Thursday, January 29, 2009

Who Should You Keep?

We here at Joe and Joe Sports have done some market research, and we've come to find that a lot of our traffic here arrives as a result of Google searches to determine if particular players are keepers, or which player among a list should be kept. As good as we are at reading minds, we can't be certain that we'll address your question unless you ASK! So if you've got a tough decision on your hands with regards to a keeper league (or any other league, really), don't hesitate to ask!

You can contact us anytime at joe.joe.sports@gmail.com. We'll guarantee a response via email, and if we like your question, we'll post it on the blog, along with our response!

Is A.J. Burnett A Keeper?

A.J. Burnett had his best major-league season in 2008, posting career highs in wins (18), starts (34), innings pitched (221.1), and strikeouts (231). While he didn't even remotely have the most surprising career year in the American League (that distinction goes far and away to Cliff Lee), he rebounded after a tough first half to dramatically improve his stock in an opt-out year. He did in fact opt out, and made himself appealing enough that the New York Yankees signed him to a five-year, $82.5 million contract.

And that's great. But the really important question here is, should you invest in him long term, and declare him a keeper?

Well, first things first. Burnett's got more than enough talent to look at him as a potential keeper. He was a big time prospect coming up in the Marlins' organization, and tossed a no-hitter in 2001. While he's endured injury difficulties on and off since then (he's only had 30 starts twice in his 10-year career), he's pitched well when he's been healthy. Burnett sports a 3.81 career ERA and a K/9IP of 8.3. He's always walked too many batters, but has been able to clean it up with overpowering stuff.

Last year, Burnett certainly pitched like a keeper, leading the AL in strikeouts and winning 18 games for the 4th-place Blue Jays. His 4.07 ERA wasn't great, but he had an ERA under 3.00 after the all-star break, and helped a lot of fantasy teams in the stretch run. Now he heads to the Yankees, who I have to think will win more than Toronto's 86 from last year. Does all of this add up to Burnett being a keeper?

I've teetered both ways, but in the end, I've got to say no. That's not to say that I couldn't see a weaker team keeping Burnett, or a strong team without much depth taking a chance on him. But Burnett's got those two question marks (the walks and the health) that make me worry about his ability to reliably contribute to a fantasy team. Sure, Burnett could be a nice pitcher for you, but he could also take a step backwards, or miss half of his starts with another injury.

I've always been a fan of A.J. Burnett (though obviously I'm no fan of the Yankees), and I'd like him to succeed. But guys who generate a lot of strikeouts and walks worry me, and that's exactly what Burnett is. Look at him as a first or second round pick, rather than a keeper, if you can help it.

2009 projection: 15-10, 3.90 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 190 Ks

Walt Disney World Trip: Day 1 (Friday)

As many of you know, I went to Disney World last weekend, and as per Plundo's suggestion and example, I'll give you a run down of how the trip was (along with the occasional complementary picture and relevant Wikipedia links). I took the trip with my mom and my youngest brother, Kevin.

For starters, I was sick. I got sick at the beginning of last week, and just got sicker as the week went on. Friday morning, the day of our flight, I was sick as a dog, and had been swigging Dayquil and Nyquil to try to bust up the cold before the trip. No such luck. I ended up blowing my nose at least 100 times over the course of the trip, but I was able to shut out most of the sickness with the distraction of the parks.

We left the house around 9:30 to catch our 12:00 flight out of Dulles. We were able to get through security without too much of a wait. Our flight was fully booked, but without any of the hullabaloo that Plundo had to endure, and the rest of the transportation went off without a hitch. During this trip, I spent most of my downtime and flight time reading, starting with Moneyball. If you're unfamiliar with Moneyball, it's a non-fiction book that reports on how the Oakland A's were able to field a highly competitive team despite having a small payroll and a lack of big bopper power hitters. It's honestly one of the most exciting and interesting books I've ever read, and I'd recommend it to any reasonably intelligent sports fan.


When we arrived in Orlando, we were all pretty hungry, so we got a table at the airport Chili's. I don't know if I've ever had their fajitas before, but they were better than I expected. The steak was very flavorful, and it was just enough food that I would be sated until dinner time.

We stayed at the Saratoga Springs resort, which is a Disney resort. There are several advantages of this, and the first one starts when you step out of the airport. Disney has a Magical Express service that allows you to ride one of their private buses from the airport directly to your resort. After checking in, we were offered a cart ride to the front of our building (which of course we accepted), and we headed up to the room.

