Kale's Korner

Ramblings about the world of sports

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

MLB Season Preview: No. 28 Seattle Mariners

(Check out No. 29, the San Diego Padres, here.)

Last year was a year to forget for the Seattle Mariners. They finished dead last in the Major Leagues in hits, runs scored, batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage. The Mariners were able to win games last year with their solid pitching staff. Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda led the staff that finished with a 3.90 ERA. Before last season, the Mariners seemed poised to have a strong rotation for years to come(Felix, Pineda, Jason Vargas and Doug Fister). But the M’s struggled last year, and they traded 28-year-old Fister and rookie sensation Pineda within the past seven months. The Mariners recently let closer David Aardsma go into free agency where he eventually signed with the New York Yankees on Feb. 22.

The M’s did get some great hitting prospects in return for their pitchers (Most noticeably Jesus Montero and Casper Wells), but you can’t expect these guys to completely change the hitting culture in Seattle in one year. Moving Ichiro to third in the lineup should get some more runs for the Mariners, because he’ll finally be batting with runners on base. The lineup may be a little better, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be for the M’s to contend for an AL West title. Especially with how powerful the Angels’ and Rangers’ lineups will be in 2012.

Reason(s) for Optimism: Jesus Montero. The Mariners have been looking for a big bat for a while, and they may have finally found one in Montero. They paid a steep price for a guy that struggles defensively and will most likely be a DH, but he instantly improves this lineup.

Reason(s) for Concern: The two major concerns for the Mariners are their starting pitchers and having Chone Figgins bat leadoff. The starting rotation after King Felix and Jason Vargas is scary. The fact that the M’s are relying on Kevin Millwood to be a solid, No. 3 or No. 4 starter is not good. The starting pitching depth may be suspect, but it’s not nearly as bad as relying on Chone Figgins to bat leadoff. Figgins’ batting has rapidly gone downhill the past three years. (In 2009, he batted .298. In ’10, he batted .259. In ’11, he “batted” .188) Moving Ichiro down in the lineup only works if the players in front of him get on base.

Best Possible Scenario: Safeco Field lives up to its reputation as a pitcher’s park, giving the Mariners a chance to win low-scoring games. Ichiro gets 100+ RBIs in the three-hole and Montero and Franklin Gutierrez provide some much needed pop to the lineup. Unfortunately for Seattle, the LA Angels and Texas Rangers are so far ahead of the M’s offensively and defensively that the best I can see Seattle finishing is third in the West. Going .500 would be a good accomplishment.

Worst Possible Scenario: Jesus Montero turns out to be a bust, Chone Figgins somehow finds a way to bat under .100 (it’s possible) and the Mariners are out of playoff contention by the middle of May. The rough start makes the M’s sellers at the trade deadline and (look away M’s fans) they trade Felix Hernandez.

Chances of seeing the Mariners in the playoffs: Two percent. The Angels and Rangers are just too good.

MLB Season Preview: No. 29 San Diego Padres

(Before the season begins, I’m counting down the Major League Baseball teams from 30 to 1. To see my preview of No. 30, the Houston Astros, click here.)

The San Diego Padres home stadium, Petco Park, has been known as a pitcher’s ballpark since its opening in 2004. The Padres continually rank near the bottom in all hitting categories, and last year was no exception. Of the 30 MLB teams, San Diego finished 28th in runs, 29th in batting average and 30th in home runs.

The Padres have also lost key players in the last two years, most notably Adrian Gonzalez in 2010 and Mat Latos, Heath Bell and Mike Adams in 2011.

Needless to say, it’s hard to get excited about the Padres chances in 2012.

Reason(s) for Optimism: According to ESPN’s Keith Law, the Padres have the best farm system in the major leagues. While that doesn’t help them this year, it does provide some light at the end of the tunnel. They also have a new logo and new uniforms, which includes a newer version of those camouflage jerseys. (I don’t know if new jerseys is a reason for optimism, but I had to fill up space in this section.)

