Tuesday, October 28, 2014

NBA: EASTERN CONFERENCE PREVIEW WITH RANKINGS


By: Connor Glowacki



 Cleveland's new 'Big Three'.
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
photo courtesy of mstarz.com



     The NBA season is finally here and with games kicking off tonight, let's take a look at where all of the teams in the Eastern Conference stack up at the beginning of this season.

*Note: PPG=Points Per Game, APG= Assists Per Game, RPG= Rebounds Per Game,              BLKPG= Blocks Per Game.

15.) Philadelphia 76ers.    
     
PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Michael Carter Williams (16.7 PPG, 6.3 APG, 6.2 RPG)
SG: K.J. McDaniels (2nd Round Draft Pick. Averaged 17.1 PPG for Clemson last season)
SF: Hollis Thompson (6.0 PPG, 0.9 APG, 3.2 RPG)
PF: Nerlens Noel (Missed 2013-14 season due to injury. 2012 First Round Draft Pick out of Kentucky)
C: Henry Sims (7.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG)

76ers forward Nerlens Noel.
photo courtesy of philly.com.
     Philadelphia's plan to go 'Winless for (Andrew) Wiggins' failed, but the Sixers did get some intriguing pieces through the draft that included center Joel Embiid, forwards Dario Saric and Jeraci Grant and guard K.J. McDaniels. But Embiid and Saric, Philadelphia's top two draft picks won't play at all this season!
     Embiid is recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot and Saric is playing another year overseas. When you count the Sixers losing their top scorer (Thaddeus Young) and rebounder (Spencer Hawes) to free agency, it's clear that this team could be even worse this season.
     That being said, there is some hope in Philadelphia. Point guard Michael Carter Williams had a stellar rookie season and will return as the primary playmaker. And 2014 will mark the NBA debut of former Kentucky center Nerlens Noel. Noel missed the entire 2013 season due to recovering from ACL surgery.
     If Carter-Williams builds on his rookie season and Noel develops an offensive game, the Sixers could have something intriguing for 2015 when Embiid and Saric will be ready for NBA action.

14.) Milwaukee Bucks

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Brandon Knight (17.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.5 RPG)
SG: Giannis Antetokoumpo (6.8 PPG, 1.9 APG, 4.4 RPG)
SF: Khris Middleton (12.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG)
PF: Jabari Parker (#2 Overall Draft Pick. Averaged 19.1 PPG and 8.7 RPG for Duke last season)
C: Larry Sanders (7.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.7 BLKPG)

Bucks' star rookie forward Jabari Parker.
photo courtesy of nypost.com
     The Bucks had the worst record in the entire NBA last season with just 15 wins and 67 losses. Even with that, the Bucks still didn't land the number one pick in the NBA draft. However, Milwaukee still landed a possible star talent with their number two pick in Duke forward Jabari Parker, who was an offensive juggernaut as a freshman in college.
     The Bucks did have a few bright spots from the 2013 season and that included point guard Brandon Knight, who showed what kind of offensive playmaker he could be in the NBA. Add in former first round picks Giannis Antetokoumpo, Khris Middleton and Larry Sanders, as well as former first round picks on the bench that include guards O.J. Mayo and Kendall Marshall and forward Jared Dudley, and Milwaukee seems to have the players to lead this team back to relevancy.
     The big questions for the Bucks are if new head coach Jason Kidd can turn Knight into a top-tier point guard and if Parker can become the star player that this organization desperately needs him to be.

13.) Orlando Magic

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Elfrid Payton (#10 Overall Draft Pick. Averaged 19.2 PPG, 5.9 APG, 6.0 RPG, 2.3 SPG for Louisiana Lafayette last season)
SG: Evan Fournier (8.4 PPG, 1.5 APG, 2.7 RPG)
SF: Moe Harkless (7.4 PPG, 1.0 APG, 3.3 RPG)
PF: Tobias Harris (14.6 PPG, 1.3 APG, 7.0 RPG)
C: Nikola Vucevic (14.2 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 0.8 BLKPG)

Magic rookie point guard Elfrid Payton.
photo courtesy of basketballinsiders.com.
      I was originally going to put Orlando higher on my Eastern Conference rankings list, but that was before the news about guard Victor Oladipo's injury came out. Oladipo was drafted by the Magic with the second pick in the 2013 NBA draft and impressed in his rookie season as he averaged 13.8 PPG, 4.1 APG and 4.1 RPG with the Magic. Right now, he is expected to miss a month after undergoing surgery to repair a facial fracture. And with Aaron Affalo leaving in free agency, Orlando will have to rely on Evan Fournier and Ben Gordon to produce at the shooting guard position.
     The Magic had two frontcourt players in Harris and Vucevic who really overachieved last season for Orlando and they will be the top offensive targets for rookie point guard Elfrid Payton. Payton is quick and can drive past defenders to get into the paint to create a shot for himself or his teammates. Another player to watch for will be center Channing Frye who has built a reputation in his NBA career for being one of the top three point shooting big men in the game.
   

12.) Detroit Pistons

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Brandon Jennings (15.5 PPG, 7.6 APG, 3.1 RPG)
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5.9 PPG, 2.0 RPG)
SF: Josh Smith (16.4 PPG, 3.3 APG, 6.8 RPG)
PF: Greg Monroe (15.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG)
C: Andre Drummond (13.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.6 BLGPG)

Pistons center Andre Drummond.
photo courtesy of usatoday.
     On paper, the Pistons have lots of talent at multiple positions and a decent amount of depth. And yet Detroit finished the 2013 season with a 29-53 record and now have a new head coach in Stan Van Gundy. Led by Drummond, Jennings and Monroe, the sheer amount of athleticism is off the wall for this team, but something still hasn't clicked yet.
     Drummond has the raw talent, but has to be kept off the court at points during the fourth quarter because of his free throw percentage at just 41%. Add in Monroe who shot just 65% from the free throw line and the big men have work they need to do to improve at the pinstripes. And Josh Smith needs to improve from three point range after shooting just 26% last season.
     D.J. Augustin, Jonas Jerekbo, Kyle Singler, Jodie Meeks are nice players off the bench, but Detroit's season will depend on the continued development of their younger talent in the starting lineup.

