The Right Choice for Michigan

The legacy of the Fab Five lives on in college basketball history.  Any time there is a vaunted recruiting class they are compared to the greatness of the 1991 Michigan rookie class.  Three notable future NBA players Jalen Rose, Chris Webber and Juwan Howard highlighted a group that was able to reach two national championship games. Despite not winning either their impact on the game and their style of play was a look into the future of college basketball.

The Fab Five’s greatness was tarnished after leaving Michigan, allegations of paying players forced the university to take down banners that were earned from the sweat and hard work of 19-year-olds.  Whether or not you find the allegations right or wrong in the landscape of college basketball, I will never agree with a university ultimately punishing is student athletes by trying to take away the history they built in their time there. 

Michigan basketball has quietly been one of the most consistent programs in college hoops, since 2013 they have been in the national title game twice, reaching the sweet sixteen twice and the elite eight twice.  Only in 2015 did Michigan not make the NCAA tournament.  Add in one Big10 regular season title and two tournament title and you can see why the loss of longtime coach John Beilein was a punch in the gut to the program.  The loss of Beilein accompanied by the loss of last season top three scorers, Ignas Brazdeikis, Charles Mathews and Jordan Poole, all have announced they’ll being entering the draft and signing with agents temporarily left Michigan with a lot of questions heading into next season.  But with the quick acquisition of Howard as Head Coach things are looking positive for the future of the program.

Howard will have a tough test in his first season.  Returning team leaders Zavier Simpson, Jr., Guard and Jon Teske, Jr., Center will be the cornerstones of the rebuilding process.  While Howard brings a lot of name recognition and NBA star endorsements he is still going to be starting from behind in recruiting.  While eventually this will be a projected strength Howard has spent all of his coaching career within the NBA ranks and will most likely have to rely on his staff for current recruiting efforts.  Still based on the recent success of NBA stars to college coaches the turnaround of talent in the program shouldn’t be a multi-year problem. 

I believe that Juwan Howard will be a great college coach but most importantly Michigan made a choice that is great for the school and allows the alumni to remember a great time in their sports history.  Jalen Rose recently spoke about the hiring of Howard squashing the beef between the Fab Five and the university.  With Rose on board and Howard at the helm the next step will be to bring back Chris Webber and finally end this unfortunate saga.

Kudos to Michigan on getting a great coaching and reigniting a legacy that shouldn’t have been forgotten.

MLB Picks May 18

Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees

This matchup seems like I’ve played it recently.  Oh.. I did and won the ML with the Yankees.  Blake Snell could arguably be the best pitcher in baseball, but he has had his struggles against the Yankees with a 3-5 record and a 4.52 ERA in his career versus the bronx bombers.  The Yankees are also quietly getting healthier with the return of Gary Sanchez Aaron Hicks.  Did you know they moved into first place in the AL East?  Most probably didn’t. 

Betting an against the best pitcher in baseball is probably not the best idea but getting +112 for a first-place team with their ace on the mound is always worth a gamble.  The Yankees are hot, ride this one while you have the value.

Pick: Yankees +112

Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels

I’m going to start by saying that the Angels are 26-17 ATS this season.  This lineup is one of the more underrated sources of power in the league with the return of Shohei Otani. They now feature a lineup that goes pretty deep as career utility man Tommy La Stella has emerged from the scrap heap to lead the Angels in homers (11).  Even players at the bottom have found ways to contribute most notably Kole Calhoun is slugging .490. 

The Angels will get a chance at Jakob Junis who couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning in his most recent start and has a problem with giving up the long ball.  The Royals have had bullpen issues as well sitting at the bottom of the league in most statistics including saves (obviously).

Griffin Canning will take the mound for the Angels.  He has had a problem giving up the long ball this season but will face off with a Royals lineup that will not provide as many power threats as the Angels. 

