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Patriots in talks to bring back Dante Scarnecchia

By on February 8, 2016 at 11:27am

Mike Reiss of ESPN is reporting that the Patriots are in talks to bring back retired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. The legendary offensive line coach retired after the 2013 season after having spent two decades coaching in New England. His replacement, Dave DeGuglielmo, had an up and down tenure in New England that ranged from a line that under-performed at times to a Super Bowl victory.

The play of the New England’s offensive line was the biggest issue in their AFC Championship loss to Denver and bringing Scarnecchia back would provide an instant upgrade. The Patriots still need to address the tackle position, however. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer have had injury issues and Marcus Cannon is a reserve player at best. Getting a quality third tackle will go  along way towards solving the Patriots’ problems.

Scarnecchia is a Hall of Fame level assistant coach who has routinely gotten the best out of his players. It is a major reason why he lasted through the regimes of several different head coaches and why some unheralded linemen became Super Bowl Champions. Many of the players on the roster have played under him and are comfortable with his style and respect his coaching acumen.

 

The familiarity that Scarnecchia brings to the table is a major selling point for him. He has had success in New England in the past and specifically with many of the same players that are still in Foxboro. Bill Belichick trusts him and Tom Brady will feel more comfortable knowing who is coaching his protectors. It is not set in stone yet, but it would be surprising at this point if he does not come back. Patriots fans should feel happy if he does; he won’t fix all of New England’s issues, but he will greatly improve a unit that was a black eye in the AFC Championship game.

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Behind the Dish

February 3, 2016 at 7:29pm in Fantasy

This is the start of the 2016 Fantasy Baseball Outlook. This first segment of the series will feature a tiered ranking system of the top players at each position for the upcoming season. To keep it simple, this analysis assumes a 16-team mixed-league keeper format, with a standard 5×5 scoring system, and a 22 man roster with the following position requirements: C (1), 1B (1), 2B (1), 3B (1), SS (1), CI (1), MI (1), OF (5), UT (1), SP (5), RP (4). As the title of the post suggests, today we will start by focusing on the catchers.

All statistical information is referenced from FanGraphs.com


Buster Posey (SF)

This guy is the cream of the crop and has been for years now. He has lifetime batting average above .300 against both right handed (RHP) and left handed pitching (LHP), and makes consistent hard contact at the plate. Posey is the heart and soul of the San Francisco Giants and, given his durability and ability to play first-base, is a lock for 500+ at-bats per year. His profile stands alone in the catcher rankings once again this season.

Kyle Schwarber (CHC), Brian McCann (NYY)

Schwarber is a lock for keeper leagues. He may lose his catcher eligibility after this season, but no matter where he plays and whether he learns how to hit for a higher average, he has elite power. Then there is McCann who has caught more MLB games than Schwarber has played in total. I put him in the category because he is a proven asset. Another plus: his average fly ball ratio over the past three seasons lends itself to some juicy slugging potential at Yankee Stadium. Schwarber will go much earlier in the draft because of his keeper prospects and a bullish market, so McCann may offer the better value pick of the two.

Travis D’Arnaud (NYM), Jonathan Lucroy (MIL)

These two are high risk, high reward players. They both have concerning injury histories (D’Arnaud more so than Lucroy) and the latter has openly stated his desire to leave Milwaukee. Neither of these are promising developments for fantasy owners. D’Arnaud has a higher ceiling of the two if you’re willing to take the chance, but neither are comfortable picks.

Salvador Perez (KC), Russell Martin (TOR), J.T. Realmuto (MIA)

Perez plays nearly every inning for the Royals and although his walk rate somehow fell to just 2% last, his consistent contact rate (86%) and line drive tendency (21%) over the past three seasons show the potential to continue to succeed. Russell Martin took his talents to Canada in 2015 and once again produced solid numbers. While is high home-run to fly-ball ratio last season (21%) suggests some power regression and he struggled against right-handed pitching last year, Martin is the workhorse for Toronto whose offensive output will get help from that potent lineup. This last player in this tier is Realmuto. He may not sound familiar but remember the name. Only 24 years old, he has been a line drive hitter in his two seasons in MLB (27%) and makes consistent contact (82%). On top of the intriguing bat tool, he runs very well for a catcher and a 10+ SB season is conceivable.

