Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TCF Bank Student Seating Update

The Star Tribune finally shines some light on a the situation for student seating in TCF Bank next year. I have been following this with great interest as I am a graduating senior this year and have been hoping to still be able find a way for student season tickets next year. With this news it is not looking good for me. I was hoping that a student could still buy two tickets as I had someone who will still be enrolled lined up but that is out the window. I don't have the money or Gopher Points to get season tickets elsewhere and will continue to look for a loophole but it looks like I'm going to have to scalp for the opener and spend the rest of the Saturday's tailgaiting then heading over to the bars to watch the game. The only possible loophole I see in the story is that they are sold online in April when I will still be a student and I am curious as to how they will make sure you will be a student in the fall.

On the price, 84 dollars is a steep jump from the 60 dollars I spent freshman year but that is still ridiculously cheap considering it is a brand new stadium and Wisconsin Student Tickets are around 200 dollars. I would guess the price might keep increasing after 2009.

#4 Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs
Last Year: 97-64 1st in NL Central, Lost in NLDS
This Year: 1st in NL Central

It seemed that the cards were falling into place last year. The team had a great regular season in the 100th year anniversary of their last World Series title and then they imploded in October for the second straight year. The question about this team is not whether they can make the playoffs. The question is if they will ever do anything once they get to the playoffs.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
LF Alfonso Soriano .282 32 HR 77 RBI 16 SB
CF Reed Johnson .293 8 HR 56 RBI
1B Derrek Lee .295 19 HR 94 RBI
RF Milton Bradley .308 26 HR 93 RBI
3B Aramis Ramirez .284 27 HR 104 RBI
C Geovany Soto .294 27 HR 94 RBI
2B Mike Fontenot .297 13 HR 71 HR
SS Ryan Theriot .290 2 HR 37 RBI
P Carlos Zambrano .249 4 HR 12 RBI

RHP Carlos Zambrano 16-10 4.04 ERA 141 K
RHP Ryan Dempster 15-11 4.13 ERA 171 K
LHP Ted Lilly 15-9 4.34 ERA 170 K
RHP Rich Harden 13-5 3.25 ERA 181 K
LHP Sean Marshall 9-7 4.35 ERA 114 K

CP RHP Kevin Gregg 3.49 ERA 36 SV 65 K

Best Case Scenario: Harden stay healthy and gives the team 160 innings and 25-30 starts. Gregg works as closer making all Cubs games 7 inning games with Marmol in the set-up role. Lee and Soriano still have one more year of production left in them. Dempster was not a fluke last year and is still an All-Star pitcher. Zambrano is still an ace. Milton Bradley stays healthy and out of trouble enough to finally become an All-Star. This team stops choking in October and heads to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

Worst Case Scenario: Harden and Zambrano go down with injuries and Dempster proves last year was a fluke leaving the rotation in disarray. Soriano and Lee continue to age and hit above .300 or over 20 home runs. Bradley headbutts a ump, player, team mascot or fan and is sent packing to his 8th team. This team fulfills the curse of the billy goat for another year and exits quickly from the playoffs.

Player Most Important to Success: Rich Harden. Rich Harden has incredible stuff. The problem is that no one ever gets to see it because he is always on the DL. He has a career ERA of 3.23 and 9.00 K/9, the problem is that that is in 612 innings spread over 6 years. He has only made over 20 starts in a season twice and one of those was last year when he went 10-2 2.07 ERA and 181 K in only 148 innings. If he every were to make 30 starts he would win the Cy Young. With Zambrano aging and Dempster being a flash in the pan, the Cubs need Harden to be healthy and give this team a rotation that can compete in October. A healthy Harden makes this team a legitimate shot to finally end the 101 years of futility.

Outlook: This team should again play great and exciting baseball all summer but the question is whether the fun will continue into the fall. One reason for the past two collapses has been the fans' expectation to fail. It can not be easy to take the field in Game 1 with your home fans sitting on their hands waiting for it all to implode. The first error or strikeout confirms their suspicions and it all snow balls from there. It is similar to Boston until they got a team that didn't care about the fans' myths or curses and just won. This is what the Cubs need. This team has all the talent to put it together but whether they do or not is up to them. The good news for Cubs fans is that even if October is sour again June and July sitting in the best ballpark in the world will still be the time of their lives.

Monday, March 30, 2009

#5 Los Angeles Angels

Los Angeles Angels
Last Year: 100-62 1st in AL West, Lost to Boston in ALDS
This Year: 1st in AL West

For the second straight year the Angels brought a gaudy record and division title into October only to get quickly dispatched to where they came from by Boston. They had a largely unsuccessful winter in attempts to get them over the hump being unable to land CC Sabathia or re-sign Mark Teixiera. They patched up some holes by signing Bobby Abreu but this team should once again cruise to a division title but might not have the pieces to win a World Series.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
3B Chone Figgins .279 3 HR 42 RBI 42 SB
LF Bobby Abreu .292 17 HR 87 RBI 18 SB
RF Vladimir Guerrero .307 26 HR 103 RBI
CF Torii Hunter .272 22 HR 83 RBI
1B Kendry Morales .271 18 HR 76 RBI
DH Juan Rivera .262 15 HR 66 RBI
2B Howie Kendrick .322 7 HR 62 RBI
C Mike Napoli .261 22 HR 52 RBI
SS Erick Aybar .262 3 HR 36 RBI

RHP John Lackey 10-7 3.55 ERA 104 K
RHP Ervin Santana 14-8 3.81 ERA 202 K
LHP Joe Saunders 14-8 3.76 ERA 93 K
RHP Jered Weaver 13-9 4.03 ERA 144 K
RHP Dustin Moseley 9-7 4.56 ERA 87 K

CP LHP Brian Fuentes 2.73 ERA 38 SV 78 K

Best Case Scenario: Lackey and Santana both get healthy and become top flight aces. Guerrero bounces back from a disappointing year to put up MVP numbers again. Kendry Morales produces to round out the middle of the lineup and help fans forget about Teixiera. Fuentes fills the hole left by K-Rod very well. The bottom of the lineup combines to produce enough where it doesn't all fall on the shoulders of Hunter, Guerrero, and Abreu. They don't have to face Boston in the playoffs and this team makes a presence in the postseason.

Worst Case Scenario: Lackey's elbow issue becomes serious and is lost for the season. Santana can't repeat the breakout season he had last year. Jered Weaver continues to regress and live up to expectations. The outfield is just too old to carry the brunt of the offense. Youngsters Morales, Hendrick and Brandon Wood aren't ready to contribute on a full time basis. Fuentes blows saves and the Angels struggle to find a closer. This team still wins the mediocre division but are swept by the AL East in the ALDS.

Player Most Important to Success: Kendry Morales. A lot of pressure is being put on the 25 year old First Baseman with only 377 career at-bats. He is the succeeding Mark Teixiera at 1st and is being put at the 5 hole in the lineup. He has to make fans forget about the All-Star 1st Baseman they had last year and provide plenty of offense to round out the middle of the lineup. He has potential to do so as he went .341-15-64 in only 317 at bats in AAA last year but for his MLB career he is so far .249-12-45 in 377 at bats. If he can produce he will protect Hunter and Guerrero and give the Angels a well-rounded offense. If he can not it will be dependent on Hunter, Abreu and Guerrero to provide all the offense and that won't lead to a lot of success.

Outlook: Getting CC Sabathia would have been nice but they are going to miss Mark Teixiera. The middle of the lineup is filled with aging sluggers in Guerrero, Abreu and Hunter who are "34", 35 and 33. The rest of the lineup is full of forgettable pieces. They also have questions with the usually reliable rotation with Lackey and Santana not going to be ready by Opening Day. They are both solid if healthy but that is a question at this point. This team should cruise to a AL West title for the 5th time in 6 years but unless this team gets a slugging corner infielder to bat cleanup and move Hunter to the 5-hole this team will be a quick out in the playoffs.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

#6 Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies
Last Year: 92-70 1st in NL East, World Series Champs
This Year: 1st in NL East

Last year the Phillies capitalized on another Mets collapse to repeat as division champs. They then marched through the playoffs going 11-3 on the way to the franchises' second World Series title with the other being in 1980. They have not made a lot of moves in the winter with the only major move being not re-signing Pat Burrell and replacing him with Raul Ibanez. It will be interesting to see if this team has the fire or desire to defend their World Series title.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
SS Jimmy Rollins .277 13 HR 62 RBI 44 SB
CF Shane Victorino .290 16 HR 63 RBI 34 SB
2B Chase Utley .307 34 HR 107 RBI
1B Ryan Howard .267 50 HR 140 HR
LF Raul Ibanez .289 20 HR 102 RBI
RF Jayson Werth .273 24 HR 69 RBI
3B Pedro Feliz .252 16 HR 74 RBI
C Carlos Ruiz .231 5 HR 39 RBI
P Cole Hamels

LHP Cole Hamels 17-9 3.19 ERA 189 K
RHP Brett Myers 12-13 4.54 ERA 160 K
LHP Jamie Moyer 9-9 4.79 ERA 118 K
RHP Joe Blanton 14-10 4.24 ERA 113 K
RHP Chan Ho Park 6-9 5.31 ERA 97 K

CP RHP Brad Lidge 2.31 ERA 39 SV 87 K

Best Case Scenario: Cole Hamels stays healthy and is an absolute stud. Brett Myers pitches well and is a nice compliment to Hamels. Howard improves the batting average, cuts down the strikes and wins his second NL MVP. Utley is fully healthy and rakes all season. Ibanez fills in perfectly for Burrell. This team scores plenty of runs and wins the NL East for the third straight season. This team goes back to the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Hamels elbow becomes serious rendering him useless for the season. Myers blows up again and Moyer finally pitches like the 46-year old that he is. Ibanez hits like a 38-year old and fails to protect Howard like Burrell did. Howard strikes out 200 times and fails to hit 40 home runs. This team still scores but can't outscore the 8 runs the pitching staff gives up every game. This team finishes 3rd in the division and around .500

Player Most Important to Success: Brett Myers. The lineup will score runs in bunches, Hamels is a legitimate Cy Young contender and Brad Lidge is one of the best closers in the game. What this team needs though to have a chance to repeat is a second starter who can win games for them. That falls on the shoulders of Brett Myers. Consistency is not a word in Myers vocabulary. In 2007 he was coming off two straight seasons with an ERA under 4.00 and was the Opening Day Starter. He then blew-up so badly they moved him to the bullpen and eventually the closer. He was moved back into the rotation last year and had mixed results. If he can give the team 190 innings with an ERA under 4.00 again this team will have a very good chance of repeating as champs. If not the Phillies may have trouble getting the lead to Lidge in the 9th.

