Why Dominic Leone should be the Cardinals closer.

The struggles of the St. Louis bullpen were an obvious concern in 2018.  The lone highlight being the emergence of Jordan Hicks as a force in the 8th inning.  The Cardinals went into the offseason looking to add some depth to the bullpen and potentially a closer.  To this point the only impact piece that has been added is the versatile lefty Andrew Miller. Miller and Hicks will create a two way highlight reel of nasty pitches that will undoubtedly be a boost, but neither have performed as a closer in their careers for more than a few weeks. Another writer on this sight suggested John Brebbia, I too saw Brebbia as a potential closer going into 2019 but after digging into the numbers a different player stood out to me.  Someone that most of us have most likely forgot… Dominic Leone.

Let’s first work under the assumption that Miller and Hicks will most likely be middle to late inning relief.  Let’s also work under the assumption that the competition will be between Brebbia and Leone.  Brebbia’s career has taken off the last two seasons in the majors but he was actually drafted in 2011 by the New York Yankees while Leone was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2012.  Both have paid their dues in the minors to establish themselves of as more than effective relievers.  Both have great strikeout potential, Brebbia (10.66 K/9), Leone (9.75 K/9) in 2018.  Both have average fastball velocity of 95 MPH. Both have similar WHIP’s, BB/9 and so on and so on. 

Basically, they have very similar traits.  Leone was hampered by an injury in 2018, ironically his injury is one of the many reasons that Brebbia was recalled from Memphis during the season. A place that he should not have ever been, but that is an argument for a different day. Cardinals fans that will play recency bias will look at Leone’s start to 2018 and not see the real pitcher that Leone can be when healthy. In 2017 Leone excelled for the Toronto Blue Jays in the stacked American League East. In 70.1 innings, Leone held hitters to a .202 average and a skeletal .360 slugging percentage. He inherited the fourth-most runners in baseball, 54, and stranded 42 of them (a mark which put him among the very best in the American League).What stands out the most to me was his exceptional numbers against lefties, holding them to a slash line of .183/.261/.366.  Leone features a premier secondary pitch with his cutter which generates an extremely high number of swings and misses compared to other pitcher’s cutters. It is especially stingy against left handed hitters. His effectiveness against lefties is the reason he has the advantage over Brebbia whose line was not on the same level .250/.330/.455 in 2018.

Leone is not a standout closer with tons of experience but if given the chance in the backend he has shown to be effective against hitters from both sides of the plate. Going into spring training I believe all relievers will have a chance to close, assuming we don’t have another Greg Holland late signing type situation.  Leone has the velocity, secondary pitch and hopefully the opportunity. 

Gateway Grizzlies add two!

Sauget, IL- The Gateway Grizzlies have announced two recent additions for the 2019 season. The team has come to terms with Dominic Topozian, a pitcher acquired from the Sioux Fall Canaries of the American Association, as well as infielder Rafael Valera, formerly of the Pittsburg Diamonds of the Pacific League.

Topoozian, 24, played his final two years of college at Fresno State playing his biggest role his senior year appearing in 30 games for the Bulldogs as a relief pitcher in 2017 tying for sixth-most appearances in the Mountain West. The Clovis, California native started in nine games for the Sonoma Stompers of the Pacific league and appeared in 11 games, starting two for the Sioux City Exporers of the American Association, finishing with a 7-1 record and a 2.91 ERA. 

Valera, 24, began his professional career in 2011 as a non-drafted free agent of the Minnesota Twins. After spending eight seasons in the Twins organization reaching as high as the Fort Myers Miracle (A+ level). The Venezualan native spent 2018 with the Pittsburg

Diamonds of the Pacific League, where he posted a stat line of .294/.401/.467 adding 11 homeruns and 11 stolen bases. 

The Gateway Grizzlies will begin their season on May 10th when they take on the Shaumberg Boomers at GCS Credit Union Ballpark.  For ticket call the box office at 618.337.3000.

NBA DFS Picks 1-15-19

Haven’t posted a DFS lineup in awhile. This is what looks appealing tonight.

