Friday, October 2, 2009

Week 4 Picks: I'm Not a Moral Victory Kind of Guy

Football Outsiders (FO) managed to increase their percentage of correct picks on the season after week 3, so everything is the way it should be right? Wrong! They only went 7-9, which boosted their % correct from 37.5 to 39.6..................I believe they call that a moral victory. Unfortunately, moral victories don't make money in gambling and making money in gambling is the point of this exercise. In the words of Mike Singletary, "I want winners!" FO will now have to pick at about 58% the rest of the way to make it back to 55% of the season (had the numbers wrong last week), which is the threshold for making money from picking games. In related news, I am beating the 55% threshold, and Bill Simmons of is roundhouse kicking it in balls.

After a couple bizarre weeks of mostly picking underdogs, FO's system seems to finally be adjusting from preseason projections to actual events and has picked some sizeable favorites this week. That said, FO again has no 'high arbitrage' picks, which are their locks of the week, which will keep these 'locks of the week' at 0-2 through almost a quarter of the season. Their 'reasonable' picks are 4-9 and their 'stay away' picks are 15-18.

The standings:
Sports Guy: 10-6 last week, 34-14 overall (70.8%)
DCLS: 10-6 last week, 27-21 overall (56.3%)
Random monkey throwing shit at a dartboard: 24-24 overall (50.0%)
Football Outsiders: 7-9 last week, 19-29 overall (39.6%)

As usual, the FO picks are listed in order of confidence, and I have bolded a team wherever I differ (home teams in CAPS).
  1. St. Louis +10 over SAN FRANCISCO - I read the ESPN the Mag article on Mike Singletary and there is no way the 49ers don't come out like William Wallace's army at the end of Braveheart.

  2. KANSAS CITY +9 over New York Giants - I am punching myself in the balls as I say this, but how can you pick against the Giants right now?

  3. JACKSONVILLE +3 over Tennessee - I don't have a grasp on Jacksonville yet, but they have issues and I think the Titans need this game a little more.

  4. San Diego +7 over PITTSBURGH - Am I missing something here? How are the Steelers any better than the Chargers right now? Polamalu is still out....anybody.....Bueller?

  5. MIAMI +1.5 over Buffalo - Chad Henne in his first game against a team that has not been all bad, no thanks.

  6. NEW ORLEANS -7 over New York Jets - What a test for the new-look Jet defense. Maybe my Redskin need for Sanchez to fail is driving this pick, but I'll keep taking the Saints until they dissapoint me. FO feels a bit better about this game, with the Saints as their #2 straight-up pick.

  7. DENVER +3 over Dallas - Denver, really? Worst 3-0 team by far to my eyes, but the FO metrics have them as the 3rd best team so far. I don't buy it.

  8. Oakland +9 over HOUSTON - I usually can't back Jamarcus Russell and his 41% completion percentage (I think he's smurking in the photo because he knows how dumb the Raiders are for drafting him and paying him mountains of money to suck). I still don't have a good feel for Houston, and this game could be telling if they have any hope to reach the mediocore heights I predicted for them. Andre Johnson being shutdown by Nnamdi Asomugha is a big factor in this pick.

  9. Tampa Bay +7.5 over WASHINGTON - No way we lose this game......right? I know Stafford was a rookie QB, but Josh Johnson is probably even more raw, and with worse weapons. We are only the #6 best straight-up according to FO.....oh how the mediocore have fallen.....

  10. INDIANAPOLIS -10.5 over Seattle - I am shocked that at this FO pick because they love Seattle. I know Hasselbeck is out, but they also like Senecca Wallace. FO has this as their #1 overall straight-up pick.

  11. Baltimore +2 over NEW ENGLAND - Game of the week and a tough call. That Pats might just show that they are back to being the best team in the AFC, but also might just show that they are 'just another playoff team'. I'm going with Ray Ray and Flacco's eyebrows.