Pick: Angels RL (+110)

Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers- 9.5

The Tigers will send hard luck Mathew Boyd to the mound against the Athletics on Saturday.  I call him hard luck because he may be the best pitcher in baseball no one is talking about.  Boyd currently sits 3-4, 3.15ERA and .99WHIP.  Boyd will have a challenge with the Oakland A’s, a team that is tough against lefties but has overall underperformed in 2019.

Boyd should be able to hold his own while the Detroit lineup has struggled ultimately the entire 2019 campaign. I am going to bet on bad offense from Detroit and solid pitching from Boyd. 

Pick: Under 9.5 (-120)

NBA Draft Sleepers

Carsen Edwards, Purdue Boilermakers

Let’s talk about Carsen Edwards.  The best player in the south regional during the NCAA tournament carrying Purdue all the way to the elite eight until fate intervened for the Virginia Cavaliers.  Edwards has negatives, he is small, defense is questionable, he will undoubtable have to sped up his footwork on that end.  Edwards became accustomed to having the ball in his hands constantly his junior season, that won’t be the case in the NBA. 

Those are the negatives, but there are a lot of positives.  Edwards is a scorer, that is the equivalent to a great hitter in baseball if you can’t play defense they still find a way to use you.  In today’s NBA team defensive concepts have become more of a team concept.  His defensive deficiencies can be masked in the right concept. 

Edwards can score. That works in the NBA.

Louis King, Oregon Ducks

The Oregon Ducks were a force to be reckoned with out of the Pac12 to start the season.  Then the injury to Bol Bol and suddenly they went into a downward spiral.  The Ducks forced their way into the tournament and began their drive to the sweet sixteen.  A big reason why, Louis King.  King seemed to mature overnight waking up NBA scouts from a dream of Zion to a reality of stealing a role player late in the draft. 

King’s measurables are NBA gold.  6’8” 205LBS with a 7foot wingspan.  Those equate to a future potential star in the NBA.  King also developed more as a scorer as the season went on. He shoots the ball at almost 39 percent from beyond the arc and 43.5 percent overall from the floor. He also scored 13.5 points per game while snagging 5.5 rebounds and dishing out 1.3 assists per game.While his overall shooting percentage might be concerning, a lot of that can be chalked up to extra shots taken with his teammate Bol Bol having missed the majority of the season.

King may not be a top pick but he has everything it takes to be a future NBA star.

Admiral Schofield, Tennessee Volunteers

Admiral Schofield is a mystery to me.  Good size, solid shooter a grinder in the paint or outside.  But what kind of NBA player can he be?  Jae Crowder has been the biggest comparison.  That doesn’t seem too bad, but I see more from the Tennessee senior.  Schofield will enter the league with an NBA level body type, he should be able to develop as an event better shooter.  His ability to shoot will be an asset for whatever team chooses to give him a chance, he has the athleticism to become a diverse player on the offensive end.

Dedric Lawson, Kansas Jayhawks

Dedric Lawson lacks one thing the NBA looks for: 3-point shooting.  But he brings with him something that most teams lack, toughness in the paint. We have seen the improvements of Montrez Harrell as an interior scorer that brings toughness.  If Lawson can put on some more mass and improve his footwork he can be a similar type player. 

Lawson will take some time to develop, which is why he is a projected second round pick.  Give him a few years in the league and we see the production.  He is a future force in the middle off of a contenders bench.

Marial Shayok, Iowa State

Seniors in the NBA draft often go overlooked unless they have made a big run the NCAA Tournament.  Marial Shayok out of Iowa State could be that player in the 2019 draft.

Shayok starred at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, a showcase for some of the best college basketball seniors in the country. From there, he was invited to the NBA’s G-League Elite training camp. From there, he transferred to the big-time NCAA Draft Combine. Most will forget Shayok spent time with the Virginia Cavaliers where he learned to play defense.  Transitioning over to the more offensive minded Big12 he developed an offensive game.

Shayok will enter the draft at 24 years old, he is a matured player that has played in multiple systems that will allow him to play for almost any NBA team.

