St. Louis Cardinals Season Outlook

The baseball season has snuck up on us.  Seems like just yesterday Cardinal nation was asking for John Mozilieak’s head after watching their former star prospect Randy Arozarena lighting up opposing pitchers on the biggest stage baseball has.  What was once a mutiny has turned into a celebration of brilliance after obtaining Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies for Austin Gomber and some spare giveaways he found in a Memphis promotional closet.  The Cardinals enter the 2021 season as the favorites to win the national league central.  Depsite some injuries that have derailed the plans in the rotation this team should still have high hopes heading into the summer.  

The Infield

The Cardiansl finalized their 26-man roster today.  While the mainstays were not in question a few decisions showed the direction the team is looking to go in this season. Most notably was the addition of 28-year old John Nogowski making his first opening day roster.  Nogowski was a longshot coming into spring but his bat made him impossible to overlook.  His 3:1 BB/K rate seems like an anomaly in today’s game, to compare it to a modern day player is impossible.  In fact you there hasn’t been a player since Barry Bonds to put up that kind of ratio.  

Nogowski will fill a role that is currently being held by Matt Carpenter.  Carpenter’s spring was the complete opposite of his counterpart, getting one hit in 35 at bats.  This is not just a veteran struggling to get going, this has become a recurring theme of the aging Carpenter.  The organization understood that his time was up or else you likely don’t see the move to bring in Nolan Arenado and Nogowski likely doesn’t get a chance to make the team.

Tommy Edman will step right into the role vacated by gold glover Kolten Wong.  He is a strong defender up the middle, but his bat will be his most important attribute.  Edman will get the first shot at the leadoff spot, a part of the order that has been in flux for the last two seasons.  Wong took over the role last year but was not able to be as effective as the Cardinals needed last season.  Edman will be protected by arguably the best corner infield combination in all of baseball, he has to be able to get on base and force pitchers to throw to Arenado and Goldschmidt.  If he does not improve on his .317 OBP the Cardinals will again find themselves looking for answers at the top of the order. 

Paul Dejong is overrated.  That is all I have to say about that.  

The Outfield

Justin Williams will play a prominent role off of the bench as the lone left-handed bat outside of Carpenter on the bench.  Williams brings the pop that is needed in late inning situations and he may see even more playing time with the injury to Harrison Bader.  The outfield still has a few question marks, presumably it will be O’Neil in LF, Carlson in CF and whomever matches up best in right field.  Sending down Lane Thomas made it clear that the Cardinasl will lean on Carlson to man center until Bader recovers.  

The key to the outifled and potentially the entire lineup will be the emergence of Tyler O’Neil.  O’Neil will be given the chance to play everyday and if he succeeds then this lineup will succeed.  The power and speed he brings to the table is hard to match based on raw ability.  Moving on from Dexter Fowler was an indication that the club thinks he is ready to break out.  He will be tested early with teams not letting Arenado or Goldschmidt beat them, they will take their chance with O’Neil and he will make them pay. 

The Arms.

St. Louis has had a lot of rotational depth in their system for a number of years and each one of those years it gets tested.  The Cardinals will start 2021 with Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson and Kwang Hyun Kim all on the IL, Hudson will likely miss the entire season.  The Cardinals will roll with Jon Gant and Daniel Ponce de Leon at the end of the rotation.  Both solid major league arms, both having the same problem… they don’t eat up many innings.  Ponce de Leon has averaged only four innings per start in his career and Gant, who was a former starter with the Braves is coming off multiple seasons primarily out of the bullpen. 

St. Louis will have to rely on their bullpen to eat up a lot of innings early in the season.  Most notably we should see a lot of innings from former first round pick Jake Woodford.  He will be called upon in long relief roles in tight games.  Genesis Cabrera, the power lefty picked up from the Rays will also likely see multiple innings of relief for each appearance.  Both Cabrera and Woodford are young arms that haven’t dealt with the longevity of a full major league season.  We will likely see a rotation of arms throughout the year.  Guys like Johan Oviedo, Zach Thompson, Kody Whitley and Mathew Liberatore will all make appearances for the major league team.  The Cardinal will have to rely on their depth of arms to make a run and luckily they have the guys to get them through the season.  If they do need additional help their depth should allow them to make a move for a veteran arm at the trae deadline.  One that could make a difference down the stretch. 

The rotation will rely on Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright to be as  great as they have shown over the last two seasons.  Veteran Carlos Martinez is a wild card in this situation but his potential has shown through before and his usage of the cutter through spring training has made him more efficient and effective.  The key to Martinez will be controlling his pitch count and his emotions.  If he can do both he will be a nice fit behind the veteran and the ace.  

