About Jim Wyman

I was a mediocre special teamer on a winless high school football program. That makes me fully qualified to talk football.

NFL Picks: Week 1

Last Season: 144-81

After a slow start, I thought I recovered nicely last season to come up with a pretty solid season winning percentage. And now I can use PFF stats. So yeah, since nobody donated to my Patreon (except one, thanks Dad), I couldn’t pay for a PFF account to better analyze these picks, so I just went and got a job with them. Go figure. But anyway, picks are back and I’m off to a slow start, as I picked the Falcons to beat the Eagles on Thursday night, which didn’t happen so let’s hope this goes better.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns

This season of Hard Knocks may have been the best ever. It was funny, interesting, and eye-opening. It really makes me root for this Cleveland Browns team. However it also showed me another thing: Hue Jackson is a shitty head coach (great guy, though, would not mind having a beer with him). That coaches meeting from the first episode was all I needed to see to know why the Browns are 1-31 under Jackson. So despite the fact that the Steelers won’t have Le’Veon Bell, I still think they beat the Browns, though the influx of talent will make this a close game.

Projected Score: Steelers 31 Browns 24

Cincinnati Bengals vs Indianapolis Colts

San Francisco 49ers v Indianapolis Colts

Frank Reich’s debut as an NFL head coach comes at a perfect time as Andrew Luck is back from a shoulder injury that many believed could derail his career. We have yet to see whether that holds true, but Colts quarterbacks (Jacoby Brissett and Scott Tolzien) carried the 6th worst PFF grade in his absence. In 2016, the last time we saw Luck, Colts passers carried the 4th best PFF grade. So Luck makes a huge difference. It’ll be a challenge against the Bengals, who I think will quietly have one of the NFL’s best defenses. It’ll be interesting to see how Andrew Luck is protected against that vaunted defensive line. I think the Bengals come away with this one.

Projected Score: Bengals 24 Colts 17

Tennessee Titans vs Miami Dolphins

Another head coaching debut, Mike Vrabel now has the reins of the Titans and will begin his tenure in South Beach against the Dolphins. A lot has been made of the Titans trying to become the Patriots 2.0 by acquiring all their old players (Logan Ryan, Dion Lewis, Malcolm Butler, even Vrabel himself played 8 years there), but obviously they’re not going to replicate the same results. Marcus Mariota had a weird season last year, as he appeared to struggle with 13 touchdowns and 15 picks, but PFF actually graded him pretty well at 76.2 (for comparison, Kirk Cousins was a 70.0 and Cam Newton was 66.5). I think they get the win against the Dolphins, who are returning Ryan Tannehill but seemingly nothing else.

Projected Score: Titans 27 Dolphins 21

San Francisco 49ers vs Minnesota Vikings

I probably should abstain from this one like I did Clemson-Texas A&M yesterday because I’m working this one for PFF, but my work doesn’t start until well after the game ends so I think I’m okay to pick this. The Vikings are my pick to win the Super Bowl this year and they go up against Jimmy Garoppolo and his unbeaten record as a starting quarterback. Something has to give. I think I’m going to go with the Vikings, as I think they’re much more well-rounded.

Projected Score: Vikings 31 49ers 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints

Divisional Round - New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings

Jameis Winston’s 3 game suspension for groping an uber driver begins and it’ll be Ryan Fitzpatrick taking on the Saints. I’m not going to lie, this game is going to get ugly. Yes the Bucs have a revamped defensive line, but the Saints have one of the best offensive lines in football and loads of weapons like Michael Thomas and last year’s rookie of the year Alvin Kamara. They’re going to be fine even without Mark Ingram, who is serving a 4-game suspension for PED’s.  Saints win easily.

Projected Score: Saints 38 Buccaneers 14

Houston Texans vs New England Patriots

The Texans are getting a LOT of key contributors back from a season that was lost due to injury so I think this will be a fun game as they take on the Patriots. But it’s still the Patriots, even with all the players they lost from last season. So I think they still win, but I think the Texans will make them sweat.

Projected Score: Patriots 28 Texans 24

Jacksonville Jaguars vs New York Giants

The Jaguars had a fantastic season on defense last year and basically everyone from that unit is back. The Giants are getting ODell Beckham back and Saquon Barkley will be making his debut but it won’t be enough as Jacksonville’s defense suffocates them and leads them to a victory. It won’t be a bloodbath like their opener against the Texans last year, but it will still be a relatively easy win.

Projected Score: Jaguars 34 Giants 17

Buffalo Bills vs Baltimore Ravens

It’s going to be a long season for the Bills, especially if they think Nathan Peterman was the best option at quarterback. I get not starting Josh Allen right away, because based on his up-and-down preseason, he could use some time on the bench, but did you have to trade AJ McCarron? I don’t know, man. The defense should be solid but the offense is going to struggle and I think the Ravens will win easily.

Projected Score: Ravens 28 Bills 10

Kansas City Chiefs vs Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs

The Pat Mahomes era has officially begun and it comes against a very tough Chargers defense. Cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Trevor Williams will have their hands full with Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins running under Pat Mahomes’ passes, but he’s only going to be able to get the ball down there if the offensive line holds up, which is going to be tough with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram coming off the edge. I think the Chargers win a fun back-and-forth affair.

Projected Score: Chargers 31 Chiefs 28

Dallas Cowboys vs Carolina Panthers

It’s the end of an era, as the Cowboys will play a game without both Jason Witten (retired) and Dez Bryant (released) for the first time since 2003. They take on the Panthers, who remain mostly unchanged from the team that made the playoffs last season. I think it’s going to be a low-scoring game, as both teams bring strong defenses to the table, but I think Carolina is going to come out on top.

Projected Score: Panthers 20 Cowboys 17

Washington Redskins vs Arizona Cardinals

Alex Smith debuts for the Redskins after a career year in Kansas City against the Cardinals, who get David Johnson back from a wrist injury. The Cardinals are a tough team to place this season. Sam Bradford is the new quarterback after Carson Palmer retired and while he is an accurate passer and has played well when on the field, his problem is he can’t stay on the field. There’s also a lot of talent on the Arizona defense but they did lose a BIG piece in Tyrann Mathieu this offseason. I think I’m going to go with Washington this week.

Projected Score: Redskins 24 Cardinals 20

Seattle Seahawks vs Denver Broncos

This is a Super Bowl XLVIII rematch but both teams could not look more different. The Legion of Boom has pretty much completely dissolved while Denver is starting Case Keenum at quarterback. Seattle still doesn’t have an offensive line so I think I’m going to pick a Von Miller-led defense to take apart this Seahawks offense and lead the Broncos to victory.

Projected Score: Broncos 23 Seahawks 17

Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Green Bay Packers

The oldest rivalry in the NFL is renewed with some new faces in Chicago. Matt Nagy is at the helm and he has a brand new toy after the team sent to first rounders to Oakland for Khalil Mack. All of a sudden this Bears defense looks formidable for the first time since 2012. But the Packers are also getting Aaron Rodgers back and their young secondary looks like it could have a similar effect on this year’s team as it did for the Saints last year and I think I’m going to take Green Bay.

Projected Score: Packers 28 Bears 20

New York Jets vs Detroit Lions

The first Monday Night game of the year features a couple debuts. Sam Darnold is the new rookie quarterback getting the start for the Jets while Matt Patricia is making his head coaching debut for the Lions. Darnold looked really sharp in the preseason and was doing things you don’t see 30 year-olds do. The Lions are in a similar position to the Cardinals in that they have some talent with a rookie head coach but I have no idea what to make of them. So I think I’m going to pick the Jets to come away with the win.

Projected Score: Jets 23 Lions 14

Los Angeles Rams vs Oakland Raiders

The other Monday Night game, this is going to be a blowout. I’m picking Oakland to pick first in the 2019 NFL draft as they have absolutely no defense, especially now that they’ve traded Mack. Meanwhile the Rams stocked up on talent in the offseason. This won’t be close, Rams win.