Three Potential Targets for MadBum

Madison Bumgarner looks to be on the move during the upcoming trade deadline. The Giants lefty has craft fully dictate who he will go to. This trend can and should be motivation for other prominent stars moving forward. Rather than exercising a full NTC and perhaps limiting the length and value of their current contract, they should strategically pick some teams likely to be in contention for years to come in hopes of controlling their own narrative when the time comes.  If Bumgarner doesn’t decide to wave the no-trade clause there are still some teams that could be a good fit for him and the Giants.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays continue to baffle the baseball world.  They shouldn’t be that good with a payroll that Bryce Harper could cover with the first three years of his current contract.  Still the Rays find ways to make it work.  Great scouting, smart signings along with management team that seems to understand the puzzle of an MLB roster to perfection won 97 games during the 2018 season. The Rays still hold a top-rated farm system, ranking #2 behind only the San Diego Padres (more from them later). The Rays would be an ideal partner for the Giants as they have a core of intriguing position players to go along with a batch of young arms that are expendable.

Players like 1st baseman Nate Lowe, SS Lucius Fox could be a building blocks for a potential package while throwing in a pitcher like Matthew Liberatore.  Fox and Libertore rank in the top 55 in all of baseball and top ten in the Rays system.  A potential throw in like the once highly touted RHP Jose De Leon could very easily make close the deal.

Tampa Bay has the flexibility to move a few prospects to add to an already stellar rotation.  With the uncertainty of the return of Tyler Glasnow, Bumgarner could step right into a role alongside 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell giving the Rays a top of the rotation that would be tough to match in the playoffs.

Minnesota Twins

Minnesota was able to fill in a gap that held them back in 2018: Power.  Additions like Nelson Cruz and Johnathon Schoop along with growth from Jorge Polanco have made the Twins a a potent lineup one through nine. 

While the offense has flourished the starting pitching, staff has gotten contributions from unexpected sources.  Most notably veteran Martin Perez has reinvented himself with the addition of a cutter.  Perez has given up just four runs over his last four starts averaging 6 2/3 innings per start.  Even with Perez, the Twins still have some questions in the depth of their rotation.  Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda have all been serviceable but there is still something missing at the top of the rotation.

The Twins have solidified themselves early in the first half as contenders for the AL Central crown.  Adding a veteran champion like Madison Bumgarner can fill in the gap after all- star Jose Berrios.  Minnesota also has the depth in the farm system to make this deal happen.  The Twins currently rank as the 8th best farm system in baseball according to baseball MLB Pipeline.

San Diego Padres

This is a but farfetched as I don’t see the Giant moving Bumgarner within the division but if they would the Padres would be an ideal target for them.  San Diego has the farm system to make this deal as well as the location and money to sign Bumgarner long term.  Signing Manny Machado allows the flexibility with prospects Luis Arias and Xavier Edwards.  Two potential pieces that have become expendable for the organization. The Padres also have. Large number of young arms that have been on the way for a long time that could be moved for a potential ace to work with the young pitchers that have continued to develop like Joey Lucchessi and of course the talented Chris Paddack.

MLB DFS Lineup May 12

P: Blake Snell, Tamp Bay Rays

The Yankees injuries continue to derail what could be a dominate lineup.  The most recent injury being power hitting catcher Gary Sanchez.  The Yankees still feature some potential value in their lineup but with no Sanchez, no Torres and the still recent return of Migual Andujar this team is going to be weaker than usual.  Take advantage an put in a reemerging Blake Snell coming off a bounce back start of 30+ DK points against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

P: Martin Perez, Minnesota Twins

You have to monitor whether Perez will make the start as he recently welcomed a new baby into the world last night. If he does make the start you will be getting one of the hottest pitchers in baseball against a Tigers lineup that tends to underwhelm you from an offensive perspective.  Perez has developed a cutter that has mesmerized opposing hitters in his last two outings.  Perez is still very affordable as well.  If he puts up another 30 point he won’t be in his next outing.