Outlook: How the Phillies start the season will be very important. They will be without the services of their best set-up man J.C. Romero for the 1st 50 games since he tested positive for a banned substance. They will also have to fight off any World Series hangover. They can not get off to a slow start and depend on another Mets collapse in August and September. This team should still put up plenty of runs but the pitching depth is a legitimate concern. The chips all fell into place last year by the Mets collapse in September and facing postseason experience challenged teams in the Brewers, Dodgers and Rays. I don't see this team repeating this year but they are still a very good team and could very likely return to the World Series but I don't think this team will be able to beat the American League again in 2009.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

#7 Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins
Last Year: 88-75 2nd in AL Central
This Year: 1st in AL Central

Last year the expectations were low. They had lost Johan Santana and Torii Hunter. The pitching rotation had limited experience and the lineup had a lot of youth with Carlos Gomez leading off. They surprised a lot of people by playing well all summer. They just missed out on the playoffs by losing a coin flip and then losing the tiebreaker 1-0 to Chicago. They had a very quiet winter until they signed Joe Crede in February to shore up the hole at 3rd base. This team has the youth, speed and ability to take the next step and win the division for the 5th time in 8 years.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
RF Denard Span .286 7 HR 54 RBI 27 SB
2B Alexi Casilla .274 7 HR 61 RBI 17 SB
DH Jason Kubel .276 24 HR 86 RBI
1B Justin Morneau .308 32 HR 134 RBI
3B Joe Crede .254 24 HR 79 RBI
LF Delmon Young .296 17 HR 77 RBI
C Mike Redmond .280 0 HR 27 RBI
SS Nick Punto .272 2 HR 34 RBI
CF Carlos Gomez .267 11 HR 66 RBI 41 SB

Other Players
RF Michael Cuddyer .271 15 HR 73 RBI
C Joe Mauer .317 9 HR 72 RBI

RHP Scott Baker 13-6 3.67 ERA 148 K
LHP Francisco Liriano 15-7 2.93 ERA 171 K
RHP Kevin Slowey 11-8 3.92 ERA 132 K
LHP Glen Perkins 12-9 4.24 ERA 98 K
RHP Nick Blackburn 12-10 4.15 ERA 104 K

CP RHP Joe Nathan 1.40 ERA 41 SV 77 K

Best Case Scenario: Joe Crede stays healthy and is an All-Star Third Baseman. Joe Mauer get healthy and stays healthy contending for a third batting title. Span and Casilla don't regress off of surprise success last year. Young and Gomez continue to mature and develop. Liriano builds off his second half success last year and returns to the dominant starter he was in 2006. The bullpen becomes the typical Twins bullpen again instead of the mess it was down the stretch last year. The team cruises to an AL Central title and gets to the ALCS.

Worst Case Scenario: Span and Casilla regress becoming .240 hitters, Joe Mauer never gets fully healthy and Redmond gets 300 at-bats. Crede's back flares up leaving the Twins to need Buscher to play every day. Gomez still can't settle down and swings at anything thrown to him. Liriano's arm troubles spark up again. The bullpen is a mess and can't get the lead to Joe Nathan. This team finishes around .500 and 3rd in the AL Central.

Player Most Important to Success: Francisco Liriano. Liriano was absolutely dominant in 2006 outpitching Johan Santana who won the Cy Young that year. He then went down with Tommy John surgery and missed 2007. He was rushed back before he was ready in 2008 and was crushed. It is often forgotten that when he came back from AAA in July he went 5-1 with an ERA of 3.02 in his last 10 starts. It is typically said that you don't get fully back from Tommy John until the second year. He has pitched very well this spring and looks to be ready to claim back his crown as The Franchise. The Twins rotation is full of good pitchers who give you a chance to win but Liriano is the one pitcher who can win a game for you. That is something you need especially if you hope to do something in October. Other players: Joe Mauer, Delmon Young, and Denard Span.

Outlook: Before the signing of Joe Crede there was little hype surrounding this team which I did not get. This was a very young team that was returning everyone from a team that won 88 games. If Mauer comes back and Crede stays healthy this should be the best Twins lineup they have had since 1991. They have 5 pitchers who are all capable of giving the team a quality start. One thing they need to do this year is pitch deeper into the game so the bullpen doesn't get as taxed as it did last year. They have some possible issues. Span and Casilla were pleasant surprises last year that might turn out to be one year wonders ala Lew Ford and Luis Rivas. This team can hold up for a little while without Mauer but they won't be able to go for an extended amount of time. This team also still has bullpen issues that were not addressed especially if Jose Mijares doesn't do anything this year. This team should definitely contend for the division title and win it but the question is whether this team can compete with the AL East and be more than a sweep in the ALDS. This still should a fun year for Twins fans and it is a shame it still has to be spent in the Metrodome.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gillispie Out at Kentucky

After only two years at Kentucky, Billy Gillispie has been fired from Kentucky. Kentucky missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1991. He was fired not just for the losses but how he handled himself by irritating everyone involved in the program. To date I have not been worried about Tubby leaving and was happy the Alabama job was filled but this one worries me. He is a former Kentucky assistant and Pitino protege. He is one of the hottest coaches in America and has been wanted by every AD with a vacant head coach. He would love to coach a big time program like Kentucky. I also think he would be perfect for the job. He handles his job with class and is loved by his players and staff. I think if Kentucky were to get Tubby he could turn the program around quickly. I could see him leading the Wildcats to a National Title, 3 Elite Eights, and 5 SEC titles. I think we might have seen the last of Tubby in maroon and gold and might have to get used to him in blue and white in Lexington.

#8 New York Mets

New York Mets
Last Year: 89-73 2nd in NL East
This Year: 2nd in NL East, NL Wild Card

The Mets are moving into their new digs this season and they are still being overshadowed by the Yankees who are also moving into new digs. The Mets collapsed after starting strong for the second straight time. By the end of the season, Johan Santana seemed to be the only player capable of contributing. GM Omar Minaya promised to make drastic changes but all he did was add two closers to the team. Many blamed the bullpen for the collapse but this team still has issues which could lead to finishing behind the Phillies for the third straight year.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
SS Jose Reyes .303 17 HR 69 RBI 67 SB
LF Daniel Murphy .289 10 HR 73 RBI
3B David Wright .314 32 HR 121 RBI 17 SB
1B Carlos Delgado .261 30 HR 104 RBI
CF Carlos Beltran .281 29 HR 117 RBI 20 SB
RF Ryan Church .270 15 HR 74 RBI
2B Luis Castillo .251 2 HR 31 RBI 13 SB
C Brian Schneider .247 8 HR 47 RBI
P Johan Santana

LHP Johan Santana 17-8 2.87 ERA 194 K
RHP Mike Pelfrey 15-10 3.67 ERA 116 K
LHP Oliver Perez 14-11 4.45 ERA 173 K
RHP John Maine 15-10 3.91 ERA 167 K
RHP Livan Hernandez 6-12 5.76 ERA 78 K

CP RHP Francisco Rodriguez 2.56 ERA 41 SV 73 K

Best Case Scenario: Rodriguez and Putz close up the bullpen and make Mets games 7 inning games. Delgado still produces at age 36. Starters 2-4 stay healthy all year and give quality starts to backup ace Santana. Mets find a way to get production from hitters 6-8. Leaving Shea Stadium rids the team of the August and September demons and they finish strong down the stretch. They win the NL East and head to the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: K-Rod is worn down from last years work load and is ineffective. Injuries riddle the rotation and the Mets need 200 innings from Livan Hernandez. Delgado's bat is too slow to keep the clean-up spot. Hitters 6-8 do nothing putting a tremendous amount of pressure on Reyes, Wright and Beltran. The team gets off to a slow start leading to mass changes with the firing of the manager and GM and this team falls apart finishing 3rd in the NL East.

Player Most Important to Success: John Maine. If the Mets are going to win the NL East they need to get quality starting pitching behind Johan Santana. Pelfrey can be relyed on for the most part and Oliver Perez will win enough games for them but John Maine is the pitcher who if he produces moves this team ahead of the Phillies with 4 quality starters. He missed last September with a bone spur in his shoulder. It should not affect him but he has been underwhelming in spring with an ERA of 10.38. If he can give them 180-190 innings with an ERA under 4.00 like he did in 2007 this team will be fine, if he can't this team might be golfing in October.