Projected Score: Rams 42 Raiders 14

So that’s it for my picks this week. Like I’ve said many times, I’m going to keep trying to do this every week, but I can’t promise I’ll be able to. Let me know what you think of my picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Football Picks: Week 2

Last Week: 8-4                             Season Record: 8-4

So my misses last week were Maryland against Texas (while I did pick Texas, I warned that they were overrated), Ole Miss against Texas Tech, Notre Dame against Michigan, and BYU against Arizona. My upset pick of Cincinnati over UCLA came true, as I predicted there would be some growing pains for Chip Kelly’s debut. So let’s get to the picks. One thing to note, please don’t get upset: I’m abstaining from doing Clemson vs Texas A&M. I got assigned to work that game for Pro Football Focus so I’m going to pull a Kirk Herbstreit and not pick a game I’m doing. My apologies, because I think that’s one of the more interesting games on the docket. So without further ado, let’s get picking.

#18 Mississippi State (-9) vs Kansas State

Mississippi v Mississippi State

Mississippi State STEAMROLLED Stephen F. Austin last week 63-6, scoring at least 2 touchdowns in every quarter. Kansas State’s obviously better than SFA, but now Mississippi State is getting star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald back, who was suspended for the opener. With their Heisman candidate quarterback back in the fold, Mississippi State wins easily.

Projected Score: Mississippi State 42 Kansas State 21

Duke vs Northwestern (-3)

Northwestern vs Purdue was a fun game where Northwestern got out to an early lead and were barely able to hang on after a furious Boilermakers comeback. Duke is always a question mark, as David Cutcliffe’s team sometimes looks like the sneakiest team in the country, others they look like they belong outside the Power 5. I’m going to take the Wildcats for this one.

Projected Score: Northwestern 27 Duke 21

UCLA vs #6 Oklahoma (-30.5)

Goddamn was Kyler Murray impressive in his debut. He absolutely destroyed the FAU defense to the tune of 209 passing yards on 9 of 11 passing with 2 TDs while adding another 23 on the ground, including this run.


If UCLA can’t beat Cincinnati, they stand no chance against the Sooners. Oklahoma wins easily.

Projected Score: Oklahoma 51 UCLA 17

#3 Georgia (-10) vs #24 South Carolina

Georgia made quick work of Austin Peay and they don’t look like they’ve missed a step from the team that was a Tua Tagovailoa heave away from winning a national championship last year. South Carolina’s good, and I think this will be a close game, but Georgia’s winning this thing.

Projected Score: Georgia 30 South Carolina 20

Ball State vs #8 Notre Dame (-34.5)

Bloodbath.

Projected Score: Ball State 77 Notre Dame 0

JK

Projected Score: Notre Dame 52 Ball State 14

I swear to God if Ball State comes back to bite my ass for that…

Colorado vs Nebraska (-3.5)

Colorado was very impressive against Colorado State last week and this is Nebraska’s first game after last week’s scheduled game against Akron was cancelled due to inclement weather. They’re going to try and reschedule it but in the meantime they’ll be sending out true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez to start. This will be tight but I think I’m going to take Colorado in Scott Frost’s Nebraska debut.

Projected Score: Colorado 35 Nebraska 31

Iowa State vs Iowa (-3.5)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 30 AutoZone Liberty Bowl - Memphis v Iowa State

The Battle for the CyHawk trophy has been quietly one of the best games every year and it never seems to matter who happens to be good in a given season. I think I’m going to take Iowa State in this. Runningback David Montgomery is one of the most underappreciated players in the country and I think he gets a chance to show his stuff against the Hawkeyes.

Projected Score: Iowa State 42 Iowa 38

Virginia vs Indiana (-6)

Peyton Ramsey looked impressive against FIU, though Michael Penix Jr (I giggle every time I say it) showed some playmaking ability himself. I still think the Hoosiers will roll with a dual-QB system depending on what each situation calls for. As for Virginia, they’re going to struggle. They lost all their playmakers from a year ago and they got off to a slow start against Richmond. I think Indiana wins their home opener against the Cavaliers.

Projected Score: Indiana 31 Virginia 21

Kentucky vs #25 Florida (-14)

The Florida Gators looked great against Charleston Southern last week. The defense is expected to be very good this season, though there are still some question marks surrounding the quarterback position. Kentucky has a really good linebacker in Josh Allen but other than that there isn’t a whole lot to speak of on the Kentucky roster, so I think Florida runs away with this one.

Projected Score: Florida 38 Kentucky 14

#13 Penn State (-8.5) vs Pittsburgh

Penn State had a REAL scare last week against Appalachian State, as it took a ballsy performance by Trace McSorley in the final minute and OT to win the game. They face a tougher opponent in Pittsburgh but I think the Nittany Lions will get their shit together and come away with the win.

Projected Score: Penn State 35 Pittsburgh 21

#17 USC vs #10 Stanford (-5)

I feel like this game should be saved for the end of the season, but I’m not complaining. These teams hate each other and this is going to be a damn good game. I think I’m going to go with Stanford just based purely on a hunch. I think Bryce Love reminds us why he’s the Heisman favorite as he leads the Cardinal to victory.

Projected Score: Stanford 31 USC 28

#15 Michigan State (-6) vs Arizona State

UTSA v Arizona State

Michigan State, like Penn State, survived their week 1 “cupcake” opponent, as it took a late touchdown and defensive lineman interception for them to come away with the win against Utah State. Arizona State’s going to be a lot more challenging with a receiver like N’Keal Harry for the Spartans to deal with. The Sun Devils are going to be my upset pick this week as I think they stun Michigan State at home as Herm Edwards moves to 2-0 as a college head coach.

Projected Score: Arizona State 28 Michigan State 24

That’s going to do it for this week’s picks. Let me know if you want my thoughts on any other games in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NFL Season Predictions

So instead of doing a “30 Clubs in 30 Days” thing like I did for baseball, I’m just going to do a generic preview for this upcoming NFL season. While 30 Clubs in 30 Days was a lot of fun for me to do, it ultimately was too time-consuming and not successful enough to be worth the time. But with the NFL season starting on Thursday with Falcons vs Eagles, I figured, what the Hell, let’s get this preview down now. So without further ado, here are my predictions for this upcoming season.

Projected Standings

AFC East

NFL: AUG 24 Preseason - Patriots at Panthers

1. New England Patriots (13-3)

2. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

3. New York Jets (6-10)

4. Buffalo Bills (4-12)

AFC North

Tennessee Titans v Pittsburgh Steelers

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

3. Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)

4. Cleveland Browns (3-13)

AFC South

Atlanta Falcons v Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

2. Houston Texans (8-8)

3. Tennessee Titans (8-8)

4. Indianapolis Colts (5-11)

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers v San Francisco 49ers

1. Los Angeles Chargers (11-5)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

3. Denver Broncos (6-10)

4. Oakland Raiders (3-13)

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles v Cleveland Browns

1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)

2. New York Giants (7-9)

3. Washington Redskins (6-10)

4. Dallas Cowboys (5-11)

NFC North

Seattle Seahawks v Minnesota Vikings

1. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)

2. Green Bay Packers (11-5)

3. Chicago Bears (7-9)

4. Detroit Lions (6-10)

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons v Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)

2. New Orleans Saints (10-6)

3. Carolina Panthers (8-8)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

NFC West

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1. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

2. San Francisco 49ers (8-8)

3. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

4. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)

Playoffs

AFC

1. New England Patriots (first round bye, home field advantage)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (first round bye)

3. Los Angeles Chargers

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

5. Kansas City Chiefs

6. Baltimore Ravens

NFC

1. Philadelphia Eagles (first round bye, home field advantage)

2. Los Angeles Rams (first round bye)

3. Minnesota Vikings

4. Atlanta Falcons

5. Green Bay Packers

6. New Orleans Saints

Playoff Predictions

Wild Card Round:

3 Chargers over 6 Ravens

4 Jaguars over 5 Chiefs

3 Vikings over 6 Saints

5 Packers over 4 Falcons

Divisional Round:

4 Jaguars over 1 Patriots

3 Chargers over 2 Steelers

1 Eagles over 5 Packers

3 Vikings over 2 Rams

Conference Championship:

4 Jaguars over 3 Chargers

3 Vikings over 1 Eagles

Super Bowl LIII:

Divisional Round - New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings

Vikings over Jaguars

So you don’t have to watch the NFL season anymore, I’m picking the Vikings to defeat the Jaguars in Super Bowl LIII. It’ll be a first for both teams: the Vikings’ first Super Bowl victory and the Jags’ first Super Bowl appearance. I have the Patriots getting upset in the Divisional Round for a couple reasons. Number 1 is that I feel like there’s just something not right about this year’s team. I’m not sure what it is, but the team just feels a bit thinner than usual. They’ll definitely win the AFC East again because it’s still Belichick and Brady, but after those two, there are a lot of question marks. I think the Chargers will have a breakthrough year by riding their defense (so long as they can stay relatively healthy). The offense will be fine, but the Chargers are going to be one of the more dominant defensive teams in the NFL this season, perhaps this year’s version of the Jaguars. Speaking of the Jaguars, I think they pull off the upset over the Patriots by doing the exact opposite of what they did in last year’s AFC Championship Game. Instead of playing not to lose, they go for the jugular and stomp on New England’s depleted receiving corps, leaving Tom Brady to have to continuously check down to James White, who keeps getting taken to task by Telvin Smith and Myles Jack. On the NFC side, I think the Rams could be a juggernaut this season. They didn’t lose anyone too significant and they reloaded on defense while returning all the important weapons on offense and adding Brandin Cooks. The Eagles I think will still be really good, but I don’t think Nick Foles will play as well in his first few games as the starter as he did in the playoffs last year. They’ll win the NFC East with ease, as the other 3 teams are hurting at the moment. The Vikings might be the most all-around sound team on paper heading into this season and that’s why I’m picking them as Super Bowl champions this year.

As for the bad teams, I still think the Browns will be near the cellar, mainly due to Hue Jackson. I have not been impressed by his coaching techniques watching Hard Knocks, as I think he’s way too soft to be a head coach. His tactics work as a positional coach, but to be the head guy, you need to have more of Todd Haley and Gregg Williams’ fire. Why is Bill Belichick so great? It’s because he doesn’t have a soul. The minute your skills start to deteriorate, you’re out the door. Jackson? It seems like he just wants to be friends with everyone on the team. I also think the Raiders are going to suck this year, but that’s not really news. Jon Gruden hasn’t been a coach in a decade and the game’s changed a lot since his last days with the Buccaneers. Now he doesn’t have a defense with the Khalil Mack trade and his offense is comprised of a bunch of old guys, Derek Carr, and a drop-happy Amari Cooper. I think they’ll end up picking first in April.

On to the awards.

NFL MVP:

Wild Card Round - Atlanta Falcons v Los Angeles Rams

Todd Gurley-RB-Los Angeles Rams

Offensive Player of the Year:

Divisional Round - Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers

Antonio Brown-WR-Pittsburgh Steelers

Defensive Player of the Year:

AFC Championship - Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots

Jalen Ramsey-CB-Jacksonville Jaguars

Offensive Rookie of the Year:

1014201982-1024x1024

Saquon Barkley-RB-New York Giants

Defensive Rookie of the Year:

NFL: AUG 24 Preseason - Packers at Raiders

Josh Jackson-CB-Green Bay Packers

Coach of the Year:

Washington Redskins v Los Angeles Chargers

Anthony Lynn-Los Angeles Chargers

Comeback Player of the Year:

Arizona Cardinals v Detroit Lions

David Johnson-RB-Arizona Cardinals

Breakout Player of the Year:

Miami Dolphins v Carolina Panthers

Kenyan Drake-RB-Miami Dolphins

So yeah, that’s what’s going to happen this season. If you have any questions about this upcoming year, let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Football Picks: Week 1

Last Season: 86-34

Football’s back. And for that reason, it’s time for me to play spoiler to what’s going to happen week-by-week. I’m going to try and do this every week, but given my schedule, this might not always be possible, but again, I’ll do my best. So enough chit chat, let’s get to picks.

Texas Spring Game

#23 Texas (-13.5) vs Maryland

I think Texas is a little overrated again this year, as they seem to be every year by the preseason AP polls, but I do think they’ll come out with the victory against Maryland. However head coach Tom Herman might have some issues coming his way in the future, as he may have also known about the domestic abuse of a former Ohio State assistant while he was there. Who knows what the future holds?

Projected Score: Texas 38, Maryland 31

Ole Miss vs Texas Tech (-2.5)

Ole Miss got ravaged by the sanctions and aside from tackle Greg Little and receiver AJ Brown, all the talent recruited in the Hugh Freeze era is pretty much gone. Texas Tech will likely be a pushover defensively once again but you can pretty much throw anybody at quarterback there and they’ll throw for 5000 yards. This year, it’s a toss-up as to who will earn the job between JUCO transfer McLane Carter and Jett Duffey, but Texas Tech’s offense had the same success with Nic Shimonek (undrafted) as they did with Pat Mahomes (10th overall pick) so whomever it is, I’m sure they’ll be fine. Texas Tech wins.

Projected Score: Texas Tech 55 Ole Miss 38

#6 Auburn (-2) vs #9 Washington

This is going to be a slugfest. Auburn returns a lot of talent from a top-10 team last year so they’ll be in contention for the SEC crown again this year. Washington is the favorite to come out of the Pac 12 so this could be a potential CFP preview. I think Auburn comes away with this one, though. I think they have more weapons both offensively and defensively and I think this is the year that Jarrett Stidham takes the next step.

Projected Score: Auburn 31 Washington 27

West Virginia v Kansas State

#17 West Virginia (-9.5) vs Tennessee

Will Grier is in the conversation to be the top quarterback taken in the 2019 NFL Draft but I think he’s got a little too much of a gunslinger mentality for me to trust him just yet. But I think he shows plenty of flashes as he takes apart the Volunteer defense.

Projected Score: West Virginia 35 Tennessee 24

North Carolina vs California (-7)

I never know what to expect out of North Carolina on a year-to-year basis. Some years, they’re competing for an ACC title. Others they’re struggling to win 3 games. I think this one leans towards the latter, unfortunately for Tar Heel fans, as they don’t have a quarterback like Mitch Trubisky or the defensive talent to compensate for that. Cal wins and I think they do it handily.

California 42 North Carolina 21

Cincinnati vs UCLA (-15)

The Chip Kelly era at UCLA begins and former Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight will get the start. Not sure how Speight fits Kelly’s system, but Nick Foles had success in it with the Eagles and he has even less mobility than Speight does so I’m sure they’ll find a way to make it work. I think there will be some growing pains, though, and I think I’m going to pick this game as my upset. Cincinnati is always a tricky team and can sneak up on you if you aren’t careful. Cincinnati edges UCLA as Kelly drops his debut.

Projected Score: Cincinnati 31 UCLA 30

Outback Bowl -  Michigan v South Carolina

#14 Michigan vs #12 Notre Dame (-1)

The rivalry is back on and it looks to be a defensive slugfest. Michigan has about as loaded a defense as there is in the country while there is some uncertainty on offense. Former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson is getting the start and while he has shown flashes, he hasn’t quite materialized like everyone expected when he was a 5-star recruit. As for Notre Dame, there’s a little bit of uncertainty at quarterback. Brandon Wimbush showed a lot of ability but was inconsistent at times while Ian Book looked really sharp in relief. It’ll be interesting to see what Brian Kelly rolls out there Saturday night. But I think Michigan’s defense makes more plays and they win a low-scoring affair.