C: Danny Jansen, Toronto Blue Jays

You have to have a catcher and Jansen has power upside and he’s cheap.

1B: CJ Cron, Minnesota Twins

Building off of a great double header the day before.  CJ Cron has a history of mashing against lefties.  While I don’t like to stacking against Daniel Norris, the power of Cron is worth a risk at his 3.9K.  Sporting a .526 ISO in against lefties on the season Cron has great potential upside.

2B: Aledmys Diaz, Houston Astros

With Altuve on the IL Aledmys Diaz will be looked on to take a more prominent role within the starting lineup. Diaz has excelled at Tropicana Field this season hitting .300 at home nearly 200 points higher than on the road.

3B: Vlad Guerrero Jr, Toronto Blue Jays

Vlad Jr. has not gotten off to the torrid start that most assumed was coming when he received his call up.  He is coming off of his first double digit DK point day and appears to be seeing the ball well with two walks and two hits.

SS: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts has been on a tear of late.  The matchup against lefty Marco Gonzales gives him a chance to face a lefty which he has a .400 ISO against during the 2019 season.

OF: Tommy Pham, Tampa Bay Rays

I love to play Pham during day games. During his career he has excelled in day games and especially versus Masahiro Tanaka. Three hits in five career at bats with an exit velo of 101 in his career against the Yankees righty makes him a must play at just 4.3K.

OF: Dennis Smith Jr., Baltimore Orioles

Griffin Canning could be a popular play with the high strikeout rate of the Baltimore lineup.  Dennis Smith Jr. has the potential to jump on Canning early. Smith Jr. features a .524 slugging percentage against lefties in 2019.

OF: Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers

Castellanos has been hitting lefties his entire career and will continue to do so in the middle of the lineup.  Featuring an .854 OPS Castellanos will have a chance to put up some numbers against Perez in the three spot of the lineup.

MLB DFS May 7 2019

P: Griffin Canning, Los Angeles Angels ($8,500)

Canning flew up the prospect ranks for the Angels and now gets a great matchup against the right handed heavy Tigers.  Detroit has struck out at the 5th highest clip against right handed pitchers.  Canning should have his first real opportunity to show his worth in the DFS community.

P: Caleb Smith, Miami Marlins ($9,500)

Smith is a risky play versus the Chicago Cubs, but his production is hard to ignore.  In total opposing offenses are hitting just .168 against Smith this season.  Smith also has averaged 11.9K’s per 9.  The Chicago lineup has been flourishing of late but only Javier Baez has been consistent against left-handed pitching during 2019.  Smith will get strikeouts so even if runs are given up he has a chance to score points.

C: Jorge Alfaro, Miami Marlins ($3,600)

Alfaro has the power to bring some punch for your lineup.  Hitting in the number four spot in the order will against a left handed starter gives him the potential for a big fly tonight.  At his low cost and spot in the lineup he has the potential to have a big game.

1B: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds ($3,500)

Joey Votto is good.  He just hasn’t shown it of late.  He gets a great matchup with Mike Fiers, who over utilizes his fastball which plays right into the hands of Votto.  Votto still carries a .381 WOBA vs. right-handed pitching going back to 2018.

2B: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros ($4,300)

Altuve continues to have low cost due to struggles in the early season. He has however had a strong ISO and WOBA to start the season.  He has matched up well with Danny Duffy over his career to a tune of .474 BA in 21 career at bats. 

3B: David Fletcher, Los Angeles Angels ($3,900)

The Angels could be a sneaky stack for tonight.  David Fletcher has had a quietly productive season. He will face off with Daniel Norris, whom is giving up a .367 WOBA to righties. 

SS: Chris Taylor, Los Angeles Dodgers ($3,600)

Chris Taylor is one of the hottest hitters on the planet right now, scoring double digits on Draftkings in four straight games. Taylor has also excelled versus left-handed hitters with a .556 slugging percentage. 

