Did the Rays pull one over on the Rockies?

Sep 16, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies left fielder Corey Dickerson (6) hits a home run during the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 16, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies left fielder Corey Dickerson (6) hits a home run during the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

When your stadium sits 5,200 feet above sea level, batted balls carry more than usual, breaking balls have a little less break, and nobody wants to pitch there.

This is the largest problem the Colorado Rockies face as a franchise. In a league that values pitching at an increasingly historic rate, see offseason signings of starting pitchers for astronomical dollar amounts, the Rockies have a hard time finding pitchers who can be successful in Coors Field’s dimensions.

In their most recent attempt to correct this issue the Rockies acquired talented relief pitcher Jake McGee and a minor league pitcher German Marquez for outfielder Corey Dickerson and minor league infielder Kevin Padlo.

On the surface, this trade makes plenty of sense. The Tampa Bay Rays needed some firepower for their lineup and had a surplus of pitching, and the Rockies needed young, talented, hard throwing pitchers and had four starting outfielders.

Approaching this trade in this simple matter ignores one huge issue. Dickerson is a much more valuable asset as a baseball player than McGee is.

To start with the obvious, McGee is older than Dickerson, and he becomes a free agent two years before Dickerson does. These extra two years of club control are of the utmost importance for any club, especially for a rebuilding team like the Rockies, or a small market club like the Rays.

McGee instantaneously gives the Rockies a better bullpen, but, does a rebuilding team like the Rockies really need a potential lock-down closer? McGee could prove vital if the Rockies find themselves in contention in 2016 or 2017, however that does not seem to be the most likely scenario for the rebuilding franchise.

It would be more valuable for the Rockies to have four years of an everyday player in Dickerson than two years of a closer like McGee.

Dickerson is also a great hitter, with a career .879 OPS. While this number is certainly inflated by Coors Field being his home ball park, it is still an impressive number.

Before a seemingly season-long battle with plantar fasciitis in 2015, Dickerson appeared to quietly be on the cusp of stardom. In 131 games in 2014 he posted a .312/.364/.931 slash line to go along with 24 HR’s.

The plantar fasciitis issues of 2015 slowed down his production and lowered his trade value, but, going to the AL where he can DH occasionally will help with that issue.

McGee himself could also be seen as an injury risk, as he missed the start of the 2015 season after arthroscopic surgery on his pitching elbow.

The Rockies also received a slight edge on the prospect front, especially considering their desperate need for pitching.

In the 20-year-old Marquez, they received a young, hard-throwing, high upside starter. Something that is of great value to the Rockies considering their problems with developing competent pitching at Coors Field.

In return the Rays received a young third baseman in Padlo. Padlo opened up this season by struggling in Low-A ball. He rebounded nicely, albeit at a lower competition level, with short-season Boise where he posted a .904 OPS in 70 games. At age 19 Padlo has plenty of time to develop into a productive major leaguer.

This edge on the prospect front is not enough to make up for the value difference between Dickerson and McGee. Both of the prospects included in this deal are very young, and have yet to play in the higher minor-league levels, meaning they are more risky prospects.

Although Marquez appears to be the more valuable prospect, there is a possibility he will never be a productive major leaguer. Something that Dickerson has already proven to be.

McGee is a great relief pitcher, something that has more value to a contending team than a rebuilding one like the Rockies. Dickerson is younger, has more years of club control, and could have been a dominant force, especially playing his home games at Coors.

Ultimately the Rockies desperate need for pitching saw them lose a great hitter for a sub-par trade return.

Tank About It

The NBA has a major tanking problem. For those of you who don’t know what tanking is, tanking is purposely losing to help yourself get a better chance at a higher draft pick.

The current system is a lottery system that is majorly flawed. Teams get more balls to draw the worst they are, and they came up with this to try and stop teams from tanking. Do teams really do this? Think about it, or as the 76ers probably say, tank about it.

Nobody will admit it, not the commissioner, front office members or players, but the problem does exist. The Philadelphia 76ers are an abomination and it is almost asinine to call them a professional team. I don’t want to place the blame on just them because there are other teams who do it too but Philadelphia does it more consistently than any other organization.