Stephen Vogt (OAK),  Nick Hundley (COL), Welington Castillo (AZ)

Vogt stands out statistically among these three but his struggles against left-handed pitching last season (.631 OPS) could land him in a platoon role for the Athletics this year. Rockies’ starting catcher Nick Hundley had the best season of his career in 2015 with a .300 batting average and 10 HR. He has historically been a better hitter against RHP in his career, but in the second half of last season exploded for a .915 OPS against LHP after managing a mere .575 OPS in the first half. Don’t expect a full repeat of 2015, but if he can carry this success against RHP in to this season Hundley will have a productive season at Coors Field. Finally, Castillo. He didn’t show the ability to make consistent contact last year (73%) but the 2015 ISO of .216 demonstrates his raw power. He has the potential to hit 15-20 HR, especially at Chase Field.

Miguel Montero (CHC), Yasmani Grandal (LAD), Blake Swihart (BOS), Yadier Molina (STL)

Montero and Grandal are both mid-level power options that won’t hit for much of an average. Montero simultaneously had his contact rate drop to 70% and line drive rate rise to 26% last season, which led to a substantial power increase. Meanwhile, at 27 years old, Grandal has had trouble making contact over the past three season (73%) and hits for a low batting average. He is the starting’ catcher for the Dodgers, A.J Ellis is sure to take some at bats. Swihart is in this tier because of his keeper value. He is a blossoming hitter and has above average speed for a catcher. The problem in the short term is Red Sox’s catching depth, as he and Vasquez will likely to split the bulk of the time this season. Then there is Yadier Molina. Long gone are the days of Molina’s fantasy prominence. He has proven himself a line drive hitter that makes consistent contact, but he is no longer going to provide double digit home runs. Will play every day if he avoids injury, but don’t expect the Yadi of the past.

Derek Norris (SD), Francisco Cervelli (PIT), Yan Gomes (CLE)

Yan Gomes has injury history that is worrisome, and while he has hit a lot of line drives in the last two seasons (25%), his low contact (71%) and walk (3%) rates do not show me a comfortable hitter at the plate. Cervelli will catch everyday for the Pirates IF he can stay healthy, but that is a big if. His high contact (78%) and line drive rates (25%) produce a high average but the problem is he is a one category contributor. Norris, conversely, had trouble making contact last season (75%) and exhibited a troubling platoon split (810 OPS vL, 678 OPS  vR), neither of which inspire optimism. Austin Hedges and Christian Bethancourt are knocking on the door for his duties and a platoon in San Diego is the likely conclusion this season.

Devin Mesoraco (CIN), Wilson Ramos (WAS)

Devin Mesoraco, like Yan Gomes, is another risky player. I’m staying away him because of his low line drive (13.9%) and hard-hit ball rates (19.4%) in limited time at the end of last season. He is also coming off of hip surgery. He offers potential but has a lot to prove. Wilson Ramos seems to be on the decline as well. His contact rate has plummeted in each of the past two seasons and his average ground ball rate over the past three seasons (56%) does not suggest a power rebirth. What keeps owners interested in both of these catchers is the potential power output, but it does not look promising.


Get a top tier catcher or you’ll be fighting for the best of the worst. A common theme among the is consistency vs high risk, high reward. I tend to favor consistency at the catcher position, but it all depends on your strategy as an owner. My player to target from this list is J.T. Realmuto. He will handle the primary catching responsibilities for the Marlins this year and is potential keeper who could produce 15 HR and 10 SB for years to come.

Fishing for Prospects:

Before concluding each week, there will be a prospect you should keep an eye on throughout this season as a potential keeper for your team down the road. Depending on how many keepers your league allows this portion may or may not offer relevance. Fair warning on looking for keepers at the catcher position – they’re very rarely a good investment.

Reese McGuire (PIT)

The Pirates selected McGuire out of Kentwood Senior High School in Washington with 14th overall in the first round of the 2013 MLB draft. Now just age 20, McGuire has progressed smoothly in his two seasons of professional baseball and played last season in the Advanced Class-A Florida State League. The Pirates developmental philosophy for catchers stresses defense over offense, which McGuire as bought in to. This may hinder his progression as a hitter but puts him on a faster track to make his debut at PNC Park. McGuire’s naturally advanced, high contact approach from the left-hand batters box offers promise as a hitter, and with more time to develop he could become a strong catcher in MLB. Don’t expect him on the Pirates roster this year, but down the road McGuire is a name to keep an eye on.

