Monday, October 3, 2005
NFL "EXPERT" Picks
Good Monday Morning everyone! I hope everyone had a good weekend! I got out of town a little on Saturday. I made a trip down to Moorhead, Minnesota (about 3 1/2 hours) and went to my college alma mater's game. Concordia College took on Gustavus Adolphus College in some MIAC action. I went because my cousin, Jared Sieling, is a linebacker for Gustavus. Concordia won 30-0, but because of that, we were able to see him play a lot of defense and he did well accumulating nine tackles. That gives him 73 tackles in six games. So that was fun. I then drove back home the same night.
It was a very good weekend for the Twins and their fans. (Well, with the massive exception that the season is now officially over for the Twins!) We all got one final look at the 2005 Twins and saw a glimpse at just how exciting 2006 and beyond can be! I will write more on the Twins later in my Twins Thoughts, so be sure to check that out. Also, the rest of the week will be some bigger Twins stories, like their Final Month grades, what they should do in the offseason if you were GM, and more.
It is really too bad. With the Twins not making the playoffs, I would have really liked to have seen the Indians in the playoffs. First and foremost, I simply do not like the Red Sox. I just really like the young Cleveland team. I really respect what Mark Shapiro has done to build such a strong team. He went out and traded his veterans for minor leaguers, but the right minor leaguers, guys who not only have high ceilings, but also found a way to meet their expectations. Guys like Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez became real stars who backed up their first seasons with bigger numbers. Guys like Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta came up from the minors and provided invaluable production at the top of the order. After slow starts, three cost-friendly veterans, Casey Blake, Aaron Boone and Ronnie Belliard came through. The pitching staff, although not spectacular, was very solid and consistent most of the season. Kevin Millwood led the league in ERA. Cliff Lee won 18 games. CC Sabathia and Jake Westbrook were solid, and they even got a decent season from journeyman Scott Elarton. Their bullpen was right at the top of the league, and Bob Wickman came back to lead the league in Saves. This was a good team. This was arguably the most well-rounded team in the league a week ago.
But since last Sunday, the Indians won just one of their final seven games. They lost a late-inning game to the Royals last Sunday. They then lost two of three to the "spoiling" Devil Rays. And then the three game sweep of the playing-for-nothing White Sox. I have never been one to believe it, but maybe there is something to be said about their youth. We can say that the Yankees and Red Sox made it to the playoffs because they are 'veteran' teams. I would argue that they both make it because of their gigantic payrolls. Is it possible that the Indians "choked" because of their youth? I don't know that answer, but if they had won just one more game, they would be playing today for a shot at the last AL playoff spot. It is really unfortunate because now we will have to listen to biased announcers tell us that they knew the Red Sox and Yankees would make it all along. We will also have to listen to how wonderful those teams are. How 'clutch' both Derek Jeter and David Ortiz are. Tim McCarver will annoy us all again all postseason. But the Fox executives are thrilled because ratings for the playoffs will be bigger. Oh well!
Let the playoffs begin, right?
If you checked out the website over the weekend, you saw that I posted a Contest on the site. I will simply repost it here, and hope that many of you will take just a few minutes to send me a lineup:
Alright, lets get to some other thoughts.
As I said above, it was a very good weekend for the Twins and their fans. It really showed a lot.
In Friday night's game, the story was Francisco Liriano. I wish I would have done an Analysis of him in that game! He was on with all three of his pitches, most importantly, his fastball. He gave a glimpse of just how good he will be. In seven innings, he threw just 72 pitches. He gave up two runs on five hits, and he didn't walk a batter. He struck out eight. It gave him the first win of his big league career. Hopefully the first of many! In the game, Matthew LeCroy was 3-4 and launched his 16th homer of the year. Lew Ford went 2-4. Justin Morneau, in the game as a late-inning defensive replacement, came up with the bases loaded. The Tigers brought Jamie Walker into the game to face Morneau and the first pitch was lined over the baggy in right field for a grand slam! The blow essentially ended the game!