11.) Boston Celtics

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Rajon Rondo (11.7 PPG, 9.8 APG, 5.5 RPG)
SG: Avery Bradley (14.9 PPG, 1.4 APG, 3.8 RPG)
SF: Jeff Green (16.9 PPG, 1.7 APG, 4.6 RPG)
PF: Jared Sullinger (13.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG)
C: Kelly Olynyk (8.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG)

     The Celtics didn't really have a memorable 2013 season, but in head coach Brad Stevens' first season in the NBA, Bradley and Green matured into leaders for a team that saw promising campaigns out of young players such as Sullinger and Olynyk.
Celtics rookie point guard Marcus Smart
photo courtesy of bleacherreport
     And don't look now, but Boston's offseason has been quietly impressive. The Celtics picked up guard Marcus Thornton, forward Evan Turner and center Tyler Zeller to add some much needed depth at key positions. And in the draft, Boston selected guards Marcus Smart and James Young in the first round. Smart and Young are perceived as the future backcourt for the Boston Celtics and if the team decides to finally trade Rondo, that future could become more immediate.
     Celtics fans should be extremely excited about Smart in particular after he averaged 18 points, 4.8 assists and almost 6 rebounds a game last season for Oklahoma State.

10.) New York Knicks

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Jose Calderon (11.4 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.4 RPG)
SG: Iman Shumpert (6.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG)
SF: Carmelo Anthony (27.4 PPG, 3.1 APG, 8.1 RPG)
PF: Amar'e Stoudemire (11.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG)
C: Samuel Dalembert (6.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.2 BLKPG)
   
     Knicks fans everywhere rejoiced when legendary basketball coach Phil Jackson was named President of the New York Knicks with a whopping five year/90 million dollar contract. They also rejoiced when star forward Carmelo Anthony decided, after an insanely long free agent process, to stay with the Knicks and become the highest paid player in the NBA.
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony
photo courtesy of foxsports.com.
     It's a new era in the Big Apple as Jackson hired his former Lakers point guard Derek Fisher to be the team's new head coach and implement the well-known 'Triangle Offense'. Jackson brought in free agents such as Calderon and Dalembert, but the spotlight will be squarely on Anthony.
     That being said, New York has limited depth and if Stoudemire can't reclaim his offensive game, the Knicks don't have a viable second scoring option. Jackson and the Knicks have an eye for the 2015 free agent class, with the hopes of pairing Anthony with another star player. Until then, this will be a year of adjustment for the Knicks.

9.) Indiana Pacers

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: George Hill (10.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.7 RPG)
SG: Rodney Stuckey (13.9 PPG, 2.1 APG, 2.3 RPG)
SF: C.J. Miles (9.9 PPG, 2.0 RPG)
PF: David West (14.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG)
C: Roy Hibbert (10.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.2 BLKPG)

Pacers center Roy Hibbert
photo courtesy of indystar.
     Where to begin with the Indiana Pacers? Well, 2013 could best be described as the year that the Pacers completely self-destructed. After owning the best record in the East for months, they faded during the final two months of the regular season and barely held onto the top overall seed in the playoffs. And the Pacers gave some of the most disappointing efforts in the postseason that I have ever seen. There were rumors of internal strife in the locker room and head coach Frank Vogel's job was on the line for months.
     The team lost Lance Stephenson to free agency and star froward Paul George to a season ending leg injury during the summer. West, Hill and Stuckey are solid veterans, if unspectacular, and they have pretty good role players off the bench in Luis Scola and Chris Copeland.
     But the pressure is on Hibbert this season. There were points last season where it seemed he didn't even know how to play basketball. For a guy that is 7 feet and two inches tall, there is no excuse to have zero points and zero rebounds in a playoff game.


8.) Atlanta Hawks

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Jeff Teague (16.5 PPG, 6.7 APG, 2.2 RPG)
SG: Kyle Korver (12.0 PPG, 2.9 APG, 4.0 RPG)
SF: DeMarre Carroll (11.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG)
Hawks center Al Horford
photo courtesy of nba.com.
PF: Paul Millsap (17.9 PPG. 8.5 RPG, 1.1 BLKPG)
C: Al Horford (18.6 PPG. 8.4 RPG, 1.5 BLKPG)

     The Atlanta Hawks overacheived last season, given the injuries to a number of key players that included center Al Horford. With a depleted lineup, they still pushed the Indiana Pacers to the brink in the first round of the playoffs. Teague showed that he can be one of the top point guards in the league last season and the Hawks could potentially have two viable options in the post in Horford and Millsap.
     The main downside to Atlanta continues to be a lack of depth. The only players on the bench that have a chance at cracking the rotation are forwards Mike Scott, Thabo Sefolosha and Adreian Payne. That will hurt them throughout the regular season and the playoffs, especially if it forces the starters to play a ton of minutes ever night.
   

7.) Brooklyn Nets

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Deron Williams (14.3 PPG, 6.1 APG, 2.6 RPG)
SG: Joe Johnson (15.8 PPG, 2.7 APG, 3.4 RPG)
SF: Andrei Kirilenko (5.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG)
PF:Kevin Garnett (6.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG)
C: Brook Lopez (20.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 BLKPG)

Nets guard Joe Johnson
photo courtesy of brooklynballing.com
     The Brooklyn Nets have solid talent on their roster, but it hasn't translated to any success in the postseason. Williams was inconsistent last season and is no longer the elite point guard that he once was with the Utah Jazz. At 38 years old, Garnett is a shell of himself after having a severe dropoff in production last season.
     Johnson was solid and ended up being the clutch player that Brooklyn relied on late in games, but the best player on this team is center Brook Lopez. He's one of only a handful of players that can average 20 points and 10 rebound each game, but he's been limited by injuries for the past few seasons. And outside of Mason Plumlee and Jarett Jack, there's no one that you can really trust for the Brooklyn Nets to be a factor off the bench.
 

