three times pitchers went deep

Three times pitchers went deep in the World Series

Pitchers hitting home runs is something we don’t see a great deal of these days. One of the greatest plays that fans could ever hope to witness during a game is dying out. Being that we rarely talk about pitchers hitting the long ball, here are three times pitchers went deep in the World Series.

Home runs by a pitcher in the World Series is a feat that has been accomplished on 15 occasions in MLB history, by 13 players. Here are three such notable instances.

Where have all the homers gone?

Hitting a home run is the epitome of a pitcher helping his own cause. Before 1973 and the advent of the designated hitter, pitchers of both leagues were expected to hit for themselves. It’s no great coincidence that home runs by a pitcher would be more of a common occurrence in those days.

three times pitchers went deep

Warren Spahn, a veteran of 21 MLB seasons, was no stranger to knocking a few out of the park himself. (Photo Courtesy of: Atlanta Braves)

Take Warren Spahn for example. In his 21 seasons of big league ball, he went deep an astounding 35 times, good enough for third place all-time for a pitcher. Spahn, the Braves’ left-handed ace, sits behind leader Wes Ferrell’s 38 and Bob Lemon’s 37. Remarkably though, Spahn does hold the record for number of seasons (17) with a home run as a pitcher.

Pitchers certainly don’t clear the fence in 2017 at the rate they used to in those bygone eras. Admittedly, this downward trend in homers is relative to the sample size, meaning pitchers just don’t hit as often as they used to.

There is still one pitcher who hits his share of taters, and his name is Madison Bumgarner. In his nine seasons taking the hill for San Francisco, he’s also added 17 career homers to back his excellent pitching efforts. Bumgarner might not have had the 2017 season that many envisioned for him, but he became the first pitcher in MLB history to smash a pair of homers on opening day.

Bumgarner is the exception to the rule these days however. There are few pitchers going right now who even look like they have a clue at the dish. What’s more is that a lot of pitchers aren’t getting the at-bats they once did either.

With many rotations now going to the bullpens earlier and with greater frequency than ever before, the home run by a pitcher is only going to become rarer. This begs the question: is the designated hitter coming to the National League soon?

Three times pitchers went deep

Jack Bentley, 1924 World Series

New York Giants vs. Washington Senators (Game 5) off Walter Johnson

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Bentley’s homer in 1924 isn’t merely the fact he went deep. It’s noteworthy anytime a pitcher does a little yard work. To Bentley’s credit though, he’s the only pitcher to ever homer off Walter Johnson in October. This is a monumental feat no matter which way you slice it.

three times pitchers went deep

Dave McNally (left) is photographed with teammate and baseball Hall of Famer, Jim Palmer. (Photo courtesy of: classickicks.com)

In the fifth inning of Game 5 in 1924’s World Series, the Giants and Senators found themselves knotted at one apiece. Heading to the home half of the inning with both pitchers throwing well, nobody in the Polo Grounds that day could have expected what happened next.

Walter Johnson, the hard-throwing 1924 pitching triple crown winner, awaited Jack Bentley’s presence in the batter’s box. He was most likely thinking Bentley would be an easy out. He was dead wrong.

The Giants lefthander did the unthinkable. Bentley banished Johnson’s offering to the right field seats, breaking the one-run deadlock in Game 5 and powering the Giants to a 6-2 win.

This remarkable homer was not a sign of good things to come though. Washington would ultimately prevail in the series four games to three with Johnson picking up the deciding win.

Though Johnson and his Senators teammates had the last laugh, Bentley walked away with a unique bragging right no other pitcher could ever contend with.

Dave McNally, 1970 World Series

Baltimore Orioles vs. Cincinnati Reds (Game 3) off Wayne Granger

Unlike Jack Bentley before him, Dave McNally had the good fortune to both homer and walk away a champion. In 1970, the Orioles were baseball’s best team, finishing the season with a record of 108-54. Dave McNally, was one of their best pitchers.

McNally finished second in Cy Young voting in 1970, posting a league leading 24 wins.

While putting up an impressive showing in 1970, McNally also has the distinction of being one of two pitchers (Bob Gibson) with multiple World Series homers. He accomplished this in both 1969’s ill-fated matchup with the Miracle Mets and 1970’s dismantling of Cincinnati’s not-yet-completed Red Machine.

McNally’s home run in the 1970 World Series is special because it’s the only grand slam by a pitcher in the postseason. Not just the World Series, but in the entirety of MLB’s postseason.

Baltimore’s McNally started Game 3 matched by the Reds’ Tony Cloninger. In fine fashion and like he did all year, McNally pitched all nine frames, scattering nine hits and three runs. In the sixth inning with the bases jacked, McNally sent a deep drive to left field and unjacked the bases. All it took was one mighty swing of that solid ash bat.

Baltimore won Game 3 after McNally kicked the door wide open in the sixth by a score of 9-3. Ending the year on a high note, Baltimore went on to win the World Series against Cincinnati in five games. Their first ever championship.

Joe Blanton, 2008 World Series

Joe Blanton turns on an inside heater from Edwin Jackson for a solo home run. (Photo courtesy of: Boston.com)

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Tampa Bay Rays (Game 4) off Edwin Jackson

Joe Blanton’s 2008 homer isn’t the flashiest of home runs, nor was it hit by the flashiest of players. It stands out for another reason. It currently stands as the last occurrence of a pitcher going yard on the biggest stage in the sport.

Prior to Blanton, Oakland’s Ken Holtzman was the last player to homer in a World Series. He did so in 1974 and still remains the last American League pitcher to accomplish the feat.

There is nothing that will get the crowd on its feet faster than watching the pitcher go yard. Especially in a World Series game.

The Phillies faithful watched as that day’s starter, Joe Blanton, came to the plate with a 5-2 lead. With nobody on and two out, Edwin Jackson uncorked a fastball over the inner half of the plate. Blanton attacked with authority, launching a deep drive to left-center field for the 6-2 lead.

For the Rays, their fate was all but sealed. Coming in to Game 4, they were already behind the proverbial 8-ball, trailing the series two games to one. After the dust settled and the final outs were recorded in Philadelphia that night, the Rays found themselves 10-2 losers in Game 4.

For any team in the World Series, being down three games to one is like the kiss of death. Amazingly, 35 teams in history have held this lead in the World Series. In only six instances though, did the trailing team come back to win the series. The Rays were not one of those six.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Deadspin.com)

 

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Arizona Fall League

Arizona Fall League 2017: Youngest Stars

 

The Arizona Fall League is a rite of passage for the very best of the best MLB prospects. Especially for those “kids” down on the farm.

This veritable “proving ground” for major league talent is one of the true gems of the prospect-to-pro pipeline. Every year, each of the 30 teams that make up Major League Baseball send a handful of their brightest up and comers to the desert for closer inspection versus a higher standard of opponent. So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to the youngest stars of the Arizona Fall League. You may not know them now, but you soon will!

 

Glendale Desert Dogs

Feeder Clubs: White Sox, Indians, Dodgers, Phillies, Pirates

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Mitch Keller, Age 21

Parent Club: Pittsburgh Pirates

2017 Finishing Level: Altoona Curve (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Mitch Keller has moved three levels in two seasons in the Pirates organization. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

The No. 6 RHP prospect in baseball, Mitch Keller, will be turning out for Glendale this fall in Arizona. He boasts above average control as well as three projectable major league pitches in his fastball, curveball and changeup. Keller spent most his time this season (15 games) taking the hill for the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League. Over 15 starts he struck out over three batters for every one that he walked. His numbers only improved after getting called up to (AA) Altoona for his final six starts. Keller uses a blistering fastball that sits low-to-mid-90s with nasty sinking action, and above average 11-5 curve to make hitters look foolish.