Reason(s) for Concern: San Diego can’t hit, they have mediocre pitching and they let their two best pitchers, Mat Latos and Heath Bell, leave the team via trade and free agency respectively. Losing Latos really hurts. He had a 3.47 ERA last year with 185 strikeouts and he’s only 24. Pitching used to be the lone bright spot for the Padres, but in the past year they’ve lost a potential ace (Latos) and one of the best 8th inning-9th inning combo’s in baseball (Adams and Bell).

Best Possible Scenario: The San Diego lineup gets a lift from Carlos Quentin and Huston Street takes over Heath Bell’s closer role without skipping a beat. Petco Park makes the Padres pitching staff look better than they really are and the Padres finish second in the NL West.

Worst Possible Scenario: Carlos Quentin realizes he’s made a huge mistake and asks to be traded back to the White Sox. The White Sox agree to take back Quentin, but only if the Padres take Jake Peavy in return. The Padres, ecstatic, agree with the trade and begin making “The Return of Jake Peavy” billboards and printing thousands of Peavy jerseys. A packed Petco Park comes to see the Great Jake Peavy return home against the Miami Marlins. Unfortunately for the fans, they don’t realize that Peavy has been struggling since his trade to the White Sox two years ago. Peavy gives up 7 runs in two innings and former Padre Heath Bell makes the save for the Marlins.

Chances of seeing the Padres in the playoffs: 3 percent. There’s only one good team in their division. And if the Diamondbacks get crushed with injuries, there’s a chance the Padres make the playoffs.

MLB Season Preview: No. 30 Houston Astros

(With only 42 days left until Opening Day, it’s time to break down all 30 teams starting at the bottom, and making our way to the top.)

Before I get into a preview of the Houston Astros, let me ask you a question: Can you name five players on the Astros? My point exactly.

The Astros are the worst team in baseball. The ‘Stros went 56-106 last year, and they did nothing to improve themselves heading into 2012. In fact, they got worse in the last twelve months by trading outfielder Michael Bourn and solid second baseman Jeff Keppinger. However, the biggest loss was trading All-Star Hunter Pence to the Phillies in late July. Yes, the Astros received a lot of solid prospects from these trades, but they won’t be ready to perform at the big league level until 2013 at the earliest.

It will be another disappointing year for Houston, the only question is whether it will lose 100+ games again this year.

Reason(s) for Optimism: Carlos Lee is in the last year of his 6 year-$100 million contract? Does that count as optimism? Lee had a productive 2011 at the plate, but he kills the Astros in the field. The Astros do have some good, young talent in the infield (Jose Altuve, Brett Wallace and Jimmy Paredes) and they will improve with playing time.

Reason(s) for Concern: Houston has decent starting pitching, but the bullpen is absolutely atrocious. Astro fans should prepare for close games through the first six innings, only to see the bullpen crumble and squander multiple victories.

Best Possible Scenario: The Astros get off to a hot start behind the strength of their young lineup. Carlos Lee hits 20 home runs before the All-Star break and a team with deep pockets and a desperate need for hitting, takes a flier on Lee. The Astros get a competent relief pitcher in return, (Kills two birds with one stone.) and the Astros continue to play well enough to finish third in the NL Central.

Worst Possible Scenario: The bullpen blows leads in each of the first five games of the season. The young guys lose all their confidence and the team goes in a tailspin. Bud Selig says he is going to “seriously consider” promoting a Triple-A team and delegating the Astros.

Chances of seeing the Astros in the playoffs: Zero percent. Bud Selig could add four wild cards to the playoffs and I would still say zero percent.

 

Breaking Down OSU’s 2012 Schedule

On Valentine’s Day, the Big 12 finally released its 2012 conference football schedule. This came after nearly a month of waiting because of West Virginia’s legal troubles leaving the Big East. But now that everything is set in stone, it’s time to look at OSU’s 2012 schedule. I didn’t want to pick a score, because so much can change between now and September. Instead, I chose to give my confidence level in OSU getting a win.