In Saturday's game, another top pitching prospect was the story. Scott Baker ended his first major league season with a strong performance. He threw six shutout innings. He gave up just two hits and walked none. Listening to the post-game show, Dan Gladden even said that he didn't have his good stuff. Baker improved to 3-3 on the season. Matt Guerrier concluded a very impressive rookie season for the Twins with two more shutout innings. Joe Nathan came in to record his 42nd save of the year. The offense scored three runs in the sixth inning thanks to a little luck. With two runners on and two outs, Jacque Jones struck out. Fortunately, the ball went through the catchers legs and to the backstop allowing Jones to reach first base and the runners to advance. Those were followed up by consecutive singles by Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau and Jason Tyner. Cuddyer and Morneau were both 2-3. Joe Mauer went 0-2, but walked twice.
Sunday, it was all about Johan Santana. Coming into the game, it was known that he needed to throw 5.1 innings without an earned run to win the AL ERA title. Should he give up one earned run, he would need to go 8.1 innings. Well, he was so good that he didn't allow even a baserunner through four innings. He had struck out seven at that point. It had the look of a very special day. In the fifth, he gave up his first hit, and he gave up a good one. Carlos Pena hit the ball, and he hit it a long way for a home run to dead centerfield. It broke up the no-hitter, the perfect game and the shutout. But Santana came back and got out of that inning, and had a perfect sixth frame. In the seventh, however, things got a little scary. The Tigers had guys on first and second with nobody out. A wild pitch advanced runners to 2nd and 3rd. But Santana was able to strikeout Pena. But then, he walked Omar Infante on four pitches (I assume/hope unintentionally) to load the bases. Ron Gardenhire came out and we assumed that Santana's day was over, but Gardy stuck with him. It was a good call as Santana got a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning, and Santana left to a standing ovation. Of course, at this point, he was at 106 pitches and needed four more outs to get the ERA title. Some may have thought that he should have been left in the game, but the right decision was made. Santana had done his job, as he has all season. He has done everything to show Cy Young voters when he can do. The ERA title would just have been an added bonus. Why risk it?
Of course, when Jesse Crain came in and the bases were loaded with no out, the decision probably could have been questioned more. But he got a double play, to allow a deep breath for Twins fans. But when Chris Shelton his a long home run, the lead was cut to one, and Crain's day was over. Juan Rincon came in and struck out Twins-killer Craig Monroe end the inning. The Twins added another run in the 9th and Joe Nathan closed out the game to get his 43rd save.
Luis Rodriguez led the offense with a 3-4 day, with the hits coming as a right-handed hitter! Jason Tyner, Lew Ford and Luis Rivas each had two hits. Ford hit his 30th double, granted, a Metrodome ceiling double. Justin Morneau's last at bat of the year was a line drive double to right. Matthew LeCroy gave the Twins a lead right away in the first inning with a big, three-run homer.
Again, there are so many positives to take from the Twins season. There should be so much optimism heading into 2006. I will get into that more and more in the coming days. But just to summarize, as frustrating as this season has been for the Twins, as little offense as the team had, they finished the season over .500. Bad teams don't finish over .500. They just don't. Much of the pitching staff will be back. Those that won't be back will be replaced by younger, cheaper, better options that should make the pitching staff even stronger. The key cogs to that starting staff were on the mound this weekend in the form of Liriano, Baker and Santana. Brad Radke and Carlos Silva should both be back as well. The bullpen is another form of strength. How much changeover will there be? We will find out. Tomorrow, I will post my thoughts on that very topic. Be sure to check back then when I post my annual "What Now?" posting. I hope you'll check back.
What are your overall thoughts of the Twins 2005 season? Disappointment? Excitement? What do you think they need to do in the off-season to prepare for 2006? On Friday, I will post any thoughts or comments that I receive from you on what the team needs to do, so please be sure to e-mail me.
Two other quick links for you... There are two Twins-related postings over at John Sickel's minor league site. First, he did a Prospect Retro on Brent Abernathy. Secondly, he did a Sleeper look at Jose Mijares.