I’ll also play devil’s advocate and let’s just say they aren’t tanking. Let’s assume they are that bad of an organization. Do you really want to see them play against the best teams in the NBA? I don’t have much interest in watching them and I am sure most basketball fans would agree.

I have a solution to fix tanking and if teams are truly not tanking, this solution is still a way to make even bad teams exciting and it gives them something to really play for.

My solution, that the NBA should adopt, is called promotion and relegation. Soccer fans know what I’m talking about! It works well across the world, in many countries, in the world’s most popular sport. I will use the Premier League and Football League, (two soccer leagues in England), to help understand what promotion and relegation are, and how it would make basketball more exciting while ending tanking.

The Premier League has 20 teams, and if a team finishes in the bottom three of the standings they are relegated to the Football League, which is not as prestigious. The best way to understand the Football League is to look at it like Division II in college sports. In turn to the bottom three teams of the Premier League being sent down, the top three in the Football League are promoted to the Premier League. This punishes the bad teams in the Premier League and rewards the good teams in Football League.

This format gives these players and clubs a reason to play beyond the money they are making. There is no benefit in tanking or having a bad club. The NBA could adopt this format by making the current D-League work in connection the same way the Premier League and Football League work together.

I know you may have questions such as: How would this affect conferences and playoffs? How would it change the NBA draft? Lastly, can it really work? I intend to answer all of these questions you might have.

How does it affect the setup of conferences and playoff formatting?  There is a simple solution to the conference and playoff issues by moving teams from the NBA to the D-League and visa versa every year.

I propose the NBA eliminates conferences all together as there is no need for them. Traveling is no longer an issue like it used to be with all teams having planes. Playoff seeding would just seed the top 16 teams instead of separating them into conferences. This would eliminate sub .500 teams getting in the playoffs in one conference while better teams would get left out just because of conference alignment.

When determining a champion we should never allow a team out just because they are in a different conference. I’m sure basketball fans would drool at the possibility of a Golden State versus San Antonio finals instead of in a conference final. This would make the NBA more exciting and hey maybe we would finally see a 16 seed upset a 1 seed.

How does having two leagues, using promotion and relegation affect the NBA Draft? First thing you do is eliminate the already flawed draft lottery. It was created to prevent tanking but teams still do and a system with promotion and relegation would fix this issue.

I recommend the format the NFL uses and give the highest draft pick to the team with the worst win percentage of both the NBA and D-League. This may also force kids to stay in college longer with the possibility of not being to play in the better division of the NBA for many years.

I say you give a kid a reward if they stay in school. I propose that if a kid stays in school and graduates you don’t force them to enter the draft and instead they come out of college as a free agent and they are allowed to sign with any team they want. I believe this would keep a majority of kids in college, allowing them to develop and be more prepared for when they do enter the NBA.

This would also make the college game better. Imagine Ben Simmons stay in the college game for four years and then coming out ready to sign with any team he wants. I find that possibility absolutely astonishing.

Would this really work? It won’t only work, but it would make the NBA more fun and intriguing. It would give kids a reason to pursue a degree harder, make the college game better and make the NBA from top to bottom more thrilling. This is my solution to fix tanking. I just wish I could speak to Adam Silver to get him to have the owners stop tanking about it, and start thinking about it.

Five Reasons why PSG will win the Champions League

The UEFA Champions League is the greatest club competition every year and pits the power-houses of Europe against each other. This season, the Champions League is stocked with the best teams in the world once again making it hard to pick a champion, but there is one team that stands out above the rest. Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) will win the Champions League because of five reasons.

Angel Di Maria has had a great scoring and passing season for PSG. Picture courtesy espnfc.com.

  1. Their success in French Ligue 1.

PSG is ahead by an unprecedented 21 points in French Ligue 1. They have not lost a game and only have three draws in league play. The French League is by no means an easy league, so their ability to dominate shows that they are a threat to be reckoned with. Because they are already this far ahead in the league, it will allow them to rest players. The fresh players will be used to play in the Champions League, which will help them be at their best for their most important games.