6.) Miami Heat

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Mario Chalmers (9.8 PPG, 4.9 APG, 2.9 RPG)
SG: Dwanye Wade (19.0 PPG, 4.7 APG, 4.5 RPG)
SF: Loul Deng (16.0 PPG, 2.9 APG, 5.7 RPG)
PF: Udonis Haslem (3.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG)
C: Chris Bosh (16.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG)

Heat guard Dwanye Wade
photo courtesy of Page Six
    Yes, losing LeBron was a huge blow to this team. But President Pat Riley responded by signing Bosh to a ridiculously lucrative contract deal and signed veterans Loul Deng, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger in free agency, as well as drafting point guard Shabazz Napier in the first round of the NBA Draft. Bosh and Wade will have to step their individual performances up to make up for LeBron's absence. Bosh, in particular, might have to play more in the post with his back to the basket, like he did when he played for the Toronto Raptors.
     The big question for the Heat is if Wade can stay healthy. He barely played half of the 2013 season and his knee injuries led to him fading down the stretch in the postseason.
     The Heat are now a good team that can make the playoffs, with the potential of making a deep run in the playoffs. If they can stay healthy.

5.) Charlotte Hornets

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Kemba Walker (17.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, 4.2 RPG)
SG: Lance Stephenson (13.8 PPG, 4.6 APG, 7.2 RPG)
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (7.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG)
PF: Marvin Williams (9.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG)
C:  Al Jefferson (21.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.1 BLKPG)

Hornets center Al Jefferson.
photo courtesy of bleacherreport.
     The Hornets, formerly known as Bobcats, had one of the most sucessful seasons in franchise history since Michael Jordan became the team's owner. Charlotte pushed Miami in the first round of the playoffs and Jefferson made a strong case for some MVP votes. One of the tougher teams last year got even tougher mentally with the addition of Stephenson, who was the only player on the Indiana Pacers that seemed to have the mental tenacity and willpower to beat his opponents.
     Add in an emerging young point guard in Walker and the future looks bright for the Hornets. The team also has several talented young players on the bench, including Cody Zeller, Noah Vonieh and P.J. Hairston. The main questions include a lack of depth at the point guard and center positions.
     But if the Hornets can stay healthy, look for them to challenge the top tier teams in the Eastern Conference.

4.) Toronto Raptors

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Kyle Lowry (21.1 PPG, 4.7 APG, 4.7 RPG)
SG: Terrence Ross (5.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG)
SF: Demar DeRozan (23.9 PPG, 3.6 APG, 4.1 RPG)
PF: Amir Johnson (11.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG)
C: Jonas Valanciunas (10.9 PPG, 9.7 RPG)

Raptors guard Demar DeRozan.
photo courtesy of cbssports.com.
     The Toronto Raptors earned the third overall seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season and we saw the emergence of two potential star players in DeRozan and Lowry. They were both dyanmic in an uptempo offense that allowed Lowry to feed the ball into post players like Johnson and Valanciunas.
     Toronto has some solid players off the bench that include Bruno Cabelo, Landry Fields, Chuck Hayes, and Grievis Vasquez, but do they have enough firepower to contend at the top of the Eastern Conference?
     Keep an eye out for Ross this season as he only played in seven games last season. Expect him numbers to increase with the amount of minutes that he is going to be playing in 2014.

3.) Washington Wizards

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: John Wall (19.9 PPG, 8.8 APG, 4.1 RPG)
SG: Bradley Beal (17.1 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.7 RPG)
SF: Paul Pierce (13.5 PPG, 2.4 APG, 4.6 RPG)
PF: Nene Hilario (14.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG)
C: Marcin Gortat (13.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.5 BLKPG)

Wizards point guard John Wall.
photo courtesy of twitchy.com.
     The Washington Wizards made the playoffs last season for the first time in seven years and even made a strong push against the Indiana Pacers in the second round. The mix of athletic youth and veteran leadership showcased Wall and Beal as the potential best backcourt in the league as well as the strong inside play of Nene and Gortat.
     Yes, the Wizards could struggle early with the absence of Beal for another month or so due to a wrist injury, but they have added enough depth on the roster that should help them get by until Beal returns to the lineup. Washington added veterans such as forwards Pierce, DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries to help out in the paint and Glen Rice Jr. and Martell Webster will have to fill in at the shooting guard spot in Beal's absence. Keep an eye out for forward Otto Porter Jr., the number three overall pick in the 2013 draft, who has had a full schedule of summer league and training camp basketball unlike in his rookie season when he was battling injuries.

2.) Chicago Bulls

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Derrick Rose (15.9 PPG, 4.3 APG, 3.2 RPG in 10 games last season)
SG: Jimmy Butler (13.1 PPG, 2.6 APG, 4.9 RPG)
SF: Mike Dunleavy Jr. (11.3 PPG, 2.3 APG, 4.2 RPG)
PF: Pau Gasol (17.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.5 BLKPG)
C: Joakim Noah (12.6 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 1.5 BLKPG)

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose.
photo courtesy of chatsports.com.
     The Chicago Bulls are a great team on paper that is filled with depth. Noah and Butler took their offensive and defensive games to new levels last season and veterans such as guard Kirk Hinrich and forwards Taj Gibson and Dunleavy Jr., played pivotal roles in getting an undermanned Bulls squad to the playoffs. Add in the free agent acquisition of Gasol and drafting Doug McDermott in the first round and the Bulls look like they have almost all of the pieces on both sides of the ball to make a championship run in 2014.
     BUT let's be honest, that only happens if Rose can actually stay healthy. He only played in 10 games last season after injuring his knee and the Bulls couldn't score enough points to win in the playoffs. It's easy to forget, but Rose won the MVP award in 2011 and was arguably on LeBron James' level, in terms of being the best player in the NBA.
     Head coach Tom Thibodeau will have to not only monitor how Rose plays on the court, but also the minutes of the other players of his standard rotation. At the end of last season, Butler and Noah, in particular, were playing heavy minutes in games and understandably faded down the stretch.
     If Rose stays healthy and resembles any bit of the MVP player he was in 2011, Chicago could definitely represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. This is a very well built roster, but Rose is the key to this roster winning a championship.