Outlook: It seemed that people thought the bullpen was the only issue facing the Mets last year. While it definitely hurt the team last year they have other issues that have not been addressed. Their lineup has serious holes with Luis Castillo at 2B and Brian Schneider at C. Livan Hernandez won the 5th spot in the rotation. This team still has weapons to compete for the division but the main question is whether the ghosts of the past two years will haunt this team and stop this team again this year. If this team does make the playoffs, the lack of All-Star pitching behind Santana won't let them advance very far if they get there.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Good News for Gopher Fans

BJ Mullens has decided to be the third straight Buckeye center to leave after his freshman year following Greg Oden (obvious decision) and Kosta Koufos (Could have used one more year). BJ Mullens is definitely not ready to contribute in the NBA but there will certainly be a lottery team willing to waste their pick on the 7 footers potential. With him leaving, the possible departure of Evan Turner and no incoming recruits in 2009, The Gophers should have one less team to compete for the Big Ten title with next year.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Offseason Goldy News and Thoughts

  • Scout and Rivals have revealed their top 300 and 250 respectively for the football class of 2010 and the Gophers are off to a good start. Offensive lineman Jimmy Gjere is #161 overall on Rivals and a 4-star and #159 and a 4-star on Scout. Linebacker Konrad Zagzebski is #239 on Scout. Other notables Sentreal Henderson is #1 overall on both lists by a wide margin according to reports. Beau Allen is #247 on Scout.
  • With Spring Football approaching the Daily Gopher noted that Brewster has started participating in the irritating fad that is Twitter. Here is his feed. Reading through this Brewster is devolving into just a characticture. Sometimes it is really hard to take him serious with the rah-rah nonsense that comes out of his mouth.
  • Speaking of a character babbling non-sense Pat Reusse is at it again. Nothing gets me more annoyed than Pat Reusse taking potshots at the University of Minnesota. I don't know what the University did to him but he clearly hates the U. He writes an article about how every Gopher program this year was mediocre and collapsed and while it is true in some cases, he is stretching and bringing pessimism to a whole new level. He then ranks the disappointments in order of most disappointing.
  • He claims the Volleyball team failed because it was ranked 10th nationally and lost at home in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Explain how to me that is a failure. The Washington Basketball team was ranked high and won the Pac-10 this year but lost in the second round in Portland to Purdue. Were they a failure? No, then why would the Volleyball team be one.
  • Next is the Women's Hockey team that only won the WCHA crown, was ranked #1 for a lot of the year and lost in the Frozen Four to Mercyhurst. While it is disappointing they could not win, never is a trip to the Frozen Four a failure or a collapse. When it is one and done anything can happen.
  • Wrestling came next. They were acknowledged to be in a down year and had a bad year but every powerhouse has a bad year as they finished 7th in the Big Ten tournament. I would take any bet that they will be a lot better next year.
  • Then he had the balls to list the Men's Basketball team as a failure or collapse. He uses the excuse that the team was ranked #19 and was mediocre down the stretch. He claims that Damian Johnson regressed in Big Ten play and anyone who actually watched the team knows the opposite is true as he became our best player down the stretch. He doesn't dwell on the fact that this team won 9 games two years ago and still has 4 players from that team contributing. This team met or exceeded any rational expectations for this team heading into the season. I think Reusse would fit right in as a Kentucky Wildcat fan.
  • He again thinks the Women's team failed for making the second round of the NCAA and beating a higher seed on its own home court. He was around when the Women were at the bottom and 100 people watched them in the Sports Pavilion and now being one of the top 32 teams isn't good enough.
  • He then brings up the Gopher Football "collapse". What always is failed to be mentioned is that the Gophers never beat a bowl team the whole year. They did not collapse they just beat crappy teams early. People thought the Illinois and Purdue wins were impressive but they ended up not to be. The Gopher football team definitely has not been an overnight success but they did improve over 2007 and there is no reason to believe they won't improve on 2008 next year.
  • Then finally he brings up the Hockey collapse. While I admit that it was a terrible collapse and this team had way too much talent to miss the NCAA tournament, he took it too far. Here is his quote about the hockey team "Don Lucia again turning his Yankees of college hockey into the St. Paul Saints". I don't even fully get the analogy and to say it is an overeaction is to put it mildly. They finished as the 15th best team in the nation and while they disappointed this year they certainly were not a minor league team.
  • I'm sorry for the rant and it is probably hard to follow and read but I hate Reusse and I don't get why he feels necessary to rip the U. If Tubby wins the Big Ten next year, Reusse will either write an article about some old football coach talking about his playing days at Gustavus or he will take the day off and wait until they lose in the tournament and rip the failure of the program.

#9 Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Year: 84-78 1st in NL West, Lost to Philadelphia in NLCS
This Year: 1st in NL West

Last year the Dodgers were a middling average team until they acquired Manny Ramirez and took off. He rejuvenated the team and the city and gave the Dodgers and exciting run that ultimately ended up a little short. After a long, withdrawn standstill Ramirez re-signed with the Dodgers and the excitement was back in Dodgerville. The question is whether they can repeat the results of last year and even get to the World Series for the first time since 1988.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
SS Rafael Furcal .286 7 HR 47 RBI 23 SB
2B Orlando Hudson .296 10 HR 61 RBI
LF Manny Ramirez .314 35 HR 118 RBI
C Russell Martin .291 16 HR 94 RBI 20 SB
CF Matt Kemp .303 22 HR 88 RBI 26 SB
1B James Loney .310 18 HR 88 RBI
RF Andre Ethier .304 24 HR 82 RBI
3B Casey Blake .268 18 HR 73 RBI
P Chad Billingsley

RHP Chad Billingsley 18-8 3.04 ERA 204 K
RHP Hiroki Kuroda 13-10 4.12 ERA 110 K
LHP Clayton Kershaw 14-9 3.79 ERA 193 K
LHP Randy Wolf 8-11 4.76 ERA 155 K
RHP Claudio Vargas 7-13 5.13 ERA 112 K

CP RHP Jonathan Broxton 2.85 ERA 39 SV 94 K

Best Case Scenario: Ramirez repeats his tear through NL pitching winning the MVP award. Kemp, Either, Loney and Russell continue their development rounding out the best lineup in the NL. Billingsley moves into the role of ace very well. Kershaw produces for a full year living up to potential. Broxton makes Dodger games 8 inning games. The back half of the rotation provides enough innings to allow the offense to win the game. This team wins the NL West and heads to the World Series before losing to the mighty AL.

Worst Case Scenario: Ramirez does not feel like playing this year or his age catches up to him. Hudson and Furcal can't stay healthy leaving a hole in the middle of the infield. Kershaw is not ready and spends time in AAA. The back of the rotation is a disaster and no one can keep an ERA under 5. The bullpen can not get the lead to Broxton. This team finishes 2nd in the NL West.

Player Most Important to Success: Clayton Kershaw. Much was made of Ramirez in the offseason which overshadowed the departure of Brad Penny and Derek Lowe. This leaves the Dodgers very vulnerable in the rotation. Kershaw has the potential to make the Dodger fans forget all about them. Last year he was called up from AA with a Vin Scully slobbering all over him and he did not disappoint. In 21 starts he went 5-5 4.26 ERA and 100 K's in 107 IP. With a year under his belt he is being counted on to improve on those numbers. He just turned 21 on March 19 and has the weight of the franchise on his shoulders. If he can become an All-Star type pitcher he will give the Dodgers a 1-2 punch with Kuroda a decent third option. That should be enough pitching to win the division. If he falters this team will be in a dogfight all season trying to outscore opponents.

Outlook: This team has the most complete lineup in the National League. It is obvious by the fact that Casey Blake is batting 8th. There is not a weak link in that lineup except for the pitcher spot. Teams will be forced to pitch to Manny all summer because he is surrounded by players who can hit for average and have good speed. Loney, Kemp and Either are all big time breakout candidates. The thing that is stopping this team from walking into the World Series and division title is the pitching. The departure of Penny and Lowe will be felt. Having the back end of a rotation of Randy Wolf and Claudio Vargas is not an exciting prospect for any GM. That said if the Manny takeover of LA continues again this year there will be meaningful baseball in October again in Dodger Stadium.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

#10 Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Year: 82-80 2nd in NL West
This Year: 2nd in NL West

Last year the Diamondbacks flew out of the gates to a 20-8 start. They were then undone by their own doing and the Dodgers acquisition of Manny Ramirez. The team filled with young players has gotten a year older and this year looks to best the Dodgers this year and make the playoffs for the second time in three years.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
2B Felipe Lopez .274 8 HR 53 RBI
SS Stephen Drew .296 24 HR 75 RBI
CF Chris B. Young .251 25 HR 87 RBI
LF Conor Jackson .294 15 HR 89 RBI
RF Justin Upton .261 23 HR 79 RBI
1B Chad Tracy .266 17 HR 75 RBI
3B Mark Reynolds .255 30 HR 78 RBI
C Chris Snyder .238 17 HR 62 RBI
P Brandon Webb

RHP Brandon Webb 19-9 3.11 ERA 176 K
RHP Dan Haren 17-8 3.15 ERA 198 K
LHP Doug Davis 10-11 4.40 ERA 149 K
RHP Jon Garland 13-9 4.79 ERA 103 K
RHP Max Scherzer 12-8 3.15 ERA 187 K

CP RHP Chad Qualls 3.27 ERA 27 SV 73 K

Best Case Scenario: The Arizona batters learn that contact is there friend. Upton blossoms into the All-Star player he will be. Drew, Jackson and Young further their development and become a force in the middle of the lineup. Scherzer stays healthy and is an immediate ace backing up Webb and Haren. This team wins 90+ games and wins the NL West and makes noise in the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario: The strikeouts keep rolling as Mark Reynolds nears 250 strikeouts. Injuries riddle the rotation. Upton is still a .220 hitter. Scherzer is not ready to take the next step and also continues his shoulder struggles. Arizona can not figure out the bullpen leading to chaos and blown leads. This team finishes around .500 and might end up in 3rd place.