Conclusion

The Chicago Cubs let most of their pitching staff go, the Brewers didn’t do enough to improve their offense, the Reds don’t seem to know what their direction is. The Cardinals will rely on their pitching depth and firepower in the middle of their order.  They compare well in every facet of the game against all of their NL Central counterparts.  If they get anything from Tyler O’Neil and Tommy Edman on offense they should be set.  They could be on the market for a veteran starter at the trade deadline to consider themselves true contenders for an NL Championship but they should be the frontrunners to win their division. 

Central Division Prediction

St. Louis Cardinals

Milwaukee Brewers

Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati Reds

Pittsburgh Pirates

Betting every Sweet 16 Game

Oregon State Beavers vs Loyola-Chicago Ramblers -6.5, 125.5

Oregon State lost to Portland this year.  This was not the Trailblazers, it was the team that went 0-11 in the West Coast Conference.  They now find themselves in the sweet 16 facing off against the Missouri Valley Conference champs, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers.  

The fact that they busted brackets is not the only thing these two teams have in common.  They both play extremely tight defense and move the ball at their own pace, which is slow.  This game has first to 60 wins written all over it.  The Ramblers were able to run whatever they wanted on offense against the Illini, that won’t be the case on Saturday.  The Beavers have imposed their will on everyone since the start of the Pac12 tournament. 

The Beavers can rely on Ethan Thompson to get points and they have a solid point guard that will keep them in the game down the stretch, oh and they are the 2nd  best free throw shooting team left in the tournament (that is huge).  The Rambler’s are better on the offensive end which should get them the win, but the Beavers are too hot, they keep this close. 

Pick: Oregon State +6.5, Under 125.5

Villanova Wildcats vs. Baylor Bears -6.5, 141

I am not going to pretend that I didn’t pick North Texas to upset Villanova. I thought the loss of Colin Gillispie was going to be a problem against the defense of North Texas, Nova came out like they were playing NBA Jam on fire mode. They have been solid from deep all year, shooting 35%, if they can continue to hit shots they can keep it competitive.  Their offense running through Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is not going to be the problem, their effective field goal percentage against being outside of the top 200 is going to be the black sharpie on their bracket.  

The Baylor Bears showed us the team we all enjoyed before their covid pause.  The three headed monster Jared Butler, Macio Teague and Davion Mitchell will be tough for Villanova to cover.  Also there is this guy that had his coming out party in the round of 32, his name is Mathew Mayer.  Mayer had 17 points against Wisconsin, at 6-9, shooting 45 percent from three, he is showing the world why he is a darkhorse NBA prospect.  Also his hair is awesome. It’s intimidating.

Nova had some nice performances against Winthrop and North Texas, but let’s be real here Winthrop and North Texas were double digit seeds for a reason.  Baylor has too much speed and will pressure the ball and cause turnovers.  With no Gillispie I can’t see Villanova controlling anything in this one. 

Pick: Baylor Bears -6.5

Oral Roberts Golden Eagles vs. Arkansas Razorbacks -11.5, 159

Cinderella stories are great, but stories have endings.  This ending may come on Saturday but damn it should be pretty entertaining. The Golden Eagles can bring it on the offensive end, they are one of the fastests teams in the country ranking 52 in tempo, they are 12th in 3pt percentage and 80th in offensive efficiency. 

These two teams have met before and they were able to combine for 162 points, that was with a sluggish start from Arkansas.  Both of these teams want to play fast, this one will be uptempo and efficient on the offensive end.  Two NBA prospects in Moses Moody and Max Abmas will match up in a game that will be fun to watch.  This one is going to be closer than most think.  The Razorbacks have gotten off to a few slow starts so far in the tournament, if they do that again against the Golden Eagles they can find it tough to come back due to the firepower they will have against them. 

There will be points.  After the sluggish affair we will see between Loyola and Oregon State. We will need this.

Pick: Over 159, Oral Roberts +11.5

Syracuse Orange vs. Houston Cougars -6, 140

The Houston Cougars slipped by Rutgers while Syracuse did what Syracuse does, win in March.  The Cougars could not have gotten a better matchup, they are the best offensive rebounding team in the country, averaging an offensive rebound 39% of the time.  The zone defense is susceptible to the offensive rebound.  

The Syracuse Orange have gotten hot at the right time.  The coach’s kid, Buddy Boeheim has led the way averaging 26 ppg over the last six games.  He has had help from Illinois transfer Alan Griffin who is averaging 13 ppg and Quincy Guerrier averaging 13.9.

