Carmelo Anthony playoffs

The fall of Carmelo Anthony

PLAYOFF Melo?

On Wednesday night, with their season on the line, the Oklahoma City Thunder were down 25 points with eight and a half minutes left in the third quarter. Boos were shouted from all around the arena, as the Utah Jazz looked like they were going to shock the Thunder on the road.

All of a sudden, Paul George and Russell Westbrook caught fire. Westbrook, who was abysmal in the first half, went 12-for-23, scoring 33 of his 45 points in the latter half of the game. He also added seven assists and 15 rebounds. George finished the game with 34 points and eight rebounds. Oklahoma City outscored Utah 66-43 in the second half, and ultimately won the game 107-99.

Carmelo Anthony playoffs

“Playoff Melo” is a liability in this series against Utah. (Photo from USA Today)

But where was Carmelo Anthony? He finished the game with just seven points on 2-for-6 shooting in only 25 minutes of play. Throughout the series, Anthony has been awful when he steps foot on the court. In five games, the 10-time All-Star is averaging 12.8 points on 36.9 percent shooting from the field and 21.4 percent from beyond the arc. The 33-year-old has just two assists in his 168 minutes of action, which both came in Game 1.

That is right, he has yet to record an assist in over 130 minutes. On Wednesday, OKC finally realized that they are a better team with Alex Abrines on the court instead of Melo.

Per 100 possessions, Melo’s plus-minus on the court is -12.6. In the regular season, he set career lows in points, assists, minutes, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and steals. Translation: While it has been a fun ride, the United States Olympic men’s national basketball team’s all-time leading scorer is a shell of what he used to be. However, this is a future Hall of Fame player we are dealing with. Let’s show him the respect he deserves.

The Rise

Melo did not become a 10-time All-Star, six-time All-NBA selection and a three-time Gold Medalist with the USA Olympic basketball team by accident.

Carmelo Anthony playoffs

Anthony went for 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the National Championship Game. (Photo from Orange Fizz)

Anthony ranked No. 2 in his class, behind Amar’e Stoudemire, in regards to the top high school prospects. He committed to Syracuse before his senior year, and boy was it the right call. During his one season with Syracuse, Melo averaged 22.2 points and 10 rebounds, while leading the Orange to their first NCAA Tournament Championship in school history.

In the Final Four game against the University of Texas, Anthony dropped 33 points, which at the time was an NCAA Tournament record for most points by a freshman. In the championship against Kansas, a team led by Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich, Anthony went for 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, all team highs, en route to 81-78 victory for Cuse.

Anthony was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and earned second team All-American honors, as well as All-Big East first team. He decided to leave college after his fantastic freshman season, and was selected third overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 2003 NBA Draft.

Denver and New York Days

In his eight seasons with the Nuggets, Anthony averaged 24.8 points and 6.3 rebounds. He led Denver to the playoffs in every season from 2004-2010. In 2008-09, Anthony brought the Nuggets all the way into the Western Conference Finals. Although they ultimately fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games, Anthony did not disappoint. As a 24-year-old, Melo averaged 27.2 points per playoff game.

Carmelo Anthony playoffs

Glory days (Photo from RantSports)

In 2011, he was sent to the New York Knicks via trade. He was named an All-Star in his six full seasons with New York and led the league in scoring with 28.7 points per game in 2012-13. In 2014 against the Charlotte Bobcats, Anthony scored a Madison Square Garden and New York Knicks single-game scoring record 62 points in New York’s 125-96 victory.

Although he has yet to win a ring, and probably never will, Anthony is one of six players (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter) to have 24,000 points, 6,000 rebounds, 2,500 assists, 1,000 steals, and 1,000 3-pointers.

Melo also has four seasons with at least 1,200 points, 150 3-pointers and 300 rebounds. The only players with more seasons matching those numbers are Ray Allen, Stephen Curry, James Harden and Paul George. He ranks 13th all-time in total games with at least 25 points and five rebounds. Anthony trails Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by 10 games in this category.

He has seven seasons averaging 25 points on better than 44.5 percent shooting and three rebounds. The only players since 1990 with more seasons averaging those numbers are LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Shaquille O’Neal.

NO. OF SEASONS AVERAGING 20 POINTS PER GAME

*= Still Active

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR 17
KARL MALONE 17
KOBE BRYANT 15
LEBRON JAMES* 15
MICHAEL JORDAN 15
CARMELO ANTHONY* 14
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL 14
DIRK NOWITZKI* 13
HAKEEM OLAJUWON 13

Love him or hate him, Anthony is one of the best scorers of this generation. While this season has been a disappointment, don’t forget how electric Carmelo Anthony once was.

 

Featured image by USA Today

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Five superstars off to tremendous starts in 2018

(All stats as of 4/24 10AM)

Early on in the 2018 MLB season, we have witnessed some historic performances, from some not so historic figures. Sean Manaea of the Oakland Athletics threw a no-hitter against the hottest offense in baseball, the Boston Red Sox. San Diego’s Christian Villanueva homered three times in an April victory over the Colorado Rockies, and is currently leading the league in SLG and OPS.

Ryan Flaherty, utility man for the Atlanta Braves, is slashing .339/.446/.468. Keep in mind, Flaherty is a lifetime .223 hitter. Nobody in baseball has more hits than Oakland’s Jed Lowrie. In four starts, Astros RHP Charlie Morton is 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA.

Still, a lot of the top superstars in today’s game are on pace for monster years. The sections below are comprised of five megastars who have started the season exactly how we expected, if not better. All five of these players have yet to turn 27, and, by the numbers, are all on pace for historic careers.

Mike Trout

Over the last seven days, Mike Trout is hitting .417 (10-for-24), with three steals, four runs, and five extra-base hits. Three of his five XBH are home runs, as Trout homered in three consecutive games, during the series with the San Francisco Giants. This brought his home run tally up to nine, which means he is on pace for 63 this season.

Currently, Trout leads the league in WAR, and home runs. The 26-year-old ranks fifth in XBH, seventh in SLG, steals, runs, and hits, and ninth in OPS. Obviously, Trout is a once-in-a-generation type of player, but if he retired today, he would have a legitimate case at making the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Just take a look at these facts.

Trout is on pace for 63 HRs. (SportingNews)

During his rookie season, Trout would go on to, statistically, have the highest WAR season by any rookie in the history of baseball. He was the first position player since Barry Bonds in 2004 who had a WAR above 10.0. He joined Albert Pujols, Hal Trosky, and Ted Williams, as the only rookies to hit 30 or more home runs with a batting average better than .325.

The kid from Millville, NJ has five seasons of at least 7.9 WAR. That is tied with Wade Boggs, Joe Morgan, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, and Mike Schmidt.  His six seasons of OWAR greater than 7 has him tied with Honus Wagner, and ahead of Frank Thomas, Wade Boggs, and Mel Ott to name a few.

# OF SEASONS REQUIRING BA>= .305, HR>= 25, SB>= 22, OPS+>= 168

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
MIKE TROUT 4
BARRY BONDS 4
WILLIE MAYS 2
AROD + NINE OTHERS 1

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts is the ringleader behind Boston’s incredible 17-4 start. Betts, who finished second behind Trout in the 2016 AL MVP voting, is making a strong case early on as the best player in the AL. The highlight of his season so far came against Trout’s Angels, as the 25-year-old Betts went 3-for-3 with three home runs, three runs scored, and a pair of walks. He already has eight multi-hit games, and has three leading-off the inning home runs.

