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 (350) MLB (129) NFL (124) NCAA (102) NFL Playoffs (55) NBA (52) NHL (43)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame Vote

On Wednesday, January 24, 2018, 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 2018 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, an era 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.  This may have taken a turn in the 2017 vote when Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two who have the most clear credentials, surpassed 50% for the first time.  This could be in response to the induction of Mike Piazza who many believed used PEDs but was not directly linked.  Many believe the same for Ivan Rodriguez, who was implicated by Jose Canseco, a source who has proven reliable at times, and not so much other times.  Will this break down the mental conundrum that may writers have?  Early returns show more support for Bonds and Clemens.  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 strong anecdotal evidence of PED use, I will strongly weigh against voting. 

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.  Two 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 closer) 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. in 2016.  Likewise, when a player is on his last ballot, as Tim Raines was last year, 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 (up to 15% for a candidate close to election).

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) Chipper Jones - One of the best third basemen of all time, one of the best switch hitters of all time, and he played plus defense.  He won an MVP, a batting title, and eight All-Star games.  Consistent post-season hitter (And tons of post-season at bats).  He would have been rookie of the year if not for the imported Japanese veteran Hideo Nomo.  It's hard to find a flaw in his game.  Chipper was well loved and respected by the media, he should have no problem getting on his first ballot with a very high percentage of the vote.

Factors against him: Short of 500 HR, could have won more World Series titles, first ballot bias

Chipper is pretty much a slam dunk.  First ballot bias may keep him around 95%, but there is hardly a case against him (the above is pretty weak).


2) Jim Thome - Power power power.  His 612 HR sits eight on the all-time home run list (and two ahead of him have been implicated for PED usage).  While like many power hitters, he did strike out a lot, he also walked a lot, having led the league in bases on balls three times and finishing with an on base percentage over .400 (despite a pedestrian .276 career batting average).  His career seemed to be steady for about 15 years, where he wasn't among the Top 3 or 4 in the game, but always among the Top 10

Factors against him: Never won an MVP, never won a World Series, only led the league in HR once, never led the league in RBI, first ballot bias.

Because of the power era in which he played, some may discount his power.  He never looked the part of a PED user.  He won't get as many votes as fellow 600 HR member Ken Griffey Jr., but should finish in the mid to upper 80% range and get in on the first ballot.





3) Vladimir Guerrero - I'm surprised he did not get in last year.  Clearly has the numbers, so it must have been first ballot bias.  Vlad was 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, short of 500 HR

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




4) Trevor Hoffman - Another one who should have gotten in last year and was just five ballots short.  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 best reliever in the game at any given time

This is his year. The NL reliever of the year award is named after him, he'll get in with 81% of the vote or so.




5) Larry Walker - I've been pushing Walker for several years now.  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 2017 inductee Jeff Bagwell, he won one MVP. He's also a member of the .400 OBP club (with Manny Ramirez, Jones, Thome, Bonds, and Edgar Martinez the only six 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 22% of the vote last year (very slight up tick), 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. Edgar was a career .312 hitter, with .418 OBP (highest on the ballot besides Bonds), 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 59% of last years ballots, moving up 15% which was a big jump.  I've seen more buzz about Edgar this year than in years passed.  This is his penultimate appearance on the ballot and I think he falls just short at 73%.  Then gets in on his last ballot.



7) Billy Wagner - The more I see Billy the Kid, the more I think he's getting short changed.  Especially when comparing to the four biggest specialty relief pitchers already in the Hall (Eckersley, Sutter, Fingers, and Gossage) as he has 30 more saves than the best 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

He got about 10% vote each of his first two years.  He needs to start climbing or I don't think he can ever reach the top.  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) 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 about 17% of the vote the last two years, no reason to think he'll move significantly now, or over the next five years.

First four out

9) 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 52%, he has surpassed Curt Schilling and may be on a trajectory for eventual induction, which was not looking as good last year. 

10) 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 22% last year, he's not moving much. I doubt he gets much closer in this, or his final year on the ballot in 2019.  Could be a veteran ballot candidate, was very popular with teammates and media and did things the right way.

11) 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.  His willingness to share his unpopular political views also seem to reduce his support.

Factors against him: Low wins, unspectacular ERA, political opinions

At 45% of the vote, he took a step back in 2017.  While sharing of ones political opinions, whether popular or controversial, should not be a factor in the Hall election, it seems to be.  The more he talks, the less support he gets.  I think he will never cross the 75% threshold and is also unlikely to get in on a veterans ballot.