September 1 – Savannah State

Ah, the always exciting game FCS game. Honestly, there is nothing good that can come out of these games. Either you win by a lot (which is expected) or you barely win/lose or some key player can get hurt. Never good.

Confidence level of OSU winning: 10 out of 10

September 8 – @ Arizona

The third game in three years against Arizona for OSU. Arizona struggled all last year and it’s in the same boat as OSU with both teams losing their quarterback and best wide receiver. This game will be the first big test of the year for the Cowboys. No matter what happens in this game, there will be ridiculous exaggerations made by OSU fans.

If OSU wins, OSU is on the path to a second straight Fiesta Bowl!! If OSU loses, oh well, at least the last two years were fun. (The season will most likely be somewhere in the middle.)

Confidence level of OSU winning: 8 out of 10

September 15 – Louisiana-Lafayette

Another year, another game against the Ragin’ Cajuns. Another team the Cowboys have played three years in a row. Much like the first two, OSU should roll.

Confidence level: 10 out of 10

September 29 – Texas

This is when it gets fun. Having the first Big 12 game of the year against the Longhorns is awesome. Both teams start the year with questions at quarterback, so I’d expect a close game. OSU having a bye week the week before could be huge.

Confidence level: 5 out of 10

October 13 – @ Kansas

Interesting schedule twist: The Cowboys will play one game in the three weeks leading up to Kansas. Does that mean they’ll be healthy or come out flat? It shouldn’t matter against Charlie Weis and the Jayhawks.

Confidence level: 9 out of 10

October 20 – Iowa State

Oh boy. The Cyclones might as well wear OU on their helmets when they come to Boone Pickens Stadium. There will be no mercy from the Cowboys. Add to that the fact that it’s Homecoming and this has all the makings of a huge revenge game.

Confidence level: 7 out of 10

October 27 – TCU

The first of the two new Big 12 teams to come to Stillwater. It’s hard to tell what the Horned Frogs will look like (especially with all the news coming out of Fort Worth this week), but I’m looking forward to seeing the Frogs play in Boone.

Confidence level: 5 out of 10

November 3 – @ Kansas State

Last year’s most exciting game (not named the Fiesta Bowl). The Cowboys struggled against Collin Klein last year, but the defense is a year older and a year wiser. This game is scary for Oklahoma State because it’s in Manhattan.

Confidence level: 4 out of 10

November 10 – West Virginia

Welcome back, Dana Holgerson. Luckily for OSU, West Virginia plays TCU the week before and OU the week after they travel to Stillwater. A tough stretch for West Virginia, but they’re a strong team.

Confidence level: 4 out of 10

November 17 – Texas Tech

The last home game of the year. Last year, the Cowboys won 66-6 in Lubbock, I’d expect more of the same next year.

Confidence level: 9 out of 10

November 24 – @ Oklahoma

Bedlam moves back to Norman after two years in Stillwater. The Sooners will be looking for revenge after last year’s beatdown, and if healthy, they should get it.

Confidence level: 3 out of 10

December 1 – @ Baylor

It feels weird to end a regular season playing someone other than OU, and playing in Waco in December doesn’t make it feel any more normal. The Cowboys crushed Baylor with RG3 last year and this year should be more of the same.

Confidence level: 7 out of 10

Who Should be in the NBA’s 3-Point and Slam Dunk Contests

Make sure to check out Part One below. I pick the contestants for the Shooting Stars and Skills Challenge.

Foot Locker Three-Point Contest

My favorite event of All-Star Saturday, probably because I like shooting 3’s. (I can’t lie, that is the reason it’s my favorite event.) Here’s who I’d like to see in the Three-Point Contest:

Ryan Anderson, Orlando Magic. Most obvious pick because he’s from the hometown team, he’s shooting 43 percent from three and he has made 15 more 3-pointers than anyone else in the league!! It’s been a breakout year for Anderson, so he deserves a chance to shine on All-Star Weekend.