Betts leads the league in batting average (.366), runs scored (23), doubles (8), and OPS (1.191). He also ranks fourth in SLG, fifth in OBP, and eighth in total bases. While his career is not as decorated as Trout’s, the Boston outfielder has a chance to go down as one of the greats.

# OF SEASONS WITH 18HR, 20SB, 402B, 160H (BEFORE TURNING 25)

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
MOOKIE BETTS 3
DAVID WRIGHT 2
HANLEY RAMIREZ 1
GRADY SIZEMORE 1
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 1
NOMAR GARCIAPARRA 1
ROBIN YOUNT 1
VADA PINSON 1

 

Bryce Harper

Baseball’s “Chosen One”, Bryce Harper has lived up to the expectations that were set for him as a teenager. Harper, who will be a free agent following the 2018 season, is in line to get the biggest contract in MLB history, if he stays healthy and has a big year. So far, Harper has an NL-leading 8 home runs, with 19 RBIs, 20 runs scored, and a .462 OBP. When the game is tied, Harper is hitting .412 (7-for-17), including four home runs.

PLAYERS, BEFORE TURNING 25, WHO HAVE HIT 150 HR, 500 RUNS, 1400 TOTAL BASES, 780 HITS

(In no particular order)

ALEX RODRIGUEZ
MEL OTT
JIMMIE FOXX
MICKEY MANTLE
KEN GRIFFEY JR
MIKE TROUT
FRANK ROBINSON
ALBERT PUJOLS
BRYCE HARPER

 

While his career has been affected by injuries, Harper is still on a Hall of Fame pace. Before he turned 25, he already had five seasons with 20HR, 20 doubles, and a .340 OBP. The only other players with five seasons mirroring that stat line, before turning 25-years-old, were Trout, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Orlando Cepeda, Frank Robinson, and Mel Ott.

Harper leads the NL with 8 home runs. (New York Post)

In 2015, at age 22, he became the youngest player in MLB history to post a season with 40 HR, .330 BA, .450 OBP, and .640 SLG. Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Jimmie Foxx, who held this record before, all accomplished this at the age of 24.

 

 

 

 

Manny Machado

Like Harper, Machado is 25-years-old and is also an impending free agent after this season. Over the past week, Machado hit .500 (12-for-24) with five home runs, seven runs scored, and eight RBIs. He, along with Manaea, were named AL Co-Players of the Week.

Overall, Machado is slashing .360/.447/.708 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs. He leads the league in OPS+ (218), and total bases. Now a full-time shortstop, Machado is very similar to a young Alex Rodriguez, without the steroids.  He and ARod are the only two players in MLB history who posted a season with at least 50 doubles before turning 21. In 2015, he joined Rodriguez as the youngest players in MLB history (both 22 at the time) to post a season with 35 home runs, 30 doubles, 20 steals, and a batting average north of .285.

Heading into the 2018 season, Machado had three seasons, before turning 25, with 30 home runs, 30 doubles, and 160 hits, which is tied with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Hal Trosky for second all-time. Albert Pujols had four such seasons before he turned 25.

PLAYERS, BEFORE TURNING 25, WITH H>=860, HR>=130, 2B>=170 AND TB>=1470
ALEX RODIGUEZ
MANNY MACHADO
MEL OTT
KEN GRIFFEY JR
MIKE TROUT

 

Aaron Judge

After hitting .179 during his first taste of the bigs in 2016, Judge went on to have, historically, one of the best rookie seasons of all-time. He set the rookie record in home runs with 52, passing Mark McGwire’s previous record of 49. His 8.1 WAR was the fourth best all-time for a rookie, behind Trout, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Dick Allen.

He became one of five players, joining Barry Bonds, McGwire, Babe Ruth, and Mickey Mantle, to post a season with 50 home runs, 120 runs scored, 120 walks, and 340 total bases. This year, Judge has picked up right where he left off, batting .325 with 20 runs scored and six home runs. He currently leads the league in walks (20) and OBP (.469). While it is too early on in his MLB career to compare him to some of the greats, Judge could very well go down as one of the top power hitters in the history of the sport.

Featured image by Newsday

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New Orleans Pelicans playoffs

The Pelicans are for real

Late in a game against the Houston Rockets on Jan. 26, Pelicans star DeMarcus Cousins injured his left Achilles in the closing seconds of the battle. He was later diagnosed with a torn left Achilles, and as a result, underwent season-ending surgery. The four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA nominee was having the best season of his life. Up to that point, “Boogie” was averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists. With all that production gone, the Pelicans playoff aspirations appeared in jeopardy.

With Anthony Davis leading the charge, New Orleans went 21-13 in Cousins’ absence and earned the sixth seed in the tough Western Conference. They were set up to face the Portland Trail Blazers, who appeared to have the edge on paper. Portland has made the postseason in each of the last five years, while New Orleans had not played in the playoffs since 2015, a year in which they were swept by the Golden State Warriors.

New Orleans Pelicans playoffs

Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis combined for 88 points in the series-clinching game against Portland. (Photo from NBA.com)

According to USA Today, “not only did all four of USA TODAY Sports’ experts pick Portland, but all 22 of ESPN’s writers and all six from CBS Sports did as well.”  Maybe these guys should stick to their day jobs.

After defeating Portland 131-123, “New Orleans became the first No. 6 seed (or lower) to sweep its first-round series since the NBA switched from its best-of-five format in 2003” according to USA Today. The Pelicans absolutely dominated Portland, who had no answer for any of New Orleans’ star players, or even their role players.

In Game 3, Nikola Mirotic had 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds and three steals. The only other player in NBA history with 30 points on at least 80 percent shooting from the field with eight rebounds and multiple steals is Hakeem Olajuwon, who also did it against Portland back in 1987.

In the clinching game, Anthony Davis erupted for 47 points and 11 rebounds, while Jrue Holiday went for 41 and added added eight assists. Rajon Rondo joined the fun with seven points, seven rebounds and a game-high 16 assists.

Now let’s take a further look into the Pelicans “Big 3″ by examining the numbers.

THE BROW

Davis, for the third time in his six-year career, led the NBA in blocks per game with 2.6. He averaged a career-high 28.1 points and tallied up 11.1 rebounds with 2.3 assists. He now has four seasons averaging a minimum 24 points on at least 49 percent shooting from the field, 10 rebounds and a free throw percentage greater than 75 percent. The only player with more seasons matching those statistics is Karl Malone, who has five. Keep in mind, Davis is just 25 years old.

Yes, we know he is great in the regular season, but what about the postseason? The media has been telling us that he is terrible since he has never won a playoff game. Are they aware that basketball is a team sport and Davis actually played extremely well in the four losses to the Warriors?

Dating back to those 2014-15 playoffs, “The Brow” now has seven straight games with at least 22 points and 11 rebounds. Shaquille O’Neal holds the record with 11. In his eight career playoff games, Davis is averaging 32.3 points per game, which is second-best behind Michael Jordan’s 33.4.