Promoted to (AA) Altoona to finish out the season, this 21-year-old is mature beyond his years. Judging by the caliber of his well-advanced arsenal of three plus-pitches, this kid should continue rising through the Pirates system at break neck speed. Thus far, Keller has done all that’s been asked of him at every level and he will be looking to impress again in Arizona. For 2018, Keller should be start the season with (AA) Altoona, but he may not be there long. Should this young man continue to miss an epic number of bats at (AA) level, I would expect Keller to end 2018 in (AAA). He’s getting close Pirates fans!

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Cornelius Randolph, Age 20

Parent Club: Philadelphia Phillies

2017 Finishing Level: Clearwater Thrashers (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Randolph, age 20, will be looking to develop his fielding skills even further this fall in Arizona. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Phillies left fielding prospect Cornelius Randolph is not the biggest of players. What Randolph lacks in size however, he makes up with a good eye at the plate working a (.338) OBP in 122 games at (Advanced A) Clearwater. Randolph is a converted infielder who worked tirelessly in 2017 to improve his fielding ability in left field. Because his focus was on improving as a defender, his batting metrics may have taken a hit, yet he still posted a respectable (.250/.338/.402) for the season.

The key to Randolph making the majors is his bat, without question. Many scouts believe his average defensive ability will be overshadowed by a bat that wants to hit, and hit a ton. Touted as the best pure high school hitter in the 2015 MLB Draft, Randolph has done little to disappoint. His 2016 was largely a throwaway season while he battled injuries that kept him from really capitalizing on an inspiring 2015. However, in his latest campaign he mashed his way to a tie for fifth most homers in the Florida State League.

Considering the tender age of the  Phillies’ No. 12 prospect, it is not likely that he will be rushed up the ladder. He could possibly open the season at (AA) Reading depending on how the Phillies see him defensively. He already has a bat good enough for the level.

 

 

Peoria Javelinas

Feeder Clubs: Braves, Red Sox, Padres, Mariners, Blue Jays

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Andres Munoz, Age 18

Parent Club: San Diego Padres

2017 Finishing Level: Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Do not be fooled by the baby-faced Andres Munoz, he wants nothing more than to blow you away with the heater. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Born in 1999, Munoz is easily the youngest player headed to the Arizona Fall League this October. At just 18 years of age, striking out hitters is not the issue for Munoz. No, hitting the strike zone consistently is. Blessed with electric stuff well beyond what is expect from a teenager, he has had a heck of a time reigning in his pitches and throwing consistent strikes. At 18 though, time is smiling on this young hurler.

With a clean easy motion to the plate, Munoz just needs to find his rhythm and learn to repeat his delivery time after time. Munoz has easy gas, with his fastball exploding out of his hand toward the plate with seemingly little effort. If this kid can iron out the kinks in his game, he could become a dominant pitcher in the majors sooner than later. Munoz is the youngest player on any Arizona Fall League roster in 2017 and after watching him throw you can understand why he’s there. Expect Andres to be toeing the rubber for (Low A) Fort Wayne in the Midwest League come spring 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Ronald Acuna, Age 19

Parent Club: Atlanta Braves

2017 Finishing Level: Gwinnett Braves (AAA)

 

Arizona Fall League

If you don’t yet know about Ronald Acuna, you will very soon. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Oh, hot dog! Do I even need to talk about Acuna? I mean, really? Everyone knows this guy by now, right? Look, just the fact he’s on this list should have pitchers everywhere soiling themselves.

Ok, so considering that many of the top ten prospects have mostly graduated to the big leagues (that were ahead of Acuna), this kid should be at the top of the heap come 2018. The No. 5 prospect in all of baseball did everything in his power to make the jump to the majors in 2017. At 19 years of age and with his parent club struggling to win games, the Braves decided to halt his progression at (AAA) Gwinnett. It was a smart move, especially if you regularly attend Gwinnett Braves games. All he did there in 54 games is put up an insane (.344/.393/.548) line, sending baseballs into orbit at a regular pace.

Acuna is just latest Venezuelan to take MLB by storm, well the minors anyway. Acuna’s measurables are out of sight. This is a true 5-tool player by every sense of the word with his blazing speed, howitzer arm, and big bat. Exciting times are afoot in Hot-lanta folks! I mean, this kid did nothing but perform at each level he was at this year. What’s more is that his numbers improved at every stop along the way. Next stop for Acuna in 2018? The Show.

 

 

Scottsdale Scorpions

Feeder Clubs: Reds, Angels, Yankees, Mets, Giants

 

Youngest Pitcher: LHP Justus Sheffield, Age 21

Parent Club: New York Yankees

2017 Finishing Level: Trenton Thunder (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Justus Sheffield is not related to Gary Sheffield. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

The first of two LHP on the list of youngest Arizona Fall League stars, Justus Sheffield is also the No. 6 rated prospect down on the farm. Sheffield is another fireballer on this list that can reach back and grab a 96-mph comet, but will usually sit around the 92-93 mph range. Boasting a curbeball and changeup that are projectable big league pitches, the short in stature Sheffield is certainly long on talent. However, he does have work to do in Arizona. This future Yankee needs to learn to consistently get his above average repertoire over the plate for strikes. If he can master his control, the sky’s the limit for Justus.

Sheffield spent the bulk of 2017 in (AA) with the Trenton Thunder except for two rehab starts in (A) ball. In 17 starts for Trenton, the young hurler went 7-6 with a 3.18 ERA over 93.1 innings of ball. His strike out tally is fantastic at 82, and his walks, while still at 3.1 BB/9, have come down dramatically from seasons past. If Sheffield continues to progress, he should arrive in the majors before the turn of the next decade. For now though, he’ll most likely break camp as a member of the (AAA) rotation in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Estevan Florial, Age 19

Parent Club: New York Yankees

2017 Finishing Level: Tampa Yankees (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Estevan Florial may strike out a ton, but he’ll happily take you yard in return. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Florial is an intriguing 19-year-old signed from the island nation of Haiti in 2015. This kid could be the center fielder of the future for New York, and it might not be much longer before he stakes his claim to a position once held by Mantle and DiMaggio. Now, this isn’t to say Estevan Florial is in the same mold as those two legendary players, but his talent is undeniable.

At the plate Florial seemingly has all the tools to be an excellent major leaguer. He’s fast, he’s got pop, and he’s not afraid to take a walk. In his first season of Class A baseball, Florial posted a (.298/.372/.479) line across both high and lower levels. While his sample size from (Advanced A) is small at only 19 games, he sported an (.855) OPS over 91 games for (Low A) Charleston. He has some holes in his swing and does whiff a lot, but he also walks a lot (once every 8.4 AB) suggesting that, as he develops, the K’s will come down. At any rate, this young slugging center fielder is poised to start 2018 at (AA) Trenton. Only time will tell if he can grasp the strike zone better as he gets a little older.

 

 

Mesa Solar Sox

Feeder Clubs: Cubs, Tigers, Astros, Athletics, Nationals

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Nolan Blackwood, Age 22

Parent Club: Oakland Athletics

2017 Finishing Level: Stockton Ports (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Nolan Blackwood shuts the light off when he leaves. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Nolan Blackwood is a stopper. I mean, this kid can slam a door. Unlike most of the other pitchers on this list, Blackwood is one thing, a harbinger of death to your team’s chances to win. The 2016 14th round draft selection out of Memphis has a scary frame at 6-foot-5 with plenty of room left to fill it out. Oakland always seems to have a top-notch pitcher or two working their way through the farm, and Blackwood is no exception.

Blackwood spent all of 2017 in (Advanced A) ball, shutting down games for the Stockton Ports. Sure, he had a 1-5 record. Sure, he had a 3.00 ERA, but it’s what he did with the game on the line that matters most. In 20 chances to turn out the lights on the opposition, he did so successfully 19 times. As he learns more and puts on more lean muscle, his K/9 should reflect that, although his 7.58 K/9 in 2017 are nothing to sneeze at. Neither is his 1.05 WHIP. Blackwood is slated to begin 2018 at (AA) Midland, in the Texas League.

