Blyleven Finally Takes His Place Among his Hall of Fame Peers

Congratulations again to Bert Blyleven, who on Sunday finally takes his rightful place in the Hall of Fame alongside his peers.

Let’s review some reasons why Hall of Famers are Blyleven’s peers:

1. Blyleven Ranks 5th all-time in strikeouts since 1921 (the next 10 all are in the HOF or will be).
2. Blyleven ranks 4th on the all-time shutout list since 1921 (the next 18 are all in the HOF).
3. If Blyleven had played on good teams throughout his career, he probably wins 320+ games and he’s in 15 years ago.
4. Blyleven was one of the greatest post-season pitchers ever.
5. Every series Blyleven pitched in the post-season, he outpitched all the pitchers both on his team and on the opposing team.
6. Blyleven was the best post-season pitcher on 2 WS winning teams.
7. Over Blyleven’s first 10 years in the Majors, he had a better ERA than Nolan Ryan 8 times (Ryan won only a single year, and they tied one year).
8. Blyleven won more games than Jim Palmer, Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson, Robin Roberts and Whitey Ford.
9. Blyleven’s 15 1-0 victories are the most in baseball since 1921.
10. Among the top 60 pitchers with at least 3500 innings, Bert is 5th all time in K/BB.

Bonus Reason: Roysaidit!

Happy Birthday….

As the Mets’ sage named Ralph (Kiner, not Waldo Emerson) once said when announcing a Mets Father’s Day Game: “On Fathers Day, we again wish you all happy birthday.”

The Jose Reyes “Injury-Prone” Myth

Jose Reyes is known to many, including apparently Fred Wilpon, as a guy who gets hurt a lot.  But the facts tell a different story.

Since the age of 21, when most current Major Leaguers were still in the Minors, Reyes has played in at least 133 games in every season, except one (5 out of 6 years). And in a four-year stretch (2005-2008), Reyes missed only 15 games–Total.   This year, Reyes has played in all but 3 games.

True, in 2009, Reyes played only 36 games, but that was the only time since the age of 21 that Reyes played less than 133 games.

Reyes is a lot of things (extremely fast, otherworldly talented albeit undisciplined, an MVP candidate thus far this year, baseball’s best shortstop at the moment), but injury prone is not one of them.

At least the Mets have a sense of humor

“Maybe David [Wright] will be back for [Johan] Santana’s first start”.   Mets GM Sandy Alderson, answering a post-game question about when the injured Mets third baseman may return from a stress fracture in his back.

Ravens’ Player Ray Lewis on Why the NFL Lockout Needs to End

Ray Lewis, to ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio:  “Do this research if we don’t have a season — watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game.”

When asked why, Lewis said: “”There’s nothing else to do Sal.”

Roysaidit Note: After a Super Bowl party on January 31, 2000, a fight involving Ray Lewis resulted in the stabbing deaths of two men, for which Lewis and two others were indicted on murder charges. The charges against Lewis were dropped in exchange for his testimony against his two co-defendants, and Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and admitted giving a misleading statement to police on the morning after the killings.

In 2004, Lewis reached a civil settlement with the families of the two murder victims. 

Replacing Castillo in the Other “Second” Spot on the Mets

Now that the Mets have finally acceded to the constant fan drumbeat to replace Luis Castillo at second base, they need to make perhaps the more important decision of who should replace Luis Castillo as the second hitter in the lineup. Like Castillo or not, the Mets do not currently have any second basemen who represent a clear upgrade from Castillo.  So, aside from pleasing the legions of anti-Castillo Mets fans and signifying that the new management has some leeway to undo the prior administration’s bad decisions, firing Castillo is not anticipated to lead to an immediate improvement at the position (certainly not defensively).

However, the best improvement the Mets could immediately make in the post-Castillo landscape is to think long and hard about who should occupy the second position in the lineup that Castillo so woefully manned last year.

The hope is that GM Sandy Alderson and his performance-based front office will work with new Manager Terry Collins to decide whom to bat second, not based on reputation (as was generally the case for the prior administration), but on how guys are expected to, and actually do, perform.

The vote here is for the 2d batter to be Josh Thole.  Yes, new catcher Thole.  Why?

Did you know that Thole led the Mets in on base average in 2010?  Surely, the guy who reached base more often than any Met last year would be of value in the #2 hole.  In fact, Thole is again leading the Mets in OBP so far this spring.  Granted, it’s only the spring, but Thole is again finding ways to reach base.  Plus Thole is a low-power, high contact guy who does not strike out a lot.