1.) Cleveland Cavaliers

PROJECTED STARTING LINE-UP (With 2013-2014 Stats)

PG: Kyrie Irving (20.8 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.6 RPG)
SG: Dion Waiters (15.9 PPG, 3.0 APG, 2.8 RPG)
SF: LeBron James (27.1 PPG, 6.4 APG, 6.9 RPG0
PF: Kevin Love (26.1 PPG, 12.5 RPG)
C: Anderson Varaejao (8.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG)

Cavaliers forward LeBron James.
photo courtesy of bleacherreport.
     Owner Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off the ultimate heist in recent sports history. In one offseason, they transformed themselves from an irrelevant and mediocre franchise into an instant championship contender. The fact that the Cavaliers were able to convince LeBron to come back home was obviously the biggest acquisition that they could have possibly made. But then they acquired Love in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and then acquired multiple free agent veterans that included forwards Shawn Marion and James Jones, guard Mike Miller, and center Brendan Haywood.
      Add in the talented young players that were already with the Cavaliers the last few seasons, including Irving, Waiters and forward Tristan Thompson, Cleveland has the most loaded team (from top to bottom), out of any other team that the NBA possibly has ever seen.
     There will be some looming questions. How fast will these players fit in with one another? How will head coach David Blatt manage minutes and the rotation of players in his first NBA season? And how will the Cavaliers organization afford all of these players in the next few players? But it's all about winning the championship this year and if LeBron and company can bring a title to Cleveland, he will be in the discussion of being the greatest basketball player that the NBA has ever seen.

Coming soon will be a preview of the Western Conference!

Until then, do you agree or disagree with these rankings? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment @ConnorGlowacki.

Monday, October 20, 2014

WORLD SERIES PREVIEW: SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS VS. KANSAS CITY ROYALS

By: Connor Glowacki

Figure 1: Giants Catcher
Buster Posey
photo courtesy of mlbtraderumors.com
     There were probably not many people at the beginning of the Major League Baseball season that predicted a World Series matchup between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals. Sure, the Giants have won the World Series in two of the last four seasons (2010 and 2012), but this was the Royals first playoff berth since 1985, when they in fact won the World Series.
Figure 2: Royals Center Fielder
Lorenzo Cain
photo courtesy of wikipedia
     Kansas City has gone a perfect 8-0 so far this postseason and a lot of their success has to be credited to their stellar pitching staff, featuring just three pitchers with an earned run average (ERA) over three.
     Kansas City plays great defense in the outfield and their offense has suddenly been driving pitches deep into the outfield for a combined eight home runs in the eight postseason games. Third baseman Mike Moustakas had 15 home runs in the entire regular season and he already has four home runs this postseason. First baseman Eric Hosmer and center fielder Lorenzo Cain have also been impressive, with batting averages of .448 and .353 respectively.
     Meanwhile, San Francisco has been the pillar of postseason success in baseball for the last five or six years. The Giants have two starting pitchers that have been dominant this postseason as Madison Bumgarner (2-1, 1.42 ERA, 28 Strikeouts) and Jake Peavy (1-0, 1.86 ERA) have helped anchor the team's pitching staff.
     On offense, San Francisco is another team that plays a small-ball hitting style. Look out for veterans, such as catcher Buster Posey (.302 BA) and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (.326 BA) to lead the charge and attack the Royals' pitchers.

PROJECTED PITCHING MATCHUPS

Game 1: SF (Bumgarner) vs. KC (James Shields)

Game 2: SF (Peavy) vs. KC (Yordano Ventura)

Game 3: KC (TBA) vs. SF (Tim Hudson)

Game 4: KC (TBA) vs. SF (Ryan Vogelsong)


                                      PROJECTED BATTING LINEUPS

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS                                            KANSAS CITY ROYALS

1.) CF Gregor Blanco                                                          1.) SS Alcides Escobar
2.) 2B Joe Panik                                                                   2.) RF Norichika Aoki
3.) C Buster Posey                                                               3.) CF Lorenzo Cain
4.) 3B Pablo Sandoval                                                         4.) 1B Eric Hosmer
5.) RF Hunter Pence                                                            5.) LF Alex Gordon
6.) 1B Brandon Belt                                                             6.) C Salvador Perez
7.) LF Travis Ishikawa                                                         7.) 2B Omar Infante
8.) SS Brandon Crawford                                                    8.) 3B Mike Moustakas
9.) San Francisco Pitcher/DH                                              9.) Kansas City Pitcher/DH

Who will win the 2014 World Series? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Friday, October 17, 2014

PANEL DISCUSSION: SHOULD THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS CHANGE THEIR NAME?

By: Connor Glowacki

photo courtesy of sports-logos-screensavers.com


     On the evening of October 13, 2014, I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion at the University of Maryland College Park campus on one of the biggest hot-button issues existing in the NFL today. That issue, which has grown in awareness over the last few years, is of the Washington football team's nickname, 'Redskins'. Now while football enthusiasts only view the name 'Redskins' as simply the name of a football team, the term has long been used for Native Americans and is regarded among this community as a racial epithet.
Figure 1. Team Owner, Daniel Snyder
Photo courtesy of Slate.
     The attention for this name controversy has increased substantially in the mainstream media, just in the last year or so, that there are now parody episodes of this controversy on Comedy Central shows 'The Daily Show' and 'South Park'.
     In May 2013, in regards to a question regarding the team's federal trademarks, team owner Daniel Snyder told USA Today, "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER. You can use caps."

photo courtesy of diamondbackonline.com
     Opinions were sharp among the six person panel that featured USA Today columnist Christine Brennan, Washington Post columnist Mike Wise, WUSA-TV sports commentator Dave Owens, ESPN 570/980 commentator Andy Pollin, former Washington Redskins offensive lineman Ray Schoenke (1966-1975), and the founder of the organization 'Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry', Tara Houska.