 

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: 1B/LF Yordan Alvarez, Age 20

Parent Club: Houston Astros

2017 Finishing Level: Buies Creek Astros (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Yordan Alvarez, monstrous young left-handed hitter with jaw dropping pop. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Yordan Alvarez arrived in the Houston farm system via trade with the Dodgers in 2016. Alvarez is a slugger that translates to either left field or first base. While not exceptional with the leather, Alvarez does possess a very good arm in the field. He has been playing in left for much of 2017, but in the Arizona Fall League, he’s penciled in to man first base. At 6-foot-5 225 lbs. the left-handed slugger seems to be destined to play first in the majors.

Alvarez, Houston’s No. 26 ranked prospect has explosive raw power at the plate as shown by his first 32 games at the (Low A) level. Playing for the Quad Cities River Bandits, he mashed (.360/.468/.658) over 111 AB. With nothing left to prove, Houston promoted him to (Advanced A) Buies Creek where his numbers came back to earth with the step up in pitching. Despite only being 20 years old, Alvarez still managed to hack out a (.277/.329/.393) line. Not bad for a player as young as Yordan. Look for Alvarez to be back in the lineup for the Buies Creek Astros at the start of the 2018 campaign.

 

 

Salt River Rafters

Feeder Clubs: Diamondbacks, Orioles, Rockies, Marlins, Brewers

 

Youngest Pitcher: LHP Keegan Akin, Age 22

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles

2017 Finishing Level: Frederick Keys (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

“If you blink, you will miss it.” Is what the baseball cornfield gods say about Akin’s heater. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Keegan Akin is one half of Baltimore’s contribution to the youngest players in the Arizona Fall League. Ryan Mountcastle is the other, but more on him in just a minute.

Akin is a LHP blessed with a fastball that looks more like a vapor trail than it does a ball. The 22-year-old was a second-round pick by Baltimore in 2016 and is coming off his first full professional season at (Advanced A) Frederick. While his numbers might not jump off the page at you right away, there is still a lot to look at. First and foremost being his beastly 10 K/9 stuff. His electric fastball lit up opposing batters while his slider and changeup are both major league projectable pitches. Known for his ability to get nasty, he peppers the strike zone with ease leaving little doubts that the Orioles see him as a starting pitcher for the future.

Baltimore’s No. 8 ranked prospect is not far off getting the call to the show if he continues to improve his secondary pitches. His inability to fully harness his secondary stuff led to a 4.1 BB/9 rate, but as he learns how to pitch to better hitters his walk totals should begin to come back to earth. Orioles fans should be anxiously awaiting the arrival of this left-handed cannon. What level Akin might start at in 2018 is anyone’s guess, it could depend on how he does in the Arizona Fall League. Frederick or (AA) Bowie are his likely landing spots after camp breaks in March 2018.

 

Youngest Position Player: 2B Ryan Mountcastle, Age 20

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles

2017 Finishing Level: Bowie Bay Sox (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Baltimore’s 2015 first-round pick, Ryan Mountcastle, has had a meteoric rise through the minors so far. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Mountcastle is currently the No. 3 prospect in Baltimore’s farm system. At the moment, Baltimore is still holding out hope that this young man can overcome his below average arm strength and stick at short stop. While questions remain about Mountcastle in the field, there are little doubts in the scouting community that he will hit for both power and average at the big-league level. Ryan is a tall prospect with room left on his frame for further growth. And that is scary news for American League pitchers.

In 88 games of (Advanced A) baseball he posted an impressive (.314/.343/.542) line, while smashing 15 round trippers along the way. It was precisely this type of production that ultimately won him promotion to (AA) Bowie, finishing the season against much older competition. Though Mountcastle struggled to come to terms with Double-A pitching in his first 39 games for the Bay Sox (.222/.239/.366), he will almost certainly start 2018 there. This kid is truly one for the future. Get out there to the Arizona Fall League games and take a peek.

 

 

 

Surprise Saguaros

Feeder Clubs: Royals, Twins, Cardinals, Rays, Rangers

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Jordan Hicks, Age 21

Parent Club: St. Louis Cardinals

2017 Finishing Level: Springfield Cardinals (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League 2017

Hicks has eye popping velocity, and a heavy sinking action on his fastball. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

At just 21, Jordan Hicks already has a fastball that would likely leave an exit hole the size of Pluto if it hit you.On top of a fastball that sits in the lower 90’s (but can ramp up to 98 mph), this young fireballer also has an above average curveball that has a chance to be a plus pitch for him in the bigs. Jordan started 2017 with the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League taking the mound in 14 games and posting a healthy 8-2 record while fanning 63 batters along the way.

He has some control issues to sort out, but upon his promotion to (Advanced A) Palm Beach he saw his BB/9 shrink from (4.5) in Peoria to a respectable (2) in his first 27 innings of Florida State League ball. Though the sample is small, this youngster seems to have found another gear with his step up in competition. The Card’s No. 14 prospect posted 32 strike outs and only 21 hits in eight appearances at the (Advanced A) level. On the back of that performance the Cardinals promoted young Jordan to (AA) Springfield in August, though he didn’t log any innings due to late season injury. Expect Hicks to be a key component to Springfield’s rotation in 2018.

 

Youngest Position Player: 3B Kevin Padlo, Age 21

Parent Club: Tampa Bay Rays

2017 Finishing Level: Charlotte Stone Crabs (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Kevin Padlo is rated as Tampa Bay’s No. 28 prospect. (photo courtesty of: MiLB.com)

Kevin was originally a fifth-round selection of the Colorado Rockies in 2014, the organization he played for in his first two minor league seasons. By January 2016 however, he found himself part of the deal that sent LF Corey Dickerson to Tampa in exchange for pitchers Jake McGee and German Marquez. Though Padlo struggled some at the plate this year posting (.215/.321/.380) across two levels of minor league ball, there is a lot to like about this young man.

While his batting average might seem low, his (.321) OBP suggests a keen eye, that with more experience should translate to a solid average and 20-homer power. At only 21 years of age, the Rays’ No. 28 prospect already possesses a defensive tool set at the hot corner you would normally expect to find on a player much older. Where he could start 2018 might depend on what he does in Arizona this fall, but as it stands now all signs point to another season in Charlotte.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Colorado Rockies)

 

 

 

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Stack your money Sundays: Week one

The nine-point underdog, Kansas City Chiefs, shocked the world Thursday with a 42-27 win over the New England Patriots. Football is back baby! The best time to gamble starts now.

For the next 17 Sundays, we will be choosing three games that you should put money on. Rather than taking the over/under, I will mainly be focusing on betting against spreads. Want some new shoes? Bet these games. Need money to take your date out on a fancy dinner? Bet these games.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ LOS ANGELES RAMS (-4.5)

PICK: RAMS TO COVER

Without Andrew Luck, the Colts are arguably the worst team in the NFL. A year ago, this is a defense that allowed the third most yards in the league. Scott Tolzien has only started three NFL games, and has yet to record a victory.

In those three starts, Tolzien has thrown one touchdown and five interceptions. The Rams finished ninth in passing yards allowed per game last season, which is solid, so Tolzien will have a hard time moving the chains.

Yes, the Rams had the worst offense in the league last year, but with an entire new coaching staff and Jared Goff getting his first opening day start, it is really unfair to bring up last season’s debacle. What do you expect with Jeff Fisher running the show? Now, with 31-year-old Sean McVay, as well as 124-year-old Wade Phillips, the Rams have a good mix of quality leadership.

stack your money Sundays: week one

Gurley will have no issues running the ball against Indy (Huffington Post)

Todd Gurley is bound to have a good year. The sophomore slump was due to the fact that Los Angeles couldn’t throw the ball, so the opposition would stack the box and be all over Gurley.