Their hot shooting has created an illusion that they have a chance to move on to the elite 8.  Their history and their zone gimmick will be exposed by a Houston team that specializes in shooting down opposing shooters.  The Cougars are the best in college basketball against opposing team shooting percentages.  The defense and rebounding that Houston brings to the table is going to overcome an overrated Orange team. 

Pick: Houston Cougars -6

Florida State Seminoles vs Michigan Wolverines -3, 144

The Seminoles and the Wolverines are seem to be the only teams that got the memo of how brackets are supposed to play out.  Both have played to their expectations, Michigan even doing it without their star Isaiah Livers.  The Wolverines will need to slow the pace to and work inside Hunter Dickinson on offense while pressuring the Seminoles ball handlers on defense.  

Florida State has one big weakness, they can be loose with the ball ranking 251st in the nation in turnover percentage.  Michigan’s defense is not one that causes a lot of turnovers, they thrive more on playing man to many and have Dickinson inside to be their to clean up any messes.  

With Isiah Livers I would be all over Michigan covering this spread, without him I can’t see how the Wolverines consistently score against a very good Florida State defensive unit.  The Seminoles have more options on offense and should get this win.  

Pick: Florida State ML, Under 144

Creighton Bluejays vs Gonzaga Bulldogs -13, 158

The Bluejays got a herculaneum effort from their star Marcus Zagarowski in their win over Ohio in the round of 32.  Creighton controlled the game from start to finish, something that they would like to do against the juggernaut Gonzaga Bulldogs.  The problem for Creighton will face is that Gonzaga has the ability to play at any tempo.  They can slow you down by feeding Drew Timme in the post or speed you up by letting Jalen Suggs run the break, and of course there is Cory Kispert to deal with. The Zags are second in the nation in scoring and first in the nation in field goal percentage. 

Creighton has problems with teams that can score in the paint.  Go watch their two losses to Georgetown this season and you can see they have no answer for interior scoring.  Drew Timme is going to force a double team which will leave one of the litany of talented scorers with no coverage for easy buckets.  Creighton will keep in close early, but their defense in the paint and struggles at the free throw line will allow the nation’s only undefeated team to stay that way and cover the number. 

Pick: Gonzaga -13

Oregon Ducks vs USC Trojans -2.5, 139.5

This game seems familiar.  We have seen it play out a few times over the years.  This season they met one time and it was a buttkicking by the USC Trojans 72-58.  The usual suspect was not the lead contributor, Evan Mobley played a subpar game by his standards, scoring just 11 points.  The Trojans were led by guards Tahj Eddy (24pts) and Drew Peterson (15 points, 11 rebounds).  They will need similar contributions in order to take down an Oregon team that flashed some of its potential explosiveness against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the second round.  

The Ducks have the talent to compete with a skilled USC team that showed some of their dominance in a route of Kansas.  Chris Duarte is a stud that should be on NBA radar as the draft approaches, his shot making ability will have to be on par as USC has a clear advantage in the paint.  The USC defense has to control the pace. Iowa allowed Oregon to move quickly  and not allow the defense to get set.  USC has to control the glass, if they do they control this game.  

Pick: USC -2.5 

UCLA Bruins vs. Alabama Crimson Tide – 6, 145.5

If this game was going on two weeks ago the Crimson Tide would be close to a double digit favorite against the Bruins.  The Pac12 convinced bookmakers that they are to be taken seriously with four teams competing in the sweet sixteen.  The Bruins thrive on controlling the pace and making it a grind.  They rarely turn the ball over and have made the most of their offensive possessions in their three games so far in the tournament.  

The Crimson Tide will look to impose their will and highlight their elite athletes. John Petty, Jordan Shackelford, Herb Jones, Javon Quinerly can all take over a game.  Their weapons were on full display in their domination of the Maryland Terrapins.  Bama put up 96 points against a defense that was only giving up 65 points per game.  They don’t just do it on offense, they can disrupt the flow of the game on the defensive end.

Pick: Alabama -6, Under 145.5

Deep Fantasy Sleepers MLB


Bobby Dalbec, 1B, Boston Red Sox (ADP 285)

Do you like dingers?   We all like dingers, Bobby Dalbec really likes dingers.  He hits them in bunches.  In 2019 Dalbec smashed 27 homers in 130 games in the Red Sox minor league system.  He immediately jumped up the prospect list for Boston becoming their top power prospect in the system.  His power transitioned very well in his first official shot in the show.  In 23 games last season he hit eight homers with an insane .330 ISO.  