  12. MINNESOTA -3.5 over Green Bay - Neither of these teams has a good win. The Vikings 3 wins have been against the Browns, Lions, and 49ers (on a miraculous play). I'll take the points and the motivated Packers. There will probably be a lot of Packer fans in the stands too.

  13. CLEVELAND +6.5 over Cincinnati - Cincy is for real, and the Browns are just awful. But they changed QBs! Yeah from this guy to this guy. I actually don't think Brady Quinn is that bad, but I do think Derek Anderson is an abortion.

  14. CHICAGO -10 over Detroit - Tough pick, but then I remembered that the Lions had lost 19 straight before last week. FO has da Bears as their #3 straight-up pick.

And as you can guess after reading this, that ESPN article on Singletary made me extremely bitter that the Skins have Zorn instead of Singletary.

(Image courtesy of

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Forsberg on the...Caps?

Easy, there - no breaking news here or anything like that.

Before I get in trouble for spreading false rumors, this is a rough outline of the words spoken by Adrian Dater of the Denver Post on Versus Second Intermission Report:

"A big question people are gonna ask Forsberg is whether or not he's coming back to the NHL this year. And If he does I'd expect it to be with an Eastern team. Keep an eye on the Washington Capitals." interesting idea, yet I can think of about 4,875,000 reasons why this has no chance of happening. But wouldn't that be a nice little midseason addition, provided Forsberg is healthy and has something left in the tank.

To reiterate, this was just a closing thought by Dater in his interview. No apparent validity to his statement. Just reporting what I see while sitting on my ass with a beer, enjoying a glorious 3-0...wait, 4-0 (OVECHKIN SCORES AGAIN!) season-opening lead over the Bruins.

Ten Burning Questions for the Capitals in 2009-10

Hey, remember Game 7? No? Good, me neither. Either way, that abortive evening is irrelevant now, because the puck drops on a new season tonight in Boston. About damn time.

The team's ascendancy is reason enough to be pumped for the return of hockey in Chinatown, but coupled with the massive, systemic and ongoing failures of the other local franchises, the microscope under which the Capitals find themselves is more intense than it's been, well, maybe ever. Seriously, when was the last time the Washington Post produced a standalone NHL season preview?

But let's take off the happy goggles for a few minutes; it may shock you to learn, dear reader, that the Capitals are far from perfection. While few Stanley Cup-winning squads manage to avoid undergoing significant changes throughout the course of a successful campaign, the Capitals fancy their chances with what they've got on the ice tonight. Should they? We've got 10 key questions that could affect whether or not Ovechkin's Revenge, as we're dubbing this season, boils into a full-blown couch-burnin' revolution, or simply peters out like the geniuses at EA Sports say it will.

10) Can Mike Green put his disastrous playoffs behind him and duplicate the regular season success he had last year?

Lambo-Greenie found no shortage of excuses to explain his utter disappearance from the playoffs last spring: he ran out of his favorite sticks, he was nursing injuries, he was out of shape. Despite posting decent offensive numbers for any D-man not named Mike Green (1-8-9), anybody who watched Green skate in the regular season could tell something wasn't right with No. 52, who led all Capitals skaters in playoff ice time, but posted a minus-5, was a turnover machine and simply couldn't keep opposing forwards away from the crease. Whatever was bugging him, Green knows he's under the gun now; a slow start to the season would stunt any chance he has of making the Canadian Olympic roster, and the longer it takes for him to find his form again, the more questions will arise about whether or not the lifestyle is becoming more than a chav-tastic glamour project. He was better than a point-per-game player last year; he should surpass his totals with the benefit of an injury-free campaign. But when playoff time next rolls around, there damn well better not be any more excuses.

9) Will Michael Nylander's contract prove ruinous?

