Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Future of Baseball

     Amid recent allegations of performance enhancing drug use by some of the leagues' best players, it feels necessary to lighten the mood with some talk of the leagues bright young stars. Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, and Yasiel Puig have all taken the league by storm over the past two years, but who is the best of them all? Generally, baseball players are judged on 5 basic fundamentals, or tools. According to various sources, the 5 tools of baseball are: hitting for power, hitting for average, base running, throwing, and fielding.

By the Numbers:

     LF Bryce Harper 6-2 230
Batting: .268/.349/.485  
Baserunning: 24/10/.705  
Fielding: 440/11/.975 13 outfield assists.

    CF Mike Trout 6-2 230
Batting: .313/.387/.543  
Baserunning: 75/9/.893  
Fielding: 668/8/.988 3 outfield assists.

    3B Manny Machado 6-2 180
Batting: .292/.321/.458  
Baserunning: 8/5/.615  
Fielding: 476/11/.977 1 amazing throw.

    RF Yasiel Puig 6-3 245
Batting: .369/.409/.571  
Baserunning: 6/3/.667  
Fielding: 86/3/.965 4 outfield assists.

     Hitting for Power

     Slugging percentage (Total Bases/At Bats) is the best measurement of power hitting. The league average is .400, but each of these players is hitting above that number. Harper, while known for having outstanding power, comes in behind  Yasiel Puig and Mike Trout in his stat, with Machado bringing up the rear.

     However, we have to take into account that Puig has been in the majors for less than 2 months, and Harper is only 20 years old. At this point, Machado does not have the power to hit home runs on a consistent basis, which limits his power. Harper has the weakest line-up around him, so pitchers do not have to give him anything to hit. Mike Trout has Trumbo, Hamilton, and Pujols behind him, which means he gets good looks in every plate appearance. The same goes for Puig, playing with Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, and Adrian Gonzalez.

     The best power hitter out of this bunch has to be Bryce Harper. At his best, Harper commands the plate better than any of these other players. His plate vision is far superior to Puig, and his power is better than the others.

     Hitting for Average

     Batting Average (At Bats/Hits) is the most commonly used statistic in baseball, and quite honestly the most important for all non-pitchers. Mike Trout and Manny Machado seem to be the better players at hitting for average at this point. Yasiel Puig has come back to Earth since his initial burst onto the scene, and is hitting .269 in July as opposed to the earth-shattering .436 that he hit in June.
     Between Trout and Machado, Trout has to be the choice. In each of the past two seasons, Trout has been 2nd in the American League in batting average, only bested by the Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera.

     Base Running

     Stolen Bases/Caught Stealing/Stolen Base Percentage are an underrated aspect of the game, but the main components of base running. often At first glance, all of these players look like outstanding athletes, and possess a considerable amount of speed. Puig is built like a horse and draws comparisons to Bo Jackson, Machado is tall and slim with an athletic build a la a young A-Rod, minus the power. Bryce Harper goes 110 percent every play, and dives into bags headfirst like the great 'Charlie Hustle', Pete Rose. Mike Trout, the shortest and stockiest of the bunch, has become known as somewhat of a speed demon, and is being compared to the Mick.

     However, base-running is not all about speed, it is also about picking and choosing your spots, and running efficiently. Puig and Harper both have reputations as aggressive base-runners, sometimes to a fault, but Mike Trout is far and away the top guy in this category. With 49 stolen bases last year, Trout was the major league leader.


     Assists are the true measurement of an outfielder's ability to throw out advancing runners. Bryce Harper's arm has been heralded since high school, allegedly throwing a 96 mph fastball. Puig's rise has included a number of powerful throws as well, although he has to learn to use the cutoff sometimes. Machado's throw from foul territory is a perfect representation of his ability to unleash the ball, but he does not get enough chances to show off his arm.

     For Trout, throwing is one part of his game that critics mock. Although he is a respectable outfielder, base runners do not fear him the way that they do Harper and Puig. Because of the raw ability that goes along with an outfielder throwing fastballs in the mid 90s, this category has to go to Bryce Harper.