The path has been cleared for the 25 year-old rookie.  Mitch Moreland was moved last season and the team has moved on from the thought of Michael Chavis at first base.  Dalbec will be inserted right into the middle of a lineup that features plenty of protections around him.  His bat is made for Fenway Park’s green monster and he will be a value for anyone looking for power in the late rounds.  He brings a high strikeout rate and a lack of on-base consistency but with an ADP of 285 he is an extreme value for someone that needs depth and huge potential upside. 

Jared Walsh, 1B, Los Angeles Angels (ADP 208)

The Angels found themselves a gem last season.  The 27-year-old Walsh hit 9 homers and knocked in 26 runs in just 30 games during the 2020 campaign.  Walsh is a late bloomer, but the power didn’t come from nowhere.  In 2018 Walsh had a .329 ISO and in 2019 he followed that up with a .361 ISO in triple-A.  The Angels have a surplus of power hitting first baseman and DH candidates but they won’t be able to ignore the production that Walsh brings.  

Albert Pujols has already announced that he intends to retire at the end of the season and the Angels need to look toward the future at the position.  Walsh brings power and a solid defensive ability which will be an asset to the Angels.  At-bats will be inconsistent this season to start but he is worth a shot in the later rounds to stash. He can easily find himself with consistent opportunities hitting in front of Mike Trout and behind David Fletcher. 

Dylan Moore, INF/OF, Seattle Mariners (ADP 156)

Dylan Moore was a huge pick up for me last season.  His ability to play mutliple positions makes him a great fit into any fantasy lineup.  He had a terrific 2020, in 38 games Moore stole 12 bases, hit 8 homers with an OPS of .854.  The Mariners are in a transition year, with top prospects Taylor Trammell, Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic soon to be joining Kyle Lewis in the middle of the order, Seattle will be looking to find out who else will be rounding out their roster for the future.  

Moore has the flexibility to fit into the Seattle lineup everyday and hit at the top of the order due to his speed.  Last season had a bit of luck involved but his tools are great for anyone looking for literally anything.  

Bobby Bradley, 1B, Cleveland Indians, (ADP 819)

Fantasy pros has Bobby Bradley projecting in the 800’s.  Calling him a sleeper is very much an understatement.  Bradley brings real power to the table, hitting 33 homers last year in triple-A and following it up with a terrific spring training.  The 24-year old Bradley has been a top prospect in the Indians system since being drafted in 2014.  When given at bats all he does is produce.  In his minor league career his WRC+ has never gone below 109 and his ISO has never gone below .175.  

The Indians cleared the path for Bradley this offseason and he has shown what he can do in the spring.  A young Indians team can allow him to continually get at-bats in the middle of the lineup.  You may not even need to draft Bradley but keep your eye on him post draft if you need some power. 

Myles Straw, SS/OF, Houston Astros (ADP #322)

Astros manager Dusty Baker announced that Myles Straw is a likely candidate to take over the lead-off role with the departure of George Springer.  Straw gives you two position flexibility at both SS and OF.  Straw has been a top prospect in the Astros system since 2015, he got his first real chance in the majors in 2019 where he showed some of his potential stealing 8 bases, scoring 27 runs with a .378 OBP in 56 games.  

Spring training has been a revelation for what he can bring to the Astros with a slash line of .346/.370/.500.  If he is named starter his ADP of #322 makes him an extreme bargain for anyone looking to get a player that will score runs and steal bases.  

NCAA Tournament: West Regional Breakdown

Top Four Seeds

  1. Gonzaga Bulldogs
  2. Iowa Hawkeyes
  3. Kansas Jayhawks
  4. Virginia Cavaliers

“Gonzaga hasn’t been tested in weeks.” That’s the take everyone loves to bring up when they talk about the Gonzaga Bulldogs.  The difference between this team and the ones of the past is Jalen Suggs.  The Zags have not had an NBA level talent like him on the roster in the last ten years.  Suggs, along with Kispert, Timme and the rest of the roster are primed for domination and I think they have the matchups to make a long run very possible.  This team was able to beat Kansas, Iowa, Virginia and West Virginia before beginning their dominant run in the West Coast Conference.  This team has only gotten better and will show it on a run to the final four. 

The 2nd seeded Iowa Hawkeyes have their sights set on a run led by Luka Garza, the biggest issue for Iowa will be on the defensive front and that will be exposed in the second round when they have the potential of meeting up with Chris Duarte and the Oregon Ducks.  Oregon will not have an answer for Garza but Oregon brings a real challenge at every other position.  Can Fran McCafferey get his guys ready for upper level offensive units?  He hasn’t proven to do it yet.