What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force? Here's what: Michael Nylander sits in the press box every night, earning $4.875 million. We could debate the merits of Bruce Boudreau's unstoppable urge to keep the Swede in street clothes, but really, the battle lines have been drawn, so let's talk reality: Chris Bourque is likely only the first casualty of George McPhee's 2007 generosity towards Nylander. It's gotten to the point where that dead cap space is now affecting hockey decisions in a very real way, and for a team with as much going for it as the Capitals to be hamstrung by this bloated corpse of a contract is, at best, inconvenient and at worst, self-sabotage. If Nylander's still here at trade deadline time and there's a glaring need to be addressed, which there always is, where does the team get the money from? Nylander's trade value won't increase by not playing, right? Right? Let's hope some KHL squad with Gagarin Cup aspirations (hah!) loses a few centers and comes calling.

8) Will the penalty kill take a leap forward?

The Capitals ranked 17th in the league in 2008-09 on the PK, but for 81 of those games, they were without Washington's newest soon-to-be superhero: Quintin Laing. We're not saying one guy can single-handedly boost the unit into the Top 10, we're just saying that Laing will be your favorite player by about November. The addition of Mike Knuble to a cast of penalty killers that already includes Brooks Laich, Boyd Gordon, David Steckel and Chris Clark should also boost the team's PK unit noticeably.

7) Will Bruce Boudreau actually find line combos that work and stick with them?

[Image via USAToday]

The team's health throughout the course of the season will have a lot to say about this, but we kinda doubt it. In his two seasons in Washington, Boudreau has made whole lines disappear as if he's been on a two-year coke binge, only to have them reappear the next game. If Boudreau doesn't like what he sees, or if his team doesn't have 3 goals by the end of the first period, everyone knows that whatever the top line was at the start of the night becomes Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin. Still, we'd like to see him give Knuble a shot at that first-line RW gig for at least two, maybe three periods on Thursday before he dashes it all to the wind.

6) Can Alex Semin stay healthy for a full 82-game season?

Semin has proved somewhat fragile over the course of his career; after skating in 77 games in 2006-07, he missed 19 games in 2007-08 and 20 games last season. That said (and this is purely anecdotal), I've heard more than one person say Semin looks bigger this year, and I tend to agree. That's not going to inoculate him from pulling a groin muscle, but it should allow him to advance the more physical brand of hockey the Russian seemed to embrace in the last two postseasons. Being able to initiate physical contact rather than fall victim to it could spare Semin some wear and tear. If he's on the ice for 75+ games in 2009-10, he has a chance to post career numbers because, after all, it's a contract year, and No. 28 wants to get paid this winter.

5) Will a healthy Chris Clark actually be a good Chris Clark?

If you sit up in the Verizon Center nosebleeds these days, you'll hear lots of chatter among bandwagon Capitals fans who question why Clark is the team's captain. Their memories are short; Clark was arguably the team's best player not named Ovechkin in the year following the lockout, and his sacrifices on the ice were rewarded with the C. Now, with two years lost to injury, Clark says he's finally healthy again. What can we expect? This team doesn't need Clark to be a 30-goal scorer like it did when he skated on the top line with Ovechkin and, wow, Dainius Zubrus. They do, however, need him to play solid defensively, and part of that means responsibly. Clark was a penalty machine in limited action in last year's postseason, but it would be hard for anyone to compete at playoff speed without the occasional hook or hold after sitting on the shelf for three months. A good season for Clark would look like this: 10-15-25, with about 70 PIMs.

4) If Alex Ovechkin gets hurt and misses time...what then?

Look, whenever Ovie goes flying headfirst into the boards and misses a shift, I wet myself. He plays with such reckless abandon at times that it seems like a mere eventuality that he goes into the corner, I'm not even going to say it.

Russian Machine Never Break Down.

3) How will the Capitals make up for the veteran leadership that Sergei Fedorov provided?

Sergei Fedorov is an NHL legend and future hall-of-famer; you can't just replace what he meant to the team in a single offseason. However, Mike Knuble's a good start. The new No. 22 is already wearing an 'A', which reflects the wisdom acquired during a Cup-winning career that's included stints alongside Steve Yzerman (and Fedorov) in Detroit, Wayne Gretzky in New York and Ray Bourque in Boston. The guy knows what it takes to win, just like Fedorov did. A healthy Chris Clark also provides a measure of on-ice leadership that's been missing for two seasons, provided he behaves himself.