Thole batting second and seeing plenty of pitches would allow Jose Reyes time to steal a base and would give the Mets’ top hitters multiple looks at what the opposing pitcher’s offerings.

Plus, adding a high-OBP, low power guy would extend the Mets lineup, so that power hitters go “deep” into a lineup that might look like this:

 

1. Jose Reyes, SS

2. Josh Thole, C

3. David Wright, 3B

4. Angel Pagan, CF

5. Carlos Beltran, RF

6. Jason Bay, LF

7. Ike Davis, 1B

8. Daniel Murphy, 2B

9. Mike Pelfrey, Pitcher

 

All of a sudden, the Met lineup, although lacking in superstar hitters besides Wright, would go 7 deep, with Ike Davis as one of baseball’s better #7 hitters. Bay, too, could go from overrated cleanup hitter, to one of the league’s top #6 hitters (along with less pressure to perform in that spot). All in all, this lineup (if healthy of course) would have the depth, if not the star talent, to match most offenses in the National League.

Add in a starting rotation that, while currently lacking an ace, may go five deep, and the Mets are on their way to……improvement.

 

 

 

 

 

Super Bowl XLV Prediction: Packer Passing Predominates

The Game: Green Bay Packers v. Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium (sorry, I had to get the Cowboys in here).

Three Keys to The Game:

1.       Pittsburgh’s Achilles Heel is trying to stop top passing games, which is Green Bay’s strength, especially indoors.  Bad matchup for the Steelers.

2.       Pittsburgh is football’s best team against the run, but Green Bay doesn’t have to run to win. Another bad matchup for the Steelers.

3.       Pittsburgh has health issues at the two most important positions against Green Bay: offensive line (Green Bay is the NFC’s top sacking team) and defensive secondary (Green Bay is the NFC’s most efficiently effective passing team). Yet another bad matchup for the Steelers.

Preliminary Matters:

First, think about the irony of the Pittsburgh Steelers playing a Super Bowl in the home stadium of their historic Super Bowl Arch Rivals.  (Most franchises haven’t even been to three Super Bowls.  The Steelers and Cowboys have PLAYED EACH OTHER in three Super Bowls, a record.

Second, think about Brett Favre watching his understudy take the Packers to the Super Bowl.  Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Third, think about what going to a third Super Bowl does for the reputation of Ben Roethlisberger who is in his prime and is likely to go to a 4th, maybe a 5th, entering John Elway territory.

Fourth, think about…. ok, let’s get to the game prediction.

When Green Bay has the ball:

I don’t see Pittsburgh stopping Green Bay’s passing game, unless cheap short artist James Harrison gets at Aaron Rodgers.  Unless the Steelers can eke out a bunch of L…O…N…G… drives, it could be a LONG day for Pittsburgh’s possibly still-recovering defensive backs Troy Polamalu and Bryant McFadden.  The Steeler secondary was not exposed while facing the Ravens and Jets, two teams without dominating passing games, and in fact Polamalu’s Pals have not faced a top passing team in months, while pressuring opposing QBs into oblivion.  However, the last two times Pittsburgh faced high-octane passing offenses, New Orleans and New England in the late fall, Pittsburgh lost both times and gave up gaudy passing yards.  Plus, like those two teams, Green Bay does not have to run to win.   That neutralizes the strength of Pittsburgh’s defense: crushing the opposing team’s rushing game, which ultimately led to defeating Baltimore and the Jets, two teams that rely heavily on the run to control clock. Meanwhile, GB merely runs to keep DBs honest, so Pitt could crush the run and still lose by 10 via Rodgers’ aerial assault. And more bad news for the Steelers, who prefer the nasty outdoors winter weather:  When Green Bay plays indoors, their top passing game gets even better, as top-seed Atlanta found out in the playoffs.

Takeaway Lesson:  Aaron Rodgers has all the capability and weapons that Drew Brees and Tom Brady had when they beat Pittsburgh earlier this year. If Rodgers has time, or is able to get outside the pocket and throw, GB is likely to score into the 30s.