Consecutive playoff games with at least 22 points and 11 rebounds

*Still Active

PLAYER CONSECUTIVE NO. OF GAMES
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL 11
KARL MALONE 8
ANTHONY DAVIS 7*
KEVIN GARNETT 7
HAKEEM OLAJUWON 7

His epic Game 4 performance put him in elite company. Davis became one of six players (Jordan, O’Neal, Paul Millsap, Elvin Hayes, Charles Barkley) to finish a playoff game with at least 45 points on 60 percent shooting, 10 rebounds and multiple blocks. Of course, Davis could not have done without some help from his guards.

The Jruth

This season, Jrue Holiday joined LeBron James, Nikola Jokic and Stephen Curry as the only four players to average a minimum of 19 points on 49 percent shooting and six assists. Holiday, a former All-Star, played in 81 games this year and set career highs in points, rebounds, blocks and win shares.

After Saturday’s win, Holiday became one of 12 players in NBA history to score 40 points on at least 65 percent shooting with eight assists. The last to do it was his teammate, Rajon Rondo, who exploded as a Celtic in Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Championship against the Miami Heat.

Rondo

“Playoff Rondo” is not only the best version of the former Kentucky point guard, but it is quite possibly the second-best playoff point guard we have ever seen. Rondo had 17 assists in Game 1 against Portland. This was the fifth time he finished a playoff game with at least 17 assists and eight rebounds. The only other players with multiple 17-assist, eight-rebound games are Magic Johnson and Fat Lever.

No. of playoff games with at least 17 assists, 8 rebounds

PLAYER NO. OF GAMES
MAGIC JOHNSON 14
RAJON RONDO 5
FAT LEVER 2

In the series-clinching match, he added on 16 more assists, giving him 12 career with at least 15 assists in the playoffs, trailing only Magic Johnson (42) and John Stockton (27) for most all time. For his career in the postseason, which currently sits at 100 games, Rondo is averaging 14.2 points, 9.2 assists and six rebounds. The only other player in NBA history with at least 20 playoff games to average that stat line is Magic Johnson.

One more triple-double and Rondo will tie Jason Kidd for the third-most triple-doubles in NBA Playoff history.

No. of triple-doubles in the playoffs

PLAYER NO. OF TRIPLE DOUBLES
MAGIC JOHNSON 30
LEBRON JAMES 20
JASON KIDD 11
RAJON RONDO 10
LARRY BIRD 10
WILT CHAMBERLAIN 8

Whether he is a headache for coaches or not, Rondo has had quite the career. A classic point guard, Rondo has had six seasons averaging 10 points, nine assists and four rebounds, which is the fifth most behind Jason Kidd (11), Magic Johnson (10), Oscar Robertson (nine) and Chris Paul (eight). He also has four seasons averaging 10 points, 11 assists and four rebounds, which is second to Magic Johnson.

New Orleans Pelicans playoffs

“Playoff Rondo” is a scary sight for all opponents. (Photo from SlamOnline)

One of those four seasons occurred in 2015-16. As a member of the Sacramento Kings, Rondo averaged 11.9 points, 11.7 assists, six rebounds and two steals. The only other player to average those numbers was Magic Johnson, who accomplished this back in the 1983-84 season. If you are constantly being mentioned in the same department as Magic Johnson, you are clearly a pretty good player.

In all likelihood, New Orleans will square off against the defending champion, Golden State Warriors. On paper, they may appear like the underdog, but that is what the analysts said about them in the Portland series. After looking at these numbers, there is no way anyone can sleep on the Pelicans Big 3.

 

Featured image by ClutchPoints

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Mookie Betts hot start

Mookie Betts and the Red Sox historic start

In Shohei Ohtani’s first home start, Los Angeles fans sold out Angel Stadium in anticipation of seeing more dominance from the Japanese right-hander. This was the first sellout in four years, the last one being Mike Trout bobblehead day. Against the red-hot Boston lineup, Ohtani lasted just two innings, exiting early due to a blister on a finger on his pitching hand.

While throwing 66 pitches in his two innings of work, Ohtani allowed three runs, on four hits and two walks. Ohtani appeared extremely vulnerable as the Sox swung and missed only three times. This is what happens when you don’t get to face the Oakland Athletics every time you pitch.

Mookie Betts hot start

Ohtani watching as Betts’ lead-off HR clears the fence (San Bernardino Sun)

To lead off the game, Red Sox star Mookie Betts crushed a home run to left field. He wound up finishing the game with three home runs, three runs scored and a pair of walks. This was Betts’ third three-homer game, which ties him with Ted Williams for the most three-homer games in Red Sox history. This was the second time this season that a player in the MLB went 3-for-3 with a trio of home runs, as San Diego’s Christian Villanueva did this two weeks ago against the Colorado Rockies.

Betts is now first in the league in runs (19), doubles (7), batting average (.389), OPS (1.289) and OPS+ (246). In 2016, Betts finished runner-up to Mike Trout in AL MVP voting and became the youngest player in MLB history with a season of 40 doubles, 30 home runs, 25 steals and 350 total bases. The Sox slugger was just 23 years old at the time, passing Alfonso Soriano, who was 26, and previously the youngest player to accomplish this feat.

Last season, Betts’ finished third in doubles, fourth in defensive WAR and ninth in overall WAR for position players. Coming off back-to-back All-Star Game appearances, Betts has solidified himself as one of the top players in the game, offensively and defensively. He is currently on pace for 54 home runs and 75 doubles.

Was Betts always this good? If yes, did he always have a tremendous amount of power despite being listed at just 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds?

YA BETTS BELIEVE

Coming out of high school, scouts, according to Baseball America, claimed Markus “Mookie” Betts “could be a difference-maker for his hitting ability, speed and solid athleticism.” He committed to the University of Tennessee, but decided to sign with the Red Sox after they selected him in the fifth round in the 2011 MLB Draft. His signing bonus was a lofty $750,000.

Betts played in just one Rookie Level Gulf Coast League game in 2011, and boy was it memorable. While he did hit a pair of singles, Betts committed three errors. In 2012, Betts got his first real taste of pro ball, playing in 71 games for the Lowell Spinners in Short-Season A Ball. In 251 at-bats, Betts hit a whopping zero home runs, and just nine extra-base hits. He was drawing plenty of walks and still getting on base, but it was not until mid-April of 2013 in which Betts cleared the fence for his first professional home run.

Mookie Betts hot start

Mookie Betts as a member of the Greenville Drive. (Photo from VAVEL.com)

During that 2013 season, now a member of the Single A Greenville team, Betts started the year ice-cold. In early-May, Betts had a batting average of .145. However, Carlos Febles, then coach of Greenville, saw serious potential in Betts, noting that Betts was hitting the ball extremely hard, and just getting really unlucky.

“At one point, he was hitting the ball at least three times hard during the game and not getting hits. I remember giving him an extra day off just to give him a mental break,” Febles said according to the Boston Globe.

Greenville’s hitting coach, U.L. Washington, saw a star in Betts, even though the numbers said otherwise. Former Red Sox hitting coordinator, Tim Hyers, was quoted saying “U.L. thought he (Betts) would drive the ball one day because his hands are so quick and he’s got such great body control…It was, like, ‘It’s just a matter of time. This guy is going to figure it out.’” Washington believed Betts was a bit too passive, trying to draw walks instead of being aggressive.