PSG manager Laurent Blanc has led the team to one of the best seasons in recent history. Picture courtesy thesportsbank.net

2. Their draw in the round of 16.

The draw for the Champions League round of 16 was very favorable for PSG. They play Chelsea in the first leg, which is the best draw they could have had. Chelsea has struggled this whole season and is thirteenth in the English Premier League. Jose Mourinho was fired as the manager and the team hasn’t been clicking. PSG will take advantage of Chelsea not being great this season and get to the next leg.

Center-backs Thiago Silva and David Luiz have years of experience and chemistry playing together. Photo courtesy youtube.com.

3. Their Center-Backs.

In French Ligue 1 play PSG has allowed just ten goals in 22 games. Their back line is playing some of the best soccer in the world right now. Thiago Silva and David Luiz are two of the best center-backs in the world and they are paired together. They have experience playing with each other on Brazil’s National Team together as well as last season with PSG. Silva and Luiz have a good chemistry, which is something that is essential on elite back lines. With those two guys in the middle it almost doesn’t matter who they have defending on the outside.

Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp has had a great season for PSG. Photo courtesy bleacherreport.com.

4. Kevin Trapp and Goalkeeping.

PSG has found their goalie in Kevin Trapp. He has posted 12 clean sheets in French Ligue 1 play, which has been helped by the defensive play, but is nonetheless impressive. He is still young, at age 26, which means he can still improve. If Trapp would happen to get hurt or get out of form this season, PSG has Salvatore Sirigu to fill in. He is only 29 years old, but has had an impressive career already. He has lost his starting job to Trapp, but is one of the best backups a team could ask for.

Zlatan is a legend. Photo courtesy youtube.com.

5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Zlatan is one of the premier players in the world. He has 17 goals in French Ligue 1, which leads the league, and is always a threat to score. PSG has other offensive options, meaning opponents can’t key on him, making him even more dangerous. He also passes to these other players extremely well. Zlatan has six assists this season in league play, making him even harder to guard. With Zlatan on the pitch PSG is dangerous to break down any defense in the world.

Hero Remakes: Riki Martin

(Courtesy of dotamods.ovh)

(Courtesy of dotamods.ovh)

One of the least recognized characters in Dota, Riki has been considered a powerful pick only once back in the 6.50s, when his Backstab dealt magic damage, resulting in huge burst with Diffusal, and true sight AoE was generally nerfed. Other than that, he hasn’t seen the light of day much.

In 6.86, his two trademarks, Permanent Invisibility and Backstab are now 1 skill, Blink Strike was turned back to what it used to be, and his ulti is now a whole new spell. . . or is it?

The idea of Cloak and Dagger (don’t mind the cheesy name) was to merge two skills that weren’t exactly powerful into a single ability, allowing Riki to get some better progression; indeed, leveling Backstab first would hurt his very concept of roaming around the map unseen, while leveling Invisibility would diminish his damage. While this sounds pretty good for him at first, note that the two skills’ benefits themselves got nerfed a bit. Backstab deals a little less damage, while Invisibility doesn’t provide the extra HP regeneration.

Blink Strike is again a regular skill without charges, reaching up to a mere 4 second cooldown, which allows him to Backstab more often and chase effectively. However, with his INT base and gain being nothing less that horrible, a few blinks, a smoke and his new active ult can deplete his mana quickly.

Smoke Screen can arguably be called his most dangerous skill in general. It also got nerfed a bit, not slowing turn rates anymore, and a single Force Staff can still counter it.

If you think you’ve heard Tricks of the Trade somewhere before, let me give you a hint:

Sleight of Fist.

Yes, they’re pretty much the same skill with a few alterations.

When Tricks first came out, it could hit creeps as well. This resulted  in obvious Sleight of Fist shenanigans, with Battle Fury and Daedalus, destroying multiple unit pushes, as well as Riki’s concept. Why be an assassin when you can be a terminator? Now, it only hits Heroes.

So, is this new Stealth Assassin (to tell him apart from the infamous Open Assassins) worth our time?

He hasn’t had much luck as a roamer, even with his 2-in-1 skill, mainly because he needs levels and farm to be effective. Grabbing a few kills early at best just doesn’t cut it anymore if the Hero doesn’t stay relevant throughout the whole game, so it’s better to play him as a core.