OF: Kiki Hernandez, Los Angeles Dodgers ($4,100)

Kiki mashes lefties. That is all.

OF: Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies ($3,900)

Desmond is a dart throw at best against Madison Bumgarner.  With over 40 career at bats against him it’s safe to say that Desmond should have a good idea of what is coming. His .486 slugging percentage is worth a start at a low price.

OF: Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox ($5,100)

Benintendi has had eight hits over his last four games.  He gets a matchup with David Hess whom can blow up at any moment.  If affordable a Red Sox Stack would not be out of the question.

Should Cardinals consider the “Opener”

The Tampa Bay Rays currently sit two games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East standings. Since 2018 they have been effectively deploying the “opener” strategy. The opener works by rearranging how pitchers are deployed: a middle reliever starts (or “opens”) the game, with the usual starter slotting in thereafter. The idea is to match up with the opposing teams first few hitters in order to take advantage of matchups and protect weaker starting pitchers that can be over exposed if they are forced to go through a line up more than three times. 

The Cardinals entered the 2019 season believing their starting pitching depth was going to be the catalyst for the season.  Injuries, inconsistencies and youth has changed the outlook of the season, forcing the Cardinals to use the bullpen at an extremely high rate, currently the Cardinals bullpen has pitched 46% of the innings for the staff. While this is not ideal the bullpen has shown that it can be reliable.  Multiple players have stepped up including John Gant, John Brebbia Giovanny Gallegos and the recently sent down Ryan Helsley.  Eventually they will welcome the return Carlos Martinez.  While you don’t want to mess the one-two punch of Brebbia to Jordan Hicks there are multiple statistical reasons behind the idea of utilizing the opener.

Major League Baseball has seen an increase in scoring in the first inning.  While most starters are getting prepared they tend to leave pitches in bad places resulting in a wRC+ of 110, by far this is the highest of any inning in 2018, the next highest inning being the 6th inning where traditionally the starting pitchers is facing the lineup for the 3rd or 4th time of the game. In fact, baseball in general has had a problem with the middle innings based on this 2018 wRC+ by inning chart. The Cardinals do not differ from the rest of the league.

If you dive deeper into the St. Louis starting staff, you can see that many have issues as the game goes on below are the statistics of starters going through the lineup for the 3rd time during the 2019 season.  Outside of Jack Flaherty and Michael Wacha each pitchers ERA inflates by over a run. Wacha in small sample size for 2019 actually hasn’t given up a single run in four innings when facing a lineup for the 3rd time, his struggles come entering in the second time through the lineup with a 7.71 ERA. His xFIP the 3rd time was actually the highest of any other time frames.

ERA third time through the order:

Wainwright: 7.36 ERA (6.00 ERA in 2018)

Flaherty: 3.60 ERA (7.71 ERA in 2018)

Mikolas: 8.20 ERA (4.25 ERA in 2018)

Hudson: 3.26 ERA

Wacha: 0.00 ER (xFIP 4.56)

The Cardinals rank 20th in the MLB giving up .44 first inning runs per game.  If they transition into the opener role for a guy like Adam Wainwright or Dakota Hudson they can avoid a potential rough start and allow your starter one less at bat through the heart of a potentially tough lineup. St. Louis has already made a move to a 13-man bullpen with the addition of Luke Gregorson and the demotion of Tyler O’Neil. This setup is very similar to an American League team.  Having that extra man in the bullpen can open up the options for Manager Mike Shildt.

The next step would be deciding who would take the role of the opener.  Options for me would be Giovanny Gallegos or recalling Ryan Helsley.  Gallegos has the ability to work multiple innings if the matchup calls for it, holding lefties to a slash line of .111/.238/.278. Helsey is a plus arm that has been justifiably considered for a future spot in the back end of the bullpen.  Starting off the game with a100mph fastball is never an easy thing for an opposing lineup to face.  Both of these pitchers are guys you would look for a shutdown middle inning role, why not have them start out the game and allow the Cardinal offense to try and jump on the opposing starting pitcher.