PG: Zach Lavine, Chicago Bulls, $6,800

Lonzo Ball will most likely be guarding Kris Dunn which should open up things for Lavine. Lavine hasn’t been the stud he was earlier in the season but this should be a solid matchup for him. This game is not calling for a high total, which seems a bit odd for me.

SG: JJ Redick, Philadelphia 76ers, $5,600

JJ has been on fire averaging 32.5 DK points over his last four. A nice matchup with the soft Timberwolves defense giving up the 5th most fantasy points to shooting guards. The focus will most likely be on Jimmy Butler tonight so JJ should see plenty of great matchups.

SF: Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles, Lakers, $7,300

No Rondo or Lebron has seen a huge useage uptake for Kuzma. Chicago doesn’t have anyone that can matchup with Kuzma, look for him to deliver 6.5X return on his salary.

PF: Bobby Portis, Chicago Bulls, $4,500

This one is a bit of a punt play, but when Portis gets the minutes he produces. At a cost of just $4,500 he is worth the risk for a double-double machine.

C: Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder, $7,000

Potential blowout is always a factor when the Hawks are in play. Adams has had over 30 DK points in 8 of his last 10. With the highest projected team total and potentially John Collins or Alex Len guarding him Adams should have an easy time getting over 30 DK points.

G: Jimmy Butler, Philadelphia 76ers, $7,600

Revenge narrative is always a factor. You have to think Jimmy Butler is going to come out firing against his former squad. Butler has the personality of a player that loves to say I told you so. The Wolves will be without their best defender Robert Covington, Butler should easily hit value.

F: Mason Plumlee, Denver Nuggets, $4,400

This is the definition of a punt play. Plumlee has seen a major regression in minutes since Paul Millsap returned from injury. Still the Warriors seem to have a problem with big men that are strong down low. Jokic would make a lot of sense here but Plumlee is more of a post player. This is a gamble but if he can get at least 20 minutes is a cheap and effective gamble.

UTIL: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors, $6,300

Warriors need Draymond to play big tonight to win. These are the type of games where he shows up in full force. Taking a risk on a player with high upside. Looking at 40 points from him tonight.

Top five free agents since 2010: St. Louis Cardinals

The MLB offseason has been eventful for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Trading for slugger Paul Goldschmidt and signing bullpen presence Andrew Miller. While the market is still full of impactful players the Cardinals made It well known that they are looking to be players during the 2018 offseason.  It got me thinking about the last time the Cardinals made a big move on the free agent market.  Here are my top five free agent pickups since 2010.

5.Jhonny Peralta, 2013

The Cardinals inked a freshly suspended Peralta in the offseason of 2013 to a 4-year $52 million deal. Peralta was signed to fill a long-time gap in the Cardinals lineup at shortstop and for a small time he was very effective. His first season was successful in St. Louis posting a career best WAR of 5.9 during the 2014 season.

Peralta tailed off in the 2015 season with his WAR dropping to an abysmal 1.9. Whoever Peralta’s raw statistics were credible enough to earn himself an All-Star game bid.  The decline continued in 2015 as injuries and poor play led to his eventual release in 2017.   Peralta’s production over two seasons still puts him on this list.

4. Pat Neshek, 2013

Pat Neshek signed in the 2013 offseason along with Peralta.  Neshek however was not nearly at the same cost.  Neshek signed a 1-year minor league deal with incentives, he paid that off beyond the Cardinals highest beliefs. Looked at as a right-handed specialist Neshek developed into a lights out middle inning pitcher for the National League champs. 

A career high in wins with 7 and a 1.87 earned-run average, a 2.37 fielding-independent ERA, and $13.7 million in surplus value. Neshek earned himself his first ever All-Star game appearance, Neshek was able to turn his 2013 success into a bigger contract with the Astros the next season.  While it was only one year his success over that season at such a low cost was a huge asset.