Player Most Important to Success: Max Scherzer. Scherzer made a lot of noise in his appearances last year with the Diamondbacks. He had an ERA of 3.05 in 7 starts and 56 IP and 66 K's in those 56 innings. The problem with Scherzer is that he has yet to throw over 100 innings in a single season yet. He is already not likely to be ready for Opening day and won't likely pitch until mid-April. If he can stay healthy he will be a very imposing 3rd starter in this rotation that will be the best in the National League. This pitching staff will be able to shut down the Dodgers lineup to win the division and will not a be a team anyone will want to face in a short series in October.

Outlook: What killed the Diamondback last year was the inability of the lineup to make contact. Mark Reynolds struck out 204 times, Chris Young struck out 165 times, Justin Upton 121 times in only 356 at bats and Stephen Drew also struck out 109 times. You can not win a lot of games with the middle of the lineup striking out 1 out every 5 at bats or worse. They absolutely have to cut down on the strikeouts and realize they don't have to swing for the fences every time. That being said the lineup has a lot of young talent that can produce throughout the lineup. If Scherzer develops this team has the best pitching staff in the NL. Webb and Haren will be able to win games for the team that they have no business winning. Those two were the only reason this team finished above .500 last year. I had this team winning the division before Manny went back to the Dodgers. While it is still close and should be a hard fought long race I think ultimately the Diamondbacks will fall short due to the lineup to the Dodgers and miss out on the playoffs again in 2009.

Monday, March 23, 2009

#11 Cleveland Indians

Cleveland Indians
Last Year: 81-81 3rd in AL Central
This Year: 2nd in AL Central

Last year Cleveland had expectations to compete for the division and take a step from 2007's run to ALCS Game 7. It quickly unraveled thanks to the disappearance of Travis Hafner and others. This lead to a sale trading away C.C. Sabathia and Casey Blake. They have re-tooled in the winter by adding Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa. A lot of outlets have the Indians as a favorite in the AL Central but they have a few holes that would need to be patched in order to do so.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
CF Grady Sizemore .281 33 HR 84 RBI 40 SB
3B Mark DeRosa .287 14 HR 76 RBI
C Victor Martinez .297 22 HR 107 RBI
DH Travis Hafner .237 19 HR 89 RBI
SS Jhonny Peralta .284 25 HR 96 RBI
RF Shin-Soo Choo .294 19 HR 83 RBI
1B Ryan Garko .267 14 HR 69 RBI
LF Ben Francisco .270 16 HR 62 RBI
2B Asdrubal Cabrera .266 8 HR 52 RBI

LHP Cliff Lee 16-11 3.79 ERA 143 K
RHP Fausto Carmona 16-12 3.89 ERA 119 K
RHP Carl Pavano 5-9 4.98 ERA 89 K
RHP Aaron Reyes 6-12 5.34 ERA 103 K
LHP Aaron Laffey 7-8 4.12 ERA 79 K

CP RHP Kerry Wood 3.14 ERA 29 SV 78 K

Best Case Scenario: Hafner is rejuvenated and once again is a force in the middle of the lineup. Martinez and Sizemore stay healthy. DeRosa and Cliff Lee repeat the career years of last year. Kerry Wood stays healthy and is a dominant closer. Carmona bounces back and is a front-line ace again. Carl Pavano makes at least 15 starts. This team wins the AL Central.

Worst Case Scenario: Hafner can't find the power and is phased out for Matt LaPorta. Cliff Lee returns to his 4.14 career ERA and Carmona repeats last year's performance. Kerry Wood proves it wasn't just the curse of the Billy Goat and he is a oft-injured pitcher. Pavano is Carl Pavano and misses three months due to a paper cut. The team finishes below .500 and 4th in AL Central.

Player Most Important to Success: Kerry Wood. Last year Kerry Wood pitched the most innings he had since 2005 as he moved from a starter to a closer. It worked for the Cubs as he had 34 saves in 40 opportunities with an ERA of 3.26. The question is whether he can stay healthy again this year. The Cubs last year had an insurance plan of Marmol if Wood got hurt. The problem is the Indians don't. If Kerry Wood goes down the closer would likely be Rafael Betancourt who had an ERA of 5.07 last year and was 4-8 in save opportunities. If Wood is healthy they will have the lockdown closer they have not had in a long time. If he is injured this team will struggle mightily to hold leads and keep opposing teams under 6 runs with a mediocre pitching staff.

Outlook: People looking to the Indians as favorites see Sizemore, Martinez, Hafner, DeRosa, Cliff Lee, Carmona and Wood. They fail to see Hafner hit 5 homeruns and batted .197 last year. Martinez and Sizemore are often hurt. DeRosa and Lee had huge career years at age 33 and 29. Carmona had a terrible last year and ask a Cubs fan if you should bank a season on Kerry Wood. People see the names and they are more impressive than Span, Casilla, Slowey, and Kubel so they are made favorites but they have huge holes that are being overlooked. Even if Lee and Carmona pitch well they have no pitching after that. How can you pick a team that has Carl Pavano penciled in as the #3 pitcher. They have holes at LF and RF in Shin-Soo Choo and Ben Francisco. There bullpen is not very good even with a healthy Kerry Wood even worse without. This team will be decent but they are overhyped by those who see the big names and in actuality they are a .500 2nd place team.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

#12 Chicago White Sox

Chicago White Sox
Last Year: 89-74 1st in AL Central, Lost to Tampa Bay in ALDS
This Year: 3rd in AL Central

Last year the White Sox were the beneficiary of a favorable coin toss and made the most of it beating the Twins in the tiebreaker game at Chicago 1-0 off a Jim Thome home run. In this offseason they got rid of some of their parts and have tried to get rid of more while adding none. The team is filled with aging sluggers who's best years are behind them but they still have some young talent in the lineup and pitching staff where they can still compete in the AL Central.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
CF Dewayne Wise .228 11 HR 37 RBI 21 SB
C A.J. Pierzynski .274 10 HR 57 RBI
LF Carlos Quentin .281 38 HR 112 RBI
DH Jim Thome .241 32 HR 87 RBI
RF Jermaine Dye .282 28 HR 81 RBI
1B Paul Konerko .249 24 HR 73 RBI
SS Alexei Ramirez .295 25 HR 87 RBI
3B Josh Fields .240 23 HR 65 RBI
2B Chris Getz .269 8 HR 31 RBI

LHP Mark Buehrle 15-11 3.87 ERA 137 K
RHP Gavin Floyd 15-9 3.76 ERA 141 K
LHP John Danks 14-8 3.45 ERA 162 K
RHP Bartolo Colon 4-9 5.14 ERA 123 K
LHP Clayton Richard 5-9 5.34 ERA 84 K

CP RHP Bobby Jenks 2.89 ERA 28 SV 43 K

Best Case Scenario: Quentin proves last year wasn't a fluke and puts up MVP numbers again this year. Thome and Konerko still have one year left in them. Dye stays with the team and is able to produce. Floyd and Danks don't regress after breakout years last year. Alexei Ramirez continues to make his mark becoming the best shortstop in the AL. This team contends in the division and wins the AL Central.

Worst Case Scenerio: Thome and Konerko become irrelevent. White Sox can't find any pitching for starters 4 and 5. No true lead off or 2 hitter plaugues them all year. Quentin and Ramirez regress and Wise, Getz and Fields are AAA players. Ozzie Guillen blows up and the clubhouse goes into dissaray and this team finishes below .500 and 4th in the AL Central.

Player Most Important to Success: Alexei Ramirez. He is a Cuban defector who made a huge impact last year. He went .290-21-77-13 in 480 at bats helping make up for the loss of Carlos Quentin in September. He is not currently scheduled to be the number two hitter but he has the potential to be there this year. He is already 27 years old so it is not your typical sophomore year but he has the potential to be a .300-30-90-20 player this year. If he can produce on that level he will help form a very formidable middle of the order with him, Quentin, Thome and Konerko. If he becomes the best shortstop in the American League this will be a team that no pitcher will want to face and may repeat at AL Central Champs.

Outlook: The team unloaded Javier Vazquez, Nick Swisher, and didn't re-sign Joe Crede or Ken Griffey Jr. They also spent all winter trying to unload Jermaine Dye but didn't reach a deal. This team is in the process of fasing out the aging sluggers and moving in the young prospects. This year they are in the middle of the process. If Thome, Konerko and Dye can produce at ages 38, 35 and 33 this team will be very competitive. In the end though this team is too volatile, has no table-setters, and not enough pitching to go with the big boppers in the middle of the lineup to win the division again this year.