12) Andruw Jones - Power, speed, and defense, he was a 5-tool player.  Started his career at 19, but wore out at Age 35, he still hit well over 400 HR.  His .254 batting average really drags him down, with a lack of huge walk numbers it leaves him only .337 OBP.  His defense was his calling card, but also won a Silver Slugger and narrowly missed the MVP in 2005 to Albert Pujols.

Factors against him: Low batting average, barely was a factor after age 30.

The remaining repeat candidates fall into the PED category.  Their stats are 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.  All would easily be in without it.

Newcomers that might stay on the ballot (besides those mentioned above): Scott Rolen, Johan Santana

So my opinions aside, here's who I think gets in (in order by vote percentage).
Chipper Jones
Jim Thome
Trevor Hoffman
Vlad Guerrero

They will join "Modern Baseball" enshrinees Jack Morris and Alan Trammell along with J.G. Taylor Spink Award (writers) winner Sheldon Ocker and the Ford C. Frick Award (broadcasting excellence) winner Bob Costas.  The Modern Baseball ballot is intriguing in the recency of the inductees to the writers ballot and may be discussed on a future Blog.  The induction ceremony is a homecoming of baseball elite, and will be July 29, 2018.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/24/2017

'Tis the Bowl Season and while many of the games among higher ranked teams begin this week, last week featured several great games (and a few blowouts).  While some curmudgeons posit that there are too many bowls, don't tell that to teams that are just glad to play one more game this year, and for many, in their life.  South Florida ended a successful 10-2 season with a dramatic 38-34 Birmingham Bowl win over Big 12 opponent Texas Tech.  And they were led by a senior quarterback who literally did it all.  Quinton Flowers overcame a slow start to throw for 311 yards and 4 TD.  None were bigger than a 26 yard toss with under 20 seconds left after Tech had scored less than 80 seconds earlier.  Flowers was also the Bulls leading rusher with 106 yards on 14 carries and another TD, thus having a hand in all five of his team's touchdowns.  While Flowers may not project to the NFL as a passer, don't count him out on potentially switching to an all purpose back or defensive player.  He's a darn good football player and the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

College Football Picks - 2017 Bowl Picks Special

Cowboy hat tip to BDB
And that's a wrap.  An amazing college football season is winding down as we enter the lesser bowls before Christmas before the main course starts shortly thereafter.  We've been on break for a few weeks, so we'll catch up with some final thoughts on the playoff selection, overview of the final week of predictions (and season wrap up), and then delve into our picks for the big Bowl games leading to the New Years Day playoffs at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.

So now our weekly take on last week and this week, in five bullets:

1) Alabama or Ohio State.  Ohio State or Alabama.  That was the 12 hour debate leading up to the college football playoff selection show.  There was no right or wrong answer, but someone was going to be left out.  After the last two years, it turns out conference championships aren't as important as people think.
2) I still won't hear arguments that there are too many bowls.  If you don't like them, don't watch.  Meanwhile Group of Five programs get more exposure, more practice, and a chance for a national audience.  All good things.  Access to bowls is one of the elements of the NCAA that doesn't bias toward the Power Five conferences.
3) I'm still not in favor of expanding the playoffs to eight teams.  Unless you get rid of conference title games and have the first round that weekend (since outright conference titles are apparently devalued by the committee).  It's actually easier to choose between the 4th through 6th or 7th team than the 8th through 16th team.  Much more gray area.
4) Annual warning not to look at bowl records and surmise conference strength.  It's a short set of data, you have all kinds of factors (coaches leaving and the latest being underclassmen skipping the bowl game to prep for the draft).
5) One of the best things about the College Football Playoff matchups is that both games are within a field goal point spread.  Hoping for good semifinal games (which has not happened much lately).  And thank goodness they moved off of New Years Eve.

BDB basking in the Championship glory!
This blog will typically pick five games, including the Texas Longhorns and Georgia Bulldogs by default (unless bad matchups).  We try and go for one game in each of the Power 5 conferences, sometimes skipping one that might not have a marquee.  This week we'll of course take the playoff games, Texas, then two of the other Big Six bowls.  A nice spread of all the Power Five conferences for sure.

Our two analysts are J.R. Ewing, Texas Longhorns fan and general loud mouth.  And we feature big time Georgia Bulldog fan "Bulldog Babe" (BDB) (@bulldogbabexo).  She's been amazing this year and a great blog partner!