     Fielding is the lost art of Baseball. Routine plays are never noticed, only the spectacular grabs and the errors. Yesterday during the  Mid-Atlantic Sports Network broadcast of the Washington Nationals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game, color commentator F.P Santangelo said it perfectly, "Most major league players can make the spectacular plays, its those that make those plays look easy that are the truly great ones." Harper and this right field wall definitely have some hashing out to do on this topic.

     For Puig, its a different story. Trout has had his share of highlight catches as well, most notably some home-run robbing leaps. Machado's highlight reel extends beyond just the one throw, as he also has this outstanding display of wit. I have to give the edge here to Mike Trout. He has played the most games out of all these players, and has the highest fielding percentage as well.


     This is a tough call, because each of these players brings something different to the game. Bryce Harper is a lefty with tremendous power and a laser rocket arm that balances himself with the plate discipline of a veteran. Yasiel Puig a big righty that takes a hack at every pitch he sees and pushes the limit in every aspect of the game.

     Manny Machado is a double machine that is making a name for himself as a shortstop playing third base. Mike Trout is a bonafied superstar that proved over the past two seasons that he can do it all. Each of these young phenoms is a 5-tool player with the potential to be a Hall-of-Famer when their career is all said and done.

The Decision: Mike Trout. He has flat out been better than the other players to this point, in fact, his numbers are arguably better than anybody in the Major Leagues besides Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis. I expect him to be a League MVP within the next few years, I can't necessarily say the same about these other players.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ranking the NFL Starters: Quarterbacks

     In the National Football League, the Quarterback is widely considered the most important position on the field, and thought to be the natural leader of any team. So, as I start my series on ranking the best players in the league, we start out with the most important player. No team has the ability to be successful in the end without a franchise player behind the center. 

     Throughout history, the elite dynasties of history have all had Hall of Famers playing at the Quarterback position: '60s Packers (Bart Starr), '70s Steelers (Terry Bradshaw), '70s Dolphins (Bob Griese), '80s 49ers (Joe Montana), '90s Cowboys (Troy Aikman), '90s Broncos (John Elway), '00s Patriots (Tom Brady). Each of these teams had at least 3 Super Bowl Appearances and at least 2 Super Bowl wins, and their successes are largely due to the prowess of their field generals. 

     Right now, the NFL is in a golden age of passing. 10 years ago, 4,000 passing yards in a season was an outstanding feat, but nowadays, 5,000 yards has replaced it as the new benchmark as 3 players have done it in the past 2 years. Rookies are carrying their teams to the playoffs, and mediocre players are rising to the competition in the postseason. 

Taking all that into account, these are your quarterback rankings for the 2013-14 NFL season. 

      32. Blaine Gabbert - Jacksonville Jaguars 
In 2 years as an NFL Starter, he has scored only 21 touchdowns and has a passer rating of 70.1. 

      31. Terrelle Pryor - Oakland Raiders 
The highlight of Pryor's NFL Career to this point is entering the supplemental draft after agreeing to stay in college for his senior season. 

      30. Mark Sanchez - New York Jets
 2 words: Butt Fumble.

      29. Christian Ponder - Minnesota Vikings
 A fine starter, but his success last year was largely due to the amazing comeback season of Adrian Peterson. 

      28. Brandon Weeden - Cleveland Browns
 Recieved strong consideration for worst in the league. Turns 30 in October, don't expect him to get any better. 

      27. Jake Locker - Tennessee Titans 
Doesn't seem to be a great passer, but he has above average athleticism. Below average overall, but serviceable as a game manager. 

      26. Ryan Tannehill - Miami Dolphins
 Not a great player, but he gets points for versatility with two years as a college wide receiver and his wife on HBO's HardKnocks

      25. Kevin Kolb - Buffalo Bills
 I don't understand this move at all. Would have been better off with Fitzpatrick, but I expect EJ Manuel to take away his time as the season goes on. 

      24. Michael VickPhiladelphia Eagles 
Arguably the greatest running quarterback of all time. Arguably the least durable quarterback of all time. 

      23. Carson Palmer - Arizona Cardinals 
Hasn't been the same since he met Kimo Von Oelhoffen

      22. Sam Bradford - St. Louis Rams 
Surgically-repaired shoulder. Lost Stephen Jackson. Despite this, they're projected to have a big season. I don't believe in the hype. 