Figure 2: Former Redskins Left Guard Ray Schonenke
Photo courtesy of mcbushalloffame.com
     Schoenke, the only panel member who argued to keep the 'Redskins' team name, is a Native Hawaiian who identified with Indian heritage and the Redskins name/logo because he wanted to be strong and to be a warrior.
     "If I thought the name was demeaning, I'd stand up about it. But I don't."
     He also explained that the controversy over the name should not be the major issue and that the focus should be directed towards the economic situation for Native Americans living on reservations.
     "There is the highest rate of suicide, teen pregnancy, alcoholism, drug abuse, high school dropouts with 50-70 percent unemployment on reservations," said Schoenke, "Economic conditions will NOT change if the team changes the name. Through Snyder and the NFL, owners could make an impact on changing the economic situation."

Figure 3: Attorney Tara Houska
photo courtesy of law.umn.edu
     However, Schoenke was the only person that based his argument around economics. Houska, who works as an attorney and was the lone Native American on the panel, replied that the 'Redskins' team name and the fans dressing up as Native Americans during games showcases social and psychological problems.
     "You kind of wonder, 'Are you making fun of me? You're dressing up as my race'. It's so offensive and unfortunately, it's only unacceptable right now to Native Americans."
     Houska goes on to explain that children in the Native American community are shocked and saddened when they see people from other races dressing up as them during sporting competitions.
     "The benefit to changing the name is helping self esteem in Native American children."

     Snyder and several members of the Washington Redskins organization, including Schoenke, have conducted their own surveys and have visited several reservations to gauge if the nickname offends the Native Americans on those reservations. Schoenke stated that through interviewing an unspecified number of Native Americans at reservations, "I know a lot of Native Americans that don't care about the name. They care about economic development and economic diffusion."

     Back in September,  ESPN's 'Outside The Lines' conducted national polls on this topic. The poll found that 71 percent of the public believed the Washington Redskins team name should NOT be changed. However, this was a substantial drop from an Associated Press-GFK survey done earlier this year that found 83 percent favoring to keep the name. Houska warned that these national polls don't tell all sides of this issue. "Native Americans are only one percent of the population. National polls don't represent our views."

Figure 4: Washington Post Sports Columnist, Mike Wise
Photo courtesy of washingtonpost.com 
     Wise agreed and stated, "You can't poll morality. It's a little frightening that polls dictate this issue. Why does the Native American population have to appeal to such a high threshold?"
     Brennan, who was the first woman to ever cover the Redskins for the Washington Post in 1985, immediately followed and stated that we should not make decisions based on polls, but more by looking at this through a historical prism.
     "I'm offended by it. It's wrong," said Brennan, "We couldn't have a new franchise start now with that name. It's an important historical view and cultural marker."
     Owens added that he'd like to really know what Native Americans thought and that we need to dig beneath the surface of just the raw numbers. Pollin chimed in and stated that the responsibility of the media is to keep talking about it.

Figure 5. USA Today Sports Columnist, Christine Brennan
Photo courtesy of spotlight.ccis.edu
     That brought in another dimension to this controversy, which would be the NFL's handling on this matter. Pollin believes that this growing incident ends up stemming down from a very weak commissioner, Roger Goodell, who can't get his hands on this issue.
     Brennan admitted that the reason the Redskins name issue might be losing some momentum in recent weeks and alluded to the domestic violence situations involving players such as Ray Rice and Greg Hardy among others.
     "The domestic violence story in the NFL could be the biggest sports story in history. That's been at the plate of Roger Goodell. With also the concussions issue, the Redskins issue is number three and falling fast. But at some point, it's going to change."

     During a questions and answer session where Schoenke revealed that Snyder is financially motivated by this issue and that he needs the name for value, a Native American audience member fired back at the former player.
     "We don't like blood money or bribes. White America has been brainwashed to think of Native Americans in a certain context." Another audience member also fired at Schoenke stating, "I don't want your money. I want your respect." A third audience member, an African American male, suggested that the rest of the audience, "watch any western film between 1920 and 1960. 'Redskin' was used as a derogatory term. That's how Hollywood presented it."

Figure 6. WUSA9 Sports Commentator, Dave Owens
Photo courtesy of wusa9.com
     The discussion ended with closing statements from all panelists and Schoenke again explained that with the NFL and Daniel Snyder's financial resources, they can improve living conditions on reservations.
     "The majority of sports fans don't care about a name change," said Schoenke, "What's troubling is the emphasis on the name change and how it won't positively impact reservations economically. This is a great opportunity to economically leverage because the NFL is powerful."
     Brennan countered Schoenke's financial argument as she replied, "Why wouldn't you want name change if you're Daniel Snyder, if you WANT to make money. Fans will want old memorabilia and then want to buy new stuff. They will make more money long term with a new name."
Figure 7. ESPN 570/980 Commentator, Andy Pollin
Photo courtesy of voices.washingtonpost.com
     Owens believes that this story is about a group of people who are trying to get powerful men to change and that they're not gonna do it.
     "Millionaires don't want to be told what to do. This economic issue is a smokescreen."

     Ironically, the day this panel occurred was on Columbus Day. A day where explorer Christopher Columbus is treated in high regard as the discoverer of 'The New World'. As Houska reminds us, Columbus actually massacred numerous natives when he and his crew first arrived in the Americas. In fact, he was accused of tyranny during his govern-ship in Hispaniola and was jailed for six weeks back in Spain.
     Meanwhile, Houska plans to keep on fighting this issue with other Native Americans.
     "It's interesting we're only in the mainstream media because of the mascot and that we're interrupting sports," Houska declared, "The reason we have gone after Washington is the cultural insensitivity is so obvious. So is Chief Wahoo.  We should have control over our own cultural identity and perspective."

     While there wasn't a resolution among the panel members and the audience after this debate, there was a better understanding on the various sides that this issue has showcased. And if one thing was proven at all, it was that more people are talking about this name controversy than ever before.


Do YOU think the Washington Redskins should change their name? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

GEORGIA RUNNING BACK TODD GURLEY SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY

By: Connor Glowacki

Figure 1: Todd Gurley
Photo courtesy of fansided.com
    Georgia Bulldogs running back, and Heisman hopeful, Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely pending an investigation into an alleged violation of NCAA rules, the school announced on Thursday October 9th. According to ESPN's Joe Schad, he was told by a source that the investigation revolves around whether Gurley was given money for autographs, memorabilia, or the use of his likeness.