The Kansas Jayhawks may have the biggest question mark of the entire bracket.  They are dealing with a recent Covid stoppage that affected their chances to win the Big12 tournament.  The Jayhawks appeared to have found their groove towards the end of  the conference campaign, winning against powerhouse Baylor.   They followed it up with a lackluster performance against UTEP in a randomly scheduled game.  Kansas has the talent to make easy work of Eastern Washington but then they run into the USC Trojans barring an upset and that will be a problem for the Jayhawks.  The length of the Trojans will be trouble for Kansas, they will have to find a way to stop dominant big man Evan Mobley and that is a question that they will not have an answer for.  

Virginia is dealing with a similar issue that Kansas is dealing with.  Coming off of a COVID pause and a season that did not turn out the way they had hoped, the Cavaliers enter a matchup with one of the hottest teams in the country the Ohio Bobcats.  The Bobcats ran through the MAC tournament stomping Buffalo in the final.  The Bobcats have one of the best players in the country in Jason Preston.  Preston has the ability to break down any defense including the vaunted Virginia packline defense.  

First Round Upsets

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos over Creighton Bluejays

The Gauchos come from a conference that doesn’t get much hype unless you are a late night degenerate gambler much like myself.  They however are playing some of the best basketball in the country and could bring some problems to the Creighton Bluejays.  The Gauchos are 56th in the nation in effective shooting percentage as well as one of the most consistent offensive units in basketball.  They are meeting a similar offensive unit led by Marcus Zagarowski.  The Bluejays are similar to the Gauchos with one of the most effective shooting percentages in college hoops. 

The Bluejays were exposed by Georgetown in the Big East final, they have a problem on the boards and a problem at the free throw line. Creighton gives up nine offensive boards per game ranking 242nd in the nation and they are 329th in free throw percentage.  Both of these factors will give you problems in the tournament.

Ohio Bobcats over Virginia Cavaliers

I already explained this.  Jason Preston will be a problem for every team in the tournament if he is healthy.  This is not the same Cavalier team that won the tournament in 2019.

Teams that can make a run- USC Trojans

The Trojans come out of the not so vaunted Pac 12 so some of their ability is getting overlooked.  Everyone has heard of Evan Mobley, likely a top five pick in the NBA draft.  He alone is good enough to get them at least one victory in the NCAA tournament.  If you look at the draw that USC got they should have a few favorable matchups.  They likely will match up with the Kansas Jayhawks that will have problems dealing with the length that USC brings to the table.  The Trojans have the ability to shut down any offense and Kansas will have trouble doing anything.  

If they get by Kansas a potential matchup with Iowa is a juicy spot for all college basketball lovers.  Luka Garza vs Evan Mobley is a matchup that can headline any basketball slate. Mobley and company are an achilles heel for the Hawkeyes.  USC has problems at the free throw line which could end up costing them but Tahj Eddy and Ethan Anderson both shoot over 39% from deep which will open up the middle for the unstoppable force Evan Mobley.  

West Regional Bracket Winner- Gonzaga Bulldogs

NCAA Tournament- South Regional Breakdown

Top Seeds-

  1. Baylor
  2. Ohio State
  3. Arkansas
  4. Purdue

The South Regional is led by the Baylor Bears.  After their long covid pause there seems to be a bit of hesitation in their abilities to get back to the team they were at the beginning of the season.  The loss to Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State along with their struggle to put away lowly Kansas State leaves a lot of question marks on a team that could easily make a run to the championship.  

The Ohio State Buckeyes seemed to come from nowhere to the Big Ten Championship game.  They have prolific scorers in guard Duane Washington and forward EJ Liddell.  It is their role players that can step up at any moment and make an impact on the game.  CJ Walker, Seth Towns and Justin Sueing are all players that can make plays when asked upon.  The Buckeyes have victories over Illinois, Iowa and Michigan this season.  They have been tested all season and have players they can lean on down the stretch of a close game.  

Arkansas was and still is one of the hottest teams in all of college basketball.  Until running into LSU on Saturday they were winners of 13 straight games.  They have an absolutely elite offense led by Moses Moody and Desi Sills.  Their matchup with Colgate should be a cake walk for the Razorbacks (don’t listen to anyone that says different), but they could have gotten a rough matchup if Texas Tech finds its way past Utah State.  Arkansas arguably has the best offense in the entire bracket, but they will have matchups with teams that will slow them down and that is going to be trouble for Eric Musselman and company.