Projected Score: Michigan 20 Notre Dame 17

Louisville vs #1 Alabama (-24)

Alabama has another high profile game to open their season against Louisville and I’m going to be perfectly honest, that line seems a little generous. ‘Bama is as loaded as ever and Louisville lost Lamar Jackson to the NFL, who was the team the last few years. There is some uncertainty at quarterback for the Crimson Tide as Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa both are vying for the spot, but I think Bama wins the game handily with a steady dose of defense and the ground game with Damien Harris and Najee Harris (no relation).

Projected Score: Alabama 51 Louisville 17

BYU vs Arizona (-11.5)

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is one of the most exciting players in the country and he’ll have a full season as the starter under his belt to cement himself as the most dynamic player in the country. I think he runs all over the BYU defense and Arizona wins handily.

Projected Score: Arizona 48 BYU 24

903201634-1024x1024

#8 Miami (FL) (-3.5) vs #25 LSU

Miami had a breakout season last year thanks to the Turnover Chain but they finished pretty slowly, as they ended the season with losses to Pittsburgh, Clemson, and Wisconsin with the Turnover Chain getting destroyed and humiliated. I have a feeling that LSU is going to take this one in a low-scoring turnover-fest.

Projected Score: LSU 17 Miami (FL) 13

#20 Virginia Tech vs #19 Florida State (-7)

Last year could not have gone much worse for Florida State. They start the year ranked 4th, Deondre Francois goes down for the year in Week 1, they struggle to reach a bowl game, and Jimbo Fisher leaves for Texas A&M. On the other side, things could not have gone much better for Virginia Tech as Justin Jackson showed a lot of flashes as a true freshman quarterback. They will look to build on last year’s success as they try and take down the Seminoles and I think they do.

Projected Score: Virginia Tech 31 Florida State 24

BONUS GAME: Indiana (-10.5) vs Florida International

Only I care about this game but screw it, it’s my blog. FIU tends to play Indiana pretty tough for most of the game, as they nearly pulled off the upset each of the last two times they played (2015 and 16, 17 was cancelled due to hurricane). Peyton Ramsey has been named the starting quarterback and I think he’s an efficient passer, albeit limited in terms of skillset. Indiana will win, but it’ll be close.

Projected Score: Indiana 28 FIU 20

Are there any games I didn’t do that you want my thoughts on? Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 College Football Preview

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post, but like I mentioned in the past, I’m a very busy man now. In addition to doing some work for Pro Football Focus, I’ve also landed a position with the Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network as a Northeast Baseball Scout. So the blog has kind of gotten put on the backburner. However, with the college football season rapidly approaching (there will be some games on this weekend, including Colorado State vs Hawaii), I have found myself with a craving to get back into things. So let’s preview the college football season. I will be giving my preseason rankings, All Americans, Heisman winner, conference champs, and national champ. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Preseason Top 25

2018 University of Alabama Spring Football

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Clemson Tigers

3. Georgia Bulldogs

4. Wisconsin Badgers

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

6. Auburn Tigers

7. Penn State Nittany Lions

8. Miami (FL) Hurricanes

9. Washington Huskies

10. Oklahoma Sooners

11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

12. Michigan State Spartans

13. Michigan Wolverines

14. UCF Knights

15. Stanford Cardinal

16. USC Trojans

17. West Virginia Mountaineers

18. Virginia Tech Hokies

19. TCU Horned Frogs

20. Florida State Seminoles

21. Oregon Ducks

22. Boise State Broncos

23. LSU Tigers

24. Mississippi State Bulldogs

25. South Florida Bulls

A couple things to note about my rankings. Alabama mainly has the top spot again because they’re the reigning champs and I tend to lean towards the mantra of “you’re number 1 until someone proves otherwise.” But I actually think Clemson on paper is better. They’re basically returning everybody from the team that won the ACC and made the playoff last year. All they really lost were receivers Deon Cain and Ray Ray McCloud along with linebacker Dorian O’Daniel. Other than that, they’re returning QB Kelly Bryant, RB Wayne Etienne, OT Mitch Hyatt, DE’s Austin Bryant and Clellin Ferrell, and DT’s Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins. They also landed 5-star QB recruit Trevor Lawrence, who has reportedly looked so good in training camp that Kelly Bryant’s starting job may not be all that safe. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see part 4 of Alabama v. Clemson but unlike Cavs-Warriors, this one wouldn’t be a foregone conclusion as to who the victor ought to be. But basically I’ve got Alabama and Clemson as 1A and 1B in my preseason rankings. I’ve got UCF as my top non-Power 5 team despite the fact they lost head coach Scott Frost to Nebraska. McKenzie Milton is back at quarterback and if he has another strong season like he did last year, UCF could find themselves as not only the champs of the AAC, but potentially as the first non-Power 5 school to make the playoff. Florida State is coming off a horrid season and lost Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M (who barely missed the cut in this top 25), but they still have plenty of talent. Deondre Francois is returning from the ACL injury he suffered in Week 1 and Cam Akers was a revelation as a freshman last season. New head coach Willie Taggart’s task may not be as difficult as some may suspect.

Preseason All Americans

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QB: Khalil Tate-Arizona

RB: Bryce Love-Stanford, Jonathan Taylor-Wisconsin

WR: AJ Brown-Ole Miss, N’Keal Harry-Arizona State

TE: Noah Fant-Iowa

OT: Jonah Williams-Alabama, David Edwards-Wisconsin

OG: Martez Ivey-Florida, Michael Jordan-Ohio State

C: Ross Pierschbacher-Alabama

DE: Nick Bosa-Ohio State, Rashan Gary-Michigan

DT: Ed Oliver-Houston, Dexter Lawrence-Clemson

LB: Devin White-LSU, Devin Bush-Michigan, Cameron Smith-USC

CB: Greedy Williams-LSU, David Long, Michigan

S: Khaleke Hudson-Michigan, Lukas Denis-Boston College

K: Rodrigo Blankenship-Georgia

P: Mitch Wishnowsky-Utah

Return Specialist-Kavonte Turpin-TCU

Heisman Standings:

Valero Alamo Bowl - Stanford v TCU

1. Bryce Love-RB-Stanford

2. Khalil Tate-QB-Arizona

3. JK Dobbins-RB-Ohio State

4. Jonathan Taylor-RB-Wisconsin

5. Ed Oliver-DT-Houston

6. Nick Bosa-DE-Ohio State

7. Justin Herbert-QB-Oregon

8. Will Grier-QB-West Virginia

9. Trace McSorley-QB-Penn State

10. Rashan Gary-DE-Michigan

Bryce Love is the obvious favorite here. He was last year’s runner-up after exploding on the scene by rushing for over 2000 yards on 8.1 yards per carry. I actually anticipated Love to declare for the NFL Draft, which was why in my way-too-early Heisman rankings a few months ago, I picked Arizona QB Khalil Tate to take home the prize. But Love returned to Stanford and with Baker Mayfield now a member of the Cleveland Browns, he’ll be number 1 in most people’s initial rankings.

Conference Champs:

ACC: Clemson Tigers

Clemson University Defensive Line, 2018 College Football Preview Issue

 

As I mentioned before, Clemson lost very little from a team that made the playoff last season and they look primed for another National Championship run. I’m expecting a decline from Miami after the phenomena that was the Turnover Chain and while I do think Virginia Tech could sneak up on people, I don’t think they have the talent to unseat Clemson.