     "I'm obviously very disappointed," said Georgia coach Mark Richt in a statement. "The important thing for our team is to turn all our attention toward preparation to Missouri."

Figure 2: Head Coach Mark Richt
Photo Courtesy of Cbssports.
     While we wait to hear more about this NCAA investigation, the 13th ranked Bulldogs are just two days away from taking on the 23rd ranked Missouri Tigers on the road, in a critical SEC East showdown. Gurley is the leading rushed for the Bulldogs with 773 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. The total amount of rushing yards is more than all other four Georgia running backs COMBINED. He has averaged 8.2 yards per carry, caught 11 receptions and had a 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown this season. In addition, with 3,147 rushing yards, Gurley is just 86 yards away from passing Garrison Hearst for second on the school's all time rushing list.

Figure 3: Johnny Manziel
Photo courtesy of bleacherreport
     Let's keep in mind that this is NOT the first time a collegiate football player has sold autographs or memorbillia in exchange for the acceptance of impermissible benefits. Current Cinicinatti Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green acknowledged selling his Independence Bowl jersey to a former North Carolina player that was regarded as an NCAA agent, while he was at Georgia in 2010. Green had to pay back the $1,000 he received and was suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season.
   


     Just before the 2013 college football season, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was investigated when there were reports that surfaced indicating that he received money for signing autographs.
     There was no concrete evidence that Manziel did anything wrong, but the school suspended him for the first half of the season opener against Rice University. Just like Green, Manziel was still drafted in the first round and is now a member of the Cleveland Browns.

Figure 4: Heisman Trophy
(Award for college football's
best player).

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
     Whether the investigation proves that Gurley received money or not, it will have a negative effect over his chances for the Heisman trophy. Before this report came out, I had Gurley as my frontrunner at  to win the award and I still believe he is the best and most dynamic player in this country. And while this investigation might bring questions to Gurley's character, it will also bring back the debate over whether or not college football players should be considered paid employees of their universities.

(That's a debate for another day).
   
     In terms of his draft stock, I don't believe it will be negatively impacted because Manziel, Green and countless other former football players didn't experience a negative impact when they were investigated by the NCAA over similar circumstances.

(Gurley remains at Number 9 on ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board)

     In the meantime, we'll have to wait and see how this investigation plays out. If more evidence comes out against Gurley and he is suspended for more games, Georgia's chances at winning the SEC and Gurley's magical Heisman season, will likely be over.

What do you think of the Todd Gurley investigation? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

GREEN DAY, NINE INCH NAILS, N.W.A. LEAD NOMINATIONS FOR THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME 2015 CLASS

By: Connor Glowacki

Punk-rockers Green Day are one of 15 nominees for the 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class
Photo Courtesy of clashmusic.com











Stevie Ray Vaughn released his first album,
Texas Flood, back in 1983.
Photo Courtesy of austinlinks.com
      Fifteen acts were nominated on October 9th for induction into the 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class. Seven of the 15 acts are newcomers, which include punk rock band Green Day, rock band Nine Inch Nails, legendary west coast rap group N.W.A., rock band The Smiths, guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn, soul singer Bill Withers, and singer-songwriter Sting.
     In order for a music act to be eligible for nomination, it had to release its first recording 25 years earlier. In this case, the first recordings had to be released in 1989 or earlier. Nine Inch Nails' first album, 'Pretty Hate Machine' and Green Day's first extended play, '1000 Hours', were both released in 1989. However, acts like Bill Withers and Stevie Ray Vaughn have been added as nominees by the Hall of Fame nomination committee, even though they released material well before 1989.

Los Angeles hip hop collective, N.W.A.,
is best known for its 1988 debut album,
'Straight Outta Compton'.
Photo Courtesy of hiphollywood.com
Others acts that are on the ballot this year include Joan Jett and the Heartbreakers, Lou Reed, The Spinners, ChicKraftwerk, The Marvelettes, War, and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Joel Peresman, the head of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame foundation, said in a statement, "This eclectric group of 2015 nominees represent the myriad places where rock and roll converges with blues, electronic, dance, motown, R&B, funk, and other genres. Rock and Roll incorporates the styles of so many different kinds of music and that's what what makes this group of nominees, and this art form, so powerful and unique."


Every year when the list of nominees and inductees are released, some acts are inevitably left off the ballot. This creates a wide amount of controversy among music fans throughout the world.

Here is a list of notable acts that have not been inducted and are NOT on the 2015 nomination list.


*The Cure (English rock band. Eligible since 2004. 13 released studio albums. Best known for their 1987 album, 'Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me' and hit singles like 1987's 'Just Like Heaven', 1989's, 'Lovesong', and 1992's 'Friday, I'm In Love'.)
photo courtesy of allmusic

*Joy Division (British post-punk band. Eligible since 2004. Two released studio albums: 1979's 'Unknown Pleasures' and  1980's 'Closer'. Most famous for 1980's hit singles 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' and 'Atmosphere'.)

photo courtesy of artsfuse.org
*Bon Jovi (American rock band. Eligible since 2009. 13 released studio albums. Most famous for albums, such as 1986's 'Slippery When Wet', 1988's 'New Jersey', 1992's 'Keep The Faith', and 2000's 'Crush'. Have sold more than 130 million records worldwide. Hit singles include 1986's 'You Give Love A Bad Name' and 'Living On A Prayer', 1987's 'Wanted Dead or Alive', 1988's 'Bad Medicine, 1993's 'Bed of Roses', and 1994's 'Always'.