With upgrades at offensive line (Andrew Whitworth, John Sullivan), Goff should have better protection, and Gurley will have more time to make moves. The Colts allowed the third most rushing yards per attempt last season, so look for Gurley to have a monster game.

Jared Goff completed 75 percent of his passes in the preseason. The new coaching staff is already proving to be a success. Against a terrible defense, Goff and the Rams offense’ should shine at home. The Colts won’t be able to stop Gurley, and Tolzien will continue to be Tolzien.

This is probably the only time someone should bet on the Los Angeles Rams. This is an ideal game for Jared Goff to dominate and scoop up his first career win. Even with Aaron Donald most likely continuing his holdout, take the Rams to cover the 4.5 spread at home.

CAROLINA PANTHERS (-5) @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

PICK: PANTHERS TO COVER

When these two teams played last year, the Panthers won 46-27. Carolina has only gotten better since then. Although the Niners had a nice draft, Brian Hoyer will be trotting out on the field and playing behind center. Hoyer really is not that bad, but it is impossible to trust this offense, let alone their 32nd ranked defense a year ago.

San Francisco got run all over last year. No one allowed more rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns than the 49ers. DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead should provide a lot of help. Solomon Thomas will also be there to slow down the run, but he is just a rookie so we aren’t sure what to expect in his debut. Not to mention the fact that Carolina now has some fresh legs, in Christian McCaffrey, who averaged seven yards per carry in the preseason.

stack your money Sundays: week one

With Kuechly healthy, watch out for this defense (Panthers.com)

This will be a nice debut for McCaffrey, who will split time with Jonathan Stewart as they attempt to stomp over this 49ers defense. Carolina had the seventh most rushing attempts last season, and that was without McCaffrey. Look for them to pound the rock this week, because last season, the 49ers allowed over 150 rushing yards on 10 different occasions.

Cam Newton is poised to have a huge year after a disappointing past season. Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olson both look great. The defense, led by Luke Kuechly, is extremely solid.

Is there a better way to start your season than facing the worst defense in the NFL? After winning by 19 in last year’s contest, the improved Panthers will have no problem on the ground, or in the air, against this young defense and weak 49ers offense.

NEW YORK GIANTS (+4.5) @ DALLAS COWBOYS

PICK: GIANTS TO WIN

This is the real money maker. The Giants, an underdog on the road, beat the Cowboys in both matchups last season. If you aren’t into taking big risks, then just take the Giants at +4.5, but there is no way they lose this game, so you might as well earn some extra dough.

Last season, Dak Prescott had eight games in which he either did not throw for a touchdown, or threw for one. In the two games against New York, Prescott had only one touchdown, and quarterback ratings of 69.4 and a dreadful 45.4. He completed less than 53 percent of his passes during these two losses.

stack your money Sundays: week one

Evan Engram could turn into one of the top TE’s in the NFL (Giants.com)

Ezekiel Elliott is expected to play, but in the first matchup last season, Elliott only rushed for 51 yards on 21 carries. Although Elliott was able to rush for over 100 yards in the later matchup, he was still prevented from scoring.

Odell Beckham Jr., who is listed as questionable, will hopefully play. Even without Beckham, this is an offense who added Brandon Marshall in free agency, and a great tight end, Evan Engram, in this past draft. Last year, the Cowboys finished 26th in passing yards allowed, so look for Eli Manning to exploit this weak secondary.

The Giants also have one of the best defenses in the entire NFL. This is a team who finished second in points allowed, and third in rushing yards allowed. You cannot pass or run with efficiency against a defense with names like Jason Pierre Paul, Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins.

Prescott will continue his struggles against New York, and Elliott will have a hard time finding holes against this elite Giants defense. If Odell plays, this game could be over quick.

 

Featured image by SI.com

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MLB trade deadline: What AL contenders must do to stay in first

Baseball is back and the second half push to the playoffs begins. The MLB trade deadline comes in the second half as well and is Christmas in July for baseball fans. Strategy, money and moves galore (hopefully).

This period is a chance for teams to either sell off parts in order to rebuild or make the trades necessary to help their squad make it to the playoffs and an eventual push for the World Series. These are the moves the teams currently in first place for their respective divisions need to make to remain in first by July 31.

Boston Red Sox

If you follow baseball or this team at all, then you know their weakest position currently is at third base. Pablo Sandoval has been anything but useful or even available and has been designated for assignment. Also they traded away Travis Shaw who is having an excellent season for another first place team.

While everyone believes Todd Frazier is the best and only option available for trade, I would like to look at another in Nick Castellanos.

MLB trade deadline

Courtesy of: Bleacherreport.com

The Detroit Tigers are having a very disappointing season and will most likely be sellers during the trade deadline for the first time in a long time. They also have arguably one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Most of their top players are in Double-A ball and below which means they have a long time to wait to see if they develop.

To speed up the process of their inevitable rebuild, they could and should be looking to trade away as many players as possible.

Castellanos is only 25 and is under team control until 2020 which means Detroit could ask a decent return. So why would the Red Sox make this trade?

To start, they would get a solid everyday third baseman that could grow with the young players they are building around now like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and more. Rafael Devers is still at least one or two years away and wont be able to help them win now. It is unlikely they would have to part with him to get Castellanos as well.

Castellanos has been in the league for four full years now. You know what you are going to get out of him, whereas you never truly know with a prospect. He has experience, making playoff runs with the Tigers and still has room to grow.

The Red Sox would most likely only have to give up two of their top 25 prospects, most likely ones in the teens and below. They may also throw in a PTBNL or just an extra pitcher to sweeten the deal.

Nick Castellanos would solidify the Red Sox third base problem not only for now but also for the future. Todd Frazier on the other hand may cost only one top 25 prospect but he would also be a free agent at the end of this year and has seemed to have trouble batting for average ever since he was traded to the White Sox.

Cleveland Indians

It took the Indians awhile to catch up to the Twins, but they have taken hold of first and wont let it go for the rest of the season. This team can hit and is being led by its young superstars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor while getting help from players like Edwin Encarnacion who struggled mightily to start the season but has figured it out.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: Sportsblog.com

Another strength of the World Series runner-ups is their bullpen. Their weakness? Outside of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and surprisingly Mike Clevinger, this team’s starters have struggled. Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin all have ERAs over 5.

There are many attractive options on the market for the Indians. The question will be how much are they willing to give up in order to get the starting pitching help they need?

Last year, they traded away Clint Frazier and a multitude of other prospects in order to get their stalwart setup man, Andrew Miller. That being said the Indians still have some pieces that they could trade. I highly doubt they will trade Bradley Zimmer as he is with the club now and making a solid contribution.

There are a multitude of options for the Indians to help make their second World Series run in as many years. I like Sonny Gray, but I think his asking price will be too high considering how he has pitched in the last two seasons. This leaves two options: Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto.

Both the Pirates and Giants respectively have been under-performing and it looks like they will have to be sellers. While Gerrit Cole is better, he and Sonny Gray have a similar problem. They are going to cost more than the Indians are willing to give.

That is why they could trade for Cueto. He has won a World Series and has been in Cy Young contention, but the Indians could get him for a bargain. He has not pitched extremely well this season and the Giants are desperate (or should be) for prospects as they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

The Indians could give up one top 25 prospect not named Zimmer or Mejia and two others right outside their top 25 for Cueto. He would be a great pickup and if he could find his form again, he could be a top of the rotation guy to help the Indians try to make it back to the World Series.