Friday, March 20, 2009

#13 Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers
Last Year: 90-72 2nd in NL Central, Lost to Philadelphia in NLDS
This Year: 2nd in NL Central

Last year was a year long party in Milwaukee, they made the playoffs for the first time since 1982 and had plenty of memories. From Sabathia multiple complete games to Ryan Braun walk-offs it was a season to remember. Then came the inevitable offseason in which they lost Sabathia to the Yankees and Ben Sheets. They still have a very good lineup and if they can piece together a pitching staff they can have success but not on the level or excitement that was 2008.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
2B Rickie Weeks .231 14 HR 44 RBI
SS J.J. Hardy .279 25 HR 77 RBI
LF Ryan Braun .305 39 HR 113 RBI
1B Prince Fielder .281 38 HR 108 RBI
RF Corey Hart .274 22 HR 87 RBI 23 SB
CF Mike Cameron .239 23 HR 67 RBI
3B Bill Hall .231 16 HR 56 RBI
C Jason Kendall .248 1 HR 39 RBI
P Yovani Gallardo

RHP Yovani Gallardo 16-9 3.45 ERA 156 K
RHP Dave Bush 12-10 4.59 ERA 119 K
LHP Manny Parra 12-8 4.09 ERA 164 K
RHP Braden Looper 9-10 4.45 ERA 102 K
RHP Jeff Suppan 8-10 5.11 ERA 97 K

CP RHP Trevor Hoffman 3.83 ERA 32 SV 47 K

Best Case Scenario: Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder put up MVP numbers. Gallardo stays healthy and becomes an ace. Hoffman still has a year left in him and is a solid closer. Rickie Weeks finally stays healthy, hits for average and becomes an average defensive player. This team plays well above .500 and contends for the division and has an outside chance at the wild card.

Worst Case Scenario: Gallardo fails to stay healthy and Parra and Bush fail to step up. The bullpen falls apart. Fielder's home run production mysteriously continues to decline. Rickie Weeks is officially a bust. This team finishes just below .500.

Player Most Important to Success: Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo was a big time prospect on his way up. He proved the hype in 2007 making 17 starts with an ERA of 3.67 and 101 K's in 110 innings. He then tore is ACL and only made 4 starts in all of 2008. He did pitch well in those starts but if he was healthy the Brewers likely don't trade for Sabathia as he would have filled the role. Now Sabathia and Sheets are gone and he is being counted on being the ace. The Brewers have a good offense but as evidenced by Sabathia they need someone who can win a game for them by himself.

Outlook: Last year's team was a contender to win the World Series. Everyone thinks the Brewers will fall off the face of the earth without Sabathia. They forget that this team went 83-79 in 2007 when Braun was a rookie and without Sabathia. They may not be a title contender this year but they still have the parts of a very good team especially in the mediocre NL. Their lineup is one of the best in the league. How successful this team is will come down to the pitching. One problem they had last year was the bullpen. Sabathia hid that problem by pitching complete games. If Hoffman is too old and can't close anymore this team is in serious trouble. This team should be competing for a playoff spot but ultimately they will fall short.

#14 Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays
Last Year: 86-76 4th in AL East
This Year: 4th in AL East

It is safe to say that the Blue Jays are the best 4th place team in baseball. They have a good team but are in the wrong division. How much must it have hurt last season to see the Rays do what the Jays have tried so hard to do and pass the Yankees and Red Sox. The problem is how they go about trying to get better. They try to spend and acquire and you can not beat the Yankees that way because they will always outspend and outacquire. This season will be very familiar to Jays fans as they are a good team that has no chance to make the playoffs or contend.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
SS Marco Scutaro .261 6 HR 45 RBI
2B Aaron Hill .277 13 HR 58 RBI
RF Alex Rios .293 17 HR 83 RBI 26 SB
CF Vernon Wells .277 23 HR 89 RBI
DH Adam Lind .285 13 HR 76 RBI
3B Scott Rolen .259 11 HR 54 RBI
1B Lyle Overbay .264 14 HR 57 RBI
C Rod Barajas .241 9 HR 45 RBI
LF Travis Snider .278 16 HR 54 RBI

RHP Roy Halladay 16-8 3.04 ERA 177 K
RHP Jesse Litsch 14-7 3.37 ERA 121 K
LHP David Purcey 8-10 4.78 ERA 121 K
RHP Casey Janssen 6-10 4.98 ERA 98 K
RHP Scott Richmond 3-8 5.23 ERA 103 K

CP LHP B.J. Ryan 3.15 ERA 29 SV 58 K

Best Case Scenario: Selig re-aligns the teams in mid season sending the Blue Jays to the NL West. Travis Snider explodes and becomes a reliable 5 hitter. Rios and Wells finally don't disappoint. Dustin McGowan comes back this year and contributes. Rolen spends the entire season pretending the baseball is Tony LaRussa. This team wins 85 or 86 games.

Worst Case Scenario: Halladay gets hurt. Snider is sent to AAA. Rolen and Overbay are totally ineffective. Fail to fill out the back half of the rotation and gets beat around by the top of the division. This team quits realizing the hill they face in the AL East and finish with 75 or 76 wins.

Player Most Important to Success: Travis Snider. He is the 6th best prospect acording to Baseball America. In only 73 at bats last year he showed glimpses of his potential going .301-2-13. He has serious .300-30-100 potential. The question is when does he realize it. If he can develop this year he can move up the lineup to the 5 hole and protect Rios and Wells better than Adam Lind. If he can hit 20+ homers this year the Blue Jays should have a solid middle of the lineup that can get them a few games.

Outlook: The Blue Jays despite the division won 86 games last year. That will be significantly more difficult this year because they lost A.J. Burnett to free agency, Shawn Marcum to Tommy John surgery and Dustin McGowan is out until the All-Star break because of his shoulder. They still have Halladay and a few decent hitters but there is not nearly enough to make a run. It must be hard to play knowing that the best they can hope for is 4th place and the worst they can do is also 4th place.

It's Been a Good Year and the Future is Bright

Well, just like that the Gophers season is over. To break down what happened in the Texas game takes just one sentence. Abrams got hot and the Gophers panicked. It was a 3 point lead in the second half and then Abrams hit 4 straight threes. The Gophers then tried to score quick and from the outside and with this team that is a disaster. Damian Johnson did well on Damian James, but no one was stopping A.J. Abrams and no matter how hard Sampson and Iverson tried they were never going to be able to hold down Pittman who only Dejuan Blair might be able to stop.

This loss does not detract from what was a good season. The program has excitement that has not been around since 1997. This team made the NCAA tournament with NIT talent. This loss early should drive the returning players and especially the freshman to work hard in the offseason so this doesn't happen this year. Kentucky message boards in an effort to disparage the Tubby success says that the Gopher fans are just happy to be in the tournament and have low expectations. That was true this year but that is not the expectation for next year. I expect them to not be on the bubble and I expect them to be playing a lower seeded program in the opening round next year and not the 9 seed.

In a lame attempt at a season recap I will show the Gophers resume as if they were the next opponent.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (22-11, 10-10)

Wins to Showcase:
  • Vs. Louisville 70-64
  • at Wisconsin 78-74
Losses to Hide From:
  • at Northwestern 65-74
  • at Penn State 63-68
  • Interior Defense: This team had four very capable shot blockers in Sampson, Iverson, Johnson and Carter. They also after some issues in the non-conference schedule became a very good rebounding team. With the addition of bulk in Mbakwe and White, I don't see any opponent having any success down low next year.
  • Free Throw Shooting: Outside of Colton Iverson, this entire team is very good at shooting free throws. That may seem small but many games were salted away by Westbrook and others not missing a free throw down the stretch. Sampson is very good at 75% that will be very benficial for a big man who should see the line a lot in his future.
  • Damian Johnson: I don't care what the coaches decided but Damian Johnson is the best defensive player in the Big Ten. He can guard almost every postion and is all over the place with blocks, steals and rebounds. Towards the end of the season his offensive game really started to develop. He ended the season with 9.8 ppg but in the last 8 games he averaged 12.1 ppg. If he continues to develop in the offseason he can be a 14-15 point scorer next year while providing his world class defense.
  • Outside shooting: This was what held the Gophers back all season. They lacked a scorer who makes threes in their sleep that all successful teams have in College Basketball. Going into the season many asssumed it would be Blake Hoffarber but that just did not happen this year. Westbrook can make them but for often then not forced a contested one. Joeseph didn't shoot a lot and was also hot and cold. This is my biggest worry for next year as the recruiting class does not address this issue. The Gophers will need Hoffarber to bounce back and Joseph develop his shot and confidence where he can be that shooter. I think it is possible but we can not shoot like we did this year and be successful next year.
  • Turnovers: We were too sloppy with the basketball too often. Many blamed Nolen for this issue but he had an assist to turnover ratio of 2.5 which is pretty good. It wasn't one persons fault but the team as a whole. For a poor shooting team like the Gophers they needed all the possessions they can get. This should improve next year with everyone becoming more experience and improving.
  • Go-To Scorer: Lawrence Westbrook usually tried to fulfill this role but he is merely just holding it for someone else. A slow 6' footer with a mediocre shot is not who you want to be counting on down the stretch. The Gophers lacked some one like A.J. Abrams who you can count on to get hot and take over the game. They need a player or players that they can count on for 15-20 points a game and to get us through the lulls that plaugued us this year. I see Sampson, White and Joseph potentially be one of those guys but I don't know if that will be by next year. One thing I do see is Westbrook won't be the only player averaging double digits.
It was an exciting year and while sometimes frustrating it was a very enjoyable year. This will be a very long offseason as Midnight Madness can not come fast enough. This season was a stepping stone and next year should be the beginning of a long and beautiful run as a player in the college basketball scene.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Fantasy Baseball Team

I had my big fantasy draft on Wednesday and it was whopping success. I was picking up steals left and right. I had the 10th pick in a 10-team league. Here are the results in the form if I was to actually make a lineup:
LF Alfonso Soriano
CF BJ Upton
RF Manny Ramirez
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Chase Utley
C Victor Martinez
DH Milton Bradley/ Hideki Matsui
3B Chris Davis
SS Troy Tulowitzki

RHP Josh Beckett
RHP Chad Billingsley
RHP Ervin Santana
RHP Chris R. Young
RHP Armando Galarraga

CP Jonathan Broxton

Other Pitchers: David Price, Kevin Slowey, John Maine, Kerry Wood, and Matt Lindstrom

The pitching is not overwhelming but I have enough collection that I can piece together a enough quality starts. April 6th can not get here soon enough.