Lead singer Jon Bon Jovi.
photo courtesy of wikipedia
*Journey (American rock band. Eligible since 2000. 14 released studio albums. Most famous studio albums include 1981's 'Escape', 1983's 'Frontiers' and 1986's 'Raised on the Radio'. Have sold more than 75 million records worldwide. Hit singles include 1980's 'Any Way You Want It', 1981's 'Don't Stop Believing', 1982's 'Open Arms', and 1983's 'Faithfully'.

photo courtesy of  underscoopfire.com
*Joan Baez (American folk singer-songwriter. Eligible since 1985. 24 released studio albums. Known for her covers of The Band's 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' and The Beatles' 'Let It Be'. Both of these covers were top 50 hits for Baez in the United States. Performed publicly for 55 years and incorporated various social and topical issues into her recordings.
photo courtesy of musicomh.com

*Deep Purple (English rock band. Eligible since 2003. 19 released studio albums. Most famous albums include 1972's 'Machine Head' and 1973's 'Who Do We Think We Are'. Their biggest hit single, to this day, is 1973's 'Smoke On The Water'. Along with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, have been referred to as the 'unholy trinity of British hard rock and heavy metal in the early to mid-Seventies'.
photo courtesy of theguardian.com

*Kate Bush (English singer-songwriter. Eligible since 2003. 10 released studio albums. Most famous albums include 1985's 'Hounds of Love' and 1989's 'The Sensual World'. Known best for hit singles, such as 1978's 'Wuthering Heights' and 1985's 'Running Up That Hill'.

photo courtesy of nydailynews.
*Iron Maiden (English heavy metal band. Eligible since 2005. 15 released studio albums. Most famous albums include 1982's 'The Number of the Beast' and 1983's 'Peace of Mind'. Overall, the band have reputedly sold between 80 and 100 million records worldwide.
photo courtesy of ign.

*Depeche Mode (English electronic music group. Eligible since 2006. 13 released studio albums. Most famous albums include 1990's 'Violator' and 1993's 'Songs of Faith and Devotion'. Known best for hit singles, such as 1984's 'People Are People and 1989's 'Personal Jesus'. Most recently in 2009, their album 'Sounds of the Universe' was nominated for Best Alternative Album at the Grammy Awards.


photo courtesy of billboard.com.
The 2014 class contained Nirvana, KISS, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, Cat Stevens, Linda Ronstadt, and The E Street Band.

Who do you think should be inducted, among the 15 nominees, into the 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class?

And which acts, still NOT in the hall, should be inducted?

Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment @ConnorGlowacki.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

NL DIVISIONAL SERIES MATCH-UPS

By: Connor Glowacki


San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals.

Figure 1.  Bumgarner pitched a complete game, allowing just four hits in a 8-0 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
(Courtesy of sfexaminer.com)
     The San Francisco Giants have won two of the last four World Series titles.After embarrassing the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night, they are still in the running to capture another title in 2014. While offensively the Giants finished just 12th in runs (665) and 10th in batting average (.255), the pitching is full of both talent and experience.
     Ace Madison Bumgarner was explosive in the regular season after finishing with an 18-10 record that included a 2.98 ERA and a team high 219 strikeouts. With a pitching rotation that also includes veterans Tim Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Peavy, San Francisco will have plenty of experience to lean upon this postseason. The primary playmaker offensively for the Giants this season was catcher Buster Posey, who led the team in batting average (.311), home runs (22), and RBIs (89).
Figure 2. Strasburg led MLB in strikeouts this season with 242.
(Courtesy of WJLA).
     San Francisco will travel to the nation's capital to face a red-hot Washington Nationals team filled with the right mix of talented youth and needed experience. The Nationals' pitching rotation is arguably the best in baseball with the combination of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, and Gio Gonzalez. The fact that Tanner Roark (15-10, 2.85 ERA) is most likely moving to the bullpen just proves how much depth the Nationals have in their pitching.    
     While they aren't particularly dynamic on offense, the batting order is very deep and features numerous guys that can make a big impact play, such as center fielder Denard Span, right fielder Jayson Werth, infielder Anthony Rendon, and shortstop Ian Desmond, just to name a few.

GAME 1 PITCHING MATCH-UP

SF: Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.73 ERA) vs. WAS: Stephen Strasburg (14-11, 3.14 ERA)

PROJECTED BATTING LINEUPS

        GIANTS                                                                                     NATIONALS
1.) CF Gregor Blanco                                                                   1.) CF Denard Span
2.) 2B Joe Panik                                                                            2.) 3B Anthony Rendon
3.) C Buster Posey                                                                        3.) RF Jayson Werth
4.) 3B Pablo Sandoval                                                                  4.) 1B Adam LaRoche
5.) RF Hunter Pence                                                                     5.) SS Ian Desmond
6.) 1B Brandon Belt                                                                     6.) LF Bryce Harper
7.) SS Brandon Crawford                                                             7.) C Wilson Ramos
8.) LF Travis Ishikawa                                                                 8.) 2B Asdrubal Cabrera
9.) Giants Starting Pitchers                                                           9.) Nationals Starting Pitchers


St.Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Figure 3. Wainwright will try to lead the Cardinals to the World Series for the first time since winning in 2011.
(Courtesy of ksdk.com) 
           St.Louis did win the NL Central divison with a 90-72 record, but let's be honest. It wasn't in particulary spectacular fashion, compared to previous seasons. They only scored 16 runs more than their opponents this season and finished just 23rd in the majors in runs scored (619) and 14th in team batting average (.253). But the Cardinals have always been one of those teams that takes their level of play to a whole different level once the postseason comes around.
     They will be led by their ace pitcher Adam Wainwright, who was dominant this season after finishing with a record of 20-9, a 2.38 ERA and 184 strikeouts. On offense, the Cardinals will be led by first baseman Matt Adams (.288 BA Avg, 15 HRs, 68 RBIs), outfielder Matt Holiday (,272 BA Avg, 20 HRs, 90 RBIs) and shortstop Johnny Peralta (.263 BA Avg, 21 HRs, 75 RBIs).
Figure 4. Will Kershaw's incredible 2014 season continue against the Cardinals?
(Courtesy of the latimes)
     St. Louis will take on a Dodgers squad that is anchored by an even more dominant ace pitcher. Clayton Kershaw was impressive on historical levels in 2014 as he finished with an astounding 21-3 record, a 1.77 ERA and 239 strikeouts. Add a rotation that also has Zach Grienke and Hyun-Jin Ryu and the Dodgers will have an impressive 1-2-3 punch of starting pitchers.
     Los Angeles also has playmakers on offense that include outfielder Yasiel Puig (.296 BA Avg, 16 HRs), first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (.276 BA Avg, 27 HRs, 116 RBIs) and outfielder Matt Kemp (.287 BA Avg, 25HRs, 89 RBIs), just to name a few.