Purdue worked their way into a #4 seed on the back of their star Trevion Williams.  Williams has revitalized the post game in college basketball.  The Boilmakers has a solid resume, finishing 13-6 in the vaunted Big 10, there loan bad loss being against  a depleted Miami team early in the season.  Purdue is a dark horse in this bracket, but they will be tested in the first round by a feisty North Texas team. 

Potential First Round Upsets 

13. North Texas over 4. Purdue

Purdue could be a sleeper to come out of this bracket but I think they will have their hands full with North Texas.  The Mean Green are a stout defensive unit, they give up 60 ppg this season and hold opposing teams to an effective shooting percentage of 45.7%, ranking 20th in the nation.  North Texas has been challenged this year playing West Virginia, Arkansas and Loyola-Chicago this year.  

Purdue has Trevion Williams, he will be a problem for North Texas, but these two team play similar styles.  Purdue can’t look past the Conference USA champions, I think they will and they will pay for it. 

11. Utah State over 6. Texas Tech

Utah State was a surprise to make the tournament. Most thought the Mountain West would be a one bid league, but the Aggies deserve to be there and they will show that in their first round matchup against Texas Tech.  Utah State is a very solid rebounding team that has a stud in the middle named Neemias Queta.  Queta and Justin Bean are tough as they come on the boards and their grind it out style will be a tough matchup for the Red Raiders.  This Utah State team has two victories over San Diego State this season, a team that brings a similar toughness that Texas Tech brings to the table.  Mac McClung and company have more overall talent but they can have trouble putting together consistent offensive success.  Watch out for the Aggies.

Sleeper team to make a run- North Carolina Tarheels

North Carolina enters the 2021 tournament with very little expected of them.  A late surge in the season locked them into a spot, but they do feature the talent to make a solid run.  Their first round matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers doesn’t look as intimidating as it once did early in the season as the Badgers seem to not be able to win a big game despite all the veteran leadership.  They would then likley get a matchup with the Baylor Bears. Baylor’s three point shooting and defense seems like a surefire victory but the Bears will lack the size to handle the Tarheels in the interior. 

Carolina’s biggest problem has been lack of consistent guard play and outside shooting, RJ Davis and Leaky Black have found a groove of late that could mean trouble for opposing teams in the South Regional.  There is NBA level talent on the Tarheel roster, along with a coach that has been there before.  They will be tested right off the bat but they can pass that test without needing to study much.  (Hope you got the joke there)

Pick to win the South- Ohio State Buckeyes over Baylor Bears

NCAAB Play of the Day: Stanford Cardinal vs California Golden Bears

The Pac 12 tournament gets started tomorrow in Las Vegas and the first matchup that intrigued me is the same one that we enjoyed on Super Bowl Sunday.  That game saw the Cardinal fall apart down the stretch winning the game but blowing the 10 points spread in the final three minutes.  The Cardinal are losers of four straight, mainly due to their star center Oscar de Silva.  The Cardinal leading scorer should be active for this game and he has been dominant in their first two meetings with the Golden Bears scoring 23 and 24 in those two victories. The Cardinal will also have star freshman Ziaire Williams who missed both games against California this year. Williams will bring more trouble for a California defense that gives up a lot of easy buckets in the paint. 

The California Bears lean on their outside shooting, Matt Bradley and Grant Antevich both shoot over 35% from deep, while Andre Kelly anchors the middle.  The California offense will have their hands full against Stanford who ranks 31st in th antion in defensive efficiency.  The addition of the length that Zaire Williams brings should make it a miserable night for the Golden Bears.  Stanford should be fully healthy for the first time in a while and their depth and defensive efficiency will be way too much for California.  The opening line of – 6 for Stanford seems like it is biased on the recent losses for Stanford rather than the complete talent mismatch.  

Play of the day: Stanford Cardinal – 6

NCAAB Play of the day: Northern Kentucky Norse vs Oakland Grizzlies

The Northern Kentucky Norse are on a nice little run.  Winners of 9 of their last 11, the Norse are coming off of an awesome comeback against another hot team in the Detroit Titans. The Norse are not a great defensive team, ranking 212th overall.  But they bring a serious offense attack led by guards Trevon Faulkner and Marquis Warrick.  The freshman Warrick was the catalyst in their victory of Detroit, scoring 20 points in their 1-point victory. Northern Kentucky has too many guys that can penetrate the paint and handle the inside. They are a matchup problem for their non-defensive minded foes. 

