Who am I?

I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

Follow me on Twitter: @lhd_on_sports

Labels

LHD_PotW (258) MLB (106) NFL (104) NCAA (92) NBA (49) NFL Playoffs (42) NHL (37)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

2016-17 NFL Divisional Playoff Preview

How 'bout dem Cowboys!
Once again, J.R. Ewing owned the playoff picks in Wild Card Weekend.  Joined by new Blog partner "Bulldog Babe" (@bulldogbabexo) you were wise to take in the advice and win.

Gamblers summary (only for J.R. Ewing, not sure BB is old enough to legally give gambling advice yet)
Straight Up (4-0): +400
ATS (3-1): +190
O/U (2-2): -$20
Total: $570

This assumes a $110 bet to win $100 on 50/50 props, S/U has $100 on underdogs, money line to win $100 on favorites.

Bulldog Babe's debut was impressive
After all favorites and home teams winning in the Wild Card Weekend, the Divisional Playoff round will feature all eight Division Champions.  Home teams will have had a bye, however last week's winners all won by 13 points or more.  And each game is a rematch of the regular season, with only one of the four being in the same venue.

We're glad to have Bulldog Babe back this week to break down each of the matchups.  Will she take her Steelers?  Does she have an upset up her sleeve?

 J.R. Ewing's Cowboys will see their first postseason action while Bulldog Babe's Steelers want to continue their momentum!

Lines and spreads are from CappedIn.com, a great website to track picks and play along for fun.  Amazing how up to date data they have (with very informed members).

January 14, 2017: 16:35 EST
Seattle Seahawks (+5, +190) at Atlanta Falcons (-5, -220) O/U 51.5

Seattle Seahawks (11-5-1)
Last seven games:4-3
Road: 3-4-1
Against Playoff teams: 4-1 (1-1 on road)
Key Injuries: Earl Thomas (out)

Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Last six games: 5-1
Home: 5-3
Against Playoff teams: 2-2 (1-1 at home)
Key Injuries: None

Previous matchup (@Seattle): Seahawks 26, Falcons 24.

J.R. Ewing prediction
One of the most intriguing match ups of the weekend because the Seahawks have been there, done that in the playoffs lately, but the Falcons have yet to parlay a good regular season into a Super Bowl berth.  A little baffling that the Birds have not played many playoff teams, and don't have a very good record.  Also not extraordinary at home.  I think they find a way to win, but it remains close.  Their regular season match up went 26-24 Seahawks in Seattle, I'll turn that score around here.

Final Prediction: Falcons 26 Seahawks 24.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks won in dominating fashion last weekend against the Detroit Lions, as expected. It will not be that easy this weekend, as they head cross country to Atlanta to face Matt Ryan and the Falcons in the NFC Divisional Playoff. The offensive line for Seattle is going into this game knowing that the defense for Atlanta isn’t too great, so that gives them some confidence already. On the offensive side for Atlanta, they are ranked #2 overall and Matt Ryan has had probably his best season to date. Wide receiver Julio Jones is healthy and he will be a strong factor for Atlanta. My prediction is, this will be a flip flop game with a lot of surprises bound to happen. With that being said, I have the Falcons taking this one.

Final Prediction: Falcons 35 Seahawks 27.

January 14, 2017: 20:15 EST
Houston Texans (+15, +975) at New England (-15, -1500) O/U 44.5

Houston Texans (10-7)
Last five games: 4-1
Road: 2-6
Against Playoff teams: 3-3 (0-3 on road)
Key Injuries: J.J. Watt (out), Lamar Miller (probable)

New England (14-2)
Last seven games:7-0
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 4-1 (2-1 at home)
Key Injuries: Rob Gronkowski (out), Danny Amendola (probable), LaGarrette Blount (ill)

Previous matchup (@New England): Patriots 27, Texans 0.

J.R. Ewing prediction
The most talked about line of the week because it is so large.  I believe calling the Texans frauds is unfair, they beat teams like the Chiefs and Lions in the regular season.  But they were awful on the road, and their awful scoring differential is a result of blowouts.  The reason they get blown out is that the only way they can win is to get a lead and rely on that defense.  If they get behind, it's "Katy bar the door."  Get Katy ready, because when the Patriots jump out quickly, the Texans won't have the weapons to respond.  An easy win and cover for the Patriots.

Final Prediction: Patriots 27 Texans 6.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
The Texans escaped the Raiders last weekend, but this next game for them will be their true test. They are off to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Playoff. I don’t see this game being a heavy weight battle. The Texans have come far this season despite all of the injuries and shake ups at numerous positions, but the Patriots have just a little more juice on them as much as I hate to admit it. I say this one will be a blowout, Patriots win.

Final Prediction: Patriots 44 Texans 14.