When Pittsburgh has the ball:

Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger is the third Pittsburgh Steeler QB  to guide the team into the Super Bowl, and he may well be the greatest Steeler QB ever.  Plus he can spell cat without help.  Although Roethlisberger has not been as spectacular through the air as Aaron Rodgers has been in Rodgers’ briefer post-season career, Big Ben has been impressive in protecting the football, rarely throwing a post-season interception.   Between Roethlisberger’s passing judiciousness and the Steelers’ excellent defense, the Steelers have not had to take chances to win postseason games.    However, that should change on this Super Bowl Sunday.

It is likely that Green Bay will successfully throw early and often, putting points up on the board and forcing Pittsburgh to compete in a high-scoring game, which goes against their strengths as a tough-defensive minded team with a tough QB.  Roethlisberger will have to take chances downfield.  He may find some early success as the Steelers do have some terrific young speedy receivers, and a great route runner and blocker in Hines Ward. But that also increases the chances of turnovers, which are a concern because of Green Bay’s excellent defensive speed plus a few ball hawks (and even an AJ Hawk), who would love to turn the ball the other way, in the fashion of newly inducted HOFer Deion Sanders, who (with all due respect to today’s top guy Darrelle Revis) is the best CB I have ever seen play, and who Steeler fans know well from Dallas’ 1996 Super Bowl victory over the Steelers. But I digress (let’s blame Dallas hosting this game).

The Steelers offense will be able to put up some points, since Green Bay’s defense is no better than the Ravens and Jets defenses that Pittsburgh already beat in the playoffs.  However, Pittsburgh will need more points in this game.

Green Bay 33  (Aaron Rodgers 330 Yards; Greg Jennings 130 yards, Jordy Nelson two TDs, Starks 50 yards, Woodson INT)

Pittsburgh 23 (Roethlisberger 250 yards; Ward/Wallace TDs, Mendenhall 112 yards, Defensive Safety).

Baseball Break

Time for a break from football to ask: What is up with SI Writer Jon Heyman?

Heyman has for years touted Jack Morris and recently has hyped Andy Pettitte for the Hall of Fame, yet for 14 years consistently voted against Bert Blyleven, a demonstrably better pitcher than those two (plus of course Nolan Ryan, whom Heyman also voted for).   Heyman even mocked Blyleven and those who support him because they dare to go beyond pure Win-Loss records when comparing pitchers.

One little piece of information for Heyman and other Blyleven detractors who avoid the facts.  Bert Blyleven’s rookie season was 1970, about the time Nolan Ryan was becoming a full-time starter.  Over the next 10 years, Blyleven had a better ERA 8 times, compared to Ryan’s 1 time (they tied once).   This, by the way, included all of Ryan’s record-setting strikeout seasons.  In other words, year after year, while Ryan was setting strikeout records, Bert Blyleven was outpitching him.

Pettitte’s supporters cannot show a decade’s worth of dominance over a current or future Hall of Famer. Yet guys like Heyman, now having lost the cause of keeping Blyleven out of the Hall of Fame, are going to try to get Pettitte in, all based on wins-losses, the most archaic way of measuring pitching performances.  Yikes.

NFL Conference Championship Game Predictions

Green Bay at Chicago:

Green Bay remains the best team in football.  All-World QB Aaron Rodgers has the offense firing on all cylinders and, unless Chicago can get in his face all day, he should be finding the open receivers vs. Chicago’s secondary, cold weather or no cold weather.   Chicago’s secondary can focus in only on a few of Rodgers’ top targets, so this is an opportunity to shine for lesser-known guys like James Jones.

Meanwhile, Green Bay’s defense may have its toughest defensive test yet, with gunslinger Jay Cutler looking forward to lofting long passes all over the field, as offensive guru Mike Martz faces off against Green Bay’s star studded defense guided by coach Dom Capers.  Green Bay needs to pressure Cutler into mistakes, which they should be able to do, with Clay Matthews leading the charge.  And it is unlikely that Chicago will be able to run enough to keep Green Bay’s playmakers honest.   Charles Woodson will be looking for a piece of one of Cutler’s passes.  Plus, strategy aside, wouldn’t it be nice for someone to interview Brett Favre to see how he feels about Green Bay in the Super Bowl without him?  Green Bay 30-24.

Jets at Pittsburgh

To save space, it’s tempting to simply say that the Jets are not likely to win at Pittsburgh.  Then again, how likely were they to win at Indianapolis and New England this year?  So can Pittsburgh do what the Colts and the Patriots could not?  It’s also tempting to say that Sanchez cannot compete in a big game with Big Ben (Roethlisberger).  Of course, Sanchez just went toe-to-toe with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and came out on top.