The talks with coaches and the time out of the lineup led to a difference in Betts’ approach. He finished that 2013 season slashing .314/.417/.506 with 15 home runs in 127 games. The following year, Betts, between Double and Triple-A, hit 11 home runs in 99 games and was called-up to the show.

Now, in 2018, the 25-year-old has had quite the start to his MLB career. Below is a table which exemplifies his numbers, based off players younger than 25.

NO. OF SEASONS WITH 18 HR, 20 SB, 40 2B, 160 H (BEFORE TURNING 25)

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
MOOKIE BETTS 3
DAVID WRIGHT 2
HANLEY RAMIREZ 1
GRADY SIZEMORE 1
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 1
NOMAR GARCIAPARRA 1
ROBIN YOUNT 1
VADA PINSON 1

Red Sox hot start

For the first time in franchise history, Boston has won 14 of their first 16 games. Previously, they had won 13 of 15 to start the season in 1946, and began the year 12-4 on seven separate occasions. They lead the AL in batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS and doubles. They rank second in the MLB in ERA and have allowed the fewest home runs in the AL.

Mookie Betts hot start

Does this look like the face of a coach who can lead his team to a title in his first year? YES. (Photo from The Boston Globe)

Clearly clicking on all cylinders, you have to wonder if the coaching change was exactly what the Red Sox needed. In 1912, Jake Stahl, first-year manager of Boston, coached the team to a 105-47-2 record and capped off the season by winning the 1912 World Series. In 1918, Ed Barrow’s first year as manager of the Sox, Boston again, won the World Series. After Grady Little’s inability to pull Pedro Martinez from Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Boston brought in Terry Francona for the 2004 season, the same year that Boston ended its 86-year World Series drought.

After a miserable 2012 season, Boston fired then coach Bobby Valentine and welcomed in John Farrell. In Ferrell’s first year, Boston won the 2013 World Series. Do you see a trend here? In 2018, Alex Cora’s first year as manager of the Red Sox, Boston is one of the best teams in the league. Are they destined for a World Series title because of the “first year as manager with the Red Sox” success in the past?

 

Featured image by NESN.com

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Dwyane Wade playoffs

Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat’s chances of upsetting the Sixers

Vintage Flash 

On Monday night, Dwyane Wade turned back the clock and led the Heat to a 113-103 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, tying the series at one. At 36 years young, Wade finished with 28 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes off the bench. After the first 15 minutes in the game, Wade had outscored the entire Sixers team, 21-20, while shooting 8-for-9 from the floor.

“Flash” joined Jamal Crawford, Eddie Johnson, Vince Carter and Andre Miller as the only players in postseason history, age 36 or older, to finish with at least 28 points while coming off the bench. Nene Hilario is the only other reserve in NBA history with 28 points and seven rebounds in under 30 minutes of play.

During the first half of his legendary performance, Wade passed Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics legend, Larry Bird, in career postseason points. He is now 10th all time and is just 106 points shy of tying Tony Parker for ninth in NBA history. While Parker is currently still playing as well, this is clearly in reach if Miami can get past Philadelphia.

Wade has yet to commit to playing another season in the NBA, so it is only right we look back at how legendary this man’s career has been, if he decides to hang the shoes up after the playoffs.

D-Wade

In all honesty, Dwyane Wade’s resume is good enough to be considered a top-five shooting guard in NBA history. According to FS1 analyst and co-host of First Things First, Nick Wright, Wade is the fourth best shooting guard this league has ever seen, trailing Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Jerry West.

Dwyane Wade playoffs

Wade put on a performance for the ages in his first NBA Finals. (Photo from Sneaker History)

The former fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft, “Father Prime” is a three-time NBA champ, three-time All-Defensive, eight-time All-NBA and 12-time All-Star. In 2008-09, Wade led the league in scoring with 30.2 points per game. The following season, he won the All-Star Game MVP.

In his first NBA Finals appearance against the Dallas Mavericks, Wade and the Miami Heat faced adversity early on, trailing 2-0 to start the series. Wade put the team on his back in Games 3, 4 and 5, erupting for 42, 36 and 43 points in those respective games. In Game 6, Wade dropped 36 points, and the Miami Heat won the series 4-2.

Flash became the fifth youngest player to earn NBA Finals MVP honors. His 34.7 points per game ranks third in terms of highest scoring average by a player in his first NBA Finals. According to ESPN’s John Hollinger, Wade’s 33.8 PER in the NBA Finals is noted as the greatest Finals performance since the NBA-ABA merger.

During the 2005-06 championship run, Wade joined Allen Iverson as the only two players in NBA history to finish the postseason with at least 650 points, 50 steals and 130 assists. In Miami’s Big 3 era, Wade won two more rings, as Miami went back-to-back in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

Players with at least 3,900 points, 900 rebounds, 850 assists and 250 steals in the postseason
MICHAEL JORDAN
KOBE BRYANT
LEBRON JAMES
DWYANE WADE

While his playoff totals are among the best, Wade made 12 straight All-Star appearances from 2005-16. During that stretch, Wade was named First Team All-NBA in two seasons and Second Team three times, as well as Second Team All-Defensive three times. Over his storied career, Wade has six seasons averaging at least 24 points, five assists, four rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He trails just LeBron James (11) and Michael Jordan (eight) in this category.

Players with 22,000 points, 5,000 assists, 4,500 rebounds and 1,500 steals
Clyde Drexler
Michael Jordan
Karl Malone
Kevin Garnett
Kobe Bryant
Dwyane Wade
LeBron James

As you can tell from the tables above, D-Wade is one of the most complete players we have ever seen. Whether he retires or not, Wade will go down as a legend. Does he have enough in the tank to help propel the Heat past the 76ers?

Miami vs. Philadelphia

With the series knotted at one, Miami sits right in the driver’s seat, as they head home for Game 3 and 4. During the Big 3 ERA, Miami went 38-9 at home in the playoffs. Even without LeBron, coach Erik Spoelstra is 8-4 at home during the postseason. During the regular season, Miami went 26-15 at American Airlines Arena. However, the Sixers are a solid road team, finishing the season 22-19 averaging 108 points away from Philly.

Dwyane Wade playoffs

Will Embiid return for Game 3? (Photo from Liberty Ballers)

While Wade most likely won’t put on another historic performance, Philly needs Joel Embiid back if they expect to win this series. After the Game 2 loss, Embiid took to social media and wrote “(expletive) sick and tired of being babied.”

This series will come down to 3-point shooting. In Game 1, Philly went 18-for-28 (64.3 percent) from beyond the arc. The following game, Philly went an abysmal 7-for-36 (19.4 percent). If Philly hits their threes, there is no reason why they should not win. They have the best player on the floor in Ben Simmons, as well as prolific 3-point shooters like JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli, Robert Covington and Dario Saric.

If Embiid does in fact return, Miami will need more out of Hassan Whiteside, who seems to rise to the challenge when facing Philly’s star big man. These are two of the top defensive teams in terms of defensive rating, so expect some close games the rest of the way. To keep it simple, if Philly’s shooting is off, Miami will win this series. If the Sixers knock down deep shots, Miami will be in trouble.

