 23 Last Week: 19 Cleveland Indians WAR Winning Percentage: .438; Current Winning Percentage: .577; WAR Wins: 11; Current Wins: 15 The Indians' offense has the best walk-to-strikeout ratio in the league. Unfortunately for Cleveland, its pitching staff has the worst strikeout-to-walk ratio in the league. The Indians are producing offensively for exactly the same reason as their pitching is struggling: they walk often and strikeout seldom. The Indians have a contact-heavy staff, but Derek Lowe has the team's best ERA by a starter, and he has struck out fewer than three batters per nine innings. Spring is time for healing By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com
A secret affair. Hidden payoffs. A bungled cover-up. The John Edwards trial? Not exactly. More like the worst week in the life of Arkansas football this spring. In fact, I can't remember an early college offseason that was less about football and more about a martini mix of scandal, NCAA penalties, legend replacement and the BCS pregnancy test results (It's a playoff!). Start with the sad, sordid stuff: Out at Arkansas -- Bobby Petrino, sweetheart employment deals for the woman with whom he was having an affair, the woman herself, The Petrino Motorcycle Driving School. In at Arkansas -- John L. Smith, transparency, national championship aspirations/expectations. The Razorbacks were the biggest losers of the spring, but it could have been worse. Just think if Petrino had waited to crash his Harley -- with 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell on the back of it -- this coming fall instead of this past April 1? How do you think it would have gone against defending national champion Alabama on Sept. 15? At least this way, Smith and the remaining coaching staff have about 4½ months to prepare for the big game against the Crimson Tide in Fayetteville. Wait -- what a coincidence! Four-and-a-half months is how long Smith stayed at Weber State before ditching Ogden for his one-season, big-money gig at Arkansas. So it's a win-win for everybody, not counting Weber State. Anyway, when you think 2012 spring football, you think, healing process. It's happening in Hogdom. It's happening in Columbus, Ohio. It's happening in State College, Pa. Smith will be fine at Arkansas. I hate that he stuck it to his alma mater and those Weber State players and recruits, but he gives Arkansas what it needs right now: a veteran coach familiar with the Razorbacks. Plus, he can schmooze with the best of them. Bill O'Brien isn't a schmoozer, but he's trying to scrape off about 10,000 layers of Joe Paterno wallpaper at Penn State. The late, great Paterno was the winningest coach in major college football history, but his program wasn't exactly open to the public. Now comes O'Brien, the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator who wasn't part of the Penn State football mafia. He doesn't know the secret Nittany Lion handshake. He didn't learn the game at the cuffs of Joe Pa's khaki pants. And that's OK. A Paterno clone or son of the program wasn't necessary at Penn State. It needed someone willing to pull open the curtains to the place, acknowledge the program's past, but most of all, emphasize the program's future. O'Brien, who is finishing up a nine-day, seven-state, 18-stop bus tour, isn't simply a breath of fresh air; he's an entire oxygen tank of open mindedness. But he's also under all sorts of pressure. During the caravan's stop in suburban Philadelphia, the New York Daily News reported that the first question asked during a Q&A session with Penn State fans was, "How many games do you predict you'll win your first year?" Urban Meyer can relate. He comes to Ohio State after some down time with ESPN. Before that he was at Florida, where he won two national championships. Meyer officially replaces interim coach Luke Fickell, who remains on the staff as defensive coordinator. But in reality, Meyer will be measured against Jim Tressel, whose Tattoogate-related cover-up now seems sweetly quaint compared to the Petrino scandal. Meyer used spring practice to install his spread offense, mess around with a no-huddle system and convince Buckeyes fans that the program will survive NCAA probation and a 2012 bowl ban. And by the way, it will. With ease. The truth is, Meyer is playing with house money this season. He'll tell you the clock started this spring on his rebuilding project, but the hard deadline really isn't until 2013. By then, the Buckeyes will be back -- that is, if they can keep convicted sex offenders from scaring away their blue-chip recruits. (Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.) And while we're on the subject of rehabs and rebuilding, it was interesting to see how Kansas' Charlie Weis, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez and Washington State's Mike Leach went demo on their new fix-me-uppers. They ordered new everything: offenses, attitudes, culture, etc.. It's