Houston Astros

The Astros were my World Series pick back in January and I am glad that they have yet to let me down. Their lineup can hit from 1 to 8 and Keuchel and McCullers make up an amazing top of the rotation.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: SFgiantsrumors.co

Brad Peacock is finally living up to his potential, whether he is in the bullpen or the rotation. While most are looking at the rotation, and they could improve there, Peacock may actually be a legitimate option that will help them keep their first-place standing. Also, Colin McHugh should be coming off the DL soon and can help to solidify the rotation.

The Astros are missing another reliable bullpen arm. We saw how important they were in last year’s playoffs and right now the Astros have a pretty good bullpen. But if they are going to want to make a real run, they need a great bullpen.

They won’t give up what teams gave up to get pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last season. Instead, they will go for options that are a small step down.

In steps another Giants player and someone who has been a crucial piece in their bullpen for a long time, George Kontos.

Kontos has a career ERA under 3 and he has been in many high-pressure situations, including helping the Giants win multiple World Series. While he is not a flashy pickup, he is a reliable one, and should be relatively cheap, as he’s still under team control until 2020.

The Astros would not have to part with any of their major prospects. They could easily throw the Giants one of their lower top 25 prospects and some cash or another lower level prospect with high potential.

Kontos would solidify the bullpen as the Astros head into October. His experience would help the younger Astros team and again he would cost a lot less than someone like Sonny Gray or David Robertson.

Conclusion

The trade deadline is an unpredictable time and has a major affect on the way the rest of the season and future seasons will play out. Look out for what first place NL teams needs to do in order to stay in first place.

 

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Draftmas: Round 2

This is the last day of TGH Draftmas before the actual NFL draft tomorrow! As you could probably see our first round had some major technical issues and we do apologize for that. So we decided to do the 2nd round in a piece for you all to read!

Here we go! Round 2!

Pick #33- Browns: Tarkkarist McKinley OLB, UCLA

Pick #34- 49ers: Deshone Kizer QB, Notre Dame

Pick #35- Jags: Tre’Davious White CB, LSU

Pick #36- Bears: Malik McDowell DT, Michigan State

Pick #37- Rams: Carl Lawson EDGE, Auburn

Pick #38- Chargers: Teez Tarbor CB, Florida

Pick #39- Jets: Marcus Williams FS, Utah

Pick #40- Panthers: Josh Jones SS, NC State

Pick #41- Bengals: Jarrad Davis ILB, Florida

Pick #42- Saints: Curtis Samuel RB/WR, OSU

Pick #43- Eagles: Quincy Wilson CB, Florida

Pick #44- Jags: Pat Elfein C, OSU

Pick #45- Cardinals: TJ Watt LB, Wisconsin

Pick #46- Colts: Dan Feeny OG, Indiana

Pick #47- Ravens: Tyus Bowser Edge, Houston

Pick #48- Vikings: Taylor Moton OL, Western Michigan

Pick #49- Redskins: Jordan Willis DE, Kansas State

Pick #50- Buccaneers: Cordrea Tankersley CB, Clemson

Pick #51- Broncos: Evan Engram TE, Ole Miss

Pick #52- Browns: Adam Shaheen TE, Ashland

Pick #53- Lions: Chris Wormley DT, Michigan

Pick #54- Dolphins: Zach Cunningham LB, Vanderbilt

Pick #55- Giants: Raekwon McMillian MLB, Ohio State

Pick #56- Raiders: Carlos Watkins DT, Clemson

Pick #57- Texans: Tim Williams LB, Bama

Pick #58- Seahawks: Sidney Jones CB, Washington

Pick #59- Chiefs: Fabian Moreau CB, UCLA

Pick #60- Browns: Marcus Maye FS, Florida

Pick #61- Packers:Joe Mixon RB, Oklahoma

Pick #62- Steelers: Duke Riley LB, LSU

Pick #63- Falcons: Jabrill Peppers SS/LB, Michigan

Pick #64- Panthers: Zay Jones WR, ECTC

 

There are our 2nd round Mock Draft picks. We appreciate all of you who have read those and our other Draftmas articles! Make sure to watch the 1st Round starting tonight at 8pm EST! Good luck to everyone’s teams!

Romain Bigeard, manager of Unicorns of Love

Mascots in the LCS

As the world of esports grows, analysts, fans, and sponsors will be looking towards examples from traditional sports for inspiration. They will draw comparisons between the two to figure out where exactly esports are heading. Franchising in the LCS, for example, is one such move towards traditional sports, away from the relegation model League of Legends has become accustomed to.

A somewhat less important, yet interesting topic, is that of mascots. Do teams need mascots? Do mascots belong in the LCS? Will this be part of the scene in the near future? What would their purpose be?

Mascots in Traditional Sports

Philadelphia Phillies mascot, Phillie Phanatic

Philadelphia Phillies mascot, Phillie Phanatic

Mascots are generally symbolic representations of the teams they tout. From the Phillie Phanatic to Benny the Bull to Big Red, most sports teams have a mascot. These mascots are a physical representation of the team’s name or logo. They are responsible for hyping up the crowd throughout a competition, during slow times, scores, or wins.

It is commonplace for baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and hockey teams to have mascots. They are out in the crowd. Part of the live audience experience usually includes getting a hug from or pictures with the team mascot. They sign autographs, and they provide immense brand recognition.

Merchandising around mascots is prominent. Slapping the mascot’s picture or logo onto items makes them collectibles. For example, many NBA fans can recognize Boston Celtics merchandise if it features “Boston” in green letters, shamrocks, Lucky the Leprechaun, or some combination of the three.

Mascots in LCS

The closest example of a mascot in the LCS is Unicorns of Love’s manager, Romain Bigeard. He generally wears a unicorn costume and dyes his hair and beard bright pink to support the team as they compete. Romain is an iconic member of the Unicorns’ team and brand, instantly recognizable.

Romain Bigeard, manager of Unicorns of Love

courtesy of Riot esports

There are plenty of opportunities for other teams to create mascots. Between North America and Europe, there are Phoenixes (Phoenix1), Immortals, Foxes, Aliens (Dignitas), Horses (Team Liquid), Ninjas (G2), Rabbits, Cats (Roccat), Giants, and Snakes (Splyce). The other teams’ mascots would be less straightforward, but something like “TSM Titans,” or “Fnatic Falcons” could be a cool way to expand their brand. The mascot can also be incorporated into creating new logos, jerseys, champion skins, and collectible merchandise.

Mascots could also help solidify a team’s fanbase. Many LCS fans get attached to players, rather than the organizations they play for. And since so many players switch teams in between splits and in between seasons, organizations have a hard time keeping a consistent base. For example, Immortals probably gained some fans when they signed their most recent jungler, Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett, and probably lost some fans when Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin left. Introducing a mascot onto the scene may be a small way to retain a fanbase by providing a consistent symbol to rally behind, rather than just a simple logo.

What Could Go Wrong?

Individuals who do not closely follow specific sports or teams may find mascots to be cheesy. It may seem immature to grow an attachment to some guy in a costume who peps people up at sporting events, like a Disney World character. Does esports really want to go there?

G2 esports fan with ninja logo mask

courtesy of Riot esports

Another consideration is the fact that League of Legends is a game packed with fantasy characters anyway. Would it make sense to introduce a G2 Samurai mascot onto the scene when similar characters already exist in the game? This could create some awkwardness or show that it is unnecessary for the LCS scene.

Cosplay, where fans dress in elaborate costumes of their favorite characters, is already a huge part of the competitive League of Legends experience. Bringing in mascots could be confusing or over-doing it. Cosplayers already act as League of Legends mascots, in a way.

cosplayers at EU LCS

courtesy of Riot esports

These mascots could also need to span over several esports. For example, Cloud9 has teams in League of Legends, Counter Strike, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Call of Duty, DOTA 2, and a few others. How can they create a mascot that makes sense in all of those venues? What if the organization has competitions for different games at the same time? Traditional sports do not run into this issue. Los Angeles is home to several sports teams, but they all have different mascots.