The Saratoga Springs rooms are suites with a bedroom or bedrooms, as well as a kitchen and a common area. The resort has a small grocery on the property, and we went there to pick up some essentials (most importantly an Entenmann's raspberry danish). We put the groceries away, and then decided to head to Epcot (each Disney resort offers free bus rides to all of their parks, another perk of stayin at a Disney resort).

Kevin's big thing this trip (although it would slip away fairly quickly) was that he wanted to eat at as many of the different countries at Epcot as possible. This started on Friday night, when we went to the Japanese portion of Epcot. We ate at a restaurant called Teppan Edo, which is essentially a Benihana. The food was very good; they offered three sauces, each of which was different and tasty. I got New York strip sirloin steak, but everyone's food looked good (even the vegitarian selection, which was somewhat surprising). Additionally, I got a drink called a "ninja," a combination of sake and plum wine. I'm not normally a wine fan, but this was good enough that I got two.



We walked around Epcot a little more after dinner, but it was surprisingly crowded, and we were all fairly tired after a travel day, so we decided to head back. At the hotel, I grabbed a slice of danish and read a chapter of Moneyball before hitting the hay.

Next up: Saturday at The Magic Kingdom.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Super Bowl 2009: Why the Steelers Will Win

"Because they're so much better, duh." I've just given you the essence of the average Pittsburgh Steelers fan's argument as to why the Steelers will win the Super Bowl. Daunting, huh? Towering logic, right? Well, as much as I like to bash Steeler fans (and oh Jesus how I love it), there's actually a little bit of validity to the simplistic argument. The Steelers were 12-4, with their only losses coming against the Eagles, Giants, Colts, and Titans, all playoff teams. The Cardinals were 9-7 and lost four of six heading into the playoffs. But when you're a Super Bowl team, you beat some decent competition to get there, so you can't shrug off the Cardinals' credentials any more.

So why will the Steelers win, then? There are a couple of crucial reasons, most of them related to the Steelers' vaunted, #1 rated defense. They boast the best pass defense in football, which is complemented by the NFL's second-best rush defense (behind the Vikings). They gave up the fewest yards per game in the league, besting the #2 Ravens by over twenty yards a game. They gave up under 14 points per game, also best in the league. Their defense has stifled some of the best rushing and passing attacks in football, and has carried them to the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.

But while this Pittsburgh defense is essentially the same as the 2005 championship squad, the offense has changed dramatically, some might say for the better (some = me). Santonio Holmes compares favorably to Antwaan Randle El (the 2005 team's second leading wide receiver). Heath Miller is still on the team and has become more comfortable in the offense. Willie Parker has taken the reins from Jerome Bettis and become a legitimate #1 RB. But most importantly, Ben Roethlisberger has become more than just a confident game-managing quarterback. He's able to avoid the rush and make plays on the run; as I'm sure you've seen in various television graphics through the years, Big Ben actually boasts a higher passer rating from outside the pocket than from inside it.

Arizona's had a nice run, but they haven't faced a defense anywhere near as staunch as Pittsburgh's. When the dust settles, those jerks from western Pennsylvania will have another title, and I'll have another reason to dislike them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

NBA Quick Hits: January 2009

It may be cold outside, but the NBA is red hot right now. With four elite teams, a log jam in the Western Conference and a genuine superstar on nearly every team, there is alot to discuss , so here is a few things you should know:

After being the Joe and Joe Sports preseason darlings and then proceeding to go 13-20, the Philadelphia 76ers have gotten it together. Before Monday's loss to Dallas , Philly had won 7 in a row and are currently sitting at 20-21, good enough for second place in the Atlantic division and the seventh seed in the East. With Elton Brand scheduled to return soon and an upcoming seven game home stand, the Sixers are poised to go on a run.

Brandon Roy is shaping up to be his generation's Paul Pierce. A scorer who is willing to do a little bit of everything else, Roy is leading a scrappy Portland squad to their first season over .500 since 2002-2003. Sure they will get bounced in the first round of the playoffs, but the Blazers are headed in the right direction.

If one of our readers happens to be the guy that engraves the "Comeback Player of the Year Award", you can save some time in May and just carve "Nene" into the trophy now. (Joe and Joe full disclosure: I just looked and the NBA Comeback Player of the Year award only existed between 1980-1986, but I had already typed the above, soooo... anyway, Nene is having a nice year after recovering from testicular cancer.)

Yep, I was completely wrong about O.J. Mayo.

I was going to argue that if Yao can stay healthy, the Rockets have to be considered one of the favorites in the West because of their defense, but EVERYBODY is playing D out west. The Nuggets, Mavs, Lakers, Rockets, Hornets and Suns (???) are all in the top half of NBA teams as far as opponents field goal percentage goes.