going to take some time at KU and Wazzu, but Rich Rod might turn it around faster in Tucson. Then again, Rodriguez is trying to rehab his own coaching image after the three-season flameout at Michigan. So this was a spring for first, second and third chances. First chances for the likes of O'Brien and Illinois' Tim Beckman (who came to U of I from Toledo) to run big-boy programs. Second chances for the likes of Weis, whose tenure at Notre Dame was marked by success, egotism, dysfunction and ultimately, mediocrity. Third chances for the likes of Terry Bowden, who once oversaw an undefeated Auburn program, spent the last three seasons at Divison II North Alabama and now returns to the FBS via Akron. And the new-look Big East is also experiencing change at the top, with commissioner John Marinatto announcing his resignation Monday. Best of all, it's been nice to see the BCS folks putting in some serious conference room time. If ever something needed to become good friends with a wad of C-4 explosive, it's the BCS. The BCS has served its purpose. It is better than the previous screwed-up "system," but it still has too many uncorrectable flaws. The BCS is a beautifully tailored tuxedo -- except that the zipper doesn't work. And never will. Soon we'll have a playoff plan in place for the next BCS cycle. And later this summer, when practice begins for those late-August openers (Bowden's Akron team plays on the first day of the season), we'll talk about actual football, not Petrino's 4,300-plus text messages to Dorrell. Goodbye, spring drama. And good riddance. Two Hall of Fame inductees target Tiger ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Celebrated for their biting humor, Hall of Fame inductees Peter Alliss and Dan Jenkins aimed their gifts at Tiger Woods at the end of their news conferences before the induction ceremony Monday at the St. Johns County Convention Center. Jenkins wondered aloud about Woods’ heart. Alliss wondered about his brain, and other parts of his body. They didn’t spare their acerbic wit doing so. Allis said he was perplexed by Woods making his third swing change as a pro. “I do not understand the thinking of Tiger Woods,” Alliss said. “I think his golfing brain, for some reason or other, is completely addled. “Perhaps the good part of his brain for a period drained from here, down to here,” Alliss said, motioning from his head to his groin. “And that caused him great distress, probably a modicum of enjoyment at the time. But he’s gone.” Alliss didn’t spare the competition Woods faced winning 14 majors. “He was Gulliver in the land of Lilliputians,” Alliss said. Alliss, the popular English BBC commentator who played in eight Ryder Cups, is the son of an accomplished player and teacher. “I’m not saying I’m a great teaching guru, but I’d love to have about a half an hour [with Woods]. If he couldn’t be put right in an hour, I’d go home and stick my head in a bucket of ice water, because it’s so simple. You stand and you swing.” Allis said he was standing with Arnold Palmer at Augusta National’s practice range last year when he was astounded by what he saw Woods working on. “There, 50 yards away,” Allis said, “is Tiger Woods being shown how to chip. `You must do it this way, this way.’ And I said to Arnold, are we seeing, are we going [crazy]? He was the greatest chipper in the world for a period, and this guy is teaching, `No, don’t do it that way.’ “It’s like Pavarotti saying `I’m fed up being a tenor; I think I’m going to sing as a baritone.’ Land sake. That’s as stupid as that in my opinion.” Jenkins, the long-time Sports Illustrated and then Golf Digest writer, said he believed it would be a great story if Woods won another major, his 15th. “Because he’ll be the first guy that ever did it with three swings,” Jenkins said. Asked if he believed Woods will win another five majors and pass Nicklaus’ record, Jenkins didn’t hesitate. “No,” he said. “Next question.” Asked to compare the nature of champions from different eras, Jenkins said: “I believe the athletic heart can transfer eras, it can move from one decade to the other. Lee Trevino said this better than anybody: `You never know what’s in a guy’s heart.’ How big a winner is he going to be? I don’t know, because I don’t know what’s in his heart. “If you’re a competitor, if you’re a great athlete, you can move from one era to another because you’re still people. “The thing I always thought, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, but everybody wants to win and everyone says they want to win, but the great champions absolutely despised the idea of losing. I think that’s what Ben Hogan had, what Arnold [Palmer] had, Jack [Nicklaus] certainly had it. I frankly don’t know whether Tiger Woods has it or not because he has never had to come from behind. Every major he won he was in front and everyone, most of them, dropped dead.” ..

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