January 15, 2017: 16:40 EST
Green Bay Packers  (+4.5, +175) at Dallas Cowboys (-4.5, -205) O/U 51.5

Green Bay Packers  (11-6)
Last seven games: 7-0
Road:4-4
Against Playoff teams: 6-2 (1-1 on road)
Key Injuries: Jordy Nelson (doubtful)

Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
Last four games: 2-2
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (1-1 at home)
Key Injuries: None

Previous matchup (@Green Bay): Cowboys 30, Packers 16.

J.R. Ewing prediction
We might be having a different conversation of Jordy Nelson were healthy, but he's not.  The Packers also have a very suspect defense and don't play incredibly well away from home.  The fear of the Cowboys pick is that they may be rusty (full 20 days since any of their key players played a meaningful game).  And the Packers are hot, while the Cowboys stumbled down the stretch (one loss was resting starters).  This Cowboys offense and defense is build for the playoffs with balance and talent.  The Packers are feast or famine.  Even last week's Wild Card Game they looked awful, then good.  No real running game, I don't see the Packers staying in this one.

Final Prediction: Cowboys 27 Packers 13.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Last but not least, we are at this classic match up (at least I think it is). The veteran vs. the rookie. I personally am a fan of Dak Prescott, great young man on and off the field. He has had his fair share of adversity over the season, but he has proven himself as the starter for Dallas. Aaron Rodgers has had a great year as well, as I previously mentioned last weekend. Both teams have a great offensive line, but I think that Dallas has better targets for Dak to throw to (such as Ezekiel Elliott). Dallas wins this one, in a close but steady percentage.

Final Prediction: Cowboys 30 Packers 20.

January 15, 2017: 20:20 EST
Pittsburgh Steelers  (+1.5, +105) at Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5, -125) O/U 44

Pittsburgh Steelers  (12-5)
Last eight games: 8-0
Road: 5-3
Against Playoff teams: 3-3 (0-1 on road)
Key Injuries: None

Kansas City Chiefs  (12-4)
Last six games: 5-1
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (1-0 at home)
Key Injuries: None

Previous matchup (@Pittsburgh): Steelers 43, Chiefs 14.

J.R. Ewing prediction
Another intriguing game to pick because it's so close to a pick'em game.  The Steelers are red hot since a mid-season losing streak (including injury to Ben Roethlisberger) made them fight back to the playoffs.  The Chiefs likewise had to fight their way from a Wild Card to the second seed with key wins down the stretch.  I simply like the Steelers weapons (Ben, Bell, Brown) more than the Chiefs weapons (Smith, Kelce, Hill).  I'm put off also by the late season loss by the Chiefs to the Titans, it doesn't seem like they are that tough at home.  Close, but nod to the hot Steelers.

Final Prediction: Steelers 27 Chiefs 24.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
My Steelers had a great win last week, with all of the main guys healthy and just simply mowing down all of the Dolphins players one by one. This weekend, they head to Kansas City to face Alex Smith and the Chiefs. This is another rematch as these two teams met back in week 4, Pittsburgh ran over Kansas City 43-14. Now that this is a playoff match up, this will a tough one to predict, as both teams have had an incredible last few months since they last met. The Chiefs have some great targets for Alex Smith to throw to, like tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. On the Steelers side, having running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown will help significantly. While it will be very close, I know the Steelers well enough to know that no matter how badly their performance is early, they are always a second half team. I have Pittsburgh taking this one.

Final Prediction: Steelers 27 Chiefs 20.

So there you have it, when J.R. Ewing and Bulldog Babe agree, watch out.  They both have the Falcons, Patriots, Steelers, and Cowboys.  There's probably something to it (combined 7-1 picking winners last week).  Again, I want to thank Bulldog Babe for her thoughtful analysis and, be sure to follow her on Twitter, particularly during the Steelers game.  Let's just say she gets into it!

Enjoy your football weekend fans!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sportsman of the Week Ending 1/9/2017

This is another week I'm going to use blog editor privilege to extend the sports week one day to Monday.  To cover the biggest sporting event of the week while it is hot!  The National College Football Championship game delivered drama, intrigue, and excitement like the two semifinal games (and frankly, all the NFL Playoffs games thus far) did not.  In a rematch of the 2015-16 championship, Clemson would not be denied.  Mainly because their quarterback would not let them.  Deshaun Watson did not take to losing last year's game lightly.  So he lit up the scoreboard.  He threw the ball 56 times, completing 36 of them for 420 yards.  But more importantly, 3 TDs (plus another he ran in).  The biggest TD with one second left to give his team the victory.  And the championship.  And revenge.  And himself probably a bigger pay day in the pros.  Deshaun Watson is our Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2016-17 NFL Wildcard Weekend Playoff Preview

Yee Haw, I love Football!
As is the tradition for NFL playoff time, Dallas native and Cowboys fan J.R. Ewing will offer you a full range analysis of the NFL playoffs week by week.  This year, we have a special twist to discuss in a minute.  But here each playoff game will have a short analysis with thoughts on key factors then a final score predict.  The final score predict then gives you a Straight Up, Over/Under, and Against the Spread (ATS) pick to chew on for recreation purposes only.  We'll be tracking our own progress.  Or if you're someone with disposable income, gamble away (but this blog is not responsible for losses).