He’s still countered heavily by True Sight, apparently, and an offlane would also hinder his farm a lot. Since he’s too item-dependant, perhaps his best opportunity would be his old position, as a carry. His lack of direct clash potential made him a questionable carry, unless your opponents were half your skill, or you’d snowballed really hard. That’s where Tricks of the Trade kicks in, as a means to actually be able to somewhat team fight. Is this enough though?

Short version, no, it’s not. Judging if a hero is valid for a role always happens in comparison to other heroes, and the Tricks vs Sleight duel is inevitable. Personally, I see zero reasons to have the former instead of the latter. I’ve played against both, and Ember Spirit can Cleave everything in sight for +80 damage twice in 6 seconds. He also does so faster most of the time. While Riki deals more attacks in a single cast, he really needs to get setup to deal full damage. Also, having lost his ability to damage creeps with this, Ember is definitely more dangerous. People have to push highground in order to win, and that’s the place where Xin shines, while Riki cries alone in the corner.

In the end, our poor satyr still can’t stand up to the beasts of modern age.

Breaking Down The 2016 Pro Bowl

pro bowl

The Pro Bowl is packed with talent yet again. (Photo: nfl.com)

Whether you’re a fan or not, the NFL’s rendition of an all-star game will take place this Sunday at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN.

The Pro Bowl has been criticized crucially in recent years, with lack of effort being put forth by players at the forefront of complaints. Even with threats of the Pro Bowl being cancelled, fans will be tuning in and watching for another year.

For the third year, the NFL will pit two unconferenced teams against one another. Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin have drafted their teams in hopes of coming out on top. Here’s a look at each of the team’s notable players.

Team Irvin

Russell Wilson, QB

Devonta Freeman, RB (captain)

Todd Gurley, RB

A.J. Green, WR

Julio Jones, WR

DeAndre Hopkins, WR

Tyler Eifert, TE

Carlos Dunlap, DE

Ezekiel Ansah, DE

Michael Bennett, DE

Geno Atkins, DT (captain)

Anthony Barr, OLB

Lavonte David, LB

Richard Sherman, CB

Desmond Trufant, CB

Adam Jones, CB

Malcom Jenkins, S

Team Rice

Eli Manning, QB

Adrian Peterson, RB

Doug Martin, RB

Odell Beckham, WR (captain)

Jarvis Landry, WR

Amari Cooper, WR

Travis Kelce, TE

Khalil Mack, DE

Everson Griffen, DE

Cameron Jordan, DE

Aaron Donald, DT (captain)

Tamba Hali, OLB

Julius Peppers, LB

Marcus Peters, CB

Vontae Davis, CB

Eric Berry, S

Charles Woodson, SS

Skimming through the key players appears to give Michael Irvin’s team a clear advantage on offense. They seem to have a better option at every single position when compared to Jerry Rice’s. On the defensive side of the ball, the gap is closed, with Irvin’s team having a slight advantage.

If the quarterback position is in fact the most important on the field, Irvin’s squad should be in good shape. He owns one of the most dynamic signal-callers in the game, while Team Rice owns a one-dimensional quarterback who somehow got selected to another Pro Bowl.

Somehow, Jerry Rice let top of the line receivers get drafted to Michael Irvin’s team, as Team Irvin’s top three wideouts are clearly better than that of Rice’s.

Two aging defensive backs came off their best seasons and found themselves rostered on Michael Irvin’s team. Malcom Jenkins and Adam Jones both had huge seasons, paving way for each player’s first Pro Bowl appearance in their career.

I have in now way any bias towards Michael Irvin, but the fact is that he put together a far superior offense and solid enough defense to make me believe this game is in his team’s hands.

In games like these, defense is not usually the the factor in which team wins or loses. The game will be a shootout, and Team Rice will be unable to keep up. I’m taking Team Irvin to handle Team Rice by a final tally of 48-37.

Will you be watching the Pro Bowl this year, or does the game no longer suit your fancy? Let me know in the forum, or talk to me on twitter (@timmyymiller).