2) Will Alex Ovechkin evolve into a more complete player?

56-54-110. 35-78-113. One of those sets of numbers won a Hart Trophy; the other set didn't, though the eventual Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup probably eased that sting. Which of those numbers would you rather have? Ovechkin's numbers were eye-popping, but his 56 goals came from 528 shots on goal; Evgeni Malkin's more modest 35 goals came from just 290 shots on goal; if Malkin shot as much as Ovechkin did, he'd be close to 70 goals for the season, albeit with fewer assists. Ovechkin's assist totals should increase automatically with the addition of a garbage collector like Mike Knuble (presumably) skating on his right side, but if No. 8 turned some of those surplus shots into timely dishes, his numbers might more closely resemble the balance of Malkin. After all, Ovechkin creates so many of his shots off the rush, but someday in the next 11 seasons, he won't have the burst to get open for as many looks; learning how to distribute effectively now could go a long way toward prolonging Ovechkin's perennial grasp on the Hart Trophy.

1) Can Bruce Boudreau motivate his players to play hard every night?

"When you have championship blood in you, you never quit," Boudreau told the media after Washington's 3-2 OT win against Chicago last month. That statement is as true after a preseason victory as it is a victory in mid-June. But what about all those months in between? With the division seemingly wrapped up by the turn of calendar year 2009, the Capitals were bitten by the letdown bug, dropping winnable games at home against inferior opponents in February and March: 5-4 vs. Los Angeles, 4-1 vs. Colorado, a string of bad losses to Florida, Carolina and Toronto, all on Verizon Center ice. Let's not forget what happened in Games 1 and 2 in the New York Rangers series. Simply put, the Capitals in 2008-09 displayed a tendency to play tentatively when they had no reason to. Call it nerves or call it complacency, but it very nearly cost them their season.

Boudreau's challenge, with a roster full of superstars, is to infuse the team with the belief that they can win by simply doing what comes naturally to them. The entire organization is built on the idea of winning championships, and that requires a killer instinct that can't only be seen in Hershey. If the team truly has 'championship blood', it needs to be on display whether the calendar says March or May; whether the opponent is Atlanta or Pittsburgh; whether it's Game 64 or Game 7.

The 2009-10 Washington Capitals team has the talent in their lineup to win every single night; but is it in their blood yet? We'll find out starting tonight at 7 PM in Boston.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2009-2010 NHL Predictions

When the puck drops in Boston in less than 24 hours, the Caps 8-month quest for Lord Stanley officially commences. I think I speak for all of us depressed Skins-Nats-O's-Wizards fans when I say, "It's about goddamn time."

Before we preview the Caps specifically, we decided to take a look at the entire NHL and offer our bold - as well as not very bold - predictions for the upcoming season. For the sake of simplicity, we each voted for our top five players on five major awards as well as division and conference winners. And, of course, your Stanley Cup Champion. Here's how it all went down:

Division Winners:


Southeast: Washington
Northeast: Boston
Atlantic: Pittsburgh
Central: Detroit
Northwest: Vancouver
Pacific: San Jose


Rico Fantastic - Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Calgary, San Jose
Red Rover - Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Vancouver, San Jose
Marion's Crackpipe - Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Vancouver, San Jose
Iafrate's Baldspot - Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Vancouver, San Jose


As one would pretty much expect, Washington, Boston, and San Jose are voted division winners in unanimous fashion. Philadelphia and Calgary steal a vote a piece, with the additions of big names like Pronger, Heatley, and Bouwmeester perhaps giving them the edge over the incumbents. The most interesting race, though, appears to be in the Central Division. Can the young Blackhawks succeed with high expectations or are they in for a major letdown, paving the way for Detroit to win their 321st (or something like that) consecutive division title?