We will move on to first-basemen next week.

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nba-trade-rumors-atlanta-hawks

With the NBA trade deadline a mere three weeks away the hot stove is heating up, and rumors from Chad Mannix have linked the Celtics and Hawks in trade conversation regarding Al Horford and Jeff Teague. Although the Celtics have been involved in many rumors they have yet to make a deal. This particular option, if completed for both players, would put the Celtics on a win-now path with championship aspiration in the near future.

The positive attributes of Horford are renown around the NBA. He is proven winner, has averaged 14.3 points and 9 rebounds over his career, and would fill the vacancy at the center position that I covered here last month. This is not a knock on Amir Johnson, I love the way he plays, but Al Horford is a big improvement. He is 29 years old, is a presence on the glass, and can get a bucket in post when his team needs it. He is exactly what the Celtics are lacking. The negative aspect of a trade involving Horford is his contract. This is the final year of his current deal and he is expecting to get a significant salary in free agency this summer. If the Celtics were to pull the trigger on a deal for Horford, Ainge would either have the upmost confidence in the team’s ability to sign him to a contract extension or be sending a message loud and clear that the goal is to win this year.

Teague is an electric athlete and has shown the ability to both score the basketball and run an offense at the NBA level. The Wake Forest product, now 27 years old, has averaged 11.8 points and 5.1 assists per game over his career, and his current contract is worth $8 million per year for both this season and next. Not a bad deal for a really good point guard. The only problem with his addition to the roster is that he would join an already crowded back court. The guard position does not feel like a pressing need for the Celtics at this point, which makes this rumor puzzling unless the front office plans to completely reconstruct this lineup mid season.

Danny Ainge has shown the guts and willingness to make this type of deal and go all-in for a championship, but has shown patience with player development and ‘trusting the process’ with young guys. Is the goal to win a championship this year? If so, then this trade will certainly move the team toward that goal. Also, is the front office that confident in their ability to sign Horford to a contract extension after this season? Another essential consideration when weighing this deal. If not, then a one year window of return is not an optimal return. It all remains to be seen and or now Celtics fans can only wait anxiously. Ainge is a diligent general manager and will surely consider every and any possible option before making a decision. In the meantime, we should continue to foster the hope of a DeMarcus Cousins-Isaiah Thomas reunion in a green and white uniform.

 

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The Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos are set to face off in what should be an epic showdown. Although the Super Bowl odds are tilted slightly in one team’s favor more heavily than we’ve seen in recent years, this matchup is very unique, where we have one team that’s on the rise, and one team that’s clinging on to veteran players. Cam Newton vs. Peyton Manning has been the highlight of this game, as Manning has mentioned that this is likely to be his last season, and he wants to go out with a bang.

This matchup will be played during the first Sunday in February on the 7th. It will be the last game played in Levi’s Stadium, as the 49ers are moving to a new stadium after this season. The game is set to air at 6:25PM EST on CBS, but be sure to tune in early to watch the player introductions and the pre-game entertainment. The stage has been set for an epic showdown, and we just have to decide who to pick in this game. Continue reading Super Bowl 50 Betting Preview by MyBookie.ag: Who has the Edge? »

Patriots Part Ways With Two Coaches

January 28, 2016 at 11:21am in Featured, NFL, Patriots

The Patriots parted ways this week with offensive line coach Dave Deguglielmo and strength coach Harold Nash. Both moves came within days of the Patriots falling to Denver in the AFC Championship game.

DeGuglielmo had been with the team for the past two seasons after replacing legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. The offensive line struggled this season amid several injuries. When asked on WEEI this week, Bill Belichick said that DeGuglielmo’s contract was up and both sides decided to move on. However, it is also likely the Patriots didn’t want him back regardless. There were rumblings that his style did not completely mesh with that of the other Patriots coaches and the offensive line had its share of struggles.

Nash was with the Patriots from 2005 until earlier this week. His role as head strength and conditioning coach began in 2011. Patriots fans may know him as the person who held long exercise bands attached to Tom Brady on the sidelines. The Patriots had a high injury rate his year and although Nash is not completely to blame, the Patriots wanted to go in a different direction as far as their conditioning is concerned.

Both moves represent an early offseason  shuffling for the Patriots. No replacements have been identified for either position. The Patriots generally like to promote from within but they are willing to go outside the organization if it presents the best fit.

in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.