Welcome NFL Expert consultant, Bulldog Babe
For this year's twist, we're bringing in a NFL expert consultant to offer supporting or contradictory analysis.  Welcome "Bulldog Babe" (@bulldogbabexo) whose candid football analysis is spot on, funny, and usually turns out correct if you are smart enough to follow her on Twitter.  Bias alert, she really likes Aaron Murray and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  And if you follow NASCAR, you have to track her lap by lap analysis (just don't cheer for Jimmie Johnson).

Lines and spreads are from CappedIn.com, a great website to track picks and play along for fun.  Amazing how up to date data they have (with very informed members).

January 7, 2017: 16:35 EST
Oakland Raiders (+3.5, +175) at Houston Texans (-3.5, -205) O/U 36.5

Oakland Raiders (12-4)
Last ten games: 8-2
Road: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 1-3 (0-1 on road)
Key Injuries: Derek Carr (out)

Houston Texans (9-7)
Last eight games: 4-4
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 2-3 (2-0 at home)
Key Injuries: Lamar Miller (probable)

J.R. Ewing prediction
Most pundits slam the Texans for playing in a bad division and having no offense.  Both true.  But they have the number one defense (by yardage allowed) and are very tough at home.  The Raiders will be starting rookie quarterback Connor Cook and this is a tough assignment for him.  These teams played in Mexico City and the Raiders prevailed on a fourth quarter comeback.  The methodical Texans get it done at home with a tough defense and enough scoring (maybe via turnovers) to move to the next round.

Final Prediction: Texans 20 Raiders 12.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Texans have had an up and down year, especially at the quarterback position towards the end of the regular season. Raiders are without Derek Carr going into the first playoff round and their final regular season game was not their best of the season, but they will have to lean on rookie Connor Cook during the playoffs. I have the Raiders taking this game in a close one

Final Prediction: Raiders 20 Texans 13.

January 7, 2017: 20:15 EST
Detroit Lions (+8, +300) at Seattle Seahawks (-8, -360) O/U 43

Detroit Lions (9-7)
Last three games: 0-3
Road: 3-5
Against Playoff teams: 0-5 (0-4 on road)
Key Injuries: Matt Stafford (probable)

Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
Last six games: 3-3
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 3-1 (2-0 at home)
Key Injuries: Earl Thomas (out), Tyler Lockett (out)

J.R. Ewing prediction
The Seahawks edge seems to have been less since Earl Thomas went out.  Always tough at home in front of the 12th Man, self-proclaimed loudest crowd in the NFL.  They have sputtered on offense with no real running game this year.  But the Lions are reeling badly.  Note no wins against playoff teams for Detroit, they seem to have little chance to keep up with the Seahawks.  Lower scoring victory for Seattle, but closer than people think.

Final Prediction: Seahawks 21 Lions 17.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
This is a great matchup with two great teams that have had a great season. Despite his injured finger, Lions QB Matt Stafford is having one of, if not, his best season since being drafted by Detroit in 2009. He became the fastest player in league history to throw for 30,000 pass yards in just his 109th career game, breaking Dan Marino’s record of 114 games. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is a mobile quarterback who has that ability to extend plays. Just because of that, he will be a force to be reckoned with when he faces the Lions defense. It will be a close matchup I feel like as well.

Final Prediction: Seahawks 24 Lions 21.

January 8, 2017: 13:05 EST
Miami Dolphins (+10, +380) at Pittsburgh Steelers (-10, -455) O/U 46

Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Last eleven games: 9-2
Road: 4-4
Against Playoff teams: 1-3 (0-2 on road)
Key Injuries: Ryan Tannehill (doubtful)

Pittsburgh Steelers  (11-5)
Last seven games: 7-0
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 2-3 (2-2 at home)
Key Injuries: None

J.R. Ewing prediction
No team in the AFC seems hotter than the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose last loss was an epic thriller to the Dallas Cowboys.  The Dolphins have also been winning with one of the best records in the NFL the second half.  However, missing Tannehill is a killer.  And while they defeated Pittsburgh earlier in the year, these Steelers are vastly improved.  Much better offensive weapons, plus terrible towels and the Steelers roll easily against the punchless Dolphins, who rely on the running game and Jay Ajayi to protect leads or keep them in close games.  This won't be close.