With the depth of Cardinals pitching staff they can utilize multiple players in better leverage roles, they can also look to limit innings for younger starters that will undoubtable be forced into inning restrictions. 

  1. To limit the innings of your young starters.  Dakota Hudson and eventually Alex Reyes.
  2. To get the most out of veteran and injury prone pitchers Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha.
  3. To not expose starters that have statistically shown an inability to handle lineups multiple times through.

Does this really work?  There is a small sample size to base the effectiveness of the opener. The most compelling evidence that has been presented in favor of the opener strategy is Rays pitchers’ performances relative to Baseball Prospectus’ projections. Almost all exceeded expectations. Among them: Ryne Stanek (actual ERA of 2.98 vs. projected ERA of 3.79), Diego Castillo (3.18 vs. 4.90), Hunter Wood (3.73 vs. 4.64), Ryan Yarbrough (3.91 vs. 4.56), Yonny Chirinos (3.51 vs. 4.43) and Vidal Nuno (1.64 vs. 4.86). The pitchers who didn’t: Sergio Romo, Matt Andriese, Jalen Beeks, Austin Pruitt and Ryan Weber. This might not be definitive proof that the opener strategy worked, but the results are persuasive.

The pitcher’s stats are a great way of judging the effectiveness, but their performance of the field has seemed to be the greatest factor in whether or not the opener works.  There may be other factors to the way the Rays have played over the last few months begin last season, but the facts are that they have been winning. 

Who do you use the “opener” for would be the biggest question.  The Rays still featured premier starters Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton and of course the great Blake Snell.  The Cardinals feature Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas but after that it can be a mystery at times with which starter is going to give you the best outing. Both Wainwright and Dakota Hudson seem like likely candidates for an opener role due to the fact they have both within the last two years spent time coming out of the bullpen and it could be an easy transition to warmup later and make your way into the game.  The facts of the matter are you have great pitching that is still developing itself and veterans that have a history of wearing down.  The opener may not be the ultimate answer but with the depth of arms you have it very well could be an option to consider until Alex Reyes, Austin Gomber or Dakota Hudson are ready to make the next step into rotation mainstays.

Thanks for reading would love to hear your opinions @italksportsti.

Five Under Appreciated Careers Still Going (MLB)

CC Sabathia amassed his 3,000 career strikeout this week becoming just the 17th pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history to reach that mark.  Sabathia now pitching in his age 38 season is continuing to be relivant in today’s game despite being forced to change his style.  No longer is Sabathia throwing upper 90’s fastballs, instead he has adjusted his abilities to meet the needs of his body.  Sabathia quietly has made himself a hall of famer.  The best part of his career is that despite his age and personal issues CC is still a very effective major league player.  Watching him reach that milestone made me think about other players that seem like they have been in the league forever and have quietly amassed great careers, edging on the hall of fame.  I figured I’d do a top five list.  To make this list you had to have played at least nine seasons in the league and cannot have one an MVP.  Obviously you have to still be active in the MLB and playing at a high level. 

5. Alex Gordon- Kansas City Royals

The longtime Kansas City star has seemed revitalized at the plate in 2019.  The former #2 overall pick has always brought his glove to Kansas City amassing an arsenal of gold hardware with his six career Rawlings Gold Glove awards.  Gordon has shown glimpses of the five-tool player that the Royals thought they were drafting.  From 2011-2014 Gordon was a three time all-star, 3 time gold glover and finished as high as 12th in the MVP voting.  Recent struggles at the plate over the last few seasons have made people forget what kind of a player is in left field for the rebuilding Royals. 

At 35 years old Gordon has been reborn, through 28 games he currently has an OPS of .989, driving in 22 runs. Alex Gordon won’t be a hall of famer but he shouldn’t be gone on the first ballot.