The Patriots came up two points short of a trip to the Super Bowl in their loss to the Broncos. There were several factors in the loss, but none bigger than the play of the Patriots offensive line. Tom Brady was hit 20 times and was constantly under pressure. Von Miller, Demarcus Ware and Derek Wolfe dominated the Patriots front throughout the game.

New England struggled to move the ball until the fourth quarter and even then they had two drives end on failed fourth down conversions. On each of those failed conversions, Brady faced pressure. Brady also faced pressure on both of his interceptions, but neither was a good decision by him. Even the patented Patriots style of throwing before the rush could arrive was not effective throughout the game because the rush was supremely fast and the Broncos secondary played a great game. The injury earlier this season to left tackle Nate Solder made a large impact in this game, with Marcus Cannon routinely getting beat by Miller and Sebastian Vollmer having some struggles against Ware.

Despite this the Patriots still nearly tied the game on a two point conversion try with 12 seconds left. It is a disappointing end to a season that had the Patriots aiming for their fifth Lombardi Trophy. New England is fortunate that many of their key players are locked up going into next season and they will be getting reinforcements returning for 2016. However, with Solder coming off injury and Vollmer not getting any younger, it would behoove the Patriots to invest in a tackle in this year’s draft.

In the end, the 2015 Patriots started out like a team that could beat anyone but injuries and a few key mistakes led to their demise. Much can be debated about the finish to their regular season and today’s game, but the overriding theme in the end of their season was the offensive line getting beat consistently.

 

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The AFC Championship promises to be a great game. After defeating Kansas City and Pittsburgh, respectively, the New England Patriots will travel to Denver to play the Broncos on Sunday for a trip to Santa Clara. The main storyline will be the 17th matchup between future Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the fourth time it has come in the AFC Championship.

On Saturday, Tom Brady looked much like he had during the first 10 games of the season. With Julian Edelman back and Rob Gronkowski having a full workload, Brady was able to get rid of the ball quickly and move the Patriots down the field. Edelman was not available the first time the Patriots played the Broncos this season and the team struggled at times to move the ball against a great defense. With him back, the Patriots will be able to put up points much easier.

On the other end of the spectrum, Manning didn’t play terrible, but he did not look like a quarterback capable of winning this week. He threw for 222 yards, but the Denver offense was quiet for most of the game and if not for a key fumble by Fitz Toussaint in the fourth quarter, they might have lost.

In order to win this week, the Broncos cannot rely on Manning. They will need big games out of Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson at running back. In order to counter this, the Patriots front seven will need to match the Denver running backs in the running and passing game. The Patriots’ ability to do this will come down to two players up front, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower. This is significant because the first time these two teams matched up Collins did not play and Hightower left early with an injury.

They were both on the field for most of the Divisional Round game. The Chiefs had 135 yards rushing, but 44 of those were on Alex Smith scrambles or designed runs. The Kansas City running backs combined for 28 yards receiving as well, putting their overall yardage output at 119. If the Patriots can hold the Denver backs to that number, it is unlikely the Denver offense will be able to put up more points than the Patriots.

Against the Steelers, Hillman or Anderson carried the ball on 31 of 70 offensive snaps and were also targeted four times in the passing game. Together, that is 50 percent of the offensive snaps that running backs were the focus. Denver didn’t show much ability to get the ball downfield outside of one catch by Emmanuel Sanders that went for 34 yards and one catch by Bennie Fowler that went for 31 yards. However, both of those passes traveled fewer than 20 yards from the line of scrimmage.

This is where Collins and Hightower come into play. The Patriots love to use both of them to blitz the A gap (between the center and the guard) to either create pressure up the middle or blow up run plays. Hightower can also cover well and Collins is an excellent coverage linebacker.

 

Collins and Hightower will need to makes plays in order to contain the Denver running backs. It almost sounds blasphemous to suggest that a team should force Manning to beat them, but that’s what this season has come down to. The more the Patriots can make Manning throw the ball downfield from the pocket the better. Eliminating the run game and his safety valves in the passing game will make it difficult for Denver to keep pace with New England.

Despite having an excellent defense, the Broncos are still going to need to put up points. If Collins and Hightower play well throughout the game, the Broncos won’t have enough juice to reach Super Bowl 50.

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