#15 Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves
Last Year: 72-90 4th in NL East
This Year: 3rd in NL East

The Braves tried to be a big player in the offseason but were less than successful. They tried all summer to get Jake Peavy in a trade. They were unsuccessful in signing A.J. Burnett. They also thought they had Rafael Furcal until he used them as leverage to return to LA. They did make some moves by signing Derek Lowe and Garret Anderson but they did not make the splash they needed to get in the conversation for the NL East.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
SS Yunel Escobar .305 12 HR 62 RBI
2B Kelly Johnson .281 14 HR 67 RBI
3B Chipper Jones .321 24 HR 88 RBI
C Brian McCann .304 22 HR 97 RBI
LF Garret Anderson .289 13 HR 78 RBI
RF Jeff Francoeur .251 15 HR 75 RBI
1B Casey Kotchman .274 12 HR 70 RBI
CF Josh Anderson .297 13 HR 49 RBI 27 SB
P Derek Lowe

RHP Derek Lowe 14-9 3.56 ERA 142 K
RHP Javier Vazquez 12-13 4.77 ERA 189 K
RHP Jair Jurrjens 15-11 3.43 ERA 152 K
RHP Kenshin Kawakami 8-13 5.15 ERA 102 K
RHP Tommy Hanson 8-10 4.56 ERA 149 K

CP LHP Mike Gonzalez 4.45 ERA 24 SV 44 K

Best Case Scenario: Tommy Hanson makes the squad and makes an immediate impact and wins NL Rookie of the Year. Chipper Jones stays healthy and becomes a Triple Crown threat. Francouer bounces back with a decent average and power. They pull off the Peavy trade during the season boosting them to compete with the Phillies and the Mets for the wild card and division title.

Worst Case Scenario: Jones can't stay healthy and gets under 300 at bats. Tommy Hanson isn't ready and spends the year in AAA. Francouer struggles to bat above .230 and joins Hanson in AAA. Garret Anderson fails to contribute and Lowe and Vazquez fail to give quality starts or justify the offseason moves. This team finishes under .500.

Player Most Important to Success: Tommy Hanson. He is a big-time prospect. He was ranked by Baseball America as the 4th best prospect. He has been compared to Justin Verlander and Jake Peavy. Scouts are looking for him to make a Tim Lincecum impact right away. Are there any more aces I can compare him to to make my point? If he is able to come in and be a ROY canidadate he will along with Lowe and Jurrjens will form a very solid rotation. If he can't contribute this year this is just a mediocre rotation one injury away from relying on Tom Glavine.

Outlook: This team is the definition of a .500 team. They have an average lineup and an average rotation. Everything about them smacks of average. They do have a bright future with 2 of the top 5 prospects in the league and 5 in the top 100. They have the parts to swing the Peavy trade. They have a decent future but it is not this year. McCann is good but he is not a cleanup hitter. Jones is aging and never healthy. Vazquez and Garret Anderson are on a steep decline. This team does not have the horses to join the Mets and the Phillies at the top of the division, at least not this year.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Texas Game Preview

#10 Minnesota Golden Gophers (22-10) vs. #7 Texas Longhorns (22-11)

The whole season has been leading to this. Will the Gophers just be happy to make the tournament or will they strive for more? Regardless of the outcome this should be a good game with two great coaches and fairly equal teams. Here is Texas' resume:

Wins to Showcase:
  • Vs. Oklahoma 73-68
  • Vs. Villanova 67-58
Losses to Hide From:
  • at Arkansas 61-67
  • vs. Kansas State 81-85
  • Interior Defense: Average 42 rebounds a game 22nd in nation and 5.5 blocks a game for 10th best in nation.
  • Damion James: Averages 15.4 ppg and 9.2 rebounds. Here is a ferocious rebounder for someone who is only 6'7".
  • A.J Abrams: Averages 16.3 ppg while shooting 38.9% from behind the arc.
  • 3-pt shooting: Shoot 32.1% from behind the arc for 257th in the nation.
  • Free throw shooting: Shoot 67.1% from the line for 236th in the nation.
  • Ball Control: 12.5 turnovers per game for 283rd in the nation.
There should be an asterisk by the Oklahoma win as Blake Griffin went down in that game with a concussion. Texas might be our long lost twin. Trouble with ball control and outside shooting. Good rebounding team that blocks shots. They went into the Kohl Center and took a win from Wisconsin. They lost at home to Michigan State. They were once highly ranked only to come back to earth in conference play. Outside of Wisconsin struggled to win on the road losing to Arkansas and Nebraska. Looking at the Texas team there is a lot of Gophers in them.

Interesting Things to Watch
  • DJ vs. DJ: That is All-Defensive Team Damian Johnson versus All Big 12 second team Damion James. They are both 6'7" slashers who rebound. Damian Johnson needs to win this matchup while producing on the offensive end if the Gophers are going to have a chance.
  • Dexter Pittman vs. the Twin Towers: There has been a lot made of this matchup but it is justified. The Towers have struggled to this point against physical big men like Goran Sutton. With this team's inabliity to score from the outside, the Gophers aren't able to win if Iverson and Sampson can't get touches and points inside.

Texas and Minnesota play a very similar game and have similar faults. The difference is that once the shot clock is running down they have a guy who can take the shot in A.J. Abrams. They have the go to guy they can ride that the Gophers do not have. The Gophers will have to try to combat that with defensive intensity and depth. The biggest issue is that while Sampson and Iverson have grown and got tougher this year they are only freshman and having to guard Dexter Pittman on National Television is a tough task. This game should be close for the majority of the game but in the end an offensive drought somewhere in the game will be the Gophers undoing.

Texas 67, Gophers 62

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

#16 Oakland Athletics

Oakland Athletics
Last Year: 75-86 3rd in AL West
This Year: 2nd in AL West

The Athletics do things their own way. They find success on a very small budget. While the goal is the same as the Twins they have a lot different way of going about it. The Twins like defensive minded, fast light contact hitters. Oakland likes slow, defensively challenged hitters that either hit a home run or walk. If a player steals a base he might get benched. They have taken an interesting approach this year by spending some money in an apparent attempt to win this year. The problem is this team is not capable of winning this year.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
RF Ryan Sweeney .286 7 HR 56 RBI
SS Orlando Cabrera .273 7 HR 59 RBI
LF Matt Holliday .333 27 HR 104 RBI
DH Jason Giambi .237 26 HR 94 RBI
3B Eric Chavez .245 17 HR 65 RBI
2B Mark Ellis .239 11 HR 54 RBI
RF Jack Cust .241 35 HR 79 RBI
1B Daric Barton .232 11 HR 53 RBI
C Kurt Suzuki .271 6 HR 45 RBI

RHP Justin Duchscherer 10-12 3.12 ERA 112 K
LHP Dana Eveland 10-9 4.45 ERA 128 K
RHP Sean Gallagher 8-12 5.35 ERA 123 K
LHP Gio Gonzalez 5-10 5.45 ERA 135 K
LHP Dallas Braden 8-6 4.23 ERA 87 K

CP RHP Joey Devine 1.79 ERA 28 SV 63 K

Best Case Scenario: Holliday's numbers don't dive despite leaving Coors for the spacious McAfee Coliseum. Giambi and Cabrera stay relevant. Duchscherer gets healthy and builds off his breakout year last year. Gallagher and Gonzalez step up in the rotation. This team competes with the Angels in the division and gets close to 90 wins.

Worst Case Scenario: The team gets off to a slow start and Cabrera and Holliday are sent packing. Duchsherer can't get healthy and doesn't pitch this year. With a lineup averaging .235 they can't win games only hitting solo home runs. They end up in 3rd place and closer to the Mariners than the Rangers and Angels.

Player Most Important Success: Matt Holliday. There is a different reason why Holliday is important. It is not because of his on-field success it is because of which field he is on. When he was traded to Oakland from Colorado heads across the nation scratched. He is a free agent after this year and there was never a chance the A's planned on giving him a long term contract. They are also not a legitimate contender this year. The question is how long is he an A. I would guess he will be gone in July for a boatload of prospects to either the Mets or Yankees needing a corner outfielder for the stretch run. If he sticks out the year they will be a decent team just because of his talent.

Outlook: This projection is based on the team they have now and Holliday staying. Their lineup is not very exciting and neither is their rotation. However, Billy Beane always gets the most out of little talent and they always have a stellar bullpen. I have no idea what Billy Beane is up to this year. He signed aging veterans Orlando Cabrera, Jason Giambi and Nomar Garciaparra. They could be solid help on a veteran team looking for a bat off the bench but that is not this team. My guess is this team will look very different in September. I think Billy is hoping Cabrera, Giambi, Nomar and Holliday get off to hot starts and he collects an entire team of prospects. It will be interesting to see the moves of this team, certainly more interesting than watching this team.