Final Prediction: Steelers 31 Dolphins 10.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Dolphins have a great running back in Jay Ajayi, but the Steelers have a great offensive line with guys such as wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell included in the mix. These teams faced each other in week 6 and it was not a good run for Pittsburgh, but it will be a different go around this time. Pittsburgh will be playing angry remembering the previous matchup in week 6.

Final Prediction: Steelers 24 Dolphins 14.
 
January 8, 2017: 16:40 EST
New York Giants (+4.5, +185) at Green Bay Packers (-4.5, -215) O/U 44.5

New York Giants (11-5)
Last eleven games: 9-2
Road: 3-5
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (1-2 on road)
Key Injuries: None

Green Bay Packers  (10-6)
Last six games: 6-0
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 5-2 (4-1 at home)
Key Injuries: None

J.R. Ewing prediction
The Packers are the talk of the NFC after living up to MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers prediction of "winning out" after Week 11.  They are always impressive at home and did damage against playoff teams this year.  The Giants haven't been too shabby either, and Eli Manning just knows how to win in the playoffs (8-1 in his last nine playoff games).  The Giants fight tough, but the Packers too tough at home.  The temps will be well below freezing, keeping it lower scoring than otherwise.

Final Prediction: Packers 24 Giants 17.

Bulldog Babe prediction:
Eli Manning is one of five quarterbacks to win a road game in Green Bay, he has done so twice. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are headed into Sunday on a six game win streak and Rodgers threw for 300 yards last week in the matchup against the Detroit Lions. He is also has had an MVP, and he has had a stellar season despite the team’s regular season record. Sunday is the first time that they will face off in the NFC Wild Card game, so it will be another great game.

Final Prediction: Packers 27 Giants 20.

The NFL playoffs are for the fans, no more pretenders, just contenders.  I want to thank Bulldog Babe for her analysis and contributions and hope she can join us the rest of the postseason (her contract at this point is week to week).  Enjoy the games, and we'll provide a postmortem along with Division Playoff analysis next week!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Sportsman of the Week Ending 1/1/2017

Our first Sportsman of the Week hails from a team we've recognized many times for the college football exploits.  But he was not the first player you would have figured for the honor coming into the week.  Alabama Crimson Tide RB Bo Scarbrough was just about the sole highlight on offense in the Peach Bowl, and with one run, put the College Football playoff game out of reach.  Scarbrough busted out a 68 yard TD run on a day that mistakes kept dooming the Tide as they held on to a 17-7 lead over the Washington Huskies (7 of those points off of a defensive score).  Scarbrough also hit a TD to tie the game in the 1st quarter on an impressive 18 yard TD run.  His overall stats of 19 carries and 180 yards were season highs, and just in time to enable Alabama to try and repeat as College Football Playoff champions.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 National Baseball Hall of Fame Vote

On Wednesday, January 18, 2017, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) vote for enshrinement to the National Baseball Hall of Fame will be revealed. The BBWAA holds the keys to such an elite fraternity, which must be a daunting task. They are voting on players to proverbially sit next to Ruth, Aaron, Mays, Mathewson and the like.  As done in years past, I will provide my ballot as if I were a BBWAA member.

Here is the full 2017 Ballot (courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com)

There are a few major factors that cannot be ignored when it comes to voting.

1) The specter over the Hall will continue to be Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) use in baseball primarily in the 1990s, for which many players accused are now appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot.  There are players whose performance clearly merits first ballot election, however because of their associated with substances that enhanced their performance, members of the BBWAA has been hesitant to cast votes their way.  Because the official voting rules include the words "integrity, sportsmanship, and character" and integrity, so their reluctance is justified in my mind.  For my selection, I will not presume guilt, but if there is legal (including Mitchell Report) or anecdotal evidence of PED use, I will strongly weigh against voting.  I'm not alone, since fewer than half of voters have written in Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, who no doubt Hall of Famers if not for PEDs.

2) A batch of candidates making their way onto the ballot or relief pitchers who specialized in finishing games in which their team was winning by 3 or fewer runs.  In other words, closers.  To date, Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, and Goose Gossage are the modern day versions in the Hall.  Three candidates on the ballot have more saves than each of them.  It's a measure of how the game has changed (with the advent of the specialty closer0 whether or not they get strong consideration from the BBWAA.

3) A final point of discussion is how to handle starting pitching.  Whereas the 300 win plateau used to be a norm, it's become increasingly more difficult to get wins in the era of specialty relievers with starters leaving the game before the end of the sixth inning many times in close games.  Conversely, however, one would think this would benefit starting pitchers ERA by seldom going through a lineup more than 3 times.  In the end, I strongly weigh dominance over a discernible period of time, along with Cy Young Awards, All-Star games, Win titles, and ERA.