Mocking The Draft V1.0

 

Quarterback Carson Wentz of NDSU is moving up draft boards while at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL. (Photo by: Greg Gabriel, NFPost.com)

Quarterback Carson Wentz of NDSU is moving up draft boards while at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL. (Photo by: Greg Gabriel, NFPost.com)

Alas, it’s time to mock the NFL draft. This is a sacred time for me. Every year around the Pro Bowl, I take a peak into next season. This is partly because the Cincinnati Bengals are always eliminated, but mostly (lie) because I can’t wait to see the new draft class; seriously, though, it’s because the Bengals are out.

With the Bengals preparing for next season, so to will I. This is the week that I look forward before readying myself for the Super Bowl bonanza that is next week. It’s always interesting to do this, and I’ll do it fairly often between now and the first round of the NFL Draft on April 28.

Now, I do my mocks a little differently. With each pick, I’ll select who I believe the team will take and who I think they should take or what they should do, such as trading down. When the combine and pro days roll around, this will likely change things. And trading down is always subject to a team willing to part ways with what they’ll give up to move higher on the draft board. But, it’s just an educated guess. None of us have any real clue what will happen on draft day.

Without further adieu, let’s begin!

1. Tennessee Titans

Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

The Tennesee Titans are in a unique spot. Back at the top of the draft, a familiar place in Nashville, they need to add several key things: offensive line help, a running back, and defensive help all around the back end. So what’s the most sensible solution when they don’t need a franchise quarterback? Trade down. That’s what the Titans must do with the number one pick this season. However, they need to lure a team to do this. With Cleveland sitting right behind them, that’s the biggest quarterback suitor eliminated. The Chargers and Cowboys both could use a quarterback for down the line, but I doubt that’s where we see them go this early. The Jaguars and Ravens are both set at the signal caller position. Continue down the list and nobody fits the bill of giving up a ton to get a quarterback, especially with the uncertainty surrounding this class. No trade works this season. So they address their top need, offensive line. Keeping Marcus Mariota upright is essential to any long-term success for Tennessee.
2. Cleveland Browns

Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

Okay, Carson Wentz? You don’t even know who that is, do you? Well, get to know him. A new rumor has emerged that the Browns are actually digging into Wentz at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL. Under new head coach, Hue Jackson, they’re going to need a new quarterback. Jackson did quite an incredible job with Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, so why couldn’t he do it with another young gunslinger? Jackson brings his guy in and gets a big arm from a talent unknown to most fans. I know, the Browns selecting another quarterback is just rich, but I have faith that Wentz and Jackson can figure it out.
3. San Diego Chargers

Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA

I love Jack. He’s a beast on multiple fronts and one of the most talented players in the draft. A knee injury raises a lot of concerns with Jack. However, we’ve seen freak athletes bounce back and not miss a beat, Todd Gurley leaps off of that page. Jack is a home run pick in San Diego and will become a superstar on their defense alongside Manti Te’o and company.
4. Dallas Cowboys

Jared Goff, QB, Cal

The Cowboys are my first real interesting pick in the draft. They could use a lot of things. However, they don’t need all that much. Health killed 2015, so that’s the biggest concern in 2016. With that in mind, quarterback makes sense here. Not trading up, not missing out. Jared Goff is the top quarterback on my board; the Cowboys should take him. However, I can see them go any number of ways.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars

Jalen Ramsey, CB, FSU

Jacksonville has some nice pieces already in place. They need to add depth and fix the defense. They’ll be getting Dante Fowler back after the rookie injured himself in training camp last season, so that’s a big addition. However, Ramsey helps a weak secondary in a big way. The best player on the board, this is a simple pick to make.

6. Baltimore Ravens

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

The second Rebel off the board early. Treadwell is a star in the making on the outside. Last season the wide receiver depth lacked from the beginning. Injuries compounded the lack of depth. They get a home run threat to add with last year’s first-round pick, Breshad Perriman. The offense could be high flying with a healthy Joe Flacco.

Her list has five names on it

(Courtesy of milliganvick.deviantart.com)

(Courtesy of milliganvick.deviantart.com)

Today, I’m going to talk about one of my favourite Heroes, Mortred the Phantom Assassin.