Conclusion

Mascots may not help a team win, and introducing them to the LCS scene may present some complications. But, overall, it could be an interesting experiment. Romain and the Unicorns of Love have proven that it can be done. Other LCS teams have straightforward opportunities to bring on their respective hype men.

A mascot could greatly help organizations solidify their brands by opening up new merchandising opportunities and retaining fans that may otherwise leave the team with a traded or lost player. Possibly the greatest gain from a mascot, though, is pure fun. Imagine the broadcast cutting to a video of a fox mascot hyping up the Echo Fox fans after Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham secures a First Blood. That could be pretty cool.


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EU LCS Week 10: FNC Rekkles

EU LCS Week 10: ROC or FNC?

The final week of the EU LCS Spring Split is here. While Giants, Origen, and Vitality have no chance at making it into playoffs, they will still have a say in how the standings end after week 10. The top three teams in Group B could swap positions, depending on how their match-ups go. Group A is all but settled except for third place, which will go to Fnatic or Roccat. Fnatic currently holds third with a 5-6 record, while Roccat sits just below at 5-7.

This week, Fnatic will face G2 and Misfits. Roccat only plays G2. And since G2 has been undefeated thus far, it is highly unlikely that either squad will take a series off of them. There are three possibilities for these two teams at the end of week 10:

Fnatic Wins Both Series

EU LCS Week 10: FNC Rekkles and Caps

courtesy of Riot esports

Fnatic’s best case scenario is to win both week 10 series. They will need to muster their focus and execute properly to beat G2 and Misfits. Any viewer will tell you this possibility is highly unlikely, though. It would truly be shocking if Fnatic beats G2 in their current form.

If Fnatic does pull out two wins this week, then Roccat’s match-up with G2 is null, as their record would finish at 6-7, while Fnatic’s would finish 7-6. Fnatic would automatically seed into playoffs.

Fnatic Wins One Series

EU LCS Week 10: FNC sOAZ and team

courtesy of Riot esports

Misfits has looked shaky lately. They have not had a series win since week 6, including a 2-0 loss to Roccat last week. Fnatic should focus on that match-up, as it is their most likely chance of retaining third place after week 10. If Fnatic wins this best-of-3, and Roccat loses to G2, then their games against G2 will not matter. Fnatic would end with one additional win over Roccat.

However, if Roccat does win against G2, but Fnatic only wins one series, then things gets interesting. Fnatic’s record would end at 6-7 and Roccat’s would also be 6-7.

The tiebreaker rules state “if two teams have the same record, ties will be broken by Head to Head record.”

Fnatic beat Roccat in week 3. Roccat beat Fnatic in week 8. So, their Head to Head record is 1-1.

The next set of tiebreaker rules state “if Head to Head records are identical, total games won will be used.”

Roccat’s game record is 12-16. Fnatic’s is 14-16, so they have the edge. At this point, it is impossible for Roccat’s game record to match Fnatic’s if they both win a series. Therefore, Fnatic would still qualify for playoffs.

Fnatic Loses Both Series

EU LCS Week 10: ROC Hjarnan and team

courtesy of Riot esports

The last possibility is that both teams lose out. Roccat has been on a surprising tear over the last three weeks, but G2 is the toughest possible opponent they could hope for in week 10.

If Roccat somehow wins, then it will force Fnatic to win at least one of their series this week. Hypothetically, if Roccat beats G2, and Fnatic loses both best-of-3’s, then Roccat will surpass Fnatic’s series record and take third place in Group A. Roccat would end the regular season with a 6-7 record, while Fnatic would finish at 5-7.

If neither Roccat nor Fnatic secures a win in week 10, then the standings will remain the same. Giants are unable to climb more than one win.

There is a possibility that Fnatic could take second place from Misfits, but that would involve Misfits losing to Giants and Fnatic, and Fnatic would also have to beat G2. The Head to Head between Misfits and Fnatic would be 1-1, which would elevate whichever team had more game wins. In that case, Misfits would need at least two game wins to trigger the tiebreaker match with Fnatic for second place. If Fnatic wins both series, and Misfits are unable to acquire two game wins, then Fnatic will automatically secure second place.

However, the realistic expectation is that Fnatic and Roccat will both lose all of their series in week 10. G2 should easily be able to dispel these two teams in a best-of-3, and Misfits should also be able to handily beat Fnatic. Fnatic and Roccat will need to play at their highest possible level and hope that G2 and Misfits do not.

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Week 8: Team Vitality on stage

EU LCS Players Who Need to Bounce Back in Week 8

The EU LCS had a few shake-ups in Week 7. There was a tilting remake in the Giants-Vitality series. Origen took their first match win of 2017. Splyce had a convincing win against G2 in Game 1, then completely dropped the ball. Roccat finished the week 2-0. H2K beat Misfits much harder than many expected.

Coming into Week 8, several teams will be looking to bounce back. There were some brutal losses last week. There were some who underperformed, and others who surprised the audience. There are only three more weeks until Playoffs begin. Teams at the top are vying for first place in their groups. Teams at the bottom are clawing out of the relegation tournament. Teams in the middle are doing their best to maintain their Playoff spots.

Here are five players who will need to come back this week off of heavy losses to boost their teams into higher positions.

Origen’s Jungler

Week 8: Origen Wisdom

courtesy of Riot esports

While Origen must have been excited to win their first game of Spring Split, they still finished the week with another 0-2. They currently sit at the bottom of Group B at 0-9. They are a full two wins behind the next lowest three teams.

Origen announced that Kim “Wisdom” Tae-Wan will be leaving the team, and they have brought on Jacob “Cinkrof” Rokicki as a replacement. Cinkrof has been playing in the Spanish professional league, LVP. While Wisdom has shown certain bright moments, he stands out as a particularly weak piece of Origen’s roster. He tends to play over-aggressively, especially in the mid-late game, getting picked off or caught out of position regularly.

Cinkrof, if he does start in Week 8, will have his first tests against Team Vitality and Splyce. Neither of these teams should blow Origen out of the water, but they will be challenging. Many fans have written off Origen as already being solidified into the relegation tournament. Cinkrof will be their last hope for rising through the ranks of Group B, and possibly defending Origen’s slot in the LCS.

VIT Djoko

Week 8: Team Vitality Djoko

courtesy of Riot esports

Team Vitality had a rough Week 7, despite their victory against Giants. Vitality gave away Game 1, and Giants were far ahead in Game 2 before the Orianna bug was detected and the game was remade. Giants did lose the next two games, but gameplay-wise, Vitality looked outclassed prior to the bug. Later in the weekend, Roccat beat Vitality 2-0.

Charly “Djoko” Guillard looked particularly weak in these two series. During the first 20 minutes of Game 2 against Giants (prior to the remake), Djoko was killed three times. While he had decent showings on Gragas and Graves, he also had some unconvincing games on Gragas and a sub-par performance on Elise.

In Week 8, Djoko will be battling Origen’s new jungler. This could be a complete wildcard, but it will be up to Djoko to ensure that Vitality maintain control of the game. It should be an easy 2-0 victory, but, then again, same goes for Roccat last week. A loss here could spell devastation for Team Vitality’s chances at escaping the relegation tournament.

SPY Trashy

Week 8: Splyce Trashy

courtesy of Riot esports

Splyce showed us their ceiling in Week 7, Game 1 against G2. They played a clean, fast-paced game, took a decisive Baron, and won. But after that, it all came crumbling down, especially for Jonas “Trashy” Andersen. He finished Game 2 almost 5,000 gold behind G2’s Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun. Game 3 was around 3,500. Since Jungle is such an impactful role in the current meta, these deficits can be difficult to salvage.