3. Seunghwan Oh, 2015

The Korean Buddha was a quiet signing in the 2015 offseason.  The former NPB closer signed a one-year deal with a team option for the 2017 season.  Oh had a stellar 2016 season, eventually forcing himself into the closers role.  His 1.92 ERA, 103 strikeouts and 19 saves were amassed over 76 games. 

Oh filled a need for the Cardinals in 2016, the club of course picked up his option for the 2017 season.  Unfortunately, Oh was not able to perform at the same level as the previous season forcing the Cardinals to let him walk after the season.  His slider has regained its effectiveness in 2018 making him a valuable asset for the wildcard winning Colorado Rockies.

2. Carlos Beltran, 2011

Looking for a veteran beat before the 2012 season the Cardinals signed multi-time all-star Carlos Beltran to their World Series roster.  At two-years, $26 million the Cardinals were looking to solidify their lineup after losing superstar Albert Pujols.

Beltran paid off the Cardinals investment, hitting 32 homers with a .842 OPS.  Beltran earned himself another all-star appearance in his storied career. His 3.9 WAR was the highest he had over the last four seasons.

Beltran followed up 2012 with another solid season, but injuries down the stretch of 2013 hurt the final playoff run.  Going into his age 37 season the Cardinals let Beltran walk, signing with the New York Yankees. 

1. Lance Berkman, 2010

Primarily a first baseman his entire career.  Most thought it was a bit of a stretch to sign the 35-year old Berkman.  He had come off the worst season of his career while splitting time with the Yankees and Astros.  Moving Berkman to the outfield the Cardinals got a rejuvenated player that was worth every bit of his 1-year, $8 million he signed for.  He posted a 163 wRC+, his highest mark since 2001, and was among the team’s best hitters in the postseason, where he had one of the most important hits in Cardinals baseball history.

Berkman’s second season with the Cardinals was plagued by injury.  But he had the biggest impact of any player signed over the last ten years.

Thoughts?

Why Calipari to the NBA makes so much sense.

John Calipari has become one of the most recognizable coaches in college basketball.  Bringing the Kentucky Wildcats storied program back to the prestige it was held. Calipari revolutionized the one and done rule to the point that other coaches were forced to adjust their mentality to compete.

Calipari is kind of a turd. He’s cocky, loud, conceded and a winner.  These traits, are the traits of a coach that can make it in the league now.  His confidence makes him relatable to players.  He has the confidence that is the way society is, most recently shown by the comments of the “GOAT” Lebron James.

Let’s look at the potential for Cal in the NBA.  The Washington Wizards will most likely move on from Scott Brooks at the end of the season.  Why not make a call to coach Cal and see if he would be interested in working with his old buddy John Wall again? Wall has shown immaturity throughout his career, but he has a respect for his old college coach. If the Wizards are committed to making it work with Wall bringing in a coach of his choosing like Calipari would be a smart move. They can move Bradley Beal for a mid-level player and clear some cap space for impending free agent DeMarcus Cousins in 2019 or potentially wait for the big piece in two years with Anthony Davis. Both former Calipari guys and both would show interest in matching up with their former coach.

Let’s not act like bringing Calipari to the LA Lakers wouldn’t be completely crazy.  Luke Walton has not made himself indispensable.  Adding Cal would work to help them recruiting Anthony Davis as well as make huge headlines for an organization

Ok, maybe that idea is farfetched.  Why would those guys want to go to Washington?  Well why would Paul George stay in Oklahoma?  Why did Lebron go back to Cleveland?  What is the deal with Kawhi Leonard?  There are a lot of things that are hard to explain, the NBA continuously has players, coaches and teams that make questionable decisions.  Is it so crazy to think that these players aren’t drawn to Calipari and his loose style and demeanor?

Why would Calipari leave Kentucky?  Being one of the most successful college coaches of my generation is no joke.  He was able to take UMass and Memphis to heights that they have never been.  Now he is at one the most prestigious universities of all time.  The reason he may leave is that the one and done rule is on its way out.  New developmental leagues are going to attract players that want to make money instead of spending a year being forced to go to classes that they do not care about.  This change will have an impact on the way Calipari has been building his teams.