4) There is also first and last ballot bias.  First ballot some BBWAA voters will hold their vote to protect some sort of integrity of being a "first ballot hall of famer".  Evidence, three voters who did not include Ken Griffey Jr. last year.  Likewise, when a player is on his last ballot, voters who previously withheld tend to pay a bit more attention to their candidacy considering it's a final shot.  So a bump is normal (not significant, but 5% ish).


With a limit of ten players on a ballot, here are the players I would put on my ballot (in order of credibility).  I don't use all ten votes.

1) Vladimir Guerrero - A five tool player (.319 average. 449 HR, top arm/glove in the league, and plus speed). Nine All-Star Games, an MVP, and a hit title.  His career numbers fall short of some major benchmarks (like 500 HR) as he retired at age 36.  If he had taken PEDs he might have played another 5 years and approached 600 HR.  No doubt one of the most feared hitters for a decade or so.

Factors against him: Lack of single team identity, no World Series titles, first ballot bias

To me, he meets all of the criteria and should get in with about 80% of vote.

2) Jeff Bagwell - He was an offensive machine in the mid-1990's, career numbers reflect that (.297, 449 HR, 1529 RBI). More walks than anyone else on the ballot besides Bonds and Sheffield (fear factor and eye), .408 OBP.  He also stole 200 bases and was an above average 1B (Gold Glove in the closet). No hard evidence of PED's, although suspicion without evidence seems to be an argument against.  His numbers are nearly identical to Vlad yet he sits here in his seventh year on the ballot.

Factors against him: Perceived use of PEDs, playing in a small market, lack of postseason success.

At 71.6% last year, it would be historic if he dropped back from that.  He'll get in this time (just barely, not much over 77%).

3) Trevor Hoffman - One of two members of the 600 career save club (and we know the other will get in first ballot).  That's 40 saves per year for 15 years (average).  Seven All-Star appearances and twice finished runner up in the Cy Young, which is rare for a reliever.

Factors against him: reliever bias, played in a small market, was probably never the number one reliever at any given time

At 67.3% last year, the first ballot bias should be overcome. The NL reliever of the year award is named after him, he'll get in with 81% of the vote or so.

4) Ivan Rodriguez - The only think moving him from number 1 to number 4 is potential PED suspicions.  Note that for Rodribues, the evidence against him is mostly anecdotal (from Jose Canseco).  I suspect he was using, but not extensively.  That behind us, his numbers as a catcher are elite:  .296 average, 311 HR, an MVP, best arm behind the plate in the game and a great teammate.  Ten straight Gold Gloves (six of those years he won a Silver Slugger).

Factors against him: Perceived PEDs, first ballot bias

Tough to forecast if he'll make the cut due to PED suspicions.  There might be enough to hold back their vote to keep him in the 65% range.  Most interesting total to see on the ballot IMO.

5) Larry Walker - He was another 5-tool player, finished his career with a .313 batting average, higher than anyone else on the ballot besides Vladimir Guerrero.  Let me repeat that, second highest batting average of anybody on the ballot. Also stole 200 bases, also hit 383 home runs. He has so many gold gloves he probably had to build an extra section on his trophy case. Like Bagwell, he won one MVP. He's also a member of the .400 OBP club (with Bagwell, Manny Ramirez, Bonds, and Edgar Martinez the only four on the ballot).

Factors against him: Perceived higher numbers due to playing in Colorado, soft-spoken personality, injury-prone (only 4 seasons of 140+ games).

He only received 15.5% of the vote last year (regressing), that needs to trend up significantly for people to start noticing. He's not going to make it.

6) Edgar Martinez - He's of the mold of the previous two players. Hit for high average, good (but not awe inspiring) power, gets on base all the time. While I am not a fan of the DH, if MLB has it as a position, you can't hold that against him. With the previous two, defense pushes their case, for Edgar it can't but he still deserves it. Career .312 hitter, .418 OBP, slugged .515 (more than Fred McGriff). He's also a member of the 300 HR club for a guy who didn't try to lift the ball as much as others.

Factors against him: Primarily a DH, played in small market, lack of speed

He was voted for the affirmative on 43% of last years ballots he's moving up slowly.  He needs to get closer to 50% to continue the momentum, now in his eighth year probably not going to make it now

7) Billy Wagner - This pick might raise some eyebrows, but when comparing to the four major relief pitchers already in the Hall (Eckersley, Sutter, Fingers, and Gossage), he has 30 more saves than each of them.  And a lower ERA.  And a better K/9 IP.  His 7 All Star Game appearances are comparable to all as well.  He sits sixth in career saves and his stuff was dominant.  I noted above we're teetering on how to treat relievers, I believe we're going to see fewer relievers going forward with huge career numbers because so many are going to flame out with arm problems given their use.  Wags should get strong consideration.