Prediction: Miami in six

 

Featured image from The New York Times 

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NBA Rookie of the Year

2017-18 NBA rookies: Behind the numbers

Throughout the regular season, we have seen excellent performances out of the first-year players. Now in the playoffs, we are getting a taste of what these rookies are capable of under the bright lights.

In Game 1 against the Miami Heat, Sixers star Ben Simmons was a rebound shy of a triple-double, finishing with 17 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds in his playoff debut. He joined Spud Webb as the only rookies to finish a playoff game with at least 17 points, 12 assists and five rebounds. He then followed up that performance with 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in Game 2.

NBA Rookie of the Year

Jayson Tatum’s clutch plays helped injury-riddled Boston defeat the Bucks in Game 1. (Photo from CelticsLife.com)

Although his performance was not enough to overcome Oklahoma City and Game 1, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell put on a show in the loss. The 21-year-old had 27 points and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes of play. He is the first rookie since Tim Duncan to score at least 25 points on 50 percent shooting or better, while corralling 10 boards.

In an epic overtime thriller, Jayson Tatum stepped up big for the Celtics. The former Duke standout had 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals in Boston’s win over Milwaukee. Even OG Anunoby had a solid game off the bench for Toronto, finishing with 12 points in route to the Raptors victory over the Washington Wizards.

The league is getting younger, and these kids can really ball. The Rookie of the Year chase may be down to just Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell, but let’s take a look at the rest of the field and how they fared throughout the 2017-18 NBA season.

The Field

Let’s start with the future of the Lakers, Kyle Kuzma, and the face of the Big Baller Brand, Lonzo Ball. Possibly the most scrutinized rookie of all time, Ball, who had an up-and-down season, ended up with 13 double-doubles and a pair of triple-doubles. Say what you want about the kid, but the only rookies to average 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds are Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Ben Simmons and Ball. Without Ball in the lineup, the Lakers went 11-19.

Saying Kuzma exceeded expectations would be an understatement. The 27th pick in the draft, Kuzma became one of eight rookies since 2001 (Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol) to average at least 16 points and six rebounds. He had five games with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds, which was the third-most by a rookie since 2011, behind Griffin and Towns.

NBA Rookie of the Year

Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, the future of the Lake Show. (Photo from NBC Sports)

Kuzma joined Jayson Tatum, Steve Francis and Shane Battier as the only rookies to score 1,100 points, 400 rebounds and 100 threes. Speaking of Tatum, the Celtics rookie finished second among rookies in win shares. Tatum was the complete package for Boston, and joined Towns, Dave Greenwood, Christian Laettner, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Larry Johnson as the only rookies to finish the season with 1,100 points, 400 rebounds, 100 assists, 80 steals, 50 blocks and a free-throw percentage greater than 80 percent.

What about the big men? Lauri Markkanen started the year on fire from deep. He set the rookie record for most threes in his first three career games. Only eight players this season ended the season with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 100 threes: LeBron James, Towns, Nikola Jokic, Dario Saric, Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol and Markkanen. Atlanta’s John Collins was the fifth rookie since 2012 (Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, Nerlens Noel, Anthony Davis) to finish with 700 points, 500 rebounds and 80 blocks.

How about some standout individual performances? Against the Toronto Raptors, Miami’s Bam Adebayo finished with 16 points on 57.1 percent shooting, 15 rebounds and five blocks. The only rookies to do that since 1998 are Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol and Towns.

The 2016-17 Horizon League Player of the Year, Valparaiso’s Alec Peters, had quite the stat line in Game 82 for the Phoenix Suns. The former Crusaders star, who averaged 23 points and 10.1 rebounds his senior year, became one of eight players in NBA history to score 36 points with at least eight threes, while shooting less than 15 from deep and also adding nine rebounds. That list includes Ray Allen, Kevin Love, Vernon Maxwell, Jason Kidd, Russell Westbrook, Jason Richardson and James Harden. While most people have never heard of this kid, that is quite a list to be on.

Let’s take a look at the top two rookies from this past season.

Donovan Mitchell

If we were to re-draft the 2017 NBA Draft, Donovan Mitchell would go No. 1 overall, as he was clearly the best player in his draft class. Mitchell set the rookie record for most three-pointers made in a season (187), passing Damian Lillard (185) and Steph Curry (166). He led the Utah Jazz to a 48-34 record, averaging 20.5 points per game. He is one of seven rookies, joining Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Walter Davis, Pete Maravich, and Mitch Redmond, to average 20 points, three rebounds and three assists with a free-throw percentage better than 80 percent.

Mitchell’s seven 30-point games were the most by a rookie since Blake Griffin in 2011. In a game against the Suns, Mitchell caught fire, finishing with 40 points, six assists and five rebounds, becoming one of 14 rookies in NBA history to post a game with at least 40 points, five rebounds and five assists. This was Mitchell’s second 40-point game of the season, which put him in elite company with Griffin and Allen Iverson as the only three rookies since 1985 to have multiple 40-point games in their rookie season.

Ben Simmons

In all honesty, this is a one-man race. All respect to Mitchell, who clearly had a tremendous rookie season, but Ben Simmons is a once-in-a-generation type of player. Barring injury, this guy is a lock for the Hall of Fame. While that may sound crazy, Simmons’ rookie season was one of the best we have ever seen. The Australian finished with the third-highest win shares as a rookie since 2005, behind Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

NBA Rookie of the Year

Ben Simmons has arrived and is ready to takeover the league (SI.com)

Simmons led all rookies in rebounds, assists and steals. He became the first rookie in history to finish with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, 50 blocks and 50 steals. His 12 triple-doubles were second most in NBA history by a rookie, ahead of Magic Johnson, who had seven. Simmons joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to do average 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists during their rookie seasons.

He also had a few legendary performances. Against LeBron James and the Cavs, the 6-foot-10 point guard collected 27 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists. He did this while shooting 70.6 percent from the field. The only players to put up those numbers in a game are Wilt Chamberlin and Nikola Jokic.

Simmons also had four 15-assist games, including one against the Hornets in which he scored 20 points and added eight rebounds. He joined James, Westbrook and Jokic as the only players since 2014 to have a game with at least 20 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds while shooting over 55 percent.

Can Simmons carry the Sixers all the way into the NBA Finals? Time will tell.

 

Featured image by SLAM Magazine

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NBA MVP candidates

2017-18 NBA MVP candidates

Another wonderful NBA regular season is in the books, and with the Golden State Warriors appearing to be a bit more vulnerable heading into the postseason, unlike recent years, the playoffs should be a joy to watch.

Wednesday’s slate of games gave us a good mix of drama and history. The Minnesota Timberwolves edged out the Denver Nuggets in overtime, 112-106, to clinch their first playoff berth since 2004. They will take on the Houston Rockets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

NBA MVP candidates

Why not average a triple-double for the second consecutive season? (Photo from ESPN)

Markelle Fultz, whose shot appeared to be broken during his rehab, became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. At 19 years and 317 days old, Fultz tallied 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in just 25 minutes. The 130-95 win over Milwaukee was the Sixers 16th straight victory. Philadelphia owns the third seed, and will take on the Miami Heat.