Last week
JR: 3-2 S/U, 3-1-1 ATS
BDB: 3-2 S/U, 1-3-1 ATS

Season to date:
JR: 43-26 S/U, 38-28-1 ATS
BDB: 51-19 S/U, 44-24-1 ATS

Recapping the Conference Championship weekend, considering BDB and JR disagreed on every winner besides Georgia (which both got right), not too bad.  BDB unfortunately had a couple of straight up winners not cover to dent her ATS number, but no threat to her insurmountable lead.  I hereby declare BDB the winner of the 2017 Longhorndave College Football Pick Blog!  She is the Picks Queen of 2017 (get it, it rhymes)!

Spreads are from a great pick site, Capped Sports



Academy Sports and Outdoors Texas Bowl
Wednesday December 27, 9:00 p.m. EST, Houston, Texas
Texas (6-6) (+2.5) vs. Missouri (7-5)

JR Ewing:
Intriguing matchup of second tier SEC and Big 12 teams.  Texas defense was able to shut down good offenses like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.  But their offense was a work in progress that never finished.  Missouri finished the season with 6 straight wins, but has no wins over a team with a winning record.  Beating 6-6 Texas won't help that stat.  Texas played even with big teams like USC and OU and has the better team here.  Wins in a low scoring affair.
Texas 21, Missouri 17

Bulldog Babe: 
Both of these teams have been down in the dumps this year, in my opinion. It’s a surprise to me that they were able to sneak into bowl season. With that being said, this will be an interesting matchup. I think both teams have a chance at winning either a blowout or a close one, bowl season is always unpredictable. I have a feeling Missouri will win this one.
Missouri 34, Texas 20


Goodyear Cotton Bowl
Friday December 29, 8:30 p.m. EST, Arlington, Texas
Southern California (11-2) (+7.5) vs. Ohio State (11-2)

JR Ewing:
It's too bad the Rose Bowl could not have hosted this matchup, since it is rare in today's climate to get the true Big 10 and Pac 12 conference champion in a bowl game.  The Cotton Bowl is certainly a stalwart traditional game, so it will have to do.  Both teams won their Conference Title game over strong opponents.  Ohio State was the first team out of the playoff so this is about how they respond.  Last time they did well in defeating Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.  USC doesn't seem to have the horses to keep up.  I am really looking forward to the QB matchup in this one.  But Ohio State wins it relatively easily.
Ohio State 31, Southern California 21

Bulldog Babe:
This is probably gonna be one of my favorite matchups of the bowl season. Two strong teams who have had their fair share of high and low points. I think this will be a close matchup with both teams bringing their A game. I’ve been riding the USC train almost all season, but Ohio State to me just seems like the better team. OSU wins it.
Ohio State 24, Southern California 17.


Capitol One Orange Bowl
Saturday December 30, 8:00 p.m. EST, Miami Gardens, Florida
Miami (10-2) (+6.5) vs. Wisconsin (12-1)

JR Ewing:
A battle of two teams that were undefeated when we carved the turkey on Thanksgiving weekend but came up short in their conference title games.  Both against better teams. This is a very intriguing matchup as Miami has lost two straight and looked awful in both.  But when they play in south Florida, they were unbeatable.  Wisconsin always plays well in bowl games, but I think the "U" magic is back and Miami pulls off an upset.
Miami 31, Wisconsin 26

Bulldog Babe:
Probably two of my favorite teams besides Georgia to watch this season. I had so much confidence in Miami to get in the playoffs, but they came up just a bit short. There couldn’t be a better bowl matchup for them than Wisconsin though, I feel like this game will be interesting and entertaining to watch. I feel like Wisconsin may be the stronger team, but I can’t get off the Miami train just yet. I think the Hurricanes will win a close one.
Miami 30, Wisconsin 24


Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual
Monday January 1, 2018, 5:10 p.m. EST, Pasadena, California
Oklahoma (12-1) (+2) vs. Georgia (12-1)

JR Ewing:
A game with teams fitting of the "Granddaddy of them All."  Oklahoma and Georgia had just one hiccup throughout the season.  Going back to last year, Oklahoma is actually 22-1 in their last 23 games.  Both teams have impressive out of conference wins at Ohio State and at Notre Dame  Both were dominant in their conference title game.  If I'm looking for an edge here, I like the more experienced quarterback in Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.  While freshman Jake Frohmm has been impressive, this is a whole new stage. He'll get his title in a year or two, but this year belongs to Oklahoma.
Oklahoma 35, Georgia 27