Toronto's chances of resigning Chris Bosh in 2010 are now at 0.00001%. The margin of error on that prediction is +/- 0.00001%.

The Cavs are a completely different team this year with the addition of Mo Williams and Lebron's improvement after spending the summer with team USA. Losing Zydrunas Ilgauskas for several weeks would have submarined Cleveland last season, but this year's squad just keeps rolling. If Z and Delonte West can return to full strength, the Cavs have the deepest squad in the NBA and have to be considered the favorite in the East.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mock Draft Season

'Tis the season for mock drafts a-plenty. Fantasy baseball is fast approaching, and it's time to start getting a sense for where guys are getting drafted. While mock drafts won't tell you for sure where a guy will go in your draft, they can give you an idea of a window during which he might go.

When I do mock drafts, I try not to take any guys from my keeper fantasy team, because those are the players I want to learn about the most. This draft, however, I ended up taking a couple from my team. My first pick, Jimmy Rollins, was an auto-selection, as I was a few minutes late to the draft. Then, much later, I ended up taking Cameron Maybin, mostly because I didn't know who to take and I panicked. And yes, my team's name is Thunderchicken. It was assigned to me randomly, and I've embraced it as my own.

Below is the link for the mock draft in its entirety. Feel free to offer any opinions you've got on how things went down. Personally, I would've definitely taken Ryan Braun over Rollins at my first pick.

Mock Draft #1

Friday, January 16, 2009

How Many Countries Do You Know?

http://andys.org.uk/countryquiz/

To be fair, this quiz doesn't check your knowledge of every country, only those that are U.N. member nations (so Housingtonia won't come up on the list). But it's a fun little exercise to see how comfortable you are in naming countries. I'll be honest, I missed some easy ones. But I got 96 of the 192 countries, and feel pretty decent about that performance. That's what you get from playing world conquest video games, friends.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pizza Hut

I bashed Pizza Hut in the past for not having coupons. Only 10 short months later, here's a Pizza Hut coupon, 20% off your first online order. They've got some new wings that are pretty tasty, I recommend the garlic parmesan. And the pizza's solid.

Click here for the coupon. My guess is you probably can't double up the coupons, so it won't be a barn-burner of a deal, but hey, pizza is good.

Is Garrett Atkins A Keeper?

In 2006, Garret Atkins had one of the best second half performances in recent MLB memory. He hit .354 with 18 HR, 62 RBI, and an OPS of 1.062. In 2007, he hit .349 after the all-star break, making many of us think that he might be one of those perennial second-half players that we could elect not to draft, trade for in June, and reap the benefits.

Hopefully, you didn't do that in 2008. He hit just .259 with 7 HRs after the break this past season, and generally disappointed fantasy owners after a very solid first half. The question for 2009 is, can Atkins work out the kinks and just be a good hitter all season long? The answer? Not likely.

Over the past three years, Atkins has declined in virtually every statistical category each year. He dropped from 29 to 25 to 21 HRs, and 120 to 111 to 99 RBI. His walks have gone down and his strikeouts have gone up. His batting average has gone from .329 to .301 to .286. All of this indicates that he's not getting more comfortable as he gets more at-bats in the majors, and it's possible he's getting worse.

I still believe that Atkins is a solid player with good hitting instincts and enough pop to be a fantasy factor. And if everything was the same as last year, I'd probably still look at him as a keeper. But the day that Matt Holliday was traded to Oakland was the day that Garrett Atkins became a non-keeper. The Rockies' best hitters now are Atkins, an aging Todd Helton (hi...) and Brad Hawpe, a nice player but just a roster-filler in fantasy baseball.

If I thought that Carlos Gonzalez, Ian Stewart, and Troy Tulowitzki were going to take big strides forward this season (or in the case of Tulowitzki, just stop taking steps backwards), I might consider keeping Atkins. But I just don't see where he can get 110 RBIs in 2009 out of this Rockies lineup.

2009 projections: .290, 85 R, 20 HR, 85 RBI

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Don't Need A Playoff Anymore

Don't misunderstand me, I still loathe the BCS system. It's completely dishonest and a total farce; it's a fallacy that it can even create a valid national championship game, let alone crown a champion. But I'm done demanding a college football playoff, for two reasons.
  1. I don't care about college football. Anyone who listened to our radio show from last week (which featured mostly NFL discussion) knows that we were broadcasting right in the middle of the BCS National Championship game, and that didn't bother us one bit. Like most faux fans, I'm excited when my alma mater (Penn State) does well, and I have a sufficient level of fatalism when talking about them (as in, I told everyone that USC was going to crush the Nittany Lions in the Rose Bowl). But when it comes to tracking the season-long progress of various teams, I don't do it. And when it comes to watching the championship game, I don't do it unless I care about one of the teams, which we've already established is pretty rare. The last one I watched was that barn-burner between USC and Texas, which might be the best college football game I've ever seen. So they've got that going for them. But really, I'm just not that interested in the whole scene.