Russell Westbrook became the first player in history to average a triple-double in multiple seasons. Heading into Wednesday’s finale needing 16 boards, Westbrook corralled 20 and also added 19 assists. Whether his teammates let him get a few extra boards or not, this is quite the achievement for The Brodie.

Although most would say the Thunder underperformed considering it took them until Game 81 to clinch a spot in the playoffs despite being relatively injury-free the whole season, they finished as the fourth seed and will take on the Utah Jazz. This means that, for the first time since 2012-13, Carmelo Anthony will be back in the playoffs. In 66 career playoff games, Melo is averaging 25.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists. While he may look a tad washed up, “Playoff Melo” could surprise some people.

There are a lot of great storylines heading into the postseason, but today, we will be focusing on the NBA MVP candidates. Let’s take a look back at their seasons and what this past year meant for their overall careers.

James Harden

The overwhelming favorite, James Harden looks to finally win his first MVP trophy. He led the Houston Rockets to a 65-17 record, and scored a league-high 30.4 points per game. His field goal percentage was his best since 2013-14. Harden had the highest win share, which, according to Basketball Reference, is an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player. This is the second year in a row in which Harden led the NBA in this category, and the third time in four years.

Harden joined Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant and Rick Berry as the only players to average 30 points, five rebounds and five assists while shooting 85 percent or better from the free-throw line. The addition of Chris Paul was obviously huge, as the Rockets finished with the 11th highest rated offense in NBA history.

This season marked Harden’s sixth in which he averaged at least 25 points, five assists and four rebounds, while shooting at least 84 percent from the line. This puts him ahead of Jordan for the most all-time. Below is a table which illustrates the top players in this particular category.

NO. OF SEASONS AVERAGING 25 POINTS, FIVE ASSISTS, FOUR REBOUNDS, WITH A FREE-THROW PERCENTAGE HIGHER THAN 84 PERCENT

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
JAMES HARDEN 6
MICHAEL JORDAN 5
LARRY BIRD 4
OSCAR ROBERTSON 4
STEPHEN CURRY 3
KEVIN DURANT 3

Harden is on a Hall of Fame pace, but needs to show up in the playoffs, as he has tendencies to shrink under the big lights. Only time will tell. Houston has a tough task ahead of them in the first round against the Timberwolves with a healthy Jimmy Butler.

Lebron James

NBA MVP candidates

Bow down to the King. (Photo from NBA.com)

For the first time in his legendary career, LeBron James played all 82 games. The King led the league in total points, field goals made and minutes during his 15th season at age 33.

 

His 9.1 assists per game were the most in his career, eclipsing last year’s average of 8.7. James also averaged 8.6 rebounds, which is tied for the most he has ever averaged in a season.

James became the first player ever to average 27 points, eight rebounds and eight assists on 54 percent shooting or better. He had 10 triple-doubles in which he shot 50 percent or better, which was more than anyone in the league.

2017-18 was The King’s 14th season in which he averaged 25 points, six rebounds and six assists per game. The next closest is Oscar Robertson with nine. Michael Jordan only had three seasons.

NO. OF SEASONS AVERAGING 25-6-6

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
LEBRON JAMES 14
OSCAR ROBERTSON 9
LARRY BIRD 4
MICHAEL JORDAN 3

While he may not catch Jordan in titles, James, by the numbers, is clearly the best basketball player to ever walk the planet. When you think of a complete player, you want someone who can efficiently score, pass and rebound the basketball.

Below is a table of players who, while shooting 50 percent or better, averaged 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists across an entire season. No one else in the history of the sport has done this more than once, and James just did it for the fifth time.

NO. OF SEASONS AVERAGING 25-7-7 ON 50 PERCENT SHOOTING OR BETTER.

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
LEBRON JAMES 5
LARRY BIRD 1
MICHAEL JORDAN 1
OSCAR ROBERTSON 1

Anthony Davis

When DeMarcus Cousins went down, it appeared the Pelicans’ playoff chances were in jeopardy. Instead of panicking, New Orleans went 48-34, which was their best record since the rebrand. They finished the season strong, winning nine of 13, and earned the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

Davis, for the third time in his six-year career, led the NBA in blocks per game with 2.6. He averaged a career-high 28.1 points, and tallied along 11.1 rebounds with 2.3 assists. Davis also shot 82.8 percent from the charity stripe, joining Bob McAdoo as the only two players in NBA history to average at least 28 points and 11 rebounds while shooting better than 80 percent from the free-throw line, as well as posting a field goal percentage of at least 50 percent.

Below is a list of players who averaged at least 24 points and 10 rebounds, with a field goal percentage of 49 percent or better, and a free-throw percentage of at least 75 percent.

NO. OF SEASONS WITH AT LEAST 24 POINTS AND 10 REBOUNDS PER GAME WHILE SHOOTING AT LEAST 49 PERCENT FROM THE FIELD AND 75 PERCENT FROM FREE-THROW LINE

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
KARL MALONE 5
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR 4
ANTHONY DAVIS 4
CHARLES BARKLEY 3

Although he has yet to win a playoff game, Anthony Davis is on a historic pace to be one of the best bigs of all time. The Pelicans face the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.

 

Featured image by ClutchPoints

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Are the Mets for real

Are the Mets back?

Yoenis Cespedes was recently quoted saying that the 2018 Mets are the best team he has been around. After defeating the Miami Marlins 8-6 on Tuesday, New York improved to 9-1 on the season. They have won seven straight. In their long, storied franchise, the Mets have never started a season 9-1.

So what have been the keys to success so far? For one, their bullpen has been lights out. In 2017, New York’s bullpen ranked 29th in the MLB in ERA. Today, they are third in the MLB with a 1.56 ERA, and recently received Bullpen of the Week Honors. Their closer, Jeurys Familia, in eight innings of work, has six saves, 10 strikeouts and zero runs allowed.

Are the Mets for real

New haircut, same nasty stuff. (Photo from New York Post)

As a team, the Mets have the second best ERA in the NL and rank second in strikeouts. Jacob deGrom is off to a hot start, winning his first two starts and posting a 1.54 ERA in his 11.2 innings of work. Noah Syndergaard is also 2-0, and Matt Harvey looks a lot more like the 2015 version of himself than what we have seen of him over the last two seasons.

Offensively, the Mets are not scoring a crazy amount of runs, but they are getting on base. Last year, New York ranked ninth in the NL in batting average and 11th in OBP. This year, they are second in OBP and third in batting average.

Newcomers Adrian Gonzalez and Todd Frazier have already shown they have plenty left in the tank. Gonzalez has six RBIs and a .387 OBP, while Frazier has an OBP of .386. Their star, Cespedes, leads the team in home runs (three) and RBIs (10). Asdrubal Cabrera is also off to a hot start, slashing .324/.400/.634.

Only two other times in Mets history has the team won eight of its first nine games. The first time was in 1985 and the second more recently in 2006. In both instances, New York won over 95 games.

Does that mean the Mets are destined for success? We now look back at those historic years, and see if those ball clubs relate to the 2018 Mets.