Big 10: Ohio State Buckeyes

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 24 Big Ten Football Media Days

This one could be very tricky, especially considering all the controversy surrounding Urban Meyer right now. If Meyer gets canned as a result of the investigation about his potential knowledge of an assistant’s domestic abuse, the Big 10 gets a LOT more interesting. The last time Ohio State lost a coach due to investigation, Jim Tressel, they went 6-6 under Luke Fickel despite the extremely talented roster. Meyer is probably the second-best coach in college football after Nick Saban at Alabama so losing him could be catastrophic for this Ohio State team despite all its talent. And there isn’t a huge dropoff from Ohio State to the next-best teams in the Big 10 like Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State so Meyer could make all the difference.

Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners

UTEP v Oklahoma

Losing Baker Mayfield is going to hurt but Oklahoma’s got Kyler Murray as his replacement for at least this season. Murray was a top-10 pick in the MLB Draft by the Oakland A’s and he has signed with the club, however they are allowing him to play out this season in Norman. Murray was a former 5-star recruit who transferred from Texas A&M to Oklahoma and has an abundance of talent. While he isn’t the passer Mayfield is, he’s a much better runner and the tandem of him and Rodney Anderson in the backfield could be deadly. After them, though, I don’t see a whole lot coming out of the Big 12. Oklahoma State lost a LOT in Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Marcell Ateman while TCU is losing Kenny Hill at quarterback (though they’re returning plenty on defense). West Virginia seems to be everybody’s dark horse pick to win the conference but I’m not sold on them just yet. Overall I think TCU is Oklahoma’s biggest threat but they still have some work to do offensively.

PAC-12: Washington Huskies

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington

The PAC-12 is a crapshoot right now as there isn’t a clear best team in the mix. Washington on paper looks like the best but Stanford, USC, and even Oregon all have legitimate shots at taking home the title. Also keep an eye out for Arizona as we could see Khalil Tate have a similar impact on that squad that Lamar Jackson had on Louisville.

SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia

While there are a ton of good teams in the SEC, it’s once again Alabama’s conference to lose. They did win the National Championship last season despite not winning the SEC (a poorly-timed loss to Auburn saw to that) but now they have an interesting quarterback situation on hand between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts had played well for most of the season but was struggling mightily in the National Championship game against Georgia. Enter Tua and he not only throws a better ball, but leads the comeback for the Alabama win. In truth, I think it would be better for everyone if Hurts move to runningback, not only for the depth chart situation but for his potential in the NFL. He’s not as good a thrower as Tua is but he can do a lot of damage with his legs, something he’ll have more opportunities to do as a runningback. Check out what happened with Braxton Miller when he took his name out of Ohio State’s QB battle a couple years ago. He goes from probably an undrafted quarterback to a third round pick as a wide receiver by the Houston Texans (hasn’t quite panned out yet, though). Hurts could see something similar. But as for the rest of the SEC, Georgia has a lot of production to replace in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are in the NFL with the Browns and Patriots, respectively, but Jake Fromm is back and so is much of the defense, though losing Roquan Smith is going to hurt.

Playoff/Championship Prediction:

1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs 4 Oklahoma Sooners

Alabama’s defense will suffocate Oklahoma’s high-flying offense and will lead the Tide to a surprisingly easy victory.

2 Clemson Tigers vs 3 Ohio State Buckeyes

Again, Ohio State’s involvement in the playoff will hinge entirely on the Urban Meyer investigation. If he’s cleared, though, I expect Ohio State to be back in the playoff. However Clemson destroyed them in the playoff a couple years ago and while I do think it’ll be closer this time, it’ll be another Tigers victory.

National Championship: 1 Alabama vs 2 Clemson

The fourth straight year these teams will meet in the playoff and the third time they face off for the National Championship. Alabama won the first and third time while Clemson won the second. Clemson sorely missed Deshaun Watson in last year’s matchup and got beaten relatively easily. However I think they exact revenge and win their second title in three years, evening the rivalry to 2 wins apiece as Dabo Swinney cements himself as one of the best coaches of the last decade.

National Champion: Clemson Tigers

Clemson v Louisville

That’s going to do it for my college football preview. Please don’t save this to shove in my face in January, thanks. Let me know what your predictions for this season are in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

College Basketball Has Some New Wrinkles To It

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So the NCAA finally started taking steps in the right direction, albeit imperfectly. They made a few amendments to their player compensation and eligibility rules. Here are the two big changes:

-If an underclassman player goes undrafted in the NBA Draft, they have until the Monday following the draft (about 4 days) to inform their school if they will return and will regain their remaining eligibility, which had been forfeited upon declaration for the draft in years past.

-“Elite” recruits will have the opportunity to sign with NCAA-approved agents.

Now, on the surface, this sounds fantastic. However there are a few kinks that need to be worked out before this can actually become a positive reality. First of all, the NBA has to start allowing players to be drafted out of high school again in order for the agent rule to actually come into effect, which hasn’t happened since Amir Johnson was a second round pick of the Pistons in 2005 (technically 3 players have been drafted since then despite not attending college or playing overseas, however all of them were a year removed from their high school graduation, which is acceptable under the current guidelines). The NCAA will only let players sign with approved agents if they have an opportunity to go to the NBA INSTEAD of the NCAA (the “elite”), which would lead to a bigger decision for the prospect. Go pro now, or go pro later and take some classes? Either way they’ll be making money but they’ll most certainly make more in the NBA, especially given the max contract climate of today’s game. Since players can’t get paid by the university, they’ll only have the endorsement money they get from working with an agent, unlike in the NBA where they’ll get a multi-million-dollar salary on top of those same endorsement deals. It doesn’t change too much but it is a step in the right direction.

However the part I have the most issue with is the term “elite” when talking about which players are allowed to do endorsement deals. Referring to someone as “elite” is about as subjective as you can get and the NCAA has defined this as being players selected by USA Basketball. There’s just one problem: the NCAA announced this without consulting USA Basketball or the NBA, who are reportedly pissed off that the NCAA is throwing these responsibilities on them without their approval. So should the rule come into effect, USA Basketball will have to pick the players who get to sign with agents and those who don’t. And I guarantee you any guy they snub is going to be PISSED, which will just create more tension than there already is amongst the very good players. I don’t understand why everyone can’t just sign with an agent. Besides, what kind of guidelines would they have to put forth? Does the player have to be a 5-star recruit, which is already extremely subjective and not always a great predictor of success? So in that case, using ESPN’s star system, Marvin Bagley would get to sign with an agent but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can’t (he graded as an 89, 1 point away from being a 5-star player). Plus, if that was the case, only about 30 players would’ve gotten to sign with an agent from last year’s class and only around half of them actually got drafted this year.

Also, the verbiage of the agent having to be “approved by the NCAA” seems kind of fishy. A part of me wonders if they’ll only allow players to sign endorsement deals as long as the agent works into the contract that the NCAA gets a cut as well. It does not sit well whatsoever with me and I’d have to see what one of the contracts looks like before I feel comfortable with that. I understand you don’t want a fishy agent representing 18 year-old kids, but you also don’t want a clean agent to be in the NCAA’s back pocket.

The idea that would allow undrafted college basketball players with unused eligibility to return to school is a damn good one and should’ve been in place a long time ago. The 4-day time period to inform their school of their decision feels a little short, however it may become up to the player to consider the possibility of not getting drafted longer and force them to ponder what they would want to do should they not hear their name called by Adam Silver. Maybe they’d prefer to sign as a 2-way undrafted free agent. Maybe they’d prefer to play overseas instead. But at least they’ll have the option to play college hoops again even though the draft didn’t work out yet and refine their skills. It’s better than the alternative, which is putting these kids at a crossroads. I’m sure a lot of them would choose to go back to college and continue to not only play basketball, but continue their degree.

How long these rules take to make it to college football and other college sports is unknown but if these new rules the NCAA has put out are any indication, they’re going to need to work out the kinks before they’re ready to really compensate these players.