So, what will happen on Sunday?  Well one thing is easy to predict: Rex Ryan will have a lot to say afterward.  But that’s like saying the Yankees will have a large payroll next year.

When the Jets have the ball, one key is whether Pittsburgh is going to have to worry about the Jets running the ball.  In the Jets first two playoff games this year, they averaged 145 yards on the ground per game.  If the Jets put up anything near that, Pittsburgh is in trouble.  Pittsburgh needs to stop the Jets run so they can commit resources to their beat-up secondary.    Pittsburgh needs to either pressure Sanchez into mistakes or cover the Jets’ multiple WR threats, especially in light of the injuries to all-world safety Troy Polamalu and CB Bryant McFadden.   Pittsburgh can do that if they stuff the run better than Indy and NE were able to.  They should because their linebackers are far superior to what the Jets have faced thus far in the playoffs.  When the Jets played Pittsburgh during the season, the Jetskis ran for 106, but Polamalu did not play in the game. That said, Polamalu’s been fighting an Achilles problem and how well he is able to contribute to stopping the run will have a huge effect on whether the Jets have to change their game plan.  Also, Sanchez will have a much easier time passing if McFadden remains impaired by injury.

When Pittsburgh has the ball, they, too, will want to establish a running game.  In fact, when the two teams faced off in the regular season, Pittsburgh ran very well and put up many more yards than the Jets overall , but a Brad Smith kick return for a touchdown both set the tone to start the scoring and provided the eventual margin of victory for the Jets.   Yet Pittsburgh could not run the ball against Baltimore and were on their way to likely defeat until Baltimore fumbled the ball—and the game–away.  So Pittsburgh will look to re-establish its running game and then open up long passing lanes for Roethlisberger and his speedy downfield receivers.

One key to that passing game will be which receiver the Jets select to take out of the game by having all-world CB Darrelle Revis cover them.   Will he cover the steady veteran (and, according to the Jets, “cheap shot artist”) Hines Ward?  Or will he take out speedy young star Mike Wallace to cut down the deep threat. But that may not affect Big Ben, who can make use of secondary targets like he did at the end of the Baltimore game.  Plus this is a great opportunity to get into the action big tight end Heath Miller, who also missed the prior Jet matchup.

Pittsburgh should be able to run the ball like they did in the first matchup and stop the Jets from running. If so, it should be Big Ben v. Sanchez downfield and this time.  And unless the Jets get Polamalu out of the game, that kind of run and gun game favors Pittsburgh, since they, unlike New England and the Colts, should put up a multi-dimensional attack.  Pittsburgh 27, Jets 21.

NFL Playoffs, Week 2

Seattle at Chicago

Lightning rarely strikes twice, and usually not on the road.   Seattle needs this game to get to .500, but Chicago needs this game for respect.  Cutler’s always a wildcard, but, come on, Seattle in the NFC Championship?  Chicago 27-20.

Green Bay at Atlanta

Green Bay may be the best team in football right now.   Winning at Atlanta may well be easier than winning at Philly:  The indoor conditions actually favors Rodgers, and Atlanta is beset by injuries.  Green Bay’s defense is stout and they may have found a running game to slow Atlanta’s D.  Green Bay 27 –  17

Baltimore at Pittsburgh

Too bad both Ray Lewis and Ben Roethlisberger cannot both lose.  But this is all about picking winners, not picking on losers.   Two very similar teams who rely on defense, strong running games, a ferocious big-play defensive back and low-mistake offenses.   Home field advantage rules the day.  Pittsburgh 20-13

Jets at New England

Bad matchup and bad timing for the Jets.  Revis can take out any one wide receiver, but New England’s offense is based on not needing any one guy (e.g., they don’t miss Randy Moss). But the Jets should bring back Eric Mangenius, the only guy who seems to have Belicheck’s number the last few years.

Plus the Patriots defense may not be as forgiving of the probably-injury-related high throws from Mark Sanchez.

Unless the Jets find a way to get to Brady, and eat up chunks of yards and time on the ground, this could be a long day for Cromartie and the safeties, although nothing like the 45-3 loss.

Rex’s biggest problem is that the Jets are terrific when they have a chip on their shoulder but underperform when they get too high on themselves. How else to explain things like losing to Miami, but beating Pittsburgh on the road?  The offseason will provide plenty of time for Rex to moderate.  New England 33-17.

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