1985 New York Mets

Coming off a 90-win season in 1984, New York rolled into 1985 with essentially an identical roster. Dwight Gooden was fresh off winning NL Rookie of the Year, and finished runner-up in the NL CY Young voting after a stellar 17-9 record with a 2.60 ERA.

Are the Mets for real

Doc Gooden had one of the best pitching seasons in baseball history in 1985. (Photo from Amazin’ Avenue)

In 1985, “Doc” Gooden went on to pitch statistically one of the best seasons we have ever seen. His 13.3 WAR was the highest by a pitcher in over sixty years. Gooden finished 24-4 with a ridiculous 1.53 ERA, 268 strikeouts and 16 complete games in 276 2/3 innings of work. He won the pitching Triple Crown, leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts and unanimously won the NL CY Young Award. Gooden became the youngest pitcher to win the CY Young and Pitcher of the Year honors.

The Mets also had one of the best offenses in the league. Among the 12 NL teams, New York ranked third in runs and home runs, fourth in batting average and fifth in OBP. The offensive surge was led by Gary Carter, who hit 32 home runs and drove in 100 RBIs, and Keith Hernandez, who batted .309 with 183 hits and 91 RBIs. Both finished top-10 in the NL MVP voting.

The 1985 Mets went on to win 98 games, yet missed the playoffs, as this was before the Wild Card era, and only two teams from each league made the postseason. The following season, New York won 108 games and defeated the Boston Red Sox (Thanks Bill Buckner) in seven games to win the 1986 World Series.

Can we draw comparisons? In all honesty, this Mets pitching staff, led by deGrom and Syndergaard, is very similar to the 1985 team, which showcased Gooden, Ron Darling (16-6 2.90 ERA), Ed Lynch and Sid Fernandez. Both teams have All-Star caliber arms, as well as a good back-end of the bullpen.

2006 New York Mets

The 2006 Mets were more well-rounded than the present-day team. New York had a mix of established veterans like Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran and Jose Valentin, along with up-and-coming studs like David Wright and Jose Reyes, who were both 23-years-old at the time.

Are the Mets for real

Four players in the top 12 for NL MVP voting. (Photo from MLB.com)

They finished the season 97-65 and had four players in the top 12 for NL MVP Voting (Beltran fourth, Reyes seventh, Wright ninth, Delgado 12th). Beltran hit 41 home runs and drove in 116 runs. Reyes slashed .300/.354/.487 with 19 home runs and 64 steals. Wright slashed .311/.381/.531 with 26 home runs, 20 steals, 40 doubles and 116 RBIs. Delgado smashed 38 home runs with 114 RBIs.

The pitching staff, which was full of veterans like Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel and Orlando Hernandez, finished second in the NL in strikeouts and third in ERA.

Ultimately, New York finished one win shy of the World Series, as they lost in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Conclusion

Let’s be honest, the 2018 Mets, unlike the 1985 and 2006 team, will not have multiple players in the top 15 for NL MVP voting. Aside from Cespedes, no one in this lineup is capable of earning MVP votes.

However, the 2018 Mets pitching staff has a chance to be better than both the 1985 and 2006 teams. Syndergaard and deGrom are two of the best pitchers in the NL, and if Harvey can get back to what he used to be, there is no reason this team cannot make a run in the postseason.

We saw what they were capable of in 2015 when they were a Wild Card team. Now healthy and more experienced, don’t sleep on the Mets.

 

Featured image by Metro US

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Shohei Ohtani and five other players with surprising starts

Although he entered the season as the number one prospect in baseball, Los Angeles Angels DH/RHP, Shohei Ohtani, had a very disappointing Spring. The two-way Japanese star not only hit just .125 (4-for-32), but he also struggled on the bump, surrendering eight earned runs, including three home runs, in just 2.2 innings of work.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Ohtani has taken the world by storm. In his first career start on the mound, Ohtani earned his first win, after allowing three runs and striking out six over six innings of work. On Sunday, while most were glued to the TV to watch the ending of the Masters, Ohtani was flirting with a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Oakland. His final line, in seven innings of work, one hit allowed, one walk, zero runs, and a total of 12 strikeouts. He got a ridiculous 25 swings and misses, which is the most by a pitcher at this point in the season.

Shohei Ruth? (Business Insider)

Oh, and, by the way, Ohtani has three home runs and is slashing .389/.421/.889. His three home runs aren’t just brazing over the fence either. They are going an average of 415 feet. Ohtani currently ranks second in the MLB in regards to highest average exit velocity (97.3 MPH), and fourth in highest average four-seam fastball velocity (97.1 MPH). He’s got more home runs this season than Aaron Judge, and more strikeouts than Max Scherzer.

Thought we were done with Ohtani facts? He is also the third player to ever homer in three consecutive games, while also recording a double-digit strikeout game in the same year. The other two were Ken Brett (1973) and some guy named Babe Ruth (1916). The last time a player earned two wins and hit three home runs in his team’s first 10 games, Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States, and the national average price of gasoline was 25 cents per gallon. That’s right, the last person to accomplish this feat was Jim Shaw in 1919.

Obviously, its only April 10, but are you not entertained by this kid’s start? Guys like Freddie Freeman and Bryce Harper are also off to hot starts, but that’s expected. Below, we will take a look at some surprising starts, and predict if these guys will stay hot throughout the season.

Didi Gregorius

Being the guy to replace Derek Jeter at shortstop is no easy task, but Gregorius has excelled since stepping foot in New York. He is coming off back-to-back 20HR-202B seasons and set career-highs in batting average, home runs, RBIs, runs, SLG, OPS, and total bases. This season, Gregorius is leading the league in runs (10), RBIs (10), walks (9), OBP, SLG, and OPS. He has also launched three home runs.

Gregorius’ scorching start may have a little to do with the players around him. He is in a lineup surrounded by Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez to name a few. In the home opener, the “infield captain”, a nicknamed given to Gregorius by manager Aaron Boone, became the first Yankees shortstop to drive in eight runs in one game.

While he most likely won’t finish atop the leaderboards in the statistics above, Gregorius should continue to have a very solid season, possibly his best as a pro. He may not be mentioned with guys like Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Francisco Lindor, but Gregorius might have a legitimate argument to be amongst the best after 2018.

Gregory Polanco

In 2016, Polanco had a breakout year. He played in 144 games and hit 22 home runs, 34 doubles, and swiped 17 bases. A year later, Polanco battled injuries last season and missed a good chunk of time. In his 108 games, The Pittsburgh outfielder slashed just .251/.305/.391.

Now healthy, although he was scratched on Saturday because of right foot discomfort, Polanco is hitting .310, with three home runs, eight runs, and an MLB-leading, 13 RBIs. With no McCutchen, Polanco is thriving in the heart of the Pirates order. While the average may dip, as he is a career .253 hitter, Polanco has a chance to hit 20+ bombs, with 100+ RBIs.

Jameson Taillon

Polanco’s teammate, Jameson Taillon, is poised for a big 2018. After fanning nine in his 2018 regular season debut, Taillon, on Sunday against the Reds, threw a complete game shutout with seven strikeouts and just one hit surrendered. He is 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA, and 0.49 WHIP.