The Gophers headed to Happy Valley to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions in Big 10 action on Saturday. Both teams entered the game 4-0 but the general consensus was that the Gophers were the better, more veteran team, and that no one could stop Laurence Maroney. Well, the Gophers left Happy Valley not very happy as Penn State dominated the Gophers with a 44-14 win. It is almost comical because this happens every year. The Gophers start out well, and then win a game or two in the conference, and then they have a loss. In the last couple of years, that loss has been at Michigan and caused a downward spiral for the rest of the season. Well, this year, the loss is to Penn State. Next week, the Gophers take on the Wolverines, so I guess we'll see what happens. Will they be able to come back and figure out how to get a big win, ore will the downhill spiral take them down for the rest of the season?
By the way, 16-48. That is the Maroney rushing line. I'm not as concerned with the 48 yards as I am with just 16 carries. I realize that the Gophers got behind, but Maroney needs more touches, even when they are down. He had just two catches for three yards, and two kickoff returns for 39 yards. This really hurts his already slim chances at the Heisman Trophy. It may even keep him from a trip to New York City for the award ceremony.
Any thoughts on the Gophers? E-mail me.
Another ugly game for the Vikings yesterday! It is awful to watch on TV. However, it is fun to listen to the Vikings radio team of Paul Allen and Joe Senser, along with sidelines analyst Greg Coleman. They are so brutally honest, and not at all afraid to tell you how bad the team's performance is, or how an individual makes mistakes. It just started out bad. The offense could get nothing going. The defense couldn't stop anyone!
It was strange to me how the Vikings chose to move their offense. We knew that they would want to run the ball to try to keep the clock running. It is interesting to me that the weakest link of the Vikings offensive line is right guard, where rookie Marcus Johnson starts. But where did the Vikings attempt to run? That's right, to the right, over Johnson. It isn't that it didn't work, but is is just a strange concept to me. Speaking of the line, Culpepper was frequently under pressure, or else he held onto the ball for too long, and the lineman did not hold their blocks long enough. I wanted to point out though, that there were numerous occasions when Daunte was rushed, but right tackle Mike Rosenthal was keeping his man away from the QB. I think that a guy who does well, particularly among so much poor play, needs to be noticed, and I think Mike Rosenthal deserves recognition.
The defense? Well, it was just ugly. We obviously knew that with Michael Vick, Warrick Dunn and TJ Duckett, the Vikings had their hands full. It didn't take long for all three to have an impact. Vick had a couple of runs of about 20 yards a piece. Dunn had a bunch of eight to twelve yard runs, and made one move on his 37 yard touchdown. It was just too easy, too open. Even when Michael Vick was hurt, Matt Schaub came in and was able to run for about 20 yards twice before the end of the half.
My opinion is that the defense for this game was entirely wrong. For much of the game, they had a lot of guys deep. What that does is allows the offensive linemen of the Falcons to primarily just go man-to-man. It also spreads out your defenders allowing the likes of Dunn and Vick to be more shifty and make moves to elude defenders. The field was just two open for the Falcons backs.
Finally, I think that Culpepper will be bashed by some, but I really don't think that is fair. After one good week of offensive line play, it was again a difficult game for Daunte. He had no time to pass. That can be shown by the fact that he was unable to hit a WR for a completion in the first half, and really only on the last drive. I think that Culpepper is so shaky in the pocket that he has struggled with his timing and his throwing mechanics and everything. Even when he does have a little bit of time, I'm sure in the back of his mind, he's wondering when he'll be hit. Last week, he was sacked seven times. This week? NINE sacks. That is horrible. He was under pressure even more often. I'm not saying that Culpepper is innocent and shouldn't be criticized, but fans also need to look at the big picture.
So, who impressed? Well, Mewelde Moore did the job. He rushed 14 times for 57 yards, which is a solid 4.1 average. He also caught six passes for 61 yards. Oh, and did you see the move the Troy Williamson put on D'Angelo Hall on his touchdown? Very impressive!