Why I Can't Wait for the Gophers to be a Powerhouse

In anticipation I was thinking about the upcoming Gopher game. I was happy to see that we are getting Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg doing the game because I do enjoy them. Then I thought about the thing I hate the most about the Gophers not being a known commodity. Those of us following the Gophers have to hear the same damn info about our team every time we get new announcers. So here is a checklist of what you are going to hear when Nantz and Kellogg cover us for the first time.
  • Did you know that Lawrence Westbrook is a cousin to Eagles running back Brian Westbrook? They will mention this after he makes a drive to the hoop. They will then comment how he is built like a fullback or halfback. They will remark on how he barrells into the lane like a running back despite going the speed of a truck and not a 4.4 running back. They may also mention that he scored 40 ppg as a high school senior.
  • Did you know that Ralph Sampson III is the son of legend Ralph Sampson Jr? They will make this comment after his first block or hook shot. They will then pan to his father for 15 seconds, who looks to not be enjoying himself at all. Clark Kellogg will then remark about how good Ralph Sampson Jr. was and how he won 3 Player of the Year awards.
  • Did you know Devoe Joseph is from Canada? After his first long range make, they will remark that the young freshman hails from Ajax, Onterio in Canada.
  • Did you know Damian Johnson has the wingspan of a 7 footer? This will be said after his first block how he is only 6'7" but he is quick and has a 7 foot wingspan.
  • Did you know Paul Carter has moved a lot? This will happen if he contributes but it usually is only spoken while he is at the free throw line.
  • Did you know Blake Hoffarber has been nominated for two ESPYS? This hasn't been mentioned much this year because he has had limited success this year. It might also not get mentioned because it is usually on ESPN to pimp their own awards.
This will all be mentioned in between non-stop gushing over Tubby Smith. They will mention his national title, NCAA appearances and consecutive 20-win seasons. They will mention how he was not appreciated by Kentucky and likely how Kentucky is not in the tournament.

This is why I can't wait for the Gopher powerhouse. I look forward to turning to ESPN and CBS and not having to listen to the announcers try and introduce the Gophers through unique meaningless stories. Instead they won't have to because the nation will already know about Ralph Sampson, Royce White and Rodney Williams.

#17 Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers
Last Year: 74-88 Last in AL Central
This Year: 4th in AL Central

The Tigers went into 2008 with great expectations. There was talk of scoring 1000 runs and cruising to an World Series title. I for one was swept up in the hype. Then they had to start without sparkplug Granderson, Miguel Cabrera got off to a slow start, Sheffield and Pudge aged very quickly, Willis devolved into a AA pitcher, and Verlander and Bonderman were a disappointment. They got off to a brutal start and it all unraveled from there. While no one is predicting a World Series for the Tigers, there are a lot of people who were burned last year that are underrating this current edition.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
CF Curtis Granderson .284 24 HR 65 RBI 23 SB
2B Placido Polanco .298 6 HR 55 RBI
RF Magglio Ordonez .312 18 HR 94 RBI
1B Miguel Cabrera .313 36 HR 131 RBI
LF Carlos Guillen .283 12 HR 83 RBI
DH Gary Sheffield .237 15 HR 55 RBI
C Gerald Laird .259 6 HR 40 RBI
3B Brandon Inge .215 14 HR 54 RBI
SS Adam Everett .215 2 HR 26 RBI

RHP Justin Verlander 13-13 3.79 ERA 174 K
RHP Armando Galarraga 14-9 3.43 ERA 139 K
RHP Jeremy Bonderman 11-13 4.14 ERA 187 K
RHP Edwin Jackson 9-12 4.73 ERA 118 K
LHP Nate Robertson 7-13 5.13 ERA 123 K

CP RHP Brandon Lyon 4.46 ERA 28 SV 49 K

Best Case Scenario: Verlander and Bonderman stay healthy and become All-Star aces. Cabrera wins the MVP and competes for the Triple Crown. Granderson burns holes in the basepaths all year. Lyon and Zumaya hold up the back-end of the bullpen. Sheffield, Ordonez, and Guillen stave off old age and retirement for one more year. The team finishes with around 90 wins and 2nd in Central.

Worst Case Scenario: Verlander and Bonderman can't get the ERA under 4.00. Zumaya pitches 5-10 innings this year. Polanco, Guillen, Ordonez and Guillen become completely irrelevant and get released. This team unloads parts for anyone who will take them. Cabrera and Granderson struggle. This team once again battles Kansas City for 4th place in the division.

Player Most Important to Success: Magglio Ordonez. This lineup is old with the exception of Cabrera and Granderson. Guillen is 33, Polanco is 33, Sheffield is 40, Everett is 32 and even Inge is 31. Out of all of them Ordonez is the one who can still contribute the most. He is 35 but still is a solid hitter. He went .317-21-103 last year. If he can equal that production it would greatly help the lineup. Not only would he be able to produce runs it will protect Miguel Cabrera and not let them just pitch around him.

Outlook: Any team with Adam Everett placed on the opening day lineup has issues. This team is full of players in the twilight of their career. However, they also have a few players in the prime of their career. Much was made of Miguel Cabrera's huge contract and early struggles but it went unnoticed that he ended up .292-37-127. He is a huge talent and is still only 26. Granderson is 28, Galarraga is 27, and Jackson is 25. Also despite seeming to be around for ever Verlander and Bonderman are only 26. This team still has young and big talent, the problem is that is not surrounded by a likewise supporting cast. This team can still score runs and has pitchers with ability but they have too many issues that were not addressed during the offseason and if they get off to another slow start I would look for a fire sale to happen.

Monday, March 16, 2009

#18 Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds
Last Year: 74-88 5th in NL Central
This Year: 3rd in NL Central

After years of talks of doing so the Reds finally rid themselves of Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. While both great players the team needed to get away from the defensively inept Dunn and the aging, oft-injured Griffey. They could contribute but they were in the way of the total rebuilding process that needed to be undertaken. This team has a lot of young super prospects and they are ready to bloom this year. There is thought that this team could be the Rays of this year but I think they are still a year away. However I thought the Rays were a year away last year.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
CF Willy Taveras .283 1 HR 25 RBI 74 SB
LF Chris Dickerson .275 17 HR 64 RBI 22 SB
1B Joey Votto .307 28 HR 97 RBI
2B Brandon Phillips .267 25 HR 93 RBI 19 SB
RF Jay Bruce .296 33 HR 104 RBI
3B Edwin Encarnacion .264 23 HR 78 RBI
C Ramon Hernandez .263 15 HR 65 RBI
SS Alex Gonzalez .264 9 HR 52 RBI
P Aaron Harang

RHP Aaron Harang 14-10 4.14 ERA 192 K
RHP Edinson Volquez 15-10 3.45 ERA 197 K
RHP Bronson Arroyo 11-12 4.79 ERA 157 K
RHP Johnny Cueto 10-11 3.79 ERA 189 K
RHP Micah Owings 6-9 4.45 ERA 117 K

CP RHP Francisco Cordero 3.13 ERA 38 SV 73 K

Best Case Scenario: Bruce and Votto break out and become MVP like hitters hitting .315-40-120 each. Harang returns to form after a subpar year and gives the team a solid 200+ innings. Volquez continues to pitch at a Cy Young level and Cueto becomes consistent and is an All-Star. Taverez gets on base and steals more bases than Jose Reyes. This team finishes above .500 for the 1st time since 2000 and contends for the division title and wild card into September.

Worst Case Scenario: Harang continues to disappoint with an ERA in the 5.00's. Volquez gets humbled and struggles with control. Cueto struggles to keep his ERA under 5.00. Owings fails and then Homer Bailey comes in and officially becomes a bust. Bruce strikes out to much and hits around .270. Taveras hits around .240. This team finishes under .500 again and finishes in 5th place in the division.

Player Most Important to Success: Aaron Harang. It would seem likely to pick one of the major prospects like Bruce, Votto, Cueto or Volquez but Harang is the biggest piece to the puzzle. In 2006 and 2007 he won 16 games each year for a terrible Reds team with an ERA around 3.70. He pitched 230 innings in both years. He followed that up in 2008 by going 6-17 with an ERA of 4.78 in only 184 innings. This team has young outstanding pitching but every staff needs a reliable ace. Harang needs to be that ace. If he can go out every fifth game and give 7-8 quality innings that will take the pressure off the bullpen and Cueto, Owings and Volquez. He is only 30 this year so he should still have a couple more All-Star years left in him. If he returns to form this team will have a very good rotation to go with their powerful middle of the lineup.

Outlook: This team has a lot of young super-talents. Bruce is 21, Votto is 25, Encarnacion is 26, Cueto is 23 and Volquez is 25. Homer Bailey is a borderline flop but he is still only 22. This team is on the road to success. The question is whether it comes this year. I think Votto is ready to break out this year but I think it will still be another year till Bruce truly breaks out the .320-40-130 line he is capable of. That said if Harang comes back and Volquez and Cueto build off of last year this is a very dangerous team. They aren't ready to rocket like the Rays but a 90-win season is not out of the question for this team. They are a young, exciting team that will be really fun to watch this summer.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bring on the Longhorns

I woke up Sunday morning confident about the Gophers chances. Then I had to watch Mississippi State win the Battle of who wanted to lose less to Tennessee. I started get to worried as both ESPN and CBS had the Gophers as one of the last four in. Then the show started and when Arizona was in I got even more nervous. Then Maryland was in as a 10 seed. Then a Wisconsin team that most had more in than the Gophers was a 12 seed. I thought for sure we were screwed. Then came the magical moment. The Gophers are the 10 seed in the East Bracket playing the 7 seed Texas. Thank God. Here is the Gophers' reaction. The game will be Thursday night at 6:10 PM, which means I will have to surf between the game and the hockey team's Final Five game against Minnesota-Duluth. My priority will definitely be the basketball game.