4. Curtis Granderson- Miami Marlins

Curtis Granderson was highly touted prospect in the Detroit Tigers farm system in 2004 when he got the call up to the show two years later Granderson hit 19 homers for the Tigers. The year after that he finished 10th in the MVP voting leading the league with 23 triples along with his 23 homers.  The “Grandy Man” was a star in the motor city he then became a superstar when the Yankees picked him up in 2010. In his second season in  New York Granderson lead the league in RBI’s and runs scored finishing 4th in the MVP voting. 

The three time all-star has been a consistent source of power in the league for 16 years now most recently in 2017 he hit 26 homers and followed that up last season hitting 13 homers.  Granderson has hitting a shocking 336 bombs in his major league career.  Dude mashes!

3. Hunter Pence- Texas Rangers

Hunter Pence is still playing in the majors.  Seriously he is playing in Texas and playing very well.  The former 2007 rookie of the year has 13 RBI’s and a .844 OPS in 19 games played. Pence a three time all-star was a model of consistency over his career when healthy hitting over twenty homers in 7 of his 13 seasons. Known for his crazy antics and his clubhouse leadership, Pence will continue to play and eventually get to 2,000 hits before he calls it a career.  He has also added 227 homers and a career OPS of .800. 

Oh….he also has 3 World Series rings to go along with his great statistics.

2. Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers

Shin-Soo Choo has never been a guy that fans will call “the guy” on a roster.  Choo has been a world class hitter since first opportunity in 2008. In 94 games that season Choo finished with an OPS of .946.  Choo earned his way into the starting lineup consistently continuing to produce with two straight seasons of .880 OPS. Choo is still producing at the major league level in his age 36 season.  The Texas Rangers, a place where veterans go to prosper, have seen the good side of Shin-Soo as he earned his first and potentially only all-star appearance in the 2018 season.

Choo will not be remembered a one of the greats to ever play but he has fit in perfectly to the analytically driven concept that baseball has adapted to. With a career OBP of .379, 193 homers and over 1500 hits most will not remember him to be as good as he has been in his career.

1.Nick Markakis, Atlanta Braves

Finally receiving the recognition he has deserved the former Orioles first round pick has had a career that has been completely overlooked by many in the baseball community. A three time gold glove winner Markakis doesn’t bring the flash of a power hitter or the speed of a base stealer. His best season coming in 2008 where he provided a 6.1 WAR to go along with his .897 OPS. Continuing his terrific performance Markakis has continued his stellar career with a .406 OBP while creating a veteran presence with the up and coming Braves.  Nick Markakis’s career numbers will stagger most casual fans.  With 2,273 career hits 3 gold gloves and over 2,00 career games Markakis has established himself as a potential future hall of famer.

Don’t be stupid. Draft Dwayne Haskins

This is strictly targeted at the incompetent front office of the New York Giants.  It is time for you to look in the mirror and understand where their franchise is.  Eli Manning’s total QBR in 2018 ranked behind the likes of Nick Mullens and Josh Allen.  That is with weapons like Odell Beckham, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard and the rookie Saquon Barkley. 

The Giants have had one winning season since 2013 and have shown no signs of understanding a certain direction.  I will give them the credit of ignoring the critics that say running backs can be found in later rounds and taking the best player in the draft last season Saquon Barkley.  They follow that up this offseason by moving arguably the best wide receiver in all of football Odell Beckham Jr. They are clearly trying to go in a different direction, yet they hold on to their 38-year-old quarterback that has been past his prime for about two years.  At the very least you have to try and prepare for time after Eli, if they truly think he still has something in the tank than they may not have another chance to take a high-level quarterback next season. 

The Giants passing on Dwayne Haskins can be a thorn in their sides for years to come as most recently the Washington Redskins have reported that they are interested in the Ohio State quarterback.  Under the tutelage of Jay Gruden Haskins will have a coach with experience bringing along a you quarterback.  If the Giants pass it would be very reasonable to believe that the Redskins would be able to make the move to get their target. 