I had predicted a 41-20 Falcons win. It was 30-10. I win when it comes to point differential, right?
As much as I much prefer the Vikings win, there is not much better than listening to the rubes that will call into or chat it up on KFAN today!!
Any thoughts on the Vikings demolition yesterday? Any thoughts on how bad the Falcons would have won had Vick not been hurt, and what kind of numbers he would have ended with? Should questions about Mike Tice's future be brought up again as the Vikings will now be on their bye week. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Vikings. What is going on?? E-mail me.
NFL "EXPERT" PICKS
So, how did our panelists do yesterday? (here are the results before the Sunday night game between Arizona and San Francisco)
Seth Stohs Stick & Ball Guy Ben Jacobs Aaron Gleeman Grant Balfour Kevin Slowey SethSpeaks.net Stick & Ball Guy Hardball Times Aaron's BB Blog Minnesota Twins Pitcher Twins Pitching Prospect Buffalo @ New Orleans Saints Bills Bills Saints Saints Detroit @ Tampa Bay Lions Buccs Buccs Buccs Buccs Indianapolis @ Tennessee Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts San Diego @ New England Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots St. Louis @ NY Giants Rams Giants Giants Rams Giants Dallas @ Oakland Raiders Raiders Raiders Raiders Raiders San Francisco @ Arizona Cardinals Cardinals 49ers Cardinals Cardinals Denver @ Jacksonville Jaguars Jaguars Jaguars Jaguars Broncos Houston @ Cincinnati Bengals Bengals Bengels Bengals Bengals Philadelphia @ Kansas City Eagles Chiefs Chiefs Eagles Eagles Seattle @ Washington Redskins Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks NY Jets @ Baltimore Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Minnesota @ Atlanta Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Green Bay @ Carolina Panthers Panthers Panthers Panthers Packers
Will Young Trevor Born Brent Hanson Cory Hepola Mike Brasel Melissa Lien Will's Twins Weblog Twins Junkie BrentNet KTVH-TV Fantasy FB Guru SethSpeaks.net Buffalo @ New Orleans Bills Saints Bills Bills Saints Saints Detroit @ Tampa Bay Buccs Buccs Buccs Buccs Buccs Buccs Indianapolis @ Tennessee Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts San Diego @ New England Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots Patriots St. Louis @ NY Giants Giants Giants Giants Giants Giants Giants Dallas @ Oakland Cowboys Raiders Raiders Raiders Raiders Cowboys San Francisco @ Arizona Cardinals Cardinals Cardinals 49ers Cardinals 49ers Denver @ Jacksonville Jaguars Jaguars Jaguars Jaguars Jaguars Jaguars Houston @ Cincinnati Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals Philadelphia @ Kansas City Chiefs Chiefs Eagles Chiefs Eagles Eagles Seattle @ Washington Seahawks Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins Redskins NY Jets @ Baltimore Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens Minnesota @ Atlanta Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Falcons Green Bay @ Carolina Panthers Panthers Panthers Panthers Panthers Panthers
Looking at the selections of the 12 panelists, here is who the collective "We" think will win each game:
Buffalo @ New Orleans - Saints 6-5
Detroit @ Tampa Bay - Buccs 10-1
Indianapolis @ Tennessee - Colts 11-0
San Diego @ New England - Patriots 11-0
St. Louis @ NY Giants - Giants 9-2
Dallas @ Oakland - Raiders 9-2
Denver @ Jacksonville - Jaguars 10-1
Houston @ Cincinnati - Bengals 11-0
Philadelphia @ Kansas City - Eagles 7-4
Seattle @ Washington - Redskins 6-5
NY Jets @ Baltimore - Ravens 11-0
Minnesota @ Atlanta - Falcons 11-0
San Francisco @ Arizona - Cardinals 8-3
Green Bay @ Carolina - Panthers 10-1
And on that note, I will call it a day and say, "Have yourself a great week!" I certainly hope that you have found some things that were worth reading. It will be a lot of Twins talk the rest of the week! If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
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