  2. The playoff would still be wrong. There are a lot of ways you could set up a playoff in college football: anywhere from four to sixteen teams would work, bye weeks could be integrated (to keep the regular season meaningful), etc etc. But the reality is that, whatever system gets put into place will have its flaws. How will it reward conference champions? Will there be sufficient at-large bids to ensure that the very best teams are in the mix? How will the system confound potential problems with teams of identical records, or teams who play particularly weak or strong schedules? Will computers get involved? There are so many questions, and not a lot of reasonable answers. A playoff would be better, but it wouldn't be a final solution, because the determination of who gets into the playoff would still be based on opinion, a natural flaw of the college systems.
There are other issues that are often cited when explaining why a playoff system would be bad for college football, and I'm sure you've heard many of them:
  • Missing class time. There's always an argument that missing class time in late December/early January is a detriment to student-athletes. Please feel free to check the University of Maryland's academic calendar (and remember that only dummies take class for the brief Winter Term). Most students aren't going to miss much/any class time.

  • De-valuing the regular season. This might be true on a rare occasion. However, how can you say that de-valuing the regular season is a concern when we've had multiple teams in recent years go undefeated during the regular season, but have no chance at the national title? Also, does the NFL, which has a playoff system, suffer from a meaningless end-of-season?

  • The eventual demise of the bowl system. This argument actually holds some water for me. Certainly, if we start taking the best eight to sixteen teams out of the regular bowl system, we're going to reduce the luster of the biggest bowls. Additionally, the single postseason game for each team in the current system allows alumni and fans to make a single, special trip to the bowl site for the festivities and the game. Multiple playoff games would likely result in corporate purchases and outrageously priced secondhand tickets for fans, which hasn't ever been the nature of college football.
The reality is this. While I'd probably prefer a playoff system as a casual fan, I am just that: a casual fan. For people who really love college football, the playoff system may deprive them of the ability to see their favorite team in their final game of the season (often a much stronger attachment than you'll find in professional teams' fans). The old system, without any mockery of a national championship game, gives each team's fans a decent chance to catch the game. You also keep the ticket prices low enough (at least the student tickets), and have enough lead time before the games to allow students to make travel plans and buy tickets, keeping the classic college football atmosphere.

When you think about it, some of the resistance of college football against a playoff system might be in deference to its most rabid fans, and in the interest of maintaining the things about college football that it's most staunch supporters love. I can't be too mad about that.

The BCS is still a joke, though. The national championship game that the purport to create is an absolute farce. Do you know how I know that? Because after the game, there are still lots of questions as to who the best team in the country is. You ever hear that after the Super Bowl or World Series? No sir. Personally, I'd rather have no championship game at all than a championship game that doesn't give me a feeling of having declared a champion.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy Wildcard Weekend! (part 2)

I was going to call it "part deux," but then I remembered I'm not a tool.

Baltimore Ravens (11-5) at Miami Dolphins (11-5)

Full disclosure here, I absolutely hate the Ravens. Most of it is probably because Chip likes them so much, but some of it comes from a natural disdain for a foreign invader of the Washington Redskins' territory. "You don't belong here," "This seat's taken," that sort of thing, except less racist.

Anyways, to the game. Baltimore's got a rookie quarterback and a fantastic defense. Miami's got an experienced, efficient quarterback and a solid, if unspectacular, defense. Usually my picks lean heavily on quarterbacks and defenses, so this is a tight call. Miami just seems to belong here less, after the debacle last season. I'm rooting like crazy for the Dolphins, but my heart tells me to prepare for the worst.

Prediction: Ravens 23, Dolphins 17

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1) at Minnesota Vikings (10-6)

One game features one of my least favorite teams, the other features my second favorite squad in the Vikings. It's virtually impossible for me to look at this game objectively, but I'll try to at least give some valid points. The Eagles' defense has been ridiculous, leading the NFC in points allowed, total yards allowed, and passing yards allowed. And Donovan McNabb seems to be hitting stride at the right time of year, not an altogether uncommon occurrence.

The Vikings are one of the better home teams at 6-2, their only home losses coming against the two playoff losers from Saturday, Indianapolis and Atlanta. Adrian Peterson is a monster, but he can't win the game alone, and I don't see him getting help anywhere else on this offense. The defense is strong against the run, which the Eagles do like twice a game. Even though I hate going with the crowds, I can't seem to talk myself out of this one.