Stanley Cup Champions:


Winner: Washington over Chicago


Rico Fantastic - San Jose over Washington
Red Rover - Washington over Vancouver
Marion's Crackpipe - Washington over Chicago
Iafrate's Baldspot - Washington over Chicago


Is this finally the year? I sure hope so, but there's a lot that can happen between now and June. So far be it from me to be only one to pick against the Caps, but I just assumed it would be the kiss of death. You hear that, guys? This better not be the kiss of death. Anything short of a Cup and I'm blaming you. Crap.

Maurice "Rocket" Richard (Goal Scoring):


1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington
2. Dany Heatley, San Jose
3. Jarome Iginla, Calgary
4. Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta
5. (Tie) Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh; Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh; Zach Parise, New Jersey


Rico Fantastic - 1. Ovechkin, 2. Crosby, 3. Kovalchuk, 4. Iginla, 5. Eric Staal
Red Rover -
1. Ovechkin, 2. Heatley, 3. Iginla, 4. Phil Kessel, 5. Alex Semin
Marion's Crackpipe -
1. Ovechkin, 2. Parise, 3. Jeff Carter, 4. Kovalchuk, 5. Semin
Iafrate's Baldspot -
1. Ovechkin, 2. Malkin, 3. Heatley, 4. Rick Nash, 5. Iginla


Come on...who else? He's won the trophy two years running and the guy who feeds him the puck, Nicklas Backstrom, is only getting better. Heatley's got a shot (no pun intended) to get to 50 playing next to Joe Thornton, but Ovechkin is the only player with a shot to get to 60. Or 70. Or 80. Should I...should I stop?

Art Ross (Points):


1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington
2. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
3. Joe Thornton, San Jose
4. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
5. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim


Rico Fantastic - 1. Crosby, 2. Ovechkin, 3. Malkin, 4. Getzlaf, 5. Thornton
Red Rover - 1. Thornton, 2. Ovechkin, 3. Malkin, 4. Vincent Lecavalier, 5. Nicklas Backstrom
Marion's Crackpipe - 1. Ovechkin, 2. Malkin, 3. Crosby, 4. Getzlaf, 5. Semin
Iafrate's Baldspot - 1. Malkin, 2. Ovechkin, 3. Thornton, 4. Pavel Datsyuk, 5. Getzlaf


This vote was a lot closer than the Richard but the result was the same, with Ovechkin barely beating out Malkin for the top billing. The DCLS believes the addition of Mike Knuble on the top line may lead to more "assists" for Ovie (read: rebound goals), catapulting him just ahead of Malkin in this year's race. Crazy? No, logical.

Hart (Most Valuable Player):


1. Alex Ovechkin, Washington
2. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh
3. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
4. Mike Richards, Philadelphia
5. Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit


Rico Fantastic - 1. Ovechkin, 2. Crosby, 3. Getzlaf, 4. Malkin, 5. Martin Brodeur
Red Rover - 1. Ovechkin, 2. Richards, 3. Thornton, 4. Datsyuk, 5. Iginla
Marion's Crackpipe - 1. Ovechkin, 2. Malkin, 3. Datsyuk, 4. Getzlaf, 5. Toews
Iafrate's Baldspot - 1. Ovechkin, 2. Malkin, 3. Crosby, 4. Richards, 5. Iginla


As was the case with the Richard voting, we unanimously voted for Ovechkin to win the Hart for the third consecutive year. Are you bored with these selections? Too bad - what else did you expect from a homer blog? Keep an eye on Mike Richards, though. If Philadelphia overachieves, their captain - and one of the more underrated players in all of hockey - might get his long overdue recognition.