      21. Alex Smith - Kansas City Chiefs
 Bad in San Francisco for years before his breakout season. Expect him to return to form, mediocre.

      20. Josh Freeman - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
Very up and down in his first 4 years. 27-17 TD:Int ratio is respectable, needs to be more consistent. Team has put great players around him on offense and defense.

      19. Tony Romo - Dallas Cowboys 
Epic failure in clutch situations, including one of the worst botches of all time. Otherwise, he is a pro-bowler.

      18. Phillip Rivers - San Diego Chargers
 Suffered from the curse of Norv Turner, expect him to improve this year.

      17. Matthew Stafford - Detroit Lions 
Benefits from having one of the most dominant receivers in NFL History. Expect him to bounce back from last year. 

      16. Jay Cutler - Chicago Bears 
Much better with his bff Brandon Marshall (Start the video at 2:45) on the team. If he can stay healthy, he can lead them to the playoffs. 

      15. Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers 
With great potential, comes great responsibility. More potential than any other player in the NFL. Has to show it more often. 

      14. Andy Dalton - Cincinnatti Bengals 
Underrated. Been to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons, I expect more of the same. Not on that elite level yet. 

      13. Matt Schaub - Houston Texans 
The real challenge comes this year. 2 straight divison titles for the Texans, but in order for him to hold off Luck and the Colts again this year he will have to step his game up. 

      12. Russell Wilson - Seattle Seahawks 
Of the outstanding quarterbacks that burst onto the season, Wilson had the 2nd best supporting cast. Proving himself again will put him in the top 10. Outstanding Playmaker.

      11. Colin Kaepernick - San Francisco 49ers 
Fluky player in my opinion. Gets rave reviews and led his team to the Superbowl  but has most bust potential of young stars of last year. Fans should hope he doesn't leave for the Dolphins.

      10. Robert Griffin III - Washington Redskins 
Could be the best player in the NFL a couple years from now. Knee injury is a cause for concern. If he's healthy, he's unstoppable. Bonafide Superstar

      9. Andrew Luck - Indianapolis Colts 
Improved the Colts' win total by 9 games in his first season with the team, which was done mostly without his head coach. Makes plays when his team needs him. Field General. 

      8. Ben RoethlisbergerPittsburgh Steelers 
Doesn't get the yards & touchdowns of some of the other guys, but his career 92 passer rating and 97 passer rating last year legitimizes him in the ranks of the best. 

      7. Matt Ryan - Atlanta Falcons 
Been great for a long time, but only recently garnered playoff success. Expect him to be in the NFC Championship for years to come. 

      6. Joe Flacco - Baltimore Ravens 
Wacko Flacco has always done more in the postseason than we have suspected of them. This year, I'm expecting big things from this guy. 

      5. Eli Manning - New York Giants 
Can't spell elite without Eli. Bounce back year for the Giants, the receivers will be healthy and ready for a late playoff run.

      4. Drew Brees - New Orleans Saints 
Struggled last year without Sean Payton, but still does things that no other quarterback has ever done. Could break the all-time record for passing yards and touchdowns by the time he hangs up his cleats. Hall of Famer. 

      3. Peyton Manning - Denver Broncos 
One of the most consistent players of all-time. Criticized for lack of playoff success, on multiple occasions,  but I expect him to return as strong as ever this year. Once in a generation player.

      2. Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay Packers 
39:8 TD to Interception ratio was the best in the NFL last season. Discount double check swept over the country the past few years. Has dominated the league for 5 years. Heir Apparent to Brady's crown as the best in the league.

      1. Tom Brady - New England Patriots 
34:8 TD to Interception ratio was just behind Rodgers, but his 4,827 passing yards out threw Rodgers by over 500 yards, evident that he is throwing more than ever to keep his team in the fray. 5 Super Bowl Appearances, 3 Super Bowl Titles. Led his team to the AFC Championship once again last season, but has a long road ahead of him with the injuries to Gronkowski and the murder charges for Aaron Hernandez. The defining moment of his career came in the clutch against the Rams in 2001. One of the Top 5 Greatest Quarterbacks of All-Time.