Oakland has a surprisingly high scoring offense, averaging 75 ppg (82nd in the nation).  They score a lot due to their pace, they rank 87th in the nation in pace, the second highest in the Horizon League.  The Grizzlies have Jalen Moore who averages 18 ppg on the season.  They are going to try and push the pace to make up for their lack of defensive identity.  Oakland has been horrible controlling the glass and defending opposing shooters, giving up an effective field goal shooting percentage of 56.1%.  

Offensivly these two teams can match each other but the big difference between the two is on the defensive end where the Norse will have the advantage.  The advantage will also be huge for Northern Kentucky, they are 22nd in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage.  Oakland will have such a disadvantage on the boards it will be tough for them to quicken the pace in order to play the way they want to.  If the Norse control the pace they should be able to score at will against a Grizzlies team that gives up one of the highest true shooting percentages in the nation.  Northern Kentucky has too many advantages to lean any other way.  They should be able to control this game and win easily.  

Play of the day: Northern Kentucky Norse -1.5

NCAAB Play of the day: Oklahoma State Cowboys at Baylor Bears

The Baylor Bears got back on track this week covering the spread in OT versus West Virginia on Monday night. Baylor was able to lock up the Big 12 title and do it in a tough situation after a loss and of course a long covid pause to the season.  The Bears are the third most efficient offensive team in college basketball.  They are led by Jerad Butler, Macio Teague and Davion Mitchell, all average double digits, led by Butler’s 16.9 ppg.  Baylor has multiple scorers and thrives from deep.  They have been tested twice this week and will be tested again in this matchup.

The Ok State Cowboys are as hot as any time in the country.  Sweeping a series with their rivals the Oklahoma Sooners.  They are 4-0 ATS in their last four games and are in a prime spot to make a statement leading into the BIG12 tournament.  Everyone knows about Cade Cunningham but it is the rest of the young roster that has been stepping up for Ok State.  Avery Anderson has put up 16, 15 and 11 over their last three upset victories over Oklahoma (2) and Texas Tech.  His ability to penetrate the defense has been a nightmare for opposing defenses that are forced to leave him one on one with the threat of Cade Cunningham looming.  The outside shooting of Bryce Williams has also opened up the interior for the OK State slashers like Kalib Boone.  The Cowboys consistently attack the interior averaging offensive rebounds at a 31% clip.  They are relentless and it usually leads to free throws or tip ins.  The Baylor Bears don’t have a lot of weaknesses but they can be exposed on the defensive glass. In their last two games the Bear were outrebounded by 20 versus Kansas and by 5 versus West Virginia.  

The first matchup between these two teams saw Baylor was able to pull out the victory over Ok State without Cade Cunningham 81-66.  Baylor was leading by just 4 at half before pulling away in the second half.  The second half is where you saw how badly the Cowboys were missing Cade Cunningham who thrives downt he stretch of games.  The Cowboys with Cunningham are facing a Baylor team that has had two hard fought matchups with Kansas and West Virginia and is in for another one Thursday night.  This line seems like it is leaning more on the first matchup rather than the talent on the court.  The Cowboys have been great on the road this year going 6-3-1 ATS, they can match the Bears.

Play of the day: Oklahoma StateCowboys +12

Three Keys to Cardinals Success in 2021

Kwang Hyun Kim 

There was a lot of attention paid to re-signing Adam Wainwright and the arbitration hearing of Jack Flaherty.  The veteran and the ace will both play a huge role in the formation of the rotation but the key pitcher of the entire staff could be the second year lefty from Korea Kwang Hyun Kim.

Kim’s first season in the MLB was fantastic by traditional standards.  He had a 1.62 ERA in eight games pitched (seven starts), finishing with a record of 3-0.  ERA is a deceiving number, you look at any ERA under two and assume that he was an effective starter but in reality Kim had issues in 2020.  His ERA is likely a product of his ability to strand base runners.  He stranded 86% of baserunners in 2020, he was one of seven players to do that all season.  Through just seven starts, that number can be maintained.  How will that play out over the longivity of a 162 game season.

The Cardinals have a lot of options for the rotation, but after Jack Flaherty and Wainwright there lies a lot of strictly potential.  Unfortunately potential doesn’t lead to victories.  The options of Miles Mikolas (missed most of 2020), the unpredictable Carlos Martinez, the often injured and unproven Alex Reyes, the starter turned reliever turned starter Jon Gant, and the stable Daniel Ponce de Leon all are going to have a chance to compete for a spot but they all bring uncertainty.  For St. Louis to be a real contender for a championship they will need stability somewhere in the rotation.  Kim is a veteran  of professional baseball, he features some nasty stuff that can be effective against major league hitters, but his consistency will be a question and his continued ability to pitch around trouble.  There was luck involved in Kim’s success last year.  That same luck may not be there this year. 