Let me know what you think of the new rules in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

MLB Trade Deadline Recap

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In all honesty, I actually forgot that yesterday was the trade deadline. I had some work-related things to take care of. BUT, as soon as I was done with that, it hit me and I scoured the internet for everything that happened during the Trade Deadline. Now to be clear, teams can still trade after this, however a trade can only occur after a player clears waivers. But this was the end of straight-up trades. So let’s take a look at 10 trades and what they mean for everyone involved.

10. Detroit Tigers trade CF Leonys Martin to the Cleveland Indians for prospects

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers

This trade was a little funny to me because I literally JUST saw Martin play centerfield for the Tigers AGAINST the Indians on Saturday. I had luxury box seating for that game, which the Tigers won 2-1 (the picture above is actually from that game). Martin didn’t really do anything in that game, just thought it was funny to me. Centerfield has been a black hole for Cleveland this season and while Martin doesn’t necessarily fill that hole, he does represent an improvement over what the Tribe had been sending out there all season.

9. Minnesota Twins trade SP Lance Lynn to the New York Yankees for 1B Tyler Austin

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox

Aside from Luis Severino (who has been ice cold of late), the Yankees have had mediocre starting pitching this season. They already added JA Happ from Toronto and now they add Lance Lynn from Minnesota. However, Lynn is in the midst of the worst season of his career, as he currently carries an ERA of 5.10. Prior to this year, he had yet to record an ERA over 3.97 for an entire season so the talent is certainly there. They send Tyler Austin to Minnesota, who is most notable for getting his ass kicked by Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly. Probably good for Austin’s safety getting him out of Kelly’s division. Gotta’ love it when teams have a player’s best interests in mind.

8. Toronto Blue Jays trade CP Roberto Osuna to the Houston Astros for Ken Giles and prospects 

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays

This is basically a swap of problematic closers for both teams, both of whom for VERY different reasons. For the Astros, Ken Giles has struggled so much that he actually got demoted last week. Osuna is working his way back from an 80-game suspension as a result of a domestic violence incident from back in early May. However, up until then, Osuna had been one of the game’s best closers, posting 2.93 ERA (2.05 FIP) with 9 saves in 15 games. So we’ll see how they deal that in the coming weeks.

7. Baltimore Orioles trade SP Kevin Gausman and RP Darren O’Day to the Atlanta Braves for prospects and $2.5M in international signing bonus money

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

Gausman has flashed the talent to be an ace but hasn’t been able to put it all together for an extended period of time. Darren O’Day is a submarine pitcher with vicious offspeed stuff that can make him a real asset to a team on a playoff run like the Braves. The Braves didn’t give up a ton to acquire them, though it was smart of the Orioles to get international signing bonus money in return, as they had very little to speak of and would struggle to sign international prospects in the future without the added boost. A good rebuilding move by Baltimore.

6. Baltimore Orioles trade 2B Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Jonathan Villar and prospects

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

Jonathan Schoop has struggled mightily this season but over the last couple years, he has been one of the best power-hitting second basemen in the game. The Brewers hope that by giving him a change in venue he will return to the 2017 form that saw him hit .293 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI. If he can do that, the Brewers will be right back at the top of the NL Central, where they had spent most of the season prior to being eclipsed by the Chicago Cubs recently.

5. Anaheim Angels trade 2B Ian Kinsler to the Boston Red Sox for prospects

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox

As I’ve said before, second base has been a black hole for the Red Sox and acquiring a 4-time All Star like Ian Kinsler won’t fix all of those issues, but he will certainly be an upgrade over the incumbent Eduardo Nunez. The 36 year-old Kinsler is hitting .239  with 13 home runs but is far superior defensively to Nunez. Aside from Mitch Moreland at first base, the Red Sox have really struggled defensively on the infield so a glove like Kinsler’s will be very welcomed even if he’s not the same guy who would average 20-20 seasons in Texas.

4. Tampa Bay Rays trade C Wilson Ramos to the Philadelphia Phillies for a PTBNL and cash

Tampa Bay Rays v Miami Marlins

I’m surprised how little it cost the Phillies to acquire Ramos from the Rays, especially considering he was supposed to start this year’s All Star game for the American League. I mean, I guess the fact that he’s currently injured would diminish his value, but a guy who can hit like he can and man the backstop the way he does should theoretically command more than a PTNBL and cash. But Michael Brantley was the PTBNL when the Brewers acquired CC Sabathia from the Indians for some prospects and the PTBNL so maybe that one becomes a gem (David Ortiz was a PTNBL before his MLB debut with the Twins in 1996).

3. St. Louis Cardinals trade CF Tommy Pham to the Tampa Bay Rays for prospects

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds

I don’t understand this move from Tampa’s perspective. They appear to be a team that is selling despite their decent record (53-53 before the start of play on July 31) yet the acquire a talented outfielder like Tommy Pham from St. Louis. They traded Ramos and another player I’m going to get into soon, suggesting that they were blowing the team up, yet they add a Major League talent in Pham. Pham hasn’t been nearly as good this year as he was last year, but he still possesses the talent both offensively and defensively to be a major contributor.

2. Minnesota Twins trade 2B Brian Dozier to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2B Logan Forsythe and prospects

Minnesota Twins v Toronto Blue Jays

Brian Dozier is struggling mightily this season but he is still one of the deadliest second basemen if you aren’t careful. Dozier has hit 30 homers in each of the last two seasons, including 42 in 2016. Now he joins the Dodgers, who need help at second base, which has been a consistent revolving door for the last couple seasons. But look at this infield the Dodgers are now boasting, provided everyone performs to their abilities:

1B-Max Muncy/Cody Bellinger

2B-Brian Dozier

3B-Justin Turner

SS-Manny Machado

Yeah. Just what the Dodgers needed. More talent.

1. Tampa Bay Rays trade SP Chris Archer to the Pirates for SP Tyler Glasnow and CF Austin Meadows

Miami Marlins v Tampa Bay Rays

This was a surprising move despite the fact that there had been rumblings about it for the last few days or so. Chris Archer had been rumored to be on the move for years now but the Rays had been hesitant to do so since Archer is not only one of the best pitchers in baseball, but he’s also had a big impact on the community. But with the haul the Pirates sent for Archer’s services, how do you say no? Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows are two of the best prospects in baseball. Glasnow has struggled in his brief stints in the Majors while Meadows is hitting .292 in his 49-game stint in the Majors. Pittsburgh’s recent 11-game winning streak likely prompted management to rethink their playoff odds as they’re now only a few games behind in the Wild Card hunt and 7.5 games out of the NL Central lead. But this is a BIG risk the Pirates are taking here because they are essentially mortgaging their future on one playoff run where they aren’t even in the driver’s seat. Luckily for them, though, Archer is under contract through 2021 so even if they miss out this year, they’ll have him for a couple more potential runs.

So another Trade Deadline has come and gone. Did you like the moves your team made or didn’t make? Or is your GM destroying your team from the inside? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

The Washington Nationals Should Trade Bryce Harper

Washington Nationals  v Milwaukee Brewers

The trade deadline is today so get ready for some wheelings and dealings as playoff contenders try to add that final piece to send them on their World Series run. I considered doing a blog about 10 guys who could get traded before 4:00 on July 31, but I decided I was way more interested in doing a blog about a guy who won’t get traded but should. That would be 2015 NL MVP and impending free agent Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.

So if you’ve been following the MLB season, you’ll probably know that Bryce Harper is not having his best season. Before the start of play on July 30, Harper was slashing .220/.369/.473 with 25 home runs and 62 RBI with a 1.6 WAR. Honestly, aside from the low batting average, his numbers aren’t that bad. He’s having the second-best walk rate of his career behind his MVP season in 2015, though his strikeout rate is also the second-highest of his career. Harper also has been having his worst season defensively, as his DRS is -10, which is the third worst amongst right fielders in all of baseball. He’s ahead of only Stephen Piscotty of the A’s and Nicholas Castellanos of the Tigers (the latter of whom is naturally a third baseman). But Harper is also arguably the most feared hitter in the game. Despite his struggles at the dish this season, you have to be mindful of Harper when he steps into the batter’s box. This is what he’s capable of:

And that was earlier this season. You’ve got to be a REALLY strong dude to hit a home run on a pitch that broke your bat. That ball traveled about 390 feet, too. Any guy who can do that is a threat every time he comes to the dish.