Prediction: Eagles 31, Vikings 13

Playoff predictions to date (winners only): 1-1

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy Wildcard Weekend!

It's not Christmas or Thanksgiving, but wildcard weekend in the NFL is cause for celebration. We've got four compelling matchups, and despite what anyone says, none of these games is a gimme. The games today:

Atlanta Falcons (11-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-7)

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, everyone was talking about what a slimeball Bobby Petrino was for walking out on this team, about how Michael Vick's dogfighting conviction decimated this team, and about how it would take years for the Falcons to be respectable again. However, if you go back into the Joe and Joe Sports radio vault, you'll hear me predict the Atlanta Falcons for a 9-7 record and the NFC South division title. And, you'll remember that I recommended that Atlanta start Matt Ryan immediately, while a certain colleague of mine who shall remain nameless (but not unlinked) declared that Ryan should be kept on the bench at least a year. While Ryan didn't lead the Falcons to the division crown, they won 11 games and proved me sort of right.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals finally won the division that everyone has been saying is theirs for the taking, albeit with an aging Kurt Warner at quarterback and a modest 9-7 record. But there's no doubt that Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are the best WR tandem in football today, and maybe ever. If there's any team in these playoffs that could surprise everyone and score 40 points a game, it's these Cardinals.

My pick: Arizona

Indianapolis Colts (12-4) at San Diego Chargers (8-8)

This is a meeting of two teams on a serious roll. Peyton Manning and the Colts just wrapped up his third MVP trophy, and he's looked like championship caliber Manning for a couple of months now. While Marvin Harrison has slid a bit, Dallas Clark, Anthony Gonzalez, and Dominic Rhodes have picked up the offensive slack, and this offense is as dangerous as ever. And as long as Bob Sanders can stay healthy, the defense will be solid.

Meanwhile, San Diego won four straight games it had to win to stay alive for a playoff berth, including a showdown in the last week of the season that was essentially its own postseason game. Now, they get to play the Colts (who they beat last year in the playoffs) on their own turf. Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson are nicked up, but you'd better believe they'll be playing in this game. This one could be 42-38 or 13-10. I'm jazzed.

My pick: Indianapolis

Sure, the Redskins Blew It, But...

...there's an NFL team this year that blew it even bigger. I'll lay out the details, and you can decide for yourself if I'm right, or if I'm just blowing smoke.

The Washington Redskins were 5-1 after back-to-back NFC East victories over Dallas and Philadelphia, and the entire city was buzzing with talk of the playoffs, and more. Jim Zorn was the toast of the town, the offense was clicking, the defense was stalwart, and the goofier of us were doing dances. Even a shocking loss to the Rams wasn't enough to dampen our spirits, and two more wins gave us a first half record of 6-2 and an inside track on a wild card berth (the Giants were 7-1 and looking unstoppable at the time).

And then, in a blink of an eye, the wheels came off. Each week, it seemed as if the 'Skins had played their worst game ever, only to play even worse the next game. Even in a win against Seattle, the Skins looked nothing like the team lauded early in the season for avoiding mistakes and playing good, efficient football. Their games against Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Baltimore were virtually unwatchable. You've read my disdain for my favorite team's performance all season long on this blog.

But what is it that actually defines a great collapse? Wasting an opportunity is the key part: the more seemingly assured the opportunity, and the more precipitous the decline, the more dramatic the collapse. Without question, the Denver Broncos pulled off a greater collapse than the Redskins this season.

With three weeks to go, the Broncos' magic number was one; one win or a Chargers loss over the last three weeks of the season and the AFC West title was theirs, as well as a playoff spot. And even if they couldn't pull it off in their games in week 15 and 16 (against Carolina and Buffalo), they'd have the opportunity to close the deal on the field against San Diego in the final week of the season. Denver managed to lose all three games, and give the division to the Chargers.

And on top of that, Denver wasn't an "out of nowhere" team like the Redskins were. The Redskins had a first-year coach, an inexperienced and unproven quarterback, and the consensus toughest division in football to contend with. While San Diego was a sexy Super Bowl pick this season, Denver was thought highly enough of to merit playoff discussion in the offseason (specifically on Joe and Joe Sports' AFC preview show). Moreover, (now former) Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has a pair of Super Bowl rings on his fingers. He's the kind of coach you're looking for when you just need to win one game. Denver couldn't, and they're out of the playoff picture.

I am, by no means, suggesting that the Redskins didn't choke; absolutely they did. But Denver had a greater and later opportunity to close the door on a playoff spot, and they laid an egg. Maybe we shouldn't have been that surprised about Shanahan getting axed.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...