While the changes in the NCAA can have an impact, I think it is the past failures in the NBA that will drive Calipari to the NBA.  During his time in New Jersey he was the definition of inconsistency finishing with a career record of 72-112.  This has to sit in his mind.  His personality will drive him to make an impact in the NBA before he calls it quits.  If Calipari was going to the NBA it should happen now.

St. Louis Cardinals- New Year’s Resolutions

Marcel Ozuna- Get myself paid.

Contract years are always a great way to inspire a player to be his best.  He is not only playing for his team but he is playing for himself and his future. Ozuna wasn’t the player the Cardinals traded for in the winter of 2018. He wasn’t the power hitting impact bat that would make the Cardinals lineup a force to be reckoned with.

Ozuna spent most of the season injured, putting together a respectable season but not one that is going to get him the contract he will be looking for. Fans won’t be excited to see a player that will clearly be inspired by the all mighty dollar, but that will be the story for Ozuna in 2019.  I expect Marcel to return to MVP level performance, 35 homers will be a guarantee.

Paul DeJong- Play 150 games

Paul DeJong will enter the 2019 season as one of the most intriguing candidates for a breakout season. At just 25 years old, DeJong is still developing a major league shortstop.  A broken hand on a wild pitch as well as a few different prolonged slumps caused his stats to take a bit of a dive.  Still finishing with an impressive 3.8 WAR DeJong will now have the luxury of a stronger lineup around him. 

DeJong does not have any logical replacements on the bench outside of the versatile Yairo Munoz, who would be a preferred utility player.  DeJong will not only need to continue his progression as a player but he must also find his way into the lineup on a daily basis.  The more he plays the better the Cardinals will be.

Carlos Martinez- Become the Ace I think I am

The time for development is done for Carlos Martinez.  As he enters 2019 he will be looking to take over the role of rotation leader. Adam Wainwright has signed on for another season but it is time for Carlos to be the best pitcher in the rotation or if needed in the bullpen. 

Martinez is entering his 7th season for the Cardinals, he is still just 27 years old!  The attitude he brings out to the mound is one of dominance.  He believes that he is the best player on the field and now it is time for him to prove it. Two straight season Carlos has been the opening day starter for the Cardinals, it would be safe to assume that he and Miles Mikolas will be dueling for that honor in spring training. 

Martinez’s mediocore season accompanied with him now history of injuries has put him in a place where he has to prove himself.  That will be his goal in 2019, he will prove he is an ace.

Harrison Bader- Win the Gold Glove

Asking a second-year player to go out and win a prestigious award is not like asking your coworker to make sure they up their sales.  Bader showed the ability to take over games defensively.  He will now have the chance to play every day and showed the world that he is that good.

Bader finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year Ballot in 2018 and should have won a Gold Glove. In 2019 Bader will take his next step forcing the baseball world to take notice and give him the award. 

Jordan Hicks- Establish my slider

Since his first pitch in the majors Jordan Hicks has been a force in the league.  Hick’s first pitched was 100.8 MPH sinker that immediately grabbed the attention of players, media and fans.  While Hicks was showing he could throw the hardest fastballs in the league, he was still not getting the strikeout numbers that a player of his caliber should be.

Averaging just an 8.1 so/9 in 2018. Hicks has a rocket for an arm, but has still now established a secondary pitch that is effective enough to make him an elite level reliever. In April, 175 pitchers threw at least 50 sliders, and only four got fewer swings than Hicks’ 28.6 percent. It was worse outside the zone, which is where you really want sliders to induce swings and misses. Only two pitchers got fewer chases then Hicks did.

 Then all of a sudden in June, Hicks began to establish his slider. Hicks was able to go from a 30% swing and miss rate to a 60% swing and miss rate, doubling his strikeouts from the month before in three less innings.  When Hicks has a slider working he is a pitching that can be a potential closer.  Start the season dominating with a slider.

Mike Schildt- Don’t be Mike Matheny

This one is easy.  Don’t be Mike Matheny.  Trust your young players and make changes when you need to. Don’t be like Matheny.