Factors against him: relief pitcher bias, lack of postseason success

Only in his second year (10% vote last year), he's more likely to fall off the ballot than to surge to even more than 25%.  I'm guessing he never gets in during the 10 year window, but may get in on a veteran ballot in decades to come once the Hall figures out how to handle relievers.

8) Lee Smith - As mentioned, the Hall of Fame is still figuring out how to accommodate closers, it's my opinion that they are indeed a key element to the game and the best of the best should be included. With Smith, it's not about the numbers (ERA, W-L) as much as the raw pile of saves he accumulated (478, which was tops for a long time after his retirement). No matter where he played, he never seemed phase by a momentary lapse of success. Fourteen seasons in a row of 25 or more saves shows a level of consistency matched by few. If there are going to be closers in the HoF, Smith should be there.

Factors against him: relief pitcher bias, wasn't overpowering, lacks team identity

Languishing around 35% of the vote last year, he'll need more than double to get in in this, his last and 15th year.  He might get to 50% and like Wagner, maybe get in later once relievers get their due.

9) Jeff Kent - Quietly one of the top offensive second basemen of all time.  His line across the major stats is .290, 377, and 1518.  He has an MVP in his closet, and three other Top 10 finishes.  Add to that six All-Star appearances.  His power numbers dwarf Ryne Sandberg and Roberto Alomar, but is getting very little buzz or momentum.

Factors against him: Very average on defense, played in a power era in which his home run numbers aren't considered extraordinary, cold to media

With below 20% of the vote last year, no reason to think he'll move significantly now, or over the next six years.

First four out

10) Tim Raines - Rock falls just short on the numbers. Besides SB's (of which he is more than deserving), his average and power are lackluster, no Gold Gloves. He did accumulate 2,600 hits playing to the age of 40.

Factors against him: mostly small market teams, average defense, never was higher than 5th in an MVP vote, not a feared hitter.

At 69.8% last year and in his last year, wow this is going to be close.  How much of a last ballot bump will he get?

11) Mike Mussina - Without 300 wins or a dominant ERA, he's not quite Hall worthy in my opinion.  No Cy Young Awards, a one-time 20 game winner, five All-Star games.  Career ERA is 3.68, not spectacular even in the power era (considering he didn't face line ups four times in most starts). 

Factors against him: Doesn't have 300 wins, not dominant, played on winning teams but never won a World Series.

At 43%, surprising he's below Schilling.  Won't move much until he approaches the end of the ballot.  Not likely to get in during the 10 year window.

12) Fred McGriff - You can't ignore the near 500 home runs, but he hung on a while to get so close and wasn't elite enough in his prime to warrant the Hall. Average defense, below average speed, not an outstanding OBP. He also never broke 110 RBI in a season.

Factors against him: Unspectacular batting average, lack of dominating seasons, lack of speed

At only 21% last year, he's not moving much. I doubt he gets much closer in this, or the next two years.  Could be a veteran ballot candidate, was very popular with teammates and media and did things the right way.

13) Curt Schilling - Seems to get way more media discussion than others as deserving (like Kent or Mussina or even a Bagwell).  3.46 ERA and barely over 200 wins (216).  For careers starting after World War II, only Don Drysdale has fewer wins in the Hall (six fewer seasons, ERA half a point better).  Postseason success aside, it's not a strong case at all.

Factors against him: Low wins, unspectacular ERA

At 52% of the vote, he could make a move (fourth highest returning).  If he can get to 60% now he could eek across 75% by year ten.

The remaining repeat candidates fall into the PED category.

Steroid specter (stats more than deserving, even before they might have juiced, but would not get my vote): Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield.  Ramirez gets his first consideration, it will be most interesting to see how he fares.  Sheffield was surprisingly low last year considering he's a member of the 500 HR club with a batting average over .290.  Goes to show the PED mountain is too high to climb.