GAME 1 PITCHING MATCH-UP (Maybe the best you'll see this postseason!)

STL: Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38 ERA) vs. LAD: Clayton Kershaw (21-3, 1.77 ERA)

PROJECTED BATTING LINEUPS

     CARDINALS                                                                              DODGERS
1.) 3B Matt Carpenter                                                                  1.) 2B Dee Gordon
2.) 2B Kolten Wong                                                                    2.) CF Yasiel Puig
3.) LF Matt Holliday                                                                   3.) 1B Adrian Gonzalez
4.) 1B Matt Adams                                                                      4.) RF Matt Kemp
5.) SS Jhonny Peralta                                                                  5.) SS Hanley Ramirez
6.) C Yadier Molina                                                                    6.) LF Carl Crawford/Andre Ethier
7.) RF Jon Jay                                                                             7.) 3B Juan Uribe
8.) CF Peter Bourjos                                                                   8.) C A.J. Ellis
9.) Starting Cardinals Pitchers                                                     9.) Starting Dodgers Pitchers

Who do YOU think will win and advance to the NLCS? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment @ConnorGlowacki.

AL DIVISIONAL SERIES MATCH-UPS

By: Connor Glowacki

Kansas City Royals vs. Los Angeles Angels
Figure 1. Hosmer batted  .270 with nine home runs in the regular season.
(Courtesy of mlive.com)

     The Royals came back from a 7-3 deficit in the 8th inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics 9-8 in a win or go home playoff on Tuesday night. Led by first baseman Eric Hosmer (3-4 with 2 RBIs), the Royals were able to collect 15 hits against Oakland's pitchers. That included eight runs and six hits against the ace of the Athletics staff, Jon Lester.
Figure 2. Trout led the Angels with 36 home runs this season.
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)
     The Royals now travel to Los Angeles to take on the Angels, who had the best regular season record in all of baseball this season at 98-64. Center fielder Mike Trout and first baseman Albert Pujols will lead the Angels' offense after combining for 64 home runs and a whopping 216 RBIs during the regular season.
     But the big question will be how outfielder Josh Hamilton fits into the batting lineup after missing 21 of the last 22 games. When Hamilton was healthy this season, he had a .263 batting average with just 10 home runs and 44 RBIs. For the Angels to be considered the prohibitive favorite this postseason, Hamilton has to resemble the MVP caliber player that he showcased with the Texas Rangers.

PITCHING MATCH-UP FOR GAME 1

KC: Jason Vargas (11-10, 3.70 ERA) vs. LAA: Jered Weaver (18-9, 3.59 ERA)

PROJECTED BATTING LINEUPS

       ROYALS                                                                          ANGELS
1.) SS Alcides Escobar                                                    1.) RF Kole Calhoun
2.) RF Norichika Aoki                                                     2.) CF Mike Trout
3.) CF Lorenzo Cain                                                        3.) 1B Albert Pujols
4.) 1B Eric Hosmer                                                          4.) 2B Howie Kendrick
5.) DH Billy Butler                                                          5.) SS Erick Aybar
6.) LF Alex Gordon                                                         6.) 3B David Freese
7.) C Salvador Perez                                                        7.) DH Josh Hamilton
8.) 2B Omar Infante                                                         8.) LF Collin Cowgill
9.) 3B Mike Moustakas                                                    9.) C Chris Iannetta


Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles

Figure 3. Scherzer is 3rd in MLB with 252 strikeouts.
(Courtesy of guardianlv.com)
      The Baltimore Orioles accomplished the unthinkable in 2014 by not only winning and clinching the dreaded AL East division, but by winning in such convincing fashion. With a 96-66 record, the O's finished with a 12 game lead over the 2nd place New York Yankees and led the majors in home runs. With sluggers like right fielder Nelson Cruz, center fielder Adam Jones and first baseman Chris Davis, the Orioles knocked away 211 home runs and a .256 combined batting average.
Figure 4. Jones led the O's in batting average this season at .280.
(Courtesy of totalsportslive.com)
     They will face the AL Central division champions Detroit Tigers. LIke the Orioles, Detroit (90-72) are an offensive firepower after finishing 2nd in the majors in runs with 757 and 1st in batting average at .277. Designated hitter Victor Martinez had a monster year finishing with a .335 batting average and 32 home runs. Add in first baseman Miguel Cabrera and second baseman Ian Kinsler and the Tigers have enough offense to match the Orioles.
     The big difference has to be the pitching. Detroit has three former Cy Young award winners in its rotation, consisting of Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander. It will be interesting to see if some of the Orioles' starting pitchers, like Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez, will be able to match up with the Tigers' playoff battle-tested veterans in this series.

PITCHING MATCH-UP FOR GAME 1

DET: Max Scherzer (18-5, 3.15 ERA) vs. BAL: Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34 ERA)


PROJECTED BATTING LINEUPS

        TIGERS                                                                                    ORIOLES
1.) 2B Ian Kinsler                                                                     1.) RF Nick Markakis
2.) RF Torii Hunter                                                                   2.) LF Alejandro De Aza
3.) 1B Miguel Cabrera                                                              3.) CF Adam Jones
4.) DH Victor Martinez                                                            4.) DH Nelson Cruz
5.) LF J.D. Martinez                                                                 5.) 1B Steve Pearce/Chris Davis
6.) C Alex Avila                                                                       6.) SS J.J. Hardy
7.) 3B Nick Castellanos                                                            7.) 3B Ryan Flaherty
8.) CF Rajai Davis                                                                    8.) C Nick Hundley
9.) Andrew Romine                                                                  9.) 2B Jonathan Schoop
       

Who do you think will win these series and advance to the ALCS? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment at @ConnorGlowacki.