Norris (Best Defenseman):


1. Zdeno Chara, Boston
2. Mike Green, Washington
3. Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit
4. Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh
5. (Tie) Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary; Shea Weber, Nashville


Rico Fantastic - 1. Chara, 2. Lidstrom, 3. Chris Pronger, 4. Dan Boyle, 5. Green
Red Rover - 1. Gonchar, 2. Green, 3. Bouwmeester, 4. Lidstrom, 5. Weber
Marion's Crackpipe - 1. Green, 2. Chara, 3. Lidstron, 4. Dion Phaneuf, 5. Duncan Keith
Iafrate's Baldspot - 1. Chara, 2. Green, 3. Weber, 4. Lidstrom, 5. Bouwmeester


Not so surprisingly, this was by far the most difficult award to vote for. It usually is at season's end, too, and will likely continue to be until they split the award into two pieces: The Rod Langway Award for defensive defensemen, and the Bobby Orr award for offensive defensemen. Alas, this is not the case, and Chara will likely take the Norris home for the second consecutive year. Unless people miraculously stop smoking crystal meth and come to the realization that Mike Green is pretty damn good at defense, too.

Vezina (Best Goaltender):


1. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver
2. Steve Mason, Columbus
3. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey
4. Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose
5. Tim Thomas, Boston


Rico Fantastic - 1. Brodeur, 2. Nabokov, 3. Miikka Kiprusoff, 4. Luongo, 5. Henrik Lundqvist
Red Rover - 1. Luongo, 2. Tomas Vokoun, 3. Jonas Hiller, 4. Brodeur, 5. Nabokov
Marion's Crackpipe - 1. Luongo, 2. Mason, 3. Niklas Backstrom, 4. Thomas, 5. Lundqvist
Iafrate's Baldspot - 1. Mason, 2. Luongo, 3. Thomas, 4. Cam Ward, 5. Semyon Varlamov


It appears time for perhaps the best goaltender on the planet, Roberto Luongo, to get his due. He's never won the Vezina, despite having the credentials year in and year out. We're betting that this is the year he gets it done. Also, note the top three in our consensus: Team Canada has an embarrassment of riches in their crease. I mean seriously...who do you start?


So there you have it. Any glaring omissions? You think we're a little too close to Ovechkin's "region"? Did we completely jinx the Caps? Any supplementary thoughts on the upcoming season? Please join us in the comments section...nothing like talking good hockey. Nothing.

Are the Redskins Horrible, or Horribly Unlucky?

The Skins have had a lot of problems this year, but the most glaring one has been the offense's impotence in the red zone. I just finished reading Football Outsiders (FO) Almanac 2009, only about 1 month too late, and sure enough, one of the last articles in the book is about deciphering red zone performance.

I have read the article, and I have a radical solution for the Redskin red zone problems: do nothing. Per FO: "On a year-to-year basis, there's essentially no relationship with regards to the difference between a team's red zone Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) and their overall DVOA, on either side of the ball." In non-geek terms, red zone performance over time should mirror performance over the rest of the field. So, yes, a team can over or underachieve in the red zone during a single season, but any disparity is likely a fluke. When the Skins moved the ball incredibly well between the 20s against the Rams, and then stalled in the red zone, that was just bad luck, at least according to the FO metrics.

The numbers are pretty easy to analyze. The correlation between 2 numbers can range from 1 to -1, with 0 meaning there is no correlation, and 1 or -1 meaning there is a perfect correlation. FO shows that year-to-year, the correlation between defensive performance in the red zone is 0.01, and offensive performance is 0.09, so there ya go.

That is not to say red zone performance is not important, it is actually a vital aspect of team success; a team that performs well in the red zone will overachieve. Red zone performance, however, is not something a team can specifically improve or be good at on either side of the ball. As the book states at the conclusion of the article, "A team almost always needs to be good in the red zone to succeed, but the way to ensure success in the red zone is to have a good team."

So while everyone piles on Zorn, Campbell, Portis, etc. it seems that if we just keep playing the way we have, we will score touchdowns in the redzone. If you need some other statistics, according to FO, the Redskins were ranked 14th in successful short-yardage and goal-line running last year, and our running ability should be similar this year, so we should have a perfectly adequate ability to run in the red zone.