Kyle Korver, Chicago Bulls. The only reason Kyle Korver gets any playing time for one of the top teams in the NBA is because he can shoot 3’s, making him a natural fit for the 3-point contest.

Daequan Cook, Oklahoma City Thunder. In case you forgot, Cook won this competition in 2009. And Cook is shooting better this year, than he did in ’09. Cook shot 38.7 percent from 3 in the 2008-09 season, while he’s shooting 41.5 percent this year. Twenty-five games is a small sample size, but he looks great this year. Every time he shoots a 3, I expect it to go in.

Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento Kings. Despite a rough start to the his rookie campaign, a 3-point contest without the Jimmer just doesn’t seem right. On a side note, I think he looked really good against the Thunder last night. People always talk about his shooting, but I had forgotten how good a passer he was at BYU. Fredette had some fantastic passes last night including a one-handed, no-look pass from the top of the 3-point line to Chuck Hayes under the basket.

Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns. One of the most underrated shooters ever. Every one raves about his passing, but people don’t realize how good of a shooter he is. Nash is shooting 57.1 percent from the field (the best of his career) and he’s shooting 45.5 percent from three. Nash’s career 3-point percentage is an astonishing 43 percent. No wonder ESPN’s John Hollinger called Nash the best shooter of all time.

Ray Allen, Boston Celtics. While Nash may be the best overall shooter, Allen is the best 3-point shooter ever. And he’s shooting 51.5 percent from three this year, the best percentage in his career.

My Pick: Cook beats Anderson in the finals.

Sprite Slam Dunk Contest

The most glamorous (and most over-hyped?) event of All-Star Saturday, here’s my picks for the Slam Dunk Contest:

Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz. Even though it didn’t count, this dunk was impressive. I’m not sure what I was more surprised about in this dunk: The fact that Evans dunked over 6-foot-1 Earl Watson, or that Earl Watson is still in the league. #LetJeremyDunk

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. Westbrook has that rare combination of speed and power in his dunks. He gets to the rim so quick, and then his dunks remind me of Blake Griffin. Check out this one from last night. I love Kevin Harlan, Chris Webber and Reggie Miller’s reactions. And who can forget this one from when Westbrook was at UCLA.

Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers. Whether it’s destroying centers or jumping over Kia’s (Listen to Charles critique the dunk at the end of the video) Griffin is the best dunker in the game. I love all his dunks, I just wish he sold them more. He doesn’t even smile anymore when he dunks. The dunk contest is a show, so please try to act a little more excited this time.

LeBron James, Miami Heat. He said he would do it, but he still hasn’t. If he ever does decide to participate, we are in for a treat. Come on LeBron!!! Stand by your words!

Pick: James over Griffin in the finals.

My Picks for NBA’s All-Star Saturday (Part 1)

It seems like the NBA season just started (that’s because it did), and here we are already talking about the All-Star Game. The starters were announced last Thursday and the reserves will be announced later tonight on TNT. The game is Feb. 26, just two months from the start of the season.

But who cares about the All-Star Game! The highlight of All-Star Weekend is Saturday night anyway!

The contestants for these events have yet to be chosen, but that’s why I’m here. Here’s a look at who I think should compete in each of the contests:

Haier Shooting Stars (If you need a refresher on the rules, click here)

We will lead off with the forgotten event of Saturday night. I enjoy this competition because I love watching basketball players shoot from half-court and clank shot after shot after shot off the rim. There is almost no skill required to win this competition. It’s all about who can get lucky and bank in a half court shot before the other teams. As I digress, here’s my list of contestants:

Team Orlando/Washington: Hedo Turkoglu, Penny Hardaway and Monique Curry. The host city (in this year’s case, Orlando) always has a team so I had to put Hedo and Penny on the team because they are good 3-point shooters. What I didn’t realize, was that the state of Florida does not have a WNBA team! This was shocking to me, so I had to go with Monique Currie of the Washington Mystics.