New York is a tough fanbase to keep happy. Eli Manning has done it for what seems like my lifetime.  He deserves all the respect in the world but when you are sitting at #6 in the draft and have a chance to draft the next face of your franchise you cannot pass this up.  Dave Gettleman has already had a historically bad offseason.  I mentioned the Beckham trade, but we also can’t forget that this is the same guy that let Landon Collins walk away in free agency. Gettelman is still living off of the work he did in Carolina bringing that team to a new level despite the fact that most of the players that took that team to the next level were not drafted or acquired by him.  I don’t believe he is bad at his job but if the Giants decide to pass up on Haskins and he turns out to be the player I believe he will be there is no forgiving the stupidity of the organization.

Why the Cardinals have to win this series.

The Cardinals schedule to start the season was not ideal.  Opening up in Milwaukee with a group of young starters in a hitters park is not going to turn out well no matter how much talent you have.  The Brewers are who we though they were a potential offensive juggernaut that has limitations everywhere else of the field. Nevertheless that Cardinals were one blown save away from a split to start the season.  The scheduling god seemed to continue their cruel joke forcing the Cardinals to make as second trip to Milwaukee just two week later following a trip to Monterrey, Mexico.  The Cardinals were able to salvage the final game of the series, starting the season just 2-5 against the defending Central Division Champs. The third series versus the Brewers may only be a beginning of the week late April showdown but this could be a defining moment in the race for the Central crown.  The Cardinals need to come out and take advantage of a Brewers team that is dealing with serious pitching injuries.  Let’s breakdown how and why the Cardinals must win this series.

Pitching matchups favor the Cardinals in 2 of 3.

Game 1

Jack Flaherty has been tagged by the Brewers in two early starts giving up 9 runs and 16 hits in seven innings. Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain in particular have crushed Flaherty with a combined average of .492 over 23 at bats this season.  Flaherty has been great at home this season in two starts with a 0.82 ERA in two starts.  The Brewers will have Adrian Houser on the mound making his first start of the season. Since this is Houser’s first career start he will most likely dominate for the first 4 innings or so until the Cardinals unleash the second time through.

Game 2

Zach Davies who is what you would call the opposite of a Cardinal Killer, in particular Matt Carpenter has owned Davies to a .455BA in 22 career plate appearances.  Davies will most likely be opposed by Daniel Ponce De Leon taking the spot of the injured Michael Wacha.  Ponce De Leon has only faced the Brewers in relief where he pitched in relief successfully striking out two on 14 pitches. Ponce De Leon is going have a big night. This is soley based on the fact I believe the Cardinals will jump out early and give him the confidence to dominate.

Game 3

There was a time where Jouhlys Chacin would have dreaded a potential matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals, owning an 0-7 mark in nine career starts up until last June.  Since then Chacin has won his last three starts against the Redbirds including a great opening day start where his struck out seven.  Chacin will face off against Adam Wainwright whose been the definition of up and down during the start of the season.  Waino will have to have his curve working against the powerful Milwaukee lineup.  If not his 89 MPH (being gracious) fastball will be put on a tee for the power bats of Milwaukee.

Brewers coming off of 4 game sweep in LA

You always want to kick a team while they are down.  The Brewers are coming off of an abysmal series in LA losing all four games to the 2018 National League Champs. Milwaukee has been dealing with a lot of injuries in the rotation which has caused them to force a few starts from guys they were not expecting including Chase Anderson and the game one starter Adrian Houser, injuries in their bullpen have also forced the hand of manager Craig Counsel putting guys in positions that they will not be successful.

Why the Cardinals have to win this series.

It is time for the Cardinals to show that they are the class of the NL Central. In game one, the Cardinals have their presumed “ace” on the mound in Jack Flaherty which should set the stage for the rest of the series. The key to victory is very simple, don’t pitch to Christian Yelich, take a advantage of the weakend Brewers starting pitching and take advantage of your home field.  The Cardinals will not have any excuses if they are unable to win this series.