NBA DFS Picks- December 27

Unlike most in the DFS world I really enjoy a smaller slate. Five gamers allow you go play a stars and scrubs lineup and have a great chance to win. You can highlight a few players you want to watch. Here are the picks for tonights slate.

PG: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors ($8,900)

I am drawn to a Warriors stack after the embarasment from Christmas night. The Blazers have been underwhelming to say the least and have a serious issues guarding the three. Damian Lillard on the other end seems like a solid play but I am going heavy Warriors tonight.

SG: Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers ($5,800)

No Lebron, this becomes Ingrams team again whether the fans want it or not.

SF: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors ($9,300)

I reference my Steph Curry reasoning.

PF: Noah Vonleh, New York Knicks ($5,600)

Vonleh seems to be the only matchup the Knicks have against Giannis. He has played like the player people thought he would be coming out of Indiana. Vonleh also just put up 36 points on Christmas day against the same Bucks team he is playing tonight. Low cost for a solid matchup.

C: Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Lakers ($5,400)

This pick could change depending on the health of Javale McGee, no matter what Zubac has been very impressive when given time to play. Centers versus Kings are also always a solid play.

G: Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers ($5,500)

Ball is a similar play to Zubac. With Rondo out he will be the primary point guard. Again PG’s versus Kings is also a solid play on most nights.

F: Gordon Hayward, Boston Celtics ($4,700)

Not gonna lie this one is a wildcard pick against a poor Houston defense. Hayward has been streaky all season, but brings multiple potential options for points. Hayward has been consistent with 25 minutes per game and could have a couple of nice matchups in this one.

UTL: Nemanja Bjelica, Sacramento Kings ($4,800)

Bjelica is a solid player and the Kings will need to use their bench playing back to back games.

I will look to make changes based on injuries. Also may look to stack more Kings/Lakers players. Want to stick with Durant and Curry as my star plays.

NFL 2018: Five Things I was wrong about

Being wrong sucks, but admitting you were wrong is the sign of growth.  Here are the five things that I was completely wrong about before the start of the season.

Chicago Bears are the third best team in their own division.

When the Bears pulled off what could have been the steal of the century acquiring Khalil Mack from the Raiders I knew it was going to be an impactful move.  But with an offense that featured a second year QB that had not yet proven much on the NFL level and a new head coach that was transitioning his style I wasn’t sold on them as NFC North winners.

I was very wrong.  Matt Nagy has taken Trubisky and the Bears offense to a new level in 2018 while utilizing his Swiss army knife RB Tarik Cohen and many ancillary pieces.  This team is still built around their defense but the surprise for most teams will be Nagy’s offense in the playoffs.  Multiple targets that can step up at any time will be a headache for opposing defensive coordinators. 


Can’t believe I fell for Kirk Cousins.

Le’Veon Bell is going to play in 2018.

I was one of those guys that drafted Bell in his fantasy draft.  I am also one of those guys that refused to trade him despite great offers…actually turning down a trade of Michael Thomas and Andrew Luck. 

Bell stuck to his guns, as did the Steelers, sitting out the entire season.  James Conner and Jaylen Samuels filled in admirably for Bell, but the Steelers are most likely not making the playoffs and whether this was because of Bell or not I was still very wrong about his playing status. I’m not mad at Bell but it really sucked for my fantasy squad.

The Jaguars are a Superbowl favorite in the AFC.

I bought into Jacksonville and Blake Bortles. Shame on me.  Injuries have been a problem for the Jags, Leonard Fournette has a problem with staying healthy and without him this team just has not been able to put together a kind of consistent run. 

After defeating Patriots I thought that maybe I was right about the potential of this team and maybe Blake Bortles is actually good, when you are wrong, you are wrong.

I was wrong.


The Broncos may make the playoffs.

This was an in season change of opinion Phillip Lindsey came out of nowhere to become an elite level RB in the league. Two upset victories over the Chargers and the Steelers made me believe this team was going to make a real run in their division.  Then the real Case Keenum stood up. The one-dimensional offense of the Broncos became very obvious, Lindsey had to face stacked boxes with zero passing ability.  Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are both great players but a team with no real offense and terrible coaching never truly had a chance to succeed.