We made it to the tournament in Tubby's second season. We went from a 9 win team missing the NIT to a 22 win team in the NCAA tournament in two seasons. I think we all forget that sometimes. This team had to replace 32.7 ppg from an NIT team and turned it into an NCAA team. While not many tears where shed for the loss of Spencer Tollackson not many teams lose their top 3 scorers and improve the next year.

I will do a preview of the game later in the week but from here on out it is all gravy. The goal for this team was to make the tournament. It may have temporarily changed after the Louisville win and top 20 ranking but that was found to be fool's gold as the Gophers hit the road in the Big Ten. They came back to reality and so did the expectations. This team is supposed to just make the tournament for experience for next year which the expectations will be raised. We get at least one more game to watch the Gophers and we should enjoy it and reflect on all the excitement and intrigue they have given us this year and how bright the future is.

#19 Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers
Last Year: 79-83 2nd in AL West
This Year: 3rd in AL West

The Rangers have had a parade of sluggers and hitters come through Arlington. Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmerio, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixiera. This year team is no different with sluggers Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton and Hank Blalock. The problem with Texas is always the same problem that has caused them to last make the playoffs in 1999 and to have never won a playoff series. Pitching, Pitching Pitching. This team has never been able to develop pitching. This is a Texas team that will need to win a lot of 10-8 games.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
2B Ian Kinsler .309 20 HR 69 RBI 25 SB
3B Michael Young .287 10 HR 77 RBI
CF Josh Hamilton .311 36 HR 137 RBI
1B Chris Davis .287 34 HR 105 RBI
DH Hank Blalock .281 24 HR 82 RBI
RF Nelson Cruz .275 24 HR 79 RBI
LF David Murphy .283 14 HR 72 RBI
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia .263 13 HR 43 RBI
SS Elvis Andrus .243 3 HR 28 RBI 23 SB

RHP Kevin Millwood 8-13 5.14 ERA 120 K
RHP Vicente Padilla 14-10 4.94 ERA 125 K
RHP Scott Feldman 8-10 5.23 ERA 87 K
LHP Matt Harrison 9-10 5.13 ERA 84 K
RHP Brandon McCarthy 7-9 4.77 ERA 77 K

CP RHP Frank Francisco 3.78 ERA 27 SV 84 K

Best Case Scenario: Young uber-prospects Andrus, Saltalamacchia, Davis and Cruz produce making the Rangers the best lineup in the MLB. Hamilton puts up an entire year and wins the MVP. Millwood and Padilla give quality starts and McCarthy stays healthy and produces. The rotation gives them a chance to win every game and the lineup capitalizes. This team competes with the Angels to win the AL West.

Worst Case Scenario: Blalock can't stay healthy. Cruz, Davis and Saltalamacchia stike out almost every at-bat. Millwood and Padilla struggle to keep their ERA under 6.00. McCarthy only makes 5-10 starts. Andrus is not ready yet and spends the season in AAA. Hamilton doesn't get much support behind him and sees a lot of walks. This team finshes in 3rd well below .500.

Player Most Important to Success: Brandon McCarthy. Brandon was a big-time prospect for the White Sox before being traded to the Rangers for John Danks. Since coming to the Rangers he has struggled to stay healthy making only 4 starts last year with a strained tendon in his middle finger. In 2007 he was bothered by blisters and a stress fracture in his shoulder blade. When healthy he has great stuff and an ERA around 4.30. This team needs a third decent starter. Millwood and Padilla aren't world beaters but they can give a quality start. The Rangers need a third pitcher who can do so and if McCarthy can stay healthy he can be that guy.

Outlook: The Rangers have a very strong lineup. If the young ones produce this can be the best lineup in the league. Hamilton is a major contender for the AL MVP. If this team had some semblance of a pitching staff they would be the AL West favorites, but they don't so they aren't. Texas is a hitter's park but the best Texas pitchers are those that go elsewhere. Danks and Volquez both flourished after fleeing Texas. The team has some pitchers in the pipeline but the question is how they will perform once they land in Arlington. Until this team finds an ace or two they will just be a fun team to watch that will be around the .500 mark.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

#20 Saint Louis Cardinals

Saint Louis Cardinals
Last Year: 86-76 4th in NL Central
This Year: 4th in NL Central

The Cardinals go about things differently than any other team. They bat the pitcher 8th, they fill the outfield with slow, plodding sluggers, moving Schumaker to second base, and they released Adam Kennedy on February 2nd. There seems to be a method to the madness with Tony LaRussa winning 7 division titles and 1 World Series in 13 years with the Cardinals. The question now is how much of his success is simply due to having the best player in baseball in Albert Pujols.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
2B Skip Schumaker .297 7 HR 44 RBI
LF Rick Ankiel .267 23 HR 67 RBI
1B Albert Pujols .341 43 HR 127 RBI
RF Ryan Ludwick .291 33 HR 105 RBI
C Yadier Molina .297 7 HR 72 RBI
3B Joe Mather .252 17 HR 58 RBI
SS Khalil Greene .243 15 HR 59 RBI
P Chris Carpenter
CF Colby Rasmus .253 12 HR 57 RBI

RHP Chris Carpenter 14-7 3.34 ERA 157 K
RHP Adam Wainwright 15-8 3.57 ERA 128 K
RHP Kyle Lohse 9-10 4.45 ERA 118 K
RHP Todd Wellenmeyer 11-9 3.96 ERA 127 K
RHP Joel Pineiro 6-11 5.15 ERA 84 K

CP RHP Chris Perez 3.97 ERA 28 SV 63 K

Best Case Scenario: Colby Rasmus burts on to the scene and wins the NL Rookie of the Year. Carpenter finally stays healthy. Wainwright finally becomes the staff ace and Cy Young contender they were hoping for. Schumaker works at 2nd base. Troy Glaus comes back in May and returns as a force in the middle of the lineup. This team contends for the wild card and 90 wins.

Worst Case Scenario: Rasmus is not ready for the majors and spends the majority of his time in AAA. Wainwright and Carpenter both go down with injuries leaving Kyle Lohse as the staff ace. The defense is brutal with all the position changes. Pujols elbow flares up hurting his production. Glaus can't stay healthy and Ludwick comes back to earth. This team struggles to be .500.

Player Most Important to Success: Chris Carpenter. He has made only 4 starts in the last two years. He is now 33 years old which will not help him stay healthy. When he was healthy he was one of the best winning the Cy Young in 2005. If he can get healthy and give the Cardinals good innings with an ERA around 3 this team could be dangerous. Him and Wainwright will be able to win games that their offense could not provide. If he goes down or struggles this is a mediocre pitching staff to go with bad defense and nonathletic sluggers.

Outlook: This team has the best player in baseball and one of the best of all-time. That cures a lot of ills. He is also a gold glove defender which can not be said of anyone else on the team not named Molina. Ankiel has an arm but I would not be comfortable with him, Ludwick, and Duncan patrolling the outfield. This team has a lot of injury questions. Glaus, Carpenter, Wainwright, Ankiel, and Pujols are all injury risks. This team is going to have to slug their way to success and while that is possible I just don't see that happening for a staff counting on Kyle Lohse to repeat is career year. As a Twins fan I just don't see how you can ever be successful relying on Kyle Lohse.

Friday, March 13, 2009

And Now We Play the Waiting Game

While not a lock to be in the tournament, the Gophers with the win over Northwestern and playing MSU very tough they are in very good shape. They played very hard, and fared the best out of the three matchups. They were done in the by the same issues (lack of outside shooting, turnovers) but they also found a new issue. They were terrible at free-throw shooting. They are typically a very good free throw team shooting 72.6% on they year. Today they went 13-27 or 48%. If they went 21-27 from the line it is a tie game. The Gophers have enough offensive issues that they do need to be creating more.

The player of the game was Damian Johnson. He lead all scorers with 19 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals. He drew the defensive assignment of Raymar Morgan and Delvon Roe. They combined for 5 points and 8 fouls. He is our best player and continues to prove it every game.

I know other blogs are doing this but here is a summary of what has hurt or helped the Gophers chances.

Hurt the Gophers
  • Baylor is hanging around by beating Texas. They are in the Big 12 title game against Missouri. They are not a at-large team but if they win they will steal a bid from a bubble team.
  • Maryland beat Wake Forest. Maryland was looking for a high-quality win and they got it by beating Wake. They have wins against UNC, MSU and Wake. They still have a worse resume than the Gophers but that will change if they beat Duke in the Semis.
  • Temple beat Xavier and San Diego State beat BYU. They both became likely at-large teams who can both be automatics if they win their conference title games. I don't think they knock off the Gophers but they will push them closer to the bubble with less at-large spots.
  • USC beat UCLA. They are a legitimate at-large team now. I still think they have a worse resume than the Gophers but that could change if they beat ASU in the title game and got an automatice bid.
Helped the Gophers
  • Penn State lost convincingly to Purdue. Penn State will be the first team from the Big Ten not invited. I don't think Penn State will make the tournament.
  • Kentucky lost to LSU. Kentucky is done and we don't have to worry about the legacy pick.
  • Virginia Tech lost to UNC. Virginia Tech is no longer an option.
  • South Carolina lost by 18. Another team with a worse resume than the Gophers.
What to hope for tommorrow
  • Missouri crushing Baylor
  • Maryland losing to Duke
  • Temple wins the A-10
  • USC loses to ASU
In summary, the Gophers are in fairly good shape but it is not for certain in the wacky NCAA. If Baylor, USC and Duquesne steal automatic bids the Gophers could be in real trouble. It looks like the Gophers right now will be a 11 seed. If they can bring the intensity and effort they have the last two days along with a confident Devron Bostick, this team can win the first round game but it would be safe to assume that it would end there.