Mortred’s role seems to be a late game carry with decent lane control and some survivability. Her spammable Stifling Dagger allows her to harass and/or last hit during the early game and chase fleeing Heroes down. Phantom Strike provides a form of initiation paired with some additional attack speed, while it can also be used to escape, if there’s an actual unit to be used on. Her last 2 skills are a lot simpler, as Blur provides evasion from physical attacks and the unique ability to disappear from the minimap when no enemy Heroes are around, while Coup de Grace is a straight-up critical, reaching up to 4.5 times her damage when maxed out.

Her base damage is quite poor, one of the lowest in the game. Her Strength gain is also not something to be proud of, although her base Strength is respectable. Other than that, she has good Armour and Movement Speed, and a good Agility per level.

After this small introduction, let’s get down to business then.

If this Hero seems pretty underwhelming to you, you’re very much right. She’s awful. Terrible. Outrageously weak. She’s so weak, I’d rather try a carry Techies for once.

This by itself wouldn’t be much of a deal, since all heroes have had their ups and downs, but here’s a fun fact: Ever since I personally started playing, namely patch 6.40, every single Hero in the game has been considered at least a decent pick in competitive matches, decent meaning not necessarily first pick/ban material, but a pick you’d rather not let your opponents have for free. Every Hero, EXCEPT for Phantom Assassin.

During 6.82 she had started seeing some play in pugs, but to the surprise of most sentient beings, she received nerfs to her two first levels of Coup de Grace, tossing her back to the abyss of uselessness.

Other than that, despite receiving numerous buffs during the ages, she remains a very, very situational pick. And by situational, I mean when there’s not any opponent Hero that can get MKB and there’s a Magnus on your team. And maybe an Ogre or Veng.

I’ve practically tried every playstyle in the book on her; safelane into AFK farm with Battle Fury, safelane into early fight participation, solo mid, alternate builds, and won a good number of matches, but still felt victory would’ve been easier with another pick.

So, what’s really the problem with her? First of all, her damage output is unreliable, and not that much greater than that of other carries. A full slotted Alchemist can chop enemies to pieces equally fast, just not 15% of the time, but always; a Gyrocopter with Flak Cannon hitting 5 Heroes deals 5 times his damage always, not 15% of the time. The list can go on forever, but I’m sure all of us have jumped on that poor support Lion with our BKBs on expecting to murder him into bloody pieces and, well, he just didn’t die.

Blur is a skill that may sound impressive to newer players only; in fact, it’s one of the easiest to counter. A decent player will simply look directly for PA and not through his minimap, while evasion is completely negated through MKB. This is, I believe, the only case in the entire game in which a skill is rendered totally useless. Even non-MKB-friendly right clickers, such as OD and Silencer, can now have a 40% chance to not miss through Rod of Atos.

Phantom Strike cannot be cast on spell immune units, thus reducing her possible DPS even further. Also, while she’s considered an “Escape” Hero, having a unit nearby to blink on is not a luxury she can always have.

And while Stifling Dagger provides good laning, that extra advantage you gain from it isn’t nearly enough. All those weaknesses make her an expensive Hero, meaning she needs a lot of farm to actually come online.

Being an expensive Hero means that other Heroes can fill her role with less farm. A Juggernaught or Gyrocopter can fight a whole lot better early on, while having more reliable damage later on. Alchemist and Antimage are better farmers. Spectre is omni-present and harder to kill in every sense. Chaos Knight deals 4-5 times his damage with his ult activated, and that’s without any crits. The list goes on and on.

There are plenty of ways to remedy the situation. A remake would perhaps be the wisest choice, or she could simply get a better evasion skill. A risky idea would be to make Blur work like Backtrack used to, so she can go for a hybrid damage+tankiness build and actually be valid.

The problem is, I’m starting to question whether the master Frog actually wishes for the situation to be remedied at all.

Why, you ask?

Phantom Assassin

Base Intelligence increased from 13 + 1 to 15 + 1.4

Till next time boys.