Taillon’s story is tremendous. He underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2014, and last season, was forced to have surgery for testicular cancer in May. The second overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Taillon is the real deal. He stands tall at 6-5, and has a fastball which hovers around 95. At 26, Taillon looks to be the ace of the Pirates for the next five years.

Matt Chapman

A first-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, Chapman had a tough start to his MLB career. In 2017, in 84 games, Oakland’s third basemen hit just .234 with an OBP of .313. However, he finished seventh in defensive WAR, and hit 14 home runs.

Chapman finished seventh in defensive WAR in 2017(ESPN)

Chapman is currently slashing .375/.444/.675 with three home runs, nine runs scored, and eight RBIs. He has always had power, slugging 36 home runs in 135 games between AA/AAA in 2016, and now Chapman looks real comfortable at the plate. This guy has 35+ HR potential in the bigs, and could turn into one of the best third basemen in the AL. Chapman was a first round pick for a reason, and is thriving in the latter half of the order for Oakland.

Charlie Morton

Let’s be honest, Charlie Morton was a bit of a scrub before joining the Astros. Although he had a few decent seasons in Pittsburgh, Morton was converted to a reliever for the Phillies in 2016. Unfortunately, in April 2016, Morton tore his hamstring and missed the rest of the season. Last season, the Astros brought on Morton, at age-33, as a member of the starting rotation.  Morton went on to have his best regular season, posting a 3.62 ERA, and finishing with a record of 14-7.

Over his last five starts, including Game 7 of the ALCS, and two World Series starts, Morton has thrown 28.1 innings, allowing just two runs, seven walks, and striking out 29. In his first two 2018 starts, Morton is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA. This is a guy, as a 26-year-old, went 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA in 17 starts. Now, a savvy veteran, Morton has found some magic in Houston. Expect the 34-year-old to have another solid season with the Astros.

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Ichiro Albert Pujols milestones

Milestones that Ichiro and Albert Pujols could reach in 2018

The winners of the 2001 AL and NL Rookie of the Year Awards, Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols, have had tremendous careers. Both are worthy of first-ballot nominations to the National Baseball Hall of Fame whenever they decide to hang up the cleats.

Ichiro, the 2001 AL MVP, 10-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger, 10-time Gold Glove Award winner and two-time batting champ is back in Seattle and is only 42 runs away from becoming the Mariners all-time leader in runs scored, passing Edgar Martinez. Pujols, a three-time MVP, 10-time All-Star, six-time Silver Slugger, two-time Gold Glove Award winner and former batting champ sits just 25 hits away from 3,000.

Below, we will examine some other possible milestones these two could reach in 2018, as well as what this means for their legacy, as all-time greats.

Ichiro

In 2016, Ichiro hit a triple off Colorado Rockies pitcher Chris Rusin, which marked his 3,000th career hit in the MLB. Currently, he sits just 27 hits away from 3,110, which would tie him for 21st all time with Dave Winfield. If Ichiro can string together 71 more hits, he would tie George Brett at 16th all time.

Ichiro Albert Pujols milestones

In 2004, Ichiro hit .372 with 262 hits and 36 steals, one of the best seasons we have ever seen. (Photo from SBNation)

If he was an everyday player, this would be like brushing his teeth. Unfortunately, Ichiro has not had more than 100 hits in a season since 2014. Because of injuries to Seattle’s outfield, Ichiro has gotten 16 at-bats in the team’s first five games. In all honesty, even with the lack of playing time, Ichiro’s chances at jumping Brett on the hits leaderboard look good.

3,987 is the amount of bases Ichiro has crossed during his 18-year career. If he crosses 12 more, and he will become the 90th man in MLB history to reach 4,000. He will accomplish that in the near future.

Although he had just one steal last season, Ichiro needs to swipe five more bags to tie Barry Bonds for 33rd all time. In 2016, he managed to steal 10 bases, so don’t sleep on the 44-year-old’s legs. He is also just four triples away from 100 on his career.

Barring a season-ending injury, Ichiro will most certainly reach 3,100 hits and 4,000 total bases. When Ichiro reaches these marks, he will join Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins and Paul Molitor as the only players in baseball history with 3,100 hits, 4,000 total bases, 500 or more steals and a career batting average above .305.

 

Ichiro’s Legacy

Even if he were to never play another game, Ichiro has already solidified himself as one of the best lead-off hitters this game has ever seen. He is one of four players to have won 10 Gold Glove Awards while compiling at least 3,000 hits. Joining him on this list is Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays and Al Kaline. In 2004, he became the only player in MLB history who posted a season with a batting average of at least .370 with 260 or more hits.

During his rookie season, in which he won the AL MVP, Ichiro joined Ty Cobb and George Sisler as the only three players with a season of at least 50 steals, .350 batting average and 240 hits. Below is a table to illustrate Ichiro’s greatness.

 NO. OF SEASONS WITH AT LEAST 200 HITS, .300 BATTING AVERAGE and 30 STOLEN BASES

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
ICHIRO SUZUKI 9
TY COBB 7
WILLIE KEELER 6
TONY GWYNN 4

 

Albert Pujols

As stated earlier, Pujols needs 25 more hits to reach the 3,000 milestone. Although he batted just .241 last year, “The Machine” compiled 143 hits. With that said, it is possible that he could reach the 3,115 mark, which would tie him for 20th all time with Alex Rodriguez. Pujols also needs just 15 home runs to tie Ken Griffey Jr. for sixth all time.

Ichiro Albert Pujols milestones

Three-time NL MVP, Albert Pujols (Photo from SBNation)

In three of the last four seasons, Pujols has driven in over 100 runs. Currently, he is just 79 RBIs shy from 2,000 for his career. The only players who have 2,000 RBIs under their belt are Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez and Cap Anson. That is quite the list.

The three-time MLB Player of the Year needs 23 more doubles to tie Honus Wagner for ninth all time. He is 57 runs shy of tying Paul Molitor for 20th on the all-time runs list. All of these milestones are easily reachable in 2018. Pujols could join Hank Aaron and Alex Rodriguez as the only players in baseball history with 3,000 career hits, 2,000 RBIs and 600 home runs.

 

Pujols’ Legacy

Statistically, this is one of the best MLB players we have ever seen. In each of the first 10 years of his career, Pujols hit at least .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. Hank Aaron is the only other player to hit at least 600 home runs with a career batting average of at least .300. Pujols, along with Lou Gehrig and Larry Walker, are the only players to post a season with at least 45 doubles, 45 home runs, .440 OBP, 1.100 OPS and 370 total bases.

Below are two tables which exemplify Pujols’ legacy and present a strong case for him as the best first baseman of all time.

 

NO. OF SEASONS WITH AT LEAST .300 BATTING AVERAGE, 30 HOME RUNS, 100 RBIS and 95 RUNS

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
BABE RUTH 12
ALBERT PUJOLS 10
LOU GEHRIG 10
BARRY BONDS 9
JIMMIE FOXX 9

 

PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST 2,900 hits, 1,700 RUNS, 5,400 TOTAL BASES, 600 HOME RUNS, .370 OBP (IN ORDER OF HIGHEST OBP)
BARRY BONDS
ALBERT PUJOLS
WILLIE MAYS
ALEX RODRIGUEZ
HANK AARON

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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