Kim’s performance will dictate the entire staff.  

Tommy Edman taking the leadoff spot.

On opening day the Cardinals will not have Kolten Wong on their roster for the first time since the 2015 season.  His dazzling defense will be missed but it could be his steady play at the plate over the last few seasons that will leave a gap that even his backhand couldn’t plug up.  Wong took over the leadoff spot in 2019, leading to the best offensive season of his career with a .361 OBP, 25 steals and 11 homers.  2020 was not a stellar offensive season for Wong but he still was able to amass a .350 OBP, which was good enough for third on the team behind slugger Paul Goldschmidt and veteran Brad Miller.

The Cardinals have to find an answer for the top of the order.  Guys like Dylan Carlson and potentially Matt Carpenter could fit the mold.  Carlson fits better in the #2 slot in the lineup, allowing the young hitter to get fastballs being protected by Goldschmidt and the newly acquired Nolan Arenado. Carpenter, entering the age 35 season, has seen nothing but regression. 2020 saw Carpenter have his lowest WRC+ (83), his OBP was decent at .325 but he also had his strikeout rate jump to 28%.  Carpenter’s bat speed has dropped at an alarming level ccausing his hard hit percentage to be at just 35%.   His time at the top of the order is over.  

Edman has the versatility to stay in the lineup.  He can play all over the field and can switch hit, making him a great matchup for any starter.  Edman will get the first shot at the leadoff spot and if he can bring the same offensive output he brought in 2019 the Cardinals offense will be impossible to stop.

Tyler O’Neill living up to the hype. 

The time has come for Tyler O’Neil.  Is he a boom or a bust? He won a gold glove last year, so that would be a positive.  He has hit 140 career homers in the minor leagues over seven seasons.  That is Crash Davis level power at the minor level.  It’s time for the organization to find out what they have in the burly bomber.  

The Cardinals committed to the youth in the outfield movement.  Moving Dexter Fowler, made Harrison Bader the oldest projected starter at 26 years old.  Top prospect Dylan Carlson will move into the biggest role on the team, projecting to play multiple spots in the outfield as well as be primed in the middle of the order.  The aformentioned Bader will man centerfield and play gold glove level outfield, anything from the plate will be a plus but not much can be expected.  The Cardinal’s will need O’Neill to live up to his early career promise.  The strikeouts will be there but the power has to show up. 

St. Louis showed it’s commitment to a new approach in the outfield, they have to have the confidence to stick with O’Neill and allow him to get comfortable at the plate.  Let him go through early growing pains to figure out his swing.  He will reward the Cardinals with the power and protection needed for your big bats.  Oh, he is also the fastest player in baseball.  Let this guy loose. 

NCAAB Play of the day: Detroit Titans at Northern Kentucky Norse

The Horizon League tournament is continuing Tuesday night with a matchup of one of my favorite teams the Detroit Titans versus the Northern Kentucky Norse.  

Detroit is on a 11-2 run over their last 13 games after a dreadful start to the season.  The offense has been the story for the Titans, they are averaging 76 ppg on the season. They have put up at least 80 points in 6 of their last 7 games.  They are led by arguably the best guard in the Horizon League in Antoine Davis.  Davis put on a show inthe first round of the Horizon tournament scoring 46 points against Robert Morris.  He leads an offensive that has an effective field goal percentage of 54.7% and as a team they are one of the top free throw shooting teams in college basketball shooting an astounding 80% from the line.  

Northern Kentucky has an efficient offense of their own, ranking 139th in the nation in offensive efficiency.  The Norse are strong on the inside averaging 54% from inside the arc and average a 34% offensive rebound rate.  Their advantage on the inside will allow them to score against a mediocre Detroit defense.  The Norse feature guards Trevon Faulkner and and Marquiss Walker, both have the ability to penetrate the defense and get easy buckets. 

This game features two teams that are efficient on the offensive end while lacking the ability to get consistent stops on defense. The Detroit offense will set the tone behind Antoine Davis and try and get this game to a more uptempo pace. This being a conference tournament game means we will likely see a lot of fouling at the end which plays in perfectly for the over.  Detroits ability to his outside shots and put away teams on the free throw line should lead to a victory and a higher scoring matchup. I am leaning towards Detroit at -1.5 but my favorite play is the over.

Play of the day: Over 146 (Like Detroit -1.5)