Team Atlanta: Joe Johnson, Steve Smith and Coco Miller. The champions from last year have to get invited back. Unfortunately, Al Horford is injured, so I put Joe Johnson in his place. Which, probably makes them a stronger team and an even greater favorite.

Team New York: Jeremy Lin, Allan Houston and Cappie Pondexter. It is time for Lin-sanity to reach All-Star Weekend.

Team Phoenix: Grant Hill, Charles Barkley and Diana Taurasi. My favorite team by far. Although I like Chuck’s commentary on the dunk contest, and his occasional race against 67-year-old Dick Bevetta, we all need more Chuck in our lives. Especially on All-Star Weekend. If Chuck can still make a 15-footer (a big “if” at this point) Team Phoenix could be a sleeper.

My Pick: Team Atlanta.

Taco Bell Skills Challenge

A very underrated part of All-Star Saturday night, the Taco Bell Skills Challenge has always been a favorite of mine. It’s an “obstacle course” with shooting, passing and dribbling stations. Whoever finishes the quickest wins. There always seems to be one, or two, contestants that just mosey around the course, so my challenge is to find four guys with motivation to win. Here’s my list:

Mo Williams, LA Clippers. Mo always thinks he’s being disrespected. Whether it’s LeBron leaving him to go the Heat, or Chris Paul taking his starting job in LA, Mo plays with a chip on his shoulder. That’s what I want in a Skills Challenge contestant. He’s also a veteran of this competition, taking third in 2009.

Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves. This was an easy pick. He’s flashy, a great passer and he doesn’t know any better so he will try to win.

Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets. He’s so quick and he’s really a fantastic player even though he’s not that well-known. The Skills Challenge would be a great stage for Lawson to host his coming-out party. Lawson wants more respect from the NBA and he can get it with a solid performance in the Skills Challenge.

Jeremy Lin, NY Knicks. I mean, you guys saw what he did to John Wall last night, right?? He’s a natural! (He does need to figure out that Band-Aid, though)

My Pick: Ty Lawson. But if I’m the NBA, I rig it so that we have a Lin vs. Rubio final.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of my picks for All-Star Saturday! We’ll look at the 3-point contest and the dunk contest!

Super Bowl Pick

New England Patriots vs New York Giants (6:20 ET, NBC)

As if we haven’t heard or seen enough about David Tyree and his miraculous catch (see above) over the past four years, this Sunday will provide Patriots fans another chance to relive the horror many times over.

The Pats were 18-0 and one game away from the first 19-0 season in NFL history. But Eli Manning and the Giants scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and the game was highlighted by this catch by Tyree on a third-and-long that got the Giants a first down and set up the Manning-to-Plaxico Burress touchdown that won the game.

(Over/Under on how many times NBC shows these highlights during their broadcast has to be 20.)

The rosters may be different, but this is a revenge game for the Pats.

The Giants and Patriots already played once this year, with the Giants winning 24-20 in Foxboro on Nov. 6. Tom Brady struggled that Sunday going 28-for-49 with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Eli didn’t play much better going 20-for-39 with two TD’s and one interception.

I expect both quarterbacks to play better on Sunday, but I think the three biggest differences from the Nov. 6 game and this Sunday will be: Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw, the health of the Giants defense and Rob Gronkowski’s ankle.

Bradshaw did not play against the Pats in November, and adding him to the running game will provide a boost for the Giants. The Giants only had 111 rushing yards against the Pats earlier this year, and that allowed New England to focus on Eli. With Bradshaw keeping the New England defense honest, I expect Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham to have big days against New England’s poor secondary.

Also, the Giants are finally healthy on defense. We’ve seen what a big impact this defensive line has had on the Giants previous playoff games and I expect more of the same on Sunday. Like most quarterbacks not named RG3, when Tom Brady throws on the run his accuracy decreases. And if Gronkowski is limited and unable to bail out his QB, the Patriots could be in trouble.

The Giants ruined the Patriots perfect season in 2007. This year, I like the Giants to ruin Tom Brady’s attempt at sweet revenge.

Pick: New York Giants 31-20

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