But I do feel like this low batting average is going to cost him a lot of money. There was a time where people thought that Harper was going to become the first player to earn a $400M contract in free agency. That’s probably not going to happen but Giancarlo Stanton got a $300M extension from the Marlins before his 59 home run season last year so I definitely believe somebody will be willing to give him $300M this offseason. But the question becomes whether the Nationals should cut ties now and get something in return or ride it out and hope they get hot enough to go on a World Series run.

The latter would be a mistake. Right now the Nationals are sitting at 52-53, third place in the NL East, 6 games behind the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies and 6 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the second Wild Card spot. Neither is an insurmountable deficit. However, they have the fifth worst record in the National League and have been trending in the wrong direction heading into this Deadline, as they’re 10-14 in the month of July. It would be a huge mistake for them to hang on to Harper because they think they can make a playoff run only for them to not reach the NLCS. Because let’s face it: the Nationals of the last few seasons were far better than this year’s bunch and not once did they reach the NLCS so I doubt hanging on to the current roster is going to fix anything. The haul a contending team would give up in order to secure Harper’s services would be astronomical, even if it’s only a rental. The Nationals do have a decent young core at the moment, which appears to be spearheaded by the 19 year-old Juan Soto and if they land the right prospects, that could result in a potentially shortened rebuild.

People are already aware that there’s now way in Hell Harper is remaining in DC as a free agent for a number of reasons. Number one, the Nationals won’t be able to afford him, a fact that was made pretty apparent when the team chose to extend Stephen Strasburg a couple years ago. On top of that, Max Scherzer is going to be on the books for the next decade or so (his contract is an interesting one that could put him in Bobby Bonilla territory). The next is that he’s a client of Scott Boras, who always has his players test the waters in free agency and rarely do they ever re-sign with their former club (Mike Moustakas last season was a rarity, though he did just get traded from the Royals to the Brewers).

But ultimately, the Nationals likely won’t trade Harper. There just simply haven’t been enough rumblings. Perhaps the Nationals have an impossible asking price for him? Perhaps they still think they can compete? Or perhaps they think they’ll alienate the fanbase by trading away their favorite player? Realistically, the Nationals are headed for dark days unless they get out in front of this rebuild, trade Harper for a bevy of top prospects, and give up on what is a lost season for the sake of the future of the franchise.

Should the Nationals trade Harper? Or should they take a chance on the rest of the 2018 season? Let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

What Would Baseball Look Like Without Starting Rotations?

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners

So on Wednesday night, I had just gotten home from work and was having a few beers while my brother and I watched a replay of the Edge vs Mick Foley Wrestlemania 22 Hardcore match. You know, this one:

SgAR

After we got done watching that, I was scrolling through Twitter and noticed a user pointed out that on mlb.com’s depth chart page for the Tampa Bay Rays, Chris Archer is the only starting pitcher listed. I thought that was weird and sent it to a buddy who said “looks like Archer will be getting his innings in.”  I then went and watched the James Cameron movie “Aliens,” which was badass, but the Rays’ pitching situation wouldn’t leave me alone. So finally, when the movie was done, I got to thinking: what if ALL of baseball did away with pitching rotations?

A little background first on why Tampa’s depth chart probably looks the way it does. So at the start of the season, manager Kevin Cash announced that the Rays would go with a 4-man rotation and would make the 5th day an all-bullpen day. A pitcher that usually comes out of the bullpen will get the start, go as long as he could (typically no more than 4 innings) before other bullpen arms got in the mix. It led to the creation of the term “opener,” rather than “closer.” Tampa opened the year with a starting rotation of Chris Archer-Blake Snell-Jake Faria-Nathan Eovaldi (who didn’t debut until a little over a month later). Snell and Faria are currently on the DL while Eovaldi was just traded to the Boston Red Sox for pitching prospect Jalen Beeks. So right now, of those four, only Archer is currently standing. As for who the “openers” are, the Rays have sent out Ryne Stanek, Ryan Yarbrough, Matt Andriese, Johnny Venters, and Sergio Romo among others. All in all, 14 pitchers have made a start for the Rays.

So how well has it worked? Well the Rays currently sit in 3rd place in the AL East at 52-50 (this blog was written before the start of play on July 26), 18.5 games behind the Red Sox in the division and 9 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card spot. However that’s due in large part to the fact the Rays have struggled to score runs, as they’re 22nd in all of baseball in runs scored. Their pitching has put up very good numbers, though. Right now they’re currently 9th in pitching WAR at a combined 10.6 with the 7th best ERA at 3.70. That’s the main contributing factor for why a team as untalented on paper as the Rays has a winning record in late July. In fact, if the Rays were in the weak AL Central rather than having to face the Red Sox and Yankees a million times every year, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see them battling the Cleveland Indians for the top spot in the division (they currently trail Cleveland by just 3.5 games overall).

So how would Major League Baseball look if they took Tampa’s formula a step further and did away with starting rotations? Well, for one, there would be a lot more opportunities for managers to get creative. I’m going to use the Red Sox as my example team in order to simplify things for myself. The pitchers at manager Alex Cora’s disposal are, in alphabetical order: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Eovaldi, Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, David Price, Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velazquez, and Brandon Workman (this is not accounting for the injured Eduardo Rodriguez, Carson Smith, and Steven Wright). Assuming each staff follows Tampa’s model, the Red Sox could send any one of these guys out to start and go up to four innings. Not only that, but they could appear in back-to-back games and pitch in more games overall over the course of a season. As if we couldn’t get enough Chris Sale already, now he could be pitching back-to-back days and 70 times in a season as opposed to now where he only pitches every 5 games and about 30 times in a season. We could also see David Price come in relief for Sale, meaning teams will have to face two Cy Young-caliber pitchers back-to-back. Which sounds pretty menacing to me. Or Hell, the Yankees could start the game with Aroldis Chapman, go to Luis Severino for the second-fifth inning, then send out Dellin Betances. The combinations managers would have at their disposal are endless. Plus, we won’t have to think of bullpens as having just 7 or 8 options available to choose from. When you add guys who normally start to the mix, that gives teams 11 or 12 guys to choose from.

New York Yankees vs New York Mets

We will also definitely see a rise in fastball velocity. The reason some of these starters aren’t hitting 100 mph on every fastball is due to the fact that they’re preserving some energy in case they need to go deep into the game, whereas relievers put everything they have behind every pitch because they know they’re probably only going the one inning. So take this into account: a few years ago, the Cincinnati Reds toyed with the idea of making their superstar closer Aroldis Chapman into a starting pitcher. They tried him out in the role in Spring Training. Chapman’s fastball in his career has topped out at an MLB record 105.1 mph. Chapman’s fastball as a starter never got over 94 mph. The 105.1 mph pitch is obviously an outlier, but Chapman’s fastball still is routinely clocked at around 101 mph. Now let’s take into account what some guys are throwing despite the knowledge that they’re going to have to go multiple innings. Luis Severino, Noah Syndergaard, Mike Foltynewicz, and Eovaldi’s fastballs all average about 97 mph. By the logic of Chapman’s dropped velocity as a starter of -7 mph (typical 101 to 94), we can imperfectly assume that these guys’ fastballs would rise by about 7 mph (the math that got me to that assumption is probably very wrong, but you get what I’m trying to say here), meaning we’d have four dudes averaging a 104 mph fastball. I’m not sure how teams would manage to hit that on a day-to-day basis, especially when you consider that guys who normally throw 91 are now throwing 98.