Newcomers that might stay on the ballot (besides those mentioned above and Ramirez): Jorge Posada

So my opinions aside, here's who I think gets in (in order by vote percentage).
Trevor Hoffman
Vlad Guerrero
Tim Raines
Jeff Bagwell

They will join "Today's Game" enshrinees John Schuerholz and Allan H. “Bud” Selig, along with J.G. Taylor Spink Award (writers) winner Claire Smith, and Bill King as the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting excellence.  The induction ceremony is a homecoming of baseball elite, and will be July 30, 2017.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/25/2016

A number of key NFL contests went down over Christmas weekend, but it was a stealthy MVP candidate that delivered his team to a potential first round bye.  Matt Ryan had a very crisp and clean performance in dismantling the favored Carolina Panthers in Charlotte to put the final dagger in their playoff hopes, while positioning the Falcons (with a surprising Seahawks loss) for they key bye.  Overall, Ryan was 27/33 for 277 yards and 3 TD.  His 27 throws targeted 10 different receivers which kept the Panthers defense off balance.  He's the only QB in the NFL to rate in the top 3 of passing yards, passing TD, and QB rating.  His 7 INT are among the lowest for regular QB as well.  The Falcons are a dark horse team to unseat the seemingly invincible Dallas Cowboys and if they do, it will be because Matt Ryan slays them.  He is our Sportsman of the Week!

This is Matt Ryan's second nod as Sportsman of the Week (9/7/2014)

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 2016-17 Bowl Pick Special

It's time for the Big Boys to play, let's get it on!
The second in the two part J.R. Ewing Bowl picks, the first being straight up underdog picks.  This set is the five best bets ATS; noting that the first week or so of games featured Group of 5 conference that I had not seen much of this season, so it didn't make sense to pick.  Beginning December 26, the Power 5 conferences will take center stage.

Many of these will be favorites, given that I already selected several underdogs to win, therefore go ahead and take those ATS if you're feeling less confident.  Note both playoff games are included!

Just to continue to trumpet a successful college football regular season:

Summary:
Final Week: 3-2 (+80)
Season: 37-31-2 (+$290, 3.8% profit)

Note that the profit takes into account house take at $10 for every $100 wagered.

Here are the five best College Bowl Bets ATS:

December 27, 2016 (10:15 p.m. EST) - Motel 6 Cactus Bowl, Phoenix, AZ
Boise State (-7.5) vs. Baylor

Baylor was the most overrated 6-0 team in history.  They have lost six straight, only two were within a TD, and two losses were to non-bowl teams.  Meanwhile Boise State has just two losses overall, and always step up their game against Power 5 opponents.  Both teams are an odds defying 3-9 ATS, but it's Baylor who is mailing it in.  The coach and staff are out, some players are skipping the game, and they haven't won since October 15.  Boise takes this big.

December 28, 2016 (9:00 p.m. EST) - Advocare V100 Texas Bowl, Houston, TX
Texas A+M (-2.5) vs. Kansas State

The Aggies will be anxious to match up with their former Big 12 opponent.  The game is in Houston so expect a lot of maroon filling the 65,000 seat NRG Stadium.  Kansas State is a scrappy team in the regular season, but is only 1-7 in their last 8 bowl games, usually drawing a more talented team with time to prepare for their unorthodox, grinding style of offense.  As is the case this year.  A+M will want to finish the season on a positive note after nosediving from the College Football Playoff poll.  They win by 10 or more.

December 30, 2016 (Noon EST) - Autozone Liberty Bowl, Memphis, TN
Georgia (PK) vs. TCU

TCU has just two wins in their last six games finishing a disappointing 6-6 on the season in a very mediocre Big 12.  A young Georgia squad with a new coach and QB battled tough but loss some heartbreaking losses to rivals like Tennessee and Georgia Tech.  Given a chance to catch their breath, they can focus on building momentum for 2017 with a win here.  TCU is historically good in bowls, but this team isn't like the recent ones that have gone 4-1 / 8-2 in their last five/ten Bowl Games.  Georgia wins a see saw affair.

December 31, 2016 (3:00 p.m. EST) - Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl, Atlanta, GA
Washington (+14.5) vs. Alabama

Alabama is being tabbed as the odds on favorite to win their second straight playoff and why shouldn't they?  They are the only undefeated team remaining and talent laden.  Two factors have me thinking this is closer than experts think.  One is that the top of the SEC was much softer than some of the others Alabama navigated.  It enabled Alabama to have a lot of eye pleasing blowouts, but Washington is a sound team.  Washington is young, so they must step up to the big atmosphere.  I think this is either really close or a Crimson Tide blowout.  I'll lean toward close and a cover.

December 31, 2016 (7:00 p.m. EST) - Playstation Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, AZ
Clemson (+3) vs. Ohio State

I think media and fans fell a bit too much in love with the Big 10 this year.  Because of the quantity of teams, the cream of the crop really only faced a worthy opponent 3 or 4 times during the conference season.  Ohio State went 2-1 in such games, with both wins in overtime.  Not exactly dominating.  Clemson was here last year and tasted the atmosphere.  With a veteran squad (vs. a young Buckeye squad), I see this is a near pick'em.  So I'm leaning to the Tigers to get it done and punch their ticket to Tampa.