The bright side of this is that we dominated that Rams, despite what the final score says. In Detroit, we missed an opportunity on our first drive and only scored 14 points, but the bigger problem was that our defense was unable to stop the Lions consistently. 3rd down conversion rate is another fluky stat by FO's metrics (take my word here) that disproportianately influences game outcomes, and sure enough is an area the Lions dominated (we were 2-for-10, they 10-for-18). Now, I'm not saying we put forth great performances in either of these losses, but I am saying that we have had some bad luck and aren't the trainwreck some people think. So if you need to criticize (and you probably should) look at the offensive and defensive performance over the entire field, not just the last 20 yards.

(Image courtesy of

DCLS Readers have spoken!

Via our latest poll, Nick Young's new nickname is, by an 11 vote margin over "Young Eazy"...

Young Sushi. Because he's raw. Amen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Site Announcement

DCLS Readers,

Over the last 24 hours our site has been the victim of an unfortunate web attack, which occasionally prompts the message "Reported Attack Site" when you attempt to visit. We are working on correcting the problem as quickly as possible and apologize for the inconvenience.

The DCLS Team

Update: The problem has been identified and dealt with accordingly. Thank you for your patience.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Is It Hot In Here, Or Is It Baseball Jesus?

The steaming pile of crap that is the Redskins has made me turn my attention to something slightly more uplifting...

...the Orioles.

[Side note: 60-95 is more encouraging than 1-2? This is the depth of my depression?? Epic fail.]

While everyone was busy giving up on the O's, something magical and previously unthinkable happened: Felix Pie became a major league hitter!

But in addition to that, and 354 times more importantly, there was a crucial development regarding the long-term future of the franchise: Matt Wieters became hot like fire. Or like Jim Zorn's seat. Zing?!

If you're like me, you've been religiously checking Oriole box scores the entire season for one thing and one thing only, that being Wieters' stats. Since his arrival, though, his play had been nowhere near the hype, leading to these types of painful interchanges between my buddy Eric, a Yankees fan, and myself:

Eric: Dude, so this is the savior of Orioles baseball? Ha!
Me: Just wait...

Eric: Haha, you took down the "Wieters Watch" on your site?! What happened? He must really be stinkin' up the joint. And I mean like taking dumps behind home plate.
Me: Yea well it was, uh, crowding the, uh, you know, the page...

Eric: Haha oh man, even Jesus Montero is better than Wieters. Your guy ain't gonna make it. He's too tall and moves around too much behind home plate. Joe Mauer with power? I'd rather have ZAUN.
Me: Crap...

Well, Eric, meet reality. Wieters' play recently has not only confirmed his place as one of the Orioles' best hitters, but it has him firmly entrenched in the upper echelon of major league catchers.

Here is a look at Wieters' progression throughout the season (statistics through Saturday; click to enlarge):

What a difference a few months make, huh? His .289 BA ranks 6th in the majors and 4th in the AL among catchers with at least 300 at bats. Among AL rookies? It's the best in the league. Who's got two thumbs and needs Viagra when considering those numbers? Not this guy.

Extrapolate those totals to 162 games you're looking at 15 HR and 71 RBI - by no means spectacular numbers, but surely something for a rookie to build on, especially when every accomplishment this year is purely a bonus. And while AL Rookie of the Year honors seem out of the question at this point (see: Jeff Niemann and Rick Porcello), a nomination appears more than realistic (see: subpar AL rookie class).

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Wieters' game is that he hits from both sides of the plate. Yet, looking at those splits, it's apparent where he's more comfortable (click to enlarge):

While the big guy hasn't consistently shown the raw power everyone hoped to see, dingers like these have me confident he won't merely be a singles hitter his entire career. And that when Wieters does a pushup, he is not pushing himself up, he is pushing the earth down.

So, zingers aside, what does this all mean for Oriole baseball? Will they compete next year?

Not a chance!

But with Wieters, the Cavalry, Pacman, and Markickass, they have what the Redskins sorely lack in a place it's needed most: a fantastic core of young players in the league's best division. Both teams are in last place, but they appear headed in opposite directions.

And in a completely non-related story, Joe Mauer just purchased his first pair of Matt Wieters pajamas.