We would also see the absolute annihilation of the pitching wins stat. As if it wasn’t already useless enough in today’s game, now it will pretty much only favor the second pitcher to be used, since in order for a starter to qualify for a win, he has to go 5 innings and his lead can’t evaporate. If the first pitcher used only goes 4 innings with a 10-0 lead, whomever replaces him first will vulture his win even if he struck out all 12 batters he faced. However other stats would likely be significantly improved, such as the ERA and opponent batting average stat. Think of it this way. In seemingly every game where a pitcher is going deep into his outing, the broadcast shows a graphic that showcases how a pitcher does each time through the lineup. Usually, the hitters will have the pitcher figured out by their third time seeing him in the game. With this type of pitching staff, you deny hitters the opportunity to see a pitcher for a third time, thus relinquishing that late-inning value at their disposal, leading to potentially fewer runs being scored. Now, of course, bringing in a bunch of relievers makes it more likely that you’re going to bring someone in who is having an off-night, but I think overall the number of runs scored is going to drop substantially.

Seattle Mariners v Colorado Rockies

There will also be more talented pitchers take the next step and become studs than before. Consider the fact that Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Archie Bradley, Wade Davis, and Brandon Morrow all began their careers as starting pitchers but flamed out and failed to realize their great potentials. Then consider the fact that they became dominant bullpen arms upon their move to that role. Well now everybody will make that switch so we could see extremely talented guys such as Kevin Gausman, Lucas Giolito, or Tyler Glasnow be given the opportunity to reinvent themselves. David Price even looked like his Cy Young-winning self during his brief stint in the Red Sox bullpen to finish the 2017 season, as he didn’t give up a run in his 9 relief outings.

Sadly, though, the individual no hitter would cease to exist as any future no hitter would be of the combined variety. The most exciting outcome for a pitcher where nothing happens has been something that has always been a goal of mine to see from start to finish would be a thing of the past since the starter would likely be gone by the third or fourth inning. However I’m sure there are plenty of managers out there who don’t really care, as long as they got the win, which is ultimately what really matters.

There will be a few changes that will have to happen, though, in order for this change to work. For one, guys who are currently starting pitchers need to COMPLETELY overhaul their routine. Starting pitchers have routines they do on their off days to get ready for their next start, but without the certainty that comes with being a starting pitcher, that will change dramatically and will more than likely affect some guys for the worst. Another change will be MLB’s requirement of teams announcing who will start each game. If a manager is going to run with this type of pitching staff, they’re going to have to give a few days’ notice for each pitcher. If this type of staff were to be rolled out, I’d personally be more invested in a surprise starter for every game, keeping opposing teams on their toes. Though I guess managers typically fill out their batting orders based on who the opposing pitcher is so that would probably cause a problem. Damn, thought I was on to something or a moment.

In short, I think that taking the Rays’ formula for a pitching staff a step further and doing away with starting rotations could potentially be a very innovative way to go about pitching and re-think the way teams construct their staffs. Did I just break baseball? Or did I have way too much to drink and this idea is stupid? Let me know what you think of the idea of no pitching rotations in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Can Tiger’s Inevitable Decline be Good for Golf?

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By James Neary

This past weekend at the Open Championship, we were able to see Tiger sniff a major victory for the first time since the same tournament in 2013. It seems the entire spectrum of golf fandom clung to our TVs and Twitter feeds to ceremoniously welcome the king back to his rightful place as ruler. But as Tiger made his turn onto the back 9 Sunday in Carnoustie, the inevitable reality of his decline took hold in our minds again. A full-on Tiger comeback would in no doubt be spectacular for Golf in the short, and probably even long term, but in this article I explore the opposite vantage point. Assuming Tiger has begun his descent, rather than continued his ascent, into the history books, I elaborate on the opportunities this case study offers the golf industry.

What the golf world has undergone throughout Tiger’s woes can very easily be likened to an economic recession. Sports Media Watch has a useful table detailing final round viewing tallies from all 4 major tournaments over the past 30 years, found here. As you can see, the numbers coming this year from Tiger’s cumbersome resurgence do show a pretty solid uptick from recent years, but they barely reach over 50% of what they were during his peak. His first major win, the 1997 Masters blowout, marked the beginning of a massive bull run for the golf industry. Every. single. one. of the high-end view counts, in every major, came between that tournament and the 2009 PGA Championship, just a few months before Tiger’s infamous Thanksgiving Day, affair-revealing, career-spiraling crash. Tiger’s dominance in that time period pushed the industry into a new era. After such a sudden downfall of such a massive star, it’s easy to understand why the industry has struggled to recover in the following years. Since 2009, golf’s path has been one of desperate contention. Multiple young and rising stars have attempted to take the torch from Tiger, yet the entire industry seems to be pining for a comeback of unimaginable proportions. I would argue this contention is understandable and predictable, and while golf transitions into the post-Tiger era, there arrive abundant opportunities for expansion and development never before seen in the game.

Economies, industries, businesses, financial entities of all types undergo periods of fluctuating growth and shrinkage. While the pull-back golf has seen during the past 10 years may seem drastic and even dangerous, the viewing numbers at their lowest point are right on par with what they were prior to Tiger’s dominance. Obviously, TV viewership isn’t a pure indication of popularity or economic health in the sports entertainment industry, but it’s a pretty standard candle. I do argue, however, that TV viewership does hold more weight in golf, due to the nature of the season and championships. Having practically every player be present on the course during the TV broadcast, yet having talent disproportionately skewed towards one player, sets the industry up for disaster once said player succumbs to injury or scandal. Tiger’s decline puts the world of golf in a position to welcome a greater abundance and distribution of superstar caliber players. Having the industry’s premium talent distributed more evenly amongst the top players will provide much needed stability in the long run. In this scenario, if number 1 doesn’t show up to a tournament because of a bum knee or exposed mistress, you can be damn sure numbers 2 and 3 will be there to put take advantage. With Tiger dominating the 2000’s like he was, there was nobody there to support the industry as a whole upon his collapse. Now, as his decline from the upper echelon continues, golf is able to more effectively distribute its talent and ratings power throughout the top of the rankings to provide insurance for another Tiger-like catastrophe.

In addition to the new support system golf can establish upon Tiger’s decline, there lies another opportunity golf has sorely missed out on thus far: expansion and diversification. We’ve seen the NBA do it in China and Europe, soccer do it in America, the NHL in the southwest, alongside countless others. Entertainment industries without an eclectic and diverse audience continually fall behind. We’re seeing this playout in real time as post-steroid era Major League Baseball struggles to keep up with the rapidly growing popularity of lacrosse among youths in America and Canada. MLB’s fan base and youth programs were disproportionately concentrated in a single demographic, and suffered as another sport ate up some of its market cap. Although Tiger was the first non-white player to ever win the Masters, having all that talent, power, and potential locked up in one individual obviously dampens diversification. There’s no doubt that Tiger’s rise had an immensely positive impact on the relationship between minorities and golf, but you cannot deny that the concentration of power in him proved incredibly difficult for golf to grapple with upon his descent. His decline will allow more golfers from different backgrounds and cultures to compete for the number 1 spot in golf, and that could do wonders for the industry in the long term.

Overall, Tiger’s reign at the top of golf has been unprecedented, and is likely never to be forgotten. For more than 10 years, nobody came close to this guy. Then, practically overnight, he entered a downward spiral which, until recently, seemed impossible to pull out of. We all hope Tiger will bless us with a thunderous Sunday at some point in the near future. But if that never comes, there remains a silver lining for the golf industry. Being able to more evenly disperse the premium talent among the top players on the tour will provide greater security for both the players and the future in the long term. The decline of Tiger, and superstars in general, positions his industry to make unique and exciting revitalization efforts to restore the tour to its former glory.