Enjoy your holiday week and the Bowl Action and we'll see you in 2017!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

J.R. Ewing College Football Picks: 2016-17 Bowl Upset Special

I like money.  Let me make you some.
After a romp in the regular season, we turn our attention to Bowl Season.  These games are difficult games to pick, because of the layoff, coach defections, and unpredictability in inspiration by the teams.  That's where I step in to give you the edge.

One final look at regular season performance, nothing short of solid and profitable:

Summary:
Final Week: 3-2 (+80)
Season: 37-31-2 (+$290, 3.8% profit)

Note that the profit takes into account house take at $10 for every $100 wagered.

This is the first of two Bowl Predicts.  This game focuses on straight up upsets.  No point spreads, but rather games that I've pegged as underdogs winning.  Put $100 on each and if you snag two of five, you get a very nice profit.

December 27, 2016 (Noon EST) - Heart of Texas Bowl, Dallas, TX
North Texas (+320) vs. Army

These teams already played once and North Texas rolled.  People look at UNT and their scant five wins and dismiss them, however Army isn't world beaters.  They did beat Navy, although Navy had a very inexperienced QB and was beat up all over the field.  And how much did that take out of the team?  This game is in my home city of Dallas, at over 3 to 1, I'll see if North Texas can put together a solid effort.

December 29, 2016 (8:00 EST) - Belk Bowl, Charlotte, NC
Arkansas (+225) vs.Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech hasn't defeated a Bowl team since October (0-2 since).  Arkansas is a Jeckyl and Hyde team, but typically plays well in Bowls under Bret Bielema (2-0 and both were blowouts).  Couple that with historic strong play in bowl games for the SEC, and getting this money line seems like a nice play.

December 30, 2016 (8:00 EST) - Orange Bowl, Miami Gardens, FL
Florida State (+225) vs. Michigan

Michigan quietly lost two of their last three and never really played that well away from the Big House (roll over against Rutgers withstanding).  Meanwhile Florida State has won six of seven, the one loss a close one to ACC Champion Clemson.  FSU is at home and with a chip on their shoulder.  Michigan felt like they should have beat Ohio State and perhaps made the playoffs despite a loss.  Given the money line, taking the 'Noles.

December 31, 2016 (11:00 EST) - Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL
Louisville (+140) vs. LSU

There were times this year in which pundits noted that Louisville was the best betting matchup against invincible Alabama.  Then Louisville dropped their last two inexplicably to 17 point or more underdogs.  This is the game they rally; they're not that bad.  LSU had a roller coaster season shedding a head coach and playing without an effective Leonard Fournette (who is out of this game).  Lamar Jackson is the best player on the field and Louisville wins it (as a slight underdog).

January 2, 2017 (1:00 EST) - Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX
Western Michigan (+260) vs. Wisconsin

A few factors at play here, one is the Western Michigan is the team with something to prove.  Wisconsin is licking their wounds after a tough Big 10 title game and season of close losses to the top teams.  This game will have very few fans in attendance (relatively) as both teams have a ways to travel and outside of Southfork Ranch, Dallas isn't necessarily a tourist hot spot.  Combine all that with an early kickoff and Wisconsin could be lethargic.  Given the money line play, I like this play.

Coming up next, Top 5 point spread games!

- JR

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/18/2016

College Football Bowl season has kicked in, and there was a weekend of undercard action for fans.  The game with most renown was the Las Vegas Bowl, which featured Mountain West Conference Champion San Diego State against giant slayers Houston Cougars who had knocked off Oklahoma and Louisville, two teams that might have made the playoff if not for those losses.  But it was an lesser known name who stole the show.  And the record book.  San Diego State's Donnel Pumphrey broke one of the most hallowed records in NCAA football.  The career rushing record.  Pumphrey did it in dramatic fashion early in the third quarter and ended his career with 6,405 yards to former record holder Ron Dayne's 6,397.  It was that close.  Although in an unexpected route (the Aztecs were underdogs), San Diego State ran away with an easy 24 point victory.  One of the benefits of bowl season is you get to see some of the lesser known players from less recognized schools perform.  Pumphrey more than fits that, and is our Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/11/2016

The NFL playoff push is in full effect, and an emerging team is the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Thanks to Le'veon Bell, they are suddenly seeming like a short list team to beat in the AFC.  But it was Bell this week that did things that no other Steelers back has done.  In less than ideal conditions against the Buffalo Bills, Bell ran for 236 yards and 3 TD to set a single game Steelers record for rushing yards.  He also added 62 yards receiving to account for 298 of the Steelers 460 total yards.  Most importantly, the win thrust the Steelers a game ahead of the rival Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North and positioned well to host a playoff game the first weekend.  This is Bell's third nod as Sportsman of the Week (first time, and second time) thrusting him into elite company with five others like of Peyton Manning and LeBron James.  A deserving Sportsman of the Week!