[Ed. Note: More advanced statistical analysis to come following the season from DCLS Stat Guru, Marion's Crackpipe.]

(Image courtesy of

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Week 3: Lions 19, Redskins 14 - Knee Jerk Reactions

Football season is under way! The hair pulling, TV-screaming, remote control throwing and furious cigarette smoking has returned in full force. Before I let rationality cloud my judgment, here are my knee-jerk reactions from the third game of the season:

-First, it's multi-billion dollar auto industry bailouts. Now, it's your first win in 21 months. Detroit, on behalf of Washington, enjoy your gifts.

-This is the kind of loss the doctor ordered. This is also the kind of loss that I hope springs 13 more losses in a row, a 1-15 season, causes Snyder to fire Cerrato as GM and retain him only as Owner's Head Shoe Polisher, because that's a skill you just can't teach. Once Vinny is relegated to his proper role, maybe Snyder will bring in someone competent who can properly build a football team. And by "maybe Snyder will bring in someone competent" I mean "maybe Snyder will cryogenically freeze himself only to be awoken when the 'Skins find success." Because Lord knows it's not happening under his watch.

-I can't wait to see who Zorn blames during the post-game presser. The O-line for lack of execution? All the players for not staying medium? The refs? My money is on all of the above.

-Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford? Let the debate begin!

-Who are the impending 33 years-old-and-up offensive linemen free agents? Snyder is all but guaranteed to give one of them a record deal, and likely to make at least 3 free agent O-linemen the highest paid players at their respective positions this offseason.

-Orakpo lines up at end, gets sack. Orakpo plays linebacker, does nothing. It's not rocket science.

-The Lions stormed down the field in multiple 95-yard drives. THE DETROIT LIONS. Our only hope this season, that the D might carry the 'Skins, was killed after that first 99-yard TD drive. The fact that there was another leaves no room for doubt here.

-The Caps season begins Thursday night vs. Boston, 7 PM. And not a day too soon.

Awesome Day!

The Detroit Lions?! We ARE the Detroit Lions.

2nd Quarter Update: Lions 10 - Skins 0



Skins @ Lions, 1:00 ET

When the schedule-makers penciled Washington in for a game in Detroit for the second consecutive year, most Skins fans thought it was Christmas come early.

Here we are, though, only two weeks into the season, and the Skins are the popular pick to help the Lions snap their 19 game losing streak. Neat.

Here are some things to remember from last year's game in Detroit, which I attended:

  • Detroit fans are extremely hospitable. Not one fan harassed or heckled me and my buddies, in full Skins attire. In fact, the guys in front of us were so drunk they passed out in the second quarter, while the guys behind us wore fake mustaches, t-shirts that said "2008 Preseason Champions!", and signs that said "Re-Hire Matt Millen!" The Detroit Lions, ladies and gentlemen.
  • We gave up the the Lions' first 1st-quarter points of the season. Ouch.
  • Jim Zorn and Clinton Portis mixed it up on the sidelines for the first of what has seemed like many times. Portis ended the day with 126 yards.
  • Santana Moss dominated the game, with a 50-yard TD reception and unbelievable 80-yard punt return for TD in the 4th quarter that made everyone think, "Why again are we employing Antwaan Randle-El?"
  • Game was over when London Fletcher clocked Calvin Johnson behind the first down marker to end their game-tying desperation drive. Skins won, 25-17.
There are a few things we need to remember to mentally prepare ourselves for today's game:
  1. The Redskins haven't played anywhere near the level they're capable of playing at during the first two games of the season.
  2. The Redskins [usually] play better when everyone is betting against them.
I'm putting my money where my mouth is - the Skins will make it 20. Not only that, but they'll cover the spread, too. JC17 and co. are gonna have a breakthrough day, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a TD out of the defense. Just too much on the line in this one to fall in Detroit.

Rico's prediction: Redskins 34, Lions 17

POST-GAME UPDATE: I am either delusional or retarded. Or both.