 

What’s going on with Duke?

duke

The Duke Blue Devils are reeling, Courtesy Getty Images

What if I told you that Duke basketball wouldn’t be a top four seed in March Madness? You would probably think I am an idiot and rightfully so if you haven’t been watching college basketball this season. If you have been watching the season, you and me are asking the same question, “What is going on with Duke this year?”

Duke, as of January 28, is 9th in the whole ACC and they have a 15-6 overall record. For most teams that’s ok, but for a storied program like Duke, 15-6 is unacceptable.

It’s not even like all of the losses were against ranked opponents. Out of the six losses, four of them have been against teams that were unranked. Against the only two ranked teams they have played, they have lost by an average of 11 points. This is the first time in over 15 seasons that Duke has lost three straight games to unranked opponents.

If they keep up their losing ways, they could have the most losses in a regular season since the 1996 season, when they went 18-13. After Duke lost their last game against Miami, it is projected that the Blue Devils will not be in the Top 25 in the next rankings. If this projection comes true, this will be the first time the Blue Devils are unranked since the 2007 season.

The Blue Devils losing 7 out of their last 10 games is a little crazy, but they do play Louisville, Virginia, and UNC in the remainder of their schedule. Those 4 teams are all ranked in the top 20. They play both Louisville and UNC twice in those last 10 games. If they lose those 5 games, they will have the most regular season losses since the 2007 season, when they had 10 losses.

With only about three good wins out of conference, if Duke doesn’t get some big wins against some ACC foes, or win the conference tournament there is a good chance the NCAA Tournament could be Duke-less. The Blue Devils have appeared in 20 straight NCAA Tournaments! As long as I had been born the Blue Devils had been in the tourney.

Maybe this young team needs to find its identity, but it might be too late for them to salvage this season. Coach K’s 2016-2017 Duke Blue Devils team has nine freshmen and sophomores on the active roster and only four juniors and seniors. Almost 70% of this team is underclassmen.

Maybe this year is a rebuilding year for the Blue Devils, or maybe they are trying to make a Cinderella run for the title.

Wade Davis is better than Mariano Rivera ever was

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Wade Davis will go down in history, Courtesy mlb.com

The Wade Davis of 2014, 2015, and the future is better than Mariano Rivera ever was, and it’s not that close.

Davis was once viewed as a complimentary piece in the James Shields/Wil Myers trade, and Davis looked like a bust after a horrendous 2013 spent predominately in the starting rotation.

Then, after a full time shift to being the setup man to Greg Holland, Davis morphed into the cyborg he is today. He has turned in two consecutive seasons that are better than any single season Rivera ever had.

Now let’s start with this: Rivera is a future first ballot Hall of Famer, he is the career saves leader, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for his career.

That being said, Rivera’s lowest single season ERA was an impressive 1.38 in 2005. Davis’ ERA over the past two seasons is somehow even more miniscule. In 2014 Davis posted an ERA of 1.00 followed by a 0.94 ERA in 2015.

Rivera’s lowest single season FIP, a measure of fielding independent pitching, 1.88 way back in 1996. Davis posted a FIP of 1.19 in 2014 and 2.29 in 2015.

Rivera’s highest ever K/9 ratio was 10.87, again back in 1996. Davis once again topped Rivera at 13.63 K/9 in 2014. The 10.43 K/9 posted by Davis in 2015 was topped by Rivera in only his 1996 season.

Taking a simple look at these regular season numbers appears to favor Davis. However, it is impossible to mention Rivera without noting his astonishing post season accomplishments.

Rivera’s 0.70 ERA across 141 postseason innings is the most impressive accumulation of postseason relief pitching dominance in baseball history. This longevity of dominance is unmatchable by Davis. Davis has, however, made the most of his postseason opportunities over the past two seasons.

While helping the Royals to back-to-back AL pennants and the 2015 World Series Championship, Davis has allowed 1 earned run over 25 innings, good for a 0.36 ERA. He has also posted 38 SO’s throughout those 25 innings, good for a 13.68 K/9. Davis was also recently named the 2015 Postseason MVP by BBWAA.