Luckily, Splyce play against Origen in Week 8. This series should be a walk in the park for Splyce’s roster; but if Origen’s new jungler, Cinkrof, can hold back Trashy, it may be more difficult than expected. Splyce need to prove to fans that they will be stronger moving forward. Expectations have been high for this squad since the preaseason. If they want to solidify their spot for playoffs and beyond, wins against teams below them have to be convincing.

FNC sOAZ

Week 8: FNC sOAZ

courtesy of Riot esports

Fnatic had a rough time against Unicorns of Love last week. They did get a late-game win in Game 1, but Games 2 and 3 were not as lucky. Paul “sOAZ” Boyer seemed outclassed overall by UOL’s Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás. Even in the win, sOAZ finished almost 3,000 gold behind his counterpart. The losses were less pretty.

Throughout the season, sOAZ has been floating under the radar as a mediocre top laner. There have been few especially bright moments, even when the team had his partner jungler, Maurice “Amazingx” Stückenschneider, starting. His tank plays are generally decent, but his carry plays have looked sub-par.

In Week 8, Fnatic will face Roccat. Similar to the Splyce-Origen match-up, this series needs to be a solid 2-0 from Fnatic to reinstill confidence in fans. Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren has not looked like a huge barrier for opposing teams, so sOAZ should look excellent against him. The veteran should be quicker on Teleports and create more pressure overall. Fnatic seems stuck in the middle of Group A, but Roccat are coming off of a big 2-0 week, and they would love to leapfrog Giants with a win this week.

MSF PowerOfEvil

Week 8: Misfits PowerOfEvil

courtesy of Riot esports

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where Misfits went wrong in Week 7. Many speculated that their match-up versus H2K would be a battle of titans, with either winning 2-1. However, once the cookie crumbled, Misfits seemed out of sorts. One individual that needs to bounce back in Week 8, though, is Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage. He has been such a rock in the mid lane, and looked weak against Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten.

Top players who have bad games look worse than mediocre players having bad games. All of the members of Misfits share the blame for last week, but PowerOfEvil has been the anchor for them all Split. He will also be particularly important in Week 8, because they will face the number one team in Group A: G2. With G2 comes Luka “Perkz” Perković. Perkz is in the same tier as Febiven, so PowerOfEvil will need to shake off last week and hold steady with him. Otherwise, Misfits will risk another hefty loss. Misfits’ jungler, Lee “KaKAO” Byung-kwon, will be in a similar position, but mid lane should be the biggest factor in Misfits’ success this week.

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EU LCS 2017 logos

EU LCS Week 3 Predictions

Week 3 will be the week that settles the standings in Group A and B before heading into cross-group play. Fnatic and Splyce sit in the middle of their respective groups. Both teams will play twice this weekend, and the results of those four matches should give us a better picture of the LCS as a whole. Are Splyce and Fnatic closer in skill to H2K and Misfits, or Giants and Vitality? We should have an answer at the end of this week.

Week 3: Splyce versus Unicorns of Love

courtesy of lolesports.com

Top lane will be heavily in favor of Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás in Week 3. Jonas “Trashy” Andersen has not seemed to have the same jungle presence as last split. Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir has been fantastic thus far. Chres “Sencux” Laursen will need to punish Fabian “Exileh” Schubert’s aggression or else he will be steamrolled.

If Splyce will get an advantage anywhere it is bot lane. Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov has given several free kills over the first two weeks. Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort has not been punished for playing 1v2 for extended periods of time. Splyce will need to capitalize. Unicorns will win the series, but Splyce will take it to three games. 

Week 3: Fnatic versus Misfits

courtesy of lolesports.com

This is the marquee match-up of Week 3. Rasmus “Caps” Winther will need to maintain dominance against Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and transition into other lanes. Maurice “Amazingx” Stückenschneider and Jesse “Jesiz” Le will need to contain Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun from roaming as much as possible. Barney “Alphari” Morris has advantage in top lane. Misfits should play him on a carry champion versus Paul “sOAZ” Boyer.

This will be a battle between veterans and rookies; the old organization and the new. Misfits should win 2-1, but it will be close.

Week 3: Vitality versus H2K

courtesy of lolesports.com

Not much to talk about here. H2K have been performing higher than expected since bringing on an imported bot-side. Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski should be able to surpass Charly “Djoko” Guillard, which is Vitality’s best performer so far. Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu should be dominant against Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet’s current form. Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten will continue to crush the mid lane in Week 3.

Vitality could attempt to snowball bot lane, but Djoko ganking has been their main tool for that. H2K will take the 2-0 win convincingly.

Week 3: Giants v G2

courtesy of lolesports.com

Giants have high first dragon and first baron rates. However, they also have the lowest first-three-turrets rate. That is where G2 should focus in Week 3. Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez should be able to easily subdue Martin “HeaQ” Kordmaa and Morgan “Hustlin” Granberg, secure first turret, and open up the map. Luka “Perkz” Perković may be surprised by Na “Night” Gun-woo’s over-aggression. Ki “Expect” Dae-Han and Olof “Flaxxish” Medin should match up fine in laning phase, but Expect’s use of Teleport has been on point.

Finally, Kim “Trick” Gang-Yun should continue to play utility champions to protect Perkz and Zven, allowing them to shell out damage continuously. There is the off-chance that Jonas “Memento” Elmarghichi steals a Baron and Giants win a game off of that, but this should be an easy 2-0 for G2.

Week 3: Origen versus Splyce

courtesy of lolesports.com

This match will be a deciding factor on how fans feel about these two teams. Splyce looked flat Week 1 against H2K. Week 2 against Vitality was more convincing, but mostly off the back of a Mordekaiser counterpick that snowballed immediately. Origen have had decent laning phases, but a lack of synergy through the mid-game has been the primary weakness.

If Origen win this series, then there is hope for them moving forward, and fans will seriously question Splyce’s gameplay. If Splyce put up an easy win, then they will solidify themselves, and Origen will finish 0-4 after Week 3. Realistically, Splyce should win 2-0.

Week 3: Roccat versus Fnatic

courtesy of lolesports.com

This is Group A’s mirror match-up to the Origen vs. Splyce series. While Fnatic looked stronger than expected in Week 1 against G2, they dropped a game to Giants in Week 2. Meanwhile, Roccat took a game off of Giants. Fnatic will need to put up a decisive 2-0 against this team to feel good about themselves. Roccat have not looked competitive in any of their games so far.

If they take a game or series from Fnatic in Week 3, then it would be extremely impressive. Felix “Betsy” Edling needs to figure out his role on the team since it was re-built around him in the off-season. I have a feeling Caps will keep him busy in the mid lane, though. Fnatic wins 2-0.

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Misfits on stage for EU LCS

EU LCS Week 2 Preview

Boy, is it great to be back! Week 1 of EU LCS was action-packed. There were plenty of surprises: champions, builds, and stand-out performances. The standings should not surprise anyone, though. G2 and H2K are at the top of their respective groups. Misfits and Unicorns of Love each got a win under their belts. Everyone else lost a game to one of those four teams. There is not much we can decipher from just one week. It will take a couple more to really know how these teams match up. Nonetheless, you should keep an eye out for these four head-to-heads in Week 2.

Week 2: Vitality versus Splyce

courtesy of lolesport.com

These teams are on different ends of the spectrum for me. Vitality looked better than I expected during their match against Unicorns of Love last week. Splyce looked pretty weak against H2K. This Week 2 match-up should be a good gauge of Group B as a whole. Based on pre-season predictions, Splyce should win, sticking to the top of the standings. But if Vitality win, then it shakes up the momentum for the rest of the season. Most analysts assumed Splyce would maintain the same level of macro-play they demonstrated last Split. This synergized team would theoretically have an advantage over other Group B teams that were pieced together in the off-season. Sadly, it did not seem to be there in Week 1.