Baker Mayfield was the best Quarterback in the Draft.

Drafting Baker Mayfield #1 overall last season, seemed like another blunder from the Cleveland front office.  With standouts like Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen presumably ranked ahead of Mayfield it made no sense to go after the controversial Oklahoma QB. Mayfield was held back by the clueless Hue Jackson and when given the opportunity Mayfield immediately made his impact and began to turn around the sorry franchise. Mayfield is the leading candidate to win rookie of the year (in my opnion) and has proven me and all other doubters…cough Colin Cowherd… completely wrong.  Mayfield is a star and will be for a long time.

Bowl Game Picks ATS- Dec 26

First Responder Bowl: Boston College Eagles vs Boise State Broncos -2.5

The Boise State Broncos enter bowl season winners of 7 of 8 with the only loss coming in the MWC Championship game to Fresno State.  They are set for a matchup with the Boston College Eagles who opened the season on a tear at 7-2 before injuries doomed them to three straight losses to end the campaign. 

Eagles QB Anthony Brown and RB AJ Dillon are both set to play in this game which will make a huge difference for a team that has been lost on the offense without their two playmakers.  The Eagles also have to face a defense that hasn’t given up more than 24 points since back in October.  Boston College will struggle to score

The Broncos will have QB Brett Rypien who averaged 285 yards per game this season adding 30 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions.  Rypien will have had three weeks to prospect his adversaries in this one, making him even more lethal.  Rypien along with Junior RB Alexander Mattison will make for a stronger punch then the aforementioned Brown and Dillon. 

Both teams have stronger defenses than offenses, but the edge on both ends has to go to a healthy Boise State team that seems to have a history of beating power five teams.  Take Boise State to cover because of their defense.

Boise State -2.5

Quick Lane Bowl: Minnesota Golden Golphers vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets -6

Georgia Tech is going to run the ball…duh.  Can the Minnesota Golden Gopher defense stop that run game…. no.  Minnesota’s defensive strength is their pass rush which will be completely negated by the fact that the Yellow Jackets never really throw the ball. 

Both Georgia Tech “Quarterbacks”  TeQuon Marshall and Tobias Oliver ran for over 800 yards, while as a team Georgia Tech averaged an astounding 334.9 yards per game during the regular season. This will be a huge problem for a Minnesota team that dug deep in the regular season to salvage themselves a shot at a bowl game. 

Minnesota has some nice wins on their schedule including victories over MWC Champion Fresno State, Purdue and at Wisconsin. But the rushing attack of Georgia Tech and the inexperience at QB with their second freshman starter of the year Tanner Morgan makes this seem like an insurmountable task for Head Coach PJ Fleck and company.  Minnesota had a nice season but they don’t cover the six points.

Georgia Tech -6

Cheez-It Bowl: California Golden Bears -1 vs. TCU Horned Frogs

The TCU Horned Frogs may want 2018 to ended worse than any other team in the country. A pre-season top 25 team was the definition of injury riddled this year, entering the Cheez-It Bowl with their 3rd string QB and 2nd string RB.  This would be bad news for any team but a matchup with the surprisingly stingy California Golden Bears makes this a nightmare after Christmas. The Golden Bears featured the No. 24 scoring defense in all of college football holding offense juggernauts like Washington to just 10 points and Washington State to 19 points.

TCU will start senior Grayson Muehlstein at QB, coming off a great victory against the uninspired Oklahoma State Cowboys in the final week of the season. Big 12 defenses, especially after two tough games the previous week are usually not the toughest of opponents so that win doesn’t carry the weight it may have earlier in the season.

TCU has a lot of talent on both ends despite the missing pieces but California will just make it too tough for them to score.  Still believe TCU makes this a game based on the fact that despite all of the injuries the spread is only at 1 point.  I have to go with California to pull off the victory by at least 3 points. 

California -1