While Rivera’s longevity is unmatchable, Davis has managed to match Rivera’s postseason productivity when given the opportunity these past 2 seasons.

Davis is probably not going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer like Mariano Rivera. Davis will never be the MLB career save king. Everyone will remember Rivera’s cutter and postseason dominance long after he is enshrined into the halls of Cooperstown. Davis might be forgotten by non-Royals fans after his career is over.

All of this does not change Davis’ 2014 and 2015 seasons were significantly better than anything Rivera ever did over a similar 2 year stretch.

What we have learned from each team in the NA LCS

(Courtesy of rankedboost.com)

(Courtesy of rankedboost.com)

1) Immortals:
They are for real, they are here to stay, and they might actually become immortals if they have a perfect split

2) NRG:
They are probably the second best team right now. The meta has not been established and the results have shown that they have a good grasp of the meta champions at the micro level. Although, they lost to Immortals, they are definitely a team to watch in the coming weeks.

3) CLG:
I am still very skeptical of their ability to close out games. Their ability to extend leads and force the enemy team to make mistakes and capitalize on them seems to be lacking. Their level 1 and early game strategies seem to be polished. With unconvincing wins against TSM and last place Liquid, I do not know if they are a top three team in NA.
CLG performed the best team-fight that I have seen in a very long time. They did so in the 27th minute against Liquid, showing the potential they have.

4) TIP:
Probably the most surprising team of the first couple of weeks. After winning both games in the second week, we learned a lot from TIP, but it seems that we learned more from the teams they beat, than from TIP.
Their players are highly motivated to be in the position they are in. Which is not what I predicted since they are under a management that was not planning to continue in the LCS. TIP does not look like a last place team, much less than the 0-18 team some people were predicting. It seems like TIP has the best approach to the game, and that is, focus on what you can do now. It seems to have worked in the second week.

5) Dignitas:
With losses against top contenders TSM and NRG, Dignitas seems to be a middle of the pack team. They have good wins against CLG and Renegades. As the season progresses I expect them to do slightly worse than they have been doing because their team does not possess the raw talent that other teams do. When the meta is well-established I expect the more talented teams to improve more.

6)C9:
I think C9 is the team we learned the most from. If you have watched NA LCS for a while now, you have probably figured that Hai is an essential component on that roster. Sneaky once said that without Hai they ran like headless chickens around the map, not knowing what to do. When I first heard it, I thought it was a little excessive, but now I am starting to believe that.
Bunnyfufu is almost undoubtedly a better mechanical player than Hai is. Hai just moved to the support role over the offseason, Bunnyfufu has been playing the role for years. Yet, Hai steps in and they win both games. Whereas, C9 could not get a win against TIP with Bunnyfufu. Maybe C9 fans just have to realize that Hai cannot retire otherwise C9 will get relegated.
It seems that Hai is indeed a world-class shotcaller, or maybe the rest of the C9 members are not on the same page.

7) TSM:
The stacked roster TSM has, did not show up big in the first two weeks. Although they were in control of the game against first-place Immortals, they have not shown that they can play as a cohesive unit. I expect them to improve considerably as they understand the meta better, but so far it has not been the TSM most people expected. I think they will finish third place, but they are not looking like a third place team right now.

8)Renegades:
RF Legendary seems to have too many issues in the top lane. They have put him on all kinds of champions fulfilling different roles, but he has been far from impressive. Although, this roster is definitely not looking to win the LCS, it seems that last place is not where they will end up either.
With losses against TIP and Dignitas, and their only win coming against Liquid, Renegades has had one of the easiest schedules so far. Yet, they have not been able to capitalize on it. Renegades is looking like a last place at the moment. Hopefully Monte can teach them how to rotate around the map and maybe they will not be relegated.

9) Liquid:
The 10 man roster they released before the season started might be useful. With a 1-3 start, coming back from a 12k gold deficit in their last game, it is safe to say that Team Liquid could easily be 0-4 today. Replacements and substitutes must be done immediately in the organization. Since Piglet came into the team, Liquid has never performed like a top-team in North America, if they want to claim such a spot, they better spice things up.

10) Echo Fox:
We learned that forfeiting games typically results in a loss.

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