None of the Splyce members stood out to me against H2K. They all seemed to be stifled under pressure, particularly Mid, Jungle, and Top. The kill scores for their games were 24-6 and 22-10 over 27 to 29 minutes. H2K were playing fast and hard. The individual match-ups should be less intimidating against Vitality, but Splyce’s solo play has never been considered a great strength. They will need to showcase the smart group play that got them to Worlds last year to re-instill confidence in the squad.

Vitality looked weaker in Game 1 last week against Unicorns, but Game 2 was back and forth. Pierre “Steelback” Medjaldi and Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan were able to get a lead in bot lane with the help of Jungler, Charly “Djoko” Guillard. The point of weakness was in the top-side match-up between Lucas “Cabochard” Simon-Meslet’s Fiora and Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás’ Camille. After two games, Cabochard’s KDA was 1.8. He finished last among Top laners in Gold Difference at 10 minutes (-475) and Kill Participation (39.1%). Meanwhile, Djoko topped the entire league in Kill Participation at 82.6%. Vitality may need Djoko to shift more focus to the top side of the map. Cabochard will also need to utilize his Teleport earlier to join his team.

Splyce failed to outweigh their individual shortcomings with strong macro-play against H2K. Hopefully, they can try again against Vitality. If Vitality can try to match H2K’s calculated aggression, then they may be able to take down Splyce as well. Cabochard should not be as neutralized against Martin “Wunder” Hansen. Erlend “Nukeduck” Våtevik Holm should match Chres “Sencux” Laursen much easier than Fabian “Exileh” Schubert. On the other hand, Jonas “Trashy” Andersen will need to make sure Djoko is not free to influence the map as he pleases. It should be much easier than facing Jankos.

Unicorns of Love versus H2K Week 2

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H2K tops Group B with two wins, zero losses. Unicorns are second with one win and zero losses. Week 2 will decide who finishes 2-1. If H2K win, then they stay in first. Assuming Unicorns of Love beat Origen this week, they will need to win against H2K to move up. This should be an exciting game to watch, since both teams looked explosive in Week 1 with a heavy focus top-side.

Unicorns of Love have historically done well in chaotic games. If Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski gets recklessly aggressive, and Unicorns are able to exploit it, then it could be H2K’s demise. With immobile ADCs and Supports in meta, I imagine Exileh will continue to pull out his pocket pick Kassadin and wreak havoc. Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten joins him at the top of Mid lane KDAs, both averaging just above 10. Febiven will need to maintain lane control in this match-up to keep Exileh from roaming.

The Top lane will be an epic duel if Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu and/or Vizicsacsi get on carry champions. Similar to the Mid lane match-up, these Top laners are above all others, averaging 5.4-5.5 KDAs. Vizicsacsi had higher Kill Participation, lower Death Share, and higher CS Difference at 10 minutes, but Odoamne will have more Jungle pressure to back him up. Vizicsacsi will need to exploit all Teleport advantages.

The Bot lane will most likely decide this match. Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort averaged 9.5 CS ahead at 10 minutes, while Shin “Nuclear” Jung-hyun averaged 10.3 behind. This bodes well for Unicorns of Love. However, Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov over-extended and got caught out repeatedly, resulting in a 39.1% Death Share, highest in the league. Hylissang needs to play more passively to prevent excess deaths. The other issue that Unicorns’ Bot lane could run into is champion pool. Samux and Hylissang played Caitlyn-Lulu in both games, while Nuclear and Choi “Chei” Sun-ho showcased Jhin-Zyra and Ashe-Tahm Kench. Of course, the bans will most likely be directed towards Top, Jungle, and Mid, but if H2K decide to pinch Unicorn’s AD Carry and Support picks, then I hope they have an answer.

Misfits versus G2 Week 2

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This will be Group A’s premier match-up. Similar to H2K v. Unicorns of Love, Week 2 will decide which of these two teams will remain at the top of the group. Assuming Misfits beat ROCCAT, one of these teams will end the week 3-0. Both teams came into the season with high expectations, and enjoyed a strong first week. Dropping one game each, some weaknesses appeared in G2 and Misfits, which makes this week even juicier.

G2’s series against Fnatic last week was full of highlights. All three games went 42 minutes or longer. The game that Fnatic won involved a couple of solo kills on Luka “PerkZ” Perković and strong macro-play around Baron, Dragon, and manipulating minion waves. Fnatic also picked off Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen to end. The games they looked strongest involved PerkZ drafting Leblanc and amassing 4,000 Gold leads on his opponent. G2 will need to make sure PerkZ’s play becomes consistent. While his KDA is higher than Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, his Kill Participation is almost 10% lower. Both Mid laners have a high Death Share for their teams.

Misfits dropped their game to Giants due to a surprise Illaoi pick in the Top lane from Olof “Flaxxish” Medin. After leading for 23 minutes, and by 3,000 gold, Misfits botched two teamfights around Baron. However, the following two games were rather one-sided. Barney “Alphari” Morris is a solid Top laner. He was able to average 10 CS over his opponent at 10 minutes, despite playing two games on Maokai against Illaoi and Nautilus, and one game on Rumble against an AD Kennen. Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun boasts the highest KDA of all players in the league, thanks to his 26 assists over three games and only 7.7% Death Share (third lowest in the league). Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez will need to try his best to match this playstyle, since he has the lowest Kill Participation of all Supports, and a high Death Share. 

The real uneven match-up between these teams is in the AD Carry position. Zven more than doubles Steven “Hans sama” Liv’s KDA. He also has half his Death Share. And even though Hans sama averages high Gold, XP, and CS at 10 minutes, he was facing Martin “HeaQ” Kordmaa. Zven faced Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss. Misfits will need to make sure that they do not come into this series with any arrogance. Each player will need to execute properly around objectives. If Misfits can take G2 in a best-of-three, then they will solidify themselves as king of the hill. G2 are going to do their best to knock them down a peg.

Giants versus Roccat Week 2

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While neither of these teams had a stellar Week 1, they will have a chance to redeem themselves. Giants took a game off of Misfits. ROCCAT was decidedly beaten by G2. These series exposed clear weaknesses in both squads. They will need to watch those games to see where they can leverage their opponents’ weaknesses, and where they can improve their own.

Giants win against Misfits came off the back of a Top lane Illaoi for Flaxxish. He laned well and Misfits fell into the trap of fighting in the Baron and Dragon pits. Jonas “Memento” Elmarghichi stole the Baron multiple times in the series. Na “Night” Gun-woo also made several pro-active roaming plays on the map. However, he was completely shut down on Ekko. The biggest pain point was the Bot lane. HeaQ averaged 11 CS behind at 10 minutes–lowest of all EU ADCs. He and Morgan “Hustlin” Granberg will need to exert more lane pressure.

There was nothing notable about ROCCAT’s performance against G2. They were purely outclassed in every position and in macro-play. Since the team rebuilt around Mid laner, Felix “Betsy” Edling, I was expecting him to stand up a bit more to PerkZ’s pressure. Betsy looked particularly lost in Game 1 on Taliyah. I cannot recall a single well-placed Weaver’s Wall. PerkZ was able to roam on Leblanc, rather than have his lane pushed in. I do not want to see Betsy on that champion until ROCCAT can synergize. And even though Hjärnan averaged 11 CS ahead at 10 minutes, he only participated in 37.5% of his team’s kills (second lowest of all players). He needs to transition any advantage in the laning phase to helping teamfights around neutral objectives.

I imagine Giants will win this somewhat easily. If they can play around neutral objectives like they did against Misfits, then ROCCAT will not stand a chance. However, if Hjärnan and Kim “Wadid” Bae-in can exploit Giants’ Bot lane, then this may be closer than it looks on paper. NighT did not enjoy facing Syndra in the Mid lane, so maybe Betsy should draft her. Assuming Misfits beats ROCCAT and Fnatic beats Giants, this match-up will decide who finishes Week 2 at the bottom of Group A.

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