Bulldog Babe:
The first of the two CFB Playoff games. I am so excited for this game because Georgia and Oklahoma are both really strong and both teams deserve to be in Pasadena playing in this game. While everyone is riding the Oklahoma train, I feel like Georgia has enough mojo to win this game and get to the national championship game for the first time in over 30 years. Georgia wins a close one.
Georgia 34, Oklahoma 24


Allstate Sugar Bowl
Monday January 1, 2018, 8:45 p.m. EST, New Orleans, Louisiana
Clemson (12-1) (+3) vs. Alabama (11-1)

JR Ewing:
Perhaps I have not flip-flopped any more than this game.  Both teams are so good and of course they have met in the last two playoffs (in the Championship Game).  It's hard to see how either team loses.  But I do like Clemson.  They're not intimidated by Alabama, and last we saw the Tide, they looked pretty helpless on offense.  I think they miss Lane Kiffin more than they know.  Clemson's defense is stronger than they get credit for, allowing only 30 points in their last 4 games combined (all wins of 17 points or more).  I think Clemson wins the rubber match of this three game series and takes away the dynasty moniker from the Tide as the flagship team in college football.
Clemson 24, Alabama 14

Bulldog Babe:
Part 3. Another matchup between the Tide and the Tigers, so crazy to think how these teams somehow keep getting matched up to play each other. Alabama’s defensive line keeps getting mauled with injuries and I think Clemson is strong enough to keep up with them once again. They will be able to take advantage of that injury plagued defensive line. Clemson wins.
Clemson 34, Alabama 20



Enjoy the Bowl Season everyone!  We may or may not do a Championship Game Blog (it might depend on whether Georgia makes it)!

- JR and BDB

Monday, December 18, 2017

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/17/2017

As the calendar turns toward the Winter Solstice, basketball moves to the forefront of anything non-football.  The story of the NBA season has been the Houston Rockets, and their ascension to best team in the league can be traced to a key acquisition.  Chris Paul has not lost a game as a starter for the Houston Rockets.  15-0 through Monday.  As a complement to perennial MVP runner up James Harden, Paul forces the other team to guard two good ball handlers and shooters which has proven to not be feasible.  But for this week, Paul shot 54% from the field, including 46% from 3-point, missing just 1 free throw in 19 tries. Throw in 25 rebounds and 31 assists in 4 games in which the Rockets went 4-0 (and haven't lost a game since he returned from injury), and you have a solid Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/10/2017

Sometimes it's not about an entire game. Sometimes it's not about being the best athlete on the field.  Sometimes it's about making a play.  A play that will live in history.  That helps your team win.  In one of the biggest rivalries in college sports.  That's our Sportsman of the Week.  From 2002 to 2015, the Navy Midshipmen dominated the Army Navy game.  That's from just a year after 9/11 through nearly the last year of Barack Obama's presidency.  In fact, our Sportsman of the Week was only 6 years old when Army won before their upset in 2016.  But was it an upset? Because they won again in 2017.  John Voit was a big reason why.  With Navy leading 10-7, the best athlete on the field Malcolm Perry cleared most of the Army defense on his way to what looked like a 57 yard TD run to put Navy up 17-7 early in the third quarter.  But senior defensive lineman John Voit took the perfect angle and stopped Perry from scoring.  The 6'3" Montana native ran down the speedy Perry and got him by a shoelace.  Or splashed snow on his cleat.  Whatever it was, Navy settled for a field goal.  And never scored again.  Army scored a TD to win 14-13.  Voit's football career is likely over after the bowl game.  He'll likely never suit up again.  But for one day, he stopped Navy.  And gave Army a win.  History will remember this.  As will our Blog, as he is our Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Sportsman of the Week Ending 12/3/2017

The college football season ended with a climax as for the first time in the College Football Playoff era, all Power Five conferences had a title game.  Two were presumably winner gets in, two had a higher ranked team that needed to get in, and one was not going to matter.  Well, in one where the winner gets in (a de facto Round of 8 game), the Georgia Bulldogs punched their ticket to the playoffs and won the SEC for the first time since 2005.  And it was a defensive player that led them.  Roquan Smith was the man of the match.  From sideline to sideline, he kept Auburn's offense at bay.  He finished the day with 13 tackles, including a sack, and had two fumble recoveries.  The Auburn offense could only muster 7 points (none after their first possession) and 259 total yards. Running it, 3.7 yards per play. Passing it, only 4.5 yards per play.  While Georgia heads to the Rose Bowl College Playoff Semifinal matchup against Oklahoma, Smith walked away with the SEC Championship Game MVP and is the Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!